April 2011 Archives

From Sacramento Bee's Capital Alert: Steinberg considers cuts targeting GOP districts,
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg today said he is willing to consider calls to target GOP districts with steeper cuts if legislative Republicans will not vote for taxes or to put taxes on a statewide ballot as part of a budget solution. ... The Sacramento Democrat said he thinks a targeted-cuts scenario like the one state Treasurer Bill Lockyer laid out in an interview with the Bay Area News Group-East Bay's editorial board comes down to "basic fairness." "You don't want to pay for government, well then, you get less of it," he said.
This is an interesting approach. They say this is what their constituents demand, so let them get what they want!

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In case you wondered where your federal tax dollars go, Your 2010 Federal Taxpayer Receipt | The White House offers a breakdown.

National Defense 26.3% (Note that Veterans funding is broken out separately. I combine them in the chart.)
Health Care 24.3%
Job and Family Security 21.9%
Education and Job Training 4.8%
Veterans Benefits 4.1%
Natural Resources, Energy and Environment 2.1%
International Affairs 1.7%
Science, Space, and Technology Programs 1.2%
Immigration, Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice 2.0%
Agriculture 0.8%
Community, Area, and Regional Development 0.5%
Response to Natural Disasters 0.4%
Additional Government Programs 2.4%
Net Interest 7.4% (Note that they use net, which subtracts interest received, instead if how much we pay out on the Reagan/Bush debt, which is approx twice as much.)

Social Security is separate and self-funded.

If you want to know even more, the siteWhere%20taxes%20go.jpg

To fix the federal budget deficit:

1) Fix the hole in revenue by putting top tax rates back to where they were before Reagan.
2) Cut military spending. We spend more than all other countries combined.
3) Fix the health care cost problem. We spend much more per person than other countries. You know why.
4) Much of that big "Job and Family Security" slice goes away if you create jobs.

Will any conservative sites link to this at the White House website? Fat chance. Conservatives depend on people remaining ignorant of where tax dollars are actually spent.


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Are We "Broke"?

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The California Republican Party issued a statement today following President Obama's speech on deficit reduction, saying California and America are out of money.  The statement reads,

"President Obama and Jerry Brown are two of a kind. Rather than accept the economic reality that Americans do not have the money to bail out government anymore, they continue to push for higher taxes. Long before today, a President candidly told us that we didn't get into budgetary trouble because we taxed too little or spent too little. 

 "Rather than attempt to tax our way out of deficit, a economic policy that has never worked, the President should provide real budget reform that will have a meaningful impact on peoples lives, bring America back from the brink and restore confidence in our future."

In fact there is much more money in California and America today than in the past, except now it is largely going to a very few already-wealthy people.  In California there are people who could write a check to pay off our entire state deficit themselves.  There is even one Californian who could pay off the deficit and have $13 billion left over!  So when they say "Americans do not have the money," they mean something else.

We're all in this together. And that means we all have to pitch in to get us out of the mess that the tax-cutters put us in.  I'm not suggesting that we get it all from one person, but I am suggesting that it is time for the already-wealthy to start pitching in a bit more.

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peter laarman.jpg

Rev. Peter Laarman has been working with Speak Out California's sister organization, Renew California, to bring the progressive community together to form a more effective coalition of groups, organizations and individuals who believe that we have a responsibility to each other to make this a better California and world so our children will have a better world in which to live and thrive.

Competent journalist friends of mine have been doing good reporting lately on the unholy intersections between conservative religion and conservative political ideology within Tea Party and Republican circles. Whereas lazy corporate media types tried to convince us that the Tea Party marks a break with Religious Right dominance inside the GOP, it was always obvious to serious observers that an anti-tax gospel has been a major feature of Religious Right teaching for decades. And thus it was equally obvious that the smarmy Ralph Reeds of this world would surely find their place in any new Grand Coalition of anti-government activists.

As Jeff Sharlet has chronicled in two brilliant books, the single most powerful religious group in U.S. political life--the secretive conservative Christian group known as The Family--got its start by mobilizing powerful captains of industry to oppose the growth of unions and to resist pro-union legislation during the 1930s. It's not really hard to show how bad religion and a virulent anti-government ideology have functioned as soul mates, if you can pardon the expression, for a very long time.

