The Weiner Component #43-The Republican Party & the American People

Traditionally, with only two major political parties in the Unit

Republicans

Republicans (Photo credit: Jed Sheehan)

ed States, each has served as a check upon the other.  Over a good part of its history this country has had two major functioning political parties that have had slightly different emphasis.  Each has kept the other honest.  Unfortunately that situation no longer exists. 

If one draws a horizontal line across this page and puts a mark in the center, everything to the right of that mark can be called conservative and everything to the left of the mark could be called liberal.  The farther one goes away from center the more liberal or conservative he/she becomes.  At some distant point far from center the extreme right becomes reactionary and the extreme left becomes radical.  In point of fact in the center of the line there have been conservatives who have crossed over to the left side of the mark like Nelson Rockefeller and liberals like Jimmy Carter who were to the right of the mark.

What has happened since the 2008 Election is that the Tea-Party group and the extreme evangelicals have been able to take over the leadership of the Republican Party and moved it to the far right, to the reactionary position.  This has, in turn, forced all Democrats to move slightly to the left of their former positions.  The result has been to polarize the positions of both parties, with the Republicans being too far to the right to even consider a compromise with the Democrats.  In fact it’s as though the two groups speak radically different languages and cannot even begin to comprehend the other.

Still one would think that the results of the Election of 2012 would be a wake-up call for the Republican Party.  They lost the Presidential Election by about five million votes and also lost seats in both the House and Senate.  They did fairly well in the “red” states and retained the majority in the House of Representatives even though a million more votes were cast for Democrats nationally.  They were able to maintain those district and state majorities by gerrymandering state election districts.

The Republican success in the Election of 2010, which was a census year requiring rebalancing the numbers of candidates, gave them the authority to gerrymander the state election districts heavily in their favor.  This they did and have been able to maintain control in the House even though more people voted for Democrats.  What has happened to the concept of each vote being equal?

The major Republican goal up until the Election of 2012 was to make Obama a one-term president.  Among others the Republican minority leader in the Senate publically announced this numerous times.  During the 2008 to 2012 term the Republicans supported nothing that the President favored, even if it initially had been their idea.  Not one economic jobs bill whose success might allow the President to look good, was passed and, in many cases, not even brought to the floor of the House or Senate to be voted upon.  In fact the Republicans in the Federal Government and in the states concentrated upon medical and social legislation, attempting to destroy the Affordable Health Care Bill (Obama Care).  The House has now passed forty-one separate bills doing away with this law.  None of these repetitive bills were ever taken up by the Senate and if they had been the President would have vetoed them.  The effect of these bills has been to encourage many of their reactionary constituents.  They have also wasted a lot of legislative time.  They only met in the House of Representatives 120 days in 2012 and will meet 125 times by the end of 2013.

Much of the state legislation (and this was also taken up and passed in the House of Representatives) where the Republicans controlled both the governorship and the legislature had to do with limiting abortion, women’s contraceptive and health rights, emotional issues.  These bills have gotten more and more reactionary attempting to, and in many cases being successful in closing state woman’s care centers that also performed abortions.  Many Republicans want all pregnancies carried to term, ever in cases of incest or rape, even in case where the woman’s life may be endangered by the pregnancy.  Seemingly in rape it becomes the woman or child’s, where a minor is involved, fault for being present when the perpetrator committed the act and subsequently it is their financial and moral responsibility to raise the child even against their will.

In 1964, when Lyndon Baines Johnson first ran for the presidency as the Democratic candidate, his Republican opponent was Barry Goldwater.  Goldwater was the candidate of the far right, the reactionary and evangelical Republicans.  His slogan during the campaign was: “In your heart you know he’s right.”  The inference of this statement being that logic and factional information had nothing to do with the election.  It was what you felt that counted.  He received 22% of the vote, which represented the population of the far right.  Forty-two years later, in the mid-term election of 2010 the far right attained a majority in the House of Representatives and in a number of state elections.  Through the patient use of money and propaganda they had largely achieved their goal of taking over the control of the Republican Party.  The country had not necessarily changed that much in its basic attitudes but the Far Right has successfully seized control of some of the engines of government.  One factor that seemed to help was that the President of the United States was now a black man.  After the Presidential Election of 2012 the Republicans continued to act as if the election had not taken place.

Two functioning political parties in the United States that essentially speak the same language would help the political situation and be easily able to solve most economic problems facing the country.  They could also serve as a check on each other.  We do not currently have that.  Will we ever reach that point again?  That’s an interesting question.

