Posted by Kendall Harmon

Social Security Act is signed into law, assuring retirement income for all working Americans. Payroll taxes...are set at 1% (Courtesy of Barry Ritholtz)

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentSocial Security

7 Comments
Posted August 14, 2014 at 7:02 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Internal Revenue Service said it will monitor churches and other houses of worship for electioneering in a settlement reached with an atheist group.

The settlement was reached Friday (July 18) in federal court in Madison, Wis., where the initial lawsuit was filed in 2012 by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based atheist advocacy group that claims 20,000 members nationwide.

The suit alleged the IRS routinely ignored complaints by the FFRF and others about churches promoting political candidates, issues or proposed legislation. As part of their tax-exempt status, churches and other religious groups are prohibited from engaging in partisan political activity.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesChurch/State MattersReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in General

3 Comments
Posted July 22, 2014 at 11:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

“I just don’t think the evidence is there for these long lists,” said Dr. Molly Cooke, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, who helped research a position paper on cannabis for the American College of Physicians. “It’s been so hard to study marijuana. Policy makers are responding to thin data.”

Even some advocates of medical marijuana acknowledge that the state laws legalizing it did not result from careful reviews of the medical literature.

“I wish it were that rational,” said Mitch Earleywine, chairman of the executive board of directors for Norml, a national marijuana advocacy group. Dr. Earleywine said state lawmakers more often ask themselves, “What disease does the person in a wheelchair in my office have?”

Read it all from the front page of today's NY Times paper copy.

Also, make sure you did not miss this post earlier this week on the same topic featuring Nora Volkow of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchDrugs/Drug AddictionHealth & MedicineLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesPolitics in GeneralCity GovernmentHouse of RepresentativesSenateState Government* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted June 27, 2014 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The District of Columbia Council on Tuesday approved a "yoga tax" on gymnasiums and yoga classes that has angered fitness buffs in the U.S. capital.

The Democratic-controlled council voted 12-1 to give final approval to a $10.6 billion budget for 2015 that included a sales tax on gyms, yoga studios and other athletic businesses, a spokeswoman for Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said.

The budget also includes a substantial income tax cut that would be offset by expanding the existing 5.75 percent sales tax to such services as tanning salons, health clubs, car washes and bowling alleys. The move is expected to raise $5 million a year.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsEconomyPersonal FinanceTaxesPolitics in GeneralCity Government* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted June 26, 2014 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For those who argue that marijuana is no more dangerous than tobacco and alcohol, [Nora] Volkow has two main answers: We don’t entirely know , and, simultaneously, that is precisely the point .

“Look at the evidence,” Volkow said in an interview on the National Institutes of Health campus, pointing to the harms already inflicted by tobacco and alcohol. “It’s not subtle — it’s huge. Legal drugs are the main problem that we have in our country as it relates to morbidity and mortality. By far. Many more people die of tobacco than all of the drugs together. Many more people die of alcohol than all of the illicit drugs together.

“And it’s not because they are more dangerous or addictive. Not at all — they are less dangerous. It’s because they are legal. . . . The legalization process generates a much greater exposure of people and hence of negative consequences that will emerge. And that’s why I always say, ‘Can we as a country afford to have a third legal drug? Can we?’ We know the costs already on health care, we know the costs on accidents, on lost productivity. I let the numbers speak for themselves.”

Read it all from Ruth Marcus in the Washington Post.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchDrugs/Drug AddictionLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in GeneralCity GovernmentState Government* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

2 Comments
Posted June 25, 2014 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Many employers had thought they could shift health costs to the government by sending their employees to a health insurance exchange with a tax-free contribution of cash to help pay premiums, but the Obama administration has squelched the idea in a new ruling. Such arrangements do not satisfy the health care law, the administration said, and employers may be subject to a tax penalty of $100 a day — or $36,500 a year — for each employee who goes into the individual marketplace.

The ruling this month, by the Internal Revenue Service, blocks any wholesale move by employers to dump employees into the exchanges.

Under a central provision of the health care law, larger employers are required to offer health coverage to full-time workers, or else the employers may be subject to penalties.

Read it all

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform DebateLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifeLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketTaxes

5 Comments
Posted May 27, 2014 at 3:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

India, a giant economic mediocrity, is cursed by having too many economists. Its outgoing prime minister, Manmohan Singh, has a doctorate from Oxford, ran the central bank in the 1980s and led the liberalisation programme that India put in place in 1991 after a currency crisis. Yet as prime minister Mr Singh had little grip or public support, serving at the pleasure of Sonia Gandhi, the populist leader of the Congress party. By the end of his ten-year term he admitted he had failed. In August, as the rupee tumbled, he addressed a gathering of India’s policymaking elite at his house in Delhi. The economy faced “very difficult circumstances”, he whispered.

Mr Singh’s successor could not be more different. Narendra Modi’s economic views have been formed while running the business-friendly state of Gujarat for the past 12 years. Asked some time ago about his economic influences, he described his homespun framework, jotting diagrams on a pad as he spoke. He has studied Singapore and China, but thinks that “India is a democracy and has different requirements”. Striking a balance between farming, small firms and global companies is required, with limited but muscular administration and populist appeal: “Men, machines and money must work together.”

Having run Gujarat well, Mr Modi now faces the far harder task of running India. He has big advantages—administrative competence, control over his party and a majority in Parliament—that should ease decision-making. Unlike Mr Singh, he has also campaigned and won on a platform of aspiration and economic reform. India needs “less government and more governance”, he declared on the campaign trail.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceTaxesForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAsiaIndia* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted May 27, 2014 at 7:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

I care very much about the future of religious liberty, and I don’t think, over the long run and in this country, there will be much of it...American liberalism more generally, is committed to the idea that freedom to worship is sufficient, and is trying, gradually but consistently, to discourage Christians and other religious believers from acting out their religious convictions anywhere outside the walls of the church — at least, in any ways that might interfere with the power of the State to arbitrate and dispense justice and charity.

It’s possible that in the coming years there will be at least a temporary slowing in the erosion of religious liberty, but I can’t see the long-term trends altering. All Americans, including those who call themselves conservatives, are gradually growing accustomed to the elimination of the “third sector” of civil society and will find it increasingly difficult to understand why either the free markets or the State should be restrained from exerting their powers to their fullest. I expect that quite soon most Christians will cease even to ask for anything more from the State than freedom to worship.

For those of us who believe that civil society should be stronger, not weaker, and especially if our primary concern is for the health of religious institutions as the most important mediating forces in society, this change will pose a wide range of problems. For instance, the removal of tax breaks for religious institutions will surely be complete within a generation, and a range of policies will discourage charitable giving, which will make generosity harder — but not impossible for most of us. That’ll be a way for us to discover what we are made of.
--from his Snakes and Ladders blog; I encourage you to read it all. This was quoted in the late sermon this morning by yours truly in worship--KSH.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryStewardship* Culture-WatchCharities/Non-Profit OrganizationsHistoryLaw & Legal IssuesChurch/State MattersReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted May 11, 2014 at 12:06 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Consider Monica (not her real name), the African American mother of two daughters. An immigrant from Cote d’Ivoire, she is an American success story, gaining her citizenship and raising two daughters on her own. One is a college junior, the other a high school senior trying to decide between colleges.

Before getting married in July, Monica’s income made her eligible for financial aid which brought her yearly tuition liability to $15,000. If she had not got married, her per-student tuition liability would have likely remained the same, so she would have been responsible for $30,000 a year for both of her daughters combined.

Instead, her daughter’s university wants her to contribute $25,000 for each child because of her new husband’s income. This increase happened even though Monica’s new husband is not the biological or legal father of her daughters, and he has children of his own to support.

Cohabitation without marriage pays.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenEducationMarriage & Family* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingPersonal FinanceTaxesPolitics in General* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted May 2, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The people who really suffer from the marriage penalty are lower-income families with young children — you know, those people constantly scolded by the Family Values Police for eschewing the bonds of holy matrimony or for being too lazy to work.

Consider a family in which the husband earns $25,000 and the wife stays home to care for their children. (Women are more often the more marginal earners, both because they earn lower wages and because they are more likely to be primary caregivers.) This family would face a series of painful “marriage penalties” if the mother decides to join the paid labor force.

If she takes on a $25,000 job, the family would lose the entirety of their earned-income tax credit — about $5,000 — and pay an additional $6,000 in payroll and federal income taxes, according to calculations from a recent report by the Hamilton Project, a nonpartisan think tank. This family would also lose access to about $2,600 worth of food stamp benefits, as well as other means-tested benefits, such as Medicaid. (The exact amount of lost benefits depends on which state they live in.)

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMarriage & Family* Economics, PoliticsEconomyPersonal FinanceTaxesPolitics in General* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted April 24, 2014 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

....with less than 10 days left in the 2014 window to apply for coverage with policies through the federal marketplace, lots of people still don’t understand the penalties. Who pays? Who doesn’t? How do you pay? How do you avoid paying?

Toni McKinnon of Columbia stopped by Richland Library’s main branch on Assembly Street last week to find out about the health insurance marketplace because she was worried about having to pay a penalty.

“When you’re living paycheck to paycheck, you can’t afford insurance,” McKinnon said, “and you sure can’t afford to pay some kind of penalty.”

