Yes, Ms. Burns, Let’s Tax the Hell Out of the Rich!

The headline reads above an article from the leftist publication “In These Times”, published on February 8th, 2019, by Rebecca Burns, “Tax the Hell Out of the Rich, When They’re Alive and When They’re Dead.” Without saying, I was already on-board.

What the article outlines is a comparison of the three proposed ways that Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Sen. Bernie Sanders want to create a fairer tax system for the 99%. Here’s the rundown:

First Warren’s plan

…(A) 1 percent tax on the wealthiest 0.1 percent, or those with assets of over $20 million. Warren’s proposal would tax fewer people—those with more than $50 million in assets, an estimated 75,000 families—but she would bump up the rate to 2 percent. Households with more than $1 billion in assets would get a 3 percent rate.

Yet,

Where Warren’s proposal would probably be insufficient on its own is that it wouldn’t offer a particularly aggressive corrective to inequality over time. It would raise trillions for social programs, which is crucially important and would certainly have other beneficial political effects. But, as a result of the tax, the fabulously wealthy would be only slightly less fabulously so.

But right now, correcting the immense rate of economic inequality in American society is not going to fix itself with one tax plan. So, don’t get down, writer Rebecca Burns. That’s going to take something truly radical to happen (hint, hint).

Second, AOC’s plan as outlined in a “60 Minutes” interview,

“You look at our tax rates back in the ’60s and when you have a progressive tax rate system. Your tax rate, you know, let’s say, from zero to $75,000 may be ten percent or 15 percent, et cetera. But once you get to, like, the tippy tops—on your 10 millionth dollar—sometimes you see tax rates as high as 60 or 70 percent.”

But,

By even the most optimistic estimates, this would bring in only a quarter of the revenues Warren’s plan would generate.

So, once again, it will not cure the economic inequality in our society as Warren’s will neither. Yet, it is a starting point and one that may be more palatable to everyday-progressives.

And lastly, the Sander’s plan,

Bernie Sanders’ plan involves restoring top marginal tax rates on inheritances to where they were in the 1970s: 77 percent for estates over $1 billion.

The plan would also decrease the threshold for the inheritance tax from $11.18 million to $3.5 million and impose a 45 percent rate on this lower (but still very rich by any normal standard) tier. Even with this new threshold, just 0.2 percent of Americans would ever pay an estate tax. Thus, in the style of Occupy, the plan is called “For the 99.8 Percent Act.”

Yet,

Again, Sanders’ plan would probably raise less revenue than Warren’s: About $315 billion over a decade.

Then it continues,

But by taking aim at the ultra-rich as a class, it also singles out the kind of dynastic wealth that allows a few families to wreak havoc on our political system. Just three families with multi-generational wealth—the Waltons, the Kochs, and the Mars—have a combined fortune of $343 billion, more than 3.5 million times the median wealth of U.S. families. And they use that wealth to fund all manner of right-wing policies.

The Sanders plan makes the least revenue for the government and will not even come within seeing distance to the eradication of the exspanse of inequality in the United States. But it could be the most acceptable not only to progressives but even centrists if the argument is framed properly by Sanders.

What I am trying to do up above is, first and foremost, to educate everyone on the strides made by modern politicians (two of the three deeming themselves so-called “socialists”) towards income equality which would have been unimaginable 10 years ago. It’s almost amazing, when you really think about it.

Yet my main point comes out of the analysis of the Warren plan, namely, that her plan is the most effective regarding a shrinking of the income gap in this country, but it does not really even make a scratch. As Burns was writing above, “the fabulously wealthy would be only slightly less fabulously so.” That’s all. And this is the reason why we need real change in this nation. We need real radical leftists in power, not just democratic socialists, but real revolutionary thinkers. That is the only way to get any immediate help with the income gap in the U.S. and, later, around the world.

So, I am greatly impressed with the ITT article by Burns in that, first, it has a cool title and, secondly, she respects that even these so-called sweeping tax plans will not truly affect the disparity between the rich and the poor in this nation.

