Our collapse is so complete that the field lies open—the philosophical questions brought on by despair allow us to reimagine what kind of country we can be. George Packer, The Atlantic
I want to change the lexicon where guns are concerned and I will call for firearms regulation. I find the word 'control' inciting and makes people angry, making the issue an even more uphill battle than it should be. Detailed background checks just make perfect sense, like drivers' licenses make sense. Also, no person with a history of mental illness should own a firearm. The Founding Fathers wanted us to be able to defend ourselves against our government, should it become tyrannical as it was in England in the dark ages, and clearly, as it has become today. We should not give our guns to the people who have all the guns, i.e., the government and state and local law enforcement agencies. We need to address the underlying causes of mass shootings and school shootings. When pursuing an education, students should not fear for their lives and parents and educators should not have to fear the threat of violence. What this means is more money spent on mental health care for our citizens. It also means being hyperaware of the signals and signs that indicate an individual may have a real problem. It seems in almost every case, warning signs were there, but ignored, and then tragedy occurred. We have to fix it and we can.
The Office of Management and Budget forecasts that payroll taxes for 2021 include $1.011 trillion for Social Security and $308 billion for Medicare. I think Al Gore's idea of putting Social Security in a lock box is the perfect fix. I also want to apply it to Medicare. Collectively, if we have $1.3 trillion locked up safe where politicians can not raid it for special interest programs or to pay off debt, these programs should be very well funded.
The Covid 19 pandemic has clearly exposed Hawaii's lack of economic diversity. We have to attract new industries and make the ones we have more resilient should disaster occur. Expanding research on solar power and other clean energy alternatives would be a way to inject some diversity in the economy. The cost of living needs to be brought down and I would like to put a three-year moratorium on the Jones Act, to see how it could truly benefit Hawaiian residents. Preparing for the effects of climate change on Hawaii is another economic expansion driver. We need think tanks with engineers, logisticians, public policy experts, environmentalists and city planners, to get ready for rising waters. Beaches and roads will be greatly impacted.
When we send the men and women in our armed forces into harm's way, we should gladly take the responsibility to care for them in the event that they sustain physical or mental injury. VA hospitals need to be properly staffed and care should be administered the same as in any private-sector facility, with the upmost compassion and concern for the patient's well being. Anything less is unacceptable. With regards to troops deployment, the Constitution is clear, declaring war and deploying troops to foreign combat, rest solely in the hands of elected representatives in congress, as provided in Article 1 of the Constitution. No more 'police actions' ordered by the President.
LAW ENFORCEMENT / MENTAL HEALTHCARE
Issues with violent law enforcement tactics over the last decade have continued to escalate. These incidents we have all heard about include excessive use of force and abuse of power. The problems we face with law enforcement are not only systemic racism but cascading institutional failures. Mental health issues are at the core of the problem. The Mental Health Systems Act of 1980 (MHSA) was United States legislation signed by President Jimmy Carter, providing grants to community mental health centers. In 1981 President Ronald Reagan and the U.S. Congress repealed most of the law. Since states have reduced their health care funding by billions of dollars, mental health care facilities in the U.S. are experiencing negative side effects. Budget cuts increased emergency room visits for patients seeking mental health treatment with 5.5 million seeking care in these facilities. It cost hospitals $38.5 billion to take care of these patients alone. This amount of spending could be significantly reduced by integrating mental health professionals within the ER and hospital settings. Instead, we passed mental health care on to the police and ER doctors and nurses. The police are not trained to do it, it is not their job at the scale we have let it come to. The majority of police agencies need more training for the job they are asked to do. For example, the Los Angeles Country Sheriffs Department's Academy has a 22 week (5-1/2 month) training program., Programs like this are needed across the country. Some agencies only require 360 hours (6 weeks) of training. It is simply not adequate. Lawlessness has become the norm today, not so much by citizens but by our government and law enforcement.
