Category : US Presidential Election 2012

(NY Times) Seeking Ways to Raise Taxes but Leave Tax Rate As Is

Congressional negotiators, trying to avert a fiscal crisis in January, are examining ideas that would allow effective tax rates to rise for the wealthy without technically raising the top tax rate of 35 percent. They hope the proposals will advance negotiations by allowing both parties to claim they stood their ground.

One possible change would tax the entire salary earned by those making more than a certain level ”” $400,000 or so ”” at the top rate of 35 percent rather than allowing them to pay lower rates before they reach the target, as is the standard formula. That plan would allow Republicans to say they did not back down in their opposition to raising marginal tax rates and Democrats to say they prevailed by increasing effective tax rates on the rich. At the same time, it would provide an initial effort to reduce the deficit, which the negotiators call a down payment, as Congressional tax-writing committees hash out a broad overhaul of the tax code.

That idea could be combined with the reinstatement of tax code provisions that once prevented the rich from taking personal exemptions or itemizing deductions. Those rules were eliminated by the tax cut of 2001. Reinstating them would tack an additional one to two percentage points onto the effective tax rates of high-income households without raising the 35 percent rate, but which households would be affected has not been decided. In all, tax experts say, families in the top tax bracket would find their effective tax rate jump to 41 percent, even though the top statutory rate would remain 35 percent.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, House of Representatives, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, US Presidential Election 2012

(WSJ) Most Households Will Face 'Fiscal Cliff' Consequences if no Solution Found

Most of the increases would result from the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts, which would cause marginal rates to rise. Simultaneously, several temporary tax breaks pushed by President Barack Obamaafter the financial crisis also would end.

And most households””121 million in all””would be hit by an increase in the payroll tax that employees pay to 6.2% from 4.2%.

Also expiring at year-end is a provision to reduce the so-called marriage penalty, a set of tax provisions that require many couples to pay higher taxes when they file jointly. And millions more families’ earnings this year would be subject to the alternative minimum tax. The AMT was originally intended to prevent the very wealthy from avoiding taxes but would apply to middle-class households if policy makers don’t renew a provision that expired last year.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Personal Finance, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Taxes, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, US Presidential Election 2012

(Politico) Tax Loopholes alone can't solve fiscal cliff

…the biggest loopholes in the U.S. Tax Code ”” generally referred to as tax expenditures ”” aren’t just the tricks of the trade for millionaires with offshore bank accounts. For the vast majority of Americans, they’re just how things work: You don’t pay taxes on your health insurance or Medicare benefits; you contribute tax-free to your 401(k); and your mortgage interest pushes down your tax bill each year.

And even if you dump the biggest of the set, these tax perks don’t even come close to closing the deficit. At best, the top 10 would pull in an extra $834 billion a year, according to Joint Committee on Taxation figures. Considering the hole lawmakers are trying to fill is several trillion dollars large, it’s clear they wouldn’t even come close.

Here are the 10 biggest tax loopholes ”” and the reasons why most of them will survive the fiscal cliff….

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Budget, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Health & Medicine, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Personal Finance, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Taxes, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, US Presidential Election 2012

(WSJ) Investment by U.S. Companies Falls Off a Cliff

U.S. companies are scaling back investment plans at the fastest pace since the recession, signaling more trouble for the economic recovery.

Half of the nation’s 40 biggest publicly traded corporate spenders have announced plans to curtail capital expenditures this year or next, according to a review by The Wall Street Journal of securities filings and conference calls.

Nationwide, business investment in equipment and software””a measure of economic vitality in the corporate sector””stalled in the third quarter for the first time since early 2009. Corporate investment in new buildings has declined.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Globalization, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Taxes, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, US Presidential Election 2012

(BBC Magazine) Has the Mormon mystique been lifted?

“Mitt Romney has opened doors. He has made Mormonism much more respectable,” says Charles Dunn, a professor at Regent University, and author of numerous books on politics and religion.

“He came out of this campaign as an honourable person, and that bodes well. He is the best missionary Mormons could have.”

At the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the official name of the Mormon Church) in Salt Lake City, Utah, there appears to be a similar mood of optimism. Although they have not given figures on whether membership numbers are up, enquiries certainly are. Mormons make up about 2% of Americans, but numbers are rising steadily.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Mormons, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, US Presidential Election 2012

Tim Keller–The Signs of Political Idolatry

One of the signs that an object is functioning as an idol is that fear becomes one of the chief characteristics of life. When we center our lives on the idol, we become dependent on it. If our counterfeit god is threatened in any way, our response is complete panic. We do not say, ”˜What a shame, how difficult,’ but rather ”˜This is the end! There’s no hope!’

This may be a reason why so many people now respond to U.S. political trends in such an extreme way. When either party wins an election, a certain percentage of the losing side talks openly about leaving the country. They become agitated and fearful for the future. They have put the kind of hope in their political leaders and policies that once was reserved for God and the work of the gospel. When their political leaders are out of power, they experience a death. They believe that if their policies and people are not in power, everything will fall apart. They refuse to admit how much agreement they actually have with the other party, and instead focus on the points of disagreement. The points of contention overshadow everything else, and a poisonous environment is created.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Philosophy, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology, US Presidential Election 2012

(Der Spiegel) Budget Disarray–US Set to Restage Greek Tragedy

Should lawmakers not reach agreement prior to the end of the year, the US budget deficit for 2013 would be cut almost in half, to $560 billion.

Which doesn’t sound like a bad thing. After all, the US is staggering under a monumental pile of debt and could potentially begin to face the kinds of difficulties that have plunged several euro-zone countries into crisis. It is a viewpoint shared by the ratings agencies — a year ago, Standard & Poor’s withdrew America’s top rating, justifying the measure by pointing to the unending battle over the debt ceiling. The agency noted that “the political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America’s governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed.”

From afar, it is difficult to argue; the ongoing battle between Democrats and Republicans in the face of a horrendously imbalanced budget looks catastrophically absurd. As their country heads toward the edge of the abyss, lawmakers preferred to debate whether or not French fries and pizza should be considered vegetables.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Economy, House of Representatives, Medicare, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Social Security, Taxes, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, US Presidential Election 2012

(RNS) Mark Silk–How Obama won the battleground states, despite losing Christians

President Obama vote totals shrank in all 12 of our battleground states, as they did throughout the country. What’s particularly striking, however, is that in none of the battlegrounds did he win a majority of either mainline Protestants or Catholics, with the exception of Nevada, where the heavily Latino Catholic electorate supported him by five percentage points. So in winning ten out of the dozen, the president had to depend on non-Christians.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Religion & Culture, US Presidential Election 2012

Michael Barone–Two Americas: The country is no longer culturally cohesive

We’re more affluent than we were in the 1950s (if you don’t think so, try doing without your air conditioning, microwaves, smartphones, and Internet connections). And we have used this affluence to seal ourselves off in the America of our choosing while trying to ignore the other America.

We tend to choose the America that is culturally congenial. Most people in the San Francisco Bay area wouldn’t consider living in the Dallas”“Fort Worth metroplex, even for much better money. Most metroplexers would never relocate to the Bay Area….

One America tends to be traditionally religious, personally charitable, appreciative of entrepreneurs, and suspicious of government. The other tends to be secular or only mildly religious, less charitable, skeptical of business, and supportive of government as an instrument to advance liberal causes.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, History, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Rural/Town Life, Sociology, Urban/City Life and Issues, US Presidential Election 2012

The Day After (VII): An Open Blog Thread on Your Thoughts after the Election of 2012

We are interested in who you are and where you live, your thoughts on the outcome and the reason, and particularly your information about your own specific region and the elections and referendum questions there. Once again, please, real names STRONGLY preferred if at all possible–KSH.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, US Presidential Election 2012

The Day After (VI)””Kendall Harmon: Why What Happened Happened

I always felt this election was between a weak incumbent and a weak campaign, and that view has not changed. I knew it was going to be very close at the popular level, and said to several friends that the only way Mitt Romney stood a chance electorally was to win Virginia, Ohio and Colorado. He lost all three.

So why did we have this outcome? There are a lot of reasons, but in my view the main ones are these:

The incumbency is a powerful thing–always has been, but all the more so today when the (office and position of the) Presidency has gained more power (too much power?) than before.

The Republican primary season was too long, and focused way too much on small ball.

Mitt Romney ran a weak campaign. He failed to criticize the President’s policies effectively, and to articulate a positive alternative vision that would excite the country.

The Democrats ran an effective campaign, and this in two senses. First, they made a strategic decision to make the campaign more about attacking their opponent than anything else. Further, they did this by deploying material early in order to paint Mitt Romney as someone from the elite upper class who was not able to identify with ordinary Americans. I have seen precious little good analysis on this, but class was one of the most important aspects of this election. It remains one of the biggest in this country (race is there for sure, but I believe class is the most important). The Republican campaign did not have an effective response to this attack.

Second, the GOTV (get out the vote campaign) and so-called ground game was more effective by the Democrats–again. I was surprised by Virginia and Florida both of which exhibit the skill here.

Finally, this is about electoral advantage. In the current make up of the country, the Democratic candidate has a much bigger starting Electoral College advantage than many have appreciated. The President invested heavily in the key battleground states as a result of being assured of so many easy wins in places like New York and California. It was this combined with the powerful ground game that won them a solid electoral majority, even though as of now it appears as though it will come from a narrow popular vote majority.

In the end, it is this simple: a weak incumbent beat a weak candidate because the election was always the formers to lose, and it didn’t happen, especially electorally.

Let me end on a positive note–I am so glad we have a clear victor, and it looks like in both votes. I really do not want to go through a 2000 contested election into December again. Thankfully, it was avoided.

Let us remember that governing is MUCH harder than campaigning, and the two are not the same. And let us continue to pray that God has mercy on America–KSH.

Update: I found it interesting to go back and reread what I wrote about the 2008 campaign–Why What Happened Happened in Election 2008.

Posted in * By Kendall, * Economics, Politics, US Presidential Election 2012

The Day After (V): (Reuters) In the End, Obama Won on the Economy

…historically, voters have given a second term to incumbent presidents who preside over even modest economic growth during an election year.

That pattern appears to have held for Obama. If the economy is not exactly roaring ahead, it improved steadily over the course of the year.

“It was never going to be a landslide,” said John Sides, a political science professor at George Washington University. “But it was always his race to lose.”

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, US Presidential Election 2012

The Day After (IV): Ross Douthat–The Obama Realignment

In this sense, just as Reagan Republicanism dominated the 1980s even though the Democrats controlled the House, our own era now clearly belongs to the Obama Democrats even though John Boehner is still speaker of the House.

That era will not last forever; it may not even last more than another four years. The current Democratic majority has its share of internal contradictions, and as it expands demographically it will become vulnerable to attack on many fronts. Parties are more adaptable than they seem in their moments of defeat, and there will come a day when a Republican presidential candidate will succeed where Mitt Romney just failed.

But getting there requires that conservatives face reality: The age of Reagan is officially over, and the Obama majority is the only majority we have.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, US Presidential Election 2012

The Day After (III): Ron Fournier–Obama Victory Comes With No Mandate

Barack Obama won a second term but no mandate. Thanks in part to his own small-bore and brutish campaign, victory guarantees the president nothing more than the headache of building consensus in a gridlocked capital on behalf of a polarized public.

If the president begins his second term under any delusion that voters rubber-stamped his agenda on Tuesday night, he is doomed to fail.

Mandates are rarely won on election night. They are earned after Inauguration Day by leaders who spend their political capital wisely, taking advantage of events without overreaching. Obama is capable””as evidenced by his first-term success with health care reform. But mandate-building requires humility, a trait not easily associated with him.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, US Presidential Election 2012

The Day After (II): Mitt Romney's Concession Speech

The nation, as you know, is at a critical point. At a time like this, we can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work.

And we citizens also have to rise to the occasion. We look to our teachers and professors, we count on you not just to teach, but to inspire our children with a passion for learning and discovery.

We look to our pastors and priests and rabbis and counselors of all kinds to testify of the enduring principles upon which our society is built: honesty, charity, integrity and family.

We look to our parents, for in the final analysis everything depends on the success of our homes.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, US Presidential Election 2012