Posts Tagged ‘tax cuts’
When I’m cooking, I’ve learned if you have the luxury of time, low and slow is the way to go. Earlier in my scotch-addled life, my friends told me of limbo contests where I physically went low and slow. And speaking of my scotch-addled life, low and slow pretty much described my dating habits.
Low and slow is neither the way to run the government nor is it the way to run the economy. It is inconceivable to imagine a budget lower in basic human services than what we saw this week.
Yesterday in watching Dick Prick Mick Mulvaney, the dust ruffle of crazy town, claim that cutting Meals on Wheels is the compassionate thing to do, I’m pretty much convinced we can’t go much lower. As we say around here, we are “next to the belly of a snake in a wagon rut.”
Obviously, Dolt 45 is as dumb as a box of hair mated with some orange zest and Adderall. He could care less what these crazy ideologues do as long as he can continue belching his lies in front of half-empty venues.
So why should he care? He’s got Mulvaney and anime-eyed granny-starver Paul Ryan to shovel the steaming dump Jim DeMint and the Heritage Foundation just took on the country. This budget, which will never pass, is nothing but the greatest hits from 1980s Heritage Foundation. Not even Reagan dared going this low.
When someone has no shame, there just is no limit to the depths they will sink. Given this first fifty days, it won’t be long before we are plumbing the depths of the Mariana Trench.
When it comes to slow things, the economy is troubling. About a year ago, I started paying attention to certain economic indicators believing Hillary was about to inherit a lethargic economy. There are disturbing indicators.
Here is a truism: Economic expansions never die from old age. The current expansion is seven and half-years old. That is long in the tooth.
Gallup surveys economic confidence and says it is at a historic high. The stock market is at a record high. The economy is still adding jobs. So why am I spending your time on the subject?
We are in a bubble. The confidence and stock market are anticipatory highs. It is not based in value. The highs are based upon a belief in massive Trumpanzee promised corporate tax cuts and the repatriation of $2.1 Trillion in offshore profits. Neither will be invested in expansion, but will be paid out in dividends or in stock buybacks. It will make the 1% even more one-percentier.
Unrelated to this economic giddiness, there are indicators screaming we are heading into another slowdown if not outright recession. Not to bore you, but just a few indicators:
- Employers are cutting back hours. We are seeing the highest percentage in the decline of hours since the 2008 recession.
- Tax receipts are down.
- Retailers are missing their earnings projections.
- Lending standards have tightened.
- Job growth at the S&P companies has gone negative.
All of these are warning signs of a slowing economy or impending recession. Any external event could hasten an economic retreat. Perhaps even monkeying around with one-sixth of the economy with an ill-conceived health care plan or a federal budget that would decimate hundreds of thousands of employees could precipitate it. Who knows?
I do know this: There are very few tricks left in the wheelhouse to combat recession. We will hear tax cuts from this bunch of Neanderthal MAGAbators, but as we have seen time and time again, sloganeering is not economic policy.
We are still paying for the last time we allowed this knuckle-dragging crowd to raid the Treasury with tax cuts, two wars, and unfunded benefit programs. Half of the national deficit is due to giving them the credit card and hoping for the best. Well, we know how that turned out.
Why do I think this is important enough to take your time this morning? From what I saw in the proposed budget, these people are unimaginative at best and stone-cold ignorant at worst. They are uncaring and vindictive. They are politically deaf. Power is a means to an end for them.
The choices represented in their budget were callous and heartless. If the worst happens, their response to an economic downturn will be likewise – callous, heartless, low, and slow. Human suffering will be but a minor inconvenience for a $2.1 Trillion payday. Daddy needs a new Gulfstream 650.
What’s on your mind today?
Remember the movie, UP? In it there was a particularly eloquent dog who could carry on conversations courtesy of his “magic collar”. He could have the most lucid conversations until he saw a squirrel — at which time, after screeching “SQUIRREL!” his attention was completely lost.
This past week while the media and the opportunistic politicians were squealing “Squirrel!” over Ebola and who voted for whom in the 2012 Presidential election, there were plenty of attention-worthy issues slipping by totally unnoticed. So I thought I would devote today’s post to a couple of “desquirrelification” issues that have long-term consequences.
Here’s an issue I bet you didn’t see this past week and you‘ll never see in a political ad because of the pornographic word that is “Obamacare”. There will be no increase in the Medicare Part B premium or deductible in 2015. A radical departure from 2000 through 2008 when the Medicare premium shot up 112 percent — jumping from $45.50 to $96.40.
