Class Warfare Blog

March 1, 2018

The Tax Cut Was for the Rich? Really?

If you are in the U.S. you should have gotten your tax cut by now. This is in the form of revised withholding tax based upon new tables. Since taxes will be lower, then less needs to be withheld from your paychecks each month and the withholding tables were adjusted beginning in the month of February.

I checked my withholding and voila … I had $164.88 less withheld last month. Multiply by twelve and that means I have $1978.56 more money available for the coming year. Now, I do not trust these calculations. That is just what is being withheld, it is not the actual tax which I will not learn about until a month or so into 2019, so I am squirreling away some of that windfall just in case.

So, my taxes, presumably, are being cut almost $2000. I wonder how well some of the rich folks did?

Warren Buffet, of Berkshire-Hathaway fame, reports that his company made $29 billion dollars the same way, wait … twenty-nine fucking billion dollars!

Okay, well that is a very wealthy company, how does that stack up against its earnings otherwise? The company’s annual statement declares:

“But 2017 was far from standard: A large portion of our gain did not come from anything we accomplished at Berkshire. The $65 billion gain is nonetheless real — rest assured of that. But only $36 billion came from Berkshire’s operations. The remaining $29 billion was delivered to us in December when Congress rewrote the U.S. Tax Code.”

So, this very successful company made $36 billion dollars through its own efforts … and then $29 billion more in the form of a GOP handout. But, we can be sure that B-H will spend all of that money to boost the economy … or maybe issue bonuses to its few employees … or maybe raise the wages of those few employees. But wait, B-H owns a whole bunch of companies and, in toto, they have 367,700 employees. With that $29 billion they could give each of them $7887, but my guess is that that won’t happen. I won’t be holding my breath for any such miracle as large corporations are doing exactly what they did the last time they got a tax cut. They are buying back their own stock, which raises the price of said stock, which benefits shareholders (84% of all common stock is owned by members of the top 10%), especially a subgroup of shareholders called “corporation executives.” Yep, the people who directly benefit from this action are the people deciding on that action. Anyone surprised at this needs to get a reality check done.

Oh, and the GOP is expecting the “tax cut” to win them the next election. Ha ha ha ha ha … I guess that could happen if the opposition were total morons … oh, wait …

 

 

 

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February 10, 2018

What Happened to “My Country, Right or Wrong!”

Filed under: Culture,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:08 am
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Conservatives in this country have historically been fond of the country’s institutions, especially the military, the police, the FBI, the CIA, the churches, etc. Conserving the social order was #1 on the list of important things for conservatives and the institutions designed to provide order and to defend the status quo were highly prized by the same. Cynically, I would point out that the class of conservatives also contained the wealthiest members of our society, so it was in their best interest to keep the mechanism that made them their wealth moving like a well-oiled machine.

The current Republican administration, however, while claiming to be nominally conservative, has been throwing conservative ideals to the wind. In attempts to obscure what is really happening, the President has thrown judges and courts under the bus, the Congress under the bus, and most recently, the CIA and the FBI and much else of the “intelligence infrastructure,” under the bus. All to achieve what end, I wonder?

Have all of the true conservatives been culled from the GOP? Have they all been replaced by libertarians and self-serving lackeys?

Seems so.

PS If you do not recognize the phrase in the title, it comes from Richard Nixon’s years in the White House. The Viet Nam war had been going on for a long time and protests regarding it were ramping up … anti-government protests, because the protesters were complaining about the actions of the government. The response came back as the slogan “(I Support) My Country, Right or Wrong!” which really was a response of the government’s current supporters, specifically conservative Republicans. Imagine that, Republicans defending the government! How far we have come!

January 7, 2018

If the Elites Might Benefit, Then Sure, They are For It

In today’s NY Times an article (Medical Research? Congress Cheers. Medical Care? Congress Brawls by Robert Pear) states that there is some bipartisan support for science in our Congress. Here’s the introduction:

“WASHINGTON — They cannot agree on subsidies for low-income people under the Affordable Care Act or even how to extend funding for the broadly popular Children’s Health Insurance Program — two issues requiring urgent attention as Congress returns to work.

