Category Archives: Tax Reform

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Senator Warren Releases Bold, Progressive Plan to Expand Social Security

Senator Elizabeth Warren, vying to be the Democratic candidate for president in 2020, has released a bold, progressive plan to expand Social Security © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Whenever Republicans talk about the need to reform “entitlements,” they always refer to the “sacrifice” demanded of the people most dependent upon Social Security benefits and most vulnerable (with the least political power) in society. They never ask the most obscenely rich, most comfortable, most powerful to make any sacrifice – after all, they are the “job creators” and we don’t want to interfere with the number of yachts and vacation homes they can purchase.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, vying for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president, has just released her plan to expand Social Security – not cut it.

“Millions of Americans are depending on Social Security to provide a decent retirement. My plan raises Social Security benefits across-the-board by $2,400 a year and extends the full solvency of the program for nearly another two decades, all by asking the top 2% to contribute their fair share to the program,” Warren states. “It’s time Washington stopped trying to slash Social Security benefits for people who’ve earned them. It’s time to expand Social Security.”

This is from the Warren campaign:

Charlestown, MA – Today, Elizabeth Warren released her plan to provide the biggest and most progressive increase in Social Security benefits in nearly 50 years. Her plan will mean an immediate Social Security benefit increase of $200 a month — $2,400 a year — for every current and future Social Security beneficiary in America. That will immediately help nearly 64 million current Social Security beneficiaries, including 10 million Americans with disabilities and their families. 

The plan also updates outdated rules to further increase benefits for lower-income families, women, people with disabilities, public-sector workers, and people of color. The plan finances these benefit increases and extends the solvency of Social Security by nearly two decades by asking the top 2% of earners to contribute their fair share to the program. 

According to an independent analysis, Elizabeth’s plan will immediately lift an estimated 4.9 million seniors out of poverty — cutting the senior poverty rate by 68%. It will also produce a “much more progressive Social Security system” by delivering much larger benefit increases to lower and middle-income seniors on a percentage basis, increase economic growth in the long term, and reduce the deficit by more than $1 trillion over the next 10 years. 

Read more about her plan here and below: 

I’ve dedicated most of my career to studying what’s happening to working families in America. One thing is clear: it’s getting harder to save enough for a decent retirement.

A generation of stagnant wages and rising costs for basics like housing, health care, education, and child care have squeezed family budgets. Millions of families have had to sacrifice saving for retirement just to make ends meet. At the same time, fewer people have access to the kind of pensions that used to help fund a comfortable retirement.

As a result, Social Security has become the main source of retirement income for most seniors. About half of married seniors and 70% of unmarried seniors rely on Social Security for at least half of their income. More than 20% of married seniors and 45% of unmarried seniors rely on Social Security for 90% or more of their income. And the numbers are even more stark for seniors of color: as of 2014, 26% of Asian and Pacific Islander beneficiaries, 33% of Black beneficiaries, and 40% of Latinx beneficiaries relied on Social Security benefits as their only source of retirement income.

Yet typical Social Security benefits today are quite small. Social Security is an earned benefit — you contribute a portion of your wages to the program over your working career and then you and your family get benefits out of the program when you retire or leave the workforce because of a disability — so decades of stagnant wages have led to smaller benefits in retirement too. In 2019, the average Social Security beneficiary received $1,354 a month, or $16,248 a year. For someone who worked their entire adult life at an average wage and retired this year at the age of 66, Social Security will replace just 41% of what they used to make. That’s well short of the 70% many financial advisers recommend for a decent retirement — one that allows you to keep living in your home, go to a doctor when you’re sick, and get the prescription drugs you need.

And here’s the even scarier part: unless we act now, future retirees are going to be in even worse shape than the current ones.

Despite the data staring us in the face, Congress hasn’t increased Social Security benefits in nearly fifty years. When Washington politicians discuss the program, it’s mostly to debate about whether to cut benefits by a lot or a little bit. After signing a $1.5 trillion tax giveaway that primarily helped the rich and big corporations, Donald Trump twice proposed cutting billions from Social Security.

We need to get our priorities straight. We should be increasing Social Security benefits and asking the richest Americans to contribute their fair share to the program. For years, I’ve helped lead the fight in Congress to expand Social Security. And today I’m announcing a plan to provide the biggest and most progressive increase in Social Security benefits in nearly half a century. My plan:

Increases Social Security benefits immediately by $200 a month — $2,400 a year — for every current and future Social Security beneficiary in America.

Updates outdated rules to further increase benefits for lower-income families, women, people with disabilities, public-sector workers, and people of color.

Finances these changes and extends the solvency of Social Security by nearly two decades by asking the top 2% of families to contribute their fair share to the program.

An independent analysis of my plan from Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, finds that my plan will accomplish all of this and:

Immediately lift an estimated 4.9 million seniors out of poverty, cutting the senior poverty rate by 68%.

Produce a “much more progressive Social Security system” by raising contribution requirements only on very high earners and increasing average benefits by nearly 25% for those in the bottom half of the income distribution, as compared to less than 5% for people in the top 10% of the distribution.

Increase economic growth in the long term and reduces the deficit by more than $1 trillion over the next ten years.

Every single current Social Security beneficiary — about 64 million Americans — will immediately receive at least $200 more per month under my plan. That’s at least $2,400 more per year to put toward home repairs, or visits to see the grandkids, or paying down the debt you still might owe. And every future beneficiary of Social Security will see at least a $200-a-month increase too, whether you’re 60 years old and nearing retirement or 20 years old and just entering the workforce. If you want to see how my plan will affect you, check out my new calculator here.

Our Current Retirement Crunch — And How It Will Get Worse If We Don’t Act

Seniors today are already facing a difficult retirement. Without action, future generations are likely to be even worse off.

While we’ve reduced the percentage of seniors living in poverty over the past few decades, the numbers remain unacceptably high. Based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure, 14% of seniors — more than 7 million people — live in poverty. Another 28% of seniors have incomes under double the poverty line. A record-high 20% of seniors are still in the workforce in their retirement years. Even with that additional source of income, in 2016, the median annual income for men over 65 was just $31,618 — and just $18,380 for women over 65.

It’s hard to get by on that, especially as costs continue to rise. Most seniors participate in Medicare Part B, and standard premiums for that program now eat up close to 10% of the average monthly Social Security benefit. The average senior has just 66% of Social Security benefits remaining after paying all out-of-pocket healthcare expenses — and if we don’t adopt Medicare For All, out-of-pocket medical spending by seniors is projected to rise sharply over time. The number of elderly households still paying off debt has grown by almost 20% since 1992, and hundreds of thousands of seniors have had their monthly benefits garnished to pay down student loan debt.

Meanwhile, the prospect of paying for long-term care looms over most retirees. 26% of seniors wouldn’t be able to fund two years of paid home care even if they liquidated all of their assets. And for people that have faced lifelong discrimination, like LGBTQ seniors who until recently were denied access to spousal pension privileges and spousal benefits, the risk of living in or near poverty in retirement is even higher.

This squeeze forces a lot of seniors to skimp in dangerous and unhealthy ways. A recent survey found that millions of seniors cut pills, delay necessary home and car repairs, and skip meals to save money.

While the picture for current retirees is grim, it’s projected to get even worse for Americans on the cusp of retirement. Among Americans aged 50 to 64, the average amount saved in 401(k) accounts is less than $15,000. On average, Latinx and Black workers are less likely to have 401(k) accounts, and those who do have them have smaller balances and are more likely to have to make withdrawals before retirement. The gradual disappearance of pensions has been particularly harmful to workers of color who are near retirement. And 13% of all people over 60 have no pension or savings at all.

Meanwhile, this near-retirement group are also suffering under the weight of mounting debt levels and other costs. 68% of households headed by someone over 55 are in debt. Nearly one-quarter of people ages 55 to 64 are also providing elder care. According to one study, 62% of older Latinx workers, 53% of older Black workers, and 50% of older Asian workers work physically demanding jobs, leading to higher likelihood of disability, early exit from the job market, and reduced retirement benefits.

Gen-Xers and Millennials are in even greater trouble. For both generations, wages have been virtually stagnant for their entire working lives. 90% of Gen-Xers are in debt, and they’re projected to be able to replace only 50% of their income in retirement on average. Many Gen-Xers are trapped between their own student loans and mortgages, the costs of raising and educating their children, and the costs of caring for their elderly relativesTwo-thirds of working millennials have no retirement savings, and the numbers are even worse for Black and Latinx working millennials. Debt, wage stagnation, and decreasing pension availability mean that, compared to previous generations at the same age, millennials are significantly behind in retirement planning.

There’s also the looming prospect of serious Social Security cuts in 2035. Social Security has an accumulated reserve of almost $3 trillion now, but because of inadequate contributions to the program by the rich, we are projected to draw down that reserve by 2035, prompting automatic 20% across-the-board benefit cuts if nothing is done.

My plan addresses both the solvency of Social Security and the need for greater benefits head on — with bold solutions that match the scale of the problems we face.

Creating Financial Security By Raising Social Security Benefits

The core of my plan is simple. If you get Social Security benefits now, your monthly benefit will be at least $200 more — or at least $2,400 more per year. If you aren’t getting Social Security benefits now but will someday, your monthly benefit check with be at least $200 bigger than it otherwise would have been.

My $200-a-month increase covers every Social Security beneficiary — including the 10 million Americans with disabilities and their families who have paid into the program and now receive benefits from it. Adults with disabilities are twice as likely to live in poverty as those without a disability. While 9% of people without disabilities nearing retirement live in poverty, 26% of people that age with disabilities live in poverty. Monthly Social Security benefits make up at least 90% of income for nearly half of Social Security Disability Insurance beneficiaries.

This benefit increase will also provide a big boost to other groups. It will help the 621,000 disabled veterans who are Social Security beneficiaries. It will benefit the 1 million seniors who exclusively receive Social Security Insurance — which helps Americans with little or no income and assets — and the 2.7 million Americans who receive both SSI and Social Security benefits.

On top of this across-the-board benefit increase, I’ll ensure that current and future Social Security beneficiaries get annual cost-of-living adjustments that keep pace with the actual costs they face. The government currently increases Social Security benefits annually to keep pace with the price of goods typical working families buy. But older Americans and people with disabilities tend to purchase more of certain goods — like health care — than working-age Americans, and the costs of those goods are increasing more rapidly. That’s why my plan will switch to calculating annual cost-of-living increases based on an index called CPI-E that better reflects the costs Social Security beneficiaries bear. Based on current projections, that will increase benefits even more over time.

Combined, my immediate $200-a-month benefit increase for every Social Security beneficiary and the switch to CPI-E will produce significantly higher benefits now and decades into the future. My Social Security calculator will let you see how much your benefits could change under my plan.

Targeted Social Security Improvements to Deliver Fairer Benefits

Broadly speaking, Social Security benefits track with your income during your working years. That means pay disparities and wrongheaded notions that value salaried work over time spent raising children or caring for elderly relatives carry forward once you retire. That needs to change. My plan increases Social Security benefits even further by making targeted changes to the program to deliver fairer benefits and better service to women and caregivers, low-income workers, public sector workers, students and job-seekers, and people with disabilities.

Women and Caregivers

In part because of work and pay discrimination and time out of the workforce to provide care for children and elderly relatives, women receive an average monthly Social Security benefit that’s only 78% of the average monthly benefit for men. That’s one reason women over the age of 65 are 80% more likely to live in poverty than men. My plan includes several changes that primarily affect women and help reduce these disparities.

Valuing the work of caregivers. My plan creates a new credit for caregiving for people who qualify for Social Security benefits. This credit raises Social Security benefits for people who take time out of the workforce to care for a family member — and recognizes caregiving for the valuable work it is.

The government calculates Social Security benefits based on average lifetime earnings, with years spent out of the workforce counted as a zero for the purpose of the average. When people spend time out of the workforce to provide care for a relative, their average lifetime earnings are smaller and so are their Social Security benefits.

That particularly harms lower-income women, people of color, and recent immigrants. There are more than 43 million informal family caregivers in the country, and 60% of them are women. A 2011 study found that women over fifty forgo an average of $274,000 in lifetime wages and Social Security benefits when they leave the workforce to take care of an aging parent. Caregivers who also work are more likely to be low-income and incur out-of-pocket costs for providing care. Because access to paid or partially paid family leave is particularly limited for workers of color — and first-generation immigrant workers are less likely to have jobs with flexible schedules or paid sick days — these workers are more likely to have to take unpaid leave to provide care and thus suffer reductions in their Social Security benefits.

My plan will give credit toward the Social Security average lifetime earnings calculation to people who provide 80 hours a month of unpaid care to a child under the age of 6, a dependent with a disability (including a veteran family member), or an elderly relative. For every month of caregiving that meets these requirements, the caregiver will be credited for Social Security purposes with a month of income equal to the monthly average of that year’s median annual wage. People can receive an unlimited amount of caregiving credits and can claim these credits retroactively if they have done this kind of caregiving work in the last five years. By giving caregivers credits equal to the median wage that year, this credit will provide a particular boost in benefits to lower-income workers.

Improving benefits for widowed individuals from dual-earner households and widowed individuals with disabilities. Because women on average outlive men by 2.5 years, they typically spend more of their retirement in widowhood, a particularly vulnerable period financially. My plan provides two targeted increases in benefits for widows.

In households with similar overall incomes, Social Security provides more favorable survivor benefits to the surviving spouses in single-earner households than in dual-earner households. After the death of a spouse, a surviving spouse from a dual-earner household can lose as much as 50% of her household’s retirement income. My plan will reduce this disparity by ensuring that widow(er)s automatically receive the highest of: (1) 75% of combined household benefits, capped at the benefit level a household with two workers with average career earnings would receive; (2) 100% of their deceased spouse’s benefits; or (3) 100% of their own worker benefit.

My plan will also improve benefits for widowed individuals with disabilities. Currently, a widow with disabilities must wait until she is 50 to start claiming Social Security survivor benefits if her spouse dies — and even at 50, she can only claim benefits at a highly reduced rate. Since most widows with disabilities can’t wait until the official retirement age of 66 to claim their full survivor benefits, their average monthly benefit is only $748 a month, or less than $9,000 a year. My plan will repeal the age requirement so widow(er)s with disabilities can receive their full survivor benefits at any age without a reduction.

Lower-Income Workers

My plan ensures that workers who work for a lifetime at low wages do not retire into poverty.

In 1972, Congress enacted a Special Minimum Benefit for Social Security. The benefit was supposed to help people who had earned consistently low wages over many years of work. But it’s become harder to qualify for the benefit, and the benefit amount has shrunk in value so it now helps hardly anyone. Today, only 0.6% of all Social Security beneficiaries receive the Special Minimum Benefit, and projections show that no new beneficiaries will receive it this year.

No one who spends 30 years working and contributing to Social Security should retire in poverty. That’s why my plan restructures the Special Minimum Benefit so that more people are eligible for it and the benefits are a lot higher. Under my plan, any person who has done 30 years of Social Security-covered work will receive an annual benefit of at least 125% of the federal poverty line when they reach retirement age. That means a baseline of $1,301 a month in 2019 — plus the $200-a-month across-the-board increase in my plan, for a total of $1,501 a month. That’s more than $600-a-month more than what that worker would receive under current law.

Public Sector Workers

My plan also ensures that public sector workers like teachers and police officers get the full Social Security benefits they’ve earned.

If you work in the private sector and earn a pension, you’re entitled to your full pension and your full Social Security benefits in retirement. But if you work in state or local government and earn a pension, two provisions called the Windfall Elimination Provision and Government Pension Offset can reduce your Social Security benefits. WEP slashes Social Security benefits for nearly 1.9 million former public-sector workers and their families, while GPO reduces — and in most cases, eliminates — spousal and survivor Social Security benefits for 700,000 people, 83% of whom are women.

My plan repeals these two provisions, immediately increasing benefits for more than two million former public-sector workers and their families, and ensuring that every current state and local government employee will get the full Social Security benefits they’ve earned.

Students and Job Seekers

My plan also updates the Social Security program so that it encourages people to complete college and participate in job training programs or registered apprenticeships.

Restoring and extending benefits for full-time students whose parent has a disability or has died. In the Reagan administration, Congress cut back a provision that allowed children receiving Social Security dependent benefits to continue to receive them until age 22 if they were full-time students. Before the provision was repealed, these beneficiaries came from families with average incomes 29% lower than their college peers, were more likely to have a parent with low educational attainment, and were more likely to be Black. Access to these benefits boosted college attendance and performance by letting low-income students reduce the number of hours they had to work while attending school. When Congress repealed this benefit, college attendance by previously eligible beneficiaries dropped by more than one-third. My plan restores this provision — and it extends eligibility through the age of 24 because only 41% of all students complete college in four years, and Black, Native American, and Latinx students have even lower four-year completion rates. A longer eligibility period will improve the chances the people who receive this benefit complete college before the benefit ends.

Encouraging registered apprenticeships and job training. Currently, workers who participate in registered apprenticeships or job training may receive lower Social Security benefits because they are taking time out of the workforce or agreeing to accept lower-paying positions to gain skills. We’re about to enter a period of immense transformation in the economy, and we should encourage workers to take time to participate in a registered apprenticeship or job training program so they are prepared for in-demand jobs. That’s why I proposed a $20 billion investment in high-quality apprenticeships in my Economic Patriotism and Rural America plans. My plan today complements that investment by letting workers in job training and apprenticeship programs elect to exclude up to three years in those programs from their lifetime earnings calculation for Social Security benefits, thereby producing a higher average lifetime earnings total — and higher benefits.

Improving the Administration of Social Security Benefits

My plan improves Social Security in another important way: it makes it easier for people to actually get the benefits they’ve earned.

Congress is starving the Social Security Administration of money, creating hardship for people who rely on the program for benefits. Congress has slashed SSA’s operating budget by 9% since 2010, even as the number of beneficiaries is growing. Meanwhile, more Baby Boomers are approaching retirement age — a critical period when workers are most likely to claim Social Security Disability benefits. SSA has a staff shortagerising telephone and office wait times, and outdated technology. Sixty-four Social Security field offices have closed since 2011 and 500 mobile offices have closed since 2010. Field office closures are correlated with a 16% drop in disability insurance beneficiaries in the surrounding area because those people — who have paid into the system and earned their benefits — no longer have assistance to file their applications.

Disability insurance applicants can wait as long as 22 months for an eligibility hearing. Thousands of people have died while waiting for administrative law judges to determine if they’re eligible to receive their benefits. To make matters worse, Donald Trump issued an Executive Order that will politicize the process of selecting the judges who adjudicate these cases. And his administration keeps proposing more cuts to the SSA budget.

My plan restores adequate funding to the Social Security Administration so that it can carry out its core mission. That will allow us to hire more staff, keep offices open, reduce call times, update the technology system, and give applicants and beneficiaries the services they need. And I will revoke Trump’s Executive Order on administrative law judges.

Strengthening Social Security By Extending Solvency For Nearly Two More Decades

Currently, the rich contribute a far smaller portion of their income to Social Security than everyone else. That’s wrong, and it’s threatening the solvency of the program. My plan fully funds its new benefit increases and extends the full solvency of Social Security for nearly 20 more years by asking the richest top 2% of families to start contributing more.

Social Security is funded by mandatory insurance contributions authorized by the Federal Insurance Contributions Act, or “FICA”. The FICA contribution is 12.4% of wages, with employers and employees splitting those contributions equally at 6.2% each. (Self-employed workers contribute the full 12.4%.) If you’re a wage employee, you contribute 6.2% of your very first dollar of wages to Social Security, and 6.2% of every dollar after that — up to an annual cap. This year’s cap is $132,900, and each year, that cap increases based on the growth in national average wages.

Congress designed the cap to go up each year based on average wages to ensure that a fairly steady percentage of total wages in America were subject to the FICA contribution requirement. But growing wage disparities over the past few decades has thrown the system out of whack.

While wages for lower-income and middle-income workers have been fairly stagnant — limiting the growth of the national average wage figure we use to set the annual cap — income at the very top has been skyrocketing. That means more income for the biggest earners has been above the cap and therefore exempt from the FICA contribution requirement. In 1983, 90% of total wage earnings were below the cap. Now it’s just 83%. The top 1% of earners have an estimated effective FICA contribution rate of about 2%, compared to more than 10% for the middle 50% of earners. That amounts to billions of dollars every year that should have gone to Social Security but instead remained in the pockets of the very richest Americans, while the Social Security system slowly starved.

And the very rich have escaped contributing to the system in yet another way: more and more of their income is in the form of unearned investment income, not wages, and they don’t have to contribute any of their investment income to Social Security. Although most Americans earn most of their income from wages, capital income makes up more than half of total income for the top 1% and more than two-thirds for the top 0.1%. All that income escapes the Social Security program.

My plan brings our Social Security system back into balance by asking the top 2% of earners to start contributing a fair share of their wages to the system and by asking the top 2% of families to contribute a portion of their net investment income into the system as well:

First, my plan imposes a 14.8% Social Security contribution requirement on individual wages above $250,000 — affecting less than the top 2% of earners — split equally between employees and employers at 7.4% each. While most American workers contribute to Social Security with every dollar they earn, CEOs and other very high earners contribute to Social Security on only a fraction of their pay. My plan changes that and requires very high earners to contribute a fair share of their income. My plan also closes the so-called “Gingrich-Edwards” loophole to ensure that self-employed workers can’t easily reclassify income to avoid making Social Security contributions.

Second, my plan establishes a new 14.8% Social Security contribution requirement on net investment income that applies only to the top 2% — individuals making more than $250,000 in annual income or families making more than $400,000 in annual income. My plan creates a new contribution requirement — modeled on the Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT) from the Affordable Care Act — that asks people and families above these high income thresholds to contribute 14.8% of the lesser of net investment income or total income above these thresholds. My plan also closes loopholes in the NIIT that allow wealthy owners of partnerships and other businesses to avoid it. This contribution requirement will ensure that the very wealthy are paying into Social Security even when they report the bulk of their income as capital returns rather than wages.

Governor Cuomo Holds NYS Budget Hostage Without Permanent Property Tax Cap; I Object

Voting on a school bond referendum, Great Neck, Long Island. New York State’s property tax cap removes local control over spending for education and local services including parks and libraries © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has said he won’t sign the state budget unless it makes permanent the property tax cap.

“The highest tax in the state is the property tax and it is a killer,” Governor Cuomo said.”We want to reduce economic pressure on families by making sure government is not aggravating the problem with increased expenses. We’re going to cut your state income tax and we’re going to cap your property taxes so you know it’s not going higher than 2 percent. And I will tell you this as sure as I am before you today: if we do not have the permanent property tax cap in that state budget, this hand will never sign that state budget until it’s in there.”

From the very beginning, I have objected to this trampling off local control with an arbitrary and unreasonable constraint designed to hamstring and ultimately destroy local governments. Cuomo’s original intent was to force school districts and other local governments to cannibalize their reserve funds; the second was to force consolidation and dissolution of local governments and the third was to use local taxes as the bogeyman, so politicians could appear to be on the side of taxpayers.

Of course the property tax is the largest state tax and of course school taxes are the largest component. Something has to be “largest”. What should be? But local property taxes are spent where they are used, and local people have the greatest ability to participate in spending decisions. In fact, school and library taxes are the only taxes we taxpayers directly vote.

What the property tax cap does, though, is remove local control. Communities should have the right to decide if they want to improve their schools or parks. The property tax cap which basically keeps the annual increase to 2% or the rate of inflation whichever is less says: we don’t want any growth or improvement or new investment in your community. We want the status quo, and if that means deterioration, so be it. (Little known fact: the property tax cap incentivizes bonding because the debt service isn’t counted toward the cap.)

Somehow, and fairly ingeniously I think, the Great Neck Public School district has managed to continue to be among the best in the country and still average only 1.8 percent increase in the tax levy since the property tax cap was implemented in 2012, despite increasing enrollments and unfunded state mandates. This year, though, through the complicated formula, the school district could have raised taxes by 4.09 percent and still fall within the cap, is only seeking 1.94 percent increase. .

I resent the property tax cap by which the Governor and state legislators can declare themselves champions of reducing or controlling taxes.

But here’s the thing: New York State’s property taxes are not the highest in the nation; Nassau County’s taxes are not the highest; and both of these do not take into account that Long Island and New York’s incomes and our housing values are higher.

According to a survey by Wallethub, a financial services company, New York State ranks 8th (not first) in property taxes. New York ranks 43rd in its real estate tax rate, at 1.68 percent. You know which states are higher? Nebraska (1.80), Texas (1.83), Vermont (1.83), Wisconsin (1.94), Connecticut (2.07), New Hampshire (2.20), Illinois (2.31), and New Jersey (2.44) (See the study: https://wallethub.com/edu/states-with-the-highest-and-lowest-property-taxes/11585/)

Even so, do you want to be Alabama, which is #2 on the list for lowest taxes, where the median home value is $132,000 and the tax is $558 (0.42%), or Louisiana, #3, where the median home value is $152,900 and median tax is $795 (0.52%)? Louisiana ranks 51st in health care, Alabama is 48th. New York is 17th (fourth most physicians per capita)

USA Today ranks New York’s public education 9th noting, “Between 2003 and 2015, the achievement gap between eighth graders living in poverty and their wealthier peers narrowed by the largest amount of all states…Annual public school funding totals $18,665 per pupil in New York, the third highest expenditure of all states.” (Top three are Massachusetts, New Jersey and Vermont). Alabama ranks 43rd (14th lowest in public school spending at $10,142). Louisiana is 46th, Mississippi is 48th.

Yes, total taxes are high: New Yorkers spend 17.07 percent of income on taxes, second highest after Connecticut (17.65 percent). But New York State is spending billions on a 21st century infrastructure and racing toward 50:50 clean energy by 2030. This is where I want to live. So do 20 million others, a number that is increasing, even as unemployment rates are at the lowest ever and the number of jobs is at an all-time high.

We pay a lot in taxes because our incomes are higher and our housing values are higher, what is more, we get more for our money, making for a higher quality of life.

The states that don’t charge an appropriate amount of state and local taxes – that is related to the cost of providing services and public investment – depend on federal handouts. New York is one of 11 states that send more money to the federal government than it gets back, in fact the #1 donor state, sending $36-$48 billion more to the federal government than it gets back. Alabama is 4th “most federally dependent state”; Louisiana is 10th.

New York sends the second highest amount in federal taxes, $133 billion (California sends $227 billion), and is fourth in the average amount of federal taxes per adult ($8,490), behind Connecticut $10,279), Massachusetts ($9,445), and New Jersey ($8,811).

(Here’s an idea: New York should do what tenants do in a landlord dispute and put that $36 billion into escrow until the SALT deductibility issue is fixed.)

But we shouldn’t be punishing our localities because of the criminality of Republicans to use the tax code as political weapon – according to State Comptroller Tom Dinapoli, the SALT deduction cap has driven down tax receipts by $2.3 billion, as wealthiest New Yorkers choose other places for primary residency.

But the tax cap is also a political weapon.

The larger objective is to eliminate local municipalities entirely – to force villages to consolidate into towns, towns into counties, school districts into larger school districts. But the fallacy in that is all that it saves is a few administrative positions. Villages and school districts already have cooperative purchasing, mutual aid; school districts even cooperate on transportation where feasible. Our school district spends 4 percent of its budget on administration, the lion’s share, 75 percent, on instruction (12 percent on building, grounds & capital projects, 6 percent on transportation). (To see where your schools spend every penny, come to Great Neck South High School this Saturday at 9:30 am for the line-by-line budget review.)

The state boasts that since implementation the tax cap has “saved” taxpayers $24.4 billion statewide – that works out to $1000 per capita, divided by 7 years, or $142 a year. I’m not sure that’s worth giving up local control.

But just as Cuomo and the Congressmembers decry Trump’s disparity in federal spending for blue states versus red states and the attack on state control over its ability to raise revenue and spend, it is the same thing with local spending: there is gigantic  disparity in the level of state aid to school districts, with the result that New York City only has to raise 50 percent of its school budget from property taxes, while Great Neck, which gets just 4 percent from the state, has to raise 95 percent through property taxes. Here’s another measure: Roosevelt, with 3270 enrolled students, gets $53 million in state aid; Great Neck, with 6399 enrolled students, gets $10 million – the difference made up from property taxes. That’s just the way it is.

What the property tax cap means is that virtually all Great Neck’s school spending is governed by the cap; other districts have much less that is controlled by the tax cap.

The responsibility for determining if our elected representatives are properly handling our tax appropriations is on the community, not an arbitrarily selected cap enshrined in law.

We see what our school taxes (and park and library and sewer district) pay for and I don’t want the state – or some politician looking to score points – deciding we can’t have low class size or a robotics club or a fencing team or an opera performance (Great Neck South High marks its 50th anniversary full-scale opera production, April 12). This community has decided these things are just as important to our district’s mission of helping every child fulfill their full potential as cramming the latest incarnation of ELA and math or operating school buildings as if they were prisons. Our mission has been to instill a love of life-long learning. And the investment this community has made in public education has brought solid ROI day after day.

