Tidbits Quotations
To Accompany the December 11, 2012 edition of Tidbits
Bob Jensen at Trinity University

My Free Speech Political Quotations and Commentaries Directory and Log ---

It is exceptionally difficult -- for all practical purposes, impossible," writes Eberstadt, "for a medical professional to disprove a patient's claim that he or she is suffering from sad feelings or back pain. In other words, many people are gaming or defrauding the system. This includes not only disability recipients but health care professionals, lawyers and others who run ads promising to get you disability benefits. Between 1996 and 2011, the private sector generated 8.8 million new jobs, and 4.1 million people entered the disability rolls.
Michael Barone, "Men Find Careers in Collecting Disability," --- Click Here
Jensen Comment
 Even after one or more spine surgeries it is virtually impossible to determine whether remaining pain is real or faked. I can claim first hand that after 15 spine surgeries and metal rods from neck to hip that my wife's suffering is real. However, I know of at least two instances where the disability careers are faked in order to get monthly lifetime disability payments and access to Medicare long prior to age 65. This seems to be one of the unsolvable problems in society that becomes even more problematic when a disability career is easier to enter than a job-like career.

December 3, 2012 reply from Glen Gray

There was (and continues to be) a sad story in L.A. regarding a hospital that closed partly because employees basically saw it as a lottery. The number of disability claims were far above the average and I believe the most common stated reason for the claim was falling backwards out of folding chairs in the cafeteria.

I recall that Goodwill Industries ran into a similar problem. They were paying people some money to work at Goodwill to supplement the work of volunteers. These workers would quickly file work comp claims, which in turn made Goodwill's worker comp insurance to skyrocket. Goodwill had to stop the outreach program.

Glen L. Gray, PhD, CPA
Dept. of Accounting & Information Systems
College of Business & Economics
California State University,
Northridge 18111 Nordhoff ST Northridge, CA 91330-8372


96% of the faculty and staff at Ivy League colleges that contributed to the 2012 presidential race donated to President Obama's campaign, reveals a Campus Reform investigation compiled using numbers released by the Federal Election Commission (FEC). From the eight elite schools, $1,211,267 was contributed to the Obama campaign, compared to the $114,166 given to Romney. The highest percentage of Obama donors came from Brown University and Princeton, with 99 percent of donations from faculty and staff going towards his campaign.
Oliver Darcey, November 24, 2012 --- http://www.campusreform.org/blog/?ID=4511

"Moving Further to the Left," by Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, October 24, 2012 ---

From CBS Sixty Minutes
Goldman Sachs VP explains why he quit --- http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50133578n&tag=api
You might also note the wide-ranging comments that follow --- comments to please all sides of the political spectrum

Viva le Franc
Video:  Eurozone Financial Crisis Explained in Boot Camp ---
If you watch long enough you will discover who Quantitative Easing (printing money to pay government's bills) works in the U.S. and Zimbabwe but can't work in France (because France cannot print its own currency)

I-95 and I-75 will be jammed for the next month or so with druggies and deadbeats heading North out of Florida, because this is the first state in the union to require drug testing to receive welfare!
Author unknown
Jensen comment
I hate to be a bleeding heart liberal on this one, but most welfare goes to benefit innocent children. Even if a parent tests positive for drugs, I can't imagine making the children suffer any more than they already suffer from having drug addicts for parents.

"Scholar Honored for Book on Muslim Women," November 30, 2012," Inside Higher Ed, November 30, 2012 ---

"A Parent's Potshot Heard 'Round the World," by Marybeth Hicks Marybeth Hicks, Townhall, December 5, 2012 ---
Jensen Comment
This "potshot" is being widely praised around the Internet. However, even if it helps change behavior of his children for the good (and this is not at all certain), this can be a dangerous tactic in many (most?) circumstances of childhood development. It's widely known that teenage brains are not yet developed, and sometimes negative admonitions make matters worse instead of better just like excessive praise where everybody gets a blue ribbon can also be counterproductive. I'm no expert on motivation of teenagers (or anybody else for that matter), but I think that being a role model for achievement is a good thing whereas admonishing your children for not being you is probably not the best way to proceed.

One of President Lincoln's Many Great Decisions
"Grant's Greatest Regret," by Jeff Jacoby, Townhall, December 6, 2012 ---

. . .

In December 1862, with the Civil War raging, the Union Army's efforts to control the movement of Southern cotton was bedeviled by illegal speculation and black marketeers. Like many of his contemporaries, Major General Ulysses S. Grant – then commanding a vast geographic swath called the Department of the Tennessee – shared a crude stereotype of all Jews as avaricious, corner-cutting swindlers. That ugly prejudice boiled over in General Orders No. 11, the most infamous anti-Semitic injunction in American history: "The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department and also department orders, are hereby expelled from this department within 24 hours from the receipt of this order."


The region commanded by Grant was home to several thousand Jews (including men in uniform serving under him). Fortunately, General Orders No. 11 had little direct impact on most of them. Jews were driven out of Paducah, Ky., and some towns in Mississippi and Tennessee, and there were accounts of Jewish travelers being imprisoned and roughed up. But a breakdown in military communications slowed the spread of Grant's directive, and at least some officers had qualms about enforcing it. Brigadier General Jeremiah C. Sullivan, the Union commander of Jackson, Tenn., commented tartly that "he thought he was an officer of the Army and not of a church."


What stopped the expulsion order cold, however, was the commander-in-chief. When word of Grant's edict reached President Lincoln on January 3, 1863, he immediately countermanded it. "To condemn a class is, to say the least, to wrong the good with the bad," the president declared. "I do not like to hear a class or nationality condemned on account of a few sinners."


End of the story? In some ways it was just the beginning.

"The Constitution: Who Needs It?" by Alexander C. Kafka, The Chronicle of Higher Education's Chronicle Review, December 10. 2012 ---

. . .

Seidman's argument boils down to this:

We the current American people are not the people who agreed in the 18th century to be governed by the Constitution (that's assuming that the colonists themselves agreed, a proposition about which he is also dubious). More practically, politicians, judges, and advocacy groups contort the Constitution's often vaguely worded precepts to match whatever they're pushing for. That makes citizens cynical and distracts us from considering what policies would be best for the country in regard to health-care finance, gun control, antiterrorism, and countless other matters

Invoking the Constitution, Seidman says in an interview, is often "a disguised way of fighting out the merits" of an issue and is usually "profoundly beside the point."

Continued in article

Jensen Comment
What must be recognized is that the Constitution is not an 18th Century document set in stone. Although it's very difficult to change, the U.S. Constitution has been changed fundamentally in many ways over the years with both amendments and interpretations of the Constitution by the by our courts.

And some of the long-standing amendments are fundamental to keeping this country from being totally taken over by majority rule at the time at the expense of some what should be some very fundamental rights, in my viewpoint, that should not be subject to swings in public opinion and media hysteria that move like the tides in and out over time. For example, it would greatly upset President Obama and Professor Krugman if Republicans gained control of both the House and Senate in 2014 and immediately voted to suppress Article 5 of the Constitution and then passed a Constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget that does not allow more government borrowing or printing of currency to pay government bills beyond cash collections for taxes.

For example, the Constitution is what stands in the way of the single political party who happens to have a majority in Congress from passing legislation, including amendments of the constitution, that threaten the rights of minority interests who, at least for the moment, cannot overrule a bill passed by the Congress.. For example, suppose that a particular political party currently dominating both the Senate and House and the Executive Branch elects to give dictatorial powers to the current U.S. President (whomever that happens to be at the time) that destroy the governmental checks and balances currently built into the U.S. Constitution. Under our present constitution, such checks and balances cannot be fundamentally altered without having a majority of states ratify the changes as well ---

Article Five of the United States Constitution describes the process whereby the Constitution may be altered. Altering the Constitution consists of proposing an amendment or amendments and subsequent ratification.

Amendments may be proposed by either:

To become part of the Constitution, amendments must then be ratified either by approval of:

Congress has discretion as to which method of ratification should be used .

Contined in article

Jensen Comment
Congress cannot simply pass a law to eliminate or suppress Article Five. The Constitution is a barrier to destroying fundamental rights of the people and instituions of the people. The worst possibility is that a party currently in power might pass legislation locking its control of government against all democratic challenges hence forth and forever more.

It's interesting to read the comments that follow this article ---



From the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton):  The U.S. Deficit is Tremendously Understated
"A Proper Accounting: The Real Cost of Government Loans and Credit Guarantees," Knowledge@Wharton, December 5, 2012 ---

How does the U.S. government hide its true debt total?

Firstly, there are $100-$200 trillion in unbooked entitlements. Nobody has an accurate estimate of those future obligations, especially for the Medicare gorilla.

The U.S. currently has "booked" National Debt slightly over $16 trillion that is a more accurate estimate of the debt coming due soon?
Or is this an accurate number by any stretch of the imagination?

"Why $16 Trillion Only Hints at the True U.S. Debt:  Hiding the government's liabilities from the public makes it seem that we can tax our way out of mounting deficits. We can't," by Chris Cox (former SEC Director) and Bill Archer (PwC), The Wall Street Journal, November 26, 2012 ---

A decade and a half ago, both of us served on President Clinton's Bipartisan Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform, the forerunner to President Obama's recent National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. In 1994 we predicted that, unless something was done to control runaway entitlement spending, Medicare and Social Security would eventually go bankrupt or confront severe benefit cuts.

Eighteen years later, nothing has been done. Why? The usual reason is that entitlement reform is the third rail of American politics. That explanation presupposes voter demand for entitlements at any cost, even if it means bankrupting the nation.

A better explanation is that the full extent of the problem has remained hidden from policy makers and the public because of less than transparent government financial statements. How else could responsible officials claim that Medicare and Social Security have the resources they need to fulfill their commitments for years to come?

As Washington wrestles with the roughly $600 billion "fiscal cliff" and the 2013 budget, the far greater fiscal challenge of the U.S. government's unfunded pension and health-care liabilities remains offstage. The truly important figures would appear on the federal balance sheet—if the government prepared an accurate one.

But it hasn't. For years, the government has gotten by without having to produce the kind of financial statements that are required of most significant for-profit and nonprofit enterprises. The U.S. Treasury "balance sheet" does list liabilities such as Treasury debt issued to the public, federal employee pensions, and post-retirement health benefits. But it does not include the unfunded liabilities of Medicare, Social Security and other outsized and very real obligations.

As a result, fiscal policy discussions generally focus on current-year budget deficits, the accumulated national debt, and the relationships between these two items and gross domestic product. We most often hear about the alarming $15.96 trillion national debt (more than 100% of GDP), and the 2012 budget deficit of $1.1 trillion (6.97% of GDP). As dangerous as those numbers are, they do not begin to tell the story of the federal government's true liabilities.

The actual liabilities of the federal government—including Social Security, Medicare, and federal employees' future retirement benefits—already exceed $86.8 trillion, or 550% of GDP. For the year ending Dec. 31, 2011, the annual accrued expense of Medicare and Social Security was $7 trillion. Nothing like that figure is used in calculating the deficit. In reality, the reported budget deficit is less than one-fifth of the more accurate figure.

Why haven't Americans heard about the titanic $86.8 trillion liability from these programs? One reason: The actual figures do not appear in black and white on any balance sheet. But it is possible to discover them. Included in the annual Medicare Trustees' report are separate actuarial estimates of the unfunded liability for Medicare Part A (the hospital portion), Part B (medical insurance) and Part D (prescription drug coverage).

As of the most recent Trustees' report in April, the net present value of the unfunded liability of Medicare was $42.8 trillion. The comparable balance sheet liability for Social Security is $20.5 trillion.

Were American policy makers to have the benefit of transparent financial statements prepared the way public companies must report their pension liabilities, they would see clearly the magnitude of the future borrowing that these liabilities imply. Borrowing on this scale could eclipse the capacity of global capital markets—and bankrupt not only the programs themselves but the entire federal government.

These real-world impacts will be felt when currently unfunded liabilities need to be paid. In theory, the Medicare and Social Security trust funds have at least some money to pay a portion of the bills that are coming due. In actuality, the cupboard is bare: 100% of the payroll taxes for these programs were spent in the same year they were collected.

In exchange for the payroll taxes that aren't paid out in benefits to current retirees in any given year, the trust funds got nonmarketable Treasury debt. Now, as the baby boomers' promised benefits swamp the payroll-tax collections from today's workers, the government has to swap the trust funds' nonmarketable securities for marketable Treasury debt. The Treasury will then have to sell not only this debt, but far more, in order to pay the benefits as they come due.

When combined with funding the general cash deficits, these multitrillion-dollar Treasury operations will dominate the capital markets in the years ahead, particularly given China's de-emphasis of new investment in U.S. Treasurys in favor of increasing foreign direct investment, and Japan's and Europe's own sovereign-debt challenges.

When the accrued expenses of the government's entitlement programs are counted, it becomes clear that to collect enough tax revenue just to avoid going deeper into debt would require over $8 trillion in tax collections annually. That is the total of the average annual accrued liabilities of just the two largest entitlement programs, plus the annual cash deficit.

Nothing like that $8 trillion amount is available for the IRS to target. According to the most recent tax data, all individuals filing tax returns in America and earning more than $66,193 per year have a total adjusted gross income of $5.1 trillion. In 2006, when corporate taxable income peaked before the recession, all corporations in the U.S. had total income for tax purposes of $1.6 trillion. That comes to $6.7 trillion available to tax from these individuals and corporations under existing tax laws.


In short, if the government confiscated the entire adjusted gross income of these American taxpayers, plus all of the corporate taxable income in the year before the recession, it wouldn't be nearly enough to fund the over $8 trillion per year in the growth of U.S. liabilities. Some public officials and pundits claim we can dig our way out through tax increases on upper-income earners, or even all taxpayers. In reality, that would amount to bailing out the Pacific Ocean with a teaspoon. Only by addressing these unsustainable spending commitments can the nation's debt and deficit problems be solved.

Neither the public nor policy makers will be able to fully understand and deal with these issues unless the government publishes financial statements that present the government's largest financial liabilities in accordance with well-established norms in the private sector. When the new Congress convenes in January, making the numbers clear—and establishing policies that finally address them before it is too late—should be a top order of business.

Mr. Cox, a former chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee and the Securities and Exchange Commission, is president of Bingham Consulting LLC. Mr. Archer, a former chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee, is a senior policy adviser at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.

Jensen Comment
Let's forget about this debt and entitlement nonsense.
President Obama should appoint Nobel Laureate Professor Paul Krugman as his only economic advisor and print all the money we owe without having to worry about taxes and spending and cliffs. It's called Quantitative Easing but by any other name it's just printing greenbacks to scatter over the money supply ---

Not because we will need the money, but let's also confiscate the wealth of the top 25% as punishment for their abuses of the tax and regulation laws. Greed is a bad thing, and they need to be knocked to ground level because of their greed.

Government accounting is all done with smoke and mirrors ---

Bob Jensen's threads on entitlements ---


If the Feds should take 50% (as in the U.K.) and the states take 50% what would be left as an incentive to invest and work for a wage?

"Top Marginal Effective Tax Rates by State and by Source of Income, 2012 Tax Law vs. 2013 Scheduled Tax Law," by Gerald T. Prante and Austin John, SSRN, November 15, 2012 ---

This paper compares state-by-state estimates of the top marginal effective tax rates (METRs) on wages, interest, dividends, capital gains, and business income for tax year 2012 to the rates scheduled for 2013 under scheduled law. Scheduled tax law for 2013 assumes the expiration of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts and the new PPACA taxes. Overall, the average top METR on wage income is scheduled to increase by approximately six percentage points (41.8 percent to 47.8 perent), while taxes on dividends would increase the greatest (19.0 percent to 47.9 percent). The top METRs on wages, dividends, interest, and partnership/sole proprietor income would exceed 50 percent in California, Hawaii, and New York City.

Jensen Question
This also raises a question about comparing top marginal rates across nations. If the sizable income tax take from states is not added to the U.S. Federal Income Tax, are we comparing apples and oranges when we compare marginal tax rates of the U.S. with most other nations.

Marginal Tax Rate Declines in the Rest of the World ---


Table 1 Maximum Marginal Tax Rates on Individual Income
*. Hong Kong�s maximum tax (the �standard rate�) has normally been 15 percent, effectively capping the marginal rate at high income levels (in exchange for no personal exemptions).
**. The highest U.S. tax rate of 39.6 percent after 1993 was reduced to 38.6 percent in 2002 and to 35 percent in 2003.

  1979 1990 2002
Argentina 45 30 35
Australia 62 48 47
Austria 62 50 50
Belgium 76 55 52
Bolivia 48 10 13
Botswana 75 50 25
Brazil 55 25 28
Canada (Ontario) 58 47 46
Chile 60 50 43
Colombia 56 30 35
Denmark 73 68 59
Egypt 80 65 40
Finland 71 43 37
France 60 52 50
Germany 56 53 49
Greece 60 50 40
Guatemala 40 34 31
Hong Kong 25* 25 16
Hungary 60 50 40
India 60 50 30
Indonesia 50 35 35
Iran 90 75 35
Ireland 65 56 42
Israel 66 48 50
Italy 72 50 52
Jamaica 58 33 25
Japan 75 50 50
South Korea 89 50 36
Malaysia 60 45 28
Mauritius 50 35 25
Mexico 55 35 40
Netherlands 72 60 52
New Zealand 60 33 39
Norway 75 54 48
Pakistan 55 45 35
Philippines 70 35 32
Portugal 84 40 40
Puerto Rico 79 43 33
Russia NA 60 13
Singapore 55 33 26
Spain 66 56 48
Sweden 87 65 56
Thailand 60 55 37
Trinidad and Tobago 70 35 35
Turkey 75 50 45
United Kingdom 83 40 40
United States 70 33 39**

Source: PricewaterhouseCoopers; International Bureau of Fiscal Documentation.

