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Thoughts from the Florida Democratic Convention

Thoughts from the

Florida Democratic Convention

October 27-29, 2017

Here we are. It’s Florida, 2017, and we have survived 8 years of Rick Scott. That is to say that some of us, maybe most of us, have survived Rick Scott. There is no way to know how many mothers who lacked access to health care because of Scott’s callous rejection of $18 billion from the federal government to provide health care to those mothers, succumbed to diseases that could have been prevented with the proper care. There is no way to know how many children have suffered, still suffer, or have perhaps died because Medicaid funds were not available to pay for preventive or urgent care. What we do know is that there are over a million people in Florida living at the poverty line who cannot afford health care, cannot receive subsidies for insurance under the ACA, and live every day just a paycheck away from homelessness, unable to go to the doctor for a checkup where a debilitating disease might be discovered while it is treatable and inexpensive to do so. This is Florida in 2017. This is America, arguably the richest nation on the planet.

I am at home reflecting on the weekend I just spent at the Florida Democratic Convention. I watched a forum for three gubernatorial candidates who, I assume, are considered by the party to be the most likely candidates to win in the Democratic primary in 2018. I watched the Florida delegation pass a package of resolutions stating the party’s position on a number of timely and important issues facing Floridians in this turbulent time in our lives and the lives of our friends and neighbors. I had personal, one-on-one conversations with two of the candidates for governor from the candidates’ forum, and with a third candidate who was unhappy about being left out of the debate. I met young Dems and old Dems, excited Dems and frustrated Dems, and Dems of many race, creeds, color, and gender. At the end of the day, or weekend to be more precise, I concluded that Dems are ready to govern in Florida for many years to come.

My takeaways from the Convention are:

  1. The Dems have fielded 3 great candidates for Governor, each with her or his own strengths and weaknesses.

  2. Dems are already being elected to office across Florida in municipalities and counties where it would have been in-thinkable a couple of years ago.

  3. The Chair of the FDP is much more Democratic than I gave him credit for during his election to the Chair this past year.

  4. I was particularly impressed with Chairman Bitttel’s personal efforts to take food, supplies, and generators to Puerto Rico following hurricane to lend direct aid to folks who folks in an urgent situation who offer no particular political or other benefit.

  5. The Florida Dems demonstrated a very progressive tendency that I found a bit surprising at the state level by enacting a series of resolutions including such things as:

    1. Support for recognition of healthcare as a human right

    2. An end to the education-for-profit industry that puts profits above our children’s education

    3. An end to prisons-for-profit that encourages putting Floridians in jail rather than ensuring justice for all

    4. Restoration of rights to felons upon serving their time and paying their debt to society

    5. A rebuke to the anti-immigrant policies of the current administration and an affirmation of our American principles including a more compassionate immigration policy that places a priority on family reunification, a path to citizenship for the Dreamers, and respect for human rights regardless of a person’s immigration status.

    6. Promoting responsible gun ownership that recognizes our civic responsibility to keep guns out of the hands of people who have demonstrated an incapacity to use guns responsibly because of mental illness or a history of domestic violence, and

    7. Treating drug addiction as a medical problem rather than a criminal one.

  6. A progressive community within the Democratic party remains angry, hurt, and often bitter because of the treatment given to Bernie Sanders during the last election cycle.

  7. An attempt to influence the party to move to open primaries so that NPAs would feel more welcome in the party was turned away.

I am more optimistic today about the direction of the Democratic Party that I was before the Convention. I believe we have a great deal more to do to provide an infrastructure that supports inclusion, empowerment, and provides a path to success in future elections, but we have taken a big step forward. While the party still seems to obsess over fund-raising, I see a real recognition of the need for organizing at the grassroots. Don’t get me wrong. We have always asked our people to knock on doors and make phone calls. What I have not seen in the past is the official recognition of a job well done. We recognized those county organizations who knocked on the most doors, made the most phone calls, created the best signs for the Convention, and had the best Halloween costumes.

I am also pleased that we did not move toward open primaries. I have seen too much hancky-panicky in states where they have tried that approach. I am disappointed that the wounds of the last election seem so linger so strongly. Most of all, I am thrilled that we will elect a new Governor in 2018 and feel confident that we will elect a Democrat this time.

How Will The Bernie Sanders Tax Plan Affect You?

