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Archive for May, 2010

Every so often, perhaps inadvertently, a collectivist says something very smart. In the case of Lula da Silva, Brazil’s socialist president, he made the common-sense observation that you can’t redistribute without first producing. He didn’t quite realize what he was saying, one imagines, since he presumably would have realized that capitalism is a superior system in both the short run and long run, but at least he recognized the role of wealth creation. Obama, by contrast, acts as if the blessings of a free market economy automatically exist and that people will continue to produce even if he persists with his statist plans to simultaneously subsidize sloth and penalize productive behavior. Here’s the excerpt with the Brazilian President’s amazing statement:

He described the situation when he was elected Brazilian president: “The country had no credit, had no working capital or financing or income distribution. What kind of capitalism was that? A capitalism without capital. I decided then that it was necessary to first build capitalism, then make socialism, we must have something to distribute before doing so.”
http://momento24.com/en/2010/05/09/lula-da-silva-before-being-a-socialist-you-have-to-be-a-capitalist/

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Richard Rahn’s Washington Times column makes several key points about corporate taxation, including the fact that excessive taxation of capital (the corporate income tax being just one example) is extremely foolish such taxes impose the most damage – per dollar collected – when compared with other forms of revenue. To add injury to injury, the U.S. corporate income tax is especially destructive in a competitive global economy.

The majority of taxaholics are particularly addicted to the most destructive taxes, being the taxes on capital. Up to a point, perfectly sound arguments can be made for taxing tobacco, alcohol, gasoline, etc. However, taxing capital at high rates or double or triple taxing is nothing more than self-destruction. Capital is what business people use to hire workers and purchase new plants and equipment. Taxes on corporations, capital gains, dividends and interest are primarily taxes on capital – and the heavier the tax, the fewer new jobs. In a new report published by the Cato Institute, international tax experts Duanjie Chen and Jack Mintz at the University of Calgary in Canada state that the U.S. “statutory corporate income tax rate is one of the highest in the world…which harms the economy and encourages companies to shift investment and profits abroad to lower-tax jurisdictions.” (See attached chart.)  The authors estimated effective tax rates for 80 countries. (Effective tax rates take into account statutory tax rates plus tax base items that affect taxes paid on new investment, such as depreciation allowances.) They found that the “U.S. effective corporate rate is 35.0 percent, which is much higher than the 80-nation average of just 18.2 percent.”
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/may/11/taxaholics/

For a more detailed explanation of why the corporate income tax should be reduced, see the very first video produced by the Center for Freedom and Prosperity. It was supposed to be a test for internal purposes, and the production values are not as advanced (hopefully) as more recent videos, but the message is worth sharing.

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We’ve looked at this issue before, but this new CNN article fleshes out the awful IRS rules in the new healthcare bill:

The massive expansion of requirements for businesses to file 1099 tax forms that was hidden in the 2,409-page health reform bill took many by surprise when it came to light last month. …The result: A blizzard of new tax forms that the Internal Revenue Service will begin rolling out next year. …Starting in 2011, financial firms that process credit or debit card payments will be required to send their clients, and the IRS, an annual form documenting the year’s transactions. …The 1099 changes attached to the health care reform bill are another kettle of fish. These massively expand the requirements for filing the “1099-Misc” form, which companies use for recording payments to freelance workers and other individual service providers. Until now, payments to corporations have been exempt from 1099 rules, as have payments for the purchase of goods. Starting in 2012, that changes. All business payments or purchases that exceed $600 in a calendar year will need to be accompanied by a 1099 filing. That means obtaining the taxpayer ID number of the individual or corporation you’re making the payment to — even if it’s a giant retailer like Staples or Best Buy — at the time of the transaction, or else facing IRS penalties. …SMC’s survey found that extending 1099s just to services purchased from corporations would push that number to at least 200 filings per year for a typical small business — adding an estimated $6,000 to the cost of preparing the average tax return. And that’s without even accounting for the requirement that 1099s be filed for purchases of goods, a provision that Henschke’s group didn’t see coming when it conducted its survey last year. “These folks are doing their paperwork in the evenings and on the weekends already,” he says. “This certainly adds to the burden substantially.”
http://money.cnn.com/2010/05/21/smallbusiness/1099_deluge/index.htm

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I´ve already posted a great video from the folks at the Institute for Justice about this issue, but this John Stossel column is another good reminder of the corrupt and evil impact of asset forfeiture laws. If bureaucrats have an incentive to take people´s property – even if they never get convicted of a crime, the results are bound to be horrendous. Repeal is the right answer, but at the very least the laws should be changed so cops and prosecutors can´t line their own pockets:

Zaher El-Ali has repaired and sold cars in Houston for 30 years. One day, he sold a truck to a man on credit. Ali was holding the title to the car until he was paid, but before he got his money the buyer was arrested for drunk driving. The cops then seized Ali’s truck and kept it, planning to sell it. …The police say they can keep it under forfeiture law because the person driving the car that day broke the law. It doesn’t matter that the driver wasn’t the owner. It’s as if the truck committed the crime. “I have never seen a truck drive,” Ali said. I don’t think it’s the fault of the truck. And they know better.” Something has gone wrong when the police can seize the property of innocent people. … This is serious, folks. The police can seize your property if they think  it was used in a crime. If you want it back, you must prove it was not  used criminally. The burden of proof is on you. This reverses a centuries-old safeguard in Anglo-American law against arbitrary government power. The feds do this, too. In 1986, the Justice Department made $94 million on forfeitures. Today, its forfeiture fund has more than a billion in it. …”When you give people the wrong incentives, people respond accordingly. And so it shouldn’t be surprising that they’re stretching the definition of law enforcement,” Balko said. “But the fundamental point is that you should not have people out there enforcing the laws benefiting directly from them.”
http://townhall.com/columnists/JohnStossel/2010/05/19/confiscating_your_property

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I have mixed feelings about the right response to illegal immigration. I don´t favor amnesty because of my respect for the rule of law and because it would encourage more illegal immigration. On the other hand, I certainly do not want law enforcement resources diverted to hassling people who are in America solely in search of a better life based on hard and honest work. Walter Williams has a good column on the issue which concludes with a call for more legal immigration:

I believe most people, even my open-borders libertarian friends, would not say that everyone on the planet had a right to live in the U.S. That being the case suggests there will be conditions that a person must meet to live in the U.S. …most Americans would recoil at the suggestion that somebody other than Americans should be allowed to set the conditions for people to live in the U.S. …Probably, the overwhelming majority of Mexican illegal immigrants are hardworking, honest and otherwise law-abiding members of the communities in which they reside. It would surely be a heart-wrenching scenario for such a person to be stopped for a driving infraction, have his illegal immigrant status discovered and face deportation proceedings. Regardless of the hardship suffered, being in the U.S. without authorization is a crime. …Various estimates put the illegal immigrant population in the U.S. between 10 and 20 million. One argument says we can’t round up and deport all those people. That argument differs little from one that says since we can’t catch every burglar, we should grant burglars amnesty. Catching and imprisoning some burglars sends a message to would-be burglars that there might be a price to pay. Similarly, imprisoning some illegal immigrants and then deporting them after their sentences were served would send a signal to others who are here illegally or who are contemplating illegal entry that there’s a price to pay. …Start strict enforcement of immigration law, as Arizona has begun. Strictly enforce border security. Most importantly, modernize and streamline our cumbersome immigration laws so that people can more easily migrate to our country.
http://townhall.com/columnists/WalterEWilliams/2010/05/19/immigration_and_liberty

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British healthcare is often criticized for long waiting lines and slovenly conditions, but that’s just part of the story. Here’s a frightening story about a women who actually got treated – and died as a result. To be fair, this presumably is a tragic exception and most people in the United Kingdom surely receive adequate care. That being said, how can medical professionals miss a six-inch handle stuck in someone’s butt?!? Here’s an excerpt from the Sun newspaper:

A young mum died after a series of blunders by doctors who failed to spot a six-inch long toilet brush handle embedded in her buttock, an inquest was told today. Cindy Corton, 35, was left with the bizarre injury after a drunken fall in a friend’s bathroom in 2005 but “serious errors” by doctors then led to her death. It was two years before Cindy, who was in constant pain, was able to convince doctors that the thin serrated plastic handle was stuck in the flesh of her bottom. By then what should have been a routine procedure to remove it had become much more dangerous because the handle had become embedded in her pelvis. After two unsuccessful operations in 2007 the mother-of-one was in such agony that she agreed to undergo further surgery in June last year despite being told it could prove fatal. Cindy of Sleaford, Lincs, spent more than ten hours in surgery at Nottingham’s Queens Medical Centre but died from massive blood loss. …Cindy’s husband, a construction manager, is now taking legal action against United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust. …He added: “Cindy got a very poor service from the NHS. I’m sure she would have got better treatment in foreign countries.”
http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/2978052/Toilet-brush-blunder-death.html

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TARP was awful and the GM-Chrysler bailout was terrible, but those wretched pieces of legislation would be surpassed by something even more reprehensible if politicians sign on to this terrible idea to bail out the bloated pension plans of state and local government bureaucrats. If this happens, I hope taxpayers respond with massive civil disobedience when it comes to paying taxes. Here is an excerpt from the Financial Times:

Illinois used to have a plan to pay off the gaping shortfall in the pension funds that pay retired teachers, university employees, state workers, judges and politicians, Dan Long recalls. Mr Long, director of the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, the non-partisan auditing arm of the Illinois state legislature, remembers that, back in 1994, the state laid out a proposal that would have paid off most of what was then a $17bn gap by 2011. …Illinois is the poster child of unfunded pensions in the US. But state retirement systems could become a national concern, new research shows. Joshua Rauh, associate professor of finance at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University said that, without reform, some state pensions might run out within the decade. …if these funds exhaust their assets, the size of payments for the benefits they have promised will be too large to cover through taxes, putting pressure on the federal government for a bail-out that could potentially cost more than $1,000bn, he says. “It is more than a local problem,” Mr Rauh said. “The federal government could be on the hook.” Estimates put the unfunded liabilities at between $1,000bn and $3,000bn after years of states promising benefits but not contributing enough in both good times and bad to cover them. …States have begun reforms, with some lowering return expectations and raising employee contributions and retirement ages. Mr Rauh said such measures were cosmetic and states needed comprehensive, federally sponsored reform that would require closing the systems to new members, shifting state workers to Social Security and individual plans similar to those that are used by the private sector in order to obtain incentives to borrow to bridge the gaps.
http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2010/05/mass_senate_pas.html

 

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