Tuesday, April 15, 2014

From Joe's Vault, April 2011: Who Wants To Be A Millionaire (And Pay Little Or No Taxes)?

By Manifesto Joe

The Republicans just don't get it, and it looks like they won't in the foreseeable future. With 40 cents of every federal dollar spent now being borrowed, they want to give yet more tax bonanzas to the rich while essentially abolishing Medicare and Medicaid.

This isn't what Americans voted for in 2008. A lower percentage of them, those who bothered to vote in 2010, voted for such folly whether they knew it or not.

The numbers cry out for a tax hike on the wealthy.

When one talks to earners at the upper-middle level, they are quick to point out the marginal rate of 35%, arguing that with progressive tax brackets, many of them end up paying more than lower earners as a percentage. (That's what comes of a steady mental diet of Fox News. That stuff rots brains.)

Yet such people seem to get amnesia when one points out that just 10 or so years ago, when the marginal rate was 39.6%, the U.S. was running a surplus. This was no accident. Even with the modest Clinton tax hike on the rich that barely passed in 1993, we didn't have the structural deficit we have now.

And the Mainstream Media are quick to obfuscate, talking to selected economists who keep telling the victims that raising taxes on the rich won't be enough. And who owns the MSM? Giant corporations -- and how much income tax do they pay?

Two-thirds of corporations pay no income tax

That's not news -- the first of the stories broke in 2008. Here's a link to one of them.

Although it's not news, many people don't seem to "get it," so it bears repeating, and repeating some more. Most of these "legal persons" are getting a free ride. They use the infrastructure (such as it is now), and have vast resources to fleece ordinary, unsuspecting victims out of many billions, yet they pay nothing.

In case you thought I was joking, here's a link to a more recent story about this, courtesy of Alternet.

In their 1990 book America: What Went Wrong?, investigative journalists Donald Barlett and James Steele cited IRS statistics that show that, in 1959, corporations accounted for 39% of federal tax revenue. By 1989, that was down to 17%. And it's probably gotten worse since then.

Here's a brief roll call of Corporate America's tax slackers:

General Electric -- Last month, The New York Times reported that, in addition to paying no federal income taxes this year, GE, the largest U.S. corporation, is to get a tax credit of $3.2 billion. GE made $14.1 billion in profits in 2010, $5.1 billion of which came from its U.S. operations. The story was conspicuously absent from NBC News, part-owned by General Electric.

Goldman Sachs -- Bloomberg News, in December 2008, reported that Goldman Sachs Group Inc., which got $10 billion and debt guarantees from the U.S. government in October, expects to pay $14 million in taxes worldwide for 2008 compared with $6 billion in 2007. The company’s effective income tax rate dropped to 1 percent from 34.1 percent, Goldman Sachs said. The firm reported a $2.3 billion profit for the year after paying $10.9 billion in employee compensation and benefits. U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, a Texas Democrat who serves on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, said steps by Goldman Sachs and other banks shifting income to countries with lower taxes is cause for concern. "This problem is larger than Goldman Sachs," Doggett said. "With the right hand out begging for bailout money, the left is hiding it offshore."

ExxonMobil -- In March 2010, Forbes magazine reported that the oil giant, "which last year reported a record $45.2 billion profit, paid the most taxes of any corporation, but none of it went to the IRS":

Exxon tries to limit the tax pain with the help of 20 wholly owned subsidiaries domiciled in the Bahamas, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands that (legally) shelter the cash flow from operations in the likes of Angola, Azerbaijan and Abu Dhabi. No wonder that of $15 billion in income taxes last year, Exxon paid none of it to Uncle Sam, and has tens of billions in earnings permanently reinvested overseas.

Mother Jones magazine noted that, despite benefiting from corporate welfare in the U.S., Exxon complains about paying high taxes, claiming that it threatens energy innovation research. It was noted at the Wonk Room that big corporations' tax shelter practices similar to Exxon’s shift a $100 billion annual tax burden onto U.S. taxpayers.

This list could grow to tedious proportions. You should get the picture by now.

Let's start sharing some sacrifice

Nobody likes to pay taxes. I owed the IRS far more than I expected to this year, and will probably be until fall paying it all off. But when some common slob like me is paying Uncle Sam more, year after year, than GE is, then there must be something dreadfully wrong with this system.

But alas, our Republican brethren still don't get it. They are promoting the idea of still more tax bonanzas for the wealthy. And, although a corporation enjoys the status of a "legal person" in our psychopathic system, two-thirds of them pay nothing, and even get refunds and billions in corporate welfare on top of that.

The latest news on this was from The Associated Press. It's not just corporations that are the problem. About 45% of U.S. households will pay no income tax at all, thanks to all the breaks that people, especially the super-rich, are getting.

It should be clear, if one looks at the numbers honestly, that our structural deficit has much more to do with what needs to be raised than with what needs to be cut.

Yet, the Republicans persist in their policies of the past 30-plus years, to defecate all over ordinary people while cutting sweet deals for their rich campaign contributors. And the Democrats haven't been very much better. Even President Barack "Change you can believe in" Obama hasn't been nearly candid enough on this issue.

So, what is to be done? Giant corporations and the super-rich clearly have politicians by the balls and have been gaming the system accordingly for the past 30-plus years. What can an ordinary person do?

