Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fair is fair. I earn 50 times as much income as you. So you should pay a much higher percentage of your income in taxes than me.

If that sounds like a whack-o theory to you, if it sounds like unfair taxation, it’s because you don’t earn over $10 million a year and have a team of lobbyists at your beck and call.

But a recent article in the New York Times serves as an infuriating reminder that incomes have been massively redistributed — out of the pockets of the poor and middle class, into the pockets of the filthy rich.

The Times article in question had to do with the news that New York State, desperate for income to run schools and maintain police and other public services, is trying to enact a law that would make hedge fund managers pay more tax on some of the money they earn.

Why rich hedge fund managers pay

at lower tax rates than you and me

Seems that hedge fund managers get 20 percent of any profits they produce for their customers. This can come to million, tens of millions, even hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

But the money is only taxed as a capital gain, which has a maximum tax rate of 15 percent.

Now a special rate on capital gains has its useful purposes. It encourages people to risk money to invest in businesses that may eventually produce growth for our economy.

Heads they win, tails you lose,

either way you're screwed

Problem is, the hedge fund managers aren’t risking their own money. They’re risking their clients’ money. Heads they win, tails their clients lose.

So let’s see. Let’s say I’m a hedge fund manager and I make $50 million in commissions. I pay 15 percent of that in taxes. Meanwhile, you’re a small plumbing contractor. In 2009 you earned $68,000. Your maximum tax rate on a good chunk of that money is 25 percent.

See, we’ve got to redistribute your earnings to hedge fund millionaires and billionaires. Who says so? The lobbyist who bought your Congressman and Senator say so. As do the tea bag heads and Republicans who are still talking about cutting taxes. It’s not your taxes they’re planning to cut, pal. It’s the taxes on billionaires.

We seem to get more prosperity

when tax rates on the rich are higher

Ironically, during the post WWII boom years, we had tax rates as high as 88 percent on the top income earners. Yet that was the age of prosperity that any of us old enough to remember look back on nostalgically—when almost anyone with a middle class job could afford to send a couple of kids to college entirely out of his own pocket, buy a house, earn a nice car, and still put a few bucks away for a rainy day.

Then the Reagan administration came. They gave us a recession, along with a drop in the maximum tax rate to 50 percent. Now we’re down to 35 percent and the economy’s in the toilet.

Conclusions, anyone?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

BP to cleanup workers: "We don't care if you die of leukemia or brain damage. Wear a respirator and you're fired!"

The headline on Racewire is chilling. "BP Threatens to Fire Cleanup Workers Who Wear Their Own Safety Gear."

But at the same time, BP is not supplying respirators and other safety equipment to its cleanup crews.

Already the symptoms of illness are spreading. They include nausea, dizziness and breathing problems.

The article points out that both the oil and disperants getting sprayed on it are "highly toxic" and contain compounds that include benzene, tolulene and xylene. In the long run these can cause leukemia and brain damage.

So why is BP refusing to let its workers wear respirators? Your guess is as good as mine, and what I'm guessing is that BP doesn't want any "negative looking" photographs of people wearing respirators or hazmat suits — even though the workers are clearly dealing with hazardous materials. That kind of photograph in the media would intensify the well-deserved rage against BP.

So for the sake of nicer-looking publicity photographs, BP is willing to kill off some of the workers.

Surefire bet: If the lives of the cleanup workers aren't worth crap to BP, neither is yours.

The Louisiana Environmental Protection Network has since begun getting hazmat clothing and respirators to some of the work crews.

Will BP pay for this? Are they willing to accept a few bad photo ops if it saves workers' lives? Who knows? But you can put your name on a petition to make them pay here.

Friday, June 18, 2010

It's time to call a Brit a Brit. Got that, Brits?

We've got Brits calling Americans "anti-British" because somebody over here referred to BP by its old name, British Petroleum.

