Lies, Lies & More Lies

Posted on February 14, 2011

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I have never been more angry at the state of our government and politics — since I was a teenager, railing at the Vietnam War, segregation, sexism and rampant poverty in the face of such great abundance — until now. It’s a measure of our freedom that politicians can say whatever they want regardless of any semblance of truth or fact. I’m not saying that we should put limits on political discourse, but that the press should do its job and try to get at the truth of political statements. Case in hand: remember WMDs in Iraq? No one bothered to challenge and research that contention. And when it was discovered to be a total fabrication, the press swept any meaningful soul-searching under the rug. Now remember the press — right, left and center — is owned by large corporations (who else can afford to?). Would corporations go against their best interests?

What got my goat today (and duck and cow, etc.) was a quote by John Boehner: “He’s [Obama] going to present a budget tomorrow that will continue to destroy jobs by spending too much, borrowing too much, and taxing too much.”

First lie: Boehner is probably referring to a recent study from Harvard using defense spending by the government and its effect on corporate behavior. The study does not directly look at the bottom line in overall job gain but on how large corporations act within a narrow sector of government spending. But these days, if you search the web on “government spending increases employment” all you will find are references to this study and no evidence to the contrary. Surprising? Hardly, when you consider the ownership of all the major search engines. But I did find an interesting one that did study the effects of government spending on the bottom line — poverty levels — but it’s about the Third World. But I guess corporate welfare is more important than individual welfare.

I guess people have forgotten what effect government spending had on pulling us out of the Great Depression. I guess maybe the Works Progress Administration had a deleterious effect and lengthened the effects of the Great Depression. If you buy that, I’ve got a bridge you can buy. Speaking of bridges (and the WPA), the American Society of Civil Engineers grades on the state of the infrastructure in the United States — which covers bridges, roads, trains, airports, water supplies, wastewater, etc. — are mostly in the D range. This infrastructure is not owned by corporations (yet, I think they are salivating for such privatization) but by governments (at the local, state and federal levels). If we want to improve these structures (and our lives and livelihoods depend on this infrastructure), our governments need to spend money to improve them. If the government spends money to repair and upgrade the Brooklyn Bridge, it creates tangible jobs. CBS is not going to undertake such an effort. The effect of government spending on infrastructure jobs has more tangible benefit for the unemployed and poor than on large corporations due to the (correct) implementation of bidding procedures, which limits (through competition) gouging the government for higher profits.

The next big lie is the taxing too much: Currently, the U.S. tax burden is at a historically low rate. The rich pay the least amount of taxes than ever. What Boehner is worried about is that people (read: the middle class and poor, who haven’t gotten such a great deal as the rich) might want the rich to pay more of their share.

If we spend more without raising taxes (on who can afford to pay them), then of course we’ll have to borrow more. It’s that wherewithal, that gumption from the government, to tax those who can pay. Boehner wants to protect his friends — the rich and the corporations — from footing their fair share.

When Boehner — and the Republicans — call Obama’s new healthcare program a job-killer, that’s another lie. Before the healthcare law’s passage, many corporations across the nation were openly discussing withdrawing health benefits from its workers. Why? Because worker benefit programs were, and are, eating away corporate profits (and when corporate profits are eroded, their stock prices and dividends decline, which does not please stockholders). But Obamacare will not allow these corporations to drop healthcare coverage without significant penalty to the corporations. So the Republicans bend the truth: a profit-reducer becomes a job-killer. Glad you know?

What simple things can be done to increase employment, decrease the deficit and help stabilize Social Security? For starters, increase the capital gains taxes. Let the government maintain that it there is more value that people work than have their money work for them. Capital gains taxes should be higher than the base income tax. And the short-term capital gains tax should be greater than the long-term capital gains tax rate. Make more incentive for people to hold onto their investments for a longer period of time, and make corporations less reliant on short-term solutions to lower stock prices. Second, remove the tax cap from FICA taxes and put in a means test for getting Social Security benefits. That would mean that those earning over $106,800 per year, and the companies that employ them, would need to pay roughly $7,000 more apiece for each additional $100,000 made. And does someone who has a well-stocked 401k pension fund, saying paying out $100,ooo a year, really need to collect  few thousand more from Social Security? Last, we really need to put teeth back into a progressive income tax.

LBJ’s “War on Poverty” is a joke. I thought one of our national goals was to eradicate poverty in this wealthy nation by the end of the century. Well, that century has come and gone. Today, it’s more like, “War on the Poor” (with “War on the Middle Class” not too far behind).

I am so truly ashamed that the press has forgotten its duty to pursue fact and truth, that the press has fallen to the expediency of the marketplace. Garbage in, garbage out…

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