Independence Day Tea-Bacle

“My God! How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy”

– Thomas Jefferson

Let ‘em know, Mr. Jefferson.  As one of the most respected statesmen in our history,  it’s not surprising that he had to deal with folks of the teabagger variety.  His quote sounds like it was made just for them.  He obviously was one of those crazy, socialist types.

tea-bag-fail-publicBecause as much as they try to make it seem like they’re against government spending and taxes, I’m sure the teabaggers will be enjoying their ride to their July 4th Albuquerque event on the tax funded roads, or maybe some will use the city-funded, free park and ride up to Balloon Fiesta Park.  Or how about the fireworks show that night which I’m sure many of the patriotic, teabaggers will take time to enjoy.

But I know they’d rather not have the option to use public transportation and would rather be driving on pothole-ridden, dirt roads.  I’m sure many, like them, feel that the many social services helping U.S. citizens (especially during times of recession) and their families need to be stripped away.  Hell, why not go ahead and get rid of public libraries, public swimming pools (we don’t need these this summer), and let our entire police force go while we’re at it.  We all know these things are not worthy enough to pay taxes for.

Its funny that the teabaggers are suddenly up in arms, when actions during the past 5 years should have been something that had them pissed off and protesting too, if not even more.  Why aren’t they protesting against big business that helped put us in the economic situation we are in (Bernie Madoff should be getting heckled non-stop by these folks)?

Where were the teabaggers when billions of dollars were being spent on a war that has only made us more enemies than friends on the global level?  Or is government spending on things like education and social services a bigger threat to our people than war spending?

But we all know this is just all about taxes and government spending, and not a free for all for these “fed up” people to go off on say – abortion, or the crazy notion of Obama as Hitler, and us his Jews.

Fortunately, there were some other folks who pointed out the absurdity the events.

Yet they, like anyone else, they have the right to freedom of speech, as well as the right to celebrate Independence Day (which I hope we all enjoy this weekend).  But I hope that they cover their eyes and ears when that tax-funded fireworks show goes on across from their event.  Because I know they wouldn’t want to support any government spending that is hurting Americans on Independence Day.

California’s Nightmare State

closedIf the so-called teabaggers need an example of what life would look like without government, they need only to look at what’s happening in California right now.

Government there is under siege after voters rejected tax measures that would have funded vital state services and resources.

Now California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says he’s forced to shut down large sections of state government for lack of funds.

Stunned Californians are standing by as the state closes summer schools, shuts down programs for seniors and makes plans to close hundreds of state parks.

Those kind of cuts affect everyone.

But as usual, the poorest and the neediest will bear the brunt of the shutdown of resources and services.

Gov. Schwarzenegger is proposing a complete elimination of the state’s welfare program for families, medical insurance for low-income children and Cal Grants cash assistance to college and university students.

It’s sad that millions will have to suffer.

But maybe California in its misery will serve as a living, agonizing example of what happens when people don’t make the connection between government, paying taxes and maintaining the standard of living Americans have come to expect and deserve.

Time to track state tax expenditures

The State of New Mexico loses an estimated $80 million a year in revenues through a loophole that allows multistate corporations operating in the state to avoid corporate income tax.  Moreover, as much as $5 billion is subtracted from potential state revenues through what are known as “tax expenditures” — tax deductions, exemptions, and credits that have been passed into law over the years.

That’s a staggering amount for a state with a $5.5 billion operating budget.  Much of this tax burden is shifted onto the backs of workaday New Mexicans.

Those are just two of the facts contained in a thought-provoking op ed piece in today’s Albuquerque Journal (subscription) by Gerry Bradley of New Mexico Voices for Children.

According to Bradley:

The tax expenditures themselves are not necessarily a problem. They can be useful in achieving good public policies — such as keeping physicians or encouraging economic development.

The problem is that we don’t know if they are actually achieving these public policies or if they are just giveaways.

