tax cuts

Something About the Speaker (Footnote Fury)

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI01) speaks at his primary night press conference, 9 August 2016, in Janesville, Wisconsin. (Photo by Darren Hauck/Getty Images)

“The new Paul Ryan tax cuts make the Bush tax cuts look like socialism.”

Jonathan Chait

Steve Benen frames the issue well enough:

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has largely pulled off an impressive public-relations gambit in recent years. The Republican leader has recast himself as an anti-poverty crusader, without making any meaningful changes to his far-right agenda, simply by using the word “poverty” a whole lot.

But it’s occasionally worthwhile to look past the rhetoric and focus on the hard data ....

.... Ryan’s tax plan is crafted in such a way as to give 99.6% of the benefits to the wealthiest of the wealthy by 2025. The other 0.4% would be divided up across the other 99% of us.

This is a feature, not a bug, of the House Speaker’s approach to economic policy. Ryan genuinely believes that massive tax breaks for those at the very top will spur economic growth that would, in time, benefit everyone. For the Wisconsin congressman, trickle-down policy, its track record notwithstanding, remains the most responsible course to broad national prosperity.

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The Bobby Jindal Show (Fake Super Funtime Sneak Pak Preview Peek Pass)

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) speaks at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC, 6 October 2014. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

This takes a bit of work. Just a little, but, you know, still. Sorry. The hard part is trying to wrap your head around the idea that this is somehow real. Let us then start earlier this week. Jordan Weissmann of Slate picks up the tale:

While Kansas has become a strictly tragic cautionary tale about what happens when a politician actually tries to govern in line with radical conservative tax dogma, Louisiana is turning into more of a dark comedy. Coming into this year, the state was facing a $1.6 billion budget shortfall. Unfortunately, Gov. Bobby Jindal—America’s spirit of hopeless presidential ambition incarnate—had signed Grover Norquist’s pledge not to raise any taxes. This left lawmakers in a bit of a bind, since cutting their way to fiscal health would have meant decimating public health or higher education funding.

Last week, however, legislators ultimately passed a budget that raised hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue, sparing hospitals and colleges. Better yet, Jindal says he’ll sign it. So, how’d they square this circle?

With a mind-numbing budget gimmick, of course ....

.... Jindal created a fake fee for students, and a fake tax credit to balance it out, which ultimately leads to no money changing hands, but apparently satisfies whatever agreement Jindal struck with Norquist to preserve the illusion that he didn’t raise taxes. “It’s an embarrassing bill to vote for,” one Republican state representative told the New York Times, demonstrating the sort of candor that only becomes possible once your own party’s governor has alienated the vast majority of his state and abandoned all pretense of rational policymaking in pursuit of an inevitable also-ran performance in the GOP primary.

It really is futility. The Hopeless Clown has yet to officially jump into the race, but it has been clear to many that his mind isn’t on his work as Pelican State executive. When last we checked behind the scenes of the Bobby Jindal Show, the governor was posing for the national stage, hoping to enact a high profile bill by executive order after the legislature said no.

But wait … there’s more!

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A Kansas Education

Great Seal of Kansas (detail)

This is a grim joke, I admit: Closing schools early in order to underwrite tax breaks for the wealthy is an exercise in building character.

I have a daughter; it is unclear if “character building” has any significance to her generation beyond a Calvin & Hobbes punch line.

In this photo taken Sept. 6, 2014, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback speaks in Hutchinson, Kansas. The writing is on the wall for gay marriage bans in Kansas, Montana and South Carolina after federal appeals courts that oversee those states have made clear that keeping gay and lesbian couples from marrying is unconstitutional. But officials in the three states are refusing to allow same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses without a court order directing them to do so. It could be another month or more before the matter is settled. In a political campaign debate Monday, Brownback vowed to defend his state’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. A federal court hearing is scheduled for Friday.(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)Controversial Republican economist Arthur Laffer was recently asked about his handiwork in Kansas. It was Laffer who crafted Gov. Sam Brownback’s (R) radical – and radically unsuccessful – economic experiment, which has failed to deliver on its promises and which has ruined Kansas’ finances.

“Kansas,” Laffer said two weeks ago, “is doing fine.”

“Fine” is a subjective word, though when a state finds that some of its schools don’t have enough money to keep the doors open, it’s safe to say everything isn’t “fine.”

Six school districts in Kansas will close early this year, following budget cuts signed in March by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.

Two school districts, Concordia Unified School District and Twin Valley Unified School District, announced earlier this month that they would end the year early because they lacked the funds to keep the schools open. This week, four more districts confirmed they would also shorten their calendars, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.

One superintendent told the Topeka Capital-Journal he doesn’t want to permanently change the school calendar, but at least for this year, budget concerns made it necessary to wrap up early.

(Benen)

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Your Republican Party: Policy Outlook Edition

GOP-logo-banner-bw

Sometimes the message couldn’t be any more clear:

With negotiators nearing an accord on permanent tax breaks for businesses worth $440 billion over 10 years, President Obama rallied Democratic opposition on Tuesday and promised a veto.

“The president would veto the proposed deal because it would provide permanent tax breaks to help well-connected corporations while neglecting working families,” said Jennifer Friedman, a White House spokeswoman.

† † †

Left off were the two tax breaks valued most by liberal Democrats: a permanently expanded earned-income credit and a child tax credit for the working poor. Friday night, Republican negotiators announced they would exclude those measures as payback for the president’s executive order on immigration, saying a surge of newly legalized workers would claim the credit, tax aides from both parties said.

(Weisman)

Really, this is what it comes to.

Then again, this is what Americans wanted, right? It’s what they voted for.

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Weisman, Jonathan. “Obama Threatens to Veto $440 Billion Tax Deal”. The New York Times. 25 November 2014.

The Shadow Over Kansas

The Capitol of Kansas, in Topeka.

Kansas will face a $279 million budget shortfall by July, far worse than state officials had thought before a new revenue forecast Monday that will force Gov. Sam Brownback and legislators to consider spending cuts.

Associated Press

The news only gets worse from there, you know.

Look, we are an American community.

Quick, someone tell the folks in Kansas. Wait, what’s that? They don’t care?

I realize Brownback has an “R” after his name, but the fact that Kansans actually re-elected this guy, despite the option of a credible and experienced challenger, and despite the disaster of his signature issue, is kind of amazing.

Of course, let’s not forget Art Laffer, the Republican economist who helped shape Brownback’s plan, who’s perhaps best known for his “Laffer Curve” which says tax cuts can pay for themselves. He, of course, feels vindicated, not because the Kansas plan is failing, but because Brownback won re-election regardless of his performance.

(Benen)

In this photo taken Sept. 6, 2014, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback speaks in Hutchinson, Kansas. The writing is on the wall for gay marriage bans in Kansas, Montana and South Carolina after federal appeals courts that oversee those states have made clear that keeping gay and lesbian couples from marrying is unconstitutional. But officials in the three states are refusing to allow same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses without a court order directing them to do so. It could be another month or more before the matter is settled. In a political campaign debate Monday, Brownback vowed to defend his state’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. A federal court hearing is scheduled for Friday.(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)As tempting as it might seem to rub our hands in curious satisfaction and chuckle deep in our throats like supervillains about to watch mindless, ant-like humanity destroy itself, the simple fact is that we’re Americans, not supervillains. And what Kansans are doing to themselves ought to be their own business, except, like masturbation, it becomes a problem when you visit your kinks on other people who don’t want anything to do with the mess you’re making.

And that’s the thing. Not every Kansan stays in Kansas, and the longer this goes on the more and more noticeable it will be when the young generation shows up in other states, with less education, and suffers in the job market. That is to say, even if we find some justification to say we’re just fine with the Sunflower State willfully squandering the futures of its youngest generation, everybody else is going to have to take up the slack.

We can’t just build a border fence and pen them in. That’s just not what Americans do.

But at the same time, these are the United States of America, after all. If general decency is insufficient, then think of the inconvenience this sort of thing might cause you in a future not so distant.

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Associated Press. “Kansas faces $279 million budget shortfall by summer”. KSN. 10 November 2014.

Benen, Steve. “Brownback’s economic failures start to look even worse”. msnbc. 11 November 2014.

Just a Bunch of Stuff on My Desktop (Madness Mix)

Too many punch lines. Too late for coffee.

Detail of illustration by Vishavjit Singh.Kansas gone mad (again).

The Flaming Lips gone mad (Miley Beatle Mix).

Minecraft madness.

A response to madness.

“Chipmunks Are Go!” by Madness.

Darrell Issa.

An Exercise in Futility

George W. BushIn a broader context, an easy way to remember the fundamental difference between liberals and conservatives is found in the words themselves. Historically, liberals have been for the advancement of liberty and the empowerment it brings. From Jesus to Muhammad and on through Wollstonecroft, Byron, Shelly, and into the twentieth century with Goldman, the idea has had to do with liberty and liberation.

Conservatives, on the other hand, wish to conserve. Specifically, they wish to conserve that precious resource known as authority. The rhetoric of conservatism is the same for toppled kings and queens as it is for senators in a decaying republic. I mean, think about it for a moment: when the Democrats were the conservatives, they were for slavery. Party names, affiliations, and outlooks change, but the fundamental principles against which they are measured remain more firmly fixed in the foundations of history.

For a couple of years, it was the love that dared not speak his name. In 2008, Republican candidates hardly ever mentioned the president still sitting in the White House. After the election, the G.O.P. did its best to shout down all talk about how we got into the mess we’re in, insisting that we needed to look forward, not back. And many in the news media played along, acting as if it was somehow uncouth for Democrats even to mention the Bush era and its legacy.

The truth, however, is that the only problem Republicans ever had with George W. Bush was his low approval rating. They always loved his policies and his governing style — and they want them back. In recent weeks, G.O.P. leaders have come out for a complete return to the Bush agenda, including tax breaks for the rich and financial deregulation. They’ve even resurrected the plan to cut future Social Security benefits.

The idea that the Republicans are looking back to Bush is an interesting suggestion. If nothing else, it would remind that the cycles of history are accelerating. Why bother with Reagan anymore? That system went bust; leave it to the Tea Party.

Paul Krugman suggests the GOP is addicted to Bush, (more…)