Thursday, April 29, 2010

Mojave Cross Ok

Apparently the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, has decided that the 8 foot cross which has served as a war memorial for some 75 years on top of Sunrise Rock in the Mojave Preserve doesn’t violate the 1st Amendment.

As I understand the court’s decision, based upon a quick sound byte from NBC news, the conclusion was that sometimes a cross is just a sign of respect for the dead and carries with it no religious significance.

Right, and if it was a crescent you’d be hearing yells of indignation all over the place.

Be that as it may, one needs to consider (1) 75 years of tradition, (2) the VFW donators were most likely Christian and (3) the overwhelming majority of the World War I dead it was intended to memorialize were Christian.

If you consider the three prongs of the Lemon Test, clearly the cross has a secular purpose and just as clearly it doesn’t lead to excessive entanglement of the government with religion. The only real question is does it promote religion?

The conservative majority of the court seemed to think no. Personally I would have erred on the side of caution and declared the cross unconstitutional.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The New Giants/Jets Stadium

I was there on the weekend. Basically they let the PSL holders wander around. I’m not sure if it’s a football stadium with restaurants or restaurants with an attached football stadium.

It’s BIG that’s for sure. The lower deck and mezzanine each have what amounts to two levels. On the first you approach the seats from below and on the second from above. The upper deck was closed but I’m pretty sure that had only one access level.

My seats are in the mezzanine and I was so high up I felt like God looking down on the field. I don’t want to know what it’s like in the upper deck especially near the tippy top. I’m under the overhang again like I was in the old stadium but there you felt that because the next level wasn’t too far above your head. Here you’d never know there was another deck if you didn’t look straight up. It’s WAY up there.

The mezzanine club restaurants are pretty impressive and extend along the entire field on both sides of the stadium. For the moment these will be restricted to people who have the club seats. As a matter of fact, the only way to get to those seats appears to be via the restaurant. I give that two years until they figure out they’re losing out on all those extra wallets, and then I’m betting they’ll offer club access for a fee.

I’m not even going to talk about the Coach’s Club, playground of the $20,000 PSLs and $750 per game tickets.

If they skimped, it was on the space surrounding the field. There’s limited room between the playing field and the stands and the corners of the end zones appear to be right up against the wall. I’m not even sure you could walk by without stepping on the playing field.

Then there are the poles. Duh, instead of using a cantilever design there are four poles in each end zone mezzanine holding up the upper deck and there are seats right in back of the poles. We all had a lot of fun seating in those seats and speculating on the guys that forked over $4,000 for a PSL and $120 per ticket to sit behind a chunk of steel. I later found out that, supposedly, the entire column of seven seats behind the pole weren’t sold and they are to be removed in favor of a safety railing. Uh-huh, we shall see.

To be honest the best, and saddest, part of the trip was a chance to bid a final farewell to the old stadium which is about halfway torn down. I’m glad it was raining. A sunny day amid the wreckage of so many memories would have been inappropriate.

I wonder if they’ve found Jimmy Hoffa yet?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

School Budget Votes in New Jersey

The war of words in New Jersey became a war of votes yesterday as voters went to the polls and considered the school budget proposals for next year.

Basically Governor Christie called for the budgets to be defeated while blaming the teacher’s union for much of the financial crunch.

Unfortunately most Americans are idiots and many appeared to have listened. 54% of the plans, 260 out of 479, appear to have been defeated. This would be the largest percentage since 1976 when 56% failed.

But here is an interesting point to ponder. In Bergen County, arguably the most affluent county in the state, 74%, 55 out of 74, school budgets passed. How come?

In my home town of River Vale the budget was narrowly approved by a vote of 1,077-1,060. The Pascack Valley Regional Budget, which River Vale Shares with Woodcliff Lake and Hillsdale, also passed by a vote of 3,823-3,702.

The obvious conclusion here is that the most affluent people aren’t feeling the economic crunch as badly as everyone else. This should not be a surprise. These are the same people that have gotten the lion’s share of the benefit from the economic growth over the past 30 years.

However, trying to undo negotiated contracts and attacking the quality of education in a state ranked in the top 5 in education are not the ways to resolve budget issues. Certainly there should be some give on the teacher’s union side but Christie’s ham handed approach to “negotiation” is a crock.

In the meantime Christie doesn’t appear to have any problem spending millions on additional staff including two, not one, but two, administrative assistants for his wife.

This is another example of Republicans providing a scapegoat for the working and middle classes to blame for difficulties which in fact are the result of the typical Republican policy of taking care of the rich while screwing everyone else.

Blame illegal immigrants, blame minorities, blame the teacher’s union, blame big government, the Republicans always find someone for the gullible electorate to blame. By the time the dupes realize they’ve been lied to, if they ever figure that out, they’ve invested too much emotion into the lie to back away from it.

It’s a great strategy that has worked many times. All it takes to implement is a total lack of integrity. This is why I will never vote for a Republican.

As for fats, he could probably resolve the state’s budget deficit simply by going on a diet.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Arkansas Law Banning Gays from Adopting Declared Unconstitutional

I missed this one because of all the furor over the declaration that the National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional but a circuit court judge declared the law unconstitutional last Friday.

The howls of indignation from the Religious Right have been muted only because of the howls going on about the Day of Prayer.

There may be some hope for this country after all.

Oh, by the way, I've now decided we should keep Kansas and use Oklahoma as a place where we can lock up the religious crazies of the world. Maybe the Oklahoma Voluteer Militia they want to form down there can keep the religious nuts from killing each other.

The Contract from America

The Tea Party issued its “Contract from America” on April 15 (Tax Day! Very appropriate). Here are the 10 Items with commentary and position.

1. Protect the Constitution
Require each bill to identify the specific provision of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to do what the bill does.

And who decides if they’re right? This provision, while well meaning, simply highlights the naiveté of the movement. This doesn’t change anything beyond adding a “…based upon Article X of the U.S. Constitution the following law…” etc, etc, ad infinitum.

The intent is good, but the proposed solution is worthless. - OPPOSED

2. Reject Cap & Trade
Stop costly new regulations that would increase unemployment, raise consumer prices, and weaken the nation’s global competitiveness with virtually no impact on global temperatures.

This assumes Global Warming is a myth and accepts, with no evidence, the assertion that Cap & Trade will have significant negative economic impacts without any positive environmental impacts. They said the same thing about Air Pollution regulations way back when. It was bullshit then and its bullshit now. - OPPOSED

3. Demand a Balanced Budget
Begin the Constitutional amendment process to require a balanced budget with a two-thirds majority needed for any tax hike.

This is utterly ridiculous. You will NEVER get this done. We can’t wait and I don’t think a two-thirds majority for a tax increase makes any sense. I agree we need a balanced budget but this isn't going to get you there. - OPPOSED

4. Enact Fundamental Tax Reform
Adopt a simple and fair single-rate tax system by scrapping the internal revenue code and replacing it with one that is no longer than 4,543 words—the length of the original Constitution.

The idea of a Tax Code less than 4,543 words is utterly ridiculous and naïve. Yes the Constitution is only 4,543 words long but consider the thousands upon thousands of pages of court decisions interpreting what the Constitution MEANS.

Tax reform is an excellent idea. I think the income tax needs to be replaced by some sort of consumption or goods and services tax but limiting the reform to 4,543 words is idiotic – OPPOSED

5. Restore Fiscal Responsibility & Constitutionally Limited Government in Washington
Create a Blue Ribbon taskforce that engages in a complete audit of federal agencies and programs, assessing their Constitutionality, and identifying duplication, waste, ineffectiveness, and agencies and programs better left for the states or local authorities, or ripe for wholesale reform or elimination due to our efforts to restore limited government consistent with the US Constitution’s meaning.

And who chooses this Blue Ribbon task force and who decides whether or not to accept its recommendations? I don’t have a problem with doing the study, but it’s unclear where this leads. Still, the audit makes a lot of sense. Didn’t I say a while back that something like this was needed? – In Favor

6. End Runaway Government Spending
Impose a statutory cap limiting the annual growth in total federal spending to the sum of the inflation rate plus the percentage of population growth.

Lots of luck in getting agreement on the formula. This is another naïve statement. If you have a congress that wants to exceed the limit, they can simply change the statutory cap like they keep changing the debt limit.

Again, the intent is noble, but the proposed solution is useless. - OPPOSED

7. Defund, Repeal, & Replace Government-run Health Care
Defund, repeal and replace the recently passed government-run health care with a system that actually makes health care and insurance more affordable by enabling a competitive, open, and transparent free-market health care and health insurance system that isn’t restricted by state boundaries.

This is a really bad idea. I like eliminating the state boundary restrictions but other than that this is really dumb. To rein in the budget deficit you have to get Health Care costs under control and Health Care Reform was the first step. Also, let's not forget those 32 million uninsured Americans who are (1) not getting proper health care and (2) driving the cost of it up for all the rest of us who have to foot the bill when they get sick or injured.

This is by far the dumbest idea in the contract - OPPOSED

8. Pass an ‘All-of-the-Above” Energy Policy
Authorize the exploration of proven energy reserves to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources from unstable countries and reduce regulatory barriers to all other forms of energy creation, lowering prices and creating competition and jobs.

What proven energy reserves? These folks seem to believe the nonsense that the U.S. has vast untapped energy resources which just flat out isn’t true.

Nor am I willing to give the oil companies a “do whatever you want” blank check. Some energy sources have severe negative consequences and I’m not about to deregulate the industry.

It’s also highly unlikely that this will generate competition and jobs. It’s more likely to stifle competition and eliminate jobs because it will continue to allow the entrenched oil companies to control the market and they have zero incentive to develop alternative sources. - OPPOSED

9. Stop the Pork
Place a moratorium on all earmarks until the budget is balanced, and then require a 2/3 majority to pass any earmark.

Oh I like this idea. Let’s also add that earmarks need to be separate pieces of legislation and can’t be riders. – In Favor

10. Stop the Tax Hikes
Permanently repeal all tax hikes, including those to the income, capital gains, and death taxes, currently scheduled to begin in 2011.

This is just pure ignorance, naiveté and stupidity. If we’re going to get the budget deficit under control some tax increases are going to be necessary and rolling back the idiotic tax cuts of the Bush Administration is a damn good place to start.

Besides, "Permanently" can only mean until another congress decides to put them back. This is another example of ignorance.– OPPOSED

So, in the final analysis, I can only support two out of the ten but I do sympathize with the intent on four other items I just think the proposed approach is useless.

It’s really a shame that for so much noise there was so little useful output.

I thought at one time this movement might evolve into something useful but after seeing this, it's clearly composed of ignorant assholes that don't have a clue and given the chance would just make things worse. I really don't believe that 37% college graduates number. What college? Liberty University?

78% of Americans Don’t Trust the Government

Well, I can’t say as I blame them. The constant drumbeat of issues and problems was going to take its toll eventually. The Republican strategy of “screw the country just make the Democrats look bad” has apparently succeeded.

Dear Barack, you better figure out a way to pull a rabbit out of your hat because otherwise we’re screwed.

Here’s the deal, what has me worn down is the pure dishonesty of the right’s assault. It’s like that game where you bang the gophers over the head as they pop up. No matter how many you bang down, they just keep popping up including those you’ve already banged down ten times already.

The same old lies just keep coming. Opinions are one thing; everyone is entitled to their opinion. You are entitled to think the Stimulus was a mistake and that Health Care Reform is a bad idea. But please stick to the facts. Death Panels and Illegal Immigrants getting free health care are not facts.

The economy is recovering. Is it recovering in areas with endemic problems? No, of course not and it never will. But the Dow is up and unemployment is down. If you think this would have happened without the stimulus package, there’s this bridge I’d like to sell you.

And please check your pay stub to understand that your taxes haven’t increased and what all those deductions really are.

You don’t trust the government? You don’t trust the Federal Aviation Agency? You don’t trust the Food and Drug Administration? You don’t trust the Center for Disease Control? You don’t trust the Environmental Protection Agency?

I even feel pretty comfortable with the FBI and the CIA. We won’t talk about the IRS and you don’t want to know about the NSA but hey, nobody is perfect.

Yes the Federal Government can often be inefficient. But do you really believe big business can be trusted with your welfare without a watchdog? If you do, I have a tunnel I’d like to sell you which would nicely compliment that bridge you just bought.

