Bleeding Heart

I was questioned lately on what made me a liberal. I believe in God, I must be a conservative. I am a stay at home mom with a husband that leads our house like the bible says, I must be a conservative. (Actually, while I am a stay at home mom my husband and I are equal partners in our house.) Because of my belief in God, I must be against marriage equality, abortion, taxes…I must be a conservative. All of this ending with the claim that John F. Kennedy would be a Republican under the current structure of the Democratic Party that had been high-jacked by liberals. I find it amusing that liberal has become a dirty word. I find it amusing because liberalism was founded on liberty and equality. Below is the response I gave.

I am a liberal. Just because I am a liberal does not mean I can’t believe in God. Just because I have a traditional family does not mean that I think that is the only or even best way to go. I believe one of the basic requirements for a free society is the freedom to pursue whatever religion you wish including the freedom to not pursue religion. I am a Christian, but I do not believe that a free society can legislate a single religious belief. When we do so we are no longer free.

I fail to see how a government based on freedom of religion can regulate a religious institution such as marriage. I am fine with the churches’ position. I am less fine with any government telling two consenting adults that they can’t get married. There are churches out there that support same-sex marriage and I have a HUGE problem with the government telling them what they can and cannot support. Personally, I have absolutely no problem with same-sex marriage. Their love and relationships are just as valid as mine. Marriage in a church is a religious ceremony before God and I feel that the church can determine who they can and cannot marry. I think they are wrong to do so but perfectly free to make that choice. Marriage is also a legal contract and I have problems with this legal contract being restricted to certain types of people by the government. I equate these with Jim Crow laws that prohibited inter-racial marriage. If you look back, the arguments are even the same.

I am for tax reform yes…but probably more different from what you would think. First, I am in favor of a flat tax with no stupid deductions (like for yachts, private jets, and show horses). You get a standard deduction and that is it. Since that will never happen I am in favor of creating new tax brackets for the super-wealthy. I find it horribly unfair that persons making $400,000 pay the same rate as those making millions. We need brackets for those higher incomes. With regards to FICA, the Federal Insurance Contributions Act tax removed from every paycheck for Social Security and Medicaid, I am willing to pay more. Currently, Medicaid is at 1.45%. That’s $14.50 for every $1,000 earned bumping it up to a full 2% would only increase it by $5.50 for every $1,000. I am more than willing to pay that to help more Americans. And all income should be subject to the Social Security portion of the FICA tax…not just the first $110,000. I am poor; I get a return most years. I would give up every single penny, regardless of how much it helps my family, if it could guarantee every single American quality health care.

I am not for partial birth abortions and I would argue that no liberal really is…however, my views on abortion could take up a huge amount of space. Some of them though, can be found here: http://wp.me/p33Zln-b

As far as the Islamic religion is concerned…I support it 100%. The reasons why are many. First, we have freedom of religion in this country. Second, not every Muslim believes what the extremists believe. “Islamic Extremism is to Islam what the KKK is to Christianity”—it may be from an old ‘West Wing’ episode but I really do believe it. Furthermore, I studied religion in college and have read the Qur’an. I know that what it says is so very different from what is presented by the extremists. I know many Muslims who are good Americans that do not believe a single thing coming from the mouths of terrorists. Christianity’s history hasn’t exactly been all flowers and roses either. Judging all Muslims for the beliefs of extremists is akin to judging all Christians based on the beliefs of the Westboro Baptist Church.

I am not for the government restricting my diet…but making recommendations to how I should eat is pretty much the job description of the Surgeon General. Making healthier food cheaper and crappy food more expensive is no different from taxing alcohol and tobacco. I also feel that one shouldn’t be able to buy candy and soda with food stamps.

