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Archive for the ‘tax’ tag

Companies Say Goodbye to the Dead Zones of the Suburbs

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Deeper Than Your Heart Allows
Deeper Than Your Heart Allows

I’ve long suspected this to be true:

When Motorola Mobility lined up a Silicon Valley candidate a few months ago for a VP-level role, the phone maker was hopeful he’d accept. After all, the company offered the chance to develop products at a subsidiary of Google Inc. 

The engineer declined. His reason: the prospect of relocating to Libertyville, Ill., about 35 miles from downtown Chicago, said Scott Sullivan, Motorola’s head of human resources.

Mr. Sullivan expects recruiting to get a lot easier next February when the company moves into a new space in the storied Merchandise Mart building in downtown Chicago.

Motorola will join United Continental Holdings Inc., Hillshire Brands Co. —the successor to Sara Lee Corp.— and other corporate giants abandoning vast suburban campuses for urban offices nearer to the young, educated and hyper-connected workers who will lead their businesses into the digital age. Archer Daniels Midland Co. recently said it would move its headquarters from Decatur, Ill., and in the Bay Area, startups like Pinterest Inc. are departing Silicon Valley for San Francisco.

After decades of big businesses leaving the city for the suburbs, U.S. firms have begun a new era of corporate urbanism. Nearly 200 Fortune 500 companies are currently headquartered in the top 50 cities. Many others are staying put in the suburbs but opening high-profile satellite offices in nearby cities, sometimes aided by tax breaks and a recession that tempered downtown rents. And upstart companies are following suit, according to urban planners. The bottom line: companies are under pressure to establish an urban presence that projects an image of dynamism and innovation.

(click here to continue reading Companies Say Goodbye to the ‘Burbs – WSJ.com.)

Apollo Visits the New Google HQ
Apollo Visits the New Google HQ

which makes it more puzzling why governments (state, city both) dangle tax breaks to encourage corporations to relocate. The truth is the executives much rather would live in vibrant cities, not B.F.E. rural Alabama for the most part. The employees would rather live in a place that is fun to live in, a place with culture, award-winning restaurants, recreation, and even sports teams. As a totally random example, Sinead O’Connor came through Chicago, playing for a few days at the City Winery. Do you think she’s playing in Gulfport, Mississippi? Or Decatur, IL? So why does ADM, for instance, stamp its feet for a tax break from a state that’s already operating at a deficit? Happily, the Illinois House adjourned before granting payola graft to ADM, though the IL Senate passed their version of this travesty, right before cutting pensions for teachers.

Two bills that would grant special tax breaks for three companies have stalled until state lawmakers return here in the spring. The bills, aimed at allowing Archer Daniels Midland, Office Depot, and Univar to retain withholding taxes that would go to the state, passed the Senate during a one-day special session Tuesday. But the House adjourned, stalling the bills.

All three companies have said they are considering proposals from other states.

“We appreciate the support of the senators who voted for the bill, especially the leadership of Sen. (Andy) Manar. Given that the House did not act, we will review our options. We expect to make an announcement soon,” Jackie Anderson, an ADM spokeswoman, said in a statement.

…Office Depot and Univar declined to comment.

Had the bills been approved, the incentives would have cost the state an estimated $88 million.

Unions, which opposed the plan to deal with worker pensions, criticized the incentives bills.

“At a time when Illinois is a chronic deadbeat and critical resources such as education, public safety and healthcare remain woefully under-funded, our elected representatives today voted to sink the state further into red ink by absolving some of its richest corporations from paying their fair share in taxes,” Keith Kelleher, president of SEIU Healthcare Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Kansas, said in a statement.

Office Depot, chemical distributor Univar and agriculture giant ADM are among at least a half-dozen companies seeking special state legislation to keep their employees’ tax withholdings instead of forwarding them to the state. The companies want the special breaks because they have years in which they have little or no state corporate tax liability and can’t take advantage of state tax breaks awarded to spur economic development.

 

(click here to continue reading Tax breaks for Office Depot, Univar inch closer to approval – chicagotribune.com.)

Yeah, I’d rather Office Depot and A.D.M. have strong enough businesses that they could survive without resorting to corporate welfare…

Written by Seth Anderson

December 4th, 2013 at 10:04 pm

Posted in Business

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Amazon Affiliate Program Back in IL

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https://i1.wp.com/farm6.staticflickr.com/5545/11213398444_0b931224a3_z.jpg?resize=640%2C640
Amazon dot com box

We’ve written about the Amazon Affiliate program in Illinois on a few previous occasions. Today I received this email:

Hello,

We’re pleased to announce that the Amazon Associates program is again open to residents of the State of Illinois. We’re now able to re-open the program because the Illinois State Supreme Court recently struck down legislation that had forced Amazon to close the program to residents of Illinois. Amazon strongly supports federal legislation like the Marketplace Fairness Act that’s now pending before Congress, which is the only constitutional way to resolve interstate sales tax collection issues.

Residents of Illinois who would like to participate in the Amazon Associates program can submit an application here:

http://affiliate-program.amazon.com/gp/associates/apply/main.html

Thanks for your past participation in the Amazon Associates program. We hope to see you again soon.

Well that was a big circle around the campfire

Written by Seth Anderson

December 4th, 2013 at 6:09 pm

Posted in Business

Tagged with , , ,

Corporate Welfare For ADM, Office Depot, Univarc

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ADM butt-crack
ADM butt-crack

Corporate welfare is an ugly practice. I’ve long been opposed to the sports stadium boondoggle, where the public pays for an expensive stadium, instead of the billionaires who own the team, but at least with those sorts of deals, the area gets to root for laundry with the city name on it. Some form of civic pride, some vague benefit. Corporate vampires like ADM draining the nearly bloodless corpse of the state government is much worse. It is as if Illinois was flush with cash – it isn’t – and a backwards state that no business wants to be located in – it isn’t. Notice too how Greg Webb of ADM won’t even guarantee that ADM will stay until the ink is dry on the bill.

So ADM basically says, “Give us money you don’t have, and maybe you’ll get something in return come election time. Or not”. What a crock.

State lawmakers Wednesday took a step closer to granting special incentives to companies seeking thousands of dollars per job created or retained in Illinois.

Agricultural giant Archer Daniels Midland Co. is seeking $5,000 per job per year, chemical distributor Univar Inc. almost $3,000 and OfficeMax, which became Office Depot after its merger this week, $1,570.

All the companies are seeking to collect their employees’ tax withholdings instead of forwarding them to the state. The reason for the requests is that companies have years in which they have little or no state tax obligation and can’t take advantage of incentives negotiated with the state.

The ADM measure would tie incentives to 300 jobs: moving 100 jobs from Decatur, where it’s based, to the company’s new global headquarters, and creating 100 jobs at the headquarters and 100 jobs in Decatur. The company would also be required to fill 100 positions annually in Decatur for five years, including jobs created because of retirements. The incentive will total about $1.5 million a year for 15 to 20 years, a company spokeswoman said.

Sen. David Luechtefeld, of downstate Okawville, asked during a Senate committee hearing whether ADM would guarantee it would keep its headquarters in the state if the measure is approved.

“I don’t know about the guarantee part,” said Greg Webb, ADM’s vice president of government relations. He later added: “I’m going to tell you that we have a preference for Illinois.”

(click here to continue reading Lawmakers closer to granting special incentives to companies creating or retaining jobs in Illinois – chicagotribune.com.)

Reliable, ADM In afternoon light
Reliable, ADM In afternoon light

The corporate vampires have such a low tax burden, despite their profitability, they cannot “take advantage of incentives negotiated with the state”. Right, here is their great idea. Create even more incentives negotiated with the state, with a half-hearted promise to keep the headquarters in Chicago. There is no language in the bill that even requires ADM to create the jobs the $30,000,000 is allegedly buying. In other words, if the bill passes, and in 2014, ADM decided to move to Mississippi, well then, this was all for nought. 

And then there’s these vampires, playing one area against another:

At the same hearing, Office Depot interim co-CEO Ravi Saligram said a new proposal requiring the company to create 200 jobs in the state, in addition to retaining 2,050, would cost Illinois $53 million over 15 years.

Saligram said the newly merged company is also seeking incentives from Florida before deciding where to locate its new corporate headquarters. Office Depot, which merged with Naperville-based OfficeMax, employs 1,700 at its Boca Raton, Fla., headquarters.

Office Depot already has a multimillion-dollar package of incentives with Florida and Palm Beach County based on job creation.

(click here to continue reading Lawmakers closer to granting special incentives to companies creating or retaining jobs in Illinois – chicagotribune.com.)

Industrial Devolution
Industrial Devolution

and these one:

Separately, House lawmakers Wednesday approved a bill that paves the way for chemical distributor Univar Inc. to receive incentives worth $5 million over 10 years. The Redmond, Wash.-based company is considering moving its headquarters to Downers Grove, said Rep. Michael Zalewski, D-Riverside, the sponsor of the bill.

Zalewski said Univar is different from other companies seeking incentives because it’s considering moving its headquarters to Illinois.

