Republicans: the party of the rich, privileged, and obstructionist

As we know, President Obama, with the support of most Democrats in Congress, has proposed extending the Bush-era tax cuts to all but wealthy taxpayers.  The cutoff was at $200,000 yearly income for individuals ($250,000 for couples), meant to give tax relief to lower and middle-class (and, I suppose upper-middle-class) Americans as part of the stimulus relief package.

Republicans oppose this: they want everyone, even billionaires, to keep their breaks.

As The New York Times reports, Obama’s plan has failed in the Senate: the vote was 53-36 in favor of the Obama bill, seven votes short of the 60 it needed to advance.  The bill had already been approved in the House.

Democrats, including Mr. Obama, had long questioned the economic basis for lower tax rates on the wealthiest Americans, particularly at a time of deep concern over the nation’s rising debt. White House officials said the revenue lost to tax cuts for the rich would be better spent on tax breaks for the middle class and businesses to help spur growth.

Republicans insisted that allowing the tax rates to expire for the top two income brackets would amount to a big tax increase on small businesses, which generate many of the nation’s jobs — an assertion many economic and tax analysts say is largely baseless.

The assertion is based on the number of taxpayers who report nonwage income on their tax returns, but most such income does not come from what are generally regarded as small businesses.

(Note: it would be nice to have this kind of fact-checking in science journalism!)

Republicans just have to have their tax breaks for the rich, despite any evidence that extending the previous cuts for to the wealthiest would have any salutary effect on poorer Americans or the economy as a whole. They just want the wealthy to be able to keep forever what they got before.

It’s worse:

The drubbing Democrats took in the elections, as Republicans won a majority in the House and picked up six seats in the Senate, further undermined the Democrats’ negotiating position. Republicans have since viewed an extension of the lower income tax rates as a foregone conclusion.

To speed up what they viewed as the Democrats’ inevitable capitulation, Senate Republicans said they would block virtually all legislative business on the Senate floor until the tax debate was resolved and a temporary spending measure had been adopted to finance the government.

Yes, by all means, let’s just shut down the  whole goddamned government until Obama and the Democrats give in on this totally symbolic issue. Really responsible governance. (Republicans, of course, have proposed no viable solutions for our economic difficulties).

This is only the beginning of the political hell we’re going to have for at least the next two years.

107 Comments

  1. Posted December 4, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Actually, Obama proposed tax cuts for everyone. Millionaires would get a tax break, but only on their first $200,000 of income (the tax code is progressive within, as well as among, incomes). But even this does not satisfy 36 members of the Senate (which is enough to prevent passage).

    • physicalist
      Posted December 4, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      Exactly. It’s important that this be phrased correctly. EVERYONE gets a tax cut. It’s just a question of whether rich people get a cut an ALL of their income, or just on first quarter million.

  2. GregFromCos
    Posted December 4, 2010 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    I sure hope Obama finds his veto pen soon. A veto if they end up passing for all would be a quick way to cut the deficit some, as well as give them some money to offer more stimulus that might help and business stimulus. Although a revamping of the corporate tax rate would be much more helpful.

    • Sili
      Posted December 4, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

      And how do you think that’ll be spun?

      The veto’ll hit the low income as well. That was the whole point in making sure that a vote was made now to show the Republans voting against tax cuts for the poor.

      • GregFromCos
        Posted December 4, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

        Of course it will be spun that way. And if the Dems cave, the spin will turn out to have been right. But if you leave it where it stands now and tell the Republicans, “When you are ready to vote for an extension of the tax cuts for the middle class and lower upper class, let us know.” Then in the mean time bring up another bill that would provide some stimulus to the businesses that the Republicans keep saying this bill would hurt. Small businesses that hire that would be affected by the 250k limit. The reality is that is a very limited number, so even allow this stimulus to also work for the smaller businesses.

        They have to start pushing and promoting business changes that can help. Just continuing to encourage more bubbles in the stock market at home and abroad is the worst thing we can be doing. The democrats have to make the cases for responsible fiscal policy that encourages jobs and discourages bubbles.

      • truthspeaker
        Posted December 6, 2010 at 8:52 am | Permalink

        “And how do you think that’ll be spun?”

        Worrying about that is what has made the Democrats completely ineffective.

        WHATEVER they Democrats do, it will be spun as raising taxes and spending lots of money. It doesn’t matter what they do, that’s how it will be spun. So stop worrying about how it will be spun.

  3. Don
    Posted December 4, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    On this subject, if you have not seen it already, Sen. Bernie Sanders’s recent speech on the floor of the Senate is worth watching.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted December 4, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

      Terrific and hard-hitting speech. Of course, nobody not already in the choir will pay any attention.

    • Diane G.
      Posted December 4, 2010 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

      Wow. Sanders for President!

      Thank you for posting this, Don. I’m doing my bit to pass it on.

