Monday, April 30, 2012

Speaker John Boehner calls President Obama a 'Loser'

Speaker of the House John Boehner grew up mopping floors and waiting tables at his family tavern and worked several jobs to pay his way through Xavier University.

The Catholic college Xavier is primarily an undergraduate, liberal arts institution. Xavier University offers 81 majors within the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Social Sciences, Health and Education, and the Williams College of Business.

John Boehner recently told CNN's "State of the Union with Candy Crowley, "I think Mitt Romney has a background where he can go and talk about how to create jobs, how to turn this economy around and how to give the American people what they want: more jobs."

When you think of the jobs that the Republicans offer, think of jobs at Wal-Mart and McDonalds -- the 2nd and 3rd largest job creators in the U.S. behind the federal government. (Read: John Boehner lied: Government is the REAL "job creator")

Mitt Romney made money as a corporate raider, laying off thousands of workers and/or cutting their wages and benefits -- and negating their pensions. As a private equity investor, some of Romney's shrewd deals did eventually create low paying jobs in companies like Staples, but not because of anything Romney personally managed. In those deals he collected fees and only paid 15% in capital gains taxes for carried interest.

According to Forbes magazine, Staples' CEO Ronald L. Sargent has a total pay packages averaging $15.1 million a year*, while most of his employees earn under $9 an hour.

(*Sargent's base Salary is $1.14 million a year + stock awards $7.7 million + other wages of $477,978.00 + stock option awards of $3.4 million + an incentive plan of $2.4 million = total annual compensation of over $15.1 million a year.)

The predicament we face isn't simply that there are just too few jobs; it's also that an increasing number of workers don't have the kind of job that can pay the bills...a job paying a living wage, and that's why it now takes two-incomes in one household to survive.

John Boehner also said: "The American people do not want to vote for a loser, they don't want to vote for someone who hasn't been successful." That's odd, I thought President Obama was supposed to be a snob.

A "loser"? Obama went to Occidental College then transferred to Columbia University in New York City, where he majored in political science with a specialty in international relations and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1983. In late 1988, Obama entered Harvard Law School and was selected as an editor of the Harvard Law Review at the end of his first year, and president of the journal in his second year. After graduating with a J.D. magna cum laude from Harvard in 1991, he returned to Chicago and published Dreams from My Father. Obama accepted a two-year position as Visiting Law and Government Fellow at the University of Chicago Law School, then taught at the University of Chicago Law School for twelve years—as a Lecturer from 1992 to 1996, and as a Senior Lecturer from 1996 to 2004—teaching constitutional law before becoming a state senator, and then in 2008, President of the United States.

Does John Boehner think that someone with Obama's background is a "loser", but someone like himself who "mopped floors" is not?

John Boehner was a linebacker on his school's football team, but after he graduated in 1968, when U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War was at its peak, Boehner was discharged from the Navy after only eight weeks because of a "bad back".

After seven years Boehner finally received a bachelor's degree in business administration from Xavier University in 1977, as he held several menial jobs to pay for his meager education.

Shortly after his graduation when he was 28 years old in 1977, Boehner accepted his first "real job" with Nucite Sales, a small sales business in the packaging and plastics industry.

Boehner was steadily promoted and eventually became president of Nucite Sales, resigning 13 years later in 1990. During that time he was an alumnus of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), being a member when he was an Ohio State Representative from 1985-1990.

When he was first elected to Congress was when he first began accepting bribes (that we know of) on the floor of the House of Representatives from the tobacco industry -- just like many members in congress do.

Barack Obama paid for college with student loans, scholarships, grants, student jobs and the help of his grandparents. Obama recently said that both he and wife Michelle just finished paying off their student loans eight years ago.

Wages are too low to live on today AND to pay for the skyrocketing price of a higher education. Unless John Boehner were sleeping on his parent's couch until he was 40 years old, he probably wouldn't make it today. He'd still be mopping floors in a bar, or working at Wal-Mart, McDonalds, or Staples. In his eyes, he'd be a "loser".

But now that John Boehner has a nice government job earning $225,000 a year, paid for with the taxpayer's hard-earned money, he's waging a class war and calling 50% of all Americans and the President of the United States "losers".

A vote for Mitt Romney is a vote for the CEOs of Wal-mart, McDonalds and Staples...and a against all the "losers" who mop floors and tend bar.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Wal-Mart Bribes: Just Business as Usual

For Wal-Mart, there were 90 cases of bribery in Asia during one year alone, and 145 instances in Mexico over three years, because they say "these are difficult places to do business". (It's tough finding people to work for $1 a hour these days. Just ask Alice in Wonderland Walton.)

In the New York Times article "Bribes Without Jail Time" we learn that many big American corporations like Wal-Mart, Tyson Foods, Johnson & Johnson, Halliburton, Siemens and Morgan Stanley were involved in bribery. It's business as usual.

But it's against the law, yet no one ever goes to jail.

It’s axiomatic that people, not corporations, commit crimes. But "real people" in corporations (company executives) are protected from criminal and civil prosecution because of "corporate limited liability". The company usually just ends up paying a small fine. The corporate big wigs can't be personally sued. Besides, they have access to a mountain of cash can hire the best army of shysters defense lawyers that money can buy.

Just like most members in Congress, the large corporate bosses are above the law. CEOs make decisions every day that sometime maims or kills people for profits. But when a kid gets caught with a joint, they goes to prison, while pedophiles and murderers get early releases and pardons. Does that make any sense?

The case for Wal-Mart should be a poster child for "individual liability" and "personal responsibility" the Republicans are always preaching when arguing against food stamps. The Republicans call food stamps, TANF, and jobless benefits for the poor and unemployed "redistributing the wealth".

I call subsidies for big profitable tobacco and oil companies "redistributing the wealth". I call $650 billion every year given to the defense industry "redistributing the wealth". I call two un-funded wars I didn't agree with "redistributing the wealth". I call lower tax rates for billionaires "redistributing the wealth". I call $174,000-a-year salaries and gold-plated healthcare plans for members of congress "redistributing the wealth". I call outsourcing jobs for cheaper labor "redistributing the wealth". I call domestic minimum and low wages "redistributing the wealth". I call raising prices on basic consumer necessities to pay CEOs multi-million-dollar annual salaries "redistributing the wealth".

Mitt Romney's line of "politicians who end up spreading poverty in the name of spreading the wealth" is bull. He was one of those who created poverty for working Americans.

Tax evasion is "redistributing the wealth", and bribery is also "redistributing the wealth".

New York Times: "Once upon a time, the world vied primarily for the attention (and dollars) of American consumers. Just a decade ago, they were responsible for nearly a quarter of the world’s economy. Now, however, Americans are on their way to being displaced by upwardly mobile consumers from much poorer countries." Thanks Wal-Mart!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Saint Paul Ryan

Bombs, not Food: Food stamps are in the crosshairs of Rep. Paul Ryan's House budget resolution. Each month during fiscal 2011, an average of 45 million mostly poor Americans received benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. With defense spending continuing to grow, advocates for the poor see deep cuts aimed at the less fortunate. "We believe the Ryan budget is an assault on the safety net."

Paul Ryan would rather spend $650 billion every year defending hungry people rather than spending $75 billion feeding them.

The author of the House Republican budget that was endorsed by Mitt Romney, said his program was crafted “using my Catholic faith” as inspiration. But the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was not about to bless that claim.

The Washington Post reports that "There is something un-Christian about the Gospel according to Paul Ryan. So, at least, says Ryan’s Catholic Church."

Nearly 90 faculty members and administrators of Georgetown University, a Catholic institution, sent Rep. Paul Ryan a letter expressing concerns with his recent comments that his proposed budget (which includes massive spending cuts to programs for the poor, but not a single tax increase on the wealthy) was inspired by his Catholic faith.

"I am afraid that Chairman Ryan's budget reflects the values of his favorite philosopher Ayn Rand rather than the gospel of Jesus Christ. Survival of the fittest may be okay for Social Darwinists but not for followers of the gospel of compassion and love."

So then Paul Ryan did an "about face" and went on the record denouncing Ayn Rand, who believed altruism is evil, brushing off his well-documented obsession with her as a teenage romance. Suddenly he rejects Ayn Rand's teachings that inspired the movie Atlas Shrugs. (Paul Ryan, the Chair of the House Budget Committee, required his staff to read the Ayn Rand novel Atlas Shrugs.)

Ryan told the National Review's Robert Costa: "I reject her philosophy. It's an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person's view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas. Don't give me Ayn Rand."

Paul Ryan compares his worldview to that of a Saint?

Saint Thomas Aquinas is considered the Catholic Church's greatest theologian and philosopher. He stated that an individual's will must be ordered toward right things (not "right wings"), such as charity, peace, and holiness -- and that war must occur for a good and just purpose, rather than for self-gain or as an exercise of power.

Thomas also contributed to economic thought as an aspect of ethics and justice. He dealt with the concept of a just price, normally its market price, or a regulated price sufficient to cover seller costs of production. He argued it was immoral for sellers to raise their prices simply because buyers were in pressing need for a product.

This does not sound at all like the Paul Ryan or Republicans world view as we've come to know so well. The GOP is not well known for charity, but for protecting the wealthy and corporate profits at the expense of the poor. And what was their reason for that war in Iraq again?

Would Saint Thomas Aquinas have ever compared his worldview to congressman Paul Ryan's? Would he have embraced Paul Ryan's 'New and Improved' Path to Austerity?

It's common knowledge by now that Paul Ryan has no respect for the poor and unemployed. And he and the Republicans have waging a war against them with food stamps.

During Ryan's speech at Georgetown University though, Ryan didn't back away from any of his budget proposals, which would dramatically reduce the number of people on food stamps and radically scale back Medicaid, the health care program for the poor. Instead, he championed such proposals as a means to "liberate" the poor.

But all that Ryan proposes is to take away guaranteed federal safety nets and gives them away in State grants, whereas the individual States can do as they please with the funds.

Ryan claimed that "welfare reform" had brought down child poverty rates. The claim is false, especially in Ryan's home state. According to the most recent data, the child poverty rate in his state of Wisconsin jumped 42 percent between 2000 and 2010.

That's why Catholics at Georgetown, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and other Catholic organizations were so outraged when Paul Ryan told a Christian TV show earlier this month that his budget was wholly in keeping with Catholic teachings and was practically endorsed by the Pope himself.

James Salt, the executive director of Catholics United, noted: "If Paul Ryan knew what poverty was, he wouldn't be giving this speech."

Ryan gets another liar rating.

CEO Pay, Low Tax Rates & Tax Evasion

(More photos of cash)

As I stated in a previous post, in 1952 the cost of a union's wage and benefit package for a steelworker was $1.08 an hour (or $2,246 a year). In 1953 GM’s president “Engine Charlie” E. Wilson took home $586,100 a year when the minimum wage was $0.75 an hour. ($2,246 is 0.38% of $586,100)

The Dodd-Frank "disclosure mandate" for CEOs now requires all publicly traded corporations to annually reveal the ratio between what they pay their top executive and what they pay their median — most typical — workers.

The SEC has not yet written the regulations necessary to put this new pay ratio disclosure mandate into effect, mainly because corporations have unleashed a fearsome lobbying campaign against it. Corporate heavyweights are pushing Congress to repeal the mandate and, in the meantime, doing everything they can to gum up the works and delay the SEC regulation-writing process.

The stats show that big-time CEO pay outpaced average worker pay by 380 times in 2011, up from 343 times in 2010. The average CEO pay of companies in the S&P 500 Index rose to $12.94 million in 2011. Overall, the average level of CEO pay in the S&P 500 Index increased 13.9% in 2011, following a 22.8% increase in CEO pay in 2010.

And a great portion of their salaries are taxed, not as regular wages, but at the capital gains rate of only 15%. Obama extended the Bush tax cuts for 2 years in 2010 and is set to expire at the end of the year.

The capital gains tax is now at the lowest rate since the preferential treatment of capital gains was first initiated in 1921, when the top marginal rate of 73% went down to 58%, the war and excess profits tax was eliminated, and capital gains was taxed at 12.5% (In 1976 the capital gains tax peaked at 49%).

Yes, it was a Republican AND a banker that accomplished this (Andrew Melon).

Congress should change the tax code to tax ALL income as regular income according to the current tax brackets, making capital gains taxed at 35% after $388,350. We wouldn't need a "Buffet Rule". (Read: Lowest Income Earners Always Get Screwed the Most)

Ten years of the Bush tax cuts have proved without a doubt that low taxes on the top 1% didn't create jobs. How many jobs did Romney create last year with his $22 million in earnings and his 13.9% tax rate?

Mitt Romney is taxed at a lesser rate than most teachers, but the GOP always says, "We don't have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem." Talk about veracity!

And lo and behold...these are the very same people who are the most likely to be guilty of tax evasion too. Read: $385 Billion Lost to Tax Evasion. Congress is to blame for eliminating IRS auditors in budget cuts.

Pay Watch site invites visitors to their website where they can link to an online tool that makes it easy to send a message that urges the Securities and Exchange Commission “to force CEO-to-worker pay ratio disclosure.”

The new Pay Watch site dramatically spills the beans. The site reveals how the 40 biggest mutual funds are voting on shareholder initiatives to discourage excessive executive pay — and offers an easy-to-use interactive tool that investors can use to express their displeasure with CEO-friendly fund managers.

@VanJones68 @samsteinhp @SenSanders @MittRomney @RBReich @AnnDRomney
#VanJones68 #samsteinhp #SenSanders #MittRomney #RBReich #AnnDRomney

Friday, April 27, 2012

Lowest Income Earners Always Get Screwed the Most

But the Republicans always give the poorest Americans all the blame.

The total U.S. population is 313.4 million and the labor force* (people willing and able to work) is 154.7 million (about half the population).

* The total labor force excludes persons under 16 years of age, all persons confined to institutions such as nursing homes and prisons, and persons on active duty in the Armed Forces. The labor force is made up of the employed and a portion of the unemployed. After one year the unemployed are not counted in the labor force (about 8 million). Many who are also not in the labor force are going to school, retired, or disabled.

Last year 50% of all U.S. workers in the labor force (77.3 million) earned less than $26,364 a year and were being paid in regular hourly wages. They only saved $445 with the Bush tax cuts, while also paying Social Security taxes on 100% of their income (They all fall into the bottom quintilla of the federal income tax brackets.)

Further below I explain why half of all Americans pay no federal income taxes. (Not half of all "working" Americans, half of all Americans.)

Someone earning $21 million a year with capital gains (like Mitt Romney in 2010) saved $1 million a year with the Bush tax cuts, while paying NO Social Security taxes at all on their income (There are also millionaires who paid no federal income taxes either.)

Tax brackets and tax rates under Bill Clinton & George W. Bush, and who benefited the most

Under Bill Clinton the capital gains tax rate fell from 33% to 28%, then later to 20%. Clinton said in an interview on Meet the Press earlier this year that afterward he regretted lowering the capital gains tax rate.

Tax brackets under Clinton

Under George W. Bush the capital gains tax rate fell from 20% to 15%. Also the 15% marginal tax bracket's lower threshold was indexed to the new 10% bracket. Bush also made sweeping changes to the estate tax, gift tax, and generation-skipping transfer tax.

