When you write about tax law, you interact with a lot of commenters, most of […]
Earlier, we shared with you the thoughts of Americans for Tax Reform on Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn’s rock-inspired “Back in Black” deficit reduction plan. Despite a silver lining that will allow whiny rich liberals to pay more taxes if they so choose, ATR wasn’t impressed, calling it a “Trillion Dollar Tax Hike.”
This is partly because Senator Coburn proposes the elimination of many tax expenditures. Of course, if you’re confused about what exactly a “tax expenditure” is, Senator Coburn took the time to explain it to everyone:
Tax expenditures are not tax cuts,” he said. “Tax expenditures are socialism and corporate welfare. Tax expenditures are increases on anyone who does not receive the benefit or can’t hire a lobbyist or special interest group to manipulate the code to their favor.”
It doesn’t appear that ATR has weighed in on this yet (and they are fond of quoting Coburn) but we don’t mind waiting.
It’s no secret that Grover Norquist’s patience with Tom Coburn ran out long ago. This hasn’t stopped Coburn from throwing out his own deficit reduction plan – entitled “Back in Black” – in order to save us all from fighting over scraps in the street. Predictably, Americans for Tax Reform has responded in due course, only they’re calling it “A Trillion Dollar Tax Hike Plan.” Maybe that’s not as bad as it sounds? Let’s take a look at some highlights:
Okay, is this really a trillion dollar tax hike? Reports say that it will save $9 trillion.
There is no rate reduction whatsoever in this plan. It’s a set of tax hikes, plain and simple.
But clearly, taxes and tax reform are complicated. Any chance we can address that?
There is no tax reform in this plan. The plan would undermine prospects for long-term tax reform.
A 600-page proposal clearly doesn’t happen without some planning. Tom Coburn must have had a plan. What was it?
It’s now clear Senator Coburn’s plan all along was a trillion dollar tax hike. Senator Coburn pretended to care about ethanol (until he was forced to admit he supported the ethanol mandate, the cause of 98% of government-induced ethanol production). In reality, he wanted to lay the groundwork for GOP support of this trillion dollar tax hike plan.
Tom Coburn has a reputation for being a staunch conservative. Does he live up to that reputation?
The Coburn trillion dollar tax hike is far outside the mainstream of the conservative movement, as well as where Congressional Republicans are.
Is there anything good about Coburn’s proposal?
ATR has long called for a “tax me more” checkoff for limousine liberals who complain that their taxes aren’t high enough. Rather than hiking taxes on everyone, these rich liberals should be able to pay more voluntarily to assuage their left-wing guilt. The Coburn plan does have this, providing a silver lining to an otherwise cloudy forecast for taxpayers.
And you probably thought ATR couldn’t say anything nice about the plan.
If You Thought Grover Norquist Was Done with Tom Coburn Just Because He Got Some Republicans to Vote for the Ethanol Tax Credit Repeal, You’d Be Wrong
As we’ve mentioned, the scourge of tax policy pragmatism, Grover Norquist, has been battling anyone that utters a word about raising taxes or eliminating tax credits without corresponding tax cuts. His main nemesis in this battle has been Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, who was a member of the Gang of Six until he was determined the gang couldn’t get jack squat accomplished.
Today, a vote was held in the Senate that repealed the tax credits for ethanol, something that Coburn has been advocating strongly to his GOP colleagues. The idea has been floated that many Republicans who signed Americans for Tax Reform’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge would be violating said pledge by voting for the repeal, and thus incur the wrath of Grover & Co. Yesterday, Norquist insisted that the vote for the repeal isn’t a pledge violation because Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) has an estate tax repeal waiting in the wings that would allow these Republicans to atone for their sins and thus making Coburn a loser again:
“Coburn tried. He failed. I’m sure he’ll try again,” Norquist told The Hill, asserting that Coburn had tried to trick his colleagues into voting for a tax increase. “We checkmated him.”
As we said Coburn did try again and now that the ethanol tax credit repeal has passed, Norquist will be counting on those senators wash away their ‘impure thoughts’ with a vote on DeMint’s amendment and allowing he and ATR to prevail once again, like the Roadrunner over Wile E. Coyote or Ronald Reagan over Communism.
He added that he had commitments from Senate GOP leadership to not agree to a deal with what he calls a net tax increase: higher rates or ending tax expenditures without an offset.
“Coburn’s going to be out in the cold by his lonesome,” Norquist said.
“Rather than demanding that Senate conservatives violate their consciences and support distortions in the tax code that increase spending and maintain Washington’s power over taxpayer’s lives, your organization should assist our efforts. Calling for the elimination of tax earmarks without qualifications would be a good start,” Coburn wrote. “Continuing to issue blanket defenses of all tax expenditures is a profoundly misguided embrace of progressive, activist government and a strategy for tax complexity, tax deferment, excessive spending and unsustainable deficits.” [The Hill]
Bill That Would Fire Federal Employees for Unpaid Taxes Wouldn’t Apply to Lots of Federal Employees That Have Unpaid Taxes
Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) have introduced a bill that would take care of all the federal employees who have ‘seriously delinquent tax debts.’ Quite simply, they would be fired:
In 2009, the IRS found that nearly 100,000 civilian federal employees were delinquent on their federal income taxes, owing over $1 billion in unpaid taxes. When retirees and military are included in the total, more than 282,000 federal employees owed $3.3 billion in taxes.
The Senate bill would require all federal employees to be current on their federal income taxes or be fired from their jobs. According to Coburn’s office, “this is a commonsense bill that most Americans would believe is reasonable, necessary, and likely surprised that it is not already the standard throughout the federal government.”
So if the 182,000 people that owe approximately $2.3 billion aren’t eligible to be fired, how exactly is this bill ‘commonsense’? Oh, right! By threatening the 100,000 people who owe $1 billion with the loss of their jobs. Got it!
When budgets are tight, it only makes sense that non-profits would become targets since they tend to get the most free rides. We’ve seen it with this 990 push (kind of like 404(b) for < $75 million and new health care rules that require companies to send in 1099s for every vendor purchase over $600, it feels a little like bureaucratic busywork to me) and now non-profit executive compensation is in New Jersey tie’s crosshairs.
A provision in his state’s recently passed budget limits executive salaries at nonprofits that do business with the state.
Firedoglake foamed at the mouth over recent comments by Tom Coburn after he shot down $425 million in fresh money for the Boys and Girls Clubs. FDL appeared absolutely incapable of comprehending caps on non-profit salaries when for-profit CEOs earn “500 times” more than their non-profit counterparts.
On Capitol Hill, four senators this spring refused to approve a $425 million package of federal grants for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America after staff members looked at the organization’s tax forms as part of a routine vetting process and were surprised to learn that the organization paid its chief executive almost $1 million in 2008 — $510,774 in salary and bonus and $477,817 in retirement and other benefits.
“A nearly $1 million salary and benefit package for a nonprofit executive is not only questionable on its face but also raises questions about how the organization manages its finances in other areas,” said Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma.
We covered S.2924 back in March when Chuck Grassley wrote a nasty note asking for – gasp – accounting details. While I totally support FDL’s outrage towards for-profit CEOs, I have to remind them that we already have the accounting details of for-profit corporations; so if Jamie Dimon gets $42 bazillion a year, we can just dig into his financial statements to figure out why. Chances are assets > liabilities so he can do that (unless he’s asking for a bailout but I don’t recall hearing him ask in 2008). With the Boys and Girls Club posting a $13 million loss in 2008, President Roxanne Spillett still earned $593,926. You don’t think that might warrant a little investigation?
FDL goes on to wonder out loud if all non-profits are created equal:
If Senator Coburn is going to stagger down that path, arms flapping wildly at the injustice of these non-profit salaries, then by his reckoning, the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre should forego his $1,139,568 annual salary (as of 2008), and Robert Mazzuca of the Boy Scouts of America needs to pay back that $1,577,600 he received in 2009. (Note: Yaron Brook, President and Executive Director of the Ayn Rand Institute, only pulls down $350K a year. Methinks someone’s not living up to his objectivist potential.)
I’m all for reform but only when applied equally across the board. The alternative is letting the market decide by being an informed donor (using tools like Charity Navigator to see how much particular non-profit execs are making and how they are using their money). If you don’t believe in a non-profit’s compensation practices, don’t give them a thing.
The government can continue to do so without caring or it can get smart about the money that it does not have and start taking a closer look at how non-profits operate. If you ask me, the entire thing is a gaping hole of waste and confusion and you could possibly confirm that with anyone familiar with non-profit accounting.