Thursday, April 16, 2009


The tax day tea party event was pushed as a non-partisan grass roots event but there was more whine than tea and whine with a distinctly conservative Republican flavor. The acidic after taste may have something to do with Newt Gingrich of all people as the key note speaker at the New York City tea party event.

Given the fact that if Gingrich ran for President he would not manage 20% of the New York City vote, it makes the assertion that this is a non-partisan event something of a joke and it's clear it was pushed by conservative Republican organizers and it was mostly conservative media types who showed up to cover it at the same time denying they had anything to do with it.

It's no secret no one likes paying taxes but no one wants to cut the services they pay for either. But it's usually conservatives popping the corks over taxes mostly for ideological reasons that have never proved to help the economy.

They seem to forget that Reagan lowered taxes and ran the country into the ground economically producing record deficits and record high interest rates. Bush 41 had to raise taxes to keep the country from falling into economic chaos thanks to the mess Reagan left behind. Clinton raised taxes, ( the 5c a gallon gas tax) which eliminated the deficit, and resulted in the greatest economic expansion in US history, the lowest unemployment in 40 years and left the country with a $5 1/2 trillion budget SURPLUS. A surplus the country could certainly have put to good use now.

When Bush came into office Karl Rove bragged to Time Magazine that the Bush Administration was going to be ABC -- Anything But Clinton and they went about undoing all of Clintons economic inititatives. As Issac Newton pointed out,with every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, and reversing Clinton's policies also reversed all of Clinton's results leaving us with what we have now.

Its never taxes that's the issue in spite of conservative whining. Even the colonists and founders of the country knew that. Their cry wasn't "too much taxation" it was " no taxation without representation".Their problem with taxes (aside form the Stamp Act) wasn't that they had to pay them, it was that they werent getting anything for them in return and had no representative say in how their taxes would be spent.

Its not taxes that are the issue. It's what you get in return for them and what they accomplish. If anything. Clinton raising taxes accomplished record economic prosperity. Under Bush and the conservatives the tax cuts and Bush's tax policies produced record deficits and the worst economic crisis since the 1930's.

The fact is when it comes to taxes the United States is the third lowest taxed country in the world. A middle class married couple with two children pay a federal tax rate of 12%. A similar married couple with two children in France pays 42%.And in almost every country in the world that family of four would pay a tax rate in the 40% range while in the US, with deductions, the rate is about 12%.

The proof as always will be in the pudding not in the whine. And not in the tea. If the Obama Administration's approach works, taxes wont be an issue. Especially undoing the Bush tax cuts for the upper 2% of income earners that even his own first Secretary of the Treasury thought were so stupid he left.

If the Democrats spending approach doesn't work ( and I am not saying it will -- if someone wants to question the validity of the spending that's another matter) it wont be because of taxes.
With Newt Gingrich as the keynote speaker at the NYC tax day tea party it tends to re-enforce that this is about conservative ideology and nothing practical. And it's hardly a non-partisan movement. To complain about taxes now, given the economic mess, is, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, to know the cost of everything and the value of nothing. Which is exactly what got us into this mess that Bush and the Republican Conservatives created in the first place.


Pamela of the Poconos said...

In my estimation, people had different reasons for joining the protest. Not all, including myself, are nuanced as well as they might be. Of course the similarity to the Boston Tea Party is about taxation without representation. Even the President did not 'get it', for he responded with a vow to streamline the IRS code. How in touch is that?

Additionally, one has to hunt for decent coverage of the parties. Yesterday it became apparent that MSNBC and CNN were having a field day with sarcasm and comments more appropriate to college level/John Favreau humor.

I subscribe to Blue Ridge Cable which serves NE PA. Their Pocono Report on April 15th featured a piece by reporter Shannon Murphy which described in an honorable way, what was on peoples' minds. It's unfortunate that that video cannot be viewed nationwide.

It's bad enough when TV personalities mock candidates. Now they are mocking the people, and that's really, really, really a bad idea.

sue said...

While I agree with almost all you have written in the past Marc, I have been mulling this post over the past two days.

I think there were many more reasons for demonstrating on Wednesday than taxes. And I think most people (obviously not Ron Paul followers) are comfortable w/ an equitable tax code and were therefore not protesting the taxes per se. I think this was more about run-away government spending and a need for voices to be heard.

Another thing that has been bugging me about this demonstration- of course is it's coverage- as Pamela noted above- the major networks have taken on a mocking tone to the people who did participate.

I find it appalling that "news reporters" feel comfortable heckling fellow Americans for practicing their rights- speech as well as peaceful public gathering/demonstrating.

I heard a commentator note that most of the people who participated didn't even know why they were there. HELLO!! Did anyone bring that up during the election season? I seem to remember the adulations to Obama about how he pulled people into the political process who were not involved before- but now that people decided to demonstrate against his policies- they are ridiculed for being uninformed?

As time goes on, I am truly considering an over-seas move- I cannot tolerate much more of this.

All that said- thanks again Marc- although I don't have the same perspective- I always enjoy yours and am grateful for the info I get here

Marc Rubin said...

"I think there were many more reasons for demonstrating on Wednesday than taxes."

But taxes was the reason the organizers gave for the protests. Thats why they organized it for April 15th and invoked the Boston Tea party as part of the protest.

As for all the spending the Democrats are doing, Im not endorsing it. I was against the auto bailout from the beginning and I was right about that because that $27 billon is now down the drain and they will probably declare bankruptcy anyway. As for the rest, I dont endorse that either nor do I think the money for bailouts and the TARP has been the best way to go.

I do have something to say about the other spending : healthcare,energy and education that will come in a later post

Carol said...

Great post!

You may find you have company regarding the Republican astroturf campaign. Please see:
The Widdershins
Cinie's World

BigCatLover said...

Marc, I usually love your columns, but you and other pundits really need to get out of NYC and Washington DC. I've read descriptions of these tea parties from people who attended all over the country, and other locations did not allow Republicans to speak. And they were not protesting the tax code - geesh. You allowed the partisan press to define the protests for you instead of doing your own investigation.

Marc Rubin said...

"I've read descriptions of these tea parties from people who attended all over the country, and other locations did not allow Republicans to speak. And they were not protesting the tax code"

If they werent protesting taxes what were they doing there? Why do you think they called it "Tax Day Tea Party"?and decided to hold it on April 15th?

I sympathize with anyone protesting government policies but if they were protesting about things other than taxes, like Obama's spending policies, many of which I dont support, they should have organized something else on another day at another time, not show up at something called a Tax Day Tea Party held on April 15th and expect to be understood to be protesting something other than taxes.

sue said...

Marc- I have to agree with BigCatLover- the demonstrations really wern't about taxes but about run away spending. The day was symbolic- perhaps poorly chosen but I know they wanted to get going and voices heard- so my thought was it is a nationally recognized day- I am hearing that the next major protest will be July 4th (sucks for me here in Az- way too hot!)- but I think the thought is to get a grass roots movement going to protest spending and other Obama failures-

BTW- now waiting for your take on this pirate situation

Anonymous said...

Well, on this one I have to agree. Although the tea parties were heralded as a "bi-partisan" protest, they did have an unquestionable conservative Republican stamp. On the other hand, I think there's plenty of things to complain about--the runaway spending, the lack of transparency and the ridiculous infusion of capital into failed institutions. What the Treasury and Feds are getting away with borders on the criminal. I'm a fiscally conservative Dem and I don't like any of this.

But . . . thinking that all our woes will be solved by washing out every Democrat with a Republican is simplistic at best. The Republicans and the nutzoid policies of Bush&Co. brought us to this moment. Barack Obama was "not" created in a vacuum.

I'm all for change. But I do not want to jump from the frying pan into the fire. Otherwise, we'll only get a switch in symbols: the elephant for the donkey and be no better off than we we've been for the last 8+ years.

Anonymous said...

"They seem to forget that Reagan lowered taxes and ran the country into the ground economically producing record deficits and record high interest rates. Bush 41 had to raise taxes to keep the country from falling into economic chaos thanks to the mess Reagan left behind. Clinton raised taxes, ( the 5c a gallon gas tax) which eliminated the deficit, and resulted in the greatest economic expansion in US history, the lowest unemployment in 40 years and left the country with a $5 1/2 trillion budget SURPLUS. A surplus the country could certainly have put to good use now."

I always believed that Clinton left the WH with a budget surplus...but, then this year I saw a very small article which said he somehow got borrowing 3 TRILLION from the Social Security trust fund. Who knows???

Will try to find the article and post it.

Anonymous said...

Clinton’s $3 Trillion Raid on Social Security

By Anonymous
Created Mar 6 2000 - 1:00am

Author (optional):
Scott Hodge

Once again, Bill Clinton is trying to outdo Congress in protecting Social Security. Two years ago, he challenged the Congress to save 60 percent of the surplus for Social Security. In this year’s budget, Clinton is proposing a “Social Security solvency lock-box” that is intended to secure every dollar of the Social Security surplus for Social Security. While this plan may conjure up images of stacks of cash waiting in Fort Knox for the Baby Boomers to retire, the reality is that his plan leaves the vault empty when the program begins to run large cash deficits in just 14 years.

There is only one place to put the Social Security surplus - in the Personal Retirement Accounts of hard working Americans

Clinton’s lock-box plan is nothing more than a scheme to use more than $3 trillion in Social Security surpluses to buy down federal debt. In exchange, the Social Security trust fund gets another $3 trillion worth of IOUs. To be sure, most Americans would rather pay down the debt than use Social Security’s surpluses to fund pork barrel projects. But make no mistake, once that money is spent – to buy down debt or fund new programs – it will not be there to cover Social Security’s long-term liabilities.And those liabilities are enormous. As most Americans are becoming aware, in 2014 Social Security will begin spending more on benefits than it collects in payroll taxes. Ten years later, its annual deficits will reach $370 billion, and by 2034, when today’s 33-year olds begin to retire, the program will be mired in $800 billion deficits. Over the next 75 years, those deficits total $122 trillion, or $19 trillion after adjusting for inflation.

As most Americans are also learning, there are only three ways to deal with this financial crisis: raise taxes, cut benefits, or borrow more money. These options will be the same regardless of how many IOUs are in the Social Security trust fund or how much debt is retired over the next decade. Indeed, even if Washington were to retire the entire national debt this afternoon, Social Security would still begin deficit spending by the time today’s five-year olds enter college.

But Clinton’s plan is likely to appeal to most Americans because it plays to their desire to reduce the national debt and it takes advantage of their misperceptions (as well as the media’s) of Social Security’s fictional bookkeeping system. The bottom line is that adding $3 trillion in IOUs to the Social Security trust fund, as the president’s plan would do, can make the system look healthier on paper, but it does not create any real assets that can be drawn down to cover the system’s shortfalls.

Most government experts acknowledge that Social Security’s trust fund is little more than a ledger entry. Indeed, in last year’s budget documents, experts within the Clinton’s own Office of Management and Budget wrote:

“These balances [within the trust fund] are available to finance future benefit payments and other trust fund expenditures – but only in a bookkeeping sense. Unlike the assets of private pension plans, [government trust funds] do not consist of real economic assets that can be drawn down in the future to fund benefits.”
The Congressional Research Service has written much the same thing:

“While the trust funds have an important role in monitoring the finances of the program and maintaining its fiscal discipline, they are basically accounting devices. The federal securities they hold are not assets for the government…[they are] a form of IOU from one of its accounts to another…Those claims are not resources the government has at its disposal to pay for future Social Security claims. Simply put, the trust funds do not reflect an independent store of money for the program or the government…”
There is only one “lock-box” that will honestly keep politicians from raiding Social Security – a personal retirement account owned by individual workers. So instead of using these surpluses to buy down debt and create a mountain of IOUs, Congress and the White House should allow workers to divert their portion of the surplus payroll taxes into personal retirement accounts under their control. Personal retirement accounts are not only the best way of building individual retirement wealth, they effectively “pre-fund” Social Security which will dramatically reduce its long-term liabilities.

This year, the Social Security surplus will total $167 billion – equal to more than $1,100 for every worker who currently pays taxes into the program. Rebating this surplus to workers would finance a payroll tax cut of about 4 percentage points (out of the 12.4 percent payroll tax) without affecting current benefit payments. This means that a couple making $50,000 annually could put $2,000 into their account each year, or $20,000 over the next decade.

If American workers were allowed take the money Clinton wants to use to buy down debt, and invest it in their own personal retirement accounts earning, say, 8 percent annually, they would own nearly $6 trillion in assets by the time Social Security goes into deficit in 2014; and, they would own $56 trillion in assets by the time the trust fund runs out of IOUs in 2034. Talk about owning a piece of the rock.

Anonymous said...

Sorry that last post was so long. If Americans invested in their own personal savings accounts instead of having to invest in Social Security...they would be situation of my Daughter and many of her coworkers. Daughter has lost $26,000 from her 401(K), and $6,000 from her ROTH, and her best friend..who had planned on retiring this year...has lost $30,000 from his 401(K). He's decided to stay on the job for another year at least!