I am a job creator.
I am not a job creator in the sense that I actually create jobs. I have never knowingly created a job, and my long-term business plan, approved unanimously by my board of directors, does not call for the creation of a single one.
But I am a job creator in the sense Republicans mean when they say “don’t tax our job creators more” (House budget committee Chairman Paul Ryan) or “we cannot increase taxes on the job creators” (House Speaker John A. Boehner). This is because, in the eyes of the government, I am a small business — and, as the House Republicans liketosay, “small businesses are the job creators.”
Like the overwhelming majority of small businesses, I am a one-man operation. And, like most small businesses, I would not hire anybody even if the government dropped my tax rate to zero.
According to Small Business Administration statistics, based on 2009 Census data, 21.1 million of the 27 million small businesses in the United States are “non-employer firms,” which have no workers other than the owner. Of those, 18.7 million are “sole proprietors,” 950,000 are partnerships and 1.4 million are corporations, like me.
When lawmakers talk about small businesses as the engine of growth, they bring to mind entrepreneurs building start-ups from their garages. But when officials talk about protecting the “job creators” from tax hikes, they are mostly protecting a bunch of doctors, lawyers, freelancers, contractors and the like.
On the advice of my accountants, I formed a “C corporation,” which means that, as a legal entity, I am pretty much the same as General Motors and Google. But I run a lean operation. While my business, Ink-Stained Inc., produces the occasional book, TV appearance and speech, it is probably not going to win any best-practices awards.
Disagreement is rare during board meetings at Ink-Stained Inc. world headquarters (my house), because I am the chairman, chief executive, president, treasurer, secretary, chief technology officer and mail-room clerk. Occasionally board members complain about environmental regulations, not because these regulations affect us but because that is what we have heard corporations are supposed to do.
We administer a modest pension plan for our sole employee, and we reimburse a few health-care expenses. We have big, professional-looking checks, and we attempt to keep our accounts balanced, although our chief financial officer (also me) is a lagging performer. We once considered hiring our wife as a consultant to help us organize our finances, but the HR department was unable to come to terms with her. We have so far repelled all attempts at unionization.
I should add that I am in no danger of being caught in the net of President Obama’s proposed millionaires’ tax. I pay the accountants a few thousand dollars, and they make sure I am not paying more in taxes than I should be. (Note to the IRS: They do this in ways that are conservative, entirely above-board and so innocuous that they should not attract your interest in the slightest.)
While there is something absurd about being a one-man corporation, it’s a rational response to an irrational tax code. If lawmakers got serious about tax reform that removed loopholes, the money spent on accountants and actuaries (valuable though they are) could instead be used to grow the economy or to pay the federal debt. But that’s a matter for another day.
At the moment, the Ink-Stained Inc. case study, should the Harvard Business School wish to study it, is a reminder to be skeptical of the “job creator” argument in the tax debate. “It’s a good example of the murkiness of what we mean by small business and the connection to jobs,” William Gale, co-director of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution’s Tax Policy Center, told me. “There’s sort of this notion of small-business innovation and job creation that just doesn’t necessarily hold.”
That’s even more so with Obama’s “Buffett Rule,” under which millionaires would have to pay a higher tax rate than a typical middle-class worker. As a practical matter, most already do. Gale said the rule would raise the taxes on only a few thousand people, perhaps as few as 1,000.
In a nation of more than 300 million, that’s not going to make a dent in job creation. Even the data analysts at Ink-Stained Inc. could figure out that one — that is, if we had any data analysts.
By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, September 21, 2011
Over the weekend, the White House leaked word that President Obama will push a new debt-reduction idea: the “Buffett Rule.” Named after Warren Buffett, the chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, who’s been urging policymakers to raise taxes on the very wealthy. As Buffett recently explained, millionaires and billionaires “have been coddled long enough.”
We don’t yet know the details of the proposal — most notably, what the new millionaires’ minimum tax rate would be — but Republicans are already responding with predictable disgust.