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© 2019 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Elizabeth Warren Releases Plan to Rein in Big Tech, Giant Corporations

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 2020 Democratic candidate for president at rally in Long Island City, NY © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a declared 2020 candidate for 2020 presidential nomination, came to Long Island City, where local activists rejected Amazon, to propose a plan to rein in big tech and other giant multi-national companies that use their economic power to stifle competition and intimidate government. Here is her proposal — Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

Today’s big tech companies have too much power — too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy. They’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field against everyone else. And in the process, they have hurt small businesses and stifled innovation. 

I want a government that makes sure everybody — even the biggest and most powerful companies in America — plays by the rules. And I want to make sure that the next generation of great American tech companies can flourish. To do that, we need to stop this generation of big tech companies from throwing around their political power to shape the rules in their favor and throwing around their economic power to snuff out or buy up every potential competitor

That’s why my Administration will make big, structural changes to the tech sector to promote more competition—including breaking up Amazon, Facebook, and Google.

How the New Tech Monopolies Hurt Small Businesses and Innovation

America’s big tech companies provide valuable products but also wield enormous power over our digital lives. Nearly half of all e-commerce goes through Amazon. More than 70% of all Internet traffic goes through sites owned or operated by Google or Facebook. 

As these companies have grown larger and more powerful, they have used their resources and control over the way we use the Internet to squash small businesses and innovation, and substitute their own financial interests for the broader interests of the American people. To restore the balance of power in our democracy, to promote competition, and to ensure that the next generation of technology innovation is as vibrant as the last, it’s time to break up our biggest tech companies. 

America’s big tech companies have achieved their level of dominance in part based on two strategies: 

  • Using Mergers to Limit Competition. Facebook has purchased potential competitors Instagram and WhatsApp. Amazon has used its immense market power to force smaller competitors like Diapers.com to sell at a discounted rate. Google has snapped up the mapping company Waze and the ad company DoubleClick. Rather than blocking these transactions for their negative long-term effects on competition and innovation, government regulators have waved them through.
     
  • Using Proprietary Marketplaces to Limit Competition. Many big tech companies own a marketplace – where buyers and sellers transact – while also participating on the marketplace. This can create a conflict of interest that undermines competition. Amazon crushes small companies by copying the goods they sell on the Amazon Marketplace and then selling its own branded version. Google allegedly snuffed out a competing small search engine by demoting its content on its search algorithm, and it has favored its own restaurant ratings over those of Yelp. 

Weak antitrust enforcement has led to a dramatic reduction in competition and innovation in the tech sector. Venture capitalists are now hesitant to fund new startups to compete with these big tech companies because it’s so easy for the big companies to either snap up growing competitors or drive them out of business. The number of tech startups has slumped, there are fewer high-growth young firms typical of the tech industry, and first financing rounds for tech startups have declined 22% since 2012. 

With fewer competitors entering the market, the big tech companies do not have to compete as aggressively in key areas like protecting our privacy. And some of these companies have grown so powerful that they can bully cities and states into showering them with massive taxpayer handouts in exchange for doing business, and can act — in the words of Mark Zuckerberg — “more like a government than a traditional company.” 

We must ensure that today’s tech giants do not crowd out potential competitors, smother the next generation of great tech companies, and wield so much power that they can undermine our democracy. 

Restoring Competition in the Tech Sector

America has a long tradition of breaking up companies when they have become too big and dominant — even if they are generally providing good service at a reasonable price. 

A century ago, in the Gilded Age, waves of mergers led to the creation of some of the biggest companies in American history — from Standard Oil and JPMorgan to the railroads and AT&T. In response to the rise of these “trusts,” Republican and Democratic reformers pushed for antitrust laws to break up these conglomerations of power to ensure competition.

But where the value of the company came from its network, reformers recognized that ownership of a network and participating on the network caused a conflict of interest. Instead of nationalizing these industries — as other countries did — Americans in the Progressive Era decided to ensure that these networks would not abuse their power by charging higher prices, offering worse quality, reducing innovation, and favoring some over others. We required a structural separation between the network and other businesses, and also demanded that the network offer fair and non-discriminatory service. 

In this tradition, my administration would restore competition to the tech sector by taking two major steps:

First, by passing legislation that requires large tech platforms to be designated as “Platform Utilities” and broken apart from any participant on that platform

Companies with an annual global revenue of $25 billion or more and that offer to the public an online marketplace, an exchange, or a platform for connecting third parties would be designated as “platform utilities.”

These companies would be prohibited from owning both the platform utility and any participants on that platform. Platform utilities would be required to meet a standard of fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory dealing with users. Platform utilities would not be allowed to transfer or share data with third parties.

For smaller companies (those with annual global revenue of between $90 million and $25 billion), their platform utilities would be required to meet the same standard of fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory dealing with users, but would not be required to structurally separate from any participant on the platform.

To enforce these new requirements, federal regulators, State Attorneys General, or injured private parties would have the right to sue a platform utility to enjoin any conduct that violates these requirements, to disgorge any ill-gotten gains, and to be paid for losses and damages. A company found to violate these requirements would also have to pay a fine of 5 percent of annual revenue.

Amazon Marketplace, Google’s ad exchange, and Google Search would be platform utilities under this law. Therefore, Amazon Marketplace and Basics, and Google’s ad exchange and businesses on the exchange would be split apart. Google Search would have to be spun off as well. 

Second, my administration would appoint regulators committed to reversing illegal and anti-competitive tech mergers. 

Current antitrust laws empower federal regulators to break up mergers that reduce competition. I will appoint regulators who are committed to using existing tools to unwind anti-competitive mergers, including: 

  • Amazon: Whole Foods; Zappos
     
  • Facebook: WhatsApp; Instagram
     
  • Google: Waze; Nest; DoubleClick
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 2020 Democratic candidate for president at rally in Long Island City, NY © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Unwinding these mergers will promote healthy competition in the market — which will put pressure on big tech companies to be more responsive to user concerns, including about privacy.   

Protecting the Future of the Internet

So what would the Internet look like after all these reforms?

Here’s what won’t change: You’ll still be able to go on Google and search like you do today. You’ll still be able to go on Amazon and find 30 different coffee machines that you can get delivered to your house in two days. You’ll still be able to go on Facebook and see how your old friend from school is doing.

Here’s what will change: Small businesses would have a fair shot to sell their products on Amazon without the fear of Amazon pushing them out of business. Google couldn’t smother competitors by demoting their products on Google Search. Facebook would face real pressure from Instagram and WhatsApp to improve the user experience and protect our privacy. Tech entrepreneurs would have a fighting chance to compete against the tech giants. 

Of course, my proposals today won’t solve every problem we have with our big tech companies.

We must give people more control over how their personal information is collected, shared, and sold—and do it in a way that doesn’t lock in massive competitive advantages for the companies that already have a ton of our data.

We must help America’s content creators—from local newspapers and national magazines to comedians and musicians — keep more of the value their content generates, rather than seeing it scooped up by companies like Google and Facebook.

And we must ensure that Russia — or any other foreign power — can’t use Facebook or any other form of social media to influence our elections.

Those are each tough problems, but the benefit of taking these steps to promote competition is that it allows us to make some progress on each of these important issues too. More competition means more options for consumers and content creators, and more pressure on companies like Facebook to address the glaring problems with their businesses.

Healthy competition can solve a lot of problems. The steps I’m proposing today will allow existing big tech companies to keep offering customer-friendly services, while promoting competition, stimulating innovation in the tech sector, and ensuring that America continues to lead the world in producing cutting-edge tech companies. It’s how we protect the future of the Internet.

See: Warren Brings 2020 Campaign to Long Island City to Call for Breaking Up Big Tech, Corporate Giants

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© 2019 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Warren Brings 2020 Campaign to Long Island City to Call for Breaking Up Big Tech, Corporate Giants

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a declared 2020 candidate for 2020 presidential nomination, came to Long Island City, where local activists rejected Amazon, to propose a plan to rein in big tech and other giant multi-national companies that use their economic power to stifle competition and intimidate government. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

The venue for Senator Elizabeth Warren’s rally was strategic for her message: a former warehouse with dank walls now used for an entertainment space in Long Island City, the neighborhood that booted Amazon, despite its promise to bring 25,000 jobs, in exchange for a $3 billion tax incentive.

The message the declared 2020 Democratic candidate for president brought to the 600 eager supporters was that it is time to break up the high-tech companies that have come to wield out-sized economic power more like government, dictating demands and reclaim government for the people.

“We have these giant corporations — do I have to tell that to people in Long Island City? — that think they can roll over everyone,” she said, comparing Amazon to “The Hunger Game.”

“Giant corporations shouldn’t be able to buy out competition. Competition has to be able to thrive and grow.”

“Who does government work for? Just the richest people and corporations? I want government that works for the people.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 2020 Democratic candidate for president at rally in Long Island City, NY
© Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“I spent whole life wondering what happening to middle class, why so much rockier, steeper, and even rockier and steeper for people of color – what has gone wrong in America.

“Our government works great for giant drug companies, not for people needing prescription drugs; for giant oil companies, not for people who see climate change bearing down; great for payday lenders, not for people of color and communities and poor people who are targeted, whose lives are turned upside down.

“It’s corruption plain and simple and we need to call it out.

“Whichever issue brought you here – income gap, climate change, affordable child care, housing – whatever issue brought you here, I guarantee decisions made in Washington that directly touch – runs straight through corruption in Washington…. We need big structural change.”

Some 600 people turned out for Senator Elizabeth Warren’s rally in Long Island City. “Whichever issue brought you here – income gap, climate change, affordable child care, housing – whatever issue brought you here, I guarantee runs straight through corruption in Washington…. We need big structural change.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Her prescription: change the rules of government, of the economy, of politics:

Where to start? Change the rules of government by taking corruption head on.

“I introduced the biggest anti-corruption bill since Watergate; it’s big, long, complex, but here are a few pieces:

“End lobbying as we know it. Stop the revolving door between Wall Street and Washington; make Supreme Court follow the basic rules of ethics. Anyone who wants to run for federal office, must release their taxes.

“We need workers to have more power, we need stronger unions. Unions built American middle class and will rebuild the American middle class.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 2020 Democratic candidate for president at rally in Long Island City, NY © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Warren is advocating an ultra millionaire’s tax: imposing 2% tax for those with over $50 million in assets.  That means the top 0.1% -75,000 households. She estimates that would generate $2.4 trillion.

In what sounds like an expansion of Obama’s oft-taken-out-of-context line, “You didn’t build that,” Warren justifies the wealth tax saying, “I’m tired of free loading billionaires. You built (or inherited) your fortune, good for you, but you built it using workers we educated, roads and bridges we paid to build, police – all helped. So yeah, you built a great fortune, so give a little back to the American people (who enabled you).

It’s a property tax, she said, not unlike the property tax that any homeowner, farmer, condo owner all pay, but includes the Picassos, diamonds and yachts.

What would it do? It would fund universal child care, and still have billions left over.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 2020 Democratic candidate for president at rally in Long Island City, NY © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

To change the rules of politics and protect our democracy, she said, “I want to see a constitutional amendment to protect the right to vote and make sure every vote gets counted. Overturn Citizens United.” (adding that she isn’t taking any corporate PAC money, but is depending on grassroots donations, ElizabethWarren.com.)

“I don’t go to closed door meetings with millionaires. I’m here with you.”

“My father was a janitor but his daughter got a chance to be a teacher, a college professor, a Senator and a candidate for President of the United States. I believe in opportunity because I’ve lived it. I want an American where every child gets a chance to build a future.

“This is our moment. Dream big. Let’s win.”

She then took questions (the questioners were picked at random):

Senator Elizabeth Warren and State Senator Michael Gianaris, at rally in Long Island City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Asked her view of Governor Andrew Cuomo trying to woo Amazon back after local progressives including State Senator Michael Gianaris, who introduced her at the rally,  she said, “This is like ‘Hunger Games’ – it is not just the enormous economic power, but  the political power they wield.

“A handful of companies spend $50 million lobbying Washington – a great return on investment if they get to keep Washington from enforcing regulations, antitrust laws, hold back oversight. That’s not how America is supposed to work. Corporate power… and billionaire power, all those who make their voices heard through money. They fund the think tanks that come to, predetermined conclusions, the public relations firms, the soft ads on TV, controlling government, they tilt the playing field over and over against everyone else.”

She reflected that she went to see Trump being sworn in, and realized that with control of the White House and both houses of Congress, the Republicans could have swept away health care and Medicare “by Tuesday.” “But the next day, there was the biggest protest in the history of the world.”

“I want to rein in big tech. That won’t happen by talking inside the Beltway, but in rooms like this.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 2020 Democratic candidate for president at rally in Long Island City, NY © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Asked whether her wealth tax would cause billionaires like Trump to simply move outside the US, she quipped, “That would be a bad thing?” but explained the 2% wealth tax would be on all property where it is held, so a yacht in the Caribbean would be taxed.  More tax treaties mean it can be tracked. The IRS (now underfunded and understaffed) would step up enforcement. Even with a 15% cheat factor, you still get nearly $3 trillion in revenue. As for moving and renouncing US citizenship to avoid the tax? There would be a 40% exit penalty.

“You built your fortune here, you owe something to the American people.”

Asked about addressing homelessness and the lack of affordable housing, Warren said, “It’s a matter of values. In the richest country in the history of the world, people shouldn’t be sleeping in the street. I have a plan, a housing plan, but the first step is to diagnose the problem: Why has the cost of housing gone up? Wages, adjusted for inflation for four decades are flat, but housing costs have risen by two-thirds. That puts a squeeze on families.”

She said that over the years, government has withdrawn investment in housing, while private developers have build the more profitable mcmansions and luxury high rises. “There’s been an increase in housing at the top but no increase for middle class and down. The federal government is not making investment in housing for poor, working poor and middle class. Meanwhile, across America, the housing stock has deteriorated, shrinking in size, but the population is expanding, so people are paying more and more for less and less.

“The answer: build more housing. I want to build 3.2 million new housing units all across the country. That would decrease rents by 10%. I want more housing for purchase, so families can build equity over time.

“Housing is how working families have built wealth generation after generation – paying off the mortgage, and living on Social Security, grandma can live with the family, the home passes on wealth to the next generation.

“It is no surprise that for decades, from the 1930s, federal government invested in subsidized housing for white people, but discriminated against blacks. Red lined areas where federal government would block mortgages, so that generation after generation [was deprived of home ownership to build wealth]. In 1960, housing discrimination was legal, while the federal government subsidized whites and discriminated against black neighborhoods. Then, the gap between white and black home ownership was 27 points.