Last year 50% of all U.S. workers in the labor force (earned less than $26,364 a year, and only saw a 5% tax savings on the first $8,700 they earned with the Bush tax cuts.

By contrast, someone like Mitt Romney, who reported an income of $21.6 million in 2010, only paid a tax rate of 13.9% on capital gains.

The Republicans are fond of saving that "everybody" received a tax break under Bush, but neglects to tell us who got the biggest cut.

Someone earning $26,364 a year with regular wages only saved $445 in tax liability with the Bush tax cuts.
Someone earning $21.6 million a year with capital gains saved $1.08 million in tax liability with the Bush tax cuts.

Tax brackets under Bush

The Revenue Act of 1921 (near the end of the Gilded Age) was passed in Congress for the new Republican Secretary of the Treasury and banker Andrew Mellon, who had argued that "significant tax reduction was necessary in order to spur economic expansion and restore prosperity" - - just like the Republicans have been saying since George W. Bush.

Andrew Mellon obtained repeal of the wartime excess profits tax, and the top marginal income tax rate on individuals fell from 73% to 58%, but he preferential treatment for capital gains was also first introduced at a tax rate of 12.5%, effectively lowering the top marginal rate from 73% to12.5% for the wealthiest individuals.

The statutory capital gains tax rate was almost 40% in 1976, but even back then the average "effective" rate paid was only a mere 18%.

The same goes for corporate taxes, whose CEOs earn far more with stock options than with regular wages for capital gains. The statutory rate for corporate taxes is 35%, but the average "effective" tax rate paid was only about 18.5%, and 30 profitable corporations paid no taxes at all over the last three-year period --- and many actually received a refund!

Congress has been fully aware of this disproportionate tax break for the rich for the past 90 years.

The "Throw the Dog a Bone" Strategy: 1) Give someone a meaningless small reward or a frivolous compliment at little cost to you. 2) Tax the very poor a little less and tax the very rich much less.

The Tale of Two Incomes

Someone earning $26,364 a year with regular wages only saved $445 a year with the Bush tax cuts

  • Under Bush: 10% of the first $8,700 earned = $870 tax liability ($26,364 - $8,700 = $17,664 difference) (15% of $17,664 = $2,640 tax liability) $2,640 + $870 = $3,510 (total tax liability before personal exemption, deductions, child credits, etc)
  • Under Clinton: 15% of $26,364 = $3,955 (total tax liability before personal exemption, deductions, child credits, etc)
  • A difference of $3,955 under Clinton MINUS THE DIFFERENCE OF $3,510 under Bush = $445 savings with the Bush tax cuts (or $8.55 a week)
  • Social Security taxes were deducted from 100% of their annual income.

Someone earning $21.6 million a year (like Mitt Romney and the top 1%) with capital gains saved $1.08 million a year with the Bush tax cuts.

  • 20% capital gains tax on $21.6 million = $4,320,000 (tax liability under Clinton before personal exemptions, deductions, child credits, etc) MINUS THE DIFFERENCE OF $3,240,000 (15% capital gains tax on $21.6 million under Bush) = $1.08 million savings with the Bush tax cuts (or $20,769 a week).
  • Social Security taxes were capped on their first $110,000 of any "regular" wages and salaries, effectively taxing them only 0.05% of their total income for Social Security.
  • They do not pay the higher marginal tax rate because their income was mostly earned with capital gains, not with regular wages like those earning $26,364 a year do.

Again, congress has been fully aware of this disproportionate tax break for the rich for the past 90 years, but they refuse to change the tax code because they also benefit --- half in Congress are millionaires themselves and actually had to pass a Stock Act to prohibit them from illegal insider trading! Read: Why Congress Refuses to Tax the Rich

Why half of all Americans pay no federal income taxes

77.3 million earn less than $26,364 a year. 55.8 million receive some form of Social Security benefits (retirement or disability). 12.7 million are unemployed (Of those, 6.7 million currently receive unemployment benefits). 7.7 million were only working part time (8 million long-term unemployed are no longer counted.) TOTAL = 153.5 million

The Republicans, based on a study that the conservative advocacy group the Heritage Foundation likes to flaunt, report that half of all Americans don't pay any federal income taxes.

From their website: "The percentage of Americans who don’t pay income taxes now accounts for nearly half of the U.S. population. Meanwhile, most of that population receives generous federal benefits. The percentage of people who do not pay federal income taxes, and who are not claimed as dependents by someone who does pay them, jumped from 14.8 percent in 1984 to 49.5 percent in 2009. That means 151.7 million Americans paid nothing in 2009. By comparison, 34.8 million tax filers paid no taxes in 1984."

(Note: There are 154.7 million Americans in the entire labor force.)

Politicfact backs up the claim: "Of the 46.4% not paying income taxes for 2011, about half was due to the fact that those household had no taxable income after subtracting the standard deduction and personal exemptions. The other half qualified for various exclusions, itemized deductions, special exemptions, preferential tax rates, and tax credits that wiped out any tax liability. About 22% would have a zero income tax liability and about 30% would actually get money back from the government."

But they don't tell you the whole story. Yes, the Tax Policy Center (TPC) estimates that 46% of all households (not all Americans who are working) will either pay no federal income tax in 2011 or will receive more from the IRS than they pay in.

TPC released a study that examines why these people end up paying no federal income tax. "The number one reason should come as no surprise. It’s because they have very low incomes." (They're poor!)

What the majority of Americans have for an income

A couple with two children earning less than $26,400 will pay no federal income tax because their $11,600 standard deduction and four exemptions of $3,700 each reduce their taxable income to zero. 77.3 million earn less than $26,364 a year, but everybody gets these exemption and deductions, even billionaires.

The second reason is that for many senior citizens, Social Security benefits are exempt from federal income taxes. That accounts for about 22% of the people who pay no federal income tax. For retired workers, their average monthly Social Security benefit was only about $1,230 a month at the beginning of 2012 (or $14,760 a year).

Disabled workers on Social Security disability averaged $1,111 a month (or $13,332 a year). The SSA reports a total of 55.8 million receive some form of Social Security benefits, and unless they earned another income, aren't required to pay federal income taxes on their very low incomes.

And then there are millions of people still out of work. The Labor Department reports 12.7 million unemployed. Of those, 6.7 million currently receive unemployment benefits. The average unemployed American collected only $295 in weekly unemployment benefits (or $15,340 a year) which only replaced about a third of the average worker's previous salary. But they still have to file a tax return.

The Labor Department also reports that 7.7 million were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.

If one were working a full-time 40-hour per week job (providing they could find one) and earned the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, they would only be earning $290 a week, or $1,257 a month, or $15,080 a year. Try living on that!

At least 8 million unemployment Americas exhausted all their unemployed benefits without ever finding work again. (The Labor Department only reports 5.2. million are "long-term unemployed"). Some retired early, some became disabled (but many were also denied SSD benefits), and others moved in with family or friends. Millions now earn $0 and hour, or $0 a week, or $0 a year --- and now just subsist on food stamps --- so therefore, would owe no federal income tax. Ask the Republicans, "How much skin should they put in the game?"

These are the people that the Republicans complain about for not paying any "federal incomes taxes".

But it's decidedly untrue to claim that half of Americans pay no taxes. That simply isn’t so. Everybody does. There are many other taxes they pay, including payroll taxes, excise taxes, sales taxes, state income taxes, and property taxes. (Source)

And another thing the Republicans don't tell you: the Zero Tax Club also includes some very high-income households, although it is made up disproportionately of very low income households, there's also millionaires who pay no federal income tax either. Any many millionaires deliberately evade paying income taxes, but of course, they always blame the poor for a lack of tax revenues. "We don't have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem."

Yeah, right.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

$385 Billion Lost to Tax Evasion

Congress to blame for eliminating IRS Auditors in Budget Cuts.