But it’s a start…now let us take advantage of it.

5 Quick Political Facts for Today (3/4/15)

Money, money, money, dru-ugs…and guns.  I forget how that song goes.

This drink intermission sponsored by corporate tax-dodging America!
  • GOP presidential hopeful Marco Rubio lays out his economic plan for the country and it’s all kinds of terrible.  Nothing overly surprising in the plan as it’s a giveaway to the wealthy and will hurt the poor and middle-class, like most GOP proposals.  Tax cuts for corporations, elimination of dividends and capital gains tax, and cuts to Medicare and Social Security to pay for it.  Please keep trumping that idea around so everyone is clear about what you want to do to us.  I’m sure that presidential run will go great, Senator Nochanceinhell!
  • In economic inequality news, David Geffen donates $100 million to Lincoln Center.  It’s great he wants to make such a donation to the arts but it’s hard to ignore the economic disparity when these donations are made at the same time the wages of the majority have stagnated for so many decades.  It must be nice to donate the equivalent of 6631 minimum wage earners’ combined yearly salaries in one shot.  The donation is great but it does help exemplify the huge difference between the have-everythings and the have-littles.
  • An appeals court has upheld a California city’s ban on gun magazines that hold more than 10 bullets.  A small victory for commonsense gun policy but the case will go through more appeals as gun nuts desperately beg for an increase in the size of their magazines.  Blah blah blah penis joke.  Bob Loblaw penis joke.  Blah blah blah penis joke.  Moving on.
  • Heroin death rates in the United States have quadrupled since 2000So odd it is happening.  It’s almost as if the market has been flooded with more heroin from the people who grow the most heroin in the world since the year 2000 for some reason.  I wonder how that happened?

The article is filled with good information until the end when this quote appears:

David G. Evans, of the Drug-Free America Foundation, blames the use of less-harmful drugs for the uptick in heroin use.

“I think heroin deaths are going up in part because the attitude has changed towards marijuana,” he said. “Kids now think marijuana is a medicine so it’s okay to use it. You get involved in a drug culture, you get high, you get addicted, one drug just seems like the other, and I think that’s a big part of it.”

Ah, the good ole Gateway Theory.  Hasn’t that myth been killed enough by academics to never bother quoting in a serious article on drug use?  It’s like finding a fossil fuel funded climate denying scientist to quote in a climate change article.  We’re better than that now, aren’t we?

  • Palestinian president Abbas calls Israel gangsters over the tax dollars they are holding from the Palestinian people.  If you read the article closely, it clearly maps out how this situation could easily (and will likely) devolve into more violence due to Israel’s horrendous action.  Israel will then “mow the lawn” again and kill more innocent Palestinians in the name of their security, despite the fact they will have caused the situation to begin in the first place.

Already many of the PA’s 140,000 civil servants have had their pay cut by around 40 percent

Gosh, why would 140k people be angry about their pay being cut nearly in half by an occupying government that just killed more than 2,000 of their people?  But remember everyone, it’s Israel that is being treated terribly by the Palestinians and not the other way around.  Just listen to their leader.  If Netanyahu wasn’t busy lying about the non-existent nuclear threat of Iran, he would be able to lie to you about the threat of Palestinians.

