Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I was illegally drug tested, why not my employer?

And members of congress too!

Corporations use blanket drug-testing as one of many ways to wean out their older and higher-paid workers when building a termination case against them, and by doing so without having to pay them unemployment benefits. I personally went through this humiliating experience at a large and very famous casino in Las Vegas.

The casinos prefer younger and more "attractive" people in their frontline positions such as bartenders and cocktail waitresses - - - it's an "image" thing. That's why most of these workers belong to a union, so they won't be discriminated against for age, and can have some modem of job security and seniority when bidding for better shifts when there are job openings as they get older.

But to skirt the law for random drug testing, casinos (corporations) use "reasonable suspicion" as an excuse for drug testing. They hope to catch these older workers in their net with either alcohol, illegal drugs (including marijuana), or even a slight over-use in a dose of their own prescription medications in a drug test.

The casinos even pay cash bonuses to department head managers at the end of the year for firing employees "reducing the payroll" if they don't also have to payout unemployment benefits (sort of like when a CEO receives stock-options as compensation for "performance" for layoffs, outsourcing, and reducing payroll costs. It's all about profits).

Most of these older workers that they tend "terminate" also have 4 weeks of paid vacation because they've worked there for so long, and is another plus for firing them to replace them with much younger workers with no vacation time and the minimum starting wage.

Another way these corporations skirt the age discrimination law (which is part of the Civil Rights Act) is to use bona fide occupational qualifications when hiring younger people over older (usually when hiring younger and more "attractive" cocktail waitresses).

In 2005 I had been bartending at a hotel and casino's lounge on a Friday night. The band was playing and it was very busy. Suddenly two security guards burst in behind the bar and told me, "Come with us...now! We're taking you for a drug test."

I hadn't even had a beer or taken an aspirin one month prior to my drug test, but for some unknown reason I was pulled off my bar by two security guards in the middle of my shift, asked for my company ID badge, and escorted off the premises to be taken for a drug test.

They drove me to a clinic and waited with me for two hours, then drove me back to the employee parking lot to retrieve my car. I had been suspended from work until the results of my drug test came back.

I had 4 weeks of paid vacation at that time and was 50 years old. At another property the casino owned, they had fired ten bartenders in one night for other various weak allegations (one got his job back, but without back pay).

My drug test had come back "negative" only 3 days later, but I wasn't informed until 6 weeks later when the bar manager terminated me over the telephone...but not for drug use, but for "rude behavior towards a fellow co-worker".


I applied for unemployment benefits immediately, but the company where I worked for 14 long years had denied me UI benefits, so I was forced to submit an appeal.

Needless to say, the State of Nevada had sided with me and granted me unemployment benefits for 6 months. But this just goes to show how far a corporation will go to save a buck, no matter what devastation and harm it does to its "loyal" employees.

I had later heard that the assistant bar manager who had me drug-tested was also forced to resign for unknown reasons. I and others had always suspected that it was HER who was under the influence of drugs because of her anorexia and erratic behavior, but we'll never know.

I filed a claim against the casino with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission but I never followed up, and just went on with my life and found another job. If I could have found a lawyer to file a wrongful termination lawsuit, I would have --- but lawyers hate taking these types of claims unless the case is very easy and air tight. (I'd call them lazy.)

I eventually returned to my old place of employment to visit and to explain to my ex-co-workers what really happened. There's no explaining the feeling of the humiliation and shame of being escorted off your job for a drug test, or the outrage I felt for the tactics the company used against me. I felt totally betrayed by my ex-employer.

Of course, THEY will tell you I was just another "disgruntled employee"...but don't they ALWAYS say that? Now we have nearly 25% unemployment in Fabulous Sin City.

In the fall of 2008 I was laid off from my new job during the Great Recession because I didn't have enough in-house seniority there, and I have been unemployed ever since. Had I not been illegally drug-tested and wrongfully terminated from my other job, I would most likely still be working there today, and might have until I was old enough to retire (The company shortly sold that particular casino after I was already gone.)

I would make these CEOs and congressional lawmakers subjugated to the same embarrassment and harassment that American workers have to go through (including welfare and UI recipients).. Make them explain to their co-workers, family, and friends that they're not drug addicts!

There's a new bill in congress to test for drugs for welfare applicants who "miss meetings" which they claim will arouse "reasonable suspicion" -- but lawmakers who are absent and "miss votes" won't be included in these illegal drug tests.

The Republicans want the unemployed to test for drugs and work for free, but I would suggest that their highly irrational behavior would also be cause for "reasonable suspicion", and we should also make congress and CEOs eligible for drug testing too.

It's ridiculous when people are now being fired for working and for "stealing" 20 cents. Drug test their bosses!

Republican lawmakers in more than 30 states in the past year have considered legislation to require drug tests for welfare recipients, and several have also targeted unemployment claimants too. But last year a federal judge, citing the Constitution's ban on unreasonable search and seizure, struck down a law that required blanket drug testing of everyone who applied for welfare.

Rep. Jud McMillin (R-Brookville), a Republican member of the Indiana General Assembly, recently withdrew his bill to create a pilot program for drug testing welfare applicants after one of his Democratic colleagues amended the measure to require drug testing for lawmakers.

The Supreme Court had ruled that drug testing for political candidates was unconstitutional in 1997. Lawmakers had been previously mistaken to think that testing the legislature would be unconstitutional, since the stricken law targeted "candidates" and not people already holding office (because they also receive "government funds" for their salaries.)

Democrats in several states have countered with bills to require drug testing elected officials. Rep. Ryan Dvorak (D-South Bend) recently introduced just such an amendment.. "If we're going to impose standards on drug testing, then it should apply to everybody who receives government money."

McMillan, for his part, said he's coming back with a new bill to include lawmakers for testing included. He said he has no problem submitting to a test himself. "I would think legislators that are here who are responsible for the people who voted them in, they should be more than happy to consent," he said. "Give me the cup right now and I will be happy to take the test."

Republican Virginia State Senator Richard Black says, "I think the use of drugs for some people is the reason they are unemployed. I don't believe that taxpayers have an obligation to pay for recreational drug use. And I think if a person has the money to pay for illicit drugs, then they have the money to support themselves.'"

