Taxes

Fairness Triple Crown


1. Tax Fairness

Everyone likes government programs that benefit themselves; we just don’t want to pay for them. Consequently, President Biden’s tax plan is hugely popular with we common folk, because it calls for somebody else to pay for the goodies. Good for us!

Not so good for the proposed payers.

On the other hand, those proposed payers are the very people who have consistently benefited from government policy and programs that for many decades have filled their piggy banks with massive wealth. It seems to most of us that turnabout is fair play.

Brendan Bechtel, CEO, Bechtel Corporation

But not to poor, picked on Brendan Bechtel. He runs Bechtel Corporation. It’s the same company that was happy to get those no-bid contracts from the George W. Bush administration for construction work in Iraq and still more no-bid contracts following Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. That Bechtel Corporation.

Mr. Bechtel recently said of the Biden jobs program funding proposal, “it doesn’t feel fair.”

“Fair” is an interesting concept. From my observation post as a behavior geek it appears that “fair” usually means, “That isn’t what I want for me.” In other words, there is no link to the concept of even-handedness or a reasonable distribution of responsibility and obligation. “Fair” is solely about “I get what I want.” Let’s add one more piece of information and then test the concept.

Here’s a chart reported by The New York Times, sourced from Gabriel Zucman of UC Berkely.*

The graphs represent average federal tax rates for top earners, like Mr. Bechtel. Note how low taxes have been in recent decades relative to most of the last century. Note, too, that these are nominal rates, not what anyone actually paid after their highly expert accounting ju jitsu was applied.

Please tell us again, Mr. Bechtel, about how unfair (meaning “not even-handed”) a relatively slight increase in your taxes will be. You and your family and your top executives have been bathing in the flood tide of money that you’ve been able to amass for half a century. And you’ve been able to keep ever more of it for yourselves, because special tax loopholes and lower top rates have sent your actual, send-IRS-a-check tax bill on a near-constant downward trajectory. So has the employee attrition from the IRS that has minimized scrutiny of tax returns of those at the top of the wealth distribution pyramid.

Another way to say that is that the 99% of the rest of us who don’t have those tax loopholes available to us or the cash to pay high priced tax attorneys have borne a higher burden to support the commons because you’ve skated. I’m talking about the roads, bridges, schools, national defense, emergency services and the rest of the things we do together in this country. You haven’t paid your fair share for a really long time. So, “It doesn’t feel fair” is just too much for we common folk to hear.

You could take a page from Warren Buffett’s book and demand higher tax rates on the ultra-rich. It won’t affect your lifestyle a bit and the next generation Bechtel lucky sperm club winner will still inherit enough money to buy a small country.

So, go ahead and publicly demand our legislators and president raise taxes on the ultra-rich so we can fix the bridges, provide pre-K for our little ones and all the rest of the vitally needed actions in the commons that are decried so absurdly by Republicans.

Your gesture would be a most patriotic thing. It still won’t be what you want, but we’ll be most grateful for your having progressed to something that looks a lot more fair – as in “even-handed” – to the rest of us.

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2. A Jonathan Swifty Solution for Pandemic Fairness

Extremists have taken full control of the Republican Party. These people are angry and vocal and violent and they show up in huge numbers to vote. They openly carry guns, they like to intimidate others, they refuse masks and vaccines and they’re certain they’re the true patriots. That’s a problem for the rest of us who prefer boring negotiations to settle differences, rather than mob violence. And we’d rather not be infected by the mask and vaccine refusers. Fortunately, I have a modest proposal to tame all of that.

Caution: snark follows.

Let’s give them their own country. We’ll cede the Dakotas, where they can refuse masks and vaccines and embrace their Second Amendment remedies with wanton abandon. The Dakotas should be enough space, as they’ll kill one another in gun fights and die of Covid pretty quickly, so they’ll cull their own herd. Tucker Carlson will fit right in.

More immediately important is the issue of the pandemic, as it’s estimated that over 905,000 Americans have already died from it and the extremists overwhelmingly refuse masks, social distancing and vaccines. That imperils our ability to achieve herd immunity, which means their stubborn refusal puts the rest of us at risk. Here’s how to fix that.

