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Cutting Taxes on Rich, Raising Them for Others Won’t Boost Wisconsin Economy

By: WI Budget Project Tuesday September 30, 2014 3:02 pm

The best way to create jobs and build a broad-based prosperity in Wisconsin is to invest in excellent schools, safe communities, and a solid transportation network.

But a new report released today takes a different approach, claiming that giving big tax cuts to the rich and raising taxes for others would help the Wisconsin economy. The report, released by the conservative Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, repeats the myth that tax cuts create jobs, despite growing evidence to the contrary.

The report advocates changing the state’s tax mix to rely less on the income tax and more on the sales tax, a change the group says would boost the state’s economy. But what the report fails to mention is that the result would be big tax cuts for people with the highest incomes and higher taxes for everyone else. If Wisconsin eliminated the income tax and raised the sales tax to make up for the resulting revenue loss, the top 1% of earners in Wisconsin – a group with an average income of $1.1 million – would get a tax cut of a whopping $44,000 on average. Meanwhile, taxpayers in the bottom 20% would be paying $750 more in taxes on average.

The report urges lawmakers to broaden the base for the sales tax by increasing the number of goods and services subject to tax. While that sounds fairly innocuous, reading the fine print reveals that this includes applying the sales tax to grocery purchases. That’s one of the most damaging tax moves you can make for families with low incomes who are struggling to put food on the table. The report shrugs off the concern, noting that a refundable tax credit could provide tax relief for people with low incomes. That’s fine in theory, but Wisconsin lawmakers have shown little interest in expanding refundable tax credits, choosing to cut them instead.

As for tax cuts, they haven’t been contributing much to job growth in Wisconsin. State lawmakers have passed tax cuts totally nearly $2 billion over four years, but job growth in Wisconsin has been slower than the national average, and the overall size of Wisconsin’s economy has grown slower than the U.S. average as well.

Tax cuts haven’t done much to spur job growth in other states either. Lawmakers in Kansas and North Carolina made deep tax cuts, and both states have experienced disappointing levels of subsequent job growth. And as a result of the tax cuts, these states have fewer resources to support investments in public schools, higher education, and a healthy workforce – investments that, unlike tax cuts, have a proven track record for creating jobs.

To construct a strong economy in Wisconsin, we need to create opportunities for everyone to thrive. That means making the kinds of investments in our schools and communities that create shared prosperity and help make Wisconsin a good place to do business and raise families. We can’t create jobs and prosperity for Wisconsin with additional tax cuts, or by raising taxes on most people to pay for tax cuts to the rich.

From www.wisconsinbudgetproject.org.

 

How do you fight?

By: joe shikspack Tuesday September 30, 2014 1:09 pm

Lately I’ve been getting deluged with emails from politicians like President Obama, various Democratic Party fundraisers and political organizations that go a little like this:

Dear Joe,

Evil Republicans!

Koch Brothers!

The Senate!

I want to fight for you!

Can you help me out with $3, $5, $10 or more?

Really? These folks want to fight for me?

fight

Look Honey, there’s a fella in a thousand dollar suit who wants to fight for me!

Were these guys fighting for me when they failed to meaningfully address climate change, or when Mr. Obama created and doggedly stuck to his disasterous “all of the above” energy policy? Were these guys fighting for me when they extended yet again the endless war – draining the blood and treasure of America despite the fact that those we are wasting trillions to incinerate pose no imminent threat to the United States? How about when they set up the Catfood Commission and tried to grand bargain away some part of my Social Security benefits? Was “my team” fighting for me when they set up secret trade deals that give corporations vast powers to force their demands on communities and destroy the environment with impunity?

On National Day Of Maize In Mexico, Protecting The Sacred Plant

By: Other Worlds Tuesday September 30, 2014 12:49 pm

Adelita San Vicente Tello speaking at local celebration of Mexico’s first National Holiday of Native and Creole Seeds. Photo courtesy of Adelita San Vicente Tello.

By Adelita San Vicente Tello

September 30, 2014

Mexicans celebrated National Day of Maize yesterday, September 29, 2014, with demonstrations, marches, and expositions. Known as the Land of Maize, Mexico now imports one-third of this sacred icon and staple food, mostly from the US. A fierce battle is being waged over corn that is still grown in Mexico, with small farmers and seed sovereignty activists pitted against Monsanto and other GMO giants, the Mexican government, the US government, and the World Trade Organization.

Adelita San Vicente Tello is an agronomist with a master’s degree in rural development and a doctorate in agroecology. She is director of Seeds of Life (Semillas de Vida), a group promoting agro-biodiversity and protecting native corn. San Vicente is also a convener of the Mexico-wide food sovereignty coalition Without Corn, There Is No Country (Sin Maíz, No Hay País) and a member of the Union of Scientists Committed to Society (Unión de Científicos Comprometidos con la Sociedad).

 

Here we have an opportunity, which is that most corn is still produced by campesinos/as [small farmers]. They still use native seeds, and they use rainwater for sowing – even though they do it in soil that is very degraded and thus produces little. We consider this small-holder production to be an opportunity, because genetic reserves are stored in the native seeds. Traditional knowledge lies within them. This is really where the alternative lies for the food production model, especially when faced with the problem of climate change.

I work with an organization called Seeds of Life

Stupid Stuff on Steroids

By: williamboardman Tuesday September 30, 2014 11:22 am

 – Syria and Comic Book Thinking  –
American hysteria is a wondrous thing to behold. 

By William Boardman – Reader Supported News

                “This president needs to rise to the occasion
                           BEFORE WE ALL GET KILLED!”

Our hysteria is usually obvious in retrospect, whether the freak-out is over witches, labor unions, or communists. Hysteria is not always so easy to perceive as it happens or, in this case, as it is happening right now with ISIS-centric Islamophobia running rampant around the nation’s terror-drenched reptilian brain.

The collective rush to do “stupid stuff” kicked in with the mass-pavlovian response to cleverly-marketed, ISIS-produced infomercials featuring the beheading of two Americans (earlier beheadings of non-Americans failed to have the same effect). But killing Americans in the collective mind’s imaginary Islamistan hits the reflexively violent smack in the patriot-plexus and has them screaming for blood vengeance over an horrific but strategically meaningless bit of savagery. [Funny how the equally savage killing of other Americans with a chokehold in New York or a hail of bullets in Ferguson has so much less impact on rampant public moral outrage.]

That psychic selectivity over what savagery is objectionable and what is tolerable has a long American history, as illustrated by natives receiving blankets full of smallpox and all the other gifts of manifest destiny. Given the American pre-disposition for morally selective high dudgeon, the media manipulation of the mindset of the United States by slick snuff films begins to look savvy, strategic, and morbidly effective. From the perspective of ISIS, this bit of theatrical propaganda has succeeded beyond reasonable expectation: it has inflated the threatening image of ISIS from the reality a relatively small, regionally contained, regional band of pathological fundamentalists and their more numerous allies of convenience (which, from time to time, have included the U.S. and other NATO members).

In little more than a month, ISIS (aka ISIL, or IS, or Islamic State, or Islamic Caliphate) has changed little on the ground, while its image in American minds has morphed into a ginormous, imaginary monster capable of throwing a terrifying shadow of fear across the American continent thousands of miles away. This is not a rational perception, even though the president feeds into it (even if he knows better). This is panic, deeply rooted in comic book thinking.

Comic book thinking: never hard to find, but not always dominant

The Governor of Texas and other fear mongers, like Judicial Watch and Fox News, would have you believe there are agents of ISIS, the Islamic Caliphate, crossing the Rio Grande and making themselves at home in the American homeland undetected – except by these fearless watchdogs.

Engelhardt: Entering the Intelligence Labyrinth

By: Tom Engelhardt Tuesday September 30, 2014 8:36 am

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

Note for TomDispatch Readers: My new book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World (with an introduction by Glenn Greenwald), is now available everywhere.  If you’ve been a TomDispatch obsessive all these years, it’s your job to make it a success.  I’m counting on you!  If you want to support TomDispatch in an even bigger way, I’ll send you a signed, personalized copy of the book for a $100 donation to this site (which truly does help keep us alive). Check out the offer at our donation page.

About Shadow Government, Adam Hochschild, author most recently of To End All Wars, had this to say: “Tom Engelhardt is an iconoclast, but he also is the latest exemplar of a great American tradition. Like George Seldes and I.F. Stone before him, he has bypassed conventionally minded newspapers and magazines, and with his remarkable website and in books like this, found a way of addressing readers directly about the issues central to our time. Again and again, he goes to the heart of the matter, drawing on his awesomely wide reading, his knowledge of history, and his acute political radar system that uncovers small but deeply revealing nuggets of news and often makes me feel, enviously: how could I have missed that?”  And then there’s the book’s stunning cover photo (as well as the ones inside) by Trevor Paglen whose shots of the headquarters of our various intelligence services make you feel as if you’ve landed on another planet, which in a way you have. Tom]
 

Failure Is Success
How American Intelligence Works in the Twenty-First Century
By Tom Engelhardt

What are the odds? You put about $68 billion annually into a maze of 17 major intelligence outfits. You build them glorious headquarters.  You create a global surveillance state for the ages. You listen in on your citizenry and gather their communications in staggering quantities.  Your employees even morph into avatars and enter video-game landscapes, lest any Americans betray a penchant for evil deeds while in entertainment mode. You collect information on visits to porn sites just in case, one day, blackmail might be useful. You pass around naked photos of them just for… well, the salacious hell of it.  Your employees even use aspects of the system you’ve created to stalk former lovers and, within your arcane world, that act of “spycraft” gains its own name: LOVEINT.

Imagine There’re No Countries

By: David Swanson Tuesday September 30, 2014 8:01 am

 

A serious case has been made repeatedly by unknown scholars and globally celebrated geniuses for well over a century that a likely step toward abolishing war would be instituting some form of global government. Yet the peace movement barely mentions the idea, and its advocates as often as not appear rather naive about Western imperialism; certainly they are not central to or well integrated into the peace movement or even, as far as I can tell, into peace studies academia. (Here’s a link to one of the main advocacy groups for world government promoting a U.S. war on ISIS.)

All too often the case for world government is even made in this way: Global government would guarantee peace, while its absence guarantees war. The silliness of such assertions, I suspect, damages what may be an absolutely critical cause. Nobody knows what global government guarantees, because it’s never been tried. And if national and local governments and every other large human institution are any guide, global government could bring a million different things depending on how it’s done. The serious question should be whether there’s a way to do it that would make peace more likely, without serious risk of backfiring, and whether pursuing such a course is a more likely path to peace than others.

Does the absence of world government guarantee war? I haven’t seen any proof. Of 200 nations, 199 invest far less in war than the United States. Some have eliminated their militaries entirely. Costa Rica is not attacked because it lacks a military. The United States is attacked because of what its military does. Some nations go centuries without war, while others seemingly can’t go more than half an election cycle.  In their book One World Democracy, Jerry Tetalman and Byron Belitsos write that nations do not go to war because they are armed or inclined toward violence but because “they are hopelessly frustrated by the fact that they have no legislative or judicial forum in which their grievances can be heard and adjudicated.”

Can you, dear reader, recall a time when the U.S. public had a grievance with a foreign country, lamented the absence of a global court to adjudicate it, and demanded that Congress declare and the Pentagon wage a war?  How many pro-war marches have you been on, you lover of justice? When the Taliban offered to let a third country put Bin Laden on trial, was it the U.S. public that replied, “No way, we want a war,” or was it the President? When the U.S. Vice President met with oil company executives to plan the occupation of Iraq, do you think any of them mentioned their frustration at the weakness of international law and arbitration? When the U.S. President in 2013 could not get Congress or the public to accept a new war on Syria and finally agreed to negotiate the removal of chemical weapons without war, why was war the first choice rather than the second? When advocates of world government claim that democracies don’t wage war, or heavily armed nations are not more likely to wage war, or nations with cultures that celebrate war are not more likely to wage war, I think they hurt their cause.

When you start up a campaign to abolish the institution of war, you hear from all kinds of people who have the solution for you. And almost all of them have great ideas, but almost all of them think every other idea but their own is useless. So the solution is world government and nothing else, or a culture of peace and nothing else, or disarmament and nothing else, or ending racism and nothing else, or destroying capitalism and nothing else, or counter-recruitment and nothing else, or media reform and nothing else, or election campaign funding reform and nothing else, or creating peace in our hearts and radiating it outward and nothing else, etc. So those of us who find value in all of the above, have to encourage people to pick their favorite and get busy on it. But we also have to try to prioritize. So, again, the serious question is whether world government should be pursued and whether it should be a top priority or something that waits at the bottom of the list.

There are, of course, serious arguments that world government would make everything worse, that large government is inevitably dysfunctional and an absolutely large government would be dysfunctional absolutely.  Serious, if vague, arguments have been made in favor of making our goal “anarcracy” rather than world democracy. These arguments are overwhelmed in volume by paranoid pronouncements like the ones in this typical email I received:

Which Candidate for WI Governor Has a Plan that Relies More Heavily on ObamaCare?

By: WI Budget Project Tuesday September 30, 2014 7:19 am

From www.wisconsinbudgetproject.org.

A Scott Walker campaign ad that criticizes Mary Burke for her stance relating to the Affordable Care Act (aka the ACA or “Obamacare”) is based on a false premise. It incorrectly equates supporting the expansion of BadgerCare with supporting an expansion of “Obamacare.”

Although I don’t think one can say that either candidate for Wisconsin governor supports “expanding Obamacare,” I believe a strong case can be made that the current Governor’s plan relies more heavily on a key part of the Affordable Care Act. For reasons I’ll explain below, his changes to BadgerCare do more than Burke’s alternative to expand the reach of the core part of the ACA – the new federal Marketplace for health insurance and the substantial federal funding to subsidize Marketplace insurance plans.

One of the major problems with the ad is that implementing part of a federal law and taking advantage of federal funding is not the same thing as supporting expansion of that law. Ask any of the nine Republican Governors who have expanded their Medicaid programs and taken the federal funding, which is financing the full cost of covering newly eligible adults. I have no doubt that every one of them would argue very strongly and convincingly that their support for expanding their state Medicaid programs does not equate to supporting an expansion of “Obamacare.”

Even if you think that implementing a part of the ACA is in some way equivalent to supporting its expansion, there’s another substantial problem with applying that reasoning in this case. That problem is summed up by the headline for an MSNBC story that succinctly and accurately described the changes that the Governor incorporated into his last budget bill, “Scott Walker finds an alternative to Medicaid: Obamacare.”

Rather than expanding BadgerCare coverage for childless adults to 138% of the federal poverty level (FPL) and qualifying Wisconsin for full federal funding of newly eligible adults, the Governor’s budget cut in half the eligibility ceiling for parents – reducing it to 100% of the poverty level. His budget uses those savings to partially offset the cost of ending the BadgerCare waiting list for childless adults below 100% of the poverty level. The following table compares the Governor’s plan with prior Wisconsin law and the alternative endorsed by Burke.

Comparison of Alternative Approaches to BadgerCare and Marketplace Eligibility

Prior WI law

Governor’s budget

Burke proposal

BadgerCare eligibility for parents Up to 200% of FPL Up to 100% of FPL Up to 138% of FPL
BadgerCare eligibility for childless adults Up to 200% of FPL, but long waiting list Up to 100% of FPL, no waiting list Up to 138% of FPL, no waiting list
Eligibility for subsidized Marketplace coverage NA Adults between 100% and 400% of FPL Adults between 138% and 400% of FPL

The Governor justifies the decision to knock about 60,000 people out of BadgerCare on the basis of moving them into Marketplace insurance plans. As the MSNBC article put it, “To avoid expanding Medicaid, he is handing off Medicaid patients to another federal program.” As the table helps illustrate, the Governor’s plan puts more people into the “Obamacare” Marketplace, whereas the Burke plan is the closer of the two to prior Wisconsin law.

A recent PolitiFact article reviewed the claim in the Obamacare ad that Burke “supports Obamacare unequivocally and wants to expand it.” After stating that there is no evidence that Burke unequivocally supports the ACA, the PolitiFact article nevertheless calls the ad “half true” because it buys into the premise that expanding BadgerCare is equivalent to expanding ObamaCare.

I often disagree with PolitiFact ratings, but I usually think that they do a good job of laying out the relevant facts and making readers better informed about the subject of the disputed claim. However, in this instance there is absolutely no discussion of the reasons why many people, including nine GOP Governors, would vehemently disagree with the assessment that supporting an expansion of Medicaid (or BadgerCare) can be likened to expanding Obamacare, while making more people eligible for subsidized Marketplace coverage is not.

It’s very important for the public and policymakers to understand how Wisconsin’s BadgerCare choices relate to the ACA. Next year state lawmakers are going to have to figure out how to fill a $760 million hole in the budget for Medicaid and BadgerCare. And as they are grappling with that, some members of Congress will again be trying to repeal the ACA, including the funding that subsidizes Marketplace insurance plans. Thus, I was surprised and disappointed that PolitiFact failed to mention that Wisconsin is now relying on the Marketplace to provide insurance for thousands of parents previously covered in BadgerCare.

 

Over Easy: Shortwave Radio

By: cmaukonen Tuesday September 30, 2014 4:50 am

Radio News cover

Good morning Firedogs. Thought I would go into a bit of history on communicating thoughts, ideas and positions. There is something different about hearing a voice tell you something rather that reading words on a page. The impact can be quite different, which is probably one of the reasons that even in this day and age broadcasting still endures.

Long before cell phones and satellites and cable and the internet, if a country or group wanted your particular message to get out to the world, shotwave radio was the medium of choice. By international agreement these frequencies are divided up amongst various services.   Usually referred to by their wave length in meters. IE 31 meter band or 60 meter band or 25 meter band. For international broadcasting and marine and aviation and governmental and general utilities and amateur radio.

During the cold war years before satellite use, the shortwave bands or HF – High Frequency bands were hopping I can tell you. Nearly every country large and small had an international broadcast station, broadcasting in their native language as well as English and at least two additional languages. Such as Spanish and French. A number of the larger one broadcasting to some area 24 hours a day. With facilities in a number of countries around the globe, usually current or former colonies.  Each giving their version of The Truth™ AKA propaganda. And lets face it, all broadcasting is propaganda of one type or another.

For all official broadcasting there is of course the opposition, the clandestine radio or pirate radio stations. Those some of these proved to be not what they seemed. Such as Radio Swan or WNYW [Radio New York Worlwide], both of which were funded in whole or partially by the CIA. And both magically disappeared or were sold when this information came out. Of course the governments targeted have tried with very limited success to jam or remove them. Not all pirate radio was political in nature. Radio Caroline   and Radio North Sea International broadcast for years simply to give people an alternative music station. And many more have come and gone. Just a search of clandestine radio on google will bring up page after page dedicated to just this one aspect.

Nearly all of the big broadcasters though have been shut down. Even the Voice of Russia. Sill on the air though are China and Cuba and a lot of the smaller countries. Not to mention those whose intended audience is in their own country or adjacent countries. As well as a score of religious broadcasters. Piping out their messages to non believers and far right broadcasters piping out paranoia that can make FOX look positively tame.

Then there are the Numbers Stations®. Exactly what the name says, stations that come the air that either speak or send lists of number in morse code and that’s all. The current thought being that they are sending messages in a cryptic, probably one time use one way code. Not unlike the Nazi Enigma machine. Amateur and professional and government sleuths have been trying for years to break the codes and pinpoint the locations of these broadcasts but mostly to no avail. And unlike sending of the internet, they seem to be fairly secure.  To this day they can be heard and spark an interest.

So there you have it. And interesting past time. Have your say Firedogs on what ever subject comes to mind. As you can see, others have to world wide listeners.

And old educational video.