Wednesday, October 27, 2010

OK, let me explain something here...

by Rich Miles

Do any of you wonder what this talk is in the TV commercials about a 23% sales tax? I mean, I see this topic getting way out of hand if there isn't some clarity injected into the discussion. So let me give it a try:

First, let me say that I'm not sure if I favor this plan yet or not. There are too many uncertainties to it. I know that if it were laid out the way several countries in Europe do it, then I would be for it, wholeheartedly. But I still have infinite faith in our government to take a perfectly fine idea, and fuck it up miserably. So I'm not going to express an opinion on it until I've seen what, if anything, our lads in Washington are going to do with it. I rather expect it won't be anything like what I'm about to describe, at least in its first incarnation. Assuming there will be a first incarnation.

OK, so here's what is being bandied about, though not with a very high priority at the moment. It's called a value-added tax, or VAT, and it's common in many of the other countries of the civilized world.

But most countries who have a VAT do not apply it to everyday purchases like groceries, toiletries, soft drinks, etc. VAT is intended as a consumption tax. Great Britain has an approximately 17% VAT, in addition to income tax and assorted other taxes - but NOT sales tax. I don't know what other countries charge, though it should be easy enough to ferret them out on the Internet.

So what would be the point of America adopting a VAT, which is the 23% tax that's being talked about? Well, if the income tax remains in effect, there would be little point to it. But if the VAT were to replace the income tax, and were attached to enough commodities, it might end up being a boon to all of us - no income tax, and a refund on a portion of the VAT at the end of the year.

So far, there hasn't been enough (none is not enough) sane discussion of the tax to determine if it's feasible in America. But it's not automatically a rotten idea. There are circumstances under which a VAT could be a good idea.

But you'll never convince a repug of that. It's a tax, and there's nothing else for it but to reject it.

So that's what the tax is about. It will take a lot more talk before it can even be considered in this country.

And if you have a clearer explanation of VAT, please comment here. I'd appreciate it.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Find John Roberts a new job

by Rich Miles

Yellow Dog, over at Blue in the Bluegrass, has posted on a topic that I think should become near and dear to the hearts of all liberals: the impeachment of Supreme Court justices who do not serve the people. Go read the whole thing.

But here's what I think: This - the impeachment of one or more extremely biased Supreme Court justices - is one of the best ideas I've seen in years. In fact, I had this idea about a year or so ago, but figured it would lead to civil war, so never put it out there.

But ya know, all considered, civil war may not be such a bad thing. At least, not considering the alternative, which is the destruction of the American way of life.

Roberts, Scalia, Alito, and arguably one or two others, need to be gotten rid of (this is NOT a physical threat, but an urging toward the use of law to remove them from office). The Supreme Court must always be seen as the last, FAIREST resort of American government, and now it's like the judges on the courts of some banana republic, where the rulings are pretty much decided in advance.

And the Citizens United ruling is unquestionably the WORST ruling the U.S. Supreme Court has EVER handed down. It literally hands the right to vote to wealthy corporations, to the exclusion of the rest of us.

We're seeing the effect of this now, in the 2010 election cycle. NO ONE thinks this is a good idea except the CEO's of large corporations.

And have you ever parsed out WHY corporations agree with this ruling?

It's because Citizens United allows corporations quite literally to BUY POLITICIANS. It's no longer covert - the pols are for sale, and they're just about price-marked and on the shelves waiting for the highest bidder.

And of course, after those pols are bought and placed in office, they continue to have allegiances, required allegiances, to those whut brung 'em.

Again, to the exclusion of the rest of us. So our Supreme Court is no longer ours. It belongs to the corporations, which according to the courts, are just like human beings and have every right to give as much money as they wish to any candidate they wish.

Now how can anyone view that as anything but permission to buy politicians? Give 'em as much money as you want, and then expect them NOT to do your bidding at every turn? Are we really that stupid, that we think that's NOT what's going to happen? And who gave us this ruling, but Roberts' court?

And how do we get rid of corrupt justices? And what doubt can there be that several of our justices are unquestionably corrupt?

Impeach Roberts. To start with. And then we'll see what happens next.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Bush lets self off hook too easily - again!

by Rich Miles

Today, the Huffington Post reports that George W. "I never did anything wrong while in the presidency" Bush finally admits to having done something less than perfectly while he warmed the seat in the Oval Office. Can you believe it?

But he gets this one wrong too - he says that his biggest mistake while president was not privatizing Social Security!

I mean the gall of this guy! First, he really seems to believe that it was all his doing that it failed, and secondly, he seems to think it would have been a GOOD thing if he'd succeeded

Read the whole thing here.

You know, a pattern is beginning to emerge in American history - I'm being hyperbolic, it's already emerged. The pattern is, every time since Reagan inclusive that a Republican president has been in office, the American treasury has taken a major hit, and the Democrats have gotten blamed for it.

I mean, Reagan's tax cuts, and other monetary chicanery, and Bush's additional tax cuts, PLUS the establishment of the Homeland Security department, and the consolidation of all those cabinet departments under its aegis, and other spending and deficit accumulation over 8 years - I mean, people, it's not just cant to say that there was a SURPLUS in the federal budget before Bush hit Washington - there really was a SURPLUS!!! MORE money than we needed to pay the nation's bills! You know...a SURPLUS!

