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Michael Miller

Viewpoint

By Michael Miller
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Fun With Taxes

1. Total budgeted property tax levy by all New York school districts in 2011-2012: $19.292 billion. Total cost to the state government of rebating 100 percent of the stock transfer taxes paid by investors in 2010: $14.471 billion, down from a high of $16.313 billion in 2008.

2. Estimated cost to the state government of allowing two temporary tax brackets on high-income earners (7.85 percent and 8.97 percent) to expire at the end of 2011: Approximately $5 billion in 2012.

3. Actual tax relief that will be provided to New York property taxpayers by the “property tax containment” law (“tax cap”): Absolutely zero.

4. Since 1950, in the years that the top federal marginal tax rate was more than 50 percent, the average annual growth in total employment was 2.3 percent. In the years that the top marginal rate was 35 percent or less (where it is now), employment grew by just 0.4 percent per year.

5. As of June, 44.647 million Americans were receiving food stamps, the highest figure ever. The average monthly food stamp benefit comes to about $1.42 per person per meal in a household.

6. In its latest published estimate, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that Gross Domestic Product growth in the U.S. will not exceed 2.9 percent between now and 2017. Growth that is required to keep unemployment from rising due to new workers entering the workforce: 3.0 percent.

7. Google, Cisco, Pfizer and other large companies are sponsoring the “Win America” campaign that would create a one-time tax holiday for corporations that “repatriate” some of the more than $1 trillion in profits “trapped overseas” (parked offshore) in tax havens like Bermuda and the Caymen Islands. What they say it will do in their campaign materials: “…immediately inject up to $1 trillion into our economy and provide businesses with the certainty they need to help get Americans back to work” What Pfizer did with the $37 billion it brought back to the United States in the last such tax holiday in 2004: It paid just $1.7 billion in federal corporate income taxes, and then immediately laid off 10,000 American workers.

8. References to high taxes in the Declaration of Independence: Zero.

9. The U.S. State Department has requested $6.2 billion in its next budget for its diplomatic operations in Iraq. The massive U.S. embassy in Baghdad, the largest embassy complex ever constructed by any country, will employ 16,000 people.

10. Billions of dollars that disappeared from pallets of $100 bills flown to Baghdad on June 22, 2004 to support our diplomatic operations: We don’t know, because the New York Federal Reserve won’t reveal to federal inspectors how much money it released. $6.6 billion is the current best estimate of what disappeared.

11. How much interest did Credit Suisse, Goldman Sach and Royal Bank of Scotland pay for at least $30 billion each borrowed from a New York Federal Reserve emergency lending program in 2008: 0.01 percent on 28-day loans.

12. As of March, the Department of Defense DOD had more contractor personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq (155,000) than uniformed personnel (145,000). In the past, cooking, cleaning and basic maintenance in war zones was performed by our soldiers. Today, KBR, Haliburton and other contractors are paid to provide 70,000 workers recruited from developing countries to perform these tasks. From Fiscal Year 2005 to Fiscal Year 2010, DOD spent at least $146.7 billion on contractor services in Afghanistan and Iraq.

13. Social Security benefit cuts are now confirmed to be part of the Congressional negotiations on the country’s debt ceiling. Actual impact of Social Security on the debt or on the federal budget deficit: Zero. Social Security is funded by dedicated taxes.

14. The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics tracks the effects of money on elections and public policy. An ongoing CRP study finds that of 370 U.S. Senators and Representatives who left office since January 1999 and whose employment they’ve been able to track, 279 (75.4 percent) have gone on to work as lobbyists or advisors to corporations and special interest groups.

Michael Miller is a freelance writer, designer and strategic consultant who has worked in state and local government. Email: millercolumn@optimum.net