« Quo Vadis? -- Inauguration Thread | Main | infrastructure »

January 23, 2017

Comments

But aren't all those other countries run by a bunch of socialists? And so irrelevant, in the best American "Not Invented Here" tradition.

Not to mention that "alternative facts" apply....

Some of those high tax countries are measurably more capitalist than the US.

Isn't being high-tax the very definition of big-government socialism?
/sarcasm

You can have a big welfare state without being socialist. Such as the Scandinavian countries.

Want to raise taxes on the rich?

Just whisper in Trump's ear that he should tax 100% of the wealth of anyone richer than he is, so that Trump will be the richest person in the USA.

Go ahead, tell me that won't appeal to him.

Charles, you know that and I know that. But want to bet that the Republican base would buy it? (Never mind that it's objectively true.)

Snarki, I've always suspected it, and now I know it: you're a genius.

No question it's a brilliant suggestion. Just one problem. It would require him to let people know how wealthy he is really.

If he sets the barrier high, he won't end up richest. But if he sets it low, he will reveal that he isn't as rich as he was claiming. Could make him a bit conflicted....

https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/money/vat-rates-in-europe

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tax_rates_in_Europe

If we put in a regressive VAT, like pretty much every European country, we could probably close that tax gap. That's the first link. The second is Europe's top marginal rates per country. Marginal rates, however, are only part of the story: what is deductible as a business or personal expense makes a big difference. Based on how the Brits I do business with treat the company expense account, I get the sense that the three martini lunch or its UK equivalent is still an allowable expense.

Other things Europeans do: put limitations on abortion and require voter ID.

Bottom line, I'm fine with a VAT. Let everyone have skin in the game.

Are you suggesting there are no limitations on abortion in the US currently?

Other things Europeans do: Single payer healthcare (including paying for early term abortions), compulsory voting laws, fewer bombings and invasions.

The House Blueprint for a "destination based cash flow tax" is intended to operate mostly like a VAT.

All that aside, the point of the post was to note that the bleating from the corporate sector about the horrible tax rates needs to put in context with the rest of the U.S. tax system.

Based on how the Brits I do business with treat the company expense account, I get the sense that the three martini lunch or its UK equivalent is still an allowable expense.

Based on my wife's experience working in the UK (as of about 15 years ago), British compensation, especially at executive levels, does seem highly perk-oriented.

The EU folks she worked with that were really kick-ass-and-take-names were the French. Smart, hard workers, professional and effective.

Just not at lunch-time. :)

McKinneyTexas,

We do have restrictions on abortion, that is right. You must see the whole picture, though.

For example, in my country, Finland, the limitations are:
* social reasons (essentially any reason) apply until the 12th week
* mother's health, birth defects etc. until 20th week
* birth defects until 24th week with the permission of the National Board of Medicine.

After that, if the pregnancy is to be terminated, it is done as a Caesarean section or by inducing labour, with the intention to save the newborn. In my opinion, this is quite an acceptable burden, as the fetus already has a potential to survive outside the womb at that stage.

However, you must account for the fact that to compensate, there is good sex ed, prenatal healthcare is free from the detection of pregnancy, and abortion is also free and very readily available. In my opinion, in that kind of environment, any woman has a true choice whether to carry to term. (In fact, society really encourages aborting defective fetuses. Every pregnant woman is provided two ultrasounds, later of which on week 20. Especially in the latter ultrasound, if there is a defect, the woman should be able to immediately allow abortion, because it is the last week when an abortion can be made. The short period of consideration and social pressure from the midwife have been so effective that nowadays, the birthrate of babies with Down syndrome is about 75% lower than twenty years ago. In fact, there is a lot of disapproval towards families with a Down child, as allowing one to be born is seen irresponsible, which is of course unfair. Not all Down cases are detected.)

In the US, the legal environment is so radically different, that any restrictions on the availability of abortion are unconscionable.

And what about guns? Oh, crap! Never mind. Forget I wrote that! (Taking a post on taxation straight to the abortion route is bad enough, right?)

"the birthrate of babies with Down syndrome is about 75% lower than twenty years ago. In fact, there is a lot of disapproval towards families with a Down child, as allowing one to be born is seen irresponsible, which is of course unfair. Not all Down cases are detected.)"

Um, not to get on a soapbox as I do this a lot, but I have friends with a Down child. I don't like to imagine their reaction if they read this. Not to wave the flag or anything--on the whole I much prefer European social democracy as I hear about it secondhand to what we have, but not on this subject of social pressure to abort Down children.

The problem with a VAT (or any other sales tax) is that it is, as McKinney notes, regressive.

First, it takes more money from the poor, since they (unsurprisingly) spend more and save less. Not more dollars, but a bigger percentage of what they make.

Second, it hurts the poor more because their marginal finances mean that even an equal reduction in buying power is more likely to mean real pain.

I don't have a problem with taxes set up so that everyone has "skin in the game." But at some point we have to recognize that some people have more skin available and others have less.

