Obama’s Millionaire Tax won’t Provide Serious Deficit Reduction

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 18th, 2011

Deficit Reduction is Important Enough to Raise Taxes but not Important Enough to Cut Spending

Hmmm, a Democrat deficit reduction package.  I wonder what that could mean. Spending cuts?  Or tax hikes?  Well liberal Democrats like to tax and spend.  And Barack Obama is a liberal Democrat.  So it must be tax hikes (see Obama to offer his own debt reduction package by Jim Kuhnhenn, Associated Press, posted 9/18/2011 on Yahoo! News).

Administration officials see the task of attending to deficits as necessary but not necessarily urgent, compared with the need to revive the economy and increase employment.

What do you know about that?  It’s tax hikes.  What a surprise.

Translation?  It’s important enough to raise taxes to cut the deficit.  But not important enough to cut spending.  In other words, it will be government as usual.  More Keynesian ‘stimulus’ spending.  Which is code for rewarding political friends and allies.  With taxpayer money.  And more class warfare.  Blaming the Obama recession on Republican tactics.  Namely, responsible governance.

The White House signaled its approach Saturday by highlighting a proposal in the president’s plan that would set a minimum tax rate for taxpayers earning more than $1 million.

The measure — Obama is going to call it the “Buffett Rule” for billionaire investor Warren Buffett — is designed to prevent millionaires from using tax-avoidance schemes to pay lower rates than middle-income taxpayers. Buffett has complained that he and other wealthy people have been “coddled long enough” and shouldn’t be paying a smaller share of their income in federal taxes than middle-class taxpayers.

Coddled?  You tell me if we’re coddling these people.

Compare the numbers.  A $60,000 middle class salary pays a current top marginal tax rate of 25%.  That’s somewhere around $11,000 in federal income taxes.  One of these coddled ‘Warren Buffet‘ millionaires may earn $40 million on a half billion dollar investment portfolio.  Taxed at 15% that’s a capital gains tax of $6 million dollars.  So one ‘coddled’ millionaire pays the equivalent of 3,636 middle class taxpayers.

If you look at it this way, rationally, without your head up your keister, you can only arrive at one conclusion.  You don’t want to raise tax rates on the wealthy.  You want to breed them.  With tax policy that encourages the making of more Warren Buffet-class millionaires.

For each new ‘coddled’ millionaire that’s another 3,636 middle class people that could receive significant tax relief.  How?  Lower tax rates across the board.  The middle class pay less.  And more millionaires pay more tax dollars.  The ultimate goal of tax policy.  If you’re not a liberal Democrat, that is.  Whose ultimate goal is, of course, class warfare.  So you can advance policy that is detrimental to the economy.  But beneficial to growing government.  And rewards political friends and allies.  With taxpayer money.

Business Owners Understand their Businesses and Fiscal Policy and are Tiring of being Cash Piñatas

If you’re of the older persuasion you’ve no doubt heard these arguments before.  And after hearing them all these years they don’t fool you anymore.  If you ever were in the first place.  Still, it doesn’t stop them from trying (see Sorry, But The Republican Arguments Against A “Millionaire’s Tax” Are Just Preposterous by Henry Blodget posted 9/18/2011 on Business Insider).

The rest of the Republican counter-arguments are just silly, self-serving, or obstructionist. Let’s take them one by one, ending with the one that seems most persuasive to reasonable people.

“Taxes are a form of theft.”  This is just ridiculous. It’s like arguing that paper money is illegal.

Government is a necessary evil.  Government takes money earned by others.  To pay for public goods.  Everyone understands this.  What people don’t understand is the bastardization of the meaning of public goods.

A public good is a thing that an individual can’t buy.  An individual can’t buy an army and navy to protect himself.  Or herself.  A private individual can’t buy a fresh water and sewage system for himself.  Or herself.  These are public goods.  We pay for these things with taxes.  Everyone pays a little to enjoy the benefits of these massive and costly things.

But we can feed ourselves.  Provide for our own retirement.  Pay for our own healthcare.  We can do these things.  It may be harder for some than others.  But it can be done.  So these things are not public goods.  But government today treats them as public goods.  Taxing us far more than they should.  So they can curry favor with voting groups.

So buying votes with tax dollars may be legal in the strictest sense.  But it is closer to theft than legitimate tax policy.  And printing paper money to fund even more of this spending is generational theft.  A millionaire tax just facilitates more government spending for things government shouldn’t be paying for.

Here is a list of the arguments Blodget says are typically made against raising taxes on millionaires.  Which he goes on to repute.  But I think the arguments speak for themselves.

