November 14, 2006

The ‘Evil Rich’ Are Carrying Us Even More — An Update

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:40 pm

Willisms dug through the Senate’s financial and tax info and found this chart (part of PDF file) showing that “the tax system is even more progressive than before the 2001 and 2003 tax provisions were enacted.”

WhoPaysFIT2006

So it’s to the point now where the top 10% of taxpayers are covering almost two-thirds of income taxes paid. Pray that no one convinces them to stop working.

Redistributionists should be happy with results like these. As noted yesterday, they aren’t, and they’re working at cross purposes. Ex-Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin wants to raise taxes, while the newly-elected majority led by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid wants to concoct targeted Alternative Minimum Tax “reform” that would “just happen” to disproportionately benefit the well-to-do in Blue states (i.e., “tax cuts for the favored rich and very rich, just not the super-rich”).

Meanwhile, one comment has to be made that should never be forgotten: If Denny Hastert’s and Bill Frist’s majority had made the tax cuts permanent when they had the chance, we wouldn’t be having discussions about how every American’s taxes will shoot up a few years from now if no action is taken. But instead they took the easy way out and merely extended them, thinking that they’d always be there to extend them again. Oops. Thanks for nothing, Denny and Bill.

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Selected Previous Posts:
- June 9 — The Evil Rich Are Carrying Us” — An Update
- May 17 — More on How the “Evil Rich” Are Carrying Us
- May 16 — “The Evil Rich Are Carrying Us” Table of the Day

Cali Court Strikes Down Credit Freeze Law (UPDATE: May Likely Be Only Portions of It)

Filed under: Consumer Outrage,Corporate Outrage,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:22 am

This news has totally escaped the attention of absolutely everyone in the major media (there is almost nothing on Google News) and the blogosphere, except for Jeff at Credit/Debt Recovery (who appears to have the only item on Google’s Blog Search).

And it’s an outrage:

Credit Report Freeze Law Found Unconstitutional, May Set Precedent

A California court has struck down a consumer credit freeze law, the first known successful challenge to state statutes allowing consumers to “freeze” access to their credit reports.

The California District 5 Court of Appeals agreed last week with plaintiff U.D. Registry Inc., a credit reporting agency for property owners and managers, that the California freeze statute is unconstitutional because it bars reporting information that was already public record, therefore violating First Amendment rights.

“The statute was based on failed logic, and gives consumers the power of a gag order on public information, a power held not even by the government,” argues Michael Saltz, a partner at Jacobson, Russell, Saltz & Fingerman LLP, Los Angeles, in an interview Monday with CCR.

….. Saltz sees this successful appeal as a bellwether of challenges to come. “Some 25 states have enacted similar statutes,” he says. Those and federal statutes may violate the constitution, he says, by restricting free speech.

According to Saltz, California’s statue basically punished organizations that supply tools to the industry, which he likened to the state outlawing plastic baggies in order to stop drug dealers.

“If you are reporting facts on file, and they are true and accurate, the state cannot touch you. The credit reporting industry cannot be singled out” under law, he adds, especially as they don’t issue credit. The onus to prevent identity theft and fraud lies with credit grantors, he says.

I don’t get it. For those new to the topic, a credit freeze makes sure that no one can access the information in “your” credit files for any reason. Even you have to go through a procedure to “unfreeze” your credit if you wish to apply for credit somewhere. I realize that the data technically doesn’t belong to the consumer, but if state legislatures (and hopefully, eventually, the federal government) decide that the bureaus have a fiduciary duty to reasonably safeguard access to the data, how can the bureaus cry foul?

If there is any good to come out of this, it may be that the “credit freeze” idea may finally get the federal attenton it has needed for so long. National credit freeze legislation will give the whiners at the bureaus a uniform nationwide set of procedures for handling freeze and unfreeze requests. It will also hopefully be written in a way to head off legal challenges like the one above, which appears to be on the verge of nullifying every state freeze law passed during in the last few years.

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UPDATE: There are apparently more sober takes on the ruling, including this from CCH

While the California “security freeze” law was held to be unconstitutional as applied to a particular credit reporting agency, the “security freeze” law is not invalid on its face and in its entirety. The California “security freeze” law (§1785.11.2 of the California Civil Code) allows California consumers to prevent the dissemination of information from their consumer reports, including information derived from public documents. The credit reporting agency collected credit-related information from public records and then sold consumer reports reflecting the information to landowners, property managers, and others.

The credit reporting agency challenged the California law on federal and state constitutional free-speech grounds. The California appellate court ruled that, as applied only to the particular credit reporting agency, the “security freeze” statute was unconstitutional because the law was an excessive restriction on the agency, could not be reformed by the court to apply fairly to the particular agency, and was crafted more broadly than necessary to serve the government’s interest in protecting consumers from identity theft. However, in upholding the “facial” constitutionality of the statute in its entirety, the court ruled that the state of California had met its burden of showing that the “security freeze” law did not present a total and fatal conflict with constitutional prohibitions.

The California legislature still needs to rewrite or revise the law to accommodate the less-than-wonderful people at U.D Registry, but the CCH report gives more hope to folks that a freeze law can ultimately survive judicial scrutiny intact.

