November 23, 2013
October 21, 2013
"....they are attempting to make over the Republican Party in Cruz's own messianic image."
All out civil war has broken out in the Republican Party between traditional conservatives and the Tea Party. The bitter internal debate in the GOP surrounding the governmental shut down has placed three United States Republicans Senators in jeopardy.
The leaders of the Great Tea Party Rebellion are Senator Ted Cruz from Texas and former United States Senator James DeMint. Together they are attempting to make over the Republican Party in Cruz's own messianic image.
The three Senators who sought a solution to the economic crisis are now facing tough Republican primaries. If they are defeated, it will create a more divisive Senate along the lines of the House of Representatives. Which can only be seriously bad news for America.
The three Senators are:
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Kentucky):
McConnell was thought to be out of the woods in the race against his Tea Party Challenger in the primary. However with his leadership in restoring sanity to the United States government, significant funds and resources are being directed by the Tea Party to his challenger Matt Bevin. Immediately after the final vote a major PAC, Senate Conservatives Fund, endorsed Bevin. In endorsing the challenger they said:
Matt Bevin is a true conservative who will fight to stop the massive spending, bailouts, and debt that are destroying our country. He is not afraid to stand up to the establishment and he will do what it takes to stop Obamacare. We know that winning this primary won't be easy. Mitch McConnell has the support of the entire Washington establishment and he will do anything to hold on to power.
Senator Thad Cochran (Mississippi):
The moment Senator Cochran supported the compromise he immediately had a serious Tea Party challenger in State Senator Chris McDaniel. The challenger was not only endorsed by the Senate Conservative Fund but also DeMint's Club for Growth. Some believe that the challenge might force Cochran to retire. He has served in the Senate for 35 years and is would be 82 years old at the end of his next term if re-elected. He has less than $800,000 in the bank at this stage. If he doesn't run, will we see former Governor Haley Barbour step into the race?
Senator Lindsey Graham (South Carolina):
This is yet one more Senator who observers believed was out of trouble until the government shut down. Graham not only voted for opening government but also was highly critical of the shut down. A Clemson University Poll showed that 20% of Republican voters would not vote for him no matter what. Also that two-thirds of the Republican base is not happy with Graham. The fact that there are three Tea Party challengers to Graham usually would work in favor of the incumbent. However South Carolina is one of the states that has a 'run-off' if no one receives 50% of the vote.
October 14, 2013
The key to a successful democratic nation is an informed citizenry. Without a good education system that guarantees every child the ability to take his rightful place in society, then democracy slowly but surely loses its glow. America has been in the forefront in educating its citizens that people all over the world envied our education system. That is no longer the case today.
As part of the Tea Party Revolution states are cutting back on spending for their education. Oklahoma slashed 23% over six years.
According to 24/7 Wall Street, these are the seven states that have cut back on their educational spending.
- Pct. chg. per pupil spending (FY’08-FY’14): -23%
- FY ‘14 per-pupil spending: $2,737 (4th least)
- Decline in per-pupil spending (FY’08-FY’14): $810 (7th biggest decline)
- Adults with bachelor’s degree: 23.8% (9th least)
Spending per student in Oklahoma has dropped by 23% since 2008, the largest nationwide cut since the recession. Residents and education advocates are concerned the decline in state funding — on top of federal funding cuts — means larger classes and lower salaries across the board, lowering the quality of education. Already, the Oklahoma school system is struggling to meet educational standards, as suggested by low test scores. Oklahoma fourth and eighth graders performed worse on the NAEP than those in most other states in both math and reading in 2011. Oklahoma is now one of only five states spending less than $3,000 per pupil.
- Pct. chg. per pupil spending (FY’08-FY’14): -20%
- FY ‘14 per-pupil spending: $4,949 (22nd most)
- Decline in per-pupil spending (FY’08-FY’14): $1,242 (biggest decline)
- Adults with bachelor’s degree: 23.3% (7th lowest)
In 2012, 16% of Alabama residents 25 and older did not have a high school diploma, the sixth-highest rate in the country. Alabama spent the 10th most per pupil in fiscal year 2008 — about $6,000 — compared with less than $5,000 this year. Last year, legislators in Alabama approved small pay raises for teachers. Funds for education are very limited, however, due in part to the state constitution, which includes restrictions on taxation.
