When politicians talk about “free stuff” (aka “government handouts”), they usually don’t mention all the free stuff that rich people get.
George W. Bush’s kid brother (the Republican presidential candidate running as Jeb!) was sounding like a Mitt Romney rerun recently. He told a mostly white audience that he could attract black voters because his campaign isn’t one of division and “get in line and we’ll take care of you with free stuff.”
Jeb’s remark came just three years after Mitt Romney was lampooned for later describing his own message in a speech to the NAACP as one where the listeners shouldn’t expect “free stuff.”
In each context, it was clear what kind of government stuff they meant. They meant welfare programs — cash benefits from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), food stamps (SNAP), housing subsidies and other direct spending programs that help the poor — that are often and unfairly associated with black Americans.
But the shorthand of “free stuff” also takes an incredibly narrow and misleading view of government benefits. There’s a whole treasure trove of government handouts that aren’t dispensed through spending, but rather through the tax code. That doesn’t make them any less “free” than a rent voucher or an Electronic Benefit Transfer card.
The government loses about $900 billion in revenue every year on just the 10 largest tax expenditures, which includes credits like the earned-income tax credit and Child Tax Credit, as well as deductions and exclusions that help mainly middle-class people reduce how much they owe each year around tax time.
A month or so ago I had a conversation with a recruiter who had posted a contract position on LinkedIn. It sounded intriguing so we talked. They described the position, and the company’s business. They also added that the company was in crisis mode, and that they really needed someone who could jump in with minimal ramp-up time. The clear implication was that things were behind, very behind, and they needed a take-charge person with the complete desired skill set.
I asked, “Is this <company so-and-so>?” They confirmed that it was; and they asked me if I had already submitted an application. At first, I had said “yes” and that I had already applied to the company directly.
Then I dropped a bombshell. I had said that, based on the job description, I had already interviewed for that very job over 18 months ago. Think about that. No company brings a person into an interview not believing that, based on the resume, they might work out for the company. No company would waste so much of its employees’ time. Yet, apparently, in a year and a half of interviewing multiple people, they couldn’t find one person who fit the bill.
Job Growth Weakens in September (by Dean Baker from the Center for Economic and Policy Research): “Private sector job growth at slowest pace in more than four years.”
Over 94.6 million working-age Americans currently are not in the labor force — about 12 million just since the Great Recession “officially” ended. We keep sweeping those who drop out of the labor force under the rug to keep the unemployment rate down, but they’re still reflected in the labor force participation rate and the employment-population ratio.
That’s more or less how Jeb Bush defended his tax plan to Fox News Sunday after he was slammed for giving lopsided tax breaks to the wealthy. He told Chris Wallace: “The simple fact is 1 percent of people pay 40 percent of all the taxes. So of course, tax cuts for everybody is going to generate more for people that are paying a lot more. I mean that’s just the way it is.”
More proof that Jeb Bush may care not so much for this country as he does for the very rich. Besides gutting government regulations, he also wants to cut taxes — the standard Republican mantra, (just like his brother George), so no surprises there. But why would Jeb lie about his tax plan on a Sunday when the Pope was still in town?
Normally a typical politician (when they don’t accidentally tell the truth) will deny, deflect, discredit, exaggerate, embellish, obfuscate and lie. But Jeb Bush had accidentally told the truth. In Jeb Speak he had said: “Of course the rich will get richer … that’s just the way it is.” (That’s just the way it is, since the Earth and Heavens were first created.)
The GOP likes to say they are for getting the government jack boots off our necks, as if American citizens are being oppressed by a tyrannical government every day in their daily lives. But yet, for over 200 years, people from all over the world continue to come here — and by any means possible, sometimes risking their lives. Why?
When most Americans first wake up in the morning, are they dreading government oppression? Or are they dreading having to go to work for an over-demanding, mean and overbearing boss — while barely earning enough money to pay for food and rent? One example of “better” government (not “less” government) might be a government law to raise the federal minimum wage, because their boss is too cheap and/or too greedy to pay them a fair and living wage.
Would a good example of “less” government oppression and tyranny be to eliminate all speed limits, stop signs, school zones, crosswalks and traffic lights as they’re driving to their crummy job?
