The Economy and Fox News’ War Against the Poor

I’ve been wanting to write about the craziness surrounding our current, oh, economic shenanigans.

I call them shenanigans because while it’s clear that the economy is struggling, that many folks are having a hard time making ends meet, and that it doesn’t look like anything is going to get better soon – that’s not what makes the news. What makes the news is the insane posturing going on by politicians – and I mean all of the fuckers, not just the ones I didn’t vote for.

But I haven’t because I’m not really sure I’m educated enough on the topic, and I don’t want to expose my idiocy. But I’m so fucking fed up, at this point, I want to say something even if it shows how little I know.

First of all, OH HOLY GOD the insanity about the Debt Ceiling. Nobody wants debt, people. Seriously. I’d love to stop borrowing as a nation. But you know what we need to do to make that happen? WE NEED TO RAISE FUCKING TAXES.

In the last ten years we cut taxes substantially AND increased spending. Even I, with my lack of economics education, can tell you that doesn’t add up.

WE HAVE TO RAISE TAXES.

And here is what drives me batshit crazy.

The idea of something so simple – rolling back the Bush era tax cuts for the rich – makes people who are normally pretty reasonable lose their fucking minds.

I don’t get it. Seriously. IT MAKES NO SENSE TO ME.

But here’s the thing. The people who go nuts over tax increases? Don’t seem too interested in reason.

Take, for instance, the war that Fox News is waging against the poor, NPR, and social programs. Somehow, someway, they have managed to take a story about how impoverished families in this country that earn less than $22,350 a year FOR A FAMILY OF FOUR are fucking GETTING OVER because they don’t pay a lot in taxes. Seriously, a Fox News talking head said that the 50% of those that fall below the poverty line are getting over in tax credits so that in nullifies what they pay into social security, etc. Don’t believe me? Then watch this brilliant, brilliant, BRILLIANT segment by The Daily Show about the way Fox News discusses the poor (my favorite is Ann Coulter calling people on welfare “animals” in part two):

People. This is just… INSANE. It’s not news anymore, it’s a horrid and awful twisting of the truth into a world view that has literally zero compassion. These same people, for instance, have said that teachers – some of the hardest working and frankly most important people in human culture – are “getting over” with their high salaries and summers off. It’s just fucking crazy.

I hate it. I hate it so fucking much. I cannot even tell you.

Look, I know I’m a tax-and-spend liberal. I believe that Universal Health Care can work. I believe that we can take care of our poor, of our children, of the homeless, the drug addicts, the street lunatics, and that we can fight crime with education and treatment instead of prisons. I fully own my bleeding heart.

I’m happy to hear what you think, but I promise this: you won’t convince me that the poor have it easy, or that teachers have a posh job, or that not having health care motivates people to improve their lot in life (it’s really hard to improve your lot in life when you’re fucking sick and can’t get taken care of, people). So what can we do to resolve the economic crisis that doesn’t involve marginalizing our poorest people?

What the hell can we do?

I’m eager to hear opinions here, but please be civil. Anyone attacking me or other commenters here will have their comments deleted, I promise. I know how frustrated we all are on these issues, but if we can’t take the time to listen to each other’s points of view, we’re never going to get anywhere. You’ve now listened to me, and I promise to listen to you too. Okay?

Comments Closed

Comments

  1. MJ F says

    Amen.
    What these people also forget is that if those rich people they are so worried about, those movers and shakers, those master sof teh universe would actually pay their employees a decent wage, they would not be “working poor” and wouldn’t be eligible for all those terrible tax breaks. The difference between what the top makes and what the bottom makes is disgusting and it is out of pure greed. So if major corps are so worried that they will not be competitive, that they will not be able to afford that shiny new whatever, they should not stress that those employees they did not deem worthy or receiving a reasonable wage, are now at the mercy of the government – in the form of tax breaks. I would like to see any one of those ranting lunatics try to live on 22K a year. People who have money are so out of touch with those who do not they can’t even make sense. People have gotten greedier and greedier. At no other time has there been this HUGE gap between the haves and have-nots. These people have just convinced themsleves that they are better and more deserving and that’s why they make money and apparently have no qualms at keeping the minimum wage so low.

  2. Editdebs says

    I heard a talk by Robert Reich on NPR. He said that 1% of America’s population holds 95% of the nation’s wealth–and the split between rich and middle class has not been as wide since the Great Depression. It’s shocking and sad that this nation protects its wealthy while leaving children to go hungry. Call me liberal if you want, but I call it compassion. Today, compassionate conservative is an oxymoron (and Ann Coulter is just a moron). Sorry, just couldn’t resist (because it’s true).

    • k says

      From NPR’s website: “One percent of the U.S. population owns approximately 40 percent of the nation’s wealth.”

  3. says

    I, too, do not understand how we as a country would rather engage more debt than chip in a little more from our taxes. It seems insane to me. Even if the taxes were not limited to the rich, I’d rather tithe more to the government today than contemplate the uncertain future of building a family in a bankrupt nation.

  4. Jim says

    Vilifying both the poor and brown people is an American pass time…just like fucking baseball.

  5. Kermit says

    I am moderate. I can’t believe people are talking about cutting funding to programs that are already creatively surviving and helping people on a shoestring budget. I can’t believe the rich are losing their minds at having to pay an honest tax based on their honest increase. And I am really steamed at Boehner.

    We need to turn inward for a while and take care of our own problems and our own poor.

    • says

      The ultra-rich (Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, etc) actually WANT to pay more taxes, but who is going to unless the tax code requires it?

      • k says

        If they WANT to pay more taxes, as they claim, they are not REQUIRED to claim all of the deductions that are allowed by the tax code and presumably responsible for them paying, according to Warren Buffett, les (by %) than their housekeepers.

        • says

          K- be honest, Do you really think voluntary taxes will ever be paid?
          Not everybody will WANT to pay more, but many of these people donate a large percentage of their money.

          Warren Buffett’s opinion piece was clearly there to point out that the Congress is failing by saying that the wealthy don’t need to pay the extra taxes. I take offense to your suggest that Warren Buffett is not being a responsible person.

          Here is Warren Buffett’s opinion piece…

          http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/15/opinion/stop-coddling-the-super-rich.html

          • k says

            May I ask…where did I suggest that Warren buffett is not being a responsible person? What I said was that anyone who wants to pay more, should first make sure that they are not taking deductions. That, in effect, would have them pay more.

        • says

          Who says they don’t?

          He explains the reason he pays less in percentage is because of HOW his income is generated not because he takes advantage of deductions and loopholes.

          The IRS taxes income from investments completely differently than income from paychecks. He’s not cheating the system or trying to pay less taxes– that’s how the guy earns the bulk of his money (from money). This actually makes sense as making money from money is generally riskier than paychecks.

          BTW if he overpaid on taxes, the IRS would just give it back. They do that for everyone. They can’t accept extra money that has no rhyme or reason for it.

          • k says

            You really have no idea whether or not he files those deductions. You want to pay more taxes? Don’t deduct for a single charity that you give money to. That’s not just sending the IRS extra money, now is it? My point was that, IF he takes advantates of deductions that are not the standard deduction, then he IS paying less than he COULD be. Period.

    • Phyllis says

      I totally agree. Even if they stopped the Bush tax cuts on the rich today, the rich have already pocketed the difference since it was enacted. And pocketed it they have. Since President Obama was elected the only goal of the rich and corporations has been to limit his presidency to 1 term. They are banking on the premise that those in the lower wage brackets will cry uncle and vote for any republican to stop the pain. It seems to be working as demonstrated by the Tea Party. A group of people who are voting against their own best interests.

      It staggers the imagination when you consider that most of the current situation has at it’s root racism. Stupid me, I really thought our nation was beyond that.

  6. says

    OMG, can I tell you how much I love you right now? And I don’t even know you. You’ve expressed everything I LITERALLY think and feel on a daily basis. Are you psychic? Oh no, you’re not psychic, YOU’RE INTELLIGENT! That’s it!

    In all seriousness, you’ve got it exactly right and it doesn’t matter that you’re a “bleeding heart” liberal. I was very much a moderate before this last presidential election cycle and tend to weigh both sides of any coin before I make an opinion about it. But now I’m probably considered a liberal as well, because the ideals that seem to be coming from them of late makes a HELLAVA lot more sense that those that come from the conservatives.

    Yes, taxes need to be raised on the wealthy and I’ll give you an excellent reason beyond what you stated above. If you look back in history, during any US war, taxes were nearly always raised in order to pay for that war. What’s the biggest reason we’re in debt right now? The wars. What did “W” do when he decided to declare war? He lowered taxes. Whoopsie, someone wasn’t thinking about the strain that might have on our national debt in 10 years (or didn’t care?). So now we’ve got this huge pile of dogshit we’ve got to shovel out, but not enough money to buy shovels. The best and only way to turn this problem around is to let those tax credits expire. All that nonsense about the lower- and middle-class losing jobs if the wealthiest few have to pay a bit more in taxes seems like serious hogwash to me. I think continuing to widen the gap between the rich and the poor is going to do more damage than anything else if it’s left as it is.

