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Partisan Politics Kills People: When Covid Came to Kansas

Tue ,18/01/2022

“Had the United States Republican leaders developed strong guidelines for dealing with Covid 19, the Kansas Legislature would probably have followed them. However, no guidelines were forthcoming, and the pandemic became a partisan political issue. “

Covid-19 first appeared in the United States in January of 2020. It spread rapidly and by early March cases began to appear in Kansas. Two legislators were required to quarantine because they had been exposed to the virus. Governor Kelly declared a state of emergency and issued a series of executive orders designed to keep the virus from spreading. When cases began to appear in Topeka, some members of the Kansas House of Representatives became alarmed. Several of them had health problems that put them at risk. They realized that if they were exposed, the virus would be carried to all parts of Kansas when the legislature adjourned. They decided to pass the budget and adjourn as soon as possible.

To make sure someone was in charge of the virus response when the Legislature was not in session, the House passed a bill giving the Governor emergency powers to manage the virus response until January 2021. The Senate, however, did not want to give that much power to the Governor, saying she might take private property or take your guns away. She could not and would not, but that set up a week of haggling before the Legislature finally passed SB 40 which limited the Governor’s emergency powers. It put a time limit on the emergency declaration and gave the Legislative Coordinating Council, (LCC), whose majority is the Republican Leadership, the right to veto any of the Governor’s emergency orders.

The LCC and the Governor were able to reach acceptable compromises on most issues. However, with Easter coming up, the LCC canceled her executive order that limited the size of gatherings to 10. The Governor sued, and the court ruled she had the power to make decisions under the emergency declaration until April 25th. That prompted the Republican Leadership to call a Special Session to pass legislation to restrict the Governor’s powers. She vetoed it, and there were not enough votes to override her veto. Later, the Governor had to call another Special Session as it was necessary to extend the disaster declaration. There, the legislature passed legislation extending the emergency declaration, but it also gave counties the control of COVID restrictions. The Governor could not veto this, as it would have ended Kansas’s emergency declaration and cost the state billions of dollars in disaster aid. Giving the counties control of the Covid response turned out to be a disaster as many counties refused to enforce public health guidelines.

The Kansas Legislature did not set a good example. Our public health experts said we could stop the spread of Covid by wearing masks, following good hygiene practices, socially distancing, and avoiding mass gatherings. The first Special Session had rules for following those health guidelines, but the Republican leadership did not enforce them. It soon ended up with over 100 legislators, with few wearing masks, packed together in the House chamber. This was in violation of the public health restrictions, but the Republican leaders seemed not to care. By bad example, bad legislation, and inflammatory rhetoric, the Legislative Leadership politicized a public health issue and destroyed Kansas‘s opportunity to contain the virus. Those who complain about damage to the economy and the mental health issues caused by isolation have only the Legislative Leadership to blame. They managed to nullify the Governor’s plan to control the virus in the state, and that has been a disaster. By giving the counties control of the COVID-19 response, Kansas ended up with a patchwork of regulations across the state with 25 counties that followed the public health guidelines and 80 counties that did not.

For example, the Sedgwick County Commissioners immediately voted to relax the health guidelines. The number of Covid cases in Sedgwick County soon grew to over 11,000 with over 130 deaths – and the toll is still increasing. It is now at 75,671 cases with 891 deaths. The virus toll soon grew in Kansas to over 75,000 cases and over 1000 deaths and is now at 500,400 cases with 6,900 deaths. Humans are the virus’ main host, so every case increases the chance of further spread – or even mutation of the virus. This did not have to happen. Our Republican Leadership has shown that they are incapable of keeping us safe.

Vaccines for Covid 19 became available in December of 2020 and were made free to everyone in the United States. Two doses of the vaccine and a booster have proven to be effective in preventing or lessening the severity of Covid 19 and its variants. Booster shots are very important, as they make the vaccines more effective against the Omicron strain of the virus. In spite of effective, free vaccines, the number of cases of Covid in Kansas is still increasing. The partisan battles undertaken by the Kansas legislature have shifted from size restrictions on meetings, mask mandates, testing, and contact tracing – to resisting vaccinations. Though effective vaccines have been available for almost 2 years, over 39% of eligible Kansans still remain unvaccinated.

The Federal government mandated that Federal employees, healthcare workers, and employees in large private businesses either be vaccinated or tested weekly. The Kansas Legislature leaders were so incensed by this that they wanted to call another Special Session in November to discuss how to end the Federal government’s overreach. It is strange that Speaker Ron Rychmann supported this as he had a serious case of Covid in July. Though he kept it a secret and made light of it when discovered, he spent ten days in the hospital and was quite sick. Still, he fought to hold the Special Session with the goal of ending vaccination mandates. The November Special Session required the signatures of two-thirds of the legislators, but with a little help from the Kansas Chamber of Commerce (KCC), they were able to get signatures from all the Republicans. How did that come about?

