Catholic on Catholic civil war brewing

“A house doesn’t have to fall on my head to tell me a battle royal is brewing within the Catholic Church over the conservative hierarchy’s heavy-handed efforts to clamp down on dissenting Catholic voices. Not when a prominent American nun comes “this close” to calling the present Church leadership a bunch of brown-frocked fascists. Or when a parish priest I know gives the sister a thumbs up and pastes her angry, anguished outcry to his Facebook page.

And now, according to the Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne, a group of progressive-leaning bishops who’ve so far held their tongues are starting to speak out against their reactionary colleagues who seem determined to yank the Church far to the right and make Catholicism little more than an auxiliary of the Republican Party in its campaign against President Obama.”

Catholic on Catholic civil war brewing

Wall Street Journal: The myth of Obama's spending binge

WSJ’s Market Watch reports:

Obama spending binge never happened

Commentary: Government outlays rising at slowest pace since 1950s

 WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — Of all the falsehoods told about President Barack Obama, the biggest whopper is the one about his reckless spending spree.

As would-be president Mitt Romney tells it: “I will lead us out of this debt and spending inferno.”

Obama had lowest growth in federal spending

Obama had lowest growth in federal spending

Medicare for None?

(Note: Martha Koester contributed much of the content of this posting.)

Lots of progressives want single-payer healthcare: Medicare for All. But if the Democrats don’t shape up and if Republicans get their way, we may soon have Medicare for None.

  • March 2011: House Republicans vote to replace Medicare with coupons that give you a discount on the same kind of inadequate insurance that seniors could not afford before Medicare was enacted.
  • September 2011: Paul Ryan walks the coupon proposal back to a “voluntary” program, which would destroy Medicare more slowly by segregating the sickest seniors in traditional Medicare. This
    proposal is then endorsed by all Republican presidential candidates.
  • March 2012: Republican Senator Jim DeMint and other congressional Republicans propose eliminating Medicare entirely in 2014. If seniors can’t afford private insurance after partial government subsidy, they can apply for Medicaid, which Republican state governments have vowed to slash.
  • April 2012: House Republicans pass a budget eliminating all Medicaid funding for seniors in nursing homes, 70% of whom rely entirely on Medicaid.

Republican Congressman Eric Cantor on NPR (discussing Social Security and Medicare) said “We’ve got to protect today’s seniors. But for the rest of us? We’re going to have to come to grips with the fact that these programs cannot exist if we want America to be what we want America to be.”

The attack on Medicare extends to the states. Republican candidate for governor of Washington State Rob McKenna told the UW Young Republicans that it was “unfortunate” that Americans overwhelmingly oppose Medicare changes proposed by Representative Paul Ryan passed nearly unanimously by the House Republicans in 2011.

End of Medicare

Other dangerous proposals include raising the age of Medicare eligibility from 65 to 70. This will just force people aged 50-64 who can’t afford expensive age-rated insurance to wait longer. These people even now spend much more money on health care after they become Medicare eligible. In other words, people wait to get care until their Medicare kicks in. This is bad both for health and for the federal government’s bottom line. Knowing that raising the age of eligibility will likely cost Medicare more means that implementing this policy will cost more and lead to worse outcomes. That’s the worst of both worlds.

Unfortunately, the Democratic leadership in D.C. has been all too willing to compromise with Republicans on fiscal issues.

Nancy Pelosi Says She’d Back Simpson-Bowles Plan

Two progressive organizations have found themselves in the unusual position of being on the opposite side of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. Over the course of the past two years, the former House Speaker has been the most significant obstacle to the ongoing effort to slash entitlements and cut social spending.

But a series of recent comments, and reports that Pelosi was willing to accept draconian cuts as part of a debt-ceiling deal, have liberals worried that their most powerful and passionate defender may be buckling on the issue.

So-called conservatives are succeeding in their plan to bankrupt government and undo the New Deal. Most Democrats and even most Americans disagree with the conservative agenda, but President Obama and the Democratic leadership are both complicit and ineffectual at stopping them. And as Chris Hedges points out, the Liberal Class is too corrupted and weakened to prevent the onslaught.


