Posts Tagged ‘taxes’

Another Day Older and Deeper in Debt

June 17, 2011

Got debt?  Do you have credit cards, car loans or a mortgage.  If so, what do you suppose would happen if you wrote those who loaned you the money and said you weren’t going to pay back what you’ve already borrowed?

The consequences would be pretty grim.  Interest rates on your debt would quickly rise as would the amount creditors expected you to pay each month.  Your credit score would drop, limiting your future capability to borrow.  And if you defaulted on secured debt like auto and home loans the assets would be seized.  Millions of our fellow Americans face this grim reality now.

Well, raising the US public debt ceiling is much the same as a creditor setting allowable total credit for an individual or business with two differences.  First, government can do what individuals and businesses can’t – set its own debt limit.  And second, raising the debt limit is our collective agreement that we will pay back what we’ve ALREADY borrowed. Raising the limit protects the full faith and credit of the United States and avoids catastrophic economic consequences we’ve never faced because we’ve NEVER failed to acknowledge our collective debt, NEVER in the entire history of our nation.  This is why the US dollar is the world’s reserve currency.

According to CNN Money, since 1962 we have raised the debt ceiling 74 times including 10 times since 2001.  All financial bills originate in the House of Representatives and this House, under the control of the tea party Republicans is refusing to raise the ceiling.  Word they pass among themselves is that not raising it either wouldn’t be that serious a problem or, if it is, they’ll just blame it on President Obama and the Democrats.  That’s the crazy game they’re playing with our country these days.

In recent newsletters, Representative Francisco Canseco, a former bank director who should know better, repeated the Republican line of opposing raising the debt ceiling.  Here’s one of his talking points:  “…it is time we cut up the national credit card and force government to live within its means, just like American families and small businesses do every day.”

Since when have American families and small businesses be able to get along without credit debt?!!  Only the rich can buy houses and cars and major appliances without using credit.  And thanks to “trickle-drown” economic policies of the last 30 years, the income of average Americans has been flat.  We’ve been forced to use credit for unexpected medical bills, auto repairs, replacing broken appliances, and other unplanned expenses.  Small businesses rely on credit to buy equipment and inventory just to stay in business.

Responsible individuals and small businesses are struggling now to keep from defaulting on their debt.  We expect our government to do the same.  We do NOT expect our government to operate debt-free.  While individuals and businesses are worried about their ABILITY to repay their debt, the US government has the ability — but the radical right is UNWILLING to do it.

Another talking point:  They say it’s about “…getting Washington’s spending addiction under control so that private-sector job creation can once again thrive in America.”  This is the same argument they made to force continuation of the Bush tax cuts.  Republicans, where are the jobs from those tax cuts?  All they have accomplished is RAISING the debt.  If the Bush tax cuts had never been enacted, today our debt as a percentage of GDP would be a manageable amount under 50% instead of the 70% it is.  That’s the “revenue problem” Republicans deny we have.

Furthermore, Republicans are the ones with the spending addiction.  Our debt has accumulated from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars which were hidden off the books during GW Bush’s administration, and an unfunded drug program that prohibits Medicare from negotiating for lower prices.  Furthermore, the recession, which we now know was caused by deregulation of Wall Street, the banksters and the housing market, caused the debt to grow.  Tax revenue dropped while essential recovery spending increased.

Now, congressional Republicans want raising the debt ceiling to hinge on huge spending cuts.  Hello, people! We’re in a major recession and you don’t turn that around by cutting government spending.  You don’t create jobs by cutting jobs.  Our economy runs on demand for good and services, not tax cuts for the rich and corporate.  And a recovering economy will pay down a lot of the debt.

Furthermore, they refuse to consider spending cuts in areas that contributed to the debt, like military spending.  “No, no,” they say, “must keep those military contracts pumping money overseas and out of our economy.”  They recently refused to end subsidies to oil companies — one of which, Exxon, recently posted the highest profit of any corporation in the history of history!

Instead, they want to cut spending that actually helps ordinary middle class Americans – Medicare benefits, education, infrastructure spending. They want to cut the spending that is the REAL job creator in our economy.  For what they think will be their political gain in 2012, they want the economy to fail.

Strangely, they refuse to do what responsible individuals and businesses do when faced with debt, and that is to raise revenue.  They maintain corporate tax rates are too high, but the United States has the lowest real corporate tax burden (1.8% of GDP) among the 32 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.  In 2009, General Electric paid NO taxes on $10.3 billion income and took a tax benefit of $1.1 billion.  Overall tax revenues (what is really paid) as a percent of GDP are at their lowest level in more than 50 years.

Republicans tout recent surveys in which those polled opposed raising the debt ceiling.  Of course!  If you misinform people as to the consequences they’re likely to think raising the limit is a bad idea.  However, failing to raise the debt limit is a default that will hurt every individual and business in the country.  Standard and Poors has already warned that our bond rating will go down.  All our interest rates will rise and the value of our assets (property, pensions, savings, etc) will decline.  The single weakest part of our economy, housing, will be devastated.  We’ll see an economic collapse far worse than that of 2008.  And we will STILL have both our personal and public debt now ever larger.

And Republicans will still be pushing “voodoo economics.”  Oh, but don’t fret about this, Americans.  When the economic collapse comes they’ll just blame it on President Obama and the Democrats.  Won’t that make you feel much better?

Lend An Earmark To More Lies

January 10, 2011

“I don’t want to be a rich man in a poor country.”

– A German millionaire, upon being asked why he didn’t mind paying taxes

Tea party Republicans are calling for government spending cuts and banning earmarks from legislation.  This resulted in a ridiculous charade starring the usual suspects, including Texas’ own Senator John Cornyn.

While newly-elected tea partiers can attribute ignorance to “newbieness,” Cornyn cynically played along when he knows better.  He knows an earmark is simply a Representative or Senator’s designation of funding for a specific project within their jurisdiction. For example, in infrastructure bills they can designate an amount for building a certain project.

Some call it “pork” but others see it as “bringing home the bacon” to the people who elected them. Earmarks create jobs and economic prosperity in the home district in addition to addressing the targeted purpose.

Earmarks are not a significant portion of spending, amounting to less than 2-3%.  Furthermore, axing an earmark doesn’t necessarily mean the spending doesn’t happen. If you simply ban earmarks, who decides where the money gets spent? The Executive Branch, AKA the President. So, those who would lop off earmarks simply give up their legislative power.  Given Republican expressed irrational hatred of this administration, does doing that make sense?

The problems with earmarks are that it’s corruption for a legislator to secretly designate funds benefiting contributors or cronies and it is wasteful if they designate funds for useless projects. Sunshine disclosure of who requested each earmark is the simple cure.  Openness has already been implemented and the number of earmarks reduced significantly.  So this call to “ban ‘em” is a game of smoke and mirrors to make you think they’re really cutting spending when they are not.

This brings us to the ridiculous charade of Republican obstruction to the federal $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund FY 2011.  In December, Senate Republicans used their favorite blunt instrument to block passage of the bill in the Senate. Why? They said, “Too many earmarks.”  Who says? John Cornyn.

He sent a fundraising letter blasting Democrats for 6,600 earmarks in the bill totaling $8 billion (less than 1% of the total).  Where did those earmarks come from? A bunch came from Republicans, including $16 million from Cornyn himself!  And he’s been a top earmarker, inserting dozens totaling $228 million last year.

Surprise, surprise! A Fox News interviewer, Bill Hemmer, actually called Cornyn on his hypocrisy.  Whereupon Cornyn said he was not going to defend his earmarks – “I support those projects but I don’t support the bill.”  All this occurred after the bill had gone through many hearings and had been pared down to a total Republicans said they’d support.  Then, of course, they didn’t.

Without giving specifics, the obstructers claimed the bill didn’t fulfill the demands of the 2010 voters to cut spending.  That’s claiming a mandate they do not have. Even all Republican voters, who were only slightly over half the voters, didn’t demand a meat cleaver be taken to their government. The majority of voters, indeed most nonvoters as well, are demanding jobs and a recovery from the recession.  And simply put, we cannot do that by cutting government spending now.

So what’s going on here is entirely something else. Republicans are openly yearning for a government shutdown like they forced in 1995-96.  After trying to block everything the President and Democrats have done FOR YOU in the last two years, they are still trying to damage this President. They apparently think that, if they shut down government and keep it from doing the people’s business, you’re going to blame President Obama, not them, and vote him out of office in 2012.  Say what? The shutdowns of the 1990s were a political disaster for Republicans.

They’re saying they’ll refuse to extend the federal debt ceiling, which would have only one very, very bad result.  If the government fails to acknowledge its debts and its intent to repay them, it damages the “full faith and credit” of the United States of America with worldwide repercussions. We have never failed to extend the debt ceiling when needed and it surely is needed now to recover from a major recession!

As new Speaker of the House John Boehner was sworn in, Republicans continued the duplicity.  He said they would operate transparently and allow debate and amendments on legislation; then they immediately proposed repeal of health care reform without ANY hearings, debate or amendments.  They call health care reform “job-killing” when actually the opposite is true.  REPEAL of health care reform will kill jobs and increase health care costs, add $230 billion to the deficit, and most important, harm, even kill, human beings who are already benefiting from the reforms.

The bipartisan neutral Congressional Budget Office evaluates legislation for fiscal impact. House Republicans don’t like their findings, for example, that repeal of health care reform adds to the deficit.  So, they now are going to bypass CBO and allow the Republican head of the Budget Committee to distort and politicize “scoring the bills.”

The House also had a rule called “Pay-Go” which requires that any bill that adds to the deficit must have some mechanism of paying for itself by savings or revenue.  Republicans have now rejected that when it’s inconvenient for them, e.g., to give more tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires or to deregulate their corporate sponsors.

This is part of the mishmash of conservative propaganda that government spending is wasteful and doesn’t create jobs, cut it, taxes are too high, cut ’em, axe the government no matter what happens to the people it serves.  All they really intend, though, is to cut taxes; they don’t really intend to cut spending at all.  Since Ronald Reagan, EVERY Republican administration has cut taxes and still overspent, driving up the deficit and total debt.  They blamed it on the Democrats, yet Democrats balanced the budget, paid down the debt and told the truth to the American people.

These irresponsible Republicans must want to be “rich men in a poor country.”  Unless we stand up to them, they may get their wish.

The Depravity of Republican Senators

December 3, 2010

Here’s what the Senate Republicans sent to President Obama regarding tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans:   “…We write to inform you that we will not agree to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to any legislative item until the Senate has acted to fund the government and we have prevented the tax increase that is currently awaiting all American taxpayers. . . .  While there are other items that might ultimately be worthy of the Senate’s attention, we cannot agree to prioritize any matters above the critical issues of funding the government and preventing a job-killing tax hike.”
At issue is a 3.9% tax cut ONLY on taxable income exceeding $250,000.  Those taking in above that would receive the tax cuts for their taxable income in the lower income brackets.  So under the Democratic proposal EVERYONE would get to keep SOME tax cut.  It is not a “job-killing tax hike” either, since it’s been in effect for 10 years and didn’t create any jobs.  Actually raising the tax rate on this income might encourage more job-creating investment.
This shows the depravity of Republican lawmakers.  They would hold out for that ADDITIONAL tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and hold every other action needed, whether tax related or not, hostage to getting that ADDITIONAL cut for the very wealthy.  They’re vowing to stop repeal of DADT (which close to 80% of Americans indicate they want), approval of the New START arms control treaty (a national security essential treaty created and championed by Republicans and Democrats alike), the DREAM Act (to allow a path to citizenship for young folk who serve in the military or get higher education), EVERYTHING unless they get that additional tax cut. They would even hold up payments of benefits under unemployment INSURANCE that people paid for and should receive – sending millions to the streets for Christmas.
These Republicans are cynical, crazy and ignorant racists who would sacrifice our entire country to their goal of politically damaging our President. I don’t think that, in the history of the US, there has ever been such a blatant attack on our whole nation by it’s own elected Senators.   Yesterday, in the House, the Democrats passed a tax cut affecting EVERYONE with Republicans voting against it because it did not keep the additional tax cuts of 3.9% on income above $250,000.  The Democrats are on YOUR side.  The bill will go on to the Senate where it surely will encounter Republican obstruction.  Furthermore there’s no indication that, even if the Republican Senators got their tax cut for the rich, they would vote for these other high-priority bills.  They work for their corporation and ultra-rich campaign contributors, not for us.  Keep this in mind come 2012.

A Principled Solution for the Deficit and Recession

November 22, 2010

Guiding Principle:  Those who caused and profited from the deficit and the recession should pay back the money they’ve taken from the American people.

Four Revenue Solutions:

1)    Raise the highest bracket income tax back where it was before Reaganomics trickled down on the rest of us

2)    Raise the capital gains tax on speculative investment income.  Tax earnings from speculation at least as high as earnings from labor.

3)    Keep the inheritance tax

4)    Raise the cap on income subject to Social Security withholding

Four Spending Solutions:

1)    Cut defense spending, especially contracts

2)    Cut subsidies for big oil and unnecessary farm subsidies

3)    Establish a public plan option in health insurance to lower health care costs

4)    Invest in jobs (now!) to grow the economy by adding taxpayers