By late summer we will have had sufficient vaccine supply and the distribution network for all of us to be vaccinated. Anyone not vaccinated by then can be considered a refuser. These are the people most likely to wind up in hospitals, then on ventilators and finally in the morgue. These are the people who will put our healthcare workers at risk and overload them. They’ll tie up our entire medical system, which compromises everyone else’s access to healthcare. Indeed, it’s been reported that 94% of cancer screenings over the past year were not done due to the pandemic. Our refusers threaten to make that permanent, which imperils all the rest of us.

I propose that after August 31 that we refuse to deliver medical service to anyone who contracts Covid and can’t produce a vaccination card.

It’s their choice to refuse to be vaccinated and that choice, like every choice, comes with consequences which shouldn’t be dumped on the rest of us. They made their bed; now they can lie in it – at home in the Dakotas, where they can’t infect the rest of us with the Covid variants they carry.

This is fair to the rest of us who don’t want to deal with the extremists and their Covid threats and their constant threat to our democracy. It provides freedom of choice, a true American value. It’s in line with the absolute freedom demands of our rugged individuals. And it gets all of us what we want.

This is another in an ongoing offering of simple Swifty solutions for complex problems and for fairness in our country. Please sign the petition at www.ExtremistsGoAway.com.

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3. Fairness Quotes of the Week

From David Brooks in the New York Times:

“That [WW II] victory required national cohesion, voluntary sacrifice for the common good and trust in institutions and each other. America’s response to Covid-19 suggests that we no longer have sufficient quantities of any of those things.”

That’s observationally accurate and fair to say.

From John Pavlovitz on vaccine refusal:

“Conservatives: you’ve been brainwashed. You are afflicted with partisan politics and bad theology, and you are unable to think clearly because of it. You are so intent on validating your vote that you will do anything to feel that way.”

Pavlovitz’s words actually apply to Trump brain slaves. True conservatives would be demanding that we all get vaccinated, this as a patriotic duty. It’s entirely fair to say that.

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* Click the link on Zucman’s name and download any of his papers – say, the top one: Tax Evasion at the Top of the Income Distribution: Theory and Evidence. Just read the abstract. Then give some thought to how the Trump administration’s IRS focused on middle income taxpayers and didn’t even glance at most of the wealthy.

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The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  3. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Potpourri – v12.0


Reading time – 5:15  .  .  .

BREAKING NEWS!

Hope Hicks, President Trump’s closest aide, has tested positive for coronavirus. Hours after the announcement of her infection we learned that both the president and Mrs. Trump had tested positive for coronavirus, too. So have some senators and White House staffers, with more surely in the Covid queue. That isn’t the breaking news.

The important story for America is that even after learning he had been exposed to the infected Hicks, Trump continued his normal schedule, including a round-table with supporters and a fundraiser reception, both at his Bedminster, NJ club. He did all that without wearing a mask.

There have been subsequent unverified reports that he didn’t know he had been exposed prior to the Bedminster events. Regardless, Trump remains a one man super-spreader event and a totem, a roll model for the third of this nation that is in denial about this disease.

Also note that Trump was in close proximity to V.P. Joe Biden and Chris Wallace at the debate on Tuesday night. And the president was talking loudly, projecting clouds of his spittle, necessarily putting the others at risk.

I am steadfastly resisting the enormous urge to send a “We told you so” tweet to our now hospitalized president and am proud that instead I’m wishing him and the rest of the infected good health. I’m proud, too, of Joe Biden for withdrawing criticizing ads of Trump while he’s down. It’s a visible demonstration of the decency Biden has promised to bring to the White House, even though, as of this writing, Trump has continued his attack ads against Biden. As I’ve said, there is no low that is so low that Trump won’t go there.

For now, I fervently hope the leaders of the Democrats are devising a plan for the election if Biden goes down sick due to Trump projecting his infection at him and he can no longer run for office. And, because it would be unseemly to kick Trump while he’s down, Kamala Harris and her team better be retoolng her V.P. debate focus.

