Proponents of the coal port at Cherry Point talk about it as though its viability is absolutely iron clad. It's a slam dunk for job and revenue creation for Whatcom County. But that's just not so. There are just too many variables in the global coal market to guarantee a coal port's success. And while I and many others would applaud its failure if the facility were built, why don't we just say no to it now.
While Republicans, including presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney, howl about the lack of jobs and the slow economic recovery, they have their fingers crossed behind their backs. The absolute last thing they want to see is economic improvement. They know the only way they'll win back power in Washington is if they block each and every initiative to put people to work and stimulate the economy.
They're cynical and sad, and they want Americans to suffer.
President has presided over an unprecedented explosion of spending. That's a common refrain in conservative circles. But, unfortunately for them, it's untrue. The article from Market Watch (affiliated with the Wall Street Journal) points out that spending under Obama has increased at a lower rate than under any recent president, regardless of party.
It's really sad that a major political party and its standard bearer can't present facts and simply resort to lies.
Following our show yesterday on obesity and the food industry, I heard from a conservative who maintained the government is responsible for "destroying" agriculture in Washington state. What a bunch of baloney. Washington's $7 billion agricultural industry makes us the fourth most productive state in the nation. Tell me again how ag has been destroyed here.
Read this article and then let's talk about property rights. An oil company (from another country, no less) can take a family's property with no compensation. We have similar laws in Washington state. And, as a friend of mine who owns property that's crossed by a petroleum pipeline points out, government has to jump through many more hoops to declare eminent domain than Big Oil does.
And the kicker is that the oil this pipeline will carry across the Texas family's land is destined to be exported. Keep kickin' it for Keystone, Konservatives!
The idea that all funds raised by the state lottery were originally promised to education then siphoned off by greedy state legislators was raised repeatedly on the Morning Show today. Once again, callers were terribly misinformed.Â Early debate over the lottery included discussion of that, but the actual bill that was passed sent the money to the general fund. A later initiative directed much of the money to the education construction fund to help build new K-12 and higher education facilities, and some Powerball proceeds were earmarked for education, but 100% of lottery proceeds were never dedicated to education.
We talked for an hour today on The Morning Show about income inequality in America (it'll be a focus of President Obama's State of the Union address tonight) and had wall to wall phones. What amazes me is that not one caller criticized a system (ours) which has seen an increase in wealth for the top 1% of almost 300% from 1979 to 2007, while the bottom 5th of earners saw only a 20% increase.Â It's an economy that has allowed theÂ wealthiest 400 individuals toÂ possess more wealth than the bottom 60% ofÂ Americans, and 6 heirs to the Walmart fortune to control more than the bottom 30% of our citizens.Â I think those numbers are staggering but apparently I'm in the distinct minority among KGMI listeners.
An issue fromÂ Illinois was raised on the Morning Show today involving the Catholic Church and the state of Illinois. A caller claimed the church's religious rights were being infringed when the state demanded it not discriminate against same-sex couples as it served as an avenue for adoption of neglected children. This service was provided viaÂ a $30-million contract the church had with the state. While the church's work is laudible, it was right to step away from that work when leaders decided they couldn't conduct it in a non-discriminatory way.
Discriminate all you want in your private religious affairs, but follow the letter of the law if you want to do the state's work and take taxpayer dollars for it.
A caller to the Morning Show today claimed that Congress and Fannie and Freddie caused the housing meltdown by requiring banks to issue bad loans. Not true. For one thing, the charters for Fannie Mae and Freddie MacÂ do not allow them to securitize or guarantee subprime loans. Wall Street firms were the entities that securitized and sold those loans. Plus, loans purchased and guaranteed by Fannie and Freddie are doing better than those in the private market.
Now, I would agree that Congress has been lax in regulating financial institutions. But too much regulation isn't the problem.
Here's a link to the story about chicken I referenced on the show this morning. Don't know why I'd want to make something like that up. But the story is a good illustration of the global marketplace which, of course, can be a blessing (in this case for American chicken farmers) and a curse (for American workers).
Way to go Ohio! Voters overwhelmingly sided with workers and their right to join unions and collectively bargain for pay, benefits and working conditions. The labor movement is very much alive and, hopefully, will become more and more vibrant. Union shops benefit everyone, including workers in non-union companies that have to compete for the best labor.
Some were incredulous at my assertion this morning that Boeing gets big tax breaks from the state of Washington. Well, read it and weep if you're one of them. $3.2 billion to keep the Dreamliner assembly here. I simply say corporations like Boeing should enter the "share the pain" bigtop with the rest of us. They get their breaks back and state workers get a break when the economy improves.
Like a caller said this morning, it sure seems there are no ethics left anymoreÂ among the business elite.