“But a more exotic corner of the medical world has drawn rapturous agreement among Republicans and Democrats: the development of new treatments and cures through taxpayer-funded biomedical research.

“For the third straight year, lawmakers are planning to increase the budget of the National Institutes of Health by $2 billion. In the process, they have summarily rejected cuts proposed by President Trump.

“The push for additional funding reflects a fascination among legislators with advances in fields like molecular biology, genetics and regenerative medicine, even as they wage bitter battles over just how large a role the government should play in financing health care and providing coverage.”

When the shade the politicians have thrown is illuminated, it is clear why this support is bipartisan. New medical procedures, even those which prove to be very costly, will help keep the elites alive longer. The elites have told us over and over that “America affords us the finest medical care in the world.” What we didn’t focus on was the use of the word “us.” They were referring to the elites as only they can afford the finest. The fact that our medical care system only ranks somewhere near the middle of first world countries is irrelevant and they know it. Those results are based upon average health outcomes and the elites are paying for treatments and health outcomes that the top 1% get. They do not care much at all about the poor health outcomes that the poor and middle class can afford as those do not affect them directly. But there are many of us and few of them, which means they are more than willing to take our tax dollars to pay for their cures.

Everything you need to see is right in front of your eyes. We only need to believe what they are saying, what they actually are saying and not what we wish to hear.

December 22, 2017

I Wonder … Is This Another GOP “Oops Moment”?

In the recent discussions of business taxes people kept quoting the, now old, marginal business tax rate of 35% when they compared our business taxes with those of other countries. Our marginal rate, that is our highest rate, is indeed higher than most all other comparable countries when you do that comparison. But if you compare our effective tax rates with those countries, the amounts that actually get paid (after all of the loopholes and “special tax credits” and … are factored in) we tend to be lower than most. Under the old system, the rate started at 15% and climbed to 35% as the taxable income rose. (This was exactly parallel to the personal tax bracket structure that also started at 15%, then rose up to 39.5% on income over about a quarter of a million dollars.) But do note that a business was taxed at the 35% rate only on earnings in excess of $10,000,000, so you are not talking about Mom and Pop operations paying anything at that rate. (Constantly referring to small businesses as if they were Mom and Pop businesses (they are not) and only quoting that 35% marginal rate is a form of lying, in my opinion.)

Under the new law, just passed, the business tax rate has been made a flat rate at 21%, that is anything over $1 (one dollar!) will be taxed at the single rate of 21%. I thought they had just reduced the marginal rate to 21% (from 35%) and kept the lower brackets leading up to that, which would mean the 21% only applied to earnings over ten million dollars, but apparently they did not. I am shocked at this because the effective tax rate has been lower than 21% for quite some time. For example, 288 “big and profitable” Fortune 500 corporations paid an average effective federal tax rate of just 19.4% from 2008 to 2012. This new rate of 21% represents a tax increase on those businesses (if there are no other compensating changes).

I wonder if the Repubs made a mistake in framing this that way. I wonder if they think they got a “two fer” in getting a big business tax rate deduction plus a flat tax, two Republican wet dreams of the recent past, and just fucked it up out of good, old fashioned American incompetence.

If this is true, life is good!

 

December 20, 2017

We Have Morons Running Our Governments

One of the responses from those in the federal government who were told they could no longer use certain wordsand terms, such as fetus, science-based, climate change, or evidenced-based, responded with “Can we still use moron?” One of the functions of a bureaucracy is to resist change. Ours seems to still be working.

