Thursday, January 29, 2015

THE IMPACT OF FALLING OIL PRICES ON BAKERSFIELD

California is America's third largest oil producer, behind Texas and North Dakota. The majority of California's oil production comes from Kern county, which is starting to feel the pinch of falling oil prices around the world. Read about it in the Los Angeles Times' "Oil Bust Chokes Off Bakersfield's Boom" ...


- Mark 

10 BASIC ESTATE TAX FACTS YOU SHOULD KNOW ...

Since 2008 wealth gaps in America have increased, as this Mr. Burns clip suggests. Should the 
Estate Tax should be increased, as President Obama has proposed? The following should help you decide.

Did you know that, according to the IRS, unless you inherit an estate worth more than $5.43 million you won't pay a dime in taxes because of the estate tax

From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities we get the "Ten Facts You Should Know About the Federal Estate Tax" ...

1. Fewer than 2 of every 1,000 estates (0.15%) face the estate tax (see chart below). 
2. Taxable estates typically pay less than 1/6 of their value in taxes. 
3. Large loopholes allow many estates to avoid taxes. 
4. Only a handful of small, family-owned farms and businesses owe any estate tax (only 20 small businesses and farm estates nationwide owed any estate tax in 2013). 
5. The largest estates consist mostly of "unrealized" capital gains that have never been taxed. 
6. The estate tax is a significant revenue source. 
7. Repealing the estate tax (again) would likely leave less capital for investment. 
8. Compliance costs are moderate. 
9. The U.S. taxes estates more lightly than most comparable countries. 
10. The estate tax is the most progressive part of the tax code.

You can read the details behind the 10 estate tax facts listed above here.

Chart for #1 above. The number of estates that actually pay the Estate Tax is ridiculously low.

- Mark 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

BE AFRAID AMERICA ... IT'S YOUR DUTY TO BE AFRAID

The war on terror is not an actual war. We discuss this in my International Relations course every year ...


Unfortunately, most Americans don't have a clue what the difference is between a real enemy (Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, etc.) and an abstract concept. Peddling the idea that you're somehow on the front lines of the a war on terror, and should be in constant fear, is Madison Avenue gold for the military-industrial complex. If you're already afraid of non-English speaking dark people, who don't worship as you do, the "war on terror" almost sells itself in America. 

But should Americans buy into the idea that they will one day be caught up in a terrorist attack?  Absolutely not.

According to the Center for Disease Control you are 110 times more likely to die from contaminated food than you are from a terrorist attack. You're also more likely to be hit by lightening or win the lottery than die at the hands of a terrorist. You're  4,706 times more likely to drink yourself to death before you die in a terror attack. 

Heck, you just might be killed by a toddler before you are killed by a terrorist (click here for more). 

In spite of these realities we continue to build a national security state because, well ... it's our national duty to be afraid. We're told to be afraid of everything from Sharia law (Kansas is particularly paranoid) to the ever dangerous terror babies.



If you're interested in some real facts, especially how all of this has impacted our lives, check out what the Washington Post revealed in "Top Secret America" ...
* Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counter terrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the U.S.
* Nearly 1 and 1/2 times the number of people who live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances.
* In the D.C. metropolitan area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since 9/11. They occupy the equivalent of three Pentagons.
* Many security and intelligence agencies do the exact same work, creating redundancy and waste.
* 50,000 intelligence reports are issued each year (about 1,000 a week), which even senior officials admit cannot possibly be digested.
This national security apparatus, with all of the secrecy and paranoia it perpetuates, grows every day. It's what is now dragging us into endless wars that we can't win. As James Fallows pointed out in The Atlantic this past December, this is one of the great tragedies of the American military today.



But, by all means, be afraid America. 

It's your duty to be afraid.

- Mark 

OBAMACARE FACTS

More Obamacare facts you're likely to never hear about ...


- Mark 

TRUE


- Mark

Monday, January 26, 2015

HIGH-SPEED RAIL MATTERS


Still, there's hope. For information on recent developments with high speed rail in California click here.

- Mark 

Friday, January 23, 2015

THE TERRORISTS WON? THINK ABOUT IT ...


- Mark 

WEEKEND READING 1-23-15


Come to Jesus, or I'll beat him into you ... Pastor admits to knocking out kid who didn't believe in God (Uniladmag).

Five-year-old misses friend's birthday party and gets invoice for £15.95 (The Guardian).

Drone carrying meth crashes in Mexican supermarket parking lot (Christian Science Monitor).

30-year-old son, and a Princeton graduate, kills his hedge fund manager dad after being told that his allowance was going to be cut (NY Post).


SOMETHING SERIOUSLY WRONG HERE
Banking on death: Banks profiting off of current and former employee deaths helps explain why a slain MassMutual executive's murder should raise eyebrows (Wall Street on Parade).

The U.S. Corporate State has become the monarch our Founding Fathers despised (Nation of Change).

The perfect financial storm: Why we're headed for a future global economic crisis (Salon).

Derivatives: The unregulated global casino for banks (Demonocracy).

Oxfam study finds that richest 1% likely to control half of global wealth by 2016 (NY Times).


WHY WE HAVE INEQUALITY
Why wages won't rise (Robert Reich / Nation of Change).

Idea for tackling inequality Number 27,653: Stop subsidizing it (Truth Out / Dean Baker).

How America's wealthy stole the American Dream and cashed it at an offshore bank (Alternet).

Ivy League's meritocracy lie: How Harvard and Yale cook the books for the 1 percent (Salon).


OIL SLICKS
Each year billions of dollars don't make it to the U.S. Treasury because it stays in the pockets of the oil and gas industry in the form of subsidies and tax breaks. Cool interactive shows what it really costs (Big Oil Giveaways).

Keystone XL could face lawsuit from Nebraska ranchers (Nation of Change).


POST-STATE OF THE UNION CHATTER
State of the GOP is broken: I thought Joni Ernest was bad. Then I watched Ted Cruz (Salon).

Senator Joni Ernst's family received almost half a million dollars in federal subsidies (Salon).


JUST SILLY STUFF
Can a man resist a beautiful woman? Yes, they can (Elephant Journal).

23 solutions to the most mind numbing and self-absorbed First World life challenges (Stumbleupon).

Laziness on another level (Stumbleupon).


OUR IGNORANCE CUP RUNNETH OVER
You will be shocked at how ignorant Americans are: What Americans don't understand is an obstacle to progress (Salon).

Fox News host claims President Obama will alter First Amendment to align with Sharia law (Crooks & Liars @ 4:10).

Paul Krugman on the real reason reality doesn't make the slightest dent in the right-wing brain (Alternet).


MISCELLANEOUS
20 Years Later: NAFTA has delivered on practically none of its promises (Foreign Affairs / Jorge Castaneda).

The U.S. House, not so representative (Washington Post).

Guess who poses the biggest threat to legalizing pot in California? Hint: It ain't the man (Mother Jones).

President Obama breaks with historic Cuban policy; implements dramatic changes (COHA).

- Mark 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

30 YEARS AGO TODAY ...1984

Thirty years ago today (January 22, 1984) this ad made its national debut during the Super Bowl ...


- Mark