Opinion | Bill Gates, I Implore You to Connect Some Dots – by Michael Tomasky – The New York Times

“So this column is not a brief for Ms. Warren’s wealth tax or for her candidacy — I don’t have a preferred candidate. Instead, I want to make a simple plea to the country’s billionaires: Multibillion-dollar fortunes are often called excessive and decadent. But here’s something they’re rarely called but ought to be: anti-democratic. These fortunes will destroy our democracy.

Why “anti-democratic”? Why would it matter to our democracy whether Jeff Bezos is worth $113 billion (his current figure) or $13 billion?

Because any democracy needs a robust and thriving middle class, and we have spent the last 30 or so years transferring trillions of dollars from the middle class to the people at the very top. Just one set of numbers, from the University of California, Berkeley economist Gabriel Zucman: The 400 richest Americans — the top .00025 percent of the population — now own more of the country’s riches than the 150 million adults in the bottom 60 percent of wealth distribution. The 400’s share has tripled since the 1980s.

This is carnage, plain and simple. No democratic society can let that keep happening and expect to stay a democracy. It will produce a middle and working classes with no sense of security, and when people have no sense that the system is providing them with basic security, they’ll make some odd and desperate choices.

This is obviously not hypothetical. It’s happening. It’s what gave us Mr. Trump (well, that plus the campaign lies). It’s what made Britons vote Leave (well, that plus the campaign lies). It’s what has sparked protests from France to Chile to Lebanon, and it’s what is making the Chinese model — no democracy, but plenty of security — more attractive to a number of developing countries around the world than the American model. Our billionaires ought to ponder this.”

Opinion | The Big Problem With Wealth Taxes – By Daniel Hemel and Rebecca Kysar – The New York Times

By Daniel Hemel and 

The authors are law professors with expertise on tax law.

Credit…Jordan Gale for The New York Times

“Senator Elizabeth Warren unveiled a new wealth tax proposal last week that she says will raise — along with her previously announced wealth tax plan — $3.75 trillion over the next decade. Senator Bernie Sanders says his wealth tax will yield $4.35 trillion over the same period.

We fear these figures are vast overestimates. The likeliest outcome is that a wealth tax will raise exactly zero dollars. The problem, alas, is the Constitution. The Warren and Sanders plans run headlong into more than two centuries of precedent that cast doubt on the constitutionality of wealth taxation.

We are tax law professors who identify as liberal Democrats, donate to Democratic candidates, publicly opposed the Trump tax cuts and strongly support higher taxes on the affluent. We are heartened that prominent Democratic presidential candidates are taking the problem of wealth inequality very seriously. We are worried, though, that leading figures in our party are coalescing around an idea whose constitutionality is doubtful at best.

The constitutional objection to wealth taxation is based on two clauses that require any “direct tax” to be apportioned among the states based on population. So, since 12 percent of the population lives in California, Californians must pay 12 percent of any direct tax.

For the Warren and Sanders wealth taxes, that would be a deal breaker. To match revenue fractions to population percentages, as the Constitution’s direct tax clauses demand, we estimate that the wealth tax rate in West Virginia — the poorest state per capita — would need to be roughly 10 times the rate in more affluent California and more than 20 times the rate in prosperous Connecticut.”

Opinion | Trump’s Deficits Are an Existential Threat to Conservatism – By Philip Klein – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Klein is the author of “Fear Your Future: How the Deck Is Stacked Against Millennials And Why Socialism Would Make It Worse.”

Credit…George Rose/Getty Image

“Last week, the Treasury Department announced that the federal deficit was just shy of $1 trillion in the 2019 fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30. The Congressional Budget Office expects deficits to exceed that mark every year going forward.

During Barack Obama’s presidency, such news triggered sanctimonious outrage among Republicans. Mr. Obama’s run of deficits exceeding $1 trillion helped fuel the Tea Party. Mitt Romney attacked Mr. Obama for fiscal irresponsibility during the 2012 presidential campaign. Mr. Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, built his national career around dire warnings about the mounting federal debt.

Even Donald Trump regularly got in on the act. In one of many such warnings about deficits, citizen Trump used the March 2013 debt crisis in Cyprus as an occasion to tweet: “Watching the madness in Cyprus? If our government keeps spending trillion dollar deficits, that could happen here.” In 2016, as a candidate, Mr. Trump said he could eliminate the national debt in about eight years.