Here, for example, was House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) yesterday on Fox News, making the case for coddling millionaires and billionaires for a while longer. See if you can pick up on the subtlety of his talking points.
“Class warfare, Chris, may make for really good politics but it makes a rotten economics. We don’t need a system that seeks to divide people. […]
“[I]t looks like the president wants to move down the class warfare path. Class warfare will simply divide this country more. It will attack job creators, divide people and it doesn’t grow the economy. […]
“[I]f we are just going to do class warfare and trying to get tax increases out of this, and I don’t think much will come of it…. He’s in a political class warfare mode and campaign mode.”
So, I guess I’ll put him down as a “maybe” on the Buffett Rule?
By any reasonable measure, Ryan’s arguments aren’t just wrong, they’re borderline offensive.
For a generation, Republican policymakers have rigged national tax policy to reward the wealthy, and then reward them some more. We’ve seen the class gap reach Gilded Era levels, only to hear GOP officials again demand that working families “sacrifice” while lavishing more breaks on the very wealthy.
Remind me, who’s engaged in “class warfare” and “dividing people”?
Also note the larger policy context here. President Obama wants the richest of the rich to pay a little more, but keep tax breaks in place for the middle class. Paul Ryan and his cohorts want the polar opposite — more breaks for the very wealthy and higher taxes for the middle class.
Let’s also not forget that one of the GOP’s more common tax-policy arguments is that nearly half the country doesn’t have any federal income tax burden — and they see that as a problem that needs fixing. As a practical matter, the Republican argument on this is practically the definition of “class warfare.”
I realize much of the political establishment has come to look at Paul Ryan as a wise wonk who deserves to be taken seriously, but it really doesn’t take much to realize how spectacularly wrong the far-right Wisconsinite really is.
By: Steve Benen, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 19, 2011
CNN Online has publisheda story titled an “angry electorate helps sustain tea party,” ignoring the clear evidence the “movement” is only sustained by thinly-veiled religious zeal and wealthy funders like the Koch brothers.
Perhaps in an effort to avoid accusations of liberal bias, CNN Online parrots Tea Party spin, concluding the article by quoting a GOP strategist who states “The tea party is an organic movement that was largely created by people who were frustrated by Washington. . . There’s not much you can do about something that’s genuine, something that grew organically.” On the contrary, the tea party has been funded since its inception by the billionaire Koch brothers and other wealthy ideologues, and its events and gatherings have been orchestrated by corporate lobbyists.
Koch-funded Christian Right
Studies show that most people who now identify with the Tea Party were already highly partisan Republicans and identified with the religious right before the “movement” began. In the August 2010 New Yorker article lifting the veil on Tea Party funding, conservative economist Bruce Bartlett explained that “the problem for the Kochs has been trying to create a movement,” and that they are “trying to shape and control and channel the populist uprising into their own policies.” Tea Party handlers, then, harness the religious zeal of its members, allege they are motivated by Ayn Rand-inspired economic populism, and run candidates like Michele Bachmann who play down their extreme social conservatism in favor of an economic platform. And news outlets like CNN apparently continue to take the “grassroots movement” at face value.
Clearly Partisan Agenda
Matt Kibbe, longtime Republican operative and president of tea party group FreedomWorks, told CNN “we’re not a protest movement anymore; we’ve morphed into something else. We’re a get-out-the-vote machine. We’re organizing at the community level.”
Recently released recordings from the Koch brothers’ donor retreat in June, though, demonstrate that Tea Party events have always been aimed at electing Republicans. As Think Progress notes, Koch Industries executive and lobbyist Kevin Gentry described being “on the road” in 2010 for the Koch-funded “Americans for Prosperity’s last minute kind of get out the vote tours,” which he said was “a Tea Party AFP event designed to help in the Congressional races.” The specific “get out the vote” event Gentry referenced was in Congressman Paul Ryan‘s district.
CNN is co-sponsoring a GOP presidential debate with the Tea Party Express tonight.
