Legitimate Rape – War on Women, the GOP Anti-Abortion Platform – Don’t Dicktate to Me


Unable to sleep last night, I was attempting to sort out my feelings about the “legitimate rape” comment that ignited a media storm the last two days.

I found myself pondering several things. One, what is the Republican Party so upset about exactly?

  • Is it wrong to commit legitimate rape since it seems to be a form of birth control? (which they are adamantly, vehemently  against?)

The comment reflects magical misogynistic thinking at work again.

The War on Women roots takes us back to the Inquisition’s (Church)* witch hunting. The prevailing thought then was how to determine if a woman was a witch or not. If found guilty during her trial, she was condemned to die by fire or drowning. If she wasn’t guilty her body wouldn’t burn in the fire. If it was death by drowning, if she floated, she was declared a witch, if she sank, and drowned, she was declared innocent.

In 2012, the litmus test is: if a woman becomes pregnant during a violent brutal attack when a man forces himself into her body, raping her body and her spirit, it is not a legitimate rape.

The Republican Party is certainly saying its mea culpa’s about Akins comment – “indefensible”, “insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong.”   Oh, they aren’t talking about their Human Life Amendment they are busy polishing for unveiling next week, just Todd Akin’s poor choice of words. John Cornyn, head of the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, told Akin that he was endangering the GOP’s hopes of getting a Senate majority by staying in the race, the official said (who wishes to remain anonymous).

What I find deeply disturbing is their concern is not about a women’s right to decide what to do after being raped. Their concern is the “good of the party”, and making sure that they can seize control of the Senate in our upcoming election.  With the Republican convention coming up, they are once again getting ready to proclaim their official party ideology with a “human life amendment” to the Constitution that would outlaw abortion without making explicit exemptions for rape or incest, according to the draft language of the platform obtained exclusively by CNN late Monday.

Therein lies my question I asked earlier:

Is it wrong to commit legitimate rape since it seems to be a form of birth control?

The “Right To life” amendment they propose legitimately rapes women by their legislation that dicktates (yes, that is a deliberate choice for all my human spell check readers, I’d still like it if you write me and tell me what you think though) what a woman can or cannot do with her body. Their hypocrisy knows no bounds: there is no concern for the sanctity of life, and on a more pragmatic level, its more government regulation from a group that says they are for less.

And meanwhile, WTF?  If the NRA can galvanize its 4.3 million members to be vocal and active about their gun rights, where in the heck are the majority of Americans that believe it is a woman’s right to choose what she does with her body. Why can’t 100 million of us gather together to fight for what the 1st Amendment  really stands for?

The answer is simply too simple.

The truth is for those of us who love and believe in the sanctity of all life, we simply could practice what we preach consistent with our moral values. We choose what is right for us, what our own  values and conscience dictates.

But that will only happen when people really believe and honor that our constitution states there is a separation of church and state and guarantees  each person’s right to decide. That’s called pro-choice and pro-life.

I am pro-life and pro-choice, don’t dicktate to my body.

*A little history:

“What is the difference whether it is in a wife or a mother,

it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any woman…

I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function
of bearing children.”

– Saint Augustine (the prominent pioneer of Western theology)

“St. Augustine the Blessed” is the patron saint of brewers, printers, and theologians, generally considered as one of the greatest Christian thinkers of all times. His writings were very influential in the development of Western Christianity. He believed that the grace of Christ was indispensable to human freedom, and he framed the concepts of original sin and just war.  He is also considered a saint.

Wow.

(Thanks to my editor, Jeanell S.)

All contents Copyright Karla Rove 2012

©2012  Karla Rove

 

Posted in War On Women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Romney-Ryan Ticket Steps Up Class Warfare, Part II


Class Warfare on steroids, let the games begin!

This duo takes class warfare to a frightening new level. Romney could not have picked a better running mate than Paul Ryan to demonstrate how out of touch the GOP is with the majority of America, the 99 percent as we are sometimes called.

 We already know how wronged Romney feels. People are “envious” of him. “You know, I think it’s about envy. I think it’s about class warfare”. Looking for sympathy saying “I’m unemployed too” while talking to the unemployed folks in Florida (he didn’t mention he also earned $42,000,000 in 2009 and 2010). See “Mitt Romney Demonstrates Class Warfare on the Working Class”.

