We Have Seen This Play Before

The American economy is based on consumerism. Americans buy things and the economy continues. It is a rather delicate balance that can be manipulated for political purposes. We are currently watching an attempt to manipulate that economy for political purposes–President Trump’s strongest positive for re-election is the impact his administration has had on the economy. If the Democrats can ruin the economy, they might have a chance to win the presidency in 2020. After watching their behavior for the past two years, I am not surprised by any tactic they might use. So how are the Democrats and their friends in the media attempting to impact the economy?

The Associated Press reported today:

The threat of a recession doesn’t seem so remote anymore for investors in financial markets.

The yield on the closely watched 10-year Treasury fell so low Wednesday that, for the first time since 2007, it briefly crossed a threshold that has correctly predicted many past recessions. Weak economic data from Germany and China added to recent signals of a global slowdown.

That spooked investors, who responded by dumping stocks, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average into an 800-point skid, its biggest drop of the year. The S&P 500 index dropped nearly 3% as the market erased all of its gains from a rally the day before. Tech stocks and banks led the broad sell-off. Retailers came under especially heavy selling pressure after Macy’s issued a dismal earnings report and cut its full-year forecast.

The article goes on to list things that the writer is convinced are evidence of an imminent recession. But let’s step back a minute. The American economy is cyclical. We have been in a growth spike for the past two years due to tax cuts and deregulation. Those factors are not changing. Unemployment is at historic lows. There are more jobs than workers. There is no evidence of that changing. We might be due for a correction in the stock market, but it’s not time to panic.

This tactic has been used before. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush agreed to a tax bill with the Democrats. The agreement broke his pledge of ‘no new taxes’, but it also did something else. The tax increase on luxury items worked its way through the economy causing a recession. Workers in industries making ‘luxury items’ lost their jobs are sales of these items decreased due to the tax increases. As those workers lost their jobs, they stopped going out to dinner, traveling, and doing the things that people do when economic times are good. People in service industries and tourism lost their jobs. The impact trickled through the economy, and we were in a recession. We were coming out of the recession during the campaign, but the media failed to note that.

In the coming days, watch for a media narrative of ‘the sky is falling’. That narrative will be in play for the next year in order to convince American voters to vote Democrat.

The only way to crash this economy is to panic the public. Large investors in the market with a political agenda can begin that process. The media can fan the flames.

The fundamentals of the American economy are strong. If Americans refuse to play along with a media-created financial panic, all will be well.

A Well-Deserved Honor

Steven Hayward posted an article at Power Line Blog today about a Presidential Medal of Freedom that President Trump will be awarding to Arthur Laffer, the father of the Laffer Curve.

So what is the Laffer Curve. The International Finance website defines it as follows:

The term “ Laffer Curve” was coined by Jude Wanniski (former associate editor of the The Wall Street Journal) in 1978 when Wanniski penned an article named “Taxes, Revenues and the Laffer Curve”. In December 1974, Wanniski who was the associate editor of The Wall Street Journal along with Arthur Laffer, Professor at the Chicago University, Donald Rumsfeld ( Chief of Staff of to President Gerald Ford) and Dickey Cheney (Rumsfeld’s deputy) were discussing President Ford’s WIN (Whip Inflation Now)  proposal for tax increases at a restaurant in Washington, Laffer grabbed a napkin and a pen and sketched  a curve on the napkin illustrating the tradeoff between tax rates and tax revenues, Wanniski later named it as the “Laffer Curve”.  A humble and honest academician who served Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s Economic Advisory Board, Arthur credited the theory to 14th century Muslim scholar Ibn Khaldun and eminent Economist John Maynard Keynes.

This is what the Laffer Curve looks like:

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The “Laffer Curve” is a theoretical curve showing the relationship between applied income tax rate and the resulting government revenue. The theory propagates the following points:

    • A tax rate of zero would result in zero government revenue
    • A tax rate of 100% will also result in zero government revenue
    • As the tax rate increases to above zero, there is an increase in the revenues of the government
    • As the tax rate continues to increase, the resultant increase in government revenue begins to slow
    • At a particular point the curve peaks and turns back towards the horizontal axis

The Laffer Curve is the reason that the federal government will collect more tax revenue this year despite the fact that President Trump lowered taxes. When taxes are raised, those with the money to hire good tax accountants find a way to avoid paying high taxes and tax revenues go down. Those of us without good tax accountants (usually the middle class) are stuck paying the increased taxes. The spending power of the middle class decreases, and the economy slows down. When the middle class has more money to spend, the economy does well.

Congratulations, Arthur Lapper. The recognition is well deserved.

Is This Really What We Want?

Forbes Magazine posted an article yesterday about the Democrats planned tax policy. The article lists the specifics of the plan.

The article reports:

Increase the top marginal income tax rate from 37 percent to 39.6 percent. This nearly 3 percentage point increase in the top personal rate is not only a hike in the top bracket levy, but it’s also a direct tax increase on small and mid-sized businesses. The 30 million companies which are organized as sole proprietorships, partnerships, Subchapter-S corporations, and LLCs pay their business taxes on their owners’ 1040 personal tax returns. Hiking the top tax rate is a small business tax increase.

 Increasing personal income taxes would be particularly unfortunate since workers are now seeing the results of lower rates in their paychecks. Thanks to the new IRS withholding tables, in February of this year over 90 percent of workers saw higher take home pay in the form of fatter direct deposits (for a humorous spectacle of the New York Times desperately trying to get people to down-talk their bigger paychecks, click here).

