Thursday, August 14, 2008

Like the limbo: how low can you go?

From Joe Klein's blog "Swampland" on the Time website:

"But there is no excuse for what the McCain campaign is doing on the "putting America first" front. There is no way to balance it, or explain it other than as evidence of a severe character defect on the part of the candidate who allows it to be used. There is a straight up argument to be had in this election: Mcain has a vastly different view from Obama about foreign policy, taxation, health care, government name it. He has lots of experience; it is always shocking to remember that this time four years ago, Barack Obama was still in the Illinois State Legislature. Apparently, though, McCain isn't confident that conservative policies and personal experience can win, given the ruinous state of the nation after eight years of Bush. So he has made a fateful decision: he has personally impugned Obama's patriotism and allows his surrogates to continue to do that. By doing so, he has allied himself with those who smeared him, his wife, his daughter Bridget, in 2000. Those tactics won George Bush a primary--and a nomination. But they proved a form of slow-acting spiritual poison, rotting the core of the Bush presidency. We'll see if the public decides to acquiesce in sleaze in 2008, and what sort of presidency--what sort of country--that will produce."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Tale of Two Countries

Thomas Friedman has been spot on lately. I suggest reading his op-eds contrasting Denmark and the United States on energy policy as well as his call-out of John McCain’s hypocrisy on energy policy.

Pandering and campaigning. No one does it nearly as impressively as the United States. Campaigning is the art of using a lot of words to say absolutely nothing of substance. I read the draft of the Democratic Party Platform, entitled Renewing America’s Promise. There is a lot of rhetoric that it is easy to get behind. But, as always, it is the standard “America is great”, “teachers are great”, “protect the environment”, “health insurance for all” document that promises a whole lot of values but doesn’t put any meat on the bones. It is a steady diet of ribs that have already been stripped clean. It is clear that McCain is far more apt to blither, but Obama panders as well. The difference is that McCain and his Party disdain government and wants to choke it to death. Obama wants to continue the work the Al Gore undertook while he was Vice President to make government efficient and accountable. I recommend listening to the Fresh Air interview with Thomas Franks from August 4th. Franks, a Wall Street Journal columnist, has written a book called The Wrecking Crew, which demonstrates the pattern of Republican Presidents putting incompetent people in government positions because they want to create a legacy of public sector ineptitude.

In addition, Franks seeks to illustrate a systematic suppression of public sector salaries in an effort to ensure that government cannot recruit “the best and brightest”. It has, by and large, failed because the GOP have never understood that to some people public service is more important than wealth. But I digress…

The problem with this pandering is: it is our own damn fault. We have been brainwashed into believing what oil companies, health insurers, pharmaceutical companies and large financial institutions say, as if they have no stake in the outcome. Namely that alternative energy is not price competitive, socialized medicine will result in waiting lists and ultimately worse health outcomes, competition in the drug market will suppress research and development, regulation will cost the American people huge sums of money. What we are slow in learning is, this is all BS. Ultimately, no one in this country is interested in making the commitment necessary to change. We are afraid of the unknown.

We are told that reforms (reforms that would bring us toward the mainstream of developed nations) run contrary to our libertarian spirit. Americans aren’t libertarian, we have been fed a steady diet of misinformation which make us afraid of perceived outcomes from proposed progressive reforms.

The failure of the Democratic Party is the common thread with my peeps. They are a bunch of pansies and are afraid of being called out. They try to play the game by the rules laid out by conservatives. I am here to tell you that it is a recipe for disaster. We may win elections, but we will never win our progressive policy revolution because our victories will be built on a foundation of misinformation, half truths and all out lies. Like the Siberian apartment building, built without a foundation on the permafrost, as the Earth warms, it will all come crashing down.

If we are interested in real change, and not just winning elections, we need to challenge the conventional "wisdom". We need to set the record straight on policy. We may well lose the election, but we can’t lose the larger struggle.

Not everything has a public solution. Government should not be involved in all aspects of our society. I do not believe in pure nationalization. Likewise, I oppose pure privatization. The invisible hand of the market functions best when regulated to remove the possibility of abuse by people who are solely concerned with financial outcomes regardless of the impact on society.