*. Hong Kong�s maximum tax (the �standard rate�) has normally been 15 percent, effectively capping the marginal rate at high income levels (in exchange for no personal exemptions).
**. The highest U.S. tax rate of 39.6 percent after 1993 was reduced to 38.6 percent in 2002 and to 35 percent in 2003.

Case Studies in Gaming the Income Tax Laws ---

Apart from my lifetime TIAA Annuity, a huge portion of my investment savings is in a long-term insured tax exempt fund. The fund took a huge jump in value in November. This may be partly due to declining interest rates, but interest rates have been declining for a long time under 2012 Fed policies. This may be partly due to the fact that I reinvest more of the cash returns into the fund than I redeem in any month.

However, I attribute most of this abrupt November 2012 jump in my tax exempt share values to the fact that many high income taxpayers are suddenly diverting more of their savings into tax exempt funds --- thereby creating an increase in demand relative to supply of such tax exempt shares.

I have mixed feelings about unrealized variations in share value since I don't plan to redeem most of our shares in my lifetime. A  jump in share value sounds good for the few shares I do redeem each year (by simply writing checks on the fund). However, capital gains are taxed even for redeemed tax exempt income shares. Darn!

Continued big jumps in share value will make me rethink my investment strategy if the stock market cliff-crashes. In the meantime, I think I will suffer through leaps in my tax exempt share values.

I think President Obama is being very shrewd as this nation approaches the so-called fiscal cliff. He knows that what the nation really needs is a significant increase in taxes on the middle class since his proposed increase in tax rates for the top two percent of the taxpayers will only raise a pittance toward the annual $1+ trillion dollar deficits.

What better way is there to hugely increase taxes on the middle class while placing 100% of the blame on the Tea Party Republicans in the House of Representatives? It will really surprise me if the economy does not plunge over the so-called fiscal cliff with huge increases in income tax obligations of the middle class. President Obama is really being shrewd in these negotiations. Hit the middle class hard without taking any of the blame for eliminating the Bush tax cuts.

President Obama must be furious with Howard Dean for letting the cat out of the bag.
Howard Dean gets real and says something on MSNBC that I agree with entirely:  MSNBC did not want to hear this.
 ABC News showed a clip of former President Bill Clinton saying the same thing
 "Dean Exposes Obama's Need For Middle Class Tax Hike," December 6, 2012 ---


The President's proposal for taxing the top two percent of taxpayers leaves at best 94% of the deficit to be reduced by other means. This 94% is overly optimistic since the high income earners will move heavily into tax avoidance alternatives such as investments in tax-exempt securities and tax deferral alternatives such as long-term investments in precious metals, paintings, and other deferral and inflation-hedging alternatives that will do nothing for deficit relief for decades. It's misleading to claim the purpose of taxing the top two percent is to reduce the deficit. 

Howard Dean
Democratic Party Governor of Vermont for Six Terms
Former head of the Democratic Committee
2004 Democratic Party Presidential Contender)

Howard Dean gets real and says something on MSNBC that I agree with entirely:  MSNBC did not want to hear this.
Last night ABC News showed a clip of former President Bill Clinton saying the same thing
"Dean Exposes Obama's Need For Middle Class Tax Hike," December 6, 2012 ---

Taxes: The president says all he wants is for "the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more." But far-left Howard Dean just reminded us Obama wants a lot more from all taxpayers.

Interviewed by MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell on Wednesday, the ex-Vermont governor and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate shocked many with comments that really should have shocked no one.

"This is, initially, gonna seem like heresy from a progressive," Dean said. "The truth is, everybody needs to pay more taxes, not just the rich. That's a good start, but we're not gonna get out of this deficit problem unless we raise taxes across the board."

Dean added, "I actually have mixed feelings about striking a deal where the rich folks pay more taxes," preferring to go over the cliff at the end of the year.

Spending cuts were Dean's chief concern, but selectively so. Pining for Pentagon cuts, Dean had this sneer for the military: "They just ordered new uniforms for their chauffeurs for the top brass."

Adding her intellectual weight on O'Donnell's program was MSNBC commentator Krystal Ball (her real name), whose 15 minutes of infamy came in 2010.

That's when sexually-explicit photos of her surfaced during her far-left Democratic campaign for a redder-than-red Virginia congressional seat, in which she picked up just 35% of the vote.

According to Krystal's crystal ball, "We probably will have to raise taxes on a lot of people."

More taxes for a lot of people? We never heard that during the presidential campaign.

As the Cato Institute's Dan Mitchell recently pointed out, "stealing every penny from every millionaire would run the federal government for only three months." But as Mitchell noted, all along there have been "honest folks on the left who admit that they want ordinary people on the chopping block":

• Second-ranking House Democrat Steny Hoyer of Maryland two years ago said tax cuts benefiting the middle class should not be "totally sacrosanct."

• Jared Bernstein, who used to be Vice President Joseph Biden's economist, wrote in the Financial Times in August that Obama "will have to include tax increases beyond just the wealthiest households, although that is the right place to start," because "we're way below where we need to be in terms of revenue collection."

• In 2010, the New York Times editorial page warned that "more Americans — and not just the rich — are going to have to pay more taxes."


Case Studies in Gaming the Income Tax Laws ---

From The Wall Street Journal Accounting Weekly Review on December 7, 2012

0% Gains Tax: Grab It Before It's Gone
by: Arden Dale
Dec 03, 2012
Click here to view the full article on WSJ.com

TOPICS: Individual Taxation, Tax Laws, Taxation

SUMMARY: The article covers the basics of capital gains tax treatment with an excellent graphic. It also highlights useful strategies to take advantage of 0% rate on long term capital gains to taxpayers for whom the amount of that income would be taxed at 15% or less if it were ordinary income.

CLASSROOM APPLICATION: The article may be used in an individual income tax class covering investments and long-term capital gains/losses.

1. (Introductory) What investors currently may pay zero income taxes on net long-term capital gains?

2. (Advanced) A 0% tax rate is applied to long term capital gains in the case that the gain would have been taxed at 15% or less, had it been ordinary income. Explain how this provision in the tax law is described in the article.

3. (Introductory) When was this zero percent tax rate introduced into the law and when is it due to expire?

4. (Advanced) What is the "kiddie tax"? Why do you think that those subject to the "kiddie tax" do not get the advantage of the 0% tax rate on capital gains?

Reviewed By: Judy Beckman, University of Rhode Island


"0% Gains Tax: Grab It Before It's Gone," by Arden Dale, The Wall Street Journal, December 3, 2012 --- Click Here

How would like to pay no tax when you sell a stock that's made money for you? Well, for a few more weeks some lucky investors can get a 0% tax rate on capital gains.

The chance to book tax-free gains before the New Year stands out amid the fog over whether Congress will allow a slate of tax increases to take effect in 2013. Tax-free is good no matter what happens next. If lawmakers do nothing, the 0% rate on net long-term gains for certain investors will rise to 10%.

Taxpayers in the bottom two brackets can qualify for the tax bonanza.

Among those who stand to benefit: retirees, couples with one spouse who earns far more than the other, and families with adult children. Some already have taken advantage of this break since it took effect in 2008. Others are learning about it now.

"This is an often missed opportunity," says Robert W. Stanley, a financial adviser in Libertyville, Ill. Even when people know of the 0%, rate, he says, they often fail to realize how many taxpayers qualify.

Jim Holtzman, an adviser in Pittsburgh, says people often are incredulous when he tells them they can sell an asset and owe no tax. A retired executive with whom Mr. Holtzman works has sold some stock in the company he works for to book gains without paying tax. Another is weeding the stocks of various companies from a brokerage account and paying no tax on the gains he's cashing in. Pass It On

One father funded his daughter's wedding by making her a gift of appreciated stock, which she then sold without having to pay any tax, says Benjamin E. Birken, an adviser at Woodward Financial Advisors Inc. in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Couples can get the low rate even if one spouse is in a top bracket. A man with a far greater income than his wife, for example, can transfer an asset to her, and she can sell it and get the 0% rate. The two, of course, must file separate tax returns.

"You have to do it very carefully," said Melanie Lauridsen, a technical manager at the American Institute of CPAs. Transferring assets from one person to another is a legal move that requires numerous steps.

Still, a lot of couples use the strategy to great success, though most don't have quite the colorful profile of one pair Ms. Lauridsen helped. The woman in this case had around $450 million in liquid assets; her husband earned somewhere around $40,000 a year (before tax deductions that brought his taxable income lower). She regularly transferred assets to him, and he sold them with no capital-gains tax due.

