Tag: politics

The road to Universal Healthcare is ahead

The GOP repeal and replace mantra has been shown as a campaign slogan and nothing more. After 8 years of vowing to repeal the ACA, the party in charge of all the levers of power in Washington D.C. has shown that they cannot be a governing party. The United States Senate could not come up with 50 votes to eliminates millions of people off the insurance rolls. And I believe that is a good thing. I want people to be able to live a decent life after encountering a medical calamity. In fact, I can see a future where the United States of America becomes a county with universal healthcare.

Let’s look at the reason why repeal and replace failed. There were three GOP senators that decided that it was not in their constituent’s best interests for some of them to lose coverage. That and the $770 Billion cut in Medicaid also influenced hearts and minds. Those three senators have said that we need to know the costs of healthcare up front, not after everything is said and done. Because there are costs that will be attached to everyone if you have more people having to use Emergency Rooms for standard healthcare. It comes in the high cost of medical procedures, it comes in the cost of drugs, it comes in the cost of just being seen by medical professionals. That is the backside cost of people not being able to afford healthcare.

That backside cost is why I believe that universal healthcare is coming to America. Not this year or the next, but it is coming. The attitudes of the younger generations have healthcare as something that everyone has a right to. I don’t know if it is singlepayer, because you will have to raise taxes in order for that to happen. But eventually, even those people who believe in guns, girls, and freedom will relent to having socialized healthcare because the free market healthcare that we have been enjoying doesn’t make sense. We have insurance companies making the largest profits in their history, but yet claiming that they need to pull out of the healthcare exchanges because of the costs associated with it. Could it be that the reason they want the healthcare system to collapse is because there has been regulation on the rates hikes that they have had to adhere to in order to stay in the exchanges.

In my ideal world, the parties represented in Washington D.C., would figure out how to get everybody covered by either health insurance or covered by one big exchange that is run by the federal government. Yes, the government isn’t the best organization to keep running things smooth, just look at the past results. However, we have seen that a market solution to healthcare doesn’t work. Something needs to be done to fix the ACA or a new framework needs to be worked out that is palatable to both sides of this debate. Otherwise, this just becomes another thing to argue about for the foreseeable future.

South Dakota loses in Cutting Medicaid

From the 13 member Republican Health Committee that became the Senate version of Obamacare repeal, there was a cut of $770 Billion over 10 years for Medicaid. (And no matter what anybody says, it is a cut.) Senator John Thune, the #3 Republican in the Senate, is from my state (South Dakota) and is one of those members who wants these cuts. I believe that both of our Senators from South Dakota are not doing what is best for our state, just looking out for their party. Why? Take a look at how this will hurt the population.

During Fiscal Year 2013, South Dakota ranked #4 in the percentage of federal dollars as their general budget. 39.0% of the South Dakota General Budget was due to federal funds. So here we are with our United States Senators arguing that we need to have Medicaid funds slashed for the entire country. I agree that we need to cut some federal spending, Medicaid spending is not one of those things that need to be cut. In fact, it is the level of Medicaid spending in South Dakota that has allowed the economy not to follow the budgetary problems of Kansas and the failed experiment of the GOP economic arguments of lower and in some circumstances, no taxes being levied against businesses and individuals.

Talk to the people of rural South Dakota, not those in towns and cities of 15,000 or over for population. They will tell you that the economy isn’t working. They will tell you that prices keep rising, but their wages are not. They will tell you that people and businesses are not investing in their towns. They want to know what our representatives are going to do to help with their economic plight. How they are supposed to fend for their families and loved ones, while working two jobs that pay under $10/hour. They want to know how they can have a community that has enough nurses and doctors for the hospitals and nursing homes that are in that community.   These cuts will not help.

Imagine that the Nursing home in your community is one of the top 5 employers in your town. You know what business gets a majority of their funding from the government, including Medicaid? Nursing Homes. You take $77 Billion in funding out of the budget for Medicaid, guess who has to make either cuts or charge more? Nursing Homes. Guess where families have to pay over $6,500 on average to have their elderly family members taken care of in small communities? You guessed it, nursing homes. Now for a family who has the husband and mother working 60 hours each week at $10/hour, they receive $1,200 per week before taxes. A month would bring in $4,800. Tell me how they are supposed to live and pay for their family members stay in the nursing home for a month? I would say government assistance. Now you are taking away some of that assistance. Where does the money that is supposed to help come from? The state of South Dakota? The state passed a state tax on internet sales because they needed more revenue this past year. So I don’t think that the state has enough money to make up what the Medicaid cuts will leave on the table.

