Wednesday, October 31, 2012

In Greece the Problem Is Not High Taxes on Wealthy People – There Are High Taxes on Wealthy People

But the Wealthy People Just Don’t Pay Them

As the U. S. election winds down everyone needs to go back to looking at Europe, which continues to self-destruct.  At the front of the line is Greece, where austerity policy imposed by Germany is resulting in harsh, and even dire conditions for much of the populace.

The problem in Greece is that the government has been spending far more than it takes in, and often doing it in unproductive and wasteful ways.  But that is not all of the problem, it turns out wealthy people in Greece have been avoiding paying taxes, making the fiscal situation much worse.

Despite years of austerity, Athens's efforts to crack down on tax evasion—which costs the government as much as €28 billion a year, according to one recent study by Margarita Tsoutsoura of the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business—have been poor.

Few tax-dodging cases have been successfully prosecuted.

"Unfortunately, justice has been quick to move against those who reveal, while showing sluggishness against those who conceal, who lost, forgot, didn't see and didn't hear," said Greece's radical-left opposition party, Syriza.

So the big news in Greece is the publication of a list of wealthy tax payers who avoid paying taxes.

The list—and the failure of Greek authorities to act on it for two years—has touched off controversy in recent weeks in a country suffering through the fifth year of a grinding recession, with the government preparing an additional €13.5 billion ($17.5 billion) round of spending cuts and new tax measures.

European Pressphoto Agency
Costas Vaxevanis denied he violated 
privacy laws in publishing a list of 
Greeks with Swiss bank accounts.

And what has the brave and wonderful Greek government done, the government that has rained misery on the citizens.

ATHENS—Greek authorities arrested a celebrated investigative journalist Sunday after his magazine disclosed the names of several thousand Greeks with Swiss bank accounts, including members of the country's political and business elite, 

That’s right, law enforcement officials arrested the person who published the list.    Well at least we now have something billionaires in this country would approve of in Greece.

On Colin Powell’s Endorsement of Barack Obama – Reason Number 117 Why John McCain Should Not Have Been President

America Dodged a Might Bullet in 2008

The controversy over remarks by Mitt Romney’s campaign co-chair about why Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama have been largely ignored by the mainstream media.  No one knows why they won’t report the news.  It may be that they sense a Romney victory and want to suck up to him in hopes of favorable treatment in the future.

John Sununu, who is serving as Co-Chairman of the Romney campaign has made a number of racist remarks about Barack Obama, and most recently said that the only reason Colin Powell endorsed Mr. Obama was because both of them were African Americans.  Mr. Romney invoked his typical silence on the issue,  profiles in courage he ain’t.

Then Sen. John McCain has weighed in on the issue and produced a statement that is even more disgusting than what Mr. Sununu said, something no one thought was possible.  From Taegan Goddard.

October 26, 2012

Extra Bonus Quote of the Day

"Colin Powell, interestingly enough, said that Obama got us out of Iraq. But it was Colin Powell, with his testimony before the U.N. Security Council, that got us into Iraq."

-- Sen. John McCain, quoted by the 
National Review, upset with the former Secretary of State's endorsement of President Obama.

Yes, that John McCain, the cheerleader for the war in Iraq, the man who other than George W. Bush and his administration was more responsible for the U. S. getting into Iraq and staying there than any other person.

And yes, we can see the hypocrisy dripping from his lips, can’t everyone?

In Texas Being Suspected of Being a Drug Smuggler is a Capital Offense

You Get Shot on Sight

A truck is speeding away from police in rural Texas near the border.  It’s rear area is covered.  The natural assumption of any rational person is that this is a vehicle full of illegal aliens.  The natural assumption of at least some Texas law enforcement authorities is that these are drug dealers who should be shot on sight.

Two people were killed in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley after a state trooper flying in a highway patrol helicopter opened fire on a fleeing pickup authorities thought was smuggling drugs, officials said.

Of course, no drugs were found and the people inside the truck were suspected of being illegals trying to enter the country.

No drugs were found inside the truck. Troopers found three people shot inside the truck, two of them dead. The third person was hospitalized and seven others were taken into custody, including one who initially fled, according to the statement. All the passengers and the injured person are suspected to be illegal immigrants, officials said Friday. They did not release the identities of those killed.

So why the deadly force?

As the driver fled, the warden followed in pursuit, radioed for backup, and a Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter and ground units were called in to assist, Cox said.

Troopers suspected the driver was smuggling drugs, according to an agency statement released to The Times on Friday by spokesman Tom Vinger. The  truck had "a typical 'covered' drug load in the bed," the statement said.

