Republican Abundance: The Scapegoating Of The Poor

[First two paragraphs updated and edited for clarity and additional detail]

At the height of the dreadful debt-ceiling debate, Pastor Rick Warren said this: tweeted this before removing it and apologizing to me for how mean-spirited it sounded:


Yes, it did sound mean-spirited, but it isn't any different than what Fox talkers say all the time. Here's a particularly illustrative clip:

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Fox viewers and yes, even Pastor Warren might be forgiven for having the perception that half the country is shirking their patriotic duty, except that the entire construct is invalid to begin with.

With the tax reform debate about to heat up in Washington DC, this recent New York Times editorial struck me as particularly appropriate:

Representative Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, and several senators have made similar arguments, variations of the idea expressed earlier by Senator Dan Coats of Indiana that “everyone needs to have some skin in the game.”

This is factually wrong, economically wrong and morally wrong. First, the facts: a vast majority of Americans have skin in the tax game. Even if they earn too little to qualify for the income tax, they pay payroll taxes (which Republicans want to raise), gasoline excise taxes and state and local taxes. Only 14 percent of households pay neither income nor payroll taxes, according to the Tax Policy Center at the Brookings Institution. The poorest fifth paid an average of 16.3 percent of income in taxes in 2010.

Economically, reducing the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit — which would be required if everyone paid income taxes — makes no sense at a time of high unemployment. The credits, which only go to working people, have always been a strong incentive to work, as even some conservative economists say, and have increased the labor force while reducing the welfare rolls.

The moral argument would have been obvious before this polarized year. Nearly 90 percent of the families that paid no income tax make less than $40,000, most much less. The real problem is that so many Americans are struggling on such a small income, not whether they pay taxes. The two tax credits lifted 7.2 million people out of poverty in 2009, including four million children. At a time when high-income households are paying their lowest share of federal taxes in decades, when corporations frequently avoid paying any tax, it is clear who should bear a larger burden and who should not.

So what does Jon Huntsman, the so-called "reasonable Republican" want to do about tax reform? Here's a list:

  • Eliminate all deductions and credits, including the EIR, the college tuition tax credit, the child care tax credit, and others in favor of a three-tiered rate structure: 8 percent, 14 percent and 23 percent.
  • Eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax
  • Eliminate all tax on capital gains and dividends
  • Reduce the corporate tax rate to 25 percent
  • Repeal Dodd-Frank and the Affordable Care Act
  • Duct-tape the EPA
  • "Reform" the FDA
  • Kill "Independent Agencies" Like the NLRB
  • Enact patent reform
  • Privatize Fannie and Freddie so the "free markets" can take care of the housing problems

Like I said, there are no reasonable Republicans. At least, no reasonable Republican politicians.

The Republican agenda is two-pronged. First, shame and demonize the poor for daring to be born (of course, we won't discuss that whole abortion and Republican thing). Second, make sure they stay poor by forcing them to bear the burden to pull this country away from historical debt.

Because clearly, in Republican eyes, the fault lies with the poor. If there were no poor, there'd be no deficit. Or something.


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