a jim jividen blog

Here's the thing. I'm watching one of these shows on the Cooking Channel featuring food trucks. There's a Scottish expat making fish and chips; in a thick brogue he somewhat wearily explains his irritation with Americans who habitually order a side of tartar sauce: "tartar sauce is basically gherkins." That's this blog. I claim no particular insight, no revelation. If you enjoy the flavor, great, but this blog is basically gherkins.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Weekly Tendown November 28-December 4 2010

Dear Internet:


Lebron giving a half dozen points over all of Northeast Ohio?  All day, every day.  Nothing more fun than shutting up a mob reveling in their own entitlement.  On Outside the Lines this week, I heard a reporter say James left Cleveland "violently".  No, he didn't.  Cockiness and violence are not the same.  Me, I wanted him to play the fourth quarter and hit the Cavs for 50, but the Heat chose mercy over swagger.

Here's Tendown 54.

1. Your Plutocracy at Work


Just so we understand what happened this week.  Just so we're clear.

The Democrats proposed the following - extending tax cuts on all income up to a quarter million dollars a year.

The Republicans filibustered, as do they with every piece of legislation, in a way literally never done before in the history of the republic and would never have been considered acceptable by the "founding fathers" who they claim to revere.  That's why bills take 60 votes to pass the Senate now.

And then the Republicans voted against the measure.

Then the Democrats proposed bumping it up to a million dollars.  Tax cuts - for every single American - up to a million dollars in income (this is too high without a significant compromise from the right, but the Democrats offered it anyway)  Almost certainly, for every single American wage earner who will ever read these words - that would mean a tax cut for every dollar you would earn in every year of your life.  It's more income than I've earned in every year of my life combined.

Filibuster.  Voted against.  In the United States in 2010.  Voted against. And people wonder why we're in the state we are.

The Republicans are not saying "every American should get a tax cut" - because every American would under either of these bills.  And make sure you understand that.  Make sure you understand specifically what happened this week.  What they were saying is every dollar - over a quarter million - and then in the second vote, every dollar, over a million, needs to be included in that tax cut.  That's what they're arguing.  Not every American - but every dollar.

Consider the following.  Here's how your social security tax works - you pay 6.2 percent on every dollar you earn up to $106,000.  After that - you pay nothing.

Now, maybe you didn't know this - I have to admit, I didn't know this until I was in my twenties, and the reason I didn't is my family never had a six figure income - and, as a 40 year old college professor, I have never had a six figure income.  Every dollar I've ever earned in my life has been taxed for social security.

Part of the "we have to cut the debt" discussion has been raising the retirement age to 69.  A few weeks ago, I suggested I'd be willing, in the spirit of compromise, to agree - and in exchange, let me suggest that the income ceiling taxed for social security be raised.

How far - to the income ceiling of the extension of the Bush tax cuts.

Tax cuts up to a quarter million dollars a year = social security tax up to a quarter million dollars a year.
Up to a million?  = Then pay social security tax up to a million dollars in income.
No tax cut ceiling?  Every dollar earned gets a tax cut?

Then pay social security tax on every dollar of income.

This is my proposal.

Look - here's the right wing argument (not that anyone ever requires them to make it) on setting a social security ceiling at $106,000.  They're saying - that's enough.  That's enough.  That's all that needs to be taxed.       The balance between the need of the individual and the need of society tips at that dollar ceiling.  Tax up to $106,000 - then stop.

Okay.

Why not, therefore, the following argument.  We cut taxes on every dollar up to a quarter million.  But that's enough.  That's enough.  That's all the tax cut that is needed.  The balance between the need of the individual and the need of society tips at that dollar ceiling.  Tax cut up to $250,000.  Then stop.  

We have, as the right reminds us when they vote against extending unemployment benefits, an enormous debt.  Not taxing that income above a quarter million dollars will add 700 billion dollars to that debt.  We know that placing those dollars in the hands of the wealthy will not, as an empirical matter, stimulate the economy as much as will those unemployment benefits - and we know they will add, exponentially add, to that debt in a way that an unemployment extension would not - were you to extend unemployment six months - six months, more than double the 12 weeks proposed - it would only cost 34 billion, 670 billion less than the tax cuts the right wing wants.

It's not about debt.  It's not about stimulus.  It's not about cutting taxes for all Americans - the Republicans voted against that this week.

It is entirely about rule by the wealthy.  It is entirely about the right wing grabbing control of the economic reigns of this country thirty years ago, and step by step moving us back to the Gilded Age.  The wealthy have become superwealthy - and the rest of us continue to slide to the abyss.  The people who wave the flags, who will spit on you if you don't stand for the National Anthem at a baseball game - have traded the idea of the United States for plutocracy.  The people whose hearts beat the fastest at the unfurling of the red, white, and blue - are the most complicit in killing the American dream.

Here's Bernie Sanders from the Senate floor:


What this debate is about whether or not we continue to take money from the middle class and working families of this country, who are struggling in a way that they have not struggled since the Great Depression, force their kids to borrow huge sums of money in order to provide $700 billion over a 10-year period to the wealthiest people in this country.


Mr. President, I hear my Republican friends, time and time again, coming down the floor of the Senate, and they say we have a huge deficit. We have a huge national debt. And today what they want to do is to drive that national debt up by $700 billion over the next 10 years in order to give huge tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires. So please, my friends, say what you want, but stop talking about the deficit and the national debt when what you're doing today is driving that debt up by $700 billion over the next 10 years.


And second of all, what everybody in America knows is that what's going in our country today is that the middle class is collapsing, poverty is increasing, but the people on top are doing phenomenally well. In the last 25 years, 80 percent of all new income created in this country went to the top 1 percent. You don't have to worry about the top 1 percent. You don't have to worry about the top 1 percent. The millionaires and the billionaires in this country are doing just fine. . . .


And thirdly, Mr. President, what I would say without the slightest doubt is if these guys are successful in giving $700 billion more in tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires, the next thing they'll do is run down onto the floor and they'll say, 'Oh, my word, the deficit and the debt are going up. We've got to cut Social Security, because we have such a large debt -- yeah, we've raised the debt by $700 billion, now we've got to cut Social Security. We can't afford to extend unemployment compensation. We just can't do it."


2. Meanwhile...


The head of Tea Party Nation came out this week in favor of restricting voting to property owners.  Forget 1890, the right wing wants to move us back to 1790.  They don't want election of US Senators.  They don't want non property owners to vote.  They don't want a progressive income tax.  They don't want Social Security.

3. Meanwhile...


Steve King said this week that Americans are choosing to die before the end of the year rather than risk paying estate tax.  The Bush estate tax cut ends at the beginning of the year - when it returns in January, it would mean that estates over a million dollars would be impacted.

Over a million dollars.

The Democrats have proposed raising that to 3.5 million dollars.

So - if you leave an estate worth less than 3 and a half million dollars - no estate tax under the Democratic plan.  No need to "choose to die" this year if that's you.  So, what King is saying is there are people, right now, with an estate valued at over 3.5 million dollars who are choosing to die rather than pay the estate tax.

Here, from The Economist (not Mother Jones - The Economist) is this:

More than half of all workers today have experienced a spell of
unemployment, taken a cut in pay or hours or been forced
to go part-time. The typical unemployed worker has been
jobless for nearly six months. Collapsing share and house 
prices have destroyed a fifth of the wealth of the average 
household. Nearly six in ten Americans have cancelled or 
cut back on holidays. About a fifth say their mortgages are 
underwater. One in four of those between 18 and 29 have 
moved back in with their parents. Fewer than half of all adults 
expect their children to have a higher standard of living than
theirs, and more than a quarter say it will be lower. For many
Americans the great recession has been the sharpest trauma since 
The Second World War, wiping out jobs, wealth and hope itself.



But Congressman Steve King, this week, said that it's people with estates worth over 3 and a half million dollars who are the real victims in the economy.  


That's what plutocracy looks like.  It looks just like that.  

 Tax cuts for the first million dollars of income - not enough.  No estate tax for estates up to 3.5 million.  Not enough.

4. Meanwhile...


And that wasn't the craziest thing King said this week; he also claimed that Obama (who he called very urban) worked as a Senator to give slavery reparations to drug users pretending to be farmers.  This is how the right gets working class Americans to support their giveaways to the rich.  Every now and again, they have to blow that racist whistle. Every now and again - they have to send the following message - hey white America, you know why the economy collapsed - black people wouldn't pay their mortgages - you know what health care reform is really about - giving free medical care to black people - you know why there's a budget debt - welfare and food stamps and unemployment insurance to black people - Obama is a Kenyan, a Muslim, not a real American like you - he's looking out for his own - it's us vs them - real Americans need to band together to take our country back.  


And so those real Americans band together to vote for Republicans, who then give every single dollar they can to the rich.

5. Meanwhile...


Limbaugh said we need reparations from Native Americans.

6. Wikileaks




You'll pardon my not hopping on the "charge Asange, a non-American, with treason" bandwagon that saddled up this week.

Instead - here's Chomsky on Democracy Now.

And Greenwald.

The United States has committed, over the past two Administrations, actions that would be considered war crimes, if any other country had done them - but it's revealing secrets that draws the ire of the political class.  The idea that, first and foremost, it is the job of media to respect the wishes of government, is a curious one at a time when what we have heard, from the right, repeatedly, is that our government is tyrannical.  Since Obama's election - the right has talked about watering the tree of liberty and second amendment remedies in full on don't tread on me flourish - but here, this week, the noise was decidedly "execute those who dare reveal the secrets of the government!"

Apparently - Obama's only a tyrant when he wants to stop insurance companies from denying coverage for those who have pre-existing conditions.  But when working with Republicans to stop Spain from indicting Dick Cheney for torture, he's part of Team America.

Remember - like Abu Ghraib - it's not the actions that are wrong - it's revealing those actions that are treasonous (regardless of what country you're a citizen).

7. Believe in our God or Lose your Kids.


I try to withhold judgment on court decisions based only on news reports, so my screaming about this, is tempered. But it's a father who says he lost a custody decision because he's agnostic.

8. I Ate My Father Pig!


Even the face, in case of a tie.

From this week's 30 Rock, more evidence that there's 30 Rock, and then every other sitcom on television.  However it is you rank "Greatest American Humorist" - be it Thurber/Twain or Hope/Groucho or Woody/Nichols or Pryor/Carlin or Cosby/Seinfeld or SteveMartinDorothyParkerDavidLettermanCarolBurnett whichever is the way you'd process legendary American comedians - I am inclined to rank Tina Fey with the very top of any list.  Mad Men or Breaking Bad is a reasonable debate for best dramatic series on television - the only discussion for comedy should be second place (Parks and Recreation).

9. The World's Best Clock
Looking for a stocking stuffer?

10. The World Champion San Francisco Giants

  
Okay one more...

11. And then Jesus Made Me Fumble



This gets us closer to the noble dream that one day all of Jeff Stilson's jokes will come true.  Thank you Stevie Johnson.

That's all for this time.  I'll be back next time.  If there is a next time...

Your pal,

Jim