Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Chuck Hagel Is a Threat to America’s National Security! And to the Koch Brothers’ Financial Interests.

The American Future Fund is an Iowa based 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organization affiliated with the Center to Protect Patient Rights, which in turn has reported ties to billionaires Charles G. Koch andDavid H. Koch.

American Future Fund was founded by individuals who worked for Mitt Romney‘s 2008 bid for the Republican U.S. Presidential nomination. Nick Ryan, an adviser to Republican US Representative Jim Nussle, founded the organization in 2007, with Nicole Schlinger, a GOP leader in Iowa, as its president. Its current president is Iowa Republican state Sen. Sandra Greiner.

The fund “advocates conservative and free-market principles” and energy positions that include support for drilling offshore and in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge.

Activities

In 2010 the American Future Fund reported over 9 million dollars of independent campaign expenditures to the FEC, and 100% of its expenditures benefited Republicans.

In 2012 the organization funded ads supporting Mitt Romney‘s bid for the U.S. presidency. In the same year, it also funded ads attacking Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster and in support of California’s Proposition 32, which would prevent unions from collecting political contributions as paycheck deductions.

The organization does not disclose the names of those who have provided its funding.

Add to the Activities list an anti-Chuck Hagel TV ad.

Okay. So I happened to catch a segment on CNBC just now (don’t ask; catching segments on CNBC is not quite part of my normal daily routine) that ended with an ad blasting Hagel for … um … a whole lot of stuff geared toward making people think he would have lots of conflicts of interest if confirmed as Secretary of Defense, even if he sells all those financial interests in defense contractor companies that the ad says he has, and in that company that invests in Iran, and stops flying on corporate jets.

At the end of the ad, the viewer is told that it’s sponsored by The American Future Fund.  Which I couldn’t identify from memory, since the names of these organizations all sound alike.  And are all very interested in America’s future.  

But, having seen the ad, I now knew that Hagel would be a very dangerous guy to have as Defense Secretary.  I just didn’t know who exactly he posed a danger to.  But thanks to Wikipedia, I know now.

Sounds to me like Paul Ryan should have consulted the Koch brothers before he declared on Meet the Press last weekend that Keynesian economics has proved to be a failure.  If you get my drift. Those oil and gas subsidies and defense contracts that the Koch businesses receive are important to our national defense … and to the economy.*

*Edited for clarity after initial posting.

Tags: , , , , , , Comments (8) | |

Oh, do tell us, Rep. Ryan, what exactly you think our spending priorities should be in order to avoid default if the debt ceiling isn’t increased. Pleeease.

Oh, do tell us, Rep. Ryan, what exactly you think our spending priorities should be in order to avoid default if the debt ceiling isn’t increased.  Pleeease.  

Might they be similar to the priorities of the National Review’s editors?

Tags: , , Comments (3) | |

On Being Jack Kennedy

Biden’s use of the famous Lloyd Bentsen put-down of Dan Quail—“Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy”—is getting pretty good play among the punditry. (Yay!)  Now, hopefully, Obama and Biden will educate the public about the tax rates on the wealthy and on capital gains in, say, 1963. 

And on whether, y’know, America was a European-style socialist country back then because of that—as Romney actually has claimed on several occasions during the last year.

And, in case you missed my update to my last post: The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank is the first pundit I know of thus far to GET IT.  
Go, Dana!

Tags: , , , , , , Comments (7) | |

Why Last Night’s Debate Will Really Matter—and, yes, it will. [– UPDATE: Dana Milbank GETS IT! It’s a start. Hopefully only JUST a start.]

Not surprisingly, the pundits have concluded that, while the debate last night will stop the bleeding for the Dem ticket—stop the momentum for Romney/Ryan—it won’t make a difference beyond that. People don’t vote for the vice presidential candidate; they vote for, or against, a presidential candidate.

And anyway, Biden smiled too much!  And Ryan was serious and wonkish! 

