Jonathan Kraut | Three Rules About Making a Tough Choice

Jonathan Kraut
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I was once asked which choice would I make if I had the power to do so. 

The first option was that my life would greatly improve, but the lives of everyone else would remain unchanged. 

Choice No. 2 was that my life would remain relatively unchanged but the lives of everyone else would greatly improve. 

The question, in its essence, can be viewed as a political one: Is your priority your own interests or on the behalf of others? 

Examining choice poses a great opportunity for thought and reflection as we proceed into this New Year. Especially with our challenges of late, to include adjusting to the pandemic, recent crisis of climate, drought, and wildfire, and intensified political vitriol, supporting smart choices in 2022 is critical. 

It would seem our frustration with politics is based on a conflict between these perspectives. While perhaps we would hope both ideals could be achieved at the same time, this usually is a zero-sum game: One side wins as the other loses, and often both sides loose. 

One could generalize that liberals attempt to equalize income differentials by wanting to tax the rich and subsidize the poor, act to restrict the rights of property owners and businesses in order to protect the little guy, and waste money on curing the incurable. 

Conservatives often have advocated for the depletion of natural resources or limiting consumer rights in favor of enhancing personal and corporate profits, while lowering taxes on the wealthy and corporations ostensibly so that the business community can prosper. 

Recall in the 2016 presidential debates, Hillary Clinton asked Donald Trump why his businesses had gone bankrupt a number of times (seven) while the Donald himself kept large chunks of borrowed money, never paying it back to the lenders.  

Trump responded by saying that Hillary had been in government a number of years and if his actions were so egregious, why did she not change the laws? 

Many laws are created at the behest of the wealthy interests, whose political action committees have great influence on legislators and thus on legislation. Blaming Clinton for criteria that favors the wealthy is in turn blaming her for the way lobbyists and donors had (and still have) a hold on Congress. 

Funny how when Trump was president, not only did he not amend the very bankruptcy and property depreciation formats that offered him great benefit at the detriment of taxpayers and lenders, but he also cut the corporate tax by as much as half, putting more burden on the everyday taxpayer, and benefiting himself personally.  

Republicans will say in response that the strong economy we are experiencing is because the rich are better enabled to create wealth and therefor hire more and spend more, thereby creating enhanced prosperity for all. 

The problem is that both major parties are simultaneously on both sides of this equation. 

This duality can be clarified with a three-question test. Any response of “no” means the proposal is not appropriate. 

Question 1) Does the proposal help resolve or substantially mitigate the problem? 

Question 2) Does the proposal substantially hurt anyone or anything? 

Question 3) Will the proposal be cost effective, well-managed, and free of favoritism? 

To flash back on the bankruptcy laws Trump used to enrich himself at the expense of lenders, we can say “no” to both 1 and 2. Allowing borrowers to default and keep loaned money only encourages bankruptcy, not cure it, and the laws as written hurt investors and lenders. 

At present, homelessness is one of our greatest issues. Measure H and HHH are throwing billions at “curing homelessness” by creating subsidized housing and offering “treatment” options. 

We can immediately answer “no” to question 1: Putting a roof above one’s head does not mitigate mental illness or drug addiction. We can see after several years and millions in spending that we have realized no measurable impact on reducing homelessness. 

Question 3 is suspect, as many treatment contracts are poorly managed and may be issued based on favoritism. 

What about the California gas tax, currently at 55 cents a gallon? Does the tax fund transportation improvements? Probably. Does the tax hurt anyone? Yes — certainly it hurts some folks. So, although well intended, the tax assessment format is poorly devised.  

Is spending fuel tax funds cost-effective, well-managed, and free of favoritism? The new Burbank Boulevard bridge over Interstate 5 cost $1.3 billion and went $73 million over budget. Question 3 seems a big no.  

In 2022, resolve with me to favor smart choices. 

Jonathan Kraut directs a private investigations agency, is the CEO of a private security firm, is the COO of an accredited acting conservatory, a published author, and Democratic Party activist. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal or of other organizations.

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