5 Quick Political Facts for Today (2/25/15)

A little bit of good news and a lot of bad…

  • Nearly 80% of the voters in Chicago supported publicly financed campaignsWhen put to a public vote, this issue leaves little doubt where many stand on the idea that speech is money and where it belongs in our political campaigns.  Most of us want it out and want the corruption that comes along with it gone as well.  A Gallup poll showed half of the country was in favor of this in 2013, a number very likely to continue growing as the explosion in spending by outside groups who can hide their donors also continues.  Of course, Congress would have to bite the hand that feeds their family members 6-figure salaries to run their campaigns in order for this to change, which means it certainly won’t in the foreseeable future. 
  • Worker productivity grew 74% in the past 40 years while wages only grew 9%.  Because that is totally fair.  It’s true that part of the increase is due to technology but the disparity is still startling.  Considering the incredible increase in income inequality over the same period, it’s pretty obvious the average American is getting the shaft.  It’s also obvious which political party’s ideology is most responsible for this outcome.  But hey, voting against gay marriage, climate change, and abortion has worked out really well, hasn’t it?
  • The sea level north of New York City rose over 5 inches in 2009-2010.  The article states it was a “1-850 year event” and it’s likely we’ll see this type of thing more often.  And, since it’s an article from an international media source, it doesn’t bother digging up a climate change denier paid by the fossil fuel industry to refute the reality.  So refreshing when media accepts scientific consensus and doesn’t play to the least knowledgeable among us.
  • If you live in the U.S. then no, you shouldn’t be very afraid of terroristsAn excellent op-ed in The Guardian by a couple of academics noting the recent change in political discourse about terrorism in the U.S. by mostly the Obama administration.  In short, if you live here and aren’t traveling to dangerous locales, you are almost certainly not going to die at the hands of a terrorist.  And you probably shouldn’t hand over your freedoms and privacy at home in the name of fighting the so-called “War on Terror”.

It is astounding that these utterances – “blindingly obvious” as security specialist Bruce Schneier puts it – appear to mark the first time any officials in the United States have had the notion and the courage to say so in public.

Speaking of terrorism…

  • A Palestinian mosque was torched by an Israeli terrorist groupNot that there will be much outrage in the American media over nefarious Israeli actions, such as the shooting death of a 19-year old college student by the Israeli military the day before, as noted in the article.  And it’s not like these Israeli terrorist groups have just started up or are carrying out their first attack on Palestinians:

Hebrew graffiti was scrawled on the walls, including “Revenge for the Land of Zion” and “Price Tag,” a phrase used by Israeli nationalists linked to hundreds of attacks on Palestinian targets since 2008. Some attacks have also targeted Israeli military posts. (Emphasis added)

Which begs the question, will the Israeli military kill over 2,000 people, mostly civilians and children, to get back at these groups like they did to Gaza last summer?  I mean, these groups are attacking the Israeli military and “hiding behind civilian targets”, aren’t they?  And that clearly doesn’t matter when it comes to bombing populations as they’ve shown in the past, right?  What’s the difference?  Amazing how the double-standards look when they are revealed.

5 Quick Political Facts for Today (2/19/15)

Lies and income inequality, oh my!

  • Israel is lying about the West’s negotiations with Iran.  Not exactly shocking but this sums it up nicely:

(U.S.) State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed that there was a “selective sharing” of information.

“I think it’s safe to say that not everything you’re hearing from the Israeli government is an accurate reflection of the details of the talks,” she said.

But, hey.  It’s Israel.  I’m sure they’ve never lied about anything in the past, particularly when they’ve claimed they needed to “mow the lawn” in Gaza.  And, honestly, does anyone think they care if they get caught in a lie?  It’s not like they’ve had to pay for any of the more vicious acts, like the despicable war crimes they’ve committed against the Palestinians.

  • Speaking of lying, a new report by the U.S. Army War College finds “‘dishonesty and deception’ among Army personnel is common, often encouraged to maintain a false sense of integrity.”  This isn’t overly shocking in terms of the psychological aspect but the word “encouraged” should be a little disheartening in the sense that this suggests it’s a top-down action.  The integrity part begins at the top and, if it isn’t being displayed by the highest ranks, it’s not surprising when those in the lower ranks take things like torture even farther than the rules state.  This is the reason why holding those at the top accountable for their despicable orders is so important.
  • Middle-class wages dipped again last year, but the story isn’t all bad.  If we push our elected officials to intervene with the right legislative actions, things can get better:

Still, wage trends last year underscore that policy makers can do a lot to boost workers’ pay. Take the rise in wages for the country’s lowest-paid workers, which the EPI says is proof that policy changes are positively impacting American families. Those states that raised their minimum wages last year — including New York, Florida and California — witnessed a pay gain of 1.6 percent for the lowest-paid workers, compared with a 0.3 percent increase for those without a rise in a state’s baseline pay.

