Mitt, I’ve Always Liked You. Please Break With Your Party Again

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Over at The Washington Post, Katherine Rampell writes about how Mitt Romney broke with many of his GOP colleagues in his decision to support an expansion of the child tax credit.

Now it is time for Romney to break with his party again and vote to remove the President of the United States from office.  At the very least, Romney should make it difficult for Mitch McConnell to prevent the calling of Trump staff members as witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial.

It is time for Trump’s vocal GOP critics–Romney, Rubio, Sasse, Collins, and Murkowski–to step-up to the plate.  Don’t let us down Mitt!

AP: “Warren joins Buttigieg in nixing threat to church tax status”

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Here is our post on Buttigieg. We discussed Beto O’Rourke’s comments on tax exempt status for religious organizations that uphold same sex marriage here and here and here.

Now Elizabeth Warren has tried to distance herself from Beto’s remarks. Here is a taste Elana Schor’s piece at the Association Press:

Elizabeth Warren would not seek to revoke the tax-exempt status of churches or other religious entities that decline to perform same-sex marriages if she’s elected president, the Massachusetts Democrat’s campaign said.

Asked to respond to former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s assertion last week that religious institutions should face the loss of their tax exemption for opposing same-sex marriage, Warren campaign spokeswoman Saloni Sharma said that “Elizabeth will stand shoulder to shoulder with the LGBTQ+ community” to help stamp out “fear of discrimination and violence.” But she declined to take aim at the tax status of religious organizations that don’t support same-sex marriage.

“Religious institutions in America have long been free to determine their own beliefs and practices, and she does not think we should require them to conduct same-sex marriages in order to maintain their tax-exempt status,” Sharma said by email.

Warren is the latest Democratic presidential hopeful to create distance from O’Rourke’s suggestion as President Donald Trump joined a conservative outcry against it, accusing him of threatening religious freedom. Trump belittled O’Rourke as a “wacko” during Saturday remarks to the conservative Values Voter Summit, signaling a willingness to use the issue to drive a wedge between voters of faith and the Democratic Party.

I am glad to see this. But Warren also needs to realize that this issue goes a lot deeper than just forcing churches to perform same-sex marriages.  Warren’s remarks (through her spokesperson) say nothing about the tax exempt status of religious and church-related colleges and charities that do not hire same sex couples based upon deeply held religious beliefs.

Study: U.S. Billionaires Paid a Lower Tax Rate than the Working Class

Triumph of InjusticeIn 2018, American billionaires paid a lower tax rate than than the working class.  This is the first time in this has ever happened.

Here is Chris Ingraham’s piece at The Washington Post:

A new book-length study on the tax burden of the ultrarich begins with a startling finding: In 2018, for the first time in history, America’s richest billionaires paid a lower effective tax rate than the working class.

The Triumph of Injustice,” by economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman of the University of California at Berkeley, presents a first-of-its kind analysis of Americans’ effective tax rates since the 1960s. It finds that in 2018 the average effective tax rate paid by the richest 400 families in the country was 23 percent, a full percentage point lower than the 24.2 percent rate paid by the bottom half of American households.

In 1980, by contrast, the 400 richest had an effective tax rate of 47 percent. In 1960, their tax rate was as high as 56 percent. The effective tax rate paid by the bottom 50 percent, by contrast, has changed little over time.

The analysis differs from many other published estimates of tax burdens by encompassing the totality of taxes Americans pay: not just federal income taxes but also corporate taxes, as well as taxes paid at the state and local levels. It also includes the burden of about $250 billion of what Saez and Zucman call “indirect taxes,” such as licenses for motor vehicles and businesses.

Read the rest here.

The Republican Party and the Income Tax

Ah, the irony of it all.

Heather Cox Richardson reminds us that the Republican Party once championed the federal income tax.  Here is a taste of her post at Bloomsberg:

The government has the right to “demand” 99 percent of a man’s property when the nation needs it.

That was the argument made by a Republican congressman in 1862 to introduce a novel idea: the federal income tax.

The Civil War was then costing the Treasury $2 million a day. To pay for uniforms, guns, food, mules, wagons, bounties and burials, Congress had issued hundreds of millions of dollars of bonds and paper money. But Republicans had a horror of debt and the runaway inflation that paper currency usually caused.

Taxes were the obvious answer. A conservative Republican newspaper declared: “There is not the slightest objection raised in any loyal quarter to as much taxation as may be necessary.”

Until then, taxes in the U.S. had always been apportioned by state according to population, and were generally levied on land holdings. But when it came to the huge sums necessary to fight the Civil War, such direct taxes would ruin farmers.

Instead, Republicans turned to what they called “indirect taxes,” which were essentially sales taxes of 3 percent on all manufactured goods. These, however, wouldn’t be sufficient to raise the needed revenue without making basic necessities prohibitively expensive for most Americans. 

Read the rest here.

Obama’s State of the Union and Teddy Roosevelt

The staff at the History News Network wonders if Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address was somehow written by Republican president Teddy Roosevelt.  The HNN writers have posted an excerpt of TR’s 1906 annual message to Congress.  Read this snippet and see if anything seems familiar.