She left the library slightly confused and very disappointed.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform DebateLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingPersonal FinanceTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in GeneralState Government* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted March 25, 2014 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A Church of England bishop has accused the Government of penalising stay-at-home mothers and carers by discriminating against families in the tax and benefits system.

The criticism came after an inquiry by a Christian charity to be launched on Tuesday found that that married couples with only one earner keep less of every extra pound they earn in the UK than in any other country in the developed world.

Last month, church leaders including 27 Anglican bishops condemned the Coalition’s welfare policies for causing hardship and hunger, and Cardinal Vincent Nichols, leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, said its benefit cuts were “a disgrace". Now the Government is under attack for being “anti-family” in a study carried out by the charity Christian Action Research and Education (CARE).

Read it all from the Independent.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)CoE Bishops* Culture-WatchChildrenLaw & Legal IssuesMarriage & Family* Economics, PoliticsEconomyLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketTaxesPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK

1 Comments
Posted March 10, 2014 at 5:21 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

There are two ranking categories, rank by most expensive gas, and rank by pain at the pump. Take a guess before you look at all 63 entries.

You can also find a ranking list there and there is a link to a slideshow option.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeTaxesEnergy, Natural Resources

0 Comments
Posted February 23, 2014 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

While the Treasury and the IRS seek greater clarity by further restricting the types of permissible political activity of tax-exempt organizations, the commission would achieve greater clarity by allowing more freedom for tax-exempt organizations to engage in political speech – while simultaneously preserving the long-held public policy of not allowing tax-exempt funds to be expended for political purposes.

Dan Busby, president of ECFA, offered four key comments on the proposed guidance:

“The Treasury and the IRS should proceed with great caution in applying the proposed ‘candidate-related political activity’ test to 501(c)(3) organizations.”
“Replacing the ‘facts and circumstances’ approach with a clear-cut definition of political activity would benefit charities and the IRS.”
“The proposed ‘candidate-related political activity’ test would silence charities from speaking out on issues with political significance.”
“The Commission’s recommendations strike a necessary balance of permitting charities to engage in communications that are relevant to their exempt purposes while ensuring that they expend funds in a manner consistent with their tax-exempt purposes.”

Most concerning to ECFA is the further chilling effect that the proposed “candidate-related political activity” test would have on issue-oriented communications from churches and nonprofits. While this has been a problem for some time even under existing rules and the IRS’s approach to administering the law, the proposed regulations would compound the concern.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in General* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted February 15, 2014 at 10:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Anglican Church Archbishop Eliud Wabukala has strongly opposed the bill that aims at taxing the bereaved family saying it will drop the country’s economy.

“As Anglican Church we oppose the bill with strong terms, in the place first if somebody has lost a relative he or she gets affected psychologically and even financially, taxing such a person is killing him,” Archbishop Wabukala said.

He said county governments should come out and help its people by giving out loans and any other necessary support for the growth of business and farming as a way of increasing revenue collection instead of overburdening poor families who have lost their beloved ones.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesAnglican Church of Kenya* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & Family* Economics, PoliticsEconomyPersonal FinanceTaxesPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAfricaKenya* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted January 28, 2014 at 3:18 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew warned Congress on Wednesday that the government would most likely exhaust its ability to borrow in late February, setting up yet another fiscal showdown with Republicans, and this time earlier than congressional leaders had anticipated.

In a letter to Speaker John A. Boehner and the other top three congressional leaders, Mr. Lew said a surge of February spending, mainly tax refunds for 2013, would leave the Treasury with little room to maneuver after the official debt limit is reached on Feb. 7.

The letter amounts to an early alarm bell, coming just weeks after Congress passed its first bipartisan budget and comprehensive spending bill in years. Those bills were supposed to serve as a cease-fire in the budget wars that have rattled the country and the economy since Republicans took control of the House in 2011.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetFederal ReserveMedicaidMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitThe United States Currency (Dollar etc)Politics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

6 Comments
Posted January 23, 2014 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

But there’s a problem. [Charles] Lindblom’s common-sense insight has a giant exception: crises. Change, forced by outside events, then happens by “leaps and bounds.” The recent financial crisis caused Congress and two presidents to embrace measures (the rescue of big banks, General Motors and Chrysler) that were unthinkable a few months earlier. In the 1960s, civil rights demonstrations pushed Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that, in outlawing most public racial discrimination, wasn’t “incremental.” History offers other examples, including the Civil War, the New Deal and both World Wars. Small changes won’t suffice when big changes are required.

On the budget, muddling through comes with a crucial assumption. It is that continuous deficits won’t provoke a crisis that compels political leaders to take harsh steps that they would otherwise not take. This optimism may be justified. For decades, “experts” have warned of the dire consequences of unchecked deficits. Yet no great crisis has occurred. But this conviction also could be complacency. Government debt is in territory that, except for wartime debt, is unprecedented. We don’t know the consequences. Someday, we may no longer have the luxury of muddling through.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted December 17, 2013 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Anglican Unscripted is the only video newscast in the Anglican Church. Every Week Kevin, George, Allan and Peter bring you news and prospective from around the globe.

Show Index:
00:00 Anglicans have lost the Mother Church
14:38 Piling onto Pilling Report with Peter Ould
33:14 IRS and Clergy Housing Allowances with AS Haley
41:51 The National Museum in Washington DC
48:37 Closing and Bloopers
Watch it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal- Anglican: Commentary- Anglican: Latest NewsAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)Same-sex blessings* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxes

0 Comments
Posted December 6, 2013 at 5:16 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

According to CT sister resource Managing Your Church, the average base salary of a full-time senior pastor in 2012-2013 ranges from $33,000 to $70,000. Eighty-four percent of senior pastors surveyed said they also receive a housing allowance, which accounts for $20,000 to $38,000 in added compensation. The Joint Committee on Taxation calculates the exemption amounted to $700 million in recent years, notes Peter Reilly of Forbes.

CT previously reported how the threat to pastor parsonages lost its legal legs but was revived again, and examined debate over whether or not Congress should change the rules on pastor housing allowances. CT also noted the quirky reasoning that recently allowed one prominent pastor to claim two parsonages.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyHousing/Real Estate MarketPersonal FinanceTaxesThe U.S. Government* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted November 25, 2013 at 7:31 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Very few areas get me wound up faster than clergy finances. There are two reasons for this. One is that the actual situation with taxes and clergy compensation is quite complicated and not well understood even by people who work with taxes professionally and, as if that isn't trouble enough, many clergy in my experience are inadequate and in some cases even ignorant in the financial area.

Sure enough, this has led to some very poor reporting on this story already, as well as some even worse posting about it on the blogs. If you wish to understand it can I please advise that you do your own research and not jump to conclusions.

With that said, here goes. First, there is no need for panic. This is one ruling, and we have a system which involves a lot of layers of the judicial system, so overeacting now is not going to help.

Second, you need to understand the bizarre--and I mean bizarre--basic situation of clergy finances.

If you take a look at the basic IRS definition it starts as follows:

A minister's housing allowance, sometimes called a parsonage allowance or a rental allowance is excludable from gross income for income tax purposes, but not for self-employment tax purposes.
Now before you go whizzing past that, make sure to read it and take it in a couple of times. Please note the DUAL status of clergy finances. Housing allowances are excludable (under certain conditions) BUT NOT FOR SELF EMPLOYMENT TAXES.

In other words, for the purpose of social security, the situation is different, and, indeed, I would argue, poor, because as far as social security is concerned, a clergyman or clergywoman is treated as if there were a self employed writer like Gore Vidal or Stephen King, and for that they pay both their portion of social security taxes AS WELL AS the employers portion. So whereas the woman who works for Coca Cola, say, pays for half of her social security taxes every pay period, her employer, Coca Cola, pays the other half. For ministers this is not true; ministers pay both halves.

So the important point right from the get go is that any idea that clergy get some kind of special "deal" in the tax system at a basic level is wildly misleading. No article that reports on this fairly can do so without mentioning the dual tax status issue and whereas the housing allowance does help, the social security situation does not.

There is more. The housing allowance is for actual housing costs so any compensation which is what it costs you to maintain a home for the year (or, if the church owns the home, there are other stipulations). So If you see a minister X and he reports a salary of 10,000 and a housing allowance of 40,000 and you think this is unfair be aware that any amount of the 40,000 dollars NOT related to housing is to be declared as "excess housing allowance" to the IRS (and, yes, I will also remind you that this person is paying 2x social security taxes on the WHOLE 50,000 overall compensation).

Now, I am well aware that some churches (and sadly some clergy) abuse this situation. That is unfortunate but remember that is an abuse of existing rules not the rules themselves.

Why do we have this crazy system? Mainly because when it was originally put in place many clergy lived in church owned housing and so when they retired because many did not own their own home ever they had no housing equity built up at all. That has since changed, never mind that life expectancy has gone up considerably. But changing existing law in America is not easy. For myself, I think a strong case can be made that it would be "fairer" if clergy were treated as employed (as opposed to self--employed for self-employment tax purposes, which would mean paying half of social security and the church paying the other half) and did not get the housing allowance consideration. But the situation with many smaller congregations and their ministers would very much be impacted. It would take a herculaean effort to reform the bizarre area of clergy compensation taxes in the right way, even if it were attempted.