...you don't see, or think, straight. We're often told that coal is "cheap energy" and we should expand our use of it. Nothing could be further from the truth. As this Yale University study shows, the coal industry creates costs that far out pace the actual economic benefits it generates (and it didn't even take climate change into account). Those costs come in the form of damage to citizens' health and the environment and neither the coal industry or we as utility customers pay them.Â ButÂ we as individuals certainly do pay themÂ through higher medical costs, environmental degradation,Â etc. And, when these costs are taken into consideration, coal-generated energy is immensely more costly than green energy.
Keep this fact in mind the next time you hear someone rip on cap-and-trade because of the increased cost. We're already paying big time for not going green.
The rightwing noise machine continues to maintain that Americans aren't supportive of the Occupy demonstrations happening in more than one thousand communities across the nation. I'm not surprised to hear that, but it's just not true (I'm also not surprised that the rightwing noise machine would lie). In fact, a recent Time poll found that Occupy is way more popular than the Tea Party (54-27%). And a Quinnipiac University poll found two thirds of New Yorkers support the movement.
Many conservatives might not consider themselves part of the 99%, but they sure are members of an ever dwindling minority who cheer corporate control of our government and our lives as those same corporations ship more and more jobs overseas.
The right is wailing about the $2 million dollars New York City has spent so far to police the Occupy Wallstreet event. I say big deal. Not only are we talking about a city with a $66 billion annual budget, but also one that welcomes all kinds of people and events to town. And all of them cost money to secure. I'm sure the Republican National Convention required lots of police resources, as do other people and events.Â But I guess conservatives believe that New York should welcome a certain class, the upper class, and be happy to pay for their security. But it should shun ordinary Americans angry about the unjust economic system in this country and those who perverted it (the upper class).
Go ahead righties. Keep arguing for big tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires and for pay cuts for teachers. We're seeing where that's getting our society.
...and for good reason. The poor and the middle class didn't cause the financial meltdown, unregulated banks and corporations did. They got the bailout but we didn't. That's a big reason why people areÂ taking to the streets all acrossÂ the country. And we do need economic justice in America, because what we have right now is truly economic injustice.
We have a minimum wage because we need a floor that wages can't go below. Shouldn't we also have a ceiling?
...but it is. As this articleÂ and conversations I've had with small business owners shows, right wing rhetoric claiming over taxation and regulation are strangling small businesses is just that, rhetoric. In fact, the Obama administration has consistently offered more and more tax breaks for small businesses as it works to bring down unemployment. And as business owners in the article point out, sensible regulations are the rules that enable them to stay in business. But, ultimately, the economy won't begin to grow to any appreciable degree until people have the confidence to start spending more freely, thereby boosting businesses both large and small. They'll do that when businesses start hiring more. So the stand-off continues.
I guess it makes many on the right feel smug and satisfied to name call rather than have a mature conversation. That's fine. I've gotten used to it afterÂ debating the issues for years nowÂ withÂ people who have fallen under the spell of Rush Limbaugh and his perveted vision of America.
But I do have to answer the long-winded diatribe attached to my last post in which the writer took us all to school on how the wealthy are saving us all by buying a yacht here and there. The points made were generally legitimate, but what wasÂ lacking was a sense of scale.
A wealthy person purchasing a yacht stimulates the economy, but so does a middle class person who buys a Chevy. What really creates a vibrant consumer-driver economy are many, many people who have enough money to buy what they need and want, not a few wealthy people doing the same thing. The middle class is what drives the economy. Not the wealthy.
And, I'll repeat myself once again because many, like the writer, don't seem to be able to grasp these simple words:Â I'm notÂ advocating taking everything away from the wealthy, just raising their tax rates very modestly. If that were to happen we'd be paying down the debt and they could still easily afford that yacht.
Buffett, that is. He's the super-rich guy who's been wondering aloud why America continues to coddle the super-rich. I think his call for an increased tax on the wealthy is way over due.
I know we're supposed to feel sorry for the poor, put-upon rich and their tax burden. The local Tea Party's website points to this striking statistic in an article on the American Enterprise Institute's website:
"The wealthiest 1 percent of the population earn 19 perÂcent of the income but pay 37 percent of the income tax. The top 10 percent pay 68 percent of the tab. Meanwhile, the bottom 50 percentâthose below the median income levelânow earn 13 percent of the income but pay just 3 percent of the taxes."
So the bottom half of earners is bringing home 6% less of the total Americans earn than the top 1%. And that's equitable? And remember, aside from "earnings," that top 1% controls even more vast amounts of weath in the form of investments, etc. that aren't taxed as income.
And as for the "job creator" nonsense. Where are the jobs if these wealthy people are so busy creating them?
Increased revenue has to be part of the solution to increasing debt and ever higher deficits. The table was set for our current situation when the last federal budget surplus we enjoyed was given away in the form of tax cuts, primarily for the wealthiest Americans. That has to be reversed.
But I guess I wasn't surprised when Republican leaders in congressÂ declared that they wouldn't appoint anyone who wouldÂ even consider revenue increasesÂ to the new debt-reduction super committee. So I applaud Harry Reid for threatening to refuse to appoint anyone to the committee in return.
