Rural America Knows GOP Tax Plan: It was Tried and Failed in Kansas

What’s the easiest way to tell if any major government “reform” plan is a sham? If it isn’t rolled out with members of both parties at the microphone touting bipartisanship you probably need to be worried.

We saw it with the GOP’s failed “repeal and replace” health care reform bills and now we are seeing it again with the Republicans’ just announced corporate giveaway tax reform plan (which should really be called “the GOP lacks reform plan”).

So, Rural America, you want to see how the GOP “tax reform” plays out? Just look in our own backyard at the disaster in Kansas, since it’s the model for the newly proposed Republican tax cuts in Congress.

The true, real life horror stories as a result of the budget deficit in Kansas caused by the tax plan imposed on that state  in 2012 would be too scary for even Hollywood to make up. Prison riots, a state worker shot in cold blood, children gone missing and a halt in testing for radioactivity around a nuclear power plant are all blamed on cuts resulting from the GOP tax scheme in Kansas.

To pull off the scam, Kansas GOP Gov. Sam Brownback and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer teamed up with ultra-conservative state legislators to implement what is known as the “failed Art Laffer tax experiment.” Like the Republicans now running Congress, Brownback claimed the economy would get a jolt, spurring new jobs and new private investment.

Brownback concocted a ridiculous swindle that pretty much gave more than 330,000 rich Kansans and corporations free rein to utilize state services without paying any state income taxes by exempting pass-through income; making royalties and rental income tax free; and eliminating the top bracket of the three-tiered income tax system in Kansas.

Businesses and wealthy Kansans simply gamed the system by reclassifying their entities to avoid paying taxes. In the end there was no new job creation, and there was no great expansion of growth.

Kansas had approximately a $1 billion budget hole within a year, forcing draconian cuts to road and bridge projects; schools; colleges and universities; hospitals; and had to spend all its rainy-day fund. Kansas even had to stop making payments to retirement plans!  Needless to say, the state’s credit rating took a dive.

The Kansas tax deception was so bad that it was GOP state legislators in Kansas who eventually killed it. Yet the Washington Republicans so blinded by their political need and greed are now adopting the same plan — and Art Laffer again is a chief architect, shepherding his flock of disciples named Trump, Ryan, McConnell and Brady.

The Republicans’ failed Art Laffer experiment became a real laugher for the rich and corporate types in Kansas. Now the Republicans in Congress are trying to play that same joke on all of America. The problem is it isn’t funny. It’s scary.

The Virginia Eastern Shore: Pristine Rural Setting Like None Other

Virginia’s Eastern Shore is one of the most unique Rural Settings in the entire United States, no doubt about it. One of America’s most pristine play-lands, with the Atlantic Ocean to the east and Chesapeake Bay to the West, the Delmarva Peninsula is as big a seasonal draw for tourism as there is in the Mid-Atlantic.

Tourists from all over the world are lured by the rolling surf, wild ponies and fresh rockfish and crab meat, but once on the Eastern Shore visitors quickly discover the peninsula is fertile coastal farmland. The eats are as good as the beaches!

As the Eastern Shore demonstrates, agriculture in big business in Virginia, taking in a whopping $91 billion a year statewide. So it’s no surprise that a commitment to family farming, local growers and the expanding related aquaculture industry have been a big priority for the current Democratic administration.

“We have really been putting a lot of emphasis on ‘home grown,’ on using our own products right here in Virginia,” Lt. Gov.  Ralph Northam recently  told young family farmers on the Eastern Shore. 

“You all are the entrepreneurship of small business,” Northam said, heaping praise on the Virginia growers. “Our industry has increased by about 30 percent since 2013 and that’s to a lot of credit to you all.”

Northam should know, since he is a native of the rural Virginia Eastern Shore.

The state’s push to help farmers and watermen diversify agriculture and aquaculture on the eastern Shore is only part of the regional economic strategy.  Recruiting new manufacturing and services industries, particularly in the health care and tourist-related sectors,  is at the forefront of the state’s recent activity to spur economic growth on the Eastern Shore.

Along with creating support services for the military and aerospace sectors, the state’s partnership with and local businesses and government has provided a viable incubator for small businesses.

“You know as a doctor I have a plan to resuscitate rural Virginia,” Northam, a former Army doctor said in a recent debate. “It’s time to get the paddles out and shock rural Virginia back to life starting with universal access to broadband and cell coverage.”

Work in Progress: Rural Southwestern Virginia Deserves a Boost

Rural Southwestern Virginia is home to hard working folks who just want a good steady job. Fortunately, state leaders have been working diligently the past couple of years to bring new, sustainable business and opportunity to Southwestern Virginia.

For starters, the University of Virginia’s College at Wise and community colleges in the region are retooling programs in order to lure and incubate new industries, so Southwestern Virginia is not perpetually dependent on one single product or service.

“We have a unique opportunity with this expansion to work with all relevant stakeholders, leveraging both public and private investments, to transform UVA-Wise into an international destination for students and researchers,” Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam said in laying out a plan for re-building the Rural Economy.

“This will have a tremendous effect on the regional economy because when you can attract students and top talent from around the world for research and development, grants will follow. And with grants and applied research, business opportunities will soon follow. And structured correctly, these businesses will not only start up in Southwest Virginia, but they will remain and grow,” Northam explained.

The key to helping Southwestern Virginia retool is total connectivity. We need to ensure a safe, viable transportation infrastructure scan get products and people in and around the region. It goes without saying that virtual connectivity via broadband needs a serious overhaul to transform all of Virginia into a 21-century communications hub.

“We’ve all heard about the digital divide — and it’s very real here in Virginia. Hundreds of thousands of Virginians, including tens of thousands of school children, don’t have good access to reliable high-speed internet services,” said Northam, a Democrat, who hopes to rebuild the Rural Economy in his native state. “Without broadband internet, it’s difficult to promote and conduct a business, students can’t do their homework, and no one can participate fully in the digital society we’ve created. This is absolutely unacceptable in 2017.”

Broken promises won’t solve problems. Unfortunately, the Trump administration about a coming coal boom and the return of manufacturing jobs, the people who live in the Southwestern corner of the state are barely feeling it.

Trump talks a good game when he boasts of coal industry jobs returning, but what he just doesn’t want to admit is that market forces have a lot more to do with coal production and job creation than any government regulation or action can accomplish. Cheaper, more efficient natural gas and the lower cost of building gas-fired systems are the real reasons Appalachian coal is not in demand.

This is not a critique of the coal industry. We’ll leave that for others to do. We want to see full employment for all Rural America. This is about shaming of the Trump administration for trying to deceive Southwestern Virginia and other coal-producing areas into believing their regions are going to see a big rebound with coal. They won’t. Any growth in coal production will be limited and will flatten out in coming months, credible business and economic outlooks have forecast.  People deserve to hear the truth, not fairy tales.

 

Rural Retirees Will Take Huge Hit in GOP 401(k) Tax Scheme

Shockingly, the Republicans in Congress are giving serious consideration to taking money away from American retirees to help pay for tax cuts for the rich and corporations.

Speaker Paul Ryan and his henchman in this scheme, House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX), want to take money away from retirees by significantly limiting the amount of cash that Americans can save in their 401(k) accounts before paying taxes. Denying retirement money to senior citizens would be a severe blow to Rural America, where the age 65+ population is growing at a rate disproportionately larger than in urban areas.

Now Trump claims the Republicans won’t tamper with 401(k) plans as part of the deal to provide a $1.5 trillion tax cut to mostly the wealthiest among us, but it’s not really his call. Congress decides what goes in the bill, and so far they are still talking about taking money from 401(k)s to pay for the tax cut they’ve promised their fat cat supporters.

