Archive for the government Category

Let’s Not Call it a Federal Bailout, It’s an Investment

Posted in economy, government with tags , , , , , on May 15, 2010 by Bitch Slap Poli
Major Federal Bailout Participant - the Treasury Department

Bailout Bank - Department of Treasury

Seriously, if we looked at the ‘bailout’ as if the federal government was our broker, and we had invested in these ‘too big to fail’ businesses rather than just bailing them out with our tax money it would be much more constructive.

Not to mention we’ve actually made some money off the ‘investment’ already.

The New Power of the People

We the people finally have the power to hold CEOs feet to the flames after many years of letting them run loose without enough regulation. We have the attention of politicians who are sweating their upcoming elections and will listen to what we have to say.

So, why cry over spilled milk? Why keep complaining about the ‘investment’ happening in the first place? We’ve all had ample time to voice our opinions about the bailout enacted at the end of Bush’s presidency.  It’s now time that they we face down our problematic circumstances and ask ‘How can we make the best of this?’.

I’m talking about good ‘ole American gumption.

If We’re Investing, We Can’t Throw Our Money Away

We’ve entered a new era where the taxpayers could realize real profits if we could just realize the potential. Face it, we have invested in these companies like it or not. We might as well make sure that they get it right this time by holding them accountable with more oversight and helping them shape successful businesses that put their customers first.

If we’re smart shareholders we’ll not only have better businesses and a stronger economy, we’ll also make back our money and then some.

And we’re already seeing some gains.

So far we’ve gotten back $216.8 billion of the $536.3 billion spent on the TARP. Of that money we’ve received $29.9 billion has been revenue – money we’ve made off of our ‘investment’.

Too Big to Fail is Too Risky of an Investment for Our Economy

At the root of the whole problem, the reasoning for the bailouts in the first place, is that these businesses were ‘too big to fail’. And just why is that? Why is it imperative that these big businesses stay afloat?

Because changes were made to regulations over the financial sector which allowed for 6 banks to go from having assets that equal 17% of the GDP in 1995 to assets that equal 63% of the GDP today.

That’s right, 6 banks (Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, WellsFargo, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and Morgan Stanley) basically control the majority of our country’s economy. This gives them far too much influence over the financial well-being of us all. CEOs can potentially make decisions that affect your money more than the decisions you make. And we’ve all seen that they can make very bad decisions.

Our country’s GDP now depends on these too big businesses. Is there anybody who still thinks we don’t need more federal regulation over them?

So let’s get active as investors. Let’s make sure we’re informed on the risks and rewards of our ‘investments’ and correct the problems so that we the people have more control our country’s financially stabilility than 6 banks.




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Basic Economics for the Tea Party – Balancing the US Budget

Posted in 1, economy, government with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 24, 2010 by Bitch Slap Poli

In honor of all those filing their taxes late, Bitch Slap Politics is going to dumb down information on how taxes effect our greater economy and analyze whether or not the Tea Party members made any sense with their Tax Day arguments.

It’s time for another installment of – Smart S*** Gets Stupid!

A Look at What the Tea Party Wanted Tax Day 2010

The New York Times recently polled Tea Party members. Two initiatives near and dear to their hearts are, of course, reducing taxes and reducing spending by the government.

They were also asked in the poll:

If you had to choose, would you prefer reducing the federal budget deficit or cutting taxes?

The results:

  • Cutting Taxes – 49%
  • Reducing Deficit – 42%
  • Don’t Know or No Answer -9%

To be fair, the general public that the NYT also polled, which consisted of Democrats, Republicans and Independents, said:

  • Cutting Taxes – 47%
  • Reducing Deficit – 45%
  • Don’t Know or No Answer -8%

 

 

 

Taxes and the Federal Deficit

 Let’s take look at history and see what it tells us about taxes and the federal deficit – two big economic factors that go hand-in-hand.

In order to reduce our deficit we need to both increase the GDP and reduce spending. (We should be saving money in Iraq soon so Tea Partiers will be throwing a party to celebrate that, right?)

Reduction of spending is possibly the only goal I see eye to eye on with the Tea Party, sort of.

We need to make sure that our money isn’t being wasted. That means cutting spending on programs and projects that aren’t narrowly focused on fixing the biggest problems in this country. But, as discussed during the 2008 presidential debates, we don’t need to simply hack away at the budget. We still need to invest some in ourselves and allocate our money correctly.

However, the cutting taxes goal, while good in theory, shouldn’t be a priority. It just isn’t logical.

The following video is a visual of the information in text below. Feel free to watch then read or just choose a preferred method of receiving your economic knowledge.

Really, we should be happy about how much we pay in taxes at the moment. Taxes have been much higher than they were in 2009/2010 and they will surely be higher in the future at some point.

For a comparison here are the tax rates for 2010, 2005, and 2000

2010 tax rate

up to $8,375  —  10%

$8,375-34,000  —  15%

$34,000-82,400 —  25%

$82,400-171,850  — 28%

$171,850-373,650  —  33%

above $373,650  —  35%

2005 tax rate

up to $7,300  —  10%

$7,300-29,700  —  15%

$29,700-71,950 —  25%

$71,950-150,150  — 28%

$150,15o-326,450 —  33%

above $326,450  —  35%

2000 Tax Rate

up to $26,250  —  15%

$26,250-63,550  —  28%

$63,550-132,600 —  31%

$132,600-288,350  — 36%

above $288,350  —  39.6%

2010 tax day is looking pretty good, huh? Show of hands for all of the Tea Party supporters and Republicans who protested about taxes in 2005 and/or 2000. No one, really? Okay, we’ll move on.

Now let’s examine the federal deficit over the same period:

As you can see, as taxes get lowered the federal deficit has expanded. This makes sense when you consider the fact that since the 1950s taxes have made up about 20% of our GDP. GDP means Gross Domestic Product, which is basically a measure of our worth as a country based on what we produce.

Since 2001 our country has been spending like crazy, not producing as much and lowering taxes. Add to that an economic meltdown brought about by unscrupulous money pushers who were de-ruglated by President Bush and there’s a perfect storm scenario going on with our federal deficit and national debt.

Of course, the Stimulus Package, which included money for tax cuts, made up the bulk of the deficit in 2009, though there was already a very high $455 billion deficit when Obama came into office on Jan 20. Hopefully, the federal deficit will be significantly improved by the end of 2010, there are signs of hope.

Interest is Crippling the Efforts to Balance the Budget

However, in the mean time since the beginning of 2010 our country has paid almost $202 billion dollars in interest on the debt we owe. That’s billion, with a B.

That’s more than the cost of the Legislative Branch, the Executive Office of the President, the Department of Commerce, Environmental Protection Agency, NASA (saving money on that soon as well), the Department of Energy and many more combined.

So no, cutting taxes isn’t nearly as important as cutting the deficit and diggin ourselves out of this hole. Even if that means more of us pay more in taxes or getting a little less in our tax returns.

I don’t think enough has been said about the recent wins in growing the GDP, especially given the economic circumstances. We just experienced the largest GDP growth since before 2006.

And, no Teabaggers, it wasn’t because of higher taxes on main street. A whooping 47% of the workforce didn’t have to pay any income taxes this year, thanks in part to 2009’s Make Work Pay tax credit.

In short, please Tea Party members do us all a favor and take up a cause that can do some significant good for our country. Be problem solvers, not problem creators. We got enough of those already.

Google’s Losing Hand in China

Posted in government, Politics, Tech with tags , , , , , , on January 21, 2010 by jwilhelmy

It took me a while to digest the situation that’s arisen between Google and the Chinese Government.  On the face of it you have the PR statements directly from Google’s official blog:

“We detected a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property” and “we have evidence to suggest that a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.”

Which, was followed by Google publicly calling out the Chinese Government and stating that they will pursue the operation of an unfiltered google.cn.

However, if the Chinese Government will not allow the unfettered access for it’s people to all that Google indexes then they will pull out of the Chinese market completely and shut down google.cn as well as the offices that the company operates in the country.

A Champion of Free Speech?

Huzzah Google!  But not so fast.

Regardless of the corporate slogan, “Don’t be evil” Google is a for-profit publicly traded entity that exists to make money.  Why would a company that actively cooperates with the Chinese Government by employing people whose sole job is to track down and eliminate disallowed content from the google.cn index suddenly change it’s tune and become a trumpeter for free speech?

Advertising revenue is by far the largest source of income for Google so why threaten the Chinese government in such a way that would deny your ad partners the chance to reach the 338+ million internet users in China?  On a stance of free speech the shareholders will not have it.

So what really happened?

What Really Happened

It’s important to understand what Google is really concerned with in its relationship with China.  The attacks that China made on the intellectual property of Google and at least 20 other western companies is the real key here.

It’s smart for Google to focus its media spin on the activists whose gmail accounts were hacked (using pure social engineering techniques, BTW), however, the reason so many of us use Google is because of its prowess in search.  Though ad revenue may keep the cogs going, if the search functionality was crap there would be no reason for people to use Google.

China’s attempt at co-opting the search algorithms potentially degrades the functionality of Google search. Big time – potentially.

The Search Algorithm, Not the Users, is What Google is Afraid of Living Up

Currently, estimates put Google’s China revenue in at around $300 million, or 1.6% of its total sales. Which is a rather small concession compared to what it would lose if say Baidu, the current king of Chinese search, were to get their hands on what makes Google such a worldwide search powerhouse.

A Chinese competitor using the Google IP could become a worldwide competitor in short order, leaving much greater Google losses in its wake.  I guess keeping enemies closer is a bit trite in the eyes of Google, but it looks like this is simply their safest bet.

The Chinese have no incentive to concede and Google can’t risk its golden goose.  The days of google.cn are numbered indeed. That is, unless China decides to stop their cyber theft ways.

But hey, China is already hacking into our very own government’s web systems and are the biggest thieves online at the moment, so I’d say that is not likely to happen.

More Shooting Rampages, Still No Better Gun Control Laws

Posted in government, Politics with tags , , , on November 11, 2009 by Bitch Slap Poli

I completely agree with our Constitutional right to bear arms. Our forefathers made sure the right was on paper after being oppressed by a King and put under Marshall law. Taking away people’s weapons was one of the first things Hilter did to ensure he could control those he had overrun.

However, that doesn’t mean we need gun control laws so loose that the right can be used against us.

If You have to Take a Test to Get a Driver’s License. . .

Each state has their own regulations for finer points such as who can carry a concealed weapon and where but in order to actually get a permit for a gun its basically the same process across the board.

Here are the stipulations to getting a gun:

  • Must be 21 or older
  • Must not be a convicted felon (of course felonies committed as a juvie might not show up on a person’s record)
  • No mental health record
  • Sit tight through the waiting period of 2-3 days after filling out the paperwork

Yep it’s that easy to get yourself a blaster because its your right to get one.

The only problem is, the old saying is true ‘Guns Don’t Kill People, Stupid People with Guns Kill People’. We have to first pass a test and have a learner’s permit for a year before we can drive a vehicle on our own because cars are heavy machinery that can kill people.

So why aren’t there any mandatory tests before you can own a gun?

Even though its your right to own a gun, that doesn’t mean the rest of us should have to forfeit our safety in case let’s say, the person doesn’t know how to properly use the gun, or they actually are a criminal or they actually do have a mental problem.

It may surprise those that don’t pay attention but these individuals slip through the cracks at an alarming rate.

Fort Hood, Oregon Lab Shooting and the Orlando Office Shooting – All Within One Week

Anyone doubting the need for stricter gun control laws need only to look at the news from the past week to see why change is necessary.

Last week alone, between three tragic shooting rampages 16 people were killed and 37 people were wounded.

Here’s the scariest fact in regards to how loosely regulated gun ownership is:

According to the US National Institute of Mental Health, 26.2% of Americans have one or more diagnosable mental disorders, yet only 5% have ever seen a mental health professional.

Each one of the assailants in last weeks shootings were probably off their rockers. With exception of the Fort Hood shooting, it would be interesting to see when exactly the shooters obtained their weapons.

What Does America Think About the Issue?

A recent Ramussen Reports poll in October showed that:

  • 50% of people oppose stricter gun control laws
  • 39% of people support stricter gun control laws
  • 11% of people are undecided

Of course, polls from this week may tell a different story.

Closing argument: We should have the right to bear arms in order to protect ourselves from organized oppression, defend ourselves and protect our property. However, ordinary citizens going about their daily lives shouldn’t have to forfeit their safety so that as many people as possible have the right to carry a weapon. A weapon operation test needs to be put in place, there needs to be a learner’s permit training and evaluation period and there needs to be a mental competency test. You can still get a gun if you want one, you just have to prove that you can own one responsibly.

Is that too much to ask?

A Public Option Will Help Us Avoid CARD Act Issues in Health Care

Posted in government, Politics with tags , , , , on October 21, 2009 by Bitch Slap Poli

Currently the government has come to a harsh reality; companies that were profiting heavily before the recession, even at the expense of consumers, will do whatever they have to now to maintain those profitable margins.

Case in point, credit card companies in wake of the CARD Act. Though the bill was passed in May of this year, the changes weren’t slated to go into effect until February 2010. Credit card companies moved swiftly to squeeze as much as they could out of their cardholders before stricter regulations were enforced. Now Congress is considering their options for expediting the process so that US consumers aren’t bled dry by next year.

So during all this health care reform discussion, Congressman should consider one thing; will health insurers do the same once a bill is passed?

A Public Option Would Keep Health Insurers Honest

Many credit card companies saw their window of opportunity and took it, raising rates on cardholders with no warning (something that is prohibited under the new CARD regulations). It was a business move not humanitarian move, which is understandable – they’re a business. Profits are the bottom line, not how many people go bankrupt to get those profits.

With health reform on the horizon that overhauls and increases regulations over health insurers, I question whether they will do the same thing. There will be an interim period between the passing of the law and the law actually taking affect.

What’s going to stop insurers from jacking up premiums or dropping and denying coverage while they can? What about after the laws go into effect? What’s going to stop insurers from taking advantage of loopholes in the legislation?

A public option, that’s what.

Unlike the credit card industry, we have the means right now while the bill is being crafted to create competition that will keep health insurers more honest. Without a public option it’s a win-win-win for health insurance companies.

If reform mandates that most people get health insurance and there’s no public option that leaves only the health insurance companies, guaranteeing them more business. For the most part we’d be rewarding an industry that has operated so unethically and inefficiently that a drastic overhaul is now needed.

We must have a public option to keep insurers honest. Just because the regulations are being reformed doesn’t mean the mindsets and priorities of health insurance companies will as well. Legislators need to learn from their mistakes with the CARD Act and take the necessary steps now to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen with the health reform bill.

Why Health Insurers Don’t Want You to Know the Truth About Gov’t Run Healthcare

Posted in government, Politics with tags , , , on July 15, 2009 by Bitch Slap Poli

After being swiftly booted off of my parent’s insurance I gambled with my health for more than a year by forgoing coverage. It was scary and uncertain grounds, but I just couldn’t afford it at the time and didn’t have a job where health insurance was provided.

Luckily, I made it through the no-coverage period and now have private insurance (that I begrudgingly pay for). I say begrudgingly because I’m one of the rare people here in the states that has experienced universal health care that was publicly provided.

An American’s Experience with Universal Health Care

It was in Cost Rica, a third world country. Yes, a third world country had a functioning, extremely helpful and fairly efficient government run health care system, something the U.S. somehow can’t manage. And all I had to do was pay something like $36 for the travel insurance for the entire month I was there. I pay $150 a month for my current plan! On top of co-payments, and a deductible, and for prescriptions.

Repeatedly, to this day, I recall sitting in the emergency room in Costa Rica thinking a couple of my ribs were broken. However, the patient just before me was a boy with the side of his face smashed in where he landed after a bad fall. He looked like he had been playing outside all day, and with the little Spanish I knew and some charades I gathered from him that he had fallen off a roof.

The whole time I couldn’t shake the thought, ‘if this was America and he and I were in the hospital, I would probably be in front of him in line’. Even though he was there before me and had a more serious injury. But there I sat waiting after him, and I was happy to be there. But how many times before then had that happened back home in the U.S. and I just didn’t realize it, or notice it?

I was just 19 at the time and had never missed a day of being on my dad’s health insurance plan that was provided by the federal government.

Government Run Health Care Isn’t Something to Fear and They Work

What really gets me is that it’s obvious that a universal health care system can and does work for many countries. Quoting from Wikipedia:

“Universal health care is health care coverage for all eligible residents of a political region and often covers medical, dental and mental health care. These programs vary in their structure and funding mechanisms. Typically, most costs are met via a single-payer health care system or national health insurance, or else by compulsory regulated pluralist insurance (public, private or mutual) meeting certain regulated standards. Universal health care is implemented in all but one of the wealthy, industrialized countries, with the exception being the United States. It is also provided in many developing countries and is the trend worldwide.”

Health Insurers Interest in Politics

The profits that the health insurance company makes because they are now spending less of every dollar I pay on actual health coverage for me in part goes towards making donations to politicians who then later help them spread fear about their competition (public health care) in order to maintain the status quo that makes the companies boat loads of money.

Final Remark: the Republicans are really making it hard not to hate them the way they parrot what the lobbists for health insurance companies feed them, all the while knowingly misleading the public with misinformation.

Check out the bitch slappingly good Wendell Potter health insurance interview here.