October 6, 2005

A Toast to Rich Taxpayers

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:31 pm

My toast is to the roughly 129,000 federal income tax filers who reported the most income in 2003.

These intrepid people represent only one-tenth of 1% of all federal income tax filers, and paid over 15% of all federal income taxes.

Please, don’t any of y’all get lazy or stop generating that taxable income.

NOTE: Yes, I realize that the identities of the top 0.1% of all taxpayers will change somewhat from year to year.

ALSO: Rush has updated his site’s free home page with the 2003 data, which also shows:
– The top 50% of earners pay 96.5% of all federal income taxes.
– The top 1% pay more than one-third.

Quote of the Day: Mickey Kaus on the LA Times

Kaus has some sympathy for The Tribune Company concerning the financial albatross known as teh Los Angeles Times:

They’ve bought a paper with a history of bloat, gold-plating, and soul-deadening complacency–the “velvet coffin,” as it was known. According to Auletta, it has a thousand editorial employees! With a third of that, you could easily put out a paper that wouldn’t be as good–it would be much, much better. Yet (deposed editor John) Carroll defends every last copy editor.

Roundup of Business-Economy Takes on the Miers Nomination

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 12:15 pm

Daniel Fisher at Forbes.com is pleased (link is free for now):

NEW YORK – Social conservatives may be steamed, but business executives will have little to complain about if Harriet Miers takes a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

A veteran litigator who represented Microsoft (nasdaq: MSFT – news – people ), The Walt Disney Co. (nyse: DIS – news – people ) and other large corporations in complex suits, Miers also ran a 200-attorney law firm before joining the Bush Administration in 2001. That experience, says a lawyer who knows Miers well, should lead her to interpret the law strictly without bending it to fit larger notions of social equity.

“I think she’s going to be a strict-constructionist law judge,” said Bruce LaBoon, who worked closely with Miers after merging his Houston firm with Dallas-based Locke, Liddell & Sapp in 1998. “That’s good for business, because she doesn’t come to the bench with the idea that business needs to share the wealth with people who aren’t entitled to it.”

Mr. Fisher also reports interesting views, some cautionary, of other observers.

Scott Suttell at Crain’s Cleveland Business (scroll to end of article; free for now) also quotes parts of the Forbes piece, but thinks after looking over her experience that she’s a relative lightweight: “If that’s as compelling as it gets in Ms. Miers’ legal career, it’s more evidence President Bush has nominated her more on the basis of personal loyalty than merit.”

Marci Hamilton at FindLaw (about halfway through) has this to say on the business-economy impact of a Justice Miers:

There is not much on the record regarding Texan Harriet Miers, except that it is quite clear she is a pro-business choice in the mold of Chief Justice John Roberts. The bulk of her legal career has been spent as a practicing business lawyer representing big companies like Microsoft.

Thus, as with Roberts, this appointment shows Bush’s close ties to business and to a traditional, Republican free market philosophy. The influence of the religious right on the Republican Party has received far more press attention, but that has not diminished the power of business interests within the Republican fold.

Miers also may be a strong Justice on states’ rights issues. She is a reminder of Bush’s earlier promise, when it seemed he would be likely to back states’ rights or federalism.

Sean Higgins at Investors Business Daily describes the big-business reaction as “cautiously upbeat”, but there are doubters, and some who think President Bush could have done much better:

Tom Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, praised her in a statement as “a good pick” for the court.

“She has a reputation of getting things done and her diverse experience at the state and federal levels will be essential in guiding the court on an array of business and other issues,” Donohue said.

The chamber’s board of directors still must endorse Miers. But if directors give the OK, as seems likely, the chamber is ready to lobby on her behalf, a COC attorney said.

The National Association of Manufacturers, another key player, issued a statement that its members were still weighing the pick.

“I expect that in the days and weeks ahead we’ll hear from the people that she worked with,” said NAM spokesman Pat Cleary. He said no red flags had popped up so far. NAM eventually endorsed John Roberts’ nomination.

NAM’s official blog told a somewhat different story. It talked up her credentials and urged Miers’ critics to “take a deep breath.”

….. Pat Toomey, president of the free-market Club for Growth, said that background explains the business world’s positive early response.

“She might better grasp the implications to large employers of her decisions (as a justice),” said Toomey, a former GOP congressman. “Most nominees have come from the judiciary and academic circles and they may be less acquainted with the business world.”

Nevertheless some experts expressed disappointment.

“I do think there were better-qualified picks, both from a business perspective and my own personal perspective,” said Hans Bader, counsel for pro-business Competitive Enterprise Institute.

One Washington lawyer said many in town were still scratching their heads over the choice.

“(Federal Appeals Court Judge) Priscilla Owen was viewed as being very business-friendly, and he didn’t pick Priscilla Owen,” said the attorney. “Who knows whether (Miers) is business-friendly?”

The blogosphere is being lit up by people who have problems with this nomination, so I won’t repeat those ubiquitous objections. But speaking strictly from a business, economic, and consumer perspective, I share the cautious optimism.

Bizzy’s Business Briefs (100605)

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy — Tom @ 9:55 am

Hurricane Damage to Oil and Natural Gas Production: Short-Term Rough, Longer Term Better

The details:

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita destroyed 108 oil and natural-gas offshore platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, and another 53 might not be repaired until next year, according to press reports of assessments by the Department of the Interior.

The destroyed platforms accounted for about 1.7 percent of Gulf oil production and 0.9 percent of natural-gas output, Interior Secretary Gail Norton reportedly stated. Norton added, however, that fully 90 percent of production of Gulf oil and 72 percent of natural gas remain unavailable because of damage to platforms, pipelines, refineries, and processing plants. According to Reuters, 12 oil refineries and 21 gas processing plants remain offline.

….. More than 300 offshore platforms that were evacuated as the storms approached still remain unstaffed, she added, reported Reuters. According to the wire service, Norton added that the destroyed platforms would probably not be rebuilt; that repairs to the most heavily damaged platforms might not be completed until next year; but that restaffing evacuated but undamaged platforms might be completed 10 days.

Imagine That: Oil Conumers Respond to Higher Prices by Using Less

Funny how supply and demand come back into line (bolds are mine):

The price of oil fell to its lowest level in two months on Wednesday as evidence builds that the high cost of gasoline and other fuels is sapping demand.

New data from the Energy Department show that fuel consumption over the past month declined by almost 3 percent compared with last year. Analysts attributed the trend to soaring pump prices and a slowdown in economic activity, particularly among Gulf Coast states that were affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

“Maybe there is some elasticity to petroleum demand after all,” said analyst Andrew Lebow of Man Financial Inc. in New York. The decline in oil prices coincided with an even more pronounced selloff of gasoline futures, which Lebow attributed in part to momentum trading.

It is too soon to tell whether the dropoff in demand will hold or was a short-term phenomenon, analysts said. But it definitely has the market’s attention for the moment, overshadowing government data that show crude oil and gasoline supplies are shrinking.

Light sweet crude for November delivery fell $1.11 to settle at $62.79 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, its lowest level since the Aug. 5 close of $62.31. Oil is now 10 percent below the Sept. 1 record close of $69.47.

Update: Oil is below $62 at mid-morning.

The Playstation Workout

Maybe video games won’t only be for couch potatoes (link requires subscription):

The PlayStation Workout: Videogames That Get Kids To Jump, Kick and Sweat

Videogames have long been blamed for creating couch potatoes. Yet several new games are actually getting kids to break a sweat.

The new videogames, known as “exer-games,” come with special equipment to replace the traditional hand-held joystick — including pads kids can jump and dance on, isometric equipment that requires muscle to control a game and cameras that put kids in the center of kung-fu and skateboarding action. Some games even include calorie counters.

The games are so popular that some gyms, schools and teen centers have begun using them for fitness programs. Sony Computer Entertainment America is even betting that gamers will want to use their PlayStation consoles for an entire workout. Next month the company is launching Kinetic, a personal-training program with game-like graphics and elements of yoga, kick-boxing and other exercises.

The push into exer-games is part of a broader change in thinking about the potential of videogames to improve health and fitness rather than detract from it. Last month, a special Games for Health conference highlighted the use of videogames to improve patient health and train doctors. One recent study shows using videogames can help children better cope with pain — the games appear to distract the brain in a way that increases pain tolerance.

When the doctors start saying “Get at least a half-hour a day of video gaming three days a week for heart health,” I’ll be convinced.

Positivity: Reservists Reducing Hurricane Insects

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:08 am

From Air Force Link:


Kelo Update: New London Stalemate, the Virus Spreads, and a Local “Aha!”

