Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘taxes’ Category

Guest Writer Ron Williams again… Attorney, Businessman and Citizen

It is clear to even the most casual observer that the sole political agenda of the Republican Party is to prevent the reelection of Pres. Barack Obama. It is equally clear that it is the absolute, single-minded focus of the Far Right of the Republican Party to prevent the reelection of a Black Man, any black, as President of the United States.

Thus, for nearly two years, as the President negotiated health-care with the Republican Party, those negotiations were futile, because no matter what would have been offered by this President the answer from this Republican Party would have been “no”. It is clear that no matter what initiative this President put forward, the Republican Party answer would always have been “no.”

And today, we see the Republican Party, and in particular the Far Right portion of that party, deciding to attach items on their political agenda to the debt ceiling bill as a means to further weaken the president and as a means to move their political agenda forward. As a political strategy, the move is almost brilliant. They were able to attack Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security (three programs that the Republican Party has been attempting to repeal sent each of them were first adopted) while at the same time further demonstrating the weakness of this President.

The mistake President Obama continues to make is to attempt to negotiate substantive programs with a group of people whose agenda is not to negotiate on those programs, but to attack the man himself. They will never negotiate to yes until they have used the so-called negotiations to attack the President (demonstrating his weakness) and until they have also gotten what concessions they otherwise wanted.

I predicted when this whole debt limit “crisis” began that the Republican Party would string this out until the end of July, after they had extracted significant concessions from the President and the Democratic Party, that is they had gotten as much as they could based on the time limit left. I am being somewhat facetious when I suggest that if these negotiations continued much longer, President Obama would eventually have negotiated away the entire Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid programs.

It is telling that the Republican Party started these negotiations stating that there could be no revenue increasing tax changes that would affect the wealthy. And that exactly where they ended. How can you have negotiations when one side gives up nothing in the other side makes all the concessions? That because their whole purpose of the Republican Party was to use the debt ceiling issue as a means of moving their political agenda forward with demonstrating their basic weakness of President Obama. And the Democratic Party and this President let them.

What Barack Obama should have said to the first overture from the Far Right that they would not agree to raise the debt ceiling unless there were major cuts to the various social programs, was “no.” He should have simply stated that he would veto any legislation that came across his desk that did anything other than simply raise the debt ceiling. And then stopped negotiating. Whenever they said “well let’s talk about this,” his response should have been “there is nothing to talk about.”

The President should have said, “I’ve told you my position. Congress, you do what you feel you need to do. If you want to pass legislation that has provisions other than raising the national debt attached to it, do so. I will veto it. And if you choose to then put the full faith and credit of the United States government at risk because you want to attach non-relevant politically motivated subject matter on what should be otherwise routine legislation, do so, but I will not be a party to this game-playing”.

If he had said that from day one, and then stuck to his guns,, this so-called crisis would’ve gone way. Then should he want to discuss modification of Medicare, Medicaid and/or Social Security that could have been done in conversation along with tax code changes.

The president has got to learn to stand up. If he doesn’t he will be a one term president. As it is, he is losing his base and maybe a one term president in any event. It may already be too late.

Read Full Post »

This article on estate taxes came across my email inbox today, from WSJ:

Under current laws in effect until the end of this year, the size of the exemption is $3.5 million per individual or up to $7 million per couple. The tax is slated to disappear entirely on Jan 1.

But estate planning in 2010 will be complicated by a new twist: a complex tax on capital gains, levied at death, that will affect a broader swath of taxpayers. The estate tax is scheduled to return in 2011 at a 55% rate with an exemption of slightly more than $1 million.

The looming lapse of the estate tax is presenting some families with unprecedented ethical quandaries.

“I have two clients on life support, and the families are struggling with whether to continue heroic measures for a few more days,” says Joshua Rubenstein, a lawyer with Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP in New York. “Do they want to live for the rest of their lives having made serious medical decisions based on estate-tax law?”

Let’s change the question a bit.  Can we calculate the price of another day of life now?  How much estate cash is at risk by expiring before Jan 1?   Probably could come up with a dollar figure for the estate holder and the medical team keeping folks alive.

Where does all this fit in some bigger sense of human nature?

Read Full Post »

O’Reilly Radar has a very nice post about the new Federal CTO, Aneesh Chopra.

I really appreciate the blow out of a few actual projects he’s taken on:

The role of the CTO is to provide visionary leadership, to help a company (or in this case, a government) explore the transformative potential of new technology. Try a few of these Virginia technology initiatives on for size:

What’s GREAT is the EFFORT, not so much the specifics.  There is no ideal use of technology in government – it’s about the constant process of course corrections and experimentation.  Who cares if it’s web 2.0, social networking, podcasts, micro payments, etc. etc.  The idea that there’s someone in charge that will TRY to DO something is what’s important.  Chopra seems to be a great pick.

