Posted tagged ‘paul ryan’

Unpaid Tax Cuts

January 3, 2018

Just before Christmas, America awoke to a promised Christmas present. President Trump had promised the gift would be “huge” and in time for Christmas. I guess he made this happen because he so loved his fellow country men. (Well at least some of them.)

It will be some time, at least until tax season in 2019, before Americans know just how “huge” and how wonderful the tax cut each individual receives will actually be. For many it will be real but like President Trump’s hands, small.

For some, however, especially those who do not need a tax cut, President Trump will indeed have been generous. Since more than half of Americans do not pay any individual income tax, for them it will be a non-event. Hmmm.

But President “Grinch” has not told his “fellow Americans” that the tax cut will usher in huge deficits too. Republican Congress members, like Speaker Paul Ryan, have almost in a giddy voice, called for entitlement reform in order to counter the massive hole the Christmas tax cut gift has made. Hmmm.

Republicans give with one hand and take with the other?

Republicans are actually saying Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are too generous and many Americans are taking advantage of these programs. Republicans want entitlement “reform”. Hmmm.

Question, if tax reform is really about tax cuts, then is entitlement reform really about entitlement cuts?

Republicans have argued for some time that Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are projected to go broke and unless “reformed”, these programs will bankrupt America. These are alarming words and should get the average Americans attention. So, tell me why there should be tax cuts first?

How can America afford a $1.7 trillion tax cut with the benefits going to the wealthy and corporations, and then proceed to pay for it with cuts in entitlements which go to the elderly and needy?

There is a theme emerging from the Republican Administration. Basic Healthcare is not a right for all Americans. Instead, Americans are entitled to the best healthcare they can afford. When translated into the real world, less coverage and access to basic healthcare is all many Americans can afford (and in GOP minds) deserve. Interestingly Robert Mercer, Betsy DeVoss, and the Koch Brothers will experience no hardship from “reform” of healthcare or taxes. Hmmm.

The Golden Goose which bequeathed such generous tax cuts upon corporations and the very wealthy is running out of golden eggs. Income inequality is strangling the purchasing power of many (maybe as much as 80% of) Americans. The American consumer will shortly not have enough discretionary money to buy the products all the new jobs President Trump has promised will produce. Hmmm.

The most laughable idea marketed during the run up to passing the tax cuts was the notion that corporations would share with consumers and their employees the windfall bonanza tax cuts brought. Under capitalism and especially a global economy, wages and salaries chase the lowest global level existing. Capitalism indeeds drives productivity and innovation but income inequality cuts the other way. Accordingly, Americans actually need higher progressive individual taxes, not lower, and corporate taxes which are based upon an “effective” (after deductions, exemptions, and loopholes) tax rate, which is competitive with other like global trading partners.

This does not seem to be Republican thinking. Hmmm.

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Buying Votes?

August 26, 2017

President Trump cast his net this week in hopes of garnering votes for the 2020 election. Given where, however, the President cast his net, it would appear his efforts were directed at keeping 2016 voters rather than earning new ones. Hmmm.

President Trump began by calling out by name Senate Leader Mitch McConnell for not leading the Senate Republican majority to a victory in the “repeal and replace” fiasco. Senator John McCain was next for his deciding “no” vote and Senator Jeff Flake gained recognition “just because”. House Speaker Paul Ryan got his “shout out” over the House failure to put forward a Federal Debt Increase bill. Rounding out the shame list was Tennessee Senator Bob Corker who questioned President Trump’s fitness as President. I wonder what the President is thinking? Does he think vinegar will bring the bees to his flowers?

Next the President showed what the conservative Christian majority is really about. Lest you wonder, Christian behavior is not the answer. The President continued his efforts (delighting this group) to reverse policies which allowed transgender persons to serve in the military. With the armed forces leadership not pressing for this reversal, one wonders why the President wished to make this unforced error (singling out and demeaning a minority group)?

To complete the trifecta, President Trump decided to teach the nation a lesson in his version of the importance of the rule of law. The Teacher in Chief pardon former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio who had been convicted on Federal contempt of court charges. When directed by court rulings to cease profiling Phoenix area residents, Arpaio simply continued. Isn’t no man above the law?

There is a consistent theme among these actions, President Trump’s 2016 winning coalition had subsegments which, on learning of these actions, sat up and said, “that’s our President”.

Calling out Congressional leaders (Congress with a low double digit opinion rating), picking a fight with the “T” of the “LGBT” community (where no problem exists), and pardoning a sheriff who gave the middle finger to Federal Courts, all clearly satisfied President Trump’s base.  Yet these actions could have unfavorable blow back for the President. So, why did the President do these things?

The answer probably lies close to the thought, “President Trump couldn’t keep himself from doing them”.

