Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Untold Story: Regressive Taxation, State And Local

By Manifesto Joe

Debates about taxes tend to be dominated by federal income tax policy. That in itself has become a scandal because of myriad corporate and personal tax dodges. But it ignores what lies at the base of taxation in America. At the state and local levels, taxes hit the poor and the working class hardest, in terms of percentage of income.

My home state of Texas has a special history of this. Sales taxes, user fees and other levies are mostly directed at people with lower incomes. Courtesy of state Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, here are some recent statistics:

State and Local Taxes as a Percentage of Household Income in Texas

Over $109,182: 4.7 percent

$69,614 to $109,182: 6.0 percent

$45,271 to $69,614: 6.4 percent

$24,899 to $45,271: 7.6 percent

Under $24,899: 12.8 percent

Source: The Center for Public Policy Priorities, May 2008

If you were to examine all the states, it might even get worse in some of them. In Texas, most groceries are exempt from sales taxes. I lived in Oklahoma for a while, and there, NOTHING is exempt from the sales tax.

The next time you encounter some anus-head doing the Rush Lardbaugh talking points about how the rich are so oppressed with their income tax burden, hit them with some of this. You won't change their "minds," but you might get the pleasure of seeing them stammer and look confused for just a moment.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Rick 'Governor Goodhair' Perry: Recession? 'We're In One?'

By Manifesto Joe

In case there is any lingering doubt that Texas Gov. Rick "Governor Goodhair" Perry is an authentic fool, here's what he said during a Thursday appearance in Houston:

"Why is Texas kind of recession-proof, if you will? As a matter of fact ... someone had put a report out that the first state that's coming out of the recession is going to be the state of Texas ... I said, 'We're in one?'"

His remarks at a luncheon for business representatives came as the Labor Department reported that unemployment in Texas has hit a 22-year high. You have to go back to the oil/real estate bust of the 1980s to find the last time the state had 8 percent joblessness.

A report from WFAA.com on the remarks concluded:

Forty-two states lost jobs last month, up from 29 in July, with the biggest net payroll cuts coming in Texas, Michigan, Georgia and Ohio, the Labor Department reported Friday.

Texas lost 62,200 jobs as its unemployment rate rose to 8 percent in August for the first time in 22 years. The state's leisure, construction and manufacturing industries were hardest hit, losing 35,500 jobs.

Here's a link to a report that also features YouTube video of Perry's remarks.

It's almost needless to say that U.S. Sen Kay Bailey Hutchison, Perry's opponent in next year's Republican primary, was all over this pretty quickly. Not that Kay would represent much of an improvement over Governor Goodhair for ordinary Texans, but she at least appears sensitive enough to refrain from gaffes like this one during a time when people are losing livelihoods, life savings, and homes.

Our 2010 gubernatorial campaign is already off and running, and having a dolt like Perry as the GOP incumbent stands to make this one really interesting. Stay tuned.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Tea Party Bozos: Brown Shirts, Or White Sheets? Neo-Nazis, Or The Klan?

By Manifesto Joe

You didn't see this kind of blatant disrespect for the office of the presidency, even back in 1993-94, when the Clintons were trying to put across a version of national health care. President Bill Clinton, an indiscreet man, always caught hell from a lot of directions; but no congressman ever called out during one of his speeches to a joint session, "You lie!"

President Barack Obama is, from all evidence, a good family man, so they can't get him there. Other than cigarettes and an occasional chili dog, he has no major vices. So, why all the vitriol?

I'd really hoped our society had matured beyond this. But I think the general disrespect comes from one very ugly thing: To millions of white Americans, this is President N----r. That's the big difference between Bill Clinton in 1993 and Barack Obama in 2009.

During the past weekend, "Tea Party" bozos gathered in large numbers in Washington, D.C., and in cities around the country. They reportedly carried signs showing Obama depicted as the villainous Joker in the Batman series, with a Hitler mustache, and with a Pinocchio nose. "You lie!" appears to have become a mantra with these people.

Imagine that, during some speech back during the 2002-03 run-up to the Iraq war, that Rep. Dennis Kucinich had called out, "You lie!" to Bush's horseshit about weapons of mass destruction, now clearly one falsehood among a vast number from the Il Doofus administration. Or, that some Democratic congressman had been playing with his Blackberry during such an event. (Rep. Eric Kantor, R-Va., was caught on video doing exactly that during Obama's speech.) I can imagine the bulging neck veins on Fox "News" the next day, and the calls for resignation.

In case anybody thought that these Tea Party protests were some kind of spontaneous grassroots uprising, this article from veteranstoday.com by Gordon Duff gives a list of the corporate sponsors of this organized trashing of the president. It's quite a list, and would make up a good boycott.

This is from Mr. Duff's commentary:

Did you notice the pile of insurance companies, the defense contractors, the US Chamber of Commerce and the NRA? Check the list carefully. Look into who these folks are. This is the group funding, what they hope will be, a civil war in America.

These are the folks sending out gun toting protestors talking about "watering the tree of liberty."

These are also the richest people in America and the most powerful and include some of the biggest polluters, the biggest protectors of illegal immigration and thousands and thousands of lawyers working for big business against everyday Americans.

This is the single biggest group of "Washington insiders" ever assembled, if not insurance industry or defense, all are directly aligned to the Republican Party and help formulate failed Bush policies.

Let's face the truth. There is only one reason all those uneducated white people are out yelling and screaming, guns left in their luggage on busses paid for by taxpayer money sucked in by the biggest pack of corporate thieves that ever bribed a congressman.

Its all about the "N" word. We are having a convention of Americans in love with the "N" word, people who use it every day, folks afraid of black people they don't know, people easy to scare.

Joe Wilson for Grand Wazoo: If the sheets fit ...

In case there was any remaining doubt about U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson (KKK-S.C.) and his background, here's a tidbit from The Daily Beast. Before Wednesday night, Joe seemed to be someone who could pass as just your typical Southern Republican congressfool. But he may not be so typical.

The "You lie!" outburst was unprecedented, and there's no way it would have happened to a white president, however liberal.

This is the very first time on this blog that I have "played the race card." Sometimes one has to play the cards that are dealt, and I sure as hell didn't deal them.

I'm not going to go far into the accuracy of what Obama said, because it's virtually irrelevant. The crux of it appears to be that although the House version of the health care bill expressly forbids noncitizens from getting services under this measure, there's no explicit provision for enforcement by requiring proof of citizenship. That, of course, is something that could be added during the process. But no disagreement like this can possibly justify such blatant disrespect for the office of the presidency.

Throw shoes at Joe?

No, not at me. I'm talking about Joe Wilson. I challenge someone out there to throw a pair of shoes at Joe "You lie!" Wilson. There's no direct parallel, but it would be interesting to compare the U.S. reaction to such a thing with the one regarding Bush in Iraq.

The Obama school speech

In Arlington, Texas, school Superintendent Jerry McCullough apologized Friday for administrators' decision not to show Obama's speech to local schoolchildren live on Tuesday morning. There were many other districts that did the same, but Arlington's decision became national news when it was reported that 500 fifth-graders would be bused to a Sept. 21 event with former President George W. ("Il Doofus") Bush speaking at the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium.

If the hypocrisy weren't clear already, it ought to be by now. Unfortunately, there are plenty of people who have no problems with being hypocrites.

Or racists.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Big Problem With The MSM: TV Journalists Are Often Political And Economic Illiterates

By Manifesto Joe

It caused me great pain and consternation to see a CNN anchor trying to interview a Tea Party leader during the big 9-12 march on Washington on Saturday afternoon. The anchor stammered something about the U.S. being a "democracy" and that capitalism is our system of government, or something to that effect.

It was appalling that the Tea Party fool had at least been paying some attention in high school civics and was half-right about one thing, in contrast to the anchor. He said that the U.S. is a "not a democracy," but rather "a republic." He was somewhat right on that point.

The U.S. is generally described as a democratic republic, with the former word the modifier in that there is a great deal of democracy, direct and indirect, codified at different levels. As a republic, it is offset by federal checks and balances, and by the fact that we are largely governed by representatives rather than through direct referendums and such.

But then the Tea Party fool veered off in the usual phallus-headed direction, saying something to the effect that the Constitution does not allow things that should be personal responsibility, such as the provision of health care. The CNN anchor kept stammering and was totally ineffectual at shooting down this pig dung, which is precisely what media professionals are supposed to be trained to do.

The U.S. Constitution does not address issues such as health care, one way or the other. It is silent on the subject, neither prohibiting nor institutionalizing a federal role.

If there were anything there that the federal courts could construe as a prohibition of any kind, then Medicare and Medicaid would both have been declared unconstitutional long ago. Even when the Supreme Court has had conservative majorities, as it has mostly had in recent times, there's no way they were ever going to go there, because it simply isn't there.

Medicare and Medicaid are both single-payer systems for specific groups, and could therefore be described as "socialized medicine" for the benefit of qualifying people. There is nothing in the Constitution that forbids certain sectors of the U.S. economy from being "socialized."

This brings me to some of the salient points that this CNN anchor, and the Tea Party cretin with whom he was botching an interview, fail to grasp in the least.

Democracy, and Republics, are POLITICAL systems. Capitalism and socialism are ECONOMIC systems.

There is no intrinsic relationship among any of the above. There are democratic republics that one would characterize, in economic terms, as semi-socialist -- to wit, the Scandinavian countries, and to a lesser extent the rest of western and central Europe. There have been many dictatorships that have not only tolerated capitalist enterprise, but have encouraged it.

