Class Warfare Blog

October 24, 2017

The GOP Tax “Reform” Hallucination

One has to ask the question as to why the GOP thinks that rewriting the federal tax code should have a high priority. The reason I ask is that they have about as sweet a deal for the 0.1% as has ever been, well, since the invention of the progressive income tax.

Gone are the 91% and 70% marginal income tax rates on individuals (the tax rate only on very high incomes). The nominal business marginal tax rate is 35% but the average business tax bill turns out to be only 13-14%. (We have one of the lower actual business tax rates among advanced economies.) The Estate Tax, the tax designed to avoid multi-generation fortune building (money = power, not free speech) is so small as to be invisible (it doesn’t even kick in until you leave an estate worth over $5.45 million).

So, why the intense desire to rewrite the tax codes?

It isn’t the bloated tax codes, the elites wrote those codes. (The majority of the federal tax code is made up of tax perks designed to benefit businesses, often just one business.) It isn’t because they feel you and I are paying too much in taxes. Basically they don’t care what you pay, except as it fuels your resentment over the confiscatory powers of government (those they want reduced, for themselves). They aren’t trying to reduce the power of the federal government, that has expanded under all of the GOP presidents during my lifetime. And if they did want to reduce the government’s power they would do it by cutting spending, a principle they have subscribed to for generations.

So, why the urgency in the GOP for a tax code rewrite for their elite masters?

Oh … greed.

The first words out of Mr. Trump’s mouth on this topic was that neither he nor any of his rich friends would benefit from this “reform.” He then proceed to list tax cuts that would benefit only the wealthy. When this was pointed out, various dissemblings occurred, all of which were incoherent, but a promise was made that while taxes on the rich would be cut, tax deductions would also be cut to make the plan “revenue neutral.” Imagine if that were to be pulled off! Actually you should wonder why that is worth doing.

“So, why the urgency in the GOP for a tax code rewrite for their elite masters? Oh … greed.”

A revenue neutral tax rewrite would result in lower taxes on more income (due to fewer deductions being allowed to taxable income) producing the same amount of revenue to the feds. Big whoopdedoo.

Oh.

All of the so-called “tax loopholes” (there really is no such thing) in the current code were written by lobbyists paid for by the elites to give them, and only them, relief from paying taxes. If they get lower tax rates in such a re-write, at the cost of lost loopholes, it will be easy enough to get their bought-and-paid-for Congressional representatives to enact new loopholes, just for them and voila!

This is a brilliant plan, which is why I can’t imagine the GOP pulling it off. It requires thought, subtlety, planning, and hard work … all of which are qualities selected out in the GOP election processes. (They and their evangelical supporters can’t seem to escape the Theory of Evolution.) They got nobody capable of doing the work involved.

So, I suppose they will try to shove through a “tax reform” plan that blatantly and primarily lowers taxes on the rich and they are likely to fail at that as they have failed at almost everything else.

I find myself cheering for incompetence.

March 10, 2017

When They Told You “You Can’t Trust the Government” They Really Meant …

The GOP and corporate interests have waged a propaganda campaign over the past few decades with one of the primary messages being “You can’t trust the government.” They expanded from there to include “You can’t trust experts.” (What do they know about anything?) and “You can’t trust schools” (They are all failing.) and “You can’t trust teachers.” (They are just in it for the money. They need to be easier to fire.) and “You can’t trust government employees.” and many, many more of our social institutions. They didn’t even bother with “You can trust labor unions,” because they had already sold that trope to workers. Imagine that, working people were convinced that labor unions, the only force that could oppose the wage suppression efforts of corporations and their hired government, were not to be trusted. Amazing. Equally amazing is that these people are referring to them selves as “conservatives,” you know, those people who support our basic institutions and social structures over most anything else.

But, when they said “You Can’t Trust the Government” what they really meant was ““You Can’t Trust the GOP to Run the Government.” A case in point, one of many, is the Secretary of State of Mexico was visiting and had meetings scheduled at the White House. A member of “The Media” (Oh, “You Can’t Trust the Mainstream Media.”) called the U.S. State Department to find out why the Mexican Sect’y wasn’t meeting with our SOS; they were told “We were unaware he was visiting.”

Think about this: a political organization which has a platform that you cannot trust the government gets in charge of said government, which do you think they are more likely to do:
a. perform their duties to the best of their ability, or
b. mess everything up so people will be more disgusted and more untrusting of their government.

If you think the answer is “a” then the “best of their ability” is woefully short of the mark and constitutes a danger to all of us. If you thought the answer is “b” then we have elected gremlins to our highest offices.

In either case, boy, are we fucked.

March 8, 2017

GOP Plans to Repeal Dodd-Frank Legislation

Why do we need legislation that prevents big banks from undermining the whole world’s economy with overly risky investments? We can trust them. They are our friends.

Granted the Dodd-Frank legislation didn’t go nearly far enough (millions of dollars per day were spent lobbying against the law in the first place and then against its implementation after it was passed). The Glass-Steagall law should have been re-enacted verbatim, plus a whole lot more, but “burdensome regulation” is undermining progress in this country (whine, whine, sniff). This is why the big banks circumvented the existing regulations, corrupted regulators, and invented unregulated shadow banking in the first place.

We will only be free when big banks can wreak havoc as much as they desire … and, of course, our government bails them out every 6-8 years when it all crashes into ruin. Heck, the last time only cost us $2,000,000,000,000 (yes, that is two trillion dollars) plus several trillion more in lost property values, but that only affected ordinary citizens (they got no bailout, don’t you know).

At this point, I am starting to root for the GOP’s bad ideas. The party has so desperately wanted to do all of these things for years! And they are going to own the repercussions of each and every one of them.

More Run the Government Like a Business BS

We have elected a “businessman” as president and we often hear a campaign trope that we “ought to run our government as a business.” This is inherently stupid. How many businesses do you know which have an army with nuclear weapons and which can print money? Government is not a business and while some business methods do apply, many more do not.

Consider the recommendation of the Trump administration to cut the budget of the IRS. Imagine a business take over artist, taking the reins of a troubled business and the first action he takes is to cut the budget of the Accounts Receivable department. This is guaranteed to reduce the company’s income for no benefit whatsoever. Reducing the budget of the IRS is no different. Increasing their budget would make more sense, even for the GOP.

Opponents of the IRS have an acute case of “shoot the messenger syndrome.” The IRS does not make the tax laws, it does not set tax rates. Congress does. The IRS only does what Congress tells it to do. To cut the budget of the IRS is Congress telling the IRS to not do what Congress says. This is at best bizarre.

When one examines this most recent budget proposal, one is reminded of the movie Dave in which an impersonator of the President (played brilliantly by Kevin Klein) asks his friend Murray, an accountant, to help him find budget cuts that allow for a program near and dear to the First Lady’s heart receive funding. The cuts in the movie are patently ridiculous (e.g. a program to make people who have already purchased autos feel good about their purchases) which reinforces the public’s idea of “stupid government programs,” but in the Trump budget, programs which are inherently valuable are being axed to fund tax cuts for the rich and a budget increase for the Pentagon that was neither requested, nor is it needed.

This is not running government like a business, it is running a government via a bizarre ideology that rewards militarism (as long as it is profitable to GOP donors), diminishes succor to the poor and enriches those already rich.

We really need to have a serious conversation about the ideology of the GOP, being a manifestation of the mind of Scrooge McDuck at best and a national tragedy at worst.

March 7, 2017

The GOP on the Move!

Slow to begin, the GOP legislative onslaught is picking up steam. Here is a partial list of some of their coming hits:

HR 610 Vouchers for Public Education — (The bill also repeals basic nutrition standards for the national school lunch and breakfast programs.)
HR 899 Terminate the Department of Education
HR 785 National Right to Work (aimed at ending unions, including teacher unions)
HR 861 Terminate the Environmental Protection Agency
HJR 69 Repeal Rule Protecting Wildlife
HR 370 Repeal Affordable Care Act
HR 354 Defund Planned Parenthood
HR 83 Mobilizing Against Sanctuary Cities Bill
HR 147 Criminalizing Abortion (“Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act”)
HR 808 Sanctions against Iran

Actually, I can get behind the HR 899 effort. The Federal Department of Education has been either an embarrassment or a front for the privatization of public education (Arnie Duncan!). So this is no great loss. But what do the other bills have in common? Oh, if the GOP is suggesting it, it favors the rich!

HR 610 Vouchers for Public Education The rich have been trying for decades to get the private religious school educations they provide their children and currently pay for out of pocket to be paid for by the public. That and they also want to send their kids to lily white schools, preferably one with Country Day School in its name. And even the little touches are precious: with the repeal of the basic nutrition standards for school meals, ketchup is finally a vegetable again.
If the GOP is suggesting it, it favors the rich!

HR 785 National Right to Work This is famously anti-union legislation. The GOP is financed by corporate employers who wish to suppress worker’s wages. They have been doing a fabulous job of just that for the past 40 years, but still any opposition to their wage suppression scams is not to be countenanced. The plutocrats have pulled the fabulous rhetorical trick of getting their white, working class base to hate unions, the sole power player that can help them against the tyranny of the corporations.
If the GOP is suggesting it, it favors the rich!

HR 861 Terminate the Environmental Protection Agency Who needs the EPA? Clearly businesses do. When Ronald Reagan called in William Ruckelshaus to tame the EPA’s burgeoning bureaucracy, Mr. Ruckelshaus was astonished to receive encouragement to strengthen the EPA from none other than several chemical industry chief executives. Their message was that “the public, they told me, was spooked about the turmoil at E.P.A. Americans didn’t believe anything was being done to protect their health and the environment. They didn’t believe the E.P.A., and they didn’t believe the chemical industry. These executives had concluded that they needed a confident, fair and independent E.P.A. They knew that an environmental agency trusted by the public to do its job gave their businesses a public license to operate.” But the GOP just can’t help themselves, can they? All of those burdensome regulations hinder the American genius for making money (for plutocrats). Who needs air to breath and water to drink, we need jobs! (Remember the Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs?)
If the GOP is suggesting it, it favors the rich!

HJR 69 Repeal Rule Protecting Wildlife Hey, they have tooth and claw and don’t they have their own law about those? Let ‘em protect themselves. Under other new GOP legislation they will be allowed to buy firearms with no background checks, just like everybody else.
If the GOP is suggesting it, it favors the rich!

HR 370 Repeal Affordable Care Act The rich get a tax cut, the poor get early graves, a “win-win” situation for the GOP.
If the GOP is suggesting it, it favors the rich!

HR 354 Defund Planned Parenthood First they complain that people of color are having too many babies, now they want to make it so they have to have them. Don’t expect any consistency here. This was a campaign promise (not of Donald Trump’s) and a promise is a promise, even if the Planned Parenthood “issue” is another straw dog, like “Acorn.”
If the GOP is suggesting it, it favors the rich!

HR 83 Mobilizing Against Sanctuary Cities Bill Hey, we said “state’s rights” not “cities’ rights.” Local control? Nope, not while the local control guys are in power.
If the GOP is suggesting it, it favors the rich!

HR 147 Criminalizing Abortion “Doctors, lock ‘em up!” According to the GOP, those babies must be born before they can be abused and legally executed. It is a matter of the rule of law.
If the GOP is suggesting it, it favors the rich!

HR 808 Sanctions against Iran The GOP cannot help itself, it has to “poke the bear.” The Big Bear is Russia but Iran is an ally of Russia, so close enough. The neocons and apocalyptic proselytizers (Steve Bannon, et. all.) want war now because it will only get harder to wipe out those enemies of Christ as time goes on and the MIC says “There are no profits like war profits.”
Oh, and, if the GOP is suggesting it, it favors the rich!

 

June 27, 2016

Giving the Lie to GOP Desires for “Original Intent” Constitution Interpretations

The GOP has a desire, embodied previously in the person of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, for the U.S. Constitution to be interpreted only on the basis of what the Framers intended when they drafted the document. This, of course, ignores the numerous times the Framers mentioned that they didn’t want to tie the hands of future generations, even providing the mechanism to amend the document and which they availed themselves of immediately with ten, count ‘em, ten amendments right off of the bat!

The Southern Baptist Convention has supplied a recent form of this desire for original intent in the form of a resolution:

RESOLVED, That we strongly urge the President to nominate strict constructionist judges who seek to make decisions based on the original intent of the United States Constitution and, therefore, faithfully interpret rather than make law or impose their political views on the nation . . .

This desire is just a smokescreen or, worse, it indicates the ignorance of the speakers. Too often, people in politics are perfectly happy to let others do their thinking for them and this yearning for a country defined by the “original intent of the Framers” may be one of them.

Ironically, the actions of this age’s neoliberal conservatives is acting in direct opposition to the intent of the Framers of the Constitution. Note I said “neoliberal,” not liberal. Neoliberals are acolytes of the “Free Market” who favor privatization, fiscal austerity, deregulation, free trade, and reductions in government spending in order to enhance the role of the private sector in the economy. This is clearly a philosophy in service to oligarchs and the already wealthy.

The game plan of the neoliberals is to diminish collective actions and thinking on the part of U.S. citizens by convincing us that we are the sole determinant of our future, that we are individual actors, not groups or a society as a whole. Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of the U.K. and Robin to Ronald Reagan’s Batman (The roles might have been reversed in the U.K.), had the grace to state that idea in a straightforward manner when she said: “… there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families.”

Clear enough?

Does the phrase “divide and conquer” ring a bell?

Now, contrast this approach with that of the Framers of the Constitution. The Framers educated themselves on the life cycles of republics because it was clear to them from the beginning that we would be some form of self-governing republic. They were very focused on the death throes of those republics (“Half our learning is their epitaph.” Thomas Dawes, Jr.) All of the examples of republics available to them to study were, of course, failed republics (Greece, Rome, etc.). Most of the countries around the globe in the later 18th century were monarchies with kings and queens having some form of divine right to rule. There were no grand republics to model the U.S. on, all had failed at that point. So, they studied the source of the failures and tried to protect their creation from that. The lifeblood of a republic was, in their estimation, public virtue. By public virtue, they did not mean religious virtue (which may be the source of the Southern Baptist’s confusion) by public virtue they meant this:

“Public Virtue entailed firmness, courage, endurance, industry, frugal living, strength and above all, unremitting devotion to the weal of the public’s corporate self, the community of virtuous men.”
(Novus Ordo Seculorum, p. 70, my emphasis)

If I may quote John Adams (from a letter to Mercy Warren), “The must be a positive Passion for the public good, the public Interest, Honour, Power and Glory, established in the Minds of the people, or there can be no Republican Government, nor any real liberty.” The public passion, he wrote, “must be superior to all private Passions. Men must … be happy to sacrifice … their private Friendships and dearest Connections, when they stand in Competition with the Rights of Society.”

So, the GOP, whose policies are in direct contradiction to the intent of the Framers are claiming the direct opposite. The Framers wanted us to put the needs of society over individual desires, the GOP wants you to put your and your family’s needs at the top and fuck the rest, they are on their own.

It is a Brave New World indeed!

 

June 17, 2016

RIP GOP

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 8:37 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

A Republican strategist, along with many others, has claimed that the candidacy of Donald Trump for President of the United States is “killing the GOP.” Good riddance. If it were to fold its tents, maybe a party that could truly represent conservatives could form in its absence.

Remember conservatives? Those folks who want to preserve fundamental institutions of our culture as a way of creating stability. These are people who supported our public schools and postal service, for example. Today’s Republicans want to privatize them because … there’s money to be made! True conservatives supported things like Medicare and Social Security. even though they were created by Democrats; they voted for them and also voted to expand them. The reason? Both of those government programs pulled a vast number of senior citizens out of poverty. Today’s Republicans are for privatizing these programs because, well … there’s money to be made.

True conservatives supported corporate responsibility, the idea that corporations owed good behavior toward the communities they were embedded in. Today’s Republicans believe that corporations only owe fealty to their shareholders. True conservatives listened to our military leaders, today’s GOP only listens to military contractors and manufacturers, at least those who make political campaign donations. Many times today’s GOP provides military weapons the Pentagon has said it didn’t want or need.

If the GOP were to collapse, a real party representing conservatives could rise from the ashes and that would be a better thing. Then we’d have to root for the Democratic party to do the same, so that a true progressive/liberal party could form. Both of the current parties have been captured by wealthy interests and only serve their paymasters. The rest of what they do is just illusions and distractions. And as the band plays on, the middle class continues to slowly circle the drain.

June 9, 2016

GOP Finds Common Ground with Hitler

Filed under: History,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 7:45 am
Tags: , , ,

After decades of excoriating Adolf Hitler, former Chancellor of Germany and architect of the Second World War and the Holocaust, and using his name as a synonym for evil, today’s GOP has found common cause with some of Der Fuhrer’s ideas. “Not all of his ideas were entirely bad,” said a GOP spokesman. “We are, for example, incorporating his views on labor unions into our 2016 presidential election platform.” Today’s GOP, the party of Ronald Reagan and in a previous incarnation the party of Lincoln, expressed solidarity with the former strongman and left open the possibility of additional policy endorsements in the future.

Hitler on Unions

January 23, 2014

A GOP Inconsistency? . . . Not Really

A number of people have noticed that the GOP is waging war on poor people by cutting the budget for food stamps (but not subsidies for rich farmers), cutting back on housing support, and trying to cut Social Security and Medicare (while at the same time tripping over themselves to do favors for rich people). Those commenters have also noticed that the GOP is the most religious of the political parties, religious in a Christian sense, often evangelical and that the GOP’s actions seem to be in conflict with the message of Christianity, their actions showing a lacking of Christian charity, for example.

What these people are missing is that the GOP’s actions against the poor are in total concert with the philosophies of Christian hierarchs, since virtually the beginning of that religion as a formal entity. (Why do you think so many were shocked (shocked, I tell you) when the current Pope spoke out against rich people and greed? When was the last time you heard such a comment from a Divine?) When have any of the churches stood up for the poor against the rich? Do you remember how much support the various churches in the U.S. provided our labor movement? Uh, that would be zero. Standing up for working people and poor people is not something the churches do. Oh, they will collect food and clothing during emergencies, but actually work to improve the lives of the poor against the rich? Not in the game plan. More than a few churches in the southern states gave up their pulpits to Southern Commissioners to tell their parishioners how much slavery was part of God’s plan, in support of the secessionists who eventually got their wish in the form of our Civil War. (Since the milk of human kindness required certain things back then, black people had to be declared “nonhuman” or “subhuman,” no problem!)

Ever since churchmen invented the “divine rights of kings,” they have been in the pocket of royalty or rich merchants. The church has opposed the practice of medicine as being contrary to God’s will. Sure, the churches treated some of the ill and infirm … with prayers and nostrums. The Catholic Church forbade their monks to practice medicine. The churches opposed practical matters to improve public health through better hygiene. The church opposed educating the masses. In all ways the Christian Churches have advocated a slave philosophy for ordinary people (yours is not to reason why; yours is to be happy with your station it life; your reward will come in the next life . . . if you are obedient in this one; . . . ). The post-Roman period in Europe was dominated by virtual Church rule; that’s why we call it the Dark Ages.

So the current actions of the GOP against the poor, and women, are in keeping with the history and traditions of their most religious members. No contradiction here, move along, nothing to see, nothing at all.

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