Friday, August 29, 2014

READING FOR LABOR DAY WEEKEND (8-29-14)


After 75 years of state-owned oil, Mexico is reforming its oil industry by opening it up to foreigners. Here's a couple of thoughts on what it means for big oil (EconoMonitor).

Does inherited wealth really help the economy as economist Greg Mankiw suggests? A reply to Greg Mankiw (EconoMonitor).

How Wall Street tobacco deals, which were supposed to help state governments financially, left states with billions in toxic debt (Pro Publica / Buzz Flash).

Whether you're into conspiracies or not, this is still worth reading: "Syria intervention plan fueled by oil interests, not chemical weapon concern (The Guardian).

5 simple reasons Americans are getting fatter (Salon).


FOX NEWS CONTRASTS
How "the stupidest man on the internet" helped jump start the Ferguson lie that Fox News - and especially Sean Hannity - ran with as they smeared Michael Wilson (Alter Net / Salon).

Surprise, surprise ... Bill O'Reilly gets schooled on 'white privilege' by Megyn Kelly (Salon).


JUST WRONG
Back to school: Widening inequality increasingly explains who gets a good education, and who doesn't  (Robert Reich).

Do as we say, not as we do ... Our inside-trading Congress tells Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) investigators to take a hike (Zero Hedge / Wall Street Journal).

Shaking down the elderly for student loan debt should not be allowed (Buzz Flash).

No censorship, but YOU don't have access? Government blocking certain journalists for access to information (Buzz Flash).

Poverty Capitalism: Outsourcing state duties to the private sector, and making the poor pay for it (NY Times).

Sugar plant removed safety device 13 days before temp workers death (Pro Publica).


OBAMACARE NEWS
How's that Obamacare thingy working out for the GOP? Not very good (The National Memo).

Dire predictions of endless waits for a doctor under Obamacare have proven unfounded (Center for Public Integrity).


MEANWHILE, IN CRAZY LAND
Did you know that contraception is a conspiracy designed to ruin the family? This and other crazy myths told by the religious right (Alter Net).

Watch these painfully ignorant Mississippians explain why they hate Obama and the government, but love 'murka (ATTP).

Florida county unanimously bans atheists from delivering invocations at public meetings (Alter Net).


OUR MILITARIZED POLICE
What happens when America's police become America's mental-health workers (New York Magazine).

Close to 200 police departments in the U.S. have been "suspended" for losing U.S. military-grade weaponry (RT).


MISCELLANEOUS
Top 10 Center for Public Integrity investigations that you may have missed (Center for Public Integrity).

Irreversible damage from climate change, according to leaked UN draft report (Bloomberg).

Fearing for the Second Amendment, anti-government militia groups growing in the U.S. (Center for Public Integrity).

Christian Evangelicals and American foreign policy (Council on Foreign Relations).

Host of Emmy winning Cosmos series Neil de Grasse Tyson discusses backlash from religious groups who don't agree with evolution, why he doesn't debate, and other interesting stuff (Alter Net).

- Mark

Thursday, August 28, 2014

AMERICAN WAGES, AMERICAN DEBT ... A 50 YEAR TREND THAT'S TIED TOGETHER, OR JUST COINCIDENCE?



Not coincidentally, during this period the amount of credit card debt and total household debt carried by middle class America soared ...


Credit Card Debt in America, 1965-2010: Source: St. Louis Federal Reserve.
____________________________________________________________________
Household Debt in America, 1960-2010. Source: Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

Question of the Day: Are these wage and debt dynamics tied together, or just coincidental?

I have a few thoughts on the topic here.

- Mark

FYI:  While GM has cut hourly pay significantly since the early 1960s, it's still better than Walmart's. Check it out here. Also, Robert Reich has some different numbers for GM and Walmart here. Whatever numbers you want to cite, the larger point remains: There's a race to the bottom going on in America, and the middle class is losing out, big time. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

JUSTICE GINSBURG'S COMMON SENSE LOGIC IN SUPPORT OF THE VOTING RIGHT ACT


As a reminder, Justice Ginsburg's dissent here is all about the Supreme Court's reckless 5-4 decision in Shelby County v. Holder (2013), which held that the key components of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were no longer necessary. 

The majority's argument was based on the idea that we're effectively a post-racial society.

Writing in support of the majority opinion Justice Clarence Thomas argued that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act was effectively unconstitutional because blatant discrimination against certain voters is no longer evident. 

Justice Thomas and the majority didn't address the "hidden in plain site" efforts at voter suppression.

For more information click here.

- Mark

ROME ROTTED FROM WITHIN, AND SO IT IS WITH AMERICA ... HERE'S ONE REASON WHY

You'll get the reference to ancient Rome by the time you finish this post ...

So I'm reading a FB post that makes it clear that one of the biggest fiscal problems we have as a nation is how the tax burden has shifted in America. Specifically, corporate America now pays a smaller share of our tax revenue compared to what it once paid. Where corporate America once paid over 30 percent of our total tax bill today they only pay about 9 percent.


