Churches are fuming over being taxed by Republicans and Trump

There is no reason whatsoever to celebrate America these days; the concept of good news has all but vanished. In fact, it is highly likely that a fair number of Americans are mourning the demise of their nation as it existed for 239 years and see nothing but the relentless advance of corporate fascism and a bloodless theocratic coup d’état on the near horizon; many observers, including this author, believe the theocrats have taken over already. These are seriously bad days for America as a nation, and devastating for any citizen that embraced a secular democracy with liberties and freedom for all Americans regardless of race, religious affliction, or gender.

There was a bit of news recently that, although not necessarily good, is certainly worth celebrating if for no other reason than the religious right is up in arms over what they regard as an attack on their religious freedom. In addition, even more reason to marvel is that the attack came at the hands of Congressional Republicans and the religious right’s messianic hero Dumb Don Trump. This particular attack entails a little known “reform” in Trump’s highly touted GOP tax legislation that includes a first ever tax on churches and other non-profits. It is a brief “good time” moment in what is now a horrifically hideous country run by a fascist pig with theocrats and white supremacists supporting his regime.

To remark that the various church leaders are dumbfounded and irate over being taxed would be a monumental understatement. Literally hundreds of church leaders are struggling to comprehend why Republicans would dare treat them like every other American and business, and why their Republican facilitators stabbed them in the back in secret. Actually, since the GOP tax reform legislation was conceived and crafted in secret by the Heritage Foundation, and Republicans voted en masse to enrich the wealthy and corporations without even perusing that legislation, few in Congress were aware of the tax on “the church.”

However, this “tax outrage” is not the kind of tax regular people bemoan; it is a minor tax on the various freebies church and some non-profit organization’s employees receive. Still, the concept of religious organizations being required to contribute anything in the way of “a tax” has infuriated church leaders who vehemently insist that their tax exemption is “sacrosanct,” and non-negotiable.

Subsequently, over 600 churches, thus far, signed a petition demanding that Republicans repeal the tax immediately; because regardless what Jeff Sessions says about the Christian bible command to obey the government, the faithful say they are “exempt” from that particular bible passage like they are exempt from contributing anything of value to America.

The gist of the “hidden tax atrocity” simply requires “churches, hospitals, and other historically tax-exempt organizations to begin paying a 21 percent tax on some types of fringe benefits they provide their employees.”

As a seasonal tax professional and former minister, this author is well-acquainted with the ridiculous number of “tax-free benefits” church employees, especially members of the clergy, receive because they are “blessed” to live in a country that gives churches tens of billions annually as “theocratic welfare.”

The new tax will seem like more “secular persecution” to churches and their employees who are accustomed to special treatment due to their “deeply held faith.” Expecting them to pay taxes like their bible commands is an abomination, and is perceived as the secular government punishing them. It is irrelevant that the “persecution” came at the hands of Republicans and Trump; Trump’s evangelicals, in particular, are beyond incensed. They are not satisfied that the same tax bill “persecuting” them with a small tax also grants them the unconstitutional and unconditional freedom to campaign from the pulpit with the Trump government’s blessings.

That perceived persecution has incited over 600 churches, and some other greedy groups, to sign a petition demanding the Republicans’ tax be repealed.  The churches claim they “don’t need the hassle” of taxes or interacting with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or their silly tax forms. The vice president of government relations at the National Association of Evangelicals, an umbrella group of evangelical organizations, Galen Carey said:

There’s going to be huge headaches. The cost of compliance, especially for churches that have small staffs or maybe volunteer accountants and bookkeepers — we don’t need this kind of hassle.”

It is an affront to decency that Carey has the temerity to complain about “the cost” of obeying his evangelical bible’s command to pay taxes. It is a particularly egregious remark since churches receive tens-of-billions of free taxpayer dollars annually due to being exempt from taxation. Moreover, since Bush’s “faith-based initiatives,” they receive billions of taxpayer dollars in direct payments from the federal government because “faith.”

The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) is joining evangelicals in complaining that their group may face a tax bill this year because of the Republican tax reform that Trump celebrated signing. The senior tax policy counsel for the group, Steven Woolf, predicted the faithful would force Congress and the Treasury to “stop the outrage.” Woolf said:

“A lot of people are just finding out about it and the more people find out about it, the more pressure there will be on Treasury and Congress to either delay implementation or consider changing this.”  

At least one Republican lawmaker is now promising to rescind the tax he just celebrated voting for because god – or some related nonsense. As previously mentioned, many groups are beyond outraged that they are expected to adhere to Jeff Sessions’ favorite scripture, Romans 13, that commands abject obedience to the government. The churches are particularly aggrieved because Republicans failed to get clearance from the religious right before passing tax reform that Trump signed. According to the crybaby chairperson of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, some malcontent named Mike Batts:

What we’re talking about is an income tax on the church. It’s absurd. The whole idea of tax exemption for nonprofit organizations that are doing charitable, religious and educational work is for them not to be on the same playing field when it comes to taxes, in order to incentivize the good work they do to make our society better.”

If Batts wasn’t an entitled religious cretin, he would understand that millions of Americans in jobs that “make our society better,” such as law enforcement, healthcare, education, disaster relief and the military pay taxes on all their earnings and employee benefits; and they don’t complain that they don’t understand how to do taxes.

Many of the 600 and counting churches demanding the tax’s abolition say  they are confused over how exactly the tax is supposed to work – because they have been exempt unlike the rest of the population. Churches want to know how they are supposed to calculate the value of “freebies” they include as compensation for their employees. Some openly wonder if the garages provided as part of clergy residences are now taxable, or if they can still “double dip” and avoid paying their fair share of tax.

It is worth reiterating ad nauseam that religious organizations (churches et al) already receive at least $82.5 billion annually from taxpayers, and that 2013 amount did not include the billions in faith-based initiative funding from taxpayers. In a fair country with a secular Constitution, churches would not be tax exempt; it is probably why the immutable word of god and Jesus in the Christian’s holy bible commands the religion’s adherents to pay taxes.

Although this is not a major story among the daily revelations that America is lurching towards an evangelical theocracy with a corrupt fascist incrementally decimating everything decent about America, it is worth enjoying for a minute. Of course the “faithful” will force Republicans to abolish the tax, and they will continue using Republicans to take complete control of all facets of the government. They will succeed, in large part, due to a curious fear among Americans, the media and Democrats of “offending” the faithful by resisting their bloodless coup d’état.

It is little consolation, but for people devoted to America as a secular representative democracy, they now have an “event” to look back on fondly and they had better enjoy it. It is the last time the religious will ever be “inconvenienced” by the government because it is likely there will never be a law passed without the express consent of the religious right theocrats running America.

Trump-Republican Tax Scam Insults Americans’ Intelligence

When Trump and Republicans announced they concocted a “unified framework for fixing our broken tax system,” they counted on a memory challenged and flagrantly stupid population to fall for their tired old tax reform “scam.” The scam where Republicans promise that giving the richest Americans and corporations more tax cuts will automatically make the poor and middle class rich, eliminate the deficit, and America will be great again. It is the “trickle down” scam that Americans were duped into accepting twice before only to suffer its effects for a couple of decades.

Republicans assume that all Americans are as stupid as their base, because they are proposing a worse rash of tax reform than Bush-Republicans enacted and pledge the results will not be disproportionately much worse. It is bizarre that they are once again proposing to grossly cut revenue to run the government while claiming it will increase government revenue and not blow up the deficit. And no, the Republicans cannot possibly cut government enough to pay for the tax cuts. It’s partially why the “plan” raises the lowest brackets tax rate and eliminates their deductions; to partially pay for the tax cuts for the rich

But setting aside piling on an estimated multi-trillions of dollars on the deficit and starving the federal government of operating funds, the filthy rich and corporations are going to see a bonafide bonanza and they are thrilled. The so-called “plan” is still extremely scarce on details, but by all accounts it amounts to raising taxes on the lowest incomes and eliminating their deductions, while drastically cutting taxes on the rich and corporations; and providing them with new “schemes” to reduce their tax liability even more by “going foreign.”

It also contains “reforms” to incentivize corporations and big businesses to avoid taxation by either moving offshore or restructuring into entities that enjoy minimal tax rates. It is not, as Trump asserts, any kind of benefit to the poor and middle class wage earners and will deliver exactly the same results as previous “trickle down” scams; more wealth for the rich.

Trump claims that heaping unfunded tax cuts on the rich and corporations will propel economic growth and lift wages. It is exactly what Kansas Governor Sam Brownback continued promising Kansas residents; even as the state’s finances and economy went deeper in the gutter. It is noteworthy that even as Kansas’ economy was dying to “reduce government” and enrich corporations, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Brownback that Republicans wanted to do “the same thing” nationally when they get control of the government; despite the real life evidence that slashing taxes to enrich the already wealthy decimates the economy.

Now that they have control, Republicans are on the verge of “doing the same thing” and expect little resistance from the people. They’ve fooled the people under Republican administrations before, and since too many Americans are either memory challenged or stupid, Republicans and Trump are telling the people that “this time” the results will be different.

Republicans are aware of the  consensus opinion of real economists, and the history of “trickle-down” economics’ failure that was manifest when Reagan imposed it and then again when George W. Bush enacted it. This time “it,” no matter how one assesses it, is a multi-trillion-dollar tax cutting scheme and not the way to boost the economy, create jobs or raise wages.

This latest Republican tax “reform” is in no way meant to boost the economy or create jobs; it is a veritable wish list of tax cuts for the wealthy. Its express purpose is to provide a windfall for hedge fund managers, corporate executives, real estate developers and other members of the 1 percent.  It is no “happy coincidence” that Trump and his family would benefit as much or more than anyone in the richest 1 percent from this plan.

According to an estimate In the Huffington Post based on the one Trump tax return leaked last year, just eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax (A.M.T.) will cut Trump’s taxes by 81 percent, and reduce his tax rate to a measly 4.7 percent on all of his income of over $150 million. Keep in mind, that paltry 4.7 percent tax rate doesn’t include all the other tax cuts for the richest of the rich that will benefit Trump. If all the “reforms” are enacted, Trump and his family’s tax liability will likely be zero; like many of the Fortune 500 corporations that already pay no taxes. The number of those zero tax liability corporations will increase dramatically, and that doesn’t count the corporations that take advantage of another “reform” that rewards them for moving offshore.

Republicans know their base is stupid and will fall the trickle down scam again. They always do and anyone that doesn’t’ believe it should consider the relative ease at which Kansas’ governor Sam Brownback won reelection after killing the state’s economy with “tax cuts for the rich.” Now Trump is lying that this time is going to be different and besides providing the kind of tax reform he and his wealthy cohorts have lusted after for decades, he and his Republican scam artists are insulting Americans’ intelligence; as if the entire population is as inherently stupid as the Republican base.

There will be more commentary as the details of this abominable giveaway to Trump, the richest one percent and corporations become available. But based on the early “framework,” it will more of the same “reform” that blew up the deficit the last two times a Republican administration enacted a tax scam that the stupid sector will fall for again.

Image: YouTube

It’s Not Just Trump – The Entire Republican Party Is Morally Rotten

 

It is a sure sign one is encountering a “low information” voter when an American places the blame for all of the nation’s ills and woes on one individual in government; typically the occupant of the White House. There is a good reason there are so many uninformed Americans and it’s down to the overwhelming number of citizens who are “seemingly” dumber than dirt regarding their government.

A recent study found that an overwhelming majority of Americans cannot name the three branches of government (75%), and worse yet a sick number (64%) couldn’t name even one branch if their ignorant lives depended on it. It is a sad revelation to this author that within those statistics must be a fairly significant number of ‘left-leaning’ Americans who blame all of the atrocities coming out of Washington on Trump.

No sane human being would consider arguing that the criminal in the White House doesn’t deserve all of the criticism that’s being heaped on him, and although it is satisfying to unleash a torrent of expletives at or about Trump, he is not the primary problem plaguing the nation. That distinction goes to the entire Republican Party and includes Republican politicians serving in all branches of government in every state, federal and regional office.

Last week Washington Post conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin paraphrased fellow conservative columnist David Brooks writing for the New York Times to bolster her, and this author’s, assertion that of course Trump is corrupt, but the real problem is the “moral rot” endemic to the Republican movement and all its iterations. According to Brooks:

It takes generations to hammer ethical considerations out of a [party’s] mind and to replace them entirely with the ruthless logic of winning and losing.  Beyond partisanship the GOP evidences no attachment to any external moral truth or ethical code.”

