The Republicans Are After Your Money, Freedom, and Dignity

Especially if you are 50 or older, make less than $506,600 per year, or female.

by Shadra Bruce

2012-repugsThe Republican Party and Tea Party have declared an all-out war on Americans. In fact, it’s a bit ironic but most of their intended policies, legislation, and tax proposals would harm their own constituents as much as it would harm those who don’t swallow what they’re trying to peddle.

The three main attacks of their war are: Medicare, Taxes, and Healthcare, otherwise known as the war against the elderly, the poor, and women. Great way to protect their patriarchal, rich-man, corporations-are-people society, but bad for America.

The War Against Senior Citizens

As if it weren’t enough that Wisconsin is attempting to disenfranchise older voters and Missouri is trying to force the aged population to pay more taxes to provide additional cuts to corporations, but the Republican/Tea Party in general has targeted senior citizens – the same group who overwhelmingly voted them into power in 2010. First, Republicans voted down the $250 to adjust for no cost of living increase. Then, they started after Medicare – you know, that “entitlement” program that Republicans detest but that working Americans paid into for 20-30 years,  making false claims about the cost of the program and the savings provided under Obama’s healthcare plan. Their newest goal is to increase the age of eligibility from 65 to 67 and, in bed with for-profit insurance companies who would benefit from the plan, privatize the program.

The War Against the Poor

Cain, Perry, and other Republican hopefuls are all touting their flat tax plan. But according the Tax Policy Center, the biggest losers of a flat tax plan are the poor. Once again, the burden would be squarely placed on the backs of the poorest, hardest working Americans, while the rich would – you guessed it – get richer.

“Under the flat tax, low-income households would lose because they now pay no income tax and are eligible for a refundable EITC of up to $3,370. Although the flat tax is more progressive than a VAT, it is more regressive than the current system. A flat tax would provide huge gains for high-income households, both because their marginal tax rate would fall and because they consume relatively less of their income than do low-income households. As a result, if a flat tax were to raise as much revenue as the current one, the tax burden for the middle class would have to rise.”

The War Against Women

I’m not quite sure where to begin with this one. From attempting to defund Planned Parenthood to passing “personhood” laws that take away a woman’s choice by imposing a view that women are simply storage tanks for men’s babies to simply targeting women’s healthcare with outdated ideas and laws, the Republican Party and Tea Party have created a war against women that makes me wonder how any woman could choose to remain involved in the party.

While I’ve always been liberal, believing that all people have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – not just the elite and corporations – I’ve never leaned so far left as I do today. I’m not a Democrat; I’m an uber liberal progressive (often referred to by those scared by their absorption of Fox News as the word of their God as a pinko commie insert expletives here). I lean further and further left by the desire to balance the pendulum that is trying so hard to swing so far to the right that the America I love will soon resemble countries we more closely associate with being targets of our special brand of democratic intervention.

If you are older than 50, make less than $506,600 per year, or female you should be thinking long and hard about who you want to represent you in Congress in 2012. Because the only “people” being represented by the Republican Party have the last name Inc.

Unemployment in America Is a CAPITOL Offense

by David T. Bruce

gechartThe same General Electric that is able to navigate enough tax loop holes to enjoy a zero dollar tax burden has also recently awarded American jobs to residents of Beijing, as the American Job Czar/GE CEO, Jeff Immelt, has opted to move the company’s X-ray technology headquarters to China.  The national unemployment rate remains at 9.1% (20 states have an unemployment rate of 9.0% or more), with over 44% of the unemployed measured as those who have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more. While companies nationwide continue to layoff employees, major businesses such as GE look out for their own bottom line by sifting through tax code to avoid paying taxes and sending jobs overseas in the effort to save even more money.

In the effort to create jobs at home, the President has presented yet another jobs bill. A Wall Street Journal report compares two opposing scenarios regarding the possible result of spending $447 billion on this bill, suggesting that President Obama’s job bill will at best create 1.2 millions at the cost of $100,000, at worst $350,000. Of no surprise to anyone, the majority of Senate Democrats favored the bill, while enough Senate Republicans and a couple of Senate Democrats more concerned about their own jobs than the jobs of American citizens blocked the vote on this proposal.

