Judy Davis, an activist from Worcester County, MD, is involved with important issues in our state. She recently participated in the Marylanders Against Gun Violence rally, in Annapolis, MD and is a participant in the Emerge program, which trains women around the country to take more active roles in leadership positions in their communities.
It would be hard to ignore the working poor, while living in a seasonal beach town, as I do. Although many unskilled jobs are filled with visiting foreign-exchange students, “locals” hold about half of those positions. These “locals”, some of who are lifelong residents, live in the area year-round and find that they’re without work when the businesses close for the season. The fortunate ones are able to receive a modest unemployment check, twice a month. Renting in our area is expensive and lodging is only available in the off-season. Those that choose to remain in a year-round room/apartment, pay much higher rent than a comparable living space, elsewhere.
During a recent conversation I had with two local business owners, I heard claims that people are living off “the system”, wanting “hand-outs”, and “those people” are not properly planning for emergencies or their retirement. When I asked how anyone, especially those of advanced years, could pay for living expenses at wages of $7.25 hour, there was no response.
Our society’s perception of the working poor has deteriorated, from one of providing an honest day’s work, to one of expecting entitlements and being shiftless. According to Charlie White (Think Reality: Wealth Inequality in America), 15.1% of the U.S. population (approximately 47 million people) lives below the Poverty Line. An average worker needs to work one month to equal one hour of income that an average CEO earns. That equates to about 160 hours to 1 hour. Some figures have shown that to be as high as 400 hours to 1 hour!
The working poor have no discretionary income. If they are lucky enough to own a vehicle and a tire goes flat, the choice is between buying groceries to feed their family or purchasing another used tire. Trying to save money for deposits on utilities, medical emergencies, gasoline, school supplies, clothes or other basic needs, is impossible, as there isn’t enough money to cover everything. Many parents go without, in order to provide the very minimum subsistence for their children.
The frustration of “just scraping by” impacts a person’s self-worth, causing a cyclical, downward spiral, which is difficult, if not impossible, to recover from. Don’t forget who also suffers, aside from the parents: Approximately 19% of children in my county live below the Poverty Line (One Maryland: The Plight of Maryland Distressed Jurisdictions).
Rather than blaming the working poor for their situation, how about giving a “hand-up” to help people have their basic needs met, especially where they are desperately trying? In my county, over 25% of female-headed households make just $14,900 per year. Most of our lives would look very different if we suddenly became unemployed, developed significant health issues, needed elderly care or had another traumatic event crossing our paths. Instead of criticizing and demeaning people who are dependent on some form of assistance, in order to survive, their critics should be saying, “There, but for the grace of God, go I!”
The following is a video that clearly explains wealth distribution in America, including how Americans think it is, how they think it should be, and finally, the reality of the way it really is. It will open your eyes and may, in fact, surprise even the most conservative among you!
The following is submitted by Guest-Blogger, Burkely Hermann, from Baltimore. He is an online blogger, in his own right, and a student who writes about National, State and International issues, in order to educate the public and motivate us to act.
I just realized something horrifying. Remember the campaign I was trying to start against the bill to raise the corporate tax rate? Guess what? ALEC is involved. First I wrote about how Senator Brinkley and Delegate Schultz were funded by big business, telling people to email their state representatives in response. Then, I launched the #STOPBS campaign, creating a new petition. Finally, I wrote an article in the DelMarva Progressive about this topic, detailing specifics, including the hearing in the Ways and Means Committee, scheduled for February 26th.
Then, today, I was trying to do some research for a Twitter battle, and I stumbled across ALEC again. ALEC, or the American Legislative Exchange Council, according the Center of Media & Democracy: is not a lobby; it is not a front group. In reality, it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, behind closed doors, corporations hand state legislators changes to laws they desire, that directly benefit their bottom line or cause. Along with legislators (State and Federal), corporations have membership in ALEC. Corporations sit on all nine ALEC task forces, and vote with legislators, to approve “model” bills. They have their own corporate Governing Board, which meets jointly with the legislative board. (ALEC says that corporations do not vote on their Board.)
Corporations fund almost all of ALEC’s operations. Participating legislators, overwhelmingly, Conservative Republicans, then bring those proposals home and introduce them in Statehouses, across the land, as their own “brilliant” public policy innovations—without disclosing that corporations crafted and voted on the bills. ALEC boasts that it has over 1,000 of these bills introduced by legislative members every year, with one in every five enacted into law. ALEC describes itself as a “unique,” “unparalleled” and “unmatched” organization. We agree. It is as if a State legislature had been reconstituted, yet corporations had pushed the people out the door.
How does such an organization factor into this bill, you might ask? Consider that, of the 28 Republican sponsors in the Maryland Senate and House of Delegates (27 in the House and one in the Senate) 10 are ALEC members. That’s more than 35.7% of all sponsors!
This is a good chunk of all the ALEC legislators in the State. I have an article on the way about the other co-sponsors. As for this bill, in particular, it is in line with other ALEC ”model” bills, as the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities notes:
“The specific policies include deep cuts in income taxes, particularly for affluent households and corporations…While pushing policies that would weaken or dismantle state revenue systems that finance key public investments, ALEC promotes [things like]…Mechanisms that would reduce funds for services.”
While this bill, its current form, does not conform to any of the “models” described directly, the bill, itself, still benefits corporate power and financial goals. So, lets come together and #StopAlec from giving these corporations a tax break they don’t deserve! As a start, sign my petition. Then, contact your State Senator and Delegate, stating your position against this legislation. Afterwards, stay tuned for further information, updates and suggestions for other actions to take.
Recently, on my blog, I launched a campaign to combat, what I believe, is a bad proposal that will harm Maryland. Its called the #STOPBS campaign, which comes from the first letters of the sponsors of companion bills in the Maryland House and the Senate. It aims to make the bill that seeks to lower corporate income tax rates in the State, die, effectively telling legislators “it’s not okay.”Most already know that on the Federal level, politicians are trying to lower the Federal corporate income tax rate. But right now, it is happening in people’s backyards, in State legislatures across the country. Senator David Brinkley (R-Dist. 4), who proposed SB 34, seeks to lower Maryland’s corporate income tax rate from its current 8.25% to 6%, a 2.25% drop! Brinkley, who has gotten campaign contributions, since 2005, from corporate giants, like Bank of America, Comcast, BGE and Constellation PACs (among many others), as I detailed on my blog, believes that such a tax break will make Maryland competitive with the State of Virginia. The sponsor of the same bill in the House, concurs. HB 261 is sponsored by Del. Kelly Schulz (R-Dist. 4A). Hearings in the House Ways & Means Committee are scheduled for February 26th.
In order to denounce such arguments for this tax break, one must look at what this bill actually does. The net loss in tax revenue for Fiscal Year 2014 would be over $381 million dollars. These cuts in Fiscal Year 2014 would include a decrease in funds for transportation by $63.1 million, most of which goes to the State transportation budget, a decrease in funds for Higher Education by $22.9 million, and a decrease in revenues from local highway users, by $6.1 million. As a result, the current State budget deficit, which is already insurmountable, would increase, and $37,000 dollars would be needed just to notify the 62,000 corporate filers in the State about the new rate reduction. All of these numbers are thanks to a report by the Department of Legislative Services on the matter. To summarize, these cuts would hurt students, as well as reduce the amount of money going to maintain an already failing infrastructure, which will make matters worse, and local governments, which are already feeling budget cuts.
