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My Two &*%$#!!! Questions for Romney and Obama

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Barack Obama recently answered 14 science-related questions put to them by Scientific American and ScienceDebate.org. This exchange left me wanting more. If I had the candidates locked in a room with me, I’d ask them two questions:

What the $%&*#!!! you gonna do about the obscenely big gap between rich and poor Americans?

Over the past few decades the gap between rich and poor and the U.S. has reached Grand Canyon proportions, triggering complaints from prominent scholars and pundits as well as Occupy Wall Streeters. According to journalist (and dean of Columbia University School of Journalism) Nicholas Lehman, the richest one percent of Americans accounted for nine percent of the nation’s total income in 1979; today, the top one percent gets 25 percent of all income. Economist Jeffrey Sachs notes that average compensation for CEOs, which in 1970 was 40 times the average pay of workers, was 1,000 times greater by 2000.

Inequality is measured by the so-called Gini index (invented by statistician Corrado Gini). A society in which everybody has exactly the same income has a Gini index of zero, and a society in which one person makes all the bucks has a Gini index of one. The U.S. Gini index rose from .359 in 1972 to .440 in 2010, according to political scientist Andrew Hacker. He estimates that since 1985 the lower 60 percent of Americans has lost $4 trillion in wealth, most of which has flowed to the top five percent.

Let’s disregard the morality of inequality and just consider the issue from a public-health perspective. Psychologists Martin Daly and Margot Wilson have linked higher inequality with higher homicide rates in counties across the U.S. and Canada. The social scientists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett have correlated a high Gini index with other ills, including imprisonment, illiteracy, infant mortality, obesity, cancer, heart disease, mental illness and substance abuse.

Wilkinson and Pickett analyzed 23 nations, most in Europe, as well as the U.S., Canada, Singapore, New Zealand and Israel. Of this group, the U.S. ranks very high both on Gini score, second only to Singapore, and on social and health problems (that’s the U.S. in the right upper corner of the graph above). Wilkinson and Pickett present their findings in The Spirit Level (Bloomsbury, 2011). See also their website The Equality Trust and Wilkinson’s TED talk (to which one of my students, Marlon Montoya, alerted me). Inequality is a social sickness, which must be treated. And that brings me to my second question:

What the %$&#@!!! you gonna do about our obscenely big military budget?

Since 2000 the U.S. defense budget has doubled to almost $700 billion, according to SIPRI, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. If expenditures on nuclear weapons, homeland security and related programs are added, our annual outlays approach $1 trillion, more than the defense budgets of all other nations combined. We spend about five times as much on arms as China, our closest competitor, and 10 times as much as Russia. The U.S. is also by far the world’s biggest arms dealer, with record sales of $66 billion last year.

The U.S. military budget has flattened out recently because of the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and wind-down in Afghanistan. But no prominent politician except Ron Paul has proposed non-trivial cuts in military outlays. As former Air Force Lieutenant Colonel William Astore writes, whatever the outcome of the upcoming election, “the one clear winner” will be “the U.S. military and our ever-surging national security state.”

Republicans and Democrats alike tout the economic benefits of the military-industrial complex. But here are some facts from The Shadow World (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 2011), a hard-hitting expose of the arms trade by journalist Andrew Feinstein. Feinstein documents how arms sales foster political corruption and erosion of civil rights, not to mention violence.

Military spending is also a lousy way to create jobs. According to one study cited by Feinstein, spending tax dollars on energy-related fields would generate 50 percent more jobs, on health care almost twice as many jobs and on education almost three times as many. Why aren’t all the Republicans who supposedly care about government waste focusing on the Pentagon?

If Romney and Obama and their respective parties fail to take inequality and military spending seriously—and I don’t expect them to–maybe we need a new party.

Charts from Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett (top) and from SIPRI via Wikipedia.

