Just raise taxes on someone other than corporations or the wealthy, OK? How about teachers, say.
For quite some time, we've been sure of a couple things regarding the big Build Back Better reconciliation plan: A) Something's fairly certain to pass and be signed by Joe Biden, and 2) The process is going to be absolutely nerve-racking all the same. Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal kicked our anxiety level up a notch or two with a story explaining that Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) says she won't support any income tax increases on wealthy people or corporations, or increases in the marginal rate on capital gains, either. Sinema's opposition to those key sources of revenue for Build Back Better has, the story says, left Senate Dems "considering abandoning central tax elements" of the plan to expand the social safety net and shift the US economy away from fossil fuels.
Well hell, we should have seen that coming. It's not enough that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) has forced Democrats to take an ax to big chunks of what's going to be in the bill (although the final shape of those cuts isn't yet determined). Now we learn that Sinema just can't bring herself to fund what's left in it. Whee, we are having a real fun time on the ol' serotonin roller coaster this week!
The Journal reports that Sinema "has previously told lobbyists" that she's opposed to any increases at all in those three tax rates, and that her continued opposition is "now pushing Democrats to plan more seriously for a bill that doesn't include those major revenue increases."
Happily (*cough!*), the story notes that Sinema is at least willing to consider other forms of revenue to pay for the bill, because she is a class act that way:
Other planks of President Biden's tax agenda, including tightening the net on U.S. companies' foreign earnings and enhancing tax enforcement by the Internal Revenue Service, are still on the table[.]
Would this be a good time to point out that in 2017, Sinema, along with all the other Democrats then in the Senate, voted against the Trump tax cuts? Biden's tax agenda doesn't even fully roll back those Big Fat Tax Cuts for Rich Fuckwads. Again, the taxes that Sinema opposed cutting in the first place.
In its current form, Build Back Better would restore the top rate on individual income tax rom 37 percent to 39.6 percent. But it would only raise the corporate income tax rate from 21 percent to 26.5 percent, which is lower than the 28 percent Biden originally proposed, and way less than the 35 percent rate prior to 2017.
Hell, Joe Manchin Himself called for the corporate rate to go up to 25 percent.
On capital gains, the plan was to raise the top rate from 23.8 percent to 28.8 percent, which again is far less than the tax equalizer Biden called for. Since the obscenely rich make their money off investments, not paychecks, Biden had called for people making over a million dollars a year to pay a capital gains rate of 39.6 percent, just like the top marginal income tax rate.
Again, this is all really freaking bizarre. Rolling back the Trump tax cuts, in part or in full, has been pretty much a no-brainer for virtually all Democrats since the damn giveaway to corporations and the rich was passed. And also again, Joe Goddamn Manchin wants to see some the 2017 tax cuts reversed, at least partially, including a restoration of the top individual income tax rate. For. Fuck's. Sake.
If Sinema continues to be an absolute no on any increase in those three tax rates, it's going to leave a huge hole in plans to pay for Build Back Better, as the Journal 'splains:
The House's corporate tax rate increase was projected to raise $540 billion over a decade, while the tax rate increases on ordinary income and capital gains would raise nearly $300 billion.
Richard Neal, the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee that oversaw the drafting of the bill's tax provisions, told the Journal he's hoping to have a little chat with Sinema sometime soon, and we would like to congratulate him on suppressing the urge to mime Homer Simpson comically strangling Bart, because Neal is a goddamn professional. (He's also pretty far on the "corporate-friendly" side of the spectrum himself, so you know Sinema's stance is some extremist bullshit.)
"I hope that we're going to talk some of this through," he said. "The rates that we came up with were not punitive, and they allow us to accomplish policy outcomes that many of us agree on."
Neal, the Journal reports, met online yesterday to talk about revenue strategy with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, and White House officials. If that chat included any trash talk about Sinema, the Journal doesn't say.
