Saturday, April 25, 2009
By Dick Morris
President Obama showed his hand this week when The New York Times wrote that he is considering converting the stock the government owns in our country’s banks from preferred stock, which it now holds, to common stock.
This seemingly insignificant change is momentous. It means that the federal government will control all of the major banks and financial institutions in the nation. It means socialism.
The Times dutifully dressed up the Obama plan as a way to avoid asking Congress for more money for failing banks. But the implications of the proposal are obvious to anyone who cares to look.
When the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) intervention was first outlined by the Bush administration, it did not call for any transfer of stock, of any sort, to the government. The Democrats demanded, as a price for their support, that the taxpayers “get something back” for the money they were lending to the banks. House Republicans, wise to what was going on, rejected the administration’s proposal and sought, instead, to provide insurance to banks, rather than outright cash. Their plan would, of course, not involve any transfer of stock. But Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) undercut his own party’s conservatives and went along with the Democratic plan, ensuring its passage.
But to avoid the issue of a potential for government control of the banks, everybody agreed that the stock the feds would take back in return for their money would be preferred stock, not common stock. “Preferred” means that these stockholders get the first crack at dividends, but only common stockholders can actually vote on company management or policy. Now, by changing this fundamental element of the TARP plan, Obama will give Washington a voting majority among the common stockholders of these banks and other financial institutions. The almost 500 companies receiving TARP money will be, in effect, run by Washington.
And whoever controls the banks controls the credit and, therefore, the economy. That’s called socialism.
Obama is dressing up the idea of the switch to common stock by noting that the conversion would provide the banks with capital they could use without a further taxpayer appropriation. While this is true, it flies in the face of the fact that an increasing number of big banks and brokerage houses are clamoring to give back the TARP money. Goldman-Sachs, for example, wants to buy back its freedom, as do many banks. Even AIG is selling off assets to dig its way out from under federal control. The reason, of course, is that company executives do not like the restrictions on executive pay and compensation that come with TARP money. It is for this reason that Chrysler Motors refused TARP funds.
With bank profits up and financial institutions trying to give back their money, there is no need for the conversion of the government stock from preferred to common — except to advance the political socialist agenda of this administration.
Meanwhile, to keep its leverage over the economy intact, the Obama administration is refusing to let banks and other companies give back the TARP money until they pass a financial “stress test.” Nominally, the government justifies this procedure by saying that it does not want companies to become fully private prematurely and then need more help later on. But don’t believe it. They want to keep the TARP money in the banks so they can have a reason and rationale to control them.
The Times story did not influence the dialogue of the day. People were much more concerned with the death of 21 horses at a polo match. Much as we will miss these noble animals, we will miss our economic freedom more.
Morris, a former adviser to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and President Bill Clinton, is the author of Outrage. To get all of Dick Morris’s and Eileen McGann’s columns for free by e-mail or to order a signed copy of their best-selling book, Fleeced, go to dickmorris.com.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
- Andrew Jackson
'The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.'
- Franklin D. Roosevelt
'The buck stops here.'
- Harry S. Truman
'Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.'
- John F. Kennedy (By the way, this is an exact quote from a speech given by Army Gen'l. Omar Bradley in 1953, just a few years prior to JFK using it in his inaugural speech. JFK or his speech writers recognized a great quote, but none credited Bradley for one of the greatest patriotic quotes of all time - plagiarism, anyone?)
And for today's Democrats...
'It depends what your definition of 'SEX" is?''
- Bill Clinton
'That Obama - I would like to cut his NUTS off.'
- Jesse Jackson
'Those rumors are false ...... I believe in the sanctity of marriage.'
- John Edwards
'I invented the Internet'
- Al Gore
'The next Person that tells me I'm not religious, I'm going to shove my rosary beads up their ass.'
- Joe Biden
' America --is no longer, uh, what it--it, uh, could be, uh what it was once was...uh, and I say to myself, 'uh, I don't want that future, uh, uh for my children.' ''
- Barack Obama (without his telepromptor)
- Barack Obama
'You don't need God anymore, you have us Democrats.'
- Nancy Pelosi (said back in 2006)
'Paying taxes is voluntary.'
- Sen. Harry Reid
'Bill is the greatest husband and father I know. No one is more faithful, true, and honest than he.' - Hillary Clinton (said back in 1998)
You can add one more to the list: Pelosi recently saying (TWICE!) that "If the Stimulus (Spending) Package is not passed quickly, then 500 million people will lose their jobs". Since there are approximately 280-290 million people currently living in the U.S. , total, I would assume the remainder she is referring to are illegal Mexicans.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
CIA Confirms: Waterboarding 9/11 Mastermind Led to Info that Aborted 9/11-Style Attack on Los Angeles
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
By Terence P. Jeffrey, Editor-in-Chief
Khalid Sheik Mohammad, a top al Qaeda leader who divulged information -- after being waterboarded -- that allowed the U.S. government to stop a planned terrorist attack on Los Angeles.
(CNSNews.com) - The Central Intelligence Agency told CNSNews.com today that it stands by the assertion made in a May 30, 2005 Justice Department memo that the use of “enhanced techniques” of interrogation on al Qaeda leader Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM) -- including the use of waterboarding -- caused KSM to reveal information that allowed the U.S. government to thwart a planned attack on Los Angeles.
Before he was waterboarded, when KSM was asked about planned attacks on the United States, he ominously told his CIA interrogators, “Soon, you will know.”
According to the previously classified May 30, 2005 Justice Department memo that was released by President Barack Obama last week, the thwarted attack -- which KSM called the “Second Wave”-- planned “ ‘to use East Asian operatives to crash a hijacked airliner into’ a building in Los Angeles.”
KSM was the mastermind of the first “hijacked-airliner” attacks on the United States, which struck the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Northern Virginia on Sept. 11, 2001.
After KSM was captured by the United States, he was not initially cooperative with CIA interrogators. Nor was another top al Qaeda leader named Zubaydah. KSM, Zubaydah, and a third terrorist named Nashiri were the only three persons ever subjected to waterboarding by the CIA. (Additional terrorist detainees were subjected to other “enhanced techniques” that included slapping, sleep deprivation, dietary limitations, and temporary confinement to small spaces -- but not to water-boarding.)
This was because the CIA imposed very tight restrictions on the use of waterboarding. “The ‘waterboard,’ which is the most intense of the CIA interrogation techniques, is subject to additional limits,” explained the May 30, 2005 Justice Department memo. “It may be used on a High Value Detainee only if the CIA has ‘credible intelligence that a terrorist attack is imminent’; ‘substantial and credible indicators that the subject has actionable intelligence that can prevent, disrupt or deny this attack’; and ‘[o]ther interrogation methods have failed to elicit this information within the perceived time limit for preventing the attack.’”
The quotations in this part of the Justice memo were taken from an Aug. 2, 2004 letter that CIA Acting General Counsel John A. Rizzo sent to the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.
Before they were subjected to “enhanced techniques” of interrogation that included waterboarding, KSM and Zubaydah were not only uncooperative but also appeared contemptuous of the will of the American people to defend themselves.
“In particular, the CIA believes that it would have been unable to obtain critical information from numerous detainees, including KSM and Abu Zubaydah, without these enhanced techniques,” says the Justice Department memo. “Both KSM and Zubaydah had ‘expressed their belief that the general US population was ‘weak,’ lacked resilience, and would be unable to ‘do what was necessary’ to prevent the terrorists from succeeding in their goals.’ Indeed, before the CIA used enhanced techniques in its interrogation of KSM, KSM resisted giving any answers to questions about future attacks, simply noting, ‘Soon you will know.’”
