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CEOs Support Higher Taxes and Debt Solution

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Campaign to Fix the Debt

By Children’s Home Society of Florida Foundation

The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget in cooperation with former Sen. Alan Simpson and former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles has created a “Campaign to Fix the Debt.”

Bowles and Simpson were co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. They proposed a bipartisan budget solution at the request of President Barack Obama.

The CEOs Gather

On October 25, over 100 CEOs gathered at the New York Stock Exchange to support a comprehensive budget solution similar to that proposed by the Bowles-Simpson Commission. One of the commission members was Honeywell Chairman and CEO David Cote. He stated, “The U.S. has an opportunity to not only fix our debt issue and have an economic recovery, but we can also be a model for the world and how to deal with debt. What it really comes down to is if we still have the political will to be a great country.”

Cote continued to emphasize that it is important to develop a comprehensive solution. This solution will include “higher revenue, reduced entitlement spending, reduced discretionary spending, and investment in infrastructure and math and science.”

Congressional Leaders

Congressional leaders from both parties responded to this public proclamation by leaders of many of America’s largest corporations. The Senate Democratic leadership indicated that it believes part of the solution involves tax increases on individuals with higher incomes. House Republican leaders continue to oppose these tax increases.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) observed that it is important for corporate leaders to pay their “fair share” of taxes. He commented, “Our Wall Street friends might also want to show some courage of their own by suggesting that the wealthiest people in this country, like them, start paying their fair share of taxes.” Sanders noted that many large corporations use various tax provisions to reduce their taxes. In his view, this tax reduction has been a factor in the major deficit problems.

Assessment

Maya MacGuineas, Chair of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, supported this bipartisan effort by the 100 CEOs. She stated, “The collective voice of these business leaders has helped shine a light on the fact that the debt is already affecting Americans where they work and live. We have listened to the CEO Council and heard the consequences of inaction – businesses aren’t investing in an uncertain economy and are slowing job growth to protect their employees. With the CEOs’ backing and the support of the over 280,000 person Grassroots Network, we believe we can successfully push for a comprehensive debt reduction deal.”

Editor’s Note: It is unusual for a bipartisan group of business leaders to be so public in support of both a budget solution and higher taxes. This willingness to place both spending and tax increases on the table is significant.

Conclusion

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Where the Presidential Candidates Stand on Medicare and Medicaid

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The Big Picture View

By Suevon Lee ProPublica, Sept. 14, 2012, 2:26 p.m.

Medicare and Medicaid, which provide medical coverage for seniors, the poor and the disabled, together [1]make up nearly a quarter [1] of all federal spending. With total Medicare spending projected to cost [2] $7.7 trillion over the next 10 years, there is consensus that changes are in order. But what those changes should entail has, of course, been one of the hot-button issues [3] of the campaign.

With the candidates slinging charges [4], we thought we’d lay out the facts. Here’s a rundown of where the two candidates stand on Medicare and Medicaid:

THE CANDIDATES ON MEDICARE

Big Picture

Earlier this year, the Medicare Board of Trustees estimated [5] that the Medicare hospital trust fund would remain fully funded only until 2024. Medicare would not go bankrupt or disappear, but it wouldn’t have enough money to cover all hospital costs.

Under traditional government-run Medicare, seniors 65 and over and people with disabilities are given health insurance for a fixed set of benefits, in what’s known as fee-for-service [6] coverage. Medicare also offers a subset of private health plans known as Medicare Advantage, in which roughly one-quarter [7] of Medicare beneficiaries are currently enrolled. Obama retains this structure.

The Obama administration has also made moves that it says would keep Medicare afloat. It says the Affordable Care Act would extend solvency [8] by eight years, mainly by imposing tighter spending controls on Medicare payments to private insurers and hospitals.

In contrast, Rep. Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s running mate, has proposed a more fundamental overhaul of Medicare, which he says [9] is on an “unsustainable path.” On his campaign website [10], Romney says that Ryan’s proposals “almost precisely mirrors” his ideas on Medicare. But he’s been fuzzy on other aspects of the plan.

A Romney-Ryan administration would replace a defined benefits system with a defined contribution system [11] in which seniors are given federal vouchers to purchase health insurance in a newly created private marketplace known as Medicare Exchange. In this marketplace, private health plans, along with traditional Medicare, would compete for enrollees’ business. These changes wouldn’t start until 2023, meaning current beneficiaries aren’t affected – just those under 55.

Under the Romney-Ryan, the vouchers would be valued [12] at the second-cheapest private plan or traditional Medicare, whichever costs less. Seniors who opt for a more expensive plan would pay the difference. If they choose a cheaper plan, they keep the savings.

Who’s Covered

In the current system, people 65 and over are eligible for Medicare, which Obama has said he would keep [13] for now.

Romney has proposed [14]raising the eligibility age for Medicare beneficiaries from 65 to 67 in 2022, then increasing it by a month each year after that. In the long run, he would index [15] eligibility levels to “longevity.” Ryan’s budget plan proposes [16] raising Medicare eligibility age by two months a year starting in 2023, until it reaches 67 by 2034.

Many others looking to keep Medicare solvent have also proposed [17]raising the age of eligibility.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates [18]that raising the minimum age from 65 to 67 would reduce annual federal spending by 5 percent.But it would also result in higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs for seniors who would lose access to Medicare.

Obama’s health care law also adds [19] some benefits for seniors, such as annual wellness visits without co-pays, preventive services like free cancer screenings and prescription drug savings.

Proposed Savings

The Affordable Care Act is projected to reduce Medicare spending by $716 billion over the next 10 years. These reductions, as detailed [20] by Washington Post’s Wonkblog, will come mostly from reducing payments to hospitals, nursing homes and private health care providers.

While Ryan criticized [21] such spending cuts in his speech at the Republican National Convention, his own budget proposed [22] keeping these reductions.

“The ACA grows the trust fund by giving more general revenue to the Treasury, which then gives the trust fund bonds. But it then uses the money from those bonds to expand coverage for low- and middle-income people,” explains [23] Dylan Matthews on Washington Post’s Wonkblog.

Romney hasn’t really come up with a solid answer: he previously said he would restore [24] the $716 billion savings that the health care law imposes. Per this New York Times story [24], the American Institutes for Research calculates this would increase premiums and co-payments for Medicare beneficiaries by $342 a year on average over the next 10 years.

For more on where the candidates stand on the $716 billion, the private health policy Commonwealth Fund offers this helpful explanation [25].

Caps on Spending

Both Obama and Ryan have set an identical target rate [26] that would cap Medicare spending at one-half a percentage point above the nation’s gross domestic product.

But they have different ideas on mechanisms to achieve it.

The Affordable Care Act establishes a 15-member Independent Payment Advisory Board [27] that, starting in 2015, would make binding recommendations to reduce spending rates. As Jonathan Cohn points out [28] in the New Republic, the commission is prohibited from making any changes that would affect beneficiaries.

Ryan has proposed hard caps on spending and derided [29]this panel of appointed members as “unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats.” When laying out his plan in a 2011 memo [30], Ryan wrote that to control spending, “Congress would be required to intervene and could implement policies that change provider reimbursements, program overhead, and means-tested premiums.”

Romney hasn’t stated [31] clear proposals for imposing a cap on spending.

THE CANDIDATES ON MEDICAID

Big Picture

Though, it’s far less discussed [32] on the campaign trail, Medicaid actually covers more people than Medicare. The joint federal-state insurance program for the poor, the disabled, and elderly individuals in long-term nursing home care currently covers about 60 million Americans. The Affordable Care Act hasexpanded [33] Medicaid coverage further. Beginning 2014, Medicaid will include [34]people under 65 with income below 133 percent of the federal poverty level (roughly $15,000 for an individual, $30,000 for a family of four). This was estimated [35] to cover an additional 17 million Americans as eligible beneficiaries.

In June, however, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled [36] that states could opt out of the Medicaid expansion. A ProPublica analysis estimated [37] that the 26 states that challenged the health care law, and thus may possibly opt out, would account for up to 8.5 million of those new beneficiaries.

Romney and Ryan would overhaul this current system by turning Medicaid into a system of block grants [38]: the federal government would issue lump sum payments to the states, who would determine eligibility criteria and benefits for enrollees. These grants would begin in 2013.

Effects on spending

The Congressional Budget Office estimates [39] that Medicaid expansion under the new health care law would cost an additional $642 billion over the next 10 years.

Under the Ryan plan, federal Medicaid grants would be adjusted only for inflation, but not health care costs, which grow at a much higher rate. The CBO estimates [40] Ryan’s plan would save the federal government $800 billion over the next 10 years. Another study conducted by Bloomberg News shows that the block-grants could decrease Medicaid funding by as much as $1.26 trillion [41] over the next nine years.

Actual Impact

The New York Times points out [42] that more than half of Medicaid spending goes toward the elderly and disabled. An Urban Institute analysis estimates [43] the Ryan plan would result in 14 million to 27 million fewer people receiving Medicaid coverage by 2021.

Assessment

Though rarely mentioned by any of the candidates, Medicaid costs are soaring to cover the elderly who require long-term nursing care. As the Times’ details [44] how, states saddled by high Medicaid costs have begun turning to private managed care plans to blunt the cost.

Conclusion

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A “Buffett Tax” Voting and Opinion Poll

Taxing Millionaires?

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Nearly two-thirds of Americans support imposing a minimum tax rate of 30 percent on those who earn $1 million or more a year, according to a recent Reuters / Ipsos poll.

And so, we ask: Do you favor the Buffett Tax?

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How Much are the 2012 Presidential Candidates [Net] Worth?

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As the presidential election continues to heat up for “Super Tuesday” this March 6th 2012 – and candidates are weeded out – we look to their bankrolls to learn who has the most cash in the bank, and who’s funding their campaigns.

Source: creditsesame.com

Assessment

From small donors to large, and donations from men versus women, do these numbers surprise you?

Conclusion

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Why the White House Proposed Corporate Tax Reform

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Twenty-Five Years Since Last Revision

By Children’s Home Society of Florida Foundation

On February 22nd 2012, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner spoke to Congress and outlined the White House proposal for corporate tax reform. Geithner noted that there has not been a comprehensive corporate tax reform for 25 years. Since the last major corporate tax reform, there have been many significant events. These include the following changes.

  1. Internet is widely used.
  2. Cell phones are now common place.
  3. China and India have become significant economies.
  4. Global trade has greatly expanded.
  5. Nearly all other industrial societies have lowered their corporate rates.

The Five Elements of Reform

  1. Reduced Rates – The elimination of tax loopholes and subsidies will permit a reduction of the corporate tax rate from 35% to 28%.
  2. Manufacturing Incentives – The effective tax rate for manufacturing companies will be reduced to 25% through incentives.
  3. International Taxation System – Companies could pay penalties for shifting income overseas.
  4. Simplification – Small businesses would benefit from reduced complexity in the Tax Code.
  5. Revenue Neutrality – The reduced rates are achieved through eliminating various tax deductions.

Assessment

Treasury Secretary Geithner indicated that he plans to meet with Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) and House Ways and Means Chair Dave Camp (R-MI). He hopes that it will be possible to build a bipartisan consensus for corporate tax reform.

Editor’s Note: Sen. Baucus and Chairman Camp have been holding hearings and proposing corporate tax reform for the past year. With the White House announcement, that the President, the House and the Senate agree that there should be simplification and a lower corporate top rate. The challenge will come when the government grapples with the question of which major corporate deductions (such as bonus depreciation) will actually be removed in order to lower rates. Because of the magnitude of major tax reform, it is not likely that an actual bill could be passed before 2013.

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On the White House Tax Proposals

Reviewing the State of the Union Address

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By Children’s Home Society of Florida Foundation

In his State of the Union Address last week, President Obama included several tax proposals. He stated his hope that high-income earners pay larger taxes in the future. The President also proposed a substantial number of major tax changes for businesses with international operations.

White House Examples

For example, he restated the “Buffet rule” that asks high income individuals to pay at least as high a rate as that paid by middle-income earners. The President noted, “Right now, because of loopholes and shelters in the Tax Code, a quarter of all millionaires pay lower tax rates than millions of middle-class households.”

The White House also proposed that those with incomes over $1 million pay a minimum tax rate of 30%. Taxpayers with incomes over $1 million will have new limits on deductions for mortgage interest, healthcare expenses, qualified retirement plan contributions and childcare.

The Proposals

Many of the proposals for businesses were outlined in a White House press release on January 25th 2012. These major changes are designed to encourage U.S. companies to maintain their U.S. operations and increase employment here rather than overseas:

1. Overseas Plants – There would not be deductions for moving plants overseas. In addition, there would be a 20% tax credit against the cost of moving jobs from overseas back to the United States.

2. Manufacturing – Those manufacturers who purchase equipment would be able to expense 100% of those purchases. This option also existed in prior years and is expected to encourage building factories in the U.S. rather than abroad.

3. Major Job Losses – Areas that have experienced a closing of a military base or a major factory could qualify for a new investment credit of up to $2 billion. This credit creates incentives for building new plants or factories in depressed areas.

4. Minimum Tax – Corporations could be subject to a new minimum tax on their overseas jobs and profits.

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On the Election Results of November 2010

Gauging the Impact of the Affordable Care Act?

Question:

ME-P readers and others have been asking us – what does the election outcome mean for health care and the ACA?

Answer:

In short, not as much as many think, according to Steve Pizer JD and Austin Frakt PhD of the Incidental Economist.

Link:

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