How these Tea Partiers who are so beholden to the uber rich have the support of anyone in the middle class is beyond me.
So progressives simply want to keep Americans "down and dependent," huh?Â Let's examine that idea for a moment...
Progressive policies do anything but keep people down and dependent on government.Â Take health care, for example.Â A single payer, Medicare-style system for every American would free us all from our dependency on private health insurance.Â No one would have to stay in a dead-end job just because they had health insurance through their employer.Â It would free everyone, regardless of their health, to become an entrepreneur or to pursue whatever dream they may have.Â Same with Social Security.Â Having that guaranteed income means seniors or the disabled don't have to worry about living in abject poverty, and additional retirement savings one makes over their lifetime will only enhance their lifestyle.Â
But Republican ideas to deal with the deficit are bankrupt.Â It's almost impossible to believe that whenÂ the government's takeÂ in taxes isÂ at the lowest percentage of GDP in 60 years RepublicansÂ demand even more tax cuts.Â And their refusal to even consider increased revenue (in the form of higher taxes for the wealthy and for corporations) asÂ part of the solution to the debt "crisis" isÂ an outrage.Â
The B&O tax on businesses in Washington state is a tax on the grossÂ receipts of the business, not the net as some maintained on the program.Â Â And it doesn't allow deductions for labor or other costs of doing business.Â Therefore, if a business pays its workers less andÂ gains a government contract for less money, its gross receipts, and hence, its B&O tax to the state, will be less.
Guess my math wasn't so bad after all.Â My shoes are clean.
Human-caused climate changeÂ that is.Â As the USA Today editorial I've linked to says, we can deny it all we want but that won't make it go away.Â We MUST act now, because the rest of the world won't without our leadership.Â That makes deniers in this country directly responsible for the destructive effects of climate change we'll certainly see in the future.Â Plus, deniers have lost another big arrowÂ from their quiver.
...it's so easy toÂ see that the claim that the health care reform law is unconstitutional is invalid even I canÂ understand it.Â It's all about the so-called "individual mandate" to buy health insurance.Â Opponents claim the Constitution doesn't empower the federal government to force citizens to buy a private product (health insurance in this case).Â That may be the case (I'm no lawyer), but the law clearly doesn't do that.Â What it does do is establish a tax which a citizen can avoid by choosing to buy health insurance.Â You can still choose not to buy the private product, but you then accept the tax liability.Â
The tax is necessary to sustain the insurance industry, which would be faced with potential collapse if too many people chose to only buy insurance when they become sick (due to the law's mandate that insurance companies can't deny coverage due to an existing condition).Â This all falls neatly under the government's constitutional authority to regulate interstate commerce.Â And the government has the authority to establish taxes.
Here's someÂ more light reading on the subject.Â Let's hope the Roberts court can see beyond the majority's idealogy when it decides on this important issue.
The federal debt crisis that Republicans claim can only be solved by wrecking Medicare, drastically cutting back Medicaid and allÂ non-defense spending (while giving the wealthy even bigger tax breaks!?) was largely caused by Republican policies.Â
While the CBO estimates spending initiated under Obama, including the stimulus package,Â added $1.7 trillion in new debt, Bush-era policies haveÂ wracked upÂ more than $7 trillion on the nation's credit card.Â That fact and the budget proposals by Republicans currently in congress prove that either Bush set the stage to "starve the beast" or he and those whoÂ went along with his fantasiesÂ were terribly inept at managing the nation's finances.
I know I'll be accused, once again, of "Blaming Bush," and that's fine.Â I'll go on blaming Bush for all the damage he did to our great nation.
Washington's Higher Education Coordinating Board reports that employers all over the state are clamoring for more college graduates in a number of fields.Â At the same time the state continues to cut millions from higher education to help make up for budget shortfalls.Â Maybe it's time to examine tax breaksÂ the state bestows on many businesses.Â
I'm not blaming businesses for the budget mess we're in, and it makes sense for any entity to take advantage of tax rules that benefit it.Â But some of these breaks were written into the tax code generations ago and don't reflect economic reality today.Â
The bottom line is that higher education is critical to our state's economy and businesses located here, and we need to make it easier, not harder, for state residents to have a chance to earn a degree.
It's time to bail out on the big banks that we bailed out.Â Inspite of attempts to shift the blame for this economic disaster we're living with, risky practices by banksÂ deemed too big to fail created it.Â With those risks came huge profits, then came the collapse.
An event this Saturday in Bellingham will highlight action we can take to fight back.Â It's the Move Your Money Action day, aimed at getting us to invest our money in local banks and credit unions.Â They're the real drivers of our economic engine, loaning money to local residents and businesses.Â And much of that money stays here rather than going into a banking system that supports weapon development, mountain top coal mining or other unsavory economic activities.
There will be speakers and representatives from local banks and credit unions to discuss the advantages of keeping your money local.Â It's happening from 1-3pm at the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship at 1207 Ellsworth Street.Â Check out The Joe Show we did on this topic.