Thursday, August 12, 2004

Yes, it really IS the people versus the powerful

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has released their latest study:

Since 2001, President Bush's tax cuts have shifted federal tax payments from the richest Americans to a wide swath of middle-class families, the Congressional Budget Office has found, a conclusion likely to roil the presidential election campaign.

The CBO study, due to be released today, found that the wealthiest 20 percent, whose incomes averaged $182,700 in 2001, saw their share of federal taxes drop from 64.4 percent of total tax payments in 2001 to 63.5 percent this year. The top 1 percent, earning $1.1 million, saw their share fall to 20.1 percent of the total, from 22.2 percent.

Over that same period, taxpayers with incomes from around $51,500 to around $75,600 saw their share of federal tax payments increase. Households earning around $75,600 saw their tax burden jump the most, from 18.7 percent of all taxes to 19.5 percent.

***

The effective federal tax rate of the top 1 percent of taxpayers has fallen from 33.4 percent to 26.7 percent, a 20 percent drop. In contrast, the middle 20 percent of taxpayers -- whose incomes averaged $51,500 in 2001 -- saw their tax rates drop 9.3 percent.

***

For the bottom 20 percent of households, the combined Bush tax cuts averaged $250 each. The middle 20 percent received $1,090, while the top 1 percent garnered $78,460, said Democrats on the Joint Economic Committee who analyzed the report.

The tax cuts this year will boost the income of millionaires by 10.1 percent, while middle-income families see a boost of 2.3 percent, the Democrats said.

Enough said.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Politicizing intelligence

So Osama bin Laden is planning a new attack:

U.S. intelligence officials say a high-profile political assassination, triggered by the public release of a new message from Osama bin Laden, will lead off the next major al Qaeda terrorist attack, The Washington Times has learned.

The assassination plan is among new details of al Qaeda plots disclosed by U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports who, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the killing could be carried out against a U.S. or foreign leader either in the United States or abroad.
Not good news. But something smells funny... let's try and figure out what it is.

First of all, this isn't a terror alert. The information comes from "U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports... speaking on condition of anonymity." Why the secrecy? If there's a genuine threat, why not make a formal announcement? And if there's a reason to keep the information under wraps (say, to avoid hampering counterterrorism efforts), why would these "officials" leak the information to the press?

But the really funny stuff comes further down in the story:

"The goal of the next attack is twofold: to damage the U.S. economy and to undermine the U.S. election," the official said. "The view of al Qaeda is 'anybody but Bush.' "
This statement has nothing to do with national security. This is pure, ruthless political manuvering.

Sure, Osama wants Bush dead -- but only as the symbolic head of America and everything else bin Laden despises and demonizes. There hasn't been one shred of evidence that bin Laden or al Qaeda prefers for Bush to lose the November election. If there were, the administration would be publicizing the hell out of it. Karl Rove and the Congressional Republicans would love nothing more than to be able to say (or at least imply) "Osama wants Bush to lose! A vote for Kerry is a vote for bin Laden!"

But John Ashcroft can't make an official announcement that bin Laden has endorsed Kerry, so the Bushies are trying the back-door route -- with whispers. I can believe that the right-wing, Bush-cheerleading Washington Times would regurgitate this unreliable, politicized crap. I just hope other news organizations won't.

Granted, we'll probably never be sure if bin Laden has a preference in the election -- if he even cares, which is by no means certain. Osama is not likely to be sporting a campaign button in his next video. But even when making an educated guess, it's simply not reasonable to infer that bin Laden wants Bush to lose. Would Kerry, as president, stop pursuing terrorists? Would he embrace Islamic fundamentalism? Would he allow rogue organizations to obtain WMDs? No, he wouldn't do any of these things, and bin Laden knows it. The more reasonable inference is that George Bush is Osama's wet dream. Bush has done more to incite Islamic terrorism than bin Laden ever could. Bush has pissed off Muslims everywhere by invading Iraq, he's alienated most of the world in the process, and he's he's allowed Iraq to become a lawless haven for terrorists. How could Kerry top that? If bin Laden is smart (and unfortunately he is), he's rooting for Bush all the way.

(Thanks to TalkLeft for the pointer.)


Monday, August 09, 2004

Tax the poor -- they can't afford to hire clever accountants

Another gem from our moron-in-chief:
Bush criticized Kerry's plan to eliminate the tax cuts for those making more than $200,000 a year, saying that the "the rich in America happen to be the small business owners" who put people to work.

Bush also said high taxes on the rich are a failed strategy because "the really rich people figure out how to dodge taxes anyway."
Oh, brother. This statement really speaks for itself, but I'll offer three points:

1. By Bush's logic, the "war on terror" is a failed strategy because we haven't caught the terrorists. Criminal laws are a failed strategy because people still commit crimes. It's nonsensical.

2. If rich people can dodge taxes, doesn't that mean we should CLOSE TAX LOOPHOLES instead of just throwing up our hands and saying, "Oh, well, what's the use in trying?"

3. Bush's assertion that the rich in America are small business owners is a complete laugh. Ask any small business owner if he/she feels rich -- the answer will almost certainly be no. Most small business owners are barely getting by; it's the LARGE business owners who can afford the private lear jets, fourth houses in Vail, etc.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Here it comes (?)

Is the Bush administration being sensible about an existing danger, or is it making the first steps toward an attack on Iran? Condi Rice's statements on Meet The Press cannot be taken lightly:

With Iran stepping up its nuclear program, a top White House aide said Sunday the world finally is "worried and suspicious'' over the Iranians' intentions and is determined not to let Tehran produce a nuclear weapon.

National security adviser Condoleezza Rice also said the Bush administration sees a new international willingness to act against Iran's nuclear program. She credited the changed attitude to the Americans' insistence that Iran's effort put the world in peril.
She would not say whether the United States would act alone to end the program if the administration could not win international support.

A few points I would make:

1. Forced to answer my own question, I would guess that Rice is beginning to lay the ground for some kind of attack on Iran. Yes, it's possible that Bush is coming to the sober realization that Iran's existing nuclear program is a far larger threat to Middle East security than was Iraq's fictitious WMDs. However, if this were a genuine epiphany, it wouldn't be publicized like this. Sending the NSA out on Meet The Press to start rattling the saber about Iran is NOT the prelude to a reasoned and rational response.

2. It will be an attack on Iran rather than an invasion. One year ago, I might have been predicting invasion, but with the occupation of Iraq going so badly I can't imagine Bush's advisors ever recommending what would end up as "Iraq: The Sequel." The attack might be big, extended, and splashy (and it certainly WILL be), but there will be no American troops on the ground. (With the possible exception of surgical special forces strikes on sensitive targets.)

3. However this ends up, the administration will try to engender as much debate as possible. Everytime John Kerry makes a major policy speech, some "unnamed administration official" will leak a juicy tidbit about how the president is considering using ground troops, or nukes, or whatever. They will draw this out, taking baby steps, escalating the rhetoric bit by bit. Why? This is all about distraction. As long as the headlines are about a possible attack on Iran, they won't be about the terrible American economy. They won't be about poor unemployment figures, American deaths in Iran, Bush's year AWOL from the National Guard, and -- especially -- John Kerry.

4. This should come as no suprise.