Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Quick Hits - April 11, 2012

It is this simple.  With the suspension of Rick Santorum's GOP Presidential campaign, Mitt Romney is going to be the GOP Presidential nominee - and we know this a few weeks earlier than we would have if Mr. Santorum remained in the contest.  Neither of the other two candidates, Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul, have the support or delegates needed to obtain the nomination.

This is the time for not only Republicans to unify behind Mitt Romney, but for all American's to look at this simple choice as to who is to lead the country for the next four years.  As you consider this point, ask yourself - Are you better off today than you were 4 years ago?

Are you concerned about the still anemic economic growth of less than 1.7% in 2011?

Are you concerned about the nearly 104% increase in the price of gasoline since 2009?

Are you concerned about a realistic unemployment rate of 10.6% now - or a rate over 16% if we include those who are underemployed?

Are you concerned with the Obama Administration pushing programs which fundamentally change the relationship between the citizens of the United States and the US government?

Are you concerned with an Administration that, by the end of the President's term in January 2013, will have increased the national debt in 4 years by over $6 trillion dollars - and running 5 consecutive years (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 (under the Obama budget)) of annual deficits larger than ONE TRILLION dollars?

Are you concerned about the disastrous effects of the US foreign policy under Barack Obama - whose only international 'win' was authorizing the mission that killed Osama Bin Laden - and otherwise has alienated our allies?

President Obama took about 30 minutes out of his very busy schedule yesterday attending three $10,000 a plate fundraisers in Florida to make a highly partisan speech promoting class warfare and wealth redistribution in what is likely to be a key campaign meme.  The President is undertaking this approach in an effort to deflect from his dismal record and define the 'message' for November 2012 as one being about 'fairness'.

During the campaign stop in Boca Raton, Florida, President Obama pressed yet again for the passage of the 'Buffet Rule' - the Administration program to increase taxes on the wealthy in order to get them to 'pay their fair share' of tax dollars.  The rule is based on the case of billionaire Warren Buffet - who notes that he pays less in tax in a percentage than his secretary.  Left unsaid is that Buffet's income is exclusively from capital gains and dividends while his 1% earning secretary pays at the higher ordinary income rate.

This is a farcical argument that has nothing to do about 'fairness'.  Its designed to deflect from his record, mask his class warfare and wealth redistribution goals in platitudes, and avoid reality.

You see, we already have a 'Buffet Rule' tax within the US tax code to ensure that millionaires 'pay their fair share'.  It's called the Alternative Minimum Tax and it was established in 1969.  The top AMT tax rate is 28% - but the AMT has some major flaws in it that require reworking.  It was never indexed for inflation - so now middle class earners are being tripped up by the AMT. 

But what the President is advocating in the 'Buffet Rule' is really a proposal to increase the capital gains and dividend tax from today's 15% to 30% all in the name of 'fairness'.  It's not going to stabilize the deficit or reduce our barely address 0.5% of this year's $1.2 trillion deficit.

What happens when we tax something - like in this case where Obama proposes to double the tax on our capital investments and dividends?  You get less of it.  Will less capital investment strengthen or weaken the national economy?

The President's entire argument around 'fairness' is entirely centered on wealth redistribution - taking from the 'wealthy' (including the middle class) by the government - and then using the government to provide those funds to those individuals, groups, initiatives, and agenda's that the government determines is in its best interests.

It is not 'fair'. 

Is it fair that the Top 1% of all taxpayers (using 2009 data), pay 36.7% of all federal income taxes collected by the government?  That's an effective rate of 24.01%, by the way.

Is it fair that the Top 5% of all taxpayers pay 58.7% of all taxes - and have an average tax rate of 20.46%?

Is it fair that the bottom 50% of all taxpayers pay only 2.3% of all taxes - and have an average tax rate of 1.85%?

The data is here -

Summary of Federal Income Tax Data, 2009

Number of Returns with Positive AGI
AGI ($ millions)
Income Taxes Paid ($ millions)
Group's Share of Total AGI
Group's Share of Income Taxes
Income Split Point
Average Tax Rate
All Taxpayers
Top 1%
Top 5%
Top 25%
$ 66,193.00
Top 50%
> $32,396
Bottom 50%
< $32,396
We have a progressive tax rate by design - it is designed to have the wealthiest pay the most already in order to fund the operation of the Federal Government.  It is not fair - 5% of American taxpayers are responsible for nearly 60% of all income tax collected by the US.

Even the Democrat Senator from Delaware, Chris Coons, has acknowledged the Republican criticisms of the 'Buffet Rule' - noting that the tax increase 'isn't going to balance the budget' and that the real importance of the proposal is a matter of 'values' and 'fairness'.

