Progressive Breakfast for April 15

Morning Message

Don’t Let These Zombie Corporate Tax Breaks Come Back To Life

A great thing happened at the end of 2013: A pack of corporate tax breaks that long ago should have been weeded out of the tax code finally expired due to congressional inaction and were dispatched to the graveyard of tax inequity. But today, as millions of Americans rush to file their taxes before tonight’s midnight deadline, corporate lobbyists are digging up the graveyard and working to bring these tax breaks back from the dead ... Take General Electric, the company that used to say 'we bring good things to life.' What it’s trying to bring to life now is a tax loophole that allowed it to not only pay zero income taxes in the past five years on profits of $28 billion, but actually enabled it to receive checks from federal taxpayers totaling $3 billion, according to the group Americans for Tax Fairness.

Happy Tax Day

The wealthy are paying more. The Hill: “The highest 1 percent of earners, generally those making north of $500,000 a year, will see a tax hike of some $38,000 a year because of the fiscal cliff deal, the Tax Policy Center found. The ObamaCare taxes will add an average of $20,000 more to the tax bills of the top 1 percent, while the top 0.1 percent will pay an extra $118,000, according to the tax center.”

And your taxes are probably lower, notes W. Post: “The average filer saw her effective tax rate drop from 22 percent in 1979 to 18.1 percent in 2010. Rates on the bottom 20 percent of tax filers went from 7.5 percent to 1.5 percent, while the top 20 percent of earners saw a more modest decrease, from 27.1 to 24.0 percent over the same period.”

But you pay more than corporations. Daily Beast’s Brandy Zadrozny: “After taking advantage of credits, exemptions, and offshore tax havens, U.S. corporations get away with paying an average of less than 13 percent … According to a study by the advocacy group Citizens for Tax Justice, 26 Fortune 500 corporations paid no federal corporate income tax over the most recent five-year period.”

We need more taxes, says TNR’s Jonathan Cohn: “…in countries like Sweden, Norway, and the Netherlands countries, the average is much higher. In those nations, taxes account for more than half of total national income … They are far more secure, thanks not only to national health insurance but also to generous provision of child care and unemployment benefits. And despite the high tax burden, their economies have historically been strong—in part, because the combination of investment and a secure safety net makes people more comfortable with a dynamic, ever-changing economy…”

54% says their own taxes are fair. W. Monthly’s Ed Kilgore: “That’s actually down from 64% in 2003, but there’s a pretty simple reason: a plurality of Republicans now consider their taxes unfair, as do a majority of people with incomes over $75,000 a year.”

But Will We Ever See a Carbon Tax?

Republicans holding America back on climate. NYT: “The United States needs to enact a major climate change law, such as a tax on carbon pollution, by the end of this decade to stave off the most catastrophic impacts of global warming, according to the authors of a report released this week by the United Nations … [But] some Republicans question the underlying science of global warming and lawmakers’ ties to the fossil fuel industry have made them resistant to change … some experts say they do see some potential for a legislative path to cut United States carbon pollution. One window could open if Congress takes up a comprehensive effort to overhaul the nation’s corporate tax code…”

Enviros step up campaign spending. W. Post: “The League of Conservation Voters and the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund are starting LeadingGreen, a collaboration that will steer donations to federal candidates and enlist the help of major donors in lobbying elected officials … The new initiative aims to raise and contribute $5 million directly to candidates this year … That sum is more modest than what many conservative groups will spend on the election, as well as below the $100 million that billionaire and climate activist Tom Steyer has pledged to mobilize by 2016.”

Breakfast Sides

CBO reduces cost estimate for Obamacare. McClatchy: “Lower-than-expected health insurance premiums under Obamacare will help cut the long-term cost of the program 7 percent over the next decade … The government’s reduction of $104 billion in subsidies for those premiums was the main factor that led the nonpartisan fiscal watchdog to cut its projection of the nation’s federal deficit by nearly $300 billion through 2024.”

Increased transparency is not affecting CEO pay. NYT’s Joe Nocera: ” In the mid-2000s, the S.E.C. passed rules forcing companies to place all the compensation information for top executives in one place. There were people who thought that this effort at pay ‘transparency’ would help get C.E.O. compensation under control — in effect shaming compensation committees and chief executives from letting executive pay get any more out of hand than it already was. Not exactly how it turned out, is it?”