Tag: taxes

UNCONFIRMED REPORT: Marla Maples may have released Donald Trump’s 1995 tax return

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The following blog post includes a description of a female individual as an “actor”. The word “actor” is used in a gender-neutral context on this website, although most people use the term “actress” to describe a female actor.


In 2016, the 1990’s have officially come full circle thanks to a recent New York Times report on Donald Trump’s 1995 tax returns.

Trump declared a nearly $916 million loss on his 1995 tax returns. In the mid-1990’s, Trump’s business record included the failure of Trump Airlines and the mismanagement of three Atlantic City, New Jersey casinos. The kind of loss that Trump declared was a net operating loss, and it could have legally allowed Trump to pay zero income taxes from three years prior to the declaration of the loss (1992) to 15 years after the declaration of the loss (2010). In that time frame, Trump earned tens of thousands of dollars per episode of The Apprentice that he hosted, and he also earned roughly $45 million for being the top executive of a publicly-traded company created by Trump to assume ownership of his Atlantic City properties. It’s also worth noting that ordinary investors in Trump’s publicly-traded company had the value of their shares decline to a measly 17¢ from $35.50, many contractors were not paid for work on Trump’s properties, and casino bondholders lost money.

However, as fellow progressive blogger Chris “Capper” Liebenthal likes to say, there’s more…there’s always more!

Jon Lovett, who lists himself as a presidential speechwriter on his Twitter page, has claimed that actor and television personality Marla Maples, who was Trump’s wife at the time the tax return was filed (Trump and Maples divorced in 1999), released Trump’s tax returns:

While this is an unconfirmed report, what is an indisputable fact is that the tax return was a tax return jointly filed by Trump and Maples as a married couple, something that federal law and IRS rules have long permitted. It is possible, but not confirmed, that Maples may have released the tax return to the public.

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Bernie strongly supports paid family and medical leave…Hillary doesn’t

If you support federally-guaranteed paid family, medical, maternity, and paternity leave for American workers, then Bernie Sanders is the Democratic candidate for president that strongly supports what you believe in on this important issue:

(Bernie) Sanders also backs a bill pending in Congress that would mandate employers provide paid family leave time after a child is born. The bill would be funded by an increase in payroll taxes estimated to cost the average worker about $72 a year.

(Hillary) Clinton has spoken out forcefully for the concept of paid family leave but not embraced the particular measure because it violates a campaign pledge not to raise taxes on families making less than $250,000.

While Hillary Clinton is busy twisting her own campaign platform into a political pretzel because of her Grover Norquist-like campaign pledge to not raise taxes on the low-end wealthy, Bernie Sanders is strongly advocating for actual legislation designed to allow workers to care for their families in times of need. For Bernie, supporting guaranteed paid leave isn’t just talk, it’s something that he’s actually proposed in Congress. Earlier this year, Bernie co-sponsored legislation that would allow “mothers and fathers to receive 12 weeks of paid family leave to care for a baby” and allow “workers to take the same amount of paid time off if they are diagnosed with cancer or have other serious medical conditions or to take care of family members who are seriously ill” (fact sheet here).

Bernie Sanders draws massive crowd to Madison, Wisconsin rally, lays out progressive vision for America

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders laid out his progressive vision for America’s future in front of a roaring capacity crowd at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum (also called the Alliant Energy Center) in Madison, Wisconsin last night.

Here’s a couple of photos of the crowd at the event:

Crowd filing into Bernie Sanders rally in Madison, Wisconsin prior to Bernie's appearance (photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Defender Twitter account)
Crowd filing into Bernie Sanders rally in Madison, Wisconsin prior to Bernie’s appearance (photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Defender Twitter account)
Bernie Sanders Madison WI Rally Crowd Doug Cvetkovich
Massive crowd at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Madison, Wisconsin during Bernie Sanders speech. Sanders is standing at the podium on the stage at the bottom left of the picture. (photo courtesy of Doug Cvetkovich)

I’m going to share a video of Bernie’s speech from the YouTube channel Bernie2016.tv (which is not directly affiliated with the Sanders campaign), but I want to make two notes before I do so: First, I’ve set the video to start playing at around the 42:20 mark, which is about 20 seconds or so before Nichols takes the stage to introduce Sanders. Second, several technical glitches occur during the video, most notably the first part of Nichols’s introduction not having any audio at all and an audio echoing issue occurring in at least one segment of Sanders’s speech.

