Archive | taxes RSS feed for this section

106. Health Care for All

30 Jul

It is already a basic USA value to help everyone with at least some types of health problems. If a homeless person is lying in the street with severe injuries, he will at least get minimal care. Covertly, Republicans might not agree with this, but on the record they would have to support it or be castigated.

Given this premise, that in practice, everyone will get health care if needed, then it does make sense to require everyone pay for it. The simplest and most agreeable implementation is Medicare for all. Remember that our POTUS promised health care for all at good rates, in his campaign.

I suggest that we greatly increase taxes for rich folks by having higher rates and by closing tax loopholes. If you are extremely rich, then your taxes will be extremely high. If you have no income, then no tax. If you have a small regular income then you could have a very small increase. As income increases, then the percent allotted to health care expense also gradually increases. Lower and middle class people will pay a little more and wealthy people a lot more. Why should wealthy people pay a lot more: because they use a lot of resources and because much of their wealth has been gained by unfair influence on Congressional financial (tax, subsidies, IRA’s, etc.) legislation.

Note that I am not against people who become rich through hard work and intelligence. It is extreme wealth and wealth unfairly gained that bothers me; particularly when there is substantial poverty in our nation. Many very wealthy people have stated that they would not object to increased taxes.

Countries with universal health care include: Austria, Belarus, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom (see Wikipedia).

 

105. Balancing Rich vs. Poor

8 Jul

Our country (USA) now has a certain established income (mostly from tax), and established expenditures. An increase or decrease in any source of income or expense will, as a general rule, either raise or lower the nation debt. To keep the budget constant and free of debt increase, you must keep all parts of it about the same, or set up see-saw rules: up in one area, down in another, and visa-versa. (These rules hold in general, but there can be minor complications.)

So if someone proposes more military spending then there will be less for other areas, for example, infrastructure spending. If we take away huge amounts of income by lowering taxes for the rich, then there could be less for Medicaid, education, environmental protection, or something else.

Trump and Republicans have always proposed decreasing our national income by lowering wealthy taxes. This by itself would increase the national debt. Further, Trump wants to greatly increase military spending. So now we have a lot of spending, with the consequence that other programs will suffer. Rich folks will buy more luxury items, and will be more effective in influencing Congress. And poor people will suffer as their special programs (such as Medicaid) will be diminished. There is a clear ethical problem: less luxury for millionaires (even billionaires) versus the deaths of people who lack health care.

For Trump, having a powerful military is very important because it is helpful in coercion, forcing other countries to go along with his plans. After all, his political and negotiating skills don’t seem to be very good, so he needs a very powerful military to get his way. Also, his political mistakes can be minimized by showing off his military might — similar to the displays of armaments by North Korea.

Another bonus for very rich people would be eliminating the inheritance tax. The cut-off for this tax is the inheritance of five-million dollars so it only applies to rich folk. The vast majority of U.S. citizens support the continuation of this tax.  I have noticed that when Trump mentions inheritance tax, it is very quickly and with a lowered voice.

If the Republicans can achieve the above goals, which make wealthy people even richer, then these are some of the areas that could be adversely affected:
education, health care, State Department functions, Planned Parenthood, Medicaid, Medicare, infrastructure improvement, scientific research, medical research, various tech programs, environmental protections, etc. Let’s ask Trump to do with the Military, what he has proposed in other situations — lets hold the extra spending and make it more efficient instead.

 

104. Underemphasized Political Facts

5 May

I listen to a lot of political commentators and government leaders. It disturbs me that many important factors are rarely mentioned. Here is a list of very important facts that should affect political judgments:

1. The inheritance tax (a.k.a. death tax) is only for very rich folks and starts at $5.45 million. So when GOP people want to end it, it is done to support millionaires and take money away from us.

2. Tax simplification does not help ordinary folks, as their tax is already simple. It helps rich folks cheat, because there are fewer rules governing their very complex returns. Fewer tax categories are always designed by Republicans to make rates lower for high earners, not you and me.

3. When highly respected conservative George Will says a fellow Republican, Donald Trump, cannot “think and speak clearly”, it is significant.

4. Scientists have found that lack of sleep seriously promotes Alzheimer’s disease. Pres. Trump brags about the little time he devotes to sleeping.

5. Those who believe that Bill Clinton’s affairs tarnish his wife Hillary, should recognize that Trump, the actual candidate, has worse transgressions.

6. In Trump’s recent interactions with Chinese President Xi Jinping, he was the losing negotiator. Trump was forced to reverse his accusation of currency manipulation while China only reinforced previous policies.

