New Democratic talking points

Bill Maher has a new set of talking points for the Democrats. I think they are fairly good. See the abridged versions below:

1) When they say, “Democrats will raise taxes,” you say, “We have to, because some asshole spent all the money in the world cutting Paris Hilton’s taxes and not killing Osama bin Laden.” In just six years the national debt has doubled. You can’t keep spending money you don’t take in, that’s not even elementary economics…”

2) When they say, “The terrorists want the Democrats to win,” you say, “Are you insane? George Bush has been a terrorist’s wet dream, and nonpartisan commissions have confirmed that he’s a recruiter’s dream: theirs, not ours. And, he has exhausted our military without coming away with a win, the worst of both worlds.” Bush inflames radical hatred against America and then runs on offering to protect us from it. It’s like a guy throwing shit on you and then selling you relief from the flies.

3) When they say, “Cut and Run” or “Defeatocrat,” you say, “Bush lost the war — period.” All this nonsense about “the violence is getting worse because they’re trying to influence our election.” No, it’s getting worse because you drew up the postwar plans on the back of a cocktail napkin at Applebee’s.

4) When they say that actual combat veterans like John Kerry are “denigrating” the troops, you say, “You’re completely full of shit.”

Read more at Salon.

Too smart to be put in place

Charles Wheelan, author of Naked Economics has a new Big Idea: An Energy Tax (link no longer works because Yahoo doesn’t understand the Internet)

Create a carbon tax — basically a tax on energy calculated based on its carbon content — and use the new revenue to provide offsetting cuts in the income tax, the payroll tax, or both.

The whole package should be revenue neutral, meaning that it will not increase or decrease the total amount of revenue the government collects. The money will simply come from different sources.

The idea is a great one and constitutes a progressive tax that also happens to be completely “fair”.

The tax burden will go up for those who use more than the average amount of carbon-based energy and down for those who use less.

In the grand scheme of global injustice (e.g., being born in a malarial village in rural Africa), that just does not strike me as terribly unfair. If you contribute more than your fair share to global warming, traffic congestion, air pollution, and propping up a repressive regime in Saudi Arabia, then you should pay more.

And if you bicycle to work from your modest, solar-powered home, then society should cut you some slack.

The only drawbacks I see are that the tax base could erode as more people reduce their carbon usage and the cost of reducing carbon usage could cause some inflation in consumer goods. I like the idea of axing the income tax altogether and instead using just a carbon tax and a sales tax (with some modifications for luxury and near-luxury items to make it less regressive). Something like this tax is the only way to get people to seriously consider reducing their use of fossil fuels. Smugness can only get us so far.

Out of touch

This post could be about how out of touch congress is to be trying to do what they have been doing recently. Namely, trying to repeal the estate tax, shooting down an increase in the minimum wage (when adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage is 21% lower than it was in 1979.), trying to make permanent the many tax cuts they gave the rich, etc.

A couple NY Times editorials point out some of the recent Republican priorities: Comforting the Comfortable and Afflicting the Afflicted.

While they are doing all this they also apparently do not see any problem with giving themselves another pay raise.

It could have to do with the fact that the Republicans have been returning to their wealthy roots for the better part of the last 15 years and only now are people waking up to the fact that the GOP doesn’t give a damn about the middle class unless it is time for them to suck up for their votes by pandering and distracting them issues that don’t matter (immigration, gay marriage, and the like).

In a recent article titled From Class War Politics (subscription required), Paul Krugman gives us some history:

Before the 1940’s, the Republican Party relied financially on the support of a wealthy elite, and most Republican politicians firmly defended that elite’s privileges. But the rich became a lot poorer during and after World War II, while the middle class prospered. And many Republicans accommodated themselves to the new situation, accepting the legitimacy and desirability of institutions that helped limit economic inequality, such as a strongly progressive tax system. (The top rate during the Eisenhower years was 91 percent.)

And what of distractions?

But if the real source of today’s bitter partisanship is a Republican move to the right on economic issues, why have the last three elections been dominated by talk of terrorism, with a bit of religion on the side? Because a party whose economic policies favor a narrow elite needs to focus the public’s attention elsewhere. And there’s no better way to do that than accusing the other party of being unpatriotic and godless.

A new book, Polarized America : The Dance of Ideology and Unequal Riches looks to take on some of these ideas. The only problem with all of these incriminations of the right is that someone had to vote these pricks into office. And that is why the American public is ultimately to blame for allowing such a huge gap to form between the rich and the poor. Voting in the right people can go a long way towards ensuring that have a better, stronger country in years to come. That is only going to happen by raising the bottom up and making sure that the way of life for the poor is markedly improved. Anyone who thinks raising the top to higher heights will benefit society more than raising the bottom up, has some serious perspective problems – trickle-down is a lie.

There are some commentators who long for the bipartisan days of yore, and flock eagerly to any politician who looks “centrist.” But there isn’t any center in modern American politics. And the center won’t return until we have a new New Deal, and rebuild our middle class.

Check out Jon Stewart’s take on the congressional pay raise and snubbing of the working poor and what some wealthy Minnesotans have to say on the issue. Also check out FairEconomy.org and Facts about taxes that every American should know.

Reform both parties can/should embrace

There seems to be a plan that both conservatives and progressives can get behind that will bring about fundamental, and needed reforms to Social Security, taxation, and health care, so it stands to reason that it will fail to be championed by either side.

In the latest issues of The New Republic, Harvard professor Niall Ferguson and economist Laurence J. Kotlikoff outline a sweeping plan that will eliminate corporate and personal income tax (as well as the payroll (FICA) tax, and the estate and gift taxes) in favor of a federal sales tax, establish a new universal healthcare system based on vouchers, and reform Social Security in by providing personal savings accounts. Sounds like a conservative

Why I’m a progressive: reason #1

wealth distribution pie chartWhenever conservatives bring up the unfairness of progressive taxes think to yourself how fair it is that the top 10% of the U.S. population holds nearly 70% of all its wealth. Do those 10% do 70% of the production of that wealth? Are they that much better than the rest of the populace?

If %’s are not your thing, here’s another way to look at it:
Assume there are 100 people who have $100 to split up. It turns out, that in the U.S. the $100 winds up being divided as follows:

1 person gets $38.10
4 people get $5.32 each
5 people get $2.30 each
10 people get $1.25 each
20 people get $0.60 each
20 people get $0.23 each
40 people get $0.005 (1/2 cent each)

The 80 people getting less than a dollar might be a bit annoyed at the person getting $38.10.
Most programs can be paid for without raising taxes on the middle or lower classes – in fact the taxes raised on the top 10% wouldn’t even have to be that big to make a big difference. Who are Bush’s policies favoring?

SOURCES: Levy Economics Institute: November, 2003), Citizens for Tax Justice, U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census