An interesting test case arose in Alabama eight years ago when conservative Republican governor Bob Riley, a born-again Southern Baptist, tried very carefully to make a biblical case for changes to a notoriously regressive tax system in that state. Gov. Riley's changes would have benefited the lowest-wage paid workers in that state and would have made more affluent people pay a bit more. The so-called Christian Coalition rose up to crush Riley's initiative like a bug.

Likewise, we don't need to go far to find conservative religious leaders here in California who stand ready to rally the faithful against any move toward fairer and more progressive taxation. These leaders apparently believe that grotesque social inequality is part of "God's plan" and that reforming a seriously flawed tax code that contributes to growing inequality is somehow satanic.

I have been calling this "bad religion," but I should be more precise and call it what it really is: domesticated religion--religion that has become captive to peculiarly American ideas about the sanctity of private property and the unquestioned moral virtue of entrepreneurial culture. It is religion that forgets the essential point that we belong to each other--and that we truly are each other's keepers. Noted environmental writer and activist Bill McKibben sometimes refers to American Christianity as "Franklinity" on account of the huge numbers of U.S. Christians who believe that Franklin's "God helps those who help themselves" can be found in the Bible.

The good news is that the more toxic expressions of the anti-government gospel will be slowly losing their power. Younger white evangelical Christians are almost as likely as other young adults, for example, to see a positive role for government in lifting people out of dire poverty and in providing opportunities for all to thrive. Younger Catholics are rediscovering the noble social justice teachings of their faith. Conservative Christians in communities of color are consistently less hostile to government than their white counterparts--and their numbers are growing.

And there is more good news from the organizing front. Together with a number of interfaith partners, I have been working for the past year to create a "network of networks" called California Faith Action that will do two things. It will rally people of good will from all faith traditions to advocate much more powerfully for the needs of young Californians and of the most vulnerable Golden State residents. But California Faith Action will also bring communities of faith more directly into the arena of systemic or constitutional reform to ensure that an ideologically-committed political minority cannot continue to blight our state's future.

We have already discovered that one of the most powerful tools in our Faith Action toolkit will be simple basic information on issues like wealth distribution, comparative tax rates and tax trends over time, and how various voter-approved initiatives and ballot measures that were perfectly well-intentioned at the outset have turned out to have perverse results. As I tell faith audiences throughout the state, our issue in California is not really a Left-Right issue, but a Top-Bottom issue in which enormous corporate and private wealth has effectively "seceded" from the state--causing the rest of us to fight for crumbs.

This is language that people of faith can understand. Among the Abrahamic faith traditions, Judaism and Islam have always put support for the common good at the very center of ethical concern. They have always challenged the power and prerogatives of private wealth. My own faith tradition, I regret to say, is the one that became excessively domesticated on these shores: subordinated to the deeper-level American creed of acquisitive individualism, with more of John Locke than of Jesus Christ in the mix. But moderate-to-conservative American Christians cannot escape the reality that Jesus preached and practiced solidarity with the poor and warned against the perils of private accumulation at the expense of the commons; Jesus did not show contempt for the poor while deferring to the rich and powerful. Somewhere deep down all Christians, even the more conservative ones, also recognize that private charity is ultimately no substitute for public justice.

What we will be saying through California Faith Action is that government, like private persons, cannot serve two masters. It cannot serve Mammon and be worthy of our respect, let alone God's respect. It must serve the common good--and in so doing also serve the will and purpose of the Creator, who (according to the great Hebrew prophets) takes no delight at all in our ritual expressions of piety but is supremely delighted when human beings show solidarity for one another and thus honor the divinely-bestowed dignity of each child, woman, and man.

Rev. Peter Laarman is Executive Director of Progressive Christians Uniting in Los Angeles. He leads an interfaith team developing a new statewide network called California Faith Action.


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Hannah-Beth Jackson has a radio show, Speak Out with Hannah-Beth, on the air Saturday mornings at 9 on News Talk KTMS 990 AM in Santa Barbara. She has been interviewing some great guests.

You can listen The list of podcasts is here, and includes:

... and many others.

You don't need a special podcast player to listen, just click the links when you get to the page you want.


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This page is an archive of entries from April 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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