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Archive for September 15th, 2010

Spitzer: Think Bigger on the Economy

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 15th, 2010 4:50 am by HL

Spitzer: Think Bigger on the Economy
Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) said that President Obama’s economic policies have avoided catastrophe but not done enough to change troubling long-term trends. He thinks the U.S. needs to adopt “a significant carbon tax to pay for a massive reduction of the payroll tax, thereby stimulating hiring; a real agreement by China to revalue its currency in return for access to U.S. markets; another significant uptick in auto efficiency rules in return for a massive federal investment in the research and development and infrastructure for domestically produced electric cars.”



Late Late Night FDL: In The Evening (When The Sun Goes Down)

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 15th, 2010 4:49 am by HL

Late Late Night FDL: In The Evening (When The Sun Goes Down)
Ray CharlesIn The Evening (When The Sun Goes Down), 1963.

Ray CharlesIn The Evening (When The Sun Goes Down), 1963.

What’s on your mind?

The Free Market will decide “Who Lives, Who Dies”
Good thing there’s no need to regulate the awesome free market, because there isn’t going to be much regulating to come.

picture via themonnie at flickr.com

Yesterday, it was proclaimed that we on the “left”, apparently both professional and amateur, oppose Glenn Beck’s efforts to make money off of the tragedy of 9/11 because we hate the free market — at least according to Glenn Beck.

But really, it does appear the Free Market really is about who lives and who dies:

The Iowa egg farm at the center of a massive salmonella outbreak received hundreds of positive results for salmonella in the two years before its eggs sickened more than 1,500 people, congressional investigators said Tuesday.

Oh, no need to regulate that.

And it appears not regulating is going to be the way to go anyway.

For the first time since the 1930s, participation in Republican primaries exceeds participation in Democratic primaries

Early Morning Swim


U.N. Says Global Hunger Is ‘Unacceptably High’

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 15th, 2010 4:48 am by HL

U.N. Says Global Hunger Is ‘Unacceptably High’
The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization has released a new report gauging global hunger in 2010, and the FAO surmised that worldwide undernourishment, although slightly improved from 2009, remains “unacceptably high.” This raises the question: Is there ever an “acceptable” level?  —KA BBC: The FAO estimates there are 925 million undernourished people in 2010, compared with 1.02 billion in 2009. But it warned that the fight to reduce hunger would face additional obstacles if food prices continue to rise. A separate report from Action Aid estimates that hunger costs developing countries $450bn (£292bn) a year. Read more

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization has released a new report gauging global hunger in 2010, and the FAO surmised that worldwide undernourishment, although slightly improved from 2009, remains “unacceptably high.” This raises the question: Is there ever an “acceptable” level?? —KA

BBC:

The FAO estimates there are 925 million undernourished people in 2010, compared with 1.02 billion in 2009.

But it warned that the fight to reduce hunger would face additional obstacles if food prices continue to rise.

A separate report from Action Aid estimates that hunger costs developing countries $450bn (£292bn) a year.

Read more

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A Little Missed Sunshine
When first lady Michelle Obama started an organic garden at the White House, she sparked a national discussion on food, obesity, health and sustainability. But the green action on the White House lawn hasn’t made it to the White House roof, unfortunately.

By Amy Goodman

When first lady Michelle Obama started an organic garden at the White House, she sparked a national discussion on food, obesity, health and sustainability. But the green action on the White House lawn hasn’t made it to the White House roof, unfortunately.


