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Monday, December 31, 2012

Farm Bill, Food stamps, and YouTube.

Even though 99% of the media is hung up on the fiscal cliff, I want to cover a topic that is close to me. It's about food stamps, which is a part of the farm bill.

Back in October I made a video about it and uploaded it to TYTnation. 

It's my hope to educate people about the realities of food stamps, how it's barely enough to get by, and how congress will hurt families (especially children) if it calls for more food stamp cuts while corporations make obscene profits and pay little taxes. 

I know as well that most of congress will never take this challenge, and that will hopefully show how much of a disconnect they have with the American people, who are struggling every day to recover.

I've wrote before about how the wealthy have made 93% of the gains in the recovery, and how the middle class and the poor were hit hardest by the recession and have lost ground in the recovery. 

It's not about being dependent, it's about having the rug taken out from under you and at least being able to feed your kids. Not only that but most people on food stamps work for a living and still fall below the poverty line, it's not right. 

Anyway, please like and share this video, and subscribe to my channel as more videos will be coming in the new year. 

Until then, have a safe, happy, awesome New Year!

Here is a link to my petition, lets get it rolling!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Fiscal cliff, No deal.

The clock is ticking out on the Fiscal Cliff curb deal to avoid returning taxes back to the Clinton era rates as well spending cuts in the Defense budget, domestic spending and the end of the unemployment extensions.

Pundits have literally been screaming at the leaders in Washington to make a deal, but only to placate the markets and avoid the defense cuts.

I've been an advocate of going over the cliff and letting the tax cuts expire for the millionaires and billionaires. Remember that the wealthy took 93% of the gains in the recovery so it's only fair they should be the ones to take a cut and have to tighten their belts.

While the ending of the extension of unemployment benefits sucks, at least the right can no longer hold it hostage for future debt fights as a way to pressure the president to extend tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, like in 2010.

I'm also fine with going over the cliff because we need to cut defense and use that money for either debt reduction or massive infrastructure spending to create jobs and build our way out of this recession.

We also have to remember that any changes to the tax code made after January 1st are retroactive, so if the president proposes a tax cut for 98% of Americans it would go into effect immediately and no one in that group would see any effect on their tax rates.

We also got the political angle of this, sequestration is ultimately a win for president Obama. Our president was given a mandate by the voters to tax the rich, help create jobs, and solve the deficit without doing it on the backs of the poor and middle class. To be honest the American people do not care as much about the debt and deficits as they do about jobs.

Americans also care about fairness. The wealthy should not be paying less in taxes than a middle class family. Those people on Social Security should not be paid less in benefits so that a multimillionaire can get a tax cut. The most profitable companies on Earth should not get a tax refund for normal operations.

It's a loss for Republicans because they're now faced with taxes going up for everyone because they showed their true colors by holding out for a deal that protects the rich while advocating for entitlement reform. And let's see them try to block a tax cut for 98% of Americans so they can try and cut taxes for the rich if we do go over the cliff.

The latest news is that the Senate is completely stalled, and with the deadline now passed it looks very likely that we're going to go over the curb.

Way to go Republicans, despite President Obamas best efforts, he still wins and you've only showed for the thousandth time that you're the party, for and of the very rich.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sandy Hook, Arguing with Crazy people, and three factors we can change to prevent another massacre:

Ever since Sandy Hook happened I've been trying to make sense of the tragedy, getting as much information as I can. And the one thing I can say overall is...

I'm irritated.

I'm irritated because we had another mostly preventable massacre of our children.

I'm irritated because I spent the last few days fighting with people who insist that we don't have gun problem.

I'm irritated because both the right and left are to blame for allowing this to happen.

I'm irritated because the right only blames mental health, video games, and violent movies.

I'm irritated because the left only blames assault rifles and high capacity magazines.

I'm irritated that it took this long for any politician to have the balls to even start having this discussion in the first place.

I'm irritated with the argument that because criminals will find a way to get guns, why should we bother with any regulation.

I'm irritated that people still equate gun control with the notion that it means banning all guns.


I'm irritated that one day I will fear my future children going to school because someone will be able to legally purchase a high powered weapon and kill them and then themselves because they were mentally disturbed.

All of these things have been chafing me the entire weekend and beyond. I hear the same arguments from people. "Criminals will get guns anyway so regulation wont work." or, "It's my right to have a gun, the constitution says so." or "More guns will make us safer." and my favorite stupid comment of the day "You liberals want to ban our guns're communists and hate freedom!"

