I just returned from Boston to vent at the Tea Party Express rally at the State Capital reliving nearly 250 years of history. The only ones who will profit from this of course are those organizing the movement and speaking at the rally. They get paid. I of course mailed out my check to the IRS upon my return later that day.
I and people around me with politics more left than mine are feeling less incentive to work, believing that Obama heads a movement to rape our ability to enjoy the fruits of our labor. People without money are getting more incentives not to work while people with money keep waking up to new taxes in various disguises. Realistically, in New York City, over 50% of my income goes to taxes between income, excise and sales taxes and governmental fees. Scouring the tea party websites in search of a plan which does not appear to exist, I am looking for reasons to vote Republican. That party could not find a more sympathetic potential convert than I. But so far, it’s more of the same old that I’ve heard for close to 30 years since I started paying attention. The gains in the stock markets that I’m enjoying greatly exceed the amount of proposed tax hikes, and for the past century the markets have done much better under Democratic presidents. If the Republicans want my vote, they will therefore have to deliver value and not just words.
We know what the Republicans talk about — balanced budgets, family and religious values, small businesses, tax cuts. For close to the past 30 years, not a single Republican president has ever come close to a balanced budget. The only president that did this was Clinton. George Bush Jr. never vetoed a spending bill in his 8 years as president. The marriage penalty was never abated. There are no school vouchers. The Alternative Minimum Tax was hardly touched under Bush Jr. except for a sliver of people making between $40,000 and $45,000 a year. Tax cuts overall were replaced with fees and the AMT — all of which negated the reduction in tax rates. The tax rebates under Bush Jr. were less than the cash back from a credit card. The tax code became even more complicated under Reagan, and Bush Sr. raised taxes.
My small business pays nearly twice as much for health insurance as the larger companies do and those costs have gone up 400% during the past decade. We paid out $50,000 in penalties this year due to tax and HR compliance for programs such as COBRA which have become so complicated that we must now outsource them at significant cost. Our company’s entire workforce is being held hostage to an inferior benefits program because of a few people on COBRA who made our company ineligible for the program. The Republicans never raised the H1B skilled immigrant quota which is essential for American small businesses to compete in the world and which has since been hogged by larger companies. They knew it was a good thing to do but held the issue hostage to the greater debate on illegal immigration even though it has nothing to do with it. The only president who raised that quota was Clinton.
This kind of Republican politics that is all talk and no walk is clearly of no benefit to me and probably to you.
All I’m hearing and reading in the papers and on the tea party websites is what everyone is against. Hardly any solutions that are real. Here are a few:
Want to cut the budget? Start talking about raising the retirement age to 72. Talk seriously about cutting the military and the war against terror — tell people the truth, that we cannot guarantee safety for everyone everywhere and that we can’t afford to keep trying. The Chinese are beating our socks off economically, they don’t have armies stationed all over the world, and hardly anyone hates them. The tea party’s mantra in Boston was “Freedom isn’t Free” — but if we want all this military and don’t want to pay taxes, something has to give. I say let’s clear out of Iraq and Afghanistan and sharpen the focus of what our military is for.
Want to stimulate the economy? Instead of soaking the rich, encourage the rich to spend money instead of hoarding or taking it out of the country because they feel poorer under so much taxation. Give married couples with small children more of an incentive for both spouses to work — let them have $50,000 a year tax free instead of forcing people to stay home who could work because after taxes and a nanny or daycare they are left with nothing or a net loss. If you want money to go toward high ticket labor-intensive goods and services such as boats, planes and trips, it will never be people making $50,000 a year who will purchase them. Not when they first have to deal with the necessities of life. Even people making $200,000 a year with several kids attending private schools for religious or other reasons cannot make ends meet — stop demonizing this class of people as the filthy rich just because they want their kids in private school. Are you filthy rich and deserve a 40% excise tax because it costs close to $40,000 a year of after tax money in New York just to purchase a family insurance plan that allows you to go outside of a network to see a doctor? Being rich is not determined solely by gross household income without any consideration as to expenses. This is why phasing out tax cuts and benefits for people making more than $50,000 a year bears no relation to reality and makes people realize the cuts and benefits are phony. It also explains why top level people with portable skills are increasingly willing to move abroad, make half as much income and live a higher quality of life. As more of these people get frustrated and leave and we keep discouraging the best and brightest to come here, the rest will be left with an even lower tax base.
Trickle down economics has a horrible sound to it; Frank Lutz needs to come up with a better name for it. But the idea is sound; people spending money are better for the overall economy than government. Just look at how much of the stimulus money has actually been spent as opposed to held up in committees bickering around the country or directed toward groups that the Democrats want to reward and keep loyal. Dropping $20 bills in the town square would be better than this.
We do need to fix our health system. Go back to indemnity insurance, where each person pays cash to the doctor of their choice and gets money back from insurance. People will get much better value for money and insurers will benefit. Insurance should deal with catastrophes, not every single ailment. Regulate the causes of bad health that strain the system such as obesity and smoking. Libertarians hate it but it works and the world is going this way because it does. People are not against health care reform — they just realize that Obama is shifting money between economic classes without lowering costs and that this is not the way to solve a real problem.
Simplify the tax code. Get rid of home interest deductions which skewed the market and created the fiction of a nation of homeowners who are paying rent disguised as mortgages. Get rid of all sorts of regulations that hamper small businesses. Let them hire and fire who they want without having to subsidize terminated people with COBRA benefits for up to 3 years. Let them hire skilled immigrants who bring value without having to wait several years to get a visa, especially when other countries are competing for the same people. Let people who send their kids to private schools get a tax break or simply privatize the entire system; most public schools where I live don’t have the room to take all the kids in a neighborhood who want to attend as it is.
Stop making federal regulations with mandates to states that do not provide money to carry them out. It is just spreading costs that result in greater state and local taxes which have indeed been increasing.
There are solutions to our problems. They involve real changes across the board and a president who is willing to go to Congress and get both sides to slaughter sacred cows. If the proposals are real, Congressional leaders will be more apt to deal with them than phony solutions that appeal to just one side of the aisle. The country still awaits fundamental change. So far, we haven’t seen it. And Americans realize it.
Tax cut movements such as the tea party tend to fail when people realize they have no plan to deal with the reality of reducing taxes. If people still have expectations of what they want from government, tax money has to be there. Until the Republicans figure out how to manage expectations of government in a realistic way that show people true benefits from their programs as opposed to phony gimmicks and catchy slogans, the rest of us will continue to count our dollars and vote Democratic as long as the overall economy benefits us more than the increased taxes hurt us. The tagline for the next round of elections will be “Show us the money.”