(click here to continue reading Lawmakers closer to granting special incentives to companies creating or retaining jobs in Illinois – chicagotribune.com.)

Whoever came up with this system should be exiled to Somalia. There is exactly zero evidence any of these corporate welfare programs help the state government, in any tangible way. None! or as Rep. Jack Franks of Marengo said:

There is no evidence that this is a good deal for the state.

Written by Seth Anderson

November 7th, 2013 at 8:12 am

Photo Republished at IRS Pays Billions In Bogus Refunds—But Legit Refunds Still Get Audited – Forbes

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Tax Refund Received

My photo was used to illustrate this post

The IRS has had a string of recent failures, but paying out bogus refunds is particularly embarrassing. The IRS knows it is happening, knows which tax credits and refunds are targeted, and still can’t seem to stop it. President Obama even called for a fix back in 2009 in an executive order. The IRS is looking into it. And a new report says there’s no solution in sight. The IRS paid out $132 billion in bogus tax credits over the last decade. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration reports that the IRS is not in compliance with Executive Order 13520 to reduce improper payments. The IRS has had several warnings.…Tax Refund Received (Photo credit: swanksalot)

click here to keep reading :
IRS Pays Billions In Bogus Refunds—But Legit Refunds Still Get Audited – Forbes

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Written by eggplant

October 29th, 2013 at 9:59 am

Posted in Links

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Illinois Roads, Texas Roads

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Interstate
Illinois Interstate

There seems to be some sort of metaphor here. Compare and contrast, Illinois vs. Texas…

Illinois increases highway speeds:

Drivers tooling through the Illinois countryside will be able to nudge the gas pedal a little harder next year after Gov. Pat Quinn overcame safety concerns and approved legislation Monday that will raise the speed limit on rural interstates to 70 mph.

Dodging a possible veto showdown, Quinn signed the measure despite opposition from the Illinois Department of Transportation, state police and leading roadway safety organizations, who feared increased mayhem on the highways, especially between cars and trucks.

“This limited 5 miles-per-hour increase will bring Illinois’ rural interstate speed limits in line with our neighbors’ and the majority of states across America, while preventing an increase in excessive speeding,” Quinn said in a statement.

The six-county Chicago region — home to some of the nation’s busiest interstates — would be allowed to set lower speed limits under the law, as would two Illinois counties near St. Louis. The speed limit would increase on the Illinois Tollway but also could be kept at current limits on some stretches, according to the governor’s office.

The speed limit in Illinois is 55 mph in metropolitan areas and 65 on rural highways. But on Jan. 1, Illinois will become the 37th state to approve limits of 70 mph or higher since the national speed limit was repealed almost two decades ago.

(click here to continue reading Quinn signs 70 mph speed limit law for Illinois – chicagotribune.com.)

 Steep Road Ahead

Steep Road Ahead

while in some areas of Texas, the conservative mantra of private profit over public services finally yields to reality – the government cannot afford to maintain the roads anymore.

Citing a funding shortfall and the impact of a historic oil drilling boom, Texas Department of Transportation officials on Thursday announced plans to move forward with converting some roads in West and South Texas to gravel.

Approximately 83 miles of asphalt roads will be torn up and converted to “unpaved” roads, TxDOT Deputy Executive Director John Barton said. The speed limits on those roads will probably be reduced to 30 mph.

“We would do these immediately, and I would suspect we would continue to convert other roadway segments as we continue to move forward,” Barton told the Texas Transportation Commission.

All of the affected roads have been so heavily damaged by truck activity related to oil and natural gas exploration that they have become safety hazards, Barton said. The process of converting the roads to gravel can be done quickly but will probably be delayed a few weeks as TxDOT gets permission from the commissioners to lower the speed limits on all of the impacted segments, Barton said.

The impacted roads are in four South Texas counties — Live Oak, Dimmit, LaSalle and Zavala — and two West Texas counties — Reeves and Culberson. The list of impacted roads includes a three-mile stretch of frontage road for Interstate 37 in Live Oak County. Barton said a plant that processes oil and natural gas has dramatically increased the truck traffic on that road.

“Instead of whipping in at 70 miles per hour, they’ll have to move in there at 30 miles per hour,” Barton said.

(click here to continue reading TxDOT Plans to Convert Some Roads to Gravel | The Texas Tribune.)

Illinois is no haven of joy, but at least the IL government isn’t so cowed by corporations they cannot collect enough in taxes to keep roads paved…

The part I cannot understand is why Rick Perry’s friends in the oil industry are allowing this to happen. Won’t slower traffic impact profits? 