Does anyone really believe Trump will veto a tax cut just because Rural Americans and retirees will get shafted in the deal? Not on your life. Trump has a pathetic first-year legislative record and will do anything to pass something he can claim is tax reform, no matter who it hurts, including retirees. He already proved that when he messed with Rural Healthcare earlier this month, costing his own supporters in premiums and coverage. Wall Street, AARP and other organizations aren’t taking any chances that Trump will keep his word and save 401(k)s from the GOP tax plan, banding together to oppose the move by the Republicans

Think about this for a moment: most retirees vote Republican now.  So messing with savings is a heck of a way to say thank you to those retirees who have aligned themselves with the Republican Party. The GOP is ignoring a pretty influential part of its own base by messing with American’s retirement money.

If the GOP can’t be trusted to look out for retirees and Rural Americans that should send a signal to the rest of  the Republican base that it can’t be trusted at all.

Rural America, Can You Find Your Tax Cut in the GOP Plan? Nope.

Go ahead, Rural America, find your tax cut; bet you can’t unless you’re a Wall Street investor or a corporate CEO.

It’s like a shell game on a New York City street corner, but this time it’s being played in Washington — and the “sucker” in this sham is mostly Rural America. Overall, one in four Americans will actually pay more in taxes, but the mostly urban rich don’t have to worry. We do.

The Republicans are pursuing a tax and spending plan that will add an estimated $1.5 trillion to the deficit in the next 10 years, cutting payments to the states and gutting programs that many Rural Americans depend on in their everyday life. States, counties and towns will either have to raise their taxes to make up for the loss of federal funds or else face cutting services including  police, fire and schools.

It’s pretty obvious the Trump-Ryan-McConnell tax plan doesn’t have the average citizen in mind. This fly-by-night approach to a tax cut ignores how less services mean fewer jobs, a worsening infrastructure problem and more homelessness.

The first questions worth asking are, Why have all the deficit hawks that dominated the GOP for decades flown the coop? Is a tax cut for the rich and corporations the end of fiscal conservatism as we know it? Are these tax cuts really worth ceding the fiscal restraint perch to the Democrats?

The next question is, If the Republicans take away the state and local tax deductions as they are scheming to do, then how are working- and middle-class Rural Americans possibly going to see a meaningful tax cut at the federal level?

The last series of questions to consider is, What in the world were the Republicans thinking when they proposed eliminating the mortgage deduction from federal taxes? Do they really want to trigger another housing crisis by wiping out the mortgage interest deduction?

The Republican tax cut scheme is a lot like the GOP healthcare repeal efforts. They talk and talk and talk about their plan, but when the time comes to show us the meat and potatoes they have nothing but a grain of salt. The same pattern is emerging with the tax cuts. They talk a good game, but now that it’s time to tell us how they plan to do it and pay for it, it’s a mishmash of half-baked ideas on a path that will explode the deficit they for so long said they wanted to reduce.

Its a big part of why support for Trump in Rural America is on a steady decline since his election.

Giving Credit Where Credit is Due in Virginia

There is a lot at stake in the Virginia governor’s race on Nov. 7, beginning with maintaining the state’s robust economy built under Democratic stewardship in Richmond.

Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam has played a big part in Virginia’s vibrant economy and has strongly made known his commitment making sure Virginia’s economy remains vibrant and continues to gather steam.

Northam, a Virginia native and Army veteran, is part of a team led by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, and their economic agenda has seen unemployment in Virginia drop this month to a nine-year low of 3.7%. Adding to the state’s rebound, Virginia workers have seen wages increase 7.4%, and their personal income climb a whopping 11.1% during the McAuliffe-Northam administration.

In contrast, Republican lobbyist and New Jersey native Ed Gillespie was a senior-most White House adviser to ex-President George W. Bush when the worst recession since The Great Depression swept Virginia and the nation. Jobs vanished, retirement accounts were gutted, banks foreclosed on homeowners and the taxpayers had to pay the bill for a disgraceful Wall Street bailout on Gillespie’s watch in the Bush administration.

The cornerstone of the McAuliffe-Northam economic agenda has been recruiting new business to locate in Virginia and creating incentives for start-ups to flourish in the state. Some 1,012 economic development projects, worth a record-breaking $16.4 billion, surpassed economic expansion under any other administration in Virginia history. Most importantly, the Rural Economy is finally headed is the right direction in Virginia, thanks to the incentives and initiatives the Democrats have given to small towns, local growers and the unique economic challenges Rural Virginians face.

