Questions We Should be Asking

Why do we call Social Security and Medicare “entitlements”? That word makes it sound like some kind of a handout. It is not a handout. I started paying into Social Security when I was 15 and got my first job that did not involve yard work.

I started paying into Medicare when it first came into existence, decades ago. I am still paying into both. They are not any kind of a handout. They are something I paid for, often when I really could not afford it. Frankly, I resent a bunch of politicians who enjoy a very generous retirement and “Cadillac” medical care treating something that I earned as some discretionary “entitlement” that they can take away from “the lazy slug who is seeking to get it”. I think that any benefit received by any Member of Congress or any members of their staffs should be cut before they take away anything you and I worked for.

If low income taxes encourage employment and high taxes create unemployment, how come unemployment went up after taxes went down? In 1992, when Clinton took office, unemployment was 7.3 percent. Over the next 8 years, it declined, in spite of higher taxes, to just under 4 percent. In 2003, we got the Bush Tax Cuts. Over the next 5 years, unemployment increased to over 9 percent, and has continued to go up, feeding on the Bush tax policy, which the Republicans in Congress have refused to alter. From this, one can draw one of two conclusions: Either higher taxes increase employment rates; or employment rates are largely unaffected by tax rates (at least in the rate differences we are talking about) and are the result of other economic factors. In either event, refusing to increase taxes so we can pay our bills because of the claim that it would increase unemployment is pure bullroar.

Why would an increase in income tax rates cause an employer to decide not to hire someone when the employer knows that the wages and benefits paid to the new employee are tax deductible by the employer? All an increase in tax rates does is reduce the part of an employee’s wages that comes from the employer’s after tax income. To make the math easier, let’s take the case of an employee who costs the employer $100 a day, including benefits, unemployment insurance and so forth. If the employer is in a 25 percent tax bracket, the deduction of $100 for the employee’s wages and benefits saves him $25 in taxes. The other $75  is paid with taxable income. If the employer is in a 50% tax bracket, the deduction saves him $50 in taxes. The employee only costs him $50 in taxable income. Either way, the employer has to pay $100.00. The only issue is how that is divided between the employer and the government. The bottom line is the higher your tax rates, the less an employee costs you.

Why do we have farm subsidies for agribusiness? Sure, there are still family farms which struggle, especially in bad years. But why do we subsidize the huge rice farmers down the valley? Or the corporations which have taken over huge tracts of what used to be family farms and make millions and millions every year? Even worse are subsidies given to oil companies. They take billions out of our economy, but want the government to give them even more. This really is an outrage. Why do we put up with these kinds of “hog at the trough” attitudes?

The unfortunate fact is that we have tolerated this kind of corporate welfare for so long, they think it is their birthright. The people on food stamps are not the problem. The problem comes from people who grab millions and feel no shame as they give themselves huge bonuses with money they got from the janitor. They have their bought and paid for politicians to back them up. We need to wrap the Capitol in Washington with a huge banner that says “For Sale”. By the way, a good banner for the Occupy folks (and maybe the Tea Party people who are just as fed up with the system) would be a picture of the Capitol and the legend, “Not For Sale Anymore”.

Why do some people think that using pepper spray on people sitting peacefully at the U.C. Davis campus was OK? As one person said, “They were told to move and did not do it, so they had it coming.” Why don’t we respect the right of peaceful assembly as guaranteed in the Bill of Rights? Why should anyone have the right to tell peaceful protesters to go anywhere? If it were not for civil disobedience, we would still be a segregated society. Pepper spray is something given to police officers to use as a weapon when someone is posing a danger to the officer or others, not something to use as a means of summary punishment because the officer is on some kind of a power trip. The officer did not have the right to spray peaceful protesters or beat them or shoot them. Why don’t people understand that letting the police get away with that kind of behavior simply sets up a system where police can hand out summary punishment for anything they see they don’t like. Why give a speeder a ticket, when you can just drag him out of his car and work him over with a club or flashlight. He was breaking the law, wasn’t he? The officers who sprayed people sitting peacefully on the ground were acting like thugs and should be treated like thugs. (Oh, by the way, the officers tried to claim that the protesters were obstructing the passage way. Did you notice the cops who were spraying were on both sides of the protesters?)

Is anyone surprised that in places like Egypt where the military helped oust a dictator, the military seizes power and tries to hang onto it? It happens all of the time. People get fed up with one despot, rise up, throw that despot out and wind up with another one. Remember a guy named Batista? He was the dictator in Cuba who was thrown out be a rebellion led by Fidel Castro. I can only think of one military person who led successful rebellion, wound up as the head of state and voluntarily stepped down, surrendering power to the civilians. His name was George Washington. Can anyone think of another example?