It is crazy to think that politicians are willing to see lower-income Americans struggle even more while the wealth gap will increase by their own policies to help wealthier Americans keep more of their own money. But that is where we are. Senator John Thune sold out his own state to do the national GOP’s bidding. That goes for Senator Mike Rounds and Congresswoman Kristi Noem. Unfortunately, there will not be any backlash from the political class here in South Dakota. We are a true red state and cannot get past “culture war” issues like abortion. Otherwise, we might have a congressional delegation in Washington that looks out for their constituents. Not politicians that know they are safe from the voters.

 

Increase the Marginal Tax Rate And Cut Spending To Eliminate The Deficit

With tax reform coming down the pike from the Trump Administration, we are hearing that middle class income tax cuts are coming. And of course with them, comes the financial bonanza of the tax cuts for the higher levels of income. And while I do identify myself as a Democrat, I am not a spend to the moon Democrat. Some programs need to be reformed, some need to disappear, and some need to continue as it has been in the past. But this tax cut should be scrapped.

Here are some highlights using the Federal Individual Marginal Tax Rates for selected years, adjusted for inflation according to 2012 dollars (all tax rates using single person unless annotated):

1950:
The lowest rate is 20%. $0-$19053 in income gets you that rate. $50,000 in income gets you a 26% tax rate. $100,000 in income gets you a 38% tax rate. $250,000 is a 62% tax rate. $500,000 is a 75% tax rate. $1,000,000 is a 89% tax rate. And finally an income of $1,905,344 is in the 91.0% tax rate. In 1950, the American debt is $256 Billion.

1960:
20% is the lowest tax rate. To get into that rate, you earn less than $15,513. $50,000 is a 30% tax rate. $100,000 is a 43% tax rate. $250,000 is a 65% tax rate. $500,000 is an 81% tax rate. $1,000,000 is a 89% tax rate and finally, a 91% tax rate for people earning over $1,551,311. So from 1950 to 1960, the tax rates have gone up on people. And yet, many people remember those years as a golden age for America. In 1960 the debt is $290 Billion. Only $34 Billion in debt is accumulated. But yet, we aren’t trying to close that gap.

1970:
A 14% tax rate for people who earn under $2,959. $50,000 is a 28% tax rate. $100,000 is a 42% tax rate. $250,000 is a 58% tax rate. $500,000 is a 68% tax rate. Anybody earning over $591,737 is in the 70% tax rate. Less tax rate levels and the people earning huge amounts of money get the tax cuts. Not saying that it wasn’t needed, but in reality, the huge income earners were catered to in this decade. National Debt is $380 Billion. The $90 Billion in debt that was added in the past decade isn’t worried about and taxes are cut. Cutting spending isn’t a viable political option.

1980:
No income taxes if you make under $6,409. $50,000 is a 30% tax rate. $100,000 is a 49% tax rate. $250,000 is a 68% tax rate. Income over $301,760 is in the 70% tax bracket. Tax rates actually rose during the decade. Yes, there was a energy crisis and the Cold War was in full effect, but we effectively raised taxes during the decade. The National Debt is now $909 Billion. The energy crisis of the 70’s and the political turmoil of the Cold War are looked at as the major factors. But yet, still hardly anyone on both sides of the political spectrum are worried about the increase of the debt.

1990:
A 15% tax rate if you earn under $34,167. 28% tax rate if you earned over $34,167. (A 33% Bubble Rate for people that earned $44,900 and $93,130 to recapture the revenue from upper-income taxpayers had saved by applying the 15% tax rate). The 80’s were a great decade for tax cuts. In 1982, the top tax bracket went from 70% to 50%. In 1987, the top tax rate went from 50% to 38.5%. In 1988, the bubble rate was instituted and the top rate went from 38.5% to 28%. Here you have the makings of deficit spending. Tax revenue is going down just due to the cutting of the top tax rates. The government is still spending more and more to subsidize programs, businesses, and individuals. In 1990, the debt has exploded to $3.2 Trillion. So during the Reagan years and his fiscally great administration, the debt more than tripled. And yet, we hear about how unfair the tax system is but nothing from the people that would become deficit hawks.