Researching Paul Ryan’s history is giving me an oxymoron induced headache.

Oxymoron: an adjective-noun combination of two words, the most popular in a Google search: jumbo shrimp, business ethics, living dead, passive aggressive. 

Called a” budget deficit hawk”, while voting like money grows on trees, Ryan’s voice continues to be the loudest on capital hill arguing that we are speeding with no breaks toward the cliff edge   because we can’t stop our borrowing and rein in our spending. Good for him, we need our elected officials’ to be concerned about the out of control, insane debt the House of Congress keeps piling  on. We need them to pass a true balanced budget. A balanced budget has two sides – revenue and expenses. It just occurred to me – I do not think Mr. Ryan knows this.

If he doesn’t like debt why does he keep voting for it? Why does he continue to vote for revenue cuts (tax cuts)? Paul Ryan’s record in Congress is consistently incongruent. Hence, my headache:

  • Voted YES on TARP  $700 Billion for the Bank Bail Out – Wealthfare giveaway to banks and wealthy individuals (the Federal Reserve also gave out $13 Billion in undisclosed loans as part of this plan)
  • Voted YES on authorizing military force in Iraq. (Oct 2002)
  • Voted YES on emergency $78 Billion for war in Iraq & Afghanistan. (Apr 2003)
  • Voted YES on declaring Iraq part of War on Terror with no exit date. (Jun 2006)
  • Voted NO on redeploying US troops out of Iraq starting in 90 days. (May 2007)
  • Voted YES on $15 Billion bailout for GM and Chrysler. (Dec 2008)
  • Voted YES  Bush’s Medicare Part D in 2003, a costly government program that benefited Health Insurance Companies and increased costs for Medicare recipients
  • Voted YES for Bush Tax Cuts, and for continuing them

Any one else have a headache now?  It gets worse, because his solution is more of the same. 

Ryan’s “The Path to Prosperity Budget” makes it very clear who his path to prosperity plan benefits: Corporations, Defense Manufacturers, Billionaires, and mere Millionaires.  Even Newt Gingrich, gasp, called it “right-wing social engineering” (he backtracked on that comment). True to form, Ryan is still not advocating for a balanced budget – revenues (taxes) and spending to be equal.

Some highlights from his “Path to Prosperity Budget”, another oxymoron. From my article “GOP and their Gospel of Greed”:

  • $3 Trillion cut from social safety net programs, according to The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. 62 percent of budget cuts proposed by Ryan are from low-income programs. Another oxymoron –these programs are strained because of Paul Ryan’s votes to cut taxes (revenue) and increase expenses (war, TARP, Medicare Part D etc)
  • $4.6 Trillion in tax cuts for the very wealthy. His budget calls for the elimination of Capital Gains tax (revenue). Example – Romney’s income of 2010 would be taxed at.082 percent, less than 1 percent, rather than the 14.9 percent rate he is currently legally obligated to pay (and proud of it).   
  • Transforming Medicare into a voucher system. The Congressional Budget Office determined that, by 2022, the typical 65-year-old be responsible for two-thirds of his or her medical costs. Vouchers will not guarantee access to a set of predetermined benefits. And if costs rise faster than the value of the vouchers,  seniors would have to make up the difference out of their pockets.  Ouch.

I just did a fact check for costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars (all of which Ryan voted for). If there is no such thing as a free lunch, which Ryan wants to cut from social safety net programs, can there continue to be a free war?  During Bush’s tenure, the cost was already $3 TRILLION, $12-16 BILLION DOLLARS a month.  Stars and Stripes in August, 2011 reports as of May 2011, the costs are $9.7 Billion a month, and the total cost could be upwards of $5 TRILLION. On the other hand, Social Security currently has revenue (taxes) to cover the costs associated with the program. War does not (expense).

Another Blog will have to deal with the specifics of a Zero capital gains tax. We already know lower taxes doesn’t create jobs.  That mythical theory has proved to be false. The Bush tax cuts went into effect in 2001 and 2003, and no jobs were created. None were created when the Bush tax cuts were extended in 2010. Capital gains are made from the sale of an asset, like real estate or stock. All it does is create a profit for the seller. It does not create jobs.

