What You Give and What You Get

Pictured: Ted Cruz haunts Bernie Sanders dreams.
While it is easy to complain about the taxes you pay, you have to compare it to the benefits you get.

That's also how you have to evaluate the tax plans of the Presidential candidates.

Vox.com has a great tool to see how you'd fare under each candidates proposed tax changes. Plug in your income, marital status and the number of kids and you can get an idea of whether your taxes will go up or down under President Sanders vs President Cruz.

I put my numbers in and I'd have to pay a big increase in taxes under President Sanders and I'd get a huge tax cut under Cruz and Trump.

However, you have to keep reading to get the rest of the story.
It's one thing to know how your taxes will change, but you can't view it in a vacuum. What the federal government does can affect your bottom line, too. 
For example, Bernie Sanders's plan would raise taxes on everyone, but it would also pay for health care, education, and other programs that you would no longer have to pay for. And it goes the other way, too. If Donald Trump's tax plan was implemented, everyone would get a tax cut, but it also means government services would be cut, so you would have to pay for them yourself.
So you have to look at each tax plan in terms of not just how much you would pay, but what you get as well. While there is some disagreement on how much these tax plans will cost, Vox seems to use the conservative estimates for their calculations.

Under Sanders my tax bill would jump $12,000 a year -- but that is less than a year of college tuition for one of my two daughters. So that might be worth it if my healthcare insurance bill would go down and tuition would be free at Washington State University.  (Sanders Proposal)

Under Clinton my tax bill wouldn't change much -- her tax increases are targeted more at the wealthy than Sanders -- but her promises are more modest. For example only community college would be free. (Clinton Proposal)

Before we go any further, can well all just agree that Republicans can no longer call themselves the fiscally responsible party? Since World War II, economists have found that the economy does better when Democrats are in the White House.

With the exception of George HW Bush, Republican Presidents over the last 50 years always cut taxes and increased spending - which is the same as quitting your job then running up your credit cards. That's not fiscally responsible.

That track record pales when you consider the proposed economic policies of the current GOP candidates.

Needless to say under Trump or Cruz, my taxes would go down according to the calculator, but at what price?

Both their tax proposals would DOUBLE the $9.5 trillion projected federal deficit -- massive cuts to federal spending. (Trump's Plan) (Cruz's Plan)

Yet, both are also proposing big INCREASES in military spending. There's also that wall they are planning to build and an elaborate federal police state to deport millions of illegal immigrants and oppress law abiding Muslim Americans. That's going to cost more than a few pennies too.

Indeed, another Vox story is worth reading to get the full picture. In "We've Lost Sight Of How Wildly Irresponsible the Republican Tax Plans Are," Ezra Klein explains that Trump and Cruz have spun off into the world of fantasy as far as their fiscal policies are concerned.

Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Donald Trump are the top three contenders for the Republican nomination. Rubio has promised tax cuts amounting to $6.8 trillion, Cruz $8.6 trillion, and Trump a whopping $9.5 trillion, according to the Tax Policy Center (and that's not including interest on the debt they would rack up!). 
To put that in perspective, the tax cuts George W. Bush proposed during the 2000 campaign were $1.32 trillion — which would be $1.82 trillion in today's dollars. And taxes were higher in 2000 than they are today, and the country was running surpluses rather than deficits.
To get even close to paying for these tax cuts, Trump and Cruz would have to eliminate the Medicaid program and children's health insurance as well as all education spending and all transportation spending. Gone too would be all spending needed to take care of our Veterans.

However, that's not all. Trump's proposed cuts are so big that you could eliminate all military spending -- shut down the Air Force, Navy, Army and Marines -- and still only pay for two-thirds of his tax cut. Don't forget, he's proposed INCREASING military spending.

"There's just no way to reconcile all that," Klein wrote. "Taken together, even the most sympathetic reading of Trump's plan dissolves into incoherence." 
Required Reading:
How each candidate's tax plan affects you
We've lost sight of how irresponsible republican tax plans are 
Why Does Sander's Tax Plan Increase Taxes So Much?
How The Candidate's Tax Will Affect You - In Four Charts
No One Can Agree On How Much Candidates Tax Plans Will Cost
Why the Economy Performs Better Under Democratic Presidents
Five Charts Prove that The Economy is Better Under Democrats





The Anti-Robot Party

This presidential election season has been all about jobs - despite an economy that is growing. Republicans and Democrats alike blame the loss of jobs to trade and immigration.

Both are wrong - sort of.

While it is clear that manufacturing jobs were lost to trade - that doesn't mean that more protectionist trade policies can bring back millions of high paying, stable manufacturing jobs.

First of all, we've demolished the unions that made those manufacturing jobs stable and high paying in the first place. That means new jobs that are created will have lower pay, lower benefits and less security than the ones we lost.

Moreover, as FiveThirtyEight's Ben Casselman writes this week, Manufacturing Jobs Aren't Coming Back because manufacturing itself has changed.

The reason the economy looks good on paper but feels bad all around is that the this has been a long "jobless recovery." Employers have invested heavily in automation and outsourcing to contractors and consultants over the past decade, using low interest rates to rebuild their manufacturing capacity without hiring new workers.

Productivity -- the amount of goods produced by an hour of work -- has gone way up, while unemployment has not.

One way that happens is just laying off a worker and making whoever is left do the jobs of two or three people. Certainly I've seen this in many American workplace. It is a very easy way to increase "productivity." Moreover, no matter how stressful it is for the remaining workers, they will put up with it because they fear the loss of their own job.

The other way to increase productivity is through automation. Robots don't need health benefits and don't call in sick. They don't complain when you pile on the work.

Automation in factories has been -- and will continue -- to increase. We lost jobs to cheap labor in China and Mexico, but lately manufacturing has been returning to the U.S. without the increases in manufacturing employment. The new factories are more automated and the jobs at these factories require a higher skill and education level.

So a new factory only needs a fraction of the manpower to run it as was needed a generation ago.

The trend is likely to continue and not just in manufacturing.

Just read the Robot Invasion series Slate magazine did last year to get an idea of the wide range of professions that can and will likely be replaced by software and automation. From lawyers to pharmacists to sports writers, software is getting better at the jobs that humans used to do.  Even pizza delivery is now being automated, with Dominoes rolling out automated pizza delivery drones in Australia. That's right, even the pizza delivery driver's job isn't safe.

So scream all you want about immigration and China -- it won't do any good.

The robots aren't even listening.

Required Reading:
Robot Invasion: Slate
Manufacturing Jobs Aren't Coming Back from 538
Delivery Robots Making Pizza Runs from Discovery News
Business is Thrilled that Automation Raises Productivity


Patrick Cooper Hunt: A Refugee's Story

Patrick Cooper Hunt left Westport in County Mayo, Ireland in 1849 at the height of the Great Famine. Gorta Mór killed a million Irish and sent a million more fleeing across the seas in search of something better.
Many died never touching shore. Packed as they were aboard the coffin ships, two-fifths died at sea of disease and starvation.
He was lucky to have had family in Lambertville, NJ and so he sailed for the port of Philadelphia. He was about 18 years old.
In America he found work for his uncles who had sponsored him. He found opportunities he would never have had in an Ireland occupied and oppressed by England.
Yet by 1850, more than a quarter of the population of Philadelphia was Irish and the flow of Irish Catholic refugees created resentment and discrimination as well. "No Irish Need Apply" was a familiar sign by 1851 -- a door slammed in a man's face, when he sought only pay for a day's work and food for an empty belly.
In America he found a girl named Mary Malone. She too had emigrated from County Mayo. She too had seen the Great Hunger of Gorta Mór and survived and together they made a life. They had five children and went on to become upstanding Americans. 
So on this St. Patrick's day dress in your green and lift your glass, but take a moment too to remember those refugees that America took in. Those men and women fleeing political and economic oppression who found a new life in this land of opportunity and hope.
Because that is what St. Patrick's day is all about. It is a story of refugees coming to America because they could no longer survive in their beloved homeland. It is an American holiday that only came to Ireland much later with the tourist trade. 
It is a celebration of immigration and an act of defiance by the immigrants and refugees that could not know freedom until they came to America. 

A Brief History of My Labor

Putting up hay - Library of Congress
At work, I often talk about other jobs I've had over the years. At some point, someone asked me to name every job I've ever had. So here goes.

Some of these I didn't get paid in cash for - sometimes it was work study for college, or a trade where my work was loaned out so my employer could get something in return.  I didn't include volunteer work -- EMT is not listed.

Some of these jobs I worked concurrently - for example, all through college I had at least three jobs at any one time. After graduation I was working for one newspaper and two radio stations at the same time. I only got paid for one of the radio gigs, my services for the other radio station was a "trade" for free advertising for the newspaper.

I started working at 12 years old in my mother's restaurant -- peeling potatoes and mixing waffle and pancake batter and bucking hay bales in the summer. Working every weekend for my mom probably kept me out of a lot of trouble growing up -- but it is also the reason I never got into hunting or fishing.

My dad always emphasized the importance of "gainful employment" when I was a kid. My family is full of workers - dad worked his way through college -- and is still working at 78. For years everyone in my family had at least a second job on the side.

So I've worked hard to have a job -- some sort of job -- ever since. The only year I've ever been without work was when I laid myself off from the top Tidepool job and went to nursing school full time.

Nursing school was worth it. Out of all these jobs, I've really only had union representation in the healthcare jobs of the last ten years. Not surprisingly, those are the jobs that have not only paid the best, but had the best benefits by a mile.

Here's my list in no particular order:
  1. Hay loader
  2. general farm labor (pulling fence posts, building fences, cattle droving)
  3. dishwasher
  4. bus boy
  5. cook
  6. restaurant night manager
  7. zebra/llama (animal) feeder
  8. radio station receptionist
  9. radio DJ
  10. radio news reporter
  11. radio jingle creator
  12. taco bender (Taco Time)
  13. weatherization training manual writer
  14. counseling psychology department receptionist
  15. classified Adverrtising secretary
  16. news reporter (crime, politics, education, science, environment)
  17. columnist -- for several newspapers
  18. newspaper photographer (in the days of film and darkrooms)
  19. editorial editor
  20. editor in chief Tidepool News Service
  21. book reviewer
  22. blogger (before the term was coined.)
  23. radio pundit (politics and environment) 
  24. delivery truck driver
  25. Football gameday program distribution manager
  26. Day in the Life educational program director
  27. tractor and handyman for cherry orchard
  28. cherry sorter / brine line 
  29. night warden in adventure hostel - Ireland
  30. rescue boat operator for windsurfing students - Ireland
  31. boat salvage (Alaska)
  32. salmon headbutcher  (Alaska) 
  33. Crisis Prevention  and Intervention instructor
  34. CPR instructor
  35. apartment manager / maintenance 
  36. internet help desk (Mac) 
  37. CNA
  38. Emergency Room Technician
  39. Licensed Practical Nurse
  40. Registered nurse - Charge, Oncology, Emergency room.