Tag Archives: government

“Since 1988, members of Congress have had their pay…”

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Spotlights

Unauthorized Immigrants Paid $100 Billion Into Social Security Over Last Decade

Unauthorized Immigrants Paid $100 Billion Into Social Security Over Last Decade

By Roy Germano

August 4, 2014 | 1:50 pm

“Unauthorized workers are paying an estimated $13 billion a year in social security taxes and only getting around $1 billion back, according to a senior government statistician.

Stephen Goss, the chief actuary of the Social Security Administration (SSA), told VICE News that an estimated 7 million people are currently working in the US illegally. Of those, he estimates that about 3.1 million are using fake or expired social security numbers, yet also paying automatic payroll taxes. Goss believes that these workers pay an annual net contribution of $12 billion to the Social Security Trust Fund.

The SSA estimates that unauthorized workers have paid a whopping $100 billion into the fund over the past decade. Yet as these people are in the US illegally, it is unlikely that they will be able to benefit from their contributions later in life.

In the latest episode of Immigrant America, VICE News documented how most US dairy farms depend on the labor of unauthorized workers, as they simply can’t find enough Americans and don’t have a way of hiring foreign workers legally

Farmers claim that they’re following the law the best they can under the circumstances. Michael, a farm owner who asked for his last name to be withheld, argued that his unauthorized employees don’t get a free ride. He told VICE News that they pay taxes and are hired in accordance with the government’s I-9 requirement.

Unauthorized workers usually demonstrate their employment eligibility with fake IDs and fake social security numbers. Once hired, these “questionably documented” workers, as Michael calls them, end up on the payroll and have taxes automatically taken out of their checks, like any other employee. That money then goes to the federal treasury to fund programs like Social Security and Medicare.

You can read more about the SSA estimates of the unauthorized population’s contributions to the trust fund here.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Spotlights

One GIF Shows the Hellscape America Would Become If We Legalize Marijuana

Graphic by Chris Walker. Data from the New America Foundation and the Cato Institute. Both figures in 2011 dollars.

“Far from tearing apart the social fabric of America, as some opponents say, legalizing marijuana could be exactly what’s needed to rebuild our communities.

Take a look at the GIF above. Legalizing marijuana would create a whopping $18.1 billion annually in government funds. That’s right, 18 BILLION. With that money, we could guarantee universal access to pre-K education for every single child.

In case there’s any doubt about how much that could benefit the country, consider this: Universal pre-K would be transformational for American public education. 

Last year a Harvard study found that pre-K education improved “children’s language, literacy, math, executive function (the ability to regulate, control, and manage one’s thinking and actions), and emotional development.” Pre-k puts more kids on track to succeed down the road.

And the benefits reach far into adulthood. In another study, University of Minnesota researchers found that people were less likely to have been arrested or incarcerated 25 years after participating in a pre-K program, compared to people who hadn’t gone through pre-K.

The methodology: The $18.1 billion figure comes from a Cato Institute report, which takes into account savings from no longer enforcing prohibition, as well as from new marijuana sales tax revenue. Cato assumes marijuana would be taxed at similar rates as alcohol and tobacco.

Meanwhile, government needs an additional $15.4 billion annually to make pre-K access universal, according to the New America Foundation. Keep in mind we’re talking about universal access to pre-K, not compulsory pre-K. Therefore the New America Foundation estimates roughly 75% of 4-year-olds would actually participate if pre-K access were universal.

Still, 75% is a massive improvement from 28%—the percentage enrolled last year—according to the National Institute for Early Education Research. Having universal access to pre-K this year would have translated to 2 million more 4-year-olds participating in pre-K programs.

The math is simple: The example of Colorado, which has already generated $34 million in marijuana tax revenue this year, proves that when marijuana is legalized, society doesn’t degenerate into drug-induced anarchy.

Legalization creates much-needed funds for government. As the financials above show, society as a whole can reap substantial benefits.

Technical Note: The New America Foundation presents its figures in 2011 dollars. The Cato Institute figure has been adjusted to 2011 dollars.

Graphic created with code open-sourced by Dan Foreman-Mackey.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Spotlights

Conservatives Who Hate the Government Most Have One Absurd Thing in Common

Conservatives Who Hate the Government Most Have One Absurd Thing in Common

“If Republicans love one thing, it’s hating the federal government.

Since 2008, as the Tea Party movement has gained popularity across the U.S., the feds have been labeled anything and everything from “out of control,” in the words of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, to “sort of like Nazis,” in the words of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). President Obama went as far as to dub his conservative opponents in Congress “haters” on Wednesday. “Come on and help out a little bit,” pleaded Obama at a rally in Kansas City. “Stop being mad all the time. Stop just hating all the time. Come on.”

But conservative hatred of the big, bad federal government might just be an attempt to cover up their insecurity about benefiting immensely from the big, bad government’s social programs. 

new study about the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proves just that. Released last week by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Rhodium Group, the study examines how new environmental regulations promoted by President Barack Obama under the Clean Power Plan (CPP) could affect the economies of U.S. states. The study found an ironic coincidence: States with leaders that have actively campaigned against the EPA and have even called the existence of climate change into question stand to benefit the most from the new regulations. 

