Views on the News & Other Ramblings
Sunday, January 03, 2010
Friday, June 02, 2006
Death Tax Elimination Act (H.R. 8) Vote Next Week
Since the Bush administration came to being, one of their key goals has been to further enrich the pockets of those whose pockets are already overflowing, the top one-half percent wealthiest in this nation. With this mindset, a key tax to be eliminated was the tax on estate and gifts paid by the beneficiaries of those wealthiest one-half percent.
The Republicans had been pushing for the passage of the bill to eliminate the estate tax since Clinton was in office. In 2000, the bill cunningly named The Death Tax Elimination Act (H.R. 8) passed through both the House and the Senate. The bill was to completely eliminate taxes on estates in 2010 through a gradual phase-out. Thankfully, Bill Clinton vetoed the bill and Congress was unable to gather the votes to override the veto.
In 2001, a few months after Bush took office, H.R. 8 was put back before Congress. This time with the full knowledge that there was no chance of a veto. As part of a broad set of tax cuts legislated during Spring 2001, referred to as the Econonic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, the estate tax was to gradual phase-out by 2010, only to be back in full force in 2011. This sleight-of-hand was performed by Congress so the true cost of the estate tax elimination would remain hidden, as the cost of the tax was estimated by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report of 2001 to be close to $50 billion in 2011. What was passed was an estimated $186 billion in revenue reduction. Not, what is estimated to be upward of a $1 trillion revenue reductive measure to the government's coffers over the ten year period from 2012 to 2021 if complete elimination of the tax had occurred.
Through the trickery of those who benefit from the elimination of the estate tax, the wealthiest one-half percent of the nation, the vast majority of the rest of us have been brainwashed to believe that the tax should be eliminated. Frank Luntz, the infamous Republican pollster, is credited with the evil sounding name change from estate tax to death tax. It is referred to as a bill to help small businesses, family farmers, mom and pop operations from going under after death of a loved one. Polling data used to support the elimination of the tax refers to it as a tax that "protects small business and family farms".
A CBO commissioned report in 2005 saw little evidence that such tax related business demises are occurring for small businesses and family farms. Whereas, the report shows that this issue is complicated and the way the law is currently in place could be improved, it does not support the arguments of those who want complete elimination of the tax. The numbers of those adversely effected in any way by the estate tax before passage of the 2001 bill are so small (maybe as many as 302 estates per the CBO report), it is a sick joke that our elected representatives have spent so much time, effort, and energy on this measure. It was also realized in the report, putting the tax threshhold number at the 2005 figure of $1.5 million, would have resulted in "far fewer" then 302 estates being negatively impacted by the tax. The 2001 bill called for the threshhold to move up to $3.5 million per person before taxation on estates in 2009 prior to its complete phase-out in 2010. At the $3.5 million level, the report calculates that a total of 54 estates would be adversely effected. The caveat to all this is though a $3.5 million estate may be adversely effected in some way, this still would leave millions of dollars in inheiritance money to be passed out to the beneficiaries.
If the estate tax cuts are to become permanent it will serve to us as a reminder of what Congress really thinks of the 99.5% of the American people living on the poorer side of the fence. They figure, and likely correctly so, that it is those wealthy .5% that supply them with the money that gets them re-elected over and over. Money seems to have a way of making fools of even the best of us, and those who have it know how to use it to work it in their best interests and against ours.
Thursday, June 01, 2006
How Many More Mistakes Can They Make?
The latest Bush administration misstep is the loss of funding for the most likely cities to have repeat terrorist attacks, New York and Washington, D.C. The administration seems to be misfiring on all cylinders. Bush's fellow Republicans such as Peter King (R-NY) and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg are especially upset with the funding loss. It is difficult to make sense out of cutting funding to landmark, people filled and already hit New York while increasing funding to Omaha, Nebraska. There there is at least one person who sees it differently. The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff called the funding loss "fair to New York."
Chertoff also came up with this gem to explain the disgruntlement, "When actual decisions get made it tends to rub people who came out on the short end the wrong way. We are always willing to listen to criticism." Chertoff's statement serve as a refresher course to two feral lessons the Bush administration has already given us. The first is the administration's policies and decisions do tend to rub most people the wrong way, as most of us do end up on the short end. The second lesson is the Bush administration is willing to listen, but doesn't do much other than that when criticized. Only on very rare occasions are they willing to make changes, such as with failed Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers. And this was painfully done by the administration when it was clear that the nomination would fail the Senate's confirmation process.
Now, with this latest misstep, at least one prominent member of the Republican leaning press is calling for the removal of Chertoff from Homeland Security with more likely to follow. When you're traveling uphill and misfiring on all cylinders there is only one place you can go. It will nevertheless be interesting to see how this plays out in the next week.
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Converging of the Bases
The Republicans have been able to keep their two critical bases together and win elections, trouncing the Democrats time after time in recent years. Measures critical to each of their bases, the Federal Marriage Amendment for the Christian right and the repeal of the federal estate tax for the pro-business (rich) right, will both be coming into play in Congress next week.
From accounts, the Federal Marriage Amendment, also know as the anti-gay marriage amendment, is not given much of a chance to pass through the Senate. Instead, it is seen as another attempt of George Bush and the Republican machine to feed to the Christian right the raw meat they crave. As was witnessed by the outcome of the 2004 election, it seems to work. So, why shouldn't the Republicans go back to the well again. Fortunately, though, this time the well may be dry, dry from the heat of all of the Bush/Republicans' problems.
The repeal of the estate tax (or what the proponets of repeal deceitfully call the death tax) is the real prize the Republicans are after. Satisfying the rich is and has been a number one goal. Once you have the money the votes will follow. Keeping money in the hands of the rich gives the rich good reason to donate it to the politicians who brought it to them and more of it to give. There will be no holds barred or arms left untwisted. As Harold Meyerson emphatically states in his Washington Post column today, the results of approval will most likely be devastating to the country. We have to hope that they will not succeed, as they don't seem to have much left in the polical capital department. Hopefully, they will realize that as well.
The best bet for the Republicans to succeed may be to put the legislation together. The proverbial killing of two birds with one stone. They could introduce Gay Death Amendment that would satisfy both bases. The concept behind the amendment would be that gay people are to be treated as if they are dead and as such do not have to pay any taxes. We can only hope.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
The Fox News Method
Notice all the hubbub about Tony Snow using the analogy of comparing the remedy for illegal immigration to paying for a traffic ticket? Is the Fox News method of explaining how the Bush administration is on the right side of every issue working when it is played before a national audience instead of what was once mostly the true believers?
Sunday, May 28, 2006
Vietnam - Iraq No Comparison
Every once in a while you hear a pundit or talk show host say the difference between how the Vietnam and Iraq are perceived is the reaction at home. There aren't student protests against the Iraqi war like their were during Vietnam. The troops are revered when they are home.
I think its great and deserved that our troops our revered for their service. Those who fought in Vietnam deserved the same. The main reason things are different between then and now can be simply explained by the draft.
The lack of a draft has changed the way young people view our wars. They have the freedom to choose whether they will fight in the war or stay home. So, what reason is there for them to get up in arms? In this age of no sacrifice, they are only playing their given roles.
Following the Bush-Blair newsconference, Chris Matthews found Bush's admission that he did not have a good grasp of the English language, leaving him unable to speak in a sophisticated manner, to be Lincolnesque in nature.
Saturday, May 27, 2006
Views on Jefferson
Based on all reports I have read, Jefferson has been caught red-handed with his hands in the cookie-dough bucket. If we are to believe the news stories discussing the brazen antics of Jefferson, a search of his congressional office is not unjustified.
Our illustrious (I can't think of illustrious' antonym) congressional leaders, Dennis Hastert (R-Ill) and Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca), were aghast to hear the a fellow Congressman had been treated as a regular citizen. Their separation of power arguments rings hollow. The search was a joint effort of both the executive and judicial branches in an oversight role of the legislative branch. Who could ask for a more fair way of our system of government to work.
I don't see anything wrong with two of our three legislative branches providing oversight to the third. This is how it works for the executive branch, as both the legislative and judicial branches are involved in the impeachment process. Both the executive, as the appointer, and the legislative, as the approver, work together to appoint our judges.
I find it completely fair and proper that the executive and judicial branches took the actions they did with Jefferson. I am not surprised that our morally corrupt congressional leaders are defiant to having their skeleton filled closets opened.