An Open Letter To President Barack Obama

August 9, 2014

The following is a copy of my letter to President Obama regarding the dismal state of America’s rapidly aging and deteriorating infrastructure system;

August 8, 2014

The Honorable Barack H. Obama
President of the United States of America
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20048

Dear President Obama,

Driving up to London this past weekend with my neighbor, on our way to Wal-Mart in search of their end of season discount perennial flowers, we noticed that State Route 42 was recently tarred and chipped. I told my neighbor that for a state route, this was pitiful. This relatively inexpensive way to temporarily extend the life of a deteriorating blacktop highway was what county engineers did to lightly traveled back roads. For a county engineer to do so on a state route is deplorable.

For a very long time now, this nation’s roads have been in terrible condition. The American Society of Civil Engineers, in their 2013 Report Card For American Infrastructure, gave an overall grade of D+ for the country’s infrastructure, with a grade of D for our roads. The engineers estimated that America needs to spend $3.6 trillion dollars by 2020 to upgrade our infrastructure to a “good” status, yet funding is anticipated to be half that amount.

I told my neighbor that I have written over the years that the best way to put America back to work, with good paying jobs is to rebuild our entire infrastructure system. I told him that when rebuilding the roads, we should replace all the existing sewer lines and bury all the electrical and telephone lines, going as far as to running fiber optics.

Yet, all Congress can do is to pass a somewhat temporary bill to fund the Highway Trust Fund through May of next year, mainly in the attempt to prevent a twenty-eight percent cut in federal highway funding. This nation can go to war seemingly every other week, all the while our country is falling apart at the seams. And Congress is content to watch it crumble.

Disgraceful!

Sincerely,
Steven H. Spring

C.: TalkingLoudAndSayingNothingParts3And4.WordPress.com
Speaker of the House John Boehner
Senator Sherrod Brown
Senator Rob Portman

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Corporate Welfare: Tax Filing Deadline Day In America

April 15, 2013

As Americans celebrate both income tax filing deadline date and the one hundredth anniversary of the iconic income tax Form 1040 today, I write with just a bit of sarcasm, one only wonders what the financial health of the nation would be if only U.S. corporations would pay their fair share of taxes.  Although corporate profits are at all-time highs, U.S. corporate tax revenues are at forty-year lows.  America collects less in corporate taxes than all but two of the world’s thirty-four industrialized countries.  Corporate tax revenue as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), that being the total market value of all goods and services produced over a period of time was more than seven percent in 1945 and more than 6 percent in 1952, both times during a period of war.  By 2012, this percentage had fallen to slightly more than one percent.  Individual tax revenue as a percentage of GDP has remained fairly constant since the Great Depression, fluctuating between seven and nine percent.

Offshore tax havens such as the Bahamas, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Monaco, United Arab Emirates & the Virgin Islands, for both wealthy citizens and corporations cost the federal government an estimated one hundred and fifty billion dollars each year.  In addition, this lost revenue is estimated to cost states another forty billion.  The average taxpayer paid an estimated one thousand dollars more in taxes to cover this loss while the average small business has to pay more than three thousand dollars to offset the loss of revenue by large corporations.  One need only remember that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, once he files an amended return for 2011 if he hasn’t already done so, claiming the entire four million dollar charitable contribution instead of reporting little more than two million, all to make his effective tax rate a ridiculous fourteen percent on his nearly fourteen million dollars in earnings instead of an outrageous nine percent.

In 1986, twenty-four percent of American corporations were nontaxable businesses, thus paying no federal income tax.  By 2008, nearly seventy percent were.  The corporate tax rate is currently set at thirty-five percent, however as we are all aware, due to tax code loopholes and exemptions gained by high-priced lobbyists, many corporations actually pay far less than this percentage.  A recent study of Fortune 500 corporations found that on average these titans of industry paid slightly more than eighteen percent in federal tax, nearly half of the statute amount.  Many American companies with considerable profits abroad actually paid more taxes to foreign governments than they did in their homeland.

The following is an alphabetical list of American corporations that during the past five years have paid little, if any federal tax as a percentage of total revenue, some of which had a negative tax rate;

AIG
Allegheny Energy
Amazon
American Electric Power
American Express
AT&T
Bank Of America
Boeing
Broadcom Corp.
Carnival Cruise Lines
Chevron
Citigroup
Coco-Cola
Comcast
ConocoPhillips
Dell
Duke Energy
DuPont
ExxonMobil
Facebook
General Electric
Goldman Sachs
Home Depot
Host Hotels & Resorts
Mattel
Microsoft
NextEra Energy
NRG Energy
NVIDIA Corp.
Pacific, Gas & Electric
Pepsi
Pepco Holdings
Pfizer
TECO Energy
Valero Energy
Verizon
Wells Fargo
Xcel Energy
Western Digital Corp.

