Just handed a $12,000 bill …

It’s not on our credit report but as of Wednesday, a $12,000 bill was added to our obligations. That’s roughly what every household in America will owe under the Tax Cut and Jobs Act’s added weight to the U.S. National debt.

That’s $12,000 on top of the estimates of maybe $67,000 we’re already burdened to owe. Did you ask to borrow this much money? No, of course not. You didn’t get to use it or even have much say in it.

We’re just the lucky winners of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (The Act). We’re told we’re winners anyway.

Both of us will be retired soon and this proud moment in Congress and the White House is going to give folks like us a tax cut of a $270, based on the Tax Foundation  analysis. (Think of us as Couple Number 8 in the Tax Foundation analysis.)

But, $12,000 divided by $270 leaves us just, um, 44.44 years to break even on the additional debt load of the act — assuming no interest compounds this national obligation. Of course, no one is really paying towards reducing the national debt. It just keeps getting bigger as it has since the Reagan Administration.

 

What does our additional $12,000 debt buy us?

Does The Act buy health care security? Trump bragged afterwards that The Act “secretly” achieved his goal of repealing the Affordable Care Act by eliminating the insurance mandate, something the GOP couldn’t do straight up. They lied to Sen. Collins, R-Maine, and bribed Sen. Murkowski, R-Alaska, to get their votes.

Does The Act address poverty: The root of crime?

Does The Act help teach the children well?

Does The Act feed the poor and hungry?

Does The Act move us towards a sustainable world for our grandchildren?

Does The Act release those grandchildren from our obligations?

Does The Act lead us to peace and away from being the world leader in war?

*This assumes a 10-year, $1.5 trillion onto the national debt divided among American households. This is a consensus figure and one the Tax Foundation takes issue with.

Merry Christmas, happy holidays and a prosperous New Year to you all. We’re going to need it.

 

 

 

A Change of Mind On Climate

Dear Congressman Hultgren,

I was unable to attend the constituency session you held with the League of Women voters. We have common ground, based on reports, and that’s heartening. As you, I’m loath to give up on the improvements to the environment we’ve seen since the 1970s and pleased that you oppose this administration’s proposed budget cuts to the EPA.

On another matter, I’d like to relate a story of a climate skeptic, whose criticism once sat near the core arguments of those denying anthroprogenic climate change. His perspective threw doubt “on the very existence of global warming,” by his own admission.

Richard Muller, a noted physicist at the University of California Berkeley, didn’t accept that the historical data showed abrupt and fast-rising global temperatures — the so-called hockey stick data. The data must have been misused, misunderstood, or misapplied, he argued. Something must be wrong, he argued, as such an abrupt and rapid change just didn’t make sense to him — until, he did the science himself, funded in 2011 by a grant from Charles and David Koch.

I won’t get into the circular debate on how chaotic science would be if every scientist refused to acknowledge peer-reviewed science until they had done the work themselves. But, that’s what Muller did, and the results marked a sharp turnaround in his outlook on global climate change.

“My total turnaround, in such a short time, is the result of careful and objective analysis by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which I founded with my daughter Elizabeth. Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases,” Muller wrote in a New York Times op-ed in July 2012. (The emphasis is mine.)

This is an important episode in science and the debate about global climate change. I’ll side with science on human-caused climate change (and, yes, the consensus is overwhelming in the range of 97%); Pope Francis, who says climate change is the moral challenge of your time; the Pentagon, which cites climate change as its foremost security challenge; and, I could go on.

And, true, as you noted, the quest to right this ship is to advance our knowledge and use of sustainable energy resources and decrease reliance on burning fossil fuels. I’m encouraged by advancements in solar energy, even the ironic decision of the coal industry museum to install as solar grid.

The statement, as reported, that you made that climate change is real but you’re unconvinced that humans are causing it leads us to complacency instead. This point is now the tip of the argument for those who would blunt action in service to expanding oil, gas and, even, coal production and use. Companies have billions of dollars in booked assets sitting in the ground, assets that bolster stock values and multi-million dollar executive bonuses. This is where the money really places its weighty thumb on the scales of debate.