Maybe he and my Nevada Republican Senator Joe Heck should also be forced to take a drug test before they can pick up their taxpayer-paid paychecks too. After all, what's good for the goose...

And I'd also like to see the CEO who had me drug tested and wrongfully fired to face the indignity of being forced to piss in a plastic cup while a stranger looks on. The last I heard, he and his rich buddies were partying on a yacht with cocaine. I wonder how many people in congress also do.

Now I'm 56, six years away from an early Social Security retirement, and relying on food stamps that the Republicans want to cut. Will I also have to take a drug test to get Social Security too?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Our 5 Branches of Government

Most Americans still think we have three, but we really have five branches of government: The executive (White House), the judicial (Supreme Court), the legislative (Congress), the financial branch (Federal Reserve) -- and if you count the Corporate Branch (via their lobbyists on K Street in Washington D.C.) -- we'd have five branches of government.

* NOTE: In the hierarchy chart below Bank of America, Boeing and Koch Industries were only used as examples.

Currently the president in the executive branch is more likely to sign legislation, appoint judges, and advocate for the working-class. Democrats in the legislative branch are also more likely to introduce laws and tax provisions that benefit the working-class, the poor, and unemployed. Conservative judges in the judicial branch almost always favor corporations over the working-class (e.g. Citizens United), whereas the corporate branch of government ALWAYS favors corporations and the top 1% over the working-class.

Many people think that the IRS should also be counted as a branch of government, but the IRS only does what congress tells them to...but it's the corporations, via their lobbyists, who tells congress what to do.

Some people may think the Department of Defense might also be considered another branch of government, but that is covered under the Corporate Branch of government, on behalf of government contractors in the massive military industrial complex (e.g. Boeing and CEO James McNerney, Lockheed Martin and CEO Robert Stevens, Northrop Grumman and CEO Wes Bush, etc.) who have interests in all 50 States. Your vote for members of congress has no bearing at all on how many aircraft carriers are built, when we go to war, or what is spent on "defense".

Big oil and natural gas in the energy industry is also represented by the Corporate Branch, not by the Department of Energy. (Read Keystone Pipeline: It's WE who should get into the oil business! Despite what many Americans still believe, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is not a branch of government, but is a conservative lobbying firm, and also falls under the Corporate Branch of government.

And what do these larger corporations and their very highly-paid lobbyists tell our congress to do?

One example would be: Allow the natural gas and oil industry to sell and export energy for the highest bid on the commodities market (no matter how "energy independent" we might be), and raising the taxpayer's prices on heat, electricity, and gasoline for individuals and small businesses - - all in the name of ever higher profits for corporations that also get taxpayer-paid government subsidies, but might pay no taxes at all, no matter how profitable those corporations already might be. If we complain about giving away free taxpayer money to BIG OIL, they accuse us of being un-American!

Corporations and their very highly-paid lobbyists also tell congress to tax the poor and middle-class taxpayers at a higher personal tax rate than their executives have to pay - - and also to give the under-taxed CEOs more tax incentives to allow their corporations to outsource more taxpayer's jobs.

The corporations and their lobbyists kept the federal minimum wage at $7.25 a hour, or $15,080 a year before taxes. Ask a corporate CEO or lobbyist and their families to try and live on that - - to pay for rent, heat, and food and buy healthcare insurance.

Now we have 50% of all U.S. workers who earn less than $26,364 a year - - and the government says the poverty level for a family of four is $22,350. If any of those families could have afforded their own healthcare insurance, they would have paid an average of $414 per month last year.

Many Americans now earn so little that many are absolved from having to pay any federal income taxes at all (but they still must pay all other taxes). Yet the Republicans, the top 1%, and Fox News like to rail against those people for "not paying any taxes" and for "not having any skin in the game", as if somehow they were all a bunch of lazy tax cheaters trying to game the system.

And how else are the working-class's and middle-class's tax money spent? Congress gives away taxpayer money to bail out failing and mismanaged corporations that have already profited from us; congress gives away taxpayer money to cover the losses of big banks that have already gouged us for centuries; congress gives away taxpayer money for more subsidies - - even to the most profitable corporations, just so that they can do more of the same.

Every year, year after year, congress gives away almost half of all taxpayer money in defense spending alone, but the Republicans have been bitterly complaining about the much smaller amount we give away in food stamps to feed the now-poor American families who were hit by the economic downturn in 2008 before Obama was elected.

The working-poor and once middle-class taxpayers were either laid off from their jobs, lost their homes, and /or had their wages and hours cut. If they collected an unemployment check they were vilified by the Republican members of congress. The Republicans have been utterly repugnant in their assessment of these hard-working and law-abiding Americans...calling them lazy drug addicts, when many of them are grandmothers, military veterans, and college graduates.

And what did the poor and middle-class taxpayers get in return from these five branches of government for all their hard-earned taxes?

30 million under-employed and unemployed Americans must now rely on food stamps just to eat. Millions of their jobs were sent overseas, millions had their homes foreclosed on, and millions are now earning near or below poverty wages. Millions have lost their voices in government. Millions have lost their American Dream.

We don't yet know how many lives were lost directly related to the recession and unemployment, but from all the data currently available, suicides have also dramatically risen.

But today most people in our Five Branches of Government are fighting back hard on behalf of the top 1% against the Occupy Wall Street movement (the other 99%).

And not one single person in our five branches of government has suffered at all during the entire Great Recession, but instead, have actually fared much better. But yet they're still not satisfied, and they want the rest of us to suffer even more with cuts in government assistance - - such as TANF, Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment benefits, and Social Security...just so that the top 1% won't have to pay any more in taxes. Just the opposite, they are already paying historically low tax rates but now they want to pay less in taxes!

This is the "shared sacrifice" that our five branches of government wants to impose on the other 99%.

And it's so perplexing as to why Republican voters always vote against their own best interests, and they still believe the Republican's old and cruel 30-year hoax about "trickle down economics" - - - and they still think that we only only have three branches of government.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Obama's 'Welfare State'

One man's shame and pride of the joining Food Stamp Nation:

In the 1980s Ronald Reagan was raising the frightful specter of “welfare queens driving Cadillacs.” Public assistance has always carried the puritanical stink of stigma and guilt.

