May 14, 2006

NKU Abortion Vandalism Update: (Almost) Skating Away

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 3:48 pm

From Life News:

Students in Abortion Vandalism Case Get Community Service, Professor Won’t
May 12, 2006

Six pro-abortion students charged with vandalism in the destruction of a pro-life display at Northern Kentucky University will have the charges dropped and be required to perform community service as a result of their actions. However, a British literature professor who encouraged the students to destroy the pro-life display won’t receive the same treatment.

Assistant Campbell County Attorney Rick Woeste announced the decision Thursday but said he objected to including professor Sally Jacobsen in the community service agreement.

Jacobsen’s attorney Margo Grubbs, told the Cincinnati Post he was enraged by the decision to drop the charges against the students but keep them against the professor.

“I think that her not being allowed diversion is extremely extraordinary treatment for the normal citizen in this state,” Grubbs said. “She has no criminal record. First offenders (charged with non-violent crimes) always get diversion.”

Jacobsen was charged with theft, criminal mischief and criminal solicitation, but Grubbs claimed Jacobsen never received police paperwork with the actual charges.

According to the Post, District Judge Karen Thomas says Jacobsen has until May 23 to answer the charges. But Grubbs said she is working on a paper at an undisclosed location and may not be back in town by then.

….. Jacobsen has been placed on leave and plans to retire after the end of the school year. Her classes were given to other professors to conclude the semester.

According to the Post, the pro-abortion students involved in the vandalism included: Michelle Cruey, 21, of Walton, Ky.; Katie Nelson, 21, and Heather Nelson, 27, both of Dayton, Ky.; Stephanie Horton, 23, of Alexandria, Ky.; Sara Keebler, 25, of Cincinnati, and Laura Caster, 23, of Highland Heights, Ky.

The students, all of whom are clearly old enough to know better, are much luckier than they deserve.

My sympathy for Ms. Grubbs’ above argument on behalf of Ms. Jacobsen: Zero, especially in light of Ms. Jacobsen’s attempts to circle the wagons.
_____________________

Previous Posts:
April 20 — Prolife Display-Trashing Prof’s “Repentance” Appears to Be a Sham
April 18 — Very Good, But Not Good Enough
April 14 — University Intolerance Watch: Abortion Display Destroyed

Passage of the Day: Chris Edwards of Cato on Our Awful Income Tax System

Filed under: Economy,Quotes, Etc. of the Day,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 3:25 pm

Just because the 2003 tax cuts worked doesn’t mean that the tax system itself is okay. It isn’t.

Mr. Edwards says the GOP is to blame for the law’s complexity, and he is basically correct:

Looking for someone to blame? Try the Republican majority in Congress.

After winning control of Congress in 1994, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., and Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., called for fundamental tax reform, saying the tax code was “overly complex” and “indefensible.” Virtually every GOP leader since then has echoed the call for reform, without ever coming close to delivering.

Since the mid-1990s, the number of pages of federal tax rules has soared by 64 percent, the hours Americans collectively spend complying with the tax code each year has surpassed 6 billion, and the annual cost of complying has more than doubled to $265 billion.

The only winners: tax lawyers and accountants. H&R Block has tripled its revenue since 1996 as the share of taxpayers needing professional expertise has grown. Middle-class households are struggling through the thicket of tax rules related to children, home ownership and retirement plans, while even low-income families need outside help to figure out all the special tax benefits that apply to them.

The tax code was at its simplest in 1986, after the Reagan tax cuts and the simplification efforts that followed. It has been horribly downhill ever since, and as noted by Edwards, the deterioration accelerated in the mid-1990s with the college “tax breaks” (which only succeeded in enabling colleges to continue to raise prices at twice the rate of inflation) and other needless complexities. It was all so unnecessary, when across-the-board cuts would have made more sense for everyone.

Steve Forbes Lists (and Lists, and Lists) the Benefits of the 2003 Tax Cuts

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:19 pm

The list, in a subscription-only column in the May 22 issue in the magazine, will make wonder why in the world they were only extended two years and not made permanent:

The evidence of the positive impact of these cuts–the capital gains levy was cut 25%; the personal dividend tax was cut 60%; personal tax rates were reduced; and juicy incentives for businesses, especially small ones, to boost capital expenditures were put in place–is overwhelming.

