Friday, November 30, 2012

Access, Opportunity, and Maslov's Hierarchy of Basic Needs

Conservatives contend that people who want higher wages should better themselves either by attending a post secondary school or working harder. Well friends, the rebuttal to that is that if you have kids, you don't have time to go to school probably unless you have a 2nd parent that's either willing to stay home with the kids or is working full time himself and you have some sort of free/reduced daycare. If basic needs aren't met, then self improvement can't ensue. The only way to empower people to grow and evolve is to ensure they have the resources they need to meet their basic needs: Food, Shelter, Water, Sleep.

I agree that effort should be put forth in one who's seeking a higher socio-economic status, and there's no question that hard work is necessary for success.  However, at the same time.  If the job market isn't providing the jobs (and it won't be for quite a while) with incomes necessary to facilitate self-improvement, and people are just "surviving or getting by", then we will have a generation of young people who have reduced or diminished access to higher learning, we'll have generations of parents who are stagnant in incomes, and socio-economic mobility will be frozen with a significant segment of the population stuck in sub-middle class wages.  Wages that will erode over time because the pace of wage growth is substantially less than what it should be.  People, wages are the pinnacle of our society and without action from our government, we will continue to have a working class that is dependent on public assistance even working full time and a generation of young people who will incur significant debt if they decide to pursue a post-secondary education because parents will have no capacity to save for their children's futures.  

The key to growth is access.  Without access, nobody wins, everybody loses, and we as a nation descend into below-average status.  I can't allow that, and I won't tolerate it.

Time To Raise The Minimum Wage

The Minimum Wage will again become an issue this election cycle with more and more low-income workers demanding a larger share of the pie than what low-income employers are provided to cough up.  The tension originally started with walkouts from dozens of Walmart Stores across the country, who protested the company's poor wages and working conditions.  Now, we see fast food workers from companies in New York who have staged a massive walkout from it's stores and are demanding a basic standard of living that provides them the things they need to survive.  Current Federal Minimum wage is $7.25 per hr which was raised by George W. Bush in 2004-2006.  The actions of these workers are significant because the fast food industry has always been consistently union-free and untouched by labor disputes.  The low wage environment made it prime for people to leave and find relative satisfaction elsewhere. But now, with jobs so short and employment lines so long...the workers for these chains are tired of being paid pittens for the work they do, and are demanding higher wages so they can make ends meet.

Previously, I've stated before, that the value and buying power of the minimum wage was at it's highest in 1969 under Richard Nixon, where it was equivalent to making about $20,280 per year while the current $7.25 per hour affords 15,080 per year.  Most areas of the country, this increased wage would be more sufficient to provide a low-middle class standard for a single person.  A single parent or a parent of two or more would still struggle, but not nearly as bad, and they would likely still qualify for public assistance in most states.  It's important to note, that the justification of higher wages being mandated by government regulation is a powerful and effective way to drop people off public assistance and get them working and self-sufficient.  Most people would concede that it's better that people work for what they need instead of having it given to them, in the long run.  It  builds skills and relationships when a person is able to work where that work is able to meet basic needs.  When basic needs are not being met by the system that a person or people are given, they turn to more nefarious means to obtain those basics.  There is a direct correlation between poverty and crime.  And tackling low wages is a direct way of tackling one of the root causes of crime.

I would personally call on the Congress to raise the minimum wage to $9.75 per hour over a period of 2 years, with an increase to $8.50, then again to $9.75.  If the private sector cannot provide jobs which pay survivable wages, then government must act to ensure we do not end up with wide-spread poverty and homelessness.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Proposal To Solve The Fiscal Cliff Problem

To the Hon. Speaker of the House, John Boener
To House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Peloisi
To Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
To Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
To The President of the United States, Barack Obama

Dear Sirs and Madam,

As a concerned citizen of our country's wellbeing, I would like to put forth a proposal which may give some direction to the looming talks of December to avoid the automatic tax expirations and the automatic spending cuts as mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2010.

1) Republicans voice concerns that the automatic return to the 39.6% tax rate would hurt small businesses who file as s-corps.  So, in response to that concern, keep the 35.6% tax rate, and increase it's threshold to $750,000, then create a tax rate of 38.6% with a threshold of $750,000.01 to $1,250,000.00.  And finally one last tax threshold of $1,250,000 or more, of 41.6%.  That way the truly wealthy do pay a fair share, and the small businesses are protected.