If you are making $200K per year, an additional $10K in taxes may be irritating, but it doesn't really do you significant damage. If you are making $40K per year, an additional $2,000 (the same percentage) is going to make a serious difference in your ability to house and feed yourself and your family.

All of that is, of course, part of the reason for the progressive income tax. And whatever the abstract philosophical merits of other approaches, in the real world abstraction doesn't always prove workable. (Paul Ryan and other extreme libertarians take note. And I say that as someone with mildly libertarian leanings myself.)

Based on how the Brits I do business with treat the company expense account, I get the sense that the three martini lunch or its UK equivalent is still an allowable expense.

Other things Europeans do: put limitations on abortion and require voter ID.

McKinney, I have no personal experience of the former anymore, but it is a frequent complaint among the professional classes/the city (i.e. bankers and other financial types) that lunch is no longer a real thing, and that everybody has to work all the time, including lunchtimes, and do business socialising in the evenings (when I am sure it can be expense-accounted). I'm sure there are exceptions, but that seems to have been the story for a few years now. Your people may be taking advantage when they can, for old times' sake.

As for the latter, no voter ID is required in the UK, although they are talking about trialling it since there have been some instances of voter fraud in certain cultural communities where the feeling is undue pressure can be put by e.g. husbands on wives, or elders on youngers/subordinates etc. There has been a lot of pushback on this proposal.

Also, there are no effective restrictions on abortion up to 24 weeks:

Abortion is legal in England up to 24 weeks under the Abortion Act 1967. However, if there is a substantial risk to the woman's life or foetal abnormalities, there is no time limit.

The old joke about the VAT is that it would never happen in the US as the Ds would hate because it's regressive and the Rs would hate it because it's a massive revenue generator. The newer version is that it might happen in the US when the Rs figure out it's regressive and the Ds figure out it's a massive revenue generator....

As for the current political situation, if the GOPers in the House can get over their recently acquired fetish for a destination based cash flow tax with a border adjustment (NTTAWWT), they and the Trump administration can move forward with a massive tax cut tongue bath for the 1% and large multinational corporations.

It should be quite something.

Your next four years:

  1. tax cuts
  2. deregulation
  3. tax cuts
  4. privatize public assets
  5. tax cuts
  6. cut social programs or devolve them to the states
  7. tax cuts
  8. oil gas and coal
  9. tax cuts

"Creating jobs" will consist of:

  1. Lean on auto and other traditional manufacturing to keep plants in / move plants to the US. A lot of that will probably be automated, though.
  2. Oil and gas jobs. You'll like living in a man camp, it's like boy scouts only with beer and porn.
  3. Possibly, building trades jobs on infrastructure builds that will be paid for with public money and then handed over to private actors

Plus maybe some wars. We might want a second bite at the "take the oil" apple, or we might piss China off enough for them to actually bring it, although on the whole they will probably prefer to just step in as the preferred new trade partner in the PacRim.

Also, the eastern EU states are basically screwed, probably NATO as well.

Sorry for the OT intrusion.

...the U.S. is a low taxed nation among developed economies, our supposed competitors.

That right there is probably the flawed assumption.

There's a large contingent (now in power!) which appears to have no genuine interest in a having or advancing a developed economy. Not if that gets in the way of astronomical income inequality, anyway.

After all, what fun is being rich if there aren't any peasants to abuse?

(And anyway, we have no "competitors", and never will, because we're the best and the richest and the fairest and the rightest and most powerful no matter what, see? So there's no need to check the signs or the map and figure out whether this is the road to despotism or kleptocracy or failed statehood, or all three...)

we're the best and the richest and the fairest and the rightest and most powerful no matter what, see?

"No matter what"? Or "at least when our guys are in office"? Because otherwise, how would we be having "American carnage"?

"Lean on auto and other traditional manufacturing to make loud announcements about keeping plants in / move plants to the US."

Which is ever so much easier if you use "alternative facts".

"Creating jobs" will consist of:

Lean on auto and other traditional manufacturing to keep plants in / move plants to the US. A lot of that will probably be automated, though.

I predict TONS of job growth. Possibly as much as hundreds of jobs a month.

Like the Carrier plant thing. That was YUUUGE.

Excerpts from a blurry cell phone shot of a sloppily misplaced administration memo:

TO: US Manufacturers employing 20 employees or more

Submit your prepared pre- and post- negotiation press releases to the address below for consideration. The President's staff will review them at our convenience and inform you of the correct release schedule, a well as the number of Trump Bucks (R) earned. Please peruse the attached Trump Nation (R) catalog at your leisure to view the exciting tax and regulatory considerations for which Trump Bucks (R) can be redeemed. Your contribution is appreciated!

