Categories
Conservatism

…Of, by, and for the people…Or not.

Like a groundhog stepping out of his hidey-hole to see his shadow, Trump and his fellow conservative, white, rich guys…er, administration…have come forth blinkingly into the sunlight, with their tax plan. While this coincides with the 100th day of their rule of our fine land, please note that it is not a celebration of that time. Rather, it is punitive for those who aren’t like them.

Theirs is a plan which is heavy on benefits for the wealthy, while giving virtually nothing to anyone else (at least that was all too notably absent in the details, most of which certainly favored the rich). This plan, combined with some other key achievements and attempted achievements of the Republican controlled government of this nation, just prove that ultimately the only people they seek to serve with their government is themselves and those like them.

What’s the proof? Here goes: the first point in a multi-point discussion of conservative economic fallacies.

Trickle-down doesn’t trickle down. Never has, never will.

Ever since the Reagan Administration, conservatism has consistently pounded the unceasing drumbeat of supply-side economics. Even in the face of a distinct lack of actual proof that it helps the economy as a whole, they’ve insisted that cutting taxes, especially on businesses and the wealthy will make them those groups spend more and hire more people. But that’s far from the truth.

No business has ever actually hired more people and attributed that to how much they saved thanks to tax cuts or savings. Hell, even the company I work for (that went through an inversion so that they could repatriate billions of dollars held in foreign accounts without paying a hefty tax penalty on that) never said they’d hire people with the money saved from paying those taxes. Instead, companies, including my own, seek first to pay more back to their shareholders, then pass on tax breaks as profit and bonuses to executives, and finally even invest in R&D. Never has hiring people ever been attached to tax breaks. Except by conservatives.

Nevertheless, conservatives say, let’s drop the corporate income tax from 35 to 15 percent. Companies will hire huge numbers of people, they assert. Can this possibly be right? Nope. Cutting corporate income taxes will just ensure bigger profits. Bigger returns to shareholders. And more money to the executives who also happen to be the wealthiest people in the nation.

Want actual empirical data? Let’s look to the oil industry when gas prices were sky high back in the early part of this decade. If the theory is that companies hire people when they’re making more money, then it should hold that employment would mirror the price of gas at the pump. Right? Okay, let’s investigate.

So, from gasbuddy.com, I give you the average gas prices since 2008. 

Note in there that from early 2011 to late 2014, the average price at the pump for gas was over $3.00 the whole time. For three solid years, the price of gas was at least 7% over the maximum average for the two years before 2011 and all of the years since 2014. That should correspond to an increase in jobs in the industry, right?

BZZZZZZZ. Wrong.

From a report issued by the Center for American Progress, figures actually gathered from oil companies and reported on by Price Waterhouse Coopers show nearly flat employment in the industry:

Meanwhile, 2012 and 2013 offered the oil companies some of their largest profits in history. So none of that extra money coming in translated to jobs.

WTF? Companies making more money is supposed to be making them grow!

Oh! Maybe there was some increase in the corporate income tax rate that kept those numbers flat? Um…No (remember that this is the effective corporate tax rate–that number most companies get to after they’ve done all of their accounting magic to hide the real numbers): 

If tax breaks (and let’s mention it here: those pesky regulations that make life so damned hard and costly for companies) truly translated to economic growth and development, then the target of greatest effect should be the largest economic class in the nation: the middle class.  Especially when considering that in 2009, corporate income taxes amounted to 1% of the US GDP.

Wait…1%? Since 1982, corporate taxes have amounted to between 1 and 3% of the US GDP? That’s what all of this fuss and economic BS has been focused on for so long? Roughly 2% of the GDP? Republicans seriously argue that a more than 50% drop in tax rates on 2% of the US GDP will actually drive the economy?

Sadly, yes, they do. They believe this snake oil they’re trying to sell.

Okay. Deep breath. Let’s roll up our sleeves and find a realistic tax solution that would actually impact our economy.

