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“What Could Have Been”: The Most Important Bills Blocked By Republicans In 2012

1. A minimum wage increase

House Democrats proposed legislation in June that would have raised the national minimum wage to $10 an hour, but Republicans blocked it. The minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour, even though it would need to be raised to $9.92 to match the borrowing power it had in 1968. If it was indexed to inflation, it would be $10.40 today.

2. Campaign finance transparency

The DISCLOSE Act of 2012, repeatedly blocked by Congressional Republicans, would have allowed voters to know who was funding the attack ads that flooded the airways from secretive groups like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS.

3. The Buffett Rule

Senate Republicans in April filibustered the Buffet Rule, which would have set a minimum tax on millionaires. Huge majorities of Americans consistently support the rule, which would raise tens of billions of dollars per year from Americans who have seen their incomes explode while their tax rates plummeted.

4. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act

ENDA, which would prohibit discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, has languished in Congress for decades, and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) “hasn’t thought much” about bringing it to a vote.

5. U.N. treaty to protect the equal rights of the disabled

Republicans blocked ratification of the United Nations treaty to protect the rights of disabled people around the world, falsely claiming it would undermine parents of disabled children. In fact, the treaty would require other nations to revise their laws to resemble the Americans With Disabilities Act and had overwhelming support from veterans and disabilities groups. It failed by 5 votes.

6. The Paycheck Fairness Act

It’s about to be 2013, and women are still getting paid less than men for the same job. This year the Paycheck Fairness Act came up for a vote again (previous efforts to pass the law have been unsuccessful), but the Senate GOP still couldn’t get it together to pass the legislation. Republicans oppose the measure, saying it helps trial lawyers instead of women. But the country’s female doctors, lawyers, and CEOs might be inclined to disagree.


By: Think Progress, December 28, 2012




December 31, 2012 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Branstad Rule”: GOP Governor Uses Tax Loophole To Cut His State Income Tax Bill To $52

President Obama and Senate Democrats have been trying to implement the Buffett rule, a minimum tax on millionaires, which would remedy the problem of millionaires being able to pay lower tax rates than middle class families. One state lawmaker in Iowa thinks his state needs its own version — the Branstad rule — after Gov. Terry Branstad (R-IA) was able to pay just $52in state income taxes on his nearly $200,000 in income:

Gov. Terry Branstad’s $52 state income tax bill in 2011 is proof that fixes are needed in the tax system, Sen. Robert Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids said today.

“Some people talk about nationally we need a Buffet rule, maybe in Iowa we need a Branstad rule,” said Hogg, who additionally noted that a person making between $30,000 to $40,000 a year can expect to pay somewhere around $1,000 or more in state income tax.

Branstad was able to pay such a low amount because Iowa is one of just six states in the country that allows residents to write off their federal income tax payments from the previous year on their current year’s tax return. So Branstad was able to apply his 2010 federal income tax payments — which were paid on the salary he received from his prior job as the president of Des Moines University — to this year’s state income tax bill.

Iowa loses $642 million annually due to this provision, nearly one quarter of its total income tax revenue. More than half of the benefit of the deduction goes to the richest 5 percent of Iowans, while 76 percent of the benefits go to the richest 20 percent. “States should take a hard look at eliminating, or at least capping, their deduction because of the impact this lopsided tax policy has on state budgets and tax fairness,” the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy wrote. Branstad’s administration called his low tax bill an anomaly.


By: Pat Garofalo, Think Progress, April 25, 2012

April 26, 2012 Posted by | Taxes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Minority Defeats The Majority”, Again: The Media Needs To Tell Readers The Truth About GOP Filibustering

The death-by-filibuster of the Buffett Rule in the Senate yesterday revealed, among other things, that the news media still has a ways to go in learning how to report on the era of the 60-vote Senate.

Most Americans, not surprisingly, do not realize that majorities can no longer get their way in the Senate. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that most key votes in the Senate were based on simple majority voting. Only since 1993 has constant filibustering been common, and only in 2009 did Republicans create a situation in which virtually everything requires a supermajority. Reporting in these circumstances is a bit tricky, but if you are going to tell the full story of a bill killed by filibuster, you need to report not just the outcome — a bill lost — but that majority sentiment was thwarted by a minority.

So, how did the major papers do yesterday? Neither the New York Times nor the Washington Post had the word “filibuster” in their on-line front page headlines or teasers. The Post story does get the “F” word into her second paragraph, which is good. The Times story merely refers to the 60 votes the Democrats “needed” to pass the bill, without mentioning that the 60 votes were “needed” to break a GOP filibuster until way down in the eighth paragraph. Politico called it a “filibuster” in the second graf. But none of the three stories said explicitly that a minority of Senators defeated a majority.

CNN’s web story was particularly awful, reporting simply that “the Democrats fell nine votes short.” There was no mention of a filibuster, or that the “nine votes short” added up a 51 vote majority — so no one reading the story could deduce that a majority of the Senate favored the policy. The Los Angeles Times, in a broader story, also claimed that the Buffett Rule was blocked by “Republican-led opposition,” whatever that means. Again, no mention at all of a filibuster, or which way the majority voted.

