Bob Dole, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you?

Whatever happened to the Republican Party which heard Senator Robert Dole accept his nomination, and say:

“But if there’s anyone who has mistakenly attached themselves to our party in the belief that we are not open to citizens of every race and religion, then let me remind you, tonight this hall belongs to the Party of Lincoln. And the exits which are clearly marked are for you to walk out of as I stand this ground without compromise.”

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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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Filed under Amodei, Nevada politics, Politics, Taxation

Taxscam 101: A Look At Deductions Lost by Individuals and Families (Part 2)

In general, the Republican tax plan makes tax cuts for corporations and businesses permanent while making those for individuals and joint filers temporary.  Further, those closed loopholes are YOURS.  Those special interests are homeowners, students, and employees.  The short version is: The loopholes being closed are those which benefit working Americans and not those which benefit the 1% or corporate America.

Here are a few: (pdf)

Section 1204: Under the provision, the deduction for interest on education loans and the deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses would be repealed. The exclusion for interest on United States savings bonds used to pay qualified higher education expenses, the exclusion for qualified tuition reduction programs, and the exclusion for employer-provided education assistance programs would also be repealed.

One of the ways the tax code can be used to encourage people to do certain things is by giving people a deduction for it — like deductions for the interest paid on student loans.  It really makes no sense to pontificate on the jobs/education mismatch if one isn’t going to help people retrain for new positions.  Nor does it help people wanting to enter STEM jobs to tell them, go ahead but we aren’t going to offer any assistance like a tax deduction for the student loan interest you’re paying.  And you can’t even deduct the interest paid by your US Savings Bonds used to pay educational expenses!

Section 1303: Under the provision, individuals would not be allowed an itemized deduction for State and local income or sales taxes, but would continue to be entitled to a deduction for State and local income or sales taxes paid or accrued in carrying on a trade or business or producing income. Individuals would continue to be allowed to claim an itemized deduction for real property taxes paid up to $10,000.

This provision doesn’t hit Nevada (with no income taxes) all that hard, but it does hurt states that do have an income tax — like the other 43 of them.  Notice the phrase “or producing income?”  if your tax liabilities come from (1) carrying on a trade, or (2) running a business, or (3) producing income — you get to deduct them.   Now, what produces “income” without trade or business activities?  If you guessed “investments” you’d be correct.

Section 1304: Under the provision, the deduction for personal casualty losses would generally be repealed. The provision would be effective for tax years beginning after 2017. The deduction for personal casualty losses associated with special disaster relief legislation would not be affected.

We’ve highlighted this one previously, and no matter how you cut it, unless Congress votes to declare your area a national disaster (like Texas after Hurricane Harvey) your personal casualty losses aren’t deductible.  Thus, if everything you own is pretty much gone after the earthquake, wildland fire, blizzard, or whatever… unless you get the Special Nod from Congress, YOYO.

Section 1307: Under the provision, an individual would not be allowed an itemized deduction for tax preparation expenses. The provision would be effective for tax years beginning after 2017.

Remember the Republicans are touting this bill as a Job Creator — a notion as fictional as the “job creators” who sit around exchanging hybrid and artificial financial products — but consider for a moment the jobs this section eliminates.  About 43% of Americans file their taxes from home (using some tax software or the plastic brains calculator and some pencil sharpening) the rest use a tax preparation service — an industry sector with about 109,000 firms in 2012, and a 2% growth rate to 2015.  Further, “The vast majority of tax preparers are small businesses – 37% are run by a single person, while 53% employ less than ten people.”   And, yet we hear the Republicans claim to be all about “small businesses.”  The big accounting firms are going to do quite well under the GOP plan, those Mom & Pop bookkeeping services or small local accounting firms/franchises are the ones to worry about.

Section 1308: Current law: Under current law, a taxpayer may claim an itemized deduction for out-of-pocket medical expenses of the taxpayer, a spouse, or a dependent. This deduction is allowed only to the extent the expenses exceed ten percent of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income. Provision: Under the provision, the itemized deduction for medical expenses would be repealed. The provision would be effective for tax years beginning after 2017.

Again, this one! Of all the egregious provisions in the Republican plan this has to be the very worst.

