Blatantly Exploiting A Tragedy

Over at Eschaton they have a series of “Bait and Switch” pieces talking about what the Bush people have been scamming on us. I left this comment (edited to make me look better):

As blatantly as anything you have ever seen in your life you are watching the results of politicizing what happened to the country on 9/11.

9/11 is the reason no one is paying much attention to all the things Bush is doing to the country. 9/11 is the reason they are getting away with it.

They are USING 9/11 to push through this far-right agenda. They keep the public terrified and eager for war, which leaves little room to pay attention to the complicated details of legislation. Then they push through all of this extreme far-right agenda on us, using the tactic of overwhelming us – by the time anyone can build up public support for something it’s too late, and they have moved on to 3 or 4 other attacks on us. And when we DO build up public support – like we did for the FCC rule changes – they just say, “fuck you” and go ahead with their agenda anyway.

Look how MUCH they have done to change the country since 9/11 and especially since they started their drumbeat for constant war. The tax cuts have effectively gotten rid of Social Security a few years from now. The FCC change effectively gets rid of the last bits of honest news. The hidden Medicare changes in the new “drug benefit” effectively get rid of Medicare soon after the new rules kick in. Etc. and on and on. (Gutting the Clean Air act. Gutting most other environmental laws and regulations. Gutting public education. Gutting Veterans’ benefits. Gutting the AmeriCorps program. Etc.)

This is the most blatant politicization of a tragedy that I have ever heard of. And BECAUSE they are so shamelessly politicizing a tragedy they are getting away with it. Everyone is too stunned to deal with it all.

One thing you can do is get everyone you know – write to your relatives, etc. – to start getting their news online, like from BuzzFlash. It’s important that more people start getting good information about what is going on – that is how we can fight this. The general public DOES NOT KNOW what is really going on, because they do not have sources of good information. Help people find good sources of information by letting them know where YOU get YOUR information.

A Comment I Posted

Over at Brad DeLong’s, on the effects of the Bush tax cuts:

OK, so the effects of the tax cut are not what the Republicans said they would be. It isn’t about creating jobs, etc.

With everything Republicans SAY these days, you have to put your hands over your ears, and look at the effect of their ACTIONS to discern why they are doing something. What they SAY is just a smokescreen – a diversion. The EFFECT of these tax cuts is that the government has to borrow perhaps $400 billion this year, and maybe even more, and continue to do this every year from now on. This means we won’t be able to pay Social Security, Medicare, or do anything else the government needs to do. And it means we’ll instead be paying out massive debt interest checks to … well guess who! (Over $300 billion interest payments this year.)

Maybe what the tax cut DOES is why they DID it.

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Income and Taxes

New York Times story, Very Richest’s Share of Income Grew Even Bigger, Data Show:

The 400 wealthiest taxpayers accounted for more than 1 percent of all the income in the United States in the year 2000, more than double their share just eight years earlier, according to new data from the Internal Revenue Service. But their tax burden plummeted over the period.

But wait, there’s more:

All of the I.R.S. data is based on adjusted gross income, the figure reported on the last line on the front page of individual income tax returns.

This is a very important point in any discussion of income and taxes. This is the ADJUSTED income AFTER DEDUCTIONS. Here is a bit about why this matters:

The figures do not include the incomes of the many wealthy Americans who use shelters to reduce their reported incomes below the level of the top 400.

In 1999 and 2000, for example, William T. Esrey – then the chief executive of Sprint, the telecommunications company – earned more than $150 million in stock option profits, lofting him onto many lists of the best-paid corporate managers.

That income might have put Mr. Esrey in the I.R.S.’s top 400 taxpayers. But, as later came to light, Mr. Esrey bought a tax shelter from Ernst & Young, the accounting firm, designed to let him delay reporting the profits for tax purposes until the year 2030. Sprint’s board forced Mr. Esrey to resign in March after he acknowledged that the shelter was the subject of an I.R.S. audit.

Got that? This is the income that they could not hide from taxes. There could be a tremendous amount of income that is not included in reports like this one. So when you hear right-wingers complain that the poor, suffereing rich pay a high percentage of income taxes, remember that the share of income they receive is also high, and even the shocking studies showing that the very richest are bringing in extremely high incomes – an ever higher proportion of the country’s wealth – don’t report the income that is sheltered from the IRS. This report, for example, saying that only 400 people receive over 1% of all the income in the United States, is skewed because it only report SOME of the income they receive!

