Tag Archives: Taxes

Rosemary Rivera on Patterson’s New Budget

Please take a moment to say hello to the newest member of the DFE blogging community, Rosemary Rivera. Rosemary is a long time advocate for education parity and health care issues in our community. I met her a few years ago when she was working for Metro Justice on educational issues and I was exploring Clean Money, Clean Elections. I’ve finally talked her into blogging on the site, so this is a big thrill for me.

Her first piece does a pretty good job of laying out the challenges facing Rochester and New York State as they relate to the currently proposed Patterson budget which taxes everything under the sun. She points out that in a world of crappy options for New York, taxing soda and movies is probably not the best option. There’s some great numbers breakdowns in there as well.

No Tax Forms for 2009?

Well, looks like New York State has decided to make the Internet it’s new cost-cutting strategy, because Channel 8 is reporting today that the state will no longer be sending out tax forms and instructions unless requested. That means they’re encouraging more people to use the Internet to fill out their taxes. I wonder when the Fed goes the same route.

Of course, all of this ignores the large number of people in this country for whom access to such technology is not taken for granted. Many rural poor do not have their own PCs and do not have access to a PC anywhere nearby. This once again raises the question about getting coverage of high-speed cable and other Internet solutions into these rural areas. We have probably left the era where computers are luxury items behind a few years ago. Internet access is now as much of a question of infrastructure and utility as the phone company and RG&E.

I really hope that stimulus package contains some money for network infrastructure.

Get Out Your Dancing Shoes

Jon Greenbaum posts this morning on the party millionaires have been having on Wall Street and the “shared sacrifices” Governor Patterson now expects the rest of us to swallow:

Governor Paterson is confronted with a $15 billion deficit and is talking about shared sacrifice. He is asking us to tighten our belts, proposing $2.5 billion in cuts from our children’s classrooms (on top of reneging on a court ordered increase of $1.9 billion in education funding the Governor is proposing and additional $700 million in education cuts).

But not everybody will feel the burden of these budget cuts in the same way. The cuts will have a disproportionate impact on upstate residents with low incomes and people of color. But aside from a symbolic gesture of taxing things like furs and jets, the Governor is not proposing that the wealthiest New Yorkers step up to pay their fair share.

I’m still having a hard time understanding why people keep calling Patterson a progressive. No progressive in his right mind would insist on VAT taxes – which are inherently regressive, hitting lower incomes harder – instead of what is logical: an income tax policy more in line with the rest of the country.

Patterson Bows to Pressure, Goes Regressive

I guess I don’t understand how the idea of an income tax hike is so onerous to a supposedly progressive politician that he chooses the path of regressive use taxes as a means to avoid one.

I don’t have much else to say on the matter except to point out for those who don’t know what a regressive tax is that a $45 charge on renewing your license plates is going to be a much bigger chunk out of the budget of a guy making $20k than it is out of a guy making 200k.

Granted, we didn’t really elect the guy and the guy we did elect was too busy getting rough sex out of hookers to bother governing. But I guess I would have expected better.

RBJ Snap Poll: Should the Devil “Tempt Men’s Souls?”

You gotta hand it to the Rochester Business Journal: when they spin, they spin like a top.

The RBJ’s latest snap poll asks whether the government should “distribute wealth,” a phrase which is loaded with meaning well beyond any objective curiosity.  Well, geeze!  How many people are going to say “no” to this question without even considering any specific connotation?

It should really go without saying that taxation is inherently a form of wealth distribution.  I don’t think those who said “no” to this question necessarily thought that they’d be saying “no” to a standing army, but they are.

. . . But Don’t You Dare Call it a Bail Out!

The auto industry is seeking $50bn in additional low-cost loans – beyond what was already approved by Congress last year – to help them out of the mess they’ve made, selling SUVs after peak oil and 911.  Did they really think this wasn’t going to come to an end, soon?  But here they come again, to suck on the teet:

Auto industry officials have argued that the loan program would not represent a bailout, but would be similar to aid lawmakers have given to Wall Street investment banks and struggling mortgage firms. They also note that auto companies face tens of billions of dollars in costs from new fuel economy regulations.

I see.  So, since we’ve bailed out the financial markets without calling it a bail out, we should just go right ahead and bail out the auto industry and not call it a bail out.  Because, you know, it’s really not a bail out.  Let’s not forget that the government issues loans in the form of bonds, and that’s a large part of how our currency remains viable.  Giving out low-interest loans means accepting less of a return on those bonds, which isn’t doing our larger society any good.

In other countries, like Japan, there’s no question that the government helps out industry.  It’s how they operate, with industry and government working hand in hand to make their economy strong.  Of course, there are a number of obligations industry must observe in exchange for consistent help in hard economic times.  In this country, we do the same thing, except that we have false ideological bullshit swirling around in Conservative circles that allows industry leaders to demand tax cuts along with their low-interest loans.

We’d be doing our country a world of good if we dropped the pretense.

Rochester’s City Budget: Carla Palumbo Reports

DFE Blogger and Rochester City Councilwoman Carla Palumbo reports on the state of the current proposed City budget. Notice how much different the City’s budget process is from the County’s. What? You’ve never heard about the County process? Yeah, that’s the point:

» Firetrucks and Rec Centers… » Carla Palumbo

The City Budget process is almost to the end…City Council’s vote on Tuesday night will wrap up over a month of budget review, hearings and deliberations. There are a few major changes proposed in this budget — the two drawing the most ire are the changes to the Fire Dept and Rec Centers After-school programs. Given the tight budget there were some fairly significant cuts to City staff, mostly in IT — but the Rec Center After-school program is being cut and the Fire Dept methodology changed with a loss of 16 positions (not lay offs, loss is by attrition)

The New Driving Tax

Ya gotta love Eliot Spitzer. Here this guy acts like he’s some kind of progressive during the elections, delivers nothing on his promises other than a pittance of money, and then every time you turn around, he’s got some new fascist program he wants to put in place.

First, it was the Real ID card. How did we go from documenting illegal aliens to Big Brother style national ID cards with biometrics? Fortunately, that one looks like it’s a back-burner issue now. We shall see. But the new thing? How about cameras on the streets, catching traffic violators? Well, if he has his druthers, it’s coming:

Democrat & Chronicle: Local News

Spitzer also proposed Tuesday that Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse, Yonkers and Nassau and Suffolk counties be allowed to have traffic safety programs similar to one in New York City that uses cameras at red lights. The Legislature must approve installing cameras. Last year Buffalo was rebuffed when it requested permission for 50 cameras expected to generate $3.5 million to hire more police officers and pay for other public safety initiatives. Spitzer’s request would allow up to 50 cameras for each locale. The cameras snap photos of license plates so that tickets can be issued to the owners of vehicles that run red lights.

O.I.C. So, this is only to catch red light violations? I don’t think so. Right there in the article is the fact that installing the monitors will raise revenues by 3.5 million dollars a year. Janet Napolitano in Arizona is already balancing her budget using revenue from the same types of camera monitors.

Notice that this has nothing to do with prevention. In fact, prevention is the last thing they want. It’s about raising revenue for the state off our failings as humans. Instead of having cops out there, watching what’s going on, making judgment calls based on all available evidence and maybe sending someone off with a warning, we’ll have disinterested cameras clicking away and raising insurance rates across the state.

Good for corporations, good for the state. I believe that’s the definition of fascism.

What Good Are Rebates?

Much though I do applaud the new sense of bipartisanship in Washington (brought on by a “holy shit” economic outlook), the suggestions so far show the typical in-the-box thinking that dominates Washington, especially when there is a Bush in the White House.  What are the Bush proposals to ebb the tide of recession?

Why, tax cuts and tax rebates, of course.  The government has oodles of money to just throw out there willy-nilly in tax rebates.  The only problem is: the last time they tried that crap, most people did what seems to the individual to be the most responsible thing to do with their rebate checks, which is pay down their credit cards.  The net affect is that the rebates had almost no effect on the economy or consumer spending at all.

Here’s an idea: if you’re just going to give that money away, why not give the money to the states in exchange for sales tax-free shopping days?  Better yet, make those sales tax-free purchases cash-only transactions below a certain level, so we’re not making our private debts worse.  In those states like Florida where there is no sales tax, some other incentive would need to be worked out.  But the point is to focus what we give away on the national level (where we really can barely afford to give anything away in the first place) on retail sales and things that would actually stimulate the economy.

Discounted rates on home purchases or rebates for purchases; ditto for cars; state tax relief on gasoline.  There are lots of options that don’t involve simply handing us a check as citizens.  We’re perfectly responsible people out here beyond Washington’s borders, but as demonstrated in the recent past, our priorities as individuals may not always be what’s in the best interest of the economy.