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The Road to Jobs and Economic Growth

2:03 pm in Uncategorized by Lee Saunders

Road

Road

One of the great lies of our time is that raising taxes on the wealthy hurts job creation and undermines economic growth. There is absolutely no evidence anywhere in the world that this claim is true. In fact, all the evidence points to the exact opposite being true: When the wealthy are taxed fairly, jobs are created and economic growth is encouraged. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, for example, when the economy boomed and the middle-class expanded, the top bracket for high-income earners was 90 percent. Today, the top bracket is at 35 percent, but the top 1 percent are paying an effective tax rate of less than 30 percent.

In 1993, when President Clinton proposed raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, he was roundly criticized by the corporate-controlled politicians on Capitol Hill and the Wall Street barons who always oppose higher taxes on the rich. They claimed the economy would suffer and jobs would be lost. Yet, when President Clinton won that tax increase, just the opposite happened. The nay-sayers were wrong. Job creation skyrocketed and we ushered in nearly a decade of strong economic growth.

A dozen years ago, however, that growth came to a halt with Pres. George W. Bush’s program of tax cuts for the rich and the deregulation of Wall Street. Instead, we were left with the lowest job creation of any Presidency in modern times. There is a reason for this result: When the wealthy get massive tax cuts, they don’t spend the money. Neither do corporations. In fact, corporations are now sitting on more than $1 trillion in cash.

On the other hand, when working families get a tax break, they spend it – creating more demand for products and giving corporations an incentive to produce more and hire more people. That is why President Obama makes such a strong case for keeping taxes low on the working middle class while allowing the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy to expire. Yet the same, age-old arguments are made by the wealthy to keep their taxes low.

They’ve even got a corporate CEO-funded front group, called Fix the Debt, arguing that we need to cut programs that help the poor, seniors and the sick in order to finance more tax cuts for the richest people in the country. That kind of thinking won’t put America back to work. And it won’t finance the important investments in infrastructure and education that we need to remain competitive in the future. All it will do is give the rich a tax break that they don’t need.

That is one reason why the 2012 election was the most important one of our lifetime. Big issues were debated, including whether we would return to Bush-era policies or enact the kind of Clinton-era tax policies supported by President Obama. The voters sent a clear signal that they supported President Obama’s plan to move the country forward by raising taxes on the wealthy and protecting vitally important programs that the poor and middle-class rely upon, such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Some on Capitol Hill – such as Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina – say they will only accept a revenue increase if the President will agree to major cuts in Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. But Congress and President Obama have already cut more than $1.5 trillion in government spending. Now, the focus must be on revenue.

More than 40 members of the House have indicated their opposition to any cuts in Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Tom Harkin underscored the opposition to unnecessary cuts in a letter they circulated earlier this week. They urged President Obama to “reject changes to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security that would cut benefits, shift costs to states, alter the structure of these critical programs, or force vulnerable populations to bear the burden of deficit reduction.”

The taxes on the richest people in America have been too low for too long. Our economic recovery is being damaged by this fundamentally flawed policy. Just this week, billionaire Warren Buffet made this clear in an op-ed published in The New York Times. In his column, Buffet called on Congress to immediately “enact a minimum tax on high incomes.”

Buffet also suggests a 30 percent rate for income between $1 million and $10 million, and a 35 percent on amounts above that. “A plain and simple rule like that will block the efforts of lobbyists, lawyers and contribution-hungry legislators to keep the ultra-rich paying rates well below those incurred by people with income just a tiny fraction of ours,” Buffet wrote.

We need to mobilize and demand that the Congress raise taxes on the wealthy and protect vital programs. It is the only way to avoid a fiscal disaster while encouraging job creation and greater economic growth.
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“It Takes a Lot of Brass: Romney and America’s Veterans”

2:47 pm in Uncategorized by Lee Saunders

Veterans Day 2010

(Photo: xalamay/flickr)

It takes a lot of brass, to paraphrase Pres. Bill Clinton, to tell a room full of fat cats paying $50,000 for a meal, that nearly half of the American people are freeloaders sponging off the government. Yet, as everyone now knows, that’s exactly what Mitt Romney did. He told his wealthy backers that 47 percent of the electorate – who he falsely claimed pay no income taxes - will support President Obama “no matter what.”

Romney ignores the fact that just about every working American pays taxes of one kind or another, including payroll taxes that finance Social Security and Medicare, for example. It is seniors, the disabled and the poor who make up the majority of citizens who don’t pay income taxes. Romney said these people see themselves as “victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them.” His job, he continued, “is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” It’s not everyday that voters can see a candidate express such unbridled contempt.

There is another group of Americans who don’t pay federal taxes, a group that Romney has insulted before: the 80,000 young men and women fighting for our nation on the frontlines in Afghanistan. Romney thinks so little of the contribution these brave Americans make that he gave his acceptance speech in Tampa without even once mentioning them. He never even uttered the name of the country in which they were deployed and where more than 1,200 American lives have been lost during the past decade of war.

