The Senate voted 81-19 yesterday to accept the $858 billion Obama/McConnell tax deal. California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer voted with the majority but for varying reasons. Boxer attributes her support to provisions that will extend breaks for alternative energy sources. Feinstein says that while she doesn’t like the bill, she’s voting in the affirmative because it will create much needed jobs. Both of these positions hold an element of truth, but in the final analysis are, in tamed vernacular — equine feces!
A little simple arithmetic will help to appreciate the insanity of what these politicians would have us believe. Taking Feinstein’s rationale, she’s in favor of the “deal” because economists told her it would increase the GDP by .6 to 1.2 percent, which she claims will translate to 600 thousand to 1.2 million jobs. So in other words, it makes sense to the Senator to add $858 billion to the deficit in order to sustain jobs at a best-case rate of $715,000 per job. Does that make any sense at all?
Math for Senator Boxer’s justification is even worse, since she claims the energy provisions will only result in “tens of thousands of jobs.” Although to be fair, she does also identify help for the middle class as another motivator.
The problem with both of these positions isn’t really the math; it’s the fact that they’re really nothing more than an exercise in rhetorical gymnastics used to justify support for a bad piece of legislation. While this deal is being spun as “temporary,” the tax cuts are anything but. Set to expire in two years — during a presidential election — the politicians who lacked the will to terminate them now are not going to do so then. If they really were intended to be temporary, they would have been extended for a single year, where there was at least a chance of it happening. The sad truth is that this deal will seriously impact a federal deficit that’s already teetering at record highs, and it will do so for dubious benefit.
Center to the “deal” are the unemployment benefit extensions that the Republicans have held hostage pending the approval of tax cuts for the wealthy. Few disagree with the need for this action that will enable those who have not yet exceeded the 99-week maximum to continue receiving payment. Economists all agree that it is of the highest order of economic stimulus, returning as much as $1.90 for every dollar spent. But the 13-month extension accounts for only $56 billion of the package, and although it may be the right thing to do, it does nothing to address long term unemployment issues.
Other items included in the remaining $802 billion also have legitimate justifications. For instance, the reasoning behind extending the Bush tax cuts for the middle class, which is the single largest piece of the tax deal pie, is sound. The situation is that 70% of the GDP is fueled by consumer spending, and because the middle class has been so severely squeezed by the recession, if their taxes were to increase, it would translate directly into a reduction in GDP. And when the GDP drops, jobs go with it.
The 2% reduction in payroll taxes follows the same logic as the extension of the middle class tax cuts. The money will mostly go to people who have already tightened their belts in order to make ends meet and will therefore be spent immediately and returned into the economy. Estimates actually place the return as high as $0.90 for every dollar spent, which is more than double the estimate for the general tax cuts. But at a cost of $120 billion, there are much more effective ways to use the money. And none of the other possibilities have the potential downside of tying Social Security to the general fund, which could lead to future arguments to dismantle the program.
Provisions included to extend certain tax credits follow the same reasoning, with each putting money in hands that will spend it. And the provision that will allow businesses that make investments in 2011 or 2012 to accelerate deductions by expensing 100% in the current year is really more of a shift than an outright loss of revenue.
But the sound reasoning and rationale component of the deal ends prior to evaluating the tax cuts for the top 2% and the estate tax reduction for the top one-tenth of 1%. Both of these upper crust tax cuts will reduce federal revenues, thereby adding to the deficit and requiring further indebtedness to foreign nations, like China. But they will do so, not for the purpose of stimulating the economy, as the money is much more likely to be saved. Neither will the savings be extended because the recipients have been hurt by the economic collapse and are in need. No, the tax cuts for the rich are included strictly because they are the ransom demanded by Republicans in order to do what’s right.
The sole justification for the tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, beyond the fact that the Republicans demand it, is because the money belongs to these people. That’s it. Ask any Republican — it’s their money and the government doesn’t have the right to take it. Never mind that the wealth people accumulate is not created in a vacuum. That wealth is the fruit of both their individual efforts and the societal system that ALL Americans work to support and maintain. Never mind that taxation is the means by which the citizens of a free society fund the government in order to provide the services required to sustain that system and enable the accumulation of wealth.
This is the classic “redistribution of wealth” argument, and it’s as invalid now as it was the first million times it was spoken. Those who present the “redistribution” argument choose to give credit disproportionately to the individual, which is obviously nonsense. It takes an entire society to sustain a system of opportunity. The problem in America today is that too many of the wealthy and would-be wealthy want to extract the benefit of our democratic society but don’t want to pay back into its sustainment.
This is precisely the reason that our infrastructure is crumbling and the wellbeing of the average American is in serious decline. The problem that’s taken root in America over the past 30-plus years is unethical redistribution of wealth — from working Americans to the top 2%. It is that concentration that’s behind the recent collapse and the present stagnation. We are experiencing the result of over-extraction of wealth. It is therefore the responsibility of the system — the one that so many people have used to accumulate said wealth — to adjust and bring back employment and prosperity to those who have been exploited.
America needs jobs, and we need fair taxation. The Obama tax deal delivers neither. Working Americans will be glad to pay more taxes — if they are just allowed to work and share in the huge increases in productivity that have lined the pockets of the wealthy. Make no mistake about it: there is no justification, rational or moral, for the Republican-demanded tax cuts. They’re nothing but the looting of America by the new Robber Barons.