Tag Archives: taxes

What's At Stake

31 Oct

Why Obama Now. Prepared by an animator for the Simpsons, and if it does nothing more, it should help popularize the term “Horse and Sparrow” as a euphemism for trickle down / supply side. 

What’s At Stake

31 Oct

Why Obama Now. Prepared by an animator for the Simpsons, and if it does nothing more, it should help popularize the term “Horse and Sparrow” as a euphemism for trickle down / supply side. 

Romney’s Math Doesn’t Add Up

20 Oct

The Democratic Party put up a funny website that is designed to look like something from the Romney/Ryan campaign, and pokes fun at the fact that Romney’s tax plan is backed up by a complete absence of any salient details. 

Now, those dirty redistributive Kenyan socialists at Forbes and the Council on Foreign Relations have an even bigger bombshell to share. Romney/Ryan promise to reduce the income tax on the wealthy by 20% – this costs America $2.5 trillion. They promise to eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax, costing America $700 billion.  A repeal of the high-income payroll tax will cost another $300 billion in revenue. Corporations will get another $1 trillion tax cut. 

So, how does the government pay for that, and not affect the deficit? Here’s what Forbes’ Robert Lenzer has to say

Then, comes the problem, the headache, or maybe its the head fake. No identification of a single loophole that will be closed. No concrete exposition about raising the capital gains tax on rich people. Our friends at the Democratic Party headquarters have estimated the savings for “ending all tax benefits for the wealthy” at $1.7 trillion; eliminating ALL corporate tax benefits to offset the corporate tax cut- $1.1 trillion and then another $1 trillion of middle class tax benefits to pay for the middle class cut=- another $1 trillion.

Imagine the chaos, the bitterness, the social unrest that would occur. But, then realize these measures only get back $4 trillion. There’s another $1 trillion to go.

Even studies by that staunch Republican economist Martin Feldstein and Princeton economist Harvey Rosen “concede that paying for Romney’s tax cuts would require large tax increases on families making between $100,000 and $200,000. So much for campaign rhetoric favoring the 1% over the 99%.

 The Forbes article cites this one from the Council on Foreign Relations, which adds a chart to help aid in the analysis. 

At the VP debate, candidate Paul Ryan said that his ticket would lower marginal tax rates by eliminating $1.1 trillion in loopholes and deductions for high-income taxpayers. But the chart above shows those loopholes and deductions, and a full 30% of that $1.1 trillion has been deemed by Romney to be untouchable. So, they only account for $770 billion of their promised $1.1 trillion. 

Mitt Romney can lurch to the center all he wants, but he doesn’t want to change the system to benefit the middle class and the working poor – he’s done quite well under the status quo and has no incentive to change a thing. Romney and his running mate can brazenly lie and make promises that don’t mathematically add up, and seldom does it meet with much pushback because seriously, most people – most journalists – aren’t economists. 

Romney's Math Doesn't Add Up

20 Oct

The Democratic Party put up a funny website that is designed to look like something from the Romney/Ryan campaign, and pokes fun at the fact that Romney’s tax plan is backed up by a complete absence of any salient details. 

Now, those dirty redistributive Kenyan socialists at Forbes and the Council on Foreign Relations have an even bigger bombshell to share. Romney/Ryan promise to reduce the income tax on the wealthy by 20% – this costs America $2.5 trillion. They promise to eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax, costing America $700 billion.  A repeal of the high-income payroll tax will cost another $300 billion in revenue. Corporations will get another $1 trillion tax cut. 

So, how does the government pay for that, and not affect the deficit? Here’s what Forbes’ Robert Lenzer has to say

Then, comes the problem, the headache, or maybe its the head fake. No identification of a single loophole that will be closed. No concrete exposition about raising the capital gains tax on rich people. Our friends at the Democratic Party headquarters have estimated the savings for “ending all tax benefits for the wealthy” at $1.7 trillion; eliminating ALL corporate tax benefits to offset the corporate tax cut- $1.1 trillion and then another $1 trillion of middle class tax benefits to pay for the middle class cut=- another $1 trillion.

Imagine the chaos, the bitterness, the social unrest that would occur. But, then realize these measures only get back $4 trillion. There’s another $1 trillion to go.

Even studies by that staunch Republican economist Martin Feldstein and Princeton economist Harvey Rosen “concede that paying for Romney’s tax cuts would require large tax increases on families making between $100,000 and $200,000. So much for campaign rhetoric favoring the 1% over the 99%.

 The Forbes article cites this one from the Council on Foreign Relations, which adds a chart to help aid in the analysis. 

At the VP debate, candidate Paul Ryan said that his ticket would lower marginal tax rates by eliminating $1.1 trillion in loopholes and deductions for high-income taxpayers. But the chart above shows those loopholes and deductions, and a full 30% of that $1.1 trillion has been deemed by Romney to be untouchable. So, they only account for $770 billion of their promised $1.1 trillion. 