Judging by this partial list of tax dodgers, the energy industry must have really great lobbyists, as nearly half of those on this list are energy providers.

Steven H. Spring

Corporate Welfare: Why Does The U.S. Government Inflate The Price Of Sugar?

When I was a young boy, Grandpa would give me a dollar bill and I would go down to the local grocery store to buy as many candy bars as I could for him.  Naturally, I would always pick the candy that I liked best.  It would always take me a very long time to decide what to buy, as at the time most if not all candy bars cost only a nickel.  Nowadays, you are lucky if you can get one candy bar for a dollar.  Granted, that was a very long time ago, however, since 1789, U.S. policy and thus the price of sugar has been determined not by supply and demand, which is true capitalism, but by our federal government when Congress first imposed a tariff on foreign sugar imports.  The original intention of this tariff was to provide much needed revenue for this nation; however, it has also resulted in the U.S. price of sugar being historically higher than that of the world market.  Over the years, the American price of sugar has been double, triple or even quadruple the world price.  At one time, the U.S. price was twenty-one cents a pound when the world price was less than three cents.

It was announced earlier this week that the Department of Agriculture is thinking of purchasing 400,000 tons of sugar to artificially support falling sugar prices, which have fallen nearly twenty percent since last fall.  The pending purchase is thought to be a means of helping prevent sugar processors from defaulting on nearly a trillion dollars in government loans under a federal price support program.  Falling sugar prices are the result of a bountiful crop last year of both sugar beets and sugar cane in this country.  This acquisition of sugar would benefit those companies that turn the cane and beets into granulated sugar.  Pierson Bob Clair III, CEO of Brown And Haley, a candy maker and distributor based in Washington state has been quoted as saying, “Clearly, the USDA has made up its mind that Big Sugar is going to trump the American consumer.”

We, as a nation, profess to worship at the feet of capitalism, yet once again, it is consumers and taxpayers who pay the price for government intervention into the corporate world, be it price inflated tariffs, bailouts, subsidies or tax laws that allow huge corporations such as GE, Microsoft, Apple, IBM, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Boeing, Mattel, ExxonMobil, DuPont or Verizon to pay very little if any federal tax.  I did not agree with Republican candidate Mitt Romney often, if at all during last year’s presidential campaign, however, I did agree with him when he stated “We ought to get rid of subsides and let markets work properly,” referring to the sugar industry during his campaign last year.   How does this industry get away with financial thievery?  The simple answer, as always the case, is money.  The sugar industry grows less than two percent of the total dollar valuation of all U.S. grown crops, however sugar lobbyists spend more than a third of the total of all American grown crops lobbying all the while Big Sugar campaign contributions to political action committees (PACs) are more than the total of all other American grown crops contributions combined.

For all the talk of welfare queens robbing this nation blind, living high on the hog all the while driving brand new Cadillac Escalades, it is corporate welfare that is truly a disgrace!

Steven H. Spring

Why Do So Many Intelligent People Say So Many Stupid Things?

Why do so many seemly intelligent people say so many stupid things?  Granted, I myself have been known over the years to make both stupid comments and remarks I have later regretted saying, not that I am implying I’m a smart person, however, the latest example of such foolishness occurred in an article that appeared in my local newspaper this past week by New York Times columnist David Brooks.  In his article concerning federal government revenue, spending and the proverbial fiscal cliff near economic disaster, Mr. Brooks stated that the typical American couple pays $109,000 into Medicare yet receive $343,000 in health benefits, thus in his words the hypothetical couple receives “free money.”  Many other commentators have made similar comments in the past regarding Social Security taxes paid versus retirement benefits received as well.

Just looking at the numbers that Mr. Brooks presented, one would tend to think this is why Social Security and Medicare are both nearly bankrupt.  However, two words completely repudiate Brooks and every other commentator who makes similar assertions: compound interest.  Maybe it’s my mathematical background with a degree in accounting from Ohio State University; however ask any homeowner how much they borrowed from a bank to finance their dream house versus how much they actually paid back.  As a general rule of thumb, a homeowner usually pays back three times what they borrowed during the course of a thirty-year mortgage.  If, for example a person borrows $150,000 to buy a home, they would eventually pay back $450,000, if not more during the course of thirty years worth of mortgage payments.  Granted, the term of the loan and interest rate applied greatly affects this example, but this assumption is generally true over thirty years.

The real reason why Social Security and Medicare are both going bankrupt is that Congress has routinely spent all surplus revenue it takes in every year in the form of FICA taxes instead of investing these funds in very conservative investments such as U.S. Treasury bonds.  With the average American working nearly fifty years before reaching retirement age, if the federal government had invested their payroll taxes paid in treasury bonds or similar investments, both Social Security and Medicare would be solvent for decades to come, if not forever.

Compound interest is a great thing if you are on the receiving end of the debt; however, if it is you who are paying it, interest greatly increases what you eventually pay back.  Compound interest earned on FICA taxes paid, if properly invested during the past seventy-seven years that Social Security has been in existence would have eliminated the financial dilemma now facing Congress.

Steven H. Spring

 

 

 

Only Ten More Days Until America Crashes Over The Proverbial Fiscal Cliff

Watching my fellow Buckeye and Speaker of the House John Boehner whine incessantly about how bad off millionaires have it in these troubling times, I am almost beginning to feel sorry for them.  Just look at poor Mitt Romney and think of what he and Ann could buy at Costco with the money he saves paying zero tax instead of nine percent, as he would under Paul Ryan’s proposed budget.  He should also be getting a big check from Uncle Sam, as you just know he has already filed an amended tax return for last year claiming the entire four million dollar charitable contribution instead of just half as he first filed to make his tax rate a somewhat less laughable fourteen percent.  However, one comment made by the speaker did catch my attention.  Boehner stated that President Obama will be responsible for the largest tax hike in American history if Congressional Democrats fail to approve his plan for extending the soon to expire Bush tax cuts for all income levels, however, he failed to state the obvious.

What Speaker Boehner really meant is that these two massive tax cuts, mainly benefiting the wealthy elite and signed into law during George W. Bush’s first term as president were the largest tax cuts in American history.  Since when is a soon to expire temporary tax cut a tax hike?  Only Republicans could spin that logic.  When combined with President Bush’s two unfunded and unnecessary wars, these tax cuts comprise a major portion of the record budget deficits that have plagued this nation the past seven or eight years.  Moreover, when combined with a stagnating automotive industry and collapsing housing and financial bubbles, these enormous cuts played a very large part in the economic chaos and deteriorating economy that plagues this nation to this day.

I have written for many years now that the next great depression makes the Great Depression look like part of the Roaring ‘20s due to the migration of manufacturing jobs, first to Mexico then to China.  It is hard for any economy to rebound when its entire work force is in sales or customer service.  This was the first time in this nation’s history that taxes were cut during a time of war, let alone two tax cuts during two wars.  Instead of cutting taxes, they should have been raised to fund these two wars, both the longest in our history and one still ongoing.  Longer than both world wars and our civil combined.  George W. Bush was once quoted questioning why his administration was giving another round of tax cuts to the rich.

It has been reported that Speaker Boehner’s “Plan B” tax proposal, which he evidently pull from the house floor himself last night, professes to be a moderate increase for millionaires but would actually decrease their tax liability, raise taxes on the working poor and cuts food stamps for the poor.  Instead of extending all tax cuts except for those income levels greater than one million dollars, they should all be allowed to expire.  This would be the only way to greatly reduce our annual trillion-dollar budget deficits.  Yet, very few politicians has the cojones to speak out against our disastrous fiscal policies.  Another tax adjustment to implement would be to remove the current cap on Social Security taxable income at $110,100.00.  Tax total income so everyone pays the same percentage.  The current cap restriction is very regressive and greatly favors the wealthy and as always at the expense of the working poor.

Only ten more days until America crashes over the proverbial fiscal cliff, which could possibly result in worldwide financial chaos, and Congress has left town for its Christmas break.

Steven H. Spring

Heading For A Fiscal Cliff?

Is America really heading once again for the proverbial fiscal cliff on New Year’s Eve, a financial event we are led to believe by the twenty-four hour news networks that quite possibly could send the fragile recovering economy back into a deeper recession or perhaps even a depression?  If so, what exactly is the cause, and far more significantly, what will be the consequence if this event were allowed to occur?  Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution gives Congress the right to borrow money to pay its legal monetary obligations.  Due to the financial emergency caused by the outbreak of World War I, the Second Liberty Bond Act of 1917 was passed in which Congress established a cumulative limit on the total dollar amount of treasury bonds that could be issued by the federal government.  Until 2011, whenever the total financial obligation of the United States approached the then current debt limit, Congress would always pass legislation to increase the debt ceiling with little fanfare or debate.