Many conservatives think that increasing taxes is not the right direction to take.  We prefer to go through the basis of broadening the number of those who pay while lowering the tax rate is the best way to maximize revenues to the government while also limiting the size and purview of that government.  We prefer to keep money in the hands of people and businesses to invest as they see fit for growth - to leverage the free markets.  But President Obama has a problem with free market principles...
"If we would just convert these investments that we're making through out government in education, research and healthcare. If we just turn those into tax cuts, especially for the wealthy, then somehow the economy is going to grow stronger. That's the theory," President Obama said about the right at a campaign event on the tax code in Boca Raton, Florida today.

"Here is the news. We tried this for eight years before I took office. We tried it. It is not like we did not try it. At the beginning of the last decade, the wealthiest Americans got two huge tax cuts, in 2001 and 2003. Meanwhile, insurance companies, financial institutions, there were all allowed to write their own rules, find their way around the rules. We were told the same thing we're being told now -- this is going to lead to faster job growth, it's going to lead to greater prosperity for everybody. Guess what? It didn't," he said an audience at Florida Atlantic University.

With no record of achievement to run on, the President has but one real course - to run on the basis of his hard left progressive agenda using platitudes like 'fairness' and 'tax cuts for the wealthy' while demonizing his opposition.

President Obama has had 39 months in office to do it his way. For most of his first 2 years in office, he had a filibuster proof Senate majority - and for the entire 2 years in office, held a huge majority in Congress to help implement his agenda to counter 'supply side' economics. What has he achieved? The worst economic recovery since the Second World War. Record setting budget deficits and growth in the national debt. Scandals like Solyndra. Record setting unemployment levels for this stage of an recovery (masked only by lying about labor participation rates). Record setting gasoline prices - and an energy policy that drives our electricity costs up in order to define our behavior.  This is hardly a record to encourage anyone who is not a progressive ideologue to choose President Obama.

If you looked closely at the Washington Post / ABC News poll that the WaPo hyped yesterday showing that President Obama is leading Mitt Romney in many categories that we talked about yesterday, the other information beyond the irresponsible skewing of the poll (by a +11 oversampling of Democrats / -12 undersampling of Republicans) was that there were a number of questions that the paper was holding from the poll for 'future release'.  We are now seeing more breathless hyperbole from the WaPo on these other questions.

In today's paper, we are greeted with the headline 'More Americans expect Supreme Court's health-care decision to be political' - as an opening salvo for an Obama campaign meme to run against the SCOTUS. 

In the article, they note that half of those polled (remember - heavy overskew of Democrats) expect the justices to rule mainly based on their 'partisan political views' while only 40% expect decisions to be rooted on the basis of law.  But buried within this is the real meme - only 25% of those polled, which skewed heavily Democratic, believe the law should be fully upheld.  38% say the entire law is unconstitutional, and 29% say that while the individual mandate is unconstitutional, the rest of the law should be allowed to stand.  Even with the heavy skew to Democrats, over two thirds of those polled find the individual mandate unconstitutional.

What's also interesting, and it may be just from the way I am reading the article, but it appears one of the meme's of the 'journalists' is to promote the thought that it's the conservative justices of the SCOTUS that will put politics before the law.  But only liberal Democrats polled overwhelmingly believe this - is that a reflection against the conservative justices or an acknowledgement of the actions by the liberal justices during the oral arguments to promote the law that they see their side as the one promoting politics before the law?

House Republicans are asking the IRS to explain how it's using the $500 million transferred from HHS to facilitate the IRS's implementation of Obamacare's enforcement activities.
“The American people deserve to know how and why this one-half billion in taxpayer dollars are being spent, and how many additional IRS agents, auditors and other workers are being hired to enforce all the hundreds of billions of dollars in new taxes and penalties in the Democrats’ health care law,” Camp and Boustany said.

In a letter to IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, the lawmakers asked for a breakdown of how much money the IRS expects to spend over the next decade, how many employees are working on healthcare implementation and which provisions those employees are working on.

There is breaking news on several fronts with the George Zimmerman / Trayvon Martin tragedy.

The Special Prosecutor announced yesterday that she would not be seating a Grand Jury regarding her investigation into the shooting death of Trayvon Martin - indicating that she had sufficient evidence to decide herself if George Zimmerman would be charged for shooting Martin.

The Washington Post is now announcing that the Prosecutor has decided to charge George Zimmerman for the death of Trayvon Martin - but there are no reports on the specific charges that will be filed.   There are reports that the Prosecutor will be holding a 6PM EDT news conference to announce the specifics....including what if any charge Zimmerman will face for his role in the death of Trayvon Martin - which then passes judgment onto the shoulders of a trial jury to determine what really happened and if Florida's 'Stand Your Ground' law is applicable.

The other major news is that George Zimmerman's legal team has announced that they are stepping down representing him after losing track of him...
George Zimmerman, the Sanford, Fla., man at the center of the Trayvon Martin shooting death, has gone off the grid. Disappeared. And his attorneys are now no longer his attorneys.

“George can’t go down to the 7-Eleven to buy a Coke,” says former attorney Hal Uhrig. “There’s a bounty on his head. Whether it’s believed to be a bounty or not, it’s out there. He probably watches more of this than he should. He’s largely alone -- whether that means he’s absolutely alone or not, he’s at least emotionally alone. And you might even say “emotionally crippled” by virtue of the pressure of this case.”

Ethically, Uhrig and Craig Sonner say they cannot legally represent a client whom they have no contact with. They say Zimmerman stopped calling them or answering their calls on Sunday. But in perhaps the most bizarre of all of these extraordinary developments in this high-profile case that has consumed the nation for a month, Zimmerman apparently made one key phone call Tuesday, to Jacksonville, to speak directly with Special Prosecutor Angela Corey, who right now is deciding whether to criminally charge Zimmerman in the shooting death of the unarmed, 17-year-old Martin.

The Justice Department filed yesterday an antitrust lawsuit against Apple and 5 major Publishers charging the companies colluded to raise the prices of eBooks...
The lawsuit capped a months-long investigation by the department into Apple and five of the biggest publishers in the book business that began last year. The investigation was in response to what government investigators saw as illegal action two years ago when the publishers adopted a pricing policy for e-books.

That policy, known as the agency model, allowed publishers to set their own prices on e-books, with the retailer taking a commission. It was a significant switch from the wholesale model that publishers had been using for print books, in which publishers charged retailers about half the cover price for a book and then allowed retailers to set their own sale price.

Many publishing executives have worried that without the agency model Amazon would gain a monopoly over e-books, since under the wholesale model, the company could sell e-books for less than they paid publishers for them — a practice that smaller companies were not able to imitate.

The Syrian government, after ignoring yesterday's cease fire deadline that they had previously agreed to, is promising to halt their military operations and bombardments of Syrian cities and towns by 6am April 12. However, they also indicated that they reserve the right to 'intercept any news terrorists attempts' and recommence military operations.

Meanwhile, Jordan is reporting that they are hosting over 95,000 refugees from the government violence in Syria.

The Eurozone crisis was not solved with Greece - and has reignited with a vengeance after Spain's mounting economic challenges push their 10 year bond yields to the 6% danger line....
A disastrous debt auction last week was taken as a sign that Spanish banks have exhausted their LTRO money and can no longer prop up the Spanish state through this back-door funding, leaving the country nakedly exposed. Other buyers are scarce after the EU imposed a 75pc haircut on investors in Greece.

Finance minister Luis de Guindos confirmed that Spain has tipped back into recession, with a 0.3pc contraction in the first quarter. He expects the economy to shrink by 1.7pc this year, though Citgroup said it could be much worse. Unemployment is already 23.6pc.

Spain's debt crisis is far worse than Greece's because it has a larger economy that is suffering from decades of excessive entitlements and poor policies promoting economic growth. And it is not the only country facing these challenges...

Reelect President Obama - and we will be at this point before the end of the 2nd term.

This Day in History

1814 - Napoleon Bonaparte abdicates his throne as Emperor and is banished to the Mediterranean island of Elba.  He will escape this exile in March 1815, reclaim his title, and ruled for an additional 100 days before being defeated at the Battle of Waterloo.

1945 - The US Third Army liberates the Buchenwald concentration camp near Weimar, Germany.  The camp would be seen as the 2nd most brutal and horrific next to Auschwitz.

1951 - President Harry Truman relieves General Douglas MacArthur as the Commander of US Forces in Korea - replacing him with General Matthew Ridgeway.  MacArthur advocated the expansion of the war in Korea - while Truman insisted that this was a 'limited war'. 

1970 - Apollo 13 is launched from Cape Canaveral - the third lunar landing mission undertaken by NASA.

1979 - Ugandan dictator Idi Amin is overthrown.  During his brutal regime, some 300,000 Ugandans were murdered.

2001 - The People's Republic of China agrees to release 24 US crewmembers of a US Navy surveillance aircraft that had been held since April 1st after performing an emergency landing on Hainon after being rammed by a Chinese fighter jet over international waters.

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