It's a Simple Question, Mitch

McConnell: What are you talking about, paid for? This is existing tax policy. It’s been in place for ten years. 

[yada, yada, yada . . .]

Gregory: For a final time, I’ll go back to my question which is, the extension of the tax cuts would cost $3.2 trillion. That’s borrowed money, that adds to the deficit. Do you have a plan to pay for that extension?

McConnell: You’re talking about current tax policy. Why did it all of a sudden become something that we, quote, ‘pay for’?

Earlier this month, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said that the push by Congressional Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts without offsetting the costs elsewhere could end up being "disastrous" for the economy. "I'm very much in favor of tax cuts but not with borrowed money and the problem that we have gotten into in recent years is spending programs with borrowed money, tax cuts with borrowed money," he said. "And at the end of the day that proves disastrous. My view is I don't think we can play subtle policy here."

They've already been "disastrous" turning the Clintonian budget surplus into a budget deficit. Over the past decade those tax cuts added $3.8 trillion to the national debt. President Obama's proposals are simple: in 2011 the top two income tax rates — now 33 percent and 35 percent — would revert to the levels before the Bush Administration, 36 percent and 39.6 percent, respectively. But the four lower rates would remain 10 percent, 15 percent, 25 percent and 28 percent. 

Paul Krugman tells us what's at stake.

According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, making all of the Bush tax cuts permanent, as opposed to following the Obama proposal, would cost the federal government $680 billion in revenue over the next 10 years. For the sake of comparison, it took months of hard negotiations to get Congressional approval for a mere $26 billion in desperately needed aid to state and local governments.

And where would this $680 billion go? Nearly all of it would go to the richest 1 percent of Americans, people with incomes of more than $500,000 a year. But that’s the least of it: the policy center’s estimates say that the majority of the tax cuts would go to the richest one-tenth of 1 percent. Take a group of 1,000 randomly selected Americans, and pick the one with the highest income; he’s going to get the majority of that group’s tax break. And the average tax break for those lucky few — the poorest members of the group have annual incomes of more than $2 million, and the average member makes more than $7 million a year — would be $3 million over the course of the next decade.

It's a simple question, Mitch, how will you pay for the Bush tax cuts?

 

It's a Simple Question, Mitch

McConnell: What are you talking about, paid for? This is existing tax policy. It’s been in place for ten years. 

[yada, yada, yada . . .]

Gregory: For a final time, I’ll go back to my question which is, the extension of the tax cuts would cost $3.2 trillion. That’s borrowed money, that adds to the deficit. Do you have a plan to pay for that extension?

McConnell: You’re talking about current tax policy. Why did it all of a sudden become something that we, quote, ‘pay for’?

Earlier this month, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said that the push by Congressional Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts without offsetting the costs elsewhere could end up being "disastrous" for the economy. "I'm very much in favor of tax cuts but not with borrowed money and the problem that we have gotten into in recent years is spending programs with borrowed money, tax cuts with borrowed money," he said. "And at the end of the day that proves disastrous. My view is I don't think we can play subtle policy here."

They've already been "disastrous" turning the Clintonian budget surplus into a budget deficit. Over the past decade those tax cuts added $3.8 trillion to the national debt. President Obama's proposals are simple: in 2011 the top two income tax rates — now 33 percent and 35 percent — would revert to the levels before the Bush Administration, 36 percent and 39.6 percent, respectively. But the four lower rates would remain 10 percent, 15 percent, 25 percent and 28 percent. 

Paul Krugman tells us what's at stake.

According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, making all of the Bush tax cuts permanent, as opposed to following the Obama proposal, would cost the federal government $680 billion in revenue over the next 10 years. For the sake of comparison, it took months of hard negotiations to get Congressional approval for a mere $26 billion in desperately needed aid to state and local governments.

And where would this $680 billion go? Nearly all of it would go to the richest 1 percent of Americans, people with incomes of more than $500,000 a year. But that’s the least of it: the policy center’s estimates say that the majority of the tax cuts would go to the richest one-tenth of 1 percent. Take a group of 1,000 randomly selected Americans, and pick the one with the highest income; he’s going to get the majority of that group’s tax break. And the average tax break for those lucky few — the poorest members of the group have annual incomes of more than $2 million, and the average member makes more than $7 million a year — would be $3 million over the course of the next decade.

It's a simple question, Mitch, how will you pay for the Bush tax cuts?

 

It's a Simple Question, Mitch

McConnell: What are you talking about, paid for? This is existing tax policy. It’s been in place for ten years. 

[yada, yada, yada . . .]

Gregory: For a final time, I’ll go back to my question which is, the extension of the tax cuts would cost $3.2 trillion. That’s borrowed money, that adds to the deficit. Do you have a plan to pay for that extension?

McConnell: You’re talking about current tax policy. Why did it all of a sudden become something that we, quote, ‘pay for’?

Earlier this month, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said that the push by Congressional Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts without offsetting the costs elsewhere could end up being "disastrous" for the economy. "I'm very much in favor of tax cuts but not with borrowed money and the problem that we have gotten into in recent years is spending programs with borrowed money, tax cuts with borrowed money," he said. "And at the end of the day that proves disastrous. My view is I don't think we can play subtle policy here."

They've already been "disastrous" turning the Clintonian budget surplus into a budget deficit. Over the past decade those tax cuts added $3.8 trillion to the national debt. President Obama's proposals are simple: in 2011 the top two income tax rates — now 33 percent and 35 percent — would revert to the levels before the Bush Administration, 36 percent and 39.6 percent, respectively. But the four lower rates would remain 10 percent, 15 percent, 25 percent and 28 percent. 

Paul Krugman tells us what's at stake.

According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, making all of the Bush tax cuts permanent, as opposed to following the Obama proposal, would cost the federal government $680 billion in revenue over the next 10 years. For the sake of comparison, it took months of hard negotiations to get Congressional approval for a mere $26 billion in desperately needed aid to state and local governments.

And where would this $680 billion go? Nearly all of it would go to the richest 1 percent of Americans, people with incomes of more than $500,000 a year. But that’s the least of it: the policy center’s estimates say that the majority of the tax cuts would go to the richest one-tenth of 1 percent. Take a group of 1,000 randomly selected Americans, and pick the one with the highest income; he’s going to get the majority of that group’s tax break. And the average tax break for those lucky few — the poorest members of the group have annual incomes of more than $2 million, and the average member makes more than $7 million a year — would be $3 million over the course of the next decade.

It's a simple question, Mitch, how will you pay for the Bush tax cuts?

 

It's a Simple Question, Mitch

McConnell: What are you talking about, paid for? This is existing tax policy. It’s been in place for ten years. 

[yada, yada, yada . . .]

Gregory: For a final time, I’ll go back to my question which is, the extension of the tax cuts would cost $3.2 trillion. That’s borrowed money, that adds to the deficit. Do you have a plan to pay for that extension?

McConnell: You’re talking about current tax policy. Why did it all of a sudden become something that we, quote, ‘pay for’?

Earlier this month, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said that the push by Congressional Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts without offsetting the costs elsewhere could end up being "disastrous" for the economy. "I'm very much in favor of tax cuts but not with borrowed money and the problem that we have gotten into in recent years is spending programs with borrowed money, tax cuts with borrowed money," he said. "And at the end of the day that proves disastrous. My view is I don't think we can play subtle policy here."

They've already been "disastrous" turning the Clintonian budget surplus into a budget deficit. Over the past decade those tax cuts added $3.8 trillion to the national debt. President Obama's proposals are simple: in 2011 the top two income tax rates — now 33 percent and 35 percent — would revert to the levels before the Bush Administration, 36 percent and 39.6 percent, respectively. But the four lower rates would remain 10 percent, 15 percent, 25 percent and 28 percent. 

Paul Krugman tells us what's at stake.

According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, making all of the Bush tax cuts permanent, as opposed to following the Obama proposal, would cost the federal government $680 billion in revenue over the next 10 years. For the sake of comparison, it took months of hard negotiations to get Congressional approval for a mere $26 billion in desperately needed aid to state and local governments.

And where would this $680 billion go? Nearly all of it would go to the richest 1 percent of Americans, people with incomes of more than $500,000 a year. But that’s the least of it: the policy center’s estimates say that the majority of the tax cuts would go to the richest one-tenth of 1 percent. Take a group of 1,000 randomly selected Americans, and pick the one with the highest income; he’s going to get the majority of that group’s tax break. And the average tax break for those lucky few — the poorest members of the group have annual incomes of more than $2 million, and the average member makes more than $7 million a year — would be $3 million over the course of the next decade.

It's a simple question, Mitch, how will you pay for the Bush tax cuts?

 

Weekly Audit: Are Handouts For Billionaires More Important Than Feeding Children?

by Zach Carter, Media Consortium blogger

The crazy conservative assault on government spending has become one of the most irrational economic policy debates in recent years.

The Republican Party is trying to maintain the fiction that direct economic relief for millions of working Americans is a fiscally irresponsible splurge, while simultaneously backing hundreds of billions of dollars worth of economically useless tax cuts for the wealthy. The demands are staggering: cut food stamps for the poor, but preserve perks for billionaires.

As Tim Fernholz notes for The American Prospect, serious economists do not believe that President George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the rich are an effective way to stimulate the economy. Rich people don’t spend money, they save it. We need lots of consumer spending to reinvigorate economic growth and put people back to work.

If we want to create jobs, we need to put money in the hands of people who will spend it. At minimum, that means directing aid to the unemployed and providing federal assistance to states, so that local governments don’t lay off hundreds of thousands of teachers and cops. This is not only the decent, humane thing to do when the economy is struggling, it actually helps. Money the government spends to save a teacher’s job goes out into the economy to pay bills and buy products. For states, this also means that basic public infrastructure is preserved—kids learn and the streets stay safe.

Stonewalling aid

But as the editors of The Nation highlight, Republican politicians have made it nearly impossible to get that critical aid out to American families. They’ve demanded strict measures for these benefits, forcing Democrats to cut food stamps—that’s right, food stamps—in order to keep teachers in school and cops on the street.

Millions of families all over the country depend on food stamps. In the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression, Republican politicians took a stand to take food from the mouths of children—and they did it while supporting a $300 billion a year in handouts for the rich.

There is no immediate budget crisis. The government can borrow money at record low interest rates, meaning that investors don’t believe the federal budget deficit is too big. But if conservatives were really serious about shrinking the deficit, they’d be encouraging economic growth, not backing billionaire giveaways.

Banking on predation

Our perverse economic policy preferences aren’t limited to budget priorities. As Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez emphasize in a segment for Democracy Now!, inadequate rules governing bank lending practices were a fundamental cause of the recession, and are actively hampering the economy’s recovery today.

The Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 (CRA) required banks to make good loans to credit-worthy borrowers in the bank’s community. The idea was simple: If a bank wants to benefit from a community’s resources, it has to give something back and help strengthen the local economy.

Conservatives have lashed out at CRA, blaming it for the mortgage crisis, but the truth is that CRA loans had almost nothing to do with the subprime disaster. CRA loans are affordable loans to creditworthy borrowers—the whole point of subprime lending was to charge outrageously high rates to borrowers with poor credit.

In reality, policymakers’ refusal to expand CRA exacerbated the crisis. Only traditional banks are subject to CRA guidelines, and during the past two decades a host of independent mortgage companies have taken over large swaths of the mortgage market. These unregulated firms issued a lot of lousy loans, often working under direct, explicit instructions from bigger banks, who outsourced their lending in order to get around CRA rules and rip off whole neighborhoods.

Lending is critical to moving the economy out of the recession, and CRA provides reliable, proven rules to get banks back in the business of helping our communities and our economy.

Overdrafting the banks

But a host of other banking policies are also making the recession worse. One of the most egregious is the overdraft fee, which, as Annie Lowrey notes for The Washington Independent, scored banks over $38 billion in 2009 alone. To put that in perspective, the entire banking industry earned a combined profit of $12.5 billion last year, which means that the banks are making their money from gotcha fees, not from productive lending.

Banks have spent years charging overdraft fees without telling their customers that they’re subject to such gouging. Lowrey notes that the average fee is $35 on an average charge of $17. But they also have engaged in a backdating scam, rearranging the order of their customers’ purchases in order to charge more overdraft fees. As I explain for AlterNet:

“Say you’ve got $80 in your checking account, and you decide to pay some bills and run some errands. You spend $30 on gas and another $20 on your water bill. Later, you head to the grocery store and spend $81—oops!—on groceries. To reasonable people, it looks like you’re going to get hit with an overdraft fee. That last purchase put you over the line. But instead, the banks reorder your transactions, processing the groceries first. Now you’re below zero, and they can charge additional fees for your gas and water bills. Wells Fargo charged up to $39 per overdraft. This one mistake cost you $117, and nobody even bothered to tell you it was going to happen.”

Fortunately, a federal judge in California just ruled that this backdating scam was grossly illegal, and ordered megabank Wells Fargo to pay back every penny that it swindled from its California customers with the practice since 2004. But Wells Fargo was not alone—every large bank in the United States does the exact same thing, and it’s allowed them to score billions in deceptive profits. A similar ruling in a larger case against all of the big banks could end a transparent outrage, and restore an enormous amount of unfairly seized wealth to citizens all over the country.

We don’t need to be pushing policies that benefit billionaires at the expense of everyone else. The Bush tax cuts are an unnecessary economic waste. Financial policy that puts the interests of a few giant predatory banks above those of the entire citizenry makes no economic sense.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Audit for a complete list of articles on economic issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Mulch, The Pulse and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

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