Do we need some reform? Absolutely, in particular we need to reform how congress works day to day and especially how it allocates money.

If there is one big change I’d like to see, it’s eliminating the need to privately finance campaigns. That would go a long way towards eliminating politicians being obligated to moneyed special interests.

Unfortunately, I’ve not at all sure how one could go about doing that.

Friday, April 16, 2010

National Day of Prayer Unconstitutional

A federal judge in Wisconsin has declared the National Day of Prayer, authorized by Congress in 1952 and since 1988 held on the first Thursday in May, unconstitutional.

Well I’ll be John Brown.

You’re damn right it’s unconstitutional. Unfortunately the judge stayed her own injunction pending appeal so the National Day of Prayer can go forward this year.

Let’s hope, given the right leaning bent of the current Supreme Court, that this holds up.

Hospital Visitation Rights extended to Gay Couples

I’ll say one thing for Obama, he has quite a pair.

The dust hasn’t settled yet from the Health Care Reform battles and he heaves another log into the fire by issuing an executive order instructing his Health and Human Services secretary to draft rules requiring hospitals that receive Medicare and Medicaid payments to grant all patients the right to designate people they want granted the same visitation rights that spouses and immediate family members have today.

The order specifically includes gay couples.

Well Halleluiah it’s about time.

I can’t wait to hear the reaction from the Christian fundy crowd on this one. Let them yell. It’s the right thing to do and every decent human being knows that.

The Tea Party

A CBS/N.Y. Times poll on the Tea Party was released yesterday. The poll addresses who they are and what they believe. There weren’t too many surprises but there were a few.

Generally Tea Party supporters are older, conservative white middle class and working class individuals. 89% are white, 75% are over 45 and 73% say they are conservative.

Surprisingly 56% make more than $50,000 and 20% make more than $100,000. Even more surprisingly, 37% are college graduates.

Only 39% say they are Evangelical Christians. I thought that number would be much higher. I wonder how many accept evolution?

They supposedly make up approximately 18% of the population but only 4% are what the poll calls “activists.” Here’s where I wish the poll had done a better demographics breakdown between “supporters” and “activists.”

You’ll find the most in the South (36%) and the fewest in the Northeast (18%) with the West (25%) and the Midwest (22%) in between.

They are also singularly misinformed and confused which isn’t surprising since 63% get their information from Fox News.

What are they misinformed or confused about? Well, they don’t really understand what Socialism is. 11% even believe Socialism means taking away rights or limiting freedom.

76% say lowering the budget deficit is more important than creating jobs but when given a choice between lowering the budget deficit or lowering taxes, 49% chose lowering taxes.

It’s highly unlikely that the budget can be balanced and taxes can be cut simultaneously. This is a fact of life that these folks haven’t figured out because Fox News and the pundits that whip up the frenzy never address these two issues together. They’re either banging the drum on one or the other but never both at the same time.

92% want a smaller government providing fewer services but 62% think Medicare and Social Security (two of the most Socialist government programs) are good things and worth the cost.

64% believe that the Obama administration has increased taxes for most Americans when in fact the overwhelming majority, about 90%, has had a tax cut.

The bottom line is these folks are upset, and they have good reasons to be upset, but they don’t have a clue about what’s really going on or how things work.

Basically I see a situation where they had a vague idea that something was wrong and have had that vague idea solidified into a complex collection of utter nonsense by the Glenn Becks, the Sarah Palins and Fox News telling them what they want to hear and whipping them into a frenzy without providing any FACTS.

Yes, we have a serious financial crisis. Was shoring up the sagging economy at the cost of increased debt a good idea? It’s hard to say, but most economists seem to think it was the right thing to do. The deepening recession was an alligator and the national debt is quicksand and you always address the more immediate threat first.

It’s not clear what they have against Heath Care Reform because they don’t appear to understand what the Health Care Reform bill actually says. I suspect it falls into one of four categories. Either they believe the cost is going to deepen the national debt, they look upon the requirement to have health insurance as an infringement upon their rights, they believe its going to raise their taxes or “IT’S SOCIALISM SO I’M AGIN IT.”