Postscript: Organizing a third party ain’t the only response to frustration with American politics. Kirkpatrick Sale, an old friend and creative troublemaker, is a leader of a diverse group lobbying for secession of Vermont and other regions from the United States. They have recently drafted a document, “The Montpelier Manifesto,” urging Americans to “consider ways peaceably to withdraw from the American Empire by (1) regaining control of our lives from big government, big business, big cities, big schools, and big computer networks; (2) relearning how to take care of ourselves by decentralizing, downsizing, localizing, demilitarizing, simplifying, and humanizing our lives; and (3) providing democratic and human-scale self-government at those local and regional levels most likely to effect our safety and happiness.” Check it out at http://vermontrepublic.org/the-montpelier-manifesto.

 

John Horgan About the Author: Every week, hockey-playing science writer John Horgan takes a puckish, provocative look at breaking science. A teacher at Stevens Institute of Technology, Horgan is the author of four books, including The End of Science (Addison Wesley, 1996) and The End of War (McSweeney's, 2012). Follow on Twitter @Horganism.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. Christopher London, Esq. 9:56 am 09/7/2012

    Mitt Romney has the aura of an International Financial Racketeer, the stench of Bernie Madoff, the swagger of Patrick Bateman and the soul of the invisible man. Mitt Romney’s personal branding is thus that of the quintessential American FRAUD, yet he has garnered wide support in the financial community.

    Wall Street may be unwittingly supporting a “Confidence Man” in Mitt Romney. In my estimation, whether Mitt Romney wins or loses, Wall Street will ultimately come to regret their support of this man and his secretive values, deceptive campaign tactics, blatant dishonesty and his steady refusal to confront the skepticism that many Americans have of thisNixonian character. Mitt Romney has still not given Americans a reason to vote for him other than he is white and a reason to trust him other than he is white or a reason to like him, other than he is white. Romney has never made the case, never stood on any principal. He has been precisely what his Republican competitors have defined him as over the years: a fundamentally dishonest and hollow man, a shape-shifting, political chameleon with no core principles or values who will say literally anything in his quest for the Presidency.

    On the heels of the financial crisis of 2008 where American voters are more distrustful and seek greater transparency from their leaders, Wall Street’s embrace of a man who has the aura of an International Financial Racketeer, one who has worked rather diligently to make himself ‘Judgment Proof’ – towards what end I might add ? — may indirectly be saying something about the values that they support. Is it: “all is fair until you get caught”, perhaps? This begets the question what or who is Romney afraid of? The SEC, IRS, DOJ, foreign governments? Does he fear prosecution for Tax Fraud, Securities Fraud or under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act or RICO Act violations? Clawback suits from disgruntled investors? Or does he simply not trust the American financial system to secure his assets?

    AURA of Mitt Presents Branding Problem For Wall Street

    As I have said to numerous of my friends in the financial community, publicly supporting Mitt Romney may or at least should give voters cause for alarm about your values. Mitt Romney has still not given Americans a reason to vote for him other than he is white and a reason to trust him other than he is white or a reason to like him, other than he is white. Any critique or questions about Romney’s secretiveness have been dismissed as attacks on capitalism and success. Romney is in effect using the entire system as a shield as if to imply that all men in the business or financial community embrace his values or operate with the same ethics or morality of this particular vulture capitalist. Romney is the embodiment of the worst caricatures of the financial community.

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  2. 2. geojellyroll 10:36 am 09/7/2012

    Science?…oh,well. I rec’d a subscription toSA in 1971 for my birthday…this is my last year.

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  3. 3. MrsWormer 10:47 am 09/7/2012

    Mr. Horgan,
    You might get an answer to #1, but not in a million years #2. Our country is absolutely, categorically, and tragically out of its mind on military spending.

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  4. 4. jctyler 11:24 am 09/7/2012

    good questions – and good comments (except of course, obviously and as expected the one by our fav baby geologist who as usual makes the earth shift with his wit)

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  5. 5. sjn 11:36 am 09/7/2012

    thank you thank you thank you
    That such questions weren’t in the original list speaks much to the drift of Sci Am away from any discussing such issues as relevant to science.

