Posts Tagged ‘tax cuts’

h1

Obama’s Wealth Redistribution-Based Fiscal Policy: Rob From Poor to Give to Rich

02.13.11

Already looking ahead to 2012’s fiscal budget, President Obama is proposing a major cut to heating subsidies for the poor to help aid them against rising energy costs.

This is just infuriating. It’s hard to argue against the fact that our country is further becoming a plutocracy when the top one percent of earners control nearly 34 percent of our nation’s wealth and when even the Democrats cut programs that help the poor while continuing to extend tax breaks to the one group of Americans who were hit the softest by the economic recession.

I still don’t get how anyone can swallow the rhetoric that the rich needed a tax break while we have a surging debt and deficit in the trillions. Sure, everyone would love to pay less in taxes; but it was passed off as if it would be un-American to do otherwise under the guise that if you give more money to the rich, they in turn create new jobs for everyone else. It’s a wonderful thought that many of the rich love to taut, but there is plenty of evidence to the contrary.

And now here we are.

Why isn’t it un-American to let families freeze in the winter because they have to choose between food and heat? Why are both parties so quick to throw the poor under the bus while ensuring that the rich keep even more of their money? Is $2.5 billion – which amounts to merely 0.21 percent of this year’s federal deficit – going to make us more fiscally solvent to the point that it’s worth affecting millions of lower-income families? And that’s more important for our economy – and our people – than raising taxes on the richest two percent of Americans by under five percent?

While the Obama Administration points out that these cuts reduce the budget back to 2008 levels; which sounds respectable and all but with average gas prices higher for the month of February 2011 than they were in February of 2008, energy costs are on their way up while unemployment stays above nine percent. Not a great climate to justify cutting assistance for rising energy prices.

I’m sure there are also plenty of other costs that will be added to our bottom line by cutting this $2.5 billion. The added stress on families coupled with either going without heat or going without food for some who simply cannot afford both could add to health care costs as the toll on their bodies makes them more susceptible to illness or injury. And with less assistance for their necessities (which just goes to the energy companies anyway, not directly out into the backbone of our economy that is supposedly built by small business) that’s less money going into the economy for local businesses and vendors. I’m sure that’s always the case when people have less assistance; however, it’s worth looking at to determine just how financially prudent this cut is when it only affects poor Americans in the midst of a deep recession that disproportionately affects poor Americans.

Not to say that the rich always have to foot the bill for all things. Don’t misunderstand this as me being in favor of taxing the rich every time the rest of the population wants something. This is about fairness. And when the rich enjoy billions of dollars in tax relief while basic necessities like providing adequate heat are taken away from the poor, that’s wrong. That’s un-American.

h1

Why Cutting Public Funding for PBS Harms Poor Americans More than Rich

02.12.11

In an effort to cut our national deficit, House Republicans are introducing legislation to cut even more spending, this time focusing on totally ending funding for NPR and PBS.

Just for those keeping track at home, our national deficit this year is roughly $1.17 trillion. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s budget is $420 million, making it roughly .036 percent of this year’s shortfall.

Here’s the thing: we need to fix our budget. But it’s beyond insulting to give the top two percent of earners a massive tax cut that costs taxpayers $68 billion for the estate tax cut alone. Throw in another $81.5 billion for the tax cuts to families making over $250,000 and we’re looking at $149.5 billion in spending (which is one percent of the debt — or 356 times as much as what we spend on the CPB) that only benefits a tiny fraction of the population while wanting to slash funding for the programs that go to the middle- and lower-classes who make up an overwhelming majority of the population.

There are a number of reasons why the GOP is embarking on a witch hunt for NPR and PBS, one of which is that they’re making it all about ideology to rile their base, not because they’re being fiscally austere. Only someone who had no clue about budgets and numbers in general – or blinded by rhetoric – would miss the absurdity of adding $149.5 billion to the deficit at the same time as fighting to cut $420 million all while claiming to be budget hawks. It’s like taking out a massive loan on a brand-new home in Malibu and then putting your foot down on selling your 10-year-old Dodge Caravan to cut down on spending.