Picking on others is what a bully does. Picking on others who will not or cannot strike back is even more what bullies do. And, degrading the institutions of Congress, the Military, and Federal Courts, seemed to the President asa means to elevate his own image in comparison.

I wonder who will tell the President that in this matter, the Commander in Chief has no clothes.

Is There A Difference?

May 19, 2017

President Trump complained once again that he is being treated poorly (and unfairly) by the news media. The President says that whatever he says is questioned by the press, more so than any other President. Even if the press correctly points out that a Trump statement is literally false (or generously, inaccurate), the President calls the publication of such a finding, “fake news”. Hmmm.

The Washington Post reported this week on a June 15, 2016 gathering including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Following a session with the Ukrainian foreign minister, when a small group of Republicans were together, McCarthy said to the group he would guarantee Russian President Putin was paying two Americans, one being Donald Trump. A week later, Donald Trump was nominated at the GOP convention.

Fast forward to this week when the Post decided to publish an account of this meeting. The Washington Post approached Speaker Ryan and Leader McCarthy’s offices about the pending article and informed them of what they would quote Ryan and McCarthy saying.

The offices responded that the report was incorrect, it never happened. The Post then went back and said they had a transcript. The offices responded again that the transcript was wrong, if not made up. Finally the Post told the offices they had a recording and the story changed. The offices then said that McCarthy had told a bad joke and there was nothing to it.

Hmmm.

President Trump makes statements which can easily be shown to be inaccurate. Two experienced political leaders make statements which they deny ever making. And they continue to deny making these statements until it is established a recording exists and then a spin is applied. Hmmm. Is there a difference?

Maybe… more like, however, a difference without a distinction.

President Trump says things that are inaccurate, (the kindest interpretation might be stretching the truth). When called for this exaggeration, the President doubles down, repeats the inaccurate statements, and claims unfair treatment.

The Congressmen says something, in private, which they could have believed true. When called up on the statements, this party denies ever having made the statements and avoid providing any proof that their statements might be true.  The Congressmen deny and deny until the evidence is overwhelmingly obvious, and at that point admit making the statement.  Without losing a breath, the Congressmen spin their statements to mean something quite different.

John Q Public hears all this and is puzzled. How could the office of the President say something so outrageously wrong? Why would the President say such things? Press of business? Victim of hateful media?

John Q Public also sees and watches elected officials and is just as disillusioned. The Public has such a low opinion of Congress for good reasons. When a Congressional member denies something, the Public has learned to discount the Congress member’s claims.

So here’s the difference. President Trump is newly elected. His supporters are giving the President wide latitude around what he says (because the Public is still hopeful that President Trump will make “their” American great again.  for Congress members (both Republican and Democrat), the boat has already sailed.   Congress members, on the other hand, may want to think they are not “lying” and certainly will go to extremes with denials and spins.  Congress members are quite comfortable speaking past the question asked, misdirecting the questioner to another topic, and if all else fails, fall back on “I can’t remember the details”.

See the difference?

In truth both President Trump and Congress members are telling John Q Public that honesty, directness, and good intentions are over valued virtues. Rather “not losing” in the case of Congress, and “winning” in the case of President Trump are the goals.

What is worrisome is that enough Americans voted for a person unfamiliar with truthfulness and elected Donald Trump.  If his Presidency becomes unhinged, who will these Americans turn to?  What even more outrageous and unprovable promises will the next candidate be willing to put forward?

John Q Public will be disappointed with President Trump if America is not made great again.  President Trump’s lack of truthfulness may not matter, results will.  If Trump is a one term President, what will the next President have to promise to get elected?

Tax Reform

April 5, 2014

The GOP Federal Budget proposal calls for tax code reform and includes a maximum 25% tax rate. This sounds good but what else is included?

Most ardent tax reform advocates want just about all deductions and credits to be eliminated. That includes deductions for dependents, the mortgage, and piles of other deductions and credits. In return we should receive a simple tax code where the average person could do their own tax return.

There is little or no chance we will see this type of brave reform but its intriguing to think about its possibility and implications.

Lowering the marginal rate from 39.5% to 25, however, begs the question “will this mean Christmas will be every day?”

Representative Ryan says everyone will see lower tax bills. This may be true but Ryan’s plan is beginning to sound like the “free lunch” ploy. How can everyone be saving on taxes? The only answer must be that under the GOP plan, the Government will be spending a lot less.

This means there will be a lot less government services. This further means that if the services are important, someone else (State, City or Individual) must now bear the cost. In other words, the cost for these services will be transferred to others.

The GOP plan for healthcare involves repealing the Affordable Care Act. While their exact “replace” plan is not set, most of the proposals lead to “you are on your own”. The GOP claim that the marketplace is the best strategy to gain control of health care costs. Hmmm.