Even as 63% of Americans are said to be in support of the American Jobs Act, Senators and Republicans continue to bicker over whether or not the bill should be passed, and if so, what parts of the bill should be passed and what parts of the bill should be eliminated.  The stalemate continues on Capitol Hill, with American citizens falling victim to the pathetic squabbling of pubescent bureaucrats in three-piece suits.  Democrats blame Republicans.  Republicans blame Obama.  In 2012, Senators and Representatives from across the aisle will blame a newly-elected president.  The rhetoric is the same.  The snowball affect, however, of a government waylaid by posturing and terminal campaigning is a constituency fed up with rising unemployment in tandem with rising food, energy, and health costs.

Admittedly, I do not know the inner-workings of Capitol Hill and the effort required to draft and promote a bill.  I suspect that our elected representatives make this process far more difficult than it needs to be, and I also suspect that they have their own selfish interests (and that of wealthy corporate donors) at heart.  When a bill is drafted to promote jobs, we would hope that this job targets promoting the growth of jobs, without various other frills, wants, or needs tagged onto the bill.  This is what happens, however.

Enough garbage is added to a bill that gives virtually every member of Congress a way to put a wedge into the promotion or passing of the bill. Congress: will you please adopt a “Schoolhouse Rock” method of passing a bill?  Pick a goal, write a plan, and get the job done.  The United States is not your personal Monopoly board, and American citizens are not a stack of Chance or Community Chest cards.  We have as much of a chance of winning at your game as we do of winning the grand prize playing McDonald’s Monopoly.  Americans are obviously losing, and many of us are tired of playing by your rules.

There’s a huge outcry in America about bringing in foreign workers to fill American jobs, but where’s the outcry for companies who outsource jobs to other countries? Corporations who outsource jobs should be heavily penalized for doing so, making the cost benefit of sending jobs overseas an expensive consideration.

ONE: Famine is the real F-Word

childWe are dedicating our space to a cause worthy of attention. Thanks, Bono and ONE for making a difference.

Drought is inevitable, but famine is not. The current crisis in the Horn of Africa is the result of a tragic combination of factors that are man-made, including abnormally high food prices, lack of governance and security in Somalia, and a historic lack of investment in long-term agricultural development in the Horn. Over the past few years, we lost the political will and public support necessary to prevent the famine – and its causes. As a consequence, tens of thousands of children have died.

We have also missed the opportunity to help 200 million people from poor farming families lift themselves out of poverty. Communities in Africa can cope with droughts and natural disasters. But we need donors to put resources toward seeds, irrigation and teaching farmers new growing techniques. We need leaders to invest in early warning systems and national social safety net programs.

Congress can help keep our commitment to farmers in developing countries by fully funding Feed the Future— a life-changing USAID initiative that is investing in long-term agricultural development and could help put an end to famine for good.

Please sign our petition to Congress calling on them to fund this vital program:

http://act.one.org/sign/hungry_no_more_us

Thank you!

We Cannot Afford the Death Penalty for a Number of Reasons

by David T. Bruce

death penaltyTroy Davis, convicted of the fatal shooting of police officer Mark MacPhail in 1989, was put to death on September 21, 2011 in the state of Georgia.  Davis was convicted, although no gun was found, and no DNA evidence was produced unquestionably linking the accused to the crime.

A recent Reuters news article pointed out that in 2009 the U.S. Supreme Court ordered that Davis receive a new hearing to examine new evidence that would support his innocence.  Furthermore, “former FBI Director William Sessions called for Davis’ sentence to be commuted to life in prison, saying the case was ‘permeated in doubt.’”  The new evidence, however, was rejected by the U.S. District Court in Georgia a year after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the review.  Last-minute appeals to the county court and pardons board were likewise rejected.  With significant cause to doubt the validity of Davis’ conviction, why were the survivors and the Georgia officials hell-bent on executing a potentially innocent man?

An article in the Huffington Post describes an incident reported in the New Yorker that shows an innocent man was wrongly accused of a murder and subsequently executed following 12 years on death row.  The investigative reporter, David Grann, points out that “experts who testified [against the accused] should have known” that the forensic evidence was “completely invalid.”  A forensic research consultant submitted data from the Death Penalty Information Center illustrating that prior to the 1972 Furman moratorium (overturned in 1976), approximately 14,489 executions were recorded, and since 1977, 1,118 (1,267 as of September 18, 2011) have been executed.  Of those sentenced to death since 1977, 139 have been exonerated; an estimated 39 inmates found to be innocent were wrongly executed.  Based on data collected in 2009 approximately 11% of the people convicted of a crime warranting the death penalty have been found to be innocent.  Such a failure rate suggests that the system is flawed, and this also suggests that the fate of Troy Davis is not isolated nor the argument in favor of his innocence uncalled for.

A brief review of recent statistics related to the death penalty illustrate that the United States is the only industrialized nation other than Japan that tolerates the death penalty, and seemingly in spite of evidence suggesting innocence or mental retardation.  Thirty-four states currently allow for executions, typically by lethal injection; however, the use of the electric chair is legal.  How can this be, when according to a Lake Research Partners 2010 poll, 61% of voters believed that a punishment other than the death penalty should be used against those convicted of murder?

I cannot begin to fathom the grief that survivors must endure when a loved one is murdered.  At the same time, I cannot reconcile in my own mind how we can present ourselves to the rest of the world as a society and a country that is evolved and against cruelty to man, while we can put a person to death based on circumstantial evidence.  How can we as a nation persistently tout the rights of the unborn child, while we look the other way as inmates are put to death for crimes that may not have committed?  Frighteningly, how many of us can look onward as those on death row are executed?  How many of us demand retribution?  Why were the Georgia officials and the survivors hell-bent on the execution of Troy Davis?

Revenge.

Is this human emotion understandable?  Yes.  Does this help us understand why officials looked the other way or ignored evidence suggesting the innocence of the convicted?  No.  Should we search for an alternative to execution?  Yes.

If we cannot rationalize the moral and ethical implications associated with the death penalty, then let’s talk about something that we can rationalize: the cost, especially as the fate of our global economy is also in question.  The average cost of defending a trial in a federal death case is $620,932, about 8 times that of a federal murder case in which the death penalty is not sought.

The California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice reported that an additional $90,000 is spent per inmate sentenced to death per year, compared to that of inmates serving life sentences. The 670 inmates on death row in California cost the state an additional $63.3 million annually.  The commission estimates the annual cost of the current death penalty system to be $137 million. With suggested reforms, that cost would rise to $232.7 million per year. To impose a lifetime of incarceration instead of the death penalty would cost $11.5 million per year. That’s a savings of $125 million or more per year, just in California.

During a period of time when our nation is struggling to make ends meet, we have no valid fiscal excuse for executing prisoners.  Not that we have a good excuse to begin with.  “An eye for an eye” has a nice barbaric ring to it, but we as a society must find some resolve for our need for revenge.  We are not doing ourselves any justice by putting someone to death.  A piece of us is lost when we turn our backs to this bias. There must be far better punishments than the death penalty.

Lawfully convicted murderers should live with their crimes and suffer a lifetime of incarceration without hope for parole.  This is obviously a less expensive alternative.  Execution is more expensive, sets convicted murderers free (death can indeed be construed as freedom), and presents the risk of executing an innocent person (thereby committing murder – who answers for that crime?).  Ultimately, execution is for the benefit of the survivors.  We are giving in to the basest part of ourselves, and we are kidding ourselves by arguing otherwise.

An innocent man was executed on September 21, 2011.  Many innocent people have been executed before him, and many more will follow.  We speak of change.  This is a change we must make – for our own humanity.

The United States Government – A Burden on Society

by David T. Bruce

A recent article from the Associated Press asks the question: Is it the responsibility of the government to fix the economy? Presidential candidate hopefuls maintain that if the federal government steps back, “[t]he economy will thrive.” If the government would learn how to balance a budget and manage its own spending, we could argue that we would not be suffering the crisis that we are today.  As much as the majority of the Republican Party would like to deny association with the constituents they so proudly embrace every two to four years, our government and the people are intertwined.

If people are employed and prospering financially, then the government does well. This can be measured by an increase in spending and a subsequent increase in tax revenue. We recently had a brief reminder of what might happen were the government to shut down: military veterans and social security recipients may not receive benefits, and many federal employees may find themselves temporarily unemployed. We rely on the government, and the government relies on the populace. As is asked in the AP analysis, “[w]hat is the right balance?”

