The Middle Class and the Republicans 1-13-2012

All over the right-wing sites, I read two themes constantly repeated: President Obama and the Democrats are socialists, and take back the country to the people. Of course, the idea that this country is socialist is economically incorrect, unrealistic and a misunderstanding of history. For over a century, since Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive movement there have been efforts to provide safety nets for the workers, public education, and job safety. Because of people like Ida Tarbel, Upton Sinclair, Frances Perkins and others, the meat packing industry, the drug industry and the issue of clean water were addressed. There has been a century old evolution of reform, including; women’s suffrage, the end of the poll tax and the literacy test, the passing of wages and hours legislation, Social Security, child labor laws, sweat shop regulation, safety in the work force, Medicare , Medicaid and the end to Jim Crow Laws. These are just the major elements, but there are many other reforms that were basically addressed to the middle class and the working poor. There is nothing socialist in any of these efforts.

As to government controlling the means of production, setting wages and price controls, and restricting one’s ability to seek employment, none of that exists in America. We have all sorts of markets and exchanges from the NY Stock Exchange, to the NASDAQ, to the every type of commodity exchange from coffee to sugar to cotton. In other words, one can invest where they want, freely work where they wish to and to “organize” for their own benefit, as is done in the sports leagues, American industry and in civil service. The right to organize goes back to the 19th Century and the founding of the American Labor Movement to the New Deal and the Wagner Act in 1935. This right is as American as apple pie. Why shouldn’t there be a counter balance to capital through organized labor.

As to which party represents the Middle Class, the Republicans or the Democrats, why don’t we look at the record. The Republicans have been on the record against Social Security and Medicare for generations. GW Bush worked for six years to privatize Social Security. In a sense that is why his popularity crashed and the Republicans lost Congress in 2006. Currently Rep, Paul Ryan wants to privatize Medicare and have every senior buy into a private plan for $6,000 or more dollars. Will that cost be stable? Who knows? Is there any evidence that private health insurance is stable? Well it isn’t. In the last two years private health care insurance plans have skyrocketed in cost. Most people who not in a group cannot get insurance, pre-existing conditions are more prevalent then ever, and the cost for a private plan, if one can get one, is prohibitive. The average employee is paying a co-premium of $4000 with a $1,000 deductible. That means, with a plan provided through an employer, the average worker is behind $5000 before a dollar is reimbursed. How does this help the Middle Class or the working poor? The current tax plan put forth by the GOP frontrunner, Mitt Romney calls for a 1% tax cut for the lowest brackets and a 38% cut for the most highly compensated workers. Another tax plan calls for a 20% flat tax for all earners, zero capital gains tax and a zero corporate tax rate. Is the revenue neutral? No! Is that fair for the average worker? Are you kidding? The average upper income taxpayer is paying a lower affective rate than when President Reagan pushed through his two tiered tax rate of 15 and 28%. In terms of the economy, since Harry Truman, the presidency has been in controlled by Republicans for 36 years and the Democrats 28 years. Over that period of time, the Democratic Administrations have created 2 million jobs per year as opposed to the Republicans. Those are the facts. With regards to government jobs, there are 4.43 million federal workers and that number has been stable for years. There are 18.8 million state and local workers and that number, reflective of the Bush Recession, has shrunk by a few hundred thousand workers. With regards to federal expenditures, less than 20% of all government workers are paid by your withholding tax, and over 50% of those federal workers are members of the Armed Forces. So the argument framed here about “big” is with the states, much more than with the federal government.

With regards to the argument that 47% of the public does not pay taxes well that is patently false. Every worker is paying a payroll tax of a maximum of 8% up to $106,000 in income. In fact, every America worker is paying down weekly, through the payroll tax, our greatest, future liabilities we face: the entitlements Social Security and Medicare. In fact, as a worker earns more than $106,000, their percentage of reducing the entitlement deficit is reduced. Who benefits from Social Security and Medicare? It is the Middle Class and the working poor. In fact, most Americans who pay zero taxes should probably pay a minimum tax. But, would another $500 or $1000 per low income family equal raising the top bracket from 36.5 to 39.5%? It would not. Today, with a capital gains tax rate of 15% on dividends and venture capital income, the rich are very, very well off. Of the 400 richest Americans, only 200 are employed and therefore, they for sure do not create jobs. In fact, of the remaining 200, are they creating jobs? Many of these individuals make their huge incomes in the financial sector and do not create jobs or new businesses. There are $375,000 Americans making over $1 million per year. They are paying the lowest taxes since the Crash of 1929. But even when the Constitutional Amendment creating the income tax was passed in 1914, there was always a very high bracket, of at least 90%, for the richest of all Americans. Why would a return to the Clinton Era top tax rate of 39.5% and a graduated capital gains tax hurt these folks? I believe it will not. The Middle Class would be better served by an increase in the payroll tax to $212,000, which would save Social Security and Medicare for generations, and would not affect any one of you! In reality an increase in the top bracket to 39.5% would affect almost no one in the middle class!

 

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A lifelong New Yorker, who now lives full-time in Palm Beach County, Richard was raised in Mount Vernon, New York and he was educated in the Mount Vernon public schools He graduated from Boston University with a BA in American History. After spending a year on Wall Street as a research analyst with Bache & Co., he joined a manufacturing and importing firm, where over the next twenty-five years he rose to the position of chief operating officer. After the sale of that business, Richard entered into the financial services field with Metropolitan Life and is a Registered Representative, who has been associated with Acorn Financial Services which is affiliated with John Hancock Life Insurance Company of Boston, Ma. Today, he is a retired broker who had specialized in long-term care insurance and financial planning. One of Richard’s recent activities was to advise and encourage communities to seek ways to incorporate “sustainability and resiliency” into their future infrastructure planning. After a lifetime in politics, with many years working as a district leader, which involved party organizational work, campaign chair activity and numerous other political tasks, Richard has been involved with numerous civic and social causes. In recent years, Richard served in 2005 as the campaign coordinator of the Re-Elect Paul Feiner Campaign in Greenburgh, NY and he again chaired Supervisor Feiner’s successful landslide victory in 2007. Over the next few years, he advised a number of political candidates. He has served as an appointed Deputy Supervisor of the Town of Greenburgh, with responsibilities regarding the town’s “liaison program.” He was a member of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board of the Town of Greenburgh, NY. Richard has lectured on FDR, The New Deal and 20th century American history in the Mount Vernon schools, at the Westchester Council of Social Studies annual conference in White Plains, and at many senior citizen groups, which include appearances at the Old Guard of White Plains, the Rotary Clubs of Elmsford and White Plains, and various synagogue groups around Westchester. In the winter of 2006 Richard was the leader of the VOCAL forum, sponsored by the Westchester County Office of Aging, which addresses the concerns of Westchester County’s Intergenerational Advocacy Educational Speak-out forums for senior citizens. Richard has given lectures for the Active Retirement Project, which is co-sponsored by the Jewish Community Center on the Hudson, the Greenburgh Hebrew Center, and other groups around Westchester County. Richard also is the founder and Chairperson of the Jon Breen Memorial Fund, that judges and grants annual prizes to students at Mount Vernon High School who submit essays on public policy themes. He also sponsors the Henry M. Littlefield History Prize for the leading MVHS history student. Richard serves on the Student College Scholarship Committee of Mount Vernon High School. In past years Richard chaired and moderated the Jon Breen Fund Award’s cablecast program with the Mayor and local and school officials. Richard has been a member of Blythedale Children’s Hospital’s Planned Giving Professional Advisory Board, and was a founding member of the committee to re-new the FDR Birthday Balls of the 1930’s and 1940’s with the March of Dimes’ effort to eliminate birth defects. Their renewal dinner was held at Hyde Park on January 30, 2003. Richard is currently an active contributor to the Roosevelt Institute, which is involved in many pursuits which included the opening of the Henry A. Wallace Center at Hyde Park, and the Eleanor Roosevelt – Val-Kill Foundation. In 2007, he proposed to the City of Mount Vernon an effort to develop an arts, educational, and cultural center as part of a downtown re-development effort. Richard was a team partner with the Infrastructure & Energy Solutions Group. IEFG which has developed innovative strategies for the 21st Century. Richard hosted a weekly program on WVOX-1460 AM radio, called “The Advocates,” which was concerned with “public policy” issues. The show, which was aired from 2007 until May 15, 2013, has had amongst its guests; Representative Charles Rangel, Chairperson of the House Ways and Means Committee, Mr. Jonathan Alter of Newsweek, along with hundreds of others. All the 300 shows are archived at http://advocates-wvox.com. Richard currently gives lectures on Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, FDR and the Jewish Community, The New Deal, FDR and Douglas MacArthur, 20th Century American Foreign Policy Resulting in Conflict, and Israel’s Right to Exist. Richard lives in Boynton Beach, Fl, with his wife Linda of 44 years. They have two married children. Their daughter Dana is a Rutgers College graduate, with a MS from Boston University, and is the Assistant Director of Recruitment at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Their son Jon is an electrical engineering graduate of Princeton University and a senior software architect at NY/Mellon Bank in NYC. Richard J. Garfunkel rjg727@comcast.net Recent Appearances: KTI Synagogue, Rye Brook, NY- Long Term Care & Estate Conservation- Anshe Shalom Synagogue, New Rochelle, NY- Long Term Care- American Legion Post, Valhalla, NY- Long Term Care and Asset Protection- Doyle Senior Ctr, New Rochelle, NY-Long Term Care and Asset Protection- AME Methodist Ministers, New Rochelle, NY, LTC and Charitable Giving- Profession Women in Construction, Elmsford, NY, LTC and Business Benefits- Kol Ami Synagogue- White Plains, NY, Long Term Care and Disability - Beth El Men's Club-New Rochelle, NY-Long Term Care-Is it Necessary- Greater NY Dental Meeting Javits Ctr, NY, NY- LTC and Disability- IBEW Local #3 , White Plains, NY, Long Term Care and Asset Protection, Health Fair -Bethel Synagogue, New Rochelle, NY-LTC and Disability, Heath Fair- Riverdale Mens Club CSAIR- Riverdale, NY- LTC- Life Weight Watchers of Westchester and the Bronx-LTC and Tax Implications Sunrise Assisted Living of Fleetwood, Mount Vernon, NY-LTC Sprain Brook Manor of Scarsdale-LTC- November 15, 2001 Sunrise Assisted Living of Stamford, Connecticut, February 2002 Kol Ami Synagogue, White Plains, NY, February, 2002 The Old Guard Society of White Plains, NY, April, 2002 The Westchester Meadows, Valhalla, NY August, 2002 Kol Ami Synagogue, White Plains, NY, October, 2002 JCC of Scarsdale, Scarsdale, NY, November, 2002 The Westchester Meadows, Valhalla, NY, January, 2003 The Rotary Club of White Plains, NY January, 2003 The Westchester Meadows, Valhalla, NY April, 2003 Westchester Reform Temple, Scarsdale, NY January, 2004 Mount Vernon High School, Mount Vernon, NY March 2004 Kol Ami/JCC of White Plains, NY November, 2004 The Westchester Reform Temple, Scarsdale, January 2005 The Sunrise of Fleetwood, Mount Vernon, April, 2005 The Woodlands of Ardsley, assisted living, November, 2005 The Woodlands of Ardsley, assisted living, December, 2005 The Woodlands of Ardsley, assisted living, January, 2005 Rotary Club of Elmsford, April, 2006 Kiwanis Club of Yonkers, June, 2006 Greenburgh Jewish Center, November, 2006 Temple Kol Ami, White Plains, February, 2007 Hebrew Institute, White Plains, March, 2007 Temple Kol Ami, White Plains, NY, April, 2007 Westchester Meadows. Valhalla, November, 2007 Hebrew Institute. White Plains, November, 2007 Art Zuckerman Radio Show- January, 2008 JCC of the Hudson, Tarrytown, February, 2008 Matt O’Shaughnessy Radio Show, March, 2008 WVOX –Election Night Coverage, November, 2008 WVOX – Inaugural Coverage, January 20, 2009 The Advocates-host of the WVOX Radio Show, 2007- 2010 Rotary Club of Pleasantville, February, 2009 Hebrew Institute of White Plains, May, 2009 JCC Hudson, Tarrytown, December, 2009-10-11-12 Brandeis Club, Yonkers, March 25, 2010

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