Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Hypocrite Series: Senator Clinton's "Plan for Stengthening the Middle Class"

Let me start by saying I appreciate Senator Clinton's willingness to give specifics as to the policies she would like to see implemented. With the exception of John Edwards, the rest of the field could learn from her. Quit with the soundbites and give us some real information.

Anyway, let's look at Hillary's Plan for Strengthening the Middle Class.

1. Leveling the playing field and reducing special breaks for big corporations. That means scaling back oil and gas subsidies; allowing Medicare to negotiate lower prices with big drug companies; and requiring big oil companies to either invest in alternative energy or pay into the Strategic Energy Fund to spur clean energy research and development.

I think it's the understatement of the century that there should be no oil and gas subsidies. Those guys seem to be doing just fine on their own. I'm not sure why government needs to be involved at all. It's really silly when you think about it. The government subsidizes oil and gas to reduce the cost and turns right back around and taxes it. I know one's federal and the other state, but you get the idea.

An argument can be made that development of alternative energy impacts national security so even though I would normally be against government getting involved, I can see where it might play a role. However, adding further regulations to big oil companies seems a bad approach to take. Let's get the government out of the mix, watch gas prices skyrocket, and then alternative energy will develop on its own.

We've already covered Senator Clinton's Medicare plan so I won't address it again here.

2. Eliminating incentives for American companies to ship jobs and profits overseas. Specifically, the tax code rewards companies for offshoring jobs by enabling them to defer paying American taxes for as long as they hold the money abroad. The current policy puts companies that create jobs in America at a competitive disadvantage. We must pursue tax policies that reward the decision to create jobs in America, rather than abroad.

It's hard for me to argue with that logic. Unfortunately, I'm not sure I know enough to weigh in much more on the issue, but I certainly don't like seeing companies ship their headquarters overseas in an effort to reduce their U.S. tax exposure. Maybe if we had a better tax system, say a national retail sales tax, this wouldn't be an issue at all.

3. Reforming the governance of corporations and the financial sector. It is inconsistent with our values to allow CEO pay to skyrocket while workers’ wages and benefits are under threat. There needs to be greater public scrutiny of CEO pay, and more independence of Boards of Directors.

Why meddle with CEO salaries? Let the shareholders and employees deal with it internally. It's none of my business how much Lou Gerstner made at IBM because I neither work there nor own stock. If it bothers me, I won't buy their products. Simple as that...no need for government involvement whatsoever.

4. Restoring fiscal responsibility to government. That means balancing the budget; saving Social Security; reducing our dependence on foreign creditors (e.g.China); returning high-income tax rates to the 1990s levels; reforming the AMT; and ensuring that corporations pay their fair share of taxes.

This is really a mixed bag. Balancing the budget? You betcha. Saving Social Security? Throw the idiotic, unconstitutional mess out with the bathwater. Reducing dependence on foreign creditors? Sure, why not? Increase taxes? No thanks. Reforming the AMT? How about we, oh...let me think...eliminate income tax in favor of a national retail sales tax? Ensure corporations pay their fair share of taxes? Well...if them's the laws, corporations should follow them.

5. Give every young person an opportunity to attend college, and ensure that education starts early in life and continues into adulthood. College should be made more affordable so that students of all backgrounds can attend. Also, every child should have ready access to high quality pre-K.

Ah, the feel-good goal. Don't you feel all warm inside taking care of the children?

6. More support for community colleges and alternative schools.We should expand regional skills alliances to ensure workers have the valuable skills they need.

Oops, we weren't done with touchy-feely goodness yet.

7. Help working people earn enough to support their families and help them save for the future. That means simplifying and expanding the EITC; overhauling the unemployment insurance system; and making it easier for workers to join unions.

Alright, it's go time.

Expanding the EITC? EITC stands for Earned Income Tax Credit, and it is basically a form of welfare. When you qualify, the government often ends up paying you at tax time, not the other way around. As I've said, I don't support the current tax system, but the EITC is just wrong. Raise minimum wages if you want, but don't pull this slight of hand garbage.

As to unions, all they do in this day and age is drive up prices and encourage companies to ship jobs overseas. Employees should be able to form unions if they want, but the government shouldn't be getting in and mixing the pot. I'm sure this is an attempt to take a shot at Wal-Mart who has been and will likely always be anti-union. If you want to have some fun, try sitting Wal-Mart and a union at the same table during a completely unrelated event and watch what happens when they discover each other.

Back to the point...I've had the opportunity of working with both unionized and non-unionized workers. I was always an independent 3rd party either at a hotel or convention center so I wasn't biased either way. In a unionized city, we were forced to:

  • Pay unionized bell staff to move boxes.

  • Pay unionized convention center staff to flip light switches on and off.

  • Hire unionized convention center staff to work spotlights, sound systems, etc. for our event EVEN IF WE HAD OUR OWN STAFF FOR THE TASK.

On top of that, the fees weren't cheap. We could have a guy sitting around for a 2 hour rehersal being paid some $75/hour just to turn the light switch on and off a couple times. Is this the purpose of a union? No. The purpose of a union is to improve worker conditions, not to protect them from competition or protect them for incompetence.

8. Ensure that every American has quality, affordable health care.It is intolerable that 45 million Americans are without health insurance, particularly considering that we are spending nearly $500 billion on the war in Iraq.

It's the ol' bait and switch. Quality, affordable health care does not necessarily equate to health insurance. Nevertheless, I see the point and agree with it...just don't care much for the inference of the justification.

9. Make investments necessary for creating new jobs. New job sources are needed to preserve and expand the middle class. Investments in alternative energy can create new jobs for the 21st century; expanded access to broadband will bring opportunities to underserved/disadvantaged communities; the manufacturing base can be re-energized through creative partnerships; and innovation—with increased government support for R&D—will help us find and develop the jobs of tomorrow.

This has to be the biggest, steaming pile of excrement I've read in a while.

How does alternative energy create new jobs? We want to move away from pollution producing energy like oil and coal, don't we? If we do, what are those people going to do? You guessed it...take jobs in alternative energy. There's no net gain here.

How does broadband bring new opportunities to communities? There's no inherent job creation implied there. Re-energized manufacturing base through creative partnerships? I said excrement above, didn't I? Good...let's move on.

The last point is particularly troublesome. Why should government increase support for R&D? In fact, increasing means that the government already does support R&D. Why? That's beyond the scope of what our government was built to do. As citizens, we can support R&D by investing in companies. We don't need the government to take our money and do what they think is right.

So, all in all, this really isn't too bad for a Democrat. We have some big government initiatives, but Senator Clinton sounds better than President Bush by a mile simply for mentioning a balanced budget. I know President Bush pays it lip service, but his actions speak volumes.

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