Increase taxes on the wealthy to bridge growing income gap

From MLive:

Kalamazoo Opinion

By John P. Badgerow
April 06, 2011

Money is power. In a democracy such as ours, there should never be so much power in the hands of so few people as there is today. The gap between the wealthy and the poor began to widen dramatically in the early 1970s and has grown at an alarming pace over the past decade. Now the middle class, too, is rapidly being left in the dust.

There is no single, easy solution to this “crisis of the gap” but a potentially effective way of addressing it is to greatly increase the rate of income tax on the wealthy. This increase would begin to narrow the gap by restraining (not stopping or reversing) income growth among the wealthy without slowing continued growth in the incomes of the vast majority of Americans. The gap would narrow from the bottom up. The additional tax revenues could be used in many ways that would benefit all Americans; for example, improving the nation’s deteriorating infrastructure (which would also create numerous jobs and save billions of dollars in the long run).

Whenever anyone calls attention to the crisis of the gap, they are immediately and vociferously accused of promoting class warfare. The term “class warfare” is used not because it’s accurate but because it’s inflammatory. It’s meant to deflect attention. The very people who have long been dedicated to the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few have just as long been using this tactic of blaming those who witness it. Not only are we expected to accept what they’re doing, we’re expected to accept it silently. There are some very powerful people out there who want to keep it that way.

“Socialism” is another inflammatory term in common use these days. Heavier taxation of the wealthy is not socialism. It’s not the redistribution of wealth. The poor should not be made wealthier at the expense of the rich. The rich should not pay taxes to support the poor. The rich should pay taxes to support America. It is the middle class and the working poor who have built and sustained America. It is the middle class to which the poor aspire and from which the wealthy arise. Now it is the middle class that falls increasingly into poverty while the already wealthy become increasingly more so.

Certainly, not all wealthy people are the same. Blanket condemnations are seldom appropriate. Some of the wealthy have contributed great sums of money to charitable causes, thereby bringing much that is good into the world. The donors to The Kalamazoo Promise are a prime example. Their anonymity is the mark of true charity. Unfortunately, such examples are all too rare. The vast majority of the rich give in a way that is self-aggrandizing or for an ulterior motive and give precious little in proportion to what they have. Also, speaking of blanket condemnations, those who characterize the poor as lazy and without ambition should spend a day with a single parent or a couple caring for their children while working three or four part-time jobs and attending a community college to get something better.

There are those who would say we should not further tax the rich because that would be penalizing them for their success. In the first place, some of them are rich through inheritance or good luck rather than personal success. But, much more importantly, it would take a far greater level of taxation than will ever be imposed to truly penalize the rich. At worse, they may have to do without a few more of their customary luxury items. In most cases, instead of having perhaps 10 times the money they really need by any reasonable, objective measure, they’ll only have eight or nine times the money. Never cry for the rich, they can take care of themselves — all too well.

There are also those who would say we should not further tax the rich because this would put an undue burden on the small business owners who employ millions of Americans. But an overwhelming majority of small business owners have annual incomes below $250,000. They are of the middle class, not the rich.

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The Republicans’ Incredible Bait-and-Switch — Truly Trying to Screw You When You Get Older

From Raw Story:’_incredible_bait-and-switch_–_truly_trying_to_screw_you_when_you_get_older/

Within ten years, most Americans would be spending all of their Social Security income to pay for their health care or going without coverage.

By RJ Eskow
Campaign for America’s Future
April 5, 2011

Back when I analyzed health plans and other benefits for a living, I asked a famous CEO what his goals were for the corporation’s employee benefit plan. “I want to give them less and make them think it’s more,” he said.

The new Republican budget proposes to radically restructure the country’s relationship with its citizens. They’re using bogus economics to confuse people into thinking these extreme cuts will somehow leave them more money. But they’re really offering less – much less.

We’ll deal with the politics later. The policy is astounding enough. But we’ll throw in a little context: The top 25 hedge fund managers made a collective $22 billion last year. If they had been taxed under the same rules as cops, firefighters, nurses, and teachers, and if the President’s proposed tax changes for the wealthiest earners had passed, these 25 people alone might reduced the Federal deficit by more than five billion dollars in a single year! But Rep. Ryan and his party prevented that from happening.

“Party of deficit reduction”? Gosh, I don’t think so.

A Radical Attack

Since all the specifics aren’t in, we ran some rough preliminary numbers. Here’s what we found: Within ten years of this plan taking effect, most Americans would be spending all of their Social Security income just to pay for their health care or going without coverage.

