Monday, August 18, 2008

MN-01 : Is the Reluctant Millionaire Doctor Rich ?

Pastor Rick Warren, best selling author of A Purpose Driven Life, during the Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency, asked the candidates to define “rich”.
WARREN: “OK. Taxes, this is a real simple question. Define rich. [ laughter ] I mean give me a number, Is it $50,000, $100,000, 200,000? Everybody keeps talking about who we’re going to tax. How can you define that?
OBAMA: “You know, if you’ve got book sales of $25 million, then you qualify.
[ laughter ] [ applause ]
OBAMA: “Yes.
WARREN: “No, I’m not asking about me.
OBAMA: “Look, the - here’s how I think about it. Here’s how I think about it. And this is reflected in my tax plan. If you are making $150,000 a year or less, as a family, then you’re middle class or you may be poor. But $150,000 down you’re basically middle class, obviously depends on the region where you’re living.
WARREN: “In this region, you’re poor.
OBAMA: “Yes, well - depending. I don’t know what housing practices are going. I would argue that if you’re making more than $250,000, then you’re in the top three percent, four percent of this country. You’re doing well. Now, these things are all relative. And I’m not suggesting that everybody is making over $250,000 is living on easy street. But the question that I think we have to ask ourselves is, if we believe in good schools, if we believe in good roles, if we want to make sure that kids can go to college, if we don’t want to leave a mountain of debt for the next generation. Then we’ve got to pay for these things, they don’t come for free, and it is irresponsible.

A straight answer to a straight-forward question.
$250,000 salary is rich and $150,000 and below is middle class.

When asked the same question, McCain failed to give a direct answer instead he tried to connect a happy state of mind to being rich and --- hopefully in jest, said -- “So, I think if you are just talking about income, how about $5 million?
But hidden in his answer was the comment “I don’t want to take any money from the rich — I want everybody to get rich."
A laudable goal which may be more realistically achievable if he was still trying to create a happy state of mind than financial net worth.

I don’t want to get into the comparison of the Presidential candidate’s net worth as we know they are both out of our neighborhoods… while Obama may live in a $1.65 million Georgian revival Kenwood mansion while McCain's ten homes are valued at $13,823,269
It’s safe to say that they are both “rich”.

In reality, aren't most people who run for federal offices "rich" ?

Yet, in Minnesota, we have a candidate who is reluctant to acknowledge his financial status. In fact, he has stated that “I don’t believe our total assets, even with our house, that we’re over $1 million.”

OK, but Mayo Clinic Dr. Brian Davis reported a salary of $411,720 while his wife, Dr. Lori Lillienberg also received a salary from the Mayo Clinic totaling $52,009.31 in 2007. With the benefits offered by his employer including a 401k plan, most would consider Davis “rich”.

Why this charade ?
Dr. Davis you are “rich” … after all, most do not have the $124,000 to loan or $60,614 to donate to a Congressional campaign. link
Spending money like that may be “technically” why you may not be a millionaire ... but you wouldn't have it to give if you weren't "rich".

For Davis his theme is “Drill here, Drill now” yet, with a national debt that has skyrocketed during the Bush years, he needs to address the important questions regarding tax policy.
Will you tax the "rich" or ignore the problem for future generations to address?
Will you promote a program of tax fairness ?

Davis has said that a good Congressman “focuses on the bottom line and works to reduce spending and taxes.”
So far, Davis has only expressed his support for eliminating the Estate Tax (which I suppose may get him some votes from millionaires).
Thus he has promoting a lower tax revenue base which supports his analysis that “Our budget deficit in Washington has been created because of a spending problem, not an income problem.”
What spending programs would he cut ?
Davis expressed displeasure with the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (aka the Farm Bill which was approved by overwhelming margins : House 317-109 Senate 80-14) because it contained “bad parts” such as the USDA’s Food and Nutritional programs that assist working families and seniors.
How will he address other entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security ?

There are many other issues that need to be addressed, but to this fiscal conservative, tax fairness is at the center and to me Obama outlined a fair plan :

OBAMA: “What I can say is under the approach I’m taking, if you make $150,000 or less, you will see a tax cut. If you’re making $250,000 a year or more, you’re going to see a modest increase. What I’m trying to do is create a sense of balance, and fairness in our tax code. One thing I think we can all agree on, is that it should be simpler so that you don’t have all these loopholes and big stacks of stuff that you’ve got to comb through, which wastes a huge amount of money and allows special interests to take advantage of things that ordinary people cannot take advantage of.

Obama’s ideas seem to fall in sync with Tim Walz’s Middle-Class Tax Fairness Act which will cut taxes for 61 million taxpayers and save an average of $750 on their taxes this year if his legislation were enacted. The Walz Middle Class Tax is fiscally responsible and fully paid for by cutting government waste and tax give-aways for big corporations. The Walz legislation would also help pay down nearly $60 billion of the national debt.

Davis --- millionaire or not – needs to tell us what his idea is for a Fair Tax plan … continued budget deficits will haunt future generations.

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