(1) Stop believing the MSM. They obfuscate, and sometimes outright lie. And that shouldn't be surprising, given that they are generally owned by the very corporations that have been getting a free ride.

(2) Vote in the primaries. This is where people can get real Democrats, not just more corporate lackeys, to be candidates in the general election. The one positive that came out of the 2010 midterm debacle was that now, the Democrats left in Congress are more progressive on these kinds of issues. Ironically, it was largely the "Blue Dogs" and Democrats-in-name-only who went down in defeat to Tea Party challengers.

(3) Vote in the general elections. As frustrating as DINOs can be, and as agonizingly placating as Obama has been, we're better off with them than we are now, with right-wing Republican ideologues writing the agenda. President Clinton, Republicrat though he often was, presided over the last balanced federal budget, and that was largely because he demanded that the rich pay at least a modestly higher percentage of their hefty incomes in taxes. And back then, there was little talk of privatizing Medicare.

(4) General strike. In contemporary America, it will be very hard to float this idea. But if most of the work force in this country were willing to "sick out" just one day, and a few spokespeople made clear to the powers that be that this was an organized protest, it might perk up some ears.

This country is far from broke. The trick is going to be getting the rich slackers who have the bucks to fork some of them over. There are people out there who have it -- but they aren't going to let go of any of it without a fight.

Just pay your taxes today, chumps. Serious training starts tomorrow.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Prog Rock's Greg Lake Has An Opinion About Punk

Here's the link:

Right here

I always thought the best "punk" rock bands were the ones that came long before there was even a name for the movement. Stones, Kinks, Doors, Who, Stooges, MC5, Flamin' Groovies, etc. The Sex Pistols' one album was a good listen, but the whole thing went downhill quickly after them, with a few exceptions from the likes of Joy Division and The Clash.

There are people who will say that Greg Lake is just a fat 66-year-old man who's bitter because he never got much acclaim. But hey, fat 66-year-olds are entitled to their opinions, too. And ELP, whatever their shortcomings and excesses, were a much better band than most of what I was forced to endure during the '80s and '90s. -- mj

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Wal-Mart's Crocodile Tears Don't Hide Its Greed

By Manifesto Joe

I got a little hot under the collar reading a recent story that quoted Wal-Mart U.S. CEO Bill Simon as saying that if Wal-Mart employees "can go to another company and another job and make more money and develop, they'll be better. It'll be better for the economy. It'll be better for us as a business, to be quite honest, because they'll continue to advance in their economic life."

This from the CEO of a company that pays its employees an average of $8.90 an hour, and forces many to go on food stamps and rent subsidies and low-income children's health programs such as CHIP. And you, the taxpayer, are subsidizing this company, to the tune of $86 million in California alone.

Here's a link to the article. And here's another link to a story about how much this company's predatory practices are costing the taxpayers.

Even more unfortunately, Wal-Mart isn't the only company that engages in low-wage exploitation of desperate workers. It's a prevalent practice in the fast-food industry. Not long ago McDonald's had to wipe egg (McMuffin?) off its face and alter a website where they had the gall to offer advice on how much its poverty-stricken employees should tip an au pair. It would appear that Ronald isn't the only clown who works for McDonald's.

This chipping away at the American middle class hasn't happened by accident. It is the widespread shortsightedness of Corporate America that is doing this.

Henry Ford, certainly no progressive, at least knew one thing about Economics 101: He paid his workers enough money for them to be able to actually buy the product they were making. This is a simple lesson that appears to be totally lost on 21st-century Corporate America.

Karl Marx was pretty clearly wrong about a lot of things, but I can spot one thing that he did see with great clarity. Amid many bids to reform capitalism, it has a nasty habit of reverting back to its original, primitive form.

Americans, in their stoicism and general acceptance of the so-called free market, will put up with this reversion for a very long time. I don't expect to see this New Gilded Age end while I'm alive, since I'm pushing 58 and have health issues.

But there comes a time, anywhere, when people get desperate enough to just start TAKING what they need. I don't see capitalism as likely to survive into the 22nd century, at least not in its current form. An economy has to be for the many, not just for the few. And that is a lesson that I think Corporate America has long forgotten, and will be forced to relearn just a bit too late.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

'Obamacare' Is Helping Many It Was Intended To Help

By Manifesto Joe

I had misgivings about Barack Obama from the start -- that's why I voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary. I doubted that Obama had the Beltway experience that he needed for an effective White House. In many ways, I'd say that has proved to be true.

But my sympathies are largely with Obama now, especially in some of his worst hours. I think the man's heart is generally in the right place, and he's splattered with mud no matter what he does or doesn't do. Now we even have right-wing crazies who think he should bomb Russia over what Putin is doing in Ukraine. After almost 25 years of no Soviet Union, these maniacs, at long last, really want to do a nuke-athon with Vladimir? And over Ukraine, a former Soviet "republic." Give me a break!

That issue aside, the thing the wingnuts seem intent on taking to November with them is the problems with "Obamacare." Granted, it hasn't gone that well, and no such half-assed solution to the U.S. health care dilemma ever will. But one thing that's becoming clearer -- "Obamacare" is better than nothing, and it is largely helping people it was intended to help.