Here’s the video of Bernie’s speech:

Bernie did a masterful job outlining a progressive vision for America. In his speech, Bernie called for reducing income inequality in America, rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure, expanding workers’ rights, protecting women’s reproductive rights, getting big money out of politics, ensuring that women are paid the same as men for the same amount and type of work, reforming the criminal justice system, opposing free trade deals, providing high-quality education to Americans without burdening them with student debt, raising the minimum wage, and enacting many other progressive policies. Bernie energized a large crowd in Wisconsin’s second-largest city, and I think he can win the general election for president.

According to arena officials and Sanders campaign staffers, the attendance was 9,600, although I’ve seen reports on social media that so many people tried to show up at the 10,231-seat arena, some people had to be turned away from the event because the venue couldn’t handle any more people than the stated capacity. Sanders was introduced at the event by John Nichols, a progressive political author and columnist for The Nation magazine. Nichols mentioned during his introduction of Sanders that Ed Garvey, the 1998 Democratic gubernatorial nominee in Wisconsin and the founder of the annual Fighting Bob Fest progressive gathering, Wisconsin State Senator Fred Risser (D-Madison), and Wisconsin State Representatives Terese Berceau and Melissa Sargent (both D-Madison), were present at the event. Of those four, Sargent livetweeted Sanders’s speech, in which Sanders talked about issues like money in politics, climate change, education, higher education, workers’ rights, reproductive rights, income inequality, poverty, criminal justice reform, the minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, breaking up “too big to fail” banks, and international trade. Here’s every one of Sargent’s tweets about Sanders’s speech in Madison:

Note that there is an apparent typo in one of Sargent’s tweets (the one she sent at 8:05 P.M. about Sanders talking about how climate change affects our future; Sargent likely meant to type “We must leave this planet in a condition that is habitable for our children”); other than that, Sargent did an absolutely fantastic job paraphrasing Sanders’s speech and livetweeting the key points that Sanders made. Please also note that Sargent has, to my knowledge, not formally endorsed a presidential candidate.

It is perfectly fitting that Bernie Sanders laid out his progressive vision for America in the hometown of Wisconsin progressive legend Fighting Bob La Follette.

What Democrats here in the United States can learn from a major progressive victory in Alberta

The Rachel Notley-led Alberta New Democratic Party (Alberta NDP), which ran on a platform consisting nearly entirely of progressive ideas and values, is projected by CBC News to win a majority of seats in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, and, therefore, is projected to be the governing party in Alberta’s provincial government. Both the Canadian federal government and each Canadian province uses a parliamentary system to determine control of government.

The Alberta NDP’s platform is very progressive on nearly every issue they gave a position on in their platform, especially when one considers that the Canadian province of Alberta is about as right-wing as the U.S. state of Texas is. The NDP’s platform included planks supporting increasing the minimum wage to $15/hour, getting the undue influence of money out of politics, enacting stronger ethics laws, improving access to health care, investing in public education, raising income taxes on Alberta-based corporations and the wealthiest 10% of Albertans, investing in child care, providing for the safety and well-being of Albertan children and women, and, surprisingly for an oil-rich state, investing in renewable energy.

The NDP’s victory in Alberta speaks volumes about how the corrupt, corporate Democratic Party “leadership” here in the United States is failing progressives and the American people on many levels. Very few Democrats are willing to openly run as progressives, and, as a result, the Democratic Party often has trouble winning races outside of states and constituencies that strongly favor the Democrats to begin with. I would strongly encourage Democratic leaders to take a look at how the Alberta NDP won big in tonight’s provincial elections and use the NDP’s Alberta victory as a model to win back both houses of Congress, as well as many state and local offices.

If progressive-minded people can win in Alberta, progressive-minded people can win anywhere!

The Progressive Response to the Illinois State Budget Address

In his budget address today, Republican Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner proposed a draconian budget that, among other things, includes deep cuts to Medicaid, higher education, and other important government services that many Illinoisans rely on and help make our economy strong. While our state’s current fiscal situation is unsustainable, Rauner’s budget proposal would actually make Illinois even worse off than it is now.