When debating about balancing the budget, the question is not whether or not our nation has money. The question is what to do with the money we have. We obviously have money enough to engage in at least two (arguably three) land conflicts. An analysis by Chris Hellman illustrates that the funds requested for nuclear weapons in 2007 surpassed “the average amount spent by the Pentagon during the Cold War, for a military that is one-third smaller than it was just over a decade ago.” Bill Boyarsky points out in his study that “the total bill for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, according to CostofWar.com, is now $1.24 trillion.” Adding the cost of movements in Pakistan, the cost to Americans for these conflicts will total between $3.2 trillion and $4 trillion. We have enough money to wage war perpetually.

We also have money enough to bail out businesses that fail in their professional and fiduciary responsibilities. Bailout figures show that $2.7 billion was spent in 2009, while $445 billion was spent in 2007 and $1.7 trillion was spent in 2008 under Republicans. These numbers and the numbers illustrating expenditures on military endeavors over the past several years demonstrate that the government does not want to give money to help the voting constituents they feign to adore. They do, however, want to provide money in abundance to the big companies, thereby securing the votes for which they truly care.

When our elected officials gather together to balance the budget, a gesture on their part to balance how these billions and trillions of dollars are allocated would be a step towards truly appreciating those people who are the foundation of America. Certainly, there are those people (of the smallest minority) that make bad decisions and choose to live solely under the umbrella of services that local and federal governments provide. The majority, however, are suffering as the result of bad decisions made by our elected officials.

Is it the responsibility of these officials to fix the economy? Yes! They screwed it up!

I am tired of the government reneging on what they think citizens are not entitled to, while they give companies trillions of dollars in entitlements, rewards for making bad choices.  I think many Americans feel the same way.  As citizens of this country, we are expected to manage our affairs in such a way that we do not become a burden on society. This election year, and every election year from now on, our mandate to Capitol Hill must be that our elected officials keep their houses in order.

Judging from what we are witnessing, they are the burden on our society.

Enough is enough. Stop bickering. Start doing your jobs. Fix your mess. Fix the economy. Step down from your pedestals and podiums and get your hands dirty. This is not about you and the next election. This is about today, and this is about the future of our country.

Fighting for Peace Will Win the War on Terror

by David and Shadra Bruce

As we approach the date that marks ten years since the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on the United States, we are frequently reminded of the events surrounding the attacks.  The images that were dispatched on news stations for days and weeks afterward are once again being reposted and replayed on news stations and across the Internet.  We are reminded once again of that which many of us in all likelihood have tried to forget or have at least tucked away safely in the recesses of our unconsciousness.  Yet if anything contributes to future attacks on our country, it is this casual ability to escape reality that dooms us to imminent tragedy.

We can help ourselves prevent another similar disaster by remembering that the world in which we live is one that is not just a single vision but a blend of many diverse opinions and visions of what life means. Embracing all of these visions may not be the answer, but making an attempt to accept them might be the only way to truly heal from – and prevent a recurrence of – the events of September 11, 2001.  This does not at all imply that we must forgive and forget, but in order to truly heal from within, we must let go of hate for the benefit of ourselves as individuals.  Remembering does not mean we must revenge.

We heal inside and benefit from the understanding that extremism – in the name of any faith – corrupts the foundation and the chief intent of a belief structure.  Instead of waging war against other cultures and other faiths, determining by force who is right and who is wrong, we can opt to wage a war of peace that allows for the possibility that all of us may be right, that each of our visions demonstrates a measure of truth.

We do not profess to personally know what the truth is, if indeed there is one truth. Nor can we begin to imagine the horror of the events portrayed on the television, when compared with the horror which was truly experienced by those that survived the attacks.  We have felt the fear and the anger that most (if not all) Americans felt at the time of the terrorist attacks of 9/11.  We will not pretend to put ourselves in their shoes.  Few of us will realize or even imagine what they suffered through to survive.

The terrorist attacks of 9/11 have become a platform for others in their bid for political office. Yet the events of 9/11 and those victims and survivors of that tragedy are not the foundation for political gain. These events are not indicative of what any one official did or did not do to prevent the attacks or to facilitate recovery. The tragedy of 9/11 is symbolic of our perception of the world and our place in the global community.

While we mourn the dead, we must also take the time to cherish the living and to recognize the impact these events had on those who did not perish in the attacks.  So much time and energy is forfeited for those who are lost to us.  We as a people are not altruistic.  We do not grieve for their loss; we grieve for our own.  Some of us grieve because we were witness to the tragedy and must repeatedly relive the horrific events in our consciousness.

The story of Artie Van Why represents the tragedy that survivors endure as a result of the attacks of 9/11/2001.  Those who lost their lives are free; those that survived remain victims of terror.  Perhaps we can better serve the memory of those people who lost their lives by saving those who lived through the tragedy.  Perhaps we can help heal ourselves in this way, allowing the anger and sorrow to find expression in positive ways.

Rather than pay tribute to those who have lost their lives by seeking vengeance and taking yet more lives, we can pay tribute to those that lost their lives in the attacks of 9/11 by changing how we live today, by realizing the importance of living for today and for our future, as opposed to living in yesterday.

We tend to do that when we mourn: live in yesterday. Absolutely, we must remember those we have lost; we should not sacrifice today, however, in that remembrance, for sacrifice has already been made.

We cannot defeat terrorism with war and counter-terrorism, with anger and vengeance, with politics and gesturing. We must learn to look ahead with wisdom while cherishing the memories of the souls who have passed away and have moved on. We must seek peaceful coexistence and acceptance. Only in this way can we defeat terrorism.

For those that did not survive the attacks on 9/11, may they rest in peace;

for those that did survive, may we all find a way to live in peace.

Will the Real Rick Perry Please Stand Up?

by Shadra Bruce

Rick Perry announced he was dropping his hat into the large ring of Republican presidential candidates on August 11. Since then he has worked diligently to position himself as the perfect choice for the Republican extremists, currying the favor of the Tea Party at the expense of all other Americans. But then, this is the man who, as governor of Texas, vetoed a bill that would have prevented the execution of mentally retarded inmates.

If he doesn’t care for those most marginalized citizens of his own state (preferring instead to be the governor who has presided over the largest number of executions in Texas history), why would we ever believe he would care about the populace of the United States?

At one point, Rick Perry could have probably given many Democrats a run for their money. He was initially elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1984 as a Democrat. He supported Al Gore (not George Bush) in his 1988 presidential bid, serving as his Texas campaign chair. He pushed for increased healthy funding; he increased funding for education. He actually pretended, there for a minute, that he cared for the PEOPLE (you know, those he would lead, serve, and protect as President).

What happened?

As Billie Joe Armstrong sings in “Holiday,” he found out the money was on the other side.

In 1989 Rick Perry joined the Republican Party. Perry went from the champion of health care and education to cold-hearted, counterfeit authoritarian overnight because it made not sense, but CENTS.

According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, Perry’s entire campaign has been backed by a small group of very wealthy individuals and couples who have bought Perry’s favor with more than $37 million in donations over the last ten years. In exchange, many these donors have been granted contracts, been given tax breaks, or have been appointed to positions in the Texas government.

Are a group of elites trying to buy their way into the oval office?

Combine this with the fundamental changes Perry wants to make to the constitution – changes that shift the balance of power considerably, attack equal rights, and further benefit corporations, big business, and big oil – it is clear in my mind that Perry has been bought and paid for.

The real Rick Perry (the son of a staunch democrat and laid-back partier who could barely eek a 2.5 GPA out of his animal science degree) is now a puppet on the string of the wealthy elite who care little for anything but themselves.

As citizens, we must carefully examine Perry’s job performance as governor of Texas and weigh the risks associated with giving this man power as Commander in Chief of the United States.  He will most certainly create a country in his own image.

You Don’t Have to be Rich or Blind to be a Patriot but It Sure Helps

by David T. Bruce

As a fan of the rock band KISS and as one who respects what Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley represent in terms of the American dream and the power of the individual to succeed, I have to rebut Mr. Simmons’ recent essay published in August 17, 2011 edition of The Washington Times.

Mr. Simmons tells us that being patriotic has become politically incorrect, referring to the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of the national anthem.  On the contrary, being one who is often politically incorrect, to be so risks being branded as unpatriotic.  To raise a voice against any of the military choices of the past several years (wholly unrelated to the attacks of 9/11) and to suggest that maybe some of the billions of dollars spent on the military in support of not-less-than three conflicts opens the person behind such remarks to verbal assault and public scorn.

