Sunday, July 21, 2019

Which State Has the Most Regressive Tax System?

Drum roll please.

The state with the most regressive tax system in the United States is....

Washington state.

If you live in Washington state you may have already suspected that was the case.

This July 20, 2019 New York Times editorial "State and Local Taxes are Worsening Inequality" and this 2018 study Who Pays? by the non-partisan Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy discuss the regressive/progressive state taxes for each state.

What does it mean to say a tax is regressive?

In a regressive tax system a low income tax payer pays a higher proportion of their income in taxes then a high income tax payer. Some examples of regressive taxes include sales taxes, property taxes, sin taxes, user fees, gas taxes, vehicle licensing fees and the payroll social security tax.

In contrast to a regressive tax system, a progressive tax system is intended to cause higher wage earners to pay a greater percentage of their income in taxes than lower wage earners. State and Federal income taxes are structured as progressive taxes.

Why are regressive taxes a bad thing?

If we assume for discussion purposes that in order to live a person must purchase $20,000 in items annually that are subject to a 50% sales tax. In other words they pay $10,000 a year in sales taxes.  Then -

Someone earning $20,000 is paying 50% of their income in sales taxes, someone earning $50,000 is paying 20% of their income in sales taxes, someone earning $100,000 is paying 10%, someone earning $200,000 is paying 5%, and someone earning $1,000,000 is paying 1%.

The example is overly simplified and used only to illustrate the inequality of a sales tax. I chose the 50% tax rate to make the arithmetic easier. The relative difference in percentage of income paid between each income group will be the same regardless of the rate chosen.

Each of these regressive taxes and fees have their own unique set of rules but they all end up with the net effect of lower income people paying a greater share of their income in taxes and fees than higher income people.

In Washington state the effect is that the poorest 20% pay 17.8% of their income in state taxes, the middle 60% pay 10.9% and the top 1% pay 3% of their income in taxes according to the Who Pays? study.

The state with the least regressive, most progressive, tax system is California according to the paper because, "California’s overall tax system is relatively progressive largely because of graduated marginal income tax rates, additional tax on income over $1 million, and limits on tax breaks for upper-income taxpayers."

One more specific example of a regressive tax is the social security payroll tax. This description comes from Investopedia -
"Social Security tax obligations are capped at a certain level of income called a wage base—$132,900 in 2019. An individual's earnings above this base are not subject to the 6.2% Social Security tax. Therefore, the annual maximum that an individual pays in Social Security tax is capped at $8,239.80 in 2019, whether she earns $132,901 or $1 million."

The following information comes from the 2018 study Who Pays? by the non-partisan Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy -
"The 10 states with the highest taxes on the poor are Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington. Six of these are also among the “terrible ten” because they are not only high-tax for the poorest, they are also low-tax for their richest residents."
There are several effects of this sort of tax inequality where poor and middle class pay high taxes while the wealthiest individuals pay low taxes.

The most obvious is that most people (since there are way more poor and middle class people than wealthy people) believe they are paying too much in taxes.

Slightly less obvious is that wealthy people who can buy lots more free speech in the popular media with their wealth, then disingenuously "help" poor people make the case that "our" taxes are too darn high.

The most insidious effect of high taxes on the poor and low taxes for the wealthy is a gradual deterioration of the ability of the government to function at all. We see this in the deterioration of public schools, public infrastructure, and the ability of our nation to care for those unable to care for themselves (the mentally ill and the addicted). We see a downward spiral where government is insufficiently funded, therefore becomes more dysfunctional and causes more people to object to paying taxes to fund a broken system. 

Under funding the government is a feature of the radical libertarian ideology implanted into our society by Ronald Reagan, Grover Norquist and the Kochtopus. If your ideology is such that all government programs and regulations are bad and you can't see any other side to the story you are a radical and also seriously misinformed or under-informed.

This should not come as a surprise since being misinformed or under-informed is a key feature to becoming a radical. If you look at any societal or governmental issue and propose there is a simple one size fits all solution (cut taxes for the wealthy/cut regulations for the polluters/Medicare for all/raise taxes for the wealthy) then you haven't looked hard enough. To put it another way if you are absolutely sure of your position regarding a complex societal or governmental issue then you don't know enough about the issue. Knowledge brings humility.


