But first . . .

ORAL ROBERTS’ GRANDSON IS GETTING MARRIED

If it seems odd to go on TV using an assumed name – they can see your face, idiot – all I can say is that it was 1973 and I hoped no one who knew my face was watching noon-time TV in the Philadelphia market that day. In 1973, even after “the sexual revolution,” Viet Nam, and all that, it still took a lot more courage than I had to talk openly about being gay.

How far we’ve come. Look how comfortable Randy Roberts Potts is talking with CNN about his upcoming marriage – and, more to the point, how comfortable (I think) you will be listening to him. For so many Americans, it’s now a no bigger deal having gay friends – and wishing them happy marriages – than it is seeing blacks and whites sitting together on the bus.

In 1973, my cousin called to say she recognized my face. The TV was on at her local Philadelphia lunch counter. “How was it?” I asked. She couldn’t say. Upon hearing the guest introduction (“Today, we have with us . . .”), her fellow lunch counter patrons had voiced their contempt and changed the channel.

A CLARIFICATION

LA JOLLA, CA (The Borowitz Report) – Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney today released the following letter to the American people:

Dear American People:

Yesterday, comments I made about poor people made me look terrible. This always seems to happen when I say what I really believe.

The fact is, I do care about poor people. That’s because I’m poor myself, when you compare me to Mark Zuckerberg. . . .

DOUBLE TAXATION

So Mitt Romney pays 14% of his $20+ million annual income in federal income tax. Some have argued this is misleading because it ignores the 35% corporate income tax paid by the companies from which he profited. Add that, they say, and he paid nearly fifty percent.

Nonsense.

Leaving aside the fact that few companies actually pay the full 35% rate, here’s the deal. Say, through his stake in Bain, Romney invested $5 million in a company and, three years later, reaped a $25 million gain. Chances are good that, during the brilliant Bain-engineered turnaround that led to this profit, this company had little or no taxable income. In that case, his share of the corporate income tax paid on that little or no taxable income would also have been little or nothing.

Even if the company had been solidly profitable all three years, those three years’ earnings would have paled in comparison to the realized gain. Right? The company made (say) a 10% pre-tax profit each year – 30% in all. But Bain, in this example, made a 500% profit on its investment, not a 30% profit. So even if the company did pay the full 35% rate on its profits, Romney’s share of that tax would have been little more than a footnote.

The broader point when it comes to any form of “double taxation,” I think, is that – except in egregious cases – I just don’t buy it. Take, for example, the estate tax. Yes, you paid taxes all your life, and now, when you die, your estate has to pay tax again. But we need to get tax revenue someplace, so why not raise some of it from people who truly, categorically, unequivocally don’t need it – because they are dead.

Would it be nice to tell a billionaire’s children they will inherit it all without the government taking half first? Sure, I guess.

(Mitt Romney has pledged to eliminate this burden, shifting it from billionheirs to the less affluent. How can he possibly justify this? The jaw drops in disbelief.)

But for now, only the first $5 million or so of an estate passes tax free, and after that Uncle Sam does indeed get nearly half to help pay for all the things in his budget.

Is there too much spending in that budget? Perhaps. Maybe we don’t need such a large army, maybe we don’t need to honor our debt obligations or issue the Social Security checks people have been promised – but that’s a different topic. Whatever our elected officials obligate us to spend needs to be paid for, either with taxes or borrowed funds. And no matter what kind of budget you would write, if you were Congress, it would require tax revenue.

So the question is: since we need taxes, on whom should we levy them (and for whom should we lower them)? The Romney answer, when Bain and others were lobbying for the 15% rate on hedge fund managers, was: cut taxes on rich hedge fund managers and shift that cost to everyone else. The broader Republican answer has been: cut taxes drastically for the rich – lowering the tax on dividends from 39.6% to 15% and on capital gains from 20% to 15% (Newt would lower them to zero) – and make up the difference by shifting that burden to everyone else (whether via higher taxes, reduced benefits, crumbling infrastructure, or accumulated debt). I can see why some rich people would favor that – but why would anyone else?

 

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