Showing posts with label Social Democracy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Social Democracy. Show all posts

Friday, December 30, 2011

Congress enjoys fat pensions and 401(k) plans while Americans just get poorer

The current Congress will have a hard time convincing the American public they should be re-elected, except for those dolts that walk around in a daze and end up voting for who they are told to vote for.  It’s pathetic, but in my estimation, it is this apathetic group that can often sway elections.  Otherwise, how would you explain nit-wit incompetents like Arizona’s sham Gov. Jan Brewer getting into office?  There is no other explanation, and it is likely that 2012 will be the long awaited reckoning.

In the meantime, these blundering blockheads we have sent to Washington will go on their merry way and even if we throw them out will enjoy a hefty pension of an average $40,000 per Congress member per year.  The taxpayer’s portion of that nice nest egg is 23 percent, according to newspaper columnist Laurie Roberts who laments “…the number of the people who approve of the job they're doing could fit comfortably into a Smart car…”  In addition there is a lucrative 401(k) plan which taxpayers also must contribute to.

All this while recent Census figures show that almost 1 in every 2 people in the United States are now considered poor or low-income.  You read that right; 146,400,000 people now fall into that category, based on current population figures from the U.S. Census.  And the numbers could go up if states continue to make further cuts.  But a conservative researcher says some of those in this class “…live in decent-size homes, drive cars and own wide-screen TVs.”  There is always the exception, but this does not explain the overall situation.

The actual figures are 97.3 million in the low income category and 49.1 million below the poverty line.  And the total is up by 4 million since 2009.  Yet the GOP refuses to allow a tax on millionaires that could help in stabilizing the economy and putting many of these people at the poverty level back to work.  But Tom Coburn of CNN says the millionaire tax won’t work but suggests instead ending  earmarks for the wealthy.

These earmarks include tax write-offs for second homes and luxury yachts, gambling losses, business expenses, electric vehicle credits, even child care tax credits.  There are unemployment checks in the amount of $74 million, $316 million in farm subsidies, $9 billion in retirement checks, and $16 million in government-backed loans to attend college.  If we can’t tax the filthy rich, at least we should be able to take away perks that could be going to help low income and poor.

To me this sounds absolutely ridiculous and reeks of the grounds on which most Social Democracies are founded.  A financial inequity such as we have in America today has all the elements of a revolution and there are many out there that have already been pushed to the limit.  The Occupy Movement is an example and considering its longevity so far, could easily pave the way to more disorder in the trenches.  The extreme conservative right must take full credit for the situation we are in, and progressives must realize the opportunity at hand and take full advantage.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Millionaire tax another step toward a Social Democracy?

President Barack Obama has been called a socialist—which he isn’t—but he can be commended for introducing the 5 percent Millionaire Tax to help the jobless.  Although many corporate sharks make the claim that it is starvation or greed that makes people work, others believe they do it for enjoyment if it is meaningful, and to live a comfortable lifestyle. 

Security and contentment.  Robin Hood reinvented.  Sharing of the wealth so that we eliminate poverty in the richest nation in the world.  Social Democracy.

The GOP continues to oppose any new taxes, especially those on the wealthy who are, of course, their biggest contributors.  Big business boosters like representatives Paul Ryan and John Boehner and Sen. Mitch McConnell have all dismissed Obama’s attempt to get the job market going again when polls show that even Republican voters support higher taxes on the wealthy.  Maybe these constituents haven’t made it clear enough to their representatives, but, even then, the no-tax ideology is so engrained in the GOP it may never go away.
The President wants to spend $447billion adding new jobs to the economy, while extending and expanding a payroll tax cut.  There is infrastructure spending that is sure to create jobs, and the money will also provide aid to states suffering economically.  The Senate surcharge would affect all income of $1 million, and it applies to both capital gains and salaries. 

Sen. Harry Reid says the tax will generate $450 billion.  Sen. Charles Schumer said, "Republicans will be hard-pressed to explain why they'd allow teachers and firefighters to be laid off rather than have millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share."  Democrats in general dared Republicans to block the plan.  With the tax threshold at $1 million, it would probably prevent levying a tax increase on small businesses.

This same concept would apply to corporations in a Social Democracy by bringing them under greater democratic control by using regulations and tax incentives to encourage companies to act in the public interest.  This would include discouraging them to export jobs out of the country and polluting the environment.  Corporations must be held accountable, and unions can be a major factor in this effort.

Social Democracy isn’t a dirty word and it is not un-American.  We made it where we are through the struggles of the working class that established a minimum wage, unemployment benefits, all the way to Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid.  While there are no pure models of Social Democracy, countries like Sweden, Canada, France and the United Kingdom have adopted programs that are clearly of that philosophy.

But the task at hand is to pass President Obama’s 5 percent Millionaires Tax to get jobs moving in the U.S.  I would hate to be a Republican voting against this bill, and then returning to his or her district to face a constituency out of work, knowing full well their representative has put the personal interests of the rich ahead of them finding a job.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Frightening numbers from the U.S. Census on poverty

In 2010 the nation’s poverty rate was 15.1 percent or 46.2 million people doing without food, living on the streets or suffering a multitude of other challenges to their dignity.  That’s a 14.3 percent increase over 2009 and you can bet that this increase includes many of those who are out of work due to the recent economic crisis.  These are current figures from the Census Bureau

There are some that have been in poverty for years; a disgrace.  Others are simply homeless and happy on the street; also a disgrace that we allow it to happen.  Child poverty rose from 20.7 percent to 22 percent; clearly the worse disgrace of all.  For those age 65+ the numbers were basically unchanged at 9 percent, but also surging in 2009 during the economic downturn.

