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Comic Strip Politics » 2007 » March

Archive for March, 2007

I Can’t Wait For Global Warming to Kick In!

Monday, March 26th, 2007

Family Circus - 3.26.07

Mallard Fillmore - 3.23.07

Prickly City - 3.23.07

Non Sequitur - 3.24.07

Global Warming seems to be the Topic of the Week, as several comics have mentioned it in just the past few days. Billy from Family Circus is even cheering on it’s arrival. Hooray for Global Warming!

It seems everyone has an opinion on Global Warming, and unfortunately, that opinion is often stoked by politicians and other blowhards in the public eye. Research shows pretty definitively that average global temperatures have risen over the past several decades. Many scientists postulate that the reason for this increase invoves man’s presence on earth, and several things we’ve created, gasses we’ve emitted, etc.

Others stand by the hypothesis that the fluctuations in temperature are simply a normal variant in temperature, and are nothing to worry about. They think that in the millions of years since earth was created, a sample size of less than a few hundred years of any data and only a century of hard data is hardly sufficient to make an accurate assessment.

The fact that just 35 years ago, scientists and the media were predicting a new Ice Age says alot about the kind of assessment that can be made with such a small sample of data. Being the shameless sensaltionalists that they are, the media will take every opportunity to blow anything out of proportion, just so they can improve their ratings.

Looking at the problem objectively, either hypothesis could be correct. It’s absolutely true that the sample size we have to work with is far too small to make any definiteve judgements. Still, we are watching the average temperature increase before our eyes, and it’s not a terrible idea to be on the alert and perhaps alter some of our human practices just in case.

The real problem in the Global Warming debate, as well as most other political hot buttons comes down to the politicians. The best way for a politician to gain support for himself or his party is to get the public riled up about a specifc issue. Scaring the America public is even more effective, and both Republicans and Democrats are using these tactics quite often to gain support.

The Republicans have scared everyone about terrorists ending the world as we know it to promote their agendas. Now, the Democrats are scaring everyone about global warming ending the world as we know it. Both of these issues are potential problems, and both are issues that Americans should be concerned about, but instead of making a concerted effort to solve the problems, politicians are doing nothing more than scaring the public, and proposing a ’solution’ that will do very little to correct the actual problem. Now, the politician looks like the good guy, when he or she has actually impeded progress towards actually solving the problem at hand.

Does this sound familiar? The Republicans did it with the war on terror, the Democrats did it with global warming. Both parties have used the same tactic on countless other issues, and the result is always the same. The public is polarized into two camps, politicans get face time on television, and the issue is never actually solved. This happens time and time again.

So what do you think? Is Global Warming a real problem? Should we be devoting all of our recources to solving it, or just try to change our act a bit to stem any potential future problems? Or should we just not worry about it at all? Do you think politicians are to blame for making it a bigger deal than it really is, or are they the only ones really working to solve the problem?

Let me know what you think.

The Blindfold of Consumer Apathy

Friday, March 23rd, 2007

The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee - 01.30.07

This comic strip often has a politically-themed punchline, but I rarely find it to be humorous. This particular strip is kind of funny, and it focuses on two things:

- The idea that corporations are only looking out for their own interests and will take advantage of anyone they can without caring one bit about their customers.

- The idea that consumers are so apathetic, they don’t notice or care that the companies are taking advantage of them in this way.

I think there is some truth to both of these ideas, but primarily the second one. Let me explain.

A company’s responsibility is to generate profits, particularly if the company is publicly owned. Obviously, all companies should act in an ethical way. That goes without saying. But to expect the company to be altruistic for no other reason than “to be nice” is a bit much. Some companies choose to be very socially aware, and some choose not to be. Joe consumer can easily support or reprove a company’s actions when the decide where to spend their money.
In a free market, nothing is more important to a company than it’s reputation. With the recent discovery of e. coli in Peter Pan peanut butter, consumers will be wary of that product for years, even though current batches are almost certainly safe. One bad batch of peanut butter will affect the profitability of ConAgra Foods for a very long time, as well it should. Other companies are taking note of the backlash generated here. If customers completely shun ConAgra’s brands, it will send a message to other companies; If you cut corners, and something bad happens, it will affect your profitability for ever.

