It's A Free Blog

Opinion: You Might Not Like it, But at Least Obama Has a Real Economic Plan

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

By contrast, if you elect Romney, you have no idea what you're going to get.

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Transportation Nation

Atlanta's Tax-for-Transportation Vote Is Today

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Atlanta (photo by Matt Lemmon via flickr)

(Jim Burress - Atlanta, WABE for Marketplace) Atlanta traffic stinks. I live just eight miles from work, but it often takes an hour or more to get home. So, let's start the car, start the stopwatch and see how tonight's commute shapes up.

There's an acronym you're about to see a lot -- "T-SPLOST." Like "y'all" and "bless your heart," T-SPLOST is an expression that's inserted itself into our vernacular down here. It stands for "Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax." It's a 1 percent sales tax that over 10 years will generate more than $8 billion for regional transportation projects. It's safe to say everyone in Atlanta hates our traffic. It's just as safe to say that's where the agreement ends.

"If we are successful on Tuesday," says Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, "we'll move the equivalent of 72,000 cars each day from our roads."

Governor Nathan Deal agrees. "We have to do something to address the transportation and transit needs of our state."

It's not every day Atlanta's Democratic mayor the Republican governor agree. But they -- and a lot of other unlikely allies - -are campaigning for the T-SPLOST. They say it will ease congestion and create jobs.

It might even make it easier to get to the ballgame, says Atlanta Braves executive VP Mike Plant. "The No. 1 reason year-in and year-out that people tell us they don't come to more games is because of the traffic."

That's the case for the transit tax. This is the case against. State Senator Vincent Fort, a Democrat, hates the measure. Sweat saturates his white "Vote No on T-SPLOST" T-Shirt as he knocks on Joyce Engram's front door. "This is going [to be a] tax on your groceries and your medicine," he tells her. "So I hope you'll vote against it."

If the T-SPLOST passes, Atlanta's sales tax would jump from 8 to 9 percent. The extra penny would go toward transportation.

Emgram tells Fort: "I'm going to vote against it. I needed to know. But I'm definitely going to vote against it. You can believe that."

As we continue down the street, Fort smiles at the thought of taking on big business, powerful politicians and well-funded interest groups. And possibly winning.

"We've got about $800," he says. "They've got about $8 million and we're beating 'em."

The "we" he's referring to is an unlikely alliance, including pro-transit folks, an environmental group, even the Tea Party.

"This coalition, this is unprecedented," says Debby Dooley, one of 22 original founders of the Tea Party. "You know when these coalitions [come] together -- groups that are normally on the opposite end of the spectrum -- come together in solidarity on the same issue, that should send huge red flags that this project list is seriously flawed."

Oh, the project list. Back here in my car, I've gone three miles in 23 minutes. I'm stuck on the "Downtown Connector," where Interstates 75 and 85 merge and run through the heart of the city. Fourteen lanes of stopped traffic. A few years ago the Connector made the list for the top 10 most congested roadways in the nation. But it's not one of the 157 projects the new tax would fund. That's one reason State Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers broke ranks with fellow Republicans to oppose the tax.

"A more reasonable approach," he says, "would be to have traffic engineers sit down, and literally list the most congested traffic problems in metro Atlanta."

Instead, a roundtable of local elected officials came up with the list. So if you're keeping track of who's cuddled up in this unlikely anti-T-SPLOST bed, we've got one of the state's top Republicans, a popular Democratic senator, and a founder of the Tea Party. Even the head of Georgia's Sierra Club is anti-T-SPLOST.

If the T-SPLOST passes, there's a lot of money in it for MARTA. No, that's not the name of another strange bedfellow. It is the name of our mass transit system. Connie Suhr rides MARTA a few days a week from her suburban home into downtown where she works. She admits it's a bit strange for someone who rides the train to oppose a project that expands the system. But she says this whole issue is a bit strange.

"I have aligned myself with people against the T-SPLOST that I would not normally have done," Suhr says. "I can't say particularly why. We all have our different reasons. But I also run into enough people who are in favor of it. I think it will be a very interesting fight."

Home: 49 minutes, 25 seconds. Not too bad, but I'm still a frazzled. Is a commute like that, 8 miles and three-quarters of an hour enough to get the tax passed? Polls suggest maybe not, but it's up to the voters to decide tomorrow.

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Yoga Studios Breathe Sigh of Tax Relief

Friday, July 27, 2012

Some yoga practitioners in the city are being spared a tax burden. After months of confusion and miscommunication, the State Department of Taxation and Finance has decided not to tax yoga classes at studios that only teach yoga.


The Takeaway

Republicans Attempt to Turn SCOTUS Decision to Their Advantage

Monday, July 02, 2012

The GOP has shifted their hopes for ending Obamacare from the Supreme Court’s ruling to the November election. 
And over the weekend, Republicans sought to turn the Supreme Court’s ruling to their advantage … pushing the idea that the individual mandate is an tax increase on the middle class. 
Meanwhile, Republican State Governors are looking to stall any efforts to implement the affordable care act in their own states. 
Joining us is Politico White House Reporter Reid Epstein. 
Also on the line is Takeaway Washington Correspondent Todd Zwillich.

The GOP has shifted their hopes for turning back Obama's health care law from the Supreme Court’s ruling to the November election. And over the weekend, Republicans sought to turn the Supreme Court’s ruling to their advantage by pushing the idea that the individual mandate is a tax increase on the middle class. 

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The Brian Lehrer Show

The Tax Prep Smackdown

Friday, April 13, 2012

Joel Stein, humorist and contributing writer for Bloomberg Businessweek, used four methods of tax preparation and reports back.

Comments [23]

The Brian Lehrer Show

State of Manhattan

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Scott Stringer, Manhattan Borough President, talks about some of his ideas for tax policy and small business assistance in his recent State of the Borough address.

Comments [7]

The Takeaway

Grover Norquist on Mitt Romney's Tax Issues

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has come under pressure to make public his tax returns: We know he pays tax, but how much tax? A moment of disclosure from the former Massachusetts governor who says most of his income comes from past investments. Most of us pay, lets say a little more: Mitt has told us he may release his tax returns in April, but his rivals want him to do so sooner. Grover Norquist, is the president of Americans for Tax Reform.

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Congressional Inaction Costing Transit Riders $561 a Year, Group Claims

Friday, January 06, 2012


Congressional inaction is leading to a $561 hike in the taxes of transit riders, charges the American Public Transit Association.

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Transportation Nation

In NY Governor Cuomo's Address, No Mention of the Word "Transit"

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

UPDATED In his second annual State of the State address, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo did not mention the word "transit," according to the prepared text of his speech.

Cuomo controls the MTA, the nation's largest transit system.

In the written speech, Cuomo did promise to rebuild "100 bridges and 2,000 miles of road" and vowed to move forward on his plan to build a new Tappan Zee Bridge between Westchester to Rockland Counties.  And he talks about the state's efforts to repair roads and bridges devastated by Tropical Storms Irene and Lee.

Cuomo also referred  to the MTA (or Metropolitan Transportation Authority) in two places -- by touting how he cut the payroll tax, which funds the MTA, and later by noting how "investments by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority help protect the reliability of the transportation network that supports the metropolitan New York regional economy and 8.5 million riders a day."

He also points out that the MTA's "Built in NY" program "has an impact on the economic development throughout new York State, from Oriskany to Jameston, Yonkers to Plattsburgh."'

Cuomo's delivered speech differed from his prepared remarks. Nevertheless,  Cuomo also did not say the word "transit" in his actual speech.  In his oral remarks, he did (briefly) refer to cutting the MTA payroll tax, and to MTA capital construction projects, though only in the context of his proposed infrastructure bank.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

Tax Inequality

Friday, December 23, 2011

In a recent NYT Op-Ed, economists Aaron Edlin of UC Berkeley and Yale's Ian Ayres propose to combat inequality with a tax that would automatically kick in when gap between the median income and the top 1% widens.  Aaron Edlin is a co-editor of the new book, Economists' Voice: Top Economists Take On Today's Problems (Columbia University Press, 2011) and Ian Ayres blogs for Freakonomics.

Comments [12]

The Brian Lehrer Show

Sen. Liz Krueger (D-26) on Gov. Cuomo's Tax Proposal

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Liz Krueger, who represents Manhattan's 26th district in the New York State Senate, reacts to reports that Governor Cuomo will propose a higher tax rate for high income earners.

Comments [8]

The Takeaway

Senate Looks to Pass Payroll Tax Cut

Monday, November 28, 2011

The "super committee" has failed. Obama is pushing his Jobs Act. Congress is coming back from a week-long Thanksgiving holiday still looking for ways to stimulate the economy and score political points for 2012. And up this week in the Senate — your taxes. Democrats are looking for a way to extend the payroll tax cut while Republicans are opposing this proposal.

Comments [1]

World Weekly with Gideon Rachman

A new phase in the eurozone crisis?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A new phase in the eurozone crisis?


The Brian Lehrer Show

Super Committee Countdown: Corporate Tax Rates

Friday, November 11, 2011

Adam Davidson, co-host of Planet Money and new columnist for the New York Times Magazine, discusses the role that corporate taxes play in the deficit negotiations.

