Budget Solutions

May 1, 2012

If we really wanted to solve the budget problem (not crisis) then here are some common sense solutions that will never see the light of day:

 

  1. Eliminate all exemptions from corporate taxes and lower the tax rate to 8%.
  2. Tax all corporate bonuses over $1 million at 50% rate.
  3. Tax Hedge Funds at the same effective rate as any other stock capital gains.
  4. Eliminate the Bush tax cut and lower taxes on anyone earning less than $500,000.00 per year.
  5. Put all Americans under Medicare coverage (single payer).
  6. Temporary tax to sustain the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq (and Libya) – the first wars in our history that have not been sustained by a tax. 

 

 

This will produce a budget surplus, stimulate the economy, and guarantee the solvency of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. It would not require any reductions in the Defense budget, which is rife with waste and fraud.  

The Bi-partisan Deficit Committee recommended these solutions months ago. Of course, the pre-requisite condition for any of this to happen would be to ban all lobbyists from participating in the process, which is why their recommendations were D.O.A.

 Republicans complain about our corporate tax rates, saying that it is among the highest of any country, but over 80% of Corporations doing business in the United States did not pay any taxes last year as the result of their lobbyists writing the actual tax codes for Congressmen.  If Corporations are given the same rights as individuals in this Country, they should be required to pay the same amount of taxes. 

Hedge Funds represent a $500 billion industry (if you could call investing an industry) that is virtually untaxed at present. These are funds owned by multi-millionaires who have used a technicality in the tax laws to avoid paying the same capital gains tax that any other investors have to pay. There is a good argument that these are the people who really run our government at present. They are the Koch brothers and other behind the scenes king makers who own Congress.

When the burden of budget cuts fall on the most vulnerable Americans while Corporations and Billionaires are untaxed, it creates an unjust society. The kind of society that cannot survive for long.

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Taxes

May 1, 2012

Most of us owed the Internal Revenue Service money on April 15th, on top of what we paid during the year. I am not opposed to paying taxes. I think paying taxes to maintain a government that provides for the health and security of the Country is a duty. I do believe that government does have an essential role to play in our lives. Corporations don’t build interstate highways or bridges. There are some things government can do that the private sector can’t, national defense for example. However, I do have a problem paying money and not knowing where it is going and whether or not it is being spent wisely. National defense is one example of a money pit. I can see a new bridge or travel on repaired highways. Most of what goes toward national defense is classified.

In the past, when we fought a war we paid for it with taxes – everyone paid for it. We all knew where the money was going and why. Not now. Most of the costs of the so-called “war on terror” are hidden. It is estimated that nearly 40% of funding for National Security is classified. We don’t know how much is spent on which project, although we do know that some of it goes toward domestic spying. Men and women in uniform are woefully underpaid, considering the sacrifice they are making. The equipment they are using is superb, but we know what these costs are but they are only about half of what we are giving the government. So where does the money go? How do I know I am not paying for a $200 toilet seat or to hire a technician to listen in on random cell phone conversations? We don’t.

I will pay my taxes, but I want to know where the money is going. Don’t we all have that right? 


Tough Choices in Detroit

May 1, 2012

Petitions to repeal the Emergency Manager Law will be submitted later today or early tomorrow. There will be more than enough signatures to get the issue before Michigan citizens, which it should have been done long ago. The law unilaterally voids elections and creates manager appointed by the Governor and endowed with the power to void legal contracts and create their own budgets. When I was a child I was taught this was what Communism would bring about unless we fought them in Southeast Asia.

Given the anti-democratic nature of the law (which is clearly unconstitutional), why is it such a difficult issue? A large part of the problem is the intransigence of political figures in cities like Detroit. It is certainly true that beginning with John Engler the State has significantly reduced funds for local municipalities to operate. Giving tax breaks for corporations and reducing taxes failed to produce many jobs and failed to improve infrastructure. The result has been that local services, such as policing and fire fighting and sanitation have been severely damaged. Mayors and City Counsels have been forced to make difficult decisions involving which vitals services to eliminate. The problem is that they haven’t made those decisions.

Mayor Bing and City Counsel have failed to cooperate to provide the unified and strong leadership needed to rescue Detroit. Mayor Bing, to his credit, at least made an innovative proposal to consolidate neighborhoods and services to save money and improve services. The proposal went nowhere. The best they could manage was to negotiate a chair in the back of the room when the Governor’s representative considers selling off Detroit’s few remaining prized assets, such as the Water treatment and pumping facilities.   

Could it be that democracy can no longer function on any level in Michigan? Could it be that we need a dictator, a Caesar to save our cities? The Mayor and City Counsel have failed the people, but the solution cannot be a State takeover.


What Trayvon Martin Has Taught Us (So Far)

May 1, 2012

That laws which allow anyone to “stand their ground” are inherently dangerous –  they are a prescription for increased violence.  Anyone looking for trouble can find it and then justify killing. These laws obstruct police and prosecutors from timely investigations. They also puts the burden on victims to prove they were not the criminal.  (This is why virtually every law enforcement agency has opposed these laws).

That institutional racism is still a significant problem in our society, especially in law enforcement.  It’s a simple question with an obvious answer: would the police have done the same thing if Trayvon had done the shooting? The Chief of Police declared before the investigation was over that there would be no arrest and prosecution. They treated Trayvon as a criminal “John Doe” and the initial investigation centered on his background – not the killer’s. The initial prosecutor put the brakes on the investigation and over-ruled the detective’s recommendation for an arrest of the killer. It happens every day, all around the country. I know, I fight it often in my cases.

That social action is necessary to overcome institutional racism. Without the work of the National Action Network and people being willing to take to the streets, nothing was going to happen. We must be willing to march.

That peaceful protests and insistence on following the law are a powerful moral argument that is hard to resist. Violence, revenge, character assassinations and other similar tactics divert attention at best and creates more violence at worse. By insisting only on the need for a thorough investigation and an arrest if warranted, Trayvon’s defenders took the moral high ground.


Just When I Was Ready to Vote for Obama Again

May 1, 2012

Just when I was ready to vote for Obama for President again I read about the “Jumpstart Our Business Start-up Act”  (aka the JOBS Act). Matt Taibbi of The Rolling Stone has offered the most concise critique of the Act that I have read so far, but the short of it is that it legalizes fraud for businesses to capitalize start-up for new companies. Literally – legal fraud. This is because it exempts businesses from independent accounting for the first 5 years and exempts them from any responsibility for misrepresentations to investors during pre-prospectus presentations.

Not one Wall Street mogul has been held criminally responsible for the massive fraud that nearly destroyed our economy just a few years ago, and most of the Wall St. firms were not even fined for what was clearly unethical, if not illegal, sales. Wall St. profits are at an all time high, bonuses are greater than before the bail-outs. Election cycles are good for the big boys. Meanwhile working men and women are scrambling for the scraps, with decreasing wages and fewer job opportunities.

Is there really a choice between Romney and Obama? Not with regard to economic justice.  Congress appears to be a lost cause (lost to the same big money interests). With the Courts increasingly under the control of conservative activists appointed by executives who represent the 1% or elected by – you guessed it – with contributions from the 1%, there seems to be very few democratic options left. How can we get money out of politics?