Adonis Diaries

Archive for September 19th, 2011

Warren E. Buffett: Tax us hard. Stop coddling with the ultra-rich

I read today that President Obama is going to satisfy Warren E. Buffett’s request of taxing the ultra-rich millionaire adequately: The program is to generate $3 billion in the next ten years! What was the intention to Warren E. Buffett, chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway?He wrote:

“OUR leaders have asked for “shared sacrifice.” But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched.

While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks. Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors, but are allowed to classify our income as “carried interest,” thereby, getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate.

Others mega-rich own stock index futures for 10 minutes, and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors.

These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us. Much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.

Last year, my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.

If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine — most likely by a lot.

To understand why, you need to examine the sources of government revenue. Last year, about 80 percent of these revenues came from personal income taxes and payroll taxes. The mega-rich pay income taxes at a rate of 15 percent on most of their earnings, but pay practically nothing in payroll taxes.

It’s a different story for the middle class: typically, they fall into the 15 percent and 25 percent income tax brackets, and again are hit with heavy payroll taxes to boot.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, tax rates for the rich were far higher, and my percentage rate was in the middle of the pack. According to a theory, I sometimes hear, I should have thrown a fit and refused to invest because of the elevated tax rates on capital gains and dividends.

I didn’t refuse, nor did others. I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain.

People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation.

Since 1992, the I.R.S. has compiled data from the returns of the 400 Americans reporting the largest income. In 1992, the top 400 had aggregate taxable income of $16.9 billion and paid federal taxes of 29.2 percent on that sum. In 2008, the aggregate income of the highest 400 had soared to $90.9 billion — a staggering $227.4 million on average — but the rate paid had fallen to 21.5 percent.

The taxes I refer to here include only federal income tax, but you can be sure that any payroll tax for the 400 was inconsequential compared to income. In fact, 88 of the 400 in 2008 reported no wages at all, though every one of them reported capital gains. Some of my brethren may shun work, but they all like to invest. (I can relate to that.)

I know well many of the mega-rich and, by and large, they are very decent people. They love America and appreciate the opportunity this country has given them. Many have joined the Giving Pledge, promising to give most of their wealth to philanthropy. Most wouldn’t mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering.

Twelve members of Congress will soon take on the crucial job of rearranging our country’s finances. They’ve been instructed to devise a plan that reduces the 10-year deficit by at least $1.5 trillion. It’s vital, however, that they achieve far more than that.

Americans are rapidly losing faith in the ability of Congress to deal with our country’s fiscal problems. Only action that is immediate, real and very substantial will prevent that doubt from morphing into hopelessness. That feeling can create its own reality.

Job one for the Twelve members of Congress is to pare down some future promises that even a rich America can’t fulfill.  Big money must be saved here. The 12 should then turn to the issue of revenues. I would leave rates for 99.7 percent of taxpayers unchanged and continue the current 2-percentage-point reduction in the employee contribution to the payroll tax. This cut helps the poor and the middle class, who need every break they can get.

But for those making more than $1 million — there were 236,883 such households in 2009 — I would raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, including, of course, dividends and capital gains. And for those who make $10 million or more — there were 8,274 in 2009 — I would suggest an additional increase in rate.

My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.” End of quote.

No comment for the time being. Suffice to note that many billionaires in Europe had joined the bandwagon, demanding higher tax breaks on their insufferable wealth.

Note: You may read one of my articles on the financial crisis https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2011/05/26/four-years-later-world-financial-and-economic-conditions-deteriorating-further/

Task Force 373: Drones targeting 2,000 on kill-list

Julian Assange of WikiLeaks revealed in an interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist the following piece of intelligence:

“One of the elements we discovered in “Afghan War Diary” (leaked in July 2010) was the existence of Task Force 373.  This is a special unit of the American army in charge of “liquidating” targets in a list of 2,000 names. There are no impartial rules to add or delete names from the list.  No one can warn you whether you are included on that list of “Joint Priority Effects List (JPEL)”, or potential dead by drone attacks.  From the document received, 50% of the targeted persons were simply killed: No alternatives to trying to capturing them alive.  In many instances, the drones just assassinated innocent kids and civilians, as collateral damages.

The dailies Der Spiegel (Germany) and The Guardian published articles on the bombing of a school that killed seven kids.Task Force 373 tried hard to “kill” this information and then extended its apology…Journalist Eric Schmitt of the New York Times, and in charge of the section national security, wrote an article on that subject, but it never was published.

