Getting Sad at the Brown Campaign

This, of course, is Howie Carr's favorite line: that anyone who supports higher taxes but doesn't voluntarily pay extra is a "hypocrite." To state the argument is to refute it. - promoted by david

Things are beginning to derail over at the Brown Campaign and one has to wonder if Brown’s campaign manager Jim Barnett is in over his head. Scott Brown voted against the Buffett Rule which would have brought tax equity to a structure that is currently placing a heavy burden on the middle class. Scott Brown, barn jacket and all, voted with the billionaires and millionaires and right in line with Mitch McConnell to vote against fairness.

Today, Scott Brown decided that it would be a good idea to attack Elizabeth Warren, who supports the Buffett Rule by asking if she is an “Elitist Hypocrite?” It was not only a press release, but he felt that it was important enough to place it on the front page of his campaign web site.

The only thing that I could think of when reading the attack was how desperate it all seemed. The fact of the matter is Brown voted down fairness in the tax structure, something that is supported by voters and by 63% of independents. Instead of telling why he voted the way he did, Brown instead made up some nonsense attack about the voluntary Massachusetts tax rate.

Bottom line it’s how you vote Scott, Warren would have voted for the Buffett Rule and you voted against it.

While the pathetic attack doesn’t deserve a response, the Warren campaign summed it up nicely:

“The Buffett rule is about making sure that millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share, it’s not about funding government through voluntary contributions, so this question misses the key point in this debate – which is not just about economics but about our values”

Scott, instead of dumb attacks, you need to tell us why you feel the middle class should carry the tax burden.


48 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Independent? Not so much.

    This is an example of Scott Brown when he has to carry water for the Republican cause. His vote was necessary for the party to defeat cloture and maintain the threat of filibuster of the Buffett Rule bill. Had the Republicans’ defeat been clear, then he likely would have been freed to make an independent looking vote.

    • Actually his vote was NOT needed

      The Dem0ocrats needed 60 votes – and even if the 2 Democrats who missed the vote were there, they didn’t have it. They got 51 votes. They lost Pryor (D, Arkansas) and gained Collins (R, Maine).

      I wonder if his team being connected to Romney’s team was the problem.

  2. Scott Brown's argument is ridiculous

    It is silly to ask if Elizabeth makes voluntary contributions on her state tax returns.

    Here’s another way to consider this situation. Look at the tax breaks that oil companies get. Instead of giving big oil their tax breaks, why doesn’t Scott Brown just pay a little extra at the pump each time he buys gas?

  3. Ah yes, the obsession continues.

    Do you guys really think that you are effectively stating a case against Brown? Why have dismissed out of hand the strongest candidate: Marisa DeFranco.

    • Hmmmm

      The hard work of campaigns is getting enough of a staff to get yourself on the ballot. Ms. Warren collected 28,000+ signatures through the grass roots. For the most part no one was paid to do this. I hope you are out there collecting for Ms. DeFranco. If you’re not, she will not even appear on the ballot in September. Less talking and more walking. In fact I wish you luck. Anyone who puts out effort to be a candidate is sticking their neck out in ways the rest of us shy away from. She is an intelligent voice on the issues but it is not sufficient.

    • Edgar, it's getting stale ....

      and it really doesn’t fit. We weren’t looking for it. Brown started running away from his vote and made his own headlines. Unfortunately, this particular tact made him look foolish and like his trying to hide.

  4. Two reasons why the "Buffet Rule" is a political loser

    Maybe not in progressive MA, but most everywhere else, for two reasons:

    (1) Increasing the capital gains marginal rate, which defines the Buffet Rule, REDUCES tax receipts. Is this not the history of capital gains taxation going back to JFK? I remember cap gain tax receipts jumping when Reagan reduced them from 28% to 20%. Why would we want to INCREASE a tax when the likely result is LESS tax revenue?

    (2) As voters in dark-blue Washington state understand, a tax targeted at “millionaires” has an interesting way of being applied, over time, to lower and lower income brackets…progressives lost 65-35 in no-income-tax WA trying to impose a “millionaires” tax. The AMT (in ’66?) targeted a couple hundred tax payers but on 1/1/2013 will applied to 31 million taxpayers. Working taxpayers get this.

