Tax day linkfest

Although most Americans say their income taxes are fair, today is "Christmas in April" for Republican politicians trying to stir up resentment about the tax burden. As I mentioned yesterday, last year’s stimulus bill contained tax cuts for 98 percent of American families and particularly helped lower and middle-income families. Gail Collins commented,

Thanks to the tax credits in President Obama’s stimulus plan and other programs aimed at helping working families, couples with two kids making up to $50,000 were generally off the hook this year.

Naturally, anti-tax groups held rallies to thank the president for doing so much to reduce the burden on the half of the country least able to pay. Not.

One of the biggest tax breaks in the stimulus bill reduces taxes owed by $400 for individual filers and $800 for married couples filing jointly, but reportedly this credit and the accompanying “Schedule M” have confused many taxpayers.

Here’s a truly disturbing trend mostly ignored by the media. Annie Lowrey reports that in recent years the IRS has shifted toward more audits of mom-and-pop businesses and less scrutiny of the big corporations that “can defraud the federal government for much more vast amounts than their smaller counterparts.”

At today’s anti-tax rallies, some speakers will argue for a “flat tax,” meaning that the income tax would be set at the same level regardless of your income. That’s a bad idea, which hasn’t worked in countries that have adopted it.

Other conservatives, such as Representative Steve King and presidential contender Mike Huckabee, will repeat their support for a “fair tax,” which would replace the income tax with a huge consumption tax. That’s a terrible, horrible, no-good very bad idea.

Speaking of conservative fantasy-land, Senator Chuck Grassley decided to make stuff up during a conference call with reporters yesterday:

Grassley spoke of his belief that America is sliding toward a European-style economy. Actually, he said the Obama adminstration is moving the country in that direction, so he envisions President Barack Obama will ask for a tax increase via a value-added tax, since he can’t politically backtrack and increase income taxes on middle income people.

“They are going to need European-type taxes to maintain it, and that’s where the value-added tax comes in,” Grassley said. “…They just can’t get enough money from taxing wealthy people, to do all the things that they want to do. So you can add a value-added tax, and it is a hidden tax, because it is built into the price of the commodity you’ll buy. So, they can increase taxes on middle income taxpayers, contrary to what they promised in the election.”


Today’s rallies will surely generate a lot of media coverage, as well as some controversy over how significant the “tea party” movement is. Blog for Iowa cross-posted a piece from News Corpse casting doubt on the political strength of tea partiers.

I’m watching several upcoming Republican primaries as a test of the tea party in Iowa. If Dave Funk does surprisingly well in the third Congressional district, Chris Reed wins in the second district, or Mike La Coste or Jim Budde exceed expectations in the first district, that will be a sign of real grassroots power for the movement, but I expect candidates with more GOP establishment connections to win all three of those primaries.

Share any thoughts about taxes or tea partiers in this thread. I’ll be back later to comment, after waiting in line at the post office for who knows how long to mail my return (note to self: get this done earlier next year!).

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Steve King has empathy after all (updated)

Representative Steve King doesn’t come across as the most compassionate guy in the world, bragging about opposing aid for Hurricane Katrina victims and questioning the need to stop deporting undocumented Haitian immigrants after last month’s earthquake.

But if you thought King was incapable of feeling empathy, you’re wrong. Over the weekend he spoke to a panel on immigration at the Conservative Political Action Conference:

During his closing remarks, King veered into a complaint about high taxes, and said he could “empathize” with the man who flew a plane into an IRS building last week.

During the question and answer session, the Media Matters staffer asked King to clarify his comment, reminding him of his sworn duty to protect the American people from all sworn enemies, foreign and domestic. In response, said the staffer, King gave a long and convoluted answer about having been personally audited by the IRS, and ended by saying he intended to hold a fundraiser to help people “implode” their local IRS office.

That’s right, King feels empathy for a guy who crashed his plane into a federal building, intending to harm the IRS employees inside. In the process, the man killed a loving family man and longtime federal worker who served two terms in Vietnam.

Following King’s remarks at the CPAC panel, a man with a video camera gave the congressman a chance to clarify his remarks. King dug deeper. (continues after the jump)

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Year in review: national politics in 2009 (part 1)

It took me a week longer than I anticipated, but I finally finished compiling links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage from last year. This post and part 2, coming later today, include stories on national politics, mostly relating to Congress and Barack Obama’s administration. Diaries reviewing Iowa politics in 2009 will come soon.

One thing struck me while compiling this post: on all of the House bills I covered here during 2009, Democrats Leonard Boswell, Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack voted the same way. That was a big change from 2007 and 2008, when Blue Dog Boswell voted with Republicans and against the majority of the Democratic caucus on many key bills.

No federal policy issue inspired more posts last year than health care reform. Rereading my earlier, guardedly hopeful pieces was depressing in light of the mess the health care reform bill has become. I was never optimistic about getting a strong public health insurance option through Congress, but I thought we had a chance to pass a very good bill. If I had anticipated the magnitude of the Democratic sellout on so many aspects of reform in addition to the public option, I wouldn’t have spent so many hours writing about this issue. I can’t say I wasn’t warned (and warned), though.

Links to stories from January through June 2009 are after the jump. Any thoughts about last year’s political events are welcome in this thread.

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