I am genuinely pleased that other immigrants have found success in America, as have many citizens of this country.  However, the achievements made and enjoyed by Mr. Simmons in particular are without argument the exception and not the rule.  According to statistics compiled by Jim Hanas, a person’s chances of becoming remotely famous are 1 in 62,986.  In comparison, the chances of lightning striking a person are found to be 1 in 83,930, and your chances of being legally executed are 1 in 58, 618.

Undoubtedly, the odds of a person achieving the level of notoriety that Mr. Simmons has is statistically far more remote.  Yes, he has worked hard for what he has earned.  At the same time, we have to admit to ourselves that luck plays a part in success.  As well, once a person has money, it becomes easier to make more money.

Very little effort is required to find valid, irrefutable statistics that support that the minority of Americans make the majority of the money in this country.  My regards go to those that have found the right combination of ancestry, education, skill, and luck to bring them to the top of the financial heap.  I do not think many of us desire to strip success away from anyone or show disregard or disrespect for those that work hard for their triumphs.  At the same time, I take great exception to being told how I should feel when the America Mr. Simmons describes is indeed a dream when compared with the America that most citizens are familiar with.

Many of us are born into a country in which you must have a diploma to prove that you are competent in a given field.  Having paid for this document, you may or may not find employment.  Such is the America many people live in now.  If a person happens to be elderly or disabled, you may or may not qualify for adequate medical care.  You may or may not enjoy healthy food in an America where it costs less to eat fast food and junk food than it does to eat fruits and vegetables.  This is the reality of the twenty-first-century America.

Mr. Simmons, I respect you and your accomplishments in many ways.  At the same time, you represent a part of America that is either blind or refuses to see beyond money.  Money does not represent the foundation of America; people do.  Those people are forgotten or ignored unless money is somehow involved.  I am proud of my country, for what it is supposed to stand for.  I am forever proud of our soldiers, those that do sacrifice their time, their families, and their lives for the American dream.  I am as equally ashamed of our government, and of those representatives who care for no one or no thing unless they see dollar signs.  They have not sacrificed a damned thing.

Family Values Are Private, Not Political

by David T. Bruce

familyWe hear so much discussion regarding the sanctity of the family unit and the importance of family values.  With a presidential election soon to come, the rhetoric surrounding the sanctity and legitimacy of same-sex marriages will be talked about more so.  The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines family as “a group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head.”  In this sense, a family can be what we typically envision, in which a man and a woman marry, raise children, and make a life for themselves.  Businesses, schools, and communities may also be considered families.

As a music lover and a fan of many bands, I read and hear arguments that any given band is no longer the band it once was without a certain singer or without all founding members on board.  This doesn’t seem quite fair.  The band may be different following personnel changes, influenced by the new member’s inspiration and talent, but the name carries on nonetheless.  Similarly, the family unit can morph and develop over time.

Family names carry on with the birth of a baby.  Parents are divorced.  A family member moves way or passes away.  The family unit changes, yet the family name carries on.  This concept of the family is not necessarily difficult for us to grasp.  If a family can be blended, changing over time, then can our definition of the family and of marriage change as well?

Granted, much of the controversy surrounding same-sex marriage is faith-based.  Presenting statistics is not necessary, however, when we begin to recollect in respect to how many times we have read of or heard of domestic crimes that occur within the traditional family unit.  Family values are not inherent to a marriage solely between a man and a woman, and the sanctity of the family unit is tarnished in the light of violent crimes within the family.

With these ideas in mind, I struggle to understand why same-sex marriages must be the platform of anyone’s political campaign.  With over 14 million Americans unemployed, over 69 million Americans on Medicaid, and a record 44 million Americans on food stamps, we have more to be concerned with in this country than two people falling in love, regardless of the genders of the couple.  A 2009 analysis published in the New York Times illustrated that the approval of same-sex marriage would improve the economy in New York City and New York State.  The same may be said for other states.

If our goal is to create a family unit with positive family values, then perhaps we need to reflect on our individual values that compel us to fear or hate two people because their vision of family skews our preconceptions.  A family can have value and realize love whether the family is guided by a mom and a dad, a mom and a mom, or a dad and a dad.  We need to put our resources and our energies to better use this election season.

