Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Suddenly, after 8 years of gutting the ship of state, the Right is impatient with the trim of the sails. Here's to reviving memories!

Prompted by questions about an insinuation I made regarding the Bush administration I find myself writing a longer answer than I initially intended, in my compulsion to clarify my own mind about the history. In a few hours I tried to put a few ideas together to describe how I came to understand that the Bush administration had followed a formula that Madison had warned us about: "If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy."

Just relying on memory of the chain of events I tried to find links of pages documenting them. Maybe the dots can be connected differently, but my interpretation is coherent with the facts. I have not cherrypicked facts to make my point because I know of no facts that contradict my narrative, I simply googled some of the events I mention to facilitated anyone's investigation of these facts. In any case it is easy enough to do further research online, whether the intent is to support or contradict this interpretation.

Many people believe that 9/11 was the result of a willful neglect of warnings that an attack was about to happen. There are many indications that Cheney, Rumsfeld, and influential neo-cons wanted an excuse to go into Iraq from the first day in office (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/01/09/60minutes/main592330.shtml ). As outrageous as it sounds it is not much of a stretch compared to tactics used in the past by overzealous right-wingers such as in the Iran-Contra scandal. As it turns out they did use 9/11 as an excuse to go into Iraq by exaggerating non-existent threats. In the process they declared a war against a ghost country/army - Terror - and created a bloody conflict that killed hundreds of thousands and destroyed the livelihood of millions, all at a safe distance that could be witnessed on TV by a horrified but untouched populace. The argument that we were at war was used successfully, combined with voting shenanigans http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/10432334/was_the_2004_election_stolen), to re-elect Bush in 2004.

In the 8 years of that administration billions of tax-payer funds were used to bribe occupation collaborators in Iraq (http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=132x1550912 ). Billions were awarded in contracts to Halliburton, KBR, and organizations that sprouted out of the blue to fill the need to stir the pot of terror with mercenaries hired in Peru, Chile, Central America (http://www.worldpress.org/Americas/2853.cfm ). The lives of our military were gambled away on a battlefield so frivolously created, while back home traumatized young veterans' suicide rate shot up to 6000 per year as the war went on (http://www.wpxi.com/health/22206480/detail.html ). Meanwhile the propaganda machine touted the dangers of a color coded Terror threat to keep the public in fear and in line. More people were at risk of choking on a pretzel than from terror attacks at home over all those years. But the merchants of war had their endless orgy of profits, and this country, that hasn't had a real war in it's mainland for over 200 years, spread terror and death among millions of brown people, on the opposite side of the world. They stirred up the hordes of those who understandably hate us and therefore enlarged immeasurably the numbers of potential recruits to the cause of anti-Americanism. There was Abu Graib, Guantanamo, illegal torture (to be redundant) perpetrated in the name of the American people. (http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jNCvoPHgjZpDTm4VC-gaz2XbWx0Q ). This process made us more likely targets of a threat that appears to be initially neglected and subsequently carefully nurtured, judging from the results.

Undoubtedly the war business was a success for enriched arms merchants (including some of the largest corporations in America that would presumably bankroll the Republican Party ad infinitum). The depletion of our treasury was useful in other ways. The debasing of government offered more opportunities for privatization of any operation that could yield profits for the corporate moguls. There was a great plan to dig into the Social Security funds and enrich the hunting grounds of Wall Street predators. Taking money from unprepared involuntary overnight investors would be like shooting fish in a barrel. But the memory of 2001-2002 crash and the corporate fraud scandals from Enron to WorldCom were still fresh in people's minds and that effort thankfully failed. Yet, the credulous mobs nurtured by the religious right were mostly appeased with the version of facts presented by a president that they identified with. He was one of them, a man on a Christian mission. As Aristotle warned: “A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious.”

And while he did the PR work Bush's brain, as Carl Rove came to be known, conspired with the “dark side” in Cheney's office to persecute political foes, by hook or crook. Where the US Attorney was ready to collaborate in the witch hunt Democratic foes were taken down. A governor election was overturned in the dark of the night after the winner had been declared (Alabama) and the presumed winner was thrown in solitary confinement for months without the ability to contact his own wife and lawyer (http://www.donsiegelman.org/pages/MAIN/aboutdon.html ). Where the US attorney was not cooperative he was thrown out, accused of incompetence, and replaced with a “true believer”. (http://www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2008/06/04/looking-back-on-the-justice-department-scandal.html ).

Under cover of war powers (even a war that had been invented by them) the administration found ways to get around courts and infringe on the rights of any and all citizen by collecting phone call recordings into the huge NSA databases in collusion with corporate telecom giants, such as AT&T. Again corporate America and the “permanent majority” party scratched each other's backs (http://news.cnet.com/AT38T-leaks-sensitive-info-in-NSA-suit/2100-1028_3-6077353.html).

