Wednesday, December 20, 2017

This Tax Bill is Open Class Warfare

I don't get the itch to write publicly too often anymore, so this blog is not terribly well maintained, and I haven't updated in a bit. Remember this last one I posted? Well, I haven't gotten any less angry. I've been busy, filling my time with activism, knocking on doors and phone banking and trying to be useful to organizers. Been a hell of a year, hasn't it? Yeah, so this tax bill thing just passed, and I've been having a hard time with it, personally.

Who wins and who loses?

Non-partisan analysts say the greatest beneficiaries of the package will be the super-wealthy, multinational corporations and the commercial property industry. In the immediate future, the plan will see the vast majority of taxpayers having lower tax bills, but those cuts expire in 2025.
By 2027, the Tax Policy Center estimates the overall change would be negligible. And 53% of taxpayers would face higher bills, many of them in the lower income brackets.
It's gonna add $1.5 TRILLION to the national debt. It's gonna screw up a lot of people's ability to get healthcare. It's gonna open up Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling, which I was knocking on doors to keep from happening in the year 2001. It drops the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% and adds a ton of extra juicy loopholes they can exploit. It takes a HUGE step toward widening the already huge gap between the super wealthy and the rest of us by DOUBLING the amount shielded by the estate tax. I'm pretty sure we're not supposed to have a hereditary aristocratic class in this society, but the Republicans want us to have one apparently.

Worse than that, the $1.5 trillion isn't even the whole story. The tax bill:

... gets referred to as only a $1.5 trillion cut because it raises $4.5 trillion in taxes elsewhere. But the key question is: Who gets a tax hike and who gets a tax cut? Put simply, the bulk of the tax cut is going toward the rich, while the tax increases go to everybody else. And so the bill, properly described, is two things: the largest tax cut — and also the biggest tax increase — in American history.

Details are here, if you wanna test what reading it does to your blood pressure. But here's where it gets really mean: This tax bill is a setup for huge government cuts in how we take care of the downtrodden and disabled.

The Republicans have already admitted that's their plan, and we know how they plan to do it. Under the 2010 Pay-As-You-Go Act, they can automatically just cut spending on stuff if there isn't funding. Well we know there won't be funding because they just cut taxes! Do you see any way in which the dollar amount needed in government support for the needy is gonna go down with the rich getting richer and the rest of us getting less?

The economy is not the stock market and the stock market is not the economy. If GDP goes up because the megacorporations are able to ship more decent jobs overseas and pocket their savings on these huge cuts to their taxes, and all the employment growth here is for service jobs (as has been the trend for a while now), we're not getting anywhere good. All they're leaving is retail jobs selling things the workers can't afford to buy, server jobs in restaurants they can't afford to eat in. What happened to minimum wage meaning nobody had to rely on government to provide for them? That was actually the original idea, and we've let it rot as real earnings stagnated while all the wealth in the country trickled to the top from the 70's onward. From Forbes:
From 1948 until the early 1970s, wages rose in tandem with productivity. However, since 1973, productivity has grown 72% while wages are up a measly 9%. What’s behind the stalled wage growth? There has been an ever-wider gap in income inequality. The top 5% of earners saw their wages swell by 60% since 1973. The top 1% reaped a 138% increase. Today, Fortune 400 CEO’s earn 296-times the average American wage—up from 24-times in 1973.

It's been a class war for a long time, now. Nowadays we make government work by hiking the cost of tuition at public colleges rather than raise taxes (more money for the money changers that way!). Nowadays we all pay more in taxes for the poor to eat because society has to cover the difference between minimum wage and what it takes for an earner to eat or pay for their family to eat, because minimum wage is a joke and paying people enough to survive isn't as profitable. But since Republicans are blowing up the deficit, we are gonna have to cut services because they say so.

I'mma let you in on something you may not know. My family has survived some hard days. At one point I'd been laid off and was getting unemployment insurance, and we were using food stamps (SNAP) and WIC, and we liquidated my 401K to pay for the full allowable term of COBRA so my son could get his medically abso-fucking-loutely-necessary surgeries. Barely managed to not lose the house. We were lucky. The $25 BILLION in cuts this tax bill will likely mean for Medicaid is gonna hurt people and end lives, and again, that's just a teensy part of the $1.5 TRILLION they're gonna carve out of necessary support for the most vulnerable among us.  