A caveat: Don't hand over an asset to a spouse for the tax break unless you are truly prepared to relinquish control. Once in the name of someone else, it belongs to them.

Continued in article

Jensen Comment
For years I've argued that there should be no special rates for capital gains as long as they are indexed for inflation.

"Citigroup to Cut 11,000 Jobs, Take $1 Billion Charge," by Donal Griffin, Bloomberg News, December 5, 2012 ---

Jensen Comment
And this is even before Sen. Elizabeth Warren takes her new seat on the Banking Committee.

What you most likely will never hear on MSNBC:  It's union against union in the Hostess bankruptcy filing
"Jenkins: The Media Choke on a Twinkie --- Why nobody is allowed to hear what the bakery union is saying," by Holman W. Jenkins, The Wall Street Journal, November 27, 2012 ---

Hardly any business in America is less consequential than Hostess, and yet Twinkies have garnered a ­disproportionate share of media focus and we are about to ­recommit the sin of over-attention here.

Our most fervent wish for the journalism profession for a long while has been that a new generation would come along trained to think. The world is adequately stocked with journalists who can write, who are careful and accurate ­reporters, and yet are helpless as babies when asked to punch their way through an obvious ­fallacy.

Hostess has been enveloped in arguments about whether ­management or labor is to blame for the company’s downfall. You can guess where most treatments come down. Management did not invest enough in new products or upgraded software or new trucks. Begged by these indictments is the question of whether managers stupidly refused to make profitable investments or were somehow incentivized to prefer losing money. If not, one might have to entertain the possibility that management was doing the job of management, withholding investment in a business model that would not return that ­investment with a profit.

Where wealth and livelihood are entailed, where teams act ­together and have time and ­incentive to think carefully, a good assumption is that people—management, labor—act rationally. Unfortunately, journalists who might be prepared to brave bullets in a war zone nonetheless lack simple courage to see what’s in front of their eyes in a matter like the Twinkies bankruptcy. The reason is endemic: Not enough is at stake for the media itself to cause the media to prefer an ­uncomfortable truth when a ­comfortable fallacy is at hand.

Nevertheless, one of the major parties to the Twinkie bankruptcy, the bakery union, has been unstinting in explaining the company’s trouble in written and spoken word to anyone who wants to listen. The Hostess brands are valuable. The Hostess bakery and packaging operations are reasonably competitive and efficient, and while some ­reorganization and downsizing are inevitable, these properties are still worth owning.

Hostess’s problem, as the ­bakers point out in bankruptcy filings printed in legible English, and as Hostess management has pointed out in its own equally readable filings, is that Hostess’s valuable parts are held back by Hostess’s high-cost, Teamster-staffed system for moving Twinkies and other delights from production facility to store shelf.

This high-cost distribution system means the company doesn’t make money on many of its existing sales. It means it can’t profitably extend sales to new customers and new ­geographical markets that might keep Hostess factories busier than ever.

Now, as we said, a good bet is that people act rationally where their material interests are ­concerned. The bakers make a perfectly rational judgment, in rejecting further concessions and triggering the liquidation of Hostess, that their members would be better off if no longer wedded to Hostess’s Teamster-dominated delivery network.

The Teamsters, who swallowed hard and agreed to concessions in hopes of avoiding liquidation, are telling you something too. The Teamsters are telling you, quite rationally, that nothing of value would likely remain in the Hostess distribution system in a liquidation. Look at the ­buyers lining up for the Hostess brands, such as Tastykake owner Flower Foods and the investment fund that owns Pabst Blue Ribbon, who ­slaver after an opportunity to roll Twinkies and related indulgences into their own existing delivery networks. They slaver after Hostess’s distribution operations not at all.

Or turn on any business ­channel or any football game. Bombarding you will be ads from UPS, FedEx FDX +0.27% and the U.S. Postal Service aimed not at consumers but at business managers. These ads sing jingles about “logistics.” They show how over-caffeinated coffee warehouse managers can improve profits by outsourcing shipping to the professionals.

These commercials exist for a reason. Both the bakers and Teamsters judge their interests rightly. The Teamsters see little hope of survival if Hostess ­liquidates and the bakers see ­little hope of survival if it doesn’t. Sadly, Hostess’s outdated distribution business has all the entrepreneurial appeal these days of a tube-TV factory.

It’s even possible that ­management is right too, though some executives may wear suits, which makes them baddies: To invest more money in Hostess as currently structured would be to throw good money after bad.

Continued in article

Jensen Comment
Lost in all of this dialog is that the roaring price of sugar and other ingredients in Hostess products may have had as much or more to do with this declaration of bankruptcy. Twinkies, for example, are far from being a food essential. As such the demand is price elastic in the sense that if the price of a package of Tinkies soars the demand will fall off rather sharply, especially amidst in this era when the media bombards us with warnings about the obesity epidemic and how sugar is bad for health.

The real culprits in the demise of Hostess may well be as follows:

  1. The U.S. sugar beet farmers who successfully lobbied for tariff walls preventing cheaper foreign-produced sugar from entering the U.S.

  2. The FDA that keeps hammering against unnecessary high-sugar drinks and foods.

  3. The bakery union that resisted more cost efficient automation in Hostess plants.

It remains to be seen whether other companies can make Hostess-product brand names more profitable. If they do so, it will probably be mostly due to automation.

Harvard's token, albeit an unwanted token conservative, Harvey Mansfield is known for such things as assigning two grades to students (the A grades they get because Harvard expects that they will always get A grades and the (private) C grades they really earned). Much to the dismay of most faculty and administration at Harvard, he's an extremely popular teacher and renowned conservatism scholar.

Larry Summers, while President of Harvard University, purportedly tried to engineer a way to fire the outspoken Professor Mansfield. Mansfield himself believes such accusations are a bit over the top.

Harvey Mansfield is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Government at Harvard University, where he has taught since 1962 ---
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvey_Mansfield  Optimism for the Future
"The Crisis of American Self-Government:  Harvey Mansfield, Harvard's 'pet dissenter,' on the 2012 election, the real cost of entitlements, and why he sees reason for hope,": by by Sohrab Ahmari, The Wall Street Journal, November 30, 2012 ---

'We have now an American political party and a European one. Not all Americans who vote for the European party want to become Europeans. But it doesn't matter because that's what they're voting for. They're voting for dependency, for lack of ambition, and for insolvency."

Few have thought as hard, or as much, about how democracies can preserve individual liberty and national virtue as the eminent political scientist Harvey Mansfield. When it comes to assessing the state of the American experiment in self-government today, his diagnosis is grim, and he has never been one to mince words.

Mr. Mansfield sat for an interview on Thursday at the Harvard Faculty Club. This year marks his 50th as a teacher at the university. It isn't easy being the most visible conservative intellectual at an institution that has drifted ever further to the left for a half-century. "I live in a one-party state and very much more so a one-party university," says the 80-year-old professor with a sigh. "It's disgusting. I get along very well because everybody thinks the fact that I'm here means the things I say about Harvard can't be true. I am a kind of pet—a pet dissenter."

Partly his isolation on campus has to do with the nature of Mr. Mansfield's scholarship. At a time when his colleagues are obsessed with trendy quantitative methods and even trendier "identity studies," Mr. Mansfield holds steadfast to an older tradition that looks to the Western canon as the best guide to human affairs. For him, Greek philosophy and the works of thinkers such as Machiavelli and Tocqueville aren't historical curiosities; Mr. Mansfield sees writers grappling heroically with political and moral problems that are timeless and universally relevant.

"All modern social science deals with perceptions," he says, "but that is a misnomer because it neglects to distinguish between perceptions and misperceptions."

Consider voting. "You can count voters and votes," Mr. Mansfield says. "And political science does that a lot, and that's very useful because votes are in fact countable. One counts for one. But if we get serious about what it means to vote, we immediately go to the notion of an informed voter. And if you get serious about that, you go all the way to voting as a wise choice. That would be a true voter. The others are all lesser voters, or even not voting at all. They're just indicating a belief, or a whim, but not making a wise choice. That's probably because they're not wise."

By that measure, the electorate that granted Barack Obama a second term was unwise—the president achieved "a sneaky victory," Mr. Mansfield says. "The Democrats said nothing about their plans for the future. All they did was attack the other side. Obama's campaign consisted entirely of saying 'I'm on your side' to the American people, to those in the middle. No matter what comes next, this silence about the future is ominous."

At one level Mr. Obama's silence reveals the exhaustion of the progressive agenda, of which his presidency is the spiritual culmination, Mr. Mansfield says. That movement "depends on the idea that things will get better and better and progress will be made in the actualization of equality." It is telling, then, that during the 2012 campaign progressives were "confined to defending what they've already achieved or making small improvements—student loans, free condoms. The Democrats are the party of free condoms. That's typical for them."

