06 Dec 2017

susan collins with capital dome
A couple days ago, centrists were disappointed to hear that center-right Republican Susan Collins ended up voting for the atrocious tax bill Republicans have been pushing for weeks. The reason she gave for voting that way has been shown to be an empty promise, so will she change her vote? Susan Collins' Disappointing, but Not Surprising, Tax Vote For weeks before the vote in question, Susan Collins had been publicly on the fence. One can never really know what a politician is secretly thinking, but - perhaps feeling pressure from her party after voting against them so much recently - it seemed as though she was looking for reasons to vote for this bill. Disappointing as her vote was, especially given conflicting stances she's taken in the past about the national debt and deficit spending, this is going to happen sometimes with moderates who lean one way or the other (and illustrates why we need more than a few centrists for the fulcrum strate...

02 Dec 2017

centrist republican Susan Collins
The idea that a few independent centrists in the US Senate could block the worst hyper-partisan legislation is a great medium-term goal, and should work sometimes. Ultimately though, we need more than just a few votes - especially if we want it to do more than just stonewall the worst legislation or be a 'caucus of no'. The Centrist Fulcrum Strategy - Our Medium Term Goal I'd heard of the concept now called the 'fulcrum strategy' before, but Charles Wheelan's book 'The Centrist Manifesto', subsequent writing and media appearances, as well as The Centrist Project (dark money group that supports independents running for office) organization he launched have definitely done more to convince people of its merits than everyone else put together (and then some). There is nothing faulty about the concept itself, and the core concept it sound. A few centrist votes in the US Senate could block either side from a majority, block them from pushing throu...

15 Aug 2011

Cut out almost every income tax loophole, make all income (capital gains on investments included) taxed using the same simple model, lower rates across the board (especially for lower and middle income earners - where the money will mostly go to boosting demand, where the economy is weakest right now) and put at least half of the savings towards cutting the deficit. Common sense ideas like this are how we could, in one fell swoop, make the tax system more fair, cut deficit spending and stimulate the economy where it needs stimulation - if we lived in a saner world. Fellow Omaha resident Warren Buffett (whose house I used to walk by often, having no idea it was his) talked at length about part of this equation in an op-ed in the New York Time on Sunday, saying that we need to "stop coddling the super-rich". I would have gone farther, saying we need to stop giving special deals to anyone. For example, why should investment income be treated any ...

20 Apr 2011

It's amazing that people still get away with saying obviously wrong, and repeatedly debunked, junk economics like this, but here we are. Illinois congressman Joe Walsh made a comment on This Week with Christiane Amanpour, saying that "Every time we've cut taxes, revenues have gone up, the economy has grown." Politifact decided to take a look at that, and found it to be sorely lacking. Here is the main thrust of what this bit of voodoo math gets wrong (bold mine): ...economists expect tax revenues to go up each year due to economic growth, population growth and inflation, even if tax rates stay the same. So saying "revenues have gone up" isn’t particularly meaningful in that context. Given that, it would be more significant to be able to say what effect tax changes have on the overall economy. But this isn’t easy, because so many things affect the economy more than the federal tax code. What this means is that you can raise taxes during a b...

18 Apr 2011

Politifact caught Michele Bachmann in another bit of demagoguery in a speech she made earlier this month, saying that "The top 1 percent of income-earners pay about 40 percent of all taxes into the federal government." Turns out she's close (its just under 40%) if she would have said just income taxes, but it is far less if you are talking federal taxes in general. Here is what Politifact has to say about the claim: The most recent hard data on this question comes from the 2007 tax year. It can be found in a Congressional Budget Office report released in 2010. CBO’s report shows what share of the federal tax liability was carried by various income groups. Here’s the rundown of the federal tax burden for the top 1 percent: Federal income taxes: 39.5 percent share Federal payroll taxes: 4.1 percent share Federal corporate taxes: 57.0 percent share Federal excise taxes: 4.7 percent share Total federal tax share for the top 1 percent: 28.1 ...

15 Apr 2011

The country is doing battle these days with the twin deficit and debt dragons.  This is a necessary war, not one of choice.  Our country has wandered so far off course that it is hard to understand what possessed our previous leaders to acquiesce.  Do you think they believed there would be a free lunch. In the past, large deficits were associated with great wars and war efforts.  This time there is a war component but by far the largest segment comes from health care costs.  The Defense Department and Department of Homeland Security registers present when it comes to adding to the deficit.  The sleeper, however, is the tax code which allows and enables all sorts of tax evasion (all legal). Any path to correcting this serious deficit problem must involve serious cuts to spending.  Spending reductions, however, are not free either.  Some spending promotes social good.  All spending in some way or other is connected to jobs.  Reductions must be m...

10 Apr 2011

Just for complete disclosure…this article was stimulated by one published by Solomon Kleinsmith a few days ago. I am a believer that we should pay our way for what you use or do in a society. Personal responsibility and accountability is critical to the success or our society. For me this is not in conflict with believing that a society should also help take care of those less fortunate…so I also believe in some socialism for the greater good. I say this to give context to the following… Smokers, Drinkers, Drug Abusers, Obese people all choose to live lives that “externalize” upon society much of their costs to live the lives they choose. That truly is just a fact. I understand that genetics and upbringing play a significant role in a person’s ability to make good choices… but personal responsibility is much too important to just completely excuse away. We can make some accommodations for this with programs supporting those who are struggling to...

01 Apr 2011

This article on taxing the rich, which appeared in the Wall Street Journal has received a lot of play in the right-blogosphere.  It tends to, at least on the surface, give a very detailed account into why raising taxes on upper incomes can in disastrous for states in the long run. I think the op-ed makes a compelling case, but I also think it’s short on answers to alternatives.  My brother-in-law, who is a professor in history and economics tends to think that that the rich tend to use more government services, such as roads to truck goods to market, and therefore they should pay more in taxes. I don’t have a background in economics, but I tend to think there has to be a limit on how much upper incomes can pay and as the article shows the fortunes of the economy can make those income very volatile. None of this means I’m against raising taxes, but there can be too much of a good thing (if you want to call taxes good). I’m curious to know wh...

28 Mar 2011

The Bipartisan Policy Center came up with this great idea, I believe a few months ago, where they think the federal government should list where all of your tax money is spent right there on our tax returns. There is so much misinformation about this, that I think it would be a great idea. Today they even put out what this might look like. Their sample shows where an average taxpayer that makes $50,000.oo a year would see their taxes go. Here is a picture they posted on Facebook, showing how much would go where: (apologies - the image was lost during our migration to a new host in 2017 and we could not track down the original) No surprises for those who pay attention to government spending, but there are a lot of people that are under the impression that, for instance, military spending dwarfs social welfare spending. With the wars we have going on, military spending does indeed edge out social security, but if you add the other two social ...

04 Mar 2011

We're seeing a lot of talk about people saying the next generation may be the first in a long time that has it worse off than the one before it. I'm not sure if that is going to be the case or not, but the last two generations have certainly made political decisions that are setting up the next generation for a much tougher time than they had to deal with economically. I wrote about this at length in one of my recent posts at WNYC's Its a Free Country: Their parents and grandparents love them, and want them to succeed, but have supported politicians who have ensured that they will see a job market that is more difficult, while at the same time having to pay taxes that are higher than they’ve ever been in this country. How is the next generation going to be able to adapt to a world that will be changing even faster than it is now, when merely paying the interest on the debt will take up a quarter of the federal budget? How are they to save and...