Tag: taxes

First Return Out

So Rachel Maddow had a HUGE announcement tonight that she had secured two pages of one of Trump’s tax returns, apparently leaked to MSNBC in violation of federal law. I didn’t watch her broadcast since I have a low tolerance for her smugness. I knew how it would go: twenty minutes of connect-the-dots condescending intro, a dud of a revelation and back-patting for the remainder. Well, I was right:

Donald Trump earned more than $150 million in the year 2005—and paid just a small percentage of that in regular federal income taxes. Daily Beast contributor David Cay Johnston has obtained what appear to be the first two pages of Trump’s 2005 federal income tax return, and published an analysis of those pages on his website, DCReport.org. The Daily Beast could not independently verify these documents.

The documents show Trump and his wife Melania paying $5.3 million in regular federal income tax—a rate of less than 4% However, the Trumps paid an additional $31 million in the “alternative minimum tax,” or AMT. Trump has previously called for the elimination of this tax.

This is less than a nothingburger. This almost makes Trump look good. So much so that almost everyone in my feeds think that Trump himself was the source of the leak (the White House responded almost instantaneously to the report). 2005 was the last year Trump has a big business deal, selling off two of his assets. It was also before several sources insist he became entangled with Russian interests.

A large segment of the Left, having realize what a dud this was, are now praising Maddow for “keeping the issue at the forefront”. Pfft. The issue was never a big deal for Trump’s supporters. I think we can now make the argument that Trump should release all of his tax returns. But that argument has not changed.

Wednesday Quick Hits

A few stories that have been lurking in my tabs:

  • Donald Trump’s 1995 tax return was leaked last week and showed a nearly billion dollar loss that he could have used to offset profits for years and thus pay no tax. It’s perfectly legitimate to criticize Trump for losing a billion dollars and proclaiming himself to be a business genius. Criticizing the NOL rule, however, is insanity. Allowing businesses to carry losses into future years allows them to navigate sometimes uncertain business waters without going bankrupt. Criticizing the rule because of Trump is sheer wealth envy. Trump should be making this point.
  • You remember the Phoenix VA scandal? Well, the government responded to this disaster by … funding the VA more generously, firing no one and appointing a new manager who had a series of failures. Stunningly, this has not worked. Coyote Blog reminds us that this is how government works. Failure means you get more funding and more people. Success means budget cuts.
  • An Iowa prosecutor wants to hit a 14-year-old with kiddie porn charges for taking non-nude pictures of herself. This is insanity. And it will not stop until we start shitcanning prosecutors who abuse their power this way.
  • John Oliver had a good show on police accountability.

More to come …

The Price of Socialism

Holy cow:

Sen. Bernie Sanders’ tax and spending proposals would provide new levels of health and education benefits for American families, but they’d also blow an $18-trillion hole in federal deficits, piling on so much debt they would damage the economy.

That sobering assessment comes from a joint analysis released Monday by the nonpartisan Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center and the Urban Institute Health Policy Center, well-known Washington think tanks.

The bottom line: Democratic presidential candidate Sanders would raise taxes by more than $15 trillion over 10 years, with most of that paid by upper-income earners. But that wouldn’t be enough to cover the cost of his proposed government-run health care system, along with free undergraduate college, enhanced Social Security, family and medical leave, among other new programs.

As a result, Sanders would add $18 trillion to federal debt over a decade.

The Sanders campaign is trying to wriggle out of this, claiming that their healthcare plan will save lots of money because … because … well, because they want it to. But I am totally unsurprised by this. I have said it in this space a million times: you can’t pay for a social welfare state just by taxing “the rich”. There’s not enough money. Every European welfare state pays for itself with heavy taxes on the middle class — VATs, sales taxes, excise taxes, income taxes. Their tax systems are way less progressive than our because they have to be. In the end, you have to go where the money is.

This is the big problem with Sanders’ promises. You have to raise taxes on everyone to pay for them. And people don’t want higher taxes even if they supposedly come with Awesome Government Benefits. Sanders’ own state rejected socialized medicine because it was too expensive.