The concentration of wealth and how it is affecting the economy is a great subject for discussion.

Oh yeah, one more thing from the story:

A second report that the I.R.S. will make public today shows that the number of Americans with high incomes who pay no taxes anywhere in the world has reached a record. In 2000, there were 2,022 Americans with incomes of more than $200,000 who paid no income tax anywhere in the world, up from just 37 in 1977, when the report was first issued.

An E-Mail I Received

I received the following e-mail, and am passing it along:

As some of you already know, two weeks ago I turned in my official letter of resignation at work. Monday was my last day as a software engineer. What now, you might be asking?

I have never been a Democrat and I have never supported the local members of the Democratic party. I never cast a vote for Bill Clinton. Yet I, like many others in this nation, Republican and Democrats alike, feel the right wing ideologues currently in charge of our country have gone too far.

For the first time since 1929, the right wing of the Republican Party controls all three branches of the government. What have they given us? Fiscal conservativeness? A balanced budget amendment? No. They have given us the largest budget deficit in U.S. history so that the people who ran Enron can receive tax cuts. Rather than balancing the federal budget they are repealing the estate tax, which affects only the top 2% of America. When pressed to instead raise the bar for the estate tax exemption to $4 million permanently, they have instead chosen to repeal it altogether. They talk about Homeland Security, while at the same time their budget policies are forcing communities all over the country to lay off police officers and fire fighters. They talk of “No child left behind” while teachers across the country are being laid off due to lack of funding. They talk of the “Clear Skies Initiative” which allows polluters to dump more toxins into the air. They pass a “Patriot Act” that compromises the Constitution by eliminating “Due Process of the Law”, gutting the 4th Amendment, and allowing the government to conduct surveillance of any U.S. citizen with reduced checks and balances. They talk about “revisionist history” while leading conservative pundit Ann Coulter releases a new book arguing that Senator Joe McCarthy was “misunderstood” and a saint!

Some of you may have heard about the recent FCC vote on media ownership. FCC Chairman Michael Powell, against the wishes of over 95% of the Americans who wrote in on the issue, voted to raise the restriction on ownership limits on television and media. Republicans often argue for free markets, yet this is not just another market. Media is the fundamental vehicle for our constitutional and human right of free speech. This is why moderate Republicans led by John McCain have teamed up with Democrats to fight to overturn this decision.

The Republican Party used to be the party of fiscal responsibility and patriotic duty. Although these people are members of the Republican Party, they ARE NOT REPUBLICANS.

Some of you may have heard of Howard Dean, the 12 year former Governor of Vermont, who yesterday officially announced his candidacy for President of the United States. As Dr. Dean said in his speech yesterday, ‘President Kennedy challenged us to “pass the torch to a new generation of Americans.” And so, we must issue that challenge again.’

For the next year and a half, I am going to be joining 38,000 volunteers from around the country who want our country returned to us. For too long, my generation has sat on the sidelines and not engaged in the political conversation in this country. We have avoided talking about politics with our friends, our family, and especially our parents, out of fear that they may not feel the way we do. It is time for this to end.

Some of you may have heard of Dean and support his ideas, yet do not believe he can win the nomination. Well, Governor Dean recently won the Wisconsin straw poll. He is a frontrunner in all of the major polls. Last Thursday, I witnessed the Governor giving a speech to the San Francisco Bar Association that left the entire 500+ attendance audience on their feet clapping and cheering. Dean is slated to win the online MoveOn.org primary, the leading online organization of my generation, by such a wide margin that the other candidates have begun to question its legitimacy for the sole purpose of discrediting its obvious significance.

And the media? Fox News reported there were 1500 people meeting up yesterday to support the Governor’s declaration when there were really closer to 30,000. Newspapers around the country sought to de-legitimize our movement by reporting that “at least 2500 people” (AP) or “more than 1000″ (LA Times) showed up for the declaration, when the Burlington fire marshal himself closed down the entrance to the square because the crowd had grown to over 5000. The Bush administration, sensing a growing political force, attempted to monopolized the media by holding a policy speech at precisely the same time that Governor Dean was announcing his candidacy.

The media is not going to educate us. They are not interested in promoting a civic debate. They are not going to help us maintain a vibrant democracy. Yet we have a weapon far stronger than they do: the Internet.

Please, read the Governor’s speech and look into the issues yourselves. Get involved. Attend a local Meetup event. Make your own voice heard. If you are a member of MoveOn, vote for the Governor by the end of today.