All of which brings us back to the real underlying problem here in America, and that is not with our tax system's basic structure BUT ITS COMPLEXITY. This system is built to favor those with resources and power and the accountants and lawyers who get compensated to enable them to manage it so much better than most. If I were ever working in this area, I would be promoting TAX SIMPLICITY and TAX STABILITY (the tax code changes way too often also).

In the meantime, pray for those in ordained ministry, it is a very, very demanding area in which to work--KSH.


Filed under: * By Kendall* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchHistoryLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyPersonal FinanceTaxes

4 Comments
Posted November 25, 2013 at 6:59 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

You can find the actual ruling here and the Wisconsin State Journal article about it there. The Wisconsin State Journal article begins as follows:
A federal judge has found unconstitutional a law that lets clergy members avoid paying income taxes on compensation that is designated part of a housing allowance.

The decision Friday by U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb could have far-reaching financial ramifications for pastors, who currently can use the untaxed income to pay rental housing costs or the costs of home ownership, including mortgage payments and property taxes.
You should read it all as well as the Religion News Service article there.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the OrdainedStewardship* Culture-WatchHistoryLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted November 25, 2013 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The local option sales tax proposal was defeated again Tuesday in Dorchester County, ending a bruising campaign marked by short tempers and personal attacks.

More than 65 percent of voters cast ballots against the proposal, according to unofficial election results.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchRural/Town Life* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesPolitics in GeneralCity Government* South Carolina

0 Comments
Posted November 6, 2013 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Campaigners praised Mr [David] Cameron for taking a lead. Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury and chairman of Christian Aid, said it was a “brave decision” that involved facing down vested interests.

Global Witness, an anti-corruption group, said it was a “historic rollback of corporate secrecy”. Gavin Hayman, director, said: “Life is about to get much more difficult for corrupt politicians, arms traders, drug traffickers and tax evaders. Other countries, including the British tax havens, the EU and the US, now need to follow the UK’s leadership.”

ActionAid, a campaign group, said it would welcome a public registry but said other transparency measures were needed, including country-by-country reporting of tax payments. Read it all (if neceesary another link there.)

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Rowan Williams* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifeTaxesPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted November 2, 2013 at 2:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

If Dorchester County passes a local-option sales tax next week, the people most apt to be hurt are renters. The reason: Property owners who rent to them don’t always use their tax savings to cut rental rates, officials say.

But based on what has happened in Berkeley and Charleston counties where they have approved the tax, paying an extra one-percent sales tax doesn’t sting for many owners when compared with the benefits of the property tax credit they get.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketTaxesPolitics in GeneralCity Government* South Carolina

0 Comments
Posted October 30, 2013 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In 1996 Richard Kinder was the president of Enron and the heir-apparent to Ken Lay, the energy firm’s boss. It was not to be. He was passed over for the top job, apparently judged too conservative to take the helm of America’s most innovative company. His next move, with a partner, was to buy some pipelines and a coal terminal from his former employer. Buying things that rust? It was all very old economy.

Sixteen years later the man who bested Mr Kinder to become Enron’s chief executive is in jail and that company is a byword for misleading accounting. By contrast Kinder Morgan is worth $109 billion, Mr Kinder’s personal stake approaches $9 billion and in the past year alone he has received distributions of $376m. That success is partly due to America’s energy boom and Mr Kinder’s talents; but it is also due to his shrewd use of a distinctive corporate structure....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifeTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted October 27, 2013 at 1:20 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[Many voters]... are angry that their County Council has scheduled its fourth attempt to pass LOST in a special election on Nov. 5, 2013, when they know that low voter turnout and $33,000+ special costs are assured, rather than in a regularly scheduled, no extra cost election in, say, Nov. 2014. They also are angry about Council’s misinformation (until corrected by citizens) that LOST would not tax groceries (it does) and its annual costs would be much lower than they are; some Councilmen’s expressing disdain for opposition to LOST, denouncing citizen statements as false but refusing to give corrections, refusing to provide evidence of Councilmen’s claims, and not understanding the consequences of LOST; and one Councilman at a public meeting uncivilly tossing away two anti-LOST flyers on a nearby table, yelling they were all “lies” and wagging his finger at a LOST opponent as he derisively challenged that opponent to a debate at which the Councilman declared he would “shred” the opponent.

Citizens are angry to realize that, while LOST would give property tax relief to some, large numbers of citizens essentially would not benefit at all; most would pay more sales tax than they would save in property tax; most benefits would go to a wealthy few who need them the least; the costs of getting LOST tax benefits would be exorbitant; and the LOST tax would grow government by increasing government spending.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesPolitics in GeneralCity Government* South Carolina

0 Comments
Posted October 27, 2013 at 8:14 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It would be nice if more Christians understood that our faith always has local implications, including our life in public, which is in the polis, and therefore our faith has local political ramifications. The are derivative, yes, they are always penultimate, but they do matter.

This whole campaign makes me sad. It is a pitch to lessen property taxes by raising sales taxes. Allegedly.

It is immoral in all sorts of ways but here are two principle reasons why I will vote no. First, it is a regressive tax. Those least able to will have to pay more tax (and yes it goes on groceries!). And secondly, the other argument I hear all over is all the other counties are doing it so we should to, otherwise we will lose business etc. to nearby counties which already have the (dumb, immoral) tax. This is right out if 1 Samuel where Israel asks for a King since all the other nations have one.

Now this may cause property taxes to be slightly higher, and since we own our home, that will involve us. I don't know anyone who likes higher taxes, but if this is the implication of my vote this coming November, so be it.

County Leaders should be ashamed of themselves (especially since this is the fourth time they have tried this)--KSH
.

Filed under: * By Kendall* Culture-WatchRural/Town Life* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingHousing/Real Estate MarketPersonal FinanceTaxesPolitics in GeneralCity Government* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

9 Comments
Posted October 26, 2013 at 2:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Larry Hargett might be right: Dorchester County residents might not know enough about a local option sales tax yet to vote on it.

If the county councilman is, that's not good news for leaders pushing the Nov. 5 referendum.

Earlier this year, County Council unanimously approved a referendum for the local election Nov. 5. Now they are visibly frustrated by the sometimes hostile opposition.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchRural/Town Life* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingHousing/Real Estate MarketPersonal FinanceTaxesPolitics in GeneralCity Government* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted October 26, 2013 at 1:29 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Herewith the question as it will read on the ballot November 5.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchRural/Town Life* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingHousing/Real Estate MarketPersonal FinanceTaxesPolitics in GeneralCity Government* South Carolina

1 Comments
Posted October 26, 2013 at 1:08 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The bishops might have been promoting a strictly Democratic line, but U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black was more ecumenical. Amid the shutdown, Rev. Black offered a daily prayer in the Senate chamber asking God to “save us from the madness. We acknowledge our transgressions, our shortcomings, our smugness, our selfishness, and our pride.” Later he condemned the “hypocrisy of attempting to sound reasonable while being unreasonable.” His listeners in one party no doubt assumed he was talking about the other side.

It is one thing to spiritually shame politicians, as Rev. Black did. Trying to do their jobs is another. The bishops and other clergy in the Circle of Protection go well beyond their competencies when they make such policy prescriptions. Speaking about the moral issues of the day is certainly within their pastoral purview, but the bishops’ calls to raise revenues (aka taxes), for instance, or eliminate “unnecessary” military spending are not.

Bishops routinely assert their authority as “pastors and teachers,” as Bishops Blaire, Gomez and Pates did, but according to the tradition of their own church, they have no teaching authority when it comes to politics.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketTaxesThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicaidMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

3 Comments
Posted October 25, 2013 at 11:11 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Standard & Poor’s is only raising half a cheer at the deal:

“We believe that to date, the shutdown has shaved at least 0.6 per cent off of annualised fourth-quarter 2013 GDP growth, or taken $24bn out of the economy.

“The short turnround for politicians to negotiate some sort of lasting deal will probably weigh on consumer confidence, especially among government workers that were furloughed. If people are afraid that the government policy brinkmanship will resurface again, and with it the risk of another shutdown or worse, they’ll remain afraid to open up their cheque books. That points to another Humbug holiday season.”

Read it all (if necessary another link is there).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicaidMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitThe United States Currency (Dollar etc)Politics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

1 Comments
Posted October 17, 2013 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

...it is still foolish to ignore the leverage that the individual mandate gives opponents of Obamacare. America's healthcare system for the elderly (Medicare, plus Medicaid for nursing-home care) is already edging the country toward generational war because Washington will sooner or later be forced to choose between drastic limitations on coverage in those programs or drastic increases in taxes on the decreasing portion of working Americans. Now we're adding a parallel obligation on younger workers to subsidize healthcare for fiftysomethings.

What to do? The path of least political resistance is to tough it out, hoping younger households will be unable to figure out what's happening, or simply unwilling to throw in their lot with opponents of gay marriage, marijuana reform and the like. Alternatively, we could start paying attention to the building crisis as younger households scramble ever harder for a middle-class living standard.

And none too soon, because the signs of generational conflict are already appearing.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform DebateYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicaidMedicareThe National DeficitPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted October 14, 2013 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A proposal from Sen. Susan Collins is emerging as one potential way to dig lawmakers out of a government shutdown and possibly also avoid a potentially catastrophic debt default.

The moderate Maine Republican, whose vote will be essential to any fiscal deal, is circulating a rough plan to reopen the government, repeal the medical device tax and provide agencies with greater flexibility in implementing the sequester. The initial reception has been positive and may be the beginnings of a bipartisan solution to end the intractable impasse between House Republicans and Senate Democrats.

Collins said Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who are also being watched as potential GOP votes to end the fiscal standoff, have signed onto the proposal. And Collins said she has spoken to “several Democrats” about her plan, which she hopes “at least provides concepts that could be the basis for us reopening government.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifeTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted October 9, 2013 at 6:12 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

From here:
We welcome all support for family life and we’re pleased that this initiative includes both married couples and those in civil partnerships.” - See more at: http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/articles.php/5144/archbishops-statement-on-marriage-tax-breaks#sthash.qFxb8bCl.dpuf


Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby* Culture-WatchMarriage & FamilyReligion & CultureSexuality--Civil Unions & Partnerships* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK

0 Comments
Posted September 30, 2013 at 6:26 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

That the Conservatives were going to announce a marriage tax allowance at their party conference had to be one of the worst kept secrets in Westminster since the date of the last general election. So they’ve managed to go one better than the £750 allowance proposed by their 2010 manifesto with David Cameron announcing in the Daily Mail tomorrow that people will be able to transfer £1,000 of their personal tax allowance to their spouse or civil partner.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMarriage & Family* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK

0 Comments
Posted September 30, 2013 at 6:02 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

There's plenty of fodder for deficit hawks in a new report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. In short, the future looks grim....

First, the good news: The CBO projects the deficit will shrink to $378 billion in 2015, or 2.1 percent of the size of the overall U.S. economy. Compared with just a few years ago when the budget gap ballooned as a result of the recession, this marks a nearly unprecedented improvement in the deficit picture. It's a rapid decline in budget shortfalls not seen since the end of World War II. The national debt will bottom out in 2018, at 68 percent of GDP.

The bad news: From there, the picture gets decidedly less rosy. Budget deficits gradually rise, "mainly because of increasing interest costs and growing spending for Social Security and the government's major health care programs (Medicare, Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program, and subsidies to be provided through the health insurance exchanges)," says the report. By 2038, the national debt will reach 100 percent of GDP....

Read it all and follow the link to the actual report.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyMiddle AgeYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicaidMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted September 18, 2013 at 3:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

“Unfortunately, we seem to be entering another of those periods of elevated risk,” economists at Bank of America Merrill Lynch wrote last week. Researchers at RBC Capital Markets sounded even more bleak. “Just when you thought the U.S. economy was ready to break out of its lackluster 2 percent growth pace that has dominated the recovery,” they wrote, “reality hits.”

More economic turbulence would be particularly tough for poor and middle-class American workers, who are still struggling amid the historically weak growth following the recession. The typical worker’s income has fallen since the recession ended more than four years ago, and the economy, still far from full employment, is creating far more low-paying jobs than good-paying ones. Polls show that workers remain discouraged by the economic picture, with more than half believing the United States is still in recession.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifeLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceTaxesThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentBudgetThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted September 3, 2013 at 4:48 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

...the tax laws in question don’t apply to churches alone; they apply to a whole class of charitable organizations—organizations that share certain qualities that aren’t about sectarianism. The Supreme Court cited the breadth of this category when it upheld the tax exemption for churches in 1970. The Court also cited with approval its understanding that state governments see all such 501(c)(3) organizations as having “a harmonious relationship to the community at large,” as being “beneficial and stabilizing influences in community life.”

Obviously, this is just one perspective on what churches are, and a rather optimistic one at that. But there's no question that lots of churches do at least this. And this is an official reason the government has given for continuing to allow charities to be tax exempt: because they serve the general welfare of the community.

It follows that a charity shouldn't exist to back one side in a zero-sum contest within that community. [Matthew] Yglesias seems to think this is pretty much what churches do—they save souls from following that other, wrong religion—so we should just tax them already. I

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxes* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

2 Comments
Posted August 29, 2013 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

That sets up one of the recurring problems in health-care policy, which is that the more you do to control costs, the more people will hate you. Insurers found this out in the 1990s, when HMOs managed to save a lot of money without doing any measurable harm to care, but the American people loathed them for it. Various provisions in the Affordable Care Act — or any serious cost-control effort — will end up proving it again.

This will present a useful test for seeing who’s serious about controlling health-care costs. Conservative economists, for instance, almost universally hate the fact that employer-provided health benefits aren’t taxed, and that public-sector workers have bargained so aggressively for generous benefits. John McCain’s 2008 health plan relied on ending the employer deduction entirely and converting it to a capped deduction for individuals — which is a much more violent version of this kind of change.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifeLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceTaxesPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted August 6, 2013 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

When Greece ran into financial trouble three years ago, the problem soon spread. Many observers were mystified. How could such a little country set off a continental crisis? The Greeks were stereotyped as a nation of tax-dodgers who had been living high on borrowed money for years. The Portuguese, Italians and Spanish insisted that their finances were fundamentally sound. The Germans wondered what it had to do with them at all. But the contagion was powerful, and Europe’s economy has yet to recover.

America seems in a similar state of denial about Detroit filing for bankruptcy.... Many people think Motown is such an exceptional case that it holds few lessons for other places. What was once the country’s fourth-most-populous city grew rich thanks largely to a single industry. General Motors, Ford and Chrysler once made nearly all the cars sold in America; now, thanks to competition from foreign brands built in non-union states, they sell less than half. Detroit’s population has fallen by 60% since 1950. The murder rate is 11 times the national average. The previous mayor is in prison. Shrubs, weeds and raccoons have reclaimed empty neighbourhoods. The debts racked up when Detroit was big and rich are unpayable now that it is smaller and poor.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchUrban/City Life and Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceTaxesThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--Politics in GeneralCity Government* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted July 26, 2013 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Amid speculation that the Federal Reserve soon might start scaling back its stimulus efforts, the International Monetary Fund cautioned that a pullback before next year could hurt economies worldwide.

Highlighting its concern Friday, the IMF lowered its forecast for U.S. economic growth next year to 2.7% from an earlier projection of 3%.

The IMF also criticized U.S. fiscal policy, calling for the repeal of the automatic federal spending cuts, known as the sequester, and urging lawmakers to act promptly to raise the nation's debt limit.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketTaxesThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The Fiscal Stimulus Package of 2009The U.S. GovernmentBudgetPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

0 Comments
Posted June 15, 2013 at 8:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Baby boomers are a “fortunate generation” who have enjoyed dramatic improvements in living standards but are now “absorbing” more than their fair share of taxpayers’ money, one of the Church of England’s most senior clerics has suggested.
The Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Richard Chartres, who is 65, said there were “severe questions” about the share of government spending that goes on his own generation.
He said the world was in the midst of a transformation that had left many believing that our best days could be “behind us”.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)CoE Bishops* Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyMiddle AgeReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted June 12, 2013 at 5:15 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

European governments are figuring out that taxing financial transactions won't be a magical money machine and that the proposed levy might even damage the European economy.

Reuters first reported Thursday that EU officials are scaling back a transaction tax proposal supported by 11 countries that is supposed to take effect in January. The levy could instead be introduced on a "staggered basis," one official told the news agency. The first phase might only tax sales and purchases of shares, not bonds or derivatives transactions, and at 0.01% instead of 0.1% as currently proposed. A rate of zero is more appropriate.

Enthusiasm for the tax has been dimming for a while, including in governments that have previously backed it. Christian Noyer, the Governor of the Banque de France, said in Paris on Tuesday that the levy will raise "nothing at all." One unnamed EU official told Reuters that a scaled-back transaction tax would reap revenue of less than €3.5 billion. The full-fledged levy, as proposed by the European Commission in February, was supposed to rake in €31 billion a year.

Read it all (if necessary another link may be found here.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroStock MarketTaxesThe Banking System/SectorPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010

0 Comments
Posted June 3, 2013 at 5:31 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

European countries plan to scale back a proposed financial transactions tax drastically, initially imposing a tiny charge on share deals only and taking much longer than originally intended to achieve a full roll-out.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsStock MarketTaxesThe Banking System/Sector* International News & CommentaryEurope* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted May 30, 2013 at 6:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

There is no evidence that an FTT would moderate market volatility — and attenuate sudden shifts of mood on financial markets.

A recent report by Anna Pomeranets from the Bank of Canada concluded that there have been instances when an FTT led to an increase in volatility — most significantly on the New York Stock Exchange and the American Stock Exchange, between 1932 and 1981, where increases in the FTT were associated with rising volatility, increased bid-ask spreads, and lower trading volumes.

Similarly, the idea that capital is under-taxed in current tax regimes is mistaken.

Read More At Investor's Business Daily: http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials-viewpoint/052913-658027-financial-transaction-tax-in-europe-will-not-raise-much-money-and-may-hurt-growth.htm#ixzz2UmJX6SiT
Follow us: @IBDinvestors on Twitter | InvestorsBusinessDaily on Facebook


Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsStock MarketTaxesThe Banking System/Sector* International News & CommentaryEurope

0 Comments
Posted May 30, 2013 at 6:24 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Watch it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the InternetScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifeTaxes

3 Comments
Posted May 23, 2013 at 5:22 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Can we get real? For starters, $642 billion is serious money, and despite the modest improvements of the latest CBO report, the basic trends in federal finances remain the same. From 2014 to 2023, the government will spend $6 trillion more than it collects in taxes. The budget never comes close to balancing. Expanding spending on the elderly and health care continues to strangle the rest of government. As a share of the economy (gross domestic product), military and domestic discretionary programs (examples: drug approval, environmental regulation, Head Start, federal courts) drop about 40 percent from 2010 to 2023.

Nothing of consequence has changed. A few numbers have shifted slightly. That’s all. They moved in a favorable direction. Next time, they might go the other way. What’s also constant is the unwillingness of leaders of both parties, beginning with the president, to discuss budget choices candidly. The budget passed by the Democratic Senate barely touches entitlements for the elderly, which constitute the largest chunk of federal spending. The budget passed by the Republican House avoids a large tax increase only by making draconian and unrealistic spending cuts that would never pass Congress or be signed by the president.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicaidMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

0 Comments
Posted May 18, 2013 at 11:04 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Washington is now sinking its teeth into a real scandal: the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) using ideological criteria to choose the targets of its attention. What we already know is bad enough. Given the seriousness of the charges and the unreliability of IRS disclosures so far, purposeful, sober investigation is exactly what is needed.

At first, the IRS’s admission that it flagged applications for tax-exempt status from tea party-type groups brought reaction that broke along partisan lines. But on Monday, President Obama called the news “outrageous,” adding: “I’ve got no patience with it. I will not tolerate it. And we will make sure that we find out exactly what happened on this.” Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) joined other Democratic lawmakers to support an investigation in his chamber, something Republican leaders in the House had pledged on Friday.

Any unequal application of the law based on ideological viewpoint is unpardonable — toxic to the legitimacy of the government’s vast law-enforcement authority.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in General* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted May 14, 2013 at 5:50 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The staffers in the Cincinnati field office were making high-level decisions on how to evaluate the groups because a decade ago the IRS assigned all applications to that unit. The IRS also eliminated an automatic after-the-fact review process Washington used to conduct such determinations.

Marcus Owens, who oversaw tax-exempt groups at the IRS between 1990 and 1999, said that delegation “carries with it a risk” because the Cincinnati office “isn’t as plugged into what’s [politically] sensitive as Washington.”

Owens, now with the firm Caplin & Drysdale, said that before the agency’s most recent reorganization, it had a series of “tripwires in place” that could catch unfair targeting, including the fact that the IRS identified its criteria for special scrutiny in a public manual.

“There’s no longer that safety valve, and as a result, the IRS has been rolling the dice ever since.....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted May 13, 2013 at 7:55 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

This week, legislators here will consider excise and sales taxes on marijuana of up to 30 percent combined. The proposal emerged from a task force of health officials, representatives of the state’s rapidly developing marijuana industry and others that was commissioned last year to help develop rules for marijuana.

The goal, task force members and lawmakers say, is to set taxes high enough to finance the administration of new laws, but not so high that customers are driven back to the black market.

“We should see a financial benefit as a state that can help pay for enforcement and other fundamental issues,” said Christian Sederberg, a Denver lawyer on the panel whose firm helped draft Amendment 64, the measure legalizing recreational marijuana. “The other side is that if you tax something too high, then you simply crowd out the regulated market. We’re confident we’ll find the right balance.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchDrugs/Drug AddictionHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeTaxesPolitics in GeneralState Government

1 Comments
Posted April 24, 2013 at 11:35 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

At this time of year, when most Americans have just filed their returns, exasperation with the income tax system reaches a peak. Hardly anyone denies it's a complex mess. In 2010, calculating their taxes cost Americans $168 billion, estimates the Taxpayer Advocate Service of the Internal Revenue Service. That's about 15 percent of taxes collected — a heavy overhead. Almost 60 percent of taxpayers pay accountants or other tax preparers. Public esteem for the tax system is low; in a 2011 Pew poll, 55 percent judged it unfair. Disaffection was fairly even politically: 47 percent among Republicans, 58 percent among Democrats and 56 percent among independents.

So “tax reform” ought to be a cinch, right? Well, no.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceTaxesThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

0 Comments
Posted April 21, 2013 at 11:05 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

There is a great graphic here and some comment there.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyHealth & MedicineMiddle AgeTeens / YouthYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingPersonal FinanceTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in General* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted April 16, 2013 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

To tax reform advocates, the federal tax code is a shambling behemoth, its immense girth weighing down corporations and Jane and Joe Taxpayer alike. The code is more than 4 million words long and has been tweaked 4,680 times since 2001, or more than once a day, according to the Internal Revenue Service's National Taxpayer Advocate, whose job is to champion the poor schlubs who have to contend with the US tax system. Compliance takes more than 6 billion person-hours a year and costs $168 billion, the advocate's office reports.

Tax expenditures – the sober name for myriad loopholes, carve-outs, and incentives in the code – shield almost as much in revenue, at just over $1 trillion, as the $1.4 trillion collected each year.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal FinanceTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted April 15, 2013 at 5:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyStock MarketTaxesThe U.S. Government* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.England / UKEurope

0 Comments
Posted April 11, 2013 at 12:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

France's experiment with the Tobin Tax has proved a spectacular flop. Its finance ministry admits that the scattershot levy on financial transactions has raised just a third of the money expected since August.

Total takings will be a paltry €800m in 2013, but that overlooks the much greater damage inflicted on French finance, industry and the government's own tax base. "France is shooting itself in the foot," said Paul-Henri de La Porte du Theil, head of French finance industry AFG.

Jean-Yves Hocher from Crédit Agricole said it would cost his company €17bn. One French banker told Les Echos that the tax was "a weapon of mass destruction that is going to ruin our financial sector".

Read it all.



Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeStock MarketTaxes* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.England / UKEuropeFrance

0 Comments
Posted April 11, 2013 at 11:35 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A political class that botched the fiscal cliff so badly are not going to be capable of a gigantic deal on complex issues. It’s like going into a day care center and asking a bunch of infants to perform “Swan Lake.”
--David Brooks in a piece on today's NY Times Op-ed page entitled "The Next Four Years"

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyPastoral Theology

0 Comments
Posted January 18, 2013 at 8:09 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Late one night 20 years ago, when I was an oil executive rather than an Anglican bishop, I had run out of steam and patience toward the end of a complex multinational acquisition. We came to yet another bit of box ticking and I suggested we skip it, because we knew the material was accurate.

“Justin,” our wise investment-bank director said quietly, “you know that’s not how we do it.”

Under pressure, everyone is prone to make bad decisions and that story remains in my mind as I sit on the U.K.’s Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, listening to people talk about banks, bankers and their failures.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby* Culture-WatchGlobalizationLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketStock MarketTaxesThe Banking System/Sector* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

4 Comments
Posted January 17, 2013 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Public debt as a percentage of gross domestic product was around 38 percent in 1965. It is around 74 percent now. Debt could approach a ruinous 90 percent of G.D.P. in a decade and a cataclysmic 247 percent of G.D.P. 30 years from now, according to the Congressional Budget Office and JPMorgan.

By 2025, entitlement spending and debt payments are projected to suck up all federal revenue. Obligations to the elderly are already squeezing programs for the young and the needy. Those obligations will lead to gigantic living standard declines for future generations. According to the International Monetary Fund, meeting America’s long-term obligations will require an immediate and permanent 35 percent increase in all taxes and a 35 percent cut in all benefits....

[The final 'solution didn't] involve a single hard decision. It did little to control spending. It abandoned all of the entitlement reform ideas that have been thrown around.

Whom should we blame for this? Again, we should not blame Obama and Boehner. In their different ways, they and a number of other people in the Congress are trying to find a politically palatable way to deal with these hard issues. They got what conditions allowed.

Ultimately, we should blame the American voters. The average Medicare couple pays $109,000 into the program and gets $343,000 in benefits out, according to the Urban Institute. This is $234,000 in free money. Many voters have decided they like spending a lot on themselves and pushing costs onto their children and grandchildren. They have decided they like borrowing up to $1 trillion a year for tax credits, disability payments, defense contracts and the rest. They have found that the original Keynesian rationale for these deficits provides a perfect cover for permanent deficit-living. They have made it clear that they will destroy any politician who tries to stop them from cost-shifting in this way.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyHealth & MedicineHistoryPsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentMedicareSocial SecurityPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted January 15, 2013 at 3:05 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

On top of the possible employment losses, what messages are we sending when the government penalizes marriage at any level? One message is clear. The decision by Congress to impose a marriage penalty only discourages couples from getting married and subsidizes cohabiting households. The Marriage and Religion Research Institute studies the social science data and research on the impacts of marriage and religious practice on the lives of children and the future of the nation. Statistics show that homes headed by married couples are less likely to need government assistance. Analyzing the data, they have found that children in homes headed by married couples are more likely to be higher-achieving students and better citizens, and are less likely to become dependent on the failing government subsidy system.

Add in the higher taxes (an average of $2,425 per employee) from the 2 percent tax increase in everyone’s paychecks to pay for Social Security and the myriad tax increases all families will pay thanks to the malady known as Obamacare, and it is likely that families will end this year with their own personal fiscal cliffs. If Congress is serious about tax reform, easing the burdens on all families should be at the center of any transformation.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMarriage & Family* Economics, PoliticsEconomyPersonal FinanceTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in GeneralCity GovernmentOffice of the PresidentSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted January 11, 2013 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Congress' hectic resolution of the "fiscal cliff" crisis is the latest in a long series of decisions by lawmakers and the White House to do less than promised — and to ask Americans for little sacrifice — in confronting the nation's burgeoning debt.

The deal will generate $600 billion in new revenue over 10 years, less than half the amount President Barack Obama first called for. It will raise income tax rates only on the very rich, despite Obama's campaign for broader increases.

It puts off the toughest decisions about spending cuts for military and domestic programs, including Medicare and Social Security. And it does nothing to mitigate the looming partisan showdown on the debt ceiling, which must rise soon to avoid default on U.S. loans.

In short, the deal reached between Obama and congressional Republicans continues to let Americans enjoy relatively high levels of government service at low levels of taxation. The only way that's possible, of course, is through heavy borrowing, which future generations will inherit.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

1 Comments
Posted January 2, 2013 at 3:54 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The budget deal passed by the U.S. Senate [and House]... would raise taxes on 77.1 percent of U.S. households, mostly because of the expiration of a payroll tax cut, according to preliminary estimates from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center in Washington.

More than 80 percent of households with incomes between $50,000 and $200,000 would pay higher taxes. Among the households facing higher taxes, the average increase would be $1,635, the policy center said. A 2 percent payroll tax cut, enacted during the economic slowdown, is being allowed to expire as of [December 31]

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingPersonal FinanceTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

2 Comments
Posted January 2, 2013 at 6:41 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Congress approved a plan to end Washington’s long drama over the “fiscal cliff” late Tuesday after House Republicans surrendered to President Obama’s demand to let taxes rise on the nation’s richest households.

The House voted 257 to 167 to send the measure to Obama for his signature; the vote came less than 24 hours after the Senate overwhelmingly approved the legislation.

Read it all.

Update: Here are the new numbers for 2013 in Congress--Democrats control of the Senate by 55 to 45 (change of 2) and Republicans control of the House of Representatives by 234-201 (change of 8)

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal FinanceTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted January 2, 2013 at 6:22 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A US Senate-backed deal [by a vote of 89-8] to stave off a "fiscal cliff" of drastic taxation and spending measures has passed to the House of Representatives.

President Barack Obama has urged the House to pass the bill "without delay".

However, several representatives have spoken out against it, with one calling it "bad for America".

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

0 Comments
Posted January 1, 2013 at 1:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Senate leaders are racing against the clock to reach a "fiscal cliff" deal the House and Senate can approve on New Year's Eve.

Leaders in the upper chamber narrowed their differences Sunday as Republicans agreed to drop a demand to curb cost-of-living increases to entitlement benefits, while Democrats showed flexibility on taxes.

Yet after months of talks on ways to avoid the fiscal cliff of tax hikes and spending cuts at the end of 2012, House and Senate lawmakers find themselves approaching the new year without a bill to present to their members.
Significant differences remain over two key parts of a deal — the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester and the estate tax.

Read it all.

Update: a BBC article is there.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to at KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

0 Comments
Posted December 31, 2012 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

When President Obama talks about taxing the rich, he means the top 2 percent of Americans. John A. Boehner, the House speaker, talks about an even thinner slice. But the current and future fiscal imbalances are too large to exempt 98 percent or more of the public from being part of the solution.

Ultimately, unless we scale back entitlement programs far more than anyone in Washington is now seriously considering, we will have no choice but to increase taxes on a vast majority of Americans. This could involve higher tax rates or an elimination of popular deductions. Or it could mean an entirely new tax, such as a value-added tax or a carbon tax.

To be sure, the path ahead is not easy. No politician who wants to be re-elected is eager to entertain the possibility of higher taxes on the middle class. But fiscal negotiations might become a bit easier if everyone started by agreeing that the policies we choose must be constrained by the laws of arithmetic.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyPersonal FinanceTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

1 Comments
Posted December 30, 2012 at 5:26 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Whether or not there is a deal, the weeks since the election have produced a stark display of political gridlock. "The government is not working," said Steve Bell, senior director of the Bipartisan Policy Center, who was a senior budget adviser to Senate Republicans for many years. "There is no doubt that the policy-making apparatus in this town has collapsed."

Following the tea-party wave in the 2010 election, the 112th Congress looks set to be the least productive in recent history. By the end of November, the House had passed 146 bills over the previous two years, by far the smallest number for any Congress since 1948. The Senate passed fewer bills in 2012 than in any year since at least 1992.

Rather than smoothing over differences, the November election appears to have hardened them. "We came out of the election with both sides thinking they won and had an equal mandate," said Ross Baker, a professor at Rutgers University who is now interviewing lawmakers on Capitol Hill for a book on bipartisanship. "One problem is we don't have a common narrative to guide us."

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to at KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryPsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeTaxesThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.


Posted December 28, 2012 at 6:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A long line of America's top chief executives have rotated through Washington in recent weeks, loudly urging lawmakers and the White House to reach a broad deal to fix the budget. They once sounded optimistic. Now many of them aren't talking, and if they are, they're gloomy.

Mark Bertolini, chief executive of health-insurance company Aetna Inc., called the state of play "pitiful and embarrassing," saying the chances are growing that a deal might not be reached by the end of the year to avert $500 billion in tax increases and spending cuts.

"Set aside my interest as the CEO of a participant in the economy here—as an American, I'm embarrassed if that's where we end up," Mr. Bertolini said in an interview. "It feels like it's starting to fall apart."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifeTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaState Government

0 Comments
Posted December 21, 2012 at 6:31 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The shape of a deal to avert the US fiscal cliff is at last emerging, with at least $1tn in new taxes, up to $1tn in fresh spending cuts and an increase in America’s debt ceiling, as negotiators scramble to reach an agreement before the end-of-the-year deadline.

Barack Obama, US president, and John Boehner, Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, held their third face-to-face meeting in eight days at the White House amid signs of growing momentum in the talks. If they strike a deal in the coming days, and are able to pass it through Congress, it would remove a huge cloud of uncertainty hanging over the global economy.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

0 Comments
Posted December 17, 2012 at 3:21 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Greece could generate budget revenues amounting to 5 percent of national output annually if it reforms tax collection and clamps down on tax cheats, the European Union's tax chief told a Greek newspaper.

Athens plans reforms next year to combat rampant tax evasion as it struggles to shore up public finances and achieve a primary budget surplus, both necessary to continue receiving bailout aid from international lenders.

The euro zone agreed on Thursday to provide nearly 50 billion euros ($64 billion) in long-delayed aid to Greece, averting a catastrophic default and securing its survival in the zone after months of doubt and political turmoil.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeGreece* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted December 15, 2012 at 10:28 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Budget negotiations between the White House and Republican House Speaker John Boehner have progressed steadily in recent days, people close to the process said, breathing life into talks that appeared to have stalled.

Both sides still face sizable differences before any agreement might be reached by the end of the year, and talks could well falter again over such controversial issues as taxes and Medicare before any deal is ultimately reached.

The people familiar with the matter say talks have taken a marked shift in recent days as staff and leaders have consulted, becoming more "serious." Both sides have agreed to keep details private, according to the people, who declined to detail where new ground was being broken.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsTaxesThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack Obama

0 Comments
Posted December 10, 2012 at 5:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For more than a year, politicians have been fighting over whether to raise taxes on high-income people. They rarely mention that affluent Americans will soon be hit with new taxes adopted as part of the 2010 health care law.

The new levies, which take effect in January, include an increase in the payroll tax on wages and a tax on investment income, including interest, dividends and capital gains. The Obama administration proposed rules to enforce both last week.

Affluent people are much more likely than low-income people to have health insurance, and now they will, in effect, help pay for coverage for many lower-income families. Among the most affluent fifth of households, those affected will see tax increases averaging $6,000 next year, economists estimate.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. Government

0 Comments
Posted December 9, 2012 at 2:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

From there:
[Here is a list of]...the most expensive tax breaks in the current tax code, based on what those breaks would cost the U.S. Treasury in lost revenue from 2013 to 2017:

1) Exclusion of employer contributions for medical insurance premiums & medical: $1 trillion

2) Mortgage interest deduction: $606 billion

3) Deduction for 401(k) plans: $429 billion

4) Accelerated depreciation of machinery & equipment: $375 billion

5) Exclusion of net imputed rental income: $337 billion

6) Capital gains: $321 billion

7) Charitable contributions: $293 billion


Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

3 Comments
Posted December 6, 2012 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

....seasoned Washington hands say that once this rather gloomy back and forth has played out - and it might take another week or more - the work towards reaching a solution that both sides can sell to their parties and their lawmakers will begin in earnest.

A deal by Christmas, a week before the fiscal cliff deadline, remains uncertain but not out of the question. The so-called fiscal cliff is a combination of U.S. government spending cuts and tax increases due to be implemented under existing law in early 2013 that may cut the federal budget deficit but also tip the economy back into recession.

The pattern of little happening until very close to a holiday is well-established on Capitol Hill. The past three pre-Christmas seasons brought important eleventh-hour developments on health care in 2009, tax cut extensions in 2010 and the payroll tax holiday in 2011.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceStock MarketTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

0 Comments
Posted December 3, 2012 at 3:26 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

....President Obama's call for a return to Clinton-era tax rates is misleading: If the Bush upper-income tax cuts go away, tax rates will exceed those in place at the end of the 1990s.

The top effective federal marginal tax rate on work income would rise to roughly 44.6% from 37.9% in 2012.

That's higher than under President Clinton because of a 0.9-percentage-point Medicare payroll tax hike for upper-income households, which passed with Obama-Care and takes effect in January.

Tax rates on long-term capital gains also will be higher than when Clinton left office if Bush tax cuts expire as ObamaCare's new 3.8% Medicare tax on investment gains takes effect. Up to now, only wage and salary income has been subject to Medicare taxes.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted December 3, 2012 at 9:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

At first blush, it seems to make policy sense, too. The rich fabric of America’s civic life, from Boy Scouts to community orchestras to soup kitchens, is the envy of the world. Its diversity reflects in part how much it depends on private givers with diverse interests and motives, and not just on the government. Their giving is encouraged by the charitable deduction, enacted in 1917, just four years after the income tax itself. The deduction lets people feel they are beating the system even as they practice virtue.

But there’s a question of fairness that complicates the issue. Overwhelmingly, the deduction benefits the wealthy — and the rest of the country has to make up the gap.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchCharities/Non-Profit Organizations* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

18 Comments
Posted December 3, 2012 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Primate of All Nigeria Anglican Communion, Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, on Saturday dismissed calls in some quarters for Churches in the country to be mandated to pay tax to government.

Okoh said this in Abuja at the 2012 Carnival for Christ, organised by the Abuja Diocese of the Anglican Communion.

The Carnival for Christ is an annual gathering of the various archdeaconries in the diocese to praise and worship God.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of Nigeria* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxes

0 Comments
Posted December 2, 2012 at 4:58 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

I listened to NPR yesterday for over an hour back and forth from a doctors appointment.

The entire time they talked about President Obama's proposal to implement the middle class tax cut now.
Everywhere I turn its middle class tax cut, middle class tax cut...

Except it isn't but no one thinks about these things.

What is being proposed is not letting the current tax code STAY THE SAME.
So 98% of Americans WON"T HAVE A TAX INCREASE.

Since when is not having an increase a cut?

Anyone you know say I am getting the same number of days vacation this year as last year I am angry I get a benefits cut!

Filed under: * By Kendall* Economics, PoliticsEconomyPersonal FinanceTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentSenate


Posted November 29, 2012 at 9:07 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For the first time in decades, a bipartisan consensus has emerged in Washington to raise taxes. But negotiators working to avert the year-end “fiscal cliff” remain far apart on crucial details, including how taxes should go up and who should pay more.

Neither side gave ground in an opening round of staff-level talks last week at the Capitol. As President Obama and congressional leaders prepare for a second face-to-face meeting as soon as this week, the divide over taxes presents the biggest obstacle to replacing the heap of abrupt tax hikes and spending cuts, set to hit in January, with a less-traumatic debt-reduction plan.

People in both parties are exploring ideas for bridging the gap. Without a deal on taxes, there is not much hope for agreement on a broader strategy for restraining the national debt that also tackles the skyrocketing cost of federal retirement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

3 Comments
Posted November 26, 2012 at 6:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Most of the increases would result from the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts, which would cause marginal rates to rise. Simultaneously, several temporary tax breaks pushed by President Barack Obamaafter the financial crisis also would end.

And most households—121 million in all—would be hit by an increase in the payroll tax that employees pay to 6.2% from 4.2%.

Also expiring at year-end is a provision to reduce the so-called marriage penalty, a set of tax provisions that require many couples to pay higher taxes when they file jointly. And millions more families' earnings this year would be subject to the alternative minimum tax. The AMT was originally intended to prevent the very wealthy from avoiding taxes but would apply to middle-class households if policy makers don't renew a provision that expired last year.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal FinanceTaxesThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentBudgetThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenateUS Presidential Election 2012

0 Comments
Posted November 21, 2012 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

...the biggest loopholes in the U.S. Tax Code — generally referred to as tax expenditures — aren’t just the tricks of the trade for millionaires with offshore bank accounts. For the vast majority of Americans, they’re just how things work: You don’t pay taxes on your health insurance or Medicare benefits; you contribute tax-free to your 401(k); and your mortgage interest pushes down your tax bill each year.

And even if you dump the biggest of the set, these tax perks don’t even come close to closing the deficit. At best, the top 10 would pull in an extra $834 billion a year, according to Joint Committee on Taxation figures. Considering the hole lawmakers are trying to fill is several trillion dollars large, it’s clear they wouldn’t even come close.

Here are the 10 biggest tax loopholes — and the reasons why most of them will survive the fiscal cliff....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal FinanceTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenateUS Presidential Election 2012

1 Comments
Posted November 20, 2012 at 12:04 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

U.S. companies are scaling back investment plans at the fastest pace since the recession, signaling more trouble for the economic recovery.

Half of the nation's 40 biggest publicly traded corporate spenders have announced plans to curtail capital expenditures this year or next, according to a review by The Wall Street Journal of securities filings and conference calls.

Nationwide, business investment in equipment and software—a measure of economic vitality in the corporate sector—stalled in the third quarter for the first time since early 2009. Corporate investment in new buildings has declined.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifeTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenateUS Presidential Election 2012

0 Comments
Posted November 19, 2012 at 6:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

As the high-stakes wrangling over the fiscal cliff gets underway, we though it might be the proper moment to remind everybody just how the United States managed to become the world's biggest debtor.

So, here's how....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetCensus/Census DataMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in General

1 Comments
Posted November 15, 2012 at 4:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Talks to agree the EU's 2013 budget have collapsed, after negotiators from the EU and member states were unable to agree on extra funding for 2012.

The EU Commission and European Parliament had asked for a budget rise of 6.8% in 2013.

But most governments wanted to limit the rise to just 2.8%.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankTaxesThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--Politics in General* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010

0 Comments
Posted November 11, 2012 at 6:04 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Should lawmakers not reach agreement prior to the end of the year, the US budget deficit for 2013 would be cut almost in half, to $560 billion.

Which doesn't sound like a bad thing. After all, the US is staggering under a monumental pile of debt and could potentially begin to face the kinds of difficulties that have plunged several euro-zone countries into crisis. It is a viewpoint shared by the ratings agencies -- a year ago, Standard & Poor's withdrew America's top rating, justifying the measure by pointing to the unending battle over the debt ceiling. The agency noted that "the political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America's governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed."

From afar, it is difficult to argue; the ongoing battle between Democrats and Republicans in the face of a horrendously imbalanced budget looks catastrophically absurd. As their country heads toward the edge of the abyss, lawmakers preferred to debate whether or not French fries and pizza should be considered vegetables.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenateUS Presidential Election 2012

15 Comments
Posted November 9, 2012 at 4:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

France’s main sales-tax rate will increase in January 2014 to 20 percent from 19.6 percent, while the second band on home renovations and restaurants will rise to 10 percent from 7 percent currently. A third rate that applies to food and energy will be cut to 5 percent from 5.5 percent in an effort to support the spending power of France’s poorest households, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said today.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxes* International News & CommentaryEuropeFrance

1 Comments
Posted November 7, 2012 at 2:56 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Heavenly Father we ask that you will have mercy on America today and bless us in spite of ourselves. We ask that you will give wisdom to all who go to the polls to cast their votes. Help us as we make difficult decisions on a variety of issues and as we seek to elect men and women who will hunger for righteousness and seek the common good to positions of authority in our towns and cities, in our states and in our nation. We pray against any voter fraud or any corruption of proper voter access and ask that justice be done in each and every election, whatever the locale. We also pray for peace and grace with one another as the results are received and digested, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns in glory everlasting, Amen--KSH.

Filed under: * By Kendall* Christian Life / Church LifeSpirituality/Prayer* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetPolitics in GeneralCity GovernmentHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentSenateState GovernmentUS Presidential Election 2012* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted November 6, 2012 at 5:46 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Finance chiefs of the world's 20 leading economies are ringing alarm bells over the U.S. fiscal cliff and Europe's debt woes at a meeting in Mexico this weekend as they look to push back deficit reduction targets to help boost growth.

Unless a fractious U.S. Congress can reach a deal, about $600 billion in government spending cuts and higher taxes are set to kick in on January 1, threatening to push the American economy back into recession and hit world growth.

"The Americans themselves acknowledge that this is a problem," a G20 official said on condition of anonymity. "The U.S. administration says it doesn't want to fall off the fiscal cliff, but right now it can't tell us how exactly it will address it because that issue is on ice ahead of the election."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsG20 Housing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceStock MarketTaxesThe Banking System/SectorThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentSenateUS Presidential Election 2012

0 Comments
Posted November 5, 2012 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

French leader François Hollande is uncomfortably close to a collapse in credibility. His poll rating has sunk to 36pc. The speed of decline has been shocking.
The latest broadside comes from ex-German chancellor Gerhard Schröder, supposedly his ally on the Left.
"The election promises of the French president are going to shatter on the walls of economic reality," he said in Paris.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankTaxesForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010France

0 Comments
Posted November 3, 2012 at 12:20 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

State officials say someone hacked into the Department of Revenue, exposing about 3.6 million South Carolina tax returns.