On many occasions, the political leaders in Pakistan and Afghanistan vented their anger at these drone attacks, to no avail so far.

Prior to the leaks on Task Force, WikiLeaks had divulged the two procedures of how the detention camp in Guantanamo Bay functions. We obtained the manual of 2003. The pentagon replied: “Yes, the manual is from 2003, during the period of General Miller…” (another scapegoat criminal).  We got the manual of 2004, and we realized that the procedure became even stricter, instead of improving…”

 published an article titled “US increases Yemen drone strikes”, on Saturday, September 17. She wrote:

“The Obama administration has significantly increased the frequency of drone strikes and other air attacks against the al-Qaeda affiliate in Yemen in recent months, amid rising concern about political collapse there.  A few of the strikes, carried out by the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), have been focused in the southern part of the country, where insurgent forces have for the first time conquered and held territory, as the Yemeni government continues to struggle against escalating opposition to President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 33-year rule.

Unlike in Pakistan, where the CIA has presidential authorization to launch drone strikes at will, each U.S. attack in Yemen — and those being conducted in nearby Somalia, such as the most recent on Thursday near the southern port city of Kismayo — requires White House approval, senior administration officials said.

The officials, who were not authorized to discuss the matter on the record, said intended targets must be drawn from an approved list of key members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula deemed by U.S. intelligence officials to be involved in planning attacks against the West. 

White House counterterrorism adviser, John O. Brennan, last week put their number at “a couple of dozen, maybe.”Although several unconfirmed strikes each week have been reported by local media in Yemen and Somalia, the administration has made no public acknowledgment of the escalated campaign, and officials who discussed the increase declined to provide numbers.

The heightened air activity coincides with the administration’s determination this year that AQAP, as the Yemen-based group is known, poses a more significant threat to the United States than the core al-Qaeda group based in Pakistan. The administration has also concluded that AQAP has recruited at least a portion of the main insurgent group in Somalia, al-Shabab, to its anti-Western cause.

From its initial months in office, the Obama administration has debated whether to extend the air attacks that have proved so effective in Pakistan to the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa. Military and intelligence officials have long argued in favor of attacks against al-Shabab camps in Somalia, which have been under overhead surveillance for years. Other officials have questioned the legal and moral justification for intervening in what, until recently, has been a largely domestic conflict.

The administration has said its legal authority to conduct such strikes, whether with fixed-wing planes, cruise missiles or drones, derives from the 2001 congressional resolution authorizing attacks against al-Qaeda and protection of the U.S. homeland, as well as the international law of self-defense.

“The United States does not view our authority to use military force against al-Qaeda as being restricted solely to ‘hot’ battlefields like Afghanistan,” Brennan said in remarks prepared for delivery Friday night at Harvard Law School. “We reserve the right to take unilateral action if or when other governments are unwilling or unable to take the necessary actions themselves.”

What’s going on? The US administrations always reserve the right to taking unilateral actions, such as launching a preemptive war on Iraq in 2003, without a UN resolution.  And the US administrations wonder why people are very upset with US political behaviors against the rudiment of human rights overseas.

Note: On October 2, a US drone assassinated US citizen Al Awlaki in Yemen.  Shouldn’t Al Awlaki be caught alive and tried, as any citizen should?

 

South Lebanon living conditions: Under 22 years of Israel occupation

I am attaching a summary of Robert Fisk accounts in the book “Afflictions of a Nation“.  Fisk was a correspondent to the British The Times and covered the civil war in Lebanon for 9 years.

“Four months after the genocide, which was committed by Israel in the Palestinian camps of Sabra and Chatila (Beirut, 1982), Israel occupation troops suffered casualties due to local resistance factions using hand grenades, land mines, and automatic rifles. All in all, 17 Israeli soldiers were killed and over 70 injured.

As Israel was surrounding the Capital Beirut, it was already imposing its military administration on a region of over 1,000 sq.miles.  Israel re-organized the Saad Haddad militias in the south and brought in the Christian fascist Phalanges militias (Kataeb) to the city of Saida and East Saida.

In the same time, Israel Shin Beth intelligence agency hired hundreds of Moslem Shia mercenaries who used to be members of the Amal militias, in order to keep “law and order” in the Shia towns and villages.