I have no problems with doctors, teachers, and others whose duty it is to care for my children to ask if there are guns in the home. If it prevents even one child from a preventable death or injury because their parents were too stupid to figure out on their own that they should keep their pretty pink gun out of the reach of their 3yo then I am all for it. I find it to be similar to asking about lead in the home. Or smoking. Or car seats. Frankly, someone has to look after our kids and American parents, by and large, are failing miserably.

Now, looking back at history I have found a lot of Executive Orders that I disagree with. Pretty much every President since FDR had a few I disliked. A few have had some that I agree with. They are nothing new and the Executive Orders Obama has signed have made him disappointingly average. As far as taking control of our infrastructure, that has been an Executive Order since Truman was President. Wire taps, search warrants, and what not are due to the Patriot Act, which I oppose vehemently. But a conservative President and a conservative Congress enacted it. Detention of US citizens is also not new…technically FDR did it…but the tenets in National Defense Authorization Act (which is currently being blamed solely on Obama) actually began with Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Terrorists. AUMF was also passed under conservative leadership…on September 14, 2001…quietly, while America was distracted. We should speak up about these actions but we should also be clear of the whole history of such actions and not lay blame solely at the feet of the individual holding the Presidency. What we need to do is take such tenets to court and get them deemed unconstitutional (which is what we are doing with NDAA now) so no one can do it again.

A liberal is: “someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people—their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties—someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a ‘Liberal’, then I’m proud to say I’m a ‘Liberal’.” according to John F. Kennedy. Personally, given the quote, I think JFK would fit nicely into this Democratic Party. Lincoln I have a hard time believing would still be a Republican given his liberal and progressive stances on a number of issues. I am a liberal. Furthermore, I am a bleeding heart liberal and I wear that title like a badge of honor. Just like I don’t believe I should pick and choose parts of my Bible, I also do not believe that I can pick and choose parts of my Constitution. I believe, with my whole heart, cemented by my faith in God, that all men are created equal and therefore are equal under the law.

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The Inacurate Comparison Between Gun Laws in Chicago and Switzerland

The gun lobby is continually pointing its fingers at Chicago as to how gun restriction does not work.  They also point to Switzerland, a country with a large gun culture, to show how massive gun ownership can work. Heck, they say, gun ownership is even mandated However, there is so much more involved than just the laws of Chicago.  And there is so very much more to Swiss gun laws than the gun lobby states.

First, let us look at Chicago.  Population, poverty and a lack of education are a big part of the problem in Chicago.  Also, the reason a gun ban ‘doesn’t work’ in Chicago is quite simply that we don’t have universal laws throughout all the states.   Buying a gun in Chicago may be difficult, but you can make it to Wisconsin in 45 minutes and there you will have little to no difficulties legally purchasing a weapon.  No one checks what happens when you travel from state to state so laws such as Chicago’s when Wisconsin has lax laws are not going to work.  So, let’s be clear, inconsistencies in gun laws between states is a reason the ban does not work in Chicago but the primary cause of violence that has been consistently documented is poverty and lack of education.  However, the murder rate in Chicago is down by about 17% since the ban took place.  So it works, kind of, but it won’t work as well as it could because of the laws of surrounding states and the lack of attention to poverty and education in Chicago.

Now Switzerland.  First of all Switzerland is a very different society. Its population is smaller than that of NYC. Not to mention the fact that NYC has 19.4% of the population under the poverty line and Switzerland has 4.8% of the population under the poverty line.  These numbers do make a difference as it is also well documented (Sociology 101 people) that crime rates go up in times of economic stress. Are our crime rates rising because not enough people have guns or because of the fact that we have a boom and bust economy which is currently rising out of recession?  Are Switzerland’s lower crime rates related to the mass possession of fire arms or the fact that it has one of the most stable economies in the world?  These are also things that must be taken into account.

Yes, many people own a gun in Switzerland. But gun owners are also mandated to take military training as Switzerland has no standing army. However, Switzerland’s gun laws are actually stricter than laws in the United States and the Swiss have fewer guns than US not more.  According to the Criminal Victimisation in International Perspective report from 2005 sponsored in part by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime 10% of Swiss homes contained handguns while in the US 18% of households contained handguns.  Beyond that only 29% of households in Switzerland contained any firearms whereas in the US it was 43%. (table 18 pg 279) So the US already beats Switzerland in regards to firearm prevalence. If that is the case, why then, are our crime rates higher than the rates in Switzerland?

While military training and the storing of government issued military weapons is required by Swiss law (though you can opt to store your militia weapon in the local armory) up until 2007 only 50 rounds of ammunition were given to members of the militia.  The rounds were sealed and regular inspection ensured that they were not used improperly. In 2007, it was decided to stop issuing ammo all together and the ammo out had to be returned.  Only a select few in the militia are allowed to have ammo in the home.  Service typically ends between ages 30-34 and to keep your weapon after that requires a license.  For private citizens, ammo (for military weapons) is subsidized by the government and is available at shooting ranges with the requirement that all ammo sold there must be used there.

The 1999 Gun Act requires a permit that allows the purchase of 3 firearms.  The permit asks for a lot of information including:  Two years’ worth of addresses, name, birthday, nationality, place of origin, home phone, mobile phone, email, pending criminal charges, reasons for wanting firearm sport, hunting, collecting, name of weapon or / the essential weapons component / s and other information (if known): Weapon / weapons essential ingredient.  This permit also includes and Inheritance Clause which states: “Individuals who purchase firearms or essential weapon components by inheritance must apply within six months for a firearms acquisition certificate, provided that the items are not transferred within that period of an authorized person. The request for obtaining the weapons purchase certificate must be attached to a directory that lists the inherited objects, indicating the weapon type, manufacturer or manufacturers, caliber, description and weapon number. It must be signed by representatives of the deceased or their heirs.” Furthermore, the permit requires an original extract from Swiss Criminal Records no older than three months. A copy of a valid passport, identity card, or residence permit is also required.  If none of those are available then official confirmation of residence or proof of legal ability to acquire weapons in their home state.   The signing statement itself reads:  “I certify that I have answered the questions truthfully and that I’m not incapacitated; suffering under any disease, which could pose an increased risk for handling weapons, such as drug or alcohol use or dependence on narcotics. I allow the competent authority to verify the information, in particular the police, the penal, custody, welfare and administrative authorities.”  So, quite a few background checks go into a civilian purchasing a firearm even if it is inherited and in line with the laws proposed by gun-control advocates.

But there is so much more to the 1999 Swiss gun law.  For example,  a permit is not needed to buy a gun from and individual but the seller is expected to determine that the buyer can meet the requirements of purchasing from a dealer.  They are required to prepare a written contract with the identities of both parties and must include, weapon type, manufacturer and serial number.  This contract must be kept by both parties for at least 10 years. The seller must also see some form of official ID. So, even in a private sale in Switzerland while a permit is not required record from the sale is required and the seller is is obligated to prove eligibility and identity before selling a weapon.  Pretty much what gun-control advocates want anyway.

While single shot long arms (muzzle or breech loaders) are available without a permit the sale of automatic firearms, selective fire weapons and accessories such as suppressors are essentially forbidden.  They are legal only with a special permit issued by police and this permit includes even more requirements, such as a gun locker.  In addition, the Schengen treaty of 2008 requires all guns to be marked and registered with a serial number.  Ammo is also regulated with hollow point rounds only permitted for hunters.  The sale of ammo is required to be registered with the buyer’s name in a bound book. Again, laws exactly like the ones gun-control groups favor.

