Compare these two recent posts...
New York Times (November 23, 2015) Giving Billions to the Rich (by Marc Short and Andy Koenig. Excerpts below.)
It’ that time of year again, when Republicans and Democrats put aside their differences to dole out gifts of corporate welfare to a lucky few. Congress will soon take up the so-called tax extenders package, which has more than 50 tax breaks affecting a variety of industries and issues. Lawmakers will undoubtedly spin this as a tax cut that will benefit hardworking Americans and improve our economy; but the reality is, this bill mostly helps the wealthy and the well connected. It’s been this way for nearly three decades. The first tax-extender package in 1988, which was initially supposed to be temporary, opened a door that lobbyists and lawmakers were all too willing to run through. They were drawn by the allure of handing out corporate welfare, with the ability to hide the long-term cost to taxpayers. The Congressional Budget Office doesn’t extrapolate the costs beyond the overall package’s extension, giving the public the false impression that the cost will be both temporary and smaller than a long-term extension. The tax-extender package is now a time-honored tradition, appearing about each year or so since 1988, usually with overwhelming bipartisan support. More than 80 percent of the tax breaks directly benefit businesses, some of which are multinational corporations. The Senate’s two-year extension will cost $95 billion over a decade, but the actual cost to taxpayers in that time frame will likely be closer to half a trillion dollars — if not more. A 2014 analysis by Americans for Tax Fairness found that more than one out of every 10 lobbyists in Washington focused specifically on the extenders package. Given that this bill comes up about every year or two, special interests constantly have the opportunity to demand new handouts. This is exactly the sort of wheeling and dealing that Americans hate. A 2013 Rasmussen poll found that 70 percent of voters “think government and big business often work together in ways that hurt” the rest of us.
Brookings Institute (November 23, 2015) How not to talk about taxes: New York Times promotes misleading language of "loopholes" (by Vanessa Williamson. Excerpts below.)
Reading the New York Times this morning [quotes above], you may have come across an op-ed railing against “corporate welfare” and “crony capitalism” tax breaks that give “billions to the rich.” On first glance, one might think this a leftist critique á la Bernie Sanders. But no. The authors, Marc Short and Andy Koenig, are the president and senior policy advisor at Freedom Partners, the [libertarian/right-wing] political operation worth hundreds of millions of dollars associated with conservative billionaire Charles Koch. The first hint at the authors’ politics comes when they single out particular beneficiaries of the corporate tax break largesse: “Hollywood” and “wind-energy producers,” both business sectors associated with the Democratic Party. Still, a conservative attack on corporate tax loopholes seems like a break from tradition – until you look more closely at what the authors are recommending: across-the-board rate cuts. Several Republican presidential candidates (link, link, link) have been taking a similar policy tack. In each case, the result is vastly lower taxes for corporations and the wealthy, with hand-waving explanations of the budget shortfalls that would likely result. According to Gallop, two thirds of Americans think corporations pay too little in taxes, and about 60% think the wealthy are paying too little. In fact, underpayment by the wealthy and corporations is what bothers Americans most about the tax system — more than the complexity of the system, and even the amount they pay in taxes. Given the overwhelming preference for increasing taxes at the top, it is no wonder that conservative advocates want to cover their policies with a veneer of loophole-closing populism. As I’ve argued elsewhere, this kind of rhetoric is likely to be effective. Most Americans believe in progressive taxation and think the rich should pay more in taxes. But they think “loopholes” are the reason the rich do not pay enough, and they therefore underrate the importance of tax rates. This misperception helps explain why a sizeable minority of Americans support a flat tax – if it closed the loopholes, they mistakenly reason, it might actually raise taxes on the rich. By focusing on loopholes, Short and Koenig manage to advocate for tax cuts for the biggest corporations and the wealthiest Americans. The pseudo-populist approach disguises a wildly unpopular idea.
In other news: Bernie vs. Hillary
Poll: 60% don't trust Hillary, 62% say she'll "do anything" to be president. According to a new national survey by Pew Research Center, only 29% of Americans say the term “honest” describes elected officials. The results below are based on more than 6,000 interviews:
74% say their elected officials put their own interests ahead of the nation’s.
72% say elected officials as “selfish” (more so than typical Americans and business leaders).
76% say money has a greater influence on politics and elected officials today than in the past.
56% say large corporations have a negative impact on the country.
65% say the national news media has a negative effect on the country.
99% say they would prefer Senator Bernie Sanders as President in 2016 — I made up that last one. Please vote in my poll on the upper-right side of this page. Thanks.)
The last online poll at Democrats.Com with 115,481 votes showed Bernie Sanders led Hillary Clinton 45% to 32% — but corporate-sponsored polls (with samplings of far fewer people) show Hillary leading Bernie 53.8% to 29.8% — even though they don't trust her. (The media and establishment political parties favor "moderate" Democrats and Republican "LITES").
Hillary Clinton seeks a change to the Social Security system to allow credit toward a wage earner’s monthly benefit at retirement when that wage earner takes time off to care for an elderly relative or raise a child — usually women. (Details please.) But even so, this would require Congressional legislation be passed in the Republican-led Congress. The Clinton campaign's "fact sheet" stopped short of saying that child-care and elderly-care workers should be more widely unionized.