Why did we ever put up with Congress passing a Medicare Prescription Drug bill that prohibits Medicare from seeking, or even accepting any kind of a volume discount from the drug companies? That is the kiind of insanity that only happens when the fix is in, I mean really in. Medicare is the single buyer for 30 million Americans. The thing that is really ugly about this is that the Big Pharm (which created this deal) and the paid for politicians who rammed it through Congress are not even embarassed by this kind of wretched excess. They clearly believe it is their right to not have to acknowledge that Medicare is the biggest customer they have by providing a volume discount. I am reminded of a line out of a poem entitled The Four Prominent Bastards by Ogden Nash. One of Prominent Bastards was a U.S. Senator who recalled some advice he got: “My daddy always told me that raping was a crime. Unless you raped the voters, a million at a time.” There are a lot of people in Washington who should have that tatooed on their foreheads.

What is the stink about what they call Obama Care? If Congress does not like that, they could pass legislation that would give all of us the gold plated health care program those worthies have. If it is good enough for them, why not good enough for us? Many of them have never had a real job in their lives. If Wally Herger ever had to punch a timeclock or make a payroll, I can’t find any reference to it. In fact, I think Congress should pass a healthcare bill that applies to everyone, including them. They won’t, of course, because they are special people who deserve special favors. Frankly, Congress looks to me more and more like the Court of Louis XIV of France and less like the Continental Congress with every passing day. You have to wonder what Thomas Jefferson or George Washington or Ben Franklin would think of this group of self-centered martinets who have Congress in a death grip.

We need to ask, “Why are we putting up with this?” I have a friend who has a T-shirt that reads “America, It seemed like a good idea at the time.” That T-shirt pisses me off. America still is the best idea that anyone has ever come up with for a country or a society. But we are letting the Prominent Bastards (to steal from Ogden Nash) run off with it. They are raping us a million at a time. The national debt is about 15 trillion dollars. Current annual income for the United States Treasury is about 2.3 trillion dollars. Even at the present low interest rates, we are not going to pay that debt down without a significant increase in revenues for the government. Anybody who tells you different should also be arrested for giving you illegal substances to get you to believe that pipe dream.

So my final question is simply this: How long are we going to put up with this batch of snake oil salesmen and crooks before we simply throw the bastards out and start over?

Surely Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is not the only real statesman left in Congress.

Dugan Barr has practiced law in Redding since 1967. He has tried more than 200 civil jury cases to verdict. He is married and has five children. The offices of Barr and Mudford, LLP, are at 1824 Court St. in Redding and can be reached at 243-8008.

A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.com.

Dugan Barr
Dugan Barr has practiced law in Redding since 1967, primarily in the areas of personal injury and wrongful death. He has tried more than 200 civil jury cases to verdict. He is married and has five children. He can be reached at Barr & Mudford, 1824 Court St., Redding, 243-8008, or dugan@ca-lawyer.com.
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32 Responses

  1. Lincoln says:

    C'mon, Dugan — how else are we gonna incentivize the "job-creator" that just fired me?

  2. Christian Gardinier says:

    Dugan,

    Good stuff. My perception is that as America moves into another Gilded Age Plutarchy – Oligarchy ruled Corporatocracy (a dangerous step towards fascism) so that the upper class (the 10% who have amassed 85 to 90% of America’s wealth) can pay politicians (“the best congress money can buy.” … Rockefeller) to export our jobs to slave labor, engage in Gilded Age economics, strip the middle class into the working poor and generally tilt most of the American political-economic-education-and cultural systems to their advantage, they well need the new bread of Bank Dicks, the police and military, to carry out their (hey is not personal, it’s just business…) edicts

    The real question is when will American turn off their televisions, read a book, study history, educate themselves and demand that the oligarchy STOP turning AMERICA into a just another THIRD WORLD country of the great WALMART? Wake up America! It’s not too late!

  3. rmv says:

    CAN'T AGREE WITH ALL OF IT, but, GOOD ARTICLE, DUGAN! 🙂

    Can agree, THROW THEM ALL OUT, OBUMMER INCLUDED? 🙂

    Have you thought about running? (remember they check your past?) 🙂

    GOD BLESS AMERICA (and her children!) 🙂

  4. EasternShastaCounty says:

    One other head shaker that you didn't mention: why do we allow Congress to subsidize tobacco growers when tobacco kills people — not just the user but also those subjected to their smoke?

    • LovestoEat says:

      FINALLY! Thank you, I have wondered this for decades. Would Congress subsidize all sellers of trans-fats, arsenic, BPA, etc? No, of course not, so get the hell away from tobacco.

  5. Randall R. Smith says:

    Dugan,

    Eric Hoffer would enjoy knowing that extremes like the two of us see things so nearly exactly as you have written. The "No" Party is so far from Lincoln, T. R. and Ike. The other party had big majorities in Congress which were squandered for two years recently. May be super majorities given next year can get us paying what we owe. But I am doubtful. The Founding Fathers thought things would be different from the current mess because they believed people would continue to pay attention.

  6. MrMike says:

    Write on Dugan!

    Here's hoping that these points will soon be debated on a national level.

    Mike

  7. Biff says:

    Only when we reform campaign finance laws and make all laws applicable to all citizens equally, then maybe we will get representatives working for the middle class, not the lobbyists.

  8. Susan says:

    Dugan,

    Brilliantly said. You covered everything and I couldn't agree more. This is what the OWS is all about. People are fed up and this isn't going to go away. It would be great to see more people hanging out at Occupy Redding. If you have 15 minutes today, stop by and show your support,

    everybody.

    • LovestoEat says:

      IMHO: OWS are not well organized. They appear to be slovenly, lazy, losers that want to whine and cry and continue to be unorganized. My lazy assed son-in-law thinks they are the best thing since sliced bread but why wouldn't he since my daughter supports his lazy ass. I work hard for my benefits and future retirement and feel I have earned every cent. Please, tell me, what is wrong with this attitude for money put aside for my future?

  9. Thank you! It's media sources like this one that really tell it like it is.

  10. KarenC says:

    Well, I already occupy Redding. How is going downtown and hanging out with a group of complaining folks going to help anything? It is a fact that so many of the folks doing the occupy are homeless. I am speaking about the larger cities like LA.

    Actually I am proud of Redding citizens for not falling into the mentality of squatting at City Hall in tents. We are much smarter than that, thank God! The squatters are causing nothing but problems for law enforcement and public safety. How sad that just this morning, officers had to wear Haz Mat suits to enter the area the squatters were forced out of in Los Angeles. This costs a lot of money folks, not to mention the damage done to surrounding businesses. I would not want to deface my City in any way.

    • Dugan Barr Dugan Barr says:

      Interesting that you think the officers "had" to wear hazmat suits in LA. Did you consider that the brass told them to wear them, not as a safety issue, but as a P R stunt?

  11. Charlie says:

    Well said, Dugan. Thank you for so succinctly articulating these issues. They are far beyond party politics. The system has been bought and we citizens are paying for the astoundingly wealthy to take more and more advantage of us. I, too, pray we will wake up. Our local newspaper daily tells us how outrageous the financial institutions and large corporations business practices have become. Are we so numb we cannot believe our own eyes and ears? I wonder, and the inescapable conclusion? Seems like many of us have opted for the ostrich approach. The majority of our politicians have been bought and co-opted hook, line, and conscience, with more money that 99% of us will ever own. Sad and absurd. All our work and our health needs are important and deserving of supportive representation.

  12. Pamela says:

    I too want to thank you Dugan for your informative and specific piece. I too can't understand why we want to blame the least powerful, the most vulnerable in our society. Many politicians and the uninformed look down at the poorest people in our country and blame them. This is so curious. When indeed we should be looking UP, looking up at the 1% who don't pay taxes or very little in taxes, in other words those who don't pay their fair share–and we should be holding this greedheads accountable. These greedheads want to rape natural resources for their bottom line. These greedheads don't care if their workers lose their houses, their jobs or their health. In fact these greedheads just move their corporations somewhere else to continue their exploitation. And it would appear that the police are working for the 1% and not the people. Their job is to protect and serve the people not support the policies of the top 1%.

    Thank you.

  13. pmarshall says:

    Yes, Dugan, I agree with most. We need a third party — one that will get us out of this rut we are in!

  14. EasternShastaCounty says:

    I realize it's heresy to admit, but I voted for Ross Perot. He was the first candidate to speak out for the need to pay down the national debt, and he also addressed health care costs. So here we are, some 20 years later, with a national debt in the trillions of dollars and a health care systems that only Congress can afford. We shouldn't be talking about health insurance but health care. It would also seem to me that a national sales tax rather than income tax would solve much of our debt crisis. Every purchase except food would be taxed — purchases by individuals and even purchases by corporations — their computers and office supplies and drill bits and raw materials to manufacture their goods. I really resent having to spend hours sorting through receipts to take to my CPA just to satisfy the IRS.

    • Dugan Barr says:

      The problem with sales tax is that's it is very regressive. Someone sat the bottom of the economic ladder will spend every dime he or she gets their hands on and will therefore pasy taxes on all of that. Granted, your exemption of food would be some kind of leveler. However, any money not spent -do you know a miser?- would not be taxed.

      • George Parker says:

        Dugan, what do you think of the Fair Tax plan?

        http://www.fairtax.org/site/PageServer?pagename=a

        • Dugan Barr Dugan Barr says:

          The devil is in the details. The plan puts a 23% tax on CONSUMER purchases. If someone gets a bonus for running a company into the ground before hitting the golden parachute, and uses the money to buy a villa on the French Reviera, he pays no taxes. If a company buys an airplane for use in the business, is that a CONSUMER purchase? What's about the purchase of a computer that will be largely (but not entirely) for business? Is that a CONSUMER purchase? Is buying a home a CONSUMER purchase? It talks about a tax on goods and SERVICES does that means you pay 23% on what you pay the kid who mows your yard?

  15. Budd Hodges says:

    I agree with everything you say Duggan. As a proud user of Social Security, Medicare and medical with extra help that I paid into starting in 1959 as a clerk at Millers Market, I deserve every penny I get. I've urged congress several times to keep their grubby hands off these benifits and leave them as is

    I've also have written our antique Congressman Wallace Herger to support The Patient Protection and Afordable Care act of 2010 which insures high-quality, affordable health care and is no longer the privilege of a few, but the right of all. It seems our right wing Republicans and Tea Heads want to destroy that new program. I told Mr. Herger if that didn't work we need his health care plan that the elite are entitled to.

    Have you noticed, as I have, how quiet Herger gets until election time comes around? My vote, as usual is going Democratic and this time for Jim Reed.

    Yes, we did and yes we can again!

  16. Doug Bennett says:

    Well said Dugan! What is apparent after reading the comments here is that people have bought into the Fawning Corporate Media as a source of reliable information. It is not. Just about everything you say here most in the Occupy movement would agree with completely. The difference between the Occupiers and most of the population is the Occupiers understand that the window for reversal and reform of the system is almost closed. After the end of the next electoral cycle and the next economic crash, most of us will wonder why we have not stood with them in their protests. They are asking for social and economic justice; is this not a noble pursuit? For the first time in our history, young people cannot see the promise of a successful future (no matter how hard they work). THEY ARE RIGHT! I suggest "Loves to Eat" push back from the dining room table and get active like her son-in-law. The insanity that has become our society is due in large part to the apathy, ignorance and exceptionalism of Americans. We are not exceptional, if we were we would be responding to all the problems Dugan talks about. We would be in the streets everyday demanding real systemic change.

    P.S. Doni, thanks for publishing something meaningful.

  17. Dugan Barr says:

    Somehow an important number got left out of the third paragraph. Under Clinton, unemployment dropped to under 4%. That number was left out.

    • Dugan, I confess, your four was lost in editing. AP style says we spell out % … and I must have gotten carried away deleting the percentage symbol and just kept on going.

      (Readers, sorry for the confusion.)

  18. James Montgomery says:

    Nicely laid out and dead on, except for the statement "The bottom line is the higher your tax rates, the less an employee costs you." That puzzled me, until I understood that the cost to the employer is exactly the same, no matter the tax rate, under your analysis. Sort of irrelevant anyway, since the multinational corporations generally pay lower tax rates than most citizens. Last year General Electric paid no income taxes at all!

    The original rationale for the reduction of taxes on the rich was tied to the Laffer Curve, which shows (probably correctly) that there is an optimum tax rate, above or below which total taxes collected are reduced. Somehow the Republican machine spuriously shifted that into the "lower taxes on the rich reduces unemployment" argument, ignoring the fact that the rate is now almost certainly lower than the optimum rate on the Laffer Curve. Other factors (like collusion and corruption) probably make the Laffer Curve analysis only a factor in the equation, anyway.

    Subsidizing giant corporations is, indeed, shameful, whether agribusiness or pharmaceutical. One point I concede to the conservatives is that we should not be sending millions in foreign aid to China, either.

    One major factor you left out of your otherwise beautifully comprehensive analysis is the incredible cost of two long-term wars. The choice between guns or butter is still relevant. Let us remember that patriotism is "love of country", not "love of war."

    Thank you, Dugan.

    • Dugan Barr Dugan Barr says:

      Thank you for your addition to the discussion. One of the things I love about these issues. It is a big part of why this is so crucial. I agree that at some point, taxes will stifle expansion. But not at anything like the rates we are talking about. Those who say going back to the rates we had under Clintin will cause unemployment are liars

      • James Montgomery says:

        Yes, mostly liars, though some may be merely deluded. The conservative talk radio machine is powerful. It should be required listening for all progressives, to understand what we are up against. The emotional content may be more important than the ideas. Some of the ideas will, indeed, bear rational discussion, but the underlying tone of most of them is filled with hatred and fear. As ye sow, so shall ye reap.

        Thanx again for writing this.

  19. KarenC says:

    Dugan, PR stunt, really? Maybe. I did hear later that the site was filthy, used needles, fleas, condoms, unmentionable stuff. Would you walk into the area that had been occupied for two months and used as a public bathroom without protection? I doubt it. You are smarter than that.

    • Dugan Barr Dugan Barr says:

      Ever clean a public restroom? You will find the same stuff there. Also soiled diapers sanitary napkins etc. It is amazing that a fair number of people can't manage to get such things into available trash cans. The people who clean public restrooms use rubber gloves, not has-mat suits. I still think the has-mat stuff was likely a PR stunt by people in authority who resent protesters hugely because they challenge authority.

  20. Terry says:

    It is wonderful to read your great insights and the responses. Gives me hope for the future – someone Is paying attention!

    The other issue that bothers me right now is the repeated nonsense that "small businesses are the foundation of our economy." Perhaps in someone else's experience?

    What I've observed was in Long Beach when McDonnell Douglas "downsized" back in the early 1990s. The main plant had around 80,000 employees, and over a few years, laid off all but about 12,500. (The corporation was later bought by Boeing.)

    When employees were laid off, they were scrambling for jobs. Only a few of the 80,000 or so who lost jobs found an equivalent job. Many took minimum wage jobs (Does this remind you of what's happening today? Me, too!) So those families had no money to spend except on the most essential things. House prices plunged, etc.

    I saw restaurants to retails stores, that had been dependent on the business of the employees of McDonnell Douglas, go out of business, one after another, just like dominoes falling.

    This is happening in city after city today as the manufacturing plants close, as the state or local government employees are "downsized", as jobs that pay a "middle class wage" disappear overseas, as people living on minimum wage can't afford to buy a home – or sometimes even keep the one they have! Once again, dominoes falling.

    I'm not saying we have to have manufacturing jobs here, but we do need to create jobs here that pay a middle class wage!

  21. Ginny says:

    Not sure I would call Senator Bernie Sanders a patriot as he is a Socialist, which does not computer with a Capitalist Country. I don't feel we need to be the Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Ireland, Iceland, which we are just at the door step ready to knock, now.

    The party in charge of Congress for four straight years was the Democrats. They were in charge the last two years of Bush Admin. And, then, the first two years of Obama Admin. When the former Speaker of the House, Pelosi said the ObamaCare had to be passed to know what is in the Bill, then, that is pretty darn stupid. Now, the Senator in charge is Harry Reid. He won't bring up a Bill he doesn't want, including Obama's Jobs Bill because in the Democratic Senate, it wouldn't pass.

    Does things need to be fixed with the Government: yes. Becoming more Socialist; no. Becoming more self motivated and self responsible as individuals, yes. Paying on our debt? No, we only pay the interest. Nutty, yes. Will it change? I doubt it. Sad, absolutely.

    There is only one problem. All great Nations have fallen in less time than the USA. As the Founding Fathers said about the type of government we were going to have they said that the USA was going to be a Republic, if we could keep it. Well, we are most assuredly losing it.

  22. Wee the People. It is so sad when I see people feel there is no way they can promote change. We already have the system in place. It takes work,in place of watching "Survivor" on TV you must become one,take action. I write to as many Senators and Congressmen as I can muster, there is a great Senator from Michigan who routinely e-mails me about what he is accomplishing in Washington. You may have viewed him on T.V calling the "Big Banks", Damn Liars",his name is Carl Levin. In the case of Congressman "Wally" I do take issue. Wally sends his "comfy" newsletters of assurance and hides from his constituency and those droning phone messages delivered after the meetings have taken place,are attended only a select few considered "insiders" . Like many politicians who know "Where their bread is buttered" Wally Herger plays to his audience, the mega Agra-business of three counties. Agricultural endeavors are the backbone of our local economy, buy so is bringing new clean industry for more varied employment possibilities. Social issues , the grinding poverty that exists but is not acknowledged. ,elderly seniors and working families who just cannot "make the month" anymore". I know,I am 74 and my SS was just increased to 676.00 a month,Booyah!

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