Going after Pence won’t take long. Everyone knows he’s smarmy, disingenuous and plainly dishonest. Indianans were in the process of throwing him out of the governor’s office when the V.P. gig lifeline was thrown to him. He really isn’t worth much attention. That leaves the rest of the 90 minutes for Kamala to go after Trump, now having to do it gently. Bummer for the former prosecutor.

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It’s So Taxing

Trump claimed hundreds of millions of dollars in profit while at the same time claiming a $47 million loss on his IRS tax form, so he paid no taxes. Imagine if you tried such a deception.

He has hundreds of millions of dollars of loans – debt – money owed – coming due within the next four years and he has no way to pay it back. Plus, we don’t know to whom he owes that money – could be Vladimir Putin or Mohammad bin Salman, which would raise enormous national security issues.

For anyone else, that much debt from any source would disqualify him/her from even the lowest security clearance, because anyone’s knowledge of the debt is kompromat and the enormity of it is financial leverage. In the absence of seeing Trump’s financial documents we’re left wondering who has Trump’s privates in their vice.

Trump was facing financial disaster in 1990, so he did what any enterprising fellow would do: he attempted to grab all of his father’s wealth for himself. He sent a lawyer and an accountant to the elder Trump’s home to get him to change his will. He did that as his father was falling into dementia. With that kind of self-serving pathology as his guide, what do you imagine Trump would do to the United States over four more years and with all that debt hanging over his head?

This is President Flim-Flam and, sadly, Lincoln was right about being able to fool some of the people all of the time. None of Trump’s malfeasance means a thing to his ardent, information refusing supporters. Many of them are prepared to use violence against fellow Americans in support of him, as they wave their American flags and misuse Thomas Jefferson’s Tree of Liberty quote, imagining themselves to be patriots in their flagrant law breaking. And all the while Trump eggs them on.

Perhaps some of the independents, the folks in the middle, will figure out they’ve been victims of the biggest scam in our history and will act accordingly in this election to stop the madness.

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From Peter Strzok’s book COMPROMISED

Page XXIII

Speaking about having lived in 4 countries that each went through revolution by a strongman dictator, Strzok writes, ”  .  .  .  all shared common characteristics, and all taught me lessons about dictators and authoritarians and their hunger to consolidate power and obtain – or at least convey – legitimacy. That quest for legitimacy played out in a host of ways. One was the desire to manipulate, control, or discredit media. A relentless distortion of reality numbs a country’s populace to outrage and weakens its ability to discern truth from fiction.

“Another way dictators sought to secure power and legitimacy was by co-opting the power of the state – its military, law enforcement, and judicial systems – to carry out personal goals and vendettas rather than the nation’s needs.

“Still another was by undermining dissent, questioning the validity of opposition and refusing to honor public will, up to and including threatening or preventing the peaceful transfer of power.”

Page 307

“Authoritarian leaders and tin-pot dictators don’t tolerate dissent or criticism, and when they hear it, they smear their critics in outlandish terms, as traitors, as enemies of the people, as saboteurs and spies. If they can imprison or execute their critics, they frequently do. If they can’t they call for their imprisonment [think: “Lock her up.”] or execution instead, or demand mob retribution against them. Corrupt and compromised, with no moral center and no ethics and only their own self-interests to guide them, such leaders see criticism as a challenge to their legitimacy and, when challenged continuously, rage louder – ruining lives, destroying careers, and worse.”

“One of [the pipe bomber, Cesar] Sayoc’s attorneys would later explain in court that his client’s ‘blind admiration for the president’ [much like MAGA hat wearers] had fed his spiral toward violence. ‘It is impossible, I believe,’ the lawyer said, ‘to separate the political climate and his mental illness.'”

Strzok continued, speaking of “[Trump’s] impact on the vulnerable fringes of American society, on troubled people susceptible to suggestions and inflammatory rhetoric.”

Somebody please tell me what the violence-prone Trump supporters will do when Trump loses and continues his ranting about a rigged election, fake news, lock somebody up and dog whistle calls to violence.

Read traditional conservative David Brooks’ eyes-wide-open comments about the chaos debate last week, the immoralist who created it and the threat it signals for America.

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Coronavirus – Again

We’ve known all along what to do to stop dying from COVID-19. And how to stop suffering debilitating illness from it. And the way to prevent long term lung and heart damage. I wrote about that here.

We haven’t done those things.

Leadership has lied about proper protocols, waffled on protections, recommended lethal cures and valueless treatments and refused most positive actions to stop this pandemic. Left to the states, failure was certain. That’s because some states imposed serious measures to protect the people, while neighboring states blindly, spinelessly followed the President’s lead, claiming COVID-19 was like the flu that would “magically go away”, or some other excuse for inaction. And then people traveled from infected areas to non-infected areas, which spread the disease very quickly. Now, over 210,000 Americans are dead. It was all predictable and avoidable.

We chose not to avoid.

We have a temper-tantrum narcissist, responsibility-refusing president. He sits in his highchair, pounding on his tray and screaming his fantasies, while his enablers say, “Whatever the president wants, it’s his. I’ll do whatever he says.” Republican senators and governors knuckle under, as though they’ve lost all higher brain functioning. They are all children, acting as though there are no consequences to anything, focusing only on what they can imagine they’d like to have and thinking only as far as the immediate future for themselves. They abdicate all responsibility and refuse their accountability for the consequences of their actions on others.

Exactly like misbehaving, disobedient children.

Together, these irresponsible leaders instruct large portions of the population to distrust reality, to flaunt their bravado and to continue to spread the disease and death. Then our citizens act exactly as their leaders do, like misbehaving, disobedient children. And all the while people die for lack of responsible leadership.

This disease won’t go away until we all start acting like adults, conscious of our responsibility to ourselves and one another. What do you suppose that will require?

Read How America Lost 200,000 Lives to COVID-19 – even better, watch the video – for more.

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Ed. note: We need to spread the word so that we make a critical difference, so,

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The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Sometimes I change my opinions because I’ve learned more about an issue. So, educate me. That’s what the Comments section is for.
  3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Leadership and The Tax Bill


Reading time – 5:12; Viewing time – 8:03  .  .  .

Others, nearly everyone, really, are doing a fine job of chronicling the insane Trump administration as revealed by Michael Wolff in his “best seller before it’s even released” book, Fire and Fury, and the stupid reactions of the Temper-Tantrum-Tweeter-in-Chief. So, I’ll have a look at a different piece of the crazy.

Following the passage of the “Actually, Not The Biggest Tax Reduction in History Act”, the Republicans in Congress and the Vice President fell all over themselves praising Donald Trump and his near-magical leadership, his blinding brilliance and his deal-making wizardry. That sucking up was rekindled last week when replays of Orrin Hatch debasing himself in this way were shown following his announcement of his retirement. With their over-the-top praising, these Republicans insulted and embarrassed:

  • – Themselves
  • – The Republican Party
  • – Congress
  • – The United States of America
  • – You and me
  • – All humans with any sense of self-respect
  • Every exceptional leader throughout history – go see the current film Darkest Hour for an example of great leadership. Then compare and contrast. If you were inclined to fawn over Trump before, you won’t be afterward.

Mom would have said to these suck ups, “Shame on you, Trump fawners. Shame on you.” But today unethical, false, phony and sleazy words and deeds go wanting for perps who will own up to their bad behavior. Nevertheless, Mom would have been right.

Perhaps you think I’m exaggerating to make a point, but I mean this exactly as stated. This is the kind of praise that Supreme Marshall and Dear Leader of the People’s Republic of Korea demands from his citizens and his goose-stepping military. This is the kind of sycophantic obsequiousness (thank you, Allan Shuman, for the words) worthy of cowards, fools and invertebrates. The suck up was so great that it’s amazing they didn’t all pass out from oxygen deprivation. Next will be a Caligula-worthy announcement of Trump-as-god.

This is exactly the kind of stupid stuff that has to stop if we’re to come together as a nation. It’s not just the polarizing “we’re so right” self-congratulations and the “Trump is my Dear Leader” sucking up; it’s that the vast majority of Americans didn’t want any of what is in that tax act and are more negative about it than we were about either the Clinton or H.W. Bush tax increases, this even as the sucking up continues.

If you want to see how bad this bill is, have a look at Thomas Edsall’s review of the analyses done by professional number crunching people, the type of resource the Republicans DID NOT call upon for guidance in writing the bill. Be sure to note the very real cruelty built into this fraud of a tax reform. If you want to see what Corporate America has announced it will do with its upcoming windfall, read this piece from Reuters and you’ll put aside any hope that this forked-tongue tax reduction was ever about job and wage growth. For context on all of this, have a look at Christopher Ingraham’s very clear piece about wealth distribution in America and you’ll understand how undemocratic and counter-productive this bill is for nearly all Americans. And to understand How Republicans Learned to Sell Tax Cuts for the Rich, read Isaac Martin’s piece.

Donald Trump and many Republicans in Congress went to great lengths to tell we Americans that the tax plan would primarily benefit ordinary Americans, yet that is untrue. Every independent study of the plan tells us that at least 80% of the tax benefit goes to the wealthiest 1% of Americans, while our poor and working class children will be saddled with an additional $1 to 1.5 trillion of debt in order to send all that money to already rich people.

Trump repeatedly told us that the tax plan will not benefit him or his wealthy friends, but that’s factually wrong, too.

There are only two possible ways to understand Trump and the Congressional Republicans telling us these false things:

  1. These guys are ignorant of the facts. They are either too lazy to learn the truth or too dim witted to recognize it and then too foolish to keep their ignorant mouths shut. Or,
  2. They know the truth and are intentionally telling us something at odds with the truth. This is commonly called lying. It’s why you got grounded. It’s why you felt ashamed of yourself and you learned not to lie. It’s possible Trump and the Congressional Republicans had a different kind of upbringing and consequently they just don’t recognize what ashamed feels like or what they’re supposed to do about it.

Let’s be clear that I think neither my judgment about the colossal fawning over Trump, nor my bashing of this miserable tax bill, nor the DC types lying about it are in conflict in any way with the “come together” message of my last post of 2017. We are supposed to discern between what is good, fair and truthful versus what is simply reprehensible. The fawning and the tax bill and the lying are reprehensible.

And another thing  .  .  .

Last September President Trump pulled the plug on DACA – The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, commonly known as the Dreamers policy. It affects about 700,000 people who were brought to this country as children, who have known no other country, who speak English the same way you do and who are doing the same things your children do and likely you did. They’re now in school or working jobs and hoping to advance, just like you did. In every respect except for the geography of their birth, they’re as American as you.

Let’s see if we can bring the impact of Trump’s plug-pulling down to a manageable number that’s easy to relate to.

Every three minutes 2 Dreamers – maybe one them is a friend of yours – lose their protection from deportation. Every three minutes 2 more Dreamers live in fear of ICE agents banging down their door and hauling them away.

Is that okay with you? Just in case it isn’t, it’s important that you know that nobody in power listens to Dreamers because they have no political muscle, so they need you to speak up on their behalf. Call your senators and representative and tell them what you want. Tell them that if they don’t do what you want that you will fire them this coming November.

Note, too that 39% of American children – that’s 9 million kids – get their healthcare through the CHIP program, which our leader also cancelled in September. That means that state-by-state, all those kids will lose their healthcare. Add these cute but poor 9 million children to the list of people our government doesn’t care about. Go ahead and tell your legislators what you want done about that, too.

Oh, and by the way, fundamentally the same “Who cares about you?” message is still being delivered by our government to everyone in Puerto Rico – that’s 3.4 million people. 50% of the people there still don’t have electricity and many have no clean water and little food. People are still dying from the aftermath of the hurricane and we’ve pulled the bulk of our support services from the island. You might want to mention that, too, when you make your calls to your legislators.

Exactly when did the Republican Party become the “Who cares about you?” party?

Just for fun  .  .  .

from The Onion, of course!

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we’re on a path to continually fail to make things better. It’s my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!) and engage.  Thanks!

Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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