If consumers simply don’t care, and go back to their normal shopping habits quickly, it will also send a message to other companies; Consumers don’t care enough to change their buying habits, even after hundreds of customers getting sick. There’s little reason to change the status quo.
As far as consumer apathy, I think it’s driven by downright laziness of the American public, not just in and of itself, but also in the desire of regular Joes to rely on the government to watch out for them, so they don’t have to bother being proactive themselves.

Too many times, I’ve heard people tell me how “evil” Walmart is and how the government should crack down on some of their practices, yet the very same people shop at Walmart, drawn in by their low prices. Every one of us has the power of the pocketbook, yet we rarely use it. If you feel strongly about Walmart’s hiring practices/low wages/limited health care/etc. being substandard, don’t shop there! Tell your friends not to shop there, and tell them why they shouldn’t. To just sit back and say “The government should do something about Walmart” is beyond ridiculous.

A corporation’s primary goal is to be profitable. If a company cuts corners in an unethical way to help them reach that goal, punishing them is as easy as taking your business elsewhere. Yet somehow, that’s too hard for most Americans.

It truly amazes me how apathetic Americans have become when it comes to being educated and proactive consumers. They want to rely on the government to regulate every industry for them, so they don’t have to think for themselves. Oftentimes, the regulation does little more than make companies jump through hoops, driving up the cost of goods and services for consumers.

So what do you think? Is consumer apathy making it easy for companies to screw over the American public, or is it allowing the government to regulate us to death? or both? or neither?

Do you think the government should be allowed to dictate how much a company spends on healthcare, or how much they pay employees, or who they hire? If so, do you think the same requirements should apply to small business with 5-10 employees for example? Is there a difference? Why or why not?

Lots of questions. I look forward to your comments.

Why Do People Think Overpaying the IRS is a Good Thing?

Friday, March 9th, 2007

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Mallard Fillmore - 04.09.2007

Today’s Mallard Fillmore cites a vague statistic without any source to back it up. I suppose that’s better than citing a source that has nothing to do with the information he’s presenting, which he tends to do, but either way, I’m not sure I believe that “many Americans” don’t think they pay income tax.

What “many Americans” do believe, based on my experience, is that tax refunds are this great way of getting extra money every year. “I got a $1500 refund check - Take that, IRS!”

What many don’t understand is that the bigger your refund check is, the more of your money you allowed the government to keep throughout the year, earning interest on it instead of you. Getting a tax refund simply means that you allowed the government to withhold more than they deserved every week throughout the year.

$1500 put into an online savings account like the Orange Account (earning 4.50% APY) would earn you almost $70 over the course of a year. That’s not an astronomical amount, but it sure would be nice to have that money for yourself instead of letting the government take it.

I would implore everyone to ask your payroll department for a new W-4 form. That’s the form that your employers uses to calculate how much money to take out of your paycheck each week. Then use the IRS’ withholding calculator to determine the actual amount that should be withheld. Then just complete the new W-4 and give it back to your employer.

Friends of mine have actually suggested that it’s better for the government to withhold the money, because that way, we’re not tempted to spend it. Huh? Are we that spend-happy that we can’t make a concious decision to put $30 a week into savings? What if you get a raise? Would you like the government to withhold the entire raise so that you won’t be tempted to spend that too? Maybe the IRS should take all but what you need to live on, and then give it all to you at once in April. Would that help you save money?

Paying the high rate of taxes that we pay is bad enough.  It’s not wise to make the situation worse by letting the IRS earn interest on your money.

Even

Sunday, March 4th, 2007

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Mallard Fillmore - 04.04.2007

I don’t know of any “Big Solar Energy Companies”, although they may exist. Today’s topic is simply about companies profiting from legislation.