The problem with that analysis is that Biden was wonkish, too.  And in being wonkish—and in smiling and even laughing at Ryan’s canned claims repeating Romney’s from last week—Biden began the process of pointing the public to the fact that Romney’s biggest hits from last week are based on nonsense.
It is, in other words, the substance of Biden’s performance, rather than the performancestuff that the pundits fixate on, that actually will matter.  In my opinion, one of the most effective moments was Biden’s giving the lie to an important part of the supposed Reagan/Tip O’Neill analogy: that, heading into the negotiations with O’Neill, Reagan didn’t give specifics about what he wanted.  

Another important moment—moments, actually; he did it two or three times—was Biden’s challenge to the claim that six studies showed that the Romney/Ryan tax math would work.  Biden’s emphatically shaking his head and, yes, smiling and then laughing—he wasn’t able to inject comments, and Raddatz (who impressed me less than she did everyone else) played Lehrer; she asked no questions at all about this—his facial reactions got the message across.

I have two complaints, though.  One is that Biden didn’t point out that the Five Point Plan is actually not a plan at all but instead just a statement of generic goals—as is the claim that it will create 12 million jobs, like magic.  Presumably, Obama will do that at the debate next week, and do so clearly and repeatedly.   

The other is that Biden didn’t say, much less emphasize, that it mattered for the policy outcome that Reagan was dealing with a Democratic House as well as a Democratic Senate.*  After the election, the House will continue to be controlled by the Tea Party—and, by Romney’s and Ryan’s own account, they’ll let Congress play a big role in drafting legislation.  That is, the House will support the Romney-Ryan administration in trying to force enactment of … the Ryan budget.  Presumably, Obama will do this, too, at the debate next week, and do so clearly and repeatedly.   

But Biden succeeded, I’m pretty sure, in raising questions in people’s minds about the forthrightness of Romney’s representations last week (reiterated by Ryan last night) , and the truthfulness of his claims.  Obama might actually pick up the ball from Biden and run with it.  
Could happen!

—-

UPDATE: Dana Milbank of the Washington Post gets it! It’s a start.  Hopefully only just a start. 

But … woo-hooo!

—-
*CORRECTION: The sentence was corrected for the sake of clarity to include the words “for the policy outcome”.

Tags: , , , , , , Comments (5) | |

John Cusack and Jonathan Turley Support Hideki Tōjō for President. They Want You To, Too.

I like Truthout.  I’m on its email list and so I receive daily notices about newly posted articles on the site.  I don’t read them all, but the ones I read usually are worth the time.  And I was deeply flattered when, two years ago, on the basis of two lengthy articles I posted here on AB on complicated legal issues, I was invited to blog for them, mainly on legal issues, through a new forum they were at the time planning for a small set of invited bloggers. (The forum never got off the ground, much to my disappointment.)

So I suppose that this is, in a sense, a family quarrel.  But earlier today Dan emailed me with a link to a Truthout article and asked my opinion of it, and I obliged.  And hours after I first read the article, I’m still seething enough to repost those comments here.

The article is titled John Cusack Interviews Law Professor Jonathan Turley About Obama Administration’s War On the Constitution.  Turley is the Someone and Someone Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington Law School. Good for him.  He’s also the Director of the Environmental Law Advocacy Center there.  And the Executive Director of the Project for Older Prisoners.  Verygood for him.  And he’s one of those omnipresent law-prof. presences whose byline is everywhere, or seems to be, and whose quotes also regularly appear in articles under other people’s bylines because, I think, his contact information comes already printed on the Rolodexes of legal-issues journalists when purchased.  This is especially so in recent years, because, as his GW faculty page says, “[h]e has served as a consultant on homeland security and constitutional issues, and is a frequent witness before the House and Senate on constitutional and statutory issues as well as tort reform legislation.”  Very, very good for him.

It also says, “He also is a nationally recognized legal commentator; he ranked 38th in the top 100 most cited ‘public intellectuals’ in a recent study by Judge Richard Posner and was found to be the second most cited law professor in the country.”  I know. That’s my point.  He’s eminent.