But you know no discussion of the future would be complete on this blog without mention of climate change. The world is literally going up in flames where it isn't drowning. The flames and water are gonna get worse for decades before they get better even IF we were responsibly treating it as the massive national threat that it is. We've already got infrastructure problems like Flint's water and bridges falling apart and old tech failing on rail lines that serve private profit over public transit, now Puerto Rico needs a new (and more durable) power grid. Can you imagine how much worse it'll get with a few more years of fires and floods like we've had in 2017?

We are looking at a future of Great Depression-era-level food shortages and economic disruptions around the world, with underfunded programs to provide for the needs of the masses. Dustbowl ain't got nothin' on Global Warming. Meanwhile, our leadership is bullying the world and isolating the hell out of us, undermining every possible government agency from the EPA to the FDA, and "cashing out." 

It's time to raise taxes on corporations and the super rich. The Koch brothers and the Mercers funding the right wing politicians while pushing austerity on the rest of us need to pay their share.

I need everyone reading this not just to vote for a Democratic candidate or two and call it done, or just to throw their hands up and say both parties are the same, I need everyone reading this to fight. Get out on the street and knock on doors. Phone bank if the door knocking is uncomfortable. Write letters to the editor or send a letter to your congressional representatives. Contact your senators, your county commissioners, your state representatives, your city counselors.

We need shelters so the poor don't die in the street like we're living in a goddamn Dickens novel instead of 21st Century USA. We need infrastructure to bring water to Flint and power to Puerto Rico. We need our votes to count, and we need the Republicans who don't mind children dying of starvation and deprivation to fear the angered conscience of a nation of good people.

Please, if you need ideas for actions you can take, there are resources out there. Let me be one. Look at local groups and what they're working on and ask how you can help. Indivisible organized a ton of phone banking against this tax bill and has tons of ways for you to get involved locally, wherever you are. Nasty Women Get Sh*t Done PDX has a huge list of actions you can take. The Democratic Socialists are active nation wide. My County Democratic Party is fighting right now to get Measure 101 passed to maintain funding for Medicaid/OHP and protect 400,000 children in Oregon, and they're looking for volunteers. Hell, you can text message your way to progressive action by using ResistBot, and my local Dems even have something similar that'll send you a couple news/action items a week.

There's a lot of work to do, and only 321 days until the 2018 elections.

Round up your friends. I'll bring pizza. Let's get to work.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Objective reality as civil disobedience

Just so you know, as happens occasionally, there will be some vulgarity in this post. My kids are not allowed to say certain words even when they feel very strongly about something, but that's more about making sure they are able to communicate with their teachers respectfully at all times and can make themselves understood. But this is my personal blog, and I'm pretty sure I can make myself well enough understood, even on a rambling, not-quite-stream-of-consciousness rant that took weeks to finish like this one.

You've probably already heard a little about some of this. The bit about Trump demanding the names of individuals who worked on global warming, at the same time the GOP is shredding protections for civil servants, that was just a warm up. And the whole Alternative Facts nonsense claiming Trump's belief is better evidence than our own eyes. There were those awful hearings where one unqualified crony billionaire after another danced away from legitimate questions by one side and had their asses kissed by the other on their way to take the job leading agencies they've denigrated and fought for decades. But then that walking ego with a comb-over started spreading his stink over whole agencies.

He basically shut down the EPA for a hot minute there. He's censoring fact because it contradicts the narrative that makes him and his cabinet of billionaires more money. He's demanding that everything the EPA publishes be reviewed by his political hacks for conformance with his delusions and there's a hold on any new publications. He personally called the head of the National Parks Service to bitch about the photos tweeted by one National Parks account that showed his crowd size smaller than Obama's. Does that not strike you as a little bit crazy?