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Job Act allowed corporations who hid their intellectual assets offshore to bring them back at a reduced tax rate. During the 2019 legislative session, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce thought Kansas businesses that had hidden their assets offshore, should get a Kansas tax cut as well. The bill would have cost the state about $600 million over three years. There was little justification for doing that and it failed as a number of moderate Republicans opposed it. During the 2020 election, the KCC targeted the moderate Republicans and they were purged from the legislature. In 2021, the KCC got the tax it wanted but it had unintended consequences. The purge of moderate Republicans gave a supermajority to the far-right Republican legislators who were opposed to vaccines and public health restrictions. There is little the KCC could have done that would have hurt Kansas and its businesses more.

The Special Session to end Federal vaccine mandates ended up with a compromise bill which the Governor agreed to sign. It allowed employees to opt out of vaccines and required employers to accept medical and religious exemptions without question. If an employee is terminated for refusal to be vaccinated, they may file for unemployment. Employers who deny an exemption request or terminate an employee for not being vaccinated can be fined up to $50,000 per violation. This puts businesses in a tough position as the federal and state requirements are different. This comes in spite of the Republicans’ claimed pro-business stance, and their concerns that the depletion of unemployment funds might cause a tax increase.

Several states, including Kansas, sued the federal government to stop the vaccine mandates. This should have had little chance of success as there are precedents for vaccination mandates. A 1905 Supreme Court ruling, Jacobson v Massachusetts, upheld the state’s right to require vaccinations. Although the ruling only applied to Massachusetts, it made clear that the liberty we enjoy does not give us the right to act to the detriment of others. In December of last year, the Supreme Court refused to hear cases appealing New York’s and Massachusetts’ Covid 19 vaccination mandate for healthcare workers. These decisions reflected a long-standing precedent for upholding the ability of the government to impose mandatory vaccination requirements.

However, in January of 2022, the Supreme Court agreed to hear two cases concerning vaccine mandates, one involving businesses and one involving healthcare workers. If they had followed precedents, the Court would have upheld the mandates. Even the Justices who rely upon originalism should agree. George Washington ordered the Continental Army to be vaccinated against smallpox, and the soldiers complied. However, the Supreme Court upheld mandates for healthcare workers, but not for businesses. This ruling denied OSHA, which is charged with protecting the health of workers, the best way to protect workers from the Covid virus.

Kansas is now in the midst of another surge in Covid cases as the Omicron variant of Covid is spreading in the state. The Governor has just issued another emergency declaration, along with mandates, because the states’ ICU units and emergency rooms are filling up with Covid patients. The 2022 legislative session is just beginning, and we can only hope that the Kansas Legislature and the Governor will put aside partisan politics and form a united front to keep Kansas citizens safe.

Why the Rich Are Getting Richer and the Poor Poorer

Mon ,09/08/2021

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Job Act (TJCA) really did a job on the American people. The results were predictable. A similar tax cut in Kansas in 2012 was a disaster for Kansas. It benefited the rich, led to a stagnant economy, took money from infrastructure and schools, and put Kansas far in debt. States cannot run a deficit, so Kansas finally had to make up for it in 2017 with the largest tax increase in Kansas history.  

The TJCA was based on the trickle-down theory which, as experience has shown, increases public debt and makes the wealthy wealthier – at the expense of the middle class and low wage earners. The CBO estimated that the TJCA would increase the national debt by almost $1.9 trillion over the next 10 years. It cut the corporate tax rate from 39% to 21% and allowed companies to bring their intellectual assets (GILTI) back to the United States at an even lower tax rate. Those who profited the most were the wealthy and corporations, as it gave permanent tax cuts to corporate profits, investment income, inheritance taxes, estate taxes, and preferential tax treatment to pass-through income*. Some banks, for instance, will pay far less than the 21%. Some of the tax cuts went to the middle class, but they will sunset in 2025 while the tax breaks for businesses and corporations do not sunset.

What is better than lobbying? It is electing Legislators who the large corporations can depend on to cut their taxes. For Republicans, adding to the national debt has always been anathema. Sadly, it was a Republican President and Legislature who passed the TJCA. The chart above lists some of the corporations who donated heavily to Republicans who they could depend on to vote to cut their taxes. It also lists the amount they gained from the tax cuts. Those corporations received about a 6000% return on their investments in electing compliant politicians. Not bad, especially when your bank pays you about 2%. Not only that, but the New York Times reported that there were 55 very profitable companies, such as Nike, FedEx, and Duke Energy, that paid no taxes at all last year. Considering subsidies, some of them had an effective tax rate of as much as a -50%.

