Posts Tagged ‘taxes’

The GOP Dives Over the Cliff

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

John Boehner ... the face of hapless GOP leadership

By Bob Gaydos

Wow! That was some drop off the fiscal cliff, wasn’t it? What’d we go, the equivalent of 10 feet before congressional Republicans caved and pulled the rip cord for 99-plus percent of Americans? Of course, in the process, they also slit their own wrists, showing themselves to be flaming hypocrites and tragically inept politicians. Many Americans already recognized this, witness the recent elections, but now even conservative commentators are throwing bricks, rotten tomatoes and anything else they can wrap their narrow minds around at the people who led the once Grand Old Party so far astray.

But there’s a problem even with this belated awakening. Whom do you blame? What leaders are we talking about? Even the hapless John Boehner tried to get a compromise bill through his House, to avoid the specter of going over that imaginary cliff into tax hikes and drastic budget cuts at midnight this year. He couldn’t get enough votes in the Republican-controlled House to pass the bill. This is leadership? Boehner gets a C for trying and an F in math. He also flunks Politics 101 (along with most leading Republicans) for allowing the angry, fearful, selfish politics of tea party conservatives to take over a party that once boasted of compassionate conservatism.

I defy anyone to find something compassionate in the GOP agenda today. It is a party well-known for what it opposes — even hates — not what it favors. For example, “big government.” This is stupid on the face of it because a world power like the United States could not have a “small government.’’ And even if you just mean a smaller government, Republican Presidents Reagan, Bush and Bush all presided over an increase in government spending, with help from Republican Congresses.

Tax increases? None. Ever. For anyone. That’s been the GOP mantra for decades, even though Reagan and senior Bush raised them. That ironclad position led the country to the phony fiscal cliff, with President Obama pushing for an increase in taxes for the richest Americans, to help reduce the deficit, while maintaining soon-to-expire George W. Bush-era tax rates for everyone else.

Nope, the GOP had to protect its rich benefactors, with not one of them apparently recognizing that, once over the cliff, Obama would propose the same thing, with it now amounting to a tax break for everyone but the richest Americans, who would get a tax hike, according to the GOP’s own logic. How could they oppose cutting taxes for 99 percent of the country, especially with a fragile economy and having just gotten beaten up in the last election?

Only the most adamant of conservatives in the House voted against this, with Obama winning a victory that Boehner could not manage in his own party. Will Republicans raise taxes ever? Apparently yes.

What else? In direct contradiction with a majority of Americans, Republicans oppose comprehensive immigration reform with a provision for citizenship. (Where’d the Latino vote go, fellas?) They are also homophobic, and some of them unbelievably sexist. They would gut Social Security and Medicare, eliminate loan programs that make it easier for young people to go to college, think health insurance should be some kind of earned privilege (they lost this fight, too), have no use for federal involvement in education (please don’t raise your kids in Texas, Mississippi or West Virginia, folks), never saw a bill giving women a pay raise or control of their own bodies that they didn’t oppose.

They also don’t like to help people in need, voting to defeat a bill extending provisions of a disabilities act to other nations, even with once-revered GOP leader Bob Dole making a pitch for it from a wheel chair. And, of course, they voted down a bill providing aid to New Jersey and New York, devastated by Hurricane Sandy, even though GOP members in those states asked for it. Bitter and selfish come to mind.

But hang on. I just thought of a couple of things the 21st century GOP likes, even loves. Guns. Lots of guns, Any kind, in anyone’s hands. At the school house door, preferably. And rich, old white men, which is primarily what it comprises these days. And that’s now a minority.

And yes, I saved the most obvious for last. Republicans today — the old guard and all the tea partiers — hate Barack Obama. Hate that he’s president … again. They say he should sit down with them, preferably in the White House, and kiss their rings, or whatever, if he wants their votes. But they also shout at him from the floor of Congress during a presidential address and doubt his citizenship, showing no respect for the man or the office.

The president may well sit down with some of these “political leaders,” but don’t think he won’t know what he’s dealing with. He’s half-white and half-black and worked to organize communities in inner-city Chicago. There’s a kind of hatred he’s faced his whole life. Still, he is the most powerful person on the planet today, which suggests the haters are finally losing this fight.

bob@zestoforange.com

 

 

 

Reid’s Tax Attack: Political Genius?

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Sen. Harry Reid: Show us the tax returns.

By Bob Gaydos

I don’t know if Harry Reid is a liar or a political genius. It’s possible he’s both, or neither. Or one or the other.

Whatever the truth, and that’s an elusive commodity in this election campaign, the Senate Majority Leader has managed to do what the Obama reelection team has heretofore not — delivered a verbal broadside to Mitt Romney’s election campaign which actually has the potential to increase in damage the longer it hangs around.

Reid has said publicly, repeatedly, and even on the floor of the U.S. Senate that Romney paid no income taxes for 10 years. Reid says a credible source who would know such things told him. Romney says the charge is false. Other Republicans have called Reid a liar. Reid, and other Democrats, have replied simply, “Show us the tax returns.”

Genius. If I’m lying, you can show the world right now. Harry Reid is a dirty, rotten liar. If I’ve sullied your reputation by implying you evaded taxes even though you’re worth hundreds of millions of dollars (at least), hell, sue me. I repeat: Mitt Romney paid no taxes for 10 years.

The whole tax thing becomes particularly difficult for Romney, of course, because his dad, George Romney, established the precedence for presidential candidates releasing tax returns for several years when he ran for president in 1968. In releasing 12 years of tax returns, the Michigan governor said it was the best way to let Americans know of any potential conflicts of interest their would-be presidents might have as well as providing some insight into their character. Guess he was right.

Thus far, Mitt Romney has released a tax return for one year — 2010 — and an estimate for 2011. He says that’s all he will release. Even that little bit of information has raised red flags about how he feels about paying taxes, investing in America and creating jobs. There’s stuff, for example, about a bank account in Switzerland. This account was apparently closed in 2010, but there’s no way to know if Romney paid taxes on the account in previous years and, if so, how much. And why mess around with Swiss francs anyway if you’re such a proud American?

Another item of curiosity in Romney’s tax return is a $100 million IRA. Now, Americans are by and large OK with people accumulating wealth legitimately, but it is hard to imagine contributing enough within even generous legal yearly limitations to build up a $100 million IRA. How did he do that?

These questions were raised by people with a far better understanding of the tax code than I. They were posed in a Time magazine article by Edward D. Kleinbard, a professor at Gould School of Law at the University of Southern California. and former chief of staff of Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation, and. Peter C. Canellos, a lawyer and former chair of the New York State Bar Association Tax Section.

The two also wonder about the Romneys’ 2010 federal tax rate of 13.9 percent on adjusted gross income of $22 million. That’s lower than the rate for the average American taxpayer earning abut $50,000 a year. Romney apparently used a tax loophole that allowed him, as someone who manages other people’s money, to claim an absurdly low tax rate.

With this attitude towards taxes and no previous returns to help make judgments, how are Americans supposed to know how a President Romney will address the tax code and the general inequity in wealth in America? How are they supposed to take an accurate measure of the man if he won’t reveal how he made his wealth, where it’s invested and why so much of it is in accounts in other countries?

Back to Reid. Some fact-checking web sites have jumped on him for not corroborating his claim with, you know, evidence. Fair enough. I’m very much in favor of corroboration. But the fact-checking web sites have gone so far as to say or suggest that Reid is lying because he has offered no proof. That is a reach too far. No one knows whether Reid is lying, save for Reid and Romney. Reid may be playing dirty politics. Then again, he may not. In either case, Republicans, who have made provably untrue claims about President Obama in their TV ads, have no credibility when it comes to accusing Democrats of making false accusations. Pot, meet kettle.

So what do Republicans do? They can keep calling Reid a liar and he can keep saying, “Just show us the tax returns to prove it.”

Or they can ignore the charge and let the questions linger: Why won’t Romney release his tax returns? Does he have something to hide?

Neither is good for Romney.

I’m no fan of Harry Reid or the politics of rumor, but when Republicans and their mouthpieces at Fox News — acolytes all of Karl Rove — start calling Reid a “hit man” for Obama and the Democrats, I have to confess thinking, what took them so long?

 bob@zestoforange.com

Class Warfare in the Bayou State

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Rep. John Fleming

By Bob Gaydos

Poor John Fleming. He lives in Louisiana, generally regarded as one of the worst — if not the worst — state in which to live, yet he has been specifically targeted by President Obama as someone who should pay more taxes to the federal government. What’s a poor millionaire member of Congress to do?

Apparently what all conservative Republican politicians do today: Go on TV to rip Obama with absurd claims that only further serve to illustrate how far removed the Tea Party and its GOP sycophants are from reality.

Fleming appeared on MSNBC to criticize Obama’s jobs plan, which includes a provision for a higher tax rate for millionaires. That’s a concept that sits well as fair and just with a solid majority of Americans every time it is proposed. But the anti-tax party, which is what the Tea Party really is, will have none of it. When Fleming was asked why he shouldn’t pay more taxes on the $6.3 million he makes each year as a family physician, congressman and owner of several Subway and UPS franchises, he said: “My net income is more like $600,000 of that $6.3 million… By the time I feed my family I have maybe $400,000 left over to invest in new locations, upgrade my locations, buy more equipment.”

OK, you’re trying to figure out how he manages to feed his family on only $200,000 a year, right? And getting by on a mere $400,000 a year after everything is paid for? Every year? Seeing as this was not FOX News, the interviewer challenged him: “You do understand, congressman, that the average person out there who’s making maybe 40, 50, $60,000 out there, when they hear you only have $400,000 left over, it’s not exactly a sympathetic position. You understand that?”

“Class warfare has never created a job.” Fleming replied. “This is all about creating jobs, not about attacking people who make certain incomes. You know in this country, most people feel that being successful in their business is a virtue, not a vice, and once we begin to identify it as a vice, this country is going down.”

Poor successful John Fleming. Even if he believes what he says, you would think he would be smart enough to display some compassion for the majority of Americans who would be happy to have a mere $400,000 left over to play with at the end of their working careers, never mind each year. But maybe he’s not concerned with the average American, or those struggling to survive on the poverty level income of $22,000 a year for a family of four. He brags on his website: “I have never believed in the fallacy that the federal government can buy its way out of economic troubles through needless spending. For that reason, I am proud to oppose ‘stimulus‘ packages and endless corporate bailouts, which will do little but weaken the long term integrity of the American economy.”

Fleming, of course, argues that taxing wealthy business owners more makes it harder for them to create more jobs. It’s a rewrite of “trickle down.” Let us keep our money and we’ll create jobs. Except that they don’t. And Fleming ignores the fact that Obama wants to provide tax cuts for businesses that actually create jobs.

John Fleming is a family physician who owns businesses that employ about 500 people. He is in his second term in Congress. He has been a church deacon and Sunday school teacher. He and his wife have been married 33 years. They have four adult children and two grandchildren. I get this from his website. What I don’t get is how he can live such an apparently successful life and seem to be so unsympathetic to the lives of so many of his fellow Louisianans.

I mentioned Louisiana was at the bottom of the list of best states to live.* It is also 48th out of 50 in median household income, second in percent of people living below the poverty level, and next to last in an interesting category — next egg index. That means how much people have put away in savings, investments and other assets to live their lives. Like the $400,000 a year in “leftovers” Fleming complains about.

Since he’s a doctor, it should be noted that his state had the highest gonorrhea rate in the country and the second highest chlamydia rate and was dead last in the prevalence of poor mental health. Its health index, which measures a variety of factors, was the worst in the country. It also was second among states in firearms death rate and alcohol-related traffic fatalities. Among the 50 states and Washington, D.C., Louisiana is next to last in percentage of residents with a high school diploma or higher and, not surprisingly, next to last in percentage of children under age 6 who are read to every day.

These are Fleming’s people. His constituents. I certainly don’t blame him for all of Louisiana’s ills. But I do fault him for seemingly being unsympathetic to the real life problems his neighbors face. Simply being automatically opposed to all tax increases, even when common sense and consensus say some are necessary, is not a viable management principle. It’s dumb and Republicans at some point are going to have to acknowledge it. But pleading poverty on top of that when you’re netting 400 grand a year (and feeding your family for 200 grand) is worse. It suggests you have no clue as to what real life is like for millions of Americans, or that you don’t care.

If you want to find class warfare, Mr. Congressman, go home to Louisiana and look around.

bob@zestoforange.com

* Data from statehealthfacts.org