7. Our House of Reps. just passed a healthcare bill for which there was little time to read and discuss, and was not evaluated by the Congressional Budget Office. This bill is also not consistent with Trump’s many promises, which proves he has no ideals and just supports rich Republicans and himself.

8. There is a tendency for commentators to look for one cause for each result. The recent Dem. loss by Hillary is one such case. Most likely, is that a combination of 7 or 8 factors (mostly “dirty tricks”) lead to the defeat. Please see my Blog Number 95.

9. Trump would have lost most of his followers if he told them in advance of his cabinet choices of several Wall Street billionaires, and his extreme conflicts with personal business interests. He has not done any divesting.

10. In the last 50 years or so, Republicans have always favored very rich folks over ordinary citizens. This is clear if you go to GOP candidate web-sites and examine their U.S. Budget plans. Current plans are to increase U.S. debt by lowering taxes for the rich, and offset this with reductions in services and programs for the rest of us.

11. FBI Director Comey has excuses for making announcements of Hillary investigations, but the bottom line is that he violated Justice Dept. rules. Almost all FBI investigations are secret and not announced until the final result. Investigations of Republicans were secret.

12. Republicans want to decrease regulations because that helps their rich industrial donors and Wall Street.  But most regulations are designed to protect the citizens from air and water pollution, hazards in the workplace and elsewhere, and taxpayer bail outs for bankrupt financial institutions.  Regulations are based on actual abuses and now are being eliminated in a secretive way.  There are supposed to be hearings on such matters.

100. Basic Causes of Greatest Concern

10 Mar

In my 100 blogs to date, I have tried to cover important governmental, social, medical, and related issues, that profoundly affect our way of life. In this, my 100th blog, I will list some of our most significant current issues, and maybe some possible solutions. I know that my blogs are sometimes imperfect and not very original, but my purpose is to increase the number of voices urging important changes and understanding. So here is a list of ideas to emphasize:

Our American founding fathers when creating the Constitution and other rules, were afraid of the kind of populism that we see today. So they tried to move important decisions away from the ordinary citizens and towards more responsible and intelligent leaders. Here are two examples supporting this lack of trust:
1. The establishment of an electoral college, to prevent direct citizen voting.
2. Until 1913, senators were elected by state legislatures, and not the people.
The founding fathers were afraid that ordinary people could be scammed by unscrupulous politicians. They anticipated someone like our current President.

Societies that over emphasize capitalism and the importance of financial success, foster corruption so that clever manipulators accumulate vast wealth, much of which belongs to the people. It is apparent that anyone (or party) in office for a long time will drift away from the people’s needs and develop methods for increasing their wealth. These methods include donating to Congressmen who will legislate tax loopholes and unfair subsidies.

An age requirement for U.S. President is not enough. Tax returns must be required and other financial and business details provided. It is too easy for very rich people, once in office, to make decisions best for their businesses and not for the country. A notable example is the transport minister for Azerbaijan, formerly a part of the Soviet Union. His covert construction contracting, participation in money laundering schemes, and wide-ranging contacts made him extremely rich at the expense of the citizens.

Corruption and unjustified accumulation of wealth, is not limited to politicians. Almost every vital service needed by the people, such as healthcare, education, and insurance, has cheated the citizens and made administrators (and others) hugely wealthy. Many of these rich people donate to Congress and through resulting legislation, make themselves even richer. Donations to congressmen has shifted vast amounts of money away from ordinary citizens, to undeserving administrators (making many millions of dollars). For example, median total compensation for ceos of major teaching non-profit hospitals is 1.35 million. Many make much more. Is it right that many millions of dollars are given to hospital administrators while poor people are being rejected (even die) for lack of insurance? Important services should be provided by the government at little or no cost. I feel that administrators and certain others should be allowed to become somewhat rich, but not extremely so.

Clarification: All “Western” or developed countries are a combination of capitalism with some socialistic features. Pure capitalism allows the unlimited accumulation of wealth with no financial protections for the citizens. Pure socialism is an economy totally controlled and owned by the state. In the USA (and many other major countries) capitalism is primary, and there are “social programs” in areas such as healthcare, education, and supporting the poor. Shifting some funds from the very rich to the very poor through taxation changes and programs like Medicaid is not “socialism,” it is simply the addition of a “social program.”

