…Through the virtue of training, Enlighten both body and soul — Morihei Sensei

Posts tagged “government

Now That’s a Riot!

Saw this on SillyReverie’s site

The OWS objectors may want to rethink attempts to minimize or dismiss the protests and their gripes.

Tell me what you think. . .


Real tax burden

My bottom line on taxes is that we pay an exhorbitant amount of income tax from our paychecks here in the United States.  In fact, we pay one of the highest percentages of taxes in the world.  This is particularly so when you compare the political-economic structure of the countries whose percentages exceed ours, and layer on the fact they all have some sort of universal healthcare (read: tax-funded).  Specifically, these countries (largely) are openly socialist-influenced, and (largely) have single-payer tax-funded healthcare.

I maintain that the United States economic system has not been Capitialistic for a very long time (if ever).  This may sound extreme, but if our tax system is any indication, we are a long ways toward Socialist.  Here are the numbers:

We’re all in the 40% tax bracket.  An analysis of income tax brackets, including federal, state, payroll taxes, and deductions puts the average tax payer paying 40% of their income in taxes (pre take home).

We pay another 22% surcharge on what’s left.  Most first-world countries openly levy a VAT (value-added tax) on their citizens.  We don’t call it that, but we levy several layers of sales taxes on our citizens:  State sales taxes, consumption taxes (gasoline, tobacco, airlines, etc), highway tolls.  Additionally, the products we buy are produced by companies that pay these same consumption taxes (I’m not even talking about business income taxes).  These companies pass these taxes along to us in the price of the goods they sell.  Add it all up and find we pay 22% in these embedded taxes–this on after-tax income.

Wait, there’s more. . .We pay for our own healthcare.  Depending on your exact healthcare situation, employer paid benefit, self-insured, medical savings plan, traditional 80/20 health insurance, your actual annual cost will vary.  But when comparing national tax percentages, this must be accounted for as many (most) first world countries pay for their citizens’ healthcare from the taxes their citizens pay.  If we take the lower costs from employer-paid plans (remember this is money paid on your behalf by the company) we have average annual costs of $14,202 (premium, deductible, and other out-of-pockets) per family. (The Hidden costs of Health care)   The costs are even higher for smaller firms, and individually purchased plans.   This does not account for the medical cost (or lack thereof) for the uninsured, but at what cost and what risk?  There would be a good analysis:  The long term cost of foregoing medical treatment in terms of life expectancy versus the risk of financial ruin in the face of a catastrophic medical event.

Let’s run the numbers.  If we look at a family household income of $100,00 (not unreasonable ), and then an individual earning $45,000.

A family income ostensibly of $100,000. 

  • Take homepay (less 40%) $60,000.
  • Less Healthcare costs (the conservative numbers, and assuming a tax-deductible threshold) $45798.
  • Then the embedded taxes on after-tax income (money we use to buy stuff)
  • $35,722 left.
  • Real Tax Rate:  64.28%.

For an individual earning $45,000:

  • Less 40%:     $27,000
  • Less healthcare ($6191):     $20,809
  • Less embedded taxes:     $16,231
  • Real Tax Rate:     63.93%

Note:  Neither of these calculations account for the several other taxes and tax-like costs we incur:  e.g., ad valorem taxes, property taxes, public utility fees, universal coverage fees (i.e., in your phone & utility bills)

Discussions regarding what we actually pay in taxes in the United States are patently deceiving.  The tax code is so skewed.  The sheer number of different types of taxes we pay is staggering.  The different metrics we can use to describe taxes is mesmerizing.  Every one seems to be able to arrive at the conclusion they want through selective attention and willful ignorance.

Resources:  Some of these conclusions support mine, some don’t.  But none synthesize all the analyses which I’ve included above:

–Jalal

Please comment below.  What’s your take on this?

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Constitutional Convention Updated: “We the Corporations. . . “

If the Constitution Were Written Today . . .

the founding fathers at the Constitutional convention, sponsored by multi-national corporations

By Mike Luckovich

By Mike Luckovich with Truthdig.com


Body Scanners — Another brick in the wall

curvy lady in body scan machine causing TSA employees to pass out The Obama administration, through the TSA, recently went live with full-body scanners (x-ray machines) and full-body pat downs. There has been much uproar regarding the invasiveness of these measures.  There has also been so much discussion regarding the true effectiveness of our airport security measures.  What has been lacking is any mainstream discussion of the real implications of this newest degradation of the Constitution & Bill of Rights.

There has been a steady degradation of the Bill of Rights by the federal government, and Presidential administrations virtually since they’re ratification.  However, in the last 25 years and particularly since the World Trade Center Bombing, the acceleration has been extreme.  This recent TSA full body scan procedure is another chink in that process.

When asked, many people state they are willing to give up some freedom for increased safety, and that this is in fact necessary.  However, that assumes three things.  First that we have much freedom to give up.  Second, that there is any real security to be had. And, perhaps most importantly, that there is any end to the giving up of freedoms. When looking at the powers of the executive branch with executive orders, command of the military, and its unelected regulatory agencies, there is not really much freedom left in the United States.  The fact that you may not feel violated, doesn’t mean you’re free.

All the security measures we’ve taken have not really increased our real security.  Hijacker take over a plane with box cutters because passengers didn’t understand that they were doomed to die.  Once passengers understand that hijackers are not going to land the plane, box cutters no longer are effective.  Thus, the best measures against box cutters become, reinforced cock pit doors, and passenger education.  Scanning each and every passenger each and every time for every possible implement is ridiculous and inherently doomed to failure.  Thus, what does taking away my nail clippers accomplish?  It doesn’t make anybody any safer.  What it does do is encroach on my freedom.