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Selected Previous Posts:
- June 26 — Just a Few More of the Many Reasons Congress Should Pass a Universal Credit Freeze
- June 26 — The FCC and Equifax Lose Data, Proving That We Should Get the Ability to Freeze Our Credit Files
- June 23 — Quote of the Day: on Proposed Federal Legislation Relating to Credit Freezes
- June 15, 2006– E-Mail to My Congressperson Advocating Universally Available Credit Freeze
- July 19, 2005 — Identity Theft: It’s Time for National Credit Freeze Legislation
- March 29 — Money Tip of the Day: Good Places to Freeze (Your Credit)

We Need to Export Sarbanes-Oxley to China

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:07 am

Their companies apparently are the ones who need it more than ours do:

Auditors find Chinese companies tried to claim $5B in false profits
Posted 11/10/2006 9:50 AM ET

BEIJING (AP) — More than half of China’s publicly traded companies tried to inflate their 2005 profits, claiming nearly $5 billion in phony income, but were stopped by auditors, the official state news agency said Friday.

Chinese companies often are accused of hiding profits to evade taxes or inflating them to look better to investors. Authorities have been cracking down on such trickery in an effort to boost confidence in China’s financial markets.

A study by the China Institute of Certified Public Accountants found about 776 firms out of 1,371 with publicly traded shares tried to report 38.8 billion yuan ($4.8 billion) in “fictive profits” last year, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

You’ve Got to Hand It to the Scam Artists Doing This

Filed under: Scams — Tom @ 8:02 am

The “cleverness” here is that they’re not excessively greedy.

Here’s the text of the scam e-mail, followed by a PayPal button:

Devastated Family
Needs Help!
$1.00
Donation from you could be all it takes.

Do to the wrongful incarceration of one of our family members mounting legal affairs have taken their toll. For over five years now we’ve been battling for justice and were at our ropes end. Please won’t you help us in our fight? One dollar is all we’re asking for to save our family.

“We can help millions around the world can’t we help one in our backyard!”

If you find it in your heart to help we promise to keep you informed of any and all success your donation may have given us. To help us please click on the button below.

Hey, a even a few hundred responses out of a million e-mails a day, and the next thing you know you’ve created a nice little side income for yourself.

This is “clever” because the amount involved is so small that almost no donors are going to pay attention to whether or not the “promise to keep you informed” is met, and those who actually waiting for new information aren’t going to lose sleep over a buck.

And surely no one will bother to complain about the buck they lost or tell PayPal that this is surely a scam — Well, almost no one. :–>

I’d like to think that someone at PayPal is reading, watching ….. and counting.

One Thing H&R Block Won’t Say

Filed under: Business Moves,Consumer Outrage,Money Tip of the Day — Tom @ 7:57 am

Item:

H&R Block Will Disclose More to Clients About Refund Anticipation Loans

They won’t disclose that they stink to high heaven, that you should almost never do them. I can’t think of a good reason why you would.

Positivity 2: DarynKagan.com Debuts

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:52 am

A web site dedicated to Postivity has been launched, on time and as promised months ago (fourth item at link) by former CNN anchor Daryn Kagan. Monday was debut day, and apparently the traffic was staggering.

Very impressive, with a snappy design and a daily video. Way to go, Daryn.

Check it out.

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ALSO: I’m happy to report that recalling that Kagan’s debut was coming up enabled me to get rid of a post that would have been a real downer, and that I probably had no business running anyway. No, you don’t get to find out what it was, and you don’t want to know.

Positivity: Breakthrough raises hope for blindness cure

Filed under: Marvels,Positivity — Tom @ 6:02 am

I post this because the treatment has worked with lab mice, so it is well beyond speculative, and is stunning in its implications (HT Good News Blog):

Breakthrough raises hope for blindness cure
November 9, 2006
London – A breakthrough in restoring sight to the blind has been made with a study showing that a damaged eye can be repaired by transplanting light-sensitive cells. The results of an experiment on laboratory mice have been so successful, scientists believe clinical trials on blind people could start within 10 years.

If the breakthrough can be developed further it could lead to new forms of treatment for the 300,000 visually impaired people in Britain who suffer from age-related macular degeneration and the thousands of blind children with inherited diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa.

Mice that were born blind because of a genetic condition were able to see light for the first time after a revolutionary transplant operation involving stem cells  the key cells that develop into the light-sensitive tissue of the eye’s retina.

The scientists behind the research believe that it is the first time that nerve cells at the back of eye have been successfully transplanted to restore vision, a development that promises to help millions of blind people throughout the world.

“The most important thing is the principle that it can be done,” said Robert MacLaren, a consultant surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, who was part of the Anglo-American research team.

“We’ve discovered a biological principle, a healing mechanism that we can take advantage of, but it’s still a long way to go before we can apply this to people. We are now confident that this is the avenue to pursue to uncover ways of restoring vision to thousands who have lost their sight.”

The study, published in the journal Nature, involved blind mice that were born without light-sensitive “photoreceptors”, which detect light when it reaches the retina and send the appropriate signals to the brain via the optic nerve.

Stem cells from the eyes of normal mouse foetuses were cultured in the laboratory before being transplanted to the eyes of the blind mice. Tests showed the stem cells developed into mature photoreceptors of the retina and could transmit signals to the brain.

Previous attempts at transplanting stem cells to a damaged retina had failed, it is believed, because the cells were too immature. The key difference with the latest research is that stem cells were transplanted after they had already developed along the route to becoming photoreceptors, Mr MacLaren said.

“We got them at the point of no return. It is the first time anyone has shown that it is possible to transfer photoreceptors successfully and timing was crucial,” he said.