When I was a 911 police dispatcher, some nights the psychos would all call in, and sometimes they’d all call about the same odd thing… like the witches on their porch. Even though these damaged folks didn’t know each other and were calling in separately to the police, their complaints would be similar. It was spooky.  Maybe they knew something us mundanes didn’t know.

We dispatchers wondered what would happen if the psychos  got together, formed a lobbying group, and demanded that the police come out and de-witch their front porch one night and then protect them the Martian death rays the next day. My co-workers giggled about the idea of a Union of Psychos.  It was gallows humor, politically incorrect, but calming when faced with an inexplicable string of earnest-but-wacky callers.

Unfortunately, the Union of Psychos has become a real-life nightmare now thanks to 24-hour media that passes along any sensationalistic (and ratings boosting) scheme that right-wing Presidential candidates propose. 

This morning my Facebook newsfeed and incoming e-newsletters are crammed with links to full-blown analysis of Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax media event. It’s a revolutionary tax “plan” the same way as my pacifist friends’ suggestion to declare peace and send every soldier home tomorrow is a revolutionary defense “plan”.  Both approaches are simple, easy to understand, and would work only in an alternate universe with different laws of physics and human behavior. But, somehow, we have to studiously look into Cain’s details, hem and haw, and mildly suggest that perhaps his assumptions are different than ours.

Herman, your plan is an empty, grandstanding scheme that sounds like it came from a drunken college dorm discussion of how to solve the world’s problems on the back of a napkin.

A more thorough analysis is counterproductive. You can come up with insane “plans” faster than an army of economists can debunk them.  You got the attention you wanted, and the whiny “But, but, but…” by responsible critics won’t be heard because the media doesn’t like nuances or men in tweed coats. 

Frankly, I am just tired having the media lurch excitedly from one crazy, attention-grabbing proposal to the next.  I am also fearful that if each half-baked assault on our social fabric and traditional reason is not challenged, an evil will slip through.  Damn it, eternal vigilance is wearying.

In the police department where I worked, there was one radio call that stopped everyone in their tracks, it was the code for “Officer Needs Help”.  I’ve been thinking of that code today.  In the years I worked at the department, I heard that code used only one time.  It was broadcast by an officer when he was being chased up an ally while being shot at by his own gun.  He’d been disarmed and was fleeing for his life. His partner was down on the ground being stabbed by another group of men.  He needed his friends to rally round him.

The officer keyed his microphone and screamed the help code into the radio: “9-9-9!”

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3 Responses to 9-9-9

  1. billeyler says:

    Yes, we say cut it all out, start over, and use simple formulas. But even if that WERE possible, it would change within weeks with amendments, exceptions, add-ons, and general chaos. Of course.

  2. abqdan says:

    Actually, I think a simple tax system is viable, with the right protections built in. Certainly, the IRS code is completely unusable; it has been bent so many times that it resembles a DNA structural model. 9-9-9 is not however a viable alternative. Even so, you have to start by thinking outside the box to come to a model that does make sense, so in that one respect, I can’t fault him (or rather, his advisors) from trying. Other simple systems have been proposed, some with much more merit. Scrapping much of the current code, and adding VAT for example would be effective and fairer than the present regulations.

    In terms of Cain himself, I consider him irrelevant. Actually, I consider the whole Republican field irrelevant at the moment. We know that the GOP will coalesce very effectively around the chosen candidate, and we know that whoever the candidate is, they’ll modify their position once confirmed to appeal to a broader Republican base. So really, the players at the moment are merely shadows on the stage, waiting for a leading man to emerge. And I’m fairly confident that whichever one of the current field is selected, Obama will be able to beat them in November 12.

    • ozdachs says:

      We’re in agreement that rationalizing the tax code — perhaps by starting over — is a result devoutly to be wished. Your point about the non-viability of Cain’s 9-9-9 is exactly on track.

      However,… I am not in favor of a VAT or other consumption tax. Those are regressive and shift the burden to lower-income people.

      I also can only say that I hope that the eventual Republican nominee moves to the center. McCain did not move to a more moderate spot when he choose Palin. if anything, Republicans act as though they must keep throwing red meat to their far-right “base”. It’s not a good situation.

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