Section 1310: Under current law, a taxpayer may claim a deduction for moving expenses incurred in connection with starting a new job, regardless of whether or not the taxpayer itemizes his deductions. To qualify, the new workplace generally must be at least 50 miles farther from the former residence than the former place of work or, if the taxpayer had no former workplace, at least 50 miles from the former residence.
Provision: Under the provision, the deduction for moving expenses would be repealed. The provision would be effective for tax years beginning after 2017.

And this one again. Notice it’s all on the individual employee — the JCT expects this will put about $10.6 billion in the Treasury from 2018 to 2027. ($1.06 billion each year)  For about a billion bucks a person could buy a couple of Airbus 380s.  Not exactly a major revenue stream for the government in comparison to what employees would face in a major career move or reassignment.

Why are we discussing these items? Because the Republicans want a plan of which 80% of the benefits go to the top 1% of the population.  But, how about those ads on TV about how much money we’ll get back to put in our own pockets?  A bit of unsolicited advice: (1) the numbers are fudgy — too much of it depends on the Growth Fairy waving her magic wand; (2) the numbers are fudgy — the studies from which the numbers are selected aren’t very well tested; and (3) the numbers are fudgy — the numbers actually show us that what the Republicans are proposing is a deficit financed tax cut.  And, here we we’re thinking they were “deficit hawks” and all for “fiscal responsibility” and “lower national indebtedness.”  Maybe not. so. much.

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Filed under Nevada politics, nevada taxation, Politics, tax revenue, Taxation

The Greatest Failure: The Failure to Mitigate Lethality

If memory serves, the current occupant of the White House made much of a promise to “keep Americans safe.”  We aren’t safe. Especially not from armed gunmen, not from deranged killers who have easy access to unimaginable levels of lethality.  Perhaps one of the reasons we aren’t safe (in schools, on college campuses, in movie theaters, at restaurants, in concerts, at clinics, at big box retailers, in churches…) is that we’re asking the wrong question.

The question isn’t: What can we do to prevent “it?”  The question should be what can we do to mitigate the lethality of these incidents?

We know what to do — we just haven’t been able to get the job done. And we’ve not gotten the job done because we have elected spineless, ethically challenged, gutless wonders to our Congress.  They are quick to advise us to offer our thoughts and prayers for the victims of these tragedies — from Columbine to Sutherland Springs — but well short of the mark on offering constructive ways to deal with the mounting death toll.

We should, by now, have had Universal Background Checks on the books. No gun show loopholes, no unreasonable limitations on background check timing, no obstructions to agencies sharing information with one another about gun sales and violence.  This won’t “solve” any particular incident, but it could prevent at least one more sale of semi-automatic weapons to the next deranged idiot.

We should, by now, have re-instituted the assault weapons ban.  No, this doesn’t “solve” a specific incident, but there is NO reason for assault weaponry to be in civilian hands.  This is, as Granny’s old line goes, “asking for trouble.”

We should, by now, have limitations on magazine capacity.  Magazines sold to civilians don’t need to maximize the slaughter of other Americans.

We should, by now, have a bill sailing through the Congress outlawing the sale of items which have the sole purpose of modifying a semi-automatic weapon into automatic one, or one which allows the shooter to simulate automatic weapon fire.  All this does is increase the lethality of the gun, at the expense of our fellow Americans.

Sometimes we forget that Nevada’s had not one, but two, mass shootings. On September 6, 2011 a mentally ill man opened fire at the Carson City IHOP restaurant killing four people (three of whom were members of the National Guard) and wounding seven others with a Norinco Mak 90 semiautomatic rifle.  A neighboring businessman tried to return fire but was prevented from doing so because of the rate of fire from the shooter.  Then there was the mass slaughter at the country-western music festival in Las Vegas, October 1, 2017 which left 58 dead and 546 injured. While news reports focused on why the shooters opened fire, not as many focused on how the lethality of these incidents could have been mitigated.   There were calls to ban the “bump stocks” but little else.

And after Mother Emanuel there’s Sutherland Springs; churches, sanctified spaces, communal and public, for respite and spiritual rejuvenation — and murder.   Could we have mitigated the lethality of these incidents?  If we can’t prevent such heinous acts acts the least we can do is to take action to reduce the death toll, to reduce the number of victims, to reduce the pain and suffering of yet more families.

Perhaps we can do this if we reduce the number of members of Congress who spinelessly, gutlessly, obsequiously, cave into pressure from the gun manufacturer’s lobby and “government relations” squadrons.

One way to start is a bit of self-education, beginning with a stop at the Center for Responsive Politics’ Open Secrets website.   How much money from the gun manufacturer’s lobby has your member of Congress taken?  How much money have your Senators received from the NRA, Gun Owners of America, Shooting Sports Foundation, or the Safari Club International?  How much money should their campaigns be returning as “blood money?”

The carnage won’t stop until WE the People make phone calls, send postcards, take to the streets, write letters to the editor, and speak out — armed with our own type of ammunition: Facts about the slaughter of innocent Americans at the hands of those whose easy access to firearms of increasing lethality makes them a danger to ourselves and our communities.

#DoSomething !

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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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Everything Old Is New Again: GOP Tax Plan Misses Most Of The Nevada Middle

I think we’re going to have to agree that Republicans will call anything a “middle class tax cut” because it sounds good — not necessarily because the tax cuts are primarily for the benefit of middle income people.  Right off the bat, we have to take some care with what constitutes “middle class” and for this one of the best calculators is provided by Pew Research.

For example, a single person earning $65,000 pretax income living in the Reno area is definitely in the “middle,” like 53% of the income earners in that metropolitan region.  A household of four, in which the annual income is $142,000 is in the same middle position.  However, if we enter an annual income of $250,000 for a family of four in the Reno area, then the calculation is that the family is in the upper income tier, along with about 17% of other Reno area residents.   The status is about the same for this hypothetical family living in the Las Vegas area, only the income is comparable to 15% of the population.  Thus when the GOP discusses incomes above $200,000 as “middle class” they’re out of the calculation range — which maximizes closer to $150,000.

We should note that the middle bracket of the proposed tax plan is at a 25% rate for incomes between $45,000 and $200,000.  This modification allows the inclusion of those who would otherwise be classified as Upper income in Nevada metropolitan areas (those with incomes above $150,000) into the Middle range.  10.2% of Nevada income tax filers in 2015 reported incomes between $100,000 and $200,000.  Only 2.48% of Nevada filers reported incomes between $200,000 and $500,000.  The air gets thinner in the upper reaches:  0.43% reported incomes between $500,000 and $1 million; only 0.26% reported incomes in excess of $1 million.  (The median household income in Nevada is $51,847 and the per capita income is $26,541.)

In addition to artificially inflating the “middle class,” the Republicans have gift wrapped  their Wish List From Christmas Past — ending the estate tax, and eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax — neither of which have a single thing to do with being in the Great American Middle.

Nevada has no estate tax, and the federal inheritance tax is on estates in excess of $5.4 million, or $10.9 million per family.  There are approximately 30 estates in Nevada liable for the federal estate tax (2016). [cbpp]  Avoidance of liability for federal estate taxes isn’t a common topic of conversation in Nevada’s 1,016,709 households.   Under the GOP plan the estate maximum would increase to $11.9 million and the tax would be eliminated by 2024. [NPR]

The Alternative Minimum Tax is supposed to insure that higher income households pay something into the federal coffers along with the rest of us:

“Taxpayers pay the higher of either their tax calculated under regular income tax rules or their tax calculated under the alternative minimum tax (AMT) rules. Because the 39.6 percent top rate under the regular income tax is higher than the 28 percent top statutory AMT rate, households with very high incomes who do not attempt to shelter much income typically pay based on the regular income tax system. Households that are not at the very top but still have relatively high incomes face somewhat lower statutory tax rates under the regular tax and are therefore more likely to pay the AMT.” [TPC]

Again, we’re not speaking of The Great American Middle — we’re speaking of those in upper income brackets, whether there are four brackets or seven.   Pro-tip:  If your family has spent time discussing the Alternative Minimum Tax and the Estate Tax — you’re not in the Middle of those 1,016,709 Nevada families.

There’s one other major feature of the Republican tax plan which has precious little to do with Nevada’s middle class — the Pass Through, explained as follows by the Washington Post:

“Pass through” companies. Some wealthy Americans who run businesses structured as sole proprietorships, partnerships or LLCs would get a sizable discount on their taxes. Under the GOP bill, these “pass through” companies would pay a tax rate of only 25 percent on 30 percent of their business income, a big reduction from the 39.6 percent rate some pay now. The bill tries to prevent “service firms” like law firms and accounting firms from being able to pay the lower 25 percent rate, but a good tax lawyer can probably make the case for these firms to qualify. Also, on the campaign trail, Trump said that hedge funds were “getting away with murder” on their taxes and that he would take away carried interest, the popular opening in the tax code these Wall Street titans use. But the bill does not change or eliminate carried interest, which is also used by some real estate developers.”

S’cuse me while I run to my attorney and figure out a way to incorporate myself into a lovely little LLC and thus avoid tax rates paid by “ordinary” people — or, I would if I weren’t an ‘ordinary’ person.  And, we still haven’t toted up the lost deductions — home mortgage interest on loans over $500,000, interest on student loans, tax incentives for hiring veterans and disabled people…  Yes, this does get worse.  Stay tuned.

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Scary Stuff Indeed

Yesterday was an extremely interesting day, replete with all manner of scary stuff compliments of social media platforms and a Special Counsel. However, not all of the frightening items were associated with the Trump Campaign’s eagerness to get the produce of Russian hacking, and Russian assistance.  Here’s some other stuff in the GOP treat basket:

ICE again proves its ultimate heartlessness and horrifying lack of understanding of what it means to “protect” Americans; illustrated by the case of Rosa Maria Hernandez — a ten year old with cerebral palsy undergoing gall bladder surgery.  And, this isn’t the only case — there was the story of parents arrested while their child was having brain surgery, the arrest of an undocumented Iraqi man who was serving as a bone marrow donor for his niece, and a brain tumor patient pulled from a hospital.  ICE thus becomes the ultimate Halloween Scary Story.  Candidates for public office ought to be ask outright how they would assist in the process of getting immigration officials to adhere to their own guidelines on “sensitive locations.’

Nobody in the GOP appears to be all that outraged that the Trump Campaign not only accepted assistance from the Russians, but actively sought to get the goods on Secretary Clinton from Russian sources.  This isn’t normal, or even paranormal — it’s the kind of thing that would make any other campaign (Democratic or Republican) call the FBI if the Russians showed up at the door with treats.  But still, #45 refuses to accept the fact that the Russians at least meddled and at most attacked the US with campaign “assistance” — social media help; opposition research; and, (the part we keep ignoring) attempts to hack into the voting systems of at least 21 and possibly 39 states.  We do need much more attention paid to the last item on the list since the Cult-45 group persists in saying this is a Spook, there’s nothing to see here.

Somehow a tiny company in Montana got a whopper contract, now cancelled, to supply power to the entire island of Puerto Rico.  Nothing puts a place like Whitefish, Montana on the map like having the Secretary of the interior stammering he’s nothing to do with this — and if I believe this then you could easily get me to believe that all the little spookies at the door are Real!

It’s been 30 days since the tragic Las Vegas Shooting, and what has the Congress done to limit high capacity magazines? Bump stocks? Anything?  This month has been a nightmare for the families of the deceased, and the families of the injured.  The nightmare will continue until politicians stop being terrified of the National Rifle Association.

Republicans have been unable to explain away the specter of Opioid Abuse while cutting massive amounts of funding from Medicaid.  The GOP budget calls for cutting some $1.5 trillion from the program over the next decade — while 30% of opioid treatment is covered by Medicaid insurance.   States, already strapped by the crisis will have to either come up with more funding or ration care — speaking of Death Panels…

The Senate of the United States believes that individual Americans are perfectly capable of taking on The Big Banks all by themselves — Super Heroes in Litigation.  So, on October 24, 2017 the Senate voted to dismiss a CFPB rule that would have allowed class action law suits against the Big Banks by ripped off customers; forcing those customers into individual arbitration.  Senator Dean Heller was pleased to vote in favor of this nightmare.

This list seems long enough to send sentient beings into the closet for the Halloween Season, one almost shudders to think what more the Republicans have in mind — like the tax cuts for the 1% and questionable benefits for the rest of the population…

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Filed under anti-immigration, Gun Issues, Immigration, Medicaid, Politics