Rich vs Poor
See Sue Run (or deficit polling and taxing workers to fund programs for people who could get by without help) [New]
The National Journal polled Americans on questions surrounding the federal budget deficit (linked from Jon Walker). Did Americans blame the safety-net programs for the deficit in the federal budget?
As important, the survey found Americans unconvinced that safety-net programs represent a major source of the deficit problem. When asked to identify the biggest reason the federal government faces large deficits for the coming years, just 3 percent of those surveyed said it was because of “too much government spending on programs for the elderly”; only 14 percent said the principal reason was “too much government spending on programs for poor people.” Those explanations were dwarfed by the 24 percent who attributed the deficits primarily to excessive defense spending, and the 46 percent plurality who said their principal cause was that “wealthy Americans don’t pay enough in taxes.” While minorities were more likely than whites to pin the blame on the wealthy avoiding taxes, even 43 percent of whites agreed.
Given that diagnosis, it is perhaps not surprising that relatively few respondents said they would support major reductions in safety-net programs to reduce the deficit. Fully three-fourths of those polled said Social Security should be cut “not at all” to reduce the deficit, and exactly four-fifths said the same about Medicare. Nearly two-thirds even agreed that Medicaid should be entirely spared from cuts; just 5 percent said it should be cut a lot. There was more receptivity to retrenching food stamps and housing vouchers for the poor (only 51 percent said they should be entirely spared), but even so, just 9 percent said they should be cut “a lot.” Twice as many said defense should face big cuts.
And the accompanying graphic:
The 53% who think “the government taxes workers too much to fund programs for people who could get by without help” left me wondering who exactly are those “people who could get by without help.” Because Wall Street, Big Oil, Big Banks and so on certainly don’t need any government help. Another portion will define “people who could get by without help” as those that receive help from safety net programs. Probably many of those exclude themselves from those who get government help that they don’t need. B. Deutsch at ‘Alas! a Blog’ (linked by Meteor Blades), used data from Suzanne Mettler’s “Reconstituting the Submerged State: The Challenge of Social Policy Reform in the Obama Era” that was published in Perspectives on Politics on September 2010 (pdf) and built a revealing table showing how little many people know about the government programs that they receive a boost from:
Percentage of Program Beneficiaries Who Report They “Have Not Used a Government Social Program” Program “No, Have Not Used a Government Social Program” 529 or Coverdell 64.3 Home Mortgage Interest Deduction 60.0 Hope or Lifetime Learning Tax Credit 59.6 Student Loans 53.3 Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit 51.7 Earned Income Tax Credit 47.1 Social Security—Retirement & Survivors 44.1 Pell Grants 43.1 Unemployment Insurance 43.0 Veterans Benefits (other than G.I. Bill) 41.7 G.I. Bill 40.3 Medicare 39.8 Head Start 37.2 Social Security Disability 28.7 Supplemental Security Income 28.2 Medicaid 27.8 Welfare/Public Assistance 27.4 Government Subsidized Housing 27.4 Food Stamps 25.4
Deutch based a cartoon on the data he gathered:
[The federal income tax] it’s not as progressive as it used to be, back before top marginal rates were lowered and capital gains taxes were slashed in half. But conservatives are a little less excited to talk about other kinds of taxes. Payroll taxes aren’t progressive, for example. In fact, they’re actively regressive, with the poor and middle classes paying higher rates than the rich.
And then there are state taxes. Those include state income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, and fees of various kinds. How progressive are state taxes?
Answer: They aren’t. The Corporation for Enterprise Development recently released a scorecard for all 50 states, and it has boatloads of useful information. That includes overall tax rates, where data from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy shows that in the median state (Mississippi, as it turns out) the poorest 20 percent pay twice the tax rate of the top 1 percent. In the worst states, the poorest 20 percent pay five to six times the rate of the richest 1 percent. Lucky duckies indeed. There’s not one single state with a tax system that’s progressive. Check the table below to see how your state scores.
I mentioned earlier in the week how the public option fight changed the progressive movement. You had a popular, compromise measure that the public supported, where advocates did everything right, getting their pledges and using allies to make demands, and none of it mattered. It bred cynicism for future fights.
Underneath all that was a belief that the public option’s fate represented a sellout, that forces inside Washington cut a deal, whether with the hospital industry or the insurance industry or whoever, to get rid of the public option at the last minute. Tom Daschle confirmed this in a book all the way back in 2010, which he then had to walk back. And other reports have made similar claims, though nobody could nail it down.
Now, Richard Kirsch, who was the head for Health Care for America Now, the labor-backed coalition trying to pass the Affordable Care Act in 2010, admitted that the public option was traded away in the midst of the fight.
The book is Fighting For Our Health, by Richard Kirsch, who directed the advocacy group Health Care for America Now during the push for reform. HCAN is a well financed umbrella group backed by scores of liberal groups, unions, and other reformers — making Kirsch a close witness to the entire saga. He confirms that the White House treated the public option like a bargaining chip with powerful industry players, and believes that when his group became most critical of the bill mid-way through the fight, that top White House aides sought to have him canned.
“The White House had negotiated a number of deals with the health industry, designed to win their support for reform, including agreeing to oppose a robust public option, which would have the greatest clout to control how much providers got paid,” writes Kirsch, largely confirming what has become an open secret in Washington.
I think this sellout exposed Democrats and separated them from the progressive movement like nothing else has. Anyway, I like to think that…
On the 1st part of the first episode of Moyers and Company, On Winner-Take-All Politics, Bill Moyers explores how America’s vast inequality didn’t just happen, it’s been politically engineered. The 2nd part is an essay on the Occupy movement. Check the station-finder to find the time Moyers and Company airs and repeats on your PBS station (11am and 7pm on Chicago). Or watch all 57 minutes on BillMoyers.com. There is a transcript there too. Bill, also, has a 5 minute video essay on Bill Guthrie (web only) that was based on his ‘Is This Land Made for You and Me?’ essay.
Description of the first episode:
On Winner-Take-All PoliticsJanuary 13, 2012
In its premiere episode, Moyers & Company dives into one of the most important and controversial issues of our time: How Washington and Big Business colluded to make the super-rich richer and turn their backs on the rest of us.
Bill’s guests – Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, authors of Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer — And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, argue that America’s vast inequality is no accident, but in fact has been politically engineered.
How, in a nation as wealthy as America, can the economy simply stop working for people at large, while super-serving those at the very top? Through exhaustive research and analysis, the political scientists Hacker and Pierson — whom Bill regards as the “Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson” of economics — detail important truths behind a 30-year economic assault against the middle class.
Who’s the culprit? “American politics did it– far more than we would have believed when we started this research,” Hacker explains. “What government has done and not done, and the politics that produced it, is really at the heart of the rise of an economy that has showered huge riches on the very, very, very well off.”
Bill considers their book the best he’s seen detailing “how politicians rewrote the rules to create a winner-take-all economy that favors the 1% over everyone else, putting our once and future middle class in peril.”
The show includes an essay on how Occupy Wall Street reflects a widespread belief that politics no longer works for ordinary people, including footage we took at the OWS rally from October – December 2011.
OpenSecrets: A hard financial look at those SuperPACS
Everyone agrees the United States needs to improve its education system dramatically, but how? One of the hottest trends in education reform lately is looking at the stunning success of the West’s reigning education superpower, Finland. Trouble is, when it comes to the lessons that Finnish schools have to offer, most of the discussion seems to be missing the point.
… So there was considerable interest in a recent visit to the U.S. by one of the leading Finnish authorities on education reform, Pasi Sahlberg, director of the Finnish Ministry of Education’s Center for International Mobility and author of the new book Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? Earlier this month, Sahlberg stopped by the Dwight School in New York City to speak with educators and students, and his visit received national media attention and generated much discussion.
And yet it wasn’t clear that Sahlberg’s message was actually getting through. As Sahlberg put it to me later, there are certain things nobody in America really wants to talk about.
