Monthly Archives: February 2009

Bellingham Raid

New Orleans   Like Greek oracles many of us read the tea leaves and look for animal sign in Washington to try and puzzle out what the Obama Administration is really doing and where it is really going.  This is especially true in trying to figure out the future of the “tier 2” issues like immigration reform.  Whoever would have thought immigration reform involving 15 million people would be in the second tier, but who ever thought that bailouts and stimulus packages would have been first order with health care, educational reform, and workers choice issues right behind it. 
      For the second time in as many weeks the signs are confusing but good for immigration reform.  Or, so it seems to me at least.
      The news started breaking earlier this week that ICE had raided a plant in Bellingham, Washington up the sound 60 miles or so from Seattle, if I remember correctly.   The workforce was slightly over a hundred and 28 immigrants were detained for processing (which means expulsion on the usual ICE model) and a couple of people were released for so-called “humanitarian” reasons. 
 This was old news under the Bush Administration, but there had been high hopes and many believed some promises that this would be different with an Obama Administration.  New Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the recent governor of Arizona, had also indicated publicly that all of these policies were “under review.” What happened then?!?
      Well the news of the raid spread like wildfire and by Wednesday I had received 4 or 5 alerts from widely different organizations to contact the White House, Secretary Napolitano, or someone to protest these raids and demand that they cease.  Then the wheels started moving, as the reaction sat in. 
      By Thursday morning there was a short blurb in the Times, quoting the Secretary as essentially saying this was a “sneak” attack that she had not known about and that DHS was reviewing the whole mess.  Thursday morning as well saw a meeting of the beltway immigration reform forces meeting with top officials of DHS under the Secretary and being assured that they were getting on top of this matter, and there would not be a repeat.
      First Obama on the radio and now Napolitano on the back track.
      There are signs for all of the oracles in Washington (and beyond!) to read that portend something interesting on immigration reform might be afoot.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano

Tax the Rich

New Orleans        President Obama announced that in order to pay the piper for health care and for expanding the tax credits to lower income, working families, he was going to advocate a very simple solution:  tax the rich!   Well, not exactly TAX THE RICH, but more just equalize some of the taxes on the relatively rich.  And, for all of the coming hoopla, more of this is a rollback to pre-Bush than a real push for equity in the tax system across the board.  Believe me on this, the revolutionaries have NOT taken over the White House.
    Almost a year ago at the Organizers’ Forum dialogue in DC, Bob Greenstein and others argued that unless the Bush tax cuts were rolled back, the government would be strapped without revenues, and that was before the meltdown.  Part of what the President is doing is a simple readjustment.
    The heart of the changes is captured in the Times today:
The combined effect of the two revenue-raising proposals, on top of Mr. Obama’s existing plan to roll back the Bush-era income tax reductions on households with income exceeding $250,000 a year, would be a pronounced move to redistribute wealth by reimposing a larger share of the tax burden on corporations and the most affluent taxpayers.  [emphasis added!] Administration officials said Mr. Obama would propose to reduce the value of itemized tax deductions for everyone in the top income tax bracket, 35 percent, and many of those in the 33 percent bracket — roughly speaking, starting at $250,000 in annual income for a married couple.
Under existing law, the tax benefit of itemizing deductions rises with a taxpayer’s marginal tax bracket (the bracket that applies to the last dollar of income). For example, $10,000 in itemized deductions reduces tax liability by $3,500 for someone in the 35 percent bracket.
    Mr. Obama would allow a saving of only $2,800 — as if the person were in the 28 percent bracket.
The White House says it is unfair for high-income people to get a bigger tax break than middle-income people for claiming the same deductions or making the same charitable contributions.
    This is hardly the “millionaires'” tax proposed in New York City by Mayor Bloomberg a couple of years ago.  This is mainly a restoration of sanity at the more affluent end of the tax scale.  Furthermore the adjustments are in at the margins, rather than the meat.
    The numbers are substantial though:  $318 billion over 10 years.  I know that’s not big money for bankers, but for the biscuit cookers, this will make a huge difference.
    The right and the richer may squirm and scream, but in the New Depression, they should button the lip and pay the small sums acquired especially because the value of better health care for all citizens and more tax credits for the working poor are far better than any of their vanity philanthropy or whatever anyway.
We need more of this!