Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Obama's SOTU: Defiant and Generally Good (A Few Quibbles)

Barack Obama's State of the Union speech last night was generally solid, especially with its emphasis on "middle class economics" and his proposals to halt the nation's increasing economic inequality. While many of the proposals will never see the light of day in terms of passing legislation, they are pretty much within a common sense standard of what any decent, sane nation would do -unless of course it isn't sane or decent. Those include:

-   Increasing the capital gains rate on couples making more than $500,000 annually, to 28 percent.

- Allowing all workers to have at least 7 sick days per year as all other advanced nations do

-  Increasing the minimum wage to at least living wage standards.

-  Require estates of the wealthy to pay capital gains taxes on securities at the time they're inherited

These are all eminently sensible and shouldn't require elaborate defense or justification. For example -as the Financial Times noted yesterday (p. 3):

"Americans pay a top rate of 23.8 percent on their investment income, significantly lower than the top rate of tax from employment which stands at 39.6 percent.

The gap in how different kinds of income are taxed overwhelmingly benefits the wealthiest households which are much more likely to hold investments over time."

Of course, the FT is spot on. Investment income, or "rentier income", should always be taxed a lot higher than working income since it fuels economic and income inequality. Why should some rich guy with $50 million to spare, be able to laugh his taxes off because he has his money stashed in equities, hedge funds or derivatives? It make no sense. Thus, a small increase is 28 percent is no big sacrifice to ask. But don't worry, the Reepos will believe it is as they instead go on their austerity and deficit cutting binge - despite the fact as Obama has noted, the deficit has been cut by two-thirds.

But what's reality to a party that doesn't even believe global warming is a scientific fact - as much as anything can be- and still has problems accepting evolution?

The sick days proposal is really a no-brainer and ought to have been enacted over twenty years ago. It's a bloody disgrace that all other advanced industrial nations have this provision, but Americans don't. But then, I guess the Reepos have no problem with 5 million citizens getting sick each year from food poisoning because food handlers at restaurants are ill (say with norovirus) and ought not have been at work, period.

Minimum wage increase is also an obvious need, but the Reepo maggots would clearly rather underpaid workers have to go on food stamps to survive. (Even as I write this they are prepared to cut another one million from food benefits, sending 500,000 kids into the condition of food insecurity.)

Lastly, forcing wealthy estates to pay capital gains on inherited securities is also a rational move, given how most wealth in this country is derived from daddy's riches - not work. That inherited capital then massively contributes to economic inequality as economist Thomas Piketty has shown.

Another high point was when the president vowed to use his veto pen to strike down the Republican leadership's efforts to dismantle his signature accomplishments, including his health care and financial reform laws, i.e. "unraveling the new rules on Wall Street "  (Alas, as I told wifey, that hog already escaped the farm - what with the passage of the spending bill back in December, with the rider doing away with swaps regulations.)

Obama said, defiantly - in regard to protecting Obamacare:

"We can't put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance"

Which is good to hear because the Affordable Care Act is the only route most people (especially with pre-existing conditions) have to get health care.

Other high points:

- Vowing to fight climate change, also noting noting 2014 was the hottest year on record (see my January 17 post)

- Vowing to veto any other laws that weaken financial regulations.

Regarding the first, the big test will be the Keystone XL pipeline, which bill is likely to come to Obama's desk in the next few weeks. If it does, it is essential he veto it, given that tar sands oil would be a catastrophe for the planet.

Not so great segments:

- Calling out Vladimir Putin and Russia in relation to the Ukraine, when it was in fact NATO and the neocons still in State Dept. positions, like Victoria Nuland, who instigated it. See e.g.


- Asking for a new authorization for military action against the Islamic State terror group in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)

As much as I'd like to expunge the ISIS vermin and rabble from the face of the Earth, I am not sure a new military "authorization" is what we need to do it. It sounds ominously  like the authorization,  post 9/11,  that literally sucked trillions from our Treasury via the two useless engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Then too, let's bear in mind the primary goal of ISIS is to trap the U.S. and allies into a new round of military spending and incursion in the Middle East, to fan the flames of Muslim hate and gain new recruits.  See also:

 -  Boasting of U.S. energy independence.

While this sounded great on its face, let's bear in mind it didn't come so much from alternative energy sources (though Obama did mention wind energy developments) but from fracking - which is ruining water systems, and polluting soil and air across the nation. See my previous posts:

Funniest moment? As Obama neared the end of his speech, he declared, "I have no more campaigns to run."

When the goofball Republicans erupted in laughter, Obama retorted, "I know, because I won both of them."

Good on you, Barack,  for reminding the Reepo losers of your prior electoral conquests!

Now, be sure to keep that veto pen well -filled and ready to snuff out the oncoming Reepo bunkum!

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