Posts Tagged 'Tax cuts'

Just say no.

I rowed this morning.  Not on Lake Casitas.  On the carpet of my cubbyhole just off the bathroom.  With all the international, national and personal stress filling my head, rowing seems to focus the mind on something other than “how in the world did this happen!”

My endorphin infusion was interrupted when Mitch McConnell, the Michael Pollard look-alike of the Senate Republican minority, appeared on the TV screen eager to express his views to David Gregory, the latest incarnation of Meet the Press’  Grand Inquisitor.  “So”, David said, “do you think there will be a compromise on tax cuts.”   Responding with a smile, Mitch offered “I hope so.  We’ve had more discussions with the President in the last two weeks than in the last two years.  We certainly hope for a compromise.”

The reality of it is that by holding 98% of Americans hostage, the Republicans are likely to win a big one for rich folks and add a bizillion dollars to the migraine-inducing deficit.  Their strategy of resisting an extension of unemployment benefits and allowing tax cuts to lapse for the middle class appears to be working.  Obama is ready to cave…again.

Like the kid who, having placed a tooth under his pillow, expects to find that the Tooth Fairy has left a surprise, I look forward to each new day in the hope that Obama will shed his politically correct clothes and appear on TV with a big red S on his chest.  Announcing…truth, justice and the American way are here.  Beware all you who tread on me and the people who made this country a shining beacon in an otherwise cruel world.  I shall not be compromised in my quest to return this country to greatness.

Alas, as the clock ticks away, I fall further down the rabbit hole.  Expecting to wind up in the usual place, before the Queen of Hearts and the Mad Hatter.  My confidence in our leader wanes.  My belief that the forces of right will triumph over the Morlocks, the Dark Lord Sauron, and the Snow Queen ebbs with the passing of time.  I need something to shock my system.  Something that says now is the time to stand up and be counted.  The time for compromise has ended.  Two years of cowering over the lack of a Senate super-majority is fini.  Damn the torpedoes.  Rammmming speed.

Here’s what I suggest.  Refuse to extend the tax cuts for the 2% who’ll put in the bank anyway.  Let the Republicans continue to block the continuation of all the tax cuts.  Let tax rates go back to where they were when we had a robust economy, a surplus and full employment.  If anyone complains, blame it on the Republicans.  They did the blocking.  Take the additional tax dollars and reduce the deficit, invest it stuff that creates jobs, shores up our decaying infrastructure and restores our educational system to its former glory.

Bring legislation to the hill next year to a Republican House and a more Republican Senate (including my favorite Republican in drag, Joe Lieberman) that provides tax relief to those who most need it.  Let them vote it down because it doesn’t provide tax cuts to the 2% who don’t need it.  Keep pointing at Mitch, John and their cohorts as the guys who don’t care about the middle class.  Then do it again and again.  For two years.

I’m tired of bending over and saying “may I have more please.”   It’s time to stand up.  It’s time to say no…loudly.

 

Starve the beast

Drove the bus on Monday.  Pretty much the usual routine.  Charley in his wheel chair going to the cardiologist.  Joann in her chair off to school.  Bridget to Oak Tree house makes it a trifecta of wheeled conveyances.  Neatly topped off by the lunch bunch with assorted walkers and canes.  A good morning for them and for me.

And then I headed back up the hill.  KCRW’s Warren Olney in the background with Which Way LA.  I like Warren.  His style is non-confrontational, but incisive.  He tries to hide a liberal streak, not very well.  My kind of guy.

The subject was the Census Bureau poverty statistics in our rich nation.  44 million people below the poverty line.  One in seven of us.  Twenty percent of all children.  You qualify if there are four in your family and you earn less than $22,000 a year.  $1,833 a month.  If you spent it all on food, each meal would cost about $5.  With nothing left over for rent, medical care, cell phones and Starbucks.

Warren spoke with Beverly Damore.  She is with St. Mary’s Food Bank in Phoenix and serves the needs of three-quarters of the same state that brought us their own version of immigration reform.  Beverly’s food bank has doubled in size the last two years distributing 72 million pounds of food annually to 500,000 Arizonans.  Many of her customers say “I used to be a donor, now I need your help.”  Or, “I can’t believe I’m here.”

Stephen Moore, chief economics writer for the Wall Street Journal thought it tragic that so many people were in need.  When asked if the current government safety net programs should be continued, he said “I’m not familiar with most of those programs, but I am an expert on unemployment benefits.”  Continuing, “We need to get people back to work and unemployment benefits stand in the way of that objective.  When people get those benefits, they are less inclined to take any job that comes along.”  He topped it off with ” The government stimulus programs haven’t worked.  The Reagan tax cuts did.”

Heidi Shierholz, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute chimed in.  “I agree with Steve.  In normal times, unemployment benefits do postpone the worker’s need to jump into the first thing that comes along.  But one of the explicit purposes of those benefits is to make sure that people seeking work and available jobs are properly matched.  But this isn’t normal times.  There are five workers for every available job.  And, by the way, the only problem with the stimulus programs is that they aren’t big enough.”