After he was subjected to the “waterboard” technique, KSM became cooperative, providing intelligence that led to the capture of key al Qaeda allies and, eventually, the closing down of an East Asian terrorist cell that had been tasked with carrying out the 9/11-style attack on Los Angeles.
The May 30, 2005 Justice Department memo that details what happened in this regard was written by then-Principal Deputy Attorney General Steven G. Bradbury to John A. Rizzo, the senior deputy general counsel for the CIA.
“You have informed us that the interrogation of KSM—once enhanced techniques were employed—led to the discovery of a KSM plot, the ‘Second Wave,’ ‘to use East Asian operatives to crash a hijacked airliner into’ a building in Los Angeles,” says the memo.
“You have informed us that information obtained from KSM also led to the capture of Riduan bin Isomuddin, better known as Hambali, and the discover of the Guraba Cell, a 17-member Jemaah Islamiyah cell tasked with executing the ‘Second Wave,’” reads the memo. “More specifically, we understand that KSM admitted that he had [redaction] large sum of money to an al Qaeda associate [redaction] … Khan subsequently identified the associate (Zubair), who was then captured. Zubair, in turn, provided information that led to the arrest of Hambali. The information acquired from these captures allowed CIA interrogators to pose more specific questions to KSM, which led the CIA to Hambali’s brother, al Hadi. Using information obtained from multiple sources, al-Hadi was captured, and he subsequently identified the Garuba cell. With the aid of this additional information, interrogations of Hambali confirmed much of what was learned from KSM.”
A CIA spokesman confirmed to CNSNews.com today that the CIA stands by the factual assertions made here.
In the memo itself, the Justice Department’s Bradbury told the CIA’s Rossi: “Your office has informed us that the CIA believes that ‘the intelligence acquired from these interrogations has been a key reason why al Qa’ida has failed to launch a spectacular attack in the West since 11 September 2001.”
MEMO: Harsh techniques brought good info...'Deeper understanding of the al-Qaida network'...
Intel director: High-value info obtained
Apr 21 10:13 PM US/Eastern
By DAVID ESPO
AP Special Correspondent
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Obama administration's top intelligence official privately told employees last week that "high value information" was obtained in interrogations that included harsh techniques approved by former President George W. Bush.
"A deeper understanding of the al-Qaida network" resulted, National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair said in the memo, in which he added, "I like to think I would not have approved those methods in the past." The Associated Press obtained a copy.
Critics of the harsh methods—waterboarding, face slapping, sleep deprivation and other techniques—have called them torture. President Barack Obama said Tuesday they showed the United States "losing our moral bearings" and said they would not be used while he is in office. But he did not say whether he believed they worked.
Obama ordered the release of long-secret Bush-era documents on the subject last week, and Blair circulated his memo declaring that useful information was obtained at the same time.
In a public statement released the same day, Blair did not say that interrogations using the techniques had yielded useful information.
As word of the private memo surfaced Tuesday night, a new statement was issued in his name that appeared to be more explicit in one regard and contained something of a hedge on another point.
It said, "The information gained from these techniques was valuable in some instances, but there is no way of knowing whether the same information could have been obtained through other means."
The emergence of Blair's memo added another layer of complexity to an issue that has plagued the Obama administration in recent days.
The president drew criticism from Republicans last week for releasing the Justice Department memos that outlined the legal basis for waterboarding and other techniques. At the same time, some Democrats and liberal groups have expressed disappointment that he signaled his opposition to possible legal action against senior officials who had approved their use in the first place.
On Tuesday, the president told a reporter it would be up to Attorney General Eric Holder to make such a decision.
Blair, in his memo to employees in the intelligence community, wrote: "Those methods, read on a bright, sunny, safe day in April 2009, appear graphic and disturbing. As the President has made clear, and as both CIA Director Panetta and I have stated, we will not use those techniques in the future.
"I like to think I would not have approved those methods in the past, but I do not fault those who made the decisions at that time, and I will absolutely defend those who carried out the interrogations within the orders they were given."
Saturday, April 18, 2009
As I was sitting in church waiting for the start of the service, my grandpa came walking towards me pointing his finger. No matter how old I get, and no matter how long he's been out of the U.S. Navy, that's still an intimidating sight. As he approached me, his voice quivered as he said, "We saved that continent twice...how dare my president apologize for this country's arrogance." My grandpa is right. Americans need not apologize to the world for their arrogance; rather, Americans should apologize to their forefathers for the arrogance of their president.
Barack Obama's first foreign trip as President of the United States has confirmed the naiveté so many of us feared during the election cycle. But worse than that, it has also demonstrated that our president suffers from either a complete misunderstanding of our heritage and history, or an utter contempt for it. Neither is excusable.
Garnering cheers from the French of all people, President Obama declared, "In America, there is a failure to appreciate Europe's leading role in the world. Instead of celebrating your dynamic union and seeking to partner with you to meet common challenges, there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive." Consider that Obama spoke these words just 500 miles from the beaches of Normandy, where the sand is still stained with 65-year-old blood of "arrogant Americans."
Indeed, columnist Mark Whittington observes, "One should remind Mr. Obama and the Europeans how America has 'shown arrogance' by saving Europe from itself innumerable times in the 20th Century. World War I, World War II, the Cold War, and the wars in the Balkans were largely resolved by American blood, treasure, and leadership." But all that appears lost on the president's seemingly insatiable quest to mend fences he imagines have been tarnished by the bullish George W. Bush.
If Obama wishes to continue trampling the presidential tradition of showing class to former office holders and publicly trash Bush for his own personal gain, so be it. But all Americans should make clear that no man – even if he is the president – will tarnish the legacy of those Americans who have gone before us. Ours is not a history of arrogance. It is a history of courage, self-sacrifice, and honor.
When abusive monarchs repressed the masses, Americans resisted and overthrew them. When misguided policies led to the unjust oppression of fellow citizens, Americans rebelled and overturned them. When millions of impoverished and destitute wretches sought a new beginning, Americans threw open the door and welcomed them. When imperial dictators were on the march, Americans surrendered their lives to stop them. When communist thugs threatened world peace, Americans bled to defeat them. When an entire continent was overwhelmed with famine and hunger, Americans gave of themselves to sustain it. When terrorist madmen killed the innocent and subjugated millions, Americans led the fight to topple them.
This is the legacy that generations of Americans have left. If President Obama seeks stronger relations with the world community, perhaps he should begin by reminding them of these very truths, rather than condemning his own countrymen on foreign shores.
This "obsessive need to put down his own country," has caused blogger James Lewis to call President Obama a "stunningly ignorant man" who has evidently never spoken to a concentration camp survivor, a Cuban refugee, a boat person from Vietnam, a Soviet dissident, or a survivor of Mao's purges.
Unfortunately, I can no longer bring myself to give Mr. Obama that benefit of the doubt. Not after looking at the pain in my grandpa's eyes...a man who still carries shrapnel in his body from his service to this country.
As a student and teacher of history, I recognize that America has made mistakes...plenty of them, in fact. But one of the great things about our people has been their courage and humility in admitting and correcting those mistakes. God willing, they will prove that willingness again in four years and correct the mistake that is the presidency of Barack Obama.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
But, wait a minute. The bigger our company gets, the closer we come to being "too big to fail," a "systemic risk." The nearer we are to intrusive government oversight, limits on executive pay, and regulators breathing down our necks. We better watch out. We may even get taken over. Stay small. Forget the new jobs.
An investor ponders where to put his 401 (k) retirement money. Should he invest in robust, growing companies? Firms with a bright future? But, be careful, they could get so big that they get taken over by the government and you lose your entire investment. Don't invest in firms that will fail, but stay away from those that will succeed too.
Meanwhile, at the kitchen table, a middle class family discusses their career moves. Should she go back to school to pursue a better job at higher pay? Should he put in overtime? Move up in the company?
Hey wait a minute. Our combined income is just under $200,000 a year. If we go any higher, our tax bracket goes up, we start having Social Security withheld on our new income, we lose our current deductions for our mortgage, and state and local taxes, and charitable donations.
Forget the promotion. Forget the new job.
Downtown, investors in a hedge fund are meeting to consider participating in the bank bailout scheme by buying toxic assets from failing institutions. We could make a killing. The investments could pan out big time. It's a risk, but the reward could be great.
But hold on a second. If we make tens of millions, hundreds of millions, while taxpayers have to pay for failed banks, won't we get hit with a 90 percent tax? Won't we get to see our pictures on the front page with the president shaking an angry finger in our faces? Yes, now he wants us to invest, to help him rescue the banks, but once we do, won't he be on our case like he was on AIG's?
The Japanese have a saying that, thankfully, has no English equivalent: The highest nail gets hammered down first. Obama's perverse view of fairness threatens to create reverse incentives, militating against growth, jobs, expansion, and upward mobility.
For decades, astute observers of national welfare policy warned of the perversity of the incentives which kept the poor on welfare and discouraged them from taking jobs. Employment meant that their slightly higher income would be more than offset by the loss of other benefits like food stamps, day care, rent supplements, and Medicaid. Work didn't pay.
Now Obama is applying the same crazy policies to the upper end of the economic spectrum.
Upward mobility is alive and well in the United States, at least until Obama took over. A study conducted in the late 1990s examined the economic fate of those consigned to the bottom 20% of incomes in 1980. The analysis concluded that more than four out of five had left the bottom quintile and one in five was now in the top 20%! It is true that the top quintile is getting richer while the bottom is getting poorer, but the bottom is not the same people. There is, fortunately, a constant churning at the bottom as new immigrants move in and those who used to be on the bottom begin their long, thrilling, upward climb to the American dream.
But Obama does not believe in individual upward mobility. He would penalize it, tax it, regulate it, inveigh against it, and disincentivize it. We will be like salmon swimming upstream to mate. We will overcome the currents, the waterfall, the rocks, the predators and will grapple our way up the stream. Then, at the top of the waterfall, will stand Obama the Bear, waiting to scoop us up and have us for dinner. The taxman cometh.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Report: U.N. spent U.S. funds on shoddy projects
By Ken Dilanian, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — Two United Nations agencies spent millions in U.S. money on substandard Afghanistan construction projects, including a central bank without electricity and a bridge at risk of "life threatening" collapse, according to an investigation by U.S. federal agents.
The U.N. ran a "quick impact" infrastructure program from 2003 to 2006 under a $25 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development. The U.N. delivered shoddy work, diverted money to other countries and then stonewalled U.S. efforts to figure out what happened, according to a report by USAID's inspector general obtained by USA TODAY under the Freedom of Information Act.
"Due to the refusal of the United Nations to cooperate with this investigation, questions remain unanswered," the report says.
Federal prosecutors in New York City were forced to drop criminal and civil cases because the U.N. officials have immunity, according to the report. USAID has scaled back its dealings with the U.N. and hired a collection agency to seek $7.6 million back, Deputy Administrator James Bever said. The aid agency hasn't heeded its inspector general's request to sever all ties.
"There are certain cases where working with the U.N. is the only option available," Bever said in an e-mail.
The quick-impact program was designed to demonstrate results and promote confidence in the reconstruction effort, but the report suggests it did the opposite.
One U.N. employee told investigators that "about $10 million of USAID grant money went to projects in other countries, to include Sudan, Haiti, Sri Lanka and Dubai." That witness said the Afghanistan country director for the U.N. Office for Project Services (UNOPS), which served as the contractor on the project for the U.N. Development Program (UNDP), spent about $200,000 in U.S. money to renovate his guesthouse. Witness names were withheld by USAID.
The development program hired UNOPS to do the work and kept a 7% management fee, the report says. The finances were "out of control," an unnamed project services manager told investigators.
An unnamed USAID contractor told investigators that the program was "ill conceived from the beginning. This was a political idea to do quick impact projects that would look good," the report said.
Investigators found that projects reported as "complete" were actually so shoddily built that they were unusable, the report said. For example:
•A bridge near Kandahar cost $250,000, had to be overhauled by other contractors and still was not safe. The U.N. claimed the bridge was damaged by flood, but a colonel in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers told investigators that "falls between absolute incompetence and a lie; the project was improperly constructed."
•An airstrip in the southern town of Qalat, originally budgeted at $300,000, cost $749,000 and could not accommodate military planes.
•A $375,000 headquarters for Afghanistan's central bank lacked electricity or plumbing, and basement flooding destroyed stacks of local currency.
Investigators found that UNDP withdrew $6.7 million from a U.S. line of credit without permission in 2007, months after the project had ended. UNDP has yet to explain what happened to that money, the report says.
"This is a disturbing report and an egregious example of the kind of fraud and waste that needs to be fixed," said Mark Kornblau, a spokesman for Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. "The U.S. is committed to making the U.N. more accountable."
Vitaly Vanshelboim, UNOPS deputy executive director, did not dispute that some of his agency's work was substandard and that money was improperly diverted. He said UNOPS had overhauled itself dramatically since then. An internal U.N. investigation found serious irregularities by one former official that have since been addressed through management reforms, he said.
UNDP spokesman Stéphane Dujarric called the report "disturbing." Both officials denied that their agencies failed to cooperate with investigators.
"We are continuing to work closely with USAID to get to the bottom of all of the issues they have raised," he said in an e-mail.
USAID's inspector general, Donald Gambatesa told the Commission on Wartime Contracting during a February public hearing that he was "concerned" that his agency was continuing to do business with the U.N.
Commissioner Dov Zakheim, a former Pentagon controller, asked Gambatesa whether the agencies have immunity "if they siphon (their U.S. grants) all off into Swiss banks? Is that accurate? They will be totally immune, no matter what they do with the money?"
"My understanding is, yes," Gambatesa replied.
On Monday, Alonzo Fulgham, USAID's acting administrator, met in in New York to discuss the matter with Ad Melkert, the development program's acting administrator, USAID said in a statement.
"Mr. Melkert pledged UNDP's full cooperation with USAID in reforming UNDP's project management practices, improving financial accountability and in recovering any missing funds," the statement said.
And now...a REAL push to seize back the state's powers from the Federal Gov't. and limit their interference! More states need to catch on and follow. Our forefathers would be so proud!!!
