Monday, September 21, 2009

Is this what a TEA Party activist’s dream world looks like?

This past Thursday, September 17th, TEA Partiers gathered in Lynchburg and in other communities across the nation in honor of “Constitution Day,” to make a symbolic point as they continue to press their anti-tax, less government stance. There is no question that our national debt is massive and we cannot continue to live beyond our means. But, for all the anger and the animosity being fired at President Obama and Congressional Democrats, why are they standing so close to the ones that are the most responsible for our current financial situation?

Cutting taxes for the wealthiest and then engaging in deficit spending during non-recession years started with Ronald Regan. This approach to financing our Federal Government has ballooned our national debt to the levels they are at today. It continued with George H. W. Bush and was only slowed temporarily by the Clinton Administration. During the Clinton years, the size of government was reduced and the amount the Federal Government spent went down as well. In turn, we saw several years of budget surpluses that helped cut into the national debt. Then conservatives and anti-tax advocates had this notion that if there’s a budget surplus then it must mean that taxes are too high and there is no other debt to pay off.

Republicans pretty much had control of the Federal Government from 2001 to 2007 (when the Bush Administration was sworn in to the time that Democrats officially took control). So, it’s pretty misleading when activist groups like the TEA-Baggers put all this on the Obama Administration and Congressional Democrats when the ones standing closest to them (Republicans and Free Market Conservatives) are the most responsible for the economic mess that we are in. Now how does this all fit with a possible, and from all accounts probable, dream world for TEA Party activists?

In the Ohio School District that covers Grove City, the normal sounds on Friday nights these days are the sound of passing cars on the road and chirping crickets at the local High School Football stadium. Grove City is notorious for fighting any tax increase. This is no dream world; this is reality for this working class community. The town voted for a third time in August in a referendum to increase the operating levy for the School District. For a third time, they levy failed to pass and the School Board took the next step – elimination of all extra-curricular activities. This paragraph from the article sums it up best:

The issue has turned neighbor against neighbor and caused shouting matches at school board meetings and on street corners. Those who oppose the levy argue that the district should find a more efficient way to spend the money it already has instead of asking for more tax dollars. The anti-levy crusaders appear to be the majority, evidenced by the fact that the levy already has been voted down three times. Those who support the levy warn that if the district doesn't offer a full program that includes a quality education and extra-curricular activities, parents will leave for another district that does. They also fear that another no vote will force the school board to slice into academic programs, which could trigger a mass exodus. That, they argue, would further erode the tax base and rob South-Western of many of its brightest students. To the pro-levy side, the Nov. 3 vote is nothing short of a referendum on the future of the community.
The situation in Grove City, Ohio should serve as an example of what happens when we don’t fully fund things like schools. Our tax dollars fund programs and services, like schools and infrastructure. I think it’s fair to debate how tax money is being spent. But, to hear the TEA Party activist rail on about being Taxed Enough Already, it’s like the Federal Government is taking every dime they have and they’re out on the streets. What are they really saying? Are they against increasing taxes or opposed to all taxes?

Regardless, taxes serve a purpose and when voters refuse to address critical funding issues that support the common good, the end result is what Grove City, Ohio is going through right now - cutting extra-curricular activities like sports as well as Student Government which helps develop civic skills in our young people. It also makes the community less attractive to potential residents, businesses and industries. Do TEA Baggers support killing communities because they feel they are Taxed Enough Already? I hope not.

Picture found at: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_ih44QfUfNns/Rzq6HJ8PLKI/AAAAAAAAB58/Jt2VOzNmiXs/s400/Baton+Rouge+High+50.jpg

Friday, September 11, 2009

Bold idea: Revisiting Federal Tax Rates of the 1950's and 1960's

This is without a doubt, one of the bravest and boldest suggestions by someone who knows something about business. In an op-ed in today's Roanoke Times, Virginia Tech Finance Professor G. Rodney Thompson suggest that we take a look at raising the top Federal Tax Rate address our National Debt and pay for Healthcare Reform and the laundry list of other things that we have been putting off for far too long. While he doesn't suggest the raising the top Federal Tax rate to the 75 to 92% range that existed during this period, but increasing the top Federal Tax rate to the 50 - 60% level should be more than enough.