All this was part of a grand plan for 100 years of Republican majority. Tom Delay the majority leader who scruplelessly ruled the House rigged the redistricting in his home state to bar any chance of opposition representatives being elected. He twisted arms to pass a deficit busting bill in the middle of the night giving the pharmaceutical companies a sweetheart deal (http://securingamerica.com/ccn/node/7827 ) saddling seniors with the perplexing “donut hole”, and adding Big Pharma to the list of political supporters. He was unable to finish his term leaving under a cloud of perfidious indictment for bribes and lobbying deals with tearfull lobbyists that for so long had operated above the law. Rumsfeld was discarded as a face saving act from Bush after the debacle of the 2006 elections, as the failures of Katrina brought to the surface the true incompetent nature of this government. The people started questioning the trust they had bestowed on this man that they believed had been chosen by God. Reality started infringing on the fictional story that had been manufactured to disguise the simple goal of this team: permanent and total power.

The castle of cards started to crumble. It was a downhill ride all the way to the end. Democracy bobbed back up, partly saved by a disaster brought about by the incompetence of those who so recently saw themselves as permanent masters of our destiny.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

If the richest Americans paid taxes (or "The great sucking sound of the trickle-down tax-cutting Reaganomics deception")

YYesterday I published the following tweet:

If rich paid their share (say 20% on income over 60K) we'd all be better off and still reduce deficit by 100 billion (IRS 2006)#p2 #tlot.

Immediately I was excoriated by a couple of RWNJs (right wing nut jobs in twitterspeak). I don't use this term to denigrate a whole sector of the American public, but I think it is fairly applied to those who are online to promote their ideology of ignorance and irrationality. I can respect Conservatives who will debate me on substance and well researched facts, and I have experienced that many times on Twitter. However, there is a cacophony of reactionary noise whose sole purpose is to promote a point of view devoid of any reasoning or self-awareness. I said what I said after surprising myself about what the numbers published by the IRS point out, and as a result of an interchange with a proponent of the flat tax. I always looked at the flat tax concept as a way to defraud a short-attention-span public that does not bother to go through the numbers. Clearly that concept is mostly useful to mask the fact that the complexity of the tax system is anything but the progressive scale (as opposed to a flat tax). Just to humor myself I went trough the IRS data and did a quick calculation.

Here are the IRS numbers out from the 2006 tables:

· number of tax payers with AGI above $64,702 (top 25% - closest to $60k available figures): 33,929,730

· total tax paid by top 25%: $883,153 million

· tax paid by top 25% on income below $60,000: ($8,440 joint filers $12,000 single filers) let's say $10,000

· total AGI of top 25%: $5,535,830 million

From these figures I calculate:

· total tax paid for income under $60K=33,929,730x10,000=$339,297million

· total income over $60K=5,535,830 million-33,929,730x60,000=$3,500,046.2 million

· that taxed at 20% is: $700,009 million

· adding the two components: 339,297 million + 700,009 million = $1,039,306 million

which is clearly more than what they paid. In fact the difference is $156,153 million, even more than my initial published claim, which so outraged the right-wingers. This is how much they added to the deficit in 2006 compared to a model where they actually paid a meager 20% tax rate.

These results should be surprising to most people, and I think they will be surprising even to high income earners, say people earning $200,000 who currently pay much higher average rates than the 20% marginal rate I suggest in this example.

What has been very hard to grasp, and this example aims to illustrate, is how incredibly biased the tax system is towards the super rich, those who never have to do one day of productive work in their lives. I can hear the usual reaction with accusations of class warfare. Nonsense! If we have an unfair class system there will be class warfare - it's human nature and a historical fact. This nation was founded on class warfare against those who oppressed the colonists. Are we moving towards a class divided nation? The inequality that arose form the tax policies initiated by Reagan speaks for itself, and yet, with such unfair tax system the vitriolic rants from the right are always about cutting taxes. Yes, cutting taxes is great, but not the way Conservatives have been doing it (in collusion with many Democrats, this is well understood). The tax cuts at the top were just an excuse to shift the burden to the Middle Class. A real fair system would reallocate the benefits and the burdens of our nation in such a way to maintain a balance. If you read my previous posts you know that in the last 30 years that balance has been destroyed. My claim is not that the rich are bad and are oppressing all of us. Some certainly are, just as a matter of statistical probability. Some actually speak out against this unfair system (Warren Buffet, Bill Gates Sr., George Soros). Statistically there are always people of principle that will go against the lower instincts of hoarding and greed. The point is, this is not about individuals. It's about a fair system that we can all support. And historically it's not hard to go back and find examples of fairer tax structures that kept this country united, prosperous, and growing with the certainty that each generation could expect to be better off than the previous one. I don't mean to be nostalgic, but, can we have that back? Is that what Teaparties are saying when they talk about "getting America back"? If they are, they sure are misguided about who they trust to get them there!

This suggests that we need to trash the current tax system. Simple tax reform that will benefit all of us, including those who will continue to be outrageously rich, but can do that without the motivation to act in ways that are destroying our country, the global economy, and therefore endangering their own preservation. Any way you look at it, and in line with my previous findings, the tax system has been rigged to benefit the ultra rich at the expense of huge deficits that are then blamed on necessary services to the public (education, infrastructure, etc.).Let's fight against abuses and fraud that cripple our government, but not trust those lies about cutting taxes and debasing good (our) government. We came out of a much deeper Depression when we had a president that stood up to the big money mindless greed; we need to understand that we must do that again. Left to their devices they will drive us into the ditch like they did last year, or even worse. Not because they are bad people, but because they are doing what humans do in a system that promotes destructive, abusive, hoarding behavior.