Wednesday, January 30, 2013

IRS Budget Cuts Creates More Tax Cheats

Over the years, wealthy taxpayers have found countless ways to game the system, and every time the Internal Revenue Service has moved to plug a loophole, the code has become more and more complicated.

And it doesn't help that Congress (mostly Republicans) have de-funded the IRS so much that they can't hire more tax auditors to investigate massive tax evasion.

I was watching MSNBC's The Ed Show tonight when Ed Schultz was interviewing a man named David Cay Johnston about IRS budget cuts. It got me to thinking why so little is ever mentioned about this, especially with all the talk about the debt ceiling, the fiscal cliff, annual deficits and the national debt.

And I also wondered why no one in Congress ever talks about it whenever they're being interviewed on all the cable news shows? Nowadays they have immigration reform and gun control as their diversions.

Over six years ago David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize winner and a Reuters columnist wrote, "The federal government is moving to eliminate the jobs of nearly half of the estate tax lawyers at the Internal Revenue Service who audit tax returns of some of the wealthiest Americans, specifically those who are subject to gift and estate taxes when they transfer parts of their fortunes to their children and others."

Six I.R.S. tax lawyers had said in interviews at the time that the cuts in the I.R.S.'s budget were just the latest moves behind the scenes to shield people with political connections and complex tax-avoidance schemes (e.g. Mitt Romney and his off-shore bank accounts),

Back then, Sharyn Phillips, a veteran I.R.S. estate tax lawyer in Manhattan, called the cuts a “back-door way for the Bush administration to achieve what it cannot get from Congress, which is repeal of the estate tax.” Republicans call this the "death" tax.

Officials at both the I.R.S. and the Treasury have told Congress that cheating among the highest-income Americans is a major and growing problem.

And the I.R.S. tax lawyers said that when audits showed the use of complicated schemes to understate the value of assets, the I.R.S. had become increasingly reluctant to pursue cases. (Note Mitt Romney's 500 page tax return. Oh, and the rich get amnesty for committing felonies; but working Americans have their paychecks garnished.)

The I.R.S. tax lawyers had also said that the risk-analysis system that the I.R.S. uses to evaluate whether to pursue such cases gave higher-level officials cover to not pursue tax cheats, and in the process, emboldened the most aggressive tax advisers to prepare gift and estate tax returns that shortchanged the government.

A year ago David Cay Johnston wrote, "Congress will spend a trillion dollars more than it levies this year. So how do Washington's politicians respond to the 11th consecutive year of federal budgets in red ink? They plan to shrink the IRS."

The national taxpayer advocate, Nina Olson, had said in an annual report last year, "Congress needs to ensure that the IRS continues to be effective; either by reducing the IRS workload, or by providing adequate funding to enable it to accomplish its assigned mission."

Instead of cutting tax auditors, we should be expanding the revenue-generating IRS staff because there is plenty of tax money to be had, even in this economy. David Cay Johnston notes that "it makes no economic sense to trim the ranks of auditors who generate more than a hundred times their annual salaries. Keep in mind the IRS costs just a half penny for each dollar of tax collected."

On the whole, ordinary working Americans do not cheat on their taxes because their incomes are easily checked through W-4 reports by employers. Yet, according to David Cay Johnston, middle-class Americans are much more likely to be audited than the super-rich.

The winners in budgets cuts to the IRS will be the tax cheats among sole proprietorships and other business owners, who are subject to far less verification (like hedge fund managers). According to the IRS the tax gap report estimated that just one percent of wages escapes taxes, while 56 percent of "amounts subject to little or no" verification do so ($385 billion a year in lost revenue due to tax evasion)

America's biggest corporations, those with more than $250 million in assets, will also escape some tax if the IRS budget is cut --- about 86 percent of corporate income taxes.

From 2005 to 2009, hours spent auditing the biggest corporations declined by 33 percent. Two decades ago, when the economy was a third smaller, the IRS staff numbered about 118,000. Now it down 20% with 95,000 staff members --- and it's going lower. The likelihood of a big corporation being audited has plummeted 50 percentage points, from 72 percent in 1990 to 22 percent in 2010.

In 2007 Chris Edwards, director of tax policy at the Cato Institute, a libertarian research and advocacy group in Washington, said that Congress is driving the need for more audits. Since 1995, he said, “the Republicans greatly complexified the tax code, contributing to tax evasion and making the I.R.S.’s job more difficult.”

David Cay Johnston wrote, "Whether you like the corporate income tax or think it is an abomination, failing to enforce it with the same rigor as taxes on wage earners is indefensible. IRS budget cuts worsen budget deficits and send a corrosive signal that only chumps file honest tax returns."

Nine months ago David Cay Johnston also wrote an article about the abuse of a tax loophole that was meant to aid the poor.

But I digress: Why would President Obama and Congress cut the IRS budget? David Cay Johnston says "their actions illuminate the rise of corporate power and values, and the diminishing voice of Joe Sixpack, thanks partly to how we finance election campaigns. Then there is the growing army of corporate lobbyists and the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United, which allows corporations (and unions, fighting fire with fire) to spend all they can afford on influencing elections."

And let's not forget to blame the Republicans too. David Callahan writes, "The right has been waging a war against the IRS nearly since its founding, and uses every chance they get to take a whack at the agency's budget. As a result, our tax collection system has become a sieve and an estimated $3 trillion has been lost to tax evasion over the past decade alone."

*** David Cay Johnston (at the New York Times) is an investigative journalist and author, a specialist in economics and tax issues, and winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize. Since 2009 he has been a Distinguished Visiting Lecturer who teaches the tax, property and regulatory law of the ancient world at Syracuse University College of Law and Whitman School of Management. From July 2011 until September 2012 he was a columnist for Reuters, writing, and producing video commentaries on worldwide issues of tax, accounting, economics, public finance and business. Johnston has been board president of Investigative Reporters and Editors since June 2012. See: "The Fine Print: How Big Companies Use 'Plain English' to Rob You Blind"

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Immigration Reform, H-1B VISAs & the Guest Worker Program

The Kauffman Foundation is a non-profit foundation based in Kansas City, Missouri. It has an asset base of $2 billion. The Kauffman Foundation states that its vision is to foster "a society of economically independent individuals who are engaged citizens, contributing to the improvement of their communities". It focuses its grant making and operations on two areas: advancing entrepreneurship and improving the education of children and youth.

Associates of the foundation work with partners to support programs that directly impact a child’s academic achievement, with a concentrated focus on math, science, engineering and technology skills. Through a comprehensive ten-year initiative to significantly improve math and science education in Greater Kansas City, the Kauffman Foundation hopes to help create a national model for how to prepare the next generation of entrepreneurs and workers needed in the United States.

This blogger recently read an in-depth study that this foundation wrote on our immigration policies, and they advocate for immigration reform concerning what they call the "Reverse Brain-Drain". They say that "more than a million skilled foreign nationals in the United States, including doctors and scientists, face a mounting visa backlog."

The Council on Foreign Relations references this study on their website, saying "Reforming the cumbersome visa and citizenship process for immigrants, particularly skilled foreign workers in high-demand STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields, is a priority to ensure that the country retains its competitiveness in the global economy, say some experts and politicians, who are concerned about the prospect of a "reverse brain drain."

From The Huffington Post: The 'best and the brightest' of immigrants would be given an easier path to legal immigration.

Congress has attempted multiple times to reform the legal immigration system for high-skilled workers, most recently with the STEM Jobs Act in the House last year, which sought to give green cards to foreign graduates with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The White House opposed the bill because it wanted comprehensive immigration reform, and the bill never got a vote in the Senate. A separate bipartisan group of senators -- led by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) -- plan to introduce a bill to address "high-skilled workers".

The Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC) also strongly disagrees with the current Senate proposal on a "Path to Citizenship", but for very different reasons than of this blogger's concerns.

Obama said any reform package must make immigrating legally easier to navigate for high-skilled workers and graduates with advanced degrees in the United States.

Those who agree with the President’s proposal says it attracts the best minds to America, by providing visas to foreign entrepreneurs looking to start businesses here and helping the most promising foreign graduate students in science and math stay in this country after graduation, rather than take their skills to other countries.

Virgil Bierschwale from Keep America at Work in Texas says, "I say this with full confidence having spent my life in these STEM industries. There is NO difference between a carpenter and a programmer. Both build things with their hands. I managed to spend 30 years programming computers with only a basic understanding of basic math."

Contance Kaplan, a Mexican immigrant living in New York City says, "Too many working Americans are clueless about Obama's H-1B visas on employment. Jobless Times did two shows on this topic and the negative impact it had on Americans trying to get decent jobs. This only encourages foreigners to take our jobs away at less pay. India's job boards are full of ads and include the process to obtain these visas. Obama broke all records deporting illegal Mexicans, but this group is NOT taking away American jobs because we don't like washing dishes and cutting grass. I find it reprehensible to give good professional jobs to foreigners vs. Americans."

Below is an e-mail I sent to Brianna Lee Production editor at the Council on Foreign Relations, Barbara Pruitt at the Kauffman Foundation and Tom Phillips at Communication Partners.

----- Original Message -----

Why is the Kauffman Foundation and the Council on Foreign Relations so concerned about skilled foreign workers in the U.S --- and why are they so concerned about immigration reform, regarding the so-called "reverse brain drain"?

From what I gather, they are not seemingly so concerned about our own college graduates and unemployed engineers. Is it because foreign workers here on a VISA grant in a guest worker program can under-cut domestic wages?

What particular skills are needed in the U.S. that aren't already being currently pursued (or possessed) by natural born U.S. citizens? Can you provide me with a list?

In this CFR article it states that "more than one million skilled immigrant workers, including scientists, engineers, doctors and researchers..." --- but do we not already have a few million unemployed Americans, which might also include scientists, engineers and researchers? And is there a shortage of doctors as well?

Shouldn't our colleges and universities be put on alert, to be made aware of the deficient curriculums they are presently providing to our young people? Shouldn't high school guidance counselors also be trained to know the needed skills in the future work force?

Do the CEOs (our "captains of industry" and "community leaders") communicate their concerns to our schools and colleges regarding the unskilled output of our students and graduates?

Does our government and military also have a shortage of scientists, engineers and researchers? And if so, are you saying that it's out of necessity that we recruit them from China and India?

Do other Western industrialized countries also have a "reverse brain drain"?

Thank You,
Bud Meyers

*** NOTE: If I receive a response, I will post it as a comment to this article. I'm very concerned about the provision in the new proposed immigration bill that gives special preferential treatment to foreigners with so-called "special skills". This will further deteriorate domestic wages.

Jamie Dimon Accuses Bank Regulators of "Misinformation"

To End Extreme Poverty, End Extreme Wealth 
From TooMuchOnLine - January 29, 2013

The world's wealthy gathered in the Alps again last week to discuss how to 'solve' the world's problems. The world's biggest problem, suggests one top global anti-poverty outfit, may be their fortunes.

Apologists for inequality have a standard retort to anyone who calls for a more equal distribution of the world’s treasure. If you took all the wealth of the wealthy and divvied it up equally among all the poor, the retort goes, no one would gain nearly enough to accomplish much of anything.

Oxfam International, one of the world’s premiere anti-poverty charitable organizations, would beg to differ. The world’s top 100 billionaires now hold so much wealth, says a new Oxfam report, that just the increase in their net worth last year would be “enough to make extreme poverty history four times over.”

“Oxfam's mission is to work with others to end poverty,” Oxfam analyst Emma Seery noted last week. “But in a world with limited resources, this is no longer possible without an end to extreme wealth.”

Oxfam timed its new analysis, The cost of inequality: how wealth and income extremes hurt us all, to appear right on the eve of last week’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. This earnest “issues” confab annually brings together a glittering array of global business and political leaders.

The world’s corporate and financial elites began this January trek into the Alps back in 1971. But the Davos sessions really didn’t start grabbing big-time global media attention until the go-go 1990s.

“Throughout the boom years,” as a UK Guardian profile last week noted, “chief executives would gather every winter high up in the Swiss Alps to discuss in a lordly fashion the world economy and how it could be revised to suit their objectives and views.”

But in these days of deep global economic uncertainty, the power suits that frequent Davos have lost their mojo — and even feel pressured to address the global economic inequality they've so long tried to sweep under the rug.

That pressure last week came from figures like Christine Lagarde, the former French finance minister who now directs the International Monetary Fund. Lagarde blasted outsized executive pay in high finance, attacked bankers for lobbying against new regulation, and called for more “robust social safety nets.”

Oxfam, for its part, is calling for much bolder steps to narrow the stunning gap between the global uber rich and everyone else. The group is urging world leaders to “commit to reducing inequality to at least 1990 levels.”

Meeting that goal, the new Oxfam report relates, would require a wide range of measures, everything from far more steeply graduated income tax rates to actual pay caps that limit how much corporate executives can take home to a multiple of what the lowest-paid workers in the firms they run are making.

Oxfam is also emphasizing the importance of cracking down on offshore tax havens. As much as a quarter of global wealth now sits shielded offshore.

But don’t hold your breath waiting for the Davos crowd to buy into any of this bolder agenda. Even the modest reforms that the IMF's Lagarde urged last week found no wide support among the corporate and banking movers and shakers who ambled up to the Alps for this year’s Davos gathering.