During the afternoon that Sahlberg spent at the Dwight School, a photographer from the New York Times jockeyed for position with Dan Rather’s TV crew as Sahlberg participated in a roundtable chat with students. The subsequent article in the Times about the event would focus on Finland as an “intriguing school-reform model.”
Yet one of the most significant things Sahlberg said passed practically unnoticed. “Oh,” he mentioned at one point, “and there are no private schools in Finland.”
This notion may seem difficult for an American to digest, but it’s true. Only a small number of independent schools exist in Finland, and even they are all publicly financed. None is allowed to charge tuition fees. There are no private universities, either. This means that practically every person in Finland attends public school, whether for pre-K or a Ph.D.
“Difficult for an American” say the NY Times! That should be “Difficult for the 1%.” And speaking of the 1%:
Decades ago, when the Finnish school system was badly in need of reform, the goal of the program that Finland instituted, resulting in so much success today, was never excellence. It was equity.
Since the 1980s, the main driver of Finnish education policy has been the idea that every child should have exactly the same opportunity to learn, regardless of family background, income, or geographic location. Education has been seen first and foremost not as a way to produce star performers, but as an instrument to even out social inequality.
In the Finnish view, as Sahlberg describes it, this means that schools should be healthy, safe environments for children. This starts with the basics. Finland offers all pupils free school meals, easy access to health care, psychological counseling, and individualized student guidance.
In fact, since academic excellence wasn’t a particular priority on the Finnish to-do list, when Finland’s students scored so high on the first PISA survey in 2001, many Finns thought the results must be a mistake. But subsequent PISA tests confirmed that Finland — unlike, say, very similar countries such as Norway — was producing academic excellence through its particular policy focus on equity.
That this point is almost always ignored or brushed aside in the U.S. seems especially poignant at the moment, after the financial crisis and Occupy Wall Street movement have brought the problems of inequality in America into such sharp focus. The chasm between those who can afford $35,000 in tuition per child per year — or even just the price of a house in a good public school district — and the other “99 percent” is painfully plain to see.
Relative Poverty Rates in Twenty-One Rich Nations at the Turn of the Century for Children
Here’s an updated version of the the graph from the Stanford Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality:
Relative Poverty Rates in Forty Nations in the Mid-to-Late 2000s
Look where Finland is and where the U.S. is in both graphs. But discussing this in America is not to the interest of the 1% and their lackeys.
Presumably you’ve seen this at the NY Times:
UNLESS something changes in Washington, American workers will, on New Year’s Day, effectively lose their right to be represented by a union. Two of the five seats on the National Labor Relations Board, which protects collective bargaining, are vacant, and on Dec. 31, the term of Craig Becker, a labor lawyer whom President Obama named to the board last year through a recess appointment, will expire. Without a quorum, the Supreme Court ruled last year, the board cannot decide cases.
What would this mean?
Workers illegally fired for union organizing won’t be reinstated with back pay. Employers will be able to get away with interfering with union elections. Perhaps most important, employers won’t have to recognize unions despite a majority vote by workers. Without the board to enforce labor law, most companies will not voluntarily deal with unions.
If this nightmare comes to pass, it will represent the culmination of three decades of Republican resistance to the board — an unwillingness to recognize the fundamental right of workers to band together, if they wish, to seek better pay and working conditions. But Mr. Obama is also partly to blame; in trying to install partisan stalwarts on the board, as his predecessors did, he is all but guaranteeing that the impasse will continue. On Wednesday, he announced his intention to nominate two pro-union lawyers to the board, though there is no realistic chance that either can gain Senate confirmation anytime soon.
The author was NLRB chair during the Clinton years. While I don’t agree fully with some of his comments, clearly this is one issue that deserves more notice and debate. Either workers have rights or they don’t. If they do have rights, they need a reasonable enforcement capability to support their rights.