Note: Be sure to queue your releases in the correct order! Announcing that the Master Negotiator has talked you out of moving a plant to Mexico, then announcing your reluctant plans to move to Mexico a week later will result in a hefty Trump Buck (R) deduction.

~~~~~~~

TO: White House Press Bozos
RE: Job creation packets

Listen up, rats. If you're thinking to yourself, hey, waitaminute, a few hundred jobs is a meaningless drop in the bucket in an economy which has a weekly turnover measuring in the hundreds of thousands... Well, shut up, smart guy. You are advised that any such inconvenient contextual observations will be considered at your weekly credential review process. If your editor or "personal journalistic ethics" insists on them, we suggest you bury them at the very bottom of your stories. The Secretary of Truth thanks you for your consideration.

"No matter what"? Or "at least when our guys are in office"? Because otherwise, how would we be having "American carnage"?

The liberals stabbed us in the back, but it was just a flesh wound. Of course we're the best. What are you, un-American?

The 'voter ID' used in most of Europe is the national identity card everyone is required to have and that is used for all kinds of identification purposes. At least until now it contains only the most basic information (photo, name, address, eye-colour, height, date of birth and nationality).
We do not see it as oppressive but as a very useful daily tool it would be difficult to be without.
In Germany voter registration is automatic. The fact that one is a citizen means, that one is on the voter list once reaching the proper age. The notification for our next federal elections (in September) was in the mail yesterday btw.

I much prefer European social democracy as I hear about it secondhand to what we have, but not on this subject of social pressure to abort Down children.

Not so much in the UK - certainly in my experience there is substantial agreement that it's the parents' choice, and neither option is to be stigmatised.

Regarding business expenses in the UK, the rules regarding individual expenses are now quite restrictive, and likely to get more so in the near future. Enforcement is of course another matter; no doubt there are both successful scofflaws and victims of bureaucratic overregulation.

Client entertainment expenses are allowable - but are not a deductible item for corporation tax purposes (I have little experience in this particular area, sadly).

The 'voter ID' used in most of Europe is the national identity card everyone is required to have and that is used for all kinds of identification purposes including identifying you as a thrall of the Beast of Revelation and enthusiastic follower of the Anti-Christ

sez various RWNJ Amerikans. Not sure why it would be a bad thing, given the alternative...

When the EU reached a membership of 12, it was seen as the prophesized empire of the Anti-Christ by some in Europe too. They fell (temporarily) silent when it went beyond that.
Over here it usually is the credit card not the ID card that is seen as the sign of the Beast. Plans by the big banks to persuade the government to get rid of cash altogether, leaving credit cards as the only means of payment (and also allowing negative interest on the then mandatory bank accounts of private citizens) are the new proof of the End Times being here already (strangely starting in Sweden).

Now noises are being made that perhaps "tax reform" doesn't need to be revenue neutral. I am utterly unsurprised.

Reagan proved that deficits don't matter.

It's our due.

I will abuse this thread to make another OT post. I appreciate your forbearance.

The NRA is now mounting a campaign to challenge MA AG Maura Healey's enforcement of the MA assault weapons ban. Whether you think the ban is good policy or not, it is the law in MA, because folks in MA want it to be the law in MA.

The (R)'s are advancing a bill in the House (HR-7) to prevent private insurers from offering abortion coverage on the ACA exchanges, to prevent individuals who receive any tax credit under the ACA from purchasing private insurance that covers abortion, and to exclude private businesses that offer private insurance plans that include coverage for abortion to their employees.

So yes, guns and abortion all in one comment. Couldn't find anything today about Hitler so no trifecta.

My point in bringing this up is this. The claim is often (read: always) made that liberals just want to impose their horrible elitist values on folks who don't want them.

Well, so do conservatives, in spades. Never, ever, ever try to tell me otherwise, because it's BS.

The (R)'s have the White House, both houses of Congress, and will likely soon have a majority on the SCOTUS.

Federalism, state's rights, devolution, and subsidiarity. Watch them fly out the window.

To all of which I will add:

Watch and see how quickly Kelo v New London becomes the Best Ruling Ever when somebody wants to run a pipeline or a fracking well on property owned or controlled by folks who don't want it.

Conservative principles, y'all.

Also, House Ways & Means Chairman Brady admitted yesterday that their destination based cash flow tax, or at least the "border adjustment" component of it, was "'economically equivalent and trade equivalent'" to a VAT, but it should not be labeled one" (from a Tax Notes article reporting his answer to a question after his speech at the US Chamber of Commerce yesterday).

So there you have it - the GOP in the House is proposing a VAT but they don't want you to call it a VAT because it might be unpopular.

The #1 selling book on Amazon right now is 1984. No word on what % of purchasers are buying it as an instruction manual....

Also, too, in Trump's America, the cabinet secretary with the nickname "Mad Dog" is one of the sane ones....

Because the last time around was not fun enough:

An executive order drafted by the Trump administration calls for a policy review that could authorize the CIA to reopen “black site” prisons overseas and potentially restart an interrogation program that was dismantled in 2009 after using methods widely condemned as torture.

