Friday, September 23, 2011

Do right by Senator Sanders, as he's trying to do right by us!

Rick Perry and his fellow Republicans have been repeating a lie over and over, that Social Security is "broke". That is simply not true. Currently there is $2.7 trillion (with a T) surplus in the Social Security account. Over the next 20+ years there will be less money coming in then going out and that will slowly deplete this large trust fund that now exists. Below is a simple solution, put forth by my hero Bernie Sanders which will keep Social Security healthy for at least another 75 years, along with a link which I hope you'll click on to add your name in support!

Below that is a piece by Richard Wolff on "Class War" and then a longer explanation from Senator Sanders on his plan to strengthen Social Security.

Thanks for reading!

For 76 years, through good times and bad, Social Security has paid out every benefit owed to every eligible American. The most effective way to strengthen Social Security for the next 76 years is to scrap the payroll tax cap for those earning $250,000 a year or more.

Right now, someone who earns $106,800 pays the same amount of money into Social Security as billionaires like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. That is because today, all income above $106,800 is exempt from the Social Security tax. As a result, 94% of Americans pay Social Security tax on all of their income, but the wealthiest 6% do not.

The "Keeping Our Social Security Promises Act" will ensure the long-term solvency of Social Security without cutting benefits, raising the retirement age or raising taxes on the middle class.

Join Sen. Bernie Sanders and Democracy for America members from across the county in fighting to strengthen Social Security -- become a citizen co-sponsor of the Keeping Our Social Security Promises Act, sign here:


The Truth About "Class War" in America
Thursday 22 September 2011
by: Richard D. Wolff, Truthout | News Analysis

Republicans and conservatives have done us a service by describing federal policies in terms of "class war." But by applying the term only to Obama's latest proposals to raise taxes on the rich, they have it all backward and upside down. The last 50 years have indeed seen continuous class warfare in and over federal economic policies.

But it was a war waged chiefly by business and conservatives. They won, as we show below, and the mass of middle-income and poor Americans lost. Obama's modest proposal for tax increases on the rich does not begin a class war. On the contrary, it is a small, modest effort to reduce the other side's class war victories.

Big business and conservatives have worked to undo the regulations and taxes imposed on them in the wake of the Great Depression of the 1930s. Then, an upsurge in labor union organization (the Congress of Industrial Organizations sweep across basic US industries) and in membership in both the socialist and communist parties gave Franklin Delano Roosevelt the support and the pressure to tax business and the rich. He took their money to pay for the massive federal hiring program (11 million federal jobs filled between 1934 and 1941) and to start the Social Security Administration etc. He regulated their business activities to try to prevent devastating capitalist depressions from recurring in the nation's future.

Since the end of the Great Depression - and especially since the 1970s - the class warfare waged by business and its allies (most conservatives in both parties) was successful. For example, at the end of World War II, for every dollar Washington raised in taxes on individuals, it raised $1.50 in taxes on business profits. In contrast, today, for every dollar Washington gets in taxes on individuals, it gets 25 cents in taxes on business. Business and its allies successfully shifted most of its federal tax burden onto individuals.

Over the same period, the tax rates on the richest Americans fell from 91 percent in the 1950s and 1960s, and 70 percent in the 1970s to the current low rate of 35 percent. The richest Americans won that spectacular tax cut. Middle- and lower-income Americans won no such cuts, while paying a higher proportion of their income for Social Security that the rich were required to do.

In plain English, the last 50 years saw a massive shift of the burden of federal taxation from business to individuals and from rich individuals to everyone else. Class war policies, yes, but a war that victimized the vast majority of working Americans.

Of course, Republicans and conservatives carefully avoided using "class war" to describe those tax-shifting achievements over the last half-century. They wanted us to believe that all they cared about was economic growth and job creation. But when Obama now proposes modest increases in tax rates on rich individuals ("modest" because they don't begin to return to the tax rates in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s), the Republicans and conservatives howl "class warfare." Obama claims that higher taxes on the rich reduce the need for spending cuts that would slow growth and increase unemployment.

Republicans and conservatives argue that raising taxes on corporations and rich individuals punishes those who create jobs and thus will hurt efforts to reduce unemployment. Neither logic nor evidence supports their arguments. Last Friday, the US Federal Reserve reported a record quantity of cash on the books of US businesses (hoarding over $2 trillion). Despite the currently very low taxes on businesses and the rich, that cash is NOT being invested and NOT creating jobs. Nor is it being distributed to anyone else who is spending it either. Washington could tax a portion of that cash and spend it to stimulate the economy. That would be especially effective if the taxed cash were spent to hire the unemployed rather than leaving the cash idle in businesses' hoards.

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett recently upset many of his fellow super rich individuals by a New York Times op-ed that he wrote. It explained that he had never met any serious investor who decided about investments based on tax rates. Rather the prospects of profits and sales made the key difference to investors. Buffett urged higher income taxes on rich Americans like himself partly because those higher taxes would not negatively impact job creation in the future just as it had not done in the past. He implied that it was becoming dangerous for capitalism's survival to keep providing the minority of rich people with lower federal tax rates than the middle and lower income majority paid.

Economists know that a long time - usually years - separates making an investment and reaping the profits from selling the output of that investment. Anyone making an investment today cannot know what tax rates will be in the future. They may be higher or lower or the same as they are today. That's why investors' decisions depend far more on real costs today and estimates about future sales, markets and prices in the future than on speculation about future tax rates. The claim that tax increases today will cut investments now, thinly disguises an effort to lower taxes on business and the rich now.

History reinforces the same point. In the 1950s and 1960s, tax rates on corporations and the rich were much, much higher than today. Yet, those years had lower unemployment and higherrates of investment and growth than today. Low tax rates on businesses and the rich do not create jobs.

Struggles over taxes always pit business and the rich against the middle-income earners and the poor. Each side seeks to shift the tax burden off of itself and on to the other side. "Class war" in that sense is nothing new. Accusing only one side of waging that war is ignorant at best and dishonest at worst. No one should be fooled. Today, business and the rich are waging class war yet again to avoid even a small, modest reverse in the huge tax cuts they won in that war over the last half-century.


From Senator Sanders:

Republicans hate Social Security because it has been an extraordinary success and has done exactly what it was designed to do. It is the most successful government program in our nation's history and is enormously popular.

When Social Security was developed, 50 percent of seniors lived in poverty. Today, that number is 10 percent -- still too high, but a testament to the success of Social Security.

Republicans have spent years demonizing Social Security and spreading lies about its sustainability. They want to scare Americans and build support for making drastic cuts to the program or privatizing it entirely. Their long-term goal is to end Social Security as we know it, and convert it into a private account system which will enable Wall Street to make hundreds of billions in profits.

The truth is that, today, according to the Social Security Administration, Social Security has a $2.7 trillion surplus and can pay out every benefit owed to every eligible American for the next 25 years.

Further, because it is funded by the payroll tax and not the U.S. Treasury, Social Security has not contributed one nickel to our deficit.

Now -- in a prolonged recession that has decimated the poor and middle class and pushed more Americans into poverty than at any point in modern history -- we need to strengthen Social Security. That's why I, along with nine co-sponsors, have introduced the "Keeping Our Social Security Promises Act." This legislation would lift the Social Security Payroll tax cap on all income over $250,000 a year, would require millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share into the Social Security Trust Fund, and would extend the program for the next 75 years.

Join me now as a citizen co-sponsor of the Keeping Our Social Security Promises Act.

For 76 years, through good times and bad, Social Security has paid out every benefit owed to every eligible American. The most effective way to strengthen Social Security for the next 76 years is to scrap the payroll tax cap for those earning $250,000 a year or more.

Right now, someone who earns $106,800 pays the same amount of money into Social Security as billionaires like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. That is because today, all income above $106,800 is exempt from the Social Security tax. As a result, 94% of Americans pay Social Security tax on all of their income, but the wealthiest 6% do not.

That makes no sense.

The "Keeping Our Social Security Promises Act" will ensure the long-term solvency of Social Security without cutting benefits, raising the retirement age or raising taxes on the middle class.

Join me and Democracy for America in fighting to strengthen Social Security -- Sign on as a citizen co-sponsor of the Keeping Our Social Security Promises Act.

Social Security is keeping tens of millions of seniors out of poverty today. I can think of no more important issue facing our country today than making sure that Social Security remains strong for generations to come.

Thank you.


Senator Bernie Sanders
U.S. Senator from Vermont

become a citizen co-sponsor of the Keeping Our Social Security Promises Act, sign here.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Class Warfare

We've been at the losing end of a "class war" for at least the last 30 years. It's well past time we started fighting back!
Here's a good piece by one of the best minds on the subject:

A Good Fight

Tuesday 20 September 2011
by: Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog | Op-Ed

So the really big fight — perhaps the defining battle of 2012 — won’t be over Medicare. It won’t even be over Obama’s jobs program.

It will be over whether the rich should pay more taxes.

The President has vowed to veto any plan to tame the debt that doesn’t increase taxes on the rich. The Republicans have vowed to oppose any tax increases on the rich.

It’s a good fight to have.

In a Rose Garden ceremony this morning, Obama proposed new taxes on the wealthy — including a special new tax for millionaires, the closing of loopholes and deductions for people making more than $250,000 a year, and an end to the portion of the Bush tax cut going to higher incomes.

Republicans accuse the President of instigating “class warfare.” But it’s not warfare to demand the rich pay their fair share of taxes to bring down America’s long-term debt.

After all, the richest 1 percent of Americans now takes home more than 20 percent of total income. That’s the highest share going to the top 1 percent in almost 90 years.

And they now pay at the lowest tax rates in half a century — half the rate they paid on ordinary income prior to 1981.

(Unfortunately, the President isn’t proposing to raise the capital-gains tax — which, now at 15 percent, creates a loophole large enough for the super-rich to drive their Ferrari’s through. About 80 percent of the income of America’s richest 400 comes in the form of capital gains. Here’s where billionaire hedge-fund and private-equity fund managers make out like bandits. As I’ve noted, I also wish he aimed higher — for more brackets and higher rates at the very top. But at least he’s drawn a line in the sand. The veto message is clear.)

Anyone who says the American economy suffers when the rich pay more in taxes doesn’t know history. We grew faster the first three decades after World War II than we have since.

Trickle-down economics has been a cruel joke.

On the other hand — given projected budget deficits — if the rich don’t pay their fair share, the rest of us will have to bear more of a burden. And that burden inevitably will come in the form of either higher taxes or fewer public services.

If anyone’s declared class warfare it’s the people who inhabit the top rungs of big corporations and Wall Street (and who comprise a disproportionate number of America’s super rich). They’ve declared it on average workers.

The ratio of corporate profits to wages is higher than it’s been since before the Great Depression. And even as corporate salaries and perks keep rising, the median wage keeping dropping, and jobs continue to be shed.

You’ve got the chairman of Merck taking home $17.9 million last year. This year Merck announces plans to boot 13,000 workers. The CEO of Bank of America takes in $10 million, and the bank announces it’s firing 30,000 workers.

Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but the way I see it we’ve got a huge budget deficit and a giant jobs problem. And under these circumstances it seems to me people at the top who have never had it so good should sacrifice a bit more, so the rest of us don’t have to sacrifice quite as much.

According to the polls, most Americans agree.

Robert Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written thirteen books, including The Work of Nations, Locked in the Cabinet, Supercapitalism, and his most recent book, Aftershock.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Bruce LeBel LTE of Arcata Eye re: Panhandling Lawsuit

From the Arcata Eye

Editor –

My answer to the question “Whose Arcata?” posed on the cover of last week’s North Coast Journal is this:

Arcata is everyone’s who is here, with our rights enumerated in the US Constitution and with constraints in activities and behaviors defined by laws, regulations and zoning. That these shared rights and constraints pit the preferences of one against the rights of another is a source of conflict engendered by some who are impatient or offended by others, as illustrated by Arcata’s reactionary panhandling ordinance.