2)  Furthermore, increase the investment in equipment and research in business deduction to $1,000,000.00.

3)  Create a streamlined wage deduction which allows businesses to deduct up to $100,000.  This deduction's maximum is including wages, cash value of benefits, cash value of PTO/Vacation/Berevement, and other similar benefits.  At the same time, remove the hiring tax credits.

4)  Remove the property tax deduction on incomes of $750,000/year and above.

5)  Remove the sales tax deduction on incomes of $750,000/year and above.

6)  Begin a phaseout of the oil and gas subsidies over a period of 10 years, where the subsidy diminishes 25% to start then 8% per year until the year 2022.

7)  Remove Education tax credits and deductions for income earners of $750.000/year or higher.

8)  Create a minimum tax rate for all personal incomes earned beyond $1.25m per year and fix it at 35%, essentially fixing the rate for all incomes over that amount.

9)  Tax capital gains income as income, but do not subject it to taxation at the corporate level.  Allow it to be paid out first then taxed.  Capital gains and investment income should be counted as pre-tax income and treated as a liability like you would paying debt to creditors instead of returns on investment.  End the double-taxation on dividends.

10)  Increase the Federal Poverty line to $20,000 per year for a single person, then $7,800 per child, or $30,000 per year for two adults and $7,800 per child.

11)  Change business regulation which would require that all businesses with pre-tax earnings over $250,000 per year file a separate business return, and not as an S-corp.

12)  Remove the Mortgage deduction for incomes over $750,000

13)  Impose a 0.05% speculation tax on derivatives and futures purchases.

14)  Consolidation of Tax Credits for Education into a single program with broader qualifications.

I think just a few these suggestions would satisfy both sides' objections.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Absolutism is Not Reason

Ruling your viewpoints in Absolutes is like trying to assert that all text in the Bible is absolutely and completely correct in our every day life. I.E. Absurd. If you believe that politics is a black and white need to look a little deeper at the world around you. The world is not built on black and white, it's built on shades and blends of all colors. There are only a few absolutes in this world, friends...and politics aren't one of them...far from it. Every action has a reason, every circumstance a justification, and, as human beings, we're charged with using thinking and reasoning skills beyond just the simple and plain. We must look deeper within ourselves and within others to find the hard answers to lifes' challenges. Those deeper looks are honest to goodness things like prayer, discussion, listening, empathy, and diplomacy. Sure it's easy to slap a label on someone or something, call it a spade, and discard it for the next problem...but it's quite another to look deeply at a case, person, or circumstance, understand it's complexities, it's challenges, and it's reasons...and formulate an informed, fair, and reasonable position. We have problems in our societies friends, there's no question there. But how we approach those problems is quite another solution. It's up to you to inform yourself, educate yourself, and pursue truth and reason with honesty and integrity.

Monday, November 26, 2012

For the Bible Tells You What?

The philosophy of the Bible, which governs how one conducts himself or herself is responsible for ensuring that the parties cooperating in a legal contract execute that contract in a manner that is fair for the involved parties: I.E. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you....However, the Bible never dictated what types of contracts a government should choose to allow others to execute. A contract is a legal agreement in which two or more parties set-forth conditions in which the parties will operate to achieve an ends. 

If two persons desires to enter into a legal contract, wherein they permit one another share their wealth, share their resources, and share in the decision making process regarding life's challenges with one another...where in the Bible does it say they can't engage in that legal status? And where in the Bible does it say that Government can't call it Marriage? And further...where in scripture does it say that government has to enforce a Biblical standard on both believer and non-believer alike? Deep questions that I expect someone might try to answer. I challenge you to do so too...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Recent Events

Hello Everyone,

I apologize to anyone who was visiting my blog, but found it mired in an advertising bot.  My blog was recently a victim of a rogue application in Chrome which hijacked my Blogger account and created 50 advertising blogs which literally gummed up my entire forum for writing.  It took me about two hours to clean out the blogs the app created.  Then Google flagged my account for suspicous activity after the fact.  Anyway, everything's fixed and cleaned out, and I again, apologize to anyone affected. by it.