In his budget, Rauner proposed deep cuts to Medicaid, which thousands of Illinoisans who are not well off rely on in order to make health care more affordable for them. While any actual waste in the Medicaid program (Medicaid payouts to deceased people, etc.) should be eliminated, taking away health care benefits from people who rely on them would bankrupt thousands of Illinois families. Additionally, Rauner proposed taking money from higher education and giving it to K-12 schools in our state. While our state’s K-12 system needs more funding, to cut funding from our state’s public universities and community colleges in order to do so is the wrong way to do so. Additionally, Rauner proposed freezing property taxes and cutting state funding to local governments around the state. This would force many municipalities to cut police departments, street maintenance crews, and other important services, if not outright eliminate local government altogether.

In his budget speech, Rauner proposed gutting pensions, workers’ compensation, and unemployment insurance, as well as making it harder for Illinoisans to sue those who have wronged them in a significant way and make the Illinois tax code even more tilted toward the wealthiest people in our state than it currently is. To put that another way, Rauner wants to screw Illinoisans over and get away with it, as well as make it easier for businesses and other people and groups to screw Illinoisans over and get away with it.

Additionally, Rauner used his budget speech to advocate for items that do not belong in a state budget or budget speech, such as a proposed state constitutional amendment to enact term limits for many of our state’s elected officials. If it’s not a fiscal item, it doesn’t belong in a state budget or budget speech, and bringing up non-fiscal items in a budget speech is purely political grandstanding.

In his speech, Rauner compared himself to Abraham Lincoln and claimed that his budget would make Illinois a more prosperous state. First off, Rauner is no Lincoln. Lincoln believed that “labor is the superior of capital”. Rauner believes that capital is the superior of labor. It’s clear to me that Rauner has a completely different political philosophy than that of Lincoln. Also, while the bottom line of Rauner’s budget proposal may look good, what is inside Rauner’s budget is what really matters, and Rauner’s budget would make millions of Illinoisans far worse off than they currently are and lead to even worse fiscal crises in the future.

The Progressive Response to the State of the State of Illinois Address

Earlier today, Bruce Rauner, the Republican governor of our state that we instinctively know as Illinois, outlined his plan to drive down wages, infringe on the rights of Illinois workers, and destroy an already weak Illinois economy.

Prior to giving his State of the State address, Rauner went around the state using PowerPoint slides to publicly bash our state’s public employees, whine about public employees being, in his view, overpaid, spread lies about worker’s rights and public employee pay, and blame public employees for our state’s fiscal problems. Additionally, it was reported yesterday that Rauner strongly hinted that he wants to eliminate collective bargaining rights for our state’s public employees. Given that Rauner has given his top administration officials pay raises and appointed a $100,000/year chief of staff to his wife despite the fact that his wife has no official duties whatsoever, for Rauner to give his cronies pay raises while wanting to drive down public employee salaries is blatantly hypocritical.

In his State of the State address, Rauner called for gutting our state’s workers’ compensation system, lowering property taxes while our state and local governments have billions of dollars in unpaid bills, allowing local governments and/or voters to bust unions at the local level, prohibiting project labor agreements, eliminating prevailing wage laws, and privatizing public education to benefit his political cronies. Rauner did have a few good ideas that he talked about in his address to the people of Illinois, such as banning trial lawyer donations to judicial campaigns, merging the offices of state comptroller and state treasurer, and increasing funding for early childhood education.

While there is no disputing the fact that our state is in a fiscal mess for a large number of reasons, the primary reason why our state is in such a fiscal mess is because the wealthiest Illinoisans, such as Rauner himself, don’t pay enough state income taxes thanks to an ridiculous provision in the Illinois Constitution that prohibits the General Assembly from passing legislation to tax the incomes of wealthier Illinoisans at a higher rate than the incomes of poorer Illinoisans. The flat tax requirement in the Illinois Constitution prohibits our state from raising the revenues that would be needed to pay off our state’s unpaid bills and put our state on solid financial footing. I would strongly support a proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution to allow the General Assembly to levy a progressive state income tax in order to raise income taxes on the wealthiest Illinoisans, cut income taxes for the poorest Illinoisans, and put our state’s finances back on track. Additionally, I would strongly support eliminating all tax breaks for businesses, such as the ridiculous tax break that Sears and CME Group received a few years ago, as this would also bring in more revenue to the state that can be used to pay off unpaid bills.

