Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Trump Plan Is Tax Cut for the Rich, Even Hedge Fund Managers


Donald Trump’s tax plan, released Monday, does not live up to the populist language he has offered on taxes all summer.
When talking about taxes in this campaign, Donald Trump has often sounded like a different kind of Republican. He says he will take on “the hedge fund guys” and their carried interest loophole. He thinks it’s “outrageous” how little tax some multimillionaires pay. But his plan calls for major tax cuts not just for the middle class but also for the richest Americans — even the hedge fund managers. And despite his campaign’s assurances that the plan is “fiscally responsible,” it would grow budget deficits by trillions of dollars over a decade.
You could call Mr. Trump’s plan a higher-energy version of the tax plan Jeb Bush announced earlier this month: similar in structure, but with lower rates and wider tax brackets, meaning individual taxpayers would pay even less than under Mr. Bush, and the government would lose even more tax revenue.
Currently, the top income tax rate for regular income is 39.6 percent. Mr. Trump would cut that rate to 25 percent, the lowest level since 1931. He’d cut maximum rates on capital gains and dividends to 20 percent from 23.8 percent. He’d cut the corporate tax rate to 15 percent, and also offer a special tax rate of 15 percent to business owners — less than half what they may pay under today’s rules. He’d abolish the estate tax entirely.

Mr. Trump says he’d pay for those tax rate reductions by “reducing or eliminating most deductions and loopholes available to the very rich.” But in truth, rich people already pay tax on most of their income, so there’s less revenue available from cutting rich people’s tax breaks than Mr. Trump and many voters believe.
In 2013, taxpayers earning between $500,000 and $10 million deducted or exempted an average of 12 percent of their income from tax; for those earning more than $10 million, the figure was 16 percent. If those deductions were abolished entirely (and Mr. Trump proposes only to reduce them), that would not come close to paying for a cut in the top tax rate from 39.6 percent to 25 percent, which is a relative reduction of 37 percent.
Mr. Trump has also proposed taxing investment returns related to life insurance that currently don’t appear on tax returns at all. This would raise more revenue than you might expect, perhaps $20 billion a year at Mr. Trump’s proposed tax rates, but still wouldn’t be enough to offset the high-end rate cuts.

Even the hedge fund managers Mr. Trump has railed against on the stump would get a tax cut under his plan. The usual fee structure for a hedge fund is called “2-and-20”: a flat management fee (often 2 percent) on all assets, plus a performance fee (often 20 percent) on profits above a set threshold. Currently, the management fee is taxed at ordinary rates up to 39.6 percent, while the performance fee enjoys a preferential rate of 23.8 percent. Under Mr. Trump’s plan, all this income would be taxed at a maximum of 25 percent. The performance fee would be subject to a small tax increase, but that effect would be dwarfed by the large tax cut on ordinary management fees.
Another large, though less-noticed, tax cut in Mr. Trump’s plan is a reduction in the maximum tax rate on “pass-through income” to 15 percent; currently, this income is taxed at the same rates as wage income, up to 39.6 percent.
Pass-through income is often described as “small-business income,” but that term can be misleading. Small-business owners can use corporate structures, like limited liability companies, that are not taxed. Instead, the income from these companies is passed through to their individual owners, who then pay tax on their individual income tax returns. Those small-business owners would enjoy this tax reduction from Mr. Trump, but so would the owners of large businesses that may also choose to use these same ownership structures. The tax break would also go to independent contractors like me: The New York Times pays me a salary, but when I do work for other organizations, I treat the payments as small-business income, and I’d get to use the 15 percent rate proposed by Mr. Trump.

In addition to offering huge tax cuts to the rich and to business owners (including me!), Mr. Trump would offer huge tax cuts for the middle and upper-middle class. Married couples would pay no tax on their first $50,000 of income and just 10 percent on the next $50,000. A married couple with no children earning $100,000 and taking the standard deduction would pay $11,437 in income tax under today’s rules; under Mr. Trump’s plan, they would pay just $5,000, a tax cut of 56 percent. Many people with low-to-moderate incomes would see their income tax bills reduced to zero, increasing the share of the population that pays no income tax at all.
He’d also offer huge tax breaks to corporations, which would pay 15 percent, down from a current rate of 35 percent. Corporate tax is the main place where his plan departs from Republican orthodoxy, but in a fairly arcane way. Mr. Trump would tax the worldwide income of American corporations at the time it is earned. Currently, American companies may delay tax on foreign profits until they return those profits to the United States. Many Republicans (including Jeb Bush) would move in the other direction and forgo tax on foreign income altogether, arguing that worldwide taxation makes it harder for American companies to compete abroad.
By demanding immediate tax on foreign profits, Mr. Trump’s plan would disfavor American companies that locate their businesses abroad, which is consistent with his broader theme of pushing companies to return factories and jobs to the United States. However, because he would cut the corporate income tax rate so steeply, the effects of immediate worldwide corporate taxation would be limited: Companies get a credit for tax paid to other countries, so Mr. Trump’s tax would apply only on foreign profits that were not subject to tax by a foreign country at a rate of at least 15 percent. This would mostly affect income earned in tax havens, as most major countries have corporate income tax rates of more than 15 percent.

In other words, Mr. Trump’s worldwide tax plan would have no effect on Ford’s choice to make cars in Mexico, so long as they’re paying at least 15 percent in tax to Mexico on their Mexican activities.
A document from the Trump campaign says all these tax cuts would be “fully paid for” by the elimination of deductions and by a one-time tax on foreign profits of American firms held abroad. That math simply does not add up: As discussed above, rich people do not currently take enough tax deductions to offset the tax rate cuts Mr. Trump proposes, and the one-time foreign profits tax might raise $250 billion, not close to the trillions of revenue that would be lost through tax rate cuts.
At a news conference Monday, Mr. Trump offered another way his tax plan would pay for itself: economic growth, perhaps as fast as 6 percent a year, again a higher-energy estimate than the 4 percent Mr. Bush has proposed. But there is no evidence to support the idea that such rapid growth can be produced through tax cuts.

Planned Parenthood Head Shuts Down GOP Chair Over Abortion Chart


Richards was testifying before the House Oversight Committee, which began investigating the organization after sting videos were released by an anti-abortion group that allegedly showed Planned Parenthood executives discussing the sale of fetal tissue. Earlier in the hearing, Richards was repeatedly interrupted by Chaffetz.
Chaffetz, who chairs the committee, at one point showed a slide that had one straight line heading downward and another straight line heading upward.
"You created this slide. I have no idea what it is," Richards said.
"Well, it is the reduction over the course of years — in pink, that's the reduction in the breast exams — and the red is the increase in the abortions," Chaffetz said. "That's what's going on in the organization."

Here's a picture of the chart:

Richards said that she had not seen the slide before and that it "absolutely does not reflect what's happening at Planned Parenthood."
"You're going to deny that —" Chaffetz said.
"I'm going to deny this slide that you just showed me that no one has ever provided us before," she said. "We've provided you all the information about everything — all the services that Planned Parenthood provides. And it doesn't feel like we're trying to get to the truth here. You just showed me this."
"I pulled those numbers directly out of your corporate reports," Chaffetz said.
"Excuse me," Richards said. "My lawyers have informed me that the source of this is Americans United for Life which is an anti-abortion group so I would check your source."
Chaffetz, paused, stuttered a bit and said, "Then we will get to the bottom of the truth of that."
He moved on to introduce the ranking Democrat on the committee.........

The GOP's Great Mammogram Farce Of 2015


Breasts are a part of women’s bodies, so to the uninformed, the idea that Planned Parenthood doesn’t perform this particular kind of women’s health care might sound like a profound gotcha, indeed. But in reality, there’s no reason for them to have mammogram machines on premises. Most gynecologists don’t do them on premises, but refer women out to another location for a mammogram, because mammogram facilities are accredited by the American College of Radiology. I did a quick search in my area and found that nearly all available mammogram facilities were radiology centers or hospitals.
Women are only recommended to start mammograms at age 50, though some start younger if their doctor believes family history requires it. While Planned Parenthood serves people of all ages, they are primarily a family planning clinic, which means that most of the clientele is going to veer young. Think 20s and 30s, not 40s and 50s. The overlap between the women who need birth control pills and the women who need mammograms is pretty small. It’s a waste of precious resources for Planned Parenthood, whose focus is on women seeking sexual health care services, to have a mammogram machine to serve the relatively small number of patients who are approaching menopause—or are past it.
This obsession with mammograms belies the real agenda here, which has nothing to do with “fetal body parts” or even abortion, but with delegitimizing health care that exists so that people, particularly women, can have healthy and safe sex lives. The implication was clear: Mammograms are real health care, and all those other services—contraception, STI testing and treatment, Pap smears—are not. After all, virgins can get breast cancer, but you aren’t going to get the clap or an unintended pregnancy if you don’t have sex.
Republicans are smart and know they can’t just come right out and denounce the use of health care services in order to have recreational sex, because recreational sex is a nearly universal behavior. Ninety-nine percent of women who have sex have used contraception. Ninety-five percent of Americans had premarital sex. So the slut-shaming is being done sideways, by focusing heavily on non-sexual health care—or prenatal care—while pointedly ignoring the health care people centered around having sex. The omission speaks volumes.
If you thought the religious right had given up on the mission to push abstinence-until-marriage, this hearing should be a reminder that they very much have not, and instead are eager to undermine any care for the non-abstinent out of fear that it gives permission to have sex. Abstinence-only programs haven’t gone anywhere, either. As Erica Hellerstein of Think Progress reported over the summer, most programs were just renamed something like “abstinence-focused” or even, falsely, “evidence-based,” but they are pushing the same message: The only legitimate life choice is to refrain from having sex until marriage.
Why they don’t think married women need contraception is another question entirely, but we are talking about politicians who think you need a mammogram machine in a family planning clinic that primarily serves women in their 20s. Expertise on what women actually need in their health care is not a strong suit.
Ultimately, we don’t need to look further than the policy proposals themselves, which make it all the more obvious that sexual health care is the GOP’s true target. The funding being debated is for Pap smears, contraception, and STI testing and treatment. All this talk about fetal tissue and videos and Cecile Richards’ salary is simply a distraction from what this is really about, which is that women are having sex and Republicans would very much like for them to cut it out.
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist who writes frequently about liberal politics, the religious right and reproductive health care. She's a prolific Twitter villain who can be followed @amandamarcotte.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Forget his 9/11 truther tirades — Here are 7 of Alex Jones’ most unhinged conspiracy theories

Raw Story 

While many Americans will spend Sept. 11 remembering the people killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, others will presumably take the occasion to revisit their preferred conspiracy theories regarding them.
But rather than do so here, it seemed like a good moment to focus instead on radio host Alex Jones — who is arguably the most prominent proponent of the argument that the attack was an “inside job.” Not because of his insulting remarks toward women, or his dating site for fellow “freedom lovers,” or his worries that immigrants will eventually enslave his fellow Americans, but because of his own contributions to the conspiracy theory “field.”
That is, unless he’s a false flag himself.
But here are some Jones theories that particularly stand out:

1. Taylor Swift loves bacteria poop

When the pop and country star announced two years ago that she would be endorsing Diet Coke, Jones quickly asked her to reconsider, saying it was not worth her soul to hawk a drink that was the byproduct of a Pentagon study meant to engineer e-coli bacteria.
“In essence, Taylor Swift is telling us, she loves genetically-modified bacteria poop,” Jones fretted.

2. Harry Reid was behind the ‘false flag’ fatal shooting of Las Vegas cops

Of the several shootings that he has declared “false flags,” the deaths of Officers Igor Soldo and Alyn Beck last June might have hit closer to home for Jones, considering that the shooters, Jerad and Amanda Miller, were apparently fans of his.
Jerad Miller posted on Jones’ website, InfoWars, describing himself as “a wild coyote” and vowing to die rather than be arrested. Amanda Miller would follow her husband’s wishes, shooting first him and then herself following a shootout with authorities after killing the two officers.
On his show, Jones blamed CIA “cutouts” sent by the government for the shootings, arguing that it was staged by Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) in response to the standoff instigated by rancher Cliven Bundy against federal authorities.
“Harry Reid comes out and says we’re going to do something about this, these are domestic terrorists at the Bundy ranch, everybody needs to be arrested,” Jones said at the time. “I told you they’ve been building this behind the scenes, now they’re rolling it out.”

3. Atheists aren’t really atheists — they’re “occultists”

In 2012, Jones argued that his study of groups funding atheists revealed that they are actually run by “occultists.” Atheists, in turn, are led to believe that “humans are parasites.” And furthermore, they are actually Satanists.
“We’ve got a lot of atheists and agnostics listening. Even if they don’t believe in God, the point is, as a scientific historical fact, the elites do — and they believe in Satan and destruction and blood,” he argued.
A montage of some of his remarks on the matter can be seen below:

4. Same-sex marriage is a eugenics plot

Jones, who identifies himself as a libertarian, has argued at times that he is not against marriage equality because of those principles. But as the Southern Poverty Law Center noted, he has also insisted that there is a sinister purpose behind promoting it as a civil right.
“Clearly, from the eugenicist/globalist view — and they’ve written textbooks on it, you can look them up — they want to encourage the breakdown of the family, because the family is where people owe their allegiance,” he told a Catholic blog in 2013. “That’s why they want to get rid of God. Not because they’re atheists, but because they want the state to be God.”

5. The government is creating gay people

Speaking of gay people, the government apparently doesn’t just want them getting married in order to reduce the population; Jones argued in 2010 that the government itself is manufacturing the gay people.
“I have the government documents where they said they’re going to encourage homosexuality so people don’t have children,” he boasted. The key, he said, was an estrogen-mimicking material hidden in juice boxes.
“After you’re done drinking your little juices, well, I mean, you’re ready to go out and have a baby,” Jones said
after cutting open a juice box on the air. “You’re ready to put makeup on. You’re ready to wear a short skirt. You’re ready to go, you know, put together a, you know, garden of roses or something. You’re ready to put lipstick on.”

6. Fear the weather wizards
Jones expanded his range in the wake of the fatal tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma in May 2013, telling a caller, “Of course there’s weather stuff going on.”
He also claimed that the Air Force was the actual cause of a reported tornado in Texas that killed “thirty-something people in one night,” though he did not outright blame the government for the twister in Moore, saying the key was whether people would report spotting helicopters and small aircraft “spraying things” in the clouds.
“If you saw that, you better bet your bottom dollar they did this, but who knows if they did,” he said. “You know, that’s the thing, we don’t know.”

BONUS: “Alex Jones” is actually Bill Hicks

OK, this theory isn’t by Jones, but it’s about him. And as Texas Monthly reported last November, it threatens to blow the whole lid off of Jones’ public persona if true. (It is not true.)
The theory, according to a 33-minute “expose” posted online, goes that the person known publicly as Alex Jones is actually a secret identity given to comedian Bill Hicks by the CIA. Hicks’ death in 1994 was actually — you guessed it — a false flag in this scenario.
As proof, the filmmakers post pictures of Hicks and Jones side-by-side, arguing that the “distinct characteristics of the two top central incisors, the bottom right cuspid and the bottom right incisor” make it obvious that the two are the same person. A photo from the video can be seen below:
jones and hicks