Last but not least, is the unethical and self-serving practices of many doctors, dentists, and other healthcare practitioners. Diagnoses and treatments are often are more determined by cash-flow than by what is most beneficial for the patient. Here are some examples. In the area of severe back-pain, diagnosis is usually a defect in the spine, and the possibility of simple excessive muscle strain and tension is ignored. Procedures for spinal defects are very expensive whereas procedures for muscle tension simply involve (at no cost) frequent muscle stretching. Here is an example from dentistry. Several years ago, my teeth would develop a dark blue hue, which could be removed by a professional teeth cleaning. Two dentists I went to urged me to double my teeth cleaning sessions, and spent little effort in trying to determine the cause. Fortunately, I was able to figure this out myself, and saved a lot of expense. The blue colored mouthwash I was using, dyed the teeth, and there was even a warning on the label. I could provide a lot of other personal examples, and many are described in previous blogs. An excellent book on this subject is “Confessions of a Medical Heretic”, 1979, by Robert Mendelsohn, MD. This is an old book, but still very applicable to many current physicians (but definitely not all).

Is there a quick fix for all of the forementioned issues? No, but major efforts to improve education could be transformative. Knowledge is important, but developing an ability to reason and research is even more relevant. Still, I have a sneaking suspicion that our current administration would fear a well-informed electorate.

99. Change Yes, Trump No

4 Mar

I think our country needs some radical changes to preserve it, and make it exemplary again. Forget Trump’s “great  again”, let’s make it admirable, honorable, and respectable. This blog is “BasicCauses” and I want to look at some of the fundamentals of our system.

I am going to make some major criticisms so I want to make it clear in advance, that I am happy to be an American, vote every election, served in the U.S. Army, and enjoy free enterprise, having created two successful businesses. I generally support the fundamental features of our current governmental system, but believe we need some significant basic changes. The arrival of Donald Trump as our country’s leader, emphasizes the need for  re-thinking.   Please consider the following:

1. The Primary Process and Voting does not yield the best leaders. This is hard to fix, and probably the best solution, better education, may not be effective for a long time. Many poorly educated voters do not have the reasoning and research skills to make the best judgments. Long held and obsolete beliefs are barriers to better choices.

2. Congress is organized so as to promote gridlock. Our current system has too many barriers to completing legislation. There are many different changes that could speed up law making. One thought that I have had is to have one large legislative body and require 52% of votes to pass a bill. Filibustering would not be allowed, but short speeches from many would be allowed.  The quality of legislation could be improved by adding to this body,  various specialists such as University representatives. A major reorganization will not occur in my lifetime, but starting to think about it is important and I may discuss it more in future blogs.

3. The “fourth branch of government”, the press, is being oppressed. It appears now that we need to pass laws or find other means of protecting the press and allowing them to criticize without recrimination. Also, the citizens should clearly support freedom of the press.

4. Rich donors should not have powerful control of our government. I suggest a maximum donation of $100 for all citizens and no donations allowed from corporations or other organizations. Let’s abolish the super pacs and have a true democracy.

5. Our middle-class is not benefiting enough from our nation’s success. We need to abolish tax-loopholes and increase rates for the very rich.  Many wealthy corporations and individuals pay no tax at all because of loopholes.  Even the Pope has criticized “trickle-down” approaches, which rarely work, but are advocated by the GOP.  (“Trickle-down” means: give lots of money to wealthy businesses and simply hope that some will trickle-down to the rest of us.)

6. Congress should not police and regulate itself. An independent body should do this. (The same goes for all Healthcare organizations and many other service areas.) Unfortunately, with today’s polarization, it is not easy to find truly independent persons.

7. A potential problem is “privatizing.” This means moving a function run by the government, to a private, for profit company. A consequence is that some rich person (and staff) will make huge amounts of money and emphasize profits over proper services. In most cases, the benefits of competition do not make up for all the money lost to over-paid executives. For example, privatizing prisons was a failure and was abolished. Politicians sometimes threaten Social Security and Medicare with privatization, which would decrease benefits.  I have said more about this in previous blogs.

88. Ask Trump: Which Regulations?

31 Jan

Donald Trump has said it is urgent to abolish as many federal government regulations as possible (subject to certain limitations). This may sound OK to ordinary citizens, but if you study the details, you will quickly see why Trump is not more specific. The one specific law that he would terminate is the “Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act”. He never uses the full name, because this act provides Wall Street reform and consumer (you and me) protection. Abolishing the act takes away our protections and allows banks and investment houses leeway to make more profits at our expense. When major banks and other corporations failed in 2008, you and me (the taxpayers) spent our money in saving them. And, to add insult to injury, many of the offending executives got bonuses that year. So it is the old story, rich Mr. Trump is recklessly increasing profits for his wealthy friends, and you and I will, in some way, pay for it; just like we will have to pay for his “Mexican Wall”.

The reason why all this is possible, is that corporations protect individuals from losses due to reckless actions. A corporation can go bankrupt and take the blame, while the executives escape unharmed. And, rich donors lobby congressmen to provide laws that help them financially. Note that Hillary Clinton supported this protective act.

