The one safety net that pays for itself and funds other programs is being dismanteled by those who should be protecting it. There is a cap on the amount of income subject to Social Security withholding and the trillions of dollars over that cap are not subject to SS withholding. Raise the cap just a little bit, leave trillions untaxed and Social Security will still be able to meet its obligations well into the future and the fund will continue to loan money in exchange for U.S. Bonds. Why this simple solution is not the choice of our elected officials is beyond comprehension. Convoluted assessments of the "Social Security problem" are pages long and never even mention this simple way out.
The Oregonian published an important news item ("U.S. hauls in billions hidden in taxpayer's foreign accounts" on April 27, 2013). We often hear excoriations of "the welfare state" by members of society who do not need any help but are getting it none-the-less. We have been promised cuts in Social Security benefits by those elected officials who think that they owe more to corporations than to their constituents.
But here, in this news story we have proof that the amount lost to the U.S. Treasury in untaxed offshore accounts could more than make up for budget shortfalls. Social Security need not be touched. Thousands of tax cheats have been found and thousands more are out there, according to the GAO. What we have is a "welfare state" consisting of banks, corporations and millionaires who avoid paying taxes on income by stashing it in offshore accounts. Wage earners have never been paid enough to have adequate savings for retirement, health insurance and other basics. Low wage rates help distribute the wealth upwards. Progressive income tax rates redistribute the wealth back to those whose labor created it.
A gun advocate wrote a letter to syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts (The Oregonian, April 25, 2013, "Even after Boston Marathon bombings, U.S is a nation divided...") advocating for a civil war against "LIBERAL DEMACRAT SCUM" and I as liberal Democrat would like to explore what a liberal is and how we can be scum. Liberals have advocated for women's rights, child labor laws, clean air and water laws, the end to slavery, establishing National Parks, National Forests, clean food laws, the eight hour work day, care for the sick and elderly, public schools and libraries and on and on. So how is it that we are scum? What can the letter writer say he has advocated for besides the right to own guns and use them in a war? He has the right to shoot off his mouth, thanks to liberals.
On page A1 of The Oregonian for Monday April 15, 2013 there is the headline "I'm unwilling to be a victim." Then, on page A5 we see: "9-year-old girl dies in apparent gun accident" and the problems facing us about gun control are brought into focus. Those with guns cannot guarantee that there will be no innocent victims, not even themselves. Their solution is part of the problem.
"An American military airstrike in eastern Afghanistan was reported to have killed 18 people, including at least one senior Taliban commander but also women and children, raising the thorny issue of civilian casualties for the third time in roughly a week. The attack occurred Saturday during a joint mission of Afghan and American Special Operations forces targeting a high-profile Taliban commander in Kunar Province, Afghan officials said."
in New York Times April 8, 3013
Some Americans object to abortions and object to tax dollars being used to allow abortions. They say that killing children is wrong. If that is so, if that is a concern of their's then let us hear their voice of protest against the US military killing children in a dubious war on the Taliban. I object to my tax dollars being used to kill kids in Afghanistan in clumsy attempts to kill Taliban leaders.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost us 6 trillion dollars. Dollars wasted, lives wasted and ruined in battle against people who are not attacking the United States. We borrowed money from China to fight a war based on lies. Sure, the Taliban is killing American soldiers in their country, but that is what an invader should expect and I am sure that is what Americans would do to anyone invading and landing on our territory. But Iraq and Afghanistan do not belong to us and we do not belong there.
How many people saw the news item about the leaked files of offshore accounts? From the new information it is estimated that the rich have 21 trillion dollars stashed away. Just sitting there. While children starve and taxes get raised on all but the rich. Filthy rich is a term that comes to mind. To get more info about this go to http://www.guardian.co.uk and hope that your local news source will cover the story.
I have heard some argue that the money belongs to them and they should be able to do as they please. When wage earners get paid a living wage, one that supports them through old age and covers education and health expenses, then I might see to agree. But until then the wealth is the result of theft via under-payment for services and work performed.
Based on recent news stories in The Oregonian it seems that a conservative is someone who wants the government to tell us who can be married but who does not want the government to help the less fortunate with any kind of safety net, whether it is Social Security, health insurance or Medicare. How strange.