As Francis Fox Piven and Richard Cloward explained in their classic book Regulating the Poor - The Functions of Public Welfare, guilt and shame have long been the intentional features of public aid, along with various forms of coerced labor and invasive monitoring, dating all the way back to England’s poor laws of the 16th century.

This was done for two primary reasons: 1.) To control social order and 2.) To extol the virtue of labor, even at the lowest wages, by making the treatment of the destitute so punitive and degrading that the no one wants to descend into beggary and pauperism.

Today’s much demonized welfare capitalism in America is usually propagated by the Republicans who goad and bait our nation’s first black chief executive as “the food stamp president.” But food stamps are not the problem, nor are they the solution. They are a basic Band-Aid that barely keeps people afloat, while America’s corporations and the exceedingly rich make off like bandits, vacuuming their profits away from the public treasury.

The Republicans want the American voters to think that Obama gives away billions of dollars to lazy welfare people, who then spends all this "free government money" on drugs, cheap wine and cigarettes. In reality, most of these needy Americans spend their government assistance on more important things, such as their rent, heat, electricity and food...and ironically, things that benefit the very corporations that the Republicans represent.

As a former Republican and being very familiar with both sides of the argument, I can now say that Obama didn't create a "welfare state" or an "entitlement society". If any political party had more of an influence, it was the Republicans.

But the Republicans have been very busy trying to scare the American voters into believing that a "socialist" Obama has been driving our country into a "European-style" type of society. Yet the last I heard, Germany's unemployment rate was at 5.5% - - just a little bit better than China's at 6.1% (and that's where all the evil Marxists live!)

It's been the Republicans who have been driving us into a "welfare state". First, by busting the labor unions to depress our wages; then the Republicans deregulated the banks; then after inheriting a budget surplus from Bill Clinton they engaged the country in two unpaid wars; then they drastically lowered the tax rates for the rich (the Bush tax cuts); then they drove up the deficit and caused the housing collapse (e.g. Gingrich and Freddie Mac); and then ultimately they caused the crash of the stock market in late 2008...and all of this happened long before Obama was even elected to be our President!

Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Fox News and all the Republicans have accused President Obama of turning this country into a "welfare state" and an "entitlement society". That is entirely untrue.

Since President Bill Clinton signed "welfare reform" into law in 1996, the welfare roll had shed 7.9 million people off of welfare. There are many less people on welfare today than there's been in the last 15 years!

Going back to 1984 Newt Gingrich once said, "No one must fall beneath a certain level of poverty, even if we must give away food and money to keep that from happening." He urged the creation of day-care centers for "welfare mothers" who would otherwise be forced to leave work early to go home or study.

Since the beginning of the Great Recession and the economic crash of 2008, America has had to endure massive layoffs when millions of average middle-class American workers had lost their jobs, had their homes foreclosed on, and were reduced to living in poverty. Most of these Americans have never before in their lives, ever known what it was like to be poor. But since late 2008, just like myself, millions now do.

Obama didn't cause the Great Recession (or even make it worse), but he has tried very hard to fix the problem, but with little to no help from the Republicans, who were more disgruntled about losing the 2008 election to a black man than they were about the general welfare of the American people.

The Republican have been more concerned with passing anti-abortion laws, giving tax breaks to the rich, building a pipeline for big oil companies, and cutting jobless benefits and food stamps for the unemployed, rather than putting Americans back to work earning a "living wage".

Now we have 50% of all U.S. workers who earn less than $26,364 a year - - and the government says the poverty level for a family of four is $22,350. I defy someone like Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney to try and live on that annual income. I would bet them $10,000 that they'd apply for food stamps. (I'd like to see them both in a real-life situation like in the movie Trading Places).

And this week Mitt Romney also called low-income earners "free riders" for using hospitals and emergency rooms when they or someone in their family became ill or injured.

If any of those families could have afforded their own healthcare insurance, they would have paid an average of $414 per month last year. Millions of unemployed Americans might have once been eligible for COBRA too, but most couldn't afford those high insurance rates either. It's not that they're "free riders", they just can't afford the cost of healthcare insurance after they pay for their rent, heat, electricity and food. What part of that don't the Republicans understand? This is not class warfare, it's math.

Many Americans now earn so little that, after their standard deduction and personal exemptions, they might be absolved from having to pay any federal income taxes (but they still must pay all other taxes). Yet the Republicans and Fox News like to rail against those people for "not paying any taxes" or "not having any skin in the game", as if somehow they were all a bunch of lazy tax cheaters trying to game the system!

By the time Newt Gingrich made his campaign speeches in 1993-94, he had definitely changed his tune: In Newt Gingrich's Contract With America, he suggested that minor girls should not be eligible for Aid to Families With Dependent Children if they became pregnant.

He said in his speeches, "It is impossible to maintain civilization with 12-year-olds having babies, 15-year-olds killing each other, 17-year-olds dying of AIDS, and 18-year-olds getting diplomas they can't even read. Yet that is precisely where three generations of Washington-dominated, centralized-government, welfare-state policies have carried us."

With those two sentences alone Newt Gingrich found the message that convinced the nation to elect a Republican majority to Congress. That majority chose him Speaker of the House (and we witnessed what later happened).

Welfare TANF (The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) was created by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act instituted under President Bill Clinton in 1996. The Act provided temporary financial assistance while aiming to get people off of that assistance, primarily through employment. There is a maximum of 60 months of benefits within one's lifetime, but some states have instituted shorter periods.

The Republican talking point "they live on welfare from the cradle to the grave" is a big Republican lie.

The number of recipients for TANF ("welfare") has drastically fallen from 12.3 million Americans in 1996 to only 4.4 million in 2010. In February 2009, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Congress had created a new TANF Emergency Fund, funded at $5 billion.

The conservative Heritage Foundation claims: "The growth of welfare spending is unsustainable and will drive the United States into bankruptcy if allowed to continue. President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2011 budget request would increase total welfare spending to $953 billion."

Per the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, total assistance and non-assistance expenditures for welfare TANF (family support programs—grants to states that help fund welfare programs, child support enforcement, and child care entitlements) was $18 billion in 2010...about the same as what the corporate executives earn collectively every year with government welfare contracts in our massive defense and oil industries.

