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“Tithes And Offerings”: A Well-Established Fad Among The Glenn Beckish, Conspiracy-Theory Oriented Christian Right Types

As long as we are talking about flaky but popular-among-conservatives tax plans, Ben Carson’s allegedly Bible-based “tithe” tax, which he got to tout in last night’s debate, is among the flakiest. It’s really just an unusually low flat tax, which means (a) it wouldn’t come even close to paying for anything like the government we have, and (b) it represents an incredibly huge windfall for the rich along with significantly higher taxes for the poor (plus loss of refundable tax credits).

What it is, however, is a well-established fad among the Glenn Beckish, conspiracy-theory oriented Christian Right types that represent Carson’s real ideological home. Here’s RightWingNews’ Peter Montgomery on flat taxes and “biblical values:”

The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer has declared, “God believes in a flat tax.” On his radio show last year, Fischer said, “That’s what a tithe is, it’s a tax.”

Of course, that kind of flat tax would amount to a massive tax cut for the richest Americans and a tax hike on the poorest. So it’s not terribly surprising the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity has teamed up with the Religious Right to promote the idea that progressive taxation is an un-Christian idea. AFP joined Religious Right groups to create the Freedom Federation, one of the right-wing coalitions that sprung up in opposition to Barack Obama’s election as president. The coalition’s founding “Declaration of American Values” declares its allegiance to a system of taxes that is “not progressive in nature.”

David Barton, the pseudo-historian, GOP activist, and Glenn Beck ally, is a major promoter of the idea that the Bible opposes progressive taxes, capital gains taxes, and minimum wage. Barton’s views are grounded in the philosophy of Christian Reconstructionism, a movement whose thinking has infused both the Religious Right and Tea Party movements with its notion that God gave the family, not the government, responsibility for education — and the church, not the government, responsibility for taking care of the poor.

That’s how we have Republican members of Congress supporting cuts in food stamps by appealing to the Bible. And how we get Samuel Rodriguez, the most prominent conservative Hispanic evangelical leader, saying that a desire to “punish success” — i.e. progressive taxes — “is anti-Christian and anti-American.”

A lot of people still think of the conservative movement as a combo platter of “conservative Christians” who don’t care about economic issues, and “economic conservatives” who are indifferent or even hostile towards “social issues,” and then Tea Party People who only care about fiscal probity and constitutional issues. It’s actually all a stew. And in particular, the Christian Right is composed in large part of people who have divinized private property and think the Constitution permanently addressed social and family policy along with taxation and government structure. That’s part and parcel of Ben Carson’s strange gospel of American unity: it was all resolved by the Founders, and we’ll all get along if “politically correct” people weren’t causing trouble with their secular socialist schemes.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, August 7, 2015

August 8, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Conservatives, Religious Right | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“What The Godfather Of Reaganomics Gets Wrong”: Wink, Wink, Nudge, Nudge; More Distorted Reagan Nostalgia

Chris Christie just announced a big tax-cut plan. Well, of course he did. Offering such proposals is de rigueur for Republican presidential candidates. And it pretty much has been since the Reagan presidency.

No surprise, then, that Arthur Laffer, intellectual godfather of the Reagan tax cuts, remains in high demand on the right. Many GOP 2016ers — including Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, and Ted Cruz — have been publicly consulting with the supply-side economist who continues to joyfully preach the wonder-working power of cutting top marginal tax rates.

But Laffer is, shall we say, less than enthusiastic about my recent column here at The Week, in which I argued that some presidential wannabes were misinterpreting and misapplying the lessons of Reaganomics. As I wrote a few weeks back:

Republicans sometimes misuse Reaganomics to justify fantastical tax plans that promise deep rate cuts for the rich — both Cruz and Paul favor low-rate flat taxes — that will pay for themselves and boost the middle class through explosive economic growth. … Republican policymakers and voters have little reason — either from historical experience or empirical studies — to assume tax reform will generate a prolonged period of 4-5 percent GDP growth such that concerns about budget deficits and income distribution are irrelevant. [The Week]

In other words, a flat tax won’t supercharge growth enough to prevent us from losing big bucks. This is a rather modest claim and critique, one perfectly compatible with the idea that the Reagan tax cuts were still good policy. Reaganomics was a home run — just not an impossible five-run dinger.

