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Ron Unz, a Silicon Valley executive and former editor of The American Conservative magazine, is among the most eloquent in his championing of a ballot initiative to increase the California Minimum Wage to $12/hour. His argument makes a great case for making $12/hour the Federal Minimum Wage.

A couple of pull quotes from the interview with an NPR reporter:

What we're talking about is a massive system of hidden government subsidies for these low-wage employers where they can shift the costs of the workforce over to the taxpayer. I think businesses should stand on their own two feet and have to pay their workers instead of forcing the taxpayers to make up the difference.

Wal-Mart is America's largest low-wage employer. Three hundred thousand Wal-Mart workers average about $9 an hour. All Wal-Mart would have to do to cover a $12 minimum wage is raise their prices by 1.1 percent one time. The average Wal-Mart shopper would pay only an extra $12.50 per year. People wouldn't even notice the price hike.

Full article here.

Voice of Moderation

Basehor, Kans. - William Galston, columnist for the Wall Street Journal, lately has been a voice of reason and moderation on the opinion pages of the paper. To wit...

His 6 November piece titled "In Defense of Food Stamps" articulates many of the lame-brained, ideological reasons for eliminating or drastically reducing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (aka Food Stamps). For example:

Overall, according to the Congressional Budget Office, macroeconomic trends account for 65% of the increased spending in the food stamp program. A combination of higher food prices and lower beneficiary incomes accounts for an additional 15%. The temporary increase in benefits included in the 2009 stimulus bill accounts for the remaining 20%, and that increase ended as of Nov. 1. Over the next decade, according to CBO economic projections, the number of food-stamp beneficiaries will fall by about 30%, to 34.3 million. Annual outlays will fall by $10 billion in current dollars, and much more when inflation is taken into account.


So what is the fight about? Congressional and other critics of the program complain that standards are lax and that only individuals at or below the poverty line should be eligible. Even if this argument were accepted, CBO calculates, outlays would fall by only 4%. Second, say the critics, too many individuals become eligible "categorically" through their participation in other programs rather than through income tests. This is another distinction that doesn't make much of a practical difference: Eliminating categorical eligibility outright would reduce the number of beneficiaries by only 4% and outlays by only 2%.

Basehor, Kans. - The Leavenworth County Democratic Party picnic will be held Saturday, September 21, from 4-7PM at the VFW park in Tonganoxie.

Speakers include:


  • Sen.Tom Holland

  • Rep. Melanie Meier

  • Candidate Margie Wakefield of Lawrence running for Lynn Jenkins' 2nd Congressional Seat

  • Candidate Linda Johnson (40th Kansas District--Leavenworth)

  • Dr. Vernon Mills, M.D., speaking about health care in Kansas

  • Mark Disetti--KNEA

  • Roger Beach--Tri-County Labor Board

Any and all are welcome. Tickets are $10 and include food and libation.

Corporate Tax Reform

Basehor, Kans.--For an interesting twist on the corporate tax debate, look at Alan Sloan's opinion in the April 29 issue of Fortune Magazine.

In all of the froth about corporate taxation, neither proponents of tax reduction, nor corporate critics, know how much corporations really pay in Federal tax. Why? Because it's not required that corporations report that figure to the public.

But, there's a way to make it transparent. According to Sloan's opinion piece, the Financial Accounting Foundation could order the Financial Accounting Standards Board (which in turn sets generally accepted accounting standards) to require publicly-traded companies to disclose their tax figures. And, it's something that, according to Sloan, would require about one person-hour per year to calculate and report the amount to the SEC. So we're not talking about "government bureaucracy run amok" here. Write to pirteam@faf-fasb.org to express your opinion. Please write!!

If we want the "level playing field" that so many corporate types and their Republican allies say is missing, then we need black-and-white data. What are corporations actually paying? To say that U.S. corporations pay the highest corporate "tax rate" of any industrialized nation is completely bogus because no U.S. corporation pays the highest rate. With deductions, loopholes, and other corporate welfare, the tax burden of U.S. corporations is already at its lowest in U.S. history--on average, an actual rate of about 11-13%.

When the Paul Ryans of the world start down the road of tax fairness for U.S. business, let's ask the question: how much tax did X corporation pay last year? And, not what they reported on the slippery 10-K, but an objective number that can be verified by an independent accountant.

Onward.

Basehor, Kans.--Please read the article in Time Magazine about the exorbitant cost of hospital care in this country--most of it provided by "non-profit" hospitals, including some "community" hospitals in Kansas that are owned by, or "affiliated" with, hospital chains. (Cost containment is something that Obamacare has done almost nothing about).