“Then civil rights made housing, voting discrimination illegal, and we see black middle class recover.

“But then the big banks came along – looked to black, brown home owners’ equity. They targeted black and brown people for the nastiest mortgages – Wells Fargo, Bank of America. Greed.

“Today, the gap between white and black home ownership is 30 points. Race matters in America.

“My housing bill has something we haven’t seen anywhere else: in formerly red-lined areas, first time home buyers or those who lost their homes during the housing crash, will get assistance to buy again.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 2020 Democratic candidate for president at rally in Long Island City, NY © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Asked whether she would support ending the filibuster which the Republican minority used to block progressive legislation during the Obama administration, to block his judicial appointments, even the Merrick Garland Supreme Court nomination, she said (not too coyly): “It’s all on the table, baby. I’m on record for filibuster reform. The Republicans used filibuster to block judicial nominees, the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Board, the National Labor Relations Board. “Republicans get to do what they want when they’re in power, and when we are, we drink a lot of tea. It’s all on the table.”

“I get that things I’m asking for all are hard – attacking corruption, changing the rules of the economy, democracy. I get that some people earn more or less, but everyone should have an equal  share of democracy.”

People, she said, saved the Consumer Financial Protection Board, which she created after the 2008 financial collapse. “The people saved it, and it’s already forced the biggest banks to return $12 billion to the people they cheated.

“I’m calling for big structural change, but you don’t get what you don’t fight for,” she said, citing the abolitionists, suffragettes, union organizers, the foot soldiers of civil rights, gay rights activists. “They were all told, ‘it’s too hard, give up now, and yet, every one of them stayed, fought, organized, persisted [she said to big cheers], and changed. This is our moment to change.

“Dream big, fight hard, and let’s win.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 2020 Democratic candidate for president at rally in Long Island City, NY © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In an already crowded field of candidates – even the progressive faction – Warren is the only one who has clearly spelled out policy proposals and the underlying rationale, the powerful statistics of growing inequality, that she has studied and worked to change for years to level the playing field, “make government work for you”: campaign finance reform and government reform; housing; tax reform.

 And in this venue, it was fascinating to see how she could be so factual, so academic, but so enthusiastic  and personable, her audience asked for more detail about how she would address the critical shortfall  in affordable housing, even taking her by surprise.

The evening was organized a little like a townhall, with Warren moving freely about a stage in front of a giant American flag, taking questions, and then at the end, offering to stay as long as necessary so anyone who wanted to take a photo with her could get their chance.

See: Elizabeth Warren Releases Plan to Rein in Big Tech, Giant Corporations

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© 2019 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

New York Leads Coalition of States Suing Federal Government Over Tax Law’s Lost SALT Deductions

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a lawsuit by NYS, Connecticut, Maryland and New Jersey against the United States, the IRS and Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin over the constitutionality of limiting deductability of state and local taxes (SALT) which they charge is politically motivated © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood today filed a lawsuit to protect New York and its taxpayers from Washington’s drastic curtailment of the State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction. The lawsuit, which was joined by Connecticut, Maryland, and New Jersey, argues that the new SALT cap was enacted to target New York and similarly situated states, that it interferes with states’ rights to make their own fiscal decisions, and that it will disproportionately harm taxpayers in these states.

Accusing the federal government of engaging in a host of un-American actions – ranging from Zero Tolerance for immigrants seeking asylum, to pushing oil and gas drilling off coasts, to the failure of the Trump Administration to sufficiently protect elections and critical infrastructure against cyberattacks by Russia and other foreign adversaries- he cited the tax reform act’s SALT provision as “un-American.”

“Put aside the philosophy and the top 1 percent getting 80 percent of the benefits, the so-called SALT provision was un-American. What you did was you divided the states, you penalized the democratic states.”

In a phone conference call with the press, Cuomo said that the lawsuit is being filed in the district court of the Southern District of New York, and seeks declaratory judgment that it is unconstitutional and injunctive relief.

“There are three causes of action that the lawsuit will lay out. The first one is that it’s a violation of the Tenth Amendment which was ratified in 1791. The Tenth Amendment prohibits the federal government from invading the sovereign tax authority of the states. Remember, the founding fathers who they loved to quote, these are co-equal sovereign the federal government and the states. That was the basis of the Constitution.

“And the Tenth Amendment prohibited the federal government from invading a state’s tax authority. And that’s what they did by their own admission. Secretary Mnuchin said, the purpose of the law was ‘to send a message to the state governments that they have to get their budgets in line.’ Ted Cruz said, ‘we want to get states to lower their taxes.

Paul Ryan said the same thing. This was their attempt to manipulate state governments.

The second cause of action is that it’s a violation of the 16th Amendment that was ratified in 1913, which states the federal government may not exercise its power to tax individual incomes without providing for deduction of state and local taxes. Alexander Hamilton was cited: “the individual states would under the proposed Constitution retain an independent and uncontrollable authority to raise revenue to any extend of which they may stand in need. By every kind of taxation except duties on imports and exports.” James Madison said, “the state’s status as co-equal sovereigns provided security against interference from the federal government.”

The third cause of action is a violation of Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution that says, ‘the Congress has the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, impose excises to pay debts, and provide for the common defense and general welfare, but it may not use its tax and spending authorities to exert a power akin to undue influence over the states or coerce the states into adopting policies preferred by the federal government.’ That goes back to case law to 1937.

Cuomo cited Abraham Lincoln when he passed the first federal income tax—the Revenue Act of 1862— “state and local taxes shall first be deducted to determine a taxpayer’s liability for the federal income taxes.” Justin Morrill in 1862, stated”‘as a matter of simple logic, the deduction is necessary to avoid both double taxation and the principle of federalism.” It also goes to the principle of federalism.

“This is their political attempt to hurt Democratic states,” Cuomo stated. “It is totally repugnant and hypocritical of the fundamental conservative ideology which they preach—the limited federal government, respect state rights. This tramples on their own theory. And it is politically motivated. And it was politically targeted. Steven Moore, the conservative economist who advised the Trump campaign, said the Republican tax bill represents death to the Democrats.

“This is not what our Founding Fathers intended. They did not intend for the federal government to manipulate or politically retaliate against states. It’s violative of the fundamental relationship between the federal government and the states. It is un-American, like what the president did with Putin yesterday, like what they did in Puerto Rico, like what they’ve done on immigration, like what they’ve done on trampling women’s rights. It is un-American. Not just repugnant to this state. Repugnant to the Constitution and the values of the American people.”

The 2017 federal tax law, “which resulted from a hyper-partisan and rushed process,” drastically reduced the deduction by capping it at $10,000. An analysis by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance shows that the cap will increase New Yorkers’ federal taxes by $14.3 billion in 2018 alone, and an additional $121 billion between 2019 and 2025. As set forth in the complaint, the law flies in the face of centuries of precedent, which establishes constitutional limits on the federal government’s ability to use its tax power to interfere with the sovereign authority of the states.

For the entire history of the United States, every federal income tax law protected the sovereign interests of the states by providing a deduction for all or a significant portion of state and local taxes. This uninterrupted history demonstrates that the unprecedented cap on the SALT deduction is unconstitutional, as the lawsuit notes. This new, drastic curtailment of the SALT deduction has both the purpose and effect of harming New York, other similarly situated states, and their residents. Among other things, the new cap will depress home prices, spending, and business sales, and result in slower growth for the New York economy and fewer jobs.

Countering the impression that New York is the highest taxed state in the country, Cuomo said, “The large tax in New York is not state income tax, it’s local taxes – that’s what they are targeting. We have people who pay more in property ax than income tax – if those jump 30% after we capped them with first proper tax cap in history, you will see home values go down, real estate values come down, because it will make this jurisdiction must more expensive, and there may be people right on margin. This is not a theoretical political argument, this is real life.

“Ask your neighbor if property taxes go up 30 percent, what will you do? That’s why we did the property tax cap in first place – 2% year over year – this would be 30 percent bump in property taxes, and if you see real estate values come down, we will have a problem with banks, funding for school districts, and have potential devastating consequences. That’s why wanted to move on expeditious basis.

“This state has been fiscally responsible. That’s undeniable. Our credit rating up, spending increases are at record lows, efficiency up. This is a different point: it’s not for fed government to determine local taxation. That is fundamental Constitutional point.

“We think they are doing it out of political intent. If they want to talk about reduce taxes, give us back the $48 billion they take from us – we are the highest Donor State in the nation. We have been since Moynihan railed against it. We give them $48 billion more than we get back. If you really want us to reduce taxes, give it back and I will reduce taxes.

“They set up two sets of rules,” Governor Cuomo asserted, “One for Republican states, one for Democratic states. If we can’t deduct, state and local taxes [effectively] go up 30 percent. We depend heavily on property taxes to fund local governments.”

The lawsuit, filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, was led by Attorney General Underwood and joined by the Attorneys General of Connecticut, Maryland, and New Jersey, is against the United States, the IRS and Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin as defendants.

Cuomo held out the possibility of other states, such as California, joining the suit. “We are forming a coalition, but time is of the essence.”

“New York will not be bullied. This cap is unconstitutional – going well beyond settled limits on federal power to impose an income tax, while deliberately targeting New York and similar states in an attempt to coerce us into changing our fiscal policies and the vital programs they support,” said Attorney General Underwood. “We will not allow partisans in Washington to hurt our people or interfere with our policies. We’ve filed suit against this unconstitutional attack on New York and our state’s fundamental rights — because we won’t stand by and let Washington pick the pockets of New Yorkers.”

“It was a number and a tax selected to effect what they wanted,” Cuomo charged. “You think it was a coincidence that it impacted 12 states, all Democratic, all states Trump lost, all that don’t have Republican representative in Congress? .. That puts democratic states on different footing. That’s why I’ve said this is economic civil war – red versus blue, Democratic versus Republican, and penalizing those states. But these are co-equal sovereigns. The federal government can’t do whatever want. It has a right to tax, and we have right to tax, I can’t interfere with the federal right to tax, and the federal government can’t interfere with our right to tax, and where they drew this line, arbitrary, because it had the desired effect.”

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Governor Cuomo Signs Bill to Protect New York Taxpayers from Federal Tax Increases

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation aimed at mitigating against the federal tax law which limits deductibility of State and Local Taxes (SALT) which will cost New York taxpayers $14.3 billion. The plan includes an optional payroll-tax system, new funds for charitable donations and de-coupling from the federal tax code © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Enacted Budget Includes Optional Payroll-Tax System, New Funds for Charitable Donations, and Legislation to De-Couple from the Federal Tax Code – Summary of Reforms Available Here

 Coordinated Response Provides Alternatives to the Devastating Federal Assault; SALT Limitations Cost New York Taxpayers $14.3 Billion

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today recognized Tax Day with the signing of legislation to protect New Yorkers from tax increases brought about by the federal tax reforms. These changes to the state tax code will help preserve New York’s economic competitiveness and protect state and local tax deductibility – a basic tenet of tax law that has been part of the modern federal income tax since it was created. The legislation provides new options for tax deductible charitable donations, creates a new Employer Compensation Expense Program so that employers can help their employees maximize deductibility, and decouples the state tax code from the federal tax code, where necessary, to avoid state tax increases brought solely by increases in federal taxes.

“New York will not stand idle while the federal government takes aim at the economic heart of our communities and takes from the hardworking men and women of this state to benefit this country’s wealthy and corporations,” Governor Cuomo said. “This bill ensure protections for New Yorkers against Washington’s targeted attack and we will continue to lead this fight and do everything we can to protect the rights and wallets of families across New York.”

The legislation signed today enacts a series of reforms to the New York State tax code designed to protect New York residents from the adverse impacts of the recently enacted federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. These changes follow a report issued by the Department of Taxation and Finance in January 2018 that outlines several measures for the state to consider in order to mitigate these negative impacts. After further study and extensive consultation with experts from state and local government, academia, and the private sector, the proposed reforms were found to be viable options for protecting New Yorkers and were included in the Executive Budget and, ultimately, passed by the legislature. Specifically, the FY 2019 Budget takes the following steps:

  • Promotes State Charitable Contributions to Benefit New Yorkers: The FY 2019 Budget creates a new state-operated Charitable Contribution Fund to accept donations for the purposes of improving health care and public education in New York State. Taxpayers who itemize deductions may claim these charitable contributions as deductions on their federal and state tax returns. Any taxpayer making a donation may also claim a state tax credit equal to 85 percent of the donation amount for the tax year after the donation is made. Taxpayers may also make qualified contributions to certain not-for-profit organizations for specified purposes. 
  • Authorizes Local Government to Establish Local Charitable Funds: The FY 2019 Budget authorizes local governments to establish charitable gift reserve funds and to offer real property tax credits to incentivize contributions to these new local charitable funds. Under the law, such funds may receive unrestricted charitable contributions for the purposes of addressing education, health care, and other charitable purposes. This is an optional program available to counties, cities, towns, villages and school districts. Local governments and school districts may also establish charitable funds and offer real property tax credits to incentivize contributions to these new local charitable funds. These funds will help support vital government activities while also helping preserve the tax deductibility that our tax system was built on.
  • Establishes the Alternative Employer Compensation Expense Program: The FY 2019 Budget creates new ways for employers to help their employees with their federal tax bill.  While Federal tax reform eliminated full state and local tax deductibility for individuals, businesses were spared from these limitations. Under this program, employers will be able to opt-in to a new Employer Compensation Expense Program structure. Employers that opt-in will be subject to a 5 percent tax on all annual payroll expenses in excess of $40,000 per employee, phased in over three years beginning on January 1, 2019. The progressive personal income tax system will remain in place, and a new tax credit corresponding in value to the ECEP will cut the personal income tax on wages and ensure that State filers subject to the ECEP will not experience a decline in take-home pay. The program is designed to be revenue neutral for the state. Employers would also not be adversely impacted, but they’d be giving their employees the opportunity to reduce their federal taxes.
  • De-Couples from the Federal Tax Code: The state tax code is closely aligned with the federal tax code. This legislation decouples the state tax code from the federal tax code, where necessary, to avoid more than $1.5 billion in State tax increases brought solely by increases in Federal taxes.

The new federal law disproportionally and adversely impacts New York State, which already sends $48 billion more each year to Washington than it receives in federal dollars. According to a recent report released by the State Department of Tax and Finance, the elimination of full SALT deductibility alone will cost New York an additional $14.3 billion.

“These reforms to our State tax code are the result of collaborations between state agencies, working with many tax professionals, businesses, and experts,” State Budget Director Robert F. Mujica, Jr. said. “This legislation will protect New York’s taxpayers, our State Budget, and our economic competitiveness.”

Westchester County Executive George Latimer said, “In Westchester County most residents pay more than $10,000 a year in taxes. These taxes are for schools, local government and state government. The last federal budget robbed Westchester – and our residents’ way of life was threatened. I want to thank Governor Cuomo for this creative plan to help county taxpayers, and Legislators for recognizing how imperative this issue is. We support it, and will do everything in our power to implement it.”

“Today is tax day, and New Yorker’s will again send billions more to Washington than our state will get back in the form of federal funding. As a sovereign state, it is critically important that we do whatever we can to protect the income of our taxpayers, and we applaud Governor Cuomo and state legislators for advancing legislation to do just that,” New York State Association of Counties Executive Director Stephen J. Acquario said,

New York State Conference of Mayors Executive Director Peter A. Baynes said,

“NYCOM greatly appreciates Governor Cuomo’s proactive leadership in offering an option to mitigate the harm inflicted upon New York’s communities and their residents with the new cap on state and local tax deductions. Working collaboratively with NYCOM and other groups, the Governor and the State Legislature have enacted viable options for New Yorkers to avoid increases in taxes, decreases in home values, and reductions in essential municipal services. We look forward to working with the Administration to successfully implement this program.”

These changes to the state tax code are part of Governor Cuomo’s multi-pronged effort to fight the federal tax assault. Along with the Governors of New Jersey and Connecticut, Governor Cuomo announced a coalition to sue the federal government. The new law effectively preempts the states’ ability to govern by reducing the ability to provide for their own citizens and unfairly targets New York and similarly situated states in violation of the Constitution.

White House Messagers Sugar Coat Trump/Republican Tax Plan, Invoking ‘American Dream’

The US Treasury building is literally next door to the White House. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin claimed that over 100 people in Treasury are “working around the clock on running scenarios for us,” to prove that the Republican tax cuts would pay for themselves and benefit middle class families, but never produced the analysis, beyond a single-page of hopeful assumptions. © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

During a press call previewing Donald Trump’s “closing message to the American people” about the glories of the Republican tax plan supported by less than 25% of Americans, Trump’s leading “messagers” – the people charged with making the deal palatable – had to “research” the American Dream, as if they had never heard of the concept before:

“At the president’s direction, we did research into the concept of American Dream,” said Treasury Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Tony Sayegh. “It is interesting what we found, where the concept came from and what it meant. And part was that in the United States, you were not destined to die in the same income class you were born into, children were not destined to have same quality of life that you had, people had the ability to rise. This was unique thing in world history. Most of the world, most of history, born in a certain class and died in that class, children were born and died in same economic class. America [brought the] idea of economic opportunity for all.”

But now, he said with dubious accuracy because this same criticism has arisen since the Reagan “Revolution”, if he in fact bothered to research, “for first time in American history, parents no longer think their children will be better off. …We will bring back the American spirit, that’s what president likes to talk about it. Consumer confidence is at all time high. That kind of optimism is at the core of the message.”

He asserted, “We’re nearing a historic moment in which we will decide the economic future of the nation. We have the power to reject [the notion]  that 2% growth is the new normal and the majority of Americans for first time in history will lose faith that next generation will do better…[We want an] economy that works for all Americans, not just the wealthy and well connected….Ultimately message will be that middle class will no longer just be getting by, finally have the opportunity to get ahead, and that’s what will Make America Great Again.”

When asked about the scores of economists and experts who have challenged the theory that the tax cuts to the wealthiest and corporations will trickle down to working people, that the cumulative impact of the tax plan will hurt working class and middle class Americans, upset the very mechanisms that promote the American Dream (education, health care, home ownership), that it will result in $1.5 trillion added to the national debt which will result in cuts to Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid, and that large majority of Americans oppose the tax plan, White House message strategy director Cliff Sims went on the attack:

”I encourage you to spend a little less time reading [Senate Minority Leader] Chuck Schumer’s talking points, and more time reading the plan [which has yet to be finalized or scored]. This plan offers a lot for the middle class…. [The plan] substantially increased child tax credit, $1000 now to $1600 or $2000; nearly doubles standard deduction so a married couple can take $24,000 tax free and more if they itemize; it lowers the tax rate so more income is taxed at lower rates… Quite frankly anyone who says otherwise is purposefully disingenuous or taking a partisan line that doesn’t meet the reality.”

Sayegh  added, “Analysis and studies. The Council of Economic Advisors reported a month ago clearly demonstrates what we are doing on corporate side helps workers, because workers absorb the greatest burden when corporate taxes are high… We know that through analysis, the average worker gets anywhere $4000-$9000.. after policies implemented – because there is a more productive and investment-friendly environment when corporations can compete with significantly lower rate. It is a benefit to hardworking Americans, the American worker.”

Asked where was the analysis that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said  “over 100 people in Treasury are “working around the clock on running scenarios for us,,” Sims said that Treasury “in very rare instances will ever release analysis of a bill that has not already been voted on and passed because as anyone who has followed process understands, there are two bills – House, Senate –there are  differences between them and a final bill will be voted on.”

Sayegh also pushed back against polling which shows the vast majority of Americans believe the tax plan substantially favors the wealthy over working people, pointing to rolling back the estate tax and eliminating the AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax), by which Trump in 2005, in the only 2 pages of his tax returns revealed to the public, shows that he would have saved $30 million in tax payments but for the AMT.

“We’ve poured through this from a lot of angles, political strategy and public opinion. It is abundantly clear that almost every poll nationally cited – CBS, Quinnipiac, Marist – is deliberately trying to shake and manipulate public opinion and not accurately reflect it. Quinnipiac uses a methodology where only 20% of respondents are Republican, 33% are Democrats, 38% are independents –a  preposterous formula. Negative of 12% between Democrats and Republicans is not close to reality – so does not reflect public opinion.”

Sims added “The more people learn about specifics, the more they love it. 61% to 21% supported it after learning we are doubling the standard deduction from $12 to $24K, 54% support only 14% oppose the child tax credit, 54% support only 18% oppose after being informed of basic provisions. Does anyone on the planet not believe Americans don’t want lower taxes, a fairer corporate tax rate that will create more jobs and higher wages? When polls get into specifics…support goes through the roof. When you have polls that try to manipulate, push questions, you get numbers you can put in Chiron or story to manipulate public opinion, but not reflect what Americans feel.”

Except that polling only specific, popular provisions (who doesn’t want higher standard deduction), does not put the whole picture into view: the higher premiums likely to come when the individual mandate for the Affordable Care Act is eliminated; the personhood provision; drilling in the Arctic National Refuge; taxing graduate school fellowships as income; eliminating the deductibility of state and local taxes and significantly limiting the mortgage interest deduction, and adding more than $1 trillion to the national debt, which will trigger cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, curtail investment and infrastructure spending.

And no one has asked where the $300 billion to pay for disaster relief just from the 2017 climate catastrophes will come from, or why the Republicans have refused to reauthorize CHIP, which provides access to health care for 9 million children and pregnant mothers.

Meanwhile, Paul Ryan and others have said that the tax plan – precisely because it adds more than $1 trillion to the national debt – will be followed next year by cuts to “entitlements.”

And Trump, in his tax speech in St. Louis said:

“Then we will have done tax cuts, the biggest in history; healthcare, phenomenal healthcare. I know you don’t want this — welfare reform. Does anybody want welfare reform? (Applause.) And infrastructure. But welfare reform — I see it and I’ve talked to people. I know people, they work three jobs and they live next to somebody who doesn’t work at all. And the person who’s not working at all and has no intention of working at all is making more money and doing better than the person that’s working his and her ass off. And it’s not going to happen. Not going to happen. (Applause.) So we’re going to go into welfare reform…”

See also:

Dickens’ ‘Christmas Carol’ Is Vision of New Reality in Trump’s America Where Money is Entitlement

Republican Tax Scam: They Don’t Care 85% Oppose. Here’s Why

Republican Tax Plan is Attack on Blue States; Fight Back by Holding Money ‘in Escrow’

Ready the Revolution: GOP Tax Plan Decimates Middle-Class, Gives Rise to New American Aristocracy

Trump Selling Tax Plan in Missouri, the Show Me State: This is going to cost me a fortune, this thing — believe me.

Democrats Should Shut Down Government over Republican Tax Scam

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Trump, Republicans’ Dickens Vision of America: Where Money is Entitlement, ‘Please Sir, I’d Like Some More’

Long Islanders protesting for the 99% against foreclosures by banks too big to fail, bailed out by taxpayers. The Republican tax scam, combined with Trump deregulation and obliteration of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, sets up an even greater Recession and foreclosures. Seniors on Long Island, facing the inability to deduct state and local taxes and the likelihood of Republican cuts to Social Security and Medicare, will be forced out of their homes. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

This is supposedly the season of “giving,” of “good will to all mankind.” Not with Donald Trump in the White House.

Trump is so giddy to take credit for displacing “Happy Holidays” with “Merry Christmas.” That’s all he cares about. But just as Trump, who makes money off of hotels but has no concept of “hospitality” and is more like the craven Snidely Whiplash than Barron Hilton, he has no clue and no care what “Christmas” means.

Indeed, this Christmas, 9 million children and pregnant women are losing access to health care and the ability to live a good life or realize their full potential. 13 million Americans don’t know if they will be able to afford or access health care.  800,000 Dreamers don’t know whether they will be thrown out of jobs, housing, and the nation, exiled to a country that is completely foreign to them. Seniors and retirees don’t know if they will be able to continue to afford living in their homes and whether their Medicare and Social Security benefits will be cut.

The Tax Scam rammed through by Republicans is just the beginning: they are giddy about how adding $1.5 trillion to the national debt, the same amount (coincidentally) that it redistributes from working people to the already obscenely rich and richest corporations sitting on $2 trillion in cash they refuse to use to raise wages will “justify” slashing the social safety net, cutting Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid – you know the so-called “entitlements” that working people have paid into their entire working lives.

Trump made it clear, in his ignorant, short-hand way, what will come next, in his speech in St. Louis:

“Then we will have done tax cuts, the biggest in history…I know people, they work three jobs and they live next to somebody who doesn’t work at all. And the person who’s not working at all and has no intention of working at all is making more money and doing better than the person that’s working his and her ass off. And it’s not going to happen. Not going to happen. (Applause.) So we’re going to go into welfare reform.”

You only have to look at what is happening in every quarter of civic life which is shifting the balance to the wealthiest while cutting off upward mobility for anyone else. The Trump FCC’s plan to overturn net neutrality is exactly that: it cements the control that the internet oligopoly wields not only to keep out upstart competitors but control what information or culture gets wide viewing. What Pai wants is for money to rule both content and access (that’s what “free market” means). Don’t have money to keep an internet subscription so you can access news, information or jobs? Tough luck. But the FCC intends to couple this with more government surveillance of what goes up over the Internet – quite literally the worst of both worlds.

It is apparent also in how Trump is pawning off national monuments to commercial exploitation – Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, the Arctic Refuge and the Atlantic Marine Sanctuary – basically stealing what is our collective heritage and birthright to give to commercial interests. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who has no compunction to waste taxpayer money for his own use, is even raising admission fees to the national parks, further putting what is owned by all Americans off limits for those who can’t pay the freight.

Money is the new “entitlement.” It determines who can afford to weigh the scales of justice in their favor, and, thanks to Citizens United, who runs for election and wins, and therefore what policy gets written and enacted, and even who has access to the voting booth. Billionaire venture capitalist Tom Perkins actually said that out loud: “But what I really think is, it should be like a corporation. You pay a million dollars in taxes, you get a million votes. How’s that?” Indeed.

This mentality is actually seeping down even into the disasters that have become all too common and catastrophic because of climate change: Freakonomics did a segment that a free market rather than anti-gouging laws should come into play after a disaster. A shopkeeper should be able to sell a bottle of water for $1000 to the father with a child dying of thirst if he wants to, because at $2 a bottle, someone will hoard. (The absurdity is that purchases are rationed for the rich and the poor.)

Another segment suggested that people should be able to pay their way (a premium) to jump a line – that’s okay for a themepark, but they are suggesting the same for access to life-saving organ donation.

Trump is the first president to dare do what the Republicans have been salivating over since the New Deal but dared not do. It’s not that the Republicans haven’t had their sights set on reversing every progressive policy since the 1860s. (Alabama Senate candidate, the defrocked judge Roy Moore, said that every Amendment after the 10th, the state’s rights one, should be abolished, including the 13th amendment ending slavery, 14th amendment giving due process, the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote. Meanwhile, the Republicans are about to cancel the 10th amendment’s State’s Rights provision in order to require New York State to accept Conceal Carry Reciprocity and overturn its own gun safety laws.)

You actually have Senator Chuck Grassley defending abolishing the estate tax which affects only a tiny fraction of the wealthiest families and was intended since the founding to prevent an institutionalized aristocracy, argue that the previous tax code favors poor and working-class Americans who were “just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”

Utah’s Orrin Hatch, justifying shifting $1.5 trillion in tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations and slashing the social safety net, declared, “I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves, won’t lift a finger, and expect the federal government to do everything.”

Merry Christmas? Bah humbug.

“And so how do we as Christians respond, who serve a God whose prophets call for welcoming immigrants (Deuteronomy, Leviticus), caring for the orphans and widows (Jeremiah, Ezekiel), establishing fair housing (Isaiah), seeking justice (Micah 6), and providing health care (Isaiah),” a twitter conversation between MSNBC’s Joy Reid and Susan Gilbert Zencka wrote.

“What you’re witnessing tonight in the United States Senate is the weaponization of pure, unmitigated greed,” Joy Reid wrote after the Senate’s adoption of its tax plan. “Lobbyists are writing the bill in pen at the last minute. And Republicans are no longer even pretending to care about anyone but the super rich,“ wrote Joy Reid.

The America that Trump and the Republicans envision is not one of an American Dream where anyone who has the ability and works hard enough can rise up, but one in which communities must beg billionaires for funding for a public school, a library, a hospital, and be very grateful for their charity.

Tell me how this is not a modern, nonfiction version of Dickens’ “Oliver Twist.”

“Please sir, I’d like some more.”

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

NY, CA, NJ Governors Assail Republican Tax Plan as ‘Evil in the Extreme,’ a Wrench to Nation’s Economic Engine

Blue State governors including New York’s Andrew Cuomo hope their Republican Congressmembers will do the right thing for their constituents; otherwise, they raise the specter of court challenges to Republican Tax Plan © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Governors of New York and California and the Governor-Elect of New Jersey and California joined forces to condemn the Republican tax plan as a “stake in the heart” of the nation’s economic engine, a cynical ploy to punish Democratic-majority states, and only the first-step toward generating such an increase in the national debt to justify cuts in Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, CHIP and other social programs, and threatened to challenge the legality of elements of the tax plan should it become law.

