I think it’s a regressive tax that hurts the poor, working poor, and middle class.
Some arguments I’ve heard for it are that it’s fair because it taxes those who use the roads equally regardless of income, but is that really true?
What about businesses like Walmart, Amazon, Apple and so many others and all the other businesses who are part of global supply chains? Wouldn’t they all would be dead without a safe, reliable, and ubiquitous infrastructure of seaports, airports, railways, and highways? Aren’t they reaping benefits – much greater benefits monetarily – from our infrastructure than the average American?
It seems that I actually find myself agreeing with the Kochs that the gas tax shouldn’t be raised; however, I suspect that we have different reasons for opposing it.
Which brings me back to the question of how do we fund the desperately needed repairs – and maybe even expansions – to our infrastructure?
I was thinking that a tax on corporations and a tariff on imports that use our infrastructure they so desperately need to sustain their business would be the more fair and equitable approach.
But, that seems impossible given that Republicans are in charge and doing just the opposite.
If I understand it correctly, their tax changes permanently reduce corporate taxes while only temporarily reducing taxes on average citizens. Business 1; Citizens 0
And that stalwart and defender American business, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce? Oh, yeah. They like the idea of a gas tax increase. Why wouldn’t they? They work for business – and don’t fool yourself, they work for BIG business, not the fabled “mom & pop”. To believe that what they do that’s good for business is always good for workers is to believe the lie of trickle-down economics.
It’s an incredible testament to the vision, genius, and engineering expertise of the people who work at NASA. Imagine the world we might live in if we insisted that our government invest more of our tax dollars with the people and the science capable of designing, building, launching, and operating a rover that was sent to Mars on a 90-day mission and that is still operating without any direct human contact 10 years later.
We’re a curious species. It’s in our nature. It’s how we turned stones into tools, tamed fire, taught ourselves agriculture, and for the last 57 years have been capable of sending machines and people into space.
I’m all for spending money on exploration and learning. It’s how we’re going to expand our knowledge and (hopefully) improve everyone’s lives. I find it to be both fascinating and disturbing that such statements might be controversial in some quarters.
What I am not for is the universal idea that characterizes mostly the GOP today; that every government expenditure ought to be done only if, a) an equal and opposite cut is made elsewhere or, b) there’s some immediate and measurable monetary return-on-investment.
What Opportunity’s 10th Birthday Also Tells Us
Sometimes we just need to spend money on exploration for the sake of exploring, secure in the knowledge that it’s the path to the future. We already know what’s behind us. We’ll never know what’s ahead if we don’t explore. Maybe that’s why I consider the label “progressive” to be a compliment. I’m all for progress.
Yes, we have lots of problems to solve here at home. Yes, we need to spend money wisely.
That said, I believe – and the people at NASA celebrating Opportunity’s 10th birthday are living proof of this – that there are lots of smart people on the planet capable of doing anything, including solving the biggest problems imaginable, if only they are properly funded.
Beyond NASA; Beyond Austerity
With all due respect to those good and fine and smart people, this post is about more than NASA.
It’s very reasonable to ask the question, “Where are we going to get the funding for <fill-in-the-blank>?”
What is unreasonable is to always condition this question with a demand for more and more and more austerity.
We don’t have a money problem in America. What we have are moral and ethical problems created by the selfishness and greed of the rich and powerful in this country, including the people in elected offices who represent them and not us in our government.
Money to spend solving our big problems is readily available. In my opinion, it comes from 3 places:
1. Raising taxes on the wealthy.
They are the only ones left with any money. Frankly, if they don’t like it I invite them to live out their Randian fantasy of being some modern-day John Galt and just leave. The big problems in our society are because of them, not because of the poor and the middle class. I’ll even help them to pack if their patriotism is limited to the size of their personal bank accounts – be they onshore or off.
2. Reforming the tax code to plug tax loopholes that benefit only the wealthy and profitable corporations.
Once again, let me speak plainly to the rich and powerful. You’re not trickling anything down to us anyway, so you might as well stop suckling my tax dollars from the teat of the federal government and take your accumulated wealth to another country. We aren’t going to miss what you hoard and already don’t contribute back to society anyway.
