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By Jose Rodriguez
Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House and scum-bag who asked his ex-wife for a divorce while she was in a hospital undergoing cancer treatment, is hoping to run for president in 2012.
Asked by the Richmond Times-Dispatch about a possible run in 2012, Gingrich replied, “Callista and I will look seriously and we’ll probably get our family totally engaged, including our two grandchildren, probably in January, 2011.” While he mulls over a presidential bid with his… what? Third wife?… Newt might want to check out the polls. According to a November Quinnipiac poll, he is polling at 15%, which places him behind Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, and Mike Huckabee.
Meanwhile, Newt might need to see a doctor, because he is suffering from a bad case of foot-in-mouth disease.
During the controversy over the so-called Ground Zero mosque, Newt compared the construction of a mosque several minutes and blocks from Ground Zero to the construction of a Nazi sign outside of the Holocaust museum: “Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust museum in Washington… there is no reason for us to accept a mosque next to the World Trade Center.”
Before that regrettable (to decent people) comment, Gingrich described Sonia Sotomayor (President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court) as a racist. He even recommended that President Obama withdraw her name from nomination. The accusation came from a mischaracterization of a speech she gave, during which she used the words “wise Latina woman.” Though he later apologized for using that term, he nevertheless continued to believe the sentiment: “My initial reaction was strong and direct — perhaps too strong and too direct. … Since then, some who want to have an open and honest consideration of Judge Sotomayor’s fitness to serve on the nation’s highest court have been critical of my word choice. … The word ‘racist’ should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person, even if her words themselves are unacceptable.”
More recently, Newt bought into a ludicrous article by Dinesh D’Souza, which suggested that President Obama is heavily influenced by his father’s “Kenyan, anti-colonial” worldview (since when was being anti-colonial a bad thing?). He went on to say, “This is a person who is fundamentally out of touch with how the world works, who happened to have played a wonderful con, as a result of which he is now president.” According to David Frum, a former Bush aide and speechwriter, Newt’s comments were an example of race-baiting, as well as an attempt to trump his extremist credentials for the radical right-wingers in the TEA Party: “When last was there such a brazen outburst of race-baiting in the service of partisan politics at the national level? George Wallace took more care to sound race-neutral.”
It is not surprising then to hear that Newt blames our economic woes on the lazy unemployed. At a South Carolina event, attended by 250 Republican activists, Newt said, “I’m opposed to giving people money for doing nothing.” What is even sadder is the fact that the audience cheered loudly. In his view, the nation wasted $134 billion dollars on people who “do nothing for 99 weeks” and “got nothing for it.”
Yup. That’s Newt.
So, let’s evaluate his assertion that we “got nothing” for extending unemployment benefits for people out of work.
Let’s first dispel the notion that the unemployed are lazy people who could easily find a job in no time. According to data by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is roughly one job for every five unemployed people. There are simply not enough jobs and there are simply too many people looking for work. It is shameful and immoral for anyone to suggest that the unemployed are simply lazy.
Secondly, let’s look at the claim that we “got nothing” for our $134 billion extension of unemployment benefits. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, every dollar spent on unemployment insurance generates up to $1.90 in economic growth. From a list of 11 options for stimulating the economy, extending unemployment benefits was at number one. Last? Extending the Bush tax cuts, which, according to CBO Director Doug Elmendorf, “would worsen the fiscal outlook” of our economy.
All I can say is this: Good luck, Newt. If comments like the ones you have made over the last year will characterize your presidential campaign, then I will enjoy watching you battle Sarah Palin for the Republican nomination.
It’ll be fun to watch. And, for President Barack Obama, it will be a cake walk to re-election.
The Republicans in Congress have proven that they hate the poor and middle class, but really love the rich. Recently, they allowed unemployment benefits for 2 million people to expire. They have also blocked several attempts by Democrats to continue the Bush tax cuts for the bottom 98% of Americans. Talk about class warfare.
Yet President Obama has not done very much to exploit this. He has, instead, proclaimed that he will work with these people, even though they have bashed him repeatedly. Some Republicans, like Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., the third-ranking House Republican, have said that President Obama and the Democrats do not want anyone to get a tax cut, which is a total lie. Pence stated: “Should Democrats get their way, every income tax bracket will increase on Jan. 1, 2011. Every single one.” While it is true all tax brackets will see a tax increase on January 1, 2011, it will not be because of the Democrats. President Obama has made it clear that he wants to see these tax cuts extended for those families making less than $250,000. He has even indicated that he is willing to make a deal with GOP leaders. The Democrats in Congress have attempted several times to extend the Bush tax cuts for the bottom 98% of Americans, but Republicans like Pence have blocked those pieces of legislation.
Why? Because they exclude the rich. The top 2% of income earners do not need unemployment, so why pass an extension? The top 2% need a tax cut, so why exclude them? This debate only underscores their affinity for the wealthy. They try to cover this by claiming that they are fighting for small business owners. They argue, with no one in the White House really disputing them, that they are trying to stand up for those who are in need of a job, so they cannot fathom a tax hike on the job creators. All of this is a load of crap.
First of all, only 3% of small business owners would be affected by the so-called “tax hike.” Most small business owners do not make $250,000 in profit.
Secondly, the Republicans just blocked the passage of tax cuts for 98% of Americans, just so the top 2% can have $100,000 tax cuts. They are doing this at the same time they are saying that we cannot afford an extension of unemployment benefits and demanding that we start lowering the deficit. It’s hypocrisy and blatant favoritism of the rich. A recent CBO study found that for every dollar spent through unemployment benefits there is as much as $1.90 put into the economy. A dollar spent by the rich from the tax cuts generates somewhere between 10 and forty cents . In fact, the CBO found that extending unemployment benefits would be the best stimulus for our economy, while extending the Bush tax cuts was dead last.
Thirdly, as for it being a “tax hike,” these were tax cuts that were set by President Bush and the Republicans to expire at the end of 2010. These were not implemented as permanent rates, but a temporary tax gimmick to gin up support. Dan Bartlet, a former Bush White House Communications Director, admitted that they deliberately used the tax cut deadline as a trap for future political leaders: “The fact that we were able to lay the trap does feel pretty good, to tell you the truth.”
And lastly, it is a falsehood to suggest that not extending the tax cuts for the rich would have an impact on jobs. When President Bush first introduced the tax cuts, he argued that it would create jobs. Over his eight year term, the economy only added 2.4 million jobs. In Clinton’s first budget, he increased taxes for the rich. By the end of his eight year term, the economy added over 23 million jobs . This is a fact: job creators are motivated by demand. That’s economics 101. As it stands now, the business sector is sitting on 2 trillion dollars, which they are not spending. Why? Because they have excess supply. People do not have the money to purchase things as they have in the past, which is causing this recovery to move sluggishly. So, money is not the problem: demand is. It’s a vicious cycle: many people are out of work or are tightening their fiscal belts, so they do not consume as much, which causes businesses to have excess supply, which then prevents them from investing in their company, precluding any additional employment. And the cycle begins again.
This is why extending unemployment benefits is so important. Not doing so is a job killer. People who are unemployed spend the money they receive, which goes to businesses. Now that 2 million people are not going to be receiving unemployment benefits they will be tightening their fiscal belts even more, which will lead to even more excess supply and less demand. This will create a situation that will make it even harder for the business sector employ people.
But some people would rather pretend that giving the top 2% of income earners a tax cut will create jobs. It won’t.
In the final analysis, it becomes evident that any time the poor or middle class need some help the Republicans can be counted on to ignore their pleas. You get some millionaires and billionaires complaining that they cannot afford to maintain their fifth house or buy the small island they wanted the Republicans are there to lend a helping hand. They like to play the “We feel your pain” game, but they are only doing so in order to score political points. If they really cared, they would have voted for the extension of tax cuts for 98% of Americans and for extending unemployment benefits.
It’s not just the moral thing to do: it’s smart economics.
By Jose Rodriguez
Okay, how about we start with some TEA Party basics.
The people who organized the nationwide TEA Party protests originally were upset about the increased spending of the Obama administration and the creation of TARP (which was established by the Bush administration, not the Obama administration). Their rallying cry was “Taxed Enough Already!” At the tax day protests, in over 800 cities, there were people dressed in 18 century colonial attire; other people tossed tea into rivers and harbors, in a silly attempt to emulate the acts of the Sons of Liberty over 230 years ago in Boston Harbor. Get it? Tea Party? Boston Tea Party?
Here’s the problem.
The Sons of Liberty were protesting the imposition of taxes by the British government. These taxes were then sent back to England. It was colonialism. Not only were the American colonists upset by the taxation, but they were angered by the imposition of taxes without representation. So, in other words, they were not bothered by taxes: they were bothered by the fact that they had no say in the taxation and that their tax dollars went to benefit a small country across a large body of water.
This is not happening now. We enjoy full representation, representation that has found it necessary to tax certain items since the creation of the Constitution and who also found it necessary to collect income tax since 1861. And our tax dollars are not going to benefit some colonial overlord in a far away land, but they are benefiting us here in the United States. So… there is no way to compare them to the Patriots who wrested our Independence from the British empire.
