Political Nutz

Observations on the pathetic state of American politics

Monthly Archives: August 2012

Brooks Finally Gets It

I enjoy reading and listening to the New York Times’ David Brooks.  Too often, though, he enthusiastically parrots the Republican party line.  To his credit, in today’s NYT column he admits that the GOP has morphed into a mindless, cold, heartless band of individualists who assume everyone gets exactly what they deserve.  If you have an inherited disease, it’s your fault.  If you get rear-ended by a logging truck, you deserved it.  If your employer goes belly up and you’re without a job, you need to work harder. The only role for government is to ensure that those fortunate folks who “have made it” continue to get every possible benefit, like lower tax rates and guaranteed health insurance.  Here’s a snippet of Brooks’ conclusion:

I don’t see what the party is offering the waitress with two kids, or the warehouse worker whose wages have stagnated for a decade, or the factory worker whose skills are now obsolete.

The fact is our destinies are shaped by social forces much more than the current G.O.P. is willing to admit. The skills that enable people to flourish are not innate but constructed by circumstances.

Government does not always undermine initiative. Some government programs, like the G.I. Bill, inflame ambition. Others depress it. What matters is not whether a program is public or private but its effect on character. Today’s Republicans, who see every government program as a step on the road to serfdom, are often blind to that. They celebrate the race to success but don’t know how to give everyone access to that race.

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Romney’s Taxes… He Just Doesn’t Get It

Mitt Romney has proudly proclaimed that he paid a whopping 13% in taxes over the past ten years.  He seems to think this is somehow a noble gesture on his part and we should all be glad that he contributed so mightily to the U.S. coffers.  He just doesn’t understand the sense of unfairness we middle class folks feel when we pay 13.2% just for Social Security and Medicare which by the way Mr. Romney did not contribute to at all since his income was all in some type of non-wages category.  While Romney has collected 20  million bucks a year running for president the guy who drives the local garbage truck earning $48,000 a year pays 13% into FICA and 25% in income taxes. Mr. Romney may not have done anything illegal tax-wise but he is painfully clueless and arrogant about how most of Americans live… and pay their fair share in taxes.

Tax Exemption for Olympians? Phooey!

So President Obama has again sided with the Republicans; this time on Marco Rubio’s proposed Olympic Tax Elimination Act.  No need to “punish success,” Senator Rubio says.  Give me a break!  What about policemen, doctors, teachers…?  They contribute mightily to America and get no special tax treatment.  Never mind the fact that Olympians already get to deduct their expenses for training, equipment and travel.  Singling out a few hundred elite athletes just makes no sense… and it’s eminently unfair to the  rest of us.  But, then again, tax fairness in the Republican mind means only that those with the least money should pay the most.

August 8 addendum, Matthew Yglesias gets it right: Tax the Olympians:  Sen. Marco Rubio and President Obama team up for a ridiculous new tax break for Olympic medal winners.  He writes…

If they gave out awards for dumb new policy ideas, President Obama and Republican rising star Sen. Marco Rubio would both be medaling this week. Their achievements? Rubio’s completely pointless bill offering a tax break to recipients of Olympic medals and—even worse—the president’s decision to hop on the bandwagon rather than show the country he has a firmer grasp on the issues than his adversaries do. In the scheme of things, of course, winning Olympic prizes is not an important sector of economic activity, and the medals’ tax status doesn’t really matter. But the overall shape of the tax code does matter a great deal, and the speed with which a bipartisan consensus emerged around making it worse bodes quite poorly for efforts to make it better.

In a bit of counter argument, Smart Money notes that Olympic stars and wannabes can confront expenses as high as $250,000 with little chance of any financial return on investment. Well, it’s their choice and their dream. Go for it but don’t expect me to foot part of the bill. What about the graduate or medical student taking on tens of thousands of dollars of loans each year to prepare to contribute in a meaningful way to society? Or artists or musicians who follow their muse with no help from the taxpayers?

I cheer for U.S. athletes and hope those who are able contribute to the U.S. Olympic Committee. But let’s not muddle the tax code to give a few hundred kids a tiny, specialized tax break.