Yet as president, Mr. Trump has piled on about $3 trillion to the debt, bringing the total to $22.9 trillion. What’s amazing is that he has managed to increase deficits at a time of historically low unemployment and relative peace, when one would expect the national balance sheet to improve.”

 

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | Comments at NYT.
Nice essay Philip Klein. I too care about the growing deficit. Are you supporting that ugly idea, starve the beast? Grow the deficit as a way to pressure the cutting of the safety net. Social Security and Medicare allow older Americans to grow old and die with some dignity. It was created when a large percentage, maybe half?, of older Americans lived in poverty. So don’t forget to emphasize undoing unneeded and unfair tax cuts and loopholes for the rich.
Let’s test my argument. From Nasi.org: “Before Social Security, in 1934, roughly one half of seniors were estimated to be poor. Most had to rely on family or friends, or go to the poor house. As ever more seniors paid into Social Security and then received retirement benefits, the poverty rate among seniors steadily declined from circa 50 percent in the Great Depression to 35 percent in 1959, 25 percent in 1970, 15 percent in 1975, and around 10 percent in 2000, where it has hovered ever since. Today, were it not for Social Security, the senior poverty rate would be 43.5 percent, and just over half (PDF) of elderly African Americans (51 percent) and Latinos (52 percent) would be poor.”
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion” and blogs at InconvenientNews.net.

Opinion | Should We Soak the Rich? You Bet! – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

CreditCreditJohannes Eisele/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“Donald Trump promised struggling working-class voters that he heard their frustrations and would act.

He did: He pushed through a tax cut that made income inequality worse. In 2018, for the first time, the 400 richest American households paid a lower average tax rate than any other income group, according to new research by two economists.

Those billionaires paid an average total rate of 23 percent in 2018, down from the 70 percent their 1950 counterparts paid. Meanwhile, the bottom 10th of households paid an average of 26 percent, up from 16 percent in 1950.

That’s the rot in our system: Great wealth has translated into immense political power, which is then leveraged to multiply that wealth and power all over again — and also multiply the suffering of those at the bottom. This is a legal corruption that President Trump magnified but that predated him and will outlast him; this is America’s cancer.”

Opinion | The Rich Really Do Pay Lower Taxes Than You – David Leonhardt – The New York Times

“Almost a decade ago, Warren Buffett made a claim that would become famous. He said that he paid a lower tax rate than his secretary, thanks to the many loopholes and deductions that benefit the wealthy.

His claim sparked a debate about the fairness of the tax system. In the end, the expert consensus was that, whatever Buffett’s specific situation, most wealthy Americans did not actually pay a lower tax rate than the middle class. “Is it the norm?” the fact-checking outfit Politifact asked. “No.”

Time for an update: It’s the norm now.

For the first time on record, the 400 wealthiest Americans last year paid a lower total tax rate — spanning federal, state and local taxes — than any other income group, according to newly released data.”

Bernie Sanders Proposes a Wealth Tax, Taking Aim at Billionaires – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — Senator Bernie Sanders on Tuesday unveiled a proposal to create a new tax on the wealth of the richest Americans, including a steep tax on billionaires that could greatly diminish their fortunes.

With the proposal, Mr. Sanders is embracing an idea that has been a centerpiece of the campaign of his top progressive rival, Senator Elizabeth Warren. But while Ms. Warren came first, Mr. Sanders is going bigger. His wealth tax would apply to a larger number of households, impose a higher top rate and raise more money.

Mr. Sanders’s plan to tax accumulated wealth, not just income, is particularly aggressive in how it would erode the fortunes of billionaires. His tax would cut in half the wealth of the typical billionaire after 15 years, according to two economists who worked with the Sanders campaign on the plan. Mr. Sanders would use the money generated by his wealth tax to fund the housing plan he released last week and a forthcoming plan for universal child care, as well as to help pay for “Medicare for all.”

“Let me be very clear: As president of the United States, I will reduce the outrageous and grotesque and immoral level of income and wealth inequality,” Mr. Sanders said in an interview. “What we are trying to do is demand and implement a policy which significantly reduces income and wealth inequality in America by telling the wealthiest families in this country they cannot have so much wealth.” “

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comments
Bernie disappoints. They tried stuff like this in Europe, and the wealthy just moved out of the country. A draconian hair cut like he suggests is not practical, unless all the developed countries of the world do it together at the same time. Warren’s idea is a good one, and it is small and limited, which is approprate for an incremental improvement, that allows to measure unforseen effects.

