We’ve written about the outrageous sugar import quotas here many times. And Chris Edwards wrote in March about the American Sugar Alliance’s ad in the Washington Post titled “Big Candy’s Greed.” But we couldn’t link to the ad because for some reason the American Sugar Alliance has not chosen to put a version of the ad on its website. But the Alliance ran its expensive quarter-page ad in the Post last week, so we’re now able to provide the public service of making it available online.
Note that what candy producers and other sugar users want is to be allowed to buy sugar from the world’s most efficient producers at world market prices—just like every company in a free market. This protectionist nonsense “Big Candy” is fighting has been going on for decades. In 1985, the Wall Street Journal and then the New York Times reported that the Reagan administration had slapped emergency quotas on “edible preparations” such as jams, candies, and glazes—and even imported frozen pizzas from Israel—lest American companies import such products for the purpose of extracting the sugar from them. Apparently it might have been cheaper to import pizzas, squeeze the tiny amount of sugar out of them, and throw away the rest of the pizza than to buy sugar at U.S. producers’ protected prices.
As Chris Edwards noted, a critic of Big Sugar quoted in this article summarized the sad reality of sugar growers: “They are unlike any other industry in Florida in that they aren’t in the agricultural business, they are in the corporate welfare business.”
Please enjoy “Big Candy’s Greed,” brought to you by the coddled, protected, price-supported, politically active U.S. sugar industry:
View full post on Cato @ Liberty
Some believe that had Mitt Romney embraced this idea and made it a big deal it would have put him in the White House. That’s probably right.
Why should the banks get access to free money and students not be able to? There are all sorts of issues surrounding whether loan programs should even exist at all – and I think the world would be better off with out a Federal Reserve – but that aside, why do the big banks get .5% loans and students 7%?
Goldman, JP Morgan, and their brethren are swimming in cash thanks to the government throwing digital greenbacks at them. I don’t think we should be throwing cash at anyone, in fact if the Fed must exist, and a bank needs an infusion of liquidity it should have to pay a penalty rate of interest. I am actually for letting banks go completely kaput no matter how large they are. But given that we must deal with the Fed for the foreseeable future, students might as well get the same deal as the bankers. Why should government make a free 7% from students but nothing from banks which overleverage themselves every 8 years or so?
View full post on AgainstCronyCapitalism.org
A secret deal on drones, sealed in blood
The CIA has conducted hundreds of drone strikes in Pakistan that have killed thousands of people, Pakistanis and Arabs, militants and civilians alike.
KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH / AP
In this Jan. 31, 2010 file photo, an unmanned U.S. Predator drone flies over Kandahar Air Field, southern Afghanistan.
By: Mark Mazzetti The New York Times, Published on Sun Apr 07 2013
Nek Muhammad knew he was being followed.
On a hot day in June 2004, the Pashtun tribesman was lounging inside a mud compound in South Waziristan, speaking by satellite phone to one of the many reporters who regularly interviewed him on how he had fought and humbled Pakistan’s army in the country’s western mountains. He asked one of his followers about the strange, metallic bird hovering above him.
Less than 24 hours later, a missile tore through the compound, severing Muhammad’s left leg and killing him and several others, including two boys, ages 10 and 16. A Pakistani military spokesman was quick to claim responsibility for the attack, saying that Pakistani forces had fired at the compound.
That was a lie.
Muhammad and his followers had been killed by the CIA, the first time it had deployed a Predator drone in Pakistan to carry out a “targeted killing.” The target was not a top operative of Al Qaeda, but a Pakistani ally of the Taliban who led a tribal rebellion and was marked by Pakistan as an enemy of the state.
In a secret deal, the CIA had agreed to kill him in exchange for access to airspace it had long sought so it could use drones to hunt down its own enemies.
RELATED:Memo spells out when it’s OK to kill Al Qaeda-linked Americans without trial
That back-room bargain, described in detail for the first time in interviews with more than a dozen officials in Pakistan and the United States, is critical to understanding the origins of a covert drone war that began under the Bush administration, was embraced and expanded by President Barack Obama, and is now the subject of fierce debate.
The deal, a month after a blistering internal report about abuses in the CIA’s network of secret prisons, paved the way for the CIA to change its focus from capturing terrorists to killing them, and helped transform an agency that began as a cold war espionage service into a paramilitary organization.
The CIA has since conducted hundreds of drone strikes in Pakistan that have killed thousands of people, Pakistanis and Arabs, militants and civilians alike. While it was not the first country where the United States used drones, it became the laboratory for the targeted killing operations that have come to define a new American way of fighting, blurring the line between soldiers and spies and short-circuiting the normal mechanisms by which the United States as a nation goes to war.
Neither American nor Pakistani officials have ever publicly acknowledged what really happened to Muhammad – details of the strike that killed him, along with those of other secret strikes, are still hidden in classified government databases. But in recent months, calls for transparency from members of Congress and critics on both the right and left have put pressure on Obama and his new CIA director, John O. Brennan, to offer a fuller explanation of the goals and operation of the drone program, and of the agency’s role.
Brennan, who began his career at the CIA and over the past four years oversaw an escalation of drone strikes from his office at the White House, has signalled that he hopes to return the agency to its traditional role of intelligence collection and analysis. But with a generation of CIA officers now fully engaged in a new mission, it is an effort that could take years.
Today, even some of the people who were present at the creation of the drone program think the agency should have long given up targeted killings.
Ross Newland, who was a senior official at the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, Va., when the agency was given the authority to kill Al Qaeda operatives, says he thinks that the agency had grown too comfortable with remote-control killing, and that drones have turned the CIA into the villain in countries like Pakistan, where it should be nurturing relationships in order to gather intelligence.
As he puts it, “This is just not an intelligence mission.”
FROM CAR THIEF TO MILITANT
By 2004, Muhammad had become the undisputed star of the tribal areas, the fierce mountain lands populated by the Wazirs, Mehsuds and other Pashtun tribes who for decades had lived independent of the writ of the central government in Islamabad. A brash member of the Wazir tribe, Muhammad had raised an army to fight government troops and had forced the government into negotiations. He saw no cause for loyalty to the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence, the Pakistani military spy service that had given an earlier generation of Pashtuns support during the war against the Soviets.
Many Pakistanis in the tribal areas viewed with disdain the alliance that President Pervez Musharraf had forged with the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. They regarded the Pakistani military that had entered the tribal areas as no different from the Americans – who they believed had begun a war of aggression in Afghanistan, just as the Soviets had years earlier.
Born near Wana, the bustling market hub of South Waziristan, Muhammad spent his adolescent years as a petty car thief and shopkeeper in the city’s bazaar. He found his calling in 1993, around the age of 18, when he was recruited to fight with the Taliban in Afghanistan, and rose quickly through the group’s military hierarchy. He cut a striking figure on the battlefield with his long face and flowing jet black hair.
When the Americans invaded Afghanistan in 2001, he seized an opportunity to host the Arab and Chechen fighters from Al Qaeda who crossed into Pakistan to escape the American bombing.
For Muhammad, it was partly a way to make money, but he also saw another use for the arriving fighters. With their help, over the next two years he launched a string of attacks on Pakistani military installations and on American firebases in Afghanistan.
CIA officers in Islamabad urged Pakistani spies to lean on the Waziri tribesman to hand over the foreign fighters, but under Pashtun tribal customs that would be treachery. Reluctantly, Musharraf ordered his troops into the forbidding mountains to deliver rough justice to Muhammad and his fighters, hoping the operation might put a stop to the attacks on Pakistani soil, including two attempts on his life in December 2003.
But it was only the beginning. In March 2004, Pakistani helicopter gunships and artillery pounded Wana and its surrounding villages. Government troops shelled pickup trucks that were carrying civilians away from the fighting and destroyed the compounds of tribesmen suspected of harboring foreign fighters. The Pakistani commander declared the operation an unqualified success, but for Islamabad, it had not been worth the cost in casualties.
A ceasefire was negotiated in April during a hastily arranged meeting in South Waziristan, during which a senior Pakistani commander hung a garland of bright flowers around Muhammad’s neck. The two men sat together and sipped tea as photographers and television cameras recorded the event.
Both sides spoke of peace, but there was little doubt who was negotiating from strength. Muhammad would later brag that the government had agreed to meet inside a religious madrasa rather than in a public location where tribal meetings are traditionally held. “I did not go to them; they came to my place,” he said. “That should make it clear who surrendered to whom.”
The peace arrangement propelled Muhammad to new fame, and the truce was soon exposed as a sham. He resumed attacks against Pakistani troops, and Musharraf ordered his army back on the offensive in South Waziristan.
Pakistani officials had, for several years, balked at the idea of allowing armed CIA Predators to roam their skies. They considered drone flights a violation of sovereignty, and worried that they would invite further criticism of Musharraf as being Washington’s lackey. But Muhammad’s rise to power forced them to reconsider.
The CIA had been monitoring the rise of Muhammad but officials considered him to be more Pakistan’s problem than America’s. In Washington, officials were watching with growing alarm the gathering of Al Qaeda operatives in the tribal areas, and George J. Tenet, the CIA director, authorized officers in the agency’s Islamabad station to push Pakistani officials to allow armed drones. Negotiations were handled primarily by the Islamabad station.
As the battles raged in South Waziristan, the station chief in Islamabad paid a visit to Gen. Ehsan ul Haq, the ISI chief, and made an offer: If the CIA killed Muhammad, would the ISI allow regular armed drone flights over the tribal areas?
In secret negotiations, the terms of the bargain were set. Pakistani intelligence officials insisted that they be allowed to approve each drone strike, giving them tight control over the list of targets. And, they insisted that drones fly only in narrow parts of the tribal areas – ensuring that they would not venture where Islamabad did not want the Americans going: Pakistan’s nuclear facilities, and the mountain camps where Kashmiri militants were trained for attacks in India.
The ISI and the CIA agreed that all drone flights in Pakistan would operate under the CIA’s covert action authority – meaning that the United States would never acknowledge the missile strikes and that Pakistan would either take credit for the individual killings or remain silent.
Musharraf did not think that it would be difficult to keep up the ruse. As he told one CIA officer: “In Pakistan, things fall out of the sky all the time.”
A NEW DIRECTION
As the negotiations were taking place, the CIA’s inspector general, John L. Helgerson, had just finished a searing report about the abuse of detainees in the CIA’s secret prisons. The report kicked out the foundation upon which the CIA detention and interrogation program had rested. It was perhaps the single most important reason for the CIA’s shift from capturing to killing terrorism suspects.
The greatest impact of Helgerson’s report was felt at the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, or CTC, which was at the vanguard of the agency’s global antiterrorism operation. The centre had focused on capturing Al Qaeda operatives; questioning them in CIA jails or outsourcing interrogations to the spy services of Pakistan, Jordan, Egypt and other nations; and then using the information to hunt more terrorism suspects.
Helgerson raised questions about whether CIA officers might face criminal prosecution for the interrogations carried out in the secret prisons, and he suggested that interrogation methods like waterboarding, sleep deprivation and the exploiting of the phobias of prisoners – like confining them in a small box with live bugs – violated the United Nations Convention Against Torture.
“The agency faces potentially serious long-term political and legal challenges as a result of the CTC detention and interrogation program,” the report concluded, given the brutality of the interrogation techniques and the “inability of the U.S. government to decide what it will ultimately do with the terrorists detained by the agency.”
The report was the beginning of the end for the program. The prisons would stay open for several more years, and new detainees were occasionally picked up and taken to secret sites, but at Langley, senior CIA officers began looking for an endgame to the prison program. One CIA operative told Helgerson’s team that officers from the agency might one day wind up on a “wanted list” and be tried for war crimes in an international court.
The ground had shifted, and counterterrorism officials began to rethink the strategy for the secret war. Armed drones, and targeted killings in general, offered a new direction. Killing by remote control was the antithesis of the dirty, intimate work of interrogation. Targeted killings were cheered by Republicans and Democrats alike, and using drones flown by pilots who were stationed thousands of miles away made the whole strategy seem risk-free.
Before long the CIA would go from being the long-term jailer of America’s enemies to a military organization that erased them.
Not long before, the agency had been deeply ambivalent about drone warfare.
The Predator had been considered a blunt and unsophisticated killing tool, and many at the CIA were glad that the agency had gotten out of the assassination business long ago. Three years before Muhammad’s death, and one year before the CIA carried out its first targeted killing outside a war zone – in Yemen in 2002 – a debate raged over the legality and morality of using drones to kill suspected terrorists.
A new generation of CIA officers had ascended to leadership positions, having joined the agency after the 1975 congressional committee led by Sen. Frank Church, D-Idaho, which revealed extensive CIA plots to kill foreign leaders, and President Gerald Ford’s subsequent ban on assassinations. The rise to power of this post-Church generation had a direct impact on the type of clandestine operations the CIA chose to conduct.
The debate pitted a group of senior officers at the Counterterrorism Center against James L. Pavitt, the head of the CIA’s clandestine service, and others who worried about the repercussions of the agency’s getting back into assassinations. Tenet told the 9/11 commission that he was not sure that a spy agency should be flying armed drones.
John E. McLaughlin, then the CIA’s deputy director, who the 9/11 commission reported had raised concerns about the CIA’s being in charge of the Predator, said: ‘‘You can’t underestimate the cultural change that comes with gaining lethal authority.
“When people say to me, ‘It’s not a big deal,”’ he said, ‘‘I say to them, ‘Have you ever killed anyone?’
“It is a big deal. You start thinking about things differently,” he added. But after the Sept. 11 attacks, these concerns about the use of the CIA to kill were quickly swept aside.
THE ACCOUNT AT THE TIME
After Muhammad was killed, his dirt grave in South Waziristan became a site of pilgrimage. A Pakistani journalist, Zahid Hussain, visited it days after the drone strike and saw a makeshift sign displayed on the grave: “He lived and died like a true Pashtun.”
Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan, Pakistan’s top military spokesman, told reporters at the time that “Al Qaeda facilitator” Nek Muhammad and four other “militants” had been killed in a rocket attack by Pakistani troops.
Any suggestion that Muhammad was killed by the Americans, or with American assistance, he said, was “absolutely absurd.”
This article is adapted from “The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth,” to be published by Penguin Press on Tuesday.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Sun Apr 07, 2013 10:45 am
View full post on opinions.caduceusx.com
Michael F. Cannon
At Forbes.com’s Apothecary blog, the Manhattan Institute’s Avik Roy is cool to the idea of states implementing ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion by putting those new enrollees in ObamaCare’s health insurance “exchanges”:
When Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe (D.) first announced that he had reached a deal with the Obama administration to use the Affordable Care Act’s private insurance exchanges to expand coverage to poor Arkansans, it seemed like an important, and potentially transformative, development. The myriad ways in which the traditional Medicaid program harms the poor have been well-documented, and it looked like Beebe had come up with an attractive—albeit expensive—way to provide the poor with higher-quality private insurance. A Good Friday memo from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, however, splashes cold water on that aspiration. It’s now clear that the Beebe-HHS deal applies a kind of private-sector window dressing on the dysfunctional Medicaid program, and it’s not obvious that the Arkansas legislature should go along.
The first reason states should not pursue the Beebe plan is that, like a straight Medicaid expansion, it would inhibit the pursuit of low-cost health care for the poor.
The second reason is that it would cost even more than putting those new enrollees in the traditional Medicaid program. Economist Jagadeesh Gokhale, who advises the Social Security program on how to make these sorts of projections, estimates a straight Medicaid expansion would cost Florida, Illinois, and Texas about $20 billion in the first 10 years. And that’s in the wildly unrealistic event that the feds honor their committment to cover 90 percent of the cost. President Obama has already proposed abandoning that committment. Congressional Budget Office projections suggest the “Beebe plan” would increase the cost of the expansion by 50 percent. That too should be enough reason to reject the Beebe plan. Neither the state nor the federal government have the money to expand Medicaid at all. Volunteering to make the expansion even more expensive is lunacy.
The Beebe administration is trying to make its plan seem no more expensive than a straight Medicaid expansion. How? By simply assuming state officials would voluntarily make a straight Medicaid expansion so expensive that the Beebe plan wouldn’t cost a penny extra. The illogic goes like this. If Arkansas were to expand traditional Medicaid, the state would likely need to increase Medicaid payments to doctors and hospitals in order to secure adequate access to care for new enrollees. That would make a straight Medicaid expansion so expensive that the Beebe plan would be no more costly, and might even cost less.
It’s true, states that implement ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion would have to increase provider payments to give new eligibles decent access to care. The problem is that Medicaid never does that. Medicaid is notorious for paying providers so little that it access to care is lousy. Medicaid does so year after year, even if people sometimes die as a result. The Beebe administration simply assumed that state officials would magically change such behavior, increase Medicaid’s provider payments to the same levels private insurers pay, and thereby volunteer to make an already-expensive Medicaid expansion even more unaffordable. In that fantasy world, the Beebe plan would be no more expensive. As an indication of how implausible that assumption is, no one had been talking about combining a straight Medicaid expansion with higher provider payments until the Beebe administration needed to make the governor’s plan seem slightly less unaffordable.
Roy has soured on Beebe-style plans since reading some of the terms and conditions the Obama administration issued on Friday. Yet he still imagines there might be free-market-friendly ways to implement a massive expansion of the entitlement state. Thus he counsels states only to expand Medicaid in exchange for real reforms. We’ve heard that song and dance before. Republicans said the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicare Part D – two Republican initiatives – would lead to Medicaid and Medicare reform. Instead, government got bigger and reform went nowhere. Lucy is going to pull the football here, too. If it is Medicaid reform you seek, the only free-market Medicaid reforms are Medicaid cuts. Roy’s criticisms of the Beebe plan are welcome, though it’s odd to find him to the left of officials in the 15 or more states that are flatly rejecting the expansion.
View full post on Cato @ Liberty
Monsanto boosts ties with Sinochem in Roundup deal
The $100m Roundup rights contract which Monsanto removed from Nufarm has been awarded to China’s Sinochem, deepening closely-watched ties between the US seed giant and the state-run chemicals conglomerate.
Nufarm on Tuesday revealed that Monsanto had, after 11 years, withdrawn the rights to distribute the Roundup glyphosate weedkiller in the region – an announcement which sent its shares plunging 12%.
On Wednesday, Monsanto revealed that it had switched the contract to Sinochem, the state-controlled Chinese chemicals group with which it has been building ties since forming a joint venture in hybrid seeds 12 years ago.
Sinochem already sells Roundup in China and the Philippines
"Sinochem has been an excellent global partner and we believe they will do an outstanding job serving our customers in Australia and New Zealand through this new agreement," Mike Frank, the head of Monsanto’s international row crops and global vegetable business, said.
Sinochem, which in 2009 launched a failed Aus$2.6 attempt to buy Nufarm, has built an Australian agrichemicals division largely around former Monsanto staff.
Roger Angell, the Sinochem Australia managing director, a former regional head for Monsanto. Richard Jagger, the Sinochem Australia commercial manager, and Michael Summons, country leader for New Zealand, are also former senior Monsanto staff.
Relations between Monsanto and Sinochem came under particular scrutiny two years ago, when the two groups were revealed to be involved in talks over strengthening ties, potentially through equity stakes or a larger joint venture.
Monsanto was seen as seeking a fast track into the Chinese market, and Sinochem access to the US group’s seed technology, in a country where yields lag far behind Western levels, although in which genetically modified varieties have gained limited approvals.
PotashCorp, the Canadian fertilizer group, owns a stake in Sinochem’s listed nutrient subsidiary, Sinofert.
For Nufarm, the loss of the Roundup contract, worth roughly $100m a year, represented "terrible timing" after the group last month lost rights to sell agrichemicals made by Germany’s BASF, broker RBS Morgans said.
However, RBS Morgans analyst Belinda Moore termed the slump in Nufarm shares on Tuesday an overreaction given the potential for the group to boost sales of its own glyphosate products – and indeed its potential to become an acquisition target again.
"If Archer Daniels Midland is successful in taking over GrainCorp, Nufarm will become the largest and most liquid agribusiness on the ASX," Ms Moore said.
"Nufarm is also a potential target, with Sumitomo Chemical owning 23% of the company."
Macquarie lifted its rating on Nufarm shares to "neutral" from "underperform", with a price target of Aus$5.90, viewing Tuesday’s sell-off as "overdone", while Credit Suisse lifted its recommendation to "outperform" from "underperform".
Nufarm shares rebounded 6.4% to Aus$5.16 on Wednesday.
http://www.agrimoney.com/news/monsanto- … -5594.html
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Wed Mar 06, 2013 12:07 pm
View full post on opinions.caduceusx.com
Fiscal Cliff Deal A “Crony Capitalist Blowout.” Taxes go up for average Americans, but these companies will get paid instead.
The gall of the lobbyists is astounding. Here we are, teetering we are told on the edge of a “fiscal cliff.” Below us is the abyss of renewed acute recession (depression). We must do something! Anything! Just don’t let us go off the cliff!
That “something” apparently means millions of dollars in gifts to Nascar, and Starkist Tuna, and GE, and Captain Morgan’s Rum, and Whirlpool, and Hollywood, and who knows who else. Not you though—sorry.
Good thing we acted. Boy, we didn’t have a dime to spare. We needed to raise taxes on those successful small business owners so that we could subsidize the big corporations. Oh, and payroll taxes are going up for everyone else. Fairness I tell ya.
And this package of corporate welfare was constructed in the summer and put into the fiscal cliff bill at the insistence for the Obama Administration. They had it ready to go. They were just waiting for the right opportunity. Anyone who supported this president and in the same breath talked about government working for the 99%, I’m not going to say it. I won’t but boy do I want to.
At this point its just looting. It’s theft. Like the guys who break into liquor stores when the power goes out. It’s the same thing only on a colossally larger scale. It’s completely dishonorable. And the former head of the Senate, Republican Trent Lott, helped make all of it happen to boot. See bipartisanship isn’t a thing of the past. Who cares if the country is supposedly staring at economic disaster—again. Make sure our donors get their subsidies, their taxpayer funded subsidies.
Take all that you can, when you can. That is the Washington DC ethic these days. Crony capitalism central.
How are we going to turn this around people?
(From The Wall Street Journal)
In praising Congress’s huge new tax increase, President Obama said Tuesday that “millionaires and billionaires” will finally “pay their fair share.” That is, unless you are a Nascar track owner, a wind-energy company or the owners of StarKist Tuna, among many others who managed to get their taxes reduced in Congress’s New Year celebration.
There’s plenty to lament about the capital and income tax hikes, but the bill’s seedier underside is the $40 billion or so in tax payoffs to every crony capitalist and special pleader with a lobbyist worth his million-dollar salary. Congress and the White House want everyone to ignore this corporate-welfare blowout, so allow us to shine a light on the merriment.
View full post on AgainstCronyCapitalism.org
How much will your paycheck change as a result of the recently passed fiscal cliff deal in Washington D.C.?
The answer to that question depends not just upon how quickly your employer can incorporate the required changes in federal withholding tax rates, but also upon which set of instructions they received from the IRS as it reacted throughout the fiscal cliff debate. It’s quite possible that your actual take-home pay will change from paycheck to paycheck for the next several weeks as a result.
Political Calculations features a number of calculators based on each of the different possibilities – here’s a short guide to each of them, which might help explain why your paycheck looks the way it does as we go into 2013:
This tool is based completely on the federal income tax withholding rules for 2012, which your employer might have stuck with into 2013 because of the IRS’ very late changes for 2013. At the very least, this calculator provides the baseline by which you can see how each of IRS’s various withholding tax schemes has changed your paycheck since 2012.
The IRS did notify employers back in October 2012 that Social Security taxes would be increased by 2% of your pay to restore the 6.2% flat tax rate that last applied in 2010. But because the IRS didn’t notify employers of any changes to make for year-over-year inflation, this tool also shows what your take-home pay would look like if 1970s-style bracket creep was once again the law of the land.
Late on December 31, 2012, the IRS rushed out new withholding tax instructions that fortunately would account for year-over-year inflation, but unfortunately would re-impose the income tax rates that last applied in 2001, in addition to Social Security’s 2% payroll tax hike. This tool shows what your paycheck would look like if no deal on the fiscal cliff had been struck, or what it might look like if your employer got this memo from the IRS, but not the next one before cutting any paychecks….
This final version reflects the results of the fiscal cliff deal that was signed into law on January 3, 2013. The IRS has given U.S. employers until February 15, 2013 to implement this version of its withholding tax rates for 2013, so its possible that your paychecks might look like one of the previous versions listed above until then!
Hopefully, our national politicians in Washington D.C. will stop monkeying about with the tax code long enough so we can know how much money we can actually keep out of our paychecks for a while.
View full post on MyGovCost | Government Cost Calculator
If you don’t know already the fiscal cliff deal done earlier this week is full of tax credits to big businesses of all sorts. That’s bad enough, but it appears that the money going to these businesses is actually more than what the new taxes will raise.
In other words, the deficit gets worse while the tax burden increases. That’s pretty good for the overall economy. All the while the big companies who have access to the White House, GE, Starkist, Hollywood, the crony capitalists, get paid. The tax payer loses on 3 fronts.
