Category Archives: Amodei

Nevada’s Most Super Sensitive GOP Staffer (with suggestions for alternative messages)

Before all elseMarch for Our LivesReno 11:30 AM, Downtown City Plaza (10 N. Virginia Street) Saturday, March 24, 2018.  Forecast: Mostly sunny, 45F high.

March for Our LivesLas Vegas 10:00 AM, Smith Center for the Performing Arts, downtown Las Vegas 361 Symphony Park. March 24, 2018.  Partly cloudy, 70F high.

March for Our LivesMesquite 10:00 AM, Mesquite City Hall, South Yucca St. and Mesquite Blvd. March 24, 2018.  Partly cloudy, gusty wind, 73F High.

March for Our LivesTruckee (CA) 11:00 AM, Truckee Regional Park, rodeo staging area, Brockway Road, March 24, 2018.  Possible chance of  snow showers (50%), 31F high.

And then there’s Mark Amodei (R-NV2)  whose staff was offended by a student dropping the F-word during a call to his office concerning gun control issues.  According to Amodei, the staffer called the young man’s high school without asking for retaliation or retribution. Amodei promptly ascribed the teen’s suspension to the school and took no responsibility for what happened — which SO sounds like the District 2 representative.

And here’s another Amodei-an excuse for the ages:

“Amodei defended his staffer and said no apology is necessary. The congressman said the situation was not a matter of shutting down the student’s First Amendment rights.

“I’m not apologizing because my guy accurately described what happened in the phone call,” he said.

Amodei said the student’s rudeness prompted Arturo Garzon, who serves as one of the Nevada Republican constituent services representatives, to call the school. Garzon managed to reach the principal by chance, he said.”

Just a few points to make here.  First, no one appears to be arguing about what the young man said.  No one is arguing about whether what our super sensitive staffer heard. No one is arguing that the super sensitive staffer didn’t relay this information.  However, no one should be buying the excuse being shopped by the Representative.  What we might want to ask is: If the person who dropped the F-bomb in the course of calling the Congressman’s office was a 45 year old man — would the super sensitive staffer have called the person’s place of employment?  If the constituent caller was a 30 year old housewife, would our super sensitive staffer call the spouse?  If the caller was an 80 year old retiree would our super sensitive staffer call the retirement home?  Somehow I don’t think so.

Yes, our Super Sensitive Staffer has “first amendment rights,” and is entitled to be as offended as Great Auntie Ellie might be; what he does NOT have is the privilege of whining to a person’s school, place of employment, or others in authority, to express that sentiment to the detriment of the individual.  The ACLU argues that a constituent has the right to expect a reasonable measure of privacy:

“We at the ACLU of Nevada and the public would certainly welcome Congressman Amodei’s justification of his office’s retaliation against his constituent. While congressional staffers do have First Amendment rights, they do not have rights to retaliate against constituents by exposing their confidential conversations and communications,” Story said. “Every constituent petitions the government with an expectation of privacy, if their opinion is to be made public, that choice is the constituents to make, not the Congressman’s or his staff’s. The oath the congressman swore to uphold applies to every constituent, not just the ones with whom he agrees.”

There’s a bit more to examine here:

After this call, a staffer from Congressman Amodei’s office called Noah’s school and, in an act of unconstitutional retaliation, reported this conversation as “offensive.” Noah was then suspended for two days for “disrespectful behavior/language,” even though none of his speech was directed at school staff or other students.

It would seem that the Super Sensitive Staffer decided to not only contact the school with a direct report of the young man’s comment, but added his own opinion stating the call was “offensive.”  Indeed, the Super Sensitive Staffer may have his opinion, but why else would he call McQueen High School unless he intended for the school to do something in retribution for the so-called “offense?”  To do so would leave us with the impression that our Super Sensitive Staffer is the sort of person who would hang out at the mall, and then call schools should those wearing their school identifying clothing engage in public displays of affection?  “I just thought I should tell you that _____ was hanging out with a ____ at the mall, and they were…kissing…in public…right there in front of everyone…”

As a public service, Desert Beacon offers a glossary of terms one might wish to use during calls to Congressman Amodei’s office lest his Super Sensitive Staffers be “offended.”

For “get off your f-ing asses” we might substitute the following:

Please abjure fornication with a beast of burden (or posteriors, backsides) such that time is available for legislative action. 

Do terminate coition with any equus asinus (or buttocks, bottoms) for an interval of sufficient length for the consideration of necessary legislation.

It is requested that coitus be interrupted with a neddy (or hindquarters, fanny, rumps) so that legislative issues might be discussed and debated.

We call for the cessation of copulation with any and all burros (or derriéres)   in order to give ample time to consider the passage of desired legislative action.