America’s super rich are once again stiffing Uncle Sam for hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes due.

We're not talking about tax loopholes, such as legal tax code provisions like capital gains, that give the rich preferential treatment with lower tax rates. We're talking about outright tax evasion, the willful misreporting of income.

The IRS periodically tries to measure how much of this cheating goes on. The latest estimate, released this past January puts the tax gap — the difference between taxes owed but not paid on time — at $385 billion.

Some of this gap represents “innocent” tax return mistakes, but most is outright fraud. Taxpayers at all income levels, of course, cheat. But the fiscally consequential cheating comes from the super rich. They cheat at a higher rate than other Americans of modest means and — given the enormity of their incomes — denies Uncle Sam far more tax dollars.

“Conservatives tend to talk about noncompliance as if it were solely a function of tax rates,” as former Reagan administration policy aide Bruce Bartlett noted in the New York Times, a perspective that makes tax evasion “just another excuse to cut taxes.”

In 2001, and then again in 2003, that convenient excuse helped the Bush White House chop away at the taxes the IRS expects rich people to pay. The tax rate on the top tax-bracket income slipped from 39.6 to 35 percent, and the rates on capital gains and dividends both dropped to 15 percent, from 20 and 39.6 percent.

The new IRS study documents that tax evasion actually increased since the Bush tax cuts. In 2001, $290 billion in individual and business taxes due went uncollected. In 2006, $385 billion.

Who’s doing all this tax cheating? Not average Americans.

Average Americans get most of their income from wages and salaries. Almost all this income faces paycheck withholding. The result: The IRS reports that 1 percent of the taxes due on wages and salary goes uncollected, the rest is bilked by the super rich.

Rich Americans collect the biggest chunks of their annual income from capital gains, business ownership, and other sources of income that face neither rigorous reporting mandates or mandatory withholding.

Mitt Romney claims he would stop the "unfairness" in this country, but he will do absolutely nothing to change any part of the tax code that people like him mostly benefit from.

According to rich people-friendly right-wing ideology, the Bush tax cuts should have boosted tax compliance, but just the opposite happened. They more the earned, they more taxes they dodged.

Why can't Uncle Sam get at those lost tax dollars? Have the super rich and their handsomely paid handlers simply become too skilled at squirreling income in tax havens like the Cayman Islands? Do the complexities of the global economy simply make collecting taxes from the rich an impossibly difficult task?

The IRS doesn't think so, but they have a big problem. It's called "congress".

In 2009 the IRS launched a new task force dedicated to auditing the super rich. The IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman predicted early in 2010 that it would bring a “game-changing strategy” to the battle against the ultra wealthy tax cheats and their most sophisticated tax evasion stratagems.

The IRS had needed more funding to conduct the much more intensive field audits on the super rich earning over $10 million a year -- to collect between $200 billion and $300 billion in tax evasion every year. But congress has consistently declined to adequately fund IRS tax-collection operations.

In just the last two years alone, budget cuts have cost the agency some 3,000 enforcement staff positions. The bigger picture: Just 20 years ago in 1992 the IRS had 114,758 auditors to cover a U.S. population of 249.4 million. In 2011, the agency’s staff of only 94,709 had to cover a total U.S. population of 312.6 million.

The tax lawyers, accountants, lobbyists, and private bankers who make up the “income defense industry” for the ultra-wealthy couldn’t be more pleased. They’re making millions by cutting tax corners for the super rich, at precious little risk either to themselves or to their rich clients.

In Greece and Italy, two nations with a history of chronic and massive tax evasion by the rich, tax collectors are now doing that broader scouring. They're checking license plates at elite ski resorts, for instance, to pinpoint high-spenders, then checking the incomes these high-spenders have filed on their tax returns. Aggressive tactics like these are identifying tax evaders that traditional audits have hardly ever snared.

The taxpayers would be more than willing to spend their tax dollars for more tax auditors to make the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes, rather than on lavish conventions in Las Vegas for the GSA. The additional recouped tax revenue (especially with additional penalties and fines) would more than enough to offset the cost of hiring more tax auditors. They could even be hired on a commission basis, and any cost would be negligible.

And if someone is ever caught cheating on their taxes? Give them mandatory prison time...just like Al Capone.

My related posts on tax evasion:

* Cheating Uncle Sam By Sam Pizzigati - "America’s richest have seen the top tax rate on their income drop by half since 1980. Apparently, suggests a new analysis of IRS data on tax cheating, they feel they deserve a bigger discount."

* Law and Order 24/7, Except at Tax Time By Sam Pizzigati - "The rich don’t much like paying taxes when tax rates run high. They don’t much like paying taxes when tax rates run low either."

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wages: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Tell Ann Romney that a middle-class wage in 2012 is $45,000 a year after taxes, but 50% of all U.S. workers earn less than half that before taxes.

In the Old Days

Since first being established at 25 cents an hour by FDR in 1938 under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the federal minimum wage has been raised only 22 times since then. Today the Republicans want to abolish it.

Over sixty years ago, during and after World War II, one could leave their rural community and obtain a government job (civilian or in armed service) and earn a decent living. Since then, "government" was, and always has been, America's single biggest "job creator". (Yes Speaker Boehner, government does create jobs.)

Or they could have left the family farm and moved to the big city and found work paying good wage in a mill or factory, without even having a high school diploma.

In 1952 the president of Jones and Laughlin Steel Company complained that the cost of the union's wage and benefit package was $1.08 an hour (or $2,246 a year). The average median salary at that time was $2,992 a year during the 1950s, when the U.S. population was half of what it is today. By that time the minimum wage had risen to $0.75 an hour.

J & L Steel (known to its employees as simply "J & L") provided the most competition to the Carnegie Steel Company in the Pittsburgh vicinity. Back in those days a man could go to work at the local steel mill and provide a decent living for his family of four while his wife stayed home to raise their children. (Yes Mrs. Romney, the wife could afford a "choice" to be a stay-at-home mom.)

What it Costs to Live a Middle-Class Life Now

Today in 2012 the average mean wage for a steelworker is $24.11 an hour, or $50,160 a year -- about what a typical teacher, fireman, or police person might earn. That's because they are represented by unions, and their wages have kept pace with the rising cost of living over the past sixty years. They also maintained their family healthcare plans that were provided by their employers. They're not over-paid as the Republicans like say, they're just earning an average and comfortable middle-class most of us did back in the 1950s.

In 2012, it costs at least $45,000 a year (after payroll taxes) to meet the minimum cost for a typical American middle-class family of four, living in an average home, in an average neighborhood, and driving average cars.

A typical monthly budget might look like this:

That would equal $45,000 a year, which would be needed AFTER payroll taxes are deducted. That does not include emergency savings for repairs, clothes, entertainment, or a savings account for retirement and college. If the spouse also works, babysitters or daycare expenses would be deducted from those additional earnings.

$45,000 a year equals $21.63 an hour BEFORE payroll taxes are deducted. Remember, steelworkers now earn an average of $24.11 an hour (a middle-class wage).

* High-cost metropolitan areas such as NYC, Boston and San Francisco would be much higher. You can transpose $150 of the monthly budget from electricity to natural gas or oil if you use that for heat.)

Prevailing Wages For Average American Workers

Half the entire U.S. workforce now earns less than $12.67 a hour. The federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is about 1/3 of a middle-class wage of $21.63 an hour. Last year the average CEO earned $10.8 million and paid a lower tax rate (15%) than those middle-class steelworkers, firefighters and teachers (25%). (See tax brackets and rates here)

As of the last quarter of 2011, the total median household income was $52,378 a year (that's just $26,188 per person in a two income household.)