And now, after 8 years of Bush and less than 2 years of Obama, there is a MASSIVE and I mean massive deficit - and it all gets blamed on Obama???

I mean, how stupid can Americans be? Do we really think that just SAYING that Obama is responsible for the deficits of the past 10 years makes it so?

(I mean yeah, Obama and his people have made some decisions that have added to the deficit, but c'mon!!! Let's look at the figures - Obama's additions have been a small percentage of what Bush put there with his people, his Congress, and his executive orders, and so on.)

I'm beginning to despair of Americans' intelligence - do we really have so little ability to remember history, to observe facts, to really figger it out, that we're going to hand over Congress to the very people who put us in this mess, in the hope that they'll pull us out of it this time? Are we really that stupid? That we're going to expect a segment of the population to behave totally against type? That we will expect liars to tell the truth this time?

Will we do this at our own peril? And will we suffer the consequences - among them the loss of Social Security payments as Republicans take the SocSec surplus and apply it to the general fund deficits?

Think it over, people. It's not only the future of our country, and our children. It's our own future too. Believing Republicans is hazardous to our and our country's health.

If the pundits are to be believed, we are. And it just makes me sick in my guts to see it happening.

I mean, I keep praying for what looks like a miracle. And you know how useful that can be.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

What's wrong with him?

OK, I'm stumped: What's the problem with David Brooks?

I mean, the guy spent 8 years being the biggest kind of Bush-lovin' asshole, and completely alienated me, among many others.

And now, at least to a certain degree, Brooks has lately been a perfect, or near-perfect, gentleman!

Today's column (10/5/10) is a positive paean to - of all people on the opposite side of the aisle - Rahm Emanuel! Brooks spends pretty much the entire column talking about how misunderstood and mischaracterized poor Rahm is, and how he's a much nicer guy than everyone thinks he is.

Read the whole thing here.

Now, I have no way of knowing if Rahm Emanuel is a nice guy or not - I've only met him once, and that was at an all-Democrat function where he would be inclined to be on his best behavior. In that instance, he was indeed a gentleman, though one could sense the pent-up power of the man. But of course, pent-up power can move in two directions, so even that doesn't really say anything definitive.

Anyway, I'm out of things to say here. I'd love to have your opinions on Brooks' column, and any further perceptions you may have about Emanuel or about Brooks' recent tone. Thanks!

Friday, October 01, 2010

Too many truths, too many lies

by Rich Miles

Dear Republicans:

I don't know why I bother with these open letters to Repugs. As a group, you've all made it perfectly clear that you won't listen to anyone except those who say exactly what you want to hear. But I keep thinking if I continue to try to get some truth down to you, eventually a few of you will wake up to something resembling reality. Only time will tell if I'm right or wrong. So far, I'm fairly certain I'm wrong.

Anyway, today's sermon is on the topic of Social Security. In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that I am a recipient of SocSec benefits. But this only serves to make me more careful to get my facts straight when discussing the matter.

Let me start by pointing out that almost everything Republicans have said on this topic has been either wrong or a deliberate lie. Democrats have made a few errors on the matter, but I don't think I've so far seen any direct lies from a Dem.

Anyway, I'd like to ask you all, of either persuasion, to take note of a very salient fact in the discussion: in the portion relating to how long SocSec can survive, the numbers keep getting bigger. For instance, as recently as about 18 months ago, it was being said that benefits could be paid for 25 years, after which 75% of promised benefits could be paid almost into perpetuity.

Now, the estimate is that all promised bennies can be paid through 2039 (29 years out), and that 80% will be paid for almost-ever.

The numbers are getting bigger, see?

Predictions of SocSec insolvency have been made for decades. There was an article in Esquire magazine back when I was still in high school, prior ro 1971, that said the insolvency would ALREADY be here, by 1996 if I remember correctly.

But it's still solvent, and the actuarial estimates for how much longer it will survive are another 29 years out.

I begin to believe that the entire purpose of the Republican party and all its members is to KILL SocSec. Nothing else, just that. They certainly haven't DONE anything else to dispel that belief.

BUT - there is one bit of misinformation that is making the Democratic rounds that I'd like to put a stop to:

Some people seem to think that the way to absolutely ensure solvency is to increase the maximum income level up to which payroll assessments for the system are made, or eliminate any maximum and just keep taking out deductions up to infinity. It's currently at $106,800, which means that if you make more than that, your employer will stop deducting SocSec from your gross pay.

But the suggestion has been made, repeatedly, that deductions should continue to be made no matter how much one makes. That would increase contributions to the fund by a lot, and add to solvency. Well, that's not entirely true, but here's why such a plan would not be fair: because of the maximum amount on which benefits are calculated. That amount is, you guessed it, $106,800. If you make more than that, your benefit when you retire will not increase as a result. So, it's not really fair to ask high income makers to pay more for something that will not benefit them more.

Or so the theory goes. It's up to you whether you agree that it's unfair to continue to take deductions for something that doesn't produce a benefit. I don't really know how I feel about it. I'm tending toward the old leftie position of "Shut the fuck up and pay the money", but I'm not sure yet.

Got an opinion on this?