2000:
A 15% tax rate if you earn less than $34,999. A 28% tax rate for those that earn $50,000. $100,000 in income is a 31% tax rate. A 36% tax rate for those that make $250,000. Over $384,457 in income gets a 39.6% tax rate. In 1991, congress added the 31% tax rate. In 1993, the 36% and 39.6% tax rates were added. The additional tax rates were added in the hopes that it would help increase revenues to combat the deficit. Didn’t really help. But it did give political talking points to those who whine about the tax rates going up and the need to slash government programs. The debt is totally out of control now. It is up to $5.6 Trillion. This is funny. Basically the one President that held office for most of these years and vilified by the GOP for his economic policies and sticking cigars and his mole ridden penis where they shouldn’t be, did not even double the National debt. It is still a serious even perilous problem, but at least the growth of the debt is slowing down.

2010:
A 10% tax rate if you make under $8,818. 25% tax rate if you make $50,000. 28% if you make $100,000. 33% if you make $250,000. 35% if you make over $393,421. In 2001, the tax rates were cut by 0.5%. In 2003, the tax brackets were changed to 6 brackets and lowered by at least 2%. In a decade, the amount of marginal income taxes you pay have decreased by 3%. What that means is that the government is taking in less than what was expected and yet inflation is going up. Prices for upkeep are going up, and more deficit spending. More stupidity by our elected leaders. $13.5 Trillion is the debt now. Basically we ran up the debt 2.5 times during the decade. Invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan help with that. A severe depression starting in 2006 also cause economic problems for the country. And the deficit hawks are mostly silent when these things are going on. Imagine that, politicians looking out for their own political careers.

2013:
The same rates and basically the same amount of income to qualify for those rates. The debt is $16.7 Trillion. The economy is out of freefall. The war on Terror is in it’s second decade and will never end. Reforms seem to be what can help one party or the other. The debt is projected to be $22.4 Trillion in 2020. Nobody is being serious about trying to slow that down. Each political party is entrenched in their decades old rhetoric on how to stop the debt from growing. But neither is right.

People are arguing that we need to cut the rates. OK. Here is what I am going to say. Take a look at what is happening. The government is spending more than it takes in. I think that everybody can agree on that. The question is how we can eliminate $500 Billion per year from the federal budget. That is tough. 7% of the FY18 spending is on interest of our debt, so that cannot shrink. 25% of FY18 spending is on pensions that have been promised. We need to stand by our word. That hurts our ability to spread around spending reductions.

It is estimated that we will spend $1.21 Trillion on medical care in FY18. That is 28% of the budget. Some sort of reform is needed here. We need to figure out how to cut $200 Billion from this budget. And yes, I know that is going to hurt services available to people. And yes, I understand that it will hurt rural areas more acutely than urban areas. But if you are serious about reducing the debt, you cannot grow the economy fast enough to catch up with the spending that the country is doing. So we need to find areas to cut. Here is one of those areas. Prescription drug negotiations for Medicare and Medicaid should be happening for the government. Cut the growth for reimbursement spending, so that stays at the same level. And yes, that is a cut in spending, not just holding the costs the same. Prices go up and you pay the same amount, you are cutting the costs of your spending.

Another place where we could cut spending is the military. Let’s be honest. China is the 2nd largest spending country on their military and they are at about $500 Billion. The United States is at $880 Billion. We all know that there is waste in this budget. I wouldn’t cut it to the bone, but eliminate $130 Billion from the defense budget to get it down to around $750 Billion per year. If a service says that they don’t want a weapons system like the F-35 or the Osprey, then stop spending on it. The Military Industrial Complex gets way too much money for political reasons. We can eliminate some of that waste and actually to some cost analysis for what we need to have on the battlefield. 21% of our budget is spent on defense. President Trump has said that NATO members are now spending 2% of their GDP on defense, so we should be able to cut back a little bit there. Close a couple more bases in Europe. That helps eliminate spending on things that we do not need.

