War on Wealth, Part II | Keeping Our Foot on the Gas

* Pieces of the Keystone XL pipeline await construction in South Dakota. Via: North Platte Post *

By: Larry Walker, Jr. –

When Mr. Obama visited the padlock maker Master Lock in Milwaukee, on February 15, 2012, he drew the following conclusions. He said, “Manufacturing is coming back. Companies are starting to bring jobs back. The economy is getting stronger. The recovery is speeding up. We’re moving in the right direction. And now we have to do everything in our power to keep our foot on the gas.” So in keeping with my fact based approach, I have to ask, Are Mr. Obama’s claims reasonable? Let’s run down the list.

“Manufacturing is coming back. Companies are starting to bring jobs back.”

First of all, in my last post, War on Wealth | Obama Visits Master Lock, I pointed out that the United States has lost more than 6.0 million manufacturing jobs since 1990, and almost 1.0 million of those have been lost since Obama’s inauguration (see chart above). That’s hardly indicative of a manufacturing boom. And since Master Lock only brought back an alleged 100 jobs from China, that’s hardly proof of companies bringing jobs back. It would have been more accurate to state, although less of a reason to re-elect Mr. Obama, that one U.S. company brought back 100 jobs from China.

“The economy is getting stronger. The recovery is speeding up.”

Next, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, GDP declined at an annual rate of (3.5%) in 2009, increased at an annual rate of 3.0% in 2010, and then slowed to an annual rate of just 1.7% in 2011 (as of 1/27/2012). So since our economy declined from an annual growth rate of 3.0% in 2010, to an annual growth rate of just 1.7% in 2011, does this mean the economy is getting stronger? Not in my book. So instead of backing Obama’s claim, that the recovery is speeding up, the facts show that the recovery is actually slowing down (see chart above).

“We’re moving in the right direction.”

Are we moving in the right direction? Well, in terms of deficit spending, the government is borrowing at the highest rate of GDP since World War II, as shown in the chart (above). The national debt as a percentage of GDP has skyrocketed from 69.9% in 2008 to 104.8% in 2012, and is projected to reach 107.8% by 2014. The last time our debt-to-GDP ratio surpassed 100% was in 1945, when the federal debt climbed to 116.6% of GDP, peaking at 121.9% in 1946.

We know where the money was spent during the Second World War, but where’s the $5 trillion Obama borrowed and spent? For God’s sake, we could have cured cancer, or built a colony on the Moon with that kind of dough.

In terms of the near record debt-to-GDP ratio, coupled with the continuing loss of manufacturing jobs and the year-over-year decline in GDP, I conclude that the United States is moving in the wrong direction.

“And now we have to do everything in our power to keep our foot on the gas.”

Wait a minute; did Mr. Obama dare mention the word gasoline in his delusional tirade? When I first heard this, I wondered for a minute whether he really meant to say, ‘And now we have to do everything in our power to keep our boot on the neck of U.S. oil and gas producers.’

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), gasoline prices have risen from an average price of $1.61 in the week ending December 29, 2008, to $3.52 through the week ending February 13, 2012 (see chart above).

So since gasoline prices have risen by 118.6% under the Obama Administration, perhaps we should be doing everything in our power to remove the federal government’s dead cold foot from the gas pedal. Gasoline prices are expected to rise further, to $4.50 per gallon by this summer, which may give Mr. Obama a temporary victory in his War on Wealth, but fortunately for America, his chance of re-election will simultaneously run out of gas.

To the contrary, instead of being a time to continue recklessly forward, our foot glued to the accelerator, now is the time for America to pull over to the pits for refuelling, new tires, repairs, mechanical adjustments, and a driver change. The replacement of Mr. Obama with a truly Conservative POTUS is imminent. And just so you don’t get the wrong idea, no, I’m not suggesting as a substitute the severely moderate Mitt Romney. [But I’ll back Mr. Romney in a heartbeat over another four years of Obama.]

References:

A Crude Hit to the Recovery

18 Statistics That Prove That the Economy Has Not Improved Since Barack Obama Became President

Related:

War on Wealth | Obama Visits Master Lock

Manipulation 201: Playing With Unemployment

Drill Here, Drill Now | Facebook Petition

National Debt Bomb | 1976 to 2011

The 4th Deadly Sin

By: Larry Walker, Jr. –

Definition of Lazy – “encouraging inactivity or indolence”

The Nixon Shock was a series of economic measures taken by U.S. President Richard Nixon in 1972, which included unilaterally cancelling the direct convertibility of the United States dollar to gold and essentially ending the existing Bretton Woods system of international financial exchange. However, it was not until March of 1976 when the world’s major currencies began floating. It is notable that what cost $1.00 in 1976, now costs $3.95, and what costs $1.00 today, cost only $0.25 in 1976, as annual inflation over the period averaged 4.00%.

Meanwhile, since 1976, the U.S. National Debt has grown from $620.4 billion to $15,039.4 billion, in nominal dollars (as of November 17, 2011). So the questions today are as follows: How much of the national debt is attributable to a declining dollar? And, does anyone really care about the looming debt implosion?

Measuring the National Debt in 2011 Dollars

At the close of fiscal year 1976, the U.S. National Debt stood at $620.4 billion. Converting this to 2011 dollars, would have made it equivalent to $2,450.1 billion. So it took the United States 186 fiscal years, from 1791 to 1976, to accumulate today’s equivalent of $2,450.1 billion in debt. This averages out to around $13 billion per year, in today’s dollars, over the entire 186 year period. In contrast, over the last 4 fiscal years, the national debt has grown by a total of $5,006.9 billion, when measured in 2011 dollars. This averages out to borrowing of $1,251.7 billion per year, over the last 4 fiscal years.

Per NationMaster.com, in 1976, the U.S. population stood at 218.0 million. By 2011 the population had increased to 311.7 million, representing an average annual growth rate of 1.2%. At the current rate of growth, the population will reach 1,008 million by the year 2193, 186 years from 2007.

From 1977 through fiscal year 2007, the national debt grew from $2,450 billion to $9,783 billion (in 2011 dollars). That’s an increase of $237 billion per year, or an average annual growth rate of 9.7%. On that trajectory, the debt would reach $185.5 trillion by the year 2193.

From 1977 through fiscal year 2011, the national debt grew from $2,450 billion to $14,790 billion (in 2011 dollars). That’s an increase of $353 billion per year, or an average annual growth rate of 14.4%. On this trajectory, the debt would reach $402.2 trillion by the year 2193.

In fiscal years 2008 through 2011, the national debt grew from $9,783 billion to $14,790 billion (in 2011 dollars). This represents an increase of $1,252 billion per year, or an average annual growth rate of 12.8%. Since the growth rate has been slightly lower over the last four years, as compared to 1977 to 2011, on its current trajectory, the national debt will reach $359.2 trillion by the year 2193.

On a per capita basis, the national debt was $11,237 in 1976 as compared to $47,450 at the end of fiscal year 2011 (in 2011 dollars). Based on its 1977 to 2007 growth rate, the debt would reach $183,997 per capita by the year 2193. At its 1977 to 2011 growth rate, the debt would reach $398,944 per capita by the year 2193. However, at the rate of growth since the end of 2007, the debt will reach $356,327 per capita by the year 2193.

To summarize, measuring in 2011 dollars, the national debt grew by an average of $13 billion per year over the 186 year period ending in 1976, and over the last four fiscal years it has increased at an average of $1,252 billion per year. Putting this into historical context, as compared to pre-1977 borrowing, the federal government is presently incurring the equivalent of 96 years of debt in each new fiscal year.

Another way of looking at this is that since the debt grew from $2,450.1 billion in 1976, to $14,790.3 billion in 2011, it has grown by $12,340.2 billion over the last 35 years, or by an average of $352.6 billion per year (in 2011 dollars). So because since 1976 we have borrowed an average of $352.6 billion per year, versus an average of $13 billion pre-1977, it may be stated that, the United States is currently borrowing at an annual rate which is 2,612.3% higher than its pre-1977 average.

