Archive | Politics

Joe’s op-ed in The Oregonian opposes Portland “street tax”

Here in Portland, the City Council is proposing a street fee in the form of a local income tax. I started adding up some of the fundamental problems I saw with the proposal, and wrote an op-ed for The Oregonian, “Eight Problems With Portland’s Proposed Street Tax.”

The phrase, “the wheels have been greased on this train,” has been used to describe the politics surrounding the proposed tax. We’ll see what happens when the City Council votes on its proposal later in December. A fierce petition campaign to refer this outrageous tax to the electorate may be in the offing.

Sharpton’s financial dealings exposed in NY Times

The Reverend Al Sharpton is in the news again, but not in a way he would like: The New York Times has a long piece rounding up many of his financial adventures, including more than $4.5 million in current state and federal tax liens against Sharpton and his businesses, both for-profit and non-profit.

Some of the financial details go back more than a decade. There may be agreements in place with the federal and state agencies on payments of back taxes, and explanations for how various debts were accumulated. But if you’re running an organization, you never want to see a sentence like the one in the Times that quotes the accountant for one of Sharpton’s non-profits stating that the group’s existence was as least partially dependent upon “the nonpayment of payroll tax obligations.”

Yipes.

IRS abandons voters on campaign finance mess

Don’t look to the IRS for potential relief from a tsunami of political advertising during the 2014 off-year elections.

The Service announced in late May that it is pulling back proposed regulations on tax-exempt groups. That means that everyone from the billionaire Koch brothers to tree-hugging lefties will be able to fund ad campaigns through organizations that often aren’t required to disclose where their contributions come from. It also means the IRS probably will not be doing anything to challenge the tax-favored status of nonprofit “educational” groups until after the end of this year.

This is the one place where many people would like to see the IRS doing more, but nooooooo….

Multinationals seek tax heavens, er, havens . . . oh, what’s the diff?

More and more U.S.-based corporations are growing wings and flying away from their U.S. tax obligations.

Bloomberg puts it as simply as possible: “U.S. companies looking for lower tax bills are heading for the exits, and Congress is doing nothing to stop them.”

The immediate impetus for the story was Pfizer’s proposed purchase of AstraZeneca, which would result in Pfizer reincorporating in Britain while tapping literally billions of dollars it has been holding outside the U.S., as The New York Times reported.

What’s the solution? Congress could grow a set and change the tax laws so that there is a crackdown on companies that use tax havens to keep profits outside of the U.S. system, as Steven Rattner suggests. Rattner also suggests in essence giving up on taxing corporations and instead increasing taxes on profits at the shareholder level, which would effectively increase the taxes paid by the wealthiest Americans.

I don’t know what the solution is, but when you consider that the effective federal tax rate paid by corporations has dropped from more than 40% in the 1950s to about 15% today, it seems clear that something has to change.

Washington Post’s maps paint a fascinating – and unexpected – picture of the USA

The Washington Post’s “GovBeat” feature is doing some great work, including this story and link to 25 maps and charts of the United States (your first 10 stories a month at Washingtonpost.com are free; then the paywall rises up.)

One, “Finding America’s Uninsured,” (#23) shows that the national problem of people not having health insurance may be strangely localized, with 116 counties (out of more than 3,000 total) accounting for more than half of all the uninsured in the U.S. Another, “Cartogram of Total Disenfranchisement rates by State,” (#16) features a stunningly distended Florida, where more than one out of every five black adults are not allowed to vote because they were at some point convicted of a felony.

On the other hand, it’s worth giving your brain a bit of a break and focusing on the maps of “Where The Breweries Are,”(#5) and “Where the Closest Pizza Joints Are” (#25).