John Cusack, the article’s actual author and Turley’s interviewer, is, well, a movie star.  Star, being the operative word here.  As it is with Turley himself.

The point of the interview was to elicit Turley’s assertion that it is the obligation of principled liberals to not vote for Obama this time, because of Obama’s stances and actions on Patriot Act and other War on Terror questions and in Afghanistan. Which Cusack did, bracketed and interspersed between Cusack’s own musings on the subject.

Hyperventilating after reading the article, I responded to Dan (OK, slightly edited here):

Wow. I don’t even know where to begin.  I too have been baffled and stunned by the Obama administration’s positions on Patriot Act-related and other War on Terror prisoner civil rights issues. And on some lower-profile civil liberties issues unrelated to war or to Patriot Act matters, too—particularly certain positions as amicus at the Supreme Court, from time to time; cases in which the federal government is not actually a party but in which the Court has asked the Solicitor General’s office to way in anyway, or in which the administration has decided on its own to way in.  And on Afghanistan, well, the situation speaks for itself.

But only liberals like John Cusack and Jonathan Turley—people who can, literally, afford the luxury of putting “principle” above the realities of the effect of Romney/Ryan vs. Obama on so many, many, many other critically important public-policy and legal issues—are anything but insane to engage in the absurd conceit that they are principled in helping elect Romney/Ryan.  Anyone else who takes that “principled” stance is crazy.

I know all too well the specifics of the profound harm done by the Federalist Society judges—at all three levels of the federal bench, not just the Supreme Court.  And the courts are only one of so many parts of this.

There is, truly, almost nothing that makes me angrier than reading this kind of garbage from people who themselves will never actually be directly impacted by the outcome of this election.

Japan’s kamikaze pilots during WWII were principled, too—or at least their prime minister and military commanders were. 

To people of that ilk, I say: Drop dead.  Or vote for Ralph Nader.  And then drop dead.

The Romney campaign should have put Cusack on that stage last Thursday instead of Clint Eastwood.

Tags: , , , , , , , , Comments (33) | |

Oh, Mr. Ryan, Do Get Wonky On Us. Please. (I.e., thank you, Brit Hume and Matt Miller.)

In poker a “tell” is the physical giveaway or tic that lets you know someone is lying about his or her hand. In politics it’s the mode of evasion a politician chooses to sidestep a truth he or she doesn’t want to admit or to avoid saying something against self-interest. In his debut interview with Fox News’ Brit Hume Tuesday, Rep. Paul Ryan’s “tells” were audacious and revealing. They suggest an opening Democrats would be wise to pursue.

Ryan (R-Wis.) tried to cloak himself in his supposedly charming “wonky-ness” to sidestep two simple questions from Hume: When does Mitt Romney’s budget reach balance, and when does Ryan’s own budget plan do the same? Ryan pirouetted because Hume’s queries threatened to expose his famed “fiscal conservatism” as a fraud.

It’s worth parsing Ryan’s tactics in this exchange because it shows the brand of disingenuousness we’re dealing with. So let’s go to the videotape. Have a look at the relevant two-minute portion of the clip (excerpted on this CNN video) and then we’ll dissect it.

Okay, you’re back. Hume started with a simple question: “The budget plan that you’re now supporting would get to balance when?”

Now, for context, recall that in the last era of epic budget smackdowns, 1995 and 1996, Newt Gingrich would have had an equally simple answer: in seven years. President Bill Clinton’s failure to embrace the goal of a balanced budget at all was a major political liability that Clinton finally (and shrewdly) erased when he came out with his own 10-year plan in mid-1995. (It’s worth underscoring that a 10-year path to balance was viewed then as the outer limit of credibility — pledging to end the red ink any further than a decade out didn’t pass the laugh test.)

