Tag Archives: income equity

Stephen King Moves from Death to Taxes

3 May

Writing horror for Ryan and Romney…

I have to confess, I’m not the world’s biggest Stephen King fan. I appreciate his contribution to popular literature and know many people who really enjoy his writing but I’ve always been in the take-him-or-leave-him camp. This week, however, he wrote something that really caught my attention: an essay with the straightforward title “Tax Me For F@%&’s Sake.”

Joining the somewhat eclectic ranks of Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Ted Turner, Mark Zuckerberg, and Edie Falco, King calls for fairness in the tax code. In his blunt, irreverent style, he makes it clear that Americans paying their fair share to support the nation where they made their millions (or billions) is a patriotic duty. To those on the right who say they’re tired of the very wealthy making this case, he replies

Tough shit for you guys, because I’m not tired of talking about it. I’ve known rich people, and why not, since I’m one of them?

King focuses on three main ideas as he makes his compelling argument, including a nod to the social contract as he skewers anti-fairness advocate and serial liar Mitt Romney.

Mitt Romney has said, in effect, “I’m rich and I don’t apologize for it.” Nobody wants you to, Mitt. What some of us want—those who aren’t blinded by a lot of bullshit persiflage thrown up to mask the idea that rich folks want to keep their damn money—is for you to acknowledge that you couldn’t have made it in America without America. That you were fortunate enough to be born in a country where upward mobility is possible (a subject upon which Barack Obama can speak with the authority of experience), but where the channels making such upward mobility possible are being increasingly clogged.

The idea that “rich folks want to keep their damn money” is another key observation. King readily acknowledges the generous charitable contributions made by the über-wealthy ranging from Steven Spielberg to the Koch brothers. As he sagely observes, however, those contributions are made both at the rate that the donor chooses and to the causes that the donor prefers.

Why don’t we get real about this? Most rich folks paying 28 percent taxes do not give out another 28 percent of their income to charity. Most rich folks like to keep their dough. They don’t strip their bank accounts and investment portfolios…And what they do give away is—like the monies my wife and I donate—totally at their own discretion. That’s the rich-guy philosophy in a nutshell: don’t tell us how to use our money; we’ll tell you. The Koch brothers are right-wing creepazoids, but they’re giving right-wing creepazoids. Here’s an example: 68 million fine American dollars to Deerfield Academy. Which is great for Deerfield Academy. But it won’t do squat for cleaning up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Which brings us to the central point of King’s essay. There are things that individuals should do and there are things that governments should do (arguably that government must do). Relying on the largesse of even the most well-meaning millionaires to run a nation is absurd on its face, not to mention bad government. The fact that it is leaders in the Republican party who respond to the Buffett Rule with “Want to give more? Write a check!” demonstrates their venal obsession with making the rich richer and abrogating their obligations as elected officials. Even assuming that just writing a check would magically allow the government to use those funds, such a glib response is antithetical to the very fabric of our nation. As King eloquently observes,

What charitable 1 percenters can’t do is assume responsibility—America’s national responsibilities: the care of its sick and its poor, the education of its young, the repair of its failing infrastructure, the repayment of its staggering war debts. Charity from the rich can’t fix global warming or lower the price of gasoline by one single red penny. That kind of salvation does not come from Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Ballmer saying, “OK, I’ll write a $2 million bonus check to the IRS.” That annoying responsibility stuff comes from three words that are anathema to the Tea Partiers: United American citizenry.

Bravo, Mr. King! The full essay at The Daily Beast is required reading. King uses his own experiences as a small businessman, donor, and millionaire to fully dissect the issues of responsibility and participatory government. Now if we could just scare the GOP into listening.

Bigot of the Week Award: April 27, Ann Romney

27 Apr

Bigot of the Week

Proving that one hypocritical, out-of-touch, flip-flopper of a spouse deserves another, professional candidate wife Ann Romney joins her twice-BWA husband in the seat of dishonor. Ever since Mittmatic punted anything having to do with woman stuff to his wife as “the expert on that” she’s been flirting with supreme bigothood. This week she easily tipped the scales.