The other aspect to be explored in more detail, which neither party is talking about, is our demographics.  The largest population in our history, called Baby Boomers, are winding down their earning and their spending. Tax revenues are down because of this, and as a consumer driven economy, consumer spending is down and will continue to be affected by this simple fact.

But all of this is a moot point. Until money is out of politics we will have more of the same. That’s why Paul Ryan says one thing and does another. He may be a member of Congress, but he’s really just a hired gun for a number of corporations.  He votes the way they want him to.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

BILLIONAIRES – The Elite Special Interest Group


Is the United States an Oligarchy, Plutocracy, Anarchy or Greed-ocracy?

 We sure as heck aren’t a Democracy anymore.

In the beginning…..we were a Democracy.

In 1787 our constitution was designed to be a balanced system of law. To ensure that no person or group would amass too much power, the founders established a government in which the powers to create, implement, and adjudicate laws were separated. Each branch of government is balanced by powers in the other two coequal branches (someone  please tell John Boehner this, I am tired of hearing him say there is nothing he can do):

  •  The President can veto the laws of the Congress;
  • The Congress confirms or rejects the President’s appointments and can remove the President from office in exceptional circumstances;
  • The justices of the Supreme Court, who can overturn unconstitutional laws, are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

Even though those three branches are still in place, we no longer have a balanced system of law. We have the best government money can buy: 435 members of the house, 100 in the senate,  and over 261,000 lobbyists that special interest groups employ. And a Supreme Court that clearly believes in putting their political convictions into the laws of the land.

 The Supreme Court Ruling  Citizens United  in 2010 opened the floodgates of money into the political process like never before.  With people like Sheldon Adleson saying his donations will be ‘limitless’, up to $100 million. A reality check – the $10 million contribution he just made to Romney’s campaign is equivalent to $40 for an American family with a net worth of $100,000. That’s really nothing for a man whose net worth is roughly $25 Billion. He could easily spend another $900 million without too much pain. He says“I’m against very wealthy people attempting to or influencing elections,” he shrugs. “But as long as it’s doable I’m going to do it”. One of the 14 richest people in the world, and 7th richest in the United States, he probably is used to buying whatever he wants, and a presidential election isn’t off limits.

In an interview with Forbes magazine  he goes on to say he wants to take the president out for economic reasons. “What scares me is the continuation of the socialist-style economy we’ve been experiencing for almost four years. That scares me because the redistribution of wealth is the path to more socialism, and to more of the government controlling people’s lives. What scares me is the lack of accountability that people would prefer to experience,  just let the government take care of everything and I’ll go fish or I won’t work, etc.” (Forbes says “the man whose net worth, by Forbes’ calculations, has jumped more ($21.6 billion) during the Obama administration than any other American — Mark Zuckerberg included”).

WOW. “Socialist-style economy.” Really?!?  I don’t think he could have accumulated so much wealth in 4 years if that was true.  I love his very simplistic statement about “let the government take care of everything and I’ll go fish or I won’t work, etc”.  But I have no personal integrity about buying the presidential election because hey, what the heck, “it’s doable”.  I‘ve worked hard, I made my money and I can buy what I want! Absolutely, but the Presidency? With Citizens United, anything is possible. It just takes money.

The problem is he isn’t the only Billionaire who has money to burn and sadly out of touch with reality. But when you’ve made over $21 Billion in the last four years while the entire global economy has been ruined, I would say you are clearly out of touch with what is really going on in the United States.

According to the Washington Post, “Romney has drawn the most support from billionaires, with at least 42 donating to his campaign”. Donations to Super PACs are not limited so billionaires can donate as much as they want. Stephen Colbert says “Super PACs haven’t led to billionaires secretly buying democracy; they’ve led to billionaires publicly buying it, the more money you have the more you can speak”. Early this year Stephen Colbert gave a factual and funny lesson on how Super PACs can be easily manipulated.

