Whitehouse: Tax the Billionaires and Save Social Security

From the Whitehouse Press Office:
Senators Offering Amendment to Protect Social Security in Budget

Washington, DC – As the Senate continues debating the Republican budget proposal this week, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) will offer an amendment to guard against potential efforts to cut Social Security benefits. The Democratic amendment would establish as “not in order” any budget proposals that would reduce Social Security benefits, increase the retirement age, or privatize Social Security.

Senator Whitehouse will speak on the Senate floor at approximately 4:00 p.m. to call up this amendment. Please tune in on C-Span 2 or online. The amendment was filed by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), in addition to Whitehouse.

“Social Security benefits are a solemn promise that our seniors have earned over a lifetime of work,” said Whitehouse. “Sadly, Republicans have made it their mission for decades to dismantle that promise, attempting to turn it over to Wall Street and cut benefits through misguided ideas like the so-called ‘chained-CPI.’ Our amendment would protect Social Security from these kinds of right-wing attacks and ensure that seniors can continue to count on the benefits they have earned.”

“Social Security is the most successful government program in our nation’s history. Through good times and bad, Social Security has paid out every benefit owed to every eligible American,” Sanders said. “The most effective way to strengthen Social Security for the future is to eliminate the cap on the payroll tax on all income above $250,000 so millionaires and billionaires pay the same share as everyone else.”

The amendment could come up for a vote on the floor as early as this afternoon or tomorrow.

Social Security is projected to remain fully solvent through 2033 and is not driving our current budget deficits. Senator Whitehouse has long argued that it has no place in short-term budget debates, and supports a long-term solution that would make the program solvent for future generations by asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share into the system.

A Community Foundation Playing a Big Role in the Next Health Care Battle: Payment Reform – Inside Philanthropy: Fundraising Intelligence

Back in December, we wrote about the Rhode Island Foundation blazing a trail for health care reform by convening Rhode Island health care stakeholders and getting everyone to sign on to a reform agenda. A key plank of that agenda is expanding and developing “alternative reimbursement models that reward value and patient-centric care delivery.” Translation: let’s scrap fee-for-service.

A few weeks later, we learned that this movement may have a national impact, with the Obama administration borrowing much of the language and many ideas of the Rhode Island health care reform agenda. In January, the Department of Health and Human Services announced ambitious goals for moving Medicare payments away from traditional fee-for-service reimbursement.

via A Community Foundation Playing a Big Role in the Next Health Care Battle: Payment Reform – Inside Philanthropy: Fundraising Intelligence – Inside Philanthropy.

Billionaire Currency Trader George Soros Warns Against Investing Public Pension Money In Hedge Funds

Here in Rhode Island, the issue of hedge fund investing of pension dollars has been a source of much conflict and concern. Hopefully with so many financial experts now leading our state government (Tom Sgouros, Seth Magaziner, Gina Raimondo, I’m talking to you!) we can make sure that public pension dollars in Rhode Island are invested wisely.

Billionaire Currency Trader George Soros Warns Against Investing Public Pension Money In Hedge Funds.

Whitehouse Calls for Tax Fairness, Billionaires to Pay Their Fair Share

Good news and more good news:  Senator Whitehouse is looking for ways to put the middle class first, get billionaires to pay their fair share, and generate new revenues. Not for nothing, but sometimes I really wish Senator Whitehouse could have been Vice President with Obama. These are the reforms our country desperately needs. From the Whitehouse Press office:

Providence, RI – With President Obama and Republican leaders in Congress citing tax reform as a key area for bipartisan cooperation in the new year, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today announced that he will introduce three bills to make the federal tax system fairer for middle-class families and small businesses.  The package would end tax breaks and loopholes that benefit multi-national corporations and the highest earners, and is projected to generate over $300 billion in revenue over 10 years.

“Our tax code is riddled with giveaways and special deals for the biggest corporations and top earners, and that special treatment hurts hardworking Rhode Islanders,” said Whitehouse.  “Multi-national corporations stash assets and profits abroad to avoid paying a fair share in taxes.  Companies ship jobs overseas and get a tax break for doing it.  And billionaires pay lower tax rates than their secretaries.  These bills would help end this kind of special treatment for special interests, and generate hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue in the process.”