Democratic priorities have enabled Virginia to become home to some of the top public school systems, colleges and universities in the nation. Thanks to sound planning, schools are providing educational opportunity that fit with Virginia’s 21 century job market. It’s crucial for Virginia to stay on the path of economic/educational partnership.

Clear air, waterways and state recreational areas, protected and expanded under Democratic leadership in Richmond, also provide a certain quality that supports Virginia’s age-old outdoors tradition. Clean water and clean air translates into clean fisheries and clean family farms, and that means jobs and good homegrown eats.

Does anyone really think a Republican in the era of Toxic Trumpism is going to look out for the environmental needs of Virginia’s fishermen, campers, hikers, bikers and hunters? It’s a fair question.

Quality of life is not a priority of the Republican agenda. Under Gillespie, health care will cost more and provide less coverage; voter rolls would be purged and access to the ballot box would diminish for people of all races and denominations. Worse yet, The Trump drain on the local Virginia economy will grow, and we all know fisheries, farms, historic sites, public parks and forests would all fall victim to the Toxic Trumpism clear-cutter policies.

There is little doubt that this election will affect the future of Virginia. Voters is the Old Dominion have to take care that Virginia remains the great place it has become for small businesses to thrive, families to flourish and visitors to continue to spend money in the state. The answer to what that future may hold is in the numbers. And numbers don’t lie.

Why the Virginia Governor’s Race Matters Across the Entire U.S.

Americans are slowly realizing the governor’s race in Virginia is the election with the most significant national ramifications above any other ballot cast this year.

The special elections for Congress in 2017 have been exciting and closer than some Republicans care to admit, but even if Democrats had prevailed in those contests the outcome would not have changed the political landscape now and for years to come.

However, if Republican Ed Gillespie were to defeat Democrat Ralph Northam on Nov. 7 in the Virginia governor’s race the consequences would be stark and potentially irreversible outside of the boundaries of that state and well into the next decade.

Virginia may only be one state, but it is firmly part of the presidential election strategy that Democrats deploy to reach the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House. Along with Ohio and Florida, Virginia and its 13 electoral votes for decades has been part of Democrats strategy of winning two out of those three states to prevail in a presidential election. At the moment, that equation no longer favors a victory for Democrats. The Trump campaign disrupted the “two out of three” strategy when it burned through the Democrats Big 10 Firewall States, winning in one contiguous line from Pennsylvania to Iowa. The 2016 election results makes winning Virginia so much more important for Democrats.

Gillespie would have several unscrupulous options at his disposal to affect the national political landscape by making it nearly impossible for Democrats to prevail in Virginia in the 2018 and 2020 elections for Congress and the presidency. Here are four prime examples of why Democratic and allied independent voters outside Virginia have a lot riding on the governor’s race:

  1. Gillespie Would Sign Legislation Allowing Voter Suppression Laws in Virginia

The Republicans currently control both chambers of the Virginia state legislature, and that is not likely to change in the 2017 elections. So everyone should expect massive voter suppression legislation to come out of the GOP-controlled legislature, which Gillespie immediately would sign. We know this for sure because the Republican-dominated state legislature passed a discriminatory bill earlier this year (and last) that would have suppressed absentee ballot voting. Fortunately Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, was there to veto the effort from becoming law. Expect even more far-reaching voter suppression laws if Gillespie is elected.

  1. Gillespie Would Gerrymander Congressional Districts to Favor GOP Candidates

Thanks to Gerrymandered redistricting in states all around the country, Democrats have suffered a rigged Congress since the aftermath of the U.S. Census and Tea Party wave election of 2010. Virginia was no exception, with a Republican governor taking office back then. So Republicans are frothing at the mouth to gerrymander those congressional seats again, backed by a group that has already disclosed it is raising $35 million to assist the GOP in redistricting after the 2020 U.S. Census. 

