Archive for the ‘Finance’ Category

The poor pay plenty in taxes, don’t believe anybody who says they don’t

September 1, 2011

You’ve no doubt heard that half of federal tax filers pay no income tax. That’s part of the argument that we shouldn’t raise taxes on the rich. It’s also part of a despise-the-poor argument, like the one made by Curtis Dubay, senior tax policy analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

“We have 50 percent of people who are getting something for nothing.”

It’s true that the poor pay no federal income tax. But it’s also a lie—a big one.


The truth is the poor pay taxes at a rate nearly that of the rich—the reverse of the way we usually think of our tax system as “progressive.” They don’t pay federal income tax, it’s true. But they pay state and local taxes at a higher rate than the rich. (more…)

Obama won the debt-ceiling battle, so Dems, quit whining and smile

August 4, 2011

The only people happy about the battle over the debt ceiling are the pundits, because it gives them an audience and an opportunity to display their insights. Oh, and people close to the President, because they know he won.

Months ago, when John Boehner and Mitch McConnell were assuring everybody that whatever happened they wouldn’t allow the nation to default, President Obama stated his position: he wanted a clean extension that would carry the country past the 2012 election. He didn’t ask for a tax increase on zillionaires, or a deficit reduction—these should be tackled aside from the debt ceiling increase, which after all is only needed to allow the United States to pay its obligations, every dollar of which had been authorized by the Congress.

But Boehner and McConnell couldn’t control their members, especially the Tea Party members who wanted to use the debt ceiling as a bludgeon to smash government. The ceiling had been raised without controversy dozens of times before under Presidents and Congresses of both parties. The Republican threat was a repudiation of ethics, duty, and the Constitution. Still, the threat came.

In the end, and just in the nick of time, the President got what he had asked for: a clean bill that simply raised the limit enough to carry the country past the 2012 election.

You could be confused by the words about a super-committee to identify trillions in savings, or about triggers to force cuts. Here are the facts: (more…)

Suddenly, a blizzard of truth from Republicans. Sam Goldwyn Awards* for all three.

February 17, 2011

 

Everybody in politics knows that federal spending is unsustainable: ending earmarks, eliminating waste, cutting non-defense discretionary spending won’t make more difference than baling out a sinking ship with a teacup. Drastic action is called for. Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security have to be cut back or they’ll bankrupt the nation.

But our political leaders run from the problem. In the debate last year over health care reform, Republicans accused proponents of wanting to ration health care, and the Democrats, instead of saying, “Yes, it’s rationed now and we’ll have to ration it a lot more,” denied and denied. “Not us!”

Now come three prominent Republicans to speak truth to power—to the voting public.

Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) grabbed the third rail of American politics when he told an American Enterprise Institute audience, “You’re going to have to raise the retirement age for Social Security. Oh, I just said it. And I’m still standing here. I did not vaporize into the carpeting, and I said it.”

Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-IN) was even bolder—and more comprehensive—in a thoughtful speech to CPAC ( the Conservative Political Action Conference) in Washington. He told the right wing audience that his own party hasn’t tackled the problem, dealing instead with trifles: “Talking much more about [earmarks], or ‘waste, fraud, and abuse,’ trivializes what needs to be done and misleads our fellow citizens to believe that easy answers are available.” Instead Daniels proposed cutting defense, and radically changing Social Security and Medicare (more…)

Which is more unethical: Nancy Pelosi staying on as Democratic leader or Nancy Pelosi sabotaging the bipartisan deficit commission?

November 11, 2010

 

Nancy Pelosi is labeled an “ethics dunce” by Jack Marshall, in his Ethics Alarms blog: “Pelosi’s refusal to step aside places her own ego above the needs of public service and country, and is as blatant an example of power corrupting judgment as one can imagine. At a time when all ethical considerations argue for her to swallow her pride and let others take over, she is willing to jeopardize not only her party’s comity, unity and image but her own legislative achievements.”


Marshall reserves the dunce label “for those individuals and organizations who display a complete ignorance of ethics through their persistence in, defense of, or comfort with blatantly unethical conduct.”


But Pelosi’s behavior this week is even more deserving of the “ethics dunce” label than her unseemly clinging to her leadership position. Yesterday, within minutes of the release of the President’s deficit commission’s draft report, she blasted it as “simply unacceptable.”

(more…)

An ethics challenge to Wall Street…from the U. S. Senate, of all places

April 24, 2010

In the wake of Wall Street scandals, collapses, bailouts, bonus billions, record profits, and now, according to the SEC, charges of fraud, the big show moves to Washington on Tuesday when the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, chaired by Carl Levin (D-MI) will grill Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs CEO, and six current and former Goldman people, including Fabrice “Fabulous Fab” Tourre. The show starts at 10 AM EDT.

Levin is a very bright, very tough, inquisitor who is not one of the 46 senators who have gotten major contributions from Goldman. Nor is the ranking Republican, Tom Coburn (R-OK). The committee has a long history of changing Americans’ attitudes and behaviors, going back to 1921. It may well start to change the way Americans think about ethics and business.

Blankfein will testify last. He’ll face an awful dilemma: Will he defend Goldman’s behavior—described by Business Week’s Michael Lewis as creating a billion dollar bond package to fail, tricking and bribing the ratings agencies into blessing the package, then selling it to a slow-witted German?

Or will he say that Fabulous Fab’s deal was inconsistent with Goldman’s ethical standards, and thereby give credence to the SEC’s charge of fraud?

What would you do?


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