The document, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, would revoke a 2009 decision by then-President Barack Obama to end the CIA program and would reinstate a 2007 order issued by President George W. Bush that allowed a modified version of the “rendition and interrogation” operation to continue.

Note that last - this is mainstream GOP policy.

This is awesome though.

Protesters have unfurled a giant orange-and-yellow banner that says “Resist,” hung from a 270-foot crane at a construction site just blocks from the White House.

I commute by there every morning and had to detour around it today because police had closed the street down.

LOL:

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The [torture Exec Order] copy obtained by The Post contains editing marks and significant errors, including a reference to “the atrocities of September 11, 2011” missing the actual date of the 2001 attacks by a decade.

He's been President 5 days.

I wonder who Germany might be thinking of...
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/article128611769.html

Hartmut ?

In another sign of the apocalypse, POPE TAKES OVER KNIGHTS OF MALTA AFTER CONDOM DISPUTE.

Sorry, just thought it might be good for a laugh. I know I could use one.

the GOP in the House is proposing a VAT but they don't want you to call it a VAT because it might be unpopular.

Well a tariff would be more popular than a VAT on imports, too. Besides, a VAT wouldn't be an excuse/motivation for a trade war....

But DOW 20,000 Y'ALL....

And what sounds like horrifically unsafe child labor, the VA GOP is all for it!

For those who, like me, aren't getting thru Russell's AP link:
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/pope-francis-knights-of-malta-grand-master-resigns-condom-scandal/

And you thought we had challenges in our relations with other sovereign states....

"Grand Master" is a good title.

Grand Masters are certainly what we need now. For some completely unknown reason , it reminded me of this, the secret Welsh art of Llap Goch, unseen for about four decades and yet never forgotten, particularly when it offers to teach you to:

RENDER YOUR ASSAILANT UNCONSCIOUS BEFORE he is EVEN aware of your very existence!

This seems to me to be a kind of self-defence we need right now.

Oh no! Either I didn't post properly, or my timely notifying you of the secret Welsh Art of Llap Goch, which enables you to:

RENDER YOUR ASSAILANT UNCONSCIOUS BEFORE he is EVEN aware of your very existence

has gone into moderation. Grand Masters of Llap Goch are exactly what we need right now...

My posts seem to be disappearing into moderation. Have I been banned?

wj: found them in Spam. Not sure why. They've been added back.

Thanks wj.

My question is, how do I and a bunch of my close friends get to be a sovereign entity like the Knights of Malta?

They run around in funny outfits and have their own representation at the UN.

Cool gig.

Coming next week, per Reuters:

  • Remove regulations preventing American corps from bribing foreign officials.
  • Remove environmental regulations on coal and methane extraction
  • Remove expanded background checks for gun purchases by disabled SS recipients

I'm unclear on what that last one was about. An attempt to curb suicides by disabled old people who have no money?

In any case, we're gonna burn a lot of dead dinosaur over the next four years.

I'm wondering when/if the folks in coal country will notice that Trump's executive order on a shale-oil pipeline in North Dakota means that alternative to coal power will become cheaper. In short, they've just been abandon. Again.

Jobs won't come back if their product isn't economically viable. Unless they get big subsidies -- and coal companies just don't have the lobbying clout of oil companies, so not too likely.

Have you all seen the news item about the reporters charged with felony rioting after being arrested while they were witnessing and reporting on the protests while the inauguration was taking place?

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/25/business/media/journalists-arrested-trump-inauguration.html

I know we are in great danger of getting blase (don't know how to do an acute accent), but surely among all the other sinister developments this is really, seriously sinister?

Did you catch that those arrests were made by the Washington DC Police Department. Which doesn't work for the Federal government; they work for the (Democrat led) city government.

The arrests themselves look, from the news story, problematic. But I think it's important not to reflexively blame the Trump administration for anything bad that happens. Some things (whether Mr Trump accepts it or not) actually are beyond its control.

Nigel, the thing is purely about Erdogan because he was the first to actually try to (ab)use the German justice system to silence his critics abroad. Prior targets of such insults were wise enough not to go through with it because they realized that the damage to their reputation would be lower simply shrugging it off while making a ruckus would make them look petty.
Iirc said law is from a time when crimen laese maiestatis was still on the books and our crowned heads wanted to protect their relatives.

I hadn't caught/known that, but it doesn't change what I was really getting at: various groups are going to be doing illiberal things because it is now more acceptable (after all, they weren't just arrested, they have actually been charged), and the cold winds that will consequently blow through (in this case) news organisations, may well result in a) the public getting blase, and b) news organisations becoming "better behaved" and self-censoring.

I'm wondering when/if the folks in coal country will notice...

Coal is not an industry with a strong future. Coal in the Appalachian area *in particular* is not an industry with a strong future, because it's easier (at least as of now) to get coal out of other places, notably in WY.

Trump appears to be focused on creating jobs in oil, gas, coal, manufacturing especially cars, and maybe building trades for infrastructure.

With the possible exception of building trades, these are not industries with decades of life left in them. At least for workers, if you're a robot you're all set.

