The answer depends, it would seem, on the tender emotions of Republicans, who are already complaining that tax reform might have to be scrapped if Obama is mean to them. While the president seems capable of fighting his opposition on one issue and negotiating with them on another, so far Republicans are acting like some moody toddler, ready to start bawling and breaking toys at the first hint of frustration. One report after another from Capitol Hill (see here for an example) shows Republican legislators complaining that although they really want to undertake tax reform, it’ll be impossible if Obama takes executive action on immigration, because that would hurt their feelings so. “He’s so mean!” is going to become an all-purpose excuse for Republican inaction, on tax reform and everything else.
If they’re sincere about their desire for tax reform, what’s to stop Republicans from—and see if you can follow me here—writing a tax reform bill? They don’t actually need the White House’s help to do that. In fact, earlier this year Representative Dave Camp, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, put out a comprehensive reform plan full of tough choices and potentially unpopular provisions. Republicans promptly distanced themselves from it, Camp declined to run for re-election, and the plan died.
by Ralph Smith | May 5, 2014
No one likes to pay taxes. In the past several years, a frequent political theme has been that the top 1% of income earners are not paying their “fair share.” Of course, the definition of “fair share” varies. For many, probably most people, it boils down to a belief that others should pay more in taxes but the person defining a “fair share” will define it to exclude himself from having to pay more.
Former Senator Russell Long pegged the typical American’s response to tax reform or a tax increase. Senator Long was an American Democratic politician and United States Senator from Louisiana from 1948 until 1987, and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee for fifteen years from 1966 to 1981. Long said tax reform meant: “Don’t tax you, don’t tax me, tax that fellow behind the tree!”
The nonpartisan National Small Business Association added a new question this summer to its survey of more than 1,100 small-business owners, and it vaulted immediately to the top of the group’s To Do list for Congress and the Obama administration. “The No. 1 thing small businesses want policymakers to do is end the partisan gridlock and work together,” the NSBA found.
Good luck with that.
As Washington heads toward an autumn of fiscal deadlines, government-shutdown threats, and the specter of default, the business community is reaping the whirlwind. Dozens of House and Senate conservatives, many of them tea-party populists, have been elected since 2010 with help from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business, and other business interests.
Now these same lawmakers—described by one business lobbyist as “economic fundamentalists” for their aversion to compromise—are a chief reason for holdups and breakdowns on bills that traditionally are bipartisan, as well as on big issues where deals may be within reach. All of which puts the business sector in an interesting squeeze: fighting many Obama policies tooth and nail, but also bemused and in some cases frustrated by the way some presumed congressional allies are handling their jobs.
“You don’t really know what they’re going to do or why,” says NSBA President Todd McCracken, a 20-year Washington veteran. “It used to be there were not many rewards for obstruction. Now there are no consequences.” […]
For businesses, the stakes amid all this disruption are enormous. They are keenly interested in tax reform and immigration reform. They would like to see more federal spending on infrastructure and less on entitlements, and less federal regulation across the board. They don’t like brinkmanship on budget and debt issues, or the more routine dysfunction that has stalled transportation and agriculture legislation important to both parties and much of the private sector. And as most business groups have made crystal clear, they really, really don’t like the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
Yet there is little to no business support for the latest tea-party-driven crusade to block any funding bill that includes money for the health care law, even if it means the government would shut down when the fiscal year ends Sept. 30. […]
Mr Obama said the country’s struggling middle classes had seen barely any rise in their income over the last decade, and that “upward mobility” was becoming harder and harder to achieve.
Citing Congressional gridlock over key measures such as immigration, tax reform and the continued failure to invest in education and infrastructure, the President accused Washington of staging an “endless parade of distractions” when it should have been taking action to kick-start growth.
He warned that if the US continued to “muddle along” then the American dream of betterment - the “founding precept” of each generation being wealthier than the last - would die a slow death.
“If that’s our choice - if we just stand by and do nothing in the face of immense change - understand that an essential part of our character will be lost,” he said.
“Our founding precept about wide-open opportunity and each generation doing better than the last will be a myth, not reality.”
The deductions, loopholes, and credits in the federal tax code disproportionately benefit the highest earners, according to a new study by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
Seventeen percent of all deductions, loopholes, and credits — collectively called “tax expenditures” — go to the top 1 percent of American households, Congress’s in-house think tank found in the report released Wednesday.
The report zeroed in on the 10 largest tax expenditures. It found that 50 percent of the total value of those expenditures benefit the top 20 percent of earners. The second 20 percent of earners received less than 20 percent of the total value, and the share of benefits continued to drop steadily among lower income levels. Thirteen percent of tax expenditures went to households in the middle quintile and just 8 percent to those in the bottom quintile.
The 10 largest tax expenditures in fiscal 2013 included tax exclusions for employer-based health insurance, pensions, capital gains on assets transferred at death and Social Security benefits; itemized deductions for state and local taxes, mortgage interest payments and charitable contributions; preferential tax treatment of capital gains and dividends; and tax credits like the earned income tax credit and child tax credit. These expenditures total more than $900 billion — or 5.7 percent of national output.