3. Reallocating tax subsidies that go to profitable corporations, starting with the fossil fuel industries.
This one alone was worth about $70 billion – that’s a 7 followed by 10 zeros – between 2002 and 2008. (Source: Environmental Law Institute; Energy Subsidies Black, Not Green)
NASA has never been more than 4.4% of the federal budget, and that was during the race to the Moon in the Cold War days of the LBJ administration. It was never more than 0.72% (yes, that’s zero-point-seven-two percent) in that 2002 to 2008 period, and it averaged just 0.63% during that time.
Want to talk austerity? Going from 4.4% to 0.63% is an 86% budget cut.
The point is this: We can’t live in a civil and advancing society without pooling our funds (taxes) and demanding good governance in how they are spent, right?
So, isn’t it obvious by now that trickle-down economics is a lie? And while absolutely appropriate for bloated budgets like the DoD’s and for unwarranted expenditures like subsidies to wealthy and profitable corporations, isn’t it clear to everyone that austerity is *not* an appropriate strategy for everything?
I’m not referring only to NASA now.
I’m much more concerned at this moment in time with the GOP and the conservative movement that demands more and more austerity in social safety net programs.
How much more are we going to punish the poor and the unemployed for conditions they did not create and for mistakes they did not make?
The rich and powerful – the people who make up the Big Money in this country – are the ones to blame for the economic collapse and the anemic recovery. There’s simply no other conclusion borne out by the facts.
So, shouldn’t the rest of us be working together to get the corrupting influence of Big and Dark Money out of our politics so that we can take back our government and actually have our elected leaders represent us?
I invite you to learn more about what we can do together and where our priorities ought to be by visiting these web sites:
And taxes stayed pretty much just that way for the next 15 years, until the early 1960s. Importantly, this was one of the most successful eras in US economic history. The middle class boomed, the economy boomed, and the stock market boomed. And all with the top marginal income tax rate over 90%. This suggests that the Republican mantra about high marginal tax rates killing the economy is, well, a bunch of crap. Henry Blodget, “THE TRUTH ABOUT TAXES: Here’s How High Today’s Rates Really Are”, Business Insider
Blodget is not the left’s fool, errand boy, or mouthpiece. He spent time on Wall Street and attracted AG Spitzer’s sufficient attention to necessitate a change to his career path that divested him from securities trading forever.
That said, when Blodget collects and presents facts about the economy and, in this case, tax rates, it’s not as if we’re getting the information from Ed Schultz or, for that matter, Glenn Beck.
Here’s a tip for the holidays!
Keep the link to this blog post handy. Should the discussion with friends, family, and co-workers turn to politics, the economy, and taxes, I invite you to plagiarize as much of my comments below as you like. (I can’t speak for Blodget, so you should probably give him his due credit.)
BLODGET: Today’s government spending levels are indeed too high, at least relative to the average level of tax revenue the government has generated over the past 60 years. Unless Americans are willing to radically increase the amount of taxes they pay relative to GDP, government spending must be cut.
YOU/ME/WE: I am in favor of spending cuts beginning with the military and corporate subsidies. I am not in favor of cutting social safety net programs….. with one caveat.
I am in favor of a means test for Social Security benefits. I favor means testing that would progressively reduce and ultimately exclude benefit payments to wealthy retirees.
Heresy, you say? Not at all!
It’s not *your* money. Social Security is *not* your personal savings account. It’s a social contract between the present-day youth and the able-bodied with the present-day elderly, infirm, and indigent. That’s why it’s called SOCIAL SECURITY.
I also favor radically increasing the taxes on upper income earners and corporations. They benefit the most from our society and our system of government. It’s time they start paying for it proportionately and appropriately just the way they did during the Golden Age of America. They seem to have done just fine back then. I’m confident that they’ll find a way to somehow survive again.
BLODGET: Today’s income tax rates are strikingly low relative to the rates of the past century, especially for rich people. For most of the century, including some boom times, top-bracket income tax rates were much higher than they are today.
WE: Tea partiers especially seem to be incapable of accepting this fact. In doing so, they make themselves convenient and easily manipulated pawns for the rich and powerful. They also look and sound absurd in their demands for lower taxes, and they do damage to their movement, to the GOP, and to the whole country by nominating and electing people who also refuse to accept reality.
I’m done soft-pedaling this issue.
If you’re outside the wealthiest 2% and you’re still voting for tea party Republicans (and most Republicans, actually), you’re voting against your own economic self-interests and the economic self-interests of your fellow 98-percenters (see here and here).
That means you bear a big part of the responsibility and the blame for the weak recovery and the social divide plaguing our nation on issues like equality, voting rights, and science. I hope you come to your senses soon.
BLODGET: Contrary to what Republicans would have you believe, super-high tax rates on rich people do not appear to hurt the economy or make people lazy: During the 1950s and early 1960s, the top bracket income tax rate was over 90%–and the economy, middle-class, and stock market boomed.
WE: This is a real lay-up. Trickle-down economics, at best, is a failed theory. History and facts do not lie, and they have no bias. It has evolved from a “theory” to become an economic lie perpetrated on the easily manipulated by the rich to benefit the rich.
Someone out there in the 98% show me what has trickled-down to you.
BLODGET: Super-low tax rates on rich people also appear to be correlated with unsustainable sugar highs in the economy–brief, enjoyable booms followed by protracted busts. They also appear to be correlated with very high inequality. (For example, see the 1920s and now). Periods of very low tax rates have been followed by periods with very high tax rates, and vice versa. So history suggests that tax rates will soon start going up.
WE: It’s obvious that rich people do *NOT* invest when their taxes are low, they hoard. When your income is high and your effective tax rate is zero, where’s the incentive to do anything but collect more and sit on it?
Oh. That’s right. Ayn Rand’s work of fiction is now conservative dogma, and the fact that history proves that progressively higher tax rates actually motivate reinvestment of excess earnings counts for nothing in the fantasy world perpetrated on some ordinary Americans by the Koch Party and their shills in the GOP.
Facts are facts. So long as a certain percentage of Americans are willing to suspend reality and believe the lies being told to them by the rich and powerful, we’re likely to have some amount of gridlock and deadlock.
I, for one, am happy to report that I detect a shift away from the siren call that is the lunacy and lie of trickle-down economics.
I also detect a growing appreciation among Americans that it is Big Money that represents the greatest threat to our society, our economy, and our way of life. So, while you’re here, why not lend your voice to the movement to #GetMoneyOut of politics? Money in politics is (or should be), after all, a bi-partisan issue, right?
Getting money out of politics is not some liberal or socialist idea. Both sides are spending tons of “secret and dark” money, and we’ve got to change that if we hope to have any real influence over our elected officials.
Everyone – conservative and liberal, Democrat and Republican and Libertarian and, yes, even tea partier – can help to change American politics by becoming a Citizen Co-Sponsor of the American Anti-Corruption Act.
As the Internal Revenue Service scandal has prompted angry reactions from Republicans, Democrats, Congress and the Obama administration, Henry Aaron looks ahead to propose specific reforms regarding the budget of the IRS and the laws governing the…
Greg Russak‘s insight:
“Even with adequate staffing, however, the law governing tax exempt status for so-called ‘social welfare’ organizations is so vague that anything other than rubber stamping all applications would likely evoke complaints of politicization.” – Henry J. Aaron, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution
A Congressional inquiry’s findings were remarkable both for the tens of billions of dollars involved and for Apple’s audacity in saying some of its subsidiaries were stateless and beyond any tax authority’s reach.
Greg Russak‘s insight:
"Because the United States bases residency on where companies are incorporated, while Ireland focuses on where they are managed and controlled, Apple Operations International was able to fall neatly between the cracks of the two countries’ jurisdictions.
Apple Operations International has not filed a tax return in Ireland, the United States or any other country over the last five years. It had income of $30 billion between 2009 and 2012. By shuttling revenue between international subsidiaries, Apple was able largely to sidestep paying taxes, Congressional investigators said."
"Critics, however, say these so-called repatriation holidays, which bring back funds at lower tax rates, do virtually nothing to stimulate the economy and benefit only corporations, their executives and shareholders. Congress enacted a repatriation holiday in 2004, allowing corporations to bring back about $300 billion from overseas and pay just 5.25 percent rather than the regular 35 percent corporate rate.
But a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that 92 percent of the repatriated cash was used to pay for dividends, share buybacks or executive bonuses.
“Repatriations did not lead to an increase in domestic investment, employment or R.&D., even for the firms that lobbied for the tax holiday stating these intentions,” concluded the study, which was conducted by a team of three economists that included a former Bush administration official. Tuesday’s hearing on Capitol Hill, along with the disclosures about Apple’s tax policies, are likely to make lowering repatriation taxes a more difficult proposition for lawmakers to stomach, Congressional staff members said."
– Nelson D. Schwartz and Charles Duhigg, New York Times