Speaker John Boehner and Sen. Jim DeMint both argued for cutting CPB because since our government is broke, we cannot afford to be spending money on left-wing programs that Americans don’t agree with. Surely some feel that way. But what’s so left-wing about Sesame Street? Or NOVA? Remember Wild America and Reading Rainbow? Unless learning about science, nature, and reading is left-wing all of a sudden, it’s just more of the same ideological fantasy world where Glenn Beck is a moderate and anyone else to the left of Beck is considered a radical leftist — a stance that has even extended to other popular conservative pundits. It feels like just political battle against Democrats but the only losers will be us Americans who actually value public broadcasting – regardless of our politics.

For those who defend the Republican Party vehemently against those who think that the GOP is the party for the rich, it’s hard to feel otherwise when conservative congresspeople stand firm on tax cuts for the rich while also arguing that we can do without funding for PBS. Perhaps they’ve forgotten since they’re making well over $100,000 a year as civil servants that for poorer families who have to cut costs to stay solvent in this economy don’t always have access to the plethora of channels available via cable television.

Not to say that people with cable don’t watch PBS or listen to NPR even if they have Sirius, but I remember growing up as a kid, we didn’t have enough money to splurge on cable when we already had standard TV via an antenna on the top of our house. And since my parents didn’t want us only watching crap, we watched a lot of PBS: Reading Rainbow and Square One TV were after-school mainstays for years.

We can’t just keep cutting everything that keeps a support net for underprivileged Americans while avoiding the big issues that were the true culprits in this financial fiasco. You might disagree with me on the worth of taxpayer money funding NPR and PBS, but no one can argue that their budget is a key component to our ballooning deficit. It’s barely a drop in the bucket. A fraction of a percentage of our overall debt.

Cutting this spending will not right our ship, will not come close to balancing our budget. If the rich can get massive tax breaks, the rest of us should at the very least get to keep our free TV that offers more substance than Charlie Sheen making light of alcoholism, promiscuity, and a total lack of commitment nightly in half-hour chunks.

h1

On Presidential Approval Polls: Way Too Early to Worry about President Obama’s Re-Election Bid

12.14.10

Despite being still two years away from the next general election, pollsters can’t help but read into their findings to determine that President Obama may be in danger of losing his re-election bid.

A new McClatchy/Marist poll finds that Obama has the lowest approval ratings of his presidency thus far: 42 percent.  And while it might seem low compared to the relatively high levels he was at, it’s not the travesty that should be making headline news. (It’s worthwhile to note that this poll has a history of showing a roughly 4-point lower approval rate across the board for Obama than the corresponding Gallup poll — meaning that, like any survey or poll, it’s best to be used as a very rough estimate at best.)

To put the number into context, if we look at the Gallup poll history (I couldn’t find an easily accessible history of the McClatchy/Marist polls) of President Clinton’s approval rating at the same relative time — December of his second year in office — you’ll find that he had the exact same percentage of those polled approving of his job: 42 percent.

Also, let’s look at today’s political climate to see why he would’ve taken a 9-point dip: he just supported a massive tax cut for the rich, so it’s no surprise that he’d take a hit from liberals.

And the stats support this:

Among self-described liberals, his approval rating has dropped from 78 percent to 69 percent since November.

There’s your explanation.

What is telling, though, is that he didn’t receive any uptick from Independents despite his centrist stance on the tax cut package.

It could be a few reasons:

  1. He’s already lost the Independents, who think that he’s too left-wing for their tastes no matter what he does.
  2. Independents aren’t as quick to switch their feelings as the liberals, who responded to the tax cut deal with vicious disagreement.
  3. Independents like the move – hence why their approval didn’t drop – but, are concerned about the debt and want to see what he does with that policy before increasing their approval.
  4. Polls are inaccurate at best; misleading at worst so why are we even bothering to dissect this?

