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Del. Ken Plum: In the Name of Tax Reform

by Del. Ken Plum December 5, 2017 at 10:15 am 76 Comments

This is a commentary from Del. Ken Plum (D-Fairfax), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

If there are any impartial observers left listening to the debate in Washington, D.C. on tax reform, they must be left scratching their heads over what they are hearing. When the wealthy have never had as much money as they have today, leadership in Congress is considering a tax bill that will cut the taxes of the very richest.

When income of the lowest to the middle classes has been stagnant or falling for decades, the latest tax reform proposals would raise their taxes. Under the guise of simplifying taxes, we are about to simply raise the taxes of those least able to pay and to enrich those who already have more money than they can spend in a century. Aren’t there enough sensible members of Congress left who have not sold out to the monied interests to put a stop to this craziness?

Members of Congress may tell me to tend to my own knitting at the state level, but actions at the federal level do impact state budgets. Virginia has been particularly dependent on federal spending even though there has been an effort to reduce that dependency in recent years. While Congress can approve an unbalanced budget like the one being discussed that will add more than $1.5 trillion to the national debt, states cannot afford that irresponsible luxury.

Virginia must pass a balanced biennium budget in 2018; the task will not be easy. A recent report by The Commonwealth Institute found that “Virginia’s current revenue system isn’t keeping up with changes and growth in the overall economy, and that’s putting the future prosperity of families and businesses at risk.” (The Commonwealth Institute, “A Tax System for Yesterday: Slow Revenue Growth amid Economic Change, November 13, 2017).

The Institute found that “the way the current revenue system works was designed decades ago, with provisions that no longer work for today’s economy…” For example, the shifts in consumer spending and growth in e-commerce nearly doubling in the last decade have contributed to a decline in state sales tax revenue relative to the total economy as internet sales mostly are not taxed. Likewise the shift of consumer spending from goods to services that are not taxed in Virginia added to the decline. There are opportunities in the tax code to update its corporate tax system to reduce opportunities for tax avoidance, according to The Institute.

The usual method of balancing the budget by simply dividing revenue among programs will no longer work in Virginia as the pace of growth of needs has out-stripped the growth in revenue. Some programs and services will once again be left under-funded. Shifting costs to local governments for things like public education has been resorted to in recent years, but that is a well that has largely dried up.

Virginia is going to need to do a serious accounting of its unmet needs with the public and the legislature deciding what we are going to seriously fund and what needs will go unmet. As the federal government plays with reforming the national tax structure, it is past time for Virginia to get serious about our own tax reform.

  • Here comes the new taxes

    Dont worry ken, you will have plenty of our money with the 40 dollar tolls on I66. I am sure you and your democrat buddies will put up speed cameras and red light cameras in the name of safety just so you can rake in more of our cash.

    • OneReally

      Isn’t funny how the tolls when active after the state election. With the governor in his last days doesn’t matter to him.

      Ralph can blame the prior administration.

    • Chuck Morningwood

      Seems to me that if the market will bear $40 tolls, then maybe that should be the price. Or do you have a problem with “free market” pricing mechanisms.

      Anyway, don’t like it? Either take the train or start riding a motorcycle, which is still free on 66.

      • Mike M

        Train is not free. Motorcycles are dangerous.

        I-66 is already paid for. We need more roads and less welfare. And a Metro that is not hobbled by its union.

        • Chuck Morningwood

          You’re right. The train isn’t free. That was poorly worded on my part.

          I rode motorcycles through there for years as part of my commute. Except for one crazed Teahadist who resented my Obama sticker, I never had a problem.

          We need more people going in that direction to take advantage of mass transit. If $40 each way is that inspiration, well, then either get a 450cc Honda Rebel, or get a SmartPass, or get a new job.

          As for unions, we need more of them to protect worker interests, not fewer of them.

          • Mike M

            Unions are economic rot. They protect themselves. The Metro Union is lethal and will ultimately kill Metro.

          • Chuck Morningwood

            You mean, the same way that corporations protect themelves? Shareholders band together into corporations in order to protect their interests. Why is it wrong for workers to band together into unions in order to protect their interests?

