Monthly Archives: December 2012
So tell me again why the government can’t seem to get along with what it already gets?
Taking into account all taxes on earnings and consumer spending—including federal, state and local income taxes, Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes, excise taxes, and state and local sales taxes—Edward Prescott has shown (especially in the Quarterly Review of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, 2004) that the U.S. average marginal effective tax rate is around 40%. This means that if the average worker earns $100 from additional output, he will be able to consume only an additional $60.
And yet the prevailing political attitude seems to be that of France’s “leadership”, i.e. government, has first claim on all your earnings and if you protest you’re “greedy”.
Speaking of France, California seems bound to duplicate its latest tax scheme:
Consider California, which just enacted higher rates of income and sales tax. The top California income-tax rate will be 13.3%, and the top sales-tax rate in some areas may rise as high as 10%. Combine these state taxes with a top combined federal rate of 44%, plus federal excise taxes, and the combined marginal tax rate for the highest California earners is likely to be around 60%—as high as in France, Germany and Italy.
Yet they wonder why people are fleeing the state.
Impact and implications?
Higher labor-income and consumption taxes also have consequences for entrepreneurship and risk-taking. A key factor driving U.S. economic growth has been the remarkable impact of entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates of Microsoft, Steve Jobs of Apple, Fred Smith of FedEx and others who took substantial risk to implement new ideas, directly and indirectly creating new economic sectors and millions of new jobs.
Entrepreneurship is much lower in Europe, suggesting that high tax rates and poorly designed regulation discourage new business creation. The Economist reports that between 1976 and 2007 only one continental European startup, Norway’s Renewable Energy Corporation, achieved a level of success comparable to that of Microsoft, Apple and other U.S. giants making the Financial Times Index of the world’s 500 largest companies.
Yet we continue to try to recreate Europe’s debacle here.
The economy now faces two serious risks: the risk of higher marginal tax rates that will depress the number of hours of work, and the risk of continuing policies such as Dodd-Frank, bailouts, and subsidies to specific industries and technologies that depress productivity growth by protecting inefficient producers and restricting the flow of resources to the most productive users.
If these two risks are realized, the U.S. will face a much more serious problem than a 2013 recession. It will face a permanent and growing decline in relative living standards.
These risks loom as the level of U.S. economic activity gradually moves closer to that of the 1930s, when for a decade during the Great Depression output per working-age person declined by nearly 25% relative to trend. The last two quarters of GDP growth—1.3% and 2.7%—have been below trend, which means the U.S. economy is continuing to sink relative to its historical trend.
But your political and financial lords and masters know best, don’t they? Just ask them. They continue down this road despite the fact the destination is in plain sight in Europe and it isn’t pretty.
Occam’s Razor states “entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily.” Said another way, the simplest explanation is usually the most likely explanation. In this case the simplest explanation is incompetence. But is it really incompetence? With the European example staring them right in the face it’s hard to believe anyone is that incompetent. The conclusion to their policies have already been proven to be a disaster.
So one has to being to consider other possibilities when those who are pushing the policies seem oblivious to the obvious.
You have to begin to wonder if it is a problem of hubris. I.e. “the only reason it hasn’t worked before is we weren’t in charge”. We’ve seen that in any number of instances throughout history where discredited or obviously illogical ideological ideas were tried and they again failed.
Or you have to consider the words “by design”. But then you’re stuck with trying to come up with a valid reason “why”. Recreating Europe’s debacle, or Japans’s or, for heaven sake, our’s in the ’30s would seem to be something smart politicians would attempt to avoid.
But here we are.
Economic growth requires new ideas and new businesses, which in turn require a large group of talented young workers who are willing to take on the considerable risk of starting a business. This requires undoing the impediments that stand in the way of creating new economic activity—and increasing the after-tax returns to succeeding.
And yet, we see a government bent on erecting even more impediments via increased taxation, costly new laws and onerous regulation.
Isn’t it about time we demanded to know “why?” More importantly, maybe we should ask whose side they’re on.
France’s prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, is hopping mad. In response to the French socialist government’s plan to significantly increase taxes on "the rich"—including a proposed 75% tax on incomes above €1 million—rich people are moving out of the country. This is intolerable to Mr. Ayrault.
"Those who are seeking exile abroad are not those who are scared of becoming poor," the prime minister declared after unveiling sweeping anti-poverty measures to help those hit by the economic crisis.
