El Paso County Agrees: Don’t Need No Stinking Food Safety

UPDATE: The latest on those tax cuts gumming everything up, from Talking Points Memo:

Senate Democrats are planning to force a vote on the House’s just-passed middle-income tax cut bill and a second package to let the Bush tax cuts expire above a new, $1 million tax bracket, according to a Democratic aide.

The move is a sign of the leadership’s frustration — though both packages will likely be filibustered by Republicans, Dems are loath to simply wait for negotiations with Republicans and the White House to end on terms they suspect will be much more favorable to the GOP than to their own party…

As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Gary Harmon reports–a rare treat these days outside the Sentinel’s recently-erected paywall:

A food-safety measure described by Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., as needed to “finally bring food safety in this country into the 21st century” seems mired in constitutional issues that could require a second vote…

The sticking point for S.B. 501, the Food Safety Modernization Act, is a provision to establish fees intended to raise revenues, which are interpreted as new taxes. Any bill increasing taxes must originate in the House, and the House version of the bill contains no similar provision.

House Republicans don’t have the votes to prevent adoption of the Senate-approved measure, but the 42 Senate Republicans have the votes to filibuster a second vote.

The 42 Republicans wrote Wednesday to Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., saying they would block any measure until the Senate votes on extending the Bush tax cuts and approves a continuing resolution extending the current budget.

As Harmon explains, both Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall are okay with extending the Bush tax cuts for households earning less than $250,000 a year. Allowing them to expire for higher income taxpayers would result in hundreds of billions in reduced deficits over the next decade, while not impacting the middle class in the least. It’s important that the line items being fought over here are clearly understood, because once they are, the moral questions that follow should be bipartisan. Isn’t everyone supposed to be worried about the “Hugh Jidette?”

And who isn’t sick of hearing about E. coli in their salad?

The standoff in the U.S. Senate very much reminds us of the ongoing situation in El Paso County, the state’s foremost bastion of Grover Norquist inspired “drown government in the bathtub” conservative ideology–where voters turn down even modest tax hikes, and the county hasn’t been able to fund the health department to adequately inspect restaurants in several years. In 2008, El Paso County paid for their choice with the highest incidence of food-borne illness in the state.

Sometimes, the consequences really are this plain to see.

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  1. Aaron Silverstein says:

    “Michael Bennet and Mark Udall are okay with extending the Bush tax cuts for households earning less than $250,000 a year. Allowing them to expire for higher income taxpayers…”

    The proposed Obama tax plan is to allow a tax cut for EVERYONE on their first $250,000 of income.

    What the Republicans are pushing for is an extra tax cut on incomes of the super-rich in addition to the lower tax rates that they will already be getting with everyone else.

    • Colorado Pols says:

      Though our wording is how the Sentinel reported Sens. Bennet and Udall’s position, and how both Udall and Bennet have phrased their position in the past–you’d have to ask them if that is a simplification. It’s a distinction worth noting if it does exist, so thanks.

    • caroman says:

      The current rates on incomes < $250,000 would remain the same.  If you have taxable income >$250,000 you would pay an additional 3 – 4.6% more only on the amounts in excess of $250,000.  For example, if you had taxable income of $350,000, you would pay an additional $3,000 in taxes (3% of $100,000).

      • BlueCat says:

        People in the highest bracket, for instance, don’t pay that rate on all income, just on income above the threshold for the top bracket. They also don’t pay social security above the cap, I think it’s now 90K, so they get a big break there compared to average tax payers in addition to the extra tax break as it is.  So allowing the above 250K cut to expire will hardly be a cause for weeping for those affected.  

        On the other hand, allowing it to remain will create no more jobs than have been created by the cut in the past decade.  Certainty either way about what rates are going to be may have a slightly positive effect as businesses decide what to plan for but that’s about it.  As it is, stocks going up shows confidence but sufficient numbers of jobs aren’t being created which just underlines the fact that the extra tax cuts for the wealthy aren’t being invested in ways that create jobs.  What those cuts are helping to create is an ever bigger gap between the tiny elite at the top and everyone else, a gap the current size of which hasn’t been seen since the depression.    

        The idea that suddenly a cut that hasn’t help stimulate the economy and create jobs for the past decade is going to start doing so now is so ridiculous you really have to feel that the Joe Six Packs willfully ignorant enough (can’t be bothered to consume news or research issues but believe every word Rush says) to fall for it and vote for the Rs who push it deserve exactly what they’re getting.  The Dems who are too afraid of being accused of Stalinist style class warfare to educate constituents are morally bankrupt cowards.  

        If we collectively refuse to wise up we really have no one else to blame. But Rs are always ready to take care of that by providing scapegoats to blame, including the cowering Dems whose cowering doesn’t do them much good because Americans hate weaklings worse than anything. Sigh…  

        • caroman says:

          Note that Social Security taxes @ 7.65% (or double that when the employer’s share is counted) are applied to wages up to $106,800.  Medicare taxes @ 1.45% (or double that when the employer’s share is included) are applied to all wages, with no cap.  

          I have a problem with increasing the SS cap by too much since there is no corresponding increase in SS benefits if more taxes are paid.  In fact, higher wage earners are already “penalized” for paying the same SS rate on their higher incomes, but the SS benefits are not earned at the same rate.  In other words, you earn the bulk of your SS benefits on the first, say $40,000 of wages.  You only receive a minor increase in SS benefits on wages over that amount.  I think it’d be better to address deficits by increasing income tax rates on higher incomes, than trying to balance the budget via Social Security.

          Other than that, I agree with everything you said.

          • But the Social Security budget has to overcome a hump in the next 30 years or so as the baby boomers go through their old age and the income of a smaller generation is taxed to support them.

            Social Security should be tasked with supporting itself, IMHO.

            • allyncooper says:

              Social Security should be tasked with supporting itself, IMHO.

            • parsingreality says:

              Good folks can argue whether the set aside in Treasury bonds is an accounting boondoggle or not, but the fact is the Boomers have covered themselves over and above what the workers from now until we croak provide.  

              I do not understand what the hesitation is in taxing those better off, even if they don’t get proportionate increases in benefits.  Remove the SS cap, there, done, now unto forever.  

              Republicans have even Dems scared to think about progressive tax rates. Taxing the wealthy seriously helped create the golden years of the middle class.  Reagan’s tax overhaul did away with that and look where we are today.  

              • droll says:

                I’m already not going to see a quarter of what I’ve earned.

                No one wants to tax the wealthy, so debt is passed on to the next generation.  Originality – Not all it’s cracked up to be?

                • parsingreality says:

                  I know that’s not what you meant….

                  The sooner we dump this myth about the wealthy being the creators of wealth and that they should keep all of their money, the better off the middle class will be.

                  Many of the wealthy, have indeed, created wealth for all to benefit from.  However, pushing Wall Street paper around, or inheriting wealth, or benefiting from capital gains does not create jobs or wealth for society. (Except for the illegals hired to build and maintain the newer, bigger, McMansion.)

          • jpsandscl says:

            that presupposes that the only thing social security really benefits is if you receive proportionate to what you pay in. In fact, the benefits to society of not having completely indigent elders and having them able to financially support themselves in their retirement far outweigh the slight losses which might be experienced by high earners. I say tax every dollar earned with a Social Security tax. Make it progressive like the rest of our tax structure.

            As Warren Buffett says, it is obscene that his secretary has a higher effective tax rate than he does, and he’s damned right about that!

            • caroman says:

              Social Security deficits with general fund deficits.  

              Social Security has its problems (down the road) that should be dealt with through some combination of tax increases, benefit decreases and possibly eligibility increases.  I’m also pointing out how the system currently works whereby high income earners are already paying disproportionately into the system.  In the past, I’ve also pointed out how S Corp shareholders avoid paying Social Security by minimizing their salaries.  A bill was introduced to address this loophole, but apparently went nowhere.

              Our general fund deficit needs to be dealt with through some combination of income tax increases and spending cuts.  Letting the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to expire as scheduled would be an obvious starting point.  I’m trying to remain optimistic that Obama and the Dems will do that.

        • jpsandscl says:

          that they don’t even know they’re being screwed relative to the big earners who don’t pay any of that tax on their top dollars. i have always been amazed at the regressiveness of the Social Security tax.

          That also reminds me- why isn’t anyone up in Congress (I’m think Sanders would have the nads for this) yelling about how raising Social Security retirement age really has zero impact on today’s budget deficit since Social Security is not paid out of the general fund but out of its own trust. There is better than an even chance that Social Security will never run out of its trust fund based on current amortizations and life expectancy tables, so it will start recovering those funds before it ever hits zero.

          What the Social Security surplus has alway done for Congress is to make their real deficits look smaller and make borrowing easier since by law the only thing Social Security could invest in was government instruments (T-bills). Now we have to find other entities to buy our debt, which so far hasn’t been a problem and hasn’t driven up interest rates in the slightest.

          This is one of the biggest scams going today in regards to the current proposals by the bi-partisan ( see my previous comments on bi-partisanship ) deficit reduction committee. It really chaps my ass!

          • caroman says:

            Technically, the amounts paid into SS are contributions, not a tax.  SS is essentially an insurance program that provides disability insurance and a minimum retirement payment.  It’s designed to provide a safety net for seniors.  That’s why privatizing it is so wrong.  Also, why it’s wrong to compare its “return on investment” with other investments.  SS should be a rock solid base not subject to market cycles.  People should play the market with other retirement/investment funds.

            • jpsandscl says:

              the attack on Social Security is a continuation of an assault on all the incredible programs created by FDR to deal with the enormous problems of his day and age.

              Republicans really don’t give a shit about workers and retirees and never have. They are all about capital, and they’re not even good at that. It always takes Democrats to clean up the messes they make with their often illegal attempts at unfettered free-marketeering.

  2. bud says:

    All the E. coli food can then be sold at those groceries for those who abhor government regulation.  Thanks for letting me know not to eat at a restaurant in El Paso county.

  3. Diogenesdemar says:

    As everyone knows down here:

    1.  Fly your American Flag daily

    2.  Ignore the “lamestream media” — keep it tuned to Fox 24/7.

    3.  Vote “R” on everything

    4.  Give 10% of your (gross) income to your local pastor, and,

    5.  Have enough faith in Jesus to protect you.

    and, you have nothing to fear whatever the circumstance or issue.

  4. allyncooper says:

    The tax cuts were in response to budget surpluses handed to Bush by a Democratic president (remember, Democrats are fiscally irresponsible). Hard to believe, but at the time, the non-partisan CBO was actually forecasting budget surpluses for a decade.

    Then came a Republican congress and Bush who never vetoed a spending bill and their “borrow and spend” dogma.

    Then came 9/11 and two wars costing a trillion dollars (and counting, financed primarily by the Chinese), one of which was a trumped up fiasco attacking and invading a country which never attacked us and was no threat to our national security, looking for weapons that were non-existent.

    Then came the financial meltdown and near total collapse of our economy caused by the greed and reckless conduct of the economic royalists who in FDR’s words “regarded the government as a mere appendage of their own affairs”.

    The tax cuts were originally passed to sunset because its OK to plan, but don’t plan the outcome. And the outcome today is a far different situation that 10 years ago.

    Continuing tax cuts for the rich at this time of humongous budget deficits is simply fiscally reprehensible and irresponsible.  

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