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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Who’s Your Adversary?

I am writing to you today because I really want you to know that the Republican Party is your adversary, led by some people who believe that you are "not worthy" of having a good job with adequate wages, having a vote, or having your needs met by government programs.  They are in favor of welfare for the rich in the form of tax shelters, tax breaks, tax subsidies and lower tax rates.  They have no hesitancy about taking the tax revenues from the broad middle class to give to the richest one percent in one form or another.  What you must understand is that this form of welfare for the rich is all done by manipulating the tax system so that these amounts are not included in any budget that you will ever see.  It's simply done using the tax system to give breaks, subsidies and rebates directly to the wealthiest among us without their having to go through any oversight process. 

Here are some examples:

  • when some companies, for instance, submit their taxes, they can deduct from their taxable income the total depreciation on equipment that they bought during that tax year (no need to parcel depreciation out over several years).
  • some companies get special tax breaks written into the tax laws and it only applies to them (film-makers for instance, and some oil companies)
  • and how about that special break that millionaires get who purchase a private jet supposedly used partly for business - they can deduct the cost from their income

Don't forget, the rich get breaks on other taxes as well, thanks mostly to Republicans.  At most, they pay just 15% on capital gains (the Ryan Budget wants to reduce it to ZERO).  They have a reduced rate on estate tax.  They don't pay into Social Security except on the first $113,700 of their substantial incomes.

Do YOU have anything written especially into the tax code that benefits you so substantially on your taxes?  Of course you get a deduction for interest on mortgage loans, on state income and property taxes paid, for charitable contributions, for some business expenses, and for some medical expenses (IF there is anything to claim after the percentage of income is first applied.).  But did you know that most taxpayers simply use the standard deduction, and do not get any benefit from itemized deductions?  That's right: the Tax Policy Center estimates that 70% of taxpayers use the standard deduction, but 85% in the highest brackets itemize, so once again the rich use even these deductions to their advantage.

That's the basic way the rich have the advantage over the rest of us: they get breaks through the tax system that we will never ever see!   

Then, there is the left-over tax revenue that comes to the Federal government after the rich individuals and corporations have already extracted their special (privileged) tax breaks and subsidies (revenue lost that might be used for the general welfare of ordinary citizens!).   That leftover pot of money comes into the U.S. Treasury, and the Congress decides how to spend it; how to "divvy it up", so to speak.   They do that by making up a federal budget in the House of Representatives (the President gets to submit his version as well, but lately that has been Dead On Arrival).  Case in point: the Paul Ryan budgets of the last few years.  In  legislative bills that appropriate funds from those budgets to various programs, departments, commissions and offices, they parcel it out to meet the perceived needs of these varying entities. But first, this year, the Ryan Budget brings the top income tax rate down to 25%  (from 39.6%) for the  millionaires and billionaires.  They also want to cut the rate for corporations to 15%.   In order to do that, the Republican budget-makers had to find extra funds to cover this reduction in taxes for the rich.  Where do they get it? 

By making drastic cuts in other programs, well-known to the poor and middle class: food stamps, public housing, Head Start, college loans are a few.  But, did you know, they have also included draconian cuts for certain agencies that oversee health and safety for all of us, including the EPA, FEMA, FDIC and OSHA (worker protections).  Here's Rep. Steve Cohen's (TN-09) take on it:

"I'm not surprised that House Republicans released their budget proposal for next year on April Fools' Day-it certainly looks like a cruel joke being played on the American people. The Ryan plan-with its gimmicks, fuzzy math, and loopholes-keeps the deck stacked against hardworking (citizens) who deserve a fair shot at the American Dream. It takes away the health care security provided by President Obama's landmark Affordable Care Act, kills jobs, ends Medicare as we know it and hurts seniors, slashes food stamps and NIH medical research programs, makes college harder to afford, and raises taxes on middle-class families to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy."

Mother Jones writes: "A quick look at his section on national defense makes it clear that he plans no cuts to Pentagon discretionary spending, but that he actually wants to increase defense outlays. So that leaves big cuts to domestic spending. The grand total of non-interest cuts for the non-poor, then, amounts to $604 billion over ten years. The grand total of cuts to programs for the poor and working class amounts to  $3,749 trillion.  So out of total non-interest cuts of $4,352 trillion, it looks like about 86 percent of them are targeted at programs for those with low-incomes."

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget  reminds us that some of the largest cuts include repealing the coverage provisions in the Affordable Care Act, block-granting Medicaid and food stamps, and reducing the federal contribution for civilian pensions. The largest savings, $2.1 trillion, come from repealing the coverage expansions in the Affordable Care Act while leaving the bulk of the Act's Medicare reductions and additional tax revenues in place. The budget also claims about $730 billion of savings by block granting and capping the growth of Medicaid. So, even though 7.1 million people enrolled in new private health plans and 3 million adult children are on their parents' policies and millions more are now eligible for, and enrolled in, Medicaid, the Republicans want to gut this successful program by cutting funds for expansions that have already occurred!

So friends, there you have it.  YOU are called 'unworthy' in many instances, but here in this Ryan Budget and under the Tax Code, you are the ”special-of-the-day,” being devoured at every turn.  Too many Republicans are foes of yours because they don't see you as worth a whole lot to their (greedy) world of business, and because they just don't give a damn if you are having trouble making it from paycheck to paycheck. 

When was the last time your Republican Congressman came to your part of town to find out what you needed, or cared about, or deserved?  Perhaps he or she spoke at Rotary, at the Chamber of Commerce, at the Kiwanis nice!  Has he or she ever visited your neighborhood and met with a representative group of ordinary citizens to hammer out what would be best for you and your neighbors?  Doubtful, because Republicans spend major time meeting with big donors to make sure they are doing all they can for the “fat cats.”  They are not particularly anxious to hear from people like us...

Congressman Richard Hanna votes against your interests every chance he gets.  He started out his congressional career by sponsoring legislation that would lower the corporate tax rate from 25% to 15%, and shortly thereafter he voted to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, as well as voting to cut funding for Food Stamps, Meals on Wheels, and Head Start.  He has voted for successive Ryan Budgets that proposed to cut just about every helpful program for many of his local constituents, including public housing, Medicaid extension, health care coverage for the uninsured, and student loans and grants.  He proudly proclaims that he has voted against the successful Affordable Care Act (actually it's the Law), every time he has had the chance, even though his district has some of the worst poverty in the state!  And, when he votes YEA for the Paul Ryan budget for 2015, he will do as he has in the past:  he will vote for breaks for the rich and cuts for the poor and middle class because, no matter how you slice it, the Republican Party is not on your side.   They are your adversaries, and voting for them gives them an advantage over you that will exploit your life and cash until the day you die!