Mitt Romney can lurch to the center all he wants, but he doesn’t want to change the system to benefit the middle class and the working poor – he’s done quite well under the status quo and has no incentive to change a thing. Romney and his running mate can brazenly lie and make promises that don’t mathematically add up, and seldom does it meet with much pushback because seriously, most people – most journalists – aren’t economists. 

Romney vs. the 47%

18 Sep

1. David Frum is the Tweeter to watch this campaign season. 

2. Mitt Romney began running against the press last week; he’s running against half of America today.

It was supposed to be a campaign reboot. But instead, Mitt Romney had a bad day. What a day Mitt had. Sad. Mitt. Bad. Had. 

The day started with a Politico article detailing what can best – and most charitably – be described as complete and utter disarray within his campaign apparatus.

For a guy running on his management bona fides, he’s running the worst national campaign I can remember. Heavy on ideology – light on details, the Romney campaign is now suffering through the type of postmortem interviews that usually happen after they lose on election day. (It was then that all the stories about just how awful Sarah Palin was came out).  David Frum Tweeted: 

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/davidfrum/status/247686830009487360″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/davidfrum/status/247686902755495936″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/davidfrum/status/247687000377921536″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/davidfrum/status/247687166329753600″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/davidfrum/status/247687310764818432″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/davidfrum/status/247687420261322752″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/davidfrum/status/247687817038295041″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/davidfrum/status/247688263161221120″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/davidfrum/status/247688649796374530″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/davidfrum/status/247688784785862656″%5D

It got worse. 

Late yesterday, former Bush aide and current sane conservative David Frum Tweeted that, “If you’re not running for president of all the country, you won’t be elected president of any of it.”

He was writing in response to a blockbuster series of videos that were clandestinely recorded during a big-money fundraiser that was held in Boca Raton on May 17th, where Romney spoke. What it revealed was the real Mitt Romney – the guy who is in his element and doesn’t feel constrained by politeness, inclusiveness, or basic political correctness – some pretty key qualities needed in a viable candidate in a general election for President of the United States. 

In a surprising nod to the theories of horrible person Ayn Rand, Romney broke down the American electorate into producers and moochers;  that 47% of Americans don’t pay any taxes, don’t work, take no personal responsibility and enjoy being dependent on government for all needs. Why, they even feel entitled to receive health care! Can you believe it?! Romney concluded that he was never going to convince these people to vote for him, so he wasn’t running to convince them. He even added – astoundingly – that they pay no income tax and had no sense of personal responsibility. Instead, he explained, he was running for the 5 – 10% of the electorate that are “thoughtful” “independents” who voted for Obama but are disappointed in him – pretty much the theme of Romney’s convention speech. 

Romney painted himself into a corner by affixing a percentage to that number. He has no wiggle room – he can’t say, “oh, I was talking about a small population that just lives off of public assistance” – he indicted almost fully half of the American population for being do-nothing takers and moochers. That’s astonishing

On the first anniversary of the Occupy movement, you’re not just the 99%, you may also be the 47%. 

Coincidentally, 47% is how many people in Michigan plan on voting for Obama versus 37% for “native son” Romney. 

The Atlantic broke down and identified the 47%:

In 2011, 47% of Americans paid no federal income taxes. Within that group, two-thirds still pay payroll taxes. The rest are almost all either (a) old and retired folks collecting Social Security or (b) households earning less than $20,000. Overall, four out of five households not owing federal income tax earn less than $30,000, according to the Tax Policy Center.

Here’s another, slightly wonkier, way to think about the 47%. Divide the group into two halves. The first half is made tax-free by credits and exemptions, the vast majority of which go to senior citizens and children of the working poor. The half that you’re left with is so poor, they wouldn’t owe federal income taxes even if there were zero tax expenditures.

There are some not-so-poor outliers, like the 7,000 millionaires who paid no federal income taxes in 2011. But for the most part, when you hear “The 47%” you should think “old retired folks and poor working families.” …

…Mitt Romney’s off-the-record comments were inelegant. But they were also part of a long trend of Republicans attacking the 47% as lazy, or playing by a different set of rules, or not fully contributing to the country. Michele Bachmann went after the non-payers. So did Rick Santorum. And Sen. John Cornyn.

The 47% aren’t lucky ducks cheating the system. They’re mostly poor working families getting pilloried by the political party that wrote the rules they’re following. If the 47% are the monster here, then Republicans helped play the role of Dr. Frankenstein. “Non-payers” have grown in the last 30 years because of marginal tax rate cuts and credits like the EITC passed under Republican presidents and continued by both parties in Congress.

It would be one thing to ask poor working families to pay higher taxes if Republicans were trying to raise money to improve government services. Quite the opposite, Romney’s tax plan would, if passed, either reduce revenue or come out neutral by raising taxes on upper-middle class families. Meanwhile, his budget would gruesomely gut Medicaid and income-support programs below their projected 2020 levels.

The working poor families and elderly people who make up the 47% also tend to live in the deep South, in predominately red states: 

But now, remember that Mr. Romney has repeatedly refused to release more than (a) a partial, incomplete 2010 income tax return; and (b) an estimate for 2011 income taxes. He will not release any more taxes.  Here’s a guy who wanted pretty desperately to change the subject on his own taxes – and thanks to a press that’s sensitive about being called “liberal”, he was largely successful. Yet here he opened the door for everyone to re-examine his own tax situation.