    • Aqua Buddha
      Posted December 4, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

      Fantastic speech! Those statistics are mind-boggling.

      The Republicans oughta come out of the closet about their politics. They should announce that they are actually rabid Marxists intent on fighting a class war at all costs (though in the reverse direction).

  4. Posted December 4, 2010 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Why be so negative? Somalia hasn’t had a functioning government in years, either, and they are doing fine.

    I used to take comfort from watching US politics from the UK, but with the last election here we’re in a similar, completely stupid situation.

    • Posted December 4, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

      Yowch! Good one.

    • James C. Trager
      Posted December 5, 2010 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

      They’re doing fine?!?!?!
      In which Universe is the Somalia of which you write?

      • Diane G.
        Posted December 6, 2010 at 1:47 am | Permalink

        Think “sarcasm.” 🙂

  5. Penman
    Posted December 4, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Everyone is getting this wrong:

    The Democrats’ bill would keep tax cuts for EVERYBODY.

    EVERYBODY.

    EVERYBODY in America would keep their Bush tax cut.

    Up to $250,000.

    Republicans want to give a BONUS TAX CUT for income OVER $250,000.

    Those that make over $250,000, under the Dems’ bill, maintain the tax cut on their first $250K of income.

    Just wanted to make that clear.

    SINCE THE DEMOCRATS AND MEDIA COULDN’T.

  6. Sigmund
    Posted December 4, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Well if either of you want a swap then my birthland, Ireland, might be willing to offer its current government.

  7. Cents
    Posted December 4, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    We up here in the great white north, look at what is happening in our neighbours to the south and just shake our heads. A once great nation being bankrupted by greed. Sanders sure told it like it is. The question is what to do about it? Obama may not be delivering everything that was wanted, but look at your alternative. Nobody wants to pay taxes, but without them, you have no infrastructure or social programs. Look what is going on in countries in Europe that have overextended themselves.
    With the last US election the pendulum has swung to the right for now, but with the obstructionist Republican House, there maybe time for a change again (not to mention the hope that Palin wins the Republican battle and therefore the Republicans lose the Presidential War).
    America has always had a way to fight back when it is down, I hope it can do it again.

    • MadScientist
      Posted December 4, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

      With any luck, at the next Federal elections people will have enough sense to dump the morons from the Retardican party. Sure they won’t be the same morons they just elected this year, but they’re every bit as bad. It will be really pathetic if people voted for any GOP candidates at all at the next election after they have made it very clear who their masters are and that they will happily cripple the American government to ensure that their masters get what they paid for.

      • Diane G.
        Posted December 5, 2010 at 4:20 am | Permalink

        What on earth gives you the idea that the American electorate is ever going to have any sense, let alone enough sense?

    • Posted December 5, 2010 at 10:47 am | Permalink

      I used to be convinced that Palin had no chance as a presidential candidate. I’m no longer convinced of that – not because she has any merit of her own, but because Obama appears to be doing everything in his power to drain the morale and commitment of his supporters. The Republicans could win the next presidential election just by virtue of showing up, the same way as they did during the midterms.

  8. daveau
    Posted December 4, 2010 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    What’s a “taxpapesr”? Still not 100% are you?

    And yet, none of the people that I know who voted Republican* see anything wrong with them virtually shutting down the govt. First thing Mark Kirk did was join in with this, and he was supposedly on the moderate side.

    *Admittedly few.

  9. Miles McCullough
    Posted December 4, 2010 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    “Obama’s plan has failed in the Senate: the vote was 53-36 in favor of the Obama bill, seven votes short of the 60 it needed to advance.”

    Democrats need to challenge the filibuster and show some backbone. I feel like our only choice these days is between a know-nothing party and a do-nothing party.

    • Don
      Posted December 4, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

      Right. The Repubs want to filibuster? OK, make ’em filibuster. That would be grotesquely entertaining. And shaming.

      • Diane G.
        Posted December 4, 2010 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

        Thirded.

      • Sili
        Posted December 4, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

        They are. Watch Maddow from the other night.

        Grandstanding is not, and has never been a part of filibustering. It’s nothing but show for the rubes. A filibuster is nothing more than raising an official objection to the proceedings of the Senate.

        Then everyone can go home and do nothing.

        • David
          Posted December 4, 2010 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

          I’m pretty sure this is a relatively new thing isn’t it? I seem to have vague recollections of filibusters actually requiring the person to keep talking the entire time. I’m not sure on this though.

          • Diane G.
            Posted December 4, 2010 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

            Sure. It involved catheters, and reading phone books, right?

            • Tim Harris
              Posted December 4, 2010 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

              Did they put the catheters in their mouths?

            • Hempenstein
              Posted December 4, 2010 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

              They were called “motorman’s friends”. A variety of new euphemisms seem to have sprung up. Surprisingly, it’s not easy to find an image/diagram:

              http://biorelief.com/stadium-pal-kit-473.html

            • Diane G.
              Posted December 5, 2010 at 4:55 am | Permalink

              @ Tim–LOL!

              @ Hempenstein–Thanks for the link–I think. “Stadium Pal.” [rolls eyes]

              All kidding aside, the change in filibuster procedure is a really big reason why we have so friggin’ much gridlock these days, and why a relatively small gain by one party or another can seem like a ‘landslide.’ When a real filibuster was required, politicians were forced to consider the repercussions, and generally reserved the tactic for only extremely contentious issues. Now that it’s a pro-forma, no-effort sort of formality, it happens all the time, and the upshot is that basically any proposal can require 60 senatorial votes to pass. Sure, both parties can (and do) play the game, but the result is disgusting. And one reason the current administration is so hamstrung.

          • Don
            Posted December 4, 2010 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

            You’re right. A filibuster stands in the way of cloture, or the agreement necessary to bring a measure to a vote.

            http://uspolitics.about.com/od/usgovernment/a/filibuster.htm

            • David
              Posted December 5, 2010 at 9:33 am | Permalink

              So they did at one time have to stand up there talking the whole time right? I was sure. I remembered that from when i was in high school. There was a big deal about someone filibustering something for 60 hours.

            • Diane G.
              Posted December 6, 2010 at 12:59 am | Permalink

              @ David:

              Dude, Google is your friend. 🙂

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filibuster_in_the_U.S._Senate

              In 1953, Senator Wayne Morse set a record by filibustering for 22 hours and 26 minutes while protesting the Tidelands Oil legislation. Senator Strom Thurmond broke this record in 1957 by filibustering the Civil Rights Act of 1957 for 24 hours and 18 minutes,[8] although the bill ultimately passed. In 1959, the Senate restored the cloture threshold to two-thirds of those voting.
              One of the most notable filibusters of the 1960s occurred when southern Democratic Senators attempted, unsuccessfully, to block the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by making a filibuster that lasted for 75 hours, which included a 14 hour and 13 minute address by Senator Robert Byrd. The filibuster ended when the Senate invoked cloture for only the second time since 1927.[9]

  10. Posted December 4, 2010 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    The idea of a bonus tax cut for Lloyd Blankfein is causing my jaw-joint condyles to become excessively inflamed.

  11. Helen Wise
    Posted December 4, 2010 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    I can live with this, maybe, if it’s political hell we get for the next two years. The likelihood, however, that it’s limited to only two years approaches zero.

    And really, even if Obama is re-elected, and given his obsession with appeasing Republicans, how would we tell the difference?

    • Don
      Posted December 4, 2010 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

      In three years, when we’re looking at President Barbour or President Romney, the differences will be more than skin deep.

      • Helen Wise
        Posted December 4, 2010 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

        Ha, ha. We should be so lucky as to get President Romney. What we’re going to get is President Palin, which if I think about much longer, Imma start chewing my hair.

        • Don
          Posted December 4, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

          I think Palin will surely be out-maneuvered by the Big Boys and their corporate supporters. If, nonetheless, she does well in the primaries and mounts a third-party challenge, then Obama may stand a decent chance.

          • Diane G.
            Posted December 4, 2010 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

            Heck, I think she’s as open to being bought as any of them. If you (corporate interests) seek a puppet, how much better could you do?

            • Don
              Posted December 4, 2010 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

              I agree, Diane, but I think the corporate interests must recognize that she’s not smart enough to be altogether trustworthy. Her populism is too scarily genuine for the Koch brothers and their ilk.

            • Diane G.
              Posted December 5, 2010 at 4:10 am | Permalink

              Hmmm. That’s why we got an Einstein like Bush, eh? 😀

              (I hope you’re right!)

  12. Neil
    Posted December 4, 2010 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    Oh no. Don’t make this a political rant blog. There are more than enough of those already. Lets get back to more important things, including kittens.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted December 4, 2010 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      You should know two things:

      It’s not a political rant website, but I occasionally say something about politics when the mood strikes me.

      It’s not polite to tell someone how to run his website! Better just to go elsewhere if you don’t like the mix.

      • daveau
        Posted December 4, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

        Smackdown!

      • Neil
        Posted December 4, 2010 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

        kthxbye

        • Utakata
          Posted December 4, 2010 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

          …and while you’re at it Neil, L2troll. /sigh

      • Helen Wise
        Posted December 4, 2010 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

        Nicely put.

  13. Diane G.
    Posted December 4, 2010 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    We are all pawns, buying into the illusion that we have anything to say about government. You can’t fight those who can buy anything they want, including, esp., elections.

    Along similar lines, I hope everyone read Krugman and Friedman recently.

    • Achrachno
      Posted December 4, 2010 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

      Thanks. I hadn’t, but have now. I don’t often bother with Friedman anymore, but this was good. Krugman was perfect, as expected.

      I wonder if anyone with power to change the dynamic will read these columns. Even if Kyl does, I’d bet big money he won’t acknowledge the damage he’s doing to the whole nation. I don’t know what to make of Obama. I’m really disappointed. I wish someone would read Krugman as part of his daily briefing.

      We can’t really afford to lose 2 years on any of several fronts, but we’re losing them anyway. I fear we’ll soon be sliding into depression due to stupid economic policies. I hardly want to think about environmental issues now.

      • Diane G.
        Posted December 4, 2010 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

        Oh, I absolutely agree about Friedman…I almost didn’t read that column, but am glad I did after all.

        It’s hard to believe Obama wouldn’t be kept abreast of the sentiments expressed by some of the country’s most respected pundits. To hear Krugman saying “[w]hatever is going on inside the White House, from the outside it looks like moral collapse”–well, one would hope it would hit him (Obama) like a punch in the gut.

        Or so I once would have thought…

    • Posted December 4, 2010 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for the link–just read the Friedman piece.

      “They don’t seem to understand that you can’t declare yourself “exceptional,” only others can bestow that adjective upon you.”

      Ouch–good one, Friedman.

      • Diane G.
        Posted December 5, 2010 at 4:33 am | Permalink

        What, if anything, do the Japanese MSM say about US politics? And is that an easy or a tough place to be an American abroad? (Feel free to point me to a post at your blog; speaking of which, your rain entry is pure poetry. 🙂 )

  14. BaldApe
    Posted December 4, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    an assertion many economic and tax analysts say is largely baseless.

    Why, oh why can’t they just say “This is a goddamn lie.”

    What I wish would happen is that either they will do nothing, in which case the whole tax cut expires, or whatever they do is so grossly unacceptable to Obama that he vetoes it, in which case the Dubya tax cuts expire.

    Trouble is, that requires Obama to either realize that the Freshwater economists with whom he has surrounded himself are full of it, or that he grow a spine.

    Oh well.

  15. Posted December 4, 2010 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    “Republicans oppose this: they want everyone, even billionaires, to keep their breaks.”

    Their philosophy is “why punish people just because they’re successful?”

    Please don’t hate me just because I’m not a looney liberal, but I agree with the Republicans on this one. Wealthy folks may or may not own small businesses that hire people, but they do spend a lot of their money, and every time they do that they help create jobs. With our unemployment rate getting worse instead of better, why not let successful people keep their wealth, which by the way in many cases is thanks to their hard work, instead of giving it to our government which is currently wasting billions on two never ending religious wars.

    I rarely vote for Republicans because they are interested in destroying the environment and destroying science education, and they want to make America a Christian theocracy, but they seem to have a better understanding of capitalism than most Democrats.

    • still learning
      Posted December 4, 2010 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

      Why is paying taxes considered “punishment”?

      • MadScientist
        Posted December 5, 2010 at 1:46 am | Permalink

        Taxes are for the poor – that’s why it’s considered punishment. Rich folks shouldn’t have to pay taxes because they create jobs for the po’ folk – just like the plantation owners created jobs for the slaves.

    • Don
      Posted December 4, 2010 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

      Did you watch Senator Sanders’s speech (above)?

      • still learning
        Posted December 4, 2010 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

        If your question is directed to me, no. Major hearing loss.

        • daveau
          Posted December 5, 2010 at 7:00 am | Permalink

          Really, or is that a metaphor? Good to see you.

    • Tim Harris
      Posted December 4, 2010 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

      It is not only (some) wealthy people who work hard. Nor is ‘success’ in your – forgive me for saying this – simplistic terms something that necessarily results if you work hard, or something that is necessarily deserved, as you seem to fondly believe. George W Bush was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. By your criteria he is a successful man; take a sober look at his list of ‘achievements’, though, and what are you left with? How many jobs were created by, and what great benefits to American society and the world resulted from, the greed that brought about the recent economic collapse?What seems to be happening in the States now is the creation of a self-perpetuating oligarchy that is sustained by wealth – the very opposite of a democratic society.

    • MadScientist
      Posted December 5, 2010 at 1:44 am | Permalink

      Well, I guess they’d be creating jobs if they spent the whole day running around buying stuff and just throwing it away – but they don’t do that. The “rich people create jobs, but only if you don’t tax them” is an ancient myth. The same goes for “rich people will create more jobs if you tax them less”. It’s simply not true – they’re not making good use of their hoards at the moment so why should they suddenly put it to good use tomorrow? The government needs to help them spend that money and really create jobs.

    • bad Jim
      Posted December 5, 2010 at 3:29 am | Permalink

      What part of “Please don’t hate me just because I’m not a looney liberal” do you expect anyone to take seriously? Those are fighting words, like any bit of science]is “just a theory”.

      For what it’s worth, I’m a moderately wealthy entrepreneur and a godless liberal, like many people I know.

      In contrast, the current crop of Republican congressmen, like the previous administration, like the minions they dispatched to govern Iraq, evidence a less than perfunctory understanding of economics or business. An income statement ought to be more than a sales pitch.

  16. Filippo
    Posted December 4, 2010 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    A few days ago NPR had an “All Things Considered” segment about “welfare capitalism,” as exemplified by the Endicott Johnson shoe company. I.e., if one pays wages and provides benefits to employees at a level which certain capitalists claim is not warranted by the labor market, that apparently is “welfare” capitalism.

    So, how about “corporate (capitalist) welfare,” where states basically pay bribes in the form of several million dollars worth of tax breaks in exchange for a piddling number of low-paying jobs here and there?

    What duties of patriotism, solidarity and loyalty do Amuricun corporations owe We the People? Do the wealthy and corporate elite consider their “values” of such sublime and high regard, are quisling government officials at all levels so beholden to corporate interests, that those “values” and “interests” justify sending the flower of American youth in harm’s way to be killed or greivously maimed for life?

    It’s too bad a corporation, a so-called “legal person,” is not a flesh-and-blood entity to be called upon to take its turn to similarly go in harm’s way.

    (Also, in the last few years I’ve heard the phrase “social entrepreneurship.” Do I correctly understand that that is capitalists’ attempt to take over government welfare, social services, and other such gov’t activities with an eye toward making a profit administering those services?)

    • MadScientist
      Posted December 5, 2010 at 1:53 am | Permalink

      Re: “social entrepreneurship” – as any Republican can tell you, you will get cheaper and better service if you buy your goods from someone whose sole motive is profit than from someone whose mandate is to provide the service to as many people as possible and not make a profit.

      • Miles McCullough
        Posted December 5, 2010 at 11:33 am | Permalink

        Producers and employers are a lot fewer and have better information than consumers and workers as a result of consolidated corporatism. Such power differentials favor the already powerful more than is necessary to achieve perfect efficiency for the growth of society as a whole much less for a humane distribution of income.

        Without an injection of humanity (democratic welfare) into our inefficient capitalist system we are deserving of the rhetoric of lapdogs eager to please our masters and betters.

  17. Jackson
    Posted December 4, 2010 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    This particular blogpost is a disappointing one-sided caricature of the issues and detracts from the credibility Jerry Coyne has on objective topics like science.

    Obama was questioned on this topic when he was still a candidate for the nomination. It was not a question of whether it was good for the economy, it was framed by Obama in terms of “fairness”.

    The govt will take in less revenue if the taxes are raised.

    • Tim Harris
      Posted December 4, 2010 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

      Please explain the objective criteria which support your assertion that the government will take in less revenue if taxes are raised.

    • bad Jim
      Posted December 5, 2010 at 3:33 am | Permalink

      So, Clinton, who raised taxes, didn’t run a surplus?

    • BaldApe
      Posted December 5, 2010 at 7:28 am | Permalink

      And that kind of delusional thinking, in the service of tax cuts for the rich, is why it’s called “Voodoo economics.”

      When you decrease tax rates, tax revenues fall. The Laffer curve is BS except at the extremes.

      • Diane G.
        Posted December 6, 2010 at 1:05 am | Permalink

        Thank you. That needed to be said. “Voodoo economics” is a phrase that needs to get back into general use…

    • Helen Wise
      Posted December 5, 2010 at 10:15 am | Permalink

      I will not write as good a rebuttal of your post as I would like; I think I have a touch of Dr. Coyne’s floo.

      Dr. Coyne writes on numerous subjects, the overwhelming majority of which have no objective basis whatsoever (boots? cats? food?)

      On occasion, he writes about politics. If the time comes when I disagree with him, I hope to write an intelligent argument that says why, which you have not done.

      Besides stating a thoroughly debunked (see abundant posters, above) claim that raising taxes decreases decreases government revenue–a statement ridiculous on its face–you have been rude to our host.

      This is an intelligent and civil place. The way that you can know that this is true is to observe how many women post here (heh).

      You can help keep it that way by remembering your manners.

      • Jackson
        Posted December 5, 2010 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

        @Helen — thanks for the dressing-down. I’ll try to do a better job next time.

        • Helen Wise
          Posted December 5, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

          That is a poised, elegant response. Thank you.

    • Morgan
      Posted December 5, 2010 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

      Please explain how “the government obliges people to give them more money” = “the government receives less money”. This seems somewhat counter-intuitive.

  18. James Cameron
    Posted December 4, 2010 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    This whole tax cuts for billionaires is just the Republican party paying back their contributors with our money, money that could be better spent getting the economy back on track.

    Jack Balkin at:

    http://balkin.blogspot.com/2010/12/declaring-payroll-tax-holiday.html

    has a post that suggests that the President should let the Bush tax cuts expire and then declare a tax holiday on payroll taxes for 2011 and 2012 or until Congress passes a tax bill to the Presidents liking. Go read the post. I think it has some interesting possibilities. This approach would sure shake up the status quo.

    • BaldApe
      Posted December 5, 2010 at 7:32 am | Permalink

      My own suggestion is to l;et the Bush tax cuts expire, then permanently exempt the firt $10,000 of payroll income from payroll taxes, while removing the ceiling.

      It would stimulate spending by those who spend the highest portion of their income. It would make it easier for business to hire (the break would apply to the employer portion as well).

      But the really beautiful part is, it divorces an actual benefit for small businesses from tax cuts for the rich. If the Democrats had the guts, they could propose this and show for whom the Republicans are actually working.

  19. yesmyliege
    Posted December 5, 2010 at 1:11 am | Permalink

    Human Ape:

    “Wealthy folks may or may not own small businesses that hire people, but they do spend a lot of their money, and every time they do that they help create jobs.”

    Wealthy people don’t make many jobs when they spend their money because there aren’t many wealthy people. Businesses only hire people when there is more demand than they can handle. It is a healthy middle class spending money on goods and services that creates jobs.

    Middle class earnings have been stagnant, despite both parents now working, and despite families going deep into debt, for the past thirty years. Most of the money – which is a finite, not infinite, commodity has been going to the relatively few extremely wealthy families. If our economy was managed correctly these past few decades, there would be a lot of healthy middle class households with much higher incomes spending a lot of money – and that is what would be creating jobs.

    A healthy middle class doesn’t just happen – it has to be sustained by governmental policies. But the Republican party represents robber barons not ordinary families. Every single policy of the Republican party for the last 150 years can be interpreted as a tactic to lower wages. They accomplish this by reducing job security, by outsourcing, by reducing educational opportunities, fighting unions, fighting health care reform, eliminating or reducing pension and Social Security payments and on and on.

    You can pay the lowest wages to workers who are desperate, who have no education, no savings, no social net. Seriously, can you name a single Republican policy of the past 150 years which was aimed at improving the economic prospects of the middle class?

    • MadScientist
      Posted December 5, 2010 at 1:59 am | Permalink

      Let’s see – there was the battle against tax evasion via trust funds (which started out OK but seems to have died), but of course that was pushed by a small number of Republicans and in fact contributed to a split in the party. The Republicans aren’t all bad all the time. Come to think of it, it’s the GOP that reigned in the robber barons. Unfortunately they’ve since been bought out by the same.

  20. Microraptor
    Posted December 5, 2010 at 2:29 am | Permalink

    Republican stance: If we just stick with the trickle-down economic hypothesis long enough, it’s bound to start working sooner or later.

    • Diane G.
      Posted December 5, 2010 at 4:03 am | Permalink

      Or as the comic said, “A rising tide lifts all boats. Now, for those of you without boats…”

    • BaldApe
      Posted December 5, 2010 at 7:34 am | Permalink

      Or even if it doesn’t work, at least everyone will believe it if we say it loud and long enough.

  21. Mattapult
    Posted December 5, 2010 at 4:20 am | Permalink

    It’s probably safe to say, most of you want the rich to pay higher taxes. Here’s what you are missing… Higher tax rates cause the rich to put their money into tax shelters thereby reducing tax revenue to the government. Lower the rate, and the money goes into taxable ventures which produce higher revenue, is generally better for the economy.

    Science-minded folk surely want data. Thomas Sowell has written extensively on tax cuts for the rich. Here is a good artilce: http://jewishworldreview.com/cols/sowell120110.php3 Note the pattern of rates, revenues, and the numbers of ‘the rich’ from 1916 through the next ten years or so. This is only one example of a trend that has repeated many times, despite the rhetoric.

    • BaldApe
      Posted December 5, 2010 at 7:38 am | Permalink

      OK, I’ll concede that marginal tax rates don’t exist in a vacuum.

      So the solution is to address all the tax shelters. When there are legitimate public policy reasons for allowing income to be excluded from taxation, fine. When the purpose if just to enrich the already rich, get rid of it.

      • Mattapult
        Posted December 5, 2010 at 9:25 am | Permalink

        As the article mentions, a lot of the money was in state and local bonds. If they are going to compete with other Investment types, they can either pay more interest, or keep tax exempt status. It’s not really a loophole, but something the government wants. Than people (not implying you) complain about unintended consequences.

        But thank you for conceeding the dynamic nature of tax rates and revenues. It’s an effect poorly understood by some people and hard to explain in a soundbyte.

    • Tom M
      Posted December 5, 2010 at 8:14 am | Permalink

      Um, Sowell could have used examples of today but he didn’t bother to tell you what you ought to know yourself, being all fact centered and all.
      It’s marginal rates that matter not some theoretical exercise. So, here we are today where we are talking about raising the marginal rate from 36% to 39.6%. So, if you make a million a year as a single taxpayer (and ignoring itemized deductions) your incremental tax will be $800,000 x .036 or $28,800.
      Obviously, that’s not chump change, but whatever tax avoidance schemes you previously had in place will help you reduce that bill.
      Sowell pulls the wool over your eyes and you seem okay with that.

      In 1924, the top rate was 46% on income over $500k (equivalent to $6.3 million today) and in 1925, the top rate was 25% over $100k vs. 42% in 1924. Putting that in today’s terms, that $800,000 in income in 1924, meant a tax savings (change in rate from 46% to 25%) of $136,000 vs. our $28,800 today.
      Really? Sowell thinks that is the same thing as is being discussed today? Do you?

      • BaldApe
        Posted December 5, 2010 at 9:07 am | Permalink

        Tom M,

        I knew there was a reason I don’t take Sowell seriously.

        Thanks for that.

      • Mattapult
        Posted December 5, 2010 at 9:52 am | Permalink

        Sowell has written about other examples from other periods of history. That’s just the most recent example. History seems to repeat, both the rhetoric and the results.

        Yeah, if you calculate based on different rates and income levels, different dollar amounts will come out. Of course, larger differences going in produce dramatically different amounts comming out. Are you saying the *effect* is somehow different today?

        From the article. “…those in the highest income brackets paid 30 percent of all taxes in 1920 and 65 percent of all taxes by 1929.” Isn’t that the kind of result Liberals want? Even though history seems to indicate a better approach.

        • BaldApe
          Posted December 5, 2010 at 10:26 am | Permalink

          Careful when a Republican says “All taxes.” They usually mean income taxes but not payroll taxes. When you count payroll taxes, the tax rates tend to be a lot less progressive, or even regressive.

          That’s why I want to see the first $10,000 exempted, and the ceiling eliminated for payroll taxes.

          Make them progressive too; put money in the hands of people who will spend it; make it easier for businesses to hire.

          • Mattapult
            Posted December 5, 2010 at 11:28 am | Permalink

            Re: saying “all taxes”… Yeah, it’s probably either an oversimplification; sloppy use; caveated in the context; or maybe more nefarious intentions. Would have to know the context, but it’s fair to be on the lookout for ambiguous use if the term.

            As for businesses and taxes… Wouldn’t lower payroll taxes make it easier for businesses to hire?

            • BaldApe
              Posted December 5, 2010 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

              As for businesses and taxes… Wouldn’t lower payroll taxes make it easier for businesses to hire?

              Exactly. It would stimulate consumer spending and make it easier for businesses to hire to meet the demand.

              It also puts the Republicans in a position where they have to hurt small businesses to help their real constituency– the ultra-wealthy.

              Now if the Democrats only had a spine….

            • Mattapult
              Posted December 5, 2010 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

              Guess we are out of indent levels…

              I don’t think i’m following your position on payroll taxes. Do you favor progressive taxes, or lower taxes, or some combination of the two? Not trying to be mean, just want a better understanding so we can continue debatting in a civilized manner. (thanks for keeping it civil!)

        • yesmyliege
          Posted December 5, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

          “…those in the highest income brackets paid 30 percent of all taxes in 1920 and 65 percent of all taxes by 1929.” I

          So what? What percentage of the total income/wealth did they account for? If they had 80o% of all the income, but paid only 30%, that’s still outrageous. You never see the republicans tell that side of the equation.

          • Mattapult
            Posted December 5, 2010 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

            I don’t know the percentage, but for the sake of arguement, let’s just say 80%. Would you agree that paying 65% of the total revenues is more fair than paying only 30%? That’s what happened with a lower *rate*.

            Or should they pay 90%, 95%, 99%? What’s fair? Personally, I’ve never heard an answer to that question, other than they should pay “more”.

            • yesmyliege
              Posted December 5, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

              Why is that so hard to answer? Assuming we are talking about an income tax, if they make 80% of the money, they should be paying *at least* 80% of the taxes.

              I also have never heard a good argument why the F.I.C.A. taxes should have a cap on them. The rich should contribute the same as everybody else.

            • Mattapult
              Posted December 6, 2010 at 8:04 am | Permalink

              Yeah, it shouldn’t be hard to answer, but I think the formation of the question is important. We are talking about revenue, so it’s easy to answer.

              What started the debate is tax rates. So let’s go back there again… We agree that those who earn 80% of the income should pay about 80% of income tax revenue. Knowing that tax rates affect behavior, and behavior affects taxable income, why wouldn’t you (in light of historical data) support lower rates, that bring us closer to the preferred collection distribution?

              On a side note, obviously, if tax rates were 0%, then revenue would be 0. But the rates are high enough right now, that decreasing them tends to result in higher revenues. So there must be an optimum point where the government maximizes income, and people get to keep more of what they earn. I say let’s try to find that point.

  22. Jeff D
    Posted December 5, 2010 at 6:03 am | Permalink

    I haven’t read the other comments yet, and I’ve placed a side bet with myself about whether any of the following will look familiar.

    I’m a tax and estate planning lawyer. I make significantly less than $200,000 per year. I have clients who make much less than $100,000 per year, and a few clients (not enough, frankly) who make $500,000 or more in income per year.

    I am a politically non-aligned independent and have closely monitored, with increasing frustration, the political theater and inaction by members of Congress of both parties on the issues of tax reform and fiscal responsibility. The legislative process is broken, and our legislators of both parties — while they may be capable of rational thought and discourse in one-on-one conversation, as human beings — are incapable of anything other than grandstanding, electioneering, and demagoguery when they are in groups of 2 or more.

    On this expiring tax-breaks / tax reform issue (which I have had the misfortune to lecture and write about all year), both Democrats and Republicans have engaged in irresponsible posturing and overreaching and have put political maneuvering ahead of the crafting of sensible policy. I see very little operational difference between Republicans and Democrats in this respect, except that most Republicans are more brazen and up-front about their priorities, and about not even pretending to care about Americans who don’t have considerable wealth and high incomes.

    I don’t trust our members of Congress on either side of the aisle. No good reason to trust them to do anything except to jockey for advantage in the next election, so that they can keep feeding at the public trough while they pretend to serve the public interest.

    • Notagod
      Posted December 5, 2010 at 10:23 am | Permalink

      While I mostly agree with your assessment, there is a difference. Voting for republicans is an endorsement of their tactics, the more elections they win the further in the wrong direction we go. Democratic politicians aren’t good its just that pushing further in the republican direction is disastrous. We seriously need to reform what is going on with the cozy relationship between corporations, christian brainwashing, and government. Voting republican will further entrench that relationship. We only have two choices under our current political environment, the choice is to elect wrong or wronger.

      • Jeff D
        Posted December 5, 2010 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

        Yes, and this is one reason that it has been at least 15 years since I voted for a Republican for a national office. I have never voted for a Republican presidential or V.P. candidate. The near-universality of Republicans’ dismissal of or hostility to science is also a tremendous disappointment.

        I would like to see weak term limits added to the U.S. Constitution: A Senator could not serve more than 3 consecutive 6-year terms before leaving government service for at least X years, and a member of the House could not serve for more than 4 consecutive 2-year terms without sitting out for at least Y years. Something needs to be done to prevent this mostly white, mostly male gang from thinking that they are perpetually entitled to feed at the public trough and to coddle, protect or enrich their friends.

        • Diane G.
          Posted December 6, 2010 at 1:03 am | Permalink

          If we could only adopt preferential voting, third parties might actually stand a snowball’s chance in you-know-where.

  23. GregFromCos
    Posted December 5, 2010 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Here is a great poll from CBS news that came out on Friday that shows that the public absolutely agrees with Obama and not the GOP on this.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20024494-503544.html

  24. Posted December 5, 2010 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    I’d sum up the differences between the two parties follows: The Republicans have broken the government; the Democrats aren’t trying to fix it.

    It’s beyond belief to me that Obama hasn’t taken a harder line against Republican obstructionism – that he hasn’t even made a serious effort to call them out on it. Is there no one in the White House smart enough to figure out that every time they try to “compromise” (i.e., cave in), it just emboldens the Republicans to be more obstructionist and to demand even more ridiculous things in exchange for permitting the government to function?

    • Diane G.
      Posted December 6, 2010 at 1:11 am | Permalink

      Exactly, especially with the rising chorus saying exactly that. What is that definition of insanity again? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?

  25. OttawaAnon
    Posted December 6, 2010 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    Obama is working hard to become on of the worst presidents the US has ever had. Coming after Bush that’s a high bar to reach but his continued inaction about a variety of issues seems to indicate it’s a goal he’s trying hard to achieve

    • BaldApe
      Posted December 7, 2010 at 9:32 am | Permalink

      That’s because he’s actually not compromising. He’s getting what he wanted all along; he’s a Reaganite.

    • Darrell E
      Posted December 8, 2010 at 10:29 am | Permalink

      Considering that the Bush administration presided over the gutting of the US economy, US military, US diplomatic relations and just about every other thing that matters, that is a particularly ridiculous statement.

  26. truthspeaker
    Posted December 6, 2010 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    I say let all the tax cuts expire. My tax cut was less than $200. I’d rather not pay the extra $200, but I can.


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