Related Entries



Rob Richie: Instant Runoff Voting: Thumbs Up from Rachel Maddow, Federal Judge, North Carolina, more

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 15th, 2010 4:47 am by HL

Rob Richie: Instant Runoff Voting: Thumbs Up from Rachel Maddow, Federal Judge, North Carolina, more
Ever wonder why voting for the candidate you most want can result in election of the candidate you dislike the most? Welcome to the funhouse…

Pennsylvania Protest Reports: Governor ‘Appalled,’ Shuts Down Practice
HARRISBURG, Pa. — Information about an anti-BP candlelight vigil, a gay and lesbian festival and other peaceful gatherings became the subject of anti-terrorism bulletins being…

Vincent Gray Ousts Incumbent Adrian Fenty In DC Mayoral Contest
UPDATE: 2:47am: Minutes after this was published, the call came in: Adrian Fenty has conceded the race to Vincent Gray. ————— DC voters have apparently…

Paul Raushenbush: How the Quran Burning Threat Showed What Is Good About America
As the Quran-burning stunt grows smaller in the rear-view mirror of history, it is time to take the opportunity to acknowledge the good thing that we as a nation accomplished in reacting to Jones’ threat. The episode marks an important and rare moment of national agreement on two fundamental American principles.


Media stretch definition of “small business” to claim Obama is raising taxes on 50% of their income

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 15th, 2010 4:46 am by HL

Media stretch definition of “small business” to claim Obama is raising taxes on 50% of their income

Conservative media have claimed that 50 percent of “small business income” would be taxed at a higher rate if Democrats allow the Bush tax cuts for the top brackets to expire. However, the apparent sources for that claim, the Tax Policy Center (TPC) and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), explained that business income on individual tax returns does not necessarily reflect what most consider small businesses, but includes such enterprises as law partnerships and real estate investments.

Conservative media claim 50% of “small business” income would be hit under Obama’s plan

Wallace claimed that “50 percent of small business income would be hit by raising taxes on the so-called wealthy.” On the September 12 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace misleadingly told White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) chair Austan Goolsbee that TPC and JCT found that “50 percent of small business income would be hit by raising taxes on the so-called wealthy,” a claim Goolsbee called “highly misleading.” From the segment:

WALLACE: The president says that Republicans want to hold the tax cuts for the middle class hostage until they get also the tax cuts for the so-called rich.

But I want you to take a look at some numbers that we put together. Fifty percent of small business income — and this comes from the Tax Policy Center and the Joint Committee on Taxation — 50 percent of small business income would be hit by raising taxes on the so-called wealthy. That’s 900,000 small businesses that employ millions of workers. Question: You don’t think that a 13 percent hike in the taxes of small businesses is going to slow them down?

During the segment, Wallace aired the following graphic:

FNS graphic

Brooks argues against letting tax cuts expire for “top 2 percent” because “It does remain a fact that the majority of small business profits are up at that income level.” On the September 10 edition of PBS’ NewsHour, New York Times columnist David Brooks suggested that the reason it is important to “fight over this — the top 2 percent” is “[b]ecause it does remain a fact that the majority of small business profits are up at that income level. And small businesses are just completely uncertain right now.” Brooks made a similar argument the week before, claiming that “if you raise taxes on those top rates, you will be increasing taxes on the majority of small business profits.”

Rove: “50 percent of small business income … will be taxed at a higher rate” if top brackets of tax cuts expire. On the August 9 edition of Fox News’ Your World, Karl Rove claimed that “50 percent of small business income will pay — will be taxed at a higher rate if they — if they let the top bracket go up.”

Krauthammer: “Half of small business income in the United States will end up in this bracket.” On the September 10 edition of Fox News’ Special Report, Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer criticized President Obama’s portrayal of the Bush tax cuts, claiming that “[h]e portrays it as, you know, a cut in taxes on the idle rich, the millionaires who sit around.” Krauthammer argued that “[i]n fact, half of small business income in the United States will end up in this bracket. It will have its taxes raised by about 5 percent, which is relatively large.”

