Friday, November 14, 2014

3 Charts About Income Inequality, Transfers, and Taxes

Between 1979 and 2011, CBO estimates, inflation-adjusted after-tax income for the top 1 percent increased 200 percent. For the rest of the top income quintile, the figure was 67 percent and for the three middle quintiles, inflation-adjusted after-tax income was 40 percent higher. For folks in the bottom income quintile, inflation-adjusted after-tax income was 48 percent greater.
Quintile analysis of course is a series of snapshots that don't capture mobility between income quintiles; we'll get to that in a moment.
Here's a breakdown of income quintiles, pre- and post-tax and transfers, in 2011:
"Transfers" include "cash payments and in-kind benefits from social insurance and other government assistance programs. Those transfers include payments and benefits from federal, state, and local governments." What should be surprising is that even households in the top 20 percent of income pull down $11,000 on average in transfers even as they pay 23 percent in federal taxes on before-tax income.
Here's how different quintiles saw income grow.
While all groups saw increases, the middle-three quintiles gained less (40 percent each on average) than any other group.
Between 1979 and 2011, the Gini Index, a measure of income inequality, increased whether talking about pre-tax or post-tax income. In terms of straight "market income" (a measure of all income from all non-transfer sources), it increased from below 0.5 to 0.59. Based on before-tax income, it went from 0.4 to 0.47. And for after-tax income, it went from around 0.36 to 0.44.
CBO notes that federal tax and transfer policy reduced the increase in after-tax inequality by 26 percent from what it would have been otherwise, with the majority coming from transfers, not taxes. That's despite the aggressive—if often unacknowledged—progressivity of the U.S. tax system, which is far more progressive than systems of other developed countries. As Veronique de Rugy has pointed out in Reason and elsewhere, European countries typically charge more of their residents more taxes at all levels, especially in the form of value-added taxes (on the flip side, those countries typically give more straight transfers to citizens too). The U.S. system, argues de Rugy, hides many of its costs because "it disproportionately relies on the top earners to raise revenue, it exempts a large class of taxpayers from paying any income taxes, and it conceals spending in the form of tax breaks." A more transparent system might have lower marginal rates but fewer if any exemptions.
So, does increased income inequality reduce economic mobility? Intelligence Squared recently hosted a debate on the issue, featuring the Manhattan Institute's Scott Winship, whose work is often cited here. The entire debate is worth a listen but Winship's main point is that income mobility—the ability for an individual or particular household—to move up or down the income ladder is unrelated to whether the rungs of the ladder are being more widely spread out. Winship is a critic of mobility rates—he thinks they are too low—but he persuasively documents that those rates haven't changed over the past 30-plus years even as income inequality has increased. Read some his reasons here.

Nick Gillespie is the editor in chief of and Reason TV and the co-author of The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong With America, just out in paperback.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Walking More May Be Key for a Longer, Healthier Life

By Dr. Mercola
The more time you spend sitting, the shorter and less healthy your life will tend to be—that’s the new consensus among researchers. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) now lists inactivity as the fourth biggest killer of adults worldwide, responsible for nine percent of premature deaths.1
In fact, the medical literature now contains over 10,000 studies showing that frequent, prolonged sitting—at work, commuting, and watching TV at night—significantly impacts your cardiovascular and metabolic function.
For example, one 2012 meta-analysis2 found that those who sat for the longest periods of time on a daily basis were twice as likely to have diabetes or heart disease, compared to those who sat the least.
Of great importance is the finding that prolonged sitting is an independent risk factor for poor health and early death; studies have shown these risks apply even if you’re very fit and maintain a regular workout schedule.
Why Gym Rats Aren’t Exempt
The problem is that an hour of exercise here and there, even if it’s vigorous, cannot counteract the harm incurred during the hours you’re sitting still. For example, one recent study3 found that six hours of uninterrupted sitting effectively counteracted the positive health benefits of a whole hour of exercise.
Basically, this means that even if you spend two to three hours in the gym each week, if you have a full-time sit-down job, many of those exercise benefits are simply evaporated.
I think it’s quite clear that you need both intense exercise, and daily intermittent or non-exercise movement in order to optimize your health and prolong your life. It’s not a matter of choosing one over the other. You really do need both.
As for intermittent movement, the key, experts say, is to avoid sitting for more than 50 minutes out of each hour. Ideally, you’d want to sit for a maximum of about three hours a day—a far cry from today’s norm.
The average American office worker can sit for 13 to 15 hours a day! This means that most people need to figure out how to get out of their chair for several hours each day.
One Hour of Sitting Can Cut Arterial Blood Flow in Half
According to David Dunstan with the Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia, the lack of muscle contraction caused by sitting decreases blood flow through your body, thereby reducing the efficiency of biological processes.
“In addition to engaging in regular health enhancing exercise, people should be encouraged to also think what they do during the long periods in the day in which they are not exercising,” he says.4
One of the most recent studies56 in this field found that just one hour of sitting impaired blood flow to the main leg artery by as much as 50 percent! On the upside, simply taking a five minute walk for every hour spent sitting was found to ameliorate the heart disease risks associated with chronic sitting.
Although benefits were shown after just a five minute walk in this study, Dr. James Levineco-director of Obesity Solutions at Mayo Clinic in Phoenix and Arizona State University, recommends getting at least 10 minutes of movement for every hour you sit down.
As explained by Dr. Levine, when you have been sitting for a long period of time and then get up, at a molecular level, within 90 seconds of getting off your bottom, the muscular and cellular systems that process blood sugar, triglycerides, and cholesterol—which are mediated by insulin—are activated.
As soon as you stand up, a series of molecular mechanisms at the cell level set off a cascade of activities that impact the cellular functioning of your muscles. The way your body handles blood sugar is beneficially impacted, for example. Therefore, the disease prevention for diabetes comes into play.
Get Up and Walk at Least Once Every Hour
All of these molecular effects are activated simply by weight-bearing; by carrying your bodyweight upon your legs. Those cellular mechanisms are also responsible for pushing fuels into your cells.
Dr. Joan Vernikos,7 former director of NASA’s Life Sciences Division and author of Sitting Kills, Moving Heals, is another expert who has done much to educate us on the hazards of sitting.
In my previous interview with her, she revealed the dynamics involved. In essence, sitting prevents your body from interacting with and exerting itself against gravity. While not nearly as severe as the antigravity experienced by astronauts, uninterrupted sitting mimics a microgravity situation, which has the effect of accelerating the aging process.
Physical movements, such as standing up or bending down, increase the force of gravity on your body, and this is key to counteracting the cellular degeneration that occurs when you’re sitting down. Based on Dr. Vernikos’ research, I started recommending standing up and doing some exercises at your desk every 10-15 minutes, but after discussing the issue with Dr. Levine and reading his book, Get Up!: Why Your Chair Is Killing You and What You Can Do About It, I’m convinced that’s not even enough…
I really think the answer is to stand up as much as possible. Walking for five minutes every hour you sit is really the bare bones minimum; it’s still far from ideal. It would seem far wiser to strive to sit as little as possible, ideally less than three hours a day.
Walking Is ‘Good Medicine’
Many researchers are now starting to reemphasize the importance of walking. According to Katy Bowman,8 a scientist and author of the book: Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement:
 “Walking is a superfood. It’s the defining movement of a human. It’s a lot easier to get movement than it is to get exercise. Actively sedentary is a new category of people who are fit for one hour but sitting around the rest of the day. You can’t offset 10 hours of stillness with one hour of exercise.”
I believe high intensity exercises are an important part of a healthy lifestyle, but considering the fact that more than half of American men, and 60 percent of American women, never engage in any vigorous physical activity lasting more than 10 minutes per week,9 it’s clear that most people need to begin by simply getting more non-exercise movement into their daily routine.
The elderly and those struggling with chronic disease that prevents them from engaging in more strenuous fitness regimens would also do well to consider moving around more. While walking is often underestimated, studies show you can reap significant health benefits from it.
For example, one recent study1011 found that walking for two miles a day or more can cut your chances of hospitalization from a severe episode of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) by about half. Another study12 published last year found that daily walking reduced the risk of stroke in men over the age of 60. Walking for at least an hour or two could cut a man’s stroke risk by as much as one-third, and it didn’t matter how brisk the pace was. Taking a three-hour long walk each day slashed the risk by two-thirds.
How to Get More Movement into Your Day
I recommend using a pedometer, or better yet, one of the newer fitness trackers that can also give you feedback on your sleeping patterns, which is another important aspect of good health. I use the Jawbone UP24, which is one of the best ones out now, but far better ones will be available in the near future. For example, the MisFit13 is a new fitness tracker that tracks your steps and your sleep and is only $50.It looks like a watch but does not tell time.
At first, you may be surprised to realize just how little you move each day. Setting a goal of say 7-10,000 steps a day (which is just over three to five miles, or 6-9 kilometers) can go a long way toward getting more movement into your life. I personally am doing about 14,000-15,000 steps a day. The only way I can get this many steps in is to walk for 90 minutes, which I do barefoot on the beach. Tracking your steps can also show you how simple and seemingly minor changes to the way you move around at work can add up. For example, you can:
  • Walk across the hall to talk to a coworker instead of sending an email
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Park your car further away from the entrance
  • Take a longer, roundabout way to your desk
Other simple ways to increase your physical movement and avoid sitting down at work include:
  • Organize the layout of your office space in such a way that you have to stand up to reach oft-used files, the telephone, or your printer, rather than having everything within easy reach.
  • Use an exercise ball for a chair. Unlike sitting in a chair, sitting on an exercise ball engages your core muscles and helps improve balance and flexibility. Occasional bouncing can also help your body interact with gravity to a greater degree than sitting on a stationary chair. But this is a concession and it is still sitting, so standing would be a better option.
  • Alternatively, use an upright wooden chair with no armrest, which will force you to sit up straight, and encourage shifting your body more frequently than a cushy office chair.
  • Set a timer to remind you to stand up and move about for at least 10 minutes each hour. You can either walk, stand, or take the opportunity to do a few simple exercises by your desk. For an extensive list of videos demonstrating such exercises, please see my previous article, “Intermittent Movement Benefits Your Health. Here’s How to Get More of It into Your Work Day
  • Use a standing workstation. For a demonstration on proper posture, whether you’re sitting or using a standing workstation, check out Kelly Starrett’s video in this previous article.
Intense Exercise and Intermittent Movement = A Winning Health and Fitness Combination
I’ve been passionate about exercising for nearly 50 years now and have been very fit for most of my life. But I still modify my exercise program based on new information. Several years ago, Phil Campbell helped me understand the importance of high intensity exercise and its value in increasing growth hormone. Then Dr. McGuff helped me understand how Super Slow weight training might be an even more superior form of high intensity training, compared to high intensity cardio.
Now I’ve made another important modification, and that is to sit as little as possible. I now strive to sit less than an hour a day. Remarkably, it wasn’t until I began to really limit my sitting that my chronic back pain disappeared. I had previously tried six different chiropractors, posture exercises, Foundation Training, ab work, inversion tables, standing up every 15 minutes to stretch, and strength training. But nothing would touch it—until I radically reduced my sitting. For the last few months, I have limited my sitting to under an hour a day except when travelling on a plane.
I want to stress that walking 7,000-10,000 steps is in addition to, not in place of, your normal exercise program. (It’s even better if you can walk barefoot so you can get grounded, and better yet, if you can walk on the beach by the ocean.) I really believe the combination of high intensity training with non-exercise activities like walking 10,000 steps a day, along with avoiding sitting whenever possible, is the key to being truly fit and enjoying a pain-free life.
Sources and References

