View Full Version : The Tax Cuts

May 27th, 2003, 06:03 PM
May 27, 2003

Stating the Obvious


"The lunatics are now in charge of the asylum." So wrote the normally staid Financial Times, traditionally the voice of solid British business opinion, when surveying last week's tax bill. Indeed, the legislation is doubly absurd: the gimmicks used to make an $800-billion-plus tax cut carry an official price tag of only $320 billion are a joke, yet the cost without the gimmicks is so large that the nation can't possibly afford it while keeping its other promises.

But then maybe that's the point. The Financial Times suggests that "more extreme Republicans" actually want a fiscal train wreck: "Proposing to slash federal spending, particularly on social programs, is a tricky electoral proposition, but a fiscal crisis offers the tantalizing prospect of forcing such cuts through the back door."

Good for The Financial Times. It seems that stating the obvious has now, finally, become respectable.

It's no secret that right-wing ideologues want to abolish programs Americans take for granted. But not long ago, to suggest that the Bush administration's policies might actually be driven by those ideologues — that the administration was deliberately setting the country up for a fiscal crisis in which popular social programs could be sharply cut — was to be accused of spouting conspiracy theories.

Yet by pushing through another huge tax cut in the face of record deficits, the administration clearly demonstrates either that it is completely feckless, or that it actually wants a fiscal crisis. (Or maybe both.)

Here's one way to look at the situation: Although you wouldn't know it from the rhetoric, federal taxes are already historically low as a share of G.D.P. Once the new round of cuts takes effect, federal taxes will be lower than their average during the Eisenhower administration. How, then, can the government pay for Medicare and Medicaid — which didn't exist in the 1950's — and Social Security, which will become far more expensive as the population ages? (Defense spending has fallen compared with the economy, but not that much, and it's on the rise again.)

The answer is that it can't. The government can borrow to make up the difference as long as investors remain in denial, unable to believe that the world's only superpower is turning into a banana republic. But at some point bond markets will balk — they won't lend money to a government, even that of the United States, if that government's debt is growing faster than its revenues and there is no plausible story about how the budget will eventually come under control.

At that point, either taxes will go up again, or programs that have become fundamental to the American way of life will be gutted. We can be sure that the right will do whatever it takes to preserve the Bush tax cuts — right now the administration is even skimping on homeland security to save a few dollars here and there. But balancing the books without tax increases will require deep cuts where the money is: that is, in Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.

The pain of these benefit cuts will fall on the middle class and the poor, while the tax cuts overwhelmingly favor the rich. For example, the tax cut passed last week will raise the after-tax income of most people by less than 1 percent — not nearly enough to compensate them for the loss of benefits. But people with incomes over $1 million per year will, on average, see their after-tax income rise 4.4 percent.

The Financial Times suggests this is deliberate (and I agree): "For them," it says of those extreme Republicans, "undermining the multilateral international order is not enough; long-held views on income distribution also require radical revision."

How can this be happening? Most people, even most liberals, are complacent. They don't realize how dire the fiscal outlook really is, and they don't read what the ideologues write. They imagine that the Bush administration, like the Reagan administration, will modify our system only at the edges, that it won't destroy the social safety net built up over the past 70 years.

But the people now running America aren't conservatives: they're radicals who want to do away with the social and economic system we have, and the fiscal crisis they are concocting may give them the excuse they need. The Financial Times, it seems, now understands what's going on, but when will the public wake up? *

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

May 28th, 2003, 08:29 AM
May 28, 2003

An Erosion of the Social Contract (3 Letters)

To the Editor:

Re "Stating the Obvious," by Paul Krugman (column, May 27):

I count myself among the liberals who have been aware for months that the seemingly foolish fiscal policies of this administration are not foolish at all but a deliberate effort by the reactionary right to dismantle our social institutions.

These rights — universal health care, a decent education for all our children, assurance that no one will go to sleep hungry every night or spend his last years living in a cardboard box — are inherent in the social contract to which every democracy is committed.

Mr. Krugman asks, "When will the public wake up?" People will be aroused to anger at the train wreck ahead only when the Democrats in Congress start showing some guts and begin exposing this administration's plan. They should be putting their indignation in print, articulating it on talk shows and protesting it in every forum.

We elected our leaders to represent the interests of ordinary people, not to look the other way as government officials race our democracy down the road to ruination.

Old Bethpage, N.Y., May 27, 2003
To the Editor:

The hysterical hand-wringing by the left over the modest tax cut just passed by Congress would have some credibility if there were a reaction in the bond market, which is unforgiving when it comes to policy blunders (column, May 27).

A year ago, some asserted that rising deficits would send interest rates higher; yet interest rates continue to fall, showing that investors are not as concerned about deficits.

Reasonable people can disagree about the composition of this tax cut, but the need for stimulus is beyond question when an economy slides.

To worry now about reducing deficits is comparable to putting leeches on ailing patients 300 years ago: it will make the patient sicker. Thankfully, the bond market understands this.

Washington, May 27, 2003

To the Editor:

Paul Krugman asks, "When will the public wake up?" to the Bush administration's deliberate erosion of our economic-social base (column, May 27). Many people are apparently overwhelmed by the mythology this administration has worked so hard to sell: that President Bush has avenged the terrorist acts of Sept. 11. Are they therefore predisposed to acquiesce to his fiscal policy even if they don't understand how it's possible to achieve financial health at the same time as digging a deep financial hole?

Perhaps many people identify with the top earners who benefit from the tax cuts, denying to themselves that if they do not join that group, their economic position will deteriorate.

Democrats have been slow to challenge the administration's policies. Do they fear that the messenger will be blamed for daring to criticize the emperor's voodoo economics?

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

May 28th, 2003, 11:16 AM
And I thought this was just an attempt to buy votes. If true, very alarming.

May 28th, 2003, 12:16 PM
One of your writers seems to have some confusion over what constitutes a "right", when what he really seems to be saying is an "entitlement". The difference between the two is as wide as the Atlantic.

May 28th, 2003, 12:38 PM
The gap is closed or significantly narrowed when considering the conception of a majority of Americans, who will inevitably have a rough awakening.

They aren't my or our writers.

May 28th, 2003, 03:31 PM
Whether you call them rights or entitlements, when the federal government eliminates them, municipalities have to deal with the consequences, because these people get under foot and can't be ignored. Then all of us who think we are insulated from the problem wind up paying for it.

This especially impacts cities like NY, with a negative revenue flow from the feds.

May 28th, 2003, 04:20 PM
Conservatives imagine social security is purely altruistic. Let's see what happens after their decision not to pay for social peace, if they can really afford it. The political cost may be much greater than they expect in this time of intoxicating arrogance for the far right.

May 29th, 2003, 08:31 AM
May 29, 2003

Caught in the Squeeze


One of the things President Bush knows best is when to turn on the klieg lights, and when to keep them off.

On Tuesday, with no fanfare, he signed a bill increasing the federal debt limit by nearly a trillion dollars. You don't want a lot of coverage when you're mortgaging the future.

But yesterday it was high-fives all around as Mr. Bush signed the third-largest tax cut in history at a grand ceremony in the East Room of the White House.

I suppose if your income is large enough, there is every reason to celebrate. After all, the tax cut could save Dick Cheney $100,000 a year, or more.

But given the economic realities in the U.S. right now, I thought the East Room celebration was in poor taste. The enormous tax-cut package (which is coupled with budget deficits that are lunging toward infinity) is a stunning example of Mr. Bush's indifference to the deepening plight of working people.

The economy has lost more than a half-million jobs already this year, and well over 2 million since payrolls peaked two years ago. More than 8.7 million American men and women are officially counted as unemployed. And that figure is artificially low because it does not count those who have become discouraged and stopped looking for work.

The fallout from the continued hemorrhaging of jobs and the swollen ranks of the unemployed is spreading. The Times had an article two weeks ago about college seniors' putting their dreams on hold because they're graduating into the worst hiring slump in 20 years.

"We definitely picked the wrong time to be graduating from college," said Morgan Bushey, a 21-year-old student at the University of North Carolina. She said she planned to go to France, where she would make about $200 a week teaching English.

The jobs squeeze has other effects. "There's been this notion along the way that if you at least kept your job, you'd be O.K.," said Jared Bernstein, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute in Washington. "But now this persistent unemployment is taking a toll on the wages of those who are still working."

Wages, when adjusted for inflation, are falling for workers across the board. An analysis of government data by Mr. Bernstein and Lawrence Mishel, the institute's president, found that the median weekly paycheck fell 1.4 percent over the past year. All the pay grades above and below the median are also sliding backward. White-collar, blue-collar — workers in all pay grades are taking a hit. Even wage earners in the highest category have seen their pay slip by 1.4 percent.

"When unemployment got down to 4 percent in the late-1990's, you had broad-based wage growth — and it was the first time we'd seen that in decades," said Mr. Bernstein. "That's gone."

The president is not calling his tax package the "Windfall for the Wealthy" act, which is what it is. He calls it the "Jobs and Growth" act, which is what it's not.

He would like us to believe that "with tax relief will come more jobs for the American people." But that's what he said in the last round of tax cuts, and the American people are still waiting.

In fact, the wait is becoming interminable for some. More and more Americans are joining the ranks of the long-term unemployed, those who are out of work for six months or more. A joint study by the National Employment Law Project and the Economic Policy Institute called long-term unemployment "the scourge of a declining economy," and noted that it is taking its greatest toll among those who have traditionally felt economically secure.

"The reality," said the study, "is that the long-term unemployed are better educated, older and more likely to be professional workers."

What the economy needs is a real stimulus that will create real jobs, not an irresponsible package of tax cuts that will inflate the portfolios of the very wealthy while starving the government of the money needed to pay for essential services and to maintain a safety net for the nation's most vulnerable citizens.

We are closing schools and libraries in America, and withholding lifesaving drugs and medical treatment from the poor. The middle class is struggling ever harder to make ends meet, and reshaping its dreams of the future.

In Washington, they're celebrating. *

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

May 29th, 2003, 09:05 AM
Echoing the exporting of manufacturing jobs over the past decades, US corporations are now doing the same with service
sector jobs.


May 30th, 2003, 05:12 AM
May 30, 2003

The Tax Bill's Final Indignity

The tax bill that President Bush triumphantly signed into law on Wednesday is not just unfair, dishonest and economically unsound. It is also cruel to low-income families. In a last-minute revision, Senate and House negotiators dropped a provision that would have extended child tax credits to millions of these families. The stated reason was that the total cost of the bill had to be kept to an agreed-upon limit of $350 billion. This excuse is typical of the shifty argumentation that has accompanied this legislation from the start.

Under the new law, which raises the child tax credit to $1,000 from $600, most families with children will receive a $400-per-child check this summer. It was never intended that the wealthiest families — or the very poorest families, making less than the minimum wage — would get the credit. As it turns out, however, millions of families with incomes between $10,500 and $26,625 will not get it either. Blanche Lincoln, an Arkansas Democrat, had insisted that the Senate version of the bill extend the enlarged credit to this particular group of working families, who have nearly 12 million children. The provision would have cost $3.5 billion, or exactly 1 percent of the advertised price of the bill. But because it would have helped push the tab above $350 billion, out it went.

Set aside for the moment the fact that the official $350 billion figure is a phony. The real cost of the bill over 10 years will more nearly approximate $800 billion if all the provisions that are scheduled to "sunset" in the next few years are eventually made a permanent part of the tax code, as they almost certainly will be. But even if the cost of the bill were actually $350 billion, there were fairer ways to reach that target than by depriving low-income families of the tiny crumbs the bill gives them.

For example, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the same result could have been achieved with a modest 2.3 percent adjustment in the bill's generous cuts on capital gains and dividends. It could also have been achieved by a tiny adjustment in the new top income tax rate, setting it at 35.3 percent over the next three years rather than 35 percent.

Senator Lincoln understandably feels betrayed. She also notes that the families who will no longer benefit badly need the money and would have spent it quickly, thus providing Mr. Bush with the stimulus he says he wants and which the rest of the bill may not reliably provide.

Some senators and interest groups are now urging President Bush to rectify this injustice, a change that would presumably require separate legislation. Given all the other problems with this bill, it seems the least he can do.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

June 2nd, 2003, 05:27 AM
June 2, 2003

The Reverse Robin Hood


If you wanted a quintessential example of what the Bush administration and its legislative cronies are about, it was right there on the front page of The Times last Thursday:

"Tax Law Omits $400 Child Credit for Millions."

The fat cats will get their tax cuts. But in the new American plutocracy, there won't even be crumbs left over for the working folks at the bottom of the pyramid to scramble after.

When House and Senate negotiators met to put the finishing touches to President Bush's tax bill, they coldly deleted a provision that would have allowed millions of low-income working families to benefit from the bill's increased child tax credit.

It was a mean-spirited and wholly unnecessary act, a clear display of the current regime's outright hostility toward America's poor and working classes.

The negotiators eliminated a provision in the Senate version of the tax bill that would have extended benefits from the child tax credit to families with incomes between $10,500 and $26,625. This is not a small group. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the families that would have benefited include about 12 million children — one of every six kids in the U.S. under the age of 17.

While the tax bill will lavish hundreds of billions of dollars in benefits on people higher up the income scale, it leaves this group of working families very ignominiously behind.

And readers of yesterday's Times learned that another group of some eight million mostly low-income taxpayers — primarily single people without children — will also be left behind, getting no benefit at all from the president's tax cuts. Forget about trickle-down. The goal of this administration is to haul it up.

The provision to extend the tax credit to more low-income families was the work of Senator Blanche Lincoln, an Arkansas Democrat who noted that half of all taxpayers in her state had adjusted gross incomes of less than $20,000. The full Senate approved the provision, but the negotiators knocked it out at the last minute, behind closed doors.

While the most well-heeled Americans are happily inflating their bankrolls, there are families with a total of 16 million children at the low end of the income scale who, for one reason or another, won't get the help they should — their fair share — from this tax bill. About half of all African-American and Latino children get no benefit — or only a partial benefit — from the child tax credit, according to the Children's Defense Fund and an advocacy group called the Children's Research and Education Institute.

When the whistles were blown on the child-tax-credit outrage, Republican leaders were unable to give a coherent explanation for their action. Some tried to argue that they had to scrap the provision to keep the total cost of the tax bill from exceeding $350 billion over 10 years, their agreed-upon limit.

That was not true. For one thing, the $350 billion limit was a completely arbitrary and largely fictional figure. The true cost of the tax bill over 10 years will be closer to a trillion dollars than the deliberately deceptive $350 billion figure that the G.O.P. has chosen to use.

Senator Lincoln's provision, which would have offered a little help to so many people who need it, would have cost only $3.5 billion. Even within the phony $350 billion limit, a slight adjustment in a number of different windfalls for the very wealthy would have opened up sufficient room for this modest tax break.

But to really get a sense of the scandalous nature of this G.O.P. tax-cut scam, consider that the House and Senate negotiators also got rid of a number of measures in the Senate bill that would have saved billions of dollars by closing abusive corporate tax structures. The Center on Budget noted the following:

"As the Washington Post has reported, the Senate bill `included provisions to crack down on abusive corporate tax shelters, combat some accounting scams such as those pursued by Enron Corp., prevent U.S. companies from moving their headquarters to post office boxes in offshore tax havens such as Bermuda and limit grossly inflated deferred compensation plans for corporate executives.' "

The savings from those provisions would have been about $25 billion, much more than enough to cover the cost of Senator Lincoln's $3.5 billion attempt to give a bit of a break to several million working families. *

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

June 5th, 2003, 08:03 AM
June 5, 2003

The Poor Held Hostage for Tax Cuts

Millions of low-income families were cruelly denied child credits in the administration's latest detaxation victory. Now, with consummate arrogance, Republican leaders in Congress are threatening another irresponsible tax-cut bidding war as the price for repairing the damage. "There are a lot of other things that are more important than that," said Tom DeLay, the House Republican majority leader, signaling that revisiting the child-care issue will open the door to even worse deficit-feeding tax-cut plans. Mr. DeLay at least offered unabashed candor instead of the crocodile tears of other Republicans. They are now embarrassed over the furor that low-income families were deleted in the final G.O.P. deal on the tax-cut boon weighted so shamelessly last month to favor the wealthiest Americans.

There is a clear and sensible solution to restore the $400 child-credit increase to the working poor in a Senate proposal from Blanche Lincoln, Democrat of Arkansas, and Olympia Snowe, Republican of Maine. Their measure, which would cost $3.5 billion and help nearly 12 million children, would be paid for by eliminating some of the tax-shelter abuses that fed the Enron scandal.

Republicans are scrambling for political cover now, fearing the wrath of the mythic soccer-mom voting bloc next year. But the rival child-care solution being offered by Senator Charles Grassley, Republican of Iowa and the finance chairman, introduces a whole new scale of irresponsibility to the tax-cut games. This would expand the credit to 6.5 million low-income households, although not to minimum-wage earners of less than $10,500 a year. But at the same time, the upper-bracket limit would be generously, gratuitously raised another $40,000 to benefit families earning up to $189,000, hardly the neediest among us. Plus the credits would be made permanent instead of temporary, as currently enacted.