The Senate Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights held a hearing Tuesday on “Taking Back Our Democracy: Responding to Citizens United and the Rise of Super PACs”. Sen. Bernie Sanders’  has proposed  the “Saving American Democracy Amendment” to over turn the Supreme Court decision in a case called Citizens United vs. FEC. (mentioned above). Sen. Sanders writes in an article titled “The Road to Oligarchy” and his testimony to the Senate includes the following:

“The Koch Brothers – David, Charles and William – are worth a combined $103 Billion according to Forbes 400. They have pledged to spend about $400 Million during the 2012 election season. So far this year 26 billionaires have donated more than $61 million to Super PACs, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. And, that’s only what has been publicly disclosed. Billionaires buying the 2012 elections have a combined $195 Billion in wealth, more than the bottom forty-three percent of American households –that’s 50 Million families.”

And from Paul Farrell from Market watch “Billionaires love anarchy of this election cycle” “But if you are a billionaire and really want to change America … and you believe more-is-never-enough … and you want to make a lot more money in your business sector (like energy for the Koch Brothers), the best way is to bet on the one presidential candidate who’s going to return the favor, with good stuff like favorable regulations, subsidies and tax benefits.” 

I would insert the word “buy” for bet in the sentence above.

So whats a poor non-billionaire to do?

Call, write, fax, email your elected officials to say support a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. Sign petitions, get active, vote. Do something.  Share this with your friends. Take action. Now.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Half Truth is a Whole Lie” – Or is it Propaganda?


From Dictionary.com:”prop·a·gan·da

   /ˌprɒpəˈgændə/ Show Spelled[prop-uhgan-duh]Show IPA, noun

 1. Information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.

 2. The deliberate spreading of such information, rumors, etc.

 3. The particular doctrines or principles propagated by an organization or movement.”

Today I received an email subject -“Home Sales Tax 2012 to fund Obamacare“. 

This came from someone I know who is smart, successful, and well-educated. He tells good jokes and has great stock tips too! So, I opened his email and read it.  When I told him the email was not accurate, but a deliberate mis-representation of what is actually in the bill,  he was quite surprised. He said it came from a friend of his who is a college professor. 

 A google search “Are home sales going to be taxed for Obamacare?” produced this result: Search  About 7,700,000 results(0.16 seconds). Clearly quite a bit of mis-representation out there!

Forbes Magazine says:

“There Is No Obamacare Tax On Most Home Sales. Really.”

“It is the unfounded rumor that never dies: You will have to pay a 3.8 percent federal health care tax on the sale of your house.” Click link to read article.

Here is the headline from the link my friend sent:

ObamaCare Flatlines: ObamaCare Taxes Home Sales – Clobbers Middle-Class Americans

This site is WWW.Gop.Org,  the official website of Republicans in our house, the citizens of the United States, of Congress. Meaning we, the taxpayers pay for incorrect information. I am including it for your review.

If you were taught, and value, critical thinking skills, is this an example of propaganda? Let me know what you think. I include it to show how the “information” presented is a half-truth.

Here is the Readers Digest Version of Just the Facts, please:

  • First, there is No “sales tax on home sales in the health care bill.
  • Second, there is no “hidden” tax in the law -that is an out right lie, it’s all clearly spelled out.
  • The law goes into effect in 2013. The capital gain on the home sale must exceed $500,000 if this is a primary home and you are a married couple ($250,000 for singles). Even if you and your spouse make $300,000 in wages and you bought a home that you lived in for a while for $600,000 and you now sell it for $1 million, your capital gains tax on that home sale would be zero.  If the home sold for $1.2 million,  resulting in a capital gain of $600,000, only $100,000 of that capital gain would be subject to the new tax ($500,000 exclusion).
  • For those who earn above those income thresholds ($250,000/$200,000) and who have a capital gain on a home that is a second home or one that does not qualify for principal residence (i.e., lived in for too short of a time period), the full capital gain would be subject to the new 3.8 percent tax.

 From FactCheck.Org: the sort of people who would have to pay the tax might include: 

  • A single executive making $210,000 a year who sells his $300,000 ski condo for a $50,000 profit. His tax on the sale of that vacation home would amount to $1,900, in addition to the capital gains tax he would have paid anyway.
  • An “empty nester” couple with combined income of over $250,000 a year who sell their $1 million primary residence to move to smaller quarters. If they cleared $600,000 on the sale, they would be taxed on $100,000 of the profit (the amount over the half-million-dollar exclusion). Their health care tax on the sale would amount to $3,800 over and above the usual capital gains levy. However, a typical home sale would not incur any tax. In March, for example, half of all existing homes sold for $170,700 or less, according to the National Association of Realtors.  Clearly no profit over $250,000 on a $170,700 sale, so none would be subject to the tax. The Internal Revenue Service says that to qualify for the $250,000/$500,000 exclusion, a seller must have owned the home and lived there as the seller’s “main home” for at least two years out of the five years prior to the sale.