Gov. Nikki Haley said Friday about 387,000 credit and debit card numbers were also exposed, and 16,000 of those were unencrypted. State officials are urging anyone who has filed a state tax return since 1998 to call a toll-free number to determine whether their information is affected.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the InternetLaw & Legal IssuesPolice/FireScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryEconomyPersonal FinanceTaxesPolitics in GeneralState Government* South Carolina* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted October 27, 2012 at 3:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Ontario Medical Association’s call to slap hot fudge and French fries with a so-called fat tax is a regressive measure that will hurt consumers without any provable benefit. The association is also off-base with its proposal to put graphic photos of diseased organs and limbs on junk food packaging. While the association’s aim of raising awareness is laudable, food is not tobacco and shouldn’t be treated as an inherently harmful substance....

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchDieting/Food/NutritionHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxes* International News & CommentaryCanada

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Posted October 25, 2012 at 11:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Indeed, the impact of this latest round of unconventional monetary policy is already fading. Analysts at Morgan Stanley this week decided that returns in the high-yield market were no longer attractive in the face of deteriorating fundamentals. The stock market is struggling to make further headway, while yields on mortgage-backed securities have started to turn up after an initial drop. A drop in third-quarter capital expenditure suggests the Fed policy hasn’t been a catalyst for corporate investment at all.

One major reason for the lack of effectiveness of this latest round of quantitative easing may well be a growing concern with the “fiscal cliff”, automatic US tax rises and spending cuts due to kick in on January 1. Uncertainty over “cliff risk” – and the prospects of a deal in Congress on deficit reduction – seems to be offsetting any positive impact of Fed policies.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketTaxesThe Banking System/SectorThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetFederal ReserveThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentSenate

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Posted October 20, 2012 at 11:59 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

An Episcopal priest who, with her husband, brings in about $65,000 a year tells Marketplace that they are lower middle class. A woman posting at dcurbanmom.com identifies her family as middle class, and their income is $100,000 a year. CNN talks to a man struggling to save for his son’s education who defines “middle class” as families with too much to qualify for federal Pell Grants—which is at most about $48,000 for a family of three. I was eligible for Pell Grants, and before that for subsidized school lunches, but I’ve always understood my family of origin to be middle class.

A majority of Americans consider themselves middle class, a recent Pew survey found, despite a wide variance in their earnings. So what does “middle class” mean if it applies to most of the country? And if we are all middle class now, what are the political and cultural implications?

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationPsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyPersonal FinanceTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetThe National DeficitPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

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Posted October 17, 2012 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

From an interview with the authors of the Simpson-Bowles reform plan and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein:

"...We just met with -- a dozen of the largest high-tech company CEOs in the country. Not only are they hoarding cash. All their customers, all their suppliers are. They're scared to death we're going to go over this cliff and it could be a catastrophe...."

You can find a summary article to read there, it has briefer video links, but the best use of your time is to watch the full interview over here or read the transcript (about 42 1/2 minutes). Also, David Brook's piece on the debt indulgence is worth a careful revisit.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsTaxesThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentBudgetFederal ReserveMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentSenate

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Posted October 16, 2012 at 6:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A potentially serious complication has arisen in California's latest effort to avoid billions in spending cuts, which threaten the state’s education and welfare systems.

Gov. Jerry Brown's Proposition 30 intends to forestall "draconian" budget cuts by temporarily raising taxes, including sales taxes and income taxes on the wealthy. The initiative could largely determine his legacy, as well as the state’s fiscal health for at least a decade. Moreover, if successful, Prop. 30 could begin to shift the national conversation on taxes after decades of extreme antitax sentiment across the country.

Polls show that a thin majority of state voters support Prop. 30. But that support could be undercut by another proposition that aims to raise taxes for public education. Molly Munger, the millionaire behind the rival initiative, has even suggested she might start airing comparison ads arguing why voters should vote for her proposition, not Governor Brown's Prop. 30.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeTaxesThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--Politics in GeneralState Government

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Posted October 10, 2012 at 6:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

And to draw, dear reader, what I think are critical relative comparisons, look at who’s in that ring of fire alongside the U.S. There’s Japan, Greece, the U.K., Spain and France, sort of a rogues’ gallery of debtors. Look as well at which countries have their budgets and fiscal gaps under relative control – Canada, Italy, Brazil, Mexico, China and a host of other developing (many not shown) as opposed to developed countries. As a rule of thumb, developing countries have less debt and more underdeveloped financial systems. The U.S. and its fellow serial abusers have been inhaling debt’s methamphetamine crystals for some time now, and kicking the habit looks incredibly difficult.

As one of the “Ring” leaders, America’s abusive tendencies can be described in more ways than an 11% fiscal gap and a $1.6 trillion current dollar hole which needs to be filled. It’s well publicized that the U.S. has $16 trillion of outstanding debt, but its future liabilities in terms of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are less tangible and therefore more difficult to comprehend. Suppose, though, that when paying payroll or income taxes for any of the above benefits, American citizens were issued a bond that they could cash in when required to pay those future bills. The bond would be worth more than the taxes paid because the benefits are increasing faster than inflation. The fact is that those bonds today would total nearly $60 trillion, a disparity that is four times our publicized number of outstanding debt. We owe, in other words, not only $16 trillion in outstanding, Treasury bonds and bills, but $60 trillion more. In my example, it just so happens that the $60 trillion comes not in the form of promises to pay bonds or bills at maturity, but the present value of future Social Security benefits, Medicaid expenses and expected costs for Medicare. Altogether, that’s a whopping total of 500% of GDP, dear reader, and I’m not making it up. Kindly consult the IMF and the CBO for verification. Kindly wonder, as well, how we’re going to get out of this mess.

Please take the time to read it all and examine the chart closely. The only difference on this between Mr. Gross and myself is that I believe he understates the problem with the 60 trillion dollar figure. As has been discussed on the blog in the past, the correct figure may be as much as three plus times that amount--KSH.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationHistoryPsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentSenate

16 Comments
Posted October 2, 2012 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

According to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, the U.S. is on the threshold of one of the largest tax increases in history, a tax hike that could average $3,500 for every American household.

Without actions from Congress, the report says taxes will go up next year by 20 percent, or $536 billion overall. It will hit Americans at every income level including those living below the poverty line. For a middle income family making $40,000 per year, the tax increase is $2,000.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingPersonal FinanceTaxesThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentBudgetThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentSenate* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

8 Comments
Posted October 2, 2012 at 6:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Support for Gov. Jerry Brown's plan for billions of dollars in tax hikes on the November ballot is slipping amid public anxiety about how politicians spend money, but voters still favor the proposal, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll.

The findings suggest that voters are leery of sending more cash to Sacramento in the wake of a financial scandal at the parks department, spiraling costs for a multibillion-dollar high-speed rail project to connect Northern and Southern California and ill-timed legislative pay raises.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--Politics in GeneralState Government

3 Comments
Posted October 1, 2012 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

An overwhelming majority of Greeks believe new austerity measures the government has promised its international lenders in exchange for more financial aid are unfair and hurt the poorest sections of society, a poll showed on Saturday.

Near-bankrupt Greece needs the European Union and International Monetary Fund's blessing on measures worth nearly 12 billion euros ($16 billion) to unlock its next tranche of aid, without which it faces default and a potential exit from the euro zone.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryPsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketTaxesThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--Foreign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010Greece

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Posted September 22, 2012 at 11:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Gov. Jerry Brown of California announced when he came into office last year that he had found an alarming $28 billion “wall of debt” looming over the state, which had to be dismantled.

Since then, he has slowed the issuance of municipal bonds, called for spending cuts and tried to persuade the state’s famously antitax voters to approve a tax increase this fall.

On Thursday, an independent group of fiscal experts said Mr. Brown’s efforts were all well and good, but in fact, the “wall of debt” was several times as big as the governor thought.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeTaxesThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--Politics in GeneralState Government

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Posted September 21, 2012 at 9:11 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

So people who spend most of their money on groceries and gasoline and electricity — usually the poorest among us — effectively pay a lower sales tax, because those items aren’t taxed. So do wealthier people who spend most of their money on services — from lawn care to attorney fees — which also are untaxed. People who spend more of their money on clothing or electronics or restaurant meals or most consumer goods pay a higher effective tax rate because those items are taxed.

Now, there are perfectly legitimate reasons to write exemptions into the tax code. It can make the code more equitable: A sales tax is regressive, because poor people must spend a larger portion of their income than wealthier people, who are able to save or invest more; exempting groceries is one way to make the tax less regressive. Exemptions also can discourage those activities that we as a society want to discourage and encourage activities that we want to encourage; hence, a higher tax on cigarettes, and tax breaks for creating jobs in low-income counties.

The problem comes when the loopholes swallow the whole — as they clearly have when twice as many sales are exempted as taxed. The problem comes when the tax exemptions do not reflect generally agreed-upon values, but instead reflect the lobbying power of the favored interests. Or inertia.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal FinanceTaxesPolitics in GeneralState Government* South Carolina

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Posted September 16, 2012 at 1:29 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]




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