William Thien

Two presidential election cycles ago during a debate with President Obama Mitt Romney made a rather famous comment that “corporations are people.” Romney didn’t mean that corporations are made up of people, rather, that the law views and gives similar rights to corporations as are provided to people.

Romney’s comment flabbergasted many in an ignorant population that was unaware of this seemingly peculiar legal arrangement. How can corporations be “people,” many asked? That’s ridiculous.

But it is true. The law views corporations as persons. Seriously.

The problem I have with that arrangement, that corporations are given a sort of personification under the law is that corporations, if they were indeed persons, would often be akin to historical figures such as Hitler or Stalin.

Corporations line up at the socialist government trough to reap taxpayer dollars while often treating the public like chattel. Not all corporations act like that, of course, there are many ethical corporations operating successfully, but you can bet if they can get away with such behaviors, many will do so. In fact, the law says corporations must act in the best interests of their shareholders and as a result, corporations often commit rather extensive social and environmental atrocities to achieve that goal, walking away from such activities in the future if undiscovered by the public, calling the result of such activities “externalities.”

Some of the most diabolical corporate behaviors, I believe, are the open sharing and sale of information about consumers, spying on consumers, spying on consumer internet usage, moving about in society attempting to persuade consumers through physical activities, innuendo, and suggestion, aggressive marketing methodologies, hiring private detectives or paying locals with access to enter in to personal quarters while a person is away, mocking individuals in advertisements because advertisers see a chance to increase sales by identifying people of certain cultures and values in a community and focusing on them to increase sales, as well as many other activities that I am sure you would agree are socially toxic, if you knew they were occurring (you may already know). The government does absolutely nothing to prevent such behaviors, also.

Letting corporations involved in the most egregious behaviors walk among us, if they are indeed viewed as “persons” by the law, is no different then that letting mass murderers and sociopaths walk among us.

What am I talking about? Yeah, Bill, what the heck are you talking about! I’m talking about proper regulation, regulation that is not in the excess but that may even enable higher profitability, regulation that protects the individual and regulation that protects the environment while simultaneously protecting a corporation’s right to conduct business in a lawful manner. The move for the last couple of decades has been to de-regulate every industry. In other words, let corporations do whatever they want. I think that is a mistake in the long run, particularly with regard to the internet and those industries that produce products that pollute the environment or that have a negative consequence on American society and culture.

Were a person to commit activities that some of our most influential corporations are involved in that person would be arrested. But a corporation, as viewed by the law as a “person,” walks away scott-free from such prosecution for those activities.

So, I just wanted to make that personal distinction of mine available to you, that even though corporations are persons as viewed by the law, many of them are the most socially toxic of persons, taking advantage of human needs and desires and abusing the public through anti-social activities, lobbying our elected to enable such behaviors by changing the law, and attaching themselves to individuals and the American public for their own gain while were a person to do the same things, they would not be among us for much longer.

I say all this being a conservative and believing in a capitalist system and economy. A candidate who is a conservative and believes in a free market economy like I do but also believes such corporate excesses must be addressed will certainly have my ear during the upcoming election cycle.

Copyright © William Thien 2018

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As tax time approaches once again I wanted you to read one of my most popular essays, America’s Unfair Tax Code and The Brown Headed Cowbird. I have debated often about socialism and communism in The United States and how socialism and communism are implemented through the tax code and in that way their effects are less obvious, though still pernicious. I will be talking a lot about America’s tax code in the next couple of months. To my friends and colleagues who utilize the tax breaks I speak of, I say, use them. Don’t feel guilty for my meager commentary on what is unfair about them. Were I in your shoes, I would do the same. But know they must change. The tax code must be made fair. It was in fact the unfair tax code during colonial times that led to the formation of this country and I don’t see that things should ever change in that regard.

America’s Unfair Tax Code and The Brown Headed Cowbird

An associate of mine was telling me that he had received a substantial tax refund this year and when comparing it to mine I was rather surprised as it was many thousands of dollars more. During the time that we have worked together, he has received close to a year’s salary in total tax refunds more than I. That’s substantial and a bit of an insult to me since we have the same position and are paid exactly the same. We are not businessmen so we do not have a large number of operating costs we can write off. We both make the same amount of money. He is married, I am not, but that was only a minor difference. The major difference between his tax return and mine was that he has five children.

On his tax return each of his children represented a large deduction to his earnings and as a result, he received a substantially larger tax refund than I did. At first I thought, OK, raising children is expensive these days, why shouldn’t he get some help from the government (that’s us the taxpayers, by the way)? But then the thought occurred to me (I didn’t tell him and I hope he doesn’t read my blog) that his children are going to public schools and at times he has used public services for medical support of his family. Again, there is nothing wrong with that. It is good that we offer the best public education in the world and can provide medical support to families in need.

But to give him a tax break substantially larger than mine when in fact he uses more public services than I do, uses more services in a substantially greater amount than I do, seems like foolish and definitely unfair tax policy. What is essentially happening is that I am paying for his children to attend school and to obtain free health care. The tax break, the deduction that he receives is possible because I do not receive the tax break. In essence I am paying to raise his children. That’s how they offer him a tax break. They take it from me in some way or another and give it to him in the form of a deduction.