The National Association of Realtors has an  11 page document clearly outlining several tax resulting scenarios. Read it if you want facts and useful information.

FYI – a link to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), HR 4872, (all 2310 pages) if you want to read it. Let me know if there is anything in there about a tax on all home sales.  Some of our elected officals (see the www.gop.org site) think it says so. But, maybe they didn’t read it.

And finally, please check your facts when an email comes around! The only way things are going to change in this country is when we are educated about the issues and get active.  Use your valuable critical thinking skills, don’t jump to conclusions. Democracy works when you work it.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

The Guardians of Privilege (GOP) and the Gospel of Greed


Stephen Colbert’s statement  sums up the Gospel according to the GOP.  The  Guardians of Privilege have created their own version of Christianity. Their modern version of the Bible, King Greed has replaced King James. In their gospel, it’s the word according to Mitt, Michelle, Rick, Herman, Paul, and Newt. And actions speak louder than words.

All the Republican  candidates are profoundly and proudly Christian. Mitt looks to be the republican nominee unless another candidate is raised from the dead, or can raise/spend more money touting their particular brand of greed. The tenets of the gospel consist of variations of “I’ve got mine and I need more; the poor are lazy, give them a safety net, not a hammock, give me tax breaks; corporations need more tax breaks; give the rich more and more and more, and we  finally will create jobs”. Perhaps this new gospel has grown out of the “Prosperity Gospel”, a stitched together, homegrown theology planted by the seeds of Oral Roberts preaching back in the 1980’s. But with the great wealth amassed during the last 20 years comes an even better theology – forget prayer – change the laws. The Gospel of Greed know no limits, now that money is $peech, and our elected officials bought and paid for are the prostitutes making the big bucks. With tax rates still at historic low  rates and many corporations having record profits during the economic downturn,  we are still waiting for those job creators to make us some jobs.  The tax cuts went into effect in 2004. Not many have been created since 2008.  The trickle down effect? How about tinkled on?

Every disciple promised with sincere zeal to cut taxes, for the plutocracy, i.e. the wealthy and very wealthy, and corporations. And to cut social net safety programs for those of us not wealthy enough to buy our own representation. Romney admitted in the debates in January of this year the tax plan St. Newt was advocating for the very wealthy, that he, St. Mitt, would pay no taxes. St. Mitt in all earnestness claimed that he is also “unemployed” while campaigning in Florida earlier this year. It was saintly of him not to tell the same crowd he had earned over $42 million in the last two years while unemployed. I am sure he didn’t want them to feel sorry for him.

St. Mitt has some very strong ideas about entitlements.

Now, to be clear, St. Mitt is not against entitlements, just those for the people who live in poverty, the poor and the middle class. He advocates lower tax rates for the very wealthy,  the carried interest law for earned income (well, his anyway) and his best friends –  “Corporations  (are people, my friend)”.  The fact that they make Millions and Billions of profit every year,  in some cases like Google, pay only 3 or 4 percent in corporate taxes, clearly demonstrates they have achieved saint hood as well. St. Mitt also said “I’m not concerned about the very poor”. I think we should take him at his word, since his religious zealotry preaches more budget cuts to public safety nets than St. Paul.  The Gospel of Greed has several outspoken disciples who feel very strongly about giving aid to the poor:

  • Minnesota Rep.Mary Franson compared Minnesota food stamp recipients who use the government assistance program to wild animals. St. Mary says in her video:  “Isn’t it ironic that the food stamp program, part of the Department of Agriculture is pleased to be distributing the greatest amount of food stamps ever,” Franson said. “Meanwhile, the Park Service, also part of the Department of Agriculture, asks us to please not feed the animals, because the animals may grow dependent and not learn to take care of themselves.” Click here for details.
  •  In 2010, while Lt. Gov .of South Carolina Andre Bauer said giving food to needy people means encouraging dependence and compared poor people to stray animals. He asked the question “Why shouldn’t you have to do something?” of people receiving food stamps and public housing. “In government we are too often giving a handout instead of a hand up.” No comments about the handouts to the wealthy or big corporations? I bet it’s because he gets healthy handouts from them. Currently he’s running for the 7th congressional district, as a disciple of the GOP.