We encourage the Representative to discontinue any intimate relationship with donkeys (or posteriors, fundaments) so that necessary legislation may be considered and enacted. 

Here’s hoping other Amodei constituents will find these suggestions helpful when dealing with Amodei’s Super Sensitive Staffers.  Good Luck.

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The Sound of Silence: Heller and Mass Shootings — Sandy Hook to Parkland

October 2, 2017:  A statement from Senator Dean Heller’s office:

“Nevada families are waking up to the shocking news of the tragic events that occurred last night in Las Vegas. Our communities are all in mourning as we try to understand this senseless massacre on the Strip,” said Heller. “I want to thank our first responders for their swift actions and efforts that without a doubt saved numerous lives. I’ve been in contact with the White House and Governor Sandoval, and I will continue to monitor the situation as this horrific event unfolds. Lynne and I are praying for all of the victims and their families who are experiencing immense pain and grave, shocking loss that cannot be measured.”

Let us parse.

“Nevada families are waking up to the shocking news of the tragic events that occurred last night in Las Vegas. Our communities are all in mourning as we try to understand this senseless massacre on the Strip,”

tragic events?”  It was a Shooting.  A man armed with a small arsenal rented a room with a view to kill concert-goers.  He used a bump stock to increase the lethality of his weaponry.  59 dead and 851 injured.  It was an event — singular, and singularly lethal.

as we try to understand…”  What is it we don’t understand?  When the shooting stopped there were 58 dead people, one more if we count the shooter.  Perhaps we don’t know the killer’s motive, but when the body count is 58 there’s not much more we need to comprehend other than the murderous SOB assembled his arsenal, loaded his weapons, and voluntarily fired into a crowd of concert attendees.  Jury duty training tells us there was a crime; the individual in question perpetrated the criminal act; and he did it with good old fashioned malice aforethought.  There doesn’t seem to be much more we need to understand.

praying for the victims and their families…” Yes that’s appropriate.  What we’d like to find out is what our Senator thinks should be done after we finish with the thoughts and prayers portion of the formulaic Republican/NRA response to this horror.

October 5, 2017: Senator Heller answers questions about what might be done to mitigate the lethality of the next mass shooting event, and his response

“Let me be clear, I’m not interested in watering down the Second Amendment,” Mr Heller, Nevada Republican, said on Fox News.  Mr. Heller was asked if he would support a ban on a device called a “bump stock,” which authorities now say the gunman used.  “You show me the law that would stop that, not only will I support it, I will be an advocate for that law,” he said.”

There’s a lack of clarity in this statement, i.e. what is “that?”  Was the Senator saying if we want to stop the sale of bump stocks he will be an advocate? Or, was he saying if a single law could have prevented the mass killing he would support it?  We do know that he’s previously not wanted to “water down” 2nd Amendment absolutism.  We know what he did in April 2013.

“On the weekend after Nevada Sen. Dean Heller joined 15 fellow Republicans to kill a GOP-led filibuster of gun-control legislation, he returned to his hometown of Carson City and ate with his family at an IHOP restaurant—the same one where a gunman went on a rampage in 2011, killing four people and injuring more than a dozen others before killing himself. In the process, the gunman unloaded a 30-round magazine clip and rocked the sense of safety in the small Nevada community.”

Did the Senator join with others to alleviate the carnage in the wake of the Sandy Hook Mssacre?

“But when the Senate began to take up individual pieces of gun-control legislation earlier this week, Heller joined with nearly all Republicans and several Democrats to vote no—no on an amendment to ban assault weapons, no on a measure to limit magazine capacity, and no on the Manchin-Toomey amendment to expand background checks for gun sales.” [TDB]

The original Machin-Toomey bill went down to a GOP filibuster 54-46.  If we drill down a little further the form of Senator Heller’s objections — his defense of the absolutism of the 2nd Amendment — become clearer.  The following votes were taken on April 17, 2013.

Vote 97 (113th Congress) Senator Heller votes “nay” on the Manchin Amendment to “protect Second Amendment rights, ensure that all individuals who should be prohibited from buying a firearm are listed in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and provide a responsible and consistent background check process.”

Vote 98 (113th Congress) Senator Heller votes “yea” on the Grassley Amendment, which purported to improve the background check system and prevent straw purchases and gun trafficking.  However, the poison pill in the Grassley-Cruz amendment was that while it did address trafficking, it also made it easier to purchase and carry guns across state lines. [WaPo]

Vote 99 (113th Congress) Senator Heller also voted “nay” on the Leahy Amendment “To increase public safety by punishing and deterring firearms trafficking.”  Not only did our Senator not seem to want to “water down” the 2nd Amendment, he even voted against an amendment which the NRA supported after the language was changed to allow for easy transfer of guns as gifts and prizes.  [WaPo]

Vote 100 (113th Congress) Senator Heller was among those voting “yea” on the Cornyn Amendment to facilitate reciprocity for concealed carry across state lines.  In other words, to create a situation in which the least restrictive states would inform how all other states regulate concealed carry issues.

Vote 101 (113th Congress) Senator Heller was one of the forty US Senators to vote against the Feinstein Amendment to “regulate assault weapons, to ensure that the right to keep and bear arms is not unlimited, and for other purposes.”  There wasn’t much hope that the assault weapon  would be passed, but Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) had promised Senator Feinstein he would bring the amendment to the floor.

Vote 102 (113th Congress) Senator Heller voted “yea” on the Burr Amendment to “protect” the gun rights of veterans and military families.  This is an interesting vote because it contains issues pertinent to today’s debate.  Original language in the proposed legislation said that veterans receiving disability benefits who are deemed unable to manage their own financial affairs would be precluded from owning firearms.  Opponents of this amendment argued that the proposed language would make it easier for mentally ill individuals to obtain firearms.

Vote 103 (113th Congress) Senator Heller voted “nay” on the Lautenberg Amendment to regulate large capacity ammunition feeding devices.

Vote 104 (113th Congress) Senator Heller voted in favor of the Barrasso Amendment to  withhold 5 percent of Community Oriented Policing Services program Federal funding from States and local governments that release sensitive and confidential information on law-abiding gun owners and victims of domestic violence.  Senator Barrasso was disturbed that a New York newspaper had compiled a list of gun owners from county information sources.

What did the 113th Congress do? It did agree to provide more funding for mental health services.   There was a pattern evident in the 2013 votes in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting.  Republicans were focused on ‘gun rights’ without restriction and in favor of passing legislation (without mentioning the word ‘gun’) concerning mental health.  Not to put too fine a point to it but when the shooters are white there is a voluminous amount of palaver concerning mental health; when the shooter is Muslim there is a chorus of indignation about terrorism; and, when the shooter is Black the GOP conversations shifts to “broken homes,” “lifestyles,” and “gangs.” Whether it’s mental health, terrorism, or broken homes — the GOP result is the same and the debate is diverted away from guns and toward some security or societal issue.   This pattern would test the Republicans in the wake of the San Bernardino shooting in December 2015.

On December 2, 2015 14 people were killed and another 22 seriously injured in a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. On June 12, 2016 49 people were killed and another 58 wounded at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.  During June 2016 a bipartisan group of Senators proposed a “No Fly, No Buy” bill prohibiting those on the TSA No Fly List for terrorism suspects from purchasing firearms. [NYT]  Subsequent attempts to apply “No Fly No Buy” became entangled in the appropriations bill for the Commerce, Justice, Science, and related agencies during the 114th Congress.  The following votes are of particular interest:

Vote 103 (114th Congress) Senator Heller votes “nay” on a cloture vote to bring up S Amendment 4751 to address gun violence and improve the availability of records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.  This element of the No Fly No Buy fails on a 53-47 vote.

Vote 106 (114th Congress) Senator Heller again votes “nay” on a cloture vote to bring up S Amendment 4720 to authorize the Attorney General to deny requests to transfer a firearm to known or suspected terrorists.

And thus ended the attempt to prevent those on the terrorist watch list from purchasing firearms in the United States of America. It was over on June 20, 2016.

March 3, 2018:  The White House hosted a “listening” session on gun violence in the wake of the Parkland, Florida killing of 17 people at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School.  Senator Heller did not attend.

“The office of Nevada’s senior senator, Republican Dean Heller, would not say why did he did not attend the White House meeting. Heller, who is facing a tough re-election fight, has avoided the spotlight in the subsequent days as well, declining to address specifics about his positions on gun legislation.”

Heller spokeswoman Megan Taylor declined to say whether the senator supported universal background checks, raising the age for gun purchases to 21, or provisions to ban high-capacity magazines and assault rifles, all ideas tossed out by lawmakers or President Trump in recent days.

“He looks forward to continuing discussions with his colleagues as Congress explores ways to enhance compliance with existing law and keep our communities safe,” Taylor said.

Heller has signed on to legislation known as “Fix NICS,” a modest measure supported by the NRA and intended to encourage better participation in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. It was one of the few gun bills to find bipartisan support and appeared poised to move ahead, only to be sidelined.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican who has said little about the gun debate in recent days, said Thursday that no gun-related legislation would be heard in the coming week. [TDB] [RGJ]

No more formulaic GOP press responses from Senator Heller. This massacre warranted  a tweet. “Lynne and I are heartbroken for those impacted by the senseless act of violence at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. We are praying for the victims and their families, the school’s students and faculty, as well the entire Parkland, FL community,” Heller wrote.” [NVIndy]  The only response less informative came from Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2): “The first thing that needs to be done is find out what the story is with this guy…so we have a 360-degree picture and then we’ll go from there,” Amodei said.” [NVIndy]

Perhaps in light of the Academy acknowledgment of an award winning rendition of Winston Churchill last evening, a quote from the Prime Minister is appropriate:

“It’s no use saying, ”We are doing our best.” You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Amodei’s Explanation?

