Taxes and Expiring Tax Breaks

Time is running out for Congress to extend more than 50 tax breaks worth nearly $85 billion, including popular ones for college expenses and energy-efficient appliances.

There are other costs to these tax breaks:

The [House of Representative’s Joint Committee on Taxation has identified 79 expired or expiring federal tax provisions from 2013 to 2023.

And

…the so-called “breaks” result in less revenue for the Treasury Department and an increase to the deficit—like the projected $84.1 billion the Senate bill would add if passed in full.

Jobs Numbers

The headline numbers are in, and they seem favorable enough: unemployment has dropped to 5.9%, and 248,000 new jobs were created in September.

However.

Counting the 142,000 new jobs created in August, new jobs were created at a monthly average of 195,000 jobs per month over the total interval. Using, instead, Labor’s revised August number of 180,000 new jobs (I’d be curious to learn how President Barack Obama’s Labor Department could make such a large estimation error—a 20% error), that still works out to a pretty anemic 214,000 new jobs per month over the period.

Ireland, Luxembourg, UK, and EU Commitments

In a letter to the Irish government published Tuesday, the European Commission, the 28-member bloc’s central antitrust authority, said it had reached the “preliminary view” that tax deals struck in Ireland in 1991 and 2007 in favor of Apple constituted state aid.

1991! No statute of limitations here. That’s a small matter, though. The larger matter is the degree of freedom that sovereign nations have to govern their internal affairs while remaining a part of the European Union.

Democrats and Inversions

Inversions in this context, to oversimplify, are when American companies buy foreign companies and then relocate their headquarters to that foreign country in order to take advantage of that country’s lower tax rates. That this is part of an American company’s management fiduciary duty to the owners to minimize costs and maximize profits is unimportant to the denizens of the present administration and to too many “Republicans” as well.

President Barack Obama’s Treasury Secretary, Jack Lew, had some thoughts about the evils of inversions.

These transactions erode the US tax base, unfairly placing a larger burden on all other taxpayers, including small businesses and hardworking Americans[.]

An Instructive Graph

This one is from the Census Bureau’s Income and Poverty in the United States: 2013. The headline of the report is that American household median income stagnated for the second straight year and remains, in real terms, 8% lower than it was in the last year before the Panic of 2008. The graph below reflects that.2013MedianHouseholdIncome

What interests me about this graph, though, is not the end result snapshot, but the slopes of the graph’s separate lines, the changing levels of median incomes, as we come out of recessions and panics over the last 50 years.

Obamacare, Errors, and Attitudes

The AP has an article that goes into the pitfalls and pratfalls that Obamacare faces this fall, 2014 enrollment period. I’m interested in one error in particular and the attitude of one Democrat in particular who voted for Obamacare’s passage.

The error was the overpayment by the Federal government of many of the subsidies it handed out to…defray…the premium costs of having an Obamacare health plan. Overpayments could occur from a plan buyer underreporting income, from ObamaMart not correctly matching income data with subsidy accruals, and so on.

Doesn’t College Cost Enough Already?

In an effort to combat the high cost if college, the Obama administration thinks it’s appropriate to make borrowing easier.

Under a plan likely to take effect next year, the Education Department would check the past two years of a borrower’s credit, instead of the current standard of five, for blemishes such as delinquencies or debts in collection. Also, any delinquent debts below $2,085 would be overlooked; currently, delinquencies of any amount are grounds for rejected applications.

Scottish Independence

The view of a poor, dumb colonial.

Suppose the Scottish referendum next week goes in favor of independence. What would be next for Scotland?

Among the complexities of separation is the matter of pensions provided by employers. Most such pensions are not fully funded; although, most such pension providers have apparently viable plans for curing the shortfall, over some number of years. However, the EU (and we’ll assume Scotland succeeds in joining the EU for this bit) requires all pension funds with members in two or more countries to be fully paid up. Moreover, funds that are not have only two years to get fully paid up. There are quite a number of large-ish UK companies, employing thousands each, whose pension funds have members in both countries, and whose pension funds are on one of those “some number of years to fund” plans.

Obamacare and Health Coverage Cost Growth

President Barack Obama promised us, all those years ago, that if only Obamacare were enacted, a family’s health plan premium would drop by $2,500 per year, and no one would lose their employer-provided health plan. Period.

These two graphs from The Wall Street Journal draw a different…picture.ObamacareCost

These graphs cover the period since 1999. As the upper graph shows, the premiums for employer-provided health insurance and, since Obamacare’s passage in 2010, for employer-provided health plans, have risen at a steady pace—unchanged by Obamacare, and specifically, no drop in premium cost. It’s the same with the employee’s share of those premiums; that share’s pace of increase also has been unaffected—that is, no drop in cost—from Obamacare.