Space porn: These images are (quite literally) out of this world
Topics: Politics News
Countering President Obama’s plan to avert the fiscal cliff released last week, House Republicans unveiled their own plan this afternoon that is presented as a major gesture of compromise as it finally puts tax revenues on paper and with House Republicans’ endorsement.
The big question, of course, on the fiscal cliff negotiations is what happens to tax rates for the wealthiest Americans — Democrats want them to go up, Republicans want them to stay the same. Realizing that they have to offer some kind of revenue increases, Republicans have been searching for a way to do that that doesn’t actually raise tax rates and thus violate Grover Norquist’s pledge. Boehner did that today in his proposal, which keeps revenues where they are today (by extending the Bush tax cuts on the top 2 percent of Americans), but calls for the elimination of tax deductions.
Boehner does this by leaning on the Simpson-Bowles plan, which, in case you haven’t been watching “Morning Joe” or reading David Brooks, was put forward in 2010 by a deficit-reduction commission convened by President Obama and co-chaired by former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson and former Clinton Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles.
Setting a target of $800 billion in new revenue, Boehner writes in his letter to Obama, “Notably, the new revenue in the Bowles plan would not be achieved through higher tax rates, which we continue to oppose and will not agree to in order to protect small businesses and our economy.”
Boehner has one key thing very wrong, though, as others have already noted. While the entire purpose of Boehner’s tax plan is to preserve the tax breaks for the top 2 percent, the Simpson-Bowles plan begins by allowing those rates to go up by assuming the expiration of all the Bush tax cuts. It then eliminates deductions and uses the money saved to reduce all tax rates a bit. Boehner’s plan does the opposite: It assumes the extension of the Bush tax cuts and then tries to find ways to pay for them by eliminating deductions.
The problem with this approach is that it’s basically impossible to raise any significant amounts of money without hitting the middle or lower class. Capping deductions gets you closest to that goal, as the wealthy are the most likely to take advantage of deductions, but it still doesn’t quite add up.
A $50,000 deduction cap would yield about $760 billion, just shy of what Boehner is aiming for. That cap would mostly impact the rich, according to the Tax Policy Center, but not entirely. At least 4 percent percent of the increased tax burden would fall on the lower 80 percent of Americans.
That might not seem like much, but think about that this means. Essentially, Republicans are proposing a way to preserve tax cuts for the wealthy by likely increasing taxes on the middle class, even if just a little.
NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins
On December 28, 2013, Expedition 38 crew member Mike Hopkins participating in the second of two space walks to replace a degraded pump module on the International Space Station. (NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio is reflected in his helmet!)
The Soyuz TMA-10M
The Soyuz TMA-10M headed towards the International Space Station with crew members from Expedition 37 onboard.
40 years ago the Apollo 8 mission flew up to the moon, orbited it ten times and then returned to Earth. This picture was taken from that flight and shows the Earth as it seemingly rises in similar fashion to a sunrise.
Sunrise from Expedition 36
NASA Flight Engineer Karen L. Nyberg of Expedition 36 took this photo of the sun rising -- a sight they saw nearly 16 times per day due to the speed of the International Space Station's orbit around the earth.
A pair of NanoRacks CubeSats -- nanosattelite spacecrafts carrying experiments -- were launched by Expedition 38.
Alex Seitz-Wald is Salon's political reporter. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @aseitzwald.