These individuals are leaving "because they want to get even richer," he said. "We cannot fight poverty if those with the most, and sometimes with a lot, do not show solidarity and a bit of generosity," he added.
It could be a scene right out of "Atlas Shrugged".
Mr. Ayrault is angry because rich Frenchmen are fleeing the country to keep their money, instead of handing it over to him. And he is joined by the baying of the other hounds in France’s left wing. Case in point, French actor Gerard Depardieu, whose announcement that he was moving to Belgium provoked responses such as:
Socialist MP Yann Galut called for the actor to be "stripped of his nationality" if he failed to pay his dues in his mother country, saying the law should be changed to enable such a punishment.
Benoît Hamon, the consumption minister, said the move amounted to giving France "the finger" and was "anti-patriotic".
In a stinging editorial, Libération, the left-leaning daily, called him a "drunken, obese petit-bourgeois reactionary".
They are owed this money, by God, and how dare you try and steal it away from them!
This is always the implicit argument of the Left: They have the first claim to your income, and you have a duty to honor that claim. No matter how you earned that money, they have the right to take as much of it as they please away from you, and if you dispute that right, you’re unpatriotic, and should be punished.
This is Leftism in a nutshell. You are not a free individual, but rather a serf of the state or some other politically-defined "larger community" that has an absolute claim on your property and income that you may not defy. This is no different in concept, or in practice, than the idea of ancient Babylon or Akkad that every subject is a slave of the king.
You can dress it up in high-sounding phrases like "solidarity" or "social justice", "helping the poor" all you want, and it still amounts to nothing but the simple declaration that the state owns you.
The people who believe in this idea are the enemies of freedom, and should be treated as such.
The following US economic statistics were announced today:
The MBA reports that mortgage applications rose 6.2% last week, with purchases up 1.0% and refinancings up 8.0%.
Export prices fell -0.7% in November, but are up 0.7% over last year. Import prices fell -0.9% for the month, and are down -1.6% Year-over-year.
The Fed announced after the FOMC meeting this afternoon that short-term interest rates would remain close to 0% unless unemployment declines to 6.5%. They also said that the $85 billion a month in bond buys would continue. Gold rose more than $6.00 immediately after the announcement. Crude oil futures rose as well.
Finally figuring it out? Or finally admitting it?
Sixteen Democratic senators who voted for the Affordable Care Act are asking that one of its fundraising mechanisms, a 2.3 percent tax on medical devices scheduled to take effect January 1, be delayed. Echoing arguments made by Republicans against Obamacare, the Democratic senators say the levy will cost jobs — in a statement Monday, Sen. Al Franken called it a “job-killing tax” — and also impair American competitiveness in the medical device field.
The senators, who made the request in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, are Franken, Richard Durbin, Charles Schumer, Patty Murray, John Kerry, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, Joseph Lieberman, Ben Nelson, Robert Casey, Debbie Stabenow, Barbara Mikulski, Kay Hagan, Herb Kohl, Jeanne Shaheen, and Richard Blumenthal. All voted for Obamacare.
In the letter they say:
“The medical technology industry directly employs over 400,000 people in the United States and is responsible for a total of two million skilled manufacturing jobs,” the senators wrote in a December 4 letter to Reid. “We must do all we can to ensure that our country maintains its global leadership position in the medical technology industry and keeps good jobs here at home.”
For whatever reason, however, these 16 can’t seem to understand how what they’re claiming here applies across the board to all taxes. That is, they’re job killers. ObamaCare’s taxes and mandates are particularly pernicious because they have many companies trying to figure out how to avoid them and that will mean fewer jobs, not more and certainly more costs in general.
But then no one ever said our political leadership was particularly sharp. After all, somehow Maxine Waters is about to become the ranking member (senior Democrat) on the House Financial Services committee and Harry Reid remains the Majority Leader in the Senate.
Of course ObamaCare is full of job killing taxes as we’ve all become aware, and many of them will hit this year. Add those to the “fiscal cliff” tax increases as well as sequestration and you can bet the Dems will see their “pro-choice” agenda fulfilled this next year – any developing economic recovery will be quickly aborted as exactly all the wrong things government can do to kill such a recover are done.
Following a quiescent Monday, the us economic calendar kicks off this week with the following statistics:
In weekly retail sales, Redbook reports a 2.2% increase from the previous year. ICSC-Goldman reports a weekly sales decline of -0.7%, and a 2.5% increase on a year-over-year basis. Sales growth has been slow for two straight weeks, and analysts say consumers are awaiting the final round of pre-holiday bargains before buying.
The U.S. international trade gap in October widened to $-42.2billion as exports declined.
The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index in November fell a steep 5.6 points to 87.5, going deeper into recessionary territory.
Wholesale inventories rose 0.6% in October, with an unexpected -1.2% drop in sales, leaving a stock-to-sales ratio at a troubling 1.22.
You’d think, by now, governments would have figured out how poor they are at picking winners and losers.
Of course, they haven’t as witnessed by the witless California government continuing to push solar energy.
California’s Riverside County is producing more solar energy than anywhere in the U.S., with close to a dozen solar plants either online or proposed.
“On the face of it, it looks like a good deal. They talk about all these huge jobs and long-term benefits to the county. The truth is, it’s a very short term,” Riverside County Supervisor John Benoit said. “We’re going to be carrying the burden of having these types of facilities for decades to come, and because of the incentives that have been provided by federal and state government, there’s virtually nothing left for the county government or the local people to get benefit back after the small number of construction jobs are gone.”
Unlike Riverside’s 500 megawatt natural gas-fired facility, which pays $6 million a year in property taxes, a solar plant being built a few miles away will pay next to nothing, just $96,000. When Riverside balked at its own upfront infrastructure costs and tried to impose an impact fee, the industry sued.
So Riverside has hundreds of square miles carpeted with solar panels and no jobs to speak of and barely any revenue to show for it.
But surely, as promised, this has led to cheap, reliable and renewable energy, right?
Yeah, not so much:
Solar also promised to be a cheap source of power, fueled by the sun. What the industry didn’t say is the technology only converts a fraction of the sun’s energy, and the intermittent nature of sunshine does not produce the power promised.
And Stanford economist Frank Wolak, a California energy expert, said solar could boost consumer energy bills up to 50 percent, a finding similar to the state Public Utilities Commission. Solar power from two recently approved plants range from $100 to $200 per megawatt hour, at least 8 times higher than the $16 consumers pay for natural gas.
“It’s probably 50 percent more (than coal or natural gas) today,” Benoit said. “Five years ago, it was probably a 100 or 150 percent more costly to generate a kilowatt with solar. The cost of these panels has come down dramatically. But still, getting back to the old equation, do you want to spend a little bit more to be green? And the legislature and the governor in California have said clearly, we’re going to do that.”
But at what cost to consumers and to what benefit to much of anything except government’s chosen crony, er, beneficiary? Instead of allowing markets – i.e. consumers and producers – to decide on the mix, government has unilaterally taken that away from them and made the decision itself.
After all, the autocrat has decided:
Answering critics at a solar ribbon-cutting earlier this year, Gov. Jerry Brown laid down the gauntlet, affirming his commitment to solar energy and saying he would “crush” opponents of solar.
“There are going to be screw-ups. There are going to be bankruptcies. There’ll be indictments and there’ll be deaths. But we’re going to keep going – and nothing’s going to stop me,” Brown said.
I can believe that. Somebody needs to tell Brown the whole effort is a ‘screw-up’.
But since government is involved, the crony gets the treatment other industries don’t:
“There’s been a policy to fast-track and install these utility-scale renewable energy installations that are on the scale of five to 10,000 acres each,” said April Sall of the Wildlands Conservancy. “We’ve seen thousands of acres of the desert bladed and now undergoing utility-style construction to basically convert that from pristine habitat that included those sensitive plants and animals, to becoming potentially a dust bowl.”
Now imagine if these actions and plans were those of “Big Oil”. Yup, you don’t have to imagine long, do you? But in this case?
The two largest green groups in the U.S., the Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council, have remained silent on the impact of Big Solar on land use and endangered species, which is not so with gas, oil or coal. Sall and other local environmental groups say the Washington-based organizations see climate change as a bigger threat and therefore won’t get involved.
Shoddy “science” is their excuse and they’re sticking with it.
And that’s your update on the imperial blue state model today. And yes, it’s going down the tubes which is why this cartoon applies to more than small business in the state:
Well, if you’re wondering, just take a gander at what is happening in Michigan.