Let’s consider Medicare and Medicaid which are designed to provide healthcare security for the elderly and those who cannot afford the cost of premiums. For Medicare the GOP plan would freeze the amount the Government pays. Recipients would then buy their own coverage and pay what ever difference there may be between the government subsidy and the actual market price. Most observers predict this to be an ever increasing amount. Maybe not so much security in the future.

Medicaid recipients could see even more drastic cuts in coverage and increases in cost, depending upon the State they reside in. The GOP proposes outsourcing health care to States. Block grants which are not indexed to inflation will similarly be insufficient when faced with inflation. Medicaid roles will shrink leaving many uninsured, and those who qualify for coverage could face co-pays and deductibles.

The GOP predicts this greater use of the marketplace, however, will lead to lower overall healthcare costs. Hmmm. No ACA and less coverage for the elderly and poor seem ready made for discontinuing efforts on preventive care and a return to the healthcare world pre-ACA.

If so, we should expect that healthcare costs will return to double digit annual increases. In turn this will increase the out of pocket costs for everyone. If you are on a fix income, what do you expect someone to do?

For sure this potential scenario must have been considered by the GOP. Why have they continued to push the plan? It would appear that conservatives have decided that their best strategies are ones which are the opposite of those proposed by moderates or progressives. For sure this approach is the most straight forward if your goal is to differentiate your position and you believe the electorate is gullible.

The most generous explanation is that the GOP, once elected, will modify their proposals. Trust me?

The current American deficit and debt situations are unsustainable. It should be clear that any plan to remedy deficits will require less spending or more taxes or some combination. Our goal should not be to lower income taxes but rather to determine what services are best provided by government (Federal, State, and Local) and seek to provide them in the most cost effective, high quality manner. If that leads to lower government need for tax revenue, then taxes should be reduced.

Shame on Democrats for not having any viable proposals to maintain current entitlements and to balance the budget. Double shame on the GOP for proposing a path which is patently unfair to those who need government services.

Strange Behavior

April 3, 2014

It is unclear whether politicians with their eye on the 2016 GOP Presidential nomination intentionally vier to the right or that they are predisposed towards this strange behavior. Representative Paul Ryan and Governor Bobby Jindal offered this week two examples of “what are you thinking” politics.

Ryan released his committee’s budget recommendation with the headlines, “proposed budget to reduce spending by $5 trillion (over next 10 years)”. One might be struck by this as a sign of fiscal responsibility. But if one is not careful, one is sure to get struck by the “dumb stick”.

What are the details that Ryan proposes to achieve these savings?

The Ryan (Republican) plan is to chop discretionary spending across the board and cap government spending on Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare would be gradually phase into a fixed government grant to individuals who in turn would buy private insurance.

Medicaid would be changed to a block grant program and States could use that grant as they felt appropriate. These measure represent a big pill to swallow if you are anybody but the very wealthy. To put a little salt in the wound, Ryan proposes to increase military spending. Hmmm. But that’s still not all. Ryan proposes to reduce taxes to two tiers, 10% and 25% It is almost laughable that any national politician would propose this massive a present to the wealthy while taking so much from the most needy.

Gindal made news focusing only upon the Affordable Care Act. He assembled already proposed talking points which also converted Medicare to private insurance program and Medicaid to block grants. Everyone else would go back to sort of what like things were before ACA. Back to the future.

On one hand, I give credit to these GOP members for taking a shot at fiscal reforms. Democrats, who own the moral high ground, have not offered proposals on how to make the current government spending fiscally sound. In an entirely different way, Democrats are letting down the very people they publicly say they are defending.

Putting the government on a fiscally sound basis must involve capping and reducing the cost of healthcare. Affordable Care Act is a step in that direction. ACA, of course, may not work as envisioned, or ACA may still not keep rising health costs in check. With so many other countries enjoying better health outcomes at 1/2 the cost, it will become more and more difficult to keep proposing GOP solutions which also will do nothing to control costs.

With respect to military spending, there can be no less stringent a review of where money is spent than with the rest of discretionary spending. Without a doubt there is waste in the DOD budget. Real world realities may, however, require continued high spending in order to deal with rogue countries. While that is not justification to maintain high discretionary spending too, the issue of fairness will need a full explanation if defense goes up and discretionary goes down.

These reactions, however, are not new. Many have called the GOP out on these proposals in the past. As we think about this week’s Supreme Court decision allowing even greater political donations, one finds it hard to avoid thinking that the real goals are not a balanced budget, or a more workable healthcare system, or even reformed entitlements.

The GOP number one goal must be first and foremost lower taxes and let the fall out be as it will be. Adding to that “benign neglect”, indifference towards women, gays, and immigrants, I can’t see how the GOP can expect to do better in 2014, let alone 2016.

Immigration Reform Is Dead (For This Year)

February 3, 2014

Over the weekend, Republican Representative Paul Ryan said, in his opinion, immigration reform was dead for 2014.  The sense was that Ryan was reflecting realities, not his personal preferences.  Republicans appear too ideologically divided to settle on any one sensible immigration position.  And, 2014 is an election year.  Ryan gratuitously allowed that too many Republicans believe that President Obama would wink at increased border control and move to open the path to citizenship instead.

I would hope that President Obama or anyone that succeeds him will do the same.  The preoccupation with “securing the borders” is a fools errand.  The US prides itself in being an open country and foreign visitors, for all sorts of reasons, are both a matter of fact and an  economy plus.  Anyone can overstay their authorized entry, with or without a visa.  Our country is large and with a history of privacy, citizens and undocumented visitors can come and go easily.

Taking this point a step further, if there was some way to build a solid, impenetrable wall between Mexico and the US, does anyone think that will stop undocumented workers from entering the US?  Each year documented workers tend our agriculture fields, or visit Disney World, or attend our Universities.  What keeps them from just staying?

Now lets look at this the other way.  Suppose we simply stopped the “secure the border” campaign and stopped building walls and fences.  Instead, we instituted unlimited work visas (for Mexicans) and seriously cracked down on the employment of undocumented workers (including domestic labor).  What do you think would be the consequences?

Securing the border is a copout for not cracking down on vusiness employers (who donate to political campaigns) and the top 2% who employ nannies, cooks, and handymen and do not pay social security.  Hmmm.

So while Representative Ryan’s comments reflect reality, these comments like so many before, really reflect an unwillingness to change the current situation.

Arguably, the current situation does most everyone well, or at least does everyone the least damage.  There is plenty of cheap labor and in boom times we know there is more labor still in Mexico.  So why should this issue concern us?

As Germany and other European Countries have found out, the importation of guess labor has complications when that labor remains for long periods of time.  Most European Countries were content with the presumed temporary nature of “guest workers” but when the guests remained for several generations (and did not assimilate) other issues arose.

The main issue is that a country cannot effectively send “guests” back to their home country after years of residency.  The guests have made a new home.

Of all places, the US is composed of “guest workers”.  Almost all the 320 million Americans can trace their family tree back to immigrants.  Do I smell hypocrisy?

Unfortunately, I do not expect the GOP (or Democrat) positions to mature much in 2015.  Speaking frankly about how to treat guest labor and why it is a good idea to make a path for the guest to become a red, white, and blue American does not seem likely.

For all sorts of economic and social reasons, a rationale path to citizenship for Mexicans and Canadians (our neighbors) will benefit all involved.  When the threat of legal problems are gone, many guests will choose to return to their native country while others will remain and become indistinguishable from the rest of us immigrants.

 

When No Deal Is The Deal

December 10, 2013

Representative Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray have been leading an effort to find a “deal”.  The scope of the deal would include some relief for the sequester and also set spending limits for the next two years.  The objective is to avoid another government shutdown or default on the debt.  Sounds sensible if not heroic, but the substance falls quite short.

Prima facia, the country’s tax code is so convoluted it should be against the law.  Entitlement, especially Medicare and Medicaid are woefully underfunded and should constitute fiscal mismanagement to be allowed to continue as is.    A pinch here or a pinch there on the over all budget without dealing with these two big problems won’t have much impact upon the growth of the debt.

These two elements (tax reform and entitlements) constitute the heart of a political impasse.  Without tax reforms (leading to more tax revenue) Democrats will not support any other changes, especially to entitlements.  Without cuts in entitlements, Republicans won’t budge on any changes in the budget, and as an article of faith, no new taxes will be considered.

The Obama-Boehner “grand bargain” which included tax reform and entitlement cuts, seemed so obvious.  Washington, today, is deafly silent about that possibility.  While it remains an option, it certainly is not one for an election year.

The Murray-Ryan deal is the equivalent of “no deal” even if it can be struck.  Nothing happens versus the systemic problems facing a slow growing nation.  At a time when decisive handling of the nation’s infrastructure could prepare the US for global competition in the 21st century, there is no budget room and sadly, no will to deal with the future.  Just as disturbing is the blind eye both parties are showing towards healthcare.  While the Affordable Care Act promises to reduce the inequality of healthcare delivery and may slow the growth of future healthcare costs, it still leaves the US far short of more than two dozen other modern countries in cost and quality of care.  Not dealing with healthcare also leaves in place the festering sores called Medicare and Medicaid.

If Representative Ryan and Senator Murray cannot lead us to a tiny deal, how can we expect our elected representatives to deal with real game changers?