The First Amendment, as written by James Madison, reads:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
In flagrant defiance of the right to free assembly, on June 1st, 2020, President Trump tear-gassed peaceful protesters in Washington, DC's Lafayette Square to make way for a photo op. On June 2, 2020, he violated the First Amendment even further by authorizing federal police to block clergy's access to St. John's Episcopal Church—effectively "prohibiting the free exercise" of religion. Lawlessness is now top down, not bottom up. Trump, AG Barr and Mitch McConnell, have abused the Constitution on a regular basis. If they don't have to obey laws, why do any of us? This can trickle down to law enforcement practices as well, once it appears that brutality is acceptable, or even encouraged.
INCOME TAXES & THE WEALTHY
Number of income tax payers in USA: 141 million in 2016.
These taxpayers earned $10.2 trillion in Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), in 2016.
These taxpayers paid $1.44 trillion in income taxes in 2016 or about 14% combined. Looks like the USA is a tax haven, and 2016 was in Obama' s 2nd term.
The top 1 % paid a greater share of their individual income taxes *(37.3 %) than the bottom 90 % combined (30.5 %). *This is the right wing’s statistical propaganda. The top 1% earned an average of $2 million each, or 2.03 trillion and paid $538 billion in income taxes in 2016, a combined tax rate of 26.8% of their income, NOT 37.3%. They did pay 37.3% of the total 1.44 trillion of income tax paid, but at an income tax rate of 26.8%. Very tricky manipulation.
In 2014, the top 400 U.S . taxpayers based on AGI earned $127 billion collectively, and they paid $29.4 billion collectively in federal income taxes at a combined tax rate of 23%. This income tax rate also does not seem unreasonable to me.
In 2014, the top 1,400, had an AGI of $207 billion collectively and paid $49.7 billion in income taxes, equal to an average combined tax rate of 24%. Again, not bad. Do you think rich folks need more tax breaks? Another thing to bear in mind is that you can park up to 30% of all of your assets off shore and not be taxed on it, a loophole utilized by the wealthy so effectively that their tax rate is even lower than 24%.
Income tax is not the only tax collected by the federal government: Only half of the taxes collected come from income tax. About a third come from payroll taxes and falls much heavier on working people, as they’re levied on just the first $130,000 of earned income.
This means the rich pay a far lower payroll tax rate than regular people. A nurse making a salary of $50,000 per year pays (counting both the employee and employer side) 12.4% in Social Security (SS) and Disability taxes. But a sitcom star making a thousand times that, or $50 million a year, will pay the 12.4% only on the initial $130,000 of their salary, working out to a total SS & Disability tax rate of just 0.03% on their $50 million. These taxes are only levied on earned income — meaning, money you make from a job — a billionaire investor with a $50 million annual income from dividends and capital gains will pay exactly zero percent in payroll taxes.
My point here is that, there should be no fear in raising tax rates on the wealthy to some extent, perhaps higher rates on their passive income receipts or unearned income like regular stock dividends (now at 22% tax rate), rental income, capital gains, interest income, etc. Also, loopholes on assets parked overseas need to be closed, and a flat-rate tax of, perhaps, 10% be applied to income both earned and unearned overseas.
We should also restructure corporate tax rates. Sixty profitable Fortune 500 companies paid no taxes on a total of $79 billion of profits earned in 2018 due to tax rebates. That blows holes in any government budget relying on tax revenue to govern. The corporate tax rate is 21%.
Infrastructure projects are needed across the land and could really be a huge economic catalyst for us after Covid-19. Our bridges and highways remain in disrepair and the rail system is in great need of repair and overhaul. As a tie into the environment, we need to begin to install fast-charging stations and quick-battery-change all over the country if electric vehicles are to every be viable and allowed to become the standard transportation method. For Hawaii, climate change could flood 15% of our roads and it could happen as early as 2060. Planning needs to be way out front of this issue. Nationally, we need to expand mass transportation options to bullet trains, Hyperloops (sealed tube system, for freight also), electric buses, charging stations for EVs and other more efficient methods. Infrastructure programs can surely help save us economically and environmentally.