The Oregonian stories inform us that conservatives want their religious beliefs enacted into law but do not want to limit the right of citizens to shoot any weapon that can be bought. Conservatives want taxes raised on the lower and middle classes but reduced on the upper class. According to the paper, conservatives think that wage earners should be taxed at a higher rate than those who bet on the stock market. There are other examples but this certainly shows the trend.
Opponents of gay marriage openly claim that the authority for their view comes from God via the Bible. This religious belief has no place as official government policy. Same sex marriages should be up to the participants in the marriage. If it is against someone's religious beliefs then that person is free to eschew, but no authority should be granted for the religious belief to be forced on non believers. Keep religion out of government.
Christians tend to forget that their bible and their beliefs are not everyone's and they do not have the right to force their beliefs on the rest of us. Freedom of religion includes freedom from religion.
It is ironic or maybe hypocritical for the U.S. to be against Iran going ahead with its nuclear program when it was the U.S. that helped Iran get started back in the 1970s. We gave them nuclear power plants to get them going. And then in the '80s the Reagan administration began shipping arms to Iran via Israel. Israel? Yes, and for those with short memories everything we are saying now about the danger of Iran getting nuclear weapons we also said, at one time or another, about Pakistan, China, Russia and other countries that now have the bomb.
All the dire predictions did not come true when those countries got their bombs. And which country has been the only one use the bomb and to threaten enemies with nuclear annihilation? The U.S. threatened Russia with massive attacks as well as Vietnam and many other "enemies."
Some of these former enemies are now our trading partners. I am wearing a shirt made in Vietnam, which had more tons of bombs dropped on it than were dropped in all previous wars. So I find it hard to believe the dire warnings that some are giving about Iran. We made Iran into a country that is afraid of us.
We are the main reason other countries want the atomic bomb, for protection from our threats.
Pope Benedict has resigned and now there is an opportunity to simplify Christianity. Make the Golden Rule the only rule and then everything else will fall into place. There is no need for a pope or a cardinal, a bishop or a pastor. Explanations of dogma will be a thing of the past because "love thy neighbor as thyself" or "do unto others as you would be done by" says it all.
Secularists can accept the Golden Rule because it rises above beliefs. One does not need God, Jesus, Mohammed or Buddha or Marx to accept the common sense of treating others as one wishes to be treated. It is the sum of all laws and the rest is commentary.
"Love thy neighbor as thyself," a variation of the Golden Rule, is recognized by all major religions. It unites all of us. However, dogmas creates chasms that keep us apart: A Gresham, Oregon Christian baker seeks purity by refusing to make a cake for a lesbian couple; A Taliban Muslim shoots Malala Yousafzai to keep her from promoting education for girls in Pakistan; Christian parents, Carl and Raylene Worthington in Oregon City, refused medical treatment for their child because of a religious belief.
These are examples of grotesque hair-splitting that take believers away from the central truth of their beliefs. Instead of finding ways to see how we are all alike, religious dogmas find ways to make us different.
Religions have failed as moral guides because of their plunge into the minutia of dogmas. Instead of promoting kindness to all, self-rightous believers promote rejection. The Golden Rule is inclusive while religious dogmas are exclusive.
Secularists can accept the Golden Rule because it rises above beliefs. One does not need God, Jesus, Mohammed or Buddha or Marx to accept the common sense of treating others as one wishes to be treated. It is the sum of all laws and the rest is commentary.
False equivalency in modern discourse puts weak or even bogus ideas on the same footing as evidence-based theories and scientific findings. The most popular false equivalence is one that presents, as an explanation of life on earth, creationism as a competing explanation with Darwin's Theory of Evolution.
With Darwinism we have a theory backed by years of observation around the world. Whereas creationism is backed by no testable evidence at all. We are asked to believe that a supernatural event occurred when each of millions of species appeared on the planet, a creation by God at a moment in time, perhaps even within the last 10,000 years. Anyone can go to the geologic record and view evidence of Darwin's theory. No where is there evidence of instantaneous creation.
It is science versus superstition. This is worse than comparing apples and oranges, at least those are both fruits with verifiable physical characteristics. There is no way to verify of falsify the superstitious claims of creationism. Looking at the fossil record only confirms the gradual change of plant and animal life as described by Darwin. Yet many high school biology teachers teach creationism as an alternate scientific theory and some even do so to the disadvantage of scientific theories. Magical and supernatural explanations for how plants and animals came about are taught in some schools as the preferred explanation.
