Political Animal

24 Finale

24 FINALE….Hey, how about that season finale of 24?

Kinda disappointing, actually. They just left too many loose ends for the last episode, I think, and couldn’t tie them all down in a single hour.

Still, gotta give them credit. Ten minutes after David Palmer told his cabinet that he wasn’t going to hold a grudge over their ousting him from the presidency because “it’s not a mistake you’re likely to make again,” he keels over, obviously forcing his VP (in next season’s first episode, natch) to do exactly that. Very droll indeed.

(And how about some help from the law profs here? Near the end of the episode the VP “repeals” his decision and puts David Palmer back in charge. Granted, they’ve played sort of fast and loose with the 25th Amendment already, but there’s nothing in the amendment that allows him to do that, is there? The president is required to send a declaration to Congress that he’s fit to serve. So what’s up? Jeff?)

Anyway, the final episode of 24 is now history, Survivor is over, and The Bachelor has made his choice, which means there’s nothing left except the bleak prospect of a long, dreary, TV-less summer. What shall we do to amuse ourselves?

There’s always blogging, I suppose.

Paying Back

PAYING BACK….In the Warren Buffet op-ed I mentioned below, he also says this about the fact that both he and his receptionist pay about the same tax rate even though he’s a zillion times richer than her:

She’s not complaining: Both of us know we were lucky to be born in America. But I was luckier in that I came wired at birth with a talent for capital allocation — a valuable ability to have had in this country during the past half-century. Credit America for most of this value, not me. If the receptionist and I had both been born in, say, Bangladesh, the story would have been far different. There, the market value of our respective talents would not have varied greatly.

This is such an important point, because wealthy conservatives are forever crying that it’s our money, dammit, and we earned it via hard work. Why should we have to pay a higher tax rate than anyone else?

Yes, rich people are often rich because of their innate talents and hard work. But as Buffett points out, they are also rich because the culture they live in helped them along. If Bill Gates had grown up in Pakistan, he might be worth a few million dollars, but growing up in Seattle he ended up worth $50 billion. So of that $50 billion, how much is due to his innate talent and hard work and how much is due to the fact that he grew up in America?

The answer is obvious. America was responsible for a big chunk of Bill Gates’ fortune, which is why it makes sense that he should be asked to pay more to keep the country going. But instead the ultra-rich fight tooth and nail these days to pay as little as they possibly can. Why are they so begrudging about paying back a country that has given them so much?

Liberal Cranks

LIBERAL CRANKS….The modern conservative movement has been funded in large part by people like Richard Mellon Scaife and Joseph Coors, rich conservative cranks who have been spreading their money around since Goldwater’s defeat in 1964. A couple of months ago I asked Eric Alterman, “Why aren?t there any rich liberal cranks like Scaife willing to fund liberal think tanks?” Here’s what he said:

The genius of what Scaife and Coors and those people did is, they just threw manure onto a field and decided to see what grew. What Scaife did is, he just gave everybody money, he said, fine, let?s see what grows, whereas liberals are much more focused on programmatic money….They want control, they want reports; they don?t fund basic research, they don?t fund operating expenses.

Now, here is gazillionaire investor Warren Buffett in the Washington Post yesterday:

The taxes I pay to the federal government, including the payroll tax that is paid for me by my employer, Berkshire Hathaway, are roughly the same proportion of my income — about 30 percent — as that paid by the receptionist in our office.

….Now the Senate says that dividends should be tax-free to recipients. Suppose this measure goes through and the directors of Berkshire Hathaway (which does not now pay a dividend) therefore decide to pay $1 billion in dividends next year. Owning 31 percent of Berkshire, I would receive $310 million in additional income, owe not another dime in federal tax, and see my tax rate plunge to 3 percent.

And our receptionist? She’d still be paying about 30 percent, which means she would be contributing about 10 times the proportion of her income that I would to such government pursuits as fighting terrorism, waging wars and supporting the elderly. Let me repeat the point: Her overall federal tax rate would be 10 times what my rate would be.

Hey, he sounds pissed! And his riches make Scaife look like a small time piker. So what do you say, Warren, how about taking up a late career as a rich liberal crank? We could use you.

Guns and Cinder Blocks

GUNS AND CINDER BLOCKS….Like Matt Yglesias, I don’t usually bother to blog about gun issues. I don’t know much about guns, I don’t have very strong opinions about them, and it’s so hard to find honest information about gun issues that it’s just not worth the trouble.

On the other hand, it does look as if CNN played fast and loose with a report on guns the other day. First off, there’s an argument about what kinds of guns are affected by the assault weapons ban and whether they’re really any different from other, legal guns. That’s just the usual he-said-she-said gun stuff and I don’t care much about it. But then there’s this:

In the first of the two segments that aired Thursday, a Broward County detective fired the AK-47 in semiautomatic mode, and the camera showed bullets hitting a cinder-block target. The detective then fired a legal semiautomatic weapon, and CNN showed a cinder-block target with no apparent damage. On Friday, CNN admitted that the detective had not been firing at the cinder block.

Now, this story is from the Washington Times and the author is Robert Stacy McCain, so it’s probably best to keep an open mind until CNN responds. On the other hand, it’s been nearly a week and CNN doesn’t seem to have cleared things up yet. They probably ought to get cracking.

UPDATE: It turns out CNN ran a corrected report yesterday. In comments, Unlearned Hand points to AR15.com, which helped CNN tape the followup report. These guys seem to be convinced that the original report was faulty due to carelessness, not dishonesty, and appear to be happy with the sincerity of CNN’s followup. Since they’re the ones with the biggest beef, I’ll defer to their opinion. The CNN report may have been sloppy, but apparently it wasn’t mendacious.