‘Tax cut’ vs. ‘tax rebate’

What exactly is the difference between a ‘tax cut’ and a ‘tax rebate’?  There are several very fundamental differences.

First, let us look at ‘taxes’

Taxes are the money we pay to our government.  This money is supposed to be used for something people need to get together for in order to achieve, such as ‘policing’ and ‘national defence’.  Other ‘common goods’, such as education, road construction, and so on,  are among the things we contract our governments to do.  Paying taxes is the way we ‘pool our pennies’ to do this. 

We pay taxes in many ways.  It can be through income taxes, where an employer has to take a part of a worker’s earnings and send it to the government – only the remnant goes to the worker.  Or, it can be through consumption taxes, where part of the price of each product or service is raised by some amount which is then paid (remitted) by the merchant or service provider to the government.  There is more, but – you get the picture.

The government has lots of wonderful, highly trained (and higly paid) civil servants who keep meticulous records of every penny that comes in:  whom it comes from and where it is going.  They also keep meticulous records making sure everybody has paid what they are supposed to.

Tax Cut

In a tax cut, the amount of money the government asks for is reduced.  Fewer pennies are coming into the government coffers, so more of them stay in your pocket – either because less of your wages gets sent to the government so that more can go to you, or because the price you pay for something is closer to its cost, since the price is less artificially raised by taxes. 

It also means that fewer pennies are entering the government coffers.  And (in an ideal world) fewer pennies coming in means fewer people who need to keep meticulous records of the pennies.  As in, fewer highly skilled, well paid professionals whose salaries are paid from all these pennies coming in.

Tax Rebate

A tax rebate works very differently.  The government is asking for the same amount of money to be sent into the government coffers, so the same amount of money is taken from a worker’s paycheque as before and sent to the government.  Buying ‘stuff’ is still expensive, because the price of everything still includes the same amount of of taxes – which are sent to the government coffers. 

The legions of highly trained (and highly paid) civil servants still keep meticulous track of all of this.  Then, at the end of the year, after the civil servants have done all the figuring out and balancing of things, they decide how much more you have paid than you should have.  So, they issue a cheque for this amount and send it to you. 

All this time, these pennies were in the government coffers, not in your pockets – so it was much harder to make the ends meet during the whole year….but now, you get a little bit back.

These are the ‘mechanics’, if you will, of the difference between a ‘tax cut’ and a ‘tax rebate’.  But there is another very important difference between these two – a difference I have not really heard people discussing. 

It is the difference in who is dominant in the government-taxpayer relationship.

When we pay taxes to our government, we are, in effect, contracting the government to act on our behalf in certain areas.  We, the taxpayers, are the boss.  Yes, the government has means to coerce us to pay, but the psychological and philosophical principle holds for how the relationship is set up.  The individual is the one who is employing the government, the individual is the empowering partner in the relationship.

When the government sends us rebates, it is the government who is the decisionmaker and the dominant partner in the relationship.  The taxpayer is reduced to the grateful recipient while the government is the power which decides who deserves to get money, and how much.

To make it easier to understand the relationship, let’s reduce the scale to the level of a family.  One partner works and earns a paycheque, the other looks after the household. 

If the earner controls the money, then the earner decides how much to hand over to the one who looks after the household and how much to keep.  The house-keeper may ask for extra when needed, but it is the earner who is in control.  If, on the other hand, the earner hands over the full paycheque to the house-keeper, and perhaps gets a little allowance for personal expenses, it is the house-keeper who is in control…  as in the first minute or so of the clip below:

To sum up, the idea behind a tax rebate in Oscar’s words:   ‘Holy hell!  The government has us on an allowance!’

“say, doesn’t co2 kill plants??????”

While I have been taking a look at Aspergers, and describing some of my experiences and coping methods that worked for me, I have neglected a number of other very important topics. 

For example, I have promised to post on the topic of the climate.  And I promised that I would provide some solid information about why I hold the views I do.  Thus, I was preparing something on this. 

Alas, it is difficult to assess the information one is provided if one is not familiar with the underlying science behind the words.  More and more of what I have been reading from non-scientific (that is, MSM (main stream media) and many blogs, debating sites etc. – you know, all them places that have replaced the ‘watercooler chat’) has convinced me that before I can hope to provide useful information, it will be necessary to log in some explanations first.

As if to convince me that I ought to do this, in a coment on this post on a dime a dozen blog , somebody asked the following question: 

“say, doesn’t co2 kill plants??????”

I thought this question needed to be addressed, the sooner the better.  Here is my (somewhat expanded) answer:

No.  CO2 does NOT kill plants.  Nor is it pollution!  It is plant food, and what plants use to make food for us.

There are 2 basic ‘gas exchange’ processes that occur in plants:  breathing (respiration) and photosynthesis.

RESPIRATION

Why breathe?  What is the purposeENERGY!!! 

To carry out the process of living, all cells need energy.  That is why we – and plants – need to breathe 24 hours a day.  So how do we get energy by breathing in oxygen?

An oxygen molecule is made up of two oxygen atoms  (hence O2 – the 2 means the molecule is made up of 2 oxygen atoms).  These two atoms are held together by a ‘bond’ – breaking this bond releases energy.  But an oxygen atom by itself has a strong ‘need’ to bond to something (we rate it a level 2 need).  If left in this state, it would harm the surrounding cells (it is called a ‘free radical’). 

Organisms ‘solve’ the problem by taking a carbon atom (C) which has an even higher ‘need’ to bond (level 4).  Two oxygen atoms (with a ‘2’ each) are bonded to the one carbon atom (to add up to the carbon’s ‘4’).  (Yes, this is a major simplification – but the underlying principles are accurately described).  The resulting molecule is CO2 – or one carbon and two oxygen atoms.  All of its ‘needs’ for ‘bonds’ are met, so it is not harmful to the surrounding tissues.

Yes, it does require energy to bind the oxygen atoms to the carbon one.  However, because carbon has such a high ‘need’ for bonds, it takes less enegry to bind the oxygen atoms to it than was released by breaking the bonds between the two oxygen atoms.  In other words, when one breaks the molecular bonds between the two oxygen atoms in O2, then take a part of that energy and uses it to bind the two oxygen atoms to a carbon atom, one has some energy left over.  I stress again, this is a major simplification – there are many steps and other ‘bits’ (like glucose, which is where the carbon molecules for the reaction come from) are essential!!!  However, the underlying principle is correct.  If you would like to read more about this, here and here and here are good starting spots.

This energy difference is what cells use to carry out ‘living’.  We call this process aerobic respiration, both in plants and animals.  And though other molecules may be used in its place, oxygen is by far the most efficient one.  (Respiration in the absence of oxygen is called anaerobic respiration.)

PHOTOSYNTHESIS

During respiration, living cells get energy by breaking ‘bond’ betwen two oxygen atoms in an oxygen molecule (O2), and then use carbon atoms from glucose (simple sugar, made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms) molecules to stop the resulting oxygen atoms (free radicals) from harming the cell itself.  So, where does the glucose come from?

Glucose is produced by photosynthesis.

Plants have special organelles called chloroplasts.  These are specialized organelles (sub-section of a cell with a specialized function) in the plant cells which contain the green pigment chlorophyl.  Their function is to take IN carbon dioxide (CO2) form the air, and combine it with hydrous oxyde (H2O – water). 

The C (carbon) from the CO2 is combined with the OH group from H2O.  OK, I am simplifying again:  you need several molecules of CO2 and H2O to make it work, because the result of combining the carbons and oxygens and hydrogens together is the simple sugar, glucose:  and it has 6 carbon atoms in it. 

It is, in fact, pretty much the reverse of the chemical reaction during respiration.  But the reason for respiration is to release energy.  So, this process of photosynthesis needs energy from the outside to happen – and this is the reason why it occurs in the chloroplasts, which contain the green pigment chlorophyll, which is very good at absorbing light energy from the sun.  It then uses this energy to drive the chemical reaction of binding carbon atoms (from CO2 in the air) to water molecules to produce the simple carbohydrate, glucose.

This process is called photosynthesis because it uses the enegy from light (photo) to build (synthesise) glucose, a simple sugar.  Glucos molecules can, in turn, be joined up into long chains so they can be stored efficiently.  The end product, the carbohydrate chain, is called starch.

Plants can then use the stored up starch in order to breathe.  And animals, unable to make starch themselves, eat plants in order to get it.  Thus, energy from sun gets stored by plants (using carbon dioxide and water) as carbohydrates. The byproduct of this process in the oxygen molecule. Plants and animals use these carbohydrates and oxygen from the air to use this stored solar energy to ‘drive’ their cells.  The byproduct of this is carbon dioxide.  This is the basic energy cycle of our current lifeforms.

The more complex the plant, the more CO2 it requires to grow and thrive.  For example, the ‘Great Plains’ in the US used to be mostly covered by trees – until the carbon dioxide levels became too low to support them.  Then, they reverted to grassplains, because grass is a less complex plant and requires (and uses)less CO2 in the air.

If you love trees, as I do, you cannot but object to anything that will reduce the CO2 levels available for them to grow.  I am a self-admitted tree hugger – and a scientist.  I thought the ‘global warming’ thing sounded good when it was first proposed, so I have ‘looked into’ it (extensively – though this is NOT my field of expertise!!!  I do not wish to mislead!).  The evidence has convinced me that this is not dangerous.  To the contrary.  Incerases in CO2 levels are higly advantageous to lifeforms on Earth because historically, they raise food availability and are accompanied by greater species differentiation and increase in overall lifeforms supported.  And despite some claims, hard datea shows that we are nowhere near historically high levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.

So, why the hype?

I don’t know.  In situations where things get as murky as this is, I like to use a very simple ‘rule of thumb’:  “cui bono?” 

Or, in other words, ‘Follow the money, honey!’ 

add to del.icio.usDigg itStumble It!Add to Blinkslistadd to furladd to ma.gnoliaadd to simpyseed the vineTailRank

Symptoms and Causes

Advertizing and politics are some of the most obvious examples of ‘idea bundling’, as I discussed in my last post.  But, these are not, by far, the only fields.  This trend can be seen everywhere around us.

Bundling ideas can be useful by helping us categorize our surroundings, yet it can also hinder us – especially when other people try to do the ‘bundling’ for us.  Sometimes it is intentional manipulation (advertizing, ‘spin’, propaganda), but often, the people doing the ‘bundling’ are not even aware they are doing it…..and these ‘bundles’ are often the hardest to ‘unpack’ into their components, since there is no ‘false note’ to detect!

One of the greatest dangers of this is that when a specific ‘solution’ is a part of a ‘bundle’, it is harder for us to recognize whether it is a ‘symptom fix’ or a ‘root cause solution’.  And mistaking symptoms with causes is so easy…and so unfortunatelly frequent in our society!

Perhaps it is a human characteristic, perhaps there is a lapse in the schooling we received in critical reasoning … but confusing symptoms for causes is just SO rampant!!!!  And so many of us do not even seem to recognize that this is even going on, much less see it as a problem.

The whole ‘banning cellphones while driving’ debate is a case in point: the cellphones are a symptom of distraction, the underlying cause is the apalling disrespect some drivers accord to the act of driving – considering driving an ‘automatic right’ instead of an earned privilege.  And, while bannig cellphones while driving may make us feel as if we are ‘protecting society’, and politicians may get a few extra photops, it does not fix the underlying problem of getting drivers to pay attention to driving….  What’s next:  banning the application of ‘mauve dreams’  shade of lipstick because statistics clearly showe that more people crash while applying that shade of lipstick during driving than any other?

Another example is the alarming attitude in our schools:  volunteers who wanted to help kids who were falling behind in math were turned away, on the grounds that being seen as singled out for extra help would stigmatize a child.  Oh no, the lack of math skills (for whatever reason) was not a problem at all.  No, the problem was being seen getting help!!!  The symptom (potential embarassment) is treated, not the undelying problem (lack of skills).  I would not have believed it if I had not seen it with my own eyes. 

It is part of the same absence of critical thinking that ‘protects’ children from being ‘stigmatized’ by having them repeat a grade when they have not learned material, and instead allows illiterate children to graduate from schools.  They will be completely unprepared to face the challenges in life, but they will not have had their feelings hurt along the way…..  We are teaching our kids that it is OK to be ignorant, but not OK to be seen working hard to improve… What was that about ‘learned helplessness’?

Perhaps it sounds like I’m picking on the educators (and they do make it so easy), but this is just the tip of the iceberg.  Just look around you – the examples aboud! 

We, ‘the Western society’, seem to be rapidly loosing the ability to distinguish between causes of problems – which need remedying, and the symptoms of problems – which can lead us to the causes, but would which it would be pointless and a waste of time and resources to address in isolation.

 …and don’t get me started on separating valid from silly idead which had been ‘bundled’ together!