One American on hand for the 2013 Davos festivities, JPMorgan Chase chief exec Jamie Dimon (pictured below), made no move to hide his distaste for reformers. Bank regulators, he charged, were “trying to do too much, too fast” — and spreading “huge misinformation” about the noble work underway at banks like his.

“We’re doing the right thing,” Dimon assured his fellow Davos notables.

Other global corporate notables at Davos sang a similar tune. Azim Premji, the chairman of the Bangalore-based Indian high-tech giant Wipro, admitted that the new Oxfam data — on how the richest 100 people in the world are earning much more than enough to end the world’s worst poverty — do “sadden” him.

But Premji declined in an interview to term the incredible concentration of the world's wealth in any way “unethical.” We need not waste time, he suggested, worrying about “redistribution.” We need instead to help the rich grasp their “obligation,” their “trusteeship responsibility,” to wield their wealth for good.

Trust the rich, in other words, to solve our problems.

Not on your life, says Oxfam.

“In a world where even basic resources such as land and water are increasingly scarce,” Oxfam's Jeremy Hobbs sums up, “we cannot afford to concentrate assets in the hands of a few and leave the many to struggle over what's left.”

Sunday, January 27, 2013

GOP to Use Soviet-Style Election Tactics

Besides gerrymandering and voter suppression laws at the State level, the Republicans are still doing everything they can to steal elections away from the American people and to subvert our democracy.

The GOP can't win the hearts and minds of the people with their vision for America based solely on their draconian Ayn Rand-style public policies, nor can they convince the voters of their sincerity and empathy with Paul Ryan's brutal austerity plan.

And most Americans have learned that most Republican leaders can't be trusted to tell the truth either, as we've so clearly witnessed through the last election cycle.

Only a minority of Americans agree with the Republican's stand on social issues, as well as other planks in their party's platform such as abortion, gun control, immigration and equal pay for women (just to name a few).

Most Americans also believe in evolution, and agree with the way their church has reconciled religion with science, something many Republicans refuse to acknowledge, still embracing 18th century ideas and being "ultra-conservative" by conserving their obsolete ideas and stubbornly clinging to their antiquated beliefs and superstitions from an ancient and by-gone era.

The Republicans have been living in a surreal world: The United States of America is not "Leave it to Beaver", where the majority of the people are white and living in upper-middle-class neighborhoods, where mom stays home baking cookies while waiting for the Beaver to come home from school. Although, Ann Romney might have done that. But the real economy and our demographics were much different then, and especially so today.

Back in Beaver's time, union membership made up 35 percent of the work force during the mid-1950s, when the population in the U.S. was 160 million people. Today union membership is at a 70-year low with 12% of the work force belonging to a union in a growing population that's almost doubled to 315 million people.

For decades the Republicans have been very busy busting labor unions to bring down wages in order to increase CEO bonuses --- bonuses that are paid by the same corporations that paid for the GOP's elections (just follow the money).

In case no one has noticed, there are two economies in this country.

  1. The "maker's economy", the tiny percentage of the population (mostly bankers) that controls the vast percentage of the wealth --- and those whose stock shares on the Dow Jones are on track to pass the all-time high this year --- and those whose personal federal income tax rates are still lower than those earning $50,000 a year, while their corporations have been earning record profits and they've been being paid record salaries and bonuses.
  2. And the "taker's economy", the vast majority of Americans who have struggled for years trying to survive on dwindling and stagnant wages, while an ever growing number are having to rely on food stamps, just to make ends meet (and who will also need Medicare and Social Security when they become too old or sick to work any longer.)

Since late 2008, one economy has rebounded with a luster under President Obama, while the other economy has remained flat-lined with Tea Party and Republican obstructionism in the House of Representatives.

For decades the Republicans have helped dragged down the wages for all working Americans, because when the labor unions go, so goes everybody's fair wages, working conditions and worker's benefits --- such as healthcare, holiday pay, over-time pay, and the 40-hour a week. Just look at Wal-Mart and McDonalds, now America's two largest private sector employers. The Waltons and Mrs. Kroc pay the same wages today that high school drop-outs could have earned 30 years ago working in a factory right after graduating from high school.

And besides just EXPORTING jobs to China for cheaper labor, the Republicans also advocate using the guest worker program and VISAS to IMPORT cheaper labor to the U.S., under-cutting our college graduates and unemployed engineers.

Unlike the Republican's policies on unions, worker's rights, fair wages, universal healthcare and family leave, most Americans who enjoy these benefits today, do so only because of the competition that the union work places provided for non-union companies. That's a fact.

For several years the GOP has been attempting to turn private sector American workers (aka taxpayers) against public sector workers (who are also taxpayers) by using envy and bashing public union employees for earning more than everybody else in the private sector...but it's everybody else in the private sector who should be earning AT LEAST what the public union employees earn.

To bash union employees for being paid a fair and middle-class wage when you are not, is a cop-out. For those of you who are not being paid a fair wage, instead of complaining, the under-paid should get off their whining asses, join a labor union and demand a raise. Otherwise, nobody is going to just voluntarily hand it to you on a silver platter. Fact.

The Republicans have been using "class warfare" to create dissension among the ranks of working Americans (divide and conquer), while the Democrats (and Occupy Wall Street) have correctly pointed out that the real class war has been waged by the very wealthy against working Americans. If you don't believe it, just ask Warren Buffett.

Paul Ryan comes from a very well-to-do family and calls those living in poverty "takers"; even though he put himself through college using Social Security death benefits; but yet he still pontificates that "60% of all Americans get more in government benefits than they pay in taxes".

Even if this were true, then it's because his corporate sponsors pay far less in wages than they get in exchange for labor --- while paying too little in taxes on their corporate profits. If people were paid a "living wage", they wouldn't need so many government benefits. 50% of the U.S. work force only nets $27,000 a year or less.

Meanwhile, Paul Ryan's family business Ryan Inc Central profits from government spending.

In conjunction to his $174,000+ annual congressional salary, in 2011 Paul Ryan earned $60,000 in capital gains, and as Vice-President under Mitt Romney, he wanted to tax capital gains at ZERO percent. Is that his definition of "shared sacrifice" and his plan for fixing the budget and reducing the national debt?

But I digress: The GOP likes to portray union leaders as mafia bosses; and they and Bill O'Reilly always depict Progressive policies as "far-left" --- implying that they're either Communist or Socialist --- like Florida congressman Allen West had once did last year, before being unceremoniously dumped by his constituents. Fox News still puts Allen West on the air as a pundit, like Fox News often does with all their kooky, obsolete, irrelevant and has-been rejected politicians (Sarah Palin and John McCain are two other examples.)

But Bill O'Reilly's definition of "far-left" today is really "mainstream", and it's the Tea Party and "far-right" that is tittering over the edge of public opinion, and might soon vanish into oblivion, only to end up as a minor footnote in American history.