I sympathize with the it’s going to deepen the national dept or lead to an increase in taxes concerns. However, the Congressional Budget Office appears cautiously optimistic that neither of these two things is going to happen beyond the tax increases included in the bill, tax increases which will impact only the top 5% or so of wage earners.

As for the requirement to buy health care, let’s start with the question of what kind of idiot wouldn’t have it assuming it was available and affordable? Then let’s understand that if people that don’t have insurance become sick or get injured, guess who’s going to pay for it? Yup, you got it, the rest of us. People without health insurance, like uninsured drivers, increase the cost of insurance for all the rest of us.

As for “IT’S SOCIALISM SO I’M AGIN IT,” only a complete moron judges an issue by a label attached to it.

If the economy continues to improve I suspect that this movement will lose its momentum. If the economy reverses, then this is going to be a force to be reckoned with. These are classic American cranks. The challenge is to channel the good points into the mainstream and let the loony tunes aspects recede into obscurity.

What are the good points?

The budget has to be balanced and the national debt gotten under control. That’s going to require getting spending under control and a major revamping of the tax code. In particular multi-national corporations cannot continue to avoid paying U.S. taxes. I suspect we need something very similar to the Fair Tax which taxes goods and services rather than income.

Serious congressional reform is needed. Earmarks need to be curtailed or eliminated; bills need to be made public a reasonable amount of time before a vote and the practice of attaching unrelated riders onto revenue bills needs to be eliminated. I would also like to see congressional term limits and a reduction of congressional benefits and perks.

None of these things are going to happen unless the electorate consistently demands congressional responsiveness and stops simply returning incumbents to office.

What are the odds of any of this happening? I figure about zero until we have some sort of financial meltdown.

Marine Criticizes Obama Health Care

A Marine at camp Pendleton criticized the Obama Health Care Plan on his Facebook account. The Marine Sergeant was asked by his superiors to review the Pentagon’s directive on political activities which in turn fueled a free speech debate.

The Marine closed his Facebook account and decided to review his military obligations rather than contest the issue.

This shows that our young Marine understands what many others apparently do not. In a Democracy, the military must remain aloof from politics.

Robert Heinlein understood this as well. In perhaps his best novel, Starship Troopers, the right to vote and engage in the political process must be earned by some sort of Federal Service. One common path was via military service. However, you were not enfranchised until AFTER your service was completed. Heinlein understood that the military must remain aloof from politics.

Heinlein’s young hero, Ron Rico, understood it as well. To paraphrase Rico, “You can’t let Cap Troopers vote because those idiots might vote not to make a jump.”

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Oklahoma and Mississippi

Tea Party types in Oklahoma want to start a volunteer “State Militia” and a school district in Mississippi has been ordered to cease racial discrimination.

WTF? Is it 1960 or the 18th century?

The sad part about the Oklahoma militia story is that several Republican state legislatures are actually supporting the idea.

More evidence (as if any more was needed) that Conservatives and Republicans are nuts. Do you suppose you folks can take your heads out of your asses and mosey on over to the 21st century?

The people in the South really do live on a different planet don’t they?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Confederate Day

Virginia’s Republican Governor Bob McDonnell caught all kinds of hell for issuing a proclamation for a Confederate History Month without including an acknowledgment of the inhumanity and cruelty of slavery.

McDonnell had the “good graces” to back paddle rapidly when he realized the maelstrom he had unleashed and added language to the decree declaring slavery “evil and inhumane.”

To which the Republican Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi responded that it was a lot of noise over something that “doesn’t amount to diddly.”

Uh-huh. So tell me Haley, where do you keep your sheet and hood?

In the meantime Republican Governor Chris Christie in New Jersey is doing everything he can to dismantle the public school system in the state. Apparently Christie would rather provide vouchers so parents can send their children to good Christian schools whether they’re Christian or not.

The Teacher’s Union started by circling the wagons and then escalated things into an all out war with the Governor’s office. One internal e-mail, which accidently became public, described how God had already taken away a favorite Senator, actor and actress of the author and they wanted to make absolutely certain that God knew who their favorite Governor was.

To say the least Christie was not amused. Well we’re not amused with his shenanigans.

