Is America Too Stupid To Survive?

In the end, free societies get the governments they deserve. So, if the American people wish to choose their chief executive on the basis of the “war on women,” the Republican theocrats’ confiscation of your contraceptives, or whatever other mangy and emaciated rabbit the Great Magician produces from his threadbare topper, they are free to do so, and they will live with the consequences. This week’s bit of ham-handed misdirection was “the Buffett Rule,” a not-so-disguised capital-gains-tax hike designed to ensure that Warren Buffett pays as much tax as his secretary. If the alleged Sage of Omaha is as exercised about this as his public effusions would suggest, I’d be in favor of repealing the prohibition on Bills of Attainder, and the old boy could sleep easy at night. But instead every other American “millionaire” will be subject to the new rule — because, as President Obama said this week, it “will help us close our deficit.”

Wow! Who knew it was that easy?

A-hem. According to the Congressional Budget Office (the same nonpartisan bean-counters who project that on Obama’s current spending proposals the entire U.S. economy will cease to exist in 2027) Obama’s Buffett Rule will raise — stand well back — $3.2 billion per year. Or what the United States government currently borrows every 17 hours. So in 514 years it will have raised enough additional revenue to pay off the 2011 federal budget deficit. If you want to mark it on your calendar, 514 years is the year 2526. There’s a sporting chance Joe Biden will have retired from public life by then, but other than that I’m not making any bets.

Let’s go back to that presidential sound bite:

“It will help us close our deficit.”

I’m beginning to suspect that the Oval Office teleprompter may be malfunctioning, or that perhaps that NBC News producer who “accidentally” edited George Zimmerman into sounding like a racist has now edited the smartest president of all time into sounding like an idiot. Either way, it appears the last seven words fell off the end of the sentence. What the president meant to say was:

“It will help us close our deficit . . . for 2011 . . . within a mere half millennium!” [Pause for deafening cheers and standing ovation.]

Sometimes societies become too stupid to survive. A nation that takes Barack Obama’s current rhetorical flourishes seriously is certainly well advanced along that dismal path. The current federal debt burden works out at about $140,000 per federal taxpayer, and President Obama is proposing to increase both debt and taxes. Are you one of those taxpayers? How much more do you want added to your $140,000 debt burden? As the Great Magician would say, pick a number, any number. Sorry, you’re wrong. Whatever you’re willing to bear, he’s got more lined up for you.

Even if you’re absolved from federal income tax, you too require enough people willing to keep the racket going, and America is already pushing forward into territory the rest of the developed world is steering well clear of. On April Fools’ Day, Japan and the United Kingdom both cut their corporate-tax rates, leaving the United States even more of an outlier, with the highest corporate-tax rate in the developed world: The top rate of federal corporate tax in the U.S. is 35 percent. It’s 15 percent in Canada. Which is next door.

Well, who cares about corporations? Only out of touch dilettante playboys like Mitt Romney who — hmm, let’s see what I can produce from the bottom of the top hat — put his dog on the roof of his car as recently as 1984! That’s where your gran’ma will be under the Republicans’ plan, while your contraceptiveless teenage daughter is giving birth on the hood. “Corporations are people, my friend,” said Mitt, in what’s generally regarded as a damaging sound bite by all the smart people who think Obama’s plan to use the Buffett Rule to “close the deficit” this side of the fourth millennium is a stroke of genius.

But Mitt’s not wrong. In the end, a corporation doesn’t pay tax. The marble atrium of Global MegaCorp’s corporate HQ is indifferent to the tax rate; the Articles of Incorporation in the bottom drawer of the chairman’s desk couldn’t care less. Every dollar of “corporate” tax has to be fished out the pocket of a real flesh-and-blood human being, whether shareholder, employee, or customer.

And that’s the problem. For what Obama’s spending, there aren’t enough of them, or us, or “the rich” — and there never will be. There is only one Warren Buffett. He is the third-wealthiest person on the planet. The first is a Mexican, and beyond the reach of the U.S. Treasury. Mr. Buffett is worth $44 billion. If he donated the entire lot to the government of the United States, they would blow through it within four and a half days. Okay, so who’s the fourth-richest guy? He’s French. And the fifth guy’s a Spaniard. Number six is Larry Ellison. He’s American, but that loser is only worth $36 billion. So he and Buffett between them could keep the United States government going for a week. The next-richest American is Christy Walton of Walmart, and she’s barely a semi-Buffett. So her $25 billion will see you through a couple of days of the second week. There aren’t a lot of other semi-Buffetts, but, if you scrounge around, you can rustle up some hemi-demi-semi-Buffetts: If you confiscate the total wealth of the Forbes 400 richest Americans it comes to $1.5 trillion, which is just a little less than the Obama budget deficit for a year.

