Last law of the ‘fighting’ 112!

                                 Capital Compromise – avoiding the fiscal curb.

The Bush tax cuts permanent on incomes up to $400,000 for individuals, $450,000 for couples.

An extension of unemployment benefits,

Five-year extensions of the

Earned Income Tax Credit,

Child Tax Credit,

American Opportunity Tax Credit.

The tax on capital gains and dividends will be permanently set at 20 percent for those with income above the $450,000/$400,000 threshold. It will remain at 15 percent for everyone else. (Clinton-era rates were 20 percent for capital gains and taxed dividends as ordinary income, with a top rate of 39.6 percent.)

The estate tax will be set at 40 percent for those at the $450,000/$400,000 threshold, with a $5 million exemption. That threshold will be indexed to inflation.

The sequester will be delayed for two months. Half of the delay will be offset by discretionary cuts, split between defense and non-defense. The other half will be offset by revenue raised by the voluntary transfer of traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs, which would tax retirement savings when they’re moved over.

The Alternative Minimum Tax will be permanently patched to avoid raising taxes on the middle-class.

Two limits on tax exemptions and deductions for higher-income Americans will be reimposed: Personal Exemption Phaseout (PEP) will be set at $250,000 and the itemized deduction limitation (Pease) kicks in at $300,000.

The full package of temporary business tax breaks—benefiting everything from R&D and wind energy to race-car track owners—will be extended for another year.

Scheduled cuts to doctors under Medicare would be avoided for a year through spending cuts that haven’t been specified.

(The bill also includes a nine-month farm bill extension, cleaning up after another House Republican fiasco resulting from its failure to pass a farm bill. This extension would avert what’s been dubbed the “milk cliff,” a reversion in price supports for dairy farmers to a 1948 law that could have resulted in milk prices to consumers more than doubling.

What it doesn’t do, and what will immediately hit millions of wage earners, is extend or replace the payroll tax cut with an equivalent tax break. That means that all wage earners will see an immediate hit in their paychecks, with a two percent payroll tax increase. That’s a two percent tax hike on 98 percent of the nation).


Why is the USA running in the red?

outine increases in defense and domestic spending account for only about 15 percent of the financial deterioration, according to a new analysis of CBO data.

From: The Washington Post

By Lori Montgomery, Published: April 30

“The nation’s unnerving descent into debt began a decade ago with a choice, not a crisis.

In January 2001, with the budget balanced and clear sailing ahead, the Congressional Budget Office forecast ever-larger annual surpluses indefinitely. The outlook was so rosy, the CBO said, that Washington would have enough money by the end of the decade to pay off everything it owed.

Voices of caution were swept aside in the rush to take advantage of the apparent bounty. Political leaders chose to cut taxes, jack up spending and, for the first time in U.S. history,wage two wars solely with borrowed funds.“In the end, the floodgates opened,” said former senator Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), who chaired the Senate Budget Committee when the first tax-cut bill hit Capitol Hill in early 2001.

Now, instead of tending a nest egg of more than $2 trillion, the federal government expects to owe more than $10 trillion to outside investors by the end of this year. The national debt is larger, as a percentage of the economy, than at any time in U.S. history except for the period shortly after World War II.

Polls show that a large majority of Americans blame wasteful or unnecessary federal programs for the nation’s budget problems. But routine increases in defense and domestic spending account for only about 15 percent of the financial deterioration, according to a new analysis of CBO data.

The biggest culprit, by far, has been an erosion of tax revenue triggered largely by two recessions and multiple rounds of tax cuts. Together, the economy and the tax bills enacted under former president George W. Bush, and to a lesser extent by President Obama, wiped out $6.3 trillion in anticipated revenue. That’s nearly half of the $12.7 trillion swing from projected surpluses to real debt. Federal tax collections now stand at their lowest level as a percentage of the economy in 60 years.

Big-ticket spending initiated by the Bush administration accounts for 12 percent of the shift. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have added $1.3 trillion in new borrowing. A new prescription drug benefit for Medicare recipients contributed another $272 billion. The Troubled Assets Relief Program bank bailout, which infuriated voters and led to the defeat of several legislators in 2010, added just $16 billion — and TARP may eventually cost nothing as financial institutions repay the Treasury.

Obama’s 2009 economic stimulus, a favorite target of Republicans who blame Democrats for the mounting debt, has added $719 billion — 6 percent of the total shift, according to the new analysis of CBO data by the nonprofit Pew Fiscal Analysis Initiative. All told, Obama-era choices account for about $1.7 trillion in new debt, according to a separate Washington Post analysis of CBO data over the past decade. Bush-era policies, meanwhile, account for more than $7 trillion and are a major contributorto the trillion-dollar annual budget deficits that are dominating the political debate….

Most Republicans reject raising taxes as part of the solution; House Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio) has called it a “non-starter.” But Democrats won’t go for a proposal based solely on spending cuts. The“Gang of Six,” a bipartisan Senate group dedicated to debt reduction, is expected to unveil a strategy as soon as this week that couples sharp spending cuts with a rewrite of the tax code that would raise additional revenue.

(The debt ceiling, set at $14.3 trillion, covers all federal debt, including money the Treasury owes other federal entities, such as the Social Security trust fund. The CBO data focus on the portion of the debt borrowed from outside investors. The debt is the accumulation of annual deficits; if annual budgets are in surplus, the nation can pay down the debt.)

The annual surpluses that set the nation on this course emerged in the final years of the Clinton administration. In the typical American household, a surplus comes as welcome news. But the White House is not a typical household. When Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin saw the budget shift into the black in 1998, he immediately warned President Bill Clinton that, politically, it was a mixed blessing.

Rubin wanted to use the surplus to start repaying the debt, which was then just more than $3 trillion. The White House billed it as “saving Social Security first,” viewing the surplus as an opportunity to shore up the nation’s finances before huge numbers of the baby boom generation began claiming federal retirement benefits. “The problem was a whole other part of the political spectrum wanted to use the surplus for tax cuts,” Rubin said in an interview. “They said they wanted to give the people back their money. Of course, it was also the people’s debt.”

What to do with the surplus became a central issue of the 2000 presidential campaign, with Vice President Al Gore arguing that much of it should be put in a “lockbox” to protect Social Security and Medicare. Bush pushed for a broad tax cut, arguing that taxpayers at all income levels were owed a refund. “Some say that the growing federal surplus means Washington has more money to spend, but they’ve got it backwards,” Bush said as he accepted the GOP nomination in August 2000. “The surplus is not the government’s money. The surplus is the people’s money.”

As soon as he took office, Bush pushed Congress to make good on his tax pledge. Less than a week after his inauguration, he got a boost from Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who testified before the Senate Budget Committee that “tax reduction appears required” to prevent the federal government from accumulating too much cash. Greenspan feared that large surpluses would turn the government into the nation’s largest investor, creating distortions in the markets.

A chorus of skeptics warned against spending the surplus. Some stressed the inherent uncertainty of the CBO projections. Others said a big tax cut would unleash pent-up desire in both parties to pursue expensive priorities without the pay-as-you-go restraints that had helped produce the surplus.

Congress approved a $1.35 trillion tax cut in record time. A second package, worth $350 billion, followed in 2003. Together, they constituted one of the largest tax cuts since World War II, according to the conservative Tax Foundation.

Bush’s first Treasury secretary, Paul O’Neill, resigned after the White House decided to pursue the 2003 measure. “I believed we needed the money to facilitate fundamental tax reform and begin working on unfunded liabilities for Social Security and Medicare,” O’Neill said in an interview. But the White House, he said, was focused on improving economic growth for the fourth quarter of 2004. “They wanted to make sure economic conditions were great going into the president’s reelection.”

Proponents of tax cuts argue that the legislation merely returned tax collections to their appropriate levels. They note that the CBO’s 2001 forecast assumed that tax collections would stay above 20 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product (defined as the total of all economic output) — well above the historic average of 18 percent of GDP.

“It’s not obvious that America was ready to have taxes at a level this high persistently,” said Donald Marron, a former CBO director who now heads the nonprofit Tax Policy Center. “Some degree of tax cutting was inevitable.”

But some key advocates of the tax cuts now say such a large reduction was probably ill-advised.

“Nobody would have thought that all these things would have happened after you cut taxes,” Domenici said. “That you’d have two wars and not pay for them. That you’d have another recession. A huge extravaganza of expenditures” for the military and homeland security after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. “You would pause before you did it, if you knew.”

Bill Thomas, the former House Ways and Means Committee chairman who helped shepherd the tax cuts through Congress, defended the 2003 package as “fuel for the economy.” But he said in an interview that the 2001 measure was larded with “stuff that I was not all that wild about,” including bipartisan priorities such as a big increase in the child tax credit and a break for married couples — provisions Thomas believes did little to promote economic growth and amounted to “throwing money out the window.”

“I couldn’t do anything about it,” said Thomas, a California Republican who retired in 2006. “You’re the candy man when you advocate those kinds of tax cuts.”

In the end, Bush cut taxes and spent more money. Good times masked the impact, as surging tax revenues reduced the size of year-to-year deficits during the first three years of his second term. But after the economy collapsed during Bush’s final year in office, deficits — and therefore the debt — began to explode as Obama sought to revive economic activity with more tax cuts and federal spending.

