Sunday, July 31, 2011

Compromise? We Don't Need No Stinking Compromise!

What is being proposed are massive cuts to programs which help the poor and vulnerable, the working class, and ordinary middle class citizens. In effect, they are proposing massive tax increases on middle class America. A dollar more in health care costs is the same to someone as a dollar increase in their taxes. And cuts to programs are what Republicans are using as the price for keeping tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, and for keeping the huge tax deductions and subsidies for large corporations.

Automatic cuts? Yes, let the Republicans sit back while automatic cuts get made which will put even more of a burden on the middle class, while not asking anything of the rich.

Let's not do anything about the causes of the massive financial meltdown, of which deregulation of the banks is number one.

Let's blame socialism, not disaster capitalism, for the poor state of the economy (at least poor as far as average Americans are concerned).

It is not compromise when there are only spending cuts with no revenue fixes. It is capitulation. Does anybody remember last December's deal? At least we got a thirteen month extension of unemployment insurance benefits then.

Oh, yeah, and wasn't there a jobs problem? Well, eliminating trillions in spending by the middle class should certainly help create jobs.

And We Didn't Even Get A T-Shirt!

Back in December, when a deal to get unemployment extended was in the works, many of us commented on the need for a debt ceiling hike to be included. It was not too difficult to foresee that the need for a raise in the debt ceiling would be used to force program cuts. But all we got for a two-year extension of the Bush tax cuts and a mixing of general revenues into the Social Security Trust Fund was 13 months of extended unemployment benefits, along with a fear that Democrats would capitulate in the upcoming debt ceiling negotiations.

However, I certainly did not anticipate just how much the Republicans would demand in exchange for the authority to borrow money to pay for obligations already incurred.

So, get ready for a massive tax hike on the middle class, because that is what the shifting of the burden of social programs onto them amounts to. Gotta keep those tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires and large corporations. And that trillion plus in government spending which will now be paid by those who can least afford it? I guess they won't be spending it on goods and services. Say goodbye to more jobs.

Congratulations, Congress. Another victory for those who fund campaigns and who hire those high-priced lobbyists. I can just hear the laughter in the back rooms about poor Grandma Millie.

Massive Tax Hike On Middle Class

Republicans have been cutting income taxes, corporate taxes, taxes on capital gains and special dividend income (both now taxed at 15%), and estate taxes. Revenues as a percentage of GDP are the lowest in decades. Yet we are told over and over that we have a spending problem. Well, yes, if you repeatedly cut the means, then that does make it hard to live within your means.

Republicans are refusing to reverse any of their revenue cuts, crying "No new taxes!" even though what is desperately needed is restoration of some of the old taxes.

What they are proposing is massive cuts to programs which help the poor and vulnerable, the working class, and ordinary middle class citizens. In effect, they are proposing massive tax increases on middle class America. A dollar more in health care costs is the same to someone as a dollar increase in their taxes. And those cuts to programs are what Republicans are using as the price for keeping tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, and for keeping the huge tax deductions and subsidies for large corporations.

Republicans also refuse to fix the Medicare Prescription Drug program, which with its no negotiating clause is a big giveaway to pharmaceutical companies.

Both sides are looking at Social Security, even though changes to retirement ages and benefits will have zero impact on the national debt.

Oh, yeah, and wasn't there a jobs problem? Well, eliminating trillions in spending by the middle class should certainly help create jobs.

Social Security and the Debt Ceiling Negotiations

Why are Republicans and Democrats insisting on making Social Security part of the current Debt Ceiling negotiations?

Social Security accounting is separate by law, and in fact is counted as an off-budget item. The trust fund holds special Treasury Bonds, bought whenever there is more collected in Social Security payroll taxes than is paid out in Social Security benefits. Those bonds fund part of the national debt, to the tune of $2.6 trillion. (Yes, those paper IOU's in the Trust Fund are actually U.S. Treasury Bonds, backed by the full faith and credit of the United States.)

When Social Security pays more in benefits than it collects in payroll taxes, it cashes in some of those treasury bonds. The Treasury Department is able to pay for those special Treasury Bonds by selling regular Treasury Bonds (say, to China).

Treasury Bonds are what fund the national debt (and have since the 1917 sale of Liberty Bonds). Since Social Security's special Treasury Bonds are only redeemed at the same time that new regular Treasury Bonds are sold, and money given to Social Security for redeeming the special bonds is offset by money from the sale of regular bonds, there is no change in the national debt. Thus, even if Social Security is running a deficit for the current year, there is no impact on the National Debt, and no change in how close or how far that actual debt is from the debt ceiling.

Furthermore, even though Social Security is projected to have deficits for the forseeable future, the $2.6 trillion Trust Fund will insure that Social Security is able to pay out 100% in benefits for the next 26 years, and is able to do so with no changes in retirement ages and no changes to benefits. (The upcoming retirement of Baby Boomers was foreseen, and is the reason the Trust Fund was built up to such a large amount.) In fact, any changes to retirement ages or benefits would have absolutely no impact on the National Debt. Raising retirement ages or cutting benefits will only have an impact 26 years from now, and would still only affect Social Security benefit payouts, not the National Debt.

