Comments: Still Being Bushwhacked

Only thing better than a Peevish rant is a Peevish rant chanelling an Ivins rant....

Posted by Jonathan Dresner at August 9, 2004 01:01 AM

LOL!

I'm flattered. :)

Posted by Anne at August 9, 2004 10:56 AM

"The Truth: "Income" taxes plus "payroll" taxes take a bigger percentage bite out of the majority of American's incomes than rich people pay on their "income" taxes."

That was a point that Bill Gates and Warren Buffet (both of whom oppossed the Bush tax cuts) tried to make to the public. Buffet said "My secretary pays a higher income tax rate than I do."

It makes me unspeakably sad that the two richest men on earth can shout "Please don't give us any more money!" and yet somehow Bush can get a lot of working-class and middle-class voters to think "Tax cuts are good for the economy!"

Posted by Lawrence Krubner at August 9, 2004 11:38 AM


To be fair, I should mention that the SEC never exonerated Bush.

It just...stopped investigating him.

Umm..did you actually read the SEC memorandum on Bush and the Harken case? In a 12 March 92 action memo, the SEC investigators wrote:

"In light of the facts uncovered, it would be difficult to establish that even assuming Bush possessed material, non-public information, he acted without scienter or intent to defraud. For the reason set forth above, the staff does not believe that an enforcement action is appropriate in this matter."

It's only 5 pages Anne..surely a quick read while on hold?

I was going to throw in the stories of Robert Rubin calling the Treasury on behalf of Enron in 2001 or Terry McCauliffe making 18M on a 100K investment in Global Crossing or 2.45M on a $100 (wow!) investment with a Union pension fund that later had to pay fines for the partnership..especially when George Bush made 850K on his Harken stock sale....but cynically, that would only show the issue is not Rep or Dem, but that the rich, indeed, get different treatment..unless they manage to irritate the public like Leona Helmsley or Martha Stewart...

As for Veteran's - I'm going to be (hopefully) a member of the Gulf War Veteran's club..and like I'm sure other "HMO" type health systems, quality of care varies by individual doctor, hospital, and personal knowledge of the "system."

Read the following (again, another short summary)

http://www.factcheck.org/article.aspx?docID=144

Some highlights:

In Bush’s first three years funding for the Veterans Administration increased 27%. And if Bush's 2005 budget is approved, funding for his full four-year term will amount to an increase of 37.6%.

In the eight years of the Clinton administration the increase was 31.7%

Those figures include mandatory spending for such things as payments to veterans for service-connected disabilities, over which Congress and presidents have little control. But Bush has increased the discretionary portion of veterans funding even more than the mandatory portion has increased. Discretionary funding under Bush is up
30.2%.

By any measure, veterans funding is going up faster under Bush than under Clinton.

In fairness (right, trying to be fair), the article states some attempts to limit the growth by the Bush administration that Veteran's groups do not like, but concludes,

"All this means Bush can fairly be accused of trying to hold down the rapid growth in spending for veterans benefits -- particularly those sought by middle-income vets with no service-connected disability. But saying he cut the budget is contrary to fact."

My own (and family) experiences with military medicine is mixed, especially when I did not live near a military facility and had to use my military insurance plan at "civilian" hospitals (the care was fine, but the paperwork and approval was very bureaucratic)..When the government tries to run a 30B dollar medical program, I suspect there will always be some inefficiencies and problems..and if you (or your family member) has health insurance from another source, that adds another layer of complexity as the government looks to save money by forcing you to use that first in some cases..In many cases, it's a failure to understand the system (which may be both an individual and organizational fault) that prevents Veterans from getting benefits

Read the article and reassess accepting blindly what Ivins writes..

Of course, you realize in the family of 4 with the 44K that it's NOT as if each is spending the 11K..In general, housing and car payments cover all 4 with only marginal increases from the 2d, 3rd, and 4th member..

And since you don't like averages, I'm sure you will like this article about Kerry's claim that new jobs are paying 9K less "on average"

http://www.factcheck.org/article.aspx?docID=228

I find it interesting you point to CEO pay compared to the "average" worker but not to entertainers and athletes compared to the average worker on the set or team..And the CEO pay/average worker difference is not a "Bush" phenomenom..plenty of Dems sit on Corporate boards that approve the compensation packages for C-level executives..