Jason Perkins Cohen of Baltimore’s Job Opportunity Task Force added, “Few of the people we see are sitting home because they’d rather not be working.”

Which brings me to tax cuts.  I won’t bore you with details.  Enough to say that Obama wants to end the Bush tax cuts for two percent of taxpayers and take the money to help some of the 44 million folks we just talked about.  Now I know that a 3 percentage point increase in rich folks’ marginal tax rates is likely to be devastating.  American industry will grind to a halt.  Business owners will cease to expand their companies because of the horror of paying extra taxes on their increased sales volume.  And their annual vacations will be geographically restrained to this hemisphere.  What has this world come to!

So maybe the Snow Queen was right when she said…”the way to stop unnecessary government spending is to starve the beast.”  All 44 million of them.

Taking from the rich

My usual Monday bus driving ended on a high note.   I heard that rich people were going to be as poor as the rest of us.  Or nearly.

As I swung onto Sulphur Mountain Road I listened to an interview conducted by Warren Olney, host of NPR’s To The Point.  I love Warren Olney.  He gets the best from his guests without inserting his own opinions.  Much different than David Gregory, Tim Russert’s replacement on Meet the Press.  David doesn’t need guests.  He knows the answers to the questions before he asks them. Oh how I miss Tim.

But I digress.  Warren’s show focused on Obama’s proposed tax adjustments that would steal from the rich to give to the poor.  Visions of Errol Flynn in tights danced through my head as he battled Basil Rathbone, while Olivia DeHaviland waited with breasts heaving.

Warren’s first guest, Roberton Williams of the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, unemotionally laid out the facts.  I’ll be brief, so stay with me.  From 1979 through 2005, the bottom twenty percent of taxpayers saw their income grow by a whopping one percent…total.  Not per year…total…period.  The top twenty percent of taxpayers…that’s you he’s talking about…grew their incomes by seventy-five percent.   The top one percent of taxpayers…that’s probably not you…were the beneficiaries of a three hundred percent increase in income…inflation adjusted.  No kidding.

I don’t doubt that the 1.5 million taxpayers who saw their income triple deserve every penny of it, and more.  Especially guys like Bernie Madoff and Stanford Kurland.  You remember Stan.  He’s the guy who’s using your tax dollars to make a profit on the crappy mortgages he created while he led Countrywide to financial oblivion.   And how about Bernie’s wife, Ruth. She wants to keep the $62 million she saved using Costco coupons and swears her petty cash fund had nothing to do with Bernie’s adventures in wonderland.  But those guys are aberrations. Everyone else is pristine.

Obama’s proposed tax increase moves the top bracket about four percentage points to 39.6%…about where the tax rate was when Billy Clinton left office and you know who took over.  Four percentage points.  Enough to make John Boehner gag and Mitch McConnell predict the beginning of the Rapture.

Next on Warren’s show was Amity Shlaes, a Bloomberg News columnist.  Olney…”Amity, some people have characterized the tax increase on the rich as class warfare.  What are your thoughts?”  Listening to the car radio and focusing on avoiding the horse turds on the road, I could only imagine Amity’s smirk when she said “Warfare on the rich.  Nope.  Warfare on hope and opportunity is what it is.”  Going on…”The best people in the world won’t come here to live any more.  The dream will end.”  I’m sure she must have been thinking of the kids in Slumdog Millionaire.  Nope, if they have to pay an extra $40k in taxes on a million dollar income, they’ll probably head to Zimbabwe where they can shovel millions of Zimbabwean dollars into their 1987 Yugo.

Warren asked Amity if she was comfortable with the elephantine difference in income growth noted by Mr. Williams.  “Very comfortable” she intoned.  She went on.  “If a guy who makes $1.5 million has to pay another $60k in taxes, he’ll work less because of the marginal tax increase.”  It was at that point that I hoped her mother would whack her upside the head at next Sunday’s family dinner.

Olney’s last guest was Daniel Gross of Slate Magazine, surely a raging Commie.  Olney…”Afternoon Dan.  What did you think of Amity’s arguments.”  Dan…”With all due respect, she’s insane.”  Station break.

There is one apparent downside to the tax increases on the wealthy.  Since their tax deduction will be reduced, they’ll almost certainly give less to charity.  Tiny Tim will have no Christmas goose.  But I have a solution.

About $400 billion a year goes to charity.  Mr. Williams says charities will receive $9 billion less because of the 4% tax increase.  So, here’s what we do.  Instead of giving the incompetents at AIG another $50 billion bailout,  we short them by $9 billion and dole it out to your favorite charity.  Since no one seems to know what happened to the first $173 billion we gave AIG, they’ll never notice.  And Tiny Tim will have the best Christmas ever.  Amen.

 errol-and-basil


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