The Congressional Budget Office reports that outlays for unemployment benefits went from $119 billion in 2009 to $133 billion in 2010, spurred by the massive layoffs, a high unemployment rate, the outsourcing of jobs, and corporate down-sizing and pay cuts during the Great Recession. (EUC is Extended unemployment compensation).

In fiscal year 2011, the federal government spent about $78 billion on SNAP (food stamps).

Our annual budget is over a trillion dollars a year in a $13 trillion economy, of which $658 billion is allocated just for defense spending alone, and that doesn't even include the Department of Energy, which is budgeted for our nuclear arsenal. So the Heritage Foundation's quote of " $953 billion" is numerically impossible if they are just counting TANF, SNAP, and EUC. And that wouldn't leave very much left over to pay for congressional salaries, which are $174,000 a year for each member in annual "big government" spending.

But when the Republicans or the Heritage Foundation say "welfare" or "welfare state" or "an entitlement society", they aren't just referring to TANF ("welfare"), unemployment benefits (EUC), or food stamps (SNAP). They also include Medicaid, housing assistance for the elderly, Pell grants to help poor students afford college tuition, low-income home energy assistance, and the Head Start for pre-kindergartners (among many others).

But oddly, the Republicans never include "corporate welfare" in their "welfare state", such as taxpayer-paid research & development and taxpayer-paid subsidies that are given away to profitable corporations like big oil. And the Republicans also believe that Social Security retirement and disability and Medicare for the elderly should also be considered "welfare" and "entitlements" and "out of control big government spending" and "government hand-outs". Public assistance has always carried the puritanical stink of stigma and guilt.

But yet House Speaker John Boehner thinks that taxpayer-paid subsidies to the big tobacco companies is a perfect example of how to spend taxpayer's money - - and that we should also give them a tax break. (Read: 280 Corporations that are "Too Big to Tax")

But getting back to "welfare" - To become eligible for any low-income programs ("welfare entitlements"), a family or individual has to first be "means tested", and it's not very easy to qualify. For an example, I had to have almost ZERO in assets and income to even qualify for state Medicaid and food stamps; and if I didn't cash out a retirement pension, I could have qualified for a measly $400 a month in financial assistance...but I don't qualify because I don't have children.

I defy someone like Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney to try and live on $400 a month and food stamps. I'd like to see how many Cadillacs they could buy living on that budget.

A Government Accountability Office study found that "each year of the more than 80 means-tested programs that the federal government provides, just 12 account for as much as $330 billion in annual federal expenditures." The three most expensive are TANF ("Welfare"), unemployment insurance (EUC), and food stamps (SNAP) which at $229 billion, accounted for the majority of that spending in 2010-11. We spend twice as much protecting poor people with defense spending than we do so that poor people might live.

Food stamps has always been another means-tested program. Because of vastly high unemployment since the economic crash in the Fall of 2008, the average number of people on SNAP every month hit a record high of 44.7 million in 2011 (many are kids, most are white, and almost all are unemployed or working for dirt wages).

According to the USDA, in 2010, about 43% of households on food stamps had gross incomes at 50 percent or less of the poverty line. A full 85% had gross incomes below 100 percent of the poverty line (that's only $10,830 a year for a single person such as myself. The remaining 15% were often elderly beneficiaries on fixed incomes such as Social Security.

PolitiFact recently debunked Newt Gingrich's claim that food stamps could be used for a trip to Hawaii. And President Obama just denied Newt's claim that "Obama is the food stamp king" by saying, "I don't put people on food stamps, people become eligible for food stamps."

Obama had also pointed out that the eligibility was expanded under George W. Bush, and that "when you have a disastrous economic crash, more people are going to need more support." (Thank you Mister President.)

And as we were recently reminded of in the GOP debates, the former Speaker of the House's fascination with space and technology is related to his concerns over a " permanent welfare state". For Newt Gingrich, the welfare state drains budgets and stifles innovation. Those who question whether Newt Gingrich has been consistent in his approach to welfare issues should take note of his words in 1984 on what stymies space exploration and government seed money for biotechnology and futurist research:

In Window of Opportunity Gingrich wrote: "The amazing fact was that America literally stood in the Moon and watched in its living rooms as the dream of freedom reached out beyond our planet in 1969. And yet we turned back and wallowed in the problems of the welfare state for a decade. Food stamps crowded out space shuttles; energy assistance crowded out a solar-power-satellite project that would have provided energy for all; more bureaucracy in Health and Human Services shoved aside a permanently manned space station."

And now in 2012 Newt Gingrich wants the poor to starve and freeze to death so that we can afford to have 13,000 Americans manning a space colony on the Moon. Most likely he would want it to be populated with poor and unemployed people on welfare and food stamps, to be tested as guinea pigs.

While Newt Gingrich's attacks on "welfare queens" and food stamps might have helped him with his Contract with America back then, the Republicans had at that time most undoubtedly perceived most unemployed and poor Americans as being black, but today most are white - - and of those, half are either Republican or Independent voters. Newt's attacks on unemployment benefits and food stamps has been an attack on the very people he wants to vote for him. But for some odd reason, this is a reality that the Republican politicians just can't seem to grasp.

Newt Gingrich and the Republicans have waged a class war with TANF ("welfare"), unemployment benefits, and food stamps.

What the Republican don't want you to know about these "welfare" programs

* According to the Government Accountability Office only 3.5% of food stamps benefits (SNAP) were found to be overpaid, but analysis found that two-thirds of all improper payments were the fault of the caseworker, not the participant. There were also instances of fraud involving the exchange of food stamp benefits for cash and/or for items not eligible for purchase with food stamps, but most was because of the merchants, not the recipients.

* Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody's, provided estimates of the one-year fiscal multiplier effect for several fiscal policy options, and found that a temporary increase in SNAP was the most effective, with an estimated multiplier of 1.73. In 2011, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack gave a slightly higher estimate: "Every dollar of SNAP benefits generates $1.84 in the economy in terms of economic activity."

* There is a maximum of 60 months of benefits for TANF ("welfare") within one's lifetime, but some states have instituted shorter periods. The "welfare from cradle to grave" argument is a big Republican lie. According to my own personal experience, one has to be next to homeless to even qualify. It's not at all as Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Newt Gingrich describes when they claim we're "living off their uber-wealthy wallets".

Why do all the Republicans, and those idiots at Fox News, and Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney always castigate the poor, low-income earners, and the unemployed? Especially when they are so fortunate themselves? Why do they always blame the unemployed, the poor, the "illegals", and the low-income earners for all this nation's problems?

As a former Republican I have no doubt now. For decades the Republican Party has been doing everything they could to convince average working Americans that their hard-earned money was being wastefully squandered away on the poor and minority Americans - - when in reality, the Republicans have been representing the wealthier Americans who don't want to pay for the working American's "welfare" either, such as Social Security when they get too old or sick to work any longer.

And the Republicans would also rather deny working Americans unemployment benefits and food stamps, after their corporate constituents outsourced their jobs overseas for cheaper labor and bigger executive bonuses.

The Republican plan has always been to balance the budget on YOUR back, by dividing and conquering all the voters (the working-class, the middle-class, the working-poor, and the poor), rather than tax the rich and large corporations their fair share.

America isn't Obama's "welfare state". Obama is just the temporary caretaker of a Republican-created impoverished nation, a country THEY built for the benefit of only the wealthiest Americans and the largest corporations...so that only THEY could enjoy THEIR entitlements and THEIR "welfare".

·´'`·. Subsidies for the Rich and Famous .·´'`·

My related Posts:

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Mitt Romney: Low-Income Earners Are "Free-Riders"

Did you see the GOP presidential debate in Florida this week? It was a bunch of millionaires bickering about who owned how many stocks in Fannie Mae, what "blind trusts" were all about, defining who illegals* were, how they paid their taxes, and what Swiss banks accounts were used for.

* Mitt said he was pro-immigration, and he used his father as an example, even though his dad was born to American citizens in Mexico.

The presidential candidates at the debate complained that low income earners and the abject poor were the cause of our high cost for healthcare. You know who I mean, all those lazy "free riders" who are gaming the system to collect unemployment benefits, take drugs, and don't pay any taxes.

You know who I'm talking about, those "other" Americans, many who are grandmothers, military veterans, and college graduates - - those who are now destitute and need food stamps, just because of people like Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, and George W. Bush. They, and almost everyone else in the top 1%, can't possibility feel the pain of the 99%, and most probably don't care.

"If you don't have a job, blame yourself!"

We didn't outsource all the jobs that could have paid us a "living wage" just so that we could all over-work and under-pay ourselves - - or so that we might qualify for food stamps and become "free riders".

As far as taxes are concerned, according to Leonard Burman (a tax expert and a professor of public affairs at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University) the solution to our unfair tax code, is relatively straightforward...just tax the rich as everyone else is taxed. Simple. The top 1% has had these unfair tax breaks for the past 100 years.

Mr. Burman suggested we return to some of the principles of the Tax Reform Act of 1986 that was championed by Ronald Reagan - - broaden the base, lower overall tax rates, and tax capital gains and unearned income at the same level as ordinary income.

We need to simplify the income tax code and eliminate many tax shelters and other preferences (such as the special tax rate that Mitt Romney and the top 1% pays for capital gains, dividends, etc.)

But we should NOT impose a flat tax or consumption tax (like a VAT tax) as the Republicans propose, because that would only put a higher burden of taxation on middle-class and low-income earners, since the greater proportion of their earnings are spent on consumption (basic living expenses) than the top 1% spends doesn't spend proportionately to their overall income.

Here’s a quick rundown of what the Federal income tax brackets are expected to be for 2012:

Tax Bracket Married Filing Jointly Single
10% Bracket $0 – $17,400 $0 – $8,700
15% Bracket * $17,400 – $70,700 $8,700 – $35,350
25% Bracket $70,700 – $142,700 $35,350 – $85,650
28% Bracket $142,700 – $217,450 $85,650 – $178,650
33% Bracket $217,450 – $388,350 $178,650 – $388,350
35% Bracket Over $388,350 Over $388,350

* This is the special tax rate that Mitt Romney and the top 1% pays for capital gains and dividends (etc), rather than being taxed as ordinary wages, even though it's all still personal income that they're earning.

Also, what many people don’t realize is that our progressive federal income tax brackets reflects marginal tax rates, not a rate that is applied to your entire income. Here’s a quick example based on the current income tax rates…

A married couple filing jointly in 2012 with a taxable income of $100,000

Their income from $0 to $17,400 is taxes at 10%.
Their income from $17,400 to $70,700 is taxed at 15%.
Their income from $70,700 to $100,000 is taxed at 25% - they don’t have to pay 25% in federal income taxes on the full amount they earn. This works out to a less effective tax rate they pay.

And here are a few related points:

  • The personal and dependency exemption will rise to $3,800
  • The standard deduction for married filing jointly will rise to $11,900
  • The standard deduction for singles will rise to $5,950*

* A single person with no children who earns $8,700 or less should only pay 10% for federal income tax on $2,750 after their $5,950 standard deduction. This would also include unemployment benefits. A single person earning $10,890 or less is considered to be earning poverty wages.

If someone earned over $35,350, they would pay a higher tax rate than the 13.9% effective tax rate that Mitt Romney paid on $21.6 million in 2010; and Mitt also has an expected tax rate of only 15.4% on $20.9 million that he earned last year.

Last year 50% of all U.S. workers earned less than $26,364 - - and the poverty level for a family of four is $22,350. Many of them earn so little that the standard deduction and personal exemptions might only absolve them from paying any federal income taxes (but they still must pay all other taxes).

And of those families that can afford their own healthcare insurance, they paid an average of $414 per month last year. The unemployed who might have been eligible for COBRA also couldn't afford the high insurance rates. It's not that they're "free riders", they just can't afford the cost of healthcare insurance after they pay for rent, heat, electricity and food.

It should also be noted that the burden of taxation on these low-income earners is higher than on the top 1%, because 100% of their earnings are taxed for Social Security, whereas millionaires like Mitt Romney have their Social Security taxes capped on the first $110,000 of all their earnings.

