Tax day but where does it all go?

484Like most of you, I paid my taxes and filed them too and on time.  I am not opposed to paying taxes.  I believe in a social contract.  I want to be protected from an enemy invasion.  I am not one who believes we should abolish the IRS, as some have called for, people like Groover Norquist, I wonder if he was named after former President Grover Cleveland, a conservative, pro-business leader who lead the U.S. into a major depression.  Fringe candidates Ran Paul, and Marcus Rubio are also notorious critics of the IRS.  Now, I don’t love the IRS, but without taxes, there can be no government, no military, no support for public schools, no social security, no environmental protection, no regulation of food and drugs.  I guess we could have an all-volunteer government, install a monarch or ask a big company like Apple or Proctor and Gamble to just take over.  Maybe Warren Buffet and Mitt Romney could be in charge of investments.  Our government leaders are already beholden to big business and with special interest PACs calling the shots, the interests of the 99% are not seriously addressed.  It’s so bad that big oil and gas can compel educated politicians who know better to say stupid things like we should invest in KLEEN coal, and that “there is no consensus in the scientific community on climate change” or that “the science is not settled as to whether humans have contributed to the problem of global warming”.  They can’t admit what they know to be true that carbon emissions from our persistent use of fossil fuels is a major region why we are having catastrophic weather events that one might have previously witnessed once in a lifetime, practically twice a year.

Did you know that in 2014, 27 cents of every tax dollar went toward military spending?  2.5 cents went to support public education.  1.6 cents went to the energy and environment and just 1.5 cents went to science.  President Obama’s proposed discretionary spending for 2015, which needs congressional approval, has 55% going to the military, 6% to education, and 3% to science.  When you add in mandatory spending on entitlement programs which includes social security and unemployment, veterans benefits, food and agriculture, it’d be 16% to the military, 2% to education and 1% to science.  Some priorities.  It’s no wonder that American students significantly lag their peers in other countries in math and science.  It should also come as no surprise that companies have to search for talent outside the U.S. to fill positions that require a high degree of scientific expertise. Nor should it be a surprise that so many Americans actually don’t believe in science at all.  They don’t understand it and would rather just take a lazy political side and deny or take a hard line religious stance with a literal interpretation of the creation story and claim the earth is something like 6,000 years old contrary to scientific evidence that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old.

Let me ask you this:  Do we really need to spend 640 billion on the military each year?  How much does safe enough cost? Do we really need to spend 391.2 billion on 2,443 F-35 fighter jets at 160 million a piece? By comparison, we are slated to spend around 100 billion on education AND science in 2015.  That’s it.  Doesn’t this disproportionally light in comparison to our spending on defense? Don’t we want a literate and competitive populace?  The 1% and their minions in Congress don’t.  If the voting public wised up, Congress would be out of a job and the 1% scrambling to create the next scam. I say people and the planet over profits and a little more equality please.

Fact Checking Cat Blasts Holes in GOP Chart

Great Depression Food Line

Great Depression Food Line (Photo credit: Kevin Burkett)

Warning:  If you are sick and tired of politics, don’t read this post.  Disclaimer:  I am sick and tired of politics and don’t plan to blog anymore about the elections until after November 6.  I just felt the need to respond to a right wing anti-Obama cheap shot.

I’ve seen this graph put out by an outfit called Being Conservative:

This is from the group’s facebook page which has over 2 million likes.  The graph above has been shared some 77,000 times.  And it’s misleading.  Here’s why:

First, let’s look at unemployment.  For a little historical context (because that’s what is lacking in the chart) in late 2008, the U.S. economy crashed under George W. Bush’s leadership.  When President Obama took over in 2009, he inherited the worst recession since the Great Depression.  I repeat, inherited an economy on the brink of utter collapse.  Thanks to the TARP bailout and ARRA stimulus spending, the economy has recovered, albeit slowly.  At the end of 2009, the unemployment rate was 9.3%, 9.6% in 2010, 8.9% in 2011 and now down to 7.9%; it is not 8.3% as the graph indicates.  For comparison sake, in the Depression Era from 1930-1939, the unemployment rate averaged 18.34%.  But get this, in years that would not be considered depression-like, the unemployment rates under Republican leadership were also high.  President Gerald Ford finished 1975 with an unemployment rate of 8.5%.  Under President Ronald Reagan, the unemployment rate at the end of 1982 was 9.7%; 9.6% in 1983.  At the end of 1992, under President George HW Bush (the elder), unemployment was 7.5%.

Now let’s look at gasoline prices. The graph shows that when the President took office, the price at the pump was $1.84; actually, the average price was $1.787.  It shows that the current price is $3.82 but that’s wrong too – it is, for the record as of this writing, $3.712 and for the year $3.684 on average, about 16 cents higher than it was in 2011.  For the sake of comparison, in June and July of 2008, under President George W. Bush, gas prices surged to over $4 nationwide.  I’m not making this stuff up.  To be fair, what is forgotten in all this is that the President has little direct influence on daily gasoline prices, which are largely a product of global events and global demand, that is higher now than ever before with India and China’s growing consumer class increasingly dependent on fossil fuels.  Now it is true that a comprehensive energy policy could impact the demand equation, but drilling isn’t the solution to lower gas prices.  Becoming less dependent on fossil fuels is the long term answer to a more sustainable planet.  As demand for oil decreases, so too will the price at the pump.  Investing in clean alternative energy sources not only could help us break our dependence on oil, it would reduce the amount of CO2 we spew into the air and slow down global warming and climate change, something I pray is not too late to do – I mean the ice is already melting and I believe it was Governor Cuomo who said, and I am paraphrasing, that we are seeing 100 year storms every two years.

Next, let’s look at the National Debt.  From Reagan through Bush I and II, the national debt increased by 12 trillion. This is not a misprint.  My cat Ella fact checked it.  How did they manage to rack up 12 trillion in debt? Well, it was a combination of reduced revenue from tax cuts, increased defense spending, unpaid for wars and ever expanding entitlement obligations, oh, and there is the not so little thing of the interest on the debt.  President Obama inherited this mess; he did not create it.  And he’s trying to work on the revenue side by raising taxes on the wealthy and ending corporate welfare, but with no cooperation from the Republicans who have all taken the Grover Norquist no taxes pledge. On the spending side, the President has ended the two Republican initiated wars (which of course had the full approval of Congress) and recommended reductions in military spending.  Now with the sequester set to trigger automatic cuts, there is hope that a balanced deal on revenue and spending can be negotiated.

And finally, declining wages.  Consider this:  The Republicans have blocked attempts to raise the minimum wage and voted against the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.  And corporations have been making record profits, as they have outsourced jobs and begged for more subsidies, arguing that the uncertainty is “killing” them and accounts for their reluctance to hire.  Notwithstanding this “uncertainty”, the rich have gotten richer and the middle class and poor even poorer.  Extending the Bush tax cuts didn’t help much.  An inherited wrecked economy that has recovered slowly, hasn’t helped things either.  Partisan gridlock has made matters even worse, that and the heightened rhetoric from the right questioning the need for a social safety net and blaming the poor, homeless, elderly and infirm for not taking responsibility for themselves.  The point being that the President is not solely responsible for declining incomes among the middle class.

I just wanted to give this graph a little context to show how misleading it is.  And now I am done.  The end.

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