Elizabeth Warren And Your Retirement Savings

Occasionally I post an article that I have no understanding of. This is one of those articles. I am posting it because the source and headline are an indication to me that this is important information.

Yesterday Forbes posted an article detailing how Elizabeth Warren intends to change your retirement funds if she is elected. Keep in mind that she is rapidly becoming the Democrat front-runner. The dust up about Biden and the Ukraine may be the party’s effort to remove Biden (because he is not looking electable) and replace him with Warren.

The article reports:

So, as it turns out, Elizabeth Warren’s Social Security expansion proposal is not the only one of her plans to affect Americans’ retirement well-being. But the proposal of hers which will affect Americans’ retirement savings, in their 401(k)s and their IRAs and the funded status of their pension plans (which might be irrelevant for single-employer traditional pension plans guaranteed by employers but matters considerably for multi-employer plans), is tucked away in a component of her platform with the harmless-looking title, “Empowering Workers Through Accountable Capitalism.”

It’s a proposal that’s a repeat of legislation she proposed in 2018, the “Accountable Capitalism Act,” which, as it happens, I dug into at the time on another platform. The most nebulous part of the proposal is the notion that large corporations would be obliged to pursue the “best interests” of a long list of entities, not merely shareholders but also employees, suppliers, customers, the local communities where the companies locations are based, and others, with the fundamental premise that such a corporation “shall have the purpose of creating a general public benefit.” But however much writers such as Kevin D. Williamson decried this as “the wholesale expropriation of private enterprise in the United States” this all appears to be aspirational and symbolic, without any enforcement mechanism included in the legislation, or administrative agency named to ensure the corporation is indeed “creating a public benefit.”

What is far more concrete is a requirement that such “United States corporations,” that is, those with over $1 billion in revenue, would be obliged to bring onto their boards of directors, representatives elected by employees, at a minimum ratio of 40% of the total board members. The website declares:

“Elizabeth’s plan gives workers a big voice in all corporate decisions, including those about outsourcing, wages, and investment,”

and references Germany as an example of a country with a similar approach.

In an abstract way, of course, directors are bound to represent shareholders; if 40% of board members no longer represent the shareholders, than this is, in effect, taking away from shareholders the ownership of 40% of the company. But this is more than just an abstract impact. How much of a difference would it make?

The article explains that Elizabeth Warren’s plans would reduce the value of the stocks. In the German model, only the wealthy own stocks

The article concludes:

Take a look at the estimates from Pensions & Investments: 80% of stock market equity is held by institutions: that means, mutual funds, pension funds, 401(k)s, and the like. In particular, 37% of stock is owned by retirement accounts; when subtracting out foreign owners of US stock (26% of the total), 50% of US-owned US equities are owned within retirement funds. And it should go without saying that there is no way to “punish” the wealthy by causing the value of only the stock they own to go south while somehow protecting the 401(k) and other retirement accounts for the rest of us. It’s cutting off your nose to spite your face and, as someone with a 401(k) account, I’d really prefer not to do this.

As I said, I don’t fully understand what this is all about, but I do know that as many Americans lose faith in our Social Security system, they are creating 401(k) accounts and other holdings in preparation for retirement. I have a feeling that if Ms. Warren is elected, none of us will be able to retire.

It’s About The Money–Health Concerns Are Being Ignored

Many of our more liberal states are looking for additional sources of revenue. Unfunded liabilities and expanded welfare programs and medical programs have been very expensive to the states that have embraced them. One thing that many states are looking at to increase tax revenue is the legalization of marijuana. On Saturday, Yahoo Finance posted an article about how much income legal marijuana is actually generating in California.

The article reports:

California’s legal cannabis revenue isn’t growing as fast as many state officials anticipated, recent data suggests. And one industry expert believes that taxes and a still thriving black market for marijuana, are partly to blame.

“The legal market is struggling with the set of regulatory rules and tax rates that are pretty onerous and make it fairly uncompetitive versus a thriving black market that’s had the whole industry for 60 years now,” Tom Adams, BDS Analytics managing director, told Yahoo Finance’s YFi PM in an interview this week.

California’s marijuana excise tax produced $74.2 million in revenue for the second quarter of this year, according to the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration.

Yet back in January, Governor Gavin Newsom’s proposed budget predicted the state would generate $355 million in excise tax revenues for the fiscal year. That projection was later revised down again to $288 million back in May.

The shortfall is reminiscent of Michigan, where a nascent medical marijuana market has resulted in lower than expected revenue.

Adams contended the legal market faces additional expenses like the cost of testing, that the illegal market does not.

Meanwhile, there is evidence that marijuana is harmful to the developing brains of young adults. There also may be a link between marijuana and mental illness.

In January 2019 I posted an article which stated:

After an exhaustive review, the National Academy of Medicine found in 2017 that “cannabis use is likely to increase the risk of developing schizophrenia and other psychoses; the higher the use, the greater the risk.” Also that “regular cannabis use is likely to increase the risk for developing social anxiety disorder.”

…These new patterns of use have caused problems with the drug to soar. In 2014, people who had diagnosable cannabis use disorder, the medical term for marijuana abuse or addiction, made up about 1.5 percent of Americans. But they accounted for eleven percent of all the psychosis cases in emergency rooms—90,000 cases, 250 a day, triple the number in 2006. In states like Colorado, emergency room physicians have become experts on dealing with cannabis-induced psychosis.

Cannabis advocates often argue that the drug can’t be as neurotoxic as studies suggest, because otherwise Western countries would have seen population-wide increases in psychosis alongside rising use. In reality, accurately tracking psychosis cases is impossible in the United States. The government carefully tracks diseases like cancer with central registries, but no such registry exists for schizophrenia or other severe mental illnesses.

On the other hand, research from Finland and Denmark, two countries that track mental illness more comprehensively, shows a significant increase in psychosis since 2000, following an increase in cannabis use. And in September of last year, a large federal survey found a rise in serious mental illness in the United States as well, especially among young adults, the heaviest users of cannabis.

Is the extra tax revenue worth it?

It Really Is The Spending

The following graph was posted at The Washington Examiner yesterday:

The article notes:

As shown in the chart below, in the 50 years prior to the effective date of the Trump tax cuts (1968-2017), tax revenue averaged 17.4 percent of gross domestic product, while spending averaged 20.3 percent. With the Trump tax cuts in place, revenue is below the historical average for the next few years, but by the middle of the decade, it returns to that average and then surpasses it as some provisions of the tax cut begin to expire. By 2029, the end of the CBO projection period, revenue reaches 18.3 percent — or nearly one point of GDP above its historical average.

We need some serious budget-cutting in Washington. It is time for baseline budgeting to stop. Department budgets need to start from scratch and justify every penny.

The Real Numbers

Yesterday Investor’s Business Daily posted an editorial about the federal deficit and federal revenues. The numbers tell a very different story than the one the media would have you believe.

The editorial reports:

The latest monthly budget report from the Congressional Budget Office shows the deficit jumping $102 billion in just the first two months of the new fiscal year.

…A true apples-to-apples comparison, the CBO says, shows that the deficit climbed by just $13 billion.

So, no, the deficit is not soaring.

The editorial explains:

In fact, the CBO report shows that overall tax revenues climbed by $14 billion in the first two months of the year, compared with the same months last year. Which means they continue to hit new highs.

The CBO report shows that combined income and payroll taxes were the same in the first two months of the new fiscal year as they were last year. That’s even though far less money was withheld from paychecks thanks to the Trump tax cuts.

It also found that corporate income taxes went up by $5 billion. That’s despite the “massive corporate tax giveaway” that Democrats want to repeal.

Why are these revenues flat or up? Simple: The tax cuts help spur accelerated economic growth, which create jobs and spark income gains. More workers and higher wages mean more tax revenues. On the corporate side, a bigger economy means more profits, which even when taxed at lower rates can produce more revenue. This is exactly what advocates of Trump’s pro-growth tax cuts said would happen.

Meanwhile, revenue from “other sources” climbed by $8 billion. (To be clear, at least some of that $8 billion came from the re-imposition of ObamaCare’s nefarious tax on insurance premiums, which Congress had suspended the year before.)

But while revenues climbed by $14 billion, spending in the first two months of the new fiscal year climbed by $27 billion.

The obvious solution to the deficit problem is to limit spending. If we can’t agree on that, we could lower taxes again to increase revenue further, but I suspect that would really cause some Congressional heads to explode.

A Different Take On The Constitutionality Of ObamaCare

The Daily Caller posted an article today about changes made to ObamaCare by Congress. The article reminds us that in 2017, the Republican-majority Congress did not have the votes to repeal the ACA, but did set the individual mandate penalty at zero. They didn’t repeal it, but they took the teeth out of it.

The article then reminds of the Supreme Court’s decision on ObamaCare:

In 2012, the five conservative justices on the United States Supreme Court (including Chief justice John Roberts) held that key portions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exceeded Congress’s constitutional authority under the Commerce Clause. But, Chief Justice Roberts then joined the four liberal justices on the Court in upholding the ACA as a tax under Congress’s taxing power because it generated revenue for the federal government.

The question then becomes, “If ObamaCare is no longer generating revenue, is it still a tax?’ If it is no longer a tax, does it still fall under the Commerce Clause?”

The article states:

A recent op-ed at The Federalist claims that striking down the ACA would be “judicial activism.” The article doesn’t defend the ACA as constitutional, but argues that conservatives shouldn’t ask “unelected judges to do what elected members of Congress took great pains to avoid.”

Such a broad view of “judicial activism” would render virtually any judicial review out of bounds. More importantly, it is contrary to the very system of checks and balances set up by the Founders in the Constitution. There is no Constitutional duty to persuade a majority of Congress to stop violating the Constitution—that’s what makes it a written constitution in the first place.

The article concludes:

And there is the rub. Judicial activism, rightly understood, is when a court tries to exercise the legislative function — i.e., when a court writes laws instead of saying what the law is. But asking courts to carve out the unconstitutional provisions from laws is exactly that. Advocating for severability asks the judicial branch to judge the law Congress should have written, not the one it did. A more restrained approach would be to strike down the whole law and let Congress decide whether it wants to pass the law again without the unconstitutional provisions included.

An old saying goes something like: “When you mix a cup of sewage in a barrel of wine, you end up with a barrel of sewage and have to throw the whole thing out.” To extend the metaphor, courts shouldn’t be in the business of sifting through a law to pick the sewage out of the wine, they should throw the whole thing out. Striking down unconstitutional laws is not judicial activism, and it is well within the role of the judiciary to strike the entire ACA as such.

It is definitely time to get rid of the barrel of sewage!

Taxes Have Consequences

For some unknown reason, politicians love to spend other peoples’ money. And they love to raise taxes to get more of other peoples’ money to spend. However, raising taxes does not always work–sometimes it has unforeseen consequences. The Laffer Curve taught us that.

Last Friday, Investor’s Business Daily posted an article about the soda tax in Philadelphia. It just hasn’t gone as predicted.

The article reports:

That 1.5 cents per ounce doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is. The Tax Foundation notes that it’s “24 times the Pennsylvania excise tax rate on beer.”

“The high tax rate on nonalcoholic beverages makes them more expensive than beer in some cases,” the nonpartisan think tank wrote.

Some people, suddenly facing absurdly high costs for colas, root beers and other soft drink favorites, are turning to alcohol instead.

Probably not what was envisioned with the tax. And the tax has been put on diet drinks as well as sugared ones. So, if they had hoped to alter people’s consumption away from sugar-filled soda toward less-unhealthy, non-sugared alternatives, it was a failure.

Tax increases never sound like much–they are sold that way. Remember the luxury tax that went into effect in 1991 that nearly killed the boat industry. The tax was only supposed to impact the rich, but it caused a serious recession as the impact of the tax began to trickle down.

The article at Investor’s Business Daily further reports:

“Beverage tax collections were originally promoted as a vehicle to raise funds for prekindergarten education,” the Tax Foundation said, “but in practice Philadelphia awards just 49% of the soda tax revenues to local pre-K programs.” The majority of the money goes to government employees’ benefits and local schools that already have funding.

…the tax didn’t bring in the money the city thought it would. The city budgeted a “conservative” $46.2 million in revenues from the tax for fiscal 2017. At current projections, they’ll come up $6.7 million short. Many people are leaving Philly to do their shopping, while others have switched to other beverages, leaving a big unexpected hole in the tax revenue estimates.

“In July, city officials lowered beverage tax revenue by 14%, leaving the prekindergarten programs that the tax promised to fund in jeopardy,” the study said.

Meanwhile, local Coca-Cola and PepsiCo operations laid off nearly 150 workers and pulled some brands off Philly shelves. And angry local businesses are suing the city over the tax.

Raising taxes is never the answer. Cutting spending usually is.

The Problem Is Not The Revenue–It’s The Spending

CNS News posted a story today stating that the federal government raked in a record of approximately $2,883,250,000,000 in tax revenues through the first eleven months of fiscal 2015 (Oct. 1, 2014 through the end of August), according to the Monthly Treasury Statement released Friday. This equals approximately $19,346 for every person who was working either full or part-time in August.

The article further reports:

Despite the record tax revenues of $2,883,250,000,000 in the first eleven months of this fiscal year, the government spent $3,413,210,000,000 in those eleven months, and, thus, ran up a deficit of $529,960,000,000 during the period.

…The largest share of this year’s record-setting October-through-August tax haul came from the individual income tax. That yielded the Treasury $1,379,255,000,000. Payroll taxes for “social insurance and retirement receipts” took in another $977,501,000,000. The corporate income tax brought in $268,387,000,000.

The chart below is an illustration of America‘s spending problem.

The article also noted that under ObamaCare new taxes took effect in 2013.

Excessive spending is a problem that Washington has no incentive to fix. It is up to the voters to give them an incentive–fix this or we vote you out of office!

 

Exactly What Does ‘Paying Down The Debt’ Mean ?

John Hinderaker at Power Line posted an article yesterday about President Obama’s claim that he plans to pay down the debt in a balanced fashion–increasing taxes on the wealthy to increase revenue and reduce the deficit. Aside from the fact that it is historically proven that raising taxes does not increase revenue, there are some definite problems with that approach.

This is a picture of a concept called the Laffer Curve:

As the illustration states, 50% is not necessarily the ‘magic number’–that number could be anywhere. The best real life illustration of this principle is the migration of millionaires out of Maryland after the tax on millionaires was increased (see rightwinggranny.com). People who will be impacted by large tax increases on the upper middle class (no–they are not ‘the rich’) usually have the means to shelter their wealth from the tax man (check out the financial disclosure statements of some of the Kennedy’s running for office).

The article at Power Line shows a graph of what President Obama’s budget plan will actually do for the deficit. The graph is based on figures from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB):

As voters, we need to be aware of the consequences of another four years of President Obama’s economic policies.

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We Are Definitely Not Headed In The Right Direction

Yesterday CNSNews reported that according to the the Budget and Economic Outlook published January 31, 2012,  by the the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the amount of taxes collected by the government will increase 30 percent between 2012 and 2014. That increase is not due to a growing economy, which automatically increases the amount of revenue flowing into the treasury, but due to an increased tax burden placed on every American.

The article reports:

The anticipated percentage increase in federal tax revenue is not only large when calculated in dollar terms but also when calculated as a share of GDP. The jump from 15.4 percent of GDP in fiscal 2011 to 20.0 percent of GDP in fiscal 2014 equals an increase of 29.8 percent. The jump from 16.3 percent in fiscal 2012 to 20.0 percent in fiscal 2014 equals an increase over two years of 22.7 percent.

Federal tax revenues have averaged “about 18 percent of GDP for the past 40 years,” according to CBO. So, in the next two years federal tax revenues will rise from a level that is below the modern historical average to a level that is above it.

A revenue increase that was due to an expanding economy would help us deal with our deficit problem (although the spending–not the revenue–is at the root of the problem). As long as the government spending is out of control, the economy will not grow. Right now our economy is the equivalent of a hamster on an exercise wheel–until the hamster gets off the wheel, he is not going anywhere.

The American economy cannot survive this kind of a tax increase. It is time for everyone to take a good look at their Senators and Representatives and examine their voting record over the past ten years. If they have consistently voted to increase government spending, they need to be voted out of office in November–this cannot wait any longer. Americans will get the government they deserve (the government they vote into office). If you would like to see America survive, you need to be part of the solution–not part of the problem.

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