Essentially, Swiss gun laws are exactly what the “gun-control” crowd is asking for.  This is what you don’t hear from the NRA.  They will tout Switzerland as an example of how owning guns can be safe but fail to mention that ownership in Switzerland is actually highly regulated.  Want the US to be more like Switzerland?  I am pretty sure most of the people on the gun-control side would be all for it.  However, the pro-gun people led by the NRA would throw a major fit. Personally, I object to any untrained civilian owning a weapon such as an AR-15.  If you want to require full military training to own one, now that is a different story.  For those of you who say an AR-15 is not as dangerous as a fully auto weapon I direct you to the bump fire.  This is where you use the guns recoil to fire multiple shots essentially simulating full auto.   Another assault rifle ban is the US really isn’t going to do much because it does not address the issue of the guns that are already on the streets.  But we really have to look deeper into the correlation of our previous ban expiring and the increase in cartel violence in Mexico.  Detailed background checks, registration, training, ammo restrictions and records of sale are exactly what the gun-control crowd is looking for.  This is what Switzerland has and it works. It is also what the NRA and the gun lobby vehemently protest.

Taxes!!! Pt. 2

—and a brief history of economics

Here’s the problem if you keep raising tax rates: You slow down economic growth—Paul Ryan

The problem with the above quote is that it is simply not true.  Earlier we talked about how you cannot adequately compare civilizations a century apart in regards to economies and taxes. What you can do is look at the overall picture to establish trends and you must use history to establish these trends; if for no other reason than to avoid making the same mistakes.  The above quote shows the mindset of the Republican Party for the last 30 years; a fanatical adherence to the ‘trickle down’ economic theory. The problem is that it has been proven false time and time again.

The so called ‘trickle down’ economic theory is nothing new and actually dates back to the 1890’s.  Despite what many will say, over the years this theory has never been proven. For those who don’t know, ‘trickle down’ is the theory that tax breaks or other economic benefits provided by government to businesses and the wealthy will benefit poorer members of society by improving the economy as a whole. In short, cut taxes and eliminate regulations on businesses. In theory—and remember it is a theory not fact—this should work. Except for one very important thing; trickle-down economics does not take greed into account.

Income tax was established in 1913 by the 16th amendment.  Since then, ‘trickle down’ economics has been tried on several occasions. It has failed, every single time—drastically in some cases. The rates began low in 1913, but due to war and increase in manufacturing rates began to climb.  Taxes were strangling business; business did better when the government had less regulation—or so the Republicans claimed.  Thus, due to Republican control, in the twenties the tax rates began to fall.  By 1925 they fell from 73% to 25%.  And we experienced an awesome economic boom.  No, you read that right.  We cut the tax rates and the economy soared, coining the term ‘roaring 20’s.’  But remember, we know how this story ends.

The economy soared after the tax rates were slashed in the 20’s but it was not sustainable. See, while millionaires were paying a third of the tax they had previously the protections for the lower classes were disappearing. The theory was that the wealthy would spend the money they saved in taxes and stimulate the economy.  Here’s the problem, the wealthy spent money but in the stock market.  Most of the wealth in the United States was invested in Wall Street. Meanwhile, these tax cuts did nothing to help the poor.  Inventories began to rise while consumer spending declined. These factors created an economic bubble—sound familiar.  A bubble is caused by a trade in products or assets with inflated values, in short, putting more money into an asset then it is actually worth. In 1929, the bubble burst and we went into a tailspin of a depression that has not been seen before or since.

With the arrival of FDR and his New Deal, tax rates began to climb.  That’s right; in the midst of a giant depression a president raised taxes to help the country out of it.  And it worked.  Slowly, the United States began to crawl up from the gutter.  Then came World War II. Taxes soared; but with the tax increase there was also an increase in manufacturing and thus, jobs. The 1950’s ushered in a huge economic boom…despite a tax rate of 91%.  To be fair, with deductions and everything available very few, if any, actually paid this rate.

I would also be extremely lax if I failed to mention the real reasons for the economic boom in the 50’s and 60’s.  First, the United States had almost no competition in manufacturing considering the centers in Japan and Europe had been leveled during the war. We began building an immense military and put tons of money into research, ,which also created jobs. In the 60’s, taxes began to fall.  And the economy still stayed strong.  The tax rate throughout the majority of the 60’s was at about 70% and stayed that way throughout the 70’s. The 70’s, however, would bring with it a whole new set of issues.

In a word, the economy of the 70’s sucked.  That was primarily due to the oil crisis of ’73 and, later, the energy crisis of ‘79.  The 70’s also ushered in a new economic platform that had never been seen before.  Stagflation is known as a period of stagnant economic growth and rapidly growing inflation and unemployment.  This was something that had never been seen before or since in the United States.  This new issue required new ideas in halting the downward spiral.  Ronald Reagan provided just these kinds of ‘new’ ideas.  This would be the reason he won the election in 1980.

When there is an income tax, the just man will pay more and the unjust less on the same amount of income—Plato

Reagan promised sweeping changes to the economy and boy did we get it. The perfect example of be careful what you wish for.  Reagan was a firm believer in ‘supply side’ economics, commonly known as ‘trickle down’ and eventually, Reaganomics. Reagan theorized that lower taxes would make people want to work harder and longer and would then save and invest more.   Reagan slashed taxes by 25% in his first three years and closed loopholes. These cuts primarily benefited wealthy Americans and the theory was that higher investment would bring new jobs and higher pay. Paul Volker, the Federal Reserve Chairman, stopped the growing inflation by slowing the growth of the money supply and increasing the interest rate.  While this initially caused a recession by 1983 the economy began to rebound, but this time only a few would benefit.

There is some debate as to whether it was Reagan’s tax cuts or Paul Volker’s actions to curb inflation and healed the 1980’s economy.  Whether it was Reagan’s deregulation or the massive increase in government spending. But one thing is clear, between 1981 and 1988 the income rate dropped from 70% to 28%. However, wages continued to remain stagnant and the manufacturing jobs that built the middle class continued to disappear. 70% of American households had no stake in the market so they saw none of the benefits.  On top of that the payroll tax was increased. The wealthy saw their earnings by 14% while the poor saw their incomes decline by 24%.  Income taxes are paid, primarily, by the wealthy while the working class and middle class pay more of the payroll tax.  The poorest 1/5th of Americans saw their tax burden increase while the richest 1/5th saw their tax burdens decrease (CBO). Essentially, the tax burden was shifted from the wealthy to the poor. Wall Street was riding high but the poor were suffering. The wealthy got wealthier and the poor suffered more.  We were hemorrhaging jobs.  Then in 1987 the market crashed, pushing us into another recession.

George H. W. Bush  raised taxes to deal with the crushing deficits left to him by Reagan, ,costing Bush the election in ’92.  Clinton took over and raised the tax rate to 39.6%.  In a few short years he turned a deficit into a surplus, added needed regulation, and turned a recession into an economic boom.  Everyone benefited from Clinton’s economic plan. The rich stayed rich while the poor slowly began to climb out of poverty.  George W. Bush cut taxes to 35% and issued more deregulation.  Things went well for a while but it wasn’t to last. This time money was being spent in the over-inflated housing market and created, you guessed it, a bubble In the fall of 2008 the bubble burst and once again the United States began a tailspin recession.

It must be noted that outside influences had an effect on the US economy as well.  These were influences that we could not control regardless of how high or low our tax rates were.  But we would also be remiss if we didn’t note that our economy has crumbled after every major tax cut. If there was ever any doubt, ,the 1980’s should have proved that.  This backwards economic theory requires the heads of corporations to do the right thing, to increase wages and production with the savings they receive, to create more jobs…something they have proven time and time again that they will not do.  The rich get even richer on the backs of the poor.  Wall Street rides high and Main Street suffers.   That is the legacy of ‘trickle down’ economics.

Congressional Budget Office, “Congressional Study: Tax Progressivity and Income Distribution,” 26 March 1990. CIS#H782-11.