“There is no credible scientific challenge to the theory of evolution as an explanation for the complexity and diversity of life on earth. Courts have repeatedly ruled that creationism and intelligent design are religious doctrines, not scientific theories.”
Just in time for New Year resolutions, here is a simple solution to the health care crisis: stop sucking sugar drinks, stop eating fat-laden meals, start eating more real food in the form of fruits and vegetables. Illnesses are preventable to a large degree with healthy eating habits. Pay attention to the health tips that are given every Wednesday in The Oregonian.
Do we need to go broke funding the care of people who get sick because of what they eat and smoke? It is time to take personal responsibility for our bodies. Smokers increase health care costs even as they die faster than cigarette companies can hook them. 60% of Americans are overweight or even obese and that is a personal problem that is pushing national health care costs up.
Good choices don't have to start with abstinence but can at least begin with cutting back. Cut back on sugar, fat, red meat, white flour, alcohol, drugs and tobacco to the extent that you are serious about being healthy and illness free.
And then get out there and daily walk, bike ride, run, ski, or any other exercise that will help you keep the layers of toxic fat from building around your internal organs. Start 2013 with goals you can attain as you become responsible for your own health care.
The Second Amendment says "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."
That was true at the time of the writing but today we have a professional army and do not need citizens to bring their guns to any war. A well regulated militia is provided by the government. The rational for the right to bear arms has been obviated by our standing armies.
I know that this is not the interpretation given by courts down through history, but just looking at the words this is the common sense interpretation uninfluenced by the gun owners and political forces.
Because religious and theological speculations are not verifiable they should be kept out of civic matters. Speculation and superstition have no place in governance.
The wealth of the ownership/inheriting class is equal to the wages owed to the workers who did not get a living wage which would have allowed them to have a savings account, pay for college, have a retirement fund, afford free-enterprise health insurance. Note that this says nothing about a fine car, a yacht or 5 mansions and vacations whenever needed.
There are people who believe in Creationism and reject the evolutionary process as an explanation for the diversity of life on Earth. There is not a shred of evidence for an act of creation by a supernatural being but the geological evidence is stacked, showing a change over time of life forms on Earth. But believers have faith in their ignorance of the evidence and they reject even the newer discoveries of embryology and DNA tracing. Thus: faith based ignorance.
Send this to appropriate correspondents.
What happened to the champions of freedom of religion? They now are telling us that whatever happens is the will of their god, even rape, so just lay back or bend over and think of Jesus.
Listen to the discussion about rape and abortion and women's rights and it is easy to see that the Republicans are in favor of the government enforcing their religious-right ideas. If Romney and Ryan win we will have representatives of two of the most repressive religions in our highest offices. Freedom of religion also means freedom from religious dogma in government. That is not what Republicans believe. Republicans always call on God to support their views, especially when science does not.
February 28, 2012
What used to be a health issue, the drug problem, was turned into a crime issue with the start of the War on Drugs. Instead of solving the problem we have exacerbated it, throwing billions of dollars into arming American local police SWAT teams with military equipment and sending hundreds of thousands of newly made criminals to Federal prisons for non-violent actions: consensual drug deals. Normally when a crime is committed the victim calls the police. Now, with the so-called drug crimes, it is the police who come calling, smashing down doors with great zeal.
In 1980 when Reagan began the War on Drugs there were less than a half million prisoners behind Federal bars. Now there are two million, and most of them are not "king pin" drug pushers. Most are ordinary drug users, whom we have turned into criminals with the new laws. Most are also people of color. Statistics show that most drug users and sellers are white, that the percentage of white and black populations that use drugs is the same, yet 25 times more people of color are behind bars for drug violations, including drug use as a parole violation, than white people. The War on Drugs is being enforced differentially against people of color.
The solution is to recognize drug use as a health issue, and stop making criminals out of people who get caught doing what is essentially a consensual transaction. Then we can tax the sales of drugs rather than pour more money down the drain in an unending and discriminatory war and use the tax revenues for drug education and rehab.