And thanks to the Federal Reserve, what cost $0.25 in 1976, now costs $1.00. So since everything costs about 400% more than it did in 1976, in real terms, government borrowing is only off target by 2,212.3% from its pre-1977 level. Therefore, although the declining dollar is partially responsible for the increased borrowing, it only represents about 15.3% of the problem.

Debt to GDP: 1976 vs. 2011

By the end of fiscal year 2011, the national debt had grown to $14,790.3 billion. Meanwhile, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. Gross Domestic Product stood at $15,198.6 billion, as of the end of the 3rd quarter 2011. So at the close of fiscal year 2011, our debt-to-GDP ratio was 97.3% (14,790.3 / 15,198.6). In comparison, the national debt stood at $2,450.1 billion, in 1976, and GDP was $7,205.7 (in 2011 dollars). So at the close of fiscal year 1976, our debt-to-GDP ratio was only 34.0% (2,450.1 / 7,205.7).

  • 1976 Debt-to-GDP Ratio: 34.0%

  • 2011 Debt-to-GDP Ratio: 97.3%

Measuring the National Debt in Constant 1976 Dollars

Since the dollar has lost 300% of its value since 1976, courtesy of the Federal Reserve, what would the national debt look like had our currency remained stable? Well, according to the table below, the national debt would be $3.8 trillion, as of 11/17/2011, in constant 1976 dollars, as opposed to its present value of $15.0 trillion. More interestingly however, there are five years where the national debt actually declined, when valued in constant 1976 dollars – 1979, 1980, 1981, 2000 and 2001.

Best 5 vs. Worst 5

When valuing the national debt in 2011 dollars, the table below shows that the worst 5 years were 2004, 2008, 2011, 2010, and 2009, with annual debt increases of $595.8, $1,017.1, $1,228.7, $1,651.8, and $1,885.1 billion, respectively. But what’s more disturbing is that, based on the first month and a half of fiscal year 2012, borrowing is currently on pace to reach $1,992.1 billion, which would exceed the fiscal year 2009 record of $1,885.1 billion, making this year, potentially, the all-time worst on record.

The table also shows that the best 5-years were 2000, 1980, 2001, 1981, and 1979, with annual borrowing decreases of $-44.1, $-20.7, $-18.8, $-15.1, and $-11.9 billion, when valued in constant 1976 dollars, respectively.

The chart above reflects the annual change in the national debt, in nominal dollars as compared to constant 1976 dollars. But it’s not like anyone really cares. Who’s paying attention anyway? I definitely have better things to do than worry about what’s going on in Washington, DC. As far as I’m concerned, wherever the buck stops is where the blame lies. So what does Obama have to say, after posting 3 of the worst 5 spending records in modern U.S. history? “…Also to put our economy on a stronger and sounder footing for the future, we’ve got to rein in our deficits and get the government to live within its means, while still making the investments that help put people to work right now and make us more competitive in the future.” So in other words, according to Obama, government needs to spend more and lower its annual deficit at the same time.

Obama recently made the admission that, “We’ve been a little bit lazy over the last couple of decades. We’ve kind of taken for granted — ‘Well, people would want to come here’ — and we aren’t out there hungry, selling America and trying to attract new businesses into America.” So pray tell, exactly who has “gotten a little bit lazy” in attracting foreign investment to America? It looks to me like most of that investment is coming in to cover Obama’s own irresponsible spending, and that the only other attraction would be the lure of higher taxes, and tighter governmental regulations. Oh, and by the way, those Obama manufactured Occupy Protests aren’t exactly lending America the aura of stability either. If America has gotten “a little lazy over the last couple of decades”, she must have committed the 4th Deadly Sin over the last 3 years.

References:

Nixon Shock – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nixon_Shock

Dollar Times – Inflation Calculator – http://www.dollartimes.com/calculators/inflation.htm

U.S. Treasury – Historical Debt – http://treasurydirect.gov/govt/reports/pd/histdebt/histdebt.htm

Obama’s 1950s Tax Fallacy

– Is the FICA tax a tax?

– By: Larry Walker, Jr. –

During a press conference on June 29, 2011, Barack Obama said, “The revenue we’re talking about isn’t coming out of the pockets of middle-class families that are struggling — it’s coming out of folks who are doing extraordinarily well and who are enjoying the lowest tax rates since before I was born. If you’re a — if you are a wealthy CEO or a … hedge fund manager in America right now, your taxes are lower than they have ever been. They’re lower than they’ve been since the 1950s.”

Does Obama really want to go there? Why stop at the 1950s? Why not go all the way back to 1913, or 1926, when top marginal tax rates were only 7.0% and 25.0%, respectively? And if top marginal tax rates are lower today than they’ve been since the 1950s, are they not also lower than they’ve been since 1964? For what it’s worth, I know that within my lifetime, top marginal tax rates are higher today than they were in the late 1980s, and lower than they were for most of the 1990s, but as for the 1950s, why should I care? That was before my time as well.

If I understand Obama correctly, what he’s saying is that if you were a wealthy CEO or a hedge fund manager in the 1950s, your taxes are lower today, than they were back then. But, if you were a wealthy CEO or a hedge fund manager in the 1950s, and are still breathing, you’re probably well into your 80s and could care less, like me. Enjoy forking over the paltry 35% of your earnings for your remaining years, and don’t forget the Social Security, Medicare, and State taxes. I mean, if anyone deserves a break, it’s our elders.

Now, I wasn’t born until 1960, and didn’t start working consistently until the 1980s, and I think my Mom was only 12 in 1950, so is anyone around today who can relate? The truth is that for anyone to have entered the workforce, at say the age of 18, in 1950, would make them at least 79 years old today. And anyone who entered the workforce at the end of that decade, in 1959, would be at least 70. So in order to have been in the prime earning years back then, ages 30 to 50, would make one well beyond 80 years of age today. For example, Alfred Winslow Jones (9 September 1900 – 2 June 1989), who formed the first hedge fund in 1949, would have been 111 years old by now. And, since the average age of a CEO in the United States, today, is just 56, most wouldn’t even have been born until the mid-1950s. The fact that there aren’t any CEOs or hedge fund managers around today, who were in those positions in the 1950s, leads anyone paying attention to think that Obama is out of touch with reality. And that’s putting it kindly.

The table below compares what 1950s tax rates looked like back then, against what they would look like in 2010 dollars. [Note: Tax rates were the same throughout the 1950s, and the brackets for Single and Married Filing Separate taxpayers were exactly one-half of the amounts in the following 1955 Married Filing Joint schedule.]

From 1950s Tax Fallacy

Winning The ‘50s – At least in the 1950s, everyone had skin in the game. If you had taxable income of under $32,352, in 2010 dollars, your marginal tax rate would have been 20%. If you had taxable income of $250,000, in today’s dollars, your marginal tax rate would have been 47%. And if you had taxable income of over $1,000,000, in 2010 dollars, your marginal rate would have been between 78% and 91%. So is this what Obama wants? If so, he should change his slogan from “Winning the Future” to “Winning the ‘50s”, or something.

Nobody really knows what Obama is bloviating about, but just for the heck of it, let’s analyze whether the amount of personal tax revenues collected, as a percentage of GDP, was any higher in the 1950s than it is today. The chart below was derived from statistics published by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. According to the data, personal taxes, as a percentage of GDP, averaged 7.6% in the 1950s, and 7.5% between 2001 and 2010. So in that sense, Americans are paying a whopping 1.3% less in personal taxes than our grandparents, and great-grandparents paid back in the 1950s. I included federal government spending just out of curiosity. It turns out that government spending as a percentage of GDP, while only averaging 16.4% in the 1950s, has averaged 21.3% since 2001. So it appears that the percentage decline of 1.3% in personal taxes, which we are all enjoying today, is miniscule, compared to the unsustainable 29.8% spike in federal government spending. Perhaps Obama should have picked a different decade.

From 1950s Tax Fallacy

Although it may be true that in the single year of 2010, personal taxes declined to 6.2% of GDP, versus the 7.6% average of the 1950s, or by -18.4%; at the same time, government spending has skyrocketed to 25.5% of GDP, versus 16.4% in the 1950s, or by +55.5%. So in 2010, personal taxes declined by -18.4%, while federal spending increased by +55.5%, compared to 1950s averages. So what’s wrong with this picture? Should we just adopt the 1950s tax brackets and then jack the rates up by 73.9%?

Back to the point of Obama’s tirade: Although in terms of tax brackets, it would appear on the surface that we are paying lower taxes today, than our ancestors who worked in the 1950s, there is one additional item to consider. Without getting into all the other taxes we pay today, which either were not around or at least not as burdensome in the 1950s (i.e. federal fuel taxes, airline ticket taxes, state and local taxes, and such), FICA payroll taxes were much lower in the 1950s compared to today.

Is the FICA tax a tax?

We know that the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) is codified at Title 26, Subtitle C, Chapter 21 of the United States Code. And that the FICA tax is a United States payroll (or employment) tax imposed by the federal government on both employees and employers to fund Social Security and Medicare —federal programs that provide benefits for retirees, the disabled, and children of deceased workers, etc… And we know that the amount that one pays in payroll taxes throughout one’s working career is indirectly tied to the social security benefits annuity that one receives as a retiree. Yet while some folks claim that the payroll tax is not a tax because its collection is tied to a benefit, the United States Supreme Court decided in Flemming v. Nestor (1960) that no one has an accrued property right to benefits from Social Security. Add to that the fact that the Trust Funds have been looted, and it is clear that the FICA tax is really just a tax. My basic rule of thumb is that, if it comes out of my paycheck, and goes to the federal government, it’s a tax.

In 1950, the Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) tax rate levied on both employees and employers was just 1.5% of the first $3,000 in wages ($3,000 in 1950 was equivalent to $27,451 in 2010). And by 1959, the rate had increased to 2.5% of the first $4,800 in wages ($35,866.96 in 2010 dollars). There wasn’t any Medicare tax in the 1950s, as it was not implemented until 1966. Historical FICA tax rates are shown below.

From 1950s Tax Fallacy

As most of us working today are aware, beginning in 1990, the OASDI tax rate was increased to 6.2% of the first $51,300 in earnings, and the wage base has increased each year since by increases in the national average wage index. Also beginning in 1990, Medicare taxes were assessed at the rate of 1.45% of the first $51,300 in wages, and the wage base was stepped up to $125,000 in 1991, $130,200 in 1992, $135,000 in 1993, and has been levied without earnings limitations since 1994. Most of today’s workforce is also aware that since 2009, the OASDI rate of 6.2% has applied to the first $108,600 in wages, while the Medicare tax of 1.45% has been levied without limit (see chart below). By the way, Medicare taxes are scheduled to increase in 2013, for those who are not paying their “fair share” today.

From 1950s Tax Fallacy

So if we add social insurance taxes, since they are a tax, to personal income taxes, and compare the total amount of taxes paid in the 1950s to the present, are taxes still lower today? Well, per the chart below, the average amount of combined social insurance and personal taxes paid in the 1950s was 9.7% of GDP, versus an average of 14.3% for the decade ending in 2010. So it turns out that the total amount of taxes the federal government collects from us today are 47.4% more than in the 1950s. This might explain why many of us feel as though we are taxed enough already. But how would we know without first checking the facts? What is clear, without question, is that taxes are a heck of a lot lower today, than they were when they reached a record 17% of GDP in the year 2000. Also of note is the fact that government spending only represented 18.8% of GDP in the year 2000, or about the same as it was in 1969, versus a disgraceful 25.5% in 2010.

From 1950s Tax Fallacy

The Point: The fact that we are paying 6.2% in Social Security taxes on the first $108,600 of earnings today, whereas the rate was only 2.5% of the first $4,800 in 1959; and that we are paying an additional 1.45% in Medicare taxes on an unlimited amount of earnings today, whereas the tax did not exist in the 1950s; means that the amount of taxes paid by individuals, as a percentage of GDP, is much greater today than it was for those living and working in the 1950s. In fact, the total amount of taxes Americans pay today is at least 47.4% greater than it was in the 1950s. It’s also interesting to note that the amount of taxes paid in 2010 was exactly the same, as a percentage of GDP, as paid by those who lived and worked in 1970 (see the chart above, data here). So what’s the bottom line?

The bottom line: If Obama wants to go back to the 1950s, let’s go. But it’s not going to work unless government spending follows suit. So cut government spending from 25.5% of GDP, back down to 16.4%, and you’ve got a deal. But I’m afraid that short of passing the Monetary Reform Act, the next step forward is another shellacking. But that’s a given. America lacks leadership. Either you’re hot, lukewarm or cold, but attempting to divert attention away from the real problem, excessive government spending, towards some make-believe injustice since the 1950s, is so far from the mark that it’s almost incomprehensible. As I see it, there are two problems with Obama’s sound bite. First of all, 51% of the current American workforce doesn’t pay any income taxes at all (i.e. not paying their fair share). Secondly, the injustice du jour lies not in the amount of taxes being collected, but rather in the amount of money the federal government is squandering. It would appear that with Obama, all roads lead to Athens, or is it Rome?

“It is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high and tax revenues are too low and the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the rates now … Cutting taxes now is not to incur a budget deficit, but to achieve the more prosperous, expanding economy which can bring a budget surplus.” ~John F. Kennedy, Nov. 20, 1962, president’s news conference

References:

Data Tables

http://www.bea.gov/national/nipaweb/SelectTable.asp#S2

http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/ProgData/taxRates.html

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2893/is_4_26/ai_n25340358/

http://www.taxfoundation.org/publications/show/151.html

http://www.dollartimes.com/calculators/inflation.htm

Saving Our Way to Prosperity

Yes. You Can.

– By: Larry Walker, Jr. –

According to Barack Obama, “We can’t simply cut our way to prosperity.” Prior historical references: None. Upon hearing such an absurd statement, and being of the homo economicus persuasion, my first instinct is to define what it means to me, and then to determine whether it has any relevance in my life. If we are honest, we must each define what the word prosperity, or rich, means to us. Only after we have defined its meaning are we able to chart a course.

In the WikiHow.com article, “How to get rich,” there are seven steps, the first of which is to define the word “rich.” Obviously it means different things to different people. According to Obama, the word rich means making more than $250,000 per year. A more formal definition of prosperity is “to be fortunate or successful, especially in terms of one’s finances.” For others it means achieving a certain level of prestige, or being able to afford a comfortable retirement, neither of which necessarily involves making $250,000 in a year. How would you define prosperity?

Homo Economicus

The term Homo economicus, or Economic human, is the concept in some economic theories of humans as rational and narrowly self-interested actors who have the ability to make judgments toward their subjectively defined ends. My definition is that men and women are primarily interested in making judgments which will improve their own economic condition. My goal is not to be a millionaire, although that would be nice. My goal is to be able to meet my obligations in life and to remain self-sufficient upon retirement.

In John Stuart Mill’s work on political economy, in the late nineteenth century, he further defined this economic man as “a being who inevitably does that by which he may obtain the greatest amount of necessaries, conveniences, and luxuries, with the smallest quantity of labor and physical self-denial with which they can be obtained.” I have to admit that my goal is also to get the most out of life with the least possible amount of labor, but that’s not exactly how it’s been working out. I work much too hard. What’s your goal?

Yes. You can.

Notice that Obama uses the words, “we and our”, as in, “We can’t simply cut our way to prosperity.” Exactly what does that mean? The last time I checked, “we” wasn’t responsible for paying my bills. Actually, you and I just might be able to cut our way into relative prosperity. But I don’t believe that the federal government can tax and spend us into a utopian paradise. If this were possible, wouldn’t we already be there?

Returning to “How to Get Rich,” the 4th Step is entitled, Delay Gratification, under which we find the following guidance on the path to prosperity:

  1. Are you spending money on things that won’t get you rich?

  2. Are you sticking with a job that doesn’t make that much money to begin with?

  3. In order to get rich, you’re going to have to give up some of the things you enjoy doing now, so that you can enjoy those things without restriction later. For example, you might like having free time, so you give yourself a few hours a day to do nothing. But if you were to invest those few hours into getting rich, you could work towards having 20 years of free time (24 hours a day!) with early retirement. What can you give up now in exchange for being rich later?

  • Cut expenses
  • Get a job that pays more or get a promotion
  • Downgrade or give up your car
  • Downgrade your apartment or house
  • Reallocate your spare time

Although there is an element of truth in the statement, “we can’t cut our way to prosperity”, the fact is that you and I can, individually. The act of cutting, or reducing, my personal expenses causes me to save money. So to cut means the same as to save. By substituting the word ‘cut’ with ‘save’ in Obama’s original comment; what he is really saying to me is that, “We can’t simply save our way into prosperity.” Why, that’s preposterous! It’s as if he is implying that I should empty my emergency fund and retirement savings, spend it all today, and I will be magically ushered into prosperity. But if I did that, then I would be forced to borrow huge sums of money when ready to invest in furtherance of my dreams. But this won’t work out too well, especially since banks normally require a down payment.

The 5th Step in How to Get Rich is entitled, Save Money. It states, “You’ve heard the phrase “It takes money to make money.” So start socking away the extra money you’re making now that you’ve delayed gratification as outlined previously. After all, what’s the point in giving up the stuff you like if you have a hole in your pocket? Start building a “get rich fund” at the bank. Always pay yourself first. This means before you go and blow your pay check on a new pair of shoes or a golf club you don’t need, put money aside in to an account that you don’t touch.” This makes much more sense to me than the idea of squandering my savings, as implied by Obama. So for me, yes, I can save my way into relative prosperity, and so can you. The federal government could do the same, after paying off its massive $14.4 trillion debt, that is. This ought to be Obama’s goal. Yes. You can.

No. Government Can’t.

He jabbers on, “We need to do what’s necessary to grow our economy; create good, middle-class jobs; and make it possible for all Americans to pursue their dreams.

There he goes with that “our” stuff again. We need to do what’s necessary to grow our economy. That sounds appealing, but fortunately my economy is not yours, and yours is not mine. My economy is comprised of my household, my family, my business customers, vendors, lenders, employees and other obligations. I don’t know where Obama is coming from, but there is one way that the federal government could help to grow my economy, and that would be to stop taking as much of my hard earned money in taxes. That would help quite a bit. If I didn’t have to pay any taxes at all, my economy would be doing pretty well. Try that one on for size! If the government concentrated more on how to take less of my money, then my economy would improve, and so would yours. This simply requires cutting the size of government.

Next, he says that we need to create good, middle class jobs. What exactly is a good, middle class job? Does it require picking up a shovel? The idea of having a good, shovel-ready, middle class job doesn’t exactly mesh with prosperity, at least not in my book. Thanks but no thanks. I don’t really want a middle class job; I would rather have more freedom and prosperity. I don’t believe that group effort is required in job creation. I believe that one economic man can create many jobs. In fact, the true economic man is going to need a lot of help upon reaching his own prosperity. He’s going to need employees, suppliers, accountants, attorneys, financial planners, housekeepers, gardeners, service people, travel agents, retailers, restaurants, auto dealers, gas stations, chauffeurs, etc. It seems to me that Obama’s goal should be to inspire more economic men and women, and greater prosperity, rather than higher taxes, and more mundane, government-manufactured, temporary, shovel-ready, middle class jobs.

Finally, Obama says that we need to make it possible for all Americans to pursue their dreams. But all that’s required here is freedom. Are we not free? As long as I am free, I can do anything, and so can you. Nothing can stop me from pursuing my dreams, yet my dreams are not yours, and yours are not mine. Maybe your dream is to manufacture a product, while mine is to provide a good quality affordable service. Someone else’s dream might involve freeloading off of the toil of others. Just as the word prosperity means different things to different people, our dreams are not all the same. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The federal government didn’t give these rights to me, and it can’t take them away. You sir, cannot spend our way into life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, they are the gift of God.

The bottom line: Yes we can save our way to prosperity. That’s how it works in this Universe. It takes money, to make money. Here are a few more steps we can follow along the path to prosperity. Step 1: Cut discretionary government spending back to 1996 levels. Step 2: Force the federal government to start making principal payments against its debt. Step 3: Abolish every new governmental regulation established since January of 2009. Step 4: Get rid of Barack Obama and his queer notions about the economy.

Want Tax Hikes? Push the Reset Button

Cut Government Spending Back to 1996

– By: Larry Walker, Jr. –

Dialing the top income tax bracket back 15 years without a reciprocal cut in government spending does nothing to preempt the debt bubble. However, if the Golfer in Chief and his inept cohorts remain stuck on reinstating those bygone tax rates, then all taxpayers must necessarily stand as staunchly fixated on cutting the size of discretionary government spending, back to 1996 levels if necessary. Those not willing to regress on government spending really need to stop kidding themselves into believing the silly notion of resurrecting 15 year old tax brackets as a serious solution. If you are confounded, then more than likely you have never heard of inflation, don’t purchase goods and services with your own money, and lack the skills required to balance a simple checkbook. In other words, those who don’t comprehend would better serve the public by resigning from government and returning to their own ruinous private lives.

The fallacy of anointing $250,000 as the top tax bracket of the 21st Century is actually based on 20th Century income tax tables. What worked in 1996 won’t work today. What Barack Obama and fellow democratic party residue from the last shellacking are really talking about is reimposing the top income tax brackets of 1996, which applied some 15 years ago. Omitted from this quandary are two key factors: inflation and the level of discretionary government spending in 1996.

  1. Inflation – As far as personal income, $250,000 in 2011 had the same buying power as $175,085 in 1996. And $250,000.00 in 1996 has the same buying power as $356,969.06 in 2011. Annual inflation over this period was 2.40%. Thus $250,000 isn’t what it used to be.

  2. Discretionary Government Spending – Discretionary spending in 1996 was $532.7 billion compared to the 2012 budget estimate of $1,340.3 billion ($1.3 trillion). If they want us to acquiesce to 1996 tax brackets, then shouldn’t the government backtrack to 1996 discretionary spending as well?

In terms of both inflation and discretionary government spending, the budgeted 2012 discretionary spending level of $1,340.3 billion had the same buying power as $938.6 billion in 1996. And the $532.7 billion actually spent in 1996 has the same buying power as $760.6 billion today. If democrats insist on hiking taxes on those making over $250,000, then a simple compromise would be for them to agree to cut discretionary government spending by $579.7 billion in 2012 ($1,340.3 minus $760.6). This would bring both government spending and income tax rates in line with the late 20th century. But the right thing to do under Obamanomic theory is to simply return to actual 1996 discretionary spending. This requires cutting the federal budget by $807.6 billion, as shown below.

From General

This means cutting National Defense by $463.9 billion, International Affairs by $46.1 billion, General Science, Space and Technology by $15.3 billion, Energy by $10.2 billion, Natural Resources and Environment by $19.2 billion, Agriculture by $2.9 billion, Commerce and Housing Credit by $557 million, Transportation by $3.5 billion, Community and Regional Development by $14.2 billion, Education, Training, Employment and Social Services by $66.8 billion, … etc…

Don’t worry about who gets hurt or rewarded, just cut it, and then tell governmental agencies, “Here’s your budget, now you figure out how best to spend it.” Problem solved. Next question!

“Knowledge is an inherent constraint on power.” ~ Thomas Sowell

“Collecting more taxes than is absolutely necessary is legalized robbery.” ~ Calvin Coolidge

References:

http://www.dollartimes.com/calculators/inflation.htm

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BUDGET-2012-TAB/xls/BUDGET-2012-TAB-8-7.xls

Point of No Return | National Debt Tops Personal Income

Warning - No Return

~ By: Larry Walker, Jr. ~

For the first time since World War II, the National Debt of the United States has exceeded personal income, on a per capita basis. The point of no return was breached in 2010, during Barack Obama’s second year in office, and the derangement continues to spin hopelessly out of control. This means that every dollar earned by an American citizen is now owned by the federal government, and then some. That’s right, the average annual income of most working-class Americans now belongs to the federal government. The warning of Thomas Jefferson has come to pass, “A government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything you have.”

Meanwhile, no senators voted for Barack Obama’s 2012 budget when it came up for a vote in the Senate on Wednesday. A procedural vote to move forward on the president’s plan failed 0 – 97, proving that Obama is basically a lame duck president, with no viable plan for resolving the government-manufactured fiscal crisis.

Historical Per Capita National Debt, Personal Income and GDP

In the year 1929, per capita personal income was $697, while each citizen’s portion of the national debt was $139. The federal government’s debt represented just 16.3% of gross domestic product, and 19.9% of personal income. Although not incurring any national debt at all would have been ideal, the percentage of debt to personal income was at least somewhat bearable back in the day; but this was about to change for the worse.

From Point of No Return

The point where a citizen’s per capita share of the national debt exceeded personal income first occurred at the height of World War II. In 1944, per capita personal income was $1,199, while each citizen’s share of the national debt reached $1,452. At the time, the national debt represented 91.5% of gross domestic product and 121.1% of personal income, on a per capita basis. Per capita national debt would continue to exceed personal income through the end of 1950, five years after the end of the war.

From Point of No Return

The point of no return was decisively breached in the year 2010 (see chart above). Although per capita personal income had grown to $40,441, each citizen’s portion of the national debt soared to $43,732. The national debt represented 92.5% of gross domestic product and 108.1% of personal income, on a per capita basis. The situation has worsened through the end of the first quarter of 2011 with per capita personal income of $41,486, versus per capita national debt of $45,782. Through March of 2011, the national debt now represents 95.1% of gross domestic product and 110.4% of personal income, on a per capita basis.

[In contrast, at the end of 2008 per capita personal income stood at $40,469, while each citizen’s share of the national debt was $32,886. In 2008, the national debt represented 69.8% of GDP and 80.9% of personal income, on a per capita basis. Although the United States government was dangerously close in 2008, it had not yet surpassed the point of no return.]

This might not be as big of a deal if the United States ever paid down its debt, but I can only find six years since 1929 where this actually occurred – 1930, 1947, 1948, 1951, 1956, and 1957. There is no chance of fiscal recovery with a president who, in the face of financial disaster, dares to submit a budget containing multi-trillion dollar per year deficits into the future. Until the right leadership is in place, you, I, our children and our grandchildren can look forward to living in a nation which basically owns us. Is this the same Republic that we inherited from our forefathers? I think, not.

Barack Obama has taken this nation in precisely the wrong direction; he has taken us beyond the point of no return. Yet there is still hope, but such hope, of necessity, lies beyond the realm of partisan politicians. Faith without works is dead. This isn’t World War II. It’s time to dramatically reduce the federal government’s footprint. It’s time to cut government spending. It’s time to lower (not raise) the debt ceiling. Tomorrow will be too late.

References:

Rejected! Senate Votes Unanimously To Ignore Obama’s Budget

Treasury Direct: Historical Debt Outstanding – Annual

Treasury Direct: Debt to the Penny through 3/31/11

Bureau of Economic Analysis: Table 7.1. Selected Per Capita Product and Income Series in Current Dollars (A)

Data Tables:

From Point of No Return

Link to All Data Tables and Charts

Link to Original Excel Spreadsheet

Real Per Capita GDP Declines on Obama’s Watch

slacker

~ By: Larry Walker, Jr. ~

According to the latest report from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, real gross domestic product increased at an annual rate of 1.8% in the first quarter of 2011. But by now most of us understand that this is merely calculated by measuring an increase of roughly 0.45 percent from the fourth quarter of 2010 to the first quarter of 2011, and then multiplying the result by four (.045 * 4 = 1.8). That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t necessarily tell us the truth. What most of us really want to know is the annual rate of GDP growth since Obama’s policies were implemented, and how that compares to the previous administration. To arrive at the answer, one must first measure the annual rate of GDP growth from the time Obama took ownership of the economy, and then compare this to the previous rate. In terms of real (i.e. inflation-adjusted) per capita (i.e. population-adjusted) GDP, the U.S. economy has declined at an annual rate of -0.29% since 2008, as compared to an annual growth rate of 1.15% during the eight-years prior. That’s a decline of 396.5% for the mathematically inclined.

Real Gross Domestic Product: 2009 through 2011-1

The table below shows that real GDP grew at an annual rate of 0.71% from the end of 2008 through the first quarter of 2011. During the same period, personal consumption increased at an annual rate of 1.06%, private investment declined at an annual rate of -3.63%, net exports increased at an annual rate 9.2%, and government consumption increased at an annual rate of 0.74%.

Real Gross Domestic Product: 2001 through 2008

As the next table reveals, real GDP grew at an annual rate of 2.23% from the end of 2000 through 2008. During the same period, personal consumption increased at an annual rate of 2.72%, private investment declined at an annual rate of -0.08%, net exports declined at an annual rate -1.45%, and government consumption increased at an annual rate of 2.41%.

Definitions and Comparisons

Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

Gross Domestic Product is comprised of four components, personal consumption, gross private investment, government expenditures, and net exports [GDP = C + I + G + (X – M)]. Under Obama’s policies, real GDP has grown at an annual rate of 0.71% as compared to an annual rate of 2.23% during the previous eight-year period. In other words, GDP grew 214.1% faster in the eight-years before Obama. During the previous administration, an annual growth rate of 2.23% wasn’t bad considering the economy went through one of the worst recessions since the Great One. So exactly how can an annual growth rate of 0.71% be called a recovery? Now let’s compare all four components of GDP.

Personal Consumption (C)

Personal consumption is the largest component of GDP. Personal expenditures fall under one of the following categories: durable goods, non-durable goods, and services. For example, expenditures on rent, food, clothing, tobacco, alcohol, jewelry, gasoline, computers, cellular phones, and medical expenses are included, while the purchase of a new home is not. Real personal consumption is currently slumping along at an annual growth rate of 1.06% versus 2.72% before Obama. In other words, personal consumption was growing 156.6% faster before Obama’s fundamental transformation. All of the federal governments deficit-financed spending on unemployment benefits and food stamps doesn’t appear to be doing the trick after all.

Gross Private Investment (I)

Gross private investment includes business investments such as construction of new facilities, purchases of software, and purchases of machinery and equipment. Personal spending on new homes is also included. Real gross private investment has declined at an annual rate of -3.63% under Obama’s leadership, versus a marginal decline of -0.08% previously. In other words, real gross private investment has slowed by -4,437.5% since Obama implemented his vision for America. What does that tell you? It tells me that the business community lacks confidence in the direction our nation is heading. For example, Obama’s policies of hindering new oil drilling, and seeking to end tax deductions which encourage expansion of the U.S. oil and gas industry won’t exactly translate into any improvement in private investment for the near future.

Government Consumption Expenditures and Gross Investment (G)

Government spending is the sum of government expenditures on final goods and services such as salaries of public servants, purchases of weapons for the military, and any investment expenditure by the federal, and state or local governments. It does not include transfer payments, such as social security, welfare, food stamps or unemployment benefits. Real government consumption is presently growing at an annual rate of 0.74% as compared to an annual rate of 2.41% before Obama. In other words, although the Obama administration has added almost as much to the national debt in the last two-and-a-quarter years as was added in the previous eight, government spending under the previous administration actually added 225.7% more towards economic growth. Perhaps it’s not how much government spends, but rather what it buys. The numbers don’t lie. It’s clear that Obama’s idea of government investment is not the kind that adds anything to our economy.

