Thursday, December 22, 2011

Don't Spend It All in One Place

The only thing more annoying than media pundits shrilling about Republican intransigence over the payroll tax cut extension is media pundits shrilling about how great this kabuki disaster has been for the president's approval numbers.  It is so easy to round up the usual annoyances right around Christmas time, but this year we have a brand new one:  The White House, that most savvy of social media bastions, has rolled out its own new Twitter propaganda campaign even as it is trying to squelch the tweets of alleged Somali militants.

Since a failure to approve the can-kicking tax holiday will result in an average and immediate $40 deduction from the "typical" ($50,000/year) paycheck, the Obama people are asking "folks" just how they would spend those two missing twenties.  Actually, it is former campaign director turned G.E. millionaire lobbyist turned White House adviser David Plouffe who did the asking. The thing that ticks me off is how they are glossing over the fact that you have to be solidly middle class in the first place in order to "lose" the much-touted $1000 a year.

Thousands of folks have dutifully responded thus far, and the White House has published a few of the stories on its website.  Unfortunately, the stories they have chosen to share are from people who probably don't even come close to earning the $50,000 a year it takes to qualify to lose $40 the first pay period. The stories they have chosen to publish are from people who sound like they could easily qualify for food stamps, Medicaid, and home heating assistance. (They also sound like people who can stretch a dollar to magical proportions: a week of groceries for only $40?) People on the brink of poverty are being fooled into believing Tax Holiday Grinch Theater applies to them.  A few examples the Obama people are using to make their political points:
 After everything that comes out, including my mortgage my take home pay is $150.00 every two weeks. So minus forty would be $110.00. I can barely get by now, that forty bucks is my gas for my car to get to work. Taking forty away from my pay would, just about put me under.

A single mother of two, with no financial support from my children's father, 40 dollars means lunch money for my children at school. It means a tank of gas, and it means covering my weekly visit copays to the doctor.

That is almost 1 weeks of groceries for me or how much it costs to fill my gas tank for 1 1/2 weeks or medical copay at the specialist office. Which one am I to go without? This is going to hurt. Please don't let this happen.

Meanwhile, in what was meant to be a feel-good holiday photo-op, President Obama preemptively blew his own $40 on toys for Bo the Dog in PetSmart yesterday.  What a man of the common people.


Also lost in the gimmickry is the fact that the payroll tax holiday would only be for one more year, and that we will go through this whole fake rigmarole again next Christmas, when the economy will still suck. Does anybody really believe we can make this thing temporary, and that the so-called holiday is not an underhanded plan to turn Social Security into a means-tested welfare program? The Beltway bubbleheads are already fond of calling it an entitlement, rather than an insurance, program -- and pretty soon they will get their wish. Bernie Sanders voted against this "holiday" in the Senate for just that reason. You don't get what you don't pay for. Garbage in, garbage out.

Conventional wisdom, however, is that one more year of tax holiday will do nothing to affect the solvency of the trust fund. And the Bush tax cuts were supposed to pay for themselves too, and they were supposed to expire, and the moon is made of green cheese.


Anne Lavoie said...

Karen, your choice words exposing the fraud of those in power are so refreshing. You help keep us grounded in truth and reality, not the fantasy and illusion the PTB want us to believe and live in. Thanks!

Anne Lavoie said...

Obama's Twitter gimmick looks like a Push Poll to me.

Push Polls are defined as 'a political campaign technique attempting to influence or alter the view of respondents under the guise of conducting a poll. Large numbers of respondents are contacted, and little or no effort is made to collect and analyze response data. Instead, the push poll is a form of telemarketing-based propaganda and rumor mongering, masquerading as a poll.'

One of the broadcast evening news programs last night (CBS I think) fed us word for word this 'data' about how people would spend their $40, with the exact same spin as the White House used in their press release. It certainly looks like the MSM is in the tank for Obama.

The Black Swan said...

I have read in a few places that the Payroll Tax Holiday is an underhanded scheme to defund Social Security and put it on the path towards privatization. Apparently this plan was proposed by Republicans in the 90's and originally conceived by the Heritage Foundation. Does anyone know if this is in fact true? If so, this would be another case of Obama selling us out while making it look like he was helping us out. Very similar to the new Healthcare law...

Denis Neville said...

“How unbearable at times are people who are happy, people for whom everything works out.” - Anton Chekhov

As more Americans struggle to pay their bills, it is becoming increasingly common for people to serve jail time in America's new debtors' prisons as a result of their debt.

