Tom Rinaldo's Journal
Member since: Mon Oct 20, 2003, 06:39 PM
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Mid field has as much turf extending to the right as it does to the left. And when a team runs a fullback up the middle he plows into the center of the opposing line. Middle still means middle in football, but obviously not in American politics. Families earning $250,000 or more per year fall into the top 2% of income earners in America today, yet many talking heads insist (with strong Republican and some Democratic backing) that income level still falls within "the Middle Class". WTF? Since when does sitting on the two yard line place you in the middle of the field?
I hear the arguments that emanate from a privileged bubble. It’s true that a really nice home costs a lot more in some areas than in others. So do really nice restaurants. Areas that are desirable to live in for one reason or another often have higher costs than less desirable areas, all of this is true. So? The vast majority of Americans are priced out of living in nice homes in those areas; that is a fact of life. Have we gotten to the point where being wealthy in America is defined as the ability to write unlimited blank checks, and everyone who can’t gets called “Middle Class”?
Watching TV earlier today I was told about the challenges facing a “Middle Class” family earning $250,000 annually while living in a nice neighborhood in an expensive city with two kids in college each costing them $30,000 a year in tuition. The message, I assume, was that “these people are not rich.” Maybe yes and maybe no; rich to an extent is a subjective marker. Here is what is not subjective though. They still earn more than 98% of American families. If they can’t easily afford everything they want, what about the rest of us? There are parents working full time in the exact same expensive cities, in jobs paying at or near the minimum wage. How many families in America have kids who can’t afford to go to college at all, not even to public universities, without first being burdened with a life time of college loan debts?
Really, what is the point of language anyway when we gladly make a mockery of a words obvious meaning? The top 2% equals the 98th percentile. Perform that well in school and an A+ grade is assured, even if two people in a hundred might score a fraction higher. Yet when it comes to personal incomes middle essentially is being defined as less than a rarified maximum. That’s like saying that the Rockies can’t be mountains because the Himalayas are higher.
And here’s the thing. Even under Obama’s initial proposal everyone gets a tax cut on the first quarter million they make each year. If 98% of us really fall into the “Middle Class”, we all will keep our tax cut on that “middle class” income. That means for anyone out there having to scrape by on just $285,000 a year, Uncle Sam would only get another small nibble on $35,000 of that total figure. The total average annual income for seniors on Social Security is barely over a third of that. Yet Social Security may remain at risk for budget cuts next year, while we worry about the fortunes of families only making $300,000 a year, because we can’t ask them for more sacrifices; they are the “Middle Class”.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Sun Dec 30, 2012, 05:30 PM (19 replies)
When Congress talks about taking money away from the elderly and the sick and the disabled; when Congress talks about cutting essential services for the impoverished and the working poor; when Congress debates whether it can afford to pay for the losses from Hurricane Sandy: THAT IS A REVENUE PROBLEM - not a "spending problem. If we have a spending problem it is that we aren't spending enough, not nearly enough, on upgrading this nation's infra structure to remain economically competitive in the global economy, and THAT is a revenue problem.
Why do we have a revenue problem? Because corporate lobbyists write our tax codes and billionaires buy a Congressional team to play ball with them the way George Steinbrenner bought free agents for the Yankees. The rich have done fabulously well in America since Ronald Reagan became President, the rest of us of fared poorly.
Every last dollar that the wealthy manage to permanently keep from George W. Bush's temporary tax cuts is clawed from the flesh of those who must struggle to survive while the rich still thrive. There is no such thing as "austerity" for the top 2% in America - at worse they might face some pangs of delayed gratification, or be forced to get by with only owning one or two very comfortable homes.
Social Security was adequately funded, the surplus was dispersed as tax breaks for those who never needed them. The American people want Social security protected, not "strengthened" by shaving back benefits and pretending that less equals more. We know where the revenues we paid for went. The Democratic Party can't pretend not to know also, and it will pay a price if it tries to. If the elites that the Republican Party works for want to maintain the stable social fabric that provides for them so well, now is the time for them to reign in their attack dogs.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Fri Dec 28, 2012, 10:15 AM (31 replies)
It is officially still now in play. Unofficially... it is still now in play. I do not subscribe to "1984" logic. War is not peace and peace is not war. When Obama says he would accept a deal that includes a Chained CPI on Social Security it really means... Obama will accept a deal that includes a Chained CPI on Social Security.
No doubt there is strategy and counter strategy at work. It would not be politics without it. There are those in fact who believe that Boehner had Obama convinced that the big deal was close at hand, which is why Obama offered the Chained CPI because Boehner convinced the President that is what he needed in order to get the votes. Maybe yes, maybe no. The opposite theory could also be true. Obama might have offered it now knowing the Republicans would reject it now, believing that the Republican response would strengthen the Democratic hand.
