Let’s imagine, for a few minutes, that the year is 2008 and we are at the tail end of the presidential primary season. The front-runner is a man who has been successful financially, headed an investment company that produced significant returns to his investors. He has been at the forefront of American business, and holds the respect of notable people and institutions of higher education. Some may even refer to him as the backbone of American society. He is generous to charities that are part of his faith background. Should we demand to see his tax returns? Should we demand that he open the books of the company he started and ran for many years? This leader in American investment claims to be beyond question, claims to be “honest” and says his “business experience” is what is required in Washington.
At this point in August 2008, Americans still thought that Bernie Madoff was brilliant. We could have elected him President of the US if we didn’t require tax returns and his company books to be opened. By December of that year, a month after the election, the whole country discovered he was a scoundrel.
Let’s make sure we demand Romney show us what he has done before we vote him into the presidency.
Aug 16 2012 - 6:39am
Tax cuts & deficit commission
It is a revolt against Keynesianism that has framed the conservative Republican response to this recession.
Here is the paradox: confronted with the bitter package from the deficit commission, the political system will freeze. It won’t be able to produce any significant painful steps over the next two years, at least. There will probably be agreement to extend the tax cuts, either for a limited term, or permanently. There will be no agreement about Social Security, Medicare, revisions in the healthcare reform passed last year, or other social programs. There will be no significant cuts to the defense budget. We will continue to have the government spending a lot more than it takes in for at least the next few years.
We will get a rough, unsystematic Keynesianism. Paul Krugman argues for a larger and more thoughtfully designed stimulus; we won’t get that, but we also will not see the kind of massive reduction in government spending that conservatives advocate.
It is often forgotten that Keynes also advocated reducing government spending (running a surplus) in prosperous times, as happened during the Clinton years. And perhaps in better times it will be easier for politicians and the public to swallow the pills that are offered by Bowles and Simpson. Something will have to be done about the deficit, but not now.
Dec 14 2010 - 4:47pm
Better education is intertwined with equitable distribution
Christopher Hayes's excellent article on the Repulicans—and now the Democrats'—commitment to indiscriminate tax cuts provides a very traditional response to this nonsense. I would like to propose a further, and perhaps more persuasive argument: unwillingness to tax the wealthy at progressive rates is anti-education, and anti-child.
The OECD recently reported that the United States scores fourteenth in reading, seventeenth in science and twenty-fifth in math among OECD nations. Every country that scored higher than the United States on the tests (called PISA) has, according to OECD, a more equitable distribution of income than in America as measured by the accepted international standard of the Gini coefficient. This means that we have a higher income gap between our wealthiest and poorest citizens than any of those countries that outscored us on the international tests. In fact, the United States ranks twenty-seventh among those same countries on the Gini coefficient—lower even than we do on the math rank of twenty-fifth.
How dare the billionaires that dodge taxes, their corporate lawyers and their cheating banks lecture the country on the need for education to improve to improve the economy! How dare Arne Duncan and the Obama asministration to miss this point! Better education can only come with more equitable distribution of income.
Dec 14 2010 - 2:53pm
To American citizens who are better off than 98 percent of us
My dear Americans, I assume that you love this country that gave you the opportunity to have so much. I assume that you are patriots and you want the United States to succeed. It is nice to know that at least some American citizens are doing better in these trying times. Good for you. But the vast majority is not doing that great. Of course, you realize that as a country we are in trouble: mounting debt, unemployment, deterioration of the middle class.
Our education needs major improvements; the country’s infrastructure is in disrepair. As patriots we all have to pool together to help.
My dear rich citizens, We bailed out many of you, saved your well-being from disaster that, between us, many of you helped to create. But we need your help now.
Not a lot...a little, like 3 percent. We understand that you need to make a living too. We are not asking you to mortgage one of your mansions. We are not asking you to sell your Rolls Royce or a fur coat or to lay off some of your servants.