Moreover, redistribution of income does not constitute socialism. ANY sort of taxation and appropriation redistributes income. It is strictly a question of to whom. The basic definition of socialism is ownership of the MEANS OF PRODUCTION by either government or cooperatives.

Contrary to wrongheaded right-wing attempts to link socialism with all authoritarian governments, Nazi Germany operated with the loyal support of Germany's industrialists, such as IG Farben. In fascist Italy, Mussolini, a one-time socialist, outlawed strikes, hammered down wages and put a lot of socialists in jail. Capitalist enterprises had no problems operating, with gracious deference, in Franco's fascist Spain.

To summarize, there are:
1. Semi-capitalist dictatorships
2. Semi-socialist/mixed system democratic republics
3. Socialist dictatorships (the old USSR, etc.)
4. Countries like China (commies-in-name who make American capitalists look like warm fuzzy liberals)
5. Mostly capitalist republics like the U.S., with lightly mixed economic systems and which feign democratic institutions, but are mostly ruled by big-ass money (plutocracies).

In short, political and economic systems, while related, are to some extent two very different animals. They can, and have been, mixed and matched in all sorts of ways, according to the mores of their populations and ruling elites.

Now here is a point that will modify most of what I've written above:

There has never really been, and probably never will be, an economic system in the world that is either purely capitalist or purely socialist.

Read your history, and check out the current world situations. They are pretty much all mixed systems, merely differing in the mix. The U.S. is the perhaps the world's prime example of a system weighted very much toward capitalism. But even here, much has changed in about a century, and it was arguably of necessity. Can you imagine what daily life would be like for a very large minority of the population if we had no Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid? No GI Bill? No workers' comp? No OSHA? Or even lacking some of the less-popular programs, such as food stamps and AFDC?

I can tell you one huge truth -- the fact that we eventually got those things is the main reason that communist movements never took hold in this country the way they did in other parts of the world. To wit: During the 1930s Depression/Dust Bowl era, Oklahoma had a surprisingly large and active Communist Party membership, inspired no doubt by a lot of hungry bellies. About 75 years later, that state is one of the most Republican in the country.

Want a vivid picture of what America looked like, circa 1905, from the viewpoint of an underclass worker? Read The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair. It's on a lot of American literature reading lists.

You want to really fight communism? Support a measured, reasonable welfare state.

To wrap up, it was very dismaying to see a "professional" TV journalist getting his ass pathetically kicked by a Tea Party half-wit. It doesn't take a degree in either economics or political science to grasp most of these concepts. The 100-200 level of courses, plus some common sense and a willingness to read a few of the pertinent books, is what I would expect of any person professing to become a real journalist.

Unfortunately, what we largely have on the current scene are a lot of pretty-faced DJs with amnesia.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Furor Over Obama Speech To Schoolchildren Is Epitome Of Right-Wing Lunacy

By Manifesto Joe

Reagan did it, in 1988. So did Bush I, in 1991. So, why is it controversial for President Barack Obama to address schoolchildren tomorrow about working hard to become good scholars?

Today the White House released a Web page with Obama's address. Here's the link.

Now, here's a video of President Ronald Reagan's address of Nov. 14, 1988. If this wasn't at least a generically political speech ... well, compare it with Obama's personal, rather than ideological, tone.

My first impression about the White House releasing Obama's speech a day early is that perhaps the intention was to embarrass the right-wing goons who have stirred so much feces about this. But you can't embarrass insane people.

And when insane people -- at least, the right-wing brand -- become vocal enough, authority figures listen. School districts around the country have been opting out of carrying Obama's speech in their classrooms.

Among these are a number in my home state of Texas. A bunch are in Tarrant County (Fort Worth, Arlington and suburbs), which, unlike neighboring Dallas County, was carried by McCain-Palin in 2008. Here's some of what the chairman of the Tarrant County Democratic Party, Steve Maxwell, had to say in a recent e-mail:

As you may have heard, President Obama is planning to deliver an address to the young people of our nation, on Tuesday, September 7. The message he will deliver is one of hope, of encouragement and of importance. President Obama is a shining example of what can be accomplished in this country by anyone willing to dedicate themselves getting an education, and has the willingness to pursue his or her dreams. This is the message he wants to deliver to the school children On Tuesday, the President will encourage students to care about their education, to apply themselves, to stay in school and to graduate. I believe this is a message our kids cannot hear enough.

There can be no more effective promoter of such a message than the President of the United States.

Unfortunately, some local radio hosts and Conservative activists have interpreted this as an attempt to indoctrinate students. Predictably, schools have received numerous complaints. As a result Arlington ISD, Aledo ISD, Mansfield ISD, Eagle -Mountain Saginaw ISD and Grapevine Colleyville ISD are all declining to show the speech live.