Michael Hudson explained this in a CounterPunch article he wrote last August: “Unlike the U.S. federal government, most states and cities have constitutions that prevent them from running budget deficits. This means that when they cut property taxes, they either must borrow from the wealthy, or cut back employment and public services…Cities are defaulting from California to Alabama…This has become the main cause of America’s rising unemployment, helping drive down consumer demand… Most urban revenue is a free lunch created by taxpayer-financed roads, schools, sewers and water systems….State and local pension funds are $3 trillion behind because they are only making 1% returns these days…Debt-ridden austerity and downsizing government is being urged as if it is inevitable, not a policy choice to put bondholders and the 1% over the 99% – a reward for the lobbying money it has spent on buying politicians and misleading voters, to believe that cutting property taxes and cutting taxes on the rich will help the economy.” Hudson proposes that we default, but I believe there is something more imperative that we must deal with.
Times are tough for Americans. Nearly half of America is at or near the poverty level. Cases of individuals suffering from depression have increased in areas affected by SuperStorm Sandy. Youths, from 5th to 12th grades, are optimistic about their future, but adults are not so sure, according to recent Gallup polls. This is not the time for corporations to get a tax break. People are suffering and justice is not furthered by corporations not paying a fair share in taxes. Simply put, it is matter of fairness, equity and justice. They can cough up the money. They can stay afloat. There is no danger there. Over the past few years, corporations have been hoarding cash, and now hold more cash than ever before.
This is why I urge you to help spread this message, far and wide, across Maryland, by signing this petition, telling your legislators you want corporations in Maryland to pay their fair share of taxes and not to reduce the current tax rates. Share this with your friends; tell everyone you know about it. If enough people are mobilized, we can stop this in its tracks and let legislators know that now is the time to create jobs, invest in schools and improve infrastructure, not lower taxes for corporate entities!
The following is my reply to a post on another blog about Harry Reid’s allegations, received from a former Bain Capital investor, that Mitt Romney hadn’t paid any US income taxes in 10 years:
In what may be a moment of monumental reflection, I agree (mostly) with what this post is saying, “That Reid’s statement, without more, is not playing fair or by what we wish the rules were.” Ok, with that said, let me also say that “playing fair” is a concept that is not exercised by Romney’s pitbulls or campaign “strategists, either.
First, in regard to “fairness”…the President has released 12 years worth of tax returns. Excellent! The American people expect their leaders to be able to divulge that kind of information without having to beg for it. Romney has released 1 year of incomplete returns, with a promise to release another year…but, not necessarily before the election. A natural question, which has been asked by left AND right, is, “What can he be hiding?” Assuming guilt or impropriety, just from someone’s action or inaction, is something we Americans are proficient at.
Second, the question everyone is asking, “Why not show him (Reid) to be the “dirty liar” (per Reince Priebus) he is accused of being?” GOP pundits, politicians and political allies of Romney are questioning his strategy of refusing to follow in his father’s footsteps. George Romney started the practice of candidates for US President releasing their tax returns…and it has been followed ever since, to one degree or another. McCain released only 2 years in ’08. However, it was enough to quell the concerns of the left and right, since there were no questions of McCain’s loyalty or financial dealings.
Romney (Mitt, that is), has announced that he has a lower tax rate (13.9% on $21 million in income in 2010) than most Americans have on $75,000). He also has offshore accounts, (including investments, Swiss bank accounts and $100 million IRA), that pay no taxes to the US. Illegal? Maybe not. But I and many others question why, as a loyal American, he refuses to invest in American institutions rather than foreign, and how, with a $6000 per year limit on IRA contributions, he has amassed a $100 million…tax free! Even if it found to be a legal exploitation of a tax loophole, such exploitation is not an attractive quality in a President.
I would be remiss in responding to your correct allegations of “unfair play”, if I didn’t raise (again) an example where Mitt played dirty…in fact, on the border of criminal fraud. Of course, I’m talking about his hypocritical and intentionally fraudulent TV ad, regarding the President’s speech, now simply referred to by the extreme right as, “You didn’t build that!” We all know, by now, that Romney’s ad took the President’s speech, cut and pasted sections and tried to make it sound like the words, in order, of the President. Not only was it an attempt at fraud (defined as “an intentional deception made for personal gain or to damage another individual”)…but it was proof positive of what the President was truly saying…yes, we entrepreneurs work hard and long, but, we also have others to thank for the successes we enjoy.