In particular, the 55- to 64-year-olds of America were being seriously left out in the cold when it came to health insurance. During the Great Recession, our corporate masters were pissing their pants to get rid of people in that demographic group -- the soon-to-be-retirees who comprise the most vulnerable of those in the workforce. I know from experience. The bastards swung the ax at me just before I turned 56.

The particular problem with people of that age, people like me, is that certain health problems start to show up at that age; and, with the years and decades of experience in the chosen fields, people of that age actually expect to be paid. Silly, isn't it?

Anyway, a lot of asses hit the pavement during those years, just at the time when the individuals had saved up for retirement, had health issues that would make insurance no option, but they were too young to retire and too young to qualify for Medicare.

Enter "Obamacare." It was nothing great, but it was better than nothing. Here's a link about how people of our demographic have benefited from this program. Oh, and while we're at it, here's another. I was lucky enough to get a job after 27 weeks of unemployment, but not everyone fitting this description was that fortunate.

Of course, there have been two problems that could have been predicted. In many states, the refusal of Republican governors to expand Medicaid has had the effect of actually increasing the prospective number of uninsured people, even with "Obamacare." Gov. Rick "El Pendejo" Perry of Texas has been one of them. He'll certainly never have to worry about getting health insurance, nor will any of his privileged kin.

The other problem is simply that this is a half-assed solution to a double-cheeked problem. People on the right are saying a lot of moronic things, like that they envision a health insurance system that is strictly private and resembles the mandatory car insurance market. Right, as though a seriously ill person can shop around for insurance like some Arab trader. Single-payer, as distasteful as this is to the right wing, looks more inevitable now than ever before. It would, and ultimately will, solve a great many problems.

In the meantime, for those in the 55 to 64 age group, this has proved better than nothing. We should be thankful for small favors.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Being Poor Makes You Stupid

By Manifesto Joe

One hears much talk on the political right about the self-inflicted wounds of the poor, and that economic outcomes are closely tied to one's intelligence. It's a convenient way to justify highly unequal outcomes, and can be made to sound very "noble" with the emphasis on individual responsibility.

But science is finding that it's quite often the other way around. Being stupid may make you poor, yes -- but being poor also makes you stupid.

In a recent study of Indian sugar cane farmers, it was found through cognitive testing that before harvest, when the farmers are poor and struggling as their crops ripen, IQs were about 13 points lower than when the very same farmers were tested after the harvest, when money was ample. Being poor, it appeared, has a significant effect on the intelligence of the very same test subjects.

Here's a link to an article on the overall subject, and this study is referenced.

There are also studies linking mental health issues with poverty. Perhaps self-defeating behavior does create poverty -- but poverty, in turn, appears to create self-defeating behavior. Thus a vicious cycle is born.

I was born into a Southern working-class family that frequently struggled to make ends meet. My father left a promising military career to become a farmer just as the infamous Texas drought of the 1950s dried up the countryside, and then he became terminally ill in the 1960s. His financial fortunes were thoroughly destroyed by chance and/or fate. My mother struggled with mental health problems her entire life, and she was always plagued by her chronically bad financial decisions. Now I suspect that poverty was largely the cause of her problems, not the result of them.

Despite my background, I scored high enough on IQ tests to qualify for membership in the Mensa Society at the age of 26. In view of those recent studies, does this mean that my test scores might have been 13 points higher if I'd been something other than a struggling small-time newspaper reporter?

And would my IQ be higher now if I hadn't been laid off from a metro daily days before turning 56? The effect of the layoff, and its timing, on my finances has been nothing short of devastating. I'll never be able to really retire.

All personal experience aside, the effect that this has is the creation of a permanent underclass -- not only a socioeconomic one, but an intellectual one as well. As it turns out, it appears very much in the interest of the "1 percent" to keep a large bloc of people poor, in any society, for the rich to preserve the privileges they enjoy. Thus we see powerful opposition to increasing the minimum wage.

I've heard the arguments about increases in the minimum wage supposedly being inflationary, and being a job killer. But no empirical evidence supports that. Analyze the wage increases of the past, and one finds no such things. Any such ill effects are more than negated by the boost that poor people get in purchasing power. I've also heard it argued that people who earn the minimum wage are mostly teenagers. Studies have shown that the average minimum wage earner may be as old as 29. Also, try telling that to the typical Walmart "associate," as soon as his or her business with the food stamp office is concluded.

The bottom line is, when there are millions of working poor, those people are busy being absorbed by how to pay rent and bills, and their IQs suffer as a result. Keeps them in their place.

And then, the relatively wealthy can easily blame the victims for their own plight. They are there because they deserve to be there, it's been said. They should show the initiative and shrewdness to improve their individual positions in life.

But science is revealing that this isn't the entire story. And in general, what's strongly implied by these studies is that if people were broadly paid more for their labor, their IQs might increase commensurately.

But you see, we mustn't have the great unwashed rabble getting fancy, unrealistic ideas about themselves. That just won't do.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

By The Way, RIP, Pete Seeger (1919-2014)

It's the passing of an era. My mother was a folkie, and I heard Pete and others with him from an early age. We need a few more protest singers like him. You know, the ones from whom you can actually understand the lyrics. -- mj

The Lost Art Of Music: REAL Music

Something I've run across often on the very far left is people who think that three-chord punk rockers play "real music." One doesn't have to be a reactionary to yearn for music -- the real thing. Here's an example of how the REAL THING is done. This is the great Lee Morgan (1938-1972), one of the great jazz trumpeters and a bandleader in the era of hard bop in the early 1960s. (Too bad he was a junkie, but many were.)


Enjoy, if you can. I know too well that not everybody digs jazz. -- mj

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

On Vacation, Back Soon

It takes a worried man to sing a worried song. I may be worried now, but I won't be worried long.

Will be back with a vengance in February. -- mj

Sunday, January 5, 2014

MSM Again Fail To Tell All Sides Of Story On 'Obamacare'

By Manifesto Joe

When it comes to the Affordable Care Act, known pejoratively to critics as "Obamacare," our Mainstream Media have, again and again, generally failed to tell the whole story. The reports have mostly focused on the early failures of the federal website, admittedly a debacle at first.

But there are other sides to this story that are rarely being told. One rare case was a recent lead story in the middle-market daily newspaper of Wichita Falls, Texas -- I believe it is called the Record-News, owned by the Scripps chain.

The report tells the story of Julie Coley of Wichita Falls, who signed up for "Obamacare" pretty much as a matter of necessity. Before, Julie and her husband, Jeff, could only get health insurance through the Texas High-Risk Pool. Their monthly premium was a ridiculous $839, with a yearly deductible of $7,500, which they could never meet. Why? Because Jeff Coley had pre-existing conditions such as congestive heart failure.

After obtaining a policy through the Affordable Care Act, Jeff and Julie now pay $349 a month, with an annual deductible of $1,500. She estimates that they save $600 a month after reductions in prescription drug costs are included in their medical budget. The couple are also now able to get preventive screening and diagnostic tests that they couldn't get through their old plan.

The Coleys are exactly the kinds of people that "Obamacare" is intended to help, and they are seeing the benefits come very quickly. But judging from the kind of coverage the MSM have usually been giving the "Obamacare" rollout, one wouldn't be able to tell that there are millions upon millions of Americans who have been facing the same predicaments as the Coleys.

Instead, the MSM have aped the rhetoric of the right wing, stressing the fiasco that was the botched IT when the federal website made its debut Oct. 1. Let's not kid ourselves -- the Republicans and those who sympathize with them want this broadened coverage to fail, and they don't make a secret of it. They really aren't interested in saving the lives of sick people -- they seem to want them to just die off, if that's what it takes to get their party back into power. The MSM, so often alleged to be "liberal," are blatantly playing along.

"THEY LIED," screams the cover of the ironically named "Reason" magazine, a libertarian mouthpiece. Shown with that is a picture of President Obama and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.

I didn't read their cover article -- I've got to watch my blood pressure -- but I presume that what Obama and Pelosi were supposed to have lied about was that anybody who liked their health insurance policy as it was would be permitted to keep it.

Conveniently ignoring most of the facts

What is conveniently ignored, over and over, is that these policies that the insurance thieves have been canceling are generally cheap "junk" plans that have proved a gold mine for litigation lawyers across the country. The deductibles are ridiculously high, and they don't cover important points such as hospitalization and diagnostics. What is also conveniently ignored is that up to now the uninsured and underinsured have generally gone to charity hospitals and emergency rooms for late-stage treatment, which makes not only healthy people's insurance premiums and hospital bills go up, but their property taxes as well.

None of this should be shocking. For decades U.S. media consumers have been subjected to business coverage that is unabashedly biased in favor of wealthy people, the investment class, society's material "winners." Labor is given little voice, and working-class people are generally depicted as lazy spendthrifts who simply don't understand the struggles of multimillionaires to meet payrolls every couple of weeks. And now that Congress has failed to vote on extending benefits to millions of long-term jobless people, many more Americans face the precipice of homelessness as the U.S. "safety net" is relentlessly slashed again and again. Oh, and such people get sick, too.

I have no illusions about "Obamacare" being a very half-assed solution to a much bigger problem. Even with the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans will still not be able to get health insurance. Ultimately, the only solution will be a single-payer system, or Medicare-E (Medicare for everybody). Despite the shrill rhetoric one mostly hears nowadays, this problem isn't going to go away, and hence I would dare to predict that the U.S. will see single-payer fairly soon, perhaps within a decade.

But this will be no thanks to the MSM. Our allegedly "liberal" Mainstream Media outlets might as well be owned by the Republican Party, judging from the coverage they've given to this story. To slightly alter a phrase one used to see on bumper stickers displayed by right-wingers -- I don't believe the neoliberal media.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Lardbaugh Should Pick His Victims More Carefully: Picking On Pope Francis May Backfire

By Manifesto Joe

I don't know how many Roman Catholic "followers" Herr Rush Lardbaugh has, but he risks alienating many of them when he trashes the new pontiff, Pope Francis.

Quoting recent e-mail alerts, on his radio "show" Herr Lardbaugh apparently referred to the pope as a "Marxist" and implied that Francis was bribed into urging the church toward more tolerant, more charitable (perhaps more CHRISTIAN) views about gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people.

I confess to having a lot of blue-collar attitudes. When it comes to LGBT causes, I can't say that I've ever had a dog in that fight. I had a friend in graduate school who was bi, and we both knew a rather attractive young woman named Lucy. During a candid conversation, he told me that if he shaved very closely and put a blindfold on me, I wouldn't be able to tell whether it was him or Lucy who was doing sexual-type things to me.

