What real tax reform would look like

You’ve seen the Republican plan.  And it’s just what we knew would come out of the party of Trump:  massive tax cuts for the rich, tax increases for everyone else.  This is not new.  Here’s Paul Krugman describing the Republicans’ ideas in 2011.

[W]hen the GOP claimed that deficits don’t matter, it called for privatizing major social insurance programs while cutting taxes on the rich, and now that it claims to be deeply concerned about deficits, it calls for privatizing major social insurance programs while cutting taxes on the rich.

What would a really progressive tax plan look like, something that could properly be described as reform?  It would have to actively reverse not just income inequality, but wealth inequality.  It would have to address the fact that the recent depression wiped out a generation of wealth accumulation by Latinos and blacks.

  • The estate tax should be increased, not eliminated.
  • The federal income tax should be steeply progressive, that is, those with higher incomes should pay more than they do now.  The top rate should be north of 50%.
  • The payroll tax should be eliminated.  It’s a regressive tax that hits working people hardest.  If you want to know who is serious about cutting taxes on working people, see if they’re making a lot of noise about cutting income taxes, which the working poor don’t pay, or the payroll tax, which the working poor do pay.  The Social Security trust fund should be funded by the income tax.
  • Regressive state and local taxes should be outlawed.  I’m looking at you, sales taxes.  The difference should be made up from income taxes.
  • A wealth tax on the largest fortunes should be levied annually.  A few percent off a vast fortune, is still a vast fortune.  Trump proposed this in 1999, so let’s pretend he was serious and make it happen.

This should be the minimum set of demands by Democrats, and if Democratic candidates won’t support it, let’s get some better Democratic candidates for 2018.

What do you think?  Register on this blog and let’s discuss it.

Steve King is a liar

Remember when Steve King thought deficit spending was a bad thing?

KING HOLDS FIRM TO REDUCE DEFICIT

King: We Should Require Congress to be Fiscally Responsible Every Day

Washington, D.C.— U.S. Congressman Steve King (IA-05) today called on his colleagues to hold themselves accountable to taxpayers and agree to a plan to reduce the federal deficit by voting for the Conference Report on H.R. 4241, the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005….

“Americans expect their representatives to be fiscally responsible, but it doesn’t always happen,” said King. “It shouldn’t be the first time in eight years we’re requiring Congress to look for and eliminate abuse, waste and fraud in government programs, we should require it every day. The Deficit Reduction Act is a big step toward making government accountable to the taxpayers and reducing the federal deficit.”

Today, not so much.  House Republicans have finally unveiled their tax-cut-for-the-rich proposal, which they admit will balloon the federal deficit by more than $1.5 trillion.  You don’t see any Republican deficit hawks now.  Because their deficit hawkery was always a fraud.  Republicans were all about reducing the deficit when Democrats were in power, but now that Republicans are running the government, lo! behold!  Deficits turn out to be unimportant.  When they are finally turned out of office, they will suddenly remember again that the deficit is the most critical problem facing the country and will tell you this is why we must cut social spending.

 

Lies about tax “reform”

We hear a lot that Republicans are at odds with each other.  There is one thing that unites them all:  tax cuts for the rich.  The Party of Trump is quite clear on that.  They would like to pay less, and they would like working people to pay more.  Naturally, this requires lying.  Paul Krugman has helpfully compiled a list of ten lies that Republicans keep repeating.  You should read the whole piece.  One of the collection of whoppers is the persistent and absurd claim that the inheritance tax somehow hurts working people and farmers:

Tales of struggling family farms disbanded because they can’t afford the taxes when the patriarch dies have flourished for decades, despite the absence of any examples. I don’t mean examples are rare: I mean that advocates of estate tax repeal haven’t been able to come up with a single example at least since the late 1970s, when exemption levels were raised to the equivalent of around $2 million in today’s dollars.

Lately Trump has added a new twist, portraying the estate tax as a terrible burden on hard-working truckers. For who among us doesn’t own an $11 million fleet of trucks?

 

No, the Republican Party does not think this is the time for a discussion about gun control. Why do you ask?

Unless you get every bit of your news from this blog, you’ve already heard about the mass shooting in Las Vegas.  The usual ritualized responses are being made again, with Republican after Republican insisting again that nothing can be done.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters it was premature to discuss legislative responses, “if there are any,” while House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said the focus should be on mental health.

Instead of quoting these do-nothings, let’s review what has already happened in countries that are governed by people who aren’t against government.

On April 28, 1996, a gunman opened fire on tourists in a seaside resort in Port Arthur, Tasmania. By the time he was finished, he had killed 35 people and wounded 23 more. It was the worst mass murder in Australia’s history.

Twelve days later, Australia’s government did something remarkable. Led by newly elected conservative Prime Minister John Howard, it announced a bipartisan deal with state and local governments to enact sweeping gun-control measures. A decade and a half hence, the results of these policy changes are clear: They worked really, really well.

That quote is old.  Is has been 21 years since the Port Arthur massacre.  There have been no mass shootings in Australia in that time.  They went from 11 mass shootings in the decade before 1996, to none in two decades.  By contrast, in 2015 the United states averaged a mass shooting per day.

At the heart of the push was a massive buyback of more than 600,000 semi-automatic shotguns and rifles, or about one-fifth of all firearms in circulation in Australia. The country’s new gun laws prohibited private sales, required that all weapons be individually registered to their owners, and required that gun buyers present a “genuine reason” for needing each weapon at the time of the purchase. (Self-defense did not count.) In the wake of the tragedy, polls showed public support for these measures at upwards of 90 percent.

The NRA would have you believe that when citizens are unarmed, they are defenseless, and that violent criminals with guns will have their way with them.  It didn’t happen.  Homicides by firearm in Australia plunged 59 percent between 1995 and 2006.  The NRA would have you believe that gun control can’t work, because when criminals can’t get guns, they will use other weapons.  It didn’t happen:  there was no increase in non-firearm-related homicides during that period.  Home invasions didn’t increase either.

When someone tells you gun control can’t work, throw Australia in their faces.

Racist pardons another racist

The President has pardoned Joe Arpaio.  Arpaio has been found guilty of criminal contempt of court, and faced up to six months in prison, for willfully violating a court order instructing him not to detain immigrants who were not suspected of any crime.  He wasn’t sorry.

The message to racist public officials could not be more clear:  it’s open season.  If you’re on the wrong side of a racist vigilante sheriff, having the law on your side is no protection at all; you have been warned.

Perhaps there’s another audience for this message as well.  Now we know—if we had any doubts—that Trump will use his pardon power to reward personal loyalty to Trump.  If you’re being questioned in the Russia investigation, don’t worry about being charged with obstruction of justice or perjury.  The rule of law is suspended until further notice.

Update:  Joe Arpaio’s history of official abuse is not short.  False arrests of reporters, inmate deaths, rapes unprosecuted, a federal judge investigated.  This is what Trump considers worthy of a pardon.

The Republican Party can’t wash off the stink

It doesn’t matter that several Republican elected officials are now saying mean things about Trump.  It doesn’t matter that Bannon is out.  It doesn’t matter whether a resolution of censure passes Congress.  It doesn’t even matter whether Republicans in the House vote with Democrats to impeach this President and Republicans in the Senate vote to convict.  There’s nothing the Republican Party can do to escape the moral stain of having been the party of fascism.

Trump remains far from isolated.  While some publicity-sensitive corporate CEOs have abandoned Trump’s advisory councils, his Jewish advisors won’t publicly criticize his support for Nazis.  Indeed, no White House officials have resigned in the wake of Trump’s indefensible behavior.  His evangelical Christian advisory council has stood with him, to the lasting shame of the evangelical Christians who helped elect him.  None of the critical comments from Republican members of Congress have been followed by “and I will no longer approve his judicial nominees nor back his legislative program.”

When the rewriting of the history of this era gets underway in earnest, remember: even if Trump is eventually discarded by the Republican Party, it was the Republican Party who created him, backed him, elected him, enabled him.  There are plenty of Republicans waiting in the wings who are just as racist as Trump, just as misogynist as Trump, just as eager to cut taxes on the rich as Trump, just as willing to make Christianity the state religion, just as willing to start another war, just as willing to protect corporations and unleash brutal cops and intimidate the press and promote lynching.  Fixing Trump is not fixing the fact that one of the major political parties in the U.S. is now fascist, and permanently discredited.

Now he’s openly defending Nazis

Trump gave a half-hearted denunciation of racist, swastika-wearing, Nazi-saluting white supremacists on Monday, days after one of them murdered an anti-racist protester in Charlottesville.  And if you think “half-hearted” is unfair, look at what he said today.

In a long, combative exchange with reporters at Trump Tower, the president repeatedly rejected a torrent of bipartisan criticism for waiting several days before naming the right-wing groups and placing blame on “many sides” for the violence that ended with the death of a young woman after a car crashed into a crowd.

Mr. Trump repeated that assertion on Tuesday, criticizing “alt-left” groups that he claimed were “very, very violent” when they sought to confront the nationalist and Nazi groups that had gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee from a park. He said there is “blame on both sides.”

Sounding very much like a right-wing Twitter feed, the president added, “Many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. This week, it is Robert E. Lee and this week, Stonewall Jackson. Is it George Washington next? You have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”

Trump went on to defend the tiki-torch-wielding racists who gathered on Friday night, before saying, in reference to the racist activists, “Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch.” …

He actually argued that there were “very fine people on both sides” and that he believes “there’s blame on both sides.”

If that sounds like a message white supremacists will be thrilled to hear, we don’t need to speculate: David Duke has already thanked Trump for this afternoon’s comments.

Where does it stop, indeed?

Donald Trump will not condemn the terrorist attacks on anti-Nazi protestors

No surprise there.

Donald Trump has canceled all press events today. Yesterday, he ran from reporters who asked him to call terrorism “terrorism.” Donald Trump, the “alpha” whose campaign dared Democrats to condemn “radical Islamic terrorism,” who finds it easy to condemn department stores and TV networks and Hollywood actresses in intemperate language, that man cannot find it in himself to risk the ire of his base by calling white supremacist terror “white supremacist terror.”

Donald Trump’s cowardice has made the Republican Party into the murderers’ party, the lynchers’ party, the party that stands idly by while their supporters murder anti-racists. The party that is, just maybe, a little happy to see it happen.

Racists rally in Charlottesville VA

Racists with torches giving Nazi salute
We’re not making up this fascism stuff.

The largest hate gathering in decades is going on now in Virginia.  White supremacists of all stripes, including the KKK and Nazis, are marching openly and proudly, chanting racist slogans like “White lives matter” and “Jews will not replace us.”  One counter-demonstrator has been murdered and nineteen injured by a man who deliberately drove his car into a crowd.

The President of the United States has condemned…both sides.  He is not in the habit of condemning violence, of course, inciting it is more his style.  Now that the logical consequences are here, he suddenly doesn’t want the credit.