A Pledge to America is short on ideas

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October 17, 2010

Notes

Responses by Todd Gambrell and Joe Weir.

 

Note: In a  letter to the Midland Daily News Thomas J. Scott questioned my facts in my column last month. Please visit my website for supporting evidence for all my columns. Now for today’s column.

 

On September 23, House Republicans issued a document called A Pledge to America. (1) While it has some laudable goals, it is big on grandiosity and short on specifics. I will use it as a basis for my column in light of the November 2 election.

Economy

            Many are citing the fragile economy as a reason to extend the tax cuts of the Bush era. The Pledge claims we need to keep the tax cuts for jobs. We have had these cuts in effect since 2003. As of April 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we have lost 8.42 million jobs since January 2008. Additionally the BLS reported that there are another 8.3 million people who would like to work full time but are working part time. (2)

            In 2009 the Fortune 500 shed 821,000 jobs, enabling them to increase their earnings to $301 billion, an increase of 335% over 2008. (3) The gap in earnings between top executives and lowest employees continues to grow. The top 2% of income grew in 2009 while everyone else’s declined. (4)

            The number in poverty grew to an all time high of 44 million, nearly 1 of 7. (5) Without the social safety nets, this number would be much higher.

            Those tax cuts are creating a wealthy few, destroying jobs and putting people in poverty.

The Constitution

The Republicans wrote in their pledge, “We pledge to honor the Constitution as constructed by its framers and honor the original intent of those precepts that have been consistently ignored  particularly the Tenth Amendment.” Do these Republicans support governing by only white male landowners – the original meaning of “We the people”? Do they support the return to slavery and elimination of women’s right to vote? Do they support the election of US Senators by state legislatures rather than the people? All these are enshrined in the original Constitution (2a)

Business

The pledge continues with, “We will end the attack on free enterprise by repealing jobkilling policies….” Do these include minimum wage, 40 hour work week, unemployment insurance, and workmen’s compensation? They do include the repeal of a new requirement that business report all purchases on  Form 1099. (6)  Billions of dollars in tax revenue are lost because businesses understate their income or overstate their expenses. This requirement will help to end those practices.

Health care reform

            For at least fifty years legislators and the public have talked about reforming our health care system, especially how we pay for health care. Finally significant health care reform legislation was passed in March.

            The pledge says that “The American people wanted one thing out of health care reform: lower costs.” This American wants coverage for all people as well as lower costs. Since it has not been fully implemented we don’t yet know if it will lower costs.

            The Pledge promises to repeal the health care reform law and replace it with “common sense solutions” that would prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions and allow people to buy insurance across state lines. These proposals are in clear violation of their own stated support for a strict interpretation of the Constitution. Without mandating universal coverage people will wait to purchase insurance until they have a medical condition.

Energy

            At least for fifty years economists, environmentalists and others  have warned us about our dependence on oil as our primary source of energy. Some of the stimulus money was used to encourage alternative energy production. While the results are not significant in the short term they will have great impact on our future. Wind farms and, solar energy production must be encouraged. We have already seen both in various places. A solar shingle company is coming to Midland soon with one hundred new jobs.

Foreign policy

            President Obama has favorably changed the attitude around the world toward the United States. The pledge says that “National security is … protecting our citizens, bringing certainty to an uncertain world, supporting those who volunteer in the service of their country and defend our way of life, using every tool to protect Americans from threats at our borders.” While this is emotionally appealing, “certainty” is an illusion and “using every tool” is a dangerous statement.

Redistricting

            The main reason for taking a census evry ten years is that the data is used for apportioning US representatives and forming their districts. The next state legislature will draw the boundaries for the new districts.

            I will use the above to decide for whom to vote at all levels of government.

 

 

Notes:

(1) A Pledge to America

http://pledge.gop.gov/

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(2) TheBasisPoint, February 5th, 2010

http://www.thebasispoint.com/2010/02/05/20k-jobs-lost-in-january-8-42m-lost-since-recession-began-december-2007-charts-9-7-unemployment/

October 11, 2010

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(2a) Interpreting “We the people” as only “white male landowners” is an interpretation based on historical conditions. Women were clearly not part of the equation as they still are excluded from full participation in public life. I’m sure there were some non-white male landowners who did have same rights as whites, but these were the exception and not the norm for the writers of the Constitution. Even in my lifetime renters were barred from voting in millage elections.

The Constitution can be read at

http://www.usconstitution.net/const.html  ] 

Amendment 13 abolished slavery

Amendment 17 Senators elected by popular vote

Amendment 19 Women suffrage

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(3) “US Poverty Data Tells Only Half the Story...”

by Ananya Mukherjee-Reed Published on Thursday, September 23, 2010 by Common Dreams

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/09/23-4

Link to magazine article mentioned in above:

Fortune 500 “Profits bounce back”

By Shawn Tully, senior editor-at-large

http://money.cnn.com/2010/04/13/news/companies/fortune_500_profits.fortune/index.htm

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(4) “Superrich get richer”

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/09/24-13

Published on Friday, September 24, 2010 by RobertReich.org

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(5) “Intolerable Poverty In A Rich Nation” Think Progress

by Faiz Shakir, Benjamin Armbruster, George Zornick, Zaid Jilani, Alex Seitz-Wald, and Tanya Somanader

September 20, 2010

http://pr.thinkprogress.org/2010/09/pr20100920

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(6) Form 1099 expanded and explained:

http://www.boston.com/business/personalfinance/managingyourmoney/archives/2010/04/healthcare_refo.html

the following is quoted from that site:

Healthcare reform bill expands business tax reporting

 

For many years I have been hearing about the “federal tax gap”.  The tax gap is what the federal government believes should be paid in taxes versus what is actually paid in taxes.  The tax gap is estimated to be approximately $350 billion annually.  The tax gap comes primarily from three areas of noncompliance with the tax law: under reporting of taxable income (by under reporting revenue or over reporting expenses), underpayment of taxes, or non-filing of returns.  A significant majority of the tax gap is created by those that under report their taxable income. 

 

The federal government is running a $1.6 trillion deficit in the current fiscal year.  Additionally, the new healthcare entitlement program will create huge cash drains on the federal budget in future years.  To help close the tax gap and fund this deficit spending, the federal government has expanded informational reporting requirements of businesses. Under current tax law, if a business makes payments in excess of $600 to a person or a business over the course of a year, it must file Form 1099 to report those payments. One copy of the form is sent to the IRS, and another copy is sent to the person to whom you made the payments.  Payments made to a corporation and payments made in exchange for merchandise are not required to be reported on a 1099. 

 

Tucked away in just 23 lines of Section 9006 of the Healthcare reform bill be a dramatic change in the 1099 reporting requirements.  No longer will corporations or payments for merchandise be exempt 1099 reporting.  This new law is effective January 1, 2012.  A large majority of payments made by a business will now be reported on a 1099.  This reporting requirement will have a two pronged effect on those that under report their taxable income.  First, most of a business’ revenue will now be reported to the IRS, so understating large amounts of revenue will be more difficult.  Secondly, a business will be less likely to overstate its expenses as it will need to report where those expenses were paid. 

 

There is no doubt this will be an administrative nightmare for many businesses in the first year or two.  Taxpayer identification numbers need to be collected for all vendors.  Have a large business related meal at a restaurant, this will need to be reported on a 1099.  Spend a week in a hotel in Waco Texas, you will need to send a 1099. 

 

I do not believe the IRS will not be able to match these payments dollar for dollar to a tax return as there are too many variables involved.  However, it will prevent wholesale abuse by taxpayers and force more people into compliance knowing the IRS will have more information at their disposal. 

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Responses

Todd Gambrell, chairman of the Midland County Republican Party responded to my column with a Forum article on Octobe4 24.

Joe Weir, the Chairman of the Midland County Democratic Party responded to Gambrell on October 31.

The following are from the Midland Daily News and are copied here with permission.

Todd Gambrell

Bufka's attacks on pledge are baseless “

Sun Oct 24, 2010.

 

Norb Bufka's recent attack on the House Republican Pledge to America went far beyond the pale and he should apologize to every Republican, Independent and Democrat for even writing it. The insinuations and baseless accusations he makes have no place in constructive political discourse.

 

The American people have been speaking out about their federal government. While Washington Democrats have pushed an agenda of borrowing, spending, taxes, and bailouts, the people of mid-Michigan have joined a nationwide chorus of voices that want less spending, lower taxes and a smaller, smarter government.

 

Republicans like Dave Camp have been listening and are ready to lead American with a fresh start with a fresh new approach. Our agenda, A Pledge to America, is the result of our conversations with everyday Americans. It's based on the principles of smaller and more accountable government, economic freedom, lower taxes, fiscal responsibility, protecting life, American values and the Constitution. Our agenda also provides for a robust national defense that confronts and defeats the terrorist threat.

 

The single greatest issue the American people want us to address is getting America back to work. Michigan has had either the highest or second highest unemployment rates in the nation for the last four years. The national unemployment rate has not been this high for this long since the Great Depression. It's time for Democrats to admit that their Washington-focused approach of starting new government programs has failed, and address this major problem with solutions that will help the private sector create jobs. Republicans are ready to permanently stop job-killing tax hikes, rein in Washington's red tape and repeal job-killing mandates.

 

Families and small businesses have been making hard choices to balance their budgets, and they've told me that they want Washington to do the same. The Republican pledge to America is that we are ready to stop the federal government's out-of-control spending spree. Our plan will cut spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels, put a hard cap on new discretionary spending, and require that Congress cut its own budget and learn to do more with less. Republicans will deal with spending in ways that Democrats have refused, by ending the TARP bailout and putting a stop to government control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

 

Everywhere you go people say they want health care reform that lowers costs, not the massive job-killing government takeover that Democrats imposed. Dave Camp was the only member of Congress who introduced a bill that actually lowered premiums - for families, small businesses and large corporations alike. That is the kind of leadership we need in Washington to repeal this bad law and replace it with common sense medical liability reforms, the opportunity to buy health insurance across state lines and accessibility to health care for all, regardless of pre-existing conditions or past illnesses.

 

Finally, the American people are frustrated with more than Washington's spending and failed policies. They also want basic changes in how Washington enacts those policies. That's why Republicans are committed to restoring people's trust in Congress through some fundamental changes to how we do the people's business. It's time to make sure that bills are read, debated, discussed and understood before votes are cast. Dave Camp will make sure Washington keeps this pledge by voting to publish all legislation online for at least three days and requiring that the bills we pass are based on a specific constitutional authority. Republicans are also calling for changes that will make it easier for reform-minded legislators to get a vote on amendments that cut spending.

 

That is what the Pledge to America and Dave Camp are all about and that is what I will keep in mind when I go to the ballot box on November 2.

 

Todd M. Gambrell is an attorney with Lambert, Leser, Isackson, Cook & Giunta, P.C. He is chairman of the Midland County Republican party.

Joe Weir

“New ideas are needed as United States goes forward”

Posted: Sunday, October 31, 2010 6:00 am | Updated: 3:04 am, Sun Oct 31, 2010.

 

Todd Gambrell's letter "Bufka's Attacks on Pledge are Baseless" suggests that Mr. Bufka should apologize for his article which was critical of the Republicans' widely panned "Pledge to America". Mr. Gambrell claims that Mr. Bufka's criticisms were "baseless" and "far beyond the pale". However, Mr. Gambrell fails to mention even one of Mr. Bufka's criticisms much less refute them. The reader is left wondering what exactly Mr. Bufka got wrong. Apparently, nothing in particular, nothing that Mr. Gambrell could quite put his finger on anyhow.

 

Instead Mr. Gambrell turns his attention defending Dave Camp and the Republican agenda of the same old policies that we've heard from them for 30 years - tax cuts and vague references to balancing the budget. This is the exact same set of promises Camp and the Republican majority broke back in 2001 when they turned the Clinton era surpluses into the record deficits of the Bush years, the exact same policies that resulted in a near-death experience for the U.S. economy, the same incompetence that cost 5 million Americans their jobs. But Dave Camp doesn't want to look back, he wants to look forward. I know that because he told me that himself when I asked him about his dismal economic record. I guess if I had Camp's record I wouldn't want to look back either.

What the country really needs from Dave Camp and the Republican Party are some new ideas. For example, we all know that the most powerful economic force in the Republican universe is tax cuts. Indeed, listening to Republicans, one would conclude that tax-cuts are the only force, the solution to every problem. So how can it be that Michigan has the second highest unemployment rate in the nation but has a per-person tax burden that is 30th lowest of the states. That means that there are 29 states that have higher tax rates than Michigan but lower unemployment rates. How is that? What about the Michigan business tax? According to an AP article published in this very paper, "Michigan's corporate tax burden fell from 12th in 1989 to 39th in 2007 ... the largest drop in tax burden among all the states,". That leaves 38 states with higher business taxes than Michigan, but lower unemployment rates. How does that square with the tax cut theory? And Michigan's government is smaller now than it was in the 1970s. Adjusted for inflation revenues are where they were in 1964. If tax-cuts and smaller government are the solution, when is it finally going to start working?

 

How about the U.S. overall? Of the 30 most developed nations there are only four with lower tax burdens than the US. These are Turkey, Mexico, Japan, and South Korea. Turkey and Mexico aren't exactly economic utopias. Japan has a lower overall tax-rate than the United States but it has been mired in recession since 1990. On the other end of the spectrum we have countries like Germany, France, Sweden, the UK, and Canada, all with their famously high tax rates. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) all also have lower unemployment rates than the U.S. That's right. The French have a lower unemployment rate than us. Something just isn't working with the tax cut thing. I like tax cuts too. But I would like them more if they really worked.

 

Could it possibly be more complicated than simply cutting taxes? Maybe we also need a high quality educational system? Or a well maintained infrastructure? Or appropriate regulation on Wall Street? How about a strong manufacturing sector? That would probably be good.

 

The problem is that there is nothing new in the Republican Pledge. It's just a continuation of George W. Bush's ruinous economics in a glossy package. If you want proof, just look at Dave Camp's article (see it below) on the front page of yesterday's paper. A great American president once said "It is only common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another" Well, it failed. It's time for us to admit it and try another.

 

Camp running for re-election

Posted: Saturday, October 30, 2010 12:30 pm

By Ralph E. Wirtz for the Daily News

 

On just about any weekend, and sometimes during the week, one can find Dave Camp in Midland.

 

You might run into him at a coffee shop or a football game, or perhaps in the lawn and garden section of a department store. He still makes the trek just about every week, despite taking on more and more responsibility in Washington as the 4th District’s representative and ranking member on the House Ways and Means Committee.

 

Still, he has made nearly every vote since he was first elected to Congress in 1990 when the 4th District was still the 10th District. In fact, in this session he has missed only 2.4 percent of all the votes taken.

 

He has seen the ups and downs of the Republican Party since his first campaign in 1990, when he pledged “no new taxes.”

 

His rhetoric, however, hasn’t changed.

 

He wants to permanently extend the Bush-era tax cuts that are to expire at the end of the year, something he thought would be voted upon before Congress left Washington a month ago, and he was critical of the House leadership for not doing so.

 

“It was a dereliction of duty to leave Washington” without calling for a vote,  he said recently during an interview at the Daily News. “50 Democrats wanted to vote on it.”

 

Camp, who could become chairman of the Ways and Means Committee if Republicans capture the House of Representatives, said because no action was taken Americans now are looking at a “$3.8 trillion tax increase” at the beginning of the year and continued uncertainty over tax and regulatory issues.

 

“They didn’t want to make the difficult decisions,” he said.

 

If re-elected Camp said he will work to reduce government spending and to repeal the health care reform that was passed earlier this year, parts of which already are in place. He is a big supporter of the Pledge to America, which is a Republican pledge to “ repair our economy and reclaim our government for the people.”

 

The 21-page document is a blueprint for the next congressional session, calling for stopping job-killing tax hikes, rolling back discretionary spending, establishing caps to limit federal spending and require a minimum of three days for members to read legislation between draft and vote, among other items.

 

When reminded that the Pledge is similar to the  Contract with America,” a document House minority leader Newt Gingrich used as the basis for the 1994 House takeover by Republicans and which subsequently was forgotten in the early free-spending years of the George W. Bush administration.

 

“Yeah, that did happen,” he acknowledged. “And we were fired because of that.”

 

Camp has long been critical of the health care legislation, insisting that it doesn’t reduce costs, it does increase taxes and that it “cooks the books” on income and expenditures.

 

“You can’t have an entitlement expansion without increasing taxes, without increasing the debt,” he said.

 

“We actually did decrease costs,” Camp said about legislation he wrote that would have been an alternative to the Obama legislation. In fact the legislation did many of the same things the Obama legislation does — covering people with pre-existing conditions, not allowing insurance companies to drop people if they become sick and doing away with caps on medical care. The Congressional Budget Office said the legislation would save Americans about 4 percent a year in costs.

 

It was ignored by the Democrats in the House.

 

Camp said he believes that the debate over which type of alternative energy should be getting the bulk of federal dollars is far from over, which is why he has proposed a “alternative fuel tax credit.”

 

“We don’t know what will emerge,” he said.

 

Camp said this year’s campaign has been interesting.

 

 “Clearly, the intensity is on the Republican side,” he said. “I’m encouraged by what I see.”

 

Camp said the media spotlight on his work on Ways and Means this past year has boosted his visibility in the community.

 

“I’m visible all the time. They’ve seen me fighting on their behalf because of the position I’m in,” he said.

Source: http://www.ourmidland.com/news/article_e6b3c62a-e4c2-11df-bb17-001cc4c03286.html

 

My comments:

Todd Gambrell may have won voters by his column, but he neither responded to nor refuted my “baseless” claims. Two people pointed that out to me and of course Joe said the same thing in his column. I was surprised at Gambrell’s use of my first name in connection with such a demand for an apology. He acted like we are friends. While we have met, I haven’t talked to him in years.

   I can only conclude from his non-response that the Pledge supports the egregious policies I described andi repeat them here:

- slavery

- repeal of women’s right to vote

- the election of US Senators by state legislatures

- repeal of minimum wage laws, unemployment compensation, and workmen’s compensation

  We have already heard Republicans talking about the minimum wage law, social security, and other social programs, so be prepared for the onslaught against progressive accomplishments over the last century. We need to stand up for progressive policies.

   I was furious after I read the blatantly partisan “news” article about Dave Camp reproduced above. Why didn’t Wirtz just say “vote for Dave!”? that’s what the article was about, not news.