Budgeting in the United States of Me

Taxes are a lot like salaries. If you paid someone $1 million a day (oh wait, we do) they’d scream bloody murder they should’ve gotten $1,ooo,ooo.o1. If you taxed someone 1%, they’d whine they shouldn’t have to pay more than 000.1%, with those whining the loudest being the people with the lowest tax rates and highest pay.

Perhaps the most oft-repeated charge against Obama bin Karl Marx and the Democrat Politburo is that they’re dangerous socialists. But according to a recent story from CNBC, a funny thing happened on the way to the Kremlin. If you look at their list of the 10 most socialist states, there’s a whole lotta red in Governors’ mansions. In fact, six of 10 governors sport big red Rs next to their names. BTW, the People’s Republic of California didn’t even make the list.

All the tri-cornered hats and tea bags notwithstanding, the charge that most states are tax and spend Central Bureaus is shaky too.

Despite the screeching about high taxes, Americans enjoy some of the lowest taxes in the western world. American companies pay the second highest taxes, but they don’t mention their taxes are high because American companies gorge on taxpayer-funded corporate welfare far more damaging than the most greedy, imaginary, Cadillac-driving welfare queen.

American Productivity: The Bee’s Knees
They also don’t say they’re not leaving the US so much because of high taxes, but because they can hire workers from Third World countries at pennies on the dollar relative to Americans workers. Oh yeah, American workers who are generally rated as some of the most productive in the world.

The uber-capitalist view on this is that government is inherently inefficient and can’t be trusted with a dollar and there is massive fraud out there to be picked like leaves from the Liberty Tree. However, everyone’s favorite tax and spend worker’s paradise, California, has the lowest number of employees per 10,000 residents.

And when it comes to California’s current economic pickle, it’s useful to remember that if California were a country, its economy would be the eighth largest in the world – somewhere around the size of Spain’s. Fixing California’s problems is as difficult as fixing the two national economies that’ve already gone off the edge – Iceland and Ireland. BTW, both have smaller economies than California’s. But take heart don’t tax and spender conservatives, if Ireland goes, we could overtake Spain. USA! USA! USA!

Plus, a remnant from the last misguided tax revolt is a draconian tax and spend process worse than the broke Eurotrash’s. You may have heard of it, Prop 13. Prop 13 makes it extremely difficult to raise taxes to support social programs, infrastructure projects, and most importantly, education. So, California’s educational system has dropped from best in the nation to sub-Alabama levels since its introduction, its roads look like mule trails to the Hindu Kush, and social and educational programs have taken the biggest hits in the sausage slicing process…in a state with more poor people than any other.

Rid the government of fraud you say?

That’s a dandy idea, but none of our erstwhile CEO/politicians can explain how much there is, where it is, or how to cut it. BTW, if we removed of all of it, the spending effect – like banning earmarks – would be like pissing into a hurricane.

Of course we could start cutting the continued contracts with known fraudsters like, Blackwater/XE, Halliburton, and dozens of others carbuncles on the ass of the American economy. But hey, what do I know…except that having worked in both the public and private sectors I can vouch for the fact that fraud, abuse, and waste in corporate America is roughly the same in government America after being scaled to their relative sizes.

Moossilini and the Gajillionaire
Yes, people have a right to complain when their tax money isn’t spent wisely and no one wants to pay any more than necessary (excepting gajillionaire Warren Buffet, but you know how crazy the unbelievably rich are). But there’s the rub. One man’s waste is another man’s essential. If it were easy, we wouldn’t have a problem – even if Moosilini says it is. Still, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

Yet, you can bet that when it comes to the cutting, some of the same folks who now complain righteously, albeit incorrectly, aren’t going to be happy.

Do you think that Granny holding the “Get Rid of Obamunist” sign is going to be happy when the people she voted for decide that her Social Security and Medicare are wasteful perks? How about those who are ready to send Junior off to college only to find that all that grant money went poof? And when Mom gets e-coli from some ConAgra-raised hamburger, treated with bum drugs, and it eventually kills her (without even the courtesy of a death panel) the FDA doesn’t look so wasteful anymore.

We are all Americans and part of the responsibility of every American is to chip something in for the common good of the nation – or we would be called the United States of Me.

Stop yelling about how bad you’ve got it.

You could be working 14 hours a day in an Indonesian sweatshop to make shirts you’ll buy on the cheap at Walmart.

Always low prices…Always.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

Budgeting in the United States of Me

Taxes are a lot like salaries. If you paid someone $1 million a day (oh wait, we do) they’d scream bloody murder they should’ve gotten $1,ooo,ooo.o1. If you taxed someone 1%, they’d whine they shouldn’t have to pay more than 000.1%, with those whining the loudest being the people with the lowest tax rates and highest pay.

Perhaps the most oft-repeated charge against Obama bin Karl Marx and the Democrat Politburo is that they’re dangerous socialists. But according to a recent story from CNBC, a funny thing happened on the way to the Kremlin. If you look at their list of the 10 most socialist states, there’s a whole lotta red in Governors’ mansions. In fact, six of 10 governors sport big red Rs next to their names. BTW, the People’s Republic of California didn’t even make the list.

All the tri-cornered hats and tea bags notwithstanding, the charge that most states are tax and spend Central Bureaus is shaky too.

Despite the screeching about high taxes, Americans enjoy some of the lowest taxes in the western world. American companies pay the second highest taxes, but they don’t mention their taxes are high because American companies gorge on taxpayer-funded corporate welfare far more damaging than the most greedy, imaginary, Cadillac-driving welfare queen.

American Productivity: The Bee’s Knees
They also don’t say they’re not leaving the US so much because of high taxes, but because they can hire workers from Third World countries at pennies on the dollar relative to Americans workers. Oh yeah, American workers who are generally rated as some of the most productive in the world.

The uber-capitalist view on this is that government is inherently inefficient and can’t be trusted with a dollar and there is massive fraud out there to be picked like leaves from the Liberty Tree. However, everyone’s favorite tax and spend worker’s paradise, California, has the lowest number of employees per 10,000 residents.

And when it comes to California’s current economic pickle, it’s useful to remember that if California were a country, its economy would be the eighth largest in the world – somewhere around the size of Spain’s. Fixing California’s problems is as difficult as fixing the two national economies that’ve already gone off the edge – Iceland and Ireland. BTW, both have smaller economies than California’s. But take heart don’t tax and spender conservatives, if Ireland goes, we could overtake Spain. USA! USA! USA!

Plus, a remnant from the last misguided tax revolt is a draconian tax and spend process worse than the broke Eurotrash’s. You may have heard of it, Prop 13. Prop 13 makes it extremely difficult to raise taxes to support social programs, infrastructure projects, and most importantly, education. So, California’s educational system has dropped from best in the nation to sub-Alabama levels since its introduction, its roads look like mule trails to the Hindu Kush, and social and educational programs have taken the biggest hits in the sausage slicing process…in a state with more poor people than any other.

Rid the government of fraud you say?

That’s a dandy idea, but none of our erstwhile CEO/politicians can explain how much there is, where it is, or how to cut it. BTW, if we removed of all of it, the spending effect – like banning earmarks – would be like pissing into a hurricane.

Of course we could start cutting the continued contracts with known fraudsters like, Blackwater/XE, Halliburton, and dozens of others carbuncles on the ass of the American economy. But hey, what do I know…except that having worked in both the public and private sectors I can vouch for the fact that fraud, abuse, and waste in corporate America is roughly the same in government America after being scaled to their relative sizes.

Moossilini and the Gajillionaire
Yes, people have a right to complain when their tax money isn’t spent wisely and no one wants to pay any more than necessary (excepting gajillionaire Warren Buffet, but you know how crazy the unbelievably rich are). But there’s the rub. One man’s waste is another man’s essential. If it were easy, we wouldn’t have a problem – even if Moosilini says it is. Still, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

Yet, you can bet that when it comes to the cutting, some of the same folks who now complain righteously, albeit incorrectly, aren’t going to be happy.

Do you think that Granny holding the “Get Rid of Obamunist” sign is going to be happy when the people she voted for decide that her Social Security and Medicare are wasteful perks? How about those who are ready to send Junior off to college only to find that all that grant money went poof? And when Mom gets e-coli from some ConAgra-raised hamburger, treated with bum drugs, and it eventually kills her (without even the courtesy of a death panel) the FDA doesn’t look so wasteful anymore.

We are all Americans and part of the responsibility of every American is to chip something in for the common good of the nation – or we would be called the United States of Me.

Stop yelling about how bad you’ve got it.

You could be working 14 hours a day in an Indonesian sweatshop to make shirts you’ll buy on the cheap at Walmart.

Always low prices…Always.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

Weekly Audit: Doomsday for the CFPA?

By Alison Hamm, Media Consortium Blogger

Just when the Democrats need to be tougher than ever on financial reform, Senate Banking Committee Chair Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), seems to have given up completely and put the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA) at risk.

Last fall, Dodd called the Federal Reserve’s regulatory efforts an “abysmal failure.” And yet, on March 1, he proposed housing a consumer protection agency within the Fed instead of establishing the CFPA as its own independent entity. This drastic change in strategy has left many Democrats shaking their heads. WTF, Senator Dodd?

A change in focus

As Andy Kroll reports for Mother Jones:

“Dodd appears to have switched his focus from out-reforming the White House to out-compromising just about everyone. As the Senate banking committee prepares to release a draft of a comprehensive reform bill as early as this week, Dodd has repeatedly conceded to his Republican counterparts on key issues, almost guaranteeing that the Senate’s measure will be far more lenient on the banking industry than the legislation the House passed in December… Dodd’s willingness to appease Republicans like Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the main GOP negotiating partner, and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the banking committee’s ranking member, has disappointed Dodd’s fellow Democrats and reform advocates who urge a tougher crackdown.”

Whither the CFPA?

Dodd’s latest GOP compromise is part of a bigger problem: The Democrats have mishandled financial reform. As Nomi Prins writes for AlterNet, “Dodd’s latest effort at creating a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency would render the regulator utterly powerless, but it’s not the only issue Democrats appear willing to sacrifice to Wall Street campaign contributions. Right now, just about every other major element of the so-called Wall Street overhaul seems headed for disaster.”

Although the establishment of the CFPA has been fiercely opposed by the banks and Republicans, it has widespread approval among progressives and the general public. So why has Dodd apparently abandoned it through compromise? Maybe because he’s following the lead of his fellow Democrats. Prins notes: “Since June, we’ve been waiting to see whether Democrats had the spine to make sure the final agency would actually do something, or quietly gut reform with a barrage of loopholes.”

There’s still time for Dodd to push real reform before he retires. Or, like Prin says, he could “continue to wimp out for Wall Street, pull a Robert Rubin and secure a cushy job in banking come 2011. The next few months will indicate whether Dodd cares more about his legacy than his wallet.”

Solis a ‘bright spot’

But maybe there is hope. Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis has made considerable progress, as Mark Engler emphasizes for Yes! magazine. Engler calls Obama’s Labor appointment a “bright spot” in the administration’s first year—a move “that illustrate[s] the difference that a progressive-minded administration can make when it stands up to corporate interests and is unafraid to act in the public good.”

Engler writes:

“Under the Bush administration’s Department of Labor, the crisis of wage theft was summarily ignored. In March 2009, the Government Accountability Office issued a report saying that the department’s Wage and Hour Division had for years ‘left thousands of actual victims of wage theft who sought federal government assistance with nowhere to turn.’ Secretary Solis made reversing this trend a defining initiative of her department. Even before the report had been released, she had commenced the hiring of 150 new field investigators to enforce wage and child labor laws, as well as 100 more to police government contractors working on stimulus programs.”

As Engler argues, officials would do well to follow the lead of Secretary Solis and demonstrate “what can be accomplished when regulators are encouraged to actually do their jobs—to fight for the interests of workers, for example—vigorously and creatively.”

Buffet on banking

Finally, GRITtv’s Laura Flanders reviews Warren Buffet’s annual letter to shareholders, in which Buffet warns his clients that their financial advisers’ advice is skewed by the financial system. As Flanders notes:

“Ironically, just as Buffett’s letter was being published, the man it’ll take to make any agency happen — Christopher Dodd — is agreeing to defang the agency, strip it of independence and most prosecution power.”

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Audit for a complete list of articles on economic issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Mulch, The Pulse and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

 

A Nation Votes and One Big Vote of Confidence

The GOP won the two Governorships at stake today. In Virginia, Republican Bob McDonnell bested Democrat Creigh Deeds in a landslide 59 percent to 41 percent. McDonnell ran on jobs platform, largely avoiding divisive social issues and concentrating instead on his plans to improve the economy and fix the state's transportation problems. There will be numbers to crunch tomorrow but turnout was lower in key Democratic demographics.

In New Jersey, the election was, in essence, a referendum on Governor Corzine. His failure to gain control over skyrocketing property taxes, the nation's highest, sent him to defeat. His unpopularity was persistent in the polls and yet he was able to close the gap running neck and neck until the end. Independents swung towards the Republican, Chris Christie. Coupled again with a Democratic base that stayed home - only 39% of registered voters in heavily Democratic Hudson county voted, Corzine went down to defeat by five points, 49 percent to 45 percent. I noted this earlier in the threads but Corzine is now available to become Secretary of the Treasury. Dump Geithner and replace him with Corzine, who is not only more experienced but an actual progressive. A Corzine appointment at Treasury would change the dynamics of the department after over eight years of lightweights in the post.

There were two special elections for the House. In the California Tenth Congressional District, Lt. Governor John Garamendi easily swept aside four other challengers to win comfortably by some fifteen percentage points. He fills the vacancy left by Ellen Tauscher. From an internal party view, we are getting a progressive replacing a centrist one. It's an upgrade from coach to first class. Furthermore given that California House incumbents so rarely lose, progressive causes should have a strong champion in Congressman Garamendi for quite some time to come.

In the nation's most watched race, the New York Twenty-Third Congressional, Democrat Bill Owens defeated Conservative Doug Hoffman who was endorsed by Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, the Club for Growth, Fred Thompson, Dick Armey, Tim Pawlenty and much of the GOP leadership albeit belatedly. But in their rush to purify the Republican party, they also succeeded in driving moderates away. In the end, they not only drove Dede Scozzafava, the local GOP candidate, from the race but they also drove her into the arms of Bill Owens, whom she endorsed. And no doubt, to capture a House seat that had been held by the GOP since the Civil War era is historic.

The battle for the NY-23 had been billed as one for the GOP's soul. Tea Party conservatives see themselves as the base of the GOP when really they are just a fringe, and a lunatic fringe at that. But what matters in this case is their own perception of the situation. They are, I think, only more embolden to take on the GOP establishment who is frankly spineless, cowering in fear and out of ideas anyway. I suspect that the battle of the GOP's soul will continue. Still whoever wins that contest wins a shell of a prize. As an aside, the Crist versus Rubio contest down in Florida for the US Senate seat now looks it will provide much fodder for the press and entertainment for us.

Still of all the day's events, the one that I think matters most is the vote of confidence made by investor Warren Buffet. Berkshire Hathaway, the holding company controlled by Buffet, will pay $34 billion for railroad giant Burlington Northern in what the billionaire investor calls 'an all-in wager on the economic future of the United States.'

Burlington Northern is the nation's largest rail transporter of coal and grain and provides a vital link for consumer goods from Asia to the Midwest, many of them flowing through the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. Rail, for both goods and passengers especially short-haul, is the future. You can bank on that. I'll have more in the coming days on the other American crisis, that of our unsustainable transportation system. But note this: part of the reason Bob McDonnell won in Virginia was that he campaigned to fix transportation problems.

There's more...

Senator Schumer's not getting the memos.

I consider myself to be somewhat of a diehard Democrat but, lately, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), one of my senators here in New York, is starting to irritate the hell out of me when it comes to our nation's financial mess.   At the very least, it sure looks to me--and many others--like Chuck really needs to get out more often. Apparently, others in the financial services industry are shaking their heads about this, too.

For starters, maybe he should read-up a little more on what's caused our nation to get into the nightmare it's in now. Concurrently, perhaps, he should stop talking out of both sides of his mouth as far as Wall Street's concerned, because while the New York Times takes notice of this in today's edition, even the little people--like me--are beginning to take notice that there's a bit of a disconnect  going on now as far as our reality versus Schumer's public comments about all things Wall Street, too.

I know enough about Schumer to realize that--more than many other members of the Senate--my Senator is right on most of the issues most of the time. But, Chuck, it looks like you've missed a few memos in the past year, for sure!

There's more...

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