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Ron Paul And The Civil Rights Act Of 1964

Last May, then-candidate Rand Paul’s (R) Senate campaign in Kentucky ran into a little trouble. The self-accredited ophthalmologist explained in newspaper, radio, and television interviews that he disapproved of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, because the private sector should be allowed to do as it pleases. “[T]his,” Paul said at the time, “is the hard part about believing in freedom.”

Asked specifically by Rachel Maddow, “Do you think that a private business has the right to say, ‘We don’t serve black people’?” Paul replied, “Yes.” Seven months later, he won easily.

Almost exactly a year later, Paul’s father, Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, explained his nearly identical beliefs about the milestone civil rights legislation.

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews asked the Texas congressman, “The ‘64 civil rights bill, do you think an employer, a guy who runs his shop down in Texas or anywhere has a right to say, ‘If you’re black, you don’t come in my store’?” And with that, Paul explained he would have opposed the Civil Rights Act, adding, “I wouldn’t vote against getting rid of the Jim Crow laws.”

Matthews noted, “I once knew a laundromat when I was in the Peace Corps training in Louisiana, in Baker, Louisiana. A laundromat had this sign on it in glaze, ‘whites only on the laundromat, just to use the laundromat machines. This was a local shop saying ‘no blacks allowed.’ You say that should be legal.”

Paul didn’t deny the premise, but instead said, “That’s ancient history. That’s over and done with.”

I’d note in response that this isn’t “ancient” history — millions of Americans are old enough to remember segregation, and millions more are still feeling the effects. For that matter, that era is “over and done with” precisely because of laws like the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The country didn’t just progress by accident; it took brave men and women willing to bend the arc of history.

Let’s also not lose sight of the larger context. In 2011, the United States has a member of Congress and a Republican presidential candidate who publicly expresses his opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And because we’ve grown inured to GOP extremism, this somehow seems routine.

Indeed, it’s unlikely Paul’s rivals for the Republican presidential nomination will feel the need to condemn his remarks, and probably won’t even be asked about them.

By: Steve Benen, Political Animal, Washington Monthly, May 14, 2011

May 14, 2011 Posted by | Businesses, Constitution, Democracy, Equal Rights, Freedom, GOP, Government, Human Rights, Ideologues, Ideology, Liberatarians, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Tea Party | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In America, Being Poor Is A Criminal Offense

It takes a special kind of bully to target the most vulnerable and neediest families in society, which millionaire politicians like to argue are draining America’s treasury.  I am referring to Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA), who recently introduced a bill that would require states to implement drug testing of applicants for and recipients of the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.  This is reminiscent of Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (R-UT) failed legislation last summer to drug test the unemployed and those receiving other forms of government cash assistance, which ultimately died in the Senate.  So far, Boustany’s proposal is following the same fate as Hatch’s, but around the country states are taking matters into their own hands.

In at least 30 state Legislatures across America, predominately wealthy politicians are quite impressed with themselves for considering bills that would limit the meager amount of state help given to needy families struggling to make ends meet.  Many have proposed drug testing with some even extending it to recipients of other public benefits as well, such as unemployment insurance, medical assistance, and food assistance, in an attempt to add more obstacles to families’ access to desperately needed aid.

Florida’s Legislature has passed a bill that will require welfare applicants to take drug tests before they can receive state aid.  Once signed into law by Republican Gov. Rick Scott, which is likely, all adult recipients of federal cash benefits will be required  to pay for the drug tests, which are typically around $35.  In Maine, Republican lawmakers introduced two proposals that would impose mandatory drug testing on Maine residents who are enrolled in MaineCare, the state’s Medicaid program for low-income and disabled residents.  Under a similar bill that passed both the House and Senate in Missouri, recipients found to be on drugs will still be eligible for benefits only if they enter drug treatment programs, though the state wouldn’t pick up the tab for their recovery.

In Massachusetts — where about 450,000 households receive cash or food assistance — a bill introduced by state Rep. Daniel B. Winslow (R-Norfolk) would set up a program requiring those seeking benefits to disclose credit limits and assets such as homes and boats, as well as the kind of car they drive.  His reasoning is “If you have two cars and a snowmobile, then you aren’t poor. If we do this, we will be able to preserve our limited resources for those who are truly in need and weed out fraud, because we know there’s fraud and we’re not looking for it.” State Rep. Daniel K. Webster (R-Pembroke) filed a budget amendment requiring the state to verify immigration status of those seeking public benefits.  Webster made it clear that his proposal does not mean he dislikes poor people or immigrants, but “this is all unsustainable and the system is being abused.”

This is rather shocking because I can’t recall any Republicans or Democrats demanding that the CEO of Bank of America or JP Morgan disclose inventory of their vacation homes, private jets, and yachts before bailing them out in what amounts to corporate welfare.  Nor did they insist that these CEOs submit to alcohol and drug screenings before receiving taxpayer money.  No objections were made regarding the immigration status of the people running these companies or whether they happen to employ undocumented workers for cheap labor.

Some would argue that corporations are different, in that they create jobs.  To that I will point out that corporations are making record profits, even as they layoff workers and pay next to nothing in Federal income taxes.  And this doesn’t even begin to scratch at the surface of corporate abuse by the very entities that are soaked in taxpayer money.  Just contrast these proposals with the way the rich are treated in this country with billions of dollars in subsidies and tax breaks.

This is simply an extension of a conversation that began in 1996, when President Bill Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich passed bipartisan welfare reform, whose results have been tragic to say the least.  The 1996 Welfare Reform Act authorized, but did not require, states to impose mandatory drug testing as a prerequisite to receiving state welfare assistance.  Back then, unproven allegations of criminal behavior and drug abuse among welfare recipients were the rationales cited by those in support of the bill’s many punitive measures that were infused with race, class, and gender bias.

The majority of the proposals for drug testing require no suspicion of drug use whatsoever.  Instead they rest on the assumption that the poor are inherently inclined to immoral and illegal behavior, and therefore unworthy of privacy rights as guaranteed under the Fourth Amendment.  These proposals simply reaffirm the longstanding concept of the poor as intrinsically prone to and deserving of their predicament.  Jordan C. Budd, in his superb analysis Pledge Your Body for Your Bread: Welfare, Drug Testing, and the Inferior Fourth Amendment, demonstrates how the drug testing of welfare recipients is part of what’s called a “poverty exception” to the Constitution, particularly the Fourth Amendment, a bias that renders much of the Constitution irrelevant at best, and hostile at worst, to the American poor.

Kaaryn Gustafson extensively documents the trend toward the criminalization of poverty.  She demonstrates how, in her words “welfare applicants are treated as presumptive liars, cheaters, and thieves,” which is “rooted in the notion that the poor are latent criminals and that anyone who is not part of the paid labor force is looking for a free handout.”  I would argue that given the disdain that has been shown for “entitlements” over the years, it won’t be long before this treatment extends to Social Security, Medicare, and even Financial Aid recipients.

The notion that the poor are more prone to drug use has no basis in reality.  Research shows that substance use is no more prevalent among people on welfare than it is among the working population, and is not a reliable indicator of an individual’s ability to secure employment.  Furthermore, imposing additional sanctions on welfare recipients will disproportionately harm children, since welfare sanctions and benefit decreases have been shown to increase the risk that children will be hospitalized and face food insecurity.  In addition, analysis shows that drug testing would be immensely more expensive than the acquired savings in reduced benefits for addicts

With regard to welfare legislation, it’s beneficial to highlight where on the class ladder members of Congress stand.  According to a study by the Center for Responsive Politics released late last year, nearly half of the members in congress — 261 — were millionaires, compared to about 1 percent of Americans.  The study also pointed out that 55 of these congressional millionaires had an average calculated wealth in 2009 of $10 million dollars and up, with eight in the $100 million-plus range.  A more recent study released in March, found that 60 percent of Senate freshman and more than 40 percent of House freshmen of the 112th congress are millionaires.

Why is this so important?  Because very few of our lawmakers understand what it’s like to struggle financially.  Millionaires can generally afford healthcare without grappling with unemployment, foreclosure, or an empty refrigerator.  The majority of our representatives haven’t a clue what the daily lives of the people they represent are like, let alone the constant struggle of single mothers living below the poverty line.  They are constantly arguing that we all must sacrifice with our pensions, our wages, our education, the security of our communities, and with the belly’s of our children, while they sit atop heavily guarded piles of money.

With the ranks of the underclass growing and the unemployment level at a staggering 9%, it’s more clear than ever that the wealth divide between “we the people” and our representatives has caused a dangerous disconnect.  State and federal legislators claim to be acting fiscally responsible, but they support budgets that create unimaginably difficult circumstances for the lives of the most vulnerable people, especially children.  There is no question that these newest proposals amount to class warfare, and the longer we ignore it, the more it will spread.

By: Rania Khalek, CommonDreams.org, May 14, 2011

May 14, 2011 Posted by | Banks, Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Constitution, Corporations, Economy, GOP, Gov Paul LePage, Gov Rick Scott, Government, Governors, Health Care, Income Gap, Jobs, Lawmakers, Maine, Middle Class, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Unemployment Benefits, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Forget The Rich: Tax The Poor And Middle Class

Nothing is certain but death and taxes, it used to be said, but in the madcap times we live in, even they’re up for grabs.

No matter what proof the White House provides that Osama bin Laden indeed has had his bucket kicked — and at this point even al Qaeda admits he’s dead — there still will be uncertainty. Whether they ever release those damned photos or not, a lunatic few will continue to insist that Osama’s alive and well and running a Papa John’s Pizza in Marrakesh.

As for taxes, having to pay them is no longer a sure thing either, especially if you’re a corporate giant like General Electric, with a thousand employees in its tax department, skilled in creative accounting. You’ll recall recent reports that although GE made profits last year of $5.1 billion in the United States and $14.2 billion worldwide they would pay not a penny of federal income tax. Chalk it up to billions of dollars of losses at GE Capital during the financial meltdown and a government tax break that allows companies to avoid paying US taxes on profits made overseas while “actively financing” different kinds of deals.

It gets worse. In 2009, Exxon-Mobil didn’t pay any taxes either, and last year, they had worldwide profits of $30.46 billion. Neither did Bank of America or Chevron or Boeing. According to a report last week from the office of the New York City Public Advocate, in 2009, the five companies, including GE, received a total of $3.7 billion in federal tax benefits.

As The New York Times‘ David Kocieniewski reported in March, “Although the top corporate tax rate in the United States is 35 percent, one of the highest in the world, companies have been increasingly using a maze of shelters, tax credits and subsidies to pay far less… Such strategies, as well as changes in tax laws that encouraged some businesses and professionals to file as individuals, have pushed down the corporate share of the nation’s tax receipts — from 30 percent of all federal revenue in the mid-1950s to 6.6 percent in 2009.”

What’s greasing the wheels for these advantages is, hold on to your hats, cash. Over the last decade, according to the NYC public advocate’s report, those same five companies — GE, Exxon-Mobil, Bank of America, Chevron and Boeing — gave more than $43.1 million to political campaigns. During the 2009-2010 election cycle, the five spent a combined $7.86 million in campaign contributions, a 7 percent jump over their 2007-2008 political spending.

“These tax breaks were put in place to promote growth and create jobs, not bankroll the political causes of corporate executives,” Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said. “… No company that can afford to spend millions of dollars to influence our elections should be pleading poverty come tax time.”

And by the way, those campaign cash figures don’t even include all the money those companies funneled into the 2010 campaigns via trade associations and tax-exempt non-profits. Thanks to the Supreme Court Citizens United decision, we don’t know the numbers because, as per the court, the corporate biggies don’t have to tell us. Imagine them sticking out their tongues and wiggling their fingers in their ears and you have a pretty good idea of their official position on this.

Meanwhile, last week Republicans like Utah’s Orrin Hatch, ranking member of the US Senate Finance Committee, grabbed hold of an analysis by Congress’ nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation and wrestled it to the ground. The brief memorandum reported that in the 2009 tax year 51 percent of all American taxpayers had zero tax liability or received a refund. So why, the Republicans asked, are Democrats and others so mean, asking corporations and the rich to pay higher taxes when lots of other people — especially the poor and middle class — don’t pay taxes either?

Hatch told MSNBC, “Bastiat, the great economist of the past, said the place where you’ve got to get revenues has to come from the middle class. That’s the huge number of people that are there. So the system does need to be revamped… We have an unbalanced tax code that we’ve got to change.”

All of which flies in the face of reality. As Travis Waldron of the progressive ThinkProgress website explained, “The majority of Americans who do not pay federal income taxes don’t make enough money to qualify for even the lowest tax bracket, a problem made worse by the economic recession. That includes retired Americans, who don’t pay income taxes because they earn very little income, if they earn any at all.

“And while many low-income Americans don’t pay income taxes, they do pay taxes. Because of payroll and sales taxes — a large proportion of which are paid by low- and middle-income Americans — less than a quarter of the nation’s households don’t contribute to federal tax receipts — and the majority of the non-contributors are students, the elderly, or the unemployed.”

What’s more, ThinkProgress notes, “The top 400 taxpayers — who have more wealth than half of all Americans combined — are paying lower taxes than they have in a generation, as their tax responsibilities have slowly collapsed since the New Deal era.”  In the meantime, “working families have been asked to pay more and more.”

So maybe death and taxes are no longer certain, but one thing remains as immutable as the hills. In the words of another golden oldie, there’s nothing surer — the rich get rich and the poor get poorer.

By: Michael Winship, CommonDreams.org, May 10, 2011

May 14, 2011 Posted by | Businesses, Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Corporations, Democrats, Economy, Elections, General Electric, GOP, Government, Income Gap, Jobs, Lawmakers, Middle Class, Politics, Republicans, Tax Credits, Tax Increases, Tax Liabilities, Tax Loopholes, Taxes, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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