Part of what I disagree with is the idea that Obama is at fault if the NLRB falls apart, by nominating worker-friendly members to the board. I agree members of the board should be mostly non-partisan professionals, not ideological hacks. But if the board exists to protect worker rights, then the bias on the board should be towards appointing members who will defend those rights. Presumably businesses that disagree with the board on an issue have their own resources and will protect their interests, as well. And Senators should respect this dynamic. Otherwise, Senators are agreeing with Republicans that workers have no rights.
It also goes without saying that without unions wage suppression becomes even more pronounced and the ability to have a viable middle class disappears in the US (it’s already gone, in many ways).
Poverty in America is only getting worse, with data showing rising income inequality and the startling fact that half of all Americans are now either in poverty or considered low-income. Were it not for the government programs that comprise the social safety net, those numbers would be even worse. More than a quarter would live in poverty without the safety net, according to one study, and Social Security alone kept 14 million out of poverty last year. Despite that, Congress — and particularly Republicans in Congress — have made cuts to various programs meant to aid the poorest Americans.
Congress reached a deal Thursday to avert a shutdown that would have begun at midnight tonight, and in doing so, Republicans found another low-income program to target, cutting funding for subsidies that help the poor stay warm during the winter by nearly 25 percent. At the same time, however, the Pentagon’s budget is getting a 1 percent boost, as the Associated Press noted:
Highlights of the $1 trillion-plus 2012 spending legislation in Congress:
—$518 billion for the Pentagon’s core budget, a 1 percent boost, excluding military operations overseas. [...]
—$3.5 billion for low-income heating and utility subsidies, a cut of about 25 percent.
The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) has become increasingly vital for American families affected by the recession, and it is utilized more and more by military families. One of every five families using LIHEAP is a military family, a 156 percent increase from 2008. Congress, however, decided to cut that program to give a boost to a budget that already makes up 20 percent of the country’s total budget and has been spared in multiple spending agreements this year (the super committee trigger a notable exception).
Plenty of evidence exists that Congress should be focused on investing into programs that boost economic growth and job creation, rather than chasing fiscal austerity toward another recession. If it insists on cutting spending to deal with the deficit now, however, the least it could do is not take the knife to each and every program that helps the poor.
Congress wasn’t satisfied with only half of the people on poverty or low-income…
I warn you, this song has made me choke up for twenty some years now. Still does. In any case, this is the Argentine icon Mercedes Sosa and Leon Gieco (who wrote the song) doing a song which all humans should memorize. I’m sorry the sound quality isn’t better, but if you buy one of the albums, you won’t regret it!
Piggybacking on Tim’s post, some more international reaction to the USG’s apparent disdain for basic human rights. This time from New York, actually, by the UN Special Rapporteur for Free Expression. It would seem this gentleman from Guatemala, who obviously has no experience with human rights issues is determined to piss off the Obama Administration almost as much as UNESCO has managed to do. As such, I lift a glass in honor señor La Rue:
WASHINGTON — The United Nations envoy for freedom of expression is drafting an official communication to the U.S. government demanding to know why federal officials are not protecting the rights of Occupy demonstrators whose protests are being disbanded — sometimes violently — by local authorities.
Frank La Rue, who serves as the U.N. “special rapporteur” for the protection of free expression, told HuffPost in an interview that the crackdowns against Occupy protesters appear to be violating their human and constitutional rights.
“I believe in city ordinances and I believe in maintaining urban order,” he said Thursday. “But on the other hand I also believe that the state — in this case the federal state — has an obligation to protect and promote human rights.”
“If I were going to pit a city ordinance against human rights, I would always take human rights,” he continued.
La Rue, a longtime Guatemalan human rights activist who has held his U.N. post for three years, said it’s clear to him that the protesters have a right to occupy public spaces “as long as that doesn’t severely affect the rights of others.”
In moments of crisis, governments often default to a forceful response instead of a dialogue, he said — but that’s a mistake.
“Citizens have the right to dissent with the authorities, and there’s no need to use public force to silence that dissension,” he said.
I’m gonna have to look into this “human rights” thing. They may be onto something here…..
From ‘Countdown with Keith Olbermann’:
and from ‘Democracy Now’:
Remember when the employees in a corporation paid taxes to the government ? The latest “innovation,” from the sellouts in the Illinois legislature, is letting the corporations pocket the taxes that would be paid to the state of Illinois. David Cay Johnston explains:
Painful as it feels to have a lot of hard-earned income taken from your paycheck for taxes, a new Illinois law does something Americans may find surprising. It lets some employers pocket taxes for 10 years.
You read that right — in Illinois the state income taxes withheld from your paycheck may be kept by your employer under a law that took effect in May. Continental Corporation (CONG.DE), the big German tire maker; Motorola Mobility (MMI.N), the cell phone maker; and Navistar (NAV.N), the maker of diesel trucks for industry and the military, are in on the deal. State officials say a fourth company is negotiating a similar arrangement.
Chrysler and Mitsubishi arranged deals with the state in the depths of the Great Recession in 2009; Ford got one in 2007, since revised to let it keep half of its Illinois workers’ state income taxes.
Instead of paying for police, teachers, roads and other state and local services that grease the wheels of commerce, Illinois workers at these companies will subsidize their employers with the state income taxes they pay.
The deal to let employers keep half or all of their workers’ state income taxes represents a dramatic expansion of a little-known trend in the law: diverting taxes from public purposes to private gain.
Throughout the United States, big box retailers like Wal-Mart (WMT.N), Lowe’s (LOW.N) and Cabela’s (CAB.N), and in some cases entire shopping malls, often negotiate deals to keep sales taxes that customers pay at the cash register, using the money to finance construction of their stores. This gives them a huge advantage over retailers without such subsidies, while reducing revenue to local governments, which in turn creates pressure for higher taxes.
The fourth company David Cay Johnston mentions must be Sears. From Friday’s Chicago Sun-Times article on the latest tax-cut for the CME Group (Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Chicago Board of Trade corporate parent) and Sears:
Under the terms of the tax-cut plan being considered, $100 million of that windfall would go toward Chicago-based CME Group over a two-year period.
The corporate parent of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Chicago Board of Trade has threatened to move out of state because of this year’s jump in corporate income taxes that Quinn approved. CME Friday declined to comment.
Another chunk of the windfall would fund a $15 million state EDGE tax credit for Sears, which would enable the company to pocket half of what its existing employees pay in state income taxes and all of the income taxes paid by new workers. Like CME Group, Hoffman Estates-based Sears has threatened to pull up stakes without some form of tax relief.
And how would the State of Illinois pay for that tax-break to CME and Sears? How about taking the money out of Medicaid funds? Maybe eliminating meal-assistance programs? Maybe closing some clinics for the mentally ill?
While the Occupy movement targets the 1 Percent, we want to introduce you to the elite among the gang of superrich: the war profiteers. War industry CEOs make tens of millions of dollars a year, putting them in the top 0.01 percent of income earners in the U.S., and they use their corporations’ massive lobbying dollars to keep their job-killing gravy train rolling. We’ve got to stop them.
And another video from the same site. Leon Panetta and Boing are worried military spending cuts will cripple the U.S. industrial base and hollow the national defense offense force:
Came across this amazing graphic in an email from a Bold Progressives campaign encouraging people to move their money. This is (and was) a great idea that in 2009 (?) even got a lot of national visibility then sadly disappeared. For some reason, you’d think regional banks and credit unions would advertise “we’re not too big to fail” but they don’t and never did.
Unfortunately, I had to hack the chart above. Bold Progressives should make this easily available to bloggers and anyone else who want to help get the word out. But the chart also got me thinking: how could we do a merger chart for the media? Pharmaceutical companies? Insurance companies? Telecoms? How hard would it be to find the data? This sort of chart makes it abundantly clear how working people are being choked by bigger and bigger companies that offer less and less choice. My hunch is that only the later mergers were not vanity mergers, a merger that some insecure CEO dreams up to inflate their ego and their bank account (encouraged and egged on, of course, by Wall Street M&A types).
How could this hyper-consolidation ever be good for any country? 37 banks merged into 4 banks. Amazing. And dangerous.