… [T]here is every reason why, when next our system of taxation is revised, the National Government should impose a graduated inheritance tax, and, if possible, a graduated income tax. The man of great wealth owes a peculiar obligation to the State, because he derives special advantages from the mere existence of government. Not only should he recognize this obligation in the way he leads his daily life and in the way he earns and spends his money, but it should also be recognized by the way in which he pays for the protection the State gives him. On the one hand, it is desirable that he should assume his full and proper share of the burden of taxation; on the other hand, it is quite as necessary that in this kind of taxation, where the men who vote the tax pay but little of it, there should be clear recognition of the danger of inaugurating any such system save in a spirit of entire justice and moderation. Whenever we, as a people, undertake to remodel our taxation system along the lines suggested, we must make it clear beyond peradventure that our aim is to distribute the burden of supporting the Government more equitably than at present; that we intend to treat rich man and poor man on a basis of absolute equality, and that we regard it as equally fatal to true democracy to do or permit injustice to the one as to do or permit injustice to the other.

Sound familiar?  Now here is snippet from Obama’s 2012 State of the Union Address:

Do we want to keep these tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans? Or do we want to keep our investments in everything else –- like education and medical research; a strong military and care for our veterans? Because if we’re serious about paying down our debt, we can’t do both. 

The American people know what the right choice is. So do I. As I told the Speaker this summer, I’m prepared to make more reforms that rein in the long-term costs of Medicare and Medicaid, and strengthen Social Security, so long as those programs remain a guarantee of security for seniors. 

But in return, we need to change our tax code so that people like me, and an awful lot of members of Congress, pay our fair share of taxes. 

Tax reform should follow the Buffett Rule. If you make more than $1 million a year, you should not pay less than 30 percent in taxes. And my Republican friend Tom Coburn is right: Washington should stop subsidizing millionaires. In fact, if you’re earning a million dollars a year, you shouldn’t get special tax subsidies or deductions. On the other hand, if you make under $250,000 a year, like 98 percent of American families, your taxes shouldn’t go up. You’re the ones struggling with rising costs and stagnant wages. You’re the ones who need relief. 

Now, you can call this class warfare all you want. But asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes? Most Americans would call that common sense.

We don’t begrudge financial success in this country. We admire it. When Americans talk about folks like me paying my fair share of taxes, it’s not because they envy the rich. It’s because they understand that when I get a tax break I don’t need and the country can’t afford, it either adds to the deficit, or somebody else has to make up the difference — like a senior on a fixed income, or a student trying to get through school, or a family trying to make ends meet. That’s not right. Americans know that’s not right. They know that this generation’s success is only possible because past generations felt a responsibility to each other, and to the future of their country, and they know our way of life will only endure if we feel that same sense of shared responsibility. That’s how we’ll reduce our deficit. That’s an America built to last.

Run for the hills!  Teddy Roosevelt was a socialist!  He wanted to take from the rich and give to the poor!  He demanded that the rich carry a greater tax burden. Perhaps Obama is not the most socialistic, radical, big government, president in American history?  That honor just might go to Republican reformer Teddy Roosevelt, the great class-warrior.

Obama Has Lowered Your Taxes

This is true, according to the award-winning fact-checking website Politifact.  Here is a taste:

Every taxpayer is different, and some “middle-class” Americans may have seen their tax rate or their tax burden go up for one reason or another. But Obama was talking about “the average middle-class family.” The changes to the tax code made under Obama and the analyses by the Tax Policy Center show that for the middle 60 percent of the income distribution, both the average tax paid and the average tax rate fell between 2008 and 2011.

Barack Obama: "The Most Prolific Tax Cutter in Recent History"

Eleanor Clift calls Barack Obama “the silent tax cutter.”  According to her recent article at The Daily Beast, Obama’s tax cuts have been larger than George W. Bush in his first term.  Here is a taste:

The one thing most voters know about President Obama is that he wants to raise taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations. Republicans have blocked him at every turn, but he continues to talk about changing public policy so that billionaires pay more.
Obama has invested so much time demonizing the Bush-era tax cuts for the rich that he has obscured the true narrative of his presidency. Class-war rhetoric aside, Obama is one of the most prolific tax cutters in recent history, with a record that puts him squarely alongside that of George W. Bush.
Crunching the numbers at the liberal think tank the Center for American Progress, analyst Michael Linden found that if one compares the cost of tax cuts in just the first four years of Bush’s term (2001–04) to the first four years of Obama’s (2009–12), Obama’s tax cuts are bigger. The value of the Bush tax cuts were about $475 billion in those first four years, or about 1.1 percent of GDP. Obama’s total about $1 trillion, or 1.6 percent of GDP. 

Obama has cut taxes to lower levels than Bush did, says Linden. This is because, of course, Obama thus far has extended all of the Bush tax cuts and then cut taxes on top of that. His original stimulus bill in 2009 had $290 billion in Making Work Pay tax cuts. His speech Thursday night before Congress advocated for another $175 billion in payroll tax cuts, which come on top of $110 billion from last December’s budget deal. Speeded-up expensing for business adds another $10 billion or so.

Read the rest here

Warren Buffett: "Stop Codding the Super-Rich"

Warren Buffett, one of the wealthiest men in the world, believes that we should stop giving tax breaks to the “super-rich.”  He writes: “Our leaders have asked for ‘shared sacrifice.’ But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched.”

Buffet paid close to $7 million in federal taxes last year, which was 17.4% of his taxable income.  When he surveyed the other 20 people who work in his office, tax burdens ranged from 33% to 41%.

Buffett concludes:

My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice. 

Something to think about this morning.