Monthly Archives: January, 2015

Means-testing us to deny public benefits, stigmatizes the poor and endangers support from the middle and upper classes

Should government focus on public services or needy services?

The argument is whether we should provide benefits or programs to both rich and poor – even though higher income folks can afford to pay for these with ease.

If we have a service or program, such as public schools, universal public healthcare, or even public childcare for all – why not open it equally to all members of the public. That will keep government from creating  a separate class of people, who are stigmatized by qualifying for a public service – just because they are poor.

How humiliating! Should these recipients be made to wear a green star? Walk on the other side of the street? Keep their gaze averted from ours? Many proud families do not apply for such “aid”, refusing to be classified as bottom dwellers of society.

With a fair, progressive tax system, the wealthy would pay a higher percentage of income taxes, and corporations, fair taxes. The wealthy also should be included in every public program, because they are supporters these public efforts.

In practice, the very rich will probably not need many of these public programs, and instead, will avail themselves of very expensive replacements of their own making. But that is on them. We already mostly agree  that there should not be a means test for public parks, highways and the stigma of drinking fountains for the poor (free), and the rest of us, 25 cents.

Taking the upper and middle classes out of public programs, insures that a so-called lower class (less income, but not less human) feels unequal equal to other Americans, and becomes isolated from the very middle class to which it aspires.

Any means-testing destroys the ideals of a public good, and replaces it with some calculated charity from political “benefactors.”

The regressive benefits now delivered from Social Security are a good example of so-called means-testing, where upper middle class earners are starkly penalized with lower percentages of overall benefits and the lowest earners receive three or four times the benefit percentage. (see chart below)

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Such a charity approach is losing support for this pension program, because it has been converted to a part welfare system. The solution here is a fair basic Social Security benefit for all, supplemented by a pension based purely on wages earned and FICA taxes paid.

In another tragedy for seniors means-testing Medicaid – instead of offering universal Medicare to poor and rich – forces families to “spend down” nearly all the elder’s assets, just to enter a nursing home, and forces them to the very bottom of the income ladder.

In the same vein, one of the great mistakes of Obamacare is its extra help to the poor and its sliding scale of subsidies. The goal should be “free” all the way up to the top, and at the same time, fair progressive taxes to insure public programs available to all who want them. The only other alternative is to privatize public services, which puts a fee on users and crushes the poor.

Surely, if we deem a service universal there should no fee to exclude the needy, just as there should be no means test to exclude the wealthy. Higher progressive income and excise taxes will lift some of the burden off the average American and insure democratic access without stigma of “getting something” extra from the government.

 

A hike in Capital Gains tax rate won’t affect IRA or 401K savings withdrawal tax rates or your total $ in savings

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photo from Daily Kos

While many progressives are seeking to hike an historically very low Capital Gains Tax rate of 15% to 23.8% (compared to regular personal income tax rates), some of the elite, who will pay more under such a change, are leaving public bread crumbs that an increase will hurt average income seniors and reduce their retirement accounts.

These greedy “geniuses” are betting that most consumers don’t know the rules for withdrawing funds from these tax exempt instruments. Many IRA and 401K owners unfortunately believe that their current equity in mutual funds will benefit from a lower capital gains tax when they retire. Not true!

All sheltered retirement money withdrawn will be taxed as regular income.  Even if capital gains tax was 90%, IRA withdrawals would still be taxed at regular rates of 15%, 25%, etc.

Regardless of the capital gains rate, you might also be subject to additional income tax on your Social Security benefits, despite whether withdrawals were from capital gains funds, dividends, interest, or just sitting there as cash.

Suggesting a low capital gains tax is an extra tax boon to saving for retirement is gross misinformation, unless the funds are outside of an IRA or 401K.

As part of 2015 tax reform, Congress should also examine the unfairness to any retired couple, who report income more than 32K (a limit not increased in 30 years). These middle class retirees are taxed on the next dollars at 50% more than taxpayers – not retired – up to as much as 100% of their Social Security benefits.

There is much talk about the very rich suffering from a possible rise in capital gains tax, but no kindly attention to needs of middle class retirees – who still, oddly, vote almost as a block for the GOP, which rarely seems to have their interests at heart.

Glenn Greenwald – his evil lesson on how to hate the Jews

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Despicable cartoon from recent Glenn Greenwald column

“My parents tried to inculcate me a little bit into organized Judaism, but they weren’t particularly devoted to that, and my grandparents were, but it just never took hold.”
– Wikipedia quote attributed to Glenn Greenwald

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Glenn Greenwald (2014) from Wikipedia

Is there anyone more antisemitic than a former Jew, turned against his own people? In Glenn Greenwald’s case, hatred of Jews and Israel could not be more evident than in his Jan. 9, 2015 column in The Intercept, a publication funded by Ebay founder  Pierre Morad Omidyar through his First Look Media

Greenwald maintains in a horrific column that he is providing the other side of the Charlie Hebdo controversy about whether media should publish cartoons, which may be considered abhorrent to the followers of a religion. To do this, he explains that he will offer us cartoons that have not been widely published, because they were considered offensive content by members of religious groups, other than Muslims. The very misleading title of his column is:

“In Solidarity with a Free Press: Some More Blasphemous Cartoons”

But he doesn’t fulfill than promise. There are no cartoons offending Hindus, Buddhists, Catholics, Protestants or Mormons. Just Jews!