With Regards

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Free Market Fallacy

Many conservatives contend that the free market can give people everything they need for a price.  That price is this mystical arbiter as to who gains what access to what resources.  And while that sounds all find and good on paper, it's never the case in the real world.

Now, with that in mind, let's look at jobs.  The job is the centerpiece of our society.  Without a job, you're condemned to a menial existence of public assistance, favors, handouts, and charity.  And to be clear, I'm not denigrating people who are on public assistance, as I have been myself...but it's no way to live as a life's ambition.  Anyone who's on assistance will tell you it kinda leaves you feeling worthless because you're not working for what you want or have.  At least, that's how I felt personally.

Because the job is the centerpiece of our society, this means that all the benefits and access is derived from that job.  For a well-paying middle class job, you have health benefits, paid time off, a pension with employer matching your contributions, and other societal benefits.  Steadily, however...those benefits are disappearing for several reasons.  Companies in the United States are becoming less profitable because of outsourcing and extremely one-sided wage competition from abroad.  With new trade agreements in effect with nations like China, the ability of domestic manufacturing to compete with electronic and appliance manufacturing has diminished greatly.  Furthermore, domestic firms have been adamant in not bringing their profits home or sharing their earnings as much as they used to with the employees who helped build wealth for those companies.

***A strong middle class is the path to economic and social prosperity.

***Offshore manufacturing has hurt the middle class.

***Obscenely low tax rates have contributed to businesses not paying their employees more.

***The cost of living has increased while wages have stagnated.

***Local manufacturers can't compete because it's like asking an American to out-compete a sweatshop on costs related to labor.

***The loss of wages has resulted in less tax revenue for the government, reduced work benefits for the middle class, less class-mobility for all citizens, and severely low prices on goods that should be much more expensive.

***Low wages have actually caused increased use of the social safety net for families resulting in higher spending in this area of Government.  This is literally a self-perpetuating problem.

***Reduced wages have caused the cost of healthcare to increase as a percentage of a family's disposable income.

***Productivity is at an all time high, with wages being at all time lows, and getting smaller.

***Small businesses can't compete with large conglomerates because the costs are so severely different.  Large multi-nationals can import at rock bottom prices, while local ma/pa shops are restricted to buying from local suppliers leaving them at a severely sharp disadvantage.

***The middle class is shrinking, and we risk having a huge demographic of people being pushed from middle-class status to low-middle class or working poor.  Small businesses used to be able to pay livable wages in most cases, now many struggle to pay minimum wage because of the severe and fundamental disfunction of the economy.

***Local governments suffer from this severely big shock of incomes by decreased tax revenue, reduced job security, increased poverty, increased use of public services, increased use of charity services, and lack of access to necessary facilities for education, health care, and transportation.

The fundamental problem is wages are too low, as well as tax receipts.  A huge middle class means more people paying taxes.  A shrinking middle class with low top marginal rates means the rich hoard their wealth like dragons in caves burning up anyone who'd dare to try and steal from them.  We have a severe problem in revenue collection.  If this problem does not get rectified soon, we will see ourselves in a world of hurt socially and economically.

Conclusion: Industry needs to come back, free trade needs to end with low-cost manufacturing countries, and the wealthy need to learn their place.  Their place being that they are men and women as much as the rest of us, and they don't have the right to use the poor and middle class as ladder rungs on their way to wealth.  Wealth can be earned through honesty, hard work, and fairness.  Employees are companions in business, not trash, not "hired help" and not a "cost".  They are people who work just as hard as owners and operators of a business.  That loyalty and compassion for the common working man means a society that cherishes the business that cares and works hard to build up it's employees to a class of citizen that is experienced and secure in his or her job.  These principles are the fundamentals of American Business.  We work hard, play fair, have compassion, and treat each other right and we all win.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Problem with Taxes

With the attention of the country shifting to the fiscal cliff issue, I think there's some context to raise here.  Many times people protest that we pay a lot in taxes.  Unfortunately, that's not correct.  Let's consider, for example, the case of wages for the poor, and working class.

Middle class wages have risen barely in pace with inflation during the past 40 years which is about 2% a year in real dollars.  For the poor, those wages have risen even slower, at a pace of 1% per year.  With the middle class making up the bulk of the number of people, as well as the shrinking of tax rates due to the right-wing political's completely understandable that tax revenues are shrinking.  Income growth is stagnant, and the cost of living increases every year at a normal and nominal rate.  It's reasonable to assume that the reason that tax revenues are shrinking is because incomes are shrinking.  The blue collar job market is vanishing more and more as firms ship jobs to The Third World to take advantage of cheap labor.  However, this is the trap.

Low incomes equal low tax revenues.  So if you want to bring tax revenues back up to snuff with the budget we have (which by the way is the budget we should have had from the middle of Bush '43's term to now), bring incomes back to the US, companies need to reassess their priorities  and provide middle-class incomes to people who deserve to have them.  If you run a US Business, you have an obligation to use US manufacturing.

To fix this problem, I propose the following;

***End free trade with China and other 3rd world countries, and apply tariffs to all imports from nations with lower standards of living than our own until the standard of living in those countries meet or exceed that of the US.  China and other nations that manufacturing outsources to need to have taxes applied to their imports so the prices of these goods are pushed up higher, which means local manufacturing can compete and pay livable wages.  In this instance, let quality be the deciding factor of whether someone should purchase something or not.

***Strengthen the worker safety-net by requiring businesses to provide 18 days of paid sickleave per year. (measured by the average worked horus over a 365 day period, to accumulate immediately, with the first 30 days being given 12 hours and the 2nd 30 days given 12 hours, then averaged by average hours worked afterward.)

***Increase the minimum wage to $9.75 over a period of two years, then adjusted to the CPI every year after that.  The minimum wage mandates a minimum standard of living, increases class mobility, and overall increases household security.  Further it'll also push the wages of other job categories which are closer to the minimum wage higher as well.  The net result is an overall increase in wages across the board, and while I would expect an increase in some prices, that's OK too.  Higher prices as a result of higher wages is overdue. We cannot keep holding prices down when everything else associated with prices demands their increase.

***Devote more public money to education programs, to post-secondary education, and begin investing in public trade schools as well to teach job skills to people.  It is so important that people have access to basic job skill education, as well as academic education...whichever they choose to pursue.

***Reallocate about 30% of the defense budget, cancelling contracts with private contractors and having the military doing the jobs the military used to do itself before outsourcing became commonplace, and reallocate those resources to other priorities.

***Finally, workplace security must be law of this land.  Citizens must feel safe and secure in their jobs by making sure that there is an employer-consequence to terminating an employee.  A mandatory 30-day dismissal notice IF the employee is being dismissed due to downsizing, reduced demand, or other such needs.  Otherwise, said employee should be paid a severance package equal to that of two weeks of pay.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Socialized Healthcare is SO Possible!

In the United States, we spend $7,126 per person on health care. In Great Britain, they spend $3,012 per person for COMPREHENSIVE health care coverage...and all have full access to all health care procedures. The NHS (National Health Service) is a fully socialized healthcare system, where all doctors, nurses and hospital workers/specialists are Government employees. Now you guys tell me, that we can't afford this? On just the Medicare budget which is about $835 Billion per year, we could pay for about 90% ($2700-ish per person)of this level of expenditure by itself. This means no tax increases, and no additional spending to cover most people.

It is an outright lie that we can't afford to care for all peoples' healthcare needs. An outright lie!

Furthermore, we could eliminate ALL the spending that states do on Medicare/Medicaid and other health insurance programs such as workers compensation health insurance...because people would be covered. The employees who work in the Healthcare industry could be absorbed into the system meaning that there would be no staffing issues. Doctors would get salaries, and be given incentives to work in the public system, grants to go to school and train and learn, and private practices would have the right to participate in this system as a Government employee.

You know why big business hates this idea?  Because it's one less object of influence to dominate you as a worker.  Your health insurance is one benefit from employers that give them power over you.  By making health care part of the commons, it becomes a public good, and therefore empowers people with their choices and decisions.  There is no profit incentive, there is no shareholder to pay, there is no corruption to extort money out of you.  It's a standardized expense, everyone has the same full coverage, and everyone has access equally.  It's an exciting prospect to think that we have the money already to implement this system.  The closest domestic model we have is the VA Medical system which is a mini-version of the NHS and the quality of care is wonderful.  The system can work very well for us, so long as we have the courage of conviction to collectively build a system for the future generations after us.