Tag Archives: amodei

Thank You For Your Service, Sort Of…

To all the flag-wavin’, flag-clutchin’, flag-wearin’, flag-supportin’ members of the the GOP,  and this includes senatorial candidate Dean Heller,  here’s some unsolicited advice on how to truly be supportive of our Armed Forces and veterans. Some of these don’t translate well into bumper stickers or shouted slogans, but they just might be more effective.

#1. Let’s start with NOT separating from service members of the military and reservists who happen to be immigrants on a path to citizenship. [USAT]  For crying out loud, these people are VOLUNTEERS.  They have volunteered to place themselves deliberately in harm’s way to protect the safety and security of the rest of us.  Aren’t these exactly the kind of people we want to join us as citizens of these United States?

#2.  Let’s stop creating deportation issues for some 11,800 members of our military families [MilTimes] and let’s stop deporting the spouses of our veterans [NBC].  Where, please, are the voices of our members of the US Senate — yes, Senator Heller, this includes you — and the voices of our Representatives in the House?  And, yes, Rep. Amodei (R-NV2) this means you as well.  Please don’t try to convince me of your love and respect for active duty personnel and veterans while you allow them to worry about the deportation status of their spouses — and the mothers and fathers of their children.

#3.  Let’s start paying members of the military what they are worth rather than beginning the calculation with what we think is the least amount we can pay and still meet budget restrictions. For example, the pay increase for member of the US military for 2017 was 2.1%, and granted that’s above the “austerity years” previously, but the inflation rate for 2017 was also 2.1% so our members of the armed forces didn’t actually get a raise in terms of real purchasing power.  The latest bill includes a 2.6% pay raise. Will this cover inflation rates? [Mil.com] [FedPay] Can I get an “Amen!” from Senator Heller? From Representative Amodei?  I’m not hearing anything…

#4. And, while we are discussing purchasing power… Remember back in April 2018 when the White House floated a proposal to cut SNAP benefits? [Mil.com]  Those cuts would effect members of the US military. [Mil.com]  That argument was still going on as of July 5, 2018. [SanAntonioC] How about we decide not to have this argument at all. How about paying members of the US military enough so SNAP benefits are unnecessary, or if they must be then making sure military families have sufficient resources to put food on their tables? This would seem to be a very supportive thing to advocate? Yes? Senator Heller? Yes? Representative Amodei?

Meanwhile, what’s happening in the current legislation headed to the Oval Office [USNI]  on Basic Housing Allowances? Whenever Senator McConnell says things including the phrase “more opportunity,” I begin to wonder Whose Opportunity to do what.  On Tricare? On dental treatment plans?

In short, let’s stop talking about “thank you for your service,” and “support the troops,” and DO something that allows them to be thankful they joined the US Armed Forces.  If we truly appreciate their service then we ought to be willing to pay for it.

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Filed under Amodei, Heller, Immigration, Military pay, Nevada politics, No Child Left Behind, Politics

The Tapestry of Our Lives

The thunder and lightning have passed, and it’s time to get back to the blog.  Not that the thunder and lightning in the country have abated in any significant way.  Senator Dean Heller seems to have attracted one strike:

The National Rifle Association has endorsed Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller and three other Republican candidates for Congress ahead of the June 12 primary elections.  Heller received an “A” rating from the NRA, which is given to pro-gun candidates who support the organization’s positions on key votes or who have a record of supporting Second Amendment.  The gun-rights group also endorsed Republican Rep. Rep. Mark Amodei who is seeking re-election in Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District. [NVIndy/News4]

May 18, 2018 10 people were killed and 13 injured in a mass shooting in Santa Fe, Texas.  Another month, another mass shooting in a school.  Once more the NRA wants to talk about anything except the guns.  It’s violent video games. It’s mental health. It’s Ritalin. It’s anything anything anything except the easy access to guns.  Sometimes we tend to express regret for the loss of talent as the tally of gun violence victims increases, but we might be missing an important point.  It’s the details that matter.  Perhaps there were or were not individuals who would have gone on to do great and notable things, that’s debatable. However, we do know that there were losses represented by the victim counts.

