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Good News!: If Top Tax Rates Return To Reagan Era, Bill O’Reilly Might Quit

Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly boasted the other day that he enjoys “more power than anybody other than the president.”

Apparently, though, this rather extraordinary degree of influence over national affairs isn’t quite enough for the conservative media personality. In fact, O’Reilly is so concerned about his potential tax burden under the “Buffett Rule,” he told his television audience last night he might just quit working altogether.

“I must tell you I want the feds to get more revenue. I don’t want to starve them as some people do. We need a robust military, a good transportation system and protections all over the place.

“But if you tax achievement, some of the achievers are going to pack it in. Again, let’s take me. My corporations employ scores of people. They depend on me to do what I do so they can make a nice salary. If Barack Obama begins taxing me more than 50 percent, which is very possible, I don’t know how much longer I’m going to do this. I like my job but there comes a point when taxation becomes oppressive. Is the country really entitled to half a person’s income?”

In case anyone’s interested in the relevant details, let’s clarify a few things.

First, we don’t know if President Obama is eyeing a top rate of 50%, and even if he did, the likelihood of congressional passage would be roughly zero.

Second, a top rate of 50% does not mean O’Reilly would lose “half” his income. I know this can seem a little complicated, but that’s just not how marginal tax rates work.

And third, a 50% top rate for millionaires and billionaires would be a departure from the recent past, but to describe it as “oppressive” is to forget much of the 20th century.

In Ronald Reagan’s first term, for example, the top rate was — you guessed it — 50%. Did Reagan’s “oppressive” tax rates prevent robust economic growth? Did “the achievers” decide to “pack it in”? No and no.

For nearly all of Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency, the top rate was 91%. That’s not a typo. Did this Republican president’s “oppressive” tax policy prevent the U.S. economy from growing in the 1950s? Apparently not.

That said, if O’Reilly is contemplating retirement to avoid helping America pay its bills, I’m not inclined to discourage him.

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 20, 2011

September 20, 2011 Posted by | Capitalism, Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Corporations, Democracy, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Economy, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Income Gap, Jobs, Media, Middle Class, Politics, President Obama, Press, Public Opinion, Pundits, Republicans, Right Wing, Tax Increases, Taxes, Teaparty, Unemployed, Wealthy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Southern Republicans Aim To Make White Democrats Extinct

State Rep. Stacey Abrams serves as the Georgia House Minority Leader.

Across the state, legislative maps are drawn to split voters along artificial lines to isolate them by race. Legislators see their districts disappear, themselves the target of racial gerrymandering. Citizens rise up in protest and demand the right to elect the candidate of their choice, but the ruling party ignores them. Racial groups are identified and segregated; their leadership eliminated. It is the way of the South. Only this isn’t 1964, the year before the signing of the Voting Rights Act. This is Georgia in 2011.

But this time, the legislators at risk are white men and women who have had the temerity to represent majority African-American districts, and Latino legislators who spoke up for their growing Hispanic population. In crossover districts, where whites and blacks have worked together for decades to build multi-racial voting coalitions, the new district maps devised by the Republican majority have slashed through those ties with speed and precision.  If the maps proposed by the GOP in Georgia stand, nearly half of the white Democratic state representatives could be removed from office in one election cycle. Call it the “race card”—in reverse.

Reapportionment is a dangerous business. Once every 10 years, the naked ambition of political parties wars with the dwindling hope of voters that this time their voices will be heard. In the South, the voting lines traditionally aimed for specific targets—racial discrimination that purged minorities, diminishing their numbers and political power. If a legislator had the poor fortune to be of the wrong race, that district would disappear for a decade or more.  The voters who relied on you would find themselves isolated and polarized, the victims of racial gerrymandering.

For most of the nation, the battle lines are drawn by partisan leaders who search for the sinuous lines that will connect like-minded voters to one another and disadvantage those who have shown a preference for the other side. That, as they say, is Politics 101.