If Americans really gave this some serious thought and asked themselves: “How is government [laws and regulations] bad for me and how is government good for me?” — many people might be surprised at how much better off they are WITH “government” — and that “better” government (not “less” government) is really what we need. After all, there’s always room for improvement.
We’ve been told that lower taxes and more “growth” equates to higher wages and more jobs (known as “trickle-down economics”). But since the depth of the Great Recession, even though stock prices and corporate profits are much higher, a lot more people are “not in the labor force” (and just aren’t being counted in the official unemployment rate) — and wages are still down (not to mention, more people are also working part-time and temp jobs).
When our economy grows, it doesn’t grow equally for everyone. There are winners and losers — and for the past 35 years, capital has won and labor has lost.
During that same period of time (from March 6, 2009 until today) stocks on the DOW are up over 135% (Source: Google Finance). Recently stocks have taken a hit because of concerns about China and the global economy (Translated to mean: Not enough people are earning adequate wages to purchase a sufficient amount of goods and services — also known as “supply-and-demand” in the economic system of capitalism).
The world’s super-rich have taken advantage of lax tax rules to siphon off at least $21 trillion, and possibly as much as $32 trillion, from their home countries and hide it abroad — a sum larger than the entire American economy. And almost half of the minimum estimate of $21 trillion ($9.8 trillion) is owned by just 92,000 people. John Christensen of the Tax Justice Network. “Inequality is much, much worse than official statistics show, but politicians are still relying on trickle-down to transfer wealth to poorer people.” http://www.theguardian.com/business/2012/jul/21/offshore-wealth-global-economy-tax-havens
For the past 40 years, our political leaders have not only allowed, but have deliberately effectuated economic polices that have crammed most of the profits generated by ordinary working people into the pockets of those at the very tippy-top of the income ladder — by conspiring against organized labor, giving preferential tax breaks to the very wealthy, and by allowing bad trade deals to offshore our best jobs.
And in a Catch-22, these politicians rigged the election system to keep themselves in power. Then afterwards, when they’re done screwing us over while “serving” in government office, they go to work as corporate lobbyists to screw us over even more.
Now, because of stagnant wages over the last several decades (because are “job creators” are so cheap and greedy), both of the Social Security trust funds have been under-funded; while those who reaped most of the wealth, have escaped paying their fair share of taxes.
And despite all the evidence we have of income inequality, our crumbling infrastructure, our bankrupt cities, and the overall general decline of our nation — these same politicians continue to make a very dire situation for most Americans even worse.
Yesterday the Alliance for Retired Americanswrote a letter to Congress strongly opposing using the Social Security trust fund as a way to help pay for the highway funding bill, saying, “It should not be used as a piggy bank when Congress is looking for funding.”
Earlier last week the House passed a short-term highway bill; but Senate Republicans are trying to come up an $80 billion highway bill that would provide funds for several years. The Senate bill is also expected to include a provision to renew the Export-Import Bank, despite the objection of conservative lawmakers and activists. The bank has significant support in both houses, but many leading conservatives [and progressives] oppose it as “crony capitalism”.
One such way Congress plans to cut Social Security is the CUFF Act (a bill introduced by Sam Johnson R-TX), which purports to go after fugitive felons — but according to the Alliance, could actually penalize many individuals for minor offenses such as bounced checks, unpaid fines or fees, or a failure to pay a debt. Many warrants are very old for offenses that may have happened when someone was very young (even a child) — or in many cases, the individual may know nothing about it.
A close review of the tax forms released this week show how Jeb Bush maneuvered to minimize his tax bill through his company Jeb Bush & Associates. The returns show that the company set up a generous and well-funded pension plan now rare in corporate America, allowing Bush to take large tax deductions while he and his wife built up their retirement portfolio.
Daniel Halperin, a professor at Harvard Law School who specializes in pensions, said federal law allows companies to take a tax write-off for large pension contributions in an effort to encourage them to offer solid retirement plans to their employees. He said those rules make less sense in the case of Jeb Bush & Associates, which offers the plan to only two people. “It is generous,” Halperin said. But, he added, “the law allows them to be generous.”