I do not understand how any rational voter with any degree of intelligence can vote for any Republican candidate. The Republican Party has betrayed its heritage; in chasing the adulation of the Religious Right and other Extreme Right Wing wingnuts it has demonstrated that it cannot be trusted to safeguard the principles of Western Democracy or the civil liberties of the American People.

If you are looking an authoritarian environment tinged with a touch of Theocracy then go ahead and vote Republican. I just don’t understand why anyone with a 3 digit IQ would want any part of that idiocy.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Newt Gingrich, the GOP and the Real Problem

If you would like to know what’s wrong with Conservatives and the Republican Party all you have to do is look at Newt Gingrich’s remarks at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference.

I’m not talking about his labeling Obama a “secular socialist,” two words guaranteed to get the under 80 IQ Republican base all in a lather, I’m talking about his list of policies that he claims Republicans favor.

They were tax cuts, a lower deficit, fewer regulations and a sensible energy plan.

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) in their latest report on the Federal budget have made it very clear that there is no realistic revenue projection model that addresses the growing federal budget deficit and National Debt.

The only possible solution is a drastic reduction of services, tax increases or some combination of the two. This conclusion lines up with similar analysis performed by non-partisan groups such as the Concord Coalition.

You cannot both cut taxes AND reduce the deficit UNLESS you are willing to make massive budget cuts including cuts in defense spending and Medicare. Since I suspect it will be a cold day in hell before any political party does that, these two policies, cut taxes and reduce the deficit, are contradictory.

As for fewer regulations, wasn’t the lack of regulations what got us into the most recent financial debacle? Didn’t we all say that we weren’t going to let that happen again? Do you REALLY want to trust the big corporations to look out for your best interests without the government riding herd over them? Let’s remember who outsourced all those jobs to East Asia shall we?

A sensible energy plan you say? I’m all in favor of that. What is it? The Republican Party has been fighting alternative energy source development for decades. You will excuse me but “drill, baby drill” is NOT a sensible energy plan. I’m willing to listen, but you’ve got to do better than catchy slogans.

The bottom line is this is a collection of what people want to hear and has about as much relationship to reality as Alice in Wonderland. Gingrich is no fool. He knows what he’s saying is a lot of crap. That means he’s lying and hoping his audience is too ignorant to catch him at it other than those that are “in the know” and laughing at the rubes cheering for their economic demise.

Face reality. The Republican Party is dependent upon the under 80 IQ trailer park set for votes but its corporate fat cats for funding. Once the election is over, money will win every time.

The Republicans keep the under 80 IQ trailer park set votes by pontificating about Christianity, Socialism, Abortion and homosexuality. In other words, by keeping the riff-raff focused on nonsense issues. In the meantime they “imply,” and sometimes more than imply, that the government is “redistributing income” from them, the white working class Americans, to Blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, Illegal Immigrants and any other minority they think they can get away with naming.

For those that aren’t working, the mantra switches to those Blacks, Hispanics, Muslims and Illegal Immigrants are taking their jobs away thanks to the nefarious left wing schemes of Democrats, Atheists, Liberals, Environmentalists and that reality biased media.

The reality is that the Republican elite could care less about the nonsense issues, other than as a means of securing the votes of the riff-raff, and they could care less about jobs for the under 80 IQ trailer park set. Once in office are going to take care of their corporate fat cat sponsors by cutting taxes primarily for the rich, crippling regulations so more profit can be squeezed out while ignoring things like environmental issues and the welfare of the work force actually producing the products, and making damn sure that a “sensible energy plan” means not allowing emerging Green Technologies to successfully compete with the oil industry.

Let’s please remember that it wasn’t the government that outsourced American manufacturing jobs to East Asia. Let's also remember that it hasn't been the government getting the unions to give back stuff in order to avoid even more plant closings.

The emergence of the Tea Party movement is causing some trepidation in the GOP. I mean, those yokels might actually manage to figure out that what they’re yelling about is merely a symptom of the problem and not the problem itself.

Yes the government is in the business of redistributing income. It’s in the business of taking it from the top 20% of income earners and redistributing it as services and subsidies to the other 80% of Americans. The reason it has to do this is the nightmare disparity in income that has developed since 1980. It effectively has no other choice.

Now what percentage of the Tea Party yokels do you suppose are in the top 20% group and what percentage are in the 80% group? I’m willing to bet that 99% of Tea Party supporters are in the 80% group.

For the ubiquitous fictional family of four to be in the top 20% of income earners their household income would have to exceed $142,400 based upon the Congressional Budget Office’s latest charts. If you’re making less than that, then you’re most likely a beneficiary of income redistribution and not a victim.

The fact is that the percentage of income tax liability of everybody except the top 20% has decreased since 1980. Everybody paid income taxes in 1980. Now those in the lowest two quintiles actually have NEGATIVE income tax liability. In other words they get money rather than pay.

The tax liability of the middle quintile has decreased from 10.8% in 1980 to 4.4% in 2006. The tax liability of the fourth quintile has decreased from 20.2% in 1980 to 12.9% in 2006. In the meantime the percentage tax liability of the highest quintile has gone from 64.9% in 1980 to 86.3% in 2006.

Let me make sure that this is perfectly clear. The top 20% of wage earners pays 86.3% of ALL Federal Income Taxes. The rest of the country, 80%, pays only 13.7% of the Federal Income Taxes.

Why you ask? Is this the result of the unfair socialistic tax practices of those well known left wing radicals Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W, Bush? Or perhaps Slick Willy managed to bring this all about in his 8 year term by dramatically raising taxes on those hard working rich folks?

Nope, this is the natural fallout of the upper 20% of the income earners monopolizing the economic benefits of the past 30 years. While the real income of the bottom 80% of American wage earners has increased by 19% over the past 30 years, the real income of the top 20% has increased by 88%, the top 5% by 245% and the top 1% by a whopping 345%.

In 1980, the bottom 80% of American wage earners made 54.5% of the income. By 2006 that number had dwindled to 44.3% of the income. You got that? 80% of the people make less than 50% of the income and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get any better any time soon.

Big government is a symptom rather than the root problem. The root problem is the massive wealth and income disparity that has developed in the United States. How long do you figure it’s going to take for even the morons of the Tea Party to figure this out?

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Blind Side

We watched the movie “The Blind Side” the other night. It wasn’t a bad flick but I couldn’t help but wonder about a number of things in the movie.

I hadn’t heard anything about a subtle undercurrent of criticism or mockery so I can only assume I was expected to take everything at face value, then again, perhaps not.

The basic plot is a rich white family in Memphis adopting a homeless black boy with a talent for playing the offensive line and in particular left tackle on the offensive line where he can protect the quarterback’s blind side, thus the title of the movie.

Perhaps I’m being overly sensitive but I perceived a number of digs in the movie at the very people it was supposedly trying to praise.

Here we have this upper class white Christian family that drives beamers, sends their kids to a private lily white Christian school and lives in an enormous house. Daddy does basically nothing because they live off of 80 or so fast food restaurants that he has managed to acquire. How he acquired them isn’t described but there were a number of hints about his business acumen which implies both a degree of intelligence and a degree of ruthlessness.

Let’s start with the stark contrast between white society and black society represented by “the projects.” The disparity is shocking but not surprising. It exists throughout the country but the gap seems to widen the further south you go.

The family owes its luxurious lifestyle to fast food restaurants where they are (1) selling cheap unhealthy food to people who probably shouldn’t be eating it at an exorbitant profit and (2) probably using minimum wage minority or white trash workers. Should a franchise become unprofitable, I’m sure daddy would not hesitate to close it and open another elsewhere while dumping his minimum wage employees on the unemployment line.

The bottom line is this generous white family is being charitable with money they essentially stole in the first place. Ok, perhaps “stole” is too strong a word. But at the very least they were taking unfair advantage. Allow me to explain why I say this.

Between 1980 and 2006 the real income of the bottom 20% of earners increased by 11%. This is a good thing. It implies long term prosperity where even the poorest of us had more money to spend. However, in that same timeframe the real income of the top 20% of earners increased by 88% and the real income of the top 1% increased by a whopping 345%.

You will excuse me but there is something fundamentally wrong with these numbers.

In the same time frame the effective Federal tax rate has DECREASED across the board but which group has gotten the largest decrease? You guessed it, the top 1%. Its effective tax rate has decreased from 37% in 1979 to 31.2% in 2006. In the meantime the tax liability of that top 1% has only increased from 15.4% to 28.3%. In other words they’re benefiting the most and contributing a much smaller percentage of that benefit back into public coffers.

You will hear the argument that the upper 1% already contributes 40% of the Income Taxes so it’s unfair to increase that burden. You will excuse me but that’s the problem. In 1979 it was only 18% of the Income Taxes. What we need to do is undo the income disparity that has developed and redistribute the tax liability. But you don’t do that by reducing the tax rates of the upper tax brackets. That’s a formula for disaster and a further widening of the disparity. What you do is RAISE the marginal tax rates to the point where it becomes not worth squeezing the working class or fighting off an increase in minimum wage.

Ok, enough with the economic stuff. Almost no one understands it anyway. Let me make it simple. We are rapidly developing a disparity precisely like the disparity that Marx predicted would occur.

There were two other sort of sidewise points in the movie. When they’re looking to hire Kathy Bates as a tutor to get the boys grades up so he would be eligible for a college football scholarship, Bates makes the point that the school wouldn’t hire her because she wasn’t “Christian enough.”

As I’ve pointed out previously, religion is allowed to discriminate. Yet I’m certain the school had its tax free status and was taking advantage of any and all state and federal funds which might come its way.

I have a problem with this. If you want immunity from hiring discrimination laws based upon your religious views then don’t expect to be tax exempt or receive public funding.

The last point was when the lady of the house tells off a street thug with a statement something like “I’m a member of the NRA and I’m always packing.”

Yeah, that made me feel real comfortable. Just what I need is society airheads like this one walking around with a loaded 9 mm.

I almost felt like I was watching a parody but I suspect they were serious. I have a great idea. Let’s share the wealth a little better and then talented black jocks won’t have to be dependent upon white society airheads for a roof over their head or their education.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Yup, I’m Tired Too had an article about an essay written by Robert Hall, a 63 year old ex-marine and ex-Massachusetts state senator, about things he’s tired of.

I don’t disagree with a lot of what he says. I especially agree with his observations about this attitude of entitlement that seems pervasive these days. The Declaration of Independence says you have the right to pursue happiness, but there’s no guarantee you’ll catch it.

Some of the other stuff however is typical right wing crap including diatribes about the biased liberal media, taking wealth from workers for those lazy welfare cheats and some mumblings about latte Liberals and how wonderful Fox News is.

So, I figured what the hell, maybe I should talk about what I’m tired of.

I'm tired of people being suckered in by what Fox News, the Republicans and the Right Wing commentators tell them. I'm tired of people quoting the 0.1% case as if it were common. I'm tired of voodoo economics and other right wing bullshit. I'm tired of people not checking their facts before making grandiose assertions. I'm tired of 10% of the population controlling 70% of the nation’s wealth.

I'm tired of hearing people who claim to be Patriots propose scrapping fundamental American principles like the separation of church and state. I'm tired of watching the corporate CEOs fleece the American working and middle class while those being fleeced cheer them on because they've been duped into thinking that somehow this is a good thing. I'm tired of having Christianity shoved in my face and being told this is a Christian nation. I'm tired of defending the teaching of evolution at school boards because back woods rubes can't understand the difference between science and religion.

I'm tired of opinion replacing facts and beliefs replacing knowledge. I'm tired of ignorance and stupidity being looked upon as virtues while being educated is vilified.

I'm tired of drunken assholes being allowed to own and carry loaded guns. I'm tired of being ranked with third world countries in effectiveness of Health Care and infant mortality. I'm tired of the war in Iraq where our troops were sent in with inadequate numbers, inadequate equipment and an inadequate strategic objective. I'm tired of the United States being at the bottom of the industrial world in student achievement while the Texas school board tries to rewrite history in its ultra-conservative image.

I'm tired of people pounding their chest about how wonderful they are while refusing to recognize that we have serious problems in this country that need resolution and I'm tired of those same people blocking those of us trying to solve those problems.

One last thing, I am utterly tired, as well as appalled, at hearing that a country that still has the largest thermonuclear arsenal in the world should seriously consider Sarah Palin as a viable presidential candidate.