    For example, regarding the military spending, if you look at total Federal R&D spending, after the National Institute of Health budget is subtracted- nearly 80% of the remaining funds are eaten up the by the departments mentioned by Mr. Horgan. Surely the fact that federal support for all remaining US science thus competes for a fraction of the U.S. R&D budget would have been relevant to the discussion.

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  6. 6. Quantumburrito 11:54 am 09/7/2012

    Speaking of the defense budget, one often overlooked fact is the expenditure on just maintaining our stockpile of nuclear weapons: $50 billion. That’s obscene by any standards, especially when the Cold War has been over for more than two decades now.

    And geojellyroll: This is John Horgan’s personal blog on SA, and Scientific American does not necessarily share the views of its bloggers. Also, blog posts don’t appear in the print edition so you shouldn’t have a problem with the subscription.

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  7. 7. sethdiyal 1:43 pm 09/7/2012

    These questions were in front of both men and their staff for quite a while and they gave real not off the cuff answers. We can only conclude that they reflect policy as opposed to a slip in a stump speech.

    They clearly show Obama to be one or more of, corrupted by Big Oil, a fool or a traitor to his country.

    Obama talks of an 80% clean electricity regime by 2035 then mentions the sources:

    a) wind/solar – both enormously expensive at 30 and 80 cents a kwh when inefficient gas backup run efficiently and 7 times sized transmission requirement are added. Far less cost, and less GHG’s, to replace the entire scam with high efficiency gas or nuclear. Replace the gas with green storage and add a buck a kwh.

    b) Clean coal – there have been no successful experiments in large scale carbon storage. It continues to be an extremely dangerous (killer pipeline or storage burst) wacky way out there nutball scam designed by Big Oil to side slip opposition to fossils. The ash from coal every year would fill Lake Erie 30 feet deep.

    c) Biofuels – all efforts to date have EROEI of less than or around 1. Far too expensive, massive subsidy needed and incapable of generating, more than even a tiny amount of net energy at enormous cost in diverting farmland from food and destroying forest. No major Green NGO thinks these are part of a clean energy solution.

    d) Natural gas – real science peer reviewed and published in reputable journal shows gas to be a greater Global warming stimulant than coal with massive methane releases from production thru delivery. Still deadly producing large amounts of lung tissue sized fine particle emissions.

    All of these solutions are pushed by Big Oil lobbyist’s to corrupt Democrats, as they know none of them are workable, diverting attention from the massive growth in their own product sales.

    Not one sentence in Obama’s considered response included the word nuclear while Romney mentioned it prominently and hopefully sincerely dispute his own large Big Oil influences.

    In fact, the Obama administration passively resists all efforts at developing new nuke power from appointing antinuke activists like Jaczko and MacFarlane to the NRC, to providing miniscule funding for new nuclear. It actively blocks working solutions like the GE Prism and Oak Ridges MSR. Here’s IFR advocate Stephen Kirsch begging the nuclear obstructionists betraying their country in the White house to let the IFR go.

    Google “why-obama-should-meet­till/#more­5076″

    China is spending spending $500M annually developing the American invented MSR (MSR). The UK is looking at building the blueprinted IFR (GE Prism) for service in 5 years. India’s first of 5 to 2020 fast breeder is going into service this year at half the cost of new American designed AP1000′s. American aside there is hope from foreign sources.

    Can the American economy survive competing against Chinese nuclear at less than a tenth the cost? Why doesn’t Obama give a damn?

    Almost all science based environmentalists from the worlds number one James Hansen on down tell us, that nuclear power is the only in time solution to AGW. Obama’s junk science is nothing more than Green Koolaid.

    Given the extreme danger of global warming even though Romney’s platform fails in so many other ways, no rational voter believing in real science can vote for Obama. The cost could well be the end of civilization as we know it.