All three bills will be introduced tomorrow when the Senate is in session.  Senator Whitehouse will fight to include these proposals in any tax reform package that moves through the Senate.

Whitehouse’s plan includes:

The Paying a Fair Share Act – The Paying a Fair Share Act would implement the “Buffett Rule,” ensuring that multi-million-dollar earners pay at least a 30 percent effective federal tax rate.  The rule is named for legendary investor Warren Buffett, who has famously pointed out that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary.  The bill, which includes language to preserve the incentive for charitable giving, would generate an estimated $71 billion over ten years.

The Offshoring Prevention Act – Currently, U.S. companies that manufacture goods abroad for sale here at home are allowed to defer payment of federal income tax – waiting to pay taxes on foreign income in years that minimize their tax liability.  The Offshoring Prevention Act would require companies that send factories and jobs overseas to play by the same rules as ones supporting jobs in the U.S.  The bill would generate an estimated $20 billion in revenue over ten years.

The Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act – Estimates show that Fortune 500 companies hold roughly $2 trillion in offshore holdings to benefit from favorable foreign tax systems and bank secrecy.  Championed in previous Congresses by retired Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act would close loopholes that allow multi-national corporations to avoid paying a fair share in taxes by moving assets and profits through intricate networks of offshore subsidiaries and bank accounts.  This bill would generate at least $220 billion in revenue over ten years.

None of the bills prescribe uses for the revenue they would generate.  It would be up to Congress to decide how the funds would be spent – anything from investments in infrastructure to deficit reduction.

Whitehouse has been a leader in the Senate on tax fairness issues.  In addition to authoring the Buffett Rule and Offshoring Prevention legislation in previous Congresses, in 2013, he proposed a plan to replace strict austerity measures contained in the 2011 debt ceiling deal – the budget “sequester” – by closing tax loopholes that benefit the wealthiest Americans and big corporations, and he has spoken often of the injustices in our present tax code.

Block Island Wind Farm Transmission Line: Yay!

From the Whitehouse Press Office:

RI Delegation Lauds Approval of Block Island Wind Farm Transmission Line

Washington, DC – Yesterday the U.S. Department of the Interior announced that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has offered a right-of-way (ROW) grant to Deepwater Wind Block Island Transmission System, LLC (Deepwater Wind) for the Block Island Transmission System (BITS).  The announcement paves the way for the installation of a transmission line to carry energy from the Block Island Wind Farm to the Rhode Island mainland, and to give island residents access to the mainland electric grid.

U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Representatives Jim Langevin and David Cicilline, strong supporters of the offshore wind project, released the statements below praising the announcement:

“This decision by the BOEM marks the first right-of-way grant offered in federal waters for renewable energy transmission, a significant distinction for Rhode Island.  As the country reduces its dependence on oil, coal, and other fossil fuels, Rhode Island has the potential to benefit from this emerging renewable energy industry, while helping to chart its future,” said Senator Jack Reed (D-RI).

“The Block Island Wind Farm will bring cleaner and more affordable energy to Block Island’s residents while helping Rhode Island access the tremendous economic and environmental potential of our offshore wind,” said Whitehouse.  “It’s a milestone in our nation’s transition to a clean energy economy, and I’m proud that Rhode Island is leading the way.”

“Rhode Island has championed so many environmental conservation efforts and we are truly leading by example with the country’s first offshore wind farm.  This exciting news from BOEM is further evidence of our state’s important role in a nationwide movement to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and create a cleaner, more sustainable energy infrastructure now and for the future,” said Congressman Langevin, a founding member and energy task force chair of the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition.

“Rhode Island is leading the way in a clean energy future and this announcement marks important progress in the Ocean State and across the nation in harnessing renewable energy sources,” said Cicilline.  “I’m pleased to join with my colleagues in supporting this project, and I look forward to charting the economic and environmental progress this project represents in the coming years.”