These TEA Parties have been described as “astroturf“; in other words, they are not a true “grassroots” movement, but are manufactured by partisan conservative groups. What is the reason for this characterization?
Well, how about the fact that the TEA Parties were organized by Freedomworks, a conservative political advocacy group established by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey. The TEA Parties have also been heavily covered by Fox News, who has regularly portrayed the protesters as “real Americans,” implying that those who support the President are not “real Americans.” Fox has given ample time to the protesters and the screamers and the deathers, as well as providing a forum for lies and myths. These protests are not a spontaneously created movement, but have been created by the rich, the wealthy, interest groups, and conservative partisans seeking to bring the President of the United States to his “Waterloo“.
Does that mean that all the people at these rallies and protests are political agents? Does it mean they are willing pawns for larger interests?
I would say all these people are really upset about the appearance that government is growing too big, that it is overreaching, and that they are going to be overtaxed. However, these people get their information solely from Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, or Fox News. They are also readers of conservative blogs, or blogs that deal with lies and scare tactics. They probably are recipients of mass e-mails that are sent out by people trying to manufacture conspiracies. These people are not willing to seek out alternative information, nor are they willing to challenge what their ideological icons say, or to check the facts behind their bold statements and accusations. They are moved to action based on lies, myths, distortions, and their own ignorance.
Now, there has been a lot of talk that these protesters are “overwhelmingly” racist. Of course, all the conservative talking heads (who have encouraged these protesters) cry foul. Glenn Beck likened the accusation of “racist” to crying fire! in a crowded theater. Sean Hannity responded to the racist accusation by saying: “”[T]hese are despicable tactics. It’s all designed to silence critics. It’s all designed to intimidate. It’s all designed to shut down opposition.” Rush Limbaugh put his two cents in, of course: “Any criticism of an African-American’s policies or statements or misstatements is racist, and that’s it. Therefore, the question: Can this nation really have an African-American president?” Charles Krauthammer even described Democrats as being “desperate,” which he thinks is why many have accused the right of indulging in racism to shoot down the President’s health care reform efforts.
I do not agree that the “overwhelming portion” of protesters are racist. There is inarguably a small portion of the protesters that are racist, and that is quite obvious. All one has to do is look at some of the signs carried at the 9/12 TEA Party in Washington D.C.:
Beyond that, the signs were also outrageous and ridiculous. This proves that the “overwhelming portion” were not racist, but extremist and crazy:
The political climate is becoming hostile. Words often times lead to actions, which can have violent and deadly consequences. These protests are a forum for hate speech. It appeals to the worst in all of us, particularly our anger against those who are not like us. They serve to divide American’s against one another, and a house divided against itself cannot stand. We are all biased and prejudiced, and there are political talking heads who want to exploit those prejudices for their own political ends, or for their own aggrandizement. We should reject these hate mongers and expose them for what they are: opportunists.
Do not forget that political extremism exists on both sides of the aisle and across the political spectrum.
Lee Harvey Oswald was a self-avowed communist who hated President Kennedy for his policies against Cuba and communism in general. On the day of his death the Dallas Morning News ran an ad from the American Bible Society that blasted Kennedy’s “softness” towards global “Godless” communism. This sentiment was common in the south, particularly in Texas. That political hatred and demonization, from left and right, ended with President Kennedy being assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963.
About one hundred years before, John Wilkes Booth killed President Lincoln at Ford’s Theater after the end of the Civil War. Wilkes was an ardent supporter of the Confederacy and hated President Lincoln because he had the audacity to wage a war to free African Americans from their bondage and to maintain the integrity of the Union. Booth was a racist, who hated abolitionists. He even attended the hanging of John Brown, who is yet another example of political extremism leading to violence and murder.
James Earl Ray shot and killed Martin Luther King jr, because he was angered by King’s efforts to bring civil rights to African Americans and to force the south to integrate. He was a racist who used politcal grievances to justify this violent act.
Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian immigrant, was enraged by Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s support for Israel, so he killed the Senator at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. He was also drunk (according to Sirhan), but he was obsessed with Kennedy for quite sometime and had long determined to “eliminate” Senator Kennedy before “June 5th.” He was successful.
In Israel, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by a right-wing Jewish radical named Yigal Amir. Amir justified the killing of Rabin because Rabin was engaged in the Oslo Peace process with the Palestinians. Amir, like many on the right in Israel and the U.S., do not believe in working towards peace with the Palestinians, and instead believe in perpetuating violence. In his case, there were also religious motivations for killing Rabin, who he accused of surrendering the Holy Land to the Palestinians.
