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11.20 Importing gas to replace domestic supply could push emissions up 20%, AGL says [We have to stop killing everything!!!]

11.20 The arts have a leading role to play in tackling climate change [We have to stop killing everything!!!]

11.20 Indonesia: dead whale had 1,000 pieces of plastic in stomach [We have to stop killing everything!!!]

11.18 How Extreme Weather Is Shrinking the Planet

11.18 Air pollution levels ‘forcing families to move out of cities’ [like from desertification, lack of drinkable water and rising oceans, there will also be pollution-caused immigration until humans fix things]

11.17 Policies of China, Russia and Canada threaten 5C climate change, study finds [Climate catastrophe is increasingly likely without worldwide organization, funding and commitment to winning THE WAR AGAINST GLOBAL WARMING.]

11.16 Scotland was first Industrialized Country to Run wholly on Wind in October

11.16 How pesticide bans can prevent tens of thousands of suicides a year [how many thousands more die early from eating pesticide-laced food?]

11.15 The Earth is in a death spiral. It will take radical action to save us [fossil fuel burning, un-recyclable plastic production/use and methane gas release must cease ASAP.]

11.15  The long read:  The plastic backlash: what's behind our sudden rage – and will it make a difference? [the world wants to throw-up...]

11.15 Claws out: crab fishermen sue 30 oil firms over climate change [workers are waking-up...]

11.15 Trump administration to cut air pollution from heavy-duty trucks

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11.19 The Biggest Threat to Free Speech No One Is Talking About

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11.21 With Statement Equal Parts 'Dangerous' and 'Imbecilic,' Trump Smears Khashoggi and Vows to Back Murderous Saudis [Keeping oil prices affordable prolongs its use, its burning and our dying]

11.21 Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith's Demands for Runoff Debate So Ridiculous, Viral Story Crashes Local Paper's Website

11.20 'Get Our Country Off Fossil Fuels': Demanding Green New Deal, Youth Climate Leaders to Flood Congressional Offices Nationwide

11.20 New York City subway and bus services have entered 'death spiral', experts say [death spirals are the end-thing nowadays]

11.19 Last Week Tonight with John Oliver 11/18/2018 (HBO) [29:26 video]

11.19 Michael Bloomberg: Why I’m Giving $1.8 Billion for College Financial Aid

11.19 Trump’s Diminishing Power and Rising Rage

11.19 Trump Says He Was 'Fully Briefed' and Also 'Not Briefed Yet' But Either Way Saudi Crown Prince 'Absolutely' Not Involved Because Trump Knows 'Everything That Went On' Without Listening to Tape of Khashoggi Murder

11.19 'We Need New Leaders, Period': Progressive Newcomers Urge Democrats to Embrace Bold Agenda or Face Primary Challenges [Current Democrat leaders are highly compromised by corporate donations]

11.19 SNL explains Jeff Bezos and Amazon’s HQ2 strategy: trolling President Trump [2:55 SNL video]

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11.21 Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker got $1.2 million from non-profit that won’t disclose its donors [Mafia rule...]

11.20 'He may not rewrite immigration laws': Trump's asylum ban blocked by federal judge [Has anyone thought about putting razor-wire around the White House?]

11.20 Legal Blue Wave? New Democratic AGs Could Change the Face of Climate Fight

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11.21 Saudi Arabia Accused of Torturing Jailed Women’s-Rights Activists [Trump's great friends...]

11.14 The Guardian view on Yemen’s misery: the west is complicit [WAR CRIMES]

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11.21 Nationalize California’s Pacific Gas & Electric

11.19 Bankrupt Sears wants to give executives $19 million in bonuses [blatantly immoral and sick to richly reward those who led the company into the bankruptcy]

11.18 Big Pharma Bankrolled Pro-Trump Group As Trump Pushed Pharma Tax Cut [Corruption Central!]

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11.21 'Who let this happen?': students rediscover antisemitism on Auschwitz field trip

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11.20 Trump administration hawks putting US on course for war with Iran, report warns [“Stupid is as stupid does.” –Forrest Gump]

11.18 New Evidence Emerges of Steve Bannon and Cambridge Analytica’s Role in Brexit

11.18 France demands UK climate pledge in return for Brexit trade deal [Excellent!]

11.17 Saudi crown prince's 'fit' delays UN resolution on war in Yemen

11.17 Thousands gather to block London bridges in climate rebellion [We're losing WWIII because the enemy is invisible while we're like frogs slowly cooking. We aren't informed enough to be alarmed, but must get organized and motivated to fight back. We need a War Plan to ruthlessly pursue the fight of our lives!]

