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Why I won't vote, and why I will give more to charity
Sep 27, 2008, 11:43a - Democracy

I'm not going to vote in this upcoming election. I am not registered to vote, and I don't plan on registering. This may come as hearsay, and who am I to avoid the controversial, so on with the explanation.

I don't like either of the candidates. They both feel like fake people to me, almost people without minds of their own. They're chimerical hodgepodges of the current fad, the current "crisis", or the current paycheck - $1B in campaign financing would change anyone's mind about pretty much anything, and how many favors does that add up to? You might feel indebted to someone if you owed them $20 bucks for dinner - Imagine how you would feel if you owed them $1 billion? You'd basically be their lifelong slave. I truly shudder to think.

I just can't imagine sitting down in a room with either Barack or McCain and having a good, honest, no-bullshit conversation. I hate interacting with salespeople, with paternalistic pricks who just can't level with you, one person to the next. And that's exactly what both of these people are. Becca was watching the debate last night, and based on what little was said and the fact that the two men just wouldn't talk to each other, I only believe this more.

I don't really know what either of them *actually* believes, but I guess that's what makes a good politician. Perhaps more importantly, even if I did know what they believed I wouldn't know how they would take their idealism to the practicial world. It's one thing to think that federally-funded social programs should be expanded, but it's another altogether to consider how to do this in light of a national debt that's headed for $11 trillion by 2009 (esp. if this ridiculous $700B handout goes through). And he also wants to cut taxes for 95% of people? Who is this fool trying to fool? It's like saying, oh, you owe your bank 3x your annual salary, and oh yeah, you lost your job - go on a spending spree! Bankruptcy, anyone? Or maybe we've forgotten that if it's too good to be true...

This man is a dreamer. And also apparently OK with murder. Why would I vote for someone who just basically said he wanted to kill Bin Laden (pretty much a direct quote)? Why would I vote for someone who condones murder? No one deserves to die, no matter how terrible the crime might be. Come on, Christians, what the hell would Jesus do?

Oh wait, we're playing the game of politics - oh yeah, just say what you think people want to hear...

OK, now on to the old white guy. He wants to freeze the budget (that actually sounds good, given our debt) yet expand defense spending, which already consumes ~$500B of our ~$3T annual budget? Must the fear-mongering continue? He is also blood-thirsty, which is repulsive.

One might argue that if I don't like these 2 choices, I should vote for someone who I do like. Maybe I should vote for Becca (but that sounds nuts, cause no way in hell do I want to hang out with these slimy politicians if she gets elected). Back to earth: I've voted for the Green party for executive positions since I was legally allowed to vote (since 2000). And you know what, it didn't do a damn thing. And in hindsight, I don't know if they would have been any different. The fear-mongering is especially high amongst the environmentalists (as it has been for centuries, at least back to Malthus), so I'm certainly not voting for the Green party again.

But you have to vote for someone! No, I don't have to. The bottom line is that the federal government, and even state governments, have far too much power. I don't think the federal government, way out in Washington, knows what's best for people. To know what's best for people, you have to be there, locally, in the flesh, living the life, not living some political corporate rock-star fantasy in Washington (or any other state capital for that matter).

So I'm done with hotshot politics, and any involvement with them. I could easily just ignore it all. But the thing that bugs me, though, is that I pay taxes every year, and I'm unhappy with how that money is spent, by and large. I don't want to pay for bullets to kill people in faraway lands. I don't want to pay for a $700B bailout of a bunch of rich schmucks who screwed up, but who have paid so much to the government that they're finally calling in the political favors that they're owed. I don't want to pay for stupid laws that illegalize things that shouldn't be illegal (e.g. drugs, gay marriage, abortion, etc.). No one entity should have that much power, and the federal (and state) governments have far too much power. People should just mind their own business. And when it comes to social interaction, it's pretty simple: Just do to others what you would have them do to you.

One form of dissent is vocal non-participation. That is the form that I choose.

So what to do? I'm pretty much done supporting a system that as far as I can tell is doing a ton of things wrong. But I do believe that government, even given its flaws, also does some amazing things that really help people. But they're just too far away to know what really matters. Reality for one person can only be imagined by another. People should be empowered to change their own lives in the ways that they see best, not in the ways that someone who is out of touch in a faraway place imagines is best.

So what to do? How can I reduce my tax payments in a legal way? Obvious: give more to charity. Though there are limits on how much you can deduct (between 20-50% of your income), if you are able, I think giving to local charitable organizations is definitely better than giving to big government. I really do think people, and communities, should take care of themselves. On the charity front, I think education can change a person's life unlike anything else, and I think I'm going to reducing the amount of money I send the feds by giving more to local charities that increase the availability of education.

Often when I make the "people should take care of themselves" argument, I'm misinterpreted. I'm not arguing for a super self-centered, selfish, uncompassionate existence. People should take care of the people that are around them. If people did this simple thing, I thing the lives of people would improve substantially. One common counter-argument is that poor communities can't help themselves. I'm not sure that this is true, but even if it is, it's neighbors should help them out. Case in point: Palo Alto (where Stanford University is) is one of the wealthiest cities in the country, and it sits right next to East Palo Alto, which is one of the poorest. Even if EPA can't help itself, Palo Alto certainly can, and it's up to them to decide whether they should or should not. I'd like to think that if I was mayor, I would, because I'd think it was the right thing to do.

Anyhow, there's more from where this came. In light of all the political bullshit and hubub, I just needed to get this down.

Read comments (1) - Comment

omar - Sep 27, 2008, 10:26p

you sound like ron paul, in some ways. i remember reading an interview with ron paul where he said something like "if your neighbor is polluting your area, then you go and talk to your neighbor and work it out, and use the courts to deal with it."


especially in this globalized world, where pollution/green house gases need to be dealt with globally.

there's one area where you need federal commitments.

now, onto healthcare. this country needs a federal mandate that everyone should be insured. it's ridiculous right now that healthcare, for most people, is tied to their employer.. and buying individual healthcare for oneself is just too expense. i suppose local communities could band together to provide healthcare for their residents (something SF is trying to do) but i really think that you only get reasonable

on obama's finance plan: you should read about where he plans to get the money for his spending initiatives. he isn't proposing spending more without taking in more, though tax receipts will almost certainly be lower this year so of course there will be issues.

on the bailout: it's too simple to see this as a blank cheque for wall street. unfortunately, if people/companies can't get credit, then the economy is going to stall. right now, banks aren't doing much lending. money markets aren't buying up short term issues from companies. these are issues that go beyond the wall street cronies, who are nevertheless partly to blame (as are people on main street for taking up these ridiculous mortgages, the people who sold them, the politicians who got rid of regulations, the regulators who didn't regulate, etc..). of course, i don't think we have an example of a modern financial crisis like this where the government didn't really step in, so it's hard to know what would happen if they didn't do anything, but i don't think we want to engage in that experiment. right now it's about getting the terms right -- for instance, if taxpayers are bailing out these companies, they better get some sort of equity stake.

as to your bigger point: i can understand your frustration with the candidates. i feel the same way. they both seem like poor options in my mind.. and they certainly are playing the political game -- there's no change in washington.

it's a frustrating time.

btw i'll be in cambridge starting 10/6 or so.

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