Archive

Posts Tagged ‘tax’
June 29th, 2012 at 11:40 am
No, The Taxing Power Isn’t Infinitely Elastic

I hate to disagree with my friend Tim, with whom I almost always agree, but I think he is dead wrong (and the dissenting opinion provides ample evidence, much more eloquently than I, as to why) why he says:

It is beyond significant dispute that Obama and the Pelosi-Reid Congress could have passed ObamaCare and its individual mandate as a “tax.”  The text of Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution explicitly provides that “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States.”  Thus, the federal government can tax and spend on behalf of almost anything it considers to advance the nation’s general welfare, even if its power to more crudely compel or prohibit actual behavior beyond that spending carrot is more limited.

Well, no. Not really.

The taxing power, as the dissent notes, NEVER EVER EVER has been construed to extend that far. The government can tax people; it can tax property; it can tax purchases or other activity; — but it CANNOT (or at least could not, until now) tax inactivity or the decision to remain inactive. Just as with the Commerce Clause argument, the same applies here: Under Roberts’ theory, now the government can impose a tax on you for NOT doing calisthenics in the morning, for NOT eating broccoli, for NOT buying a Chevy Volt, or for anything else it darn well pleases.

The taxing authority has never stretched so far.

And that leaves aside all the other facts at play here, such as that this isn’t a tax at all, but a penalty; that it isn’t even in the section of the bill devoted to revenue (thus indicating again that it is not a tax); and that it doesn’t operate like a tax because it is assessed in a way completely at odds with all definitions of a tax. (The dissent explains this well.)

Roberts bizzarrely conflates a tax “incentive” (an exemption from paying a tax otherwise generally levied) with a tax. He says giving a tax break for buying a home is meant to encourage home buying, so what’s the big deal about placing a tax on not purchasing health insurance in order to encourage the purchase of said insurance? Well, the key word is “not.” In the first instance, the tax already exists. It is a property tax. The property tax is reduced, though, if it is a primary homestead. But NOWHERE IS THERE A TAX ON NOT OWNING PROPERTY. Thus, it is an entirely different thing than imposing a tax on not purchasing insurance.

It’s an incredibly foolish comparison for Roberts to have made — but it is in keeping with the slipshod, hurried, almost desperate way he wrote the three pages on the taxing power, completely at odds with the careful exposition he made of the limits on the Commerce Clause.

This wasn’t a constitutional exposition at all; it was a politicized act of judicial legislating from the bench to create an entirely different law than the one passed by Congress and signed by the president.

June 25th, 2012 at 12:57 pm
California Wood Tax Turns Forests into Suburbs

Michelle Steel, the Republican Vice Chair of California’s Board of Equalization – an independent tax gathering arm of state government – found a pernicious little wood tax tucked away in Democratic Governor Jerry Brown’s recent budget proposal (emphasis below is mine):

The new tax is expected to raise $30 million annually, but that revenue won’t go to the general fund or to debt payments. According to the revised budget, lumber tax revenue will go to support the regulatory activities of the Departments of Forestry and Fire Protection, Fish and Game, Conservation, and the State Water Resources Control Board related to Timber Harvest Plan review.

California’s forest practice regulations are the most restrictive of any state in the nation. Regulatory compliance costs California forest-landowners more than 10 times what it costs similar companies in Oregon and Washington. According to a recent Cal Poly San Luis Obispo study, “California’s regulatory environment is having the unintended consequences of harming forest health,” by making it so difficult to manage timberland that owners are selling their land to housing developers.

Excessive environmental regulations are turning our forests into suburbs. Yet, instead of saving tax dollars by reducing regulation, the governor has chosen to compound the problem by increasing the funding of an inefficient regulatory program.

California tax policy: deforesting the woodlands in order to save them.

H/T: Jon Fleischman’s FlashReport

June 7th, 2012 at 4:56 pm
Senate Angling for Lame Duck Deal on Taxes, Spending

Politico reports that a group of Democratic and Republican senators are “quietly pushing to have a major tax and budget package ready by September so a bill can be introduced immediately after the November elections and passed by Christmas.”

In other words, during a lame duck session.  Only in the U.S. Senate could people seriously think that a multi-trillion dollar deal negotiated in secret and passed by a Congress that no longer reflects the electoral will of the people somehow counts as statesmanship.

This isn’t to say a lame duck Congress should never hold consequential votes.  A terrorist attack, a foreign military invasion, or an asteroid hitting the earth all qualify as legitimate reasons to let retiring and dethroned members decide national policy.  But the fear of falling off a “fiscal cliff” that’s been approaching for years – unsustainable deficits, exploding entitlements, budget sequesters that gut the Defense Department, expiring Bush tax cuts that raise rates on individuals – certainly does not.

It’s been said, rightly, that major reforms need bipartisan support.  But that’s only half of the equation.  Major reforms of the magnitude now being contemplated need to be road-tested on the campaign trail.  The 2012 election is one of the most important electoral moments in the modern era.  If there are good ideas brewing in the Senate, members should establish some consensus and make it part of the public debate.  Otherwise, enjoy the perks of office and let the next Congress, and the next President, decide.

April 17th, 2012 at 1:02 pm
Buffett Rule Hits Entrepreneurs Hardest

Yesterday, Senate Republicans blocked consideration on President Barack Obama’s so-called ‘Buffett Rule’ to impose a minimum federal income tax on some millionaires earning income on certain kinds of investments.  As I discussed in my column last week, no tax authority thinks implementing the Buffett Rule will make a scintilla of difference in the federal deficit.  So good riddance to a time-wasting distraction.

But before we pivot to the Obama reelection campaign’s next economic inanity, let’s pause to consider what liberal support for the Buffett Rule really says about modern liberalism’s discriminatory use of the tax code.

In a splendid piece published yesterday, former Reagan advisor Richard Rahn explains that the Buffett Rule only hits the type of investment income most used by entrepreneurs, and thus blocks those trying to ascend the personal wealth ladder.

Even if the Buffett tax ever passes, it was crafted by members of Congress to hit few of their own. Very rich members of Congress, such as Sens. John F. Kerry and John D. Rockefeller IV, receive much of their income from tax-exempt state and local bonds and from trust funds, which largely avoid the tax. Members of Congress generally are restricted from entrepreneurial activities. So, of course, they have decided to increase the tax on entrepreneurs — the capital gains tax — which is a tax on becoming rich, not a tax on being rich.

Most people, such as students, are relatively poor by government methodology when they are young but rise through the income ranks as they become more productive and experienced and then fall in relative income as they near and enter retirement, even though they may have considerable net wealth. By increasing the tax on capital gains and marginal rates, the government makes it more difficult to move into higher income brackets, thus actually reducing income-class mobility.

Those who support the Buffett millionaires’ surtax as written reveal themselves either to be economically ignorant or to believe the voters are fools who will not see through their destructive games.

Three cheers for the fiscal conservatives in the Senate who blocked consideration on this atrocious bill.  It’s time to get beyond gimmicks, and implement policies that get America back to work without further distorting the tax code.

February 23rd, 2012 at 7:05 pm
Rise of Self-Employed Grows Constituency for Health Care Reform

My column this week explains how WWII wage ceilings and a compliant Congress teamed up to create employer-based health insurance, a market distorting phenomenon the reduces take-home pay while increasing both health care spending and widespread dissatisfaction with the results.  (When was the last time you heard anybody happy about the cost or care in an HMO?)

Of course, one of the reasons this problem is allowed to persist is the lack of a motivated constituency to change the status quo.  That may be changing thanks to the Great Recession.

According to Economic Modeling Specialists, Inc., between 2007 to 2011 there has been a steady rise in the numbers of independent contractors in industries like real estate, financial services and natural resource extraction.

More recently EMSI showed how self-employed money management consultants are adapting very well to the new economic landscape. “The surprising thing to note is the huge growth that took place in the three money management occupations – personal financial advisors, securities/commodities/financial services sales agents, and financial analysts.”  Many of these jobs are classified as non-covered, i.e. independent contractors who service clients rather than employees who work for employers (and thus get benefits).