By the end of June, the UN peace keeping forces accounted for hundreds of hired armed militias working within their zone of control. These militias had the name of “National Guards” and Local Guards”.  These guards set up road blocks and searched cars…

In the city of Saida, Israel occupied the mayor official quarters.  Soon, dozens of Palestinian civilians were found killed on roads leading to Christian towns, east of Saida. Leaflets were distributed encouraging the Lebanese to “clean up” the region of Palestinians.  The inhabitants of Saida knew that the leaflets were the making of Israel.

On February 1983, leaflets signed “Cedar Guards” warned that “Our goal is to force every Palestinian to leave Lebanon“, same tactics that Israel has adopted to pressure Palestinians from vacating their homes and towns in 1948. A Moslem Sunni old man commented: “We thought that Israel will liberate us. Instead, they are bringing in all kinds of foreign elements to harass us.”

Israel was implementing the same tactics applied in the West bank and Gaza: Israel was demonstrating that it is here to stay in south Lebanon for a long time.

The Moslem Shia highest cleric, Mohammad Mahdi Shams el Din exhorted the people to “refuse any cooperation, in any form and shape, with the local militias, which were constituted by Israel”

A secret UN report stated: “Israel is exercising coercion, arrest, and blackmail in the zone under our control”  For example, in the town of Tebnine, Israel pressured the inhabitants to fund 10 local guards, otherwise, “foreign elements” will be dispatched to fill in the void.

The UN report continued: “Israel is about to make things worse in order to demonstrate to the world community that the UN forces are helpless in keeping peace and order in their zone of control.  In one month, Israel denied 25 request for UN helicopters to taking off from the UN base in Nakoura.  Two of the requests were to fly the chief UN commander, the Irish General William Callahan”

Fisk wrote: “I used to visit the south in company of the correspondents Anderson, Faramarzy, and Paola Krochiany (from the Associated Press).  An old man told us “The Israeli officers keep visiting our village, every week.  They demand that I gather intelligence for them, in return for the release of my son from the Ansar prison, established by Israel within Lebanon (customary blackmail tactics used by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories. That is why Israel round-up innocent Palestinian teenagers and put them in prison without trial). I gave them information, but my son is still in prison.

I noticed that all vegetables and fruits produces in Saida souk were imported from Israel. Lebanese trucks loaded the goods from Israel border in Nakoura. The purpose was to pressure Lebanese farmers to leaving their lands.

There is this Christian village of Mieh wa Mieh in east Saida. This village overlooks Saida and the Palestinian camp of Ain el Helweh.  Mieh wa Mieh has also a small Palestinian camps, of mostly Christians, as the one in Dbayeh, close to Jounieh, that the Christian militias vacated in 1976 to build luxury real estate buildings.

Within 6 weeks, 12 Palestinian civilians were assassinated, a terror tactics applied by Israel.  The Palestinians in Mieh wa Mieh camp were scared and felt that another genocide was being perpetrated.  An old woman said: “When the Israelis came last June, they proclaimed that they are here to protect us.  Instead, they are rounding up our youth and sending them to Ansar prison. The Phalangists arrived in November and burned houses and committed atrocities. Acts of terrorism are increasing drastically.Last week, a bomb demolished 14 houses at the fringe of the camp.  They are trying to force us into fleeing”.

As the old woman was talking to us, a boy arrived breathless and said “A Phalanges car is arriving”  The phalanges militias were suspicious of foreign correspondents discussing with the villagers.

Israel Colonel Hayim, of Israel Shin Beth, was constantly touring the Shia villages in the district, of about 24 towns.  Hayim job was to blackmail the mayors (mokhtar) to coughing up $5,000 per month, on the ground of providing funds for the maintenance of the local guards.

Either you pay or your son will be taken to Ansar prison” was one line of blackmail. For example, taxes were levied on every truck crossing a road block. Trucks loaded with electronic goods were charged $60; trucks loaded with tires $110; trucks carrying vegetables and fruits $80; and trucks carrying sugar and wheat…$72.

Towns that refused to be blackmailed were harassed by militias of Saad Haddad.  Haddad militias would storm the town, round-up civilians, burn a few houses and ransack other. These terror tactics infuriated the inhabitants of the south.

Israel conducted a thorough census in the south of 250,000 people.  The census sheet was 27 pages long. Israel was effectively planning to stay for the long haul…”

The follow-up article describes how Lebanese resistance forces got organized and managed to kick out Israel from the Land in the year 2000, without negotiations or any preconditions.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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