Posts Tagged ‘Ronald Reagan’

Anyway you look a the recent shooting in Tucson, it is a tragedy. I suppose all Americans can agree on that. However, as the nation gets over the shock and grief of the murders, I suppose we will soon begin pointing the finger of blame. I’m here to help.

In order to understand what happened in Tucson, it is necessary to recall a little U.S. history concerning the treatment of people with mental disorders. At one time, many years ago, the U.S. government was actively involved in providing care for people who had severe mental problems. There were mental hospitals in most states that were funded by the Federal government. It was a rare sight to see someone staggering along the sidewalk, mumbling to themselves. Today, that is commonplace. Why? Because of a fundamental difference in philosophy among Americans. We have, in this country, pretty much two camps. One camp sort of believes that we, as a society, should all work together for the common good. This group believes in high quality public education, government support of health care, and so forth. The other group is the rugged individualists whose philosophy is pretty much “you are on your own”. They believe that people should take care of themselves and they don’t want their tax dollars being used to help someone who did not provide for themselves.

At one time, the people who believed that government existed to help the people were in power. They created a system of mental hospitals to provide the type of care for the severely mentally disturbed that families just could not provide. This was the American way for many, many years. But all that changed in the late 20th century. A severe blow was dealt to this system when, under President Reagan, the Community Health Centers Act was repealed. This was the beginning of the end of Federal involvement in mental health care. Times and attitudes were changing. The people were voting more for States Rights than for a strong Federal government. Eventually, the responsibility for the care of mentally ill people transitioned to the individual states to handle as each state saw fit. The move has been a disaster.

When the Federally funded mental hospitals were closed and the Community Mental Health Centers were no longer funded we began seeing something new. There were homeless people wandering in the cities. They were obviously mentally ill. They were unable to care for themselves. It is that way today. Perhaps 30% of the homeless people are severely mentally ill, unable to care for themselves, unable to cope with the system or life on the streets. When winter comes some die on the streets of exposure. And we do nothing, except look away.

So, what does this have to do with the shooting in Tucson? During the past 40 to 50 years many of the Republican dominated states of the American West have clamored for states rights – and they still do. During this time they have obtained more and more authority and become more independent of the Federal government. They make their own rules now. However, with this new-found authority comes new-found responsibility. The State of Arizona has its own policies on how to deal with the mentally ill.  It has its own policies on who can own a gun. It has its own policies on how much ammunition one can buy. The State of Arizona also has the responsibility to keep its citizens safe. It has the obligation to ensure that it is not negligent in allowing dangerous people to have the opportunity to commit murder and mayhem.

The State of Arizona failed, not because it couldn’t protect it people; it failed because it didn’t. If Arizona had a system of mental hospitals for the severely mentally ill the young man who caused so much harm would have never had the opportunity to do so. All the signs were there, but there was no system in place in Arizona to take action. The mental hospitals don’t exist anymore. Mentally ill people are now integrated into society. Why? Because it is less expensive than caring for them. It was a business decision by President Reagan and many other Republican leaders. Ultimately, it is a question of philosophy. What kind of country are we and what are our values? The truth is we are a divided nation. So we leave these questions to the individual states.

The court case will probably go on for a long time. There will be endless analysis of who said what and who did what. Even the parents will be called in and interrogated. Why didn’t they stop their son, they will be asked. As if they could imagine this would happen.  The finger-pointing will begin, as it always does. Some will say it is Sarah Palin’s fault. Some may blame Glenn Beck for inciting hatred on his TV show. Some will blame Rep. Giffords for not taking sufficient precautions. Some will blame the young man’s school and teacher for not taking stronger action. And everyone will be heading for cover, trying to avoid blame. However, the blame belongs to none of these because they didn’t have the knowledge or the power or the duty to prevent the disaster. There is only one entity that can be rightly and legally blamed because it failed in its duty to its citizens in so many ways.

Blame Arizona.

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If one were to listen only to Republican hype and the hysteria of the Tea People one might think that the only thing worse than paying taxes is to be boiled in oil. The question we should ask is this: are both of these groups crazy or is it only the Tea People?  The answer, of course, is that the Republicans aren’t crazy; they’re simply cunning, like a tiger, or maybe more like a snake that stalks its prey relying only on deceit. The Tea People just don’t know any better.  Like children following the Pied Piper, they believe anyone who says taxes are bad, and they willingly follow anyone who promises to reduce or eliminate taxes – people like the cheerleader from Alaska who seems to think that all you need to do to win a debate is shout the loudest and drown out the opposition. Honest debate is simply out of the question.