This makes it a $100-billion-plus budget-busting measure lacking the cost offsets of the sane and prudent Lincoln-Snowe approach. The fiction of Republican leaders' promises to contain the deficit damage of their tax cuts is becoming clearer with each wad of debt rolled onto future generations.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

June 6th, 2003, 11:21 AM
June 6, 2003

Duped and Betrayed


According to The New Republic, Senator Zell Miller — one of a dwindling band of Democrats who still think they can make deals with the Bush administration and its allies — got shafted in the recent tax bill. He supported the bill in part because it contained his personal contribution: a measure requiring chief executives to take personal responsibility for corporate tax declarations. But when the bill emerged from conference, his measure had been stripped out.

Will "moderates" — the people formerly known as "conservatives" — ever learn? Today's "conservatives" — the people formerly known as the "radical right" — don't think of a deal as a deal; they think of it as an opportunity to pull yet another bait and switch.

Let's look at the betrayals involved in this latest tax cut.

Most media attention has focused on the child tax credit that wasn't. As in 2001, the administration softened the profile of a tax cut mainly aimed at the wealthy by including a credit for families with children. But at the last minute, a change in wording deprived 12 million children of some or all of that tax credit. "There are a lot of things that are more important than that," declared Tom DeLay, the House majority leader. (Maybe he was thinking of the "Hummer deduction," which stayed in the bill: business owners may now deduct up to $100,000 for the cost of a vehicle, as long as it weighs at least 6,000 pounds.)

Less attention has been paid to fine print that reveals the supposed rationale for the dividend tax cut as a smoke screen. The problem, we were told, is that profits are taxed twice: once when they are earned, a second time when they are paid out as dividends. But as any tax expert will tell you, the corporate tax law is full of loopholes; many profitable corporations pay little or no taxes.

The original Bush plan ensured that dividends from such companies would not get a tax break. But those safeguards vanished from the final bill: dividends will get special treatment regardless of how much tax is paid by the company that issues them.

This little change has two big consequences. First, as Glenn Hubbard, the former chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers and the author of the original plan, delicately puts it, "It's hard to get a lot of progressivity at the top."

Translation: wealthy individuals who get most of their income from dividends and capital gains will often end up paying lower tax rates than ordinary Americans who work for a living.

Second, the tax cut — originally billed as a way to reduce abuses — may well usher in a golden age of tax evasion. We can be sure that lawyers and accountants are already figuring out how to disguise income that should be taxed at a 35 percent rate as dividends that are taxed at only 15 percent. Since there's no need to show that tax was ever paid on profits, tax shelters should be easy to construct.

Of course, the big betrayal was George W. Bush's decision to push this tax cut in the first place. There is no longer any doubt that the man who ran as a moderate in the 2000 election is actually a radical who wants to undo much of the Great Society and the New Deal.

Look at it this way: as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out, this latest tax cut reduces federal revenue as a share of G.D.P. to its lowest level since 1959. That is, federal taxes are now back to what they were in an era when Medicare and Medicaid didn't exist, and Social Security was still a minor expense. How can we maintain these programs, which have become essential to scores of millions of Americans, at today's tax rates? We can't.

Grover Norquist, the right-wing ideologue who has become one of the most powerful men in Washington, once declared: "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub." Mr. Bush has made a pretty good start on that plan.

Which brings us back to Senator Miller, and all those politicians and pundits who still imagine that there is room for compromise, that they can find some bipartisan middle ground. Mr. Norquist was recently quoted in The Denver Post with the answer to that: "Bipartisanship is another name for date rape." *

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

June 6th, 2003, 04:57 PM
June 8, 2003

Deficits and Dysfunction


I have belonged to the Republican Party all my life. As a Republican, I have served as a cabinet member (once), a presidential commission member (three times), an all-purpose political ombudsman (many times) and a relentless crusader whom some would call a crank (throughout). Among the bedrock principles that the Republican Party has stood for since its origins in the 1850's is the principle of fiscal stewardship -- the idea that government should invest in posterity and safeguard future generations from unsustainable liabilities. It is a priority that has always attracted me to the party. At various times in our history (especially after wars), Republican leaders have honored this principle by advocating and legislating painful budgetary retrenchment, including both spending cuts and tax hikes.

Over the last quarter century, however, the Grand Old Party has abandoned these original convictions. Without ever renouncing stewardship itself -- indeed, while talking incessantly about legacies, endowments, family values and leaving ''no child behind'' -- the G.O.P. leadership has by degrees come to embrace the very different notion that deficit spending is a sort of fiscal wonder drug. Like taking aspirin, you should do it regularly just to stay healthy and do lots of it whenever you're feeling out of sorts.

With the arrival of Ronald Reagan in the White House, this idea was first introduced as part of an extraordinary ''supply-side revolution'' in fiscal policy, needed (so the thinking ran) as a one-time fix for an economy gripped by stagflation. To those who worried about more debt, they said, Relax, it won't happen -- we'll ''grow out of it.'' Over the course of the 1980's, under the influence of this revolution, what grew most was federal debt, from 26 to 42 percent of G.D.P. During the next decade, Republican leaders became less conditional in their advocacy. Since 2001, the fiscal strategizing of the party has ascended to a new level of fiscal irresponsibility. For the first time ever, a Republican leadership in complete control of our national government is advocating a huge and virtually endless policy of debt creation.

The numbers are simply breathtaking. When President George W. Bush entered office, the 10-year budget balance was officially projected to be a surplus of $5.6 trillion -- a vast boon to future generations that Republican leaders ''firmly promised'' would be committed to their benefit by, for example, prefinancing the future cost of Social Security. Those promises were quickly forgotten. A large tax cut and continued spending growth, combined with a recession, the shock of 9/11 and the bursting of the stock-market bubble, pulled that surplus down to a mere $1 trillion by the end of 2002. Unfazed by this turnaround, the Bush administration proposed a second tax-cut package in 2003 in the face of huge new fiscal demands, including a war in Iraq and an urgent ''homeland security'' agenda. By midyear, prudent forecasters pegged the 10-year fiscal projection at a deficit of well over $4 trillion.

So there you have it: in just two years there was a $10 trillion swing in the deficit outlook. Coming into power, the Republican leaders faced a choice between tax cuts and providing genuine financing for the future of Social Security. (What a landmark reform this would have been!) They chose tax cuts. After 9/11, they faced a choice between tax cuts and getting serious about the extensive measures needed to protect this nation against further terrorist attacks. They chose tax cuts. After war broke out in the Mideast, they faced a choice between tax cuts and galvanizing the nation behind a policy of future-oriented burden sharing. Again and again, they chose tax cuts.

The recent $10 trillion deficit swing is the largest in American history other than during years of total war. With total war, of course, you have the excuse that you expect the emergency to be over soon, and thus you'll be able to pay back the new debt during subsequent years of peace and prosperity. Yet few believe that the major drivers of today's deficit projections, not even the war on terror, are similarly short-term. Indeed, the biggest single driver of the projections, the growing cost of senior entitlements, are certain to become much worse just beyond the 10-year horizon when the huge baby-boom generation starts retiring in earnest. By the time the boomer age wave peaks, workers will have to pay the equivalent of 25 to 33 percent of their payroll in Social Security and Medicare before they retire just to keep those programs solvent.

Two facts left unmentioned in the deficit numbers cited above will help put the cost of the boomer retirement into focus. First, the deficit projections would be much larger if we took away the ''trust-fund surplus'' we are supposed to be dedicating to the future of Social Security and Medicare; and second, the size of this trust fund, even if we were really accumulating it -- which we are not -- is dwarfed by the $25 trillion in total unfinanced liabilities still hanging over both programs.

A longer time horizon does not justify near-term deficits. If anything, the longer-term demographics are an argument for sizable near-term surpluses. As Milton Friedman once put it, if you cut taxes without cutting spending, you aren't really reducing the tax burden at all. In fact, you're just pushing it off yourself and onto your kids.

You might suppose that a reasoned debate over this deficit-happy policy would at least be admissible within the ''discussion tent'' of the Republican Party. Apparently, it is not. I've seen Republicans get blackballed for merely observing that national investment is limited by national savings; that large deficits typically reduce national savings; or that higher deficits eventually trigger higher interest rates. I've seen others get pilloried for picking on the wrong constituency -- for suggesting, say, that a tax loophole for a corporation or wealthy retiree is no better, ethically or economically, than a dubious welfare program.

For some ''supply side'' Republicans, the pursuit of lower taxes has evolved into a religion, indeed a tax-cut theology that simply discards any objective evidence that violates the tenets of the faith.

So long as taxes are cut, even dissimulation is allowable. A new Republican fad is to propose that tax cuts be officially ''sunsetted'' in 2 or 5 or 10 years in order to minimize the projected revenue loss -- and then to go out and tell supporters that, of course, the sunset is not to be taken seriously and that rescinding such tax cuts is politically unlikely. Among themselves, in other words, the loudly whispered message is that a setting sun always rises.

What's remarkable is how so many elected Republicans go along with the charade. The same Republican senators who overwhelmingly approved (without a single nay vote) the Sarbanes-Oxley Act to crack down on shady corporate accounting of investments worth millions of dollars see little wrong with turning around and making utterly fraudulent pronouncements about tax cuts that will cost billions or, indeed, even trillions of dollars.

For some Republicans, all this tax-cutting talk is a mere tactic. I know several brilliant and partisan Republicans who admit to me, in private, that much of what they say about taxes is of course not really true. But, they say, it's the only way to reduce government spending: chop revenue and trust that the Democrats, like Solomon, will agree to cut spending rather than punish our children by smothering them with debt.

This clever apologia would be more believable if Republicans -- in all matters other than cutting the aggregate tax burden -- were to speak loudly and act decisively in favor of deficit reductions. But it's hard to find the small-government argument persuasive when, on the spending front, the Republican leaders do nothing to reform entitlements, allow debt-service costs to rise along with the debt and urge greater spending on defense -- and when these three functions make up over four-fifths of all federal outlays.

The starve-government-at-the-source strategy is not only hypocritical, it is likely to fail -- with great injury to the young -- once the other party decides to raise the ante rather than play the sucker and do the right thing. When the Democratic presidential contender Dick Gephardt proposed in April a vast new national health insurance plan, he justified its cost, which critics put at more than $2 trillion over 10 years, by suggesting that we ''pay'' for it by rescinding most of the administration's tax legislation. Oddly, it never occurred to these Republican strategists that two can play the spend-the-deficit game.

Not surprisingly, many Democrats have thrown a spotlight on the Republicans' irresponsible obsession with tax cutting in order to improve their party's image with voters, even to the extent of billing themselves as born-again champions of fiscal responsibility. Though I welcome any newcomers to the cause of genuine fiscal stewardship,

I doubt that the Democratic Party as a whole is any less dysfunctional than the Republican Party. It's just dysfunctional in a different way.

Yes, the Republican Party line often boils down to cutting taxes and damning the torpedoes. And yes, by whipping up one-sided popular support for lower taxes, the Republicans pre-empt responsible discussion of tax fairness and force many Democrats to echo weakly, ''Me, too.'' But it's equally true that the Democratic Party line often boils down to boosting outlays and damning the torpedoes. Likewise, Democrats regularly short-circuit any prudent examination of the single biggest spending issue, the future of senior entitlements, by castigating all reformers as heartless Scrooges.

I have often and at great length criticized the free-lunch games of many Republican reform plans for Social Security -- like personal accounts that will be ''funded'' by deficit-financed contributions. But at least they pretend to have reform plans. Democrats have nothing. Or as Bob Kerrey puts it quite nicely, most of his fellow Democrats propose the ''do-nothing plan,'' a blank sheet of paper that essentially says it is O.K. to cut benefits by 26 percent across the board when the money runs out. Assuming that Democrats would feel genuine compassion for the lower-income retirees, widows and disabled parents who would be most affected by such a cut, I have suggested to them that maybe we ought to introduce an ''affluence test'' that reduces benefits for fat cats like me.

To my amazement, Democrats angrily respond with irrelevant cliches like ''programs for the poor are poor programs'' or ''Social Security is a social contract that cannot be broken.'' Apparently, it doesn't matter that the program is already unsustainable. They cling to the mast and are ready to go down with the ship. To most Democratic leaders, federal entitlements are their theology.

What exactly gave rise to this bipartisan flight from integrity and responsibility -- and when? My own theory, for what it's worth, is that it got started during the ''Me Decade,'' the 1970's, when a socially fragmenting America began to gravitate around a myriad of interest groups, each more fixated on pursuing and financing, through massive political campaign contributions, its own agenda than on safeguarding the common good of the nation. Political parties, rather than helping to transcend these fissures and bind the country together, instead began to cater to them and ultimately sold themselves out.

I'm not sure what it will take to make our two-party system healthy again. I hope that in the search for a durable majority, Republicans will sooner or later realize that it won't happen without coming to terms with deficits and debts, and Democrats will likewise realize it won't happen for them without coming to terms with entitlements.

Whether any of this happens sooner or later, of course, ultimately depends upon the voters. Perhaps we will soon witness the emergence of a new and very different crop of young voters who are freshly engaged in mainstream politics and will start holding candidates to a more rigorous and objective standard of integrity. That would be good news indeed for the future of our parties.

In any case, I fervently hope that America does not have to drift into real trouble, either at home or abroad, before our leaders get scared straight and stop playing chicken with one another. That's a risky course, full of possible disasters. It's not a solution that a great nation like ours ought to be counting on.

Peter G. Peterson is chairman and co-founder of the Blackstone Group and chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. He served as secretary of commerce under President Nixon.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

(Edited by Christian Wieland at 9:55 pm on June 9, 2003)

June 15th, 2003, 08:16 AM
June 15, 2003

The Poor as a Handy Distraction

The gravest questions of fiscal responsibility for the nation are being ignored in the freakish sideshow now under way in Congress over yet another tax cut in these fiscally difficult times. President Bush and the Republican leaders should be candidly debating the $2 trillion-plus mountain of deficits and debt they are rolling onto the backs of future generations through the administration's serial tax cuts. Instead, they are obsessed with the 2004 election cycle, wrangling over how best to throw a last-minute bone to low-income Americans shortchanged in last month's tax giveaway to the most affluent Americans.

Republicans voice concern that they seem compassionate, yet not extend "welfare" to the working poor. Lost in that debate is the fact that various indefensible tax shelters were protected as corporate welfare in the lobbying frenzy for the new tax cuts. Unmentioned, too, is the fact that the nation's richest 1 percent will garner better than 25 percent of the revenue cut. Those earning more than $500,000 will average $17,000, while those down in the $40,000 bracket average $320.

Without doubt, the 6.5 million minimum-wage families shamelessly neglected the first time around deserve the extra $400 in child care credits most other Americans are awaiting. The Senate's $3.5 billion short-term solution is preferable to the House Republicans' $82 billion move to up the tax-cut ante, but only relatively so. Washington's tax debates are but a piece of the bigger picture of an uninhibited binge of revenue cuts and deficit budgeting. Senate Republicans style themselves as more responsible than the House in demanding last month's total cut be no more than $350 billion. But the actual cost in deficit will be more than twice that once the "sunset" accounting gimmicks are removed, as promised.

The Bush cuts offer too little short-term stimulus while choking the long-term revenue flow for the looming time when Social Security and Medicare costs will balloon. Mr. Bush's growing need to float the federal government on borrowed money will crimp economic growth. This is the stuff of real debate. Instead we have the G.O.P. worrying a modest share for the poor. The outcome promises to position the president as a compassionate "moderate" in a cynical bit of right-wing theater produced by the House majority leader, Tom DeLay, the president's indispensable ally in budget politicking.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

June 16th, 2003, 05:54 AM
June 16, 2003

There Goes the Neighborhood



Advocates for the poor have protested President Bush's $350 billion tax cut on many grounds, notably its selective use of the per-child tax credit. But few have discussed its potential effect on one of the more remarkable long-term economic trends of the last decade: the decline in concentrated poverty in America.

A recent report for the Brookings Institution by a University of Texas social scientist, Paul Jargowsky, revealed that the number of people residing in high-poverty neighborhoods decreased by 24 percent, or 2.5 million people, from 1990 to 2000. Moreover, the number of such neighborhoods — the study defined them as census tracts with at least 40 percent of residents below the poverty level — around the country declined by more than a quarter.

The news has been greeted as a major step forward for inner-city blacks, because their neighborhoods tend to feature the highest levels of concentrated poverty. To some extent this is true, although perhaps not in the way either the political left or right are spinning it. And, as promising as the findings are, they do not signify that we've found a magic bullet in the war on poverty.

In fact, the study conforms to the long-held if oft-ignored fact that the state of America's urban core is not separate from that of the country's economy as a whole. Thus the notable reduction in the number of high-poverty neighborhoods, and the substantial decrease in the population of such neighborhoods, may simply be blips of boom times rather than permanent trends.

Social scientists have rightly devoted considerable attention to concentrated poverty because it magnifies the problems associated with poverty in general: joblessness, crime, delinquency, drug trafficking, family breakups and poor "social outcomes" like school performance. Moreover, as Mr. Jargowsky has emphasized in previous research, when high poverty rates spread through a neighborhood, middle- and working-class people tend to see the area as "dangerous." It becomes isolated, socially and economically, as people go out of their way to avoid it.