I’d say this would be the nail in the coffin of the Sanders campaign except that (1) many of his supporters don’t care about math; (2) I’m sure Clinton will find a way to bungle this incredibly easy and salient talking point.

The Tax Man Cometh

I’ve been remiss in posting this week. I have several draft and should post them soon.

In the meantime, Vox put together a calculator that shows you how much each candidate’s tax plan would cost or save you based on your income and status. We don’t make a huge amount of money, but we’d be paying $13,000 more a year if Bernie Sanders got his way. Keep in mind; many experts don’t think Sanders raises taxes enough to pay for socialized medicine. And we’re not in “the rich”, who would see marginal rates of 75%.

Now liberals will counter that we’re getting “free” healthcare and “free” college tuition. But the latter will only happen if the states cooperate, which they won’t. And the former is nice, I guess, but I’m dubious that my employer will roll those savings directly into my salary. So under Sanders, we’d be paying way more in taxes, getting crappy socialized medicine and “free” college at the two institutions that go along with his plan.

And, you know … there’s still a part of me that prefers him to Clinton.

(Trump and Cruz show a few thousand in tax cuts. I’m going to ignore those for the time being since I’m assuming the GOP won’t cut spending that much or blow that big a hole in the budget. But I’ve been wrong before on their willingness to pile up debt in pursuit of tax cuts.)

The Norqmonster

It would seem that the Left is preparing to move on from the Koch Brothers as their bette noire. Their rage seems to have found a new target: Grover Norquist. Norquist, as you know, is the man behind the pledge that most Republicans have signed promising not to raise taxes. Many see this an impediment to a Grand Bargain.

It’s fine to see his pledge as a problem. What’s not fine is how the “new tone” media who are always wailing and gnashing teeth over the “demonization” of Barack Obama are referring to him:

David Horsey, Los Angeles Times:

Grover Norquist, GOP ayatollah, is losing his grip on the party […]

Ayatollahs seem to just appoint themselves and then start enforcing their own brand of orthodoxy. Grover Norquist has been doing that in the Republican Party for years.

Slate’s Jacob Weisberg, on Twitter:

Honecker, Ceaucescu, Mubarak.. Norquist

Frank Bruni, New York Times:

On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Representative Peter King of New York…stressed that the country’s current fiscal woes trumped vows made in less debt-ridden times, and over on “Fox News Sunday,” Senator John McCain signaled a receptiveness to new revenue, another dagger to Norquist’s dark heart. […]

It’s as if some spell has at long last been broken, and the formerly bewitched villagers are rising up to defy their evil overlord and insist on the possibility of life and even mirth without a deduction for corporate jets.

Christopher Moraff, Philadelphia magazine:

The Rise and Fall of Anti-Tax Terrorist Grover Norquist

Daryl Rowland, Huffington Post:

In the same way that McCarthyism now largely overshadows the early days of the Eisenhower administration, the W. Bush and Obama years will be seen as the stage on which Grover Norquist’s domination of domestic policy took place. […]

McCarthy was of course a public figure, while Norquist has been largely a stealth tyrant, in the glorious tradition of figures like Cardinal Richelieu or Rasputin.

It may seem odd for me to defend Norquist, since I disagree with him. I’ve said that taxes probably need to go up if and only if we get statutory changes to Medicare and Social Security in the bargain. And I agree with what Matt Welch says in the linked Reason article: the pledge has given Republicans a way to prove their conservative bonafides by opposing tax increases without doing the really hard work of cutting spending.

But I hate it when I see someone attacked unfairly. And the attacks on Norquist cross me as massively unfair. The man believes that we should not raise taxes ever, that this is the only way to keep the size of government in check. I disagree with this as I believe that “starve the beast” has only served to increase the size of government by making spending painless to 98% of us. But it is not an unreasonable point of view. And when I’ve seen Norquist speak, he does not cross me a crazy demagogue. He crosses me as someone with a very firm but not ridiculous point of view.