Now, as with the uncertainty over what's actually going to be included in the bill, we should point out again that none of this is final, and that the Journal points out there are plenty of other things Dems can use to raise revenue in ways that wouldn't touch those three precious tax rates beloved by Sinema's favorite lobbyists:
For example, the House bill would limit deductions for business losses, lower the estate-tax exemption, restructure the tax rules for U.S. companies' foreign income and enhance efforts to collect more taxes owed but not paid.
The less that Democrats can rely on tax-rate increases, the more they might turn to more novel ideas such as an excise tax on stock buybacks proposed by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio).
Mr. Wyden, whose committee circulated a menu of tax-raising options earlier this year, has continued to push for an annual tax on billionaires' unrealized capital gains. That idea, for which Mr. Biden recently expressed support, would affect a narrower group of people than the capital-gains changes that have already flopped among congressional Democrats. [linky added by Yr Wonkette because damned if we're explaining that one again]
Or perhaps, what the hell, Sinema's favorite lobbyists might even let her be persuaded to support some lower increases in tax rates than are already on the table. Just no telling yet.
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Don't look too closely at the sausage-making, it's not done yet.
President Joe Biden met yesterday with a whole bunch of Democratic members of Congress to get things moving on the Build Back Better reconciliation bill, and it's starting to look like some progress is being made. As we've known from the start, getting it passed with all 50 Democrats in the Senate will require the votes of the two-member Senate Democratic Obstructionist Caucus, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, both of whom want the final bill to be far smaller than the initial $3.5 trillion plan (over 10 years), which you may remember was already a compromise from "all the trillions."
In his White House meeting with progressive Dems yesterday, Biden floated a top line number of around $2 trillion, or possibly as low as $1.75 trillion even, depending on what ultimately goes into the bill, which is still very much being negotiated. After the meeting, Congressional Progressive Caucus chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) said that what matters isn't so much the precise number, but putting programs in place that will help working families and address the threat of climate change:
It's not the number that we want — we have consistently tried to make it as high as possible. [...] The idea that we can do these programs, a multitude of programs, and actually get them going so that they deliver immediate transformational benefits to people is what we're focused on.
The Washington Post reports that Biden told progressives a likely framework would still include most key provisions of his agenda, though they'd have to be scaled back, according to four insiders who spoke to the Post:
That includes at least some expansion of Medicare to offer new benefits to seniors, the introduction of universal prekindergarten, and billions of dollars to address climate change. [...]
The path put forward by the White House could extend new, expanded child tax credit payments recently adopted by Congress, but perhaps for only one additional year, three of the sources said. It would offer new money to make housing more affordable, yet far less than Democrats once envisioned. And it would provide paid leave, except only four weeks of benefits, rather than the 12 weeks some had once proposed, according to one of the people in the room.
Jayapal said progressives' top priorities "are here in some way, shape, or form," so the idea will be to get the programs in place to start, then solidify support (and additional funding) for them once people start realizing they like getting that expanded child tax credit and at least some paid family and medical leave.
And ideally, it can be put in place soon enough to build support for Dems expanding their Senate majority in the 2022 midterms, so two right-leaning Democrats can't stop us from having nice things anymore, Dok editorialized shamelessly.
As it is, the demand to pare down the reconciliation bill along with Joe Manchin's fealty to the fossil fuels industry (he's not just a client, he's got money in the game) have already meant that two big parts of Build Back Better will be scrapped. To preserve funding for other domestic policies, the plan to provide two years of free community college is likely a goner, to be replaced by some "community college scholarship" benefits that have yet to be determined.
Worse, one of the bill's central climate provisions, the Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP) is probably going to be removed because of Manchin's refusal to allow anything that would be bad for fossil fuels. CEPP would push electric utilities to accelerate the transition to renewable power by providing financial bonuses to utilities that reduce carbon emissions beyond a target level, and by fining companies that fail to meet the goal. Democrats are still planning to include other climate spending that Manchin may go along with, but to seriously reduce greenhouse emissions, energy policy needs teeth. God damn it.
