Category Archives: Taxes

He Said That? 1/15/18

From Larken Rose, libertarian and tax protestor:

Property taxes’ rank right up there with ‘income taxes’ in terms of immorality and destructiveness. Where ‘income taxes’ are simply slavery using different words, ‘property taxes’ are just a Mafia turf racket using different words. For the former, if you earn a living on the gang’s turf, they extort you. For the latter, if you own property in their territory, they extort you. The fact that most people still imagine both to be legitimate and acceptable shows just how powerful authoritarian indoctrination is. Meanwhile, even a brief objective examination of the concepts should make anyone see the lunacy of it. ‘Wait, so every time I produce anything or trade with anyone, I have to give a cut to the local crime lord??’ ‘Wait, so I have to keep paying every year, for the privilege of keeping the property I already finished paying for??’ And not only do most people not make such obvious observations, but if they hear someone else pointing out such things, the well-trained Stockholm Syndrome slaves usually make arguments condoning their own victimization. Thus is the power of the mind control that comes from repeated exposure to BS political mythology and propaganda.

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Phillips Curve R.I.P. by Paul Craig Roberts

What supply-side economics is and isn’t. From Paul Craig Roberts at paulcraigroberts.com:

For a decade central banks have printed enormous quantities of new money. The excuse is to stimulate the economy by reviving inflation. However, the money has, for the most part, driven up the prices of financial assets instead of consumer and producer prices. The result has been a massive increase in the inequality of income, wealth, and opportunity.

The quantitative easing policy followed by central banks is based on belief in an economic relationship between inflation and GDP growth—the Phillips curve—that supply-side economics disproved during the Reagan administration. The belief in the Phillips curve persists, because supply-side economics was misrepresented by the financial media and neoliberal junk economics.

The fact that something as straightforward and well explained as supply-side economics can be misrepresented for 35 years should give us all pause. When successive chairmen of the Federal Reserve and other central banks have no correct idea what supply-side economics is, how can they formulate a workable monetary policy? They cannot.

The Phillips Curve is the modern day version of the Unicorn. People believe in it, but no one can find it.  The Fed has been searching for it for a decade and the Bank of Japan for two decades.  So has Wall Street. 

Central banks’ excuse for their massive injections of liquidity in the 21st century is that they are striving to stimulate the 2% rate of inflation that they think is the requirement for sustained rises in wages and GDP.  In a total contradiction of the Phillips Curve, in Japan massive doses of central bank liquidity have resulted in the collapse of both consumer and financial asset prices.  In the US the result has been a large increase in stock averages propelled by unrealistic P/E ratios and financial speculation resulting in Tesla’s capitalization at times exceeding that of General Motors.

In effect pursuit of the Phillips Curve has become a policy of ensuring financial stability of over-sized banks by continually injecting massive amounts of liquidity. The result is greater financial instability.  The Fed is now confronted with a stock market disconnected from corporate profits and consumer disposable income, and with insurance companies and pension funds that have been unable for a decade to balance equity portfolios with interest bearing debt instruments.  Crisis is everywhere in the air. What to do?

To continue reading: Phillips Curve R.I.P.

What Will the Tax Law Do to Over-Indebted Corporate America? by Wolf Richter

The new tax law will hurt heavily indebted companies. From Wolf Richter at wolfstreet.com:

A crackdown on excessive debt. Financial engineering gets more expensive.

The new tax law is larded with goodies for Corporate America, but there is one shift – a much needed shift – in this debt-obsessed world that will punish over-indebted companies, discourage companies from taking on too much leverage, and perhaps, just maybe, make these companies less risky: The new law sharply limits the deductibility of corporate interest expense.

Starting in 2018, a company can only deduct interest expense of up to 30% of its Ebitda (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization). Any amount in interest expense beyond it will no longer be deductible.

This will tighten further in 2022, when the deductibility of corporate debt will be capped at 30% of earnings before interest and taxes but after depreciation and amortization expenses. This is a much smaller number than Ebitda. And interest expense deduction is capped at 30% of that much smaller amount. This will raise the tax bill further.

Most impacted will be highly indebted companies, which often have a junk credit rating. And due to this junk credit rating, they also pay higher interest rates. This made the interest expense deduction very valuable. But now it is getting partially gutted.

Businesses have long been incentivized to borrow, not only by the extraordinarily low interest rates even for junk-rated companies, but also by the full deductibility of interest expense. And thus encouraged by the tax code, corporate debt has surged. Mergers & acquisitions, share buybacks, leveraged buyouts, and dividends have often been funded at least partially with debt. And over the years, companies have piled on an enormous amount of debt.