During one debate in Florida, Mitt Romney called those that made so little money and couldn't afford their own healthcare plan "free-riders" for using emergency rooms in the hospitals whenever they or their children got sick or injured.

Why do all the Republicans and Mitt Romney always castigate the poor, low-income earners, and the unemployed? Especially when they are so fortunate themselves? Why do they always blame the unemployed, the poor, the "illegals", and the low-income earners for all this nation's problems?

They have a lot of nerve complaining about the poor and low-income workers, saying "45% of Americans pay no taxes at all" - - and that we "should put more skin in the game". They've already skinned us alive!

And how many people have the Republicans, the top 1%, and Mitt Romney been responsible for making people like me "free riders"? It's THEY who have created the vast income disparity, the wealth inequality, and the high unemployment rate...not us.

And it seems to me that with their unfair tax breaks for the past 100 years, it's been THEY who have been waging a class war on US, and that THEY have been the "free riders".

Tell congress to change the tax code...no more free riders!

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Newt Gingrich: Failure to Launch

Richard Eskow at the HuffPo summed up Newt's idea very well at last night's debate:

Newt Gingrich wants to build a manned base on the moon. That would add a trillion or so to the deficit. Why? The logical answer to that question would be the one given in the 1960s to justify the manned space program: Innovation and jobs. But that would mean promoting ... dare we say it? ... a stimulus.

And if you're talking about stimulus spending, there are much smarter ways to do it than building a base on the moon. So instead Newt invented a 1950's-era Red Menace. "I'd like to have an American on the moon before the Chinese get there," he said. And, no doubt, to get away from the nonexistent war on religion he's always talking about. After all, nothing brings you closer to God than breathing an artificial atmosphere beneath a transparent dome in the Mare Imbrium.

Americans walked on the moon more than forty years ago. The first Chinese have yet to arrive there. They don't seem to be in a big hurry. And guess what? If you're worried about the Chinese economically or militarily, the moon's a pretty good place for them to go. It would cost them a fortune to get there, making them less of an economic threat, and once they get there they would be very far away.

Gingrich even suggested that 13,000 Americans on the moon could apply for statehood. But Puerto Rico? Not so much.

Ron Paul suggested we send some politicians to the moon. Mitt Romney said if someone at Bain Capital had asked me to send people to the moon, I would have said, "You're fired!"

To the moon Newt, to the moon!

Nearly 25% Unemployed in Fabulous Las Vegas

Think about that for a moment. Almost 1 in 4 people of working age that you might see shopping for groceries in a Las Vegas Wal-Mart are without a job. Although you might occasionally see them in a casino buying a cheap hot dog, I doubt you'll find many of them at an expensive mall, a restaurant, a movie theater, or playing black jack.

If you see them walking the streets of Las Vegas (excluding the Las Vegas Strip), it's probably because they've also lost their cars...and might be living on the streets.

Sin City's economy was built on gaming and tourism, and went through 20 years of boom times. Yet during the Great Recession, Las Vegas went bust.

While although tourism and gaming revenue might be slowly rising again, the state's largest casinos still lost $4 billion last year.

There are plenty of casualties along the Las Vegas Strip. The half-built skeleton of the Echelon, a planned five-hotel mega resort, had construction stopped when the recession hit, and has never resumed. Up the Strip, the bankrupt Fontainebleau is also unfinished. The historic Sahara closed its doors last May.

Even MGM's massive City Center, the largest privately-funded construction project in U.S. history that was completed and opened in December of 2009, nearly didn't make it, but it is still billions of dollars in debt. But to the outrage of MGM shareholders, MGM's CEO Jim Murren was still paid $13.75 million in 2009, including stock options worth $7.09 million. And just like Mitt Romney, he will only have to pay a tax rate of 15% on those capital gains.

Nevada led all states with foreclosure sales, accounting for nearly 57 percent of all home sales according to RealtyTrac. Several other states had foreclosure sales that made up at least 20 percent of all homes.

The average foreclosure sales price in Nevada in the third quarter of 2011 was $116,101 - - 23.7 percent below the average sales price of homes that weren't in foreclosure. Nationally, foreclosed homes carried average sales prices of $165,322, which was 34 percent below non-foreclosure properties.

The New York Times reported that auction houses have been busy thriving with bargain hunters on foreclosed homes. People from around the world have scooped up houses that are often sold for less than half of the value of the mortgage.

But if this were the case, and the banks were willing to accept these 50% losses, why couldn't they have just renegotiated the original homeowners' mortgages by 50%, instead of evicting whole families - - those who have already had payment histories (including principal) - - and especially with the current historically low interest rates?

Many, if not most Americans, might have been able to keep their homes, which in turn, might have helped prop up the surrounding property values in those neighborhoods. But instead, there's been an influx of foreigners who have been eager for cut-rate prices on houses that they can easily resell or rent out.

Maybe there should have been some strings attached to those $700 billion TARP loans to the big banks. And maybe we also have Newt Gingrich's $1.7 million in lobbying efforts on behalf of Freddie Mac to blame too.

The unemployment rate in Las Vegas is currently reported as 12.7% (which once peaked at 15.2% in 2010), but that number doesn't represent the true story because a great many jobless people are no longer being counted anymore after exhausting all their unemployment benefits.

Bill Anderson, chief economist for the Nevada's Department of Employment says, “When you account for the discouraged workers and the under-employed due to economic reasons, the unemployment rate is running over 23%."

Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich doesn't believe that the unemployed in Las Vegas want jobs, but instead, are demanding food stamps. (Herman Cain said we all should blame ourselves if we're unemployed.)

Statewide, the jobless rate in Nevada averaged slightly less than in Las Vegas last year, but Nevada's Republican leaders (like ALL other Republicans) seem little concerned about the unemployed, the homeless, or the suicidal.

It should come as no surprise that Las Vegas also has the highest suicide rate in America. Sin City scores over three times above the national rate.

And most of those who work with the homeless in Las Vegas expect this year's count to reveal the homeless population has grown because of the long-troubled economy and cuts to programs that help the poor. Final results are expected later this year.

Police in the downtown area have been criticized in the past for harassing the homeless, rousting them in the early morning hours, sometimes arresting them on minor charges such as trespassing or sleeping on a bus bench.

