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Why do we have Social Security at all? To put it simply, because we must. When people reach the age at which they can no longer work, we must have a mechanism in place by which they can obtain the necessities of life; the alternative — just letting them starve — is unthinkable. SocSec benefits ensure that people who work all their lives get a decent standard of living during their retirement.  

We all have a compelling interest in this. Were it not for the blue collar worker, nobody in the country would possess anything at all. The labor of the working class enables all of us to share our nation's bounty. We — rich and poor alike — have an obligation toward the retired worker. That burden should fall on all citizens. The current system places the entire burden on the worker to provide for his or her retirement, letting the 1% ignore that obligation entirely. This is just flat wrong.

We tax the 99% heavily (especially at the state and local levels), while allowing the rich to seize virtually all of the productivity gains, gains which can be attributed principally to the efforts of the 99%. This means that the 99%, with a dwindling share of the pie, not only must do all the heavy lifting, but they must also support the SocSec Trust Fund, and also must feed the greed of the 1%. That's a heavy load.

Conservatives tell us that we must raise the retirement age because people are living longer. They insist upon a benefit cut, pure and simple. The workers get less, so that the 1% can get more. It works like this: With a larger work force competing for the same number of jobs, downward pressure is exerted on wages. Lower wages means more for the 1%, and with less in wages, the 99% contributes less to the Trust Fund. The net result is less for the worker, both during his working life and in retirement. Would you care to guess where those dollars go?  

Statistically, the worker at the lower end of the economic spectrum has a lower life expectancy than his wealthier fellow citizens. This means that worker pays the highest price, in terms of lower benefits, for extending the retirement age. It would seem that the rules of the game always favor the 1%.

What a surprise.

Class warfare is spiraling out of control, and the working class is losing that war. A mere 400 people, hardly enough to populate a decent size subdivision, control a staggering $2.3 Trillion. Over the past year, the Forbes 400 have extracted an additional $300B from the 99% over the past year. It is simply impossible for the average reader to comprehend how immense these amounts are. There is no conceivable national purpose to be served by having 400 people control $2.3 Trillion, nor having their wealth to increase without bound each year.

As a modest first step, I propose that we impose an 8.0%  tax on all income of any kind in place of the current 12.4% SocSec tax plus the 2.9% Medicare tax. This number is arrived at in the following manner: Total payroll tax receipts of $947B for 2013 are found here. Total USA personal income numbers of $13.4T are found here. Dividing $13.4T by $.974T gives us a rough rate of 7.27%. I have chosen 8% because I think the retired deserve a bigger slice of the pie than they now get. A more refined calculation than mine might come up with a different number, but almost certainly that number would fall between 6.5% and 8.5%. This would make the SocSec tax a flat tax instead of a regressive one.  (I would rather see a progressive SocSec tax, but we must start somewhere.) As with the current payroll tax, there would be no exemptions, deductions, credits, or tax breaks of any kind. If my algebra is correct, the end result would be a tax increase for those making more than $284,000 and a tax decrease for the rest of us. In very rough terms, the 1% would pay more and the 99% would pay less.

I understand that there are those who would oppose this proposal vehemently, but I cannot for the life of me understand why. Please join me below the fold.

Poll

Do you agree that the 1% should bear more of the burden for the secure retirement of the American worker?

94%88 votes
5%5 votes

| 93 votes | Vote | Results

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Coal exists in vast amounts in the earth's crust, and it represents an enormous energy resource. However, climate change considerations dictate that we must not emit CO2 into the atmosphere. That would be irresponsible, as we all most of us know. The burning of coal for energy, however, produces about 3.6 tons of CO2 for every ton of carbon burned. (The coal ash and other toxic valuable minerals such as mercury, sulfur and arsenic are important byproducts, but alas, not commercially recoverable as yet.) Coal is the worst fossil fuel with regard to climate change. It produces more CO2 per unit of energy recovered than either petroleum or natural gas. So, sequestering the CO2 it produces should be a very high priority.

Below the fold, I will describe a foolproof method for storing every ounce of this CO2 permanently and effectively. Believe me, you will be impressed.

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Once upon a time (before tractors), there was a clever farmer. The farmer had a horse, a gelding which he used to help him plow his fields. Now, the horse, especially during plowing time, was as hungry as, ... well, as a horse. This meant the farmer had to feed the horse perfectly good grain, grain that the farmer could have sold at the local market. This vexing state of affairs led the clever farmer to devise a plan to keep more of his valuable grain to himself.

Day by day, he reduced the horse's ration of grain a little bit, just barely enough to notice. The horse was getting hungrier, but what could he do? He knew that the clever farmer kept him solely for the purpose of working, and he worked all the harder, hoping it would earn him a little more grain. Alas! It was not to be.

The farmer, hoping to impress his neighboring farmers of his cleverness, bragged to them about his plan. But then one day a neighbor happened by, and noticing that the fields of the clever farmer remained unplowed, asked how the plan was going. The clever farmer replied that bad luck had befallen him. "Just when I got the horse down to nothin', the damn animal died on me."

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Today, the United States, despite our protestations of being a peace-loving nation, is the most warlike nation on the planet. It is ludicrous to call military spending by the USA defense spending. We spend more than the next 20 nations combined. This figure actually understates the real cost by a significant amount because it doesn't include many other related costs which could push the ultimate cost beyond $1 trillion. But some of these costs are not controllable, or are not purely military. For convenience, let's round it off to $700 Billion; this represents base spending under the direct control of Congress. Keep in mind that these are annual costs, not spending over the next decade.

The truth is that our military spending is focused on starting wars. This is expensive; $700 billion is about 4.5% of our GDP. Some think this is money well spent. I do not.

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Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 10:06 AM PDT

$24 billion isn't chump change

by Tim DeLaney

The figure in the title is tossed around as though it were just another detail.

The Republican shutdown of the government has cost the American people a serious amount of money. How serious? The cost to a family of four, on average, is about $300. Two weeks of Republican idiocy has put a $300 dent in the average family budget. Congratulations Speaker John Boehner Ted Cruz.

A United States dollar bill weighs one gram. $24 Billion would weigh 24 billion grams, or 26,400 tons. That comes out to over 100 tons for every Republican congresscritter. Every one of these economic terrorists has metaphorically lit fire to a ton of $100 bills.  

A dollar bill is six inches in length. 24 billion of them would stretch around the earth about 90 times.

$24 billion is one helluva lot of money.

Why shouldn't we insist that it be paid back? Why shouldn't we insist on a surtax on the top 1% that would replace the $24 billion that the Republicans have so wantonly destroyed? It's only fair.

Discuss

Sat Oct 19, 2013 at 08:32 AM PDT

The problem with our Constitution

by Tim DeLaney

The framers of the Constitution did a lot of things right. The system of checks and balances was a brilliant departure from the notion of government that prevailed elsewhere in the world in 1789. Unfortunately, they made an error; their error was to assume that elected officials would naturally do what is best for the country in order to get reelected. The unfortunate truth is that some politicians would murder their your grandmother to get reelected.

The Preamble says: "We the People of the United States ... [six aims enumerated] ... do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." This paragraph is stunning; it is awesome; it is inspiring. It is the most important 52 words in all of government.

But the problem is that We the People, contrary to the the lofty aims of the Preamble, have no voice in how we are governed. We the People might clearly recognize that this or that feature of government is actually a bug, but we are powerless to change it.

The recent fiasco is just further evidence of how distant our elected officials are from We the People. We would quickly put an end to the Hastert rule if we could, because it has just cost us $24 billion—$77 for every man, woman and child in the country. It's not even a rule; it's just an idiotic tradition that we have no control over. But the Constitution gives all rule-making authority to the legislators in each chamber. We the People have no say in the matter even when legislators make patently stupid rules.

Below the fold, I will try to develop this idea, and hint at the solution.

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Thu Oct 03, 2013 at 09:02 AM PDT

Larry Kudlow speaks

by Tim DeLaney

Larry Kudlow is well known to CNBC viewers as a proponent of supply side economics. His credentials are impeccable: He was Director of OMB during the Reagan years, and his long running program, The Kudlow Report, has been for years a CNBC staple. He is the quintessential supply sider, as he will readily admit.

Kudlow has an engaging style. He doesn't make absolutist pronouncements, and his speech is peppered with phrases that admit his fallibility. He is very far from being a RWNJ; his conservatism is very civil and he even agrees with Chris Hayes on a number of points. I admire the man, though I disagree with him on many issues. If we replaced every Tea Party senator and representative with a Kudlow style Republican, we would have a functioning government instead of the mess we are stuck with.

Listen to his exchange with Chris Hayes below the fold, beginning at about 2:45

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There are three doctrinal issues that should trouble even the most fervent Christian. In the following discussion, I do not claim any special qualifications or insight except for that of a sentient human being. If you believe that this subject is the sole province of the theologian or  the philosopher, then this diary is not for you.

I was brought up Roman Catholic, and I recognize that anything I might say about Christian belief might not apply to each and every Christian denomination. However, I think it's fair to assert that if a sect rejects the divinity of Jesus, that they have stepped outside the boundaries of Christianity, as defined by the council of Nicea in 325.

Without further ado, the three doctrines are: the Trinity, the Resurrection of Jesus, and the doctrine of redemption. (In the text, I have adhered to the Christian custom of capitalizing the personal pronouns referring to their deity.)

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In this diary, I will make the case that extensive regulation of firearms is just as appropriate as extensive regulation of the automobile. The right of citizens to travel freely about the country, while not specifically enumerated in the Bill of Rights, is a right that is clearly implied by the ninth amendment. Custom and practice have made it one of our fundamental rights. I trust there are no Kossacks that consider the right to keep and bear arms as superior to the right to travel freely merely because it is the subject of its own amendment.  

So join me beneath the fold. Come, let us reason together.

Poll

What is your opinion of gun legislation in the USA?

3%6 votes
22%41 votes
8%15 votes
5%10 votes
58%105 votes
1%2 votes

| 179 votes | Vote | Results

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When a new deadly strain of influenza is discovered, we humans move heaven and earth to develop a vaccine to combat it. We don't question the motives or the competence of the people who discover that strain, because they are the experts, they are scientists. They have spent their entire professional lives studying these things, and we therefore believe them.

When was the last time a politician said: "I don't believe in influenza"? Even Republican whack-a-doodle nutjobs know better than that. Well, most of them, anyway.

Suppose it were not a new strain of influenza, but rather a scientific fact that could render large stretches of our planet uninhabitable and cause the deaths of billions? What then?

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Congress is broken; everybody knows this. The very fact that public opinion polls consistently put the approval rating of Congress at below 15% should cause Senators and Representatives, both Republican and Democrat alike, to blush with shame. Their failure is not so much because of their character defects, but because of structural problems that can be fixed with the right constitutional amendment.

However, there is a catch in crafting such an amendment. How do we convince members of Congress to vote for something that might put them out of a job, or take away from them their favorite obstruction tactic? Even if we could somehow convince Congress to approve the following amendment, how can we get 38 state legislatures to ratify it? It is possible to find an answer to that daunting problem. The method I propose is simple, traditional, and practical, as explained in Article 5. Please hear me out beneath the fold.

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Sat May 18, 2013 at 10:00 AM PDT

Is there a God? (With Poll)

by Tim DeLaney

One of the things I admire about DKOS is that however you resolve—or don't resolve—the title question, you are still part of the community, and your views are very generally respected by fellow Kossacks. A diary with this title might seem out of place on a political blog, but when you think about it the question really has a great deal to do with politics. I could give dozens of examples, most of them obvious. Our friends (?) at Redstate.com generally have a much different approach to this question than we do. But the better we understand each other, the more harmonious will be the democracy we aspire to build. This diary tries to explain the view of this particular non-believer. It is not meant to be an attempt to convert the believer, but rather to foster understanding.

Poll

Do you believe in the traditional Christian God?

13%55 votes
53%216 votes
19%80 votes
7%29 votes
6%25 votes

| 405 votes | Vote | Results

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