I believe that we should respect the American people. We need to present them with the truth. The situation is dire. The challenges we face are immense, but all is not lost. This is no time to panic. Sticking our head in the ground like an ostrich is a form of panic. Some become indiscriminately hysterical when faced with dire challenges and some avoid the situation. Neither does anything but delay the inevitable. We will have to address energy challenges. Delay only makes it more difficult.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Just to make it more clear for the knuckleheads!

Here is a table from The Tax Policy that makes it all a bit more clear. (Click to view full size) Here is how your tax bill will change based on income brackets. Just for the record: only 2% of American households earn over $250,000, so any claim of a huge tax increase on all Americans by the McCain train wreck (it isn’t really a campaign anymore, is it?)

A side by side comparison! (From the Tax Policy Center)


Barack Obama

John McCain

New Tax Cuts

Refundable Making Work Pay tax credit of 6.2 percent of earnings up to a maximum of $8,100

Refundable Universal Mortgage Credit of 10 percent of mortgage interest for nonitemizers, capped at $800 ($8,000 of interest)

Eliminate income tax for senior making less than $50,000 per year

First-time buyers tax credit for new farmers

Small Business and Microenterprise Initiative tax credit of 20 percent on up to $50,000 of investment in small owner-operated businesses

Allow first-year deduction of 3 and 5-year equipment, deny interest deduction (expires)

Reduce maximum corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent

Increase the dependent exemption by 70 percent (phased in)

Suspension of the federal gas tax (18.4 cents per gallon) from this Memorial day until Labor Day

Adjustments to Existing Credits

Make R&D and renewable energy production tax credit (wind, solar) permanent

Extend childless EITC phase-in range and increase phaseout threshold, double the phase-in and phase-out rates for childless individuals paying child support, increase EITC phase-in rate to 45 percent for families with three or more children; increase add-on to EITC phase-out threshold for married filers to $5,000

Make CDCTC refundable and allow low-income families to receive up to a 50 percent credit for child care expenses

Make saver's credit refundable and change to a 50 percent match of the first $1,000 of savings, phases out beginning before $75,000

Increase Hope credit 100% match rate to $4,000 for college education and make refundable, rename American Opportunity Tax Credit

Mandate automatic 401(k)s and automatic IRAs

Convert R&D credit to 10 percent of wages incurred for R&D, make permanent

Capital Gains

Increase maximum capital gains rate to 25 percent

Require information reporting of basis for gains

Eliminate capital gains taxation of start-up businesses and provide capital gains tax break for landowners selling to beginning family farmers

Keep the current rates on dividends and capital gains

Bush Tax Cuts

Permanently extend marriage penalty relief, adoption credit expansions, 10,15,25, and 28% rates, EITC simplification

Restore 36 and 39.6% statutory income tax rates, Restore PEP and Pease phaseouts for households making more than $250,000, increase in PEP and Pease threshold

Make permanent all provisions other than the estate tax repeal

Alternative Minimum Tax

Extend and index 2007 AMT patch

Extend and index 2007 AMT patch, further increase exemption by 5 percent in excess of inflation after 2013 (temporarily)

Estate Tax

Make permanent estate tax with $3.5 million exemption and 45 percent rate

Make permanent estate tax with $5 million exemption and 15 percent rate


Give taxpayers the option of pre -filled tax forms to verify, sign, return to IRS

Give taxpayers the option of an alternative tax system with two rates and larger standard deduction and personal exemption

Revenue Raisers and Tax Havens

Eliminate oil and gas loopholes

Close loopholes in the corporate tax deductibility of CEO pay

Tax carried interest as ordinary, Increase the highest bracket for capital gains and dividends

Reallocate multinational tax deductions

Codify economic substance doctrine

Create international tax haven watch list

Other unspecified revenue raising provisions

Eliminate oil and gas loopholes

Unspecified corporate base broadeners

Eliminate earmarked projects from the budget, freeze nonmilitary discretionary spending for one year, eliminate programs.


Income-related federal tax subsidies for health insurance

Replace exclusion from income for employer sponsored health insurance with refundable credit of $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families


Social Security/payroll taxes: increase the maximum amount of earnings covered by Social Security

Require a 3/5 majority vote in Congress to raise taxes

Ban internet and cell phone taxes

Higher premiums for Medicare prescription drug coverage for single people earning more than $82,000 and couples earning more than $164,000