Archive for November, 2011

57,000 reasons we need corporate tax reform (Updated)

John McCormack reports in the Weekly Standard:

General Electric, one of the largest corporations in America, filed a whopping 57,000-page federal tax return earlier this year but didn’t pay taxes on $14 billion in profits. The return, which was filed electronically, would have been 19 feet high if printed out and stacked.

The fact that GE paid no taxes in 2010 was widely reported earlier this year, but the size of its tax return first came to light when House budget committee chairman Paul Ryan (R, Wisc.) made the case for corporate tax reform at a recent townhall meeting. “GE was able to utilize all of these various loopholes, all of these various deductions — it’s legal,” Ryan said. Nine billion dollars of GE’s profits came overseas, outside the jurisdiction of U.S. tax law. GE wasn’t taxed on $5 billion in U.S. profits because it utilized numerous deductions and tax credits, including tax breaks for investments in low-income housing, green energy, research and development, …

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Poll Position: Should Obamacare’s day in court be televised?

This week, the Supreme Court agreed to weigh the constitutional merits of Obamacare. But even if the court decides to throw out the president’s health reform, unless something changes, the revolution will not be televised.

It may come as a surprise to some of you that proceedings at the Supreme Court are not televised already, given that we’re several decades into the TV era. In fact, only last year did the court begin to let the public hear audio of oral arguments — but only afterward.

C-SPAN chief executive Brian Lamb, in a letter this week to Chief Justice John Roberts, asked that the justices allow video just this one time:

The court’s decision to schedule at least five-and-a-half hours of argument indicated the significance of this case. … We believe the public interest is best served by live television coverage of this particular oral argument. It is a case which will affect every American’s life, our economy and will certainly be an issue in the upcoming presidential …

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Perhaps the worst constitutional defense of Obamacare you will ever read

Now that the Supreme Court has officially taken up the question of Obamacare, we are in store for even more legal analyses attempting to predict which way the justices will rule, or argue which way they ought to rule.

A quick prediction of my own: Few, if any, of these analyses will be as worthless as the one Einer Elhauge offers in today’s New York Times.

Elhauge, a law professor at Harvard University and founding director of Harvard’s Petrie-Flom Center in Health Law Policy, makes one point that is patently — inane? specious? vacuous? let’s go with specious — and one point that unintentionally undercuts his own argument. Let’s look at each.

First, the patently specious point:

For decades, Americans have been subject to a mandate to buy a health insurance plan — Medicare. Check your paystub, and you will see where your contributions have been deducted, whether or not you wanted Medicare health insurance.

Many opponents dismiss this argument because Medicare (unlike the new …

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The deficit ’supercommittee’ and the taxpayer pledge

It appears there’s a reason Democrats have held up Grover Norquist and his “taxpayer protection pledge” as the obstacle to all that is good and fiscally responsible in Washington. That reason? They didn’t want Republicans to call their bluff, and show there isn’t a “party of no” approach to taxes holding up a deal.

First, a bit of background about Norquist, who leads a conservative advocacy group called Americans for Tax Reform. He and ATR are famous for enforcing a pledge not to raise taxes, one signed by many Republicans with eyes for state or federal office, including dozens in Georgia.

As President Barack Obama and members of Congress have debated how to solve the budget crisis, Norquist’s name has been invoked repeatedly. Not so much by Republicans trying to explain why they can’t raise taxes, but rather by Democrats who claim the GOP won’t risk stoking Norquist’s ire.

That notion hasn’t played out at the state level, at least not in Georgia. …

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Poll: Tea party trumps OWS

If a recent opinion survey by Public Policy Polling is any indication, the end of the full Occupation of Wall Street might have been the best thing that could have happened to the movement. Not because it will earn them public sympathy, but because the occupation itself had become the least sympathetic thing about the group.

