- June 3rd, 2012
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As many of you by now know, Warren Buffet wrote a column promoting his view that the super rich are not taxed enough. As he pointed out:
what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office.
But of course the issue is far more than pay the same rate as other people in his office. Historically marginal tax rates (i.e. the rate paid on the next large increment of income) were steeply progressive, so that the very wealthy paid a high tax rate on the next million dollars of income, while they (and the rest of us) paid a much lower rate on the first umpteen thousand. This is the crux of the nutty tea party push against raising taxes. Nobody is talking about raising taxes on the (shrinking) middle class and poor (although there is a strong argument that the deterioration in government is creating a vast new set of costs that are not formal taxes, but serve the same function). The only issue is whether the wealthy will get a bit of a push toward the tax rates that they paid until about ten years ago.
I was amused when blowhard Michael Arrington of Techcrunch railed against Warren Buffet using the same stupid line that the republidroids use against Obama (and just as illogically): basically, why does Buffet hate the rich? And why does he want to be taxed out of his richness? Michael, did you even read Buffet’s op ed piece? It’s pretty clear that Buffet said:
1. A higher tax rate will not discourage investment
2. The very rich (and probably the merely obscenely rich, and possibly the just plain rich) make most of their money via capital gains, which are taxed at a lower rate than earned income. Change that, and you’ve taken a step to level the playing field…a little.
Bottom line, Arrington aside. When the Koch brothers have figured out a way to manipulate the tea party, which is mostly made up of middle class and poor (white, republican, christian) people to protect the richest people from paying a fair share of a functioning government, I have to think that logic has flown out the door.
You missed my postings, didn’t you? This is Gwen, an amazingly talented model
I don’t really think anybody likes paying taxes. But the extreme opposition to paying taxes, at at time when American’s tax burden is the lowest it’s been in forty years, is leading to the kind of country most of would not want.
From Nicholas Kristoff:
With Tea Party conservatives and many Republicans balking at raising the debt ceiling, let me offer them an example of a nation that lives up to their ideals.
It has among the lowest tax burdens of any major country: fewer than 2 percent of the people pay any taxes. Government is limited, so that burdensome regulations never kill jobs.
This society embraces traditional religious values and a conservative sensibility. Nobody minds school prayer, same-sex marriage isn’t imaginable, and criminals are never coddled.
The budget priority is a strong military, the nation’s most respected institution. When generals decide on a policy for, say, Afghanistan, politicians defer to them. Citizens are deeply patriotic, and nobody burns flags.
So what is this Republican Eden, this Utopia? Why, it’s Pakistan.
The middle class in this country, battered by a recession and the fear of doing far worse than their parents, is playing into the plans of the very rich, who can more than afford to pay a greater share of their income as taxes. Instead, the rich are putting up gates to keep the riff raff out of their communities, hiring private security, and buying generators. I’ve tried to imagine what would happen if each neighborhood tries to, or is forced to privatize its roads. Tolls every quarter mile, as you move from one jurisdiction to the next?
To me, the answer is fairly simple. We need a strong, progressive income tax (and we need to dial back some of the regressive sales taxes). Rather than bash those who work to make the lives of those who work more fair and pleasant, we should support the unions. I fear that what we are in a race to the bottom, rather than shooting for the stars.
They’re not all crazy (insert note: some of my best friends are Republicans), but the bunch in the House are. When Crying John Boehner is the one looking reasonable, you know that the Republic is in danger. Let’s see…starve the Federal Government by giving the richest 1% a tax break, making their rate the lowest in perhaps 80 years. Then complain about the deficit being the biggest problem. Sad.
But not as sad as the earthquake in Japan. And then the tsunami. And the nuclear disaster. My heart goes out to everyone who is affected.
There’s much to lament about the killings in Arizona this week. I’ll have more to say about how the tone of debate likely contributed (hint–it’s not about the tone of debate. It’s about the thinly veiled exhortions to commit violence).
Today, is a simple matter. We note that the shooter was able to fire off 31 rounds before trying to reload. Had the gun lobby not successfully pushed for repeal of a Clinton-era ban on high capacity magazines, he would have been able to fire off “only” ten rounds.
More about that here:
More fundamentally, should he have had a gun at all? Some states have some mental health tests for concealed carry, or purchases of certain weapons. More on that here:
And for those who say that people should carry weapons to defend themselves from this kind of crazy attack, I’ll note that Gifford talked about her gun-friendliness during her campaign. But even if she had a gun with her, the speed of the attack would not have allowed her to react with force; nor the others who were with her. It’s pretty clear that Glocks mostly serve to enable assassins.
On a happier note….
From New York Times
Flier Patience Wears Thin at Checkpoints
By SUSAN STELLIN
As the Transportation Security Administration scrambles to address vulnerabilities in procedures for screening cargo, it is facing growing criticism from travel industry groups over the escalating security measures for passengers.
