Wednesday, October 26, 2011

9-9-9: New Sign of the Beast

Revelation tells of the sign of the Beast
Where the unknowing lose all their money
And worship numbers to get to the feast
Implanting microchips in foreheads: how funny
But what if this scripture was read on its head
Would the number be upside-down?
Undoing all that you’ve read
Displaying a new circus and clown
Instead of updating the ancient fixes
For fighting the onslaught of sixes
We should be using these times
To tell the world about nines

In this political world of bumper sticker mentality and easy solutions to complex problems, we have found a new leader in the conservatives who are raising Cain. Herman Cain. Herman has stated that 9-9-9 is the way to prosperity. For whom, Herman? 9-9-9 means that we would have a 9% corporate income tax, a 9% individual income tax and a 9% national sales tax. There would be no exemptions…well maybe a few. And there would be no sales tax on used goods. You probably see where this is going. You want to buy a new car but do not want to pay tax on it. I am a Chevrolet dealer who wants to sell you a Chevrolet. I “use” the Chevrolet by driving it around the block and declare it used. What a deal! You pay no tax but pay full price and “big government” is none the wiser although somewhat poorer. The tax collection for my Chevy franchise is reduced to zero since I have been selling only used cars and 9% of nothing is nothing. I have nothing to report. Hmm. The loopholes begin. How do we define used? If I rebuild an auto, would that be “used?” What happens to the economy that does not build new homes and cars? That is clearly one of the myriad problems to begin, but 9-9-9 will reduce tax income for our republic. Reduced income for the republic means fewer services including fire, police, medical, parks, roads, waterways, safety and health inspections, etc. This reduction will have the effect of increasing air and water pollution because we will have fewer inspectors and more people will suffer from cancer, emphysema and environmental diseases. Aircraft will have reduced oversight and inspection resulting in more “accidents.” Roads will become deadlier. Death and disease from food contamination will rise. Fewer services equates to real everyday hazards for most of us. This same process is true for the income and corporate taxes. There is no free lunch although there may be beneficiaries for this policy. The Koch brothers have earned the reputation of the Patrons of Pollution and have amassed a record of coal sludge pollution of 2.6 million cubic yards of coal ash sludge that were released into the Emory River in Tennessee; air and groundwater pollution through Georgia-Pacific Industries in Crossett, Arkansas recently cited for extremely and abnormally high cancer rates among its neighbors. The Koch brothers have initiated a full court press to kill the EPA, and they have paid direct support dollars to House Republicans willing to defang or eliminate the EPA. These are the same Koch brothers that have received $2.3 Billion in tax breaks in Washington. In other words, they have severely damaged our environment and the people living in it and have been given tax breaks by the people who benefit by political contributions from the same Koch brothers. Now what could this possibly have to do with 9-9-9 and raising Cain?

Actually, Herman Cain has been on David Koch’s payroll since at least 2005 through Americans for Prosperity, a front organization wholly owned and run by the Kochs. Incidentally, so has Rich Lowrey who is the author of the 9-9-9 scheme (and not an economist; has a bachelor’s degree in accounting and works in a branch for WellsFargo). So given this, is Cain the stealth candidate for the Kochs? My answer is a resounding “YES.” A vote for Cain is a vote for the Koch brothers and their hirelings (Rich Lowrey, Mark Block, et. al.). Mark Block, the cigarette smoker in the new Cain advertisement is Cain’s nominal campaign manager. Block was fined $15,000 for illegal campaign activity in Wisconsin and has been linked with voter suppression there. He is also on the Koch payroll. Cain was also paid by the Kochs for his speaking engagements for the “Prosperity Expansion Project” from 2005-2006. A vote for Cain is a vote for deadly pollution, not only in Wisconsin, but in Arkansas where Georgia-Pacific in 2010 released over 913,000 pounds of toxic chemicals in the air and 136,000 pounds of toxins in waterways and deposited 444,000 pounds in the soil. Formaldehyde is a major carcinogenic emission there. Additionally, in Louisiana, across the border from the Crossett plant, there is an investigation due to contamination of the Quachita River that flows from Arkansas. The Koch brothers and Herman Cain appear to be joined philosophically at the hip and at the bank as are Senator Vitter (the hooker chaser from Louisiana) and many “conservative” Republicans. Vitter has delayed the Quachita investigation.

Let us look a bit more closely at 9-9-9. It is a wet dream for the wealthy and a nightmare for middle and lower class citizens. The billionaire Koch brothers would see their total personal taxes reduced from about 28% to about 11% on average and their corporate taxes perhaps less than 9% when the loopholes are applied. The wage collecting American worker would see his take home pay reduced sharply when he must pay 9% on income (regardless how little he earns) and again must pony up an additional 9% on Federal sales taxes over and above the state and local sales taxes now in force. Actually, it is worse than that because states would receive less support from the federal government because the total federal tax income will be drastically reduced with this 9% limit. As a result, the states and local governments would be forced to increase their state income and sales taxes. So if you were making $ 1 Million per year, your federal contribution would be $90,000 and you would be left with only $910,000. However, if you made $10,000 per year, then you would be left with $9100 before you bought groceries, paid the rent, paid for transportation and wondered how you would ever escape poverty. Your sales tax alone would be a minimum of 18.5 % in California before it increased for the reasons cited above, even if the state did not increase your payroll taxes. The poor do not have that slack. The middle would become poor. The policy is massively regressive.

It is indeed strange that the far right has taken on the prophesies of Revelation that talk about weird mixes of technology with old fashioned fear mongering. Many religious right-wingers actually believe that our money will be no good and that we may already have implants in our foreheads or right hands (symbolic, maybe?) to conduct our money transactions. It is fundamentalist snake oil. It is dangerous and hardly worthy of being considered as an item of faith although, if followed, it could approximate the conditions of last days as the Bible suggests. We could bring it on ourselves.

As a friend recently reminded me, our response to 9-9-9 should be Nein-Nein-Nein. “No-No-No” in German. Bumper stickers are short and pithy, but they do not convey the disaster about to strike our United States should 9-9-9 become policy. You are not calling out for pizza delivery, you are voting to establish a fair tax and incentive policy that will help the nation and all the people grow while remaining healthy, safe and competitive in an international marketplace. The Koch brothers are in the top 4 wealthiest billionaires in America. What appears to be good for them may literally choke the rest of us or kill us through cancer or poverty. Friends don’t let friends vote for annihilation.

George Giacoppe
26 October 2011

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