Regarding public employee pensions, another reason why our state is in a fiscal mess, I would strongly support a pension reform proposal that would phase out the current public employee pension systems in our state, but still allow public employees who have paid into the current pension systems to still receive the benefits they’ve earned once they retire, and require all new state and local elected officials, appointed officials, and hired public employees who receive a full-time salary but had not previously paid anything into the current public employee pension systems in our state to pay into a newly-created public employee pension system that is designed to be fully-funded and provide our state’s future elected officials, political appointees, and public employees with a steady retirement income once they retire. Make no mistake about it, I will strongly oppose any pension reform proposal that cuts benefits for those who have currently paid into the pension systems, creates a 401(k) system for public employees, and/or turns an existing pension system into a 401(k) system.

Regarding cutting spending, I would support an audit of the entire state government and every single county, township, city, town, village, and other type of local government entity in our state in order to find actual wasteful spending and propose common-sense solutions to cut actual wasteful spending and help save the state money in both the short term and the long term. Make no mistake about it, I will strongly oppose cuts to public education, social services, and other government services that reduce the quality of service by our state and local government agencies.

Regarding strengthening our state’s economy, I strongly support raising the state minimum wage here in Illinois to $15/hour and indexing automatic, annual minimum wage increases to productivity. Additionally, I strongly support creating a North Dakota-style economic development bank here in Illinois to issue and/our guarantee loans to factories, farms, small businesses, and other types of businesses that have to be repaid in full with interest. These two proposals would lift thousands of Illinoisans out of poverty, establish a minimum wage that values work, and help entrepreneurs start up new businesses and create jobs without pocketing government benefits to simply pad profits. Busting unions and driving down wages is something I strongly oppose because those policies would do absolutely nothing to strengthen our state’s economy or empower Illinoisans.

Regarding campaign finance, ethics, and government reform, while a federal constitutional amendment to repeal the Citizens United v. FEC U.S. Supreme Court decision that helped Rauner and his cronies buy the last gubernatorial election would be required to allow Illinois to enact meaningful campaign finance reform, I strongly support eliminating the conflicts of interest that are currently allowed by our state’s campaign finance system, such as a couple of conflicts of interest that Rauner mentioned, prohibiting unions from donating to candidates for public office that they’d have to collectively bargain with if said candidates are elected and prohibiting trial lawyers from donating to judicial candidates, and one that Rauner did not mention because he’s effectively opposed to it, prohibiting business owners and managers from donating to candidates for public office that could use the public office in question to directly benefit said business owners and managers if elected. Additionally, I would support setting the maximum campaign contribution for a statewide office here in Illinois at $250 and enacting even lower limits for state legislative and local offices. Additionally, I strongly support implementing a pair of public campaign finance systems, one for judicial elections and one for other non-federal elections. The judicial public campaign finance system would prohibit judicial candidates from receiving campaign contributions from other people and/or funding their own campaigns, require that all judicial candidates receive a set amount of campaign funds from the state, and require that judicial candidates receive the same amount of campaign funds from the state that their opponents receive. The public campaign finance system for other offices would allow candidates for those offices to receive $4 of state funding for every $1 they receive in contributions and/or self-fund their campaigns with. Additionally, I would support enacting what I like to call the Bruce Rauner Rule, which would outright prohibit candidates for statewide office here in Illinois from donating or loaning more than $100,000 of their own wealth to their campaign, and set even lower self-funding limits for other offices. On term limits, I would support limiting the offices of governor and lieutenant governor to one elected term, limiting the other state executive offices to two elected terms, limiting state senators to five elected terms, and limiting state representatives to eight elected terms, and anything stricter than that would receive my opposition. Some other government reform ideas I support include allowing Illinois voters to recall all non-federal elected officials, converting the Illinois General Assembly into an unicameral legislature with at least 177 members via a state constitutional amendment, and amending the Illinois Constitution to establish a truly non-partisan redistricting process for congressional and state legislative districts.