The State of Progressive America

Friday, November 7, 2014

Empire vs. Peaceful Living

By Robert Ferguson
It’s time for the majority of people in the United States to realize what the federal government really is; the most violent, out of control, destructive entity on earth and is by far the greatest purveyor of suffering the human race has ever experienced. Countries require an equilibrium to continue to have peace and stability within them. Factors such as shared social and cultural lineage, religion, language and more. That is why you see so much chaos in the “countries” of the Middle East, Africa and South America. The boundaries on the map do not accurately reflect those shared social and cultural bonds, they were carved out by imperial powers over the course of centuries of colonialism. The reality is that the United States should most likely be two or three countries with autonomous legal authority to their own. Perhaps north-northeast, the south, Midwest-west.
We are all fed the big lie that the Civil War was fought over slavery but more and more people, now with the Internet, are discovering the truth that Lincoln was, rather than a national hero, probably one of the worst presidents we ever had. His legend is a myth and a lie, which is why it has to constantly be repeated and reinforced starting at a very young age, our kindergarten children being put in Lincoln beards and made to recite the Gettysburg Address in front of the whole school. The recent movie “Lincoln”, which of course racked up Academy Awards, is based on a novel written by an admitted plagiarist (Doris Kearns-Goodwin), and lo and behold our dear savior president fights vampires as well!! It doesn’t matter who the person is sitting behind the Truman desk in the Oval Office, the whole lot of them are filth if only made so by the system of which they are a part. Countries in Europe are already clamoring for secession from the corrupt European Union which has taken a once rich and productive continent of peoples, with a long and beautiful history spanning more than a millennium, and bankrupted them in 21 years (1993 est.).
Secessionist and nullification movements are gaining momentum in every state in the union. Beltway boys in Washington, along with their counterparts in Brussels, would say yet “united we stand, divided we fall!!” Perhaps, but only within equitable boundaries of human coexistence. The truth is the only thing they want to “unite” is more and more human beings under a single umbrella of taxation and control. We must simply say “NO” to and ignore federal decrees. No more printing money out of thin air corrupting our economy and robbing our wealth through inflation, no more imperial wars, no more CIA and NSA spooks, no more government brain-washing centers called “public schools”. No more. Oh but that exciting and very significant US Presidential election is coming up!! Long live the empire.
Robert Ferguson is a senior consultant to a Microsoft partner in Atlanta, GA.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Do You Know the Roots of the Islamic State’s Ideology?

The Blaze

The Islamic State has dominated the headlines in recent months, surprising many when it gained control of large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria.
TheBlaze’s national security adviser Buck Sexton on Wednesday explained the roots of the Islamic State’s ideology, saying “terrorists” isn’t the only adjective that describes the organization.
“Sure, they’re terrorists. We call them that and they’re waging a jihad, a holy war,” Sexton began. “But is there a term for their overall ideology? A way to describe their version, their interpretation of Islam?”
Sexton said there is, and that term is “Salafism.” The word describes the first generations of leadership in the Islamic community, also known as the “rashidun” or “rightly guided caliphs.”
Image credit: TheBlaze TV
“The rashidun are roughly equivalent to the founding fathers of Islam after the prophet Muhammad died,” Sexton said. “In the modern context, the term Salafi refers to a puritanical version of Islam, one that tries to make its adherents live life as closely as possible to the early Islamic leaders. Salafis are fundamentalists. They are strict textualists. The believe the Koran must be read and implemented literally, just like the forefathers of Islam did.”
“That, of course, also means Salafis advocate for Shariah law,” Sexton added.
Sexton said some use the term Wahhabism and Salafism interchangeably, and while there are similarities, Wahhabism has a very specific origin.
“You see, Wahhabism refers to a specific 18th century preacher who proselytized on the Arabian Peninsula,” Sexton said. “That preacher, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, made an alliance with the desert clan known as the Sauds. And of course, they would eventually become the modern rulers of Saudi Arabia. And so the strict version of Islam endorsed today in Saudi Arabia is called by some ‘Wahhabism.’
Wahhabism can be a form of Salafism, Sexton said, though there are also strains of Salafism that trace back to Egypt and Muslim Brotherhood figures like Sayyid Qutb and Hassan al-Banna
“At this point in our discussion, many scholars and apologists for radical Islam would start getting upset,” Sexton remarked. “They would say, ‘Hey! Salafis aren’t necessarily violent. Some even refuse to engage in the political process to further Islam.’ OK, true. But all of the main jihadist terrorist groups around the Muslim world could be accurately described as Salafist.”
“Al Qaeda? Salafist. ISIS? Salafist. Boko Haram, the Taliban, Al-Shabaab? Yup, all of them are Salafist groups,” Sexton said. “All of those groups believe that a true interpretation of the Koran means waging jihad against the kafir, their term for infidels or nonbelievers, instituting strict Shariah, and rejecting all forms of outside influence — generally speaking, western influence.”
“As for the doctrinal debate — who is the true Salafist, who is the most pure Muslim?” Sexton concluded. “Nobody really knows. But a lot of people are dying as the Muslim world figures it out.”