So if we find the savings in those two budgets that I have pointed out, we are spending $330 Billion less than what is in the budget. We have already addressed over 75% of the budget. Next up is Welfare. I do agree that there has to be some reforms, but not draconian measures. The budget calls for $400 Billion to be spent on Welfare. The future projects that the government will spend more on welfare. So we need to have less spending on welfare in the future. That is where the economy can help. If it continues to grow, eventually the spending on Welfare will decrease. But we would cut Welfare spending by 10%. That means $40 Billion would be saved. And yes, people will feel the crunch that are on welfare. But we need to all feel the pain of stopping the debt from growing larger.

We are at $370 Billion in savings. If we stop now, the debt only grows by about $150 Billion per year. But let’s not do this half-assed. Let’s go all the way like the deficit hawks want. Next up is Education spending. At 3% of the total budget, it receives $120 Billion. If the GOP had it’s way, this would become $0. And we would save $120 Billion and almost balance the budget. We know that would be a bad idea. But let’s trim $12 Billion off the budget and find areas where we can save money like eliminating any federal money to going to charter schools. You want your child to go to a charter school, pay for it out of your own pocket. The public school systems of most states need help and any money being siphoned off of that problem just hurts everybody. So with the $12 Billion in savings, we are at $388 Billion. Still need $112 Billion to balance the budget.

And finally here is the point of the post. Increase the marginal tax rates of individuals. A millionaire is not going to miss a little bit of money that needs to go towards taxes. And in conjunction with that, eliminate the special tax rates for investment income and the special tax breaks for corporations. Let me put it this way. If you bring in $1,000,000 in income for a year, you are charged 35% at the current time. That is $350,000 for your marginal tax rate. If you change it to 37%, that is an increase of $20,000 in taxes for them. In 2015, there were 500,000 people in the United States that had an annual income of a million dollars or more. So if you take the 500,000 people that have an income of a Million or more and multiply that by the $20,000 tax increase I would propose to try and balance the budget, you would get 500,000 X $20,000 or $10 Billion.

Increase the tax rate on the $500,000 income earners by 1% or to 36%. There are 1.4 Million people that earn that annual income. That is an extra $14 Billion in tax revenue a year that would help with the deficit.

With just those 2 small adjustments we raise $24 Billion in revenue. With that extra revenue, combined with the cuts that I would make we are at $88 Billion for the deficit in FY18.

If you increase the rest of the marginal income tax rates nominally, you can have the deficit eliminated or it become so small that if the economy does pick up like the politicians have promised, then you could actually start paying off some of the deficit. You would spend less than the previous amount on subsequent interest payments. Imagine that. The future would look better for America and your children. The economic uncertainty would be lessened and then finally people would feel better about their future. You can believe in an America that looks like it’s best days are ahead of it. That is how you get the American people to start believing in their leaders again, not by the bluster that they spew.

Why the Dakota Access and Keystone XL Pipelines are the wrong pipelines

Over the past couple of years, the United States has had a controversy over oil pipelines and what they mean for the people, country and environment. Conservatives want to drill and utilize the crude because this is the best way to produce energy, renewables be damned, while progressives want to eliminate the use of oil and go purely with renewable sources. Neither way is the correct way if you actually look at the situation and these two pipelines show why.

Personally, I would love to go straight renewables, but realize that is a pie in the sky proposition right now. We still need fossil fuels for energy. So I understand why we want to utilize the shale and oil found throughout our country. We need to continue to bring our own oil out of the ground and refine it. That is a fact of the way that we live. However, we continue to be shortsighted in how we decide to run our fossil fuel industry.

Why are we sending unrefined crude that we find in the Dakotas and Alberta to Louisiana? The oil companies still claim that the refinery capacity there is at maximum. So the crude going down there will in part be exported to other countries to be refined and then imported back into the United States at more of a cost to the American people. And the people that aren’t upset about that are the same people since 9/11 have said that America needs to be energy independent. Well, sending your crude to be refined in Iceland, Greenland, or any other place besides the United States doesn’t bring us energy independence, it just means that we become more dependent on other countries.

I hear from the GOP that regulation has strangled business in America. Here is a chance that they had to deregulate some of the rules they believe are causing problems for America. This would have been business that helped with American energy independence and for more jobs. But they didn’t use any creativity. Why not make the oil business a regional business and build or reopen refineries around the country?

Go to Glendive, MT, head 10 miles North and make plans to build an Oil refinery there. Oh I can hear the screaming of environmentalists by just suggesting to put a refinery there. But they need to get a grip. We need the energy. Energy independence is a viable National Security argument and the way that the world has become for security, it is a subject that we should take seriously. Let’s list what a refinery there would do.

  1. It would help promote said energy independence. A refinery that is closer to the oil fields would cause the efficiency of the energy produced to be greater than having a pipeline to Louisiana.
  2. Jobs. Let’s be honest, the two pipelines that the GOP have argued for provide about 50 full time jobs. An Oil Refinery will produce that amount very easily. And yes, the pipelines getting to the refinery would not provide 50 jobs, but when you have a net positive for jobs in America, I think that is a good thing.
  3. The environment. I know that refining is a dirty process. That there will be pollution. But it would keep a pipeline from being over the underground aquafers in Nebraska. That is a huge problem when it comes into being. We all know that pipelines leak, no matter where they are. The Aquafers help our farmers in the plains states. Why would we want to taint a water source? Water is a precious commodity, even more than money. So wouldn’t the trade off of protecting those Aquafers against a refinery that keeps the pipelines to a minimum be a good thing?
  4. The economy. If you have a refinery that makes gasoline and other petroleum products for a region of the country or does just one type of gasoline, like winter blend fuel, then the refining capacity you already have can be more year around for other blends of fuel. That in turn brings down prices of fuel. That in turn causes other things to be cheaper like shipping of items. More items are purchased, and the economy gets a boost. And that means that the true economy gets better, not just the people who already have money in the bank. This isn’t trickle-down economics here. This is the tried and true way of building an economy.

An oil refinery in Eastern Montana could provide fuel to the Northern Plains, the Northern Rocky Mountains, and the Pacific Northwest. Lower costs to refine the crude and possibly lower costs to the consumers. I think that this is the best way for the oil business to be brought up to date in how we do business.

Trump’s Muslim Ban Meme

I just read a meme on Facebook that I shook my head at. Here is what it said:

Here are some FACTS about “TRUMP’S MUSLIM BAN”

  1. It’s not a “BAN.” It is a 120 day suspension in the processing of visas, intended to give the government time to emplace better vetting procedures.
  2. It’s not directed at “MUSLIMS”. It is directed at all individuals, Muslim or Non-Muslim, from 7 dedicated countries. Approximately 90% of the World’s Muslims are totally unaffected.
  3. The countries were not put on a list by Trump. In fact, these countries were designated by the Obama Administration…

Three Words – Three Lies

But let’s not let the facts get in the way of being outraged!

 

There is so much wrong here. Let me start with one that I am confused about. The 3 words – 3 lies thing. What 3 words? What 3 lies? If you read all 3 statements, you understand that #1 is a big lie. #2 is a lie due to the exceptions carved out of the ban. #3 I can’t label as truth or a lie, but given the current Administration’s penchant for alternative facts, I lean towards a lie. Now let me explain why the statements are lies.

#1. The President called it a “Muslim Ban.” So why not take him at his word. Hell, Rudy Guiliani said that the President wanted to pass a Muslim ban but wanted it to be legal like. But yet that isn’t why #1 is a lie. People who have valid Green Cards and other visas to get into the country were harassed, detained, and turned away in our nation’s airports. That is not a suspension in the processing of visas. That is denying people from those 7 countries entry into the country. They have went through at least 18 months of investigation and scrutiny to live here. If you want additional security information on people from various countries, great. But the fact that they decided to ignore the rights of those who should have been allowed to come into the country without harassment and in the case of one person that claims that the turning away of people caused his mother to die due to the fact she couldn’t get into the United States for life saving surgery is one big fat lie about “suspending the processing of visas”. The visas had already been given.

#2. Read the Executive Order. There are exceptions for Christians and other minorities. So, it is not directed at all individuals. And the fact that President Trump has also said that they would be willing to issue more executive orders for countries that they want to do more intrusive vetting and all information points towards other Muslim countries doesn’t make me feel like it is directed towards countries that need it like Saudi Arabia and Egypt. How about putting a couple of those more extreme vetting proposals towards Russia who at least tried to play a part in the 2016 Presidential election and towards Israel who has had more spies caught spying on the United States over the past decade than any other country?