And St. George W? Such a humble man, he does not want to be known as the person who gave the tax cuts to the very wealthy. He said in April he wishes the “Bush tax cuts” had someone else’s name attached to them because “if they were called somebody else’s tax cuts, they’d probably be less likely to be raised.” And he is  proselytizing the same mythical, mystical belief as all the other saints, “If you raise taxes on the so-called rich,” he said, “you’re really raising taxes on the job creators.” All the GOP saints have been saying this for the last several years now, but they are asking us to suspend reality and believe that it could still happen.  This tax cut – $1.35 Trillion; one of the largest in U.S. history has yet to produce any jobs.

The leader of the Guardians of Privilege in the House multi millionaire St. Paul Ryan, has a different opinion about how to represent “we the people”.  St. Paul says “a person’s faith is central to how they conduct themselves in person and in private.” A courageous crusader for the poor über Rich, his budget promises to put another $3 Trillion in their pocket books.  He is very clear we do not have the money to pay for social programs like Medicaid, wants Medicare privatized, and major cuts in Social Security benefits. He is preaching punishing cuts  (over $3 Trillion) to social programs, while being one of 261 Representatives or forty-nine percent of Congress  who are millionaires, compared to one percent of Americans. His budget,  whose stated particulars include $4.6 trillion in tax cuts weighted strongly to the affluent preaches corporate wealthfare benefits in extreme form, according to Thom Hartmann.

I think St. Paul’s quote on a person’s faith sums it up.  I just don’t know what faith he is talking about – the Christian faith or faith in the Almighty Dollar.  It’s one thing to say I am a Christian, it’s another to be Christ like.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Hold Health Insurers Accountable and those Three Elephants in the Room


Congratulations to Consumer Watch Dog and their Justify Rates campaign! If you are one of the 800,000 California voters who signed the petition, thanks for lending your support to get “The Insurance Rate Public Justification and Accountability Act” on the ballot for the November election. Our own state legislature has refused to take action on this issue for ten years (well, what can we expect, health insurance companies are among California’s biggest-spending corporate lobbyists).

This initiative will subject health insurance rates to the same transparency and accountability that already apply to auto insurance and home insurance rates in California. “Twenty-four years ago, ignored by a legislature beholden to insurance lobbyists, California voters took matters into their own hands and passed Proposition 103  to require auto, home and business insurers to open their books to public scrutiny and justify their rates before they took effect,” said  Harvey Rosenfield, founder and Chairman of Consumer Watchdog Campaign. Prop. 103’s rate regulation has saved drivers in California $62 billion on their auto insurance bills since it’s passage.

 In the last decade health insurance premiums in California have gone up one hundred fifty-three percent.  During that time inflation rose just twenty- nine percent, according to the California HealthCare Foundation.  A one hundred twenty- four per cent difference that isn’t inflation:    

 Source: California Healthcare Foundation

 Did you know that health insurance companies are exempt from anti-trust laws? Under a 1945  law, The McCarran-Ferguson Act,  health insurance companies are regulated by state governments to prevent collusion, price-fixing and other anti-competitive behavior. Much has changed since 1945, mostly lots of money to buy laws to help the once not-for-profit insurance companies now avidly for profit. Also, insurance companies have consolidated and now cross state lines. Currently 35 states have the power to reject  unjustified health insurance rate increases, but California does not.

“Only four insurance companies control 71% of the California market, and they set premiums in secret, behind closed doors. “(Consumer Watchdog)

These four insurance companies –  Anthem Blue Cross, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., Health Net, Inc., and Blue Shield of California control seventy-one percent of the market. With market consolidation,  consumers have fewer choices than we did ten years ago.