The Democrats will be the first to tell you “elections have consequences”, usually followed by ” … and Obama won”. Well the same can be said of state level elections and in the case of MI, the GOP won. In fact, they won everything at the state level, enough to pass “right to work” legislation which essentially says one doesn’t have to join a union to work.
The unions, of course, pitched a tantrum.
And, now that he’s solved all the nation’s problems, balanced the budget, reduced the deficit and has long-term debt on a downward trend, President Obama has weighed in on this situation:
“President Obama has long opposed so-called ‘right to work’ laws and he continues to oppose them now,” said White House spokesman Matt Lehrich. “The president believes our economy is stronger when workers get good wages and good benefits, and he opposes attempts to roll back their rights. Michigan — and its workers’ role in the revival of the US automobile industry -– is a prime example of how unions have helped build a strong middle class and a strong American economy.”
The union’s “role in the revival of the US automobile industry”?!
Is he kidding? It is the unions which essentially helped make two of the big three financially unsustainable. Remember, GM and Chrysler went bankrupt and had to be bailed out. And the federal government screwed with the bankruptcy proceedings and handed a large portion of GM to the union while stiffing bond holders.
That’s the “prime example” in reality.
And the president’s “belief” that our “economy is stronger when workers get good wages and good benefits” doesn’t mean those things only happen with unions. Apparently, in right-to-work states, unions continue to lose out when they try to organize because workers are getting both good wage and benefits and seem happy with their situation. What they don’t see is a benefit to unionizing – i.e. paying dues to a union which will be unlikely to do any better.
Finally, how is allowing someone to choose whether or not to join a union “rolling back rights?”
I knew Obama wouldn’t be able to stay out of state level politics, given his base and their demands. The Democrats have become the party of unions. Private unions are dying off and they’re getting pretty desperate. First WI and now MI? My goodness, can NY and IL be far behind? How dare the GOP give workers the right to chose not to join a union as a prerequisite to working. For a party that brags about being the party of choice, other than one particular choice they champion, the Democrats are pretty much opposed to all others.
Unions are the buggy whip of the latest evolution in labor. Improved communications, a global economy and the realization that businesses have options as well have made unions an anachronism. Reality and economics say labor is a commodity – a factor of production. What labor is increasingly realizing is that the jobs they have can be exported or, given today’s technology, mechanized when costs exceed their worth. Wages are leveling out and in today’s economy, the demands that were once commonly made by unions are no longer economically feasible. But additionally, bad companies can no longer exist in the dark of a communications vacuum and pay and treat their workers poorly without there being repercussions. Competition drives wages and benefits as well or better than unions ever did.
It’s a different world. Unions are 19th century holdovers.
Time they shuffled off into Obsolete-land where they belong.
Peter Foster at the Financial Post sums up the Doha “climate change” conference best:
The UN climate conferences have descended into ritual farce, as naked money-grabbing on behalf of poor countries contrasts with finagling impossible solutions to what is likely a much-exaggerated problem. One leading question is how dubious science, shoddy economics and tried-and-failed socialist policies have come to dominate the democratic process in so many countries for so long. The answer appears to be the skill with which a radical minority — centred in and promoted by the UN, and funded by national governments and, even more bizarrely, corporations — has skilfully manipulated the political process at every level.
A fairly succinct and accurate summary of the ongoing effort.
Walter Russel Mead also has a take on it with which I agree:
Climate negotiators at the most recent conference on global warming were unable to reduce expectations fast enough to match the collapse of their agenda. The only real winners here were the bureaucrats in the diplomacy industry for whom endless rounds of carbon spewing conferences with no agreement year after year mean jobs, jobs, jobs. The inexorable decline of the climate movement from its Pickett’s Charge at the Copenhagen summit continues. The global green lobby is more flummoxed than ever. These people and these methods couldn’t make a ham sandwich, much less save Planet Earth.
And, while I agree that is so, the UN, these conferences, 3rd world nations and the so-called “green agenda” continue attempts to exert control over advanced countries and extort a chunk of their GDP as “compensation” for what no one is sure. There desires in this regard have never been more obvious than in their questionable opposition to the boom in natural gas (something, one could argue, that would be helpful to developing 3rd world countries while satisfying the “green agenda”).