Trump's foreign business partners at the inauguration.

In an interview earlier this month, Sajwani reportedly said he thought Trump's election would be good for his business. "Naturally, I think we will benefit from the strength of the brand going forward," he told CNBC.

I wonder if the US presidential seal will be included as part of the Trump branding package. If so, I hope the US Treasury gets the royalties.

Nigel, the thing is purely about Erdogan

I refuse to believe that - the timing is just too neat.
;-)

Also, too, torture works and we have to fight fire with fire.

This country is going to be a different place. Or, probably more accurately, we are going to double down on some the worst aspects of what we've been already.

I haven't heard a peep of concern or misgiving from any of the folks I know who supported Trump, so my guess is that the stuff he's doing now is exactly why they voted for him, and they're fine with it all. He's doing exactly what he said he would do.

Gonna be some work building that wall, at least. Maybe. We'll see.

I haven't heard a peep of concern or misgiving from any of the folks I know who supported Trump, so my guess is that the stuff he's doing now is exactly why they voted for him, and they're fine with it all.

I wouldn't be so sure. I think it's at least possible that this (at least much of it) is not at all why they voted for him. But they don't want to believe that they made a mistake. So it will take a while for the evidence to build up to a point where its undeniable. (Denial is going to be much in evidence this year, I suspect.)

when it hurts them, they'll notice. and their first instinct will be to blame (D)'s and liberals.

if they get to the place where they connect bad outcomes to Trump, and then take the next step and connect Trump to their vote, they'll say "we didn't think he was actually going to do that stuff!".

and then they'll blame the (D)'s and liberals for being unkind to them and making them vote for Trump.

1 in 1,000, at most, will think they are in any way responsible for any of it.

I don't talk this way anywhere but here or maybe with my wife, because I don't want to back any Trump supporters into a corner,

but basically I think it will play out as described above. we've seen this movie before, more than once.

I wouldn't be so sure. I think it's at least possible that this (at least much of it) is not at all why they voted for him.

The reason "all those people" voted for him is because he had an "R" after his name on the ballot...nothing more, nothing less.

What does that tell you?

on this board, before the election, I made the observation that between Clinton and Trump, Clinton was really the only reasonable choice.

Marty responded by calling me arrogant, and then saying that arrogance like that was why people were voting for Trump.

and Marty isn't even a Trump supporter.

so no, I'm not looking for too many epiphanies or bursts of self-awareness among Trump supporters. I do not expect anyone to wake up one day and say "holy crap, I made a mistake".

maybe ten years from now, somebody might say "maybe he did have some issues after all". like McK suddenly discovering in 2016 that W was in over his head.

McK and Marty are guys who will actually hang out on a blog with the dreaded liberal horde and have a chat. Thay are outliers. Moderates, relatively speaking. All the rank and file Trump supporters I know are all in.

They know he is a flaming impulsive @ss, and they either don't care, don't want to think about it, or they think it's actually a good thing.

he's a wrecking ball! like that's a recommendation.

Trump is a walking talking chaos machine. He stays up until all hours picking fights with random strangers on Twitter. He makes up palpable, demonstrable self-aggrandizing falsehoods and then has a shit-fit if everyone doesn't nod their heads and agree. He thinks he has special super-genius genes because his uncle taught at MIT.

He's a freaking head case. And he's the POTUS.

Do you think the (R)'s are going to restrain him? I see Lindsey Graham recommending that Trump knock off the "millions of fraudulent voters" thing, which is good. Other than that, I see nothing.

The POTUS is a freaking head case. And it's all my fault. Because I'm arrogant, and I made all of those Trump supporters vote for him.

We're heading into a deep, deep hole, and I don't think anyone knows just how deep it's gonna get before we see daylight again. It's day freaking 5 and black sites and torture are back on the menu. Day fucking 5.

Maybe at some point I'll be open to the idea that the country isn't profoundly broken, but today ain't the day.

We're all going to be at each other's throats before we're done with this mess. That's what I think.

Sorry for the rant. Hope everyone has a nice night.

The POTUS is a freaking head case...
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/25/us/politics/trump-bernhard-langer-voting-fraud.html?_r=0

They accidentally said on the radio this morning that President Obama signed an order to build a wall on the Mexican border. It jumped right out at me, because I already feel like Trump's been president for an entire year. However long this lasts, it's going to be the longest period of time of that length that there's ever been.

"However long this lasts, it's going to be the longest period of time of that length that there's ever been."

Don't give him any ideas! The GOP is all about messing with the clocks and calendars: leap seconds, DST (summer time) rules.

And it has always been thus: "the other privilege of regulating the year by the insertion of the intercalary month gave them great political power, which they were not backward to employ. Every thing connected with the matter of intercalation was left, says Censorinus (c. 20), to the unrestrained pleasure of the pontifices; and the majority of these, on personal grounds, added to or took from the year by capricious intercalations, so as to lengthen or shorten the period during which a magistrate remained in office,..."

Do you think the (R)'s are going to restrain him?