From PPP’s write-up of its poll:

The Occupy Wall Street movement is not wearing well with voters across the country. Only 33% now say that they are supportive of its goals, compared to 45% who say they oppose them. That represents an 11 point shift in the wrong direction for the movement’s support compared to a month ago when 35% of voters said they supported it and 36% were opposed. Most notably independents have gone from supporting Occupy Wall Street’s goals 39/34, to opposing them 34/42. … what the downturn in Occupy Wall Street’s image suggests is that voters are seeing the movement as more about the ‘Occupy’ than the ‘Wall Street.’ The controversy …

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Report: Emails show White House seeking to delay Solyndra layoffs

Still think there’s no Solyndra scandal? The Washington Post blew that notion out of the water with a report that the Obama administration pushed the solar company it had subsidized and celebrated to wait until after the 2010 midterm elections to announce layoffs:

Solyndra’s chief executive warned the Energy Department on Oct. 25, 2010, that he intended to announce worker layoffs Oct. 28. He said he was spurred by numerous calls from reporters and potential investors about rumors the firm was in financial trouble and was planning to lay off workers and close one of its two plants.

But in an Oct. 30, 2010, e-mail, advisers to Solyndra’s primary investor, Argonaut Equity, explain that the Energy Department had strongly urged the company to put off the layoff announcement until Nov. 3. The midterm elections were held Nov. 2, and led to Republicans taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“DOE continues to be cooperative and have indicated that they will fund the …

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2012 Tuesday: Georgia’s shot at the GOP race’s spotlight

Yesterday, CNN and the Georgia Republican Party announced they’ll co-host a GOP debate sometime before our state’s March 6 primary. The exact date has yet to be determined, or at least made public, but the obvious question is: As long as it’s after the early states that get so much attention (Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida, Nevada), will it matter?

The premise behind that question is that the early states will act to consolidate the Republican field well before March 6, and that “Super Tuesday” won’t be so super if a clear leader has emerged from the field. While that’s often been the case in past elections, there’s a chance the party’s rules this year will ensure that things are still up in the air by the time Georgia Republicans finally get to vote.

The Republican National Committee set two rules that are relevant here: First, any state that holds its primary or caucuses before Feb. 1, 2012, is subject to losing half of its delegates to the party’s nominating …

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Finally: A tax I would like, but which Congress would shun

See if you can follow me here:

1. CBS’s “60 Minutes” caused a stir with its report Sunday, based on a forthcoming book by Peter Schweizer, about members of Congress who may have traded stocks based on insider information to which they were privy because of their elected offices.

2. Many members of Congress are desperate to raise new revenues any way possible, in the name of stopping our borrowing binge.

3. Some of our politicians, and even more European leaders, are partial to the so-called Tobin Tax on financial transactions.

4. In light of the revolving door in Washington — in which politicians and their appointees leave public service and then cash in by lobbying or otherwise working for the companies they used to regulate — the law professor and proprietor of the Instapundit blog, Glenn Reynolds, has proposed “a 50 percent surtax on any earnings by political appointees in excess of their prior government salaries for the first five years after they leave office.”

Voila! …

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Forget Greece and Italy; we’re headed for a housing bailout costing tens of billions of dollars

Or at least, that’s the conclusion of a real-estate expert in a new study that says the Federal Housing Authority has gotten so far off track that U.S. taxpayers are staring down the barrel of a bailout of the agency costing between $50 billion and $100 billion, rivaling the bailouts of GM and Chrysler.

Joseph Gyourko, a professor of real estate at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton school of business, based that calculation on the fact that: a) The FHA has tripled the value of the mortgages it insures, to a total of $1 trillion, in the last four years, and is already under-capitalized to the tune of $12 billion-plus; b) more than half of the homeowners insured by FHA have negative equity; and c) the unemployment rate remains stubbornly high.

He concludes:

This combination of increasing leverage at the entity level (i.e., FHA having far less capital per dollar of insurance guarantees) and among the homeowners being insured (many with negative equity in their homes) has …

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About that ‘60 Minutes’ report on congressional insider trading

If there are any television sets in Zuccotti Park, I hope they were tuned last night to “60 Minutes.” If so, the Occupy Wall Street protesters might have learned another reason to think the political class is at the heart of the problems against which OWS rails. See the video here:

CBS’s weekly news-magazine show did well to highlight the problem of members of Congress doing what, if done by anyone else in America, might be described as illegal insider trading. Now, there are those who will argue that insider trading should be legal, usually on the premise that people make trades because of information, and that trades based on inside information will help make that information public more quickly, and expose other kinds of fraud. But I would hope they’d agree that, while it’s also in our best interests for “Washington insider” information to become public quickly, the potential for corruption among lawmakers is too great. And the solution seems fairly simple: Require …

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