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Fatal Flaw With Democracy

By The Daily Take Team, The Thom Hartmann Program | Op-Ed 

Cory Gardner, a Republican candidate for Senate, holds a sign with supporters on Election Day in Centennial, Colo., Nov. 4, 2014. Gardner defeated incumbent Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.). (Photo: Matthew Staver / The New York Times) Cory Gardner, a Republican candidate for Senate, holds a sign with supporters on Election Day in Centennial, Colo., Nov. 4, 2014. Gardner defeated incumbent Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.). (Photo: Matthew Staver / The New York Times)
Of all the depressing things to take away from last night's elections – and believe me, there are many – the most depressing is probably the fact that we have outsourced our political process to factions.
Actual candidates and actual campaigns no longer run the show; billionaires and dark money do.
In many of the closest congressional races across the country, outside groups – groups like Super PACs that aren't officially connected to campaigns – actually outspent regular candidate campaigns.
In North Carolina, for example, where Republican Thom Thillis beat out Democrat Kay Hagan in the most expensive senate race ever, outside groups spent $88 million while the Thillis and Hagan campaigns together only spent around $33 million.
In Colorado, meanwhile, where Republican Cory Gardner beat out Democrat Mark Udall in the race that really sounded the death knell for Democrats, outside group spending tapped out around $81 million while regular campaign spending came in around $27 million.
It used to be that candidates had to work hard to raise money from everyday donors like you and me, but now, thanks to the Supreme Court, they don't have to worry about that. The billionaires run their campaigns for them.
And believe me, it really is the billionaires who are calling the shots.
As USA Today pointed out recently, 42 of the country's richest people accounted for one-third of all Super PAC spending this election cycle. That's right, 42 people!
What we did with prisons, with voting machines, and with the surveillance state are all things that we've now done with our election system: we've privatized, outsourced, and corporatized it, with similarly disastrous results.
The Founding Fathers are rolling over in their graves.
You see, besides the return of the British Empire, there was nothing that terrified them more than the takeover of our republic by factions.
James Madison, the author of the Constitution, talked at length about the dangers of faction in Federalist Paper Number 10.
First defining faction as, "[A] number of citizens ... who are united and ... adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community," he then warned that, "The instability, injustice, and confusion introduced [by faction] into the public councils, have, in truth, been the mortal diseases under which popular governments have everywhere perished."
Madison was a student of history, and he didn't want our fledgling republic to go down the road of Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece, which collapsed after being taken over by powerful special interests.
He knew, as did the other Founders, that if democracy had a fatal flaw, it was that it was susceptible to the influence of factions that could deceive the people into thinking they were on their side.
Which is why, of course, Madison and the other Founders created this thing we call our government – to protect against the power of factions with laws and regulations.
Today, though, the Founders' worst fears have been realized and faction has taken control of our political system.
The total dominance of outside billionaire money in this year's midterm elections is proof of that.
Whatever protections were in place to prevent the hostile takeover of our political system by factions were smashed to pieces by the Supreme Court with its 2010 Citizens United decision.
Now, a small group of wealthy people has co-opted our political system to enrich itself at the expense of everyone else.
Every empire of any consequence throughout history that has collapsed has done so because a small group of wealthy people rose up and seized all the wealth and all the power.
And it's how the American Empire will collapse, too, if we don't wake up and get money out of politics once and for all.
Our democracy has been outsourced to and hijacked by a faction of billionaires and their front-group, which calls itself the Republican Party.
So, as the old saying goes, who will tell the people?
You could start.

