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A number of you have told me that you don’t look forward to reading the column on your computer screen. That’s not necessary if you have a printer. Print out the column and take it with you to the breakfast table or wherever else you choose to read printed material. (You can also call up past columns in case you missed them.)
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March 5, 2009
If you’re willing to put the leadership of your nation—and increasing federal supervision of your and your family’s personal lives—in the hands of a president with six weeks of chief executive experience at running anything, with liberal Congressional leaders like Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank, Chris Dodd and Charlie Rangel standing at the president’s right hand (left hand?), then you should be happy with that $3.6 trillion budget proposal which a New York Times commentator described as “breathtaking.”
But if you are skeptical of, or downright opposed to, the Democratic Party leadership’s return to a “tax-and-spend” philosophy of running the federal government and citizens’ lives, I advise getting quickly in touch with the offices of your senators and representative in Congress.
Consider this language from The New York Times:
“Beyond the $3.6 trillion budget for the 2010 fiscal year, the president’s operating plan outlined a wide array of ambitious initiatives for the next several years that collectively would transform American society.”
The principal instrument of transforming society would be restructuring the tax code “to shift more of the burden from lower and middle income workers to the wealthy, effectively a redistribution of wealth.”
Other language in The New York Times description of the Obama proposal: “Sweeping health care proposals” and “the battle to grow the budget” and “A Bold Plan Sweeps Away Reagan Ideas.”
And this strong suggestion of class warfare in this Times subhead: “Returning to a party stance against the rich and powerful.”
As the annual income dividing-line between those whom the Obama camp have been referring to as “wealthy” or “affluent” and some in the in news media have regularly referred to as “rich,” Obama has chosen a taxable annual income of $250,000. I imagine there will be some surprise in a family where a husband and wife have worked hard to build a combined annual taxable income of, say, $255,000 and now find themselves branded as “rich” Americans who have to be taxed more because some other families have taxable income of “only” $250,000 a year.
Further language from The New York Times: Obama’s spending plan for the 2010 fiscal year outlines a wide array of ambitious initiatives for the next several years that collectively would transform American society.
There comes to mind a description by Canadian humorist Stephen Leacock (a description to which I’ve referred in this space before) of a man who “flung himself on his horse and rode madly off in all directions.”
With a platter full of multi-billion-dollar economic stimulus proposals—some of them smelling strongly of political pork—does it makes sense—despite pressure presumably coming from the liberal left and despite his own liberal inclinations—for Obama to take on a variety of highly controversial issues which will inevitably compete for attention with the more important objective of finding ways to put America back to work?
When it comes to paying for the president’s expanded agenda, the clearly designated targets are Americans who were described in various news accounts as “rich” or “wealthy” or “affluent.”
How do you define who is a “rich” or “wealthy” American? Well, first you get yourself elected president, then you decide that anyone with taxable income over $250,000 is wealthy enough to be singled out as a target for carrying most of the financial load for putting the liberal left’s policies into place.
I would think that more than a few American families with income of, say, $255,000 will be surprised to learn that President Obama considers them “rich” enough or “affluent” enough to be asked to finance a major share of, for example, Obama’s ambitious plan for a universal health care system.
How go about extracting the necessary tax dollars from those “rich” Americans with taxable income above $250,000 a year? Part of the answer is to target charitable contributions. While it is not the intent, one assumes, to reduce charitable contributions, this would be the entirely predictable effect of reducing from an upper 30’s% to 28% the percentage of a philanthropic contribution which could be deducted from income tax liability.
This approach follows the simplistic thinking that people give money away as a tax dodge. An example that should be simple enough for even the liberal left to understand: Someone gives $10,000 to the United Appeal, the local agency which shares its proceeds with more than 50 worthy causes in the Omaha area. Under current tax law the contributor can save $3,500 on his or her federal income tax bill. But for personal use, the taxpayer has $6,500 less to spend by virtue of having given $10,000 for United Appeal agencies to spend.
Reduce the tax deductibility, and you reduce the incentive for personal philanthropy—remembering, again, that tax-deductible philanthropy winds up with the contributor having less money to spend for his or her own purposes.
Lightly touched upon in the news accounts—but really the most important part of making those “rich” Americans pay most of the bill—is the assumption that Congress will go along with Obama’s proposal to go back to the upper 30’s federal income tax neighborhood which was replaced by a 35% cap early in the Bush administration.
The 35% rate is scheduled to expire in 2011, along with the 15% tax rate on stock dividends and capital gains.
The strategy will be to persuade Congress not to extend those rates but to let the top rate, for example, go to 39.8%.
You can bet, however, that there will be no effort to return to the higher rates which applied to middle and lower income taxpayers before the Bush tax reform bill was enacted. And no effort to restore the millions of low-income Americans (the estimate was eight million at the time) who were dropped from the tax rolls entirely by legislation which, with the news media’s compliance, has been misleadingly repeatedly described as George Bush’s successful effort to tilt the federal income tax system in favor of “the rich.”