My comments are also compatible with the consensus among economists on the left and right. Yet Laffer felt compelled to respond to my article with a three-chart, five-page, 2,000-word rebuttal.

Laffer is one of the most important public policy entrepreneurs of the 20th century, right up there with John Maynard Keynes and Milton Friedman. His official bio asserts his work was responsible for “triggering a world-wide tax-cutting movement in the 1980s” — and that is no vain boast. His famous Laffer Curve — an illustration of the trade-off between tax rates and tax revenue derived from the ideas of philosopher Ibn Khaldun — is indeed one of “the main theoretical constructs of supply-side economics.”

So it is disappointing that Laffer, in responding to me, offers such an odd, airy, and ultimately unnecessary defense of his life’s work. For instance: While Laffer doesn’t explicitly say the Reagan tax cuts paid for themselves, he doesn’t say they lost revenue, either. Yet he spends hundreds of words countering my claim that they didn’t pay for themselves. What Laffer basically argues is that since (a) income tax revenue rose during the 1980s, (b) the rich paid a higher share of GDP in income taxes, and (c) there were more employed people as a share of the entire adult population, then that must mean the tax cuts paid for themselves. Except he doesn’t actually say that. “Well, I hope you get the idea” is how he puts it. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

Put aside for a moment that Laffer mostly avoids my evidence, such as a Treasury Department study concluding the Reagan tax cuts lost $200 billion a year and one by former Bush II economists that found income tax cuts only recoup a sixth of the revenue they lose through higher growth. A bigger flaw in Laffer’s argument is that he ignores everything else happening in the U.S. economy during the 1980s. Tax rates matter plenty — Laffer’s key insight — but they aren’t all that matters. Laffer ignores the big role of easier monetary policy in driving the recovery after the awful 1981-82 recession. And, yes, the employment-population ratio rose in the 1980s — as it did in the 1970s. Did the Reagan tax cuts cause the Baby Boom, too? Laffer also ignores the revenue impact of $115 billion a year in 1980s tax hikes and how the Tax Reform Act of 1986 nudged rich people to shift how they took their income to the personal income tax base from the corporate one. Laffer ignores a lot as he attempts to make a stronger-than-necessary case. The economist doth protest too much.

Laffer’s other big objection is that I downplay the growth effects of the Reagan tax cuts by cherry picking dates. Since the tax cuts did not go fully into effect until 1983, Laffer argues that’s the appropriate start date for the Reagan boom. Indeed, real GDP grew at a snappy 4.5 percent annually from 1983 through 1988. But Laffer’s timing is problematic. The recovery likely would not have been as strong if not for the 1981-82 recession itself. Sharp recoveries after downturns were the rule of the postwar era through the 1980s. And since the 1981 downturn was the deepest, a strong rebound would be expected. For example, the economy grew by 5 percent during the first two years after the awful 1973-75 recession.

Again, none of this means the Reagan tax cuts failed. It would be hard to find a reasonable economist who denied they boosted growth in the 1980s as the Fed battled inflation. The effects just were not ginormous enough to fully offset the direct revenue loss. More importantly, perhaps, Reaganomics — tax cuts, deregulation, entrepreneurial optimism — changed America’s longer-term economic direction. Economist Michael Mandel contends that “the impact of the policies Reagan set out in the 1980s, which slowly worked their way through the economy, helped lay the groundwork for the Information Revolution of the 1990s.” So, yeah, you can give Reagan a bit of thanks for your smartphone.

This is the data-driven, evidence-based analysis Laffer and other old-school Reaganauts should be making to today’s GOP and center-right movement. The real Reaganomics. With fantasy tax plans again abounding on the right, the presidential race could use a reality check more than more distorted Reagan nostalgia.

 

By: James Pethokoukis, The Week, May 13, 2015

May 14, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Reaganomics, Supply Side Economics | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gingrich’s Tax Plan Would Give Millionaires A $600,000 Tax Cut

The latest 2012 GOP presidential frontrunner, Newt Gingrich, has, like Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) before him, released a plan to overhaul the U.S. tax code by giving taxpayers the option of paying a single, flat, income tax rate, as opposed to using today’s progressive tax code. In fact, Gingrich goes a bit further than Perry, setting his flat rate at 15 percent, as opposed to Perry’s 20 percent.