Not the Congress, for reasons including Trump will (mostly) sign up for their agenda, worry that he will pounce on them and send his shrieking hordes of followers down on their heads, and just general incompetence/a$$holery. And I thought the GOP was supposed to be the rah rah patriotic party and they are perfectly happy to have Trump shit on the country as long as they get a big tax cut and a SCOTUS justice, plus hating on liberals. The best.

Perhaps some of the more clear headed cabinet secretaries ("Mad Dog," Kelly, Tillerson, maybe even Mnuchin) will hold down the fort in their departments and head Trump off from some of the more horrible disasters he might otherwise jump into, but it will all be behind the scenes.

I had dinner with some Italian lawyers a few months back and they said that it was going to take a generation for Italy to recover from Berlusconi, seems we will likely face that with Trump, if not worse.

it was going to take a generation for Italy to recover from Berlusconi, seems we will likely face that with Trump, if not worse.

It will be worse:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/josh-rogin/wp/2017/01/26/the-state-departments-entire-senior-management-team-just-resi

GftNC - was just going to post that link! :-)

Here's another one:

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Thursday morning canceled his upcoming visit with President Trump amid outrage in Mexico about Trump’s plan to build a border wall and his threats to force Mexico to pay for it.

Not that that was surprising.

This cascade of horrible developments is unbelievable (given that it is less than a week since the inauguration), and yet all too believable, as russell has indicated in his uncharacteristically gloomy yet completely situation-appropriate posts.

I'm glad at least that Peña Nieto canceled before Trump could.

Of course Trump then said "we" agreed to cancel the meeting.

They are pursuing other opportunities.

Of course Trump then said "we" agreed to cancel the meeting.

You have to wonder if it ever occurs to Trump that, as a result of all the things that he has said that were obviously untrue, it's hard to believe anything he says. Even where, with another politician, we might be willing to give the benefit of the doubt.

With Trump, it's reached the point (already!) where the only reasonable default assumption is that anything he says is untrue. Until and unless there is solid proof otherwise. Sad.

How does Trump put this silly proposed tariff on imports from Mexico without abrogating WTO rules ?

What do WTO rules, or rules in general, have to do with impulsive flailing? The id floats in ether and does as it pleases.

Not only WTO rules, but NAFTA rules as well.

Of course, he doesn't like NAFTA. But there's a process that has to be followed if he wants to leave it. President's can't just wave their magic wand and say that a treaty which was ratified by Congress is gone.

If Mexico can't export its products, it'll export its labor, wall or no wall.

The argument is that Trump/Spicer are talking about the House Blueprint border-adjustment mechanism, which the House claims is consistent with WTO rules (don't know about NAFTA but probably the same) since what it really is is a VAT, and all the other nations have VATs and are consistent with WTO rules.

I think Trump the other day did something that would trigger "renegotiation" on NAFTA that is provided for in the treaty itself, much like Article 50 of the TEU.

But yes, that anything coming out of Trump and Spicer's mouths has to be, at a minimum, heavily discounted is problematic to say the least. They also seem to think their words are for domestic political audiences only.

Border-adjustment mechanisms are just another of those "cut your nose off to spite your face" policies.

Unless that VAT applies to imports of a particular class from all WTO countries, rather than just those of Mexico, then it would still represent a discriminatory tariff, I think.
Either way, the resultant risk of severely damaging the entire world trade system is significant.

Well, now we know why Trump thinks that voter fraud (at least of the "registered to vote in more than one place variety) is rampant. Close personal experience -- as in his daughter, son-in-law, and 3 top aides:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/01/26/it-turns-out-trump-son-in-law-jared-kushner-is-also-registered-to-vote-in-two-states/?utm_term=.e6c9e19fd465

It seems to be sort of a pattern. If Trump is accusing someone else of doing something, it's a good bet he (or someone very close to him) has been doing exactly that. Whether the person he accuses has done it is another story.

I had dinner with some Italian lawyers a few months back and they said that it was going to take a generation for Italy to recover from Berlusconi, seems we will likely face that with Trump, if not worse.

That's an interesting point that I had not thought of. My (totally uninformed and incredibly naive) impression was that Berlusconi was at least competent at business, at least within the confines of Italian society, and just got to a point where the power of being Prime Minister had him think he was totally above the law, which, coupled with problems with parliamentary government in general and Italian parliamentary government in particular, led to him being the way he was. A quick trip to wikipedia suggests that I was stupid for thinking that.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silvio_Berlusconi

Some stuff from there that seems very chilling (bold emphases mine)

...the Severino law prompts the Italian senate to vote if Berlusconi shall be forced to resign his current senate seat immediately, or alternatively allowing the court imposed ban on holding public office only to take effect by the end of his current legislative term. The pending senate vote, combined with anger over Berlusconi's conviction – a poll indicated 42% of the public believe he has been unfairly persecuted by the magistrates – present a serious political challenge for the fragile ruling coalition.[186] On 3 August, Berlusconi suggested that unless a "solution" to his predicament could be found, Italy was at "risk of a civil war".[187] The following day, thousands of supporters gathered in front of his house in protest of the ruling.

and

According to journalists Marco Travaglio and Enzo Biagi, Berlusconi entered politics to save his companies from bankruptcy and himself from convictions.[206] From the very beginning he said it clearly to his associates. Berlusconi's supporters hailed him as the "novus homo", an outsider who was going to bring a new efficiency to the public bureaucracy and reform the state from top to bottom.

Berlusconi was investigated for forty different inquests in less than two years.[207]

− Berlusconi's governments passed laws that shortened statutory terms for tax fraud. Romano Prodi, who defeated Berlusconi in 2006, claimed that these were ad personam laws, meant to solve Berlusconi's problems and defend his interests.

and

On some occasions, laws passed by the Berlusconi administration have effectively delayed ongoing trials on him. For example, the law reducing punishment for all cases of false accounting and the law on legitimate suspicion, which allowed defendants to request their cases to be moved to another court if they believe that the local judges are biased against them. Because of these legislative actions, political opponents accuse Berlusconi of passing these laws for the purpose of protecting himself from legal charges. La Repubblica, for example, sustained that Berlusconi passed 17 different laws which have advantaged himself.[236] Berlusconi and his allies, on the other hand, maintain that such laws are consistent with everyone's right to a rapid and just trial, and with the principle of "presumption of innocence" (garantismo); furthermore, they claim that Berlusconi is being subjected to a political "witch hunt", orchestrated by certain (allegedly left-wing) judges.

I'm surprised that I've not heard more people point out these parallels, they seem eerily parallel.

like McK suddenly discovering in 2016 that W was in over his head.

I began making this observation in the 2006-7 time frame and was on record prior to the conventions in 2008 saying a Dem would win due to GWB's incompetence. Not all that sudden.

Nigel - right. Neither Trump nor Spicer know what they're talking about on this. Ryan and Brady are better but because they know a VAT wouldn't fly they obfuscate and lie and change the subject and make outlandish claims.

Not all that sudden

that's cool, i stand corrected. sorry for the mischaracterization!

"I began making this observation in the 2006-7 time frame and was on record prior to the conventions in 2008 saying a Dem would win due to GWB's incompetence."

And yet there were those who could see GWB's incompetence by July 2001, and all the time between then and 2006-7 simply confirmed it, over and over.

So, of course, those objectively more-perceptive people had to be disrespected and called out for their "arrogance", rather than listened to. Premature anti-fascists, you know.

Time to arm the middle schoolers....

So full of shit....

I mean, I would almost welcome an honest CEO in this position who would just say "we charge this much because we're a monopoly and people would die without our product, so suck it, you're lucky we're not charging 10 times as much, how much are your children's lives worth to you anyway?"

Snarki: And yet there were those who could see GWB's incompetence by July 2001 ...

Then there were those like Paul Krugman, who was pointing out in early 2000 if not late 1999 that Dubya's economic proposals amounted to "promising the same $1 trillion to two different sets of people". To be fair, Krugman was not polite enough to interpret that objective fact as mere "incompetence" on Dubya's part.

I bring that up because Krugman has also been pointing out for years now that Paul Ryan is a transparent charlatan whose reputation as a "policy wonk" is a figment of the Broderist media's imagination. And I bring THAT up because I was watching a bit of MSNBC last night and caught the last segment of FOX-refugee Greta van Susteren's new show. It was a riff on "taxes are sooo complicated", accompanied by snippets of Paul Ryan lying about postcards again.

Do any of you here file your own tax returns? Or, if you farm the job out because you have better things to do, do you review and understand your tax returns? If so, can you please explain to me how YOU would "simplify" the tax code so that:
a) your tax return could fit on a "postcard", and
b) you'd pay about the same total tax bill as you do now?
If your answer is "reduce the top marginal rate paid by the rich and eliminate deductions taken by the not-rich", congratulations: you are as smart as Paul Ryan.

--TP

How come the groups of anti-abortion marchers I've passed today in DC are 100% white? Admittedly not a valid statistical sample, but still ~100 people.

Do any of you here file your own tax returns?

I always have, even back in the pencil-and-calculator days. The closest I ever came to farming them out was using TurboTax over maybe 4 or 5 years before free on-line filing became available.

The only way I could see making my taxes simpler without changing my taxes owed would be to eliminate any differentiation between different types of income, eliminate the various kinds of deductions one can now itemize, and make personal exemptions and/or standard deductions sufficiently generous to keep my taxes the same. But what would be sufficiently generous for me in my household situation would likely differ from what would work to keep other people's taxes more or less the same as they are under the current system.

That's not to say that a system that would leave me paying about the same in federal income taxes wouldn't leave a large percentage of people paying about the same or that overall federal revenue from income taxes wouldn't be at least as much as it is now. I'd guess it would help people with lower household incomes than mine (except possibly single people with no kids) and hurt people with higher household incomes than mine, but I'd say my tax return is fairly typical of a middle-class American family.

This would be limited to people who don't own their own businesses. I really couldn't say what to do about that, since I have no experience with it.