The 2018 study Who Pays? by the non-partisan Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy is 140 some pages but the studies summary provides these seven main findings -

1. THE VAST MAJORITY OF STATE AND LOCAL TAX SYSTEMS ARE INEQUITABLE AND UPSIDE-DOWN, taking a much greater share of income from low- and middle-income families than from wealthy families. The absence of a graduated personal income tax in many states and an over reliance on consumption taxes contribute to this longstanding problem.

2. THE LOWER ONE’S INCOME, THE HIGHER ONE’S OVERALL EFFECTIVE STATE AND LOCAL TAX RATE. On average, the lowest-income 20 percent of taxpayers face a state and local tax rate more than 50 percent higher than the top 1 percent of households. The nationwide average effective state and local tax rate is 11.4 percent for the lowest-income 20 percent of individuals and families, 9.9 percent for the middle 20 percent, and 7.4 percent for the top 1 percent. 
3. TAX STRUCTURES IN 45 STATES EXACERBATE INCOME INEQUALITY. Most state and local tax systems worsen income inequality by making incomes more unequal after collecting state and local taxes. Five states and the District of Columbia somewhat narrow the gap between lower- and middle- income taxpayers and upper-income taxpayers, making income slightly more equitable after collecting state and local taxes. 
4. IN THE 10 STATES WITH THE MOST REGRESSIVE TAX STRUCTURES (THE TERRIBLE 10), THE LOWEST-INCOME 20 PERCENT PAY UP TO SIX TIMES AS MUCH OF THEIR INCOME IN TAXES AS THEIR WEALTHY COUNTERPARTS. Washington State is the most regressive, followed by Texas, Florida, South Dakota, Nevada, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Wyoming. 
5. HEAVY RELIANCE ON SALES AND EXCISE TAXES ARE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE MOST REGRESSIVE STATE TAX SYSTEMS. Six of the 10 most regressive states derive roughly half to two-thirds of their tax revenue from sales and excise taxes, compared to a national average of about one-third. Seven of these states do not levy a broad-based personal income tax while the remaining three have a personal income tax rate structure that is flat or virtually flat. A calculation of effective sales and excise tax rates finds that, on average, the lowest-income 20 percent pays 7.1 percent, the middle 20 percent pays 4.8 percent and the top 1 percent pays a comparatively meager 0.9 percent rate. 
6. A PROGRESSIVE GRADUATED INCOME TAX IS A CHARACTERISTIC OF THE LEAST REGRESSIVE STATE TAX SYSTEMS. States with the most equitable state and local tax systems derive, on average, more than one-third of their tax revenue from income taxes, which is above the national average of 27 percent. These states promote progressivity through the structure of their income taxes, including their rates (higher marginal rates for higher-income taxpayers), deductions, exemptions, and use of targeted refundable credits. 
7. STATES COMMENDED AS “LOW-TAX” ARE OFTEN HIGH-TAX FOR LOW AND MIDDLE-INCOME FAMILIES. The 10 states with the highest taxes on the poor are Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington. Six of these are also among the “terrible ten” because they are not only high-tax for the poorest, they are also low-tax for their richest residents.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Justice John Paul Stevens

Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens passed away today at the age of 99. Justice Stevens served on the Supreme Court for 35 years, from 1975 until 2010. He is a reminder of the way things used to be in our political and legal systems before the GOP's decade's long slide towards radical right wing ideologies and before tribal partisanship replaced reason.

Here are a few facts about John Paul Stevens -

He served in the United States Navy during WWII.

He was a member of the Republican party.

He was appointed to the Federal Seventh Circuit Court by Republican President Richard Nixon in 1970.

He was appointed to the Supreme Court by Republican President Gerald Ford in 1975.

He was confirmed unanimously to the Supreme Court by the Democratic-majority Senate. There were 60 Democrats in the Senate in 1975.

Even though Roe v. Wade (1973) was a recent decision, John Paul Stevens was not asked any questions about abortion or Roe v. Wade during his confirmation hearing in 1975. This was before the GOP weaponized abortion to gain political power.

