Saturday, November 5, 2011

Chaos in GOP-dom

It's become a nightmare, or a zoo, depending on your perspective, over there in the land of GOP presidential candidates.

For several days, I have refrained from commenting on the accusations, the gaffes, and the stupidity swirling around the individual candidates. It seems so pointless, other than the cheap thrills of ridicule and scorn.
The bottom line is that the GOP's only well-qualified candidate (Huntsman) could not possibly win the nomination.
That is not to say that Obama is going to have easy sailing: (1) because of the dire economic picture and the Repubs' determination to make it even worse; and (2) because conservative voters seem easily led into delusion about issues, so that they vote against their own interests.

All this chaos should be good for the Democrats. But they probably won't take advantage of it.

We'll see.


Friday, November 4, 2011

Count the ways . . .

Let's count the ways in which the Republican presidential candidates are way out of step with the American people:

1. 75% agree with Obama's decision to withdraw all U. S. troops from Iraq by the end of the year (96% of Democrats, 77% of Independents, and even 43% of Republicans). Yet, I believe, all of the candidates except Ron Paul disagree, saying either that Obama is doing it for political gain or because he fumbled the negotiations with the Iraqis. He should have forced them to let us stay longer, they say. They ignore the fact that this is the established, legal timetable in the Status of Forces Agreement that George W. Bush signed as an international treaty with Iraq before Obama was even elected.

2. By a 2:1 margin (66% to 32%), Americans favor raising taxes on the wealthy. And by an even great margin (76% to 26%) they want to eliminate some of the deductions that let corporations pay little, or even no, taxes.

3. A Pew Research poll in September showed 43% of Americans picking the job situation as the most pressing issue, as opposed to 22% who said the federal deficit.

4. In November 2010, a CNN/Opinion Research poll found 72% of American who favor letting gays and lesbian serve openly in the military, while only 23% opposed.

5. Full legal recognition of same-sex marriage is now favored by a slight majority, 51% to 47%. A similar 51% oppose DOMA, while only 34% support it and 54% oppose the House stepping in to defend it in court after the Dept. of Justice declined to defend it any longer.

All of these poll results speak clearly about where the American people are. But where are the Republican candidates? Pandering to the lowest common denominator, as usual, in their loud opposition to every one of these positions favored in polls.

(1) They excoriate Obama for pulling out troops our of Iraq; (2) they adamantly oppose raising taxes on the wealthy or on corporations; (3) they dug in to fight against every job-creating measure in preference to raising the debt ceiling; (4) some of them vow to reinstate DADT if elected; and (5) John Boehner's House is spending $1 million in tax dollars to mount a defense of DOMA.

So why is there a risk that they might win even more power in 2012? Why wouldn't they be resoundingly defeated?

Because Republicans know how to deceive voters and entice them to vote against their own interests and their beliefs; and they are aided in this by Fox News and other right wing tv and radio talk show hosts who amplify and expand all their lies and distortions.

Democrats have a huge job of public remedial education to do. My fear is that with all the hoop-la going on among the GOP primary campaigns, those lies will stick in people's minds and be hard to dislodge when the general election campaign get into full swing.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Society out of whack

Facts reported today:

#1. The Brookings Institute released a study on the rise of poverty. Analysis of preliminary figures from the 2010 census show that more than 46 million Americans -- some 15 percent of the population -- now live below the defined U. S. poverty line. This at a time of staggering gains by the upper income levels and the widening of the income gap in this country.

Neighborhoods that used to be solidly middle class in the 1990s have fallen into poverty. Areas of "extreme poverty," defined by at least 40% of the residents being poor, have increased by one-third in the past decade.

#2. Some 280 of the most profitable companies in the U. S. paid federal taxes from 2008 to 2010 at an average rate of only 18.5%, instead of the 35% listed corporate tax rate. This comes from a study by the Citizens for Tax Justice. Further, 78 of them paid no tax at all during at least one of those years.

It gets worse. Because of tax subsidies and loopholes, 30 of those corporations had a negative tax, despite combined pre-tax profits of $160 billion. Wells Fargo (the holder of my home mortgage) was the grand prize winner, taking in $18 billion in tax breaks over the last three years.

As a nation, do we think this is a bad thing? Well, some of us do. We're called Democrats. But Republicans accuse us of fanning the flames of "class warfare" by talking about it and wanting to revise the tax code so corporations and wealthy individuals pay a larger share of the tax burden.

What do Republicans propose doing? Congressional Republicans want to cut the corporate tax rate to 25% from the current 35%. Rick Perry proposes an even bigger gift to the fat cats: he says 20% -- and of course Herman Cain's 9-9-9 gives them even more, while shifting a larger share to the poor through sales taxes.

Given these facts alone, the 2012 election should be a landslide for Democrats. Why will it be even close? Because Republicans have mastered the art of selling snake oil to voters who like their misleading sound bites, who then vote against their own best interests.

As Drew Westen keeps telling them: Democrats try to appeal to peoples minds and their reason; Republicans know how to stir their emotions.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A conservative economist's conversion

Bruce Bartlett has impressive conservative credentials as an economic adviser. He started out in Washington working for Congressmen Ron Paul and Jack Kemp, then was Executive Director of the Congressional Joint Economic Committee promoting Reagan's economic policies. He has been a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a senior policy analyst in the George H. W. Bush White House.

In 2006, he published Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy, which is critical of Bush's economic policies for departing from traditional conservative, supply-side economic policy.

However, in his most recent book, The New American Economy: The Failure of Reaganomics and a New Way Forward, he has come to embrace Keynesian ideas, explaining that supply-side policy was appropriate for the 70s and 80s, but it does not fit our present conditions.

Further, he has now stated that tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations did not stimulate the economy during the Bush administration, and there is no reason to believe they would now. He went a step further. Commenting on the conservative mantra that getting rid of regulations will lead to job growth, he said in an interview:
"It's just nonsense. It's just made up."
There you have it, from one of the insiders who found his way back to sanity when it comes to economic policy planning.

It is not lack of money that is causing corporations to increase production, which would create jobs. The problem, as the Democrats have been saying, is lack of consumer demand due to lack of purchasing power due to high unemployment and fear about the future.

This is backed up by some facts (those pesky things that Repubs refuse to acknowledge):
The research firm Birinyi Associates reports that the S&P 500 companies have about $800 billion in cash and cash equivalents on hand that could be invested. This is the most ever recorded.

So we have the very opposite situation in which supply-side economic policy makes even a bit of sense. Yet that's the drum the Republicans in Congress and on the campaign trail are beating and drilling into the voters. "Cut taxes on investors and on corporations. Cut regulations -- and all will be well."

It is Not True. As Obama has said: It makes no sense to give the car keys back to the people who ran the car in the ditch the last time they drove.


Monday, October 31, 2011

The vapid tv culture

I don't watch television -- except for an occasional Braves baseball game, an Obama speech, or a presidential debate (they make great theater for us political junkies).

But those reality shows? I just don't ever get bored enough to resort to that level of trashy 'entertainment'. And the endless commercials drive me bats.

So when all the media hype began about the wedding of Kim Kardashian and that very tall basketball player, I didn't know who she was. And cared even less, once I found out the utter lack of substance in her celebrity.

Now we're supposed to be interested that she's divorcing her hubby of 72 days? And her saying that it was not an easy decision?

Sounds to me, if you can decide on such a reversal of a major life event in just 72 days, it must not have been too difficult to decide.

Or was the whole thing a publicity stunt from the get-go?

I haven't been so disgusted with our pop culture since that blond woman and her hubby crashed the White House state dinner -- and then when the novelty of their brash attention-seeking faded, she ran off with a rock band star. And made more headlines, which I guess is the point for people like that.

Bah humbug ! ! !


Who pays taxes?

We need a non-partisan, official board that rules on the existence of certain facts -- not a lot, just a few facts that are so foundational, so based on evidence, so unquestionable by sentient people as to constitute a body of truth. Things like: gravity, evolution, global warming, who pays taxes.

We're having a spate of nitwit politicians saying the opposite of facts, or using innuendo in that sly way of being literally true while being totally misleading, intentionally. It is beyond maddening to have Republicans continue to beat the drum saying that 51% of U. S. households do not pay any income taxes.

Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) proclaimed it on the Senate floor, with obvious disdain:
"A majority of American households paid no income tax in 2009. Zero. Zip. Nada. No income tax was paid by 51 percent of the households in America in 2009." Senator Hatch (R-UT) chimed in, saying "they [the poor and working classes] need to share in the responsibility."

Others, including Michele Bachmann, have called on the poor to step up and pay their share of taxes. "Everyone should have a some skin in the game," is the way she put it one day. Of course, on another day, she had said that everyone ought to get to keep 100% of what they make -- i.e., nobody should pay any taxes at all. I guess the Easter bunny would fill the U.S. treasury.

Every tax plan advanced thus far by one of the GOP candidates (flat tax, 9-9-9, hybrid plan) actually benefits the rich at the expense of the poor.

So what is the truth about who pays taxes?

When they say that "51% pay no income tax, what they want you to hear, of course, is that all these lower income people do not pay any taxes.

That is simply not true. Any working person pays payroll taxes. In most states, any person who buys things pays sales tax. Any one who owns property pays property taxes. Any one who owns a car pays ad valorem taxes. Telephone? Have you noticed lately how much tax and fees are added to your phone bill? In all of those, the poor pay the same rates as the rich, so the amount of tax is a far higher portion of their income.

The reason the wealthy pay more tax in dollar amounts is their astronomically greater income, which may be largely captial gains taxed at 15%.

These Republican politicians must really be getting scared that their party is over, and they are desperate to quell the "tax the rich" movement before it gets out of hand. In a recent poll, 51% of even of their wealthy peers said that taxes should be raised on that upper 1%.

We need to rig up a loud buzzer to go off every time one of them spouts that line about poor people not paying any (income) tax. Better yet: a trap door, and they fall into a pit of crocodiles.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Michael Moore's support for OccupyWallSt

Michael Moore has responded to critics who question his activist support for the Occupy Wall Street movement -- because he is a wealthy man.

First of all, he said that he had once been an "unemployed striver" in Flint, Michigan, and he remembers what that was like. Second, when he did make money, he paid all his taxes in full, gave a significant amount to charities, and refused to buy stock, which gains from other people's work.
"I make my money the old school, honest way by making things. Some years I earn a boatload of cash. Other years, like last year, I don't have a job (no movie, no book) and so I make a lot less. 'How can you claim to be for the poor when you are the opposite of poor?!' It's like asking: 'You've never had sex with another man -- how can you be for gay marriage?! I guess the same way that an all-male Congress voted to give women the vote, or scores of white people marched with Martin Luther Ling, Jr. ...

It is precisely this disconnect that prevents Republicans from understanding why anyone would give of their time or money to help out those less fortunate.
Michael speaks truth in his own, sometimes excessive way -- but he gets it. And he cuts through to the truth with refreshing candor.