I thought for a moment, and then replied, "Yes, but I'd be thinking of Lucy." The conversation didn't grow any more candid after that.

Anyway, despite ill treatment by multiple women before I met my wife, I always knew that I was hetero. The idea of homosexuality didn't repulse me, but guys just never did anything for my libido. I'm just not into body hair or 5 o'clock shadow.

But I learned along the way that LGBT attractions can affect up to 10 percent of any given population. Some "traditionalists" may dispute that Kinsey-esque percentage, but there's no longer doubt that LGBT folks are a significant minority. And even Catholics who are themselves hetero have probably either known someone who was LGBT or have a close relative who is.

And they listen to the radio. And that, for better or for worse, means that they have probably been exposed to the demented, dope-fueled, right-wing rants of Herr Lardbaugh.

It's my understanding that Herr Lardbaugh is already pissing off and/or frightening advertisers and being relegated to lower-frequency radio stations. Many Catholics are social conservatives, and hearing Herr Lardbaugh picking on Pope Francis for suggesting more merciful attitudes toward LGBT people may not sit that well with some of them. He'd better start choosing his rant victims more carefully.

I really don't have a dog in the fight when it comes to Catholics, either. When I hear conservatives defend their ideology by pointing to the battle-tested, venerable institutions for which they fight, that silly, archaic institution called the Roman Catholic Church immediately comes to mind. It's an institution that should have been discredited as far back as the Middle Ages, when it was common knowledge that popes had fathered children. More recently the scandals involving scores and scores of pedophile priests across the globe should certainly have created a lot of ex-Catholics.

Yet the faithful not only keep going to Mass, they keep laboring under the sad misconception that this foolish, Medieval institution can be reformed. Pope Ratzo should have been enough to persuade them that this can't be done. There are always going to be plastic men and women who think ritual is more important than people, that hollow liturgy is more important than real-life experience.

Francis represents a slightly hopeful sign in the church. Despite his having devoted his life to an institution that is, at best, mired in low-caste superstitions, and at worst a haven for twisted, evil charlatans, he tries to "walk the walk." I understand that from time to time he flees his ivory tower in disguise and walks among the poor, as Jesus reportedly did. His childish obsession with this obsolete institution aside, it's hard not to admire this fellow just a wee bit.

Herr Lardbaugh, never one loath to cut off his nose to spite his face, has chosen a giant of sorts to ridicule. He doesn't have the gadfly, iconoclastic following that, say, Christopher Hitchens had when he took on an icon like Mother Teresa. He risks pissing off a large bloc of people, and he may not be able to go on snacking on $100-a-plate Beluga caviar if he keeps that up.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Health Care Villainy: There's Nothing This "GOP" Scum Won't Do

By Manifesto Joe

It's not news by now that the Obama administration made a huge logistical mistake in the rollout of the new health care law. But the Republicans want you to pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. "Obamacare" is indeed a half-assed solution to the health care crisis, but the "GOP" has nothing, I repeat, absolutely nothing, to offer as an alternative. They simply want to go back to the way things were, and still are, with people getting turned down for "pre-existing conditions" and insurance companies stealing hard-earned money from healthy people with all those subpar policies.

But in California, often the country's "social leader," the "GOP" has found an even slimier way to sabotage health care reform. They have put up a fake website discouraging people from getting insurance. Here's a link to a Daily Kos story that gives the details.

There is absolutely nothing that this scum won't do. They are desperate for an issue. After the failure of things like the Benghazi attack, this is what these slimeballs have seized upon. Their villainy seems to know no low point.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Dick Cheney For Mayor Of Pottersville

By Manifesto Joe

Most of you are, no doubt, familiar with the holiday classic "It's a Wonderful Life." In this endearing cinematic piece of Frank Capra-corn, there's a villain, played by Lionel Barrymore, a banking mogul of the town of Bedford Falls, Pa., Mr. Potter. In the vision of George Bailey (James Stewart) in which he literally was never born, the town isn't even called that anymore. It's called Pottersville, named after the loathsome Mr. Potter.

I nominate former Vice President Dick Cheney for mayor of Pottersville.

I always figured Cheney for a prize-winning SOB. That perpetual snear, the deliberate lying during debates, the hypocrisy of the $6 million man begrudging little people medical care while he gets a transplanted heart on the taxpayers' dime, etc., etc., etc.

But until recently, I don't think I'd ever grasped the full inhumanity of this man, the completely self-centered depravity that lurks in that demented brain.

In this link, Cheney voices an almost complete unconcern about the unfortunate person who was his heart donor. "It's my new heart, not someone else's old heart." He's not even curious about how this person died, or about the family. He told mummified interviewer Larry King that he doesn't even know the identity of the person who gave him a new heart. What complete, utter trash.

And yet this man lives on, with Secret Service protection and taxpayer pensions and subsidies of all kinds. I'm not sure there is a hell, but if there isn't, there sure as hell ought to be one, in light of what this wicked little asshole is like. Problem is, he might mastermind a coup to topple Satan and take over the place.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Real Problem Right-Wingers Have With 'Obamacare:' It Requires Insurers To Insure

By Manifesto Joe

It's obvious that President Obama made a big political -- I repeat, political -- mistake in selling his health care plan. And he should never have put any trust in computer geeks -- such people nowadays hold the Earth hostage to their "expertise," while in reality they are often among the most titanic fools on the planet. (Not only do their initial programs sometimes not work, they are forever changing programs that worked fine as they were. It seems that they never heard the old wisdom that if it works, DON'T FIX IT!)

But the Mainstream Media are failing to tell the entire story, which is, of course, nothing unusual. Obviously Fox News gives a distorted picture; that's their job as a right-wing propaganda instrument. But the MSM aren't doing a good job on this issue, either.

This isn't the case with everyone, but many of the plans that commercial "insurers" are canceling are "junk" insurance, policies that offer very limited "coverage" and would leave the "insured" in incredible binds if they actually needed things like hospitalization and such. The reason such "plans" are being canceled is that they don't meet the minimum standards that the Affordable Care Act set forth.

I got to see the flip side of this issue very recently, having been unemployed for 27 weeks. (Oh, and I still haven't been paid for the last week of that, and never will be -- thanks so much, Texas Workforce Commission.) I went with the expensive COBRA plan I was left with after being laid off, but went looking for cheaper alternatives to COBRA, in case I was jobless longer than I was.

In the first place, it was very hard to find anyone who would "insure" me at a reasonable price. I have asthma and allergies, and I take meds for high blood pressure. I was 56 at the time, too. If you're not absolutely healthy, you are usually rejected just for pre-existing conditions such as those. And they don't like older people, either.

The companies that would write me a "policy" were willing to write me junk. I was accepted by one company, then found out much to my horror that they didn't even offer a prescription drug plan to a customer who was willing to pay them over $400 a month. What they had was a discount "plan" that one can obtain cheaply at any retail pharmacy like Walgreens. And they wanted "mo' money" for that? I refused to pay these greedy scumbags one penny and canceled with them post haste.

Anyway, I wasn't making much headway at finding alternatives to COBRA, until I finally landed a job with benefits. Unlike many Americans, I was somewhat lucky.

But I got a good look at what's out there for people who buy their own health "insurance" a la carte, and it's dismal. It's either too expensive, or it doesn't cover jack shit.

For more details, here's a link to a story in Mother Jones magazine that presents more of the real picture.

The bottom line is that the insurance companies have been ripping Americans off for many decades. "Obamacare," minus the public option, was only a partial solution to the problem. It never was anything else. It was simply what Obama could manage to get through a Congress that is partially owned by the greedy, ruthless insurance companies.


It's pretty obvious, from all the political hay that they're making, is that the downtrodden Republican Party, ever desperate these days for an issue, is playing this up for all they can. It's their goal to derail the Affordable Care Act. In my own state, Gov. Rick "El Pendejo" Perry is absolutely refusing to cooperate with this law's implementation.

There are other sinister things going on, like Koch brothers-financed booths on college campuses, passing out free beer in trying to persuade young people not to buy health insurance, but rather just risk getting sick.

If "Obamacare" is derailed, then what? Well, it looks like we'll go back to the way things have been for decades. You know -- up to 50 million Americans uninsured, up to 30 million more underinsured, people with pre-existing conditions denied coverage, insurance companies getting obscenely rich while putting out little or nothing in return, people who do have health insurance paying higher premiums and higher taxes to cover the cost of uninsured people with their visits to ERs and charity hospitals. You know -- the very conditions that led to the passage of the half-ass "Obamacare" program in the first place.

I'm not an optimist. But what this all may mean is that, perhaps within a decade, Americans will at last get what they should have gotten long ago: Medicare-E (Medicare for Everybody). A single-payer system is the only solution to this travesty. But of course, what that means is that some people will simply have to die off, so that less brainwashed voters can force this to become law.

Let's face it -- the United States is the last, I repeat the very last, developed country on Earth that doesn't have a national health care system. We wouldn't have to do it the way everybody else has done it. Doctors and other providers don't have to become employees of a national service, the way it is in more "socialized" systems. In America, we can style it our own way.

But "free market" arguments don't wash on most points, and certainly not where health care is concerned. If I have a catastrophic illness, I'm not going to be in a position of shopping around for the best prices on doctors, hospitals, ambulances, etc., like some Arab trader. I'm going with whomever can take my case ASAP, with money as no object. (But of course, it's certainly the object, and the objective, of "providers" and "insurers." And they take everything that isn't nailed down.)

Perhaps you have noticed that among all the other developed countries on Earth, none, not one, of them seeks to emulate the American health care system. Interviews in those countries indicate that their people generally think Americans are just plain fucking crazy to have tolerated this shit for decade after decade.

I understand that one of the sticking points of "Obamacare" is that it requires coverage for mental health ailments. I hate to say such hurtful things, but in the case of many Americans, that strikes me as a pretty good idea.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

JFK Assassination Was A Defining Moment For Boomers

By Manifesto Joe

We, the baby boomers, are still talking about it 50 years later. We even indulge in gallows humor. My old man, who won five Bronze Stars in the Pacific Theater of World War II, was a much better shot than Lee Harvey Oswald, and I recall that Christmas as being one more generous and affluent than we could usually afford. Was he, my old man, the dude on the grassy knoll?

More seriously, the question that keeps coming up is, where were you when ...?