John Paul Stevens was considered a moderate conservative Republican in the 1970's, but came to be considered the most liberal member of the court when he retired in 2010. When asked if he thought he'd changed or if the makeup of the court had pushed it to the right he said,
"I think primarily the court has changed," says Stevens, referring to the composition of the court. But he acknowledges that on some issues, his views have changed as he has "learned more."

John Paul Stevens opposed the decision in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) which interpreted the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms to apply to individuals rather than militias. After his retirement from the court, and one  of our country's many many mass shootings, he wrote an Op-ed in the New York Times, suggesting the Second Amendment be repealed. The Second Amendment is short - I pasted it below so you can ponder for yourself what the framers intended.
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
This is what John Paul Stevens wrote in the NYT Op-ed on the topic -
"Concern that a national standing army might pose a threat to the security of the separate states led to the adoption of that amendment, which provides that “a well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Today that concern is a relic of the 18th century."
Former Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger, also a conservative, talked about the Second Amendment and the NRA, in a 1991 PBS interview -
Former Chief Justice Warren Burger, a conservative, said the idea that there was an individual right to bear arms was "a fraud." If he were writing the Bill of Rights now, he said in 1991, "There wouldn't be any such thing as the Second Amendment." He declared on PBS that the Second Amendment "has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime."

John Paul Stevens opposed the decision in Citizens United v. FEC (2010) which allowed for unlimited money to be donated to politicians, by equating money with speech. Speaking of the concept that money can be equated with free speech he said,
"Can you hear it talk? Can you read it? [Money is] simply not speech," he says. "And I have to confess that my own views are that there is an interest in trying to have any debate conducted according to fair rules that treat both sides with an adequate opportunity to express their view. We certainly wouldn't, in our arguments in this court, give one side a little more time because they could pay higher fees to hire their lawyers, or something like that."

John Paul Stevens opposed Bush v. Gore (2000) decision which provided the 2000 presidential election to G.W. Bush.

In October of 2018 John Paul Stevens stated that Bret Kavanaugh is not fit to be a Supreme Court Justice after Kavanauh's partisan statements in his confirmation hearing.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Propaganda, Public Education and Mass Media

I found these two short videos from the Academy of Ideas interesting. The first is about Edward Bernays, who was the nephew of Sigmund Freud, and is sometimes called the father of public relations. Edward Bernays wrote his book Propaganda in 1928. It's written as a defense of propaganda, the ideas are straightforward, and it's  a pretty quick read at only 168 pages. Bernays intellectual hero was Walter Lippmann who was also a propagandist and wrote about propaganda in books such as Public Opinion published in 1922.

I find Walter Lippmann's writing more interesting than Bernays. Bernays wrote propaganda extolling the benefits of propaganda in a sort of upbeat pollyannaish voice. Lippmann tends to be more critical and covers a broader range of ideas. He proposed that democracy was a myth in our country because people could not be expected to obtain the knowledge required to intelligently participate in a democracy, and therefore society would be better off governed by a committee of experts.

Jacques Ellul's book Propaganda - The Formation of Men's Attitudes published in 1973 is a look at propaganda in relation to technology and modern society. Ellul essentially says propaganda is omnipresent and necessary to allow man to live with the dehumanizing effects of technology and modern culture. Ellul's book took a fair amount of time to read and was harder to understand than either Bernays or Lippmann's books. It's worth it if you like that sort of thing though.

When Bernays book was released in 1928, propaganda didn't have the negative connotation it has today. He considered propaganda, public relations and advertising to be essentially the same. This video takes some of what he wrote and highlights it with images that sort of amp up the "scare" factor.

For me these two videos are just expressing some ideas - maybe some good and worth further thought or study, maybe some baloney that isn't worth wasting time on - but you'll have to decide that for yourself.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Humanitarian Crises on the Southern Border

Is the humanitarian crisis on our Southern border due to more people being apprehended at the border than we have seen historically?

No - the number of people apprehended at the Southern border is near a fifty year low as described here and here.

Will building fences, walls or hiring more border agents help alleviate this humanitarian crisis?

Building fences, a wall or hiring more border agents will have no impact on the number of people seeking entry at the border. Spending money on these projects takes money away from solutions that would help alleviate the crises - thereby only making matters worse.

