The U.S. has a three-and-a-half class society. According to demographer Joel Kotkin, California has become a two-and-a-half-class society, with a thin slice of "entrenched incumbents" on top (the "half class"), a dwindling middle class of public employees and private-sector professionals/technocrats, and an expanding permanent welfare class: about 40% of Californians don't pay any income tax and a quarter are on the Federal Medicaid program. I would break it down somewhat differently, into a three-and-a-half class society: the "entrenched incumbents" on top (the "half class"), the high-earners who pay most of the taxes (the first class), the working poor who pay Social Security payroll taxes and sales taxes (the second class), and State dependents who pay nothing (the third class). This class structure has political ramifications. In effect, those paying most of the tax are in a pressure cooker: the lid is sealed by the "entrenched incumbents" on top, and the fire beneath is the Central State's insatiable need for more tax revenues to support the entrenched incumbents and its growing army of dependents. Let's start our analysis of the three-and-a-half-class society by noting that the top 25% pay most of the Federal income tax, and within that "middle class" the top 10% pay the lion's share of all taxes.
With US Federal tax (mostly) and spending (far less) policy having become two of the key issues of the ongoing presidential debate, we wish to present to our readers 111 years of US revenue and spending data, both in absolute terms, and as a percentage of GDP.
Everyone has been desperately waiting for this. At 3:00 pm it will be publicly released. Hopefully, shortly thereafter we can proceed with the discussion of important things such as the complete economic collapse of not only America, but the entire world (which is apparently now hooked into voting for Obama as disclosed earlier). For those strapped for time here is the summary: Romneys 2011 tax rate 14.1%, Charity donations: 30%; Obamas tax rate: 20.5%, Charity donations: 22%. And going back, "Over the entire 20-year period, the average annual effective federal tax rate was 20.20%."
- In 2011, the Romneys paid $1,935,708 in taxes on $13,696,951 in mostly investment income.
- The Romneys’ effective tax rate for 2011 was 14.1%.
- The Romneys donated $4,020,772 to charity in 2011, amounting to nearly 30% of their income.
- The Romneys claimed a deduction for $2.25 million of those charitable contributions.
- The Romneys’ generous charitable donations in 2011 would have significantly reduced their tax obligation for the year. The Romneys thus limited their deduction of charitable contributions to conform to the Governor's statement in August, based upon the January estimate of income, that he paid at least 13% in income taxes in each of the last 10 years.
The US Will Spend Between $3 And $7 Per Gallon Of Gasoline "Saved" By Consumers Driving Electric VehiclesSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 09/20/2012 21:51 -0400
Sometimes you just have to laugh - for fear of the hysterical crying fit that would ensue from recognizing our shameful pathological reality. To wit: Reuters is reporting on a CBO study that shows the US electric car policy will cost $7.5bn by 2019. The report finds that the government's policy will have 'little to no impact' on overall gasoline consumption. 25% of the cost of the program is going up in Fisker Karma-inspired smoke as part of the $7,500 per vehicle tax credit and the rest of the cost is in grants to such well-deserved and successful operations as GM's Chevy Volt - which will backfire since the more electric vehicles the automakers sell (thanks to government subsidy) the more 'higher-margin' low-fuel-economy guzzlers it can sell and still meet CAFE standards (re-read that - amazing!) In 2012, 13,497 Chevy Volts and 4.228 Nissan Leafs have been sold (all that pent-up demand) as the CBO notes that despite the $7,500 subsidy, the cost-differential to conventional cars remains too wide - inferring a $12,000 tax credit would be more comparable; as the U.S. government will spend anywhere from $3 to $7 for each gallon of gasoline saved by consumers driving electric vehicles.
While watching the political conventions over the past couple of weeks, JPMorgan's Michael Cembalest wonders aloud: What if, something like the CBO’s Alternative Case scenario came to pass; debt markets were no longer willing to fund trillion dollar deficits, so the deficit had to be reduced to 3% of GDP by 2020; taxing the rich was the only thing the country could agree on doing? If this happened, how high would top marginal Federal income tax rates have to go? The answer, after some number-crunching: 71% for the top bracket, and 57% for the second highest bracket. Adding state, local, and payroll taxes, and in 'Blue' states like NY and CA, income taxes will approach 80%. This is not a projection, but an illustration that there are not enough Americans subject to the top brackets to reduce the deficit to 3%. Eventually, the US will more likely have to adopt broader-reaching tax reform (e.g., raising taxes on the middle class), larger spending cuts than those already adopted, and/or Federal Reserve monetization of the public debt.
A few months ago when the new French socialist president gave details of his particular version of the "fairness doctrine" and said he would tax millionaires at 75%, we said that "we are rotating our secular long thesis away from Belgian caterers and into tax offshoring advisors, now that nobody in the 1% will pay any taxes ever again." While there was an element of hyperbole in the above statement, the implication was clear: France's richest will actively seek tax havens which don't seek to extract three quarters of their earnings, in the process depriving France (and other countries who adopt comparable surtaxes on the rich) of critical tax revenues. It took three months for this to be confirmed, and with a bang at that. The WSJ reports that Bernard Arnault, the CEO of LVMH, and the richest man in France, has decided to forego hollow Buffetian rhetoric that paying extra tax is one's sworn duty, and has sought Belgian citizenship.
Are you ready for some.. free-money? With 15 minutes until the NFL season opens this evening, we thought this little gem from Bloomberg was perfect to stoke the fires of Giants-Cowboys fanatic antagonism. That’s because the 80,000-seat Cowboys Stadium was built partly using tax-free borrowing. The resulting subsidy comes out of the pockets of every American taxpayer, including Giants' fans. The money doesn’t go directly to the Cowboys’ billionaire owner Jerry Jones. Rather, it lowers the cost of financing, giving his team the highest revenue in the NFL and making it the league’s most-valuable franchise. "It’s part of the corruption of the federal tax system, subsidizing activity that the private sector can finance on its own." This is not just the Cowboys but such tax-free public borrowing 'municipal' debt helped build structures used by 64 major-league teams, including baseball, hockey and basketball. As Bloomberg concludes, “You come back to this thin line of, ‘What is a legitimate municipal government undertaking?’ If the owner can get away with the public putting up part of the money, he’s going to do it.”
“The extent of tax fraud by the Swiss has no numbers”
Structural problems in state and local budgets were exacerbated by the recession and are likely to further restrain the sector’s growth for years to come. As the NY Fed notes, the last couple of years have witnessed threatened or actual defaults in a diversity of places, ranging from Jefferson County, Alabama, to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to Stockton, California. But do these events point to a wave of future defaults by municipal borrowers? History - at least the history that most of us know - would seem to say no. But the municipal bond market is complex and defaults happen much more frequently than most casual observers are aware. As the NY Fed points out "the untold story of municipal bonds is that default frequencies are far greater than reported by the major rating agencies" but, until recently, investors could take some comfort from the fact that many municipal bonds - both rated and unrated - carried insurance that paid investors in the event of a default. But now that bond insurers have lost their AAA ratings, they no longer play a significant role in the municipal bond market, increasing the risks associated with certain classes and certain issuers of municipal debt.
The market has screamed loud and clear what the tangible results of the QE3 program are even without ever being implemented.
To get private debt to a sustainable level via tax cuts, Ryan would have to cut taxes to zero for a very long time (and hope that people use their tax cut to pay down debt instead of spending it at Chipotle and the Apple Store). The biggest problem with that? Over 75% of Federal spending is mandated by law, and so US public debt — which Ryan believes is the real problem — would soar (as has happened in Britain). Ryan might seem worried about the future possibility of massive public debt (as opposed to the current reality of massive total debt), but his plan could conceivably result in much higher public debt — after all the OMB and CBO have gotten it all very wrong before, just twelve years ago foreseeing massive tax surpluses of $48 and $87 billion respectively in 2012. So does he have any real plan to significantly raise revenues? In his entire 98-page manifesto, Ryan doesn’t name any — but he has ruled out taxing capital gains as income, surely the biggest tax loophole of all, and one that has seriously benefited his running mate.
What to do about this one?
The health of the economy is driven by after tax income. We need a big tax increase that does not reduce current income. My plan.
California's budget deficit may be $16 billion (up from $9 billion in January), the state's cities may be keeling over and filing for bankruptcy left and right (Stockton and Mammoth Lakes), and overall container traffic at the Port of Long Beach may have dropped 7.2% in May compared to last year, but at least California is about to get its own monorail. Well, maybe not monorail, but certainly a high speed line between Los Angeles and San Francisco for the low, low price of at least $4.5 billion in debt to start (and much, much more to actually end). The winners: Keynesians and labor groups. The losers: anyone who has ever taken math for idiots. From USA Today: "California lawmakers approved billions of dollars Friday in construction financing for the initial segment of what would be the nation's first dedicated high-speed rail line connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco. The state Senate voted 21-16 on a party-line vote after intense lobbying by Gov. Jerry Brown, Democratic leaders and labor groups." And while nobody really expects the train to actually be built, here is the real reason for passing the legislation: "The bill authorizes the state to begin selling $4.5 billion in voter-approved bonds that includes $2.6 billion to build an initial 130-mile (210-kilometer) stretch of the high-speed rail line in the Central Valley. That will allow the state to collect another $3.2 billion in federal funding that could have been rescinded if lawmakers failed to act Friday." In summary, just passing the bill, gives California a $3.2 billion federal bailout while the actual use of funds may or may not ever appear (or money is on the latter). If still confused think Greece and Germany, because Federal tax collections were just used to give California a very fungible cash injection. Where the money ends up now is anyone's guess.
UBS' Art Cashin had originally intended to explore the scholarly give and take of both the opinion and of the dissent. Both have marvelous allusions to things like the Federalist papers and “original intent”. As he notes "a full reading is like a visit to the mind gym, a mental workout of the first order." However, the more he read the dissent, the more he saw the minority’s very evident concern that the Constitution was being weakened. On a very timely day, Art encourages one and all to read both the Opinion and Dissent as the venerable patriot adds: "It's important to all of us".