Last year 50% of all U.S. workers earned less than $26,364 a year (that's $12.67 an hour) when the poverty level for a family household of four is considered to be $22,314 a year (which is a very low government assessment). $22,314 year is about what Ann Romney spends every year just to feed and care for her favorite horse.

By contrast, for those out of work, the average American collected only $295 in weekly unemployment benefits ($15,340 a year) which only replaced about a third of the average worker's previous salary.

If one were working a full-time 40-hour per week job (providing they could find one) and earned the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, they would only be earning $290 a week, or $1,257 a month, or $15,080 a year.

As for retired workers, their average monthly Social Security benefit was about $1,230 a month at the beginning of 2012 ($14,760 a year).

Disabled workers on Social Security disability averaged $1,111 a month ($13,332 a year).

At least 8 million unemployment Americas exhausted all their unemployed benefits without ever finding work again. Some retired early, some became disabled (many denied SSD benefits), and others moved in with family or friends. Millions now earn $0 and hour, or $0 a week, or $0 a year --- and now just subsist on food stamps.

Are these the people that the Republicans are complaining about, who aren't paying their fair share of federal income taxes, and that they should "put more skin in the game"?

The poverty level $22,314 a year is only HALF the income needed in 2012 that would be necessary for a family of four to live on for a middle-class life-style without a spouse who is also working (if they had made a "choice" to be a stay-at-home mom.). The poverty level of $22,314 a year would include EVERYBODY who are dependent on unemployment benefits, Social Security funds, and disability payments.

How can a spouse (a mom or dad) earn $22,314 or less a year and expect a parent to "choose" to stay at home to raise their children? They can't, and the don't. Both parents must work to live a middle-class life-style. A divorce could be financially catastrophic for both parents, and one or both could end up on welfare and food stamps, just to survive.

The Role of Labor Unions

Union membership exploded during and after World War II, nearly doubling between 1938 and 1946. It was after World War II that American Exceptionalism became most valid, when the United States emerged as the advanced, capitalist democracy. At 35%, the unionization rate in 1945 was the highest in American history.

A concerted drive by the CIO to organize the South called "Operation Dixie" failed dismally in 1946. Unable to overcome private repression, racial divisions, and the pro-employer stance of southern local and state [Republican] governments, the CIO's defeat left the South as a non-union, low-wage domestic enclave and a bastion of anti- union politics (which still is today).

Then, in 1946, a conservative Republican majority was elected to Congress, dashing all hopes for any renewed post-war New Deals.

The quarter century after 1950 formed a ‘golden age' for American unions. Established unions found a secure place at the bargaining table with America's leading firms in such industries as autos, steel, trucking, and chemicals. Contracts were periodically negotiated providing for the exchange of good wages for cooperative workplace relations. Rules were negotiated providing a system of civil authority at work, with negotiated regulations for promotion and layoffs, and procedures giving workers opportunities to voice grievances before neutral arbitrators.

Wages rose steadily, by over 2 percent per year and union workers earned a comfortable 20 percent more than non-union workers of similar age, experience and education. American wages were higher and growth was rapid enough to narrow the gap between rich and poor, and between management salaries and worker wages.

Unions also won a growing list of benefit programs, medical and dental insurance, paid holidays and vacations, supplemental unemployment insurance, and pensions. Competition for workers forced many non-union employers to match the benefit packages won by unions, but unionized employers provided benefits worth over 60 percent more than were given non-union workers.

* Because of outsourcing, we now have a glut of labor, high unemployment, and lower wages.

In no other country have women and members of racial minorities assumed such prominent positions in the labor movement as they have in the United States. The movement of African-American and women to leadership positions in the late-twentieth century labor movement was accelerated by a shift in the membership structure of the United States union movement.

The union participation rate has declined in all industries since the "golden age" for American workers: from 35% in 1945, to 30% in 1970, to 24.7% in 1980, to 17.6% in 1990, to 11.8% today. That is the Republican legacy for average American workers, and why the economy is where is today. (Source)

The Auto Industry at a Glance

Besides the steel industry and government jobs, the U.S. auto industry used to be one of the best places to work in the 1950s.

GM’s president “Engine Charlie” E. Wilson told Congress in 1953, “What’s good for America is good for General Motors, and vice versa.” He took home $586,100 a year when the minimum wage was $0.75 an hour and gasoline was $0.27 a gallon.

During this time 80 percent of the world’s auto production and assembly was centered in Detroit. Back then GM was the world's largest corporation and had 46 percent of the American auto market. At its peak, the company employed more than 600,000 Americans.

But little by little over the past few decades, instead of exporting their products, the auto manufacturers (like all other major American manufacturers) began exporting their factories and our jobs instead. Now American companies employee people all over the world. Just under George W. Bush alone we've lost 52,000 factories.

Through NAFTA, we have guaranteed an endless hemorrhaging of our manufacturing base out of the United States. GM is now the largest Mexico. Since 1978, General Motors has built more than 50 parts factories in Mexico, which today employ 72,000 workers and pays thousands of Mexican workers between $1 to $2 an hour.

Then GM took their second taxpayer bailout to the tune of $49.5 billion and received bankruptcy protection in 2009 to cut its costs. (GM's first big bailout was right after Work War II.)

Auto workers in the U.S. saw their wages drop by 50% since the auto bail outs. Longtime auto workers still earn about $28 an hour (a nice middle-class wage of $58,240 a year before payroll taxes). But GM's new workers start at only $15.78 an hour, about half the prevailing rate paid to the company's production employees before the bail out --- which is about what a GM janitor was once paid in 1980, or a little more than double the minimum wage today. Yet GM's CEO Daniel F. Akerson is expected to earn at least $9 million in stock and salary in 2012.

The same for Ford, who didn't even need a bail out, but agreed to raise the hourly wages of entry-level employees from $15 an hour to about $19. Ford's CEO Alan Mulally ranked #1 in auto CEO pay with $29.5 million. Mulally's compensation was up 11% from 2010 and brings his cumulative take to $148.3 million since joining Ford six years ago. Some 120,000 Ford employees have lost jobs under Mulally's reign, and Ford shareholders saw their shares dropped 36 percent last year. So much for "pay for performance" and "job creators".

Foreign automakers are placing their U.S. factories in the southern states because of generous tax incentives and anti-union sentiment, presenting a huge challenge to the once-formidable United Auto Workers. Bob King, president of the UAW, says "We keep putting more taxes and lower wages on the people who are working in this nation and keep giving tax breaks to the wealthy," he said. "And that will destroy our democracy."


We can look back to the "golden era" of the middle-class, when rural folks left the farms to work in the steel mills and auto factories. The Waltons (Wal-Mart) got super-rich from their abundant labor supply of underemployed and unemployed people living in the rural anti-union south, who were desperate for employment, when even a minimum-wage job was seen as step up from rural poverty.

It was nice that Ann Romney had made the "choice" to stay at home and "work hard" raising her sons, but most average working Americans no longer have the luxury of a "choice" if they're only earning $15, $12, $10, or $7.25 an hour. They would need to earn at the very least $25 an hour to live like a steelworker or autoworker did sixty years ago.

But those jobs went overseas and across our borders, so that American corporations could pay their foreign workers at factories like Foxconn $1 an hour, while the CEOs could rake in millions every year. And that's a fact.

Yet the Republicans refuse to raise taxes on the CEOs, the rich, and themselves to help pay down government debt. They want to eliminate the current $7.25-an-hour federal minimum wage altogether, instead of raising it. The GOP wouldn't be happier if they could eliminate all labor unions, pay school teachers and firefighters half as less, lower the corporate tax rate to 0%, and force those earning only $26,364 a year to "put more skin in the game" -- and all while the GOP cuts food stamps and TANF for the poor and all of our Social Security and Medicare benefits.

The Republicans complain about the cost of welfare and food stamps, but their corporate sponsors (and people like Mitt Romney) forced these people into poverty to fatten their own wallets. If this is what's called a "shared sacrifice" by wealthy Republicans, then why would the middle-class or poor ever vote for a Republican?

That's why our solders in Iraq and Afghanistan kept re-enlisting. They had no good paying jobs to come home to. Typical pay in the military for an enlisted 20-year-old E-2 is $37,637 a year -- or married with two children is $41,021. After four years an E-4 with a wife and two children is $48,180 a year. A new officer starts at $54,800 a year. (Pay figures do not included special combat pay, reenlistment bonuses, allowances, etc.)

Tomorrow the "job creators" will pay all of us $1 an hour, just like they now do in China and Mexico today, once they make us all desperate enough for their ridiculously low-paying jobs. Corporate America is turning us into a third world county. The average "household" will no longer need two incomes to survive, but will need four incomes at the rate we're going. A vote for Mitt Romney is a vote for George W. Bush, but probably much worse.

* The Jones and Laughlin Steel Company eventually merged with Republic Steel in 1984 to form LTV Steel. In 2002 International Steel Group purchased LTV. International Steel Group was ranked #426 on the Fortune 500. It was later acquired by Mittal Steel in 2005, and in 2006 it merged with Arcelor to become the world's largest steel company, ArcelorMittal, which is headquartered in Luxembourg.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A vote for Mitt Romney is a vote for George W. Bush

Eight years of George W. Bush gave us $10 trillion of national debt, two long wars, a housing bubble, a stock market crash and massive layoffs. Do you want more of the cuts for the rich, budget cuts for us, and more low paying jobs?

What do all these rich Republicans and Tea Partiers have in common?

Mitt Romney, Bill O'Reilly, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Sean Hannity, Eric Cantor, Glenn Beck, Rick Santorum, Rupert Murdoch, Sheldon Adelson, Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann, David and Charles Koch, Paul Rand, John Boehner, Sarah Palin, Karl Rove, Jim DeMint, Scott Walker, Kevin McCarthy, Pete Sessions, Chris Christie, Rick Scott, Joe Walsh, John Kasich, Rick Synder, Nikki Haley, Grover Norquist, Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain and Darrell Issa.

They all want to cut, cut, cut. They want to cut taxes for the rich and cut your government safety nets. They want to further redistribute the wealth to the top 1%. The nation's wealth has already been extracted from average working Americans for decades, but these same people keep trying to convince us that it's been trickling down. (Trickle-Down Economics: The Cruel 30-Year Hoax)

Republican millionaires and billionaires have already had historically low tax rates for the past 10 years, but they're pushing back hard at the thought of raising their taxes to help pay down our government debt. Instead, to reduce the federal budget, they want to accomplish this by cutting government programs that the middle-class and poor rely on.

These same wealthy Republicans, who also want to cut wages and eliminate the minimum wage for average working Americans (saying it will make corporations "more competitive in the global marketplace"), also want their taxes lower than they already are. Why? Don't they have enough?

They claim that by cutting corporate taxes (especially for the most profitable U.S. companies), and reducing their CEOs capital gains taxes, it will help to create more jobs. Oh really? Like at Wal-Mart and McDonalds?

None of them want to raise taxes on the very wealthy (which includes themselves), even though they claim they are all soooooooooo concerned about the national debt. Instead, they would prefer that the very poor "put more skin in the game".

The New York Times just reported that in the fourth quarter of 2008, while still under George W. Bush, median household income was about $55,380 a year (which would equate to $27,690 per person in a two income household).

After President Obama took office in the first quarter of 2009, the median household income fell slightly to $54,798 year (that's about $27,398 per person in a two income household).

As of the last quarter of 2011, median household income fell again, to about $26,188 per person in a two income household (or about $52,378 per median household income), about $3,000 less per household over the last three years.

Why? For two reasons mainly. In the aftermath of the Great Recession after the massive layoffs in 2008-09, we had a lot of low-paying jobs being offered during the economic recovery. Businesses have a "buyer's market" when it comes to hiring because the jobless rate is so high. People are desperate for work, and will work for less; while businesses have been doing more with less, including increased "worker productivity", using newer technologies, and by outsourcing jobs overseas for cheaper labor.

Stocks are up 100% on the Dow Jones Industrial Average since the March 2009 low. Corporations and banks have been making recorded profits and their CEOs, multi-million dollar salaries...but they're still not satisfied.

These Republicans aren't concerned about creating jobs (especially ones paying a "living wage"), they're more concerned about corporate profits and their CEOs (those "job creators").

The decline in median household incomes is nothing new, especially if you factor in the value of the dollar, the ever rising cost-of-living, and the depressed and stagnant wages, in part because of union busting and the outsourcing of jobs over the past 30 years. Just under George W. Bush alone we've lost 52,000 factories.

Republican policies have driven this economy into a service industry, servicing the top 1%. The "land of opportunity" has become the "land of low wages". Those who are looking to replace their good-paying office or manufacturing job, will now find a host of jobs paying less than $10 an hour according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (if they're even hiring).

The most recent decline in median household incomes was due mainly because of the intervening layoffs during the Great Recession. Just in one year alone, from October 2008 until the unemployment rate had peaked in October of 2009 (when the U-3 rate was reported at 10.2%), 15.9 million Americans were out of work at that time. That's what helped contribute to the national debt -- unemployment benefits, TANF, Medicaid, and food stamps for all those who lost their jobs and their employer-related healthcare insurance. See the post "Obama's 'Welfare State' "

"It's the classic downward spiral and race to the bottom" said Bud Meyers, founder and editor of the website Blogster-at-Large. "Since the stock market crash in 2008 and the housing bubble bust, we've had millions of Americans who may have once earned $2,657 a month [$31,888 a year] before being laid off. After that, they were only taking home $1,328 a month in unemployment benefits."

On average, those benefits ran out after 60 weeks. Some people, if they qualified, could receive the maximum amount of 99 weeks in some of the higher unemployed states, but this is poised to be reduced by congress, perhaps to 75 weeks.

And many politicians want to cut unemployment benefits even further, as well as food stamps, Medicaid, and public assistance. They already have in many of the Republican controlled states. They've also initiated drug testing as one way to disqualify people from receiving them, and allowing employers to make people work for free under the "Georgia Plan".

After these people exhausted all their UI benefits (and any and all other available resources) they become totally indigent. Once they've hit rock bottom, they can be means tested to receive a meager $600 a month of food stamps and public assistance such as TANF. The luckier ones might find job at some time during their financial freefall, but usually earning much less than they previously did.

If they were old enough, they might have taken a early Social Security retirement at 62, paying much less than they otherwise would have received with the maximum benefit, had they been employed until they turned 65.

Others may have taken an early withdraw on their 401ks or union pensions if they were allowed, and paid a penalty and a higher tax rate than Mitt Romney.

During his long primary campaign, Mitt Romney vowed to balance the federal budget by 2020 and sharply shrink spending by 2016. To cut $500 billion from projected spending in 2016 as promised, Mr. Romney would reduce all other federal spending by 25%, including programs such as Medicaid, which provides health care for the poor, and food stamps.

Unlike President Obama, Mitt Romney and all the aforementioned rich Republicans and Tea Partiers refuse to raise taxes (just a little) on millionaires and billionaires to help offset these costs.

Last year 50% of all U.S. workers earned less than $26,364 a year, when the poverty level for a family household of four is considered to be $22,350 a year (which is a very low government assessment). How can two adults and two children live on that, especially in larger cities. Maybe Mitt Romney knows, and he can empathize with the poor, the destitute and the homeless.

Robert H. Frank, an economics professor at the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University asks in the New York Times, "Why do many middle-class families now struggle to get by on two paychecks, whereas most got by on just one back in the 1950s and ’60s?"

One answer is, according to the book The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Parents are Going Broke (co-authored by Elizabeth Warren and her daughter Amelia), sending mothers to work has made families more vulnerable to financial disaster than ever before. (See the post, "Will 2 Paychecks Be Enough in 2012?"

The Republicans, and most recently, George W. Bush, drove the economy off the cliff --- and then they blamed Obama for gravity. A vote for Mitt Romney is a vote for Bush W. Bush, and all we'll get from the rich Republicans and Tea Partiers is just "more of the same" cuts for them and budgets for us.

My prediction is, expect "more of the same" in 2013, no matter who is elected, because the corporations have already been running this country for decades.

Below is a video I made dedicated to:

Mitt Romney, Bill O'Reilly, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Sean Hannity, Eric Cantor, Glenn Beck, Rick Santorum, Rupert Murdoch, Sheldon Adelson, Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann, David and Charles Koch, Paul Rand, John Boehner, Sarah Palin, Karl Rove, Jim DeMint, Scott Walker, Kevin McCarthy, Pete Sessions, Chris Christie, Rick Scott, Joe Walsh, John Kasich, Rick Synder, Nikki Haley, Grover Norquist, Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain and Darrell Issa.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Why Obama Should Woe Our Southern States

...or not.

A new study* that was just released by Bud Meyers has just confirmed what he's always suspected after three years of intense research. He's concluded that about 1/3 of registered American voters consistently vote against their own best interests, and that the majority of that group consider themselves to be Republican.

One reason he gives is that the Republican leadership uses psychology to promote fear and loathing. Mister Meyers also cites Fox News for using propaganda techniques that were first developed in the United States, and then later used by Joseph Goebbels, to mislead their viewer audience. He also notes how Media Matters has caught Fox News misleading its viewers with questionable graphics of Rasmussen Reports, and skewing already disingenuous studies done by the right-wing advocacy group, the Heritage Foundation.

And Mister Meyers also blames the lobbyists on K Street, who are paid by the same corporate interests that pay to get Republicans elected to office.

The vast majority of the most conservative of this group of Republicans are from Southern states, where many people live in rural areas, and where the media is dominated by conservative news stations and a strong evangelical influence, derived from prejudices and opinions dating back to the pre-Civil War era.

"It's not that these people are any less intelligent than anybody else from other parts of the country, they're just a lot less informed," Mister Meyers wrote in his report. "People in the south still harbor the same beliefs today that they did in the 19th century, due to the familial passing of those beliefs, passed down from one generation to the next."

He goes on to say that, for a minority of whites who might otherwise agree with President Obama, it is very difficult to break from the pack, lest one be ostracized from their friends, family and neighbors. "You wouldn't want to walk in to a local bar in states such as Georgia, South Carolina or Alabama wearing a t-shirt with a black man on it. That would be asking for trouble."

Northern and Western states (and most major metropolitan areas) have historically been more tolerant of blacks and other minorities, and are usually more diverse by choice; whereas the Southern part of the country opposed the Civil Rights Act.

2008 Election

When Obama ran for President in 2008, about 131 million people reported voting in the presidential election, an increase of 5 million from 2004.

"The 2008 election saw a significant increase in voter turnout among young people, blacks and Hispanics," said Thom File, a voting analyst with the Census Bureau.

The total number of voters reported to be eligible and registered for the 2010 mid-term elections was nearly 187 million, a decrease of more than 3.6 million from the 2008 elections. In several swing states, for registered voters by party, Democrats' registration was down by 800,000, Republicans' was down by 350,000, and  Independents gained 325,000.

In a recent swing states survey, Obama led Republican front-runner Mitt Romney 51%-42% among registered voters (The swing states surveyed were Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.)

According to USA Today, registered Democrats still dominate the political playing field with more than 42 million voters, compared to 30 million Republicans and 24 million independents. But Democrats have lost the most — 1.7 million, or 3.9%, from 2008.

Rasmussen reports it differently, saying that more Americans considered themselves to be Republicans (36.4%) than they did Democrats (33.4%), leaving 30.2% as Independents. But Nate Silver of the New York Times concluded that Rasmussen's polls were the least accurate of the major pollsters in 2010 and had a pro-Republican bias. TIME magazine has described Rasmussen Reports as a "conservative-leaning polling group" (citation needed).

Bud Meyers also disagrees with Rasmussen, saying "Wouldn't most Republicans prefer watching Fox News? In my post Fox News Most Distrusted Name in News I pointed out that according to a most recent poll, most people actually prefer watching "mainstream" TV news stations [cable or not] rather than Fox News. And that's just but one reason why Republican voters are so misinformed."

Mister Meyers, who wrote the political diatribe Why I Hate Republicans and the Fox News Channel, admits that for 30 years, he too was a staunch Republican supporter, until one day he finally saw the light.

"My father was born and raised on a farm in the south. As I was growing up, I visited his home town and all my extended family. They're all good and wonderful people, but sadly, I have to admit, many are a little backwards in their world view and political thinking."

He goes on to say that his father had spent almost 30 years in the military, traveling all over the world, before finally retiring. But all his life, he still clung to all his old beliefs about the African-American community (a by-product from the days of slavery in the South, although his grandfather was an immigrant from Germany who didn't settle there until after the Civil War.)

"He wasn't a racist, but he was bigoted. That's just how he was raised. He was just set in his way of thinking. People in the south still feel that way today, and it's passed down from one generation to the next; but it's almost impossible for them to admit this. For some reason, they just feel insulted when confronted on the issue. Is it guilt?" 

Mister Meyers goes on to explain why southern Republicans consistently vote against their own best interests in almost every election cycle:

"It starts at home, and then continues in their schools. While they're growing up they're indoctrinated into believing that anybody who disagrees with them is either a sinner or a communist, or both. There's little tolerance and little will to see any progressive ideology as anything other than an enemy of their Christian and moral beliefs. It's a form of extremism.

And then you have the Republican politicians, deliberately keeping their constituents 'dumbed down'. I hate to say it but, have you heard them being interviewed on Fox News? Those politicians really do sound like the typical stereotype of  "dumb red-neck hicks". They remind me of mayor Boss Hogg on the Dukes of Hazzard. And they keep repeating the same old garage and they keep saying the same thing that everyone else is saying in the GOP. They all sound like they came from the same Mike Huckabee cookie cutter. Be original! It's as though most of them don't even have a single individual thought of their own. And look at all the ridiculous legislation they tried to pass since winning the 2010 elections. They are totally off the wall."

Bud Meyers says Obama could be another Franklin D. Roosevelt, and do wonders for the country, if he could only get some co-operation from the stubborn and near-sighted Republicans, especially those in Southern states.

"Just as one example, look what FDR did for the Tennessee Valley with the TVA." Then he notes the 1944 presidential election, where the Southern voters thanked him, and voted him in to his fourth term in office. This was the last election where a Democrat carried every Southern state (FDR was a Progressive Democrat, but today Allen West would call him a Communist.)

1944 Election (Note: Sarah Palin's State of Alaska and the State of Hawaii wasn't yet in the Union.)

The South has suffered harder and longer since World War II than any other place in the nation. They have had the highest rate of poverty and economic decline, and the most low-paying and minimum wage jobs than anywhere else in the nation. And their "social safety nets" rank at the very bottom.

"Another thing that bothers me very much is how the Republicans continue to tell the American people that we have 'big government' and that 'the government doesn't create jobs, that only the private sector creates jobs'. That's a total lie."