Many Democratic supporters of Hillary Clinton are casting Bernie Sanders in the mold of an irresponsible dreamer. One of the recent memes claims that poor and middle class voters  will reject the great-sounding programs that Sanders has proposed because it will add new taxes to everyone; even the poor.

The Tax Foundation has published an analysis of the Bernie Sanders Tax Plan by Alan Cole that is unbecoming an institution that claims to be a nonpartisan economic think tank. This analysis entitled Details and Analysis of Senator Bernie Sanders’s Tax Plan asserts a number of questionable findings. One of those findings is:

On a static basis, the plan would lead to 10.56 percent lower after-tax income for all taxpayers and 17.91 percent lower after-tax income for the top 1 percent. When accounting for reduced GDP, after-tax incomes of all taxpayers would fall by at least 12.84 percent.

Cole’s analysis makes other flawed assertions, but the finding restated above is the primary focus of this blog. Most of the other findings relate to tax consequences to employers, GDP, and the markets, which of course, indirectly affect the rest of us. The affect on incomes directly affects each and everyone of us. It is this flawed finding that will be debunked in the few short paragraphs ahead.

Based on the the Tax Foundations claim, a single person making minimum wage would expect to 10.56% less that the $284.69 s/he would bring home after working a 40 hour week. In other words, our hypothetical worker would lose $30.18 and bring home only $254.51 under a Bernie Sanders Tax Plan. In fact, this worker would still bring home $281.79 each week or just $2.79 less that before the Sanders tax is added. This small  paycheck deduction is all that is required but in exchange,  this worker will no longer have to pay insurance premiums or co-pays to go to the doctor or to buy prescriptions.

So how can this be? What the negative nabobs of negativity aren’t telling you is that a little more than $10,000 is deducted from your earnings as a standard deduction (for a single person with no dependents) before you begin paying taxes on the remaining income. For our hypothetical worker, the additional 2.2% income tax is charged only the $6,594 above the standard deduction. The real tax burden is 4.8%. The loss of income, $2.79 on a take-home pay of $281.79 is actually 1% rather than the 10.56% claimed by these masters of deception. These economists are intelligent people so they must be aware of this fact. Are they intentionally attempting to scare voters away from Bernie’s very reasonable tax plan?

Our hypothetical minimum wage worker was single making minimum wage. But what happens if we scale Bernie’s tax up to a family of 4 with 2 incomes averaging $10.10 per hour for each income earner?  Based on the the Tax Foundations claim,  a 10.56% loss of this family’s $37,250.63 annual take-home pay would be $3,948.57 or $75.93 per week. In other words, according to the Tax Foundation, our theoretical family would bring home only  $640.42 instead of the $716.36 this family currently brings home. That might give the voters in this family pause when considering a Sanders presidency. In fact, under a Bernie Sanders Tax Plan this family would still bring home $714.71 which is only $5.68 per week less than today. $5 a week is not a bad price to pay to eliminate insurance premiums, those pesky $100 co-pays at the emergency room, and those $20 or $30 co-pays at the doctor’s office. Why is the reality so different from the perception painted by the Tax Foundation? Well the magic lies in our progressive tax code. The family of 4 will get $12,600 deductions for the two wage earners filing jointly and another $16,000 for the 4 dependents claimed, one for each spouse and 2 for the children.With $28,600 in deductions, the 2.2% tax increase applies only to the remaining $13,416 adjusted gross income. The real decrease in wages for this family turns out to be .2%, not the 10.56% advertised by the Tax Foundation.

Incidentally, in a recent debate, Sanders claimed that the average family would pay about $500 more per year in tax and get a $5000 a year savings in insurance premiums and co-pays. If we scale our hypothetical family up to the U.S. median income for 2015 which is $53,657, we do indeed arrive at an annual increase of $551.25 or about $10.60 per week for our hypothetical family of 4. On a weekly take-home pay of $889.52, this represents a loss of about 1.2% of family income, not the 10.56% advertised by the Tax Foundation.

And what do we get for this modest change to our tax code? Each part of Bernie’s tax plan is targeted to specific improvements in economy and infrastructure which you can read about on the Bernie Sanders’ Campaign website.

Thank you, Bernie Sanders.

Bernie Sanders’ Campaign – The End Of The Vote, Hope, And Disappointment Cycle

A few days ago, a blogger and good friend of mine, Matt Osborne, wrote a blog entitled On the Inevitable Disappointment With Bernie Sanders. This post, Bernie Sanders’ Campaign – The End Of The Vote, Hope, And Disappointment Cycle, is a rebuttal of Matt”s premise. I will review each of Matt”s 10 assertions that support his premise. However, before launching into this rebuttal, a little historical context is useful. To read the entire historical context, click on the summary of each section below.

