Class Warfare Blog

October 28, 2013

You Didn’t Build It! Part 2

In a recent article addressing the power of individuals P. L. Thomas, Associate Professor of Education, Furman University, wrote: “Consider Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James, George W. Bush, Bill Gates, and Mike Krzyzewski. What if these five men had lived in the early to mid 1800s? How would their lives have manifested themselves in that era? It is without a doubt that two of these men would have had quite different lives—and not because of their talents, character, or determination. Social norms are powerful and are primary when considering the individual talents of people.”

The Randites in the Republican Party seem to think that each person is entirely responsible for their own success and while no one argues that individuals aren’t to a large measure responsible, there are a lot of other circumstances. In general, people can only respond to the opportunities that are available to them. Making millions of dollars per year playing professional sports is not an option if there are no professional sports. making personal computer software to make millions is not an option if there are no personal computers.

Behind every successful person is a social structure, a physical infrastructure, and a culture. Too many people at the opportunity rich end of the spectrum extrapolate their experience to everyone. Ex-presidential candidate Mitt Romney was a classic example. He said he was a self-made man and nobody helped him on the way up (justifying his wealth). He apparently didn’t count the million dollar loan his father gave him. (I worked for almost 40 years and didn’t quite make two million dollars in toto.) “Poor” Mitt Romney is a person who thinks that a million dollars of seed money is no big thing, hardly worth mentioning.

Currently there are corporate educational “reformers” who are claiming that education is the cure for poverty because an education gets you a better job when means you will have more to eat. Their thinking doesn’t include the fact that poverty is the biggest barrier to getting an education in the first place. You see: they have never been poor.

Any personal success I or any other individual has achieve is not due to just my or their efforts. Major contributions were made by a great many other people.

And, if you realize this is true then you must ask yourself why it is we are wasting mountains of human capital by not extending more opportunities to the poor. They are only monetarily poor, they are not poor in spirit, nor are they poor in ability. If we offer them opportunities and they succeed, then they are in the position to offer such opportunities to another generation. Denying opportunities to the poor (Hey, gang, let’s cut food stamps!) doesn’t make you noble, it makes you short-sighted, mean, cruel and, well, assholes.

November 13, 2012

And They Blame . . . the Candidate?

Once one has rejected reality in favor of a more comforting fantasy world, it is hard to come to one’s senses. When “Mitt Romney’s landslide” turned into quicksand, Republican pundits have been racing around grasping first one, then another, person or situation to blame for the difference between their world and the real world. Rush Limbaugh even went so far to say that he predicted that he would get the blame. (Rush still thinks it is all about him. The only thing bigger than Rush on his landscape is his ego.)

And there are plenty who point to Mitt Romney as a focus of their ire. He was the cause of the shocking loss, they say. Look at the popular vote—if they’d of had a true conservative, they would have won, they say. This is amazing to me. Ignoring the fact that the popular vote is irrelevant as claimed by the Republicans themselves (see the 2000 election in which their candidate won with fewer votes than his opponent), Romney lost 332-203 in the Electoral College, the only vote that counts, a crushing defeat. But to blame him, amazing. One pundit says that the were “blaming him for sinking after supplying him with cement overshoes.”

In the real world we know that the Republican Party, in recent memory, was able to elect as president a recovering alcoholic of mediocre caliber and intelligence . . . twice! . . . even though one heartbeat from the presidency was the modern equivalent of Dr. Strangelove, Dick Cheney, an electoral handicap if there ever was one. And these folks blame Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, two squeaky clean, smart enough candidates for the loss. WTF?

All I can say to these complainers is: look in the mirror; and you may find what you are looking for.

November 9, 2012

And the Winner is . . .

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 4:32 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Obviously the President won big and the conservatives were losers.

The conservative blogosphere? Loser!

Poll naysayers? Losers.

The really big winner was . . . Big Bird. Yes, the Sesame Street Stalwart was the big winner.

Did Big Bird gloat? No.

Did Big Bird make any snarky comments? No

Did Big Bird even celebrate his big victory? No.

A class act, all the way.

October 27, 2012

Romney’s Smoke and Mirrors (aka Shuck and Jive)

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 8:17 am
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Apparently Candidate Romney will make it to election day without substantially stating how his economic policies will work. The keystone of what he has said is that he will cut income tax rates 20% along with reducing capital gains taxes and corporate taxes. The implication is that “tax cuts will stimulate the economy.”

Candidate Romney also has criticized the so-called “Stimulus” bill of 2009 as “not creating one job.”

Apparently, Candidate Romney is unaware that almost one third of the $800+ billion 2009 Stimulus bill was in the form of tax cuts, insisted on by Republicans (who then did not vote for the bill). This was, one thinks, the largest tax cut in history.

Consequently, Candidate Romney is saying:

1. I will cut taxes.
2. It will not work.
3. This is how I will fix the economy.

And this guy is neck and neck with the President?

The only conclusion I can draw is that people are willing to vote for a charlatan to make some obscure political point, either that or they are just plain stupid.

Amazing.

