While we watch the battle over raising taxes on the "rich" and the Obama administration's lament they aren't high enough, you may have missed tax increases already coming.
ObamaCare Tax Increases: Medicare payroll tax beginning in 2013, individuals over $200,000 (and couples over $250,000) pay an additional 0.9% on wages above that amount. No inflation indexing, so it will affect more taxpayers yearly.
Medicare Tax on investment income up 3.8% in 2013, again for those who make $200,000 (or $250,000 per couple) for wages and investment income (taxable capital gains, dividends, interest, annuities, royalties and rents.) No indexing here either.
Tax on Social Security benefits: 1984 law which taxed the "rich", making them pay more taxes on Social Security benefits without indexing, so today the tax kicks in at $25,000 affecting 1/3 of the returns and in a decade it will impact 45% of the taxpayers!
Mayor Annise Parker: A TCR Review
Nearly two years ago, TCR evaluated the candidates for the City of Houston based on questions we developed. Then as now we are looking for the most fiscally conservative candidates.
Annise Parker scored a B on our questionnaire in 2009. Since Mayor Parker is running for reelection, it's time to evaluate her record in office on fiscal issues.
Parker has used her no-nonsense leadership style to clean up our city government. A plus is she kept her promises to clean house, replaced the Chief of Police, streamlined city government, cut waste and duplication and is saving millions while improving performance.
In the worst recession in generations, Parker has been able to balance the city budget without raising property taxes, and she correctly ended the practice of issuing bonds to pay pension obligations. She also cut hundreds of millions of dollars in spending, even when it was politically unpopular with her traditional base. She ended the stupid practice of letting employees take city cars home from work and back, saving millions of dollars. She cut costs by ending perks like cell phones and restricting the use of purchasing cards by city employees and she saved millions by renegotiating the city's insurance contracts. At the same time she saved critical police and firefighter jobs from city budget cuts. She rejected politics as usual when she resisted union pressure and took the lowest cell phone contract, saving the city $3 million dollars.
Mayor Parker has made painful choices, but neutral observers say Houston is now better off financially than any major city in America. The Houston area now ranks number 2 in the country in job creation. And Forbes Magazine has ranked Houston among the metro areas in American best positioned to prosper during the next 10 years.
As far as the other two major issues; Prop 1 - Infrastructure fee and Prop 2 - Red light cameras, the mayor's team record is a mixed bag. TCR endorsed both and felt the infrastructure fees were a good way to ensure Houston of having the best infrastructure in the country with a dedicated funding source.
Since passage the funding base has been watered down due to concessions to various interest groups. TCR also has concerns that the vision for Prop 1 could be subverted by the city's Public Works Department. TCR urges the Mayor and City Council to follow the long-term plan and say no to the "blacktop things" mentality in Public Works.
Prop 2 and its subsequent lawsuits has been a mess to deal with. The defeat in the election, the contract issues the city has with the supplier and the Federal Judge tossing out the referendum, all have complicated a simple issue. That being said, if Prop 2 was explained properly it could have won and TCR doesn't believe the City has an extra $20 million to buy out the contract. It seems on both issues the Mayor's instinct was right but staff follow-through has had its issues.
So if we were to re-grade the Mayor based on her first 19 months her grade today would be B, but in reviewing her overall record based on performance, it's a B+.
Whether conservatives like it or not, Annise Parker is the most fiscally conservative Mayor in over a decade. She has done much and she can do more. TCR will be watching.
Rick Perry In On Saturday? TCR Predictions
Never underestimate the Governor! The most successful politician in Texas of his generation now seems poised to leap into serious contention for President of the United States.
TCR predicts Rick Perry will either be the GOP nominee or not come close. As we mentioned previously, he and his team will be tested and based on past experience, you would have to say don't bet against him.
The GOP field is relatively weak; Perry is a proven fundraiser and is a dynamic, personable in-person campaigner and Dave Carney is a brilliant political consultant and the national currents are moving with him.
Ready or not, we could have President Rick Perry in our future.
Medicaid And Medicare: It's The Fraud, Stupid
The big reason Medicaid and Medicare spending is out of control is fraud. Officially it's about $70 billion per year, but experts tell us it could be two to three times as much.
This is not new. The GAO for twenty-two years had Medicare listed as a high risk for fraud federal program. Why does this persistently continue? Because they spend other people's money and it is not done carefully.
The Congressman Paul Ryan reform plan, by giving individuals a voucher, will make everyone careful about how to spend the money.
Debt Ceiling Aftermath
By Bruce Bialosky, Guest Columnist
Now that peace has temporarily descended upon the nation's capital and this sordid episode in the life of our Republic has come to an end, behold my review of the Movie of the Week: "High Noon at Debt Ceiling."
1. Thankfully, we are actually discussing a decrease in the size of government. Of course, there's really nowhere to go but down since Obama and his cronies in Congress went on history's biggest spending binge. The problem, of course, is that we're cutting far too little, especially in the next couple of years. Most of the proposed cuts have been left for future years to avoid any pain.