It seems that the “poster boy” in the ad, a New Hampshire businessman, had several million dollars in government loans, guaranties and contracts! So, yes, his success, at least part of it, can be attributed to HELP FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT!! Gee, what a concept!
So, to summarize…Harry Reid is playing by some of the same rules as Mitt, only, whereas we have proof of Mitt’s fraud, we still don’t have evidence that what Reid has charged is false! Dirty Harry, true…but, there are dirtier Mitts than his in this game of politics!
I never bought into Oliver Stone’s version of the Kennedy assassination; I disagreed with those who thought Bush was involved in ordering the 9/11 disaster, and I never gave a second thought to those who believed the US moon landing was staged in New Mexico. However, I have come to a startling realization: wealthy corporatists want to destroy the Middle Class in America!
I used to think it was unlikely that corporations wanted to hurt their consumers…after all, who would buy their products? Sadly, my ‘aha’ moment came after researching jobs outsourcing and its impact on corporate profits. I was shocked at the rate of increased profits from China, India and Latin American countries, fueling the next generation of growth, all supported by Andy Harris and other Tea Party faithful. Profits, coming from overseas sales, made by overseas factories, employing overseas workers!
From the June 2011, US News & World Report, “…about 40 percent of profit for firms listed in the S&P 500 stock index (are) now coming from overseas. These same corporations “keep certain profits overseas to avoid paying U.S. taxes on them.”
According to the US News article, here’s a breakdown of foreign profits from just 5 of America’s largest corporations: Exxon-Mobil, 45%; GE, 54%; IBM, 64%; Dow, 67%; Intel, 85%. Any wonder why the US corporate community cares little about the American worker…the majority of the American Middle Class?
When the American Middle Class is finally diminished to the point that they are willing to accept jobs for any wage offered, the corporations will have accomplished their goal. Who will fight for the American worker, when Unions are no more, destroyed by elected officials who are supported by wealthy corporations?
When there is a “rich class” and a “poor class”, guess who will wield the power in our country? As they have done for the past 30 years, the wealthy corporations will continue to whittle away at Middle Class wealth and power, until there will be little or nothing left. The power shift is close to completion, and it is being accomplished on all levels, including legislative (State & Federal levels), regulations (State & Federal levels) and Court decisions (State & Federal levels). The Court cases have been one of the best avenues for significant change, where the Citizens United and related decisions have given corporations the same “rights” as persons, something that would have been unheard of before the Robert’s Court. Nothing in the Constitution gives personhood to corporations!
I recall a quote I used to laugh about: “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean people aren’t out to get you!” It’s not funny any more! It is elected officials, like Andy Harris, who is helping to convince the Middle Class voter that outsourcing jobs and giving corporations tax breaks and more power, is in their best interests!
Mitt Romney appeared on Fox and Friends Monday morning to respond to the growing number of conservatives who are calling on the former Massachusetts governor to release more of his tax returns. At least eight Republicans have urged Romney to publicize the records and put the issue behind him, but the candidate is sticking to his guns. The public will see just two years of returns and no more, Romney said, before appearing to admit that the records may contain something politically damaging:
Watch the video:
One of the Republicans also raising alarms about Romney’s returns… MSNBC host and former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough predicted during Monday’s Morning Joe:
The Romney campaign played down the issue, arguing that Romney is already doing more than is required by law by releasing his 2010 and later his 2011 returns.
Looks to me like he has taken advantage of every single conceivable tax shelter loophole that we can see. And now if elected…he is suppose to be the guy that’s gonna clean up our tax code and make it advantageous to average taxpayers and the country? I think not.
The scary part is that it might even be worse than not paying his taxes… the fact that he is refusing to do what other candidates for president have done for decades tells you he has something to hide. Even conservative Republicans are telling him to release his taxes and he is now admitting that would cause him problems. What is he hiding? Conservatives should be worried.
Walker is the right-wing hero-du-jour. Spinners argue the Right is emboldened because he survived. Attacks on worker rights, cuts in education, tax cuts and restricted voting, will now spread even more rapidly across the country.
I foresee more compromise. Walker barely survived the backlash caused by his lies and radical actions. He lost the Senate! He experienced a brutal recall, with a drop in popularity.
Of course, the Tea Party and Koch Brothers look-a-likes are waving a victory flag. But Walker’s, Kasich’s and Scott’s bloody noses will remain sore.
Where does that leave the President? Exit polls showed President Obama will take Wisconsin. It seems that many voters objected to the recall itself, not because they endorsed Walker’s radical policies.
Elected officials face important choices: Will the Middle Class and poor continue to pay for the catastrophe caused by 32 years of failed right-wing lies? Will America continue cutting education, health care, infrastructure, retirement security, clean water and air? Will we continue to approve CEO multimillion-dollar bonuses for jobs sent abroad, breaking unions, fudging books and lying to meet quarterly profit margins?
The alternative is to rebuild our country, with historically fairer taxes. To empower workers with fair wages, based on their productivity that creates huge profits.
Wisconsin is a warning to the President and progressives, who will need to work harder, stretch more, educate and reach out more, to counter the increased power of big money. “Big Money” out-spent their opponents 7 to 1! “Big money” demands a big reaction.
Are voters okay with “Big Money” taking over our future? It reminds me of the scene in Star Trek: First Contact, when, after going back in time, just prior to first contact between Earth and Vulcan, the Borg Queen is about to stop it from happening. Her words are startlingly appropriate: “Watch your future’s end!”
Everyone leaves a legacy. When you die, you’re remembered for how you tried to make a better world for your children and grandchildren. In the case of Congressman Andy Harris, his legacy will be one of “lies, misleading distortions and half-truths”, resulting in a less safe & healthy world, for women, children and the chronically ill.
The Republican playbook in 2012 includes taking credit for other people’s work. Romney has taken “a lot of credit” for the auto industry recovery. “Bogus” is the nicest word I can muster on that claim. Not to be outdone, Harris sent a Press Release last Friday, claiming credit for keeping the USPS from closing facilities or offices. Can anyone tell me what Harris did? Anyone familiar with this issue, including 100s of postal workers on the Eastern Shore, know it was Sens. Mikulski and Cardin that led the fight. Mikulski even sent letters to Harris, seeking his support to save these jobs, without even a response! Chalk one up for “lies.”
Polls show how most women feel about the lack of Republican support on issues from health insurance to equal pay for equal work. Harris and his extremist cohorts have failed to support women’s issues. Of course, it should be different when it comes to violence against women, right? Wrong! Last month, Harris and the right-wing radicals refused to extend the Violence Against Women Act, which has reduced domestic violence by 58% since 1994. Last week, Harris, in an attempt to fool women everywhere, voted for a gutted version. The purpose was to muddy the waters, and by confusing people, to appear to care about women. What is it about the treatment of women in the 1800s that is so appealing to Harris? Here’s one for the “misleading distortions” column.
Now, for ”Half-truths.” Truth: Harris talks big on “making America energy independent.” But the “lie” asks: Why do we sell America’s oil and natural gas abroad? Why hasn’t Harris ever supported research into alternative energy sources that could reduce costs of traditional energy? Why is he so intent on supporting “fracking?” The answers all involve PROFIT and CONTRIBUTORS. Harris’ CONTRIBUTORS want bigger PROFITS! “Fracking” is being suspended by other
countries and across the US, because of health and pollution dangers. Will it create jobs here on the Eastern Shore? No. But, Harris gets lots of money from the Koch brothers and other out-of-state supporters in the oil industry. Harris has even voted to take away all powers of the EPA to control “greenhouse gas emissions” which affect our health and the environment. Pollution of the 1900s, here we come…again!
These are just a few issues that affect Harris’ legacy. Ask yourself: Is this a legacy I would be proud to leave my children and grandchildren? I sure wouldn’t.