Just another example of how the government can do things to reduce the dangerous levels of economic inequality in the U.S., something the voters want as pointed out next.

  • 60% or more Americans want higher minimum wages, paid sick leave, and requirements for time off after the birth of a child.  As inequality continues to get worse, these numbers will just continue to grow over time.  The question now becomes, how high will they have to get before change will come?  I’m sure Congress will consider all of these quickly since it’s filled with so many middle-class workers that have no sick time and will soon be having children…
  • Walmart will be hiking wages to $10 per hour a year from now.  Yes, you read that right.  Income inequality has gotten so out of control that one of its biggest villains is giving in to the pressure.  Soon, Walmart employees will be able to climb the economic ladder from desperate poverty to just regular poverty.  Walmart’s stock price took a hit today because of the announcement since doing even the slightest thing to help the 99% really angers the 1%.  Remember folks, capitalism is not about the wealthy exploiting the poor!*

*Statement approved and paid for by Exploiters of the 99% of America.

Some Lessons Society Still Hasn’t Learned From Martin Luther King, Jr.

As I listened to the newly discovered recording of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech from December 7, 1964 in London, I couldn’t help but notice how many different lessons from his speech we still haven’t learned as a society.  It’s a little more than 50 years later and we still struggle to get over so many hurdles that should have been accomplished so long ago.  Here’s a few instances from the speech that jump out for me.

With the growth of slavery, it became necessary to give some justification for it. You know, it seems to be a fact of life that human beings cannot continue to do wrong without eventually reaching out for some thin rationalization to clothe an obvious wrong in the beautiful garments of righteousness.

While slavery is obviously an evil of the distant past, as it was at the time of the speech, there are still instances where wrongs are thinly justified by almost irrational justifications.  What has really struck me lately has been the white justification of recent police killings of African-American men and children.  One of the commonly shared themes on social media I have witnessed by white posters has been the sharing of horrific stories of African-American men committing crimes against white people and asking, “Where’s the media on this?”  “Where’s the public outcry?”  “Where’s the protest?”  “Where’s Al Sharpton?”

The problem with this, obviously, is it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison.  Criminals are criminals and they will commit horrific acts that are unacceptable to society, regardless of the color of their skin or the color of the victim’s skin.  Police officers, however, are supposed to be highly trained peace officers that keep the public safe and respect the rights of all, also regardless of skin color.  There have been some clear instances where this hasn’t been happening and for white people to justify the criminal actions of those that have been trained to act within the law (and have paid no price for it) by posting stories of black-on-white crime is despicable.  This is the definition of “reaching out for some thin rationalization to clothe an obvious wrong”.

The Negro in the United States turned his eyes and his mind to Africa, and he noticed the magnificent drama of independence taking place on the stage of African history…And with this new sense of dignity and this new sense of self-respect, a new Negro came into being with a new determination to suffer, to struggle, to sacrifice, and even to die, if necessary, in order to be free.

I can’t help but notice how these same words could be spoken about the Arab Spring and the quick changes that came to so many countries in the Arab world.  While things are still in the process of changing in many of those countries and conditions are far from perfect, U.S. actions in relation to the events were (and continue to be) deplorable.  Instead of embracing the people and protesters who put their lives on the line for what our government says it loves, the U.S. government continued to back certain authoritarian regimes and turned a blind-eye (or continued to arm regimes) as countries like Bahrain brutally put down protests to maintain their grasp on power.  Our government officials can pay all the lip service they want to freedom but their actions are a much clearer indicator of their true feelings.

We all know what happened as a result of the old Plessy doctrine: There was always the strict enforcement of the separate, without the slightest intention to abide by the equal.