  7. Becca says

    My husband and I have a running joke because every time taxes come up on the news, he yells “flat tax!” But I am starting to think it’s a good idea. If w all payed a certain percentage based on income, no deductions or loopholes, and the percentages were fair base don income, we’d be a lot better off as a whole. I grew up and lived in canada for my first 28 years and taxes were much higher but I never felt poor, only cared for and like I had a safety net.

    • says

      One of the problems with the flat tax is that it is regressive – that is, for people who make $20,000, a flat tax of 10% is a really substantial tax in terms of real dollars, while someone who makes $200,000 isn’t going to be as impacted by the same tax rate.

      I do agree that the flat tax sounds fair, but in my opinion, it would be impossible to get a tax plan through with no exemptions at all, and the exemptions that remain (the sacred cow of mortgage interest being deductible, for example) would likely be more beneficial to the middle and upper classes.

      What you’re talking about – a flat tax with adjusted percentages based on income – is what we are supposed to have now. Leaving aside the payroll taxes (social security and medicare), the federal income tax is a progressive rate based on your adjusted gross income. A single person with an AGI of $400,000, for example (just to get all the brackets in), would pay:
      10% of $8,500 = $850
      15% of all income between $8,500 and $34,500 = $3,900
      25% of all income between $34,500 and $83,600 = $12,275
      28% of all income between $83,600 and $174,400 = $25,424
      33% of all income between $174,400 and $379,150 = $67,567.50
      35% of all income over $379,150 =- $7,297.50

      The total is $117,314, a not insubstantial number for sure, equal to about 29.33% of $400,000. The thing is that even most super high wage earners don’t have an AGI of $400,000 due to differences between earned and unearned income, tax shelters, deductions and so on.

      The US tax code is so incredibly complex that we might be better off to scrap the entire thing and start over.

    • Louise says

      Just to go further with Dawn’s analysis, the Flat Tax, including the elimination of all deductions, credits, and loop-holes, would be devastating to the working poor. Taxing at a rate of 10% for a person earning $20,000 as in Dawn’s example may very well mean that person can no longer pay for basic necessities like food, shelter, clothing, transportation, medical care, and transportation. Taxing a person earning $100,000 at a flat 10%, may put a crimp in that person’s style, but it certainly will not keep that person from paying for basic necessities.

      Now if the low income earner in the example has children, he probably receives the Earned Income Credit under our current system. The EIC encourages and rewards work and is widely regarded as this country’s most successful anti- poverty initiative. But under a Flat Tax, this refundable credit would presumably be eliminated. So now the working-poor taxpayer is even farther away from the goal of self-sufficiency, while the upper income taxpayer hasn’t been impacted at all.

      I strongly believe the those of us who are of the bleeding heart variety need to stop talking about social programs as if they are charity. In my opinion, when it comes to the working poor at least, programs that bridge the difference wages and self-sufficiency are the necessary cost of society’s continued support of an economic system that benefits some so much more than most. I personally believe it should be illegal to profit from a person’s labor without paying them a true self-sufficient living wage, but that would be impossible within the laws of capitalism. So the alternative is to have social programs that make up for capitalism’s weaknesses, and see them for what they are – the pure and simple cost of doing business.

      The truth is our economic system is fast leaving more and more people behind. The mere fact that it is widely held that it takes a minimum of 19 years of formal education – from pre-school to bachelors, much of it a significant personal expense – for an individual to have any real confidence in her prospects for life-long self-sufficiency, means that millions of hard-working, intelligent folks whose aptitudes lead them toward working with their hands instead of with computers behind a desk, are simply out of luck.

      We hear all the time about how we need education to breed scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs to spur economic growth. I believe wholeheartedly in the value of education. I also recognize that the reason successful innovators and entrepreneurs are so lauded and well compensated in our economy is because they are rare. Not everyone is suited for that work, and even if everyone was, someone would still need to do the grunt work. If we were all equally intelligent, ambitious, and diligent, someone would still need to mop the floors, stock the shelves, run the registers, care for the children, the old and the disabled, ect, ect. Society requires this work, so why has looking down our nose in disgust at these people, insisting they aren’t “doing their part” or “contributing their fair share” become a national past-time? I just don’t get it.

        • Angela says

          Me too. VEry informed and well said. To make it perfect: it’s “etc.” not “ect.” (For the record, I like to be corrected; so when I do it, it comes from a good place.)

    • Cecily Kellogg says

      K, that’s really good information. Can you find more info about it? I’d love to know more.

      • says

        This isn’t CNN.com, but have you read Al Franken’s first book, “Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot And Other Observations?” Aside from being a wholly entertaining book, he talks about Reaganomics and the spin Conservative pundits have announced, saying that it was more helpful to the poor than to the rich. He takes a look at the numbers set forth by Rush Limbaugh in his book and pokes holes in Limbaugh’s statements with his own bar charts.

        Anyway — the conclusion is just that: while the top brackets are getting millions of dollars in cuts, the bottom two brackets are actually paying MORE in constant dollars.

        • says

          K- Since the graphic is poorly labeled, I would like to point out that you are referring to INCOME tax.
          Not wealth.

          Please remember the difference.

          • k says

            I said above that the Bush-era tax cuts benefit all but the bottom two income classes. Hence, my use of the word INCOME.

            You seem to be confusing this with my earlier comment on WEALTH (in response to something Editdebs indicated they heard on NPR), in which I quoted directly from NPR’s website about WEALTH.

            I take offense at your comment implying that I remember the difference when I have not yet confused the two.

          • k says

            Sorry…to clarify my offense…

            I take offense at your comment to me in which you indicate that I “remember the difference” between income and wealth when I have not yet confused the two.

  8. Jessica Dennis says

    That explodey sound you may have just heard? That was my head. I tried to formulate a response to convey JUST HOW MUCH I agree with you about ALL of this, but I couldn’t do it. I don’t even know how to spell the noises that I make when I see/hear about this kind of hateful malicious nonsense.

    • WendyPinNJ says

      I’m with you Jessica, and Cecily too, of course and as usual! But I have no answers. I elected people who were supposed to come up with the answers, and they’re all acting like a bunch of big, obnoxious, immature, ridiculous children. All I know is I just don’t have the emotional capacity to think about this or focus on it, and still manage to get through my day. Further, I live in NJ, and our esteemed governor (who I DID NOT vote for), who is a selfish, pompous, blowhard, is singlehandedly attempting to dismantle public eduation. He actually seems to delight in it, and delight in demeaning teachers as a group. It’s completely and utterly disgusting. And NJ has long been known to have some of the best schools in the country. And I have three children in those public schools–two in grade school and one in junior high. I need to medicate myself to keep from having a nervous breakdown when I think about what’s to become of them!

      So, that’s it for me. That’s about all the intellectual and emotional energy I can devote to this. But the good thing is Cecily said it for me.

      • Jessica Dennis says

        I have family in NJ and they haaaaaaaaaate that horrible fatman. Who’s horrible because he’s horrible, and just happens to be fat. And I know all about those awesome (formerly awesome?) schools because to a large extent I’m a product of them; half my education took place in New Jersey. It’s appalling — not to mention STUPID — that anyone would mess with success like that.

        • Cecily Kellogg says

          Jessica, you know I love you, but Governor Christie’s weight is irrelevant to his politics. :D

  9. says

    And to think, you didn’t even mention education. That’s what gets me. Why, why, why do states keep cutting education?! The one thing that we desperately need to spend MORE money on gets getting cut.

    I got into an argument with a preacher the other day (yes, a preacher) about tax increases. He was spouting that stupid 50% statistic (about people not paying), and then I pointed out that probably 75% of his congregation made up part of that 50% and he shut up. It is like when people are complaining about tax increases they don’t even know who they are talking about. It just pisses me off.

  10. Angela says

    Socialist! Socialist! (Kidding.)

    I’m going to respond by addressing some myths and misnomers I feel are floating around out there, and I promise to keep the snark at a minimum:

    1. Ending the Bush tax cuts doesn’t really qualify as a “tax hike”; it’s reversing a tax cut that should have never happened in the first place when we had two wars and an expensive drug prescription plan to pay for.

    2. Bush tax cuts have been in place for a decade now and there have been no. new. jobs. If we increase taxes on the top 2% (and later the other 98%), increase revenue, create a jobs program, then the working and middle classes will have more money, pay off debts, and go buy stuff from all those rich people they supposedly hate.* Seeing demand go up, businesses will begin to hire again. Everybody will win.

    3. The yawning disparity between employer to employee salaries is not due to the mega-rich working harder and the poor and middle class slacking off. This is a Fixed News fairy tale. Corporate lobbyists succeeded in changing laws and tax codes. I.e. THEY REDISTRIBUTED THE WEALTH.

    4. Raising the debt ceiling is not about allowing congress to borrow more money to do whatever they want with. It’s about paying back money we already spent. That’s why we were in danger of defaulting on our loans if we didn’t raise said debt ceiling. If it had really just been about giving Obama a “blank check” as Michelle Bachmann claims… [repressing snark, repressing snark...gritting teeth] then there would have been no threat of default. [Phew!]

    So, no. Middle class people don’t want to “punish the rich” by taking away their “hard-earned” money. They just want economic justice.

    They don’t want a “handout” or “entitlement” because they’re lazy or feel entitled; social security, unemployment, medicare and medicaid are programs PEOPLE HAVING BEEN PAYING INTO FOR YEARS. They’re owed that money.