I can go on and on and on and on and on about this. There is no end to the examples of political opponents using violence to advance their own causes. There is a very real possibility that this can happen in our time. There is a very real possibility that our country will descend into race wars if this President is killed by a racist TEA bagger, believing that he is acting justly and morally by killing the President of the United States.
I guess the bottom-line is this:
Whether these people are racists or not, there nonetheless is a significant level of hatred and anger from a fringe element in our society. We should all be concerned and afraid that this situation, with a single violent act, could throw our country into a tail-spin, the likes of which have not been seen since the civil war.
Now… can we get back to the Health Care debate, please?
The latest online populist movement, given prominence through ad nauseum Fox News coverage, is the TEA Party organization. Tomorrow, wednesday April 15th, the organization will be holding nationwide protests and rallies in opposition to paying taxes. The coast-to-coast teabagging rallies will protest such things as: “spending trillions of borrowed dollars, leaving a debt our great-grandchildren will be paying”; people who “want to take your wealth and redistribute it to others”; “punish those who practice responsible financial behavior and reward those who do not”; “run up trillions of dollars of debt and then sell that debt to countries such as China… [and] want government controlled health care?”; “refuse to stop the flow of millions of illegal immigrants into our country”; and to protest “want to force doctors and other medical workers to perform abortions against their will… [and] want to impose a carbon tax on your electricity, gas and home heating fuels.” At the Atlanta tax day TEA party, Sean Hannity will host his Fox News show; the entire event is also supported by Michelle Malkin and Newt Gingrich. Sounds fun!
Can I just point out that many of these items have nothing to do with taxes? Abortion? Immigration? Health Care policy? It’s all a bunch of rubbish, if you ask me. And if you ask Paul Krugman, who had this to say: “The tea parties don’t represent a spontaneous outpouring of public sentiment. They’re AstroTurf (fake grass roots) events, manufactured by the usual suspects.”
The conservatives who have organized these rallies and protests have wrapped themselves in the lore of our nation’s early patriots, who dressed as Natives, and, in the dead of night, secreted upon boats carrying crates of tea. In protest of Britain’s imposition of a tea tax, these patriots tossed the crates overboard, thus ruining the tea. The TEA protesters are not trying fighting for Independence, or fighting to throw off the yoke of oppression: this is the latest attempt by the right to undermine America– to undermine progress. They scream “socialism,” or decry Obama’s deficit spending, or his so-called attempt to shift wealth from one class to another. Where were these voices when President Bush rammed his tax cuts for the uber wealthy through congress, which was literally the largest transfer of wealth in American history? Where were these voices when President Bush doubled the national debt, adding some $5 trillion? And he oversaw the Chinese take-over of the American economy! And where were these voices when President Bush started bailing out the giant financial institutions, who were free to run-amuck under his administration’s deregulation policies? Where were these voices?
I’ll tell you where these voices were–
These voices, only a few short years– months– ago were singing the praise of George W. Bush, and screaming at liberals or anyone who questioned the President, calling them “unpatriotic” or “un-American.” These hypocrites have the audacity, after eight years of that shit, to call President Obama a tyrant, a socialist, or anything else they can think of, in a time when he is trying to fix all of the messes left behind by his predecessor. He didn’t create the financial mess– Bush did; he didn’t allow the Chinese to buy up our debt– Bush did; he didn’t create the vast disparity between rich and poor– Bush did; and on and on it goes. Now, President Obama find himself in the worst economic situation since the Great Depression, and these hypocritical Bush-lovers are ready to lynch the President. Just listen to the insanity of Rush Limbaugh, or Sean Hannity, or Glenn Beck… it’s fucking madness! I- there are no words to describe how this just blows my fucking mind!
Even more amazing to me is the fact that there are so many Americans who are swayed by this ant-tax group. Yeah, it’s a pain in the rear to have to pay taxes, but it is nonetheless necessary in order to have a civilized society– it’s nice to have roads, bridges, policemen and firemen, an education system, government, and all the fancy things we enjoy everyday, but take for granted. So it kills me when people, who are either lower class or lower-middle class, are so angry about the tax code. I totally understand why the mega-rich don’t like paying taxes– they pay quite bit in taxes every year. But, in reality, many of these mega-rich people find loop-holes or write-offs. In many cases, they either don’t pay as much in taxes, or don’t pay any taxes at all. Take, for instance, Warren Buffet, who is the worlds third richest man: Warren Buffet pays less in taxes than his secretary! At a fundraiser, Buffet admonished his fellow wealthy elites by saying, “The 400 of us [here] pay a lower part of our income in taxes than our receptionists do, or our cleaning ladies, for that matter. If you’re in the luckiest 1 per cent of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99 per cent.” He went on to describe how he had only paid 17.7% in taxes on the $46 million he made, while his secretary paid 30% on her $60,000 income. He described the Republican mentality that says, “I’m making $80 million a year – God must have intended me to have a lower tax rate.” This is the unequal tax system that the protesters are trying to maintain– one that actually benefits the rich at their expense. They are angry that President Obama wants to create a fairer tax system by eliminating the Bush tax cuts on the super rich.
