IBI Watch 5/8/11

8 05 2011

IBI Watch 5/8/11

The Taxes are too Damned High – NOT!

An army of the deluded, propagandized by wealthy, powerful plutocrats, chants its shrill mantra:  Americans are TAXED ENOUGH ALREADY!  The first three letters of that phrase – TEA – give the Tea Party its name.  But before we go down their path – cuts-only ‘solutions’ to budget crises, reductions or outright elimination of health and human services programs, selling off or shutting down public infrastructure – I wish we would take a facts-based look at the big picture.  These links are one way to do just that.

First and second links – a USA Today analysis that shows – surprise – the tax burden on Americans is, Tea Party rhetoric aside, quite low.  Holy Tax Cuts, Batman!  Who woulda thunk it?!



When I attended my son’s graduation at the University of Minnesota this weekend, an unannounced speaker was none other than Senator Amy Klobuchar.  As she exhorted the new science, engineering and math graduates believe in themselves, go forth and innovate, build America’s future, etc., the voice in my head kept saying – how can this continue?  Today’s conservative formula for ‘progress’ – demonize educators and other public employees, cut education budgets, squeeze research funding – will lead to America’s decline and demise as a world economic powerhouse.  It’s a given that college education will be required for all the high-level jobs that our new economy will supposedly create (with all those dollars invested by vaunted ‘job creators’- they whom we dare not tax further).  But how much more difficult will we make it for the next generations of students to pay for their education without drowning in debt?

With marginal taxes on the wealthy very low, and the Republicans fighting like an army of pit bulls to keep them that way, you have to ask – who pays the price for this shortsighted approach to fiscal management, and who on the other hand makes a killing?

Several links.  First – an AlterNet piece that looks at just how the wealthy’s agents, i.e., corporate media and rightist think tanks, have influenced the public debate to such a degree that many working-class people are actually serving the interests of the Koch Brothers and their allies.  Next, a look at right-wing tax myths. Of course, they no longer look like myths to a lot of  Americans.  (Remember Animal Farm?  Repeat after me – “Four legs good, two legs better.”)    Finally, an article from populist writer Jim Hightower – who is rapidly becoming the go-to guy on our modern class warfare.





So, what do we do about this?  I think when the debate is about cutting taxes or raising taxes, it’s obvious which side will carry the day.  But it doesn’t take a lot of deep thinking or analysis to see that our tax-cutting habits of the past thirty years have contributed mightily to our current deficit problems, at the federal and state levels. How about some tax RESTORATION as part of the solution?

First, a wake-up call from, of all people, a Republican famous for Reaganomics.  Then, some food for progressive thought.




Medicare, Medicaid and Magical Thinking

Whether you read the David Stockman opinion piece linked above or not, you know that Medicare and Medicaid are very much on policymakers’ minds these days.  Costs are rising, and studies show that the programs will consume more and more of GDP as time goes by.  In short, the programs as currently configured are not long-term sustainable.  The Republicans’ favorite solution – proposed by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan – is to turn Medicare – which now guarantees health care coverage to seniors – into a subsidy.  That is, tomorrow’s seniors would collect an annual stipend, which they would use to purchase private health insurance.  Of course, health care and health insurance costs are rising far faster than general inflation.  This could leave future seniors high, dry and uncovered.  Ah, but we forget the GOP’s market-worshiping magical thinking.  Competition, you see, will keep seniors’ health care costs down.  Uh-huh.  Remember – this is the same party that – under the W administration – that brought us the prescription benefit for Medicare recipients.  On its surface, that program benefits seniors.  But it actually protects Big Pharma’s bacon – the government is forbidden – forbidden! – from bargaining for the lowest prices for medicines.

To really bring health care costs down, we need to figure out how to lower the overall cost.  And when you look at the king’s ransom we spend yearly complying with reporting requirements, and fighting over who pays, who is covered, whose claims the insurance companies can deny, etc., it’s easy to see where the biggest potential savings lie – reforming the whole system so that it is focused primarily on care for everyone rather than massive profits and obscene executive compensation in health insurance industry.

First link – an NPR story on how the Ryan budget plan deals with Medicare and Medicaid.  Next, links to two very thoughtful, recent columns from the Star Tribune on these matters. With contrasting perspectives, both counsel dealing with reality and eschewing magical thinking about life and death.  Finally, an interview on Bill Maher’s Real Time with Senator Bernie Sanders.  Watch the Senator tear apart a Republican suit who tries to carry the day with the usual ‘ my sister in law had this nightmare in European health care ‘ sort of ‘policy by anecdote’ stuff.  Too bad Vermont is so small!  And, just for good measure, have a look at yet another quixotic campaign – this one for the Affordable Care Act of 2010.  But wait – how about some levity?  See the last link.







Who is this Obama Guy?

OK, for all but the most extreme, fact averse birthers, it’s clear that President Obama is actually a citizen of the US of A.  But what about his policies and principles?  Where does he stand on the historical conservative/liberal continuum?  To birthers and other right-wing extremists, he is a wild-eyed socialist, ready to sell the US off to the world government movement, whatever that is.  To many liberals and progressives, he is something of a disappointment – some even write him off as a poorly disguised Republican.  As usual, the truth is more nuanced and more interesting.  Check this comparison with presidents all the way back to FDR.  The, a little very funny graphical satire from This Modern World.



A Fish Story to Learn From

A recent story in the Star Tribune, disguised as one of those ‘entrepreneur makes lemonade from lemons’ hero stories, actually includes some environmental lessons.  Of course, you wouldn’t know that from the story itself.  First link – the story itself.  The message – the lionfish is an invasive species, thought of as a nuisance.  But hey – catch it, cook it right, and it’s a delicacy!  You can eat the thing!  Problem solved!   Next few links – the back story, with its lessons of how humans are altering the ocean environment, at our long-term peril.  The final link looks at the very big picture of us and the oceans – a review of a book I’ve read and recommend – Under a Green Sky.






Happy Mother’s Day

Two observances.  First, a Facebook page on Mother’s Day’s original roots in the peace movement.  Second, a slide show of mothers in the animal kingdom, wild and domesticated.



“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”

– Greek proverb

Contributed  links to this posting – Jeff Carlson,  Mark Goldberg, Jeff Syme




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