It’s easy to hate the energy companies. What they do has a direct effect on all of us in the price of gasoline. Even if we don’t drive a car, price increases in gasoline are reflected in the products we buy, and any transportation we pay for, like planes, taxis, or buses. Seeing that many energy companies made huge profits as we all suffered under high gas prices upset many Americans. The large profits the companies made were mostly from wise investing as opposed to their high proces, but that was largely ignored by the media and the American public. That’s an editorial for another day, though.

The point is, everytime legislation is passed regulating an industry, several companies stand to benefit or lose from the decision. The more legislation and regulation that the government passes, the higher the stake the company has in the decision. Potentially billions of dollars are at stake with the stroke of a governor’s pen.

Even ‘good’ companies, like those promoting alternative energy sources, are in business solely to make a profit. They have just as much stake in the government’s policies as oil companies do, and there’s no reason to believe they wouldn’t stoop to underhanded tactics to get their way anymore than other types of companies would.

That said, it kind of makes you think. If there are huge corporations who will benefit from the US government moving towards using alternative energy sources, those corporations have a huge incentive to get the public on their side. I wouldn’t expect these companies to be above using propaganda to meet their ends. Warning the public about the “imminent danger” that Global Warming presents is a great way to do it. These companies would have every reason to promote the potential dangers of Global Warming, whether such dangers actually exist or not.

Now I’m not claiming that talk of Global Warming is all lies or that alternative sources of energy are a bad idea. In fact, I think they’re a great idea. But I do think it’s very important to look at the topic objectively, including who has a stake in each issue. It’s easy to look at ExxxonMobil’s CEO as horribly evil, and a “Green” company’s CEO as only out for good, but it simply doesn’t work that way. Any company can have good honest people running the show, and any company can have sleazy, underhanded people running things (like the National Republican Congressional Committee).

In the end, it all comes down to critical thinking. No company is truly looking out for your best interests. Not the Oil companies and defense contractors. Not the alternative energy providers and conservationists. It’s important for all of us to look past all the propaganda (and most of it just that), and find out the facts for ourselves. Only then, can we really judge a situation for what it really is.

The War In Iraq and Other Stupid Political Soundbytes

Friday, March 2nd, 2007

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Doonesbury - 04.02.2007

Last Fall, the Democrats won an surprising number of open seats in Congress, the Senate, and Governorships across the country. Most of the candidate’s platform was nothing more than “I’m not a Republican”. When prodded to give some sort of ideas, most talked about how the war was a terrible idea (from those darned Republicans), and that we needed to get out of Iraq. They rarely gave any actual plan to get us out, but America apparently thought they would do something right, because they voted them into power.

Fast forward several months. For the most part, the Democrats have done what one could have easily predicted: Nothing. Just because they said they would do something about the war while they were campaigning doesn’t mean they were actually going to do anything about it when it came down to it. It seems that now, a few Democrats are actually going to try something. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has proposed a bill that would cut off funding for the Iraq war next year, effectively forcing the military to pull the troops out of Iraq.

As one would expect, the Republicans are rebutting this plan by using clever soundbytes like “They’re voting against the troops and against our country.” Dick Cheney had this one - “It’s time the self-appointed strategists on Capitol Hill understood a very simple concept: You cannot win a war if you tell the enemy you’re going to quit.”

This is where the suttle politics comes in though. Obviously, by cutting off funding and pulling out the troops, the US will essentially be forfieting the war. Dick Cheney is trying to stress this, because the Democrats don’t want it to seem like they will be causing the US to lose the war. They want to end the war, and then blame the Republicans for losing the war in the 2008 elections.

The timing of this is no coincidence. This gives a lot of good soundbytes for the Democrats in early campaigning, and it will all be over by the time the 2008 election is in full swing. At that point, the apathetic American public will have forgotten everything about the war other than “we lost”, and the Democrats can sweep to victory.

So anyway, there isn’t much of a point to this post other than to point out once again that “it’s all politics”. Nothing being done here by liberals or conservatives is truly to benefit the American public - just to benefit the politicians.