To say that equality in the overall system reigns supreme today is simply ignoring reality.  The justice system became incredibly lopsided in terms of incarceration rates shortly after King gave this speech as the drug war was ramped up.  Pew Research notes, “In 2010, all black men were six times as likely as all white men to be incarcerated in federal, state and local jails”.  It shouldn’t be surprising that is coupled with disparities in education spending.  The Center for American Progress found U.S. “schools spent $334 more on every white student than on every nonwhite student”.  While the days of overt segregation may be done, the covert methods of segregation are far from gone.

…all types of conniving methods are still being used to keep Negroes from becoming registered voters.

The only words that need to be changed to relate it to Republican and Tea Party actions of present day are the last three.  Just delete those and insert “voting”.  And using the miniscule amount of voter fraud as justification is just another instance of thin rationalization.

So we can see that there is still a great gulf between the haves, so to speak, and the have-nots. And if America is to continue to grow and progress and develop and move on toward its greatness, this problem must be solved.

We just found out the top 1% will own more than half of the world’s wealth by next year soooo, this has not only not changed for the better, it’s gotten incredibly worse.  I’m sure Dr. King would be rightfully appalled.

Today, great leaders, like Nelson Mandela and Robert Sobukwe, are among the many hundreds wasting away in Robben Island prison. Against a massive, armed and ruthless state, which uses torture and sadistic forms of interrogation to crush human beings, even driving some to suicide.

While King might not be surprised torture and sadistic forms of interrogation are still being used today, he would probably be shocked to know the U.S. government was using them recently and using rendition to allow more harsh methods.  How could the people we elected choose to commit crimes that we knew were reprehensible so long ago?  Still an astounding decision.

If the United Kingdom and the United States decided tomorrow morning not to buy South African goods, not to buy South African gold, to put an embargo on oil, if our investors and capitalists would withdraw their support for that racial tyranny that we find there, then apartheid would be brought to an end. Then the majority of South Africans of all races could at last build the shared society they desire.

A few situations around the world come to mind here but none more prominent than Israel and the continued support given to it by the U.S. despite the crimes it commits against so many in the West Bank and Gaza.  The U.S. has the power to pressure the Israeli government into allowing the formation of a Palestinian state yet does the exact opposite by continuing to arm Israel, who then uses those arms to kill thousands of Palestinians using incredibly questionable justifications (there’s that word again…).  The U.S. has the answer to the problem but chooses to ignore it.

…we will be able to speed up the day when all of God’s children—black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, Hindus and Muslims, theists and atheists—will be able to join hands and sing…

Religious tolerance?!  Blasphemer!!

I’m kidding, of course, but this is certainly a lesson that still hasn’t made its way into the psyche of America, and that definitely includes parties on both sides of the political spectrum.  The amount of Islamophobia running rampant in the Western world right now is startling.  King would be heartbroken, for sure, but would fight on as always.

…there are some things in the world, to which I am proud to be maladjusted and to which I call upon all men of goodwill to be maladjusted until the good society is realized. I must honestly say to you that I never intend to become adjusted to segregation, discrimination, colonialism and these particular forces. I must honestly say to you that I never intend to adjust myself to religious bigotry. I must honestly say to you that I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. I must say to you tonight that I never intend to become adjusted to the madness of militarism and the self-defeating effects of physical violence.

Maybe the most powerful words to live by in the speech.  Certainly worth the quote.  If only we could all be so lucky as to be so maladjusted…

 

Countering the Right: Insidious Koch Brothers Attack on Detroit Bankruptcy Settlement

A prime example of the absurd economic inequality in the U.S. has reared its ugly head as the Koch brothers apparently got bored and have decided to throw money at the Detroit bankruptcy settlement in an effort to deceive the 99%.

Their first tactic of deception is to attack the “bailout”.  Just one issue with that: it’s not a bailout.  As noted by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder in the article:

This is a settlement. This not a bailout,” Snyder said. “And I want to be very, very clear about that.” (Emphasis added)

The easy way to confirm that statement as true would be to simply realize it was an officially filed Chapter 9 bankruptcy and not a legislative decision to provide stimulus-type money to the city.

