“No Man’s life liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session”.

- attributed to NY State Judge Gideon Tucker

Friday, October 28, 2011

OWS's Embarrassing $500,000 Problem

I read with amusement that the OccupyWallStreet group has now received some $500K of cash donations, and must begin to, well, organize in order to use it.

A Wall Street Journal piece revealed that the group currently is operating under another non-profit's tax ID and umbrella, thus making that group, the name of which escapes me, technically capable of vetting all spending decisions.

The article explained that the OWS protesters don't want to divulge their names, which some would have been were they have filed as a legal non-profit with the IRS.

Truly, this is becoming more and more a Tom Wolfe story. The rich ironies of a bunch of kids from well-off families pretending to behave like the homeless, eschewing all forms of conventional power and authority, find themselves with half a million dollars and no way to spend it without adopting- horrors!- conventional power structures such as governing committees, officers, and such.

How long before we learn of some financial malfeasance? Some embezzlement, drug dealing or other embarrassing use of the money by one of the more-equal-than-others OWS member?

As it is, local homeless people are showing up at OWS to feed themselves from the apparently bounteous spreads. Other stories report theft of computers and problems maintaining security from night time burglary.

The decision-making process is allegedly a daily all-members meeting which grinds slowly and exhibits the incredible inefficiency and cumbersomeness of non-representative attempts at democracy.

With cold weather nearly here, disease and infections beginning to appear among OWSers, how long before New York City shows some spine and finally clears out the squatters? Perhaps quite soon. After all, Oakland showed itself capable of that earlier this week. And then the protesters revealed their true, latent violent tendencies.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Rick Perry's Tax Plan & Tax Reform Scoring

GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry unveiled his tax reform plan earlier this week to mixed reviews.

Conservatives and Republicans appreciate that, regardless of how Perry's plan differs from Herman Cain's, two candidates are now "all in" on promising to send rather substantial tax code reform plans to Congress, should they defeat Wonderboy next November.

Perry's plan, unsurprisingly, is far more timid than Cain's. First, Perry would allow filers to choose which of two approaches- his new postcard-style tax form, or the current 1040, to use. This will not reduce IRS staff and taxpayer effort but, rather, increase it. Much like filing joint or separate, giving taxpayers a choice typically means they must calculate their tax liabilities under both methods. I don't know whether Perry's plan allows the choice each year, or whether, once in the new system, they can't return- pun intended- to the old approach.

Beyond that, the plan lowers tax rates, removes some preference items, but leaves others intact.

It's more complicated than Cain's plan, but at least it's a nod in the direction of doing something more than tinker with only rates.

Of course pundits immediately jumped all over Perry for the 'cost' of the plan. That is, observers are quick to cite one or another of several little-known, presumably-independent think tanks which have ostensibly estimated how much tax revenue the proposal will generate, versus existing revenue collections.

There's a problem with that, however. And a recent Wall Street Journal editorial by Martin Feldstein highlighted it. Depending upon the baseline data used, and assumptions generated from them, new tax rate plans have significantly different impacts on revenue collection.

Feldstein noted how his own analysis of post-1986 tax reform returns demonstrated real behavior change by taxpayers. And, thus how vital it is that dynamic scoring be used for analyzing new tax reform plans. Such scoring, of course, is subject to assumptions regarding how taxpayer behavior will change in response to rate and other changes, i.e., the coefficients which govern how much more money may be earned, and taxed, when rates decline, and vice-versa.

Do any of my readers know which think tanks scored Cain's or Perry's plan? I don't as I sit writing this post. Even if I did, I can't say I'm familiar with the specific methods any of them employ. Do they use dynamic scoring?

Since the CBO, unbelievably, still won't use dynamic scoring, it's unlikely any of the think tanks do, either.

Which is why I basically ignore their claims, and the claims of the candidates based upon the think tank evaluations. Unless, of course, the candidate or the think tank come forward with specific details on the scoring of the tax reform plan.

But here's another angle on these GOP tax reform plans.

Why don't the candidates emphasize that their reforms are what they would propose, but they understand that Congress must actually pass the final legislation. Therefore, they expect Congress to change their plan, and, thus, the scoring will change, too. So there's really little point in getting all excited about the revenue-neutrality scoring of any reform plan that is destined to be changed anyway.

For example, Cain's 9-9-9 plan would almost certainly have an income-level exemption for its sales tax. Who knows what would be done to Perry's more complicated plan?

So why don't these candidates wise up and just acknowledge that their proposals indicate their intentions, but they don't honestly expect the plans to pass Congress unchanged.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

That's Incredible! Harry Reid's Attempt To Defend Wonderboy's Jobs Act

"It's very clear that private-sector jobs have been doing just fine; it's the public-sector jobs where we've lost huge numbers, and that's what this legislation is all about."

Just incredible.That's Harry Reid's defense of Wonderboy's public sector union-hiring proposals, according to a recent Wall Street Journal staff editorial.

The piece noted that 111.8MM Americans were employed in the private sector at the end of 2008. As of last month, the number was 109.3MM, a loss of roughly 2.5MM private-sector jobs, and a 2% decline. At the federal level, government employed 1.9MM FTE in late 2008, which increased to 2.1MM at the end of last year, for a 11% gain.

State and local government employment numbers in the editorial don't go back to 2008. Instead, the Journal reports that local governments cut just 210,000 by last month out of 14.28MM a year earlier. For state governments, the numbers were 49,000 and 5.14MM. That's only a quarter of a million state and local government employees cut out of some 19MM, or just a 1.3% decline. Even so, these numbers are polluted by the first stimulus having paid for some of those workers in prior years. That also would make comparisons from the end of 2008 problematic.

What's clear, however, is that the private sector has taken the most pain in terms of job losses.

You would like to think the Senate Majority Leader would at least be able to understand that fact.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

On Challenging RomneyCare

Last Thursday, the Wall Street Journal's lead staff editorial discussed the need for Mitt Romney to reconcile various statements and actions of his regarding Massachusetts' RomneyCare, ObamaCare, and what he would do if elected president.

Specifically, the editorial observed,

"Mr. Romney has every right to cling to theories that were flawed in conception and have proven false in practice, though the rest of the GOP field has the responsibility to challenge his canned answers. The mental contortions that his health-care record requires need to be dissected- the way Mr. Obama will do if Mr. Romney is the nominee- to give GOP voters a chance to weigh the political liabilities that his candidacy might pose in 2012.

Or, if he is the nominee and if he is elected, to drive him to reject the Romney-Care model in favor of patient-centered, market-driven health-care reform. Mr. Romney laid out such a plan in Ann Arbor in May, even as he now evinces an unaffordable faith that government must pay to reduce the uninsured rate."

A few lines on, the piece waggishly notes that Romney supports a market-based health-care system "everywhere except Massachusetts."

All joking or sarcasm aside, I'm pleased that a major media outlet has finally, explicitly noted Romney's tortured, conflicted positions on this topic over the past decade and calls for him to make a clarifying explanation of his current beliefs. As well as the reasons why he's changed his mind, if so, or, if not, why not.

But I disagree with the Journal editorial staff that other GOP candidates should be challenging "his canned answers."

Isn't that what the media are for? To hold candidates accountable for their positions- past or, if now different, present?

I'd prefer other GOP candidates to stick to their own campaigns and positions. If they want to highlight their differences with Romney's ideas- if they can figure out what those are- and why theirs are better, fine.

But it seems a breach of Reagan's 11th Commandment for other candidates to just open fire on Mitt. This is precisely the sort of thing about which Brett Baier should be grilling Mitt in his "Center Seat" segment.

If the major media, either in interviews, so-called debates or other formats, can't do this, for what are they any good in this campaign season?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Peggy Noonan Commenting On GOP Presidential Events

I was a bit horrified to read Peggy Noonan's weekend Wall Street Journal piece extolling the combative faux-debates in which GOP presidential candidates have been attacking each other.

Noonan seems oblivious to the damage these sessions do to all the candidates, and the ammunition they provide to Wonderboy's campaign staffers.

As I noted in my prior post, the RNC should have gotten out in front of this disturbing and destructive trend back in the spring of this year. As so-called debates, which really are not any such thing, have become the new political reality television entertainment, and only the GOP is playing, the potential for lasting damage to the party's eventual nominee is huge.

Let's be clear- what's really important is for the GOP nominee to win independent and, in the case of Herman Cain, black votes. To dwell on the attacks of 8 or 9 candidates, representing less than 10 votes, on each other, is to miss the point. The RNC should be soliciting networks to provide formats in which independent and registered Republicans can directly question the candidates. Those millions of votes are what count- not the opinions of other candidates.

Focusing on having candidates tear each other apart is a thinly-veiled insult to voters' intelligence, because it suggests that those voters don't know what is important to themselves, nor how to examine each candidate's positions.

I don't know what Noonan was thinking when she wrote that post. Her old boss, Ronald Reagan, would, it seems, have not approved.