And then there are those who are have been living underneath Las Vegas, a secret community living in the dark and dirty underground flood tunnels below the famous and glamorous Las Vegas Strip - - in a city of billionaires. Now we have Las Vegas Sands' Sheldon Adelson and his wife financing Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign with $10 million donated so far (which if elected, also means less food stamps for the unemployed that were laid off by Sheldon Adelson).

Nevada's Republican Senator Joe Heck (pictured below) said he voted for the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act (The House-passed version of H.R. 3630) to extend the payroll tax and unemployment benefits for one year.

Senator Joe Heck said that this version of the bill was fully paid for by cutting other "offsetting costs" to pay for the year long extension, like cutting other programs that the poor and unemployed need, and/or reducing the number of weeks of unemployment benefits.

FULL DISCLOSURE: This blogger, a laid-off casino bartender, now relies on food stamps and Medicaid; and his room-mate, also a laid-off casino worker, receives unemployment benefits... necessities we need for our basic survival...programs that our Republican Senator Joe Heck wants to cut.

Someone should ask our Senator Joe Heck that if the next time Nevada has a natural disaster (or another man-made one), and if we needed any financial help from the federal government, can we count on HIM to cut other "offsetting costs" to pay for emergency disaster relief...such as cutting HIS $174,000 annual salary and by raising HIS taxes next time?

Also, Republican lawmakers in more than 30 states in the past year have also considered legislation to require drug tests for welfare recipients, and several have also targeted unemployment claimants too.

Republican Virginia State Senator Richard Black says, "I think the use of drugs for some people is the reason they are unemployed. I don't believe that taxpayers have an obligation to pay for recreational drug use. And I think if a person has the money to pay for illicit drugs, then they have the money to support themselves.'"

Maybe he and Nevada Republican Senator Joe Heck should also be forced to take a drug test before they can pick up their taxpayer-paid paychecks too. After all, what's good for the goose...

Also, I'd like to know how the Republican presidential candidates would answer this question during the debates: 

"If 50% of all U.S. workers now earn less than $26,364 a year, and the poverty level for a family of four is $22,350, how can families afford their own health insurance plans when these plans averaged $414 per month in 2011, when the cost of housing, energy, and food is so high?"

Last night during the debate in Florida, Mitt Romney called these people "free-riders" for using emergency rooms in the hospitals when they get sick or injured.

Why do all the Republicans such as Mitt Romney, Joe Heck, and Richard Black always castigate the poor and unemployed?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pictorial - What the 99% Pays in Federal Taxes

Federal income tax tables from the IRS are very boring and sometimes confusing for many people, so I created a simple pictorial that explains them much more easily by using some sample occupations and their approximately related income tax brackets.


Tax Rate

10% - The unemployed who receive jobless benefits are required to pay federal income taxes. Food stamps are not taxed, but these people are castigated by the Republicans for needing them.

15% - Low paying jobs, usually only part-time hours with no benefits. Many people work two or more of these jobs just to make ends meet. They are sometimes called the "under" employed.

25% - Middle class jobs, usually full-time with some type of benefits, such as healthcare insurance and/or retirement plans. Inludes many small businesses owners and Warren Buffett's secretary.

30% - Established small business owners and members of congress if they don't have any other financial interests. Congress receives "gold plated" benefits and makes America's unemployed get drug-tested.

35% - The top marginal income tax bracket. Mid-size to large business owners, lawyers, federal judges, and doctors. Sometimes referred to as the "upper middle-class". Includes base salaries for CEOs (see bonuses below).

15% - The top 1% - CEOs such as Mitt Romney and Warren Buffett, bankers, celebrities, (etc) earning capital gains, bonuses, stock-options*, dividends, annuities, trust funds, carried interest, art, gold, jewelry (etc) See the Forbes Fortune 400

* What large corporate CEOs pay themselves from revenues generated through corporate income. This includes oil tycoons, big defense contractors, big bankers, hedge-fund managers, private equality managers, investment bankers like Goldman Sachs, automotive executives, and all the other robber barons in the top 1%. The 99% has been getting ripped off since 1921 with these preferential tax rates for the uber-wealthy.

Click photo below for a poster version of this page.

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Why Do Republicans Castigate the Poor and Unemployed?

And why aren't the top percent's capital gains taxed as regular income? And why do they accuse the poor and unemployed of waging a class war against the ultra-wealthy?

Let's briefly review a few of the millionaire's, billionaire's, and Republican's talking points regarding a fairer tax code:

  • "We don't want to raise taxes on anyone."
  • "The rich pay more in taxes than anyone else."
  • "We shouldn't be taxing the job creators in a bad economy."
  • "We don't have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem."
  • "45% of all Americans don't pay any taxes at all."
  • "If you raise my taxes, I might have to quit my job." - Bill O'Reilly
  • "Taxing capital gains is double taxation."
  • "Taxing millionaires will kill their ambition and discourage investment."
  • "Raising taxes on millionaires is punishing success."
  • "Taxing the rich and giving to the poor is a redistribution of wealth."
  • "Raising taxes on the rich is a form of socialism."
  • "Exploiting tax loopholes isn't tax evasion, it's avoiding taxes."

Mitt Romney recently used the old argument of "double taxation" because corporations pay a corporate tax before allocating personal income to their top executives (salaries, bonuses, stock options, etc).

In 1921 was when capital gains were first taxed at the preferential rate of only 14.5%, and they went to their highest rate in 1977 when they were taxed at 49%. Today they're only 15%, thanks to the Bush tax cuts - - about where they were 90 years ago when the tax code was first changed to no longer tax capital gains as regular income.

Congress understood this part of the tax code for almost a century. The working-class has been hoodwinked all this time. Mitt Romney doesn't even come close to a ranking on the 2011 Forbes Fortune 400 list, but he and almost everyone else in the top 1% has been paying a lower tax rate than almost everybody else has been for many decades.

But now that we know this, millionaires, billionaires, and Republicans like to tout that 45% of all Americans pay no taxes at all. That's a flat-out lie. This 45% they're referring to are those who earn less than $27,000 a year, when the poverty line for a family of four is $22,314. With child credits and other personal deductions, they might not be obligated to pay federal income taxes, but they pay many other taxes through consumption.

