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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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