The Obama proposal to address the problem of carbon dioxide pollution in the atmosphere is largely based on a bizarre proposal. The proposal is that beginning by 2012 the government will collect billions of dollars in revenues by selling permits to businesses that emit the polluting gases.
So you attack a serious environmental problem by giving people permission to continue contributing to that problem if they’re willing to pay the taxes that will help you fund the rest of your liberal-agenda items? Perhaps you can understand why I described this as a bizarre approach.
* * *What might be a brief bottom-line generic description for the changes in health care, education, environmental protection and tax policy which President Obama seems passionately committed to as he starts his seventh week in office?
I’ve seen no better summary than these words in The New York Times: “A wide array of ambitious initiatives for the next several years that collectively would transform American society.”
* * *
It’s possible that later editions have revised the meaning or dropped the word entirely, but in my 2001 Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, the word is still there and the definitions include:
“Rent. To take possession of and use property by paying rent.” And this definition also: “A payment made periodically by a tenant to a landlord in return for the use of land, a building, an apartment, an office or other property.”
In the current meltdown of the United States economy, it ought to be obvious why I call attention to renting—the still acceptable, legal alternative to trying to buy a house—especially when you really can’t afford to own a house or, at least, the house you would like to live in.
Renting, of course, is unacceptable public policy in the view of social reformers like the Democrats who have over the past two decades turned home ownership into a sort of federal-subsidized welfare program.
After all, given the philosophy espoused by the likes of Bill Clinton and Rep. Barney Frank and Sen. Chris Dodd, owning your own home is part of “the American dream” and it must be nourished and subsidized.
The result, as is so evident today, has been to create a virus that spread through the entire American economic system, unfortunately affecting the people who have worked hard to build their life savings and now see those savings slashed in value by 50% or more.
And affecting even more unfortunately others who have lost their jobs as a result of the economic collapse which—the evidence is perfectly clear in this—started with the promotion of bargain-rate mortgages to persons whose credit ratings probably should have kept them in the category of renters or at least owners of homes less expensive than those they aspired to.
My thinking is influenced, of course, by the fact that while I was growing up, our family lived only in rented homes until an elderly friend of my father’s died and willed a house to my father while I, the youngest child, was in high school.
So far as I can tell, living in rented homes left no permanent social scars on my two brothers or me. And I never recall any brooding, at the time or in the decades that followed, over a belief that our family had somehow been cheated out of “the American dream” of home ownership.
Incidentally, do you recall reading or hearing the word “rent” as an alternative in any of the zillions of words about how we simply must use billions of Federal tax dollars to bail homeowners out of the economic mess which they helped create?
Heartless? Or realistic and equitable, fairer to those many more numerous homeowners who have continued to meet the mortgage payments on homes they could afford.
* * *
I wrote recently about the importance of keeping the “cancer” of electronic slot machine gambling on the Iowa side of the Missouri River instead of welcoming it to Nebraska as provided in a proposed state constitutional amendment waiting for action in the Nebraska Legislature.
Comes now a report which seems to me to support the argument against legalizing slot machines in Nebraska.
In 2008 in Iowa, there was a total of 2,128 calls to “gambling hotlines” for help in treatment of a gambling addiction.
In Nebraska, there were 235 such calls. That figures to nine times as many Iowa calls for help to break free of the gambling addiction as similar calls for help on the Nebraska side of the Missouri River.
Further thoughts on the gambling issue:
When was the last time you read, in one of the news media’s lottery-winning stories, the number of losing tickets and the amount of money lost by other gamblers in a lottery which produced a handful of big-money winners?
If the news media were really interested in telling the true story of the big lottery payoffs, they would insist that the lottery promoters provide the details—the number of losing tickets as well as the winning tickets and the amount of money lost on those losing tickets. It should be a part of every—every—news story about major lottery payoffs.
Don’t hold your breath until the media wake up to that responsibility.
And while on the subject of stat-sponsored gambling, those silly ads promoting the Nebraska lottery are nauseating enough without adding promotion for the slot machine gambling proposed by Senators Karpisek and Fischer.
* * *
Concentrating on heart-healthy foods is a sensible and important part of the recovery regimen prescribed for me following the catheterization procedure which implanted two clog-busting metallic mesh “stents” in two blood arteries feeding my heart.
Marian has cooperated wholeheartedly, of course, and friend Janet Kratina, an expert healthful-food cook, has offered me an egg-substitute, heart-healthy sausage combination which I find very tasty. Janet also steered us to an acceptable low-fat peanut butter.
But one of our efforts to find a heart-healthy cereal fell distastefully flat.
I’ll not mention the name here—frankly, I can’t remember it—but the combination of supposedly healthful ingredients resulted in a taste which made me think of a comparison to eating straw.
Now, of course, I never tried eating straw, so my taste comparison may be unfair—unfair to straw, that is.
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