Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Failure in the Air

I've been reading Byron's posts and watching the news, and I can't help but post a followup. Republicans, by signaling weakness on the issues of Social Security and taxes, have opted to follow "popular opinion" and not lead it in a new direction. This in many ways reminds me of President Clinton, who boldly asserted nothing and followed the direction that the wind happened to be blowing. This type of political maneuver enrages me. For all of you that consider me a partisan hack, just watch how quickly I will turn on Congressional Republicans if we fail to do anything with our majority.

To add fuel to the fire it appears more and more like Republicans might also be backing off of tax cuts (for more info on this topic see Byron's post from two days ago). In The Hill today, Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) attempted to diffuse rumors of this sort, claiming that tax relief and simplification of the tax codes are still top priorities for Republicans. I ask them now, show me this "commitment" and that this is indeed a "priority." Let's not sit idly by and watch as our majorities disappear because Republicans failed to capitalize on the governing coalition that we now enjoy. If tax cuts and Social Security reform cost us the White House and Congress, so be it. Let's do something for America, besides of course padding our majorities.

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  • Kris,
    The GOP is in this for the long haul. They got a comfortable majority and they aim to keep it. Winning EVERY battle isn't important to them, it's keeping power that matters. They gambled on Iraq, and nearly lost their power if the Democrats would've nominated somebody other than the worst candidate known to man. I wouldn't worry too much about Social Security. Besides, the argument about whether or not carved-out private accounts will actually "do something for America" other than something negative is far from over.

    This is a tad unrelated to your post, but I was curious - what exactly does simplification of the tax code mean? It's my understanding that the most complicated part of the tax code is figuring out how much taxable income you have. After that figure is established, figuring out what bracket you're in is easy. People buy computer programs that can do just that in two seconds. What I'm getting at here is that the perplexity comes from all the random deductions, tax breaks, and treatment of different types of income (i.e. no taxing interest, capital gains, or dividends) that make doing your taxes impossible. Is simplifying the tax code about removing those deductions, which overwhelmingly favor business to the point that 80% of America's 500 largest corporations pay zero income tax, or is it about trying to remove progressivity from the system, as I suspect it is. I am inclined to agree with conservatives that the tax code needs to be simplified. It is bad for democracy if most people don't understand how their own taxes (much less anybody elses) are determined, but I don't really trust the GOP to do this in the right way, because their goal is really not simplification, it's "fairness." What really should be done is to make it simpler for low and middle-income people that can't afford accountants well versed in tax policy, which, by the way, have only gotten more complicated over the last four years. See the Washington Post this weekend:

    The [four tax bills of 2001-2004] have taken a tax system that was already complicated enough and turned it into a kaleidoscope of annually changing brackets, limits and rules.
    Provisions blink on and off like lights in Times Square. Benefits scheduled to expire are extended -- or allowed to expire and then extended. Benefits scheduled to phase in are suddenly accelerated, but their scheduled expiration date is left in place.

    Tax policy has become the locus of political action in the last two decades. Politicians know that tax breaks are much easier to sell politically than actual spending, so complexity is only natural in a political arena that focuses so heavily on the tax code. The GOP knows they can't get rid of the income tax, so they have and they will continue to push for no taxes on things like capital gains and interest, which, you guessed it, complicate things quite nicely, considering rich people can find a way to magically turn otherwise taxable income into dividends, capital gains, and interest.
    It's part of the pattern - we've got a problem, let's inflate that problem and use our small mandate to push through radical and reactionary reforms that do nothing to solve the problem. The bankruptcy bill, the prescription drug benefit, the social security plan that Bush refuses to unveil, tort reform, etc. I just don't trust them to do it the way it should be done.

    By Blogger rabbit, at March 9, 2005 at 10:26 PM  

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