My memory of it wasn't very remarkable. I was in the second grade. We were playing during noon recess, right after lunch, when a teacher came out to the playground and told us that the president had been shot and wasn't expected to live. Our house was only a few blocks away from the schoolyard. When the teacher told us we were dismissed for the day, I walked home.

My dad owned and operated what was then a Humble gas station in our small town in South Texas. He was at work. I found my mother at home, crying, with the TV on. Walter Cronkite was crying, too. Funeral dirges went on for days on the tube. Instead of missing my favorite shows, I watched the proceedings. I was a fan of Jack Kennedy, but at that age I don't think I understood much about politics. What I saw was that he looked like the hero in the Westerns, while Dick Nixon looked like the dude with the black hat.

One of our neighbors, a very proper Southern Baptist spinster, was shocked at Roman Catholic funeral protocol. "They're passing around the beer!" she exclaimed scandalously. My mother didn't correct her, but did explain to me that the correct word is "bier."

Then Jack Ruby shot and killed Oswald. A few years later Ruby died in prison. Then Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, followed quickly by Robert F. Kennedy. Assassinations were commonplace, to be expected damn near all the time. Conspiracy theories abounded, for many years, decades.

I never thought the Warren Commission had much credibility, but the plethora of conspiracy theories became a laughingstock in itself. The one that seemed most plausible to me: The Kennedy brothers had done a lot to piss off organized crime during those thousand days in power. That was about the last period, the 1960s, when U.S. organized crime figures would have been able to pull off a military-style hit on a person that prominent and powerful. Oswald wasn't much more than a fair shot, and he was using a World War I-era Italian bolt-action rifle. My guess is that he was just a chump, a patsy, and it was Jack Ruby's job to shut him up -- for good. Then, later, Ruby had to be silenced.

But, there have been so many theories, so many lecture tours, so many books written, that the theories are like a smorgasbord. Take your pick. In the end I doubt that we'll ever really know what happened. But I can't bring myself to believe that Oswald acted alone.

In any case, the JFK assassination was one of the events that defined a whole generation. Just about all of us born between 1946 and 1958 can remember something about where they were, what they were doing, when they heard that JFK had been murdered. There are millions upon millions of memories in The Naked City. You just heard one of them.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Shutdown Postmortem: Republicans Seem Determined To Again Be A Long-Term Minority Party

By Manifesto Joe

I'm not going to predict the demise of the Republican Party, although a number of other bloggers have been daring enough to venture such predictions. I don't think that's good historical perspective. Such people underestimate the lure of reactionary politics, and the irrationality of humans. They also underestimate the vast talent of prehistoric vermin, like cockroaches, to reinvent themselves and survive.

To wit: If you had told me in 1978, when it seemed like half the damned country was smoking pot, that possession of even small amounts thereof would still be a federal crime and illegal in 48 states 35 years later, I would have, at the time, called you a fool. At the tender age of 22, it was I who was foolish. I did not anticipate a period of socioeconomic reaction that would last for decades in the U.S.

But here's a bit of history: From 1930 until 1994, the Republican Party had control of the U.S. House of Representatives for exactly 4 out of 64 years. We had GOP presidents, some of them "moderates," during that time, but even Reagan had to deal with Tip O'Neill as speaker of the House and was often forced to compromise.

The Republicans staged a dramatic comeback in 1994, but it seems like they've been doing their best to blow it ever since. With this latest "shutdown" of the federal government, plus other miscalculations, I suspect they may have finally sealed their fate. They may have condemned themselves to another three generations of being just a shrill minority party.

History doesn't repeat itself, but it sometimes has an uncanny way of rhyming. The last time the Republicans did this to themselves, it was over a simple but monumental thing known as the Great Depression. That was such a trauma for my parents' generation, it was still defining Americans decades later. Enough people of that age group had to die off for the electorate to finally show permanent change.

This time, we had a Great Recession, with effects not as bad. But they've been bad enough, especially for the young. Those born in the late years of Generation X, and then the "Millennials," have taken it on the chops pretty hard over the past several years. Their unemployment and underemployment rates remain high, and going to college often means taking on debt of such magnitude that it can only end in bankruptcy. From what the polls show among young voters, most of them aren't blaming the Democrats for this.

Add to that the changing demographics of the country. Much of America has become, or is becoming, majority Hispanic. Being a native South Texan, I'm familiar with that culture, and there is a strong streak of social conservatism there. But the Republicans have clearly blown their opportunity to make related inroads. Their basic xenophobia had compelled them to take hard lines against illegal immigration, and even the Hispanics I know who are of strictly legal status take serious personal offense at such attitudes. Their overwhelming majority of votes cast for Obama in 2012 was not so much an endorsement of Obama as a statement of "We know who our friends AREN'T."

Then add to that the increasing involvement of women in politics. I admit to feeling very conflicted on the abortion issue, but I sure as hell am never going to be faced with the possibility of having one. And quite a few women are more than a bit pissed off that some lawmakers suffering from testosterone poisoning are presuming to tell them that can't be a legal option.

Then add to that the anvil-headed attitudes about gays and lesbians that one typically finds among Republicans. Even Chris Christie, New Jersey's obese governor, is under the gun about that, for simply saying that he's not going to fight a court ruling that says gays should be able to legally marry in that state. He was fighting gay marriage at first and vetoed a piece of state legislation. Now the hard-liners in his party are maligning him for simply acquiescing to the courts.