In the region of the country where I live there is a bird that lays its eggs in the nests of other birds and then lets the other birds rear their young. The name of the bird is The Brown Headed Cowbird. It sneaks up to another bird’s nest when the other bird is away foraging and deposits its egg in the other bird’s nest. When the bird that is out foraging returns to the nest, more often than not they simply begin incubating the Brown Headed Cowbird’s egg along with their own and then they rear the fledgling as if it was their own. Sometimes the host bird can’t raise its own and is only able to raise the fledgling of the Brown Headed Cowbird due to diminished resources in that vicinity and the voracity of the Cowbird fledgling.

It occurs to me that much like the unwitting bird who is rearing the Brown Headed Cowbird’s egg, the invader’s egg, a parasite as defined by ornithologists, I am paying to raise the children of others. If you ask me, that is unfair tax policy. Some might say, well that’s just the way it is, and I myself, I’m not certain I have a problem with that really.

But perhaps many of the problems we have with balancing governmental budgets, many of the problems we have with massive abuses of the huge system of entitlements we have in this country stems from the perception that people have originating from the tax code. Can we afford to have another child? Heck yea! It’s a tax break! And as families have more and more children using more and more government services, we as a country are at a loss for how to pay for those services used because we in fact give people a tax break for using them. In a sense, that is what is happening. And similar tax policies apply to corporations as well for conducting certain types of business or using certain types of resources, natural resources even.

No business in their right mind pays people 100 percent of the cost of their products to purchase their products. You will not find one truly successful business that says, “we will give you five dollars for every hamburger you buy from us.” Instead of you paying us, we will pay you. Sounds like a pretty good deal, right? Until of course it comes time to pay all those people behind the counter, the servers, the ones cooking the food, the maintenance people. Where is the money? Well, boss, we gave it to the customers. Well, where are they? Get the money back! They are at the restaurant across the street eating with the money we gave them. Well whose harebrained idea was it to give them the money in the first place?

It seems to me that if we want to balance the country’s budget and the budgets of all of the states and municipalities we need realistic tax codes and policies that address budget disparities, tax policies that somehow seek payment for services used and not payment to the users, particularly the Brown Headed Cowbirds of America.

It’s only fair.

Or, how about this? Do you have a Brown Headed Cowbird living in your back yard? Check this box for your standard Brown Headed Cowbird deduction, and if you are a corporation, double the deduction.

Copyright © William Thien 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018

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This week’s pay will be the first check with the lower tax rate based upon the new Trump Tax plan that I will see any benefit. Turns out that I will receive an extra 2.81 percent after taxes, not as much as I thought I would receive but better than nothing.

The way you can figure out what increase in pay you will be taking home after the plan takes effect on your check is to subtract a previous check with the same hours on it from a new check with the identical number of hours, then divide by the previous total, and then multiply by 100, or:

NEW check – OLD check/OLD check x 100 = Increase in pay in percent.

Copyright © William Thien 2018

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What President Trump has been calling “fake news” is really what has historically been called “propaganda,” which in today’s case is being manufactured by the mainstream media and Trump’s competition and detractors.

Definitions follow:

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/propaganda

http://www.dictionary.com/browse/propaganda

Copyright © William Thien 2018

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If you examine the chart of historical stock market activity, you can see a direct effect upon the stock market demonstrating that Reagan’s two major tax cuts, The Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 and the Tax Reform Act of 1986 improved market performance over the long run. There is in fact a constant uptick with the occasional correction but the trend is generally upwards and at times rather steeply.

http://www.macrotrends.net/1319/dow-jones-100-year-historical-chart

Let’s hope Trump’s tax cuts have the same effect.

Aside from the tax cuts, I was not a big fan of Reagan. He re-invigorated the drug war and changed the model from treatment to incarceration at great cost to the taxpayer and society. It was as if he was doing the dirty work for the drug cartels who wanted drugs to remain illegal while having a negative social impact. Such an approach romanticized drug use and actually fueled violence. It was an unforgivable approach that all the tax cuts in the world couldn’t reverse.

Let’s hope Trump’s administration doesn’t follow suit.

Copyright © William Thien 2018

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This is an interesting development. It is not like protectionism, as some would suggest, because they don’t pay there employees a living wage or provide any benefits. It is more like looking out for your fellow man in a foreign land while improving the home economy.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trade-tariffs/trump-slaps-steep-u-s-tariffs-on-imported-washers-solar-panels-idUSKBN1FB30B

 

Were I to give Donald Trump and his handling of the presidency so far a letter grade or a series of stars, I’d have to say he’d be in that “A” letter grade range, definitely four and a half out of five stars.

Aside from a few pieces of legislation which will have to be reversed somehow, such as letting corporations trade your personal internet history and activity data freely (which is huge), and another which I will refrain from discussing now that pertains to public education, I’d say he is doing exactly what those who voted for him asked him to do. That is a major diversion from past presidents of whatever party. We can all agree on that.

Also, while the Never Trumpers have focused all of their anger at Trump, he hasn’t once said that I can recall in retort but I wouldn’t blame him if he did, “well I’m just doing what I was elected to do.” In other words, he is protecting his charges, those who voted for him. That’s called guts. You really can’t ask for me than that.

The guy is a fighter.

Copyright © William Thien 2018

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