Archive for the ‘Taxes’ Category

by jhwygirl

Franke Wilmer has served a respectable 3 terms in the Montana House, surviving 3 sessions up there in Helena. She’s well-qualified to serve as Montana’s next U.S. Representative, her resume including a wide spectrum of employ including waitress, public school teacher, MSU professor and author. Wilmer’s work has spanned a spectrum that is rare for a congressional candidate, with work that has included field research in Yugoslavia during the Bosnian war…work so respected that she has been invited to lecture internally on the topics of war, peace and human rights.

Would I trust her with my tax dollar? You bet. Franke Wilmer worked her way through undergraduate and graduate school – and obtained scholarships to help obtain her doctorate in Government & Politics in 1990. So does she know the value of a dollar? I’m betting she knows the value of a nickle and dime.

All that being said, I wondered what she had to say about yesterday’s failure of the super committee. I was never very hopeful about what they would (or wouldn’t) do – but as someone actually applying for a job in congress, I had to wonder what Wilmer – an experienced legislator – had to think about the super committee and the task they had before them.

Ms. Wilmer generously took time out of her 16 hour days to reply:

“It seems like any news you get of Washington these days is either disappointing or crazy. Making pizza a vegetable was crazy, and the Super Committee failing to come to an agreement is disappointing. I think Congress may be the only place in America where you can ask 12 people to take 2 months to come up with a solution to an important problem and end up with nothing. It is unbelievable that 12 people couldn’t find $1.2 trillion in wasteful spending. Ending the Bush tax cuts just to the top 1% would be a good place to start. Or ending the tax breaks to corporations that export our jobs overseas. Don’t forget how much we are spending on wars ($1.2 trillion so far).

Then one of the richest members of Congress, Denny Rehberg, comes out with his “viable” option. In his mind there are really only two options — either cut Social Security, Medicare, and Veterans Benefits or defund programs set up to help people cover outrageous health care costs. In his mind cutting the wasteful spending to defense contractors (the Commission on Wartime Contracting reported to Congress that $60 billion alone has been lost to waste and fraud in war spending) or cutting subsidies to the oil and gas companies would be insane. Insisting on cuts to Social Security is the wrong place for Republicans to draw a line in the sand. Senior citizens didn’t cause this recession. Congressman Rehberg ironically decided people can live without health care and presented his “viable” plan.

There was a time in this country where our elected leaders governed using common sense. There was a time where the issues facing this country were more important than the next election. I am running for Congress to help restore some of those principles in Washington.”

I couldn’t agree more. How many politicans – especially those running for office – are willing to unequivocally call for ending the Bush tax cuts for the top 1%? Or cutting tax breaks to corporations that export our jobs overseas.

I also appreciate a candidate like Wilmer who is willing to step up for Veterans and call hypocrisy on our current U.S. Representative Denny Rehberg who is willing to cut Social Security and allow the Pentagon to continue its wasteful (and immoral) spending on defense contractors. Montana’s median income is in the bottom 25% in ranking – and only one state has higher per capita military service than Montana. Protecting Veterans and Social Security should be a priority for the people we Montanan’s elect to congress.

It’s good to know that it’s a priority for Franke Wilmer.

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by Pete Talbot

I shrugged it off the first few times I heard it or saw it in print, “government picking winners and losers.”

Now it’s everywhere: Republican debates, news stories, op-ed columns and even comments here at 4&20.

It’s directed at Democrats, for the most part, from President Obama (health care, Solyndra) to Missoula’s City Council (Play Ball Missoula).

The irony is that all parties, in all areas of government, from city councils to state legislatures to Congress and the President, have picked winners and losers.

They’ve subsidized railroads and airlines, oil and coal, highways and electrical distribution systems, NASA, mining and agriculture, baseball, basketball and football teams … it’s a long list.

Winners and losers are chosen by the powers that be all the time. There are no-bid defense department contracts for Halliburton, Raytheon and Blackwater. There are tax code revisions that pick winners and losers. There are decisions on food stamps, Social Security and Medicaid that have winners and losers.

It’s a cool sounding mantra, this “government picking winners and losers,” no doubt generated at some Karl Rove or libertarian think tank using focus groups and polling, and distributed to key leaders in right-wing politics, whence it trickles down.

There are no doubt abuses in this system. But the idea that every aspect of American life should be subject to the invisible hand of the free market is unrealistic and anachronistic. And the Republican cry of “crony capitalism” is about as hypocritical as it gets. The art of crony capitalism has been a mainstay of the Republican Party.

It’s dishonest to call all government spending “socialist” and lay the blame at the feet of Democrats. Picking winners and losers has been going on since the founding fathers and is as American as apple pie.