Noam Chomsky calls US 'world's leading terrorist state'

U.S. linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky (Reuters/Jorge Dan)
U.S. linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky (Reuters/Jorge Dan)
The United States is the “world's leading terrorist state,” based on its deadly, CIA-run operations in the likes of Nicaragua and Cuba, according to new op-ed by historian and social philosopher Noam Chomsky.
In a new piece posted at, Chomsky pointed to the Central Intelligence Agency’s classified review of its own efforts to arm insurgencies across the globe in its 67-year history. As RT previously reported, the CIA conducted the effectiveness analyses while the Obama administration contemplated arming rebels fighting against President Bashar Assad’s forces in Syria.
The New York Times was the first to uncover the story and Chomsky opened by suggesting the Times’ own headline for it should have been titled, "It's official: The U.S. is the world's leading terrorist state, and proud of it,” rather than "CIA Study of Covert Aid Fueled Skepticism About Helping Syrian Rebels."
A rebel fighter from the Free Syrian Army holds a position with a Belgium made FAL rifle at a front line in the Salah al-Din neighbourhood of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo (AFP Photo)
The longtime MIT professor went on to detail some of the instances assessed in the CIA’s review and why they amount to an American regime - “the world champion in generating terror” - bent on antagonizing its opposition around the world.
“The first paragraph of the Times article cites three major examples of ‘covert aid’: Angola, Nicaragua and Cuba. In fact, each case was a major terrorist operation conducted by the US,” Chomsky wrote.
He added that it was the US, in the 1980s, that supported Apartheid-era South Africa as it invaded Angola to protect itself “from one of the world's ‘more notorious terrorist groups,” according to Washington: “Nelson Mandela's African National Congress.”
“Washington joined South Africa in providing crucial support for Jonas Savimbi's terrorist Unita army in Angola,” wrote Chomsky.
Unita army (AFP Photo)
“The consequences were horrendous. A 1989 U.N. inquiry estimated that South African depredations led to 1.5 million deaths in neighboring countries, let alone what was happening within South Africa itself.”
Chomsky also mentioned the decades-long “murderous and destructive campaign” the US aimed at Cuba, including the failed Bay of Pigs invasion and a harsh embargo that continues to this day.
“The toll of the long terrorist war was amplified by a crushing embargo, which continues even today in defiance of the world. On Oct. 28, the UN, for the 23rd time, endorsed ‘the necessity of ending the economic, commercial, financial blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba,’” he wrote.
Chomsky mentioned the dirty wars the US brought to opposition in Central America in the 1980s and current airstrikes in Syria and Iraq aimed at Islamic State, a jihadist group, like others, compiled and strengthened through American interventions in the Middle East, namely the recent Iraq war, he wrote.
AFP Photo/U.S. Air Force
He ended with a note on President Barack Obama’s unmanned drone regime patrolling the skies in the likes of Pakistan and Yemen.
“To this we may add the world's greatest terrorist campaign: Obama's global project of assassination of ‘terrorists.’ The ‘resentment-generating impact’ of those drone and special-forces strikes should be too well known to require further comment,” he wrote.
“This is a record to be contemplated with some awe.”