I've come to the conclusion that no matter how many facts and statistics and good arguments I present, the people who make these arguments will not listen. They will cling to their fears and delusions despite the fact that owning a gun in the home makes you more likely to be killed by it. Nancy Lanza is a prime example, as well as that three year old who found his uncles gun and accidentally killed himself with it. Or how about suicide, people with guns in the home are more likely to commit suicide with it than defend their homes. On and on, over and over with the lies, with the anecdotes, the NRA posters on Facebook saying "Guns don't kill people"

Maybe not, but it sure makes it a lot easier!

Every time I ask this simple question; Is your right to acquire a weapon without a background check or waiting period more important than our children's lives.

Is not having a minor inconvenience in your day when you go to get a weapon worth being able to save the lives of the most innocent among us?

Do our second amendment rights overshadow the right to life for someone else?

Is it worth waiting a little a longer to get a gun and having to pass a background check and a mental health screening knowing that this will help prevent crazy people from getting a hold of a weapon?

It is to me, as a responsible gun owner I am more than willing to go through a background check and mental health screenings to get a gun. And I don't need an assault rifle with a 30 round magazine. No one does.

Which brings me to the crazies convinced that the U.N. is going to take over and that they need their guns to fight the government.

Fight the government...a government that has drones, tanks, choppers, hellfire missiles, etc. The most powerful military on Earth, and hillbillies think them and their semi automatic bushmasters can make a dent against it.

Talk about a delusion.

Another thing that bothers me is the fact that both sides are not looking at the entire issue. We do have a gun problem as the left says, but we also have a mental health problem as the right says, but what neither say is that we also have a poverty problem.

It's really a complex issue.

But I see three factors that can be addressed in order to prevent another Sandy Hook tragedy:

The first and simplest fix is to prevent certain kinds of guns from getting into certain peoples hands through sensible regulation.

Next we increase funding for mental health services and expand the health care law to include funding for treatments of many common mental illnesses and personality disorders.

And then we go after poverty and the massive amount of income inequality in this country. As income inequality rises so does violent crime. That's a big problem and a big factor on why there is so much violence in our culture today. People are stressed out, working longer hours for less pay, producing more but gaining less. Less money means that people will avoid the doctor for things like depression and anxiety. We also have to look at depression caused by factors like unemployment, and divorce. Divorce rates are linked with disagreements on finances, and divorce is the number one cause of suicide in U.S. cities.

People who keep a gun in their home are almost twice as likely to die in a gun-related homicide and 16 times more likely to use a gun to commit suicide than people without a gun in their home.7

The common theme is between all of these factors is the gun. Currently there are 88 guns for every 100 people per capita, the highest in the world.

The prevalence of guns isn't the only issue, but it's one of the biggest parts of the culture of violence in America. Now many pundits, especially on the right point the finger at violent video games and movies. Calling them murder simulators.

But in reality human beings have had a long history of killing each other, and that was way back before video games and movies. So this argument is simply a way to point the finger away from the three majors factors that are part of the gun violence problem.

As an avid gamer and someone who knows many in the gaming community, we can all attest to the fact that violent video games do not create violent people.

Gun violence is usually the result of mental illness, financial problems, emotional distress, and access to cheap, easy to acquire weapons.

If we focus on these factors then maybe we can actually do something to prevent another Sandy Hook, Columbine, Tuscon Arizona, Virginia Tech, etc. We just have to acknowledge all of the factors and be willing to do something about it.

Come on America, time to get our heads out of our asses and do something.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

GOP Fiscal Cliff proposal robs you to give to the rich

Yesterday house Republicans came out with a new offer to solve their so called fiscal cliff crisis.

Surprisingly, it involves...wait for it...extending the Bush tax cuts permanently.

Oh gee, what a shocker. It's the same old stupid plan they always come back with. Tax cuts, deregulation. Shrink the government via spending cuts, blah fucking blah.

It's backed up by the same tired old promises that if you cut taxes for the wealthy, it will create jobs, and increase revenue. The same bullshit plan Bush peddled back when he cut taxes in 2001 and then again in 2003.

Here's the problem, it DOESN'T WORK.

Unemployment is still high, wages are flat, the rich are richer but the middle class and the poor have gained no ground. (and in most cases have lost ground) and debt has soared. But these magical shitwizards have been peddling this same lie that tax cuts for the rich and cutting spending on the middle class is somehow going to magically grow the economy, solve the debt, and increase the living standards of all Americans!

I have better odds of shitting a unicorn.


Speaking of unicorns, I guess if North Korea can convince it's people that they found a unicorn lair, our politicians can convince us that the wealth with trickle down if we just give them a little more.

What did Albert Einstein say about insanity again?

"doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
There is study after study after study that show that tax cuts on the wealthy have little economic impact, and even people on Fox News like Bill Kristol, Ben Stein, and Ann Coulter are saying that if we raises taxes on the rich it's not going to be the end of the world.

Don't get me wrong here, those right wing pundits are only acceding because they don't want the sequester to cut the Pentagon budget. But no matter their reasons, they're still arguing for something that makes sense.

I've mentioned before about how I'm perfectly okay with going over the cliff. In fact I prefer it. Defense needs to be cut massively and the tax cuts for the rich need to go.

It's really that simple.

After the fact President Obama can cut taxes for the middle class and the poor retroactively.

President Obama should stop listening to these moronic offers and just jump over the damn cliff already.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Michigan "Right to Work" Deceptive, Disingenuous, Disgusting.

Today is another dark day for labor, this time it hits home, literally.

Governor Snyder, despite massive public opposition, is planning on making Michigan the 24th so called "Right to Work" state. 

Right to work is an extremely disingenuous title for this legislation. In fact the whole premise is deceptive. Here's why:

 Right to work doesn't have anything to do with the right to work, it gives the choice for employees to opt out of paying union dues in a unionized shop. For someone who doesn't want their money going to a union that sounds fair to them, but those who do not pay still benefit from union contracts negotiated on their behalf by members who pay dues. It's a free rider problem. 

So much for the conservative value of not being a freeloader.

The ability to opt out of paying union dues has a significant effect on the unions ability to collectively bargain for things like wages, benefits packages, and pensions. Without money from dues unions are not able to run ad campaigns and operate on behalf of workers.

We've all seen the effect of declining union membership. As the chart shows as union membership have declined, so have middle class wages. In fact, in 2010 union membership had declined to the lowest rate in over 70 years.

Let's compare wages to corporate profits over that same 70 year period.

The red line is corporate profits, the blue line is wages. See a problem?

Not if you're a CEO, but for the middle class this is an absolute disaster.

7 out of the 10 poorest states are red, southern, and have right to work laws in place. If it doesn't work there, why would anyone think it could work anywhere?

It's all about perception:

According to a 2011 Gallup poll 52% of respondents approve of labor unions. while 42% disapprove of labor unions. Once again we see the 70 year number pop up as labor unions see the lowest approval ratings within that time frame especially in 2009 when approval hit the record low of 48% approval.

There's a sharp partisan divide in the Gallup numbers as well, with 78% of Democrats giving approval to unions while Republicans only gave them an all time low of 26% approval.

Part of this mentality is probably due to unions being considered more pro democrat.

That's not always true, although now unions do favor democrats more often, it might surprise you to know that the largest police union, the Fraternal Order of Police  regularly backed Republicans until this election cycle. The FOP backed George W. Bush in 2000, and 2004, and John McCain in 2008. The normally Republican leaning International Association of Firefighters also made a surprise move by backing President Obama this election cycle. This shows that even public sector unions don't always vote for democrats. There was even a Republican pro-union super pac called the "Lunch Pail Republicans" that contributed $678,000 exclusively to Republican candidates running for House and Senate seats. Though I'm not sure how pro union you can be when you regularly back candidates whose opponents are usually backed by actual unions.

There is another reason for the partisan divide on unions.

Stories like this, from Fox News tend to anger...well pretty much everyone. But stories like these are often used as anecdotal evidence that unions protect the bad, lazy workers. But that's a myth. This particular story from Fox News is a great example. What Fox doesn't really explain, is why those people were rehired after a two year period of unemployment. What happened was that the employees filed an appeal to the union. The company and the union agreed to leave the decision to a third party arbiter. Both the union and GM were sworn to comply with the decision of the outside third party. That means the decision was not made by the union, and the union itself only presented the case to GM, it couldn't force GM to rehire these worksers. Let's have merriam-webster break it down:


noun    (Concise Encyclopedia)
Process of resolving a dispute or a grievance outside a court system by presenting it for decision to an impartial third party. Both sides in the dispute usually must agree in advance to the choice of arbitrator and certify that they will abide by the arbitrator's decision. In medieval Europe arbitration was used to settle disputes between merchants; it is now commonly used in commercial, labour-management, and international disputes. The procedures differ from those used in the courts, especially regarding burden of proof and presentation of evidence. Arbitration avoids costly litigation and offers a relatively speedy resolution as well as privacy for the disputants. The main disadvantage is that setting guidelines is difficult; therefore the outcome is often less predictable than a court decision. See also mediation.
 So in this case, the arbiter was the one who forced GM to rehire these loathsome workers, not the union.

I also always hear the argument that unions kill jobs, but that in itself is a logical fallacy. Why would a union, who's workers depend on the success of a company, kill the company? It makes no sense. We've seen many unions take pay cuts to avoid layoffs.

Anti-Labor proponents counter this by bringing up Hostess that on it's website says:

We are sorry to announce that Hostess Brands, Inc. has been forced by a Bakers Union strike to shut down all operations and sell all company assets
 What a load of crap.

Hostess was in trouble long before the final round of contract negotiations with the bakers union. But it wasn't unreasonable demands that killed the twinkie, but a long string of dumbass CEO's that kept hiking their own pay despite two bankruptcies. They also had painful concessions from the unions but still the CEO's continued to blame unions for the companies woes.

It's these and other factors, such as jealousy of union pay and benefits ("Those damn union people get paid too much!") that set the stage for politicians to set up right to work laws.

These politicians lie to the people by telling them that unions are the problem, and that they should have the "choice" to not pay union dues. Not only that but they promise jobs, higher pay and better economic outcomes. Sounds kinda like what they promised with that whole trickle down economics plan.

How did that work out again?

There is no evidence that right to work even increases employment.

But that didn't stop Michigan republicans from cramming this law through in a record of 7 hours, and it also didn't stop governor Snyder from flip-flopping into supporting this disgusting law.

What this law boils down to is an attack on the middle class and another redistribution of wealth to the top from the pockets of hard working middle class people. And to those who point out one or two of the douchebags that do take advantage of collective bargaining (see the Fox News article) Remember that for every douchebag, there are hundreds of honest middle class workers who don't deserve the shaft. One or two examples do not represent the whole.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Why Republicans may push themselves off the so-called fiscal cliff

If you've been paying attention to the news cycle lately, odds are you've heard of the Fiscal cliff:

You know, that gaping maw of economic oblivion that lies before us at the end of the year. The one that threatens to throw us into a new recession starting January 1st.

You know, Or not.

Truth is the Fiscal cliff is little more than a proxy for the Republicans to use to gut Medicare and Social Security.

Often touted as "entitlement reform", the Republican plan is to use this contrived crisis as a way to cut your benefits in order to lower corporate taxes. President Obama even introduced corporate "tax reform" last month.

It's important to note that because of loopholes and deductions many corporations don't even pay taxes. Many of these companies are in the energy business as well as Defense contractors.

The worst is GE, which pays an astounding -18.9% Effective tax rate.

Yes that's right, they got money back.

They greased politicians from both sides by donating to Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, and Senator Scott Browns' reelection campaigns.

Republicans say they can eliminate loopholes in the tax code while lowering tax rates and still add revenue. Except that math doesn't actually work.

You see many of the loopholes in the tax code benefit middle class families, such as the Mortgage interest deduction, the earned income tax credit, the exclusion of employer-sponsored health insurance, and the exclusion of employer pension benefits are all loopholes that are helpful to the vast majority of America.

Excluding Medicare benefits from taxation is another huge loophole that benefits seniors.

So what's left are charitable deductions, capital gains and the exclusion of gains at death and the gift exclusion. Basically a way to get your inheritance tax free.All of these loopholes benefit the wealthy, and when combined still do not come close to an amount of revenue that averts the fiscal cliff. Since they mainly benefit the wealthy anyway it's very unlikely that those loopholes will be eliminated.

So while their so called "tax reform" will not bring us close to solving the fiscal cliff, the Republicans want to lower rates, and instead get a deal by cutting entitlements.

They'll start by raising the Medicare eligibility age to 67, which was outlined in the Simpson-Bowles commission. And they'll also reduce the cost of living adjustment (COLA) for people on Social Security.

That takes money you paid for your retirement right out of your pocket and gives it to rich in the form of tax cuts.

Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, who makes $16.1 million a year, wants you to work more and get less, so he can get a tax cut.

So why do I think the Republicans are going to push themselves off the fiscal cliff?

Simply put, it's because of who makes up the Republican party.

Old. White. Males.

Not all of course, but they make up a sizable portion.

The senior voting block is a major constituency for the Republican party, and they don't want anyone touching their Medicare or Social Security.

And then you have Wall Street, that gives a lot of campaign contributions to the Republican party, coming out and demanding entitlement cuts to solve the deficit. Most notably people like Lloyd Blankfein, and David Cote, who are members of a CEO Fiscal Leadership Council.

These two sides are directly opposed, and it's leading to a split between the Republican voting base, and the donor base.

Add to that the pledge to Grover Norquist that many Republicans have signed, even though some have backed away from it, they still insist that rates not be raised.

And then you have president Obama being uncharacteristically tough in these negotiations by presenting his plan that that will raise rates on the top 2% of income earners and saying that there will be no deal without tax increases.

Tax increases that the American people support.

If Obama continues to stand fast the Republicans may have no choice left but to fall off the cliff in order to not alienate either of their main constituencies.

Jan 1st is going to be very interesting.