It will take you some time to read: it runs 27 full-text pages in the print edition, and even more with side bars and photos. (If you'd like to read it off-line, select the "Print" link under the image of the magazine, and then click/scroll down through the entire text. Copy it to your clipboard and then insert into your word processor.)

My guess is that this is the longest article that Time has ever published. One interesting fact:

"According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the pharmaceutical and health-care-product industries, combined with organizations representing doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, health services and HMOs, have spent $5.36 billion since 1998 on lobbying in Washington. That dwarfs the $1.53 billion spent by the defense and aerospace industries and the $1.3 billion spent by oil and gas interests over the same period. That's right: the health-care-industrial complex spends more than three times what the military-industrial complex spends in Washington."

For all of those who scream about the "free market," there is one unassailable fact regarding health care in the U.S.: there is no free market in health care. When there is no competition and no transparency, there is no free market. As citizens, we've let Democrats and Republicans to remain cozy with the health care industry while they hold the economy hostage.

But, there are some faint signs that people are finally waking up and asking the tough questions that the hospitals hate being asked.

BASEHOR, Kan. - I'm a somewhat reluctant subscriber to the Wall Street Journal.

I say "reluctant" because the tenor of the paper has changed now that it's under control of Rupert Murdoch, et al. Reading the Opinion and Editorial pages, I fume, snort, yell, laugh, shake my head, and occasionally nod my assent. Thank goodness for my unused frequent flyer miles that I regularly trade for a WSJ subscription, otherwise I couldn't bring myself to purchase it.

On July 20 David Wessell, economics reporter for the Journal and one of the rare voices of reason among the Journal's regular staff, took a fact-based, relatively dispassionate look at where we are with federal government spending. He has a book titled Red Ink that will be out tomorrow.

Without further comment, I'd encourage folks to read his short piece and then consider his book.

A Starting Point for Dialogue

BASEHOR, Kan. - Conservatives have no monopoly on a "this is the way it should be" approach to life. Progressives certainly are no strangers to telling others how the world should be. My main point, expressed much more eloquently by Jonathan Haidt, is that progressives seem more open to asking questions, exploring new ideas, and challenging the status quo than conservatives are. And that conservatives seem more willing to engage in ad hominem attacks or Frank Luntz-type word play (death panels, traitors, socialists) when they decide they can't refute fact or scientific evidence.

When I was a freshman in college, my first scientific method professor hammered into us that there's no such thing as "proof," and that if a scientist used that word then, well, he really wasn't a scientist.

Basehor, Kans.--Read The Republican Brain on the Republican Brain and laugh, weep, or scream.

For an even more nuanced approach, something that conservatives in general and Republicans in particular don't seem very capable of, watch a video of Jonathan Haidt's work.

As Justice Learned Hand once penned, "The mark of a free man is that ever-gnawing inner uncertainty as to whether or not he is right." And Julian Huxley, "To become truly adult we must learn to bear the burden of incertitude." This idea seems to be almost anathema to conservatives, who see the world in black/white, right/wrong, either/or, yes/no, my-way-or-the-highway terms.

BASEHOR, Kan. - The Wall Street Journal editorial in the August 6-7 edition, titled Repatriation Games, extolls the economic miracles that would abound if U.S. multi-national corporations were allowed to "repatriate" their foreign-earned capital to the United States at atrociously low tax rates. New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, in spite of his everyman-champion image, is a shill for Wall Street and has proposed a one-year, 5.25% repatriation rate. Economist Allen Sinai, in the same editorial, is reported to have estimated that there is more than $1 trillion abroad waiting to be repatriated -- if only the rates go down.

Unfortunately, the editorial leaves out one inconvenient fact when it comes to the argument that repatriation of foreign capital will produce jobs: lack of customer demand.

Voter ID: Let's Pick Our Battles

BASEHOR, Kan. - The August 3 Wall Street Journal opinion piece Bill Clinton Does 'Jim Crow', seems to present a straw issue with little substance in the larger scheme of things.

I realize that some on the Left see any attempt by charlatans like Kris Kobach to impose voter identification as un-American, but is this really an issue that Progressives want to go to the mat on?

If I have to produce ID to set up a bank account, write a check at a retail store, get on an airplane, rent a car, stay in a hotel, or even obtain a library card, I can't for the life of me see why I shouldn't have to produce identification if I'm going to exercise my most fundamental right as a citizen. I understand the argument that, as a fundamental right of American citizenship, the right to vote should not be infringed.

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