Saturday, December 23, 2017

Tax Bill In Your Stocking

As Republican representatives, senators and president take their victory march down P. T. Barnum Avenue, some final thoughts and observations on the recently passed tax bill …

It is not long-promised and seriously needed tax REFORM, but just another simple tax cut giveaway. Nothing got simpler. No filing on a “postcard.”

The tax cuts promised to target the lower/middle income taxpayers. But virtually all economic analyses conclude that corporate America and the rich will get the lion’s share of tax breaks. So savings for lower/middle taxpayers had to be limited (or eliminated) in order to underwrite the upper-income savings, and to contain future anticipated budget deficits to “only” $1.5 trillion.

Tax cuts targeted to the rich do not “trickle down.” That was proven 35 years ago with the failure of the Reagan “supply side” tax cuts. “Voodoo economics” they truly were.

Corporations had their taxes cut by 1/3rd – permanently.  Did your taxes get cut by a 1/3rd – permanently?

No CEO hires more employees simply because the company has more cash in the bank from a tax cut. Instead, they keep the extra money as merely more profit on top of their current piles of cash, and ultimately use it for other self-interest purposes. It is increased consumer spending that creates new jobs to keep up with new sales demand; consumers are the ones who can actually grow the economy.

Headline stories of cash bonuses given out look good in the moment. But they do not create sustained higher base salaries nor any new jobs. Such stories are cheap p.r. wins for companies.

Donald Trump and his family will personally benefit substantially from these tax cuts, in spite of his lies to the contrary.

It is easy to be a deficit hawk complaining about excess spending when you are out of power. Once in power, politicians cave into more deficit spending and giveaways ($1.5 trillion) regardless of political party and what principles and priorities they claim. When the political chips are down and the obligations to the donors/lobbyists come due, hypocrisy knows no limits.

The tax bill was hatched in secret by Congressional leaders, given virtually no public hearings, allowed minimal floor debate, advanced while ignoring negative analyses by virtually all responsible economic impact studies, given minimal time for legislators to even read a final draft of the bill, and passed with less than 30% approval by the public. Democracy gone haywire and the citizenry be damned.

Be prepared to spend the upcoming years finding out about all the special exemptions, hidden deals, flawed assumptions, and “unintended consequences” contained in the bill. It is rife with them, none of them benefiting Mr. and Mrs. John Doe Citizen. Just enough token cuts included for the general population to distract them from the true beneficiaries and long-term consequences. Then listen skeptically to the “happy talk” of the legislators who passed this bill trying to explain away the surprises.

It was all done at warp speed to fulfill campaign promises, and to show at least one piece of significant legislation passed in a full year of trying. Most of us would be fired if we had so little to show for a year’s time of employment in a leadership position.

Horrible way to run a government.

Not much of a Christmas present after all.

A “Happy Holidays” wish for you – in spite of it all.

©   2017   Randy Bell     

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Recognizing Responders

The period from Thanksgiving to the New Year is typically a time for remembering and giving thanks for those special people in our lives. Sometimes those people are close to us, either geographically or by family connection; sometimes they are far removed. As we rightly honor the significant game-changing #MeToo movement, the annual Kennedy Center recognition of lifetime artistic achievements, and all of the excessive award shows, there is one other group that deserves special recognition this year.

In this year of destructive tornadoes and other weather crises, all-consuming forest fires, devastating hurricanes, and killings from mass shootings and terrorism, there in the forefront were always the First Responders. They wore the helmets of the Firefighters working at the fireline, the blue suits of the Police, the white coats and green work clothes of the Doctors and the Nurses, the military uniforms of our Defenders. In addition, First Responders of all kinds drove the ambulances, restored the electricity, directed the traffic, brought in the food and water, set up the first aid tents, organized the charity donations (both goods and cash).

Often, they were just unofficial helpers – neighbors from far and wide who just “had to do something.” They brought their boats or waded into dangerous waters to make rescues of those stranded. They drove the trucks loaded with donated emergency supplies – the basics – from unseen but caring and giving neighbors far away. They carried the wounded away in their pickup trucks turned into improvised emergency vehicles. They put their own life at risk, standing between a killer and his intended victim.

They were typically underpaid if not unpaid, usually unnamed, often unacknowledged. But they are not unappreciated. It was people at their best, people helping people, without regard to politics, race, gender, religion, age – or any of the many other categories that we use to estrange ourselves from each other. This has been a year of extraordinary human and natural disasters, a year when all-to-often we have descended into small-minded thinking and pettiness, unable to have a respectful and thoughtful conversation among our neighbors. Yet the images we saw on our television screens and social media posts affirmed once again our extraordinary better selves, our capacity for good if we just tap into it, and the periodic nobility of the human creature. To all of the anonymous First Responders, we thank you for your services rendered. We thank you for your reminder of the spirit of our human possibilities.

©  2017   Randy Bell