Monday, December 16, 2002

Until last week I'd been in something of a self-imposed media blackout since the woeful events of a certain Tuesday in November. Alas, all good things must come to an end, and I find myself once again slogging wearily through the morass of good ole US of A politics and media. Don't cry for me. I'm already dead.

So then what have I found upon my lamentable, by me, re-awakening to Dubya's America? Pretty much what I'd expect:

Poorly concealed bigotry in Republican leadership?
Yeah. Well. Check.

Imminent stacking of the federal courts with wingnut activists who can't see an implied right to privacy in the Constitution, no doubt because the 2nd Amendment is the only one in the Bill of Rights that they don't view as a polite but unnecessary suggestion?
Yeah. Well. Check.

Rapacious environmental policies bought, written and overseen by corporate contributors?
Yeah. Well. Check. (Hey, looks like I hit the trifecta)

And, finally, increased taxation, both relatively and absolutely, of the poor and middle-class?
Hey. Wait a minute. What.The.Jibb.Tuh.Fuck. I'm missing something here, right? No, no apparently not. Look, I'm just as aware as everyone else in America (possibly the world) that the more or less official Republican economic policy is "I gots mine", but what the hell? This is the plan? Hey, you know what? Don't follow that link. I'll just steal the WP's intellectual property and post it here (solely, for the purposes of examining what I can only delude muself into hoping is an incredibly ill-conceived and ill-starred trial balloon). Come, let's go to the newsprint.

Warning: Snark Condition Red

New Tax Plan May Bring Shift In Burden
Poor Could Pay A Bigger Share

By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 16, 2002; Page A03

all credit where credit is due, after all

As the Bush administration draws up plans to simplify the tax system, it is also refining arguments for why it may be necessary to shift more of the tax load onto lower-income workers.

Ahh, simplification. Urge to kill rising.

Economists at the Treasury Department are drafting new ways to calculate the distribution of tax burdens among different income classes, which are expected to highlight what administration officials see as a rising tax burden on the rich and a declining burden on the poor. The White House Council of Economic Advisers is also preparing a report detailing the concentration of the tax burden on the affluent and highlighting problems with the way tax burdens are calculated for the poor.

Oh, those put upon affluents. Paying taxes must be such a burden on them what with all that money.

The efforts would thrust the administration into a debate that until now has lingered on the fringes of economic policy: Are too few wealthy Americans paying too much in taxes for too many, and should the working poor and middle class be shouldering more of the tax burden?

Wll of course they should since as any free-wheelin' genuisified CEO would tell you, go where the money, er, isn't?

"The increasing reliance on taxing higher-income households and targeted social preferences at lower incomes stands in the way of moving to a simpler, flatter tax system," R. Glenn Hubbard, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, warned at a tax forum at the American Enterprise Institute on Tuesday.

Taxing higher incomes...target "social preferences" at lower incomes. Yeah, well that's the definition of a progressive, no liberal, no socialist tax system. Jerk. Urge to kill rising.

The Council of Economic Advisers' "Economic Report to the President," scheduled for release late next month or in early February, is to include a section arguing for new methods to calculate the distribution of tax burdens on various income groups.

For new methods, read "Obfuscatory, plutocratic niu-se*"

The Treasury Department is working up more sophisticated distribution tables that are expected to make the poor appear to be paying less in taxes and the rich to be paying more.

What I just said

Answering critics who say the working poor do face high taxes because they pay high Social Security payroll taxes, outgoing White House economic adviser Lawrence B. Lindsey told the AEI tax forum that the 12.4 percent Social Security levy should not be considered when tax burdens are calculated. Lindsey said the Social Security tax is ultimately returned to the taxpayer as a benefit.

Hey Mr. Lindsey, the point of taxation in a republic or a democracy is that money is pooled for collective benefit. Idiot. That's the point. We can argue over who should pay what, and increasingly thanks to your ilk whether the appropriate people benefit (e.g. actual people rather than say well-heeled, thieving corporations). But if you know of some tax money that isn't benefitting taxpayers in any way, well can I have it? Seriously, half-wit, even the Heritage Foundation guy quoted further down gets this (which helps boost my desperate hope that this is just a trial balloon of stupid that'll go down quicker than an Iraqi kite in a no-fly zone)

Lindsey compared the Social Security tax to a deposit in a neighborhood bank's Christmas Club. In such clubs, periodic deposits are returned in a lump sum during the holiday season, and Lindsey said no one would consider such deposits a tax.

sigh

Early this month, J.T. Young, the deputy assistant treasury secretary for legislative affairs, lamented in a Washington Times opinion article: "[Higher] earners cannot produce the level of revenues needed to sustain the liberals' increasingly costly spending programs over the long-term. . . . If federal government spending is not controlled, then the tax burden will have to begin extending backward down the income ladder."

I can only imagine that by "liberals" he means the non-bigot wing of the GOP since last time I checked the Republicans were set to be in charge of both branches of the guvmint which request, set, authorize and yes "control" spending. Seriously, again, who's tax-and-spend now? C'mon, who?

The tenor of the administration's policy discussions marks a dramatic shift from early in 2001, when Bush sold his 10-year, $1.35 trillion tax cut as a tool to "take down the tollgate on the road to the middle class," emphasizing its beneficial impact on workers "on the outskirts of poverty." At that time, the administration fretted over the tax burden on the working poor, which the White House calculated to include federal income taxes, state taxes and the Social Security tax.

Yeah, but that was apparently before the entire Republican Party doubled up on their HubrisilTM (provided gratis, incidentally, by the pharmaceutical industry).

When administration officials pushed the need to create private investment accounts to supplement Social Security, they specifically warned that taxes paid into Social Security would not necessarily be returned unless the system was reformed.

Which, by the way, would render sub-moron, has-been Lindsey's point both null and void.

William W. Beach, an economist at the Heritage Foundation think tank, said he was sympathetic to Lindsey's argument that the Social Security tax is not really a tax. But, he said, it was a dangerous argument for a Republican to make.

"Do I allow defense spending to offset my income taxes since I like to be defended? Do I allow road taxes to offset my profits taxes because I use the roads?" he asked. "If you do start down that road, it's hard to see anything as taxes."

Well, duh, that about sums it up.

But for the purposes of a tax reform debate, removing Social Security taxes from consideration could have a sizable impact. The top 5 percent of the nation's taxpayers paid 41 percent of all federal taxes, a hefty share, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. But that same group paid from 56 to 59 percent of all income taxes, an even more impressive burden.

That would be the effect of removing payroll taxes alright, considering that after a certain point you don't pay them anymore. Hell, why not exclude all wage-based taxes from the debate that way the top 5 percent can end up paying, like what, 85 percent of all personal taxes, which is even more "impressive". Urge to kill still rising.

"If we take out Social Security, the poor will look very lightly taxed," said Robert S. McIntyre, of Citizens for Tax Justice, a tax research group backed by organized labor.

Whoa, look, an actual quote from a non-conservative organization. Oh, they're backed by organized labor though, unlike AEI which apparently recieves no backing and is just a group of free-thinking intellectuals

Democrats say the shift could prove ominous for lower-income Americans. And they appear eager for the fight.

Democrats eager for the fight? Wow, this really must be ominous. Cue organ music and thunder claps.

"These people are setting the tone in saying the poor really are not being taxed enough and that the burden is too high on the rich," said New York Rep. Charles B. Rangel, the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee. "We're going back some 70 years."

"Back some 70 years"? Ah, music to Trent Lott's ears. He must be getting ready to whoop it up under the GOP's Bigot Tent. Still, "these people are setting the tone"? That don't sound like fighting words to me.

Rep. Robert T. Matsui (D-Calif.), a member of the committee, said: "I don't think there's any question you have a number of extremists in the Republican ranks that would like to see the wealthy do very well. They're going to try to make the case that the average American is overtaxed and subsidizing the poor."

But to some conservatives, the shift is long overdue. Rep. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) has argued for two years that the nation is entering a dangerous period in which the burden of financing government is falling on too few people. In such an environment, the masses will always vote for politicians promising ever-more-generous social programs, knowing they will not have to pay for such programs, DeMint warned.

"This issue is coming to a head," DeMint said earlier this month, just minutes after making his pitch to outgoing Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill. "You can't maintain a democracy if the people who are voting don't care what their government costs."

Right, because this is all about defending democracy.

DeMint and his allies have called for a national sales tax to replace the income tax. For those below the federal poverty line, sales taxes paid would be refunded, but under the system, at least they will have seen the cost of government, he said. The working poor would accept a higher tax burden because they would be relieved of the need to file a tax return.

And there you have it America, clearly some, if not all, conservative politicians believe that if you make less than like 75 grand a year you must have gone to school on the short-bus, the sped-sled, the sweet pickle wagon; and they see no harm in taking advantage of your presumably imbecilic selves.

DeMint called his ideas "the duck's feet under the water," propelling his proposals forward invisibly.

So that's what he calls it. I call it the asstastic musings of an ass-hatted ass-clown.

Conservative thinkers at the Heritage Foundation and other think tanks have begun expressing similar opinions. Last month, the Wall Street Journal editorial page made waves with an article titled, "The Non-Taxpaying Class."

"Workers who pay little or no taxes can hardly be expected to care about tax relief for everybody else," the editorial stated. "They are also that much more detached from recognizing the costs of government."

sigh

But advocates of this new line can expect a furious backlash. Liberal commentators have already reduced the argument to an appeal to tax the poor, and even conservatives worry that the label will stick.

"It's hard to conclude it's anything else," said the Heritage Foundation's Beach.

Only because that's exactly what it is.

Michael J. Graetz, a Yale University law professor and tax reform expert, said he could not figure out where the administration's arguments are supposed to lead.

"I would be very surprised if the agenda is to put more people on the tax rolls," he said. "That doesn't seem like a good political agenda."

"I mean, really, at least when the first Bush Administration scored crack in Layfayette Park they didn't smoke it, " Graetz did not add.

But Democrats say that is exactly where the administration is heading. Matsui said he sees the seeds of a disastrous Republican overreach.

Yup, HubrisilTM

"The president is making the case that people who earn between $50 [thousand] and $75,000 a year should be paying a third more taxes," Matsui said. "I'd love to debate him on that."

But McIntyre worried that in the marketplace of ideas, the new argument could carry the day.

"I would hope the public would find it repugnant," he said, "but I suppose you never know."
© 2002 The Washington Post Company

You know, sadly, you never do know. In a country where just about everybody thinks until their dying day that maybe, just maybe, they'll be the next Bill Gates or at the least, Larry Ellison, you might just be able to convince them to go along with this kind of crap cause they figure when they're all rich and sleeping on a bed of shredded hundred dollar bills that they gots theirs so the hell with it. What's a bit more in taxes today? When I'm stupid wealthy and really need the money it'll be there.

Urge to kill rising.

*niu-se is Mandarin Chinese for bullshit, which you might have been able to guess. The meaning that is not the language, though maybe that too.