Tag Archives: Taxes

Demand Democracy, Become your Senator

Look, lets talk about incentives for a second.  Right now the primary incentive of being in Political Office is a lucrative future in the lobbying industry. There aren’t a whole lot of jobs for unemployed ex-politicians other than consulting in some form or another.  Why the hell do you think the people in office would ever, in a million years, pass legislation screwing over the industries offering them a cushy future? Plane rides round the world, a sense of power sitting in well decorated offices drinking with other powerful men, money to keep living a big shot lifestyle – and all for far less work than something tough like actually using their law degrees. Then again, that may just be honest embarrassment; having ignored and twisted laws for their future employers for so long they may be a little ashamed of associating with the real thing on a daily basis.

How many of you have actually ever walked into your boss’s office and told them what a real, goddawful dick they are and how they mistreat people and use them and underpay them? Yeah, not too many I’ll bet. Why not? Because we know it’ll mean no more job, no more pay-check, no more healthcare. But thats what we’re asking our politicians to do, to pass laws that tell their future employers that actually, they think people ARE more important than profits, you know, like actually, not just on the corporate brochure. Sure, a few bold souls may do it. Those with the guts to tough out the real world when their time on the political cloud ends, those who believe their electorate will support them for standing up the man but bringing home less pork, perhaps even those with the kind of money that means they don’t care what some corporation wants… just one problem, thats still not a lot of people. Its not a majority, its certainly not a filibuster breaking majority and trust me, those politicians will find they can stay awake talking for DAYS when its their future millions on the line.

Ok, so lets be clear on this, the current breed of politician is not going to change their behaviour and vote for laws that protect people over corporations because the long term value of all the corporate gigs they can get far outweighs the value of being re-elected for doing what the people want (assuming people even have a choice of a candidate who hasn’t done even worse things). The current payout for being a politician is influence which creates future job opportunities and life-long security. Politicians are not going to change this incentive because it benefits them. So what do we do?

We need to elect people who go into office with a strict promise to get money out of politics, hunt down and eliminate laws that excessively curb freedoms in contradiction to the intents of the Constitution, and get America the hell out of any wars while we rebuild our own country.

Ok, so where do we find these people?

Walk down to your local Occupy site and look around you, or into a room of your friends, or into a mirror. Its time to Occupy Politics, because the current crop of politicians has a strong incentive to maintain the status quo: To allow banks to get too big to fail, To make Americans pay for banks bad bets while the banks rake in record profits, To arrest Americans with vastly excessive violence to discourage future protests, To bypass the constitution whenever its inconvenient, To keep not creating jobs because their corporate masters are pretty happy with record profits and insanely low labour costs. Its time for new politicians, and they are all around you.

Ok, but look, campaigns cost money, we can’t compete with the REAL political parties, can we?

Of course we can’t outspend them so we have to outplay them. The internet has changed how campaigns can be run. Anyone can shoot video, anyone can upload it to YouTube and share it with friends, almost everyone has a Facebook with a huge number of people they never actually talk to but can easily share video and messages with. The campaign can evolve. It hasn’t yet, but the tools are there if we want to use them. There are costs to be sure, to get on ballots, to register your campaign, but everything else is just about getting your message out and having enough people believe you’re electable to pull the lever. These days we all have that kind of reach through tools like Twitter and Facebook.  Will we use them? Or will they remain largely toys?

Your current Representative and Senators went to Washington with a dream, a dream of being really freaking rich for the rest of their lives. Lets send some new Reps and Senators to Washington, ones with a Dream of an America that’s Free, actually follows the Constitution, and doesn’t believe in nation killing tax policies.

Demand Democracy. Become your Senator.

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Fair taxation. Or: Why you should always scratch the surface and ask questions.

So, the congressional super committee has failed. Raise your hand if you’re surprised.

Anyone?

Anyone?

Oh.