Anyone trying to include Social Security in the Debt Ceiling negotiations is doing so only as part of a partisan agenda, either as a tactic to scare Social Security recipients, or in an effort to privatize (think huge administrative fees) or eliminate Social Security. Social Security is the reason (along with living wages) that we no longer have huge numbers of seniors and disabled people in poorhouses and in poverty. Private retirement plans are subject to theft, bankruptcies, stock market crashes, bank closings, and incompetent or unscrupulous administration. In contrast, Social Security will always be there. Unless, of course, our politicians take it from us.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Primary Concerns

It is time for more people to go to the party caucuses or the primary elections to help pick what candidates we want running in the general elections. Do we want ideological zealots, be they Republican or Democrat? Do we want corporate (Blue Dog) democrats, Tea Party politicians, historical revisionists, or factually challenged candidates? Or do we want progressive members of both parties who have the state's, the nation's, and the people's interests at heart?

Do we want disaster capitalism or debt crises junkies? Do we want politicians who don't understand how Social Security is financed? Do we want people who think that a prescription drug plan written by the pharmaceutical industry which allows for no negotiation of drug prices is fine? Do we want candidates who claim that anyone who has even a dollar of dividend income is a small business? Or that having businesses bear the majority of the cost of health insurance is a great idea?

Go to the primaries and argue for party candidates who represent your interests, or just sit back and wonder how extremists from your own party got on the general election ballot. It's your choice.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Left Wing Couple Searches For Allies

Annie and I are having our usual morning-after political discussion following the prime time debt ceiling speeches.

Our National Debt is in a large part from the prior administration. Two unfunded wars, a financial meltdown from deregulation, a Medicare prescription plan with no negotiation (written by the pharmaceutical industry and passed by Republicans), along with tax cuts and an increase in the national debt from $5.7 to $10.7 trillion under Bush. Does that tell you something about the debt? Before Obama even took office, the deficit was projected to be $1 trillion.

So don't tell me it is suddenly a problem with social spending. Where are the jobs that were supposed to come with all of the tax cuts since 2000? Where were the cries about the debt during the Bush years?

We are not asking for new taxes. We are asking for an end to the Bush tax cuts, including an end to working money being taxed less than a working man's income (capital gains, dividend income). We want corporate tax rates to not be industry specific, and for large corporations not to be paying a lower effective rate than small businesses.

What exactly is Boehner's compromise? That all of the spending that Congress has authorized he will allow to be paid for, in return for which he will trash assistance programs when they are most needed? Why is he using the debt ceiling to force his agenda through?

How about if we just raise the debt ceiling, and Boehner's proposals can be debated on their own merits?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Switching Parties

If Obama is not going to stand up against anti-spending conservatives, but instead embrace their policies at the cost of jobs, the economy, the environment, and protection for consumers, the disabled, the old, the young, students, and small businessmen, then I suggest he change party allegiance.

It is painfully obvious that he not only won't take away the scissors from the running children, but that he is now the one running with those scissors. All of the principles he said he was for are compromised. He has caved time and time again to people with no social responsibility and no sense of accountability. He has let them frame the issues and the debate, so that the embattled Democrats in the House and Senate will face even tougher fights in the 2012 elections.

In pursuit of independent voters, is it really necessary to throw Americans under the limousines and onto the runways of the corporate jets?

Say it ain't so, Obama. Say it ain't so.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Tim Pawlenty = Gomer Pyle ?

Hold mouse cursor over each picture to see who is who.

Who is the real Gomer Pyle?

07/25/11 Update: Bachmann, a former tax lawyer who heads the Tea Party Caucus in the House, contrasted her record opposing "irresponsible spending" in Congress with what she called Pawlenty's tenure as governor backing bloated programs and "leaving a multi-billion-dollar budget mess in Minnesota."
And to think that the Republicans in Minnesota, not wanting to raise taxes on their rich friends, forced a state government shutdown to again balance the state's budget without tax increases but with more of the same accounting tricks Michelle Bachmann is now lambasting Pawlenty for.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Letter to Obama; The Debt Ceiling, Children with Scissors

If there are to be no revenue increases, it is time to take cuts off the table, and simply raise the debt ceiling. Push it through the Senate and the House must follow.

The children have been running with scissors; it is time to take the scissors away.

Now that the children are out of the room, restart with a fair deal. Don't let radicals in the House destroy the economy.

No new taxes. Restore old ones. End the Bush tax cuts and stop protecting millionaires and billionaires at the cost of cuts to people who can least afford it.

Article 1, Section 8, the General Welfare Clause, "is not an independent grant of power, but a qualification on the taxing power which included within it a power to spend tax revenues on matters of general interest to the federal government." That interest is not served by repeated tax cuts for the wealthy and for corporations, tax cuts which deprive the government of the means of providing for the general welfare.

