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We’ve had a fascinating ongoing discussion about public policy, the roles of government, the duties of citizenship, the effectiveness of taxation, and the need for greater civil discourse in the public arena.

One MNB user wrote:

an actual potential answer to the problem, is to redefine what a citizen is. Currently, Citizenship and all its rights has been extended to corporations.  This is, I believe, an attempt to limit liability of individual owners and stock holders in a corporation.  However, by endowing corporations with citizenship, we have distorted the picture and our country.  Individuals should be the only owners of full citizenship.  Corporations exist for one purpose only: to generate income. Don’t give corporations or unions (and their money) the right to distort the legislative process through massive lobbying and financing of elections.  Deny them free speech.  We need to have a constitutional amendment to redefine the concept of citizenship and limit it to individuals, and we need to create a new the legal status for corporations, distinct from citizenship and with limited rights to free speech.  At the same time, make it so they do not pay taxes.  Individuals, as the only full citizens would be the only source of taxes and all income, whether from hourly wages, interest, investment, etc. should be taxed.

Freeing corporations from the burdens of citizenship would liberate them to do what they do best: come up with new ideas to generate wealth, and in the process, jobs and new products.  Just think of all the corporate resources which are drained just trying to find a way to provide healthcare.  Why is that part of their responsibility when it is not the product or service they were conceived to provide?

Robert Reich makes an exceptional case for this idea in his book “Supercapitalism”. (It is also a short volume and easily readable.)  Why is no politician championing these ideas?  Because pandering to lobbyists is where their money and feeling of power and influence come from.  You have to think that if politics is a mess, and politicians on all sides of the political spectrum hate this idea, then just maybe it is the answer we the people are looking for.

WE the PEOPLE aren’t bad citizens; we have just allowed non-PEOPLE to become citizens and distort the process.

Seems to me that there is no question but that money is the most corrosive influence in politics and government. Start from that premise, figure out how to address it, and then maybe we can start the process of making progress in this country, as opposed to just staking out ideologies and shouting at each other.

Another MNB user wrote:

A friend of mine, a retired Air Force officer and Viet Nam Veteran, suggested that the government should institute a war tax separate from income tax so that people would know the true financial cost of the wars. IN this way war would not add to the deficit. I thought it a great idea. Nothing would end these seemingly endless wars like making people pay for them.  I would expand this idea to making the IRS send every taxpayer a breakdown of their personal tax expenditures and where the money really goes. That just might educate people about where the “deficit” is really coming from.

Seems like a reasonable approach.

And, from another MNB user:

The debate goes on and on, all the while seeming to get less and less civil.  Progressive vs regressive taxes, income tax vs consumption tax, rich vs poor.  I am reminded of the line from the old Buffalo Springsteen song: “Nobody’s right, when everybody’s wrong”.  And then I flash back to my college econ days, when one statement stood out above all the others and which bears reminding: “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”.  Whether you are a follower of Keynsian economic theory or a believer in Uncle Miltie, this statement rings true.

What also seems true to me is the notion that few citizens in this country have any idea what things cost. From wars in Afghanistan to garbage pickup, how many people really understand where their tax dollars go, and how they are spent?

Another MNB user wrote:

As a country, we've become a nation of self absorbed individuals who cannot seem to make any hard trade offs and demand the same from our congressional representatives. It's no wonder we have the issues that we have and no clear resolution in sight.  I'm so horrified at both political parties.

By the way, you might be interested in reading "Boiling Mad" - it's about the evolution of the Tea Party and is pretty interesting.

While I'm an avowed Sarah Palin sceptic and generally anti-Tea Party,  I'm reading it to try to get a handle on what it's all about and how it might influence our political system.

I’m always surprised by people who simply write off the Tea Party as a bunch of crazy people. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have its share of crazies - just like the liberal end of the political spectrum - but the notion that government should be smarter, more accountable, more connected to the American experience than the DC bubble ... all of these things strike me as perfectly reasonable arguments. Who can look around today and not have a Howard Beale moment?

It is all what you do with your anger that matters. If all you do is get more angry, more resolute, and less willing to engage the people with whom you disagree, then progress is impeded. But if you decide that big problems require big, meaningful conversations and greater civility, then progress actually can be achieved.

At least, that’s IMHO.

KC's View: