Saturday, April 16, 2011

Abortion: What's up with that?

Abortion isn't really a main issue of mine, but I have an opinion on it just like most everyone else. My opinion on it is that it's horrible, and we should prevent it. Really, the whole concept of it is right out of a horror movie.

However, what should we do in regards of whether or not to keep it legal and how to prevent it? The currently necessary path is quite clear.

Firstly, let's cover why there's even an argument. The reason is that murder is bad. Even most serial killers will tell you that killing someone who has done nothing to wrong you is evil. Of course to them, that's probably part of the charm.

A whole lot of people think abortion is murder, even that those who perform or request abortions should be charged with murder. What is murder? It's killing a person. It's not taking a life; otherwise, me just swatting that fly would make me a murderer.

Most people on both sides agree that murder (killing a person) is wrong so the argument is about what
constitutes a person. Is it the life? Technically, all of the human life cycle is life. If we say that the life cycle qualifies, then even sperm and eggs must be protected by law.  Well, some women may say menstruation is murder, but they don't mean it literally. Is it the start of the life cycle? Scientists say the life cycle starts at conception. However, some step had to be Step One for the text book. It could just as easily have been ejaculation.

Pro-lifers cite this example from 1981 but only because they think it supports their argument. Do we really think they'd be pro-choice if the scientists had said life begins at birth? How many trust the scientific consensus on this but not on evolution or global warming? They're citing a source they don't trust.

However, taking a life isn't murder. Taking the life of a person is murder. I still don't hear any sirens over that fly. So, the whole argument over life is a distraction from the real issue.

What makes anyone of us a person? Unique DNA? Embryos can have unique DNA but so can tumors. Is it the soul? Well, the Bible doesn't state at what point in the life cycle a soul is granted. Also, we're not a theocracy so the religious answer has no place in this debate. The mind is what makes us unique. Would an adult body kept alive without a brain be considered a person? Or, is it just a shell? How about a brain dead adult? By definition, brain death is the irreversible cessation of brain functions. At various points in the human life cycle after conception, there is no functioning brain. And although it is irrelevant, I would have to say the answer to the religious question of the soul would be that the soul arrives when the brain has at least some degree of awareness. Without our consciousness, the body is just a shell

The question we need to ask is at what point in the life cycle do we acquire a brain? Scientists know that the possible capacity for the lower boundary of sentience is not developed until 18-25 weeks into a pregnancy.  However, the most likely correct answer is 30 weeks. At some point during the life cycle, personhood must be bestowed, but the point must not be an arbitrary one. Because there is some degree of uncertainty here, I would recommend erring on the side of caution and going with an answer of 18 or 22 weeks. It is an answer that should change as we learn more.

Some people say that comparing a brain dead patient to a fetus is unfair. They say it's different because the fetus is a potential person. An abortion would prevent a potential person. However, there are several stages of the life cycle where potential humans are prevented. One can't defend the “potential person argument” without saying that not knocking up a woman and not getting pregnant are crimes. While I'm typing this, I'm not impregnating anyone. It is a missed opportunity. I could currently be denying life to the person who cures cancer or to a person who will someday flip burgers. So, should not having unprotected sex at fertile times be a crime? Should we become a society where we all devolve into some kind of orgy whenever a fertile woman is present? Although it's the case on MTV reality shows, I hope that doesn't become everyday law.

So, should we make abortions illegal? If abortions are outlawed, only outlaws will have abortions. It will certainly be a boon to the industries run by Dr. Coathanger, Dr. StomachPunch, and Dr. SwallowBottleofRandomPills. Women will still have abortions, and they will be far less safe. Approximately, one million women had underground abortions in the two decades preceding legalization. Besides the back alley abortion business, outlawing abortions will also certainly please some rapists who will be glad that women must bear their children.

No, the answer is to prevent abortions and make them readily available until the fetus reaches the developmental point where it can be agreed it is a person., perhaps at 22 weeks. However, there needs to be an exception to this with regards to the safety of the mother's life. This prevents it being murder and gives sufficient time for most women to decide whether or not to remain pregnant. Most women know they're pregnant by 8 weeks. However, a far better answer would be only getting pregnant when it is desired. I will admit that even the concept of legal abortions that aren't murder are still pretty horrifying. Nobody would look forward to those, despite some on the Pro-life side claiming that others are Pro-Abortion.