Never mind that, multi-national or not, BP it is British. Never mind that it was founded in Britain. Never mind that a substantial chunk of its stock is held in Britain. Never mind that the entire British pension system is shaky because it has so much invested in BP. Never mind that under British Common Law, if you own a company that creates damage, you as owner are liable for the damage.

No, we Americans are "anti-British" for wanting the owners of BP to pay for the damage.

Do I feel sorry for British pensioners who now will have less to live on, at least for a while? Sure. But I feel sorrier for the entire gulf coast of the United States, which is drowning under British Pet...oh, sorry, BP's mess.

Meanwhile, we've got President Obama sounding more and more like a Professor of Mediation Practice at the Graduate School of Social Work, and less and less like a President who can seize this opportunity, wring money out of a recalcitrant Congress, and apply it to an energy project that would resemble the Manhattan Project of WWII, or the space program of the 1960s.

Instead we get some Republican idiot in Congress, a Republican dunderhead from Texas named Joe Barton, apologizing to BP because we're pressuring it to pay up, and then apologizing for apologizing. And no doubt he'll eventually apologize for apologizing for apologizing.

I could probably go look up the links and put them in here, but I'm too down on current events. I've been down on it for weeks, which is why I'm posting so little lately.

Oh bother! And blah! Everything sucks. I'm going home.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Justices Roberts and Alito can be impeached and removed from office for the felony of perjury. It’s time to begin dumping these guys.

In his Senate confirmation hearings, John Roberts committed what clearly appears to be perjury. He stated he would abide by the principles of Stare Decicis, letting precedent rule.

For example during questioning by Senator Arlen Specter:

Sen Specter: In our initial conversation, you talked about the stability and humility in the law.

Would you agree with those articulations of the principles of stare decisis, as you had contemplated them, as you said you looked for stability in the law?

Roberts: Yes, Mr. Chairman, I would. I would point out that the principle goes back even farther than Cardozo and Frankfurter. Hamilton, in Federalist No. 78, said that, To avoid an arbitrary discretion in the judges, they need to be bound down by rules and precedents.

So, even that far back, the founders appreciated the role of precedent in promoting evenhandedness, predictability, stability, adherence of integrity in the judicial process.

Justice Samuel Alito testified similarly. You can read the pack of apparent lies he fed his Senatorial questioners about stare decicis here, but just for openers there’s this on Roe vs. Wade:

The things that I said in the 1985 memo were a true expression of my views at the time from my vantage point as an attorney in the Solicitor General's office. But that was 20 years ago and a great deal has happened in the case law since then. Thornburg was decided and Webster and then Casey and a number of other decisions. So the stare decisis analysis would have to take account of that entire line of case law.

Sounds like he, too, swore under oath that stare decicis would be a guiding principle for him, right?

But once seated on the bench, the unspoken The Star-Ledger in New Jersey reported,

"With a stroke of the pen, five justices wiped out a century of American history devoted to preventing corporate corruption of our democracy," declared Fred Wertheimer, president of the Washington-based government-watchdog group Democracy 21.

Two of those five were Roberts and Alito, who under oath testified they would respect stare decicis.

And the bad news created by these liars keeps happening. This morning the New York Times suggested in in an editorial concerning a case in which moneyed interest won a case objecting to their political opponents obtaining matching funds that there is more to come:

It seems likely that the Roberts court will use this case to continue its destruction of the laws and systems set up in recent decades to reduce the influence of big money in politics. By the time it is finished, millionaires and corporations will have regained an enormous voice in American politics, at the expense of candidates who have to raise money the old-fashioned way and, ultimately, at the expense of voters.

It’s time to throw the perjurers out of the court for these and similar high crimes and misdemeanors. If Congress (and then the Senate) fail to act, most of their members will not be in office come the next election. With a precious few exceptions, there is always somebody out there with more money to spend than you have.

So will you speak up Mr. or Ms. Congressional Represenative? And you, Senator?

I’m waiting.