Sunday, March 22, 2009

Pure Hogwash

We continue to hear about "socialism" and "class warfare" in reference to Obama's intention to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire for the top income brackets. This is absolute rubbish. Most everyone, including Adam Smith, Andrew Mellon, and even G.W. himself has professed support for progressive taxation. The idea being that, the more one benefits from the social and economic structure as it is, the more one ought to be giving back. However, the Bush era tax reforms arguably made our tax structure less progressive, not more. We also hear that the proposed tax hikes on households making $250,000 and over will "hurt small business". Ain't necessarily so. The definition of "small business" is varied, but no matter how it's defined, most small business owners make less than $250,000 per year. The rub, however, according to some folks, is the fact that raising taxes on the upper income brackets has the effect of taxing about 2/3 of small business income. These are the folks who want to avoid taxing capital at all costs, apparently even at the cost of bringing down the financial system altogether.

Here's how I see it: Certainly taxing capital too much can have a dampening effect on innovation and economic growth. We need to reward risk to some degree. Rewarding risk is part of what makes our system in the U.S. different from everywhere else, and why we are leading the world in health care innovation as well as cost. But taxing capital too little leads us into a top heavy system, with an unsustainable chasm between the haves and have nots. It also, in my estimation, leads to exactly the kind of economic collapse we're experiencing right now. Too much capital sloshing around the economy needs somewhere to go, leading in turn to more and more exotic "investments". This phenomenon is very well outlined in an episode of This American Life titled "The Giant Pool of Money".

Finally, this is a tax on profits, not gross income. Therefore, any enterprising person whose business is netting somewhat more than $250,000 could theoretically come up with myriad ways to invest a few (or many) more thousand a year and come in under the limit. Hire a few more people. Invest in new equipment. Weatherize your building, if you have one. To my mind this kind of a tax hike, especially in this climate, makes sense not only because it puts more of the tax burden where it belongs (on the folks who are benefiting most from our economic system), but because it can encourage more investment in the "real economy": e.g. labor, durable goods, and innovative services. And in a time when the basic foundations of our economy are shifting due to environmental and other concerns, small business owners would do well to spend money positioning themselves to respond profitably.

A postscripted "Deep Thought"...I love this quote, which I discovered thanks to the paraphrasing of an FB friend:

"I like to pay taxes. With them, I buy civilization."
-Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Spring

Spring is poking its lovely little head out of the wet earth today. Willow and I went out and about, in a frosty, sunny morning that turned to a bright, cool afternoon. A perfect Seattle spring prelude. The crocuses are out, and even a few daffodils and one of my favorites, miniature daffodils. As we sat on the bus and I took in the weather, I realized that spring, by the calendar, is only a little over two weeks away. Two weeks plus one day, to be exact. It's been a relatively dry winter, it's seemed to me, and on Wednesday we had one of our quintessential romantic Seattle winter days, warm, cozy, gray, and drizzly. The kind of day where you can walk outside and soak yourself without even noticing.

I've been dilly-dallying and haven't gotten as much done building our vegetable beds as I'd like. I have some cover crop seed waiting to be planted, though it's probably a week or so before I could plant it. I also still have several plants to move. I managed to move the two biggest ones, a Rosa Nutkana (one of our native roses) and a Symphocarpus Albus (snowberry, another native). But when we went down the path today on the way out of the front yard, I noticed that one of the Mahonias (tall Oregon grape) is showing some flower buds. The one that is budding is the larger one, I have a smaller one that is not budding and luckily that is the one that I want to move. But the buds were a little prick of reminder that time is short for easy transplanting... I don't want to stress the plant to much by moving it while it's in flower, and I want to take advantage of the last of the rains. I did also get one of my two pots of Clarkia amoena in the ground, they're looking alright but not particularly robust. We'll see how they go. I don't necessarily think they are too stressed or were potted for too long, but the leaves are reddish. I'm hoping the red is due to the cold and not stress. I'll be looking for some new green leaves to come out soon, but hopefully not too soon. With the unseasonable warmth we had earlier in the week, and now the overnight and morning frosts, we're sure to get lots of bud and fruit damage this year on the less hardy plants.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Watercolor

As an erstwhile artist and someone who wants to learn to draw someday, I really love a well illustrated children's book. Two books we've been reading lately are A Fawn in the Grass and Off We Go!. I noticed that they both were done in watercolor. I've always loved that layered style of watercolor that takes full advantage of its translucency, and these books really do that. Even if you don't have kids, they're both worth checking out for the illustrations. Off We Go! is written by Jane Yolen, author of the "How Do Dinosaurs..." series. That series also has fun illustrations by Mark Teague, but they're not the same style at all. I dearly love that light watercolor style. The illustrator of A Fawn in the Grass is Keiko Narahashi, who endearingly has a childhood picture for her author photo. Laurel Molk illustrated Off We Go!, which is really gorgeously layered though not quite as delicate as Narahashi's work.

Also, the story of A Fawn in the Grass is very moving: the author, Joanne Ryder, had a doe come into her yard and give birth. The fawn stayed in the yard for several weeks, and the mother returned every night. They let the grass grow long so the fawn could hide safely until it became strong enough to go off with its mother. One of these days I want to take a watercolor painting class. After I learn to draw.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Whiteness

Oh, my gosh. I'm whiter than I could have ever imagined. I fancy myself somewhat "multicultural", given that I grew up in a predominantly black inner-city neighborhood, went to inner-city public schools, and took the bus to get places not only through most of my growing up years but also now, since our family does not own a car. But alas, I have found out that I am white, white, white. At least, according to the website Stuff White People Like. Some of the things I like on the list are yoga, The Wire, religions (their) parents don't belong to, not having a TV, and the idea of soccer. At least there are a few things on the list I definitely don't like, such as Apple products, knowing what's best for poor people, and shorts. Well, now my life will be devoted to accepting myself in all my whiteness. Which, I'm just sure, is a very white thing to do.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Frustration & Gratitude

Sometimes I really just want some time to myself. Like this afternoon... we went to the indoor gym at the community center this morning, and out to lunch on the way home, and then by 1:30 we were home for nap time. I suppose I should have taken a queue from the fact that immediately after lunch she started asking emphatically to go back to the community center and play, but I was on a mission to get her to sleep so I could have some quiet time to myself and do some chores around the house.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I did have about 5 hours yesterday to myself. I just started doing a swap with another mom who has a little girl about Willow's age, and it's working out wonderfully. Yesterday was my day, and I spent the time dusting, vacuuming, and listening to the radio. Both of Willow's grandma's are coming into town next week, and I'm working on getting the place a bit more presentable. And the dust is, well, thick. So I listened to NPR (trying to locate a particular sentence I heard last week, to no avail), dusted, put through some laundry, and vacuumed some of the neglected corners. I love that time, and enjoyed it thoroughly, but of course didn't get done all I wanted to and had also a kitchen full of dishes that I left untouched. Which I was hoping to get to, like, an hour ago. **Sigh**

So, I spent more time than I really ought to trying to get her to sleep, because I just couldn't conceive of the afternoon without that interlude. Most times I don't mind much when she doesn't nap, but today I just couldn't let it go. Until I took her out in the stroller and watched as she kept leaning more and more forward in response to me tilting the stroller back so she would rest her head. That was the moment I realized a nap was not in the cards.

Now, I'm sitting here in the living room typing this while Willow watches a video, so I guess I am having that time to myself anyway. And I have an early bedtime to look forward to, which means dinner time is coming up forthwith. I think we'll be having Boboli pizza tonight.