Thursday, December 27, 2012
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
'One of the most costly tax expenditures, for example, is the deduction for state and local taxes, which in effect subsidizes high-tax jurisdictions by softening the blow of high state and local tax burdens. Eliminating this deduction would make voters in states such as New York, New Jersey and California more tax-sensitive, which might make them more likely to back state and local candidates who promise a more cost-effective government.
Elimination of the deduction would also be a bonanza for the U.S. Treasury. In fiscal year 2011, the state and local tax deduction cost the federal government $70.2 billion in forfeited revenue. In April, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimated that eliminating the state and local tax deduction would raise $1.3 trillion relative to current policy (the tax rates that prevail today) and $950 billion relative to current law (the tax rates that will be in place if we go over the fiscal cliff) from 2013-2022. This alone would go a long way toward meeting Obama's revenue goals.'
'On Sunday's broadcast of ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," Washington Post columnist George Will claimed that strict gun control laws often do not prevent determined killers from committing deadly mass-shootings.
"In 1996, a man went into a gym class in Scotland, [and] killed sixteen 5-and 6-year-olds and the teacher," Will said. "A few years ago in Norway, a young, deranged, young man killed, what, 69 people on an island, mostly teenagers. Connecticut has among the toughest gun laws in this country. Didn't help. Scotland and Norway have very tough gun laws. Didn't help."
Will added that the assault weapons ban that was part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which expired in 2004, did nothing statistically measurable to prevent violent wide-scale shootings.
"Remember, we did have a ban on assault weapons," Will said. "When we put the ban in place, these incidents did not really decline in a measurable way, and when we took it off, they did not increase in a measurable way."
Sunday, December 16, 2012
Thursday, December 13, 2012
Monday, December 10, 2012
'Six cities in Liaoning province, including Shenyang and Anshan, recently announced they are converting abandoned industrial sites to farmland. Dongguan, once a booming factory center, is on the verge of bankruptcy as companies close, leaving the local government severely cash-strapped.
Just two years after China overtook the U.S. to become the world's largest manufacturer, the country faces the prospect of decades of de-industrialization.'
Sunday, December 9, 2012
The White House claims that loophole closing can't raise enough revenues. This is bogus. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has estimated that capping all itemized deductions at $17,000 for couples and $8,500 for singles would produce $1.7 trillion in added taxes over a decade. To be sure, there would be practical problems; some tax increases would fall on households under Obama's income thresholds of $250,000 for couples and $200,000 for singles. But these could be managed with adequate political will.
Unfortunately, it's missing. The itemized deductions most threatened would include those for charitable contributions, interest on home mortgages and state and local taxes. Howls would come from affected groups: churches, universities, hospitals (the charitable deduction); builders, real estate brokers and mortgage bankers (the mortgage interest deduction); and state and local governments (the tax deduction). Obama seems unwilling to spend his political capital opposing these groups.
The lower rates and broadened tax base of the 1986 law had explicit goals: to increase economic growth; to reduce the use of taxes to promote some activities and discourage others; to minimize lobbying for tax breaks; and to make the system simpler. With time, the appeal of these goals has faded.'
'Egypt's embattled Muslim Brotherhood regime is paying gangs of thugs to rape women and beat men who gather in Tahrir Square to protest the power grab of President Mohamed Morsi, say activists.
In a bitter replay of the Arab Spring protests that brought down President Hosni Mubarak nearly two years ago, protesters have flooded the Cairo square to denounce Morsi, who has stripped the judiciary of power and is rushing through an Islamist constitution. And while Mubarak is now in prison for using violence to quell protests targeting him, Morsi's regime is now accused of doing the same.
"This is still happening now," Magda Adly, director of the Nadeem Center for Human Rights, told The Times of London. "I believe thugs are being paid money to do this ... the Muslim Brotherhood have the same political approaches as Mubarak."
Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians have gathered in the square to protest the new constitution and to call for Morsi's ouster. Morsi briefly fled the Itihadiya presidential palace in Cairo Wednesday, after the complex was surrounded by tens of thousands of protesters chanting slogans reminiscent of those used during the revolution that ousted Mubarak. The protesters scrawled anti-Morsi graffiti and waved giant banners carrying images of revolutionaries killed in earlier protests.
A protester the newspaper identified as Yasmine said she was attacked while videotaping demonstrations. She said about 50 men surrounded her and began tearing off her clothes, grabbing her breasts and sexually assaulting her. She said she suffered internal injuries and was unable to walk for a week.
The Daily Mail reported that most attacks take place at night when men form a human chain around women, then move in for the assault. Two men told the paper they were paid to attack women.
"We're told to go out and sexually harass girls so they leave the demonstration," one said.
The current crisis pits his Muslim Brotherhood and their ultraconservative Islamist allies against a coalition of youth groups, liberal parties and large sectors of the public. It began on Nov. 22, when Morsi decreed himself and his party above the judiciary and escalated after the Muslim Brotherhood pushed through a draft constitution without the participation of liberals and Christians.'
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
'Former congressmen Chris Cox and Bill Archer warn: "When the accrued expenses of the government's entitlement programs are counted, it becomes clear that to collect enough tax revenue just to avoid going deeper into debt would require over $8 trillion in tax collections annually. That is the total of the average annual accrued liabilities of just the two largest entitlement programs, plus the annual cash deficit." In contrast, the total adjusted gross income of those earning more than $66,000 a year was $5.1 trillion and net corporate income was $1.6 trillion. Confiscate it all and there still isn't enough to pay the annual increase. And you could only steal the money once, since people wouldn't keep working if government left them with nothing.
Unfortunately, the near-term budget problem pales compared to the longer-term challenge. The national debt is $16.3 trillion, more than the annual GDP. Toss in all current unfunded federal liabilities and the number is $222 trillion, according to economist Laurence Kotlikoff.'
'if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you'
Monday, December 3, 2012
'A couple of years back, Andrew Biggs of the American Enterprise Institute calculated that, if Washington were to increase every single tax by 30 percent, it would be enough to balance the books — in 25 years. If you were to raise taxes by 50 percent, it would be enough to fund our entitlement liabilities — just our current ones, not our future liabilities, which would require further increases. This is the scale of course correction needed.
If you don't want that, you need to cut spending — like Harry Reid's been doing. "Now remember, we've already done more than a billion dollars' worth of cuts," he bragged the other day. "So we need to get some credit for that."
Wow! A billion dollars' worth of cuts! Washington borrows $188 million every hour. So, if Reid took over five hours to negotiate those "cuts," it was a complete waste of time. So are most of the "plans." Any "debt-reduction plan" that doesn't address at least $1.3 trillion a year is, in fact, a debt-increase plan.'
Sunday, December 2, 2012
Saturday, December 1, 2012
What von Trier is determined to show is that Americans are not friendly, we are suspicious of outsiders, we cave in to authority, we are inherently violent, etc. All of these things are true, and all of these things are untrue. It's a big country, and it has a lot of different kinds of people. Without stepping too far out on a limb, however, I doubt that we have any villages where the helpless visitor would eventually be chained to a bed and raped by every man in town.
"Killing Them Softly" continues as a dismal, dreary series of cruel and painful murders, mostly by men who know one another, in a barren city where it's usually night, often rainy and is never identifiable as New Orleans — not even by the restaurants.