The fact that there is a piece of pro-gay legislation that is allegedly attracting the support of Sens. Thom Tillis (R-NC), Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) makes me suspicious.
Senator Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican, said he expects there will be enough support from his party to pass a marriage equality bill this month.
Democrats have not yet attracted the 10 Republican senators they need to pass the bill in the evenly divided chamber, but negotiators are making progress, Tillis said.
The legislative push to codify same-sex marriages comes after Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas suggested the high court reconsider the decision establishing a marriage right. Polling shows adult Americans strongly favor marriage equality, potentially giving Democrats a wedge issue if Republicans block the measure.
Senator Tammy Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat, and Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine are leading the talks, which now center on an amendment addressing religious liberties. Tillis said he and some of his GOP colleagues are generally supportive of what’s currently being discussed.
“We’ve made progress with the drafting,” he added. “I think we’ve addressed a lot of the religious freedom questions that some had and we think we’re going to move it this month.”
Asked if he thinks there would be at least 10 Republican supporters, Tillis responded, “yes.”
But Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, one of the few Republicans who have endorsed the bill, expressed caution. “I don’t know yet,” he said Tuesday evening. “We have a meeting tomorrow with some of us to talk about it, but it’s still uncertain.”
I’ll wait to see what’s in the “religious liberty” part of this to see what Democrats are giving away in exchange for the support of such a weird collection of MAGA Republicans.
Or perhaps the Republicans all have LGB or T loved ones.
But something is definitely up behind the scenes to account for these strange bedfellows.
A report from the Reshoring Initiative, a U.S. organization dedicated to encouraging and tracking the number of overseas jobs that move back to the U.S., says the country is on track to return nearly 350,000 jobs this year, according to the Wall Street Journal.
COVID and its related supply chain problems are big factors. But the Biden administration has also been successfully pushing laws that will increase the pace of job returns:
To be sure, globalization has been a tailwind for investors and large companies for much of the past 30 years, particularly U.S. firms. Increased trade across borders boosted profits and productivity and allowed countries to focus on the goods and services they were best equipped to produce. Globalization has also provided multinational companies with new customers and new pools of low-cost labor.
But the Covid-19 pandemic, which snarled supply chains worldwide, pushed many executives to think about bringing their business closer to home. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which upended commodities markets, is another motivator. So is the possibility of a conflict between China and Taiwan, which produces the chips used in smartphones, personal computers and cars.
The U.S. government is also luring companies back. The Chips and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, both passed this month, provide tax breaks and other incentives for building and investing in manufacturing centers for goods such as semiconductors, electric vehicles and pharmaceuticals.
Investors’ increased focus on carbon emissions also has bolstered the need for closer-to-home supply chains. Carbon pricing mechanisms and taxes recently implemented in the European Union and elsewhere will further reduce the appeal of extensive cross-border supply chains, Barclays economists wrote in a recent note to clients.
Barclays found that large S&P 500 companies are recruiting more in their home countries and slowing cross-border M&A activity.
“Globalization is in retreat,” the firm’s U.K.-based economists Christian Keller and Akash Utsav wrote.
I love how the WSJ only mentions “pools of low-cost labor” as a reason for jobs going overseas originally. If you’re spending all that money to ship your goods all the way from China and Indonesia to America, where do you think the biggest source of savings is going to be? It’s been the use of low-paid workers in countries where labor, safety and environmental laws are weak.
Anyway, thanks Biden for delivering on your jobs incentives promises!
I did not know that my home state of Nebraska is the only state in the union in which 100 percent of electricity is provided not by Wall Street corporations (Investor-Owned Utilities or IOUs), but rather by publicly owned utilities.
It’s been that way since Nebraska ran the last IOU out of the state in 1949, thanks primarily to the state’s forward-thinking US Sen. George Norris. (A short history of how this happened can be found at this link.)
However, one drawback to all of this is that incentives by the U.S. government for power companies to invest in clean energy come in the form of tax credits. This has created problems, as the American Public Power Association (APPA) wrote in this June 2022 report:
Since the 1970s, Congress has used federal tax incentives to encourage certain forms of energy investments in the United States. In more recent years, Congress has expanded and extended such incentives to promote non-emitting energy resources to address climate change. Arguably, tax expenditures are the single most powerful federal tool used to incentivize wind, solar, geothermal, and nuclear power development in the United States.
