Clinton on getting the economy going again

Bill Clinton on the Daily Show discussing how he would approach the problems in the economy. I hope the Dems are listening because everything he said makes sense. I definitely had a “Miss Me Yet?” moment watching this.

1. Focus on where the jobs are: small business, manufacturing, and clean energy
2. Figure out how to loosen the money in banks and corporations (banks and businesses are sitting on more than 3 trillion dollars right now)
3. Train people to do the jobs that are already opening (the cheapest and quickest thing to do)


Tax the poor, at least they’ll pay it.

Why don’t we just abolish the income tax all together since the only people who are paying it are poor working slobs anyway. As this Bloomberg article from May details, major corporations are using loopholes in the tax laws to avoid paying what conservatives like to call the “high US tax rate” (actually historically quite low and quite similar to what you’re paying as a poor working slob) to the tune of about $60 billion dollars a year. This isn’t a new practice, its been going on for years, but in tight times, Americans who are in the streets protesting high taxes might be interested to find that most large corporations that Americans consider to be “American firms” are no longer “American” in any real sense at all – they are multi-national – and they shift their profits around (buying things from their subsidiaries located in other countries) in order to pay a lower tax rate somewhere else and avoid US taxes. This money (American money) is essentially making a net exodus out of our country and into foreign banks. American workers can’t avoid their own income taxes in this way, and live under constant threat of audit by an increasingly draconian tax system for any possible infraction.

But what to do about it? Forcing largely American-based companies to pay the higher American taxes (by closing the loopholes) puts them at a disadvantage to firms in other countries, right? Then how is it possible that during what we consider to be America’s most prosperous time (a decade or so post-WWII) the US corporate tax rate was the highest its ever been ? The sad fact is that these businesses are the robber barons of the modern era. They’ve discovered that America isn’t the only market, and in fact is a rather small one compared to the billions of potential customers in China and India, and they are prepared to avoid their civic duty to support national infrastructure, education, and the public interest in order to reap the highest profits possible. Sure, companies like Wal-Mart will tell you that they’re looking out for Americans by selling the cheapest crap you’ll find on any shelf – but none of it is made here in the states – that money is going off shore, and it won’t be coming back any time soon.

Is the health care bill Constitutional?

The health care bill makes it compulsory for all Americans to buy private insurance in the free market which in and of itself is an incredible irony. What’s so free about a market where you are forced to buy something? There are many who don’t think the solution that passed is Constitutional because while the government has the right to tax, it does not have the right to force citizens to buy a particular product. As Robert Siegel pointed out on NPR recently, It’s even more ironic that a public plan *would* have been perfectly Constitutional, because like social security and medicare it would have been funded through taxation. The flip side which I haven’t heard discussed is that long ago we made it mandatory for hospitals to provide emergency care to people that have no insurance. So we already have a situation where a private firm is legally required to provide a service for free. That certainly seems just as bad as requiring everyone who could potentially require that service to pay some nominal fee upfront. In fact, the health care bill may even correct that injustice. Except of course, that it doesn’t, because the new bill does not cover folks in this country illegally whom the Emergency Room staff are still obligated to help.

I personally favored a solely public plan solution (also called “single payer”) which would have removed private insurance carriers entirely. A single payer system would have removed the middle man and covered everyone in the country – saving perhaps billions of dollars, simplifying an otherwise onerous accounting process for doctors and hospitals and allowed for national standards to be set for provided care. The big losers in this would have been the insurance companies. Insurance companies are essentially bookies that are betting you aren’t going to get sick while you’re betting you are. Their actuaries are usually right (luckily for them) which means much of the money they take in is profit and does nothing to either improve care or provide it. They have no incentive to improve care (which is expensive), but lots of incentive to deny it or cancel it.

The end of America?

I’ve been poking around a bit on Prison Planet lately, thats a website run by Alex Jones, a radio talk show host who has been described as a “paleoconservative” whatever thats supposed to mean. Paleo means old, so I assume it’s being used to create a distance from the “neocons” (meaning New Conservatives) who were neither new nor really conservative in the first place. The first story I ran into over there was titled Louisiana Cops Plan for “End of the World” Scenario which goes on to describe how the program includes access to a .50 caliber vehicle mounted machine gun to help put down looters and rioting in the event of a crisis. I got a little further into the article and it is suggested that cities across America are beginning their own war training in preparation for the coming apocalypse in 2012. No, not the fabled Mayan end of the world, this refers to a prediction by a “futurist” named Gerald Celente.
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Let my dataset change your mindset

Hans Rosling, a physician and professor of global health from Sweden recently gave a talk at the US State Dept. entitled Let My Dataset change your midset illustrated by the free software he and his son developed called Gapminder. He explains how the data (which he thanks the US for compiling and releasing so generously) shows a convergence around the world (ala Tom Friedman’s Flat Earth) and warns us that some problems are more complex than a simple static chart or graph will reveal. Only by looking at (good) data with an analysis tool like this can you begin to see what is really happening. For instance, he shows that the HIV crisis in Africa isn’t really an “African” problem, as there are many very poor countries in Africa that have done a good job of reducing the problem, where other richer African countries have done a terrible job. Solutions to global health problems need to be tailored to the individual case.
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