June 7, 2006

Ace Was the Place on Tuesday Afternoon for a BizzyBlog Interview

Ace was clearly desperate for programming on his “Hoist the Black Flag” Rightalk program on Tuesday afternoon, and had yours truly on for about 15 minutes on fairly short notice.

The topics were the state of the economy and media reporting on it.

It can be primarily accessed at this page either by:

  • going here, clicking on the XML button on the line labeled “Hoist the Black Flag” (about the sixth line). At the next page, scroll down to the June 6 listing.
  • More directly, Going here (you may be asked to launch an application — say “yes”), and scrolling down to that June 6 listing.

Here’s a backup link to it at BizzyBlog if all of the above doesn’t work. (Use this as a last resort; the file’s pretty big.)

I’m happy to say we covered a lot of ground in the time we had available. The interview starts at about the 4-minute mark and ends at about 20 minutes.

Told Ya: The Death Tax Repeal Will Raise Revenues; Plus a Liberal Argument for Repeal

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 3:15 pm

Over a year ago, I did a post on repealing the death tax about what I believed would result from it:

Most importantly, at least as attempts at total repeal have been legislated in the past (this could change), capital gains taxes will be still be assessed when property is eventually sold by heirs, based on the ORIGINAL buyer’s ORIGINAL cost.

….. There is a fair chance that the freer flow of capital to its best use will generate more in capital gains taxes over time, as property changes hands more frequently, than the take of the one-time vulturous hit of the estate tax. Even if it doesn’t, wealth creation over time will probably be greater, as property is more likely to be put to its highest use when it makes sense to do so, not forced onto the market when a person happens to die.

So it’s clear, at least to me, that proponents packaging estate/death tax repeal as a permanent tax dodge are exaggerating its benefits, and that opponents shouldn’t fret so much about supposedly massive losses of revenue to the government as the parents of Baby-Boomers, and the Boomers themselves, pass on. But after cutting through the hype of supporters and the manufactured dread of opponents, I don’t think there’s any doubt that permanent estate/death tax repeal is an idea whose time has come.

A Monday subscription-only editorial in The Wall Street Journal vindicated this instinct:


The bill to repeal the estate tax would change this to require that the current 15% capital gains tax be paid on the full increase in the asset price from the time it was originally purchased. As a policy matter, this seems a fair trade: The 15% capital gains rate is substantially lower than the nearly 50% current death tax rate, and the government would get a share of the gain of heretofore sheltered assets. Joint Tax estimators have calculated that changing this capital gains treatment of inherited assets would raise $50 billion to $60 billion a year, assuming no behavioral changes.

….. But JCT refuses to take any account of the potential economy-wide benefits of repeal: more reinvestment in family businesses, more money spent on creating jobs than on buying life insurance to pay death taxes, and a higher savings rate. Many studies have found that these positive effects could be large and would mean much smaller revenue losses from getting rid of the tax.

So it appears that death tax repeal will raise more revenue and reallocate assets within the economy more rationally.

What’s not to like? So why does anyone have a problem with death tax repeal?

Oh, it’s immoral for families to hoard all that wealth. Forbes’ Rich Karlgaard refers us to an editorial, from the ultraliberal Seattle Post-Intelligencer of all places, for a refutation (HT “S.O.B.er” Andy’s Angle). You might not like the class envy argument, but you’ll like the result (bolds are mine):

We understand that the Democratic base believes deeply that businessmen and women ought to be taxed. We think so, too. Tax their incomes for the federal treasury. Tax their spending. Tax their property at a rate that reasonably can be paid — 1 percent a year on buildings and land is all right. But a tax of 55 percent when someone dies is not reasonable. It is like being broken into and looted. Death is bad enough without amplification.

This is why the American people always tell pollsters the death tax is the most unfair one. It is not because people don’t understand their economic interests. We think they have a good sense of their interests, but they also have a sense of morality. They denounce the death tax because it piles calamity upon grief, and they do not see why anyone would want to do that.

In our highly partisan world, the death tax has given Republican candidates a perennial bogeyman with which to raise funds from owners of family businesses. Why the Democrats donate this issue to the opposition we cannot fathom. But because the Republicans are against this tax, the Democrats find themselves having to be for it. This stand gets them nothing.

Now you can see that there’s no reason that death tax repeal shouldn’t pass unanimously.

How About If I Just Post This Without Comment?

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:07 pm

Willisms does have some good analysis of this government-supplied GDP growth map.

Since I’m in Ohio, I’ll hold my tongue, lest say something I regret about the worthless sc ….. I’ll stop.


Sanity from California: The “Meathead Tax” Trounced

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:21 am

Proposition 82, the “Meathead Tax,” so named because of its champion, Rob Reiner, who played “Meathead” in “All in the Family” back in the 1970s, got trounced at the polls 61-39.

The tax, as described by the San Jose Mercury News in its article on the loss, “would have taxed the state’s wealthiest residents to provide a free year of preschool to every 4-year-old. The tax-the-rich initiative, which had the support of Hollywood activists and labor unions, seemed a sure winner when it qualified for the ballot in January.”

Specifically, as discussed at this previous BizzyBlog post, it would have added a 1.7-percentage-point income-tax surcharge on taxable income over $400,000.

The initiative’s failure is a big break for the state and therefore, since California is such a big part of the national economy, the whole country. If 82 had passed, we would have seen the “voting with their feet” phenomenon of rich people leaving the state for more hospitable tax climates accelerate. It also has to be seen as shoring up California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s position. The state is running a huge fiscal surplus in the neighborhood of $7 billion; if 82 had passed, that trend would probably have begun to go in the opposite direction, and pretty quickly.

By the way, you can tell when a measure favored by the press fails badly — they don’t tell you the margin of loss, or they take their sweet time updating for the detail, as is the case with the Merc piece noted above.

The Carnival of Ohio Politics No. 26 Is Up!

Filed under: News from Other Sites — Tom @ 10:39 am

It’s here.

Welcoming the Return of Viking Spirit

Filed under: News from Other Sites — Tom @ 10:30 am

He’s baaaaack.

Princeton Viking Parker Novak’s Viking Spirit blog has returned from hiatus and rejoined the Alliance. Welcome.

I suppose an all-night card-playing “conference” in a beer-filled room will be necessary to determine whether, despite their breaks in service, Viking Spirit and the also recently-returned Project Logic will be able to use their past experience in determining the perks and privileges of seniority within the Alliance (if anyone knows what they are, let me know, because I’m missing out. :–>).

From here out, I’m going to have to suggest that BizzyBlog readers periodically peruse the SOB Alliance site blogroll here for new members, and to visit the Alliance’s blog for the announcements. They’re happening so fast I can’t keep up. The fact that I have to do that is what is known as good news.

Internet Wall Of Shame Member Google Lobbies for ‘Net Neutrality’

I think the word I’m looking for is “chutzpah.”

Eli Milchman at Wired.com covers the latest assessment of China’s Internet freedom situation by Reporters Without Borders (RWB):

China Tightens Grip on Web

The French organization Reporters Without Borders condemned the Chinese government Tuesday for its increasing censorship of the internet.

RWB claims that the Chinese government has expanded its efforts to block Chinese citizens from accessing Google, Google News and Google Mail, and that software programs like Dynapass, Freegate and Ultrasurf, which were designed to allow users to bypass China’s censorship methods, have been “neutralized.”

“It was only to be expected that Google.com would be gradually sidelined after the censored version was launched in January,” RWB said in its statement. “Google has just definitively joined the club of western companies that comply with online censorship in China. It is deplorable that Chinese internet users are forced to wage a technological war against censorship in order to access banned content.”

Meanwhile, the co-conspirator in Chinese censorship, BizzyBlog Internet Wall of Shame member Google, is playing the regret card — sort of. Hmmm ….. I wonder why?

Google founder lobbies for net neutrality

Google Inc. co-founder and President Sergey Brin met with U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday to press for legislation that would prevent Internet access providers from charging Web sites more for faster content delivery.

“The only way you can have a fast lane that is useful — that people will pay a premium for — is if there are slow lanes,” Brin told reporters after meeting with Republican John McCain, a member of the Senate committee that oversees telecommunications issues.

….. The seven-year-old company has found itself at the center of several political storms in recent months. It successfully battled the Justice Department to avoid handing over search records and absorbed severe congressional criticism over its business practices in China.

“Our reputation certainly suffered” from reports that Google’s Chinese site — www.google.cn — did not show search results on topics critical of the Chinese government, he said.

But he said only 1 percent of Chinese users use google.cn, while the majority uses the unfiltered www.google.com.

“We are not actually censoring in China,” he added.

I think that those of us who have watched Google help the Chinese government build a better police state, cull out US conservative sites from its Google News service for so-called “hate speech” (while leaving some hard-left and socialist sites that would make your skin crawl alone), and broadcast material on its own Net-based service that is as biased or worse than that seen on the Big Three TV networks, can be forgiven for doubting Mr. Brin’s sincerity or ideological purity on the “net neutrality” issue.

Anyway, based on what RWB noted in the second paragraph of the first excerpt, the last two paragraphs of the Mr. Brin’s statement indicates that he either isn’t even in the neighborhood of leveling with us, or doesn’t understand how his company’s own services are being restricted by his customer. Or is he really parsing around with us, because Google technically isn’t doing the censoring, and the Chinese government is?

Very, unimpressive. I remain utterly unconvinced that what is good for Google is good for Internet users.

UPDATE: Later reports are indicating more remorse being expressed by Brin. Nice, but I don’t find it persuasive.

UPDATE 2: NixGuy e-mailed a link to this piece from the UK Times Online with a couple of interesting points:

However, it is questionable whether Google could afford to turn its back on China’s explosive economy.

Yesterday, Times Online revealed how the company has struggled to compete in businesses outside its core search service. Failures to break into fields such as news and financial information could up the pressure on Google to extend the reach of its search tool – already the world’s most popular – into new territories.

The previous report the Times refers to only discusses Google’s performance in non-search areas in the UK, but still is startling:

According to a half-year report by web analysts at Hitwise, seen exclusively by Times Online, Google trails arch-rivals Yahoo and Microsoft by massive margins in several key online areas in the UK.

….. Google Finance, Google’s business information service, has fared particularly badly, according to Hitwise. In a market led by Yahoo, which has an 8.3 per cent share in Britain, Google languishes in 201st position, with just 0.4 per cent.

….. despite the high-profile launch of Google’s Gmail e-mail service in April 2004, it still only has 2.2 per cent of the market in the UK. Microsoft’s Hotmail service leads with 52.4 per cent, while Yahoo has around 24 per cent.

….. In news services, Google also trails, with its Google News site taking only 0.4 per cent – leaving it at number 28 in the rankings. In the UK, the BBC leads the field, with a 16 per cent share.

Even Google’s much-admired Google Earth service, which offers aerial photographs, accounts for only 4 per cent of the “Travel – Maps” sector tracked by Hitwise.

So, maybe Google’s “net neutrality” advocacy is a gambit to ensure that its core search engine business stays undisturbed.

UPDATE 3, June 8: Mr. Brin now has to explain this — RWB says that Google.com “was blocked nationwide on 31 May.”

UPDATE 4, June 8: The Empire strikes back“China welcomes foreign Internet companies working in China, but they must respect and abide by the country’s laws, including those on expression, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Thursday.”

Bizzy’s AM Coffee Biz-Econ-Life Links (060706)

Free Links:

  • Gregg Jackson of Pundit Review has pulled off a coup — getting Thomas Sowell, America’s leading intellectual, to read his new book, “Conservative Comebacks to Liberal Lies.” Even better, Sowell really likes it, and devoted a whole column at Human Events Online to the topics of Gregg’s book, while cannily avoiding juicy details (the better to get you to BUY). Way to go, Gregg. Let thousands of cash registers ring, and thousands of conservatives zing.
  • Legal proceedings against Paramalat are finally beginning — Huh? You haven’t heard of it? It’s Europe’s equivalent of Enron, and it involves the $18 billion house-of-cards collapse of what was Italy’s leading dairy company. The noise coming from this situation has been very low compared to Enron’s. Why that is should be remembered when those who decry America’s justice system for corporate wrongdoing go into hypercritical mode:

    While Parmalat is often referred to as Italy’s Enron for the scale of its losses, the cases also highlight differences between how the two countries have reacted to the scandals.

    Giovanni Salvi, a member of Italy’s board of magistrates who contributed to a book comparing the Enron and Parmalat scandals, said the response of the criminal justice system in the United States was much more swift than in Italy, and the penalties much harsher. Enron founder Kenneth Lay and former Enron Chief Executive Jeffrey Skilling face more than 20 years in prison on their fraud convictions during sentencing scheduled for September.

    The United States also puts more value on transparency, while in Italy the trend has been the opposite, Salvi said, pointing to a law pushed through by former Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s government before the Parmalat scandal broke decriminalizing false bookkeeping.

    “To have an efficient economy, you have to have an efficient court system,” Salvi said in an interview. “Without this, how do you succeed in increasing investment?”

    Whew. Talk about “culture of corruption.”

  • Botched mixes of illegal drugs are literally killing unsuspecting users in metro Detroit. It’s easy not to have sympathy, but no one deserves to die because they’re an addict. It is, however, a cautionary tale; there is no FDA or QC protocol out there for illegal drugs, so a bad outcome is ALWAYS a possibility. Some “recreation.”
  • Despite whining from the predictable sources, Butler County (OH) Sheriff Rick Jones and Butler County Commissioner Mike Fox are not backing down in enforcing existing laws against illegal immigration, and in their attempts to limit their ability to (illegally) work here. “S.O.B.er” Chuckoblog is impressed. So am I.
  • Tancredo for President? “S.O.B.er” Large Bill (second item at link) picked up on Tancredo’s straw poll win in Macomb County, Michigan, just north of Detroit.
  • Alliance member A Rose by Any Other Name found a lot of very good news in The Washington Post. It’s by Peter Wehner, director of the White House’s Office of Strategic Initiatives. Good stuff on improvements in the culture, the economy, the war situation, and more. And The Post actually published it. So read it already before they decide that good news doesn’t get traffic.

Positivity: Surviving Friends at Stalag IXC Reunited 60 Years Later

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:01 am

They credit their survival to their friendship (HT Good News Blog):