Where’s the logic in that?
The debate on “fairness,” with respect to taxation, has to do with equality. The rich complain about the fact that they pay more, which, they claim, is not fair. So, they send out the ignorant low and lower-middle class conservatives to protest a system that is, in reality, quite fair. The progressive tax system, created during President Roosevelt’s administration, was intended to tax people according to their ability to bear burdens relative to their level of income. In other words, the poor should have a smaller burden than the rich, due to the disparity of their incomes. Seems fair to me. Then again, I’m a poor bloke, and not some fancy pants wealthy elitist like Rush Limbaugh.
The growing trend among the conservative crowd is the so-called “Fair Tax” or the flat-tax. Mike Huckabee, during his 2008 Presidential campaign, boasted that “when the Fair Tax becomes law, it will be like waving a magic wand releasing us from pain and unfairness.” This seems, on its face, to be a good deal: abolish the income tax and the Federal Reserve and embrace a 23% tax on all goods and services. Seems simple, right? It even sounds a bit fair. Ah, but when one actually looks into the plan, it really benefits those who are wealthy, and it is at the expense of the poor. This is essentially “supply-side” economics at its best.
See, we poor (my wife and I fall below the line of poverty) actually spend more than we make. We don’t really save, not because we don’t want to, but because there just isn’t any money at the end of the month to do so. So, under the flat tax system, we would be paying at a 100% tax rate on our income. Those in the middle-class, who spend about 80% of their income, fall into the 80% tax bracket. Meanwhile, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, who have loads of money that they could never spend in a lifetime, fall into the 5% tax bracket. So what this so-called Fair Tax does is penalize the poor and working class families, who already have a tough time making ends meet, while allowing the rich, who have money to burn, to spend less in taxes. Does this seem fair? Not only that, but the
Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation projected a ten year $2.5 trillion revenue shortfall in the event that the Fair Tax proposal became law. Hmmm… who would get to keep all that money? The rich, of course. Does that seem fair?
(Tables come from Bruce Bartlett)
To the Hannitys and Limbaughs of the world, it does.
Neal Boortz and John Linder, authors of the Fair Tax Book, argue that this obviously regressive tax system that favors the rich would still benefit the poor because of the “pre-bates” they would receive. Pre-bates, just to inform the reader, are determined by the Census Bureau’s calculation for the poverty level, divided into twelve months, which would work out to $196. This income would go to everyone, at all levels of income despite need. Ah! But wait! Families who spend those pre-bates will be taxed again at the 23% rate.
There is also the issue of simplicity. The Fair Tax proponents argue that their proposed system would be easier. When Steve Forbes ran for president he famously pledged that Americans would only have to deal with a postcard sized tax return. Instead of Federal taxes, or state taxes, medicare or social security taxes, or corporate/business taxes, there would simply be one flat (and “fair”) tax: the 23% tax on goods and services. Would people prefer to pay more in taxes and have a simpler system? Or, do you think, people would prefer a complicated system that allows them to pay less in taxes? I think the latter option is the obvious choice.
There are a whole host of other problems affiliated with the Fair Tax initiative. Critics fear an increase in black market sales; others wonder how the proposal will deal with tax evasion, since there will be no IRS; how will states get their revenue?; there is the matter of the revenue shortfall; how the proposal will affect workers’ wages; and the cost of transitioning from one system to another.
Well, it’s late and my wife is beckoning me to the mattress we have in the corner of our small bedroom. So, to end my diatribe, I can only wish the TEA baggers well. I hope it all goes down smoothly, and without fuss. I’d like to go, but I’m just not into that sort of thing. I was tempted to attend the rally in my town, bring along a video camera, and film the event. But I think I would go insane and start yelling at people… I would then be assaulted by an angry mob.
Thanks, but no thanks.
I’m celebrating Tax Day by working. Earning what little money I can, and paying what little taxes I can afford to Uncle Sam.