WELCOME TO THE FISCAL CLIFF: UNCLE SAM DIPS INTO YOUR PAYCHECK FOR MORE … EXCEPT IF YOU’RE A PUBLIC EMPLOYEE … BIANCHI & ‘WHAT’S A POLITICIAN?’ … bobbyd’s SON GETS IT … plus … BOEHNER SALTS UP FISCAL CRISIS FIASCO; ‘WINNERS’ & LOSERS IN THE LAST-MINUTE DEAL TO AVOID PLUNGING OVER THE FISCAL CLIFF
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, FRIDAY, JAN. 11, 2013) — Did the eagle shit for you since the beginning of the New Year? N0, we don’t mean the Boring Broadsheet excreting its usual combination of local celebrity worship, “I, Pretentious,” non-news, and puff pieces on how everything is great in the local economy and school system. We mean your paycheck … if, that is, you are lucky enough to be drawing a paycheck. If so, you got your first street-level taste of the 112th Congress’ inability to reach compromise on the so-called Fiscal Cliff.
Welcome to the feds taking a bigger chunk of your money — YOUR money — via an increase in the Social Security payroll tax, which went up after the clowns in D.C. couldn’t decide on anything more important than how much salt to lace into the pork. If you make $50,000 a year, congratulations! You’re now taking home $38.46 less per two-week paycheck, or about $1,000 a year.
Death by 1,000 Cuts … and Bianchi
The standard justification when this sort of thing happens in Pittsfield is the death by a 1,000 cuts. Each one individually doesn’t kill, and thus you hear, “An extra $____ (fill in the amount) doesn’t hurt anybody.” And in case you didn’t realize it, but the last time your Right Honorable Good Friends on the Pittsfield City Council had a chance at Mayor Dan Bianchi‘s budget, they said “yes,” to another round of tax hikes.
Your “prudent” politicians coming to your rescue again.
Bianchi ran on thing major planks of a bland, sanded-floor platform: (1) fiscal restraint and (2) transparency. You knew he didn’t mean a word of it. Naturally, upon getting the keys to the car, he turned into a Politician, a lying, Eddie Haskell type who caves in to all the Special Interests and GOBs while turning a deaf ear on We The People. Bianchi’s “fiscal restraint” turned out to be another steep take hike for both homeowners and businesses while increasing Pittsfield bottom line cost of government by millions. His transparency has meant more secrecy than the KGB during the Cold War.
How, we wonder, could Peter Marchetti have lost to Dan Bianchi? Actually, that is a rhetorical question to which we know the answer. This election was Marchetti’s for the taking, but deep down, Pete didn’t want to take it. Marchetti ran for mayor because others wanted him to run for mayor. In the final analysis, Marchetti didn’t want it and thus pulled off a reverse engineered “victory.” In his own mind, we gather, he won by losing.
What’s a ‘Politician’
“He turned into a politician.” Ugh, what a fate. What’s a politician? Here’s a little story that might help:
|A little boy goes to his dad and asks, “What is politics?”Dad says, “Well son, let me try to explain it this way: I’m the breadwinner of the family, so let’s call me capitalism. Your Mom, she’s the administrator of the money, so we’ll call her the Government. We’re here to take care of your needs, so we’ll call you the people. The nanny, we’ll consider her the Working Class. And your baby brother, we’ll call him the Future. Now, think about that and see if that makes sense,”So the little boy goes off to bed thinking about what dad had said.Later that night, he hears his baby brother crying, so he gets up to check on him. He finds that the baby has severely soiled his diaper. So the little boy goes to his parents’ room and finds his mother sound asleep. Not wanting to wake her, he goes to the nanny’s room. Finding the door locked, he peeks in the keyhole and sees his father in bed with the nanny. He gives up and goes back to bed. The next morning, the little boy says to his father, “Dad, I think I understand the concept of politics now.”The father says, “Good son, tell me in your own words what you think politics is all about.”The little boy replies, “Well, while Capitalism is screwing the Working Class, the Government is sound asleep, the People are being ignored and the Future is in deep poo.”|
Social Security Payments: They Don’t Come from the Money Tree … but Some Public Employees Don’t Realize That
Back to the Social Security payroll tax: The 6.2% is bad enough if you work for someone else, if you’re George Jetson to Mr. Spacely. If you’re self-employed, you pay not just for employees but for yourself. THE PLANET is well familiar with the 12.4% tax, having paid it as a business owner for more than 30 years.
We have to laugh. In our recent posts about the average compensation for teachers in the city of Pittsfield ($86,200 by the end of the present contract), we got into quite the discussion with a teacher who, shall we say, disagreed with our take on things. That’s cool, by the way. As you know by now, THE PLANET loves a good debate, the badder the better. Our friend made the point, in justification of the compensation package, that unlike those in the Dreaded Private Sector, he (along with other public employees) received no Social Security.
“Seriously?” we asked him. Then we proceeded to make the point that, yes, unlike him, we shall enjoy Social Security payments, but guess what? Guess where that money came from? It came from Uncle Sam raiding our paycheck for our entire working career. The feds took the money straight out of our pay, money our teacher friend got to use or abuse as he (not uncle Sam) saw fit. Our friend had no comeback.
bobbyd’s SON HAD AN ACCURATE BEAD ON THE PITTSFIELD SCHOOL COMMITTEE
Another of our teacher friends in the Pittsfield Public School system is “bobbyd,” who has made a name for himself with his excellent contributions to the discussions on this site. Sometimes bobbyd agrees with us, sometimes not, but always, he has valid points to make, which he does in a well-reasoned, factually based manner.
Yesterday, someone asked bobbyd what he thought of the Pittsfield School Committee. bobbyd began his answer this way:
“My 16-year-old LOVES watching the school committee. He finds it more entertaining than wrestling.”
You can read the rest of bobbyd’s answer in the comments section of Thursday’s PLANET.
A RELATED PIECE FROM THE TAX POLICY CENTER
THE PLANET presents this article from the Internet (Reuters):
The Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan Washington research group, estimates that 77 percent of American households will face higher federal taxes in 2013 under the agreement negotiated between President Barack Obama and Senate Republicans. High-income families will feel the biggest tax increases, but many middle- and low-income families will pay higher taxes too.
The fiscal austerity crisis has been temporarily averted, but given the apparent animosity between the current leaders of Congress its a miracle that any deal was made at all. Politico has a rather lengthy breakdown of the last week or so of negotiations that led to last night’s budget bill and it leads off with an anecdote illustrating the current state of American politics. As they arrived for a much-hyped meeting with the President last Friday afternoon, Speaker of the House John Boehner spotted House Majority Leader Harry Reid approaching just steps from the Oval Office. According to “multiple sources,” Boehner pointed his finger at Reid and without any other fanfare said, “Go fuck yourself.” When Reid asked him what he was talking about, Boehner simply repeated his curse and moved on.
To be fair to Boehner, just hours earlier Reid had called him a dictator on the floor of the Senate, telling the whole country in a widely-televised speech that the Speaker cared more about protecting his job than doing what was right for the American people. And it won’t be the first nor the last time a Congressperson swore a fellow lawmaker. Still, it maybe helps explain why the two sides seem more intent on destorying each other than actually passing useful laws.
The Politico story also has plenty of other tidbits on the back room shenanigans the lead to the deal, if you’re into that sort of thing.
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Middle and lower-income taxpayers are the main beneficiaries of the fiscal-cliff deal, but there are other winners—and losers—of the last-minute scramble to avert scheduled tax increases and spending cuts. The gridlock leading up to the deal dimmed the country’s already dim view of Congress. Lawmakers aren’t going to get the grand deficit-reduction bargain they had hoped for. And although an economic crisis may have been averted, the final deal sets the stage for another debt-ceiling showdown.
‘Middle-Class’ Taxpayers. With the Bush tax cuts set to extend for individuals making less than $400,000, middle- and upper-middle class taxpayers can breathe a sigh of relief. The Alternative Minimum Tax will be permanently lifted to reflect inflation, sparing close to 30 million taxpayers from a tax increase. The tax relief isn’t total, however: The payroll tax cut won’t be extended for another year, meaning that working Americans will see their paychecks reduced in 2013. But it could have been worse.
President Obama and Vice President Biden. President Obama made the fiscal cliff negotiations all about taxes, repeating the call for tax increases on the rich and tax cuts for the middle class that helped him win reelection. Although the final deal is less than the president had hoped for, he gets to say he kept his campaign promise to protect middle-class Americans. He also gets to renew key tax cuts passed as part of his 2009 stimulus package and to extend unemployment insurance. Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden can revel in the crucial role he played in last-minute discussions with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The wily legislator who once pledged to block President Obama at every turn has proved, once again, to be a crucial deal-maker between the White House and Congress. Initially sidelined as negotiations focused on President Obama and Speaker John Boehner, McConnell stepped forward at the last minute to help craft legislation that Republicans could support.
AARP. Seniors—and the lobbyists who represent them—won’t be feeling the pain of entitlement cuts come January, despite initial insistence from Republican lawmakers that significant cuts to Medicare or Social Security be part of a fiscal cliff deal. The battle to prevent a switch to chained CPI, a metric that would reduce the growth of Social Security payments, has been won, at least for now.
Deficit Hawks. Going over the fiscal cliff would have significantly reduced the deficit, combining cuts to domestic and military spending with tax hikes on pretty much everyone. The last-minute deal reached by Washington negotiators lifted taxes on the wealthiest Americans and didn’t do anything to cut spending.
Speaker Boehner’s Plan B. Speaker Boehner’s attempt to rally his caucus behind an alternate cliff deal, dubbed “Plan B,” failed miserably: a bad sign of the Ohio Republican’s ability to put forward an alternative that his caucus could take seriously. Boehner’s plan included too many tax increases and not enough spending cuts for Republicans to stomach—and it seemed to temporarily stall negotiations.
The U.S. Treasury. The United States hit its borrowing limit on Monday, and lawmakers failed to include raising the limit as part of the cliff deal. The Treasury Department will enact what it calls “extraordinary measures” to avoid a government default, but it can only protect the nation’s credit for so long. Stay tuned in the coming months for another Washington fight over whether, and how, to raise the debt ceiling.
The 1 Percent. Wealthy Americans who make their money from investments, rather than paychecks, were losers in the fiscal-cliff deal. In addition to higher income taxes, those who make above $400,000 will now be subject to a 20 percent tax rate on their capital gains and dividends. The fiscal cliff wasn’t all bad news for the wealthy, however: They can still bequeath up to $5 million tax-free, with any additional money taxed at 40 percent. That’s greater than the current 35 percent estate tax rate, but less than the 55 percent rate on assets over $1 million that would have gone into effect without a deal.
Holiday Cheer. From senators who had to fly back to Washington two days after Christmas to Hill staffers who canceled New Year’s Eve plans in anticipation of a late night hammering out a deal, the fiscal-cliff negotiations cast a pall over the holiday season. And it wasn’t just Washington: Americans spent the holidays wringing their hands over pending tax increases.
SWEET NYMPH, ‘TIS TRUE YOU WORTHY BE / YET WITHOUT LOVE, NOUGHT WORTH TO ME.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.