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Philadelphia Inquirer | 11/27/2005 | Before hurting the poor, look elsewhere for cuts
Posted on Sun, Nov. 27, 2005
The Budget Battle
Before hurting the poor, look elsewhere for cuts
By John S. Irons
Both houses of the Republican-led Congress recently passed budget changes that cut benefits for low- and middle-income Americans, including cuts to Medicaid, student loans, food stamps, and enforcement of child support. The impacts of these cuts include an estimated 70,000 people who would lose health-care coverage; $8 billion in new charges to student borrowers and their families; and an estimated 225,000 people who would lose food stamps.
These budget choices are being sold in the name of fiscal responsibility, and the right wing of Congress claims that this must be done for the good of the economy and the federal budget. They ask: “What’s wrong with a little belt-tightening, especially in a time of crisis?”
The sham is, of course, that these particular cuts are not necessary. We have other options, other choices. As a nation, we do not need to abandon long-held values that demand at least minimal supports for our most needy, who cannot tighten their belts any further. Members of both political parties need to broaden the debate and offer more and different alternatives to the current status quo in Washington, and to move beyond the “cut vs. no cut” debate.

Filed under: Economics

Pork ‘Compromise’

Um, no.
The now-infamous multi-million dollar Alaska “bridge to nowhere” that was inserted into the transportation bill by the Republican approps chair has apparently been axed.
Uh, but not really. Alaska is still getting the money – and now with no strings attached.
Do they really think anyone buys this?

G.O.P. Strips Mandatory Funding for Two Alaskan Bridges – New York Times
G.O.P. Strips Mandatory Funding for Two Alaskan Bridges
Published: November 16, 2005
Filed at 3:04 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Mandatory funding for two controversial bridge projects in Alaska — including the ridiculed “bridge to nowhere” — has been stripped from a federal spending bill, a congressional committee said on Wednesday.
Skip to next paragraph Reuters
In an unusual move to change “pork” spending, House-Senate negotiators removed the $432 million in required spending during final talks on a yearly bill to fund programs for the Transportation and Treasury departments, the House Appropriations Committee said.
As a compromise, Alaska will still receive the money that had been set aside for the bridges to spend as it likes on transportation needs.

Filed under: Economics

Slemrod on Right-wing Tax books

Joel Slemrod reads the Forbes Flat Tax Book and the Boortz/Linder “fair” tax book.
He doesn’t like them…
“Tax reform deserves objective analysis of the sort these books do not provide.”

‘The Fairtax Book’ and ‘Flat Tax Revolution’: 1040EZ — Really, Really EZ – New York Times
‘The Fairtax Book’ and ‘Flat Tax Revolution’: 1040EZ — Really, Really EZ
By Joel Slemrod
Published: November 13, 2005
Almost everyone agrees that our tax system could be a lot better – simpler, fairer and less of a drag on the economy. However, opinions about how to fix it vary widely. Earlier this month, a bipartisan reform panel created by President Bush presented two reform options that straddle the standard liberal and conservative positions. While the headlines focused on the reduction or elimination of popular breaks like the mortgage interest deduction, the report also suggested fundamental changes in how business and capital income are to be taxed.
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Viktor Koen
Saying Goodbye to the Income Tax and the IRS.
By Neal Boortz and John Linder.
Illustrated. 188 pp. Regan Books. $24.95.
Using a Postcard to Abolish the IRS.
By Steve Forbes.
Illustrated. 216 pp. Regnery Publishing. $24.95.
First Chapter: ‘The Fair Tax Book’ (November 13, 2005)
First Chapter: ‘Flat Tax Revolution’ (November 13, 2005)
Forum: Book News and Reviews
These two new books, both coming from the right, suggest that merely reforming the current system is too timid. The correct policy medicine, the authors say, is to junk the income tax entirely and replace it with a consumption tax with a single tax rate for all Americans.

Filed under: Economics

Tax Panel, Thoughts

Tax Reform Panel’s Report Now in Treasury’s Hands – Center for American Progress
First Impressions
Statement of John S. Irons, Ph.D. Center for American Progress Director of Tax and Budget Policy
Read the full report (PDF)
November 1, 2005
The Presidents Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform today released its final report and recommendations to the Treasury Department and the public. The final report represents months of careful deliberation and policy analysis, and we at the Center for American Progress look forward to reviewing in more detail the panels report in the coming days and weeks.
The panel has carefully confronted many of the tradeoffs that inevitably arise when considering broad tax reform; however, it is likely that the final report and the panels recommendations will be cherry-picked by the Bush administration to fit its prior ideological agenda. For example, the administration may highlight the expanded role of tax breaks for savings, lower taxes on capital income, corporate tax breaks for capital investment, and the costly elimination of the Alternative Minimum Tax.

Filed under: Economics

The Future of Tax Reform: Overhaul or More of the Same?

Video and transcripts now online…

The Future of Tax Reform: Overhaul or More of the Same?

William Gale, Arjay and Frances Fearing Miller Chair in Federal Economic Policy and Deputy Director of the Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution
Howard Gleckman, Senior Correspondent, Business Week
Gene Sperling, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress
Ruy Teixeira, Joint Fellow, Center for American Progress and The Century Foundation
Moderated by:
John Irons, Director of Tax and Budget Policy, Center for American Progress
The President’s Tax Reform Panel will soon issue its final report to the Treasury Department. While final details are still to be worked out, the panel has already presented blueprints for reform. Are more tax changes on the way?
Can a comprehensive overhaul be achieved, or will we see more of the same policies of the past five years? How has tax policy changed and where is it headed? What are the merits of the tax reform panel’s proposals? Does the American public have an appetite for major tax reform? Will tax reform move to the forefront of Congress’s legislative agenda, or again be relegated to the back burner?
Join us as a panel of experts grapple with these questions and more.


Filed under: Economics

Budget Cuts

Congressional Republicans looking to cut food stamps…

Rhetoric Meets Reality in the Budget Season
It was unfortunate political timing for House Republicans: On Friday, as the Agriculture Committee was drafting budget-cutting legislation that could knock 295,000 people off food stamps, the Agriculture Department released findings that 529,000 more Americans went hungry last year than in 2003.
The juxtaposition neatly encapsulated the problems that Republicans will have this week and next when they try to put their rhetorical zeal for spending restraint into legislative action.
The Senate took up far-reaching legislation yesterday that would slice $39 billion over the next five years from a slew of entitlement programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, student loans and agriculture subsidies, while raising revenue by opening Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. A final vote is due Thursday.
The House will go further. Most likely by Thursday, the House Budget Committee will take up eight different bills from eight different committees saving at least $50 billion over five years. In so doing, the legislation will rewrite welfare laws, curb federal support of state child-support enforcement, reverse a court-mandated expansion of foster-care programs, and make significant changes to Medicaid, such as allowing states to add co-payments and premiums for families just above the poverty line. The full House is expected to take up the measure next week.
Even $50 billion is just a 0.6 percent nick out of the $7.8 trillion in federal entitlement spending expected over the next five years. At $844 million over five years, the embattled food-stamp cuts account for less than half a percent of the total food-stamp budget over that time, said House Agriculture Committee Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte (R-Va.).
But Democrats will emphasize that even that level of cuts will mean real pain for real people. And according to the Congressional Budget Office, neither the House nor the Senate bills will actually trim projected budget deficits, since they will be followed by a package of tax-cut extensions that would cost the Treasury $70 billion over five years.

Filed under: Economics