We may have lost an electrician?  A barber? A receptionist.  Someone who would have gotten up every morning to put in a days work, and come home every evening to be incorporated into the life of their family.

April 22, 2018, 4 people died and 3 others injured in a Waffle House in Antioch, Tennessee.  We lost a musician, we lost college students, we lost more threads in the fabric of our lives. We found a hero, an unarmed young man who stopped the shooter at great peril to his own life, and then went on to donate donations to his social media account to the families of victims.  We didn’t find a fantasy hero “good guy with a gun,” rather we found a good guy with courage, compassion, and the ultimate in civic responsibility.  We found James Shaw Jr.

April 18, 2018 a mother and her children died in a hail of gun fire from an ex-boyfriend in Asheville, North Carolina. The children loved to run track and to dance. We’ll never know if we lost a future Olympic medalist that day, we do know that we lost a family.  We lost a mother who was so scrupulous about housekeeping friends and family said, “You could eat off her floors.”  A mother who took her children to church every Sunday.  [ATC] We lost a family.

February 14, 2018, we lost 17 lives, with another 17 injured at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. They’ve Marched for their Lives. They’ve organized voter registration drives, they’ve appealed to the better angels of our nature.  They’ve warned politicians like Heller and Amodei that NRA endorsements aren’t what they used to be. We’ve lost and shattered too many families.

Every day the death toll mounts from mass and individual shootings, from suicides and accidents, we continue to lose plumbers, secretaries, mechanics, cooks, and soldiers.

February 10, 2018 a family of four was massacred in a murder-suicide in Johnson County, Kentucky. [lex18]  We continue to lose parents and grandparents.

Each time more victims are added to the lists we’ve lost more firefighters, carpenters, solar panel installers, roofers, landscapers, bookkeepers, and bus drivers.

November 5, 2017 27 people died, another 20 were injured in a church in Sunderland Springs, Texas.  Each time we add victims to the list we lose more truck drivers, reporters, day care providers, steelworkers, pilots, housekeepers, and file clerks.

October 1, 2017, a mass killing cost us 58 victims and 441 injured at a music concert in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Each time we add victims to the list we extinguish the lives of more people who matter. We lost a man shielding his wife on their wedding anniversary.  We lost a health care management major, a commercial fisherman, a kindergarten teacher, a police department records technician, a registered nurse, a member of the US Navy, a waitress, a soldier, a teacher, a secretary, a family law attorney, a contractor, an office manager, a financial adviser, a home contractor, a librarian, a make up artist, a corrections officer, … girlfriends, wives, mothers, grandmothers, boyfriends, husbands, fathers, grandfathers…

Our economic fabric is in the details.  We are a composite of the electrician, barber, receptionist, plumbers, secretaries, mechanics, cooks, soldiers, firefighters, carpenters, solar panel installers, roofers, landscapers, bookkeepers, bus drivers,  truck drivers, reporters, day care providers, steelworkers, pilots, housekeepers,  file clerks,  health care management personnel, commercial fisherman,  kindergarten teacher,  police department records technician,  registered nurse,  member of the US Navy,  waitress,  soldier,  teacher,  secretary,  family law attorney,  contractor,  office manager,  financial adviser,  home contractor,  librarian,  make up artist,  corrections officer…

Reduce the numbers of the people who make our economy run, eliminate the waitress at the small diner who brings that first cup of coffee with a smile to start the day, make the auto mechanic who figures out why there’s a persistent problem with the fuel injection system vanish, and we are all reduced as the power in our multiplicity of economic gears is reduced by one.

Our social fabric is in the details, in the relationships between boy friends and girl friends, wives and husbands, mothers and fathers, children, grandparents, grandchildren, neighbors, friends, and co-workers.  Eliminate any of these relationships in our communities, and we are all reduced by the unraveling of all those tiny threads which combined together form the incredibly complex and beautiful tapestry of our social lives in this nation.

No “endorsement,” no pandering for a few votes, is worth the grains of sand in our economic gears as grain by grain we add problems by reducing our numbers.  No “endorsement,” no pandering for a few votes is worth the unraveling of the tapestry of our lives, the loss of each loved one pulling at loose threads until we fray from the edges.

Politicians Heller and Amodei may take pleasure in their A ratings from the NRA, I am only sorry they cannot take as much pleasure in the defense of the lives of our children, our boyfriends and girl friends, our wives and husbands, our parents and grandparents; in the wonderfully interwoven tapestry of American life.

 

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Filed under Amodei, Gun Issues, Heller, Nevada politics, Politics

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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Filed under Amodei, Nevada Congressional Representatives, Nevada politics, Politics

What Big Victory?

There’s a steady drum beat of pundits and politicians telling me the passage of the TaxScam is a great, wonderful, awesome, fabulous, stupendous, magnificent piece  of legislative action.   Okay, I am certainly not the brightest bulb in the great chandelier, but I’m no dim candle either, and I can tell the difference between tax reform and a tax heist giveaway, handout, bequest, benefaction, and contribution to the top income earners when I see it.  Further, I am truly tired of pounding out the fact-of-life:  Trickle Down Economics is a HOAX.

What the Congress is voting on today isn’t a tax reform bill, it is purely and simply the enaction of economic mythology and political ideology.  There is much economic theorizing asserting the efficacy of tax cuts toward encouraging economic growth, but the numbers (those pesky facts) haven’t substantiated the claim, and the recent example of Kansas offers a real time look at some very dismal prospects.

Making the tax system more rational isn’t best served by a code that includes the Corker Kickback, exceptions for private airplanes,  golf courses, and doesn’t incorporate provisions for exempting state and local taxes.   And, we’ve covered the Carried Interest issue before.   The advice from the EPI back in January 2014 still holds:

“These investment advisors and hedge fund managers can take advantage of this tax structure because they are often compensated through a scheme that, in part, pays them according to the returns on the fund. The industry standard for hedge fund managers is “two and twenty,” which is shorthand for an “overhead” fee of 2% of capital under management plus carried interest (often called a “carry”) of 20% of the returns on the fund. Thus a $100 million fund earning 20% would pay its fund manager $2 million for overhead and $4 million in carry. The carry portion of their compensation is treated under the tax code as capital gains for the fund manager and is taxable at the much lower capital gains tax rate of 15%.” [EPI] (emphasis added)

However, rest assured Nevada’s Republican members of the 15th Congress will vote in favor of retaining the carried interest loophole, and other egregious portions of the Trump Family Property and Legacy Protection Act.  Paris Hilton’s wealth will be preserved.  And for this we may now expect an onslaught on “spending” as in Republican attempts to dismantle Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

As the Republicans hiss out “entitlements” as if the word was a synonym for undeserved welfare, most Americans are quite aware they’ve been paying into Social Security — yes,  to restate the obvious, people are entitled to receive their Social Security benefits — they’ve been paying for them all along.

The point will come when the GOP will cry out, “Oh, we have to cut government spending, because Social Security is going broke! Medicare is out of control.  Medicaid will bankrupt the nation — look at the national debt!”   Really — the way to fix these issues is to re-visit and revise the mess made in the 15th Congress, repeal the TaxScam, and do some revisions targeted at helping middle income Americans.

Some suggestions:

Enact tax cuts 80+% of the benefits go to working middle and lower income Americans who will actually go out and spend the benefits on washing machines, cars, groceries, rent or home mortgages, and who support our economy.

Close the carried interest loophole.  It was never a good idea and it certainly isn’t now.

Enact tax reforms that address the modern economy — not the horse and buggy days.  Support solar, wind, and alternative energy sources and research.  One of the fastest growing jobs in the US today is “wind turbine technician.”  Continuing to subsidize fossil fuels is tantamount to protecting the buggy whip factory owners.   Just to hammer the point a bit further:  “Increases in Job Opportunities:”  Solar Photovoltaic installers  — 105% increase; Wind Turbine Technicians — 98%; Home health aides — 47%; Personal Care aides — 37%; Physician Assistants — 37%; Nurse Practitioners — 36%; and interestingly enough Bicycle Repair Specialists — 29%.

Forget the territorial tax regime — all that does is incentivize corporations to move their operations overseas.

This would be a start.  There’s nothing simple about a tax code — there never was and there never will be.  Piling up stacks of paper to illustrate the density of the code isn’t instructive, all it demonstrates is that we have an extremely complex economy.  We use taxation as a lever to encourage or discourage certain decisions.   In this instance we are encouraging the behavior of hedge fund managers (notoriously short term thinkers) and multi-national corporations.  This didn’t work so well in 2007-2008 and it surpasses all reason why anyone would think a repetition would have any different result.

But we can count on Senator Dean Heller and Representative Mark Amodei to march right in line with the GOP leadership…straight into the next bubble, the next crisis, and the next recession — only this time the resources of the federal government will be depleted in the face of adversity.  In slightly less modest terms, it’s a recipe for more debt which will eventually lead to the necessity of incurring even more debt.

And they’re still coming after Social Security and Medicare.  Be prepared.

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Filed under Economy, Politics, Taxation

Amodei’s Wonderland: Wherein Economic Vision Becomes Hallucination

One of the more confusing statements from Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) concerns how the Republican Tax Scam will affect the economy:

(Part A) “With respect to the effect on businesses, Main Street job creators will see their tax rates reduced through the lowering of the maximum tax rate on business income to no more than 25%. (Part B) Additionally, federal tax rates on corporate taxable income will see a decrease from the highest rate of 35% to a flat corporate tax rate of 20%. (Part C) Each of these changes will help businesses and corporations expand, hire new employees, increase wages, and also give them the resources they need to stay competitive in the global marketplace.”  [Amodei] (“parts” added for discussion)

Let’s begin with Part A, those “main street job creators” are the high income earners discussed yesterday as be beneficiaries of the Pass Through Loophole.   It really doesn’t matter if the firm’s address is Main Street, 5th Avenue, or Wall Street, the result is essentially the same.  After telling Nevadans not to worry about losing their most popular deductions because not all that many people use them and the new standard deductions will take care of them,  Amodei doesn’t apply the same test to the business and corporate deductions.  That Pass Through Loophole, by any and all other names, has resulted in massive revenue losses in Kansas, the state which imprudently serves as a laboratory for the GOP’s ideological economics.  Let’s not confuse Mom and Pop’s Midtown Market with the capital management firm of Grabbem, Gouggem, & Howe.   Both may “create jobs” but there’s no comparison in terms of how much of a tax break each will receive for having essentially the same number of employees.

Moving along to Part B:  Yes.  At present there’s a plethora of corporate accountants employed to create a situation in which a top rate of 39.1% becomes an effective rate far below that maximum rate.  One study of Fortune 500 companies reached the following conclusions:

  • As a group, the 258 corporations paid an effective federal income tax rate of 21.2 percent over the eight-year period, slightly over half the statutory 35 percent tax rate.

  • Eighteen of the corporations, including General Electric, International Paper, Priceline.com and PG&E, paid no federal income tax at all over the eight-year period. A fifth of the corporations (48) paid an effective tax rate of less than 10 percent over that period.
  • Of those corporations in our sample with significant offshore profits, more than half paid higher corporate tax rates to foreign governments where they operate than they paid in the United States on their U.S. profits.

Now, if they’re starting at 39.1% and getting their taxes down by half or even more at present — imagine what they can do when they start from 20-25% and work their way down?  For example, the “intangible drilling costs” loophole seems not to have closed up at all in the House version, and this while it’s acknowledged that seismic testing has significantly reduced the prospect of drilling dry holes.  The old Depletion Allowance survives as it always does, even if other deductions for mere mortals do not.

