By Robert A. Vella
For all you young whipper-snappers out there, a “broken record” refers to an analog phonographic audio recording that continually repeats a short segment during playback due to a defect in the vinyl disk medium. It would sound something like this:
“You want it, you got… You want it, you got… You want it, you got… You want it, you got…”
Whenever us old fogies had a record in this condition, we usually threw it away.
But in politics, bad ideas keep repeating over and over again. Such is the case with presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s latest proposal to lift the middle class out of its steady decline into poverty. From Reuters via Yahoo:
CLINTON, Iowa (Reuters) – U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Sunday proposed a tax credit offsetting up to $6,000 in costs associated with caring for elderly and disabled family members, and allowing caregivers to accrue Social Security retirement benefits for such work.
The maximum value of the caregiving credit would be $1,200 for qualifying families and is the latest in a series of tax proposals Clinton plans to introduce aimed at boosting the middle class.
Clinton has previously announced a tax credit of $2,500 for an individual or $5,000 for a family to cover high healthcare costs and another credit that would cover some of the expense of attending college.
There are about 12 million people in the United States who need long-term care and that number is expected to grow to 27 million by 2050 as the population ages. Clinton said the economic value of the unpaid work provided by family caregivers of the aging and disabled was $470 billion in 2013.
Clinton is certainly correct that care for the elderly and disabled is a big problem which will only get worse over time. She’s also correct that healthcare and educational costs are heavy burdens on middle class families. However, her solutions are equatable to superficial bandages applied to a patient with serious internal injuries. Rival presidential candidate Bernie Sanders critiqued Clinton’s proposal with a stark comparison to the failed neoliberal economic policies embraced by Republicans. From The Washington Post:
SAVANNAH, Ga. — A senior aide to Sen. Bernie Sanders on Sunday characterized Hillary Clinton’s latest tax plans as “tentative half-steps that sound Republican-lite,” escalating the sparring between the Democratic presidential campaigns over their respective commitments to helping the middle class.
“Given the disappearing middle class and massive income wealth inequality in America today, we clearly have to go a lot further than what Secretary Clinton proposes,” Sanders’s communications director, Michael Briggs, said in a statement issued Sunday night as Sanders campaigned here.
More tax cuts, be they offered to wealthy individuals and large corporations by Republicans or offered to the middle class by Democrats, are not the answer. In fact, the rampage of tax cuts and loopholes pushed by both political parties over the last 3-4 decades have been a major cause of the financial crises suffered by federal, state, and local governments in America in recent years. Public education, in particular, has been ravaged by budget shortfalls resulting from declining government tax revenues in addition to the rising specter of privatization schemes – under the guise of charter schools – which are confiscating even more of its tax funding. Kansas provides a perfect example of governmental dysfunction and failure due primarily to the political obsession with tax cuts.
And, there is another critical problem with Clinton’s approach. Whenever politicians engage in doling out tax cuts to targeted groups, they will be besieged by an onslaught of special interests who want tax favors too. This leads straight to the corruption of our political system as quid pro quo relationships – whether legal or not – become the accepted norm.
Libertarians are justified in their desire to simplify the tax structure by eliminating the endless stream of exceptions and loopholes; however, they want to do it regressively as in a flat tax system. This would, in effect, transfer the tax burden more onto the middle class than it is now. Still, there’s no reason why the tax code can’t be simplified while maintaining a tiered progressive structure.
Hillary Clinton is the antithesis of a simplified tax system. The more she speaks, the more she sounds like Republicans. Bernie labeled her right.