The question we might ask is why is there this odd coalition of nasty, crafty, old rich men and undereducated, cheerleader-following, poor people? Why? Because it works. It works for the cunning, crafty old men that is. As for the unsuspecting Tea People, they will simply be dessert for the snake – after the large middle class has been devoured by the unquenchable appetite of the wealthy.

It has been claimed by many, myself included, that our country is already in the clutches of a ruling oligarchy. The evidence is not hard to find. Just look how our businesses have been allowed to export our jobs to China and India and so many other countries. Just look how our banking system was allowed to destroy the world economy with no adult supervision.  Just look at how the gigantic energy companies are allowed to destroy the environment with gargantuan oil spills and the total destruction of mountains (yes, entire mountains) in the search for coal. Yet, clean nuclear energy that provides almost all of the energy for countries like France, and clean wind energy that supplies large amounts of power for Scandinavia and the UK is opposed on all fronts. Just look how President Bush became President even though he received fewer votes than Al Gore – even in Florida.

Under the reigns of Republican presidents like Reagan and Bush our economy has been practically destroyed and our national debt soared into the trillions. Under Bush taxes on the extremely wealthy were drastically cut while the poor received almost no break at all – and all of it justified by the lie that it had to be done so the rich could create more jobs for the poor people. Except they didn’t. At least not for the poor of America. The simple fact is that they eliminated all the jobs the poor people had – the unskilled labor jobs – and exported them to even poorer countries. Then they started on the skilled jobs, IT jobs, pharmaceutical jobs, jobs that needed a college education – and they exported those jobs too. So what was left for the citizens of the USA? Not much. That’s why people resorted to buying and flipping houses – they had to make money somehow.

Then it all fell apart and the wealthy Republicans started with their tax lies again. Don’t tax the rich – their money can help create jobs. And the Tea People? They just don’t have a clue about what’s going on. They just know they are desperate. Money is hard to come by and, thanks to the conniving of George Bush they have no tax relief. They know they would be better off today if they didn’t have to pay taxes. These are poor desperate people who can’t afford their tax burden. So what do they do? They align themselves with the Republicans!  That’s like thinking you can be friends with a snake. They don’t know they are dessert.

The truth about taxes is this: we need them. Without taxes there is no police force, no fire department, no roads, no municipal water, no schools, no army, no navy, no marines, no air force, no coast guard, no city hospitals, no railroads, no airports, no centers for disease control, no snow plows, no life guards, no federal aviation administration, no national transportation safety board, no food and drug administration, no FBI, no CIA, no sidewalks, no border patrol, no national guard, no sheriffs, no ambulances. Without taxes there would never have been an Internet. There would have been no Moon landings. There would be no Interstate Highway System.

The truth is that society needs taxes in order to operate. The Republicans know this; that’s why they write all those laws that tax the poor.  The poor Tea People are just lost. They don’t understand. They think that teaming with the Republicans will save them, but such an alliance will only lead to their destruction. You can’t make a deal with a snake.

The truth is this: a society can only function well when the major burden of taxes falls upon the wealthy – after all, they’re the ones with the money. Our country used to know that. It was obvious. We had a graduated income tax – the more you made the more you paid.  Pretty simple rule – and it worked. The Republicans turned that sensible notion on its head and created a disproportionate system that unfairly taxes the lower-income people and allows the wealthiest people in the entire world to pay absolutely no tax at all. This is simply untenable. A country cannot long exist that doesn’t tax its wealthiest citizens. The poor Tea People don’t get it. They just know they are suffering and they want to stop paying taxes and the Republicans say they’ll help. Pure deceit.

We need to reinstate our graduated income tax – with no exceptions. Tax the wealthy more than you tax the poor. That’s right, John McCain, redistribute the wealth. What do you think taxes are anyway, if not the redistribution of wealth? If Republicans had their way we would reenter the Middle Ages and have a feudal society – a society where the only people who pay taxes are the peasants and they pay them to the wealthy landowners.  So Tea People, if you want tax reform, I’m with you all the way. But let’s be sensible. Tax the rich – we really need their money – and they have lots of it.  And don’t tax the poor at all – they need their scant resources far more than we do.