Net Exports (X – M)

Net exports are the difference between gross exports (what our nation produces in goods and services for other nations’ consumption), and gross imports (what our nation purchases in goods and services from other nations). Imports are subtracted from exports since imported goods are already included in C, I, and G. The only component of GDP with a more favorable result under Obama’s policies is real net exports, which is growing at an annual rate of 9.2% versus a decline of -1.45% in the previous eight years. However, this grand improvement has only added $104.4 billion to real GDP, representing just 0.78% of the total.

Real Per Capita GDP

Of course the best measurement of GDP is found in real per capita results, after all the economy is not static. The effects of population growth combined with inflation can weigh heavily on the economy. The U.S. population has continued to grow at an annual rate of 1.0% since 2000; meanwhile inflation has grown from nearly 0.00% to 3.16% since January of 2009. So let’s see how this combination has affected GDP, disposable personal income, and personal consumption.

As you can see in the tables below, real per capita GDP has declined at an annual rate of -0.29% under Obama’s policies, compared to an annual growth rate of 1.15% in the 8-years prior. Secondly, real per capita disposable personal income has grown at an annual rate of 0.55% versus 1.75% under the previous administration. Finally, real per capita personal consumption has grown at an annual rate of 0.06% versus an annual rate of 1.60% previously. Yet they call this a recovery.

To summarize, real per capita GDP is presently declining at an annual rate of -0.29% versus a positive growth rate of 1.15% under the previous administration. Would you call this an economic expansion? Not hardly. So what’s wrong with the present administration? It acts like it has accomplished something by putting more Americans on unemployment, welfare, and food stamps than ever. It acts like it won’t be satisfied until the last U.S. oil company is run out of business, or until every last local bank, Wal-Mart or McDonald’s franchise is shut down. What will real per capita GDP look like if Obama’s policies are allowed to continue? It’s time to get serious about the matter of peaceful domestic regime change. It’s time for this slacker and his court jesters to go.

Note: Chained-dollar estimates can be used to compute “real” (i.e. inflation-adjusted) rates of growth. However, comparisons of two or more different chained-dollar series must be made with caution, because the prices used as weights in the chained-dollar calculations usually differ from the prices in the reference period, and the resulting chained-dollar values for detailed GDP components usually do not sum to the chained-dollar estimate of GDP or to any intermediate aggregate. In other words, the columns in chained-dollar GDP component columns do not necessarily add up to total GDP, due to rounding differences.

References:

Gross Domestic Product, 1st quarter 2011 (advance estimate)

Bureau of Economic Analysis, Table 1.1.6, Real Gross Domestic Product, Chained Dollars

Bureau of Economic Analysis, Table 7.1, Selected Per Capita Product and Income Series

Inflation reaches 3.16% in April

We Are All Billionaires Now

Big Words Small Mind

Tax Breaks for Millionaires and Billionaires ~

“But we cannot afford $1 trillion worth of tax cuts for every millionaire and billionaire in our society.” ~ Barack Obama

~ By: Larry Walker, Jr. ~

The Class Warfare Instigator in Chief (CWIC) has been railing against wealth. People who have saved up for retirement, or who were fortunate enough to acquire assets which have appreciated substantially are not impressed. Anyone with half a brain knows that a millionaire (or billionaire) is an individual whose net worth is equal to or exceeds one million (or one billion) units of currency. Net worth refers to an individual’s net economic position. It is calculated by adding the value of all of ones assets minus the value of all of their liabilities. Being a millionaire or billionaire has nothing to do with an individual’s annual taxable income. So when politicians, such as Obama, speak of tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, do they even know what they’re talking about?

In the United States of America, we don’t pay income taxes based on the value of our net worth. We pay income taxes based on the amount of income earned or produced annually. So where exactly are these so called tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires? I contend that they don’t exist, namely because as I just stated; individuals are not taxed based on their net worth.

At the last count, there were just 412 billionaires in the United States. So the next time Obama refers to “billionaires”, it would be more appropriate for him to refer to them as “the 412 billionaires”. When one studies the IRS’ Statistics of Income reports, the top 400 annual incomes reported on tax returns in 2007 averaged just under $138 million, far short of a billion. Word twisting politicians, namely Obama, would have us believe that there are people making billions of dollars per year, but that’s simply not true. In reality, only 400 households were fortunate enough to report average annual incomes of around $138 million. And as stated, only 412 Americans have a net worth of over a billion dollars. According to the Spectrum Group there were 7.8 million millionaires in the United States in 2009. However, according to a Taylor Nelson Sofres report, half of all millionaire households in the US are headed by retirees.

Good luck to Democrats in first identifying tax breaks that benefit people with net worth’s of over $1 million (or $1 billion). They don’t exist. And secondly, since more than half of millionaire households are headed by retirees, most likely the only taxable income they receive is from pensions and investment income (a healthy chunk of that being tax-exempt). So does Obama want to raise taxes on grandpa? You mean to say that when people work hard all their lives and save up more than a million dollars for retirement, now that they have become millionaires they are evil and deserve to pay higher taxes? Get out of town, literally.

So is Obama talking about increasing taxes on investment income? Is he talking about doing away with tax-exempt interest? Does he want to get rid of the favorable capital gains rates? Does he intend to impose a tax based on unearned income (the amount of equity a citizen has in assets on a given date)? Or is he talking about re-imposing confiscatory death taxes? Say what you mean, and mean what you say, otherwise shut the hell up. It’s time to stop inciting envy, strife and class-warfare. On the other hand, if all Obama is trying to say, and rather poorly, is that he wants to lower the top tax bracket down to $250,000 and raise marginal tax rates to 39.6% above that amount (i.e. return to the 1993 tax rate schedules), then he should just continue to say that like a broken record until his demise.

I think I understand what Obama is really saying. What he’s saying to me is that since $250,000 is to $1 billion as $25,000 is to $100 million, if you make $25,000 per year, you’re a billionaire. Got it? That seems to be how Obama, sleepy Joe, and the 143 Democrats in Congress see it. With 535 members of Congress, and only 143 of them Democrats, how are they controlling this conversation anyway? After all, there are 311,174,158 citizens, only 412 billionaires, 7.8 million millionaires, and a mere 145 delusional Democrats in DC. Perhaps one of these 145 simpletons can list for the public all of the alleged tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. I will attempt to identify a few of them presently.

Alternative Minimum Tax (reference)

The Alternative Minimum Tax attempts to ensure that anyone who benefits from certain tax advantages pays at least a minimum amount of tax. The AMT provides an alternative set of rules for calculating your income tax. In general, these rules should determine the minimum amount of tax that someone with your income should be required to pay. If your regular tax falls below this minimum, you have to make up the difference by paying alternative minimum tax.

Tax laws provide tax benefits for certain kinds of income and allow special deductions and credits for certain expenses. These benefits can drastically reduce some taxpayers’ tax obligations. Congress created the AMT in 1969, targeting higher-income taxpayers who could claim so many deductions they owed little or no income tax. Because the AMT is not indexed for inflation, a growing number of middle-income taxpayers are discovering they are subject to the AMT.

You may have to pay the AMT if your taxable income for regular tax purposes plus any adjustments and preference items that apply to you are more than the AMT exemption amount.

The AMT exemption amounts are set by law for each filing status. For tax year 2010, Congress raised the AMT exemption amounts to the following levels:

  • $72,450 for a married couple filing a joint return and qualifying widows and widowers;

  • $47,450 for singles and heads of household;

  • $36,225 for a married person filing separately.

  • The minimum AMT exemption amount for a child whose unearned income is taxed at the parents’ tax rate has increased to $6,700 for 2010.

Do the AMT exemption amounts (above) look like they’re targeting millionaires and billionaires to you? It doesn’t look that way to me. Not unless, like I said from the beginning, “we are all billionaires”. So just what kind of items can trigger the AMT? Here are a few.

Personal Exemptions – What? Believe it or not, personal exemptions contribute to AMT liability. The exemptions you claim for yourself, your spouse and your dependents are not allowed when calculating alternative minimum tax. It’s pretty rare (though not impossible) to see a tax return where someone had to pay AMT solely because of their exemptions, but the more exemptions you claim, the more likely it is that you’ll have AMT liability.

Standard Deduction – What? Some 70% of American taxpayers claim the standard deduction (rather than itemizing). The standard deduction isn’t allowed under the AMT. Usually this isn’t a problem because the AMT generally hits people with higher incomes, and these people are more likely to claim itemized deductions. Yet it’s worth noting that a deduction that’s so widely used can contribute to AMT liability.

State and Local Taxes – What? If you itemize, there’s a good chance you claim a deduction for state and local tax, including property tax, income tax and sales tax. These deductions are not allowed under the AMT. If you live in a place where state and local taxes are high, you’re more likely to be subject to the alternative minimum tax.

Interest on Second Mortgages – The AMT allows a deduction for interest on mortgage borrowings used to buy, build or improve your home. If you borrowed against your home for some other purpose, the interest deduction isn’t allowed under the alternative minimum tax.

Medical Expenses – The AMT allows a medical expense deduction, but it’s more limited than the deduction under the regular income tax. If you claim an itemized deduction for medical expenses, part or all of it will be disallowed when you calculate your alternative minimum tax.

Miscellaneous Itemized Deductions – Certain itemized deductions are available if your total deductions in this general category add up to more than 2% of your adjusted gross income. Among the items here are unreimbursed employee expenses, tax preparation fees and many investment expenses. You can’t deduct these items under the AMT, though. A large deduction in this category could lead you to pay alternative minimum tax.

Various Credits – Some of the credits that are allowed when you calculate your regular income tax aren’t allowed when you calculate your AMT. The more credits you claim, the more likely it is that you’ll end up paying alternative minimum tax. Fortunately, Congress has extended relief for the “personal credits” in recent years.

Well, the AMT certainly doesn’t constitute a tax break for millionaires and billionaires. Heck, we’ve barely breached the $75,000 mark if married ($50,000 if single) and most of the main tax breaks have already dissipated. Next!

Retirement Contributions Credit Limitation (reference)

You may be eligible for a tax credit if you make contributions to an employer-sponsored retirement plan or to an individual retirement arrangement. If you make eligible contributions to a qualified IRA, 401(k) and certain other retirement plans, you may be able to take a credit of up to $1,000 or up to $2,000 if filing jointly. The credit is a percentage of the qualifying contribution amount, with the highest rate for taxpayers with the least income. However, income limits apply to individuals with a filing status and income of the following amounts:

  • Single, married filing separately, or qualifying widow(er), with income up to $27,750

  • Head of Household with income up to $41,625

  • Married Filing Jointly, with incomes up to $55,500

So if you’re single and make more than $27,750 you can forget about this tax credit. It doesn’t appear that we’ve tapped into those elusive tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires yet. So let’s try again.

Earned Income Tax Credit Limitation (reference)

The Earned Income Tax Credit or the EITC is a refundable federal income tax credit for low to moderate income working individuals and families. Congress originally approved the tax credit legislation in 1975 in part to offset the burden of social security taxes and to provide an incentive to work. When EITC exceeds the amount of taxes owed, it results in a tax refund to those who claim and qualify for the credit.

Tax Year 2010 maximum credit:

  • $5,666 with three or more qualifying children

  • $5,036 with two qualifying children

  • $3,050 with one qualifying child

  • $457 with no qualifying children

Earned Income and adjusted gross income (AGI) must each be less than:

  • $43,352 ($48,362 married filing jointly) with three or more qualifying children

  • $40,363 ($45,373 married filing jointly) with two qualifying children

  • $35,535 ($40,545 married filing jointly) with one qualifying child

  • $13,460 ($18,470 married filing jointly) with no qualifying children

  • Investment income must be $3,100 or less for the year.

So much for tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. There don’t appear to be many real breaks for folks making even $50,000 per year. Shall we try again?

Mortgage Interest Limitation (reference)

Interest deductions on home mortgages are limited. The law allows taxpayers to deduct interest on two categories of indebtedness secured by their residences. Acquisition indebtedness is used to acquire, construct, or substantially improve a residence, and cannot exceed $1,000,000. Home equity indebtedness is any debt other than acquisition indebtedness and cannot exceed $100,000.

So if you are lucky enough to be able to borrow more than $1 million on a mortgage, you cannot deduct any mortgage interest for the amount above $1 million. And if you have a home equity loan of more than $100,000, the amount of interest you can deduct is not allowed for the amount above $100,000. This doesn’t look like a tax break for millionaires and billionaires either. Surely there must be a humongous tax break for rich folks with children.

Child Tax Credit Limitation (reference)

The Child Tax Credit is for people who have a qualifying child under the age of 17. It is in addition to the earned income credit, if you even qualify for that. The maximum amount you can claim for the credit is $1,000 for each qualifying child. However, you must reduce your child tax credit if your modified adjusted gross income (AGI) is above the amount shown below for your filing status.

  • Married filing jointly – $110,000.

  • Single, head of household, or qualifying widow(er) – $75,000.

  • Married filing separately – $55,000.

So if you’re married with children and have income of more than $110,000, you don’t get the full $1,000 child tax credit. Oh well, this isn’t a tax break for so called millionaires and billionaires. Maybe if you borrow a ton of money to invest in a graduate degree you’ll get a huge tax break.

Student Loan Interest Limitation (reference)

You can claim up to $2,500 of student loan interest you paid as an above-the-line tax deduction on Form 1040. What? Does the government even have any idea that some people are paying upwards of $4,000 – $10,000 in student loan interest per year? And do they understand that an above-the-line tax deduction on $2,500 can at the most save an individual or couple 25-28% of the maximum amount? So if you’re married and pay $7,000 in student loan interest, you’ll receive a tax break amounting to between $250 and $700 depending on your tax bracket.

But if your income is too high, you won’t get any break at all. You can take this deduction only if your modified adjusted gross income (AGI) is less than: $75,000 if single, head of household, or qualifying widow(er); or $150,000 if married filing jointly. Oh well, we could go on and on, but so much for that theory.

Conclusion

No one pays income tax based on their net worth. We pay income taxes based on the amount of income we earn or produce each year. The simplistic act of raising the top marginal tax rate from 35% to 39.6%, and lowering the top tax bracket down to $250,000 won’t bring in an extra dime from millionaires and billionaires. Although it will take some money out of the pockets of small businesses, families and other hard working Americans, it will leave true millionaires and billionaires unscathed. There’s a dearth of tax breaks for anyone making more than $75,000 per year, and marginal tax rates are already way too high across the board, so Obama’s comments are simply absurd. Perhaps one of the other 144 Democratic Party simpletons in DC can list for us all of the alleged tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. But until then, I’m going to have to ask you to muzzle it. Otherwise, prepare to give up your remaining 145 seats.

It’s not the 412 billionaires that worry me; it’s the federal government, $14 trillion in debt, with its hand in my pocket. That makes me queasy.

Blindsided | White House Fiscal Lunacy

Back in the Ditch

2016 GDP vs. National Debt

– By: Larry Walker, Jr. –

We will not be adding more to the national debt.” ~ Barack Obama ~

Say what? You must mean that you will not be adding more to your national debt, because I know that I certainly won’t be adding to the national debt, so you need to take the we out of that statement buddy. The real question is how are you going to pay back the trillions of dollars that you have already squandered? And here’s another riddle – What will the U.S.A.’s gross domestic product (GDP) need grow to by the year 2016 in order to keep pace with the present White House occupant’s irrationally exuberant spending spree? And based on the answer to that question, at what annual rate must our economy grow?

If we add the inexperienced CEO’s 2011 to 2016 projected annual budget deficits to fiscal year 2010’s ending national debt balance of $13.6 trillion, then the national debt will equal $19.0 trillion by the year 2016. And you call that “not adding more to the national debt”? So is this guy a pathological liar, or what?

At the end of 2010, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that gross domestic product (GDP) for the year was $14.6 trillion. So depending on the rate of economic growth over the next 6 years, the national debt may sooner or later exceed GDP. Although even the present White House occupant once stated that the national debt is unsustainable, the question is – as juxtaposed to what? If we take a look back to the days when our debt was sustainable, when the economy was growing at roughly 5% per year with low unemployment, such as in 2003, we will discover that the debt-to-GDP ratio back then was 60.9%. So the question is what do we need to do in order to reduce our debt-to-GDP ratio from its present level of 92.8% back down to 60.9%?

In Scenario #1 (below) we will determine the rate of economic growth necessary in order for GDP to equal our projected debt by the year 2016. In Scenario #2 we will discover the rate of economic growth needed to return to a more healthy debt-to-GDP ratio of 60.9%. Finally, in Scenario #3 we reveal what the debt-to-GDP ratio will be by 2016 if GDP maintains its present growth rate of 3.2% per annum.

Scenario #1 – The budget to nowhere

Gross domestic product must grow from $14.6 to $19.0 trillion in order to equal the National Debt by 2016. In other words, GDP must maintain an average sustained growth rate of 4.5% per year, over the next 6 years, in order to achieve a debt-to-GDP ratio of 100%. This represents ‘the budget to nowhere’. Although, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that GDP grew at the rate of 3.2% in the 4th quarter of 2010, as you can deduce, this will not be sufficient to reach the current White House occupant’s pitiful goal of a 100% debt-to-GDP ratio.

Scenario #2 – Back to sanity

In order to return to the more prosperous 2003 debt-to-GDP ratio of 60.9%, GDP must grow at a sustained annual rate of 13.5% over the next 6 years. How likely is this? In order to achieve such a rate of growth, our economy would need to expand at the pace of an emerging market economy, a feat which is hardly doable. This is precisely why the Debt Commission recently stated that we will never grow our way out of this fiscal disaster.

Scenario #3 – Your new reality

Finally, if GDP maintains the present annual growth rate of 3.2%, then our debt-to-GDP ratio will have reached 107.4% by 2016. Welcome to reality, and to a future of bonded labor. This doesn’t look like winning the future to me, it looks more like a donkey in a quagmire.

Conclusion

The present White House occupant’s budget plan leads to disaster. What most of us wanted to hear was a plan for paying off the debt which he alone has run up over the last two years, not more debt evasion. Face it, there is only one way out of this mess. The first thing we need to do is to derail all of this administration’s reckless spending initiatives. Secondly, government spending must be cut, slashed, and cut again. And finally, we must get this fiscally bankrupt pathological liar out of the White House, by any means necessary. By any means necessary. And as far as who will be the next POTUS; throw a dart. While I am not certain about who it will be, I definitely know who will be packing up at the end of 2012, if not sooner.

Sources:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2012/assets/hist01z1.xls

http://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/national/gdp/2011/xls/gdp4q10_adv.xls

http://www.treasurydirect.gov/NP/NPGateway

Final: Tracking the 5.19 Million Jobs Obama Squandered

Day 745

“We have a system that increasingly taxes work and subsidizes nonwork.” ~ Milton Friedman ~

– By: Larry Walker, Jr. –

Formerly: Tracking the 5.2 Million Jobs Obama Squandered (published on 10/29/2010) *

Obama’s economic stimulus bill was sold to us with the promise of creating 3.5 million jobs by January of 2011. Well, since January has now passed, it’s time to tally up the results. My previous post, Tracking the 5.2 Million Jobs Obama Squandered, was about dead on. You can call it 5.19 million jobs squandered if you like, but it’s still 5.2 million when rounded off.

For a refresher, “Tracking the 3.5 million jobs Obama will save or create” was the title of a blog post, last updated on January 8, 2010, on a website named Understanding The Market – Capire Il Mercato. In a note, the author, Cole Kendall stated, “I will make the calculations in a way that provides a “best case” to the Obama team.” Since Mr. Kendall decided to give up on his tracking operation at the end of 2009, I decided to follow it through to it’s dire conclusion.

Using the same criteria as originally outlined by Obama’s (now former) economic team, jobs are defined by counting the total non-farm employment, from Table B-1 of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employment Situation Report” (as seasonally adjusted). Instead of boring you with the month-by-month data, I went ahead and cut to the chase, skipping from December of 2009, where Mr. Kendall left off, to January of 2011, up to the latest data available from the 02/04/2011 jobs report.

Following is an excerpt from Cole Kendall’s original blog post, followed by my revised stimulus jobs tracker, and a brief analysis:

In an earlier essay I tried to explain President Obama’s notion of saving or creating jobs. The stimulus plan bill was passed by both houses of Congress last night and the final plan was a bit smaller than the earlier version, so the President now asserts that the plan will save or create 3.5 million jobs.

This post will track the 3.5 million jobs. There are a number of ways to measure jobs in the US. Some people work several different jobs at a time while others change employers frequently, so measuring jobs is not as simple as it might seem. There was a cartoon from the Clinton era showing the President speaking at a dinner that he had created 8 million jobs and an overworked waiter thinking that he had three of them. Obama’s economic team defined jobs [as those contained in the Department of Labor’s establishment payroll data] (see here for their original report).

Just before the stimulus bill passed the Department of Labor issued a report (see here). The number of people working (see Table B1, about 2/3 of the way down, with the heading “Establishment Data”) was 134,580,000 (seasonally adjusted). This is a preliminary measure and will be revised next month and probably revised again in a year. Using the Obama team methodology, without the stimulus bill employment would be expected to fall by around 1,613,000 jobs during the next two years so that without the stimulus bill we would expect employment to be 132,967,000 in January 2011.

With the revised estimate of 3,500,000 jobs “saved or created”, employment should be 136,467,000, creating 1,887,000 in addition to the 1,613,000 jobs saved.

The table below will be updated with every new employment release to see how jobs have changed. The first column is the actual number of payroll jobs starting with the month before the stimulus plan passed; the second column is the total change in employment since the month when the stimulus plan passed and the third column shows the gap remaining of jobs to be “created” in order to reach the target.

Revised: Stimulus Jobs Tracker

Stimulus Jobs Tracker

The conclusion is pretty grim, and certainly doesn’t mesh with what Obama has been saying out on the campaign trail. The sad truth is that instead of creating 3.5 million jobs, since it was passed, the stimulus plan has instead resulted in the loss of 3.3 million jobs. Since the stimulus plan was supposed to have saved 1,613,000 jobs, in addition to creating 1,887,000 jobs, by January of 2011, and since it has actually resulted in the loss of 3,298,000 jobs, Obama’s Economic Stimulus has fallen short of the original target by 5,185,000 jobs.

I don’t know what you call this, but I call it a colossal failure. Perhaps it’s time for an orderly transfer of power? Do we need another stimulus plan, or just another President? I don’t think Obama is helping his case by roaming around the country making false claims in what appears to be a frantic effort to get re-elected, especially when he’s the one who screwed this up. The thought of trillions in deficit-financed spending flushed down the drain, to no avail, doesn’t bode well for Democrats, nor for Mr. Obama.

Obama was a job creator from day one.” ~ Nancy Pelosi

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time. ~ Abraham Lincoln (R-IL)

Sources:

http://stats.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t17.htm

http://stats.bls.gov/webapps/legacy/cesbtab1.htm

http://understandingthemarket.com/?p=63

Table B-1 Data: Total Non-Farm Employment (In Thousands, As Seasonally Adjusted):

http://stats.bls.gov/webapps/legacy/cesbtab1.htm