Also, the US subsidizes oil and gas companies so that investors never lose. Every year, the U.S. federal and state governments pour around $20.5 billion in subsidies into the oil and gas industry. New research, published in Environmental Research Letters, puts a value on the effect that the16 tax breaks and exemptions will have on the 1,000 U.S. oil and gas fields projected to be built before 2030. The paper found that if fossil fuel prices stay high, most of the subsidies — 96 % in oil, 87% in gas— will go directly to the pockets of investors as profit. And if prices go down, these subsidies will help 60% and 74% percent, respectively, of new oil and gas fields to remain profitable.

So there you have it. If you’re wondering why you pay so much in taxes yet receive so little back, it is because your state and federal governments give away so much money to help the wealthy and profitable companies become wealthier and more profitable. Please consider that when you vote.

*A recent study by Treasury economists found that the top 1% of Americans by income have reaped nearly 60% of the billions in tax savings created by the pass-through provision. And much of that went to the top 0.1%. 

Please Stop Stereotyping Republicans

Fri ,09/07/2021

There are a lot of articles and posts on social media lately which blame Republicans for a variety of ills in our society. The people responsible for those ills are not necessarily Republicans, and certainly not traditional Republicans. Abraham Lincoln started the Republican Party, freed the slaves, and established that all men are created equal. There been many great Republican presidents since Lincoln, up until Eisenhower. Below is Eisenhower’s Republican platform for 1956. It defines what a traditional Republican mostly supports.

After Eisenhower, with the exception of George H. W. Bush, the Republican Party has had as their presidential candidates a crook, an actor, a cheerleader, and a reality TV star. And, each of those has had a deleterious effect on the Republican Party.

We can probably blame President Johnson for planting the seed. Up until his presidency, the Democrats were mainly responsible for segregation, voter suppression, and human rights violations. Johnson championed the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, which angered southern Democrats, and many of them changed to the Republican Party. That may have been the reason that Nixon won. Nixon did some good things such as creating the EPA and proposing an affirmative action program for federal employees, but he also expanded the Vietnam War and resigned from office under threat of impeachment.

Presidents Reagan signed the Montréal Protocol, which limited the greenhouse gases which were damaging the Earth’s ozone layer. Reagan also brought the Moral Majority into the GOP and, by sowing distrust in the government, brought in a number of right wing groups who didn’t like Federal authority. He also brought in the oligarchs by cutting their taxes from 70% to 26%. This greatly increased the national debt and began the income inequality that has plagued our nation since. He also appointed Justice Scalia, who led the Supreme Court in gutting the Voting Rights Act and deciding Citizens United, which allows almost unlimited cash into politics. Reagan, more than anyone, was responsible for starting the GOP down a bad path.

George H. W. Bush gets a pass, as he labeled Reaganomics as voodoo economics, which it is. Though he led little to do with it, it was during term that the Tea Party came into existence at the behest of the oligarchs who didn’t like taxation. As a third party, they would have had little political party power, so they took up residence in the far right wing of the Republican Party.  

George W. Bush won the presidency with the support of the Texas oil companies and he went from being a cheerleader at Harvard to being a cheerleader for the oil companies. He won without the popular vote, due to a controversial ruling by Scalia’s Supreme Court. With the help of Cheney and Rumsfeld, Bush began to undermine environmental regulations –  which brought the anti-environmentalists into the Republican Party. When 9/11 occurred we had the support of almost all the nations in the world, and Bush could have brought them together to root out terrorism and end human rights violations. Instead, again with Cheney and Rumsfeld’s encouragement, he invaded Iraq on a pretense and started an ill-advised war in Afghanistan which has drug on for 20 years, costing over a million lives, destabilizing the Middle East, and adding $3.5 trillion to the national debt.

Donald Trump used his experience with the media and his international business connections to win the presidency, again without the popular vote. Though he was impeached twice, investigated for his ties to Russian interference in our elections, and tried to overturn the results of the last presidential election, he is still being supported by a number of Republicans who describe themselves as conservatives. They apparently are not too concerned about conserving democracy.

Some Republicans have now changed to the Democratic Party. There are still a number of traditional Republicans who support what the GOP was under Eisenhower and want to reform the party. Please try to understand how the Religious Right, the oligarchs, the Tea Partiers, the anti-environmentalists, the militants, and the self-described conservatives managed to establish themselves in the right wing of the Republican Party – and most of all, please do not stereotype traditional Republicans. All Republicans are not the same.

Mank: A Warning about Fake News

Thu ,20/05/2021

“Though Mank was about the writing of Citizen Kane in 1934, it carries a valuable lesson about fake news that is relevant today.”

Mank is a movie about the life of Herman J. Mankiewicz, who collaborated with Orson Welles to write Citizens Kane. Citizen Kane was modeled on the life of media magnate William Randolph Hearst. Mank explores Hearst’s longtime friendship with one of Hollywood’s most powerful studio moguls, MGM’s Louis B. Mayer. Hearst’s newspapers helped Mayer ensure the success of his Hollywood films and stars for decades. Citizen Kane, though, was a most unflattering look at Hollywood’s powerbrokers. Before it was released, Mayer offered RKO, the studio that produced it, a million dollars if they would destroy it. Though that was a fortune in 1934 dollars, it is fortunate that RKO refused the offer. Citizens Kane has been acclaimed as one of the best movies of all time.

In his newspapers, Hearst had a reputation for going after anyone whom he wanted to target. One theme of the movie was Hearst and Mayer’s machinations to defeat Upton Sinclair in his 1934 campaign for governor of California. Sinclair had won national acclaim for his 1906 novel, The Jungle. It exposed the abuse of slaughterhouse workers and showed he was certainly no friend of the wealthy and powerful. The state’s Republican establishment, led by Hearst’s California-based papers and Mayer’s Hollywood studios, decided to do whatever it took to defeat Sinclair. They not only considered Sinclair a socialist, but they also feared his promises to raise their taxes. Back then, Mayer was the highest-salaried executive in the nation and the finance chair of the national Republican Party. Mayer was portrayed in the movie as using the Great Depression as an excuse to extort large salary cuts from the writers and actors guilds.

It was no great stretch, then, when Hearst’s California newspapers began running stories in 1934 that “reported” on Sinclair’s plans to expropriate small shops and homes – but Sinclair actually had no plans to do so. Perhaps the most consequential element of the campaign against Sinclair was a series of fake newsreels created by Hollywood film producer Irving Thalberg. These videos, featured “reporters” speaking to “people on the street,” many of whom were actually small-time Hollywood actors reciting scripted remarks. Well-dressed individuals criticized Sinclair and praised his opponent. And there was footage of men jumping from freight cars, which the newsreel narrators said were shots of dangerous “hobos” arriving in California in anticipation of a Sinclair regime that would pay them to live off the state. The “hobos” were actually from footage taken from the movie, The Wild Boys.

The videos depicted Merriam supporters as good, solid Americans and Sinclair supporters as foreign-accented Bolsheviks.  This material was bundled together and presented as regular newsreels to the millions of Californians who went to the movies every week. It was all fake, but the public bought it – there it was in the newsreels. Thus bolstered, Merriam staged a remarkable come-from-behind victory in November’s general election.

Ironically, Mankiewicz was one of the very first film industry figures to sound the alarm about fake news. He penned an anti-Hitler drama in the month following the Nazis coming to power in 1933, which predicted the murderous violence of the then-fledgling Third Reich. He wrote a script about the fake news that Josef Goebbels had produced and the anti-Semitic falsehoods that played a central role in the Nazis’ rise to power.  Mankiewicz tried to find a studio with the courage to produce it, but the studios wouldn’t as they feared the loss of their German market. Too bad, Mankiewicz’s script would certainly have made a timely movie, alerting the world to the dangers of Nazism. It should still be a warning to democracies today, about the fake news created by extremists on the far right.

Apparatuses of Justification

Fri ,05/02/2021

In his internationally renowned work, Capital in the Twenty-First Century,  Thomas Piketty says that extreme economic inequality can only be sustained by “apparatuses of justification.”  He states, “ The existence of such “apparatuses” can hardly be disputed; the notion that wealth rightly belongs to those who possess it, no matter the means by which they acquired it or the needs of others around the world, is certainly well within the mainstream of contemporary thought, especially in North America and Europe. Ideas such as this did not, however, permeate contemporary culture on their own. They are derived, developed, and distributed by corporations, government offices, “independent” think-tanks, etc.” Two apparatuses of justification that immediately came to mind are trickle-down theory and the lies created by the Cornwall Alliance.

The trickle-down theory claims that the best way to promote economic prosperity for everyone is to give tax breaks to large corporations and those already wealthy. The idea this promotes is that they will create jobs and provide opportunities for those less well off. It was tried on a large scale in the United States under Reagan, Bush ll, and Trump. Over the years, many poor and middle class citizens have voted for politicians advocating trickle down theory. It is a flawed theory, wealth actually flows upward and pools at the top.  Meanwhile, after 40 years, they are still waiting for their share of the wealth trickle-down. The wealthy have become wealthier, the poor poorer, and the economic inequality in the United States has grown to unacceptable levels, as shown in the graph below.

After all that time, many Americans still do not realize how they have been fooled, as the chart below shows.

The Cornwall Alliance was originally started to help the poorer countries adapt to climate change. When E. Calvin Beisner took over as its spokesman, he interpreted that to mean that the Third World countries needed to use more fossil fuels. Never mind that they do not have the infrastructure or wealth to acquire and use them. Under his leadership, the Cornwall Alliance has become funded by dark money, most of which can be traced to fossil fuel companies. Who else? Beisner created the Green Dragon Monster, which he uses to represents environmentalists who want to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. He uses “climate alarmist” to represent the 99.5% of climate scientists who have shown that climate change is caused by man’s activity, and “climate doomsayer’ for those who agree with scientists that global warming is harming the Earth.

Beisner uses religious arguments to reach out to conservative Christians and solicit donations. There is little evidence that the money goes to the poor, being used mostly to pay himself to distribute his message. He interprets, “God giving man dominion over the earth ”, Genesis 1:26-28, to mean that God has given man the right to exploit nature as he pleases. Apparently, he has very little understanding of ecology. Pope Francis’s encyclical on ecology, Laudato Si, says that “climate change is real and mainly a result of human activity.” “The problem is urgent. Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years.” Beisner claims that Pope Francis was just wrong, probably news to most Catholics.

Beisner’s position is even at odds with his own Presbyterian faith. The Presbyterian Church is now recommending divestment from fossil fuels and it was one of the first churches to address global warming. The Presbyterian Church first noted its “serious concern over global warming at the 1990 General Assembly, when it warned that the global atmospheric warming trend (the greenhouse effect) represents one of the most serious global environmental challenges to the health, security, and stability of human life and natural ecosystems’’.

There are many other examples of apparatuses of justification. You may recognize them by their tendency to label their opponents with unflattering terms; by their opposition to scientific research; by their derision of mainstream religious leaders; and, by their distortion of the truth. Ask yourself, “Who profits from their message?”, and if it is a special interest group, recognize it for what it is. And above all else, vote for the political candidates opposed to those special interest groups.

© 2021 – J.C. Moore, All rights reserved.

Eisenhower’s Republican Platform

Fri ,30/10/2020

The National Republican Party did not adopt a new platform this year, so I thought I’d provide one from Eisenhower in 1956. The platform is rather long, but this is an accurate summary .

The modern Republican Party is an example of a party trying to hold power, rather than govern well. The party has molded itself to satisfy the religious right, the anti-science anti-intellectuals, the false conservatives, and the very wealthy. Unable to progress as the world changes, without offending those, the party leaders have taken the path of obstructionism.

It is a rather vicious cycle for Republicans. As moderates and progressives move away from the party, the extremist are more in control. That influence is seen most in the Republican primaries where the extremist and money interests can insert more influence to elect their candidates. It is tough to be an Eisenhower Republican these days.

It will never be 1956 again, but think where we might be today if the Republican Party had remained progressive. It is time for the Grand Old Party to become Grand again.

President Trump’s Tax Plan: Why Rational Republicans Should Bail

Fri ,10/11/2017

President Trump’s new tax plan looks a lot like Governor Brownback’s tax plan for Kansas, which had been disastrous for the state’s economy. Rational Republicans should realize that if an experiment fails, and fails miserably, there is no point in repeating it. That is particularly true when the economy of the entire country is at stake. Both the economic theory and Governor Brownback’s experiment with the Kansas economy show that Trump’s tax plan is doomed to fail our country. The tax bills now winding their way through Congress will lead to economic stagnation and an increased  in the national debt of $1.5 trillion, both things which are repugnant to rational Republicans.

The Theory is based on Laffer’s curve which is displayed at the right. 

The Laffer curve looks like a normal distribution curve. In theory, if the nation is on the high side of the curve with taxes around 80%, then the curve predicts that cutting taxes will cause a move to the left along the curve, increasing tax revenue. That is likely to improve economic growth.  If the nation is on the low side of the curve with taxes around 40%, then cutting taxes will also lead to the left along the curve,  decreasing tax revenue, leading to a stagnating economy, and certainly a greater public debt.

The United States is now on the low side  of the curve with the high marginal tax rate around 40% – so cutting taxes will not lead to increased revenue or spur economic growth. Laffer should know that, but he has abandoned reason and professional ethics and now just supports tax cuts without reference to his own curve. Kansas paid Laffer $75,000 in consultation fees. His advice, when the Kansas economy was tanking, the public debt was mounting, and job growth was decreasing – was to stay the course. Kansas Republicans finally realized that the experiment had failed. They increased the tax rate, and overrode Governor Brownback’s veto of the tax increase. The governor is now leaving the state before his term is up.

The failure in practice is described by Duane Goossen, who was the Kansas budget director for 12 years prior to Brownback’s experiment:

  • “Just like the Brownback tax cuts, the Trump plan makes dramatic changes to tax policy by consolidating income tax rates and reworking deductions. Most notably, the Trump plan offers an enormous tax break to individuals who receive “business pass through income.” In Kansas this feature has become known derogatorily as the “LLC loophole”, allowing business income to be sheltered from income tax while people who earn a paycheck must pay tax.
  • Given that the same economists who advised Brownback now advise Trump, it’s unsurprising that his administration uses similar arguments to sell its plan: the tax cuts will grow the economy and create millions of jobs; the tax cuts will pay for themselves; everyone will benefit. Brownback said all that, too.”

At the right is a graph showing job growth in Kansas during Brownback’s years. It is lower than the United States job growth and much lower than in California, which has a high tax rate.

  •  Mr. Goossen goes on, “But after five years of the Brownback experiment in Kansas, we know the real result. Kansas has an anemic economy and one of the lowest rates of job growth in the nation. A dramatic drop in revenue broke the state budget, wiped out reserves, significantly boosted state debt, and put public education at risk. And that part about everyone benefiting — well, it turns out that the bulk of the benefits went to the wealthiest Kansans while the tax bill to low-income Kansans went up.
  • The idea that tax cuts will ‘pay for themselves’ or that tax cuts for the wealthy will ‘trickle down’ to the middle class should be added to the list of discredited ideas that sound good but don’t work. The sell job was seductive, but Kansans have the raw experience to grasp that the experiment carried out on us was a failure.
  • Do you know how hard Kansas legislators must labor now to fix the financial disaster? Are you catching on that general fund revenue has fallen $1 billion below expenses? Can you see how all political energy goes into crisis management rather than building our future? Is that what you want for the entire country?”

There you have it.

The Eisenhower Memorial is now being built and the Kansas politicians are using it as a chance to praise Eisenhower.  Eisenhower was a great General and President because he realized that it required requisite resources to get the job done. Under Eisenhower, the top tax rate was 90%. Eisenhower used the money to pay our war debts, rebuild Europe, educate returning GIs, and build the national highway system which ensured economic growth for decades to come. We no longer need a 90% tax rate, but our tax rate is now too low, and cutting it further will deprive the country of the resources it needs.

The the current Republican tax plan is taking shape. The big winners will be corporations and those already wealthy. Though billed as a tax cut for the middle class, the biggest losers will be the middle-class taxpayers and United States economy. Under the proposed plan we will see:

  • “Up to half-a-trillion dollars cut from Medicare and Medicaid
  • Substantial increase in the national debt with no way to pay it off
  • Elimination of state and local tax deductions – designed to hit people who live in “blue” states the hardest
  • Repeal of an itemized deduction for medical expenses – hitting people who rack up large medical bills because of the inadequacies of our health insurance system
  • Repeal of the deduction for interest on student loans
  • Repeal of the deduction for teachers purchasing classroom supplies
  • Slashed incentives for wind energy and electric vehicles, while maintaining most of the permanent oil incentives and extending nuclear energy tax breaks”

Our current Republican tax plan will add over a trillion dollars to the national debt and will not provide the resources needed to take care of the needs of our country and build for the future.. The tax rate we now have is already too low as the national debt is increasing. Cutting taxes further will surely lead to economic stagnation and an increased national debt, both things which are repugnant to Republicans.

(c) 2017 J.C. Moore

 

Who’s Afraid of Climate Change?

Mon ,06/11/2017

What do you fear? People are moved to action by their fears. Sometimes our fears lurk at the edge of our consciousness, and then are brought into sharp focus by events. Dying oceans, polluted lakes and streams, unsafe drinking water in major cities, catastrophic hurricanes, severe drought and wildfires, and an increase in the severity of weather events, have brought environmental problems into the things Americans fear.

The annual Chapman University Survey of American Fears in 2017 provides an in-depth examination into the fears of average Americans. The survey looked at 80 fears and ranked them according to the survey responses The chart below lists America’s top 10 fears for 2017. For the first time ever, not one, but four of the top 10 fears are related to the deterioration of the environment. Pollution of natural waters, unsafe drinking water, global warming, and air pollution are now among Americans worst 10 fears.

It is not only natural disasters that occurred in 2017, but also political events . Americans had considered that the Environmental Protection Agency would protect our natural waters from pollution. However, Scott Pruitt, the current Environmental Protection Agency director, decided not to enforce major pollution laws, and fired the EPA’s entire Science Advisory Board. No advice, no research, no problem. People are beginning to realize that what you don’t know can hurt you.

