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As usual, Scott Horton at Harper’s Magazine has written a great post detailing where the US stands on the torture issue.

He was also recently on the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC.

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I’ve been following the torture debate pretty closely the last few months years, and Glenn Greenwald’s blog has  consistently been a good place to go for information and insight.  His latest post asks the question everyone has been waiting for Obama to answer:  Does the US stand by its treaty obligations?

He points out a recent story by Michael Isikoff in Newsweek which details an internal DOJ inquiry during the Bush years whose findings were consistent with what the left has been charging since the Bybee memo was declassified:  that political appointees in the Justice Dept. were put in place to give legal clearance for actions that were transparently illegal.

From what I’ve seen in the mainstream media, there is virtually no attention being paid to the brobdingnagian tax cut (DeMint amendment) being supported by all but five Senate Republicans.  Here is what it includes, briefly:

o Permanently repeal the alternative minimum tax once and for all;
o Permanently keep the capital gains and dividends taxes at 15 percent;
o Permanently kill the Estate Tax for estates under $5 million, and cut the tax rate to 15 percent for those above;
o Permanently extend the $1,000-per-child tax credit;
o Permanently repeal the marriage tax penalty;
o Permanently simplify itemized deductions to include only home mortgage interest and charitable contributions.
o Lower top marginal income rates from 35 percent to 25 percent.
o Simplify the tax code to include only two other brackets, 15 and 10 percent.
o Lower corporate tax rate as well, from 35 percent to 25 percent.

Reducing the top income tax bracket from 35% to 25% would be a massive blow to tax receipts, which have the same impact as massive spending, which makes Republican attempts to brand the stimulus as “generational theft” completely disingenuous.  Add to that the fact that modern Republicans have a stated goal of “reduc[ing] [government] to the size where [they] can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub” and you can see, once again, their ideology at work.

Republicans since Reagan have argued that taxing at a lower rate actually brings in more revenue–that businesses and individuals, less constrained by taxation, are able to make so much more money that the government actually brings in more money with the lower rate than the higher rate.  See:  the Laffer curve.  The problem is that there has NEVER been any evidence to support this, even with near 30 years of practice by Republican administrations.

Most Americans don’t have any idea the history of the income tax brackets’ percentages or their economic effects.  During the post-war boom years, which lasted until 1973, there were high taxes and widely shared prosperity.  Since Reagan, the income tax rate has fallen off a cliff.  As our tax code has become more regressive, the classes become more polarized economically.  Below is a chart I filched from that socialist conspiracy, Wikipedia.

 

Partial History of
U.S. Federal Income Tax Rates
Since 1913

Applicable
Year

Income
brackets

First
bracket

Top
bracket

Source

1913-1915

1%

7%

Census

1916

2%

15%

Census

1917

2%

67%

Census

1918

6%

73%

Census

1919-1920

4%

73%

Census

1921

4%

73%

Census

1922

4%

56%

Census

1923

3%

56%

Census

1924

1.5%

46%

Census

1925-1928

1.5%

25%

Census

1929

0.375%

24%

Census

1930-1931

1.125%

25%

Census

1932-1933

4%

63%

Census

1934-1935

4%

63%

Census

1936-1939

4%

79%

Census

1940

4.4%

81.1%

Census

1941

10%

81%

Census

1942-1943

19%

88%

Census

1944-1945

23%

94%

Census

1946-1947

19%

86.45%

Census

1948-1949

16.6%

82.13%

Census

1950

17.4%

84.36%

Census

1951

20.4%

91%

Census

1952-1953

22.2%

92%

Census

1954-1963

20%

91%

Census

1964

16%

77%

Census

1965-1967

14%

70%

Census

1968

14%

75.25%

Census

1969

14%

77%

Census

1970

14%

71.75%

Census

1971-1981

15 brackets

14%

70%

IRS

1982-1986

12 brackets

12%

50%

IRS

1987

5 brackets

11%

33%

IRS

1988-1990

3 brackets

15%

28%

IRS

1991-1992

3 brackets

15%

31%

IRS

1993-2000

5 brackets

15%

39.6%

IRS

2001

5 brackets

15%

39.1%

IRS

2002

6 brackets

10%

38.6%

IRS

2003-2008

6 brackets

10%

35%

IRS

Not to mention permanently reducing the capital gains tax to 15%.  Most middle class conservative Americans ask themselves why should the government tax their capital gains, which are mostly in 401(k) plans used for retirement.  What is not realized is that most of the income of the super-rich is through capital gains.  What does this mean?  It means that, in effect, someone who realizes $500 million in capital gains in 2010, under the DeMint Amendment would pay a lower tax rate than the couple who makes $100K.  If anything, the capital gains tax needs to be progressively stratified, not flat and lowered.

And what are the costs of these tax cuts?  In Paul Krugman’s latest opinion piece, he writes:

“In the Senate, Republicans inveighed against “pork” — although the wasteful spending they claimed to have identified (much of it was fully justified) was a trivial share of the bill’s total. And they decried the bill’s cost — even as 36 out of 41 Republican senators voted to replace the Obama plan with $3 trillion, that’s right, $3 trillion in tax cuts over 10 years.”

So, with a 2009 deficit of $1 trillion, the Republicans are castigating Obama for wanting to spend $800B to stimulate the bleakest economy in 70 years, while simultaneously trying to burden the government by $3T over the next decade.  And the CBO is predicting a paltry surplus of 0.3T over the next decade.  Those tax cuts would put us well into the red.  All of which begs the question:  Who won the elections?

at how poorly formed are neoconservative arguments.   I feel bad for them.  It must be difficult to transparently lobby for arms companies and the Likud party and make no sense.  It’s like being a Kirby salesman, except on a larger scale.

Fortunately, we have the blogosphere to dispel easily disprovable errors of fact and judgment.

@ntyork on twitter

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On May 3, 2009, the National debt was $11,236,997,227,054. Click here to see the most current figure.

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