Fox’s Bream cites JCT for claim that “50 percent of small business income would be impacted.” During the September 8 edition of Fox News Special Report, correspondent Shannon Bream reported that “[t]he nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that 50 percent of small business income would be impacted by the jump in taxation now proposed by the president. But the president says American businesses did just fine before the Bush tax cuts.” [Accessed via Nexis]

Both TPC and JCT said taxpayers with business income are not necessarily “small” businesses

JCT: “These figures for net positive business income do not imply that all of the income is from entities that might be considered ‘small.’ ” A July 12 analysis of Obama’s FY2011 Budget Proposals by the Joint Committee on Taxation stated that “three percent of all taxpayers with net positive business income” would see higher taxes under Obama’s plan, adding that “[t]hese figures for net positive business income do not imply that all of the income is from entities that might be considered ‘small’ “:

The proposal provides tax relief to a large percentage of taxpayers, which will provide incentives for these taxpayers to work, to save, and to invest and, thereby, will have a positive effect on the long-term health of the economy. The proposal also results in increased marginal tax rates on upper income taxpayers (as is provided for by the present-law sunset of EGTRRA), which will correspondingly reduce incentives for these taxpayers to work, to save, and to invest. Opponents of this latter aspect of the proposal often note that many small businesses, and a large fraction of small business income, will be adversely impacted by an increase in the top two tax rates. The staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that in 2011 just under 750,000 taxpayers with net positive business income (three percent of all taxpayers with net positive business income) will have marginal rates of 36 or 39.6 percent under the President’s proposal, and that 50 percent of the approximately $1 trillion of aggregate net positive business income will be reported on returns that have a marginal rate of 36 or 39.6 percent. These figures for net positive business income do not imply that all of the income is from entities that might be considered “small.” For example, in 2005, 12,862 S corporations and 6,658 partnerships had receipts of more than $50 million. 

TPC: “We don’t know how many of these businesses are really small.” On August 4, the Tax Policy Center blog stated that 2.5 percent of taxpayers who report business income on their individual tax returns would pay higher rates under Obama’s plan and that “we don’t know how many of these businesses are really small”:

Most small businesses report their income on individual tax returns, either on Schedule C (for self-employment or sole proprietorships), Schedule E (for S corporations) or schedule F (for farms). We don’t know how many of these businesses are really small, but next year about 36 million taxpayers will report income from these sources on their 1040s. Only about 900,000, or 2.5 percent, would pay higher rates if the Bush tax cuts were allowed to expire for those in the top brackets. However, that relative handful of business owners will report $400 billion, or almost 44 percent of all the business income included in individual returns.

The TPC post further noted that “[a] half million top-bracket filers will report net positive business income averaging more than $700,000. These are the people–not the mom-and-pop business owners– who would be hit by the expiration of the top bracket tax cuts. Who are they? Many are doctors, lawyers, and investors. Others are very successful entrepreneurs who may own a chain of grocery stores or dry cleaners, or a lot of real estate. Do they fit your image of a small business owner? That, I suppose, is in the eye of the beholder.”

JCT: “There is no legal requirement of any correspondence between the size of the business and the form of business organization.” In a June 2008 document, JCT noted, “While many small businesses are organized as a sole proprietorship, a partnership, or an S corporation, not all businesses organized in those forms are small and not all businesses organized as C corporations are large.” JCT further stated:

In very general terms, it is not possible to relate the differences in tax consequences to any substantive non-tax attributes of these different legal forms of doing business, except that businesses that wish to access the public capital markets generally must be taxed as regular (so-called “C”) 2 corporations. Indeed, the Code affords business enterprises and their owners the effective flexibility to elect one tax regime or another without varying any of the meaningful non-tax substantive relationships among the enterprise and its owners.

[…]

All forms of entities may be used by business enterprises of any size, from very small to very large, whether measured by assets or revenues. S corporation rules restrict the number and type of shareholders, but an S corporation may have thousands of employees and unlimited equity valuation.

[…]

While one may often associate small businesses with organization in the form of a sole proprietorship, a partnership, or an S corporation, there is no legal requirement of any correspondence between the size of the business and the form of business organization. While many small businesses are organized as a sole proprietorship, a partnership, or an S corporation, not all businesses organized in those forms are small and not all businesses organized as C corporations are large.