So, how do we prevent abortions? Here's how:
  1. Make contraceptives and so-called morning after pills readily available.
  2. Provide comprehensive sex education. Abstinence is a valid choice; however, abstinence-only education relies on kids having an unbreakable iron will and actually agreeing with abstinence. The education they're provided pretty much guarantees unwanted pregnancies. Proper sex education must involve pregnancy and both the male and female responsibility in pregnancy.
A nasty roadblock to the accessibility of medication to prevent pregnancies are conscience laws. A pharmacist shouldn't be able to refuse to sell medication that a pharmacy sells based on that pharmacist's own religious or personal code. It is an employee's duty to fulfill a job function. If it is someone's job to sell drugs, but they only sell some drugs when they feel like it, they should be fired. If a personal code gets in the way of doing a job, they should pick a different job. However, I do think a pharmacist should be able to deny medication(s) to someone when there is a valid medical or legal concern (such as that person possibly being a drug abuser).

Some people are happy to sit back and say that abortions have risen in countries where there are more contraceptives and sex education. There are several problems with that statement. In developed countries, proper education has a better chance of success. The truth is that legal abortion increases the number of abortions that we know about. Unfortunately, not all illegal abortions are reported. Also, raw numbers usually rise in less developed, poorer countries as the population rises. Success has to be measured in terms of percentages of the current population. So if you see a graph showing that the number of abortions is staying constant, that means the abortions per person are decreasing because our population is increasing. Given population counts in the USA, the number of abortions are decreasing.

In the current times, that abortion has become such a big issue makes me think it is a distraction from solving our current issues, such as high unemployment, poor economy due to high unemployment, and poor economy due to a few having most of the wealth in this country, preventing the masses from spending.

If we could tackle the abortion issue logically as I laid out above, we could move onto the larger issues that affect us more greatly. This isn't to say abortion isn't an important issue, but the larger issues are also a matter of life and death. Poor economy creates crime. It means more people can't afford health care or sufficient food. It is not a good sign when the state of a country is a shambles and what goes on inside a uterus is the main focus of discussion.

Further Reading:
Carl Sagan on Abortion.
A pretty poor argument against the one presented by Sagan and myself. It is well-refuted by my above article.
Tumors Can Have Distinct DNA
According to Psalm 139, an embryo/fetus may be an unformed substance and is not said to have a soul (despite this writer's interpretation that it says it does). This article also says that a doctor says there isn't enough genetic material to define a unique person until at least after 8 days, possibly later.
Woman denied abortion, forced to endure her uterus crushing fetus to death:
GOP wants to censure legislature for saying the word “uterus” during discussion of abortion.
Over 97% of climate scientists and 82% of Earth scientists agree that humans are a significant contributing factor to the current global warming.
(I shouldn't admit it, but global warming is something I don't really care much about either. However, we should all agree that poisoning our air, water, soil, and food is bad. Friends deny global warming all the time, but it can't be denied that the city where I live constantly declares smog days. My lungs don't like it one bit. Let's agree that pollution is killing us, and we need to stop it.)

Bonus Video: Betty Bowers Describes All The Abortions in The Bible


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

In Defense of the Simple Plan to Save America's Economy

In one of my first posts, I presented a plan to revitalize and preserve America's economy using tax incentives to raise wages.

Below, I respond to various criticisms of the plan, and show why those concerns are unfounded. I have culled and paraphrased these criticisms from various sources.

“Higher wages increase the costs of goods and services, which will also raise prices.”

Right. So, I guess we just don't increase people's wages then. Problem solved? Hey everybody, no more raises ever!

Actually, no. Wages have to increase. Wages have been stagnant for quite some time for the vast majority of Americans. Meanwhile, the number of millionaires has increased in this country and the riches of the mega-rich has increased dramatically.

However, the important thing is that higher wages don't increase the cost of goods. Anyone who understands economics knows this to be true. Cost is a function of supply and demand. When demand increases, more of a product is sold, the production cost is divided across more products and this reduces the cost of production per item, decreasing the cost of the item. The only time demand increases the cost of an item is when demand outstrips the supply. For the counter statement to be true, it would have to have said that demand increases the cost of goods and services when the supply is limited, and higher wages would also have to increase the demand on every product in the market to the point where demand outstrips supply. It is not as if everybody is suddenly going to want 50 gallons of milk every week. The truth is that many products will become cheaper though it is possible some items of limited availability may increase in price.

Therefore, those who say increasing wages in this country is a bad idea think we should keep the workers poor because there is a chance that the demand for some items may increase their cost. They're saying the money is better off in the hands of the rich CEOs. Unless, maybe you think the money is better off in the hands of the government. Personally, I wouldn't mind an extra $20 grand in my salary, even if maybe the price of milk were to go up by 20 cents a gallon.

In summary, that higher wages increases the cost of goods is blatantly false.

“It will cause inflation.”

See the above. This counter is simply not true. Also, the term inflation should only be used to mean rising costs associated with the devaluation of money caused by the government printing more.

“Salaries & wages are already a write off. Corps only pay taxes on net. We'd be better off eliminating all subsidies and loopholes.”

Eliminating subsidies and tax loopholes will only increase government revenue. I guess this means the government can take better care of all the poor and struggling working class who become poorer as companies outsource their work.

My plan provides a tax write-off incentive for companies to increase wages and hire domestically. In the case of corporations only paying taxes on net profit, this is an additional write-off. In light of that, perhaps a write-off equal to 50% of a worker's wage would be sufficient. Although, I must say I'm in favor of eliminating all write-offs and deductions for everybody and taxing all income, regardless of the source (except for non-profit charities). I'd couple this suggestion with suggesting eliminating sales tax in America, putting the tax on the person doing the selling, not on the buyer. It is true that some localities depend on a sales tax, but I would rather they instead earn a local income tax from sales. I'm aware that could simply lead to building the cost of the “sales tax” into the price of the item instead of calling it a sales tax. I'm just not a fan of anything resembling double-taxation (taxed when you earn, taxed when you spend, ugh), but that's neither here nor there. I'm getting somewhat off-topic.

“Let's enact tariffs. This will discourage domestic companies exporting their manufacturing to areas of cheap foreign labor and importing their products for sale. Then, they'll hire domestically instead.”

Or, they'll just increase the cost of the product to make up for the tariff, pushing the cost onto the already struggling consumers in this country. Companies don't want to give up money. If there's a way around it, they'll do it.

“These subsidies aren't sustainable. How long will they last? I'd rather a recovery be a function of the market.”

We'll have given businesses a new tax write-off and eliminated other write-offs and loopholes. It's more likely the government would break even, given that the six richest corporations in America pay none or almost no Federal tax.

However, the government would likely earn more tax revenue overall from this plan, even if corporations end up paying the same amount or less taxes. The reason being that working Americans would be earning more, and therefore, paying more in income taxes. Unlike corporations, most working Americans are honest, tax-paying folk.

How long would this last? I'd make it permanent. After all, a recovery via this plan would be using the market itself. This isn't the government subsidizing wages; it's providing ground rules for fair, ethical, and moral capitalism. If you take those rules away, the same recession will happen all over again because all economic systems eventually break down. Everything needs ground rules. You don't play sports without rules, and driving without traffic laws (or road signs) would be chaos.

“Companies don't have the money to increase wages, even with a tax write-off.”

During our recession, oil companies have been posting record profits.
Taxes can be paid at the year's end. Companies can pay extra wages if they know they won't have to pay that in taxes.
There's also enough money in some CEO's salaries and stock options to increase worker wages. I'm perfectly OK if companies, in order to pay less taxes, decrease CEO paychecks and pay that to the workers instead.
The CEO of Occidental Petroleum made $76.1 million in 2010, as much as 1,465 workers making $52,000 a year. Cut that CEO's pay in half to $33 million and you can give a $26,000 raise to 1,465 workers.
His pay also increased 142% from 2009. The life-changing effect of that would have been far more greatly felt by someone making $52,000 a year who would have seen their salary jump to $73,840.
While true that this CEO's pay may not be entirely transformable into cash since he's paid in stock options too, why not pay the CEO a meager salary and the rest in stock options? Or, why not give workers stock options? Maybe, they'd care more about where they worked if they had a stake in it. Remember pensions? I thought not.

What if a hugely profitable company doesn't have a lot of employees? How will this help them?”

In this case, it will improve the standard of living for the employees that they do have if those employees are paid less than the maximum deduction amount. However, the company won't be able to claim a giant deduction for wages that reduces its taxes to next to nothing. It'll just have to pay its regular taxes. This answer was pretty obvious.

I should point out that I do believe there should be a minimum taxation amount so that no company can use deductions to reduce their taxes to zero. I believe that 5% to 10% would be good.

However, government is all about compromise so I'm sure that if this plan is enacted some politicians will include a few write-offs and deductions even for companies without sufficient employee numbers to significantly reduce their taxes. I would also support that even if we tax companies on all of their income instead of merely profit, that a company with no profit would not owe taxes in most cases. However, the basic premise is simple, and I have heard of no other plan to revitalize America's economy that will sustain itself and pay for itself as this plan can.