FDR was elected to enact bold legislation to lead America out of the Great Depression and into the most prosperous era in American history.

Life following the Great Depression was difficult for most Americans
In 1932, Franklin Delano Roosevelt embarked on a presidential campaign to overcome the desperate conditions suffered by the American middle class. We think about this era as the Roaring 20 with

Why is the first paragraph always ignored?

The Reagan Revolution ushered in 35 years of assaults on the middle class from four distinct but related initiatives: Deregulation, Privatization, Globalization, and Tax-Cuts-For-The-Wealthy.

At the height of middle class prosperity America was confronted with its first economic challenge, the OPEC Oil Crisis. While the inflationary spiral that characterized this crisis began under the Nixon Administration, it would take its greatest political toll on the middle class and the presidency of Jimmy Carter in the late 70s. By this time, the middle class was struggling under the combined economic assault of inflation and stagnant wages. Media pundits began referring to this phenomenon as stagflation. The media called the effects of stagflation on the middle class prosperity the misery index. The mistake Carter made was insisting on governing as a fiscal conservative. Carter also turned his back on his most important constituency, the unions.

Unfortunately, America turned to Reagan in 1980 to lead us out to this crisis. No one has done more to destroy the security of the American middle class than Ronald Reagan. He ushered in the era of Deregulation, Privatization, Globalization. and Tax Cuts For The Wealthy. With a smile, a cute story , and a promise that wealth at the top would trickle down to the rest of us, Reagan rigged the American economic system to ensure that a few people would do very well and everyone else would compete for what little trickled down. While the double-digit inflation had dropped to around 4.5% by the early 80s, interest rates remained in double digits. Reagan’d presidency began with a recession and nearly 17,000 business failures and ended with the onslaught of the savings and loan crisis. The S & L crisis was the first of many corporate excesses made possible by deregulation and has cost the U.S. taxpayers over $164 billion to date.

As the steel and manufacturing industries began moving offshore, thanks to globalization, the northeast turned into the rust belt and whole industries disappeared. Most of the workers in these industries, union members with good salaries, were forced into service industries with big pay cuts or into long-term unemployment. At the same time the middle class was shrinking and salaries were decreasing, the tax burden was shifted from the wealthy to the middle class. By 1992, the housing bubble was ready to burst and a recession was lingering. America was ready to dump trickle-down economics, which George H. W. Bush had called Voodoo economics in the 1980 primaries.

Why is the first paragraph always ignored?

Democratic leadership since 1980 has been to timid to inspire the popular political revolution that characterized the FDR presidency.

Bill Clinton won the presidency in 1992 promising to focus like a laser beam on the economy. He would appoint Wall Street bankers to oversee his plan to grow the economy out of the seemingly never-ending deficits. Clinton did, in fact, preside over the only federal budget surpluses since 1969. However, this turned out to be smoke and mirrors when the tech bubble burst and began wiping out most of the gains in the economy. To be fair, the middle class did enjoy a small increase in real wages during the Clinton years. However, those surpluses derived from inflated valuations of tech startup companies and the capital gains taxes their stockholders would pay on the profits. The tech bubble did prolong the housing bubble and the Great Recession that would result when it finally burst.

The George W. Bush presidency would drive the nail in the coffin of the middle class. The combination of tax-cuts-for-the-wealthy, two wars, and the final collapse of the housing market left America on the verge of financial collapse.

Why is the first paragraph always ignored?

In his blog supporting his premise that Bernie Sanders will ultimately disappoint, just as every other presidential candidate and eventual president has for the last 50 years, Matt offers the following 10 assertions.

1. His rhetorical range is narrow — and so is his appeal
2. Rhetoric aside, Bernie Sanders is just another politician
3. His potential path to the nomination also remains very narrow
4. Sanders needs the Democratic Party more than it needs him
5. The right wing Wurlitzer has yet to put Sanders on blast
6. President Sanders will not deliver peace in our time
7. President Sanders will not deconstruct the military-industrial complex
8. Bernie Sanders isn’t wearing coattails
9. ‘Changing the conversation’ does not actually change the laws
10. If this ‘revolution’ fails, we are totally screwed