When you factor in the payroll taxes that the working poor automatically pay every pay period, the actual figure for Americans who pay “no income tax” is reduced to about 18%

…according to the Tax Policy Center, more than 60% of those non-income tax paying households did pay federal payroll taxes—meaning Social Security and Medicare taxes.  (Considering all Americans households, including those that owed income tax, 62% paid more in payroll taxes than in federal income taxes.)

What of the 18.1% of U.S. households that paid neither income nor payroll taxes?  More than half of them were headed by a senior–in other words, by someone who paid payroll taxes and likely some income taxes too, in the past.  (No, the amount the elderly have paid in does not cover the cost of the Medicare  benefits they are now getting. And that is true despite the fact that in a Romney TV adattacking Obamacare’s cuts to the growth in Medicare spending, an announcer seems to suggest otherwise, intoning:  “You paid into Medicare for years, every paycheck…. So now the money you paid for your guaranteed healthcare Is going to a massive new government program that’s not for you.”)

Of course, it goes without saying, that those  folks who aren’t paying federal taxes are almost all paying state and local taxes—state sales taxes, real estate taxes (either on their homes or built into their rents) and possibly state income taxes too, since those taxes tend to exempt fewer poor families than does the federal income tax.  If they buy gasoline, liquor or tobacco, or have telephones, they’re also feeding the federal purse.

The tax deadbeat thinks half of Americans are tax deadbeats who aren’t worth fighting for. We’ve become a country where the millionaires and billionaires express envy for the extremely poor. This is evidence of madness. 

Here are the videos. 

Reid Gives Republicans A Taste of Their Own Medicine

8 Aug

Did you hear how Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) took to the Senate floor to accuse Mitt Romney of not having paid income taxes in 10 years? He says someone with deep knowledge of Bain Capital finances told him that, but he’s unwilling to reveal his source, and the Republicans and Romney are going absolutely out of their minds about it. 

Is the charge true? Is it false? Who knows? Obviously, the easiest way to prove its falsity is to release 10 years’ worth of tax returns – something Romney has repeatedly refused to do. The Romneys say we people have all we’re going to get from them – an incomplete 2010 return and a 2011 estimate. Romney deliberately omitted a document he would have filed with the IRS detailing the holdings he has in foreign banks in Switzerland, the Caymans, Bermuda, and other traditional tax-evasion havens with expanded secrecy laws to help, e.g., absolve Americans of their duty to pay taxes (and more nefarious reasons like money laundering). ABC News pointedly asked Romney whether he’s ever paid less than 13.9% in income taxes, and he said he’d go back and check – that’s not a “no”. He never came back to tell us one way or another. 

The Republicans are going nuts, demanding Reid’s taxes, Pelosi’s taxes, Obama’s college transcript – they’re grasping at completely manufactured straws and bringing up remarkable non-sequiturs to avoid one salient fact: 

While the rabid right-wingers in Breitbartland demand a “vetting” of Obama that happened in 2008 and they’ve conveniently ignored, they absolutely refuse to vet their own nominee. That refusal to vet – hey, rich white guy, former Governor – is already haunting them. You can’t complain about transparency when you have a candidate who’s hiding something. You can’t complain about job creators and taxes when your ultrawealthy one percenter candidate pays no taxes. 

(Why aren’t we demanding to see how much Chris Collins has been paying in taxes?)

But if you read anything about the set of balls on Harry Reid, you should read this piece from the Rude Pundit. His writing is NSFW, but I haven’t yet found anything that more creatively and pointedly explains why this is all fantastic.  (Quote after the jump, due to language – those with vapours should avoid).  Continue reading

Taxes Are Bad! (Unless It's a Poll Tax)

13 Jul

Next up? Those pesky Child Labor Laws!

Just a few weeks ago, the vast majority of Americans were redirected to their dusty copies of the Constitution, and perhaps many of them felt compelled to re-read Article 1, Section 8, which enumerates the rights and powers of Congress.  Among its express powers is the power to levy taxes. 

As Chris Smith wrote in Thursday’s Morning Grumpy, there is a massive right-wing push to establish voter ID laws throughout the country, this despite the fact that actual, credible instances of voter fraud represented .000002% of all votes cast in 2011.  In Texas, it’s .0001% since 2002. If voter fraud was as prevalent as certain conservatives claim it to be, we’d retain the services of the UN or EU to monitor our elections for irregularities, like some third world kleptocracy with an disproportionately powerful, wealthy elite and massive income inequalit…. wait, what? 

In fact, the most visible forms of voter fraud have been perpetrated by idiot propagandists like James O’Keefe, who sends people to appear at polling places claiming to be someone they’re not and attempting to vote, to show how easy it is to commit voter fraud. You know, someone could prove how easy it is to blow up a bridge by blowing up a bridge, but that’d be silly and dangerous.