That is, until July of 2011, when all financial hell broke loose as the Republican Party decided to use the debt ceiling debate purely for partisan political purposes by refusing to vote to increase the debt limit unless its demands of massive discretionary spending cuts and the extension of income tax rate cuts passed during 2001 and 2003 were met.  These events resulted in Standard & Poor’s downgrading of the credit rating of the United States government for the first time in this nation’s history and in turn resulted in the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropping more than six hundred points in one day, a drop of nearly six percentage points.

Although the Congressional Budget Office has reported that the United States will not reach the current debt ceiling limit until mid-February, January 1, 2013 is being reported as the fiscal cliff target date because on that date the George W. Bush tax cuts, Barack Obama’s temporary payroll tax cut and other economic stimulus measures expire and sequestration is enacted, resulting in an across the board ten percent cut in all federal discretionary spending.  The failure of Congress to increase the existing debt ceiling, which currently stands at $16.394 trillion by December 31st would most likely generate a widespread federal government shutdown and result in the United States defaulting on its debt obligations to creditors.

What purpose does this debt ceiling serve if every time it is approached Congress has voted to increase it?  In the past ten years, the debt ceiling has been increased by Congress twelve times.  Under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the national debt has increased a staggering ten trillion dollars, so obviously the debt ceiling does very little, if any to limit our government from going ever more deeply into debt.  Are there not far more important pieces of legislation for Congress to debate and pass in these troubling times?  This absurd act of gamesmanship by our elected members of Congress is a farce to the financial powers bestowed upon them by our constitution.  The Second Liberty Bond Act of 1917 is undoubtedly of little or no value and as such should be immediately rescinded.

Steven H. Spring

 

Is President Obama To Blame For Outrageous Health Care Insurance And Medical Treatment Cost Increases?

Is it fair to place total blame on President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul legislation, “The Patient Protection And Affordable Care Act” (i.e., ObamaCare), for the outrageous cost of both health care insurance and medical treatment as both Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and the Republican propaganda machine (i.e., the Fox News Network) are so to quick to do?  To blame the high cost of health insurance and treatment on the president’s attempt at giving all Americans affordable health insurance is a little like placing all blame on Santa Claus for the hideous gift you received last Christmas.  The rapid growth of health care spending has increased at a slower rate during the past two years than any other time over the past five decades.

As a nation, Americans pay twice as much yet receive half the health care benefits as that of all other developed countries.  Life expectancy in the United States ranks number fifty in the world.  With health care costs having risen more than one hundred and thirty percent between 1999 and 2009, it is this fact that is at the core of the problem.  From 2000 to 2009, profits for the ten largest insurance companies had increased two hundred and fifty percent, ten times faster than the rate of inflation.  Since 2008, the five largest health insurance companies had a combined profit of $12.2 billion, up fifty-six percent.

Part of the problem with our health care system is that doctors now routinely own the very clinics and labs in which they refer their patients for treatment and tests.  The Institute of Medicine estimates that unnecessary medical care costs this country more than two hundred billion dollars a year.  From 1996 through 2010, the number of ultrasounds performed has doubled, the number of CT scans has tripled and the number of MRIs has quadrupled.  Chemotherapy has been found to work on only three to five percent of the patients who undergo it, thus ninety-five percent receive no actual benefit but get both the toxicity poisoning and the bills.

The Institute of Medicine has also estimated that seventy-five billion dollars in insurance fraud is committed every year and nearly two hundred billion dollars are wasted each year in excessive administration costs.  Then there is the cost of our prescription medication.  Americans pay twice what Canadians do for the very same drugs.  It wasn’t all that long ago that local news was reporting on the busloads of senior citizens driving up to Canada to get their meds.  So many, that the FDA issued a report informing us of the hazards of taking medication purchased across the border, despite the fact that the very same pharmaceutical companies were manufacturing them.

With nearly fifty million Americans without health insurance, these uninsured people receive their health care via hospital emergency rooms, which compounds the problem in that this is the most expensive method of receiving treatment.  President Obama should be given credit for trying to insure all citizens have adequate health care.  As a nation, we should be ashamed of this statistic.

Steven H. Spring