Comments [7]

The Takeaway

G20 Summit and the 'Robin Hood Tax'

Friday, November 04, 2011

The G20 summit is under way in Cannes. While the European sovereign debt crisis is at the top of the agenda, one of the more noteworthy topics being discussed is a so-called "Robin Hood Tax," a financial transaction tax on stocks, bonds and derivatives trades. Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates is at the summit to address world leaders in support of the tax, which he says could be utilized to help developed nations meet their global aid obligations to the world's poorest countries.  

Comments [1]

The Takeaway

In Debt Talks, Norquist Holds Republicans to No-Tax Pledge

Friday, July 15, 2011

Tensions have been escalating between Republicans and Democrats in debates this week over the debt limit, as they struggle to reach an agreement about the budget by August 2. President Obama will speak about it in a press conference this morning at 11 a.m. (EST). Heading into the weekend, neither side is budging, and for the Republicans, some say that’s in large part because of one person.

Comments [13]

The Takeaway

US Companies Lobby for Tax Break Holiday

Monday, June 20, 2011

Some of the U.S.'s largest corporations—including Apple, Google and Microsoft—have a lot of their profits saved in low-tax countries overseas. Some of these companies are lobbying Congress and the Obama administration for a tax break. In a move these companies say would function as a stimulus to the economy, they are proposing a repatriation holiday, in which their profits could be returned home with a much smaller tax penalty than they would normally incur. David Kocieniewski, tax reporter for our partner The New York Times, speaks with us about which companies are lobbying, and how measures like this have fared in past years.


Transportation Nation

Senator: I'll Go After All Energy Tax Breaks

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

(Todd Zwillich -- Washington, D.C) As Congress rummages for every dollar it can find to throw toward the national debt, one Republican senator says he knows where he can find billions: energy tax breaks.

Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, the number-three Republican in the Senate, says he's cooking up a plan to cancel most if not all tax breaks enjoyed by the energy sector. Instead Alexander would spend the money on clean energy R+D and lowering the deficit.

This comes a day after Alexander and 33 other Republicans backed a proposal to eliminate $6 billion in taxpayer subsidies enjoyed by the ethanol industry. That vote was seen in Washington as a strong signal that Republicans are ready to put once-sacred tax breaks on the table in an effort to strike a debt deal with Democrats.

"I and my staff are looking at all energy tax breaks," Alexander told reporters on Capitol Hill Wednesday. "I expect that before long I'll have legislation that will look at all tax breaks," he said.

Such a bill would almost certainly become part of a broader debate over reducing the national debt or another fight over tax code reform expected later this year.

Either way, the success of Alexander's effort could mean a fundamental reordering--or in some cases elimination--of billions in tax breaks helping the energy sector.

Alexander said he'll try to eliminate all or most long-standing energy tax breaks and instead put some of the money toward "a Manhattan project for clean energy research." A lot of the burden would fall squarely on utilities and power generation companies. But ethanol, natural gas, and oil and gas tax credits opposed by most Democrats would also presumably be included. Democrats are already vowing to include a repeal of oil company tax credits in any deal with Republicans over the debt.

Alexander is a supporter of electric cars, however, and he said Wednesday he'd favor some "jump start" tax incentives for electric cars and the development of a 500-mile battery. The idea, he said, is to give a boost to burgeoning clean energy technology then cast it to the mercy of the free market.

"I don't think electric cars deserve any sort of government support after four, five years. If they can't survive in the marketplace then they ought to be, y'know, thrown in the junk pile," Alexander said.

Right now consumers can cash in on a $7,500 credit for buying a plug-in electric car. There's also a $1,000 federal residential charging credit for plug-in car owners.

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The Takeaway

President Obama's Speech on the Deficit

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Good afternoon.  It’s great to be back at GW.  I want you to know that one of the reasons I kept the government open was so I could be here today with all of you.  I wanted to make sure you had one more excuse to skip class.  You’re welcome.

Of course, what we’ve been debating here in Washington for the last few weeks will affect your lives in ways that are potentially profound.  This debate over budgets and deficits is about more than just numbers on a page, more than just cutting and spending.  It’s about the kind of future we want.  It’s about the kind of country we believe in.  And that’s what I want to talk about today. 

From our first days as a nation, we have put our faith in free markets and free enterprise as the engine of America’s wealth and prosperity.  More than citizens of any other country, we are rugged individualists, a self-reliant people with a healthy skepticism of too much government.

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It's A Free Blog

Excise Tax Trim Would Brew up New Jobs

Monday, March 28, 2011

Bill S534 would save my company about $310,000 a year. So far, we have added 15 jobs, bringing us to 50 employees in Brooklyn. We also brew upstate, in a facility that employs 120 people."

-- Brooklyn Brewery co-founder Steve Hindy, on a measure proposed by Sen. Charles Schumer that would reduce small brewers' excise tax.

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