Category Archives: Politics

A Climate Tax on Red Meat? One Country is Trying To Do It!

cattle

http://www.onegreenplanet.org/news/a-climate-tax-on-red-meat-one-country-is-trying-to-do-it/

This is a re-blog of a very information-filled article on http://www.onegreenplanet.org. Please take a read. Link above is to the original article. 

While countries around the world have started setting up regulations for major companies contributing to greenhouse emissions and in turn, climate change, this week, the Danish government voted to take a different approach. Instead of trying to tackle the monumental climate change crisis solely by collaborating with major industry players, the Danish Council of Ethics, an independent body that advises parliament, ministers and other public authorities on ethical issues, has proposed a “climate tax” on products with the greatest negative impact on the environment, namely meat.

As we saw last month when the Netherlands recommended a lower meat intake, the Danish Agriculture and Food Council is not happy about this proposal. More surprisingly, not every politician in Parliament is gung-ho about the idea either, with one going as far as to say, ”Maybe [the tax] would get beef consumption to fall in Denmark, but it wouldn’t do much of anything for the world’s CO2 emissions.”

We, respectfully, disagree. And considering 14 of the 16 members of the council support the tax, we’d say we are not alone. Animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of allgreenhouse gas emissions, more than the total exhaust from all forms of transportation worldwide. So, to remark that the world’s CO2 emissions would not be changed at all from less meat consumption is not only ridiculous, it’s downright irresponsible.

As proponents of the tax stated, the Danish people are, of course, responsible for making climate-friendly choices on their own. However, after six months of deliberation the Council felt it was imperative to push people in the right direction. They hope to extend this tax on other products with a negative impact, but felt that starting with meat would be the smartest move considering its immensely destructive environmental impact.

When we look at how the meat industry and government have worked together in the past, this Danish approach makes total sense, in fact the US could learn a thing or two from Denmark. After all, the animal agriculture industry and the US government have been in cahoots for years now, we can’t expect them to lead the change. Look at government subsidies for example. Despite the fact that meat consumption has come down by a thirdsince the 1970s,  the US government hands out $38.4 billion a year to ensure that people have an easy time entering the industry, and that production continues to grow. Nice work,lobbyists. The worse part about this system is that these hand-outs aren’t coming from the pockets of government officials. If only! The government actually takes tax dollars from its citizens to pay off the very industry that is destroying the planet. If you’re trying to figure out how that makes sense, we’ll save you the time, it doesn’t.

While we can’t deny that the US government has begun to make strides in addressing climate change, the destruction will become unmanageable if we continue at this snail’s pace. Although this new Danish tax hasn’t been set into motion yet, the US government should definitely consider implementing a similar law. After all, the first way we should be fighting climate change is with our forks, a connection our government needs to make, and soon.

tax

 

 

Religion and Politics . . . Hit the Mute Button!

secret

Shhhh . . . someone at my table begins discussing religion and politics. Invariably, they’re Right Wing Republicans, and I find myself activating my tongue’s mute button. I’m different, you see. My family, friends, and even my partner are quite conservative. I used to be one of them too but one day I realized I could no longer hide who I was or what I truly believed.

Yes, I voted for Obama. Yes, I believe in a woman’s freedom of choice concerning her body. Yes, I believe homosexuals deserve the same civil liberties as heterosexuals. I want a national healthcare plan. I want our government to care for the homeless, penniless, and the abused. I’m a registered voter who votes, and I usually vote Democrat.

I’m surrounded by Christians who have literal beliefs about the bible. I live in America’s Bible Belt. It’s not easy being liberal here. I believe in God. That’s all I want to say about my religious beliefs, though.

I’m greatly blessed to be an American. I love my country. My fiance’ is a retired Air Force Sargent who volunteers daily to help our veterans better their lives. I’m proud to be able to freely express myself.

I love people, in general. I never meet a stranger. I’m generous, caring, and help wherever I can. I’m honest, respectful, and a good bit gullible because I think everyone has an open heart like I do.

So, when religion or politics are discussed, I silently sip my iced tea or nibble my salad. Their arguments and passion of belief amaze me. I hear much ignorance in their statements. However, it always passes and a new subject of conversation begins,

The weather? Why, yes, it has been lovely lately, hasn’t it? Back to common ground. 🙂

Obamacare – Still Not Addressing Illegal Immigrants

why

 

People who know me know that I love my fellow man, am not a tolerater but an accepter, and that I am the first to help the underprivileged of our nation.  That being said, I have a question about why Obama’s new Health Care Laws allow illegal immigrants to go without the “Government Mandated Health Insurance” that the rest of us are forced to carry. We’ll even receive a hefty fine if we do NOT carry health insurance. I guess that’s why my Mexican neighbors (literal neighbors), who are here for jobs and other benefits, but don’t pay taxes and get to avoid the hassle of reporting proof of health insurance to the government – they aren’t legal citizens. For that matter, why do my neighbors not have to GAIN legal citizenship in the first place? They benefit from government funds but don’t  have to pay in – ever?

I guess if you’re not a citizen then you don’t have to “prove” anything. Just send your kids to our already-crowded schools and take Americans’ already-scarce jobs (yes, Americans still want these lower paid jobs, too. Just ask my friend, J).

I am not understanding how our government isn’t arranging for aliens to have to become tax-paying citizens. Please (nicely) explain to me if/why I’m wrong on this subject.

Thanks ~

Fukushima Nuclear Plant – Another Quake – 6.0

 

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Photo taken by Kyodo on July 18, 2013

“Following the meltdowns of two and a half years ago, crews at the Fukushima nuclear plant have been struggling hard to clear up the damage done by the natural disaster. TEPCO has recently acknowledged that one of the problems it cannot solve is that crippled reactors continue to leak highly contaminated radioactive waters into the Pacific Ocean.  The process of decommissioning the reactors is likely to take several decades, and according to recent estimates, it is going to cost Japan up to $58 billion.”  – rt.com/news

Why do we not hear more about this? Radioactivity is steadily leaking into the Pacific Ocean. How much? How damaging is it? How damaging will it be in the  “several decades” that it will continue leaking? Are we being told the truth of the actual levels of radiation coming from this site? Nuclear power is dangerous. It only takes “once” for disaster to strike. It’s a throw of the dice. Once is enough.

There is a New Healthcare Plan for America

The Supreme Court largely let stand the Affordable Care Act. 

The court case had centered on the so-called individual mandate, a requirement that all Americans obtain health insurance or pay a fine. Republicans challenged it as an unconstitutional expansion of federal power. The Obama administration argued that it was needed to fix basic flaws in the insurance market and that it was crucial to provisions like the requirement that insurers accept all comers without regard to pre-existing health conditions. This prohibits insurers from denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions. To reduce the soaring cost of Medicare, it creates a panel of experts to limit government reimbursement to only those treatments shown to be effective, and creates incentives for providers to “bundle’’ services rather than charge by individual procedure.

The law will cost the government about $938 billion over 10 years, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which has also estimated that it will reduce the federal deficit by $138 billion over a decade.

This law guarantees access to medical insurance for tens of millions of Americans (about 30 million people). It also provides federal subsidies to help lower- and middle-income Americans buy private coverage. The court’s decision did significantly restrict (slow the pace of) one major portion of the law: the expansion of Medicaid, the government health-insurance program for low-income and sick people.

The ruling gives states some flexibility not to expand their Medicaid programs, without paying the same financial penalties that the law called for. When Mr. Obama said it was not true that the Democrats were proposing to provide health coverage to illegal immigrants, Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina yelled back, “You lie!” Mr. Wilson later apologized, but his outburst led to a six-day national debate on civility and decorum, and the House formally rebuked him on Sept. 15.

Even with the court’s decision, the debate over health care remains far from over, with Republicans vowing to carry on their fight against the law. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, has promised to undo it if elected.

Not a single Republican voted for the final version of the bill, and Republicans across the country campaigned on a promise to repeal it. Republicans never offered a unified health care bill, but the party’s Congressional leaders sketched out a fairly well-developed set of ideas intended to make health insurance more widely available and affordable, by emphasizing tax incentives and state innovations, with no new federal mandates and only a modest expansion of the federal safety net.

While the Congressional Budget Office has not analyzed all the Republican proposals, it is clear that they would not provide coverage to anything like the number of people who would gain insurance under the Democrats’ proposals. But Republicans say they can make incremental progress without the economic costs they contend the Democratic plans pose to the nation.

As one way to encourage competition and drive down costs, Republican members of Congress want to make it easier for insurance companies to sell their policies across state lines, an idea included in a limited form in the Democratic bills.

Republicans said their package would probably include proposals to allow sales of health insurance across state lines; to help small businesses band together and buy insurance; to limit damages in medical malpractice suits; and to promote the use of health savings accounts, in combination with high-deductible insurance policies.

Federal officials awarded nearly $516 million to states to help build new insurance exchanges, although some states whose officials are opposed to the law, like Florida and Alaska, have either refused the money or postponed any plans in hopes of getting the legislation overturned.

Republicans say they will try to withhold money that federal officials need to administer and enforce the law.  The Obama administration said that it would not define a single unifornm set of “essential health benefits” that must be provided by insurers for tens of millions of Americans. Instead, it will allow each state to specify the benefits within broad categories.

Republicans denounced the law as an intrusion by the government that would prompt employers to eliminate jobs, create an unsustainable entitlement program, saddle states and the federal government with unmanageable costs, and interfere with the doctor-patient relationship. Republicans also said the law would exacerbate the steep rise in the cost of medical services.

For their part, the Obama administration and Democrats, who largely lost the health care message war in the raucous legislative process, see the renewed debate as a chance to show that the law will be a boon to millions of Americans and hope to turn “Obamacare” from a pejorative into a tag for one of the president’s proudest achievements. Democrats argue that repeal would increase the number of uninsured; put insurers back in control of health insurance, allowing them to increase premiums at will; and lead to explosive growth in the  federal budget deficit.

Even though critics say the law does little to reduce the costs of care, its passage touched off myriad efforts to pare widespread waste.

An area of great concern is in birth control. In February 2012, facing vocal opposition from religious leaders and an escalating political fight, the White House sought to ease mounting objections to a new administration rule that would require health insurance plans — including those offered by Catholic universities and charities — to offer birth control to women free of charge.

As the Republican presidential candidates and conservative leaders sought to frame the  rule as showing President Obams’s insensitivity to religious beliefs, Mr. Obama’s aides promised to explore ways to make it more palatable to religious-affiliated institutions, perhaps by allowing some employers to make side insurance plans available that are not directly paid for by the institutions.

Speaker John A. Boehner stepped into the battle, saying that House Republicans would push legislation to challenge the policy.

In the Senate, Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, introduced a sweeping amendment to the Obama legislation that would permit employers and insurers to refuse to provide or pay for coverage of “specific items or services” if the coverage would be “contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the sponsor, issuer or other entity offering the plan.”

Democrats’ desire for universal access to health insurance runs deep. President Franklin D. Roosevelt hoped to include some kind of national health insurance program in Social Security in 1935. President Harry S. Truman proposed a national health care program with an insurance fund into which everyone would pay. Since then, every Democratic president and several Republican presidents have wanted to provide affordable coverage to more Americans.

President Bill Clinton offered the most ambitious proposal and suffered the most spectacular failure. Working for 10 months behind closed doors, Clinton aides wrote a 240,000-word bill. Scores of lobbyists picked it apart. Congressional Democrats took potshots at it. And Republicans used the specter of government-run health care to help them take control of Congress in the midterm elections of 1994.

For President Obama, this is an act of long-needed sweeping health care overhaul that has eluded Washington for generations.

(Thank you to the New York Times, Friday, June 29, 2012, issue.  The entirety of the article can be viewed at http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/health/diseasesconditionsandhealthtopics/health_insurance_and_managed_care/health_care_reform/index.html)

Human Rights, Think About What It Means

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (December 10, 1948) (partial):

Article 1.

  • All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are
    endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a
    spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2.

  • Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this
    Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex,
    language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin,
    property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on
    the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the
    country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent,
    trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3.

  • Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

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12 Ways to Fix Social Security?

The Social Security program faces a long term financing shortfall. The trust fund’s reserves are currently projected to cover payments until the end of 2037. Then there will only be sufficient resources to pay about three quarters of scheduled benefits. For full checks to be issued after that date the program’s financing or benefit structure must be modified.

A U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging report released today outlines the policies Congress could institute to eliminate Social Security’s projected deficit. Options include tax increases, benefit cuts, and program tweaks that could be implemented separately or in combination. “Many members of the Committee, including myself, do not support and actively oppose many of the options,” writes committee chairman Herb Kohl in the report. Here’s a look at the potential Social Security fixes.

Reduce benefits. If Social Security payouts were reduced by 3 percent for new beneficiaries beginning in 2010, about 18 percent of the funding shortfall would be eliminated. A 5 percent benefit cut would reduce the deficit by 30 percent. Alternatively, reductions could be more gradually phased in and exempt those with low lifetime earnings.

[See 6 Ways Couples Can Maximize Social Security Payouts.]