Opinion | Trump’s Secret Foreign Aid Program – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

Paul Krugman

By 

Opinion Columnist

“Donald Trump often complains that the media don’t give him credit for his achievements. And I can think of at least one case where that’s true. As far I can tell, almost nobody is reporting that he has presided over a huge — but hidden — increase in foreign aid, the money America gives to foreigners. In fact, the hidden Trump program, currently running at around $40 billion a year, is probably the biggest giveaway to other nations since the Marshall Plan.

Unfortunately, the aid isn’t going either to poor countries or to America’s allies. Instead, it’s going to wealthy foreign investors.

Before I get there, let’s talk for a second about a claim Trump often makes about a highly visible part of his economic strategy, the tariffs he has imposed on imports from China and other countries. These tariffs, he has insisted again and again, are being paid by China and represent billions in gains to the United States.

This claim is, however, demonstrably false. Tariffs are normally paid by consumers in the importing country, not exporters. And we can confirm that this is what’s happening with the Trump tariffs: Prices of goods subject to those tariffs have risen sharply, roughly in line with the tariff increases, while prices of goods not subject to the new tariffs haven’t gone up.”

Editorial | Charity Won’t Solve Student Debt – The New York Times

“Around the turn of the last century, the steel magnate Andrew Carnegie paid to build 1,689 libraries across the United States. Many are still in use, celebrated as monumental works of philanthropy.

They should be seen as monuments to the failure of public policy. The United States could have built a lot more libraries by taxing the incomes of Carnegie and his fellow Gilded Age plutocrats, but, at the turn of the last century, there was no federal income tax.

Now history is repeating itself. A new generation of plutocrats has amassed great fortunes, in part because the federal government has minimized the burden of taxation. Americans once again are reduced to applauding acts of philanthropy necessitated by failures of policy.

Robert Smith, a wealthy financier, announced on Sunday during graduation ceremonies at Morehouse College that he would repay the student loans taken by the 396 men in this year’s graduating class. The promise, which may cost Mr. Smith up to $40 million, was an act of generosity gratefully received by the new graduates of the historically black, all-male Atlanta college.”

Opinion | Congress to I.R.S.: Don’t Even Think of Helping Taxpayers – The New York Times

By The Editorial Board
The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

April 10, 2019, 311
Image
CreditCreditLuba Lukova
Congress has landed on one of those rare ideas that commands support from both Democrats and Republicans. Unfortunately, it’s a bad one.

“On Tuesday, the House approved legislation misleadingly titled the Taxpayer First Act that includes a provision prohibiting the Internal Revenue Service from developing a free online system that most American households could use to file their taxes. The Senate is considering a similar piece of bipartisan legislation.

This makes no sense. Congress should be making it easier for Americans to file their taxes. Instead of barring the I.R.S. from making April a little less miserable, why isn’t Congress requiring the I.R.S. to create a free tax filing website?

Better yet, the United States could emulate the roughly three dozen countries, including Chile, Japan and Britain, where most taxpayers do not need to fill out tax returns. In some of those countries, the accuracy of tax withholding is sufficient to obviate the annual filing process. In others, the government sends out completed forms to most taxpayers. In Estonia, filing taxes can be done in less than three minutes.”

Opinion | A Dummy’s Guide to Democratic Policy Proposals – The New York Times

By Nicholas Kristof
Opinion Columnist

March 27, 2019, 290
Cory Booker’s proposal to reduce wealth gaps is one of many ideas being put forward by Democrats.
Credit
John Locher/Associated Press

“We in the news media often whack politicians for not being serious about policy. And then we ignore their policy proposals.

So here, in the spirit of orgiastic wonkishness, is my Dummy’s Guide to Democratic Policy Proposals. I write it because something fascinating is underway: After decades of incrementalism, Democrats are now proposing a litany of exciting big ideas.

Here’s my take:

Child allowances are among the best ideas to boost America’s future. They are used very successfully abroad to reduce child poverty. One proposal would give families with children $250 to $300 per month, in the form of a refundable tax credit. Luke Shaefer of the University of Michigan estimates that this would reduce the number of children living in poverty by more than one-third.

This version is called the American Family Act, sponsored by Michael Bennet and Sherrod Brown in the Senate and Rosa DeLauro and Susan DelBene in the House. It is broadly backed by Democrats in the House and the Senate.”