By: Brendan Fischer, Center for Media and Democracy, September 12, 2011
Ten years ago today, the wealthiest Americans caught a multi-billion dollar break from their benefactor, then-president George W. Bush. In the decade since, through two wars, natural disasters, a plummeting economy and a soaring debt, the wealthiest Americans have gotten to keep those Bush tax cuts. Happy birthday, everybody!
As the Republican Party now lines itself up behind Rep. Paul Ryan on his mission to cut the resulting deficit on the backs of working people and the elderly, I find myself surprisingly and strangely nostalgic for another GOP hero, whose legacy, at least when it comes to taxes, has become woefully misunderstood. Can it be that I find myself nostalgic for Ronald Reagan?!
Of course, I’m not alone in my nostalgia. I’m joined by the entire Republican leadership in this, but I think our reasons may be quite a bit different. In the spirit of unity, I’d like to suggest to Republicans in Congress that they look closely at the record of their favorite 20th century hero and adopt yet another policy named after the Gipper. I’m no fan of much of President Reagan’s legacy, but in a new spirit of bipartisanship, and historical accuracy, I’d like to present Republicans in Congress with an idea: the Ronald Reagan Tax Reform Act of 2011.
A key element of the Reagan lore believed by today’s GOP is that Reagan’s embrace of “trickle-down economics” is what caused any and all economic growth since the 1980s. In fact, after Reagan implemented his initial tax-slashing plan in 1981, the federal budget deficit started to rapidly balloon. Reagan and his economic advisers were forced to scramble and raised corporate taxes to calm the deficit expansion and stop the economy from spiraling downward. Between 1982 and 1984, Reagan implemented four tax hikes. In 1986, his Tax Reform Act imposed the largest corporate tax increase in U.S. history. The GDP growth and higher tax revenues enjoyed in the later years of the Reagan presidency were in part because of his willingness to compromise on his early supply-side idolatry.
The corporate tax increases that Reagan implemented — under the more palatable guise of “tax reform” — bear another lesson for Republicans. The vast majority of the current Republican Congress has signed on to a pledge peddled by anti-tax purist Grover Norquist, which beholds them to not raise any income taxes by any amount under any circumstances, or to bring in new revenue by closing loopholes. This pledge, which Rep. Ryan’s budget loyally adheres to, in effect freezes tax policy in time — preserving not only Bush’s massive and supposedly temporary tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, but also a vast mishmash of tax breaks and loopholes for specific industries won by well-funded lobbyists.
The problem has become so great that many giant American corporations have become so adept at exploiting loopholes in the tax code that they paid no federal income taxes at all last year — if Republicans in Congress follow their pledge to Norquist, they won’t be able to close a single one of the loopholes that are allowing corporations to avoid paying their fair share.
Even Reagan recognized the difference between just plain raising taxes and simplifying the tax code to cut out loopholes that subsidize corporations. In 1984, he arranged to bring in $50 billion over three years, mainly by closing these loopholes. His 1986 reform act not only included $120 billion in tax hikes for corporations over five years, it also closed $300 billion worth of corporate loopholes.
These kinds of tax simplification solutions are available for Congress if they want them. As I wrote in April, nixing Bush’s tax cut’s for the wealthiest Americans would help the country cut roughly $65 billion off the deficit in this year alone. Closing loopholes that allow corporations to shelter their income in foreign banks would bring in $6.9 billion. Eliminating the massive tax breaks now enjoyed by oil and gas companies would yield $2.6 billion to help pay the nation’s bills.
But before Republicans in Congress change their math, they have to change their rhetoric — and embrace the reality of the economic situation they face and the one that they’d like to think they’re copying. In 1986, during the signing ceremony for the Tax Reform Act, Reagan explained that “vanishing loopholes and a minimum tax will mean that everybody and every corporation pay their fair share.”
It’s time for the GOP to take a page from their hero’s playbook. If they do so, they might be able to find some allies that they never thought possible. It’s time for “everybody and every corporation to pay their fair share.” We can all get along. Sign me up for “The Reagan Tax Reform Act of 2011.”
By: Michael B. Keegan, President: People For the American Way, Published in HuffPost, August 7, 2011