All posts by Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Trump Tax Code Reform Favors the Rich and Big Corporations – Surprised?

From seven brackets to three

The White House and Congressional Republicans announced their plans for a tax code reform bill. There is a bit of something positive in it. It would simplify the tax code into three brackets, instead of the current seven. But that’s about all that is positive in it for the middle class.

“We’re going to cut taxes for the middle class, make the tax code simpler and more fair for everyday Americans,” Trump said while speaking about the plan. “We are going to bring back the jobs and wealth that have left our country — and most people thought left our country for good.”

The plan would raise the bottom rate to 12 percent from today’s 10 percent. According to the blueprint of the plan, average families “are expected to be better off” under all the changes it proposes. An analysis by the Americans for Tax Fairness found that the plan would provide a “modest middle-class tax cut,” mainly by doubling the standard deduction. However, the analysis also found that if the tax plan repeals the personal exemption and the head of household filing status, “much of that could be taken away.”

Funding Deficit

The tax reform plan could total $6.7 to $8.3 trillion, and $3 to $5 trillion of it may end up not being paid for by limiting tax deductions or closing other tax loopholes, according to the Americans for Tax Fairness. The funding deficit would threaten funding of services such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and public education.

President’s Trump’s budget for 2018 proposed $4.3 trillion in cuts to Social Security, Medicaid, public education and other non-defense programs. The House budget proposed $5.8 million in cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, public education and other non-defense programs.

“The idea that this plan would help average Americans instead of the wealthy and big corporations has been a hoax all along,” said Frank Clemente, executive director, Americans for Tax Fairness.

“This plan will not lead to robust job creation or economic growth, but its eye-popping cost will lead to deep cuts in Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and public education that will leave working families in the cold.”

A “thinly veiled giveaway”

Democrats are opposed to the Republican tax reform plan. The Democratic Party’s website calls it “nothing more than a thinly-veiled giveaway to big corporations and the one percent.” And the party’s website pointed out that Trump had Steven Mnuchin and Gary Cohn, former Wall Street executives, create a tax plan “out of the public eye that would be a massive windfall to Trump and his wealthy corporate buddies.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) blasted the Republican’s tax reform plan. “It seems that President Trump and Republicans have designed their plan to be cheered in the country clubs and the corporate boardrooms,” he said on the Senate floor, the Hill reported. “[Republicans are] going to be in for a rude awakening as the American people are going to rise up against this,” he added.

The rich get richer

Three polls conducted this month indicate that Schumer just may be right. An NBC/WSJ poll found that 42 percent of those polled said Congress should not cut taxes right now, and 62 percent said taxes for the wealthy should be increased. A Washington Post/ABC poll found that 51 percent believe that Trump’s tax plan will disproportionately benefit wealthy Americans. And a Politico/Morning Consult poll found that 60 percent think that corporations do not pay enough taxes.

Perhaps the Independent Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, summed up the opposition to the tax plan the best:

“At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, President Trump’s tax plan is morally repugnant and bad economic policy,” he said.

Indeed, it is.

The Absurdity of Calling a Bottled Water Company Carbon Neutral

Can a bottled water company ever be truly carbon neutral? The bottled water brand Evian announced recently that it has been audited and certified by the Carbon Trust as a carbon neutral brand in the U.S. and Canada. Evian’s corporate parent, Danone made a commitment at COP 21 to become carbon neutral worldwide by 2020. In January 2018, bottles of Evian water with the Carbon Trust certification seal will be available

A carbon neutral footprint is defined by the Carbon Trust as “one where the sum of the greenhouse gas emissions produced is offset by natural carbon sinks and/or carbon credits.” Smaller bottled water producers have already achieved carbon neutral status, including Icelandic Glacial and Norway’s Isklar.

Carbon credit, not carbon neutral

Evian claims to have achieved carbon neutral status with carbon credits through the Livelihoods Carbon Fund and using trains and ships for delivering its product to North America. Its bottles in North America will contain 25 percent recycled PET on average by the end of 2017. All Evian products come from its bottling site in Evian-les-Bains, France, which is completely powered by renewable energy. It also has a carbon sequestration partnership with the Livelihoods Carbon Fund. The organization has planted 130 million trees to date, which absorb carbon.

All of that is great, but not everyone is convinced that single-use, plastic water bottles are a good idea. “Often it is environmentally absurd to sell bottled water when tap water is cheaper, better, and far less energy-intensive,” Mathis Wackernagel, CEO of Global Footprint Network told Bloomberg.

Emmanuel Faber, Chief Executive Officer of Danone said in a statement that “consuming Evian is voting for the world we want to live in and a sustainable future, as Evian delivers a carbon neutral spring water to its U.S. and Canadian consumers.” But he failed to speak about the environmental impacts of single-use, plastic water bottles.

Single-use for 1000 years

Single-use bottled water is packaged in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic, which can take up to 1,000 years to degrade. PET plastic is petroleum based. Producing the bottles for Americans to drink takes the equivalent of over 17 million barrels of oil, excluding the energy it takes to transport them, according to the Pacific Institute. Bottling water produces over 2.5 million tons of carbon, and it takes three liters of water to produce just one liter of bottled water. About 1,500 plastic bottles are estimated to end up in landfills or thrown into the ocean every second. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is an area the size of Texas in the Pacific Ocean made up of plastic.

Water bottle realism

The cradle-to-grave carbon footprint of one kilogram of PET trays containing 85 percent recycled content was1.538 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), a 2013 study found. Raw material and manufacturing contributed 45 percent and 38 percent, respectively.

The recycling rate in the U.S. from 2014 to 2015 declined slightly according to figures released by the Association of Plastic Recyclers and the American Chemistry Council. In 2015, the recycling rate was 31.1 percent, a slight decrease from 31.7 in 2014.

Bottled water is energy intensive, produces carbon emissions, and creates waste. In short, it is an industry that wreaks havoc on the environment.


Photo: Flickr/Kate Ter Haar

 

Will the Push to Dismantle Obamacare Lead to States Passing Single Payer Bills?

The U.S. is the only one among modern, industrialized countries to not adopt some form of single payer healthcare. And Americans are paying dearly for it.

The U.S. is also the biggest spender on health care. An analysis by the Commonwealth Fund found that the U.S. spent 17.1 percent of its GDP on healthcare in 2013. That was much higher than what France spent at 11.6 percent of GDP and the U.K. at 8.8 percent.

High-priced healthcare

Private spending on healthcare is highest in the U.S. where the average spending per person in 2013 was $1,074 in out-of-pocket costs. France and the Netherlands spent less than one-fourth ($277 and $270, respectively).

The U.S. also spent much more than other countries in other private spending at $3,442 per capita, which was over five times more than Canadians spent at $654. Canada was the second highest spending country.

Riskier healthcare

A study comparing the U.S. and Canadian health care systems found that the Canadian system has “lower costs, more services, universal access to health care without financial barriers, and superior health status.” Researchers also found that Canadians have longer life expectancies and lower infant mortality rates than Americans.

The U.S. has the highest rate of deaths related to health care or the lack of it than among comparable countries, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The disease burden is also higher in the U.S. and hospital admissions for preventable diseases occur more frequently than in comparable countries.

Increasing cost

Health care costs in the U.S. are expected to increase. Health Affairs projected that they will grow at 5.8 percent from 2015 to 2025, comprising 20.1 percent of the GDP.

The business world is taking note of the high health costs. Back in April, the American Sustainable Business Council launched the Business Leaders Transforming Healthcare campaign.

There are 128 companies supporting the campaign, ranging from small, mid-sized and large businesses in 30 states in sectors that include consumer products, finance, energy and real estate. The purpose of the campaign is to engage the business community in the U.S. to push for a single payer health care system.

Three states introduce single payer bills

California, New York and the state of Washington have all introduced single payer bills this year into their legislatures.

California

The Healthy California Act or SB 562, introduced in February, passed by the state senate in June. It now sits languishing in the Assembly.

The bill would create a Healthy California program to provide universal single-payer health care coverage. It would also create a health care cost control system.

The program would provide a “wide-range of medical benefits and other services.” It would incorporate in the “benefits and standards of other existing federal and state provisions,” including California’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medi-Cal.

The Healthy California board would use all “waivers, approvals, and agreements” so existing federal health care payments would be paid to the program.

 

Washington

Washington state House Bill 1026 would create a single-payer health care system by using the Affordable Care Act’s state innovation waiver 1332, which became available this year to state legislators.

With the waivers, states can use 95 percent of the federal funds provided to state residents for cost assistance to use for Affordable Care Act (ACA) alternatives. It would create the Washington Health Security Trust and create guidelines to establish board and advisory committees that would manage the health care of state residents.

New York

The New York Health Act passed in the state assembly in May. It would create a single payer health care system for the state of New York.

It would be paid for with payroll taxes and non-employment income such as capital gains. Introduced in February, the bill would seek “waivers and other approvals” that relate to federal programs such as Medicaid, the ACA, and Medicare.

An economic analysis of the bill found that the bill would save more than $70 billion in 2019, which is 25 percent of that year’s projected health care spending, with savings increasing over time. During the bill’s first year, it would save $44.7 billion, or almost $2,200 per person. The analysis also found that it would also create over 200,000 jobs, which would more than replace the jobs lost in insurance and billing.

Single payer healthcare makes sense

What states like those three understand is that a single payer system is not socialized medicine. Delivery of care would remain private, doctors would regain autonomy. The way to achieve universal, single payer health care in the U.S. just might be through the states. And if Republicans keep trying to dismantle the ACA, the states just might become emboldened to achieve what every other developed country has in place.

The way to achieve universal, single payer health care in the U.S. just might be through the states. And if Republicans keep trying to dismantle the ACA, the states just might become emboldened to achieve what every other developed country has in place.

And if Republicans keep trying to dismantle the ACA, the states just might become emboldened to achieve what every other developed country has in place.


Image credit: Michael Fleshman, courtesy Flickr