Hiring administrative judges will help. The backlog for judges is currently at about 2000 cases per judge. There are currently almost 800,000 immigration cases on backlog. It takes more than 500 days to process an asylum case that results in an order for removal. Using our current "lock em up" strategy that means taxpayers will pay about $350,000 to keep that individual in a private detention center for 500 days. That sounds like a lot you say?

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, corporations that run for profit tent cities to house migrant minors charge $775 per person per day.

If you are an investor in private prisons these are good times. Private prison stocks rose over 100% in the four months after Donald J. Trump was elected president.

Former Chief of Staff John Kelly has an interesting personal history in the profit aspects of locking up innocent children. Prior to coming to the White House he was on the board of directors of DC Capital Partners, a Washington private equity firm behind a corporate conglomeration that operates for profit private prisons for migrant children. While at the White House he was the first White House Official to announce the government would be separating children from their families. After leaving the White House he returned to the Tiny Tots Prison Corporation (aka Caliburn International) as a member of their board of directors.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Wealth Inequality

Why should you care about how much money someone else has?

Isn't complaining about other people's wealth just a form of envy?

Why shouldn't someone who worked hard for a living enjoy the fruits of their labor?

If we start with the premise that as a regular citizen you are concerned with regular things - food, shelter, medical care, education, a living wage job - and then consider what impact wealth inequality has on your ability to obtain those things we will get an answer.

The main problem with wealth inequality is that it allows multi-billionaires to avoid contributing to the general welfare in the form of taxes. One could argue, and many do, that the government doesn't contribute to the general welfare and should be starved. No one would openly promote the government wasting money. So why do we see so much waste in government? Why does someone like our current prez end up paying nothing in taxes for 8 out of 10 years? The answer leads us to a chicken or egg sort of debate.

What came first -

A government that forces high taxes on it's citizens and then wastes those tax dollars to subsidize the defense, pharmaceutical, fossil fuel, medical, insurance, finance and banking industries?


A government that was captured by the defense, pharmaceutical, fossil fuel, medical, insurance, finance and banking industries and then forces  some of it's citizens to pay taxes and then wastes those tax dollars to subsidize those industries, their wealthy owners and shareholders?

I think the latter and once that capture was complete, free speech (money) was used to indoctrinate people into believing that lowering taxes on the plutocrats, increasing wealth redistribution from the lower/middle/working classes to the elite and eliminating or curtailing government programs that might aid those lower/middle/working classes was somehow in the best interest of regular citizens.


There are highly paid and highly ideological people exercising their free speech rights to convince regular citizens that the tax man is ripping them off. In a sense this is true - regular citizens generally pay their taxes while the uber-wealthy often don't. If you can afford to off-shore your wealth, or employ smart tax attorneys and accountants you can take full advantage of the many tax breaks and loopholes that have been put in the tax code to benefit the rich. Because of this disparity in the way the tax laws were written and are enforced middle and working class people pay a disproportionate share of their income in taxes....while a stable genius does the "smart thing" and pays no income tax for years.

It's not a complete rebuttal to the "woe is me the tax man taking all my money" point of view, but a look at historical top marginal tax rates is illustrative of how disingenuous or ill-informed the arguments can be.

Throughout our history the top marginal tax rate has been higher (much higher) that it is today. The top marginal tax rate from 1954 to 1963 was 91% - today it's 37%. From 1932 to 1980 the top marginal tax rate varied between 63% and 94%.

Since 1980, when the "Reagan Revolution" began, the top marginal tax rates have declined as well as the ability of our government to serve the  majority of it's citizens. Declining tax revenues explain part of government's dysfunction but competition for government resources between those with money and power and those without led us to a corporate welfare state where according to one study in 1990 the federal government gave away 170 billion dollars in corporate welfare while spending 8.4 billion on primary and secondary education.


Marginal tax rates are not totally, but fairly close to being, meaningless unless we can "look under the hood" and see what the tax laws actually are. What loopholes, special conditions, deductions, depreciation schemes reside in the tax code? Who knows?

Years ago I was looking at the tax codes for some reason and was amazed at what a lucrative enterprise (from a tax standpoint) owning race or show horses can be. Something didn't smell right about that given the connection between the horsey set and extreme wealth. If you own a race or show horse this article from The Horse may be useful in figuring out your tax strategy.

