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.

We the People

There’s a terrific new solo LP out by Pat Metheny called What’s It All About. Even though the music is not political, it got me thinking about the purpose of government and the latest bickering between Congress and the President. Here’s what the preamble to the U.S. Constitution has to say:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense,promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

We the people. Who are the people, anyway?  Voters?  If that’s the case, given historical voting patterns, congress represents only about 100,000 people.  That’s a small USA.  So when Congress ignores the will of the people as expressed in polls, they must be thinking that people who respond to polls don’t vote, or don’t live in their congressional district.  And that may be true, but it is a risky strategy that may backfire.

Are all Republicans against raising the debt ceiling and raising taxes on the wealthiest?  Do all Republicans believe that big business should pay no taxes at all and even receive subsidies to ensure maximum untaxed profits?  Do all Republicans believe that billionaires are the only job creators?  I believe the answer is no.  I believe Americans regardless of party affiliation are far more moderate than the Republican leadership would have us believe.  And I think the 2012 election will be proof of that.

Promote the general welfare. This does not mean corporate welfare. It means the well-being of its people. Human rights: health care, education, housing, nutrition, clean air, consumer protection, police, fire, the arts and employment.  Without these basic elements in place and protected, there can be no perfect union, no justice or domestic tranquility.

In order to preserve these basic government functions, it is the responsibility of Congress to levy taxes.  Congress must bear the blame for turning a government surplus when Clinton left office into a massive debt crisis when Obama took office. It was the Bush tax cuts combined with two senseless wars and the systematic refusal to regulate financial markets or anything for that matter that got us into this mess.  That and an unpaid for prescription medicare plan for seniors.  For those who say Obama is making the mess worse, consider that the Republican leadership to date has refused to negotiate on the question of revenue enhancements because so many have taken a silly ideological pledge not to raise taxes.  They have been highjacked by the extreme right who would like nothing better than to see the country go into more of a downward spiral so that they can blame the President and try to grow their numbers.  I think the voters won’t fall for this and will put the blame where it rightly belongs.

If Congress can’t reach a compromise on the debt ceiling, their salaries should be frozen until they come up with a plan to ensure the country does not default on its financial obligations.  Notwithstanding the outcome of the negotiations, we should do the following:  Raise taxes.  Close corporate tax loopholes.  For example, tax American the overseas profits of American based companies.   Reform and simplify the tax code; it’s way too complicated and nuanced.   Pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan.  Cut defense spending significantly.  For troops who can’t find civilian employment, create a Build For America program where troops and civilians work on  domestic infrastructure projects.  And do we still need the U.S. Postal Service?  I know it employees a half a million Americans, but it runs a big deficit and this may continue as gas prices stay just below $3 a gallon.  With e-mail, on-line shopping and social media, fewer people send bills, letters and packages by USPS anymore.  And those postal trucks are not the most fuel efficient vehicles on the road.  I would imagine that USPS workers could find employment with Federal Express or UPS, or else be redeployed on local infrastructure projects.

Stop the bickering and put the We back in People.


Govt Needs To Put Folks To Work

I’m hearing mixed reports about the economy.  It’s on the rebound according to some.  Consumer spending is up from this time last year by billions of dollars.  Folks are spending money.  One report suggests this is a sign of consumer confidence.  The Republicans would say this has to do with the certainty factor attributed to tax breaks for all.  Wait, isn’t it a little too early for that?  Curiously, another report argued that while folks of all economic means spent money during the holiday season, they did not feel confident about the economy, this despite the “certainty” of tax breaks.

Did not the Repubs argue that tax breaks for the wealthy would create jobs? Have those jobs been created?  Will they be?  I don’t think so.  Yahoo just laid off a ton of workers.  Notwithstanding unemployment numbers, many corporations have enjoyed another year of profits despite the sluggish economy.  They’ve retooled, outsourced, sub-contracted, laid off expendable workers and the like.  They’ve found corporate loopholes to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.  In some cases business paid no taxes at all and will be getting fat refund checks from the government.  What happened to corporate welfare reform?  CEOs and high salaried executives are getting corporate bonuses and a nice income tax break from the IRS.  Now, I don’t begrudge someone for making a lot of money – I just think they should pay a higher tax rate – and I mean actually pay that rate, not find ways to shield profits or legally game the system.  Our tax system should remain truly progressive and not oppressively regressive.

The economy is a complicated construct.  For those employed, unemployment numbers don’t mean much, but gas prices or tuition bills might.  Not to speak for anybody, but a millionaire or billionaire for that matter might view the economy as a set of policies that should protect and facilitate the expansion of personal family wealth and make it possible to pass it on to family untouched by the government.  I’m reminded of the Pink Floyd song “Money”.

Republicans argue that the wealthy are the key to reducing the unemployment rate.   But do the wealthy really care about unemployment?  Philanthropists might, but they reserve the right to contribute to whatever cause is close to their heart, not necessarily job creation.   Altruism aside, we must remember that the bottom line of capitalism is profit.  There is no such thing as a free market with a social conscience.  It’s all about the bottom line.  The government should be in the business of job creation and should not outsource the responsibility to corporate America whose priority is profit, not people.  Mr. President, put folks to work.   People first!