You write: 'Most tax revenues are payroll taxes, of which the handful of rich people in this country pays only a nearly invisible fraction."

IRS data doesn't support that...of course, to be more precise, one would have to back out the income tax portion paid by those who make over 90K (roughly the point where FICA stops) and their FICA contributions..but I'm sure Ivins does that level of analysis...


Type of Return
Number
Gross Collections of Returns (Millions of $)

Individual income tax 130,728,360 987,209
Corporation income tax 5,890,821 194,146
Employment taxes [1]
29,916,033 [2] 695,976
Gift tax [1]
287,456 1,939
Excise taxes [1]
812,483 52,771
Estate tax [1]
91,679 20,888


I do agree though that the FICA eligible income level should raise..I'm also of the opinion that SS is security and not retirement income and so people who live long enough and do have sufficient (and that's subjective but..) income should not get Social Security..but I also think people should have the choice (remember, choice - isn't that a good thing) to opt out (Yes, I'm aware there is a moral hazard/adverse selection issue to deal with) into a two-tier system where one can stick with SS or take a percentage out to invest themselves in return for a smaller % of SS..

You leave out property taxes which are really becoming troublesome for middle class homeowners whose income is not rising as much as their wealth (home value) and thus face greater liquidity issues or have to keep pulling out the equity...which was less problematic in an era of low rates, but that could change over the next five years..

I'm with Lawrence about this education issue - I don't know why the Reps have gone from the party that thought abolishing the Dept of Ed was a good idea to one that thinks it can run education policy from Wash DC. As for standardized testing, when Kerry/Edwards call for "holding schools accountable," what metrics do you think they'll use? Or "tests" for new teachers to ensure competence?

I'll stop and read the "recommendations"....


Posted by Col Steve at August 9, 2004 01:02 PM

Col Steve - As I'm sure you're aware, statistical analysis can be a fuzzy topic. You can prove almost anything, depending on what you want to prove.

I don't have time to run down your references today or to compare them to the lengthy list of citations Irins and Dubose offer in the book. It may take me a week or two to get the time.

I do intend to, but in the meantime let me amuse you by nitpicking a couple of things you said that really stood out when I read your comment.

First, the cost of living (so to speak).

Of course, you realize in the family of 4 with the 44K that it's NOT as if each is spending the 11K..In general, housing and car payments cover all 4 with only marginal increases from the 2d, 3rd, and 4th member..

That's just silly, okay? How can you say that the difference in living costs for one person and for four people is "marginal" as though it's a practically invisible increase?

The car payment difference between a car suitable for a single person and one suitable for a four-person family is not insignificant. Nor is the housing space (which involves more than just tacking on another 12' x 12' bedroom) (or, two bedrooms, if we're talking children of different genders), nor is the food bill, nor is the education bill, nor is the clothing bill.

And even if the difference for each were marginal, the cumulative differences are anything but.

Add one minor health problem for one child (say, asthma) and the healthcare costs can skyrocket if the family isn't lucky enough to have comprehensive coverage.

Second, CEO pay.

I find it interesting you point to CEO pay compared to the "average" worker but not to entertainers and athletes compared to the average worker on the set or team..And the CEO pay/average worker difference is not a "Bush" phenomenom..plenty of Dems sit on Corporate boards that approve the compensation packages for C-level executives.

Quite frankly, I don't think the "entertainment" argument in relevant since I never argued that it's okay for a star to get $55 million while a bit actor starves to death making Equity minimum.

To be honest, I'm confused that you brought it up. Did you in some way think I was making a mental exception or something?

Also? I never said Bush invented the pay inequality. I'm just suggesting that massive tax cuts for the rich exacerbate it, that he knows that, and that he doesn't care. In fact, he likes it. Since he's a "have" and it's inconceivable that he'll ever be a "have-not" he doesn't have any ability to understand the true cost of poverty or the sheer hard work it takes for most people to make ends meet month after month after year after year.

Posted by Anne at August 9, 2004 05:46 PM

As Laura of 11D as repeatedly pointed out, having kids is actually more expensive than being single. So there is no economy of scale in terms of income. From my own life, I lived adequately on my graduate school stipend when it was just me. Next year, I will make four times that and I don't think I will make ends meet. Kids are extremely expensive. And no economy of scale is going to make that less true.

Posted by David Salmanson at August 10, 2004 09:31 PM

Anne:
Yes, please amuse me.

First, notice in my comment I only referenced housing and automobiles. Clearly, additional people add costs for individual consumption such as clothing and food.

However, take automobiles.
The car payment difference between a car suitable for a single person and one suitable for a four-person family is not
insignificant.

In general, two-seaters tend to be more or as expensive cars than a your standard compact/ mid-size automobile which can carry 4 to 5 people..Maybe you meant that incremental weight of the extra passengers were a drag on gas mileage? Or that perhaps you had to drive more places - but those are variable costs..and not my point that the single car payment (fixed cost independent of use) would be pretty much the same for the single person or family of 4.

As for housing, I agree there is additional cost going from 1 bedroom to multiple bedrooms..but it's is generally not linear - that is, the 3 bedroom apartment or home is not 3 times the cost of a 1 bedroom equivalent...hence the implied point that each person has to contribute an equal share is misleading..but I agree my wording was rather sloppy.

No, but in general, many CEOs make more of their compensation from stock options as opposed to salary while athletes and actors tend to make pure salary..and I guess I was reacting to hearing Ben Affleck reiterate how "Bush made a mistake by giving me back more money" -- to which I say, Well, nobody is stopping you from giving it back (make it out to Bureau of Public Debt) or taking your "windfall" and giving it to the charity or non-profit that you believe is best suited to fill the void the government must be leaving since the IRS is getting less of your money...

Don't hear him taking John Edwards to task when JE basically incoporated himself to limit his taxes (which I would do if I was in his shoes too)..and guys like Affleck and Warren Buffet remind me of Hugo's post about preferring to be "forced" to be virtuous..

Having been very poor when I was young and now being considered by some to be in the "rich" category (mainly through a 2d source of income from a self-run business), I get a little irritated when mostly millionaires who have never or - for sometime now have not - "understood" what "average" people tend to go through lecture me about making ends meet (and that's on both sides of the aisles)..I don't mind a progressive tax system, but I'd rather more of it stay in my locality and I'd much prefer to have both parties stop thinking more programs from Washington is the answer..

Posted by Col Steve at August 12, 2004 02:10 AM

Just answering different points as I have the time, Col Steve.

You quoted:

"In light of the facts uncovered, it would be difficult to establish that even assuming Bush possessed material, non-public information, he acted without scienter or intent to defraud. For the reason set forth above, the staff does not believe that an enforcement action is appropriate in this matter."

No, I didn't get to the SEC memo yet, but I noticed something this morning. Stripped of the qualifying clause, the first sentence reads:

"In light of the facts uncovered, it would be difficult to establish that he acted without scienter or intent to defraud."

That seems pretty clear to me.

They go on to say:

"For the reason set forth above, the staff does not believe that an enforcement action is appropriate in this matter."

He wasn't cleared of wrongdoing, okay? They just stopped investigating him.

I was going to throw in the stories of ....

That would have been irrelevant, as you clearly figured out. The fact that a lot of people do crooked things is hardly the kind of defence I'd find acceptable.

Posted by Anne at August 12, 2004 09:32 AM

Anne:
I'm not going to split hairs with you, but it seems hard to read the very bureaucratic memo that states there is no case here even assuming (not proven to be true) a higher level of insider knowledge.

To be fair, I can see that the memo and subsequent 93 letter could leave open the possibility if more information is discovered, the case could be revisited.

Having said that, I think complete fairness would require balancing any statement that claims Bush was never exonerated also include that the SEC did make a finding based on the available information and their investigation of that information...fair and balanced, right?

Posted by Col Steve at August 12, 2004 07:27 PM

Col. Steve -

Well, color me aggravated, annoyed, and uncomfortable.

I finally did what I should have done days ago and googled for the meaning of "scienter" which I kept assuming was some weird typographical error.

One moment of intellectual laziness and you find yourself making irrational arguments. If I were a bit younger I'd go hide somewhere. As it is, I can only offer you an apology.

(I claim the defense of illness. I'm living inside a mental fog bank this week.)

I'm not done with the rest of your comments, but I'll try to be more careful with them.

Posted by Anne at August 12, 2004 07:42 PM

"I don't mind a progressive tax system, but I'd rather more of it stay in my locality and I'd much prefer to have both parties stop thinking more programs from Washington is the answer.."

Of course, we could have both, a more progressive income tax and also less of it taken by Washington. Progressive income tax doesn't have to mean big Federal government. But most states currently have tax codes that are neutral or regressive. For that reason, left-of-center activists tend to see the Federal tax code as being the best way to stop the concentration of wealth going on in the country. But its true more needs to be done at the state level. There is a point of diminshing returns that kicks in at some point, and makes it so that increasing the top Federal bracket isn't enough to stop concentration of wealth, not when the states are actively promoting concentration of wealth with their tax codes. So all of us, Col Steve, who'd like to see stronger local government need to work to make our local tax codes more progressive.

Posted by Lawrence Krubner at August 13, 2004 08:04 AM

Lawrence:
I agree with your points.

One of the interesting aspects of the Vermont school funding change to centralize education spending at the State level (Act 60) was to get the citizens of the "gold towns" mobilized and in several cases to start endowment and/or "off the tax book" funding for schools.

Some data I haven't checked for some time is the movement within wealth brackets...It was the research area of one of my advisers..she had advocated instead of an estate tax was a cap on the amount (non-business/farms) a person could inherit..to include foundations/charities.. as a policy solution to alleviate excessive wealth concentration..

Posted by Col Steve at August 13, 2004 08:44 AM

Col Steve - A few more responses.

Veterans -

While it's false to say the veterans budget has been cut, and false to say that any veteran getting benefits has been cut off, it is true that funding is not growing as rapidly as demand for benefits, or as rapidly as veterans groups would like.

This supports what I said, that there's not enough funding to go around. It does not support my assertion (not Ivin's, you understand, mine) that the budget was "slashed." That word is incorrect, according to the data you cited and I should not have used it.

Taxes -

IRS data doesn't support that...of course, to be more precise, one would have to back out the income tax portion paid by those who make over 90K (roughly the point where FICA stops) and their FICA contributions..but I'm sure Ivins does that level of analysis...

She does. I didn't. The statement you're objecting to ('Most tax revenues are payroll taxes, of which the handful of rich people in this country pays only a nearly invisible fraction.") is mine, it isn't from the book.

Posted by Anne at August 16, 2004 02:17 PM

Col Steve -

First, notice in my comment I only referenced housing and automobiles. Clearly, additional people add costs for individual consumption such as clothing and food.

Just a note, the example originally cited was a family of four so I wasn't changing the rules halfway through or anything. :) I thought it was clearly implied that the actual cost for a family of four was what was under discussion.

In general, two-seaters tend to be more or as expensive cars than a your standard compact/ mid-size automobile which can carry 4 to 5 people..Maybe you meant that incremental weight of the extra passengers were a drag on gas mileage? Or that perhaps you had to drive more places - but those are variable costs..and not my point that the single car payment (fixed cost independent of use) would be pretty much the same for the single person or family of 4.

I wasn't actually thinking of a two-seater. I was thinking of a smaller car versus a larger car. What some see as a minor, almost insignificant difference in payments, like $50 or $60 a month, is a huge extra expense to others.

Also it seems to me that just because some costs are "variable" doesn't mean they aren't real. (Trust me, anyhow who has covered the food bill for a teenage boy will assure you that "variable" has nothing to do with "insignificant.")

As for housing, I agree there is additional cost going from 1 bedroom to multiple bedrooms..but it's is generally not linear - that is, the 3 bedroom apartment or home is not 3 times the cost of a 1 bedroom equivalent...hence the implied point that each person has to contribute an equal share is misleading..but I agree my wording was rather sloppy.

But you can't just figure it that way. If you're single, you can have a one-bedroom apartment, condo, townhouse, or house wherever you want to live.

If you have a family you have to consider schools, bus routes (school and work), and (if you have only one car) geographic distance from place of business so you can schedule moving your kids around. You also have to consider quality of neighborhood...is this a place you can safely raise children in.

It can, in fact, quite easily triple your housing costs to move from a one-bedroom to a three-bedroom place. (With, as you point out yourself, additional extra expenses in the way of property taxes.)

You're talking statistics. I'm talking people. :)

Posted by Anne at August 16, 2004 02:36 PM