Also, can anyone name any other Federal CTO or CIO ever?  I can’t.  Seems strange to me that an economy and a culture so driven by technology hasn’t made a bigger deal out of the technology leaders in government.

Read Full Post »

From an Invited Guest Author: Ron Williams…

Republican Party is disintegrating. In many ways this is unfortunate. I have read the Republican Party platform and I find that I can agree with many of their positions, such as immigration and fiscal policy. Also, their platform position on personal responsibility resonates with me.

However, the disintegration of the Party does not come from its stated platform, but from its politics. It amazes me how political the Republican establishment has become. The Party must be judged not on what it says but rather what it does. And what the Party does, is practice a set of politics which is self destructive and, in a very real sense, un-American. It is clear to me that the Republican Party is doing all it can to see that the country does not emerge from the current Recession in an orderly fashion.

It seems the Republican Party is hoping the country in fact does fail to recover, so that they can say, I told you so. I find that position to be actually un-American and, in many respects, traitorous. The Obama administration has been in office less than two months, and the Treasury Secretary in place an even shorter time than that, Yet the Republicans are already “harping” about a failed administration and a failed Treasury Secretary.

We are in a war, an economic war. To actively work to cause the country to lose that war should be seen as an act of traitorous behavior. If the Democrats had worked as actively against President Bush in his pursuit of the Iraq war as the Republicans are actively working against President Obama in this economic war, the Republicans would have gone ballistic in their attacks. We should all go ballistic in our attacks against Republicans for their current behavior. They should be rewarded by losing even more seats in the next round of elections.

Some in the party have an inkling their problems are and are trying to address these problems by looking at their platform and by looking at new ways of selling this platform to middle America. However, this effort is going to be stymied by the far will right wing of the party which is dedicated to its right wing issues and will suffer no dilution of their message.

At first blush, You would think there is a struggle for the heart and soul of the party, but that is not really the case. There is no question that right wing of the party will prevail. And the party will therefore remain a collection of Grumpy Old White Men (GOWMs), with a sprinkling of a few women and a minority here and there. Further, these GOWMs seem to really lament the changes that are occurring in this country. It is becoming younger. It is becoming a multi-cultural society, with no single group as a majority. It is becoming a society where women will play a leading role. It is becoming a country where the natural order is being turned on its head.

I would suggest that this change in the natural order is causing them tremendous heartburn. But what makes matters even worse is their current failure to have developed any serious solutions. In response to the every problem facing this country it was clear that their one and only solution is tax cut. But not just tax cuts in general, tax cuts for the wealthy. Their mantra appears to be if you cut taxes for the wealthy it will free up money to allow the wealthy to buy equipment, buy materials and higher new employees. The problem with this mantra is that it has been tried for the last eight years, and it has helped to bring us the current fiscal disaster. All of the Republican actions have been shown to not work. And it appears the party is not prepared to change its positions. Therefore, I believe the Republican Party is in a disastrous state, but because of its mind set its actions would not change and the party will continue to disintegrate. That is too bad, because we do need at least two parties to keep things in balance. It just appears that the second party is not going to be called Republican.”


Ronald Williams

rwilliams@sbcglobal.net

Read Full Post »

At the delayed morning meeting with an attorney that hates attorneys, we got around to talking about the money… yeah, THAT money.

There is the Stimulus Package I & II, the normal government loads to states, the bailout to some banks (but not the ones with a passion for customer loans), the bailout of the car mfgs which seem, now in retrospect to amount to overspill from a Super Bowl game by comparison. But en masse, we’re talkin’ real money here folks.

Does anyone grasp the numbers anymore? Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that is slightly rhetorical.

We do need to do some stuff and that is what we are doing but it occurred to me that the numbers are all running together and perhaps even Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke doesn’t have the necessarily grasp on the meaning of those $$$$ trillions. But, maybe I am wrong. He deals in money. We don’t. For all we know he may be more scared than we are… On the other hand, none of them want to have the collapse of the world’s leading economy on their watch.

During the Obama speech Tuesday night the camera’s panned to Hillary in the front row. It’s as if a little cartoon bubble rose above her head during the 2nd third of the speech and it had in it…

“I’m soooooooooo glad you are standing there right now….”

Oh, there is a new item that came out after the address to both Houses and the Judiciary of the government… another $75.5 billion for the two fronts of the war… which seems to have gone to the, “I don’t know why we’re here now; ask the guys from Halliburton” stage and another $663.7 for 2010 defense spending.

So, where are we? We have a $3.5+ trillion plus budget and we are not sure what that will bring or yield. Talk about a ‘faith-based’ initiative! We need the changes but no one said the right ones would be the first ones.

Here’s the deal. The people in 99.5% of the positions in Washington DC got there by doing some things better than their opponents. They won. They learned from those there how it all works. They copied those methods and those rationales. They were re-elected with the promise to continue to do the job like they’d been doing.  (read: status quo) That also is the case for the bankers, the auto executives, and some of the brokers on Wall Street.  You’ve heard it before and it applies here as an example of what went terribly wrong:

to a carpenter, every problem can be solved with a hammer.”

Now we need some new technologies and greater grasp of other ‘tools’ besides a hammer.

Changing individuals is difficult.  Changing cultures is almost infinitely more complex to pull off. You have to change the contingencies, the consequences of behavior to get different results. Not at all easy. The culture there is strong and ideas of what is right and wrong only die when the people holding them die. Any changes that come quicker are difficult to anchor because no one knows how those will work in that culture.


And, just about the time they get a rhythm and some solutions there will be another election. That is why you have to follow what’s going on.  Short of death you can get rid of those that don’t do right by the country’s standards.  Elections!

One component is to follow the money. Another is to follow your representatives in Washington and your state as they get THE MONEY. Things have got to change. No one wants to pay more taxes but everyone wants something more from the government.

You want a bailout? It will cost your kids. You want cheap money? It will cost a lot more? You want something for nothing? Good luck with that… maybe the tooth fairy will entertain that idea but even she require a tooth.

It’s time… lead, follow or get out of the way.

Read Full Post »

Reproduced with permission from a private e-mail from Mahesh Johari

Some quick commentary only today.  The stimulus bill that just passed the House contains a “Buy American” clause, which forces materials purchased using funds from the stimulus package to come from American manufacturers.

Intuitively, this sounds both logical and appealing.  If we’re spending our taxpayer dollars, obviously we want those dollars to be spread throughout our economy.  It makes no sense to pass an economic stimulus package that sends our money to China.  So why not mandate that?

Unfortunately it’s not that simple.  The “Buy American” clause has great political appeal but will do nothing but defer job losses and prolong the overall process of adjustment that we are experiencing.

Here’s why: Let’s imagine (for example) a steel manufacturer in the U.S.  The manufacturer is unable to compete globally because their cost structure is too high.  They are facing the prospect of downsizing, of shuttering excess capacity, of laying off workers.  But wait! Here comes the stimulus package to save the day!

Now this uncompetitive sloth of a firm has a new lifeline.  They can sell their overpriced product to the stimulus package.  They can delay downsizing, cost cuts, and layoffs.  So as long as the stimulus package is around, they can keep being inefficient.  Meanwhile their international competitors are becoming ever more efficient, adjusting themselves to true market conditions.  The competitors are getting better.

When the stimulus package expires, the firm will be right back where it began: uncompetitive and burdened with an unsustainable cost structure.  Then what?  Of course the layoffs will come, the downsizing, etc.  Everything that should have happened will happen, just a year or two later.  The part of the stimulus used to overpay for those American materials will essentially have been used for zero long term benefit.  The overall economic adjustment process will be prolonged.

This type of waste why we have to be very careful when it comes to government spending.  Government spending packages tend to waste a lot of money.  Resources that are wasted produce no long term economic benefit.

So what should we do?  We don’t want companies to willy-nilly send our stimulus dollars to China.  Well, at least not when they can get the same stuff in the United States.

As long as we are creating websites and transparency, let’s go all the way!    We could require any purchases of commodity materials from international vendors to be subject to a domestic competitive bid first.  For example, if Caterpillar feels their most economical source for steel is based in Australia, let’s require them to accept competitive bids from American firms BEFORE they are allowed to place the order to the Australian firm.  If we keep the process open and transparent, it will bring the best American firms out to compete at peak efficiency – a very desirable outcome.

We have to be very careful here.  Subsidizing inefficiency is not the path to prosperity.

Related Blog/News Posts (add by Russ not email author, just for further reading):

CNN on Limbaugh and Obama Package

Perfect Storm?

Retailers on the Ropes

Read Full Post »

To help pay for the rescue, the government should raise taxes on the wealthy, Mr. Buffett suggested. “I’m paying the lowest tax rate that I’ve ever paid in my life,” he said. “Now, that’s crazy.”

Get more recent Buffet here.

and here

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »