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Tag: elizabeth warren

Warren And Whitehouse Demand Probe Of Tax Avoidance By Ultra-Wealthy

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica

Two prominent members of the Senate Finance Committee are calling for an investigation into tax avoidance by the ultrawealthy, citing ProPublica's "Secret IRS Files" series.

In a letter sent today, Elizabeth Warren (D-MA.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) wrote to the committee's chairman, Ron Wyden (D-OR), that the "bombshell" and "deeply troubling" report requires an investigation into "how the nation's wealthiest individuals are using a series of legal tax loopholes to avoid paying their fair share of income taxes." The senators also requested that the Senate hold hearings and develop legislation to address the loopholes' "impact on the nation's finances and ability to pay for investments in infrastructure, health care, the economy, and the environment."

Last month ProPublica began publishing a series of stories about tax avoidance among the ultra-wealthy, based on a vast trove of tax data concerning thousands of the wealthiest American taxpayers and covering more than 15 years. ProPublica conducted an unprecedented analysis that compared the ultra-wealthy's taxes to the growth in their fortunes, calculating that the 25 richest Americans pay a "true tax rate" of just 3.4 percent.

The wealthy pay so little in taxes primarily because they keep their incomes low, the article explained, often borrowing against their fortunes to fund their lifestyles. Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Tesla's Elon Musk, Bloomberg L.P.'s Michael Bloomberg and other billionaires have each paid no federal income taxes in one or more recent years. The tax avoidance techniques described in "The Secret IRS Files: Trove of Never-Before-Seen Records Reveal How the Wealthiest Avoid Taxes" are legal, and routine among the ultrawealthy.

In a subsequent article, ProPublica highlighted how some rich people, such as Peter Thiel, have been able to use Roth individual retirement accounts, intended as vehicles to bolster middle-class savings, to create vast untaxed fortunes. A third article showed how billionaires use a provision in the tax code to reduce their taxes after buying sports teams.

Banks and financial institutions are lending more to the rich than ever, according to a story in The Wall Street Journal last week. The senators called for an investigation of banks and wealth management firms to understand the techniques, strategies and products offered to the wealthy that enable them to avoid paying taxes. Morgan Stanley's wealth management clients have $68 billion worth of loans backed by securities and other investments, more than double the amount they had five years ago, and Bank of America has loans worth over $62 billion, the Journal reported.

In March, Warren introduced a bill, co-sponsored by Whitehouse, that would create a tax on the wealth of the richest Americans. Most Republicans and some Democrats oppose such a measure.

Update, July 14, 2021: In a statement, Wyden said that he agreed with the points raised by Warren and Whitehouse. "The country's wealthiest — who profited immensely during the pandemic — have not been paying their fair share," he said. "I've been working on a proposal to fix this broken system since 2019 and continue to work to get the bill ready for release. I'm also going to work with my colleagues on other ways the committee can tackle this issue."

Proposed Tax On ‘Ultra-Millonaires’ Could Raise Trillions In Revenue

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Three congressional Democrats unveiled a plan Monday to raise $3 trillion in new revenue over the next decade. By taxing only those worth more than $50 million, the proposal would not raise taxes on 99.95 percent of Americans.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, and Rep. Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania introduced the Ultra-Millionaire Tax Act of 2021, which would establish a two percent annual tax on the net worth of those taxable assets of $50 million to $1 billion. Those worth more than $1 billion would pay a three percent annual tax.

"The hyper concentration of wealth among a tiny number of multimillionaires and billionaires is a crisis for American capitalism and the American Dream," Boyle said in a press release. "Wealth inequality is at its highest level since the Gilded Age. The wealth share of the richest 0.1 percent has nearly tripled since the late 1970s. It is time for the ultra-millionaires to pay their fair share so that critical government programs can be bolstered to help the everyday American."

The sponsors circulated an analysis by University of California, Berkeley, economics professors Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman that predicted the wealth tax would affect only 100,000 families and would raise $3 trillion in new federal revenue between 2023 and 2032.

The proposal comes as Republicans in Congress are making a big deal about the growing national debt they helped rack up and using the budget deficit as an excuse to oppose President Joe Biden's priorities, such as COVID-19 relief.

"For too long, Congress has maxed out America's credit card with no plan to pay off our debts. The disastrous impacts of this reckless spending and growing debt, like high inflation, will hurt low and fixed income families the most. We must do better," tweeted Florida Sen. Rick Scott on February 16.

"Eventually USA $28 Trillion debt bill becomes due," warned Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama on Thursday. "Friday #Socialist #Democrat debt junkies to borrow & spend ANOTHER $2 Trillion."

This wealth tax could either offset some of those previous expenses or enable new spending without increasing the debt.

According to the Saez-Zucman analysis, the richest Americans would be asked to pay about 4.3 percent of their wealth each year on average, compared to an estimated 3.2 percemt in 2019.

A Data for Progress poll, taken in 11 states between July and September 2020, found widespread public support for the idea of a two percent wealth tax on those with a $50 million-plus net worth.

Among all voters surveyed, 62 percent preferred adopting the idea, compared to 26 percent who preferred the current system. Even in the deep-red state of Mississippi, voters preferred the wealth tax 55 percent to 30 percent.

The proposal comes as Republicans are trying to change their image as the party looking out for the very rich.

"The uniqueness of this party today is we're the workers' party, we're the American workers' party," claimed House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy in a Feb. 8 Punchbowl News interview.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas tweeted Friday, "The Republican Party is not just the party of country clubs, the Republican Party is the party of steel workers, construction workers, pipeline workers, police officers, firefighters, waiters and waitresses." He also tweeted Friday, "The Republican Party is not the party of the country clubs, it's the party of hardworking, blue-collar men and women."

Still, not a single Republican lawmaker has co-sponsored the Ultra-Millionaire Tax Act so far.

In addition to the three lead sponsors, it is co-sponsored by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI).

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

How To Beat A Supreme Court That Tilts Far Right

Among Americans who are not politically conservative, the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her pending replacement evoke anger and despair. A court with an impregnable 6-3 conservative majority is likely to roll back all sorts of rights and protections, leaving many people at risk.

The most obvious likely casualty is the court's 1973 decision granting constitutional protection to a woman's right to abortion. Four justices voted this year to allow a highly restrictive Louisiana law, and Donald Trump's next appointee is almost certain to provide the fifth and decisive vote for that option. Roe v. Wade has as much chance of surviving as a sandcastle in a tsunami. States, we can assume, will soon be free to ban most if not all abortions.

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D​emocratic Lawmakers Seek Probe Of Postmaster General Over 'Threat To Mail-In Ballots'


A group of House and Senate Democrats wrote a letter to the U.S. Postal Service inspector general on Friday asking for an investigation into the Trump administration's changes to the mail delivery agency that have "led to slower and less reliable delivery."

The letter, signed by nine congressional Democrats, states the changes to staffing and other policies within USPS "pose a potential threat to mail-in ballots and the 2020 general election."

"The Postal Service has served Americans since before the founding of the Republic, and any actions by President Trump or Postmaster General [Louis] DeJoy that damage the Postal Service's ability to quickly and reliably deliver the mail would represent a significant breach of their responsibilities," the lawmakers wrote in the letter. The call for an investigation follows DeJoy's announcement in July of USPS cutbacks, which are causing delays in mail delivery.

Unlike the past — when USPS delivery workers would make multiple trips and work overtime hours to ensure mail was delivered in a timely fashion — DeJoy announced that delivery workers should now leave mail in distribution centers if they cannot process it within certain hours of the day, the Washington Post reported.

Such delays could have an impact on the 2020 election, as the USPS could be overwhelmed by thousands of mail ballots that must be delivered by a certain time period in order to be counted.

The investigation demand also comes as Donald Trump has been attacking the practice of voting by mail — which many states are expanding in 2020 thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and fears of virus transmission at in-person polling sites.

Democrats on Thursday met with DeJoy — who was a major Trump donor before his appointment — to try to force him to repeal the changes.

"We pushed it. It's gotta be 100%, not 94%, not 97%," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told CNN on Thursday of Democrats' meeting with DeJoy. "We don't fully trust them — with everything Trump has said about the Post Office — and they're Trump appointees."

The members of Congress who wrote the letter include Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Gary Peters of Michigan, Tom Carper of Delaware, Ron Wyden of Oregon, and Tina Smith of Minnesota, as well as Reps. Carolyn Maloney of New York, Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts, Gerry Connolly of Virginia, and Brenda Lawrence of Michigan.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Did The Patriarchy Punish Elizabeth Warren — Or Did She Just Lose?