It’s green, it’s cheap and it’s plentiful! So why are opponents of shale gas making such a fuss? If it were not so serious there would be something ludicrous about the reaction of the green lobby to the discovery of big shale gas reserves in this country. Here we are in the fifth year of a downturn. We have pensioners battling fuel poverty. We have energy firms jacking up their prices. We have real worries about security of energy supply – a new building like the Shard needs four times as much juice as the entire town of Colchester. In their mad denunciations of fracking, the Greens and the eco-warriors betray the mindset of people who cannot bear a piece of unadulterated good news.
Obviously, it would be even harder to sell their extortion attempts if advanced countries are able to develop a source of energy that is indeed “green, cheap and plentiful”. And, apparently, even they realize they’re not going to get too far attempting to demonize natural gas per se. So they’ve instead focused on the process used to extract it (hydraulic fracturing – “fracking”) and are in the usual mode of demonizing it instead. That, despite the fact that the process has been used in the US, at least, since 1948 on over 1,000,000 wells without negative results to ground water (the supposed threat that fracking poses). But as we’ve all learned, facts are not the currency this group uses.
The point? This circus will continue for the foreseeable future because the majority of the UN sees an extortion opportunity that is just too good to pass up. Their initial success in scaring the world with “shoddy science” continues to motivate their efforts. They haven’t quite accepted that it is failing.
Of course, real science has never really been a part of this process. All they needed was a veneer to successfully launch the project. Al Gore and “consensus” provided that. The assembled then declared the “science” to be “settled” (Science never attains consensus and is never “settled”). After that, the participants in this extortion attempt have simply stated that further review is essentially unneeded. The argument is over, just STFU and accept it. Meanwhile that “science” continues to come apart at the seams as real data is collected and demonstrates the underlying climate “science’s” shortcomings and outright falsehoods.
Natural gas provides a new alarming problem for these folks. When it was thought to be a fairly scarce resource, enviros embraced it (the Sierra Club touted it for years before turning against it when it became plentiful and cheap). Now that it threatens to undermine their entire culture of extortion and control, they’re rabidly against it – or at least what it requires to extract it.
One can only hope that the failure in Doha signals the end game of this farce, but that’s doubtful. No dissenting word is allowed. As Lord Monckton learned when he tried to bring up the fact that there has been no warming for the past 16 years and was summarily ejected for doing so. This is no longer about science. This is no longer about an imminent threat. It’s about extortion, plain and simple. And anyone with the least bit of honesty will recognize that and should join in the call to end this farce for good.
Ignoring the fact that there’s been no rise in global temperatures for 16 years, 3rd world countries at the UN’s Doha climate conference are proceeding with their plan to make richer countries pay for their perceived (perhaps “mythical” is a better word?) damages wrought by “climate change”.
Basing their claim on the discredited “science” generated by nothing more than inaccurate climate models, they’ve decided what was promised previously just isn’t enough:
There has been a historic shift in the UN climate talks in Qatar, with the prospect of rich nations having to compensate poor nations for losses due to climate change.
The US has fiercely opposed the measure – it says the cost could be unlimited.
But after angry tussles throughout the night the principle of Loss and Damage is now in the final negotiating text.
Why is it that these countries think that what was previously promised ($100 billion by 2020 in Copenhagen) isn’t sufficient? Because President Obama just asked Congress for $60 billion for hurricane Sandy relief. Obviously, using that as a baseline, these countries want more.
And you have to love this attitude:
Saleem ul-Huq, from the think-tank IIED, told the BBC: “This is a watershed in the talks. There is no turning back from this. It will be better for the US to realise that the principle of compensation is inevitable – and negotiate a limit on Loss and Damage rather than leave the liability unlimited.
“The principle of compensation is inevitable?” Really? For what, given there’s been no evidence of damage?
It is a point of principle that is at stake here for developing countries. In the end it’s questionable how much extra money a Loss and Damage Mechanism might bring.
Already poor nations are bitter that rich nations, particularly the US are dragging their feet over a promise made at the failed Copenhagen climate summit to mobilise $100bn by 2020 to help poor nations get clean energy and adapt to climate change.
A “point of principle” my rear end. It’s UN sponsored extortion. It is based on faulty science and given hope by weak willed politicans, all supervised by the bandits in the UN.
We don’t own them anything.
Not. One. Red. Cent.