    You don’t have to be a Christian to believe we live in a community and we should take care of each other. (Yet many Christians seem to be replacing the Bible with The Fountainhead).** Are 70-year-olds suddenly going to be hot on the job market? No. So we need social security. Are there going to be times when we don’t have a job due to reasons beyond our control? Like Wall Street Oligarchs gambling with the nation’s money? Companies outsourcing jobs and downsizing? Yes. So we need unemployment. Are there people who can’t afford private school for their children — who need decent public schools? I believe so. If the public school system is broken, let’s fix it. Cutting out billions from the education budget is not going to solve anything and is going to create a very unstellar workforce. Nobody will win.

    Do you like clean air and water? Me too. So how’s about we keep the EPA?

    5. To Republicans and Tea Partiers: If you don’t believe in government, may I kindly suggest you DON”T RUN FOR IT?

    * Nobody hates rich people. People just hate financial insecurity.
    ** I realize it’s possible to read Ayn Rand without buying into her philosophy. No swipe intended there.

    This is a bit scattershot, but thanks for hanging in, those who did. And thanks, Cecily, for posting about this.

    Just so people know, there’s a march in DC scheduled Sat. 10/29: http://www.coffeepartyusa.com/enoughmarch

    • Angela says

      OK, comments should not be longer than the original post. Sorry about that! But I don’t normally comment, so let’s just say I”m packing it all in here. :-)

    • says

      I love you and am stealing your Fountainhead comment. I loved Rand as a teen, decided to read her again as an adult and realized her perspective on altruism was the complete opposite of mine.

  11. says

    I got it, Angela! And thank you , Cecily. Very interesting and most important information for me, because in probably 10 years, or maybe earlier, we are going to have exactly the same problems over here in Germany.

    • Jessica Dennis says

      No no, you mustn’t let them ruin Germany! There’s lots of physics happening there, and I look to Germany as a possible place to escape to if it gets too horrible here (my husband is a physicist)!

    • says

      Germany has fewer than 10 years especially if France’s credit is downgraded.

      Compare your debt to GDP ratio vs that of Russia and China…if that doesn’t chill your blood, I envy you.

      Yes, Germany is in better shape, marginally, than the US, UK and France, which will win it the ‘prize’ of being an economic anchor holding the rest of Europe together whilst also financing its own economy.

      M

  12. Andrea says

    I want to add my opinion on here but the truth is, you said it so much better that I, it would be redundant. I’m just so, so glad there are people like you out there with common sense and compassion speaking up because sometimes the only voices that are heard are the loudest, angriest ones. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  13. says

    Sometime in the last year I read that Gingrich was advising GOP folks to go after entitlement programs for the next presidential campaign season. I used to harp on the GOP using abortion to guilt Christians into voting for them (without ever doing anything to reduce abortion) but now that they’ve made some progress in that area (not the kind I’d hoped for, you know, PREGNANCY PREVENTION), they need another big issue to get people frothing at the mouth. I’m sad that I was rught…poor folks are now the arch enemy of Good Christian Folk.

    Cecily, I commented on Kristen’s G+ post w/a comment about Christians and their nationalism (and then we added each other and then I went on a social media hiatus, shhh I’m not really here). It makes my head and heart hurt to see people ignore the teachings of their supposed savior, in favor of a rich asshole who only wants their vote.

    *WHAT?!*

  14. says

    One thing missing from this conversation is resource depletion. The world is shifting to a new paradigm, one we’ve not seen before. This is what is making the poor poor and causing many of us to fall to toe the poverty line.

    I’ve been sending this article to everyone I know.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/14/magazine/can-jeremy-grantham-profit-from-ecological-mayhem.html?_r=1

    “Energy “will give us serious and sustained problems” over the next 50 years as we make the transition from hydrocarbons — oil, coal, gas — to solar, wind, nuclear and other sources, but we’ll muddle through to a solution to Peak Oil and related challenges. Peak Everything Else will prove more intractable for humanity. Metals, for instance, “are entropy at work . . . from wonderful metal ores to scattered waste,” and scarcity and higher prices “will slowly increase forever,” but if we scrimp and recycle, we can make do for another century before tight constraint kicks in.

    Agriculture is more worrisome. Local water shortages will cause “persistent irritation” — wars, famines. Of the three essential macro nutrient fertilizers, nitrogen is relatively plentiful and recoverable, but we’re running out of potassium and phosphorus, finite mined resources that are “necessary for all life.” ”

    There is no economic recovery against this backdrop, only more poverty…unless there are major innovations on multiple fronts, which I’m not holding my breath.

    M

  15. says

    First, I would like to thank you for writing this, Cecily.

    Secondly, Everyone should look at this research from UCSC:
    http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html

    The numbers cover 2005-2011.

    Third: One thing that our lovely congress continues to forget is that we have people who are using social security who PAID into it, and grew up in a government that encouraged them to buy into this system. Since when is this an entitlement?

    Fourth: I AM in the upper 20% percentile of INCOME in our country. That is different than the WEALTH in our country. My Dad often says “Who would pay more taxes?” I tell him that I would rather pay than my sister’s family who can’t afford to look that extra. He never gets it!

    Okay, off my horse…

    • says

      The other thing I don’t get is where do the politicians think the poor are going to go if “entitlements” are cut? Starving to death takes time. Dying of a chronic illness because you can’t get Medicare takes time. Time in which people can get pretty pissed.

      And to those who say, oh the food banks and soup kitchens will cover it. Ha! Cities such as Phoenix are passing ordinances to limit such activities so they don’t attract ‘vagrants’.

      Really, what do politicians think people who have nothing left to lose are going to do?

      Set things on fire, in my opinion.

      M

      • says

        One thing that really gets my goat is the “no increasing revenues”. Why? Because I want every asshole politician who says that to go to ANY family where someone works two jobs. Ask that person “Why did you increase your revenue by getting a second job? Didn’t you just reduce your spending?”

        After the person stops laughing, then maybe the politicians will figure out how real Americans live…

  16. says

    Oh honey. You are preaching to the choir here. You hit the nail on the head: YOU CANNOT INCREASE SPENDING AND DECREASE REVENUES (TAXES). I think this is similar to the creative accounting Enron was engaged in.

    (And I’m Canadian. I didn’t understand either package about the debt ceiling)

  17. Michele says

    Cecily,

    Made. My. Night.

    This, THIS, is exactly what I’ve been trying to say but couldn’t get the words right. You nailed it.

    I am a teacher an when the politicians began going after us this year for making too much an not doing enough, I was (and still am) floored. I know there are bad apples in every profession but really? We make too much? I live in Texas. I’ve been teaching 10 years. I make 45k a year before my insane (yet I am grateful for it) health insurance premium, mandatory contribution to our teacher retirement system, taxes, etc. I don’t get paid for my summer off…my salary is spread out over 12 months instead of nine by my choosing. And speaking of summer off, I took 2 graduate classes, went to two workshops (1 and 2 weeks in length respectively), found out three weeks before school started that I am teaching an entire new prep this year, so I spent three frantic weeks educating myself in the ends and outs of my new area because, go figure, I want my students to learn and have a good experience.

    Tonight, I got home at 8:30 pm. I was at work at 6:30 am. I will be back at my school in the morning because I didn’t finish all I wanted to do today to prepare my classroom for when those kids wall through the doors on Monday.

    I am a good teacher, and I come from a long, long line of educators. I believe strongly in what I do and where I choose to do it (a title 1 school with the largest group of ESL in the area along with over 80% of students considered economically disadvantages.). I don’t do it because it’s easy, and whoever thinks that, come on in my classroom. It isn’t easy by any means. It’s frustrating, it’s sometimes depressing, but it’s almost always rewarding. I do this job because I want to make a difference and I do. Any politician than believes they can do my job better, I welcome them to try. But, then again, I’m in TX where the state board of education is made up of people who haven’t wet been in a classroom or who haven’t been in one in years, where Gov. Goodhair proved yesterday he has NO clue the requirements of science education in the state, an where revisionist history is alive and well when it comes to
    Social studies textbooks. I do a good job despite all that.

    But, I make too much and don’t work hard enough to justify my salary. The next politician (or anyone really) that says or believes that, I challenge them this: come teach 9th, 10th, or 11th grade in TX. Teach the TEKS well and have a 98% or better pass rating on the state mandated exams. Can’t do it? Huh, funny, because I’ve done it every year for the last six years.

    Sorry for post jacking, cecily. As someone else said, a comment shouldn’t be longer than the original post. I stepped on my soapbox. /steps off

  18. Laurel (public school parent) says

    Amen! Just wait until you become part of a public school community and realize that “school reform” often is just an extension of the war on the poor. In a nutshell, test scores correlate mostly to a child’s socioeconomic status and whether that child is learning English. If a child is hungry or sick, it’s very hard for the child to learn, which leads to lower test scores. And lower test scores can lead to lower funding, people blaming the “lazy teachers,” principals being fired, etc. I highly recommend “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education,” by Diane Ravitch, who explains this all a lot better than I ever could. Check out: http://parentsacrossamerica.org/. You may cringe at the idea of PTA meetings, being a room parent, etc., but there is a whole online movement out there to stop the privatization of our public schools — something tells me THAT might interest you! ;-)

  19. Erin says

    Well said Cecily.

    Your post just solidifies my thought that money/greed is a sonofabitch. I could sit here and spew out a bunch of facts and figures that I’ve found online but all and all, its just sickening. So instead I speak from experience – Our Worlds greed and lack of human services is ridiculously unacceptable. I’m not trying to live in a World of sunshine and gumdrops but I do think everyone should take a step back, start helping each other and stop being so freakin’ selfish.

    We live in a World where football and baseball players get paid millions; yet most single parents work more than one job and fight to just make ends meet.

    Its all complete and udder bullshit… there comes a time where we need to focus on creating less of a divide among our people.

  20. says

    I’m usually a quiet reader but wanted to chime in and just say good post- my thoughts exactly- I can’t ever articulate how I feel about this without my blood pressure rising. My husband likes to watch Fox News from time to time because he thinks its asmusing- it would be if it wasn’t the highest rated news channel and people didn’t actually take it for gospel. It’s frightening how biased it is, and how they can blink and try with a doe eyed expression to say “who? us?”

      • Shelley says

        Elena, I will give you Keith Olbermann with a liberal bias, but he’s not even at MSNBC anymore. If any other channel has a noticeable liberal bias, (which I don’t believe), I don’t see how you or anyone can seriously claim that that bias is ANYWHERE NEAR the same stratosphere as Fox’s far-right one.

        • says

          I not only seriously claim that their bias equals Fox’s conservative bias – in my opinion the left leaning of those entities, particularly MSNBC are so blatant I wonder sometimes if they are broadcasting from downtown Havana.

          • Shelley says

            Elena, you are very much in the minority in that opinion. I don’t only mean among present company, I mean among media scholars and people who actually study such things and know more than you or I do. (Unless, of course, your solution to that is that they are all liberally biased as well).

          • says

            and yet Shelly, you provide not one shred of evidence other than your say so. But alas, I see there are thread limitations – pity.

          • Shelley says

            Which was totally, 100% on purpose, Elena, because it’s patently clear that nothing I or anyone could cite would at all influence your opinion – which is a thread limitation indeed.

          • says

            That’s a cop out Shelley and you know it. Put up a link, prove your case if you can. Who are these renowned media scholars and the mysterious “people who actually study such things” and where are there studies?

          • says

            As a Cuban I take offense to this completely. Downtown Havana practices Fidelisimo and that’s not Left or Right, it’s just Straight Down into Hell. This whole garbage of people comparing the the Left to Communism is just nauseating and clearly demonstrates how ignorant people are of what the countries that supposedly practice communism are really like. Let me give you a hint: They’re NOT COMMUNIST. Or even socialist. They’re dictators plain and simple. Cruel, vicious, disgusting dictators.

          • Angela says

            @Elana: PolitiFact is a Pulitzer Prize winning site that is non-partisan. After Jon Stewart appeared on Fox, he apologized and retracted a statement he made about Fox which PolitiFact judged as false using polls. It’s pretty entertaining and I think it erases any doubt that Fox is in a league of its own when it comes to misinforming people with its right-wing bias (scroll down and watch video): http://www.mediaite.com/tv/jon-stewart-apologizes-to-politifact-reads-list-of-politifact-fox-news-corrections/

  21. says

    Estonia went to a flat tax recently. They have a budget SURPLUS for the first time (either first time ever or first time in a long time). Now that they HAVE a surplus, they are able to help the lower levels more. It’s the opposite of what many think will happen with a flat tax. Very interesting.

  22. Laura says

    My take on the questions you asked is that the tea party folks who oppose ending the tax cuts on the wealthy do not oppose it because they do not want to pay more taxes. They oppose it because they want smaller government and you don’t get that by increasing the amount of money the government has to spend. I happen not to agree with that philosophy, but reasonable people do.

    I agree that we need to raise taxes, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that we shouldn’t be stopping with the wealthy. Everyone else should be prepared to pay a little bit more, too; if balancing the budget is worth doing as a nation, then the entire nation should pitch in. I know that people are hurting and struggling, but the price of a functioning democracy is engaging your electorate through taxation. Best way to do that is to make sure everyone has to pay something, even if it does not seem like much to those who have more.

    I’ll go out on even more of a limb and say that tax increases and discretionary spending cuts will do part of the job, but there is a huge elephant in the room while we are all arguing about those issues on the margin: entitlement spending. We have made promises with Medicare and Social Security that our children cannot keep; we owe it to them to clean up the mess rather than pass it on. And if I am truthful, I feel a bit cheated by baby boomers– they are staying longer in their jobs and keeping others below them from advancing their careers, and at the same time whining about how the rest of us are morally obligated not to alter a single penny of benefits that were put in place before we were born.

    The war on the poor is disgusting. Being poor or out of work or struggling while you do work is not a failure of character. You do what you can with what you have. Not every aspect of every person’s life is entirely within his control; those who suggest otherwise as a way to demonize the poor are just displaying their emotional and intellectual immaturity. In my humble opinion.

  23. KellyT says

    O.K…I, like you, have also hesitated to talk about this issue because it is so complex and NOBODY can really understand everything about the situation. I don’t want to look dumb, so I just don’t say anything. That being said, here is my opinion. There is ALREADY plenty of money going to our government. We need to cut all the waste, cut all the bullshit money and focus on what is important. Our government is wasteful and manages money horribly (an ex. the USPS…they operate at a loss every.single.day and they are allowed to do so. A private company would have been forced to close their doors ages ago). We would all be shocked and disgusted if we took the time to read the jillion page Federal Budget that comes out every year. We HAVE the money to do sooooo much more than we are doing now. If we cut all the waste and we still needed more money, then we can talk tax increases, and I would be completely fine with that. But I am not o.k. paying in more money so that a significant portion of it can be spent on stupid shit.

  24. says

    Sing it, sister.

    It is a complex situation and the cronyism, lobbyists, corporations, and PACS that OWN our politicians–even the ones who started out with principles–run this country. If we’re going to have genuine “people” as legislators, then we need to stop stuffing money in their pockets. Until then, nothing will change.

    And on a personal note, my husband worked for the Post Office last November about six days. They screwed up his check not once, not twice, but three times. It took THREE MONTHS to figure out and finally pay what was owed him. And this was for standing on concrete all night throwing bags of mail around–that’s how sophisticated they are. ID10Ts.

    Thanks.

    Jules

  25. eyeswideopen2c says

    Whenever any people are designated as “animals,” history repeatedly suggests that such people are headed for violence, slavery or genocide.

  26. says

    I know it’s not thanksgiving, but the current economic situation in the USA makes me thankful for the following:

    1. I’m Canadian.

    2. Canadians remember that debt is bad.

    3. None of my fellow Canadians have to worry about not getting health care, waiting for it for fucking ever yes, getting it, no.

    4, Canada is not full of ass-face corporate money hogs that seem to only care about themselves. We’re full of ass-face refugees that think they are in their home country instead (I can’t wear a helmet while driving my motorcycle because it infringes on my religious rights as a person, never mind its a law up here.)

    I only have one worry, the stupidity of the American lawmaker may(operative word may) lead to another global depression a la 1930′sm fir the entire planet.

    Not fun.

  27. says

    Taxes are a drain on the economy. When people or business have to pay taxes that is less money they are able to buy goods and services with, and/or create jobs or pay wages. We need to cut our spending to the bare bone, and we need to go to the flat sales tax system – that is what it will take to really get the economy hot again.

    • Louise says

      A few things:

      A “hot” economy doesn’t mean there will be more living wage jobs available. It simply means the volume of money changing hands goes up. That’s all GDP is – money flowing. It doesn’t explain where the money is flowing, or who is buying and who is selling, or even if those exchanges actually represent improvements to our collective quality of life. It is just money changing hands. That is why we can have a technical recovery, when so many are still unemployed, under-employed and struggling – the money is basically being shuffled around at the top.

      Trickle down doesn’t work – we’ve been trying it for a long, long time and it just doesn’t work. Well it doesn’t work for the middle class and below…..

      American corporations have been able to amass record setting cash reserves ( http://marketplace.publicradio.org/display/web/2011/08/17/pm-companies-sit-on-huge-reserves-of-cash/ ) thanks in part to generous tax policies, but that hasn’t translated to more or better paying jobs. That’s because stoking the economy happens from the demand side, not the supply side.

      Companies don’t employ more people to make more stuff hoping someone will have the cash to buy it. They wait until there are signs of increased demand and then they ramp up production. The only way demand can increase is if average American have more cash in their pockets to spend. The extent to which that can be achieved through tax policy is limited, except if we expand the earned income credit, which I’d guess you would oppose Elana. The other alternative is WPA type jobs programs, which I’d imagine you’d also oppose.

      The point is moot though because our government is now hand-cuffed by budget cutting, deficit cutting pledges that prevent it from further stimulating the economy. So I guess we are sort of stuck.

      • says

        Well the government wasn’t “hand cuffed” for the first two years. They had both houses and the white house and many states. You’d have thought they could have turned things around in that amount of time but they didn’t – because liberal economic policies don’t work.

        • Louise says

          Two years to clear up an economic train wreck of global scope and decades in the making does not seem long enough to me. It certainly isn’t long enough to indict progressive economic policies – if that is what you would call the efforts to right our economy attempted under President Obama’s watch.

          We have a much longer history with supply-side economics. It is what has brought us here. It is what is keeping us here.

          • says

            Totally disagree. We haven’t had a pure capitalist economy since world war II. The housing bubble that took down this stack of cards can be directly attributable to Liberal policies!

            Be that as it may, you would think that in two years Obama could have at least started to turn the train. Instead he has exploded the deficit, snuffed out job growth and keeps the market from roaring ahead.

        • Angela says

          Yes, they were handcuffed – the GOP demanded 60 votes for everything considered in the Senate. The stimulus package was much smaller than it needed to be to do the job because of republican intransigence. And most of the deficit we have is due to George Bush’s unfunded tax cuts, medicare prescription drug program, and two unfunded wars (one of which we were LIED into). We haven’t tried liberal policies yet!

      • k says

        It would be nice if both sides could truly speak their minds here without comments like the ones you make toward Elena above. Assuming you know her mind is rude and eliminates the ability to have open dialog. If, in fact, that is what we are seeking.

        • says

          Thanks for the assist K. The funny thing is I have been debating controversial topics for so long that I have a finely developed ability to blip right over ad hominems and focus on the pertinent points – if there are any! I guess I have a tan over that thick skin! ; )

        • Louise says

          k: Elana said we should cut government spending to bare bones. I “guess”ed and “imagine”d, based on what Elana herself said about her beliefs, what she might think about what I had to say. I didn’t say “I’m sure I already know what you think about everything and I don’t want to read anything else you have to say.” THAT would be shutting down open exchange of ideas. What I was doing was reflecting back to Elana that I had read and thought about what she had to say. She is perfectly free to point me in the right direction if I am off base. Using “guess” and “imagine” to me is actaully an invitation to further conversation – because I am explicitly saying I don’t know for sure what you think – I’m just guessing – based on what has already been said.

          Anyway, what I said was certainly not an attack or an insult or meant to dampen discourse. I’m sorry my comments were misunderstand – but, well……. I am surprised it was taken that way at all.

          • Louise says

            No I don’t know that Elana. I explained what I meant. You can take it or leave it – it is all on you now.

            Do you want to know what I think undermines open dialog? When people create a conversational mine-field by deciding to be offended by comments that, if they thought about it for one more second, they might realize could be taken in a more benign way. I have no comment history here (or anywhere else on the web for that matter) that suggests I make a habit of being confrontational, rude, or condescending. I’ll admit that without actually hearing me speak the words, my comments could be misintrepreted. But, most people who communicate often in writing realize that the subtlties of meaning sometimes don’t translate well to black and white words on a screen. So isn’t givng the benefit of the doubt , especially in the absence of history that would suggest it is undeserved, the most civil course of action?

            Why is assuming I am being rude, or insisting, even after I explained I meant no offence, that I was being condescending any more civil and dialog enriching than my “guess” that I might understand your reaction to my comments based on what you yourself said?

  28. Leta says

    If we raised the top marginal tax rate on the wealthiest 0.5% by two percent (TWO FUCKING PERCENT!!!) we would raise $700 trillion over ten years.

    All the cuts they want to make amount to under $300 billion over ten years.

    It’s like the Republicans are turning down a raise that would net them an extra $20 per week, saying, “Nah, instead I’m just going to quit chewing gum. That will save me a buck a week. That’s all I’ll need to sort this out.”

    They ONLY reason they are doing this is to try to make the President look bad so that he’ll lose the next election. But, seriously, who’s going to beat Obama? Crazy Eyes Bachmann? Not Really Running Palin? W Redux Perry? Mormon Romney? (Conservative Christians are not going to vote for a Mormon. It will never happen, they’d rather stay home. Romney is lying to himself if he thinks otherwise. And Rs can’t win without CCs.)
    John McCain is decent man and a war hero with high name recognition and a long service record, and HE couldn’t beat Obama. This group of candidates is a commentary on the sad state of the GOP. There isn’t a national winner in the bunch. They have reached a tipping point where someone who can win their primary can’t win in the general. So they have resorted to setting the country on fire and trying to blame the arson on someone else. It’s a tactic born of desperation, since the changing electorate has left them behind.

    • says

      Oh, McCain. I almost feel sorry for him.

      He used to be all sorts of moderate and reasonable, and I liked him quite a bit when I first moved to AZ. And then he realized he needed those CCs to get elected and he went a bit insane. Now the moderate Dems hate him because he’s pandering to the religious right. The Rs hate him because they remember when he used to be more moderate. He won his last election, but he very nearly lost his primary to a Tea Partier. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t retire after this, because his goose is cooked in this state. Pretty much everyone hates him just for giving the world Palin.

      I can’t count Obama out yet, even with the poor approval ratings. I can’t see the entire GOP getting behind one of those candidates. Maybe Perry, and I find him truly frightening.

      • says

        And this is why Obama will lose – it doesn’t matter who the candidate is as long as they are
        1. Not Obama.
        2. Conservative.
        3. Not Obama.

        • Angela says

          Elena, you forget that the Tea Party is only about 20-25% of the electorate – and the Tea Party’s approval rating is about half that of Obama’s. The Tea Party is just this year’s name for the Moral Majority, which we eventually discovered was neither moral, nor the majority. The same is happening right now with the Tea Party. The more the country learns about them, the less it thinks of them.

    • Phyllis says

      Leta, I completely agree with you about the bevy of Republican candidates. I thought the last presidential election cycle was bad, but this group defies explanation. It would be hard for me to mark a ballot for an R for any office. They and their spin-off group the TPers, remind me of how hard it was growing up in the Jim Crow south as a teenager, and I am caucasian.

  29. deezyw says

    Another Canadian here, and I’ve been watching your guys’ gong show now for a month and shaking my head. I’ve been thinking that what you guys need is the thing that got Canada out of its massive debt load in the 90′s and led to the reinstatement of its AAA credit rating: a goods and services tax.

    (Now I duck for all the tomatoes thrown by fellow Canucks.)

    This was, without a doubt, THE MOST HATED TAX EVER brought in up here. The Mulroney government introduced a 7% tax on goods and services, so anything you bought from toothpaste to a haircut has this tax on it. (There are exemptions to this – basic food staples, used items, clothes for kids under 14, etc, designed not to scalp the poorest of the poor.)

    This tax resulted in the Conservative government losing its majority and going down to a population of 2 in the House of Commons. But in 10 years we had a AAA rating back and we’ve been doing a pretty good job even now of resisting the worst of the results of the world economy tanking.

    We have a debt again because of the recession, no doubt, but we aren’t in danger of getting our AAA rating downgraded and even the biggest cynics have to admit we can probably dig ourselves out of the hole we’re in – they just debate how fast and through what means. Right now our GST is lowered to 5% and I wish the Conservatives would hike it back to 7% and leave alone all the government programs they’re eyeing up for the axe (like the Department of Environment and other “useless” departments).

    And I’m a tax-and-spend small “l” liberal too (you gotta specify small “l” up here!) but this tax was a necessary evil that’s turned out to be one of the greatest achievements of the Mulroney government, no matter how hated it was/is.

    That said, I don’t know who’d have the balls to put in a tax like that in a republic where all attention of all politicians is focused on re-election. One of the perks of an elected dictatorship like Canada’s is that it enables politicians to do the stinky but necessary if they’ve got the guts. Trade-off is that you have to be prepared to go down like a sinking ship if the people hate it, of course…

    • Cecily Kellogg says

      Most of us already pay a tax like that on the local or state level; Philly has an 8% goods and services tax now.

      • deezyw says

        Yeah, we all pay that too – well, except if you live in Alberta. This is a federal version on top of the provincial one, and it was dedicated to paying off defecit and debt until we got out of the hole, at which point it became a general revenue source. Personally I liked it better when it was a dedicated tax, but most people prefer dedicated taxes.

  30. Robin H says

    Cecily you may not be “educated” in the political sciences but I’ll be damned if you didn’t state our problems more clear and with more insight then any one of those idiots. I’m with ya Woman!

  31. says

    Whew! Those were a lot of comments to read before chiming in, but I didn’t want to repeat anything!

    In response to Spacemom & K’s discussion way up there: I also WANT to pay more taxes, by which I mean, I wish I were taxed more, because no I am not going to just pay extra money directly to the government. Bottom line is – I barely have anything to give, and being taxed is different than paying taxes IMO – when I am taxed from my paycheck, the money is just gone, POOF! You’re welcome, Feds! And I don’t bat an eyelash or shed a tear over dollars gone – those are my dollars, and they are working for me. Guess what? They’re working hard for YOU too.

    What we can do, those of us who want to pay more taxes, we can just help each other a little more. We can go donate our time at a shelter, a soup kitchen, a school. We can take our old clothes to Goodwill or the Salvation Army, help our elderly neighbors with their lawn care or shopping, we can donate blood, we can pick up some trash on the roadsides.

    I know, it may sound trite, but it’s true. I have lots of opinions and one of them is this: Taxes are the price we pay to live in a civilized society – can’t you all see that we’ve become somewhat less civilized towards each other in the last decade? It’s because we (Americans as a whole) are not paying enough taxes. Our elderly aren’t getting the care they need, our schools are in disarray, our investments are uncertain, our overall morale is low.