But that isn’t the really despicable attack by the Koch brothers group.  Take a look at their page at http://www.strongerdetroit.com/ (disgracefully named, as usual).  You’ll see this nugget of info:

Per capita state revenue sharing payments are over 3x what other cities receive.  In 2010, Detroit received $335 per capita in revenue sharing payments compared to $96, the average amount per capita all other cities over 50,000 in Michigan received.

Clearly, those greedy people in Detroit just upped their piece of the Michigan pie in the years leading up to this bankruptcy until they were all happy, fat cats.

Except they didn’t:

Between 2000 and 2010, inflation adjusted state revenues per capita declined by 13.7 percent in Detroit, while in Buffalo they increased by 45 percent.  In the recession period alone (2007 to 2010), state aid to Detroit went down by 8.2 percent, but went up by 7.2 percent in Buffalo.  Thus a big difference between these two structurally similar cities is the economic and fiscal environment and fiscal choices made at the state level.  Had New York treated Buffalo in the same way fiscally as Michigan dealt with Detroit, Buffalo, which is already teetering on the edge of fiscal crisis, might have been forced to declare bankruptcy as well. (Emphasis added)

But that doesn’t tell the whole story.  The per capita spending is still three times higher and some might be angry by this.  Unless they realized why.

Detroit’s poverty rate is a whopping 38.1%, according to the Census Bureau, more than double the Michigan state rate of 16.3%.  Add on the fact that Detroit is Michigan’s largest city by a lot (more than three times the size of second place) and the picture starts to come together.  But just to drive the point home, let’s give an example to further explain the disparity.

Suppose you have two cities in a state and both have a population of ten people.  City A has one person (10%) living below the poverty line.  City B has three people (30%) living below the poverty line.  If the state spends $100 per person in various ways on people below the poverty line (education, unemployment insurance, food stamps, etc.), then City B would be receiving three times more ($300) from the state than City A ($100).

The reason for Michigan’s spending on Detroit is not very difficult to figure out.

The reason the people of Michigan might fall for the Koch brothers heinous attack on the city’s bankruptcy settlement is also easy to figure out: brainwashing.

Countering the Right: Two Ludicrous Op-ed Claims by Conservatives for the Day

Oh, the things the right will say to fool people!

First up, Robert J. Samuelson gave us his take on a new book detailing the perils of economic inequality by, of course, pretending like it isn’t a problem.  Buried in his critique was this ridiculousness:

As for the power of the super-rich, they hardly control most democracies. In the United States, where about 70 percent of federal spending goes to the poor and middle class, the richest 1 percent pay nearly a quarter of federal taxes.

Saying that 70% of federal spending goes to the lower classes does seem to back his first point on the surface but not in reality.  What if the GDP was $1 trillion with total government spending being $1,000 and 70% of that spending went to the lower classes?  Would that make it appear as if the super-rich hardly controlled the government and got what they wanted as far as taxes and spending?  Exactly.

A more accurate measure would be percent of GDP spent on social programs.  And where does the U.S. rank among developed countries?  No where near the top and, in fact, below the average (shown here).  As for his point about the richest 1 percent and taxes, I’ve addressed this previously here.

The other preposterous claim for the day comes from the Washington Examiner:

What Fox News found in its most recent public opinion survey was that 61 percent of Americans believe Obama “lies” about important public issues either “most of the time” or “some of the time.” No other president in living memory has conducted himself in a manner that warranted even asking if such a description was appropriate. (Emphasis added)

I’ll ignore the absurd and unscientific question in the Faux News poll and just ask, were the people at the Washington Examiner alive and awake from 2001-2009?

Actually, the question of presidential trustworthiness has been asked plenty of times just not in the stupid way Faux News decided to word it.  For example, this ABC News poll asked whether George W. Bush “Is honest and trustworthy?”  Answer in 2005: about 40% agreed, basically identical to Faux News’ poll for Obama considering margin of error.

And taking into account Bush left office with far worse approval ratings than he had at the time of that poll, safe to say his trustworthiness ratings would have been far worse if people had been asked the same question and given the same options for answers as the recent Faux News poll.