Posts by marc stier

"Work Requirements" and the Political Appeal of Cruelty

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We at PBPC are engaged in a major effort to push back against legislation in the PA General Assembly to create work requirements for Medicaid and SNAP. The new federal Farm Bill put forward by House Republicans, which authorizes the SNAP (Food Stamp) program, has similar provisions.

Why the PA Supreme Court's Lines Should Stand

The effort by the General Assembly’s Republican leaders to have the United States Supreme Court block the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision to create new, fair congressional districts in our state is based on both a hypocritical attempt to undermine the rights of states and a flawed understanding of the subtle, yet fundamental, ideas of our constitutional system. The vehemence with which they are pursuing their case makes one wonder whether those ideas can survive in a day and age when so many politicians, especially on the Right, appear to have neither the intellect to understand principles that are the least bit complicated nor the integrity to follow them when they cut against the results they seek.

(Click to read the rest of the post.)

On President Trump's Infrastructure Proposal

The president has put forward a "plan" for infrastructure spending that identifies no new source of funding, that makes unbelievable assumptions about how much state and private spending can be leveraged by a limited amount of new federal spending and that proposes an end-around of environmental regulations in the guise of streamlining those regulations. 

In response to deep and long ignored needs in Pennsylvania and throughout the country for upgrading our roads, bridges, transit systems, airports and water and sewer works - needs that should be met by new investments that could create tens of thousands good jobs - the president has offered a glittering fantasy with little of the substance necessary to meet those needs. 

FACT CHECK: Undocumented Immigrants Like the Dreamers Are Not a Drag on State and Local Government

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A political movement that is based on demonizing a group of people needs a demon. So the efforts of the Trump administration to generate anger and hatred toward immigrants, both documented and undocumented, has been combined with repeated claims by the administration and its supporters about the terrible burden immigration creates on the United States. Immigrants have been called rapists and murders and terrorists and have been said to be dragging down our economy and burdening citizens with higher taxes.

That rhetoric has heated up as Congress struggles to pass legislation to restore the DACA program, which protects the Dreamers — undocumented immigrants brought to this country as children — from deportation. It has reached even higher levels as the Trump administration uses the debate over DACA as a bargaining chip to win Congressional support for a border wall with Mexico and radical changes to immigration policy.

Most of those claims have been rebutted, time and again. It is not clear how effective facts can be in tempering hatred. But we intend to do our part by putting the truth before Pennsylvanians.

The Unnecessary Federal Budget Impasse

Let’s be straight about the politics of the federal budget. The Republicans control the House, Senate and Presidency, but partly because they are not united and partly because they are short of the 60 votes needed under current practices to move most legislation in the Senate, they are unable to pass a budget without Democratic support. So to pass a full-year budget, Republicans and Democrats must compromise.

The federal government is shut down today because too many Republicans in Congress won’t compromise and because President Trump doesn’t appear to know what he really wants.

A Temporary Setback on the Way to a Just America

The Trump-GOP tax cut bill, which passed the House on a party-line vote with twelve Republicans voting against this afternoon and is likely to pass the Senate tonight, reminds us that history does not move in a straight line. There are moments, like this one, in which America takes a step away from its promise of equality and justice for all.

It redistributes from working people and the middle class to the rich. And that's just wrong.

With all the controversy over the details of the tax cut bill that is moving towards a final vote in the House and Senate this week it is easy to forget about the basic features of the bill. 

Limitations on the State and Local Tax Deduction Hurt Pennsylvania in Two Ways

A major issue in the debate over the Republican tax cut bill is whether the deduction for state and local taxes (the SALT deduction) should be eliminated or reduced. The conference committee bill released on Friday proposes a “compromise” that would allow individuals to deduct up to $10,000 in some combination of state and local property and income or sales taxes. 

That compromise is deeply problematic for Pennsylvania and many Pennsylvanians, in two different ways. 

First, substantial numbers of upper middle-class Pennsylvanians will see their taxes go up as a result of the limitation on state and local tax deductions in the conference committee bill. These taxpayers are likely to be concentrated in the suburbs of Philadelphia, where a high percentage of taxpayers take the state and local deduction. 

Second, the state as a whole will suffer because the limitation on the state and local tax deduction will make it more difficult for the state to raise taxes. This is a serious issue, especially at a time when the state suffers from both recurring budget deficits and a deep public investment deficit and yet there is little political will in the General Assembly to raise taxes. 

We consider these two problems in order after the break.

The GOP Tax Bill: An Assault on Economic Equality and Democracy

Budgets, it is frequently said, are an embodiment of our moral ideals and commitments. If so, the tax plan adopted by the Senate on Friday represents an extreme moral failure on the part of the senators from the Republican Party who voted for it. At a time when incomes are becoming ever more unequal, the Republican tax plan will ultimately make the rich richer and the poor and middle class poorer. Not only will working people and the middle class suffer, but so will our whole country. 

For Many Pennsylvanians, Insurance Premiums Increase Are Greater Than Tax Cuts

As we have pointed out previously, because it repeals the individual mandate, the Senate tax cut proposal will not only lead to 13 million fewer people having health insurance in the United States, but it will lead to much higher premiums for many who do purchase health insurance on the individual market. The CBO’s estimate was that premiums nationwide would increase by 10%.