    Maybe Brown is taking the LOSING side of the LOCAL political argument but I think he’s voting for the right policy,

    BTW, his vote wasn’t needed, IIRC, as the tally was 51-45. Isn’t 60 needed to pass the senate?

    • On point 1, you have it exactly backwards

      You’re saying that raising the rate would reduce receipts, then you point to the fact that lowering the rate increased receipts as your evidence. That is exactly backwards and utterly illogical.

      The reason capital gains receipts went up when Reagan reduced the rate is because the reduced rate made it advantageous for people who own their businesses to take more of their income in dividends rather that W-2 earnings. Raising the rate at which capital gains are taxed will not reduce tax receipts, unless people who currently pay themselves with dividends shift their income stream yet again. With only two choices, W-2 earnings or dividends, that’s not very likely – and if the capital gains rate stays below the top W-2 rate, you can bet they’ll leave well enough alone.

      On the AMT, it does need an update, and it needs to be indexed to inflation.

      • Cap gains, not W-2 income OR dividends

        Capital gains rates inversely affect tax receipts from capital gains transactions. Raise the marginal tax rate on capital gains, and you collect LESS MONEY FROM CAPITAL ASSET SALES.

        Johnt001, are old are you? 25? Dividends were taxed at ordinary income rates in the Reagan years so they aren’t included in any historical, time-series measure of tax receipts from capital gains.

        • That's not my understanding

          As far as I know, dividends are taxed as capital gains – show me the section of the tax code that says they aren’t and I’ll be happy to stand corrected.

          • Both are correct

            According to the the IRS, “Ordinary Dividends” are taxed at ordinary income tax rates, while “Qualified Dividends” are taxed to the long-term capital gains rate.

            Ordinary Dividends

            Ordinary (taxable) dividends are the most common type of distribution from a corporation or a mutual fund. They are paid out of earnings and profits and are ordinary income to you. This means they are not capital gains. You can assume that any dividend you receive on common or preferred stock is an ordinary dividend unless the paying corporation or mutual fund tells you otherwise. Ordinary dividends will be shown in box 1a of the Form 1099-DIV you receive.

            Qualified Dividends

            Qualified dividends are the ordinary dividends subject to the same 0% or 15% maximum tax rate that applies to net capital gain. They should be shown in box 1b of the Form 1099-DIV you receive.

            Qualified dividends are subject to the 15% rate if the regular tax rate that would apply is 25% or higher. If the regular tax rate that would apply is lower than 25%, qualified dividends are subject to the 0% rate.

            To qualify for the 0% or 15% maximum rate, all of the following requirements must be met.

            - The dividends must have been paid by a U.S. corporation or a qualified foreign corporation. (See Qualified foreign corporation , later.)

            - The dividends are not of the type listed later under Dividends that are not qualified dividends.

            - You meet the holding period (discussed next).

            • Thanks Tom

              And these are the IRS code definitions today. Back in the 1980′s, and especially after the Tax Reform Act in 1986/7, dividends were much more narrowly defined; I can’t recall ANY dividend exclusion.

    • I thought it was because Warren was an elitist hypocrite ...


    • Your point number one is

      typically bankrupt tax rhetoric. Raising taxes decreases revenue. That’s a reason for not raising taxes. It’s a paradoxical, self-serving argument that tells people not to bother trying to raise taxes because revenues will only decrease. Meanwhile, you guys lobby to cut taxes. There’s only one direction for taxes to go: down.

      The relationship between tax rates and tax revenue depends legislation. There is an argument to be made that the Buffet rule would have little effect due to tax accounting, but that doesn’t make it a political loser. This is class warfare. For the last 30 years, the 99% have unilaterally disarmed and it will take more than a single bill before we stop redistributing wealth to the filthy rich, but the war is starting.

      • The war started 30 years ago

        I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically agree with you.

