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The (Non) Issues
October 17, 2004 11:05 AM   Subscribe

Why this election is so disappointing... Opposite today's New York Times' 30-column-inch endorsement of John Kerry, Thomas Friedman makes a good case that several of the most important issues are not being talked about by either candidate in any serious way.
posted by MattD (27 comments total)

 
Social Security is, indeed, a huge and important issue. However, it becomes kind of moot if the USA is just a big ol' smoking hole in the ground.

I would like to have had him expand on the idea of partnering with the people of Iraq. I just don't see how that's possible at this juncture.

He doesn't come right out and say it but is he trying to infer that the Saudi baby boom just means that the terrorist rosters will have alot more disenfranchised people who hate the US?

It was an interesting article but I get the sense that alot of it was left on the editing room floor.
posted by fenriq at 11:18 AM on October 17, 2004


In China, Bill Gates is Britney Spears. In America, Britney Spears is Britney Spears.

what an apt comparison. spears is a PR creation, her products are crap, and people are under the mistaken impression that she's a vocalist, when in reality she's all artifice and lip-synch. gates is a product of marketing, his products are crap, and people are under the mistaken notion that he's a technologist, when in reality he's just a scruple-free robber baron.
posted by quonsar at 11:21 AM on October 17, 2004


I realize that elections are no time to expect honesty from politicians.

man. talk about having your head up your ass.
posted by quonsar at 11:24 AM on October 17, 2004


The columnist Michael Kinsley once observed that in American politics "a gaffe is when a politician tells the truth."

Uh-oh.
posted by homunculus at 11:26 AM on October 17, 2004


when in reality he's just a scruple-free robber baron.

A robber baron turned philanthropist.
posted by homunculus at 11:29 AM on October 17, 2004


Just my .02 but shouldn't we bse collecting S.S. tax on 100% of earned income? I believe S.S. tax isn't collected on income over $87,900. It just doesn't seem correct that the janitor that cleans the CEO's office has to pay S.S. on 100% of his income but the CEO only pays it on 10% of his.
posted by MikeMc at 11:31 AM on October 17, 2004


A robber baron turned philanthropist.

the point is, he's no technical wizard. if you wanna talk about his business acumen, or his philanthropy? fine, but a pundit who makes that mistake probably mistakes a lot of other things for reality as well.
posted by quonsar at 11:36 AM on October 17, 2004


What is needed is to get all these other boomers into our tax system so they can support my social security.
posted by mss at 11:44 AM on October 17, 2004


It is a bummer we get candidates that be upfront with citizens about the hardest problems we face, but didn't we have a straight shooting honest talker in Howard Dean? The scream certainly killed him, but I think a lot of the reasons why trace back to him not playing the media game as well as the other guys. It wasn't just platitudes and anectdotes on the stump.

I'd say it's clear now more than ever that no one that talks straight about our most difficult problems and owns up to the struggles we face will ever be elected a leader in the US. Not with the 24/7 newscycle, looking for anything remotely worth tearing into.
posted by mathowie at 11:51 AM on October 17, 2004


Mathowie, the "scream" didn't kill Dean, the media killed Dean and used the scream to do it. I've also been reading some speculation that Dean's campaign was killed by the DNC leaders because he was too honest and too much of a loose cannon.

But you are quite right in saying that an honest politician won't make it. The media won't let them and that tells me that the media has grown just a wee bit too big for its own britches. Journos are supposed to report the news, not make it in their chosen image.
posted by fenriq at 11:58 AM on October 17, 2004


This is a media issue, not a political issue. I've read speeches by Kerry about SS, but the TV and newspapers are more interested in the appropriateness of mentioning Mary Cheney. Typical Friedman "cant see the forest for the trees" tripe.
posted by skallas at 12:18 PM on October 17, 2004


the point is, he's no technical wizard... a pundit who makes that mistake probably mistakes a lot of other things for reality as well.

Yes, you're right.
posted by homunculus at 12:21 PM on October 17, 2004


the real problem here is a lot of people don't want to be told the truth ... or face the reality of our problems ... and that goes for supporters of both parties
posted by pyramid termite at 1:55 PM on October 17, 2004


oh but if they did... what a boring reality tv show it would be!
posted by Satapher at 2:19 PM on October 17, 2004


Might as well read the pretty straightforward NYT's endorsement of Kerry, and while you have the paper, read "Political Bias at The Times? Two Counterarguments."
posted by semmi at 3:47 PM on October 17, 2004


quonsar, if you think that because Gates has made some pushing/tearing the envelope business decisions that he does not possess one of the great technical minds of our age you're quite mistaken.
posted by billsaysthis at 4:20 PM on October 17, 2004


MikeMc: Just my .02 but shouldn't we bse collecting S.S. tax on 100% of earned income? I believe S.S. tax isn't collected on income over $87,900.

You understand that Social Security benefits are capped too, right?

The reform that you suggest would push a high earner in New York City up to about a 60% (inclusive) marginal rate, not counting his property tax and sales taxes. That's a lot of tax.
posted by Kwantsar at 4:21 PM on October 17, 2004


You understand that Social Security benefits are capped too, right?

This is a reasonable response, but I don't understand this:

The reform that you suggest would push a high earner in New York City up to about a 60% (inclusive) marginal rate

Do you mean it would increase his taxes by 60%? or to 60%? How could the 7.5% payroll tax do this?
posted by weston at 6:17 PM on October 17, 2004


the great technical minds of our age

"The obvious mathematical breakthrough would be development of an easy way to factor large prime numbers." - Bill Gates, The Road Ahead, p. 265
posted by nicwolff at 6:24 PM on October 17, 2004


When was the last time you met a 12-year-old who told you he or she wanted to grow up to be an engineer? When Bill Gates goes to China, students hang from the rafters and scalp tickets to hear him speak.

Bill Gates is no engineer. He is a lottery winner.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 7:01 PM on October 17, 2004


Gates no engineer? Not a technology guy? Look, I'm no fan, but that's just plain wrong. Has everyone forgotten Altair Basic already?

Written by Bill Gates, Paul Allen, and Monte Davidoff, without access to an actual Altair computer or even an 8080 CPU (they used a self made 8080 simulator running on a PDP-10 minicomputer), it fit nicely into 4 KB of memory leaving enough room — several hundred bytes — for BASIC programs.

I'm sure it's been a couple of decades since Gates wrote any code, but he definitely had chops back when Microsoft was getting started.
posted by Mars Saxman at 7:21 PM on October 17, 2004


But you are quite right in saying that an honest politician won't make it. The media won't let them

eeenh, I think it's more that the democratic system can't accomodate them. Basically, an "honest politician" would have to lay out all his personal beliefs on the table for everyone, and individuals have a wide range of political beliefs. This means that any honest politician could only really appeal to some small margin of the population who happen to agree entirely with their positions. But politicians need 50% of the vote. They absolutely have to find ways to appeal to 50% of the population. This involves reconsidering certain positions as the culture changes, playing up or playing down certain positions depending on the audience, leaving things vague so that voters can fill in the blank as they imagine it, and generally pushing style over substance.

In a diverse pluralistic democracy, I'm actually not sure there's another way... I suppose parliamentary scenarios would at least allow more direct conversation to take place, though in the end, actions would still have to be compromised.
posted by mdn at 7:33 PM on October 17, 2004


Do you mean it would increase his taxes by 60%? or to 60%? How could the 7.5% payroll tax do this?

To 60%.

The nice thing (if you're a high wage earner) about taxes is that as your federal bracket creeps up, your OASDI disappears. In the New Yorker example, you have Fed rates of 35% (39.6% if Kerry is elected and successfully rolls back the Bush cuts), 8% state tax, 5% NYC tax, 7.5% payroll tax (if it doesn't phase out). So I was a little sloppy with my numbers (to be honest, I didn't realize that the 39.6 -> 35 was totally phased in already), and the total would be 55.5%. But I also excluded Medicare, which would bump the number up to 57%, and that's before any Kerry rollback (not making a political statement!). Also, I should note that the Feds allow some deduction of state taxes, but not necessarily if the household is subject to AMT, et cetera, et cetera. Nonetheless, the back-of-the-envelope numbers are close.
posted by Kwantsar at 9:43 PM on October 17, 2004


The reform that you suggest would push a high earner in New York City up to about a 60% (inclusive) marginal rate, not counting his property tax and sales taxes. That's a lot of tax.

Well, whatever the actual numbers are, if you have a lot, can't you afford to pay a lot and still live well? And don't we feel some sort of responisbility to the community we earned all that in?
posted by LouReedsSon at 3:13 AM on October 18, 2004


All said, Mars, I think Fold and Mutliate has it right. Definite lottery winner. There are certainly much more cunning men in the software Industry. Much more trusting of his fellow hacker. Much, much more revolutionary. Linus Torvalds, comes to mind.

"I'm not out to destroy Microsoft. That will just be a completely unintentional side effect."

That has got to be one of the biggest ouch phrases in the history of capitalism. 'twill go down in history one day. Yes 'twill.
posted by crasspastor at 3:58 AM on October 18, 2004


Bill G, Lotto Billionaire. He's got a good business "mind" (which is to say he's a cunning game-player), with a very useful ruthless streak, but you can't even begin to enumerate all the points where he just plain got lucky. He deserves props for giving at least some of it back; but I suspect he's not on a proportional par with the Rockefellers, yet. (And I have confidence that someone with more time on his/her hands will supply numbers on that...)

Bill v. Britney is a no-contest, if only for the very simple reason that his choices have long range consequences on lots of people; I doubt she really makes any consequential choices at all.

But technical? Bill G probably has a really good high level grasp of a very broad range of technology. Mile wide and a centimeter deep, with some pools going to a foot or two. But in a reall problem-solving contest, he certainly wouldn't hold up well against many of his own SW engineers. And as far as socio-tech insight is concerned, he's handily outclassed by a number of third-rank bloggers.

That said, those Chinese kids have good reason to hang from the rafters to see him: The deeper message brought to them by his very presence is hugely significant. He is to them a harbinger, I think, not a prophet. They will find their own way (as they always have), and it will not be a way that Microsoft would prefer.
posted by lodurr at 5:35 AM on October 18, 2004


The Lexus and the Olive Tree - bwhahahaha!!!!!

Freidmann is a stupid media whore. Totally over paid and over rated. David Brooks has about as much worth saying and that ain't much. Busy, busy, busy has him down cold every time he spews.
posted by nofundy at 11:44 AM on October 18, 2004


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