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Hullabaloo


Sunday, June 19, 2016

 

What's fair is fair

by Tom Sullivan


Dick DeVos, Jr. residence on Michigan's Lake Macatawa.

Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) of Milwaukee plans to introduce a bill this week requiring drug testing for anyone claiming large tax deductions in a given year. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker wants to require drug screenings for those receiving public assistance? Fine, says Moore.

Think Progress:

Her “Top 1% Accountability Act” would require anyone claiming itemized tax deductions of over $150,000 in a given year to submit a clean drug test. If a filer doesn’t submit a clean test within three months of filing, he won’t be able to take advantage of tax deductions like the mortgage interest deduction or health insurance tax breaks. Instead he would have to make use of the standard deduction.
A spokesman for Moore told Atlantic, “We don’t drug test wealthy CEOs who receive federal subsidies for their private jets, nor do we force judges or public officials to prove their sobriety to earn their paychecks. Attaching special demands to government aid exclusively targets our country's most vulnerable individuals and families.” Alana Semuels writes:
The number of government tests and requirements for poor people receiving government aid has grown in recent years. Utah in 2012 passed a law requiring drug testing for recipients for Temporary Aid to Needy Families, Alabama passed a similar law in 2014, and Arkansas followed in 2015. Other states, including Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Kansas require drug testing if “reasonable suspicion” exists. These drug tests target people with almost no income who, in the case of states such as Arkansas, receive as little as $204 a month. And the drug tests hardly ever turn up positive. In 2014 Governor Rick Snyder signed a law in Michigan implementing a pilot program to drug test welfare recipients in three counties; none of the people in the pilot program have tested positive for drugs.
You have to wonder how Amway's Dick DeVos, Jr. would react if Rick Snyder demanded he send in a urine sample with his Michigan state taxes. Or in Wisconsin, trickle-down zealot and free market pamphleteer John Menard, Jr., or bathroom fixture magnate Herbert Kohler, Jr. Do you think the billionaires might give Scott Walker angry phone calls? (Any clue here that these Jr. bootstrap billionaires — like a certain Republican candidate for president — inherited their money?)


Image from Menard's home improvement online training.

Criminalizing poverty

Moore said in a statement:

As a strong advocate for social programs aimed at combating poverty, it deeply offends me that there is such a deep stigma surrounding those who depend on government benefits, especially as a former welfare recipient. Sadly, Republicans across the country continue to implement discriminatory policies that criminalize the less fortunate and perpetuate false narratives about the most vulnerable among us. These laws serve only one purpose: stoking the most extreme sentiments and misguided notions of the conservative movement.
So this proposal should appeal to them. Think of all the waste, fraud, and abuse to be stopped by cracking down on deadbeat itemizers. Think Progress continues:
Moore also thinks that while there is no evidence that drug testing welfare recipients saves states any money, drug tests for wealthy taxpayers could be different. “We would save a lot of money on this,” she said. “When you add up all of the tax expenditures, all the money we give really wealthy people, it really rivals the amount we spend on Defense, Social Security, Medicare.” The mortgage interest deduction, which overwhelmingly benefits people making more than $100,000, alone cost $70 billion in 2013, or 0.4 percent of GDP.

Her bill will also help illuminate this very fact: that so much is spent on tax expenditures, not just on direct aid programs like welfare and food stamps. “We think it’s important to engage in some transparency and accountability around tax deductions,” she said.
Because drug testing the Poors is all about transparency, isn't it?