This chart shows this surge in US debts (bonds and loans) of nonfinancial businesses over the past decade:

According to estimates by the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, cited by The Wall Street Journal, the first phase of curtailing interest-expense deductibility – the phase that kicks in next year – would raise $171 billion in tax revenues over 10 years. The second phase that commences in 2022 would raise $307 billion over 10 years.

To continue reading: What Will the Tax Law Do to Over-Indebted Corporate America?

Republicans Bet the Farm, by Patrick J. Buchanan

Patrick J. Buchanan may find that the Republicans bet the farm by not doing anything about Obamacare or immigration. From Buchanan at buchanan.org:

President Trump, every Republican senator, and the GOP majority in Speaker Paul Ryan’s House just put the future of their party on the line.

By enacting the largest tax cut since the Reagan administration, the heart of which is cutting the corporate rate from 35 to 21 percent, Republicans have boldly bet the farm.

They have rewritten America’s tax code to reflect their belief that cutting taxes on the private sector will produce the prosperity they have promised. If it happens, the GOP will reap the rewards, if not by 2018, then in 2020.

Democrats, as the Party of Government, egalitarian and neo-socialist, have come to see their role as redistributing wealth from those who have too much — to those who have too little. For, as men (and women) are born unequal in ambition, ability, talent, energy, personality and drive, free markets must inevitably produce an inequality of results.

The mission of Democrats is to reduce those inequalities. And as the very rich are also the very few, in a one-man, one-vote democracy the Democratic Party will always have a following.

Winston Churchill called this the philosophy of failure and the gospel of envy.

Republicans see themselves as the party of free enterprise, of the private not the public sector. They believe that alleviating the burden of regulation and taxation on business will unleash that sector, growing the economy and producing broader prosperity.

By how they voted Wednesday, Republicans yet believe in “supply-side” economics. In the early ’80s, this was derided as “voodoo economics” and “trickle-down” economics, and pungently disparaged by John Kenneth Galbraith as an economic philosophy rooted in the belief that, if you wish to feed the sparrows, you must first feed the horses.

The problem for Democrats is that Reaganomics worked, and is seen historically to have been successful. In 1984, growth was near 6 percent and Reagan rode to a 49-state landslide over Fritz Mondale who, at his San Francisco convention, had declared he would raise taxes.

Thus the importance of what happened Tuesday and Wednesday on Capitol Hill should not be underestimated.

To continue reading: Republicans Bet the Farm

He Said That? 12/19/17

From Robert Heinlein (1907–1988), American science fiction, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966):

There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him.

Tax Reform & The “Japanification” Of America, by Lance Roberts

When an economy has too much debt, tax cuts don’t do much for it. From Lance Roberts at realinvestmentadvice.com:

On Friday, Kevin Brady of the House Ways and Means Committee was on my radio program discussing the “Tax Cuts & Jobs Act” bill which was released later in the day.

Here are the details of the release he referenced in the interview.

Of course, the real question is how are you going to “pay for it?”

Even as Kevin Brady noted in our interview, when I discussed the “fiscal” side of the tax reform bill, without achieving accelerated rates of economic growth – “the debt will balloon.”

The reality, of course, is that is exactly what will happen because there is absolutely NO historical evidence that cutting taxes, without offsetting cuts to spending, leads to stronger economic growth.

Those, of course, are the long-term concerns that will lead to lower rates of returns for equity-based investors and will continue to suppress interest rates for the next decade as the “Japanification” of the U.S. continues.

Let’s Be Like Japan

Bad debt is the root of the crisis. Fiscal stimulus may help economies for a couple of years but once the ‘painkilling’ effect wears off, U.S. and European economies will plunge back into crisis. The crisis won’t be over until the nonperforming assets are off the balance sheets of US and European banks.” – Keiichiro Kobayashi, 2010

While Kobayashi will ultimately be right, what he never envisioned was the extent to which Central Banks globally would be willing to go. As my partner Michael Lebowitz pointed out last week:

“Global central banks’ post-financial crisis monetary policies have collectively been more aggressive than anything witnessed in modern financial history. Over the last ten years, the six largest central banks have printed unprecedented amounts of money to purchase approximately $14 trillion of financial assets as shown below. Before the financial crisis of 2008, the only central bank printing money of any consequence was the Peoples Bank of China (PBoC).”

To continue reading: Tax Reform & The “Japanification” Of America

He Said That? 12/6/17

From Lysander Spooner (1808–1887), American political philosopher, essayist, pamphlet writer, Unitarian, abolitionist, legal theorist, and entrepreneur of the nineteenth century

If any man’s money can be taken by a so-called government, without his own personal consent, all his other rights are taken with it; for with his money the government can, and will, hire soldiers to stand over him, compel him to submit to its arbitrary will, and kill him if he resists.