“WHY DON’T POLITICIANS TELL THE TRUTH?”


Whoever becomes president must raise taxes.  My opponent won’t tell you, I just did.

Walter Mondale (1984).

“They say, give ‘em hell, Harry.

“I never did give anybody hell. I just told the truth and they thought it was hell.”
Harry S Truman

While waiting for some prescriptions at my doctor’s office, I overheard two men talking about the presidential debates. I wasn’t in the mood for politics, but I didn’t have much choice but to listen.

“Yep,” said one man, “I heard Obama get asked a question about something difficult, and he started talking about education.”

“Yep,” said the other, “they just don’t answer the question.”

That’s right.  We want politicians to tell the truth, except then we won’t vote for them.  I started thinking about the truths that we supposedly want to hear, except we really don’t.  Mondale lost by a huge landslide, and Reagan raised taxes.

With more than 300 million people, we need rules and regulations to keep order, because one person’s right to do something affects another’s right not to have to pay for it.  As a neurologist, I took care of hundreds of people in motorcycle accidents who weren’t wearing helmets.  Where does a person’s right not to wear a helmet infringe upon his family’s right to have him alive and whole?  Or society’s right not to have to pay for preventable damage to an individual, since many of these people have no insurance?  Does his right infringe upon the cost to society of a hospital that can’t buy new equipment, because its unpaid bills are so high–unnecessarily?  Unless you live in the wilds of Alaska, you can’t always do what you want.  Our rules define us as a society.

We need a government that will defend us from harm.  How much defense we need is a matter of question.  So, if we went to war, I’d institute a draft and a war tax.  That might get people thinking how important the war really was.  Only 7% of us are veterans.  Eighty-four per cent of Americans agreed with invading Iraq, nobody was taxed for it, and only a small percentage of Americans served in it.

Many people don’t like government interference until it is convenient for them. A lot of people against big government are going to be really glad big government’s FEMA will be there to help them rebuild after Hurricane Sandy.  I remember Katrina, when FEMA was so watered down–pun-intended–that the news media were present well before the federal aid.

If we want smaller government, then it needs to be too small to interfere with a woman’s control over her body, which is her right, whom we may marry, which is our right, or the way we wish to die, the most fundamental right of all.

I trust government over private enterprise in fighting fires (NIFC), safety in the skies (FAA), the National Weather Service, Hurricane Center, and Severe Storms Center.  We all want something for ourselves, but we don’t want to pay for what others get.  That’s human, but it’s inconsistent.

Lowering taxes and cutting the deficit is akin to dieting by eating more and exercising less.  We need more of us with means to vote against our economic self-interest for the good of the country.  Taxes pay for cleaning up weather disasters, too, which given climate change, are likely to become more common.  Does anybody think we can do this by passing the hat….or by praying?

We need a sensible energy policy that gradually takes us off all carbon based fuels.  It is crazy that Arizona is not in the top 10 states for producing solar energy.  I’d recognize the unmeasurable costs.  Coal is suddenly no longer cheap when we factor in environmental damage; gasoline is not cheap, factoring in the cost of our Middle East policy.

I’d like to see taxes based more on our choices.  Buy a megamansion, and your property taxes should go up exponentially, your mortgage tax deduction capped at $500,000.  That money will help pay down the deficit.  You should pay extra for a car getting <25 mpg, and get a tax break if your car gets >35 mpg.  The money gained would go to pay down the deficit, by people who made choices. I’d end child tax deductions after the second child.  Want more children?  It’s your choice; you just won’t get a tax break for them.  House destroyed by coastal flooding?  You get one chance to rebuild.  If another storm washes it away, you are stuck. Once.  It’s your choice. I have a right not to pay taxes to rebuild houses multiple times in places prone to flooding.  Valmeyer, Illinois moved high above the Mississippi after 1993,  They learned.

The NYSE has roughly a trillion dollars of stock trades per month.  I would tax all 0.1% ($1 per $1000), the money going to pay down the deficit.  You want to invest?  Fine.  That’s your choice. This would raise a $100 billion by 2020.

I’d require mandatory–no choice– secular national service (infrastructure repair, schools, homeless shelters, humane society, Forest Service) by our youth, which would help many grow up and give them time to decide what they want to do.  Many would benefit from their modest stipend, seeing different parts of the country, being told (for once, in many instances) what they must do, and GI benefits.  Cost?  Modest.  Benefits? Cheap labor, this time here at home.

I would ask for retirees to volunteer, using the skills and wisdom they have.  My experience with nine years of volunteering in the schools was that I wasn’t busy enough, and I knew the relevance of math better than the teachers.  Not using retirees is wasting resources.

We must define what basic health care coverage is, then ensure every American has access to it.  From the experience in Oregon, this will cost more in the short term (the long term is not yet clear), because patients will use the medical system more.  This is not bad; increased rates of mammography and cholesterol screening will improve health, and it has been proven there have been fewer bankruptcies.  Moreover, the patients had peace of mind, which I contend has worth. Each of us is a virus, a burst aneurysm, an accident away from bankruptcy.

We need to address climate change, not factored into the cost of a product by economists.  Climate change has barely been mentioned during the campaign; it and firearm regulation are “third rails” of politics–touch them and you die.  Indeed, I predict we will not address climate change until major environmental catastrophes occur that cannot possibly be blamed on any other cause.  Hurricane Sandy may be due to climate change.  “Anomalous” has become common weather parlance.

Firearms?  No assault weapons in the hands of non-military, non-law enforcement people, period.  Everybody who is now less than 16 must later serve in the National Guard, law enforcement, or the military for at least a year, in order to earn the right to own a gun, as part of the “A well regulated militia” which are the amendment’s first words.

Want the truth?  There’s a small portion.  Hell, isn’t it?

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