February 22, 2012
What do you hear when a Republican blows his dog whistle? Dog whistle politics is another name for the code-words used to cover racist goals. Early vagrancy laws were used to get black men off the streets and roads in the South. When Nixon spoke of getting rid of "crime in the streets," when Reagan spoke of "welfare queens," when laws were passed to fight the "War on Crime," and the "Drug War," what was really being said was "no more support for black and brown people." Both Nixon and Reagan were elected with the support of scared white people who heard the whistles.
Why will a poor white person vote lockstep with a Wall Street banker? Because they both hear their master's dog whistle promising no more welfare for black and brown folks. Even if it hurts them, poor whites will vote for a politician who blows the "'war on drugs" tone, knowing that it means more black youth will end up in prison. That is the appeal of the Republican party to an underemployed white. Republicans promote the view that immigrants are stealing jobs from white Americans.
The most recent dog whistle tone is the "balanced budget". What this means is cut back all welfare spending, cut back funding for public schools. To the unlearned ear a balanced budget sounds good. But to a trained ear it means cut programs that help unemployed black youth.
Libertarians proudly whistle their small government tune, knowing that it sounds righteous in most ears, but it is just a cover tune for racism. Of course everyone has "plausible denial." That is the beauty of the dog whistle, it gets the have-nots to vote with the haves. Republicans are using religious and racist "dog whistles" to get their voters to heel.
February 21, 2012
Why did the American economy go down the tubes in 2008? Advocates of small government would have us believe it was because too many poor people bought houses backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That is part of the picture, but such a tiny part as to be insignificant.
The biggest share of the blame goes to the banks that gambled trillions, yes trillions, of dollars on repackaged mortgage loans, knowing that they were subprime but repackaged as AAA and sold as such to investors. The banks sold these mortgages to retirement funds, charities, and widows, knowing they were crap, and they bought insurance for when the mortgages failed.
The banks were leveraged as much as 60 to one, so there was no way they would have enough capital to cover the losses when the bubble burst. The insurance did not cover the loss. It was up to the taxpayers to cover the trillions of dollars lost when the bubble broke.
What is to keep this from happening again? This is the same question asked after the Great Crash of 1929. The Glass-Steagall Act was passed then to prevent a recurrence of leveraged gambling with bank depositors' funds.
In 1999 a key provision of the Glass-Steagall Act was repealed and gambling with bank money began again, leading to the 2008 disaster. In 2010 the Dodd-Frank Act was passed to rectify the repeal of Glass-Steagall, but Wall Street will not rest until even this minor fix of the problem is canceled.
So the Wall Street bankers are at it again, there is nothing to keep the gambling investment bubble from growing and bursting again. When that happens the rich will survive, but the poor will get poorer.
February 21, 2012
The war on drugs, so called, has been a failure by any measure. Instead of gaining tax revenues on the most popular leaf in the world we are spending billions trying to persuade Americans not to smoke it, buy it or sell it. We don't even have the sense to learn the lessons of the Prohibition Era. We criminalize the use of some drugs when instead we should be treating drug use as a health problem, not a police problem. Why?
Let's put the drug war in perspective to find the answer to why we continue a policy that is obviously failing in its publicly stated goals. Ever since the founding of this nation the white power structure has sought ways to control the poor, both black and white. Bacon's Rebellion in 1675 shook the system when poor whites and blacks united to protest the economic oppression by the planters around Jamestown. The ruling class solved the crisis by force, hanging some rebels and they began using fewer bonded servants and imported more slaves from Africa. The new nation then adopted a Constitution that perpetuated slavery. High sounding words were used to cover the shame and contradictions in that document.
After the Civil War Negroes were briefly free and this again stuck fear in the hearts of the white ruling class. But Jim Crow laws were passed that restricted black economic freedom, mobility and voting.
The 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution gave more rights to Negroes and the power structure again had to figure a way to keep the Negro suppressed. Physical violence and economic and political restrictions were again used, not just by the KKK, but by elected white officials. Once more black people were intimidated out of economic and political rights. Residence and employment laws were used against blacks to fill chain gangs across the South, with Parchman Farm being a prime example of the new slavery. The hypocrisy of a "Christian" nation continuing to subjugate Negroes as an inferior race showed the power of faith over science. The Bible was used to justify racism.
As America moved into the Post World War II era the gains made for democracy overseas by the fighting efforts of black soldiers who could not vote at home was seen as an embarrassment. By this time if was not couth to say directly that your goal was the subjugation of black people so new circumlocutions were invented. To combat the gains made in the Civil Rights Acts of the '60s, the War on Crime was started with its not-so-hidden agenda of putting black men in prison. The arrest and incarceration rates prove it: crime rates by race are pretty similar yet incarceration rates by race are 6 times higher for blacks.
Then came the War on Drugs, another "dog whistle" phrase for war on black people. How do we know this? Drug use by races as a percentage of the population is almost the same yet arrests of black drug users is much higher. The War on Drugs is being used as a new Jim Crow law to keep black men in prison. The statistics prove that. It is just one more in a long line of euphemistic terms used to cover the real aims of the law makers.
A whole industry has grown up around the arrest and incarceration of drug users. This has been the most successful means of control since slavery was abolished. That is why the drug war will not end. Billions of dollars are being made by those profiting on the drug war.
February 14, 2012 Published in The Oregonian
In light of what is being said today about Iran's nuclear program this quote from LIFE magazine, March 31, 1947 in a photo caption shows what little progress we have made and draws into question the conclusion that we have to go to war with Iran.
"U-235 PLANT at Oak Ridge, Tenn., where uranium, the material for atomic bombs, is refined, is only one of its kind known to exist in the world today. This gives the U.S. a temporary monopoly in atomic weapons, which we will soon lose... unless we use force to maintain it."
Similar statements have been made whenever some nation not our friend comes close to getting the bomb. Propaganda is being used today to soften up the American public to accept another stupid decision to start another stupid war. Before every war the enemy is made to be more horrible and more threatening than in reality so that our actions to begin the killing will appear justified.
February 7, 2012
Holding irrational points of view is everyone's right; that is what freedom of religion is all about. But for an elected official to expect his or her irrational view to become secular law is not what the Second Amendment is about. Newt Gingrich's Catholicism influences his rants. The Mormon church's tenets determine Mitt Romney's goals. Obama's Protestantism seems to have less influence against his rational side.
Religious beliefs about evolution, abortion, marriage and so forth are not guaranteed a place in American law. Only what can be shown with evidence to be true can be accepted as basis for law and that is why governments should not make laws that support religious views on marriage, abortion and the teaching of descent with change (evolution).
There is no evidence that marriage between heterosexuals is harmed when homosexuals marry. There is no evidence that God said anything about abortion. In fact there is no evidence that there is a God outside of people's idea of God. So to base laws upon this irrational belief is prima facie irrational.
It is time for those who have irrational beliefs to keep them to themselves and let laws that are supported by empirical evidence take precedence.
February 2, 2012
Capitalism in America is supported by socialism. Defenders of unregulated capitalism don't have a leg to stand on now that we all know that it was the commercial banks and investment banks gambling with trillions in deposits and knowingly selling crap to investors (because they made money when the investment failed, from the insurance payment). The bailout of these banks and investment houses was paid for by taxpayers. So it is socialism for the banks and free enterprise for your schools, libraries and health insurance.
The repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act helped this to happen because it allowed regular banks to start betting with savings deposits of millions of Americans. Sometimes the banks' bets were leveraged at 20:1. When the bets failed, the financial system was in free-fall.
So why do poor people (now most of the middle class) still vote against their own interests? Why vote against bank regulation in light of the evidence? Anti-regulation Conservatives want to dump even the modest attempt at regulation, the Dodd-Frank Act, and if they win that move, nothing separates the gamblers from what little money we have left, once again.
The documentary film, Inside Job, explains what happened in detail.
"Inside Job is a 2010 documentary film about the late-2000s financial crisis, and was directed by Charles H. Ferguson. The film is described by Ferguson as being about "the systemic corruption of the United States by the financial services industry and the consequences of that systemic corruption." In five parts, the film explores how changes in the policy environment and banking practices helped create the financial crisis. Inside Job was well received by film critics who praised its pacing, research, and exposition of complex material."
January 16, 2012 Published in The Oregonian
Too late the Republicans are waking up to what is happening as their candidates debate each other. It is almost as if the Democrats hired this group of office seekers to go on tour to show their weaknesses. Like a bunch of stand up comedians, they show us why none of them should be elected. RNS leaders meeting in New Orleans are saying it is time to bash Obama. Too late. When Romney begins his campaign against Obama we just need to recall the words of Newt Gingrich and the others to see why the Mitt will not fit.
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