Median income was even down 2.3 percent to $49,445, and there are 49.9 million Americans without health insurance.  Health reform was passed by a mixed Congress in 2010 but the major aspects of the legislation don’t take effect until 2014.  One benefit was available last year and that allows young adults 26 and younger to obtain coverage from their parent’s health insurance.

There was some sunshine in media coverage from a local columnist, E.J. Montini, who writes for the Arizona Republic in Phoenix.  Montini met a panhandler called Mr. Lucky on the street who asked him for change and the reporter gave up 57 cents, including two pennies.

Mr. Lucky treasured the pennies because he would place them where others could find them and experience the old saying: “Find a penny, pick it up, and all the day you’ll have good luck.”  That’s why he was called Mr. Lucky.  This man’s generosity flies in the face of Arizona Governor, Jan Brewer and the state Legislature refusing to extend federal unemployment benefits to the unemployed.  On top of that, the Arizona Court of Appeals had to overturn a Phoenix ordnance prohibiting panhandling.

Crunching numbers in ethnic groups, Hispanics in poverty increased from 25.3 percent to 26.6 percent.  Blacks, from 25.8 to 27.4.  Whites from 9.4 to 9.9.  Asians were flat at 12.1 percent.  Mississippi had the highest rate of poor followed by Louisiana, D.C., Georgia, New Mexico and Arizona.  A public policy professor at the University of Chicago says the worst may be yet to come due to the increased demand for food stamps this year and the significant numbers of those unemployed more than 26 weeks.

If the American economy continues to spiral down, and unemployment remains high, those affected will eventually come to the conclusion that their future might well be better off in a Social Democracy.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The decline and fall of the American empire

It could happen but it won’t.  In comparison to the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, the U.S. has several factors on its side that weren’t in place then.  As an example, a democracy that works and a constitution that was written by statesmen, not politicians.  Anyway, there are many scholars who are of the belief that there was no “fall” at all, rather a very intricate conversion that took place over several years.

Edward Gibbon, author of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, written in 1776, is the basis for any discussion on this subject.  Most scholars agree his facts are extremely accurate but many do not agree with his interpretations.  And it is in Gibbon’s findings that we can see comparisons between the Roman era and the United States today. 

He blamed Christianity for its promise of the after-life that made the problems of the Roman people irrelevant, much like the religious rights’ hold today on many conservatives.  Further, the conquests of the Roman Emperors that has a direct relationship to the Bush/Cheney invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.  And then there are the theories about the general apathy of the Roman population that can be compared to the low voting turnout in American elections and a general disinterest in politics.

More hypotheses include a decline in moral values, public health problems, political corruption and unemployment.  Sound familiar?  You’re surrounded by all four every day.  Although it is probably a stretch, the Romans experienced urban decay which today’s homeowner foreclosures could mirror.  Rome was almost completely abandoned in the 6th century in the wars between the East and West Roman Empires.  And then in the 7th century the East was invaded by Persia (now Iran) followed by Muslim conquests in Egypt.  An invasion by Iran not likely, but Islam is becoming more popular throughout the world

Historians Arnold J. Toynbee and James Burke believe that the Roman Empire was a “rotten system from its inception” and that because of the decay that ensued, Rome could not have lasted any longer because the people in power (the Emperors) were powerless to do anything about it.  This is not a reflection on the United States as a country but rather an image of a Congress and White House that is operating in complete confusion.

But the collapse of the Roman Empire wasn’t a catastrophe for everyone according to anthropologist Joseph Tainter, author of The Collapse of Complex Societies, published in 1988.  Archaeological evidence indicates that nutrition actually improved after the collapse of Rome.  And he points out that the average individual may have benefited because he or she no longer had to invest in the “burdensome complex of the empire.”

And the transformation or intricate conversion mentioned initially that occurred over several years includes all the advanced stages the United States has gone through in its development as a nation.  Although most of our progress has been attained through technology, this article is primarily concerned with political growth.  Is it possible that, with the current state of chaos between liberals and conservatives, and the total dysfunction between the White House and Congress, the benefits of a Social Democracy might just fix what is wrong?

You can read more here and here.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Major league basketball is a Social Democracy

Social Democracy is a political ideology of the left and centre-left.  It advocates the creation of a democratic welfare state that combines capitalist and socialistic institutions and practices.  Rather than challenge the capitalist system, its aim is to reform it.  It is sometimes described as a “wide array of welfare and social insurance functions and removing large chunks of wealth and commodity distribution from the market.”  Put simply, it is a sharing of the wealth.

Almost all of the world’s developed countries think of themselves, and are, social democracies; however not the United States.  SD does work in countries like the United Kingdom and Canada.  But what does it have to do with major league basketball?

In a recent article about theNational Basketball Assn. lockout, the owners are crying foul over player salaries and want to slap new caps on them for the future.  In effect, the teams want new contracts that will return them to the black.  In dispute is an argument over how to split a very large amount of money from TV revenue that would ensure that every team is profitable.  The key here is the term “every team.”

The players are already making ridiculous salaries, especially when it comes to what teachers, police and firemen are paid.  In a recent articleon the economy, Paul Wiseman writes that the “economy’s meager gains are giving mostly to the wealthiest…and higher corporate profits.”  In the NBA lockout the general agreement is there should be revenue sharing to make every team—especially the smaller ones with less revenue—profitable.  Sharing of the wealth.

What’s good for the NBA is good for the American public.  A Social Democracy would carve up some of the absurd high salaries of overpaid people in sports, entertainment and the business world, as well as the profits of large corporations, and divide that among the less fortunate.  Just like the National Basketball Assn.

Read more about Social Democracy here.

MR. PRESIDENT: If you look frail, if you talk frail, and if you walk frail, you must be frail...

      ...too frail to lead this country for another four years. I know, we all know, what you are afraid of; the lunatic who could win the ...