Looking for a Second Political Party

I know there is a lot of talk about how hard it is to start a third political party and there is no doubt that the talk is true. Large political swings that realign the political parties in the US are rare, but the political history of the US is about the swings. Whigs and Tories, Bull Moose and Know Nothing parties. These things come and go and right now we have the appearance of a two party system: the dems on the left and the repubs on the right, but the truth is that we have dems in center/right and the repubs in right to hard right. Courtesy Gerolsteiner91 at Wiki Commons

There is no significant left party in the US, only the 25 to 30% of us who identify as left/progressives/liberals/social democrats etc. and we are left to rail at the dem party to move left and lead the country with good public policy that works for all of us. The dem party leaders provide lip service, then do the bidding of the large political contributors – the deciders, the haves and have-mores who control the political agenda of the dem and repub party. Don’t kid yourself about that. Just look at the need to provide Medicare for Everyone, a national health insurance policy that could/would have left the insurance industry scrambling to compete for Medigap insurance coverage, but instead we could not even get a public option, we got Health Insurance for Everyone – The Pay Up health care system doubled down on us.

So when will a political realignment occur that will put a left political party on the scene? Who knows? These changes are like the Arab Spring, the Occupy movement and more. The political shift will occur when the time is right. There is work to be done having the options available when the body politic wakes up and says, that’s it, I have had it with the Dems and Repubs.

Here are some options that are already established and waiting, or developing:

The Green Party – Another U.S. is Possible, Another Party is Necessary (a political party that is established and global)

Americans Elect – Pick a President, Not a Party (doesn’t look like a political party in the making?)

Justice Party – Economic, Environmental, Social and Civic Justice for All (Rocky Anderson’s party platform is the basis at this point)

Are there others that are forming or on the scene?

Repugs celebrate destruction

The GOP Broke the Economy Bush Screwed us all and blamed it on the black guy

GOP Making Messes
(except that Republicans wouldn’t admit they broke it — they’d try to blame others)

And, yes, some Democrats too helped and are helping break things even now.

In Washington State, the budget crisis is a Republican wet dream. Here’s their chance to destroy public education and the social safety net, so they can further enrich the 1%.

Wag the Dog, Part III – that's all, folks…

The brightest moment in the Jan 3rd meeting with Senator Fraser, Representative Hunt and Representative Reykdal came when Chris Reykdal took the opportuWiki Commons public domainnity to talk about the impasse that exists with generating revenue for the State.

Reykdal had campaigned for election to the legislature on tax fairness and he appears to be willing to make efforts on that question. Chris described the revenue proposal that he and freshman Senator David Frockt will be putting on the table.

Reykdal and Frockt’s proposal will eliminate the State business and occupation tax (B&0). This element of the proposal is expected to be attractive to the republicans. According to Reykdal, republicans really hate the B&O tax. I will take him at his word on that, but I haven’t been able to identify any tax that our current generation of republicans don’t hate. I guess there is some reason to believe that republicans prefer regressive taxes like sales tax that are paid disproportionately by middle and low income citizens.

So, the first part of this tax proposal that Reykdal referred to as The Hope Act is total elimination of the B&O tax. The second part of The Hope Act would reduce State sales tax from 6.5% to a flat 5%. Elimination of the B&O tax may or may not be regressive. I am a low income small business owner who pays the B&O tax each year. Last year I was pleasantly surprised to find that a tax credit for small business owners was in effect that reduced my annual payment by a significant amount. I have checked with other business owners whose scale of business is much larger than mine and have been told that they did not notice any significant reduction in 2010 B&O tax. So, the elimination of the B&O tax may be fairly regressive if that tax has been made somewhat progressive by an enduring tax credit scheme for low income small businesses, but I think the jury is out on that one. I think there is no question that the B&O tax raises a lot of revenue for the State, so elimination of that tax structure raises the question about how that lost revenue will be replaced.

Courtesy Wiki Commons public domainSales tax revenue is clearly regressive, so a reduction of the sale tax rate (State part only, local add-ons will still be in effect) is clearly progressive. But like the elimination of B&O taxes, the sales tax reduction is a loss of revenue for the State and that translates into cuts in services. Reykdal and Frockt could probably pass these tax cut elements with 100% support from the Norquist Tax Patriots, but we would probably have to reduce education funding in the State to be K-4 proposition from the current K-12 model. Most folks who get through the fourth grade with the standard set of skills should be able to operate a deep-fryer or a touch screen cash register and will be able to stock shelves at a big box store, so this model works for a State economy based on 32 flavors of fast food and lowest prices, guaranteed, but there are many of us who think that there is a problem with the consumer utopian society, so there may be need to replace some of the lost revenue.

Revenue generation: this is where Reykdal/Frockt’s proposal gets interesting. This proposal seeks to increase State revenue by expanding the 5% State sales tax (we should assume that all local add-ons will follow suit) fromEconomic Opportunity Institute goods to goods and services.

So, the bill from your attorney, doctor, tax preparer, and more would start arriving with a sales tax bite. There is a large number of small business owners (I look in the mirror and see one) who will now need to start collecting and turning over sales tax if the Reykdal/Frockt proposal becomes law. Reykdal stated that the expansion of sales to everything, would not include sales tax on food. Ok. Sales tax on food is a really regressive source of revenue. It’s a good thing to keep the sales tax off of food. That’s progressive.

Wiki Commons - courtesy curimedia

A small, but relevant detail about the sales tax on “everything.” It’s not quite everything – airplane sales are exempt and would continue to be exempt. We had a short discussion of the sales tax exemption that exists and will continue to exist if you are selling airplanes. Planes are a movable feast and buyers might insist on taking delivery of their planes in flight over the Cayman Islands to avoid paying a sales tax, so Reykdal says the only way to generate State tax revenue if you have a company that builds and sells airplanes in your State is through a State income tax. Hmm… There will continue to be some tax loopholes so large you can fly an airplane through them.

I am not sure how progressive the expansion of sales tax to services is because I experiencing a bit of resistance to a new tax requirement for my small business operation. Like a lot of small business owners, I am wondering if I am really going to be able to add this tax without losing some business or if I am going to need to absorb some portion of the sales tax as a business cost that would not be that different from the B&O tax. My initial calculation on the sales tax v. B&O tax suggests that my small business will be collecting and paying about three times as much money the Dept of Revenue with sales tax than I paid with B&O tax (and that’s before I factor in the surprise small business tax credit that unexpectedly left a few dollars in the till last year). I think it’s fair to say that businesses and business owners who have not been collecting sales tax are going to be lukewarm at best about the expansion of sales tax to services. I think we should look to the Economic Opportunity Institute for analysis of Reykdal/Frockt’s proposal. The historical analysis of expansion of sales tax to services is going to suggest that this tax is regressive, but less so than a simple tax rate jump (Gov Gregoire’s and others are ready to go that way to raise revenue).

Finally, the capper on the Reykdal/Frockt tax fairness proposal is implementation of a 1% State income tax. Reykdal stated that the Washington State Constitution limits State income tax to 1%. I haven’t fact-checked that assertion, but I am going to trust Chris on that one. The State has repeatedly rejected State income tax out of ignorance about the woefully regressive nature of our State revenue structure. We are the most regressive State in the Nation! We are number 1!

In addition to ignorance and a deep abiding faith and love for the most regressive tax structure in the nation, the opponents of State income tax have always been able to reach into their (deep) pockets and outspend the proponents of a progressive State income tax and I don’t think there is any reason to think that these leopards will change their spots in 2012, so I think the State income tax is going to be a sticking point even though it is a crucial part of the Reykdal/Frockt proposal.

Reykdal projects that this tax package will raise revenue and have instant tax fairness. I think he is correct. I am ready to get behind this bill. Bring the fight. Eyman has been wagging the State’s dog for long enough. It’s time for the legislature to take back responsibility for the budget and revenue generation.

Well done, Chris.