These same insurance companies attacked Consumer Watchdog as “a special interest group”. Their press release acknowledges in the fine print “Paid for by Anthem Blue Cross, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., Health Net, Inc., and Blue Shield of California.” Our premium dollars put to good use. Maybe they are just considered donations.

Health care generated $35.7 million in lobbyist  spending in 2011, more than any other industry in California, Kaiser was the largest spender at $3.5 million. Get ready for the Big  Media Blitz before the initiative is voted on in November.

Three elephants in the room have to be addressed. One –  health insurance companies say health costs are soaring. Inflation is rampant. But Ben Bernanke, the head of the U.S. Fed, says we don’t have any inflation (well, we can’t actually believe what he says). As stated earlier inflation accounts for only twenty-nine percent of the rate hikes in the last ten years. WellPoint and others claim premium increases are necessary given the rise in health care costs.  While rising health care costs are a known problem with our broken health care system, some of the premium increases requested by insurance companies are 5 to 10 times larger than the growth rate in national health spending. Last year health insurance companies reported record profits for the third year in a row. Through the recession and its aftermath from 2008 to 2010, combined profits for UnitedHealth Group Inc., WellPoint Inc., Aetna Inc., Cigna Corp. and Humana Inc. increased a breathtaking fifty-one percent. Last year alone, the five companies’ combined profits grew seventeen percent, excluding a one-time $2.2 billion gain from the 2009 sale of a WellPoint subsidiary.

Elephant number Two – the illusion of a free market economy.  In a country founded on the principles of capitalism and free market where are they? Where is the competition?  Where are all the choices? Only in a public relations mis-information campaign does that reality exist.

Elephant number three – what to do with those breathtaking profits? Make the health system run more efficiently? Reduce premiums? – No, they “repurchase” or buy back shares of their stock.

Corporate profits are necessary to fund investments to generate higher quality, lower cost goods and services. But that is not how the largest corporate health insurers have been using their profits over the past decade. Instead, virtually all of their profits have been spent on buying  back their own stock for the sole purpose of jacking up their stock prices. Keep in mind that the money to fund these buy backs comes from our premium payments.

When a company buys back shares of their own stock, those shares are “retired,” meaning fewer shares  are outstanding. Reducing the number of shares available for purchase changes the mathematical equation used to determine the Earnings Per Share (EPS). With fewer outstanding shares the reduction gives the EPS a boost. The more shares you buy back, the bigger the boost and  -“Abracadabra, Poof! Instant profit boost, and richer executives. When CIGNA announced that its adjusted income from operations for the first quarter of 2011 was $1.37 per share compared to $1.01 per share during the same quarter in 2010, the company’s stock price hit a 52-week high. The EPS was way more than investors had expected. However, you had to read all the way to the bottom of page two of CIGNA’s earnings release to learn that one of the ways the company was able to achieve such an impressive increase in the EPS was by buying back a whole lot of the company’s share”.

These buybacks benefit the top executives at  insurance companies since their salary packages contain stock options.  And dividend payments from stock ownership, taxable at fifteen percent. Health insurance executives have the advantage of being some of the highest paid corporate executives in the United States.

The advocacy group Health Care for America Now (HCAN) discovered while compiling data of health insurers’ earnings that between 2003 and 2010, the five largest for-profit insurance firms spent $64.1 billion on share buybacks.

For the staggering details, click on this link: Insurance Executives: A Big Part of Our Health Care Problem

 Vote in November, if we take action, our country will be a better place. Lets not allow them to use our premiums against us. Democracy is not a spectator sport, it only works if we vote. “It works if You work it!”

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mitt Romney Demonstrates the Class Warfare on the Working Class


Recently on the Matt Lauer Show, Mitt said people talk about inequality because “they’re envious”:

“You know, I think it’s about envy. I think it’s about class warfare”. What kind of class warfare are we waging on the poor (rich) man? He has been benefiting from the largess of the American people through our elected officials.

Mitt Romney released his tax returns a few days ago. All 550 pages! Now we know why he was reluctant to do so earlier. The good news is, he makes a very handsome chunk of change for some who tells us he feels our pain, “I should tell my story,” Mr. Romney said. “I’m also unemployed.” If I had made $42,000,000 in the past two years, I am not sure I would be concerned with being unemployed, especially while conversing with the unemployed folks in Florida. The bad news for Mitt – he just made himself the “Poster Child” for the .001 percent who want to reduce the capital gains rate even lower. His 13.9 percent tax rate shows how unfair our tax laws are to the working class. This is where lobbying money is well spent for the Plutocracy. If Mitt wasn’t running for President we would not have the good fortune to see inside the advantages of the Investor Class.  And when you have a government made up of rich people and people whose financial lives are defined by what they own, you have a government that reflects the interests and beliefs of the ownership class (Plutocracy).

I am all for people being able to earn money, have enough to live on and save for investments. The problem for the extreme majority, it’s been challenging to earn a living wage these last 30 years. Our wages have actually gone down, not up. Our dollar buys less because of the way inflation is calculated. The debt of our nation,  40 cents on every dollar spent, makes our money worth less. After being adjusted for real inflation, average hourly earnings have not increased in 50 years.

I wrote a few days ago about the tax plans of the Republican candidates. Mitt’s example is a great opportunity to explain what is going on and why lowering capital gains taxes is NOT a good idea.   Mitt and his wife Ann earn most of their income from investment profits, dividends and interest, unlike most working class Americans who go to work every day.  Their effective tax rate was 13.9 percent in 2010.  They expect to pay a 15.4 percent effective tax rate when they file their returns for 2011.

$13 million of Romney’s income over the past two years came from “carried interest,” a form of earnings that is available to private equity partners and taxed at the 15-percent investment income tax rate, not the higher wage income rate.   If his wage income was taxed like ours, in his wheeling and dealing of deals, in my mind that’s working, therefore wage income. But he gets to use the carried interest rule, we don’t.  This is one vehicle that has helped the .001 percent get richer FASTER. Carried interest was structured as a form of compensation to be an incentive to the manager to maximize performance of the investment fund. In a hedge fund environment, carried interest is usually referred to as a “performance fee”.

The “carried interest” provision of the U.S.tax code has repeatedly been targeted for elimination by Democrats who say it is unfair, even though it was passed 3 times by a Democratic House of Representatives since 2007, while the private equity industry defends it.  The rates he paid legally are far below the 35 percent income tax rate on wages, because the U.S. tax code in recent years has favored investment income over wage income (Who do our elected officials work for?).

A few facts:

  • Romney states his income from “carried interest” was already taxed in the corporation. NOT true, he is the corporation. The money was not taxed until he took it out. Some could argue this is wage earnings, but clearly there are ways to say otherwise. The tax treatment of carried interest under current law allows managers of hedge funds, private-equity funds, venture-capital funds and others to pay a lower 15% maximum income tax rate applied to investment income as capital gains, rather than higher income tax rates for ordinary income which exceed 35%. This is a huge difference.
  • In 2003, dividends paid by most corporations became taxable as long-term capital gains. The 15% and 5% capital gains rate applies to qualified dividends. Long-term capital gains were taxed at 28 percent until 1997, and at 20 percent until 2003, when rates were cut to 15 percent. The top rate on dividends was cut to 15 percent from 35 percent that year. This change in tax rates for capital gains and dividends is another of the tools that has fueled the fast growth for the wealthy.  That’s another 15 percent return on their money every year. How many of you have made that much on an investment recently, or received a 15 percent salary increase every year since 2003? Once this law changed, corporations changed how they compensated employees and executives. Salaries were paid in dividends, taxable at 15 percent. Or they were given stock options. Salaries for Corporate executives  exploded – 300 percent since 1990, while workers wages have gone down.

I wrote the other day why it’s so important to pay attention to the tax plans these guys are touting. Mitt Romney said, by way of criticizing Newt Gingrich’s tax plan, that he, Romney, wouldn’t pay any taxes under it! Under Newt’s plan, there would be no tax, none, that would be zero percent, on capital gains.

I am angry because the people we elected to office voted for the laws that allowed this to happen. I am getting really tired of hearing our elected officials don’t have any other choice because they have to raise money for re-election. Why aren’t they speaking about this? We elected them, we pay their salaries. Why are they the victims in this? Did someone hold a gun to their head? Aside from Bernie Sanders, why aren’t they doing something about this?  

What are we doing about this?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments