Thursday, December 9, 2010

Democrats and the Tax Cuts

Stop And Think About The Ridiculousness Of The Democrats' Position On Taxes

Democrats are furious at Obama for "caving" to the GOP on taxes by agreeing to extend, for two years, the Bush tax cuts for wealthy Americans.


Stop to think about how mind bogglingly absurd this stance is.

The Democrats, it would appear, would are willing to risk rising middle-class taxes during a recession -- about as anti-stimulative as it gets -- if it means the wealthy aren't seeing taxes rise during this period. THAT'S HOW DEVOTED THEY ARE TO HIGHER TAXES.

The Democrats tried to create a political trap for the Republicans by getting them to vote against a middle class tax cut. Now it seems they are willing to jump in that trap themselves. Intelligence doesn’t seem to be the Democrats strong suit.

Tax cuts and the Democrats

Reality strikes. President Obama spurned the advice of columnists Paul Krugman and Katrina vanden Heuvel and agreed with Republicans to extend the current income tax rates -- the so-called Bush tax cuts -- for another two years.

He got a few things in return, primarily extended unemployment benefits for another 13 months, and agreed as well to a 2 percent cut in the Social Security payroll tax.

But he recognized the reality that in order to prevent a tax increase on those with incomes under $250,000 he had to prevent a tax increase on those over that line as well.

THIS HAS INFURIATED LIBERAL DEMOCRATS like outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., but THEY SHARE SOME OF THE BLAME THEMSELVES. They probably could have passed their version of the tax bill earlier this year, before the economic recovery stalled in the spring.

But with the economy faltering, THERE'S A STRONG ARGUMENT AGAINST RAISING ANYONE'S TAXES -- strong enough to have persuaded many congressional Democrats.
While the Democrats were fiddling (with healthcare, cap and trade, etc.) the economy was burning. It appears the Democrats even before the Republicans take office are becoming the party of NO.

Warren Buffet Robber Baron?

I know that we are all supposed to love Warren Buffett as the Sage of Omaha, businessman and all-around good guy, but I keep reading stories that make me wonder. Here's a story about Warren Buffett, the estate tax, and the life insurance industry.


Why would the life insurance industry care about that? It turns out that ten percent of life insurance industry revenue is related to the estate tax. WEALTHY PEOPLE TAKE OUT LIFE INSURANCE IN ORDER TO REDUCE ESTATE TAXES BECAUSE WHEN YOU DIE, YOUR LIFE INSURANCE PAYOUT DOESN'T COUNT AS PART OF YOUR ESTATE.

DID YOU KNOW THAT WARREN BUFFETT OWNS SIX LIFE INSURANCE COMPANIES? Did you know he supports the estate tax? You do now……

Even as Mr. Buffett's insurance companies are "protecting" family businesses from the IRS, he is buying companies that are forced to sell themselves to pay the death tax. MR. BUFFETT'S ABILITY TO BUY FAMILY BUSINESSES AT BARGAIN BASEMENT PRICES DEPENDS ON families being desperate to sell-and nothing produces family businesses desperate to sell quickly like A 55% BILL FROM THE IRS ON ALL OF THE BUSINESSES' ASSETS.

Buffet is using the law to promote his insurance investments or buying up business at bargain prices. That’s a win win situation for a modern day robber baron.

Hillary’s dilemma

It's that magical time of the year, so let's play political pretend. LET'S IMAGINE HILLARY TURNED DOWN THE SECRETARY-OF-STATE JOB TWO YEARS AGO.


And she'd be getting tons of encouragement. She'd be free to join and even lead the chorus of outraged Dems and turned-off independents.

Instead, SHE'S CHECKMATED HERSELF. By hitching her wagon to the shooting star Obama was in 2008, she effectively took herself out of the next presidential election.

It seemed like the smart thing to do at the time. Obama's smashing victory and huge popularity sparked talk of a generational realignment in favor of Democrats.

She'd come so close in the primaries that STATE WAS THE ONLY JOB THAT DIDN'T SEEM LIKE A DEMOTION. Besides, signing on to his team wasn't viewed as giving up anything in 2012 because there was no hope of challenging him. And 2016 was too far off to game.

But the demigod turns out to have clay feet, and Clinton is now stuck to him. HE'S FALLEN AND SHE CAN'T GET UP………

This is an interesting look at Hillary’s dilemma. I think she will make a run at the nomination, but I easily could be wrong.

NY Times Warning: Blue State Armageddon On The Way

The global financial crisis could be heading to a blue state near you: that is the latest grim news from the New York Times: “Mounting Debts by States Stoke Fears of Crisis.“ Normally a cheerleader for the free spending (in bluespeak, compassionate) policies of the public sector union dominated, high tax, high cost states like California, Illinois and New York, the Times now warns that fiscal ruin could be at hand.

The problem is state debt. New York, California and Illinois look more like Greece to their bondholders every day. Since the November elections, investors have been dumping their bonds, and hedge funds are betting against them, perhaps realizing that a Republican House is not going to offer generous, condition free bailouts.....
The Times story compares blue state debt to the subprime crisis and the Greek meltdown.
Big spenders are hurting this country. It’s time for the blue states to get some religion.

Wikileaks and the Long Haul

Like a lot of people, I am conflicted about Wikileaks.

CITIZENS OF A FUNCTIONING DEMOCRACY MUST BE ABLE TO KNOW WHAT THE STATE IS SAYING AND DOING IN OUR NAME, to engage in what Pierre Rosanvallon calls “counter-democracy”*, the democracy of citizens distrusting rather than legitimizing the actions of the state. Wikileaks plainly improves those abilities.

ON THE OTHER HAND, HUMAN SYSTEMS CAN’T STAND PURE TRANSPARENCY. For negotiation to work, people’s stated positions have to change, but change is seen, almost universally, as weakness. People trying to come to consensus must be able to privately voice opinions they would publicly abjure, and may later abandon. Wikileaks plainly damages those abilities. (If Aaron Bady’s analysis is correct, it is the damage and not the oversight that Wikileaks is designed to create.*)

And so we have a tension between two requirements for democratic statecraft, one that can’t be resolved, but can be brought to an acceptable equilibrium. Indeed, like the virtues of equality vs. liberty, or popular will vs. fundamental rights, it has to be brought into such an equilibrium for democratic statecraft not to be wrecked either by too much secrecy or too much transparency.

As Tom Slee puts it, “YOUR ANSWER TO ‘WHAT DATA SHOULD THE GOVERNMENT MAKE PUBLIC?’ DEPENDS NOT SO MUCH ON WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT DATA, BUT WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT THE GOVERNMENT.”* My personal view is that there is too much secrecy in the current system, and that a corrective towards transparency is a good idea. I don’t, however, believe in total transparency, and even more importantly, I don’t think that independent actors who are subject to no checks or balances is a good idea in the long haul.

Here’s a well thought out piece on WikiLeaks. It’s worth your time to read it.

Assange: Whistleblower or Terrorist?

Julian Assange has ALL THE MAKINGS OF A 21ST-CENTURY FOLK HERO. He has single-handedly humiliated a great power by exposing its dark secrets and hypocrisies. He steals secrets from the rich and powerful and gives them away to benefit the rest of us. Lots of people want to take him out. But he’s not cowed. Every day or two, he grants another interview from cyberspace. NOW, HE WARNS THAT HE CAN UNLEASH A DEVASTATING INFORMATION BOMB ANY TIME HE WANTS.

There’s just one problem with this heroic picture. JULIAN ASSANGE HAS MADE THE WORLD A FAR MORE DANGEROUS PLACE.

“I am a former British diplomat,” wrote one person in an online Q&A session with Mr. Assange the other day. “In the course of my former duties I helped to co-ordinate multilateral action against a brutal regime in the Balkans, impose sanctions on a renegade state threatening ethnic cleansing, and negotiate a debt relief program for an impoverished nation. NONE OF THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN POSSIBLE WITHOUT THE SECURITY AND SECRECY OF DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENCE … Diplomacy cannot operate without discretion and the protection of sources.

The two pieces above reinforce the dilemma we are in. My personal belief is that Assange should be extradited and then put on trial for espionage. Rather than looking at him like the NYTimes, we should look upon him as a currier passing classified material on to the enemy.

Peak Oil?  Not even close

The American Petroleum Institute reports that the UNITED STATES PRODUCED MORE CRUDE OIL IN OCTOBER THAN IT HAS EVER PRODUCED IN A SINGLE MONTH, “peak oil” or not.

This reversal of trend helps explain why U.S. domestic production for the year will be 140,000 barrels a day higher than last year (which was 410,000 barrels a day higher than 2008). Although the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) says U.S. production will decline next year, who knows?

Could these numbers reflect the beginning of the end for U.S. dependence on Mideast oil? Well, in fact, they could be. As Forbes magazine publisher Steve Forbes optimistically asserted the other day, THE WHOLE WORLD IS “AWASH IN ENERGY.”

Mr. Forbes isn’t the only one to notice. As an article last month in The New York Times observed: “Just as it seemed that the world was running on fumes, GIANT OIL FIELDS WERE DISCOVERED OFF THE COASTS OF BRAZIL AND AFRICA, and Canadian oil sands projects expanded so fast, they now provide North America with more oil than Saudi Arabia. In addition, the UNITED STATES HAS INCREASED DOMESTIC OIL PRODUCTION FOR THE FIRST TIME IN A GENERATION.” Further still: “Another wave of natural gas drilling has taken off in shale rock fields across the United States, and more shale gas drilling is just beginning in Europe and Asia.”…..

Yes, China was investing in drilling technology: China itself has abundant shale gas reserves. But China had another objective. “WITHIN A DECADE,” MR. FORBES SAID, “THE U.S. WILL BE A MAJOR NATURAL GAS EXPORTER.” AND CHINA WILL BE A MAJOR IMPORTER.

This appears to be very good news which you don’t get to read about. The article goes on to talk about other forms of natural gas and says at our current rate of consumption

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