Category Archives: Taxes

Medicare is Not an “Entitlement.” It’s an “Earned Benefit.”

Social Security and Medicare

The GOP likes to portray Social Security and Medicare as undeserved handouts.

As I read about the current GOP attacks on Social Security and Medicare, they are referred to as “entitlements.” This clever word choice by Republicans suggests that the programs are welfare — a free handout to undeserving, lazy people.

What you call something makes a big difference. It’s a way to frame the discussion so that it leads to a pre-determined outcome.

Social Security and Medicare are “earned benefits.” I have paid into both programs every day of my working life. Anybody who has made it to age 65 has paid taxes to support both programs. I have worked for 50 years and resent the notion that these programs are freebies or giveaways.

Attack on Social Security

Social Security was enacted in 1935, when the lifetime savings of millions of people had been wiped out. It supports 59 million Americans over age 66. Social security is not going broke — it is projected to deliver full guaranteed benefits until at least 2037.

Well into the 1950s, Republicans tried to repeal Social Security. They continue to attack this earned benefit in Trump’s 2018 budget proposal by cutting Social Security by $72 billion. This includes explicit cuts to Supplemental Security Income programs and Social Security Disability Insurance programs, both managed by the Social Security Administration.
Continue reading

Gov. Ducey fails to lead on renewal of Prop. 301 education sales tax

Democratic lawmakers last year introduced legislation to extend and expand Prop. 301, the education sales tax set to expire in 2021 unless renewed, but Republican leadership never granted it a public hearing or vote. I posted about Prop. 301 earlier this year. Pass HB 2158 to permanently extend Prop. 301 education funding (excerpts):

The education sales tax, which voters passed in 2000 as Proposition 301, is set to expire in mid-2021.

State Rep. Doug Coleman told The Arizona Republic that House Bill 2158 would essentially “get rid of the cliff” surrounding Prop. 301.

Prop. 301 is a 0.6 cent per dollar education-funding sales tax. Its future has been a point of contention and concern among education and business advocates and state leaders. The money funds things such as teacher salaries and classroom expenses.

The sales tax — and the hundreds of millions of school-funding dollars that come with it — will be gone unless voters approve an extension of the tax in the 2018 or 2020 election or two-thirds of the state’s 90-member Legislature pass legislation to maintain the funding.

Continue reading

Magical thinking Monday from delusional Don

The White House will release two documents on Monday: its much-ballyhooed infrastructure plan and its 2018 budget. Readers should file both documents under the genre of “science fiction.” The White House’s week of magical thinking.

The Washington Post reports, Trump’s big infrastructure plan has a lot of detail on everything but how to pay for it:

President Trump is poised to unveil a long-awaited plan Monday that aims to stimulate $1.5 trillion in new spending on the country’s ailing infrastructure over the coming decade, but many lawmakers in both parties say the president isn’t providing a viable way to pay for his initiative.

A year in the making, the proposal is an attempt to fulfill a marquee campaign promise and would rely heavily on states, localities and the private sector to cover the costs of new roads, bridges, waterways and other public works projects.

The plan calls for investing $200 billion in federal money over the coming decade to entice other levels of government and the private sector to raise their spending on infrastructure by more than $1 trillion to hit the administration’s goal of $1.5 trillion in new funding over 10 years. It also seeks to dramatically reduce the time required to obtain environmental permits for such projects.

Continue reading

After Aqua Buddha shutdown, Congress passes bipartisan CR spending bill; Senate to take up DACA next week

You may have missed it overnight while you were sleeping, but we had the second government shutdown in history under one-party control of the government, this time due to the antics of Senator Aqua Buddha, Rand Paul (R-KY).

Aqua Buddha used the arcane rules of the Senate that allow a single senator to hold up business in the chamber to inveigh against the GOP embracing deficit spending (after he voted for the GOP tax bill in December that guaranteed deficit such spending). The dumbest shutdown ever:

Incensed that a bipartisan budget deal would balloon the national debt, Paul delayed a roll call on a long-term budget agreement until after the midnight deadline to fund the government.

That set in motion a shutdown that ultimately lasted just over six hours — even though Paul’s protest didn’t change a single word of the document, and he knew it wouldn’t from the very beginning.

“When Rand Paul pulls a stunt like this, it easy to understand why it’s difficult to be Rand Paul’s next door neighbor,” Rep. Charlie Dent told Politico. “The whole delay and filibuster exercise on the budget agreement is utterly pointless.” (The congressman was referring to an incident last year in which Paul’s neighbor Rene Boucher attacked Paul, breaking multiple ribs, in a landscaping dispute).

After Aqua Buddha’s publicity stunt finally ended, the Senate moved to pass the bipartisan budget deal. The House followed suit early this morning. Congress votes to end government shutdown:

The Senate passed the measure on a 71-28 vote shortly before 2 a.m.

The House vote, around 5:30 a.m., was 240-186. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) had urged her members to oppose the bill over the GOP’s failure to resolve the standoff over 700,000 Dreamers, but her efforts ultimately fell short. Seventy-three Democrats ended up backing the bipartisan package, which came after months of closed-door talks.

The defeat was a bitter one for Pelosi and other top Democrats, who have sought for months to tie a resolution of the fight over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to the budget caps negotiations.

Continue reading

January jobs report holds steady, but trouble is on the horizon

The first jobs report of 2018 looks an awful lot like the jobs reports from the last several years. Steve Benen has the January jobs report, Job growth stays on course as 2018 gets underway:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today that the economy added 200,000 jobs in January, up a bit from December’s totals. The unemployment rate held steady at 4.1%, which is very low.

January Jobs

Perhaps the most notable development in the report was the increase in hourly wage growth. Expect a spirited debate over the possible explanations for this, including the inevitable result of low unemployment, the Republican tax cuts, and the minimum-wage hikes that recently kicked in across much of the country.

Also note, once a year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes revised month-to-month job data for the previous year, and that’s reflected in today’s report. We now know that in 2017, the U.S. economy generated 2.17 million jobs – which is a pretty healthy number, though it’s lower than what Americans have seen in recent years.

The economy added 2.3 million in 2013, 2.99 million in 2014, 2.71 million in 2015, and 2.24 million in 2016, making 2017 the worst for job growth since 2012, when the economy added 2.17 million jobs.

Continue reading

David v. the Goliath of the dark money ‘Kochtopus’ and lawless Tea-Publicans on Proposition 305

First, the good news … because you really could use some good news these days.

The “Kochtopus” network trying to prevent the citizens referendum of the “vouchers on steroids” bill to privatize public education from appearing on the 2018 ballot lost in court on the first round. The trial judge dismissed the case saying “there is no legal basis for the challenge.” Dismissals for failure to state a claim are awful hard to overturn on appeal.

The Arizona Capitol Times reports, Voucher measure can go to ballot, judge rules:

A judge has refused to block voters from getting the last word on whether they want to expand a system of vouchers that uses public funds to send children to private and parochial schools.

In a six-page ruling made public Tuesday, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Margaret Mahoney ruled that the law in effect last year when the referendum was filed did not give individuals the right to challenge petition drives. She pointed out it was repealed in 2015.

Mahoney acknowledged that lawmakers did vote to reinstate the individual challenge law last year. And that change took effect on Aug. 9, 2017.

But the judge pointed out that the petitions demanding a public vote were turned in on Aug. 8. Quite simply, Mahoney said, there is no legal basis for the challenge.

Continue reading