Since Ryan knows that Romney’s bare sketch of a plan never reaches balance, he stumbles momentarily before trying to move the conversation to his comfortable talking points about Romney’s goal of reducing spending to historic norms as a share of gross domestic product.

But Hume grows quietly impatient. He practically cuts Ryan off.

“I get that,” Hume says. “But what about balance?”

You can see Ryan flinch. He doesn’t know, he says. Why not? “I don’t want to get wonky on you,” he says, recovering, “because we haven’t run the numbers on that specific plan.” But that’s not “getting wonky” at all. As common sense (and the Gingrich/Clinton approach) suggests, there’s nothing arcane about this subject. You decide on a sensible path to balance as a goal and come up with policies that achieve it. All this means is that Romney hasn’t done what a fiscally conservative leader would do. Trying to evade this as a matter of not “getting wonky” is Ryan’s tell. He’s betting Hume is too dumb, uninterested or short on time to press the point.

Recognizing Paul Ryan’s ‘tell’when he is trying to avoid something, Matt Miller, Washington Post, today’s edition

Wow.  Okay.  That’s a much longer excerpt from someone else’s piece than I like to use, unbroken by my own commentary.  And it doesn’t even include the real coup de grace of that column, the best I’ve read in a really long time.  The column goes on recite further details of that interview:  

“Your own budget . . . when does that contemplate reaching balance?” Hume asks.

There’s no exit. Not until the 2030s, Ryan finally admits, looking uncomfortable — but then he quickly adds, making a face, that’s only under the Congressional Budget Office’s scoring rules, implying that they’re silly constraints every Fox News viewer would agree are ridiculous (instead of sensible rules meant to credit politicians only for policy proposals that are real). Ryan adds that “we believe” if we get the economy growing, “it would balance in 10 years.” But that’s supply-side faith-based budgeting again — exactly what we ran an empirical test on in the 1980s. (And the truth is, if Ryan’s big tax cuts were properly accounted for, his plan’s real date of balance would push well beyond 2040).

And finally that promised coup de grace:

Why am I harping on this? Because it’s impossible to overstate how central the unjustified label of “fiscal conservative” is to the Ryan brand and the GOP’s strategy. As Clinton understood in the 1990s, “fiscal responsibility” is a values issue important to the voters who decide modern presidential elections.

The point: Democrats can’t afford to let Ryan/Romney’s phony image as superior fiscal stewards survive. And Hume’s interview shows how swiftly this charade can be exposed if Democrats and the press zero in on simple questions like Hume’s. If the press is primed to cover this more intelligently, such queries will also expose the big Republican lie — the idea that you can balance the budget as the baby boomers age without taxes rising.

Let me be clear. The most important issue facing the country isn’t when we’re going to balance the budget. It’s how to get growth and jobs reignited in the near term and how to renew the country’s promise and competitiveness after that (an agenda in which long-term budget sanity is just the ante). But if Democrats spend all their energy on Medicare — and don’t knock out the GOP ticket’s undeserved reputation for fiscal responsibility — they’ll find themselves in unexpected peril as the race heads to the fall.

In a lengthypost I wrote on Wednesday I expressed my own fear of the danger to Obama and the other Democrats of an all-Medicare-all-the-time campaign focus, because it removes the emphasis on the dramatic income tax reductions for the wealthy and therefore on the radical reduction of tax revenue—which, among other things, surely would require a substantial reduction in Medicare benefits to current and imminent beneficiaries, despite Romney/Ryan’s protestations to the contrary. Here’s how I ended that Wednesday post:

A lot of eyebrows were raised on Sunday when Ryan, sitting next to Romney in an interview, told Bob Schieffer that he wants to end the tax breaks that apply only to the wealthy.  That’s nice, but of no effect.  A seminal part of his tax-and-budget plan, passed this year by the House, is the elimination of all income taxes on capital gains and dividends.  And although this would mean that many very wealthy people will pay no income taxes or estate taxes, and many other very wealthy people would pay income taxes at a single-digit rate, the elimination of these taxes would apply as well to the non-wealthy who have a capital gain or receive stock dividends, however small.  And so—voila!—Ryan’s statement, made with such earnestness, does not apply to the issue of taxes on capital gains and dividends.  Nor, for that matter, to estate taxes, which his plan entirely eliminates; some non-wealthy people leave small estates, after all.  And semantics is the name of their game, the objective of which is the enabling of ever more vast accumulations of wealth, utterly unfettered by tax obligations.  Pure and simple.

My big fear about the all-Medicare-all-the-time campaign that began last weekend with Romney’s Ryan announcement is that it allows Romney and Ryan to claim the mantle of straight talkers about what they warn is a Medicare-caused fiscal calamity that awaits.  They have yet to explain why, if they fear such a calamity, they propose to reduce federal revenue by trillions of dollars, through their tax-elimination-on-the-wealthy plan.  And when they stress, as they do again and again, that their destroy-Medicare-in-order-to-save-it plan will not end the current program for its current or relatively-imminent recipients (those who are 55 or older), maybe they’ll deign to reveal what programs will be eliminated in order to pay for Medicare for current recipients and baby boomers andand—the trillions-of-dollars tax cuts for the wealthy.

My suggestion: Hurricane disaster relief for the southern Atlantic and Gulf Coast states, which will vote for this ticket en force, and crop insurance and drought disaster relief for the plains states, which will vote for them and their budget plan in almost as large percentages. 

In 2005, Ryan now-famously advised his audience when he addressed an Ayn Rand fan club that they should make no mistake: current politics is a clash between “individualism” and “collectivism.”  And indeed it is.

Now, let’s ensure that the public knows the specifics.  

After all, for all the indignant denials Romney has made about Harry Reid’s allegation that Romney paid no income taxes for a period of at least 10 consecutive years, Ryan’s plan—the plan being the one that Romney adopted all the way back last winter, during the primary season; the drafter being the person whom Romney has chosen to be a heartbeat away from the actual presidency has made —would enable Romney to openly pay no taxes on most of his income for the next ten years and beyond.

And about Medicare anyway: Isn’t it a collectivist program?

—-
UPDATE: Turns out, I’m very late to this party.  How could this not have gotten a lot of media attention earlier?

Tags: , , , , , , , Comments (6) | |

Romney says he never paid less than 13% in taxes for any of the last 10 years. But how much would he pay each year once the Ryan plan is passed?

… And when, exactly, did he pay that at-least-13% per year?  Might some of it have been paid under the 2009 IRS amnesty plan for people who’d been hiding money in secret overseas bank accounts, after the Swiss banks suddenly agreed to reveal to the IRS the identities of American account holders?

Just wondering. 

Tags: , , , , Comments (12) | |

Romney says he likes straight talk. Just not from him.

Washington may not like straight talk, but I do.

— Mitt Romney, yesterday

Sooo, Governor, about those massive tax cuts for the wealthy ….  You know, including the elimination of all incomes taxes on capital gains and stock dividends, which your running mate’s budget proposal includes?  How, exactly, do you plan to balance the budget despite that loss of revenue?

No, no, no.  I mean, how, exactly, do you plan to do that?

Tags: , , , , Comments (3) | |

New Romney Campaign Ad: Ask Not What Your Medicare Taxes Can Do For THEM, …

A new Romney ad tells older voters to think of it this way: “The money you paid for your guaranteed health care is going to a massive new government program that’s not for you.

— Gail Collins, Middle-Age Blues, New York Times, this evening

What?  If current Medicare recipients, and those who will begin receiving it within the next 10 years, have already paid for Medicare for themselves, then—um—why does Medicare have to be saved by these two Republican saviors who will convert the system into a partial-premium-voucher system?

Oh. Wait. That very same budget plan that includes that Medicare proposal also includes a proposal to end income taxes on capital gains and on stock dividends and to reduce corporate income taxes—leaving a budget deficit of trillions of dollars.  And, well, the money for that defense-budget increase that these folks also propose has to come from somewhere, doesn’t it?  Other than just from the elimination of Medicaid expenditures for nursing home care for the elderly who’ve run out of savings during their nursing home stay, that is, since that alone won’t cover that huge revenue reduction, and anyway it’s good policy to force those nursing home residents to become self-reliant again.  I understand that we’re making progress in finding drugs to cure Alzheimer’s disease, but, still.  And anyway, unless a cure is found before the fiscal 2013 budget kicks in, there will be no federal money to fund continued research on it. 

So that leaves as the only option saving Medicare by destroying it.  No matter that the money that those under-55 youngsters paid for theirguaranteed healthcare will be going to a massive new program that’s not for them.  Well, okay, a program that’s for a few of them.  The ones who are living mainly off of capital gains and stock dividends.  A very few, I suspect.

—-

The entire Gail Collins column is absolutely priceless—a definite must-read. 

Tags: , , , , Comments (0) | |

Individualism vs. Collectivism: Thanks For the Ammunition, Ann

Ann Romney said in an interview airing Wednesday that her husband has no plans to release additional tax returns, saying “it’ll just give them more ammunition” and insisting that “there’s nothing we’re hiding.”

“We have been very transparent to what’s legally required of us. But the more we release, the more we get attacked, the more we get questioned, the more we get pushed. And so we have done what’s legally required and there’s going to be no more, there’s going to be no more tax releases given,” she said in the interview by NBC News. “And there’s a reason for that, and that’s because of how, what happens as soon as we release anything.”

Romney is releasing two years of his tax returns. Democrats have said what’s he hiding and demanded he make public the last 10 years or more.

Ann Romney also defended Romney’s character and said the “only reason we don’t disclose more is we’ll just become a bigger target.”

“Mitt’s financial disclosures when he was governor are huge if people want to really look and see any question they have,” she said. “The other thing they have to understand is that Mitt is as honest — his integrity is just golden. We pay our taxes, we are absolutely — beyond paying our taxes we also give 10 percent of our income to charity.”

She also said that the couple has had a blind trust since 2002 before Romney was governor and that they don’t know what’s in it.

“There’s nothing we’re hiding,” she said, later adding: “I’ll be curious to see what’s in there too.”

            — Ann Romney: No more tax returns, Tomer Ovadia, Politico, today

An article published recently by James B. Stewart in the New York Times titled In Superrich, Clues to What Might Be in Romney’s Returns, overlooked because it was published on Saturday, the day on which Romney made his Ryan announcement, explains that 2008 and 2009 were banner tax-break years for a large number of very wealthy people whose main or entire source of income comes from stock dividends and the sale of securities. 

The occasion for the article was the IRS’s release last week of “data from the 400 individual income tax returns reporting the highest adjusted gross income, writes Stewart. “This elite ultrarich group,” he says, “earned on average $202 million in 2009, the latest year available.  And buried in the data is the startling disclosure that six of the 400 paid no federal income tax.”

Which suggestions the likelihood that the Romneys paid no, or almost no, income taxes for 2008 and 2009. 

It does not take a math genius or a tax expert to recognize this.  That’s good, because I am neither.  But I am good enough in math (if barely) to know that 2006, the last year of Romney’s term as governor, ended before 2008 began. 

And, thanks to the Romney tax-returns controversy, I know that in 2009 the Department of Justice entered into an agreement with UBS, Switzerland’s largest bank, and other Swiss banks, in which the banks agreed to disclose to the U.S. government the identities of American holders of Swiss bank accounts, and that approximately 34,000 Americans took advantage of an amnesty program that the IRS and Justice Department offered, by which voluntary payment of back taxes and interest and penalties would remove criminal liability and public disclosure. 