In 1990 almost a third of blacks lived in such neighborhoods; the 2000 figure was 19 percent. Yet despite this significant improvement, African-Americans still have the highest rates of concentrated poverty. In part, the state of inner-city ghettoes is a legacy of historic racial subjugation. And it is true that racial discrimination and segregation continue to play a role in limiting the progress of many African-Americans.

However, neither the spectacular rise in black concentrated poverty from 1970 to 1990, nor the dramatic decline from 1990 to 2000, can be explained mainly in terms of race. Rather, these shifts demonstrate that the fate of African-Americans and other racial groups is inextricably connected with changes across the modern economy.

The data bear this out. The declines in concentrated poverty in the 90's occurred not just in a few cities but across the country. Virtually all racial and ethnic groups recorded improvements. The number of whites living in these neighborhoods declined by 29 percent (from 2.7 million people to 1.9 million), and the number of blacks decreased by 36 percent (from 4.8 million to 3.1 million). For all races, the greatest improvements against poverty concentration were in the South and Midwest, the smallest in the Northeast, mirroring wider economic trends.

Nonetheless, there is a tendency among scholars, black leaders and policy makers to view the economic problems in the African-American community, including the growth of concentrated poverty, separately from national and international trends affecting all American families and neighborhoods. One reason may be a desire for tidy solutions. However, if the economic problems of the black community are defined exclusively in terms of race, they can be isolated and seen as requiring only race-specific solutions, as proposed by the political left, or narrow political solutions with subtle racial connotations (like welfare reform), as trumpeted by the right.

A look at the long-term statistics shows that neither welfare reform nor race-based programs seems to have had much to do with changes in poverty concentration. The sharp rise in concentrated poverty occurred during a period of rising income inequality for all Americans that began in the early 1970's. This was a period of decline in inflation-adjusted average incomes among the poor and of growing economic segregation caused by the exodus of middle-income families from inner cities. What had been mixed-income neighborhoods were rapidly transformed into areas of high poverty.

Almost 30 years ago, the African-American economist Vivian Henderson pointed out that "the economic future of blacks in the United States is bound up with that of the rest of the nation." So, just as blacks suffered greatly during the decades of growing separation between haves and have-nots, they benefited considerably from the incredible economic boom in the last half of the 1990's, which not only substantially reduced unemployment, including black unemployment, but sharply increased the earnings of all low-wage workers as well.

Undoubtedly, if the robust economy could have been extended for several more years, rather than coming to an abrupt halt in 2001, concentrated poverty in inner cities would have declined even more.

This cannot be proved now; data on concentrated poverty are provided only by the decennial census. But the Brookings report clearly shows that the favorable trend of the 1990's may be temporary rather than long term. Unemployment and individual poverty rates are on the rise again; more than 2.4 million jobs have disappeared in the last two years. And given the continuing increase in the Hispanic population, the number of high-poverty barrios is likely to grow rapidly in a sluggish economy.

That is why my concern extends beyond the details of Mr. Bush's tax cuts to the big picture. If, as many economists predict, the cuts result in huge budget deficits and further weaken a faltering economy, we may again see the depressingly high levels of concentrated poverty recorded in 1990.

The lesson for those committed to fighting inequality, especially those involved in multiracial coalition politics, is to pay more scrutiny to fiscal, monetary and trade policies that may have long-term consequences for the national and regional economies, as seen in future earnings, jobs and concentrated poverty. We must remember that high-poverty neighborhoods reflect America, all of America.

William Julius Wilson, professor at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government and department of African and African-American studies, was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1998.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

June 26th, 2003, 08:02 AM
June 26, 2003

Very Richest's Share of Income Grew Even Bigger, Data Show


The 400 wealthiest taxpayers accounted for more than 1 percent of all the income in the United States in the year 2000, more than double their share just eight years earlier, according to new data from the Internal Revenue Service. But their tax burden plummeted over the period.

The data, in a report that the I.R.S. released last night, shows that the average income of the 400 wealthiest taxpayers was almost $174 million in 2000. That was nearly quadruple the $46.8 million average in 1992. The minimum income to qualify for the list was $86.8 million in 2000, more than triple the minimum income of $24.4 million of the 400 wealthiest taxpayers in 1992.

While the sharp growth in incomes over that period coincided with the stock market bubble, other factors appear to account for much of the increase. A cut in capital gains tax rates in 1997 to 20 percent from 28 percent encouraged long-term holders of assets, like privately owned businesses, to sell them, and big increases in executive compensation thrust corporate chiefs into the ranks of the nation's aristocracy.

This year's tax cut reduced the capital gains rate further, to 15 percent.

The data from 2000 is the latest available from the I.R.S., but various government reports indicate that salaries, dividends and other forms of income have continued to rise since then, even as the stock market has fallen.

The top 400 reported 1.1 percent of all income earned in 2000, up from 0.5 percent in 1992. Their taxes grew at a much slower rate, from 1 percent of all taxes in 1992 to 1.6 percent in 2000, when their tax bills averaged $38.6 million each.

Those numbers can be read to show that the wealthiest, as a group, carried a disproportionate share of the overall tax burden — 1.6 percent of all taxes, versus just 1.1 percent of all income — evidence that all sides in the tax debate will be able to find ammunition in the data.

In 2000, the top 400 on average paid 22.3 percent of their income in federal income tax, down from 26.4 percent in 1992 and a peak of 29.9 percent in 1995. Two factors explain most of this decline, according to the I.R.S.: reduced tax rates on long-term capital gains and bigger gifts to charity.

Had President Bush's latest tax cuts been in effect in 2000, the average tax bill for the top 400 would have been about $30.4 million — a savings of $8.3 million, or more than a fifth, according to an analysis of the I.R.S. data by The New York Times. That would have resulted in an average tax rate of 17.5 percent.

The rate actually paid by the top 400 in 2000 was about the same as that paid by a single person making $123,000 or a married couple with two children earning $226,000, according to Citizens for Tax Justice, a labor-backed group whose calculations are respected by a broad spectrum of tax experts.

The group favors higher taxes on the wealthy, and its director, Robert S. McIntyre, said yesterday that the I.R.S. data bolsters that viewpoint. "Regardless of which party these 400 are in, these are the guys Bush wants to help, even though they have so much money they don't know what to do with it," he said. "How Bush feels about the half of the population that doesn't have much money is he got them a tax cut worth an average of $19 each."

William W. Beach, a tax expert at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative organization that favors lowering taxes for all Americans, said that the top 400 taxpayers made "the significant contribution" to government revenue — about one in every $64 of individual income tax paid. Cutting taxes, he said, will prompt the wealthy to invest more in the economy's growth.

Detailed information about high-income Americans has become increasingly important in setting tax policy, because the government relies on the top 1.3 million households for 37.4 percent of individual federal income tax revenue. The half of Americans who earned less than $27,682 in 2000, paid less than 4 percent of income taxes.

All of the I.R.S. data is based on adjusted gross income, the figure reported on the last line on the front page of individual income tax returns. Interest earned on municipal bonds, which are exempt from tax, is not included.

Over the nine years of tax returns that were examined for the new report, only a handful of taxpayers showed up in the top 400 every year, according to I.R.S. officials. In all, about 2,200 taxpayers made the cut even once. There were a few incomes of more than $1 billion a year in the group, but none as high as $10 billion.

The names of the wealthiest taxpayers are not disclosed in the report, which was prepared at the urging of Joel Slemrod, a University of Michigan business school professor who serves on an I.R.S. advisory panel and is a leading authority on taxation of high-income Americans.

The figures do not include the incomes of the many wealthy Americans who use shelters to reduce their reported incomes below the level of the top 400.

In 1999 and 2000, for example, William T. Esrey — then the chief executive of Sprint, the telecommunications company — earned more than $150 million in stock option profits, lofting him onto many lists of the best-paid corporate managers.

That income might have put Mr. Esrey in the I.R.S.'s top 400 taxpayers. But, as later came to light, Mr. Esrey bought a tax shelter from Ernst & Young, the accounting firm, designed to let him delay reporting the profits for tax purposes until the year 2030. Sprint's board forced Mr. Esrey to resign in March after he acknowledged that the shelter was the subject of an I.R.S. audit.

Over the nine years reviewed in the new report, the incomes of the top 400 taxpayers increased at 15 times the rate of the bottom 90 percent of Americans; their average income rose 17 percent, to $27,000, from 1992 to 2000.

Long-term capital gains accounted for 64 percent of the income of the top 400 in 2000, nearly double the level in 1992. Wages contributed 16.7 percent to the incomes of the top 400 in 2000, down from 26.2 percent in 1992, and dividends made up 2.8 percent.

A second report that the I.R.S. will make public today shows that the number of Americans with high incomes who pay no taxes anywhere in the world has reached a record. In 2000, there were 2,022 Americans with incomes of more than $200,000 who paid no income tax anywhere in the world, up from just 37 in 1977, when the report was first issued.


Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

September 12th, 2003, 09:53 PM
The Tax-Cut Con (http://www.nytimes.com/2003/09/14/magazine/14TAXES.html)

September 17th, 2003, 09:35 AM
September 17, 2003

A Tax-Cut Victim

If there was one thing Americans had a right to expect from Congress, it was a federal plan to help the elderly pay for prescription drugs. It is a promise that has been made again and again — in particularly high decibels during the last presidential election. The House and Senate have passed bills, and although both are flawed, this page has urged Congress to finish work on them as a first step toward fulfilling this longstanding commitment.

Unfortunately, things have changed. The government cannot afford the program now. That is the fault of President Bush and the Republican majorities in the House and Senate. They broke the bank with their enormous tax cuts. The country is facing the largest budget deficit in history, and there is no realistic plan for getting it under control. The limited version of a prescription drug benefit now being considered in Congress would cost about $400 billion over 10 years.

Older Americans had a right to expect that help, but they do not have a right to demand it, not when it would be financed by borrowing, with the bills to be paid by their grandchildren.

Mr. Bush, a specialist in pain avoidance, told people that they could have the programs they wanted — prescription drugs for the elderly, better schools for children — along with modest tax cuts for the middle class and whoppers for the wealthy. When 9/11 occurred, the president simply added the war on terror, and then the war on Saddam Hussein, to the list. For all his talk about fiscal conservatism, Mr. Bush has never vetoed a spending bill, even the obscene $180 billion farm subsidy program. To pay for it all, he simply increased the deficit.

Deficits in and of themselves are not necessarily a problem, but the current one is frightening for two reasons. One is its size: projected at well above $500 billion for next year, and approaching 5 percent of the gross domestic product. The other is its permanence. Cutting taxes temporarily to fight the recession made sense, but the Bush tax cuts are meant to be permanent — even though Congress gave most of them a phony 10-year expiration date in an attempt to mask their effect.

Dropping the proposal is, of course, just what a large chunk of the Republican Party was hoping for all along. For those Republicans, deficits are a useful tool to beat back popular entitlement programs — a "starve the beast" strategy, in the words of Ronald Reagan's budget director. Democrats in Congress, meanwhile, rail against the deficit, but they are still pushing for the prescription drug plan. Like the tax-cutters, they are simply building up to some sort of financial Armageddon — like soaring interest rates or a collapsing dollar — and hoping that blame will fall on the other party.

Our answer is different. The people have to decide whether they want tax cuts or programs like the prescription drug plan. It's true that the tax-cut radicals will win this round. But then we will have an election.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

Freedom Tower
September 18th, 2003, 08:45 PM
It's simple economics. Tax cuts give back money to hard working Americans. With that money they buy what they couldn't or wouldn't have bought without that extra check in the mail. They may go out and buy a new TV, or computer, or whatever. Then that boosts sales (which there are taxes on btw). So the government still gets a small amount of it back. At the same time, businesses do better because of more TV sales or computer sales. Then the business owners get more money, spend more, and hire more people. Those people spend money. The economy improves. At the same time, you have the democrats. They wish to raise taxes. When that happens businesses move out of the city/state, or wherever. The economy goes down. People go to states with less taxes. People intentionally shop in places with less taxes. If anyone really thinks taxes have no affect on how Americans choose to purchase things they better take a closer look. Now there is obviously a difference on income tax and taxes on sales. But democrats want to raise them all, which is why it is important to mention them both. People complain the government wont have enough money to spend without high taxes. But when the economy rebounds because of low taxes then business picks up, the government will have more businesses and goods to tax. Obviously there is so much involved that you can't analyze it briefly, as I attempted to do. But tax cuts do help hard working Americans, and they help businesses. And that is what people should know. The fact that our eceonomy still isn't doing horribly after 911 in a way shows that these tax cuts are providing at least some relief.

September 18th, 2003, 10:23 PM
It's simple economics
That's all I needed to read.

Freedom Tower
September 20th, 2003, 12:16 PM
You don't think it's simple? The basic idea of it. That the more money someone has the more they can and will spend? I'm not saying the situation is simple, far from it. But if someone gets an extra check in the mail, that they knew they would not have before, don't you think they will spend it? Thats what I meant by simple. The more money you have... the more things you can buy.

September 20th, 2003, 01:28 PM
First, let's clear up one thing:

I'm not saying the situation is simple, far from it
Yes you did...or don't you read your own stuff.

I suspect that you don't support a family, that you either support yourself or are supported by others.

Middle income families generally fuel the economy, and the items that count most are durable goods - things like appliances, TVs, cars, air conditioners, etc. A person worried about the economic well-being of his or her family will not take one extra check and blow it on a TV. They'll sit on the money until the future looks brighter.

What influences families to spend money is employment - and not necessarily whether or not they are employed. People out of work affect the spending habits of their friends and neighbors. This economy is not creating jobs. The tax cut is a failure.

Not so simple, is it?

Freedom Tower
September 21st, 2003, 09:01 AM
Again, you misunderstood me, but because I was not so good at explaining myself. It is simple that if you have extra money that you knew you wouldn't have before, you will be more inclined to treat yourself, AND your family to something nice. What ISN'T simple is how it goes from just that into fueling the entire economy. I was referring to the fact that more money = more spending money was simple. However, that how that goes into fueling the economy is a complicated thing. I know I contradicted myself, but it isn't what I meant. I was just in a rush and not paying enough attention to what I wrote. Besides, if someone has a family and a kid who really wants a TV, sure why not spend the extra check and make your kid happy? That money wouldn't have been yours anyway.

September 21st, 2003, 01:41 PM
Again, you misunderstood me
No I didn't. You were...

just in a rush and not paying enough attention to what I wrote

Besides, if someone has a family and a kid who really wants a TV, sure why not spend the extra check and make your kid happy?
Hopefully, you'll never reproduce.

Freedom Tower
September 21st, 2003, 03:06 PM
You're too cynical to take this conversation seriously. What I would do with an extra check in the mail, that I would not otherwise have has no bearing on whether or not I should reproduce. And, the first time I posted here I was in a rush. I admitted that. But that is why what I wrote was not clear. It wasn't necesarily wrong, and you DID interpret it wrong. Like I said, The basic CONCEPT that having more money means you have more money to spend is simple. The concept is simple. What is not simple is the long and complicated effect it has. While I was in a rush, what I said was not incorrect. You did read what I wrote and interpretted it in the wrong way. But I admitted that could be my fault because I was in a rush and it wasn't explained well. However, this last time you were wrong. If I got back 1,000 dollars from taxes this year (hypothetically) and decided to buy my son a TV or maybe even a computer, would that make me be a bad candidate for reproducing? Of course not. Maybe he doesn't have a TV. Or maybe I'd get him a computer that would be both educational and fun. Just because I wouldn't save the thousand dollars doesn't make me someone that is too irresponsible to produce.

Just so you don't misunderstand me again:

1. The concept that is simple - More money you have, the more money you have to spend.

2. What is not simple - Whether or not you choose to spend that money, how much of it you choose to spend. What you choose to spend it on, and how that affects the economy.

I was hoping I wouldn't have to list it for you, but it seems that I do. Try to understand now. This last time I was very clear, there should be no more confusion. If there is, then all I can offer is that you re-read my posts. Take in mind that the first one may not be clear, and you misinterpretted what I meant on all of them so far. This last one should clear EVERYTHING up.

Freedom Tower
September 21st, 2003, 03:08 PM
You don't think it's simple? The BASIC IDEA of it. That the more money someone has the more they can and will spend? I'm not saying the SITUATION is simple, far from it.

There is further examples of your misinterpretation. I said the BASIC IDEA is simple. The situation as a whole is NOT. If you want I can record myself reading it aloud and play it for you, if you have trouble reading my posts. :roll:

September 21st, 2003, 05:42 PM
It's YOU that I don't take seriously.

Reread your other post.

Oh, never mind.

Dim bulb.

September 22nd, 2003, 12:46 PM
So to recap:

1. Consumer confidence has a greater influence on spending than level of disposable income.

2. Consumer confidence is more directly correlated to job security/optomism rather than tax rate.

3. Consumer confidence refers to one's propensity to spend.

4. Buying your kid a TV to make them happy is good parenting.

5. I shouldn't have kids because I can't buy them a TV.


September 22nd, 2003, 05:49 PM
So to recap:

1. Consumer confidence has a greater influence on spending than level of disposable income.

2. Consumer confidence is more directly correlated to job security/optomism rather than tax rate.

3. Consumer confidence refers to one's propensity to spend.

4. Buying your kid a TV to make them happy is good parenting.

5. I shouldn't have kids because I can't buy them a TV.

1. That's not what I said. You can rule out winning the lottery or a rich aunt dying.

2. Yes. Economics has a significant psychological component - or else a foolproof mathematical model would have been developed .

3. Yes

4. Ask the forum expert. For me it was keeping them out of the criminal justice system.

5. Credit cards are a modern wonder.

October 3rd, 2003, 06:52 PM
October 3, 2003

Bush, in Midwest, Promotes Benefits of His Tax-Cut Policies


WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 — Buoyed by the first increase in the nation's employment since January, President Bush campaigned in the Middle West today, where he declared that his tax-relief policies would lead the country out of government deficits and toward wider prosperity for the American people.

"It's based upon this theory," Mr. Bush told an audience estimated at 1,000 in the Milwaukee convention hall. "When somebody has more money in their pocket, they're more likely to demand a good or a service; and in our society, when you demand a good or a service, somebody's going to produce the good or a service; and when somebody meets that demand with production, it means somebody is more likely to be able to find a job.

"The tax relief we passed, letting people keep more of their own money, is an essential ingredient to making sure people can find work in America," Mr. Bush said as his audience applauded.

Former Vice President Al Gore won Wisconsin in the 2000 presidential election by an excruciatingly narrow margin, and Mr. Bush has visited the state eight times as president, by The Associated Press's count.

That message Mr. Bush delivered today is the one he and his Republican allies have been conveying for many months — and one that his Democratic critics have been questioning for just as many months. But today, Mr. Bush had some good news to point to: the Labor Department reported that the unemployment rate held steady in September, at 6.1 percent, and that employers added some 57,000 jobs.

"Things are getting better," Mr. Bush said. "But there's still work to do."

Mr. Bush prodded Congress to make recently enacted tax cuts permanent, rather than let them expire several years from now. Congress inserted the expiration features to make the overall tax cuts more palatable to deficit-conscious lawmakers.

"The government giveth and the government taketh away," Mr. Bush said jokingly.

The Democrats contend that too many of the tax cuts that Mr. Bush pushed through Congress simply enrich Americans who are already well off.

That basic argument between Republicans and Democrats will doubtless continue through the presidential campaign, which is already heating up, even though Election Day is more than a year away and the Democratic candidate has not been selected.

"My point to the Congress is that people who invest capital in the small business sector need certainty in the tax code," Mr. Bush said. "People who are planning for the future need to know what the rules are going to be in the future. And the idea of passing tax relief, which is here one day and gone tomorrow, is not good for economic recovery. For the sake of job creation, we need to put certainty in the tax code. All the tax relief we passed must be permanent."

As he has before, Mr. Bush rejected any suggestion that the ballooning budget deficit calls for high taxes. "The best way to solve the deficit — and I have submitted a budget to the Congress which will cut the deficit in half for five years — is to keep in place the economic vitality package," Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Bush was raising campaign money in Wisconsin. Just as important, he was trying to win a few more votes than he got in 2000. Mr. Bush lost Wisconsin and its 11 electoral votes by fewer than 6,000 votes out of some 2.5 million cast in the 2000 election.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

October 20th, 2003, 03:50 AM
October 20, 2003


What Alabama's Low-Tax Mania Can Teach the Rest of the Country



The budget ax is swinging in Alabama, and the carnage is piling up. A hundred and fifty fewer low-income AIDS patients will receive life-saving medicines from the state. Fifteen thousand low-income Alabamians may lose their hypertension drugs.

High Hopes, a program that offers after-school tutoring to students who fail the high school graduation exam, is being slashed. And up to 1,500 poor children and adults with Down syndrome, autism and other disabilities will not be able to attend a state-supported special-needs camp.

The cuts are reaching down to core government functions. The court system is laying off 500 of 1,600 workers, from clerk's office employees to probation officers. The health department is losing investigators who track tuberculosis, and sharply reducing restaurant inspections.

Alabama's huge budget gap is a result of the voters' rejection, nearly six weeks ago, of Gov. Bob Riley's tax reform plan, which would have generated an additional $1.2 billion, much of it from undertaxed timberland. After the vote, Governor Riley was forced to cut most state agencies by 18 percent, and other recipients of state funds by 75 percent. Bad as things are, the impact is being blunted by a fortuitous one-time injection of federal funds. Next year agencies are bracing for a 56 percent hit. If the state cannot find more revenue — and Governor Riley is searching — it may be nearly impossible for basic services, including courts, prisons and police, to operate.

Alabama's disintegrating government is a problem, certainly, for anyone in the state. But it may also be a harbinger of where the nation is headed. There is a "starve the beast" ethic, currently fashionable among conservatives, holding that the best way to downsize government and end the social safety net is to get voters to demand lower taxes. But before we hurtle any further in that direction, we should think hard about whether we want the whole nation to look like Alabama does this year or, worse, next year.

Alabama is not a wealthy state, but its bigger problem is that it is not making an effort to raise the taxes it needs. It is 48th in the nation in state and local revenue as a percentage of personal income, according to Governing magazine. And it has the nation's least equitable tax system. Alabama's income tax kicks in for families of four earning just $4,600. Its property taxes are the lowest in the nation, Governing reports, and "heavily favor farming interests."

As a Republican congressman, Governor Riley strongly opposed tax increases. But when he took over the state government, he realized it could not run on the revenues coming in. He courageously offered up a tax package that raised the needed revenue while shifting the burden from overtaxed poor people to undertaxed business interests. But the package was defeated by a skeptical electorate, with many of the no votes coming from low-income Alabamians, whose taxes would have gone down.

The voters were not entirely wrong to be skeptical. No budget is free of waste, not even Alabama's meager one. There is a state tradition of legislative pork, patronage controlled by key legislators. And powerful lobbies, notably the teachers' union, have long gotten more than their share of state funds. But Governor Riley has already trimmed much of the pork. And next year, he will no doubt take aim at teacher benefit packages.

It is easy to sell voters on low taxes, and a well-financed campaign by Alabama's business community — aided, shamefully, by the state Christian Coalition — did just that. What is harder, but vital right now, is making the more challenging case for why taxes, and sometimes even tax increases, are necessary.

One message Alabama voters needed to hear more clearly was that rejecting higher taxes costs more in the long run. Saving $10,000 by denying medicine to a poor, H.I.V.-positive woman is no bargain if she ends up in a state hospital with full-blown AIDS needing $100,000 in care. Tutoring high school students in danger of failing is cheap compared with paying for welfare — or prison.

Alabama voters also need to realize that by entrenching their state at the bottom of the national rankings in taxes and government services, they are putting themselves on the margins of the new, global economy, and sabotaging their future tax base. Businesses looking for low taxes and cheap government will pass right over Alabama and head for Mexico. And companies that want well-educated, skilled workers, the companies Alabama needs to attract, will not locate in a state where high school students do not graduate, TB cases are not tracked and the restaurants may be hazardous.

The nation is facing precisely the same issues as Alabama. The Bush administration has tried to delude the public into thinking we can fight a war, rebuild Iraq, fix our schools, get prescription drug benefits and still enjoy the largest tax cut in history. But the deficit cannot grow forever. Eventually, we will have to pay more or, as "starve the beast" proponents hope, do with much less.

Last month, Alabama voted for fewer social services, less education, and a shoddier legal system — to become, that is, more like a third-world nation. But low as taxes are, the state will never be better at being an underdeveloped country than actual underdeveloped countries are. Alabama's best chance, and the nation's, is to invest in its people and civic institutions, the things that set America apart.

Governor Riley's setback last month is being hailed by national antitax forces as a great victory. But if Alabama heads into next year without additional revenues, students may have to learn without textbooks, prisoners may be released early, and people may start dying of preventable diseases. We should all pay attention, because if the "starve the beast" crowd continues to prevail in Washington, as goes Alabama so may go the nation.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

January 21st, 2004, 01:40 AM
January 21, 2004

State of the Union at Home

When the president delivers his State of the Union address, we like to listen respectfully and respond politely. It is always easy to find things worth applauding. Last night, for instance, President Bush mentioned job retraining, immigration law reform and programs to help newly released prisoners re-enter society. The impulse is always to split the difference — to decry the ideas we disagree with and then note the ones we like. This time, such evenhandedness seems impossible. The president's domestic policy comes down to one disastrous fact: his insistence on huge tax cuts for the wealthy has robbed the country of the money it needs to address its problems and has threatened its long-term economic security. Everything else is beside the point.

Mindful that American voters seem more concerned about their personal fortunes than Iraq's, Mr. Bush highlighted the domestic side of his agenda. His only look backward at the fiscal mess he created was to call on Congress to make his $1.7 trillion in tax cuts permanent. The cuts have been wedged into the budget temporarily to give the illusion that the books will come somewhere near balance over the long run. Chiseling them into stone will do nothing to spark the current economy, and if some future president feels the need to stimulate business, he or she will find precious few ways left to do it.

The idea that the cuts are a rough tool to shrink the federal government seems increasingly ludicrous, given the Republican Congress's determination to pork up every bill with new spending plans. There are only two reasons why Mr. Bush could be so determined to do the wrong thing: because his Congressional majorities mean that he probably can, and because the wealthy donors helping to underwrite his campaign expect that he will.

President Bill Clinton always pleased the public when he stuffed his State of the Union address with lots and lots of proposals, many small and symbolic. Mr. Bush, who devoted an entire paragraph to decrying the use of steroids in sports, stands second to nobody when it comes to tiny symbolic gestures. Many of his larger thoughts, meanwhile, were vague to the point of meaninglessness. (His references to energy and the environment took up less time than the anti-steroid agenda.) Among his proposals aimed at social conservatives, the bow to a constitutional amendment against gay marriage was the most disheartening.

It is actually a cruel hoax to pretend that Washington can afford to do anything new, even with the modest grab bag of small new initiatives and familiar retreads suggested by the president. In that context, his decision last night to re-endorse the Social Security overhaul plan from his last campaign was terrifying.

Mr. Bush has long advocated that younger workers be allowed to set aside part of their Social Security tax payments for private investments in stocks or bonds. He has never explained how he would pay for such a plan. The Social Security taxes that come in are used to pay for the benefits of those already retired. If part of the current workers' money is redirected without corresponding tax increases, the difference would have to be made up through budget cuts or — far more likely — a disastrous addition to the amount of debt the government continues to roll up every day.

With such ideas floating in the speech, the prospect of community college tuition grants or computer training for the unemployed rings hollow.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

July 20th, 2004, 05:02 AM
July 20, 2004

Fiscal Sanity at Bay

For all the late-blooming talk of fiscal responsibility from Republican moderates, an election year cave-in is shaping up in the Senate as the White House pushes for a fast renewal of some of the "temporary" tax breaks set to expire this year. Unlike the administration's giveaways to the wealthy, these cuts are among the more worthy and politically risky to oppose: extending tax relief for married couples, for families with children and for taxpayers in the lowest bracket, 10 percent.

But the issue is not the virtue of the cuts but whether Congress should be forced to make up the cost with spending reductions or - great idea - by increasing taxes on the wealthy and closing loopholes for corporate taxes. Until now, four Senate Republicans have been standing with the Democrats, demanding an end to the administration's binge of record budget deficits and detaxation. Two of the Republicans, John McCain of Arizona and Susan Collins of Maine, have indicated support for the tax-cut extensions without their usual stipulation that the money to pay for them be found elsewhere first. This is unfortunate.

The White House obviously feels it cannot lose by pushing the tax-cut extensions right before the political conventions. Either Mr. Bush will be able to brag about still more tax cuts, or he can demonize Democrats and others who dare to defeat the package on budgetary grounds. We urge the Republican moderates, including Olympia Snowe of Maine and Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island, not to abandon their fight for fiscal responsibility.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

July 26th, 2004, 04:21 AM
July 26, 2004

The White House Tax-Cut Machinations

As the tax-cut extension bill suddenly fell apart in Congress last week, President Bush was caught with his hand in the re-election cookie jar. Billed as timely help for the middle class, the proposed extension of the more worthy tax cuts enacted in recent years was intended by the White House to be a timely boost for the president on the eve of the Democratic convention.

Senate Democrats and a few Republicans had been responsibly holding out, insisting that any tax cuts, no matter how meritorious, be paid for by raising other revenues or by spending cuts. At issue were child credits, relief for married people who file jointly and an extension of the lower 10 percent marginal rate. When moderates began ignoring the budget-offset issue and shifting behind a compromise package of tax cuts, the White House showed its political hand, scuttling the bill to stop Democrats from strutting forth as tax-cut champions.

Sometimes you watch a game and don't know for whom to root. We didn't like seeing moderates cave on their principled stand for fiscal discipline. But the president's gambit - ostensibly holding out for the whole tax-cut enchilada - betrayed a determination to treat the budget as a political cudgel.

The tax-cut issue will revive when Congress returns in September, with the White House again demanding an irresponsible five-year extension costing more than $100 billion, not the more limited two-year measure that failed last week. Closer to Election Day, it will be even harder for lawmakers to resist the president's simplistic pitch. But we urge members of the Republican-led Congress to discover some spine and stop kidding themselves, and their voters. Congress must start budgeting responsibly since the president obviously won't.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

August 13th, 2004, 07:20 AM
August 13, 2004

Report Finds Tax Cuts Heavily Favor the Wealthy


WASHINGTON, Aug. 12 - Fully one-third of President Bush's tax cuts in the last three years have gone to people with the top 1 percent of income, who have earned an average of $1.2 million annually, according to a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office to be published Friday.

The report calculated that households with incomes in that top 1 percent were receiving an average tax cut of $78,460 this year, while households in the middle 20 percent of earnings - averaging about $57,000 a year - were getting an average cut of only $1,090.

The new estimates confirm what independent tax analysts have long said: that Mr. Bush's tax cuts have been heavily skewed to the very wealthiest taxpayers. Those are also the people, however, who pay a disproportionate share of federal income taxes.

The calculations, which were requested by Congressional Democrats, are all but certain to intensify a central debate between Mr. Bush and Senator John F. Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee.

Mr. Bush has argued that the tax cuts provided crucial support to the economy at a time when it was mired in a recession and reeling from the effects of a stock market collapse, terrorist attacks and corporate scandals.

Mr. Kerry has argued that the cuts were tilted so much in favor of the wealthy that they provided relatively little stimulus to the economy and set the stage for record budget deficits. Since 2001, the federal budget has deteriorated from a surplus of more than $100 billion to a deficit expected to exceed $400 billion in 2004.

Mr. Bush's top economic priority has been to make his tax cuts permanent, rather than letting them expire at the end of this decade as they would under current law. Mr. Kerry would seek to roll back the tax cuts for households with incomes above $200,000 a year, a move his campaign estimates would save $860 billion over 10 years, and use that money in large part to pay for a vast new national health care plan.

According to the new report from the Congressional Budget Office, about two-thirds of the benefits from the tax cuts, enacted in 2001 and 2003, went to households in the top fifth of earnings, with an average income of $203,740.

But the report also gave Republicans support for their contention that tax reduction had brought some benefit to people in almost all income categories. People with the bottom fifth of income, for example, averaging earnings of only $16,620, saw their effective tax rate drop to 5.2 percent from 6.7. Yet because lower- and many middle-income families had been paying very little federal income tax in the first place, those in that bottom fifth of earnings received an average tax cut of only $250.

"It doesn't matter who you are, the report shows that you are better off now than you were before the tax cuts,'' said a House Republican aide. "It's showing that everybody's tax burden has gone down as a result of the tax cuts.''

The tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 reduced tax rates for people in all income brackets. But they had a disproportionate effect on people at the very highest income levels because they had already been paying a disproportionate share of total federal taxes and in part because stock dividends got a special lower rate.

People in the very top income categories fared better by almost any measure, according to the report. The average after-tax income for people in the top 1 percent of income earners climbed 10.1 percent, while that of those in the middle 20 percent climbed 2.3 percent, and that of those in the bottom fifth only 1.6 percent.

Put another way, people with the top 1 percent of income saw their share of the tax burden drop to 20.1 percent after the tax cuts from 21.9 percent under the old law.

William G. Gale, a longtime tax analyst at the Brookings Institution, said the new Congressional report was consistent with his own calculations on the distribution of benefits from Mr. Bush's tax cuts.

"It's not just that lower-income people are getting smaller benefits,'' Dr. Gale said. "It's also that these tax cuts will eventually have to be paid for with either spending cuts or tax increases, and those are likely to be less progressive than the taxes they are paying now.''

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

August 27th, 2004, 09:47 AM
August 27, 2004

More Americans Were Uninsured and Poor in 2003, Census Finds


WASHINGTON, Aug. 26 - The ranks of the poor and those without health insurance grew in 2003 for the third straight year, the government reported on Thursday, in a sign of the lingering pain being caused by a long slump in the job markets.

Those trends, spelled out by the United States Census Bureau, signaled a clear shift in the way the 2001 recession and its aftermath have spread across the country. The economy's troubles, which first affected high-income families even more than the middle class and poor, have recently hurt families at the bottom and in the middle significantly more than those at the top.

Median household income rose at about the same rate as inflation last year after three years of relative declines, according to the report. But the disparity in incomes between the rich and poor grew after having fallen in 2002. Pay did not keep pace with inflation in the South, already the nation's poorest region, in cities, or among immigrants. And the wage gap between men and women widened for the first time in four years.

Poverty rose most sharply among single-parent families last year. Health-insurance coverage fell only for families with annual income of less than $75,000.

On the campaign trail, Mr. Bush has been saying the country has overcome the recession and a stock market decline in part because of his tax cuts. Democrats Thursday accused the Bush administration of trying to the bury the new numbers by releasing them all at once in late August, rather than reporting the poverty and health-insurance data on separate days in September, as they had in recent years.

"They're trying to lump, dump and run," Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York, said.

Census officials said that politics played no role in the change and that the two sets of data had also been released simultaneously in the mid-1990's. The bureau published the numbers in August to coincide with the release of local economic numbers it compiles, officials said.

"Normally we're not criticized for bringing out data earlier," Charles Louis Kincannon, the director of the Census Bureau, said.

The national poverty rate rose to 12.5 percent last year, from 12.1 percent in 2002. After dropping rapidly in a long economic boom and a government war on poverty in the 1960's, from more than 22 percent in 1960, the rate has changed relatively little over the last four decades. It was slightly higher in 2003 than in 1969. A family of two adults and two children with an income of less than $18,660 was considered poor last year.

"We have had a generation with basically no progress against poverty," said Sheldon Danziger, a professor of public policy at the University of Michigan. "The economic growth is not trickling down to the poor."

Depending on their political beliefs, economists tend to place varying portions of blame for this on a rise in single-parent families, a withering of good jobs for people without college degrees and a shift away from anti-poverty programs by the federal government.

The number of uninsured Americans rose last year largely because fewer companies were providing health benefits to their workers than in the past, the Census Bureau reported. Almost 16 percent of people did not have health insurance last year, up from 14.2 percent in 2000.

Median household income declined slightly last year, by $63 to $43,318, but census officials said the change was not statistically significant. Since peaking in 1999 at the equivalent of $44,922 in 2003 with inflation taken into account, median household income has fallen more than $1,600, or 3.6 percent, though it remained higher last year than at any point before the late 1990's. The candidates for president offered sharply different views of the economy on Thursday. Senator John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, argued that the report offered new proof that the Bush administration had put the interests of wealthy families ahead those of most Americans.

"The census figures are facts," Mr. Kerry said, while campaigning at Anoka Technical College in a suburb of Minneapolis. "They're not political diatribe. They're facts, statistics, and they tell a story when you add them all up."

Mr. Bush, in Farmington, N.M., said: "Because we acted, our economy since last summer has grown at a rate as fast as any in nearly 20 years. Since last August, we've added about 1.5 million new jobs.''

Terry Holt, a spokesman for President's Bush campaign, said that the census numbers were outdated because they covered only 2003. "Absent from these numbers is the strong economic growth we've seen in the last 11 months," Mr. Holt said.

Mr. Bush has helped the economy recover from recession by cutting taxes, Mr. Holt added, and has attacked poverty by signing a tax cut that eliminated income taxes for five million low-income people.

Unlike most economic downturns, the one that began in early 2001 was something of an equal-opportunity recession, hurting high-income and low-income families alike. The bursting of the stock market bubble, the collapse of many technology ventures and the decline of the manufacturing sector all led to the elimination of many good-paying jobs.

But as the economy continues its uneven recovery, growing but adding many fewer jobs than is typical, families in the lower part of the spectrum have begun to lose ground again, as they did in much of the 1970's, 80's and 90's.

Pay fell last year for households in rural areas and in cities, where income is less than the national average, by a greater percentage than it did for those in suburbs, the bureau said. After reaching an all-time high in 2002, the earnings of full-time female workers relative to their male counterparts fell slightly last year, to 75.5 percent. Income also dropped more for Hispanics than for whites, though it remained essentially unchanged for black households.

Over all, the highest-earning fifth of households took home 49.8 percent of the nation's income last year, up from the 49.7 percent in 2002 and 44.7 percent in 1983. Those figures exaggerate income inequality somewhat, however, because they do not include taxes and because wealthy households are larger on average than poor ones.

"There's a very large transfer of resources to poor people that is not captured in these poverty numbers,'' said Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a research group. Whatever the true level of inequality, though, it grew last year, with the greatest increases in poverty coming among some of the nation's poorest groups. The poverty rate among households headed by a single woman rose to 28 percent, from 26.5 percent in 2002.

Of families with children under 6, 19.8 percent, or 4.6 million, were considered poor last year, up from 18.5 percent in the previous year.

Whites Aren't Texas Majority

HOUSTON, Aug. 26 (AP) - Non-Hispanic whites are no longer the majority in Texas for the first time since the 1800's, according to a Census Bureau survey.

The survey said whites stopped being the majority as of last year. Most of Texas' population expansion since 2000 has come from births and international immigration, both sources of predominantly Hispanic growth.

Estimates show that the state was 49.5 percent white in 2003, down 1.5 percentage points from 2002 but still a large plurality.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

September 8th, 2004, 08:26 AM
The Globe and Mail

War spending drives record deficit estimate

Latest figures set off new sparring between the Bush and Kerry campaigns

Wednesday, September 8, 2004

WASHINGTON -- The high cost of waging war is expected to swell the U.S. budget deficit to $2.3-trillion (U.S.) over the next decade, including a record $422-billion in the current fiscal year, according to the latest Congressional Budget Office estimate.

The CBO, a non-partisan research arm of Congress, had earlier forecast a cumulative deficit of $2-trillion, including a somewhat higher $477-billion shortfall this year.

But even these latest projections may underplay the sheer magnitude of the long-term deficit quandary -- a problem highlighted by U.S. Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan, the International Monetary Fund and scores of economists.

Unless Congress lifts the sunset clause on U.S. President George W. Bush's tax cuts, the cumulative deficit could exceed $4-trillion over the decade.

Worse still, the rapidly aging baby boom population is expected to sap the work force, while adding to the burden of costly government programs, such as Medicare and Social Security.

Some economists also pointed out that the CBO forecast may rely on overly optimistic forecasts of economic growth -- at least in the short term. For example, the agency expects the economy to grow at a rate of 4.5 per cent this year and 4.1 per cent next year.

In recent weeks, many economists have been scrambling to lower their own forecasts, and now expect less than 4-per-cent growth this year and next. That was prompted by a sharp slowdown in the second quarter, when the economy expanded at a rate of just 2.8 per cent, dragged down by surging energy prices.

David Rosenberg, chief economist at Merrill Lynch in New York, also pointed out that the CBO deficit forecast may underestimate the future cost of military and reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. That alone could add $115-billion to the deficit next year, which the CBO now pegs at $348-billion, he said.

Merrill Lynch is projecting significantly higher annual deficits of $450-billion in 2004 and $385-billion in 2005.

The latest figures set off a new round of sparring between Mr. Bush and Democratic presidential rival John Kerry over the health of the country's finances.

The Bush administration and many Republicans seized on the lower deficit forecast for the current year, which ends this month, as evidence that tax cuts are sparking economic growth.

"This report underscores that our policies are working to create a stronger economy, more jobs and a lower deficit," said Jim Nussle, an Iowa Republican who chairs the budget committee in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Mr. Kerry, who has repeatedly accused Mr. Bush of recklessly squandering what was once a record surplus on his watch, said there's no way to put a positive spin on the soaring deficit.

"Only George W. Bush could celebrate over a record budget deficit of $422-billion, a loss of 1.6 million jobs, and Medicare premiums that are up by a record 17 per cent," said Mr. Kerry, a Massachusetts senator, whom polls show is trailing Mr. Bush in the race for the presidency.

Even CBO director Douglas Holtz-Eakin acknowledged that the United States can't expect to grow its way out of deficits because of rising obligations under government entitlement programs.

"This is a fiscal situation in which we cannot rely on economic growth to cause deficits to disappear," Mr. Holtz-Eakin said. "Instead, the central path of the budgetary outlook will be dictated by policy choices."

The largest addition to the deficit picture since the CBO's last forecast was a massive defence spending bill passed by Congress earlier this year. That alone inflates the cumulative 10-year deficit by $500-billion.

In sheer dollar terms, this year's $422-billion deficit would rank as the largest ever. Even adjusted for inflation, this year's shortfall is higher than every deficit recorded since the Second World War.

And yet, the deficit as a percentage of gross domestic product -- 3.6 per cent -- is actually smaller than it was in the mid-1980s and early 1990s, the CBO report pointed out.

Mr. Bush has used that comparison to argue that the deficit, while serious, is hardly a cause for panic, particularly as the economy strives to recover from the recent recession.

But Mr. Kerry and the Democrats have complained that Mr. Bush's two rounds of hefty tax cuts have exacerbated the deficit, putting at risk the viability of cherished government programs in areas such as education, health and homeland security.

© Copyright 2004 Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.

September 23rd, 2004, 08:36 AM
September 23, 2004

Deal in Congress to Keep Tax Cuts, Widening Deficit


WASHINGTON, Sept. 22 - Putting aside efforts to control the federal deficit before the elections, Republican and Democratic leaders agreed Wednesday to extend $145 billion worth of tax cuts sought by President Bush without trying to pay for them.

At a House-Senate conference committee, Democratic lawmakers abandoned efforts to pay for the measures by either imposing a surcharge on wealthy families or closing corporate tax shelters.

"I wish we could pay for them, but this is a political problem and we have people up for re-election,'' said Representative Charles B. Rangel of New York, the senior Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee. "If you have to explain that you voted for these tax cuts because they benefit the middle class and against them because of the deficit, you've got a problem.''

Fearful of being attacked as supporters of higher taxes, Democrats said they would go along with an unpaid five-year extension of the $1,000 child tax credit; a four-year extension of tax breaks intended to reduce the so-called marriage penalty on two-income families; and a six-year extension of a provision that allowed more people to qualify for the lowest tax rate of 10 percent.

Even as they pushed for the cuts that will add to the federal budget deficit, House Republican lawmakers said Wednesday that they hoped to have a vote soon on a constitutional amendment that would require the government to balance the budget by 2010, except if the country is at war.

That proposed amendment has no chance of becoming law, but it would conflict with even the Bush administration's rosiest goals for reducing the deficit, which is expected to hit $420 billion this year, a record. Mr. Bush has promised only to cut the deficit in half by 2009.

Approval of the tax cut package is a significant victory for Mr. Bush, who champions the extension of the cuts at every campaign stop but whose wishes had been thwarted by Democrats and a handful of Republican moderates in the Senate.

As recently as July, the moderates demanded that such tax cuts be paid for either with budget cuts or with higher taxes in other areas. By teaming up with Democrats, the Republican moderates prevented their own party leaders and the Bush administration from getting their way.

But with the election nearing, Congressional Democrats said they would not let themselves be branded as supporters of tax increases, which would occur if the expiring provisions were not renewed.

Senator John Kerry, their party's presidential nominee, has said he supports extension of the tax reductions, though he would roll back Mr. Bush's tax cuts for the top 2 percent of income earners, families with annual incomes above $200,000.

Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the Senate Democratic leader, announced this week that he would support a five-year extension of the cuts even if they were not paid for.

With Democrats capitulating to the Republican majorities in both the House and Senate, the handful of Republican holdouts have quietly surrendered as well.

The Republican rebels - Senators John McCain of Arizona, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine - infuriated Mr. Bush and many Republican leaders. But their ability to block action evaporated without the votes of Democrats.

The result of the reversal on the part of the Democrats and the Republican moderates is likely to be a tax measure that will last longer and increase federal deficits more than a two-year extension that Republican Senate leaders offered this summer. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that debt will climb by $2.3 trillion over the next 10 years, and that making all Mr. Bush's tax cuts permanent would cost an additional $1.9 trillion by the end of 2014.

In the conference committee, House and Senate Republicans added about $13 billion worth of business tax breaks, the biggest of which was a renewal of the investment tax credit for research and development.

House Republican conferees also rejected a proposed amendment by Senator Blanche Lincoln, Democrat of Arkansas, that would expand the number of poor families eligible for a refundable child tax credit. That measure would have cost $7 billion over 10 years.

According to studies by Democrats on the Joint Economic Committee, four million low-income families will have reduced benefits from the child tax credit if the law is unchanged.

"These are working people we are trying to help," Senator Lincoln said, adding, "The higher-income taxpayers get enormous benefits from the tax code."

At issue in the case of the child tax credit was the extent to which it should be made available as a refundable payment to low-income families that have no federal tax liability.

To save money in last year's tax bill, Republican lawmakers decided to offer a refundable tax credit to families that earn at least $10,000. But that still left many poor families ineligible, and those numbers would increase because the current law raises the minimum income threshold each year in line with inflation.

"The tax credit is for taxpayers,'' said Senator Don Nickles, Republican of Oklahoma. "If you want to change the welfare system, then change the welfare system.''

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Famous quote:

When you're in a hole, keep digging.

Wait, is that right?

November 5th, 2004, 05:32 PM
Our President said he wants to work on tax reform. Let’s see if President Bush advocates abolishing income taxation which is a tool used by a corrupted government to manipulate the private lives of people by tax code legislation; use by a corrupted gang of political thugs to place the burden of taxation upon particular groups of people while exempting particular groups from contributing into the common treasury; used by a corrupted government to reward political friends; and, has repeatedly been used as a weapon by folks in government to punish and harass political opponents.

Yea, lets see if our Republican President and our Republican controlled House and Senate, abandon income taxation as they have been promising for over 20 years and actually fulfill the promise of real tax reform.

And what should we the people be looking for in meaningful tax reform?

As a priority, tax reform should end the power of taxation to be used to control and manipulate the private lives of the people.

Tax reform ought not be “revenue neutral” but rather, allow Congress to raise all necessary revenue.

While the system ought to allow Congress to raise all necessary revenue, it should also have built in checks and balances to force fiscal responsibility upon Congress and prevent the burden of taxation to be unjustly excessive, and, it should be self regulating and immune, as far as possible, from the manipulation of Congress!

The system should also provide a method to immediately extinguish an annual deficit should Congress spend more money in one year than is taken in that year, and that method to extinguish an annual deficit ought to be made mandatory for Congress to impose, should a deficit result in any fiscal year.

Reform should also insure that the burden of taxation is disbursed across America in a just and fixed fashion and not directly upon individuals unless in emergency, i.e., the primary source of revenue ought to be raised by indirect taxation…imposts, duties and excise taxes, and not direct taxation which is the tool of a despotic government, but if direct taxation is found necessary, it ought to be by a fixed rule such as apportionment among the various states which prevents its manipulation by Congress!

In any event, for some informative related subject matter see EXPOSING THE FAIR TAX HOAX (http://www.gigo-soapbox.org/gigo/2002/06/18.shtml), which in addition to arguing against an across the board consumption tax, documents the Founding Fathers original tax plan which is the plan which President Bush and every Republican Party leader ought to be advocating…that is, if they are sincere about real tax reform, as our founding fathers were.


[i]“…..with all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow-citizens—a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities“. Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address

November 6th, 2004, 12:12 AM
John, you have moldy views - and they stink.

March 4th, 2005, 12:07 AM
March 4, 2005


Deficits and Deceit

By PAUL KRUGMAN (http://www.nytimes.com/top/opinion/editorialsandoped/oped/columnists/paulkrugman/index.html?inline=nyt-per)

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/dropcap/f.gifour years ago, Alan Greenspan urged Congress to cut taxes, asserting that the federal government was in imminent danger of paying off too much debt.

On Wednesday the Fed chairman warned Congress of the opposite fiscal danger: he asserted that there would be large budget deficits for the foreseeable future, leading to an unsustainable rise in federal debt. But he counseled against reversing the tax cuts, calling instead for cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Does anyone still take Mr. Greenspan's pose as a nonpartisan font of wisdom seriously?

When Mr. Greenspan made his contorted argument for tax cuts back in 2001, his reputation made it hard for many observers to admit the obvious: he was mainly looking for some way to do the Bush administration a political favor. But there's no reason to be taken in by his equally weak, contorted argument against reversing those cuts today.

To put Mr. Greenspan's game of fiscal three-card monte in perspective, remember that the push for Social Security privatization is only part of the right's strategy for dismantling the New Deal and the Great Society. The other big piece of that strategy is the use of tax cuts to "starve the beast."

Until the 1970's conservatives tended to be open about their disdain for Social Security and Medicare. But honesty was bad politics, because voters value those programs.

So conservative intellectuals proposed a bait-and-switch strategy: First, advocate tax cuts, using whatever tactics you think may work - supply-side economics, inflated budget projections, whatever. Then use the resulting deficits to argue for slashing government spending.

And that's the story of the last four years. In 2001, President Bush and Mr. Greenspan justified tax cuts with sunny predictions that the budget would remain comfortably in surplus. But Mr. Bush's advisers knew that the tax cuts would probably cause budget problems, and welcomed the prospect.

In fact, Mr. Bush celebrated the budget's initial slide into deficit. In the summer of 2001 he called plunging federal revenue "incredibly positive news" because it would "put a straitjacket" on federal spending.

To keep that straitjacket on, however, those who sold tax cuts with the assurance that they were easily affordable must convince the public that the cuts can't be reversed now that those assurances have proved false. And Mr. Greenspan has once again tried to come to the president's aid, insisting this week that we should deal with deficits "primarily, if not wholly," by slashing Social Security and Medicare because tax increases would "pose significant risks to economic growth."

Really? America prospered for half a century under a level of federal taxes higher than the one we face today. According to the administration's own estimates, Mr. Bush's second term will see the lowest tax take as a percentage of G.D.P. since the Truman administration. And don't forget that President Clinton's 1993 tax increase ushered in an economic boom. Why, exactly, are tax increases out of the question?

O.K., enough about Mr. Greenspan. The real news is the growing evidence that the political theory behind the Bush tax cuts was as wrong as the economic theory.

According to starve-the-beast doctrine, right-wing politicians can use the big deficits generated by tax cuts as an excuse to slash social insurance programs. Mr. Bush's advisers thought that it would prove especially easy to sell benefit cuts in the context of Social Security privatization because the president could pretend that a plan that sharply cut benefits would actually be good for workers.

But the theory isn't working. As soon as voters heard that privatization would involve benefit cuts, support for Social Security "reform" plunged. Another sign of the theory's falsity: across the nation, Republican governors, finding that voters really want adequate public services, are talking about tax increases.

The best bet now is that Mr. Bush will manage to make the poor suffer, but fail to make a dent in the great middle-class entitlement programs.

And the consequence of the failure of the starve-the-beast theory is a looming fiscal crisis - Mr. Greenspan isn't wrong about that. The middle class won't give up programs that are essential to its financial security; the right won't give up tax cuts that it sold on false pretenses. The only question now is when foreign investors, who have financed our deficits so far, will decide to pull the plug.

E-mail: krugman@nytimes.com (krugman@nytimes.com)

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

November 15th, 2005, 12:12 AM
November 15, 2005

Voters Showed Less Appetite for Tax Cuts

By JOHN M. BRODER (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=JOHN M. BRODER&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=JOHN M. BRODER&inline=nyt-per)

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 14 - Has the American voter's ardor for cutting taxes and shrinking government cooled?

Voters in California, Colorado and Washington State rejected ballot measures this month that would have rolled back tax increases or limited state spending. Some say the votes could mark a turning point in a decades-old revolt against high taxes that got its symbolic start in California in 1978 with Proposition 13, which sharply limited property tax increases for homeowners and cut deeply into state services.

It may be, some analysts suggested, that after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and this year's Gulf Coast hurricanes, Americans saw the value of government investment in infrastructure, public safety and other services and are now more willing to pay for it.

"It looks like that to me," said John G. Matsusaka, president of the Initiative and Referendum Institute at the University of Southern California Law School. "The public sector did a lot of belt-tightening during the last recession, and the public now appears to be letting it out a few notches. I think we saw that in Washington State and Colorado."

On Nov. 1, Colorado voters approved a ballot proposition that would allow the state to keep a projected $3.7 billion in tax revenue over the next five years rather than return it to taxpayers.

In California last Tuesday, voters resoundingly defeated Proposition 76, supported by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/s/arnold_schwarzenegger/index.html?inline=nyt-per). The measure would have limited state spending and given the governor broad new powers to cut spending when state revenue lagged.

And in Washington, an initiative put on the ballot by antitax groups failed last week by a six-point margin, letting stand a 9.5-cents-a-gallon gasoline tax passed by the Legislature.

In California, Mr. Matsusaka said, voters ignored Mr. Schwarzenegger's appeals to give him more power to cut state spending and tuned out television advertisements warning that the rejection of Proposition 76 would mean a big tax increase next year.

In New Jersey, which has the highest property taxes per person in the nation, voters elected Senator Jon S. Corzine (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/c/jon_s_corzine/index.html?inline=nyt-per), a Democrat, as governor last week, even though he promised a more modest reduction in property taxes than his Republican opponent, Douglas R. Forrester.

"People are still concerned about spending, but it's not a front-burner issue for them," Mr. Matsusaka said. "They're more concerned about wanting to put money in for education."

Advocates of cutting taxes and limiting public spending said, however, that the three ballot results were responses to specific situations and did not mark the beginning of some sort of backlash.

"I don't see it," said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform and one of the nation's most vocal tax opponents. "I would be very sensitive to it and sweating over it if it were happening."

California voters, Mr. Norquist said, were in a sour mood over the special election last week when they voted down the spending cap and all seven other measures on the ballot. Washington voters succumbed to warnings that roads and bridges were crumbling and that the gas tax was needed to avert disaster.

And, he said, Colorado voters were hoodwinked by a "traitor" Republican governor, Bill Owens, into voting for a huge tax increase. (Governor Owens's argument was that limits had locked spending at levels that were far too low to handle the state's increasing population and cost of services.)

"All trends start with small sets of data points," Mr. Norquist said when asked if the three votes could mark a major shift in public opinion. "But if you flesh in the picture for the year, that's not the case at all."

Mr. Norquist pointed to a proposal in Oklahoma in September that would raise gasoline taxes to pay for highway construction and maintenance. It was defeated by 87 percent to 13 percent. He said that while Colorado residents voted to lift the spending cap, they also turned down a $2.1 billion bond issue for transportation. Voters in West Virginia also rejected a big bond issue to underwrite the state's pension funds.

Mr. Norquist said he was working with tax-limitation groups in Maine, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma and Oregon to put spending limits before voters in 2006. He said lawmakers in several other states were also considering new caps on state spending, using a variety of formulas involving population growth and inflation.

Kim Rueben, a public finance economist at the Tax Policy Center at the Urban Institute, said the outcome of the votes this year was not sufficient to establish a trend. But Ms. Rueben said that for the past several years voters had been willing to increase taxes or approve bond issues when they were designated for tangible improvements.

On Tuesday, voters in Maine, New York and Ohio approved bond issues totaling nearly $5 billion to pay for transportation projects, water systems, college buildings and research programs.

"Starting in the late 1990's, there has been more emphasis on the state of state infrastructure, and effort to get new money in and new things built," Ms. Rueben said. "I think in general people want roads and are happy to fund them. But they are less willing to just turn over money to the state and let officials decide how to spend it."

That was how Gov. Christine Gregoire of Washington, a Democrat, went about trying to save the gasoline tax increase that barely passed the Legislature on the last day of the session in May.

After the tax bill squeaked through, opponents quickly gathered 400,000 signatures to put a measure on the Nov. 8 ballot to repeal the increase, which will take effect in increments over the next three years. The money is dedicated to the repairing and seismic retrofitting of the state's highways, bridges and tunnels.

Governor Gregoire said in an interview that two rockslides that closed the Interstate 90 pass through the mountains of eastern Washington and the damage along the Gulf Coast from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita helped her cause, by showing what can happen when state infrastructure is in poor condition.

"Their levees are our bridges," Ms. Gregoire said, referring to New Orleans. "People here were skeptical, but Katrina brought the message home loud and clear."

She added, "People here who have been antitax for a number of years now said: 'We're not going to leave our safety at risk; we're not going to leave this to our kids. We're going to invest.' "

The repeal measure was voted down by 53 percent to 47 percent, but a look at a map of how Washington residents voted is revealing.

Twenty-nine of Washington's 39 counties voted to repeal, many of them by margins of 20 or even 30 percentage points. The measure failed because the heavily populated, more liberal counties around Seattle and two college towns in eastern Washington voted against it.

In other words, when it comes to taxes, Americans are still divided.

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

December 9th, 2005, 07:17 AM
$56 Billion in Tax Cuts Passed by House, 234-197

By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 9, 2005

The House approved yesterday $56 billion in tax cuts that would keep alive the deep reductions in the tax rates on dividends and capital gains passed in 2003, but the measure is certain to be challenged by senators who have so far balked at the tax cuts for investors.

The bill passed largely along party lines, 234 to 197, after a rancorous partisan debate over whether the tax cuts would chiefly benefit the rich or sustain economic growth. Nine Democrats joined 225 Republicans for passage, while three Republicans -- Reps. Sherwood L. Boehlert (N.Y.), Jim Leach (Iowa) and Fred Upton (Mich.) -- sided with 193 Democrats and independent Bernard Sanders (Vt.) to oppose it.

The tax measure's cost would more than offset the savings in a tough budget approved by the House last month, which would trim federal spending by $50 billion over five years by imposing new fees on Medicaid recipients, squeezing student lenders, cutting federal child-support enforcement and paring the food stamp rolls.

Democrats charged that those spending cuts, largely affecting programs for the poor, are making way for tax cuts mainly for the rich that would increase the federal budget deficit. "The poor suffer, the rich benefit. The middle class is paying the bill," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Republicans countered that allowing the tax cuts to expire would choke off the economic expansion and harm the poor far more than the modest changes to federal programs.

"The Democrats want to take away the paychecks of [my constituents], replace them with welfare checks and call that compassion," said Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.).

Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.) dismissed the Democrats' complaints as "pathetic arguments" and "nothing but the ideological baggage of the past."

The nine Democrats who voted for the bill were Reps. John Barrow (Ga.), Melissa L. Bean (Ill.), Dan Boren (Okla.), Bud Cramer (Ala.), Henry Cuellar (Tex.), Lincoln Davis (Tenn.), Bart Gordon (Tenn.), Jim Marshall (Ga.) and Mike McIntyre (N.C.). All Democrats from Virginia and Maryland voted against the measure, and all Republicans from those states voted for it.

The tax package was the fourth tax-cut bill approved by the House in two days, resulting in a total of $94.5 billion in cuts over five years. But yesterday's bill was the largest and most widely debated.

The measure would extend a number of tax breaks for a single year, including incentives for employing Native Americans and welfare recipients; establishing tax-free medical savings accounts; extracting oil and gas from old, marginal wells; and investing in the District.

The bill would also extend for one year a federal tax deduction for local sales taxes and for some college tuition costs. It would extend through 2009 an earlier tax break that allows small businesses to write off much of the value of investments, at a five-year cost to the Treasury of $7.3 billion.

But the centerpiece of the bill is the extension, through 2010, of the capital gains and dividend tax cuts, which lowered the tax rate on investment income to 15 percent, from as high as 38.5 percent. This extension alone is projected to cost $20.6 billion over five years and $50.8 billion over 10 years.

Although the 2003 investment tax cuts are not set to expire until 2009, President Bush and some business groups pushed hard for the extension now, arguing that uncertainty over the cuts' future would stifle investment and slow the economy. Treasury Secretary John W. Snow pointed to statistics showing that unemployment began to fall and federal tax receipts began to recover shortly after passage of the 2003 cuts. And administration officials countered Democratic arguments by saying that half of all U.S. households own stock and would benefit from the investment tax cuts.

"Lower tax rates on savings and investment have benefited millions of Americans of all income levels either directly -- through lower taxes on investment returns -- or indirectly through new and better jobs and greater economic security for families," Snow said.

The Tax Policy Center, run jointly by the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute, has concluded that the bottom 80 percent of households would receive 15.8 percent of the House tax cuts' benefit. The top 20 percent would receive 84.2 percent of the benefit.

Households earning more than $1 million a year would get 40 percent of the tax cuts, or an average reduction of nearly $51,000.

Numbers such as these have given moderate Republicans pause in the Senate. Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) last month single-handedly blocked the Senate Finance Committee from even considering an extension of the dividend and capital gains cuts. Instead, the committee drafted and the Senate approved a five-year, $60 billion tax cut largely aimed at restoring the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast and slowing the expansion of the alternative minimum tax.

Republican leaders hope to bring to the Senate floor as early as next week a final compromise with an extension of the investment tax cuts.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

December 9th, 2005, 09:08 AM
So are these really tax cuts, or extensions on the old cuts?

I hate teh language used on both sides.

Fine, you cut the spending by $50B, so why the hell are you cutting taxes by $53B? Looking at the stats and comparing them to capital gains taxes and the like will probably show a meager correlation between further investment and spending that helps repair the economy and the proposed tax cuts.

This was just another bought bill for the lobbyists that is being played off as a partisan issue.

I would not be surprised if quite a few on both sides voted the way they did to make it look that way and keep people away from the real issue. How far into our leaders pockets corporate checkbooks are reaching.

December 10th, 2005, 08:59 PM
Minimum Tax Is Now Facing Alternative of Its Own

New York Times
December 11, 2005


Rob Cantor was doing well financially, or so he thought. College tuition for his two daughters was devouring his annual bonus, not to mention the $5,000 to $7,000 tax refund he got back every year from the federal government. But with just a few years of tuition left, he allowed himself to dream of flush days ahead.

Even when most of his usual tax refund disappeared in 2004, he was unfazed. "Last year, I only got $1,000, and I thought, hmmm," said Mr. Cantor, 54, a software engineer who lives in Teaneck, N.J. "But my wife had gone back to school and is now a physician's assistant, and her salary substantially increased, so we were O.K."

This year, though, his accountant called after preparing their return and said, "You're not going to like this."

"I thought, maybe my refund is down to $200," said Mr. Cantor. "But he said, 'You owe $8,000.' I was floored."

Mr. Cantor and his wife, Susan Kirschenbaum, had lost many of their itemized deductions to the alternative minimum tax, a complicated calculation once aimed at the very rich but now creeping steadily down to the middle class as family income has risen.

It has long been known that the New York metropolitan region, with its wealthy enclaves, high taxes and rising home values, is one of the areas hardest hit by a tax formula that essentially does away with deductions. But a new statistical analysis shows that about 400,000 households in New York City and the suburbs in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut pay the alternative minimum tax - one of every eight payers of the tax in the nation, according to figures from the forecasting firm economy.com (http://economy.com/).

The region is home to about 1 of every 14 taxpayers in the nation. For the average taxpayer in the $100,000 to $200,000 income bracket, the alternative minimum tax means an additional $2,200 in federal income taxes.

As Congress looks for ways to reduce deficits and reform the tax code, the middle class deductions that Mr. Cantor and hundreds of thousands of others in the metropolitan area have relied on are under a microscope. A temporary fix that has exempted millions of families from paying the alternative minimum tax expires this year.

The House and Senate, in intense negotiations last week on an overall tax package, passed extensions, though different versions. The Senate version sets a higher exemption and would keep an additional 75,000 metropolitan area households - and a total of 600,000 nationwide - from being subject to the alternative tax.

If the two houses cannot agree and the temporary fix is not extended, another 15 million taxpayers, more than 2 million of them in and around New York, may see an increase in their 2006 tax - which will show up on the returns filed in 2007 - the economy.com analysis shows.

"The breakdown of people who are hit by the tax is like a demographic profile of the population in the New York area," said Len Burman, co-director of the Tax Policy Center.

But even if the exemption passes, taxpayers like Mr. Cantor may face another threat to their deductions. A presidential advisory panel proposed last month doing away with the alternative minimum tax, and suggested making up the revenue by eliminating the deduction for state income taxes for everyone, and sharply cutting back deductions for mortgage interest as well.

No place in the country has more people taking those deductions than the suburbs of New York: 55 percent of households in Nassau County, for instance, claim more than the standard deduction, higher even than in superrich Marin County, Calif., and way above the national average.

"The tax system is broken, and any kind of reform will involve winners and losers," said Mr. Burman.

President Bush's advisory panel agreed that the tax was bad policy and should be abolished, and suggested a trade-off: abolish a number of popular middle-class deductions, including those for state income and property taxes.

It would also sharply limit the tax savings on mortgage interest. Those ideas make the real estate industry apoplectic, especially around New York.

"It is grossly unfair geographically," said Kathleen Murphy, a real estate agent in Northport, N.Y. "Homeowners are like deer in the headlights now. They don't know what to expect from this market. It's not a marketplace where you want to add variables that detract from homeownership."

Abolishing the alternative tax and making up that revenue by curbing state tax and mortgage interest deductions could add more New York area households to the list of tax losers, according to Mark Zandi, chief economist at economy.com.

That seems unlikely to happen, though. It appears that Congress and Mr. Bush would be wary of such change.

Howard Neustadt, a projection engineer, is one of those who would be adversely affected, and he says the deductions are critical to him. Several weeks ago, he sold his home in Carmel, N.Y., and has signed a contract to buy one in Ossining, N.Y., for $560,000. The move will shorten his commute, and the math made just enough sense: even though his property taxes and mortgage interest will more than double, deductions for those expenses will save about $10,000 in taxes, making the new house affordable, if only barely.

"We could not afford this house without those deductions, and if the government does change this, we'd probably have to sell it," said Mr. Neustadt, 45, who has a combined income, with his wife, of $125,000.

The alternative minimum tax formula is complicated, but basically starts to snare people with incomes approaching $100,000 who have big deductions, like the five-figure real estate taxes that are becoming more common in the New York suburbs. The majority of people with incomes over $200,000 pay it.

The tax was enacted in 1969 to keep the rich from completely escaping taxes by disallowing certain deductions. A taxpayer calculates the tax the usual way, but then also calculates the alternative minimum tax by adding back exemptions for dependents, along with deductions for state income and property taxes, certain home equity interest, medical expenses, stock options and a litany of more- obscure items. An exemption that ranges from $29,000 to $58,000 is subtracted, and a flat tax rate of 26 or 28 percent is applied to the balance, which the taxpayer pays if it is higher than the tax calculated the normal way.

"We thought it would only affect people in the high-income ranges," said Pat Roeder, an Eastchester divorce financial analyst, who had an alternative minimum tax bill of $3,000 last year. She and her husband, Paul Chrystal, a contractor, earn about $150,000, but they are hardly rich, she said.

"We live in a modest-size house in a nice neighborhood," she said. "We get away on weekends sometimes, but we haven't taken a vacation in five years."

As middle class family incomes have risen into realms once inhabited only by the rich, the number of those subject to the alternative tax has increased. In 2003, it was 2.3 million people. The growth has been greatest in areas where property taxes and state income taxes are the highest.

"Five years ago, five percent of my clients were paying the A.M.T.," said Keith Amchin, Mr. Cantor's accountant. "Now, it's 20 to 25 percent."
Eugene Sidoti, a plastic surgeon, has four children and a home in Armonk, N.Y., all of which were helping to keep his federal tax bill down. But no longer.

"Until maybe four or five years ago, I never owed anything at the end of the year," said Dr. Sidoti. "And suddenly I'd get hit with big numbers, tens of thousands of dollars. I've now lost all my deductions, but now I see others who make far less falling into the category."

An analysis for The New York Times by economy.com shows that the alternative minimum tax hits taxpayers everywhere, but is concentrated in suburban areas like DuPage County, in Illinois, and Orange County, in California. Of the 25 counties with the highest proportion of alternative minimum tax payers, though, 10 are in New York City or its suburbs: Manhattan, Nassau, Westchester, Putnam and Rockland in New York; Bergen, Somerset, Morris and Hunterdon in New Jersey; and Fairfield in Connecticut.

"It reflects, first, the high level of income in these regions, and second, that the taxpayers use deductions liberally in part because of the state and local tax levels," said Mr. Zandi, the economy.com economist.

Eventually, economists say, the alternative minimum tax will engulf the majority of payers in the New York area. Its unpopularity extends beyond just those who have to pay it. "The A.M.T. is horrible policy," Mr. Burman said. "It's unfair, it's inefficient, and pointlessly complex."

For Mr. Cantor, already engulfed, the loss of his deductions has changed his outlook considerably. He had not yet had to borrow money for his daughters' college tuition, he said, and was looking forward to the possibility of an early retirement when they graduate. He now believes he will have to borrow to get his second daughter through school. "I've got to pay that off," he said.

"I'm going to be working for a while."

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html)The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

December 10th, 2005, 10:49 PM
They hit you once and then they hit you again ...

A Ruling on Co-ops and Tax Deductions

By JAY ROMANO (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=JAY ROMANO&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=JAY ROMANO&inline=nyt-per)
New York Times
December 11, 2005
Your Home


A RULING by a federal appeals court last month could increase income taxes for thousands of co-op owners, co-op lawyers and accountants say.

The ruling prevents co-op owners from deducting the portion of maintenance charges related to the co-op's property taxes when they calculate their alternative minimum tax.

While the decision puts co-op owners on an equal footing with owners of houses and condominiums for purposes of computing the minimum tax, co-op lawyers say that since many co-op owners took the deduction in previous years, they could be required to pay additional taxes - and interest - if those returns are audited.

"Thousands of co-op owners are going to be affected by this decision," said Ira Z. Kevelson, a Manhattan lawyer and tax accountant who represented the co-op owners in the case. "I have several hundred clients in my office alone who have been taking this position for years. And my firm is not unique."

The alternative minimum tax, he said, is a method of computing income taxes that was originally designed to prevent the wealthiest taxpayers from using tax deductions and credits to significantly reduce their tax liability. Over the years, however, increasing numbers of middle-income taxpayers have become subject to the minimum tax, largely because the decades-old rule does not account for inflation.

Under the rules for calculating regular income taxes, Mr. Kevelson said, taxpayers deduct expenses like mortgage interest and property taxes to arrive at their taxable income. Under the minimum-tax rules, however, property taxes - and deductions like state and local income taxes and personal and dependent exemptions - must be added back to arrive at the taxpayer's alternative minimum taxable income. If the tax to be paid using this method is higher than that from the regular computation, the higher amount must be paid.

But accountants like Mr. Kevelson have taken the position that while tax laws clearly allow co-op owners to deduct an amount equal to their proportionate share of property taxes paid by the co-op, the laws for computing the minimum tax, they say, just as clearly do not require them to add back such amounts. That is because, they say, these amounts are not property taxes but are maintenance payments.

That was the position taken by Mr. Kevelson's clients in the case, entitled Ostrow v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue. In that case, he said, the Internal Revenue Service challenged a $10,489 deduction that Lauren Ostrow and her husband, Joseph Teiger, claimed on their 2001 tax return when calculating their alternative minimum taxable income. The amount was the portion of their maintenance charges related to real estate taxes paid by their co-op.

Mr. Kevelson, along with Marc Luxemburg, a Manhattan lawyer who filed a brief in the case on behalf of the Council of New York Cooperatives and Condominiums, maintained that the law does not require co-op taxpayers to add back such amounts, even though house and condo owners are required to restore property-tax deductions.

On Nov. 22, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, affirming a lower court ruling, disagreed, saying that since Congress's intent was to treat co-op owners the same as other homeowners for tax purposes, co-op owners should have to add back the deductions.

Joel E. Miller, a Queens tax lawyer, said the ruling could result in affected taxpayers having to pay additional taxes, plus interest, for previous years. He said that under tax laws, the I.R.S. can go back at least three years to recalculate a taxpayer's liability and bill the taxpayer for any deficiency, plus interest. Mr. Kevelson said he plans to appeal.

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html)The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

March 1st, 2006, 01:22 PM
A TAX by any other name ...

Bush, an Opponent of Raising Taxes, Proposes $47 Bln in Fees

Bloomberg News


March 1 (Bloomberg) -- While President George W. Bush is adamantly against raising taxes, he's increasingly comfortable with imposing billions of dollars in new government fees, as the airline, commodities and shipping industries have discovered.

Bush's 2007 budget proposal would raise more than $47 billion over the next five years by imposing, raising or extending expiring fees on everything from airline tickets to oil drilling to commodity transactions to ships passing through the St. Lawrence Seaway.

``It's a way for the administration to get around its `we'll never-raise-taxes' attitude,'' said Stan Collender, managing director of the Washington office of Financial Dynamics, a business-consulting firm.

Bush won't suffer politically from what is essentially a tax increase, because he has backed extending even larger tax cuts, said Grover Norquist, a prominent anti-tax activist.

``A tax increase offset by larger tax cuts may or may not be a good idea, but it's not a sin,'' Norquist said.

Administration officials said the fees shift the costs of programs from taxpayers to the industries and individuals that receive government services. Opponents call the new charges thinly veiled tax increases that are unlikely to be approved by Congress.

The government collects billions of dollars each year in fees in the form of postage stamps, Medicare premiums, entrance tickets to national parks and scores of other charges. Last year, those fees totaled more than $185 billion, the equivalent of about 8 percent of the government's $2.4 trillion budget. The administration's proposal would impose $3.4 billion in new fees next year, growing to $15 billion in 2008 before shrinking to $8.7 billion in 2009.

Airlines, Oil and Gas

The increases would hit a host of industries next year. The administration wants to double the security surcharge on airline tickets. It wants to charge oil and gas companies $4,000 to process permits to drill on federal lands. It wants to charge the meat, poultry and egg industries more for federal safety inspections and increase federal medical-care charges for some military retirees.

``User fees help match the cost of government programs with those who benefit from them,'' said Scott Milburn, a spokesman for the White House's Office of Management and Budget. ``It's not reasonable for all Americans to bear the entire cost of government activities from which they only receive a partial benefit,'' he said.

Commodity Futures

Industries subject to the new fees see the issue differently.

John Damgard, president of the Washington-based trade group Futures Industry Association, said an administration proposal to raise $127 million next year through a new fee on commodity futures and options contracts amounts to a new ``transaction tax.''

Goldman Sachs Group Inc., the world's second-biggest securities firm by market value, and Morgan Stanley, the third- biggest securities firm, are among companies represented by the trade group.

``You tax us on the money we make, don't tax us on how we make our money,'' Damgard said.

The fee would apply to approved exchanges and is intended to cover the cost of government regulation of the industry. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission is the only federal financial regulator that is not funded by the organizations it oversees.

`Drive Business'

Damgard said the administration's proposal would hurt the futures industry. ``This will drive businesses to markets where they do not require the tax,'' he said.

Lawmakers, including Democrats such as Representative David Obey of Wisconsin and some Republicans, said the proposals amount to accounting gimmicks that enable the administration to claim it's holding the line on spending without having to sacrifice popular programs.

House Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis, a California Republican, wrote in a memo to his colleagues that the ``proposals make a difficult appropriations season even harder.''

``They allow the administration to artificially inflate programmatic priorities (and expectations) while at the same time touting a `fiscally conservative' top-line budget number,'' Lewis wrote last month.


Bush also has proposed a new fee on explosives manufacturers that some industry officials said would be excessively costly. Chris Ronay, president of the Institute of Makers of Explosives, a Washington-based trade group, said a proposed 2 cents a pound fee on explosives equals about 12 percent of the cost of the product.

``It is monumentally expensive compared to what people pay today,'' Ronay said.

The administration said the fee would generate an additional $120 million needed to help fund the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which regulates the explosives industry.

Airlines are targeted by a proposal to increase the security surcharge on tickets.

``At the end of the day, the money has to come from somewhere,'' said Transportation Security Administration Director Kip Hawley, defending the proposal at a congressional hearing last month. ``Our sense is that it's fair to have that part of it come from the air passenger.''

A Public Good

The industry has rejected that argument, contending that airline safety is a public good. ``Aviation security is a function of national security and should be paid as such,'' said James May, president of the Washington-based trade group Air Transport Association, which represents companies such as AMR Corp.'s American Airlines and UAL Corp.'s United Airlines.

For some lawmakers, the fees are an obstacle to putting together the federal budget.

``Here's what tees me off,'' said Representative Harold Rogers, a Kentucky Republican, at a Feb. 16 hearing. ``OMB and the department, knowing that you cannot pass a tax, instead build it into the budget and puff up the budget, then dump it on the laps of this committee, and we've got to find a way out of the mess that you've made.''

Damgard said Bush should take a lesson from his father, who as president publicly promised not to raise taxes, and was vilified by some Republicans after agreeing to a tax increase. ``This is a bad idea,'' he said. ``Ask his dad.''

©2005 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved

March 4th, 2006, 09:30 AM
Are Corporate Tax Breaks Illegal?

By Aaron Bernstein
Business Week
Thu Mar 2, 9:38 AM ET

http://news.yahoo.com/s/bw/20060302/bs_bw/nf200602282992db016&printer=1;_ylt=AoMDTkQIh6oGymCoo_SyN3S4v0gC;_ylu=X 3oDMTA3MXN1bHE0BHNlYwN0bWE

Every year, U.S. companies collect billions of dollars worth of tax breaks from states and cities anxious to lure jobs and investment to their regions. Now a good chunk of this largesse may be threatened by a U.S. Supreme Court case coming up for a hearing on Mar. 1. The suit involves investment tax credits Ohio granted Chrysler (now DaimlerChrysler) in 1998 to build a Jeep plant in Toledo, Ohio. The state's taxpayers sued, and in 2004 the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the deal violates the U.S. Constitution's Commerce Clause because it puts up a protectionist barrier to interstate commerce.

The Supreme Court won't rule until later this year, but a victory for the Ohio taxpayers would put a major dent in states' ability to offer such tax breaks. States wouldn't be required to recapture tax breaks already granted, but they would have to kill those now on the books and not offer more in the future.


"We need to stop the race to the bottom that subsidizes the largest businesses at the expense of small companies and taxpayers," said Robert Orr, the head of the North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law. He spoke at an unusual Feb. 24 briefing at the right-wing Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., that included other conservatives as well as left-leaning groups such as Good Jobs First and the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities. This strange-bedfellows coalition decries companies playing states against each other to extract tax breaks that allegedly have nominal impact on actual investment decisions.

Corporate groups and some Ohio politicians counter that states and cities have every right to create a business climate conducive to investment. They also argue that the 6th Circuit's decision is so sweeping that it would invalidate a broad range of economic-development policies practiced by nearly every state.

"The ruling puts states at a disadvantage and means that they can no longer control this element of their financial future," says Diann Smith, the general counsel of the Council on State Taxation. The Washington lobbying group includes DaimlerChrysler, the other Detroit auto makers, and some 500 other large companies from various industries.


The case, DaimlerChrysler v. Charlotte Cuno (she's one of the Ohio taxpayers), strikes at the nerve of an increasingly contentious debate about local investment subsidies. Ohio's tax credit was part of a $280 million package the state and city of Toledo coughed up in a bidding war with neighboring Michigan to snare 4,000 high-paying unionized jobs at the Jeep factory.

Critics on the right and the left say that such bidding wars, which have become standard practice across the U.S., are simply give-aways to companies that drag on the national economy. Because any economic gain is offset by losses to other states, they argue, local tax breaks are largely a zero-sum game that distort business locations decisions. Such subsidies, say Orr and others, actually wreak long-term damage on local business climates by undercutting the tax base that supports good schools, roads, and other infrastructure.

In fact, 96% of state and local investment tax breaks go to companies that locate their new facilities right where they had chosen in the first place, according to studies by Peter S. Fisher, a professor of urban planning at the University of Iowa. The implication: States are doling out millions to influence a minute number of job shifts. "I think of it as using dynamite to catch fish," wrote Greg LeRoy is a 2005 book The Great American Jobs Scam. LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, also attended the Heritage session.


Defenders such as Smith say even if that is true, such tax breaks aren't illegal. The "Commerce Clause prohibits barriers (to interstate commerce), not welcome mats," states the Ohio brief to the Supreme Court.

"Tax breaks are incentives, not economic coercion like tariffs and other barriers the law is aimed at," says DaimlerChrysler's brief, written by a team headed by former Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson, now in private practice at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.

While the Court ponders the matter, a group of politicians headed by Ohio Senator George Voinovich hopes to head it off at the pass. They've sponsored legislation, The Economic Development Act of 2005, that would explicitly safeguard many tax incentives from Commerce Clause challenges.
The bill is sponsored by every senator from both parties in all four states in the 6th Circuit: Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee, as well as the National Governors Assn. and the National Conference of Mayors.

A victory for Cuno and the other plaintiffs wouldn't stop investment subsidies altogether. LeRoy's book found some 30 different kinds of methods states and cities use to lure jobs, and not all would be affected by a Supreme Court ruling. But the largesse would be much harder to come by.

Copyright © 2006 BusinessWeek Online (http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/bizweek/SIG=qg9nr9;_ylt=An58jw1zbRVn6nDAtAKewBq4v0gC;_ylu= X3oDMTA1MTZrdWFvBHNlYwNm/*http://www.businessweek.com)

March 4th, 2006, 08:26 PM
I agree with him more or less. Corp tax breaks should be deemed Illigal no mom and pop store will get the same benefits for having their 4 employes kept in the same spot. Although there are exceptions which are painful even for me to utter. 90% of the time its a company that will not move anyway and just wants to milk the govt for additional profitability.

the exception to this in my mind is something like Goldman Sachs which theoreticly will probably never leave manhattan however since it keeps 8k jobs here that pay approximately 1+ mil a pop avg with the city getting some income tax from each person... There could be an argument for paying them 2 bill to stay. Not even mentioning that the effect of all those people has on other industry.

March 4th, 2006, 08:54 PM
Virgin Islands Are at Center of Dispute on Tax Break

By STEPHANIE STROM (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/s/stephanie_strom/index.html?inline=nyt-per)
NY Times
March 5, 2006


The United States Virgin Islands and several wealthy financiers who own homes there are working to persuade Congress to drop a new requirement that at least half the year be spent in the islands in order to get a tax break intended to spur their economic development.

The economic development program allows an effective federal income tax rate of just 3.5 percent for bona fide residents of the Virgin Islands. It has drawn wealthy Americans from the mainland and kindled an economic boom.

But the program, whose benefits have been available for decades, has also allowed some homeowners who spend little time in the islands to avoid federal taxes estimated at $400 million. At least one person, who lived in the islands less than one month a year and nonetheless claimed the program's benefits for income he generated selling insurance in Massachusetts, has pleaded guilty to tax fraud.

The new requirement, adopted by the Internal Revenue Service (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/i/internal_revenue_service/index.html?inline=nyt-org) under legislation enacted by Congress in 2004, is intended to crack down on the practice. The legislation followed articles that exposed how little time some of the beneficiaries spent in the islands and how little of their income was derived there.

The program has long required individuals who benefit from the tax break, as well as companies that do so, to commit $100,000 of capital, employ 10 local residents, buy goods and services from local suppliers and promise to make charitable donations. But until Jan. 31, when the new restriction took effect, there was no explicit residency requirement; the I.R.S. instead used a "facts and circumstances" test to assess eligibility. As a result of the change, individuals claiming the benefit must now prove that they have spent 183 days in the Virgin Islands during the year.

In response, the Virgin Islands Tax Working Group, which represents people who benefit from the break, paid $200,000 last year for lobbyists, according to records compiled by Political Money Line, a nonpartisan campaign finance tracking service. At least one senator, Gordon H. Smith, Republican of Oregon, has been saluted in the islands at a fund-raiser on his behalf attended by several beneficiaries of the program.

The government of the Virgin Islands is just as eager as the beneficiaries to have the new restriction eased. Donna M. Christensen, the islands' delegate to Congress, acknowledged problems with the program in written testimony submitted at a hearing held Wednesday by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which oversees the Interior Department and thus territorial affairs. But she asked committee members to lobby for a lightening of the residency requirement.

Ms. Christensen, describing the rule as onerous, wants Congress to reduce the requirement to 122 days over three years, or an average of a little more than a month annually.

"This is the No. 1 issue for us in terms of our economic prosperity going forward," she said.

The rule's opponents, whose efforts were first reported in The New York Sun, have asked Senator Michael D. Crapo, an Idaho Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, to propose an amendment in tax legislation now being negotiated. In a letter to Senator Pete V. Domenici (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/d/pete_v_domenici/index.html?inline=nyt-per), the New Mexico Republican who heads the energy committee, Mr. Crapo said the specific tax rules governing beneficiaries of the program had been changed without legislative hearings and without consulting the Virgin Islands government.

"As a result, we now see that the changes may have gone too far," Mr. Crapo wrote. "While the bad actors have been successfully removed from the program, these changes are also disrupting legitimate businesses and causing fiscal hardship."

Chris Matthews, a spokesman for Senator Smith, who sits on both the energy committee and the Finance Committee, confirmed that the senator attended a fund-raiser for him in the Virgin Islands last year. Mr. Matthews said Mr. Smith had subsequently chatted with some of his colleagues about his concerns that the tighter regulations were hurting law-abiding businesses.

Copyright 2006 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html)The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

March 6th, 2006, 09:34 AM
I think it would make sense to discuss New York State and City taxes in this thread since they are the highest by far in the nation.

March 6th, 2006, 10:20 PM
Instead of trying to dictate what we discuss, why don't you try posting an article.

March 6th, 2006, 11:29 PM
mrspice is right. Nyc is way overtaxed and it shouldn't be. The debt should be cut and taxes as well.

March 7th, 2006, 09:47 AM
Instead of trying to dictate what we discuss, why don't you try posting an article.

Instead of dictating what I should try doing, why don't you say something interesting and nice for a change? What is the point of posting long articles that anyone can find online anyway? Isn't this a discussion forum?

March 7th, 2006, 10:00 AM
I view it as a sharing-of-information forum -- sometimes information that I digest and re-shape, other times information that others have formulated.

And especially in a thread entitled "News" what's the problem with posting news articles?

Like anything, one can choose to indulge, or not ...

March 7th, 2006, 10:05 AM
I view it as a sharing-of-information forum -- sometimes information that I digest and re-shape, other times information that others have formulated.

And especially in a thread entitled "News" what's the problem with posting news articles?

Like anything, one can choose to indulge, or not ...

I did not say I had a problem with that. I said that I like to discuss news. You may choose to share some articles. We all have our own preferences. I don't why BrooklynRider is telling me what to do. I just thought it would be great to discuss New York taxes since they are the highest in the nation and is a problem for many New Yorkers. What I said was in responce to his comment.

March 7th, 2006, 10:30 AM
Post an article or link that shows New York taxes as the highest in the nation and then there is something to discuss. We start with the FACTS. Then, we can discuss. But you are asking us to beginning arguing your premise, which has no independent corroboration thus far in the thread.

March 7th, 2006, 10:48 AM
I think it would make sense to discuss New York State and City taxes in this thread since they are the highest by far in the nation.

Spice, your main problem is how you phrase your request.

If you simply asked a bit about the taxes in NYS/NYC you could have probably elicited a posting to some informative articles on the subject.

But your statement here implies that you do not like what is being posted (you disapprove) and that you feel it should go elsewhere.

That kind of commentary is not going to be received well (as you have seen) and will simply not get you what you want. So instead of criticising what is being offered, either try offering some yourself, or ASK for other stuff rather than condemning what has been offered.

March 7th, 2006, 11:04 AM
That kind of commentary is not going to be received well (as you have seen) and will simply not get you what you want.

I would think virtually no commentary is going to be received well by some in this crowd of opinionated angry men. We all know that NYC has the highest income tax rates in the nation (at least those us who pay taxes). But if you guys really want to see an artcile to get the discussion going, here's one:
To Keep People In New York City, Cut Costs
by E.J. McMahon
29 Sep 2003

The cost of living in New York City is 240 percent of the national average, according to one recent estimate. That’s not just the highest in the country. It's nearly twice as high as the next most expensive metro areas (Boston and Washington, D.C, in that order).
If you want to keep people in New York, the first thing you have to do is to reduce the staggeringly high cost of staying here. The single biggest factor driving that cost is a crushing state and local tax burden.
We have become so used to hearing about New York City’s high taxes that we have become sort of numb to it. But consider these statistical tidbits:
• New York’s overall tax burden is by far the highest found in any of America’s largest cities.
• Despite relatively low residential property taxes, the overall tax burden on New York City homeowners is the highest in the state.
• For households with incomes of $100,000 a year (middle class by New York standards) the combined state and local tax burden is 32 percent higher than the average for major cities.
• The commercial property tax is absolutely out of sight, reaching nearly $10 per square foot for prime space in midtown Manhattan. The only city that comes close is Chicago. In most other major cities, it is less than $5. In New Jersey, it is $3.
• The combined state and city personal income tax rate this year will reach a maximum of over 12 percent – highest in the nation, almost double the rate in New Jersey, and more than double the rate in Connecticut or Pennsylvania.
With the exception of the last item in the list, these comparative measures do not reflect the impact of the roughly $2.8 billion in city tax increases that have been enacted since Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office last year, or the $3 billion in state tax increases enacted by Albany this year.
Just because many New Yorkers do not directly pay these taxes, either because they are renters or because their incomes are below the median, does not mean they are unaffected by them. The impact of taxes is pervasive, rippling through every sector of the economy. High taxes ultimately drive down the number of new jobs created in the city and drive up the price of goods and services produced there.
Tackling this problem will require a constant, unrelenting effort to steadily bring down the cost of government at both the state and city levels. This is why it is so important for Mayor Bloomberg to continue pressing municipal labor unions for productivity concessions.
Beyond taxes, the most important factor driving cost is the price of housing in the city. This is a classic supply and demand problem, growing directly out of rent regulation and restrictive zoning and building codes. The answer is to stop treating housing as a socialized good, a government-funded entitlement. Clear away the dense thicket of regulatory barriers to building in New York, and let the market do the rest.
Beyond taxes and housing, improving city schools and doing even more to drive down the crime rate obviously are both crucially important to retaining residents. But if its economy is drowning in high costs, the city will lack the tax base to do those good things in any event.
E. J. McMahon is a senior fellow for Tax and Budgetary Studies, at the Center for Civic Innovation at the Manhattan Institute.

March 7th, 2006, 11:54 AM
I would think virtually no commentary is going to be received well by some in this crowd of opinionated angry men. We all know that NYC has the highest income tax rates in the nation (at least those us who pay taxes). But if you guys really want to see an artcile to get the discussion going, here's one:

There you go again man!

"Well I think you are wrong and the people on here are bad, but if you really want something, here it is!!!"

That will not get a good reception here! Don't get me wrong, there are arguements here all the time. I have locked horns with more than a few myself, but coming in as if you are doing peopel a favor by insulting them for not doing what you want and you doing it yourself is not going to get anyone to discuss what you want to talk about.

March 7th, 2006, 02:22 PM
We all know that NYC has the highest income tax rates in the nation (at least those us who pay taxes).
A somewhat snarky comment there, but as one who does pay my share here's a reply ...

Honestly I don't mind paying taxes -- I see it is part of my civic responsibility.

Are they too high? Depends on what it is spent on.

Infrastructure needs to be built and maintained. Schools need to be funded (unlike in many other parts of the country where a cap has been put on certain taxes and thus the school systems have gone to crap -- see: "California"). Social programs for those in need require funding. The list goes on.

by E.J. McMahon

The cost of living in New York City is 240 percent of the national average, according to one recent estimate.

Hmmm ... a big statement covering an unsubstantiated "estimate" from 2.5 years ago.

I really don't know what to think or how to evaluate such a broad comment.

But let's investigate:

E. J. McMahon is a senior fellow for Tax and Budgetary Studies, at the Center for Civic Innovation at the Manhattan Institute.
Hmmm ...

Google "Manhattan Institute" and some interesting info pops up -- especially regarding those who fund "MI" and who "MI" speaks for ...



That list shows that one of the MI's largest contributors is the Scaife Foundations:


Another is the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation:


And the John M. Olin Foundation:


This list of similar-thinkers (See "American Enterprise Institute": http://www.mediatransparency.org/recipientprofile.php?recipientID=19 ) goes on and on.

So I have to take Mr. McMahon's comments with a large grain of salt.

Still, here goes ...

• Despite relatively low residential property taxes, the overall tax burden on New York City homeowners is the highest in the state.
I'm not a property owner in NYC, but hasn't Bloomberg et al made a dent in this since 9/03?

Tackling this problem will require a constant, unrelenting effort to steadily bring down the cost of government at both the state and city levels. This is why it is so important for Mayor Bloomberg to continue pressing municipal labor unions for productivity concessions.
Couple that with other fair contract provisions and you have no argument from me (unless it leads to management coming up with crazy system of judging workers / "productivity" just to make management look like they're towing the line to justify their often outrageously high salaries / perks).

The answer is to stop treating housing as a socialized good, a government-funded entitlement.
IMO safe affordable housing is one of the basic rights to which a citizen should be entitled -- and for which citizens should be willing to pay, with consideration given to various personal circumstances.

The protections offered to tenants under Rent Stabilizaation laws (beyond the monetary considerations) go a long way towards creating a climate where people feel secure in their homes. In a city where so many tenants rent their housing these provisons achieve what the law intended: stabilization of neighborhoods.

Lots of info here: http://homepages.nyu.edu/~swl2/housing.html

One of the things that makes Manhattan great (it's my home borough -- so I can't really speak for other areas of NYC, as I go for weeks without getting off this island --maybe I should change that ;) ) is the mix of socio-economic levels throughout the city. Rent Stabilization laws were put into effect due to a shortage of housing; the law will no longer be in effect once vacancy rates top 5% (that is part of the RS law). But housing availability in NYC has remained below that level for 50+ years.

New housing construction does not require involvement in RS, so anything that comes on the market would rent at market level. Yet, for the most part only "luxury" type buildings are going up. Of course developers can go for maximum profit and quick return -- but does that ultimately serve society as a whole or only themselves and their investors over the short run? (I'm not in the developing / housing buisness, so I don't know).

March 7th, 2006, 02:37 PM
A somewhat snarky comment there, but as one who does pay my share here's a reply ...

Honestly I don't mind paying taxes -- I see it is part of my civic responsibility.

Are they too high? Depends on what it is spent on.

I guess the difference is that I do mind spending too much in taxes. You imply that the taxes we pay are necessary to maintain the quality of life in this city. I think a large portion of the taxes that we pay get wasted. New York State spends 3 times more than Texas on Medicaid. Most of it is spent right here in NYC and 25% of that comes out of NYC taxpayers' pockets. People pay relatively high property taxes, especially in Manhattan (I do), yet many public schools are just terrible. When you live in NJ and pay high property taxes that usually means that the local schools are excellent, so at least you know what you're paying for. There's so much that can be done to curtail the spending and cut the city taxes. Why assume that the city spends your money wisely? We should assume it's not and demand that the government gets smaller. It's a natural desire for any beauracracy to expand. Most importantly, high NYC taxes create an incentive for many middle class familis to move out to the suburbs.

March 7th, 2006, 03:14 PM
Why assume that the city spends your money wisely? We should assume it's not and demand that the government gets smaller. It's a natural desire for any beauracracy to expand.
No argument from me there ... NYC is a MONSTER, and it loves to be fed:

You Can't Fight City Hall,

but You Can See How Much Everyone There Makes

By The New York Times

NY Times
March 5, 2006


New York City's public payroll has more people than the combined populations of Albany, Hollywood and Liechtenstein. At $29 billion, it is larger than the gross domestic product of Guatemala.

Among the names on the payroll are 50 Bushes, 28 Clintons, 44 Nixons, 12 Gandhis and two Churchills. A Brando works at the housing authority, a Trump at transit and a Kissinger at design and construction.

And who knew there was a Municipal Water Finance Authority, let alone that half of the 19 people who work there are paid more than $90,000 a year?

Or that each borough has a public administrator (in addition to a borough president) who collects a $94,000 salary and has a staff?

These and other random insights emerge from a close reading of the civil list, a 6,685-page census of 267,000 public employees that is quietly filed away each year in the city's Records Department.

It contains the names, salaries and agencies for most employees of the city, as well as some at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, a state agency that is not part of the city budget.

An anachronism by modern standards of electronic recordkeeping, the list has been published by the city annually since the enactment of the civil service law in 1883, when it originally included employees' home addresses. Since the 1960's, the list has been filed on microfiche, and two years ago the Records Department began putting scanned images of it online.

Except for a handful of genealogists and connoisseurs of the civil service system, few people seem to know, or have reason to know, the civil list exists.

It enjoyed a rare moment in the sun last month, when an online blog posted a link to it to show the salaries of City Council staff members who had been fired by Speaker Christine C. Quinn.

The discovery that such information was not private shocked some readers of the blog, Backroom Deal Breaker, and one posted a message calling it sickening. An anonymous city worker replied, "It's the price we pay for being employed by the taxpayers."

Indeed, basic information about most employees at all levels of government, including their salaries, is generally available to reporters or members of the public, who often must endure a time-consuming process of extracting it from public information officers. Rarely is such data deposited all at once, as a matter of routine, for anyone to look at it.

The civil list is so big — it dwarfs that of New York's largest private employer, Citigroup, which has about 27,000 employees in the city — and has such a lengthy pedigree that it can fairly be said to reflect the evolution of the city itself.

"There is a racial and ethnic mosaic within the civil service that reflects the politics of the city at various points in time," said John H. Mollenkopf, executive director of the Center for Urban Research at the City University of New York (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/c/city_university_of_new_york/index.html?inline=nyt-org) Graduate Center.

"It's amazing that specializations that were established 100 years ago survive today — the Irish cops, the Italians in the parks department, the Jewish names in social services," he said. "That reflects, to some degree, the mayors who were in office at the time and what groups formed their electoral base."

Scanning the Police and Fire Department rosters from 2005, for example, finds echoes of the Tammany era, when those agencies were well-known entry points for Irish immigrants. There are 52 McCarthys and 54 O'Connors at the Police Department, far more than at any other agency; the Fire Department has the second greatest number, with 28 and 30, respectively.

Earlier versions of the list, going back 30 to 40 years, have few Hispanic surnames compared with the current list.

And perhaps because of the relative newness of Hispanics in filling the ranks of the civil service system, the average salary now listed for a Rodriguez is $44,000, compared with $53,000 for a Rizzo.

Although formalized under the state civil service law, civil lists cataloguing government employees have been around since colonial times, and were a concept imported from England, where such lists were used to keep track of payments to civilian government employees and pensioners.

A history of New York published in the 1840's cites a civil list from 1693, which noted that "600 pound sterling" was set aside annually for Benjamin Fletcher, New York's "governour in chiefe," while Godfredus Dellius earned 60 pounds sterling for "teaching and converting the Indians."

The 1883 civil service law created rules for the hiring, firing and promotion of public employees, and was intended to clean up what was widely perceived as a corrupt, patronage-fueled system in which fealty to political bosses and family connections trumped merit. A key to the law's success was its requirement of transparency, Mr. Mollenkopf said.

"The fact that what people are making is public knowledge means that everybody knows where everybody else stands, so there are no secret deals," he said. "It makes salary-setting less arbitrary, and if you learn that you're earning less than the standard for your peers, you can argue for more."

Over time, as the city payroll grew, publication of the list took on a life of its own. When the city proposed suspending it in 1943 to save $20,000 in printing costs, labor unions representing the printing trade sued, arguing that not publishing it "would mean unemployment, distress and financial loss."

These days, the list is available on the records department Web site at http://www.nyc.gov/html/records/html/govpub/labor1.shtml (http://www.nyc.gov/html/records/html/govpub/labor1.shtml)

The continued value of the civil list is not entirely clear, because it has failed to keep up with changes in the structure of city government.

Historical quirks in the legislative formation of various agencies, for example, means that the list contains records for the 47,000 employees of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, but has no records for the city's 77,000 teachers or employees of its economic development corporation. Even the rationale for publishing it is lost on some city officials. The Department of Citywide Administrative Services, whose City Record journal produces the list, is obligated by law to continue publishing it each year, said Mark Daly, a department spokesman.

But over at the Department of Records, which maintains the city archives and has copies of the civil list going back to 1883, Deputy Commissioner Kenneth R. Cobb admitted being in the dark about why it keeps showing up at his office every April.

"To be honest, I don't know," he said. "The City Record just keeps publishing it, and we continue to make it available."

Copyright 2006 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html)The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)