Dec 05 2012

Much is required

Posted by Steve Ross in National Politics

I don’t normally write about national issues, but this fiscal cliff thing is one particularly dumb set of concern trolling on the part of the national media so it seems like a prime target.

Beep! Beep!

Its dumb because as the Wonk Blog explains this is anything but a cliff. It’s a slope at best. A slope to recession, sure, but it’s not as if this is a Wyle E. Coyote moment. Nope, Just a leisurely stroll down Recession Lane.

To be clear, I don’t want to see a recession happen any more than anyone else, but considering the players involved, and the lack of real governance from the Tea Party caucus that rules the roost in the House, there’s no real reason to believe anything other than a pull of the trigger, or an extension of the deadline is on the immediate horizon.

Now I’m sure some of my more moderate friends are screaming compromise right about now. Compromise is a two way street. Getting rid expensive tax cuts for 2% of the American populous at a time when everyone (wrongly) seems to think deficit reduction is what we need to do is the definition of compromise. 98% of the people benefit and there’s some new revenue to satisfy the deficit chicken hawks. Seems like a good deal. If you don’t get that, your definition of compromise involves a great deal of ankle grabbing.

Ward, don’t you think you were a little hard on the Beaver…

Not my idea of a good time, but to each his own.

Of course, ankle grabbing compromise has defined the politics of the past 30+ years. As Nick Kristof candidly explains in this NY Times editorial we’ve been screwing up the future for, by his estimation, 50 years now with cheap tax rates for folks who didn’t need them, that were supposed to create jobs and growth and didn’t. That strategy hasn’t worked and its not going to work. Its time to bring back a new look at an old strategy that did work. 1950’s era tax rates here we come!

In the 1950′s top earners paid as much as 92% on everything they made over $400,000/yr. Don’t believe me? Here’s the chart from the IRS.

Of course, no one’s asking that from the top 2%. Just a return to the 39.6% marginal rate of the Clinton era. You know, the Clinton years, where we had that huge recovery and 4% unemployment? Yeah, doesn’t sound so bad does it?

Republicans are losing their minds over this because according to the funders of their campaigns, any kind of tax increase is devastating. But if the GOP wants a return to the 1950′s, which is something they’ve been saying essentially for 30 years, then why not the tax rates that went with them? Seems to me you can’t have one without the other.

Because, more than anything else, that’s what Republicans want right? A return to a simpler time that never really existed. Remember the coded language of the 1980/90′s GOP? A return to a “simpler” time when “family values” were values and the world was a picturesque reflection of “Leave it to Beaver”.

Honestly, the GOP rhetoric hasn’t changed much since. The difference now is that rather than “Family Values” the right is pushing Prosperity doctrine. If you’re not familiar with prosperity doctrine here it is in a nutshell:

“If you believe/give to the church/etc. more you will succeed”, which by implication means that because you haven’t succeeded, you therefore do not believe enough.

Sounds just like GOP rhetoric doesn’t it? They built it!

Interesting that they ignore the gospels when they quote the bible. Probably because its just too inconvenient. Here’s what Jesus had to say about people who are without want.

For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more. Luke 12:48

See, if you read the gospel literally, and I understand that’s all the rage these days, folks that are without want are REQUIRED…called by God, to do more to help people. If they actually did it, then maybe we could talk about some of the rewards they’ve received over the years. But since those guys don’t seem to be holding up their end of the bargain, only bringing mythical job creation, imaginary investment, and the like, I guess its time to return to the prosperity of the distant past to pressure them to do their part for society. We won’t get there by continuing tax cut policies of the past 40 years.

Here’s the dirty truth: tax cuts don’t drive expansion, they drive savings…and we’ve seen a mass expansion of savings for those who have something to save. The rest of us have been limping along barely keeping up with inflation.

He’s so sensitive about saving the wealthy

If it continues, we’ll have the first generation of folks since the Great Depression that didn’t see an appreciable increase in their standard of living or quality of life. That’s something you’re going to be hearing from me a lot over the coming months, because that’s what’s at stake.

As for the fiscal cliff, we’ll just have to see, but I’m not that worried. House Republicans have made their counter offer, weak and repackaged as it may be. Now the Kabuki Theatre can start in earnest. Chances are, they still will not vote for any tax increases, even if it only impacts the top 2% of earners.

That’s right, they’re ready to throw the other 98% of us under the bus for the 2% that pay for their campaigns…like Sheldon Anderson.

Jesus may have said For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required but you’d be hard pressed to convince the funders of the GOP that their assault on tax equity over the past 40-50 years makes them anything other than victims of the majority, all while they’ve benefitted from our collective 30+ year slumber.

So, you have a choice. You can choose to be scared as hell about this fiscal cliff and all the rhetoric that’s being bandied about, or you can look at what we’ve been doing that’s not working, what we’ve done in the past that did work, and make an intelligent choice.

One thing should be clear. After 30 years of tax cuts for people who don’t need it amidst declining incomes and lower standards of living for millions of middle class Americans, you need to ask yourself if you’re better off than you were, or your parents. If you aren’t, maybe its time to do something different.

Feb 01 2009

Unrequited “Post-Partisanship”

Posted by Steve Ross in Uncategorized

It’s time to take a look back a couple days to a post I wrote about “Post-Partisanship”.

Now that the RNC has new leadership, one would think that, perhaps, for the sake of uniting the country, helping the economy, or some other high minded purpose that Republicans may want to lay off the obstructionist tactics. One would be wrong…

Speaking at a retreat of Republican legislators, newly installed RNC chair Michael Steele remarked:

I thought it was very important to send a signal, and you sent it loudly, very clearly, that this party, the leadership of this caucus, would stand first and foremost with the American people. You made it very clear that in order to grow through this recession that you not redistribute the wealth of the people of this nation.

This is an interesting quote. I don’t see anywhere in HR 1 that “wealth is redistributed”. Looking again at the way the funds are appropriated I see $225b to help people who have lost their jobs and states who have lost tax revenue, $319b is for construction and upgrade projects that will help private business and workers alike, $255b in tax cuts to middle income earners, and $20b in cuts to business. Where’s the “redistribution”?

In the midst of a recession as bad or worse than ANY recession in my 36 years the new RNC chair is ready to set his party down the well-worn path of the POUM Hypothesis. The “Promise of Upward Mobility” hypothesis states that individuals earning lower incomes will not support tax increases for the wealthy on the “promise of upward mobility”, fearing that they too may some day have to pay the new tax rate.

Most people I talk to are more worried about maintaining their income levels than increasing them. In the wake of the financial crisis that exacerbated the unemployment increases we’ve been experiencing for over a year now, and the irresponsible actions of many of the executives that helped these institutions tank, few people care about how much these “Me first” millionaires are going to have to pay in taxes.

Then there’s the fact that there ARE NO TAX INCREASES anywhere in this bill. None. So where’s that redistribution again Mr. Steele?

The Republican Party has no interest in anything that may look like “bi-partisanship” unless it’s their “bi-partisanship”, and their “bi-partisanship” looks suspiciously like a party whose ideas, or lack thereof, have been rejected by the voters of this nation over the past two election cycles.

If Republicans want to act in good faith, then I welcome what they have to offer to the conversation, but if they are just interested in making anything and everything like a twisted version of the old Peanuts Lucy/Charlie Brown/football scenario, then they can blow their dog whistles to high heaven, I don’t care. The American people are sick of the games, and until the Republican Party recognizes this fact, they will continue to marginalize themselves, which is just fine by me.

May 24 2008

Two Things that Sum Up the Hillary Flap

Posted by Steve Ross in Uncategorized

Followed by The Rude One

Mar 27 2008

Lack of Vision and Strategic Planning

Posted by Steve Ross in Uncategorized

Mayor Herenton’s re-election, resignation threats, and other shenanigans aside, at least we know we have a Mayor, who just yesterday proclaimed:

“I want to tell you I had no other choice but to run for re-election. I had to run for office to protect what I had invested in this city in 16 years as mayor.”
“I had to protect the progress of this particular city from individuals who I thought did not have any wherewithal or ability to take this city to the next level.”

That’s all well and good. I’m glad that the Mayor feels responsible for the “investment” he has in Memphis. It’s too bad that his investment seems to have no direction or vision.

From the article:

“The library system’s lack of strategic direction on issues such as locations, facilities and service offerings is symptomatic of the lack of overall city strategies and priorities for the delivery of services to its citizens,” said the report, commissioned in August 2006, conducted by Deloitte Consulting LLP and delivered a year ago at a cost of $700,000.

Ahh, that’s what I like to hear about a guy who went out of his way to make sure that the city wouldn’t move too far away from his legacy of blindly driving this city…umm, forward?. Ugh! This stuff drives me nuts.

I’m sure there will be more on this…there always is.