Austin Capitol From The East Side
Austin Capitol From The Left Side

Steve Benen adds:

The state legislature briefly considered tax increases on energy companies — the companies that have benefited greatly from the energy boom, and which are chiefly responsible for pushing the roads quite literally past the breaking point — but as you might have guessed, those proposals faced stiff political opposition and never gained traction in Austin.

Darlene Meyer, a 77-year-old rancher whose property sits along a state road marked for conversion to gravel, told the Texas Tribune, “Texas used to have the best roads…. I just can’t believe the Department of Transportation is going back to the dark ages.”

…On the one hand, Gov. Rick Perry (R) believes Texas’ economy is amazing, and he’s managed to strike the perfect balance between meeting the public’s needs and keeping the private sector happy. Every other state, the governor assures us, should be following Texas’ lead — after all, thanks to the energy sector, the Lone Star State has plenty of money.

On the other hand, thanks to wear and tear from the oil companies, which have made themselves remarkably rich from Texas’ resources, Texas can no longer afford to pave many of its roads, and will instead transition from pavement to gravel.

(click here to continue reading A different kind of Stone Age – The Maddow Blog.)

Written by Seth Anderson

August 20th, 2013 at 8:15 am

Free Congress From Grover Norquist

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Interesting discussion from Professor Robert Thurman, attempting to start a meme, questioning why signing Grover Norquist’s pledge to destroy the government is not a subversive, impeachable act. The professor has a point: signing an oath to an unelected organization whose sole purpose is to starve the “beast” of government is akin to signing an oath to violently overthrow the US Constitution. Unpatriotic at the very least, and maybe an impeachable offense. Why should we hire (i.e., elect) people who hate the country so much?

Give a listen to his ten minute speech, what do you think? 

The Oath of office1 reads:

I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

Americans For Tax Reforms oath against the interest of the United States Government reads:

I, ________________________, pledge to the taxpayers of the state of _______________________, and to the American people that I will:
ONE, oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses;
and TWO, oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.

Footnotes:
  1. full name is United States Uniformed Services Oath of Office []

Written by Seth Anderson

August 5th, 2013 at 8:31 am

Posted in government,politics

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Don’t buy the right-wing myth about Detroit

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Money Won't Change You
Money Won’t Change You

David Sirota has an excellent point about the conservative narrative about Detroit. Notice how many times pensions get mentioned in coverage of Detroit’s bankruptcy and how many times corporate welfare does. 50 times to once? Something like that kind of ratio. Basically ignored, in other words. Corporate welfare is sacrosanct; pensions, not so much.

That brings us to how this all plays into the right’s push to enact ever more regressive tax cuts, protect endless corporate welfare and legislate new reductions in workers’ guaranteed pensions.

These latter objectives may seem unrelated, but they all complement each other when presented in the most politically opportunistic way. It’s a straightforward conservative formula: the right blames state and municipal budget problems exclusively on public employees’ retirement benefits, often underfunding those public pensions for years. The money raided by those pension funds is then used to enact expensive tax cuts and corporate welfare programs. After years of robbing those pension funds to pay for such giveaways, a crisis inevitably hits, and workers’ pension benefits are blamed — and then slashed. Meanwhile, the massive tax cuts and corporate subsidies are preserved, because we are led to believe they had nothing to do with the crisis. Ultimately, the extra monies taken from retirees are then often plowed into even more tax cuts and more corporate subsidies.

We’ve seen this trick in states all over America lately. In Rhode Island, for instance, the state underfunded its public pensions for years, while giving away $356 million in a year in corporate subsidies (including an epically embarrassing $75 million to Curt Schilling). It then converted the pension system into a Wall Street boondoggle), all while preserving the subsidies.

Similarly, in Kentucky, the state raided its public pension funds to finance $1.4 billion a year in tax subsidies, and then when the crisis hit, lawmakers there slashed pension benefits — not the corporate subsidies.

The list of states and cities following this path goes on — but you get the point. In the conservative narrative about budgets in general, the focus is on the aggregate annual $333 million worth of state and local pension shortfalls — and left out of the story is the fact that, according to the New York Times, “states, counties and cities are giving up more than $80 billion each year to companies” in the form of tax loopholes and subsidies.”

The mythology around Detroit, then, is just another version of this propaganda.

(click here to continue reading Don’t buy the right-wing myth about Detroit – Salon.com.)

