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.
We hear a lot about climate change, especially now that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recently published another report. At the same time, oil is reaching limits, and this has an effect as well. How do the two issues fit together? Unfortunately, the real situation is that the laws of physics, rather than humans, are in charge. Basically, as economies grow, it takes increasing complexity to fix problems, as Joseph Tainter explained in his book, The Collapse of Complex Societies. Now we are reaching limits in many ways, but we can’t - or dare not - model how all of these limits are hitting.
- Sensitive Market Data Leaked After Government Phone Call (WSJ)
- This is a actual Bloomberg headline: China Fake Data to Skew More Export Numbers (BBG)
- This is another actual BBG headline: U.S. as Global Growth Engine Putt-Putts Instead of Purring (BBG)
- Ukraine wants to buy European gas to boost energy security (Reuters)
- JPMorgan Profit Falls 19% on Trading, Mortgage Declines (BBG)
- Record Europe Dividends Keep $2.8 Trillion From Factories (BBG)
- Why is Goldman shutting down Sigma X: SEC eyes test that may lead to shift away from 'dark pools' (Reuters)
- Ebola Outbreak Empties Hotels as West Africa Borders Closed (BBG)
- Australian PM says searchers confident of position of MH370's black boxes (Reuters)
- Gross Says El-Erian Should Explain Reason for Exit (BBG)
There’s nothing like a nice cup of reality 'tea' first thing on Monday morning. Periodically, we like to scan headlines for phrases like “record high” or “all time high”... in today's case, the results can often given an interesting big picture perspective of what’s happening in the world.
The US would be better served these days to literally mind its own business. With Detroit in bankruptcy, why would we send Kiev billions of dollars? American urban infrastructures — water, sewer, gas, and electric lines — are falling apart. We have no idea how we’re going to manage most of the crucial economic activities of daily life in ten years, when the illusions of shale gas and shale evaporate in a dark cloud of disenchantment... We’re having no conversation about these things and the political landscape in this country is a wasteland of mirages and dust devils. That is the true weakness of the USA now. We’re incapable of seeing the disorder in our own house. Why should we even glance overseas at others?
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that an unsustainable debt burden soundly tolls the death knell of a nation’s economy, and its government. Unfortunately, it can sometimes take a rocket scientist to figure out what the real numbers are; governments have a vested interest in not being transparent about their debts and interest payments. Obligations are obligations, no matter who they’re owed to. Taking this into account, total US interest payments in Fiscal Year 2013 were a whopping $415 billion... This means they actually spent approximately 26% of their available tax revenue just to pay interest last year.. much higher than the 1868 Ottoman Empire at the end of its reign...
The two big stories of our day are: (1) Our economic problems: The inability of economies to grow as rapidly as they would like, add as many jobs as they would like, and raise the standards of living of citizens as much as they would like. Associated with this slow economic growth is a continued need for ultra-low interest rates to keep economies of the developed world from slipping back into recession; and (2) Our oil related-problems: One part of the story relates to too little, so-called “peak oil,” and the need for substitutes for oil. Another part of the story relates to too much carbon released by burning fossil fuels, including oil, leading to climate change. While the press treats these issues as separate stories, they are in fact very closely connected, related to the fact that we are reaching limits in many different directions simultaneously.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think tank supported by organized labor, the answer to generating up to 6 million more jobs is as simple as ending global currency manipulation. But not in the sense of ramping USDJPY or AUDUSD at key market inflection points which mostly benefits such FX-rigging chatrooms as "the Cartel", no: they are thinking more big picture, in the "central bank manipulation sense." The report says that "several foreign countries devalue their currencies to make their products cheaper, making it difficult for U.S. manufacturers to compete, the report said." In essence what the group suggests is that the US currency is overvalued relative to the rest of the world, and that by "realigning exchange rates, U.S. trade deficits would be reduced by up to $500 billion per year by 2015. Such a move would increase U.S. gross domestic product by up to $720 billion per year and create up to 5.8 million jobs, the report said." Said otherwise: stop foreign currency manipulation, but allow and encourage the US to keep pushing its own currency even lower.
The global crisis that began in 2007/8 has unmasked many unsustainable economic dispositions. Unfortunately, the proper conclusions have still not been arrived at, as evidenced by the fact that the same old Keynesian recipes that have failed over and over again are being implemented on an even grander scale. One must not be misled by the claims of 'austerity' being imposed, as this has evidently little bearing on government spending as such, but is rather an attempt to squeeze more blood out of an already shriveled turnip, namely what remains of the private sector. Puerto Rico seems – at least so far – not any different in that respect.
Three days ago it was S&P that opened the can of Puerto Rico junk worms. Moments ago it was Moody's turn to downgrade the General Obligation rating of the Commonwealth from Baa3 to Ba2, aka junk status. We note this just in case someone is confused what the catalyst was that just sent stock to a new intraday high in the aftermath of today's disappointing jobs number which until this moment barely managed to push the S&P higher by 1%. From the report: "While some economic indicators point to a preliminary stabilization, we do not see evidence of economic growth sufficient to reverse the commonwealth's negative financial trends. Without an economic revival, the commonwealth will face difficult decisions in coming years, as its debt and pension costs rise. The negative outlook signals the remaining challenges facing the commonwealth."
Many fear that a decline of between 1,500 to 2,000 points in the Nikkei to raise doubts about 'Abenomics' (i.e., hoary inflationism combined with deficit spending). We are still wondering what Abenomics is supposed to achieve. With a graying population and consequently a shrinking work force, inflationary policies seem especially ill-conceived in Japan. Maintaining the market's calm is predicated on the belief that the inflationary policy pursued by Abe/Kuroda will actually fail. Moreover, Japan's government can simply not afford higher borrowing costs, as 25% of its tax revenue is already going toward merely servicing interest costs on its current outstanding debt. In other words, Japan's government bond market is a glaring example of a Ponzi scheme and only a rising stock market maintains the media's complicitness in this mirage.
In order to understand what solutions to our energy predicament will or won’t work, it is necessary to understand the true nature of our energy predicament. Most solutions fail because analysts assume that the nature of our energy problem is quite different from what it really is. Analysts assume that our problem is a slowly developing long-term problem, when in fact, it is a problem that is at our door step right now.
It’s fairly clear if you look at the data objectively that Mr. Bernanke’s policies have left the Fed (and consequently the global financial system) in far more precarious condition than when he started, yet disproportionately benefited the US government and small percentage of society at the expense of everyone else. This is not to say that Mr. Bernanke is some evil mastermind bent on nefarious ends. Unfortunately the road to ruin is almost always paved with good intentions.
Tax burdens are so high that it might not be possible to pay off the high levels of indebtedness in most of the Western world. At least, that is the conclusion of a new IMF paper from Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff - “The size of the problem suggests that restructurings will be needed, for example, in the periphery of Europe, far beyond anything discussed in public to this point.” The 'not different this time' couple see two facts of life for Europe’s future: financial repression through higher inflation rates and taxes levied on savings and wealth.
The Empire will protect itself from itself, from its own greed, corruption, malfeasance, incompetence and especially from its oppressed and enslaved citizens.