To hear some people tell it, a loss for Elizabeth Warren is a loss for womankind. Ever since the Massachusetts Senator withdrew her presidential candidacy after finishing third in her home state primary on Super Tuesday, many have described her demise as resulting from dislike and fear of strong women and a victory for the dread patriarchy.

Oddly, nobody says that about Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who'd withdrawn and endorsed Joe Biden only days before. Evidently, some women are more emblematic than others. But hold that thought.

"America Punished Elizabeth Warren for Her Competence," was the title of a fairly typical example by Megan Garber in The Atlantic. A lively stylist, Garber did a terrific job of analyzing what I thought were Warren's weaknesses as a candidate while entirely missing her own point. One Democratic woman she saw being interviewed on TV put it this way: "When I hear her talk, I want to slap her, even when I agree with her." She quotes others describing Warren as "sanctimonious," "condescending," and "a know-it-all."

Yet to Garber, it was Warren's refusal to hide her intellectual brilliance that did her in: "The country still doesn't know what to make of a woman—in politics, and beyond—who refuses to qualify her success." She quotes an Ivy League philosophy professor to the effect that "[m]isogyny is the law-enforcement branch of patriarchy."

Sigh. I see the word "patriarchy," I reach for my revolver. Particularly when it's brandished by somebody a lot higher on the social organization chart than anybody in the unrecorded history of my family.

OK, that's a joke. A famous Nazi said that about the word "culture." I am not a Nazi, and I don't keep a pistol close at hand.

But here's the deal: An American presidential election, for better and definitely for worse, is for most voters an extended TV series. And nobody much is keen to watch "The Liz Warren Show." MSNBC could give her Chris Matthews' old Hardball program, and the ratings would nosedive.

During Warren's epic demolition of a smug and bewildered Michael Bloomberg during the Feb. 12 Democratic debate on NBC, I remarked to my wife "My God, she's a jerk. She's destroying him. But she's hurting herself almost as much as she's hurting him."

I actually used an earthier epithet, which shall remain our little secret. A gender-neutral one, I hasten to add. Anyway, Bloomberg probably deserved it. He certainly stepped into the batter's box without a helmet. But Mother Jones blogger Kevin Drum noticed that Bloomberg crashed while Joe Biden soared in voter polls from that point forward. Warren steadily declined.

I've been instructed to leave Diane's own somewhat incorrect reaction to Senator Warren's demeanor out of this column. Her voice! Her antic arm-waving! Suffice it to say that while she and a couple of her girlfriends traveled to New Hampshire to stump for Hillary Clinton in 2016, with one signal exception they did not support Warren's candidacy.

Another friend, an Irish guy from Brooklyn, said she reminded him of the kind of nun who would whack your knuckles with a ruler. And Warren's not even Catholic, although she does appear to have purchased her campaign wardrobe from her local Nuns-R-Us outlet.

Catty and subjective enough for you? Good, because that's how people watch TV. It's an intensely subjective medium. Warren does very well in one-on-one interviews and town hall settings but falls flat on the big stage. Brilliant woman; failed the screen test.

On Super Tuesday, Warren collected 21 percent of the Massachusetts vote, compared to 34 percent for Joe Biden, and 27 percent for Bernie Sanders. She finished a poor third among Massachusetts women too. In the 2016 general election, by way of comparison, it was Hillary Clinton 60 percent, Donald Trump 33 percent.

So don't blame misogyny. Hillary's not exactly Miss Congeniality, yet Massachusetts voted for her. Anyway, Elizabeth Warren's not womankind, she's one woman who ran a fairly incoherent campaign: notably all over the place about her Medicare-for-all proposal and how to pay for it.

I suspect that Warren's being a Harvard professor also had something to do with her defeat. Of course, that could be my own anti-academic bias talking. But her professorial manner didn't help. During the same debate where she eviscerated Bloomberg, she dismissed Amy Klobuchar's health insurance proposal as a "Post-it note." The Minnesota senator bristled.

Even on campus, calling people stupid rarely elicits their admiration. Oh health care, Klobuchar's a pragmatist, favoring an Obamacare public option that's politically feasible, while Medicare-for-All is certainly not—as you'd think Warren's floundering on the issue might have taught her.

Or as Klobuchar herself put it, "You don't put your money on a number that's not even on the wheel."

Had she not withdrawn, I'd have supported Klobuchar, to me the most politically talented Democrat of either gender.

Saturday Night Live Spoofs Fox, Pays Tribute To Sen. Warren

Saturday Night Live opened with an all-cast satire of Fox News Channel and its bizarrely complacent coverage of the lethal coronavirus. With Kate McKinnon starring as Fox personality Laura Ingraham — plus cameos by Jeanine Pirro (Cecily Strong) the Trump brothers (Alex Moffat and Mikey Day), and Chris Matthews (Darrell Hammond) — the cold open mercilessly lampoons the way Fox is misleading its vulnerable audience.

"Americans are not at risk, especially not our viewers who skew elderly, are in bad health, live cloistered together in homes specifically for sick people and have smoked their entire lives," declares Pirro.

The segment concludes with a remarkable surprise appearance by the real Sen. Elizabeth Warren, as McKinnon dons her Warren costume. It's a touching tribute to the Massachusetts progressive and her presidential crusade.

Click and enjoy.

That Not-So-Super Tuesday

Last week, I sat on a stage in front of more than 200 women in Columbus, Ohio, and tried to answer a simple question.

I don't remember exactly how interviewer Angela Pace asked it, but I heard it this way: What do you want your granddaughters to remember about you?

To my embarrassment, my eyes teared up and my voice began to quiver.

It's been such a long three years.

We have seven grandchildren: four boys and three girls. I love them equally, as I made clear that day from the stage. But we were talking less than a week before Super Tuesday, when most political punditry had already congealed around two presumed front-runners, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.

Elizabeth Warren, the smart, talented, compassionate senator from Massachusetts, was already invisible, right before their eyes. Like millions of other women, I still see her and the hope she always brings with her. It's as bright and crystalline as hydrangeas in the dusk's light, glistening after a soft summer rain.

What do I want my granddaughters to remember about me?

My love for my grandchildren keeps my heart on the brink of combustion, but when I think of Jackie, Carolyn and Ela, ages five, four, and two, something else kicks in; I can't deny it. I'm old enough to know which dreams died but young enough to remember when I thought they defined who I — who we — would be.

I try never to lead with my injuries, but it's one thing to work hard to get over a disloyal love. A heart can heal, after all. It's something quite different when the betrayal never comes to an end.

Once again, it seems, we will have to wait at least another four years to see a woman sworn in as president of the United States.

"It's not because she's a woman," people tell me.

"It's because she's that woman," people tell me.

"It's because of Hillary's loss that it feels like a woman couldn't win," people tell me.

You can tell me and you can tell me and you can tell me — but let me tell you: There's not a lie I haven't heard about what a woman can and cannot do. At my age, every act of sexism and misogyny is an encore production.

Jessica Valenti, a brilliant feminist writer two decades younger than me, wrote this after Super Tuesday, for Medium:

"Even just supporting Warren has come with an unbearable amount of misogynist condescension. I'm tired of being told that I'm a single-issue voter because I care about a candidate's gender, even if it's not the only thing I care about. I'm over being made to feel as if representation for half the population isn't a necessary and radical political position. I don't appreciate being told that I'm either anti-revolution because I didn't support Bernie Sanders or unrealistic because I won't vote for Joe Biden. I especially resent the theory being bandied about that Warren somehow 'stole' votes from Sanders; it's nonsense."

If you had told me 20 years ago that we'd still be having this conversation about the limitations of women, the only thing I would have allowed you was a running start to get out of my way. Our daughters aren't much younger than Valenti, which might be why these words of hers took my breath away:

"Whoever the nominee is, their campaign is going to have to come to terms with the intense misogyny so many female voters have dealt with — and understand that it's an issue we care deeply about. And their supporters are going to have to let us be sad — depressed, even — that once again we're going to watch a race to leadership between old white men."

Will we vote for that nominee? Of course, we will, in droves. We love our country.

What do I want my granddaughters to remember about me?

All those little, big things. How much I loved them. How I kept a book of the smart and funny things they said. How I lined our walls with their photos, year after year.

Still, why did I cry?

Maybe it's because I don't take for granted that I will live long enough for them to have many memories of me.

Maybe it's because I hope that, in their toughest moments, long after I'm gone, my persistent opposition to this president's racism and misogyny will remind them that this is who we are, we women in this family.

Or maybe it's simpler than that. Maybe I cried because I, too, needed a moment to be sad, after all these years.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University's school of journalism. She is the author of two non-fiction books, including "…and His Lovely Wife," which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. Her novel, The Daughters of Erietown, will be published by Random House in Spring 2020. To find out more about Connie Schultz (schultz.connie@gmail.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.