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GOP Can’t Find “Job Creators” Against Surtax

 
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So, NPR had a story this morning about the “Millionaire Surtax” that Democrats have proposed to help pay for an extension of the payroll tax holiday that has been in place since last year.

The GOP‘s argument against the surtax is that it will harm “job creators” who will refuse to hire people.

So, NPR requested to speak to some of the potential “victims” of the surtax:

We wanted to talk to business owners who would be affected. So, NPR requested help from numerous Republican congressional offices, including House and Senate leadership. They were unable to produce a single millionaire job creator for us to interview.

Undefeated, NPR next requested the same thing from business groups that have also fought the proposal. Again, no example could be produced.

Eventually, the reporters placed a request for business owners that would be affected by the tax to respond, and they did — only the answers they got were mostly like Jason Burger, co-owner of a company called CSS International Holdings.

Mr. Burger’s company is an international “infrastructure contractor”:

“If my taxes go up, I have slightly less disposable income, yes…But that has nothing to do with what my business does. What my business does is based on the contracts that it wins and the demand for its services.”

NPR added,

Burger says his Michigan-based company is hiring like crazy, and he’d be perfectly willing to pay the surtax.

“It’s only fair that I put back into the system that is the entire reason for my success,” said Burger.

So again, Republicans are manufacturing disastrous consequences for policy proposals that are quite sound.

Now, it is possible that the businesspeople who responded to NPR on Facebook are prone to be more liberal, but the fact that both the Republican party and business trade groups couldn’t provide a single example of an small entrepreneur who would decide not to hire based on his personal taxes is illustrative of how the conservative mind works.

Thinks are true because I feel they are true. Damn the evidence.

-Chris

December 9, 2011 Posted by | Democrats, Economics, GOP, Politics, Republicans, Tax Debate, Uncategorized, Unemployment | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In Education, Money IS the Key

education

Image by Sean MacEntee via Flickr

David Sirota, writing at Salon.com examines the results of two new studies on education and found that the principle factor deciding of students perform well is — money.

What real education reform looks like

He summarizes:

The first report, from Stanford University, showed that with a rising “income achievement gap,” a family’s economic situation is a bigger determinative force in a child’s academic performance than any other major demographic factor. For poor kids, that means the intensifying hardships of poverty are now creating massive obstacles to academic progress.

Because of this reality, schools in destitute areas naturally require more resources than those in rich ones so as to help impoverished kids overcome comparatively steep odds. Yet, according to the second report from the U.S. Department of Education, “many high-poverty schools receive less than their fair share of state and local funding.” As if purposely embodying the old adage about adding insult to injury, the financing scheme “leav(es) students in high-poverty schools with fewer resources than schools attended by their wealthier peers.” In practice, that equals less funding to recruit teachers, upgrade classrooms, reduce class sizes and sustain all the other basics of a good education.

Put all this together and behold the crux of America’s education problems in bumper-sticker terms: It’s poverty and punitive funding formulas, stupid.

For years, private education corporations have consistently blamed teacher unions for poor results in our nations schools, but the reports shoot down this myth. Sirota:

We’ve also learned that no matter how much self-styled education “reformers” claim otherwise, the always-demonized teachers unions are not holding our education system back. As the New York Times recently noted: “If unions are the primary cause of bad schools, why isn’t labor’s pernicious effect” felt in the very unionized schools that so consistently graduate top students?

The conclusion is that in order to improve education for all students, we must combat poverty and reform the funding system:

Instead, America’s youth need the painfully obvious: a national commitment to combating poverty and more funds spent on schools in the poorest areas than on schools in the richest areas — not the other way around.

Within education, achieving those objectives requires efforts to stop financing schools via property tax systems (i.e., systems that by design direct more resources to wealthy areas). It also requires initiatives that better target public education appropriations at schools in low-income neighborhoods — and changing those existing funding formulas that actively exacerbate inequality.

I have been saying something similar for years.

My two-part proposal has been 1) to create an affordable model school infrastructure and make sure all schools meet the standards (physical plant, class size, resources, and 2) pool all school funds at the state level and distribute them based on a per-student amount to every school.

Schools in poverty-stricken areas would be given additional funds to meet needs (nutrition, etc.) not found in wealthier areas.