Gov. Perry Backs Resolution Affirming Texas’ Sovereignty Under 10th Amendment
HCR 50 Reiterates Texas’ Rights Over Powers Not Otherwise Granted to Federal Government
April 09, 2009
AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry today joined state Rep. Brandon Creighton and sponsors of House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 50 in support of states’ rights under the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“I believe that our federal government has become oppressive in its size, its intrusion into the lives of our citizens, and its interference with the affairs of our state,” Gov. Perry said. “That is why I am here today to express my unwavering support for efforts all across our country to reaffirm the states’ rights affirmed by the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. I believe that returning to the letter and spirit of the U.S. Constitution and its essential 10th Amendment will free our state from undue regulations, and ultimately strengthen our Union.”
A number of recent federal proposals are not within the scope of the federal government’s constitutionally designated powers and impede the states’ right to govern themselves. HCR 50 affirms that Texas claims sovereignty under the 10th Amendment over all powers not otherwise granted to the federal government.
It also designates that all compulsory federal legislation that requires states to comply under threat of civil or criminal penalties, or that requires states to pass legislation or lose federal funding, be prohibited or repealed.
HCR 50 is authored by Representatives Brandon Creighton, Leo Berman, Bryan Hughes, Dan Gattis and Ryan Guillen.
To view the full text of the resolution, please visit:
*Gov. Perry joins Rep. Creighton in support of HCR 50
*The resolution reaffirms states' rights according to the 10th amendment
*HCR 50 is authored by Reps. Creighton, Berman, Hughes, Gattis and Guillen
Saturday, April 11, 2009
APRIL 11, 2009
States are raising taxes despite the 'stimulus'; New York is No. 1.
Like the old competition to have the world's tallest building, New York can't resist having the nation's highest taxes. So after California raised its top income tax rate to 10.55% last month, Albany's politicians leapt into action to reclaim high-tax honors. Maybe C-Span can make this tax competition a new reality TV series; Carla Bruni, the first lady of France, could host.
They can invite politicians from the at least 10 other states that are also considering major tax hikes, including Oregon, Illinois, Wisconsin, Washington, Arizona and New Jersey. One explicit argument for the $787 billion "stimulus" bill was to help states avoid these tax increases that even Keynesians understand are contractionary. Instead, the state politicians are pocketing the federal cash to maintain spending, and raising taxes anyway. Just another spend-and-tax bait and switch.
In New York, Assembly Speaker (and de facto Governor) Sheldon Silver and other Democrats will impose a two percentage point "millionaire tax" on New Yorkers who earn more than $200,000 a year ($300,000 for couples). This will lift the top state tax rate to 8.97% and the New York City rate to 12.62%. Since capital gains and dividends are taxed as ordinary income, New York will impose the nation's highest taxes on investment income -- at a time when Wall Street is in jeopardy of losing its status as the world's financial capital.
But who and where are all these millionaires to pluck? More than any other state, New York has been hurt by the financial meltdown, and its $132 billion budget is now $17.7 billion in deficit. The days of high-roller Wall Street bonuses that finance 20% of the New York budget are long gone. The richest 1% of New Yorkers already pay almost 40% of the income tax, and the top 0.5% pay 30%.
Mr. Silver thinks he can squeeze more from these folks without any economic harm, arguing that recent income tax hikes didn't hurt New Jersey. (Yes, the pols in New York actually hold up New Jersey, whose economy and budget are also in shambles, as their role model.) The tax hike lobby in Albany points to a paper by Princeton researchers reporting that the number of "half-millionaires," those with incomes above $500,000, increased by 60% from 2003-2006 after New Jersey taxes rose (the top rate is now 8.98%). But this was a boom time for the national economy, especially in the financial industry where many New Jerseyites work, or at least used to work.
The better comparison is how New Jersey compared to the rest of the nation. According to the study's own data, over the same period the U.S. saw an increase of 76% in half-millionaire households. E.J. McMahon, a budget expert at the Manhattan Institute, calculates that New Jersey lost more than 4,000 high-income taxpayers after the tax increase.
Mr. Silver says of the coming tax hikes: "We've done it before. There hasn't been a catastrophe." Oh, really? According to Census Bureau data, over the past decade 1.97 million New Yorkers left the state for greener pastures -- the biggest exodus of any state. New York City has lost more than 75,000 jobs since last August, and many industrial areas upstate are as rundown as Detroit. The American Legislative Exchange Council recently said New York had the worst economic outlook of all 50 states, including Michigan. And that analysis was done before these $4 billion in new taxes. How does Mr. Silver define "catastrophe"?
Oh, and it isn't just high earners who get smacked. The new budget raises another $2 billion or so on top of the $4 billion in income taxes with some 100 new taxes, fees, fines, surcharges and penalties to be paid by all New York residents. There are new charges for cell phone usage, fishing permits, health insurance (the "sick tax"), electric bills, and on bottled water, cigars, beer and wine. A New York Post analysis found that a typical family of four with an income below $100,000 would pay more than $800 a year in higher taxes and fees.
This is advertised as a plan of "shared sacrifice," but the group that is most responsible for New York's budget woes, the all-powerful public employee unions, somehow walk out of this with a 3% pay increase. The state is receiving an estimated $10 billion in federal stimulus money, and Democrats are spending every cent while raising the state budget by 9%. Then they insist with a straight face that taxes are the only way to close the budget deficit.
And so Albany is about to make a gigantic gamble on New York's economic future. The gamble is that the state with the highest cost of doing business can raise taxes on everyone who lives, works, breathes, eats or drinks in the state and not pay a heavy price for it. If they're wrong, New York will enhance its reputation as the Empire in Decline State.
NYT: Cities turn to fees to fill budget gaps
'Streetlight user fees' among the new charges as governments get creative
By David Segal
The New York Times
Sat., April 11, 2009
After her sport utility vehicle sideswiped a van in early February, Shirley Kimel was amazed at how quickly a handful of police officers and firefighters in Winter Haven, Fla., showed up. But a real shock came a week later, when a letter arrived from the city billing her $316 for the cost of responding to the accident.
“I remember thinking, ‘What the heck is this?’ ” says Ms. Kimel, 67, an office manager at a furniture store. “I always thought this sort of thing was covered by my taxes.”
It used to be. But last July, Winter Haven became one of a few dozen cities in the country to start charging “accident response fees.” The idea is to shift the expense of tending to and cleaning up crashes directly to at-fault drivers. Either they, or their insurers, are expected to pay.
Such cash-per-crash ordinances tend to infuriate motorists, and they often generate bad press, but a lot of cities are finding them hard to resist. With the economy flailing and budgets strained, state and local governments are being creative about ways to raise money. And the go-to idea is to invent a fee — or simply raise one.
Ohio’s governor has proposed a budget with more than 150 new or increased fees, including a fivefold increase in the cost to renew a livestock license, as well as larger sums to register a car, order a birth certificate or dump trash in a landfill. Other fees take aim at landlords, cigarette sellers and hospitals, to name a few.
Wisconsin’s governor, James E. Doyle, has proposed a charge on slaughterhouses that would be levied on the basis of each animal slaughtered. He also wants to more than triple the application charge for an elk-hunting license to $10, an idea that has raised eyebrows because the elk population in the state is currently too small to allow an actual hunting season.
Washington’s mayor, Adrian M. Fenty, has proposed a “streetlight user fee” of $4.25 a month, to be added to electric bills, that would cover the cost of operating and maintaining the city’s streetlights. New York City recently expanded its anti-idling law to include anyone parked near a school who leaves the engine running for more than a minute. Doing that will cost you $100.
“The most dangerous places on Staten Island are the schools at drop-off and dismissal time, when parents are parked three deep in the road,” says James S. Oddo, a City Council member from Staten Island who voted for the measure. “There is a mentality here that Johnny can’t walk 100 feet, he has to be dropped off right at the front of the school — and frankly that’s why Johnny is as pudgy as he is.”
Nothing, it seems, is off the table. In Pima County, Ariz., the County Board of Supervisors increased an assortment of fees, including the cost of AIDS testing. Florida has proposed raising medical visit co-payments for inmates in state prisons. Parking fees at the Honolulu Zoo could rise by 500 percent if a proposal there goes through.
Politicians tend to regard fees as more palatable than taxes, and more focused too. If a state needs to finance an infrastructure to oversee fishing, why shouldn’t fishermen foot the bill? But groups like the nonpartisan Tax Foundation in Washington worry that governments are now using fees to shore up budget shortfalls rather than cover specific costs incurred by specific users.
“When it comes to paying for bananas, you’ve got the market as a mechanism to make sure you’re paying a fair price,” says Josh Barro, a staff economist at the Tax Foundation. “But when it comes to getting your driver’s license renewed, the government has a monopoly, and you have no idea what it costs the state or what it’s doing with the money.”
In some cases, towns say they are merely enforcing rules that have long been on the books. For the first time in years, for instance, officials at Londonderry, N.H., have mailed notices to dog owners reminding them to renew their annual dog licenses, which cost $6.50 apiece, or face a $25 fine. Town leaders think the get-tough approach could raise an additional $20,000, but Meg Seymour, the town clerk, is dreading local reaction. When the town last sent out fine notices, in 2002, the calls to her office were vicious.
“Let’s just say that we’re the ones who take the venting,” she said. “You have no idea.”
If past patterns hold, the new wave of fees is just getting started. Gary Wagner, a professor of economics at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, was one author of a study of moving-vehicle and parking tickets in North Carolina, covering a 14-year period. He found a strong correlation between a dip in government revenue and a rise in ticket-writing by the police.
“But there’s a lag time,” Mr. Wagner said. “Typically, it’s about a year after the revenues drop that the police start writing more tickets.”
If you date the start of the downturn to last September, the ticket-writing is just getting under way. And New Yorkers can expect more days like the one in mid-March, when the police wrote 9,016 driving-while-phoning tickets within 24 hours, roughly 20 times the usual number.
The “accident response fee” idea could spread, too. A company in Dayton, Ohio, called the Cost Recovery Corporation specializes in setting up collection systems for municipalities that bill for police and fire responses. (The company keeps 10 percent of billings.) Inquiries have tripled in the last year, says the company’s president, Regina Moore.
“What we’re hearing from towns is, ‘The taxpayers are all over us; they don’t want to surrender more tax money,’ ” she said. “And response fees are basically a form of restitution, like paying for a stay in jail.”
Insurance companies loathe the idea, because inevitably customers assume that a crash fee is covered by their policies. (It isn’t, in most cases.) And unlike the pay-to-stay approach to jails, crash fees rarely play well in the media. The mayor of Duluth, Minn., backed off a crash fee proposal shortly after Jay Leno joked about the city, by name, in a “Tonight Show” monologue last year.
In Winter Haven, the accident response fee seemed to leaders to be a reasonable way to help finance the police and fire departments, but so far only 20 percent of the $32,000 that has been billed to at-fault drivers has been collected.
“We chose not to contract out the collection part of this, and frankly, because of staff cuts, we don’t have enough people to handle all the paperwork,” says Joy Townsend, the city’s communications officer. “We’re now evaluating how cost-effective this program is.”
Ms. Kimel, the S.U.V. driver in Florida, will not make the numbers look any better. She has no idea whether the city will come after her for that $316 bill, but she doesn’t care.
“I’m not paying,” she said, “because it isn’t fair.”
This story originally appeared in the The New York Times
Job cuts needed to stop NY bankruptcy: mayor
Apr 9 20009
Sweeping layoffs of government employees are needed to prevent New York going bankrupt, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Thursday.
Bloomberg, who is in tense negotiations with municipal workers' unions, said an extra 7,000 jobs would have to go unless major reductions are made in employee benefits.
"We cannot continue. Our pension costs and health care costs for our employees are going to bankrupt this city," he said in comments broadcast on NY1 television.
Bloomberg, running for a third mayoral term at the end of this year, said that proposals from unions so far were "nowhere near what is adequate."
The possible job cuts, first announced Wednesday, would be on top of 1,300 already proposed and another 8,000 that could be axed through attrition.
Department heads have until Monday to propose cuts and Bloomberg must present the city budget by the end of the month. The city is barred by law from running deficits.
The recession and the Wall Street crisis have knocked a huge hole in city finances that traditionally relied heavily on taxes from financial companies.
The budget office on Wednesday said that 7,000 extra job cuts would allow the city to cut a further 350 million dollars in expenditure.
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
I ran across this article which notes 12 states that have or will increase taxes dramatically to help bail them out of their severe economic problems. Not surprisingly I noticed a trend...THEY ALL SEEMED TO BE BLUE STATES!!! At least ELEVEN (11) of the twelve (12) states included in the article are blue states as you can see by the 2008 Electoral College Map I included above. The only red state on the list was Arizona. Democrats won 22 states and half of those have already or will be already raising taxes dramatically to attempt to deal with their economic situations. CATCHING ON HERE PEOPLE?! Stats Speak For Themselves! For more STATS...please see previous post: http://visionsfromthehorizon.blogspot.com/2009/04/stats-speak-for-themselves-on-economy.html
APRIL 9, 2009
More States Look to Raise Taxes
By LESLIE EATON
A free fall in tax revenue is driving more state lawmakers to turn to broad-based tax increases in a bid to close widening budget gaps.
At least 10 states are considering some kind of major increase in sales or income taxes: Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin. California and New York lawmakers already have agreed on multibillion-dollar tax increases that went into effect earlier this year.
Fiscal experts say more states are likely to try to raise tax revenue in coming months, especially once they tally the latest shortfalls from April 15 income-tax filings, often the biggest single source of funds for the 43 states that levy them.
The squeeze is especially severe in states hit hardest by the recession, such as Arizona, where sales-tax revenue has fallen by 10.5%, income-tax collections are down 15.7% this fiscal year, and the government faces a $3.4 billion budget gap next year. But such shortfalls are likely to be widespread; federal income-tax receipts from individuals have dropped more than 15% in the past six months, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates.
While most states so far have managed to cope with dwindling cash by cutting spending and raising fees on things such as fishing licenses and car registrations, that is unlikely to be enough in the new fiscal years that generally begin July 1, many analysts said.
"Income taxes and sales taxes are the go-to taxes when you really need to raise a lot of money," said Donald J. Boyd, who monitors states' fiscal health for the Rockefeller Institute of Government in Albany, N.Y.
Sales-tax revenue has fallen more sharply than at any time in the past 50 years, Mr. Boyd said, and he expects income-tax collections to drop below levels state officials projected -- though the extent of the damage probably won't become clear until May.
Raising taxes is a perilous proposition for lawmakers, who must balance their states' budgets every year. Not only do they face political heat for increasing financial burdens during the recession, but added taxes risk worsening their states' economic problems by, for example, further hobbling consumer spending.
Some lawmakers say they have little choice. "With the size of our budget gap, we are looking at a situation of closing down our courts, releasing prisoners and cutting the school year by as much as a month," said Rep. Peter Buckley, co-chairman of Oregon's joint Ways and Means Committee.
His committee is considering an income-tax increase on high-earners, along with major budget cuts, to help close a projected $4.4 billion budget gap over the next two fiscal years. And things could get worse after a revenue forecast due out May 15, he said, because Oregon's unemployment rate has climbed to 10.8% and the state relies on income-tax revenue.
Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski is likely to support the surcharge, said a spokeswoman , because the state is faced with losing as much as a third of its tax revenue.
Legislators know the increases will be unpopular with residents. "There will be blame, we accept that," Sen. Eileen M. Daily of Connecticut said earlier this month when she and fellow Democrats announced a budget that raises income-tax rates and expands the sales tax to raise more than $3 billion over the next two years. Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell, a Republican, has said she would veto the plan.
But some governors are proposing tax increases. Delaware Gov. Jack Markell wants to raise the marginal income-tax rate by one percentage point, to 6.95%, on those earning more than $60,000 a year, effective in 2010. His budget plan also includes increases in corporate taxes as well as spending cuts to close a projected $750 million shortfall in a $3 billion budget, said spokesman Joe Rogalsky.
Many states remain determined to balance their budgets by relying solely on spending cuts. That is the case in Indiana, where raising revenue "is really not on the table," said Pat Bauer, the speaker of the state House.
Instead, he hopes to tap the state's rainy-day fund and to produce a budget that covers only one year, rather than the usual two, because plunging revenue makes it impossible to forecast that far in advance.
Tax collections have dropped drastically the past four months, according to Christopher A. Ruhl, director of the Indiana Budget Agency. Income-tax collections, which reflect withholding and estimated tax payments, fell 21% in March compared with last year and are down 7% for the fiscal year.
States have lowered revenue forecasts repeatedly in recent months, yet the estimates still seem to exceed the grim reality. Last week, Pennsylvania officials said total March tax collections were $334.6 million, or 7.9%, short of expectations, due to sharp drops in income and sales taxes and a steep decline in corporate income taxes. For the fiscal year that began July 1, 2008, collections to date are running $1.6 billion less than forecast.
This has led some experts, such as Nicholas Johnson of the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, to predict more legislatures will take up broad-based tax increases as early as May or June. "The problem," he said, "is that they are filling a hole that has gotten a little deeper."
Write to Leslie Eaton at email@example.com
Star Parker - Syndicated Columnist - 2/9/2009 8:00:00 AM
Six years ago I wrote a book called Uncle Sam's Plantation. I wrote the book to tell my own story of what I saw living inside the welfare state and my own transformation out of it.
I said in that book that indeed there are two Americas -- a poor America on socialism and a wealthy America on capitalism. I talked about government programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Job Opportunities and Basic Skills Training (JOBS), Emergency Assistance to Needy Families with Children (EANF), Section 8 Housing, and Food Stamps.
A vast sea of perhaps well-intentioned government programs, all initially set into motion in the 1960's, that were going to lift the nation's poor out of poverty.
A benevolent Uncle Sam welcomed mostly poor black Americans onto the government plantation. Those who accepted the invitation switched mind sets from "How do I take care of myself?" to "What do I have to do to stay on the plantation?"
Instead of solving economic problems, government welfare socialism created monstrous moral and spiritual problems -- the kind of problems that are inevitable when individuals turn responsibility for their lives over to others.
The legacy of American socialism is our blighted inner cities, dysfunctional inner city schools, and broken black families.
Through God's grace, I found my way out. It was then that I understood what freedom meant and how great this country is.
I had the privilege of working on welfare reform in 1996, passed by a Republican Congress and signed 50 percent.
I thought we were on the road to moving socialism out of our poor black communities and replacing it with wealth-producing American capitalism.
But, incredibly, we are going in the opposite direction. Instead of poor America on socialism becoming more like rich American on capitalism, rich America on capitalism is becoming like poor America on socialism.
Uncle Sam has welcomed our banks onto the plantation and they have said, "Thank you, Suh."
Now, instead of thinking about what creative things need to be done to serve customers, they are thinking about what they have to tell Massah in order to get their cash.
There is some kind of irony that this is all happening under our first black president on the 200th anniversary of the birthday of Abraham Lincoln.
Worse, socialism seems to be the element of our new young president. And maybe even more troubling, our corporate executives seem happy to move onto the plantation.
In an op-ed on the opinion page of the Washington Post, Mr. Obama is clear that the goal of his trillion dollar spending plan is much more than short term economic stimulus.
"This plan is more than a prescription for short-term spending -- it's a strategy for America's long-term growth and opportunity in areas such as renewable energy, healthcare, and education."
Perhaps more incredibly, Obama seems to think that government taking over an economy is a new idea. Or that massive growth in government can take place "with unprecedented transparency and accountability."
Yes, sir, we heard it from Jimmy Carter when he created the Department of Energy, the Synfuels Corporation, and the Department of Education.
Or how about the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 -- The War on Poverty -- which President Johnson said "...does not merely expand old programs or improve what is already being done. It charts a new course. It strikes at the causes, not just the consequences of poverty."
Trillions of dollars later, black poverty is the same. But black families are not, with triple the incidence of single-parent homes and out-of-wedlock births.
It's not complicated. Americans can accept Barack Obama's invitation to move onto the plantation. Or they can choose personal responsibility and freedom.
Does anyone really need to think about what the choice should be?
Sunday, April 05, 2009
April 5, 2009 09:40 AM EST
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told “Fox News Sunday” that he would have disabled the long-range missile before North Korea launched it, saying too many people “do not appreciate the scale of the threat that is evolving on the planet.”
“One morning, just like 9/11, there’s going to be a disaster,” Gingrich said. “I have yet to see the United Nations do anything effective with either Iran or North Korea.”
Reacting to President Barack Obama’s speech in Prague, Gingrich called the plan for a Global Summit on Nuclear Security a “wonderful fantasy idea,” saying Russia and other nations can’t be trusted.
“What are they going to promise, and why would we believe them?” Gingrich said. “It’s very dangerous to have a fantasy foreign policy, and it can get you in enormous trouble.”
Host Chris Wallace asked Gingrich: “So you’re saying that President Gingrich would have taken out that” missile?
Gingrich replied: “There are three or four techniques that could have been used, from unconventional forces to standoff capabilities, to say: ‘We’re not going to tolerate a North Korean missile launch, period.’ I mean, the world’s either got to decide that North Korea is utterly dangerous … I’d recommend, look at electromagnetic pulse, which changes every … equation about how risky these weapons are.”
South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, appearing with Gingrich, said: “In the countryside of South Carolina, at some point, you’ve got to back up words with action. … There have been a long series of … intentional steps on North Korea’s part, and little in the way of actions from the standpoint of either America or the international community.”
Saturday, April 04, 2009
Summers earned cash last year from firms over which he now has influence
By Jeff Zeleny
The New York Times
Sat., April. 4, 2009
WASHINGTON - Lawrence H. Summers, the top economic adviser to President Obama, earned more than $5 million last year from the hedge fund D. E. Shaw and collected $2.7 million in speaking fees from Wall Street companies that received government bailout money, the White House disclosed Friday in releasing financial information about top officials.
Mr. Summers, the director of the National Economic Council, wields important influence over Mr. Obama’s policy decisions for the troubled financial industry, including firms from which he recently received payments.
Last year, he reported making 40 paid appearances, including a $135,000 speech to the investment firm Goldman Sachs, in addition to his earnings from the hedge fund, a sector the administration is trying to regulate.
The White House released hundreds of pages of financial disclosure forms, which are required of all West Wing officials. A White House spokesman, Ben LaBolt, said the compensation was not a conflict for Mr. Summers, adding it was not surprising because he was “widely recognized as one of the country’s most distinguished economists.”
Mr. Summers’s role at the White House includes advising Mr. Obama on whether — and how — to tighten regulation of hedge funds, which engage in highly sophisticated financial trading that many analysts have said contributed to the economic collapse.
Mr. Summers, a former president of Harvard University, was Treasury secretary in the Clinton administration. He appeared before large Wall Street companies like Citigroup ($45,000), J. P. Morgan ($67,500) and the now defunct Lehman Brothers ($67,500), according to his disclosure report. He reported being paid $10,000 for a speaking date at Yale and $90,000 to address an organization of Mexican banks.
While Mr. Obama campaigned on a pledge to restrict lobbyists from working in the White House, a step intended to reduce any influence between the administration and corporations, the ban did not apply to former executives like Mr. Summers, who was not a registered lobbyist. In 2006, he became a managing director of D. E. Shaw, a firm that manages about $30 billion in assets, making it one of the biggest hedge funds in the world.
“Dr. Summers was not an adviser to or an employee of the firms that paid him to speak,” Mr. LaBolt said.
He added, “Of course, since joining the White House, he has complied with the strictest ethics rules ever required of appointees and will not work on specific matters to which D. E. Shaw is a party for two years.”
A review of hundreds of pages of financial disclosure forms on Friday evening offered an extensive portrait of the wealth of top officials in the Obama administration. The forms detail the salaries, bonuses and investments of the president’s circle of advisers, many of whom took deep pay cuts from the private sector and sold their companies to work at the White House.
David Axelrod, who was the chief campaign strategist to Mr. Obama and now serves as a senior adviser to the president, reported a salary of $1 million last year from his two consulting firms. Over the next five years, according to his disclosure form, he will get $3 million from the sale of the two firms, which provide media and strategic advice to political clients. He listed assets of about $7 million to $10 million, and reported a long list of Democratic clients and a few corporate concerns, including AT&T and the Exelon Corporation, a nuclear energy company.
The disclosure forms also shed further light on the compensation received by a top Obama aide who previously worked for Citigroup, one of the largest recipients of taxpayer bailout money. The aide, Michael Froman, deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs, received more than $7.4 million from the company from January 2008 to when he joined the White House this year.
That money included a year-end bonus of $2.25 million for work in 2008, which Citigroup paid him in January. Such bonuses have prompted political controversy in recent months, including sharp criticism from Mr. Obama, who in January branded them as “shameful.”
The White House had previously acknowledged that Mr. Froman received such a year-end bonus and said he had decided to give it to charity, but would not say what it was.
The administration said Friday that Mr. Froman was working on giving the $2.25 million to a combination of charities related to homelessness and cancer, which took the life of his son this year.
The remainder of Mr. Froman’s earnings from Citigroup included deferred compensation and bonuses for work performed in prior years, as well as a $2 million payment for waiving his carried-interest stake in several private equity funds.
The White House said Mr. Froman decided to take the buyouts to avoid having to recuse himself from foreign-policy issues related to the funds’ investments, like India infrastructure, which means he would be taxed at ordinary income rates on the money.
Millionaires work in a variety of positions across the administration, and they include Desirée Rogers, the White House social secretary. Ms. Rogers, a close Chicago friend of the Obama family, reported income of $2.3 million last year. She earned a salary of $1.8 million from People’s Gas & North Shore Gas, along with three other sources of income from serving on insurance company boards.
Thomas E. Donilon, the deputy national security adviser, reported earning $3.9 million as a partner at the Washington law firm O’Melveny & Myers. His disclosure form says major clients included Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Apollo Management, a private equity firm in New York that specializes in distressed assets and corporate restructuring.
Mr. Donilon is also entitled to future pension payments from Fannie Mae, where he worked from 1999 to 2005.
Reporting was contributed by Peter Baker, David Johnston, David D. Kirkpatrick, Eric Lipton and Charlie Savage.
This story, Financial Industry Paid Millions to Obama Aide, originally appeared in The New York Times.
Copyright © 2009 NYTimes.com. All rights reserved. This article originally appeared on NYTimes.com
Thursday, April 02, 2009
The state that brought you "Kool-Aid” and “CliffsNotes” and the world’s richest person, Warren Buffett (Stock Quote: BRK.A), is feeling better off than the rest of us, according to MainStreet.com’s new Happiness Index.
We all know that money alone can’t buy happiness, but having a job, home and enough money to cover your basic budgetary needs is a good start.
The Cornhusker state was awarded the top ranking because:
It ranked 2nd overall in lowest number of foreclosures
It ranked 2nd in lowest unemployment rates
It ranked 5th in lowest percentage of non-mortgage debt by income
The Happiness Index, on the other hand, is all about which states are best weathering the current economic storm.
Contrary to popular wisdom that densely populated urban areas of the country have ‘recession-proof’ housing markets and boast impressively high average salary ranges, The Happiness Index suggests that the Midwest is the main source of financial happiness. After Nebraska in the top spot, Iowa and Kansas came in at 2 and 3 on the list of the most financially happy states.
Other states did better than Nebraska in particular areas, but none had a higher blended average. Maryland, for example, was burdened by higher unemployment and foreclosure rates despite having one of the lowest percentages of annual income spent on non-mortgage debt.
There are some interesting trends that can be gleaned from the Happiness Index. Not surprisingly, many of the states that experienced a boom during the housing bubble have more recently fallen by the wayside with increased foreclosures and debt.
Also, check out some coverage of the Happiness Index on ABC's Good Morning America.
Best and Worst States for Business
2.) North Carolina
(Red States with conservative economic policies)
2.) New York
4.) New Jersey
(Blue States with liberal economic policies)
America's Poorest Cities Run By Democrats For Far Too Long!!!
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly a third of the residents in Detroit, Michigan, and Buffalo, New York are living beneath the poverty line, the highest rates among large cities in the entire country.
Is there a perfect answer? Probably not. But what bothers me is that people stubbornly stick to their solution, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that it's not working.
For example, Detroit, whose mayor has been indicted on felony charges, hasn't elected a Republican mayor since 1961. Buffalo has been even more stubborn. It started putting a Democrat in office back in 1954, and it hasn't stopped since.
Unfortunately, those two cities may be alone at the top of the poverty rate list, but they're not alone in their love for Democrats. Cincinnati, Ohio (third on the poverty rate list), hasn't had a Republican mayor since 1984. Cleveland, Ohio (fourth on the list), has been led by a Democrat since 1989. St. Louis, Missouri (sixth), hasn't had a Republican since 1949, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (eighth), since 1908, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (ninth), since 1952 and Newark, New Jersey (10th), since 1907.
The only two cities in the top 10 that I didn't mention (Miami, Florida, and El Paso, Texas) haven't had Republicans in office either -- just Democrats, independents or nonpartisans.
Five of the 10 cities with the highest poverty rates (Detroit, Buffalo, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Newark) have had a Democratic stranglehold since at least 1961: more than 45 years. Two of the cities (Milwaukee and Newark) have been electing Democrats since the first Model T rolled off the assembly line in 1908.
Two cities, 100 years, all Democrats.
"So how's that "hope" and "change" working out for ya?!"
Treasury relies less on excise, corporate taxes, more on high-income people
By Tom Curry
April. 2, 2009
We have a new president, with a restless and far-reaching agenda — but how will the nation pay for that agenda?
For John F. Kennedy, elected in 1960, it was taxes and borrowing. For President Barack Obama, to whom JFK is often compared, the answer’s the same: taxes and borrowing.
But with the April 15 filing deadline looming, it’s worth noting that the tax system over which Obama presides isn’t the one workers knew two generations ago when Kennedy was entering the White House.
If you’re 70 today, you may have just retired, but do you recall that when you started working in 1960, making a beginner's wage, you paid only about $70 in payroll taxes? And that was for whole year, not for one week or one month.
The biggest tax change since 1960 is the growth in Social Security and Medicare taxes, also known as payroll taxes.
You may not think about them as you prepare your income tax returns, but for most taxpayers, payroll taxes are a bigger burden than income taxes. According to a report issued last week by the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, for more than four out of five tax filers, employment taxes are a bigger burden than income taxes.
Growing importance of payroll taxes
And payroll taxes have become a larger source of revenue for the federal government than they were in 1960. Back then, they accounted for 16 cents of every dollar of federal tax revenues. Last year they accounted for about 35 cents of every revenue dollar.
Why? The Social Security tax rate today is more than twice as high as it was in 1960 and the amount of income subject to the tax is far bigger.
In 1960, only the first $4,800 of income was taxed — and at a rate of just three percent. This year the Social Security tax rate is more than twice as high, 6.2 percent, and the first $106,800 of earned income is taxed. (The amount subject to taxation goes up every year, using a formula based on increases in average wages.)
Another reason the payroll tax burden today is heavier than it was in 1960 is that 50 years ago there was no Medicare — and thus no Medicare tax (that didn’t arrive until 1966.)
Workers in 1960 didn’t have to pay the 1.45 percent Medicare tax which workers pay today. And that Medicare tax applies to all earned income, not just to the first $106,800, as the Social Security tax does.
One thing that has not changed appreciably since 1960: the biggest piece of the revenue pie comes from taxes on incomes. In 1960, 44 percent of all federal revenues came from income taxes, while in 2008, 46 percent came from the income tax.
Who bears the tax burden?
But what’s different is that the income tax burden is being carried to a greater extent today by upper-income people than it was 30 years ago, according to an analysis by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office which tracks data going back to 1979.
In 1979, the top 10 percent of households, as measured by income, paid 40.6 percent of all federal taxes; other ninety percent paid 59.4 percent.
But by 2005, the top 10 percent accounted for nearly 55 percent of all federal tax revenues, while the rest of the population paid about 45 percent.
“In large part this is due to the large increase in the concentration of income, rather than a more progressive tax system,” said Joel Slemrod, the director of the Office of Tax Policy Research at the University of Michigan Business School.
Economists Thomas Piketty of the Paris School of Economics and Emmanuel Saez of the University of California at Berkeley find that the share of income going to the top 0.1 percent of the income distribution "was around 2.5 of total income in the 1970s and reached a peak above 9 percent of total income in 2000. In fact, most of the overall increase in the inequality of income has been driven by the very top of the income distribution...”
Measuring tax progressivity
Piketty and Saez say that “the federal tax system is clearly progressive,” that is, as a person’s income increases, the percentage of his income that he pays in taxes also increases.
One way tax experts use to measure the progressivity of a tax system is the effective tax rate, which is the total tax divided by total pre-tax income.
The Congressional Budget Office study found that a person in the middle of the income distribution (the middle fifth, if you divide the population by fifths according to income) paid an effective federal tax rate of 14.2 percent in 2005, while a person in the one percent of the population with the highest income had a effective tax rate of 31.2 percent.
People in the lowest fifth, or quintile, had an effective tax rate of 4.3 percent, partly because tax law changes in the past ten years removed many low-income people from the income tax rolls entirely. They pay only payroll taxes.
The lessening of the tax burden on the lowest quintile is a big change from 1979. That year, according to CBO, people in lowest income group (the bottom fifth of the income distribution) paid an effective federal tax rate of 8 percent.
But while Piketty and Saez say the tax system is “clearly progressive,” they seem to imply that it isn’t progressive enough, especially when it comes to the very top of the income pyramid.
Their concern is with using the tax code to bring about a more equal distribution of income. They say, “a tax system can be defined as progressive if after-tax income is more equally distributed than before-tax income.”
Using the tax code to re-distribute income more equally is a goal that many — but not all —Democratic members of Congress would support.
Obama has proposed to raise income taxes on upper-income people and to limit the amount that people with income of more than $250,000 a year can deduct from their taxes for charitable contributions.
Since the tax cuts which Congress enacted in 2001 and 2003 are set to expire at the end of 2010, Congress will face a momentous decision next year on tax rates.
Decline in excise taxes
For taxpayers of the JFK era, the tax system was much more targeted at spending than it is today. Excise taxes — the taxes you pay when you buy tires, gasoline, wine, beer, firearms, fishing rods, and other items — have dwindled from 13 percent of total revenues in 1960 to only about 2 percent today.
Why did this happen?
Ken Kies, former chief of staff for the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation and a tax lobbyist with the Federal Policy Group in Washington, said, “It was not until World War II that individual and corporate income taxes, combined, exceeded federal excise tax revenues. Then in the post-war period, excise taxes settled in at about 13 percent of total receipts, until the mid 1960s when President Lyndon Johnson and Congress cut them.”
And, Kies said, the high inflation of the late 1960s through early 1980s eroded the real dollar value of excise taxes.
Corporate tax less important than in 1960
Another noteworthy change in the mix of tax revenues today compared with 1960 is the decline in corporate tax revenue as a percentage of the total, from 23 percent to 13 percent.
Slemrod noted that in 2006, “corporate income taxes were back up to 15 percent of federal revenues, a level not seen since the late 1970s. The secular decline from 1959 to 2002 was apparently due to a decline in both the share of corporate profits in gross domestic product and a decline in the the effective tax rate.”
Kies partly agreed, noting that “the top corporate rate was a lot higher in the 1960s than it is now.”
But he added the most significant reason is that as a result of the 1986 tax law a lot of corporations converted into entities such as S corporations or partnerships. “As a result, a lot of business income that was previously taxed as C corporation income now shows up as individual income tax,” Kies said.
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Wednesday, April 01, 2009
At approx. 4:15 p.m. March 28th in the city of Stockbridge Ga. the people of Georgia returned an Indictment against Barack Hussein Obama!!!!!! 25 Jurists, duly sworn in, heard tesitmony and in a unanimous vote,Indicted the usurper.
“If the government does not amend the error within 40 days after being shown the error, then the four members shall refer the matter to the remainder of the grand jury,” it says. “The grand jury may distrain and oppress the government in every way in their power, namely, by taking the homes, lands, possessions, and any way else they can until amends shall have been made according to the sole judgment of the grand jury.”
Swensson said the indictments were delivered to the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, state officials and leaders of the Georgia Senate and House.
He told WND that since the action in Georgia, he's been contacted by groups in at least 20 other states who want to pursue a similar action.
Lets see what hapens when the States start to take away government land -- people are getting po'd.......