Gingrich claims that his plan will “allow Americans the freedom to choose to file their taxes on a postcard, saving hundreds of billions in unnecessary costs each year.” However, according to an analysis by the Tax Policy Center, the plan will also achieve another of Gingrich’s ends — giving millionaires a tax cut of more than $600,000 per year:

Gingrich’s plan would create an optional 15 percent flat tax with a per-person deduction of $12,000. He would drop the corporate tax rate to 12.5 percent from 35 percent, allow businesses to write off capital expenses and eliminate taxes on capital gains and estates, according to his website.

People earning more than $1 million a year would receive an average tax cut of $613,689 in 2015, compared with what they pay now. That change would boost their after-tax income by 28.7 percent and put their average tax rate at 11.9 percent.

Under the plan, half of the entire benefit goes to the richest 1 percent of taxpayers. The richest 0.1 percent of the country will receive a tax cut worth nearly $2 million each and every year. These tax cuts are in addition to what the wealthy are already receiving from their disproportionate share of the Bush tax cuts.

The end result of the plan would be millionaires paying a lower tax rate than middle-class families, as a millionaire would pay an 11.9 percent rate, while a family making $40,000-$50,000 would pay 12.7 percent.

Gingrich has already criticized his top competitor, Mitt Romney, for not lavishing enough tax breaks onto the wealthy. And it would seem that Gingrich’s critique is extremely genuine, as his own tax plan hands out tons of breaks to the very wealthy, in the misguided hope that prosperity will then trickle down to everybody else.

 

By: Pat Garofalo, Think Progress, December 12, 2011

December 13, 2011 Posted by | Economy, Taxes | , , , , | 1 Comment

Cutting Taxes For The Rich Never Ends Well

You can call it 9-9-9, the Perry two-step, or a national sales tax. But the various flat tax plans being proposed by Republican candidates, right-wing think tanks, and media commentators share some common characteristics that should worry most middle-class Americans.

The basic notion behind a flat tax is to eliminate the current system of six tax brackets—in which people with higher incomes pay higher tax rates—with a single uniform rate. Most flat tax proposals also eliminate most or all of the deductions and credits in the current code—such as the mortgage interest deduction, the deduction for charitable giving, and hundreds of lesser-used preferences.

The flat tax is certainly a good deal for high-income individuals. Although they might not get to deduct mortgage interest payments on their vacation homes, those with high incomes more than make up for it in the lower, “flatter” rate. For example, under a 20 percent flat tax (similar to the one proposed by Rick Perry), the top 1 percent would see an average tax cut of over $200,000.

If the rich are paying less, you can probably guess who would pay more: low- and moderate-income families. For example, under the Cain 9-9-9 plan, 90 percent of filers with incomes between $40,000 and $50,000 would see a tax increase averaging about $4,000. (The Perry plan gives taxpayers an option of staying in the current system—so it’s unlikely anyone would choose the flat tax option if it means higher taxes. Since low- and moderate-income taxpayers would see an increase under the 20 percent plan, the final result of the Perry plan would be the introduction of an exclusive tax code designed for the high-income individuals, while the rest of us get to keep the old clunker. See who would choose which plan.)

Because flat tax proposals lower rates at the top, and because the top is where an increasing share of income is being concentrated, they also tend to bring in significantly less revenue than the current tax code, resulting in higher deficits, fewer public investments, and pressure to cut programs like Social Security and Medicare.

Proponents of the flat tax argue that lower rates on the rich (or the “job-creators” as some are now calling them) and on income derived from stocks and bonds will boost economic growth and job creation. However, this trickle-down theory has been tried and failed: Bush-era policies moved the tax code in this direction, but the “boom” of the 2000s was the worst on record since at least the 1950s.

Tax cuts for the rich and a higher debt for everyone else? We’ve seen that movie before, and it doesn’t end well.