Appearing at the Prescott Bush Awards Dinner in Connecticut, Stepford Romney went on at length about how she’s a housewife just like so many other women and how much she can relate to that hard work. Proving that class warfare disconnects are part of the marital bond, she then said

I love the fact that there are women out there who don’t have a choice and they must go to work and they still have to raise the kids. Thank goodness that we value those people too. And sometimes life isn’t easy for any of us.

Really?!? She loves the fact that there are people who have no choices in their lives? Even though staying at home and eking out a meager living on her millionaire husband’s stock portfolio was her single most important decision? Given the second half of the quote and its context in her larger speech, it might be tempting to give her credit for a simple gaffe. Her recent history of hypocrisy and attack language, however, makes it clear that the statement was far more Freudian than slip.

Two weeks ago, Romney had a dustup with journalist Hilary Rosen, who questioned her right to discuss the challenges faced by women who work outside the home because she “never worked a day in her life.” Cue the outrage. Ann Romney, who has frequently referred to her decision “not to work,” suddenly was a furious stay-at-home mom, reminding us that such a high calling is also hard work and deserves respect. Even though she has also supported her husband’s position that women with children must work outside the home to have the “dignity of work” and avoid raising “indolent” children. Fetch my smelling salts! All this spinning is making me dizzy.

Talk about profound white heterosexual privilege!  Romney’s money certainly has allowed her not to even think about disparities for women, women of color, sexual orientation, gender identity and all the other intersections of oppression that take away many of the lovely choices she has exercised.  It’s really pretty clear what oppressed, hard-working mom Ann Romney is saying: if you’re wealthy enough to really have choices, you should be congratulated for making them. But if you’re part of that pesky 99%, you should just play the hand you’re dealt and quit whining. And she knows, too, because she’s channelling Chaka Khan: she’s every woman.

Happy Administrative Professionals’ Week: What’s your tax bracket?

25 Apr

This is Administrative Professionals’ Week. Founded in 1952 as Secretaries’ Day by Mary Barrett, president of the National Secretaries Association (NSA) and C. King Woodbridge, president of Dictaphone, it was initially celebrated in June. Over the past 60 years it has undergone a number of changes in name and timing, but the principle is the same: Honor the workers without whose efforts the bosses and employers work would be impossible.

The celebration, now sponsored by the International Association of Administrative Professionals which grew out of the NSA, is particularly timely as the nation focuses on tax fairness. As billionaire investor and philanthropist Warren Buffett has observed, thanks to our bizarre tax codes those making the most money typically pay the lowest tax rates. His example (echoed recently by President Obama), was that his secretary paid a higher rate than he did, something Buffett, Obama and a significant number of wealthy Americans find unacceptable.

The inequity is compounded by the fact that women and minorities typically make lower relative wages, even for the same work. Paying a higher tax on that lower wage creates a greater income inequity and results in a vicious cycle of oppression. Of course Republicans in Congress, supported by Presidential Candidate and serial hypocrite Mitt Romney, see nothing wrong with this. Want to see what it looks like for you? Slate has created this handy calculator to show how long it would take Romney to earn your annual income; try it, then use this tool to compare your relative tax rate. If you aren’t outraged, you aren’t paying attention.

Buffett Rule or Reagan Rule: U.S. Senate refuses to even vote on tax fairness…

17 Apr

You mean I got one right?

Today is the day that most Americans are required to file their taxes. (Not Mitt Romney, of course, who has filed for an extension…) Thanks to President Obama and a strong push from fair-minded progressives, this requirement has sparked a lot of conversation about tax fairness and tax rates. Billionaire Warren Buffett also helped lead the charge, making a recommendation which has come to bear his name: The Buffett Rule. This would require that anyone making more that $1Million in a year would be required to pay a minimum tax rate of 30%. This proposal is wildly popular, polling at over 70% approval, including support from many of the people who would be required to pay the higher rate. Senate leader Harry Reid brought forward the Buffett Rule for a vote yesterday. It was denied cloture along mostly party lines missing the 60 votes required to move to a vote on the matter itself.