- Pct. chg. per pupil spending (FY’08-FY’14): -17%
- FY ‘14 per-pupil spending: $3,031 (8th least)
- Decline in per-pupil spending (FY’08-FY’14): $629 (11th biggest decline)
- Adults with bachelor’s degree: 27.3% (23rd lowest)
Arizona is among the states that have spent the least per student every year since 2008. Spending has decreased by 17% between the 2008 and 2014 fiscal years, one of the five biggest declines nationally. An initiative aimed at improving education proposed to raise the sales tax to ensure adequate funding for public schools. The proposal was defeated in the state legislature in 2012.
- Pct. chg. per pupil spending (FY’08-FY’14): -17%
- FY ‘14 per-pupil spending: $4,807 (25th most)
- Decline in per-pupil spending (FY’08-FY’14): $950 (3rd biggest decline)
- Adults with bachelor’s degree: 30.4% (16th highest)
Of the three primary sources of education funding — local, state and federal — Kansas schools rely the most on state revenues. Between 2008 and 2011, spending per pupil actually increased slightly. However, by 2014, state funding for K-12 schools in Kansas has dropped by 17%, or just under $1,000 per student. Like most states, the revenue Kansas collects plummeted during the recession. The biggest part of this decline occurred between 2011 and 2012, when funding fell by $839 per pupil. As state revenue has slowly recovered, however, Kansas has opted to cut income taxes instead of reinvest in education.
- Pct. chg. per pupil spending (FY’08-FY’14): -16%
- FY ‘14 per-pupil spending: $4,906 (24th most)
- Decline in per-pupil spending (FY’08-FY’14): $930 (4th biggest decline)
- Adults with bachelor’s degree: 25.5% (14th lowest)
Idaho’s fiscal 2014 budget calls for spending nearly $1,000 less per student, compared to what they state spent before the recession. More than half of the spending cut occurred between 2011 and 2012, when spending per pupil dropped by $574. In 2012, just over a quarter of Idaho residents 25 and older had a bachelor’s degree, compared to nearly 30% in the nation as a whole. The Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Luna, would prefer Idaho be rated by its test scores, which were better than many of the states with such severe cuts in spending. In 2011, fourth and eighth graders performed close to or above the national average in mathematics and reading, based on NAEP test scores.
6. South Carolina
- Pct. chg. per pupil spending (FY’08-FY’14): -16%
- FY ‘14 per-pupil spending: $2,573 (3rd least)
- Decline in per-pupil spending (FY’08-FY’14): $479 (14th biggest decline)
- Adults with bachelor’s degree: 25.1% (12th lowest)
Even in 2008, before the dramatic budget cuts the state has enacted in the past few years, South Carolina spent the fourth-lowest amount on education. As fiscal year 2014, South Carolina primary and secondary students will each be educated with about $500 less than before the recession. The lack of education funding is, in part, due to the political ideals of Governor Nikki Haley. In 2011, she vetoed the state’s budget and included $56 million in cuts to education. In addition, Haley refused to accept money from the Education Jobs Fund — a federal program intended to mitigate budget constraints in schools across the country. South Carolina was the only state that did not seek money from this program
- Pct. chg. per pupil spending (FY’08-FY’14): -15%
- FY ‘14 per-pupil spending: $5,747 (10th most)
- Decline in per-pupil spending (FY’08-FY’14): $1,038 (2nd biggest decline)
- Adults with bachelor’s degree: 27.1% (22nd lowest)
Wisconsin was among the top 10 states for state education spending before the recession, allocating nearly $7,000 per student. By the upcoming fiscal year, however, each pupil’s education will be worth less than $6,000. Wisconsin was the only state other than Alabama to cut spending by more than $1,000 per student. To balance the budget, school districts have been forced to close schools and lay off employees.
September 20, 2013
The Republican Party seems to have simplified their agenda for America. Forget about rebuilding our infrastructure, increasing the quality of our education system, tending to our wounded warriors and their families, or cleaning up our rivers and air. Nope, none of these seem to be a priority for the Republican Party.
What is their agenda? Well it seems to have come down to a couple of points.
1. Bring government and economic growth to a halt over the issue of Obamacare. Despite having over forty votes on Obamacare, the crazies want to literally stop government and threaten our economy unless they can through their extortion destroy healthcare to millions of Americans.
2. Despite the fact that 14% of American children go to bed each night hungry, the Republican Party's latest grand achievement is to cut $39 BILLION from the budget for food stamps.
3. While denying healthcare and food to the poor and middle class they fight like hell not to close tax loopholes for the rich and ask them to bare their fair share to making America great again.