The City will certainly lose the current lawsuit challenging the panhandling ordinance, as the geographic constraint on free speech by the ordinance is essentially total in the commercial area. (A reminder of the foundation of civil rights that our society, including Arcata, is built on was provided by a Federal judge’s recent ruling in favor of a panhandler on a Fifth Ave. sidewalk in Manhattan.

There were already municipal ordinances that define aggressive panhandling as illegal, and the further elements of the new ordinance that address aggressive panhandling are not being challenged.

Although our respective individual economic positions, available time, health, energy and worldview give each of us our capabilities to engage in our chosen ways with our Arcata community, we all share our civil rights and share the responsibility to comply with applicable laws. However, when a law attempts to erode our Constitutional foundation of civil rights, those who take a stand challenging the misguided ordinance are representing all of us, every one of us in Arcata, because other than the air there is nothing shared more commonly among all of us whose Arcata this is than our civil rights.

And yes, an increase in respectful behavior would be nice, but you can’t create that from the City Council dais, particularly when the Council takes a position disrespecting our Bill of Rights.

Bruce LeBel
Arcata, CA

* * *

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Response to Michele Bachmann

Maybe sever weather is God's way of encouraging deficit spending as economic stimulus?

Monday, September 5, 2011

City of Arcata to be Sued for Denying Public Records Request

Arcata threatened with lawsuit over records

Jessica Cejnar/The Times-Standard

A former Arcata commissioner is threatening to sue the city unless it releases information on the amount of money it spends on private attorneys.

According to Arcata resident Marc Delany, city officials refused to release the total amount of fees it paid to every private attorney hired to represent Arcata over the last three years.

According to a letter attorney Peter Martin sent to the Arcata City Council on Delany's behalf Wednesday, city officials refused to release that information, claiming it is subject to attorney-client privilege.

Arcata City Manager Randy Mendosa said the city spent a substantial amount of time and cost to meet Delany's request but said he was unsure if the legal costs were included. Mendosa also said because Delany has hired an attorney to represent him and has threatened to sue the city, he couldn't comment further on the issue.

”Our staff works hard to comply with as many public records as requested by the public,” he said. “It's something we take very seriously.”

Arcata City Attorney Nancy Diamond was unavailable for comment.

Martin and Delany, a former member of Arcata's Historic and Design Review Commission, are part of a new organization called the Humboldt Civil Liberties Defense Fund, which formed last week. Martin said Delany filed the public records act request with the city on July 11 and received a response 10 days later asking for more time to compile the requested documents.

When the city again responded on Aug. 11, it turned over records of the cases Arcata has been involved in and the attorneys who represented the city, but the amount of public funds spent to pay for those attorneys was missing, Delany said.

”We're trying to figure out what the trend line is for city expenditures for legal costs,” Delany said. “We're kind of curious about things the city has done that clearly didn't match up with what the rules and regulations were.”

According to Martin, the city claimed that its legal costs is privileged information.

”In my view of the law, there's no basis for that,” he said, adding that he and Delany would give the city two more weeks to respond to their records request. “Mr. Delany will then bring an action in superior court to enforce the demand if it's not complied with.”

The amount of money cities pay in legal fees is a matter of public record, said Duffy Carolan, an attorney with San Francisco law firm Davis Wright Tremaine LLP. Any advice and confidential communications that take place between a city council and their outside counsel can be redacted, she said, but the amount of attorneys' fees isn't something that can be withheld from the public.

”Many agencies hire outside counsel that are private attorneys as opposed to just having something done through the city attorney,” Carolan said. “How would the public ever be able to assess the city's decision to go with that particular firm in light of other firms?”

Martin said the Humboldt Civil Liberties Defense Fund will monitor cases in which peoples' civil liberties may have been affected and will provide funding to help pay for cases that it feels are a worthy cause. One case the organization is interested in is Richard Salzman's lawsuit against Arcata over its panhandling ordinance, said Martin, who is representing Salzman.

Jessica Cejnar can be reached at 441-0504 or at