Hillary Clinton has promised not to raise taxes on the middle-class — but she is attempting to make false comparisons with Bernie Sanders, who has supported lifting the Social Security "cap" for people with incomes of $118,500 a year (in the top 5% income bracket) to $250,000 a year (in the top 1% income bracket). Someone should tell Hillary: $250,000 a year is NOT "middle-class" — and that the "median wage" is $24,000 a year. (Bernie Sanders's actual bill: The Social Security Expansion Act (March 2015)
Bernie Sanders has a bill pending in Congress (that would mandate employers provide paid family leave time after a child is born) that would be funded by an increase in payroll taxes. Clinton has also spoken out forcefully for the concept of paid family leave, but has not embraced the particular measure because it violates a campaign pledge not to raise taxes on families making less than $250,000. But Bernie's plan is estimated to cost the average worker about $1.39 week. (That's a heck-of-a-lot cheaper than a babysitter or day-care center!) Clinton has said she is "willing to consider" an idea (but has not committed to) scrapping the income cap for Social Security taxes, as REAL progressive activists advocate.
Politico reports that, according to Hillary Clinton's campaign, her entire plan would cost $10 billion over a decade, and claims it would not add to the debt because it would be financed with "payfors" Clinton has previously proposed. [Really? What are those?] Clinton has criticized Sanders for proposing a 0.2 percent increase in payroll taxes that would be paid by workers across the income spectrum. Sanders wants to use the money that would raise to finance his plan to guarantee three months paid leave for new parents.
Why People Vote Against their own Best Interests
New York Times: Who Turned My Blue State Red? (Great article) Why poor areas vote for politicians who want to slash the safety net (By Alec MacGillis) "The people who most rely on the safety-net programs secured by Democrats are, by and large, not voting against their own interests by electing Republicans. Rather, they are not voting, period."
And of those who do vote, why are they so overwhelmingly pre-disposed to vote Republican? MacGillis finds that the operative motivation is a strong sense of resentment among those who are just getting by towards those who have completely fallen off the economic grid:
"The people in these communities who are voting Republican in larger proportions are those who are a notch or two up the economic ladder — the sheriff’s deputy, the teacher, the highway worker, the motel clerk, the gas station owner and the coal miner. And their growing allegiance to the Republicans is, in part, a reaction against what they perceive, among those below them on the economic ladder, as a growing dependency on the safety net, the most visible manifestation of downward mobility in their declining towns ... These voters are consciously opting against a Democratic economic agenda that they see as bad for them and good for "other" people — specifically, those undeserving benefit-recipients who live nearby."
The old GOP strategy of divide and conquer (i.e. the working poor vs. the unemployed poor, etc.) — in conjunction to using social issues (i.e. gay vs. straight, young vs. old, etc.), voter suppression laws (i.e. voter I.D.s, restricted days and hours, etc.) and congressional gerrymandering (so popular votes don't matter). Republicans are about as anti-democracy as a political party can be. More at the Daily Kos — and another related post at the Daily Kos: "The Democratic down-ballot hemorrhage -- Is it as much of a crisis as it seems?" (Spoiler alert: Yes, because since Obama was elected, Democrats lost heavily in the South — which brings us right back to people not voting at all — or voting against their own best interests.
One comment from Mark Thoma's blog on this subject:
"One of the big things about machine learning taking off is that it may in the not too far future make voting by cell phone common. And that would greatly increase voting by lower income groups. You may say Republicans will never allow it in red states, but when cell phones get ridiculously good at reading faces, retinas, fingerprints, voices ... so that people will sign for mortgages, and buy houses, over their cell phones, it will be hard to say we can't make it safe for voting. In fact, it will be vastly easier to forge an ID card than to fool the AI on your face, voice, finger prints, retinas, and signature all at once. And then every blue and purple state has it for years with zero problem, making the red states look like medieval fiefs...And this is not, ok maybe in the 22nd century; it's with decent probability 20 years, or much less, from what I've researched."
We do everything else online, so why not vote? Or will we have to wait another 20 years for another Bernie Sanders to run? IMHO, I also think Independents in every State that are not registered with either major party should be permitted to vote in either major party's primary.
Other Good Tid-Bits
Dean Baker: "Holiday Season Is Time for Compassion for Billionaires: The Case of Jeff Bezos and Amazon". By escaping state sales taxes on internet sales, Jeff Bezos has been able to price below his competitors (brick and mortar stores), and pocketing what would have effectively been $4.1 billion that would have otherwise been paid as taxes by consumers over the last two decades. It's not illegal, it's just another loophole that our Congress has allowed.
The Economic Serfdom Continues (by Paul Craig Roberts):
The Trans-Pacific and Trans-Atlantic Partnerships eliminate political sovereignty and turn governance over to global corporations. These so called “trade partnerships” have nothing to do with trade. These agreements negotiated in secrecy grant immunity to corporations from the laws of the countries in which they do business. This is achieved by declaring any interference by existing and prospective laws and regulations on corporate profits as restraints on trade for which corporations can sue and fine “sovereign” governments.
New measures by the Treasury Department and the IRS will make it more difficult for tax inversions, a companies’ ability to avoid United States tax rates if they move to locations where they lack substantial business activity. But yet, one of the potential targets of the Treasury Department’s actions, the giant pharmaceutical company Pfizer, is already weighing ways to bypass the rules governing inversions as it seeks to buy a fellow drug maker, Allergan, which is based in Ireland, for about $150 billion.
Another 2,000% price hike on drugs — this time on infantile medication by Questcor Pharmaceuticals. [Bastards! Bernie Sanders has ALWAYS ranted about this; now Hillary is.]
Obama’s nominee to lead the FDA defended his ties to pharmaceutical companies [Like Obama's nominee of Mary Jo White at the SEC – or Bush's Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson and his history with Goldman Sachs. Bernie Sanders rants about this type of crony capitalism all the time. Hillary gets most of her biggest donations from banks.]
Petition to give Bernie Sander Secret Service protection. Hillary gets her entourage, and she's not even an employee of the U.S. government — unlike SENATOR Bernie Sander. Yeah, I know, now I'm just being petty. But that's not why I titled this post the way I did, because she would, and Bernie wouldn't — if we had a "Progressive" Congress rather than a GOP Congress.