  • Raising taxes on millionaires will kill their ambition and discourage them from working
  • Raising taxes on millionaires will punish successful people for being successful
  • Raising taxes is always a terrible idea–the problem is spending
  • Taxes are a form of theft: The government has no right to take our money away
  • Raising taxes in a weak economy will further weaken the economy

These are all true.  People like to point to that top marginal tax rate of 1950s when the economy was booming.  But no one paid it.  People hid their earnings in tax shelters to avoid that 90% rate.  Contrary to popular belief on the Left, they didn’t whistle a happy tune and pay it.  They fought it.  And won.  It was a joke.

High taxes do influence rich people.  They will redirect their wealth from income producing.  To wealth preservation.  When tax rates are high.  Just like middle class people do with their 401(k)s.  When they approach retirement.

If a small business earns $1+ million a year, and the owner “passes through” all this income and pays taxes on it, Obama’s “millionaire’s tax” will encourage this owner to do the following:

  • Pay him or herself less
  • Hire more people or otherwise reinvest the money in the business (so it won’t be taxed)

These moves, in turn, should do two things:

  • Help create new jobs (which will help the overall economy)
  • Help grow the owner’s business, thus increasing his or her net worth

Yeah, it could work out like that.  Or it could go another way.  The small business owner can look at this tax policy as a sign that government has no intention of cutting their irresponsible spending.  Which means deficits will only continue to grow.  Which means there will be more taxes in the future.  As there will have to be if they don’t cut spending.  And baseline budgeting keeps increasing that spending every year.  Not to mention all those off-budget spending obligations.

Now business owners live in the real world.  They have to pay payroll taxes with every payroll.  And deal with other taxes and regulatory costs on a daily basis.  They don’t have the luxury of sitting back and prognosticating how tax policy should make business owners behave.  Instead, they’re acting ahead of policy.  They’re listening to this debate and preparing for the worst.  Even before tax policy changes.  Because if they don’t it may be too late when it does.

So this kind of talk is already keeping them from hiring new people.  They are deleveraging left and right.  Because they, unlike government, understand their businesses.  And fiscal policy.  They see what they are to government.  Big, fat cash piñatas.  And they’re tired of being whacked.

They Need to Tax Millionaires because They’re Making Spending Commitments no Amount of Taxation can Sustain

A millionaire tax.  That’s where it starts.  But it’s not where it will end.

People need to understand why government ‘needs’ to tax millionaires.  It’s not because they haven’t been paying their fair share.  It’s because of record deficits.  And record debt.  Caused by record spending.  Just look at the numbers.

Adjusted for inflation, Ronald Reagan‘s largest deficit was $442.614 billion.  George W. Bush‘s largest deficit was $462.56 billion.  In Obama’s first year in office his deficit was $1,416 billion.  In his second year it was $1,294 billion.  They project it to be $1,650 billion in 2011.  And one thing we know about Barack Obama is that he’s not going into the history books as a tax cutter.  So these deficits aren’t from tax cuts.  They’re from spending.

Because of baseline budgeting this spending stays on the books.  And it will only grow.  And all those off-budget spending obligations are growing right along with it.  Such as the trillions the government owes to the Medicare and Social Security trust Funds.  And on top of all of that is Obamacare just waiting to add to our fiscal woes.  This is why they ‘need’ to tax millionaires.  Because the government is making spending commitments no amount of taxation can sustain.  So they will start with millionaires.  Work their way through the middle class.  Then they’ll have no choice but to start rationing benefits.  Followed by austerity.  Then the anarchy comes.  Like in Greece.

This is why we should not add a millionaire tax.  It will not address the spending problem.  And will only facilitate more spending.  Delaying the inevitable day of reckoning.  And making it ever more painful.

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President Obama Submits his 2012 Budget

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 14th, 2011

Deficit Reduction without Touching Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security?

President submits his 2012 budget.  The president says it’ll cut the deficit.  Make America more competitive.  Create jobs.  Restore vigorous economic activity.  And make America dominant again.  Two years of his policy have failed to do any of this.  But it’ll be different this time.  Why?  I haven’t the foggiest idea.  I can only guess that the president is counting on a bunch of poor memories.

Deficit reduction.  Really?  Well, here’re the numbers (see Budget Plan Marks Start of Long Fight on Spending by Corey Boles posted 2/14/2011 on The Wall Street Journal).

Mr. Obama’s budget offers up more than $1 trillion in deficit reductions over a 10-year period—three-quarters coming from spending cuts and the balance from tax increases or the elimination of existing tax breaks.

That’s $100 billion per year.  That sounds like a lot.  But in the first year when we cut $100 billion from the deficit, we’re still adding another $900 billion to the national debt.  That’s more borrowing.  And more interest to pay.  Sort of like living on your credit cards.  And just like the balance on your credit cards never seems to get smaller, neither will our federal debt.

And the proposed Obama budget reductions don’t come close to the $4 trillion in savings recommended by a White House-appointed deficit commission. This is largely because the president’s budget shies away from pushing for any substantial changes to the entitlement programs Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security. Nor does it include a specific outline for overhauling either the corporate or individual tax codes.

Just under half of the federal budget covers the big three: Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security.  Add in interest on the debt and you’re at about half of the budget.  Defense spending is at about 20%.  Discretionary spending (the kind of spending that the law allows us to cut) is at about 20%.  In other words, we’re making small cuts in about 40% of the budget.  While the 50% that is currently growing out of control (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and interest on the debt) we’re not cutting at all.  In fact, this 50% is growing.  And Obama is increasing spending still.

“My budget makes investments that can help America win this competition and transform our economy, and it does so fully aware of the very difficult fiscal situation we face,” Mr. Obama said in his budget message.

His budget would boost funding for the Department of Education to $77 billion from the $64 billion it received in fiscal 2010. The money would be used to increase education competitiveness and increase the number of science, engineering and math teachers in schools by 100,000.

More of the same.  Tax and spend.  And for what?  The kind of spending he’s proposing has never paid the dividends promised.  If it has there would be no need to include it in the 2012 budget.  Because they would already have delivered those promised dividends.  But they haven’t.  Just like they never have.  And never will.  Government spending has never caused the great economic expansions in our history.  Cuts in the tax rates triggered those expansions.  And less government spending.

History doesn’t include any success stories of tax and spend Keynesian economics.  But that is exactly what this budget is.

Baseline Budgeting makes Spending Increases Spending Cuts

And what about that deficit reduction?  Is it real?  No (see President Obama’s Budget – Increased Spending and Taxes by Brian Darling posted 2/14/2011 on REDSTATE).

The fact of the matter is that the President is using fuzzy math to create an inflated budgetary baseline (in other words he has inflated projected spending over a 10 year period) so that he can claim cuts that don’t exist.  Today is the President’s day to pitch his plan, but the Obama Administration has to answer why his baseline is so inflated and why he is planning to raise taxes at a time of economic pain.

Baseline budgeting.  That’s the fuzzy math that says how we can count a spending increase as a spending cut.  Here’s how.  I project I’m going to spend $250,000 for a new house next year.  That’s $250,000 in new spending.  Then I change my mind.  Instead, I decide to spend only $175,000 on a new house.  In the real world, that’s new spending of $175,000.  In baseline budgeting, that’s a cut of $50,000.  Because I’m cutting the increase in the amount I’m going to spend.  And the 2012 budget is full of this stuff.

More Obama math.  Add in a $3.3 trillion in program adjustments and $642 billion in debt services on adjustments.  Add in all of these projections to the baseline and you have adjusted the baseline from $5.5 trillion to $9.39 trillion in debt from 2012-2021.  That is how you adjust debt upward to make it look like the President’s budget is cutting spending.  You inflate projected spending over the next 10 years then increase spending at a lower rate than the baseline, you can create a “cut.”

This is smoke and mirrors.  To count huge spending increases as spending cuts, you just say that spending was originally ‘baselined’ at some ridiculously higher number.  And then you sneak in a big tax increase.

On taxes, the President has hidden a massive increase in the gas tax.  There is a line item in the President’s budget summary tables titled “Bipartisan financing for Transportation Trust Fund” that adds up to $328 billion from 2012-2021.  In the President’s Bipartisan Debt Commission Report, they recommended a 15 cent increase in the gas tax.  The President’s budget seems to assume that his commission’s report is implemented by Congress and send to his desk.  This is an implicit endorsement of a massive increase in the price of gas at the pump in the form of increasing the federal gas tax from $18.4 cents.  If this idea does not pass, then you have a $328 billion shortfall in the projected transportation budget.

Hello $4/gallon gasoline.  And when Republicans try to prevent this tax increase from being implemented, the Democrats will call it an irresponsible tax cut.  For the rich, of course.

Tax and Spend, over Promise and under Deliver 

It gets old.  The same old politics.  Tax and spend.  Over promise.  And under deliver.  Banking on Americans having poor memories.  And that a lot of young new voters who haven’t heard the lies before show up at the polls.  Because the ‘get out the vote’ crowd will tell them “yes they can.”  And they will.  Breathe new life into failed, Keynesian economics.  And make the final reckoning ever worse.

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Repeal Obamacare – Cut the Deficit, Pay for the Bush Tax Cuts, Stimulate the Economy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 1st, 2010

Obamacare – Bold and Audacious, but Against the Will of the American People

Most Democrats have accepted that they will lose the House this Tuesday.  And that they have lost touch with America.  Some are scratching their heads about when this happened.  Others are fairly sure.  They point to when they governed against the will of the American people (see Grim Dems await huge House losses by Alex Isenstadt appearing 10/31/2010 on www.politico.com).

There is ongoing debate within Democratic circles about when, exactly, the party lost its handle on the electoral environment. Some consultants say they realized they lost the House in early October, when it finally became apparent that incumbents couldn’t move their poll numbers.

But others say the electoral map hardened this spring, after the House passed a health care bill that remains deeply unpopular among voters. Democratic campaign officials say it is no accident that there are few Democrats in moderate-to-conservative districts who have promoted their support for the health care measure on the campaign trail, and most don’t even acknowledge it.

Yes, Obamacare.  That was just a little too much like the bridge at Arnhem.  That was the bridge made famous in the World War II movie A Bridge too Far.  It was a bold and audacious plan by Bernard Montgomery.  As it turned out, too bold and too audacious.  The British 1st Airborne Division almost fought to the last man.  It suffered some 75% attrition.  The 1st Airborne Division was no longer a factor in World War II after Arnhem.  Like Montgomery at Arnhem, the Democrats have reached too far with the bold and audacious Obamacare.  We know it.  The Republicans know it.  Even those Democrats who voted for it know it; Obamacare is conspicuous by its absence in their campaigns this election season.   The only question now is how many Democrats won’t be going back to Washington after the elections.

Obamacare – A Big Lurch to the Left, Bankrupting our Children

Obama is not on the ballot this year, but people will be voting against him all the same.  He lied.  He campaigned as a centrist.  And then governed as the most liberal president ever.  Government spending exploded.  Stimulus.  Bailouts.  None of which moved the unemployment numbers.  They just made the economic future bleaker.  Then came Obamacare.  The bill too far.  Which was seismic (see Republicans Predict Obama Rebuff in Election; Democrats Foresee Surprise by Heidi Przybyla posted 10/31/2010 on www.bloomberg.com).

Barbour, governor of Mississippi, said the election is a referendum on Obama’s health care and economic policies that represent the “biggest lurch to the left in American political history.”

With control of the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives, the Democrats spent like there was no tomorrow.  And for some of them, there won’t be.  Deficit spending is projected at approximately 2,000% greater than Ronald Reagan’s deficit spending.  And Reagan was bankrupting our children.  Apparently, Democrat math is different than Republican math.

Repeal Obamacare, Make the Bush Tax Cuts Permanent AND Cut the Deficit – Yes We Can

With the loss of the House imminent, the Democrats are wagging their collective finger at the Republicans.

Kaine [Democratic National Committee Chairman] said Democratic losses would force House Republicans to vote for unpopular spending cuts and tax increases in order to uphold a pledge to voters to trim the budget deficit by $100 billion next year.

“The Republicans will be forced to govern,” said Kaine. Republicans will face a difficult choice on whether to keep former President George W. Bush’s tax cuts for all Americans or to end them for those earning $250,000 a year or more, as Obama has proposed, Kaine said.

All right, let’s say the Obamacare portion of Obama’s projected annual $4.125 trillion deficit is $1 trillion (close to what CBO scored it to be).  Keeping the Bush tax cuts (according to Obama) would cost about $70 billion per year (see Barack Obama Outspends George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan Combined from this same website).  A pledge to cut the deficit by $100 billion?  The math seems pretty easy to me.  Repeal Obamacare.  Make the Bush tax cuts permanent.  And cut the deficit by NOT spending the other $930 billion or so of Obamacare.

Yes We Can; No You Can’t – We Hope Come Tuesday

Deficit reduction.  Tax cuts to stimulate the economy.   And the repeal of a very unpopular health care bill.  Where’s the downside?  Unless you’re a far-left liberal (that small 20% of the population), there is none.  Which is why the Democrats are so grim.  They gave that 20% what they wanted (well, sorta – they wanted a whole lot more).  But when it comes to votes, 20% just isn’t enough to win elections.

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