Tag Archives: taxes

Yes For Scotland

Did you know that in a few days, Scotland will vote on becoming an independent nation?

On the 18th of this month, Scots will be flocking to polling stations to vote either “yes” or “no” on becoming a self-governed country, joining in the movement with many areas of Europe, currently campaigning for self-determination (though barring the Catalonians, Scotland’s probably the closest any have yet gotten).

And may that day yet come…

So is this a good thing? We here at CWR say yes. Continue reading

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2 Broke Girls, S3E23 “And the Free Money”: A TV Review

freemoney

Hoo boy. I try, I really do try, to keep in mind that the original direction and focus of the show has changed, but you want to title an episode “And the Free Money”!? 2 Broke Girls writers room, please, I am begging you.

It is fine to have a cold open which revolves around the girls paying their bills and doing shots. Ain’t nothing wrong with that, not for a second. The issue is that Caroline tells Max [and us] that there are “only a couple bills to go and only $149 to pay them.” Ms. Channing, that could not be further from the truth. At the end of the last episode you had $2,614. Continue reading

Social Service and the 2012 Election

I was sitting at a meeting reviewing cases of indicted abusers – I intern at a social services office near my college, in the second poorest county in New York – and one case involved a man who had served a few months’ probation for abuse and then, upon release, committed a horridly violent act against the same victim. “We failed this kid,” an officer at the meeting said of the victim.

I like working in social services because it simultaneously disenchants and inspires me in regards to the mechanisms of helping people. I work in an office that gives legal and practical assistance to domestic violence victims, houses a women’s shelter, and runs a food pantry.

Many of our clients tell us that they don’t know what they would do without us, that we were their last chance, etc. After these cases, there is a sense that our tax dollars are being put to good use, as it were – that the social service is doing what a social service is supposed to do. But some clients aren’t as easily rewarding. Some are demanding and abrasive; their accounts of incidences don’t match police reports and they tell scattered and narcissistic stories, the verity of which crumble when anyone asks them to repeat a statement. We get people in our office who are clearly victims, but we also get the conniving, the liars, and people who file abuse complaints just to be vindictive. Our services are alternately treasured and taken advantage of.

Whatever the makeup of social service is, it is definitely not black and white; working with the logistics of public service enforces the fact that there are no clear cut cases, and that every policy is going to, at some point, meet an exception of the rule. Sometimes these exceptions are people; sometimes they are failed by the system. Sometimes (oftentimes) people seek to suck as many resources out of the public sphere as they are legally allotted. A general sense of entitlement pervades the population, which often means that public resources are given out at a competitive, first-come-first-serve basis.

But does the fact that the system is occasionally cheated discount the help it provides others? This is a question that must be asked in regards to every public service.

Charity is not so simple as shelling out money to the poor – though money helps, the uncomfortable truth is that anyone (of any class) who receives money will often not use it to their long term benefit or to that of society. The other danger of charity is the possibility of using monetary donation to excuse ourselves from any personal discomfort or investment. If we consider money the thing that solves the problem (and, believe me, it does help), we can ignore the ugly logistics of how and when and why to distribute it.

This is why any candidate who proposes “simple” tax plans (Herman Cainn, Rick Perry) ends up looking kind of foolish. Perry recently called Social Security a “Ponzi scheme” and called for the privatization of the whole thing. While basically everyone says that Social Security is pretty screwed up, much of Perry’s criticism of SS seems to be driven by a fad-like propensity for drastic calls for smaller Federal government, and the implications of such a trend on social services is worrisome.

Ron Paul, on the other hand, does have the advantage of actually sticking to his guns on the issues, it seems – but I can’t believe that his defense of less government in regard to social issues – that “increasing federal funding leaves fewer resources available for the voluntary provision of social services” – is practical at all. Calls for smaller federal government often cite the support of the power of state governments instead, but the basic philosophy seems like it would call for less state governments as well as federal.