We cannot live within our means by reducing the means.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Letter to Sen. Tom Coburn About His Radical Social Security Plan

I have read your proposals for Social Security with dismay. Having looked over the SSA figures and having read the CBO suggestions for possible fixes, I have seen that it is very easy to fix Social Security for the next 75 years with no benefit cuts. Simply raise the Social Security taxable income cap, and then sometime in the next few years raise payroll taxes by 2% (1% employee, 1% employer) over 20 years.

Your proposal clearly is partisan politics with no basis in reality. It seems quite apparent that you are an admirer of Ayn Rand, who was a proponent of "full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire capitalism," and that you now believe, as did Rand, that taxation is state sponsored legal theft. This is the politics of greed and social irresponsibility.

A Dearth of Greatness

In these challenging times, Obama had the opportunity to, as he said, "be a great president." But you cannot give in on issue after issue, you cannot repeatedly compromise when the other side does not also compromise, and you especially cannot start out with a compromised position, and still expect to get a fair deal. The GOP is practicing Disaster Capitalism, creating a fiscal disaster and then using it to push through their ideological and radical agenda, and Obama doesn't get it.

Republicans openly express admiration for Ayn Rand, the author of an amoral and fiscally bankrupt philosophy called Objectivism. The GOP is doing all it can to institute Rand's "full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire capitalism." Conservatives now believe, as did Rand, that taxation is state sponsored legal theft. They are also now in opposition to antitrust laws, the minimum wage, public education (there is a big push here in Minnesota for private enterprise charter schools), and child labor laws.

Welcome to the politics of deception and greed.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Desperate Plea to Obama

Mr. Obama, please don't cave in again. America cannot afford it. Don't cut Social Security and Medicare. Fix the prescription drug part, raise payroll taxes and/or income caps, but don't give in. The GOP has a plan, and you are falling for it, and you are dragging too many Americans with you into the Republican's con game.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

ALEC exposed

I recently came across an article about Milton Friedman and the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is the source of nearly identical radical state legislative measures which have been introduced or which have passed in many states through GOP efforts.

ALEC has over 800 "model" bills on worker and consumer rights, tort reform, injured Americans, school privitization, higher education, health, pharmaceuticals, safety net programs, the environment, energy, agriculture, democracy, voter rights, federal power, taxes & budgets, guns, prisons, crime, and immigration.

I decided to check into just one of the ALEC ghostwriter bills, the Charter Schools Act. It turns out that Minnesota statute 124D10, Charter Schools, is based on that ALEC bill.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Delusional Politics

The GOP has convinced the president that he must cut social spending (they are not big on social responsibility). This means cuts in Community Health Centers, Head Start, financial aid for college students, home heating assistance for the poor, Food Stamps, and the payroll tax funded Social Security and Medicare. But they don't see all of the revenue cuts they enacted under Bush as being any problem whatsoever. They don't see the 2008 financial meltdown as having contributed to decreased revenues. They don't acknowledge that Bush's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq increased spending.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Points For Conservatives' Consideration

We do not have out of control spending. We have massive revenue reductions. We have taxes on the wealthy that are the lowest since the 1950's, along with massive cuts to taxes on capital gains, dividend income, and estates. We have corporate taxes which have gone from 30 percent of federal revenues in the 1950's to 11 percent today, in a large part because of targeted deductions and subsidies.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Debt Ceiling War

Bush almost doubled the national debt (from $5.7 trillion Jan 2001 to $10.7 trillion Dec 2008) while slashing income taxes, capital gains taxes, dividend income taxes, and estate taxes. Bush and the GOP would not let Medicare negotiate on drug prices with their new prescription program, so that Medicare now has to pay whatever the pharmaceutical companies want to charge (hint: some drug prices have more than doubled just since 2008).

Friday, July 8, 2011

Letter to Governor Dayton

We fully support your stance in the budget talks. We agree that Minnesota's Republicans are holding us hostage to their extremist ideology. The following is an e-mail that I have sent to our representatives in the state House and Senate, Rep. Torrey Westrom (R) District 11A, and Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R) District 11.
The GOP's stance on compromise is that the other side gives in. The extremist ideology of the current Republicans is frightening.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Word About The Conservatives' "Productive" Class

The conservatives' so-called "productive" class pays less of a percentage in taxes than the middle class. The "productive" class has sent jobs overseas, frozen wages for the middle class while sucking up increases in wealth, and shifted the burden of taxes even more onto the less wealthy.

The "productive" class has unleashed wave after wave of fiscal crises onto ordinary Americans with deregulation and elimination of protections which were in place since the Great Depression.

A New Workers' Manifesto

by Leo Hindery, Jr.:

"I believe in the American worker, and I believe in keeping manufacturing jobs here in this country. I believe that our workers and our businesses can compete with any worker and any company anywhere in the world, as long as we have a government that will stand up and demand a level playing field for all."