  1. Gillespie Would Sign GOP Legislation that Would Rig How Virginia’s 13 Electoral Votes are Partitioned

The state legislature’s House Privileges and Elections Committee passed a bill this year that would have ended Virginia’s “winner take all” system of awarding Electoral College votes. Had it become law, the measure would have required electoral votes to be handed out to presidential candidates based on how many of Virginia’s 11 already gerrymandered congressional districts they had won. GOP sponsors are not shy about admitting publicly they remain committed to trying to rig the electoral votes in their favor.

  1. Gillespie Would Move the GOP a Step Closer to a Constitutional Convention to Rewrite the U.S. Constitution

Republicans, bankrolled by billionaire anti-government, fossil-fuel oligarchs Charles and David Koch, are anxious to alter the Constitution to enforce their extreme agenda. It only takes two-thirds (currently 34) of the state legislatures under Article Five of the Constitution of the United States to call a convention to rewrite the document that is the bedrock of America’s laws. Republicans already own a majority in 32 state legislatures and occupy 33 governor’s seats, so they are getting dangerously close to imposing their will on the majority of the country (it would be reminiscent of Democrats winning the majority vote, but losing the Electoral College). As legal scholar A.H. Neff writes, “…we could face a wholesale reduction or outright destruction of constitutional rights and duties at the hands of a convention of states directed and dominated by advocates for the Koch brothers and their ilk.”

Democrats and independents opposed to the direction the GOP is headed need to consider how the Virginia governor’s race will affect them, no matter if they live in Richmond, VA. or Richmond, CA.

 

 

Red States are Hit the Hard by Trumpcare Cuts to Insurance Pools

Graphic: Center for Rural Affairs

You know Trumpcare goes too far when even Republicans and Red States start complaining that it hurts their voters most of all. Such is the case with Trump’s decision to end payments that help working Americans offset out-of-pocket medical costs.

Now don’t be confused by who gets hurt by Trumpcare removing insurance subsidies from the marketplace. Trumpcare will surely mean low-income Rural Americans lose healthcare, but just about everyone else will have to pay higher premiums, too, because the federal government is no longer contributing to the coverage pools.

So far 18 states (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia) are suing to block the move.

“The number of uninsured Americans will increase once again, hurting vulnerable individuals and directly burdening the states,” according to the lawsuit. “The unlawful refusal to make (federal cost-sharing reduction) reimbursement payments will also substantially complicate the States’ efforts to administer their healthcare markets and in some instances leave consumers with no health plan to access despite their federal entitlements under the ACA.”

Expect the federal court based in California to act swiftly since the next monthly federal reimbursement is due Oct. 18. Trump’s failure to make the payment would almost immediately disrupt insurance markets.

“Indeed, across the nation, there are 1,472 counties with only one insurer. The Administration’s refusal to make (federal cost-sharing reduction) reimbursement payments will cause some insurers to pull out of the market, leaving many counties vulnerable and without health insurance coverage,” the lawsuit states.

Not surprisingly, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a powerful voice for Rural America, became the first Republican to outright oppose the new Trumpcare measure. Expect to see more join the opposition as folks discover how unnecessarily dangerous Trumpcare is to Americans’ well being and the overall economy, too.

(Note: Item was updated with latest links and graphic)

Trump Healthcare Executive Order A Slap in the Face of Rural Americans

Remember when candidate Trump ridiculed President Obama for his use of executive orders to set policy rather than laws? How about all that Trump talk of providing lower cost healthcare for every American and leaving Medicare alone?

Look, we all know politicians go back on the word, but Trump is turning out to be the king of the whopper. There is only a very short list of promises kept by Trump, who is on track to become the president with the least amount of agenda accomplishments in his first year in office.

First off, let’s not play Trump’s game and attack a president for taking actions he entitled to engage in, even though we may not like what it is his executive orders seek to accomplish. However, we can shake our heads and smirk in disbelief at the fact Trump mainly has had to use executive orders in his first year in office to pursue his agenda, even though his divided party controls both chambers of Congress. Obama signed quite a few executive orders, too, but the vast majority came after his party no longer controlled Congress and he faced GOP obstruction.