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 12:01 am

Overview: In the original Kelo situation, New London’s council, which demanded the resignation of New London Development Corporation executives, doesn’t have the power to force them out. Other eminent-domain attempts are picking up steam. Finally, a particularly outrageous Cincinnati-area eminent-domain attempt is being legally represented by the Chairman of the one of the county’s political parties (guess which one?).

Oct. 13 UPDATE: See Comment #1 below. The city is represented by “guess who” and the developers are reprented by the law firm at which the interim chairman of the Hamilton County GOP is a partner–I do not know whether that person is actually “on the case.”).

Here is a strangely-headlined report about the New London standoff:

New Battle Over Eminent Domain Erupts In New London–Officials Admit They Don’t Have Power To Fire NLDC

NEW LONDON, Conn. — A new battle over eminent domain erupted in New London Monday night, NBC 30 Connecticut News reported.

The city council gave the New London Development Corporation a week to change the leadership of that agency, but it’s been two weeks and nothing has changed.

Two weeks ago, the city council gave the New London Development Corporation one week to change its leadership, or it would dissolve the group altogether. But NLDC has not taken any action as of Monday.

“If they’re going to fire them, then fire them,” said resident Bill Cornish. “If they’re not going to fire them, then don’t fire them.”

During the council meeting, officials admitted that they don’t have the power to force NLDC to change its leadership. Now, the council has asked the city attorney to see if the city can take legal action against the development group.

Battle? The phrase “all bark and no bite” comes to mind.

Meanwhile, the attention honeymoon that has provided short-lived immunity to those in the sights of the eminent domain tyrants since the Supreme Court’s ruling may be coming to an end:

  • Michelle Malkin reports on one developer acing out another in Union Township, NJ on the apparent basis of political contributions. Trouble is, the aced-out developer happens to own the land. No problem: The township is taking it through eminent domain for the other developer.
  • Michelle also refers to a situation in Riviera Beach, FL that Rush mentioned in his broadcast earlier this week and that Sharp As a Marble posts on. His commenters are clearly divided along “class” lines, making for interesting but discouraging reading.
  • The third situation Michelle mentions is in Norwood near Cincinnati, and strikes close to home (like, less than 20 miles). Now here’s a revelation from case background–It shows that opportunistic liberal attorneys can be added to the list of Kelo supporters, along with the environmentalists identified in this previous post. Finding out who the attorney representing Norwood is should represent a “holy bleep” moment for people in the Greater Cincinnati area (I confess, though, that I didn’t say “bleep”; bolds are mine):

    Ohio attorney Timothy Burke can attest to that. He’s trying to help the city of Norwood, Ohio, move forward with a $125 million development plan that includes 200 condos, an office complex and retail space complete with a Crate & Barrel.

    He described Norwood as an old rustbelt community struggling to revive since the closure of a General Motors plant.

    “What the mayor has consistently said is we have to remake the city of Norwood,” said Burke, of Manley Burke in Cincinnati.

    But Norwood is facing a big obstacle: five residents who refuse to sell their property to pave way for the development. Burke said so far, 75 of the 80 property owners have reached agreements to sell with the developer. But the remaining five are holding out, maintaining that Norwood abused its discretion by designating their neighborhood as “blighted” and “deteriorated.”

    On June 14, a judge ruled that Norwood can force the owners out using its eminent domain powers, but the owners are appealing. City of Norwood v. Burton, A0308646 (Hamilton Co. Com. Pleas).

    “There are 75 property owners out there going nuts, saying to the developers, ‘When are you going to buy us?’ ” Burke said. “But the developer is saying, ‘We’re not going to do that until we can get them all.’ ”

    (Scott) Bullock, of the Institute for Justice, is handling the appeal. He said he will challenge Ohio’sdeteriorating statute, which he calls “incredibly broad.”

    “It says any neighborhood can be taken by eminent domain. Unless it is really interpreted narrowly it raises serious constitutional questions and violates the public purpose requirement of the Ohio Constitution,” Bullock said.

    On appeal, Bullock said he also hopes to show that the Norwood case “is one of the most perfect examples of a government renting out its eminent domain authority to a private entity, and that’s exactly what the city of Norwood did in this case.”

    Timothy (Tim) Burke of the law firm Manley Burke just happens to be the Chair of the Hamilton County Democratic Party. In fact, he appears to be quite the authority (scroll down to April 20 for the University of Dayton at link) on planning and executing eminent-domain tyranny.

    Liberals, who claim to be for “the little guy,” seem to have sympathy for Kelo-style victims ranging from “a mile wide and an inch deep” to non-existent.