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Debt Ceiling Conditions

The president says that we should just extend the debt limit, or cede the authority to him to expand it as he wishes. I’m sure he probably doesn’t think we even need such a discipline at all. He says he will not negotiate on this issue. He says that Congress has already approved all the spending that led to these deficits.

Like on most things, the president is completely wrong.

If credit cards had no limit on them, a whole lot of people would spend without end. The debt limit is like that. It is a discipline that reminds us – “Oh yeah…we’ve just borrowed $16.4 TRILLION. That’s kind of a lot. Maybe we shouldn’t spend so much.” We’ve borrowed 35% ($5.805 trillion) of that since Obama took office. Maybe we ought to think about it before we try to borrow $7 trillion more, which is an approximation of how much more this president wants to borrow in his second term. And, as I understand him, the president won’t negotiate on this. In fact, he has yet to negotiate on anything. No change here. And, as far as Congress already approving the spending….that’s not correct either, Mr. President. Sixty percent of all… Read More

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Why I Voted Against the Fiscal Cliff “Deal”

You may be wondering why you did not hear from me during the last few weeks of the “fiscal cliff” machinations in Washington. For one thing, I figured that many of you were enjoying the holidays with your families and friends and did not want me to interrupt that with depressing news. Additionally, however, things were moving so fast that anything I wrote you would have been obsolete by the time you read it. I had about a dozen “laptops” in my head each day, but, by the time I sat down to write them, the circumstances had already changed.

Well, unless you were abducted by aliens or have just gotten back from your Mayan end-of-the-world worship ceremony in South America, you know about the deal that was passed by the Senate and the House on New Year’s Day. To say I didn’t like the “deal” would be to understate the case. I hated it.

I don’t want to raise taxes. That feeling is not driven by a pledge, as many liberals would like to argue in order to portray we conservatives as the mindless lemmings that some of said liberals are. I think that having the federal government take roughly 20% of all the production of the… Read More

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Update from the “Cliff”

Given Thursday evening’s events in the House, it looks more and more like we may be going over the “fiscal cliff”. Therefore, I wanted to give you an update on what that could potentially mean for you. I also wanted to clarify the total impact of the income tax rate changes that we will face should we go over. These figures, which appeared in my previous “Laptop Report”, have been updated.

The total impact of all the income tax rate changes is estimated to raise revenue of roughly $4.5 trillion over 10 years. The total effect of all of this would be to reduce the deficit by approximately $7.7 trillion over the next ten years according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). That means CBO projects an “average” annual deficit of roughly $230 billion if we are over the “cliff” vs. a deficit of about $1 trillion a year if everything is extended.

Again, these projections are based on “static modeling”. That means they do not take into account the economic impacts and the behavioral changes that will occur as a result of what I’ve outlined above. When these tax hikes take place, people will most certainly take actions to… Read More

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Just the Facts, Ma’am: Fiscal Cliff Edition

Just the Facts, Ma’am – Fiscal Cliff Edition: This was the famous, at least to those of us who were alive then, admonition offered by the fictional LA detective, Sergeant Joe Friday, to witnesses who would engage in too much speculation about a crime. Well, I generally give you a lot of my opinion. Every once in a while, though, I give you just the unvarnished facts so that you can draw your own conclusions.

You have probably heard the term “Fiscal Cliff” enough times to make you sick. But, do you really know everything it entails? Below, you will find a comprehensive list of every law that will expire at the end of this year, as well as the result of our returning to whatever the law was before. The accumulation of all of these things has been dubbed collectively by the media as the “Fiscal Cliff”:

• Unemployment compensation will revert from a 73 week maximum to a 26 week maximum. This takes it back to the duration that existed in 2008 and prior. This will reduce spending by approximately $30 billion over 10 years.

• For the past 2 years, there has been a “payroll tax holiday”. For this… Read More

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The President’s “Offer”

The President’s “”Offer””: That is not a typo. I intended to have two sets of quotation marks around the word “offer”. That’s because it is unspeakably absurd to call what the president proposed on the fiscal cliff an offer. It was more like a liberal wish list. There was literally nothing in this proposal for Republicans to like and a liberal (pun intended) sprinkling of elements that most Republicans absolutely hate. For example, the proposal (I will no longer flatter this monstrosity with the label “offer”) raises taxes on families making over $250,000 ($200k for individuals) by more than would result from going over the “fiscal cliff”. On top of that, Obama threw in some stimulus spending, an extension of the 99 weeks of unemployment benefits, and an extension of the payroll tax “holiday” – which means more and more Social Security benefits are borrowed. This package actually both increases taxes and increases the deficit because there is so much additional spending. As a false gesture towards something reasonable, the president says they will make some… Read More

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Taxes and Culture

Taxes and Culture: Being a CPA and all, I often opine in these pages about things fiscal, financial and economic. Today, in the mainstream, establishment press, all you hear about is the “fiscal cliff” and taxes and such. I care a great deal about taxes and the deficit, as you regular readers well know. And, you will hear much from me about these issues in the coming months. But, the underlying issue before us right now with the so-called “fiscal cliff” is, in my opinion, not actually fiscal or financial. It is cultural.

As you may not be aware, I have always believed that the culture of an organization is the biggest single attribute that will determine the success or failure of said organization. In my 25 year business career, I was obsessed with the culture of our company and with that of companies we might acquire or with which we might do business. A business with a strong culture of customer service will empower people with service skills and will change or weed out those people who don’t care how they treat others. If a company has a culture of dishonesty, even an honest person will cheat now and then because… Read More

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Compromise

Compromise: First of all, thank you to all those who live in the new 45th Congressional District in California for your strong support of my reelection. It looks like I will have won by a margin of 18 points in spite of a new district (50% of which I have never represented), a poor year for Republicans and another opponent who spent many times more money than I did and spent it largely on negative advertising. I appreciate your confidence in me. I will not let you down.

But, I must confess, it didn’t feel much like a winning night. Frankly, I haven’t been this saddened in a very long time. Yes, I won convincingly, but politics is a team sport. I need friends and allies to get stuff done, and a lot of them lost.

I will let others do the political analysis of why the election turned out as it did. But, I will tell you that my sadness is much deeper than it was four years ago. In 2008, we were pretty sure that McCain was going to lose, and we had some hopefulness that Obama wouldn’t turn out to be as bad a president as we feared. But in 2012, we were pretty sure that Romney/Ryan were going to win, and we are pretty sure that Obama,… Read More

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Episode VII – Education

Episode VII – Education: In 1979, President Jimmy Carter created the Federal Department of Education. He did it to make the quality of education in this country better. This year, that department will have an administrative budget of $69 billion. That does not include the roughly $19 billion in federal dollars we will spend on education entitlements like Pell Grants and student loans.

The question is simple: Is American education better now than it was in 1979? Has spending trillions of federal dollars over the last 33 years led to America’s students consistently receiving a superior level of education?

The answer is painfully obvious. NO! So, why are we still trying to do what has failed for over 30 years expecting to achieve positive results?!

Sorry. I’ll calm down now. I have included education in this “Fix It” series on how to jump start two new decades of American hegemony, growth and prosperity because, like infrastructure, a strong education system is a prerequisite to growth and prosperity. So then, what is the state of education in America? In order to analyze our system, we have to break education into two… Read More

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