This is not the case for the $5 billion-plus that the state spends every year via the operating budget. Every item in that budget must be justified every single year. If a program isn’t working the way it was supposed to, its funding can be cut. Not so for a tax expenditure that isn’t working.

New Mexico is one of just nine states that does not track the cost of tax expenditures…

And we wonder why we’re always behind other states when it comes to test scores, graduation rates, and poverty. Taking a closer look at who’s getting the big tax breaks and why would be two ways to begin to catch up.

For more outstanding research on New Mexico economic development and tax policies, check out the reports produced by NM Voices for Children.

Teabag protest is not about responsible tax policy

As we face another April 15, the great American debate over taxes and the proper role of government has taken a turn toward the grotesque.

Those screaming the loudest this Tax Day are the self-named “teabaggers,” who are angrily carrying signs and delivering tea bags to elected officials in actions they say are based on the 1773 Boston Tea Party.

In that historic event, American colonists dumped tea into Boston Harbor to protest taxes levied by the government of England. At the time, the more than 1.5 2.2 million colonists (roughly a quarter of the size of population of England) were not allowed to elect members to Parliament – they were taxed without any representation.

That’s a far cry indeed from the massive turnout – and resulting mandate – produced by the U.S. electorate in November 2008.

Many have noted that it’s a rather disingenuous for the teabaggers to scream about Obama’s tax policies, inasmuch as Bush’s policies transformed a budget surplus into a massive deficit with tax cuts that overwhelmingly benefited the wealthiest members of our society.  The Obama  tax cuts benefit 95% of Americans — those whose incomes have been stagnating.

Sadly, the teabaggers are open to ridicule for so much more than their unfortunate name.

In the face of a relentless publicity push by Fox News and right-wing talk radio, questions  have arisen over who is really organizing the protests and whether they truly sprang from grassroots protestors or in fact are backed by corporate lobbyists or multi-billionaire media companies. It’s suggestive of a word coined a few years ago – astroturfing.  Astroturfing is basically fake grassroots organizing.

Consider it all together and it’s almost funny.

But taxes – who pays them, how much different people and companies are required to pay and what is done with the money that’s collected – is too important an issue to laugh off.

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Hard to Swallow: The Fox News “Tea Bagging Revolution”

Fox News is whipping up “Tea Bagging” fever —  multi-city protest demonstrations against letting the Bush tax cuts for the rich expire.

Watch this entertaining segment about the tea bagging “movement” from last night’s Rachel Maddow Show in which Ana Marie Cox and Rachel attempt to unpack the weird contradictions of the Tea Bag Revolution:

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What About Revenue?

With a probable $500 million state budget shortfall, all the talk leading up to the upcoming legislative session has been cut, cut, cut. Cut capital outlay funds, cut public programs, cut hiring across the board for state agencies.

Lean times call for a reevaluation of spending priorities, to be sure. But unlike the federal government, states have no ability to deficit spend. This means that during a huge economic recession (like the one we’re mired in now), states actually have to make the most difficult decisions.

This brings us back to the almost universal focus on spending cuts. In such difficult times – times that call for continued investment in unemployment insurance and public health care programs like Medicaid, why are we not hearing more about developing creative methods for maximizing state revenue? Continue reading

Holiday from Reality

This past weekend, the Sunday public affairs programs were ablaze with the latest nonstarter of an idea from the campaign trail. Yes, the concept of giving motorists a “holiday” from the national gasoline tax continues to be debated, despite universal condemnation from economists.

Let’s do a quick fact check about the national gas tax.

* The tax stands at 18.4 cents per gallon of gasoline.

* As of May 5, the national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline was $3.61 (18.4 cents represents roughly 5% of that cost).

* It has been fifteen years (1993) since the tax was last increased.

* The national gasoline tax in the United States is perhaps the lowest, as both a percentage of the average cost of a tank of gas and in raw terms, of any industrialized country in the world. Continue reading