And I have followed the Romney tax story closely enough during the last few months to know that the Romneys’ 2010 tax returns revealed a bank account with UBS, apparently opened in 2003, was closed sometime during that year and had $3 million in it when it was closed.  And that, according to news reports, Romney did not disclose this account on his Massachusetts financial-disclosure forms—although, unless my math ability (such as it is) fails me, 2003 ended before early 2007, when Romney’s term as governor ended. 

And that, also according to news reports, the 2010 returns show that the Romneys have a shell corporation in the tax haven of Bermuda into which they apparently were funneling income from overseas Bain investments, and that one day before Romney was sworn in as governor, the corporation’s shares were transferred to Ann Romney, and the corporation was not disclosed on Romney’s Massachusetts financial-disclosure forms.

So, yes, Ann, you’re hiding something.  You’re hiding whatever it is that would give your opponent ammunition, whatever it is that would make your husband a bigger target.  And that ammunition is that, whether or not you and he failed to disclose that Swiss account and any other Swiss accounts you held that were closed before 2010 until a gun was held to your heads in 2009, you and he employed tax loopholes and special tax rates that your husband and (even more so) his running mate plan to expand so as to eliminate the very need for offshore tax shelters.  They plan to make this country an overt tax shelter for the wealthy and, especially, for the very wealthy—that is, for people like you and your husband. They have made that central to their policy plans, while desperately trying to deflect scrutiny of those proposals. 

Stewart writes in his article, “Tax experts I consulted said these results almost certainly reflected aggressive use of tax-loss carry-forwards from 2008, since the stock market bottomed in March 2009 and rallied strongly during the rest of the year.”  Expressly under Paul Ryan’s plan, there will be no income tax at all on capital gains and on dividends.  Every year will be 2008 and 2009 for the Romneys!  Except, of course, for the need for aggressive use of tax-loss carry-forwards, and the like; no more need for that sort of thing.

A lot of eyebrows were raised on Sunday when Ryan, sitting next to Romney in an interview, told Bob Schieffer that he wants to end the tax breaks that apply only to the wealthy.  That’s nice, but of no effect.  A seminal part of his tax-and-budget plan, passed this year by the House, is the elimination of all income taxes on capital gains and dividends.  And although this would mean that many very wealthy people will pay no income taxes or estate taxes, and many other very wealthy people would pay income taxes at a single-digit rate, the elimination of these taxes would apply as well to the non-wealthy who have a capital gain or receive stock dividends, however small.  And so—voila!—Ryan’s statement, made with such earnestness, does not apply to the issue of taxes on capital gains and dividends.  Nor, for that matter, to estate taxes, which his plan entirely eliminates; some non-wealthy people leave small estates, after all.  And semantics is the name of their game, the objective of which is the enabling of ever more vast accumulations of wealth, utterly unfettered by tax obligations.  Pure and simple.

My big fear about the all-Medicare-all-the-time campaign that began last weekend with Romney’s Ryan announcement is that it allows Romney and Ryan to claim the mantle of straight talkers about what they warn is a Medicare-caused fiscal calamity that awaits.  They have yet to explain why, if they fear such a calamity, they propose to reduce federal revenue by trillions of dollars, through their tax-elimination-on-the-wealthy plan.  And when they stress, as they do again and again, that their destroy-Medicare-in-order-to-save-it plan will not end the current program for its current or relatively-imminent recipients (those who are 55 or older), maybe they’ll deign to reveal what programs will be eliminated in order to pay for Medicare for current recipients and baby boomers andand—the trillions-of-dollars tax cuts for the wealthy.

My suggestion: Hurricane disaster relief for the southern Atlantic and Gulf Coast states, which will vote for this ticket en force, and crop insurance and drought disaster relief for the plains states, which will vote for them and their budget plan in almost as large percentages. 

In 2005, Ryan now-famously advised his audience when he addressed an Ayn Rand fan club that they should make no mistake: current politics is a clash between “individualism” and “collectivism.”  And indeed it is.

Now, let’s ensure that the public knows the specifics.  

Tags: , , , , , , , , , Comments (8) | |