We have the power to win this battle, but we must do it ourselves.

Chris Zychowski

Great letter. (Actually no one is expected to win the MoveOn primary.)

By the way – a few hundred readers are going to be asking — just WHERE is that software engineer job opening up?

Dean On Meet The Press

I just watched the tape of Gov. Dean on MTP. I thought Russert was just fine, and did a good job. He was doing his job, getting answers for his viewers, asking tough questions, and nothing is wrong with that. I only wish that at least ONE reporter would have asked – or will EVER ask – Bush similarly tough questions! I think there is a scandal that they do not and the public is right to be demanding a press that does its job!

To me, Russert wasn’t hostile, he was tough. I think if you are going to be on Meet the Press for an hour you ought to be prepared for the questions that opponents are throwing at you in the press. As they say, this is the big leagues. I don’t think you should have stock-prepared answers that you repeat over and over, but I don’t think you should be trying to find words to answer questions that obviously are going to come up. It is not unfair for Russert to ask about things people are writing, and because these things are appearing in the press – fairly or unfairly – Dean should be able to respond. This is nothing compared to what’s coming from the Right and I have supported Dean because he said he is going to fight back.

In the military questions I think Russert asked appropriate questions and was fair. He said he was asking the questions to which people are going to want to know the answers, and he was right. I’m surprised if Dean does not have someone around him who anticipates questions like these and prepares him to answer. I think he has a great point that it is 6 months from the first Democratic primary – but on the other hand he has himself an hour on MTP to respond to the things that have been thrown at him lately, so he might have been better prepared. Bush was an ignorant guy who was finally convinced to do his homework on the campaign trail. I don’t want Dean to get a rep as a smart guy who doesn’t do his homework. (Also Dean missed a big opportunity to point out that Bush was aWol.)

His answer to the gay marriage question was the correct legal answer, which is good. But for a minute it looked like he was trying to avoid saying something that would alienate middle America rather than leading people toward the humane position. But he recovered and recovered well.

All that said, I think Dean did a good job, could have been better, and that he will learn from this. I understand the situation with his son had just occurred and that certainly cut into preparation time and threw him off balance a bit. There’s 6 months before the first primary. I trust this guy, I agree with most of his positions. I feel that he is a natural leader. He even got me thinking about the death penalty with his answer on that question, so I respect his position. (I support the death penalty in only one circumstance – a person who has killed, is repeatedly violent in prison, and is obviously and seriously dangerous to the life of prison guards. I think the only ethical position there is to support the death penalty or guard that prisoner yourself. I could be convinced that I’m wrong.)

Candidates at MoveOn

I’ve been reading all the candidates’ replies to MoveOn’s questions. I have to say ALL of their answers are great, and informative! (Except Lieberman – see below.) Also, their statements to MoveOn members an be found by clicking on their pictures here.

There is a Lieberman statement but the page has this statement regarding his participation in the questions: “The Lieberman Campaign opted not respond to the MoveOn interview.”

Byrd

A speech by Senator Byrd that every American should read. Send it to your friends and family.

It is in the compelling national interest to examine what we were told about the threat from Iraq. It is in the compelling national interest to know if the intelligence was faulty. It is in the compelling national interest to know if the intelligence was distorted.

Mr. President, Congress must face this issue squarely. Congress should begin immediately an investigation into the intelligence that was presented to the American people about the pre-war estimates of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction and the way in which that intelligence might have been misused. This is no time for a timid Congress. We have a responsibility to act in the national interest and protect the American people. We must get to the bottom of this matter.


Well, Mr. President, this is no game. For the first time in our history, the United States has gone to war because of intelligence reports claiming that a country posed a threat to our nation. Congress should not be content to use standard operating procedures to look into this extraordinary matter. We should accept no substitute for a full, bipartisan investigation by Congress into the issue of our pre-war intelligence on the threat from Iraq and its use.

And there is no possible reason an Amdinistration would not want to get to the bottom of what happened … unless…

Please read the whole speech. We’re witnessing history shaping up here.

Mr. President, the American people have questions that need to be answered about why we went to war with Iraq. To attempt to deny the relevance of these questions is to trivialize the people’s trust.

The business of intelligence is secretive by necessity, but our government is open by design. We must be straight with the American people. Congress has the obligation to investigate the use of intelligence information by the Administration, in the open, so that the American people can see that those who exercise power, especially the awesome power of preemptive war, must be held accountable. We must not go down the road of cover-up. That is the road to ruin.