Read more here.

A sneak attack (on our county taxpayers)

Two similar (but not identical, thus not crossfiled) bills have been introduced in the General Assembly this term, measures which would thwart the will of voters in Wicomico County and elsewhere in Maryland.

First among them was SB740, which was introduced February 3 by Senator Richard Madeleno of Montgomery County, which is one of the counties that inhibits property tax collections in some manner. (The others are Anne Arundel, Prince George’s, Talbot, and Wicomico.) It’s a bill which would simply allow counties which have this sort of cap to circumvent it, provided the money goes to the county’s school board.

But HB1412, which was introduced on February 28 – and got the extraordinary benefit of a hearing just two days after introduction – would do grave damage to the financial bottom line of several counties, most particularly Wicomico. It’s notable that Delegate Norm “Five Dollar” Conway is a co-sponsor of the bill, which is led by Delegate John Bohanon of St. Mary’s County and also backed by members from Baltimore City and Baltimore, Howard, and Montgomery counties.

Apparently this will affect Wicomico County in two ways: first of all, their maintenance of effort (MOE) won’t come down to a more realistic level based on tax revenues – for FY2012 they were over $14 million short of the $50 million MOE goal, the largest percentage of any of the state’s 24 counties – and our MOE will likely automatically increase up to 2.5% each year after FY2015 because we’ll almost certainly be considered a “below average” county. At a starting point of $50 million, that’s an extra $1 million we would have to come up with (or roughly 1.5 cents per $100 extra on property tax rates, based on what the county currently receives) annually. That’s also faster than our revenue cap would allow, since it’s based on an increase of no more than two percent.

But the other problem the bill will create is shorting other areas of the county’s budget which depend on the state – according to the fiscal note for HB1412, “(i)f a county does not fully fund MOE and has not received a waiver, the county’s income tax revenues will be intercepted and sent to the school board.” In other words, we lose the local control we have on state funding.

Now some may argue that because the state is providing the funds, they should call the tune. I don’t disagree with that, but if they want to play that game I’d like to see an opt-out provision. Call their bluff: okay, if you want to take away our local control of the money then we don’t want to send you our taxes. Obviously that’s not going to happen anytime soon.

And the problem most people have with the local Board of Education isn’t one of necessity. Few would argue that we don’t need public education as an option.

But there are a lot of us who feel money should follow the child, regardless of where the parents wish to send them to school. By bringing that element of competition into it, schools are forced to improve and provide more bang for the buck. Certainly I’m aware that Wicomico County schools have been studied and found to spend a below-average amount on administrative costs, but it certainly seems to me that the things the Board of Education likes to project as cuts are the ones which provide the greatest shock value. Yet what would our financial situation be like if we simply increased the average class size to 25 students? How much help would that provide?

Read more here.

No, taxes shouldn’t be a “fairness” issue

What are we, six years old? Taxes should pay for the costs of government. That’s what we have taxes for.

The proper purpose of taxes is not to establish a condition of “fairness.” It’s to pay for government: a legislature, executive, military, police, firefighting, courts, schools. But for 100 years now, the percentage-based income tax has been shifting public dialogue on taxes steadily away from their proper purpose, and toward increasingly juvenile arguments over “fairness,” as if the tax code is like Mom, telling Makayla to share the toys and be patient because Brendan is little.

If we let taxation be about “fairness,” rather than paying for the cost of government, the two big problems we have are defining “fairness,” and defining the role of government in promoting it. Those questions will never be settled to the satisfaction of all.

It might seem that the first question – “what is fair?” – is the more contentious one. We discuss it incessantly, after all. But the more fundamental question is actually what government should be doing about fairness. The freighted nature of our discussions about fairness is largely relieved if we assign a limited, utilitarian role to government. It doesn’t much matter what other people think is “fair,” in a lengthy list of situations, if they can’t harness the power of the armed state to enforce it on their fellow men.

Thus, I reject the whole idea that government needs to keep an eye on the citizens’ incomes, and worry about “fairness” as if the numbers are a meaningful indicator of it. For much of American history, no government at any level actually knew how much income individual citizens had. That was not a problem. It didn’t need correction. We could do away with virtually our entire tax code, if we did away with the modern idea that government needs to know what our incomes are.

We would also do away with the various ugly arguments that pit citizen against citizen in a do-loop of unrequitable resentments. No, childless people shouldn’t have to pay proportionally more in taxes than people with children do. No, married people with two incomes should not have to pay a “marriage penalty” in their tax bill. Neither demographic is battening on the other with its life choices. But however we feel about that issue, we could avoid the argument altogether, if the tax code didn’t creep around after us inquiring into our incomes and household arrangements.

Obviously, we should all obey the law as it exists today; the point here is that we once handled these issues in a way less susceptible to demagoguery, government interventionism, and social conflict – and we could do so again. The way to discuss the tax code is not in terms of “fairness,” as if the government should be charged with using taxation to establish conditions according to a “fairness” index, but in terms of what needs paying for and how we’re going to collect revenue for that purpose.

In our pre-16th Amendment days, the federal government collected taxes on imports, liquor, and cigarettes. It also collected, and continues to collect, fees for various kinds of concessions, such as mining, drilling for oil and gas, cutting timber, fishing, and so forth. State and local governments collected taxes primarily on real property. With the automation of market transactions, sales taxes have become a widespread method of collecting revenue for state and local governments.

Read more here.

‘Waa, No Pizza Night’: Sad Stories Roll In at Request of Obama White House

The White House says it’s been flooded with responses to the question it posed Wednesday: “What does $40 mean to you?”

One day after the White House asked “working” people to “tell us what your family will give up if your (payroll) taxes increase,” the stories are rolling in, including one from a person who worried about not having enough to pay the cable bill — or continue family pizza nights.

“Our cable internet bill is $49 per month. If we lose this payroll tax cut then we will have to give up either (our) internet access or possibly our ‘Friday Family Pizza’ night. Either way, we will lose something that brings us together as a family,” wrote “K.Z” from Frederick, Maryland.

Another person wrote that $40 will “buy lunch from the cafeteria for almost a whole month for my twins.”

Someone else who “can barely get by now” said taking $40 out of his paycheck “would just about put me under.”

A person from New Mexico said “$40 less a paycheck means I will have to pick between my insulin and the water bill. It means never being able to see my doctor — even though I have insurance.”

Many of the responders said they need the money to pay for medicine, medical bills, a tank of gas, or groceries.

Read more here.

McDonald’s CEO: ‘In Order to Create Jobs in America, You‘re Going to Have to Cut Taxes’

McDonald’s Corporation President and CEO Jim Skinner says for things to turn around in the American economy, spending and taxes must be curbed, especially towards business. Jeff Randall writes in the Telegraph on his upcoming interview with Skinner on Sky News Jeff Randall Live:

“‘The question is, how can we get the ox out of the ditch?’ Mr Skinner said. ‘In order to create jobs in America, you’re going to have to cut taxes… particularly in the business community.

‘We pay some of the highest [corporate] taxes around the world. There needs to be some leveling.’

Asked about federal borrowing, he said: ‘It’s not a good story… the government has to spend less. We have to grow the economy, grow GDP… and you have to be able to do it in an organic way and not through borrowings and increasing debt.’”

McDonald’s third-quarter profit gained 8.6 percent, but Skinner has said that the economic environment is still fragile. ”We are officially out of the recession, but it hardly feels that way,” said Skinner on October 21 in a call with analysts. “Consumers everywhere continue to be cautious and hesitant to spend.”

Read more here.

In case you engage in a conversation with one of Obama’s Children

Taxes have come to the forefront of debate lately, thanks to Obama’s children — the useful idiots the first thing about taxes if their liberal arts degree’s depended on it. They are only concerned about taxes as they apply to the rich … their knowledge begins and ends with this: The rich need to pay more taxes. You’ll see their signs, “eat the rich” or “make them pay.” So if you are unfortunate enough to engage with one of Obama’s children, be armed with the latest facts on the rich and taxes. From Michael Walsh at National Review:

* In tax year 2009, the top 1 percent of filers — those “millionaires and billionaires” with adjusted gross annual incomes of more $343,927 whom the Occupy Wall Street rabble is demonizing — paid nearly 37 percent of federal income taxes.

* The top 10 percent with incomes over $112,124 (say, a New York City cop and a teacher filing jointly) paid more than 70 percent of income taxes.

* The top 50 percent (starting with princely incomes over $32,396) paid — wait for it — nearly 98 percent of all federal taxes.

Here are a few more fun stats from the Tax Foundation … well … as fun as taxes can be:

* In 2009, the top 1 percent of taxpayers—1,379,822 of them—paid more than the bottom 90% combined. Geographically, this is equivalent to a city the size of San Antonio, TX paying more in income taxes than every person living west of the Mississippi.

* Likewise, the top 0.1 percent—138,000 taxpayers—paid a greater share than the bottom 75%. In other words, a city the size of Dayton, OH would have paid more than a country the size of Germany.

Obama’s wealth envy campaign is based on fear, not facts.

Donations To Occupy Wall Street Are Now ‘Tax Deductible

The $500,000 in donations collected by Occupy Wall Street is drawing the attention of many people.

The “residents” of Zuccotti Park heard about the huge sum of money and during the regular “General Assembly” meetings, arguments have broken out over how the money is being allocated.

Our own Buck Sexton speculated on GBTV last Friday that the IRS might take a look at the situation. After all, this is not an official non-profit organization and they have raised over a half million in funds and accumulated untold amounts of goods (non-perishable foods, sleeping bags, goggles, etc.)

Perhaps the “leadership” at OWS realized their finances were a liability and they have formed an alliance of sorts with a Social Justice non-profit group that will collect the money for them. Enter, the Alliance For Global Justice (AfGJ).

Read more here.

Herman Cain admits ‘some people will pay more’ under 9-9-9

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain admitted Sunday that “some people” would pay more in taxes every year under his “9-9-9” tax reform plan.

“That’s right. Some people will pay more,” Cain told David Gregory of NBC’s Meet the Press. “But most people will pay less, that’s my argument.”

Cain’s plan throws out the current tax system by establishing a 9 percent corporate tax, a 9 percent income tax and a new 9 percent national sales tax. During a lengthy discussion with Gregory, Cain defended his plan from critics who say the plan will make lower income earners pay more.

Asked by Gregory who will pay more, Cain said, “The people who spend more money on new goods. The sales tax only applies to people who buy new goods, not used goods. That’s a big difference that doesn’t come out.”

Cain took issue though with Gregory saying “the reality of this plan: the wealthiest Americans would pay less, the poorest Americans and middle class would pay more.”

“I do dispute that,” Cain said. “You and others are making assumptions about what wealthy Americans will do with their money and you’re making assumptions about…the middle class and the poor. You can’t predict their behavior.”

“More people will pay less in taxes,” he said.

Read more here.

You Might Be A FleaBagger If….

You might be a fleabagger if:

kevintank
#YouMightBeAFleabagger if setting up your tent this week was the most work you’ve done all year.

The_NeoKong NeoKong
If you do not know who provided the muffin you ate this morning , #YouMightBeAFleabagger

Dehaag Dan Haag
If you’re simultaneously an anarchist and wish the government to tax everyone at a higher rate, #YouMightBeAFleabagger

DSolberg Deb Solberg
RT “@iowahawkblog: If you think the best way to get money out of politics is to make government bigger, #YouMightBeAFleabagger”

Taylor_mtg Taylor P
RT iowahawkblog: If u think immigrant who owns the convenience store should pay for your interpretive dance studies, #YouMightBeAFleabagger”

DreadfulPenny81 Melissa E.
If you think attacking Wall Street will solve world problems when Wall St. follows LAWS and REGS like all of us, #YouMightBeAFleaBagger

DocattheAutopsy Doc at the Autopsy
#YouMightBeAFleabagger if you spent $200k of your parent’s money at an Ivy league school to grow dreads, smoke pot, & drop out

tomfletcherbc Tom Fletcher
RT @iowahawkblog If you think immigrant who owns convenience store should pay for your interpretive dance studies, #YouMightBeAFleabagger

speednjoe Joe Tripp
#youmightbeafleabagger if you throw yourself under a barely-moving, horn-honking NYPD SCOOTER to fake brutality by #theman

joethepatriotic Joe the Patriotic
If you attack “legal person” status of corporations & spit on its essential benefits for freedom & free enterprise #YouMightBeAFleaBagger

B2Journal BD Pisani
If you despise cops, the wealthy, and conservatives but think that Pol Pot, Che, and Mao are heroes #YouMightBeAFleabagger

Kim_AE Kim Edwards
If your “grassroots protest” can only get started with a check from Soros & some union goons. #YouMightBeAFleabagger #ows

The_NeoKong NeoKong
If you washed up this morning in a McDonald’s restroom #YouMightBeAFleabagger

John Reid
GrahamPink John Reid
If you ever wondered why Communists and Marxist hold you in high esteem, #YouMightBeAFleabagger

Rick Anderson RickAnderson
If you don’t see any humor/humour in this #YouMightBeAFleabagger

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