4. Finally, the Republicans other platform is simply "If Obama is for it then I am against it".
The most tragic news this week is that the House Republicans voted to cut near $40 BILLION from the budget to feed America's hungry. Of course they project an image of lazy Americans refusing to work and looking to the government for a hand out. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, a huge number of people who receive food stamps work full time for the minimum wage. Over 5,000 military families who can't live on military pay use food stamps. Here are some facts about the SNAP Program (food stamp program):
-76% of SNAP households included a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person. These vulnerable households receive 83% of all SNAP benefits.
-SNAP eligibility is limited to households with gross income of no more than 130% of the federal poverty guideline, but the majority of households have income well below the maximum: 83% of SNAP households have gross income at or below 100% of the poverty guideline ($19,530 for a family of 3 in 2013), and these households receive about 91% of all benefits. 61% of SNAP households have gross income at or below 75% of the poverty guideline ($14,648 for a family of 3 in 2013)
-The average SNAP household has a gross monthly income of $744; net monthly income of $338 after the standard deduction and, for certain households, deductions for child care, medical expenses, and shelter costs; and countable resources of $331, such as a bank account.
-SNAP benefits don’t last most participants the whole month. 90% of SNAP benefits are redeemed by the third week of the month, and 58% of food bank clients currently receiving SNAP benefits turn to food banks for assistance at least 6 months out of the year.
-The average monthly SNAP benefit per person is $133.85, or less than $1.50 per person, per meal.
-Only 57% of food insecure individuals are income-eligible for SNAP, and 26% are not income-eligible for any federal food assistance.
MSNBC reported that it is actually corporations who benefit the most from food stamps since they then don't have to pay their workers a living wage. The site reports:
A report recently released by the Democratic staff of the House Education and Workforce committee estimated that workers employed by a single Walmart Supercenter in Wisconsin soaked up somewhere between $96,000 and $220,000 annually in food stamp benefits, and somewhere between $905,000 and $1.7 million annually in total federal assistance. That’s somewhere between $3000 and $6000 that taxpayers are subsidizing Walmart per employee for not paying what the federal government considers a minimally decent wage.
What’s true of Walmart is true of many other businesses: the reason Walmart gets most of the attention is that it’s the country’s biggest private employer. That makes it hard to ignore. For instance, Walmart, according to that Democratic House report, has more employees enrolled in Wisconsin’s Medicaid program—and presumably more employees on Medicaid in most other states–than any other company. There are other cheapskate companies, but none with an army of underpaid workers that can match Walmart’s.
May 29, 2013
As the battle around the IRS granting tax exemptions rages, the issue of tax reform has taken a back seat. Here are some basic facts about Americans and their taxes (SOURCE: The Economist).
4,680: Changes to the Tax Code since 2001
4,000,000: Number of words in Tax Code
3,000,000: Man-years spent complying with the Tax Code each year.
89%: Share of Tax Payers who pay for help with their returns.
$16,000,000,000: Money spent each year on Tax Compliance
$400,000,000,000: Taxes owed but never collected each year.
7,000: Number of Millionaires paying no taxes in 2011.
16%: Number of small businesses who think the Tax Code is fair.
May 28, 2013
Brilliant commentator and author Robert Shrum wrote in his weekly Daily Beast column that the Obama team is not guilty of scandal around the IRS debacle but incompetence. He provides an important insight into the mess and one that Democrats should read and learn. Usually it is not the issue itself in these situations that cause more problems but how it is handled.
I recognize that it's easier to criticize a battle plan from outside the combat zone. I also repeat that President Obama, his political advisers, and White House officials surely didn't instigate, direct, or countenance any IRS targeting of Tea Party or conservative groups. It would have been politically stupid, even suicidal—because it could have blown up in the midst of the 2012 campaign. And at the political level, Obama and his team have shown remarkable smarts since 2007—and as Mitt Romney could attest, a stunning capacity to survive and prevail. In the end, events and the evidence will lead to the overwhelming conclusion that IRS conduct in the Cincinnati field office is a quintessential incarnation of that portion of government that the science-fiction writer Robert Heinlein called "stupid fumbling."
For the White House, there is no crime here, there is no scandal, no matter how feverishly, irresponsibly, or demagogically the GOP labors to concoct one. This is not a case of Nixonian indifference to the Constitution, the law, and the president's oath of office. But it does look like a reprise of Cartersque incompetence, increasingly so as we learn more about how the White House staff handled—or mishandled—a crisis they knew was coming.
White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler was told about the inspector general's pending IRS report on April 24. She didn't inform the president, supposedly to "shield" him. And at first, the White House claimed, she didn't tell anyone else either. That claim soon evaporated as the administration conceded that she had "briefed" Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough and other aides. Then the next shoe: other officials in the Counsel's office had known even sooner than Ruemmler. Then another: White House and Treasury staff had conferred about how to deal with the report.
House Speaker John Boehner's press secretary gleefully tweeted: "I can't wait until tomorrow's version of events." That says it all about a plainly hapless effort to protect the president—which instead seems likely to yield a prolonged inquisition into the interstices and tick tocks of what is now routinely referred to as a "scandal," distracting the White House and enthralling the Washington press corps day after day, and conceivably for months on end. GOP overreaching, as I've argued, may hurt the party in the 2014 midterms. But despite all the invocations of legal propriety—of not interfering with an ongoing investigation—it's hard to credibly contend that the White House strategy here, if you can even label it that, has been a model of crisis management.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has become a serial punching bag at the daily West Wing press briefings. He's been close to unflappable amid a storm of restatements, retractions, and inconsistencies. Nonetheless, he should never have been sent out there without being fully informed—and it's no excuse to suggest that all the facts weren't available or assembled yet. They were all known somewhere in the White House—or at the Treasury. The aides who had been briefed early on certainly hadn't forgotten that; they just forgot to tell Carney.
Shrum closes with:
I have no doubt that the president's outrage was genuine—that he was deeply angry. But the harsh words he did speak needed to be backed up, on the spot, by tough deeds. This was a time for some drama, Obama—for a White House fully committed to engage the issue, get out everything that was known, and pursue every conceivable remedy. Instead the information and decisions have come in dribs and drabs, as redrafts and corrections, propelling wave after wave of IRS stories.
There are now Republicans demanding a special counsel. It won't happen, and shouldn't. For now, Americans believe the president is telling the truth—and in a CNN poll, 55 percent agree that "IRS employees ... were acting on their own." Still, that's muted consolation for a president and a White House already facing the challenge of developing a fresh strategy for a season of unprecedented gridlock.
As anyone who reads my columns knows, I regard Barack Obama as an exceptional president of high achievement. But on the IRS story, there was systematic "fumbling" in the West Wing. I agree with Obama's former press secretary Robert Gibbs that "it's the responsibility of people inside ... who know that they have information or knowledge to go to Jay [Carney] and make his job easier." Indeed, they needed to do a much better job all around as the crisis gathered. And they will have to do it again, not just in all the faux scandals that will relentlessly run their course, but in great political battles ahead.
On the IRS, the course probably will be longer than it had to be. For the White House, the problem here resembles Carter, not Nixon. It isn't about crime; it's about competence. This president didn't do anything wrong. But the West Wing sure didn't do everything right.
May 23, 2013
In a Wall Street Journal article by Danny Yadron, Kate Linebaugh and Jessica Lessin, they tackle the fact that Apple, Inc didn't pay one penny on taxes on $74 billion! In an elaborate shell game, the corporation used a series of entities to avoid paying taxes in any country. The failure to pay taxes on that amount couldcost Americans a total of $25 billion!
To put that in perspective, the entire Head Start program could be paid with those extra taxes with billions to spare.
The Journal reports:
Apple Inc. paid no corporate income tax to any national government on tens of billions of dollars in overseas income over the past four years, Senate investigators found, a revelation that fuels the debate over whether the U.S. tax code needs an overhaul.
Apple paid little to no corporate taxes over the last four years, a Senate report found, a revelation that fuels the debate over whether the U.S. tax code needs an overhaul.
The disclosure follows a lengthy examination of the technology giant's tax practices by the U.S. Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which is expected to air its findings at a hearing on Tuesday. Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook is preparing to testify at the hearing, and is expected to propose changes to a tax code that provides American companies strong incentives to keep overseas earnings bottled up at foreign subsidiaries.
Apple used technicalities in Irish and American tax law to pay little or no corporate taxes on at least $74 billion over the past four years, according to the Senate panel's findings. The investigation found no evidence that Apple did anything illegal. Aides to the subcommittee said they have never seen a company use a subsidiary that didn't owe corporate income taxes to any country.
The Senate panel's new report focuses on Apple units in Cork, Ireland, where Apple has long based its operations for Europe, the Middle East, India, Africa, Asia and the Pacific. The units are beyond the reach of the Internal Revenue Service, which counts corporations as American if they are incorporated in the U.S.
But Irish tax law only considers companies residents of the small European country if they are managed and controlled there, and Apple manages them from the U.S.
The result: Apple pays little or no taxes to either country on much of its revenue earned outside the U.S., according to the report.
One of the units, Apple Operations International, hasn't filed a corporate tax return anywhere in the past five years, the Senate panel found. The unit is the main holding company for Apple's business outside of the Americas.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is undergoing a debate about the earnings that U.S. companies are keeping overseas. The profit at foreign subsidiaries are out of the reach of the IRS, and largely unusable to their U.S. operations.
The sums amount to an estimated $1.9 trillion, according to an analysis by Audit Analytics, which reviewed filings from more than 1,000 companies in the Russell 3000 Index that report the figure.
April 15, 2013
Oh sorry, you might not have one but maybe every American should get one of those 'babies'. The off shore accounts are literally robbing the American taxpayer blind. Each and every one of us have to pay more taxes because of them. For the rich, who don't believe in the redistribution of the wealth, they sure don't have a problem with distributing their tax obligations over to the middle class and poor?
Think I am being too shrill?
Think again because the facts are overwhelming. In offshore and hidden accounts, the Global elite has hidden an astounding $18 TRILLION! That is right the figure is trillion and not billion. Keep in mind that in 2010, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the United States was just over $14 TRILLION. In fact, 80% of international banking goes through offshore accounts.
In a 2008 Senate report, they estimated that the offshore accounts were costing American taxpayers at least $100 billion a year! My guess is that figure is much higher today. The estimate is that 31% of the net profits of the United States multinational corporations are hidden in offshore accounts so they can't be taxed.
If you add in the corporate tax deductions (corporate welfare) which is another $100 billion, you have almost half the cost of medicare each year.
As President Obama is attempting to get tough with the tax evaders, more and more of them are considering giving up their citizenship instead of paying their fair share. That sure puts into perspective the patriotism and sacrifice made by the soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, doesn't it?
So as you fill out and send in your taxes don't forget you are subsidizing those with offshore accounts because they don't want to pay their fair share. How does that make you feel?
April 02, 2013
As Republicans fight tooth and nail to give more tax breaks to the wealthy, the new statistics on CEO compensation are shocking. If the average worker got the same increase in compensation that their bosses received, the workers would be getting an 8% raise this year. The amounts corporate executives are collecting is outrageous.
Here are the top five CEO's compensation packages for 2012:
1. Disney's Robert Iger ($37.1 million)
2. Viacom's Philippe Dauman ($33.4 million)
3. eBay's John Donahoe ($29.7 million)
4. Starbuck's Howard Schultz ($28.9 million)
5. Occidental Petroleum's Stephen Chazen ($28.5 million)
Here are the executives that had the largest increase of their compensation packages from 2011:
1. DirecTV's Michael White (212%)
2. eBay's John Donahoe (81%)
2. General Electric's Jeffrey Immelt (81%)
3. Starbuck's Howard Schultz (80%)
4. Eaton's Alexander Cutler (77%)
Amazingly, the gap in pay between CEO's and their workers is extremely wide: This is how much more these CEO's get paid than their average workers.
1. Target's Gregg W. Steinhafel (597 times more)
2. Disney's Robert A Iger (557 times more)
3. Honeywells' David M. Cote (440 times more)
4. News Corp's Rupert Murdoch (409 times more)
5. Kraft Foods Irene Rosenfeld (388 times more)
March 24, 2013
BusinessInsider.com has published the 21 best places in the world where a person should retire. Everything from health needs to finances were factored into the selection. Not surprisingly, all of the top five are in Europe. Only until you get to number 11 on the list do you find Australia - the first non-European nation.
Quality of life: 8.7/10
Norwegians boast the kind of healthy lifestyle and quality of life Americans would dream of. The country scored a full two points higher than the U.S. in financial well-being
Quality of life: 9.2/10
Switzerland has one of the highest qualities of life in the world, but Norwegians are slightly more financially fit.
Quality of life: 7.8/10
Get used to seeing Western European countries like Luxembourg on this list. They make up the entire top 10.
Quality of life: 8.5/10
Sweden's health care system has long been ranked among the highest in the world, which is something for retirees to consider. And in his book, The Flight of the Creative Class, U.S. economist Richard Florida ranks it as one of the most creative environments for works in Europe
Quality of life: 8.3/10
It's no coincidence that No. 5 Austria shares a border with four other countries on this list. Who wouldn't want to retire with a view of the Swiss Alps?