The committee failed because Republicans refuse to fairly tax the rich. What’s that? But Democrats wouldn’t agree to smaller government? No, that’s not what happened, pay attention. No offer was ever made to increase taxes or shift the tax burden in exchange for trimming the size of government. The only offers that included some tax increases involved letting the bush tax cuts ride, forever. Those aren’t tax cuts, they’re just different taxes. The current Republican ideology has no space for compromise, they have become a single issue party (and the issue isn’t even abortion anymore!) and seem willing to watch the world burn if they can’t have their way.

Lets talk about a couple of Republican positions:

1. Low taxes

2. Exceptionally low taxes on “job-creators”

3. Small government

These are all really excellent positions to hold. Why? Because they sound great on the surface, and most people don’t scratch the surface. They like to hear Politicians spouting view points that sound sensible, view points that match their own, and all of those Republican positions sound like no-brainers.

Lets talks about why they’re not.

Low Taxes – Clearly this is always going to poll well. Most of us have less money than we would like by a pretty large margin. Everyone wants more dollars in their pockets, but we get taxed for a reason. Taxes pay for a lot of important services like schools, roads, bridges, public transportation, homeless shelters, drug rehabilitation programs, prisons, libraries, police forces, fire services, unemployment benefits, etc… Without enough tax revenue governments cannot maintain these programs and when core services fail, communities collapse.

But wait, you say, I don’t have any kids in school, I don’t use Public transportation, and frankly, screw those lazy homeless, I don’t want to pay for their shelters! These are all terrible arguments, they rely on a complete ignorance of secondary effects (not to mention tertiary, etc… when you mess with peoples lives the ripples flow far, and often become Tsunamis).

When you reduce funding at schools you get less teachers per child, less after school programs, the property will begin to deteriorate, new programs and technologies won’t be introduced due to the cost burden. Anyone who believes that one person can stand in front of 30 children and effectively educate them is a fool. A Fool. Children learn in different ways, teachers need to be able to observe individual children closely to make sure they are absorbing the material, they need to be able to work with children individually. When a teacher has huge classes that means the childrens homework and tests get less attention, everything becomes systematic and standardized so the poor teacher can even get everything done. Systematic and standardized are words you should fear hearing anywhere near your child’s education. What they mean is a lack of attention, a lack of adaptability, and a staff too busy to focus and care for your child’s well being. When school buildings and facilities deteriorate students lose pride in their school, they lose pride in their work. Why? Because the evidence of how little they matter to society is there in front of their eyes. Its written clear in the peeling paint, the leaking radiators, the flickering lights. Perhaps worst of all an underfunded educational system cannot move with the times. it cannot purchase the technologies students need to be educated on. Hell, the schools can’t even afford people to explain new technologies, let alone the ability to demonstrate them. The end result? A student body who believes their society does not care about their well being. A student body who is undereducated due to a lack of teacher attention. A student body which becomes a workforce that cannot keep up with the world. When the nation’s workforce can’t keep up with the world your country gets left behind, the economy fails, quality of life will fall. You will be affected.

Public transportation allows poor workers to get to work. If you refuse to fund it they will not be able to reach their places of employment. The result? Businesses will need to hire people who charge more so they can afford a car and gas to run it. Costs on merchandise YOU buy goes up.

Homeless shelters take the homeless off the streets. Well funded programs can even help educate them or get them back into the workforce. Take these programs away and you will have desperate people in the streets. A man who knows he has a shelter to go to and food to eat tonight, even if its just enough, is a lot less likely to mug you or assault you than a man who knows his kid isn’t eating tonight and my isn’t that a warm looking coat you’re wearing. When you take away the safety net for those at rock bottom you create dangerous people with nothing to lose. The result? Your safety and the safety of your family is compromised.

But the Police will help me! Oh, wait, they can’t afford enough officers to patrol everywhere. Someone will be along to stop that man kicking you in the face in about 15 minutes. Ever had your ass-kicked for fifteen minutes? I suspect you couldn’t really distinguish between minutes 3-15 and the entire length of eternity were they lain side by side for comparison.

Taxes pay for important services. The removal of most major services and safety nets leads to ripple effects that will make your life much less safe in numerous ways.

Wait, but isn’t that also true for everyone, all these “Lower my Taxes” people must know something right? The people screaming for lower taxes are typically very rich. they can buy private security. They can buy healthcare for less money than the percentage of their income taxes would take. They do not need a safety net. They can buy all of those social services privately for what they have apparently calculated is less money (I’m skeptical on this. i think it may just be that people cannot wrap their minds around economies of scale, but whatever, lets pretend they’re right for now). They can demand lower taxes because it creates a direct benefit for them to do so. If they can trick people it will hurt into voting with them, all the better. There are, after all, not enough rich people to pass these things by themselves. They need suckers. Don’t be that sucker. The people asking for less taxes are asking for less taxes for the same reason you are, more money in their pockets. Don’t let them trick you into believing it means more money in yours, they’ll leave you to pay the social costs and laugh while your house burns down because the Fire department was busy at another fire across town and they can only afford the one truck these days.

Ask yourself this, why are we looking for ways to cut even more funding to schools without totally destroying them? Why are we looking for more firehouses to cut while still maintaining just enough coverage? Why are we looking to cut workers who build our bridges and highways while those very bridges collapse? Why are we looking for ways to scrape crucial services even closer to the bone while there are people in this country who make in days more money than you will see in a lifetime WHO ARE ASKING TO PAY EVEN LESS TAXES??? We are not talking about a wealthy class crushed by a huge tax burden here. The rich have the lowest tax rates they’ve had since the 1920’s. You know, right before the Depression… After the depression tax rates soared. You know, that whole time period of huge American prosperity and growth, even as we threw billions into the sink of the Cold War. Even with all those billions being spent we thrived during those times of high tax rates. Why? Because when you tax the rich fairly the nation can afford things. When you don’t, it can’t. Period.

Which bring us to another lie: The “job creator”. Republicans will tell you that those who create jobs should pay less taxes. Now, one could make some sort of moral argument to that effect I suppose: That those who create the means for others to grow wealthy need share less of the tax burden. That would be a nice idea were it true, but billionaires don’t make jobs, they make money. They make money in hugely complex financial transactions. They make money on long term bonds. They make money on wild stock bets. They make money on interest. They don’t make jobs, why would they? Making things is such a blasted inefficient way to make money. The best way to make money is on bets and lawsuits against all the bastards infringing on your newly acquired, soon to be abused patents. Jobs? Thats small time stuff.

The people who create jobs are the people who aren’t yet able to compete in the huge financial world of derivatives, securities, and crushing the dreams of little men by taking their homes. They are the people who create and sell products and services that other people want to buy. They are not the 1%, they are not the mega-wealthy, they are merely the very well-off. From a distance nearby foothills may look as tall as distant Everest, but make no mistake, the job creators have money, they do not have Wealth the way the 1% does. If you want to create jobs make it easier to start small businesses. Give tax breaks to companies that hire people as they expand. Give tax breaks a few years after the fact to stop companies from hiring and firing binges. Make companies show results, then give them tax breaks. The current method seems to involve giving tax breaks away to industries that are already doing well in order to make sure they keep up the campaign contributions. Struggling companies aren’t worth giving tax breaks to, they’re struggling to get by, they don’t have any money for campaign contributions! Don’t be silly.

If you want to give the job-creators a break, that sounds awesome. Lets pass a law where companies that demonstrably hire and  retain people get tax breaks. Any GOPers on board with that? Anyone?

Anyone?

