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Nothing special, one post at a time since 2012

A Tax Break That Will Never Die: Part 2 (Humorous Edition)

A few minutes ago, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer began the process of passing the Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act. Among other things, it will make the tax system fairer and give more Americans access to healthcare. It also includes provisions dealing with the climate crisis that are big enough to please Al Gore:

The Inflation Reduction Act has the potential to be a historic turning point. It represents the single largest investment in climate solutions & environmental justice in US history. Decades of tireless work by climate advocates across the country led to this moment.

No deal is perfect and we need many more actions to solve the climate crisis. Yet, this bill is a long overdue and necessary step to ensure the US takes decisive action on the climate crisis that helps our economy and provides leadership for the world by example.

But Al Gore isn’t very funny. Alexandra Petri, who writes for The Washington Post, is. Yesterday, she channeled Krysten Sinema, the “Democratic” senator from Arizona with a unique approach to legislation:

Just to be clear: I do want to reform the carried interest tax loophole! I am so excited to work on it. Sounds bad! Seems bad! It is a no-good, rotten thing, and I don’t want it to keep existing. I look forward to legislating it away. That being said, if you remove it right now, in this Inflation Reduction Act, I will vote against it, and I will torpedo the whole bill.

Why? Whimsy! I just wanted to leave my own special Kyrsten Sinema touch on the bill!

I am a manic pixie dream senator who wants to make this bill slow down and embrace life! Everyone else is sitting there in their penguin outfits in neutral tones! Their idea of a fun, whimsical thing to do is a vote-a-rama! At most, they will go sit on a yacht for a brief time. Not me; I’m different! And I’m here to make sure this bill is different, too.

Inflation Reduction Act, why are you so staid and straightforward? Look at you, sitting there just closing tax loopholes for hedge funds! And you’ve got that across-the-board 15 percent tax on corporations. Don’t you know that corporations can sometimes be friends? Maybe not all corporations deserve an across-the-board tax. Some corporations are really chill, actually, and other corporations are donors and sometimes a private equity firm has a whole other side you might not have expected, if you just give it a chance!

Maybe, you’re so busy closing loopholes that you forgot how to be open. Maybe you need to open up, actually, those loopholes, please. That’s why I’m here: Someone’s got to be just that little bit random, conveniently in a way that consistently involves decreasing the amount of money corporations and the absurdly wealthy pay in taxes.

Sometimes you see a bill and you see how hard that bill is working to do good. That poor bill looks exhausted, doing so much! Reducing carbon emissions and decreasing the deficit and lowering ACA premiums and — and — and! And you’re like, “Bill! Relax! You don’t need to do it all! What you need to do is to stop and smell the roses. Or the rosés, like at the private equity-adjacent winery where I interned in 2020 — while serving as senator! Unrelatedly, do we really need to close the carried-interest tax loophole now? Maybe, actually, we need to live a little.”

I can be the friend this bill needs to urge it to run through a sprinkler at dusk and spin around on a beach listening to the Shins. It’ll be like Amelie, but if instead of freeing garden gnomes from people’s yards, we liberated them from pesky taxes, and if instead of gnomes, those were the account books of private equity firms! You know what they say: Is it really quirky and spontaneous if it doesn’t coincidentally also happen to benefit corporations and hedge funds? Maybe, but we can’t take that chance!

Think about who stands to gain from this bill: Lots of people! People who want to have a nice habitable planet in the future! People who want to pay lower health-care premiums! People who want lower inflation! But now think about the people whom this bill will make sad: hedge funders!

Doesn’t that make you sad? Can’t we do something nice for the hedge funders, too, just — ’cause? We’d better, though, or I won’t support it.

Come, bill! Come put your toes in the grass and run through the rain with me, and also, just for fun, let’s make certain that the new 15 percent minimum tax on corporations doesn’t affect that particular corporation! Or that one! Or that one! I’m pointing randomly, I swear! Just from whimsy, again, my driving feature! But I am finding exemptions — a lot of them!

I don’t know what life is all about, but it’s too short not to do what you can to prevent wealthy corporations and private equity firms from paying taxes. And then we’ll go dance in the moonlight and make a sound nobody has heard before.

Ready? I’ll start, by saying a sentence that has never been said: “I think this loophole that allows private equity firms to pay less than their fair share in taxes should be left open!” Hahaha, wow, I can’t believe I just said that! Maybe no one will ever say it again! Except me. Who knows? I might say it lots of times!

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Midnight Is Approaching: We Can Have Either the Filibuster or Democracy

Last month, Republican senators refused to allow a vote on the Freedom To Vote Act. Because of the Senate’s filibuster rule, the fifty Democratic senators needed ten of their Republican colleagues to join them in allowing the bill to come up for a vote. But not one Republican voted with the Democrats (the Democratic majority leader changed his vote to No so the bill can be given another chance). Here’s why Republicans oppose the bill. The Freedom To Vote Act would:

  • Expand voter registration (e.g., automatic and same-day registration) and voting access (e.g., vote-by-mail and early voting) and limit removing voters from voter rolls.
  • Establish Election Day as a federal holiday.
  • Allow ex-felons to vote. 
  • Make it illegal to interfere with another person’s ability to register and vote.
  • Require states to follow new rules for post-election audits and congressional redistricting.
  • Expand the prohibition on campaign spending by foreign nationals and require additional disclosure of campaign-related fundraising and spending.

No wonder every single Republican senator refused to allow the bill to be considered. They’re opposed to the idea of majority rule.

In support of the bill’s passage, however, more than 150 academics, experts in subjects like political science, history and public policy, have released this statement:

We, the undersigned, are scholars of democracy writing in support of the Freedom to Vote Act, the most important piece of legislation to defend and strengthen American democracy since the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This bill would protect our elections from interference, partisan gerrymandering, dark money, and voter suppression. We urge all members of Congress to pass the bill, if necessary by suspending the Senate filibuster rule and using a simple majority vote.

This is no ordinary moment in the course of our democracy. It is a moment of great peril and risk.

Though disputes over the legitimacy of America’s elections have been growing for two decades, they have taken a catastrophic turn since the 2020 election. The “Big Lie” of a stolen election is now widely accepted among Republican voters, and support for it has become a litmus test for Republicans running for public office. Republican state legislatures in Georgia, Florida, Texas, and across the country have enacted partisan laws intended to make it harder for Democrats to win elections. Most alarmingly, these laws have forged legal pathways for partisan politicians to overturn state election results if they are dissatisfied with the outcome.

The partisan politicization of what has long been trustworthy, non-partisan administration of elections represents a clear and present threat to the future of electoral democracy in the United States. The history of other crisis-ridden democracies tells us this threat cannot be wished away. It must be promptly and forthrightly confronted. Failure to pass the Freedom to Vote Act would heighten post-election disputes, weaken government legitimacy, and damage America’s international reputation as a beacon of democracy in the world.

Each branch of government has a role to play in protecting free and fair elections, but Congress’s responsibility looms largest. After the Civil War, when the path of American democracy was highly uncertain, Congress built the foundations of our modern democracy by passing two constitutional amendments and five pieces of legislation to protect the right of African Americans to vote. All were passed on party-line votes. But in 1890, the Senate failed to break a filibuster on a sixth piece of legislation: the Federal Elections Bill (also known as the Lodge Bill), which would have pushed back against voting rights violations in the South.

The upshot of that critical vote was that southern states, in the absence of any federal supervision, were allowed to pursue the wholesale disenfranchisement of African Americans for the next 75 years. By a tiny margin in one branch of Congress, American democracy took a giant leap backwards.

Protecting future elections from subversion, providing equal opportunities for all citizens to participate, drawing fair district boundaries, strengthening transparency over money in politics, and facilitating impartial electoral administration should not be partisan matters. Unfortunately, however, across state legislatures, Republicans have challenged the legitimacy of the 2020 U.S. presidential election and altered election rules on party-line votes, with a clear intent to entrench minority rule.

If Congress fails to pass the Freedom to Vote Act, American democracy will be at critical risk. Not only could this failure undermine the minimum condition for electoral democracy—free and fair elections—but it would in turn likely result in an extended period of minority rule, which a majority of the country would reject as undemocratic and illegitimate. This would have grave consequences not only for our democracy, but for political order, economic prosperity, and the national security of the United States as well.

Defenders of democracy in America still have a slim window of opportunity to act. But time is ticking away, and midnight is approaching. To lose our democracy but preserve the filibuster in its current form—in which a minority can block popular legislation without even having to hold the floor—would be a short-sighted mistake of historic proportions. The remarkable history of the American system of government is replete with critical, generational moments in which liberal democracy itself was under threat, and Congress asserted its central leadership role in proving that a system of free and fair elections can work.

We urge the Senate to suspend the filibuster rule for this measure and pass the Freedom to Vote Act. This would uphold the Senate’s noblest tradition of preserving and strengthening American democracy.

Unquote.

At least two Democratic senators, Sinema of Arizona and Manchin of West Virginia, have opposed reforming the filibuster in order to protect voting rights. Tom Tomorrow of This Modern World nicely captures the “logic” of their position:

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If you’d like to share your views on this matter (in a nice way) with Senator Sinema, you can contact her even if you don’t live in Arizona. Likewise, you can contact Senator Manchin even if you don’t live in West Virginia. Maybe they care enough about democracy to see reason.

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