Under President Obama, the EPA has fought hard to limit the amount of carbon power plants are allowed to produce. The agency’s new proposed rules would reduce the amount of carbon produced by power plants by 30% by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. The new standards mean that states that produce significant quantities of natural gas, which has a lower carbon footprint than older technologies like coal, would gain billions of dollars over the coming decades. Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma — which all have prominent politicians that have criticized EPA overreach and questioned the existence of global warming — would gain the most from the new rules, adding $16 billion to their economies, and “not just gas companies and employees, but also private land owners, state budgets and sectors of the economy directly tied to natural gas production.” That, in part, is thanks to the EPA.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has said he’s “not afraid” of global warming, and doesn’t believe climate change is a man-made phenomenon. And Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has said her state’s drought problems have nothing to do with global warming. But those same states will see a big influx of cash in the coming years. “The irony is that some of the states that have been the loudest in opposing EPA climate regulations have the most to gain in terms of actual economic interest,” Trevor Houser, a co-author of the study told the New York Times.

Of course, Republican opposition to governmental programs that disproportionately benefit them is nothing new: There’s hardly a federal agency or policy that hasn’t been lambasted by Republicans in Congress as a waste of money, a burden on freedom and even a communist plot. But it seems the programs they hate most are the ones that are actually best for them and their constituents.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted last year to cut $40 billion from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, aka food stamps). But an analysis by TIME of county-by-county food stamp enrollment data found that counties that voted Republican, and that were overwhelmingly white, used the most food stamps. That data goes against the stereotypical and sometimes racist imagery some conservatives have used — depicting food stamp recipients as city dwellers who are often black or Latino.

Above: SNAP participation in congressional districts represented by Republicans. Image Credit: TIME


Above: SNAP participation in congressional districts represented by Democrats. Image Credit: TIME

Kentucky Republican Representative Hal Rogers even called the food stamp program a boon for “scammers, lottery winners, gamblers and others who may be able to work, but simply refuse.” If that’s what he believes, he might be bad mouthing many of his own constituents: 1 in 3 people in his district rely on SNAP, according to TIME.

The hypocrisy doesn’t stop there. Red states in general take much more money than they give back to the federal government in tax dollars. A WalletHub analysis found that Delaware, which overwhelmingly voted for Obama in 2012, only got back 50 cents for every dollar they sent to the feds. That’s in stark contrast to conservative Mississippi, which got $3.07 back for every dollar. In fact, many Republican-leaning states, from South Dakota to West Virginia, ranked at the bottom in contributions to the federal government, and at the top of states that rely most on government programs like unemployment.

Places with more Republicans than Democrats stand to benefit more than the rest of the country from perhaps the most hated “government overreach” of all: the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare. Texas and the states surrounding it had such a need for affordable insurance before the ACA was passed that some had started calling the area the “Uninsured Belt.” 


Nearly 5 million American between the ages 18 and 64 receive no financial help to buy coverage because of a health insurance gap, according to the Wall Street Journal. If those states had opted to expand Medicaid coverage with funding from the federal government, they would be some of the biggest benefactors of the new law.

Analysts have argued that because Republican states tend to be in economically depressed areas like the South, it’s not fair to compare them to centers of industry and finance like New York or California. But that’s exactly the point: States that invest in their citizens tend to get a big return on their investment.

In Massachusetts, for example, conservatives predicted economic chaos when then-Governor Mitt Romney rolled out “RomneyCare,” the system Obama essentially modeled the Affordable Care Act off of. Instead of an economic crisis, Romney’s health system helped 98% of Massachusetts residents get health insurance, and unemployment fell at the same time.

It seems the same thing is now happening with Obamacare: income inequality is decreasingrecent job numbers are promising and the U.S. economy is on the upswing. And you can bet many of the benefactors of that positive news will be card-carrying conservatives.”

1 Comment

Filed under Spotlights

Federal marijuana bill would legalize some cannabis strains

Federal marijuana bill would legalize some cannabis strains

“…A bill being introduced Monday in the U.S. House of Representatives could be Cox’s ticket home. The three-page bill would amend the Controlled Substances Act — the federal law that criminalizes marijuana — to exempt plants with an extremely low percentage of THC, the chemical that makes users high…”

Leave a comment

Filed under Spotlights

Ex-governor tries to live on a minimum wage budget — and fails

Ex-governor tries to live on a minimum wage budget — and fails

“I had $77 to spend on food, transportation, activities and other personal expenses for the week,” the Ohio Democrat and current president of the Center for American Progress Action Fund wrote in Politico magazine. “I didn’t make it.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Spotlights

America’s Best Internet Is in the City You’d Least Expect

America’s Best Internet Is in the City You’d Least Expect

“…Here’s how it works: More than 20 states have laws that won’t let local communities compete with telecom companies. Tennessee, for instance, has a law that won’t allow EPB to operate outside the city. So, while EPB would love to offer faster, cheaper Internet to the one in five Tennessee residents who has no Internet access, it needs permission from the FCC to preempt its state law.

The FCC, in a fit of common sense, has signalled that it would allow this preemption to occur. House Republicans want that to be illegal, protecting cable companies instead. Their argument is framed around states’ rights — thanks to the state non-compete laws — while ignoring the fact that the national government would be telling local towns and cities what they can and can’t do.

Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who introduced the amendment in the House, was called “Big Telecom’s best friend in Congress” by Vice. AT&T and Verizon are her second- and third-largest donors, and Comcast as well as the National Cable and Telecommunications Association have chipped in tens of thousands each…”

Leave a comment

Filed under Spotlights