In the War Against Taxes, Your Neighbor Is Not Your Enemy

by David Bruce

800px-american_corporate_flag-svg
Source: Adbusters

Ever-embroiled in debate, members of Congress are now in dispute over how to avoid financial default.  Most of us who live in the United States and work for a living to support ourselves and our families have some idea how to balance our budget and how to avoid financial distress.  Our elected representatives, however, show little sign of fiscal competence or moral demeanor, as they publicly and shamelessly deliberate on the best approach for avoiding a situation that will largely affect the elderly and disabled citizens of our country.  Additionally, should our government default, we more-than-likely would endure increased interest rates, and government employees would suffer delays in pay.  Regardless of income-level, individual taxpayers would be adversely affected.  Conversely, our government and largest corporations would continue operating in such a way that they would benefit to some degree, regardless of the political or economic fallout.

Should our government default, a worst-case scenario illustrates that government employees (including service members) and social security recipients would sacrifice timely receipt of their paychecks.  Major corporations would make attempts to recoup any losses by raising interest rates on credit cards, mortgages, and other loans.  Would these large businesses be deprived of anything?  Indeed, the ledgers may initially reflect a less-than-profitable quarter: nothing that a government bailout wouldn’t resolve.  The American public does not merit a bailout, though, even with an election on the horizon.  The major corporations are the darlings of both Democratic and Republican parties.

A list of ten companies was recently compiled that illustrates the overbearing tax burden suffered by large businesses in America.  Of course, the buzz about the earnings and refunds for General Electric has made headlines across the Internet.  Also worth mentioning, however, is the recent tax refund of $1.9 billion that Bank of America received in addition to their $4.4 billion in profit.  This is also a company that profited from the aforementioned bailout.  In 2008 Goldman Sachs paid income taxes measuring 1.1 percent of its income.  In 2010 Citigroup paid no federal income tax, yet they generated in excess of $4 billion dollars of income (let us not overlook the bailout monies).  In 2009 Exxon Mobile paid no income taxes against profits of $19 billion.  Additional evidence is easy to access.

The families surviving on wages that are considered to be poverty-level and not paying federal income tax are not the criminals.  The well-to-do families who have benefited from hard work, raising their standard of living significantly are not the criminals.  Yet these two demographics are pitted against one another, tools in the political mêlée waged by each and every one of our elected representatives.  Individual American taxpayers in the lowest 20% tax bracket and individual American taxpayers in the highest 20% tax bracket are positioned as bitter rivals in this Congressional conflict.  The poorest Americans pay little or no federal taxes, and the wealthiest Americans pay the largest percentage.  While the former would most likely switch places with the latter without argument or hesitation, and while the latter certainly has a valid argument against further tax increases against money that have rightfully earned, the fact remains that the real criminals are on Wall Street and Capital Hill.

An article in the Tucson Citizen pointed out that in 2010 individual income tax accounted for 42% of total revenue, while corporate income tax accounted for a mere 9% of total revenue. From outward appearances, this is what and who our representatives are fighting for.   In a Christian Science Monitor article, calculations demonstrate that tax breaks are worth about $1,000 to a typical family earning about $21,000 or less, augmenting their after-tax income by 9 percent. Middle income families earning between $40,000 and $70,000 receive an average of about $4,000, increasing their after-tax incomes by about 8 percent.  For those in the top 1 percent, tax breaks allow those wage-earners to increase their after-tax incomes by more than 20 percent.  According to this research, the highest-income 20 percent enjoy almost two-thirds of the benefits of tax expenditures. More than one-quarter of tax breaks are allotted to the top 1 percent alone.

The issue is not whether or not taxes should be raised or for whom taxes should be raised.  The issue is the major loopholes that exist permitting major companies to bring their tax liability to a percentage lower than that of the average working American.  The issue is our elected representatives who represent the interests of these companies and their own self-interests.  These issues will not resolve themselves.  The majority of our representatives do not care about us as people.  They do not care how we live, if we live, or how we die.  They want our vote.  They have taken virtually everything else from us; do not give them a vote they have not earned.

Your enemy is not your neighbor.