Regarding reforming the criminal justice system, I strongly support legalizing, taxing, and regulating recreational marijuana, which would reduce the incarceration rate in our state and provide our state with much-needed tax revenue. Additionally, I’m open to various ideas to reform the criminal justice system in order to make our prison system more about rehabilitating convicted criminals instead of simply punishing them and make our criminal justice system more fair. For example, one idea that I strongly support would be requiring independent investigations of deaths that occur in the hands of state and local police here in Illinois.

Regarding education, I strongly oppose implementing school voucher programs here in Illinois, expanding charter schools, or any other school privatization scheme. I strongly support repealing Common Core State Standards and replacing them well-rounded, developmentally appropriate K-12 academic standards developed by the state and are held accountable by measures other than assessments and standardized tests. Additionally, I strongly support getting rid of the emphasis on career preparation in K-12 education, since I believe that career preparation should be the responsibility of higher education institutions, not the K-12 system. Also, I strongly support increasing funding for public schools in our state and making our state’s K-12 school funding system fairer to poorer school districts.

Illinoisans are worth more than speeches, political buzzwords, and PowerPoint presentations about driving down wages, busting unions, and making our state’s economy even weaker than it currently is, and Illinoisans are certainly worth more than Bruce Rauner’s far-right policies to drive down wages, bust unions, and destroy our state’s economy. It’s time for Illinoisans to push for progressive policies to protect workers’ rights, strengthen our state’s economy, put more money into the pockets of poor and working-class Illinoisans, provide a world-class education system for our state’s K-12 and college students, and provide for a more perfect Illinois.

House Democrats push for progressive tax reform

For far too long, the tepid Democratic leadership on Capitol Hill has lacked any real comprehensive plan to overhaul the federal tax code to increase taxes on the wealthy and provide real tax relief to middle-class Americans.

As if someone turned a light on, U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and U.S. Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland unveiled a progressive tax reform plan yesterday. This plan would repeal tax breaks that benefit the wealthy and institute a new fee on stock trades in order to provide tax relief for middle-class Americans:

Senior Democrats, dissatisfied with the party’s tepid prescriptions for combating income inequality, are drafting an “action plan” that calls for a massive transfer of wealth from the super-rich and Wall Street traders to the heart of the middle class.

The centerpiece of the proposal, set to be unveiled Monday by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), is a “paycheck bonus credit” that would shave $2,000 a year off the tax bills of couples earning less than $200,000. Other provisions would nearly triple the tax credit for child care and reward people who save at least $500 a year.

The windfall — about $1.2 trillion over a decade — would come directly from the pockets of Wall Street “high rollers” through a new fee on financial transactions, and from the top 1 percent of earners, who would lose billions of dollars in lucrative tax breaks.

Unfortunately, since Republicans control both houses of Congress, this is going absolutely nowhere for at least the next two years. However, for Democrats to simply advocate such a bold plan is a big step forward towards combating the rampant problem of income inequality in this country and restoring the American middle class.

How Republicans are going to turn the Congressional Budget Office into a right-wing propaganda outfit

Anytime Congress needs to obtain a cost estimate, an economic impact analysis, and/or other types of budget and/or economic information, Congress is legally required to turn to its own internal think tank on economic issues, the officially non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

However, the Republicans that won control of both houses of Congress in last November’s elections are about to turn the CBO into a part of their far-right propaganda machine that will probably be one of the most hyperpartisan government agencies in the entire country.

The director of the CBO is currently Douglas Elmendorf, who has run the CBO quite well for the past several years, having originally been appointed by a Congress controlled completely by Democrats in 2009 and then continuing on as CBO director even after Republicans took control of the House after the 2010 midterm elections. However, with Republicans now in control of both the House and the Senate, the House Speaker (more than likely to be John Boehner) and the Senate President Pro Tempore (which will be Orrin Hatch), who are jointly responsible for appointing the CBO director, will almost certainly get rid of Elmendorf and replace him with a new CBO director that will likely be very conservative and use the CBO to spew right-wing lies about the economy and the country’s finances.

What the Republicans want to do is appoint a new CBO director who will turn the officially non-partisan agency into a right-wing, non-partisan in name only agency and use dynamic scoring, a disproven economic theory that is based on the falsehood that cutting taxes for the wealthy results in more revenue to the federal government:

AS Republicans take control of Congress this month, at the top of their to-do list is changing how the government measures the impact of tax cuts on federal revenue: namely, to switch from so-called static scoring to “dynamic” scoring. While seemingly arcane, the change could have significant, negative consequences for enacting sustainable, long-term fiscal policies.

[…]

Such proponents (of dynamic scoring) argue that conventional projections are skewed against tax cuts, because they do not consider that cutting taxes could lead to higher economic output, which would make up at least some of the lost revenues. They maintain that dynamic scoring will, therefore, be both more neutral and more accurate than current methodologies.

In reality, the whole concept of dynamic scoring is built on a mountain of lies and false assumptions about how the economy and taxation work:

But the bigger problems lie deeper. Federal deficits are on an unsustainable path (as it happens, because of undertaxation, not excessive spending). Simply cutting taxes against the headwind of structural deficits leads to lower growth, as government borrowing soaks up an ever-increasing share of savings.

The most optimistic dynamic models get around this by assuming that the world today is in fiscal equilibrium, where the deficit does not grow continuously as a percentage of gross domestic product. But that’s not true. If you add the reality of spiraling deficits into those models, they don’t work.

To make these models work, scorekeepers must arbitrarily assume either that we tax more and spend less today than is really the case…or assume that a tax cut today will be followed by a spending cut or tax increase tomorrow. Economists describe such a move as “making counterfactual assumptions”; the rest of us call it “making stuff up.”

In reality, dynamic scoring encourages absurd economic policies that would decrease the amount of revenue the federal government receives, drive up the federal budget deficit and national debt, hurt economic growth, and wreck our country’s economy. The fact that Republicans want to turn the officially non-partisan Congressional Budget Office into a part of the hyperpartisan right-wing propaganda machine in order to lie to the American people about how legislation effects the economy and our country’s finances absolutely scares me, and Democrats need to start attacking the CBO at every opportunity if they do start acting like a right-wing organization.

Bloomberg News gives Scott Walker a lump of coal for Christmas

All right, Bloomberg News didn’t literally give Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker a lump of coal for Christmas, but they did figuratively give Walker a lump of coal for Christmas in the form of this article about how Walker, who is a likely Republican presidential nomination candidate in 2016, and his Republican allies in the Wisconsin State Legislature have wrecked Wisconsin’s economy:

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has his eye on the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, and as he tries to boost his national poll numbers, there are numbers at home that also bear watching — his state’s finances.

Tax cuts and Medicaid spending are contributing to a projected budget deficit that may reach $2.2 billion in the two-year period starting in July 2015, according to his administration’s analysts. While Walker aides call the projections premature, Democrats say the figures prove the governor’s policies — especially income and property-tax reductions — turned a $517 million surplus at the end of June into a shortfall.

Tax collections and decisions by Walker and the Republican-controlled legislature will determine the size of the deficit. Yet the swing to a shortfall limits Wisconsin’s financial choices as the governor prepares his February budget presentation. Last week, he called for more property-tax cuts.

What they’ve opted to do is a policy choice of cutting taxes,” said Gabriel Petek, an analyst at Standard & Poor’s in San Francisco. “They’ve changed the fiscal trajectory of the state that had been on course for higher reserves.”

(emphasis mine)

Obviously, Scott Walker deserves at least a figurative lump of coal for Christmas. That’s because his policies of cutting taxes for the wealthy, implementing a statewide school voucher program in Wisconsin, and handing out corporate welfare to his campaign donors have completely wrecked Wisconsin’s economy, finances, and business climate. Despite the fact that Walker’s policies of cutting taxes and spending money on bad policy that only benefits the politically connected have clearly wrecked Wisconsin’s reputation, Walker wants to hand out even more tax cuts to the wealthy. That’s absurd, since cutting taxes does absolutely nothing to reduce or eliminate a budget deficit, in fact, cutting taxes makes budget deficits even worse.