None of this is good enough. Whether one supports the filibuster, opposes it, or (as I do) hopes for a middle course, it’s simply not informative enough to just say that something was “blocked” without explaining that it was blocked by a minority of Senators who deployed a filibuster.

The decision of the Republican minority to create the 60 vote Senate — and the willingness of the Democratic majority to go along with it — remains perhaps the most important single structural fact of Congressional procedure. It has been at least as important as any other factor in shaping Obama’s legislative agenda. And news organizations still aren’t telling readers and viewers the full truth about what’s happening.


By: Jonathan Bernstein, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, April 17, 2012





April 21, 2012 Posted by | Congress | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Under The Money Tree”: Corporations Aren’t The Only Ones Benefiting From Low Corporate Taxes

If you are Exxon Mobil, Verizon or General Electric, chances are filing taxes over the past few years has been significantly less painful than for the average American.

And Sunlight Foundation senior fellow Lee Drutman says that’s because everyday Americans don’t have lobbyists on the hill fighting for them.

“If you think you wound up paying too much in taxes this year, maybe you ought to hire a lobbyist or two or 20,” Drutman writes in a recent report. A Sunlight Foundation study shows that of the country’s 200 largest corporations, the eight companies that dished out the most money for lobbying on Capitol Hill between 2007 and 2010 saw major savings in corporate taxes. Six of the companies even saw a more than 7 percent drop in their tax rate over the years.

AT&T for example, a company that spent more than $70 million on federal lobbying saw a 40.4 percent decrease in their rate, a more than $7 billion savings on corporate taxes. Northrop Grumman’s tax rate also decreased from nearly 33 percent to just over 20 percent after they doled out $57 million for lobbyists to pitch their causes on Capitol Hill.

All together the “Big Eight” paid $540 million for federal lobbying and saved over $11 billion in taxes. Drutman estimates the return on investment to be roughly 2,000 percent.

With all of the changes in tax code, it’s easy to see how companies can save so much in just a few years.

“In 2005, the President’s Advisory Panel on Tax Reform counted approximately 15,000 separate changes to the tax code since 1986,” Drutman said.

And the CCH Standard Federal Tax Reporter, the country’s written tax code document, has more than doubled from 33,000 pages in the mid-1980s to more than 72,000 pages today.

However, corporations are not the only ones benefiting from low corporate taxes.

Drutman says that congressmen who sit on the House Ways and Means Committee, the congressional arm in control of tax regulation, receive about $250,000 more in fundraising contributions than their fellow lawmakers.

“Being on Ways and Means is like having Christmas every day,” says Jeffrey Berry, a political science professor at Tufts University and expert on influence in politics. “They barely have to raise any money. It rains down upon them. They are standing under the money tree.”


By: Lauren Fox, Washington Whispers, U. S. News and World report, April 17, 2012

April 18, 2012 Posted by | Congress | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“GOP Tax Jihad Continues”: The Enemy Within Shoots Down The Buffett Rule

To nobody’s surprise, the Senate has blocked the Buffett Rule that would have required those earning more than $1 million a year to pay a minimum tax of 30 percent.

The 51-46 vote—short of the 60 votes in support needed to bring the measure to the floor—went along party lines with only GOP Senator Susan Collins crossing the aisle to vote with the Democrats while Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas sided with the Republicans.

While passage of the measure is estimated to bring in only $47 billion in additional revenue, the proposed law, which has been actively pushed by the Obama Administration, is viewed by supporters as fairness issue while opponents claim that the rich already pay a disproportionate share of the nation’s tax revenue.

Failure of the bill to advance is also likely to give the President a popular issue for his re-election campaign, given the strong support for the law among the general public. According to a CNN/ORC poll out today, 72 percent of the nation’s registered voters support the measure.

Expressing disappointment with the vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said,

The wealthiest one percent takes home the highest share of the nation’s income since the early ’20s, the roaring ’20s. Times are tough for many middle class American families. Millionaires and billionaires aren’t sharing the pain or the sacrifice, not one bit. Last year there were 7,000 millionaires who didn’t pay a single penny in federal income taxes.

But Republicans aren’t buying it, arguing that the proposal is nothing more than a ‘political gimmick’—or so says GOP Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell:

The problem is, we’ve got a president who seems more interested in pitting people against each other than he is in actually doing what it takes to face these challenges head on. By wasting so much time on this political gimmick that even Democrats admit won’t solve our larger problems, it’s shown the president is more interested in misleading people than he is in leading.

Last week, ThinkProgress posted a video of President Ronald Reagan giving a speech indicating that he too objected to the notion of a secretary paying a higher rate of tax than her employer, the circumstance that gave rise to Warren Buffett’s proposal that resulted in his name going on this piece of legislation.


By: Rick Ungar, Contributor, The Policy Page, Forbes, April 16, 2012

April 17, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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