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It began during the reign of Ronald Reagan, although he certainly was not the architect of the idea.  Even so, he must have wholeheartedly approved. Why? Because it was good for business.  If there was ever a gigantic hoax put upon the unsuspecting American public, it is embodied in section 401k of the U.S. tax code.  It is this provision that provides for employers to set up tax deferred 401k retirement accounts for their employees. You know, so that when that day comes, in the dim and distant future, you will have a great big nest egg awaiting you, so you can have a long and comfortable retirement.  – Oh, and by the way, since all you workers now have these great 401k plans there isn’t a need any longer for your employer to provide a pension plan, is there?  So – goodbye pension plans. American workers, you are on your own.  How very Republican.

Oh, but wait.  There is one other little detail. You know all that money you can put in your 401k account? Well, you can’t put it in a bank and earn interest like other money you save. Of course you could of course put it in a money market account  with your broker.  There you could earn 0.003 percent interest and then watch the actual purchasing power of your savings drop by 50% or more in the next 30 years before you retire. (because of inflation. Or… you could invest it!  Yes, that’s the ticket!  You can put all of your money in the stock market – you could even buy stock in the company you work for!  And don’t worry. This isn’t gambling with your retirement money – it’s investing for the future!

Well, the future is here. As far too many boomers have found out and far to0 many children of the boomers have learned, there is no gold at the end of this rainbow, just a pile of horse manure – all of it a  gift from your government and big business and the IRS. Wasn’t it wonderful for them? Think of it. For so many years before the invention of the 401k scheme the Dow Jones average was essentially flat. The stock market was a no growth system.  Stocks had hardly moved since the Great Depression. Then, as if by magic, as soon as the 401k ripoff began the stock market started going up.  And the more our 401k dollars went into the market the more it went up!  Isn’t that incredible – just like the housing market! Of course the housing market went the way of all good Ponzi schemes…. and so did the stock market, because that was just an artificial bubble too – a scheme contrived by the arch Capitalists of America to use their employees wages to fuel the growth of their businesses, and all the while calling their scheme a retirement plan.

I’m afraid the chickens have come home to roost. Too many 401k plans are nothing but a smoldering ruin now. Too many retirees will be getting most of their retirement income from Social Security, not their 401k plan.  Thank God for Franklin Roosevelt, perhaps the last honest President this country has had.  But wait. It’s not over yet.  The 401k system still hangs over the heads of our youth. Cunning businessmen and government “servants” tell us to invest our 401k money wisely. Better still, young man, take the money and run.  Don’t listen to the advice of the big businessmen and certainly don’t listen to the government people who are owned by the businessmen.  They have worked out a system where your employer no longer has to give you a pension.  Even worse, a lot of people in power would like to kill Social Security as well.  Avoid the advice of businessmen and government hacks, they mean you no good.  We are truly floundering in a Republican world now – you are on your own and you will sink or swim by your own wits and not with any help from your employer or the government.

Meanwhile, a new crop of people are reaching retirement age every day. They are being pushed out from their jobs by mandatory retirement rules.  They can’t survive on what is left of their puny 401k and their Social Security benefits don’t come close to paying the bills. And WalMart doesn’t need anymore help. They’ll need to sell their homes now, but to whom? There is no market for houses anymore. It is like the retirees are stepping off the deck of the sinking Titanic only to find that there are no lifeboats in the water.  It is a slow moving catastrophe.  It is happening one day at a time, but it never makes the headlines.

How can a government tell its citizens to gamble in the stock market with their pension funds?  How can an employer look an employee in the face and shut down their pension plan while at the same time telling them to invest their savings in the company’s stock?  Today as people retire in their 60’s they can look forward to living a long life, perhaps into their 90’s or more.  But how will they pay for their housing and how will they buy food? The 401k catastrophe is only beginning. Wait a few years.  Wait until the retirees have spent what little is left of their 401k money.  Wait until they try to survive on their paltry Social Security payments. And just to rub salt into the wounds of these unsuspecting workers, wait until they try to take their money out of their 401k plan and they find they have to pay tax on each withdrawal – It was tax deferred, remember? Ah, but the IRS is sneakier than either you or I could ever imagine, for you not only have to pay tax on the money withdraw from your 401k, for if you also take additional money from your 401k to pay the 401k tax, you have to pay tax on that money too! So then, if you take out more money to pay that tax, well…you have to pay tax on that too! So you are paying tax on the tax on the tax. Isn’t that wonderful?  It’s a tax collectors dream.  And it all comes out of your 401k.  How perfect!

Happy retirement, America.

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