Welcome to Bizarro World

Any of you folks (besides me) old enough to remember Bizarro World? Back in the day it was a DC Comics alt-version of the Superman comic book series. Bizarro World was a cube-shaped planet where everything was the opposite of the version of Earth portrayed in the standard Superman comics. Alt-Superman went by the name “Bizarro.” Batman was “Batzarro.” They and all the other DC superheroes were the bad guys. Bizarro Joker—the only rational character in Bizarro World—ceaselessly wept instead of laughing maniacally.

I feel you, Bizarro Joker. I feel your pain.

Following a long string of embarrassing legislative fails, the GOP tax bill is grinding its way through the congressional reconciliation process, squaring the Senate and House versions. Barring the tendency of Congressional Republicans to march on their own collective pecker, it’ll soon be on Trump’s desk and he’ll sign it into law.

The whole deal seems so upside-down to me. So Bizarro World.

This morning I read an article in the NY Times describing who will feel the pain with this tax plan. Not surprisingly, it’s blue-state folks who make good livings who get stung the most—a cohort of taxpayers who are Democrats by large majorities. They get stung because the blue states tend to have higher state income taxes, and the GOP plan eliminates the SALT deduction (the deduction against your federal tax bill for state and local taxes paid).

Now, as a rule, blue states already pay more to the federal government in taxes and fees than they get back. Red states, on the other hand, are revenue vampires. (The same is true of California counties.) On balance, the red states talk a good game when it comes to states’ rights, self-reliance, and small federal gum’mint, but it’s always with their beggars’ palms extended. (Remind anyone of our local U.S. congressman?)

SALT deductions in highly taxed blue states mitigate that situation to some degree. Not enough to come anywhere close to doing away with blue America heavily subsidizing red America, but in part. SALT deductions take some of the edge off the burden of keeping the red states in rent, food, and walking-around money.

Getting rid of SALT is just power politics, you Republicans say? It’s just a little “we won, screw you” comeuppance? “Elections have consequences, so just chill,” to paraphrase our last president when Republicans were freaking out about Obamacare. So yeah, I hear you.

But here’s the thing: Obamacare was 100% consistent with Obama’s liberal Democrat ideals. Isn’t this raiding of state revenues and power anathema to everything the GOP supposedly stands for? Isn’t this Bizarro World?

Eliminating the SALT deduction sends more of California’s money to Washington DC, where its distribution and use will be decided by the President and Congress. That’s less money staying put here in California, where it would have been available not only to state and local government, but more so to the private sector. It will exert enormous pressure on California’s legislature to provide tax relief to upper middle class taxpayers hit hardest by SALT, possibly strangling state revenues. And finally, the extra money being sent to DC means less discretionary money to spend locally, which in turn means a hit to both local small businesses and local sales tax revenues. The whole scheme is absolutely designed to shift a large share of California’s state and local tax revenues and fiscal control to the federal government.

Further, eliminating SALT increases blue state subsidies to red states. It’s state-to-state parasitism, encouraged by the GOP-controlled Congress. It penalizes successful and revenue-generating states like our own California, shifting even more of our money to the flop, slothful, ass-backward states.

I haven’t even touched on how the GOP tax plan is going to increase deficit spending and the federal debt, which also seem anathema to conservative principles. But by now we’re used to cutting taxes and running up the nation’s credit cards to keep the party going, right? Standard Reagan Revolution stuff. Old hat.

Excuse my rhyme: What’s new is “screw the blue with a revenue coup.”

I gotta ask: How in God’s name is this whole shiteree in any way consistent with conservative, fiscally responsible, stand-on-your-own-two-feet GOP principles?

I can only conclude: We are miles beyond conservative principles meaning anything at all. It’s about winning, sticking it to the losers, and increasing the wealth of the über-wealthy.

So, what to do? As the renowned 19th-century British philosopher Ben Dover put it: “Close your eyes and think of England.” I don’t know if that’ll work for Californians, but it’s worth a try.