We can only speculate as to what other regulations Trump wants to remove. He has created a rule that is absurd and harmful: that for every new regulation, two must be abolished. Good government is not a game where you ignore the consequences of what you do — it is serious business that affects people’s lives. Historically, thousands (even millions) have died for improper regulation of pesticides (like DDT), improper testing of drugs (like Thalidomide that harmed babies) and various kinds of pollution and toxins (like lead in the water).

Regulations also protect us from financial trickery designed to increase profits for corporate executives. Currently, when you get a mortgage, other type of loan, credit card, annuity, etc., you can be reasonably certain that you are safe. If the regulation of financial transactions is abolished you might have to hire a lawyer to deal with these, or risk major losses. Our world has become more and more complicated and the citizens will need more protections, not less.

Trump and most Republicans would argue that abolishing regulations, lowering taxes for corporations and wealthy people, etc., will improve our economy and the positive results will “trickle down” and help us ordinary citizens.  Why is it that every such plan starts with making rich people richer, and the middle class can only hope for some trickle down. Don’t be fooled. For many years the royalty class has prospered, but the promised middle-class benefits have not been received.

85. We Need Change ?

17 Jan

Trump is the man who will make “change” and deliver us from big, bad government. He is not a politician, he needs no donors, ignore what he says because there is goodness in his heart, he is smarter than the generals (and just about everyone else), all past negotiations are pathetic, and he will rid us of ISIS in a month. He is never wrong and will make you suffer for any criticism. He almost never addresses the criticism itself, but instead attacks the person who made it (even the Pope).

He paints a picture of a failing nation with incompetent leaders and government workers, rampant crime, poor negotiation, widespread poverty, etc. — “things could not be worse.” Black people have not made any progress — an insult to the millions that are doing well and have even achieved the presidency. His motto is “make American great again” without any explanation of when, how, and the meaning of “great.”

.                 False, rigid beliefs interfere with common sense

The Trump movement shows how many people are prisoners of their false and rigid beliefs, and cannot see the obvious and exercise common sense. Sad to say, there are many who voted for Trump just as a protest or just to do something based on frustration. Those persons may be responsible for a new direction leading to our country’s decline. Impulsive superficial voting may be the end of our world leadership and all of the good things developed to date. Trump will make change, but change for the better is unlikely. Here are some possible changes that have been mentioned at least once (but may have been retracted and/or restored at some time):

1. Changed healthcare legislation will cause millions to lose their insurance and many will die.

2. NATO is obsolete. Our long-standing, beneficial, and powerful pact with many nations is under threat.

3. Instead of sanctioning Russia, we will support their authoritarianism, attacks on the press, and take- over of countries like Ukraine. We will ignore their meddling in our elections and their efforts to undermine many nations.

4. We will pull out of the multi-nation “Iran Nuclear Deal”, allowing Iran to go back to making the bombs and delivery systems — prevented by the Deal. We will also pull out of climate-change treaties, which could prevent massive flooding (Florida, NY, etc) and catastrophic human migrations due to massive droughts.

5. Taxes for the very wealthy will be lowered by decreasing the tax rate and by allowing more loopholes. The rich will celebrate while the rest of us will either pay more tax or have reduced benefits — and/or our national debt will surge.

6. We will change trade policies and tariffs so that trade-wars will arise and prices for goods, everywhere, will increase. The chaos will affect our valuable relationships with long-standing allies.

7. Pres. Obama has at times been criticized for inaction, but Trump may impulsively engage us in wars, costing lives and greater national debt.

8. He may generate more terrorists by his abuse of Muslims, various other insults, and dangerous policies.

9. Our valuable press, which is required to keep our democracy honest, may be thrown out of the White House and attacked so viciously that it is ineffective. If Trump’s ideas are so laudable and clearly beneficial, why all the press criticism?

10. Is anyone suspicious of the fact that Trump’s cabinet is filled with extremely rich people and/or persons with questionable histories.

11. Trump would restore vicious torture and wants to keep Guantanamo prison. He also admires the strength of tyrants around the world. Are we setting a good example (under Trump) for the rest of the world? Traditionally the USA has been known for its might, and also its moral authority. Is Trump leading us in the right direction?

After Trump is in office for a while, the appreciation for the positive change that Pres. Obama caused will grow even more.  And the candidate, Hilary Clinton, that Obama so enthusiastically endorsed and was attacked so unmercifully by the GOP will be much more appreciated.  Ironically, she won the national vote count by almost three million.

Just added: I have been working on this blog for several days and at times almost scrapped it, because it may have been too negative. But after hearing Trump’s unnecessary and incorrect abuse of the civil-rights hero and self-sacrificing activist, Congressman John Lewis … well, here it is.