Our conservative-led march into some Dickensian fever-dream of an exploitative third world banana republic notwithstanding, the right to vote is basic and fundamental. It is a constitutional guarantee held by every law abiding citizen – you can only lose the right to vote in certain states, under certain circumstances involving the “law abiding” part.  And historically, our voting laws – indeed, in most cases our Constitution itself – have steadily and consistently expanded the people’s rights over the past 200+ years, to non-property holders, to naturalized citizens, to non-whites, to women, to people 18 and over, to DC residents, etc. 

In Republicanland, you need a photo ID to vote, but any idiot can walk into a Wal*Mart and buy an assault weapon. 

We’ve talked a lot throughout the health care debate about government mandates requiring people to engage in certain economic activity. While the Republican Party now vehemently opposes the insurance mandate it had valiantly championed at a time before President Obama moved to Washington, it is now instead championing a photo ID mandate for any eligible voter. 

The 24th Amendment to the Constitution reads, in relevant part: The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.”

That photo ID mandate doesn’t come particularly cheaply, nor is it carefully crafted to avoid constitutional harm or to fix a big public problem. The Texas law, for instance, was invalidated under the Voting Rights Act because it was discriminatory. It was found that as many as 1.4 MM registered Texas voters did not have photo ID, and the vast majority of them happened to be Hispanic or black.  According to Texas’ own numbers, a Hispanic voter is between 47 – 120% more likely to not have photo ID than a non-Hispanic voter.  

Hispanics in Texas, who vote solidly Democratic, are not only more likely to lack ID compared to white voters, but will have a harder time obtaining the voter ID required by the state. There are DMV offices in only eighty-one of the state’s 254 counties. Not surprisingly, counties with a significant Hispanic population are less likely to have a DMV office, while Hispanic residents in such counties are twice as likely as whites to not have the right ID. Hispanics in Texas are also twice as likely as whites to not have a car. “During the legislative hearings, one senator stated that some voters in his district could have to travel up to 176 miles roundtrip in order to reach a driver’s license office,” wrote DOJ.

The law also places a significant burden on low-income residents. Texas is required to provide a free ID to voters, but an applicant must possess supporting documentation in order to qualify. “If a voter does not possess any of these documents, the least expensive option will be to spend $22 on a copy of the voter’s birth certificate,” DOJ noted. That expenditure can be rightly construed as a poll tax, which the Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibited.

So, in order to “fix” a non-existent voter fraud “problem”, the Republican Party is perfectly willing to mandate that people spend money to obtain an ID at some expense in order to exercise a fundamental civil right we call “casting a vote.” I don’t know what you call that, but I call it a “tax”. 

Poll taxes were part of the Jim Crow laws, designed to disenfranchise the poor and the Black. A Supreme Court ruling in 1937 held them to be constitutional, and several southern states charged certain portions of the population to exercise their right to vote. In 1964 poll taxes were banned by the 24th Amendment to the Constitution, and the Supreme Court extended that abolition to state elections in 1966.  Here is a chart of states requiring ID – some pass legal muster, others don’t. 

But let’s not play make-believe any more. The Republican proponents of these modern-day poll taxes are advocating for a regression back to Jim Crow. They are doing so by manufacturing a legal-sounding pretext of fraud, but the real purpose of these statutes and similar efforts in Florida to purge the voter registration rolls of supposed ineligible people (and getting it wrong), is to help Republicans and hurt Democrats. 

Not only is it a despicable display of anti-Americanism to impose an ID mandate and tax on the poor, the black, and the Hispanic to prevent them from voting Democratic, but it is a cynical admission that the Republican Party has shrunken into a regional, reactionary, theocratic party of the xenophobic and the rich. That the easiest way for them to obtain power is to cheat the system and prevent voters from reaching a ballot box. 

Where’s that posse of constitution-champions calling themselves the “tea party” now? 

Taxes Are Bad! (Unless It’s a Poll Tax)

13 Jul

Next up? Those pesky Child Labor Laws!

Just a few weeks ago, the vast majority of Americans were redirected to their dusty copies of the Constitution, and perhaps many of them felt compelled to re-read Article 1, Section 8, which enumerates the rights and powers of Congress.  Among its express powers is the power to levy taxes. 

As Chris Smith wrote in Thursday’s Morning Grumpy, there is a massive right-wing push to establish voter ID laws throughout the country, this despite the fact that actual, credible instances of voter fraud represented .000002% of all votes cast in 2011.  In Texas, it’s .0001% since 2002. If voter fraud was as prevalent as certain conservatives claim it to be, we’d retain the services of the UN or EU to monitor our elections for irregularities, like some third world kleptocracy with an disproportionately powerful, wealthy elite and massive income inequalit…. wait, what? 

In fact, the most visible forms of voter fraud have been perpetrated by idiot propagandists like James O’Keefe, who sends people to appear at polling places claiming to be someone they’re not and attempting to vote, to show how easy it is to commit voter fraud. You know, someone could prove how easy it is to blow up a bridge by blowing up a bridge, but that’d be silly and dangerous.

Our conservative-led march into some Dickensian fever-dream of an exploitative third world banana republic notwithstanding, the right to vote is basic and fundamental. It is a constitutional guarantee held by every law abiding citizen – you can only lose the right to vote in certain states, under certain circumstances involving the “law abiding” part.  And historically, our voting laws – indeed, in most cases our Constitution itself – have steadily and consistently expanded the people’s rights over the past 200+ years, to non-property holders, to naturalized citizens, to non-whites, to women, to people 18 and over, to DC residents, etc. 

In Republicanland, you need a photo ID to vote, but any idiot can walk into a Wal*Mart and buy an assault weapon. 

We’ve talked a lot throughout the health care debate about government mandates requiring people to engage in certain economic activity. While the Republican Party now vehemently opposes the insurance mandate it had valiantly championed at a time before President Obama moved to Washington, it is now instead championing a photo ID mandate for any eligible voter. 

The 24th Amendment to the Constitution reads, in relevant part: The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.”

That photo ID mandate doesn’t come particularly cheaply, nor is it carefully crafted to avoid constitutional harm or to fix a big public problem. The Texas law, for instance, was invalidated under the Voting Rights Act because it was discriminatory. It was found that as many as 1.4 MM registered Texas voters did not have photo ID, and the vast majority of them happened to be Hispanic or black.  According to Texas’ own numbers, a Hispanic voter is between 47 – 120% more likely to not have photo ID than a non-Hispanic voter.  

Hispanics in Texas, who vote solidly Democratic, are not only more likely to lack ID compared to white voters, but will have a harder time obtaining the voter ID required by the state. There are DMV offices in only eighty-one of the state’s 254 counties. Not surprisingly, counties with a significant Hispanic population are less likely to have a DMV office, while Hispanic residents in such counties are twice as likely as whites to not have the right ID. Hispanics in Texas are also twice as likely as whites to not have a car. “During the legislative hearings, one senator stated that some voters in his district could have to travel up to 176 miles roundtrip in order to reach a driver’s license office,” wrote DOJ.

The law also places a significant burden on low-income residents. Texas is required to provide a free ID to voters, but an applicant must possess supporting documentation in order to qualify. “If a voter does not possess any of these documents, the least expensive option will be to spend $22 on a copy of the voter’s birth certificate,” DOJ noted. That expenditure can be rightly construed as a poll tax, which the Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibited.

So, in order to “fix” a non-existent voter fraud “problem”, the Republican Party is perfectly willing to mandate that people spend money to obtain an ID at some expense in order to exercise a fundamental civil right we call “casting a vote.” I don’t know what you call that, but I call it a “tax”. 

Poll taxes were part of the Jim Crow laws, designed to disenfranchise the poor and the Black. A Supreme Court ruling in 1937 held them to be constitutional, and several southern states charged certain portions of the population to exercise their right to vote. In 1964 poll taxes were banned by the 24th Amendment to the Constitution, and the Supreme Court extended that abolition to state elections in 1966.  Here is a chart of states requiring ID – some pass legal muster, others don’t. 

But let’s not play make-believe any more. The Republican proponents of these modern-day poll taxes are advocating for a regression back to Jim Crow. They are doing so by manufacturing a legal-sounding pretext of fraud, but the real purpose of these statutes and similar efforts in Florida to purge the voter registration rolls of supposed ineligible people (and getting it wrong), is to help Republicans and hurt Democrats. 

Not only is it a despicable display of anti-Americanism to impose an ID mandate and tax on the poor, the black, and the Hispanic to prevent them from voting Democratic, but it is a cynical admission that the Republican Party has shrunken into a regional, reactionary, theocratic party of the xenophobic and the rich. That the easiest way for them to obtain power is to cheat the system and prevent voters from reaching a ballot box. 

Where’s that posse of constitution-champions calling themselves the “tea party” now? 

Obamacare: The Mandate And the Taxing Power

29 Jun

Oftentimes, the federal government finds itself wanting to promote a certain behavior as part of a national program, but without the direct power to do so. By way of example, in the 1980s, the Reagan Administration decided that it wanted the drinking age to be raised from 18 to 21 nationwide. But the drinking age isn’t a federal, but a state statute. In order to persuade states to raise the drinking age, the federal government passed an incentive plan. If a state failed to raise its drinking age to 21, it would find itself with a diminution in federal highway funding. 

“The power to tax involves the power to destroy”, wrote Chief Justice John Marshall in 1819. With respect to the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare”, the power to tax also involves the power to build something. Under the law, beginning in 2014, Congress will require most Americans to obtain health insurance, or – if you don’t, you pay a fine to the government. The mandate was, ironically, a precondition set by the insurance industry, without which they would not be able to economically justify offering insurance to people with pre-existing conditions at no penalty.

The key part of Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion yesterday reviewed the constitutional justification for that mandate to purchase health insurance.  Congress’ powers are specifically limited and enumerated in Article 1 of the Constitution. 

Roberts turned first to the Commerce Clause (Article 1, Section 8), whereby Congress has the power to “regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.”  Roberts rejected the argument that the government could regulate the absence of commerce; you cannot regulate that which does not exist.  His analysis seems somewhat limited, however. After all, there is not a personal alive who isn’t engaged in the health care market now, or inevitably. Even if you’re not seeking medical care, you’re paying for others’. 

Right now, you and I (and everybody) are taxed to help pay for uninsured people’s emergency room visits. ERs can’t turn people away, and oftentimes the poor and uninsured use them for primary care.  Those hospitals seek reimbursement for the cost of providing those services through two Federal Programs, Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) and Upper Payment Limit (UPL)–that require a 50% local share match. So…instead of forcing the cost of health care provision onto the people who don’t have insurance, you (a taxpayer, or a person with insurance) are paying for them to get health care with both your federal and county tax dollars. 

Secondly, Roberts turned briefly to the “Necessary and Proper” Clause, also in Article 1, Section 8, it reads, “The Congress shall have Power – To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.”  Roberts declined to go along with this, reasoning that…

Each of our prior cases upholding laws under that Clause involved exercises of authority derivative of, and in service to, a granted power. For example, we have upheld provisions permitting continued confinement of those already in federal custody when they could not be safely released…[t]he individual mandate, by contrast, vests Congress with the extraordinary ability to create the necessary predicate to the exercise of an enumerated power.

And so, the last resort – the “in the alternative” argument – was most persuasive to the 5 members of the Court who voted to maintain the ACA mandate. The very first Congressional power enumerated at Article 1, section 8 involves the power to tax and spend. Roberts wrote that Congress’ mandate isn’t the issue – it’s the “penalty” imposed on people who refuse to purchase insurance. While the dissent argued that the government is semantically blocked from calling the “penalty” a “tax”, Roberts argued that the word “penalty” assumes some sort of fine for illegality. Yet the refusal to purchase insurance isn’t illegal – it isn’t a crime. It is merely a choice, and a person’s choice to opt to pay a tax instead of buying insurance is one that government can regulate under its taxing power. 

…the Government asks us to read the mandate not as ordering individuals to buy insurance, but rather as imposing a tax on those who do not buy that product…

…None of this is to say that the payment is not intended to affect individual conduct. Although the payment will raise considerable revenue, it is plainly designed to expand health insurance coverage. But taxes that seek to influence conduct are nothing new. Some of our earliest federal taxes sought to deter the purchase of imported manufactured goods in order to foster the growth of domestic industry

Because Roberts invoked the taxing power, dumber pundits and lazy politicians have pivoted to calling it all – the whole law – a “huge tax”.  Perhaps they should read the law, and then read the Court’s opinion. It’s not a “huge tax”. It’s a mandate that you have health insurance. Chances are, you already have it – it’s not like you’re being forced to buy super-more health insurance on top of what you may already have. And if you don’t have it, you’ll have much easier and cheaper access to health insurance. And if you choose not to have any at all, then you’ll be assessed a fine, a tax, whatever you want to call it. 

The ACA’s “shared responsibility payment”  is a tax only on people who choose not to hold insurance. Anyone who says otherwise is ignorant, mistaken, and/or lying. 

With the mandate in place, no longer will the person without health care get away with not paying hospital bills, and no longer will taxpayers be “mandated” to subsidize those choices. Instead, the person making the choice to avoid insuring himself will be assessed a tax in the eventuality that he becomes ill and can’t afford to pay his bill. Do you want the person without health care to be taxed, or do you want to continue to be taxed because they don’t have health care?

In the olden days, “personal responsibility” was a conservative talking point.  Now, we’re essentially codifying it through Obamacare – you’re responsible to get coverage, or for the consequences if you don’t. Now? 

The remaining portions of the decision dealt with (a) the Court’s analysis of whether the issue was ripe for decision (it is); (b) whether striking the mandate meant invalidating the whole law (they didn’t have to reach it); and (c) a provision dealing with the expansion of Medicaid, holding that States can reject federal funding and therefore not comply with the new rules. 

The misinformation and disinformation being spread over the last 24 hours has been simply mind-blowing. For instance, here’s a fundraising email that Republican congressional candidate Chris Collins (who, incidentally, never, ever has to worry about not being able to afford anything, ever, including health care) sent yesterday: 

Dear friend,

The Supreme Court has confirmed what we already knew – ObamaCare is nothing more than a massive tax increase that will hurt hardworking families and continue to act as a wet blanket on economic growth and job creation.

Today, I’m asking for your donation of $27 dollars to protect the residents of the 27th Congressional District from this massive tax hike and help end ObamaCare.

I need your help to stop Kathy Hochul and Barack Obama from raising taxes on thousands of Western New York and Finger Lakes families. 

$27. 

$27 is how we can protect our families in the 27th Congressional District from massive tax increases.

When I go to Congress, my first order of business will be to lead the fight to repeal ObamaCare and replace it with common sense solutions that protect seniors and don’t crush small businesses and cost us jobs.

$27 can get us there.

Whether it’s $27, or $5, $10, $50 or $100 – anything you can do to help us stop Barack Obama and Kathy Hochul from raising taxes and cutting Medicare by $500 billion is so important.  Will you consider donating today?

There’s so much at stake, and I need your help.

Sincerely,

CHRIS COLLINS

Congressional Candidate, NY-27

No, it’s not one side or another that won or lost – everybody won. Everybody will benefit from the implementation of Obamacare. It isn’t at all a huge tax increase, and the only reason Medicare funding goes down is because the ACA picks up the slack. Obamacare isn’t a “huge tax increase”, indeed it will help families by reducing the most common type of bankruptcy – ones brought about through medical expenses. Is this law a boon to insurers? Yes. That’s why many progressives didn’t like it much, and that’s why the law is something of a Frankenstein’s monster. But Obamacare, like its progenitor, Romneycare, is a fundamentally conservative idea. Because it’s been adopted by a Democratic President whom the Republicans are determined to ruin, it is now characterized as something it’s not. 

And make no mistake – the Republican drive to ruin Obama is so concentrated and driven, that it doesn’t matter what collateral damage there is to average Americans, or the economy. 

It’s not surprising to see a politician lie, but when mere puffery, (“I’m the best”), turns into brazen lying, (“I poop rainbows and spit unicorns”), you have to wonder what the politician thinks of the people who are going to vote for him. I heard some of our right-wing omniphobe media personalities liken the United States under the ACA to North Korea. There was heavy emphasis on “Hussein” yesterday, because “Hussein” is a foreign, Muslim name, and because somehow that correlates with socialism. Or something. I wish I was a professional psychologist so I could better analyze what was taking place.  Even Mitt Romney noted that the Court didn’t hold that Obamacare was a “good policy”. That’s jaw-droppingly dumb – Palin dumb. 

Requiring Americans to buy private health insurance from private corporations is socialist? Spreading the risk across most Americans so that health insurers can’t refuse to insure people with pre-existing conditions is like living in a Stalinist dictatorship with no market, no freedom, no food, no money, closed borders, and extensive gulags? How dumb. Almost as dumb as the many people who took to Twitter to decry the loss of America’s freedom and announce that they’d move to Canada, which has true single-payer socialized medicine. 

Set aside the crazies and the liars – Americans won today. The ACA – Obamacare – isn’t a perfect solution. No solution is perfect, after all. But it will make our health insurance in this country more affordable, with better coverage, and no longer will you live at the mercy of health insurance companies, fearing arbitrary rate hikes, lifetime payout maximums, or being barred from buying insurance due to a pre-existing condition if you change your job. This is good for people

The Morning Grumpy – 5/8/12

8 May

All the news, views, and filtered excellence that’s fit to consume during your morning grumpy.

Credit - Sarah Emerson @Society6

1. If you think there will be bank operations in the HSBC Tower in downtown Buffalo in 2014, I’ve got a new Peace Bridge to sell you. HSBC is slowly selling off operations and business units and there isn’t much left to keep them in Buffalo at this point. This is a big deal and the incremental reporting on these sell-offs seems to be tamping down the regional concern.

It looks like the mortgage service center in Depew will soon be closed.

The 172,630-square-foot building at Walden Avenue and Dick Road, which HSBC leases, has a total of about 1,000 employees, but about 320 of them work for other parts of the bank, supporting commercial and other lines of business that are not connected with the mortgage unit. Brazil said the bank does “intend to remain in that building for the time being,” but he wouldn’t say how long that may be or how long the lease is for.

As HSBC sells off business units, sheds employees, and relocates teams to various locations around the country, we’re quickly approaching a day when Buffalo’s largest office building will be nearly empty, possibly within two years. The giant suckhole you hear forming is the coming collapse of the downtown commercial real estate market accompanied by the massive hit to regional morale when the tallest building in the city goes dark.

Is anyone working on a plan? I’d tell you what the Mayor is doing about it, but I haven’t received a callback from anyone working in the administration for nearly 10 months. I’m sure he’s busy figuring out how to fuck up the outer harbor.

Is the council doing anything?  They’re still bickering over which kickboxer or turtle enthusiast will replace Mickey Kearns in the South District.

So, no.

2. The 1% are delusional.

Some unknown but alarming number of ultra-rich Americans are now basically totally delusional and completely divorced from reality. This is now an inescapable fact, confirmed by multiple media accounts of billionaire thought and an entire special issue of the New York Times Magazine.

Here’s a brief list of insane things that are apparently common knowledge among the billionaire class:

  • That President Obama and the Democratic Party have treated wealthy finance industry titans maliciously and unfairly.
  • That the fact that they are perversely wealthy and growing richer during a period of mass unemployment and staggering debt is a sign that the economy is functioning correctly.
  • That poor people, and not the finance industry, are responsible for the financial crisis and subsequent recession.
  • That the ultra-wealthy are wealthy because they are smarter and work harder than everybody else, and that they are resented for their success.
  • That the ultra-wealthy in general, and finance industry executives in particular, are the victims of widespread prejudice akin to that faced by ethnic minorities.

The most fascinating thing to me is that they are able to convince a sizable chunk of Republican America that these things are true.

3. Stephen King is filthy rich and he wants to be taxed more…damn it!

Mitt Romney has said, in effect, “I’m rich and I don’t apologize for it.” Nobody wants you to, Mitt. What some of us want — those who aren’t blinded by a lot of bullshit persiflage thrown up to mask the idea that rich folks want to keep their damn money — is for you to acknowledge that you couldn’t have made it in America without America. That you were fortunate enough to be born in a country where upward mobility is possible (a subject upon which Barack Obama can speak with the authority of experience), but where the channels making such upward mobility possible are being increasingly clogged. That it’s not fair to ask the middle class to assume a disproportionate amount of the tax burden. Not fair? It’s un-fucking-American is what it is.

I don’t want you to apologize for being rich; I want you to acknowledge that in America, we all should have to pay our fair share. That our civics classes never taught us that being American means that — sorry, kiddies-you’re on your own. That those who have received much must be obligated to pay — not to give, not to “cut a check and shut up,” in Governor Christie’s words, but to pay — in the same proportion. That’s called stepping up and not whining about it. That’s called patriotism, a word the Tea Partiers love to throw around as long as it doesn’t cost their beloved rich folks any money.

Wow.

4. The House GOP introduces a budget to fix America. Holy shit, this thing is a doozy. The “Sequester Replacement Act” authored by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan slashes social programs while increasing defense spending. Do the Republicans know it’s an election year?

Fully one-fourth of the House GOP spending cuts come from programs directly benefiting the poor, such as Medicaid, food stamps, the Social Services Block Grant, and a child tax credit claimed by working immigrants. Federal workers would have to contribute an additional 5 percent of their salaries toward their pensions, while people whose incomes rise after receiving coverage subsidies under the new health care law would lose some or all of their benefits.

The budget-cutting drive is designed to head off a looming 10 percent, $55-billion budget cut set to strike the Pentagon on Jan. 1 because of the failure of last year’s deficit “supercommittee” to strike a deal. The Obama administration and lawmakers in both parties warn the reductions would harm readiness and weapons procurement, and reduce troop levels.

The House Appropriations Committee bill released Monday includes $519.2 billion for the fiscal 2013 base budget and $88.5 billion for Afghanistan and other counterterrorism activities. That’s $1.1 billion more than the current level and $3.1 billion more than Mr. Obama requested.

To recap, the Republicans drove the American economy to the brink of global collapse last summer during the debt ceiling negotiations, agreed to the Super-committee idea, submarined that effort, and now wish to take away Grandma’s Meals on Wheels program to fund Israeli missile programs and high altitude unmanned aerial vehicles?  The GOP plan would cut food stamps for 2 million people and reduce the same benefits for 44 million others. Nearly 300,000 school children would lose free school meals and hundreds of thousands could lose their Medicaid or CHIP coverage. GOP 2012! 

5. The media is bored with the #Occupy movement, which means we’ll be hearing a lot less about income inequality, the gender wage gap, corporate greed, corruption, and other inconvenient truths.

As a new report indicates, Occupy has been central to driving media stories about income inequality in America. Late last week, Radio Dispatch’s John Knefel compiled a report for media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), which illustrates Occupy’s success: Media focus on the movement in the past half year, according to the report, has been almost directly proportional to the attention paid to income inequality and corporate greed by mainstream outlets. During peak media coverage of the movement last October, mentions of the term “income inequality” increased “fourfold.”

The movement helped set the tone for President Obama’s renewed focus on these issues as the re-election campaign ramped up and helped him demonstrate a semblance of a backbone when dealing with Republicans these last few months. However…ta

As mentions of “Occupy Wall Street” or “Occupy movement” waned in early 2012, so too have mentions of “income inequality” and, to an even greater extent, “corporate greed.” The trend is true for four leading papers (New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Los Angeles Times), news programs on the major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC), cable (MSNBC, CNN, Fox News) and NPR, according to searches of the Nexis news media database. Google Trends data also indicates that from January to March, the phrases “income inequality” and “corporate greed” declined in volume of both news stories and searches.

The national media tells most of America what to be concerned with at any point in time. Once they pull the plug on the attention or outrage machine…*POOF* we no longer give a collective shit. Looking for followup stories on the BP Oil Spill? The Haiti earthquake? Japanese tsunami? Etc.? You’ll have to wait for the anniversary of the event for a quick look on the nightly news and maybe, if we’re lucky, an overwrought and emotional human interest piece on one of the morning shows.

Fact Of The Day: Scientologists warn that reading the Xenu story without proper authorization could cause pneumonia.

Quote Of The Day: “You get what you get and you don’t get upset” – My 3 Year Old Daughter, Josie

Video Of The Day: “Islam, the Quran, and the Five Pillars All Without a Flamewar: Crash Course World History #13” – Crash Course, A brilliant YouTube channel

Laugh Of The Day: “Muffins” – Bill Burr

Song Of The Day: “Cool Jerk” – The Capitols

Follow me on Twitter for the “incremental grumpy” @ChrisSmithAV

Email me links, tips, story ideas: chris@artvoice.com