As Sirota notes, it’s a tough sell in the current political environment, but it’s one of the most important obstacles to ensuring the prominence of American for generations to come.

-Chris

December 9, 2011 Posted by | Democrats, Education, GOP, Politics, Republicans, Tax Debate | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

More Entitlements, Less Deficits?

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Today Ezra Klein posted an interesting piece about the Euro crisis that confirms what I have thought for some time.

You may have heard the standard right-wing talking point that the current economic woes in Europe are directly tied to entitlements. Conservatives made a similar claim about the US deficit, which is why we’ve been talking about that side of the equation instead of higher taxes until recently (thank you OWS).

Both claims, of course stretch the truth — a lot.

The economic downturn (due to the subprime mortgage disaster) and tax cuts for the wealthy are the prime factors in the US deficit.

Entitlements are also not the boogeyman in the European crisis.

Klein’s piece, “A larger welfare state can mean a lower deficit” highlights the case of Germany, which has a hefty welfare state — but didn’t suffer from any of the problems faced by Greece and other Euro-zone countries:

Take Germany. They have a pretty big welfare state: pensions, health care, paid vacations, unemployment benefits equal to two-thirds of one’s income. Indeed, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development keeps track of social spending — unemployment, old-age pensions, health care, etc — as a percentage of GDP. In 2007, Germany spent 25.2 percent of their GDP on such things. Greece spent 21.3 percent on social policies. Yet Greece is in crisis, and Germany is fine.

In fact, the reality is that a single-payer healthcare system — like the one in Canada — controls costs and actually reduces the deficit.

As recently as 1965, the cost of those two systems competed neck-and-neck. That year, Canada spent 5.9 percent of its GDP on health care. The United States spent 5.7 percent. But around that time, Canada was transitioning to its current single-payer system. Over the next four decades, the growth of health-care costs slowed in Canada while it accelerated in the United States. By 2009, Canada was spending 11 percent of its GDP on health care — and covering everyone. The United States was spending 17.4 percent of its GDP and leaving 45 million uninsured. In dollar terms, we’re spending $3,600 more per person, per year, than Canada.

I’m not an economist, but there seems to be some consensus in the articles that I have read that what Klein states is true.

I have seen no convincing evidence that European woes are principally caused by entitlement spending.

In fact, Klein makes a good argument that a strong healthcare system could act as a bulwark against deficit:

If the United States had Canada’s health-care system, and Canada’s per capita health-care costs, we would have a much “larger” welfare state, but we wouldn’t have a deficit problem. Assuming we weren’t spending that money elsewhere, we wouldn’t even have a deficit. Likewise, if any country in the euro zone maintained the United States’s health-care system and our health-care spending, it would have a smaller welfare state, but it would be sagging beneath a debt burden far more onerous than anything anyone in Europe is facing today.

-Chris

December 8, 2011 Posted by | Debt, Deficit, Democrats, Economics, GOP, Health Care, Health Care Reform, Politics, Republicans, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reversing ‘Citizens United’

Bernie Sanders

American hero Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)  has introduced a Constitutional Amendment to reverse the horrible Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission ruling:

Sanders Files ‘Saving American Democracy Amendment’

 

From the press release:

Sanders’ Saving American Democracy Amendment would make clear that corporations are not entitled to the same constitutional rights as people and that corporations may be regulated by Congress and state legislatures. It also would preserve the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of the press. It would incorporate a century-old ban on corporate campaign donations to candidates, and establish broad authority for Congress and states to regulate spending in elections.

This needs to be done.

Corporations have their hooks into every politician at almost every level, and right-wing media has done a nice job selling people on the idea that corporations ARE people.

The only way we will ever have a responsive government is if we get the corrupting power of money out of the game.

Ideas should be introduced and debated on an even playing field and live and die based on their merits — not on a marketing campaign by whoever spends the most.

fact sheet linked from Sander’s press release makes a strong case:

Before Citizens United, corporations had to abide by the ruling in Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce that limited their participation in elections to political action committees. PACS are funded by voluntary contributions from the employees of a corporation, as opposed to the general treasury fund. The Supreme Court also determined that limitations on corporate spending in elections were permissible in McConnell v. FEC, a decision that upheld portions of the McCain-Feingold reforms that aimed to reign in corporate electioneering.
Because of Citizens United, corporations are now allowed to tap into their profits to spend money advocating for or against candidates of their choosing. Even worse, they can do it anonymously. By undermining the very concept of campaign finance laws, like the ones limiting individual contributions to candidates, the Citizens United decision even threatens a 1907 law passed by Congress prohibiting corporations from directly contributing to candidates. If we don’t take action, before we know it, the Supreme Court could rule that corporations can directly to contribute to candidates for public office.

Read the proposed amendment here.

I’d love for this to pass, but I doubt there’s a chance of that happening.

-Chris

December 8, 2011 Posted by | Campaign Finance, Democrats, Elections, Fox News, GOP, Politics, Presidential Campaign, Republicans | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Myth of Female “Purity”

English: Profile picture of author Jessica Valenti

I admit, I haven’t read Jessica Valenti‘s book “The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women”.

The book describes the myth of virginity and female purity in American culture and how the religious right has channeled this view of sexuality into the growing abstinence movement.

The strange “purity balls” in which daughters pledge their virginity to their fathers (unpack that one) and abstinence-only education have a terrible success rate.

Study after study has shown that more information and access to contraceptives are the key to preventing unwanted pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

The abstinence-only approach goes hand in hand with the Christianists’ feverish attempts to keep any and all information about sexuality out of the hands of the demographic that arguably needs it most – young people.

By the author’s estimate, $50 million in taxpayer money has been wasted on abstinence-only “education” which often incorporate outright lies in order to scare kids out of having sex.

Now there is a movie based on Valenti’s book, which is now on DVD:

The Purity Myth Trailer from Media Education Foundation on Vimeo.

The trailer looks interesting, and seems to drive home the point that all the right-wing fuss is really about controlling women.

As ever, the right continues to live in a foregone era that never actually happened.

They think that if they can force the rest of us to go along with their Donna Reed/June Cleaver fantasy, America will be great again.

If only women could do what they were designed for: Make babies, cook, clean and do laundry.

No thanks.

-Chris

December 8, 2011 Posted by | Feminism, Health Care, Politics, Religion, Republicans, Science, Sexuality | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Changing Her Mind On Obamacare

English: President Barack Obama's signature on...

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Her name is Spike Dolomite Ward, and she has written an apology to Obama about her previous stance on health care reform:

‘Obamacare To The Rescue

Ward is a 49-year old self-employed mother who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. She could not afford health insurance:

Fortunately for me, I’ve been saved by the federal government’s Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan, something I had never heard of before needing it. It’s part of President Obama’s healthcare plan, one of the things that has already kicked in, and it guarantees access to insurance for U.S. citizens with preexisting conditions who have been uninsured for at least six months. The application was short, the premiums are affordable, and I have found the people who work in the administration office to be quite compassionate (nothing like the people I have dealt with over the years at other insurance companies.) It’s not perfect, of course, and it still leaves many people in need out in the cold. But it’s a start, and for me it’s been a lifesaver — perhaps literally.

It’s amazing what it takes for people to cut through the nonsense notion that America has the best healthcare system in the world.

There’s much to fault with the existing healthcare reform, but there are also a great many provisions that are essential and help a great many people.

-Chris

December 7, 2011 Posted by | Health Care, Health Care Reform, Obama, Politics | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Countrywide Whistleblower Details Systemic Fraud

Subprime Lending

Image by sabeth718 via Flickr

Via The Business Insider.

60 Minutes had a nice segment reported by Steve Kroft this Sunday.

The reporting makes clear that the notion that the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) caused the subprime mortgage debacle is getting more and more ridiculous.

Eileen Foster was a senior executive at Countrywide Financial before the bubble burst.

On the program, Foster, who was in charge of finding and investigating fraud at Countrywide, said, “from what I saw, the types of things I saw, it was — it appeared systemic. It, it wasn’t just one individual or two or three individuals, it was branches of individuals, it was regions of individuals.”

It appears there was a gold rush on for selling as much “product” up the chain in the casino that was the deregulated derivatives market.

In overstuffed recycling bins she says she found signatures that had obviously been cut and pasted from old paperwork onto new mortgage documents — an obviously fraudulent practice.

Describing an environment in which employees were encouraged to process bad loans, she provides motive for what drove the systemic corruption:

“The loan officers received bonuses, commissions. They were compensated regardless of the quality of the loan. There’s no incentive for quality. The incentive was to fund the loan. And that’s — that’s gonna drive that type of behavior.”

Yeah. No mention of the poor people and minorities forcing them to make bad loans.

-Chris

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December 6, 2011 Posted by | Economics, Politics, Uncategorized, Wall Street | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Basic Math

Tax

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“It is mathematically impossible to invest enough in our economy and our country to sustain the middle class (our customers) without taxing the top 1 percent at reasonable levels again” – Venture Capitalist Nick Hanaeur

Hanauer has put his name on a growing list of 1 percenters who are boldly stating what most economists already recognize.

Writing on Bloomberg’s website, Hanauer observed:

We’ve had it backward for the last 30 years. Rich businesspeople like me don’t create jobs. Middle-class consumers do, and when they thrive, U.S. businesses grow and profit. That’s why taxing the rich to pay for investments that benefit all is a great deal for both the middle class and the rich.

A new post on ThinkProgress.org reports that even someone in the belly of the beast, Morgan Stanley Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat, has awakened to this reality:

“The wealthiest can afford to pay more in taxes. That’s a part of the deal. That makes sense. I don’t know anyone that doesn’t agree with that,” Porat said. “The wealth disparity between the lowest and the highest continues to expand, and that’s inappropriate.” “We cannot cut our way to greatness,” she added.

I hope this is the dawning of a new capitalist idea.

We have lived too long in the shadow of timid CEOs and their sycophants who look no further than the next quarter.

In order for capitalism to be sustainable, a robust middle class must exist.

The article goes on to note that one of the major factors driving income inequality is the outrageous compensation and bonuses given to the top tier of huge corporations.

Instituting practices that reward performance and sustainability would go a long way toward creating a healthy economy.

-Chris

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December 6, 2011 Posted by | Deficit, Economics, Politics, Tax Debate, Unemployment, Wall Street | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thomas Frank on Newt Gingrich

If you don’t read Thomas Frank whenever you can, you should.

His insight into how the Republican mind works and how the middle class in this nation have been convinced to work actively against their own interests is essential to understanding the mess we are in.

Today on Facebook he posted this nugget from his 2000 book “One Market Under God” nailing pseudo-historian and novelist Newt Gingrich:

My thoughts on Newt Gingrich, circa 1999, from a passage in One Market Under God where I describe the feeling one gets scanning the ideas of Thomas Friedman:

“Each of them is preposterous in its own way, but thrown together they make a truly dispiriting impression, a feeling akin to the first time I heard Newt Gingrich speak publicly and it began to dawn on me that this is what the ruling class calls thinking, that this handful of pathetic, palpably untrue prejudices are all they have to guide them as they shuttle back and forth between the State Department and the big thinktanks, discussing what they mean to do with us and how they plan to dispose of our country.”

Gingrich poses as an intellectual, and fools millions of Republicans who have been spoon-fed the notion that book learnin’ is for evil egg-head, ivory-tower Marxists.

Newt, using the word “fundamentally” or “fundamental” does not automatically strengthen an argument.

This is REALLY the best the GOP can do?

-Chris

December 6, 2011 Posted by | Books, Education, Elections, GOP, History, Politics, Presidential Campaign, Republicans | , , , | Leave a comment

Ron Paul and College Loans

I am always amazed when I see young people in college supporting Ron Paul.

Many Facebook acquaintances are fervent Paul supporters, posting his rantings about doing away with government interference with the market.

I happen to know that many of these kids have loans and scholarships funded by taxpayer dollars to study such things as history, music and other arts.

Here’s Paul’s response to the question, “Would you abolish all federal student aid”:

“Yes, because there’s no authority to do this, and just think of all this willingness to want to help every student get a college education. So they’re a trillion dollars in debt, we don’t have any jobs for them, the quality of education has gone down, so it’s a failed program. I went to school when we had none of those. I could work my way through college and medical school because it wasn’t so expensive. So when you run up debt, you print money, costs go up in the areas that the government gets involved in: education, medical care, and housing. So it’s artificial and distorts the economy.”

So, put your money where your mouth is. Let’s have the money back with interest, you freeloaders.

-Chris

December 5, 2011 Posted by | Economics, Politics, Republicans | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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