Socialism in action: America’s military

Nicholas Kristof doesn’t write only about do-gooder groups valiantly addressing third-world social horrors–although he does do plenty of that, and with an effectiveness that often makes you want to whip out your checkbook. Sometimes he addresses inequities at home, as in this column in today’s New York Times, where he suggests that people looking for a culture that provides opportunity for professional advancement, strong social safety net, and economic fairness as an alternative to our ruthless boom-and-bust, benefits-cutting, wage-reducing system, look to….the military.

Think about it: The military has universal health care, for life. A child care system that many people struggling to find reliable, affordable day care would love access to. A pay system that is far flatter than anything your typical American corporate executive would find acceptable. An old-fashioned guaranteed pension plan.

The military model: American socialism at its finest.

Is this the best the Republicans can do?

Rick Santorum said at the first Republican presidential debate that he would “let the wealth really trickle down” as President. Alright! Someone who’s going to get at all that wealth sloshing around in big money pools up on gold-topped hills!! How’s he gonna do it?

By cutting taxes on corporations.

Oh. Never mind.

dwarfs1 150x150 Is this the best the Republicans can do?Instead of hoping that tax cuts for the wealthy and benefits cuts for everyone else will magically produce new jobs (Hello, declared Republican presidential candidates, a.k.a. the Seven Little Dwarfs), how about using the tax code to encourage hiring and job creation?

Tax incentives have helped produce a 26% increase in spending on equipment and software in the past two years. But as Catherine Rampell of The New York Times reports, spending on employees is up only 2%.

Part of the reason for this is fear of the cost of employee health insurance benefits, which could be addressed if we’d relieve businesses of a tremendous international competive burden and create a single-payer health care system….whoops, wrong channel.

If the tax code was tweaked to provide more incentives for hiring workers and fewer incentives for buying equipment–even equipment manufactured abroad, which does absolutely nothing for the U.S. employment picture–businesses would be more likely to invest in more workers. There’s no guarantee–but this would have more potential than any of the quarter-baked pseudo-ideas that were uttered on the New Hampshire stage in June.

The Tax Code: It Can Be A Force For Good!

Pawlenty the Pathetic Pander-Bear

Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty used what was billed as his first major policy speech to propose cutting taxes by more than $2 trillion for businesses and individuals over the next decade.

The level of pandering would be breathtaking if it weren’t so pathetic and reactionary.

teddybear e1307544803100 200x132 Pawlenty the Pathetic Pander BearEven at a glance, his proposal is a capitulation to the protect-the-wealthy wing of the Republican Party: a maximum individual tax rate of 25% and, even more significantly, elimination of all taxes on capital gains, interest, dividends, and estates–a proposal to permanently entrench the wealthy that is so extreme that George W. Bush on his most unbalanced day never suggested it.

Let me summarize what Pawlenty’s proposal would do: For my average client making $50,000-$75,000 annually, there would be little change in overall tax burden. For the clients whose income is mostly what is called “unearned income” from investments–which is to say, for some of the wealthier people who are fortunate enough to be able to make money from their money, rather than from the sweat of their brow–there would be a huge windfall.

A married taxpayer today whose income is $250,000, with all of it coming from taxable investments, can currently expect a federal tax bill of no more than $25,000, even without any deductions, credits, or dependent exemptions. That’s right–even under the least favorable assumptions, we’re talking an overall effective federal income tax rate of no more than 10%.

Not good enough for Pawlenty. That taxpayer would pay ZERO tax under his suggestion.

Who would pay for those kinds of regressive tax cuts? Anyone who gets any benefit from any of the government services that he would slash, as well as anyone who works for a living, since their earnings would inevitably become a target once “unearned income” off the table.

Here’s the New York Times’ summary of Pawlenty’s speech, with the usual pro-forma he-said she-said format used by journalists to give credibility to the story of the day. And here is Ezra Klein’s blogpost via The Washington Post, pointing out that Pawlenty’s proposal isn’t just ridiculous; it’s a joke.

The economy is improving? LOL

The White House tells us the economy is improving.

Tell that to anyone looking for work today.

Unemployment is still at recession-like levels, even with a recent surge in hiring. As David Leonhardt points out in this New York Times column, financial crises tend to produce uneven recoveries featuring several years of high unemployment.

How do you help bring down unemployment? Increased government spending on public works programs is one path – people get jobs; they earn money that they can spend, which helps the businesses that get that increased revenue; more taxes are paid by the individuals as well as by the businesses; and the surge in business activity can even lead to further private-sector hiring. All in all, a financially beneficial circle.

Cutting government spending, of course, is more like a death spiral. Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman has been banging the drum for the past year about the failure of belt-tightening as a path to prosperity in Europe in general and Britain in particular.

The Tea Partiers’ fondest wish is something like the current experiment of Britain’s Conservative Party, its Orwellian-named “Big Society” program, featuring government-funded social programs being replaced by volunteers (I Am Not Making This Up—here’s a piece on the program from The Guardian). Financially beneficial circle? More like circling the drain.

It’s your stupid Medicare idea, Stupid!

It’s just a special election in a conservative Congressional district in western New York, but Tuesday’s victory by Democrat Kathy Hochul is going to give a lot of politicians who support “privatizing” Medicare pause. Apparently some people are paying attention to Republican proposals that would finance tax cuts for the wealthiest among us with savage slashing of Medicare and public welfare programs.

boehner  Its your stupid Medicare idea, Stupid!Republican Jane Corwin lost this race in a district that was home to conservative icon Jack Kemp; it was one of only four districts in the entire state of New York that went for John McCain for President in 2008. She lost with the help of Speaker of the House John Boehner and his ideological goose-stepping sidekick, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, both of whom campaigned for her. She lost in a district that in 2010 elected Republican Chris Lee with 73% of the vote. (Lee, married and with a young child, later resigned after it came out that he had tested just how popular he could be by sending emails with a photo of himself shirtless to a woman who’d posted an ad on Craigslist’s “Women Seeking Men” section. But I digress.)

She lost largely because she embraced her party’s plans for Medicare. The Republicans and their Minister of Official Deceptive Political Numbers, Rep. Paul Ryan, say they want to overhaul Medicare. When you overhaul a car, you take out old parts and invest in better new ones. As time goes on, more people are figuring out that the Ryan plan only bothers with the first half of that sequence.

Joe The Tax Guy Says, Remember: When the current batch of Republicans running the House of Representatives talk about cutting spending, that’s often code for cutting benefits received by average Americans. And that’s the same thing to your wallet as a tax increase.