The rise of the independent contractor makes perfect financial sense for a business looking to shred costs while maintaining quality in services and products.  The legal profession is being transformed by a switch to contract-based work for attorneys while other white collar jobs like money management are following the same route.

It is very likely that this type of vendor-client relationship will come to redefine the work life of many Americans who in a previous era may have counted on a brick-and-mortar institution to cover everything from an expense account to health care benefits.  But if millions of American workers are to be recast as intellectual entrepreneurs, the federal tax incentive to exempt employer-based health insurance but not insurance purchased by individuals or families has to change.

As I explain in my column, the Heritage Foundation has an easy fix to this problem.  From my column:

In Saving the American Dream, a team of Heritage experts propose transforming the existing exemption into a “uniform, nonrefundable federal tax credit” to assist individuals and families purchase health insurance.  The annual net value of the tax credit would be $2,000 for an individual and $3,500 for a couple or family.  The credit could be used “either to offset the cost of coverage offered through the workplace or to buy insurance outside the workplace.  For most middle-income working families, the value of the credit is similar to the tax relief that they receive for health insurance today.”

Law always lags behind reality, but if a presidential candidate wants to make an easy reform that will remove a huge disincentive to become an intellectual entrepreneur, adopting the Heritage Foundation’s health insurance tax credit would be a huge step in the right direction.

February 16th, 2012 at 8:14 pm
Bad Week for Obama Budget Director

It’s been a bad week for Office of Management and Budget Director Jeff Zients, the man tasked with defending President Barack Obama’s 2013 budget proposal.

In testimony before the House Budget Committee Zients told Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) that the penalty for not complying with ObamaCare’s mandate to buy health insurance is not a tax increase.  (Subscription wall.)  In response, Rep. Garrett said, “Okay.  I just want to be clear on that because that’s not the argument the Administration is making before the Supreme Court.”

Before the Senate Budget Committee Zients was even more out-of-touch.  Under questioning from Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Zients claimed that Obama’s 2013 budget contained spending cuts – a distortion Sessions would not tolerate:

Mr. Zients, there are no spending cuts in this budget. This budget increases spending. Surely you know that. It increases taxes. So to say you cut $2.50 in spending for every dollar in tax increase is beyond the pale.

So too is the entire shell game about ‘deficit reduction’ when what liberals like Obama really mean is tax increases to pay for spending increases.  If the President won’t admit it at least his budget director will be made to.

December 22nd, 2011 at 12:32 pm
We Can’t Afford a Payroll Tax Cut Extension

Quin makes some excellent points about the PR disaster that is the payroll tax cut extension debacle.  In addition, the spin on the debate is missing two important angles: (1) the Senate GOP’s apparent backstabbing of House Speaker Boehner, and (2) the fact that a trivial 60 day pay raise (the most any taxpayer will save is $40 per paycheck) won’t make a difference in anybody’s bottom line.  If the payroll tax “holiday” is extended, however, it will take another misguided step toward eliminating the tax permanently.  Recently, former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer explained why that’s bad (requires WSJ subscription):

Make no mistake, if the payroll-tax cut is extended, it will become permanent. Social Security will become another welfare program as the tie between what someone pays and what they receive gets broken. To a large degree, the tie has already been broken. Social Security’s trust fund has been raided for years by both parties and Medicare is already significantly financed through general revenues instead of through its dedicated trust fund.

Instead of squabbling over how to extend the payroll tax break, the GOP should concentrate on revising the tax code so it promotes growth and jobs, while reforming our entitlements.

Quin’s right.  Republicans need to use the payroll tax cut debate to educate the American public.  Phony nickel-and-dime policies like a 60 day, $40 tax cut are not solutions to Washington’s deficit addiction.  Neither, frankly, is a year-long tax holiday that moves Social Security from an under-funded to an unfunded mandate.

Since the Senate went home and President Barack Obama is in Hawaii on vacation, it looks like a great opportunity for Boehner to call a primetime press conference to explain why good policy is good politics.

