Category: Progressive

Bernie’s petition

At a time of massive wealth inequality, when 99% of all new income generated in this country goes to the top 1%, and when over half of the American people have less than $10,000 in savings, the last thing we should do is cut Social Security.

When the average Social Security benefit is $1,328 a month, and more than one-third of our senior citizens rely on Social Security for virtually all of their income, our job is to expand benefits, not cut them.

Despite what some of my Republican colleagues have said, Social Security is not going broke. It has a $2.8 trillion surplus and can pay every benefit owed to every eligible American for the next 18 years.

The best way to make Social Security solvent for the next 50 years is to scrap the cap on taxable earnings. Join me and my friends at Social Security Works in calling on Congress to scrap the cap and expand, not cut Social Security!

Today, a Wall Street CEO who makes $18 million a year pays the same into Social Security as someone earning $118,500. That’s absurd. If we simply applied the payroll tax on income above $250,000, not only could we extend Social Security’s solvency until 2065, we could also increase benefits to meet the elderly’s higher living expenses.

Despite the logic behind that, some Republicans want to raise the Social Security retirement age to 69 and reduce benefits. I wonder what world these people are living in. To take benefits away from seniors now is simply a continuation of the war being waged by the Republican Party against the elderly, against the children, against the sick and against the poor, in order to benefit millionaires and billionaires…

Stand with me today and call on Congress to scrap the cap and use the increased revenues to expand, not cut Social Security. If we stand together and fight back, we can win this battle.

Sincerely,

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U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders

How the IRS could do your taxes for you

Tax Day doesn’t have to suck — at least not this much.

The IRS knows what you make. It knows if you typically take the standard deduction. For a lot of Americans, the IRS could just fill out their taxes for them. It would save billions of dollars in tax preparation fees and hundreds of millions of hours spent filling out tax forms.

This isn’t some wild idea: it was piloted in California, where citizens loved it — 97 percent of those who used it said they would do so again. It’s how taxes work in Denmark, Sweden, and Spain…

Politicians ranging from President Obama to Ronald Reagan have supported this tax change — but there are some very rich companies and some very powerful activists standing in its way.

Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, is a particularly powerful opponent. Such a system “minimizes the taxpayers’ voice blah, blah, blah…”

But that excuse doesn’t hold much water. Under these automatic systems, no one has to let the IRS fill out their taxes for them. They can continue to do it by hand or by TurboTax, or hire an accountant. Intuit knows, however, that many fewer Americans would do their own taxes under this scenario, and that would be a big hit to Intuit’s bottom line.

Some anti-tax conservatives also hate the idea of the IRS filling out sample returns. Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, warns, “Conservatives, in particular, should see this ploy for what it clearly is: a money-grab by the government.” The easier and more efficient the tax system is, the more money it will raise, and the less public anger there will be for anti-tax conservatives to harness.

I’ve looked at samples and, frankly, come up with no difference in results. Plus a couple hours on a Sunday afternoon in February my wife and I usually spend cranking out a return — handed back to us.

Of course, regulation which ends up saving taxpayers and the government money and time is way too rational for Congress to consider. Especially when there are lobbyists with deep pockets who say the change is unnecessary and probably unAmerican.

Asia’s Multilateralism


That’s Bob Shiller’s book on Irrational Exuberance on the shelf

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are poised to hold their annual meetings, but the big news in global economic governance will not be made in Washington DC in the coming days. Indeed, that news was made last month, when the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Italy joined more than 30 other countries as founding members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). The $50 billion AIIB, launched by China, will help meet Asia’s enormous infrastructure needs, which are well beyond the capacity of today’s institutional arrangements to finance.

One would have thought that the AIIB’s launch, and the decision of so many governments to support it, would be a cause for universal celebration. And for the IMF, the World Bank, and many others, it was. But, puzzlingly, wealthy European countries’ decision to join provoked the ire of American officials. Indeed, one unnamed American source accused the UK of “constant accommodation” of China. Covertly, the United States put pressure on countries around the world to stay away.

In fact, America’s opposition to the AIIB is inconsistent with its stated economic priorities in Asia. Sadly, it seems to be another case of America’s insecurity about its global influence trumping its idealistic rhetoric – this time possibly undermining an important opportunity to strengthen Asia’s developing economies.

China itself is a testament to the extent to which infrastructure investment can contribute to development. Last month, I visited formerly remote areas of the country that are now prosperous as a result of the connectivity – and thus the freer flow of people, goods, and ideas – that such investments have delivered.

The AIIB would bring similar benefits to other parts of Asia, which deepens the irony of US opposition. President Barack Obama’s administration is championing the virtues of trade; but, in developing countries, lack of infrastructure is a far more serious barrier to trade than tariffs.

A generally wholistic understanding of the workings of the global economy is just one of the reasons Joe Stiglitz was honored with the Nobel Prize in economics. It ain’t a bad start.

RTFA and understand why modern economists think our government’s hypocrisy ain’t new – just backwards for a couple new reasons.

Uninsured rate for Americans below 12%


Connecticut opened the first health insurance storefront in the nation

The uninsured rate among U.S. adults declined to 11.9% for the first quarter of 2015 — down one percentage point from the previous quarter and 5.2 points since the end of 2013, just before the Affordable Care Act went into effect. The uninsured rate is the lowest since Gallup and Healthways began tracking it in 2008.

…The uninsured rate has dropped sharply since the most significant change to the U.S. healthcare system in the Affordable Care Act — the provision requiring most Americans to carry health insurance — took effect at the beginning of 2014. An improving economy and a falling unemployment rate may also have accelerated the steep drop in the percentage of uninsured over the past year. However, the uninsured rate is significantly lower than it was in early 2008, before the depths of the economic recession, suggesting that the recent decline is due to more than just an improving economy.

While the uninsured rate has declined across all key demographic groups since the healthcare law fully took effect in January 2014, it has dropped most among lower-income Americans and Hispanics — the groups most likely to lack insurance. The uninsured rate among Americans earning less than $36,000 in annual household income dropped 8.7 points since the end of 2013, while the rate among Hispanics fell 8.3 points. The significant drop in uninsured Hispanics is a key accomplishment for the Obama administration, which led targeted efforts to insure this group as they had the highest uninsured population of all key subgroups. However, despite the gains in insurance coverage among Hispanics and lower-income Americans, these groups still have higher uninsured rates than other key subgroups.

Americans aged 26 to 34 have also seen gains in coverage since the healthcare law went into effect — the uninsured rate among this group is down 7.4 points since the end of 2013, the largest drop among any age group. Blacks have also seen a substantial drop in their uninsured rate since the fourth quarter of 2013 — 7.3 points.

RTFA for lots of stats, predictably conservative analysis.

The most important thing we will all be forced to recognize about this successful start-up is that Republicans hate it. Today’s conservatives, their bigot allies, economics failures whose knowledge made it only a half century beyond Henry Clay – will dissect every step of growth in coverage, savings for working people and the working poor, Americans in general – to try to find the socialist plot behind the whole endeavor. Socialist ethics really frustrates folks who consider protecting greed the 11th Commandment.

I’ll tell you the socialist plot, right now. Folks who care – want a true single-payer system with the right to negotiate fixed prices on procedures and meds. Just like the the freaking military. Just like every other sensible, frugal, industrial democracy. It works and has been working for over a half-century in some cases.

I realize that’s still too modern for some folks; but, try an honest debate grounded in real numbers and real needs sometime. Walk away from the sleaze and deceit today’s Republicans have to rely upon to justify their existence on this planet – and their opposition to true socialized healthcare.

Marijuana extract a promising treatment for severe childhood epilepsy

An extract of marijuana shows promise as a treatment for children with severe epilepsy who have been unresponsive to other treatments, after an early-phase safety study is presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual conference.

The study is an analysis of early clinical trialing, so mainly designed to be the first test of the potential medicine’s safety and tolerability for patients as well as its possible effectiveness. The extract under investigation is cannabidiol (CBD), and was taken in a liquid form once daily…

All the children had severe forms of epilepsy – including Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndromes, which can mean lifelong disabling seizures – and their conditions had not responded to other treatments. They received the experimental treatment under the FDA’s expanded access program, which makes investigational drugs available for testing to people with serious or life-limiting conditions.

The results provided so far – and to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting, which starts at the end of this week in Washington, DC – give only the relative reductions in numbers of seizures suffered by the participants – there was a decrease in these during the study of around half.

Only future phases of clinical trialing could test effectiveness properly – using greater numbers of patients in randomized controlled trials, which will also help to reduce the effects of bias…

Dr. Orrin Devinsky said: “While cannabis has been used to treat epilepsy for centuries, data from double-blind randomized, controlled trials of CBD or THC in epilepsy is lacking. Randomized controlled studies of CBD in targeted epilepsy groups, such as patients with Dravet or Lennox-Gastaut syndromes, are in the planning stages.”

Overdue. Why? Because we are a nation of powerless electors – limited to TweedleDee and TweedleDumb, two wings of the same useless, bought-and-sold, political hacks.

The history of laws and regulations governing cannabis in the United States have absolutely nothing to do with science or reality 101. Religion, myth, superstition, opportunist fumbling under the money-tables of our legal temples have all played a role in codifying stupidity. With the collaboration of cowards as often self-defined as Liberal as Conservative.

For a little more background to the efforts of folks willing to challenge idjit law, wander over to this post from last June.

WTF? Sensible bill on medical marijuana in the House of Representatives

The issue of federal marijuana reform took another step forward this week with the introduction of a proposal in the House of Representatives that aims to overturn Uncle Sam’s opinions on cannabis for medicinal purposes.

…Representatives Steve Cohen of Tennessee and Don Young of Alaska submitted the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States Act, which is a companion bill to a proposal submitted to Congress several weeks ago by Senators Cory Booker, Rand Paul and Kristen Gillibrand. The combined efforts of these legislative offerings serve as a blueprint to overhaul the policies of the federal government by unshackling the cannabis plant and giving it the opportunity to prove itself as viable and effective medicine.

Although 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized and established medical marijuana programs, the herb remains a dangerous Schedule I drug in the eyes of federal law, a conflict of interest that has created a lump in the throat of the medical marijuana community ever since California rolled the first stone down Capitol Hill nearly 20 years ago.

However, the CARERS Act would remedy this debacle between state and federal law to a certain extent. In addition to allowing states that have legalized medical marijuana to carry on with their operation without risking interference from the Drug Enforcement Administration, it would also downgrade marijuana’s current Schedule I classification to a Schedule II, which would allow it to be prescribed and researched more freely without violating any international drug treaties…

One of the most crucial aspects of the CARERS Act is that it would finally allow veterans to gain access to medical marijuana by permitting physicians working at the Department of Veterans Affairs to correlate treatment plans to include the participation in statewide programs. Marijuana has proven to be very effective in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, one of the most common psychological conditions suffered by soldiers returning home from combat…

Does the bill stand any chance of making it off Capitol Hill alive?

Well, John Boehner is Speaker of the House, Mitch McConnell is Majority Leader of the Senate, Republicans and obedient Blue Dog Democrats are in the majority – so, don’t hold your breath waiting for Congressional recognition of progressive popular will.

Kick some of the Sluggos out of office! That might make for a different story, positive outcome.

Expand social security – remove the senators who oppose it!

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Thank you to the 42 US Senators who voted in support of U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren’s amendment increasing Social Security benefits!

The vast majority of Americans are overwhelmingly united in support of expanding our Social Security system. It’s great to see so many politicians finally catching on…

Weed seeds publicly shared at Washington DC celebration


Potential family gardeners lined up for seedsDC Cannabis Campaign

Residents of Washington D.C. lined up for free cannabis seeds Saturday in a giveaway resulting from last year’s successful ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in the District of Columbia.

The event, sponsored by the D.C. Cannabis Campaign, was held Thursday and Saturday and saw hundreds of 18-and-up D.C. residents line up to receive and trade free seeds…

More than 3,500 people signed up for the giveaway, which saw distribution at Libertine bar and restaurant on Thursday and at D.C. Cannabis Campaign Headquarters on Saturday.

Legalization of marijuana for consumption and growth, known as Initiative 71, was passed 7 to 3 last November by D.C. voters who now join Colorado and Washington state in allowing use of the drug for recreational purposes.

The initiative, which went into effect in late February, allows D.C. residents to use the drug out of view and cultivate six seedlings and up to three mature plants, with a limit of 12 plants per household.

DC coppers were present. No one was bothered. Sharing or swapping seeds isn’t against the law, now.

I wonder if any of the coppers took any of the seeds? It is legal, after all. I wonder if any members of Congress had someone on their staff who is a DC resident pick up a few for the boss?

American Presbyterians vote to recognize same-sex marriage

The largest presbyterian group in the US has voted to recognize same-sex marriage, the latest sweeping move by the church to acknowledge it as Christian.

Presbyterian Church USA voted on Tuesday to amend its constitution to extend marriage rights from “a man and a woman” to “two people, traditionally a man and a woman”.

A majority of the church’s 171 governing bodies ruled in favor of the change, which will affect the church’s more than 1.7 million members, including those strongly opposed to marriage equality.

Individual pastors who oppose same-sex marriages can still opt out of performing same-sex marriage ceremonies or allowing them to be held in their church.

The group’s general assembly approved the constitutional amendment in 2014, but the “two people” measure needed to be ratified before the constitution could officially be changed. On Tuesday night, 87 had voted in favor, and 41 had voted against…

In recent years, the church has adopted more inclusive policies: in 2011, it undid an anti-same-sex marriage amendment by allowing LGBT pastors in the church, and last year ministers began performing same-sex marriages in states where it is legal…

Paul Detterman, national director of the Fellowship Community, a conservative group that opposes the decision, told the New York Times he expects the decision to drive practitioners out of the church. He said, however, that the vote might also compel people to stay in order to defend their stance…

The Covenant Network of Presbyterians, which pushes for LGBT inclusion in the church, praised the amendment. “We rejoice that all couples can now see those relationships solemnized before God and the Christian community in marriage, at the discretion of ministers and sessions,” the group said in a statement.

I like the libertarian sense of the amendment. It allows those church members whose brain and heart are trapped in the Dark Ages to remain there. Of their own free will.