However, most of these incentives do not work for public power utilities, which are, as units of state and local government, exempt from federal taxation. The American Public Power Association (APPA) believes that if Congress has market-wide policy objectives, such as addressing climate change, then tax-based energy incentives should be drafted to accommodate tax-exempt entities, including public power utilities. Congress is considering making such tax credits “refundable” beyond an owner’s tax liability and public power utilities should qualify for these credits. In addition, because this approach is novel, APPA strongly encourages Congress to enlist public power representatives in drafting such proposals to avoid unintended consequences.
Well, Congress apparently listened because the IRA takes away this roadblock to public power utilities being able to access these clean energy incentives, as noted by Ryan Cooper in his article for TAP:
The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) has all kinds of goodies in it: tax credits for homeowners and businesses to install rooftop solar or upgrade their appliances, credits for electric vehicles, money for clean-energy research, and much more.
But there are two provisions that have largely flown under the radar in the discussion of the bill. These are “direct pay” and “transferability,” which will be two of the biggest drivers of emissions reductions in the power utility sector over the next decade. Moreover, the first provision marks a quiet break with decades of American policy orthodoxy, and a lesson in the value of public power.
Let me first review some history. There have been two major kinds of clean-energy tax credits: an investment tax credit (ITC) for installing new clean-power generators, first passed in the 1970s, and a production tax credit (PTC), first passed in the 1990s, for actually producing it. They worked just like you’d think: allowing a deduction from one’s taxes for clean-energy investment or production. And to be fair, these credits actually have driven considerable investment in clean power and therefore lower emissions.
But there were problems. Public power utilities pay no taxes. No taxes. No incentives. Because public power companies and co-ops provide nearly a quarter of American power generation, this created a large roadblock to decarbonizing the electricity sector.
Direct pay in the IRA, by contrast, now means these non-tax-paying entities can receive the credit as a cash payment—basically turning the ITC and PTC into a grant for them. It’s similar to the Earned Income Tax Credit for individuals, in which the working poor receive a “tax refund” even though they may not pay anything in federal income tax.
The new ITC base rate is 6 percent, while the PTC is 2.6 cents per kilowatt-hour produced (though you can only claim one). However, if a producer complies with wage and apprenticeship requirements, both credits are multiplied by a factor of five—a very strong motivation indeed to provide good jobs.
The more I learn about the Inflation Reduction Act, the more I love it. (Despite its drawbacks.)
The “problem” conservatives scream about is that, now that the FBI has been used to go after the kinds of criminals who usually set the agency’s agenda, the GOP is upset that the FBI has become a “political tool.” What a load of horseshit and shame on the New York Times whenever it gives unquestioning column inches to this kind of smokescreen from conservatives.
It’s time to stop fucking around. All of the savvy political wisdom of the preceding years got us here: with a half-lunatic trying to shake down the country to call off his followers. Trump doesn’t care about precedents: as soon as he’s able, he will use whatever tool he’s able to use against his opponents. This is why his supporters like him. They openly say so. The first time around, he didn’t really know how to wield the power of the state or the most violent core of his supporters, but most likely he will will learn. The Federal oath of office begins, “I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” If that means anybody in the history of the country, that must mean Trump. He cannot be allowed to hide behind his supporters or try to use them to manipulate the U.S. government. Is it possible that this will lead to bad outcomes? Sure, anything is possible. But treating Trump like he’s got special powers has lead us here.
“But, John, are you saying we should use the Justice Department politically? With the express purpose of getting rid of someone you don’t like.” Kind of! As Trump’s intellectual defenders love to remind us, there’s ultimately no neutral administration of justice, everything is political, and when you get the state apparatus in your hands you use it beat up on your enemies and help out your friends. So, in part, these are their rules. (If you start talking about how you are gonna apply the thought of Carl Schmitt when you administer the state, I may start to get the sense you are my enemy.)
Also, let’s not play innocent. Historically speaking, the F.B.I. has always been used “politically:” it was used against Reds, Nazis, Reds again, the KKK, civil rights leaders, black power leaders, Nazis again etc. A lot of this was abusive and terrible and you know where my political sympathies lie, but this was because the political establishment implicitly or explicitly viewed these groups as threats to the United States itself. In many cases, they were not. (Yeah, yeah, I know what you are gonna say, “but J. Edgar Hoover, blah, blah, blah”—The fact is that Hoover lasted so long because powerful people thought he was useful and mostly right.) But here is a case where the real deal has come along: a bonafide domestic threat to the constitution. People these days are willing to call everything from annoying college students to crummy D.E.I. consultants “totalitarian threats to democracy” or whatever, but when a big, fat threat to democracy is standing right there, suddenly everyone is like, “Well…it’s a little complicated, isn’t it?” No, it really isn’t. And, in this case, we don’t have to break the law or do anything underhanded: just actually try to uphold the law for a change and stop playing little political games around it.
