Monday, September 19, 2011

Can Powerful, Avaricious Multimillionaires & Billionaires Be Forced To Pay Their Fair Share Of Taxes Again?


The White House has been releasing a series of ghastly trial balloons about what el presidente plans to say today. From cutting back on COLAs to raising the age of eligibility for Social Security and Medicare, they've been shot down one by one by panic-stricken Democrats who have to face the voters in 2012 and by Democratic support groups... not to mention the increasingly angry folks in the video above.

Then, on Saturday, there was-- seemingly out of nowhere-- a good trial balloon. Though it's not a renewed push for Medicare-for-all or even a public option, it's still a trial balloon worthy of someone who did, after all, get elected as Democrat, promising Hope and Change. Republicans are already aiming every bit of artillery they possess skyward but apparently the president intends to announce a minimum tax on people making over a million dollars a year, as part of a $3 trillion deficit reduction package.
Mr. Obama will call for $1.5 trillion in tax increases, primarily on the wealthy, through a combination of closing loopholes and limiting the amount that high earners can deduct. The proposal also includes $580 billion in adjustments to health and entitlement programs, including $248 billion to Medicare and $72 billion to Medicaid. Administration officials said that the Medicare cuts would not come from an increase in the Medicare eligibility age.

Senior administration officials who briefed reporters on some of the details of Mr. Obama’s proposal said that the plan also counts a savings of $1.1 trillion from the ending of the American combat mission in Iraq and the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.

In laying out his proposal, aides said, Mr. Obama will expressly promise to veto any legislation that seeks to cut the deficit through spending cuts alone and does not include revenue increases in the form of tax increases on the wealthy.

Allow me a tangent. I grew up in a family with modest means. I got through a subsidized state university with loans, by working and by living close to the bone. I never really had any idea I was poor, although by the time I was in college I started to notice that some of my schoolmates were rich. Eventually I built a small business, but I never actually connected it to getting rich... just to building a business and succeeding at the task at hand. The task at hand was never really self-enrichment... it was breaking records and developing artists. CBS bought the company. I put my share of the money in the bank and it didn't alter my lifestyle in the slightest. I lived in a "dangerous ghetto" and drove an ancient Mercury Comet. Then I wound up at Warner Bros, as an executive. My starting salary was $90,000 (+ perks). It was more money than I had ever made and more money than my father had ever made. I felt rich.

My two best friends at the company had been there much longer and one was making over a million a year and the other around a quarter million. Million dollar man was my direct supervisor and he was one miserable, dissatisfied multimillionaire, who felt he had been dealt a bad hand. I don't know exactly what he was worth at the time-- $30 million, $50 million?-- but he had worked hard for it and he was lucky and he "deserved" what he had. He always compared himself to much richer colleagues, like David Geffen, and was always unhappy and over-spending and broke and cheating. He used to borrow money from me. Quarter million dollar man, who was closer in age to me and less out of his mind, said to me, "One day we're going to break out of this cycle of poverty." I realized that by moving down to Los Angeles, or at least into "The Business" in Los Angeles, I had entered a mad house and had to be very careful or I'd catch what was afflicting so many of them.

I was lucky too and I was made president of the company one day. And that brings us to President Obama's proposal for those making over a million dollars a year. I was and I never begrudged paying my taxes, which, unlike the 1,400 millionaires last year who paid zero income taxes, were hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. My attitude was always, "Wow, I'm so blessed to be making so much money, I'm lucky to be paying this much in taxes." It's certainly not a Republican perspective.
Co-opting the rhetoric of the labor movement to describe America's corporations-- which are currently experiencing record profits-- Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) accused US government policies of forcing "job creators" to go "on strike."

Striking, meaning to refuse to work, is a tool used by labor activists in fights with business owners, and sometimes exercised across whole industries or even nationally, to coerce concessions from capitalists and the governments which support them.

A "strike by capital" was also how Republicans and their Big Business allies greeted President Roosevelt's New Deal-- that and the attempted coup financed by the DuPonts and some of the biggest names in American plutocracy. This weekend Boehner, Ryan and Romney were already running hither and thither claiming the wealthy already pay too much. I can't wait to see if Obama actually goes through with it today and what hideous caveats and loopholes we find in it if he does.
With a special joint Congressional committee starting work to reach a bipartisan budget deal by late November, the proposal adds a new and populist feature to Mr. Obama’s effort to raise the political pressure on Republicans to agree to higher revenues from the wealthy in return for Democrats’ support of future cuts from Medicare and Medicaid.

Mr. Obama, in a bit of political salesmanship, will call his proposal the “Buffett Rule,” in a reference to Warren E. Buffett, the billionaire investor who has complained repeatedly that the richest Americans generally pay a smaller share of their income in federal taxes than do middle-income workers, because investment gains are taxed at a lower rate than wages.

