Showing posts with label class-entitlement. Show all posts
Showing posts with label class-entitlement. Show all posts

Saturday, October 16, 2021

A lump of coal in your Christmas stocking

Letter to Joe Manchin

Wouldn't you like that though. You've made plenty from coal and another lump couldn't hurt. But consider the majority of Americans who want to stop climate change. We can't stop it until we move away from fossil fuels, and you've opposed taking meaningful action. Do you consider your opposition patriotic? I don't, though I suppose oil and coal industry executives probably do. But they are blinded by their insatiable greed. Greed that makes it okay to spend five decades misleading the public while fully aware of the damage they did to the environment. Five decades ago I walked away from my high school peers in order to avoid the drugs they used. Walk away from your unwholesome peers, Joe. Greed is a drug. It fools those who have too much into thinking they can ignore social responsibilities and not pay their fair share of taxes. Greed lets them think they can destroy their neighbors' yards without harming their own. I suspect that you, too, are addicted to greed. Just say "no" to drugs, Joe, and fix our society and environment now. Our problems can't be kicked down the road any longer. Don't listen to the siren call of lobbyists lest the ship of state shatter upon the rocks of Anthemoessa. Listen to the majority instead.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

The only sure thing is climate change and taxes

 

U.S. tax rates change over time. In 1913 the highest earners paid only 7 percent, but in 1918 they paid 77 percent to pay for the first world. During the early 1920s, top tax rates remained higher than today, but in 1925 the highest tax rate dropped to 25 percent. It stayed within a point of that rate until 1932 when it rose to 63 percent. The tax rate continued to climb during the Great Depression and beyond, reaching a high of 94 percent during the final two years of World War II. The rate dropped into the 80s after the war, but was generally around 91 percent between 1950 and 1963. The top rate then moved to 77 percent and began to fall after that, reaching a low of 35 percent in 2003. It remained at that rate until 2013 when it jumped to 39.6 percent.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) reduced the top rate to 37 percent.

Corporate tax rates fluctuate as well. From 1946 through 1949 corporate profits were taxed at a maximum rate of 53 percent. This rate applied to profits over $25,000 and under $50,ooo. The rate fell to 38 percent on profits over $50,000.


Between 1993 and 2017 the highest corporate tax rate was 39 percent on profits between $100,000 and $335,000. Above that amount, the rate dropped to 34 or 35 percent on profits below 15 million dollars. Between 15 and 18.33 million dollars profit the rate returned to 38 percent, before falling back to a top rate of 35 percent. Progressive tax rates increase as income grows, while regressive taxes take a larger bite of income from those with smaller incomes. This period’s tax rates are generally progressive, but don’t entirely follow a straight progressive increase.


The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) sets a flat tax of 21 percent on corporate profits. Flat taxes are usually considered to be regressive. Large corporations must love TCJA since it forces smaller ones to pay 21 percent instead of 15 percent on their first $50,000 in profits.


During its history, the United States has held debt at various times, but in 2001, it held a surplus. That didn’t last long. Today the national debt is an enormous three trillion dollars. Higher taxes can lower a nation’s debt. The rationale behind TCJA was that lower taxes would pay for themselves by growing the economy. Did it work? The economy did grow a bit, but not as much as predicted. Our nation’s high deficit grew instead of decreased as predicted. According to the Economic Policy Institute, TCJA “did not increase wages for working people, failed to spur business investments, decreased corporate tax revenues, and boosted stock buybacks in its wake.” No surprise here — taxes are paid on profits taken after employees are paid and R&D costs accounted for. There was never any logic to its boosters’ claim that TCJA would increase business investment and benefit workers. Who lobbied for this lie?  The usual suspects,  including among others, the Business Roundtable, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the National Association of Manufacturers. These same organizations plan to lobby against the 3.5 trillion dollar economic plan.


If that economic plan isn’t implemented, there could be a long wait before climate change is meaningfully addressed. The poor also suffer when the wealthy don’t pay their fair share. During the mid-twentieth century when taxes were high the middle class was broader and more affluent than today. Taxing wealth to repair the climate would also benefit the bottom 90 percent of U.S. citizens. Speak loudly Citizen and shame the greedy into social responsibility.


Monday, September 06, 2021

Of mice and (greedy) men


 On the final day of August a Washington Post headline read, “Corporate America launches massive lobbying blitz to kill key parts of Democrats’ $3.5 trillion economic plan.”  A few days later, Paul Krugman, writing for the New York Times, asked, “Why does Mickey Mouse want to destroy civilization?” Krugman explains that the Walt Disney Company is a member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce which intends to lobby against tax increases on corporate profits which would be used, in part, to pay for the proposed economic plan. Krugman is correct to assume that if climate change isn’t addressed immediately, years could pass before it finally is. By that time, it might be too late to address it significantly.

Members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce may, or may not, believe in climate change, but they certainly believe that protecting profits from taxation is more important than doing their share to address it. Joining the Chamber in its defense of greed are the Business Roundtable, and PhRMA which doesn’t want the government meddling in drug pricing.