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  8. 8. priddseren 1:59 pm 09/7/2012

    This is science? Oh well. The author is totally off. The cause of the so called gap between rich and poor is caused by the government, primarily by democrats because of they are the ones who have controlled the US for 80 of the last 100 years and they created all of the government programs, taxes, spending, ideas and general method of operation of the governments. I am sure others will blame republicans, who really are only guilty of aiding the insanity because they have never actually removed or reversed any of it.

    How is the gap created by government. The tax system is one example. Note how wages are taxed insanely and investments are not. If you make 300k a year as a wage, which does happen, you will pay a lot more than the same 300k as an investment and that same wage earner is paying even more percentage in taxes than the so called poorer wage earners. Why would this be? Well the democrats especially know that if everyone were to become well off, there would be no reason to have 75% of the government because that is all the welfare. The democrats need the majority of people to stay in the middleclass so they can continue to tax and line their own pockets with money and keep their power.

    Regulations cause the prices of everything to go up. In fact, I have yet to find any evidence of inflation resulting from anything other than government taxes, regulation and money printing. Sorry socialists but capitalism does not produce inflation because overpricing would mean a competitor takes over. Tack on a load of useless regulations (not all are useless but most are) and you have a cost increase, which means if you have less income, you now have a harder time paying for stuff, where the rich do not, creating this illusion of a gap.

    A good example of this one is the 400% tax rate on electricity in california. The socialists running california have a tiered rate for electricty establishing a base amount of KWH and tiered up 5 levels with the last one at a 400% tax. To make it really fun, the tier is a percentage, so even if you use less electricity, such as from solar panels, some of your power is still tier 5. Anyway, the intent was to price electricity so high that people would conserve. All that happened is people who have less money now have to do without comforts like air-conditioning, while the rich remain unaffected. London has a good example also. Want to drive in London, plan to spend the equivalent of 16 dollars a day as a tax to drive. What happened, well the majority of lower income people now have to either not drive or do without something else, the rich remained unaffected.

    The biggest myth of all is the implication that the rich somehow stole or pillaged the money from the rest of the population to get rich. That is totally false. The author would have to explain where Oprah Winfrey or JK Rowling among many other billionaires, stole there money. Last time I checked, Oprah has not showed up with an armed force and stolen anything from me to get her money and I freely purchased harry potter books, I was not mandated by government to buy the books.

    The political class on the other hand does in fact steal or pillage from the people to get rich. The political class being politicians, bureaucrats, union bosses, crony capitalists(companies living off government money and regulations), special interest, lobbysists, the media and anyone else who effectively uses government force to take from others. The political class is where the real problem is.

    So if the author wants to close the gap between the rich and poor, the first step is to lock down the political class and prevent them from pillaging money from everyone and prevent them from creating the bogus regulations that not only inflate prices but provide the very system crony capitalists, socialists, welfare freeloaders and others game for their own benefit.
    The next step would be to remove all of the bogus regulations and taxes that prevents the majority of the poor and middle class from earning money and keeping it. How can a guy who has little start a small business for himself when the governments of the US will force him to hand over thousands of dollars in taxes and legal fees just to negotiate the paperwork alone. The little girl down the street ought to be able to open a lemonade stand without the government shutting her down and taxing her for it. Imagine the insanity if you are an adult and perhaps you want to turn your hobby into a side business. You cant even take on a second job because the government will tax away all of the income from it.

    This author is obviously one of the socialist liberals in America and simply does not understand that his government is the cause of the so called rich and poor gap. I guess no one ever explained that money is not a finite pile, the rich were lucky to have a bigger bucket and got there first. Every person has value and as soon as they participate in the economy, they have increased the amount of value represented by money. Some people are better at increasing their value than others, ideas, intellect or having a resource. The governments around the world have created such a regulatory nightmare and tax/inflation nightmare, that the minimum value of a persons unskilled labor is not enough to overcome the insanity of the government, which is what sets that person on the path of dependency. The government wants this. If we want to end it, then we have to stop the government from regulating the value of humans to zero, unless they are favored by the political class.