It just depends on who’s doing the giving and getting the rewards that gets the teeth gnashing and pundits whining.

“So we’ve shown ourselves willing to do the tough stuff on an issue that Republicans ran on.”

By JC

With those words, Barack Obama set the tone (or set his feet in stone) for his news conference on July 22nd, 2011, after Speaker of the House John Boehner (again) walked out on negotiations to resolve (er, make the “sell” on) the nation’s impending debt ceiling “nuclear option.”

Doing the right’s dirty work for them: President Obama offered to cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security by 650 billion dollars so that we can “have a conversation” about how to invest in and “win the future.”

“We then offered an additional $650 billion in cuts to entitlement programs — Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security.”
–Barack Obama at news presser July 22nd, 2011

Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic put the cuts this way:

“And it was a deal that, like Obama’s previous offers, was strikingly tilted towards Republican priorities. Among the provisions to which Obama had said yes, according to a senior administration official, were the following:

Medicare: Raising the eligibility age, imposing higher premiums for upper income beneficiaries, changing the cost-sharing structure, and shifting Medigap insurance in ways that would likely reduce first-dollar coverage. This was to generate about $250 billion in ten-year savings. This was virtually identical to what Boehner offered.

Medicaid: Significant reductions in the federal contribution along with changes in taxes on providers, resulting in lower spending that would likely curb eligibility or benefits. This was to yield about $110 billion in savings. Boehner had sought more: About $140 billion. But that’s the kind of gap ongoing negotiation could close.

Social Security: Changing the formula for calculating [decrease] cost-of-living increases in order to reduce future payouts. The idea was to close the long-term solvency gap by one-third, although it likely would have taken more than just this one reform to produce enough savings for that.”

Presidential Jujitsu 101: Make republicans offers they can’t refuse, knowing they’ll refuse. Make your supporters think you’ve got your fingers crossed behind your back. Then attempt some damage control by giving the left a lesson in conservative economics:

“…If you’re a progressive you should want to get our fiscal house in order, because once we do, it allows us to then have a serious conversation about the investments that we need to make… It’s a lot easier to do that when we’ve got our fiscal house in order. And that was an argument that I was willing to go out and make to a lot of skeptical Democrats…”
–Barack Obama at news presser July 22nd, 2011

My question to you Mr. President is this: Have you gotten to the point where you are willing to lead (as a traditional liberal democrat) yet?

Or is your idea of “leading” telling the left how to think, and then just offering to “talk” about the future? First let’s get the big cuts to entitlements out of the way, then let’s sit down for some decaf to talk about what to do next.

Why, that kind of attitude will really help you get reelected! Not to mention losing the senate to close campaigns in swing states.

Hooray for the jujitsu that provides the cover for all the Obamabots to project their progressive wish lists into your vacuous pronouncements so they can go on their merry way bashing the “principled left” and emoprogs as the root of all that is wrong in American politics when it all goes awry.

Yeah right, Mr. President. Like the right is going to let that be anything more than just talk, talk, talk, hope, hope, hope, and the only change the middle class, the elderly and the poor will see is the pennies, nickels and dimes (and a bunch of lint) left in their pockets as their sacrifices are shared with the wealthy and corporations via their tax breaks.

Anybody else hoping for someone to come along and primary Barack Obama? Or have presidential 2-party politics and primaries truly become worthless? Are democrats fine with a Reagan Democrat at the helm of their party as we witness the emergence of the 21st century neoliberal version of Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama’s self-avowed hero?

I’ll leave you all with some words from President Obama that he wrote recently in USA Today:

“When the future looked darkest and the way ahead seemed uncertain, President Reagan understood both the hardships we faced and the hopes we held for the future. He understood that it is always “Morning in America.” That was his gift, and we remain forever grateful.”

Yes, Barack Obama channeling “Morning in America.” Doesn’t that make you feel warm and fuzzy right now?
[/rant]
—————–
Consider this a nice weekend open thread on the brinksmanship coming out of Washington D.C.

And if you want some light weekend reading, here’s the Time article on Obama’s “Reagan Bromance.”

Barack loves Ronnie

Do I detect a legacy in the offing???

By JC

The PCCC released a poll that was conducted in several swing states in the last few months. I thought the results were pretty stark and clear, so I thought I’d give folks a chance to take a look at them.

I couldn’t find any graphs of this data, so I went ahead and abstracted out the Montana numbers and graphed them up. Not the best graph in the world, but good enough for discussion purposes. Raw numbers are at the link above.

Poll was taken April 27-30, 1,435 likely voters, 2.6% margin of error unless otherwise noted (for notes look at the raw numbers).

Consider this an open thread to discuss these numbers. If you click on the graph, you’ll get a larger version.

by jhwygirl

Seems everyone is getting on the bandwagon of revenue increases these days – you’ll recall the Senate recently voted to kill ethanol subsidies (we’ll see where the tough-talking House goes with that one…), then GOP leaders in the Senate started talking publicly of revenue increases.

Is that pure BS talk? Certainly some say so (as has been exhaustively argued on these pages)…but there are observers suggesting that Grover Norquist and his “no revenue increase” mantra may be becoming insignificant.

Absent of Republicans, in general, looking at more revenue increasing proposals, we have President Narayana Kocherlakota of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis – at a weekend bankers conference held here in Montana – calling on Congress to reduce the amount of mortgage interest and debt payments that households and corporations can deduct to trim incentives for leverage.

Now – is that something I can go along with? Capping the mortgage interest deduction? Debt interest? Obama’s been calling for it since he got elected. A bi-partisan White House deficit-reduction commission picked these two things out as something that should be considered.

Anyway – those are my thoughts. Do we have a perfect storm brewing? Are old-school Republicans calling out the Tea Party? If Republicans (the Tea Party, more aptly) continue to ignore any-and-all revenue increasing ideas, they’re going to find themselves on the wrong end of the voting poll. That’s just plain numbers, folks. If all they have left is to attack Social Security and Medicare, then they aren’t honestly looking at the situation.

If they aren’t honestly looking at the situation, they’re saboteurs.

By CFS

We all know that corn ethanol takes away resources from growing food, but by how much might astonish you.  According to author Alexis Madrigal in his book Powering the Dream, USDA statistics from 2010 show that fully 1/3 of the United States corn harvest went into our collective gas tanks.

That 1/3 of US corn production is akin to a subsidy for the wealthy.  You see, the more wealth and income a person has the more cars a person owns and consequently the more miles a person tends to drive (who wants to be on a bus with a bunch of stinky people), consuming proportionally more gas.  Conversely, the higher up the income scale one climbs the less a person spends on food as a proportion of their income.  The exact opposite is true of the lower-income scales, whome spend a much larger proportion of income simply feeding themselves and their families while spending less on transportation.  So, corn ethanol subsidies are essentially robbing from the poor and giving to the rich, a kind of reverse Robin Hood.

Bringing it down to the scale of Missoula, would you rather help out the people that live on the South Hills in Mansion Heights, or the people that live in doublewides in East Missoula?

Just how much is 1/3?  The US corn harvest in 2010 was 13.1 billion bushels.  Yes that is 13.1 with a B! A record-setting year in terms of acreage under production and yield even in the face of record grain prices.

So, fully 4.3 billion bushels of corn was converted into ethanol.  Those 4.3 billion bushels yielded 12.1 billion gallons of ethanol (based on my calculations from the ratio I derived thanks to this link) out of a total US supply of 13.2 billion gallons of ethanol which gives us 10% of the total gasoline supply.

That’s a lot of numbers… but bear with me.

So, to fill just 10% of our voracious appetite for fuel (18 million barrels of oil/day) uses roughly 26.4 million acres of American (Fuck Yeah!) farmland.  So while the addition of corn ethanol to our fuel supply hasn’t put much of a dent into American gas prices or our consumption of foreign oil, you can see in the chart below just how much biofuels have effected the price of corn.  The steep increase in price coincides nicely with the increase in total corn used for ethanol seen in the chart here (scroll down toward the bottom).

And also coincides nicely with the increase in the commodity price of beef.  Beef, it’s where most of the corn goes.

Obviously, the increase in price isn’t all due to increases in the amount of corn ethanol produced, but the pattern fits nicely together.  The real point of all these numbers I’ve thrown in front of you is to show the sheer scale of the impact that ethanol has on the food market (quite a lot) and the extent of the impact on the fuels market (almost non-existent).

In the end ethanol subsidies are part of the larger package of policies in this country that give breaks to those with an excessively disproportionate share of this country’s wealth.  These subsidies might not be that large in the scheme of things relating to our total budget deficit, but they are symptomatic of our larger cultural tendency to reward the rich and punish the poor.

by jhwygirl

Mainstream media will be all a-buzz with deficit/raising the debt ceiling talks this week, so don’t expect too much coverage on two bills that are of major interest to progressives (like me).

On Tuesday, Ms. Kris Carpenter, Founder/CEO, Sanctuary Spa and Salon in Billings will testify before the Senate Committee on Finance on “Complexity and the Tax Gap: Making Tax Compliance Easier and Collecting What’s Due“.

Hearings to look at the tax gap and tax complexity? Who doesn’t have something to say these days about that?

Interested citizens or groups have two weeks from the close of the hearing to submit comment.

Don’t forget – our very own Sen. Max Baucus is chair of the Senate Committee on Finance.

Also on Tuesday is a hearing before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary for The DREAM Act.

Yep. The Dream Act isn’t dead – and Sen. Durbin, it looks, is going to make sure of that.

I poked around that website and couldn’t find information on how to submit comment. If anyone else figures that out, please post that info in comments.

By CFS

The fight over the budget and debt continues in D.C. and I’m sure that Republicans will be making sacrifices and praying to the patron-saint of B-list Celebrities Turned Politician Ronald “The Gipper” Reagan  for strength and guidance.  I suggest that we on the left use the memory of Reagan to illustrate just how far right the party of Tea has moved since the golden age of fighting tyranny.  Because even Saint Ronnie raised taxes.

Same shit… different day.  Just a week after a compromise was reached to forestall shutting down the government the circus clowns are once again piling out  of the VW to debate the debt ceiling.  And one again nothing will actually change that makes a difference in our country’s fiscal solvency.

Will anything constructive take shape on the revenue side… doubt it.  Instead budget cuts will come at the expense of those that don’t have a voice at the table.  If you can’t afford a six figure lobbyist you don’t deserve to be at the table.  Fuck I’m being pessimistic today.

by jhwygirl

CBS news 60 Minutes still does some really good investigative pieces – still knocking on doors, getting shut out and yelled at and all that good stuff.

This week, Leslie Stahl had the tough work of heading to Zug Switzerland, a town about half the size of Missoula. Zug is a rising corporate tax haven, with I-forget-how-many U.S. corporations headquartered there despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of their employees are in the United States, as is their CEO’s and chairpersons and board members

If you have the time, take the 13 minutes or so to watch this segment. It’s worth it, especially if you need to get some blood moving.

A shorter piece has economist Martin Sullivan explaining how U.S. corporations are shifting their profits overseas. Sullivan knows tax policy, having worked in the the Treasury and on the staff of the Joint Finance Committee. He is also an advocate for a airer, simpler, and more economically efficient tax system.

Because, you see, it is all about profit and the stockholders. Patriotism, duty and pride in country have nothing to do with what a corporation’s function or goal would be.

And don’t get me started on moral obligation.

Maybe the stockholders should provide the infrastructure and military power to these corporations here in the good old secure and militarily stable U.S of A. – you know, the one’s benefiting from these corporations.

Me? I’m tired of my tax dollars subsidizing the wallets of a select few and their stockholders.

Baucus Tasked to Work Out “Compromise” on Extending Tax Cuts for the Rich

By JC

Thanks to Big Swede Ingy, we have the theme for the upcoming battle over the Bush tax cuts. If you need a primer on this fight, you haven’t been paying attention, but I’ll start off this end-of-the-year debate with a nice little video that BoldProgressives.org just put out to put some pressure on President Obama to do the right thing.

We’re gearing up to have an old fashioned political donnybrook over the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. We’ll get to see the right wing’s avarice in full force–as so eloquently snarked by Big Ingy–while they forget all about their opposition to deficit spending when it comes to protecting their wealth and increasing income disparity, and push their greedy self-interest in an all out class warfare battle.

And President Obama, who so adamantly campaigned to let the tax cuts for the rich expire, is on the cusp of caving in, his administration hurling itself to the right to accommodate the latest meme that only a Reagan Democrat in the White House can get the people’s business done.

Yesterday, President Obama tasked his underlings to “work out a compromise:”

“Faced with a tough decision to make on the expiring Bush tax cuts, Congress and the White House did Tuesday what they do best: They passed the buck.

With the resolution to a fight Washington has known was coming for 10 years still hanging in the balance, a small group of legislators will meet with top executive-branch officials, including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew, sometime this week — perhaps as early as Wednesday — to hammer out a deal.

The lawmakers slated to attend include Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.)…”

Max Baucus??? President Obama didn’t learn anything by handing over his Health Insurance Reform to Baucus, so now he’s going to hand over this issue to another Reagan Democrat millionaire to find a compromise?

Mr. President, your future rests with how you proceed. If you break your campaign promise to let the tax cuts for the rich expire, particularly when your opponent has already signaled his surrender, you do not deserve to have the support of the progressive base that put you into office. If you sign a bill that extends those tax cuts, even temporarily, you have signaled the end of your presidency, as the disaffection of your progressive base will solidify against you, assuring either your defeat in ’12, or the rise of a third party candidate that either will succeed, or that could throw the election to the republican and Sarah Palin.

It almost seems as if you don’t care if the country has a republican president and Congress in 2 years. Maybe you don’t…




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