Why is the Buffett rule necessary? Sadly, the complex tax laws make it easier for people with large incomes to shelter money, engage in deductions, and take advantage of loopholes. A typical one- or two-income family making $60,000 or less per year simply doesn’t have the fiscal diversity to make the most aggressive use of the tax code. As President Obama noted this weekend, his secretary, whose income is less that 12% of the Obamas’ income for 2011, pays a higher tax rate because of the way the code works. This is wrong.

Why else is it necessary? It is, as the wonderful Elizabeth Warren reminds up, part of the social contract. Making vast sums of money requires the support (willing, intentional, or otherwise) of the whole of society. Paying that back is a reasonable request. It is also true that income inequity forces a larger tax burden on households headed by women and people of color. Of course the loudest voices in the Republican party disagree. The Ryan budget does nothing to address this inequity. Candidate Romney, who refuses to share more than one year’s worth of his tax papers with the country he wants to lead, is also a vocal opponent. Anti-tax goblin Grover Norquist, of whom many Republican legislators live in fear, is adamant in his opposition.

Ironically, as the President has pointed out, this isn’t a new plan:

I’m not the first President to call for this idea that everybody has got to do their fair share. Some years ago, one of my predecessors traveled across the country pushing for the same concept… So this President gave another speech where he said it was “crazy” — that’s a quote — that certain tax loopholes make it possible for multimillionaires to pay nothing, while a bus driver was paying 10 percent of his salary. That wild-eyed, socialist, tax-hiking class warrior was Ronald Reagan.

But of course 21st Century Republicans in Congress can’t be bothered with inconvenient things like history, or facts…

Bigot of the Week Award: April 13, Glenn Grothman and Scott Walker

13 Apr

Bigot of the Week

The recent attention that the Republican War on Women has received sure has the GOP stirred up. They’re so nervous about the factual attention to their misogynistic policies that every third Republican politician and spokesperson seems to be trotting out an obfuscation, false denial, self-hating woman, or irrational explanation to try to distract the American public. That leaves us with an embarrassment of riches on the BWA nominee front!

Thanks to friend and regular contributor James Queale for this week’s winner. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker gets the first half of the award for his recent repeal of his state’s equal pay act. Wisconsin women earn even less on the dollar (75 cents) than the U.S. average and, thanks to Walker, have lost a valuable tool in fighting unfair pay practices. Given Walker’s anti-woman and anti-worker behavior since taking office, this awful act is hardly surprising. As an added twist of the knife, the repealed act also provided pay protection based on race, age, and sexual orientation, so he got to smack down all his party’s favorite targets in one swipe of the pen.

Perhaps more nefarious (in this case) is Wisconsin state Senator Glenn Grothman. He led the efforts to pass the repeal bill in the legislature so that it could get to Walker’s desk. Celebrating its passage, Grothman demonstrates his malice and ignorance in a horrific blame-the-victim approach:

Take a hypothetical husband and wife who are both lawyers. But the husband is working 50 or 60 hours a week, going all out, making 200 grand a year. The woman takes time off, raises kids, is not go go go. Now they’re 50 years old. The husband is making 200 grand a year, the woman is making 40 grand a year. It wasn’t discrimination. There was a different sense of urgency in each person… You could argue that money is more important for men. I think a guy in their first job, maybe because they expect to be a breadwinner someday, may be a little more money-conscious. To attribute everything to a so-called bias in the workplace is just not true.

What a great way to avoid looking at all the societal factors that lead to this hypothetical scenario, not to mention the absurd notion that all men are working 60 hours a week while women wimp out and stay home. Oh, and men have more financial sense than all those silly women! He also is flat-out wrong about the breadwinner scenario — despite pay inequity, 2/3 of American households have women as primary or co-breadwinners. Can’t let a little thing like facts get in the way of rolling back rights, though, can we Glenn?

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