    The military budget is easier to answer. Simple, stop the ridiculous idea of cost plus in contracts and tell the contractors to fund their own research or if the military does the funding then the companies involved do not get to benefit financially from that research outside of supplying bodies to build whatever it is. Other problems involving these contracts are ridiculous items such as if a contractor accidentally breaks a part, the government is on the hook to pay for the replacement, that kind of insane stuff has to end. Finally, the government in general wastes anywhere from 50 to 80 cents on the dollar. Personal experience with that one. Which leaves plenty of room for reducing costs of the entire government not just the military.

    My question for the author is why is he harping on the military, when 80% of state and federal government spending is welfare of some kind. Military spending is not even 1 trillion out of the 7 trillion total state and federal government spending. So even if you completely eliminated the military, it would not even eliminate the deficit spending. So why sir are you not asking about what the politicians are doing with the other 6 trillion they spend each year? At least the military is a legitimate government service we need. I I will guess this author feels handing tax money to Solyndra or nationalizing GM so the auto workers union pension could be taxpayer funded were perfectly legitimate uses of tax money. How many people in washington have nice well paying jobs, housing values going up and have been largely immune from the great recession thanks to government money? There were certainly better questions than you chose. A myth about a so called gap between rich and poor that was not created by government and attacking one of the few legitimate government entities that needs to exist was hardly useful and I am still wondering how this was science. I did read the article with the actual science questions and even most of those were not really all that useful.

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  9. 9. Caellwyn 2:24 pm 09/7/2012

    I would think the answer to why we don’t starve the military beast is pretty obvious. Maybe it’s too obvious. They have the big guns. Don’t you think that maybe the reason no president talks about significantly reducing military budget once they are elected is because in their first meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff that it is made apparent that America is not immune to military coup? After all, we have the most powerful military in the world, you don’t think they can protect their own supply lines domestically?
    The U.S. military likes it’s budget and is willing to do what is necessary to protect it. This may mean “accidentally” letting threats through, or even something more Egyptian. Have any of the folks responsible for attempted assassinations of former presidents ever had ties to the U.S. Military?
    Would you tell your bodyguard to his face that you are cutting his salary in half? Would you expect consequences if you did?

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  10. 10. Quantumburrito 2:42 pm 09/7/2012

    priddseren: The question is not how much we spend on defense but what its purpose is. As Ron Paul says, we are still living in Cold War mode, spend tens of billions on maintaining strategic nuclear weapons, have a military presence in 130 countries and hundreds of bases abroad. All this is crazy and could be trimmed by half without sacrificing national security. We simply don’t need to be in 130 countries to protect our borders at home.

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  11. 11. sethdiyal 3:53 pm 09/7/2012

    From Obama’s energy plan released a year ago. What has changed?

    “cleaner sources of electricity, including renewables like wind and solar, as well as clean coal, natural gas, and nuclear power.”

    Recent polling has 40% of democratic party faithful supporting nuclear.

    How to get an honest answer from a politician?

    Go figger!!!

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  12. 12. hiker_x_biker 4:59 pm 09/7/2012

    Why the income gulf ? It all boils down to education doesn’t it. Obama will send his daughters to the best schools because he can afford to do so. Ask the Democrats or Obama if they’re for Vouchers so parents can send their children to better schools ( and competition for students between schools can only be good ) and Obama and the Democrats are against it !

    Just look at what the Democrats and their Great Society programs have done for the poor – they have made being poor a away of life but through demagoguery and class warfare the Democrats also managed to buy themselves a voting block with taxpayer money. The Democrats are the new Plantation Masters and they intend to remain in that position !