This fact is not new. In fact, I've posted on this many times, in many different ways, over the past 5 years.

But this is not the story I'm telling here.

What concerns me is how a simple but important fact like corporate tax avoidance can get buried under a pile of ignorance by people who simply don't want to acknowledge reality. Check it out.

In order to avoid thinking about how corporations have reduced their tax bill one contributor in the FB thread noted above ignored tax avoidance and simply complained about "wasteful government spending." He then asked "why do we have to pay income taxes on our social security checks?"

I know. What does "waste" and "social security" have to do with corporate tax avoidance schemes?

The point is neither one of these issues - waste or social security - have anything to do with corporate tax avoidance. The goal of the poster - let's call him "Fred" - is simply to ignore what he doesn't understand, or doesn't want to acknowledge. So Fred changed the topic.

In an effort to help Fred, I decided to explain why we are now paying taxes on Social Security:

Fred, if you don't like the tax on Social Security benefits you can thank Ronald Reagan.  
In both 1938 and 1941 the Treasury Department ruled that Social Security benefits were to be excluded from federal income taxation. Reagan needed to pay for trickle down policies and the military build up so he went after Social Security benefits in 1983. 
Since 1984, a portion (it's a complex table) of Social Security benefits have been subject to federal income taxes. So, yeah, Reagan raised taxes, big time ... 

I then helped Fred out by pointing him to an earlier post of mine, where I explained Ronald Reagan's real history with raising taxes. You might think that this would have been the end of it. Not so fast.

Keep in mind that when dealing with people like Fred you not only have to do their research, and post the facts (which they will do what they can to ignore), you also need to deal with their friends. And many of them hear voices in their heads. This is where "Chip" enters the scene.

Fred's friend Chip came to his rescue (as it were) and decided to chime in with this:

  Under Clinton & Gore
Up to 85% of your Social Security can be Taxed 
Since many of us have paid into FICA for years and are
now receiving a Social Security check every month --
and then finding that we are getting taxed on 85% of
the money we paid to the Federal government to 'put
away' -- you may be interested in the following:

Here's where we learn that Chip is listening to the voices in his head.

First, as you probably noticed, Chip conflates a very conditional "up to 85% of your Social Security can be Taxed" (true) with a very definitive "we are getting taxed on 85% of the money we paid to the Federal government to 'put away' " (not true). In a few words, Chip doesn't understand numbers, or doesn't understand what he reads (or both).

But wait, it gets better.

Chip decided that it would be a good idea to forgo a simple search of the topic, and decided to pilfer and post a thoroughly debunked rant on Social Security "facts," and the Democrats role in making these facts come to life. It's the type of stuff that's discussed on conservative talk radio, and then passed around like Steinbeck's hooch in Cannery Row.


What Chip didn't know is that what he posted is such an entrenched Urban Legend that Snopes appears to have stopped updating Chip's pilfered post back in 2009. Here, check it out.

Making all of this even more surreal is that when Chip posted this stuff on FB he actually had to edit what he posted (how do you edit plagiarized and debunked material, and then pretend to take yourself seriously?).

I told Chip that what he posted was devoid of context and, quite frankly, embarrassing. I let him know that I would have fun with his debunked information on my blog. His response? It was the functional equivalent of "I know you are but what am I?"

At the end of the day, people like Chip have no problem misleading themselves, think it's OK to mislead others, and make it all worse by believing they have nothing more to learn in this world except for what Fox News tells them is real.

After this exchange, I was only thinking one thing: Rome rotted from within, and so it is with America.

Sigh ...

- Mark 

Monday, August 25, 2014

ANDY CARD IS SIMPLY CLUELESS



Oh, why can't these guys do the math ...

OK, let's start with this. The $3.5 trillion budget surplus projections cited here are a bit off. When President Bush was awarded the White House by the Supreme Court in 2008, the CBO was projecting $5.6 trillion in surpluses through 2010-11 (our national debt was $5.8 trillion at the time).

This CBO surplus projections were actually rounded down to $3.5 trillion years later.

Still, any way you cut it, President Bush's budget mess goes far beyond the $5 trillion that was added to the national debt under his watch. He also blew through our projected $3.5 trillion surplus money.

If we add all of this up ($8.5 trillion) and throw in the interest due on this amount (a little over $100 billion per year) it's clear that President Bush's fiscal record should never have the word "discipline" mixed into the discussion.

- Mark

Sunday, August 24, 2014

CONSIDER THE SOURCE

If you don't recognize the guy on the left, and see the guy on the right, you might want to reconsider where you get your information ...


- Mark

DRIVING THROUGH THE SAN LORENZO VALLEY

During my teens I was lucky enough to grow up in Boulder Creek, California. Take away the stop lights in Ben Lomond and this is what my daily drive to high school and - especially during the summer - to the beach in Santa Cruz looked like ...


- Mark

UPDATE: A couple of things you'll see along the way ...

On Highway 9, in Felton, you'll want to stop here.  It was George's Log Cabin when I lived in the area.