We assume that you want to help your country. We asking for a little help, like 3 percent of your taxable income. For most of you it will be less than you spend on one of your vacations. It is an inconvenience, we know. Yet, for the rest of us it will be a tremendous help. That would help many people to keep their family homes—the only home they’ve got. That would help many kids get a good education, so that they will be able to get a good job and contribute to our country, and to help you to get even wealthier.
That meager 3 percent would help our middle class, a class that is losing ground as you get richer.
My rich fellow Americans, this country is very generous to you. Your share of this country’s wealth has increased tenfold in just several decades. We are asking you as patriots of this country to share just a little bit more with your countrymen in this time of need.
We helped you, remember.
We are being very careful not to ask too much so, God forbid, you will suffer the inconvenience.
Don’t get us wrong. It is an American dream after all—to get rich. And as an American, don’t you want to keep this dream alive for all of us?
We just do not want this country to become a Third World country, because that’s what happens when the middle class is gone; because then you will have to hide behind walls with barbed wire.
So please try to overcome your selfishness and your greed and be an America citizen. Please show America that you care. Please tell your servants—the Republicans—that you want to help, that you are ready for a sacrifice. Also would you tell your servants to release the hostage—our and your country, America. Please tell them it is OK to support the arms treaty with Russia, because Republicans do not do anything without your approval.
My rich fellow Americans. It is not bad to be rich; it is bad to lose basic human attributes such as conscience, compassion and the great feeling that you are an American.
I just want to add that I have a great respect for people like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, George Soros and many others. Sadly, they are a small minority.
Dec 11 2010 - 4:51pm
Tax increases that make sense
A solution for the US debt and unequal distribution of wealth problems is to raise taxes for the over-represented highest-income 1/10th of 1 percent of the population. Simply said, you can keep taxes the same for 99.99 percent of the people. This should not be a hard sell if we can get the message out, but it will take time. The 1/10th of 1 percent are the investor class, and keeping their personal tax rate equal or below the corporate tax rate creates incentive to make all investments become short-term. This has inverted our previous system and produced an economy based on a million new fees, debt investments and offshoring of our jobs rather than investing for the future in America. The investor class does not want to "buy the cow," because they are getting the milk for free. Incentives for investing for the long term in America have been removed by the tax code, which gives the super rich all the "goodies" up front. We need to make our regressive tax system progressive with "carrots and sticks" for promoting long-term investment and domestic employment.
Dec 11 2010 - 11:40am
Are we watching the WMD movie again, act II, this time a production of the Obama administration?
WMD now stands for the Workforce Manipulated Data.
Why would somebody play with the statistical data and have the indicators distorted?
The problem is that the tax cuts for the wealthy are expiring at the end of 2010, which is Christmastime. That’s when employment always peaks—manufacturing, suppliers, transportation, retail, travel, company parties, you name it.
The shopping season starts with Black Friday right after Thanksgiving. To be ready for Black Friday, the retailers have to hire sales personnel, prolong store hours, have all the orders manufactured and delivered on time…
This means that the November employment data should have been up, which would have resulted in at least the same unemployment rate of 9.6 percent. However, the Obama administration needed an urgent mushroom cloud to get the Americans fearful and ready to swallow the extension of the tax cuts for the wealthy that Mr. Obama ironically used as a war cry to rally the troops in 2008 election and the swelling budget deficits that the GOP cynically used to mobilize the conservatives for the very successful 2010 elections.
The best way to build up instant support for the Obama-GOP pact was a very bad unemployment report. If everything was going on regularly, the scary job data would come in the early spring, after the Christmas shopping binge was over and the effects of the stimulus package faded away.
So, what is three or four months among friends? The incomplete and incorrect data would quiet the masses to sheepishly accept the tax cut extension deal. Once the law is on the books, there is nothing to prevent the administration from reporting that the actual data for November unemployment were much better than initially reported…
By the way, have you noticed that terrifying unemployment data didn’t cause a sell-off on Wall Street? It seems that the bankers and traders were better informed than the journalists…
Dec 10 2010 - 3:36pm