Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The REAL State of the Union (July 2013)

All the bloggers and writers of op-ed pieces in newspapers these days are saying what everyone else is saying (and already knows)....high and long-term unemployment for the past 5 years, crappy jobs, low wages, part-time hours, temporary work, no healthcare or other benefits, the offshoring/outsourcing of good jobs, young adults stuck at home with their parents, huge and growing CEO salaries, wealth inequality, rampant tax evasion, healthcare fraud, financial fraud, record corporate profits, offshore tax havens, an unfair tax code, corporate welfare (crony capitalism), globalization, foreign sweatshops, guestworker visa abuses....the list is almost endless it seems, and growing every day.

The rich get richer as the rest of us get poorer as inequality is at a record level. Corruption and greed abounds in a financial system that government refuses to reign in --- that Congress continues to do nothing about it. As a matter of fact, it was Congress that has enabled all these things to happen in the first place over the past 40 years.

And guess what? It most likely will only get worse, and might not ever get better....at least not on the path we're on now. We have declining tax revenues to support government and infrastructure because of the continued loss of good-paying jobs and a very skewed tax code. The USA continues to lose its top rankings in many categories regarding the middle-class standard-of-living.

Corporate America hasn't invested in America or the American Dream. They've been the enablers of other economies in other countries for other workers to buy things and pay taxes to other governments by offshoring jobs to many countries that don't like us very mach....all to further fatten a handful of already very fat wallets by exploiting low-wage countries.

The mainstream media, depending on who you listen to, either sugar-coats the facts or misrepresents them. On MSNBC (a major supporter of Obama because of his close ties to GE's CEO) had on ex-CBS news reporter Dan Rather saying it was a good thing that a Libertarian was buying the Washington Post. Meanwhile, a major supporter of the Tea Party, the Koch brothers, are trying to buy the LA Times. And we already know the agenda of Fox News (who supported Mitt Romney). Not only can our politicians now be bought on the cheap, but so can the Fourth Estate.

Obama is going to make a major speech on the housing market, and will most likely tell us how home prices are rising again. But most of the buyers are either wealthy or foreign investors, taking advantage of the low prices --- and if they can't pay cash, will finance at low interest rates, making us a nation of renters. 20 million Americans are either unemployed or working part-time and most probably don't have the cash for a down payment, can't afford a mortgage payment and don't have a good enough credit rating to qualify for a mortgage. A 30-year fixed rate mortgage can keep housing costs fairly steady for a household for three decades, but someone who pays rent can see their cost of keeping a roof over their head go up every year.

Speaking of housing, with so many of our young people still reliant of their parents, they would have to start forming communes (multiple room-mates) to afford housing costs on their low-paying jobs. Not to mention the disabled and elderly, who are trying to survive on their meager Social Security benefits. With ever-increasing costs for food and energy, how will they also be able to afford rent? The CEOs and members in Congress certainly don't seem overly concerned, or they would have done something long ago...like 40 years ago.

The political process is corrupt; campaign finance laws only enables those with the most money to have a voice in politics. Propaganda and outright lying to the American people is the norm, just to keep those in power in one of the two political parties. They will say anything to retain or regain power with little concern for the people that the they're supposed to actually represent. They don't serve the people, but themselves, and why so many became wealthy only after getting into political office.

The GOP wants to ban all "pro-life" clinics, believing that fetuses have a right to life; but when a baby has the unfortunate luck of being born to a poor family, the GOP wants nothing to do with educating or feeding them if their parents lack the financial means...as though procreation was an absolute choice (rather than a primal instinct) and that personal responsibly was the only factor in a child's upward mobility --- as though babies could make any choices at all, or take personal responsibly for their own being.

The Democrats talk the talk when it comes to the middle-class, but were equally complicit in maintaining the preferential tax treatment of capital gains over the last 90 years...one of the primary factors that has been driving income disparity. Why are the most wealthy among us allowed this special tax, and not taxed like we are on our regular wages?

Obama talks about low-paying jobs and the offshoring of good-paying jobs, but signs more free trade agreements...saying one thing, but doing another. And the GOP is also pushing for more guestworker visas, which of course, the labor unions are steadfastly against. The GOP has been busting unions for the last 40 years. But even the co-founder, CEO and editor-in-chief of Business Insider says he hates labor unions, but unless companies start raising wages, we're going to need them.

The Republicans complain about government entitlements but neither party will tax the rich the same way as everyone else --- according to their annual adjusted incomes in the income tax brackets that are currently in the tax code. The tax code was written specially for the most wealthy individuals and corporations. Tax loopholes (legislated on behalf of lobbyists) is why many companies pay less, and sometimes pay ZERO in "effective" corporate taxes --- but yet, claim we have the highest "statutory" tax rate in the world. If the tax rate were 100% but loopholes allowed them to pay 0%, what difference does it matter what the tax rate is? And the offshore tax havens have yet to be outlawed.

The GOP wants to defund the IRS so that these people and their revenue streams can't be audited and taxed to fund a growing population, education and infrastructure --- but at the same time, wants to keep funding the defense industry because of lobbyists, holding jobs as hostages in all 50 states.

