June 4, 2010

A Revolutionary Tax Twitch

Justin Katz

Here's a humorous note for perspective: That revolutionary tax "overhaul" that the folks in the General Assembly are trumpeting as such a big deal, but that still needs to be watered down to remain "revenue neutral"? It will move us past a whopping three states in business tax climate:

Rhode Island's tax climate for business would improve somewhat if the state adopted a tax-overhaul plan proposed by the General Assembly's Democratic leadership, the Tax Foundation said Wednesday.

Rhode Island now ranks 44th of the 50 states, among the 10 worst nationwide, according to the Tax Foundation, a nonprofit group in Washington, D.C., that monitors government fiscal policy.

If the plan were implemented for this year, the group said, Rhode Island would rank 41st. "This indicates the plan would be a modest but positive change for the state's tax system," the group said in a report.

Look out Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Vermont! (PDF)

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Editorial: Medical math for Tea Party

01:00 AM EDT on Friday, June 4, 2010

The frustration of engaging many Tea Party members in discussion is that there is often nothing to pin them down on. Many mix anger, fear, self-contradiction and willful avoidance of economic facts. Such was our response to Colleen Conley’s reaction to our May 16 editorial, “Revolt of the haves.” Ms. Conley heads the Rhode Island Tea Party.

According to Ms. Conley, the Tea Party’s bottom line is fiscal responsibility — that is, addressing the threat to America’s future posed by soaring budget deficits. We very much share this concern, but when moving onto solutions, we fail to discern a coherent program of ideas from her group.

America’s budget imbalances can be cured by tax increases, spending cuts or both. But Ms. Conley avoids these unpleasant realities.

She condemns “a system that punishes productive citizens, including individuals and businesses, to provide lavish benefits for a protected class at the expense of others.”

Now who might that protected class receiving lavish benefits be? The honest answer is the entitlements that mostly benefit the middle class, which takes most of the money from the least honestly funded financial entitlement — Medicare. (Medicare has also been a very rich source of cash for physicians over the years, covering as it has many who otherwise would have had no way to pay for coverage. The affluent Ms. Conley, by the way, is the wife of a physician.)

Ms. Conley says, “We understand that the federal government cannot take $500 billion out of Medicare and provide the same medical services to our elderly, all the while offering health care to 30 million new people, without a vast increase in the number of providers, the imposition of massive new taxes and/or the rationing of care.” (Does she actually believe there’s no rationing of care now –– by income?)

Actually, the new health-care legislation does address the cost issue. There is vast redundancy of services, other inefficiencies and fraud in Medicare now. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says the legislation will actually cut budget deficits by about $140 billion in this decade.

The new law increases Medicare offerings to include new testing procedures and closing the drug benefit’s “doughnut hole.” Ms. Conley should identify what medical services the elderly will lose.

Major savings will come from ending government overpayments to Medicare Advantage plans. These lucrative private plans have cost Americans 9 to 13 percent more per average enrollee than the traditional fee-for-service program. And bear in mind that fee-for-service is the Cadillac of health coverage.

Ms. Conley also insists that “we paid” for Medicare, among other public services.

Payroll taxes provide 40 percent of Medicare’s funding, other taxes 39 percent and premiums 12 percent. But much of that money comes from people who won’t live long enough to collect benefits themselves. And given the spiraling costs of the program, today’s young taxpayers will never see the level of benefits that they are now subsidizing. Because much of the cost of government is being paid for with borrowed money, future generations will be picking up these costs plus interest.

A typical couple retiring in 2020 will have paid about $100,000 in lifetime Medicare taxes but will receive $500,000 in scheduled Medicare benefits above the premiums it pays to the program. These numbers are provided by the Tax Policy Center.

Yet Ms. Conley can’t support even the easy cost savings and modest tax increases for high-income people included in the recent health-care legislation. (Federal income taxes now are at their lowest levels in decades.)

It’s hard to take seriously a movement that is incapable of understanding (or admitting) where the money is coming from or where it is going out. Making patriotic gestures is not a substitute for that understanding.

Posted by: Projo at June 4, 2010 7:19 AM

The Democrat General Assembly continues its august record of achieving the most minimal accomplishment possible under the circumstances.

Little wonder that individuals of talent and aptitude won't run -- just look at who they'd have to associate with, and the institution with which their name would be associated.

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at June 4, 2010 8:25 AM

In order to write such inanities, the Projo must be on some highly recreational pharmaceuticals.

Everything they claim about the supposed "benefits" and "cost reductions" of Obamacare has already been exposed as either a blatant lie or a wildly speculative hope against all the known laws of economic behavior.

Posted by: BobN at June 4, 2010 2:15 PM

Truer words were never spoken!

Heck, at least when I was protesting against Vietnam and Nixon and all the other BS, I was not corporate financed!

What a bunch of wussies!

Hey, some good stats of late! Glen Becks audience has been cut IN HALF. That's pretty good. I think some people tuned in, were transfixed by BS, and then started to understand that this Morning ZooKeeper was full of crap.

Meantime, the tea party is losing ground all over the country by splitting the GOP vote! Heck, it looks like you will even make Harry Reid be re-elected. That was a virtually impossibility a couple months ago.

Hey, Bob, let me thank you in advance. Your rhetoric probably convinces a lot of people to run far away from your new corporate financed GOP tea party.

Posted by: Stuart at June 4, 2010 10:38 PM

Well,now Stu,I know who you really are.A f==kin' backstabber and traitor from the Vietnam era.I hate all of you who aided the enemy much,much worse than I could hate(I don't)anyone who fired mortars or rockets at me.They were serving their country.You and your friends were a fifth column.
A curse on all of you and hoping you have a lingering demise.

Posted by: joe bernstein at June 5, 2010 3:50 PM
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