July 19th, 2011 at 2:18 pm
Gang of Six Worth a Look

The bipartisan “Gang of Six” has been in bad odor with conservatives for months now because it always has been seen as a sell-out and a way to force tax hikes into law with bipartisan cover. But the deal outlined today actually claims to represent a net tax cut of $1.5 trillion over ten years. It would actually lower marginal tax rates on both individuals –

* Simplify the tax code by reducing the number of tax expenditures and reducing individual tax rates, by establishing three tax brackets with rates of 8–12 percent, 14–22 percent, and 23–29 percent.

* Permanently repeal the $1.7 trillion Alternative Minimum Tax.

– and businesses:

Establish a single corporate tax rate between 23 percent and 29 percent, raise as much revenue as the current corporate tax system, and move to a competitive territorial tax system.

I haven’t had much time to study all the details, but it looks like this deal would achieve $500 in real savings in the short term and then set up about as good a budget “cap” system as I’ve ever seen, without triggering tax hikes. I reserve final judgment, but, frankly, I don’t see anything in here for conservatives to seriously object to.

May 17th, 2011 at 4:40 pm
CFIF to U.S. Senate: Reject New Taxes Targeting Domestic Energy Producers
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

As the Senate debates proposed tax rules that would unfairly and discriminatorily target domestic oil and gas producers, the Center for Individual Freedom on behalf of its 300,000 supporters and activists across the United States today formally urged all Senators to vote “NO” on S. 940.   Addressing that counterproductive proposed legislation, Grant Aldonas (former Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade) and Pamela Olson (former Assistant Treasury Secretary for Tax Policy) warned of its likely destructive consequences in a Washington Examiner opinion piece today.   Here is one particularly relevant excerpt from their commentary:

Rather than offering serious ideas about how to tackle entitlements, cut wasteful spending or reform the tax code, proponents of raising the oil companies’ taxes have seized on the notion that American energy producers benefit from billions of dollars in alleged tax subsidies.

[The] single most damaging thing the proposal does is mortgage our energy future to the state-owned energy giants that now dominate global energy markets. The U.S. economy runs on oil, but we produce only 40 percent of what we consume, meaning our economy and standard of living depend heavily on our access to foreign oil and gas resources.

Reid’s plan works just fine if you are comfortable having America’s energy future decided in Beijing, Moscow, or Tehran. Not so much if you think we should be deciding our own destiny.

Any proposal that would enhance the competitiveness of foreign government-owned oil giants at the U.S. companies’ expense and lead to greater volatility in oil markets and rising prices for U.S. consumers qualifies as a damaging unintended consequence.”  (Emphasis added.)

To read this excellent commentary in full, please click here.

CFIF also urges you to contact your Senators (contact information for your Senators available here) and urge them to vote “NO” on S. 940.

April 8th, 2011 at 10:35 am
Obama: I Will Veto Bill Ensuring Paychecks to Military
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Shouldn’t America ensure that its military personnel and their families continue to receive paychecks, regardless of whether budget negotiations result in a deal or a federal shutdown? Barack Obama apparently doesn’t think so.

As bargaining continued yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner (R – Ohio) introduced legislation that would keep the government open one additional week and maintain military funding through the end of 2011 so that members of the armed forces would continue to be paid.  The House quickly passed that bill, including 15 Democratic votes.  Obama, however, grotesquely promised a veto, bizarrely labeling it a “distraction.”

Frankly, this entire debate wouldn’t be necessary if the preceding Congress overwhelmingly controlled by Obama’s own party had simply passed a 2011 budget.  But for the first time since the inception of the Budget Act, they simply abdicated that basic responsibility.  Regardless, our military is stretched thin across the globe, and many families live paycheck-to-paycheck.  This obviously isn’t of paramount concern to a president who clearly seems to welcome a government shutdown.

This is one of the most shameful and pathetic episodes in an already shoddy presidency.

April 5th, 2011 at 3:48 pm
Texas Legislature Considers New Taxes On… Thin Air?
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Two bills before the Texas legislature, H.B. 259 and H.B. 3675, propose new and unwarranted taxes on satellite television providers.  This period of high unemployment and economic uncertainty is no time to be raising taxes in the first place.  But here’s the kicker:  those two bills would essentially tax thin air.