    I fully support tax increases, and I hope to see taxes increased after the 2012 election. In fact, I’ll be downright enraged if they aren’t – that’s right, that’s right – I haven’t been taxed enough already.

    • says

      Cheny, I think in some ways, you are on the right track. We can and should help each other a bit more at shelters, soup kitchens, school and church, helping our neighbors and our community. Ponder for a moment would it would be like if people had enough freedom with their own money to invest in their own communities, or if someone had a great idea for distributing food, or helping kids learn art or music or something and you or I could invest something towards that because we don’t have to pay income taxes. When did it ever become a great idea to throw money into the big black whole that is the government and expect them to do a better, more efficient or even more humane job than individuals or communities could?

      Have you ever noticed which side is the most uncivil to the other? Just a thought.

        • says

          What part of my comment there did you take as mocking? The part where I called it an example of left wing thought? or the part where I used it as an example of the 26% of Americans who think Obama is doing a great job?

          • says

            More amazement and awe. I had simply never heard the position put forward that we would be more civil to each other if we paid higher taxes. And as I have always (since 2003!) re-posted comments, bloggings, articles etc. that interest me or that I want to comment on, what’s the big deal?

  32. Leta says

    Elena, I think you falling into a fallacy that had me for years.

    To wit, you and I are both fringe. I kept voting for Dennis Kucinich in national primaries. Just because I like him and find him appealing does not mean that he is appealing to the bulk of Americans, the ones who decide elections. As baffling as I find it that GWB was more appealing to most than Rep Kucinich, the fact is that he was.

    This applies here, too. Listen, I weathered eight years of W. I know how sour grapes and frustration feel. But who was gonna beat him? Neither Al Gore nor John Kerry (or Howard Dean or Bill Bradley) had much charisma. They weren’t outstanding speakers, or extremely handsome.

    President Obama has loads of charisma, is very handsome and a good speaker. Like GWB. (Yeah, W misused words and stuff, but he was very engaging, not unlike Bill Clinton, who also sounded like a rube you might wanna have a beer with.)

    My point is not that no Republican will win again, ever- my point is one that very conservative talking heads have been making themselves- the Republican primary field is a week field. There is no one among them that can win in the primary AND win in the national election. No one. Romney, and, to a much lesser extent, Perry, are trying to run national campaigns rather than primary campaigns, which, frankly, is going to bite them in the ass should either one of them actually win the ticket.

    I won’t vote for a pro-life dogcatcher, but if I were to vote for one of the Republicans running, it would be for Ron Paul or Herman Cain. They seem the most principled and least crazy. However, I AM FRINGE. I am not foolish enough to think that either one of these could win the general.

    Obama’s ratings are no worse than Reagan’s. No one is going to beat this man- who is, whether you like him or not, a born politician and a formidable opponent- simply by virtue of being “not Obama”. He is a more electable candidate than anyone the GOP has out there.

    • says

      The legacy of the Jimmy Carter Presidency – was eight years of Ronald Reagan (who was also a big underdog In September of 1978). I predict we will see something similar this coming cycle if the economy keeps sliding. But I am booking and screen saving your comment for election night 2012. We shall see.

  33. k says

    Please don’t assume that those of us who expect the government to RESPONSIBLY spend what is generated with taxes are necessarily opposed to all tax increases. This simply is not true. To use an example from above…if your household income isn’t enough to pay your bills, yes, you COULD go try to find more employment or a job with a higher paycheck (i.e. both spouses working instead of one, taking on a part-time job, etc.), but you COULD ALSO look at what you’re spending and maybe decide that eating out 5 nights a week is a waste of current resources. The answer does NOT have to be more money all of the time.

    And to another poster…about raising money by raising taxes on only the wealthiest 0.5%…can you please give a reference for the amount of money you say that would generate? I find that statistic interesting and I’d also be interested to see what income levels those 0.5% fall into. Thanks! (Sincerely…I’m not being an ass…)

    Also, from personal experience…it is a fallacy that you canNOT get health care in this country if you are uninsured. Period. And yes, I mean for emergencies AND chronic conditions. You can do so and I know adults who have and are getting health care for which they pay on a sliding scale based on income (not on Medicaid/Medicare or any other national program). There are also emergency rooms (not always the answer, I 100% agree) that cannot turn away those who are sick or injured. I am tired of hearing people from other countries imply that there are people in this country who cannot walk into an emergency room when they are sick. I lived many many years with no insurance. Most of my life, actually. And I have never not been able to receive care. And, no, I’ve never been on ANY kind of assistance for which subsidized or free health care is available.

    • Mary says

      I agree with all these points.

      Yes, increasing tax revenue is appropriate and neccessary. But it is only a partial solution. Both parties need to make some compromises to move forward in a productive way and establish a sustainable plan to reduce spending and pay down debt.

      Just like in a household, you can’t have everything you want, you need to make decisions about most immediate needs and figure out a way to budget for the things you want but can’t afford.

      I’m not saying it’s “fair” or “right” that this or that program is under- (or over-) funded. But anyone with a checking account and a Visa should get the logic. Don’t spend money you don’t have. And getting a raise doesn’t mean you can afford to spend more if you couldn’t make ends meet on your former paycheck.

      From my republican perspective- I’m not opposed to a tax increase, but I am nervous about the mentality that there is an infinite amount of tax revenue available, so let’s spend money now and we’ll figure out how to pay for it later.

  34. Paula says

    This is the best and truest post I have seen here. Of course, I’m prejudiced. I’m a moderately liberal Democrat who wound up unemployed and uninsured. Great fun at 59.

      • Leta says

        Mostly the radio BBC.
        I read, but it’s mostly online- for example, something on Yahoo will catch my eye, it’s almost always AP or Reuters, and then I’ll click on their sources. If it’s something that fascinates me, I’ll track down the original source, which, in my experience is almost always from a small local news agency.

  35. Leta says

    Elena, fair enough. I don’t think Obama will lose to any Republican currently running, or to Palin. If a dark horse emerges, all bets are off, though.

  36. Karen L. says

    Jus wondering – if 51% of the people in this country don’t pay taxes (other than sales tax) how are the rest of us going to carry the load?

      • k says

        Good questions. They certainly don’t need help because of any bad decisions they’ve made. That couldn’t possibly be part of the problem. Nope. No sirree. But we’re not allowed to “judge”. We’re just supposed to pony up more of our own paychecks to pay for someone else’s decisions. I’ve got news for people who want to be “more like Europe”…even the Europeans are fed up with paying for people who aren’t interested in earning their keep.

  37. Leta says

    The bottom forty percent of this country (those who pay little to no federal income tax, though we do pay sales, property, local, and state taxes, not to mention FICA and Medicare) control 1% of the nations wealth.

    The top one percent control 38% of the nations wealth. The top ten percent control 71% of the nations wealth.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distribution_of_wealth#Redistribution_of_wealth_and_public_policy

    So we tax them, that top ten percent. And then we tax the living shit out of the top one percent.

    My family of five living on $32,000 should not pay as much or more in taxes, either by proportion or dollar amount, as someone making six figures, much less someone making seven figures.

    We could literally tax the bottom fifty one percent at a rate of 100% and still not generate the revenue that a 5% tax on the one percenters would generate. You don’t have to be a mathematician to figure this out.

    Call me a socialist or Marxist if you want, but don’t call me stupid- this is sound financial and economic policy, as per a bunch of Nobel laureates.

    • says

      Ok – you’re a socialist. ; )

      and it may be sound financial and economic policy per a bunch of left thinking Nobel laureates.

      It is not good policy in practice. I have a similar family structure (7 of us) living on slightly more income. My husband is a small business owner. He hopes to make it into six figures someday. If he works his butt off and we scrape and sacrifice so he can do that, why should he be punished for success? I just don’t get that. It is like punishing folks for doing well. And here’s the thing about that top 1% – they don’t have to stay here. They also have the ability to limit how much wealth the generate. Why should they put the time, effort, wealth and risk behind something that will generate more income only to see most of that taxed away?

      Did that bunch of Nobel laureates take that into consideration?

      • says

        I guess it would be a matter of perspective. If you consider things like libraries, roads, fire and police protection, and the military punishment, then there’s no point in being successful. But like others stated above, some of us consider taxes the price of living in a society. A society that we like anyway.

        And before we go down this road, I don’t like everything my taxes are spent on either (see: War, Iraq) but sometimes I have to take the things I like with the things I don’t. It’s call democracy. I get to vote for someone else the next go-round.

        • says

          I agree that some taxes are indeed useful. But it is unfair to punish successful people via the tax system – which is essentially what seems to be going on here and to the detriment of everyone else!

          • Louise says

            Hard work and sacrifice often do contribute to success, but no one does it alone. No entrepreneur, no matter how intelligent, hard-working or willing to sacrifice, could ever be successful without a vast matrix of societally supported conditions and circumstances that foster that success. Infrastructure, educational systems, affordable work-force, food supply, healthcare, manufacturing, state sponsored security and emergancy responce, financial sector, ect. ect. ect. And then of course there is pure luck – like being born in the USA instead of Somalia.

            That is not to say that people should not reap the rewards of their hard work, dedication, sacrifice and luck. Of course some people should earn more than others. However, in my opinion, those who benefit the most within our economic systems would do well to recognize that society as a whole created and supports the circumstances that allowed their success.

            http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/11/07/5075

            http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201006/the-myths-the-self-made-man-and-meritocracy

            http://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-myth-of-the-self-made-millionaire

            A Google search (try “self made man myth”) will yield many more.

          • Louise says

            Also – I meant to say hard work and sacrifice “often” contribute to success – because I know lots and lots of smart people who work really really hard and sacrifice much and still struggle. Success’s magic brew is a complicated recipe, and I don’t think anyone is born with all the ingredients in their posession.

          • k says

            But who ever said the “self-made man” does it completely alone? I don’t think anyone’s arguing that. But many of us in this country enjoy ALL of the same opportunities (libraries, road, fire and police protection, public schools, etc.). And let’s not get into the quality of any of those…that’s BS. The little country schools I went to were nothing special. So what? A motivated person can learn anywhere and creates opportunities to do so. So, no, no one gets “to the top” completely alone. So? It also doesn’t take public assistance to get “to the top”.

      • says

        No one will ever ever ever ever ever not want to make more money even if that means they are taxed more. No one. If I’m between pay scales and am offered a raise that would bump me to the next pay bracket, I’m not going to turn it down! Because even if they tax me at a higher rate, I’ll still be making more money and in a better position to help me family.
        Can you imagine someone like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or Warren Buffett is going to look at an investment opportunity and say “Well, this could earn me $45M in just one year, but after taxes I’ll take home $25M. Well screw that, I don’t want another $25M in one year so I’m not going to invest!” Not to mention, these guys aren’t just looking at the earning potential for one year, they’re looking at 5, 10, 30 year projections.
        Remember, it is easier to earn money from money than it is to earn money from physically working. What does this mean? You said this, “Why should they put the time, effort, wealth and risk behind something that will generate more income only to see most of that taxed away? ”
        When you’re earning money from investments, you’re looking at a different level of time and effort. You’re looking at some research, some meetings, and making a decision. You’re not building something from the ground up like you and your husband are doing.
        It’s actually this very thing that encourages people to become Financially Independent and to do so, it means they invest enough money so that their returns exceed their expenses. That’s it. The money is the one slaving away. They’re traveling, or spending time with their grandchildren, or volunteering, or doing freelance work when they’re bored.

        • says

          You’re simply wrong Supermodel. I know several business people who are simply not going to expand their businesses because of the tax consequences and because of the unknowns of Obama care kicking in during 2013 and 2014.

      • Leta says

        and it may be sound financial and economic policy per a bunch of left thinking Nobel laureates.

        ***

        You know what, that is not an argument I can counter. It is a logical fallacy so great that I can only assume you don’t have a firm grasp on the rules of logic, otherwise you wouldn’t have used it…

        … so now, because I’m tipping my hand and showing my education a little bit, I’m sure I’m just a poverty level elitist who talks down to you, right?

        I’ll have a logical and reasoned political debate all day and through the night, but I have to bow out when I realize that my opponent isn’t punching their weight.

        • says

          Oh puhlease – your part of the discussion was neither compelling or persuasive. It certainly wasn’t as logical as you would like to believe either.

      • Angela says

        Socialist? Even if you don’t agree, at least you’ll be entertained: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/19/jon-stewart-rips-fox-news_n_931177.html

        Also, nobody is “punishing” the rich for their success. Your husband was able to become rich because of the system — which includes the rest of us, who need money to buy your husband’s goods and keep him rich — and so he owes something to that system. Let’s please not forget that taxes on the rich are at an all time low and that when they were high there were still a lot of rich people.

        Here’s another reason why the wealthy owe something to the system that allowed them to amass their wealth framed in an essay about libertarianism (which many Tea Partiers and Republicans subscribe to:
        “Libertarians tend to take property as a given, as if it were natural or existed prior to any government. But defining what can be owned, what owning it means, and keeping track of who owns what — that’s a government intervention in the economy that dwarfs all other government interventions. You see, ownership is a social thing, not an individual thing. I can claim I own something, but what makes my ownership real is that the rest of you don’t own it. My ownership isn’t something I do, it’s something we do.

        [Aside: This is why it's completely false to say that government programs primarily benefit the poor. Property is a creation of government, so the primary beneficiaries of government are the people who own things -- the rich.]

        Property and Labor. It’s worthwhile to go back and read the justifications of property that were given in the early days of capitalism. The most famous and influential such justification was in John Locke’s 1690 classic The Second Treatise of Civil Government. Locke admits that both reason and Christian revelation say that God gave the world to all people in common.

        But I shall endeavour to shew, how men might come to have a property in several parts of that which God gave to mankind in common, and that without any express compact of all the commoners.

        Locke argues that we individually own our bodies, and so we own our labor. So when our labor gets mingled with physical objects, we develop a special claim on those objects. The person who gathers apples in a wild forest, Locke says, owns those apples.

        The labour that was mine, removing them out of that common state they were in, hath fixed my property in them. … Though the water running in the fountain be every one’s, yet who can doubt, but that in the pitcher is his only who drew it out? His labour hath taken it out of the hands of nature, where it was common, and belonged equally to all her children, and hath thereby appropriated it to himself.

        But Locke attaches a condition to this justification: It only works if your appropriation doesn’t prevent the next person from doing the same.

        No body could think himself injured by the drinking of another man, though he took a good draught, who had a whole river of the same water left him to quench his thirst

        And that’s where the whole thing breaks down. Today, a baby abandoned in a dumpster has as valid a moral claim to the Earth as anybody else. But as that child grows it will find that in fact everything of value has already been claimed. Locke’s metaphorical water is all in private pitchers now, and the common river is dry.

        When that individual tries to mingle labor with physical objects, he or she will be rebuffed at every turn. Gather apples? The orchard belongs to someone else. Hunt or fish? The forest and the lake are private property.

        The industrial economy is in the same condition. You can’t go down to the Ford plant and start working on your new car. You have to be hired first. You need an owner’s permission before your labor can start to create property for you. If no owner will give you that permission, then you could starve.

        Access to the means of production. In Locke’s hunter-gatherer state of Nature, only laziness could keep an able-bodied person poor, because the means of production — Nature — was just sitting there waiting for human labor to turn it into property.

        Today’s economic environment is very different, but our intuitions haven’t kept up. Our anxiety today isn’t that there won’t be enough goods in the world, and it isn’t fear that our own laziness will prevent us from working to produce those goods. Our fear is that the owners of the means of production won’t grant us access, so we will never have the opportunity to apply our labor.

        I meet very few able-bodied adults whose first choice is to sit around demanding a handout. But I meet a lot who want a job and can’t find one. I also meet young people who would be happy to study whatever subject and train in whatever skill would get them a decent job. I am frustrated that I can’t tell them what subject or what skill that is.

        Justice. A Libertarian government that simply maintained this property system would be enforcing a great injustice. Access to the means of production should be a human birthright. Everyone ought to have the chance to turn his or her labor into products that he or she could own.

        What’s more, everyone should get the benefit of the increased productivity of society. No individual created that productivity single-handedly. No individual has a right to siphon it off.

        But instead, our society has a class of owners, and everyone else participates in the bounty of the Earth and the wealth of human progress only by their permission. Increasingly, they maneuver into a position that allows them to drive a hard bargain for that permission. And so higher productivity means higher unemployment, and the average person’s standard of living decreases even as total wealth increases.

        The role of government. I anticipate this objection: “You want to go back to being hunter-gatherers. We’ll all starve.”

        Not at all. I want a modern economy. But a lassez-faire economy that takes the property system as given is unjust. It is the proper role of government to balance that injustice, to provide many paths of access to the means of production, and to compensate those who are still shut out.

        To prevent government from doing so, in today’s world, is no way to champion freedom. Quite the opposite, it’s tyrannical.”

        • Louise says

          Angela, thank you. I especially like this:

          “I want a modern economy. But a lassez-faire economy that takes the property system as given is unjust. It is the proper role of government to balance that injustice, to provide many paths of access to the means of production, and to compensate those who are still shut out.”

          Exactly.

      • Stephanie says

        Couple of things….
        “My family of five living on $32,000 should not pay as much or more in taxes, either by proportion or dollar amount, as someone making six figures, much less someone making seven figures.”-agreed.
        That is my biggest problem with the tax code today-I have a family of 4 and we live on a little more than twice that. After tax credits/deductions, my tax rate was 4%. I don’t know what percentage you (or Elena) paid, but when I made 32k, I paid 10-15% (can’t remember exactly). I didn’t have any deductions, so I paid the full rate.
        @Elena- we can debate until the end of time whether or not someone who makes more should have to pay in more. But should someone who makes more br required to pay in less? IMO, they should be required to pay at least the same proportion as someone making less.

      • Angela says

        If your business is not yet generating 6 figures, the Democratic policy concerning the Bush tax cuts would not affect you – only those making over $250K would see their taxes go up – and theirs only about 3%, back to where they were when Clinton was president, and the economy was gangbusters.

        • Angela says

          Sorry — this was in reply to an earlier comment by Elena:

          “My husband is a small business owner. He hopes to make it into six figures someday. If he works his butt off and we scrape and sacrifice so he can do that, why should he be punished for success? I just don’t get that. It is like punishing folks for doing well. And here’s the thing about that top 1% – they don’t have to stay here. They also have the ability to limit how much wealth the generate. Why should they put the time, effort, wealth and risk behind something that will generate more income only to see most of that taxed away?”

  38. says

    I of course agree with you and am completely against cutting programs that help others. Call them entitlements, call them assistance, call them whatever.

    I will say, where I think the government TRULY screwed up is not HOW much money they spend but how poorly many of the systems are managed. Ironically, I think this is more of a symptom of not enough spending than too much spending.

    Let me explain.

    Let’s talk about Medicare. We all know Medicare is heavily abused. The reason it is heavily abused is because it is not monitored, managed, or handled adequately. Why is that?

    It’s an old system with few upgrades– from technology to simple day to day processes. How do you fix it? By investing money into fixing it. You HIRE more people to audit, supervise, and enforce the system for example. You BUY new technology. Then, you HIRE people to implement the technology. You HIRE people to analyze the system for its various loopholes and inefficiencies, and then INVEST in strategies to remedy those. What inevitably happens is the waste is eliminated. When the waste is eliminated, the expenses drop.

    All of our programs need solid investments and reforms. Any private sector company that struggles financially has a chance to restructure itself under Bankruptcy protection. These services deserve that chance more than they deserve to be stripped to nothing and forced into complete failure.

  39. Louise says

    Barbara Ehrenreich”s “Nickel and Dimed” is as relevent today (and likely more so) as it was when it was published in 2001.

    On the last page, when discussing how we might feel about the working poor, Ehrenreich says this:

    ” Guilt, you may be thinking warily. Isn’t that what we’re suppose to feel? But guilt doesn’t go anywhere near far enough; The appropriate emotion is shame – shame at our own dependency, in this case, on the underpaid labor of others. When someone works for less pay than she can live on – when, for example, she goes hungry so that you can eat more cheaply and conveniently – then she has made a great sacrifice for you, she has made you a gift of some part of her abilities, her health, and her life. The “working poor,” as they are approvingly termed, are in fact the major philanthropists of our society. They neglect their own children so that the chidlren of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor to everyone else.”

    We don’t, as a society, feel guilt or shame though. We continue to feel disgust. Why don’t these people gain marketable skills? If they worked harder certainly they wouldn’t be poor. Well you know they have phones and refrigerators and TVs, so it isn’t so bad. They just don’t handle their money right.

    The thing is – our economy requires these workers. Without them, and their willingness to work for less than self-sufficient wages, our economy would crumble. They contribute mightily to wealth creation in this country, even though they themselves have almost no wealth of their own. As I said above – filling the gap between working poor wages and a measure of economic security IS NOT charity. It is the cost of capitalism.

    http://www.amazon.com/Nickel-Dimed-Not-Getting-America/dp/0312626681/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1314407175&sr=8-1 (10th Anniversary Edition)

    http://www.democracynow.org/2011/8/8/nickel_dimed_on_not_getting_by

    • Angela says

      Thanks, Louise. Nice one. And this is why the well-to-do owe something to the system: “It IS NOT charity It is the cost of capitalism. ” I think Jesus would agree, yet so many of His followers do not. To understand that disconnect: http://harpers.org/archive/2005/08/0080695

      … written by a Christian, btw.

  40. Angela says

    Dang. Just realized it’s an excerpt and not the whole article, which you have to pay for. Here’s a good excerpt of the excerpt:

    “Take Alabama as an example. In 2002, Bob Riley was elected governor of the state, where 90 percent of residents identify themselves as Christians. Riley could safely be called a conservative—right-wing majordomo Grover Norquist gave him a Friend of the Taxpayer Award every year he was in Congress, where he’d never voted for a tax increase. But when he took over Alabama, he found himself administering a tax code that dated to 1901. The richest Alabamians paid 3 percent of their income in taxes, and the poorest paid up to 12 percent; income taxes kicked in if a family of four made $4,600 (even in Mississippi the threshold was $19,000), while out-of-state timber companies paid $1.25 an acre in property taxes. Alabama was forty-eighth in total state and local taxes, and the largest proportion of that income came from sales tax—a super-regressive tax that in some counties reached into double digits. So

    Riley proposed a tax hike, partly to dig the state out of a fiscal crisis and partly to put more money into the state’s school system, routinely ranked near the worst in the nation. He argued that it was Christian duty to look after the poor more carefully.

    Had the new law passed, the owner of a $250,000 home in Montgomery would have paid $1,432 in property taxes—we’re not talking Sweden here. But it didn’t pass. It was crushed by a factor of two to one. Sixty-eight percent of the state voted against it—meaning, of course, something like 68 percent of the Christians who voted. The opposition was led, in fact, not just by the state’s wealthiest interests but also by the Christian Coalition of Alabama. “You’ll find most Alabamians have got a charitable heart,” said John Giles, the group’s president. “They just don’t want it coming out of their pockets.” On its website, the group argued that taxing the rich at a higher rate than the poor “results in punishing success” and that “when an individual works for their income, that money belongs to the individual.” You might as well just cite chapter and verse from Poor Richard’s Almanack. And whatever the ideology, the results are clear. “I’m tired of Alabama being first in things that are bad,” said Governor Riley, “and last in things that are good.”

    A rich man came to Jesus one day and asked what he should do to get into heaven. Jesus did not say he should invest, spend, and let the benefits trickle down; he said sell what you have, give the money to the poor, and follow me. Few plainer words have been spoken. And yet, for some reason, the Christian Coalition of America—founded in 1989 in order to “preserve, protect and defend the Judeo-Christian values that made this the greatest country in history”—proclaimed last year that its top legislative priority would be “making permanent President Bush’s 2001 federal tax cuts.”

    • says

      Precisely where in the gospel did it say give your money to the government because governments are always the best, most efficient, effective and truest defenders and protectors of the poor?

  41. Stephanie says

    Sorry I’m late to the party…out of town guests.
    Thing is, when you talk about people not paying taxes, there’s another group you don’t even realize you’re talking about….me.
    We are a family of 4 in a suburb of Seattle. We make over 75k/yr-not rich, but at least in the upper half. Last year we *actually paid* about 4% of our income in taxes. Yep, 4%! When I was young, single, and made half what we do now, I paid *at least* 10%. I think one year it was as high as 15! I have more money now , but more deductions-after deductions for 2 kids, mortgage, Mortgage Insurance Premiums (the large prepay required was deductible), we got most of the money back. Which, don’t get me wrong, is nice! But….I should be paying more. I’m not paying my fair share. And I know it. That only works if the government has a surplus, and isn’t cutting programs. And if others making less
    aren’t paying more. Just MHO….

  42. Angela says

    The only thing Jesus ever said about taxes: “Render unto Ceasar what is Ceasar’s and unto God what is God’s.” So, to paraphrase – Grow up, shut up, pay up.

    But let’s assume you’re right. Let’s get rid of social programs for the poor and government assistance during times of natural disasters. Let’s leave it up to the individual will of the people to give money IF they have it and IF they feel like sparing it. If an entire state gets flattened by tornado, let’s just hope people will be generous. If another state gets flooded by a hurricane, I’m sure people will have no problem digging into their accounts again. Most people are cool like that. When Cecily, who produced a product people consumed on a regular basis — for free –ran into tough times and asked for help — assistance that would help Tori — no one judged her. “Judge not lest ye be judged.”

    You don’t find many lefties who actually want a communist nation. History proves it goes against human nature. I’m waiting for the people on the RIght to realize deregulation led to cheating, not some utopia where everyone played fair even though there was no referee. This idea is also pie-in-the-sky. It also goes against human nature. This country has always had progressive taxation. We do not live in a true meritocracy. We don’t all start at the same starting line. Progressive taxation is what’s just. Most of the civilized world lives in mixed economies, with some socialist aspects, and some purely capitalist elements. Are you going to have your in-laws give up their social security and come live with you? And how would your husband feel about your folks crashing with you?

  43. says

    For a little bible lesson, in bible times the “tax collectors” such as St. Matthew were considered with great scorn as great sinners because they cheated the people and took more than what was fair.

    And what is Ceasar’s? In this country it is what the constitution says it is, or what the people vote for.

    Conservativism is realistic. Christian conservatives realize that Utopia will not exist in this life, but only in the next. In the meantime we are to help our fellow man. I see no christian mandate that says that the only or best, most effective and most efficient method of doing that is through burgeoning government with run away spending and high taxes.

    Also as a point of note – my mother did live with us for a time. ANd when she was dying my husband rubbed her feet, gave her water and prayed with us. So I guess he was fine with it.

  44. Angela says

    I responded to this post on 8/31 at length and then lost it all. (I hit “submit” and got “You are not connected to the internet.” DOH!) I was going to tag myself out of the discussion, but I came across this: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/31/opinion/the-new-resentment-of-the-poor.html?src=tp&smid=fb-share

    I also wanted to say I sincerely think it’s wonderful your husband agreed to open your home to your mother and that he helped her in her last hours. I lived very happily abroad for eight years but finally came back to the US so that I could take care of my mother when she gets older. (The idea of flying in for future holidays and then having to say good-bye to my mother at the airport — both of us wondering if it would be the last time we got to hug and kiss each other — was too much.) I’m Colombian by heritage, so having three generations under one roof is normal to me, though here in the States, it’s not. And some families would be unable to have accommodate their in-laws for a variety of reasons.

    Peace out.