One other absolutely essential part of Build Back Better, the expanded child tax credit that went into effect as part of the American Rescue Plan, may also be endangered by Manchin, but again, we don't know yet how the negotiations will go. As David Dayen explains at The American Prospect, Manchin's dream is to deeply crappify the program:
The expanded tax credit, which gives $3,600 per year to families with children below age 6 and $3,000 per year to those with children between ages 6 and 17, and delivers the funds on a monthly basis, [currently] has high phaseouts beginning at $150,000 a year for families ($75,000 for single parents). But Manchin wants to start the phaseouts at $60,000 of family income, while including a work requirement that would restrict the poorest families from receiving the benefit. [...]
But if you phase out the increased tax credit that quickly, and too few people under that threshold actually receive it, the "new" CTC will essentially resemble the one in place since the Trump tax cuts boosted the credit to $2,000 per year for children. Add in Manchin's work requirements, and the bill would find itself to the right of Trump's plan.
The upside, if any, is that a lot of Democrats in both houses are passionate about the child tax credit and may very well be able to prevent Manchin from turning it into what might come to be seen as merely a "welfare" benefit — except it screws people on welfare too — which would diminish its support and make it far more vulnerable to being eliminated altogether. So again, we'll see how the negotiations go. Dayen warns that while it can make some sense to get programs into place, even with only short-term funding, those programs won't find the support they need if they're too narrowly targeted:
Unless you can get Manchin off his red lines, you're left with a bunch of compromised, pinched, poorly designed measures that in some cases are no better than the status quo. And to save money, some or all of those measures might sunset after a few years.
It's one thing to sunset a good plan that tangibly benefits people, and dare the other side to let it expire. It's quite another to sunset clunky plans that don't work very well; there won't be much of a popular constituency to maintain them. A permanent program like the ACA can generate momentum for fixes; indeed, there's the subsidy expansion that could still end up part of this bill. Fixing a temporary program is a heavier lift.
Dayen also notes that while it might be difficult to get excited about what looks like a collection of half measures, instead of the New Deal-ish plans Biden introduced, we're likely at "the low point in the negotiations," and it's still possible that a compromise can be worked out that adequately funds robust programs. The last thing we want to do, he says, is to Build Back Worse.
For now, nothing is set in stone, and Manchin is still talking with Bernie Sanders; they met a second time yesterday, and perhaps Manchin can be persuaded that West Virginia families really will benefit from the reconciliation bill. We're doing our best to remain caustically optimistic.
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So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye.
Last week, GOP rep/wannabe BuzzFeed poll writer asked her Twitter followers if America should have a “national divorce," we guess because openly calling for sedition is always fun.
According to the final (and very scientific!) results, 43 percent of participants would like a split between “Republican" and “Democratic" states. Of course, MAGA idiots like Greene can't accept that a number of states they consider theirs actually voted for the Democratic presidential candidate in 2020. Including Georgia.
Almost 48 percent of respondents said, “No, let's stay together" and continue making each other miserable. Maybe that was good enough for their parents. The remaining 9.3 percent remains undecided about a possible civil war. Swing voters are notoriously noncommittal.
Greene, who apparently has an excess of free time, discussed her goofy ass poll on Steve Bannon's podcast Friday. She described the country as deeply divided, much like an arsonist gleefully watching the flames from a house they set on fire.
"So many people talk to me about how divided our country is and how it's irreconcilable," she said.
"I've been hearing that from so many...about dividing the country between Republican and Democrat states."
Of course, there's no such thing as Republican and Democratic states. That's not just pleasant rhetoric from an Obama or Biden speech. There are literally more Trump voters in California than there are in the three most conservative states — Wyoming, North Dakota, and Mississippi — combined. No matter what the squirrels who live in her head are telling her, President Joe Biden objectively won Arizona and Georgia, and both those states have a clean sweep of Democratic senators, even though one of them is Kyrsten Sinema.
