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A Preview of the Dirtiest Election Ever?

By Bob Hooper
Opinion | January 27, 2012

BOGUE, Kan. - A Jan.11 writer to Reader Forum [Hays Daily News] blustered about "non-factual distortion" by the Obama administration and supporters, then made his own claims.

[CLAIM: "All the money from the richest 400 Americans wouldn't pay our bills for a week."] In 2011 the richest 400 were together worth $1.5 trillion. (Forbes Magazine) Current annual federal spending is estimated at $3.6 trillion; state at $1.43; local, $1.63 trillion. So, the 400's wealth would fund all federal spending for 5 months, state for one year, local for 11 months. All federal, state, and local spending for about 3 months.

Incidentally, the richest 400 gained 12 percent. from 2010 to 2011. Since 2006, their net worth increased by $250 billion, about 17 percent. On the other hand, "Over the past five years Americans, on average, have seen no disposable income growth if you adjust for population and inflation. This also explains why they're spending like it's 2006 -- because they don't have more money to spend. No wonder the recovery continues to feel like a recession: that's an awfully long time to go without a raise."

[CLAIM: "The rich pay most of our taxes."] The rich do pay more in total taxes. However -- as a percentage of total income -- middle class and poorer people may pay more if we include property tax, sales tax, vehicle taxes, gasoline taxes, etc. Taxfoundation.org says the average Kansan must work 100 days to be "tax free" this tax year. Roughly, 27 percent.

[CLAIM: Obama promotes "class warfare."] Class warfare is a Republican campaign sound bite. Ironically, it was the billionaire Warren Buffet who used the term most recently. He said, "There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning."

Buffet's estimated wealth is $39 billion; his salary as manager of Berkshire Hathaway for 2011, $524,946. His total reported taxable income for 2010 was $39,814,784. However, he paid a lower percent of income in taxes than his secretary. Congressman Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) asked Buffet to disclose more, and Buffet responded that he would be willing if others in his income bracket did the same. In 2010, Buffet paid an effective 17.4%of his taxable income.

Last week, presidential hopeful Mitt Romney estimated his own effective tax rate: "It's probably closer to the 15 percent rate than anything." (Actually, 13.9 percent on his taxable income for 2010 of $17.1 million.) The official top tax rate is 35 percent.

ABC News: "What Romney admitted is exactly what billionaire Warren Buffet has railed against--the fact that many multi-millionaires actually pay far less in taxes than the people who work for them."

In any case, since 1970 the gap between the wealthy and the rest of us has grown steadily, keeps growing, and is wider now than at any time since the Great Depression. The key question is, "Does the rich getting still richer make life better for the rest of us?" Doesn't look that way.

Tellingly, a recent poll found over two-thirds of those making over $1 million annually thought they should pay more taxes.

[CLAIM: Obama's responsible for our economic problems] In the view of most economists, the Great Recession of 2008 -- a train wreck from which we're still trying to heal -- was largely the result of shredding the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933. It had been put in place precisely to restrain financial speculation. Without it came bundled derivatives and credit default swaps enticingly rated AAA. In 2008, the house of cards collapsed.

Spending? According to Congressional Budget Office figures, today's budget deficit comes mostly from continuing Bush/Republican policies -- like two unfunded wars and tax cuts for the wealthiest. Bush administration deficit impact: $5.07 trillion. Obama: $1.44 trillion.

[CLAIM: Democrats have controlled Congress "going back nearly five years when Bush was still president."] Since 1995, Democrats have had a majority only in the 110th and 111th Congresses, a span of 2007 to 2011. In the 110th, Democrats had a 35 vote House majority, a two seat majority in the Senate (51 seats). However, a majority does not automatically mean control.

In the Senate, ending filibusters requires 60 votes. Thus, Democrats had control only in the 111th Congress, but barely. In the 112th today, the 51 Senate Democrats are not enough to assure cloture. Meanwhile, Republicans are setting historic filibuster records. (To learn more visit www.addictinginfo.org)

[CLAIM: the Affordable Care Act is "unscrupulous and corrupt."] Few average Americans really know much about the new law--most of which won't be implemented until 2014. Seniors may know even less. A National Council on Aging survey found fewer than 3 of 10 older Americans knew Medicare payments to doctors won't be cut. Three of 4 didn't know it extends the life of the Medicare Trust Fund. Barely 28 percent knew people with disabilities now have better odds of getting long-term care at home. Only one in 3 knew that Medicare will provide one free annual medical check-up. Finally, the overwhelming majority were unaware that the new law is projected to reduce the deficit by $124 billion over 10 years. In fact, half incorrectly believed "Obamacare" would increase the deficit.

[CLAIM: "According to Obama, we are a racist nation."] President Obama has made no such comment. There are plenty of racists around, however. You probably know some.


2 Comments

What I find interesting is that these arguments have been fairly common currency among fringe groups and a few more radical think tanks for quite a while, but they are starting to be voiced publicly by state and local politicians, and hinted at by national figures.

Yes, this could be very ugly.


"This could be very ugly" ?? Ugly how?

Ugly for those in the drivers seat that have brought about the inequities that Hoop has pointed out? Ugly if seniors are finally made aware of the misinformation that the right wing talk show pundits have been prattling on about?

It will really get ugly if the public, in general, finally wake up to what the Health Care bill actually has in it. Ugly for the opposition side, that is!

There are some things in the bill that need amended. But, the biggest problem with the bill is the amendments that were forced into the original bill, in order to overcome the fillibusters. We had a few Dems and Independents that played that tune, but the Repubs tuned the fiddle.


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