The National Association of Manufacturers is also involved in a lobbying effort. Its senior vice president, Aric Newhouse, said that if the economic plan passes, “manufacturing families will suffer, jobs will be lost.” He’s lying. Profits are taken after employees have been paid, not before. A tax on profits has no effect on labor costs. Who really will suffer? Stockholders, because they receive their dividends after all taxes have been paid. Only the wealthiest Americans have significant stock holdings — they can afford to pay higher taxes, but spend millions to avoid doing so. According to Statista, the top 10 percent of Americans hold 70 percent of the nations’ wealth. Many of the other 90 percent of Americans are but a paycheck removed from homelessness. After seeing this summer’s hurricanes and wildfires, it’s obvious that climate change is coming for us all. It won’t spare the wealthy, even if they believe their money will cushion its blows.

Similar lobbying tactics were used to pass the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act (TCJA). The name itself is a lie. The act failed to create the jobs it promised. According to the Brookings Institute:

"Overall, the TCJA's advocates promised many supply-side benefits and promised they would materialize quickly. But at least for the first two years, the Act failed to deliver its promises on investment and growth, leaving the country instead with higher deficits and a less equal distribution of after-tax income." 

 Gentle reader, consider speaking or writing the idolaters whose Mammon worship blinds them to the catastrophes to come. Here’s some contact information to get you started:

National Association of Manufacturers
(800) 814-8468
(202) 637-3000
info@nam.org

U.S. Chamber of Commerce
(800) 638-6582
(202) 659-6000
membership@uschamber.com
federation@uschamber.com
smallbusiness@uschamber.com
press@uschamber.com

Sample message:
Your company is a member of the U. S Chamber of Commerce which plans to lobby against corporate tax increases slated to be used in fighting climate change. Money can wait, but the climate can't. Stop being so greedy and pay your fair share.
Citi
The Coca-Cola Company
General Electric
PepsiCo
Pfizer
Procter & Gamble
Target
Walt Disney Company 



Friday, January 08, 2021

About those First Amendment rights

 

On January 7, 2021 Senator Josh Hawley tweeted:

“This could not be more Orwellian. Simon & Schuster is canceling my contract because I was representing my constituents, leading a debate on the Senate floor on voter integrity, which they have now decided to redefine as sedition. Let me be clear, this is not just a contract dispute. It's a direct assault on the First Amendment. (Yada, yada, yada) We'll see you in court.”

 Let’s take a closer look at this. Hawley mentions “Simon & Schuster,” “they” and “sedition” all in the same sentence. But, publisher Simon & Schuster has not accused Hawley of sedition. Hawley’s chief accuser is a PAC called The Lincoln Project which represents disgruntled current and former Republicans. Is his grammatical ambiguity Hawley’s attempt to write in Orwell's Newspeak? It's certainly Orwellian to contest votes for which there’s no evidence of voter fraud, but I digress.

 Anyone who occasionally glances at publishing news will know that publishers regularly cancel contracts. They do this for a variety of reasons, but the chief reason is future profits. Publishers are capitalists you see. They’re in business to make money. Perhaps we'll never know the 'true' reason S&S made its decision. Whatever the reason, it's not fair to say, “It's a direct assault on the First Amendment,” because once it passes through a publisher, speech isn’t free anymore, but sold at a profit. At various points in my career I’ve met people who say this sort of thing. Most have an inflated sense of self-entitlement. That seems to be a characteristic of the ruling class, people who like Hawley, attend expensive colleges, suffer from affluenza, and threaten to sue people. The ruling class has a name for those who stormed the Capital naively believing that taking selfies and destroying property will somehow change election results. They’re called sacrificed pawns. They're meant to be lied to, cheated, used and discarded.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Divided by lies


Politicians lie. In that, they are all the same. They differ only in the outrageousness of their untruths. Some politicians lie unintentionally with issue summaries that exclude, misrepresent, or exaggerate information. In these cases, there remains at least a basis in facts. Other politicians lie intentionally. That’s a problem in a representative democracy, but merely a control method in an oligarchy.

 The Republican Convention this week has been a fibbers festival. You needn’t take my word for it however. News organizations including the New York Times, The Washington Post, and NPR are saying so. I don’t remember any news organization ever calling a president a liar before the current one took office. But there you go. It’s the new normal. Consider the words of U.S. Rep Matt Gaetz who said Democrats would try to, “disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home, and invite MS-13 to live next door.” Gee, I don’t remember the last Democratic president doing those things.

 I want to focus on one Big Lie. Trump says he’s a “law and order” president, but that doesn’t mean what one might think. In this case, “law and order” is code for preserving a status quo that keeps a Jim Crow legacy alive. Protests against police victimizing and killing blacks have continued for several months. During daylight hours, these protests have been largely peaceful. During the nights, some of those in much smaller gatherings have acted criminally. These people are not necessarily the same ones who protest peacefully. The Washington Post reports that most of those responsible for deaths related to the protests have not been protesters themselves. Some were white members of the far right.

 Since the protests began, the president has lumped peaceful protesters with rioters, ignoring the fact that peaceful protest is a right, rather than a crime. This is dangerous. Once peaceful protest becomes identified with criminal behavior, Americans’ right to free speech will end. The cause is just. The protest is needed. Untruths have no place in democracies. 

Monday, August 24, 2020

Wrong name. Right problem.

 

Systemic Racism is not a good name for it. It’s not a formal system and there is no formal name. And yet it’s there, flowing through our culture like kerosene saturating a dry rag.

 It’s in the things we don’t think about. Pointless commentary, children’s rhymes, ethnic jokes, in the things we don’t realize we’ve said. Those things get inside our heads and it doesn’t occur to us to get them out.

 And in some cases, those things pollute entire organizations. Take the Kenosha, Wisconsin police for example. There is no excuse for the appalling crime committed on August 23 by its officers. And yet I don’t blame the police, at least not entirely.

Our culture is ailing and the disease has worsened in recent years. Many Americans are a paycheck or two away from being homeless. This is stressful for people, including police officers. That doesn’t excuse violent behavior, though it may help to explain it. There’s plenty we can do to change policing laws and weed out bad cops, but police thuggery is a symptom, not the root of America’s problem.

 Money is the problem. Too little is a problem. So is too much. Those with too much think of themselves as winners and of those with too little as losers. If the cops kill a few losers, it’s a small price to pay to maintain law and order.

 And what is “law and order”? It’s the maintenance of an unjust status quo. That’s what the president means when he uses those words in response to “Black lives matter” Those words don’t address justice. They address social control. During the 1890s, Tom Watson tried to unite poor blacks and whites politically. He said, “You are kept apart that you may be separately fleeced of your earnings. You are made to hate each other because upon that hatred is rested the keystone of the arch of financial despotism which enslaves you both. You are deceived and blinded that you may not see how this race antagonism perpetuates a monetary system which beggars both.” Let’s replace law and order with social justice before someone touches a match to a kerosene soaked rag.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Studebakers and Capitalists

When I last visited South Bend, Indiana, I assumed it was for the first and final time. But karma doesn’t work that way. It puts one in situations one never expect for reasons one rarely understand. Karma brought me here once more. Last time I was here there wasn’t time to visit the Studebaker Museum across the street from our accommodations at the Avanti House. But this time we ventured inside.


Within the museum’s walls are some very shiny and cool old cars, mostly Studebakers. But there are also old horse carriages. Studebaker began as a blacksmith shop. Later it built carriages. Ultimately, the company decided to hedge its bets by manufacturing automobiles in addition to carriages in case “horseless carriages” were more than a passing fad. Studebaker’s first car was electric, a quiet vehicle that didn’t foul the air. But the public demanded gasoline powered cars. In time Studebaker made those exclusively.

Among the museum’s carriage collection are several that transported American president’s. Of these carriages, two provided the last rides taken before their riders were assassinated. A somber coincidence perhaps. Karma can do that.

If the museum can be said to tell a story, the story is this. Companies have natural life cycles. Studebaker began as a simple blacksmith shop. It took risks, but also gave the public the products it desired. It grew from a one-person business to become a major automobile manufacturer. However, when its fortunes changed in the 1960s, it went out of business. This is capitalism in its pure and natural form. It takes risks, pleases consumers, competes and innovates.

There is a myth that circulates among us. It’s that markets should be self-regulating and free. Economist Robert Reich points out that markets have always had their rules, such as those governing bankruptcy and loan terms. Karl popper notes that without regulations, seemingly free markets would develop consumer strangling monopolies. Markets should serve consumers, not profiteers. I believe the free market myth is a disguise for class-entitlement thinking. Too much winning convinces some of the wealthy that they are deserving of what falls to them. Because they deserve what they ultimately get, class-entitled people are willing to bend rules by seeking favorable treatment from the government and others. When they talk about a free marketplace, they mean one free from environmental rules that force their industrialists to pick-up after themselves. It’s like they say, “We make chemical products. The remaining hazardous waste is an unintended byproduct that’s not our problem.” Staying focused on the product and not on the damage it causes, leads oil company executives to bury reports on climate change while misinforming the public.

There are some who say capitalism works best when it’s unregulated. I don’t believe it. We live in a complex world. Regulations are sometimes needed. Studebaker began small, gave the public what it wanted, took risks, changed with the times, grew large, then died a natural death. This is how it should be.

Unfortunately the same wealthy men who advocate unregulated marketplaces also advocate tax breaks and handouts for themselves. These wealthy men feel entitled to special advantages. They’ve forgotten that capitalism is entwined with risk. In order to convert more oil into money, some of these men misinformed the public about climate change. The lies have worked to some degree, but the tide of opinion has changed — most people are now convinced that climate change is real and imminent. Sustainable, green technologies are being birthed and implemented. Ultimately businesses based on obsolete petroleum technology will decline and die. That’s how capitalism is supposed to work. Competition drives innovation and innovation drives economic growth. Dinosaurs that prefer lying to competing and innovating deserve to disappear.