But for a handful of states, the stakes are higher. Below the Mason-Dixon Line and scattered across the country, a legacy of poll taxes and literacy tests required a special remedy—Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Voting Rights Act has a simple goal—integrate the voting of minorities into the fabric of our democracy. For any state held to its obligations, no changes can be made to election laws without pre-clearance by the Justice Department. In the last decade, the minority population across the South has increased, and by any measure, the Voting Rights Act has been the engine of racial progress.

In Georgia, the gains made under the Act are undeniable. Districts populated predominately by African-Americans have routinely elected white legislators to speak for them. In enclaves across the state, white voters have punched their ballots to elect African-American and Latino representatives. Crossover districts, where blacks and whites and Latinos co-mingle, have grown in prominence–combining with majority-minority districts to comprise nearly 35 percent of the House of Representatives.

In 2011, Georgia should stand as a model for the South and a beacon for those who believe in the rights of voters. However, based on the maps passed last week by the Republican majority, we are in danger of returning to 1964.

Redistricting is fundamentally about voters, and in Georgia, minority voters comprise fully 42 percent of the population. More importantly, these populations have aligned themselves with majority white constituents to demonstrate political power. Under the proposal, Republicans will pair 20 percent of Democrats and 7 percent of Republicans in the state House and eliminate the sole remaining white Democrat in Congress from the Deep South. The House pairings pit black Democrats against white Democrats in four contests, white against white in another and eliminate multi-racial coalition voting across the state. When the dust settles, between pairings and the creation of GOP-leaning districts, Republicans stand to knock off 10 white Democrats—half the total number. They will pick up seven new seats, for a total of 123 Republican seats, 56 Democratic seats and one Independent. This will give Republicans a constitutional majority in the state of Georgia; in other words, they will be able to pass any piece of legislation without opposition.

Let’s be clear. It is absolutely the prerogative of the majority party to maximize its political gains. No one questions the right of the GOP to draw as many districts as it can legally muster. The issue is not whether the GOP can increase its hold, but how.

The GOP’s newly drawn voting lines in the state of Georgia reveals a pernicious new cynicism in our politics—the use of the Voting Rights Act as a weapon to destroy racial, ethnic, and gender diversity. It is no consolation if individual black legislators benefit in the GOP’s new scheme. The Voting Rights Act was never intended to protect a particular minority. Indeed, the highest goals of the Act, one of modern America’s most progressive pieces of legislation, was to encourage multi-racial cooperation and understanding. Precisely, what we in Georgia have begun to achieve. More alarmingly, this new strategy targeting white legislators is not limited to our state. If effective here, the cradle of the civil rights movement, the strategy is expected to be implemented in mid-term redistricting across the South. Republican lawmakers in Alabama, Louisiana, North and South Carolina, Mississippi, and Virginia are watching closely.

Today, we all decry a national partisanship that seems unhealthy and corrosive. But there is nothing wrong with partisanship, when it is a battle of ideas. The Voting Rights Act is intended to ensure that differing ideas be heard, that no single voice drown out the rest. Sadly, that is not what we see rising in the South. The Voting Rights Act is in danger of not protecting the promise of a new day, but becoming a new tool in the politics of destruction.

By: Stacey Abrams, Georgia House Minority Leader, Published in U. S. News and World Report, September 19, 2011

September 20, 2011 Posted by | Bigotry, Conservatives, Constitution, Democracy, Democrats, Elections, Equal Rights, GOP, Government, Human Rights, Ideologues, Ideology, Justice Department, Lawmakers, Politics, Racism, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Teaparty, Voters, Wisconsin | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Coddled Long Enough: The “Buffett Rule” Vs “Class Warfare”

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

September 20, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Conservatives, Corporations, Democracy, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Income Gap, Jobs, Labor, Middle Class, Politics, Populism, President Obama, Public, Public Opinion, Republicans, Right Wing, Tax Increases, Tax Loopholes, Taxes, Teaparty, Unemployed, Wealthy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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