January 29, 2008

Color Me Relieved

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:57 pm

Note: I didn’t say that I’m happy with who won.

I’m relieved over who didn’t.

Hard as it is for those who have been insulated from it by the shockingly gullible conservative talkers, the guy who finished second is much more liberal, and much less reliable, than the guy who won.

Ask almost any Republican and/or social conservative in Massachusetts.

Oh, and anyone who thinks this thing is over is forgetting that the war switches from the ground to the air Wednesday. Unfortunately, only one guy has the money to command his own air force.

Much more in the coming days.

CNNMoney, AP, and the Not-So-’Durable’ Goods Report

Where did the story about the “durable” goods report go?

Y’know, the one that I found out about in this CNNMoney e-mail this morning….

CNNmoneyEmailDurableGoods0108

….. and the one referred to on this CNNMoney index page (middle story, middle column):

CNNmoneyHomePageIndex0108

In the “Highlights” from this morning’s Census Bureau announcement, the underlying news source, the word “durable” appears seven times.

But “the AP report” referred to in the e-mail, as CNNMoney carried it, did not contain the word “durable” once, either in its headline or its content.

Here are the first few paragraphs from that CNNMoney story:

Factory orders strongest in five months
Commerce Department says big-ticket orders jumped 5.2% in December, well above forecasts.

Orders to factories for big-ticket manufactured goods soared in December by the largest amount in five months, welcome news for an economy buffeted by talk of recession.

The 5.2 percent increase in orders was a surprise finish for the manufacturing sector at year’s end — a segment of the economy considered to have had a poor year.

The increase in orders, as reported Tuesday by the Commerce Department, was far larger than had been expected. The strength came from a big increase in demand for commercial aircraft, but even excluding the transportation sector, orders posted a solid 2.6 percent gain.

The December orders increase was more than double what had been expected.

This, by the way, is very good news for the economy, indicating that the weakness shown in manufacturing in December’s Institute for Supply Management report might be very short-lived.

But getting back to this “durable” thing — A visit to the full-length AP story by Martin “Talk of Recession” Crutsinger reveals that he at least put the word “durable” into the final paragraph, while whoever wrote AP’s headline had the sense to use the correct descriptive word (“Durable Goods Orders Rise by 5.2 Percent”). CNN edited out Crutsinger’s final few paragraphs, changed the headline to refer uninformatively to “Factory Orders,” and eliminated the word “durable” in the process.

Am I making a mountain out of a molehill? Perhaps. But it seems that first Crutsinger, and especially CNN, were trying very hard to avoid using the word that actually describes the underlying report. Why?

The fact also remains that if CNN, and to a lesser extent the AP and Crutsinger, had set out to make it difficult to find their stories, they could hardly have done a better job. A search done on “durable goods,” with or without quotes, probably won’t pull up the full AP report in its primary results (other stories using the word “durable” more often will come in ahead of it), and almost definitely won’t list what CNN posted at all.

So these “durable dodges” are either examples of sloppiness that at the same time hurt CNN and AP (because of fewer page hits), or “clever” hiding (conscious or subconscious) of pretty good economic news. You make the call.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Couldn’t Help But Notice (012908)

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:12 am

The problem is, I’m noticing too much…..

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Kim Strassel thinks the stimulus package is a Bush economic surrender. She’s mostly right, especially in that he should have held the stimulus package hostage to making the current tax system permanent.

But IBDeditorials.com — whose conclusion is “Not to damn it with faint praise, but it could’ve been a lot worse. It also could have been a lot better.” — justifiably sees a silver lining in the expansion of immediate deductions for capital investments:

Of the plan’s total $150 billion in cost, $50 billion will go to businesses. No, it’s not a “giveaway,” as some have styled it. Businesses will take their breaks and create new products, new jobs and more wealth for all Americans. In time, they will also pay more in taxes, not less. If it’s a giveaway, it’s to all Americans — not business.

The package also lets companies immediately write off up to half of their investments in plant and capital equipment. In addition, small businesses will be able to rapidly expense equipment costs.

Two other items need to be mentioned.

The first was noted on January 18 by IBD:

As economist Allen Sinai has noted in a study for the American Council for Capital Formation, (the Bush 2003) tax cuts added 2.5% to GDP in 2004 alone. The reason is that, contrary to the Keynesian model used by the Democrats, business investment — not consumer spending — drives the economy. Thriving businesses boost incomes, add jobs and create shareholder wealth.

I lost track of the link to the second, but I recall reading about a study finding that each additional dollar of immediate expensing allowed for capital investments increased GDP by $9. I’ll take that deal any day.

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Supply-side guru Arthur Laffer’s “The Tax Threat to Prosperity” is too good to excerpt. So just read the whole thing.

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The immediate expensing of capital investments that I just referred to in the stimulus package is supposedly going to cost state governments about $4 billion. Companies will be paying less because most states use federal taxable income as the starting point for determining state income tax liability.

So of course the National Governors Association wants a $12 billion relief package for the states. You read that right.

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Last week, IBDeditorials.com usefully reminded us that Hillary Clinton’s husband locked up billions of tons of clean coal in 1996 in exchange for political contributions.

Here’s an interesting bit of non-trivia I didn’t know about that deal:

Why would ….. (President Clinton) dedicate a Utah monument while standing in Arizona? Well, this federal land grab was done without any consultation with the governor of Utah or any member of the Utah congressional delegation or any elected official in the state. The unfriendly Utah natives might have spoiled his photo-op.

The state already had six national monuments, two national recreation areas and all or part of five national forests. Three-quarters of Utah already was in federal hands. Still, the land grab was sold as a move to protect the environment.

Now, while that coal is untouchable, Mrs. Clinton is chiding George Bush for not being tough enough on the Saudis. Zheesh.

It would be tons of fun to see last-minute Executive Order by the President undoing the coal lock-up. Go ahead, Mr. Bush. Make our January 20, 2009.

Positivity: CPAs to prepare tax returns free of charge for deployed Ohio troops

Filed under: Positivity,US & Allied Military — Tom @ 5:57 am

From the Ohio Society of Certified Public Accountants web site (HT Bearing Drift Ohio):

(COLUMBUS, OH–January 18, 2008)―The Ohio Society of CPAs is once again sponsoring Operation CPA in partnership with the Ohio National Guard and Ohio’s Inter-Service Family Assistance Committee.

CPAs from throughout Ohio have volunteered their time and expertise to prepare 2007 tax returns free of charge for deployed Reserve and National Guard members this filing season.

“Deployed service members have many challenges to deal with professionally and personally. The prospect of filing a tax return can be a daunting task for military personnel and their families,” said Clarke Price, president and CEO of The Ohio Society.

“Through Operation CPA, our members help lighten that load and show support for the men and women who are risking their lives daily for our country.”

Military personnel who are Ohio residents currently deployed outside of the state will qualify for free preparation of their 2007 individual or joint local, state and federal personal tax returns.