The Republican Party, like the Democratic Party, has stripped away its bureaucracies in favor of … what? The GOP seems now to be run under the influence of deep thinkers, such as Murray Rothbard, an inspiration to many, including the Koch brothers. Rothbard has asked “What is the State anyway but organized banditry? What is taxation but theft on a gigantic, unchecked scale?” According to this intellectual giant, we need to finance all of our collective efforts with bake sales or maybe “I’ve got an idea, gang; let’s put on a show!”

In their world, a person works as an individual and pays all who help him/her, being indebted to no one and then accrues wealth in the form of a pile of gold in the corner of his living room. But they also believe that if they were to die unexpectedly, that their wives and children should then “own” that wealth. But the wives and children didn’t earn that wealth, why should they have any claim to it at all? These conservative savants believe in inheritance, you see, which is a legal thing and immediately their personal philosophy is in trouble. I remember a very wealthy man who left almost all of his wealth to charity when he died, because he didn’t want to deprive his children of the experience of having to work for a living.

Is there any evidence of a culture or society in which there was no form of tax or extracted labor? I do not know of one. If we have collective needs, they must be paid for collectively. Even the libertarian radicals recognize collective needs in the form of the militaries and courts, so how are we to pay for these?

The government is “us” acting collectively. In order for it to work we, collectively, have to have respect for individuals … and individuals, individually, have to have respect for “us.” One of our major political parties has bought into the first, but not the second part of that statement, which means our democracy is in peril. (Guess which one, go ahead, guess …)

December 17, 2017

The Insanity of the New Tax Bill

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:23 am
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In the GOP’s new tax bill (they wrote it; they own it) there is an attempt to diminish or eliminate the current federal tax subsidies for wind and solar power. One must ask why they are doing this as it is particularly insane.

The GOP is not against such subsidies. In 1918, the federal government created subsides for the then new petroleum extraction and refining industry. Those subsidies are still going, to the tune of 8+ billion dollars a year, to … what, help a struggling new industry develop? This is one of the most profitable industries worldwide at this point and we are still subsidizing them? Attempts to repeal them have been voting down over and over, alwasy with the help of the GOP.

The current wind and solar tax credits were introduced in 1992 and those industries are still getting their legs under them.

The GOP also wants to slash tax credits for electric vehicles. I wonder if they also want to bring back coal-fired train locomotives? Maybe coal-fired automobiles are in our future?

Oh, Boy, Oh, Boy … We’re Number One!

Filed under: Economics,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:21 am
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The U.S. is demonstrating our exceptionalism to the rest of the wold not only by making war around the globe, but also now we are number one in income and wealth inequality.

Since 1980, when western Europe and the U.S. showed similar levels of inequality, the gap between the richest and the rest has surged in the U.S., while in western Europe it has increased only moderately.

In both regions, the top 1% of adults earned about 10% of national income in 1980. Today that cohort’s share has risen modestly to 12% in western Europe, but dramatically to 20% of all income in the US. The good times have been especially good for those at the very top in the U.S., with annual income booming by 205% since 1980 for the top 1%, and by 636% for the top 0.001%.

The American population … has it benefited from this wealth trickling down? Nope, the average annual wage of the bottom 50% has stagnated since 1980 at about US$16,000 per adult (after adjusting for inflation and before taking into account taxes and transfers). The idea of trickle down economics was a scam and still is a scam, perpetrated by the elites on the masses. It’s as it this is a tale of two countries: the top half has been growing at roughly the same rate as China, while for the 117 million American adults in the bottom 50%, income growth has been nonexistent for a generation. In western Europe, by contrast, incomes of the bottom half have matched overall economic growth over the last quarter of a century.

The takeway is very simple. For any of the sniveling, GOP dollar sucking economists who try to explain this away as due to “globalization,” or “automation,” or any other phenomenon, their arguments are bogus, because if those arguments were true, the effect on the U.S. and, say, Canada, or western Europe would be roughly similiar … and they are not. They may be having an effect, but they cannot explain the large increase in wealth and income inequality being experienced.

