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Voters in the Hands of an Angry God

Sep 27, 2008
Tomorrow, pastors in 20 states will give politically based sermons in protest of the IRS’s rule disallowing 501(c)(3) organizations from participating in political activities. Should any of the churches then have their 501(c)(3) status withdrawn by the IRS, the organizers of the protest, the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), is expected to bring suit challenging the constitutionality of the penalties.

The ADF, like most such outfits, is a tireless defender of a small selection of freedoms, including the freedom to require the American taxpayer to underwrite political proselytizing on behalf of radical religious groups.

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life provides us with a a cogent analysis of ADF’s plans. Pastors to Protest IRS Rules on Political Advocacy features an excellent interview with Robert W. Tuttle, law professor at George Washington University Law School who holds a slew of degrees in law and religion. Professor Tuttle weighs the pros and cons of the possible law suit, concluding that it probably would not be successful.

Given the current constitution of the Court, however, one cannot be too sure.

Update: More than two dozen pastors challenged the IRA on September 28, some of them endorsing a candidate. The next day, Americans United For Separation of Church and State filed complaints with the IRS regarding six of the sermons.1
1 Americans Wary of Church Involvement in Partisan Politics, from The Pew Forum on Religion and Public life, October 1, 2008 (Accessed October 5, 2008)
tags: Taxes

Supply-Side Hooey

Aug 15, 2008
Supply-side economics, often conflated with the term “trickle-down economics,” is premised upon a simple proposition: Cut taxes and the economic growth resulting from the freed-up capital will more than make up for the lost revenue. Our nation has been in thrall to this reasonable-sounding notion for thirty years, since the Reagan administration gave it a go. You will recall our national debt hit $1 trillion for the first time during Reagan’s first year in office1 and went soaring into the stratosphere from there through Bush 1, only to be tamed, finally, by a Clinton administration that left office with a budget surplus. The “Big Lie” has continued throughout the Bush 2 administration, however, and the national debt is now $9.5 trillion, increasing over $1.7 billion every day (largely thanks to the Iraq and Afghani conflicts).2

It’s time to bury the Supply-Side, Trickle-Down fantasy, and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities does so handily in their recent report, “Evidence Shows that Tax Cuts Lose Revenue.” And there’s so much evidence that even Bushite economists are backpedalling from such absurd voodoo economics.

Reminder: Have you claimed your Economic Stimulus Payment yet? Five million Americans who aren’t required to file a tax return haven’t.3 Go to this IRS web page to find out how you can get yours.
1The Presidents, by Henry F. Graff, Simon and Schuster, 2002, p. 518.
2U.S. National Debt Clock
3“More Than 5 Million Americans Still Need to Claim Their Economic Stimulus Payments,” from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP)
tags: Taxes

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Bathtub Redux

Jul 18, 2008
Our July 2, 2008, piece, entitled “Bathtub Logic,” showed how the neo-cons at the federal level were trying to extend their tax-cutting obsession by undercutting the taxing prerogative of states and localities. The same group that brought us that news, The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), now warns us of another such ploy currently being pursued in both houses of Congress. The “Business Activity Tax Simplification Act (BATSA)” (Senate Bill S. 1726; House Bill H.R. 5267) would deprive the states of significant corporate taxes which they now levy on businesses which are based out-of-state but do business within their borders.

Corporations which are not physically based in a state nevertheless have such a significant presence—employees conducting business, inventories stored in third-party warehouses, etc.—that they are subject to current laws which grant states and localities the right to tax a fair share of their profits and assess other levies. BATSA will eliminate many of those rights, costing the states up to $3 billion annually within a year or two of its enactment.1 The shortfall will have to be made up somehow, with the burden falling, naturally, on the increasingly burdened, increasingly vanishing, middle class.

And really, now, the “Tax Simplification Act”? Doncha love the spin they put on these things, even—especially—in the names they give them?
1Congressional Budget Office estimate, 2006.
tags: Taxes

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Bathtub Logic

Jul 02, 2008
It was Grover Norquist who made the widely quoted quip, “I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”

But that was no quip, and if you want to know how serious these people are about starving government, take note of a bill now before the Senate, brought to our attention by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Ostensibly intended to provide some relief to homeowners during the current housing debacle, it “includes a provision that would allow non-itemizers to deduct property taxes up to an amount of $500 for an individual and $1,000 for a couple.”1 That's the first tax decrease provision.

But there's a catch, a very sneaky one, and it comprises the second tax decrease attempt. The deduction would be denied to any resident of a locality that increases its property tax rate between the time of the enactment of the bill and December 31 of this year. There are some exemptions to that provision, but in essence we see here a reaching down from the federal to the local level to turn off another spigot of taxation.

We all know how much depends on our local property taxes—schools, fire and police, libraries, local road maintenance, social services, and more. And when housing values fall, local property tax rates have to rise just to generate the same level of income.

This is more than an overreaching, tax-averse, corporate-dominated federal government power play. Local property tax rates are already a cause for contention in small communities. This legislation would set neighbor against neighbor and citizens against their own elected representatives. This legislation seeks to do an end-run around the states' prerogative to grant taxing power to localities, and to drown local government in the bathtub.

And where are the voices of the Democrats who gained a majority in Congress in 2006? As silent as they were when they granted Bush the funds to continue his war through the end of his term; as silent as they were when they extended his power to spy on Americans and indemnified his accomplices.

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
[Martin Luther King, Jr.]
1 The provision is Sec. 3012 of the Dodd-Shelby Substitute to the House bill (H.R. 3221).
tags: Taxes

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