Stilton with candied lemon peel
Stilton with candied lemon peel

and those evil, greedy workers are always the problem. How dare they depend upon $19,000 a year pensions – that they paid with their work for 20 years or longer – when corporations need free cheese! $80,000,000,000 a year in free cheese – cheese that could be spread elsewhere…

So, for instance, from the administration of right-wing Gov. Rick Snyder, we are hearing a lot of carping about the $3.5 billion in pension obligations that are part of the city’s overall $18 billion in debt. The focus leads casual onlookers to believe that — even though they on average get a pension of just $19,000 a year — municipal workers’ supposed greed single-handedly bankrupted the city. What we aren’t hearing about, though, is the city and state’s long history of underfunding its pensions, and using the raided money to spend billions of dollars on corporate welfare.

For a good sense of some of the most expensive, absurd and utterly wasteful boondoggles in the Detroit area over the last few decades, read this piece from Crain’s Detroit or see this 2011 article entitled “Detroit’s Corporate Welfare Binge” by Detroit News columnist Bill Johnson. Alternately, recall this is in the heart of a region that infamously spent $55.4 million in 1975 (or a whopping $180 million in inflation-adjusted dollars) on a football stadium and then sold it off for $583,000. Or, just note that Detroit is the largest city in a state that, according to the New York Times, spends more per capita on corporate subsidies — $672 (per capita) or $6.6 billion a year — than most other states.

It Pays to Play
It Pays to Play

There’s more to the myth of course, NAFTA, taxes and the like.

In the conservative telling of this particular parable, Detroit faces a fiscal emergency because high taxes supposedly drove a mass exodus from the city, and the supposedly unbridled greed of unions forced city leaders to make fiscally irresponsible pension promises to municipal employees. Written out of the tale is any serious analysis of macroeconomic shifts, international economic policy failures, the geography of recent recessions and unsustainable corporate welfare spending.

This is classic right-wing dogma — the kind that employs selective storytelling to use a tragic event as a means to radical ends. In this case, the ends are — big shocker! — three of the conservative movement’s larger long-term economic priorities: 1) preservation of job-killing trade policies 2) immunity for corporations and 3) justification for budget policies that continue to profligately subsidize the rich.

Read David Sirota’s entire indictment yourself, and remember it when you next hear a bloviator discuss Detroit pensions, or austerity…

Written by Seth Anderson

July 23rd, 2013 at 8:37 am

Darrell Issa saved by the news cycle

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Master and Servant
Master and Servant

Remember how this faux controversy unfolded next time Darrell Issa is talking. He is not an honest man, nor should he be trusted.

In particular, the controversy over IRS scrutiny of Tea Party groups has largely disappeared from the headlines. Considering how much of a political gift that particular controversy was to Republicans, you’d expect them to be upset about this fact. But recent revelations have actually given them cause to celebrate the nation’s short attention span.

It was revealed this week, in fact, that the entire scandal was essentially a set-up. First, acting IRS commissioner Danny Werfel testified that the IRS also scrutinized and challenged groups with names that included “Occupy” and “progressive.” IRS documents released by House Democrats supported his testimony. The IG didn’t uncover targeting of liberal groups because it wasn’t asked to.

The spokesman for the Treasury inspector general noted their audit acknowledged there were other watch lists. But the spokesman added: “We did not review the use, disposition, purpose or content of the other BOLOs. That was outside the scope of our audit.”

We then learned that the entire reason the Treasury Inspector General highlighted IRS scrutiny of conservative groups, but not liberal groups, was because the IG had been instructed to do so by Issa.

(click here to continue reading Issa saved by the news cycle – Salon.com.)

See – no scandal, just partisan political bullshit to attempt to embarrass President Obama’s Administration. 

I think the bigger problem is actually the designation that allows political organizations to be tax-free at all. Why this loophole? Eliminate the 501(c )(4) category outright, because it is a joke. Corporations can funnel unlimited cash to these alleged social welfare organizations, untrammeled by disclosure; is that really good for the political process?

To be tax-exempt as a social welfare organization described in Internal Revenue Code (IRC) section 501(c)(4), an organization must not be organized for profit and must be operated exclusively to promote social welfare. Theearnings of a section 501(c)(4) organization may not inure to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual. If the organization engages in an excess benefit transaction with a person having substantial influence over the organization, an excise tax may be imposed on the person and any managers agreeing to the transaction. See Introduction to IRC 4958 for more information about this excise tax. For a more detailed discussion of the exemption requirements for section 501(c)(4) organizations, see IRC 501(c)(4) Organizations. For more information about applying for exemption, see Application for Recognition of Exemption.