Most people in this very low income bracket spends almost ALL their income in "personal consumption" for the very basic necessities. And guess what? Millionaires, billionaires, and Republicans want to impose a consumption tax (e.g. flat tax or VAT tax) on them too! Unbelievable!!!

Now in 2011 we have 30 million under or unemployed Americans and another 75 million earning near poverty wages. Millionaires, billionaires, and rich Republicans are now complaining because very poor people don't have to pay taxes. That's just like calling paraplegics lazy and complaining about them not having to go to work! Crazy!

Besides, I thought they didn't want to raise taxes on "anyone". But instead, the very rich would rather deny those with so little, just so that those with so much, wouldn't have to pay a little more. That's just plain disgusting and immoral! It's nothing more than raw greed. When is enough ever enough for these people? And when is it ever too much?

In 2010, notes Syracuse University tax expert Len Burman, Americans making over $1 million that year earned $258 billion just in capital gains...and they all paid Mitt Romney's very low tax rate.

John Hammergren, the top exec at the California-based McKesson, pocketed $145 million last year after cashing out stock options. He pays a lower tax rate on capital gains while not even breaking a sweat -- less than someone else that's earning $35,000 a year breaking their back.

JPMorgan filings last week revealed CEO Jamie Dimon will receive $17.6 million in stock awards for 2011, a little boost from the $17.1 million in stock he grabbed in 2010. Can you say a 15% tax rate?

Also at JPMorgan: the head of investment banking, James E. Staley, was granted restricted stock valued at $7.8 million and he has options valued at an added $2 million. Mary E. Erdoes, head of asset management, received restricted stock valued at $7.1 million and a further $2 million in options. All pay the very low15% tax rate.

Morgan Stanley’s CEO James P. Gorman will receive $9.7 million in deferred compensation for his work last year, according to a regulatory filing. This number includes $4.7 million in deferred cash and equity linked stock and an additional $5 million in restricted stock. In 2010, Mr. Gorman received $7.4 million in stock and his total compensation for the year was $14 million (taxed at 15%) These numbers also include Mr. Gorman’s base salary of $800,000 (only this part of his salary might be taxed as ordinary income after deductions).

Other senior executives at Morgan Stanley: The wealth management chief, Gregory J. Fleming, and Paul J. Taubman, co-head of institutional securities, were both granted restricted stock valued at $3.4 million. Colm Kelleher, the other co-president of institutional securities, received restricted stock valued at $1.9 million. His grant is less because he is based in Britain and there are different requirements on the mix of his pay. Ultimately, he will receive the same as Mr. Fleming and Mr. Taubman, a company spokesman said. Morgan did not release how much deferred cash these senior executives will receive.

Citigroup also disclosed that its CEO John P. Havens received a stock award valued at $3.47 million. Its consumer banking chief, Manuel Medina-Mora, got $2.64 million and its chief risk officer, Brian Leach, received an award valued at $2.36 million, according to regulatory filings. All of them pay a 15% tax rate (the middle-class pays the higher 25% tax rate).

Look at our defense industry: Lockheed Martin CEO Robert Stevens earned $21.9 million, Northrop Grumman CEO Wes Bush reaped $22.8 million, and Boeing CEO James McNerney cleaned up with $19.4 million...ALL IN ONE YEAR...and they all only paid 15% for taxes on their stock options for "performance" compensation.

In 1963 the highest marginal income tax rate was 91% on base salaries or wages earned as "regular income", today most of the top 1% use this "capital gains tax loophole" to avoid paying the higher tax rate of 35% for the top marginal rate by paying the lower 15% capital gains rate.

In all fairness though, one rich man had whined that he had to pay an effective personal income tax rate of 53 percent last year -- and he would favor a flat tax. Blackstone Group LP Chairman Stephen Schwarzman said he was taxed at 36 percent by the U.S. and 17 percent by state and local governments (but we all have to pay state and local taxes, even those poor people I mentioned earlier.)

Schwarzman was paid a $350,000 salary last year, but he didn't receive any stock options or a bonus that year.

But what Schwarzman didn't say was that he owns about $399.2 million worth of Blackstone vested stock, and the value of his unvested stock was worth $544.7 million. When Schwarzman cashes out, he will only have to pay the lower tax rate of 15% for capital gains.

Stephen Schwarzman was ranked 169th on Forbes magazine’s list of the world’s richest people earlier this year, with an estimated net worth of $5.9 billion. Poor guy. He had to pay the regular top marginal tax rate last year....boo-hoo.

But yet, the rest of us will either have to pay a higher tax rate than he does if we earn $35,000 a year -- or unless you're very poor and not have to pay any federal tax at all. But then you'd be envied and castigated by the very rich.

Poor Mitt Romney...his $370,000 in speaking fees last year (that he says, "wasn't very much") might have been taxed at 35%...because it wasn't a stock option, a SWAG investment, carried interest, a gift, an inheritance, a generation-skipping estate, a trust find, or a capital gain...it was just plain old ordinary "earned" income...like we earn.

Obama suggested that anyone earning more than $1 million a year should be taxed at 30%...which would also mean lowering the top marginal rate of 35% for regular earnings over $380,000 a year.

Yet all the millionaires, billionaires, and Republicans want ALL their capital gains to be taxed lower than the current 15% rate. Herman Cain had wanted them to be taxed at 9% in his 9-9-9 Plan. Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich wants capital gains taxed at ZERO percent!

I like Obama's tax plan much better. Maybe then we can pay off the national debt and save Social Security. And the ultra-rich can castigate me all they want to, I wouldn't care. We would have won a battle in the "class war" that the uber-rich has waged against us over the past several decades by bribing lobbying our congress for preferential tax rates.

The millionaires, billionaires, CEOs, bankers, and Republicans have accused Obama of waging a class war and "dividing" the country. Dividing the 1% and 99%? The Republicans have always divided the county...the rich against the poor, the middle-class against the working-class, and the whites against the African-American and Hispanic communities.

In reality, it's always been the millionaires, billionaires, and Republicans who have been guilty of waging class war and dividing the country...and castigating the poor, the unemployed, and me.

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