October 2, 2012

20% Sounds Fair … But I Can Do the Math! (It’s not.)

Mitt Romney’s tax plan calls for a 20% decrease in tax rates across the board! And political pundits across the nation have been asking for details how we can afford to give away $5,000,000,000 of tax receipts. The Romney campaign insists the changes will be “revenue neutral” and the way they are going to pull that off is to close “tax loop holes.”

Well, everybody should be in favor of closing “tax loopholes” and in favor of a tax cut, so this should be a net winner, right?

Not if you can do the math.

The key words are that the 20% reduction is in “tax rates”! This is the key to this redistribution scam. Here are the 2012 Income Tax Brackets

10% is the tax rate for the first $0 – $8,700 of income, then
15% for income between $8,701 – $35,350
25% for income between $35,351 – $85,650
28% for income between $85,651 – $178,650
33% for income between $178,651 – $388,350
35% for income over $388,351

Let me estimate that the bulk of your earnings (after deductions) are taxed at the 15% rate or the 25% rate; that should cover most of the middle class.

The “fair sounding” 20% deduction in rates, lowers the tax rates thus:

10% becomes 8%
15% becomes 12%
25% becomes 20%

35% becomes 28%

So the poorest see their tax rate drop 2% but the richest see their rate drop 7%. So, here’s the deal: would you rather have 2% of a paltry sum or 7% of millions and millions and millions of dollars?

Uh huh, the fat cats are getting a much bigger tax cut than are regular folks.

Would you rather have 2% of a paltry sum or 7% of millions and millions and millions of dollars?

To pay for this, certain “tax loopholes” have to be closed. When people think of tax loopholes they think of corporation’s and rich people’s special laws that give them special privileges, like the “carried interest” rule that allows people like Mitt Romney to pay a much smaller percent of his income in tax than you or I do.

But that is not what they are talking about here. Romney is talking about “loopholes” like your mortgage interest deduction and the college expenses deduction, and for charitable donations, and the deduction for having paid state and local taxes. These are things that don’t quite seem like “loopholes” to most folks. So, the Romney plan takes away with one hand that the other hand gave.

But wait . . . there’s more!

Think about what the mortgage interest deduction means to someone in the middle class. If you were paying $2000 per month on a mortgage, that would allow you to deduct most of $24,000 from your annual income. This is a whopping big tax savings for us. And a whopping big loss if we no longer can deduct that.

But Romney’s class of people? How much do they pay in mortgage interest? (On just their primary residence, not their “vacation homes.”) Let’s say they pay $20,000 per month for a total deduction of much of $240,000 for the year. How much of a dent does that make in someone’s “adjusted gross income” when they are making $15-20 million a year? Not very much.

So, when the mortgage interest deduction (and the others) go “bye-bye” under Romney’s plan the rich will give back very little, while reaping huge benefits. The middle class will see the taxes they pay go up while the rich’s taxes go way down. Mitt Romney is ostensibly against “redistribution of wealth” but not, apparently, when it is in his favor.

And that’s not all! (Must be watching too much TV.)

Mr. Romney’s tax plan includes doing away with capital gains taxes. Capital gains taxes are the taxes one pays on earnings made from investing one’s money. What, you’ve never paid capital gains taxes? Gosh, could it be because you don’t have millions and millions of dollars in Cayman Island accounts to invest?

If capital gains taxes go to zero, Mitt Romney’s federal tax rate goes from 13-14% to approximately 0%. This change is needed apparently because money earned by investing one’s wealth is more honorable than the money you earn by the sweat of your brow or dint of your imagination. WTF? There used to be a principle in this country that capital gains shouldn’t be taxed any lower than ordinary wages as no effort was made in earning them. So much for that. They will claim that the tax reduction will allow more capital to be invested, which will grow the economy. Right. The rich have been harvesting money like it was corn for 20 years and do you see more capital investment? U.S. businesses are sitting on over $2,000 billion dollars of cash. Do you see them hiring folks? Do these cockamamie ideas ever get challenged?

Couple this with the fact that the bulk of “payroll taxes” (basically for Unemployment Insurance, Social Security, and Medicare) are capped at $111,000 of income, which means if you make over that amount, you stop paying them. Let’s see. Given Romney’s 2011 income of about $14 million, he would have stopped paying payroll taxes on . . .  (wait for it) . . . January 4th, 2011 . . . if he actually were being paid that money as wages, which he was not. The Medicare and SS parts of the payroll tax constitute a flat tax of about 7% on your earnings, which added to the effective tax rate you pay via income taxes of roughly 13-14%, you are paying roughly 20% in federal taxes while Romney and his gang are paying at about a 9-12% rate. And even this is just too much for the monied interests of this country, they want their taxes to go down and yours to go up. After all money is power (and free speech) and they were born to wield power and you were not.

So, instead of waiting for Romney to supply his math, I have applied my own. After all it is simple arithmetic. Simple enough that even greedy effing Plutocrats can do it.

