Video of the day

Pretty cool mini-doc of a trip to Northern Norway (with awesome time-lapse footage).  Bonus points if you know the music is “In the Hall of the Mountain King”

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Paul Ryan’s “new” budget

Oh wow, does John Cassidy let loose.  You should really read the whole thing, here’s an extended excerpt, though:

Sorry folks. After watching Representative Paul Ryan launch his much-anticipated budget for the fiscal year 2014, I can’t keep up the pretense. The plan is a joke. It’s dead on arrival, and nobody should pay much attention to it, except as another exhibit in the indictment of latter-day Republicanism. Ryan’s numbers don’t add up. His proposals—cutting domestic programs, converting Medicare to a voucher program, returning Medicaid to the states, reducing the top rate of income tax to twenty-five per cent—were roundly rejected by the voters just five months ago. And the philosophy his plan is based upon—trickle-down economics combined with an unbridled hostility toward government programs designed to correct market failures—is tattered and shopworn.

The contents of Ryan’s plan aren’t new, or nearly new. Give or take a few minor details, it’s a rehashed version of the budget he put out twelve months ago, which itself was a retread of the budget he issued the year before that, which was based on his 2010 plan. In fact, he’s been trotting out this pablum for six years now…

In a more just world, Ryan and his visionary shtick would have been jeered off the stage after last year’s Presidential campaign, when, apart from ensuring that Mitt Romney didn’t face any blowback from the right at the convention in Tampa, his presence added virtually nothing to the G.O.P. ticket, and, arguably, handicapped it.

And Kevin Drum on what’s so wrong with it:

But basically this is the same old same old. Big tax cuts on the rich, big tax cuts for corporations, and big spending increases for the military. For the poor, the middle class, and the elderly, we have big spending cuts and—though Ryan doesn’t admit it—the almost mathematical certainty of big tax increases.

At this point, I honestly have only one wish for all this: that the press finally wises up and refuses to call this a “deficit reduction” plan. It’s not. It’s a plan to dramatically cut domestic spending, full stop, mostly on the poor, the middle class, and the elderly. Every other component of the plan increases the deficit.  [emphasis mine]

Here’s your class warfare– against the poor and middle class by the rich.  Really couldn’t be any more clear.

Photo of the day

Well, apparently Slate has started doing best photos of the week.  Here’s a nice set in Behold.  My favorite:

A worker directs the removal of a Parasaurolophus dinosaur from a lorry at Twycross Zoo near Atherstone, central England March 1, 2013. 15 dinosaurs will go on display at Dinosaur Valley, a new attraction at the zoo.
A worker directs the removal of a Parasaurolophus dinosaur from a lorry at Twycross Zoo near Atherstone, central England on March 1, 2013. 15 dinosaurs will go on display at Dinosaur Valley, a new attraction at the zoo.

Photo by Darren Staples/Reuters

How the South is tough on poor people

Really, really good essay by Katherine Newman in the NYT on how the South’s  (and to a lesser extent, the West) anti-poor, mean-spirited approach to taxes and revenue has a very real and very negative (in the most profound ways possible) impact on poor citizens.  Here’s the key stuff:

For a book published in 2011, my colleague Rourke L. O’Brien and I analyzed the combined burden of sales tax, state and local income taxes on poor households in 49 states, based on consumer expenditures, from 1982 to 2008. (We omitted Alaska because it offers oil-revenue-related rebates to every household). We looked at the relationship between the total tax burden on a poor family of three and state-level figures for mortality, morbidity, teenage childbearing, dropping out of high school, property crime and violent crime.

It turns out that after factoring out all other explanations — like racial composition, poverty rates, the amount spent on education or health care, the size of the state’s economy, existing inequality levels, and differences in the cost of living — the relationship between taxing the poor and negative outcomes like premature death persisted. For every $100 increase on taxes at the poverty line, we saw an additional 7 deaths and 78 property crimes per 100,000 people, and a quarter of a percentage point decrease in high school completion.  [emphasis mine]

Southern states have far higher rates of strokes, heart disease and infant mortality than the rest of the country. Students drop out of high school in larger numbers. These outcomes are not just a consequence of a love of fried food or higher poverty levels. Holding all those conditions constant, the poor of the South — and increasingly the West — do worse because their states tax them more heavily. They have less money to buy medication, so their health problems get worse. High sales taxes make meals more expensive, so they shift to cheaper, unhealthy food. If people can’t make ends meet, they may turn to the underground economy or to crime.

While being part of the South, NC has long been more progressive and avoided the “meanest,” most narrow-minded, and short-sighted policies of Alabama  Mississippi  Arkansas, etc.   But our current leadership is doing it’s best to “catch up” to the worst that the South has to offer.  But, hey, on the bright side, I’m sure the rich people really appreciate that their lower taxes mean the difference between being able to afford a top-of-the-line rather than mid-line Mercedes.  So what if a few more poor people die.

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