We don’t have time for complacency and even Exxon and Shell argue that the US must stay in adherence to the Paris Climate Accords. Can you join us in this fight? Perhaps you’d like to join the bipartisan Congressional Climate Solutions Caucus to do more where you can, in Congress.

Best to you,
Jack Shipley

Member, McHenry County Citizens Climate Lobby
Owner, Conscious Cup Coffee Roasters, Crystal Lake, IL

Burying my head

I’ve not been writing here for some time, distracted by business and now by the fate of the entire frigging world. Given this latter issue, here I’ll wring my sorrows into words, sentences and, if I have any skill left, a paragraph or two that makes some sense.

Let’s talk.

Let’s do.

On Monday, I’m calling my Congressional representatives, Sens. Durkin and (elect) Duckworth and Rep. Randy Hultgren, about the president elect’s choice of Steve Bannon as his close advisor. I’ll let you know how each (or staff) responds.

A Lesson from Isabel

Once upon a time companies provided pensions but they didn’t want to. So, the 401k was invented and, to get people to sign up, companies promised matching contributi­ons. After a time, many companies stopped making matching contributi­ons because they didn’t like to. (Details here and here.) Then Wall Street fraud bleed our 401ks in part by slipping toxic mortgage bonds into our portfolios­. Retirement portfolios have been battered by the mortgage crisis and subsequent resulting volatility in stock and bond markets.

In the meantime, Social Security didn’t skip a payment. That’s why it’s called a safety net. Do you really want to rely on Wall Street to be your safety net? Ask this question of your Representative or Senator. I’d ask this of my representative but, unfortunately, it’s Joe Walsh and, given his recent performance, I’m afraid his head would explode and by-standers would get hurt. Newt Gingrich’s head, at least egotistically, has already exploded in promoting the privatization of all retirement funds.

Where is all this coming from? David Koch ran as vice president in1980 on a plan to abolish Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and all forms of “welfare” and public education. The results of his failed campaign are being played out today.

Post-1980, Koch and his brother set about to redefine the narrative, the “script” as he called it that politicians follow. The Koches founded the Heritage Foundation, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and more, all organizations that set about to recast the narrative. While this sounds conspiratorial, it’s not. You can look up on ALEC’s web site how mush so-called model legislation, crafted by corporate lobby attorneys, they’ve pushed through state legislatures. The contentious Arizona immigration bill is one. Ohio Governor John Kasich’s anti-union legislation so roundly rejected by voters is another. This isn’t conspiracy: it is history and current events. ALEC Exposed discusses the forces behind ALEC model legislation.

My late grandmother, Isabel, told me why she was staunchly Republican. During the depression, she was offered a job, a great opportunity since she was disabled young by severe arthritis. But, one requisite was she would have to register Democrat. She wouldn’t and didn’t take the job: A stand of principle over self-interest and a stubbornness that defines our family heritage. She also told me that as much as she rejected Franklin D. Roosevelt, that Social Security was the best thing the government had accomplished. Social Security enabled my grandmother to live to 88 with a modicum of dignity. Details here, so we needn’t bandy about percentages of seniors living in poverty before and after enactment. Legitimate dispute may exist on the percentages but no dispute should exist that too many elderly lived shorter lives in poverty before Social Security.

Today’s GOP and its Koch-driven allies simply don’t want to pay towards the earned benefit that is Social Security, promoting some sort of Libertarian Nirvana where we all take care of ourselves. Would that we all had the wherewithal. I don’t like the look of a nation where a huge proportion of elderly live in poverty and I’m willing to live with fractional abuse of the system in order to retain a safety net.

“Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.” (That was President Eisenhower, writing to his brother Edgar in 1954.)

A single quote from Mike Lofgren’s article at TruthOut. Recommended reading from a long-time Republican congressional staffer on the state of politics today.