a little prognostication

07 Dec

Now that the Bush tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans are all but guaranteed to be extended for at least another two years, we can be assured that the economy will not improve. These tax cuts to the wealthy do NOT trickle down into the economy at large (the wealthy tend to hoard their money rather than spending it like poor people have to), the wealthy do not create more jobs based on their personal taxes, and these tax cuts actually add to the deficit in very real numbers. But they don’t have to be offset by spending cuts in this particular case (something the Republicans insist on for everything else). So what’ll happen is that the economy will get even weaker, job losses will continue to mount, foreclosures will increase. Obama and the Congress will decide to “help” the economy by reducing spending. Taken off the table forever is the idea of reducing military spending. And clearly they have forestalled the possibility of increasing taxes. They will cut Social Security to the bone, reduce medicare and medicaid, etc., etc. All the ideas presented by the “deficit commission” will be trotted out again and this time presented to Congress for a vote. The austerity measures will pass easily, since the Republicans, the teabaggers, and the corporatist Democrats never met a poor or unemployed person they didn’t want to beat the shit out of.

Oddly, giving the taxpayers a break on the SS deduction taken from their paychecks for the next year is part of the “bargain” for getting Democrats on board with the tax cut extension. I say that it is odd because even though SS cannot add to the deficit and is not in any real fiscal trouble right now, the way to keep SS solvent forever is to remove the cap on the wages that are taxed for SS. By giving the employed a break on SS, they are going to put SS at risk of not being able to meet its obligations, thereby guaranteeing that there will be an issue with the fund sooner rather than later. This will used as the final excuse for cuts to SS, although as I have pointed out ad nauseum, the SS fund cannot affect the deficit, and could be made solvent in perpetuity by removing the cap on wages.

The saddest part is that it will be way too late for the average citizen to realize that he just got robbed so that the rich people would not have to pay any increase in their share of taxes, no matter how modest. Congress couldn’t come up with a better plan to more rapidly drive this country right into the ground if they did it on purpose. You don’t suppose…..?



Update, Dec. 9 –

Here’s a take from Robert Borosage on the tax cut compromise:

“The White House is peddling its tax-cut deal as a needed stimulus plan, a boost to the economy that will create jobs and generate growth. This new-found concern for jobs is laudable, if startling from a White House that has been hawking deficit reduction for months – with a three-year freeze on domestic discretionary spending announced last year, the president’s deficit commission rolling out its austerity plan two weeks ago, the president announcing a federal pay freeze last week. You can get worse whiplash following this president’s economic message than watching a tennis match up close.”So now the White House is in full court press – the president, vice president, Larry Summers, David Axelrod – selling the deal as a vital plan to create jobs and get the economy going. Goldman Sachs, we’re told, has changed its growth estimates.

“But, in fact, this is far more a deal to keep the economy from slowing than to get it going. The White House is over-promising once more, making the same mistake it made in the original recovery act—underestimating the scope of the crisis, and hyping the plan to address it.

“Take a close look at the deal. Basically, it is an agreement to keep tax rates at the same level – for the very rich to the middle class (the poor fare worse). The Bush tax rates are extended. The expanded Earned Income Tax Credit and child tax credit is extended. Unemployment insurance is extended. Dividends and capital gains keep their special rate. The alternative minimum tax remains limited. None of these add a boost to the economy; they simply avoid constricting the economy. (Sadly, the only people facing higher taxes are families making less than $40,000 or individuals making less than $20,000, who will lose refunds they received from the President’s Make Work Pay refundable tax credit that wasn’t part of the deal).

“Three elements are new. The unconscionable estate tax deform offers an average million bucks or so in extra tax breaks to the heirs of the wealthiest few thousand families in America – but even if there is an epidemic that lays waste to the elderly rich, it will have no effect on jobs.

“The president’s team is touting the corporate tax break that allows companies to write off investments completely in the next year. But its effect on jobs is likely to be very limited. Companies are sitting on trillions in cash; they aren’t investing because they don’t have customers, not because they don’t have money. Worse, the larger companies are using much of their investment to build plants abroad where markets are growing. Unless carefully drafted, the measure will end up subsidizing them to ship jobs abroad.

“The third measure is the payroll tax cut for employees. The administration touts this as ‘progressive’ since it reduces the employees’ share of the payroll tax that applies to only the first $106,800 of income. But of course, those who make more get a greater tax break than those who make less – someone making the six-figure maximum will get a break about $2,100, a $50,000-a-year earner will get less than half that.

“This is likely to help the economy. It will come as a small increase in take-home pay, more likely than a lump-sum refund to be spent rather than saved. However, the break totals $120 billion for one year in a nearly $15 trillion economy. We’ve got more than 20 million people in need of full-time work. States and localities are looking at another round of layoffs. Home values aren’t recovering, and Americans have only begun to dig themselves out of excessive debt. Just as the George Bush tax-break stimulus passed in early 2008, this boost will come and go without much notice. The increased consumer spending it generates may provide insulation from another downturn, but it is a long way from the jobs agenda we need – or from providing the elixir the White House is touting.

“Worse, the plan is all tax cuts. This not only has the White House embracing the conservative theme that tax cuts stimulate the economy and create jobs; it abandons the centerpiece of the president’s reform agenda: the need to invest in areas vital to our future – education, infrastructure, innovation – to generate jobs in the short term even as we build a new foundation for the economy going forward. The president gave a powerful speech in North Carolina last week laying out this agenda. It was lost in the brouhaha over tax cuts. And next year, if the president repeats the case, he’ll face a Republican majority in the House pledged to slash $100 billion – 20 percent — out of domestic spending next year having already given away the store in tax cuts.

“Liberals are up in arms about the unconscionable tax breaks lavished once more on the very wealthy while most Americans are still struggling. The president argues, forcefully, that that was the necessary price of an agreement that will boost the economy. But an untold price of the deal is that the White House is bolstering the conservative tax cut mantra in selling it, even as it weakens the president’s own vital case for the need to invest in America.”

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Posted by on December 7, 2010 in austerity, Congress, economy, Wall St and banks


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