As if lifted from the pages of Charles Dickens’ Little Dorrit, more and more states are creating de facto Marshalsea debtors’ prisons in which individuals too poor to pay their fines or court-ordered obligations are incarcerated without being afforded the opportunity to be represented by counsel.

“Pray, sir,” said Arthur, repeating his question, “what is this place?”

“Ay! This place?” returned the old man, staying his pinch of snuff on its road, and pointing at the place without looking at it. “This is the Marshalsea, sir.”

“The debtors’ prison?”

“Sir,” said the old man, with the air of deeming it not quite necessary to insist upon that designation, “the debtors’ prison.”

He turned himself about, and went on.

“I beg your pardon,” said Arthur, stopping him once more, “but will you allow me to ask you another question? Can any one go in here?”

“Any one can go IN,” replied the old man; plainly adding by the significance of his emphasis, ‘but it is not every one who can go out.” - Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit

NPR tells how it happens: “A company will often sell off its debt to a collection agency, generally called a creditor. That creditor files a lawsuit against the debtor requiring a court appearance. A notice to appear in court is supposed to be given to the debtor. If they fail to show up, a warrant is issued for their arrest.”

Lea Shepherd of Loyola Chicago law school, “Creditors Contempt,” on how the current system gives a disproportionate amount of the coercive powers of the state to creditors.

Rortybomb on “Reinventing Debtors’ Prisons for the 21st Century”

“Requirements to appear in court are being overused and abused as a way of confusing debtors and forcing a strong hand on payments. This ultimately threatens the integrity of the entire debt collection system and the crucial protection of freedom and liberty.”

So, don't spend it all in one place...

In For a Penny: The Rise of America's New Debtors' Prisons

Denis Neville said...

Anne Lavoie said...“It certainly looks like the MSM is in the tank for Obama.”

I liked Glenn Greenwald comment today on the standard mindset of Washington’s political and media class:

“The bottomless willingness of political and media elites to forgive each other of their sins, insulate personal relationships from everything else, and subordinate all other considerations to loyalty to their shared membership in those circles is not a sign of essential decency. It’s one of the leading causes of Washington’s rot.”

Anne Lavoie said...

@Black Swan

That's the way many of us have seen it, both with regards to the health care legislation and the payroll tax cut. He's a sly one, Obama. He has yet to do anything that didn't ultimately benefit his benefactors.

Privatization is the agenda of both corporate parties, the only difference being that the Democrats try to disguise their efforts.

DreamsAmelia said...

Indeed, all your examples imply that 2 years ago, before the "holiday," people were forgoing gas, food, and doctors appointments---so the "holiday" is from the normalized hardship of privation bordering on starvation--gone forever is the definition of "holiday" as a vacation in a far-away, fun place, with no obligations to check the inter-office email every 2 hours round the clock, in the bozo-eyes-ed (= Globalized v.3.0) economy. The only derivation of "holy" in "holiday" left is the 1% wanting you to live in constant holy terror of losing your job, so that $40 seems like more and more money, without them ever having to give you a raise.

Meanwhile, a reality check inside the beltway here--$40 will buy you public street $2/hr meter parking on Constitution Ave. (about the only place it "lives" anymore is in static mockery on a street sign) and a gelatto for 2, at the National Gallery of Art, with a barbie-doll-sized cup and spoon, and "free" cups of tap water. I think if you extrapolate their prices, their iced confection comes to $250/pound.

Or, $40 will buy an appetizer at Nora or NorAsia, swanky insider-D.C. restaurants where the real business of Washington is conducted over "lunch," which lasts as long as the booze is flowing, sometimes well past midnight...

Then again, $40 will buy a matinee at the movies for 1 and a 1/2 (one adult, one child) with a small popcorn, and, I kid you not, an 8-ounce plastic bottle of water for $6. And, yes, Regal Studios apparently ripped out the water fountains to make sure they could rip us off!

$40 will no longer buy you even an "obstructed view" ticket at Arena Stage, Signature Theater, Ford's Theatre(where Lincoln was assassinated), Warner Theatre, or the Kennedy Center. Those days are long gone. So much for the payroll tax holiday stimulating the live arts in D.C.--we just have to remain in the peanut gallery of C-Span for that. Though with the zombies propagating zombie fallacies that won't die, one can argue how alive it is at all...

The Black Swan said...

So wait, the Democrats propose a policy to defund Social Security, and the Tea Party Republicans are the ones trying to hold it up? Which is more important to them, appeasing their corporate masters or obstructing Obama at every turn? Well, it turns out their corporate masters win in the end and the extension has been passed. Say goodbye to Social Security in the future. Let those of us who get anything from this 'tax break' enjoy what meager peanuts we can buy with this extra cash. As a person in their mid-twenties, it is disheartening to see my future constantly sold off and yet I am legally obligated to continue paying taxes to fund the thieves.

Will said...

@Black Swan,

Your painfully true comments about funding these thieves with your tax money reminds me of Brother Ali's song, "Uncle Sam Goddamn":

You don't give money to the bums
On the corner with a sign, bleeding from their gums
Talking much, you don't support a crackhead
What you think happens to the money from yo' taxes

Shit the governments an addict
With a billion dollar a week kill brown people habit
And even if you ain't on the front line
When the master yell crunch time you right back at it

You ain't look at how you hustling backwards
And the end of the year add up what they subtracted
3 outta twelve months your salary
Paid for that madness, man that's sadness


Here's the entire tune and video:

Here's his inspiration for the song, the great Nina Simone with "Mississippi Goddamn":

John in Lafayette said...

Completely off topic, but.......

I'd like to take this opportunity to wish everyone here a merry Christmas and a happy new year. And if, like me, you don't celebrate Christmas, have a merry one anyway. Hopefully, 2012 will turn out to be better than we all hope/expect.

Many thanks to Karen Garcia for providing us all with both this forum and her incredibly astute political insight. And many thanks to the people who comment here and have provided me with their perspective. I learn a lot from you all.

As we say in South Louisiana, joyeux Noel, y'all!

Anne Lavoie said...

@John in Lafayette and everyone else

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and all that jazz from someone who also does not celebrate this extravaganza. Thank God and Baby Jesus it's almost over.


DreamsAmelia said...

Likewise, I wish everyone here good cheer, or at least dogged optimism tinged with wry skepticism, holiday or plain day, and appreciate all your contributions, even though I cannot address everyone individually.

Ironically, it takes a community of "believers" to believe in defending free speech, which, of necessity, involves poking holes in the speeches and speechifying of our elected public servants, as evidence there is still a little vigor left in this Democracy that has been on life support for 3 decades or more.

Not until it is close to drying up do I fully appreciate that FDR's "New Deal" was truly the gift that has kept on giving for close to 80 years, even though, according to my grandparents, it was much disparaged in its day as a "raw deal" and not nearly enough. We had a depression in the 1930s, too, but unlike Germany, we took a left turn towards fulfilling the common good, unwittingly saving ourselves from fascism (even as FDR thought he was saving us from socialism)---the very fascism that now is subsuming Hungary overtly, even as we watch the "soft" fascism of our Tea Party take over (as if there is any subtlety between "soft" and "hard" fascism as there is between "hard" or "soft" porn? If the topic is reprehensible, who cares about degrees?)

I had immense optimism this year marching on the streets of New York with the Occupy Wall St. movement the day the unions joined, on October 5. It was wild, to hear raucous shouts of "WE, *ARE* THE 99%!1 (AND SO ARE YOU!!!)" ricocheting down canyons of streets. There were tens of thousands of beautiful signs, and a fired-up, we're-not-gonna-take-it-lying-down spirit. So that the quiet office scene, the next day, may not really be all that it appears. The rebel spirit is strong in the U.S., and you never know in what unlikely corner it is lurking, to give you hope. The hope is always going to come in that unlikely spot, never from something you can glean reading the newspapers.

But these were the same people (marching by tens of thousands in NY with Occupy Wall St) who elected Obama, who already were disillusioned because, unlike with FDR, we have not seen the "3 Rs"-Relief, Recovery, and Reform. The president has not become the master of the soundbite to depose the "malefactors of great wealth" of this nation. Instead, they have foamed at the mouth and growled ever fiercer, even as he contorts to please his corporate puppetmasters...

2012 brings chapters open to many turns. The trend is ominous, obviously. May I recommend for a "happy New Year" that you add Jack London's _The Iron Heel_ as the perfect complement to the movie _Inside Job_---though I have scarcely begun the novel myself, he has passages too numerous to quote, that, in isolation, would echo much of Times reader commentary and Sardonicky blog entries.

A Renaissance does not last forever, but let us hope the Dark Ages do not have to repeat for centuries...happy new year!

Valerie said...

I am travelling at the moment and have limited access to the internet. But just in case I don't get back to all of you at Sardonicky before Christmas. I wish all of you the best.