The publicity surrounding the failure of the state and local government of Flint Michigan to protect the city’s residents from lead poisoning, and the subsequent discovery of lead and other toxins in our city water supplies, have made people fear that their water is not safe to drink. Almost everyone lives downstream from someone, and pollutants that find their way into our water supplies are bound to find their way into us.

Many Americans perceived the results of climate change remote and far into the future. The attribution of worsening disasters to climate change, and the US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord have brought carbon emissions and air pollution into sharper focus. Pictures of severe smog in China and the data from the American Heart and the American Lung Associations about the number of deaths caused by air pollution and particulates are making people increasingly fear for their health.

Action and participation is the antidote for what fear can create, a  feeling of helplessness. Our fears should create the will for political action on climate change and pollution. Even with the failure of our government and the EPA to protect the environment, we can still do it using market forces. The best plan is the carbon fee and dividend system as proposed by the Citizens Climate Lobby. The CCL legislative proposal would set an initial fee on carbon at $15 per ton of CO2 at the source and would increase it by $10 each year until the CO2 emissions were reduced to 10% of the 1990 US levels. The carbon fees are not a tax, as they would be rebated 100% to American households. It would give every American citizen a stake in conserving energy and reducing their use of carbon fuels,  which would both cut pollution and improve the economy. Exercise the power in your citizenship, and insist your Representative support action on climate change.

Credit: Thanks to Darrel Hart, President of the Wichita CCL Chapter, for suggesting the idea and supplying some of the wording in the article.

(C) 2017 J.C. Moore

 

 

The 2017 Trump Agenda Survey

Thu ,27/07/2017

 A number of selected Republican voters have just received a Trump Agenda survey from the party leaders, along with a request for donations of course. This survey is actually less offensive than some of the Republican polls, but it is still problematic. It is difficult for thoughtful Republicans to answer many of the survey questions as they contain biased assumptions that you must accept if you answer. Below are some of the worst examples from the survey; please see what you think.

Question 2. asks you to rank several agenda items.  Among the things you rank are:

  • Build the border wall. (Is this really necessary?)
  • Reverse Obama’s unconstitutional executive orders. ( Were they really unconstitutional?)
  • Re-equip and rebuild our military. (Does our military need rebuilding? We have an excellent military and we now spend 7 times as much as any other nation on defense.)
  • Reduce regulations and corporate taxes to get the economy growing. (Reducing regulations will ensure that air and water pollution goes up, but there no evidence that reducing corporate taxes will get the economy growing. It will ensure that our national debt goes up, however.)
  • Encourage domestic exploration and production of domestic energy sources. (Does exploration and production sound like it will encourage renewable energy, where much of the job growth has been lately.)
  • Reform and simplify the income tax system to make it flatter and more fair. (Taxes are complicated because Congress has written so many special interests and to them, but certainly making the taxes flatter will not make them more fair. Flat tax schemes have always favored transferring wealth to those already wealthy.)

I did not rank the items as I could not figure out how to rank them all last. I added under Other:_ “reducing  medical costs and seeing that all Americans have health care – and ranked it as number 1., because it is one of the things that President Trump has promised. Certainly the bills that came out of Congress so far will not even begin to do that.

Question 6. was particularly troublesome as it asks about an executive order to suspend government unions to make it easy to fire government workers. This would remove worker protections against unreasonable terminations, and make them subject to political influence.

Question 8. asked about taking whatever steps necessary to have president Trump’s court appointments approved. We have procedures in place for approving judges, and we should just follow them.

Question 9. asked about whether the Democrats have any intention of working in good faith to address issues pressing our nation. Of course they do, but they may object to the way the problems are addressed, as is their right.

Question 10. asks if we are optimistic that President Trump and Republicans will pass reforms and conservative policies to improve our economy, strengthen our security and protect our freedom. The devil is in the details on those policies, but from what I have seen so far I would answer “No”.

Question 11. asks if we believe that Mainstream Media will give president Trump fair, unbiased coverage of his proposals and leadership. Of course they will, but there is already evidence that the Trump administration is claiming the truth to be unfair.

One problem with the survey is that it is not anonymous. Republican leaders who plan to run for office may refuse to complete the survey for fear that the Republican Party will work against them in the Republican primaries in their next election. It is exactly those leaders whose opinion should carry the most weight.

Another problem with this survey is that it is likely that those who agree with the biased assumptions will send in the survey, while many mainstream Republicans will just ignore the survey, further biasing the results. My concern is that the Republican leaders will use the results of this biased surveys to try to whip into line the candidates who might object by telling them, “This is what the Republican voters want.” But is it really?

I have filled out Republican several surveys like this, but have never seen the results, though I have searched. Perhaps it doesn’t matter what the results were, because the survey’s main purpose seems to be to provide propaganda and to request donations.

(c)2017  J.C. Moore

President Trump’s Tax Plan: a Disaster for the Economy

Sun ,21/05/2017

Article Photo

Trumps new tax plan looks a lot like Gov. Brownback’s tax plan for Kansas, which had been disastrous for the state’s economy.  It is based on Laffer’s curve which is displayed at the right.

The Laffer curve looks like a normal distribution curve. If the nation is on the high side of the curve with taxes around 80%, then the curve predicts that cutting taxes will cause a move to the left along the curve to increased tax revenue. That is likely to improve economic growth.  If the nation is on the low side of the curve with taxes around 40%, then cutting them will lead to the left along the curve, toward decreasing tax revenue. That  likely leads to a stagnating economy, and certainly greater public debt.

We are now on the low side – so cutting taxes will not lead to increased revenue or spur economic growth. Laffer should know that, but he has abandoned reason and professional ethics and now just supports tax cuts without reference to his own curve. Kansas paid Laffer $75,000 in consultation fees. Here is how it has worked out in Kansas as described by Duane Goossen, who was the Kansas budget director for 12 years prior to Brownback’s experiment:

  • “Just like the Brownback tax cuts, the Trump plan makes dramatic changes to tax policy by consolidating income tax rates and reworking deductions. Most notably, the Trump plan offers an enormous tax break to individuals who receive “business pass through income.” In Kansas this feature has become known derogatorily as the “LLC loophole”, allowing business income to be sheltered from income tax while people who earn a paycheck must pay tax.
  • Given that the same economists who advised Brownback now advise Trump, it’s unsurprising that his administration uses similar arguments to sell its plan: the tax cuts will grow the economy and create millions of jobs; the tax cuts will pay for themselves; everyone will benefit. Brownback said all that, too.
  •  But after five years of the Brownback experiment in Kansas, we know the real result. Kansas has an anemic economy and one of the lowest rates of job growth in the nation. A dramatic drop in revenue broke the state budget, wiped out reserves, significantly boosted state debt, and put public education at risk. And that part about everyone benefiting — well, it turns out that the bulk of the benefits went to the wealthiest Kansans while the tax bill to low-income Kansans went up.
  • The idea that tax cuts will “pay for themselves” or that tax cuts for the wealthy will “trickle down” to the middle class should be added to the list of discredited ideas that sound good but don’t work. The sell job was seductive, but Kansans have the raw experience to grasp that the experiment carried out on us was a failure.
  • Do you know how hard Kansas legislators must labor now to fix the financial disaster? Are you catching on that general fund revenue has fallen $1 billion below expenses? Can you see how all political energy goes into crisis management rather than building our future? Is that what you want for the entire country?”

From : http://www.kansas.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/article151800857.html

Note added on 11/05/2017: The Eisenhower Memorial is now being built and the Kansas state politicians are using it as a chance to praise Eisenhower for his great leadership. However, they should have learned the lessons from Eisenhower’s leadership. Eisenhower was a great General and President because he realized that it required requisite resources to get the job done. Under Eisenhower, the top tax rate was 90%. Eisenhower used the money to pay our war debts, rebuild Europe, educate returning GIs, and build the national highway system which ensured economic growth for decades to come.

Our current Republican tax plan will add trillions to the national debt and will not provide the resources needed to take care of the needs of our country and build for the future. It is being sold as a tax cut for the middle class, when most of the benefits go to those already wealthy We certainly do not need a 90% tax rate, but the tax rate we now have is already too low, and cutting taxes further will lead to economic stagnation and an increased national debt, both things which are repugnant to Republicans.

Note added on 11/09/2017:The Republican tax plan is taking shape. The big winners will be corporations and those already wealthy. Though billed as a tax cut for the middle class, the five biggest losers will be:
1. Middle class taxpayers. They receive a small rate cut but will lose many of the deductions they rely on.
2. Teachers. They will no longer be allowed to deduct school supplies paid for from their own pocket.
3. College students. The amount of deductible student debt interest has been cut from $2500 to $202 and graduate students will now be taxed on research and teaching assistantships.
4. Mortgage holders. The home mortgage interest deduction will be cut about in half and there is now a limit on how much taxpayers can deduct for state and local property taxes.
5. Charities. A higher standard deduction reduces the number of people who will itemize and claim charitable deductions.
Source:http://www.care2.com/causes/5-big-losers-in-the-gop-tax-plan.html

 

(c) 2017 J.C. Moore