These are hateful cartoons, not just the usual hiding behind criticism of Israel, but many are the full blown evil antisemitism cartoons, the same ilk as the one in the London Sunday Times depicted here in a recent post. Some readers thought that was an “exception”, but the following proves that the plague is everywhere:

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All cartoons on this post are from a column by Glenn Greenwald published in “The Intercept”

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Click on any cartoon to enlarge

 

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If you believe that these cartoons spread hatred and incite violence and antisemitism you may offer your opinion by contacting:

U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Asst. Attorney General, Main
Washington, D.C. 20530
(202) 514-4609

Anti-Defamation League complaint: ADL

Cartoon published by the London Sunday Times last week…

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The Sunday Times cartoon (Photo credit: The Times) (click to enlarge)

What more will be done to dehumanize the Jews? It seems almost like 1933 all over again, but this time in England with publication of this cartoon in the London Sunday Times! For a change, an organization other than the BBC is in the forefront of British pro terrorist propaganda.

Sadly, some apologists, who claim to be Jewish, thought this wasn’t designed to inflame more antisemitism.

Instead, they arrogantly declared this hateful drawing just took a purely political stance, and the cartoonist didn’t really mean to actually suggest bodies of dead Palestinians were used to build a wall in Israel.

The next cartoon – blood libel?

Did you ever wonder why you never heard of wolf chops?

The mistake – that so-called “liberal” progressives almost always make – is to ascribe good intentions to evil persons. They don’t realize that not everyone is kind and reasonable at heart, and yet many of us too often apologize for our zeal, excuse our desire for factual discussion, and basically try to sell our positions to those who could care less.

To me, a progressive explaining the need for Medicare or Social Security to Paul Ryan, is as hopeless as a Jew reading about Talmudic justice to a Nazi guard or a Hamas maniac.

Frederick Douglass was a pacifist until a certain point before the Civil War, but he finally believed that no oppressed people were ever saved by any group but themselves, and then only by political force, or the perceived threat of uprising to defend human rights. He even said on June 2, 1854 the threat of killing a few kidnappers might be the solution to ending kidnapping, when he criticized the Fugitive Slave Act. He scared more than a few evil men.

Martin Luther King was feared by the establishment that saw a million folks very unhappy at one event, millions more ready to join them, and nearly everyone believing Americans could not just talk forever about human rights. There was fear in the air, bigots quaked and laws finally changed.

The urge to conciliate explains how sheep are shorn by the same folks who pat them on the head while alive. The appreciative sheep act docile and friendly, thinking perhaps that subservience will save them from slaughter. Unfortunately for the victims, compromise with evil usually produces just another evil deal.

The next time you enjoy lamb chops, consider why you never hear of wolf chops, and promise yourself not to argue kindness with the Devil, but instead rise up to berate, impugn, disgrace and threaten his malevolence.

GOP thrust to stop transfers between Social Security funds may open a path for new progressive benefits’ improvement

We learned today that there is too much money in the Social Security retirement fund and not enough money in the Social Security disability fund, so the Republican-dominated Congress seems determined to prevent transfers from the “rich” fund to the “poor” fund, allowing both to last until 2033. Otherwise, the disability fund would run out of money next year and the retirement fund would last, well, a lot longer than to 2033.

In the past this transfer was routine for Clinton or Reagan era congressfolks, but the GOP now sees a philosophical issue in this take from rich, give to poor, solution. Ignored is the fact that the past transfers caused a public impression of underfunding of the retirement fund, helped sell naive politicians on raising the retirement age, cutting payments and income taxing as much as 85% of earned benefits – all to the delight of the Paul Ryans of the past.

I think the Republicans are right, but not for some Ayn Randian ideal corruption, but because we are confusing the public, when we raise enough money for retirement payouts on one hand, use some of the money for something else (disability), and then come back in the annual budget battle and proclaim “entitlements (Social Security) must be reformed” because the fund is running out of money in 2033.

A good business owner with two stores, one that makes a fortune and the other that loses a lot, will often take profits from the richer operation to fund the poor one. This is usually temporary, a stopgap until the poor store lowers expenses or increases revenues. In no case would anyone with brains declare that both stores are unprofitable and going broke, when the profits of one are transferred to the other.

The disability fund needs more money. Republicans don’t want to raise the income cap of $117k or hike FICA tax rates. Their solution, as usual, is to cut benefits next year or soon, so the books balance. In this exercise they appear to agree that disability is not retirement, and perhaps some in Congress have seen the light that extra taxes on working people to pay for disability (often even caused by careless employers) is like asking the lobster to heat up the water.

Our Social Security retirement benefit structure, already deeply regressive, should not support disability payments. Revenue to balance the disability coffers should come from general funds, like SSI does, and should be considered part of the public welfare safety net. At the same time Social Security retirement should be recognized as a benefit based on contributions, which it is not at present (the lowest paid beneficiaries receive 90% of prior earnings, the middle – 50%, and the top middle class – just 15%).

In a country not divided by fractional media and political coercion, the public would ask for a fair distribution of retirement benefits, that did not punish the workers, who contributed the most. It would also demand that if additional taxes are needed to balance our disability fund, perhaps new taxes are required of the rich, particularly those who do not pay FICA taxes above $117,000, corporations, or those blessed hedge fund managers who get away with 20% income tax and no FICA contributions.

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