You’re going to compare that to a bunch of murderers and tyrants? You’re going to say that opposing tax hikes is the same as exercising absolute power over a nation? And then you’re going to turn around and tell me that it’s our side that has a problem maintaining perspective?


Here’s the thing: if Grover Norquist was the worst thing in American conservatism, the GOP would be in great shape. He is a vociferous supporter of free markets and, a Muslim himself having married into a Muslim family, has been trying to build bridges to the Islamic community in America. He’s a member of GOProud and has moderate views on immigration. He has supported getting out of foreign wars. His views on these issues caused some to brand him as a terrorist supporter and for World Net Daily to brand him a minion of Satan (no, I’m not exaggerating). He also has a sense of humor about himself. When a joke came out that the deal on the fiscal cliff had removed the provision to punch Norquist in the dick, he expressed relief. When a graphic was circulated with him as the Wizard of Oz and the Republicans paying homage to him, he asked for a copy for his mother. You couldn’t swing a dead cat in Washington DC and not hit five people who are worse than Grover Norquist.

Let’s take a step back here. We are told that Norquist wanting Republicans to never raise taxes is unreasonable. I do this all the time, but it’s worth hammering home as much as possible: let’s review some the things that our media and political establishment think are “reasonable”: two million people in prison, two foreign wars with no clear objective, 90-year sentences for legal marijuana growers, $1 trillion in deficit spending, expensive private jets and motorcades for every jack-a-napes in Washington, half billion dollar stadiums for baseball teams.

Really? You’re going to tell me that Grover Norquist is the real threat to America?

What provoked me to defend Norquist was an extremely silly article today from John Dean that argues that not only is the Norquist pledge destructive, it is unconstitutional. After pointing out that the pledge in unenforceable and really just a campaign promise, he says:

The oaths for federal office (and state offices as well), which demand allegiance first and foremost to the Constitution, are absolutely incompatible with the Norquist pledge. Congress has the defined power to raise or lower taxes, not merely to lower them. Indeed, to give the central government the power to tax was one of the reasons the founders abandoned the Article of Confederation, and wrote a new constitution. The Norquist pledge prohibits the pledge-taker from raising taxes, and thus, it requires that the pledge-taker give something less than true faith and allegiance, without reservation, to our Constitution—as required by that Constitution. The Norquist pledge requires the signer to relinquish a Constitutional power.

Bullshit. There is nothing unconstitutional whatsoever about asking our Congress to not exercise one of their powers. Congressmen could take pledges to not start wars, even though Congress has that power. They could take pledges to fight the exercise of imminent domain, even though Congress has that power. If the Supreme Court ruled that Congress could outlaw abortion, would Dean think it “unconstitutional” for pro-choice politicians to promise never to exercise that power? If they ruled that Congress could censor speech (as they did early in the last century), would it be “unconstitutional” to pledge not to use that power? What if it said Congress could ignore habeas?

Congress has a lot of power; too much, in my opinion. Promising not to use that power is not unconstitutional; it’s admirable. And the entire exercise is just dumb. The Norquist pledge is, as Dean points out repeatedly, just a campaign promise. It is not legally binding. The Republicans do not have microchips implanted that prevent them from raising taxes. The only thing Norquist has threatened to do is to primary promise breakers, which happens all the time.

Look, we’re in a tough spot right now. We need to balance the budget. But we also know that the steps necessary will be painful and possibly hurt the economy. It’s a delicate dance. The pledge is a double-edge sword but, on balance, I think it’s helping. It means the Republicans will not give in on taxes unless they get tax reform or changes to entitlements, no meaningless “we’ll cut spending in 2017, honest” baloney. The only way they will survive breaking the pledge is to get something real and substantial in return. That’s not a bad thing.

This difficult process is not helped by turning on and demonizing the likes of Grover Norquist. And the turning on him is just another demonstration of how the reasonable, enlightened, non-name-calling Democrats will quickly turn on anyone they don’t like.

(*I knew the Dean article was swirling around the bowl when he started quoting the dictionary definition of “pledge”. Quoting definitions is always a sign of a desperate writer.)

The Rainy Day

How often do you find Matt Yglesias and Megan McArdle agreeing on something? Yglesias, talking about the need to be conservative with future budget projections, says:

The other thing, of course, is that “stuff happens.” Nobody sitting down in 1925 to write a 25-year budget forecast would have made the funds available to win World War II. It’s nice to think that you have a plan that leaves headroom to engage in some deficit spending if it turns out a meteor is going to strike the earth, or Jack Layton is the leading edge of a Viltrumite invasion.

We don’t even need to go back to World War II. We can go back to 2001, when we had a projected surplus. So we spent and cut taxes. And … suddenly we didn’t have the money for a trillion dollar war. We can look at Japan, which invested zillions in “stimulus” spending, got themselves into massive debt and then got hit by one of the biggest natural disasters in history. Hell, we can look at our current situation, where we were pushed to the maximum sustainable debt and suddenly had an economic collapse. We see it in states that cut back on snowplow budgets in warm years, then scream for help when they get a blizzard.

McArdle makes the comparison to people’s personal finances.

Have you ever known anyone who got into trouble with credit cards? I don’t mean someone who had something go wrong and ended up deep in credit card debt because they had to pay the rent somehow; I mean someone who wakes up one day with $21,000 in debt, a closet full of shoes, and no idea where the money went?

The way they get into that trouble is often that they don’t budget. They consider each purchase in isolation: “can I afford these shoes? Can I make the payments on that television?” And in fact, they can afford each of their purchases. They just can’t afford all of them.

We hear this constantly on the spending side. “What kind of country are we if we can’t afford education?” “Surely, this country can afford to provide healthcare to everyone!” “Farm subsidies are such a small part of the budget!” Yes, we can afford some of these things; the problem is that we’re trying to afford all of them simultaneously.

And we’re setting ourselves up to make the same mistakes again. The liberal plans to sort of balance the budget all have taxes rising to historically high levels. The problem is that you now have no room if something really bad happens. Technically, yes, you’ve “balanced the budget”. But you’ve put yourself into such a tenuous fiscal position that a war, a disaster or an economic downturn is ruinous.

A time of peace and prosperity is not the time to be pushing your taxation level to the “break glass in case of emergencies” level. You have to leave some room for the unexpected.

Like taxes and Democrats? Move to Connecticut.


Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy signed a $40.1 billion two-year budget that raises taxes by $2.6 billion, the biggest increase in state history, according to Republicans who fought the plan.

The budget passed by the House of Representatives and Senate yesterday raises taxes on incomes of more than $50,000 a year. It boosts the retail-sales levy to 6.35 percent from 6 percent while broadening it to cover previously exempt goods and services. The rate becomes 7 percent on “luxuries” such as $1,000-plus clothing and boats above $100,000.

“Unlike so many other states which have seized the opportunity to restructure government and make it sustainable, we continue on a bender,” Senator Andrew Roraback, a Goshen Republican, said before voting against the budget backed by Malloy, a Democrat elected in November. “We’re going to be spending more next year by taxing people,” Roraback said.

But it’s (allegedly) a balanced bender, so that makes it okay, right?

That 0.35% sales tax increase is going to crush people in the cities that are already having massive problems paying for necessities amongst rising food & fuel costs. And because the cheapest food is also the food that is fattening us up as a nation, our esteemed leadership just doubled down on making Connecticut fatter. But then we’ll die younger and the state won’t have to pay for shit anymore, so…upside?

The minute I can swing it, we’re leaving this state, which will be a few years, much to my chagrin. Sure, there’s a few things here and there that you can say are good, but generally Connecticut is devoid of culture. Pop, traditional or otherwise. It’s a state that is mostly vast swaths of poverty or strip malls punctuated by colleges. And of course mainly a suburb of NYC to the south. And now we have 2.6 billion – with a B! – in new taxes on 3.5 million people.

Yeah, Linda McMahon don’t sound so fucking bad right about now, does she, my fellow Nutmeggers? Feel like you made a mistake yet?

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