The real reason is class war. The wealthy have captured the mechanisms of government and have used them to benefit the wealthy above and beyond anyone else. If you desire any proof exaimne the Trump administration’s actions. Exhibit No. 1 is the tax bill currently being rammed through Congress. At least 40% of the benefits will go to the top 1%. If you look at the actions taken since its inception, the adminstration has done everything to advantage corporations and rich people and nothing to help the poor or middle class.

And they only call it “class warfare” when we fight back. When will we begin to fight? Or will we just be ground into dust as has happened so often in the history of civilization?

December 15, 2017

God is No Democrat

Filed under: Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:07 am
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There is a bit of word play in the title of this post, but the core meaning is clear. There is no place for democracy in the Bible. Adam Nicolson says in his book God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible, “The condition in Eden had been one of obedience; a steeply raked social structure was ordained by God; and so crawling to the great could be holy in England too.”

This is not just a remnant of the Old Testament replaced by the New Testament by Christians. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans says quite straightforwardly: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers for there is no power but of God. The powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist, shall receive to themselves damnation.” It is obedience all the way down. (If it were not, would Rome have made Christianity its state religion?)

There is no greater authoritarian than God himself. His will be done. Obey or suffer. There is no place for “one man, one vote.” Men do not get a vote, they get judged.

So, why do I bring this up now? There is talk about declaring this nation a “Christian Nation” and claims that “it always has been.” Evangelical Christians came within an eyelash of getting a completely reprehensible Republican elected Senator from Alabama. They did manage, again by another eyelash, to get a completely reprehensible Republican elected President of the United States. But Christianity and Democracy do not mix. Something has to give, and right now it is democracy that is giving. Our current federal administration wants to do away with the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits religious leaders from politicking from their pulpits. This sounds innocuous enough, but it violates a basic political principle, namely that political money is money that is subject to taxation. If religious organizations are allowed to politic and are exempt from taxation, what do you think is going to happen? (Why the religious cannot see the potential corruption of their churches is completely beyond me.)

Christianity is authoritarian by its very nature. The Grand American Experiment in Democracy eschews authority by requiring the rule of law (the law being the authority, not the law enforcer), by electing rather than appointing its leaders, and eschewing the inheritance of any office, and myriad other ways, of course. But what happens when the lawmakers are captured by Christian authoritarians?

God is surely no democrat, nor should He be a Republican or Democrat. The question now is “Are Republicans democrats?”

 

December 10, 2017

Why Is Trump After Mueller?

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:16 am
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The Guardian is currently running a piece under the title of A Battle for Public Opinion: Trump Goes to War over Mueller and Russia by David Smith in Washington and Ben Jacobs in Pensacola, Florida. The subtitle is “In recent days, the right-wing media and Trump loyalists have been scrambling to discredit the special counsel and smear his Russia inquiry as a liberal plot.”

But Mr. Trump has repeatedly claimed there is “no there there” regarding the investigation. So, if Mr. Mueller finds as Mr. Trump claims, that there was no collusion between himself and/or his minions with Russia to rig the election, he also wants that finding to be under a cloud? WTF?

There is no way to parse this definitively. Mr. Trump is acting as if there were “some there there” and he wants the investigation stopped before finding it. Or one could argue, that Mr. Trump is so facile in making up “facts,” that he projects onto Mr. Mueller the same behavior and fears what he might make up. Or, there actually is something there and Mr. Trump doesn’t want it found. Or Mr. Trump’s primary purpose is to keep the plates spinning in a novelty act while the real Republicans dismantle the New Deal while voters like you and me are chasing the laser point dot of Mr. Trump’s mind. Or …

One has to ask what Mr. Mueller’s motives would be to count coup on a sitting president using drummed up charges. Mr. Mueller is no liberal per se (U.S. Attorney + Deputy Attorney General (under G.W. Bush) + Director of the FBI (under G.W. Bush) + confirmed unanimously by the Senate + liberal = a political unicorn?). He has a solid reputation as a prosecutor which would be besmirched were he to fake such a prosecution. His epitaphs would all start with such a scandal. What possible benefit would Mr. Mueller earn by making such a “hit?”

Also, Mr. Trump hasn’t shown much, if any, subtlety or savviness in his business dealings or in politics. His approach is typically a blunt force approach of always looking for a bigger hammer to bludgeon his opponents with.

I guess we will just have to stay tuned. I am inclined to await something happening, because too much destruction is being wreaked upon our public lands, tax codes, and protective regulations by one hand of the GOP, while the other, Mr. Trump, makes gesticulations that are mere distractions.

 

 

That’s Not a Liberal, This is a Liberal!

One of the most memorable scenes in the movie Crocodile Dundee is when ole Crock and his lady friend are accosted by a mugger with a knife. The lady friend is alarmed and can’t understand why Crocodile Dundee is not, “He has a knife,” she says, to which Mr. Dundee says “That’s not a knife, this is a knife,” as he pulls his own, more formidable blade from its sheath.

So the kerfuffle was based upon a misunderstanding of what a real knife was, you see … uh, not. The scene was a variation of the older adage, namely, don’t bring a knife to a gun fight.

In our current political climate, the Republicans are still slurring “liberal” opponents. This is an old campaign, begun when the GOP still had liberal and conservative wings, but times have changed. The GOP has purged all of its liberals and almost all of its moderates, leaving only conservatives and archconservatives. (Actually, if you look back at the election of Barrack Obama and the emergence of the “Tea Party,” it is easy to see that the Tea Party was the hard core conservative center of the GOP. That core rarely got anything but pandered to (where else could they go) but the exposure of this bedrock was probably driven by the retreat of many more moderate Repubs not wanting to participate in a system that would elect a Black, aka liberal, president.) The Democrats then made a move to “occupy the center” that the GOP vacated, thinking they would have both the liberals and centrists and be in an overwhelmingly commanding position. After all, it isn’t as if the liberals will vote Republican, they have nowhere else to go. So, the Dems abandoned labor and racial minorities as a focus of their efforts and became centrists.

Basically there are no liberals left in federal office. If there are, they are extremely few.

But the GOP keeps banging the drum that has served them so well, so now the centrist Democrats are “liberals.” They’ve effectively demonized the term for half the political body, why not keep using it to demonize all opponents? So, if you are running outside of the GOP, you are automatically a “liberal.”

But then Bernie Sanders showed that there is a place in American political discourse for true liberals, even if Bernie is a tepid one. I would very much like to see some real liberals come out of the closet and run for office to see how they would fare.

A real liberal would reclaim the term “redistribution.” Republicans have vilified “redistribution” as some kind of crazy, against nature, Robin Hood fantasy, while at the same time practicing high level income and wealth redistribution from the poor and middle class to the rich. Republicans have vilified diplomacy in favor of war making. This a true liberal would not abide. Republicans want to privatize public education and have been joined by centrist Democrats. This would not be acceptable to true liberals who rightly see public education as a pillar of our democracy, a democracy that will crumble if the foundation is degraded. Republicans favor corporations over people because they say we can trust corporations as they would do nothing to besmirch their reputations as those reputations are the very foundation of their success. Real liberals read the news and know that this is not true or even close to being true. To the contrary Republicans worship shareholder value above reputation and, really, any other corporate goals you might mention. Republicans aren’t in favor of regulations, while true liberals realize that good sets of working regulations are necessary for the functioning of society’s institutions. (The question shouldn’t oscillate between “too much regulation” and “too little regulation” but should be focused on finding “just right.” Doesn’t Goldilocks teach any more?) Does no one else perceive the GOP’s demand for “no rules” as being antithetical to true conservatism? Where are the true conservatives? Apparently not in the GOP. The GOP has been captured by faux conservatives in the pay of wealthy interests. That the Democratic party seems helpless to hinder them shows the rot at its core. Maybe us liberals can help with that.

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