By: John Irons, Research and Policy Director, Economic Policy Institute; Published in U. S. News and World Report, November 1, 2011

November 7, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Income Gap | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The GOP’s Latest Tax Gimmickry: Soak The Poor

It’s one of the strangest things in our politics: The only “big” ideas Republicans and conservatives seem to offer these days revolve around novel and sometimes bizarre ways of cutting taxes on rich people.

Given all the attention that Herman Cain’s nonsensical and regressive 9-9-9 tax plan has received, the Republican debates should have as their soundtrack that old Beatles song that droned on about the number nine.

Now, Texas Gov. Rick Perry hopes to pump up his campaign with a supposedly bold proposal to institute a flat tax, which would also deliver more money to the well-off. Perry plans to outline his proposal this week, but he has already touted it as a sure-fire way of “scrapping the 3 million words of the current tax code.”

There is absolutely nothing new about this idea, and candidates who pushed flat taxes in the past saw their campaigns flat-line, most prominently businessman Steve Forbes in 1996 and again in 2000. Politically, the idea falls apart rather quickly when middle-income voters realize that its main effect is to cut taxes on the financially privileged while usually raising them on Americans who have more modest incomes.

Note to Perry: Voters are shrewd in figuring out whether tax proposals really benefit them. That’s why raising taxes on millionaires — the exact opposite of what Cain and Perry want to do — wins support from a broad majority.

But the more interesting question is: Why are today’s Republicans so enthralled by tax gimmicks? Their party, after all, was once innovative in thinking about affirmative uses of government. The Grand Old Party instituted the Homestead Act and created land-grant colleges, the interstate highway system, student loans, the Pure Food and Drug Act and even a prescription drug benefit under Medicare.

It was Richard Nixon who supported laws establishing the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. In signing the OSHA bill, Nixon called it “one of the most important pieces of legislation, from the standpoint of 55 million people who will be covered by it, ever passed by the Congress of the United States, because it involves their lives.” Yes, government regulations save lives, a view now heretical in the GOP.

Republicans have boxed themselves into a rejection of both their own traditions and the idea that government can do any good. Thus they have confined themselves to endless fiddling with the tax code. Almost everything conservatives suggest these days is built around the single idea that if only government took less money away from the wealthy, all our problems would magically disappear.

There is a history to this. The Republican fixation on taxes dates to the mid-1970s, when supply-side economics began taking hold. The late Jude Wanniski, an editorial writer for the Wall Street Journal who campaigned indefatigably on behalf of lower marginal tax rates, came up with the “Two Santa Clauses” theory. He argued that if Democrats earned support by giving voters benefits through government programs, Republicans should play Santa by giving people tax cuts.

Wanniski sold his tax ideas to Jack Kemp, one of the most ebullient political figures of his generation, who in turn sold them to Ronald Reagan. Reagan made Kemp’s 30 percent tax cut (co-sponsored with Sen. Bill Roth) a centerpiece of his 1980 campaign. The political scientist Wilson Carey McWilliams perfectly described the result in a 1981 essay. “After years of learning that ‘you don’t shoot Santa Claus,’ ” he wrote, “the Republicans decided to nominate him.”

But Republicans have a problem now. In the Kemp-Reagan days, they were selling across-the-board tax cuts. Most of their benefits flowed to the rich, but almost everyone got a piece. Today, many Republicans complain resentfully that less prosperous Americans don’t pay enough in taxes — overlooking the fact that citizens who don’t pay income taxes still shell out a significant share of their earnings in payroll, sales and (directly or through their rents) property taxes.

Reagan’s optimism has thus been replaced by crabby put-downs of the less affluent. Perry said it directly in his announcement speech: “We’re dismayed at the injustice that nearly half of all Americans don’t even pay any income tax.” Considering the other injustices in our society, this seems an odd and mean-spirited obsession.

“Tax the poor” is a lousy political slogan. That’s why Cain’s 9-9-9 plan  and Perry’s flat tax are doomed to fail. Among conservatives, Santa Claus has given way to Scrooge.

By: E. J. Dionne, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, October 21, 2011

October 24, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Congress, Corporations, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Elections, GOP, GOP Presidential Candidates, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Income Gap, Middle Class, Right Wing, Taxes, Teaparty, Voters | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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