Russell and Duenes

Archive for September 2011

Mr. Buffet’s Tax Secrets

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Ever since hearing Warren Buffet claim that his secretary pays a higher tax rate than he does, I’ve thought that his claim doesn’t pass the smell test. And indeed it doesn’t. Finally some light was shed on my intuitions by The Wall Street Journal. In their editorial todayMr. Buffet’s Tax Secret – they make it pretty clear that, if we’re going to take Mr. Buffet at his word, we’re going to need to see some documentary evidence from the man. To date, none has been forthcoming. The editorial states,

The Omaha stock-picker has every right to do so (i.e., forcefully inject himself into the tax debate), and his foray may even do some good. His tax claim has already had the educational benefit of prompting the press to report that, as a general matter, the Buffett-Obama premise is false. CEOs don’t typically pay lower rates than middle-class secretaries. As data from the Internal Revenue Service make clear, the vast majority of those earning more than $1 million per year typically pay tax rates two to three times higher than people making less than $100,000. In 2008, the average tax rate for millionaires and above was 23.3% and for those earning between $30,000 and $50,000 it was 7.2%.

These facts alone give me reason to think Buffet is blowing snow, but the piece helpfully goes on…

Mr. Buffett also wrote in the New York Times that none of the other people in his office paid less than a 33% rate, and at least one colleague paid 41%. This suggests that Mr. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway staff are the kind of folks the President would consider “rich.” Mr. Obama might even call them “millionaires and billionaires” if some of them have annual incomes of more than $200,000. We wouldn’t want to violate their individual privacy, but since Mr. Buffett is using them to make a political point, perhaps he’d be willing to disclose the most important lines on their returns without disclosing their names. This too would be instructive.

Uh, yeah. If none of his “secretaries” are paying less than a 33% rate, then they are taking in quite a haul. In fact, the whole thing sounds ludicrous, and I’m just going to say that I flat out don’t believe Buffet, and won’t until or unless I see some of the evidence. I don’t imagine any of it will be forthcoming, but certainly the editorial is right in saying that we shouldn’t be basing our tax policy on his unverified rantings, no matter how much he and other billionaires are adored by the American public. If Mr. Buffet thinks it’s such a good idea to give more of his money to the government, then he, Soros, and other billionaires are welcome to pony up out of their own free will. But let’s not kid ourselves about Mr. Buffet’s poor secretaries being soaked by high tax rates. I’m not taking his word for it.



Written by Michael Duenes

September 27, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Posted in Duenes, Economics

Communism was Good to Women

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“Democracies have been hard on women, and communism has been good to women.”

So said Robin B. Wright during a lunch-time talk today at my law school. Wright is a renowned foreign correspondent and author of Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World. The above sentiment strikes me as shocking from one who has spent so much time in communist countries over the years. Ms. Wright seemed to base this opinion largely on the fact that autocratic dictatorships have numerically more women in their parliaments than so-called democracies do, many more than the United States. I guess someone forgot to tell me that the number of women in the government is the measure of how “well” women are doing in that society.

Indeed, Ms. Wright spoke glowingly of countries that dictated (she called them “quotas”) how many women must be in the government, fawning over one country – I can’t remember which – that allocated fifty-percent of their parliamentary seats to women. She went on to lament the fact that countries that were once communist, upon going democratic, saw a corresponding drastic drop in the number of women in government. This giving-people-freedom business is really bad news, because, I assume, she thinks that men just take over in democracies. Yes, let’s go back to the gulags, secret police, religious and political persecution, economic squalor, and all so that we can have more women in government. My jaw is still dropping even as I write this. Does Ms. Wright contemplate the number of women who have been murdered over the decades at the hands of communist governments?

Further, her opinion implies that the main reason women are not better represented in democratic governments is because the men in democracies keep women down. But might there not be some desire by women in free countries to do other things beside become senators? I don’t know a single conservative who would not vote for a Margaret Thatcher type candidate in this country, but we simply haven’t had her. Is that because there’s a “glass ceiling?” I think not. I think it’s fantastic that women have the freedom to choose to do a bazillion other things besides run for office. But I sure would vote for a fine woman candidate, believe me, over some of the men we have now. And I’m sure I’m nowhere close to alone about this.

This notion that governments should set quotas seems to be along the lines of the Thomas L. Friedman school of thought, he being one who imagines that having an “enlightened” dictatorship for even a few days, who could come in and command what’s “good” for us (such as paying $8.00 per gallon for gasoline) to free us from our ignorant and foolish selves. Whatever else may be said, it’s safe to say that communist governments are not good for anyone, male or female.


Written by Michael Duenes

September 22, 2011 at 6:57 pm

Posted in Duenes, Government, Islam

Trailer for “Bloodlines”

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I can’t think of a better person to tackle a topic like this.


Written by Michael Duenes

September 15, 2011 at 8:27 pm

Posted in Duenes, Literature

3,650 9/11’s

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Douglas Wilson’s analysis of 9/11 is the best I’ve read. His main point culminates in these terrifying words:

As Christians, we must function with a different calculus. In the ten years since this terrible event, have we become a godlier people? Have we heard the message of Scripture, which tells us that we are to interpret all things as a summons to return to our God? This is true of blessings and hard providences both. Have we done so? To ask these questions is to answer them. This means that we are commemorating 9/11 as a people, but we are still not understanding it.

Three thousand Americans died in the 9/11 attacks. Approximately three thousand Americans die every day in our abortion mills. It has been ten years now, and that means we have gone through 3,650 9/11s since that horrific September attack. We have had the equivalent of more 9/11 attacks than there were original individual victims in that first attack.

Also since that attack we replaced an ineffectual pro-life president with the most pro-abort president we have ever had. Does this look like a spirit of repentance to you? Does this look like the stirrings of reformation?


Written by Michael Duenes

September 10, 2011 at 5:43 pm

The Small-Scale Miracles Should Point Us to the Large-Scale One

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I simply can’t say enough about C.S. Lewis’ chapter on Miracles in God in the Dock. This chapter by itself is worth the price of the book. Lewis expounds on the reasons why we humans don’t see the miracle that is God’s work each day in creation, and as such, part of Jesus’ work in coming was to open our eyes not only to the miracles he performed in an instant, but to the miracle that God performs every day. He writes,

There is an activity of God displayed throughout creation, a wholesale activity let us say, which men refuse to recognize. The miracles done by God incarnate, living as a man in Palestine, perform the very same things as this wholesale activity, but at a different speed and on a smaller scale. One of their chief purposes is that men, having seen a thing done by personal power on the small scale, may recognize, when they see the same thing done on a large scale, that the power behind it is also personal – is indeed the very same person who lived among us two thousand years ago…God creates the vine and teaches it to draw up water by its roots and, with the aid of the sun, to turn that water into a juice which will ferment and take on certain qualities. Thus every year, from Noah’s time till ours, God turns water into wine. That, men fail to see. Either like the Pagans they refer the process to some finite spirit, Bacchus or Dionysus: or else, like the moderns, they attribute real and ultimate causality to the chemical and other material phenomena which are all that our senses can discover in it. But when Christ at Cana makes water into wine, the mask is off. The miracle has only half its effect if it only convinces us that Christ is God: it will have its full effect if whenever we see a vineyard or drink a glass of wine we remember that here works He who sat at the wedding party in Cana. (emphasis mine)


Written by Michael Duenes

September 9, 2011 at 10:40 am