Either could be true but even if it is the latter that does nothing to convince me that Obama isn't willing to include the Chained CPI as part of the final deal, whatever it is whenever it is reached. I still take Obama at his word. The offer was and is legitimate. All of the inside chess analogies pertain to one thing only. How much will Obama get out of the Republicans on other aspects of the coming deals that will be made in return for that concession? The Fiscal Cliff will not stand unaltered in the next session of Congress. Obama is planning to give the Republicans the Chained CPI in return for that classic Sports World vague entity called "a player to be named later". That is where Obama's maneuvering lies.
Obama has thrown Republicans that bone and they will not allow it to be pried out of their jaws once it has been thrown to them. Republicans do still control the House. "Cuts in entitlements" is the biggest scalp left that they can come out of the coming talks with. It is the only political cover the Republican House can go home bragging to their constituents about later. Obama may have increased the value of that Social Security concession through clever political timing, by underlying how reasonable he is to the public while spotlighting how dysfunctional the Republicans are
Obama may well have just tricked the Republicans into going over the fiscal cliff and taking the blame for it. That gives him more leverage after January, true. It does not however give him dictatorial powers. A deal will be cut and a deal means that both sides get something out of it. There are many items on the negotiating table now, and the Republican hand is now weaker, but unless there is a Congressional Democratic revolt, Republicans will ultimately leave that table with what Obama promised them for their trouble, the Chained CPI for Social Security. That is the only scalp left of political value to them.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Fri Dec 21, 2012, 09:18 AM (168 replies)
That is NOT what Democrats, yourself first and foremost, were just elected to do. You won't be the one who feels the pain you now are willing to agree to, nor will Americans earning between $250,000 and $400,000 a year.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Wed Dec 19, 2012, 08:32 PM (143 replies)
They are about seizing power and using it for their own ends everytime, and they only "negotiate" when all other routes are closed to them. The Bush tax cuts NEVER were popular, polls at the time showed most peole saw them as a giveaway to the rich. Bush LOST the popular vote to Al Gore in 2000. Republican paid staffers mobbed the offices in Florida when the recount was taking place. Republican appointees to the Supreme Court over rode the State of Florida Courts and forced the recount to end - giving the electoral votes to Bush. The Supreme Court then went out of it's way to insist that their ruling should not be seen as establishing any legal precidents. Once in office Bush pushed through his tax cuts over almost unamimoust Democratic objections (one of two supporting Democratic Senators later defected to the Republican Party. The The Senate wsa tied 50/50, and Dick Cheney cast the deciding vote.
The Republican Party didn't worry about public opinion or seeming "reasonable" then, they flat out used their power to grab what they wanted. They don't care about it now either. Republicans don't care that the American people strongly support letting those tax cuts expire on all incomes over $250,000, as the recent election showed. They don't care if Americans say don't touch Social Security and Medicare. They want what they want and Americans will just have to learn to deal with it once they get it. That is the Republican way.
Republicans have no shame over making a laughing stock of the Senate with systematic Fillibuster abuse. They have no remorse about bottling up Obama's judicial appointees at a record pace. Republicans seize and wield power, all other consideratons are secondary at best. Democrats are the ones who worry about "seeming reasonable". Even when we win the elections and the public is on our side, we stand ready to give the Republicans through "negotiations" what they can not win at the ballot box.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Wed Dec 19, 2012, 06:38 PM (8 replies)
Letting the Bush tax cuts on the rich expire is settled law. They are scheduled to end by stature, but on a more profound level that law was settled by the public in a presidential year national election. The 2012 elections were fundamentally about making the rich pay their fair share. Obama won in a landslide. Against all odds and expectations, Democrats also picked up two seats in the Senate, and Democratic candidates for the House got more votes overall than Republicans, while Democrats there picked up 8 seats. Voters took preserving tax cuts for the rich off the table and Democrats should never have put it back on. That flies against the public will, and the public is equally adamant about protecting Social Security. Overwhelmingly polls say they Americans don't want those benefits cut
Republicans insist that we still can afford letting Americans earning over $250,000 a year to keep getting tax cuts that were designed to be temporary. Clearly our backs can't be against the fiscal wall with such low hanging fruit left unplucked. Yet Obama is willing to take $112 billion out of the pockets of current Social Security beneficiaries over the next 10 years alone, and hand it over to Americans making ten to twenty times more than the average person on Social Security annually has to live on. That is income redistribution of the worst kind. It mandates putting the squeeze on the elderly and the seriously disabled, people no so called “job creators” will ever hire no matter how much Bush tax cut savings they manage to keep pocketing.
Yes the American people expect compromise, but not the sort that compromises the health and well being of the least among us. After the rich pay their full fair share, then we can look at what further revenue increases and budget cuts are needed to bring our fiscal house in order. That will take more revenue increases not less, and yes further spending cuts too. The Bush tax cuts for the wealthy have been fully litigated in the court of public opinion; they belong to history now. With that as the starting point let negotiations begin next year, after we cross over the fiscal cliff.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Wed Dec 19, 2012, 04:28 PM (8 replies)
It is also theoretically possible for a gun belonging to a teacher to fall into the hands of a student resulting in the death of other students and/or teachers, by accident or on purpose. Which is a more likely scenario?
Even in our gun crazed culture, shooters rarely enter schools. Allowing teachers and principals to have weapons inside schools would bring guns on site daily. Unlike the police or other security personel, teachers and administrators have other jobs that call for their constant attention, but there are plenty of instances in which professional security officials end up shot by their own guns also. Why would guns be safer wth teachers?
In hindsight one can always say that there might have been a lapse in judgent or carelessness that contributed to guns being taken from their lawful owners and used in crimes, but lapses in judgement and momentary carelessness can always be counted on to happen. We all know that. Even the NRA knows that.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Mon Dec 17, 2012, 12:32 PM (18 replies)
A small but increasingly influential element of the Republican Right opposes all efforts to regulate assault rifles, semi-automatic weapons, and high capacity ammo magazines precisely because they are effective in combat situations, but no one seems willing to say it. All of the eminently reasonable comments about hunters not needing automatic weapons to bag a deer miss the point completely. The NRA tries to muddy the waters whenever they can but no one seriously tries to make a case for hunters needing semi-automatic pistols with large ammo magazines. Even the NRA knows no one would buy that line. So instead they raise the specter of "a slippery slope" that begins with machine guns banned and ends with hunting outlawed. They then shift the focus to crime and personal security, because they know only a shrinking small minority of Americans still hunt or engage in sport gunmanship.
But an insistence that individuals need access to semi-automatic weapons to protect themselves is irrational, if the threat envisioned is common crime. If the solution to street crime is arming the public with semi-automatic weapons, than the cure is far more deadly than the disease. Innocent bystanders already are killed in shootouts. No one is safer if threatened individuals begin spraying their near vicinity with a hail of bullets. Semi-automatic assault rifles are offensive weapons, designed to kill large numbers of people. A standard pistol or a shotgun is far better suited for defensive use, unless of course you are defending yourself against a hoard of heavily armed attackers
Which begs the obvious unasked question: Is that why the most unflinching opponents of reasonable gun control measures refuse to give an inch? Are they arming themselves with the weapons most appropriate for future combat scenarios? I think it naïve to assume that the answer to that question is anything other than yes. Right wing militias have been forming for decades, training for overt military confrontations. Mainstream candidates for the U.S. Senate now talk openly about “Second Amendment remedies”. Increasingly the phrase, “Government is the enemy” has taken on literal implications. And then there are the survivalists, large segments of which believe that in some coming apocalypse roving lawless mobs will descend upon rob and kill anyone who had the foresight to assemble the provisions needed to weather the collapse of civilization. Heavy weaponry will be needed, they believe, to survive that approaching crimson dawn.
Would most of the individuals now motivated to defend themselves against the specter of a full blown “Communist Fascist U.S. Government”, or the inevitable Zombie hoards, hesitate before actually turning their combat weaponry against fellow American citizens over perceived but non-existent threats? I like to think most would, if push ever came to gun. That might prevent a future slaughter along the lines of a civil war, but it doesn’t help us now. In subservience to their paranoid delusions sane gun regulations are off the table today. American is held hostage to right wing political zealotry that accepts increasing mayhem and slaughter on American streets as unfortunate but necessary collateral damage. It is time to face that reality.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Sat Dec 15, 2012, 10:41 AM (19 replies)
I know I am pointing out the obvious here but this angle is being completely ignored by talking heads and politicians alike. With all the DC talk of either nibbling away at Social Security and/or Medicare, or taking away larger bites instead, this trend is not being acknowledged. Even if NOTHING is done to cut ("ahem" reform) either program, serionrs are already getting squeezed and the outlook for future retirerees conturs to deteriorate.
Socuial Security is not a fixed benefit. The amount anyone qualifies for receiving once they start collecting Social Security directly depends on ones history of earnings, which determines how much equity each of us has in our account.
In an earlier era, most workers had their best earning years in the decade prior to retirement - as promotions, seniority and accumulated pay raises added up to increasing incomes. Unions, by and large, were responsible for establishing that now fading template. Unions protected higher wage earners from being targetted for layoffs, allowing workers to retire at peak income levels - which meant that their Social Security benefits upon retirement were calculated based on an ascending rather than descending income curve over the course of their working careers.
Seniors in the future, on average, can look forward to receiving smaller social security checks (adjusting for inflation) than prior generations qualified for. That is increasingly now locked in and will not be reversed unless the decline of organized labor is somehow reversed instead. That is what is happening now, even without forcing seniors to wait another two years before they qualify for Mediare.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Wed Dec 12, 2012, 03:36 PM (7 replies)
The overwhelming majority of Americans will continue to tolerate a tiny minority of self entitled elites hoarding vast sums of obscene personal wealth in return for an adaquate fully functioning economic safety net for the rest of us. Without that minimum guarentee, the Social Contract is Null and Void. Class warfare will no longer be waged exclusively on battlefields of the super wealthy's choosing.
Peace and stability comes with a price, and that is the price. Deal or No Deal?
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Tue Dec 11, 2012, 10:19 AM (12 replies)