H.B. 259 and H.B. 3675 would impose taxes on something satellite television providers don’t even use – the physical public right of way.  Obviously, reasonable people could understand why entities that actually use the public right of way under city streets or along physical power lines must help maintain those rights of way.  Since satellite video doesn’t even traverse any physical right of way, however, H.B. 259 and H.B. 3675 constitute a tax on thin air.  Moreover, Texas already taxes video services, so imposing yet another entirely new tax upon physical rights of way that satellite providers don’t even use makes these two bills even more manifestly unfair.  Additionally, it is estimated that only 10% of right of way taxes actually go to maintenance, with 90% of collected revenues diverted to general city funds.  In other words, these two proposed bills are a transparent money grab.

We at CFIF have therefore sent a letter of to the House State Affairs Committee to assert our opposition on behalf of 17,000 activists and supporters in the state of Texas.  But you can also help by contacting them as well via this link

Make it clear to these legislators that now is not the time to raise taxes, especially when what’s being taxed is nothing more than thin air.

October 8th, 2010 at 11:01 am
Obama’s “Stimulus” 19 Months Later: September Unemployment 9.6%, 95,000 Jobs Lost
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Nobody should cheer bad economic news, but neither should anyone deny reality or ignore the clear consequences of toxic public policy.

Some 19 months after Barack Obama signed a nearly $1 trillion “stimulus” bill into law, the Labor Department this morning announced that unemployment remains elevated at 9.6%, and the nation lost 95,000 jobs in September.  This following Obama’s and Joe Biden’s promises of a “recovery summer.” Obama and his apologists may trot out the teleprompters and once again claim that the private sector gain of 64,000 jobs (offset by losses in other sectors to arrive at the negative 95,000 total) shows that “we’re moving in the right direction.”

No, we’re not.  Even that paltry 64,000 is down almost 30,000 from the August private sector gain of 93,000, all at a time when his “stimulus” would supposedly have the economy accelerating, not decelerating.  Further, the Labor Department announcement stated that 15,000 more jobs were lost in July and August than previously estimated, along with a 366,000 downward revision in jobs during the 12 months through March.  The bottom line:  since Obama signed the “stimulus,” unemployment has steadily risen from 8.2% to 9.6%.

By way of comparison, in the 19 months following the arrival of Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts in January 1983, unemployment plummeted from 10.4% to 7.3%.  The facts speak for themselves.

October 5th, 2010 at 9:52 am
Arthur Laffer: States With Lower Income Taxes Enjoy Higher Growth, Income
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Arthur Laffer brought us the famed Laffer Curve, which plotted how higher tax rates can paradoxically reduce incoming revenues by inhibiting economic growth.

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Laffer adds to his legacy by showing how state income taxes lead to lower economic growth, personal income and population growth.  The impetus for Laffer’s analysis is ballot Initiative 1098 in the state of Washington, which would impose a new 5% income tax on individuals earning over $200,000 or couples over $400,000 per year.  An additional 4% would be heaped upon individuals earning over $500,000 or couples earning over $1 million.  Laffer crunches the real-world economic numbers, which clearly demonstrate that this is a destructive idea.  He shows that the nine states without a personal income tax enjoy 26.5% higher economic growth, 13.1% higher personal income growth and 9.4% higher population growth than the nine staes with the highest personal income tax rates. The highest-tax states also suffer 22% lower tax revenue growth and underperform in standard of living.

As Laffer neatly summarizes, “Each and every state that introduced an income tax saw its share of total U.S. output decline.”  He can’t stop states from descending into economic self-destruction, but he provides a great service by providing this warning beacon.

October 1st, 2010 at 10:05 am
#stimulusfail: White House Tries to Issue Its Own “Stimulus” Report Card
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

How’s this for drive-by media bias?  Today’s Washington Post runs the deceptive headline “Report Gives Stimulus Package High Marks.” Hmmm.  That sounds like a counterintuitive “Man Bites Dog” story worth reading.  So who issued the report?  The Post’s first paragraph admits that it comes from White House itself.  Worse, it was overseen by that respected rock of good judgment and common sense, Vice President Joe Biden.

Even with that baked-in bias, the White House report doesn’t seem to focus on how the $814 billion “stimulus” supposedly succeeded.  Rather, it emphasizes how the effort has already distributed 70% of the allocated funds, and managed to avoid “the fraud charges that plague more routine government spending programs.”  That’s it?  That’s the best that even Joe Biden can claim?  That should actually come as discouraging news, not encouraging news, to “stimulus” proponents.  After all, if 70% of its funds have already been spent, but we still haven’t experienced its promised results, what remains other than $814 billion added to our nation’s debt?  The White House promised that unemployment would top out twelve months ago at 8% if the bill passed, but we remain stuck at 9.6%.  Instead of igniting our economic furnace, it has merely clouded growth and undermined the business and hiring climate.

The White House and its apologists speculatively claim that the “stimulus” averted another great depression, but today’s Wall Street Journal carries an analysis by former Senator Phil Gramm devastating that assertion.  Gramm compares U.S. growth and employment figures to other developed countries that didn’t engage in the irresponsible “stimulus” profligacy we did, and shows that we lag far behind.  As the Post story notes, Obama’s “stimulus” was “the largest effort in U.S. history to counteract the effects of a recession.”  All it has done is prove once again that government doesn’t create jobs or growth, but economic uncertainty and debt.

September 27th, 2010 at 10:51 am
Federal Tax & Regulation Burden: 35% of National Income
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

According to a report entitled “The Impact of Regulatory Costs on Small Firms” just produced by Nicole V. Crain and W. Mark Crain for the Small Business Administration, the annual cost of federal regulations alone has reached $1.75 trillion.  That excludes the annual cost of taxes.  And that was as of 2008.

Combined, taxes and regulatory costs consumed a staggering 35% of America’s income in 2008, or $37,962 per household .  Alarmingly, that was the number before such new fiascoes as ObamaCare, “stimuli” and bailouts increased the burden.  Small businesses create most new jobs in America, but the authors highlight that regulatory costs hit them disproportionately hard relative to larger businesses (due primarily to economies of scale in dealing with regulatory compliance costs).  The authors found that businesses with fewer than 20 employees incur regulatory costs 42% greater than firms of between 20 and 499 employees, and 36% greater than firms with over 500 employees.  Per employee, small businesses face $10,585 in compliance costs versus $7,454 per employee for medium-sized firms, and $7,755 for larger firms.

As government gets bigger and bigger, the regulatory compliance costs only get more and more oppressive.  We needn’t search far to understand why the economy isn’t recovering and businesses aren’t hiring.

September 24th, 2010 at 5:06 pm
CFIF’s “One More Vote”: Something the “Pledge to America” Omitted
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Conservative reaction to the House Republicans’ “Pledge to America” varies.  Whatever one’s views toward the plan, however, it did omit an item high on conservatives’ agenda:  a proposed Constitutional balanced budget amendment.  Enter CFIF’s “One More Vote,” which refers to the fact that Congress fell just one vote short in the 1990s of passing a balanced budget amendment and sending it to the states for ratification.  Our “One More Vote” initiative, which readers are urged to sign, would not only require a balanced budget, but prevent that from becoming a convenient excuse to raise taxes by requiring a 60% supermajority to create or increase taxes, or to raise the nation’s debt ceiling.

Party change won’t be enough this time around.  With “One More Vote,” we can collectively create something more lasting for America’s future generations.

September 17th, 2010 at 7:53 pm
Online Sales Tax Already on the Books in Most States

Interesting reading from MSNBC.com explains that 46 states, plus the District of Columbia, already have internet sales taxes on the books.  However, most businesses with an online presence either don’t know or don’t pay.  In many circumstances the sales tax (as it’s called when the seller collects and reports the tax) is turned into a use tax (i.e. shifting collection and reporting to the buyer.)

The State of Alabama is apparently sending out notices for residents to pay up – for purchases over the last three years.

Here’s a list of states considering more direct legislation in order to recoup the estimated $8.6 billion in lost “revenue.”

‘Amazon laws’

States that are currently considering requiring out-of-state retailers to collect sales taxes on online transactions:

• California
• Connecticut
• Illinois
• Iowa
• Maryland
• Minnesota
• New Mexico
• South Carolina
• Tennessee
• Vermont
• Virginia
• Wisconsin

Oh, joy.

September 10th, 2010 at 10:15 am
CBO: 2010 Deficit Already Reaches $1.3 Trillion
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

This week, the Congressional Budget Office announced that the nation’s budget deficit has already reached $1.3 trillion, with another month to go in the 2010 fiscal year.  At 9.1% of gross domestic product (GDP), that makes it the second-largest deficit outside the World War II years, second only to last year’s deficit that reached 9.9% of GDP (mainly because GDP was lower in 2009 than 2010).  In a generous act of understatement, the CBO attributed this mind-boggling amount to lower revenues and “elevated spending associated with the economic downturn and the policies implemented in response to it.”  Another round of “stimulus,” anyone?

To put that in perspective, take a look at this straightforward bar graph.  President Bush’s final deficit was approximately $450 billion, which Obama tripled in his first year alone.  Now, Obama’s second deficit continues that unbearable amount.  Furthermore, efforts to scapegoat Bush for Obama’s first deficit fail, because such things as the $800 billion “stimulus” was Obama’s initiative, not Bush’s.

August 24th, 2010 at 10:10 am
Reagan Recovery Slashed Unemployment From 10.8% to 7.4% in 18 Months
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

In CFIF’s Liberty Update last week, we highlighted how President Obama isn’t so much “pulling us out of the ditch,” but rather setting our nation’s car on fire.  Instead of spending his time claiming credit for our inevitable cyclical rebound, Obama should recognize that his policies of higher spending, taxation, regulation and debt are only subduing it. To illustrate, we contrast the remarkable gross domestic product (GDP) growth during the Reagan recovery delivered by tax cuts, reduced regulation and a stronger dollar versus our current stagnation and possible “double-dip” recession.

Comparing unemployment trends then versus now provides another vivid illustration of the toxic effect of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid economic agenda.  From December 1982 to June 1984 – the first 18 months of the Reagan recovery – U.S. unemployment plummeted rapidly from 10.8% to 7.2%.  In contrast, over 13 months since our current economic rebound commenced in July 2009, U.S. unemployment has stagnated from 9.4% to its current 9.5%.  Of course, it is theoretically possible that unemployment will plummet by three percentage points over the next five months to match the Reagan recovery, but not even Joe Biden is silly enough to predict that.

It’s no mystery how to unleash America’s economic vigor and bring recovery:  less government and more economic freedom.  It’s just a matter of electing leaders who will actually pursue it.

August 18th, 2010 at 3:57 pm
German Tycoon Calls U.S. Tax Deductions for Charity “Unacceptable”
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

According to German shipping tycoon Peter Kramer, “the state” should control private charitable donations and “determine what is good for the people,” not the individuals making those charitable donations.  In an interview with Der Spiegel, regarding the Warren Buffett/Bill Gates Giving Pledge, Kramer ripped America’s tax deductions for charitable gifts and demanded, “what legitimacy do these people have to decide where massive sums of money will flow?”

I find the U.S. initiative highly problematic.  You can write donations off in your taxes to a large degree in the U.S.A.  So the rich make a choice:  Would I rather donate or pay taxes?  The donors are taking the place of the state.  That’s unacceptable. It’s all just a bad transfer of power from the state to billionaires.  So it’s not the state that determines what is good for the people, but rather the rich want to decide.  That’s a development that I find really bad.  What legitimacy do these people have to decide where massive sums of money will flow?  In this case, forty superwealthy people want to decide what their money will be used for.  That runs counter to the democratically legitimate state.”

Call us crazy, but don’t alarms sound when a creepy German demands that the state “determines what is good for the people?”  Meanwhile, as noted by economist Mark Perry on his blog Carpe Diem, citizens of Kentucky outstrip Germans in the best indicator of economic wellbeing, gross domestic product (GDP) per capita.

Mr. Kramer, perfect your own supposed workers’ paradise before you attempt to lecture Americans.