Today, the CBO forecasts are unrelievedly gloomy, showing huge deficits essentially forever. As policymakers grapple with the legacy of the past decade, a demographic wave of senior citizens is crashing at their doorstep, driving up the cost of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

William Hoagland, who was for years a top budget aide to Domenici and other GOP Senate leaders, said it is simplistic to think today’s fiscal problems began just 10 years ago. In 1976, as a young CBO analyst, Hoagland produced a long-term simulation that showed entitlement costs gradually overwhelming the rest of the federal budget.

“This situation really goes back to long before [the Bush administration], which is to say to old dead men that have long left the Congress,” he said.

Still, Hoagland said, the abandonment of fiscal discipline in the wake of the surpluses clearly didn’t help. “Nobody pushed for paying for this stuff,” he said. Not even after “it became very clear in the middle of 2003 that the line had turned on us. And the surpluses as far as the eye could see were no longer there.”

Emphasis Mine


Cost Of Tax Cuts For Rich Exceeds Value Of Budget Cuts

from HuffPost: (William Alden)

NEW YORK –” Today, as Americans submit their tax returns, the wealthiest earners will each reap hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax savings.

As part of a law passed late last year, the Bush-era tax cuts for the richest Americans were extended for two years. The estimated cost to the government of that portion of the tax deal, $42 billion this fiscal year, exceeds the stated $38 billion value of the savings from the federal budget cuts lawmakers approved last week.

Those budget cuts, which will affect many services for poor Americans, add more strain to a still weak economy, leading some economists to lament that this allocation of federal resources is not the most efficient way to promote economic growth.

“I don’t think it’s a good time to be trimming federal outlays if you’re interested in the vulnerability of the economy,” said economist Gary Burtless, formerly with the Labor Department and now at the Brookings Institution. “I’m not quite sure where the theories come from that this is going to strengthen economic growth over the next 12 to 18 months. It’s going to have the reverse effect. It’s going to slow it down.”

In the wake of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, the economic recovery has been uneven. The financial sector, which employs some of the country’s wealthiest citizens as its executives, has seen profits rebound. Pay at top financial firms has multiplied, while wages for most Americans have stagnated.

Between January 2008 and January 2010, the private sector lost nearly 8 million jobs. Last year, payrolls began to expand, but the pace of the recovery has been slow. With companies reluctant to spend their reserve cash on hiring, the unemployment rate remains high. Last month, 8.8 percent of the workforce was unemployed, a figure that would be significantly greater if it included the millions of jobless Americans who have entirely given up looking for work.

Thanks to the tax cut extension passed last year, struggling Americans will get to keep a few thousand dollars that otherwise would have gone to the government. A family making between $50,000 and $75,000, for instance, saves just over $2,000 on average, according to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center. From a broad economic perspective, that’s money Americans can spend on themselves, theoretically boosting demand, stimulating business activity and generally helping promote a recovery.

But the extension of the tax breaks for the wealthy have proven more controversial, especially as job-creation has remained slow. Under the extension, a family that earns between $500,000 and $1 million gets an average $25,000 tax break, according to the Tax Policy Center. A household earning more than $1 million gets more than $130,000.

Over two years, tax cuts for the wealthy will cost the government about $120 billion and will create or save about 290,000 jobs, according to analysis by the White House-aligned research groupCenter for American Progress. That’s a cost of about $400,000 per job, many of which will likely yield salaries far below that value.

The tax extension seems especially hard for critics to swallow in light of last week’s federal budget deal, which calls for spending cuts of about $38 billion. In comparison, tax breaks for the wealthy will cost the government $42 billion during this fiscal year, according to Michael Linden, director for tax and budget policy at the Center for American Progress.

The cuts come at a period of economic weakness, when those who most rely on government services struggle to put food on the table. Last week, the International Monetary Fund cut its forecast for U.S. economic growth — by the same degree as it cut its forecast for Japan, whose economy faces a major strain as the country attempts to rebuild after a devastating earthquake and tsunami.

But some fiscal restraint is necessary for supporting long-term economic growth, said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics. In theory, government spending cuts encourage private businesses to boost their own spending, thereby helping stimulate economic activity. A reduction of public spending might also help stem inflationary pressures and boost investors’ confidence.

While these proposed cuts represent only a small percentage of the year’s budget, they are an important first step, said Zandi, who has advised lawmakers from both parties.

“I think it’s entirely appropriate to focus on discretionary spending, and how we can reduce it going forward,” Zandi said. “My druthers would not have been to cut as deeply right now, until the economy is off and running.”

The deficit-reduction plan put forth by President Barack Obama in a speech on Wednesday includes a combination of cutting spending and ending tax breaks for the wealthy when those naturally expire. He laid out a strategy for reducing the deficit by $4 trillion over 12 years, calling for additional cuts across the board.

“If they make serious cuts over time, that’s actually going to be quite good for the economy,” said Andrew Lo, professor of finance at the MIT Sloan School of Management. “It’s bitter medicine, but we’ve got to take it.”

Emphasis MINE