I’m still amazed how often I still see a MSM reporter write, without any follow-up information whatsoever, that this is “the first time” that a search warrant has been served on a former president “at his private residence,” no less. (Mar-A-Lago is Trump’s home in the same ways Chicago’s Lexington Hotel was Al Capone’s home.)
Let’s never forget: Nixon would have been in jail had Ford not pardoned him. That is the only reason this is the first time a president might be arrested and prosecuted for serious crimes. It could have happened, and likely would have happened, to another Republican president. And then there is the gargantuan matter that Trump marks the first time a sitting president came perilously close to overthrowing the government. Trump makes Nixon look like a shoplifter in the presence of a hard core criminal.
These things are all self-evident. You know them. I know them. Everyone sane knows them. Yet somehow the Republicans have people in the MSM in Washington bamboozled into thinking that going after Trump is bad because it might antagonize his followers, many of whom believed that JFK. Jr. was about to make a surprise appearance in the place in Dallas in Dealey Plaza. Even more of them believe that the Clintons and George Soros run an international pedophile ring. And even more than that believe Tucker Carlson.
We’re not prosecuting Trump because those people might be antagonized? Nuts.
The always excellent Elizabeth Kolbert at The New Yorker has an article in today’s issue that examines how the Republican Party — along with the worst Democrats on Capitol Hill — went from benign neglect on the environment to actively opposing any efforts to ameliorate what will end up being the defining issue for humanity:
How did caring about a drowned or desiccated future come to be a partisan issue? Perhaps the simplest answer is money. A report put out two years ago by the Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis noted, “In the 2000s, several bipartisan climate bills were circulating in the Senate.” Then, in 2010, the Supreme Court, in the Citizens United decision, ruled that corporations and wealthy donors could, effectively, pour unlimited amounts of cash into electioneering. Fossil-fuel companies quickly figured out how to funnel money through front groups, which used it to reward the industry’s friends and to punish its enemies. After Citizens United, according to the report, “bipartisan activity on comprehensive climate legislation collapsed.”
When it comes to direct contributions, the top recipient of fossil-fuel money in Congress this election cycle has been Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia. Manchin killed off earlier iterations of the climate bill, and inserted into this version most of its worst provisions, including a mandate that the federal government auction millions of acres for oil and gas drilling. Among the top twenty recipients of oil and gas money are three other Democrats: Senator Kyrsten Sinema, of Arizona, and Representatives Henry Cuellar and Lizzie Fletcher, of Texas. The rest are Republicans.
Even money, though, seems an insufficient explanation. The G.O.P.’s opposition to action on climate change has transcended crass calculation to become an article of faith. Several red states, including Texas and Louisiana, have taken steps to penalize financial firms that say they are reducing their investments in fossil fuels, even though these steps are likely to cost the states’ taxpayers money. As the I.R.A. was headed toward a vote, the Wall Street Journal reported that congressional Republicans were pressuring fossil-fuel companies to take a stronger stand against the bill. G.O.P. lawmakers, according to the Journal, had “become frustrated” by the oil companies’ support for some measures to combat climate change, and so they took to lobbying the lobbyists.
If you’ve been paying attention at all, some of this will be old news. But I like seeing subjects I already know much about presented in well-researched articles. In environmental journalism, Kolbert is a superstar.
Five years after the official end of the Great Recession, corporate profits are high, and the stock market is booming. Yet most Americans are not sharing in the recovery. While the top 0.1% of income recipients—which include most of the highest-ranking corporate executives—reap almost all the income gains, good jobs keep disappearing, and new employment opportunities tend to be insecure and underpaid. Corporate profitability is not translating into widespread economic prosperity.
The allocation of corporate profits to stock buybacks deserves much of the blame. Consider the 449 companies in the S&P 500 index that were publicly listed from 2003 through 2012. During that period those companies used 54% of their earnings—a total of $2.4 trillion—to buy back their own stock, almost all through purchases on the open market. Dividends absorbed an additional 37% of their earnings. That left very little for investments in productive capabilities or higher incomes for employees.
The buyback wave has gotten so big, in fact, that even shareholders—the presumed beneficiaries of all this corporate largesse—are getting worried. “It concerns us that, in the wake of the financial crisis, many companies have shied away from investing in the future growth of their companies,” Laurence Fink, the chairman and CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, wrote in an open letter to corporate America in March. “Too many companies have cut capital expenditure and even increased debt to boost dividends and increase share buybacks.”
Why are such massive resources being devoted to stock repurchases? Corporate executives give several reasons, which I will discuss later. But none of them has close to the explanatory power of this simple truth: Stock-based instruments make up the majority of their pay, and in the short term buybacks drive up stock prices. In 2012 the 500 highest-paid executives named in proxy statements of U.S. public companies received, on average, $30.3 million each; 42% of their compensation came from stock options and 41% from stock awards. By increasing the demand for a company’s shares, open-market buybacks automatically lift its stock price, even if only temporarily, and can enable the company to hit quarterly earnings per share (EPS) targets.
As a result, the very people we rely on to make investments in the productive capabilities that will increase our shared prosperity are instead devoting most of their companies’ profits to uses that will increase their own prosperity—with unsurprising results.
So two of the key takeaways here are that corporate leaders could buy back company stocks, which has the dual purposes of shielding corporate profits from the IRS — “hey, we only had X amounts of profits this year because we used so much cash on stock buybacks.” All while simultaneously increasing their own pay because they are paid in stock and buybacks artificially increase their company’s stock price. (While actually doing nothing to make the company, its products, or its lower-level employees any better off.)
It’s gotten so much worse since that 2014 article was written
Fast forward to last week and the passage of the IRA.
Stock buybacks hit a record $882 billion last year, and they may reach $1 trillion this year. The biggest corporations spend the most on buybacks. Thus Apple lavished $91 billion over the previous four quarters, according to The Wall Street Journal; Alphabet (Google), $55 billion; Meta (Facebook), $53 billion; Microsoft, $33 billion; and Bank of America, $21 billion.
But even with corporate profits at record highs, earnings can no longer meet the voracious demand for buybacks. So a growing proportion of buybacks—one recent estimate put it as high as 56 percent— are now “leveraged buybacks” paid for with corporate debt. Corporations are going into hock so they can shower more cash on shareholders and their top executives.
The proposed excise tax on buybacks is only 1 percent, so its initial effect on this drunken binge will be minimal. Indeed, in the short term it will likely create an uptick in buybacks as some corporations accelerate buybacks to avoid the tax’s implementation in 2023. The initial proposal by Democratic Senators Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Ron Wyden of Oregon—Brown is the Banking Committee chairman, while Wyden leads the Finance Committee—was for a 2 percent tax on buybacks, which would have been better. Five or 10 percent would be better still.
In coming years, it can and probably will be increased. But the excise tax’s creation establishes a beachhead. In coming years, it can and probably will be increased. In the meantime, it isn’t a bad revenue-raiser. According to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, this itty-bitty 1 percent tax will raise $74 billion over the next decade. If the outlook for the stock market improves, it will raise more. And if the excise tax is increased in the coming years, it will raise even more than that. So please join me in welcoming this new provision to the tax code. Its debut is long overdue.
Another reason we have to back campaigns such as the 50+2 effort trying to increase the U.S. Senate majority from 50 to 52 so as to counter the influence of Democratic Sens. Manchin and Sinema, who both blocked Wall Steet reforms in the IRA that would be true game-changers for reigning in the excesses of corporate America — and slowing down climate change.
There’s a lot in the Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act for Republicans to hate, but the part that has the GOP and the billionaires it represents most up in arms is the massive increase in the IRS budget to go after rich tax cheats.
Notes the Wall Street Journal:
Treasury and IRS officials have said the new funds for enforcement won’t increase audit rates on filers making less than $400,000, and on Aug. 4 IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig sent letters to Congress stating this. The bill omits an earlier proposal requiring banks to report account cash-flow information to the IRS.
Former IRS Commissioner Charles Rossotti, a technology specialist who has advised the Treasury Department and Congress on improving the tax system, endorses new IRS efforts aimed at higher earners. “Most underreporting is from upper-income people, because that’s where most of the income is,” he says.
These taxpayers are also more likely to have income from sources not automatically reported to the IRS. (There’s little cheating on income like salaries or pensions that is reported, according to the agency.) While the IRS is getting good at mining data to find missing income, it lacks the resources to make the best use of its skills.
The boost to enforcement dollars aims to stem a long decline in the IRS’s ability to check taxpayer compliance, especially by the highest earners. From 2010 through 2019, according to a study by the Government Accountability Office, the number of audits of taxpayers earning more than $500,000 dropped by three-quarters, from 53,000 to 14,000. Over this period, the number of key IRS enforcement personnel also dropped 40%, according to agency data.
Everyone from apologists like the Heritage Foundation and National Review, to noted economics expert U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz, are hitting the panic button.
Republicans and the right-wing media echo chamber have been incredibly successful over the last two decades in getting Congress to cut the IRS budget to the point that agency now tends to go after low-hanging fruit like poor people who claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit mistakenly or fraudulently.
It costs a lot more money to go after rich people’s tax dodges because those often require forensic audits.
Ramping up IRS enforcement around complex illegal tax schemes requires money that the Republicans have made sure the IRS hasn’t had in the past.
So, yeah, they’re all scared, no doubt because many of them have something to hide.
There is much to love about the Inflation Reduction Act, even though it does not go as far as I’d have hoped. But that is the nature of our national legislative law-making process. You get as much as you can now, and then go back later for another bite at the apple.
If the Act passes largely intact, all my hesitation about the Democrats for the 2024 election will have largely been erased. The IRS tax enforcement provisions will be a large part of that.
One of the big reasons inequality has been allowed to grow exponentially in this country is because you and I pay our fair share of taxes, and the rich often pay little to nothing.
Senate Democrats were poised to begin debate Saturday on a sprawling bill that aims to lower health-care costs, combat climate change and reduce the federal deficit, a critical step in a grueling legislative journey to deliver on President Biden’s long-stalled economic agenda.
The new push to consider the measure, which Republicans unanimously oppose, came seven months after internecine bickering scuttled Democrats’ last efforts to adopt a package that many in the party regard as essential for retaining the House and Senate in this year’s midterm elections.
Even with the changes Sens. Manchin and Sinema required before they’d sign-on, I’ll be shocked if this passes. If it does pass, don’t let anyone tell you differently: this legislation is a BFD.
It’s rare that legislation passes Congress with this many supremely powerful interests — banks, billionaires, Big Pharma, etc. — lined up against it.
Politico has a pretty good look at what happens next:
As the Senate heads toward a rare Friday session, rank-and-file Democrats say they feel good about the prospects for their signature climate, tax and health care proposal. Just don’t ask for specifics.
Democrats are heading into the weekend with a murky timeline for passing their bill, multiple outstanding issues and one very important undecided senator. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has not yet announced when the Senate will vote to proceed to the party-line measure, and on Thursday, he predicted “some late nights and extended debates” as he vowed to pass the legislation in the “coming days.”
There’s a lot of uncertainty to button up in those days. Democrats and Republicans will continue arguing into Friday about what can be included in the bill. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) is still mum on the deal negotiated by Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) as she seeks some changes to it. And there’s still an unlimited amendment “vote-a-rama” to get through.
“I literally have no specific knowledge about tonight, tomorrow, tomorrow night, Saturday, when are we going to start, how many votes, how many amendments,” said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.). The vote-a-rama, he added, is “going to start later than we imagine, it’s going to run longer than we would hope and it’s going to be more painful getting out of here than any of us have any reason to expect.
The referee, formally known as the parliamentarian, will continue hearing arguments about whether the bill meets the chamber’s stringent rules for evading a filibuster. A ruling on prescription drugs could come as early as Friday, with the tax provisions coming after.
Democrats are seeking to make sure their legislation can enjoy the filibuster protections of the budget before making any move on the floor, according to a person familiar with the process. Many senators and aides see Saturday as a likely target date for the bill’s forward movement.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) is such an unprincipled pig, and I don’t call someone childish names like that very often.
But that’s what she is. An opportunistic political whore devoid of deep principles and convictions.
How else to explain this?
Sen. Susan Collins, one of a handful of GOP senators working to garner support in her party for a bill to codify gay marriage, said the Democrats’ surprise embrace of a tax and climate change bill made her job much harder.
“I just think the timing could not have been worse and it came totally out of the blue,” the Maine senator told HuffPost Thursday about Senate Democrats’ unveiling of their bill to raise taxes on some companies, boost IRS enforcement and spend the resulting money to fund anti-climate change efforts. news that West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) had arrived at an agreement broke like a thunderclap over official Washington early Wednesday night. The bill still faces hurdles, including ensuring all Senate Democrats are on board and will be available to vote on it when it comes to the floor. But if Democrats pull it off, it could be a big political victory for the party and the White House.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), seen here on the right talking to fellow Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), said the news that Democrats are making progress on a tax and climate change bill hurt bipartisan efforts to codify gay marriage, which she and Murkowski support.TOM WILLIAMS VIA GETTY IMAGES Still, Collins warned that the manner in which that victory was secured, where it appeared Democrats kept Manchin and Schumer’s negotiations under wraps until a separate bipartisan computer chip production incentive bill was passed by the Senate, hurt the effort to gather support among Republicans to bring the gay marriage bill to the floor.
“After we just had worked together successfully on gun safety legislation, on the CHIPs bill, it was a very unfortunate move that destroys the many bipartisan efforts that are under way,” she said.