Raise the retirement age. The Social Security eligibility age for unreduced retirement benefits currently ranges from 65 to 67 depending on the worker’s year of birth. If benefits are claimed between age 62 and the full retirement age, payouts are reduced. Proposals to push back the retirement age include accelerating the increase currently underway to age 67, further increasing the full retirement age to 68 or even 70, and indexing the full retirement age to keep up with longevity. Each of these switches, however, eliminates less than a third of the deficit.

Increase worker and employer contributions. Workers and their employers currently pay 6.2 percent of earnings up to $106,800 into the Social Security system, or a maximum of $6,622 each per year. Self-employed workers are required to pay 12.4 percent of pay up to the same cap. If the contribution rate were increased by 1.1 percent to 7.3 percent of earnings, Social Security’s projected deficit would be eliminated. Using this fix, a worker making $43,451 in 2010 would face a tax increase of $478 a year, or $9.19 a week, and the employer would face an identical increase.

Boost future contributions. Taxes don’t need to be increased immediately because there is currently enough money in the Social Security trust fund to pay out scheduled benefits. For example, the Social Security tax bite could be increased from 6.2 percent to 7.2 percent for workers and employers in 2022, and to 8.2 percent in 2052, which would also completely eliminate the shortfall. Alternatively, taxes could be gradually ramped up by 1/20 percent annually for 20 years, which would decrease the Social Security deficit by about 69 percent.

Tax as needed. Social Security contribution rates could be designed to increase as funds are needed and reduced when there is a surplus. Additionally, efforts to collect unpaid Social Security payroll taxes could be enhanced.

[See The 10 Biggest Sources of Retirement Income.]

Modify the Social Security tax cap. Workers pay into the Social Security system on earnings up to $106,800 in 2010. About 83 percent of worker earnings were subject to Social Security payroll taxes in 2008. If all earned income above $106,800 annually were subject to Social Security contributions but did not count toward benefits, Social Security’s projected deficit would be completely eliminated. If the higher income counted toward Social Security benefits, about 95 percent of the shortfall would be absolved. Other ideas: apply a new Social Security formula to earnings above the current cap or raise the amount of the income cap to apply to 90 percent of all worker earnings.

Average in more working years. Social Security checks are currently based on an average of a worker’s 35 highest paid years in the workforce. Those who haven’t worked 35 years have zeros averaged in. The averaging period could be increased to 38 or 40 years, which would reduce the deficit by 14 and 23 percent respectively.

Decrease the cost-of-living adjustment. Social Security benefits are currently automatically adjusted each year to keep up with inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers. Reducing the cost-of-living adjustment by 1 percent each year would eliminate 78 percent of the deficit. Even knocking half a percent off the annual adjustment would reduce the deficit by 40 percent. An alternative way of measuring the cost-of-living could also be used.

Lower spousal benefits. Social Security pays a benefit to nonworking and low earning spouses equal to up to 50 percent of the higher earning spouse’s check. One proposal would gradually lower the maximum spousal benefit to 33 percent by 2026. This change would reduce about 6 percent of the long term deficit. However, this provision may have less of an impact over time as more women become entitled to Social Security benefits based on their own work records.

[See How Divorce Affects Retirement Benefits.]

Include more workers. Most Americans are already covered by the Social Security system. About 94 percent of workers pay employment or self-employment Social Security taxes. But some Americans are currently exempt from Social Security taxes including state and local government workers participating in alternative retirement systems, federal workers hired before 1984, college students working at academic institutions, and ministers who choose not to be covered. However, this fix would need to be applied in conjunction with others. Extending coverage to workers who previously didn’t participate would only reduce the Social Security shortfall by about 9 percent.

A legacy tax. The first retirees who received Social Security payments from the system didn’t pay Social Security taxes throughout their entire working life, which contributes to Social Security’s fiscal problems. Several ideas have been raised to counteract this legacy cost including a 3 percent legacy tax on earnings above the current tax cap of $106,800 or on adjusted gross income over $125,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples. This legacy tax would eliminate close to a third of Social Security’s shortfall. Another proposed idea is directing estate tax revenue into the Social Security trust fund, which would eliminate 20 percent of the fund’s deficit.

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Diversify investments. Part of the Social Security trust fund could be invested in equities to try to earn returns that would help to sustain the Social Security program. Investing 15 percent of trust fund assets in equities would reduce the deficit by 14 percent if a 9.4 percent rate of return was achieved. If 40 percent of the trust fund were shifted into the stock market and earned 9.4 percent annually the deficit could be reduced by a third. Of course, this also exposes the trust fund to increased liabilities in times of economic downturn.