Wednesday, September 03, 2003
Start tying up the loose ends of your life, because we have only 11 years left to live. Well, not exactly. Asteroid 2003 QQ47 could hit the earth in 2014, but researchers are confident that as more information is gathered, that this will cease to be a concern. Which is good, because if it hit the Earth, the impact would have the effect of 20 million Hiroshima atomic bombs. That would not be a good thing. While this should pass harmlessly by us, we have to assume sooner or later it's going to happen. How do we prepare for that? Here's a start: chuck the Space Shuttle, bring back the Saturn V rocket and resume moon landings in preparation for building a base with the long-term goal of colonization. We may be talking generations here, but we have to learn to look beyond the 4-year election cycle.
John Kerry has declared his is running for president, and amazingly didn't change his mind. Which is his biggest problem. Kerry has never and probably will never put both feet on one side of the fence on any seriously divisive issue. You can get away with this when you are a senator from a state where Democrats can grope waitresses, appear inebriated in public and still get elected Senator (hi Ted!). But wishy-washy doesn't play well on the national stage. He's for removing Saddam, but opposes going into Iraq. He's against drugs, but opposes assistance to Colombia. It's never yes or no with Kerry, but a mushy middle that doesn't satisfy anyone. This is why Dean is slapping him stupid. He may be McGovern 2.0, but at least he stands for something. The Democrats need to get Kerry into gear, because Dean carrying the 2004 banner for the Dems will hand the GOP the White House.
In the only legislative body that is more powerless than the New York State Assembly, The North Korean Parliament voted to endorse the government's plan to increase its "nuclear deterrent force." It must be almost surreal to belong to the North Korean Parliament, knowing that you are there for show. I mean, what do they debate? Do they draw straws to see who is "pro" and "con"? The NK government is also threatening to test a nuclear device to prove itself a nuclear power. That's smart. They're a starving country with limited farmland and resources. Their economy is in the toilet. Let's add some nuclear fallout to the mix! The parliament then confirmed their uselessness and re-elected Kim Jong Il to power. Bet he was sweating that one out.
The number of people living in poverty has risen, though not as much as expected. Currently, 12.4 percent of the population is living below the poverty line, a small .3% increase over the previous year. Poverty in the United States is a hard thing to accept, as we are the wealthiest nation on earth. This position lends itself, however, to solutions that do not work, such as people who say we should increase child tax credits and unemployment insurance. There are a couple of things wrong with this approach. First, there are people in poverty with no kids, which makes the credits useless for them. But second, and more important, this approach makes these people more dependent on government. Increasing tax credits and unemployment insurance does nothing to lift these people out of poverty. It imposes ceilings on assistance and encourages the recipients to remain on the plan, because if they gain employment, they could lose the funds. This weds them to government largess, which should not be the goal. If we want to raise these people out of poverty, this first step is to determine the financial level at which poverty occurs. Let's use the level for a household of three including one child, which is $14,480. The government should declare that all income earned up to the poverty level is tax-free, including Social Security taxes. Normal taxation rates resume once that level is exceeded. This should be combined with a partial reduction in federal aid, since these families are receiving more cash. I'd extend the tax relief to everyone, and combine it with a 1% Social Security tax on all incomes above the current cutoff level ,which is around $87,000. This would be much more effective in combating poverty than forcing these families to remain on the dole.
Another day, another failed peace plan in the Middle East. Now Palestinian PM Abbas is saying he's going to resign unless the Palestinian Legislative Council gives him more power, i.e. puts Arafat on the sideline. I think that everyone with a functioning brain stem knows that Arafat would sooner eat a knish than give up any amount of authority. He's declared the road map "dead", placing the blame on the Israelis while ignoring all the civilians his terrorist cronies have placed in pine boxes. It should be painfully obvious that Arafat, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have NO interest in peace. This road map, endorsed by the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia (when have they all agreed on anything?), would have created a Palestinian state by 2005. But Arafat doesn't want that. He wants Israel to disappear as a nation. There is now talk of Israel expelling Arafat. That couldn't happen fast enough.