And just like with the labor unions, the Republicans have also used propaganda campaigns to demonize the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) --- and any other body of government that supports regular working Americans. (see my posts on Boeing Inc. here and here)

Most Americans disagree with most Republicans on most Republican policies, and the Republicans know this --- and this is clearly demonstrated just by comparing the numbers from Fox News opinion polls (from people who ONLY watch Fox News) to all other bipartisan polls (from people who get their news from ALL news sources, including Fox News).

And that's why the Republicans now have to resort to rigged elections to gain political power for themselves on behalf of their corporate backers.

For decades the GOP has used scare tactics, slander, and lies to win elections. Now the GOP is attempting to take power away from the majority of the people by using a very sinister plan...much like the way elections are rigged in the Soviet Union. (See my post: Republicans Use Psychology to Promote Fear)

In other words, after soundly losing the elections last year in 2012, even when the Republicans were already playing dirty, the GOP plans to play even dirtier that ever before.

This week a Republican-controlled State senate subcommittee in Virginia approved a radical plan to award the state's electoral votes from "winner-take-all" to parceling them out by Congressional districts (gerrymandered districts).

Thanks to Republican gerrymandering, if this plan had been in effect last year, Mitt Romney would have won 9 of Virginia's 13 electoral votes -- despite losing the state by an overwhelming number of popular votes. And if every battleground State adopted this plan, President Obama would have lost the Electoral College last year, and Mitt Romney would be our president today. (OMG!!!)

It's the new Republican game plan. If you can't win fair-and-square based on your policies and ideologies, then twist the rules and rig the game. And if this plan passes in Virginia, you can bet your ass that crooked and power-corrupted Republican leaders in other battleground States like Florida, Wisconsin, and Ohio will soon follow.

Vladimir Putin would be very proud of the Republican's election process today (because it would validate his own presidency), even though the GOP still wants to start wars with his pro-Soviet proxies.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Hyde Amendment: 40 Years of Bigotry and Racism

The Republicans claim they are concerned about government spending, and use the excuse of cuts in Medicaid for the poor as one means to accomplish this; and that includes federally funded contraception and abortions.

So in theory, the Republicans are encouraging more poor women to multiple by denying them the means of preventing unwanted children, but at the same time, also denying them the means of supporting those children by making more cuts to welfare and food stamps to those who can't afford to raise children.

What would happen if instead, millions of unwanted children were left abandoned and made wards of the state? Wouldn't it cost the taxpayers far much more to pay adoption agencies 18 years for each child? That's how the GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann profited from raising 23 foster children.

The Hyde Amendment bars the use of federal funds to pay for abortions, with some exceptions for incest and rape. The amendment applies only to funds allocated by the annual appropriations bill for the Department of Health and Human Services -- and it primarily affects Medicaid.

The Hyde Amendment, which has been routinely attached to annual appropriations bills since 1976, was named for its chief sponsor, Republican Congressman Henry Hyde of Illinois. The measure was a response to the Supreme Court 1973 case Roe v. Wade that legalized abortions.

Opponents of the amendment assert that it unfairly targets low-income women because the amendment effectively ends the provision of abortions through Medicaid.

Proponents of the amendment assert that using federal funds for abortions is against their religious beliefs, and crosses the line between church and state. But for many other Americans, "thou shall not kill" is also against their religious beliefs, such as the deathly penalty for capital crimes.

And many people also believe that their co-mingled federal tax dollars should not be used to fund illegal wars that are waged by Republican presidents, resulting in the tragic death and/or dismemberment of hundreds of thousands of young Americans.

And after our Veterans (heroes) come home from serving our country in bloody wars, the Republicans in Congress (many who are draft dodgers themselves) would rather cut funding to G.I. benefits (first) before they would ever consider thinking about taking a small cut in their own $174,000 annual congressional salary --- to make a noble and "shared sacrifice" for the good of the country.

As an aside: Why do we even pay members of Congress like Darrell Issa, who has a net worth of $450 million --- just to have him vote against the majority of the American people's will and their best interests --- such as the funding for Medicaid and ObamaCare®?

But I digress. Although Roe v. Wade technically makes abortions legal and constitutional, Republicans have forced their religious beliefs and ideologies upon others who don't share the Republican's short-sighted, radical and Neanderthal views.

And on a State level, besides just financially, the Republicans are also making abortions as difficult as possible for women to obtain (such as using shame, intimidation, ultrasounds, ostracization and threats. Some deranged private citizens have even murdered pro-choice citizens.)

The Republican-dominated gerrymandered House of Representatives in Congress has already passed a record number of anti-abortion bills just since 2010, even while knowing full well in advance that none of them would ever pass the Senate. The GOP has been wasting an enormous amount of precious U.S. taxpayer dollars on hours of these wasted legislative efforts in Congress -- including the repealing ObamaCare. Yet, the Republicans are constantly and hypocritically complaining about government spending (which is actually down).

Many Republican-dominated state legislatures have passed state laws and "personhood" bills to make access to abortion as difficult a s possible, especially for low income women who don't have access to any other healthcare insurance besides Medicaid.

Some states only have one clinic throughout the entire state that offer abortions, and are hundreds of miles away from low income women without cars or who can't afford or physically access a bus for a long round-trip journey.

Most of the Republicans who initially won legislative seats, didn't campaign on limited access to abortions (or union busting or district gerrymandering). But once elected, they passed many of these unpopular measures against the majority of the People's will.

The Hyde Amendment is a tool that the Republicans use to circumvent many women's constitution rights. But the Republicans don't care. If they could, they would rule like dictators, while at the same time, preaching God and country and the values and virtues of our Founding Fathers (even though many were slave owners, adulterers and atheists).

Now, because the Republicans are falling out of favor with the majority of the American people, they are now planning more voter suppression laws and changes to the electoral college to help "fix" the next cycle of elections in their favor.

The Republicans have no dignity, no heart, no compassion, no empathy, no sense of fair play, no kindness and most importantly, no soul. They are the party of hate, womanizers, racism, bigotry, anger, ignorance, evolution deniers, birthers, selfishness, insecurity, conspiracy theorists, lies, deception and cheating.

Republican politicians only care about themselves, their immediate friends and families, and the people who fund their political campaigns -- getting money from the big banks, big corporations and Washington D.C. lobbyists on K Street -- like the NRA.

And that is another reason why Citizens United should be overturned -- and why we should have publicly funded elections. That way, the next time a member of our self-serving Congress goes on one of their many annual vacations, they won't be beholden to a CEO on the other side of the country, but instead, will only have to answer to the average people who work and live in their congressional districts.

The Republicans claim to value life, but once poor women begin having lots of babies, the Republicans will tell these same women that they are all on their own. The GOP won't support the funding of birth control to keep poor women from having any unwanted pregnancies in the first place.

And the GOP won't support an equal pay bill to help raise these poor children after they are born; and the GOP won't support a higher minimum hourly wage to help mom raise her kids; and the GOP won't support Planned Parenthood for the health of these women; and the GOP won't support TANF and food stamps for these moms and their children; and the GOP will always attempt to cut the funding to Medicaid and ObamaCare for the health and welfare of these poor women and children.

The Hyde Amendment should have been named the Jekyll and Hyde Amendment, because it is a sinister bill that's meant to harm poor and mostly minority women. But the Republicans will never admit to that. They'll just say the bill it based on their religious beliefs. (Yeah, right. As though the Republicans were really so Christian and "holy-like").

But the Hyde Amendment did do one good thing. It helped changed the demographics of the electorate, watering down the Republican's ever shrinking voting block. All the unwanted children who were forced to grow up in poverty, and were raised hearing the Republicans call them "takers" all their lives, can also vote when they turn 18 years old.

Pictured Below - Republican Congressman Darrell Issa* chairs the House Oversight Committee holding a hearing to "investigate" President Obama's regulation on women's contraception.

What's missing? Women.

* According to his bio at Wikipedia, Republican Congressman Darrell Issa was guilty of illegal firearm possession, repeated grand theft auto, arson and insurance fraud -- and now he has a net worth of $450 million.

The Watchdog Institute accused Issa (as leader of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform) of building a team with close connections to industries that could benefit from Issa's many "investigations". The American Family Voices filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics against Issa alleging he had repeatedly used his public office for personal financial gain.

In the photo above, one can easily imagine him as a sinister member of the mafia. Republican Congressman Darrell Issa made his vast fortune in security alarms, but last year his home was burglarized. Was that more insurance fraud?

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Democrats Who Killed Filibuster Reform

The Senate Democrats can no longer complain about GOP obstructionism any more. All of their and Harry Reid's blathering was just hot air. They had a chance for real filibuster reform yesterday, but instead, they denied the American voters their due.

Senate Resolution 15 (the filibuster reform bill) was passed by a vote of 78-16. The Democrats hold the majority in the Senate, but voted with the Republicans to kill real filibuster reform. In essence, the bill, sponsored by Harry Reid (D-NV) and co-sponsored by Arizona Republican John McCain and Michigan Democrat Carl Levin, does squat.

This was the American people's chance to force congressional legislatures to go before the American public to to publicly state why they would oppose voting up and down on bills that affect our daily lives.

If this doesn't please you, look up your senator and their contact information here -- or call the congressional switchboard operator at 202-224-3121 and ask the operator for your Senator's office to complain.

The Democrats declared unequivocally on Wednesday that they had the 51 votes necessary to reform the filibuster. Harry Reid had publicly said that reform was needed and that he was willing to use the "nuclear option" -- changing the official Senate rules with a bare majority of 51 votes -- to get it done if he had to.

But the very next day, using suggestions offered by John McCain, Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats stabbed us in the back (then later tried to sugar-coat their actions).

According to this blog post (which was cited by the Washington Post), and contrary to what we may have heard, it still might be possible for brave Democrats to impose rule changes by a majority vote whenever they want -- and not just on the first day of a Congress

A few Democrats have circled their wagons around Harry Reid, pathetically excusing their cowardly votes and making lame excuses for doing so.

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) told reporters, “That’s how this world get a negotiation, then you reach something called compromise."

Last night Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) was babbling on the Rachel Maddow Show, making all kinds of feeble excuses, saying that there would still be the House to contend with.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) told reporters that she’s satisfied with the package: “Yes, I am. I think it’s sufficient.”

Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) said it’s a reasonable compromise. “I think it’s good,” she said. “I think it’s progress.”

Co-sponsor Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) was pleased that the deal looks like the proposal he put forth to avoid enacting further-reaching reforms with 51-votes. "We avoided using a nuclear option which, I guarantee you, would’ve led to a meltdown in the Senate. It would’ve made the gridlock we’ve seen so far look like a Sunday school picnic.”

You mean, Senator Carl Levin thinks that filibuster reform would have made things worse than they already are? Who in the hell is he kidding? What an ass!!!

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said the package would make the Senate more efficient.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) said, “I think Senator Reid has done a very significant bit of reform.”

Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) characterized the agreement as a step in the right direction.

Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) said the deal reflects “real progress” toward a more “functional” Senate.

The Republicans agreed with these Democratic Senators. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) said he voted for the rules change, saying, “The rules change doesn’t really do a lot. But it certainly preserves the 60-vote threshold, preserves the blue slip procedure. It preserves the filibuster.”

Yes, and it also preserves Republican obstructionism.

My related post from yesterday:

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Harry Reid & Senate Democrats Screwed Us Big Time!

Call the United States Capitol switchboard at (202) 224- 3121 and ask the operator for your Senator's office to complain (I just did and the lines were burning up!)

Ezra Klein at the Washington Post: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have come to a deal on filibuster reform. The deal is this: The filibuster will not be reformed."

But the way the Senate moves to consider new legislation and most nominees will be. Big "F" -ing deal!

Not too long ago, just last year, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was blasting away at Senator Mitch McConnell and the GOP on filibusters and obstructing the will of the people. Back then Harry Reid said the Republicans were "abusing" the filibuster rule.

But that was last year, when Harry Reid was "for" filibuster reform...before he was against it. Now today, Senator Reid and the Democrats in the Senate screwed the American people again. Reid says he's not ready to change the filibuster rule unless the Republican "abuse" it.

Harry Reid: “I’m not personally, at this stage, ready to get rid of the 60-vote threshold”.

WTF!?!?!?!? Is Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell now "best friends forever"?

Say goodbye to:

  • Tax reform
  • Immigration reform
  • Voter suppression reform 
  • Election campaign reform
  • Defense spending reform
  • Gerrymandering reform
  • Filibuster reform

Now all we have to look forward to is four more years of congressional gridlock. The GOP will continue to hold the country hostage to the debt ceiling and spending. The only "reforms" the GOP wants are those for Medicare and Social Security ("entitlement reform").

What "reforms" the majority of the people had wanted were totally trashed by Senator Harry Reid and his fellow Democrats in the Senate today. We could never trust the Republicans, but now, we can no longer trust Democrats either! Who in the hell CAN we trust in politics?

Give yourself another damn raise Harry! How much do we pay congressional leaders now...$225,000 a year?

See the video of Harry Reid when he was "for" filibuster reform...before he was against it. (Two-faced politicians! Back stabbers all!)

The Daily Kos tries to sugar-coat it a little, and tells us what "good"  things might come from Harry Reid's shitty deal.

P.S. I just saw Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) babbling on the Rachel Maddow Show, making all kinds of feeble excuses ...and pissing me off more!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Raising Minimum Wage will Cut Government Spending

Raising the Federal Minimum Wage Would Allow Us to Cut Government Spending - Because $7.25 an Hour is NOT a "Living Wage".

When people are paid less than it costs to live, yes, they will try to qualify for "free stuff". After paying for food and rent, who can live on $71 a month? If we raised the U.S. Federal minimum wage to $20 an hour, the Federal, State and local governments would no longer have to subsidize wages -- meaning, the taxpayers wouldn't have to give away most of all that so-called "free stuff".

The U.S. government defines "poverty" for a single person (without children) as someone with AN ANNUAL GROSS INCOME of $11,170 --- which includes ALL sources of income (wages, unemployment insurance, Social Security, welfare, veteran's benefits, pensions, alimony, child support, etc).

Over 38 million American wage earners (25% of the entire work force) NET less than that a year. And 50 million (33% of the entire work force) only NETS $15,000 a year or less (based on wages earned that are subjected to FICA and Federal income taxes and are reported by employers on Forms W-2. (Source: Social Security Administration).

If you work full-time and earn $8.25 an hour in Nevada, you would be OVER the limit to qualify for food stamps (SNAP).

And if you earned ZERO in income and had ZERO in assets, but were older (say 55) and had access to an IRA, 401k or pension fund for an early withdrawal, that would be considered first before determining whether or not you could qualify for TANF (welfare) -- which is only $400 a month for a single person without children in the State of Nevada.

I've lived all over the country, and so the calculations below are based on the REAL average cost-of-living expenses based on my own personal experiences. You can use your own "wage" and calculate your payroll taxes here -- and then apply the cost of rent, utilities and groceries where you live.

If You Live in Las Vegas and Earn the Nevada Minimum Wage

In my case scenario below you are single, you have no children, you live in Las Vegas, you earn the Nevada minimum wage of $8.25 an hour and you walk to work, so you don't need no car. (I also don't mention exemptions, deductions or other expenses that could convolute the scenario, keeping this scenario as simple as possible.) I also use Nevada in my scenario because it not only represents the average cost of rent and food, but it is also is the best case scenario for someone making $8.25 an hour, where there is no State, County or City taxes withheld from someone's paycheck (as it is in places like NYC).

Here Are Your Basic Monthly Living Expenses

  • $750 rent for a 700 sq-ft one-bedroom apartment (includes W/D, water, trash pick- up)
  • $150 electric or gas (heat, A/C, hot water, cooking, etc.)
  • $200 food ($50 a week or $6-$7 a day)
  • = a total of $1,100 a month -- or $13,200 a year for the most basic living expenses.

Look at this weekly paycheck

If you are earning the Nevada minimum wage in Las Vegas (and pay no state or city payroll taxes, just federal and FICA taxes): That equates to $8.25 an hour X 40 hours a week (if you are allowed to work full-time) = $270.18 NET a week after payroll withholding taxes (see chart below) = $14,049.36 a year in actual take-home pay.

That this leaves you...

  • $14,049.36 in NET wages per year
  • minus $13,200.00 a year for rent, heat and food
  • = $849.36 a year NET as a balance --- or $70.78 a month to live on.

What can $70.78 a month pay for, beyond BASIC rent, heat and food?

$70.78 a month is what you will have left over for...

  • clothes
  • hygienic and cleaning goods
  • basic land line telephone (no cell)
  • basic cable TV and internet connection (if this is not considered a "luxury", like telephones and refrigerators once were.)

After that, this is what you would not have any money left over for...

  • health insurance (not near enough!)
  • savings for emergencies (not enough)
  • savings for retirement (not enough)
  • school tuition (not enough)

Now let's add another "luxury"

  • car payment (not enough)*
  • car insurance (not enough)
  • gas for car (not enough)
  • car maintenance (not enough)

* Remember, in my case scenario you are walking to work, so a car isn't needed -- although most people need a car to get to work. And you are living in a small average-sized apartment within walking distance to your work, so you wouldn't need bus fare either.

The maximum monthly gross income in Nevada (for someone who is single without children) to be eligible for food stamps is $1,174 a month GROSS (or $903 a month NET).


If you earn the Nevada minimum wage of $8.25 an hour (X 40 hours a week ($330) X 52 weeks a year ($17,160) ÷ 12 months = $1,430 a month) that is OVER the limit to qualify for food stamps. Are you getting all this Bill O'Reilly?

In other words, in a State like Nevada, if you are single, you would have to be already living near the poverty level to qualify for food stamps, and you will only have your Social Security income to rely on when you get older if you opt to take welfare and try live on $400 a month in cash assistance with $200 a month in food stamps. (which is $600 a month X 12 months = $7,200 a year in government assistant) and maybe you might also qualify for state Medicaid for healthcare, especially if you have a pending Social Security disability claim.

Fox News Bill O'Reilly said "millions are leaving their jobs to go on disability" and that Social Security disability is a con. He says," It's easy to put in a bogus disability claim." Yeah Bill, it might be easy to file a claim, but it's very difficult to actually peruse a claim and to have a claim eventually approved (it takes about 2 to 3 years on average).

And IF approved, the average monthly SSD benefit is $1,111 -- or $13,332 a year -- which is what you'd be earning making $8.25 a hour --- just enough for a small apartment, heat and food -- which is too much to qualify for food stamps in Nevada --- and leaving you about $70.78 a month left over to live on.

But Bill O'Reilly and John Stossel (and all the other loons at Fox News) are telling the general public that millions of lazy slackers are leaving their jobs to get $40,000 a year in government benefits. PANTS ON FIRE! They say those things to deliberately enrage the taxpayers, so that they will demand more cuts in government spending (so that multi-millionaires can pay less in taxes).

Bill O'Reilly and John Stossel (and the Republicans and Tea Party) want everyone to believe that millions of Americans are living "high on the hog" and drinking Margaritas by pool at the taxpayer's expense. These seek out a few bad examples and use them to make their case with false analogies. It's just not true.

So what part of my scenario doesn't corporate America, the Republicans or people like Mitt Romney and Bill O'Reilly understand? When people are paid less than it costs to live (or earn nothing at all), yes, they will try to qualify for "free stuff", such as food stamps (etc).

A payroll check for a single person in Nevada earning $8.25 an hour for 40 hours in one week.

Net Pay
Calculation Based On

According the Bureau of Labor Statistics there are 1,427,300 maids and housekeeping employees in the U.S. -- and that number is expected to climb to another 111,600 over the next 7 years. Maids and hotel housekeepers work very hard for a median average wage of $9.32 an hour.

But they only gross 82¢ an hour more than in my case scenario...just like the 1.2 million Americans who work at Wal-Mart, or the 745,000 who work at McDonalds, and all the others who work at places like Dominos, PaPa Johns and Staples --- employers who pay the "47%" sub-standard wages and give them no benefits.

What part of my scenario doesn't corporate America, the Republicans and people like Mitt Romney understand?

Mitt Romney's "47%" are just regular Americans who are forced to try to live on a net annual income of $27,000 a year or less -- and why 80% of all households NEED two wage earners just to survive -- and why mom can no longer stay home to supervise the kids -- and why over 45 million Americans don't have healthcare and also need food stamps.

>>>> Raise the federal minimum wage to $20 an hour and the government won't have to subsidize wages in the private sector any longer, so there will be far less people who need to "free stuff". Then maybe multi-millionaires like Bill O'Reilly can stop whining about government "hand outs" -- and the "makers" can stop complaining about the "takers".

And then maybe we can cut government spending (while eliminating tax loopholes for millionaires) and lower the national debt.

As an aside - Speaking of tax loopholes: If someone like Mitt Romney can deduct $17,000 a year from his federal income taxes for the cost and care of maintaining a show horse as a medical expense (because it's therapeutic and makes his wife Ann feel better), then if someone loses their job and is diagnosed for depression, can they buy a dog and also write off the cost and care of their pet because it makes them feel better? Just wondering ;)

Fraud, Greed & Profits Drives Healthcare Costs

This is what the Republicans know, but they aren't saying...

In the U.S., those at the very top in the heath care industry are opportunists, charging "whatever the market can bear".

No matter what debilitating disease you might have, no matter how sick you are, no matter how much pain you're in, health care in this country is just like buying an automobile --- you get what you pay for.

The rich don't need ObamaCare - they've been installing full-fledged emergency rooms right inside their homes, each complete with an array of medical gear that mirrors what the White House has available for the President. They even have them installed on their yachts and private jets!

Some hospitals are specifically competing for wealthy clients by offering them perks like butlers, fancy beds, beautiful views, and fine food. 

But if you're poor with a tooth ache, you'll need a pair of pliers and a shot of whiskey.

In the United States a neurosurgeon must complete four years of college, four years of medical school, a one year internship, and at least five years of a neuro-surgery residency. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top neurosurgeons made an annual salary of $225,390 in 2010. (From Forbes.Com - See what other hospital employees earn)

The CEO of a hospital only needs a business degree. Among the highest-paid "public employees" in California was at the Palomar Pomerado Hospital. Chief Executive Michael Covert's pay totaled $1.04 million in 2009. The hospital's chief executive, Nancy Farber, was the second-highest-paid official and was paid about $874,000.

The healthcare publication Payers & Providers reported that the average compensation for "private hospital" chief executives averaged $732,000 a year, and far surpassed the annual salary of $225,390 that a top neurosurgeon might earn.

A neurosurgeon, the most educated and highest skilled person in the health care industry, with an adjusted gross income of $225,390 a year, will pay 33% in federal income taxes for 2013 --- and they will also pay Social Security taxes on their first $113,700 of income -- with the maximum of $7,049.40 in Social Security taxes.

By contrast, a corporate raider like Mitt Romney could have $100 million invested in a pharmaceutical company, earn $20 million a year in carried interest, and only pay a 20% capital gains tax (before deductions) and pay NO Social Security taxes at all. (See the 2013 tax rates). And the first $10 million Mitt and his wife leave their 5 sons will be totally exempt from any inheritance taxes (which was meant to protect the company assets of small family-owned businesses, not the heirs of the Hilton Dynasty.)

But even the "average" of $732,000 a year for a hospital's CEO is paltry when compared to what many others earn in the health care industry. Some earn far more than Mitt Romney; and few (if any) earn less than a neurosurgeon.

Our health care system, from the top down, seems more driven by "profits" and "pay" than about "health care", health being the by-product of patented medicines, medical devices made in China, CEO's compensation packages and Medicare fraud.

Our deficit problems and high Medicare costs (paid for with Medicare taxes, mostly by the bottom 98% of wage earners because "investment income" hasn't been taxed for Medicare), isn't because old people were unnecessarily getting dual-hip replacements....two or three times.

And our senior citizens weren't busted in FBI sting operations for bribing doctors for extra pain medications --- to use or sell on the black market to supplement their meager Social Security incomes. Medicare costs are high because of the corporations and CEOs that the Republicans hold in higher esteem than God.

Heath care costs are more driven by greed (and many times fraud), plain and simple.

Richard Scrushy was once the superstar CEO of HealthSouth, a huge provider of outpatient rehab services until federal prosecutors accused him of masterminding a $2.7 billion fraud.

A Few Examples of Health Care Fraud (too numerous to list here)

In the U.S. about $70 billion is lost to heath care fraud every year. And these people who cheated Medicare, most likely also cheated on their income tax return too -- and tax evasion costs us another $337 billion every year (Do you hear me Mitt?)

  • CEO Earnest Gibson III of Riverside General Hospital, along with his son and five others, were arrested by the FBI as part a national Medicare fraud sweep involving $430 million in bogus billings and 91 health care providers in seven states.
  • Kent Thiry, who's paid $15 million a year as CEO of DaVita Inc., defrauded the government by over-billing Medicare and Medicaid "hundreds of millions, easily!"
  • Marcus Jenkins, the owner of several Detroit-area businesses that housed severely mentally-disabled Medicare recipients pleaded guilty for his role in a $13.2 million fraud scheme.
  • Texas psychiatrist, Anthony Francis Valdez, wrongly billed over $42 million in medical procedures.
  • Abshir Ahmed, operator of a home health care agency in northeast Minneapolis is charged with filing bogus Medicaid billings totaling more than $400,000.

Thousands of medical professionals have steadily billed Medicare for more complex and costly health care over the past decade - adding $11 billion or more to their fees - despite little evidence that elderly patients required more treatment.

While Mitt Romney was a director of the Damon Corporation, the company was defrauding Medicare out of millions, and yet Romney’s and Paul Ryan's plan would have ended Medicare for the elderly as we know it. (Romney also helped the Marriott Hotel dodge millions in taxes, taxes that could have helped fund Medicare for All.)

Mister Rick Scott ran a company that paid a record fine for committing Medicare fraud; but then as Republican Governor Rick Scott, he cut millions from health care benefits for Florida's poor.

Now Florida's chief economist has warned the staff of Governor Rick Scott that his Medicaid cost estimates are all wrong, but Rick Scott keeps using them anyway.