In a joint press call, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, California Governor Jerry Brown and New Jersey Governor-Elect Phil Murphy and using phrases such as “evil,”  “nefarious” and “cynical,” raised issues of the legality of elements of the Republican tax plan, which shifts $1.5 trillion in wealth from middle class and working families to the wealthy  – indeed, 50% of the tax cuts go directly into the pocket of the top 1% – through lowered tax rates, elimination of the AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax), reductions if not elimination in the Estate Tax (which only impacts 2 out of 1000 families now), and new rules enabling the wealthiest to shelter tax through pass-throughs.

But the Republicans pay for the cuts by largely eliminating or significantly reducing the deductibility of state and local taxes, including property taxes, effectively double-taxing, something that has not existed since income taxes were first implemented in 1913, which disproportionately targets 12 states that happen to vote Democratic and also happen to be the donor states that account for 40% of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). A similar effort during the 1986 Reagan tax reform effort was defeated by both Republicans and Democrats. The governors say this may be challenged as unconstitutional double-taxation.

Other provisions, such as establishing a legal framework for “personhood” may also be challenged as unconstitutional.

The way the Republican tax plan is structured, it shifts wealth from the 12 “donor” (Democratic-majority) states, to the rest of the country, by eliminating or dramatically reducing the tax deductibility of state and local taxes, including property taxes. In effect, it makes those states structurally uncompetitive by effectively increasing taxes by 20-25 percent for homeowners, may reduce home values by that amount, as well as make it difficult for schools (which account for 60-65% of New Yorkers’ property taxes and 40% of California’s) to raise the revenue they need to property function. But while individuals lose the deductibility of SALT, corporations do not.

In a further blow to public education and stripping away of the separation of Church & State, the Republicans would allow the tax-exempt 529 funds, created to fund college, to be used for K-12 education for parochial and private schools, even homeschooling. (This is on top of repealing the Johnson Amendment, opening floodgates of “charitable” contributions to religious institutions to become political PACs; a particularly insidious breach of the Constitution’s Establishment clause because the religious leader preaching from the pulpit has a special ability to coerce.

The governors held at the hope that the wildly unpopular Congress (only 13% approval) and the most unpopular president in history (33% approval), will recognize the tax plan is similarly wildly unpopular, with barely 20% support, and that Republican Congressmen who have to stand for election in 2018, will do what is best for their constituents.

The Senate version, which eliminates the individual mandate from the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), would result in 13 million more people without health insurance by 2025, and 10 percent annual increases in premiums on everyone else.

The bill also “pays” for the tax cuts to the richest Americans and corporations by eliminating the deductibility of student loan interest, tax credits for renewable energy, and opens the way for drilling in the Arctic National Refuge, and other provisions which help the upward mobility of working families and middle class striving to achieve the American Dream.

The governors held out a glimmer of hope that enough of the Republicans (the only ones who voted in favor of the tax plan) would vote for their constituents’ interests.

“The tax plan that passed Senate, the House, and is headed to reconciliation, is a long way from done. It is a fraud on the American people. They talk about tax cuts for middle class and working people, but what it is, is tax cut for the rich – 50% of the tax cuts go to the top 1%. That’s an inarguable fact. Their theory isn’t new or novel. It’s ‘trickle down’ on steroids.” He argued that instead of corporations taking their tax cuts to raise wages for workers or create more jobs  through investment, corporations in the past have pocketed the extra cash or used it to buy back stock (raising the share prices) or paying dividends.

“To add insult to injury,” Cuomo said. “the tax cut is then targeted at 12 states that happen to be Blue States where they target eliminating state and local deductions. People don’t understand what that will do, but it will be devastating for states. In essence, it is an increase in property taxes and state income tax only on those 12 states. It puts us at a structurally competitive disadvantage because structurally our taxes will be higher.” That gives residents additional complaint about their government (Republicans even now charge that New York’s taxes are high because of mismanagement, or lavish spending on services). Cuomo countered the claim by Republicans that the poorer states somehow subsidize the public services of the richer states.  New York, California and New Jersey are donor states, which means we put more into the [federal] till than we take out. This aggravates and enhances the injustice where we are subsidizing the other states, and now you’re using New York and New Jersey as a piggybank to finance tax cuts in other states.

“That amounts to political retaliation through the tax code. That’s why they passed it with only their own votes,” Cuomo charged.

California Governor Jerry Brown assailed the Republican tax plan saying, “the most immediate evil of this cynical maneuver called the tax bill is to further divide America when we are at one of our most divisive periods in history. The idea that a president and representatives only in the majority would use that power to penalize 12 states – most of which voted strongly against this president– is not going to bring country together. We are divided while some of our most important competitors are getting more unified, authoritarian. We need to come together. This will further divide blue states from red, Democrats from Republicans. It is evil in the extreme. It exacerbates inequality….It’s not right. It won’t stand.”

New Jersey Governor-Elect Philip Murphy further expounded on the devastating impact in terms of widening inequality and continuing down the awful path of us vs Washington leadership.

“It is based on the trickle down theory, which we have seen time and again doesn’t work. Executives get paid better, the gap between the top of corporate food chain and bottom widens; shareholders benefit from buybacks while working people are neglected. It is a scam at the ultimate extreme. On more than one occasion we all heard, when asked for the rationale, the awful answer [from Republicans] was ‘it is our donors, our donor base will dry up if we don’t.’ We saw the chaos Friday night, literally lobbyists hand-writing in pen, amending the bill. This is as bad as it gets.

“But in a ‘glass half full’ sense, as Governor Cuomo stated,  It’s not over yet. This is the ninth inning. Each of our states have Republican House members. This is beyond Republican, Democrat; it is a clear question of whether you are representing the constituents who elected you. Black & white.”

“The changes in the SALT deduction, are particularly problematic, Murphy said. “That’s been part of the tax code since income tax became legal in 1913. For over 100 years, Congress realized taxing people twice is unfair. We are the biggest odnor states in terms of the federal money we give. This will only make it worse.

“The stronger we are together, the more numbers, the more locked arms, we fight together as a team. There is a lot to be said for that. I am honored to be with you.”

Asked what actions, beyond political pressure on Republican members of Congress, the governors might take, they said that just as the Republicans, the day after Obamacare was signed into law, pledged to repeal and replace, they would also take whatever means – even court challenges– to repeal and replace this tax law.

“We’re looking at the legality now. [SALT deductions] has been in the tax code since it started over 100 years ago. This is double taxation – they are taxing taxes, this from the party that’s against taxation, redistribution [or what Republicans used to condemn as “class warfare”]. This is redistribution in an exponential form –taking from richer states and subsidizing a tax cut in less wealthy states. Hypocritical. Everything they said were against: double-taxation, taxing tax for first time, redistribution state to state, so may well be illegal, unconstitutional. We’re looking at it.”

“There may be some legal action but this is a quintessentially political challenge,” Governor Brown stated. “Our job is to communicate the fraudulent and nefarious character of this tax bill – the way it proceeded, which John McCain said follows no normal pathway. We want to make sure our members of Congress know they are hurting New York, California, New Jersey but also hurting America. We are the key elements of America’s engine of prosperity, and when Trump and his allies attack New York, New Jersey, California, they are attacking the vital seams of the American economy. That’s stupid. They will regret it, and we will do everything we can to convince our Republican representatives that the right thing to do is defeat.

Murphy said they are working with state Attorneys General “to tear up all the floor boards, to the fullest extent of law, and challenge this. There are 500 pages of amendments, a lot handwritten. I am betting there are flaws, holes. If we don’t succeed in the next few days, we will have to take this to the limit.

“This is double taxation and I’m not sure it’s legal,” said Cuomo. “We will find out if it is. But Governor Brown’s point is that it is counterproductive. These 12 states are 40% of GDP. If you say this will help the American economy, how do you do that by assaulting 12 states that are 40% of GDP: this will be negative for our states and regional economies. No doubt about that.”

“Attacking the innovation of NY, CA, NJ and others is just a dumb move, only explained by the desperate situation the Republican leadership find themselves,” Governor Brown added. “This president is the most unpopular is history. They are riding a dead horse in this tax bill, acting irrationally, not in interest of country, throwing a wrench into engine of economy.”

“The more people understand, the more people understand how unfair, divisive and harmful it is to them individually,” Cuomo commented. “The problem is, there is so much news, so much happening. This is so complicated – elimination of state and local taxes but the more people understand it, the more they are against it. Congresspeople and Senators ultimately have to go home, and if they vote for this, they are voting against the interests of their constituents, and they have election next year. Ultimately democracy works. A congressperson who votes for this, there’s no going home again.

“I’m an optimist for the simple reason that we all believe in a different America than this bill articulates,” Murphy said. “The more people understand what’s in this thing, the more actively they push back. What it will do for higher education by repealing tax deduction for student loans, stripping credits for renewable energy, opening Arctic to drilling, on and on –repealing the individual mandate in ACA – the more people realize what’s at stake, the more collectively they say this can’t go forward.

Largely eliminating the SALT deductions, Cuomo said, contradicts the Republican claim their tax plan is supposed to spur the economy. “But targeting 40% of GDP, then saying that’s how you are going to spur economy, by putting arrow into economic heart of these 12 states? There are predictions it will drop the value of homes in our states because property taxes in effect will go up 20-25% over night. If you drop the value of homes, disrupt the whole financial system. Mortgage foreclosures. I don’t think they understand what they are doing.

“We talk about [eliminating SALT deductions] as if it were a new concept,” Governor Cuomo said. “It’s not new. They proposed eliminating SALT during Reagan’s time. At that time, Democrats and Republicans both said it was wrong and defeated it. The difference now is the political extremism and their willingness to divide, and the political extremes they will go to.

“This is only step one of their plan – we know what their plan is, because not new, we’ve seen the playbook. Step one is tax cuts for the rich. Step 2, is to drive up the debt, the deficit, and then come back and say we have $1.5 trillion debt that we created (by cutting taxes for rich), and now we have this debt, we have to address it by cutting government spending. Where will they go? The right to Medicaid, healthcare for poor people. The right to CHIP for poor children, Right to housing programs, food stamps, etc. That’s inevitable. They are creating the debt that will then justify their philosophical step to cut government spending to hurt the poorest Americans.”

“Look at this in its entirety, beyond SALT,” Murphy added. “This is their way to cut Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security. It is the height of hypocrisy from the so-called deficit hawks. Look at higher education and student loans, Obamacare individual mandate, Seen result of trickle down. Pass through. Taken in its entirety, the Republican tax plan is exceedingly damaging not just to our states, but entire country.”

“Republicans saw Obamacare passed and the next day they started Repeal & Replace,” Cuomo said. “If they do this, the next day, we will start the repeal and replace of the divisive Tax Act.”

None of them mentioned, but should have, the increasing pressures on the federal government for disaster relief from climate catastrophes (hundreds of billions of dollars in 2017 alone), the need to address the opioid crisis, and to rebuild and mitigate infrastructure.

See also:

Republican Tax Scam: They Don’t Care 85% Oppose. Here’s Why

Republican Tax Plan is Attack on Blue States; Fight Back by Holding Money ‘in Escrow’

Ready the Revolution: GOP Tax Plan Decimates Middle-Class, Gives Rise to New American Aristocracy

Trump Selling Tax Plan in Missouri, the Show Me State: This is going to cost me a fortune, this thing — believe me.

Democrats Should Shut Down Government over Republican Tax Scam

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Trump Selling Tax Plan in Missouri, the Show Me State: This is going to cost me a fortune, this thing — believe me.

by Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

I was watching “The President’s Show” Christmas special (Anthony Atamanuik does a brilliant impersonation of Donald Trump)  and happened to switch back to MSNBC’s coverage of Trump’s speech in Missouri in which he extolls how great the Republican tax plan is and quite frankly, could not tell the difference between which was the satire and which the actual speech. See for yourself: President Trump Tax Reform Speech In St Louis 11/29/17 – YouTube

 46:09

Every fact checker has given Donald Trump’s speech at the St. Charles Convention Center in St. Charles, Missouri on the Republican tax cuts scheme four-Pinnochios, most especially for his absurd declarations that the proposed cuts would hurt him and his rich buddies. Here’s just a small sample:

President Trump says the tax bill will ‘cost me a fortune.’ That’s false.

Trump’s Claims Don’t Add Up

Here is the White House transcript highlighted and annotated:

Remarks by President Trump on Tax Reform

St. Charles Convention Center, St. Charles, Missouri

2:22 P.M. CST

THE PRESIDENT: I told you that we would be saying, merry Christmas again, right? (Applause.) And it’s great to be back in Missouri — a sign of a lot of good things because you’re doing really well.

And I want to thank Governor Greitens and Attorney General Hawley, who — by the way, Josh — where’s Josh? Josh, our next senator. Where is he? (Applause.) He’s going to be a great senator. And he wants to see a major tax cut. I think I can speak for him, right? (Applause.) And your current senator does not want to see a tax cut. That’s not good. That’s not good. She wants your taxes to go up.

AUDIENCE: Booo —

THE PRESIDENT: Secretary Mnuchin, who’s doing such a fantastic job — (applause) — thank you — and Linda McMahon. Everybody knows Administrator — small business, became a big business under Linda. She’s helping a lot of people. Thank you very much, Linda. (Applause.)….

[Mnuchin claimed that he had a team of 100 specialists at US Treasury doing an analysis to show that the tax cuts would not add to national debt, now at $20 trillion. That was a lie – Treasury did not offer any analysis, but other nonpartisan and bipartisan agencies released reports that show that the Republican tax plan will add $1 trillion to the national debt and have only marginal benefit to increasing jobs, wages, or economic growth. What is more, the projections are “optimistic” and do not take into account the likelihood of a recession in the next decade.]

With your help, we can usher in a thrilling new era of opportunity and growth for this nation that we love so much. Tax cuts have already passed the House of Representatives. (Applause.) Big ones. Big ones. The eyes of the world now turn to the United States Senate.

A successful vote in the Senate this week will bring us one giant step closer to delivering an incredible victory for the American people. Massive tax cuts and reform. I don’t even mention the word reform because people don’t know exactly what we’re talking about.

You know, for years, they have not been able to get tax cuts — many, many years, since Reagan. And the problem was they talked about tax reform, not tax cuts. I said, don’t call it “reform,” call it “tax cuts and reform.” So every once in a while we’ll add the name “reform.” But it’s tax cuts.

[That’s true because it does not eliminate any of the loopholes that enable the wealthiest and biggest corporations to avoid paying taxes altogether; it only cuts taxes for the wealthiest, and makes up the lost revenue by taking away the credits and deductions that working class and middle class Americans use for home ownership, education, job training, and healthcare, for upward mobility.]

We cannot sit — (applause.) Right? The Governor agrees.

We cannot sit idly by and watch ourselves losing in competition to other countries as they continue to take away our jobs because their tax codes are more competitive and less burdensome than ours. That’s why we must cut our taxes, reduce economic burdens, and restore America’s competitive edge. We’re going to do that, too. And it’s already happening. Look what’s happening with our markets. People get it. (Applause.)

[It has been happening before Trump because of economic programs put into place by Obama, including trade deals, job training, summits designed to incentivize international businesses to locate here. As a result, corporations are flush with cash – $2 trillion worth – but have not raised wages. Trump’s tax plan has no incentives to raise wages and because consumer spending will be weak, and there are no rules to prevent companies from off-shoring jobs and profits, companies have no reason to invest here.]

If we do this, then America will win again like never, ever before. (Applause.) A vote to cut taxes is a vote to put America first again. We want to do that. We want to put America first again. (Applause.) It’s time to take care of our workers, to protect our communities, and to rebuild our great country. (Applause.)

You know, we’ve spent almost $7 trillion in the Middle East over the last 16 years — $7 trillion. Now, I’m taking care of it. We’re doing numbers like ISIS has never seen before. We’re wiping them out — terrorists, they’re bad. (Applause.)

And all of that, but we’ve spent almost $7 trillion. We could have rebuilt our country four times over. And we’re going to start spending here. We’re going to start spending here. (Applause.)

And with that being said, we’re going to protect our country, whether it’s North Korea or any — but we’re going to protect our country like never before. We’re going to build up our military and make our product here and make our planes, and our boats, and our everything here. But we’re going to build up our military. (Applause.)

But we’ve got to start focusing on our country. That’s why I’m saying America first. Make America great again — you’ve never heard that expression. (Applause.) All those hats. All those — they’ve never heard that expression before.

Oh, that was a good expression and it’s a true expression and it’s already happening and long ahead of schedule. And in fact, today, some numbers came out that people haven’t seen in many, many years.

This beautiful city of St. Charles is the perfect place to deliver the message that I want to deliver. It’s the place where America’s past and future come to life on its historic brick-lined Main Street. Nice street, do you agree? (Applause.)

It was along these very streets that, in 1804, the great American explorers, Lewis and Clark, gathered their final supplies before setting out on their very historic expedition of discovery. I have to say, I didn’t really know that until two days ago. (Laughter.)

See? See, now the world is watching. Look at all the fake news back there. They’re all —

AUDIENCE: Booo —

THE PRESIDENT: They’re all watching.

Today, more than two centuries later, a new generation of American pioneers begins its own adventure, gathering inside the startups and the storefronts of main streets across the country, blazing new trails into totally uncharted territory of business and technology, and once again leading our nation into a future of limitless potential.

That’s what we have in this country. We have the greatest people. It’s the greatest country. I love this country so much. (Applause.)

Our country was not treated properly for a long time. We’re treating it properly. We’re treating it with love and with this. You got to treat it with this.

And today, just as it’s always been, Main Street is the heart of our economy, the soul of our community, and the birthplace of American dreams.

But over the years, crippling taxes, massive regulation, and totally disastrous trade deals — oh, the trade deals. Oh, I get a headache thinking about who made these deals. (Laughter.) One after another. WTO, NAFTA, the wonderful deal with South Korea — remember, they said it’s going to produce 200,000 jobs? And it did, for South Korea. (Laughter.) Didn’t produce — we lost 200,000 jobs. It turned some of our businesses’ main streets into empty ghost towns. You see what’s happened.

Now we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to restore American prosperity and reclaim America’s great destiny. We’ve already made tremendous progress — far greater than I would have thought. I will tell you this in a non-braggadocious way — (laughter) — there has never been a 10-month President that has accomplished what we have accomplished. That I can tell you. That I can tell you. (Applause.)

Today, again, the stock market has reached another record, all-time high. (Applause.) The unemployment rate nationwide is the lowest it’s been in 17 years — (applause) — and 13 states this year have seen unemployment drop to the lowest levels in the history of their state. And I hate to tell you, but Missouri happens to be one of them. (Applause.)

[Increases in stock market have nothing to do with jobs or wages or prosperity. In the first place, they are paper profits only realized when the stock is sold. In the second place, only 20% of Americans have a stake in the stock market. In the third place, sales of shares do not go to the company to invest or add jobs except when it is the Initial Public Offering. Fourth: the stock market only reflects short term, not long term, and today, with computer trading, will buy/sell based on small changes in market price. Fifth: Wall Street does not care about the well being of ordinary Americans – witness how the stock market rose on news that hundreds of thousands of jobs were being shed in the lead up to the 2008 financial collapse.]

We’ve created nearly 2 million jobs — 2 million jobs, think of that. We used to lose millions. Now we’ve created 2 million jobs since I won the election. And, I want to say, since you won the election. I didn’t win the election; you won the election. (Applause.)

And we will create countless more if we can sustain the 3 percent growth rate we have achieved for the past two quarters. But we’re going to do much better than that. Remember I used to say, we can hit 4 and we can hit 3? And they were all saying, forget it, forget it. It was 1.2. It was doing terribly. We were flat. We were even. In all fairness, the stock market was going this way.

[No credible economists expect the US, a mature economy, to grow by 3% a year.]

And now, we’re hitting numbers that nobody thought possible, certainly not in this time. And the numbers going up are going to be much better than anybody anticipates. In fact, they’re going to say that Trump is the opposite of an exaggerator — the exact opposite. (Laughter and applause.) They’re going to start saying, Governor, that he ought to be a little bit more optimistic because his predictions were low, can you believe it?

You know, a year and a half ago, they were saying, oh, he can’t do that. Now they’re saying, hm, that was quick. (Laughter.)

But by the way, the Commerce Department announced this morning that our GDP — that’s the big one — in the third quarter, grew even faster than they reported previously. They made a mistake, they were too low. They had it at 3 percent. By the way, 3 percent — did you ever think you’d hear that in less than a year?

AUDIENCE: No!

THE PRESIDENT: And now it comes in at 3.3 percent, which is the largest increase in many years. (Applause.)

And if we didn’t have the hurricanes, we would have been at 4 percent. The hurricanes were devastating. And I said, they’re worth a point. They said they were worth like .006, but I said they were worth a point. We would have been at 4 percent, maybe even over 4 percent, but we had hurricanes.

We took care of them. In Texas and Florida, they did a great, great job — amazing job, tremendous leadership. And we’re very proud.

[Where is the money coming from for disaster relief, which is all too common with climate change and increasing frequency of climate catastrophe?]

Puerto Rico has been a very tough situation because of the fact that it was in very, very bad shape before the storms ever hit. But they’re doing well there and it’s healing and it’s getting better. And we’re getting them power, and all of the things that they have to have.

But I want to tell you there are a lot of brave people in every state. We have great, great people, and it’s our number one resource, believe me. Really great. (Applause.)

But in order to achieve this bright and glowing future, the Senate must pass those tax cuts. Bring Main Street roaring back — and that’s what’s going to happen. This was all done without the tax cuts, and I’m not sure that people even believe the tax cuts. I want to see what happens….

So right now, America’s tax code is a total dysfunctional mess. The current system has cost our nation millions of American jobs, trillions and trillions of dollars, and billions of hours wasted on paperwork and compliance. It is riddled with loopholes that let some special interests — including myself, in all fairness. This is going to cost me a fortune, this thing — believe me.

Believe me, this is not good for me. (Laughter.) Me, it’s not so — I have some very wealthy friends — not so happy with me, but that’s okay. You know, I keep hearing Schumer, “This is for the wealthy.” Well, if it is, my friends don’t know about it. (Laughter.) I have to explain why.

[Like in poker, Trump has a “tell” when he is bluffing (lying): Whenever he says “Believe me,” especially when he repeats “Believe me” he is lying.]

Now it is great for companies, because companies are going to bring back jobs. And we’re lowering the rates very substantially. But right now, we’re bringing the rates down from 35 percent — which is totally non-competitive. The highest industrialized nation in the world, by far, and we’re bringing it all the way down to 20 percent. (Applause.)

[35% is the nominal tax rate before deductions and loopholes. The average rate paid by US companies is 18%, which is below average for industrialized nations, and profitable companies like Apple and General Electric pay little or no taxes.]

But that’s good for everybody in the room, whether you have company or whether you want a job, because we’re going to bring back jobs. (Applause.)

And what we’ve had is a massive giveaway to foreign countries, which encourage businesses to relocate offshore. And you’ve seen what’s happened.

Before this — this is, really, I’m most proud, because, as bad as our tax code is, we have Toyota, we have big car companies coming back in, building plants in Michigan and other places. We have a lot of businesses coming back in, and they see what’s happening. They see what’s going on.

[International companies have building factories in the US, predating and having nothing to do with Trump. Even the announcements he made after winning election were plans to expand made during Obama’s administration.]

That’s why they’re doing — our current code is a giant — and really it is — it’s a self-inflicted economic wound. It’s been that way for so many years and nobody wanted to do anything about it.

But all that will change and it will change immediately if Congress sends a tax cut and reform bill. The biggest tax cut in the history of our country — bigger than Reagan. If they send it to my desk, I promise all of the people in this room — my friends, so many friends in this room. It’s a great state. I promise you I will sign it. I promise. I will not veto that bill. There will be no veto. (Applause.)

Under the plan moving forward in the Senate, a typical family of four earning $75,000, as an example, will see their taxes go down by as much as $2,000. That’s a lot. (Applause.)

[Individual tax cuts are temporary; what is more, losing the deductions for state and local taxes, interest on school loans and the like, will wipe out any reduction in taxes because of the doubling in the personal exemption. And with the deal to eliminate the Obamacare individual mandate for health insurance – to appear to save $338 billion in government spending so that the tax plan can pass with only 51 Senate votes – everyone’s premiums will increase 10% a year.]

Now, we’re doing that not just to help people. We’re doing that because it helps our country. You’re going to take that $2,000 and maybe you’ll save some, and you’re going to spend some. And we’re going to make product back in our country again. It’s going to be made here — going to be made elsewhere. But it’s going to be made here. We’re opening up plants. We’re opening up factories, and we’re going to be great to small business. Wait until you see the final product. Wait until you see what finally comes out in what I call the mixer.

The beating heart of our plan is a tax cut for working families. That’s what it is. We’re going to make sure — (applause) — that you keep more of your hard-earned money. We’re going to make sure, also, that you have a job that you want. You’re going to have choice. In education we now have choice. Good word. Here you’re going to have a choice. You’re not just going to have one — you’re going to have a choice of many jobs. People are moving back into our country.

Under our plan, the first $12,000 of income earned by a single individual will be totally income-tax-free — zero. (Applause.) And a married couple won’t pay one dime of income tax on their first $24,000 of income — zero. (Applause.)

Our plan will significantly increase the child tax credit and make it available to more middle-class families because the single most important investment our nation can make is in our children. Do we agree? You agree? You better agree. (Applause.)

Families will also benefit from a new credit for other dependents like a child in college, or an elderly loved one. We have our mothers, our fathers. You have your grandparents. You have people that are elderly that have done a fantastic job. They’ve grown old. You want to help them. Now we are going to help you help them. (Applause.)

We’re also going to eliminate tax breaks and complex loopholes taken advantage of by the wealthy. Who are they? I don’t know. (Laughter.) I think my accountants are going crazy right now. It’s all right. Hey, look, I’m President. (Laughter.) I don’t care. I don’t care anymore. I don’t care. (Laughter and applause.)

Some of my wealthy friends care. Me? I don’t care. This is a higher calling. Do we agree? (Applause.) As Hillary said, what difference does it make? It made a difference. It made a big difference. It made a big, big difference. (Applause.)

[If the tax plan isn’t going to give Trump and his family millions of dollars – by eliminating the AMT and Estate Tax – where are his tax returns to prove that?]

We want a tax code that is simple and fair, and that’s for all Americans. The plan that senators will be voting on this week — hopefully as soon as possible — closes the loopholes that corporations use to shift their profits to tax havens, and it eliminates deductions for CEO salaries over $1 million. You see what some of these people are making — a little ridiculous. (Applause.)

[NOT TRUE.]

I’m driving up their stock. They’re making a fortune. Then they go to their board, and they tell everybody what a great job they’re doing. But what am I going to do? (Laughter.) And many of them, honestly, I don’t like. (Laughter.) Oh, some of these bankers I don’t like them, and they’re making a fortune, and it’s one of those things.

Steve knows a couple of them that I’m talking about, doesn’t he? (Laughter.) They say what a great job they do. Right now anybody could do their job because we’re making it easy for them because we’re giving them a great and strong economy. And because we’ve cut regulations more than any President in the history of this country by far, and that’s for full terms. That’s not for 10 months. (Applause.)

And it allows builders to build, and it allows farmers to farm. You know what I’ve done for farmers. (Applause.) Where if you had a little puddle in the middle of your field, you go to jail if you touch it, right? You know what I’m talking about. Not anymore. Not anymore. Not anymore. (Applause.)

And it allows bankers to lend. It allows bankers to lend again. So many people came up to me, and they said, we had a 20-year relationship with a bank. We never had a default. We never had a bad loan. Now we go back to the bank, and they say, we can’t do business with you anymore.

Because they don’t qualify, even though they’re better than the people that do qualify. It’s incredible. But we’re back to the strong days of our banks. And not the days of trouble — pre-that — we’re back to the — where bankers can make loans and community bankers can make great loans to good people.

You saw what happened recently where the certain agency or bureau that was causing so much trouble to lenders, where they could not lend. They just couldn’t lend. It was devastating. They were going out of business. Well, we’re taking care of that. We’ve already taken care of a big part of it, and yesterday you saw we won the lawsuit. So that’s going to be taken care of automatically. (Applause.) Got to get back to business.

Our focus is on helping the folks who work in the mailrooms and machine shops of America — the plumbers, the carpenters, the cops, the teachers, the truck drivers, the pipe fitters — the people that like me best. (Laughter.) Actually, the rich people actually don’t like me, which is sort of interesting.

And that’s fine. You know what? I like that trade. (Laughter.) But really, the people that like me best are those people — the workers. They’re the people I understand the best. Those are the people I grew up with. Those are the people I worked on construction sites with. (Applause.)

All of the people who give their best each and every day to take care of their family and the country that they love — these are incredible people. They came out to vote for me. They came out to vote for us. People that worked hard, two jobs, three jobs, that hadn’t voted in many years because they never had anybody they wanted to vote for.