#3. So now we are going put this at the feet of President Obama. I think not. Growing up in South Dakota, I heard from the politicians here and the general public about “personal responsibility”. A woman gets pregnant, she needs to take personal responsibility for her actions and have the child. A young person gets in trouble with student debt, they need to take personal responsibility for signing the loan papers and work harder to make those payments. A President signs an Executive Order, they need to take personal responsibility. President Trump signed the order, he needs to take ownership for everything that happens because of that action.

But let’s not let facts get in the way of the Alt-Right propaganda that we are supposed to swallow and not question. Because living in the real world has become something that not enough people are doing.

 

 

Various Mini-Rants

  • Today is the Electoral College Vote. Whatever happens, the Republic gets a black eye. Either we reaffirm that the public is gullible and the founding fathers were somewhat right when they believed that the people are stupid, or we get someone else from the college and the rules are rewritten in how to win the Presidency. Both outcomes suck.
  • The national GOP needs to watch what happens in North Carolina. I have a feeling that the blatant political bias that the GOP did there in restricting power for the incoming Dem governor and providing a cushy gov’t job for the outgoing GOP governor’s wife will hurt them in the near future. I believe that the GOP of North Carolina will get hit hard by the courts.
  • A tip to Democrats that are whining that the FBI and Russia got Donald Trump elected. Could be. But maybe you should look at your candidate who decided that she didn’t need to make her voters feel wanted in Wisconsin and Michigan. Maybe instead of worrying about turning Arizona into a battleground state, you should have made the voters in your “Blue Wall” states feel like they play a big part in your plans when you become president and not take them for granted.
  • In North Dakota, they get a governor who ran as a person who would change the government and eliminate the career politician. Can you imagine what happened? Yep, like Donald Trump, the newly elected governor kept the people that were already there. Nothing like saying that you will change the political climate from what your party that controls the political climate has been doing and then doing nothing. Talk about hubris. And when will the people start to realize the shell game that a political party that has all the power has been playing against them?
  • Finally, how can you take seriously a man who in a month’s time will be leader of the free world and has to trust what the intelligence agencies of the United States tells him but at the current time argues that those same intelligence agencies are wrong when they say that Russia intervened in the United States election? I would listen to the argument against it, but all I get is an upright Cheeto that blusters about how everything that he has done and will do is going to be great. President-elect Trump, either provide evidence or shut the hell up.

Stupidity In The Washington State Legislature

I know that I do not live in Washington. The only time that I did, I was stationed at Ft. Lewis. I also believe that most people in the state are sane and take a pragmatic view of the world. But there are at least 3 legislators that are a fine example of stupidity. And I believe that they don’t even know it.

Why would I say those things? http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/columnist/nancy-armour/2016/12/13/washington-state-guns-sports-stadiums-seahawks-mariners/95395396/

Have any of these idiots seen what goes on at a NFL stadium? Fights, pushing, taunts, cheap shots, drinking, and people who think being there means that they don’t have to take responsibility. And those are just the paying fans. So the fact that these three twits have decided that they want to allow people with concealed weapons permits to bring in firearms to arenas and stadiums to watch games can be described as a fucking idiotic move. Christ, you are asking for 350 people to die during a three hour football game. And that is a conservative estimate. You get guns at a Cowboys-Redskins or a Raiders-Chargers game and half the players might be casualties.

The only way that you could do this is to change the culture of America. Make the culture one that comes down hard on violence with weapons. And I don’t mean the stand your ground crap. There would be no stand your ground. No feeling that the person that you shot dead made you fear for your life unless there is no escape, and that means every exit for you is blocked except going right through that individual. And if he doesn’t have a firearm, have fun in your State Pen except in rare circumstances.

I am tired of these No Limits on the 2nd Amendment, but there has to be limits on the other Rights in the Constitution. Decide whether or not there are limits to every right or not. And if there is not, then where do your rights end and the next person’s rights begin? Until people like these three representatives decide on that question, they need to stop with the stupid bills.