Three Lies and a Truth: On Taxes and MediScare

A couple of timely debunkers for you today.

First up, here are the three big lies about taxation in America:

Lie Number 1) Poor people don’t pay taxes.

Lie number 2) The U.S. suffers from high taxes.

Lie number 3) U.S. corporations are over-taxed.

And here’s the truth of the matter, courtesy of Andrew Leonard at Salon.

Next, what about all those critics (Clearly NM among them) of Congressman Paul Ryan’s plan to end Medicare by turning it into a voucher program.

Poll after poll shows that the Ryan Medicare Plan is a loser.

The response from Ryan Plan proponents is that the critics are simply engaging in “scare tactics” — which they are branding as “Mediscare.”

Why does Mediscare work? Because, according to Matthew Ygleisas, the consequences of privatizing Medicare are scary:

…the key consequence of privatization would be a steep increase in the per unit cost of health care services. Medicare is able to use its semi-monopsony status to drive down prices. If privatized the cost of treating the typical 65 year-old would increase by around 40 percent. Paul Ryan’s version of privatization then “saves” a tiny bit of money for the taxpayer by simply paying a much smaller share of the now much-higher bill. Then he promises to save large sums of money over the long term by ensuring that the share of the higher bill that the government covers will shrink drastically over time. This shrinkage in the value of the government health care coupon either won’t occur (in which case all privatization will do is increase costs) or else it will occur (in which case over 100% of the savings will come from people going without health care services they need) and in either case the consequences are scary.

Some hard truths indeed for New Mexicans under the age of 55 who would be “covered” by the Ryan Medicare plan.

The Law of the Ditch

What are the politics of water? It is an element that fundamentally defines New Mexican notions of ‘the common good’. How does the law, political debate, the economy, and the historical elements of New Mexico’s diverse population influence the debate and its outcomes? This is the second part of an ongoing investigation into politics of water in New Mexico.

Llano de la Yegua lies just northeast of Peñasco in Taos county. Emanuele Corso has the distinction of being the only non-Hispanic Mayordomo in the Llano. “My predecessor was letting one guy take more water than he deserved; the guy slipped him a six pack or whatever every so often as a bribe. People got frustrated enough with the situation they decided to take radical action. When the guy found that the neighbors had appointed me, he was aghast. ‘You appointed a gabacho?’, he asked everyone. ‘He’s not a gabacho, they said. He’s a Sicilian. And that’s why we elected him!'” Emanuele breaks into an easy laugh. His walk is a little unsteady, but he still hops over the little acequia running across his five-acre plot with the energy of experience.

Water was the first law in New Mexico.

The first code of laws recognized by the United States in the new territory of New Mexico, known as the ‘Kearny Code’, left the existing Mexican and Spanish regulations in place: “The laws heretofore in force concerning water courses…shall continue in force except so much of said laws as require the ayuntamientos of the different villages to regulate these subjects, which duties and powers are transferred to and enjoined upon alcaldes and prefects of the several counties.”

Emanuele takes me up to the top of the valley, where the Santa Barbera river spills through into the meadows below. The acequia madre that feeds from the Santa Barbera is divided into three venas. “The uppermost vena which diverts water to my land is called mano Rocindo”, he says, after the Mayordomo who made it about 120 years ago. “Since we’re the highest up on the river, we have to make sure we’re responsible with our use.” He shows me a large, welded gate that diverted water towards his property. “It goes over two miles, and they picked a spot in the river that’s just the perfect amount higher than the upper-most farm. I wish I knew how they did it.” Emanuele looks concerned over the debris. “We really need to call the mayordomo and get him to clean up this stuff, it’s his job…” He seems undecided whether or not to throw his walking stick on the bank and wade in himself to pick out the branches and leaves that have become caught in the gate.

the main head-gate for the acequia madre


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At the river’s bend: water and the future of urban New Mexico

By Walker Boyd

What are the politics of water? It is an element that fundamentally defines New Mexican notions of ‘the common good’. How does the law, political debate, the economy, and the historical elements of New Mexico’s diverse population influence the debate and its outcomes? This is the first part of an ongoing investigation into politics of water in New Mexico.

I lived on a farm for 6 months in Jaipur, a city in Rajasthan, just off India’s famous Thar desert. The family that owned the farm had built a clothing mill on their property in the 1960’s. Their mill used water drawn from wells beneath the farm to wash dye off the clothing during the manufacturing process. When I arrived, Only two of the farm’s nine wells were drawing water, and with the summer yet to come, the choice was clear: either the mill stops running, or the plants are no longer watered.

Across the road, a government official had an estate. If you walked to the northern edge of the farm, you could peer into his yard. There was a fountain, and some of the peacocks from the farm had already made their way on to the man’s estate. Sprinklers watered an expansive lawn and polo ground.

In 1919, the San Mateo Land Company purchased most of the old Alameda land grant for 19 cents an acre after a court ordered its sale to pay for taxes the community owed the state. In 1948, SMLC sold the 55,000 acres (fully half the size of modern-day Albuquerque) to the land-speculation company Brownfield & Koontz. The same acreage was sold again in 1959 for $10 million to AMREP, otherwise known as Rio Rancho Estates. AMREP sold half- and one-acre tracts of land to retirees and small-time investors, ultimately collecting about $200 million dollars from the sale of nearly 77,000 lots while retaining ownership of 25% of the land for future development.

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Assume a Rat: When Individualism Smells like Corporate Welfare

This is a great chart. Important too. Why?

There’s an increasingly persistent meme being used to justify another round of massive tax cuts for the super-rich — like those contained in the Ryan Budget plan recently passed by the House.  The meme is this:  The wealthy are the true “producers.” They’re “job creators” who will take any additional tax windfall and, presto… new manufacturing plants will spring up over night.

There’s also a “moral” component embedded in this meme. The reframe goes like this. For us to expect billionaires and large corporations to pay their fair share of taxes is really about “unjustly punishing” them for their “success.” It’s tantamount to theft.

What we have here is a perfect reflection of the moral universe conceived by Ayn Rand. And now an attempt is being made to enshrine her philosophy of radical individualism as official policy via the plan of Congressman Paul Ryan — a committed Randian.

This is Calvinism on steroids — but absent God (Rand was a militant atheist). Material success and wealth is a sign that you are one of the Elect, and thus favored by God Ayn. The poor, the weak, the sick? God Life is punishing them for their moral defects.

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Faux Deficit Hawks and Pantsuits on Fire

Plum Line deconstructs the contemporary (and quite bogus) definition of the term “deficit hawk”:

“…the term “deficit hawk,” as it’s commonly used in Beltway discourse, simply doesn’t mean “someone who fully committed to reducing the deficit by any means necessary, even if it means tax hikes and — paradoxically enough — new government programs.” Rather, it means “someone who is fully committed to reducing the deficit through tax cuts, entitlement reform and an unswerving adherence to general hostility towards expansive government.”

Oh, there are still some genuine deficit hawks out there – like Ronald Reagan’s Budget Director, David Stockman. Here’s what he said on ABC’s This Week last Sunday:


How big was that fish, Governor?

Speaking of fiscal fish stories, blogger Joe Monahan caught Governor Susana Martinez using some “funny numbers” to tell a real whopper about the recently passed state budget.

It seems Our Lady of the Perpetual Campaign has taken to telling audiences that the budget she signed this year closed a whale of a revenue shortfall — $420 million to be exact.

However, a fact check by Joe shows that the budget she actually signed cuts state spending by 3% — or a total of $156 million.

That would earn the Gov a “Pants on Fire” designation from Politifact.



If you want “serious,” then consider the People’s Budget

For weeks, we’ve been listening to a back and forth debate about how Congress should move forward in addressing the nation’s projected budget deficit.

We’ve heard about the Ryan budget plan, supported by New Mexico Congressman Steve Pearce.

In it, major cuts would be made to Medicare and Medicaid, as well as to infrastructure spending and funds for Pell Grants for college tuition. Despite these cuts, the Ryan plan would add $6 trillion more to the national debt over the next ten years before it would begin to start paying it down.

That’s because, under the Ryan plan, the cuts to the social safety net and other programs are necessary to pay for more tax reductions for the rich — to the tune of $125,000 for individuals who have an annual income of more than $1 million a year.

We’ve also heard quite a bit about President Obama’s proposal. Compared to Ryan’s plan, it advocates a more balanced approach that would include negotiated cuts while making the rich pay their fair share on the revenue side.

But, there is a third proposal that hasn’t received as much attention in the mainstream media. It was prepared by the Progressive Caucus and is being called “The People’s Budget.” Watch this 90-second summary.