Policy change is what is really effective. The problem is that there is no one policy change that will fix everything; social programs need to be constantly restructured to adapt to a changing society. This makes policy changes less flashy and more complicated than large donations or huge influxes of funding, and so they receive less public and political attention than they should. The logistics of helping people can be terribly complicated, and a perfect policy will never be implemented, but public assistance is still a noble, if not a glamorous, necessity for society.

The Debt Ceiling: A Summary for People Who Don’t Know What The Debt Ceiling Is

So if you live in or have heard of the United States then you’ve probably heard lots of people talking about the whole debt ceiling deal, and if you’re the average internet peruser you probably have no idea what they’re talking about most of the time. Honestly, neither do I. So I’ve spent the last while skimming only the best Wikipedia articles, clicking on every relevant link on the New York Times website, and harrassing my one (1) political-science-inclined friend to get a very general idea of what all is going on – I call it The Grossly Simplified and Possibly Only Pseudo-Accurate Debt Ceiling for English Majors: A Love Story.source: www.sodahead.com

BackgroundDebt is accrued, kind of obviously, when the government spends more than its revenue.  In order to keep funding public programs and paying gov’t salaries, etc., Congress basically sells debt to people, and according to somewhere in the Constitution, Congress is the only thing that can borrow money on the America’s credit. So back in the day, like founding-of-the-US-through-the-early-20th-century-day, Congress had to individually approve every time it borrowed money.  During WWI, we were borrowing so much money on credit (i.e., selling debt to people and countries) that Congress decided to kind of streamline the process and just say, “eh, it’s all approved – just don’t go over . . . let’s say 11.5 billion dollars” [not adjusted for inflation].  Since then, each time the US debt was approaching the debt ceiling limit, congress would raise the limit – which has happened like 76-78 times, depending on who you ask.

And so the current debt ceiling (it’s like 14 trillion and something) was “reached” sometime in March, and the government can’t borrow any more money – so we’ve just been paying the interest on our loans. But we’re going to run out of money to pay that interest pretty soon, about August 3, is what’s been estimated, so we either have to raise the debt ceiling or default on our loans, which is basically saying “uh, hey folks, remember when we said we would pay you back? Well, we can’t. Don’t know what you wanna do about that.”

People argue about what would happen if we defaulted. Some say that the world economy would, if not completely collapse, definitely develop a very nasty limp. Others say that it wouldn’t be all that bad for reasons I don’t quite understand. Some people say that China (which owns more than half of all our foreign-held debt) will come over and shake us upside down so our lunch money falls out of our pockets. Rush Limbaugh says that Obama chose August 2nd as the deadline because it’s the day before Ramadan.

source: blog.cunysustainablecities.org

Since 1962 Congress has raised the debt ceiling 72 times

So what’s different now from all those other times that the debt ceiling was raised, as far as I can tell, is that Republicans, who hold the majority of the house of representatives, think that they can use the urgency of the situation to get the Dems and the White House to agree to a budget that they wouldn’t normally approve.  This is coupled with the fact that there is a bigger representation of the Tea Party, especially among junior representatives, than there has been before, and many of those junior representatives campaigned on promises to not raise taxes or do anything that looks or smells remotely like raising taxes ever in their lives. There are two ways to reduce deficit: reduce spending and raise taxes. The Republicans are pushing budgets that reduce spending but don’t increase taxes (or even just let the Bush tax cuts expire, or reform corporate tax laws that allow corporations to take loopholes and get out of paying taxes at all). This makes this difficult for everyone to get along.

So that’s the summary of what’s sort of going on. As the date draws nearer, things get sketchier – like, right now, it’d be impossible for anyone to write up a comprehensive budget by then. There was even talk of the Republicans just making a decision to not raise the ceiling, which the president can then veto, just so they can still say they voted against it. The closer we get to August 3, the hairier and more confusing things get. But that’s an attempt at a summary of the context of the whole issue.