Tag Archives: Taxes

GOP Tax Plan: A Complete Social Restructuring of the United States

4 Dec

Welcome to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, 500 pages of far-right dreams smashed together in two weeks and rushed to a vote in the middle of the night. While there is an enormous amount of this plan that we should all be mortified about — specifically how it hoards wealth for the top 20% of Americans and steals money from the poor and middle class — there is far more going on here, much of which has little to do with tax “reform.”  I worry that most people are not paying attention to everything it does over time, as evidenced by the fact that most of the people who voted to rush this through have not even read the whole plan, nor have there been any substantive hearings or analysis provided. This massive document is also difficult to read because much of the marginalia is hand written scribbles, eliminating even concerned senators’ ability to read and understand the implication of the entire document before voting on it.

In addition to the sociopathic maldistribution of wealth this plan secures, the social ramifications are profound and are antithetical to what we have worked so hard to accomplish in the ways of equity in the past 100 years.  For example, this plan includes Medicare reductions that will end cancer treatment for people on Medicare. Yes, you read that correctly. This sounds like a death panel to me, and it should not come as a surprise, given that Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have been working to dismantle Medicare for years now. Oh, and as an added bonus it eliminates the Individual Mandate from the Affordable Care Act, basically robbing 13 MILLION Americans of coverage.

As outlined in the Chronicle of Higher Education, this bill creates even more barriers for people who are not in the top 20% of Americans to afford a college education. For example, this bill puts additional taxes on charitable donations to colleges that allow for financial aid. Small liberal arts colleges are heavily dependent on charitable gifts to survive. The message is quite clear, the GOP does not value education, as further evidence that Betsy DeVos is the secretary of Education. People do your homework here! Obviously, the lack of access to eduction benefits the GOP, as it encourages ignorance and precludes critical thinking skills: skills that would allow people to ask questions of the government, the people that are supposed to be public servants.

Another alarming part of this bill — so alarming I needed to get my smelling salts just to be able to write this — is the reversal of The Johnson Amendment. Yes, this is part of the Religious Freedom Act (specifically Christian agenda freedom) coming from the far right wing, which now controls our government. The Johnson Amendment, created by LBJ in 1954, prohibits all non-profits, or what is called a 501 (c) (3) from making any type of political endorsement or stand to lose their tax exempt status. Trump and his henchmen are now about to reverse this in this tax plan, but ONLY for churches, allowing them to become tax-free lobbying organizations. So much for separation of church and state.

The bill slashes the corporate tax rate, eliminates the bulk of the estate tax, and changes “pass-through” business taxation in a way that benefits only the wealthiest of business owners. These changes are PERMANENT. The tweaks that MIGHT make a small change for poor and middle class taxpayers expire within the first three years. At the end of ten years, the vast majority of households making $75,000 or less will see their taxes rise, often by 20% or more.

Many deductions are eliminated or severely curtailed including bike-to-work incentives, moving expenses, most mortgage and home sale deductions, tax preparation deductions, and disaster relief deductions. State and local tax deductions are greatly reduced, penalizing blue states that fund federal programs for red states.

The bill will increase the deficit by at LEAST $1 TRILLION. So much for the party of fiscal responsibility. Deficit hawks like Sen. Flake and Sen McCain (the Arizona Stooges) believe that wealth will trickle down as businesses have more revenue, even though EVERY major corporation interviewed has indicated that the vast majority of this revenue will be used to pay bonuses and reward stockholders, giving no benefit to the average American. Sen. Murkowski sold out her constituents in exchange for getting drilling rights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Yeah, that’s a tax issue… Sen. Collins accepted a fig leaf promise for a vote someday on an ACA bill that won’t come close to solving the problems caused by the loss of the individual mandate. Sens. Johnson and Daines pretended that minor changes to the pass-through rules would help small business owners. Overall, over 20% of Republican Senators had major objections to the bill but voted for it with vague changes and vaguer promises.

The most nefarious impact is yet to come. As that big deficit hole comes into reality, Republicans will certainly use it to insist on austerity measures. This is a feature, not a bug. As the deficit grows, they will insist that Social Security, medicaid, and medicare be slashed to balance the budget.

Our only hope for derailing this monstrosity is putting pressure on the conference process that will reconcile the House bill (awful in many different ways) with the Senate abomination. Getting the House to accept all the little tweaks and odditities may be difficult, and losing them may make the final bill impossible to pass again in the Senate.

TAKE ACTION: Contact your Representative and Senators and demand that they stop this horrible bill. It’s not tax “reform”, it won’t serve the middle class, it crushes the poor, and it includes elements that will reshape the social network and basic protections that we rely on today into something mean, nasty, and unrecognizable.