Mitt Romney’s unfathomably large IRA was a big political liability for him in 2012.
Fortunately for other financial titans who hope to be president, it’ll be hard in the future to skirt the rules and amass such enormous, tax-deferred savings — if President Obama gets his way.
A new provision in Obama’s budget “[e]nds a loophole that lets wealthy individuals circumvent contribution limits and a cumulate millions in tax-preferred retirement accounts,” according to a budget summary released by the White House. The White House is unveiling its new budget Wednesday.
A senior administration official confirmed to TPM that the provision is a fresh addition to Obama’s budget, and intended to close the loophole that allowed Romney to amass upward of $100 million in his individual retirement account.
Grover Norquist’s iron grip over much of the Republican Party is somewhat puzzling. Why should Senators and other lawmakers listen to a guy caught laundering money for Jack Abramoff?
But consider Norquist’s tax pledge and political power another way: that he’s just a proxy for the powerful interest groups that finance him. In the nineties, it was big tobacco that used Norquist’s tax pledge as a cover to lobby lawmakers against cigarette taxes (Norquist still uses an e-mail system donated to him by Altria to send out Tea Party action alerts against tobacco taxes). Now, big PhRMA and other industry groups provide grants to Norquist while his foundation endorses other giveaways, like protectionist support against importing cheaper drugs from Canada and the classification of tax subsidies to refineries as “tax cuts” that must not be cut.
I took a look at the last available budget numbers for Americans for Tax Reform, Norquist’s group. Though they do not reveal their donors, we can cobble together much of Norquist’s donors using foundations and other nonprofits that donate money to him.
The disclosures show that only two billionaire-backed groups have provided over 66 percent of Norquist’s funding:
The worst thing about this whole debate: Obama got elected not once, but twice by saying he was going to raise taxes on the super rich. Nobody in the GOP got elected by saying that they were going to cut Medicare or home mortgage deductions, but that’s the corner this fiscal cliff debate puts them in.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s attempt to reform the filibuster probably won’t go as far as the Senate needs to end gridlock, but it could have one positive impact: making bipartisan cooperation on a solution to the so-called ‘fiscal cliff’ impossible, according to Mitch McConnell.
‘We have huge issues before us here at the end of the year, much of which will probably carry over into next year,’ McConnell said in a debate with Reid Tuesday. ‘It’s a time that we ought to building collegiality and relationships and not making incendiary moves that are damaging to the institution and could have serious ramifications on our ability to work together here at the end of the year.’
I think that’s good news.
I’m not going to go over a political cliff over David Plouffe’s remarks about the fiscal cliff. As has been widely reported, Plouffe told a college crowd earlier this month that the president was prepared to disappoint the left by making a ‘grand bargain.’
‘Democrats are going to have to do some tough things on spending and entitlements that means that they’ll criticized on by their left,’ Plouffe insisted. The White House knows, he added, that it must ‘carefully’ address the ‘chief drivers of our deficit’: Medicare and Medicaid. Plouffe even suggested the president might be open to lowering tax rates on the wealthy. ‘What we also want to do is engage in a process of tax reform that would ultimately produce lower rates, even potentially for the wealthiest,’ he said.
Chuck Rogers over at CFC worries that supposedly fiscally responsible Republicans are signaling a willingness to abandon their pledge not to raise taxes.
While, thankfully, most elected Republicans continue to honor their pledge to Grover Norquist that they will not raise taxes, seven key GOP congressmen and senators have broken ranks: Alan Simpson, Saxby Chambliss, Jeff Flake, Tom Coburn, Lindsey Graham, Peter King, and John McCain have stated that they would consider tax hikes as part of a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff.
This is, of course, unacceptable — now more than ever we should be lowering taxes, not raising them. Our government needs to raise revenue, but that’s accomplished by spurring the economy in the form of tax breaks for job creators. In short — if we take care of the job creators, they’ll take care of us.
They’ve aimed their rescue efforts at fiscal nostrums that do nothing to address the truly urgent economic issues facing American workers and businesses today. They’ve confined the discussion of tax reform to tweaks that will leave virtually intact the most important tax break for the wealthy (the preferential treatment of investment income), while turning their gun sights on government programs that keep millions of Americans healthy and out of poverty (think Medicare and Social Security).
Make no mistake: The valiant budget negotiators at work in Congress and the White House are mapping out a plan for economic austerity under the guise of “getting our house in order.” This is despite blindingly obvious evidence that what’s needed in the U.S. today is the opposite — more stimulus to jump-start job creation, and more spending on infrastructure from roads and bridges to communications and electrical grids.
Do you doubt that? Then look at the paragon of post-crash austerity: Europe. Harsh budget cuts in Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy, along with austere fiscal regimes in France and Britain, have pushed the Eurozone back into recession.