There are some things that need to be mentioned that factor into the nation's success during this period. While he does point out that our GDP was consistently over 3.0% during this period, and we were a much bolder nation that didn't complain about taking on a collective challenge that would benefit the common good [Eisenhower Interstate System and the Space Program that put us on the Moon], other things that he doesn't mention is that Organized Labor was much stronger during this period and individual savings rates were much, much higher. This led to the creation of the middle class that we had until the "Great Recession" and also more people were in college and universities than ever before.

We did have significant social challenges, which Professor Thompson points out, but we were not in debt to anyone. Isn't it ironic that when the Regan Era was ushered in and top Federal Tax Rates were cut, that we also saw our national deficit, budget deficits, and personal debt balloon? Something worth thinking about...

Monday, September 7, 2009

Controversy Over: Stem Cells in Fat can be recycled!

Scientists at Stanford may have ended the stem cell debate, solved our national obesity epidemic, and helped cut diabetes all at the same time. It seems that the stem cells in our fat can probably be used for just about anything that the body needs. Still some more work to be done to determine just what that is, but this finding should put the embryonic stem cell controversy to bed. Fat cells can be "coached" to develop into heart tissue and possibly limbs.

Wow! Who would have ever thought that liposuction would be the foundation industry that gave rise to other medical industries. Those self-absorbed Hollywood liberals were on to something. Recycle your fat and save a life!

Hide your children from the President's Socialist Propaganda: Work Hard, Stay in School

This is absolutely absurd. Bush 41 addressed school children during school hours during his first (and only) term, and there wasn't this kink of uproar. There is no indoctrination here. It's not like Obama is staging a photo-op like Saddam or Kim Jong Il to show how much they are loved by the people, or parading tanks and infantry down Pennsylvania Ave like the Soviets did in front of the Kremlin.

There are numerous studies that show people's perception of darker complected skin colors is of suspicion and mistrust. We have a dark complected President for he first time in our Nation's history and the rhetoric coming out of Fox News, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Neal Bortz is "I don't trust this guy!" If we had a white President, would this even be a story or be this level of mistrust or suspicion of the President and his motives? I think not.

I had a conversation with a family member over a online petition to stop Government Run Health Care. I replied that this was total crap and I wasn't going to participate and I proceeded to chastise this member of my family for pushing this stuff. Long story short, I went through the whole list of how the Health Insurance Industry and the status quo was totally unsustainable and that there was little truth to the things they were regurgitating from Conservatives and Private Health Care (opponents) talking points against real Health Care Reform.

I posed the following questions to them to see what aspects of national common good they would do away with to "save" our nation from socialism:

Should we totally dismantle Public Education and only educate people that can afford to pay for Private Schools? Should we only build roads that are paid for by private companies and they charge tolls for their usage? Should we only allow private security firms to take charge of our community policing? Should we trust utilities and pharmaceuticals to do the right thing and not monitor if they are polluting our water and air or putting drugs on the market that have not been tested to see if they are safe?
They agreed with me on all these questions, that doing away with all this stuff would be a bad idea. But, then they said that Obama was "shady and slippery as hell." They don't trust him. I go back to what I said at the beginning - There are numerous studies that show people's perception of darker complected skin colors is of suspicion and mistrust. We have a dark complected President for he first time in our Nation's history and the rhetoric coming out of Fox News, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Neal Bortz is "I don't trust this guy!" If we had a white President, would this even be a story or be this level of mistrust or suspicion of the President and his motives? Coincidence? Ironic?

Again, I go back to Dick Cheney's roll in the CIA Terror Suspects "Enhanced Interrogation" techniques. If Bush (43) had continued to listen to Cheney, the First, Forth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Amendment would have totally been erased from the Constitution, all in the name of National Security and fighting terrorism. Thank god that GWB finally figured out that Cheney was trying to shred the Constitution.

So, how is detaining and questioning suspected terrorist a threat to the Bill of Rights? In the name of National Security, anyone (even natural born Americans) could be accused of supporting terrorism if they spoke out against the Government or questionable policies (possibly, but that wouldn't happen in this country). When people are not feeling financially secure, spreading mis-information and governing by fear is much easier.

So parents, you have more to fear from Dick Cheney's attempt to shred the Bill of Rights and governing by fear than the "Work hard, stay in school" capitalist message of indoctrination from President Obama. All of this misplaced fear and mistrust of Obama is firmly rooted in bigotry. People need to grow up.