The main reason, and yes, there are others, but the main reason premium growth has shown such a dramatic decline is the Affordable Care Act. Over the past four years, Medicare spending per capita has averaged only 0.8% a year — compared to an average growth rate of 6.3% a year from 2000 to 2008.
The ACA has also dramatically affected senior care with free preventative service such as mammograms and colonoscopies. In 2013 alone, Thirty-seven million seniors received free preventative services.
Add to that the 8.3 million seniors who have saved more than $12 Billion on their prescription drugs with an average savings of $1,443 per senior.
Here’s the real hidden acorn of truth that would propel the little tree rodents into onrushing traffic in a mad, suicidal squirrel rage: Since the enactment of the ACA, the solvency of the Medicare Trust Fund has been extended by 13 years! The Medicare Trustees now project the Trust Fund will remain solvent through 2030.
In the alternative fact-free universe inhabited by Faux News and talk radio devotees, they will never hear about the Medicare premiums or the fact that the number of companies competing to offer policies under the ACA will increase by 25 percent in 2015. They will never hear about it because the narrative has been and continues to be, the ACA is killing competition, but the truth is — competition is increasing.
In this alternative universe devoid of enlightenment, few, if any conservatives realize the premiums under the ACA are lower-than-expected, and that the ACA’s costs are also lower-than-expected — $104 Billion lower to be exact.
Obamacare’s competitive insurance marketplaces are actually doing what they promised to do: Forcing insurers to compete for customers by cutting costs. The Congressional Budge Office explains the cheaper-than-expected premiums because of:
[L]ower payment rates for providers, narrower networks of providers, and tighter management of their subscribers’ use of health care than employment-based plans do.
That is an extraordinary sentence. Obamacare, a government program, is forcing insurers to run leaner and more cost-effective programs than the private sector, employer-based programs. Simply put: The government is more cost-effective than the private sector. Somewhere there is a squirrel that looks a lot like Paul Ryan whose little Ayn Randian head is exploding.
Speaking of Paul Ryan and his innate squirrelliness, he has a new idea for the math associated with reviewing budgets. Here’s the idea: Ryan wants the CBO to always assume that tax cuts will pay for themselves. You read that sentence right — Paul Ryan wants to cook into the budget review process the overarching principle that tax cuts will pay for themselves.
That has NEVER happened — NEVER. It didn’t happen during Reagan’s term when he sold it to the country through voodoo economics. It didn’t happen during Dubya’s term when the Heritage Foundation proclaimed that the Bush tax cuts would “pay off the national debt.” In fact, according to the CBO, the Bush tax cuts and his credit card wars of choice will account for one-half of all the public debt by 2019.
Now Paul Ryan is a smart guy — why on earth would he scurry into this squirrel’s nest? Simple, this type of dynamic scoring would only be able to look at how much a bill cost in total, and not provision-by-provision. This type of dynamic scoring is also very complicated especially when you start out with the loblolly, upside-down, backassed assumption that tax cuts pay for themselves.
So why is Ryan pursuing this change — it is a way to hide a multitude of corporate greed, tax loopholes, and corporate welfare while getting an unrealistic favorable political talking point. Better said: It is a way to hide from view the true impact of tax cuts and conversely force cuts in the social safety net while acquiring tongue splinters from performing fellatio on corporate boards. A remarkable feat even if the squirrelly fellow does P90X.
There are many other examples, but there just isn’t enough room or time and I’m having trouble keeping my attention focused. Squirrel!
So enjoy your Tuesday and feel free to take this conversation in any direction you may desire.
Good afternoon Widdershins. What a week! Since I try to limit myself to Eight Hundred words or so, let’s just look at Tuesday — April 1st.
The day began with some promise. CNN, the Consistently Nonsensical Network, actually spent eight minutes, that’s eight whole minutes, covering something other than holographic airplanes, a guy in a plaid shirt trapped in a flight simulator, and Don Lemon prolifically musing about a hybrid Rapture and alien abduction regarding Malaysian Air Flight 370.
The President and grinnin’ Joe Biden announced 7.1 Million Americans had purchased policies through the ACA exchanges. Just as important, those millions were joined by almost another 7.0 Million covered by the Medicaid expansion. All this while aggregate health care costs dropped for the first time in decades.
Then there was a tidbit lost in the shuffle — most likely by design. It was an event with an extraordinary punch line, “Let’s strengthen the gazillionaire safety net.”
Tuesday, Paul Ryan released his latest homage to Ayn Rand also known as the House Budget. You have to admit, releasing such a hollowed-out, callous document on April Fool’s Day is a bit cheeky. Sounding much cooler than I am, Ryan “dropped it like it was hot“. Throughout the press conference, Ryan’s pained expression looked as if he had just gone to a dentist who performed root canals via a colonoscopy.