The Democrats had plenty of chances to make changes when they held power in all three branches of government --- but passed Obamacare to further enrich the healthcare industry, which is already riff with corruption, greed and fraud --- just look at Medicare. But rather than effectively cut fraud, the GOP wants to cut benefits to the elderly --- and the Democrats, to get what they want, talk about "compromise" --- such as chained-CPI for Social Security on the elderly, but yet, doesn't subject their own Congressional salaries to the same standard.

Both parties have allowed the $113,700 cap on Social Security taxes, but then some also complain that not enough people are paying in to the system make it solvent in the future. 50% of US workers earn $27,000 or less and pay this tax on 100% of their income. Members of Congress, who earn $174,000 (or more) a year, do not pay this tax on 100% of their income. CEOs who earn millions every year pay ZERO Social Security taxes on their capital gains from stock options. Raise wages, tax capital gains for Social Security and eliminate the cap. Case solved.

But both political parties won't do this because they're both beholden to the big banks, big corporations and the wealthy (half of Congress are millionaires...so they write the tax code for themselves too, just like they did with the insider trading law called the STOCK Act.)

Congress just left for another paid vacation (for 5 weeks) without passing a farm bill to renew food stamps to 47 million poor Americans. They didn't pass an immigration bill either, or a host of many other reforms that are needed. Instead the House voted to repeal Obamacare for the 40th time (primarily to repeal the 3.8% surtax of capital gains on the very rich to help fund Obamacare for the poor); and Obama went on the campaign trail again to "talk" about the declining middle-class.

Speaking of banks that are too big to fail and their CEOs who are too big to jail: Why does our central bank (the Federal Reserve) loan money to the commercial banks for 99% less than what the American people have to pay for their home, auto and school loans? Nationalize the Fed and the entire banking system and get rid of the corrupt and greedy middle-men (BofA, Citigroup, JPMorgan, etc). Why does our central bank print money (actually, digitally creates out of thin air), just to profit these banks? The Fed has no obligation to see these commercial enterprises succeed in a genuine market-based economic system. Although, the Fed does have a responsibly for job growth. One bank (The People's Bank) is all we need. If some reckless Wall Street investment banker wants to gamble, they can do it with their own money, not money that's insured by the FDIC (taxpayers). And ban the monopolies of commodities that these banks use to manipulate prices.

Both major political parties have enabled the vast gap in wealth inequality in America...and although many Democrats might complain, only a very few have actually attempted to correct this. And for the most part, the GOP blames everyone who's not rich for being poor.

Maybe Congress could pass a law banning all imports from American companies and their subsidiaries operating overseas unless all their foreign contracted employees abroad were paid the same prevailing minimum wage as in the US. (It would be impossible to get the G-8 to agree on a global minimum wage). And if not that, impose such prohibitive tariffs that American companies would prefer to hire American workers, and then start EXPORTING their products again, instead on importing them (Are American-made imports considered a part of US GDP?) But still, we have more trade agreements like the TPP, thanks to both our political parties. If we're not exporting jobs, we're importing people to take what jobs there are.

Voter suppression laws are on the rebound. Super PACS are thriving. The Supreme Court gave corporations (which are legal entities that are government-sanctioned statuses to businesses for the purpose of taxation and limited liability) "peoplehood". This could very well be the beginning of the end of a democratic government because of the dramatic rise of corporate plutocracy. We are living and witnessing the decline of the American Empire due to globalists and globalization. And maybe partly because of ignorant voters who keep voting the same old politicians back into office (keeping them in power for decades). So maybe some of us only got what we deserved, but why should the rest suffer for their ignorance? (I didn't say Tea Party!)

The most tragic thing is, not only have we've seen the morality of our captains of industry diminishing day by day, we've also seen the dramatic economic decline of the average working American, who like a hamster in a cage spinning their wheel, have gotten nowhere in the last 40 years --- while we've seen the moral decay of our corporate business leaders who have been raking in more money than ever before in human history.

And so in the end, we might only have ourselves to blame. These days the American Dream might be just that...a dream. Now I know how the ancient Romans might have felt. It seems that it's true: nothing lasts forever, and that also applies to the US middle-class and the American Dream...the dream that was.

Update: Just as I thought. As usual, almost everything that Obama said in his speech today made perfect sense, and therein lies the problem. Republicans in the House will do just the exact opposite of every idea that Obama proposes (because he's half black?)...and many times the House will reject Obama's ideas just because it was Obama himself that proposed them.

It's a shame that Obama didn't propose these ideas (and pushed Congress hard to adapt them) back in 2009 and 2010. In hindsight, it might have been better that Obama wasn't elected in 2008. Maybe then John McCain might have moved more to the center (instead of further right) and Glenn Beck wouldn't have helped inspire the Tea Party and the slew of radicals that took over the House in 2010. After all, how much worse can things be than they already are now?

Oh yeah...Mitt Romney...he might have been the next president instead of Hillary Clinton or Chris Christie. So essentially, for the remainder of Obama's term, and into the next presidency, things will mostly remain the same (because of gerrymandered congressional districts) and the media will continue to report on things (like the U-3 unemployment rate that's keeps falling) that only they want us to know. Personally, I'd like to see more live coverage of the fast-food strikes.

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