We will be facing another midterm election in 2014.  Currently the Republicans are, on a state level where they have control of both the legislature and the governorship, pushing forward their anti-woman, limiting female health by shutting down those facilities and essentially closing down all abortion facilities in those states, and their anti-middle class agenda, no job creation or needed infrastructure improvement.  On the Federal level, while the Republicans cannot pass any of their heinous legislation, they can stop any positive legislation by filibustering in the Senate or refusing to even vote on any of these bills in the House where they have the majority.  Currently they are opposing a realistic immigration policy because they feel these people will vote Democratic when they become citizens.  In essence the Republicans seem to be supporting a white, male government of the rich, financed by the rich, and for the rich.

It has even reached a state where many Republicans in the states where they have legislative control are opposing some of the positions held by their own party in Washington, D.C.  What will happen in the midterm election of 2014 will determine the immediate future of this country.  Will the majority of the people vote these people out of office or will they stay at home, not vote, and allow the Republican leaders to plow ahead?  It becomes an interesting question whether the people will vote in their own interests or against them.  We have approximately a little over a year to find out.  Unfortunately, outside of state protesting, until that time, the Republicans will be successfully pushing their agendas.

A graph labeled "Figure 109," and fo...

A graph labeled “Figure 109,” and found on page 126. It shows the percentage of Democrats and Republicans who belong to labor unions. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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The Weiner Component #20 – Taxation, Money & The Distribution of Incomes

taxes

 

 

 

Taxation, Money, & the Distributions of Incomes

 

 

 

The general concept of taxation is that (A) the government needs a certain amount of money to function and (B) everyone within the nation by being a member of that society deserves a certain minimum standard of living to function comfortably.  Taxation, then, is a system that allows the country to exist and serves as a means of redistributing part of the National Income to all the people within the society in order to allow for a level of economic fairness for everybody.

 

The government of every nation also controls the money supply within its borders.  In a manner of speaking, the National Government owns the printing press and can issue as much currency as it wishes.  There is nothing behind any national currency today other than the word of the government of that nation.

 

Countries are limited as to the amount of currency they produce because an endless amount would lead to rabid inflation.  The amount of money available would exceed the level of goods and services that could be produced.  Therefore the prices of all goods and services would be continually bid upward making the currency decrease in value to a point where eventually it would be valueless.

 

National Governments are restricted as to the amount of currency they can release.  Too little in circulation causes a waste of human resources such as we currently have in the United States and Europe.  This kind of economic behavior brings about massive unemployment and very slows, if any, economic growth.  Too much money in circulation causes prices to hit the clouds and brings eventual depression.  Each government must steer a course between these two extremes to maintain a healthy economy and continued economic growth.

 

There are various types of taxation that all the government agencies use to collect money.  Some examples would be usage taxes, such as licenses for driving and for your automobile or for your property, like your house and land.  There are excise taxes that are placed upon such items as gasoline or tobacco.  These are internal taxes placed upon the value of the product; the amount is included in the cost of the item by being added on to the original commodity.  In addition there are tariffs placed on goods brought into the country that are supposed to keep them competitive with similar goods produced within the nation; these are also included in the price of the product.

 

But the two essential taxes or tax concepts are the flat or fixed tax rate and the graduated income tax.  The flat or fixed tax is one in which all income, regardless of its level, is taxed at the same rate.  Consequently if one earned $15,000 a year the Federal Government would tax him at, say, 15% of that amount, $225.  If one earned $100,000 it would be $15,000, for a million a year it would be $150,000.  Each would be paying the same percentage of their income.

 

This, it has been argued is a reasonable way to tax because everyone pays the same percentage.  But is it really reasonable?  The less one earns the smaller his income; the less he has to survive.  The person earning $15,000, if he/she is supporting a family, is living well below the poverty level, probably not being able to afford adequate food or heat in the winter, or, for that matter, even adequate housing.  How is it fair for them to pay the same tax rate as someone earning many thousands of dollars or a million or more?  The concept is advantageous to the wealthy but anathema to the poor.

 

Yet this is the principle under which the state sales taxes work.  Everyone pays a goodly sales tax on such items as toilet paper, tissues, and all non-edible items like clothing, shoes, and napkins.  The states and cities tend to use this method as a major means of raising revenue.  It has been suggested that the Federal Government could have a national sales tax as an additional way to raise money.

 

The progressive or graduated income tax is a personal income tax imposed upon income by the federal, most state, and some local governments.  The amount of the tax is determined by applying a tax rate that increases as income increases.  Beyond a certain minimum amount the percentage paid in taxes grows as income goes up.

 

It has been argued at different times over the years that the flat tax is a fairer form of taxation.  But many economists and others see this tax as a regressive one, where the tax rate or burden increases as an individual’s ability to pay it decreases.

 

Toward the mid 1930s during the Great Depression and again in the early 1940s, while World War II was occurring, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt wanted taxes to be raised significantly among high-income earners.  He stated, in both instances, that a person needed only so much money in order to live comfortably; that earning much beyond that amount was ridiculous.  During the 1930s he felt $100,000 was a princely sum; he raised that amount in the 1940s.  In both instances in Congress the Democrats and Republicans refused to go along with him.  He would have raised the tax rate upon amounts over $100,000 to 95% or more initially.

 

In 1932 the top rate was 63 percent.  By 1936 it reached 79 percent, with an inheritance tax, estate tax, gift tax, dividend tax and a progressive corporate tax being added.  During World War II the bottom tax rate went from 4 to 19 percent and the top income tax rate climbed to 88% by 1943.  In 1945 it had risen to 91%.  It remained there until 1964 when it dropped to 77%.  By 1965 the top rate was 70%.  The Economic Recovery Tax Act o f 1981, otherwise known as the Reagan’s supply-side tax cuts, lowered the top rate from 70% to 50%.  By 1990 the top income tax rate was reduced to 31%.  In 1993 the top Income tax rate was increased to 39.6% and the corporate rate to 35%.

 

By 2012 there were six steps in which Income taxes were paid according to amounts earned.  Using the Married Filing Jointly category: the tax rate went from 10% to 35%.  On an income of $17,000 10% is paid.  From $17,001 to $69,000 the percentage rises to 15%.  $69,001 to $139.350 it goes up to 25%; $135,351 to $212,300 requires a 28% payment; $212,301 to $379,150 requires a 33% level, and $379,151 up is 35%.  The increase, in all cases, is only paid on the amount above the prior level of income.  For single people or married filing separately the amounts were at about half of the above.

 

For 2013 on the 10%rate is joined with the 15% one, the 25% rate becomes 28%, 28% is increased to the 31% rate, the 33% rate becomes 36%, and the 35% rate is increased to 39.6%.  It should be noted that there is no income tax on the first $10,000 everyone earns.  That would be ten dollars an hour, which would place that person solidly below the poverty line.  It is also well below the poverty line.

 

Of course there are all sorts of deductibles.  One deducts for oneself, one’s mate, for each of ones children, for charitable and religious contributions, for medical expenses and for a myriad of other things.  In 1974, when President Gerald Ford appointed Nelson Rockefeller as his Vice President, Rockefeller released his income tax return for the preceding year and I discovered that we both paid approximately the same amount of income tax in 1973.  There was no way that both of us had earned the same amount of money in that year.  I was amazed at the thought of what his write-offs must have been.

 

If we go back to President Roosevelt’s comments on how high the graduated income tax should, in his opinion, be and tie that to what has happened in the 2012 Election on all levels of government then we come up with some very interesting considerations.  On State, Congressional, and the Presidential Election well over two billion dollars was spent.  In fact that much was spent just on the Presidential Election.  The total bill, which to my understanding, was never even calculated, must have been well over five billion dollars.  All that money was contributed, either directly or indirectly, to the campaigns.  Most of it went to the Republican campaigns.  For example twelve million was spent to get Michelle Bachmann reelected to her Congressional seat in the House of Representatives.

 

Why do individuals or corporations contribute this level of money to the political campaigns and do so in many cases secretly.  Is it because they believe in what the political party stands for or is it because they expect to get a return on their investment?  A Las Vegas billionaire, who is currently under investigation by the Justice Department, had invested hundreds of millions in the Republican Presidential Campaign.  The Koch brothers have spent far more, apparently mostly funding secret or semi-secret pacts that support “far right” causes.  Many of the contributors are making donations in the millions of dollars.

 

Where is all this money coming from?  Apparently, the income tax system as it is currently set up allows them to pay minuscule amounts of their incomes in taxes and leaves them with multimillions if not billions to buy influence in the government.  There has to be something wrong with a system that does this.  We have people living out on the streets today, going hungry on one side of the scale and, on the other, opulence beyond that of the wealthiest rulers of the past.  The economic system has to be completely out of kilter to allow for this vast difference in standards of living.  We not only need tax reform; we need tax reform that brings about a fairer distribution of the national wealth and does away with poverty in the United States.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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