Google, Haiti, and Taxachusetts

Saturday, January 23, 2010

There have been so many juicy topics to cover, it’s been difficult to keep away. Every time I’m moved to write, though, I really have something else to do or simply don’t want to devote the time to it. That said, here is, in summary, how to think about the following issues:

Google/China: Yes, if Google was #1 in China this wouldn’t have happened, but they’re not and it did. As a result, this is one of the great humanitarian corporate moves of all time. Perhaps the greatest (there’s not a lot of competition, I’m guessing). Google should follow through and close their business there. As arguably the most important corporation in the world, the move will properly shame China and the many companies that remain in that authoritarian country. Here’s a question that any one doing business there should ask: Would I want to live here?

Haiti: Nothing to do in the aftermath but help. In the long term, I’m with David Brooks and Bret Stephenson. Let’s stop giving money to countries “in need.” It does nothing, and may actively do harm. It’s difficult, because it is human nature to try to help fellow humans in need, but it’s also the right thing to do. Certainly, what the first world has been doing for decades has not worked.

Taxachusetts: I would have voted for Scott Brown too. Seriously. I would have voted for a cardboard cutout against Coakley. Although she was inept, I would have done it to send the message. I have said, many times, that if Obama and this Congress can’t get it done, then there is no hope for us. Year one has been an epic, unmitigated failure. Iraq, Afghanistan, secrecy, deficit spending, bank coddling, and worst of all, the healthcare nightmare. I blame Obama for not using his robust post-election strength to strong arm Pelosi (failure) and Reid (failure) immediately. Weak, poorly managed, pathetic. Obama, where are your balls? It’s time to lead.

And, btw, why do you need the 60 votes? Make an exceptional bill and let the GOP filibuster. Call their bluff. If they do it, and the bill dies, you hang it around their neck. Now, the bill dies, and it’s a Dem failure. Disgraceful.

(But then there would be no healthcare bill, someone wails. So fucking what? Paul Krugman can cry to his cats. This is not the most pressing issue in America. Budget restraint, financial reform, and confiscatory, punitive taxes on very wealth bankers, should be the priority. Followed by a 10% spending cut across the entire government, no exceptions.

We are going to have to suffer, period. Let us start suffering already so we have a shot at not fucking our children.)

The bottom line for me, in all this, is that I have really given up hope. I don’t believe our Congress (and the state legislatures) are capable of introducing the change (ethics, responsible spending) that is necessary.

Something very, very bad is going to happen in the next ten or twenty years. War with China, epic depression/inflation/default, or, in the best case scenario, a benevolent military coup (and a draft) that reforms the government in a way that makes it possible for America to function properly.

David Petraeus, are you out there? Rome needs you. Cross the Rubicon. Cast the die!

P.S. I can’t believe I just wrote that. Nevertheless, letting it stand.


Gail Collins on Texas Tea Parties

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Another brilliant skewering by Collins. [NY Times]

Have you ever noticed that the states where anti-tax sentiment is strongest are frequently the same states that get way more back from the federal government than they send in? Alaska gets $1.84 for every tax dollar it sends to Washington, which is a rate of return even Bernard Madoff never pretended to achieve. Yet there they were in Ketchikan waving “Taxed Enough Already!” signs and demanding an end to federal spending.

Also, have you noticed how places that pride themselves on being superpatriotic seem to have the most people who want to abandon the country entirely and set up shop on their own?

Mack and Thain Forgo Bonuses

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Good. And Mack has the good sense to sharply reduce bonuses for the underlying layers of management:

Mack said the cutbacks will affect the highest levels of management: 14 operating committee members will see bonuses reduced on average by 75 percent, while 35 members of the management committee will see bonuses down by 65 percent.

Morgan Stanley is also re-structuring their bonus structure to reward long-term performance.

Now someone needs to seriously go after AIG. I hear whining from Congress (Elijah Cummings) and some vaguely threatening expressions of interest from Cuomo, but AIG is still set to give (or has given?) “retention bonuses” to more than 168 top managers.

This is a company that has lost $37 billion this year and has been bailed-out by taxpayers to the tune of $150 billion. From Bloomberg:

Keeping the managers is necessary to maintain credit ratings and meet requirements in some reinsurance agreements, Liddy wrote. AIG disclosed the initial list of 130 managers in a September filing without saying how much most of the recipients will get. Another 38 people were added “subsequently,” according to Liddy’s letter, which didn’t disclose the new recipients or say when they had been added.

The list was expanded so AIG can retain people with “key client relationships” and who have a high “degree of flight risk,” Liddy wrote. He cited their “deep experience, extremely valuable business relationships, and unique ties to the many local communities where they live and work.”

How valuable can they be if the company failed apocalyptically?

Let them find work elsewhere if they can. Frankly, many of them should probably be fired outright. I hope Congress will enact a law to clawback these disgraceful “retention” bonuses.

But I’m not counting on it.

New York’s $47 Billion Hole

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


As noted here, California’s budget crisis was a harbinger of things to come for states and local municipalities all over the country. New York, which is at the epicenter of the financial crisis, is now beginning to see it’s first real taste of what this means. Governor David Paterson is warning of a $47 billion dollar deficit over the next four years (I predict more).

Hard choices are going to have to be made soon. And the debt will still continue to pile up.

America is reaping what it has sewn. We simply can’t afford it.

Dow Below 9,000

Thursday, October 9, 2008

As predicted (ok, I was a little wrong about the price of oil) on this website months ago…

There is a big meeting of the G7 finance ministers tomorrow. Some grand, overarching plan must emerge from this meeting to stop this madness. Credit markets are still jammed, the Treasury Department is talking about recapitalization for equity by the end of the month, and bad shit is happening everywhere.

World governments unite and solve this problem. Let’s go!

Friedman Nails Palin

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

As regular readers of this blog know, I am not a big fan of Thomas Friedman (see here for reasons), but even a stopped watch is right twice a day.

In today’s column, Friedman takes the measure of Palin and finds her wanting:

Palin defended the government’s $700 billion rescue plan. She defended the surge in Iraq, where her own son is now serving. She defended sending more troops to Afghanistan. And yet, at the same time, she declared that Americans who pay their fair share of taxes to support all those government-led endeavors should not be considered patriotic.

I only wish she had been asked: “Governor Palin, if paying taxes is not considered patriotic in your neighborhood, who is going to pay for the body armor that will protect your son in Iraq? Who is going to pay for the bailout you endorsed? If it isn’t from tax revenues, there are only two ways to pay for those big projects — printing more money or borrowing more money. Do you think borrowing money from China is more patriotic than raising it in taxes from Americans?” That is not putting America first. That is selling America first.

Even though he is taking this stand long after the matter of Palin is settled in the mind of any honest American, I glad to hear his voice in the chorus.

Sarah Palin’s Taxes

Friday, October 3, 2008

No wonder she’s a Republican. Look at that tax rate!!!

For 2006, the Palins paid $11,944 (LINE 63) in total taxes on gross income of $127,869 (LINE 37), which is a 9.3% tax rate.

For 2007, the Palins paid $24,738 (LINE 63) in total taxes on gross income of $166,080 (LINE 37), which is a 14.9% tax rate.

I also would like to pay 9.3% in taxes.

No wonder she doesn’t think paying taxes is patriotic. She doesn’t pay them!

Plus, meager charitable giving:

In 2006, Sarah and Todd Palin donated $4,250 to charity in cash/check donations and $630 in non-cash/check donations, for a total of $4,880. This is 3.3% of their adjusted gross income.

In 2007, Sarah and Todd Palin donated $2,500 to charity in cash/check donations and $825 in non-cash/check donations, for a total of $3,325. This is 1.5% of their adjusted gross income.

And she didn’t declare the $17,000 in per diems.