Other CEOs in Health Care

The average pay of a CEO in the S&P 500 was $12.94 million. (Source: AFL-CIO Corporate Watch - December 2012). Here are some examples of excessive ANNUAL CEO salaries in the healthcare industry, and another reason why the cost of healthcare might be so high:

  • John Hammergren of McKesson Pharmaceuticals - $131.2 million 
  • George Paz at Express Scripts Healthcare - $51.5 million
  • Stephen Hemsley at UnitedHealth Group - $48.8 million
  • John C. Martin of Gilead Sciences (Biotech) - $42.7 million
  • David Pyott at Allergan Pharmaceuticals - $33.8 million
  • Gregory Lucier of Life Technologies (Biotech) - $33.8 million
  • Louis Camilleri of Philip Morris (Tobacco) made $32.7 million (I just threw this one in for good measure.) Source: Forbes.Com

Health Care, the Deficit and Government Spending

The deficit has grown mostly because of the Great Recession. Repeat: The deficit has ballooned, not because of specific spending measures, but because of the recession. The deficit more than doubled between 2008 and 2009 as the economy was in free fall. Does anybody else remember that?

That was when 8.5 million laid-off American workers paid less in taxes and needed more benefits, such as unemployment benefits and food stamps. That was when millions lost their homes, life's savings and cars -- and some their spouses (and sometimes their lives to suicide). That was the "shared sacrifice" the middle-class and poor had made during the Great Recession.

But even still, the actual deficit actually shrank in 2010 and 2011.

The 2008 stimulus bill cost much less than Bush's wars and tax cuts. Republicans frequently have blamed the $787 billion stimulus package for the deficit. But, when all government spending is taken into account, the stimulus wasn't that big. In contrast, the U.S. will have spent nearly $4 trillion on wars in the Middle East by the time our conflict in Afghanistan comes to an end -- that, according to a recent report by Brown University. The Bush tax cuts alone have cost nearly $1.3 trillion over the last 10 years.

As everybody knows, the deficit grew under George W. Bush (we didn't have a Tea Party telling us the sky was falling back then). When George W. Bush took office, the federal government was running a surplus of $86 billion. When he left, that had turned into a $642 billion annual deficit, with over $10 trillion in national debt. Under Obama, the national debt grew from $10 trillion to $16 trillion because of the Great Recession (Obama has 4 more years to run up another $4 trillion in debt to TIE George W. Bush).

Last year's federal budget deficit was 12 percent lower than in 2009, according to the Office of Management and Budget. The deficit is projected to shrink even more over the next several years.

Investors are paying us to borrow money! The interest rate on 10-year Treasury bonds is negative, according to the Treasury Department. Investors are even paying us for 30-year Treasury bonds, when adjusted for inflation. Investors are not running away as the GOP like to claim. Conservative commentators have been warning for years that investors will run away from Treasury bonds because of the national debt. So far that's not happening. Interest rates on Treasury bonds continue to hover at historic lows.

Health care reform actually reduces the deficit. Republicans have blasted the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare®) as "budget-busting." But health care reform actually reduces the deficit, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

We spend too much on health care, especially when compared to all other modern and industrialized nations. Health insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid, constituted 21 percent of federal spending last year. In contrast, education constituted only 2 percent of federal spending. 

And the U.S. government is borrowing much less from foreign countries (such as China) than before the recession, according to government data cited by Paul Krugman. That is because the U.S. private sector is financing our bigger deficits.

We spend far too much on Defense. Defense spending constituted $718 billion of federal spending last year, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. This adds up to 41 percent of the world's defense spending, according to Bloomberg TV anchor Adam Johnson. (* See my post about defense spending)

And believe it or not, many Republicans may actually WANT larger deficits...for now. The federal budget deficit ballooned under Ronald Reagan, and that may be just the way Republicans like it. Some Republican thinkers have proposed "starving the beast": that is, cutting taxes in order to use larger deficits to justify spending cuts later. Since Republicans ultimately want lower taxes and a smaller government, what better way is there to cut spending than to make it look urgent and necessary?

Taxing to Fund Health Care

The top 1% doesn’t want to help fund our healthcare and Social Security; and most Americans don’t want to help subsidize their big oil companies (making record profits), their bloated defense contractors (who outsource our jobs), their unnecessary wars (WMDs?), their big pharmas (who over charge us) and their corporate agribusinesses (such as big dairy, big tobacco and Michele Bachmann's farm) who all get taxpayer subsidies.

50% of all American workers net less than $27,000 a year and the average "HOUSEHOLD" income is $50,000 a year -- and 80% of all "HOUSEHOLDS" have (and need) two wage earners. Most can't afford to pay the high cost of the CEO's salaries in the health care industry.

Capital gains and dividends (CEO salaries called "investment income") should be taxed at the regular marginal income tax rate (the top rate being 39.6%, not 20% like the billionaires will now have to pay (it was only 15% from 2003 to 2013). As it is now, at 20% Warren Buffett's secretary will still pay a higher tax rate than her boss.

All “investment income” (capital gains made from real estate, stocks, dividends, carried interest and fine art etc.) should also be taxed for Social Security and Medicare...which is currently exempted. (I think ObamaCare® might start imposing a tax on this income). The $113,700 cap on Social Security taxes should also be eliminated, because almost everyone else (especially the poorest) has to pay this tax on 100% of their earnings.

Bankers, oil barons, the CEOs of Apple and Hostess, hedge fund managers, Mitt Romney and other corporate raiders will pay a 20% capital gains tax (before deductions) on their stocks, stock-options and deferred interest --- Aha! But working Americans who have their pensions, IRAs and 401k plans invested in stocks are taxed at the regular marginal tax rate, depending on their annual adjusted gross income. Why aren't the ultra-wealthy taxed the same way as everybody else?

Loopholes should be eliminated and deductions capped (like Mitt Romney’s show horse as a medical expense) when 16 percent of the U.S. population (48.6 million people) had no health insurance last year. Source: NPR (December 2012)

Six years ago Warren Buffett said: “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war --- and we’re winning.” And because of a lack of affordable health care for the "47%", that is another reason why the rich are living longer than everyone else.

Read this post to see what else our ultra-wealthy "captains of industry" have been up to, and then ask yourself, "Why don't the Republicans want to tax the top 1% for our heath care, schools, and infrastructure?"

The Republicans know all these things, but they don't talk about it very much when they get their faces on TV. It's much easier for the Republicans to go after "soft targets" --- the low hanging fruit --- like the frail, the poor, the disabled, and the elderly (because they don't have lobbyists). These are the people that the Republicans are saying "should put more skin in the game". These are the people (the 47%) that Mitt Romney calls "free riders". But for some odd reason, many of these people will still foolishly vote against their own best interests and vote Republican. (Go figure.)

See the links below --- this is what the Republicans know, but aren't saying.

Starve the Beast - The GOP 30 Year Strategy 

Corporate Profits Hit Record High --- Worker Wages Hit Record Low

The Corporate Tax Rate Is Lowest in Decades

CEO's in the S&P 500 Average $13 Million a Year, Year after Year

Capital Gains Taxes on the Wealthiest at Historical Lows

Every Year $1 Trillion Not Taxed on the Rich for Social Security or Medicare

$385 Billion A Year Lost to Tax Evasion