By Climate Guest Blogger on Nov 12, 2010 at 8:13 pm
There are many ways to combat climate change on an individual or small-scale level but sometimes large group efforts bring necessary exposure to this important, yet contentious global issue. Take the C40 Climate Leadership Group for example. Focusing on reducing carbon emissions, this group of 40 cities is tackling global warming and climate change one green initiative at a time, as discussed in this CAP cross-post.
On election day, as the New York Times’ David Leonhardt put it, “voters mostly chose the status quo [regarding taxes], rejecting measures that would have raised new taxes but also those that would have repealed existing ones.”
However, one state may be facing an incoming class of lawmakers ready to blow a hole in its tax base. Last year, a bill to eliminate Missouri’s income tax (and replace it in part with regressive hikes in the sales tax) passed the state House but flopped in the Senate. However, huge pickups by the state GOP means that elimination of the income tax is back on the docket:
Gleeful Republicans in the Missouri House of Representatives said Wednesday that they will use their historic majority to make state government smaller and Missouri more business-friendly. Speaker-elect Steve Tilley said their agenda will include a measure eliminating the state income tax and replacing it with a higher sales tax.
Completely eliminating the Missouri income tax would cost the state about $6 billion, when the state is already facing a nearly $1 billion shortfall in its 2012 budget. Missouri business groups are also pushing the new GOP legislature to repeal the state’s corporate income tax, costing another $500 million.
Missouri already has a slightly regressive state tax system; those in the lowest income quintile can expect to pay about 10 percent of their income in state and local taxes, while those in the top one percent will pay about 5.4 percent. So why implement a change that will make the tax code even more regressive?
Speaker-elect Steve Tilley has said that this plan to weaken and undermine the state’s tax structure is one of his top priorities. Not surprisingly, this proposal is strongly supported by Rex Sinquefield (bankroller of Proposition A — which eliminated the right of local governments to have local income taxes). Sinquefield reportedly gave Speaker-Elect Tilley $200,000 in campaign contributions even though Tilley ran unopposed in both the primary and the general election.
Earlier today, the Supreme Court denied a request to vacate the Ninth Circuit Court Of Appeals’ stay of an earlier district court injunction that prevented the Pentagon from enforcing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The decision comes just days after Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned Congress that if it doesn’t act to repeal the ban during the lame duck session, the issue could be decided by the courts. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen echoed Gates’ comments over the weekend.
In a statement issued from Afghanistan, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) — a strong advocate of repeal — reiterated what is quickly become a dominant talking point in the debate. “While this is a disappointing decision, it demonstrates the need for Congress to take action now,” she said. “We must put our national security first and repeal this corrosive policy now.” Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) agreed, noting, “While I’m disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision today, the silver lining is that it gives Congress another chance to change the policy in an orderly way that incorporates the concerns of the military.” Repeal advocates hope to persuade Congress that by taking control of repeal, it can accommodate the needs of the military and ensure an orderly transition.
And while gay rights groups have seized on this Washington Post story which reported that the Pentagon’s study of the policy had concluded that servicemembers wouldn’t mind serving alongside gay troops, the Log Cabin Republicans — the plaintiffs to the DADT lawsuit — are suggesting that the White House is less than engaged in the process. R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, told The Huffington Post’s Amanda Terkel that he has had four separate meetings with persuadable Senate offices and “all of them mentioned that they had not yet heard from the White House about supporting a DADT repeal.”
“[T]hese are all senators who would be willing to have a dialogue, and they have not heard from the White House Office of Legislative Affairs, which is an arm of the Executive Office of the President,” relayed Cooper. “So again, if President Obama is serious about this as a legislative priority, there are Republican offices that need a phone call.”
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) has announced that he will introduce legislation to repeal the 1099 reporting requirement in the Affordable Care Act. The provision, which requires small businesses to report any purchases over $600, was intended to increase the tax compliance of sole proprietors, but has been condemned as overly burdensome by a bipartisan group of lawmakers — including President Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — and small business advocacy organizations like the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB). The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the requirement would generate $17 billion in revenue over 10 years.
“The proposal was originally written to keep taxes low by giving the IRS more tools to ensure all owed taxes were paid,” Baucus’ press release reads. “However, following passage of the law, some business owners expressed concern that when the provision does go into effect, the forms would place too large of a paperwork burden on businesses struggling in a still-recovering economy.” In response to those concerns, Baucus said he would “repeal the new reporting requirements and look for other ways to improve tax compliance and keep taxes low.”
Two previous efforts to repeal the measure failed in the Senate. Sen. Mike Johanns’ (R-NE) proposal would have repealed the tax reporting requirement for small businesses, but made up for the $17 billion revenue shortfall by eliminating $11 million from the Preventive Health Task Force and weakening the individual health insurance mandate. Sen. Bill Nelson’s (D-FL) alternative proposal would have required only larger businesses to report their transactions with vendors. Baucus’ office did not specify how the Senator would pay for the repeal or return requests for comment.
NFIB President Dan Danner praised Baucus’ announcement just minutes after it became public. “We are pleased Senator Baucus has announced his support for full repeal of the 1099 provision and are eager for him to formally introduce his bill when Congress returns,” Danner said in a statement. “The sooner Congress repeals this burdensome provision, the better.” Asked about the organization’s quick response, NFIB spokesperson Stephanie Cathcart told me the group has worked closely lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to build momentum to repeal the provision. She said NFIB did not help craft the Baucus’ particular repeal provision.
For repeal to succeed, Senators would have to waive the pay-go rules or find $17 billion in savings — a tall order given today’s partisan environment. Democratic have previously proposed paying for repeal with unspent stimulus funds (a bad idea), changing the inheritance tax (which is likely to get some GOP support) or levying a tax on carried interest.
On Wednesday night, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) successfully claimed the chairmanship of the House Republican Conference after his challenger, tea party favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), dropped out of the running. But just hours after his big win, Hensarling, ran into this familiarbuzz saw for Republican deficit frauds when on CNN’s Parker/Spitzer he was completely unable to name any significant spending cuts he wants to enact.
Host Elliott Spitzer astutely laid out the hollowness of Hensarling’s proposal to cut $900 billion dollars of annual government spending through a Constitutional amendment by noting that Hensarling’s plans leaves massive portions of the federal budget untouched, making it almost impossible to find nearly a trillion dollars in savings. Hensarling tried to fight back, but offered only feeble talking points and assertions that he didn’t understand Spitzer’s math, prompting Spitzer to remind Hensarling, “Sir, you have a degree in economics.”
Hensarling only ran into more trouble when he spoke of a different plan he has endorsed — Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) Roadmap for America’s Future. While proudly saying he has endorsed the Roadmap, Hensarling claims the plan would not “cut one penny” from Social Security or Medicare:
SPITZER: I want to go through category by category so the public can understand where we are. $2.3 trillion of this $3.8 trillion is in couple of areas, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, interest on the debt and defense spending, right? We can agree on that, I presume, right? That’s straight out of the federal budget. Now, are you willing to cut Social Security 25 percent this year?
HENSARLING: Oh, absolutely not. And again, Eliot, you know that you don’t have to cut one penny out of these programs. What you do have to do is ensure they don’t grow faster than the economy’s ability to pay for them. We can’t have Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid grow at 5, 6 and 7 percent and the economy grow at 1.5 percent. … You have to bend the growth curve so they don’t grow as fast. I have co-sponsored Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap for America’s Future.” Not one penny of these programs is cut.
Hensarling — who does indeed have an economics degree from Texas A & M University — is either gravely misinformed about the plan he is endorsing, or willingly misleading the American people. As the Wonk Room’s Pat Garofalo noted, “the Roadmap is an explicit attempt to balance the federal budget via severe cuts to Medicare and Social Security.” The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains, the “Ryan plan proposes large cuts in Social Security benefits — roughly 16 percent for the average new retiree in 2050 and 28 percent in 2080 from price indexing alone.” Meanwhile, “By 2080, Medicare would be cut 76 percent below its projected size under current policies.”
And after all that, Ryan’s Roadmap still won’t balance the budget. As the New York Times’ Paul Krugman noted, “the Ryan plan would reduce revenue by almost $4 trillion over the next decade. If you add these revenue losses to the numbers The Post cites, you get a much larger deficit in 2020, roughly $1.3 trillion.”
Vicki Hartzler beat longtime Democratic Representative Ike Skelton in Missouri and at first glance appears to be delivering some much-needed Real Talk on farm subsidies:
The congresswoman-elect would exempt some of the federal budget’s high-cost categories — including Social Security, Medicare and the Pentagon budget — from cutbacks. But she would not exempt agricultural subsidies, another major area of federal spending popular in rural areas such as west-central Missouri’s Fourth District. Among the many farms to receive such subsidies is the 1,700-acre Hartzler farm, which — according to the Environmental Working Group’s “Farm Subsidy Database” — received about $774,000 in federal payments (mainly commodity subsidies for corn, soybeans and wheat) from 1995 through 2009.
“Everything should be on the table,” she says. While she says some agriculture programs represent a “national defense issue” because they help guarantee that “we have a safety net to make sure we have food security in our country,” Hartzler adds: “Should we continue the CRP [Conservation Reserve] program, where you pay farmers to not plant ground and set it aside for awhile? I’m not sure. The time for that may be over.”
Let’s be clear about what Ms. Hartzler is talking about here. Those “some” agricultural programs she says should be guaranteed on “national defense” grounds (see below) are what we commonly think about as “farm subsidies” — payments to farmers to produce certain commodities, whether those payments are funded by taxpayers or consumers. They encourage overproduction and thus alienate our trade partners, complicate efforts to make global trade freer, harm poor farmers abroad and damage America’s reputation in the process. They cost us billions of dollars a year.
What she’s talking about cutting isn’t the main suite of farm price support programs. Instead she’s “open to cutting farm programs that at least pretend to have environmental benefits.” These programs aren’t my favorite idea about how to spend money, but paying land-owners to maintain their land in ecologically sound ways is much less pernicious than paying them to overproduce corn and soybeans. What’s more, it’s a much smaller share of the overall budgetary pie.
By John Podesta, Guest Blogger on Nov 12, 2010 at 5:15 pm
Our guest blogger is John Podesta, President and CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Center for American Progress Action Fund CEO John Podesta and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA)
As President Obama heads back from Asia, he faces another important week with Congress set to rejoin the debate over whether to extend expiring tax cuts.
Republicans are holding needed middle-class tax cuts hostage in order to give the richest two percent of Americans bonus tax relief in 2011. Republican leaders like to trot out the argument that extension of cuts for the wealthiest is an important tool that will help create jobs.
It’s not. It’s TARP 2, or more Tax Assistance for Rich People. And their rote rhetoric does not obscure the fact that CBO’s analysis of tax policies ranked tax cuts for the wealthiest dead last in terms of its potential to stimulate job growth. It is a highly inefficient, and devastatingly expensive, way to attempt to spur job growth and help our economy’s nascent recovery.
As the White House staff settles on a strategy for the tax cut debate, they should consider an idea put forward by Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA). He has suggested that rather than extending the tax cuts for the top two percent, Congress consider a number of business tax cuts that would be far more likely to spur job creation and more sustained economic growth. He proposed a range of possible business tax cuts to create jobs, but my favorite is a temporary tax credit against payroll taxes. That is a direct way to reduce the costs of businesses hiring new workers, and I hope the White House includes this idea in whatever proposal it puts forward for consideration at next week’s bipartisan Congressional meeting.
The kinds of ideas put forward by Sen. Warner combined with middle class tax cuts and extending unemployment insurance are far sounder as temporary measures to aid economic recovery compared to Republicans’ push to make all the Bush tax cuts permanent. We obviously cannot afford to do that, but as a temporary measure to help American workers and our economy there are better measures than TARP 2 bonuses for millionaires.
Today on his radio show, right-wing host Mike Gallagher spoke with Fox News’ Chris Wallace to promote this weekend’s edition of Fox News Sunday — however, the topic of discussion quickly veered off course. Gallagher told Wallace that he sometimes gets lonely and that he’s an “emotional guy” who sometimes cries “at the drop of a hat.” Wallace shot back, saying that he never cries. “I’m a man,” Wallace said. Gallagher then wondered how Wallace’s wife puts up with him. “Maybe the secret is I know how to satisfy a woman. Has that ever occurred to you?” Wallace said. “What is wrong with you?” asked Gallagher. Later in the interview, Wallace then joked that in order to cure his loneliness, Gallagher should be “a man” and hire an escort or go to a strip club:
WALLACE: Why are you lonely in New York? Don’t you see those numbers on the tops of cabs and things? Call them up! You’re a single guy you got nothing to lose.
GALLAGHER: What does that mean? So I get in a cab and I’m not lonely anymore and then I’m driving around New York in a cab!
WALLACE: On the top of the cabs they have advertisements for like gentlemen’s clubs and escort services.
GALLAGHER: I’m not going to a gentleman’s club. Are you crazy? I would not walk into one of those sordid…
WALLACE: Because you’re not a man!
GALLAGHER: I’m a moral man. … I do not darken the doors of gentlemen’s club. I have standards. I’m a moral guy in an immoral society pal.
No new nominations, guys? In that case, let’s vote on the options we had last time, plus a couple of extra things I’m throwing in the mix. Voting closes at the end of next Tuesday. So, what shall we read?