And they came out — I’ll never forget, in Tennessee, a great congressman told me — they had early voting — said, I’ll tell you what, we just went through four days of early voting. At that time, it was Mr. Trump. Now they say, Mr. President. But it was Mr. Trump.

He said, and if the other parts of the country are like what’s happening in Tennessee — people are coming from all over Tennessee. They haven’t voted in years, and now they’ve got Trump shirts and they’ve got Trump hats, and they’ve got Trump-Pence, and they’ve got everything Trump and Trump-Pence.

[Trump can’t get through a single speech without crowing over the 2016 Election.]

And he said, I’ve never seen anything like it, and I’ve been a politician for a lot of years. And if it’s anything like Tennessee, you’re going to have one hell of a victory. It turned out to be a lot like Tennessee, so — (applause). And it turned out to be a lot like Missouri. That I can tell you. (Applause.) Because we had a big one here.

And I promised Josh that, when he gets it going — and he’s got it in very good shape, from what I hear, he’s a popular — everybody said, Josh, got to be Josh. Everyone who saw me — I said, who’s going to run against her? Josh, Josh. I said, Josh, when you’re ready, you have my word, I’m going to come here and campaign with you. We got to get you in. Okay? (Applause.) Got to get you in.

It’s not enough for the middle class to keep getting by; we want them to start getting way ahead. (Applause.) We’re going to have them start getting way ahead.

Under our plan, middle-class families will not only see their tax bill go down, they will see their incomes go up by an average of around $4,000. (Applause.) And that’s because we’re going to cut taxes on American businesses so they will compete for workers, they’ll raise salaries. The business is going to be happy and the workers are going to be happy and the country is going to be a happy place.

Although, we’re going to have very strong borders. Please remember that, okay? Please remember. (Applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Build the wall.

THE PRESIDENT: We’re going to have the wall. Don’t worry about it, we’re going to have the wall. (Applause.) We don’t forget that wall. A lot of people say, now that he got elected, is he going to build the wall? The answer is, absolutely — more so, I think more so. (Applause.)

It’s not easy dealing with the Democrats. They want to have people pour into our country — illegals. They don’t care where the hell they come from. They want to have them pour into our country, they want to raise your taxes, they don’t want to take care of your military, and all they’re good at, frankly, is obstructing. They want to obstruct.

But you know what? They may obstruct, but we have gotten through all of the obstruction so far. We’ll keep it going, believe me. (Applause.)

Today, America has one of the least competitive tax rates on planet Earth — 60 percent. Think of that: 60 percent higher than the average in the developed world. So our taxes are 60 percent higher.

On my recent trip to Asia, every single one of the countries I visited, even those with communist governments, have slashed its corporate tax rates and slashed them dramatically. And it’s very tough competition anyway. But when their taxes are a lot lower, it really makes it very tough.

And that trip was a tremendous success. You know, we brought back $250 billion in contracts. That’s going to be over a trillion dollars very soon. (Applause.) That’s a good week and a half’s work. Boeing came back with contracts. So many of our companies came back, and I’m very proud of them. And we’re doing great.

But at the same time, we’re going to fix trade because trade is unfair. We’re getting killed on trade. So we’re going to fix our trade. Unless anybody would like to continue with this horrible situation that we have.

AUDIENCE: Booo —

THE PRESIDENT: Our plan gets America from the back of the pack and it’ll bring us right to number one, where we were for years but where we haven’t been for decades. We’re going to be right back at number one. (Applause.)

And we’re going to work on trade, but we’re also going to work on military. When we defend nations that are very wealthy, and we do it for almost nothing, I say, why are we defending them? We love them. I won’t mention names, but there are a lot of them. We love them. They’re wealthy.

One of them has a cash flow that they say is unsustainable, it’s so large. Think of that. How would you like to have an unsustainable cash flow? They don’t know what to do with their money. And we defend them. It’s going to change, folks. We’re going to defend them, but they’re going to treat us fairly. And they’re going to pay for their defense. Does that make sense? (Applause.)

And a lot of this is from many, many years ago, when we defended a defeated country and then they became strong and they became rich and we just kept the same defense. What happened? Why didn’t anybody go in and negotiate?

And when I was in Asia, I spoke to a couple of the countries about it, and they looked like this. Do you know what this is? (Laughter.) That means they know they’re getting away with murder and they got to start helping us out, okay? So if you don’t mind, I’ll start bringing that up with some of our good friends. (Applause.)

We’re going to lower our tax rate to the very competitive number of 20 percent, as I said. And we’re going to create jobs and factories will be pouring into this country, and they already are starting. A lot of people think it’s going to happen. I don’t want to say anything. I’m not going to talk about it. I thought we had healthcare, and we will have healthcare. It’s going to happen. As soon as we get the taxes, we work on the healthcare, we’re going to happen. Because we thought we had the votes and something happened a little strange — (laughter) — that’s okay.

When you lose by one vote, then it’s called — you go back. You know, some people said, oh, you failed with healthcare. I said, what do you mean we failed? We didn’t fail. And by the way, what happened — what happened is Obama took a long time — years — to get Obamacare, right? Again, ten months? We’ve had two runs at it. We’re coming closer, closer. I think now we have a plan that’s going to be great. But we’re not talking about it until after taxes. And then we take care of healthcare.

Then we will have done tax cuts, the biggest in history; healthcare, phenomenal healthcare. I know you don’t want this — welfare reform. Does anybody want welfare reform? (Applause.) And infrastructure. But welfare reform — I see it and I’ve talked to people. I know people, they work three jobs and they live next to somebody who doesn’t work at all. And the person who’s not working at all and has no intention of working at all is making more money and doing better than the person that’s working his and her ass off. And it’s not going to happen. Not going to happen. (Applause.)

So we’re going to go into welfare reform, unless Billy doesn’t want it. Billy, am I okay in saying that I speak for you? He said, yes.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you, Billy. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: You got a lot of friends out there, Bill.

Well, we’ll also cut taxes for the millions of small businesses that file as individuals, and that’s going to come out of the hopper. (Applause.) It’s getting there and it’s going to be better and better. We’re reducing the tax burden on businesses of all sizes and of every, single kind.

As a candidate, I pledged to fight for American jobs. I think it’s possibly the number one reason I got elected. And I think we’ve done a lot better, at this point, than anybody ever even thought possible. Think of that, two million jobs since the election — two million more jobs in this country since the election. Nobody expected that. Nobody expected that. Excuse me, I didn’t even expect that. (Laughter.)

But you cut those regulations and you give people spirit and incentive. And when you have the highest ratings, in terms of confidence, that the country has had in many, many years — maybe ever — things happen.

The tax cut will mean more companies moving to America, staying in America, and hiring American workers right here. So that’s so important, right? (Applause.)

Small business groups across our nation, retailers, restaurants, manufacturers, grocers, contractors support this plan. We have tremendous support for this plan. Tremendous. Because these massive tax cuts will be rocket fuel — (laughter) — Little Rocket Man — (laughter) — rocket fuel for the American economy. (Applause.) He is a sick puppy….

[Out of no where, a gratuitous dig at North Korea.]

We want to make it easier for loving families to pass on their life’s work to their children. Be nice. Be very nice, right? (Applause.)

That’s a tough one. The Democrats fight that one I think harder than any other thing that we’re doing. They fight the death tax. They don’t want it. They don’t like it. They don’t want it. It’s one of those things. But that is one of the hardest things. I have to be — I see people right here. They’re obviously very rich, and they love their children, right, in this group? (Laughter.) They love their children. They’re very rich. They want to pass on what they have without having to have the kids sell the property, mortgage up half of it. But the biggest problem we have on that one, these Democrats are being brutal. And I call them obstructionists, but they want to stop the estate tax. They want to stop the death tax from being rescinded. But we’re going to try our best on that one.

[Of course Trump and his donors, the Kochs, Mercers, Adelson, want to rescind the estate tax which impacts a few thousand individuals because the cap is so high: Trump’s kids stand to pocket an extra $1 billion when Donald kicks the bucket.]

Our economy will receive another enormous boost as trillions of dollars in wealth that’s parked overseas will be able to come back to our country.

Now, this one that’s interesting because for years Republicans and Democrats agreed. You have Apple, and you have these great companies having billions and billions of dollars overseas. Now who doesn’t want the money to come back?

But to show you the lack of leadership that this country had in the past, the Republicans want it, and the Democrats want it. And nothing ever happened. You could have passed that one easy. In fact, we’re just throwing it into this bill. I could have had a separate bill on that one — I think. Don’t you agree, fellas? I could have had a separate bill on that one and gotten it passed in record time. But I figured I’d put it here because it is actually popular.

But it used to be $2.5 trillion. You know what that is? Trillion. Money you can’t bring back in. It’s prohibitive — both in complexity and in the amount of tax you have to pay. So nobody brings back in — $2.5 trillion. But $2.5 [trillion] I’ve been saying for six years. I think now it’s $4 trillion to $5 trillion. All that money is coming back into the United States, and it’s going to be invested in our country, instead of sitting and helping others. We want our own help. (Applause.)

That’s sort of an easy one. Last year, American multinational companies left more than 70 percent of their foreign profits overseas because the current tax system penalizes them for bringing that money back home. They actually get penalized. Our plan switches to a territorial tax system that encourages companies to return their profits to America — right here to the United States — where that money belongs going back to work for you. Territorial. (Applause.)

[Democrats support the concept in theory, but not the way it will be abused. The Republican plan doesn’t prevent companies from continuing to offshore profits to avoid tax. Democrats including Obama were always in favor of lowering the corporate tax rate to the range of 20%, but removing the loopholes so they actually do pay tax.]

If we want America to thrive in the 21st century, then we must stop running from the competition. And instead, we must start totally winning and winning and winning again. Remember when I used to say: We’re going to win so much. We’re going to win — that the people of Missouri are going to go to your governor, and they’re going to say, Governor, please, go see the President. We can’t stand winning so much. Remember I used to say that? (Laughter.) Right? I used to say it, and that’s what’s happening. That’s what’s happening. (Applause.)

And then the governor is going to come to that beautiful historic Oval Office. He’s going to say to me, Mr. President, the people of Missouri cannot stand all this winning. (Laughter.) They don’t want to win so much. They love the old way where they had lousy job numbers, lousy economic numbers, lousy — yeah, they loved it. Please, Mr. President, please, not — and I’ll say, Governor, I don’t care what they say in Missouri, we’re going to keep winning and winning and winning. Remember? (Laughter.) That’s right. (Applause.)

I used to say that. I had fun with that. But we are winning. We’re winning again. We’re winning a lot bigger than anyone ever thought possible for such a short period of time.

For too long, our tax code has incentivized companies to leave our country in search of lower tax rates. It happens. Many, many companies — they’re going to Ireland. They’re going all over. They’re going all over Asia. But they’re stopping because they now want to take advantage of what’s happening and what we’re about to pass, hopefully.

My administration rejects the offshoring model. In other words, let’s build a factory in another country. Isn’t that wonderful? That really helps us a lot. Fire everybody, and let’s build a product, and let’s send it in, without tax, back into the United States.

That model doesn’t work for me. It never worked, and it shouldn’t have worked for any of our other past Presidents, believe me. (Applause.)

Our new model is the American model. Call it the Trump model, where we build it here. As much as possible, we build it here. Simply put, our tax plan is anti-offshoring and 100 percent worker, 100 percent worker, 100 percent pro-America. (Applause.)

Under the American model, we’re reducing burdens on our businesses as long as they do business in our country. Okay? They do business here.

Now, we love Mexico. It’s a wonderful place. But I don’t like when our car companies move to Mexico, fire everybody, build the same car in Mexico, send it through our borders with no taxes, no nothing, and we buy the car. Same price. We buy the car.

In the meantime, what do we get out of it? We get no tax and we get unemployment all over. That’s stopping. So now the plants are starting to move back. And now there’s a price to pay when they do that little number on us. (Applause.) That’s how we will all succeed and we grow together as one team, one people, as one American family. (Applause.)

This week’s vote can be the beginning of the next great chapter for the American worker.

To summarize: Our plan cuts taxes for the working and middle-income families; it nearly doubles the amount of income taxed at the rate of zero; it lowers tax rate; it expands the child tax credit; it provides relief from the estate tax, also known as the death tax; it cuts small business taxes; it reduces the corporate rate from 35 percent all the way down to 20 percent; and it provides a one-time low tax rate to return corporate money parked overseas — trillions and trillions of dollars.

This is the right plan. This is the right time. We have a moment in time. The Republicans have the Senate. The Republicans have the House. The Republicans have the White House. It’s very unusual. It’s very unusual. (Applause.)

This is our chance to free our economy from our workers — from the terrible tax burdens. We have workers that are so burdened with taxes. We’re freeing our workers from those terrible burdens.

Republicans in Congress campaigned on cutting taxes. We also campaigned on repeal and replace. It’s going to happen. It’s going to happen. Take your time, it’s going to happen — going to happen. (Applause.)

Many Democrats have promised tax cuts that don’t mean anything because they really want major tax increases. Senator Claire McCaskill — have you ever heard of her?

AUDIENCE: Booo —

THE PRESIDENT: — is doing you a tremendous disservice. She wants your taxes to go up. She’s weak on crime, she’s weak on borders, she’s weak on illegal immigrations, and she’s weak on the military. Other than that, I think she’s doing a fantastic job. (Laughter.)

[Trump uses this kneejerk attack on any Democrat or anyone he doesn’t like without regard for truth.]

But now comes the moment of truth. In the coming days, the American people will learn which politicians are part of the swamp and which politicians want to drain the swamp. (Applause.)

If you make your voices heard and call up your congressmen — and they’ve been terrific — and call up your senators — and they have been totally terrific. Most of them have been incredible. They really are. They’re friends of mine. They’ve been incredible.

But, it doesn’t take much. That’s why we need more. We need to have a larger number. But most of them have been incredible. But call your senators. Call you congressmen, because we have no choice. We have to act. We have to act as a country. This isn’t good for the Republican Party; this is good for the country and that’s ultimately what’s it all about. (Applause.)

So, this week, hopefully, the Senate can join the House and take that strong stand for middle-class families and for business, and for jobs, and for competition, and for bringing money back. Together, we will give the American people a big, beautiful Christmas present. (Applause.)

And remember, I was the one — when I was here last time, I said, we’re going to have Christmas again. I was the one that said, you go to the department stores and you see “Happy New Years,” and you see red, and you see snow, and you see all these things. You don’t see “Merry Christmas” anymore.

With Trump as your President, we are going to be celebrating Merry Christmas again, and it’s going to be done with a big, beautiful tax cut. (Applause.)

Thank you everybody. God bless you. Thank you. Thank you everybody. Thank you very much.

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