Steven Towers
Steve Towers is co-owner of a local environmental consultancy. After obtaining his Ph.D. from UC Davis and dabbling as a UCD lecturer, he took a salary job with a Sacramento environmental firm. Sitting in stop-and-go traffic on Highway 50 one afternoon, he reckoned that he was receiving 80 hours of paid vacation per year and spending 520 hours per year commuting to and from work. He and his wife Elise sold their house and moved to Redding three months later, and have been here for more than 20 years. His hobbies include travel, racquet sports, taking the dogs on hikes, and stirring pots. He can be reached at towers.steven@gmail.com
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36 Responses

  1. Tim says:

    I think your point would have been better made if not so partisan: Presidents tend to reward their supporters with spoils, even when blatantly hypocritical.

    Remember Obama’s first year? He spent so much time time traveling to blue states, particularly those which had been battlegrounds, that even the NY Times raised its eyebrows.

    And his stimulus package disproportionately went to blue states, particularly unionized ones. The ultimate beneficiaries weren’t the working poor or middle class — they were folks wealthy enough to buy $100,000 electric sports cars and $30,000 solar systems.

    Trickle trickle…

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      Tim, I don’t know what to make of your last paragraph. The GOP invested much in linking the words “stimulus” and “fail,” but I can’t find a single credible independent analysis to corroborate that. (Of course, there are many such “analyses” done by partisan think tanks.)

      The one-time head of the CBO, Douglas Elmendorf, annoyed the hell out of Congressional Republicans in 2012 when he testified: “The Recovery Act was not a failed program. Our position is that it created higher output and employment than would have occurred without it.” Elmendorf was known for not sugar-coating anything. His analyses were instrumental in scuttling the Clintons’ attempt at universal health care. He also pointed out the disconnect between Americans desire for services and their willingness to pay for them. He repeatedly warned that the nation’s current economic model was based on tax cuts, spending, and debt accumulation, and was unsustainable. (He wouldn’t call that model the “Reagan Revolution,” but I will.)

      “God bless Dr. Doug Elmendorf for his integrity and his commitment to telling the truth. We need to learn how to deal with the truth, not try to remake it or cover it up.” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Tex

      The most common conclusions about the Stimulus Act: (1) It was a shotgun approach, some of which worked and some of which failed. (2) It likely prevented the U.S. from descending into a depression, and at the very least shortened the intensity and length of the recession. (3) It included long-overdue investments in our crumbling infrastructure.

      • Tim says:

        I didn’t say Obama’s stimulus was a failed program; I said it was partisan and hypocritical. It was deficit spending in support of the wealthy: trickle-down economics from the great redistributor-in-chief.

        Obama made a big show about increasing infrastructure spending, but it actually went down all 8 years under his reign (hitting a 30-year low in 2016). But he is not alone: Trump campaigned heavily on infrastructure spending that has also yet to materialize.

        Meet the new boss, same as the old boss…

        • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

          It was the GOP-controlled Congress that throttled infrastructure investment the last 6 years of Obama’s tenure.

          To be fair (:::pounds forehead on desk:::), I think it’s too early to judge Trump regarding infrastructure spending. His first budget contains that “Infrastructure Initiative,” but overall it appears to trim $55 billion from infrastructure spending. That’s within the noise of what Congress will ultimately authorize.

          • Tim says:

            So who do you blame for Obama’s first 2 years? He took office in ’09 under GW’s budget and 2009 was this Millennium’s high point (infrastructure spending plummeted in both ’10 & ’11): http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/sites/default/files/eric_charticle_1.png

            My point is these types of things you are complaining about (hypocrisy & partisan retribution) have been going on as long as I can remember.

          • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

            I don’t know who to blame for the economic crater that Obama spent his first two years trying to back-fill, but I don’t think it was his fault. Regardless, according to the CBO, spending on infrastructure has been fairly stable for 30 years—about 2.4% of GDP year after year. Huge infrastructure improvement programs are largely hand-waving. Big infrastructure spending increases are in truth minor spending increases.

            The CBO has also found that increasing spending on infrastructure fails to achieve the intended benefits in many states because those states cut their own investments to zero out the increase in federal funding. The CBO summary I read didn’t state which states those are, but if I had to take a wild guess, it would be the ones that are already predisposed toward fiscal parasitism.

        • Anita L Brady says:

          You conveniently fail to mention the GOP Senate/House obstruction that happened starting in 2010. Obama’s infrastructure efforts were thwarted effectively.

  2. cheyenne says:

    You want to stick it to SALT. Simple, eliminate California state income tax. Then all that money stays in California taxpayer hands and goes to no government, state or federal. Can’t be done you say. Washington state, more liberal than California, has no state income tax. And in the latest Wall Street 24/7 is ranked higher than California as a well run state. And I would argue that Washington state is economically superior to California.
    But you blame the red states for all of California’s problems. That is Bizzaro.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      According to the Seattle Times, the State of Washington’s tax structure is among the most unfair in the USA, because it’s extremely regressive. It hammers the poor and the working classes the hardest. Washington taxes just about everything that’s for sale, including services.

      https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/data/washington-taxes-more-like-florida-nevada-than-our-neighbor-to-the-south/

      And I don’t blame red states for California’s problems. I blame red states for red-state problems. I give California the credit for its financial success—the 6th largest economy in the world. Finally, I blame the Republicans in Washington DC for seeing all of that blue-state wealth and wanting to raid it.

      • cheyenne says:

        Steve, according to Wall Street 24/7 last month, not last year, California leads the nation in percentage of their residents below the poverty level, 20.4%. That is actually an improvement from a couple of years ago when it was 23%. The state with the lowest percentage of residents below the poverty level, Mississippi. Of course 24/7 factors in other areas such as lower cost of living, something you don’t do in your comparisons. Poverty income level in California is just that, poverty, but in other states it is possible to live on.
        Comparing Blue and Red is not possible unless you consider all factors.

        • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

          Prosperity has its downsides. One of the biggest is affordability/poverty, which are keyed to housing prices. And as people retire to fixed incomes, many leave the state. Ring any bells? I doubt that I’ll stay in CA after I retire. Spending at least half the year in the subtropics appeals. Spain and Portugal are also very affordable—far more affordable than the Golden State.

    • Anita L Brady says:

      Instead, there are plans to derail the tax deduction CUTS. For instance, making the State Taxes be a charitable contribution. So, high SALT-affected states (especially those with low property taxes like CA) can still get the Federal Tax Benefit. Corporations and wealthy take advantage of such “loopholes” all the time, so having the whole state benefit would be wonderful.

    • K. Beck says:

      Washington State and California do not have much in common. Size? Population? Income Levels? Rainfall? Comparing states to one another is pretty much useless IMHO. They all have different laws and priorities.

      If Washington State is so much better than CA, why are you living in Wyoming?

      I am “sort of” getting tired of listening to all your CA bashing. You don’t live here anymore. CA was wonderful when you lived here, made enough money to retire, then took your retirement money to a different state. How about complaining about the state you actually LIVE in. Maybe Wyoming is Paradise? How about you write about that?

      Google “washington state taxes” if you think the tax status there is so great.

      If you pay no taxes who pays for: road improvements, bridge replacements/repairs, schools, police/fire departments, water treatment plants, and any other “services” we all take for granted?

      Quoting you: “Comparing Blue and Red is not possible unless you consider all factors.” Same goes for state to state comparisons.

      • K. Beck says:

        Obviously this was meant to be a reply to Cheyenne.

      • cheyenne says:

        Kbeck, FMRs in Wyoming pay for roads, bridges, schools and other services. Here in Laramie County the fifth penny sales tax pays for road improvements while the sixth penny sales tax pays for construction projects from a recreation center, fire stations to art centers. The state raised the fuel tax 10 cents a gallon to pay for road repairs on roads that 70% of the traffic is out of state drive through traffic. I don’t bash California, it is a great state that I enjoyed living in, I bash those in California whose elitist attitude condemns all things non California. I have written about Wyoming complete with pictures.
        Besides the big Blue/Red battle is being played out by the big boys, Amazon and WalMart. The Republicans don’t like Amazon because they can’t control it and the Democrats don’t like WalMart because they can’t control them.

        • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

          Hey Cheyenne, if you think I’m a California-phile, think again. In my heart, Colorado is home. I’d rather live in Colorado, Hawaii, maybe even Utah or New Mexico than California. I even love the hill country in Texas. I’m obligated, not infatuated.

          It’s not the red states I don’t like. It’s not people from red states I don’t like (with some exceptions—Roy Moore can choke on his own vomit). It’s red-state politicians who have gone so upside-down on conservative principles for the past 40 years that I don’t like. It’s red-state politicians who are so holier-than-thou about everything from social issues to economic policies while brazenly sponging off of the blue states.

  3. conservative says:

    The voters will decide on election day in 2018 and 2020. An annual GDP growth rate of 4% could mean the trend will continue. The Reid-Obama-Pelosi policies led to republican wins in the House, Senate, White House, many governorships and legislative seats. Voters choices in the next two elections could mean another Supreme Court seat or two.

    Kamala Harris or Michelle Obama will probably be the Democrats next presidential candidate.

    I think Shasta county will continue to vote Republican by about the usual margins. The statement of vote on the county website gives the numbers of recent election results. Voters will decide based on quality of life and pocketbook issues. Many Republican voters have seen the numbers for Democrat voting Humboldt county, know about the quality of life in Humboldt and know how Shasta county Democrats think.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      Were it not for extreme gerrymandering and the electoral college, the GOP likely would not hold the House of Representatives and certainly would not hold the White House. I’ve given up on predicting elections, though. The polls say the special election in Alabama is supposedly neck-and-neck, but I wouldn’t be surprised if kiddy-groper Roy Moore wins by 5% to 10%. People don’t like to admit right out loud that they’re voting for douchebags, but when a guy pulls the privacy curtain in the voting booth, he’s alone with his true moral compass.

      Increasingly, elections are decided by independents like me. Most Democrats and Republicans will vote party line, no matter what. I think you’re right about Shasta County, though—the GOP has a strangle-hold. Pictures of LaMalfa engaged in an inappropriate act with a dead goat could materialize, and he’d still get re-elected.

      • Gary Tull says:

        The Republican Party uses gerrymandering and voter suppression to remain in power. It has ceased to believe in any form of compromise or negotiation with Democrats or liberals. This has made consensus politics and a healthy, responsive, functioning government all but impossible. The middle-class majority is dependent on decisions by Congress. Not a good prospect. Our best hope at the moment may be in the hands of Robert Mueller and the Special Council — a major administration shake-up. Maybe then, Congress critters would start seeing things differently. Another possibility, — the Me Too movement against Trump. I wish the best of luck there but I’m not betting on it.

        • K. Beck says:

          I know this is a “States Rights” bugaboo, but election laws really need to be federally standardized and regulated. We all get hosed because some states want to rig their elections. It should be one rule for ALL elections, doesn’t matter what state you vote in.

          I think the committee that redrew the lines in CA last time did a pretty good job…got rid of most of the gerrymandering (which is done by BOTH parties in case you have an doubts about that).

          When The Carter Center started going to different countries to observe elections I wondered why they didn’t start in the US!

      • K. Beck says:

        Voter registrations are simply an indication of something, sometimes I am not even sure what they indicate. I have married friends who each register to vote for a different party simply because they want to get voter information from both sides of the equation. Then you have people like me who change parties on a regular basis depending on what is going on. I had to re-register last time in order to vote in the Dem primary. I vote for the candidate, not the party. I spend most of my time on the fence, then jump off on one side or the other.

        I have done enough GOTV (Get Out The Vote) on election days to understand there are LOTS of people who don’t vote a party line.

    • K. Beck says:

      I am pretty sure Michelle Obama wouldn’t touch a run for President with a 50 ft. pole dipped in poison. She lived that for 8 years. She was overjoyed to get out of DC. Having said that, I think she would have been a better bet than her hubby in 2009. Something I cannot say for Hillary, peas in a pod she and Bill.

      RE: Harris, she doesn’t have the experience needed to be President. That was the main problem with Obama. He knew no one so hired all the left overs from Clinton. BIG mistake!

  4. Frank Treadway says:

    Great political analysis Steve…and then guess who’s taking it all away from the average working person ? Yep, that’s right, Mr LaMalfa (IR)-Irrational Conservative, voting his own rice-filled pocketbook with millions of subsidized dollars…and then again he votes against children’s food stamps, heartless that is. CA would not survive as a no-income tax state, it’s the difference between the population stats and reality. You can’t compare a couple of million folks to California’s population as a virtual successful country of its own. Sorry Mr. Conservative, your so-called theory about Humboldt vs Shasta Co. voters just doesn’t pencil out.

    • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

      I couldn’t gauge what point “Conservative” was trying to make with the Humboldt/Shasta counties comparison. I’m guessing the intent was to paint Shasta County as preferable. Based solely on the ratio of Democrats to Republicans? Who knows.

      Humboldt County’s demographics are interesting. Compared with the rest of California, there are two big “bubbles” of over-represented cohorts that don’t contribute much directly to economic vitality: (1) 18- to 22-year-olds, courtesy of Humboldt State University (who largely show up as low income), and (2) older baby boomers, who I’m speculating are mostly retired equity refugees.

      We have the latter bubble of retired oldsters, but not the bubble of students (unless you count the Bethel crowd—but you can’t argue with a straight face that they’re not directly contributing to our economic vitality).

      • K. Beck says:

        At least half the “Bethel people” I have met are in the US from some other country. They pay taxes but cannot vote…not sure where they fit in the Blue/Red conversations. Doesn’t matter how Red/Blue they are. Loosely they are 10% of the residents in Shasta Co. But, they come and go (many have to leave every summer, then come back in the fall because of visa restrictions, so how should they be counted? Or should they be counted at all in a political sense?

        • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

          I brought them up as somewhat synonymous with Humboldt State students. In the ways you describe, many are short-timers, like students. I think you’d be surprised by how many Bethel people have settled here and have augured into the community. Many vote; one is on City Council. Bethel really has changed the face of the town.

    • K. Beck says:

      CA could get rid of the state income tax, then tax everything else, like Washington State. NOT a viable solution IMHO. Governments need to get their money somewhere, and it will ALWAYS be from the citizens. Seems to be a foreign concept to many, many, many people!

  5. conservative says:

    google
    “California can preserve state and local tax deduction, even if Congress ends it” for a Bee article

  6. Grammy says:

    Taxation on taxes. Mmm sounds un-constitutional.

  7. The Old Pretender says:

    Obama was a warmonger; that is not a Democrat liberal ideal.

  8. Common Sense says:

    All this tax talk and Money talk……So the County of Shasta has said NO to Prop 64 and the Tax money it Would bring in….not to mention jobs!

    >>>So what is Your Plan to Offset the lost Tax Revenues? Lost Jobs that would have been created? And the Lost grants now that you have said NO? <<<

    If there is NO Plan…..then Clearly we have a Failure to Truly "Represent" what is in the Community and County Residents Best Interest ( More Money)!!

    No extra Money….no extra Jail Space…..No Grants…No extra Officers! No money to " Clean up cartel Grow sites"…..

    So your PLAN Shasta Board of Supervisors ?? We are waiting…..

  9. Common Sense says:

    To me…saying No ( Prop 64) to the Extra Millions over the years….now that….that is Bizarro!

    • cheyenne says:

      According to today’s Denver Cannabist, more California towns beside Redding are hesitant on legal MJ. Fremont wants all MJ growers to register with the police. Richmond is for it while Antioch is against it. Santa Cruz County is for it while Palo Alto is against it. Just a friendly update from the hall monitor.

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