February 15, 2018: Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) cast his “yes” vote for HR 620, the Americans with Disabilities Education and Reform Act.

Here’s Section 3 of that bill:

(Sec. 3) The bill prohibits civil actions based on the failure to remove an architectural barrier to access into an existing public accommodation unless: (1) the aggrieved person has provided to the owners or operators a written notice specific enough to identify the barrier, and (2) the owners or operators fail to provide the person with a written description outlining improvements that will be made to improve the barrier or they fail to remove the barrier or make substantial progress after providing such a description. The aggrieved person’s notice must specify: (1) the address of the property, (2) the specific ADA sections alleged to have been violated, (3) whether a request for assistance in removing an architectural barrier was made, and (4) whether the barrier was permanent or temporary.

And this summation from Newsweek describes the bill’s possible consequences:

“The bill would effectively gut the ADA, detractors argue. Without a fear of being sued, businesses might be inclined to ignore ADA compliance rules. Critics of the bill also believe people with disabilities should not bear the responsibility of making sure businesses are compliant with the law.

“Instead of expecting businesses to own the responsibility of complying with civil rights laws, it shifts the burden to the individual who is being denied access,” the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) wrote in a letter to congressional representatives on Thursday.

The ACLU called the bill unacceptable. “This scheme removes the business’s incentive to proactively ensure that it is accessible to people with disabilities,” it said. “Instead, businesses will simply wait until someone’s right to access is violated and notification is received before making the change they were already obligated to make.” (emphasis added)

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), argued businesses were subjected to “drive by” lawsuits concerning implementation of ADA requirements, and therefore “reform” was necessary.   However, shifting the burden of proof from the entity charged with denying appropriate access to the person making the complaint is a rather blunt instrument for assisting the disabled, and a boon to those who make accessibility difficult if not impossible.  And Representative Mark Amodei voted “yes.”  He’s fine with turning the ADA on its head.

He might want to explain this vote to the 108,054 (2015 AFB) people in Nevada who are significantly visually impaired?  There are other people to whom Representative Amodei might wish to explain his vote —  The Institute on Disability (University of New Hampshire) estimates that between 1.0% and 2.1% of Nevadans under 5 years of age were disabled, 5.7%-6.1% of those aged 5 to 17; 10.7% – 12.5% aged 18 to 64; and 33% to 35.1% over age 65. (pdf)  But Amodei’s protecting businesses from a gazillion frivolous lawsuits, right?…. Maybe not so much.

About those ‘frivolous” lawsuits, let’s hear from an advocate for the disabled:

“To be fair, I vehemently oppose frivolous ADA lawsuits for monetary gain. I cherish this law and hate hearing that some misuse it. However, frivolous lawsuits are not as prevalent as some believe. An analysis of ADA lawsuits in 2016 identified just 12 individuals and one organization that have filed more than 100 lawsuits each. And these lawsuits are not an ADA issue; they are a state and court problem. Indeed, ethics rules bar attorneys from bringing frivolous lawsuits. Rather than go after people with disabilities, attention should be focused on stopping these few bad attorneys.”

We can reasonably conclude that House Republicans have decided to “protect” businesses at the risk of targeting the disabled instead of unscrupulous attorneys.  Some explication is required.  At least it would be polite for Representative Amodei to offer one.

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Think of the Children! GOP tax plan is hazardous for children

I’m so old I remember when Republicans would bellow “Think of the Children” every time tax proposals were discussed and each time there was a proposal to spend a dime on anything.  Now they have a tax proposal which doesn’t help Nevada’s children — no matter how many times they invoke the Growth Fairy and insinuate the new plan will be better for “working families.”  Not so fast.  Here’s what their tax plan does:

Removes the Personal Exemption: The current tax code allows families a tax exemption of $4,050 per person. For some families, the loss of the personal exemption is recovered through the tax bill’s increase of the standard deduction to $12,000 for single filers and $24,000 for joint (married) filers. However, single parents with more than one child and married couples with three or more children would see their taxable income increase. [CFC]

Okay, so that category of families who will be “helped” doesn’t include single parents with more than one child, or married couples with three or more children…and this is “family friendly?” Thus a single parent can only have one child and benefit from the GOP tax plan, and a married couple can’t have three or more … who’s left?  But wait, there’s another blow to follow:

Insufficiently Increases the Child Tax Credit: The tax bill increases the current Child Tax Credit from $1,000 to $1,600, with an additional $300 credit per parent. The addition of the Family Credit is a marginal improvement over current law, but not for families with children who are working-class or living in povertyargues Senator Marco Rubio. Because the increases are not refundable, they won’t apply to families living under the poverty threshold, and the $300 parent credits would expire after five years. The proposal to index the refundable portion to inflation is also insufficient, as it uses a less generous estimate and ceases upon reaching $1600. (emphasis added)  [CFC]

That $600 increase looks good until the curtain is pulled back and the proposal doesn’t really apply to children in working class families…which would be most of them.  Notice the magic expiration date, that’s a recurring feature in the GOP plan wherein breaks for individuals and families expire but the breaks for corporations don’t.   However, we’re not through here:

Repeals the Adoption Tax Credit: The adoption tax credit, which is capped at $13,570 per adopted child is a vital support for families and helps alleviate the costs of adoption fees. The Adoption Tax Credit is an important tool for children in the child welfare system to achieve permanency, as it helps defray the expensive process of adoption, especially for children with high needs. In 2014 alone, 74,000 families claimed the credit. [CFC]

Thus much for the old line about supporting adoptions and being “pro-life.” We’ve posted before about average adoption costs, and here the GOP goes again: The Mouth says one thing while the hands do another.

The bottom line is that as far as Nevada families are concerned (1) the personal exemption is inadequate; (2) the child tax credit is insufficient; and (3) the elimination of adoption tax credits is unconscionable.   This really isn’t a great formula for the benefit of Nevada families and their children.

Voters in Nevada District 2 can let Representative Mark Amodei know how they feel about this at: 775-686-5760; 775-777-7705; or 202-225-6155.

Senator Heller can be contacted at: 702-388-6605; 775-686-5770; and 202-224-6244.

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Taxscam 101 Part One — Satisfy the 1% and Soak the Rest of Us

I think it’s safe to assume that Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) will be supporting the House Republican version of the Tax Cut Cut Cut… the last three words indicating what will happen for corporations, not what average Nevada income earners can expect from the proposal.  USA Today has a preliminary summation of some deductions INDIVIDUALS and FAMILIES won’t be able to use, that increase in the standard deduction is supposed to make up for this?   USA Today’s points are listed below, in red font.

Adoption: A tax credit worth up to $13,750 per child would end.  It’s a little hard to explain this one, given the GOP “pro-life” stance. It’s even harder to understand when the average cost for an adoption (2012-2013) was $39,996 using an adoption agency and $34,093 for an “independent” adoption. [AmAdopt]  Eliminating the tax credit to alleviate the impact of these expenses seems a strange way of encouraging couples to adopt children in need of permanent homes.

Alimony: To eliminate what Ways and Means Committee documents referred to as a “divorce subsidy,” alimony would no longer be deductible by the payor for decrees issued after 2017. Payments would be excluded from the recipient’s income.  I’m not at all certain that rebranding alimony as a “divorce subsidy” encourages support for single parents? This would also seem to make it all the more difficult for a parent to make child support payments?

Classroom costs: Teachers could no longer write off the cost of supplies they buy.  The reality is that not so long ago school districts kept supplies from pencils to facial tissues on hand; today these items (along with hand sanitizer) end up on lists of items parents are expected to purchase when the school year begins.  What isn’t subsidized by parents whose children are enrolled in cash strapped districts is usually purchased by teachers, to the tune of an average of $500 per teacher per year, with some teachers spending much more. [CNN money]  It’s been reasonably obvious Republicans aren’t great friends of public school teachers — but this suggestion is a direct slap at teacher’s own bank accounts.

College boosters: Sports fans would no longer be able to deduct 80% of the cost of donations to colleges if they are made only to become eligible to buy seats for games or get preferences such as prime parking spots.  The University of Minnesota isn’t sure what will happen to its program in light of this proposal, and universities in Nevada probably aren’t either.   UNLV and UNR both use booster donations to support their athletic scholarship funds. Perhaps lost in this controversial proposal is the notion that scholarship funds are, in most cases, not limited to a particular program but also support our “Olympic Sports.”  Donors to UNR and UNLV athletic funds might want to ask Representative Amodei why he might be in favor of this Republican plan.

Disaster losses: Currently, losses from theft or events such as flood, fire or tornado that exceed 10% of adjusted gross income are deductible. The bill would repeal that deduction, with one exception — disasters given special treatment by a prior act of Congress. A law enacted Sept. 29 increased the deduction for losses caused by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, and it was sponsored by Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas. Brady, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, is also sponsoring the tax overhaul.  How interesting — the plan doesn’t affect those battered by “Harvey” in Texas — but Florida, Puerto Rico, and others it’s YOYO time as far as the Republicans are concerned.  Since when do we, as a nation, not give people a break when they’ve lost everything, or nearly everything in a natural disaster?

Employee achievement awards: Complicated rules that allowed some cash awards from employers to be tax-free to the worker would become taxable.  Another interesting point — corporations can expect a big tax cuts, but employees earning cash awards from those corporations would be required to pay taxes on these kinds of achievement awards.

Employer-provided housing: Rules allowing for some workers to get housing and meals tax-free from their employers would face a new cap of $50,000, and benefits would be phased out for those earning more than $120,000.  So, if the employer has you (and perhaps your family) parked in “West Moose Bay” where groceries have to be flown in, and “housing” is only provided by the corporation — the subsidy is taxable?  And we haven’t even mentioned that Section 1310 eliminates moving expenses. (pdf)

Home sale gains: Right now, the gain on the sale of a home is not taxable if it is under $500,000 for joint filers as long as the home was the owner’s primary residence for two of the previous five years. New rules would require a home to be the primary home for five of the past eight years to qualify, and the income exclusion would be phased out for taxpayers with incomes over $500,000.  I suppose we can kiss the Bush Administration’s emphasis on home ownership goodbye? Little wonder there’s opposition to this proposal from the housing industry — and from those who construct homes as well. There’s more from USA Today on the topic of housing at this link.

Major medical costs: The decision to eliminate the deduction for medical expenses exceeding 7.5% of adjusted gross income was one of the bill’s “tough calls,” Brady said Friday. “The call is this: Do we want a tax code that has special provisions that you may need once in your life, or do we want a tax code that lowers rates every year of your life?” he said.  This may take the prize for lame explanations — ever.  Consider for a moment the victims of the Las Vegas shooting, some of whom will be facing major medical expenses exceeding 7.5% of their AGI — not just now but for years to come.  The idea that we should eliminate affordable comprehensive health insurance is bad enough, but this notion is downright heinous.  And, this from those who want to cut Medicare and Medicaid?

And this isn’t all — there are more atrocities in the USA Today article, and more specifics in the Ways and Means Committee summary of the bill.  (pdf)

Not to put too fine a point to it, but this bill, which will most likely be supported by Representative Amodei, could have been drafted by accountants and tax lawyers for major corporations and the top 1% of American income owners — to be paid for by those who are working in everyday jobs, who have to move to find employment, who are adoptive parents, who are victims of natural disasters, who are facing major medical expenses…

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Filed under Amodei, income tax, Nevada politics, Politics, tax revenue, Taxation

New Bull, Same Old Product: The Latest Incarnation of GOP Tax Cuts

For some reason, probably known but to the major donors of the Republican Party, “we” need a tax cut.  The rationale for this exercise echos the ubiquitous adolescent argument for automobile ownership — I need the car to go to work, I need to work to pay for the car.   In this instance, it’s argued that we need the tax cut to promote growth, and the growth to pay for the tax cut.  It’s the same old southbound product of a northbound male bovine we’ve heard so many times before.

Even the GOP assertions connect to this circuitous argument.  A tax cut, we are told, will promote economic growth — and Everyone will win.  Unfortunately, there’s no unanimous jury decision on this question.  First, there are some common methodological problems with altogether too many academic studies purporting to answer the question definitively.  Secondly, there are further issues intrinsic to discussion about how the tax cuts are to be offset.  Not all tax cut/reform proposals are created equal.

“The results suggest that not all tax changes will have the same impact on growth. Reforms that improve incentives, reduce existing subsidies, avoid windfall gains, and avoid deficit financing will have more auspicious effects on the long-term size of the economy, but may also create trade-offs between equity and efficiency.” [Gale, Brookings]

Therefore, if we step back and adopt the centrist conclusions of the Gale-Samwick Study quoted above, there appear to be some boxes to be checked off if the goal is to encourage long term economic growth, and one of those boxes calls for the avoidance of deficit financed tax cuts.

We are cautioned by Republican advocates that there are only two ways to reduce a federal deficit, either raise taxes or reduce spending.  The last iteration of a Republican tax cut, was not only deficit financed but the deficit was enhanced by the spending associated with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Since raising revenue by increasing taxation is anathema to Republican orthodoxy then there must be a reduction in spending.  Enter the proposals from the current Republicans to reduce Medicare spending by $472.9 billion over the next decade, and a further reduction of $1 to $1.5 trillion in cuts to the Medicaid program.

The current FY 2018 budget makes some assumptions which may be quickly frustrated. For example, the budget assumes no further military conflicts — the military expenditures assume readiness costs, not military operations; and, cuts to domestic expenditures  to a level not seen since the Hoover Administration.

If this sounds like the same old prescriptions from GOP decades past, there’s a reason for it which becomes obvious when the framework is examined.  What we have herein is NOT a new proposal for tax reform, but a recycling of ideas included in every recent Republican tax plan.

Cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 20%.  As noted previously in this site,  there are several options available to corporations, none of which have anything to do with increasing employment or raising wages — share buybacks, dividend payments, mergers and acquisitions, corporate bonuses, management compensation, etc.  The GOP argument rests on the fluid assumption that corporations will reward the nation with more plant expansion, research and development, and rising wages — without a scintilla of proof this will actually happen.

The 25% (15%) pass through rate.  This purports to be a bonus for small businesses.  In the real world most small businesses are already paying this rate or rates even lower.  Consider the following evaluation of the Pass Through business:

“Finally, the top statutory rates and average effective rates mask substantial differences in what individual business owners pay in taxes. Most businesses are small, earn relatively modest income, and thus face relatively low bracket rates. As a result, more than 85 percent of pass-through businesses in 2014 faced a top rate of 25 percent or less; only 3 percent faced a marginal rate greater than 30 percent (Figure 6).[10] However, a much larger share of pass-through income does face high marginal income tax rates. Almost half of pass-through income in 2014 came from businesses with a top rate of at least 35 percent.  In other words, a small number of large pass-throughs are responsible for the vast majority of the sector’s tax burden.”  (emphasis added)

Consumer Warning: Beware of muddled conflation of pass through taxation with income from pass through businesses.  85% of small businesses are already paying low pass through rates, and the income is coming from a small number of very wealthy pass through businesses.  It doesn’t take too much imagination to figure out these are lobby shops, law firms, and other wealthy operations which bear little resemblance to small law offices and other independent businesses.

The Death Tax is Coming, The Death Tax is Coming.  I have no reason to believe that there won’t be one more “small business owner,” or one more family farmer, hauled into camera range at a GOP function who will have some tale of woe about inheritance taxation — or as I prefer to call it: The Paris Hilton Legacy Protection Act.   99.8% of all Americans don’t have to pay the estate tax, and such taxes as are paid are 40% of the excess above $5.45 million.   One other point might be made at this point, it’s not the heirs who pay the estate taxation if any is due — it’s the estate, via the executors.  But the major number here is 99.8%, the 99.8% of Americans who will see absolutely no benefit from this “tax cut” at all.

Eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax, “which is intended to ensure that higher-income people who take large amounts of deductions and other tax breaks pay at least a minimum level of tax.”   Now, gee, if I could just see a certain President’s tax returns I could tell if he were liable for the AMT?  If I could be reassured that high profile NYC real estate developers, who take a spectacular range of deductions, might have to pay the Alternative Minimum Tax so they aren’t dodging their contributions almost entirely?  However, it’s been since May 20, 2014 since a certain presidential candidate said that if he decided to run for high office he’d release his tax returns — some 1,313 days ago…

In short, there’s nothing new here. It’s the same old south bound produce of a north bound bull.  Repackaged, with a new face in the Oval Office, and I remain convinced that two of our Congressional representatives, Senator Dean Heller and Representative Mark Amodei, will happily twist themselves into rhetorical knots trying to explain how cutting Medicare and Medicaid will benefit middle income Nevadans by pleasing the millionaires and billionaires among us.

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Filed under Amodei, Federal budget, Heller, income tax, Nevada politics, Politics, tax revenue, Taxation

Rep. Amodei’s Wonderful Record: January De-Regulation Edition

Representative Mark Amodei’s (R-NV2) record in the 115th Congress is as dubious as the institution itself.  For a group touting their “accomplishments” the actual record doesn’t quite hit that level.  Post Office namings, and other minutiae are not included in this list.

Roll Call 8, January 4, 2017:  Midnight Rules Relief Act — “This bill amends the Congressional Review Act to allow Congress to consider a joint resolution to disapprove multiple regulations that federal agencies have submitted for congressional review within the last 60 legislative days of a session of Congress during the final year of a President’s term. Congress may disapprove a group of such regulations together (i.e., “en bloc”) instead of the current procedure of considering only one regulation at a time.” Representative Amodei voted in favor of this bill (238-184).   But, wait, there’s more:

“According to the CRA, resolutions of disapproval not only nullify the regulation in question; they also prohibit a federal agency from issuing any other regulation that is “substantially the same” in the future, unless specifically authorized to do so by a future act of Congress. As a result, these mass-disapproval resolutions would permanently block agencies from addressing threats to public health and safety.”  (emphasis added)

Those who believe that things like corporate accountability, safe working conditions, clean air, and clean drinking water are important wouldn’t find this very appealing.  However, that didn’t stop Rep. Mark Amodei from supporting this bill, which was essentially a solution in search of a problem.

Roll Call 23, January 5, 2017:  “Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2017”  Representative Amodei voted in favor of this bill.  “(Sec. 3) The bill revises provisions relating to congressional review of agency rulemaking to require federal agencies promulgating rules to: (1) identify and repeal or amend existing rules to completely offset any annual costs of new rules to the U.S. economy.” [Cong]  This is vague to the point of ridiculousness.  There are several ways to do a cost analysis, and we can bet that the GOP has in mind only the most stringent, even if there is an obvious benefit to public health, safety, or general well being.  Frankly, there are some rules we have put in place which are expensive in terms of commercial and industrial calculations, but necessary in terms of public health and safety — we do not allow, for example, the unlimited release of arsenic into supplies of drinking water.   It’s hard to imagine this as a “major piece of legislation” without considering the potential hazards it creates for local governments and citizens who have to live with the pollution, work rules, and other regulations which place them at risk.

Roll Call 45, January 11, 2017: “(Sec. 103) This bill revises federal rulemaking procedures under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) to require a federal agency to make all preliminary and final factual determinations based on evidence and to consider: (1) the legal authority under which a rule may be proposed; (2) the specific nature and significance of the problem the agency may address with a rule; (3) whether existing rules have created or contributed to the problem the agency may address with a rule and whether such rules may be amended or rescinded; (4) any reasonable alternatives for a new rule; and (5) the potential costs and benefits associated with potential alternative rules, including impacts on low-income populations.”  Here we go again!  Yet another way to tie the hands of executive branch departments and agencies, and a GOP tenet for some time now.  Remember, the rules don’t have to be in one category (for example, environmental regulation) they can also cover such things as SEC rules and regulations, banking, and other financial regulations.   Representative Amodei, voted in favor of this bill and perhaps needs to explain if he meant this to handcuff the financial regulators who are responsible for seeing that Wall Street doesn’t replicate its performance in the run up to the Housing Crash of 2007-2008.

Roll Call 51, January 12, 2017:  SEC Regulatory Accountability Act, and yet another House attempt to slap a “cost-benefit” analysis on SEC regulations on financial market transactions.  Representative Amodei voted in favor of this bill.    There were objections to this bill at the time, and this is one of the more cogent:

“The most prominent new requirement would mandate that the SEC identify every “available alternative” to a proposed regulation or agency action and quantitatively measure the costs and benefits of each such alternative prior to taking action.  Since there are always numerous possible alternatives to any course of action, this requirement alone could force the agency to complete dozens of additional analyses before passing a rule or guidance. Placing this mandate in statute will also provide near-infinite opportunities for Wall Street lawsuits aimed at halting or reversing SEC actions, and would be a gift to litigators who work on such anti-government lawsuits. No matter how much effort the SEC devotes to justifying its actions, the question of whether the agency has identified all possible alternatives to a chosen action, and has properly measured the costs and benefits of each such alternative, will always remain open to debate.”

Speaking of a “Lawyers Full Employment Bill,” this is it.  Imagine voting in favor of allowing an infinite and interminable number of lawsuits demanding that the SEC consider ALL available options before promulgating a rule.  That didn’t stop Representative Amodei from voting in favor of it.

If you’re seeing a pattern, you’re right.  “De-regulation” has been a Republican talking point for the last 40 years.  However, while the term sounds positive when it’s generalized the devil, as they say, is in the details.  The January flood of deregulation bills in the 115th Congress wasn’t designed to tamp regulations on ordinary citizens, but on the corporations (especially in terms of environmental issues) and Wall Street players who want more “flexibility” in their transactions.

What the Republicans have yet to provide are instances of jobs lost because of environmental regulations.  Since this evidence is scarce, the next ploy is to argue that the costs outweigh the benefits.  By emphasizing the short term monetary costs the GOP minimizes the importance of long term economic or environmental costs, and the impact deregulation has on residents in our states and communities.

We can point to jobs lost after financial deregulation — Nevada was one of the poster children for financial sector deregulation impact.  Eight months later, Representative Amodei has yet to offer more than the usual highly generalized platitudes about the significance of the deregulation fervor during the first month of the 115th Congress.

We’ll be taking a look at some other “important” votes taken by our 115th Congress.  In the mean time, it’s depressing but productive to watch what this current Mis-administration is doing in regard to North Korea, Iran, women’s issues, common sense gun control legislation, and the various and sundry scams and grifts associated with the Cabinet.

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Filed under Amodei, Economy, financial regulation, Nevada politics, Politics