          • Mike M

            Sometimes, but we have the laws passed by elected representation. Corporations also provide the jobs in the first place. They face market forces also. Unions are completely parasitical, have no incentive to be efficient, and invariably drift toward the criminal.

          • Chuck Morningwood

            So, basically you’re saying that labor is a parasite, leeching off the flesh of the corporations. I’m guessing that you don’t work for a living.

          • Mike M

            No. But it would be easier for a debater if he could put words into the mouth of his opponent, eh?

            I am saying unions are parasites on labor and capital. Need further explanation or are you going to do more creative interpretation?

          • Chuck Morningwood

            Unions are not living things, but representations of collections of like (or similarly) minded people. If you besmirch unions, you besmirch the people they represent.

            It’s like saying Exxon is a bad corporation. It’s not only a stain on Exxon as a corporation, but on all of the people who populate it as well.

          • Mike M

            Not true. The AFL-CIO was run by thugs. It wasn’t made up of thugs. And you will see how unions try and try again with much success to force people into their ranks. You are fundamentally incorrect.

          • Chuck Morningwood

            So, it’s not as if corporations didn’t employee thugs as well to break the backs of unions.

            Show me which modern American unions are being run by “thugs”.

          • Mike M

            I don’t live in the past? Do you?

            To me the fact that some workers have no choice but to joint is all I owe you.

          • Chuck Morningwood

            You’re the one who raised the spectre of the past (“was run”), not me. I was simply pointing out that (1) during that time, some businesses weren’t any better behaved and (2) current behavior isn’t the same as past behavior.

            And just like you have a choice in where you spend your dollars and work, so workers also have a choice in where they work and spend their money.

          • Mike M

            Not always true. Unions work hard to corner certain markets.

          • Chuck Morningwood

            And businesses don’t try to do the same? The only thing that keeps them in check is the looming prospect of anti-trust litigation. Even then, that doesn’t stop some. Take a look at Microsoft.

          • Mike M

            Business actually generate something of value that people want. Unions are totally parasitical.

          • Chuck Morningwood

            And workers don’t generate value? After all, aren’t workers also part of these same businesses, or does only management count as part of the value equation of business?

            Again, why is it okay for shareholders to represent there interests collectively but not okay for workers to do the same?

          • Mike M

            Workers, yes. Unions, no. Unions does not equal workers. It’s simple but you have obviously sipped the Kool Aid.

            Workers can go take their labor somewhere else and sell it at market rates. Shareholders have skin in the game. If they can’t keep up with the labor market, then they can also lose.

          • Chuck Morningwood

            Workers are people too. They have a stake in the success of the company. And if workers decided the best way to represent their interests is through a union, then that is their choice.

            BTW, shareholders have choices as well. If they don’t like the way the company is running, they too can sell their shares and move their capital to a different venture.

            So, both sides of the equation have “skin in the game”. This is not a parasitic relationship; it is a symbiotic one.

          • Mike M

            It is parasitic. The shareholders create the job. Workers should take it or leave it. That is the simple difference.

          • Chuck Morningwood

            No it isn’t. Without labor, the shareholders don’t have squat.

          • Mike M

            They won’t go without labor if they offer wages that are acceptable to the labor, not some third party entity that created nothing but hopes to feed off of it.

          • Chuck Morningwood

            You mean, a “corporation” is also a THIRD PARTY entity used to represent the interests of the shareholders, whose primary reason for existing is the exploitation of its workers, customers, vendors and the community, all for the enrichment of the shareholders.

            And, in case you don’t think workers need to be protected, from today’s WaPo:

            =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

            “I was shocked,” Crooks told Kelly after describing Trump kissing her at Trump Tower. “Devastated. It happened so fast … I wish I would’ve been courageous enough to say, ‘What’s going on and you need to stop this.'”

            Crooks said she felt at the time that she had no way to respond to the situation out of fear that if she reported it to her bosses — who did business with Trump’s organization — she might lose her job. “I wish I had been stronger,” she said. Crooks said she came forward after reading an account from another woman accusing Trump of misconduct, saying that this made her feel a sense of relief knowing that “it wasn’t just me.”