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Fiscal Cliff Notes: The Truth About Taxes

5 Dec
Warren Buffett: A Sensible BIllionaire

Warren Buffett: A Sensible BIllionaire

Almost as soon as the 2012 Presidential election was called for Barack Obama, the media and collective punditry turned their attention to another issue, the so-called “Fiscal Cliff.” (Sounds scary, doesn’t it? Picture Harry Reid and John Boehner driving a convertible armored car, Thelma and Louise style….) It’s important to dial back the drama and look at what’s really going on with the Federal budget. The current situation is called a cliff because of the steep reductions in the deficit that will be triggered if no other action is taken before December 31. Am I the only experiencing déjà vu here caused by obstructionist Republicans? Many automatic spending cuts will begin; various safety net and stimulus funds will diminish or end (such as unemployment benefits); tax rates for all Americans will go up.

Taxation is the issue which will matter the soonest and has become the sticking point in the current debate. The other issues ease in over the year with plenty of time for Congress to (re)consider them. Tax rates will go up on January paychecks.

President Obama campaigned — and WON — on a promise to keep taxes low for poor and middle class Americans and to restore slightly higher rates for the wealthiest 2% (albeit we still do not address those living in poverty the way we should, but I shall save that for another soap box opportunity). Under his plan, nearly $1 TRILLION in additional revenue would be realized by increasing the top rate by about 4% and the dividends rate by 5%. This will happen automatically when the Bush tax cuts end at the close of the year. Unfortunately, so will tax cuts for the other 98%, resulting in a relatively more painful income reduction for most families.

Sadly, because of the way the tax code is structured, the overall impact of the change is much worse the less you make. The New York Times has some wonderfully detailed charts that explain how this happens. It boils down to three things:

  • In general, higher earners rely less on wages and more on investments which are taxed at a lower level, so raising income taxes hits lower earners harder.
  • Payroll taxes are capped at about $100,000 of income, so earning more than that does not result in higher levels of these taxes, making the overall rate lower.
  • Corporate taxes, which are disproportionately borne by higher bracket payers (and then passed along to their customers…) are also historically low and are not even on the bargaining table.tax-rates

Teapublicans and Weeper In Chief Boehner whine that taxes are too high as it is and that raising them will hurt small businesses and job creation. The facts — and a little history — call them liars. Independent analysts note that less than 8% of small businesses would pay the higher tax rates. Even more significantly, a majority of small business owners in a recent poll expressed little concern over the tax rates. They are much more worried about changes in Medicare, which is a central element in the Republican plan.

The Times site mentioned above shows that taxes are lower than they’ve been in 30 years. In fact, as this handy chart demonstrates, Republican president Eisenhower left office with tax rates significantly higher and a booming economy. Tax reform is important, but it should heed the advice of Warren Buffett: a millionaire should pay a higher rate than should his or her (mostly his, by the way) employees.

Boehner can complain all he likes, but if he does nothing, everyone’s taxes will go up. The Senate passed a fair bill months ago that is languishing in the House. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, demonstrating true leadership again, is working on an administrative process to force it to a vote so that 98% of American’s can get the fairness they deserve. President Obama has made it clear that he’ll support the bill. Will the lame duck House allow petulance to trump action? It remains to be seen. One thing they should note: the majority of Americans will hold the GOP accountable if we start heading over the cliff.

Romney/Ryan: A Tale Of Taxes and Obstructionists…

17 Sep

This is a sad but accurate tale of of hypocrisy, homophobia, misogyny, class war, and racism.  Oh, where to start? Let us start with the lies and hypocrisy of taxes.  Romney still refuses to make public his tax returns (should raise a red flag there people) while demanding that his vice-presidential candidate make public his tax returns for the last ten years — this type of hypocrisy and lack of transparency are NOT presidential material.

The economy: I grow ever weary of the blatant lies spewed from the venomous mouths of Romney and Rand, oops, I meant Ryan, regarding the economy.  More hypocrisy.  Ryan and the ever tearful Boehner are the architects of the obstructionist movement, blocking every jobs bill proposed by President Obama. The GOP continue to engage in a class war by categorically refusing to raise taxes on the wealthiest of Americans, while proposing to cut social programs such as medicare. (Sorry Granny, but you got to work until you drop.)

Repealing Civil Rights: The Tea Party/Republicans have devolved so significantly that they are now running on a platform that vows to repeal people’s civil rights — how does this not sicken the American people? As though it was not bad enough that Republican males want to own all vaginas, now they are talking about “legitimate rape,” how does this not terrify all of us?  How is this less government control? How is it less government control and fiscally sound to repeal the civil rights of the LGBTQ community and spend taxpayer dollars on defending DOMA?  How is it smaller government to police women and demand control of women’s bodies?

I am genuinely asking here, what is it about the Romney/Ryan ticket that is appealing? Perhaps it has something to do with this rare moment of honest insight from Rick (the ‘P’ is silent) Santorum at the ironically named Values Voter Summit:

We will never have the elite, smart people on our side.

I am truly nonplused. Or is that repulsed?  When did Republicans start to take such pride in ignorance? I have been desperately trying to understand people voting for Romney, for there are a handful of people that I love dearly who are casting their ballots for this duo.  How do I not take it personally as a gay man that I have friends and family voting for bigots that are working to repeal my civil rights, who assert I am less than human?

Praises for George Herbert Walker Bush?

14 Aug

No wonder Republicans don’t believe in evolution…

Never did I think I would actually sing the praises of George Bush Sr.! Alas this praise is testament to how horrific Paul Ryan is as V.P. candidate.  Not since 1900 have we seen such a conservative (fascist) put up as a candidate for vice president by a major party. Even Ronald Reagan (whose name the Republicans love to invoke but whose policies would fail the Tea test) appointed a smart man, George Bush Sr., who served as a reasonable balance to his experience.  Romney has not only been drinking the tea, but seems now to be brewing his own special blend of tea called, Crazy, hypocritical, bigoted, misogynistic, racist, homophobic special blend.

Is it a coincidence he has picked Ryan from Wisconsin — the state that gave us Joe McCarthy and Scott Walker?  Michele Bachmann’s evil twin, Paul Ryan( I Hate Old People) makes Satan look like Mother Teresa.  He pushes his “Austerity Measures” such as cutting Medicare while applying for government monies. According to International Business Times, Ryan has asked for:

  • $400,000 for a water treatment plant
  • $300,000 for a technical college where General Motors workers (based in a Janesville factory) could be retrained
  • $735,000 to improve Janesville’s bus system
  • $3.3 million for highway projects throughout Wisconsin
  • $1.2 million in government grants toward construction of the Janesville Innovation Center, which was reportedly intended to provide entrepreneurs with commercial space to launch their projects. The funding was made available through the Economic Development Administration, one of President Obama’s major stimulus programs.
  • Janesville was picked as one of the locations for new factories specializing in the production of medical tracers, or a radioactive isotope used to treat melanoma. The federal government offered $25 million matching grants to companies that could devise a way to produce the product domestically; two of those four plants will be in Wisconsin’s Rock County.

Mr. Ryan, where do you think the money you are asking for comes from? It comes from taxes–taxes that are not being paid by the 1%.  Ryan’s philosophy is so typical: “I have mine and I don’t care if you ever get yours.”

It is reasonable that since Romney refuses to be pinned down to any position, we look to his new running mate for clarity. That view is nothing short of apocalyptic. It’s quite telling that John McCain has just called Romney’s pick “bold.” We all know how well McCain’s bold choice went four years ago. It seems there’s something broken in the GOP VP Vetting machine. Just look at the string of choices.

  • Dan Quayle — who could neither spell nor tie his own shoelaces
  • Jack Kemp — not unreasonable on his own, perhaps, but a horrible fit with Presidential candidate Bob Dole
  • Darth Cheney — who picked himself as the Shrub’s deputy in command
  • Sarah Palin — whose contributions to late night comedy do not counterbalance the damage she did to the national discourse

And now, Paul Ryan, love child of Margaret Thatcher and Ayn Rand emerges. It seems a horrible miscalculation by Romney, who needed to win the center rather than secure the base. Let’s hope that as America comes to know this horrific pair better the best choice for America’s future becomes abundantly clear. (SPOILER ALERT: It’s not Romney / Ryan…)

Romney – Ryan: Robotic, Ridiculous, Repellent

12 Aug

After weeks of making a mess of everything he touched, Mitt Romney decided to make a bold move an announce his running mate. Eschewing the “boring white guy” theme his handlers had promised, he opted for Teamaniac Rep. Paul Ryan (Evil – WI). Looks like he’s still making a mess of everything he touches.

Like Romney, Ryan has been honored with our Bigot of the Week Award. He’s also a firm adherent of Ayn Rand’ s objectionable Objectivism and deification of capitalism. A firm supporter of the War On Women and opponent of LGBT equality, his voting record in the House is almost identical to that of known loon Michele Bachmann. In fact, an aggregate score shows him to be the most conservative VP pick by a major party since 1900, a list that includes Dick Cheney and Richard Nixon!

Ryan is best known as the architect of a House budget plan so odious that even John “The Great Capitulator” Boehner thinks it’s a bit harsh. A key component of the budget is the end of Medicare as we know it. That makes one wonder why Mitt would make this pick, other than to keep up his string of really bad decisions. Romney’s strongest support is from older white voters. Those voters, particularly in swing states, are very opposed to any change in Medicare. By tacking so far to the right with his VP pick, poor ol’ Mitt has found a way to alienate potential voters without appealing to the rare moderate undecideds who might actually have bumped up his numbers. Rabid Ryan will firm up the base, but all that does is more firmly secure states that are already bright red. Pundits and journalists alike are baffled.

After months of dithering, deceiving, and dodging, Mitt has finally sent one strong signal. His campaign is dedicated to the small-minded and vicious voices that have stalled the recovery, dedicated themselves to opposing the President at the expense of the people, and pursued a narrow fringe agenda. The governing strategy of a Romney-Ryan administration is clear, and it holds no hope for the middle class or the disenfranchised.

Bigot of the Week Award: August 3, House Democrats Opposing Tax Fairness

3 Aug

Bigot of the Week

This week 19 House Democrats put self-interest ahead of leadership and bailed on a key piece of legislation. Last week Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid exceeded all expectations and crafted a brilliant deal that allowed a great tax cut compromise to pass the Senate. The bill extended the cuts for taxpayers making less than $250,000 a year, protecting the middle class during the fragile economic recovery. By ending the cuts for those with higher incomes, it also introduced greater fairness into the tax system–truly a broken clock moment for our Harry Reid.

The bill was unlikely to pass in the House, of course, but it sent a strong message. The Republicans in the House shot it down on Wednesday — big shock. Sadly, 19 Democrats voted against the bill, joining the Republican chorus of class warfare. The majority of the 19 Representatives who crossed the aisle were so-called Blue Dog Democrats (or what I like to call Tea Bag Democrats), a loose caucus of “moderate and conservative” Democrats. Many are also in tight re-election contests or in badly gerrymandered new districts. These are not sufficient excuses.

It is a given that most Republicans will not vote for the Democrat. It is also true that the Senate approach to the tax cuts is very popular (polling at or above 60%), especially with independent voters and in swing states. What these 19 cowards have done is sold out the middle class and the most vulnerable for a callous political calculation. Why should Democratic voters in their districts care about showing up at the polls if they are offered a choice between two people who vote against them? Why should independent voters prefer a Democrat if that person voted against their preferences? Shame on you, Representatives! Bad dogs!

Personally, I am sad to see Rep. Kurt Schrader from Oregon’s 5th District on this list and grateful that the recent redistricting moved me into Rep. Blumenauer’s district. Oregonians are hurting, Rep. Schrader; why did you vote against 98% of them?

Hero of the Week Award: July 27, Christian Bale

27 Jul

Hero of the Week

This week’s hero is another Celebrity Gone Right story. In the aftermath of the shootings in Aurora, CO, there were many heroes. First responders, police investigators, hospital personnel, and friends and family of the victims all did their part to minimize the horror of the situation. One man with a connection to the incident that was both central and peripheral was actor Christian Bale, star of the Batman feature playing in the theatre.

While it’s clear that Bale, DC Comics, and Warner Bros. have no direct responsibility for the actions of a crazed gunman, Bale decided to use his celebrity to engender some healing. Many studio executives, the director, and other actors made wonderful statements of condolence. Bale quietly went to Aurora and visited each of the victims. He also took time to visit hospital staff and some of the first responders. Warner Bros. made it clear that the decision to go to Aurora was Bale’s, not a publicity department arrangement. Bill Voloch, interim president of the Medical Center of Aurora noted the value of the visit.

It was good for the patients. We hope it was therapeutic for them, and all the staff really appreciated him coming.

It’s a simple thing, perhaps, but it shows a humanity that rarely gets celebrated in the hype of summer films or in the 15-minute celebrity status gained by the perpetrators of such crimes. Bale’s kindness was noted by comic aficionados, local, and national media.

Honorable mention this week goes to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Regular readers will know that TSM is hardly Reid’s biggest fan given his compromise and capitulate strategies when dealing with Senate Republicans. This week, however, Reid scored a major victory. In a deal with Republican leader Mitch McConnell (Rancid Tea Bag, KY), he got both a Democratic and Republican tax break bill onto the floor for a simple majority vote. With the filibuster removed, the Democratic plan passed (51 – 48!) while the Republican rich-get-richer plan failed. While the Senate bill, which extends middle class tax credits and the tax breaks for Americans making less than $250,000 per year, will be DOA in the House, Reid’s strategy crafted an important pre-election contrast between the governing priorities of the two parties. Nicely done, Senator!

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