October 23, 2007

An Interesting Point from IPI on SCHIP and AMT

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government,Wide Open — Tom @ 2:47 pm

Here’s a nice tongue-in-cheeker from the Institute for Policy Innovation’s latest Tax Bytes brief that actually has quite a bit of validity (bold is mine):

Why Democrats Should Be Thanking Republicans

Democratic leaders Sen. Harry Reid and Reps. Nancy Pelosi and Charlie Rangel should be thanking—THANKING—154 House Republicans.

Those Republicans—along with only two Democrats—refused to override President Bush’s veto of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) legislation. And in so doing have made House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel’s job a little easier.

See, Rep. Rangel has an AMT problem. That refers to the Alternative Minimum Tax that passed Congress in 1969 to ensure that wealthy people paid “a fair share” of income tax, but that now threatens a substantial portion of the middle class.

The problem is that the AMT was never indexed for inflation, plus the Bush tax cuts lowered the taxes of the middle class, thus exposing more of them to the AMT. As a result, the affected population has exploded from a few hundred people initially to 26 million this year, all of whom will be paying more taxes unless there is an AMT fix.

Since Rangel comes from high-income New York City, his constituents are disproportionately affected.

Rangel has a proposal that he claims would rescue about 20 million people who would otherwise be hit by the AMT, saving them some $50 billion in additional taxes.

However, under the current “paygo” (pay as you go) rules, such savings have to be offset with spending cuts or “revenue enhancements” (i.e., increased taxes).

By the fact that President Bush vetoed, and House Republicans sustained it, the Democrats’ SCHIP legislation that would have increased SCHIP spending by $35 billion ($30 billion more than President Bush wanted), Republicans have, in essence, “found” more than half of the money Rangel needs.

In other words, by rejecting that additional $30 billion in SCHIP spending, Republicans have just made it much easier for Rangel to fund his AMT reform. That’s called a win-win.

And Rangel and the Democrats can say they helped low-income children and millions of middle-class families—thanks to Republicans sustaining the president’s veto.

I think the AMT should be totally eliminated, or at most remain for those with incomes over $5 million to $10 million. And Paygo, Schmaygo — to the extent that AMT repeal is a supply-side incentive, the extra taxes that would likely come in as a results of increased economic activity should be taken into account.

Cross-posted at Wide Open.

Quote of the Day: On the 20th Anniversary Robert Bork’s Rejection for the Supreme Court

Filed under: Quotes, Etc. of the Day,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:19 am

From Gary McDowell, professor at the Jepson School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond, in a column that should be a mandatory save to the hard drive, at OpinionJournal.com today:

Recalling Mr. Bork’s experience serves to remind us of how precarious the judiciary’s balance is at any given time, and how today’s highly politicized process prevents even the most gifted and prominent jurists from expecting to be confirmed (or perhaps even desiring the chance to undergo the ordeal).

But more important, it is a reminder that presidents must be willing to undertake what they know will be a horrific fight in order to see the bench filled not with liberals or conservatives or partisans, but with constitutionalists.

In this sense, the Bork vote is not just a matter of quaint historical interest, but the first great battle in the contemporary war for the Constitution–a continuing war that must be won if true self-government is to prevail.

Time has shown that Mr. Bork’s theory of constitutional interpretation remains very much alive; he was defeated but his central idea was never discredited. That theory of interpretation and its implicit belief in restrained judging should continue to guide anyone who believes that the inherent arbitrariness of government by judiciary is not the same thing as the rule of law.

Couldn’t Help But Notice (102307)

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 5:57 am

From Newt Gingrich, who should know (link added by me):

By my count, in one ugly statement, Congressman Stark manages to level at least four vicious attacks: He accuses Republicans of indifference to children’s healthcare needs; he demeans the sacrifice of our troops in Iraq; he grotesquely accuses the President of being amused by the deaths of our troops in Iraq; and he attacks the honor of the House of Representatives by uttering the words in the first place.

….. It’s clear that no expressions of regret will be forthcoming from Congressman Stark. He obviously stands by his comments. But what about his Democratic colleagues? Do they agree that the sacrifice of our troops in Iraq is meaningless? Do they agree that the President is “amused” by it?

One way we can know for sure is if the House votes immediately to censure Congressman Stark.

The Constitution gives the House the right to censure a member for misconduct or inappropriate words or behavior.

According to the Congressional Research Service, the majority of the 22 censures of members in House history “concerned issues of decorum, that is, the use of un-parliamentary or insulting language on the floor of the House or acts of violence towards other members.”

In other words, precisely what Congressman Stark did last week.

Congressman Pete Stark has dishonored the entire House with his despicable remarks.

By voting for or against censure, House members can go on the record. Do they agree or disagree that America is sending its young people to Iraq to fight and die for the President’s “amusement”? Do they agree or disagree that this is language worthy of a member of the House of Representatives?

Americans deserve to know the answer.

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We’re number 17 on this list (underlying article here; HT Greg Mankiw) of 2006 government spending tax revenues as a percentage of GDP. The New York Times is surely trying to make it appear as if our public sector doesn’t get enough money. Puh-leeze.

There are also a few notable omissions, at least including Belgium, Australia and New Zealand. I believe the Aussies and Kiwis spend less than we do, but I haven’t been able to find info that shows that. Update: Just found (PDF of Table A can be found at this link) — Australia is 30.9% (as of 2005), New Zealand 36.5%, and Belgium 44.8%.
I also question the data, which claim that spending by all governments (Fed, State, and Local) is 28.2% of GDP, when this graph from 2004 has it at that level, given that federal and state tax collections have exploded since then. Other info available in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s “OECD in Figures 2006-2007″ publication, such as this page, also differs significantly.
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I wonder why this is needed:

Walk on the wired side: jacket that lets parents keep track of children
· GPS technology provides updates every 10 seconds
· Firm says garment gives young more independence

Actually, I understand it, but don’t agree with it, and I understand that the parents are in control with this unit. But with so many cameras everywhere in the UK already — so many that they’re driving Ewan McGregor crazy — you almost wonder if children could escape notice even if they wanted to.

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Ho Hum Hiring Headline:

T. Rowe Price Group Inc. said yesterday that it will add 1,400 jobs at its Baltimore County campus in the next two years, and county leaders called the planned expansion one of the most significant by a private employer in the region in years.

The Baltimore-based investment firm plans to spend $185 million to construct two large office buildings and two parking garages on its sprawling Owings Mills campus – a project that would enable the company to become the county’s largest private employer.

It would also signify the region’s emergence as a player in the financial services industry, a local economist said.

….. The expansion would bring to 4,000 the number of workers at the Owings Mills park, which employs slightly more than half of the company’s work force worldwide.

Worth asking, and we’ll never know — Would T. Rowe have expanded in Maryland if the Wal-Mart Law had survived? If the 10,000-employee threshold originally envisioned had gone into effect, what would have prevented the state’s politicians from dropping it lower, perhaps much lower?

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Positivity: Mom Says Firefighter Saved Girl’s Life

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:52 am

From Lexington, KY:

Oct 22, 2007 04:53 PM

The mother of a five-year-old girl rescued from a fire in Rockcastle County this week said an off-duty Lexington firefighter who happened to be driving by likely saved the girl’s life.

Brandy Bishop remains in critical condition recovering from burns at UK Hospital. Her mother, Amanda Bishop, spoke to LEX 18 Friday about the ordeal from her hospital room at UK, where she is recovering from minor cuts and burns she suffered while trying to get out of the burning mobile home.

Amanda Bishop said that Brandy ran to a bathroom, where there wasn’t as much smoke, during the fire. Amanda says she pushed out a window and jumped, then tried to re-enter the trailer through a door. She said a neighbor finally pushed in a jammed door so she could rescue her daughter.

Bishop said that an off-duty Lexington firefighter happened to be driving by when she carried Brandy out of the trailer. She said he saved Brandy’s life by giving her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

“If it wasn’t for him, Brandy would not be here,” said Bishop. “Nobody (one the scene) could do what he did. He saved her life.”

Go here for the rest of the story.