Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

A primer on the fiscal cliff facing us in January 2013: tax hikes and Obamacare

This is a medium-length article from the Tax Foundation. I found it fascinating to read, because I am busy making plans myself to deal with the next four years under Barack Obama.

Excerpt:

On December 31, 2012, a large swath of the federal income tax code is scheduled to expire, an event which has come to be known as the “fiscal cliff.” Among the expiring provisions are the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts enacted under President Bush, a compromise on the estate tax, a “patch” in the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) reducing its impact, the temporary 2 percent payroll tax holiday, increased business expensing, and the “extenders” package of miscellaneous tax deductions. On January 1, 2013, five taxes enacted as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA)—popularly referred to as Obamacare—also take effect, along with sequester spending reductions of $109 billion due to the failure of the “Supercommittee” to reach consensus on budget reductions.

In late February, the U.S. government will hit the debt ceiling, exhausting its ability to borrow to finance ongoing spending without an increase by Congress. Finally, the federal government’s continuing resolution appropriating spending expires on March 27, 2013.

Here are some of the things to look out for, which are all described in detail in the article:

  • 2001 and 2003 Tax Cuts Expiration
  • Estate Tax Increase
  • Alternative Minimum Tax
  • Payroll Tax Increase
  • Business Depreciation Expense
  • Taxes in PPACA (Obamacare)
  • Debt Ceiling
  • Sequestration

I am most concerned about income tax increase, the capital gains tax increase, the dividend tax increase and the payroll tax increase. These are all going to clobber me. I will have less money for charity and savings, and will have to retire later – and have less time for my Christian activities as a result of having to work longer. The voters in the last election have decided that I must sacrifice more of my earnings so that Obama can hand it all out to his constituents in exchange for their votes.

It helps to know exactly what will be changing in the future, because I have to know how to respond to this. Some adjustments that I might make cannot be done at the drop of a hat. Some take months to plan and execute. It’s best to think about things in advance. We have two deadlines: December 31st and March 27th. It will be interesting to see  what Washington decides to do.

UPDATE: James Pethokoukis of AEI explains the significance of the tax increases for capital gains and dividends. Other countries have lower rates on these taxes, so expect the capital that funds businesses and creates jobs to leave the country. Obama likes to rail against outsourcing, but he actually causes it – because of his ignorance.

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Standard and Poor’s: there may be more downgrades

From CNBC.

Excerpt:

Standard & Poor’s may downgrade the long-term credit rating of the U.S. once again in less than three months after sending shockwaves through the bond and stock markets by stripping the nation of its top notch triple-A rating last week, according to an emergency Sunday night conference call for clients of Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

“We do expect further downgrades,” said Ethan Harris, North American economist, on the call. “We doubt the newly appointed bipartisan commission will come up with a credible long-term deficit reduction plan. Hence by November or December we would not be surprised to see S&P downgrade the debt again from AA-plus to AA.”

Harris said that the U.S. should have avoided the downgrade in the first place by meeting S&P’s demands of a $4 trillion deficit cut and a “demonstrating a sensible budget process.” What they got instead was a “deficit cut of $2.1 trillion and a budget process that’s been extremely chaotic,” said Harris.

[…]”If a disorderly Treasury market leads to the Fed embarking on QE3, repercussions for the dollar will be catastrophic,” said David Woo, head of global rates and currencies research, on the call. “Investors will be quick to conclude that U.S. monetary policy has been subjugated by fiscal policy and the Fed’s independence would be placed seriously into question.”

In other news, Estonia has actually received a recent debt rating UPGRADE:

In the midst of a world embroiled in economic turmoil, a few nations have managed to do surprisingly well—among them, Estonia. After near economic collapse during the 2008–2009 financial crisis, the country has managed to successfully bounce backwith substantial GDP growth, a vibrant trade environment, and a notable budget surplus.

During the first quarter of this year, Estonia had the highest rate of growth in the EU and the biggest drop in unemployment. In July, its credit rating was raised by Fitch to A+, a reflection of substantial economic growth.

But how did Estonia get here? Estonia possesses a flexible, open economy and investment climate that encourages competition and economic growth. It remains one of the world’s freest economies, according to The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom. However, prudent fiscal policies have played the largest role in Estonia’s impressive economic performance, particularly in recent years. Still, the path to fiscal conservatism was not easy; it required a lot of rigorous, painful cutback involving 9 percent of GDP in fiscal adjustments and large cuts to nominal wages.

Notice that Estonia’s economic policies are tea party conservative policies, not socialist policies.

Meanwhile, the White House has yet to respond to our first credit downgrade.