::sigh::

Then there’s the myth of small government. Again, it sounds great upon initial consideration, less government = less taxes = better. Thats a bunch of crap though. Republicans don’t want to purge the government of inefficiencies, they want to ideologically purge it of programs which stop their tax cutting rampage. If you want to make government smaller send in people to analyze all the inefficient bureaucracies and begin the long process of changing them, making them more efficient. But you need to send people who actually want to make things better, thats the problem. You have to send inspectors who want the programs to keep existing, not ones who are trying to make them fail. Not people who feel that their ideology overrules the well being of their fellow humans. You also need to send people, of course, who aren’t corrupt, who are willing to make the kind of changes needed. That means making the people being inspected feel safe. You want to fix the country’s budget for the forseeable future? Walk into every wing of government, every program, every bureaucracy and offer people their salary for the rest of their lives if they can explain why their job is totally unnecessary. You’ll never clear out the inefficiencies and waste while people have something to lose, but you could if people felt safe admitting how things really work. The long term result? Far less government spending (over the long haul, in the short term costs would be steady as salaries are drawn), smaller government, more efficient programs, and with no loss of services.

Whenever anyone is asking you to vote for something, ask yourself whats in it for them. I guarantee you that a man with $10,000,000,000 to his name is not going to do a damn thing to fix the economy after you give him the tax breaks to bring himself up to $10,001,000,000. Don’t be so naive.

If you want lower taxes demand that the rich pay their share. If you want job-creators to go untaxed, then demand less taxes for anyone who can prove they’ve created and retained jobs. If you want smaller government do the real work to make it more efficient, don’t just take away programs people need to survive and expect there to be no consequences.

Demand Democracy. Demand Fair Taxation.

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Socialized Costs, Private Profits

People understand Corporate profits, people understand greed, people even understand that a lot of costs of business (such as pollution) get socialized, and they have been willing to accept these things as long as everyone kept smiling and passing some money around the table periodically. The Occupy movement, I feel, is the response to a breaking of a social contract between capital and labour, the contract that says” “You may never be rich, but work for the system and help make us richer and you’ll be able to save hard and own some nice things and take care of your family”. The contract has been broken because too many people can’t put food on plates. Too many people sit on the couch each day because the job market has gotten so bad that even the act of applying for one has become too soul-crushing. The contract has been broken because we’re talking about how many more Fire Houses and Schools we can cut, not about how the very companies Americans just pulled out of the fires of their own creation can turn around and give back to their Saviours. The contract was broken when the whole damn country were made Shareholders while companies were failing, but never got a dime of profits when the money started flowing again (I know many banks paid it back, thats not the same thing). This country shrieks “Socialism” and waves its arms panicking in the air at the faintest sign of a social and economic safety net for everyday Americans, but funnily enough its the “Capitalists” socializing now not just the larger costs of business (Pollution, wear and tear on infrastructure, incorrect pricing of non renewable resources) but also the RISKS of doing business. When profits are up, they pocket them. When profits are down they scream that they’re too big to fail and if we don’t save them they’ll take us all with them. Welcome to the America that spawned the Occupy movement.

This new America is one of broken social contracts and a rich elite who have grown so greedy, yet so powerful, that they can sit there, straight-faced, and tell us that what America really needs to do if they want everyone employed is write some big fat checks for the corporations in terms of tax breaks and loopholes in inconvenient environmental laws. You don’t make money by giving money away, especially not when you are giving your money away to the very people who claim they will hire you. Being paid in your own dollars is not considered profit by anyone save the most desperate and tricksey of accountants. You don’t create a healthy economy by allowing the so called “job-creators” to take away your schools. You don’t create a healthy economy by allowing people who are pocketing millions to tell you that all they really need is a few more millions and THEN, suddenly, they’ll start creating jobs. Giving the rich more money doesn’t help the economy. They ALREADY have money. Why would they choose to spend the latest million on jobs when they spent the last million on a new house for themselves? What drives an economy is demand. The rich do not, independently, create large demand, there just aren’t enough of them. Demand is created by people wanting to buy things and by having the means to buy things. The economy will not get fixed for anyone until large numbers of regular people (“The masses”, the 99%, whatever…) have $ in their hands to spend and enough confidence that their job will still be their tomorrow to spend that money rather than horde it against bad times.

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