Either way, it’s much too soon to be worrying about the 2012 election as far as polls are concerned.  Look at what’s happened in the past two years already — Obama went from sky-high approval ratings to steady, middle-of-the-road approval ratings that were comparable for other recent presidents who were re-elected (Clinton, Reagan) for most of 2010 until the noticeable dip now, mostly to do with unhappy liberals who are furious at cutting taxes for the rich.

That sting will wear off, especially in two years with the prospect of a Huckabee, Romney, Gingrich, or a Palin running the country.  It’ll most likely wear off sooner than that if DADT gets repealed anytime soon, too.  There’s also the chance that Obama goes down the debt-reduction route — which might shore up some Independent support, but could lose even more favor with Democrats if it cuts entitlements as heavily as it most likely will have to in order to change the course of our spending.  And, I highly doubt that even if he were to support something like the Bowles/Simpson plan he’d be able to win over any Republicans.

But no matter what happens between now and then, faced with the alternative, the Democrats will support him.  Just like the overwhelming majority of Republicans won’t find themselves supporting Obama in 2012, vice versa for the Democrats.  Even if he’s not their favorite option, he’ll be the lesser of two evils.

Which means it comes down to the Independents again.  Making this poll — and probably all others until we get much closer to the election and see how all of the uncertainties of the future play out — pointless and only good for keeping pollsters employed and pundits talking.

And me blogging.

h1

Hump Day Catch-All: From Congressional Idealists to WikiLeaks Hackers to Westboro Protests

12.09.10

With so many items in the news of blog-worthiness, sometimes it helps to just offer a few tidbits of info for each.  Today is one of those days: I’ll be tackling tax cuts, DADT, Westboro Baptist Church and Elizabeth Edwards, and WikiLeaks.

Tax Cuts and DADT

For all the talk of bipartisanship and compromise, it seems that neither party is quite ready to give in on some topics to which they hold dear.  The Republicans in the Senate have blocked passage of a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” just missing out on the filibuster-proof 60 vote majority by only three yeas.  And across the hall in the other chamber of Congress, the House Democrats rejected the compromise tax plan unless certain changes were made — although, it’s unclear exactly what would have to be amended to get the necessary vote.

Dems: pass the compromise tax cut bill and swallow your pride — be grateful for the extended unemployment benefits and other stimulus that comprises much of the $900 billion in spending and reap the benefits of the expected economic recovery that comes with the tax cuts continuing.

Repubs: just side with equality for once and pass the DADT repeal — it’s going to happen eventually, anyway, and getting the tax cut for the rich should bolster support from your base even if they’re leery about letting gays serve open in the military.

All Things WikiLeaks

Wow. If you haven’t been following this story, it has huge implications and ramifications on privacy, government power, and freedom of the press.

It’s gotten to be like a total movie.  Assange has been arrested without bail and is currently incarcerated in England; meanwhile, hacker supporters of WikiLeaks have literally taken down – at least partially – the websites of Visa and MasterCard and PayPal for their actions — which was caving to government pressure to stop supporting donations to WikiLeaks.  I’m finding this whole thing fascinating and can’t wait to read up more on it.  Conspiracy theorists must be having a field day with this.

Wild to see how this man’s crusade against government secrecy will probably, in the short-term at least, end up causing even less transparency and possibly even more restrictions of freedoms in America.  Will be very interesting to see how this all plays out.

Fiscal Austerity

Britain’s moved much more quickly on making the harsh decisions required to balance their budget that America keeps putting off: cutting spending.  People love the idea of cutting spending so long as it’s not the programs that they like or from which they reap benefits.

Students rioted in London today in response to the government’s decision to raise tuition fees threefold. I can’t say that I support their methods whatsoever — violence isn’t the answer — but, as a former student who is still paying off my thousands and thousands in loans, I can understand the frustration and anger.  Especially if I were against the policies that had been part of the reason why my country was in such fiscal disarray, I’d find it downright unacceptable to bear the brunt of the burden of paying it off.

It’s not like not going to college is much of an option these days. Taking a look at the current unemployment rates here in the States, the less-educated are the ones who are mainly out of work, not college graduates.  So by raising tuition, it’s basically saying that it costs that much more to be an active, productive member of society.  They have the right to be angry, even if their tuition rates are still relatively affordable compared to those here in America.  It’s not like the cost of living ever truly goes down.  And it’s not like wages really go up in concert with those costs.  Hence: rioting.

Westboro Baptist Church

The lovely folks down in Florida have decided to protest the late Elizabeth Edwards’ funeral with their traditional fare of “Thank God for Breast Cancer” and “God Hates Fags” posters and chants.  To understand this mentality is to be mentally ill.  There’s truly no other explanation for the kind of misguided hate that these people ooze consistently, aiming their extreme judgment on people in their time of deepest sorrow.  I pity them because they must be some of the most damaged souls out there, battling such horrific demons of their own that they need to project that darkness onto those they’ve never even met in most cases.

The free speech battle will continue, I’m sure.  I’ve said before my thoughts on it.  If we can restrict when and how people can shout the word “FIRE!” then it doesn’t seem to me a stretch to disallow protests at anyone’s funeral.  Although, perhaps I’m being overly protective on this one.  Maybe it’s a necessary evil to protect all of our free speech and right to assembly.

Conclusion

Doing these bite-sized views of multiple stories in one blog is not nearly as time-saving as I imagined it would be.  I just end up riffing too long on each subject that it gets to be rather lengthy accidentally.  For those of you still reading this, thanks for sticking around.

h1

An End to the “Obama is a Radical Socialist” Meme

12.08.10

Given the fact that Obama agreed to extending the Bush-era tax cuts for everyone – including for the richest 1% of Americans – I’d be curious to hear the explanation for people who still hold the belief that he’s a socialist.

I’m sure that they’d point to the debt and how he’s done nothing about it.  Or bring up the stimulus again (even though I don’t hear them screaming about socialism at the moment when – gasp – nearly a trillion dollars added to the deficit to help get the economy going sounds a lot like the stimulus plan). Or maybe they’ll mention that unemployment is at roughly the exact same place that it was when he took office and claim that his goal is to have everyone living off the government’s dime so that he can control everyone.  Or they might say that this is all a tactic to improve the economy so that he can win re-election in 2012 and then he’ll implement all of the truly devastating aspects of his socialist agenda onto the American people.

The reality is that people who perceive Obama as a weak, un-American, Muslim, socialist/fascist “other” will continue to do so regardless of what he says and regardless of what he does.

  • He can cut taxes (which he’s already done before to the tune of nearly $300 billion as part of the Recovery Act);
  • increase the number of troops fighting in Afghanistan;
  • continue to keep troops in Iraq to support the nation-building there;
  • say he’s against DADT but seek out an appeal when a court finds it unconstitutional;
  • declare an end to torture in America yet protect all of those involved in that disgusting enterprise;
  • and, back off on his moratorium for Israelis building settlements in the Gaza Strip.

Yet, he’s a leftist radical?  Not just some annoying liberal, but radical.  Really?  In what Beckian nightmarish world, exactly?

(And as for all the Internet emails about how Obama is actually a Muslim and doesn’t recite the Pledge of Allegiance and was sworn in on a Koran or something — please, stop getting your information from mass emails of which you don’t know the source.  Do some investigation of your own and at least get your facts straight.)

What’s interesting about this deal is that the most grief he’s taking is from the left, not the right.  The conservatives might not be stoked about some of the elements of the deal, but overall they seem relatively cool with it.  After all, they did get the one thing they wanted: making sure that Americans making over a million dollars a year (the new definition of millionaire, by the way, is not for people who have a million dollars, but rather those who make seven figures annually) get $100,000 extra in their pockets.

Sure, they lost on the whole making sure the unemployment extension was paid for, but that wasn’t really that big of a deal.  It’s not like they weren’t going to eventually agree to unemployment benefits — their base might want fiscal austerity during elections, but much like the whole lack of atheists in a foxhole, you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who has been unemployed for over a year with a family to feed saying no to extending unemployment just because it’s paid for by the deficit.  National concerns become rather minuscule when faced with the personal stresses of being able to put food on the table.

Idealists on both sides lost this one.  Regardless of the health of the short-term economy, the progressives wanted to win this battle against the conservatives.  They wanted some justice for the decade-long tax holiday the rich had been enjoying at the expense of the overall national debt.  And no matter what they got in return — college tax credits, tax rebates, 13 more months of unemployment benefits — the true leftists feel like they lost big time with this deal.  They probably feel betrayed by this president who was supposed to be some progressive savior — while others still wax hyperbolic about how much of a socialist radical he truly is.

Seems like both were wrong about him after all.  He’s still the left-of-center pragmatist who puts governance over ideology every single time.  Just like he’s always been.  And you can still dislike him all you want — but at least dislike him for what he really is and what he’s really done, not for what you project onto him to be.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

h1

Obama and Republicans Compromise on Tax Cuts to Keep Everything at Status Quo

12.03.10

With Obama essentially conceding the tax cut extensions for everyone including the richest Americans, he’s given into the situation that the Republicans set up into where he’s damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t.

If he pushed for the tax hikes against the rich, then he’s the socialist that they claim he is; but, if he extends the tax cuts and adds $700 billion to the national deficit, then he’s the spend-happy left-winger who has no regard for the massive debt that they claim he is.

Let’s just look at the facts of the story:

QUICK RECAP:

Republicans are all for fiscal austerity when it’s for a $56.4 billion tab that affects the middle class but not when it’s a $700 billion bill for the top one-percent, wealthiest Americans.

I still don’t get how anyone can say that the GOP is the fiscally responsible party doing the bidding for the average American based on these positions they’ve taken.

Now, there will be negotiations in the final bills that are passed.  The one thing different about the tax cut extensions that will most likely end up passing would be that the GOP wants them to be permanent while the current plan would have them be temporary — probably two to three years long, at which point I’m sure we have this same argument to look forward to (unless it’s a Republican president at that point, which could be what the GOP is planning on so that they can then make them permanent at that time).  Dems are also looking to add in help for people paying back tuition and for small businesses who hire the unemployed.

These concessions by Obama haven’t gone over well with his fellow Democrats in Congress:

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said he would oppose legislation that cuts taxes for upper-income taxpayers, even if it includes an extension of unemployment benefits and the accompanying tax cuts for the poor that the administration is seeking.

I get Harkin’s frustration, but he’s doing nobody any favors by digging his feet in to combat the Republicans digging theirs in.

So after all of this political theater, I predict:

  • Tax cuts extended for everyone

  • Unemployment benefits extended for another year

  • GOP continues to blame Democrats for being spend-happy liberals

  • Debt and deficit keeps ballooning out of control because no one in either party will take the political heat associated with the anger and negativity that will come from all sides when the drastic cuts and tax hikes that are necessary to balance the budget need to be made

Pretty much status quo.

Photo courtesy of snty-tact via Wikipedia Creative Commons.

h1

Cutting Taxes Only Good When GOP Does It

01.14.10

Jonathan Chait sums up House Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia, who, along with nine other Republican leaders got together to come up with a “21-century blueprint” for the GOP’s plans when they regain control of Congress:

“Okay, so for ideas, we’ve got… tax cuts. Plus “a level playing field for investments,” which is vague but sounds to me like a euphemism for more tax cuts. I’m thinking that 80-20 is going to end up more like 99-1.”

Chait thinks that this could work and I’m worried to think that he might be right.  The Republican Party definitely praises itself as the party that lets hard-working Americans keep their money while the Democrats spend it.  Sometimes the image doesn’t always line up with reality, which is that the GOP really doesn’t offer much change from the Democrats if their big difference is that they will enact tax cuts: President Obama’s stimulus plan included nearly $300 billion in tax cuts over the first two years, even more than his predecessor’s highly-touted cuts.

So, if the Democrats are cutting taxes, then what can the GOP really offer?  Well, demonizing the president and blasting the stimulus as having caused more harm than good, of course.  Even though that stimulus bill included massive tax cuts, which is what the GOP wants to do…

This is the current Republican Party: empty rhetoric that goes against history, facts, and reality.