11.17 CIA finds Saudi crown prince ordered Jamal Khashoggi killing – report

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  Print view: Taxes: Messing With Mankiw

Taxes: Messing With Mankiw

by Gerald E. Scorse
Monday, 25 October 2010
Mankiw suggests his affluent ilk might just stop working if the tax breaks don't keep coming.

N. Gregory Mankiw, who chaired the Council of Economic Advisers from 2003-2005, now teaches at Harvard and writes a column for the New York Times. His recent piece, “I Can Afford Higher Taxes. But They’ll Make Me Work Less,” evoked Ayn Rand and provoked liberals. As one of the provoked, I’m here to mess with Mankiw.

Several shots have already been taken, including a charge by political blogger Kevin Drum that Mankiw fudged some figures. He did, but that’s not what bothered me.

Whining. Omissions, serious and curious. Threatening. Let’s look at those.

“I Can Afford Higher Taxes” whines about taxes Mankiw has yet to pay and, in the major case, won’t ever pay. It whines about a 2013 bump in the Medicare tax. About a 2011 deduction phaseout that will add “1.2 percentage points to my effective marginal rate.” It whines that the estate tax, lying in wait, will sabotage a father’s efforts “to put some money aside for my three children.”

Whining doesn’t become a Harvard professor who tells us, admirably, “I could go so far as to say I am almost completely sated.” Sated, but whining away.

Mankiw’s numbers on the estate tax omit a number which would likely shield any legacy he manages to scrape together: an exclusion of $3.5 million per person, or $7 million per couple. Congress has to agree on an amount, but there’s almost no way it will be less. So, unless Mankiw is even more affluent than he admits, none of the Mankiws will ever pay a dime in federal “death taxes." (Drum also caught this omission.)

Taxing Wall Street income at a lower rate than wages is the major reason why effective tax rates on the super-rich are often super-low.

With his focus on marginal rates, Mankiw also avoids the rate that really matters, the effective tax rate. The billionaire Warren Buffett aimed the spotlight where it belongs when he confessed, shame-facedly, to paying “far, far less as a fraction of my income than the secretaries or the clerks of anyone else in my office.” Might the same be true of Mankiw and the secretaries at Harvard? You’ll never get that from him; he’s called the 2003 tax cuts on capital gains and corporate dividends “an important accomplishment.” For sure: taxing Wall Street income at a lower rate than wages is the major reason why effective tax rates on the super-rich are often super-low.

“I Can Afford Higher Taxes” plainly intends to threaten us. The well-off, Mankiw infers, will withhold their services once they reach the point where the top marginal rate kicks in (and they’ve exhausted all their tax breaks, about which more later). Listen to the menace in Mankiw’s summation: “...[S]omeday, you may need treatment from a highly trained surgeon, or your child may need braces from the local orthodontist.” And the local orthodontist and the highly trained surgeon will show you the door, or never open it. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Now for a fast lesson on tax breaks.

Mankiw’s personal blog noted that “I Can Afford Higher Taxes” struck a nerve. Here’s his response to one frequent question:

QUESTION: "Aren’t there ways to avoid some of these taxes, such as IRAs and life insurance trusts?"

MANKIW'S RESPONSE: "Yes, and I use such tax avoidance mechanisms to the extent they are legal and practical. But there are limits to how much they can be used. Thus, while they lower my average tax rate, they do not affect my marginal tax rate. That is, for any incremental income, I cannot do more, so I am facing the full tax bite.”

Here’s a man who sidles up to the tax break buffet, takes what appeals, and would gladly shovel down more if he weren’t legally stuffed.

We might keep Mankiw from whining by creating more tax breaks. Or he might hire a more creative tax accountant, and fudge numbers in some place other than The New York Times.

Gerald E. Scorse, who writes from New York City helped pass a bill that tightens the rules for reporting capital gains. Mr. Scorse's stories are republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.

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This story was published on October 25, 2010.

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