by Bud Meyers, published November 24, 2015
Compare these two recent posts…
New York Times (November 23, 2015) Giving Billions to the Rich (by Marc Short and Andy Koenig. Excerpts below.)
It’s that time of year again, when Republicans and Democrats put aside their differences to dole out gifts of corporate welfare to a lucky few. Congress will soon take up the so-called tax extenders package, which has more than 50 tax breaks affecting a variety of industries and issues. Lawmakers will undoubtedly spin this as a tax cut that will benefit hardworking Americans and improve our economy; but the reality is, this bill mostly helps the wealthy and the well connected. It’s been this way for nearly three decades. The first tax-extender package in 1988, which was initially supposed to be temporary, opened a door that lobbyists and lawmakers were all too willing to run through. They were drawn by the allure of handing out corporate welfare, with the ability to hide the long-term cost to taxpayers. The Congressional Budget Office doesn’t extrapolate the costs beyond the overall package’s extension, giving the public the false impression that the cost will be both temporary and smaller than a long-term extension. The tax-extender package is now a time-honored tradition, appearing about each year or so since 1988, usually with overwhelming bipartisan support. More than 80 percent of the tax breaks directly benefit businesses, some of which are multinational corporations. The Senate’s two-year extension will cost $95 billion over a decade, but the actual cost to taxpayers in that time frame will likely be closer to half a trillion dollars — if not more. A 2014 analysis by Americans for Tax Fairness found that more than one out of every 10 lobbyists in Washington focused specifically on the extenders package. Given that this bill comes up about every year or two, special interests constantly have the opportunity to demand new handouts. This is exactly the sort of wheeling and dealing that Americans hate. A 2013 Rasmussen poll found that 70 percent of voters “think government and big business often work together in ways that hurt” the rest of us.
Brookings Institute (November 23, 2015) How not to talk about taxes: New York Times promotes misleading language of “loopholes” (by Vanessa Williamson. Excerpts below.)
Reading the New York Times this morning [quotes above], you may have come across an op-ed railing against “corporate welfare” and “crony capitalism” tax breaks that give “billions to the rich.” On first glance, one might think this a leftist critique á la Bernie Sanders. But no. The authors, Marc Short and Andy Koenig, are the president and senior policy advisor at Freedom Partners, the [libertarian/right-wing] political operation worth hundreds of millions of dollars associated with conservative billionaire Charles Koch. The first hint at the authors’ politics comes when they single out particular beneficiaries of the corporate tax break largesse: “Hollywood” and “wind-energy producers,” both business sectors associated with the Democratic Party. Still, a conservative attack on corporate tax loopholes seems like a break from tradition – until you look more closely at what the authors are recommending: across-the-board rate cuts. Several Republican presidential candidates (link, link, link) have been taking a similar policy tack. In each case, the result is vastly lower taxes for corporations and the wealthy, with hand-waving explanations of the budget shortfalls that would likely result. According to Gallup, two thirds of Americans think corporations pay too little in taxes, and about 60% think the wealthy are paying too little. In fact, underpayment by the wealthy and corporations is what bothers Americans most about the tax system — more than the complexity of the system, and even the amount they pay in taxes. Given the overwhelming preference for increasing taxes at the top, it is no wonder that conservative advocates want to cover their policies with a veneer of loophole-closing populism. As I’ve argued elsewhere, this kind of rhetoric is likely to be effective. Most Americans believe in progressive taxation and think the rich should pay more in taxes. But they think “loopholes” are the reason the rich do not pay enough, and they therefore underrate the importance of tax rates. This misperception helps explain why a sizeable minority of Americans support a flat tax – if it closed the loopholes, they mistakenly reason, it might actually raise taxes on the rich. By focusing on loopholes, Short and Koenig manage to advocate for tax cuts for the biggest corporations and the wealthiest Americans. The pseudo-populist approach disguises a wildly unpopular idea.
In other news: Bernie vs. Hillary
Poll: 60% don’t trust Hillary, 62% say she’ll “do anything” to be president. According to a new national survey by Pew Research Center, only 29% of Americans say the term “honest” describes elected officials. The results below are based on more than 6,000 interviews:
74% say their elected officials put their own interests ahead of the nation’s.
72% say elected officials as “selfish” (more so than typical Americans and business leaders).
76% say money has a greater influence on politics and elected officials today than in the past.
56% say large corporations have a negative impact on the country.
65% say the national news media has a negative effect on the country.