Bud Meyers says that the federal government is, and has almost always been, the nation's single largest employer since the Great Depression and World War II. And they also pay better wages than the private industry does now, but not because they're being paid too much, but only because unions for the public sector have negotiated cost-of-living raises for them throughout the years...while union membership and wages in the private sector have remained stagnant or declined over the last 40 years because of Republican union busting. The Northern state of New York had the highest unionization rate of any state at 24.2 percent; while the Southern state of North Carolina had the lowest rate at 3.2 percent.

"Under George W. Bush the federal government employed 2 million civilian workers, and that's not counting the military and intelligence services. Wal-Mart is the second largest employer and only employs 1.4 million Americans in the United States, while McDonalds, the third largest employer, has 700,000 workers. These are the type of jobs that the Republicans have been pushing on American workers...part-time low-paying jobs without benefits. Meanwhile, under George W. Bush, we lost 52,000 factories with good paying jobs to places like China where these corporations can pay $1 an hour to their workers [slave wages] and not worry about worker safety or the environment."

Then he adds, "And the Republicans encourage this by their anti-union philosophy. Take Boeing for example, who recently built a factory in South Carolina, just so they could pay their workers less than they could in Boeing's home state of Washington. It was touted as 'jobs', but the large corporations always get the states to fight for their business like two dogs over a bone. Boeing didn't need to do this, they're making huge profits while they're dodging taxes."

Mister Meyers also rails about a Southerner's math skills as well.

"Take for example any of the Republican's tax and budget plans. They're all a farce, just to pour more money into the pockets of the very wealthy and the upper income earners. And to pay for this, the Republicans want to cut programs like Social Security and Medicare. And it's all being done under the guise of 'smaller government' and patriotism. And all those misinformed people believe all that horse manure. It's very sad, sad for the country, but mostly sad for those who live in a southern state."

And besides just the poor inner cities (and the rest of America), the South also needs good public schools, unless you can afford to send your kids to private schools. The Republicans want to cut funding for this as well, or pay their teachers like Wal-Mart or McDonalds employees; but Republican governors, who are also paid by the taxpayers, never offered to cut their own salaries.

Then Mister Meyers says, "Just ask Miss Teen South Carolina where the United States is on a map. The south has some of the most beautiful women in this country, but I fear for their academic futures and political inclinations."

Either way, Obama could be very hurt by many new state voter ID and registration laws that the Republicans say were "designed to fight voter fraud." But the laws specifically target young, low-income, African-American and Hispanic voters, and college students - the groups that have backed the Democratic president by wide margins in 2008. The GOP was also successful in de-funding ACORN, which registered more than 1 million mostly low-income voters in 2008.

The GOP doesn't want to play on a level playing field, so they try to influence elections, just to keep the party in power, who has the support of the biggest corporations and banks.

Many registered voters from both political parties have become disillusioned with their choices (especially in congress), and both parties have lost registered voters, who now consider themselves to be Independents. The key for Democrats appears to be the same in 2012 as it was in 2008, to win the young, minority, and Independent voters.

"If more voters in the Southern states had better access to progressive information, and could step outside their small circle and have an open and honest debate on the issues, and leave the bigotry and hostility somewhere else, maybe this country wouldn't be as divided today as it was during the Civil War. The 'South will not rise again', nor will any state secede from the union, so get over it already. And nobody is trying to take your guns, so chill out."

Mister Meyers also condemned Ted Nugent (who's a Yankee) for his outrageous remarks when he said, “If Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.” 

Ted Nugent, like Michael Moore and Mitt Romney, is also from Detroit, Michigan...but a world apart. (Mitt Romney was raised in the very exclusive and wealthy nearby suburb of Bloomfield Hills). Although it is odd how Ted and Mitt hate the fact that Obama saved so many jobs in Detroit. Why?

But even as hard as the GOP has been trying to lose the 2012 election, the Democrats still have to get people registered and get them out to vote, no matter how popular Obama might be in the polls...Rasmussen's poll or anybody else's.

If Obama and the Democrats can't get out the vote in the South, then maybe only the bigots, the Dixiecrats, the Tea Party crazies, the hypocritical evangelists, the Fox News followers, and all the idiots like Ted Nugent** will carry the most important election in our lifetimes, and take us back to the days of the Civil War. I hope not.

Obama once said, "We are not a collection of Red States and Blue States — We are the United States of America." If only it were true. 

Don't vote white or black. Don't vote red or blue. Just vote for someone who has your best interests at heart, and not their own.

* * An interviewer from the British newspaper The Independent questioned Ted Nugent about a 1977 interview in High Times magazine in which Nugent allegedly detailed elaborate steps taken to avoid the Vietnam draft. Bud Meyers' father, a Democrat, volunteered and served two tours of duty in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969. Ted Nugent is no more a patriotic American than any other Democrat. An Army base in Kentucky recently cancelled Ted Nugent's appearance this coming June. Commanders at Fort Knox have decided against allowing the “Motor City Madman” to take the stage at the base because of his crazy remarks about Obama, our President and Commander-and Chief. We will be waiting this time next year to see if Ted Nugent is nothing but hot air after Obama is re-elected.* There was no "official" study, but was written after 56 years of observation and opined on.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Not just Big Oil, there's also Nuclear Welfare 

The government spends on average $650 billion every year just on defense. But Speaker of the House John Boehner and the GOP always claim that "government doesn't create jobs, the private sector does."

How many jobs does government create with billions of dollars every year in taxpayer subsidies going to the big profitable oil companies? By contrast, the $500 million the government spent on Solyndra for solar panels almost seems meager, but the GOP won't stop harping about those loses.

And besides defense and big oil, the government also spends a ton of money in subsidies for the nuclear industry.

Nuclear welfare started with research and development. According to the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, since 1948 the federal government has spent more than $95 billion (in 2011 dollars) on nuclear energy R&D. That is more than four times the amount spent on solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, bio-fuels, and hydropower combined.

But all that free federal R&D for the nuclear industry wasn't enough, they also wanted federal liability insurance too, which it got back in 1957 with the Price-Anderson Act. This federal liability insurance program for nuclear plants was meant to be temporary, but Congress repeatedly extended it, most recently through 2025.

But R&D and Price-Anderson insurance is just the tip of the iceberg. From tax breaks for uranium mining and loan guarantees for uranium enrichment, to special depreciation benefits and lucrative federal tax breaks for every kilowatt hour from new plants, nuclear power is heavily subsidized at every phase.

The industry also bilks taxpayers when plants close down with tax breaks for decommissioning plants. Further, it is estimated that the federal costs for the disposal of radioactive nuclear waste could be as much as $100 billion.

Even with all of those subsidies, the private sector still will not agree to finance a new nuclear plant, so wealthy nuclear corporations recently secured access to $18.5 billion in taxpayer-backed loan guarantees.

Exelon takes in $33 billion in revenue annually and is the leading operator/owner of nuclear reactors in the United States. On the verge of retirement, Exelon CEO John Rowe's total compensation last year jumped 48 percent, to $10.7 million.

Another corporation, Entergy, with revenues of more than $11 billion annually, is the second largest. J Wayne Leonard has been CEO of Entergy for 11 years. Total compensation last year: $27.32 million (5-Year Compensation Total $89.43 million)

Someone needs to tell the Speaker of the House that government created very good-paying jobs for these CEOs.

Together, just those two companies alone, own or operate almost one-third of U.S. reactors, and based on their revenue they are doing pretty well. So why do they need endless federal welfare for their industry year after year after year? Will it ever end?

Someone needs to tell the GOP that "government" (we, the taxpayers) are not only the biggest job creators, but are also the best paying. Just ask any CEO in the defense, oil, space, and nuclear industries (the top 1%).

Also, somebody needs to ask Speaker of the House John Boehner and the GOP about how many jobs the government created for the big tobacco companies.

* Excerpted and edited from an article by Sen. Bernie Sanders and Ryan Alexander for the Huffington Post called Stop the Nuclear Industry Welfare Program