taxes

Tolkien’s Farmer Giles of Ham: Hero for Our Time?

Set outside of Tolkien’s well-traversed Middle-earth, “Farmer Giles of Ham” is easily missed by the casual fan of “hobbitses.” It’s a fairy tale from a fictional medieval land known as the Little Kingdom, but it offers fertile soil for thinking about many of the social issues we are facing in the contemporary American political scene. … Read more

Complexity Compounded

  In his State of the Union address last week, President Obama used billionaire investor Warren Buffett’s secretary, Debbie Bosanek, as a prop to illustrate the unfairness of our tax system. “Right now,” he said as Bosanek sat near first lady Michelle Obama, “Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary.” Commentators spent … Read more

A Brass Age?

  This may be the golden age of presumptuous ignorance. The most recent demonstrations of that are the Occupy Wall Street mobs. It is doubtful how many of these semi-literate sloganizers could tell the difference between a stock and a bond. Yet there they are, mouthing off about Wall Street on television, cheered on by … Read more

America the Gullible

  National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Deborah Hersman has called for states to mandate a total ban on cellphone usage while driving. She has also encouraged electronics manufacturers — via recommendations to the CTIA-The Wireless Association and the Consumer Electronics Association — to develop features that “disable the functions of portable electronic devices within reach … Read more

Random Thoughts

  Random thoughts on the passing scene: Talk show host Dennis Miller said, “I don’t dig polo. It’s like miniature golf meets the Kentucky Derby.” Nothing illustrates the superficiality of our times better than the enthusiasm for electric cars, because they are supposed to greatly reduce air pollution. But the electricity that ultimately powers these … Read more

UN Mischief from Durban to Rio

  The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa, opening on Nov. 28, called COP-17, is one of a series of U.N. meetings working toward a specific goal. Advertising for this meeting features a long list of invited celebrities including Angelina Jolie, U2’s Bono, Ted Turner, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Al Gore and Michael Bloomberg. … Read more

Entitlements, Not Tax Cuts, Widen the Wealth Gap

  What should be done about income inequality? That basic question underlies the arguments hashed out in the supercommittee and promises to be a central issue in the presidential campaign. Supercommittee Democrats argue that income inequality has been increasing and can be at least partially reversed by higher tax rates on high earners. They refused … Read more

Goodbye UNESCO

A trigger provision, buried in U.S. laws since 1990, quietly took effect at the end of October. The U.S. taxpayers’ annual donation of 22 percent to the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization’s budget was summarily terminated when UNESCO voted 107 to 14 (with 52 abstentions) to approve full membership for Palestine. The cutoff … Read more

Why Not Huntsman?

  He’s a responsible, well-spoken adult with a good record in office, a soothing style, bipartisan appeal and ample knowledge of the world beyond our shores. But Jon Huntsman, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, somehow imagines he can overcome those handicaps. He’s running at 2 percent in the polls, but working in his … Read more

Ignorance Exploited

Many Wall Street occupiers are echoing the Communist Party USA’s call to “Save the nation! Tax corporations! Tax the rich!” There are other Americans, on both the left and the right — for example, President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner — who call for reductions in corporate taxes. But the University of California, … Read more

Rick Perry’s Marriage Problems

  Does Rick Perry want to undermine traditional marriage? This question leaps out from his new 20 percent flat-tax plan, which would eliminate all tax advantages for married couples where one spouse is the primary breadwinner. For more than 60 years, the federal income tax has treated the family as an economic unit. A husband … Read more

Borrowing from Paul

Next month, the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, a 12-member subset of Congress that Congress created to make the hard fiscal choices Congress itself has failed to make, is expected to propose $1.2 trillion in cuts from projected spending during the next decade. This week, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, who is seeking the Republican … Read more

What ‘Developing’ Countries Can Teach the U.S.

As Barack Obama huffs and puffs about his tax plan, which is unlikely to pass in the Democratic-majority Senate much less the Republican-controlled House, Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank, has provided a much broader view of where the United States stands amid great changes in the world and some useful guidance on what … Read more

Solutions for the ‘Tax Gap’

In 2010, there was a “tax gap” — i.e., the difference between federal taxes owed and those actually paid — of $410-$500 billion. Some of the gap stems from the complexity of the tax code. Much of it, though, is deliberate­­: self-employed individuals working for cash, table-servers under-reporting tips, taxpayers claiming unauthorized credits and deductions. … Read more

Unknown Unknowns

When Donald Rumsfeld was Secretary of Defense, he coined some phrases about knowledge that apply far beyond military matters. Secretary Rumsfeld pointed out that there are some things that we know that we know. He called those “known knowns.” We may, for example, know how many aircraft carriers some other country has. We may also … Read more

Politics Versus Reality

It is hard to understand politics if you are hung up on reality. Politicians leave reality to others. What matters in politics is what you can get the voters to believe, whether it bears any resemblance to reality or not. Not only among politicians, but also among much of the media, and even among some … Read more

My Congressman’s Impossible Job

Being a congressman can be a great job. It can be attractive for someone who relishes the ersatz virtue of playing Santa Claus with other people’s money, who finds a year-round routine of fund-raising social events enjoyable, and who covets receiving one of the most generous pensions on the planet. It can also be a … Read more

Actually, We Have Too Much Health Insurance

  One of the arguments for healthcare reform is that millions of Americans with employer-provided healthcare are underinsured. Proponents of this view are saying that people are underinsured if they are paying too many of their healthcare costs out-of-pocket. Quite the contrary, a little reflection on what insurance is and is supposed to do suggests … Read more

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