What simplifying my taxes wouldn't involve is flattening brackets and marginal rates (aside from treating returns on investments the same as wages). I can't stand it when people think simplifying the code has anything to do with marginal rates. That is not a significant contributor to complexity.

Do any of you here file your own tax returns?

I could do mine on a postcard. I have a job, they pay me, I get a form, I send it in.

My wife was self-employed, and/or a principal in a consultancy, and works out of a home office. She also has income from an annuity that was part of a divorce settlement, and has begun taking income from her own investments. Plus she receives SS, which we plow into the mortgage so we can pay if off before I retire.

Plus, we own a house.

It takes her 20-40 hours each year *to assemble the material* to send to the person who actually does our taxes. The package we send to the IRS typically weighs a pound or two.

I'd be fine with simplifying the tax code. I don't want Paul Ryan anywhere near the process.

I now realize I italicized "under the current system" for no apparent reason. I had intended to make the point that a simplified system that would leave a good percentage of typical filers taxes the same could be workable for everyone else. They would likely make different decisions under such a system, but it wouldn't be hardship.

How one would transition from the current system to a hypothetical simplified system would be a big question. But had the tax code never gotten as complex in the first place, I don't think anyone would be wishing it to be more complex - aside from whatever pet deduction/exemption/special treatment might appeal to them.

Of course, all those various pets ended up being adopted over time, which is how we got to where we are. And the people who make a lot of money spend a lot of time (or pay someone to spend a lot of time) figuring out how to game all those rules. Without them, there would be no gaming in the first place and less reason to miss the rules one hadn't already set out to game.

Does anyone know how the US tax code compares to those of other well-developed countries? (Which I'm now going to google, since I asked...)

Do any of you here file your own tax returns?

I did my own for decades -- like hsh, back to the days of pencil and (maybe) calculator. It wasn't a big deal.

Then I got to the point where I was consulting, and working for a start-up, with stock options and stuff. And it reached the point where it was easier to farm it out. Plus, my tax lady finds enough odd stuff in the tax law that I mostly make up what she charges -- sometimes I make a lot more back than that.

I'd say that, for a lot of people, things could be reduced to a postcard. Indeed, for a lot of people today, that single two-sided sheet is all they do need.

The ones who have pages and pages of stuff are those who have lots of different kinds of income (all taxed differently) and/or lots of special deductions. You could eliminate all the special income categories, at least for personal income, pretty easily. After all, income is income regardless of what you got it for. In fact, I'd be in favor of that -- even though I'm reaching the point where I get a fair amount of capital gains, so it would cost me personally.

As for the deductions, I have to wonder if special income tax deductions are really the best way for the government to encourage certain kinds of behavior. They may be the easiest to slide thru Congress, because they aren't "government interference" plus they cut taxes, at least for those getting them. But they mostly seem to be like trying to do fine wood carving with a not very sharp machete.

ALWAYS done my own. Paper, pencil, abacus, calculator.

My one concession to the modern era is that I fill in the PDF forms before printing them out and mailing them in. Hardcopy, baby.

But, as someone who has personally fought with the issue of foreign income and taxes, plus extra added fun of "there's a tax treaty, but we won't tell you what is in it", you're fooling yourself if you think that the overall paperwork can be reduced by a large factor.

That said, there's a huge gap in the overall professionalism and competence level of the IRS compared to state and local tax authorities. The local dudes never see enough oddball cases to bother to write clear instructions, I guess.

Always with the enemies lists/junior HS crap, always:

"Our goal with the admin is to show value at the UN and the way that we will do that is to show strength, show our voice, have the backs of our allies and make sure our allies have our back as well," Haley said. "For those who don't have our backs, we're taking names."

Something I came across with a headline that amused me: Even the IRS chief says tax code is too complex.

Yeah, even the IRS chief, because he should want an unnecessarily difficult and complex job (just so he can justify having lots of employees and making lots of money, because he must be a pig, like all government employees).

Or maybe someone thinks the IRS writes the tax laws, as opposed to enforcing them.

Simplification is everyone's second choice and so never gets done except in conjunction with overhaul of entire Code. IRS has at least some control over complexity of taxes through regulation writing process - true regs stem from the Code but IRS doesn't have to write regs for every code provision and not all regs have to be so lengthy and complex.

Except, taxpayers and IRS/government also want certainty so regs become more and more detailed over time as more situations are addressed so amount of tax due is apparent. Also, lots of regs are written in response to taxpayers pushing the envelope on tax avoidance/evasion.

Other complexities inherent in system that may not be amenable to fix - e.g., annual filing requirement, general approach to taxing gains/losses only upon realization (rather than, e.g., marking them to market, which has its own issues), taxing net income for businesses instead of, e.g., gross receipts, etc.

All that said, things sure could be simpler.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad