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Who Benefits From Social Programs?

2008 popular vote by county. Brighter red repr...

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 Despite right-wing rhetoric, it isn’t  lazy freeloaders in blue states.

The Center for American Progress site has an overlooked piece from December that demolishes those GOP talking points:

The Facts About Americans Who Receive Public Benefits

As it turns out, the majority of the folks who receive benefits from these programs are elderly, blind or disabled and have paid into the programs when they were working:

Within these social insurance programs, most of the participants have paid into them, through payroll taxes taken out of their own paychecks and through contributions paid on their behalf by their employers. Like private life or property insurance, everyone makes regular contributions with the expectation that when a certain event occurs (in the case of public benefits, that event could be retirement, disability, or temporary job loss), they will be protected and able to collect benefits they have paid for.

Conservatives focus on how the costs of these programs have grown over the past several decades, but so too have the public’s payments into them. Currently payments into social insurance programs represent an estimated 37 percent (or $807 billion) of federal receipts in 2011, compared to 17 percent (or $124 billion) in 1961 and 31 percent (or $455 billion) in 1981, including federal employees’ payments into their retirement accounts (the historical numbers are adjusted for inflation).

So, clearly the deadbeat able-bodied city-dweller on the dole is mostly a strawman.

When you look at the recent piece in Mother Jones, you should see why Republican politicians are so eager to direct fire away from the real culprits — the denizens of Red States:

Most Red States Take More Money From Washington Than They Put In

As a recent New York Times article documents, even as fiscally conservative lawmakers complain about deficit spending, their constituents don’t want to give up the Social Security checks, Medicare benefits, and earned income tax credits that provide a safety net for the struggling middle class.

This gap between political perception and fiscal reality is also reflected in the distribution of tax dollars at the state level: Most politically “red” states are financially in the red when it comes to how much money they receive from Washington compared with what their residents pay in taxes.

Here is the list of the states receiving the most federal tax money versus their tax payments:

1. New Mexico: $2.63
2. West Virginia: $2.57
3. Mississippi: $2.47
4. District of Colombia: $2.41
5. Hawaii: $2.38
6. Alabama: $2.03
7. Alaska: $1.93
8. Montana: $1.92
9. South Carolina: $1.92
10. Maine: $1.78

I bolded and underlined the blue states above.

Of all of the red states, only three paid more than they took in: Arkansas, Nebraska and Texas.

On the blue side, 14 blue states paid more than they received.

Take a look at the interactive map on the Mother Jones page. Keep in mind that they defined “blue state” as any state that went for Obama in 2008 and “red states” are those that went for McCain/Palin.

For example, taxpayers in the “blue states” of Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Nevada and New Mexico each took more than they paid in federal taxes.

So clearly there is an inequality here — but if there are freeloaders, they aren’t the ones being targeted by the GOP frontrunners and propaganda machines.

It seems that the people who most resentful about government waste and overspending on social programs are those who are receiving the largess.

In other words, the real “blue states” like New York and California foot the bill for the Tea Party crybabies in Missouri, Arizona, Utah and Alaska.

Maybe we should limit federal payments to states to what they actually pay into the system. That might take care of some of the burgeoning deficit that Republicans suddenly became concerned with when they lost the White House in 2008.

-Chris

February 17, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Poor Pay No Taxes Myth

Poverty

Poverty (Photo credit: Teo's photo)

This is a trope you continue to hear from mentally diminished Fox parrots.

They argue that since the middle class and wealthy and pay income taxes, all those poor people who pay no income taxes are getting a free ride.

Wrong.

A new study of state taxes from the Corporation for Enterprise Development  shows that the poor pay a much higher percentage of their income in taxes — sometimes six times more than the parasitic caste (thanks David Brin) that makes up the top 1%.

The Assets and Opportunity Scorecard breaks down by state what the tax rate burden is for both the top 1% and the poorest 20%.

Kevin Drum at Mother Jones has taken the data and created an enlightening table:

Soaking the Poor, State by State

The most fair places to live? Washington, DC, Vermont, South Carolina and New York.

The most unequal? Nevada, South Dakota, Florida and Washington state.

On average (Mississippi) the poor pay twice as much in all taxes than the extremely wealthy.

February 7, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thomas Frank’s New Book!

English: Thomas Frank Photo

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The always witty and insightful Thomas Frank has a new book coming out on January 3, 2012 called Pity the Billionaire.

The promotional notes on the Barnes & Noble website gives a preview of the narrative thrust of the book:

Economic catastrophe usually brings social protest and demands for change—or at least it’s supposed to. But when Thomas Frank set out in 2009 to look for expressions of American discontent, all he could find were loud demands that the economic system be made even harsher on the recession’s victims and that society’s traditional winners receive even grander prizes. The American Right, which had seemed moribund after the election of 2008, was strangely reinvigorated by the arrival of hard times. The Tea Party movement demanded not that we question the failed system but that we reaffirm our commitment to it. Republicans in Congress embarked on a bold strategy of total opposition to the liberal state. And TV phenom Glenn Beck demonstrated the commercial potential of heroic paranoia and the purest libertarian economics.

In Pity the Billionaire, Frank, the great chronicler of American paradox, examines the peculiar mechanism by which dire economic circumstances have delivered wildly unexpected political results. Using firsthand reporting, a deep knowledge of the American Right, and a wicked sense of humor, he gives us the first full diagnosis of the cultural malady that has transformed collapse into profit, reconceived the Founding Fathers as heroes from an Ayn Rand novel, and enlisted the powerless in a fan club for the prosperous. The understanding Frank reaches is at once startling, original, and profound.

Salon has posted a fascinating interview with Frank, who argues that by 2008, the elite liberals in Washington had lost touch with their populist base across America. Following on the train-wreck that should have thoroughly discredited “free market economics” liberal leaders made little attempt to harness the outrage of the citizens bearing the brunt of the failure of utopian right-wing economic policies. This vacuum allowed the right to create a “Utopian Market Populism” to rally the disaffected Tea Party crowd:

I’m speaking here of the liberal culture in Washington, D.C. There was no Occupy Wall Street movement [at that time] and there was only people like me on the fringes talking about it. The liberals had their leader in Barack Obama … they had their various people in Congress. But these people are completely unfamiliar with populist anger. It’s an alien thing to them. They don’t trust it, and they have trouble speaking to it. I like Barack Obama, but at the end of the day he’s a very professorial kind of guy. The liberals totally missed the opportunity, and the right was able to grab it.

Later in the interview, Frank notes that the lessons of the extremely successful New Deal (and properly managed Keynesian stimulus) were completely forgotten, as was the understanding that this unprecedented mobilization came out of FDR’s successful run against Hoovers’ top-down government bailouts to banks – capturing populist anger and channeling it into building lasting change.

Now we are left with our discourse being hijacked by the Randian idea that the unfettered free market will cure every ill – when our historic experience provides ample evidence that it does no such thing.

In the interview, Frank notes one of the themes that has concerned me for some time — epistemic closure. He terms it “a cognitive withdrawal from the shared world” and shows that this is the model used by Rupert Murdoch:

This is the genius of Fox News. It is fun to watch, and if you agree with them, it’s very gratifying to watch — and on a level deeper than most TV entertainment. The message is “You’ve worked really hard. You played by the rules and now they’re disrespecting you. They won’t let you say the word ‘Christmas.’”

In the end of the interview, Frank holds out the hope that the Occupy movement will channel populist rage and restore order to the destructive chaos that our national affairs have become.

If you haven’t read any of Frank’s work, I suggest you get your hands on What’s the Matter With Kansas and The Wrecking Crew immediately. They are essential to understanding what happened to this country.

-Chris

December 28, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reagan’s Legacy

Ronald Reagan wearing cowboy hat at Rancho del...

According to Robert Parry, it’s not good:

Rather than continuing a half century of policies that made smart investments in research and development – along with maintaining a well-educated work force and a top-notch transportation infrastructureReagan declared “government is the problem” and built a political movement for deconstructing it.

This anti-government crusade launched by Reagan bore some bitter fruit:

The hard truth for the Republicans and the Right to swallow is that a three-decade experiment with historically low tax rates on the rich has done little more than concentrate America’s wealth at the very top and leave everyone else either stagnating or falling backwards.

In an era in which government programs had provided electricity to every corner of the nation and our transportation infrastructure began to increase productivity and pump up our economic engine, Reagan went to war with government.

He turned regulatory decision-making over to the leaders of the businesses that were to be regulated, busted unions, and most devastating of all — spawned the hydra-like idea that cutting taxes and shrinking government was the answer to all of our problems.

Says Parry:

…the national political framework that Reagan left behind – an intense right-wing media, an interlocking network of think tanks shaping Washington’s “group think,” corporate-funded “grassroots” organizations like the Tea Party, and a Republican Party wedded to the most extreme interpretation of Reagan’s anti-government message – makes it almost impossible to change the country’s direction, short of an electoral revolt.

Parry lays out a compelling case against the cult-like hero-worship Reagan has enjoyed for several decades, but also notes the complicity of Democrats in bringing American to its current state:

While the Right deserves most of the blame for putting the United States into this mess, the Left, the Democrats and the broad public are not without fault. They have either failed to build counter-institutions that can make the case for a return to the pre-Reagan economic policies that worked – or they have let themselves be easily duped into abandoning their own interests.

Read the whole thing by clicking the link below. It’s quite good.

The Dark Legacy Of Reaganomics

November 30, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

One Nation Working Together Rally on Saturday

Washington dc

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The One Nation Working Together Rally is happening this Saturday in Washington, DC.

Smaller events will be held throughout the country on various dates.

Check the Website for more information.

-Chris

September 28, 2010 Posted by | Deficit, Health Care, Health Care Reform, Immigration, Politics, Religion, Republicans, Stimulus, Tax Debate | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Rallies I Can Fully Support

Washington DC Oct 2005 Obelisco 25

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Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have again brought the art of political satire to new heights.

On October 30, they plan on holding two opposing rallies on the National Mall in Washington, DC, parodying Glenn Beck and the Tea Party crowd.

Colbert’s “Keep Fear Alive” rally kicks off first in the morning, followed by Stewart’s “Rally To Restore Sanity” in the afternoon.

Details for “Fear” are here.

Those seeking “Sanity” can click here.

I’ve already made plans to be there for both!

-Chris

September 17, 2010 Posted by | Humor, Politics, Republicans, Tea Party | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments