October 29, 2005

Quote of the Day: Comparing Civil-Rights Pioneers and Today’s Pretenders

Filed under: Quotes, Etc. of the Day — Tom @ 5:23 pm

OpinionJournal.com’s Jason Riley:

When the rhetoric of so-called elder statesmen is materially no different from hip-hopper Kanye West’s, it might be a sign that the movement is in trouble.

Or that it’s irrelevant.

An America where blacks run Merrill Lynch, American Express and the State Department no longer needs civil-rights activism of the Rosa Parks and James Weldon Johnson variety, and hasn’t for decades. Thanks in large part to their diligence and sacrifices, the battle for legal equality has been fought and won. Blacks still face social and economic challenges, but these result mainly from self-inflicted cultural wounds, not a manifestly unjust society.

The current crop of opportunistic pretenders isn’t ready to acknowledge this reality–just ask Bill Cosby–but as more and more black Americans reach the middle class and beyond, it’s becoming self-evident.

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Oct. 30: Wizbang Weekend Carnival participant.

A Little-Noticed Tax-Law Change Could Cost Billions

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Ignorance,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:24 pm

Unbeknownst to almost everyone, deductions for charitable contributions (near the end at the link) have been changed in a big way between now and the end of the year:

Increased Deduction for Cash Contributions. The current tax law allows a taxpayer to deduct charitable contributions up to 50% of their adjusted gross income (AGI) in any tax year. This limit has been increased to 100% for contributions made between August 28 and December 31, 2005 …… This increased deduction only applies to gifts of cash, not gifts of securities or other property, which continue to be limited to 30% of AGI.

(Note: I believe the sentence skipped over in the ellipse is inaccurate.)

This was supposedly designed to help storm victims, but applies to any charitable contributions to any qualified charity, whether storm-related or not.

This is obviously an incentive for the very wealthy to figure out how to minimize their tax liability between now and the end of the year that will likely end up doing little to help hurricane victims. This is good news for symphonies, ballets, arts festivals, and personal foundations, and will only benefit Florida and the Gulf Coast if rich donors are inclined to send more money in that direction. Given that there is no additional incentive for them to do so, I don’t see much of that happening. This is so typical–the ones who need to know about this change will find out from their financial advisers, and the rest of the country will have no idea how much of a giveaway just occurred.

Why haven’t the congressmen and senators who always complain about what an across-the-board tax cut will “cost” asked about how much federal tax receipts will drop because of this barely-known change? The fact is, we have no idea. It could be billions, and it has “giveaway to the rich” written all over it. At least they had the sense not to increase the appreciated property limit. Or maybe that occurred in another bill that managed to avoid attention.
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Update: Yes, I know that the Alternative Minimum Tax may kick in, but I believe that will usually not change the advantageousness of high-AGI-percentage donations. Besides, it could be that exemption from the AMT calculation may be built into the legislation.

This Weekend’s Single Unanswered Question: When Is This Economy Going to Get Some Respect?

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias,TWUQs — Tom @ 7:05 am

An update post is here.

Another installment in a nearly-regular series of mysteries and pseudo-mysteries (usually 3-4, but this time just one) this inquiring mind would like to have answers for.

QUESTION: When is this economy going to some respect?

The economy’s 3.8% third-quarter growth (subject to revision in the coming months) was remarkable, given the storms that occurred during almost the entire final month of the quarter:

Economists had forecast GDP would advance at a 3.6% rate in the July-to-September quarter. The economy has now expanded faster than 3% for 10 straight quarters.

So when was the last time the economy expanded faster than 3% for 10 straight quarters?

It didn’t happen during the 1990s (the longest streak was eight).

It last happened during the 13 quarters from 1Q 1983 through 1Q 1986. Not coincidentally, a president who believed in lowering taxes to stimulate economic growth was in charge the last time it happened.

So despite being at war, despite devastating storms, and despite legislative and regulatory drags on the economy like Sarbanes-Oxley, this has been most consistently growing economy in almost 20 years.

Not only that, the US economy has NEVER had a streak of more than 7 quarters of 3.0% or greater annualized growth at any other time in the 58 years that quarterly GDP statistics have been kept! (besides the ones already mentioned: i.e., the current streak of 10, the 1990s streak of 8, and the 1980s streak of 13–Added Nov. 3 for clarity)

(Go here, change the First Year selection to “1947 A&Q,” and see for yourself. The 8-quarter streak was 2Q 1996 – 1Q1998. The 7-quarter streaks were 1Q 1950 – 3Q 1951 and 1Q 1963 – 3Q 1964).

Other indicators are favorable too. Unemployment is at 5.1%, up only slightly from the summer low of 4.9%, despite the storms. Core inflation (excluding food and energy) is at a paltry 1.3% and trending down (6th paragraph at USA Today link).

Yet the business press hasn’t stopped treating the economy as if it’s on fumes for almost 5 years, and as a result people who don’t pay close attention aren’t impressed. They should be. If we had a responsible and objective mainstream business press, they would be.
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UPDATE: The usual disclaimers–Yes, I’m worried about overextended credit, out-of control government spending, the long-term effects of the recently-effective bankruptcy law, and a few other things. That doesn’t change the fact that the economy has kicked serious butt in the last 10 quarters, OK?

UPDATE 2: Also from the USAT piece–

But in a second report Friday, the University of Michigan’s final October index of consumer sentiment fell to 74.2 from September’s final reading of 76.9 and from a preliminary reading of 75.4 in early October, according to sources who saw the subscription-only report.

So the business press, in search of anything that might be negative, sneaked a peek at the consumer sentiment report and confirmed that their trash-talking of the economy is still working. How many people think they would have told us the reading before its official release if it had gone up instead of down?

UPDATE 3: Willisms has more perspective on how good the economy is, and has been.

UPDATE 4: You DO NOT want to miss Dr. Sanity’s take (HT to the Trackbacking Anchoress). She absolutely nails the psychological impact of the MSM’s continued ignorance and underreporting of just about any and all good economic news. It is so good I created another post for it.
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Oct. 29: Wizbang Weekend Carnival participant.

Positivity: Reunion after a 4-Year Abduction

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:01 am

A mother and child are reunited after spending four years apart:

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