Unmasking Tax “Reform”

The tax plan being touted by Republicans isn’t my idea of reform. It’s a shameless giveaway to the richest Americans at the expense of the poor.

There’s a lot to reform in the existing tax code. All those corporate deductions, for example. Wealthy companies pay little or no taxes after their accountants apply all the deductions available to them.

But with the Republican plan, corporations (and investors) would get even more generous tax breaks.  And rich families would also benefit. It’s those who now pay the lowest tax rate – 10 percent – who would get squeezed. That bracket would go up to 12 percent.

Nobody should be surprised by any of this.

You and I know Republicans preach trickle-down economics. They insist that when the rich have more money to spend they give jobs to the rest of us. And you and I know this never works. It has been tried repeatedly – at both the state and federal levels – and the result has always been disastrous.

The proposed tax plan would add trillions to the national debt despite Republican assurances that lower taxes on the rich would produce an economic boom and compensate for the government’s loss of revenue as more people pay more taxes.

You might remember how that kind of thinking recently bankrupted the state of Kansas.

I’m sure you know by now that Trump consistently avoids the truth. So when he says the plan is designed to help “the middle class,” you take it with a grain or two of salt.

It’s true that couples making $300,000 a year or more would pay less taxes. But I don’t consider those people middle class. Do you?

Under the proposed tax plan, the real bonanza would go to billionaires like Trump and the global corporations they invest in.

Once again, we’re being flimflammed. But you knew that would happen when the voters put the Republicans in charge of Congress and the White House, didn’t you?

More on the tax plan

The Kansas experiment

Trickle-down economics

 

Exploit Usain? Think Again!

 

Donald Trump obviously thinks he can use anyone to back up his nonsensical fight with the NFL players – even Jamaica’s Usain Bolt.

The US president is railing against American football players who protest police brutality by refusing to stand for the National Anthem.

It might seem to you that the First Amendment protects protests like that, but Trump doesn’t see it that way.  He is calling on fans to boycott the NFL as punishment for the players’ lack of “patriotism.”

And he tried to use Usain’s popularity to win public support.

He tweeted a five-year-old video of the Jamaican track star cutting away from a live television interview so he could stand for the U.S. national anthem.

And he added:

Even Usain Bolt from Jamaica, one of the greatest runners and athletes of all time, showed RESPECT for our National Anthem!

But we Jamaicans don’t respond kindly to obvious publicity stunts (even when accompanied by abject flattery). Team Jamaica promptly told Trump to leave Usain out of his “politricks.”

And Twitter  exploded with similar admonitions.

Let’s hope Trump has learned a lesson. You can fool some of the people some of the time, but don’t try it with us Jamaicans.

As an old Jamaican saying goes

You think we born big so?

Click for the news story.

 

Attack from an ID Thief

Someone has stolen Sandra’s identity and is trying to run up bills in her name.

We were tipped off when the Post Office asked her to validate her change-of-address request and she received a Visa card she hadn’t applied for.

Obviously, the ID thief had applied for the credit card then submitted the change-of-address to get the card forwarded to them. I guess they didn’t know the Post Office checks out change-of-address requests.

Of course, I phoned the Post Office right away, and then the number on the credit card. And that’s not as simple as it sounds. I waited for nearly an hour to speak with a post office representative, and almost as long to get hold of the credit card issuer, which turned out to be the Bank of America.

The post office canceled the change-of-address request and the bank canceled the credit card. Both promised to “investigate.”  But who knows what else the ID thief has been up to?

I got in touch with our bank this morning, and a polite machine promised to be on the lookout for any fraudulent activity on our accounts. I also phoned Equifax to put a freeze on Sandra’s credit. And I filed a report online with consumer.gov.

Strangely, the credit card was issued to Sandra as owner of 4 Corners This Week, a publication we used to put out. We closed that company a long time ago and I wonder who knows we owned it. I would think the only place they could get that information would be the state’s records.

So what happens now? Any suggestions?

PS: I’ve also opened Lifelock accounts for both of us.

 

Trivializing a Deadly Impasse

 

With the spread of social media, the shallowest and silliest aspects of human nature are on widespread display. And the mainstream media are exploiting the silliness.

So when Trump calls Kim Jong-un “Rocket Man” and Kim responds by dubbing Trump a “dotard,” the press has a field day.

When Trump threatens to “totally destroy” North Korea, the press enthusiastically reiterates his extravagant rhetoric.

At the risk of being regarded as a spoilsport, I deplore this kind of childishness.

It trivializes a life-and-death situation.

Trump and Kim are not two trolls trading insults on Twitter. They are commanders of real military powers.  Nuclear powers.

War is not a game on Xbox. The explosions are not special effects. Real buildings are blown up.  Real people – men, women and children – die.

Real war is contagious. It spreads. It escalates. It is uncontrollable.

Nuclear war is unthinkable.

The prospect of a nuclear war is nothing to joke about. This is not the time for posturing. It’s the time for sober negotiation to define the underlying cause of the conflict and find any possible terms of agreement.

If there are any adults in positions of global influence, their intervention is urgently required. Obviously, Trump and Kim cannot be allowed to continue their dangerous game.

The future of the world is at risk.

The war of words

 

The Killing of Obamacare

As the Republicans in Congress launch yet another attack on Obamacare, I wonder what they think they would achieve. Why deliberately deprive millions of their health care? Why sabotage Medicaid?

What do they think they would gain from inflicting such widespread suffering?

The latest proposal would let the states control health insurance, and this would be a welcome development to states rights fans.

But it would spawn a web of wildly different health care systems across America. I’ll leave it to your imagination to picture the chaos this could cause.

I think the plan is intended to head off a nationwide single-payer program.  Cobbling together so many divergent health insurance programs would be a Herculean task.

But if the Republicans succeed in passing this latest abomination, it would surely backfire. Some states will opt for their own government run program, and when the rest of the country sees how well it works, the idea will spread to other states.

That’s what happened in Canada. Saskatchewan went first with government provided health insurance, and the rest of the country followed.

This kind of evolution takes time of course, and the suffering that would ensue in the meantime is too tragic to contemplate.

Obamacare opponents are vehement, but they represent less than a third of the electorate. Polls show the rest of America would prefer to keep the program – warts and all. The Republicans would get thrashed in the midterm elections if they kill it.

If they know what’s best for them, they will concede the inevitability of federally provided health insurance, either competing with or replacing the private insurers. That’s the way it is in the rest of the developed world.

I would advise the GOP to try working out a compromise with the Democrats. It’s their only sensible option. But I know they won’t take my advice. They never do.

What’s in the latest bill

What happened in Canada

 

The Health Care Puzzle

 

I don’t suppose Bernie’s bill to make Medicare available to Americans of all ages will become law. Not as long as Republicans control Congress, anyway. But it would be a great boon to this society.

The main stumbling block is opposition from health insurance companies. Understandably, they don’t want to lose their multibillion-dollar market.

If I had my way, the legislation wouldn’t prohibit the insurance industry from offering plans to compete with Medicare. If the government is as inefficient as conservatives insist, the private insurers should have no trouble competing against a government-run alternative.

But there’s no way the Republicans would accept such a proposal.

Do you think they would consider a compromise similar to Medicare Advantage? The government could let private insurers offer managed care programs funded by Medicare.

I belong to a Medicare Advantage plan, which gets the money Medicare deducts from my Social Security. And while it’s far from perfect, it’s a lot better than nothing.

With their failure to agree on anything remotely acceptable as replacement for Obamacare, you might think the Republicans would welcome a compromise like this. After all, Medicare Advantage was dreamt up by Republicans during the George W. Bush presidency, so they wouldn’t be accepting one of those dreaded “socialist” schemes Democrats come up with.

Of course you might wonder why Medicare doesn’t just offer managed care plans without going through private insurance companies. It would be so much simpler.

Obviously, Medicare Advantage is a boondoggle designed to benefit the health insurers who contribute so much to Republican politicians. But it helps seniors like me, too.

More about Bernie’s bill

More on the politics involved

 

Thanks for Your Prayers

 

When Sandra and I and our four indoor cats came home from the shelter, we could not even turn into our driveway. It was choked with fallen branches.

I had feared something like this. As we neared home, the detours became more frequent with fallen trees blocking the road.  Passing a mobile home park, I saw twisted aluminum scattered about.

I didn’t want to look at our house.  The eye of the storm had apparently passed right over our home (see illustration).

Every inch of the yard was knee deep in branches, twigs and leaves. The trees had taken a terrible beating.

If Irma had chewed up our trees liked that, I wondered, what had she done to our house?

Tim, our strapping young neighbor, was waiting for us. He moved me out of the way as I tugged at a massive branch and took over the job of clearing the driveway. Then he offered to string an extension cord to our house so we could have power.

Our house is connected to the subdivision behind us, not to the other homes on our street, Tim explained. So they had power while we didn’t.

I demurred at first but I am a diabetic and my insulin has to be kept cold. I thanked him and told him he was probably saving my life. Now we would have power for the refrigerator, the coffee pot and a lamp.

That was a great blessing.

When I finally worked up the courage to take a look at the house, I was amazed.

A branch leaned against the breezeway, but the roof was clear and the windows were all unbroken. The house had been spared.

As Sandra and I unpacked the cats and the things we had taken to the shelter, I wondered at our escape.  The yard would be cleaned up, the trees would recover. The two outdoor cats, which we had left barricaded in the garage with food and water, showed up for their  supper as usual.

The night at the shelter had been torture – nowhere to sleep, perched for hours and hours on the hardest plastic chair ever manufactured, with yapping dogs, failing power, blinding flashlights and the kind of snoring that would put a power saw to shame.

And the wind! It roared like a freight train. I expected the shelter’s glass doors to collapse at any moment. It was terrifying.

Sandra and I – and the cats – had endured a night of sheer horror! But it sure beat the alternative.

Our lives have been spared. The cats are safe and well. Our house is unscathed.

Our power is back and life has returned to normal. For us, anyway.

In Irma’s aftermath, floods persist in many nearby neighborhoods, keeping families from their homes. Hundreds, perhaps thousands,  are still struggling to deal with the loss of power and the wreckage of their homes.

Headlines like this remind us how fortunate we are:

Hurricane Irma: 80% without power in Polk Co., trees smash homes, vehicles

It has to be the prayers. Thank you. And, most of all, thank you, Lord.

More on Irma’s devastation

 

Blaming “the Deep State”

 

Why are there so many headlines about disarray in the Trump White House? Why is the Russian hacking scandal causing so much outrage in the media? Why is Hurricane Irma creating such widespred panic?

If you read the conservative press or tune in to right-wing broadcasters, you know. It’s all the Deep State’s fault.

I didn’t even know there was a Deep State until the propagandists enlightened me.

They describe a subversive network rooted in the federal and state civil services and including all of the intelligence agencies. Those innocuous looking civil servants are working behind the scenes to derail Trump’s plan to make America great again, they explain.

Seriously.

Rush Limbaugh provides an example. He says the TV alarums and weather advisories spawned by Irma are an example of the Deep State’s handiwork. The fuss is all fake, Limbaugh insists, intended to promote fear of climate change.

He explains in a recent radio broadcast:

In the official meteorological circles, you have an abundance of people who believe that man-made climate change is real. And they believe that Al Gore is correct when he has written—and he couldn’t be more wrong—that climate change is creating more hurricanes and stronger hurricanes.

And he adds:

There is a desire to advance this climate change agenda, and hurricanes are one of the fastest and best ways to do it. You can accomplish a lot just by creating fear and panic. You don’t need a hurricane to hit anywhere. All you need is to create the fear and panic accompanied by talk that climate change is causing hurricanes to become more frequent and bigger and more dangerous, and you create the panic, and it’s mission accomplished, agenda advanced.”

I’m surprised nobody has come up with the theory that hurricane preparedness is a brainchild of the retail industry. Irma has emptied the shelves at our neighborhood Publix, and I understand gas pumps are running dry all over the state. Ace, Home Depot and Lowe’s are probably enjoying robust demand, too.

But no, it’s the Deep State that’s creating all of the uproar, don’t you know?

The fact that a Category 5 hurricane is heading our way with winds in excess of 170 mph has nothing to do with it, of course.

Don’t you wonder what these conspiracy theorists will dream up next?

Rush’s conspiracy theory

More on the Deep State

 

Waiting for Irma

 

Not a leaf stirs, and the rain that drenched us for weeks has hit the pause button. Is this the calm before the storm?

At the supermarket yesterday, bottled water, canned goods, flashlight batteries and other emergency provisions were vanishing from the shelves as shoppers prepared for the worst.

Irma is still days away but we’ve seen the pictures on TV. Pictures of a perfect storm with a well defined eye and a wingspan hundreds of miles across. Category 5.

Sandra and I worry about the two outside cats, Willie and Harri. Will they be safe in the garage? Or should we try to bring them inside the house?

Will the house be safe? It’s half a century old after all.

We replaced the roof a few years ago but could it withstand winds of 175 miles an hour? And those grandfather oaks, will they hold? Or will those giant branches come crashing down upon us?

At a time like this, the threat of a North Korean nuclear attack seems far away. Trump’s antics pale. Even the plight of those poor Dreamers is overshadowed by Mother Nature’s menace.

Samuel Johnson’s words come to mind:

Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.

There’s not much we can do really. Sandbags would help of course. But it’s impossible to barricade all of the windows in the family room.

The best we can do is pray.

More about Irma

 

Why Words Matter

 

It’s not only what we say that matters; it’s also how we say it. Some words are toxic, some are benign.

Here’s an example. If someone says, “blessed are the peacemakers,” you’ll probably nod your head piously in agreement. But call the peacemakers “appeasers” and you’re likely to have a different reaction.

Neville Chamberlain will forever be known as the Great Appeaser. The former British prime minister is pilloried by historians for letting Hitler take  the predominantly German areas in the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia.

Hitler double-crossed Chamberlain and invaded Poland anyway, triggering World War II.

I wonder if Chamberlain would be known today as the Great Peacemaker if his concession to Hitler had averted the war.

So I hear warning bells when Trump says talking to North Korea’s Kim Jong-un would be “appeasement.”

Trump brags that he is an expert negotiator. But expert negotiators bargain with the carrot as well as the stick.

First, they find out what the other guy wants, and – if that’s unacceptable – they find out what he will take and decide whether they can live with that.  They use threats only if bargaining breaks down.

I hope Trump’s saber rattling is for show, and there’s some kind of contact with the North Koreans taking place behind the scenes .

As Winston Churchill – who was certainly no appeaser – observed:

To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.

Why Chamberlain was right