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America For Sale: Citizen United v. The Federal Election Commissions

In a startling decision, the United States Supreme Court has “officially” put America up for auction to the highest bidder. The decision handed down by the Citizen United v. Federal Election Commissions case has effectively removed the limit to which a corporation or union can contribute to a political candidate’s campaign. This change, impacting every publicly held office from the zoning commisioner of your local town to the presidency, enables big corporations to effectively silence the voice of opposition with brute force.

So What Does This Mean?
So what effects does this have on the citizens of our once “free” country? The importance of this decision is that prior political candidates were elected based on their merit, leadership skills and visions for the future; however, now that the supreme court has opened the flood gates of private funding, the candidate that has the backing of the company willing to contribute more private money has a exponentially greater chance of winning the election. Imagine if Barack Obama was elected with the monetary support of major Health Insurance providers. Do you think Obama’s top priority would be for health care reform and a public option for health insurance? Probably not.

Incentives for Corporate America
Suppose there are two candidates running for mayor of your local town. One mayor, whom you share political viewpoints with, strongly opposes the introduction of a Wal-Mart Superstore to your city stating that it would have a negative effect on the community with increased traffic, hardships for local businesses, etc. While the other candidate supports the introduction of Wal-Mart into your neihborhood. Upon realizing that the construction of their store depends on the outcome of the Mayoral election Wal-Mart officials run the numbers and calculate that the introduction of their store would produce a profit of (X) and decides to contribute large sums of money (Y) to their candidate for local mayor where Y < X. With the increased funding following Wal-Mart's surge of capital, Mayor Wal-Mart buys up all the local ad space in newspapers, billboards, radio and television. Suddenly, the other candidate has little hope of winning the election following the onslaught of Wal-Mart funded advertising.

The Big Picture
While this example is obviously fictitious, you can see the political implications that the ruling involves. With an uncapped limit on private funding that political candidates can receive from big corporations, they are effectively crushing all opposition with a deluge of advertising. America following this ruling is for sale to the highest bidder for every political office, from Police Chief Microsoft to President Exxon.

Retirement Savings Credit

Now that 2009 is in the books, many people are searching for ways to avoid paying Uncle Sam any more of their hard earned money. It has been said that there are but two certainties in life, “death and taxes”, but a little known tax credit can help you pay yourself instead of the government.

The Retirement Savings Credit is designed as a tax credit for those in lower income brackets in an effort to help motivate people to save for retirement. With the credit, individuals can deduct money from their tax obligation (up to $1000) after contributing money to an IRA or 401k , or other retirement plans. This tax credit is in addition to the already tax advantageous features of retirement plans and should be considered when preparing your income taxes.

The amount that you may claim is directly related to your income with the highest percentage (50%) being for those with an adjusted gross income of less than $16,000 for Single Filers.

If you still want to take advantage of this credit you have until April 15th (or until you file your 2009 taxes) to claim this credit. If you are able to contribute, and immediate 50% return on your investment is hard to pass up.

Retirement savings credit income limits:
Credit rate Single, widow(er) or married separate filer income limits Married, joint filer income limits Head of household filer income limits
50% Up to $16,000 Up to $32,000 Up to $24,000
20% $16,001 to $17,250 $32,001 to $34,500 $24,001 to $25,875
10% $17,251 to $26,500 $34,501 to $53,000 $25,876 to $39,750
No credit $26,501 or more $53,001 or more $39,751 or more
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