Other economists and fact-checkers agree income affected may not be what is normally considered a “small business”

TPC’s Rosenberg: Data suggest “that the majority of affected income may not come from what we generally think of as a small business.” In an August 13 TPC blog post, Joseph Rosenberg wrote that a 2008 JCT study found “61 percent of net income from partnerships and S corporations is earned by firms with gross receipts over $10 million” and that the data suggests that most of the income that would be affected by Obama’s plan “may not come from what we generally think of as a small business”:

The narrowest measure of small business income is that which is reported by nonfarm sole proprietors (on Schedule C of the IRS Form 1040).  These would include the self-employed and many people running truly small family businesses, like the proverbial corner grocery store, but also would include some independent professionals (doctors, lawyers, independent consultants). The potential impact of raising the top two rates on these independent business owners is considerably smaller than the impact on taxpayers reporting business income from other sources.  TPC estimates that fewer than 250,000 taxpayers, about 1.5% of tax units reporting positive Schedule C income, will fall within the top two income tax brackets in 2011.  These high-income taxpayers will report $38 billion in income — just over 11 percent of total positive sole proprietor income and only about 4 percent of all flow-through business income.

The vast majority of business income reported by taxpayers in the top two tax brackets comes from partnerships and S corporations and these taxpayers report most of the net positive income from these sources ($400 billion, or nearly 63 percent of net positive income from such businesses).  Not surprisingly, that income is also highly skewed within the top bracket.  For example, just 17 percent of the $133 billion of partnership income in the top bracket goes to business owners reporting less than $500,000 of income, and 46 percent goes to those reporting less than $1 million.  Income from S corporations is even more concentrated — 64% of the $211 billion subject to the top rate is for owners with more than $1 million in income. 

What do we know about the types of businesses that are generating these large incomes?  Unfortunately the answer is not as much as we would like.  Individual returns provide very little information about the underlying businesses and the IRS does not release any firm-level data to the public.  A 2008 JCT study (see Table 8a) reports that 61 percent of net income from partnerships and S corporations is earned by firms with gross receipts over $10 million and fully 43 percent by firms with gross receipts in excess of $50 million.  Those data suggest that the majority of affected income may not come from what we generally think of as a small business, although we do not know whether large and small firms differ in how they distribute income among taxpayers in different income groups.

CBPP: Much “business income” does not go to “what most Americans think of when they hear the term ‘small business.'” In an August 3 post, Chuck Marr and Gillian Brunet of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities wrote that extending the tax cuts for high-income taxpayers “would do little for small business because only the top 3 percent of people with any business income, let alone income from a small business, would benefit.” The post further stated that “large amounts of ‘business income’ go to concerns like large corporate law practices, accounting firms, and wealthy people who invest in financial and real estate partnerships. These are not what most Americans think of when they hear the term ‘small business.’ ” Also from the post:

Those who claim that raising the top rates would seriously harm small businesses also tend to rely on an extremely broad definition of “small business.” Because the IRS does not publish specific, satisfactory data on the taxes that small businesses pay, analysts are left to examine various sources of business income that individuals receive. Some analysts define any taxpayer who shows any business income on a tax return — including passive income that very wealthy investors secure — as a small business. Defining small businesses in this manner greatly overstates the actual number of small businesses, particularly among households with very high incomes.

For example, most Americans would not describe the nation’s wealthiest 400 individuals, some of whom are billionaires, as small businesses. Yet the “Top 400” individuals have a great deal of money to invest and consequently receive significant business income — which means that they qualify as “small business owners” under the broad definition of the term. The 400 highest-earning taxpayers received nearly $17 billion in S corporation and partnership income in 2007 (the most recent year for which we have these data) — an average of $83 million each, according to the IRS. In addition to the wealthiest 400 taxpayers, the following types of individuals are commonly included in the definition of “small business” used in tax debates:

  • partners in very large corporate law firms,
  • partners in lucrative medical practices, and
  • Wall Street bond traders who receive multi-million dollar bonuses and invest some of their income in investment partnerships.

The commonly used definition of “small business” also includes many wealthy executives of the nation’s largest corporations and financial institutions, who are considered “small business owners” if they rent out their vacation homes.

FactCheck: It’s “not clear how many who report business income actually employ any workers.” On July 14, 2008, FactCheck.org stated that more than 600,000 taxpayers with business income fall into the top two tax brackets, adding, “Not all of those can properly be called ‘small-business owners,’ however. Some are farmers. Many are lawyers, accountants or other professionals who get some of their income in the form of partnership distributions. Others may be passive investors in real-estate partnerships or similar investment arrangements and not really persons who own and manage a business.” FactCheck further noted:

It is also not clear how many who report business income actually employ any workers. In 2004, the Tax Policy Center found that hundreds of thousands of individual taxpayers who had business income from partnerships or subchapter-S corporations (whose owners pay taxes as individuals) did not claim any tax deductions for employee expenses.

PolitiFact:It’s impossible to know how many of these high earners are what most people think of as small business owners.” PolitiFact.com stated on July 27:

The U.S. Treasury Department found in 2007 that many of the wealthiest tax filers report some type of non-wage income, such as income from a sole proprietorship, a partnership or an S corporation. (An S corporation is simply a corporation that chooses to pass corporate income, losses, deductions and credit through to their shareholders for federal tax purposes.) The Treasury Department estimated that 75 percent of tax payers in the top bracket reported this type of income.

Does this mean that all those wealthy taxpayers were small business owners? Probably not. This kind of income could be reported from anyone who earned money from a source other than a regular job, such as consulting or public speaking. It could also be reported by those who make most of their income from partnerships, such as law firms and medical practices. And it could include investors who have little involvement in the day-to-day operations of a company.

It’s impossible to know how many of these high earners are what most people think of as small business owners. One indication, however, might be if these wealthy taxpayers reported that most of their income was from this business-type income. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center analyzed IRS data in March 2009, looking to see how many wealthy tax filers could say that half of their income or more came from business income. The center found that, among the wealthiest filers — the top 1 percent — only 25 percent earned more than half their income from business-type income. The percentages for non-wage income were even smaller among taxpayers earning less. (Editor’s note: After we initially published this item, the Tax Policy Center released a new analysis looking at business income by tax bracket. They found that in the top bracket, only 32.5 percent earned more than half their income that way.)

[…]

In conclusion, do many wealthy tax payers report types of business income that might be from owning a small business? Sure. But it’s impossible to tell how many meet the definition of what most of us think of when we think of small business owners.

TPC: “[M]ost people in the top income brackets don’t rely mainly on small-business income.” William Gale of the Tax Policy Center wrote in an August 1 Washington Post op-ed that “just as most small businesses aren’t owned by people in the top income brackets, most people in the top income brackets don’t rely mainly on small-business income”:

And just as most small businesses aren’t owned by people in the top income brackets, most people in the top income brackets don’t rely mainly on small-business income: According to the Tax Policy Center, such proceeds make up a majority of income for about 40 percent of households in the top income bracket and a third of households in the second-highest bracket. If the objective is to help small businesses, continuing the Bush tax cuts on high-income taxpayers isn’t the way to go — it would miss more than 98 percent of small-business owners and would primarily help people who don’t make most of their money off those businesses.


DOJ Inspector General Will Investigate Civil Rights Division’s Voting Section

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 15th, 2010 4:45 am by HL

DOJ Inspector General Will Investigate Civil Rights Division’s Voting Section
Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine says he will examine the Civil Rights Division’s enforcement of voting rights laws after being pressured by GOP House members to examine DOJ’s handling of a case against members of the New Black Panther Party.


Black PanthersNew Black Panther PartyUnited States Department of JusticeUnited States Department of Justice Civil Rights DivisionCivil and political rights

Gonzales: ‘I’m Probably The Least Political Animal Of The Bush Administration’
The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal is out this weekend with a glowing profile of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, almost two months after the Justice Department dropped its investigation.



Alberto GonzalesAttorney generalUnited States Department of JusticeGeorge W. BushUnited States


Leave It To Beaver 2010

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 15th, 2010 4:43 am by HL

Leave It To Beaver 2010


Too Close to Call in New Hampshire

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 15th, 2010 4:42 am by HL

Too Close to Call in New Hampshire
“Riding a surge of late-breaking support from conservatives and even mainstream Republicans who grew tired of his foes’ negative campaign tactics,” Ovide Lamontagne (R) “was desperately trying early this morning to hold onto a lead he mounted in initial returns and pull off an epic upset in the GOP U.S. Senate primary,” the New Hampshire Union Leader reports.

But the AP “showed that with half the vote counted, the long-time front-runner in the race, former Attorney General Kelly Ayotte (R), had pulled even.”

WMUR-TV: “Both candidates urged their supporters to wait for more numbers to come in before determining who won.”

Murkowski Doesn’t Sound Like She’s Done
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) will announce Friday afternoon whether she’ll run as an independent write-in candidate after losing in last month’s Republican primary election to Joe Miller (R), the Anchorage Daily News reports.

In a statement, Murkowski asserted that Alaska’s Republican primary “was hijacked by the Tea Party Express, an outside extremist group.”

Soul Searching Time for Republicans
Christine O’Donnell’s surprise victory in the Delaware U.S. Senate GOP primary “left Republicans in conflict, senior party officials openly fretting that the Senate is now out of reach and Democrats overjoyed that the opposition has handed them a late and desperately needed chance to reframe the national argument about the 2010 elections,” Politico reports.

“Aside from the political implications of the upset, the outcome prompted a round of deep Republican soul-searching about what it said about their party when a political pillar in Delaware like Rep. Mike Castle, a respected lawmaker who was considered a shoo-in for the Senate seat, could not even come within six points of defeating the controversial and still largely unknown O’Donnell.”

Mark Halperin: “She is the canary in the coalmine for a level of intraparty bloodletting that will likely cost the party one Senate seat in November. And if the GOP establishment doesn’t figure out how to build a bigger tent and still win elections, the price Republicans will pay will be a whole lot higher starting on November 3, into the new Congress, and when they try to beat Obama in 2012.”

Searching the Video Archives for Christine O’Donnell
Josh Green notes that Christine O’Donnell (R) — the newly-anointed Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Delaware — “is the best kind of fringe candidate — the kind with a history of random, long-ago television appearances.”

In fact, she was a regular guest on Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher described as “Christian activist Christine O’Donnell.” The video clips are definitely worth watching.


Andrew Weil: Medical Marijuana’s Tremendous Potential for Curing Ailments

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 15th, 2010 4:41 am by HL

Andrew Weil: Medical Marijuana’s Tremendous Potential for Curing Ailments
Cutting through all the government misinformation.

Cutting through all the government misinformation.

How One Right-Winger Tried to Take Over the Legacy of 9/11
The media treat Debra Burlingame as an apolitical voice representing relatives of the 9/11 victims. In fact, she resembles a political operative with a right-wing agenda.

The media treat Debra Burlingame as an apolitical voice representing relatives of the 9/11 victims. In fact, she resembles a political operative with a right-wing agenda.

Pornography 101: Why College Kids Need Porn Literacy Training
Mobile technology and abstinence-only guarantee that more young people get their sex ed from pornography. It’s time to talk to them about what they’re watching.

Mobile technology and abstinence-only guarantee that more young people get their sex ed from pornography. It's time to talk to them about what they're watching.


Martin Peretz: American Muslims Should Not Have 1st Amendment Rights

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 15th, 2010 4:40 am by HL

Martin Peretz: American Muslims Should Not Have 1st Amendment Rights
As Rosh Hashanah begins, and Ramadan ends, the virulent Muslim-baiting continues. The controversy over the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” is only a pretense to express the hate that was already there. On Wednesday, the Republican leader in the House of…


First Amendment to the United States ConstitutionFirst AmendmentMarty PeretzConstitutionIslam in the United States

The Tortoise Economy
Word from the twelve Federal Reserve Banks, summarized in the Fed’s so-called “Beige Book,” shows the economy slowing in July and August. Duh. But the Fed is quick to point out the economy overall is still growing — even though…


Beige BookFederal Reserve SystemGreat DepressionEconomicFederal Reserve Banks