        The only reason I pick at the “war is starting” nit is that we need to remind ourselves, the media, and the right wing that the GOP declared war 30 years ago, and it is the GOP class war. This is important, because we hear time and again that President Obama (or Elizabeth Warren, or whoever else is the target) is “starting class warfare”. Wrong. We are, belatedly, responding.

        • The revolution starts now.

          We are like a colonized people, servants of a system that doesn’t care about us. As Steve Earle sings,

          The revolution starts now
          When you rise above your fear
          And tear the walls around you down
          The revolution starts here
          Where you work and where you play
          Where you lay your money down
          What you do and what you say
          The revolution starts now
          Yeah the revolution starts now

          • Wow

            Please remove tin foil hat

            • Tin foil hats are for conspiracy theorists.

              Don’t you want me to put down my hammer and sickle instead?

              At least give me credit for not posting the umpteenth diary on Scott Brown.

              • Hammer & sickle?

                Are those still sold anywhere but in that dusty old store off Harvard Square. Haven’t seen them in YEARS! (Antique Roadshow is in Boston this June…don’t throw them out.)

                Your eschewing another Scott Brown thread noticed, and very much appreciated.

                Thanks for the good humor, too.

        • Try 46 years ago

          …with Reagan’s victory as California Governor, codified by Richard Nixon in 1968, and refined consistently since then.

          This isn’t the time nor the place for a discourse on corrupted populism; I will point out however that the Leninist Right is not to be underestimated.

          • paulsimmons

            Leninist Right? Oxymoron expect for progressive hyperbole.

            • Actually no

              Back when Tom Kershaw was chair of the Boston Republican City Committee in the late Eighties, he used to have weekly open-to-the-public symposia with various conservative and Republican movers and shakers. These folks made no bones about their successful project to reverse-engineer the old Left for Right-wing purposes.

              Nothing oxymoronic about it: Leninism is a political mode of operation, not a philosophy (hence Grover Norquist’s portrait of Lenin in his inner office).

              They were successful in that project, and to the degree that Democrats lose working-class votes (by patronizing these voters when not ignoring them), they deserve what they get. All politics is local.

              Finally, I am a populist labor-liberal not a progressive.

            • How do you tell the difference between...

              …. the Bolsheviks and the Tea Party???

              Leninist Right? Oxymoron expect for progressive hyperbole.

              You can’t. There isn’t any difference.

              • "Petr" seems like a Commie name to me

                so I wonder why you can’t tell any Bolsheviks from Tea Partiers.

                • Get back on top of the station wagon, and it will be clearer

                  Good boy.

                • you lose

                  “Petr” seems like a Commie name to me

                  It is a wholly SLAVIC version of the more prosaic ‘Peter’. The Slavs existed before, concurrent to, and after “the Commies”

                  If you are going to use “the Commies” as your sole point of reference you’ve already lost the debate.

      • Please get a hold of yourself

        If you need a chart or table of the relationship between the marginal tax rate on capital gains and the tax receipts realized from capital gains, go here.

        Raising taxes decreases revenue. That’s a reason for not raising taxes.

        For capital gains, EXACTLY. At the link, see the US Treasury data table on pages 1 and 2, and the chart on page 3.

        • The Adam Smith Institute...? Really?

          If you need a chart or table of the relationship between the marginal tax rate on capital gains and the tax receipts realized from capital gains, go here.

          A regnant Thatcherite spittoon like the Adam Smith institution doesn’t hold much water with me. And the the paper you cite is a maladroit comparison of receipts to rates that wholesale ignores any underlying economic conditions, most particularly globalization, and eschews inflation, and other monetary affects.

          • Chart is in fixed 2000 dollars

            Does look like a strong correlation, even if you ignore some of the booms/busts. It’s just common sense high cap gains slow the economy down. If you own a business and are thinking of selling you might not because the taxes are so high – you might wait until you die and it ends up in your estate. Same thing holds for property.

            • "Common sense" isn't worth the

              powder to blow it up. Nine times out of ten “common sense” is the patina of ideology.

              The Adam Smith study relies completely on correlation, which, though useful, is not enough to prove causation. The best sentence, however, is “The Laffer effect with regard to income taxes is well known. When income
              taxes exceed a certain level revenues fall as the incentive to work decreases.”

        • How about a CBO analysis?

          The simplistic relationship you assert, like so many other right-wing “simplifications”, falls apart under even superficial scrutiny. A better analysis is found in sources like this 2000 CBO report (emphasis mine):

          Revenue estimators are often faulted for the way they project tax receipts and prepare legislative cost estimates related to capital gains taxes. But the relationship of realizations and receipts to gains tax rates is neither predictable nor obvious. And while reductions in the overall taxation of capital income can measurably increase economic growth, a cut in capital gains taxes alone is likely to produce much smaller macroeconomic effects. Inaccuracies in projecting revenue and disagreements about the effects of tax changes stem not from a failure to incorporate the behavioral responses of asset holders but from the complexities inherent in the nature of gains and gains realizations.

          Investors who know that a cut in the capital gains rate is imminent defer sale of assets until after the cut takes effect. Investors who know that an increase is imminent accelerate the sale of assets prior to the increase. Each causes temporary spikes and sags in capital gains revenue. Such transients have little, if anything, to do with growing the economy, and little cumulative effect in overall capital gains receipts.

          • From the same CBO report

            “Capital gains taxes may influence the level of output not
            only through their effects on the accumulation of capital but
            also through the way that capital is allocated among various
            uses. By shifting capital from lower-value to higher-value
            activities, a change in capital gains taxes may increase the
            overall efficiency of the economy by increasing the return
            from capital that is placed in service. In particular, treating
            capital gains favorably can reduce the inefficiency caused by
            the double taxation (under both the corporate income tax
            and the individual income tax) of corporate profits. And
            innovation and entrepreneurship may also respond positively
            to lower capital gains tax rates.”

            • Note the use of the subjunctive

              mood–can, may–and the indicative mood–is–in both excerpts. And what does “efficiency” mean in this context?

              • 2nd house example

                You somehow end up with a second home – with a built up capital gains. If rates are higher you should not sell it, you should hold onto it until you die. What does this do for the economy, the house doesn’t get sold, Realtors don’t get a commission – and a new family can’t buy it. It slows the economy down.

                BTW there is an entire industry setup to prevent cap gains taxes, look up 1031 exchanges. If rates are low the state would capture this income.

                • An opportunity to create a new industry

                  The market needs a new industry set up to help the government recapture wealth from the 1% and distribute it among the 99% — the symmetrical inverse of the industry that apparently helps the wealthy avoid capital gains taxes.

                  The real and underlying issue here is wealth concentration, and changes in tax policy are just one way to solve it. So long as the wealth concentration remains as high as it is, our consumer economy will not prosper.

                  Surely with the right incentives, we can solve this problem.

                • That's not common sense,

                  that’s reality.

                  It’s a great system: first lower the capital gains tax. Set up an entire industry to prevent payment of capital gains taxes. Change executive compensation so most of it is capital gains not income.

                  I mostly agree that the Buffet rule is better politics than tax policy, but sometimes politics is the best you can do. If you think, as I do, that we need to reverse the income redistribution effected by the Right over the last 30 years, this may be the best way to start.

    • Gains rate and receipts

      “I remember cap gain tax receipts jumping when Reagan reduced them…”

      You’re remembering wrong, Shep. As per this table, the cut in tax rate happened in mid-1981. But look at the tax receipts for 1979, 1980, 1981 and 1982: $11.7B, $12.5B, $12.8B and $12.9B. I don’t see a huge jump there, do you?

      In 1983, there was a huge jump, up to $18.7B. But I can’t rightly say this was because of lower tax rates, can you? With a straight face, I mean? Two years after the change?

  5. Political loser?

    While I don’t believe in governing by polls I do believe in at least being honest about them, and the Buffet Rule is polling at a whopping 72% nationwide.

    Yes, 60 is (supposedly) needed to pass the Senate and we got 51 (a majority last I checked); therefore Brown and a few others voting with us would have changed the outcome.

    • How is it phrased?

      Do they say “Buffet rule,” or explain the concept?

      I think the distinction is important, because the concept is good, but “Buffett rule” is bad messaging, IMAO. Who can relate to Warren Buffett?

    • Citation?

      Daily Kos poll, maybe. I see 55/45 and 60/40 FOR. The marginals for independents are closer to 60/40 FOR right now.

      But, as happened in Washington state in the course of the debate over a millionaire’s income tax, it flipped from 65-35 FOR to a 65-35 AGAINST defeat at the polls.

      Politically, even some Dems are calling this new tax “gimmicky.” And there’s an political argument yet to be made that a Buffet tax would, by definition, be a jobs killer.

  6. CNN poll

    The LA Times reporting on it is as good as any.

  7. Any thread that culminates in a Tinfoil-Hat Competiton

    cannot be judged all bad.

    Seriously, though, if there are any crocodiles with extra tears left after attending to Senator Fratboy, they might shed a couple for Governor Romney, who has just been self-sorrowed to discover that he is the hapless target of a vast left-wing conspiracy (IKYN) that involves pretty well the entire non-backwater media.

    ¿Could it be something in the Mass. air or water, that we produce such whiners?

    Happy days.

  8. Would Buffett even be subject to this tax?

    Since the proposed legislation does not deal with muni bond interest or charitable contributions, there’s a good chance it wouldn’t apply to Mr. Buffett or others like him based on their current tax situations. And since it keeps those “loopholes” alive, this tax would be easily avoided by anyone not of a mind to pay more in taxes. In that way it really is no different than the line on the Mass tax return asking people if they want to pay tax at the optional higher rate.

    But it definitely will discourage risk taking in capital markets in favor of investments in municipal bonds. It’s hard to see how this is good for the economy.

    • There is nothing to suggest that Buffett has significant

      muni bond holdings, but that is really not a problem. Tax free bonds are tax free because they pay less – to the benefit of the cities that issue them. The benefit from this tax break actually goes mostly to the cities. The rate of return is far less than the expected return on taxable investments.

      As to charitable contributions, I think the AMT eliminates their deduction.

      While muni bonds might lower taxes paid versus other alternatives, it is silly to use minimizing taxes paid rather than maximizing after tax earnings. As to charitable contributions, if I am wrong and they are deductable, they are really not given primarily to reduce taxes. The idea of some people paying more voluntarily is not the same thing.

      • Actually

        You have it backwards. Tax free bonds pay less because they are tax free, not the other way around as you suggest. It is a huge tax expenditure and one of the main reasons why someone like Buffett can pay a lower tax rate than his secretary. If the point of the Buffett Rule is make sure “rich” people pay their fair share in taxes, you need to subject muni bond interest to the 30% tax.

        And you are mistaken about how charitable contributions are treated under the AMT. They are deductible against the AMT and under the Buffett Rule.

        If the Buffett Rule becomes law many taxpayers will be presented with the choice of being subject to the 30% tax or making a charitable contribution to avoid the tax. They will also have the option of buying tax free bonds or taxable bonds. Essentially they will have to choose whether to pay more federal tax or not, just like they must choose whether to pay the optional higher tax rate in Massachusetts.

  9. Scott Brown is all Gun-Ho

    About the wars, even embarressing himself in front of Petraes with his tough guy schtick. Over 30 years in the Guard and never been to a war zone. Hmm. I’d say he is a connected elitist hypocrite.

  10. Why must we prove that the wealthy do not pay enough?

    Since Reagan, the tax rate has dropped, particulary on the rich and the corporate. I could be obtuse and say that all the two Bush tax cuts got us was the worst economic meltdown since the depression. Not true, but they have enabled the wealthy to continue their binge while the economy at large has suffered (and just ask Scott Brown or any republican why he thinks the economy tanked.) Cue the crickets.
    Last year american business posted record profits in the midst of record unemployment. So if low taxes produce jobs then where are the jobs? Show me on the Laughter Curve exactly where the tax rate has to be in order for the job creators to create jobs. The righties ought to be able to do so easily, but they can’t.
    I’m afraid the name of the game with the right is to drive down wages and benefits to maximize profits and cut their own tax rate as much as possible because they don’t believe they need government. They want a banana republic, not a democracy.

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