And then, there are those parents who have declared that they are simply going to keep their children home tomorrow so that they don't hear the simple story of an African-American who, against great odds, became a law professor, a U.S. senator and finally the leader of the "free world."

It's been said that it's often better to laugh at, rather than weep over, a sad and grotesque situation. So I'll leave you with a bit of morbid humor gleaned from YouTube:

Here's one of the comments this comedy video got:

Tell me something then, WHY does Obama need to address the CHILDREN?!? WHY??? Their own parents and teachers can't tell them to try hard and be good little communist fascists?  Hitler did the same fucking thing. Ever heard of the HJ? The Hitler Jugend or Hitler Youth.

That's coming next. Obama has already laid out his plans for MANDATORY civil service or community service. Either you are too stupid to see it or you approve of BIG BROTHER OBAMA telling our CHILDREN what to do and think.

Sigh ...

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

2009: A Right-Wing Odyssey Of Spaced-Out Idiocy

By Manifesto Joe

The right wing seems to have gone completely into orbit this year, outdoing itself at every turn. The galaxy of Goonville stars is lit up with names old and new.

Pat Buchanan: This mainstay of the kook right is often good for laughs, albeit pretty dark-hued ones. I have to confess that in 1996, with Clinton up for re-election and nothing interesting going on in the Texas Democratic Party, I actually held my nose and cast a disingenuous protest vote for Patsy in hopes that a good showing from him would help shake things up in The Party of Satan. ("I'm going to vote NAZI this time!" I exclaimed gleefully to one of my very few Republican friends. That comment didn't make us any friendlier.)

I was doing the same thing, in reverse, that a lot of nasty little Republicans have been doing here in Texas for many decades. If there's no pressing reason for them to vote in their own primary, they cross over and pollute the waters in ours. The idea is to vote for the candidates you figure are the most likely losers in the pack, or who would cause the most organizational trouble.

By the way, I gave up on that kind of subversive cross-voting, in large part because of all the Republican junk mail I would get in the ensuing months. (You know, polls from the local Congressfool that feature questions like: "Do you think that baby-murdering Supreme Court justices should be impeached? Yes/No)

I had to hold my nose to vote for Patsy, but I admit that I was actually (and pleasantly) shocked when I read parts of his book The Great Betrayal. Although the motives behind his economic nationalism were suspect back then, I was astounded by the opening chapter. It read like it could have been written by Jesse Jackson.

Unfortunately, Patsy didn't really, truly change his stripes. He's still a 1940 edition America Firster. He's not a neocon, because he's not even that evolved. He's a neolith.

The newest hardback offering from Patsy is a Nazi apologist treatise that was explained in shorter form in a recent column. Here's an Air America review of all this. I always smelled 1930s anti-Semitism behind Patsy's "thinking," sort of like the notion that the problem with World War II was that "we fought the wrong people." I actually heard a ranking editor at a newspaper I once worked for say exactly that. He noticed that I was looking at him funny, and he explained that "Hitler was the more pressing problem, but" look at all the horrors and atrocities of Stalinist Russia and other communist regimes.

This is not to minimize the enormities committed by the likes of Stalin, Pol Pot, and from all evidence, Mao Tse-tung as well. But to slough off the clearly murderous and insane Adolf Hitler as merely "the more pressing problem" is itself insanity. And, tragically, there are millions of Americans who would agree with that assessment.

Michele Bachmann: It will be a curiosity for the ages as to how a person this imbecilic ever got elected to Congress, and especially in a state like Minnesota that has produced the likes of Hubert Humphrey, the Farmer-Labor Party, Paul Wellstone and Al Franken. One thing I have noticed about Minnesotans is that there aren't many moderates from there, at least none that I've met. I love and admire the progressives from there (even you, Jack Jodell!); but, in contrast, one of the most demented and intractable religious-right fanatics I've ever known was from the Minneapolis area. And this is a state that actually elected Jesse Ventura governor. It's a place given to some extremes.

Onward to Michelle: She has repeatedly argued that while diversity sounds like a good thing, not all cultures are created equal. Some are apparently anointed by God His Own Self, and others just aren't. Here's one of her statements. And then, here's a link to the World of Health Care According to Michele, again courtesy of Air America.

The odyssey continues. The idiocy, too. Stay tuned.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Listen American: This Country Has Produced Great Unheralded Composers: Roy Harris

Roy Harris conducts the ABC (American Broadcasting Company) Symphony Orchestra in his own composition Phantasy c.1945. Watch this one -- the still visuals are wonderful. One is the famous painting Nighthawks, by Edward Hopper (1942). -- MJ:

Roy Harris 1898-1979. Posted by Gordonskene on YouTube, March 14, 2009.

Glenn Beck Suffering Psychotic Episodes On The Air

Our master of ceremonies here is Keith Olbermann. Take it away, Keith: