Courage and Seriousness

Turns out that although Paul Ryan budget plan cuts $4.3 trillion dollars in spending, mostly for the poor and middle class, it also cuts taxes– mostly for the very wealthy — by nearly $4.2 trillion dollars, leaving only $155 billion in deficit reduction over ten years.  You could get that just by cutting farm subsidies in half each year (Ryan lets ag subsidies off very lightly).

But it’s a very courageous and serious plan.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

10 thoughts on “Courage and Seriousness”

  1. I’m quite worried that the Ds with their crazy McCaskill plan are halfway into buying into this. Obama seems to occasionally hit the notes in between craziness and an actually workable plan so I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that he stops playing into the conservative game and offers some reality in his speech tomorrow. BTW if you thought FY’11 was a tough negotiation, wait til they hit the debt ceiling limit and then 2012. Even though Obama theoretically has some leverage on his side, I’m not holding my breath.

  2. No surprise there. Ryan knows who butters his toast.

    Every action on the part of Republicans is intended to destroy the middle class. Keeping wages low is a PRIMARY aim and the reason they don’t really care about the unemployment rate, and those in the (formerly) middle class don’t deserve health care, or clean air/water/food, or good schools, or any say in their working conditions, or pensions, or any leisure time, or really anything at all no matter how hard they work. They don’t even care about us as “consumers” (an offensive term), because there are plenty of consumers elsewhere. Their intent is to thin the herd.

    Once you view all Republican actions through this reality, it ALL makes perfect sense.

  3. That press release is not the clearest on the proposed tax cuts.

    I wasn’t aware that the Ryan plan proposed any cuts from current levels (not the future pop-up levels but actual current levels) of tax; what am I missing?

  4. Sam is correct, the plan is not yet that granular. The Ryan Plan does propose cutting certain rates in exchange for elimination of numerous deductibles, many of which are of limited or no value to middle income taxpayers. This was in the spirit of the proposals made by the Obama Deficit commission, whose work product Ryan opposed only because it did not go far enough to cut the deficit. Ryan’s staff expects the tax provisions of his Plan to score fairly neutral; their major impact is to simplify the code and to reduce government mangling of the code to influence behavior. Fact is, unless the AMT is changed or eliminated, there will be no tax reductions. If you did your own taxes instead of farming it out to some accountant or mindlessly entering your data into some software, black box package, you would know that. For anyone whose taxes Obama would increase, the AMT is and has long been the country’s tax system, and its rate, not the nominal rates that are politicized, are what we pay. Lowering the nominal rates simply transfers more of the taxpayer’s burden from the 1040 or Schedule D pigeonhole to the Form 6251 (AMT) pigeonhole without really changing the amount due. Increasing the rate will have the opposite effect. So go ahead, Mr. Obama. Kill the Bush tax rates! I didn’t get much of a cut when they went in, and i won’t get much of an increase if they go out.

    Of course, middle income payors will get hurt if they are not on the AMT (those who live in states with low or no state income taxes). And those are the people you progressives supposedly care about! It’s annoying to be your enemies but downright fatal to be your friends!

    So, in fact, Mr. Zasloff’s budget analysis of the Ryan plan is not even representative of it. But we are used to that kind of partisanship and sloppiness here.

    As for Kathleen’s “reality,” this would only make sense to a seriously paranoid personality. I suggest she allow folks to explain their own motives. Maybe she should simply ask them why, and then make the effort to listen and accurately comprehend the response.

  5. @Redwave72:

    “Ryan’s staff expects the tax provisions of his Plan to score fairly neutral”

    Stop it! Stop it! You’re killing me! That’s so good, you should take it on the road. But thanks for playing.

  6. If you trot on down to the library and read today’s WSJ lead editorial, you will see the same thing:

    “This overhaul is not even a tax cut – the instructions are to design a reform that is revenue neutral. It would hold tax receipts to their post-World War II average of between 18% to 19% as a share of the economy. The liberal claim that this means a tax cut for the wealthy is based entirely on the fact that marginal tax rates would decline, even though the loopholes (to be closed) primarily benefit higher income taxpayers.”

    Full disclosure – I commented before I saw the Journal editorial. Which indicates that careful reading of the proposal combined with an understanding of the tax code is likely to lead to similar analytical conclusions.

    A more honest criticism from the left would be that the 18-19% target does not fund the priorities you believe in, like PPACA. At least that would be a true statement and would set up a serious debate that deals with our actual policy differences, as opposed to the silly pejoratives and dishonesty of the class warfare misrepresentations.

  7. @kathleen: “They don’t even care about us as “consumers” (an offensive term), because there are plenty of consumers elsewhere.”
    You’ve maxed your credit cards and your prospects of higher future earning are low, but there are others on the globe who have yet to get their credit cards. It’s logical to focus on the latter.

  8. Redwave72,

    I don’t think the WSJ is particularly credible on questions of the revenue impact of tax changes. They have always been huge cheerleaders for tax fairy theories about self-financing cuts. As to the 19% of GDP, recall that the basis for this number was Ryan’s instructions to the CBO to assume that revenue would be that amount. No actual impartial analysis has been done, AFAIK.

    And yes, the tax cuts do predominantly benefit the wealthy. Eliminating taxes on dividends, interest, and capital gains does that. So does eliminating estate taxes and reducing corporate taxes. It really is hard to take objections to that seriously.

    To me, it looks very much as if the purpose of Ryan’s tax proposals is to establish a hereditary American aristocracy that pays little or nothing in taxes. I seem to recall the existence of such a tax-privileged group contributing to some serious problems in France, once upon a time.

  9. Wouldn’t it have been nice if Reich had made such arguments to the “Democrat” president he used to work for?

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