As Michelle Obama appears at a Houston fundraiser hosted by hedge fund billionaire John Arnold, PDiddie at Brains and Eggs wants to know what the difference is between Democrats who cozy up to Wall Street and Republicans.
Texas lawmakers can no longer put off tackling the state’s built-in annual budget deficit, House Speaker Joe Straus said Thursday while in El Paso.
That “built-in annual budget deficit” is what many of us have been referring to as a “structural deficit” for years now. And The Lege knew about it when they voted on it. Straus goes on to talk about how in 2006 it was the “exact..right thing to do”. But acknowledging the structural deficit isn’t what’s going to cause him problems, this is.
He added that since the Rainy Day Fund, projected to have about $7 billion by January 2013, “will not be the crutch that it’s been to date,” lawmakers must act to find solutions for the underperforming Texas Franchise Tax, also known as the “margins tax.”
“We have no choice, unless we want to continue to try to grow our population and continue to shrink spending significantly,” Straus said. “I think at some point you can’t cut your way to prosperity.”[Emphasis added]
Saying that is one thing, getting that done is a whole ‘nother can of worms.
Let’s break that statement open. If we can’t “cut” our way to prosperity, does that mean that the opposite might be true, that we can spend our way to prosperity? At the least, in “GOP-speak”, that means that there will need to be new revenue added. Which sounds a lot like raising taxes, as Jason Embry points our referring to Straus’ statement, “And I think MQS’s head might have just exploded“. (MQS, for those who don’t know, is MIchael Quinn Sullivan, who runs a corporate-funded PAC that funds right-wing legislative candidates in Texas).
This will play into the theme that many on the far-right in the Texas GOP already have of Straus – that he’s a moderate. Of course in the Texas GOP there are no moderates anymore. Which points to other problems with what Straus said. To stop shirinking spending he must get a “new revenue”/tax bill through the House, through the Senate, and signed by the Governor. That means there will need to be a more moderate Texas House, a more moderate Texas Senate, and a more moderate Governor. That’s not going to happen in 2012. There may be some moderation in the House, but not in the Senate or Governor’s office.
What Straus’ motivations might be in saying this now is for others to ascertain. The political reality in Texas is that little is likely to change until the political leaders in our state change. And that will only change when the people of Texas decide to make that change. It would seem that if the Speaker is saying this then so are others inside the Texas GOP. And the proof might be that some of the more right-wing House members will be getting challenged from the left in the GOP Primary next year. And Straus may need those challengers from the left to win to keep the gavel in 2013.
There’s been a lot of talk about trying to define what the “Occupy Wall Street” (OWS) movement is about. It’s mostly in the traditional media (TradMed), who cannot relate to economic realities of the movement. All they know if left/right, D/R, Liberal/Conservative, he said/she said reporting. And when that frame is not apparent, they’re lost.
Matt Taibbi has wrtitten two really good articles recently that help flesh out what this is about. It’s a movement that’s not for one side or the other, it’s not for one party over another, it’s an “animal” that our country hasn’t wrestled with in a while.
And it’s making the powerful uncomfortable. Why Occupy Wall Street Is Bigger Than Left vs. Right.
The Rush Limbaughs of the world are very comfortable with a narrative that has Noam Chomsky, MoveOn and Barack Obama on one side, and the Tea Party and Republican leaders on the other. The rest of the traditional media won’t mind that narrative either, if it can get enough “facts” to back it up. They know how to do that story and most of our political media is based upon that Crossfire paradigm of left-vs-right commentary shows and NFL Today-style team-vs-team campaign reporting.
What nobody is comfortable with is a movement in which virtually the entire spectrum of middle class and poor Americans is on the same page, railing against incestuous political and financial corruption on Wall Street and in Washington. The reality is that Occupy Wall Street and the millions of middle Americans who make up the Tea Party are natural allies and should be on the same page about most of the key issues, and that’s a story our media won’t want to or know how to handle.
Both traditional constituencies want these companies off the public teat and back swimming on their own in the cruel seas of the free market, where they will inevitably be drowned in their corruption and greed, if they don’t reform immediately. This is a major implicit complaint of the OWS protests and it should absolutely strike a nerve with Tea Partiers, many of whom were talking about some of the same things when they burst onto the scene a few years ago.
The banks know this. They know they have no “natural” constituency among voters, which is why they spend such fantastic amounts of energy courting the mainstream press and such huge sums lobbying politicians on both sides of the aisle.
The only way the Goldmans and Citis and Bank of Americas can survive is if they can suck up popular political support indirectly, either by latching onto such vague right-populist concepts as “limited government” and “free-market capitalism” (ironic, because none of them would survive ten minutes without the federal government’s bailouts and other protections) or, alternatively, by presenting themselves as society’s bulwark against communism, lefty extremism, Noam Chomsky, etc.
The best way for the 1% to keep stealing from the rest of us, the 99%, is to keep us fighting amongst ourselves. And as Taibbi makes clear in his next article it’s not jealousy of the rich that’s at the heart of this, it’s that they cheated and are getting away with it. Wall Street Isn’t Winning – It’s Cheating.
Think about it: there have always been rich and poor people in America, so if this is about jealousy, why the protests now? The idea that masses of people suddenly discovered a deep-seated animus/envy toward the rich – after keeping it strategically hidden for decades – is crazy.
Where was all that class hatred in the Reagan years, when openly dumping on the poor became fashionable? Where was it in the last two decades, when unions disappeared and CEO pay relative to median incomes started to triple and quadruple?
The answer is, it was never there. If anything, just the opposite has been true. Americans for the most part love the rich, even the obnoxious rich. And in recent years, the harder things got, the more we’ve obsessed over the wealth dream. As unemployment skyrocketed, people tuned in in droves to gawk at Evrémonde-heiresses like Paris Hilton, or watch bullies like Donald Trump fire people on TV.
Moreover, the worse the economy got, the more being a millionaire or a billionaire somehow became a qualification for high office, as people flocked to voting booths to support politicians with names like Bloomberg and Rockefeller and Corzine, names that to voters symbolized success and expertise at a time when few people seemed to have answers. At last count, there were 245 millionaires in congress, including 66 in the Senate.
And we hate the rich? Come on. Success is the national religion, and almost everyone is a believer. Americans love winners. But that’s just the problem. These guys on Wall Street are not winning – they’re cheating. And as much as we love the self-made success story, we hate the cheater that much more.[Emphasis added]
In this country, we cheer for people who hit their own home runs – not shortcut-chasing juicers like Bonds and McGwire, Blankfein and Dimon.
That’s why it’s so obnoxious when people say the protesters are just sore losers who are jealous of these smart guys in suits who beat them at the game of life. This isn’t disappointment at having lost. It’s anger because those other guys didn’t really win. And people now want the score overturned.
He lists the “Wall Street…cheat codes” as:
Get Out Of Jail Free
It’s unjust, and no one like’s a cheater. Much less a cheater that gets off scot-free.
Several years ago, Senators Max Baucus and Charles Grassley asked the Congressional Budget Office to whip up an analysis of income inequality in America. It took awhile to piece together, but the report’s now out, and the picture’s quite stark. The incomes of the wealthiest 1 percent have nearly tripled since 1979. Everyone else? Not so much.
The Occupy Wall Street movement has captured much the nation’s attention with a clear message: A U.S. economy driven by the interests of business and the wealthy has generated increasingly unequal economic outcomes where the top 1 percent did exceptionally well but the vast majority did not do well at all.
If low taxes, trickle-down economics, was the answer then we should all be rich. It isn’t and we aren’t. Our economy is profits first, and people second, and it shows. It’s time for that to change and that’s a lot about what the OWS movement is about. It’s time to end the injustice and the rising inequality.
We are all Texans, and we have great respect for each of you and the offices you hold. At the same time, we all also share grave and growing concerns about the State’s stubborn refusal to date to test all the evidence in the Skinner case. Executing Mr. Skinner without testing all the relevant evidence would suggest official indifference to the possibility of error in this case and needlessly undermine public confidence in Texas’s criminal justice system.
We believe that the death penalty is an appropriate punishment for certain crimes, and we understand that the DNA testing might well show that Mr. Skinner is deserving of that punishment. But we are also steadfast in our belief that when it comes to the ultimate penalty, we must do everything in our power to ensure certainty before taking the irreversible step of carrying out an execution. We are not alone in this view. There is widespread public support in Texas for using DNA testing, whenever it is available, to ensure the greatest possible accuracy in our criminal justice system. As you all know, in May the Legislature enacted reforms to Texas’s post-conviction DNA testing law precisely to eliminate procedural barriers that in some cases – like Mr. Skinner’s – had gotten in the way of the search for the truth. That legislation passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, not least because polls show that eighty-five percent of Texans agree that prisoners should have broad access to DNA testing.
Testing the DNA evidence in Mr. Skinner’s case is not only common sense, it is a public safety issue of great consequence. This month’s exoneration of Michael Morton, after 25 years of wrongful imprisonment, highlights why state officials should consent to DNA testing when untested evidence is available. In Mr. Morton’s case, the DNA testing not only proved his innocence, but identified the true perpetrator of the crime.[Emphasis added]
In Williamson County we have become intimately involved with this “public safety issue of great conesquence”. To be clear this is not about the death penalty, this is about insuring justice is done. That is after all what our criminal justice system is supposed to be about.
Former Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson and his assistant Mike Davis will have to testify about the conviction of Michael Morton 25 years ago. Via KXAN, Ex-Morton prosecutor must testify.
There is another court victory for a Williamson County man who served nearly 25 years in jail for a murder he didn’t commit.
Michael Morton’s lawyers asked the state’s top criminal court to let them question former Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson, who is now a state district judge in Georgetown. Late Wednesday, the court agreed.
On Monday, State District Judge Sid Harle ordered Anderson and his former employee, attorney Mike Davis, to testify. He ruled in favor of last week’s filing by Morton and his attorneys that sought to deny “Motions to Quash” by Anderson and Davis.
The decision means that Anderson and Davis must give depositions within the next seven days about the murder case.
And while Anderson had requested to not have to answer questions about the Morton case, the Court of Criminal Appeals rejected his request. That means Anderson will have to sit down with Morton’s lawyers, which could happen as early as next week.
Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry says he wants a huge tax break for the rich, and he doesn’t care what it means for income inequality.
Rick Perry announced on Tuesday that if elected president he would slash the corporate tax rate to 20 percent from 35 and give everyone the option of paying a flat income tax rate of 20 percent.
He also would try to encourage U.S. companies who have stored $1.4 trillion overseas to move their profits back to the United States by allowing them to pay 5.25 percent in taxes at first, according to Reuters.
The plan, if enacted, would dramatically reduce the tax burdens of the wealthiest people in the United States, saving millions of dollars for some, while raising taxes for poor and middle-class people who opt into the plan.
“I don’t care about that,” Perry said of the increased economic inequality that would result from the tax plan in an interview with The New York Times. “If that’s what comes, I’ll take that criticism.”
Income inequality has been rising in the United States for the past three decades, as the top one-percent has claimed an increasing share of national income growth, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Indeed, the top one-percent claimed 23.5 percent of all national income in 2007: its highest share of the national income since 1928.
There is “ample circumstantial evidence” that the congressional and state representative redistricting maps signed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry had not only the effect but the intent of limiting the voting power of Hispanic voters, Justice Department lawyers said in a court filing late Tuesday.
Federal lawyers contended in the newest filing that there is “ample circumstantial evidence of a discriminatory purpose with regard to both the State House and Congressional plans” and that in the new maps nearly half a million fewer Hispanics would live in districts where they would have the ability to elect a candidate of their choosing.
They also say the only way to get the truth is in court.
Justice Department officials said the only way this could be settled is for the facts to come out in court.
“Deviations from procedural and substantive standards, as well as racially-charged contemporaneous statements, also provide significant evidence of a discriminatory purpose,” DOJ lawyers argue. “The State has presented little evidence concerning the intent of the proposed plan, but the legislative staff who crafted the map and legislators closely involved in the process have provided conflicting testimony. Assessing the credibility of these witnesses and resolving other disputed factual issues cannot be performed until trial.”
For more on the Texas GOP’s attacks on Hispanic voters, check out these two recent releases from the Texas Democratic Party.
As George P. Bush visits EL Paso today with other legislators as part of their Hispanic outreach tour, likely missing from their stump speech are the facts that Hispanic Republicans have purged tens of thousands of Latinos from their legislative districts and voted to disenfranchise tens of thousands more. The Department of Justice pointed to four of the districts represented by members of the Hispanic Republican Conference (Torres/HD 33, Aliseda/HD 35, Pena/HD 41, and Garza/HD 117) as violating the Voting Rights Act when refusing to pre-clear the state house maps.
“Hispanic Republicans have made it clear that their outreach plan is to take Latinos out of their districts and make it harder for them to vote,” said Senator Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso). “The Republican voter suppression legislation could disenfranchise close to 30,000 voters currently registered in El Paso County. It’s more appropriate to call their outreach tour a disenfranchisement tour.”
Together, the six members of the Hispanic Republican Conference kicked out 180,536 Latinos from their districts. Further, all six members voted for the voter suppression legislation which could disenfranchise 73,375 registered Latinos in the counties they represent. In El Paso County, 29,908 individuals – including 19,108 Hispanics – lack a state issued driver’s license or identification card.
Click the link above included in the list are over 11,000 removed from HD-52 here in Williamson County, represented by Larry Gonzales.
Today, the Texas Democratic Party sent an open records request to Rep. Larry Gonzales (click here). In an interview with Austin’s YNN News regarding SB 14, the voter ID bill, Gonzales unequivocally stated that no one will be disenfranchised once all forms of ID allowable under SB 14 are factored in. The TDP is requesting the data Gonzales possesses to demonstrate his claim, pursuant to the state open records law, Tex. Gov’t Code Ann. Secs. 552.001 to 552.353.
In the YNN “Capital Tonight” interview airing October 14th, in regard to the over 600,000 voters the Texas Secretary of State reports lack the state-issued driver’s license or identification card, Gonzales stated:
“What the Democrats aren’t taking into consideration is, the numbers they saw do not include all 7 forms of identification. It only includes a few of them. We feel confident that once all the forms are included, no one will be disenfranchised and people will have access to the polls, and remember, it’s all about voter integrity in the first place.”
“Rep. Gonzales made a bold claim in defense of a bill that will disenfranchise his own constituents,” said TDP Spokeswoman Kirsten Gray. “His explanation just doesn’t pass the smell test and he’s obviously desperate to defend his purely partisan support for this discriminatory bill.”
The Republican voter ID law that Gonzales is defending is currently being reviewed for preclearance under the Voting Rights Act by the Department of Justice.
We know that nearly 604,000 Texans who are currently registered to vote have neither a Texas Driver’s License or Personal Identification Card (form of ID), according to documentation provided to the Department of Justice by the Texas Secretary of State.
It’s pretty clear that the Texas GOP sees diluting, if not outright decreasing, the Hispanic vote in Texas as their key to victory in the future.
It should be well understood by now how GOP fiscal schemes work. Cut taxes on the wealthy, run up massive debt and deficits, use it as an excuse to cut social programs, and screw the poor, workers, and the middle class. No matter who is the GOP nominee in 2012, no matter the “compassionate conservative” Luntz-label attached to it, that is the plan.
An analysis released today by the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association found that the state’s much-maligned business tax accomplished some of the Legislature’s original goals but fell short elsewhere.
The shortcomings of the margins tax are well known. Overhauled in 2006 as part of a court-ordered school finance fix, the tax failed to raise anywhere near the revenue that had been projected. In 2008, the first year the revised tax was collected, it brought in $1.4 billion less than expected, a gap that widened as the economy tanked.
But the business-backed research group noted that the disappointing collections actually put the tax better in line with what other states levy on their businesses.
“Had the margin tax generated the $6 billion annually that was initially forecast, Texas would have had the nation’s sixth highest tax, just above business-unfriendly California in seventh place, and almost 50 percent higher than the national average,” according to the report.
Boiled-down what they mean is that because the tax isn’t performing as forecasted it’s good, if it had performed as forecasted it would be bad. The 2006 GOP tax swap scheme has created a huge hole in the state’s budget by lowering taxes on (some) businesses, while property taxes are being raised back to where they were in 2006. It has also created a structural deficit that has allowed government services, that help keep Texans out of poverty, to be cut, and they want us to believe that’s a good thing.
The state estimated the margins tax would raise almost $12 billion in the 2008-09 budget. It actually brought in $8.7 billion in its first two years.
Earlier this year, legislative leaders highlighted the need to reform the tax, but there was little appetite for tackling another complicated issue while grappling with a massive budget shortfall.
Lawmakers have promised to discuss how to fix the margins tax leading up the 2013 legislative session.
No, there was little appetite for doing anything that might raise revenues and thus mitigate the worst of the cuts. The fact that the underperformance of the margins tax was a huge driver of that massive shortfall was blithely ignored by nearly every Republican in Austin. I guarantee you, the more Republicans that are in the Lege in 2013, the more they will continue to pretend that Texas doesn’t really have a revenue problem at all.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, talking to a business group about state finances and the outlook for the state’s main business levy — the new business margins tax: “We have no idea what this new tax is going to produce.”
But the GOP knew that this tax scheme was not going to produce from the start. It was the plan.
The main selling point of a flat tax is it’s purported fairness and simplicity. Our current income tax system is progressive, meaning the more you make the more you pay, and those at or near poverty pay little if anything in income taxes. But those near poverty pay a much higher percentage of their income then the wealthy in payroll, sales, and property taxes.
There’s a theme developing in the tax debate that a flat tax, like Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 or another version that Gov Perry’s now talking about, is simpler than a system of progressively higher, or graduated rates.
Not so. Both can be as simple or complicated as you like. What complicates the tax code is not the rate structure, it’s the exemptions, loopholes, credits, and so on.
A flat tax has an immediate appeal because it sounds so simple. But as the link above (to a NYT article) points out, most flat schemes exempt certain groups, like the lowest income households, or, if they’re a sales tax, essentials like food. Even the Cain camp is now saying they’re going to tweak their plan in the light of new information. And “tweak”=more complicated.
Conversely, a progressive system, where tax rates rise with income, can be perfectly simple and even administered automatically, as my former White House colleague Austan Goolsbee has pointed out.
Economists often like the flat tax because of its efficiency advantages—I’m hoping to write up something on that soon—it’s not as clear cut as it looks, I think—but that supposed advantage has to be weighed against equity/fairness concerns.
My point is that you shouldn’t be fooled into believing that any tax structure is truly simple until you’re intimately familiar with the details. Complicating factors can and do and will enter any tax code that is written by people, whether it’s 9-9-9, a 17% flat rate, or any number of graduated rates.
The flat tax is a fraud. It raises taxes on the poor and lowers them on the rich.
The Republicans’ push for a flat tax masks what’s really going on.
Remember: The top 1 percent is now raking in over 20 percent of the nation’s total income and owns over 35 percent of the nation’s wealth. Under almost anyone’s view of fairness, these are grotesque portions. They’re especially large relative to what they were as recently as thirty years ago, when the top 1 percent raked in under 10 percent. And these huge portions at the top continue to increase.
Meanwhile, the top tax bracket is now 35 percent — the lowest it’s been in three decades. Between the end of World War II and 1980 it never fell below 70 percent.
Simple fairness requires three things: More tax brackets at the top, higher rates in each bracket, and the treatment of all sources of income (capital gains included) exactly the same.
Not only fairness demands it, but also fiscal prudence. A truly progressive tax would bring in tens of billions of dollars a year from the people at the top who are in the best position to afford it.
Regressives are pushing the flat tax as a smokescreen. They’d rather not have anyone talk about the unfairness and fiscal absurdity of the current system.
Rather than merely oppose the flat tax, sensible people should push for a truly progressive tax – starting with a top rate of 70 percent on that portion of anyone’s income exceeding $5 million, from whatever source.
And that is the tax fight we’ve been having for 40 years. The rich don’t want to pay taxes. They want to gut the programs, (education, health care, retirement security, etc..), that made America a more equal country.
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS AND SPECIAL ELECTIONS
NOVEMBER 8, 2011
EARLY VOTING SCHEDULE
Monday, October 24 through Wednesday, November 2
8am to 6pm
No Sunday Voting
Thursday, November 3 and Friday, November 4
7am to 7pm
Main Location: Williamson County Inner Loop Annex,
301 SE Inner Loop
Branch Locations: Anderson Mill Limited DistrictPat Bryson Municipal Hall 11500 El Salido Pkwy, 201 N. Brushy St.,
Cedar Park Public LibraryCedar Park Randalls 550 Discovery Blvd., 1400 Cypress Creek Rd.,
Cedar Park Cedar Park
Parks & Recreation Admin. Bldg. Cowan Creek Amenity Center 1101 N. College St., 1433 Cool Springs Way,
McConico Building Round Rock Randalls
301 W. Bagdad St., 2051 Gattis School Rd,
Round Rock Round Rock
Brushy Creek Community Center J.B. and Hallie Jester Annex 16318 Great Oaks Dr., 1801 E. Old Settlers Blvd.,
Round Rock Round Rock
Taylor City Hall 400 Porter St.,
MOBILE – TEMPORARY LOCATIONS
Monday, October 24 through Wednesday, November 2
10am to 6pm
No Sunday Voting
*Thursday, November 3 and Friday, November 4
*7am to 7pm
Oct 24, Monday: Seton Medical Center Williamson, 201 Seton Parkway, Round Rock
Oct 25, Tuesday: Granger City Hall, 214 E. Davilla, Granger
Oct 26, Wednesday: RR Higher Education Center, 1555 University Blvd., Round Rock
Oct 27, Thursday: Clairmont Retirement Community, 12463 Los Indios Trail, Austin
Oct 28, Friday: Liberty Hill Annex, 3407 RR 1869, Liberty Hill
Oct 29, Saturday: Liberty Hill Annex, 3407 RR 1869, Liberty Hill
Oct 31, Monday: Jarrell Memorial Park, 1651 CR 305, Jarrell
Nov 1, Tuesday: Hutto City Hall, 401 W. Front St., Hutto
Nov 2, Wednesday: Hutto City Hall, 401 W. Front St., Hutto
*Nov 3, Thursday: Hutto City Hall, 401 W. Front St., Hutto
*Nov 4, Friday: Hutto City Hall, 401 W. Front St., Hutto