Or, consider the creative ways corporations use depreciation.  The House Ways and Means Committee version allows corporations to write off the depreciation for new equipment immediately.  Nice, if one is looking for a way to get from 20% down to a 10% tax rate or less.  [WaPo]  Not to put too fine a point to it, but while mere mortals are expected to absorb the elimination of student loan interest deductions, home mortgage interest deductions, and major medical expense deductions — the corporations go almost untouched.

Part C is unalloyed wishful thinking.  Walter Isaacson observes in his new book about Da Vinci that “vision without implementation is hallucination,” and this GOP canard is an almost perfect example.   Where the Tax Cut Fairy Waves Her Magic Wand wonders ensue — commerce increases, new employees will be hired, employees will have higher wages, and we will be “more competitive.”

Let’s step back from the hallucinations and observe what happens in the real world of employment:

“Service businesses, in which payroll is the major cost of providing the service, can take on higher payroll percentages since the payroll is, in fact, producing the revenue. There is likely to be no other significant cost of services to be provided. In such situations, payroll can reach the 50% mark without destroying profitability. Manufacturers, however, must maintain a payroll figure closer to 30% or less as the business must endure the cost of manufacturing the widget plus the payroll. Same with restaurants, given the high cost of food the payroll must stay under thirty percent.”

In order to lend any credence to the overblown rhetoric of GOP apologists for reducing corporate taxes and enacting pass-through loopholes, we have to merge all hiring from all sectors into one grand lump.  No matter the tax rate, what really matters is that the widget factory can keep its payroll allocations to 30% or less of its costs.  Nor can we argue that the sector with the highest payroll allocation, “service,” is all created equal.  This tertiary sector includes everything from health care to banking to education, to media and communications.   At the risk of continuous redundancy, the tax rate doesn’t determine payroll allocation — no one will be hired to do anything unless there is a demand for the goods or services beyond the capability of current staffing levels to deliver an acceptable level of consumer or client satisfaction.

Employees will have higher wages if the corporation gets a tax cut?  Probably not.  We can wade into the deeply arcane economic theoretical weeds and talk about the relationship between labor costs and tax liabilities, but let’s keep our feet on the ground instead.

Nevada has a fairly unique economy given one of our major sectors is “hospitality,” (or how to house, feed, and amuse people whom we want to leave behind large sums of money) establishments.  Therefore, there’s nothing surprising about finding out that we’ll need about 191,141 people working in food service in 2018; a growth rate of 2.8% with about 5,048 new positions expected. [DETR download]  The mean wage for food service workers is $12.74 per hour.  Most dealers are earning about $8.57 plus tips.  What will drive up food service and dealers’ wages?  Which is more likely to drive increases in food services wages: (a) more customers or (b) a bigger tax cut for corporate headquarters?

If you answered “b” then you are willing to wait for the calculations to be completed concerning how much the corporation should allocate for payroll expenditures, and then try to bank the results from this theory:

“Why would anyone think slashing corporate tax rates would increase workers’ wages in the first place? The theory endorsed by the CEA relies on three steps to get from corporate tax cuts to higher wages. First, the corporate tax cut increases companies’ after-tax returns on investment. As a result, firms will make more investments in plant and equipment than they would in a higher-tax-rate environment. Second, greater investment by firms leads to higher productivity by the workers who put those investments to work. Third and finally, workers will receive increased wages in line with those productivity gains.” [vox]

And, if you believe this I have a lovely bridge over the Humboldt River to sell you.  Why? Because corporations can do lots of other things with those savings — higher executive compensation, mergers and acquisitions, stock buy backs, and dividend payments.

Short Form:  Representative Amodei’s analysis requires redefining “job creators,” as those titans of the financial system who don’t necessarily become those doing the hiring; and requires disconnecting wages and salaries from the accepted wisdom about payroll allocation; and, means a person has to roll the dice and hope that the corporation trickles the money down to the counter-man.  In Isaacson’s parlance:  It’s vision without implementation.

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Filed under Economy, Nevada, Nevada economy, Nevada politics, Politics

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 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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