View from the terrace of the family's Brooklyn Heights apartment

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Fair Taxes and Elections?

Just about everyone realizes that our tax system is unjust and corrupt. Unfortunately, little will be done about it because politicians of both parties rely upon huge contributions--some would call them bribes--from lobbyists representing Wall Street, large corporations, and other interests. It doesn’t seem likely, even with a progressive in the White House, that any the of the more outrageous loopholes might be eliminated or narrowed. Short of a national disaster, nothing substantial, it seems, can be done to make our tax structure rational or fair.

As the election of 2012 clearly demonstrated, our system of choosing political representatives has similarly become disgraceful and absurd.  Campaigns are much too long, involve increasingly astronomical amounts of money, and freely indulge in demagogy, pandering, outright distortions, and boldfaced lies. To run for high office  in the twenty-first century it seems all a candidate needs is extraordinary amounts of money with which to tell lies and attack opponents in televised ads. Although the chances of improving this situation are more remote than fixing the tax code, it may be worth while to consider alternatives. 

It would be wholesome for democracy if all campaigns were limited to two months before the election, plenty of time for candidates to spell out their principles and specific positions. Campaigns would be financed by the government with modest funds distributed equally among the candidates. An equal amount of free television time would be available to each bonafide candidate. No additional money would be available--no contributions, not even the candidates own funds. For each contest, there would be one televised debate. This would be a modified Oxford-style debate in which the moderator does little but keep time. In the presidential debate, for example, there would be two teams, composed of each party’s candidates for president and vice president. This form of debate allows candidates to introduce topics and positions and their opponents to challenge them in rebuttal. And in presidential elections the popular vote would be all that counts. 

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