            =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

            The woman felt she coulnd’t say anything at the time because SHE MIGHT LOSE HER JOB.

          • Mike M

            You are a hopeless Socialist. The corporation is not a third party. They create wealth. They create jobs. Unions create nothing but dues, control, and Democratic votes. Look at our Metro union. It has destroyed Metro.

          • drb

            I have read a lot of this argument and agree mostly with you on it. But, Unions are OK. They do offer something.Our friend of the Morning doesn’t seem to be able express it though. So to help him out they offer a supply of labor at a constant cost that a business can budget for without fluctuation. That is a very important thing to a business.

            That said it isn’t of value if it is a closed shop state where it is forced on the business and the business and consumers have to pay the price of high prices and lower quality to make up for the monopoly of the labor. (side note here: ever notice how quick Liberals jump to attack a monopoly of business but scream if labor and government isn’t allowed to be one.?)
            In a right to work state both individual and union labor is available to what a business wishes to use. In a perfect world the unions would supply a well trained worker at a contracted price and that would make an employer think it is a good deal. Instead what we have is unions saying we represent workers on wage and compensation but offer no trained work force. It is up to the employer to train and make a value of the employee.
            Unions have an opportunity but will not take it.

          • Chuck Morningwood

            Absolutely not true. The corporation is a third-party between the shareholders and the people from whom they hope to profit: customers, workers, vendors and the community. It’s is rare indeed when the shareholders actually interface directly with those listed entities. When they need to address these entities, they use the “front” of the corporation.

            In fact, the “corporation” is used to limit the liability of the shareholders. When there is any malfeasance performed in the name of the corporation, generally, the shareholder’s liability is limited just to the extent of their investment. Workers, on the other hand, stand to not only lose their livelihood, but are much more likely to be fined or jailed than the shareholders might be.

          • Mike M

            The corporation is the organization used to manage the organization. It is a part of it. The union is a parasitical third party.

          • Chuck Morningwood

            The corporation is the organization used to do the bidding of the shareholders over workers. The union/s is/are used to do the bidding of the workers.

            Face it, MM. You love shareholders but hate workers.

          • Mike M

            I am a worker. But my employment is between me and my employer. Not some third party parasite.

          • Chuck Morningwood

            Then I guess you don’t work for a corporation, because your ultimate employer would be the owners of the company.

          • Mike M

            I work for a corporation. I am responsible to my employees. I have fired duds. I hope my stars stick around. I do what I can for them. If my corporation lets me down I can leave.

          • Chuck Morningwood

            Same with union members. If you don’t like it, you can leave. If you don’t like the leadership, you can vote them out (unlike you and your corporate masters). If you have an grievance with your employers, you can at least talk to the shop steward or other union representative instead of just settling for whatever the company decides is in their best interest.

          • Mike M

            No. But the union should not have a monopoly on an employer. The employee should never have to choose between the union and the job. That should be between the employer and the employee. Unions are purely parasitical.

          • Chuck Morningwood

            In the Commonwealth of Virginia, the union doesn’t have a monopoly on the employer. There are no closed shops. If you want to join the union, you can; and if you don’t want to, you don’t have to.

          • Mike M

            That is good for Virginia. But that right to work policy is under constant left wing attack.

          • Mike M

            I am aware. Doesn’t mean the union is not parasitical. It also doesn’t mean they don’t apply pressures.

          • drb

            The sexual exploitation issue doesn’t fit here. Unless you are referring to a free market exchange of goods and services.

            But to answer that issue since it is all over the news (job related at least). The women succumb to the pressure because they know that what they have to offer in talent isn’t that special and another woman will do what is asked to get the spot the first woman, now complaining, is after. The dirt bag knows it and supposes she will be bought with his favor.

            I don’t agree that it is right but what we are talking about is the women were bought and now regrets it after years of success because of it. Harvey took advantage of his position and the women took advantage of their position.

            As to Trump, he says it didn’t happen. So until proof it is just pandering to the lowest argument without which you have none. Much the way Obama did with his remarks a couple days ago.

          • The Constitutionalist

            The difference is that shareholders own a stake in the company. They get to choose the direction the company goes because they own it. You get to decide what happens to the things you own.

            A worker does not get to decide the direction a company goes because they do not own a stake in the business. If the company is employee owned or publicly traded, they can do something to change that and exchange their money for a stake in the business, or at a basic level, trade their labor for a stake in the business.

            The employee gets to make a different choice however, they get to choose whether or not they want to work for that employer or not. The worker gets all the power, if they don’t want to work for specific terms they can go somewhere else. We don’t need unions. This isn’t the 1930s. If you get used and abused by your employer because you allowed it to happen and didn’t choose to take your labor somewhere else, whose fault is it?

          • Chuck Morningwood

            Sure, management gets to decide direction, but workers also have a stake in the fortunes of the company. And while workers can always leave if they don’t like the way things are going, the shareholders can also do the same: they can sell their shares and move their capital to a different venture.

            If management, btw, makes their workers so unhappy that they feel the need to unionize, who’s fault is that?

          • The Constitutionalist

            Why would the person who controls the direction of the company leave if they didn’t like what direction the company was going? That’s not really how it works. It’s on the shareholders to decide the direction and change it if they don’t like it. It isn’t the responsibility of the worker, and no, the worker does not have a stake in the fortunes of the company, that is for shareholders.

            This isn’t the 1930s where there literally was no other choice for you and you could only work in the coal mine or for the track laying company and families had to send their 9 kids to work to put cornmeal on the table and pay doctors to treat their black lungs.

            It’s literally 2017 where there are nearly more college educated people than the opposite and you can take your pick of anything you want to do with your life. It isn’t anyone’s fault but your own the choices that have led to where you are in life. The hand you need for help is attached to your own body.

            I don’t really care about the wage gap. The quality of life of even the poorest person in 2017 is higher now than it’s ever been. Now the poverty stricken family has a 3 bedroom house and two cars.

  • Campaign promise 15%

    Germany has a 15% corporate income tax and has been the #1 economy worldwide if you consider the fact that they don’t rely too much on defense spending.

    America in turn has trouble committing to a 20% corporate income tax and has heavily relied on defense spending and corporate welfare, eg Amazon 2nd HQ.

    Ken’s party is largely to blame for this huge misunderstanding. American workers have to pay the bill.

    • The Constitutionalist

      While I agree that we spend an awful lot on defense, it isn’t really even close to being the largest part of our budget…

      600b military vs somewhere between 2t – 2.45t welfare spending.

      • Chuck Morningwood

        And what percentage of Germany’s economy goes to “welfare spending”? Seems to me that they Heinies have a pretty robust “social safety net”.

        • Hart IV

          Germany is most concerned about children. If a poor man finds himself in dire straits because 3 out of 4 of his wife’s have run out of cash and food, well then, government is there to assist!

          Ken, are you taking notes?

          • The Constitutionalist

            I think you mean the German taxpayer is there to assist.

        • Mike M

          They have a more sluggish economy. We are not like them. We have global security commitments. Are you saying it is OK to borrow from our children to give the money away via programs that are proven not to solve any problem, and some times to make them worse.

          • Chuck Morningwood

            By most measures, the Heinies are doing as well, if not better than we are. And, are you faulting them because they’ve managed to remain disentangled from foreign global military adventures?

            We don’t need more military. We need less. I wouldn’t want to spend ourselves in to oblivion propping up the military as happened with the Soviet Union, and is likely to happen again with the Russian Federation.

          • Mike M

            They have hidden behind our skirt.

          • OneReally

            You have no idea what this world really looks like do you?

            Us with less Military equals you speaking a new language.

          • Chuck Morningwood

            And just exactly which “new language” do you think we’re going to wind up speaking? Tell me, which country poses an existential and occupying threat to us?

          • OneReally

            Let’s see……

            Chinese
            Russian

            Trust me I thought like you at one point. I was 17 though.

            Then I joined the military and seen 2/3rd of the world.

            It’s not a safe place without the US Military.

            Just drink YOUR DAMN STARBUCKS and say thank you to all of the active duty military.

          • Chuck Morningwood

            My thoughts are that they aren’t any more capable of taking over our country than they are of taking over ours. Had you really thought about what toll it would take on their countries to try to conquer the US, much less assimilate our culture?

          • drb

            Would say yes and no here. Not a up or down

      • Thanks Ken ♡

        In FY 2018 total US government spending on welfare — federal, state, and local — is “guesstimated” to be $1,155 billion, including $716 billion for Medicaid, and $439 billion in other welfare.

        FY 2018 defense budget promises a “historic” defense buildup. At $603 billion in the base national defense budget, some $54 billion over the Budget Control Act caps, it grows the size of military slightly and boosts RDT&E efforts, but doesn’t move the needle on procurement.

        • The Constitutionalist

          Let’s not forget Social Security spending as well at 916b.

      • RERSRESQ

        Spend too little on defense and you will soon pay an even more dear price. Weakness has usually led to war as in 1941…not strong years including after Reagan addressed the defense deficit and then the Berlin Wall came down and we enjoyed the peace dividend.

        • The Constitutionalist

          You’re preaching to the wrong person, buddy. I said we spend an awful lot on defense, not that we spend too much.

      • Case Study

        Most Americans don’t know what a trillion is.

  • The Constitutionalist

    Ah yes, the solution is always to tax the people who have more, keep some for ourselves, and then give a little to the poor.

    I have yet to hear a rational argument connecting the amount of money you make and the amount the government deserves to take.

    Internet sales are absolutely taxed. Stop living in the bookstore Amazon world and buy something online and look for yourself.

    Rightly so according to you, gotta pay taxes on my work, gotta pay taxes on my purchases, gotta pay taxes on my estate when I die, gotta pay vehicle taxes every year for some reason…

    Is there anything we shouldn’t be taxed on?

    • OneReally

      My dog. Yes, it’s a tax.

      • The Constitutionalist

        You actually have to pay sales tax in VA if you purchase a pet.

        • OneReally

          I was referring to the Dog license, but yes sales tax as well.

    • Chuck Morningwood

      “I have yet to hear a rational argument connecting the amount of money you make and the amount the government deserves to take.”

      =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

      That’s because it really is all arbitrary. With that said, if you don’t like the current rates, then you should vote in somebody willing to change the rates, as well as the services delivered. Until then, well, you’re just going to have to continue to pay the tax man.

      • The Constitutionalist

        Oh, I completely forgot about my civic duty as an American. Thanks for the lesson.

    • drb

      What services is Ken buying that isnt taxed? Is he the next to go down for sexual harrasement?

  • 40yearsinreston

    Another week and more polemics from Whiner Ken about how tough it is sitting on his butt in Richmond
    Has he made any proposals or have any suggestions ?

    • drb

      No!!!!

  • Mike M

    Synopsis: Ken wants even higher state taxes and doesn’t like cuts in the federal taxe rates.

    Ironically, Ken could have found plenty in the current considered bills with which he could logically skewer the useless GOP. There is so much wrong with it. But Ken can only play class warfare and whine for more revenue. It’s what his party does. I am so done with the parties.

    So, Ken. If you were to “stick to your knitting” in Richmond, what exactly would you be doing? Knitting?

  • RERSRESQ

    This guy never met a tax cut he supported and is always pimping for big government and high taxes.

    Why is Plum silent on the complete ripoff of commuter fees of up to $35 on 66? Government led us believe the tolls would be eliminated after the road was paid. That was a lie and Plum has done nothing to protect Reston commuters. It is because he loves high taxes and high fees.

    • John Higgins

      Not being a commuter, I didn’t see this toll coming and I was floored by how high it could be. But as I understand it, the road remains free for HOV users; single-occupant vehicles had been prohibited at peak times – they now have the option to use it with generous homage to the king. These variable tolls have not (YET) crept beyond the Beltway. Can we start a betting pool as to how soon that will happen?

      • drb

        The hours are extended and expected to go from hov2+ to hov3+. Hov was to reduce vehicles on the road because of federal requirements for pollution. But money is higher priority.

  • RoadApples

    By far: my favorite tax; I look forward to pay is my yearly Fairfax County Dog tax/tags.
    I believe a $ Alexander Hamilton this year.

    • OneReally

      Indeed. Waiting in line for mine today.

      • Mike M

        Woof!

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