  • Real GDP has blossomed, expanding more than $1 trillion, or 11% between the first quarter of 2003 and the end of last year. No other advanced economy has done nearly as well.
  • Some 5 million new jobs have been created since the tax cuts, more than in Europe and Japan put together.
  • Real personal incomes have mushroomed as well, expanding 5.7% at a real compounded annual growth rate.
  • For all the gnashing of teeth over U.S. manufacturing jobs, our industrial production has increased by more than $300 billion, or more than 11%, in the past three years.
  • Between the second quarter of 2003 and the end of 2005 a stunning 3.9 million new businesses have been created.
  • Equity values have moved up smartly (although they should be up even more given what’s happening to corporate balance sheets and bottom lines). The comprehensive Wilshire Index has increased 65% since early 2003; the S&P 500, 55%; and the Dow Jones industrial average, 42%. What’s intriguing here is that the biggest stock market rises have been with small-cap stocks. Is it a coincidence that these companies have been invested in far more heavily than their much bigger corporate counterparts?
  • Aftertax corporate profits have exploded from $727 billion in the first quarter of 2003 to almost $1.1 trillion at the end of 2005, an increase of 46%.
  • Dividends have proliferated, rising from an annual rate of $149 billion in early 2003 to more than $200 billion today. In the S&P 500 companies there have been more than 900 increases, and over 40 companies have initiated dividends.
  • Business’ capital spending zoomed from an annual rate of $730 billion in the first quarter of 2003 to almost $1 trillion by year-end 2005, an increase of more than 30%. Cash flows have grown even faster than corporate capital expenditures. There have been periods in the past when this has happened but not at the magnitude we’re seeing today. In short, corporate America has plenty of juice to keep this expansion going.
  • So does the American consumer. The balance sheets of households in America have never been stronger. Household assets are up more than $15 trillion since the tax cuts versus an increase of only $3 trillion in household liabilities.
  • Foreigners have taken note of the powerful American economy. Foreign direct investment in the U.S. last year was $128.6 billion, up 90% since 2003. Private portfolio investment inflows are the largest ever, $686 billion last year, up 107% from 2003.
  • The overall assets of the nation have grown 30% in just three years to $160 trillion.

Yet the mainstream media obsesses about Washington’s deficits, giving short shrift to the soaring growth in government receipts both inside the Beltway and out. Last year’s tax take by Washington was up almost 15%. The problem on all levels of government is not inadequate revenue but obscene spending.

Housing bubble? Maybe in some local markets around the country, but the median housing price increase since 2003 is eminently reasonable–new home prices are up 21% in the last three years; existing homes, 23%.

Yeah, other than that, the tax cuts haven’t accomplished much. (/sarcasm)

Qwest’s Joseph Nacchio: Hero or “Clever” Villain?

UPDATE, May 17: It appears that the USA Today report referred to by the linked NY Times story at this post is bogus. All three other major carriers have denied giving call information to the NSA. Qwest is no different from the other three majors. That isn’t to say that Mr. Nacchio did not have the additional motivation described herein, but it does mean that the other telcos ultimately made the same decision that Qwest made. Thanks, USAT (/sarcasm).
_________________________________

If I’m to believe The New York Times, former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio is a hero for not allowing the National Security Agency to have records of phone calls:

Mr. Nacchio learned that no warrant had been granted and that there was a “disinclination on the part of the authorities to use any legal process,” said the lawyer, Herbert J. Stern. As a result, the statement said, Mr. Nacchio concluded that “the requests violated the privacy requirements of the Telecommunications Act.”

….. Qwest was the only phone company to turn down requests from the security agency for phone records as part of a program to compile a vast database of numbers and other information on virtually all domestic calls. The program’s scope was first described in an article published on Thursday by USA Today that led to an outpouring of demands for information from Congressional Republicans and Democrats. The article said that AT&T, BellSouth and Verizon had agreed to provide the information to the security agency.

Incredibly, the article makes no mention of a “little” problem Mr. Nacchio is facing these days:

Former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio has been indicted on 42 counts of insider trading. Prosecutors say Nacchio knew at the time what the public did not: that Qwest was using accounting gimmicks to artificially prop up its finances. If convicted, Nacchio could face 10 years in prison for each count of insider trading.

Though it’s not a good idea to predict outcomes, this link indicates that a number of Nacchio’s underlings have pleaded out in return for cooperation (the article is about the conviction of Marc Weisberg, but also indicates that “only one unresolved criminal case” remains, i.e., Nacchio’s). That ordinarily does not bode well for the guy at the top.

Nacchio’s indictment is relevant, not just because it could go to his character, but it could very well go to the real reason behind Qwest’s refusal to cooperate with the NSA. After all, if Nacchio really was engaged in insider trading, isn’t it at least possible that he refused to hand over Qwest’s phone records because, by doing so, he would be handing future insider-trading investigators the road map to an expeditious prosecution?

Clarification: Though the date is at the link, I should make it clear that Mr. Nacchio has been under indictment since December 2005, and that Qwest’s decision not to turn over call info would have occurred in late 2001 or early 2002, roughly the same time as the agreement to do so by the other three major carriers occurred.

_______________________________

May 15 Update: Qwest has in the eyes of many gone from being a goat for its awful customer service to a hero for resisting the NSA (link may require registration). If my theory is correct, the people lionizing Qwest at the moment are complete fools. If I’m wrong, and Qwest didn’t cooperate with the government for other reasons, you would have to ask why its three major better-run competitors didn’t have a problem with providing call info. I think the burden of proof is on Qwest.
_______________________________

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Weekend Question 3: When Will the Role of the 2003 Tax Cuts in the Economy’s Growth Be Recognized?

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government,TWUQs — Tom @ 9:11 am

Realistically, if you’re expecting the Democratic Party or its willing WORM (Worn-Out Reactionary Media, known to most as The Mainstream Media) accomplices to ever recognize that those tax cuts were instrumental, you’re dreaming.

A subscription-only Wall Street Journal editorial from yesterday has more on the hysterical lengths to which the reality-deniers will go (bolds are mine):

The Tax Cut Record
May 12, 2006; Page A18

Our late editor Bob Bartley used to say that critics might forgive you for being wrong, but they’ll never forgive you for being right. That psychological insight may be the only way to explain the fierce and bitter opposition this week to extending the tax cuts of 2003 for another two years through 2010.

If ever there was a market test of economic policy, the last three years have been it. The stock market has recovered from its implosion in Bill Clinton’s last year in office (Note: I disagree with this contention here.–Ed.), unemployment is down to 4.7%, and growth has averaged 3.9% in the three years since those tax cuts passed — well above the post World War II average and more than twice the growth rate in Euroland.

Yes, gas prices are high and interest rates are rising, which helps to explain the anxiety felt by some of the public. But these head winds are all the more reason to be impressed by the economy’s ability to push ahead nonetheless. We’d have thought that the Democrats who are now voting to let taxes increase would be thrilled to know that things turned out better than they had feared. Americans are better off despite Democratic predictions that, as Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi put it back in 2003, tax cuts would “damage long term economic growth.”

Alas, admitting error is not a natural political act, so the tax cut critics are now suggesting all of this growth would have happened anyway. Thus the Washington Post this week quoted Robert Rubin — the Clinton economic guru — as dismissing the importance of tax cuts because “We had very good markets in the ’90s before all these tax cuts went into effect.” And it quoted chief Lehman Brothers economist Ethan Harris as saying that the expansion “has nothing to do with tax policy, and more to do with the corporate sector starting to spend some of their record profits.”

Well, what does Mr. Harris think inspired that revival of business spending? Spontaneous combustion? A Nascar green flag? As for Mr. Rubin, when does he think the stock market imploded and the economy headed downhill? Bill Clinton was still in office when the dot-com boom went bust and U.S. manufacturing was shedding jobs faster than France.

….. Almost at the very time the tax cuts looked like they would pass, business investment began to pick up, and it has kept rising since. As the nearby chart from a new study by the Joint Economic Committee of Congress shows, this has been a classic investment-led expansion with record amounts of business spending on new plant, equipment, machinery, software, and research and development.

Between May 2003 and May 2006, asset values in the U.S. have also risen by $13 trillion thanks to the stock and housing market rallies. Just the growth in asset values since 2003 exceeds the entire net worth of all but a handful of nations. Democrats who want the 15% rate on dividends and capital gains to go back up to 39.6% and 20% are saying that a big tax increase won’t affect any of this.

….. Over the past 40 years, the U.S. has had three great experiments in tax-cutting, and each one has worked even better than advertised: The Kennedy tax cuts of the 1960s, the Reagan cuts of 1981, and now the Bush tax cuts of 2003. The political tragedy is that the first of those two were bipartisan, while the Bush tax cuts have had little Democratic support. Only 15 House Democrats supported their extension this week; there were only three in the Senate.

Perhaps they should recall the words of a famous Democrat from another era: “The tax on capital gains directly affects investment decisions, the mobility and flow of risk capital . . . the ease or difficulty experienced by new ventures in obtaining capital, and thereby the strength and potential for growth in the economy.” That was John F. Kennedy, and he’s still right today.

So this was just a coincidence:

BizInvestment

“It would have happened anyway. Yeah, that’s the ticket.”

When that’s your best argument, you’re out of arguments.

Positivity: A Teen Saved by a Bone-Marrow Transplant — From His Brother

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:08 am

3-1/2 years from nearly dying to graduating from college:

(more…)