During the pursuit, the truck driver "was traveling at reckless speeds endangering the public."

Eventually, a trooper “discharged his firearm from the helicopter to disable the vehicle,” according to the statement.

Well, it is true that killing the driver will disable a vehicle.  And we would have more sympathy for the individual that made this tragic mistake if we understood why multiple shots were fired and why it was necessary to shoot at all, since there are things like roadblocks these days, or at least there have been since the 1930’s.

The tragedy here is the loss of life, even if the victims were illegal aliens that is not a crime punishable be death from a police helicopter.  But the greater tragedy is that no one really seems to care that people were killed just because they were trying to get to America.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Previewing the Economic Policy of the Romney Administration – Because . . . .

It’s Never Too Early To Get a Head Start on 2013

With the exception of a brief period in late September, where Mr. Romney seemed to be throwing away his chances to win the Presidency this Forum has always said that the election was Mr. Romney’s to lose.  After Mr. Obama allowed Mr. Romney to “etch-a-sketch” his positions in the first debate  the momentum has swung back to Mr. Romney.  He can still lose, but only if he does a couple of stupid things and only if Mr. Obama does not run a perfect closing campaign.

So it is now time to look at what will happen if Mr. Romney does win as far as economic and fiscal policies are concerned.  Here are the guaranteed predictions.

  1. The fiscal cliff, with the expiration of all of the Bush era tax cuts will not happen.  Congress will pass and Mr. Romney will sign a one year extension of those tax cuts, with the exception of the payroll tax cut.

  1. The sequester of spending that was mandated by the debt ceiling agreement will happen only for domestic spending.  Military spending will not be cut, in fact it may be increased.

  1. Medicaid will become a block grant, beginning the process of ending the program except for the seriously ill and the seriously poor.  People on Medicaid will lose most of their benefits, and to get treatment they will have to wait in long lines with lengthy delays to even see a physician.

  1. The ACA, known as Obamacare will be repealed.  What, if anything will take its place is unknown, and it is likely that disagreements in the Congress will prevent anything from being enacted.  The most popular provision, allowing children up to the age of 26 to stay on their parent’s policy is the most likely provision to survive.  The provision requiring insurance companies to accept enrollees with pre-existing conditions may also survive, but with no price controls anyone without insurance and with a pre-existing condition will probably find the $17,000 a month premium a little too high.

  1. The new administration will find that low interest rates are not the problem they thought they were.  In fact the only reason Republicans felt that low rates were a problem is that they were afraid that would help the economy and help Democrats.

  1. PBS and Planned Parenthood, you are own your own.

Remember the Republican War Against Women – Here’s Another Battle They Lost

At Least Temporarily

It’s very easy to determine if a political party is for or against improving women’s health and supporting women on health issues.  Never mind what they say, do they actively support policy that helps women and deals with their health issues.

This is really the case involving Planned Parenthood, a large national organization devoted to improving low income women’s access to health care.

Planned Parenthood, . . . provides low-income patients with a range of other services, such as cancer screening, treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and prenatal care.

So what’s the problem?  We all know the answer to that, an independent affiliate of Planned Parenthood provides abortion services, services that are perfectly legal and provided without a single dollar of government support.  But that’s enough for hard line Conservatives to want to deny funding to all of Planned Parenthood.  Fortunately a Federal Court has determined this is highly illegal.

A federal appeals court blocked an Indiana law that cut public funding to abortion providers, underscoring a divide in the federal judiciary over whether states can strip Planned Parenthood of subsidies for health services such as cancer screening and prenatal care.

The 2011 law excluded Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers from Medicaid, the state-administered health-care program for low-income Americans. The Chicago-based Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Tuesday that the law deprived Medicaid patients of their right to obtain medical care from providers of their choice.

The rationale for the ruling is pretty simple, straight forward and unambiguous.

Federal law says individuals who are eligible for Medicaid may obtain assistance from "any institution, agency, community pharmacy, or person, qualified to perform the service or services required." The Seventh Circuit, in a 3-0 ruling written by Judge Diane Sykes, an appointee of President George W. Bush, said Planned Parenthood was indisputably a qualified provider.

So the next time Conservatives talk about how they want government out of the health care decisions, decisions like which providers a patient can go to everyone should remember what they mean is that they and government get the right to decide, not the patients.  No, it’s not very conservative, but then conservatives are not very conservative.

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Business That Makes Millions is Tax Exempt – Why?