Without glazing your eyes, here are the highlights. Ryan proposes cutting $4.3 Trillion over the next ten years. Three Trillion Dollars comes from programs for the poor and working class. He doesn’t touch the military spending. He wants to privatize Medicare. Oh, and he says “April’s Fool” to the aforementioned 14 Million who just acquired health care for the first time.
Now here’s the head-exploding part. In order to save gazillionaires from the ravages of destitution by merely being billionaires, he proposes massive, I’m talking Kardashian-butt-sized massive, tax cuts of $6.0 Trillion over the next ten years. And to make all this mishegas balance out — he forecasts fantastical economic growth despite overwhelming data to the contrary. The only thing that would have made the presentation more magical might have been a unicorn and a flurry of pixie dust.
It is without a doubt the beleaguered gazillionaires breathed a collective sigh of relief. For instance, they no longer have to worry about the three different kinds of subsidies for their private jets. They will still have their accelerated depreciation, total avoidance of any private taxes, and continue to receive free airport rights and air traffic control courtesy of us “takers” flying commercial thereby paying all the taxes.
If you were worried about those pilloried hedge fund and private equity managers, don’t. They get to keep their “special, super-secret carried interest” allowing them to reclassify their outrageous salaries and automatically erase 17% off their tax bills.
And those poor Wall Street bankers — not to worry, they get to continue their arbitrage windfall of $83 Billion a year by continuing to enjoy an implicit “too big to fail” guarantee underwritten by us working stiffs.
After all they have been through, these tycoons will undoubtedly need a vacation. Conveniently, their yacht and beach home tax subsidies will remain in effect.
Corporations can sleep soundly too (if they have free speech and religious rights, they deserve sleep too) since the grand shell game of parking profits abroad can continue. For instance, Caterpillar, Inc. evaded $2.4 Billion in taxes by shifting U.S. profits to Switzerland — no word if they received any chocolate delivered by a Swiss Miss driving a bulldozer.
Remember about a year ago when the Republican Party released their autopsy report — fitting name since something has to be dead before an autopsy can be performed. They said they had to modernize their policies on gun control, immigration, gay marriage, healthcare, climate change, unemployment benefits, minimum wages, and most importantly taxes and spending. The Ryan Budget resoundingly declared — not so much.
To their credit, there were Republicans who wanted to do the right thing like Sen. Tom Coburn and Rep. Dave Camp. Both are retiring in the face of the protection afforded gazillionaires by the marionettes of the sycophantic power brokers.
As incongruent as it seems to subsidize steaks, caviar, and liquor with $12 Billion in corporate tax write-offs while cutting aid to women with infant children, those are the exact options being offered. The Ryan Budget finds it more palatable to swaddle a fat cat in a Gulfstream VI than to feed an avarice infant who had the audacity to not be born rich.
Tuesday was April Fool’s Day alright, but the punchline of the Ryan Budget was neither funny nor clever. It was just plain cruel.
This is an open thread.
Morning Widdershins — here’s hoping your Friday is one that Mr. Rogers would deem a great one in your neighborhood.
Here’s my best guess, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan went to help Heidi look for her grandfather and had one wild time.
I’m guessing they were wearing their “party lederhosen” when they ran into a herd of Austrian Economists and rolled a big “fat one” of edelweiss. I don’t know if they ever found Heidi’s grandpa, but it seems they must have had some wild conversation along with their edelweiss doobies and goat milk chasers.
First, let me be the first to admit that I am absolutely clueless as to the Austrian School of Economics — I’m admitting it first since it won’t take you long to realize I’m a lost ball in high weeds on the subject. Best I can tell, the Austrian School is an economic principle that works except when it doesn’t. It focuses on absolute free market principles or an adult version of “kids will do the darnedest things.” It’s pretty ingenious since they avoid any type of statistical modeling — making it much easier to say, “I told you so,” when you don’t write anything down.
In any event, I’ve been wading through Romney’s and Ryan’s economic and budget plans (See, Weeds, high, ball, lost above) and for the life of me — none of it makes any sense. I can say this with some assurance: If you put supply side Reaganomics on steroids, bred it with anything living that knows what the hell Austrian Economics is all about, and then commissioned Ayn Rand as its wet-nurse, you might approach the mystical, mythical world of where Romney/Ryan would take the country. (I have made the executive decision to hereinafter refer to Romney/Ryan as R2. I’m guessing their economic advisors were Dumb and Dumber (D2), but to use R2D2 would harken a confusing similarity to Star Wars so I’ll leave that be.)