Greene and her MAGA brood might come across a bit like Southerners prior to the Civil War, but at least there was an accepted understanding then over which states permitted slavery. There is no similar shared reality between Trump's cult and the rest of us. Greene fundamentally refuses to accept that good, decent people outnumber her in Georgia. It's not a Dominion voting machine trick.
It's also obvious Greene hasn't considered what kind of economy her red state dystopia would have. This is the sort of “national divorce" where Democrats take the kids, Silicon Valley, and Wall Street, while Republicans crash on a buddy's futon in Alabama. Also, the “red" Southern states have significant Black populations, so good luck with that, congresswoman.
Bannon opposed the idea of splitting the nation because he's delusional enough to believe his brand of white nationalism has mainstream appeal.
"It's something that I'm adamantly obviously opposed to, vehemently.
"And I don't even like some of these commentators starting to talk about it, for the simple reason we control two-thirds of the country. Two-thirds of the country actually back what President Trump stands for, nationalist populism."
Math is hard.
Trump won just 46.1 percent of the people's vote in 2016 and broadened his coalition to a whopping 46.9 percent in 2020. Perhaps Bannon only believes white voters are legitimate, in which case Trump carried 58 percent of his preferred demo. That's still not two-thirds. No one — not even Saint Ronald Reagan — has performed that well among white voters. If Republicans actually had the support of that many white voters, they wouldn't have to work so hard to keep people of color from voting.
The Electoral College and the Senate are institutions that support (white) minority rule. MAGA doesn't represent a majority of Americans and never will.
Greene insisted she'd have better numbers for secession if Twitter wasn't such a “hard-left" platform. If that's true, then maybe don't conduct your poll on Twitter, genius.
Still, she claimed the results from her her highly scientific (no, wait, the opposite of that) survey "should be the wake-up call to Democrats in particular that they cannot do this to our country." (That's right, her poll she made on Twitter.)
She also said the poll should "wake up the Republicans who refuse to act like Republicans." (Yep, again, her poll she made on Twitter.)
We'll all get right on that, congresswoman.
Follow Stephen Robinson on Twitter.
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Cutting it will not actually save us money, it will just mean we spend it in a less efficient way.
This week, in his latest tantrum, Joe Manchin — who loves babies so much that he wants to force us all to have them against our will — told Democrats that he will allow them to pick one (1) program out of the four programs in the reconciliation bill meant to help working families and ditch the rest of them. It should be said that literally all of these programs — universal pre-K, subsidized childcare, making the child tax credit permanent and paid family leave. It should be noted that all of these programs are extremely popular. 70 percent of Republicans, even, want universal pre-K and 78 percent of them want subsidized childcare. They were pretty happy about the child tax credits, too. Huge majorities of the population also want paid family leave.
Since the beginning of this whole thing, Manchin and Sinema have been determined to get the price tag of he reconciliation bill down, acting like they're the adults in the room, the only one trying to be fiscally responsible, while all of the other Democrats have their head in the clouds, demanding ponies for all.
And honestly, I'm so tired of that shit, because the truth is — those opposing Build Back Better and other programs like it is not the "fiscally responsible" thing to do, just like it's not the "fiscally responsible" thing to do to drive on empty, even if you are currently broke and have to put the gas on a credit card. It's the fiscally stupid thing to do. It's irresponsible. Not just because it means people's lives will be less pleasant, but because it will cost us in the long run. It also flies in the face of common sense that we all understand when it comes to our own finances.
We are running up the bill anyway, even if we don't pay for it with taxes.
The choice isn't actually "Do we spend $3.5 trillion or do we spend less than that or do we spend nothing?" We could eliminate this entire bill, throw it out the window, and we'd still have to pay for what is in it. And we'd probably end up spending more.
Americans already pay for childcare. In fact, we spend $42 billion a year on child care. Over the course of 10 years, that's $420 billion, not accounting for inflation. Not spending that $3.5 trillion with taxes doesn't mean that we're not still going to spend that $3.5 trillion — and probably a lot more — on the very things that are in the bill. This includes things like the Citizens Climate Corps and other environmental protection items, because doing as much as we can with that right now means that we don't have to spend a whole lot more money to fix it later. It's not that we're not going to end up spending it, it's that we're spending it less efficiently.
Like a lot of people, I don't have kids. But I sure think it's a good idea to invest in their care and education, because there will come a time when we will all have to rely on them. Americans love to think of ourselves as so independent that other people's lives don't affect us, and that nothing can affect us if we do "personal responsibility" well enough, but that's simply not possible.
The reconciliation bill is an investment.
We know that if we live in a capitalist society and want our money to grow, it is usually better to invest than just stick it all in the bank. Sure, there's an element of risk involved, but there is also risk in doing nothing, because in a bank your savings could come to be worth less over time due to inflation. Investing in our future means we get to collect on that investment rather than seeing it all shrink away. We would be putting our money to work for us rather than just letting it sit there.
If we implement the bill now, that means better education and better jobs for people which also means they then pay more in taxes. If we keep going the way we are going now – with a massive percentage of people working jobs that don't pay them a living wage, meaning they pay less in taxes and also have no money to spend so that other people can make money and pay their employees with it, and so on and so on. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that the bill will support 3,246,677 jobs, and that's not counting the jobs that those jobs will support and the people that will be able to make more money themselves because of those jobs.
I get that $3.5 trillion seems like a lot, but not spending it also means losing out on a lot of money, for everyone.
We know that buying in bulk is cheaper and more efficient than paying retail.
That is why people buy memberships to shop at Costco or BJ's Wholesale Club and not to Louis Vuitton, which notably never has any sales. While it's a stupid idea to buy things in bulk if you're not going to use them, it makes sense for things that you are always going to need and that are a pain in the ass to run out of, like paper products, cleaning products, spices and seasonings and those little peanut butter stuffed pretzel nugget things. I mean, sure. It would probably cost less, initially, to run out to CVS and buy one box of Kleenex. But that adds up after a while and eventually, if you have sinus issues, it's not actually the cheaper option.
Medicare, essentially, buys pharmaceuticals and medical care in bulk. It should be using that leverage to pay less. However, we're all paying more for it because the "fiscally responsible" people don't want them to be able to do that. Medicare could be fabulous and significantly less expensive than it currently is if it weren't for these very wise people
It's simply more efficient to have universal pre-K for all children. We know for a fact that it's important to early childhood development, that parents need it so they can work and pay taxes, and we know that those doing it are not getting paid enough. Which means we could very well end up with a situation where no one wants or takes those jobs. Making it a public good (and paying people a living wage to do it) would be a massive stimulus to the economy and put children on the road to future success. Duh.
People only notice things that directly affect them and their lives
This is not an economic argument so much as it is a "duh" argument. There's not going to be a situation where we spend all of this money, improve people's day-to-day lives, but then "something" bad happens because we spent $3.5 trillion doing it. Even the rich who will have to pay more in taxes are not actually going to experience life any differently than they did before we spent it. And they'll actually benefit from it too, because they rely on the services of working people to maintain the lifestyles to which they have become accustomed.
I worked luxury retail during the recession — let me assure you, they'll be just fine. In fact, they'll be better, because economic inequality breeds instability, which makes everyone kind of go into hoarding mode.
If we're talking about votes, improving people's lives is a great way to get them. No one's life is going to be improved by not spending that money.
We're probably not going to get $3.5 trillion, and at this point we'll be lucky if we get anything. But Democrats need to realize that pretty much the whole thing they have going for them, as a party, are things like this. These are the things that allow us to say that poor racist folks are voting against their own economic interests. They have to do something other than preserve the status quo and not be literal fascists if they want to keep winning elections.
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