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Calls for Geithner resignation in wake of credit downgrade

Obama Budget Deficit 2011

Obama Budget Deficit 2011

First, some details about the recent downgrade of America’s credit rating by Standard & Poor’s.

Excerpt:

Standard & Poor’s announced Friday night that it has downgraded the U.S. credit rating for the first time, dealing a symbolic blow to the world’s economic superpower in what was a sharply worded critique of the American political system.

Lowering the nation’s rating to one notch below AAA, the credit rating company said “political brinkmanship” in the debate over the debt had made the U.S. government’s ability to manage its finances “less stable, less effective and less predictable.” It said the bipartisan agreement reached this week to find at least $2.1 trillion in budget savings “fell short” of what was necessary to tame the nation’s debt over time and predicted that leaders would not be likely to achieve more savings in the future.

[…]The downgrade to AA+ will push the global financial markets into uncharted territory after a volatile week fueled by concerns over a worsening debt crisis in Europe and a faltering economy in the United States.The AAA rating has made the U.S. Treasury bond one of the world’s safest investments — and has helped the nation borrow at extraordinarily cheap rates to finance its government operations, including two wars and an expensive social safety net for retirees.

Treasury bonds have also been a stalwart of stability amid the economic upheaval of the past few years. The nation has had a AAA rating for 70 years.

Analysts say that, over time, the downgrade could push up borrowing costs for the U.S. government, costing taxpayers tens of billions of dollars a year. It could also drive up interest rates for consumers and companies seeking mortgages, credit cards and business loans.

A downgrade could also have a cascading series of effects on states and localities, including nearly all of those in the Washington metro area. These governments could lose their AAA credit ratings as well, potentially raising the cost of borrowing for schools, roads and parks.

Jim Demint responds by calling for Tim Geithner’s resignation.

Excerpt:

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) responded to the nation’s downgrade at the hands of Standard & Poor’s by calling for the resignation of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

Saying “enough is enough,” the Tea Party favorite pressured President Obama to remove his top economic official and adopt a new perspective.

“The President should demand that Secretary Geithner resign and immediately replace him with someone who will help Washington focus on balancing our budget and allowing the private sector to create jobs,” he said in a statement. “For months he opposed all efforts to reduce the debt in return for a debt ceiling increase. His opposition to serious spending and debt reforms has been reckless and now the American people will pay the price.”

After S&P put the nation’s rating on negative watch back in April, Geithner said there was “no risk” the US would be downgraded.

“No risk of that, no risk,” he said at the time in an interview with Fox Business Network.

Yes, there is no risk the same way that the 864 billion stimulus was supposed to keep unemployment below 8% – except that unemployment shot up over 10%.

I saw this status update from a friend on Facebook:

If you don’t understand the current financial crisis in our country, here’s a simplified explanation: “If the US Government was a family, they would be making $58,000 a year, they spend $75,000 a year, & have $327,000 in credit card debt. They are currently proposing BIG spending cuts to reduce their spending to $72,000 a year. These are the actual proportions of the federal budget & debt, reduced to a level that we can understand.” – Dave Ramsey

The Obama administration has had three one-and-a-half trillion dollar deficits in a row. That is nearly TEN TIMES the last Republican budget deficit in 2007. That was the last year that the Republicans held the House and Senate. The last year before Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid came into power.

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A closer look at the budget deal

Here’s a good article in the Wall Street Journal about the budget deal struck by the House, Senate and White House on the weekend.

Excerpt:

The big picture is that the deal is a victory for the cause of smaller government, arguably the biggest since welfare reform in 1996. Most bipartisan budget deals trade tax increases that are immediate for spending cuts that turn out to be fictional. This one includes no immediate tax increases, despite President Obama’s demand as recently as last Monday. The immediate spending cuts are real, if smaller than we’d prefer, and the longer-term cuts could be real if Republicans hold Congress and continue to enforce the deal’s spending caps.

The framework (we haven’t seen all the details) calls for an initial step of some $900 billion in domestic discretionary cuts over 10 years from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) baseline puffed up by recent spending. If the cuts hold, this would go some way to erasing the fiscal damage from the Obama-Nancy Pelosi stimulus.

[…]The second phase of the deal is less clear cut, though it also could turn out to shrink Leviathan. Party leaders in both houses of Congress will each appoint three Members to a special committee that will recommend another round of deficit reduction of between $1.2 trillion and $1.5 trillion, also over 10 years. Their mandate is broad, and we’re told very little is off the table, but at least seven of the 12 Members would have to agree on a package to force an up-or-down vote in Congress.