One group I never understood was the "Log Cabin Republicans." Oh, I can understand, if a gay person also happens to be a trust-fund baby, why paying taxes is distasteful. But why would one want to support a political party in which a majority considers you the worst kind of pond scum, the kind of people your parents warned you about?

What the federal "shutdown" revealed is who is really calling the shots in the Republican Party. It certainly isn't the old-line politicians, the "economic royalists," as I once heard them described. It's a radical, reactionary element that the Old Guard made a Faustian bargain with a couple of generations ago. It's the Nixonian "Southern strategy" come to life as the party's worst nightmare. When someone as manifestly foolish as Texas U.S. Rep. Louie ("Congressman Gomer") Gohmert is someone who's actually listened to, you know that political party is in trouble. The Tea Party and its politicians are not marginal -- they are flexing muscle and busy kicking "RINOs" out of the Republican Party as fast as they can.

The political reality of all this will become apparent to some Republicans in years to come. It's been said by several people that nobody ever lost a dime underestimating the intelligence of the American public. But you can't go around pissing off one large group of people upon another, and then expect to consistently win elections.

The Republican Party won't fade and smolder into the ashheap of history -- at least I am loath to predict that. White Southerners rapidly switched parties starting in the 1960s, and are likely to remain as they are even as they see life examples, time after time, that the GOP doesn't represent their genuine best interests. People often don't make rational decisions about politics.

But when you step on enough toes, you make enemies. After their remarkable comeback in 1994, the Republicans have spent the past 19 years doing tap dances all over sensitive feet. It may be too early to tell -- but they may be condemning themselves to another three generations of minority bellowing. Stay tuned.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Texas Governor: Whither After El Pendejo?

By Manifesto Joe

Texas has a weak governor, strong lieutenant governor system. The No. 2 executive in the state, presiding over the Senate, is often thought to have at least marginally more power. But the governor does wield a veto pen and is at least symbolically the state's leader.

The 2014 race for governor seems to be taking shape, now that Rick "El Pendejo" Perry has, after 14 long years, decided that he doesn't want to be governor for life and hasn't ruled out another embarrassing bid for the presidency. Here's how things are looking now:

State Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, Democratic frontrunner

Like many who have somehow had greatness thrust upon them, Wendy isn't a highly remarkable person, as far as I can tell. One of her best assets is that she had the good fortune to come out of the womb looking pretty good, although she's not exactly my type. But to her credit, she's hardworking, and was in the School of Hard Knocks long enough to know, unlike many hotshot lawyers, what life is like for most ordinary hardworking folks.

A lot of people around Tarrant County knew Wendy WHEN, and know that she's "in touch" with blue-collar concerns. Problem is, I think she's running at least four years too soon. The last time the Democrats had a fair year in Texas was 1990, the year Ann Richards was elected to one term as governor. The demographics here are changing, but I don't think they've changed enough at this point to make this into a "purple" state. But if Wendy at least does reasonably well in a loss, the name recognition may help in 2018. Thanks to her ultimately unsuccessful Senate filibuster against Texas' unconstitutional abortion law, she had already scored big in that department. Stay tuned.

Attorney General Greg Abbott, Republican frontrunner

Never mind that he's a hypocrite. That never lost anybody in Texas an election.

What I refer to is that Abbott, a paraplegic confined to a wheelchair, was hit by a tree in 1984 while running after a storm. He sued the homeowner and won a $10 million settlement. Now, as AG, he's all for tort reform, opposing settlements of this very kind.

Polls show him as the clear GOP frontrunner, and this is a state in which the next governor is likely to be the Republican nominee. His wife is Hispanic, and you can expect to see him trotting her out in hopes of winning Hispanic votes. He's very anti-abortion, so he and Wendy Davis would most certainly clash on that issue. One of his big personal victories is winning Texas the right to display the Ten Commandments in front of the Capitol building in Austin.

At this point, I'd say Abbott is the betting favorite. He promises to carry on the legacy of El Pendejo with pride and verve.

Tom Pauken, former Texas Republican Party chairman and ex-Fagin of the "Workforce Commission"

I cannot fathom what this man's qualifications ever were to be chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission. He attended a Jesuit school in Dallas as a youth, then went on to Georgetown University in Washington. As far as I can tell, he's a professional right-winger who was never unemployed a day in his privileged life.

He was pretty clearly a political appointee to the job. Perhaps that's fitting, since anyone who's been jobless in this state for very long knows that the Texas Workforce Commission's main purpose appears to be to rob the unemployed of money and hope. During his tenure at the TWC, the agency appears to have been packed with Republican bureaucrats who, like him, have zero experience with joblessness and seem intent on denying benefits to poor people for any conceivable reason.

Nor does his time as GOP state chairman lend him any credibility. If you've ever read the Texas Republican Party's state platform, it can't be distinguished from a similar document from the John Birch Society. This party was dominated by kooks back when kooks weren't cool.

He appears to be Abbott's only serious challenger for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

Well, that's the field right now. Sigh. Looks like Texans are in for at least four more years of silliness. But then, as Adlai Stevenson once said, people generally get the government they deserve.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.