IBI Watch 5/22/11

22 05 2011


Just What is a ‘Job-Killing Tax Increase,’ Anyway?

From the propaganda you hear, and from the ‘principled’ stances that Republican legislators are taking in Washington and in many states, you would think that taxes across the board are high.  The amazing truth is that taxes are not high, at least not compared to recent history.  In Minnesota, where our House and Senate, both under Republican control, have not moved an inch toward considering additional revenue to solve a massive budget deficit, people in the upper brackets actually pay lower effective rates than the working class.  You can look it up.  And at the federal level, both marginal income tax rates and capital gains taxes are dramatically lower than they were back in the 1970s.  So what gives?

This lock-step opposition to ‘tax hikes’ has become a kind of GOP religion in recent years.  It has commandments that must be obeyed, something like, “Thou shalt not raise taxes on the Holy Job Creator, lest he withdraw his beneficence to offshore investments rather than trickling down some drops of his opulence to employ a wretch such as thee.” Yea, verily.

Why the ‘scare quotes’ around ‘tax hikes?’  Try this simplified model.  Let’s say a given tax is 10 percent.  It’s the good times, and we have a surplus.  So, we adopt that old adage – ‘You’re better off with more money in yer pocket!’  We cut that tax down to three percent, and distribute the surplus.  Within a few years, our surplus has (magically) become a ballooning deficit.  We need that tax at seven percent to preserve the budget.  So a tax that had long been ten, went to three for several years, and now needs to go to seven.  So what is that – a tax hike?  Or is it merely partially restoring taxes to provide needed revenue so the government can provide what its citizens demand?  Just asking.

First link – a Joshua Holland column from a few months back that is of course timely today.  Next, economist Paul Anton takes the hot air out of right-wing rhetoric.  Job-killing?  Evidence suggests otherwise.  Third link – Robert Reich gives us a little background on the masterful propaganda campaign waged by the plutocrats in recent years.

http://www.alternet.org/economy/149265/the_9_biggest_conservative_lies_about_taxes_and_public_spending

http://www.startribune.com/opinion/otherviews/122366339.html

http://www.alternet.org/economy/150995/the_great_switch_by_the_super_rich%3A_how_wealthy_americans_started_paying_so_little_in_taxes/

One of the most interesting aspects of the current debate about taxes, spending, and, on the national scene, the debt ceiling, is the way the Republicans have en masse converted to the religion of fiscal responsibility.  What makes it most interesting is the way Republicans continue – with remarkable success – to paint this as an ‘evil tax and spend Democrats’ issue.  Next time you hear that rhetoric, check and show this chart.

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=200267920018198&set=a.163594537018870.33966.139398939438430&type=1&theater

True Majority Rule – Anathema to Corporatist Republicans

Pity the poor GOP.  They know that their policies – which favor the very wealthy at the expense of everyone else – would never survive a true, honest, up-and-down vote from the general public.  Sure, the free-market fable – the one that any working class stiff could become the next Donald Trump if only he works hard enough – sucks in a few gullible wannabe millionaires.  But to win elections consistently, you need real, hard-core bait-and-switch tactics.  You need social issues – gay marriage and the like.  And even better, you can keep the other side from voting in the first place.  Check these issues that today, in once-progressive Minnesota, have gained traction.  Two steps to solve non-problems will attract much attention.  (Truly, in both cases, they are solutions in search of problems.)  But the real effect is the heart of the bait and switch.  In the first case, the marriage amendment will attract crowds of conservative Christian voters to the polls in November.  In the second case, fighting the fantasy of ‘voter fraud,’ a voter ID requirement will disenfranchise thousands of poor and less mobile voters.  Noiw just what do you think those two actions will do to voting balance?  And do you think that is an accident?

I can say with pride – for the first time – that my current (Republican) Minnesota House representative spoke out on this issue.  That would be John Kriesel.  You’ll see him quoted at the first link.  At the second link, Chuck Samuelson explains why he thinks the voter ID bill is so wrongheaded.  At the next link, more on a potential solution to these and other problems – ranked choice voting.  How is this related?  That’s easy.  With ranked-choice voting, appeals to the extremes tend to fade away.  Voting for the lesser of two evils goes away.  It supports a radical concept – rule by the majority.  Note that the sorely missed PBS host Bill Moyers is a strong supporter.  And finally – the big picture on fair elections.

http://www.wctrib.com/event/article/id/81764/

http://www.startribune.com/opinion/otherviews/121809619.html

http://fairvotemn.org/node/1978

http://www.commoncause.org/site/pp.asp?b=4773857&c=dkLNK1MQIwG

Fighting Corporatocracy

Judging by their actions, the modern Republican Party sees a single role for the government – enabling the powerful corporations.  Eliminating regulation, cutting taxes on corporations and the wealthy, privatizing infrastructure, demonizing public sector workers, deifying the all-powerful (private-sector) ‘Job Creators’ it is all part of the same program.

If you wonder how we came to this end, you need to meet ALEC.  That would be the American Legislative Exchange Council.  The linked article will help you understand how corporate power gets its way in our country.  And if you wonder what we can do about this, check the next two links.  And finally, a philosophical debate.  In the modern American political arena, where corporate speech blares through well-funded (and often well-disguised) bullhorns, what is the correct strategy – stand on principle or dirty your hands and fight their game?  Check the fourth link for more.

http://www.alecwatch.org/report.html

http://www.alternet.org/economy/151018/10_steps_to_defeat_the_corptocracy/?page=1

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clean_elections

http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=136239243&m=136336380

Inroads Against the Banksters

Anyone who is still trying to understand the main reasons for the economic collapse of fall 2008 can invest an hour and listen to the first linked story, from This American Life.  Once you have done that, and are sufficiently outraged, come on back.  Think  about this.  The powerful banking industry has fought off all efforts at reform since then.  Check the second link and, better yet, watch the movie.  Done that?  Infuriated?  Good.  Now come on back and read about Elizabeth Warren.  She is nothing short of a would-be American populist hero.  She has worked to build a new federal consumer protection bureau, to stand for consumers against the power of the banking industry.  It’s no secret that corporatist Republicans have opposed her at every turn, and will fight to keep her from leading the bureau.  Second link includes a petition you can sign if so moved – as I was.

http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/355/the-giant-pool-of-money

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/inside_job_2010/

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43078110/ns/business-eye_on_the_economy/

http://www.alternet.org/economy/151027/as_republicans_declare_war_on_bank_customers_a_call_for_obama_to_appoint_elizabeth_warren?page=1

The Rich Get Richer – ‘Specially Ol’ George, the Decider

It’s no secret that most of our former prominent leaders make fortunes off their fame.  And it’s easy to just dismiss the latest on former President Bush as ‘same old, same old.’  But I maintain something else is going on.  That is, if you were to consider temperament and who is potentially dangerous at the levers of power, a guy like W would be near the top of the list.  First, a Daily Beast commentary.  Then a few links of interest.  And, for good measure, a piece I wrote toward the end of the W regime in response to an interview he gave.  In that interview, surprise, surprise, we learned that the first thing on W’s mind was, get lots more money.  I was shocked, I tell you, shocked!

http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2011-05-20/george-w-bushs-15-million-speech-payday/#

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bush_on_the_Couch

http://www.amazon.com/Fortunate-Son-George-American-President/dp/1887128840

Step Right up, Folks – You Can Do Anything, Be Anybody, Make Millions, etc.  (From IBI Watch 1/11/09)

I had a Yogi Berra moment when I heard this news item.  That’s right, déjà vu all over again.  Our ex-president has landed in a place where he can continue to achieve his lifelong goal – make lots and lots of money.  Just think of it – a motivational speaker to out-BS all others.  What better American story?  A mediocre underachiever rises to the most powerful political post in the world.  Heck, he’s even an unpolished speaker, and proud of it – all the more real, don’t you think?  Of course, as with all motivational come-ons, the fine print – what the late Paul Harvey might call the rest of the story – will not be front and center.  That is, the fact that a chap like George would have been lucky to get a job selling used cars without his powerful pedigree and his diabolical mastermind, Karl Rove.  Anyway, the story reminded me of a piece I wrote in August 2007.  Here’s that piece.  The link that follows is hilarious.  It’s an imagined version of Dubya’s spiel, replete with many accidental new words.

August 2007

“With just over 500 days until the scheduled end of the Bush administration, an apparently sympathetic biography of this “consequential president” appears this week.  We are told that “Dead Certain” will present a side of the president rarely seen.  Bush apparently daydreamed aloud in an interview about the next phase of his life, and the first thing that came to mind was – surprise – give speeches to “replenish the ol’ coffers.”  To do that, of course, it helps to “replenish the ol’ image.”

Virtually everything this radical administration has done – massive tax cuts for the wealthy, resolute refusal to regulate greenhouse gases, even its for-profit war of choice in Iraq – has supported a single mission.  That is, to further empower and enrich Bush’s wealthy, connected base – those he famously called “the haves and have-mores.”  That mission is largely accomplished.  So it’s time to burnish the image of a president who is unpopular because he has “pursued a strategy in which he believed.”  A fortified image brings higher speaking fees.

I have long been skeptical of just about everything this president says, particularly his reports of communications with God.  Just this once though, I hope he speaks truth about “crying on God’s shoulder.”  One dead certainty is that the man has plenty to cry about.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andy-ostroy/what-would-george-w-bushs_b_330822.html

Tar Sands Oil – Magic or Madness?

A growing portion of our national elixir, crude oil, is coming from a friendly source.  Our neighbors to the north are producing a prodigious amount of bitumen, or tar sands oil, and are we ever drinking it up.  We are even growing our own production facilities.  Seems like a solution made in heaven – friendly country supplying what we need, our own domestic capacity, no dictators to install,  maneuver or overthrow.  What could be bad?  Read the first link for the ‘heavenly’ propaganda.  Read one of more of the following links for the rest of the story.

http://energytomorrow.org/issues/energy-security/throughout-the-world/canadian-oil-sands/

http://motherjones.com/blue-marble/2011/04/first-tar-sands-mine-approved-us

http://www.sierraclub.org/dirtyfuels/tar-sands/faces/

http://www.foe.org/energy/tar-sands

Still Here?  Me too

Hey, wait!  The world was supposed to end yesterday.  I guess I have to pay my bills now.  How many times will slices of the faithful sheeple fall for this stuff?  At least one guy is making a killing – at the first link.  You have to ‘admire’ his ingenuity.  Remember what P.T. Barnum said, and he was not talking about lollypops.  If you want to read more, there are several more links for your entertainment  (and in some cases, thought).

http://www.npr.org/2011/05/21/136475372/after-the-rapture-who-will-walk-your-dog

http://www.truth-out.org/yup-still-here/1305923734

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43106614/ns/us_news-the_new_york_times/

http://www.startribune.com/local/122395729.html

Tilting at Big Ag

Anytime a little guy speaks up against the likes of Monsanto, it is gratifying.  When the little guy is actually a little guy – 11 years old – it’s astonishing.  Check the Ted Talk at the first link for just that – a short speech by a precocious, entertaining young lad who ‘gets it.’  He says, ‘Pay the farmer or pay the hospital.’  Right on!  Further links for more information and action on real food and agribusiness.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9m7Jmj9Y8U8&feature=share

http://www.alternet.org/food/150922/want_to_save_the_economy_change_what_you_eat/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UiCRwMMh9k8

http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/habitats/sustainable-agriculture/

“Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”‘
– John Steinbeck

Contributed links to this posting – Jeff Carlson, Allyson Harper, Linda Kriel

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