To be operated exclusively to promote social welfare, an organization must operate primarily to further the common good and general welfare of the people of the community (such as by bringing about civic betterment and social improvements). For example, an organization that restricts the use of its facilities to employees of selected corporations and their guests is primarily benefiting a private group rather than the community and, therefore, does not qualify as a section 501(c)(4) organization. Similarly, an organization formed to represent member-tenants of an apartment complex does not qualify, because its activities benefit the member-tenants and not all tenants in the community, while an organization formed to promote the legal rights of all tenants in a particular community may qualify under section 501(c)(4) as a social welfare organization. An organization is not operated primarily for the promotion of social welfare if its primary activity is operating a social club for the benefit, pleasure or recreation of its members, or is carrying on a business with the general public in a manner similar to organizations operated for profit link].

Seeking legislation germane to the organization’s programs is a permissible means of attaining social welfare purposes. Thus, a section 501(c)(4) social welfare organization may further its exempt purposes through lobbying as its primary activity without jeopardizing its exempt status. An organization that has lost its section 501(c)(3) status due to substantial attempts to influence legislation may not thereafter qualify as a section 501(c)(4) organization. In addition, a section 501(c)(4) organization that engages in lobbying may be required to either provide notice to its members regarding the percentage of dues paid that are applicable to lobbying activities or pay a proxy tax. For more information, see Lobbying Issues .

The promotion of social welfare does not include direct or indirect participation or intervention in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office. However, a section 501(c)(4) social welfare organization may engage in some political activities, so long as that is not its primary activity. However, any expenditure it makes for political activities may be subject to tax under section 527(f). For further information regarding political and lobbying activities of section 501(c) organizations, see Election Year Issues, Political Campaign and Lobbying Activities of IRC 501(c)(4), (c)(5), and (c)(6) Organizations, and Revenue Ruling 2004-6.

Written by Seth Anderson

June 27th, 2013 at 7:38 am

Posted in politics

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Facts Not Necessary When Discussing Economics

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The Wall Street Journal attempts to smear Democratic governance by using the example of Illinois:

A favorite conceit of Democrats is that the U.S. budget and economy would be A-okay if congressional Republicans weren’t able to obstruct President Obama’s agenda. One counter-argument would be the state of Illinois, where one-party Democratic rule has led to a fiscal crisis that’s culminating in political paralysis.

(click here to continue reading Political Diary: Stand-Off in Springfield – WSJ.com.)

…except California is also governed by the Democratic Party, and they seem to be doing ok:

After years of grueling battles over state budget deficits and spending cuts, California has a new challenge on its hands: too much money. An unexpected surplus is fueling an argument over how the state should respond to its turn of good fortune.

(click here to continue reading California’s New Problem – Too Much Money – NYTimes.com.)

Party is less important than the actual politicians making policy, but that doesn’t play to the base, however, so don’t expect Rupert Murdoch’s press to report it. Or this, or this, or this.

If party is important, what about a little historical perspective?

Deficit Chart
Deficit Chart

Bush vs Obama spending
Bush vs Obama spending

Written by Seth Anderson

May 30th, 2013 at 12:08 am

This is why Obama can’t make a deal with Republicans

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President Barack Obama is photographed during a presidential portrait sitting for an official photo in the Oval Office, Dec. 6, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama is photographed during a presidential portrait sitting for an official photo in the Oval Office, Dec. 6, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Earlier today…

This had led to a lot of Republicans fanning out to explain what the president should be offering if he was serious about making a deal. Then, when it turns out that the president did offer those items, there’s more furious hand-waving about how no, actually, this is what the president needs to offer to make a deal. Then, when it turns out he’s offered most of that, too, the hand-waving stops and the truth comes out: Republicans won’t make a deal that includes further taxes, they just want to get the White House to implement their agenda in return for nothing. Luckily for them, most of the time, the conversation doesn’t get that far, and the initial comments that the president needs to “get serious” on entitlements is met with sage nods.

Via:
This is why Obama can’t make a deal with Republicans
[automated]

Written by eggplant

March 3rd, 2013 at 4:47 pm

Posted in Links

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The Republican Plan

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Money Doesn't Help
Money Doesn’t Help

For all their talk about social conservatism principles, the main mission of the Republican Party for decade has been simple: lower taxes for the rich folks, and their businesses. There are no other agendas, really, that Conservatives agree upon. The religious stuff, the anti-abortion stance, the destruction of unions, especially teachers unions, all that is secondary.

Jonathan Chait writes:

Part of the confusion is that Republicans have been saying for months that they really just want to stop tax rates from raising. They’re happy — nay, eager — to make the rich pay more taxes by reducing their tax deductions. Certain conservative economists believe this as well. Since Obama is offering to increase revenue in exactly this way, his plan might seem inoffensive to Republicans. Republican economist Martin Feldstein proposed a deduction cap that would raise four times as much revenue as Obama is asking! Ezra Klein can’t understand why Republicans won’t accept a deal to reduce the tax deductions they’ve been calling a pollution of the tax code, especially in return for entitlement cuts.

The answer to this piece of the mystery is clear enough: Republicans in Congress never actually wanted to raise revenue by tax reform. The temporary support for tax reform was just a hand-wavy way of deflecting Obama’s popular campaign plan to expire the Bush tax cuts for the rich. Conservative economists in academia may care about the distinction between marginal tax rates and effective tax rates. But Republicans in Congress just want rich people to pay less, period. I can state this rule confidently because there is literally not a single example since 1990 of any meaningful bloc of Republicans defying it.

What has aided the easy reversion to form, with low taxes for the rich dominating all other considerations, is the pent-up rage and betrayal John Boehner has engendered among his most conservative members. Almost nothing Boehner has done since taking over as speaker has endeared him to his ultras. Every subsequent compromise creates more embitterment, and the last few moves have provoked simmering rage. Conservatives had to swallow a tax hike, and then swallow an increase in the debt ceiling. Boehner has, incredibly, had to promise his members that he will not enter private negotiations with Obama.

(click here to continue reading The Republican Sequestration Plan — Daily Intelligencer.)

Written by Seth Anderson

March 1st, 2013 at 9:46 am

Posted in politics

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How the Pentagon Screws Taxpayers Out of $170 Billion

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On Leave
On Leave

I laugh at the number of times Defense Department spending is discussed during talks of deficits and tax burdens, and slashing the social insurance of our nation. Rarely, if ever, do either party of our political elites want to mention how many dollars are squandered without oversight, feeding the maw of our military…

Americans rarely think about these bases, let alone how much of their tax money—and debt—is going to build and maintain them. For Dal Molin and related construction nearby, including a brigade headquarters, two sets of barracks, a natural-gas-powered energy plant, a hospital, two schools, a fitness center, dining facilities, and a mini-mall, taxpayers are likely to shell out at least half a billion dollars. (All the while, a majority of locals passionately and vocally oppose the new base.)

How much does the United States spend each year occupying the planet with its bases and troops? How much does it spend on its global presence? Forced by Congress to account for its spending overseas, the Pentagon has put that figure at $22.1 billion a year. It turns out that even a conservative estimate of the true costs of garrisoning the globe comes to an annual total of about $170 billion. In fact, it may be considerably higher. Since the onset of “the Global War on Terror” in 2001, the total cost for our garrisoning policies, for our presence abroad, has probably reached $1.8 trillion to $2.1 trillion.

How Much Do We Spend?

By law, the Pentagon must produce an annual ” Overseas Cost Summary” (OCS) putting a price on the military’s activities abroad, from bases to embassies and beyond. This means calculating all the costs of military construction, regular facility repairs, and maintenance, plus the costs of maintaining one million US military and Defense Department personnel and their families abroad—the pay checks, housing, schools, vehicles, equipment, and the transportation of personnel and materials overseas and back, and far, far more.

The latest OCS, for the 2012 fiscal year ending September 30th, documented $22.1 billion in spending, although, at Congress’s direction, this doesn’t include any of the more than $118 billion spent that year on the wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the globe.

While $22.1 billion is a considerable sum, representing about as much as the budgets for the Departments of Justice and Agriculture and about half the State Department’s 2012 budget, it contrasts sharply with economist Anita Dancs’s estimate of $250 billion. She included war spending in her total, but even without it, her figure comes to around $140 billion—still $120 billion more than the Pentagon suggests.

Wanting to figure out the real costs of garrisoning the planet myself, for more than three years, as part of a global investigation of bases abroad, I’ve talked to budget experts, current and former Pentagon officials, and base budget officers. Many politely suggested that this was a fool’s errand given the number of bases involved, the complexity of distinguishing overseas from domestic spending, the secrecy of Pentagon budgets, and the “frequently fictional” nature of Pentagon figures. (The Department of Defense remains the only federal agency unable to pass a financial audit.)-PDF

Ever the fool and armed only with the power of searchable PDFs, I nonetheless plunged into the bizarro world of Pentagon accounting, where ledgers are sometimes still handwritten and $1 billion can be a rounding error. I reviewed thousands of pages of budget documents, government and independent reports, and hundreds of line items for everything from shopping malls to military intelligence to postal subsidies. 

(click here to continue reading How the Pentagon Spends $170 Billion | Mother Jones.)

Jimi 1961 Army
Jimi  Hendrix 1961 Army.jpg

If logic were part of the budget negotiations in Washington, the Pentagon would not be able to play such games. Why should taxpayers like you and me subsidize the military contractors who profit from bases in Kosovo? or wherever? If Medicaid and Medicare is on the table, why shouldn’t our insanely over-funded military budget be on the table too?

But don’t for a second think that that’s the end of our garrisoning costs. In addition to spending likely hidden in the nooks and crannies of its budget, there are other irregularities in the Pentagon’s accounting. Costs for 16 countries hosting US bases but left out of the OCS entirely, including Colombia, El Salvador, and Norway, may total more than $350 million. The costs of the military presence in Colombia alone could reach into the tens of millions in the context of more than $8.5 billion in Plan Colombia funding since 2000. The Pentagon also reports costs of less than $5 million each for Yemen, Israel, Uganda, and the Seychelles Islands, which seems unlikely and could add millions more.

When it comes to the general US presence abroad, other costs are too difficult to estimate reliably, including the price of Pentagon offices in the United States, embassies, and other government agencies that support bases and troops overseas. So, too, US training facilities, depots, hospitals, and even cemeteries allow overseas bases to function. Other spending includes currency-exchange costs, attorneys’ fees and damages won in lawsuits against military personnel abroad, short-term “temporary duty assignments,” US-based troops participating in exercises overseas, and perhaps even some of NASA’s military functions, space-based weapons, a percentage of recruiting costs required to staff bases abroad, interest paid on the debt attributable to the past costs of overseas bases, and Veterans Administration costs and other retirement spending for military personnel who served abroad.

Beyond my conservative estimate, the true bill for garrisoning the planet might be closer to $200 billion a year.

(click here to continue reading How the Pentagon Spends $170 Billion | Mother Jones.)

Written by Seth Anderson

December 11th, 2012 at 9:51 pm

Posted in government

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Republicans’ tax insanity

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Ben Sargent - Tax Cuts for the Rich

Ben Sargent – Tax Cuts for the Rich

Earlier today…

Norquist’s actual power in Washington and within the GOP is illusory. In terms of stature and public prominence, he’s been a major beneficiary of the party’s opposition to tax increases – but he hasn’t been the driving force behind it. The real story of the GOP’s modern evolution on taxes played out in several stages, from the late 1970s to the early 1990s.

The first key moment was the advent of supply-side economics in the late ‘70s, the theory that minimizing income, corporate and investment taxes would result in perpetual economic growth that would benefit everyone. It was a fringe idea at first, championed by economist Arthur Laffer and a handful of Republican members of Congress, most notably Jack Kemp.

Via:
Republicans’ tax insanity – Salon.com
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Written by eggplant

December 5th, 2012 at 9:33 am

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Boehner Counters Obama’s Proposal on Deficit Cuts

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Racketeer Nickel

Racketeer Nickel

Earlier today…

Under the Republican offer, tax revenue would rise by $800 billion over 10 years, through closing loopholes and ending or curtailing deductions and tax credits. Mr. Boehner did not specify on Monday which tax breaks would be curtailed.

Another $600 billion in deficit reduction would come from changes to federal health care programs like Medicare, Medicaid and the president’s health care law. Cuts to other programs that are not under the purview of annual Congressional spending bills — so-called mandatory programs — would total $300 billion. And discretionary programs, already cut by nearly $1 trillion through last year’s Budget Control Act, would be reduced by another $300 billion.

Via:
Boehner Counters Obama’s Proposal on Deficit Cuts – NYTimes.com
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Written by eggplant

December 5th, 2012 at 9:33 am

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The Morning Plum: No more false equivalence. Both sides are not equally to blame

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tapeworm diet

Earlier today…

There is an actual set of facts here (re fiscal cliff). They are central to understanding the current situation, and belong in every account of what is going wrong:
1) Democrats have offered a comprehensive proposal that meaningfully details the tax hikes they would like to see and contains substantial deficit reduction, but Republican leaders have not offered a comprehensive proposal that meaningfully details the spending cuts they would like to see. And what Republicans have proposed — such as it is — doesn’t contain nearly as much in deficit reduction as the Dem plan does.

2) Many experts believe that substantial deficit reduction simply requires Republicans to drop their opposition to raising tax rates on the rich.

Via:
The Morning Plum: No more false equivalence. Both sides are not equally to blame. – The Plum Line – The Washington Post
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Written by eggplant

December 5th, 2012 at 9:24 am

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