In recent weeks, representatives from the International Air Transport Association, the U.S. Travel Association, the Allied Pilots Association and British Airways have criticized the T.S.A., saying it adds intrusive and time-consuming layers of scrutiny at airport checkpoints, without effectively addressing legitimate security concerns.
The U.S. Travel Association, in fact, is worried that the more onerous screening process will discourage air travel.
“The system is broken, it’s extremely flawed and it’s absurd that we all sit back and say we can’t do anything about it,” said Geoff Freeman, executive vice president of the association. The group has convened a panel of transportation leaders to recommend a better way to balance security with a more efficient and honed screening process.
Travel industry representatives say they are primarily concerned that security procedures unnecessarily burden the vast majority of travelers and crew members. The government, they argue, should instead be using intelligence to develop a risk-based approach to screening passengers.
Specifically, they point to the new body scanners that are replacing metal detectors — which have raised privacy and health concerns, as well as prompted legal challenges — and the more invasive pat-downs, which have set off complaints about disrespectful treatment by agents.
“I think people want to say enough is enough, but they’re worried that they’re going to be perceived as weak on security,” Mr. Freeman said.
T.S.A. officials declined to discuss their checkpoint screening procedures, but sent an e-mail statement: “T.S.A. is a counterterrorism agency whose mission is to ensure the safety of the traveling public. To that end, T.S.A. deploys the latest technologies and implements comprehensive procedures that protect passengers while facilitating travel.”
But the growing chorus of complaints from travel industry leaders suggests that frustrations with policies on shoes, laptops, liquids and pat-downs may have reached a limit.
Giovanni Bisignani, chief executive of the International Air Transport Association, said in a speech at an aviation security conference in Frankfurt last week that the airlines would like to see an overhaul of the checkpoint screening process — with a greater focus on finding bad people, rather than bad objects.
“Discouraging travelers with queues into the parking lot is not a solution,” Mr. Bisignani said in his speech. “And it is not acceptable to treat passengers as terrorists until they prove themselves innocent.”
Steve Lott, a spokesman for the International Air Transport Association, said the body scanners had resulted in longer lines because passengers had to take everything out of their pockets, not just coins and cellphones.
“Within the past year or so we’ve seen longer lines, and we’re concerned about the return of the hassle factor,” Mr. Lott said.
Although the T.S.A. used to track security line wait times and post that data on its Web site so travelers knew what to expect, the agency stopped publishing that information in 2008. It is now searching for a way to automate the process of collecting wait-time data, said Lauren Gaches, an agency spokeswoman, but does not know when it will resume sharing that information with the public.
Historical data posted on tsa.gov indicates that average peak wait times were about 12 minutes in 2006 and crept up to 15 minutes in early 2008. Since then, the T.S.A. has shifted to a system that tracks the percentage of passengers who wait 20 minutes or less to go through security, and says that 99 percent of travelers have waited less than 20 minutes in security lines in 2010.
But anecdotal feedback about security wait times varies widely depending on whom you ask.
Christopher Bidwell, a vice president at the Airports Council International North America, said the trade association had not heard complaints about long security lines from its airport members. Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, which tracks its own security line wait times and posts that information on its Web site, has reported lines of less than 10 minutes when randomly checked during the last two weeks.
But passengers are finding wait times can stretch well past half an hour at some airports, especially during peak departure times.
Dieter Ast, a professor in the engineering department at Cornell, said he had waited more than 40 minutes to get through the security lines at Denver and Newark airports, but rarely has a long wait at his home airport in Ithaca, N.Y.
“It’s totally unpredictable, but the larger the airport the longer you can potentially be stuck,” he said, adding that he is flying less because of frustrations with airport security and his unwillingness to submit to the body scanners.
“I’m not taking as many trips,” Professor Dieter said. “And my European friends are avoiding the U.S. because of the hassle.”
That lost business is the main fear motivating the U.S. Travel Association to speak out about frustrations with airport security, but lately others have also chimed in.
Speaking two weeks ago, Martin Broughton, the chairman of British Airways, bluntly criticized American aviation security policies, particularly for making demands on foreign carriers that are inconsistently enforced within the United States. And the president of the Allied Pilots Association, Dave Bates, sent a letter to members suggesting that they refuse to submit to the body imaging scanners based on privacy objections and the potential health risks of repeated exposure to radiation.
Last week, the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed the opening brief in its case against the Department of Homeland Security, challenging the legality of using body scanners as a primary screening tool for all passengers. The government is expected to file its response by December.
Although a consensus within the travel industry is emerging that airport screening needs to be reassessed, there is less agreement about what the main problems are — and how they should be fixed. Some industry officials argue that checked bag fees are creating bottlenecks at security lines, now that more travelers are bringing larger carry-ons through the checkpoints. And passengers, who are not always prepared for the screening process, get a share of the blame.
“We can’t deny that travelers are part of the problem,” said Mr. Freeman, of the U.S. Travel Association. “Travelers have to take some responsibility for making the process better.”