david sirota

The Rich Pay State and Local Taxes at Half the Rate the Rest of Us Do

Roads are crumbling, bridges require repairs, schools need upgrades and public pension systems remain underfunded. How can states and cities find the money to address any of these problems? One way could be through their tax codes.

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New Chris Christie Scandal: NJ Gov Gave Pension Fund Billions to Wall Streeters Who Bankrolled His Campaigns

New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie has turned his state’s multi-billion dollar pension fund into a giant political extortion racket, where top employees at 43 different investment firms were given contracts to manage $14 billion in retirement accounts after giving $11.6 million to Republican Party operations that helped elect Christie governor and fueled his rise as chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

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Pols With 'Selective Deficit Disorder' Are Rampant

“Cognitive dissonance” is the clinical term used to describe stress that arises from holding contradictory beliefs. In politics, this term is a misnomer, because while many lawmakers, operatives and activists present oxymoronic views, many of them don’t appear to feel any stress about that. When it comes to budgetary matters, such a lack of remorse translates into something even worse than cognitive dissonance - something more akin to pathology. It is what I’ve previously called Selective Deficit Disorder - and it was hard to miss in the last few weeks. 
In Washington, for instance, the disorder was on prominent display in Congress’s new farm bill. Citing deficit concerns, House Republicans crafted the bill to include an $8 billion cut to the federal food stamp program. Yet, the same bill increased massive subsidies that disproportionately benefit wealthy farmers and agribusinesses. In all, the conservative American Enterprise Institute reports that under the bill, annual subsidies could increase by up to $15 billion. 
In this textbook episode of Selective Deficit Disorder, deficits were cited as a reason to slash a program that serves low-income Americans. However, those same deficits were suddenly ignored when it came to handing over billions to a corporate special interest.
In state capitals, Selective Deficit Disorder is similarly distorting debates over public workers’ pensions. As a new analysis from the taxpayer watchdog group Good Jobs First documented this week, 10 states have pled poverty to justify draconian cuts to retiree benefits. But, as the report notes, in those same states “the total annual cost of corporate subsidies, tax breaks and loopholes exceeds the total current annual pension costs.” In other words, deficits are being used as a rationale to eviscerate a program that benefits middle-class workers, yet those deficits are somehow no barrier to subsidy programs that primarily benefit the corporate class.
Even the sports world is plagued by Selective Deficit Disorder. For proof of that, consider the politics swirling around last week's Super Bowl in the New York City region. 
There, New York's Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo just put forward an austerity budget that many school officials say will result in big cuts to academic programs and teaching staff. This followed his earlier insistence “that government must be more efficient and cut the cost of the bureaucracy.” Yet, the same governor spent $5 million of taxpayer resources on Super Bowl promotions and parties. That included a taxpayer-financed party for more than 3,500 members of the media.
On the other side of the Hudson River, the contrast was even more pronounced. In the name of fiscal responsibility, Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., has cut the pensions of New Jersey's public employees and reduced education funding. Yet, he had his state cough up almost $18 million to subsidize the big game. That was in addition to the $400 million the New York Times noted New Jersey taxpayers spent to improve the area around the football stadium. It was also on top of the special property tax breaks New Jersey gave the NFL.
Once again, the politicians asked their constituents to simultaneously believe there is no money to meet basic needs, but there is plenty of money to subsidize corporate profits.
Though these three examples of Selective Deficit Disorder differ from one another, the common thread tying them together is cash. Indeed, in each episode, deficits were cited as a reason to stiff a middle-class constituency, but they were never mentioned when appeasing the demands of a wealthy constituency. 
That double standard reflects how modern politics is not really a battle between Democrats and Republicans. It is a battle between those with lots of money and those with comparatively less. The persistence of Selective Deficit Disorder proves that the former are winning.

Just to Be Clear, New Poll Shows There Really Never Was Any War on Christmas

Another winter solstice has come and gone, and yes, the annual celebration of the birth of Jesus has once again survived the alleged "War on Christmas." In fact, as of this year, this pretend war may finally be ending -- and not because those "defending" Christmas won some big battle, but because more and more Americans are realizing there is no such war at all.
        This is one of the key findings of a new poll about Christmas from Fairleigh Dickinson University. In that survey, only 28 percent of respondents said they believe liberals are waging a war on Christmas. That's a steep decline from last year, when a Public Policy Polling survey found 47 percent of Americans believing there is a war against the holiday.
        All of this is good news -- especially because these welcome public opinion trends are coinciding with a renewed effort by the divide-and-conquer crowd to continue manufacturing division. Indeed, as just one example, Fox News' Megyn Kelly tried to make the "War on Christmas" meme into a full-on race war by insisting that both Santa Claus and Jesus must be depicted as white. Apparently, Rupert Murdoch's cable television empire is still trying to turn the holiday into another excuse to promote conflict. Thankfully, polls show that the ruse isn't working.
        Of course, using the word "holiday" in reference to anything around Jesus's birthday is apparently still seen as controversial in many quarters. Yes, in the same Fairleigh Dickinson poll, two thirds of respondents want "Merry Christmas" rather than the more universal "Happy Holidays" used as the season's greetings. Similarly, only about a quarter of Americans believe public schools should host non-religious events instead of explicitly religious Christmas festivities.
        This, alas, is the residual bad news in the aftermath of the "War on Christmas," for it embodies a my-way-or-the-highway narcissism that runs counter to the nation's founding principles.
        Remember, this is supposed to be a country that respects everyone's right to their own religious traditions. While there are certainly lamentable instances of overt religious persecution here in America (see sporadic attacks on mosques), we for the most part do a decent job of respecting people's basic right to worship. However, respect also involves an awareness that not everyone is -- or has to be -- of your particular faith.
        That means not presuming everyone follows one religion and it also means not trying to foist one tradition on everyone else. In practical terms, it means not wanting one religion's particular greeting to be the only acceptable one. It also means making sure that secular, government-run spaces do not promote one religious tradition over all others.
        The opposite of that is the definition of presumptive -- or worse. Sometimes, the demands for "Merry Christmas" and Christmas-themed school-celebrations seem like aggressive attempts to deliberately make people of other traditions feel like they are outsiders. And not just any old outsiders, but outsiders who are so unwelcome that their participation in another religious tradition shouldn't even warrant the most minimal form of civility -- like, say, a more inclusive salutation.
        In this week that is supposed to serve as a respite from the culture wars, ask yourself: Is that the kind of society you want to live in -- one in which holidays that aim to celebrate love and inclusion instead become yet more occasions to promote exclusion?
        If you are one of the few who somehow believes there is a "War on Christmas," then perhaps your answer is "yes." But as we take a quiet moment to contemplate the upcoming new year, the answer for most us should be a resounding "no."
        

Meet 3 Master Manipulators of America’s Oligarchy

Ideas are costly, especially bogus ones. And a growing class of billionaires is more than willing to pay.

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The Real Story of Detroit's Collapse: Banks Count, People Don't

As a Detroit Native, I do not know many people who are more devout Detroit Red Wing fans than I am. Yet when I read David Sirota’s words in the article... ["Don't Buy the Right-Wing Myth About Detroit"] it gave me pause.

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Bro-gressive Values Revealed: Attacking the Messenger By Any Means Necessary

There’s a certain breed of progressive dude who, when told that the object of his latest man-crush is, say, a bit racist (or misogynist, or is stoking the fears of right-wing preppers), gets really mad. Unable to refute the fact of his worship of the racist, misogynist, prepper-stoker, he resorts to falsifying the intention of the person who pointed out the inconvenient facts. In a column published on Salon on March 7, David Sirota proves himself to be just such a dude.

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Are We Living in a Police State?

What does a police state really look like in practice in America? Is it the cartoonish dystopia of sci-fi books? Is it like 1998′s “The Siege” which predicted a wholesale instatement of martial law? Or in the age of the drone-wielding police department, is it something more mundane and subtle yet nonetheless pernicious? From this city in the middle of middle America, it looks like the latter.

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The Scams and Sexism Hidden in Your Cable Bill

I have come to realize that there are actually three things in life that are inevitable. Death, taxes and professional sports. The second two items go hand in hand.

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Up with Chris Hayes: TV that Deserves the Name "Journalism"

This story originally appeared at Salon.

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