Ah! Of course: giving a huge tax break to individuals and not corporations would free up a lot of money. A lot MORE money, according to to the Tax Policy Center, who reports that an estimated 9.3% of GDP in 2017 is coming from individual income taxes–a full 400% (and probably closer to 450%) more than corporate income tax (worth noting is that the numbers the data is based on comes from the OMB–part of the White House–and that page is gone right now under the Trump administration’s policy of not actually showing the people anything that may disagree with their world view).

To continue, from that cut to household taxes, you can be sure that the middle class alone would free up billions of dollars that could be used to invest in home improvements, buy houses, cars, electronics, pay for education, eat out more, or even save more (which would drive the economy even further). And the working poor who do pay taxes may actually be able to pull themselves out of poverty and live better lives with that cut.

But Republican fiscal policymakers don’t even look that way. They pay it a ton of lip service during election time, but when it’s all said and done, Trump’s plan to cut the tax brackets from seven to three wasn’t even accompanied by any information about which income ranges would fall into which category or how a cut may actually impact a family making $60,000 a year. Moreover, just to add insult to injury, one of the details spells out that the simplification of the tax code includes eliminating the 40% inheritance tax, which would allow those inheriting more than $5.5 million to receive it without penalty or cost. I’m sorry, but the kids of a working poor family aren’t going to be inheriting more than $5.5 million. Hell, it would be amazing if they inherited $550.

So let’s take a moment and just shed some light on something that Republicans insist isn’t actually a thing…Or if it is, isn’t caused by things the left claim it is.

Let’s look at the household income taxes in this way: in 1982, the second full year of the Reagan Administration, the first of the supply-side, trickle-down tax cuts were put in place. In this year, the highest tax rate was dropped from 70% to 50%. In 1987, they were dropped again, this time to 38.5%. Here’s the end result, from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

Spot a trend?

When do the economic classes really diverge? Yup. In the early ’80s.

But note something else in that graph: that the general trend line for the poorest 20% of households in our nation stops closely shadowing the richest’s trend around 2001, when the highest bracket was again lowered to 35% under President Bush.

Why is this important? Because in the last three decades, through a series of moves clearly meant to serve their own political class, the Republicans have succeeded in feathering their own nest at the expense of everyone else.

The end result is that here we sit, 36 years after the “Reagan Revolution,” and we find the Republicans playing the same tired, disproven tune that they used back then. And what’s even more astonishing is that they’ve somehow managed to package it so that the lower and middle economic class actually believes that lowering those taxes on corporations and top earners stimulates the economy.

Swallow hard, everyone. When the details come out, it will only get worse.

Next time: now that we’ve established that the Republicans don’t like paying for government, we’ll show how they don’t like having government give anything to those who need help, aren’t them, or don’t act like them, either.

Categories
Candidates

Digesting the First Republican Debate

For those of us who survived last week’s first Republican presidential debate, there’s been a good deal of reflection on our lives, just to figure out where exactly we went wrong in deliberately choosing to waste a couple of hours of our lives on something with no redeeming value. And the best answer I can come up with seems to be that I wanted to tune into what I knew would be a train wreck.

You had to wonder how effective a debate with 10 people could be, since there didn’t seem like enough time to actually hear any thoughtful discourse. So instead, I was just waiting on the talent and swimsuit competition portions of the evening’s festivities. But alas, those were not forthcoming. Instead, we got a non-contact lightweight wrestling match.

As a liberal, tuning into an event like this is just asking for trouble, because it really was a two hour deep dive into the conservative mindset, which can feel like having dental surgery without novacain.

But frankly, some takeaways were predictable: We learned (or had the knowledge reaffirmed) that Donald Trump is a self-absorbed asshole, Ted Cruz would be deeply terrifying as the leader of the nation because not only does he seem like a very mean person, but he also comes across as angry and malicious to boot; and any problems the nation is currently experiencing can be traced immediately and directly to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

There were some things that came out of the show that I didn’t quite expect: if one performance is indicative of the whole, Jeb Bush is a horrible debater. He frequently seemed over matched and unprepared, often stammering and searching for the right words.