Now lets consider Trump’s most recent broken promise on affordable healthcare for all. He didn’t just lie about a providing bigger, better healthcare plan, he signed an executive order that essentially spits in the face of a big chunk of his base: Rural Americans who depend on the existing healthcare marketplace for their medical needs.

Sen.. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia), who knows quite a bit more about the needs of Rural Americans than the city boy president ever will, explained in plain language how Trump’s latest executive order will only make health insurance cost more and hurt more.

“President Trump’s health care executive order may seem a little complicated so let me break it down: It’s sabotage,” Kaine posted on Twitter.

“It aims to push healthy people onto junk plans, leaving only the sick or at-risk on ACA plans—essentially destroying the insurance market,” he wrote.

“It would allow cheap low-quality plans onto the market that could discriminate against people with preexisting conditions, seniors, women,” Kaine added.

“What’s the end product? Families could pay even higher premiums to get care. More discrimination of those who need care most. More chaos,” the senator explained.

How bad is this latest Trumpcare scheme? Some legal experts believe it is so wretched that it won’t even stand up to anticipated court challenges.

This executive order is really nothing more than a monument to Trump’s penchant for petty politics. Trump believes that every time he messes with healthcare he is scoring points in his self-indulgent feud with Obama, but the truth is every action he has taken only ends up hurting Americans, many of whom were his own voters in Rural America.

Time to Stabilize Insurance Markets and Give Rural States Their Fair Share

Americans have been hurt from every direction by the Republican’s effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but now that the skunk has been shooed from the garden, maybe for good, it’s time to get serious about a plan to shore up health insurance markets nationwide, and give Rural States that missed out on federal funds the money they deserve.

It’s the epitome of a damned if you do, damned if you don’t nightmare scenario. Had the GOP’s repeal plans succeeded, it would have left millions without health care, or forced them to pay more money for less coverage. However, by doing nothing, the party that now controls every branch of the federal government is still forcing Americans to pay more for healthcare and prompting insurers to abandon coverage markets in the states.

The GOP leadership needs to pay attention to an overwhelming majority of Americans who want to see ACA fixed not finished. It’s time to turn a corner now and find ways to mutual accords that will make America stronger, healthier and more secure. Swift action is necessary.

The White House needs to make the first move in order to take a real step toward a bipartisan solution to ensure consumers have dependable and affordable health care coverage. Trump needs to immediately halt his quest to drive up the cost of healthcare and he must resume the campaign to inform people when they can enroll in the ACA. Extending the sign-up period would be a smart move Trump could make on behalf of Americans.

The second step would require Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA), to quickly return to the negotiating table and come up with a bipartisan plan to stabilize 2018 premiums for consumers in health insurance markets. Given the accusations that the GOP leadership had plotted to sink the temporary fix ahead of the vote on Cassidy-Graham bill, it would be helpful for the ruling Republican leadership give its blessing to the repair effort for the good of America.

It’s equally important to get federal funds to Rural Americans who are missing out. Nineteen states failed to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid coverage offered under the Affordable Care Act, leaving millions of Americans stuck inside what is known as a coverage gap. Essentially those Americans have been told by their state leaders they will have to get their healthcare in emergency rooms, leaving them without reliable insurance while raising the cost of health care for the rest of us.

Mainly Republican governors and legislatures in those 19 states argued against Medicaid expansion, claiming they feared the federal government would eventually cut payments and leave states paying the bill. However, it was clearly petty politics that motivated the GOP state lawmakers to decline the funds, not wanting to appear to be showing support for the ACA or the Democratic president who signed it into law.

Ironically, the scheme the to cut off the federal funding for Medicaid expansion it was a Republican president and Republican-led Congress that was trying to do the dirty deed. Many of the state officials who denied their residents affordable health care cheered on the Republican effort before it failed. That’s crazy politics. Rural Americans deserve a better deal.