Mr. Obama will not specify a rate or other details, and it is unclear how much revenue his plan would raise. But his idea of a millionaires’ minimum tax will be prominent in the broad plan for long-term deficit reduction that he will outline at the White House on Monday.

...The Obama proposal has little chance of becoming law unless Republican lawmakers bend. But by focusing on the wealthiest Americans, the president is sharpening the contrast between Republicans and Democrats with a theme he can carry into his bid for re-election in 2012.

It could also reassure Democrats who have feared that Mr. Obama would agree to changes in programs like Medicare without forcing Republicans to compromise on taxes.

The administration wants such a tax to replace the alternative minimum tax, which was created decades ago to make sure the richest taxpayers with plentiful deductions and credits did not avoid income taxes, but which now hits millions of Americans who are considered upper middle class. Mr. Obama has said that many average Americans could see a tax cut if the system is overhauled, since ending many tax breaks would allow for lower rates while raising more revenues from the wealthiest.

The millionaires’ tax is among several changes Mr. Obama will propose in urging Congress to overhaul the federal income tax code next year, both to raise revenues for reducing deficits and to make the tax system simpler and fairer, said the administration officials, who agreed to speak in advance of the president’s announcement on the condition of anonymity.

The millionaires’ rate would affect only 0.3 percent of taxpayers, they said. That would be fewer than 450,000; 144 million returns were filed for 2010.

Mr. Obama’s proposal comes a month after Mr. Buffett began reviving his longstanding objection that he and “my megarich friends” pay a significantly lower percentage of their income in federal taxes-- income and payroll taxes-- than everyone else, thanks to the tax code’s favoritism toward the rich, and especially toward investors like him.

“My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress,” he wrote in an opinion article in The New York Times, a complaint he has repeated in talks and media interviews since. “It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.”

Mr. Obama has been citing Mr. Buffett as he promotes his $447 billion job-creation plan. He proposes to offset the cost of that plan and reduce future budget deficits through higher taxes on the wealthy and on corporations after 2013, when the economy will presumably be healthier.

Mr. Obama’s proposed Buffett Rule puts a new spin on that pitch, as he tries to put Republicans in Congress and in the presidential race on the defensive for their rigid stand against higher taxes.

And speaking of the Buffett rule, this video ad from Patriotic Millionaires just came in as we were about the publish this morning. It singles out a handful of reactionary millionaires in Congress who are die-hard fanatics against raising taxes on millionaires-- Paul Ryan (R-WI), Orrin Hatch (R-UT) John Boehner (R-OH), Eric Cantor (R-VA), John McCain (R-AZ), Ron Paul (R-TX)... “Millionaire Politicians who want to GIVE THEMSELVES A TAX CUT are hardly trust-worthy stewards of our country’s future. Their continued support of policies that advance their own economic self-interests is un-American,” said Erica Payne, spokesman for the Patriotic Millionaires and founder of the Agenda Project.

“Republicans call this modest proposal "class warfare"? It's never been more clear that they are in thrall to their wealthy patrons and have sold working people down the river," said David DesJardins, former Google engineer and Patriotic Millionaire.

“The Republican Party's absolute refusal to raise taxes is, in effect, a refusal to govern. Taxation has been a fundamental instrument of government virtually from the beginning of history, and to say you can't or won't use it is like refusing to use the army. It disqualifies you from holding high office,” Henry Bean, Producer and Patriotic Millionaire.

“It's time for millionaires-- LIKE ME AND THE ONES IN CONGRESS-- to step up to the plate and start paying their fair share, " said Guy Saperstein, lawyer and Patriotic Millionaire.

“I find it immoral that we can ask our soldiers especially our national guard members to help defend our country over and over and yet the republicans refuse to believe our country can't ask our wealthiest citizens to help get people jobs and pay for these wars rather than give the bill to our grandchildren. The idea that asking our wealthiest citizens to help will negatively affect the economy is ridiculous and unfair to our brave soldiers some of whom have sacrificed their lives for this country,” says Jeff Gural, Chairman, Newmark Knight and Patriotic Millionaire.

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At 11:25 AM, Anonymous John Evan Miller said...

Yes, they can be, but more importantly--the SHOULD be. It does not make sense that the lower and middle class pays a higher percentage of taxes than the upper class. Something has to be done.

At 3:39 AM, Anonymous me said...

Obama will expressly promise to veto any legislation that seeks to cut the deficit through spending cuts alone and does not include revenue increases in the form of tax increases on the wealthy

Uh-huh, sure he will.

After three years of kowtowing to scumpublicans on literally EVERYTHING, I'm supposed to believe that Obama has turned over a new leaf? Well, I don't.

And one year before the election, too! If that isn't transparent and crass, I don't know what would be.


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