The Republicans claim their budget will cut $4 trillion from the Federal budget. But it will take much more than that out of everyone’s pockets. The Republican proposal wouldn’t just end Medicare as we know it – although it would certainly do that. It would also end Social Security as we know it.

In the end America’s seniors would pay more and get less as their social safety net was gradually eliminated. Their Social Security income would essentially evaporate as they were forced to spend it on previously-available health care coverage. That also means it would be redirected into the large corporations that dominate our health care system.

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The impotence of the loyal partisan voter

Last year Get Equal urged us to show the Democratic Party LGBT/T people should not be taken for granted.  I think progressive Democrats should show Obama we are not to be taken for granted by mounting a primary challenge.

From Salon:

By Glenn Greenwald
Apr 5, 2011

Rachel Maddow last night issued a very harsh and eloquent denunciation of Obama’s decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed before a military commission at Guantanamo rather than a real court. At the end of her monologue, Maddow focused on the contrast between how the Republicans treat their base and how Democrats treat theirs, specifically emphasizing that the White House announced this decision on the same day it kicked off Obama’s re-election bid. About that point, Rachel said this:


A Democratic President kicks his base in the teeth on something as fundamental as civil liberties — he puts the nail in the coffin of a civil liberties promise he made on his first full day in office — and he does it on the first day of his re-election effort. And Beltway reaction to that is. . . huh, good move. That’s the difference between Republican politics and Democratic politics. The Republicans may not love their base, but they fear them and play to them. The Democratic Party institutional structures of D.C., and the Beltway press in particular, not only hate the Democratic base — they think it’s good politics for Democratic politicians to kick that base publicly whenever possible.

Only the base itself will ever change that.

How will that happen? How can the base itself possibly change this dynamic, whereby politicians of the Democratic Party are not only willing, but eager, to “kick them whenever possible,” on the ground (among others) that doing so is good politics? I’d submit that this is not only one of the most important domestic political questions (if not the most important), but also the one that people are most eager to avoid engaging. And the reason is that there are no comforting answers.

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The Peasants Need Pitchforks

From Truthdig:

By Robert Scheer
Apr 5, 2011

A “working class hero,” John Lennon told us in his song of that title, “is something to be/ Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV/ And you think you’re so clever and classless and free/ But you’re still fucking peasants as far as I can see.”

The delusion of a classless America in which opportunity is equally distributed is the most effective deception perpetrated by the moneyed elite that controls all the key levers of power in what passes for our democracy. It is a myth blown away by Nobel Prize winner Joseph E. Stiglitz in the current issue of Vanity Fair. In an article titled “Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%” Stiglitz states that the top thin layer of the superwealthy controls 40 percent of all wealth in what is now the most sharply class-divided of all developed nations: “Americans have been watching protests against repressive regimes that concentrate massive wealth in the hands of an elite few. Yet, in our own democracy, 1 percent of the people take nearly a quarter of the nation’s income—an inequality even the wealthy will come to regret.”

That is the harsh reality obscured by the media’s focus on celebrity gossip, sports rivalries and lotteries, situations in which the average person can pretend that he or she is plugged into the winning side. The illusion of personal power substitutes consumer sovereignty—which smartphone to purchase—for real power over the decisions that affect our lives. Even though most Americans accept that the political game is rigged, we have long assumed that the choices we make in the economic sphere as to career and home are matters that respond to our wisdom and will. But the banking tsunami that wiped out so many jobs and so much homeownership has demonstrated that most Americans have no real control over any of that, and while they suffer, the corporate rich reward themselves in direct proportion to the amount of suffering they have caused.

Instead of taxing the superrich on the bonuses dispensed by top corporations such as Exxon, Bank of America, General Electric, Chevron and Boeing, all of which managed to avoid paying any federal corporate taxes last year, the politicians of both parties in Congress are about to accede to the Republican demand that programs that help ordinary folks be cut to pay for the programs that bailed out the banks.

It is a reality further obscured by the academic elite, led by economists who receive enormous payoffs from Wall Street in speaking and consulting fees, and their less privileged university colleagues who are so often dependent upon wealthy sponsors for their research funding. Then there are the media, which are indistinguishable parts of the corporate-owned culture and which with rare exception pretend that we are all in the same lifeboat while they fawn in their coverage of those who bilk us and also dispense fat fees to top pundits. Complementing all that is the dark distraction of the faux populists, led by tea party demagogues, who blame unions and immigrants for the crimes of Wall Street hustlers.

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Wal-Mart Harassment Policy Trumps Religious Bigotry

I’ll give credit where credit is due.  In this instance Walmart stepped up and did the right thing.

From Gay City News:

Appeals panel in Chicago finds 1964 Civil Rights Act offers no protection for hostile words in workplace

Published: Monday, April 4, 2011 2:00 PM CDT

The US Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit has ruled that Wal-Mart Stores did not violate the religious discrimination provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act when it discharged an employee for spouting religiously-inspired anti-gay bigotry on company premises during a work break.

Surprisingly, the March 30 decision from the Chicago-based appellate panel, which included Judges William J. Bauer, Richard A. Posner, and Ann Claire Williams, was unpublished.

According to the unsigned ruling, Tanisha Matthews, who describes herself as an Apostolic Christian, worked as an overnight stocker at a Wal-Mart store in Joliet, Illinois. While on a break, she took part in a heated conversation with other employees about God and homosexuality.

Another employee who participated reported to management that Matthews was “screaming over her” that God does not accept gays, they should not “be on earth,” and they will “go to hell” because they are not “right in the head.” During a company investigation of the incident, five other employees confirmed that Matthews said gays are sinners who are going to hell.

Wal-Mart managers considered these remarks to be “serious harassment” in violation of the company’s “Zero Tolerance” harassment policy, which bars any conduct that could be interpreted as harassment on the basis of categories that include sexual orientation. Serious harassment is considered “gross misconduct” that is grounds for dismissal.

Matthews sued, claiming religious discrimination in violation of the 1964 Act. She pointed out that her work record up until then had been satisfactory, so it was clear she was fired for her religiously-based statements about gay people.


The appeals court ruling stated, “If Matthews is arguing that Wal-Mart must permit her to admonish gays at work to accommodate her religion, the claim fails.” The court pointed out, “Wal-Mart fired her because she violated company policy when she harassed a co-worker, not because of her beliefs, and employers need not relieve workers from complying with neutral workplace rules as a religious accommodation if it would create an undue hardship. In this case, such an accommodation would place Wal-Mart on the ‘razor’s edge’ of liability by exposing it to claims of permitting work-place harassment.”

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This is America.  You get to believe what you believe.  You do not get to cram your beliefs down the throats of others.


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LGBT Elders Raise Serious Fear about Long-Term Care Facilities

From Lezgetreal:

Melanie Nathan

(San Francisco, CA, April 5, 2011)—A majority of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) older adults who answered a national online survey believe that staff of long-term care facilities would discriminate against an LGBT elder who was open about his or her sexual orientation, and more than half believe that staff or other residents would abuse or neglect an LGBT elder.

Released today, the groundbreaking report—LGBT Older Adults in Long-Term Care Facilities: Stories from the Field—utilizes survey results for the first glimpse into some of the issues faced by LGBT older adults in long-term care facilities. Of the 769 individuals who completed the survey, 328 people reported 853 instances of mistreatment in such facilities.

The survey, conducted from October 2009 through June 2010, did not use a representative or scientific sample, but includes hundreds of personal comments offered by the respondents, ranging from reports of staff harassment to staff refusals to provide basic services or care. Of the 769 individuals who completed the survey, 284 identified themselves as LGBT older adults. Others said they were family members, friends, social service providers, legal services providers, or other interested individuals.

The survey, website, and the report were prepared by the National Senior Citizens Law Center in collaboration with Lambda Legal, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Center for Transgender Equality, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE).

“Administrators and staff members at long-term care facilities should see this report as a wake-up call,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights Elder Law Project Fellow Daniel Redman, Esq. “An extraordinary 89 percent of respondents—from across the country, from a variety of backgrounds—assert that LGBT people cannot come out in a nursing home without risking their safety. Better policies, more comprehensive training, and an aggressive litigation strategy are all needed to bring the nursing home industry into the 21st century. As the report asserts, “Good care is possible.” By following the report’s recommendations and taking affirmative steps to make facilities LGBT-inclusive, long-term care facilities can do a lot to make their services welcoming to all seniors.”

Said National Senior Citizens Law Center Executive Director Paul Nathanson: “Our hope is that this report provokes thought, raises critical questions, and compels future systematic research that can be used to dive deeper into the issues raised by these findings and the many personal stories we received.”

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