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  13. 13. singing flea 9:09 pm 09/7/2012

    Apparently priddseren never heard of emergency budget requests that made up the lions share of the cost of the two gulf wars. Those were above and beyond the regular national budget. I’m not surprised. Bill Clinton got it right the other night when he said republicans just can’t do the arithmetic.

    I speed read the rest of priddy’s long winded rant. Nobody with a sound mind would take the time to read it properly, but Like geojellyroll, I gathered that neither has a clue of why politics and science are so interrelated. To suggest that politics has no place in a science publication is as short sighted as it is foolish. Scientific knowledge has always increased and benefited when politicians fund money for research, education and (yes)even defense spending. It becomes very important to scientists and science teachers that government policies reflect sound scientific principles, not the uneducated thinking or even outright make believe science of certain religious cults. We cannot possibly expect good legislation from people that don’t even understand the principles of evolution or the process of conception, much less the adverse affects of man made pollution on our biosphere.

    As for the questions that are the subject of the blog; the inequality gap between the rich and the poor has nothing to do with liberal politics. Liberal politics and unions created the kind of wealth equality that made America the greatest nation on the planet in just 200 years. If it were left to conservatives, we would still be ruled by aristocrats with white wigs. It was the unions and American manufacturers that created wealth in the middle class, not entrepreneurs like Romney that sucked those industries dry by moving the jobs and capital overseas.

    Wealthy contractors bankrolled by conservative bankers built houses like there was no tomorrow and then discovered that the biggest corporations restructured and moved to China or Mexico etc., so there was no one left who could afford to buy them. We then let banking rules get steamrollered by Wall Street into derivatives of derivatives until not even the bankers and the lawyers could tell what was a good investment anymore or who really owned the phoney mortgages.

    Who does the right wing blame? They blame the very same people who paid into the system all their lives with the promise of a happy retirement. That is your real entitlements problem, not the welfare class who worked for minimum wages and no benefits and live day to day while the people in charge of the corporations they labored for all retired as multimillionaires.

    The income gap is a symptom of greed and anti-social behavior. It is a byproduct of a false God philosophy. It was not always this way in America. At the apex of the 20th century America was doing just fine. What happened was was pure buffoonery by a corrupt and greed driven administration that opened Pandora’s box with sick abandonment of a system that was doing just fine in 1999.

    The collapse of America was a result of greed and terrible judgement by an administration that created the biggest bureaucratic blunder in the history of the country, the Department of Homeland Security. They did it with fear, cloak and dagger policies and false flag attacks. Who really benefited? Those same corporations that run the War Department(not the Department of Defense as claimed) and some of the worst tax cheats in the world. The TSA is all about tracking the free flow of cash and open market goods (now labeled black market goods) which was once the back bone of free enterprise and a major reason for the Declaration on Independence. This benefits no one but big business. Does the prohibition of marijuana benefit anyone but big pharma? Does a cashless society benefit anyone but the bankers?

    The war industrialist have more ways to write off profits then Mitt Romney himself. Mitt himself claimed he will close those loopholes, but to this day he has yet to offer even one example of what loop holes he would close. I think he is a back stabber and a liar. I also think if the country ever knew the truth of his income taxes, he would be tarred and feathered by his own party. He sure as hell has no solution to the countries financial crisis. His only angle is more power to screw over more Americans.

    Does that answer you question John Horgan?

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  14. 14. jctyler 6:11 am 09/8/2012

    sethdiyal

    “They clearly show Obama to be one or more of, corrupted by Big Oil, a fool or a traitor to his country.”

    you always wrote garbage but you’re topping yourself here.

    and BTW, we’re all anxiously waiting for your analyzis of that guy who does not want to admit in public how he made his money, not to mention not explain his tax schemes or how he made money by killing tons of US jobs to become superrich, who also runs.

    but why don’t you run for president? in application of your comment you would qualify. look it up:

    https://www.google.com/#hl=en&safe=images&output=search&sclient=psy-ab&q=significantly+impaired+cognitive+functioning+and+deficits+sethdiyal&oq=significantly+impaired+cognitive+functioning+and+deficits+sethdiyal&gs_l=hp.3…2589.2589.0.3831.1.1.0.0.0.0.155.155.0j1.1.0.les%3B..0.0…1c.1j2.ddfUGQqaliE&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_qf.&fp=e68e26b4a74688f0&biw=1225&bih=578

    it’s all about you

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  15. 15. tharriss 9:32 am 09/8/2012

    I believe reason and science should be used in ever expanding areas of our life to help us make better decisions. jellyroll is complaining that this isn’t a proper topic for a scientific journal, but I strongly disagree. All of the major issues for this election are subject to rational evaluation, and if people would methodically go through all the points of both sides, and apply a careful scientific evaluation, it seems that would be very useful in determining which candidate is most likely going to be the better choice.

    Do I expect some perfect clean number, like Obama is 62.1% of a better choice than Romney or vice versa? Absolutely not, but for each issue, a careful rationational evalutions can be great tools to at least show, issue by issue, which approach for each issue holds water, and thus would help everyone make better decisions.

    We can’t afford to keep depending on this Pundit based approach where each side just lobs virtually unsupported opinions at each other, and when one side does bring in facts and studies, they tend to take them out of context or ignore sound conclusions that don’t fit in their pre-determined platform.

    So yes, science and reason could go a LONG way to cleaning up this process and helping people make better political decisions. So it SHOULD be in Scientific American and is a valid subject for discussion.

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  16. 16. sethdiyal 11:47 am 09/8/2012

    @tyler

    Does your mom know you are drunk typing on her computer while she is sleeping? Bad boy!!!

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  17. 17. mhenriday 2:02 pm 09/8/2012

    Good questions, Mr Horgan ? May I point out that the two phenomena – «the obscenely big gap between rich and poor Americans» and the «obscenely big military budget» – are intimately related ? The purpose of the second – and it is truely obscenely huge ; if we include the budget for the (in)security apparatus, apparently 53 cents on every tax dollar the US federal government manages to collect from those not wealthy enough to keep a large part of their assets in tax shelters abroad, is used for these purposes – is hardly the «defence» of the country (if it were, half would more than suffice) ; rather it represents an enormous transfer of wealth from the pockets of ordinary citizens to those of a very few – something Eisenhower warned about more than half a century ago. These ill-gotten gains have allowed those who receive them to take over government at every level – federal, state, and local – which is why the policies that have resulted in the phenomena you mention not merely continue, but are reinforced by every succeeding administration. During the Eisenhower administrations, the highest marginal income tax rate varied from 91 to 92 % ; at present it’s 35 %, but those subject to it generally manage to pay much less, as we have recently seen when certain income tax returns have been released to the public. These figures, perhaps, suffice to show in whose interest the country is being run – surprise, surprise !…

    Henri

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  18. 18. jctyler 3:01 pm 09/8/2012

    sethdiypal: you’re so predictably uncreative and unfunny

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  19. 19. 4RAYRICE 8:23 pm 09/8/2012

    Mr Horgan identified the exact two questions that America needs to address.I say this as a mildly consrvative Republican who believes in more equality in income and that a nation that over spends on the military, has no balls!!

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  20. 20. collettedesmaris 5:44 am 09/9/2012

    What are they going to do about the obscenely big gap between rich & poor Americans? Either one will make the gap bigger.

    What are they going to do about the obscenely large Military budget? Another simple equation: either one will continue to feed money to the military industrial complex because war is beneficial to only those who are in the position to profit from war expenditures. The bulk of the money sure isn’t going to the Veterans who laid their lives on the line; or lost them.

    Ollie, just look at this mess you’ve gotten us into.
    The “lesser of two evils” is not a good choice for the highest office in the land – particularly when neither one is “lesser” … we’d be hard-pressed to determine which one will do us more harm, as opposed to fooling ourselves into thinking which one will do us the most good. They are both fakers who do the opposite of what they “promise” they will do. Right in front of us, too!

    What is the future of a Democracy when a candidate for the Republican Nomination “wins” the nomination under conspicuously suspicious circumstances; while the machinery of legal action scarcely trembles? What kind of current President does nothing to address the proof of election fraud in the Primaries of almost every state that resulted in cheating the rightful Republican candidate out of the Nomination? The same President who violated the oath he took to uphold The Constitution by betraying the American People last New Year’s Eve, when he signed Senate Bill 1867, which removed our right to trial.

    Indeed, what kind of National Security removes fundamental power from the hands of the American People while it promotes the ascendency of secret government in the United States? That kind of National Security is: when it smells like it; looks like it; and feels like it, you call it what it is: Fascism.

    Sadly; this November will undoubtedly be the last Presidential Election we will all participate in. Unarguably, Ron Paul would have been far better for our country than either Romney or Obama – because they are the same. He advocated peace with all nations and war with none. His directive was to bring all troops home and the $720 Million per day it’s costing us to keep them overseas – with no added security here. He would have stopped foreign aid and kept the money here in America instead. He was going to completely phase out Income Tax and the IRS. Another part of his platform was to Audit the Federal Reserve and then phase it out as well. While Romney & Obama bickered about who could raise the most campaign money and focused on discrediting one another’s character, Ron Paul diligently authored the “Audit the Fed” Bill and was successful in getting it passed on the House floor.
    If any of you can say that Ron Paul would not do better things for us and our country, then there’s something wrong with the way you think.

    Me, personally – I’m going to write in “Ron Paul” on the ‘write-in candidate’ line underneath Romney & Obama this November …. because Ron Paul is the only one who is deserving of my vote. It really rubs me the wrong way to submit a vote for either one of the other two – can’t bring myself to do it. Neither Romney or Obama rightfully deserves a vote for the Presidency – because they each have made it abundantly clear that they don’t care a hoot for the country of America or her People – Ron Paul is a fine and noble gentleman – and his moral character is intact and non-negotiable. Why else do you think they didn’t want him in the running? He never has played games with the “Capitol Hill Gang” – and he never will. That’s the kind of man I want at the helm of my country – not some shyster who pays weak cogs in the wheel to buy the nomination – and not some guy who has already proven he does not have our best interests in mind by openly betraying us by violating the oath he swore to uphold. My common sense tells me he won’t hesitate doing it again – why wouldn’t he? He got away with it once already – the man is guilty of treason, and just like Romney cheating to win the nomination, nothing was done about either offense. Doesn’t that bother any of you?

    Link to this
  21. 21. Glendon Mellow 7:08 pm 09/9/2012

    #2 geojellyroll, #5 sjn: It’s a blog. Sometimes it’s good to hear the blog author’s opinions on things outside of science.

    Link to this
  22. 22. MARCHER 8:08 pm 09/9/2012

    Glondon,

    Agreed, and as far as I am concerned it is always good to hell less from geojellyroll.

    Link to this
  23. 23. ltgltg 10:34 pm 09/9/2012

    Please, please, please, Scientific American: STAY OUT OF POLITICS. There are plenty of other outlets for that stupidity.

    Link to this
  24. 24. Glendon Mellow 11:59 pm 09/9/2012

    #23 ltglg, I’ll just leave this here.

    Link to this
  25. 25. bucketofsquid 5:41 pm 09/10/2012

    The solution for income equalization has been known from the dawn of time: The poor kill the ultra rich and take their wealth. Sure the economy will suffer for a while but then the same exploitation process will start up again and the economy will grow. Eventually the exploitation will become unsustainable and the poor will rise up again and rinse and repeat.

    Most rebellions or revolutions fail but if they succeed in killing enough of the upper classes without destroying too much infrastructure then they can have a (sort of) fresh start. As one who isn’t exactly poor or rich, I’m going to sit this kerfuffle out.

    Link to this

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