Romney later told Fox News that he didn’t mention Afghanistan and our troops because they were not important. Then he laughed about it. Hard to believe. Yet, when Fox News personality Brent Baier asked him if he regretted leaving the war and our troops out of his remarks, here’s how Romney replied: “When you – when you give a speech, you don’t go through a laundry list. You talk about the things you think are important.” Romney said his support for a strong military budget should be interpreted as support for our troops, as though a budget is the same as the men and women in uniform. Well, that’s the kind of nonsense you get from a candidate who thinks corporations are people.

This omission wasn’t the mistake of a Romney speechwriter. As the Washington, DC, newspaper Politico noted earlier this week, the campaign brought in veteran speechwriter Peter Wehner to craft Romney’s address. His speech included remarks on Afghanistan, but the campaign rejected his work. Romney and his campaign manager crafted the speech as given, and scrapped the references to our men and women in the military.

The reaction to this insult was immediate. Bill Kristol, the neo-conservative editor of The Weekly Standard, blasted Romney’s failure to say even “a word about the war in Afghanistan. Nor did he utter a word of appreciation to the troops fighting there, or to those who have fought there. Nor for that matter were there thanks for those who fought in Iraq, another conflict that went unmentioned.” Kristol expressed real shock at “the civic propriety of a presidential nominee failing even to mention, in his acceptance speech, a war we’re fighting and our young men and women who are fighting it.”

Romney, who avoided the Vietnam draft while living in Paris, France, has a history of ignoring our troops and veterans. According to the American Presidency Project, which keeps transcripts of campaign speeches, Romney has mentioned Afghanistan only 10 times during the two-year course of his current race for the presidency. When he travelled overseas this summer, he found no time to visit a military base. Unlike candidate Obama in 2008, who visited troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan, Mitt Romney made no time to see any active duty personnel or visit wounded warriors in a hospital. That shows you where his priorities are.

His record in Massachusetts was just as disgraceful. He sought to cut state hiring preferences for veterans and tried to cut funding for veterans outreach programs. He tried to increase user fees for long-term care for veterans and even sought to cut funding for the care of veterans’ graves. And he tried to combine veterans’ services with the state’s Office of Elder Affairs. The move was “incomprehensible,” said Walt Sanders, president of the Massachusetts AARP. “Not all veterans are elders and not all elders are veterans,” he noted.

With his eye on the bottom line, Romney ignored the real hardships faced by many of his state’s neediest veterans. While wasting tens of thousands of dollars for new television sets for his staff, Romney forced blind citizens – including many veterans – to pay a tax. Under Romney, Massachusetts began a policy of requiring the blind to carry “a certificate of blindness.” The blind were required to pay $10 annually for the certificate and $15 every four years for a blind identification card. “It’s just another form of taxation,” said Stephen Matthews of the Blinded Veterans Association. John Ray, an 85-year-old blind veteran of three wars called the Romney blindness fees “an amateurish act” to bleed residents. “I just don’t understand this foolishness,” he told the Boston Herald.

We can expect the same kind of “foolishness” to spread across the nation if Romney and his allies have their way. He has endorsed a budget that would force Draconian cuts in veterans’ programs, turn Medicare into a voucher program and eliminate hundreds of millions of funding from long-term care for seniors. Romney has made no secret of his contempt for the men and women who sacrifice for all Americans. It is the same contempt he feels for every American who relies on government to help when there is a need for a helping hand. With fewer than 50 days until the election, there is still time to avoid his cruel – and foolish – agenda.

Undermining the Right to Vote

12:41 pm in Uncategorized by Lee Saunders

"Vote!"

"Vote!" by hjl on flickr

There is no right more precious in our nation than the right of citizens to cast a ballot on Election Day.  That is why generations of Americans have sacrificed and even died in efforts to expand the right to vote.  Yet across the country, powerful corporate interests and the right-wing politicians who do their bidding are working hard to make it more difficult for citizens to vote.  In more than two dozen states this year, bills have been introduced to restrict the right to vote; and in several states where Wall Street-backed Republicans control both houses of the legislature, governors have signed these fundamentally misguided measures into law.

As a result of these cynical attempts to turn back from the progress America has made in expanding voting rights, millions of voters are in for a surprise when they go to the polls.  They will find new requirements that have never before existed, requirements that have been put in place to keep particular voters – students, minorities and senior citizens – from having their voices heard in our democracy.

In Ohio, for example, Gov. John Kasich and the Republican-controlled Legislature pushed through a measure that limits early voting and places new burdensome requirements on absentee ballots.  “I think it is very calculated,” said State Sen. Nina Turner of Cleveland.  The corporate-backed restrictions on voting are designed to reduce the ability of low-income and minority voters to cast a ballot, particularly by forcing boards of elections to close their doors on the weekend before Election Day.  Voters whose jobs, family responsibilities or disabilities make it difficult for them to stand in long lines, often for many hours, will now find it harder to exercise their fundamental right to vote. Read the rest of this entry →