Republicans demonstrated that lack of attachment to truth and ethics on the first day of the 2017 legislative session when they attempted to gut the independent ethics committee and eliminate any chance they would be caught cheating. Trump had no part in that piece of work and stunningly criticized Republicans into pulling back from giving themselves free rein to commit all manner of corruption. It is true that Trump is without ethics and lusts to singlehandedly eliminate any and all ethics investigation into his corrupt administration, but it was congressional Republicans who actually attempted the immoral action.

In fact, every abomination being proposed as legislation taking everything from the American people, and every last executive order signed by Trump eliminating regulatory oversight is the handiwork of the Republican establishment under direction of the Koch brothers and their myriad libertarian and evangelical belief tanks.

Remember too, that it is the Heritage Foundation’s Mike Pence who is setting and executing the administration’s domestic and foreign policy, not dumb Don. Trump is not nearly smart or engaged enough to have had at the ready a mountain of executive orders and reforms that are coming out of conservative Washington; those orders and reforms were set in stone by the GOP and their corporate backers ages ago. Whether it is the crusade to “dismantle the administrative state” (government) or transfer all of America’s wealth directly to the richest Americans and their corporations, or impose evangelical edicts on the people; everything coming from the “Trump administration” originated within the GOP establishment long before he came on the scene.

Of course Trump supports transferring the wealth of the nation to his “taker” class by eliminating government and regulations, but he isn’t nearly smart or engaged enough to know, or care, how to go about it. Republicans and their backers have had those plans set in stone for going on four decades; since the Reagan era. A fairly comprehensive list of their goals can be found here and they comport with every unpopular policy and agenda the Republicans in Congress and state legislatures are attempting to ram down the people’s throats today.

The recent circus surrounding the GOP’s attempt to eliminate 20 to 30 million Americans’ healthcare is a prime example of how perverse and rotten to the core the Republican Party is and how little Trump is involved in the legislative or decision-making process.

Trump is a pathological narcissist who desperately needs some kind of “legislative accomplishment” to boast about and nothing seems to turn his crank more than the thought of repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It is no revelation to any American that Trump had no idea what any of the repeal and replace bills consisted of any more than the majority of Republicans in the House and Senate who voted for them. Trump’s ire with Republicans has nothing to do with what was, or was not, in any of the repeal attempts; it is simply that he didn’t have anything to sign and brag about.

If Republicans wanted to sate the Trump’s need for a healthcare bill to sign, they could have printed out the entirety of the Affordable Care Act and put Trump’s name on it. He would have signed it, held a nationally televised news conference in the Rose Garden and hailed it as the greatest legislation ever enacted in America’s 239 year existence. But giving their president a “victory” to celebrate wasn’t the GOP’s intent; they wanted to take healthcare away from tens-of-millions of Americans to give their donors massive tax cuts. And maybe more importantly, they wanted to begin fulfilling the Koch brothers’ crusade to “dismantle the administrative state.”

Nobody in their right mind thinks Trump is anything other than a tiny-handed, know-nothing bloviate and nasty narcissist who deserves all of the criticism he’s getting. But he does not run the Republican Congress, he is not writing Republican legislation or his own executive orders and is he is definitely not in charge of domestic policy; he willingly “gifted” that responsibility to Mike Pence. Pence is a Koch brother establishment Republican driving every last abomination plaguing the nation whether it is banning transgender soldiers from serving in the military or passing legislation allowing the fossil fuel industry to dump toxic waste into Americans’ water supply.

Trump is a piece of waste and deserves whatever pejoratives and condemnation the people can throw at him. However, it’s time to stop blaming him for what his party is doing just because he gets to live in the White House. It is true that Trump is morally corrupt, but he is only allowed to proceed with impunity because the Republicans he represents have spent generations eradicating any ethical considerations out of the party and abandoned any “attachment to any external moral truth or ethical code.”

Across America a Majority of Voters Say Republicans Are On the Wrong Track

 

 

Americans are, if nothing else, a strange lot; and it goes far beyond their belief that the Sun only rises because they draw breath as citizens of the United States. One of the strangest behaviors over the past several months was many Americans’ various levels of support for corrupt Trump they claimed was because they wanted the country to go in a different direction. In particularly representative fashion, directly after the election a bevy of professional women said they only voted for Trump because they thought the country had been headed in the wrong direction for eight years; it was time to reverse course. Now, however, a new poll reveals that women and men from every demographic in the population say with Trump and Republicans running the government, the nation is definitely on the wrong track and despite they wanted a change in direction, the country is on the wrong track.

What was, and still is, a monumental mystery to this author is why in dog’s name after several years of record job growth, a healthier population, relative peace, more universal equality, and economic good health a damn large number of voters believed those achievements were wrong for the country. In fact, many voters cognizant of the economic and social justice progress during the Obama Administration still thought that progress signified “America on the wrong track.”

According to a recent Morning Consult/Politico poll, “the majority of voters from virtually every demographic currently believe the United States is ‘on the wrong track’ under Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress.” This isn’t a simple case of buyer’s remorse; a majority of the country is terrified at the direction Trump and his Republican facilitators in Congress are taking the nation because everyone is in the GOP’s crosshairs.

One always hears about the Trump and Republicans’ firewall of support in rural areas and the former Confederacy, and constant propaganda that their supporters are overwhelmingly satisfied with the job they’re doing in Washington, but even that group believes that “the United States is on the wrong track” now that Republicans control the entire government. In fact, the dissatisfaction with Trump alone has resulted in a 5-percent rise in nationwide support for his impeachment in the last week.

As an aside, one would inform all those dissatisfied rural and Southern voters that getting Trump out of the White House will not change the direction of the country one iota, or alter the way Republicans want to govern to benefit the rich and corporations. An administration under Pence will be exactly like Trump’s only without daily Twitter crises. Instead there will be a crisis of a never-before-seen crusade to implement evangelical theocracy to accompany massive cuts to government programs and gargantuan tax cuts for the rich.

What the poll revealed is that for the first time in quite a while there is beginning to be “a striking sense of unity” among the population, and it’s not just unity among one socio-economic, regional, gender, or racial demographic. For example, “Americans living in urban areas were only slightly more likely than those living in rural areas to be concerned that Trump and Republicans are leading the nation down the wrong track.” City folk and those living in liberal coastal areas are only slightly more worried (60 percent) about the train wreck the GOP and Trump have the nation on than those in the South and rural areas (57 percent).

A majority of voters across the nation think Republicans are leading them in the wrong direction and it belies conventional wisdom that the GOP and Trump “own the heartland and Confederacy.”  It leads one to reassess the idea that Southern and rural Americans aren’t as savvy as those in urban and left-leaning coastal areas; a majority of all Americans are finally coming to grips with the reality that their beloved nation is headed for a big conservative fail. And that conservative fail is being attributed to Republicans in Congress as much as the idiot in the White House.

What was particularly telling is that dissatisfaction with Republicans and Trump is nearly the same for blue-collar workers as it is white-collar workers. That dissatisfaction with the current government was reflected in the percentage of Americans earning over $100,000 annually (55 percent) and those earning under $50,000 (61 percent). Of course the richest one-percent likely approve of the GOP-Trump agenda, but only if they get their monumental tax cuts as promised. That group’s opinion was not included in the poll.

It was also revealing that the majority of Americans of all racial backgrounds firmly believe the nation is “on the wrong track” under GOP rule and it disproves the mindset that among white Americans Trump and the Republicans can do no wrong in changing the direction of the country. Nationwide, 74 percent of African Americans, 57 percent of white Americans, 52 percent of Hispanic Americans and 64 percent of “other ethnicities” stated the country is headed in the wrong direction after just 5 months of a Republican-controlled government.

No-one should be surprised that the percentage of women (64 percent) claiming the country is on the wrong track is higher than men (54 percent) regardless of income, geographical region, religion or race. The Trump-Republican anti-women policies became evident on day one of the new administration and that was before their religious overlords began applying pressure on the GOP-controlled Congress for theocratic legislation targeting women’s rights as remuneration for evangelical electoral support.

Although there is a majority of the population dissatisfied with Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress “among a wide-ranging and diverse group of Americans,” no-one should be fooled into thinking there is a new sense of unity among the American people. Of course there is universal “resistance to, and dissatisfaction with” the current Republican government, but it is most likely because all Americans save the filthy rich now know that this Republican group is targeting every demographic for some kind of assault.

It may be the case that many Americans are laser-focused on the latest White House scandal, but one suspects it is the administration and Republicans’ harmful policies informing a growing majority of the population that Trump and Republicans are taking the country in the wrong direction. It is something that no small number of liberal opinion writers and pundits spent a year-and-a-half warning was going to happen, but few listened and now everyone is going to suffer.