April 29, 2006

WEEKEND SPECIAL: DENNY DIMWIT ON INEQUALITY


Goat Rope is pleased to once again feature a learned commentary from bantam rooster and noted free market economist Dr. Denton "Denny" Dimwit. Dr. Dimwit is director of the Goat Rope Farm Entrepreneurship Center, which is not yet directly affiliated with the WVU Entrepreneurship Center but is seeking affiliation with all deliberate speed.

This feature is part of Goat Rope's continuing efforts to provide ample space to the most intelligent and articulate voices of those with opposing viewpoints. Again, we hope that this contributes to a climate of courtesy, civility, and mutual respect so often and so sadly lacking in the culture of our times.

[El Cabrero's note: this posting inaugurates a new feature of listing keywords at the end of the posting in the hopes of luring fresh victims...uhhh make that new readers...to this site.]

THE DIMIWT DISPATCH

Crudzilla! This blog is getting stupider and stupider every day. Who writes for this thing--possums? It reminds me of some of the stuff I pick seeds out of.

What's all this stupid stuff about inequality? What's wrong with inequality? Inequality is AWESOME! I can prove it empiricallistically.

Just look at the picture. See the handsome guy in the background? That's me. Pretty sharp, huh?

Do you see that massive object in front of me? Know what that is? Huh? I'll tell you what that is. That is one BIG hen. Yowza. That's what I'm talking about. She's huge! Talk about inequality--she'd make about six of me. If she fell on me, I'd be a greasy spot. And you know what? She's with me. Got it? Yeah man.

That's the beauty of the free market. Inequality rules!

That's the truth. You bet your cloaca.


GOAT ROPE KEYWORDS (TO LURE INNOCENT WEB SURFERS):
civil discourse, civility, crudzilla, yowza

GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: TREETOP

April 27, 2006

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY


Caption: It's time for working people to stand up for their rights, according to adolescent peacock and labor militant Castor.

First, here's the good news. Efforts by states to raise the minimum wage are moving along nicely. At this point, 21 states and the District of Columbia have approved higher minimums. Nevada passed an increase in 2004, but this must go before voters again this year. For current information on which states have raised their minimums, click here.

Now for the bad news. West Virginia had 58 fatalities, the fourth-worst rate of worker deaths in 2004. For data on worker fatalities in West Virginia, click here.

Nationally, over 5,700 workers were killed or fatally injured on the job in 2004, according to a Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect, a new report from the AFL-CIO. This is up from 5,575 in 2003.

"On average, 16 workers were fatally injured and more than 12,000 workers were injured or made ill each day of 2004. These statistics do not include deaths from occupational diseases,which claim the lives of an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 workers each year," the report states.

To see the full report, click here.

And for the ugly news about the growing number of middle class Americans without health care, click here.

Short version: doing without health care isn't just for poor people anymore.

GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: MOVIN' ON UP

NO MILLIONAIRE LEFT BEHIND



Caption: The goats thought they smelled something.

One of the slicker propaganda moves in the last few years--and the competition was fierce in this department--has been the largely successful campaign to repeal the estate tax at the federal and state levels. Passed by Congress in 1916, and supported by Democratic and Republican administrations until the present one, this tax only effects people who inherit vast amounts of wealth.

The tax does not affect surviving spouses or contributions to charity. Virtually all family farms and small businesses are likewise exempt.

HOW THEY DID IT. Turning a tax that only impacts a small number of very wealthy people into a bogus populist issue was quite a feat. Now we have some idea how it happened. According to a report released April 25 by Public Citizen and United for a Fair Economy, "The multimillion-dollar lobbying effort to repeal the federal estate tax has been aggressively led by 18 super-wealthy families...18 families worth a total of $185.5 billion have financed and coordinated a 10-year effort to repeal the estate tax, a move that would collectively net them a windfall of $71.6 billion."

Link.


DEMOCRACY OR ARISTOCRACY? Advocates of this tax began from the now radical assumption that the United States was intended to be a democracy rather than an oligarchy ruled by a tiny aristocracy based on inherited wealth.

This sentiment was perhaps best expressed by Louis Brandeis, a U S Supreme Court justice between 1916 and 1939, who said “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”

BIPARTISAN SUPPORT. One of the estate tax’s early supporters was progressive Republican President Theodore Roosevelt, who in 1906 stated that “The man of great wealth owes a particular obligation to the State because he derives special advantages from the mere existence of government.” In other words, the rich benefit more than most citizens from public investments and government protection of wealth and property and hence have a responsibility to the public.

On the Democratic side, Theodore’s distant cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt noted that “Great accumulations of wealth cannot be justified on the basis of personal and family security…Such inherited economic power is as inconsistent with the ideals of this generation as inherited political power was inconsistent with the ideals of the generation which established our government."

Bipartisan support for the estate tax extended beyond the Roosevelt clan. The tax survived the rule of a number of Republican presidents, including Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and the first President Bush.

Estate tax repeal would basically deprive the country of close to $1 trillion over the next ten years. This is money that could shore up Social Security and/or pay for programs like education, infrastructure, law enforcement, social services, environmental protection, or deficit reduction. Again, as Theodore Roosevelt would argue, these are things that directly or indirectly benefit rich folks too, probably more than the rest of us.

TAX CUTS HURT CHARITABLE GIVING. There are other consequences as well. In 2003, the Brookings Institution reported that repeal of the estate tax “would reduce charitable bequests by between 22 and 37 percent, or between $3.6 billion and $6 billion per year.” This is expected to lead to similar declines in giving during life. “To put this in perspective, a reduction in annual charitable donations in life and at death of $10 billion due to estate tax repeal implies that each year, the nonprofit sector would lose resources equivalent to the total grants currently made by the largest 110 foundations in the United States.”

This means private charities will be even less able to make up the difference from public spending cuts.

COMMON GOOD VS PRIVATE GREED. Significantly, Responsible Wealth, an organization of affluent Americans concerned about the growing wealth gap, opposes estate tax repeal or its equivalent. Their example of placing the public good over their own private gain is an instance of real patriotism and old fashioned civic virtue.

Link.

GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED

April 26, 2006

POLL SHOWS HUGE SUPPORT FOR MINIMUM WAGE BOOST


Caption: Big crawdads and little crawdads agree: raise the minimum wage.

Americans of both major political parties support raising the minimum wage, according to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, a finding consistent with numerous polls in recent years.

The report, titled “Maximum Support for Raising the Minimum,” states that “By an overwhelming margin (83% to 14%), the American public favors raising the federal minimum wage to $7.15 an hour—a hefty $2.00 an hour increase.” Raising the wage “receives widespread support from both Republicans and Democrats, wealthy and poor.”

The numbers have increased only slightly in recent years, mostly because most people have consistently believed the minimum wage should be a living wage.

This shouldn’t be a partisan issue: since 72 percent of Republicans support an increase. This is less than 91 percent for Democrats and 87 percent for Independents, but is still overwhelming.

While state campaigns to raise the minimum are gaining momentum—the report states that most Americans now live in states with wages higher than the federal minimum wage of $5.15—ultimately, Congress needs to listen to the American people and do the right thing.

To view the report, see http://pewresearch.org/obdeck/?ObDeckID=18

GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: HIGHER THAN THE FEDERAL MINIMUM WAGE

April 25, 2006

THE MOTHER OF ALL GOAT ROPES



Caption: Not a bad idea, but it might not work.

Sometimes it seems to El Cabrero that the people in charge of US foreign policy have a gnawing fear that they haven't messed up the world as much as humanly possible. When that happens, it seems like they redouble their efforts to make things even worse.

A case in point is the US response to Iran and its nuclear program. In the April 17th New Yorker, Seymour Hersh describes plans of the Bush administration to attack Iran. According to Hersh, "The Bush Administration, while publicly advocating diplomacy in order to stop Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapons, has increased clandestine activities inside Iran and intensified planning for a possible major air attack."

The attack, if it happens, may even include nuclear weapons. That ought to make the world safe, huh?

See http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/articles/060417fa_fact

At a time when the US military is already severely strained due to the ill advised war in Iraq, it's hard to believe that the people running the show are dreaming of another military strike as a first resort. However, according to the online Financial Times, diplomacy isn't much of a priority. "One of the US government's top advisers has rebuffed European calls for Washington to negotiate directly with Iran over Tehran's nuclear program."

See: http://tompaine.com/newsworthy/

Diplomacy without talking...that should be interesting.

Katrina showed what happens when the people running the government don't believe the government can do anything and act accordingly. In this case, we're seeing what happens when the people in charge of diplomacy don't believe diplomacy can do anything and act accordingly.

Really, it isn't about being "hard" or "soft" on national security. It's about being smart about it. Anyone, anywhere, always has the power to make a bad situation worse. It takes some more finesse to make it better.

Where are the grown-ups?

GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: WAY UP THERE

April 24, 2006

GOAT ROPE OF THE WEEK: IRAQ AGAIN


Caption: The Bush administration promoted the war on Iraq as a quick, relatively inexpensive venture that would make the US safer. Like the peacock Ferdinand, they had it backward.

For the second week in a row, the unnecessary war in Iraq gets the Goat Rope of the Week award. Human costs aside, the war is about to get even more expensive according to an ABC News report.

The Senate is set to take up a $106.5 billion emergency spending bill, $72.4 billion of which will go to Iraq and Afghanistan. In March, the house passed a $92 billion version of the bill that included $68 billion in war funding. Earlier this fiscal year, $50 billion was allocated for the war.

The report quotes analyst Tony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies who blames high costs on poor planning: "When the administration submitted its original budget for the Iraq war [$50 billion], it didn't provide money for continuing the war this year or any other. We could end up spending up to $1 trillion in supplemental budgets for this war. "

The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments estimates that war spending from 2003 to 2006 will amount to a cost of $1,205 for each American family beyond what they already pay in taxes.

To see the report, click http://abcnews.go.com/International/story?id=1866779&page=1.

The most bizarre thing about the fiscal goat rope is the choice of the administration to cut taxes mostly for the wealthy during wartime, a measure analogous to taking gasoline out of your car before you go on a long and dangerous trip.

And what a long and dangerous trip it's been.


GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: STRATOSPHERIC