The big takeaway is this: Never before has any country ever tried to dramatically lower taxes and cut government to the bone during a world-wide economic slowdown — that edelweiss reefer must be some mighty fine stuff.
For instance: R2 says the Affordable Care Act will be and must be repealed — I can understand their political motivation since backing down on that pledge would be like having the Jonas Brothers substitute at a Grateful Dead concert — but, there’s so much wrong with this pandering it is like shaking hands with an octopus — you don’t know where to start.
The Empty Plates Protest last Sunday (inspired by Julia Williams, our first L 2012 candidate) was quite an experience. We had five people total, three of whom “LibbyLiberal” brought along from her Green Party group, and one who decided to join with us on the spur of the moment. (Thanks, “John!”) Libby handed out about 60 of her flyers, and gave more to the Greens to paper on cars in Union Square. I and others held up my poster as an attention-getter (it worked!), and there was also a Green Party banner which the protesters brought with them.
Some very positive things happened that day. We spoke at length with a lovely woman from the Rain Forest Action Network, who had come from California to protest outside of Barnes & Noble earlier that day. (I’ve added her blog to our site.) She was protesting the inclusion of endangered tree species in the paper inside the books that B&N sells, and gave us a lot of encouragement. One man took the time to tell me that he had watched Bernie Sanders’ filibuster, and had sent the Senator from Vermont a note of thanks; but that wasn’t all – he had contacted both his Congresscritters and those fine Republicans, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, to explain to them that he, too, was a real American and he didn’t want tax cuts for the rich to be extended. Several people gave thumbs-ups to us, or stopped to ask questions about our message. It was exhilarating and nerve-wracking to argue our points with people on the street.
Other things were not so positive, and it is from these that I will take my Lessons Learned for the next protest (which I hope to hold in February).
Lesson 1: Message discipline – not so much. What is it with lefties and message discipline? There were only five people there and yet, we were all over the place. We were supposed to say “Jobs, not tax cuts” or some variant thereof. It wasn’t about the Green Party, or ending the wars – yet the materials people were handing out and displaying suggested otherwise. Our new friend even told every smoker who walked by, “Smoke marijuana instead of that shit, my brother.” The next time, I will make sure to stress that we have to stay on the same page!
Lesson 2: People are really confused about how jobs are created. No one seemed to know, or remember, that the President can create jobs directly through an Executive Order, without going through Congress – just like FDR did during the first Great Depression. And no, tax cuts don’t create jobs – at least, not American jobs. When Libby was calling out “End tax cuts for the rich,” one man walked up to me and said, “I am rich and I spend lots of money. Don’t I deserve a tax cut?” I asked him what he buys. “Lots of stuff.” “And how does this create jobs for poor people?” I asked. He answered, “I hope it does.” No, rich guy. Your buying stuff might increase demand, but it doesn’t create American jobs because….drumroll please…rich people like you don’t employ Americans any more, you employ cheap illegal aliens or outsource everything. This has been going on for 30 fucking years. Come on, people, catch up!
Yes, it’s me again, folks. Our pauvre Chatblu is feeling “flue-y” (I sent her chicken soup through the Interwebz!), so I’m doing today’s post for you. There were too many things going on for me to pick just one, so it’s a Haps.
Is the Health Whatever Bill’s mandate unconstitutional? A Republican judge says yes.
The law’s central requirement for nearly all Americans to carry insurance is unconstitutional, well beyond Congress’ power to mandate, Hudson ruled, agreeing with the argument of Virginia’s Republican attorney general — and many of the GOP lawmakers who will take control of the U.S. House in January. Hudson denied Virginia’s request to strike down the law in its entirety or block it from being implemented while his ruling is appealed by the Obama administration.
“An individual’s personal decision to purchase — or decline to purchase — health insurance from a private provider is beyond the historical reach of the Commerce Clause,” said Hudson, a 2002 appointee of President George W. Bush.
Nevertheless, the White House predicted it would prevail in the Supreme Court, although it may be a year or two before the health care law gets there. The next step for the Virginia lawsuit is the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, where Democratic-appointed judges hold a majority.
This is an interesting story. We have a conservative Supreme Court, and a populace that is none too fond of the Health Whatever Bill. Is it possible that the mandate could be overturned? Yes. Is it likely? No, I don’t think so. The mandate is the part the health insurance industry loves the best – it hands them 32 million more customers, after all – and there’s no price control attached. Bonus! I’m sure that insurance companies will do all within their power to keep the Supreme Court on its side, and I’m betting the Court which decided corporations were people too, will also decide the mandate is Constitutional.