2. The Republicans did a reasonable job, considering that they control only the House of Representatives while the Democrats control the Senate and the Presidency. The 85 freshmen need to continue their push towards fiscal sanity. No matter how horribly they are vilified by the Washington establishment, the mainstream media, and the political left, they are on the correct path. They need to enlarge their group in the House, get more Senators elected, and replace this President - and then we can see some real change.
3. The Republicans are still playing too nice. Example: Senator John Thune (R-SD), a wonderful man, recently appeared on Meet the Press with Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO). When Ms. McCaskill accused Republicans of "giving taxpayer checks to Big Oil," Thune should have asked her what checks she was talking about. When McCaskill claimed that she is one of the Democrats supporting entitlement reform, Thune should have asked her to identify which reform bill she has introduced or co-sponsored. She got away with these fabrications only because she wasn't called on them. This happens all the time. We cannot depend on the press to do their job, so we must do it for them.
In another segment of the show, former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm - who is redefining herself as a wise, experienced head - was taken to task by Raul Labrador, freshmen Congressman from Idaho. When she asserted that the "Tea Party" needs to go along with the Washington establishment, he cited her dismal record as Governor, an eight-year stretch in which unemployment in her state increased more than 8%. He later took on David Plouffe, who regurgitated the same old liberal scare tactics, claiming that our soldiers wouldn't get paid if the debt ceiling wasn't raised. Mr. Labrador dissected him with facts and a smile. This needs to be consistently done.
4. This debate was utterly necessary. The American people are now JUST beginning to come to their senses about the fiscal disaster being perpetrated by the federal government. Unfortunately, they're not yet quite where they need to be. When Americans are asked where to reduce expenditures, they're still strongly against cutting Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, pension benefits for retired government workers, and farm subsidies. We need to better educate the public on the long-term viability of these programs, if only to overcome the outright lies by demagogues like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. Our nation's ongoing financial crisis needs to stay in the public focus until every American realizes that even the most popular federal programs need wide-ranging reform in order to remain solvent.
5. The Republicans must continue to strive for a Balanced Budget Amendment. They need to make Democrats explain why they are against it, have it voted on in both chambers of Congress, and then take it to the people in November, 2012.
6. The potential downgrading of America's creditworthiness has little to do with the debt ceiling and everything to do with the gargantuan spending plans proposed by the Obama Administration. Forgetting the irony that until recently these companies (such as Moody's) were awarding AAA ratings to bond portfolios backed by subprime loans, the fact that the federal government is borrowing 40% of every dollar spent meant this had to happen. People want assurance that they are going to be repaid even when the bond is backed by the largest economy in the world.
7. President Obama was abysmal throughout this entire process. When he wasn't being a whiner, he was fear mongering. Even Jim Cramer, whose reputation is someone who endlessly yells and screams, stated on Meet the Press that Obama panicked the markets and "created tremendous fear." Cramer's summary was short and to the point: "[Obama] caused the panic, not the media."
No President has ever acted so irresponsibly. Presidents are supposed to calm the people, not send markets into a frenzy. His fear tactics if not directly responsible for the sinking stock market was a major impetus for the fall. It's no wonder that Peggy Noonan called him a loser. But take this to the bank - not only will he lose re-election, he will lose in a landslide. He is fried. The American people are done with him and wish the election was next week because they understand that as long as he is office, this economy will not recover. He doesn't have a clue what to do, and everything he will try will be counterproductive unless Republicans can stuff some pro-private-sector policies down his throat. Our single most important objective for the next 15 months should be to replace this President - in order to save the Republic.
My friend Dennis Prager says that he (Prager) seeks clarity over agreement. Well, Dennis (along with the rest of us) got a hefty dose of clarity this week. Now we just need to concentrate on defeating Obama and the more irresponsible members of Congress. When that happens, our economy will once again explode with growth. After all, my friends, this is still America!
Bruce Bialosky is the founder of the Republican Jewish Coalition of California and a former appointee of President Bush.
TCR on the Air
Red, White & Blue featuring TCR Editor Gary Polland and liberal commentator David Jones, Fridays at 7:30 p.m. and replaying Sundays at 5:00 p.m. on PBS Houston Channel 8 and on the web at www.houstonpbs.org.
8/12/11: "2012 Election Preview" with GOP U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz, Partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP.
8/19/11: "Greater Houston Partnership" with Jeff Moseley, President & CEO of GHP.
8/26/11: "Reforming County Government" with Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan.
For a fun feature go to www.houstonpbs.org and under Red White and Blue, you can see commentary about the show and its guests by Gary and David each week. The current show as well as past shows are also available on YouTube.
About Your Editor
Gary Polland is a long-time conservative and Republican spokesman, fund-raiser, and leader who completed three terms as the Harris County Republican Chairman. During his three terms, Gary was described as the most successful county Chairman in America by Human Events - The National Conservative Weekly. He is in his thirteenth year of editing a newsletter dealing with key conservative and Republican issues. The last nine years he has edited Texas Conservative Review. Gary is a practicing attorney and strategic consultant. He can be reached at (713) 621-6335.