If the committee can’t agree on enough deficit reduction, then automatic spending cuts would ensue to make up the difference to reach the $1.2 trillion minimum deficit-reduction target. One key point is that the committee’s failure to agree would not automatically “trigger” (in Beltway parlance) revenue increases, as the White House was insisting on as recently as this weekend. That would have guaranteed that Democrats would never agree to enough cuts, and Republicans were right to resist.

Instead the automatic cuts would be divided equally between defense and nondefense. So, for example, if the committee agrees to deficit reduction of only $600 billion, then another $300 billion would be cut automatically from defense and domestic accounts (excluding Medicare beneficiaries) to reach at least $1.2 trillion.

One reason to think tax increases are unlikely, however, is that the 12-Member committee will operate from CBO’s baseline that assumes that the Bush tax rates expire in 2013. CBO assumes that taxes will rise by $3.5 trillion over the next decade, including huge increases for middle-class earners. Since any elimination of those tax increases would increase the deficit under CBO’s math, the strong incentive for the Members will be to avoid the tax issue. This increases the political incentive for deficit reduction to come from spending cuts.

Mr. Obama’s biggest gain in the deal is that he gets his highest priority of not having to repeat this debt-limit fight again before the 2012 election. The deal stipulates that the debt ceiling will rise automatically by $900 billion this year, and at least $1.2 trillion next year, unless two-thirds of Congress disapproves it. Congress will not do so.

I don’t like the deal because I wanted Obama to have to face this problem with this again in May of 2012, but it may be the best deal we could get with control of only the House.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , ,

John Boehner stands up for spending cuts and job creation

Obama went on television last night to argue for more wasteful spending and higher taxes on job creators. I guess he thinks that 1.65 trillion dollar deficits and a 9.2% unemployment rate is acceptable for working families, as long as he isn’t personally affected by it.

The Wall Street Journal did not like Obama’s speech at all.

Excerpt:

The Obama Presidency has been unprecedented in many ways, and last night we saw another startling illustration: A President using a national TV address from the White House to call out his political opposition as unreasonable and radical and blame them as the sole reason for the “stalemate” over spending and the national debt.

We’ve watched dozens of these speeches over the years, and this was more like a DNC fund-raiser than an Oval Office address. Though President Obama referred to the need to compromise, his idea of compromise was to call on the public to overwhelm Republicans with demands to raise taxes. He demeaned the GOP for protecting, in his poll-tested language, “millionaires and billionaires,” for favoring “corporate jet owners and oil companies” over seniors on Medicare, and “hedge fund managers” over “their secretaries.” While he invoked Ronald Reagan, the Gipper would never have used such rhetoric about his opposition on an issue of national moment.

[…]Apart from shifting blame for any debt default, the speech was also an attempt to inoculate Mr. Obama in case the U.S. loses its AAA credit rating. He cleverly, if dishonestly, elided the credit-rating issue with the debt-ceiling debate. But he knows that Standard & Poor’s has said that it may cut the U.S. rating even if Congress moves on the debt ceiling. Mr. Obama wants to avoid any accountability for the spending blowout of the last three years that has raised the national debt held by the public—the kind we have to pay back—from 40% in 2008 to 72% next year, and rising. This will be the real cause of any downgrade.

Speaker John Boehner made clear in his speech that the GOP doesn’t want a default but wants more genuine cuts in spending. Mr. Obama is betting his rhetoric will cause the public to turn against the GOP, but we wonder if voters will be persuaded by a man whose concept of leadership is the politics of blame.

Thankfully, John Boehner isn’t going to let Obama get away with wrecking the economy any more.

Here’s Boehner’s response:

The transcript is here.

Obama’s Monday night speech was insulting, deceptive, vindictive and divisive. He doesn’t know how to solve a problem by getting people who are opposed to him to buy into a compromise plan. Instead, he just goes in front of cameras and insults the people he has to work with. That is not the right way to get people to work together. Imagine if a manager in a private company called a press conference to excoriate some people on a different team in that company. Is that any way to get people working together to solve a problem? To point fingers at your co-workers and poison the well? It’s juvenile. Where is his plan? How is he solving the problem?

The only people I see solving the problem are intelligent people like Paul Ryan, John Campbell, Tom Price, Tom McClintock, Mike Simpson, Ken Calvert and Tom Cole. People who work weekends developing solutions. People who understand how to write policies. People with degrees in economics, business and finance. People with private sector experience running businesses and creating jobs. Obama isn’t one of those people. Obama just reads a teleprompter. He doesn’t know how to create jobs – he never did it before becoming President. So why did we elect him?

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