Dr. Ben Carson loves to show off how smart he is, even when the moderators totally forget about him for 30 minutes at a time. But, as he was quick to remind everyone, he’s the only one on the stage to have separated siamese twins. If only he could have done the same to Rand Paul and Chris Christie.

Chris Christie and John Kasich somehow came off as the voice of reason in a field of radicals. Yet they still scare the hell out of me.

Marco Rubio must be a magician because he successfully faded away out of view and totally out of the consciousness of 24 million people on national television. And for the life of me, I can’t remember one meaningful thing that he said all night.

And Scott Walker obviously thinks he’s God’s gift to the Republican party and the nation because he clearly views his performance as Wisconsin’s governor entirely differently than the rest of the planet does. Which means that he either has surrounded himself with sycophants or is not able to correctly identify success.

Finally, while the basic content and tone wasn’t surprising, the lengths to which Donald Trump will go to piss off entire classes of people is stunning. And while I understand the sentiments of those who support him in saying that they find his candor refreshing, I wish these morons would wise up and realize that this kind of rhetoric on the international political scene would quickly make every single American on the planet a target for just about everyone who isn’t one. It’s terrifyingly apparent that he would quickly and easily alienate our allies and further antagonize our enemies. And that’s something that we really can’t do–not just for our own nation’s security, but for the peace and stability of the entire world.

So rest, relax, and take some time preparing for the next of these debates coming up next month. Be kind to yourself, you’ve been through a lot.

Categories
Candidates

Profiles in Somethin’ – The Trump that Donalds and the Political Fringe

Yes, I’m aware I’ve used that picture up there already, but it fits, so I’m going with it.

Just because the 2016 presidential campaign could use another rich white weirdo, the Republicans have (kind of) welcomed Donald Trump into the fold. And let’s face it, he’s got what it takes to be a politician (notice I didn’t say “good politician”): he’s outspoken, opinionated, rich, and egotistical.

One presumes that he’d promise to run the country like a business, as that’s a popular theme among Republican candidates who are/were business people in a former life. But if that’s the case, we’d better brace for impact because Trump’s companies have filed for bankruptcy four times over the years thanks generally to being over leveraged.

But on the plus side, it’s good to see someone running for office who isn’t afraid of saying exactly what’s on his mind, though his recent comments about Mexican immigrants, while probably playing to some segment of his base, were way out of line and probably extremely dangerous. But hey, he’s standing his ground, right? You’d think that those comments are hurting his chances to…wait, what?

Yup. The Donald, much to the Chagrin of the GOP establishment, is currently polling second in the Boston Marathon-sized pool of primary candidates.

This, along with the similarly meteoric rise of Bernie Sanders, is an interesting phenomenon: what makes fringe candidates appealing in the early going of presidential primaries?

It seems to baffle the reporters, the poli-sci majors, and even some in the political parties. The Democrats seemed all-in on backing Hillary all through the primary and into a triumphant nominating convention. And the Democrats and Clinton even welcomed Sanders’ announcement when he threw his hat in the ring, claiming at the time basically that having another voice in the campaign could only help make the party stronger.

The GOP side, though, is a little less congratulatory. Trump’s candidacy was not met with much enthusiasm by the party elite. And the apparently annointed candidate, Jeb Bush, hasn’t done much to acknowledge the Donald. In fact, on the news this morning, unnamed party officials had told some of the reporters that Trump’s strong showing, even after the “rapists, drug runners, and murderers” comments has the party worried. I can see why: it’s that kind of lack of brain control that leads not only to campaign problems, but, heaven forbid, much more weighty problems if that brain is attached to a president.

The long-term prognosis of both of these candidates is an interesting one to ponder: Sanders is polling very well in New Hampshire, but not strongly in Iowa. He’s certainly become a force to reckon with in the campaign, but when it’s all said and done, he and Clinton have similar opinions on a wide variety of topics. In a recent poll, even Sanders supporters said he doesn’t have a good chance to become the nominee, and I’d be willing to bet that all of them would throw their votes behind Clinton whole-heartedly.

On the Republican side, this is where things become problematic: the Tea Party and evangelical fringe of the party hate the moderate groups. And vice versa. And even though it’s the moderates that control the party, both sides need each other to be able to keep the party numbers high. Which is a problem. If you have so much internal fighting over party ideology, how can you possibly expect to come out of what will almost certainly be a very contentious primary with everyone enthusiastically backing the nominee? Remember that even George W Bush wasn’t conservative enough for the up and coming Tea Party.

It comes down to a question of how galvanizing Clinton (or Sanders, should he mount a huge push) would be for the Republicans, because I start to wonder how much they’d turn out to vote for either of two candidates who they really don’t like. I know they’d hate Clinton, but I’m thinking she would be able to pull in a lot more moderate voters than Sanders would.

Just 15 months left until the conventions, folks!

Categories
Right vs. Left

The Right’s Wrong Mindset

It is a remarkably amazing thing about our internet age that within minutes of something happening, people are commenting on the event, commenting on those comments, and commenting on the comments of the comments. It is exactly what some in our world would hope to prevent–substantive talk about important (and sometimes non-important–issues of society. So the fact that it happens, and happens with great fervor and passion is wonderful. The fact that it shows some people’s true colors or misinformation to the world is also oddly wonderful.

Sadly, many of these events are not wonderful. In fact, as was the case with Thursday evening’s killings in a church–A Church!!!–in Charleston, South Carolina, the event illustrated the absolute worst in humanity, proving only that the truly depraved are capable of such monstrosities.

But part of the commenting process these days is the taking of sides: staking out the moral high-ground, or telling the world that one side or the other is totally wrong for making the statements they have because those beliefs are fundamentally incorrect. And the problem with much of this is that the comments–the opinion–expressed are totally unsupported by fact. They are supported only by assumptions that the reader agrees with the general viewpoint the writer holds on the issue.

Which generally is fine. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. And in many areas, there is no black or white to an issue: merely shades of grey, because society is itself a complicated mass. But in this case, there is a right and wrong. There is no grey when it comes to the discussion of racism that this event touched off.

Let me state here that I am white. I was born in Iowa, and have spent nearly my entire life in Minnesota. I’ve had many friends who were non-white. I like to think that I would not knowingly do anything to prevent any members of any race other than mine from having the same rights and freedoms that I so easily take for granted on a daily basis. And yet, I know that stereotypes are there, lurking within my soul. I know that fears and doubts are also there, which, kept if unchecked, would make me look upon myself with contempt. Because I want a society that is equal and just and fair to everyone. Not just to those who look a certain way, celebrate a particular God, speak a different language, or have come from a different country or background.

I stumbled into an opinion piece on the Powerline Blog–a conservative blog–which takes to task an op-ed piece in the Washington Post. I encourage you to read both when you have the time. The WaPo op-ed is frankly emotional and really gives you pause to wonder how society got off track. It asks all of us–all whites in this nation–to look at themselves and see how they may have let racism go unchecked through the course of their lives, and how, by letting it go unchecked, have let it happened. The Powerline piece, on the other hand, illustrates the general irrationality of politically-based discourse in our nation right now by discussing the points in the op-ed in a flippant, dismissive manner. When you’re ultimately discussion the known root cause of an event that caused the death of nine people, I think some respect is in order.

Let’s begin almost right at the top–the Powerline blogger takes issue with a statement (the first paragraph below) and offers their rebuttal (the second paragraph):

We have to stop hiding from the truth of race — that this country, and the state of South Carolina in particular, were created on the idea of white supremacy.

This is a ludicrous claim. A large majority of American states have never known slavery or racially discriminatory laws. The exceptions are the Deep South states, back when they were dominated by the race-obsessed Democratic Party. Some things never change.

Let’s see: this nation from its outset granted only white male land owners the vote. Those land owners took over vast tracts of land from the native peoples, and if they didn’t actually take over the land themselves, they at least were complicit in allowing the government to take it over for the nation. And sure, most of the states didn’t even exist when slavery was still going on, and at that, more than half of them didn’t have legalized slavery, so I guess that’s a valid factual point, and I’ll also concede that even then, people thought better of it than to actually write a discriminatory law (that has apparently changed recently…Hello anti-same sex marriage legislation!–Oh wait, that isn’t discriminatory because it’s actually preserving religious freedoms…). It took a war that nearly tore the nation apart to end slavery. And it took another 100 years to actually put make a law that people need to be treated equally, regardless of their race. And still, organizations actually exist publicly in this supposed non-white supremacist nation whose stated purpose is to maintain white supremacy.

What’s more important is that it clearly illustrates what’s behind the Conservative thought here: they aren’t racist or sexist because 1) they haven’t lived in a state that has known slavery; 2) they haven’t lived in a state that as racially discriminatory laws; and 3) they aren’t obsessed with race or gender. Presumably then, they also believe that they can’t be sexist because women were granted the right to vote decades ago. In short, they assume that since there aren’t any discriminatory laws or slavery going on in this nation, that there can’t possibly be any racism or sexism.

Let that sink in for a minute. I’ll wait.

It’s an assumption that racism is only about slavery and unfair laws. It’s an assumption that racism is only about violence. It’s an assumption that sexism is only about keeping women in the home or preventing them from voting. It’s an assumption that we’ve already dealt with the problem once and therefore it’s gone away. Furthermore, it apparently assumes that any racism (or sexism) that may be left isn’t systemic because the system isn’t supporting or sanctioning it.

Which also means that there isn’t any murder, rape, robbery, white-collar crimes, or any other laws being broken because there aren’t any states that have allowed it, and we’ve legislated against it, and that’s good enough, right?

In addition, the thinking seems to be that as long as you don’t see something happening, it either doesn’t exist, or it exists in circles you don’t want to frequent. Which also makes it fine:

Woods grew up in South Carolina, and claims that he has heard racist comments there. It’s possible. I have spent a fair amount of time in South Carolina, and have never encountered a single racist statement or action. But maybe my friends are higher quality than Woods’s.

And that society isn’t responsible for the acts of an individual:

Woods blames himself for Dylann Roof’s murders. Why? Because he “let the racist jokes go unchecked, … looked the other way at some sanctioned act of bigotry, [and] has not taken the time and effort to listen to what black people have to say about their experience….”

It’s maddening, this head-in-the-sand approach to societal issues. I can only presume that conservatives view racism in particular as something that doesn’t actually affect them, which explains why they believe that Democratic response to this shooting is over the top.

But the writer is correct in one respect: Democrats are indeed race (and gender) obsessed. Because it is a problem. It’s a problem that’s pervasive and deeply rooted in who we are as a nation because this country has always tried to look away from the big problems. We talk about it and deal with it long enough to feel good about it (anyone else remember the women’s rights movement of the early 1970s?) and then we forget it, think it’s over, and move on to the next crisis. And when racism manifests itself as police violence, or one obviously disturbed but deeply committed individual who guns down nine innocent people in their church, everyone should take notice and ask what needs to be done.

The writer of the Powerline piece dismisses the whole thing far too casually to realize its true importance (and actually pivots midway through the piece to make an attack on liberal gun control views, which has nothing to do with the discussion of racism that he supposedly was critiquing). So let me spell it out for this doofus: Nine people died. Nine human beings were killed by a degenerate asshole who believes himself to be better than them simply because they’re black and he’s white, and that by killing them, he would help make his bizarro world a better place. And by assuming he’s the only jackass in the country who wants to do this, just because you don’t see them or we don’t have discriminatory laws or few states had slavery, then you don’t have a clue about how humans operate.

Like it or not, hate is a thing, a very real thing. As long as there’s hate, there will be people who will think of themselves as being better than other people. And as long as you have that, you will always have people trying to control other people by any means possible. Make any of those groups one race and make the other group another race, and you get racism. Period. Society as a whole needs to take responsibility for this and fix it. Not individuals with guns.