Having even a simple understanding of how and why changes to tax laws are made is "challenging" by design. Congressional discussions that led to the tax changes Congress made in 2017 were done in secret. This article compares what how tax laws were debated and discussed by Congress in 1985/1986 compared to the secret process used in 2017 -
"Unlike in 1985-1986, when bi-partisan tax bill drafters held 89 hearings with more than 2,600 witnesses, the House Ways and Means Committee in 2017 held no hearings on the specifics of the bill it was drafting."

So lets return to the original questions...

Why should a regular citizen care about how much money someone else has? Well they shouldn't unless that persons accumulation of wealth impinges on the rights of other citizens. As citizens of the US we have the right to a representative democracy and to live according to the rule of law applied equally to all. Extreme (often inherited) wealth undermines both those rights by corrupting the political and legal processes.

Isn't complaining about other people's wealth just a form of envy? Maybe. If you buy into the lifestyles of the rich and famous as something to aspire to, then yes. If you can't afford to take your kid to the doctor then no, it's a request to be treated as a human being. My own experience has been that some of the most dysfunctional people I've known were "beneficiaries" of inherited wealth.

Our current President demonstrates what can happen to a person's character when they are given their fortune. Contrary to the lie that he started with a million dollar loan from his father Donald Trump inherited at least 413 million dollars. Billionaires like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have said they will not pass their fortunes to their children. Each of Warren Buffett's three kids will have a 2 billion dollar trust fund which still leaves about 60 billion of his fortune to go to charity.

Why shouldn't someone who worked hard for a living enjoy the fruits of their labor? Exactly! If you worked hard for a living by all means enjoy what you earned. Perhaps we could debate whether enjoying the fruits of your labor means having five luxury homes instead of six like Mitt?

If you are a recipient of massive inherited wealth purely by accident of birth how much of that wealth you are "entitled" to is a different question. Most people don't understand the inheritance tax given the success of the uber-wealthy funded indoctrination campaign to define the estate tax as a death tax which negatively impacts many people. Here's some facts from the Washington Post article I linked to -

  • The estate tax impacts less than .1% of estates. 
  • The estate tax effects those with an estate worth more than 5 million dollars (see below for update). 
  • Most of the wealth (about 60%) in the US is not earned, but inherited. 
  • In 2010 the bottom 60 percent of people in the U.S. controlled 1 percent of the countries wealth.

Those figures are out of date if we consider what the GOP did in the dead of night with the Tax Act of 2017 which increased the cut in point for the estate tax from 5 million to a whopping 22.4 million dollars.


Finally to wrap up - if we start with the premise that as a regular citizen you are concerned with regular things - food, shelter, medical care, education and a job that allows you to support yourself and your family. If we then consider what impact wealth inequality has on your ability to obtain those items we will get an answer.

So what is the answer? Whether you believe it or not government has significant influence on how society meets those basic human needs - food, shelter, medical care, education and living wage work. How do I know this? the folks who want to make America great again I think things used to be better in our country for working class people. I ask myself what changed in our country to allow for the proliferation of unhealthy food and subsequent health problems, unaffordable housing, unaffordable medical care and expensive and declining educational opportunites?

Did the American people change?

Did government policy change?

I think people were just as caring, honest, and hard working 40 years ago as they are today. People wanted the same things - a job that allowed them to support their family, a better life for their children and a country they could be proud of. The government pulled the rug out from under those people with policies like NAFTA . lax monopoly laws that allowed Walmart to decimate so many small business owners, immigration laws allowing for a low wage easily oppressed supply of labor, refusal to enforce then gutting the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, etc. etc. etc.

Wealth inequality has consolidated money (power, speech) into the hands of a few who are then able to buy our government and much of our media. This wealth was used to capture the government and enact policies that hurt those caring, honest and hard working people while helping the entitled .1% That same consolidated wealth controls a large share of the media so we see disinformation, useless information, and cherry picked facts - while topics outside the Overton window are not covered at all. Thankfully that window is adjustable as Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are showing us.


Religious doctrine is not of much help when false prophets rip off their followers and help enrich themselves and their cronies by preaching a gospel of greed not grace. The more successful televangelists can rip off poor people and buy a private jet so they don't have to fly commercial in a tube filled with demons.

Talking about televangelists reminds me of a guy I knew about 45 years ago when I was working, taking some college classes and going to cooking school in Billings Montana. His name was Steve Brown and he happened to be black which was quite unusual for Billings. Anyway I liked him and thought he was pretty funny. One day he told me he'd had a dream the night before and Jim Baker (a corrupt televangelist) had appeared. Then he took a long pause and know what he told me Jack?

Send money.

It is and always has been a fight between greed and compassion.


Thursday, July 11, 2019

Disrespecting the Demos

The word demos means the people. I used it in the title of this post because I like the alliterative property and rhythm of the phrase "disrespecting the demos".

Forty some years ago I was driving through South Dakota on my way from Chicago to San Diego. I stopped for lunch at a diner in a small farming town. There was a group of farmers and local business people having coffee and conversation at a table near where I was sitting. They were talking about a variety of things - commodity prices, crops, the weather, but mostly about political affairs.  What struck me was how informed they were and how willing they were to engage in debate with each other.

Forty years later we have lost the public spaces, public education and media outlets that allowed for that type of civilized public discussion.

Public spaces, notably coffee houses, have played a key role in allowing for the exchange of ideas for hundreds of years. Speaking with others allows for a type of sanity check on whatever ideas a person may propose. Having a friendly conversation and defending a position using facts and logic, helps instill a sense of humility. Articulating and defending our positions in the real world with real people may lead us to question our own firmly held beliefs, see that we are not consistent, admit we are hypocrites and hold it.....actually learn something.

Coffee shops today serve as a means to access WiFi so atomized individuals can work or otherwise interact in a virtual world that may have little or no relationship to the non-virtual world. In this virtual world there is no need for civility, nuance or disagreement. If someone disagrees with you, or says something you find offensive, you can unfriend them or block them - no need to listen to them. We see this attitude move from the virtual world to the real world when a controversial (sometimes despicable) person is invited to speak on a college campus and rather than being debated or ignored is shouted down or otherwise prevented from speaking.


Public education seems to be lacking in providing students with a civic education. We can't have a functioning democracy without an active and informed citizenry, being passive and uninformed we therefore have a government controlled by the few for the few.

Schools and society as a whole, don't generate a wide interest in politics, political systems or history therefore many people ignore those topics. Things that society deems important - sports, cars, clothing, recreation, technology, celebrity, etc. result in large numbers of people discussing and sharing quite detailed information about their favorite topic.

Schools have turned into a machine for making good workers; that is people who can show up, follow orders, and not cause a disturbance by questioning the status quo.

So we lost public spaces to the internet, and public education to the corporate overlords - what happened to the media to allow a civil conversation between farmers, workers and business people with differing views to occur forty years ago - but not today?

CNN was founded just about forty years ago in 1980. This had a profound effect on how the news was covered since before that news departments were public service non-profit entities (other than the one or two short commercials aired during the 30 minute evening news). After the institution of the 24 hour news cycle the news departments became revenue generators jockeying for market share by providing what people wanted.

People wanted lots of faux fighting, false equivalence, good guy/bad guy stories, good group/bad group stories, colorful graphics, scrolling chyrons, someone to blame other than themselves, and BREAKING NEWS! Embedded in this infotainment is pervasive propaganda supporting the goals of the wealthiest, the .1 percent, to retain and amass obscene amounts of wealth (power).

The FCC Fairness Doctrine was abolished in 1987 which opened the doors for Fox news in 1996 to begin it's campaign to save the billionaires and defend America's aristocracy - disrespecting the demos and showing us just how stupid they think we are. The Fairness Doctrine was abolished because it was claimed to be an impediment to free speech. Whenever you hear a plutocrat or his minions talk about "free speech" just replace the the words free speech with wealth. Doing that we see the Fairness Doctrine was abolished because it was an impediment to wealth.


Do I think there is some sort of secret cabal controlling cable news and national newspapers? A vast right-wing conspiracy if you will?

No - not exactly. What I do think is that the people who work in those areas tend to be elites who benefited from the status quo and are disinclined to rock the boat. If you and your families well being depends on your employment at one of these institutions it makes sense that you would adapt your behavior to the company culture.

What do I mean by elites? People who live in the super-zips who go to the "best" schools and then end up in some sort of professional position. It wouldn't be the journalist who was the "elite" in this sense but rather his boss or the owner of the enterprise.

William Barr our crime abetting AG is an "elite". He grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. His father Donald Barr was the headmaster of the Dalton School. According to Wikipedia, The Dalton School is a private, coeducational college preparatory school on New York City's Upper East Side and a member of both the Ivy Preparatory School League and the New York Interschool. The Dalton School is routinely ranked among the top private schools in the United States. With regard to elite college admissions, Dalton ranked 5th in a 2003 Worth survey and 8th in a 2004 Wall Street Journal survey." Dalton sounds like a wonderful school provided you can cough up $50,000 a year for your K12 kid to attend. William Barr has three daughters all who have paid high ranking positions in the federal government. It appears their spouses are employed by the federal government as well.

If you think that money and power haven't corrupted our institutions - ponder the legal systems treatment of Jeffrey Epstein for a moment. The Miami Herald coverage of that case is an excellent piece of journalism that shows the incredible disparity between treatment of the ultra wealthy vs. everyone else by our legal system.

Fun Facts - the Dalton School where Donald Barr was the headmaster, hired Jeffrey Epstein as a teacher in 1974 where "his behavior towards teenage girls was noticed" according to this NYT article. This week William Barr recused himself from involvement in Epstein's case and then un-recused himself for the new charges against Epstein in the Southern District of New York. There are plausible theories that Epstein's wealth came from inviting, videotaping and then blackmailing some of the rich and famous who attended his parties in Manhattan, Palm Beach or his private islands.


One silver lining of the Trump era is the ripping away of the curtain that slightly obscured just how corrupt our legal and governmental systems are, in large part, due to extreme wealth consolidation. The New York Times has documented how the Trump family has manipulated and cheated the system for decades. Why was this allowed to continue for decades? Why would anyone assume manipulation and corruption of our governmental and legal systems are limited to people like Epstein and Trump and not just the tip of a very large iceberg?


If you think that what's best for corporations is best for America than maybe a pro-corporate slant within the major media outlets is all for the best. Maybe ask yourself how you came to your beliefs? You don't have to agree with him but Noam Chomsky has some thoughtful criticisms of corporations and government - decide for yourself if what he's saying is a load of manure, totally true or maybe partially true. Exercise the freedom we have to think for ourselves and say what we believe in this great country!

If you have almost three hours to watch a video, the 1992 video about Noam Chomsky titled Manufacturing Consent might be useful in forming an opinion about our government, corporations and the media. This video of Noam Chomsky debating William F Buckley in 1969 is interesting to me because both participants Noam the lefty, and Buckley the conservative, are being civil and actually debating using ideas, details and what appear to be facts.

I realize how ridiculous it is to suggest someone watch a 3 hour video from a college professor about propaganda, media and our government. Who has that kind of time? Other than the leisure class like me (retired old fogy) not many people have the time or inclination. I get that - but I'd also highly recommend exploring some alternate sources of information in whatever free time you might have to devote to personal education. Learning is fun damental :-)

If you want to live in a democracy you will need to be involved and informed. This isn't just hyperbole or a quote from some dead white guy. Look at what policies are favored by the majority of people and then look at what policies are implemented by our government.

Our government has been captured by corporate moneyed interests - we don't have a democracy we have a system that allows hoarding of inherited wealth by a small minority that then uses that wealth to retain power by dividing the working class against each other. If we divide the country by economic class there are a whole lot more poor people than rich people - hence it's best for the plutocrats to keep working class people confused, angry, afraid and most importantly - fighting each other and not their actual oppressors. Listen to this podcast about the Olin foundation for just one example of how this inherited concentrated wealth was used to impact our court system.

I want to wind around to the title of this post now - Disrespecting the Demos or alternately Disrespecting the Common People.

When I spend a few minutes watching cable news or listening to political talk radio I can't help but think how much those millionaires paid by billionaires disrespect the common man. They treat us as idiots, fools, poorly educated suckers - consumers.

One of these days maybe it will be time to say we aren't buying what you're selling.