Because Congress Said So

One of the most astounding tax facts ever uncovered is that the National Football League is a tax exempt company.  No not the teams themselves, the League.  Here are the details from Jay Bookman, (and thanks to Paul Caron)

Once in a while, I run across something that I did not know and it leaves me flabbergasted.

For example, I did not know that the National Football League, the colossus of professional sports, is classified as a non-profit — a tax-free non-profit, to be more specific. That’s right: The NFL has its own exemption, written into federal law, that makes it exempt from federal corporate taxes.

So how big and profitable is the NFL?

In 2010, the registered NFL nonprofit alone received $184 million from its 32 member teams. It holds over $1 billion in assets. Together with its subsidiaries and teams – many of which are for-profit, taxed entities – the NFL generates an estimated $9 billion annually. Each of its teams are among the top 50 most expensive sports teams in the world, ranking alongside the world’s famous soccer teams. Almost half of professional football teams are valued at over $1 billion….

League commissioners and officials benefit from the nonprofit status of their organizations. Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL, reported $11.6 million in salary and perks in 2010 alone. Goodell’s salary will reportedly reach $20 million in 2019. Steve Bornstein, the executive vice president of media, made $12.2 million in 2010. Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue earned $8.5 million from the league in 2010. The league paid five other officials a total of $19.2 million in just one year. In comparison, the next highest salary of a traditional nonprofit CEO is $3.4 million.

And how did this happen?  Gosh, take a guess.  Lobbyists

The NFL’s exemption stems from a 1966 law, passed at the time of the merger with the old American Football League, specifically allowing “professional football leagues” to enjoy 501(c)(6) status as tax-exempt trade organizations. Other leagues have piggy-backed on that legislation to claim that status themselves.

And no, state and local governments are not immune from the desire to aid billionaires.

As the Coburn report points out, “state and local governments usually exempt these organizations from state income and sales tax as well….” As the Indiana Business Journal reported, that proved to be a nice little perk when the Super Bowl was held in Indianapolis this year, because “hotels and restaurants … won’t be taxing National Football League employees. They’re exempt from paying, according to an Indiana Department of Revenue directive. The NFL is using its tax-exempt status as a 501(c)(6) to avoid paying the taxes, in addition to fuel, auto rental and admissions taxes.”

And of course, everyone wants to look out for the taxpayers, who are being asked to fund new stadiums.  For example in Atlanta

a hotel-motel tax was used to build the Georgia Dome and would also be used to help finance the proposed new open-air stadium demanded by the Falcons. If Georgia tax law is like that of many states, the NFL and its employees would be exempted from paying the tax that everyone else must pay to subsidize stadiums built for a highly profitable industry.

But don’t expect any politicians to move any time soon to end these tax breaks.  It is easier to cut benefits for poor people, and beside, if they ended the benefits they wouldn’t get those free tickets to the corporate box to watch the games, insulated from the taxpayers whose welfare they care nothing about.

Colin Powell Endorses Barack Obama for Re-Election – and Romney Campaign Co-Chair Sununu Explains Why

Those Black People Sure Stick Together He Implies

Here is one of the most distinguished Americans of modern times, a Republican, explaining why he is supporting the re-election of the President.

Appearing on "CBS This Morning," Powell credited Obama with reversing the country's abrupt economic downturn and expressed general approval of the president's policies on issues ranging from national security to climate change to health care reform.

“I think, generally, we’ve come out of the [economic] dive and we’re starting to gain altitude,” said Powell, who served as George W. Bush’s secretary of state. “It doesn’t mean all our problems are solved....But I see that we are starting to rise up."

"I also saw the president get us out of one war, start to get us out of a second war, and did not get us into any new wars," Powell added. "The actions that he has taken with respect to protecting us from terrorism have been very, very solid."

And here is Mitt Romney campaign Co-Chair John Sununu explaining why the Romney campaign thinks Mr. Powell endorsed Mr. Obama.

"Frankly, when you take a look at Colin Powell, you have to wonder if that's an endorsement based on issues, or whether he's got a slightly different reason for preferring President Obama?" Sununu said on CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight."

"What reason would that be?" a somewhat-perplexed sounding Morgan replied.

"Well, I think when you have somebody of your own race that you're proud of being President of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him," Sununu said.

Add those offensive remarks to Sarah Palin’s references to “shuck and jive” and you get the picture of the modern Republican party with respect to race and racial prejudice.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Week Before the Election It is a Dead Heat – With Mr. Romney Still Favored by This Site

As Florida Drops to Mr. Romney, Ohio and Virginia are Key for Mr. Obama

It is about one week before this long, awful Presidential campaign is over, and about two weeks before the 2016 race begins.  Here is how things look here, based on national polling, state polling and the author’s seat of the pants polling.












D. C.
New Jersey
New Hampshire
New Mexico
North Carolina
New York


North Dakota
Rhode Island



South Carolina

South Dakota




West Virginia









At this point Mr. Obama has two strategies to win.  He can carry Ohio and Virginia, or he can sweep Nevada, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Colorado (or some combination, but there are too many of those to think about).

Ohio is interesting, the most expert of the experts, Nate Silver claims the state is not a toss-up.

October 27, 2012

Ohio Is Not a Toss Up

Nate Silver looks at the polling average in Ohio -- made up of roughly a dozen polling firms who have surveyed the state over the past 10 days -- and notes it shows President Obama with a 2.4 percentage point lead over Mitt Romney.

"There are no precedents in the database for a candidate losing with a two- or three-point lead in a state when the polling volume was that rich... It is misinformed to refer to Ohio as a toss-up. Mr. Obama is the favorite there, and because of Ohio's central position in the Electoral College, he is therefore the overall favorite in the election."

and while we would normally defer to Mr. Silver, unfortunately there is this.

The race for the White House continues to be too close to call in Ohio, according to a new Enquirer/Ohio News Organization Poll that shows President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney each with 49 percent support from likely voters.
That’s a slip for the president, who took 51 percent of likely voters in the newspaper group’s September poll.
Romney’s support grew among males, among high school and college graduates and among respondents in every age category except 18 to 29.
which is the very definition of a toss up. 

So yes, the time period is finite, and in about 10 days everyone will know the results.  And then back to economics, the really important stuff.

Mitt Romney Cruelly Exploits Lost Coal Mining Jobs, Weak Coal Industry for Votes

His Election Will Make Things Worse for Coal Country, Not Better

The energy industry in the United States is and has been moving away from a coal based system.  This has been going on for decades, and the causes are environmental and economics.  The economics of natural gas, solar and wind power are slowly driving coal out of the energy industry.  And the growing awareness of just how horrible the polluting effects of coal based energy are is hurrying the exit.

All of this has taken a terrible toll on the people of coal country, and their suffering is only enhanced by the fact that they live in some of the poorest regions of the country.  

Luke Sharrett for The New York Times
Mayor Jay Swiney of Appalachia, Va., a coal miner, blames the president for the industry's troubles and will vote for Mitt Romney.

Here is just a sample of what is happening.

In September, several hundred coal miners were furloughed for at least two months because of rising costs and shrinking demand. The company, Consol, announced on Wednesday that some workers will remain idled even after mining resumes the first week of November.

Other plants have shut down for good, citing in part foreign competition. Larry Lambert, 61, is one of the unlucky miners who spent a day this week at a résumé-writing seminar, which was a requirement for picking up his unemployment check.

The people of the area largely blame the President and the EPA,

“The E.P.A. has put so many strangleholds on the power companies they can’t burn the coal we are mining,” Mr. Lambert said. He added that Mr. Obama seemed appealing four years ago, but has betrayed coal miners.

but it is economics and environmental awareness is what is at work here, not politics or regulation.

Mr. Romney, like any other craven politician is exploiting the situation

Mr. Romney’s campaign is aggressively tapping into anger at President Obama’s environmental policies throughout the Appalachian counties where the state’s coal miners live, hoping that huge margins there will offset Mr. Obama’s equally aggressive campaign to woo female voters in the suburbs of Northern Virginia, just outside Washington.

And he is gathering support

One of Mr. Romney’s ads, appearing frequently on television, begins with a coal miner saying, “Obama is ruining the coal industry.” Mr. Romney held a rally in Abingdon, Va., this month. His son Matt spoke to 7,500 people last week in Grundy, a town of just 996 people.

But the truth of the matter is even if he repeals regulations that will not stop the movement away from using coal to generate electricity. 

Even worse, his social policy, which will deny or reduce government benefits to people who need them the most, like unemployed coal miners, will make the citizens of the coal region worse off, not better off.  And yes, if Mr. Romney is elected he will soon forget about these people.  There are not enough of them to make a difference, and none of them own NFL teams, or NASCAR teams or pal around with billionaires.

No, all we have here is the cruel exploitation of good, decent hard working Americans.  Men and women who work in some of the hardest, most dangerous occupations in the country.  And yes they need help, but all they get is pandering.