But Democrats' refusal to address the future in positive terms, he adds, also reveals the party's intent to create "an entitlement or welfare state that takes issues off the bargaining table and renders them above politics." The end goal, Mr. Mansfield worries, is to sideline the American constitutional tradition in favor of "a practical constitution consisting of progressive measures the left has passed that cannot be revoked. And that is what would be fixed in our political system—not the Constitution."

It is a project begun at the turn of the previous century by "an alliance of experts and victims," Mr. Mansfield says. "Social scientists and political scientists were very much involved in the foundation of the progressive movement. What those experts did was find ways to improve the well-being of the poor, the incompetent, all those who have the right to vote but can't quite govern their own lives. And still to this day we see in the Democratic Party the alliance between Ph.D.s and victims."

The Obama campaign's dissection of the public into subsets of race, sex and class resentments is a case in point. "Victims come in different kinds," says Mr. Mansfield, "so they're treated differently. You push different buttons to get them to react."

The threat to self-government is clear. "The American founders wanted people to live under the Constitution," Mr. Mansfield says. "But the progressives want the Constitution to live under the American people."

Harvey Mansfield Jr. was born in 1932 in New Haven, Conn. His parents were staunch New Dealers, and while an undergraduate at Harvard Mr. Mansfield counted himself a liberal Democrat.

Next came a Fulbright year in London and a two-year stint in the Army. "I was never in combat," he says. "In fact I ended up in France for a year, pulling what in the Army they call 'good duty' at Orléans, which is in easy reach of Paris. So even though I was an enlisted man I lived the life of Riley."

A return to the academy and a Harvard doctorate were perhaps inevitable but Mr. Mansfield also underwent a decisive political transformation. "I broke with the liberals over the communist issue," he says. "My initiating forces were anticommunism and my perception that Democrats were soft on communism, to use a rather unpleasant phrase from the time—unpleasant but true." He also began to question the progressive project at home: "I saw the frailties of big government exposed, one after another. Everything they tried didn't work and in fact made us worse off by making us dependent on an engine that was getting weaker and weaker."

His first teaching post came in 1960 at the University of California, Berkeley. In California, he came to know the German-American philosopher Leo Strauss, who at the time was working at Stanford University. "Strauss was a factor in my becoming conservative," he says. "That was a whole change of outlook rather than a mere question of party allegiance."

Strauss had studied ancient Greek texts, which emphasized among other things that "within democracy there is good and bad, free and slave," and that "democracy can produce a slavish mind and a slavish country." The political task before every generation, Mr. Mansfield understood, is to "defend the good kind of democracy. And to do that you have to be aware of human differences and inequalities, especially intellectual inequalities."

American elites today prefer to dismiss the "unchangeable, undemocratic facts" about human inequality, he says. Progressives go further: "They think that the main use of liberty is to create more equality. They don't see that there is such a thing as too much equality. They don't see limits to democratic equalizing"—how, say, wealth redistribution can not only bankrupt the public fisc but corrupt the national soul.

"Americans take inequality for granted," Mr. Mansfield says. The American people frequently "protect inequalities by voting not to destroy or deprive the rich of their riches. They don't vote for all measures of equalization, for which they get condemned as suffering from false consciousness. But that's true consciousness because the American people want to make democracy work, and so do conservatives. Liberals on the other hand just want to make democracy more democratic."

Equality untempered by liberty invites disaster, he says. "There is a difference between making a form of government more like itself," Mr. Mansfield says, "and making it viable." Pushed to its extremes, democracy can lead to "mass rule by an ignorant, or uncaring, government."

Consider the entitlements crisis. "Entitlements are an attack on the common good," Mr. Mansfield says. "Entitlements say that 'I get mine no matter what the state of the country is when I get it.' So it's like a bond or an annuity. What the entitlement does is give the government version of a private security, which is better because the government provides a better guarantee than a private company can."

That is, until the government goes broke, as has occurred across Europe.

"The Republicans should want to recover the notion of the common good," Mr. Mansfield says. "One way to do that is to show that we can't afford the entitlements as they are—that we've always underestimated the cost. 'Cost' is just an economic word for the common good. And if Republicans can get entitlements to be understood no longer as irrevocable but as open to negotiation and to political dispute and to reform, then I think they can accomplish something."

The welfare state's size isn't what makes it so stifling, Mr. Mansfield says. "What makes government dangerous to the common good is guaranteed entitlements, so that you can never question what expenses have been or will be incurred." Less important at this moment are spending and tax rates. "I don't think you can detect the presence or absence of good government," he says, "simply by looking at the percentage of GDP that government uses up. That's not an irrelevant figure but it's not decisive. The decisive thing is whether it's possible to reform, whether reform is a political possibility."

Then there is the matter of conservative political practice. "Conservatives should be the party of judgment, not just of principles," he says. "Of course there are conservative principles—free markets, family values, a strong national defense—but those principles must be defended with the use of good judgment. Conservatives need to be intelligent, and they shouldn't use their principles as substitutes for intelligence. Principles need to be there so judgment can be distinguished from opportunism. But just because you give ground on principle doesn't mean you're an opportunist."

Nor should flexibility mean abandoning major components of the conservative agenda—including cultural values—in response to a momentary electoral defeat. "Democrats have their cultural argument, which is the attack on the rich and the uncaring," Mr. Mansfield says. "So Republicans need their cultural arguments to oppose the Democrats', to say that goodness or justice in our country is not merely the transfer of resources to the poor and vulnerable. We have to take measures to teach the poor and vulnerable to become a little more independent and to prize independence, and not just live for a government check. That means self-government within each self, and where are you going to get that except with morality, responsibility and religion?"

So is it still possible to pull back from the brink of America's Europeanization? Mr. Mansfield is optimistic. "The material for recovery is there," he says. "Ambition, for one thing. I teach at a university where all the students are ambitious. They all want to do something with their lives." That is in contrast to students he has met in Europe, where "it was depressing to see young people with small ambitions, very cultivated and intelligent people so stunted." He adds with a smile: "Our other main resource is the Constitution."


F**k Up That Professor Mansfield!
And to think it was a questionable comment of women that got this President of Harvard Fired
It seems like conservative men had a better case, at least one man

"White House economist: 'F--- up' conservative prof 'I was astounded that the president of Harvard would stoop to such tactics'," WorldNetDaily, December 6, 2009 --- http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=118187

According to a university colleague, former president of Harvard and current White House economist Larry Summers once asked for help to "f--- up" one of the school's conservative professors.

Summers' colleague, Cornel West, is a radical race relations instructor who is now a professor at Princeton after departing Harvard in the wake of a dispute with Summers. Obama named West, whom he has called a personal friend, to the Black Advisory Council of his presidential campaign. West was a key point man between Obama's campaign and the black community.

In his recently released memoirs, "Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud," West claims that Summers invited West into his office and asked him to help undermine Harvard government professor Harvey Mansfield, who had professed conservative views.

"Help me f--- him up," Summers reportedly said to West without explaining further.

West writes, "For my part, I was astounded that the President of Harvard would stoop to such tactics."

West further related the details of the alleged encounter in a recent interview with Amy Goodman, host of the far-left Democracy Now Internet television network.

Said West: "And as soon as I walked into the office, [Summers] starts using profanity about Harvey Mansfield. I said, 'No, Harvey Mansfield is conservative, sometimes reactionary, but he's my dear brother.' We had just had debates at Harvard. Twelve hundred people showed up. He was against affirmative action; I was for it. That was fine. Harvey Mansfield and I go off and have a drink after, because we have a respect, but deep, deep philosophical and ideological disagreement. He was using profanity, so I had to defend Harvey Mansfield."

"Wait, so you're saying Lawrence Summers was using profanity?" Goodman asked.

Continued West: "Larry Summers using profanity about, you know, 'help me 'F' so and so up.' No, I don't function like that. Maybe he thought that just as a black man, I like to use profanity. I'm not a puritan. I don't use it myself. I have partners who do."

In response to West's claimed meeting with Summers, Mansfield told WND, "Larry Summers was not out to get me."

"I was not present at the famous interview between him and Cornel West, but in my opinion (Summers) merely used my name in a clumsy attempt to cajole Cornel West into behaving more like a professor, less like a celebrity," said Mansfield.

"Larry Summers was doing many good things at Harvard before his enemies there succeeded in ousting him," Mansfield added.

Neither Summers nor West immediately returned WND e-mail and phone requests for comment.

Mansfield is well-known for his opposition to grade inflation at Harvard, which he has publicly blamed in part on affirmative action. His views led to student protests and a well-attended debate with West.

Mansfield also defended President Bush's use of executive powers and has been criticized by some leading feminists for his views on gender roles. He has made statements that men and women have some different societal roles and wrote a book, "Manliness," in which he bemoaned the loss of the virtue of "manliness" in a "gender neutral" society.

Summers, meanwhile, continues to teach at Harvard but lost his position as president in part after a public feud in which West accused him of racism. Summers serves as director of the White House's National Economic Council.

West served as an adviser on Louis Farrakhan's Million Man March and is a personal friend of Farrakhan. He authored two books on race with Henry Louis Gates Jr., who last summer was at the center of controversy after Obama remarked on the Harvard professor's arrest.

Continued in article

"Sociology and Other 'Meathead' Majors:  Archie Bunker was right to be skeptical of his son-in-law's opinions," by Harvey Mansfield, The Wall Street Journal, May 31, 2011 ---

College campuses display a striking uniformity of thought
Harvard professor Harvey Mansfield once famously advised a conservative colleague to wait until he had tenure and only then to "hoist the Jolly Roger." But few professors are getting around to hoisting the Jolly Roger at all. Either they don't have a viewpoint that is different from their colleagues, or they've decided that if they are going to remain at one place for several decades, they'd rather just get along. Is tenure to blame for the unanimity of thinking in American universities? It's hard to tell. But shouldn't the burden of proof be on the people who want jobs for life?
Naomi Schafer Riley, "Tenure and Academic Freedom:  College campuses display a striking uniformity of thought," The Wall Street Journal, June 23, 2009 --- http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124571593663539265.html#mod=djemEditorialPage

Bob Jensen's threads on Harvey Mansfield ---

"The Budget Baseline Con:  How Washington fools the public about spending 'cuts.'," The Wall Street Journal, December 4, 2012 ---

If the fiscal cliff talks make Lindsay Lohan look like a productive member of society, perhaps it's because President Obama and John Boehner are playing by the dysfunctional Beltway rules. The rules work if you like bigger government, but Republicans need a new strategy, which starts by exposing the rigged game of "baseline budgeting."

Both the White House and House Republicans are pretending that their goal is "reducing the deficit," which they suggest means making real spending choices. They are talking about a "$4 trillion plan," or something, regardless of how that number is reached.

Here's the reality: Those numbers have no real meaning because they are conjured in the wilderness of mirrors that is the federal budget process. Since 1974, Capitol Hill's "baseline" has automatically increased spending every year according to Congressional Budget Office projections, which means before anyone has submitted a budget or cast a single vote. Tax and spending changes are then measured off that inflated baseline, not in absolute terms.

The most absurd current example is Mr. Obama's claim that his "$4 trillion" plan reduces the deficit by about $800 billion over 10 years by ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But those "savings," as he calls them, are measured against a White House budget office spending baseline that is fictional. Those wars are already being unwound and everyone knows the money will never be spent. But they are called "savings" to gull the public and make the deficit reduction add up to a large-sounding $4 trillion.

The baseline scam also exists in many states, and no less a Democrat than New York Governor Andrew Cuomo denounced it in 2011 as a "sham" and "deceptive." He wrote in the New York Post that state spending was "dictated by hundreds of rates and formulas that are marbleized throughout New York State laws that govern different programs—formulas that have been built into the law over decades, without regard to fiscal realities, performance or accountability." Then he proceeded to continue baseline budgeting.

In Washington, Democrats designed this system to make it easier to defend annual spending increases and to portray any reduction in the baseline as a spending "cut." Chris Wallace called Timothy Geithner on this "gimmick" on "Fox News Sunday" this week, only to have the Treasury Secretary insist it's real.

Republicans used to object to this game, but in recent years they seem to have given up. In an October 2010 speech at the American Enterprise Institute, House Speaker Boehner proposed that "we ought to start at square one" and rewrite the 1974 budget act. But he then dropped the idea, and in the current debate the GOP is putting itself at a major disadvantage by negotiating off the phony baseline. In a press release Tuesday, his own office advertised the need for "spending cuts" that aren't even cuts.

If Republicans really want to slow the growth in spending, they need to stop playing by Beltway rules and start explaining to America why Mr. Obama keeps saying he's cutting spending even as spending and deficits keep going up and up and up.

Bob Jensen's threads on how governmental accounting is all done with smoke and mirrors ---


"Two-thirds of millionaires left Britain to avoid 50% tax rate:  Almost two-thirds of the country’s million-pound earners disappeared from Britain after the introduction of the 50% top rate of tax, figures have disclosed," by Robert Winnett, The Telegraph, November 27, 2012 ---

Jensen Comment
The article suspiciously doesn't reveal where the 10,000 wealthy taxpayers went, but it certainly wasn't France or Scandinavia. I suspect that many of them moved to Ireland and Switzerland, although they perhaps still have real estate in England. Perhaps some sold residences with leaseback provisions for visiting their old homes. Artists and writers can live tax free in Ireland. And just about anybody can live tax free in Greece since Greece hasn't yet figured out how to enforce tax laws. But Greece might make an exception by hammering down on wealthy immigrants fleeing U.K. taxes. Then again Greece might might prefer that the wealth is re-invested in Greece.

I suspect some of the super wealthy don't much care since they have more than they can spend after taxes. I wonder if taxpayers living on yachts can avoid taxes altogether if those boats are constantly on the move between nations?

December 1, 2012 reply from Ruth Bender

The BBC Radio 4 programme More or Less discussed that this afternoon and decided it was rubbish. More or Less is a great programme- it dissects the statistics reported in the media and works out what they should have said.

In this particular case they had a Tax expert on, who reckoned that it was distorted with people, transferring income into the year just before the tax rise - a bit like paying dividends before the fiscal cliff - and so the same people just were declaring less taxable income once the rate went up. Wasn't really millionaires leaving the country.

Podcast is at http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/moreorless 

It's a programme that's well worth listening to. Intelligent and humorous.


Ruth Bender
Cranfield School of Management UK

"Britain's Missing Millionaires Income tax rates rise but revenues fall," The Wall Street Journal, November 29, 2012 ---

A funny thing often happens on the way to soaking the rich: They don't stick around for the bath. Take Britain, where Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs service reports that the number of taxpayers declaring £1 million a year in income fell by more than 60% in fiscal 2010-2011 from the year before.

That was the year that millionaires became liable for the 50% income-tax rate that Gordon Brown's government introduced in its final days in 2010, up from the previous 40% rate. Lo, the total number of millionaire tax filers plunged to 6,000 in 2010-2011, from 16,000 in 2009-2010.

The new tax was meant to raise about £2.5 billion more revenue. So much for that. In 2009-2010 British millionaires contributed about £13.4 billion to the public coffers, or just under 9% of the total tax liability of all taxpayers that year. At the 50% rate, the shrunken pool yielded £6.5 billion, or about 4.4%.

The British press is abuzz with the notion that 10,000 millionaires left the country in the interim, and no doubt some did make for their chalets in Gstaad. Others may have brought forward more income in 2009-2010, knowing the higher rate was on its way. No doubt, too, the overall lousy economy took its toll.

Prime Minister David Cameron decided earlier this year to lower the 50% rate to 45%, meaning we may see at least some of the millionaires return to the U.K. But the figures are another reminder that incentives matter.

Politicians would love to lay the whole burden of their policies on a tiny minority of the rich, but you can't finance the welfare state on the shoulders of the 1%. That's something for the U.S. to remember as President Obama pretends he can fill a $1 trillion budget hole with tax hikes on "millionaires and billionaires."


Teaching Case from The Wall Street Journal Accounting Weekly Review on November 30, 2012

Obama Sets Steep Tax Targets
by: Janet Hook and Carol E. Lee
Nov 14, 2012
Click here to view the full article on WSJ.com
Click here to view the video on WSJ.com WSJ Video

TOPICS: Governmental Accounting, Tax Law, Tax Policy, Tax Reform, Taxes

SUMMARY: President Obama has proposed a budget to Congress that includes $1.6 Trillion in tax increases over ten years as part of the package needed to close the federal budget deficits as required by the legislation which created the "fiscal cliff." House Speaker John Boehner "hasn't specified a revenue target that would be his opening bid. He has said he would be willing to accept new tax revenues, not higher tax rates if Democrats accept structural changes to entitlement programs...." This acceptance stems from the election results in which Mr. Obama won on a platform including increased taxes for Americans earning more than $250,000 per year. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has said he cannot see how to raise taxes sufficiently to meet these goals without implementing higher tax rates, rather than limiting or eliminating tax deductions.

CLASSROOM APPLICATION: The article may be used in a tax class or in a governmental accounting class.

1. (Advanced) What is the fiscal cliff? Specifically state the objective of the laws that set up these automatic, drastic actions that are taking effect in January 2013.

2. (Introductory) Refer to the related video. What are the major components of U.S. government spending? Why must the five components be included in any plan to cut spending in order to reduce our federal government's deficits?

3. (Advanced) What is the difference between generating new tax revenues, which Republican House Majority Leader John Boehner is accepting in negotiations, and raising tax rates, which Mr. Boehner opposes? Why is Mr. Boehner asserting this position about the source of tax revenue increases to close the federal deficits?

4. (Introductory) Refer to the related article. Why are U.S. business leaders taking steps to have their voices heard as government wrangles with plans to avoid the fiscal cliff? What steps are they taking?

Reviewed By: Judy Beckman, University of Rhode Island

CEOs Flock to Capital to Avert 'Cliff'
by Damian Paletta and Kristina Peterson
Nov 28, 2012
Page: A4


"Obama Sets Steep Tax Targets," by Janet Hook and Carol E. Lee, The Wall Street Journal, November 14, 2012 ---

President Barack Obama will begin budget negotiations with congressional leaders Friday by calling for $1.6 trillion in additional tax revenue over the next decade, far more than Republicans are likely to accept and double the $800 billion discussed in talks with GOP leaders during the summer of 2011.

Mr. Obama, in a meeting Tuesday with union leaders and other liberal activists, also pledged to hang tough in seeking tax increases on wealthy Americans. In one sign of conciliation, he made no specific commitment to leave unscathed domestic programs such as Medicare, leaving the door open to spending cuts many fellow Democrats oppose.

Kevin Smith, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio), dismissed the president's opening position for the negotiations. He said Mr. Boehner's proposal to revamp the tax code and entitlement programs is "consistent with the president's call for a 'balanced' approach."

Enlarge Image image image Associated Press

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, second from left, speaks to reporters outside the White House Tuesday after meeting with the president. Full Coverage: The Fiscal Cliff

Capital: Writing the Next Act in the Budget Drama Obama to Meet With CEOs When Congress Ties Its Hands Capital Journal: Past the Cliff to Fixing Taxes Ask Seib & Wessel: The 'Fiscal Cliff' Washington Wire: What Do CEOs Think? Live Updates: Fiscal Cliff Stream

Mr. Boehner hasn't specified a revenue target that would be his opening bid. He has said he would be willing to accept new tax revenues—not higher tax rates—if Democrats accept structural changes to entitlement programs, the ultimate source of the U.S.'s long-term budget woes.

The president's opening gambit, based on his 2013 budget proposal, signals Mr. Obama's intent to press his advantage on the heels of his re-election last week. However, before gathering at the White House with lawmakers on Friday, he will meet with chief executives of a dozen companies Wednesday. Many executives have aired concerns about the economic consequences of the looming "fiscal cliff"—and the risk of another standoff.

Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen joins WSJ's Alan Murray at the CEO Council to discuss how Congress and President Obama can avoid falling over the fiscal cliff.

At The Wall Street Journal CEO Council in Washington, 73% of conference participants surveyed said their primary concern was the fiscal cliff.

One conference participant, David Crane, chief executive of NRG Energy Inc., NRG +0.74% a power-generation and electricity firm, said, "I think everyone just has this fear that they just do as they've done the last four years and just lob grenades at each other."

Speaking to reporters about Mr. Obama's plans for Friday's talks, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, "the president has put forward a very specific plan that will be what he brings to the table when he sits down with congressional leaders."

"We know what a truly balanced approach to our fiscal challenges looks like," said Mr. Carney, using Democrats' language to mean spending cuts combined with tax increases.

Republicans already have appeared willing to cut a deal that results in Americans paying more taxes if it averts the scheduled spending cuts and tax increases due to take effect at year-end.

"New revenue must be tied to genuine entitlement changes," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said Tuesday. "Republicans are offering bipartisan solutions and now it's the president's turn. He needs to bring his party to the table."

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said higher tax rates on upper-income Americans were a central part of the White House's deficit-reduction proposal because there was no way to raise enough revenue by only limiting tax breaks. Mr. Geithner's comments, made at the Journal's CEO gathering, marked the White House's most forceful defense of its tax proposal since the election.

The president is "not prepared to extend the upper-income tax cuts," Mr. Geithner said, referring to the White House proposal to allow expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts on income over $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples.

The year-end budget problems represent a major test of how Mr. Obama will lead in his second term, not just in negotiating with Republicans but in managing his own political base.

He is under pressure to take a hard line from activist groups as well as from many congressional Democrats, who returned Tuesday for a lame-duck session elated by their party's gains in last week's elections. Democrats picked up at least six seats in the House and dashed expectations they might lose their Senate majority by picking up two more seats in the chamber.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), in his first floor speech of the session, signaled little interest in concessions and reiterated President Obama's demand that the House pass a Senate-approved bill extending current tax rates for middle-income taxpayers, but not for the wealthiest 2% of taxpayers.

Mr. Obama is expected to open a Wednesday news conference, his first since re-election, by calling on the House to pass that bill.

The White House calls that a "partial solution," creating certainty for businesses and minimizing potential harm to the economy. Absent action, all the tax rates will rise Jan. 1.

In negotiations between Messrs. Boehner and Obama in mid-2011, the two sides neared agreement on a plan to cut the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years, including $800 billion in new revenue.

The deal fell apart after Mr. Obama asked to raise the revenue component to $1.2 trillion, and to this day each side blames the other for the collapse. Based on that history, some senior GOP aides said they believed a likely compromise would call for about $1 trillion in new tax revenue, possibly from capping deductions for wealthier taxpayers.

On Capitol Hill, it isn't clear how strenuously Democrats will resist cutting entitlements. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.) said he and others were open to changes as long as they were done in a measured way and were part of deal that included tax increases. Mr. Van Hollen also said changing Social Security and increasing the Medicare eligibility age above 65 should be part of negotiations.

"I'm willing to consider all of these ideas as part of an overall plan," Mr. Van Hollen said Tuesday at the Journal's CEO Council.

White House officials in 2011 were in advanced talks with Mr. Boehner that would have agreed to some of these changes, notably raising Medicare's eligibility age. That is one cause of liberals' anxiety about how the coming talks may unfold.

Mr. Obama's Tuesday meeting was the first of several this week with outside groups. He is set to meet with civic leaders Friday before sitting down with Democratic and Republican congressional leaders. The president's aides have said these meetings aren't meant for negotiating but rather listening to leaders with a stake in the process.

In his meeting with leaders from liberal and labor groups, Mr. Obama fielded questions about whether a final budget deal would hurt recipients of Medicare and Medicaid. He made no assurances, one attendee said, and instead pointed to his budget to explain his stance on such changes. The president said, "You know where I am on this," the attendee said. The budget includes some modest Medicare changes but no big cuts to the program.

Mr. Obama reiterated his demand that the Bush tax cuts expire for the wealthiest individuals, and asked the groups to focus their members on getting Congress, in particular House Republicans, to pass the tax cuts for everyone else.

Continued in article

Paying Taxes 2013: The global picture - How does your tax system compare with other economies?

Source: PwC
Author name: US tax services
Published: 11/28/2012

This is a unique study from PwC, World Bank and IFC. Now in its eighth year, the study provides data on tax systems in 185 economies around the world, with an ability to monitor tax reform.

It is unique because it generates a set of indicators (the Total Tax Rate, the time to comply and the number of payments) that measure the world’s tax systems from the point of view of a standardized business (using a case-study scenario).

This PwC publication is also unique in that it covers the full range of taxes paid in 185 economies by the company, measuring how the business complies with the different tax laws and regulations in each economy. The study not only looks at corporate income tax, but at all of the taxes and contributions that a domestic medium-size case study company must pay. It considers the full impact of all these taxes in terms of both their tax cost and their compliance burden on business.

This publication can be useful in:

This is the eighth year that the study indicators have been included in the Doing Business project, which is run by the World Bank Group.

Download this PwC publication ---



What recent WSJ article reminds us of Hillary Clinton's great luck in cattle futures trading when her husband was Governor of Arkansas?

Background Reading
Hillary Rodham cattle futures controversy ($1,000 down yields $100,000 rake in) --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillary_Rodham_cattle_futures_controversy

"Executives' Good Luck in Trading Own Stock," by Susan Pulliam and Rob Barry, The Wall Street Journal, Noember 27, 2012 ---

A timely share sale by two insiders at retailer Body Central Corp. BODY -1.44% this spring spared them a nearly $1.4 million drop in the value of their holdings in the chain.

Founder Jerrold Rosenbaum and chief merchandising officer Beth Angelo, his daughter, sold a combined $2.9 million of Body Central stock on May 1, May 2 and May 3. Later on May 3, after the market close, the company cut its 2012 earnings estimate. The next trading day, the stock plunged 48.5%.

A Body Central official said both executives' trades were part of preordained trading plans. The official said that Ms. Angelo set up a new plan for her father in March, a time when she wasn't aware of the trend that led to the lower estimate. The company wouldn't make either one available for an interview. Mr. Rosenbaum, who the company said is ailing, resigned from the board in May.

Corporate executives long have bought and sold shares of their own companies, and outside investors have long tracked such trades, in the belief that insiders have a particularly good feel for how companies are faring.

Executives can trade for entirely legitimate reasons, such as to raise money to meet a tax bill or simply to diversify. But of course they must avoid trading on nonpublic information, and that can lead to sticky situations, since executives do possess just such information much of the time.

Regulatory efforts to find a way around this conundrum and allow executives to trade, a Wall Street Journal analysis suggests, are so flawed they have left a confusing landscape that can both raise suspicions about trades that are innocent, and provide cover for others that are less so.

The Journal examined regulatory records on thousands of instances since 2004 when corporate executives made trades in their own company's stock during the five trading days before the company released material, potentially market-moving news.

Among 20,237 executives who traded their own company's stock during the week before their companies made news, 1,418 executives recorded average stock gains of 10% (or avoided 10% losses) within a week after their trades. This was close to double the 786 who saw the stock they traded move against them that much. Most executives have a mix of trades, some that look good in retrospect and others that do not.

The Journal also compared the trading of corporate executives who buy and sell their own companies' stock irregularly, dipping in and out, against executives who follow a consistent yearly pattern in their trading. It found that the former were much likelier to record quick gains.

Looking at executives' trading in the week before their companies made news, the Journal found that one of every 33 who dipped in and out posted average returns of more than 20% (or avoided 20% downturns) in the following week. By contrast, only one in 117 executives who traded in an annual pattern did that well.

"We've found a lot of evidence that these insiders do statistically much better than we'd expect," said Lauren Cohen, an associate professor of business administration at Harvard University who co-wrote a study published this year about the performance of insiders who time their trades. "The perch that they have—they not only have proximity to this private information, but they can actually affect the outcomes."

A Securities and Exchange Commission rule requires executives to report trades in their own company's stock within 48 hours. But getting a bead on trading by corporate executives has become more complicated, not less, in recent years, thanks to a proliferation of trading plans that provide for periodic buying or selling.

The arrangements, known as 10b5-1 plans, spell out certain times of the year, or certain target prices, when corporate executives intend to buy or sell shares of their own company. Executives who use such plans can trade even while they possess material nonpublic information about the company. And in the event they face suspicions of improper trading, having followed such a pre-established plan is a strong defense.

But the system has numerous shortcomings. Companies and executives don't have to file these trading plans with any federal agency. That means the plans aren't readily available for regulators, investors or anyone else to examine.

Moreover, once executives file such trading plans, they remain free to cancel or change them—and don't have to disclose that they have done so.

Finally, even when executives have such a preset plan, they are free to trade their companies' stock at other times, outside of it.

"Sometimes a 10b5-1 plan is legitimate and other times it's not, but there is no way of knowing because there is no disclosure of anything to investors," said a hedge-fund manager, David Berman of Berman Capital Management.

The SEC, asked for comment on the plans' limitations, cited the requirement for insiders to report trades within two days and added: "If the Commission were to consider requiring insiders to make disclosure ahead of trades, there would need to be careful consideration of the costs and benefits."

Continued in article

But the worst inside traders are in the U.S. House and Senate:

The Wonk (Professor) Who Slays Washington

Insider trading is an asymmetry of information between a buyer and a seller where one party can exploit relevant information that is withheld from the other party to the trade. It typically refers to a situation where only one party has access to secret information while the other party has access to only information released to the public. Financial markets and real estate markets are usually very efficient in that public information is impounded pricing the instant information is made public. Markets are highly inefficient if traders are allowed to trade on private information, which is why the SEC and Justice Department track corporate insider trades very closely in an attempt to punish those that violate the law. For example, the former wife of a partner in the auditing firm Deloitte & Touche was recently sentenced to 11 months exploiting inside information extracted from him about her husband's clients. He apparently did was not aware she was using this inside information illegally. In another recent case, hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam was sentenced to 11 years for insider trading.

Even more commonly traders who are damaged by insiders typically win enormous lawsuits later on for themselves and their attorneys, including enormous punitive damages. You can read more about insider trading at

Corporate executives like Bill Gates often announce future buying and selling of shares of their companies years in advance to avoid even a hint of scandal about exploiting current insider information that arises in the meantime. More resources of the SEC are spent in tracking possible insider information trades than any other activity of the SEC. Efforts are made to track trades of executive family and friends and whistle blowing is generously rewarded.

Trading on insider information is against U.S. law for every segment of society except for one privileged segment that legally exploits investors for personal gains by trading on insider information. What is that privileged segment of U.S. society legally trades on inside information for personal gains?

Congress is our only native criminal class.
Mark Twain --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Twain

We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.
Attributed to Aesop

Answer (Please share this with your students):
Over the years I've been a loyal viewer of the top news show on television --- CBS Sixty Minutes
On November 13, 2011 the show entitled "Insider" is the most depressing segment I've ever watched on television ---
Also see http://financeprofessorblog.blogspot.com/2011/11/congress-trading-stock-on-inside.html

Jensen Comment

Watch the "Insider" Video Now While It's Still Free ---

"They have legislated themselves as untouchable as a political class . . . "
"The Wonk (Professor) Who Slays Washington," by Peter J. Boyer, Newsweek Magazine, November 21, 2011, pp. 32-37 ---

Jensen Comment
The recent legislation preventing our elected officials is a sham since it does not preclude family members from inside trading.

"They have legislated themselves as untouchable as a political class . . . "
"The Wonk (Professor) Who Slays Washington," by Peter J. Boyer, Newsweek Magazine, November 21, 2011, pp. 32-37 ---

"How Corruption Is Strangling U.S. Innovation," by James Allworth, Harvard Business Review Blog, December 7, 2012 --- Click Here

We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.
Attributed to Aesop

Congress is our only native criminal class.
Mark Twain --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Twain

We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.
Attributed to Aesop


"Profitable not-for-profits," New York Post, December 7, 2012 ---

. . .

* Shirley Huntley, a state senator from Queens, founded an empty-shell nonprofit called The Parents Network right before she took office in 2006. She steered $30,000 in taxpayer money to her niece, who ran the group, and tried to send even more before she was arrested this year.

* Larry Seabrook, a former city councilman from Brooklyn, was convicted of funneling $1.5 million in taxpayer funds to his mistress, his sister, two brothers and other pals through a network of nonprofit groups he controlled. He faces up to 180 years in prison.

* Pedro Espada, the former state senator from The Bronx, was convicted of looting $545,000 from his federally funded nonprofit health clinic to pay for vacations, lavish birthday parties and theater tickets. He then tapped the nonprofit for another $1 million to cover his legal fees.

* Brian McLaughlin, a former Queens assemblyman and powerful labor leader, steered $95,000 meant for a local nonprofit Little League to pals of his, just one piece of the $3.1 million he stole from public and private enterprises. He got 10 years in prison for his crimes.

Weberman, of course, holds no elective office — but he is a leader in his community and has abused its trust.

Just like the others.

Happily, Gov. Cuomo has noticed the pattern, promoting legislation that would cap the often sky-high salaries at nonprofits that benefit from state funds.

But that won’t solve the whole problem.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has pursued abusers like Huntley, but since religious charities don’t have to register with the state, Weberman’s nonprofit wasn’t on the AG’s radar before this week.

That needs to change — fast.

Time to get cracking, Albany.


The new payroll tax and other Affordable Health Care Act  taxes that the media tends not to mention ---



Bob Jensen's universal health care messaging --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Health.htm


Bob Jensen's universal health care messaging --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Health.htm

Bob Jensen's Tidbits Archives ---

Bob Jensen's Pictures and Stories

Summary of Major Accounting Scandals --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accounting_scandals

Bob Jensen's threads on such scandals:

Bob Jensen's threads on audit firm litigation and negligence ---

Current and past editions of my newsletter called Fraud Updates ---

Enron --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/FraudEnron.htm

Rotten to the Core --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/FraudRotten.htm

American History of Fraud --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/FraudAmericanHistory.htm

Bob Jensen's fraud conclusions ---

Bob Jensen's threads on auditor professionalism and independence are at

Bob Jensen's threads on corporate governance are at


Shielding Against Validity Challenges in Plato's Cave ---

·     With a Rejoinder from the 2010 Senior Editor of The Accounting Review (TAR), Steven J. Kachelmeier

·     With Replies in Appendix 4 to Professor Kachemeier by Professors Jagdish Gangolly and Paul Williams

·     With Added Conjectures in Appendix 1 as to Why the Profession of Accountancy Ignores TAR

·     With Suggestions in Appendix 2 for Incorporating Accounting Research into Undergraduate Accounting Courses

Shielding Against Validity Challenges in Plato's Cave  --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/TheoryTAR.htm
By Bob Jensen

What went wrong in accounting/accountics research?  ---

The Sad State of Accountancy Doctoral Programs That Do Not Appeal to Most Accountants ---


Bob Jensen's threads on accounting theory ---

Tom Lehrer on Mathematical Models and Statistics ---

Systemic problems of accountancy (especially the vegetable nutrition paradox) that probably will never be solved ---

Bob Jensen's economic crisis messaging http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/2008Bailout.htm

Bob Jensen's threads --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/threads.htm

Bob Jensen's Home Page --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/