One of the most consistent debates emanating out of Washington in the past 6 years has been that dealing with income tax. Whether high, low, "fair" or "unfair", said discussions, however, focus solely on tax paid at the Federal level, and largely ignore that "other" key tax: state. Which is surprising, considering some states such as California demand a total contribution amounting to a third of the highest marginal Federal tax bracket, which could make some wonder if those bracing sea breezes are really worth it. But what about the other states? Here is the full breakdown of the states with the top income tax rates, those with the lowest, and all the states inbetween.
There is now a systemic two-tier justice system operating in these United States, and the result will unquestionably be tyranny if the trend continues unabated. The latest example of a lowly citizen being subject to a disproportionate use of the law, is Jon Daniel of Peoria, Illinois. Jon was behind a parody Twitter account that mocked Peoria mayor Jim Ardis, and his biggest mistake was not making it clear that it was a parody. As a result, Twitter had already suspended the account weeks ago. Problem solved, right? Wrong. The tough guy mayor was so offended that a plebe would dare criticize his royal highness that he ordered a police raid on the home of Jon Daniel and his roommates.
It’s perplexing that analysts are perplexed by the rout.
Initial jobless claims dropped 10k this week to 311k - the lowest in 4 months - offering little bad-news-is-good-news hope for renewed un-tapering to pump stocks back up. Illinois, New York, and Pennsylvania (all weather-related) saw the biggest drops in claims in the prior week. Continuing claims also fell 53k to 2.82 million, its lowest in 3 months.
The latest foreclosure news out of RealtyTrac is out, and provides the latest proof that if there is a housing recovery somewhere, it sure isn't in the US, where the dislocations in the supply/demand for real estate are so profound that one in five homes in the foreclosure process has been vacated by the distressed homeowner. To wit: "As of the first quarter of 2014, a total of 152,033 U.S. properties in the foreclosure process (excluding bank-owned properties) had been vacated by the distressed homeowner, representing 21 percent of all properties in the foreclosure process." This means that neither the distressed homeowner or the foreclosing lender taking responsibility for maintenance and upkeep of the home, leading to a veritable army of Vacant Dead housing units that are spreading like zombies across the nation in the most improbable housing "recovery" of all time.
While the Fed's interventions have certainly bolstered asset prices by driving a "carry trade," these programs do not address the central issue necessary in a consumer driven economy which is "employment." In an economy that is nearly 70% driven by consumption, production comes first in the economic order. Without a job, through which an individual produces a good or service in exchange for payment, there is no income to consume with. With the Federal Reserve now effectively removing the "patient" from life support, we will see if the economy can sustain itself. If this recent Bloomberg poll is correct, then we are likely to get an answer very shortly, and it may very well be disappointment.
Moments ago, a hearing started in which the ongoing investigation of the George Washington bridge closure will focus on the role of Bridget Anne Kelly, Christe's former deputy chief of staff. The state legislative committee investigating the matter seeks to retrieve subpoenaed documents from Bridget Anne Kelly, and Bill Stepien, his former campaign manager. Just like in the case of IRS commissioner Lois Lerner, so Kelly is expected to plead the fifth. Watch the hearing below.
Last year saw a great number of widely publicized instances of food fraud and general nastiness when it came to the various items many of us regularly put in our bodies. From “fake tuna,” to rat meat in the streets of Shanghai, to alcohol in New Jersey diluted with “river water,” the list was seemingly endless. While 2014 has been off to a slow start, it appears the corporate food industry in America is trying to make up for lost time. According to a news release from the USDA on Valentine’s Day: "Rancho Feeding Corporation, a Petaluma, Calif. establishment, is recalling approximately 8,742,700 pounds, because it processed diseased and unsound animals and carried out these activities without the benefit or full benefit of federal inspection." Basically if you live California, Florida, Illinois, Oregon, Texas and Washington you should stay away from Hot Pockets.
"Take a long, hard look, Janet," warns Grant Williams, "the landscape over which you cast your eyes when you accepted the poisoned chalice prestigious role of Fed Chair changed last week." Just two days before you were confirmed in a rather lovely ceremony, in an interview in Mumbai, Raghuram Rajan (one-time Chief Economist at the IMF and current Governor of the Reserve Bank of India) rather UNceremoniously dropped something of a bombshell that went largely unreported (perish the thought, in this era of dogged journalism). The standout feature of central bank policy over the last five years has been the spirit of cooperation... then came the taper. It is every man for himself now, and the Fed will screw them all. The splintering of central bank policy is just the beginning. This is the end of the innocence.
The clean debt ceiling bill has just passed the House where it got the required majority in a 221 to 201 final vote, with just 28 Republicans voting Yea (and 199 voting Nay) - a vote that has made history with the fewest number of votes from a majority on a bill that passed the House since 1991. It also means means that with a Senate passage assured, the US can now spend away until March 15, 2015. The final breakdown:
- GOP: Yea - 28; Nay -199
- DEM: Yea - 193; Nay -2
- Total: Yea - 221; Nay - 201
Considering that the vast majority of Republicans voted against John Boehner's latest "plan" to do the Democrats' work for them, and pass a clean debt ceiling, perhaps it is time to look for a speaker who represents the interests of more than just a tiny fraction of the party... and the Democrats of course.
While we realize that newsflow over the past few years has taken a decided turn for the surreal, we are sad (or, alternatively, delighted) to announce that we are dead serious when we report that Illinois governor Pat Quinn has now tapped The Onion - that would be the famous satiric website - to sell Obamacare. Perhaps we should not be surprised: after we previously revealed that The Onion served as the mystery source of economic insight by such intellectual economist titans as Paul Krugman and Larry Summers, the time may have come come to surrender to the great wave of absurdity that has washed over this nation, and admit that when it comes to pitching idiotic policies, self-referential satire may be the only option left in the arsenal of the central planners.
- Here is why AAPL bounced off $500: Apple Repurchases $14 Billion of Own Shares in Two Weeks (WSJ)
- German Court Refers OMT Decision to Europe's Top Court (WSJ)
- Inflation Fuels Crises in Two Latin Nations (WSJ)
- U.S. job growth seen snapping back from winter chill (Reuters)
- Google to own $750 million Lenovo stake after Motorola deal closes: HK exchange (Reuters)
- Frigid Winter Spells Trouble for U.S. Economy (BBG)
- Winter Games to open, Putin keen to prove doubters wrong (Reuters)
- Regulators Ready to Proceed on Bank Leverage Limit (WSJ)
- Abe Eyes Window for Biggest Military-Rule Change Since WWII (BBG)
"The slump in the recent ISM data may be the ?straw in the wind? of what is to come. Certainly the three-month change of the leading indicator has now turned down sharply ? even before the recent ISM data has been incorporated. We watch the unfolding EM crisis with increasing trepidation because we know how this story ends. We have been here before. And even if the Fed resumes massive QE at some point as the world melts down, and markets desperately attempt their return to the dream trance, they will instead find themselves locked into a Freddie Kruger-like nightmare in which phase 3 of this secular bear market takes equity valuations down to levels not seen for a generation." - Albert Edwards
Once again the smell of NAPALM is in the air