Popular Tags:

The great tax shift: How politicians promise tax cuts, then shift the costs onto you

April 5, 2016 at 5:36 pm

Politicians make a lot of promises about taxes.

Ted Cruz claims:

As Washington pads Wall Street’s pockets, hard-working Americans get left behind. My tax plan will change that.

Donald Trump claims he’ll “make America great again” with his tax plan. Others have similar plans. Flat taxes, “fair” taxes, etc.

We’ve been hearing these same claims for 40 years. What actually happens is that politicians lower taxes, primarily for the wealthy, and then they do one of two things: 1) shift the costs onto you, or 2) run deficits.

When you hear pundits and politicians talk about taxes, forget what they say. The truth is simple: You’re going to pay more, and the wealthy are going to pay less.

As tax day approaches, here’s a story you won’t hear in the corporate media.

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2015 in Washington, DC (Gage Skidmore/CC-BY-SA 3.0) Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2015 in Washington, DC (Gage Skidmore/CC-BY-SA 3.0)

‘All for each and each for all:’ Teddy Roosevelt’s Square Deal

March 22, 2016 at 10:47 am

Corporate special interest groups in our country such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have figured out that they can sway government in their favor if they market themselves as “good” and paint certain people as “evil.”

This is why today we live in a world where our richest businessmen and businesses are marketed as “good,” capable of doing no wrong, and all government is marketed as “bad.” In this world, government exists only for the purpose of business owners and we’re told we should just sit back and let the benefits trickle down. Only they haven’t. In fact, the opposite has happened. The rich have gotten richer and more powerful at the expense of everyone else.

We’ve seen this before. The late 1800s and early 1900s saw the rise of rich monopolies that hurt the average person. Railroads favored certain large trusts over small farmers.Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle in 1906 exposing the health violations, labor abuses, and unsanitary conditions of the meatpacking industry. Foods and drugs were mislabeled and consumers deliberately misled.

As a result, Theodore Roosevelt, a progressive Republican, introduced a platform based on a few simple ideas that would become known as the Square Deal. On April 5, 1905, he delivered his Square Deal speech in Dallas, Texas, where he laid out his philosophy:

It is all-essential to the continuance of our healthy national life that we should recognize this community of interest among our people. The welfare of each of us is dependent fundamentally upon the welfare of all of us, and therefore in public life that man is the best representative of each of us who seeks to do good to each by doing good to all; in other words, whose endeavor it is not to represent any special class and promote merely that class’s selfish interests, but to represent all true and honest men of all sections and all classes and to work for their interests by working for our common country.

This is what everyone wants: A square deal for all.

[caption id="attachment_2018" align="aligncenter" width="550"]Theodore Roosevelt speaking from the balcony of the Hotel Allen, Allentown, Pennsylvania, 1914 (Lehigh County Historical Society). Theodore Roosevelt speaking from the balcony of the Hotel Allen, Allentown, Pennsylvania, 1914 (Lehigh County Historical Society).[/caption]

One million leaders

March 15, 2016 at 10:16 am

Tuesday was not my best day. I fumbled through a job interview in the afternoon, and my 14-year-old car’s transmission died.

One bright spot was seeing the following post online from Daily Kos’ own Paul Hogarth (with his permission):

I am not the same person I was 20 years ago—and after years of working on campaigns and building for progressive change have learned that politics is much, much harder than what the thrill of tonight’s victory may seem. I also have my doubts about a campaign like Bernie Sanders really making change in this country.

But tonight is a cautionary tale for people like me to not let your “wise skepticism” give way to cynical despair. Always keep the fire burning for young, idealistic causes—because progressive change requires people who demand the unreasonable.

We just need to remember that the impossible may take a while, and that—win or lose—a positive, idealistic campaign that brings new people into politics must figure out how to outlast an election.

Here’s a reality-check for Bernie supporters: Yes, he beat the odds tonight with Michigan. But Hillary’s landslide victory in Mississippi means that, on balance, the gap in delegates has likely widened.

So be happy tonight, celebrate. You deserve it. But figure out a way to make sure this victory lasts beyond the Michigan primary, and that even if Bernie fails to win the nomination you can channel that movement into a political infrastructure that will improve America.

Paul’s post is brilliant.

It bridges the gap between a couple of groups who may be currently aligned against each other. It doesn’t pit idealism vs. pragmatism. Instead, it says, “We need both.”

It brings people together rather than dividing them, and it immediately picked me up. I shared it with my small group of Bernie supporters to say, “Congratulations!” after the Michigan win—and also to remind us that even Bernie is saying this is bigger than him.

I think real change is going to take one million leaders. One million people like Paul who understand the game being played against us, and know how to bring people together from many tribes.

Here are a few thoughts on why this is so crucial, and what this might look like.

[caption id="attachment_2010" align="aligncenter" width="550"]A hose-team leader instructs the team to relieve the nozzleman during a general quarters (GQ) drill aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (U.S. Navy/Wikimedia). A hose-team leader instructs the team to relieve the nozzleman during a general quarters (GQ) drill aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (U.S. Navy/Wikimedia).[/caption]

Twelve questions for Bruce Bartlett, economic historian and former Reagan adviser

March 8, 2016 at 9:56 am

Bruce Bartlett is a historian and former Reagan adviser who describes himself as a lifelong conservative that believes the current GOP panders to fools. He’s written for the Economix blog at the New York Times and has authored several books including The Benefit and the Burden: Tax Reform – Why We Need It and What It Will Take. I’m a longtime fan of Bruce’s work and when he contacted me about a post, I asked him if I could pick his brain about economics and economic myths.

[caption id="attachment_2003" align="aligncenter" width="550"]Bruce Bartlett in a 2012 interview with Bill Moyers. Bruce Bartlett in a 2012 interview with Bill Moyers.[/caption]

No amount of hard work is going to pull people up if they don’t get paid for working hard

February 29, 2016 at 11:06 am

back_in_my_day_650
One of the things corporate special interest group marketing takes advantage of is differences between the generations and their understanding of the economy.

You’ve seen the memes. The most famous example was Mitt Romney characterizing 47 percent of Americans as lazy.

Typically, I see posts like this on the Internet:

A Baby Boomer friend of mine explaining how hard he’s worked. A Baby Boomer friend of mine explaining how hard he’s worked.

Implicit in my friend’s post is the idea that anyone can pull themselves up if they just work hard.

The problem is that things today are very different. There are no more paper boys. Or pensions. Hell, newspapers may not even be around much longer.

What my Baby Boomer friend experienced was very different than today’s reality. Because of these life experiences, it’s often difficult for Baby Boomers to understand just how different today’s economy is from the economy of the 1950s and 1960s.

How can you help people like this (especially in your own family) understand the realities of today’s economy?

No room for failure: How student debt impacts results

February 22, 2016 at 2:51 pm

Johns Hopkins commencement ceremony in 2010 (by Sakeeb Sabakka/CC-BY-2.0)

I was lucky: I managed to get through college with only a small amount of debt.

I was able to do this because I was fortunate enough to have middle-class parents, I attended a state school, I received scholarship help, and I got into a co-op program that helped me cover some of the costs.

At the time, I didn’t realize what this would allow me to do. I didn’t realize that it would allow me to take some risks I would never have been able to otherwise.

It allowed me to fail. Not just once, but numerous times. And failure, believe it or not, is critical to success.

This is why I want to talk about how student debt levels today are not only hurting students and recent graduates, but are hurting our businesses—and our country.

Only fundamental change, not micromanagement, will prevent more lead poisoning after Flint

February 14, 2016 at 1:49 pm

Claire McClinton Speaking after the Water March on August, 10, 2014.

What do excessive testing in schools, the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, speed cameras, and the recent lead poisoning in Flint, Michigan, all have in common?

They’re all symptoms of a new America. An America that is no longer a democracy. An America that is under the control of corporate special interest groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. And an America that is being micromanaged by a mid-level tier of bought-and-paid for politicians who no longer work in the interests of the public.

The media keeps presenting these crises as one-off events, singularities.

If you take a step back though, there are clearly common threads. The first thread is that corporate special interests keep buying themselves out of responsibility (privatize the profit, socialize the risk). The second is that in order to keep people in check and execute on these plans, increasingly they’re relying on a tier of mid-level micromanagers. The poisoning of Flint is just the latest symptom of a country that seems to be more and more under corporate special interest micromanagement.

What does this look like?

The importance of fighting with someone on something

February 8, 2016 at 12:53 pm

Students from Texas Tech University build a house for Habitat for Humanity in 2010. Students from Texas Tech University build a house for Habitat for Humanity in 2010. (

In 1954, social psychologist Muzafer Sherif ran an experiment that could not be repeated today. Sherif was investigating prejudice and contesting Freud’s model of prejudice as an acting out of unresolved childhood conflicts.

At the Robbers Cave Boy Scout camp, Sherif wanted to test whether he could take a group of people, without any inherently hostile attitudes towards each other, and create conflict by introducing competition.

What Sherif found was not only that he could, but that he could also resolve the conflict if he introduced a shared goal. As I talk to people about politics and work for change, I always try to remember the importance of fighting with someone on something.

How to really make America great again: Get rid of ‘the dumbest idea in the world’

February 1, 2016 at 11:02 pm

One of the best questions you can ask people in organizations that are struggling is:

If you could get rid of one thing, what would it be?

It’s a great question (and also one that should be asked in confidentiality) because:

  1. It’s hard to think about changing everything.
  2. It’s easier to think about one thing to eliminate.
  3. People often have a really good idea about what that one thing is in an organization. Often it’s the elephant in the room that people can’t talk about publicly for fear of retribution. Sometimes, it’s a person.

One thing clearly stands head and shoulders above the rest when you talk to many people in corporate America. It’s an idea that completely removes responsibility from many corporations in our society. It’s an idea that threatens not only our constitutional democracy, but also every value Christians hold dear and every value we hold dear from modernity and post-modernity.

It’s an idea so bad that Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, called it “the dumbest idea in the world.”

The idea, called shareholder value theory, is that the sole purpose of publicly-held corporations is to return profit to shareholders.

Customers be damned. Society be damned. Families be damned. Results be damned. America be damned.

Where did this idea come from?

New York Stock Exchange, August 2010. (by Elbie Ancona (CC-BY_SA 3.0))

The case for Bernie Sanders: Is it time to get rid of the prevent defense?

January 27, 2016 at 1:28 pm

Screenshot from Bernie Sanders rally in Portland, OR.

On January 18, New York Magazine published Jonathan Chait’s article titled “The Case Against Bernie Sanders.”

After reading this piece, the entire premise is that Hillary is more likely to win because she’s more likely to win.

For the record, I’m a Bernie leaner. What’s bothersome about Chait’s piece is that he’s completely ignoring several significant trends, and this same surface analysis is appearing again (Michael Cohen in the Boston Globe) and again (Greg Sargent in The Washington Post) and again (Jonathan Martin in the New York Times).

Whether you’re a Bernie supporter or not, there are at least four critical trends that insiders aren’t writing about. Here are the four trends and why they’re important not just to Bernie, but to Hillary, to the Democratic Party, and to anyone interested in change in our country.