September 25, 2012

Mitt Romney Wants Rolldown Windows on Airplanes

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:33 am
Tags: , , , ,

I can understand the feeling of panic associated with one’s wife having a near death incident, but to suggest that airplanes should have rolldown windows in case of fire (presumably with childproof features that would only let a child or a moron roll it down part way) shows what we have suspected all along. Romney has no sense of the physical world around him. He lives in an etherial world of thoughts and financial instruments and has no connection to the real world.

Commentators constantly refer to Mitt Romney as an “intelligent guy” and point to his college degree and business success. Well, I have college degrees and taught at colleges for decades and I am aware of a great many people who got college degrees and don’t have the sense to come in out of the rain.

Romney’s ability to crunch numbers in order to extract earnings from companies without adding any value to them is not exactly rocket science, either. His wealth making act was pretty much a one trick pony. The fact that he can do Excel impresses many, but sheesh, even I can do Excel. But, was he innovative? Did he see things nobody else did? Apparently not.

His inability to understand things like climate change and what a runny brown streak coming down his windshield might mean indicate, that well-educated he is, but he is just not very bright.

Also, anybody who would sublimate their own beliefs and posture that they have others does not have enough moral character to merit serious consideration for public office.

August 24, 2012

Romney Tax Disclosure Reluctance Resolved!

This weekend, presidential candidate Mitt Romney is going to explain his reluctance to disclose more than his 2010 federal tax return. Apparently he doesn’t want people to see how much he donates to his church!

This seems to be a change of heart because both he and his wife are seen several times on video proudly proclaiming that he gives 10% of his income to “his church” or “to charity.” Romney has even described the tithing process to which he subscribes.

Also apparently he is confused.

He seems to believe that the 10% he gives to his church is the equivalent to giving 10% to charity. It is not. His church, the Church of Latter-day Saints or “The Mormon Church,” only claims that 3-4% of their income goes for charitable purposes. The rest goes into building churches, paying employees, etc. So Romney really is only giving 0.3-0.4% of his income to charity, which makes him a rich piker but a piker nonetheless.

Just so there is no confusion about this, in this country we do not tax churches because of the separation of church and state, not because they are charities, per se. This is a fact that more than a few churches have benefited from by running “for profit” services under their auspices without paying any taxes.

While the Romneys have been proud to boast of their tithing, at least until now, I beg to differ. Giving 10% of a $20,000,000 annual income to your church is not a hard thing to do; in fact it is quite easy. Giving 10% of a $20,000 annual income would be a hard thing. Somehow I think you or I could scrape by on just $18,000,000 in income . . . oh, and only paying an effective 14% federal tax rate on that, too.

We have a right to know whether Mr. Romney will benefit personally from any of his policies and by how much. Not telling us how much he will benefit from those policies he shows a lack of faith in the American people or nefarious intent.

May 3, 2012

Mr. Romney’s Business Experience

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 9:23 pm
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Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney claims that he knows what to do because of his business experience. Because of his experience, he says, he knows what to do to get our economy back on track. Of course, he does not quite state what his experience is, specifically. Now some of you may be expecting that I will now pick apart his work at Bain Capital and point out all of the negatives contained therein . . . and you would be wrong. The reason Candidate Romney doesn’t bring up the details of his business experience is that he doesn’t want to go through the positives because the negatives will necessarily get included. I agree. So, if he doesn’t, neither will I.

What I am going to attack is his premise—that his, or for that matter anyone’s, business experience prepares them to be President of the United States.

Consider that Mitt Romney’s business experience is quite narrow. He has spent his life in either the financial sector (corporate takeovers) or in politics and, of course, he is not running on his political record, so we needn’t include that. So, has Mr. Romney ever struggled to make a payroll? Has he ever negotiated with his employee’s union? Has he had to cancel health benefits for his employees because he could no longer afford them? Has he had to battle with city hall for the permits needed to run his business? Has he had to deal with five layers of supervisors? I think not. I think his business experience is quite narrow and specific.

What I am going to attack is his premise—that his, or for that matter anyone’s,
business experience prepares them to be President of the United States.

 But was it training for the White House? Well, possibly. If Mr. Romney, in his experience, had to persuade two Boards of Trustees to make any significant changes in operations. One Board has 435 members and the other 100 but both must consider and vote on and provide majorities for any significant change of direction. Also the Board of 100 may require a 60% vote majority at its own whim. Has Mr. Romney spent time in business having to convince anything more than a small team of people to go into a venture? I don’t think so.

If Mr. Romney couldn’t spend a dime not authorized by two similar boards and had to satisfy their oversight, then his experience might count.

If Mr. Romney had the capacity to send his employees into harm’s way and possibly to their deaths in foreign lands then that experience, in business, would surely qualify him for the White House.

Nobody’s business or any other kind of experience prepares them for the presidency. The only experience that counts, whatever the field of endeavor, is the experience that shapes one’s character. Being President is all about character. So, what do you stand for, Mr. Romney? And why do you feel so passionately about what you stand for? What experiences have you had that have shaped your attitudes that we would trust you with our economy and our lives. That’s what we want to know.

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