Similarly with taking off shoes.  While TSA is seizing my nail clippers, a guy tries to ignite a shoe bomb.  So now each and every American must take off their shoes each and every time the go through a security gate.  Any more shoe bombers?  No.  Does it mean we have now deterred shoe bombs?  No.  It only means that there was one guy with a shoe bomb, and now American citizens are subject to the demeaning and useless process of taking off their shoes over and over again.

What is the point, really? These are the types of techniques used in controlling prison populations.  Subject and condition them to accept humiliating direction from their controllers.  This most recent TSA screening measure is no different.  The administration cannot possibly have any expectation that this will make us any safer.  They can bet it will be another blow in the process of beating us into submission.

Bomb sniffing dogs are your best bomb detection method.  This is how we clear mine fields, when the stakes are hard and real.  Why don’t we employ the best detection method?  Body scanners and mass pat downs are only effective against a narrow class of attacks.  They are massively expensive.  Why are we using the extremely expensive, less effective method?

There are so many vulnerabilities to terrorist attack, that the idea of the government restricting our freedom to protect us is an unending process. The question then becomes, What is the point?

Boiling a Frog.  We’ve all heard of the boiling frog.  The idea goes (I have not personally verified the scientific accuracy) that you can boil a frog to death, and have it not jump out of the pot, if you first set it in a pot of cold water. Then turn on the flame and increase the water temperature slowly, incrementally.  The frog will adjust to each incremental increase, not noticing one degree difference at a time.  However, when taken together the 212 individual degrees will not have been noticed, yet the frog is boiling just the same.

Another brick in the wall.  The latest TSA measures are just another brick in the wall of the prison that the United States is becoming.

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First Body Scanner Needed in the Americas

 

Native Americans see Spanish conquistadors approaching and call for body scanners

Dana Summers, Copyright 2010 Tribune Media Services


Coal Miners: Metaphor for Power Division in America

The most recent coal mining tragedy in West Virginia is a metaphor for the real power divisions in America. The underclass, and the distracted middle class in America, spend so much time and energy being angry and fighting over different issues and power divisions. Unfortunately, very few of these distinctions represent the true division of power in the United States. Issues of race, political party, religion, economic philosophy are phantasms and fabrications which obscure the only real power distinction in America. That distinction is the difference between those who own stuff, and those who don’t. But even that distinction, as simple as it sounds, can be ephemeral if one doesn’t come to terms with the difference between owning stuff and membership in the ruling class.

The John Sayles movie “Matewan”, set in early 1900s Matewan, West Virginia coal mining town, illustrates how different underclass groups are pitted against each other in the United States, while the real oppressors press down on them all. When these groups come together, the Coal Field Wars breakout, which ultimately results in extreme loss of life, but considerably improved working conditions for miners. The rub, historically outside of the timeframe of the movie, is that the coal mines remain a dangerous place to work, that only those without other viable options opt for. The annual loss of life from accidents is down, however the chronic health issues resulting from a career of going down in the pits remains a killer.

The saying goes that men go down in the hole white, black, or brown, but they all come out black.

Early in the history of coal mining in the United States, the first miners were the white Appalachian mountain folk, who lived in the coal rich hollers of the Eastern Appalachian Mountain range.  As social change occurred, and new immigrants found moved around the country, Blacks, Italian, Germans, a host of new ethnic groups found their way to the mines.  The mining companies used racial divides to pit these ethnic groups against one another.  This served to distract from the extreme abusive practices used by the mining companies against their workers, and the workers families.  As long as the ethnic groups were pitted against each other, identified each other as the source and cause of their woes, they would not realize, or be able to organize against the true oppressor, the mining companies.

For those who may question the validity of calling the mining companies abusive or oppressors, I’d be glad to write a post dedicated to that issue.  Just let me know.  Suffice it to say, the “market” did not, was not, and would not take care of these problems.

At any rate, the movie “Matewan” chronicles the beginning of the Coal Field Wars, and how union organizers got the various ethnic groups to focus, not on the phantasmic differences of race and ethnicity, but on the oppression of the mining companies.  When the mining companies met resistance from the miners, The Pinkerton Detective Agency was called in, at that point in time, basically a mercenary unit, armed with guns.  The Pinkertons brought their guns and the miners and mountain folk met them.  The Coal Field Wars began.

The end result was that President Roosevelt called in the National Guard to suppress the miners and put an end to the armed conflict.  However, after much loss of life, attention was brought to the issue.  Miners were unionized in many mines, and working conditions improved greatly.  However, as we can see from recent mining accidents, and the persistant high mortality rate among miners, conditions are still very bad for that Class of Americans.

What are the take aways?  First, conflicts and divisions between race and ethnicity in America are illusions and lies used by the ruling class to keep the people from disrupting power.  Second, the only true division in America is between the ruling class and the people.  Third, the only chance The United States has going forward, is for the people to rise above the current, and worsening state of racial, religious, ethnic, divide and directly address the abuses of the ruling class.

The question then becomes, who comprise the ruling class?  This is a topic for another post, but suffice it to say being white and/or wealthy are not defining conditions.  Plenty of white people are in the underclass, whom the ruling class would, and has, gladly sacrifice.  Additionally, wealthy is neither a defining term, as plenty of wealthy individuals are utterly dependent on the good will of the Federal government and the corporations for whom they slave.