It feels good doesn’t it America?
(From the Washington Examiner)
Think about this: just the business and energy tax extenders reduce federal revenue by $67.7 billion in 2013. The tax hikes on the rich Obama won — higher rates on those over $400,000 and reduced deductions on those over $250,000 — raise $620 billion over a decade. As far as I know, we can safely guess that this would be less than $62 billion in 2013.
View full post on AgainstCronyCapitalism.org
If you thought the policy side of the “American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012” is bad, did you notice that there’s a constitutional problem too? I’m sure there’s more than one, actually, but this one was easy to spot without even digging into the gory details.
Recall that the fiscal cliff bill was first passed by the Senate in the wee hours of New Year’s Day, and then seconded by a vote of the House some 20 hours later. And yet, Article I, Section 7, Clause 1—known as the Origination Clause—states: “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.”
Far from being “archaic, idiosyncratic and downright evil”—as Georgetown law professor Mike Seidman claimed as part of his argument for throwing out the Constitution altogether—this provision serves, or at least is supposed to serve, the very real and timeless purpose of keeping the taxing power as close to the voters as possible. Mindful of the potential for abuses of this awesome power (see, e.g., John Roberts on Obamacare) the Constitution’s authors chose to give it to the congressional body that is elected every two years directly by people in local districts (the House), instead of the one whose members serve alternating six-year terms and weren’t initially directly elected (the Senate). As Cato adjunct scholar Tim Sandefur explains in a forthcoming law review article (footnotes/citations omitted):
When the Anti-Federalist “Brutus” warned that the taxing power, “exercised without limitation,” will “introduce itself into every corner of the city, and country” and “light upon the head of every person in the United States” crying “GIVE! GIVE!” the Constitution’s supporters answered that this risk was minimized by the political checks over the taxing power. “The exclusive privilege of originating money bills [belongs] to the house of representatives,” wrote Alexander Hamilton. This would ensure that the power to tax belonged to “the most popular branch” of the government, “the favorite of the people.” James Madison reiterated this point: the “principal reason” why the House was given the power “of originating money bills” was that the Representatives “were chosen by the people, and supposed to be the best acquainted with their interest and ability.” Perhaps the point was put best by George Mason, who considered the Senate “[a]n aristocratic body” which “should ever be suspected of an encroaching tendency,” and believed that “[t]he purse strings should never be put into its hands.”
So what happened last week? Did Harry Reid, John Boehner, and Barack Obama simply agree to ignore the Constitution? (Specifically here, I mean—we know they do generally where federal power is concerned.) Were the House and Senate parliamentarians overruled by a naked political deal?
No, actually what happened is an end-run around the Origination Clause that alas happens with some regularity (and at the hands of both parties): some other revenue bill that passed the House but hasn’t been acted on by the Senate (deliberately or not) gets “amended” by a complete removal and replacement of its entire contents, including the title. This is, of course, what happened with Obamacare, as Sandefur again explains:
On November 19, 2009, Senator Harry Reid submitted an “amendment” to a bill that the House had passed the previous month, H.B. 3590. That bill, the “Service Members Home Ownership Act of 2009,” provided incentives for veterans to buy houses. Reid’s amendment struck out the entire text of H.B. 3590, and replaced it with what became the PPACA—including the Individual Mandate and 17 other separate revenue-raising provisions, estimated to increase federal revenue by $486 billion by 2019. Although this “strike and replace” procedure—sometimes called “gut and amend”—is not uncommon, the Court has never determined whether Congress can use the trick to get around the Origination Clause’s mandate.
(The reason Tim knows so much about this seemingly obscure – if important – clause is that he’s the lead attorney on Pacific Legal Foundation’s case, Sissel v. U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services, that challenges Obamacare’s individual mandate in its metamorphosis into a tax.)
And so too with the “American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012,” which was a true tax-relief bill of the same name that House Republicans (and 19 Democrats) passed on August 1, 2012. That bill was naturally DOA in Harry Reid’s Senate, but it did become a useful shell for last week’s shenanigans.
So there you have it: What’s a little Constitution between friends?
Oh, and a langiappe about our favorite new law: given that it was passed on January 1—but alas has not gone away with that day’s hangovers —even the year in the title is wrong. To be fair, however, it was both American and an act of Congress.
View full post on Cato @ Liberty