I honestly cannot imagine how the Democrats can successfully sell that one.

The next change:

Increase the corporate income tax rate from 21 percent to 25 percent. Up until this year, the United States labored under the highest corporate income tax rate in the developed world. As a result, jobs and capital were fleeing America for more normal tax rates that could be found in tax havens like France and China (saracasm font very much activated). Finally, after many years of bipartisan consensus that the U.S. corporate rate had become an impediment to attracting new jobs and investment, Congress cut the rate all the way from 35 to 21 percent. Even doing that only puts us in the middle of the pack of developed nations, but that’s a heck of a lot better than dead last.

 

As a result of this change, companies like Fiat Chrysler, Amgen, and Amicus Therapeutics (among many others) have announced new factories and jobs would be built in America, not in other countries.

Again, do we really want to undo the benefits of this tax cut?

The attack on American prosperity continues:

Bring back the alternative minimum tax (AMT) for 4 million families. Up until this year, 4 million upper middle class families had to calculate their income taxes two different ways, and then pay the higher result. This was due to a provision of the law known as the “alternative minimum tax” or AMT. Millions more had to at least pay a tax preparer to run the calculation, even if they didn’t end up paying the AMT. The new tax law all but repealed the AMT for 99 percent of these families thanks to a higher AMT “standard deduction.” Congressional Democrats would bring back the dreaded AMT, which especially hit hard two-income white collar families with kids in New York, New Jersey, and California.

And finally–bring back the tax on money already taxed at least once (if not more):

Cut the “death tax” standard deduction in half. Over the past few decades, no tax has proven more unpopular in every single poll than the death tax, the federal tax on estates. 60 to 70 percent of poll respondents consistently call for its full repeal. The new tax law didn’t repeal the death tax, but it did the next best thing–it doubled the death tax’s “standard deduction” from $5.5 million to $11 million (and twice that for surviving spouses). As a result, far fewer family businesses and farms will be subject to the death tax, and many smaller firms can shed the costly insurance, legal, and actuarial costs of avoiding the death tax. Like the top personal rate, the death tax is not something that really affects the rich, who have plenty of resources to avoid the levy. Rather, it hits hardest those companies profitable enough to worry about it but not profitable enough to not worry about, if you catch my meaning.

Remember, this is what you will get (along with the attempted impeachment of President Trump) if the Democrats regain control of the House or the Senate. Yikes.

 

Separating Truth From Fiction

Sequestration will take effect on Friday, March 1.To hear President Obama describe it, sequestration will be the end of life as we know it in America.

There were two articles posted in the Washington Post on Friday–one written by George Will and one written by Bob Woodward. George Will describes sequestration as a manufactured crisis, and Bob Woodward states that sequestration was initiated by Jack Lew, Rob Nabors, and President Obama (contrary to the claims of the President that it was the Republican’s idea).

George will reminds us that that USS Truman was delayed in deploying to the Persian Gulf. He is not convinced that this was necessary. He states:

The Defense Department’s civilian employment has grown 17 percent since 2002. In 2012, defense spending on civilian personnel was 21 percent higher than in 2002. And the Truman must stay in Norfolk? This is, strictly speaking, unbelievable.

George Will reminds us of previous crises that never quite materialized:

Remember when “a major cooling of the climate” was “widely considered inevitable” (New York Times, May 21, 1975) with “extensive Northern Hemisphere glaciation” (Science magazine, Dec. 10, 1976) which must “stand alongside nuclear war as a likely source of wholesale death and misery” (International Wildlife, July 1975)? Remember reports that “the world’s climatologists are agreed” that we must “prepare for the next ice age” (Science Digest, February 1973)? Armadillos were leaving Nebraska, heading south, and heat-loving snails were scampering southward from European forests (Christian Science Monitor, Aug. 27, 1974). Newsweek (April 28, 1975) said meteorologists were “almost unanimous” that cooling would “reduce agricultural productivity.”

We’ve been here before.

Bob Woodward reports:

“The sequester was something that was discussed,” Carney said. Walking back the earlier statements, he added carefully, “and as has been reported, it was an idea that the White House put forward.”

This was an acknowledgment that the president and Lew had been wrong.

Why does this matter?

First, months of White House dissembling further eroded any semblance of trust between Obama and congressional Republicans. (The Republicans are by no means blameless and have had their own episodes of denial and bald-faced message management.)

Second, Lew testified during his confirmation hearing that the Republicans would not go along with new revenue in the portion of the deficit-reduction plan that became the sequester. Reinforcing Lew’s point, a senior White House official said Friday, “The sequester was an option we were forced to take because the Republicans would not do tax increases.”

In fact, the final deal reached between Vice President Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in 2011 included an agreement that there would be no tax increases in the sequester in exchange for what the president was insisting on: an agreement that the nation’s debt ceiling would be increased for 18 months, so Obama would not have to go through another such negotiation in 2012, when he was running for reelection.

So when the president asks that a substitute for the sequester include not just spending cuts but also new revenue, he is moving the goal posts. His call for a balanced approach is reasonable, and he makes a strong case that those in the top income brackets could and should pay more. But that was not the deal he made.

Make no mistake–the purpose of all this panic is to create an atmosphere where Americans are willing to raise taxes–even on the middle class. The tax increases will be on everyone. The panic over sequestration is necessary to pave the way for those taxes.

As I said, we have been here before.

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