(Side note, Snoop is adorable on tonight's Roast Battle. Yes, I know the show is problematic AF, but it's a ridiculous guilty pleasure that hearkens to the also problematic humor of my adolescence, and I need my giggles these days. I'm watching Snoop get high and hit on a contestant's mother, and in my imagination he's mere hours from another taping of that show he shares with a convicted felon. Trevor Noah is up next.)

It looks like the gag order is illegal, which is good to know, but everyone who wants to keep their job is still forced to largely comply, because the only body of government with the power to rein him in absent a lawsuit is too busy passing their own agenda and covering his ass. Fortunately, he seems to have also inspired some delightful online guerilla activism, and that's what got me writing.

People are standing up. The Women's March was an amazing experience to share with my daughter. I was really pleased to see that the web address had been bought and made to redirect to a page on the abuser's tactic of gaslighting. I was even more pleased to see all the rogue agencies twitter accounts. Since it looks like objective reality is the enemy of Lord Dampnut (an anagram of his name!), asserting the evidence of our eyes, of verifiable reality, is now a form of protest.

I was relieved to see that people are working like crazy to archive data from the official NASA website so it doesn't get taken down because it confirms science on climate change. They're doing the same for the EPA data. I even found science activists working on how to train statisticians and scientists on the math, geometry, and geography of illegal gerrymandering so they can serve as expert witnesses in legal battles hoping to strike down oppressive and unfair redistricting.

But what really got me jazzed was the March for Science. I've done a lot of reading on it. There've been articles about how if you do a March for Science, you might make science a partisan issue instead of an apolitical one, articles noting that for a very long time scientists have preferred their own sandbox because if you just provide objective data it can't be politicized. But I'm pretty sold on the idea that it has been politicized, and that Trump is demonizing anything and everything that contradicts his agenda. I'm pretty convinced global warming is a global threat that will turn the world upside down in my lifetime by threatening the prosperity and health and safety and food security of literal billions of people. I'm pretty convinced that sitting back and waiting for reason to prevail doesn't work if you've got shitty messaging that doesn't present your case. If hundreds of scientists pull together to amass a ton of evidence nobody will read, and FOX news reports on it from the perspective of denialism and invites on maybe one proponent to discuss it who is facing a panel of skeptical pundits and whatever oil company shill with a science degree they've managed to dig up, we're fucked.

Our understanding of the measurable evidence from almost every branch of science you can name is fairly conclusive, and not hard to explain.

The basic understanding laid out in that chain of tweets (not sure the images will post correctly/legibly, but giving it a shot anyway) is something I've been able to wrap my head around since high school, but it isn't something you EVER see explained on the news or in the paper, and I'll be the first to admit I've done a poor job communicating it, myself. So I'm trying to recalibrate how I go about it.

You've got to keep it simple, and you've got to allow outrage into your voice, or nobody will hear you over the smug white smiles of people paid to look pretty and obfuscate. So here it is. I'm angry. I'm really goddamn angry that we, humanity collectively, are getting screwed over for generations for the financial benefit of Saudi princes and oil barons and Lord fucking Dampnut and his cabinet. Climate change and humanity's role in it is pretty much undeniable at this point, and we need to do something about it now. Fight me.

I've reached out to the organizers of the March for Science asking for how I can help, and I hope some of you do, too. Understand that this March for Science is not really about science. It isn't about funding for science grants or agencies, it isn't about little policy tweaks or the cost of college or peer reviewed journals. It isn't about the scientists. It's about the public. It's about living in a world where asserting anything about objective reality that we can all see with our own eyes is civil disobedience. The Emperor has no clothes, and Congress has literally banned research on gun violence. When everything in our lives from healthcare to safety from police abuses to privacy to the future of all our children is so threatened, we have to stand up.

Credit to the Artist

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Something to make you smile.

I'm about to start working on my thoughts about the rogue twitter accounts started by federal employees in various agencies, but that topic is tangential to a lot of really unhappy things going on right now. I'm in this tornado of sad and angry and flustered and confused, and the news is coming so fast it feels like anything I write will be outdated by the time I get it posted.

So I thought I'd offer a counterbalance to that beforehand. This video got me giggly, and I want more people smiling in this shitty political climate. Watch all the way through, and I promise you'll be smiling.

I'll write more soon, I promise.