Alan Greenspan made several huge errors while chairman of the Federal Reserve. Failing to deal with the massive risk taking and fraud by the member banks of the Federal Reserve was one. And supporting tax cuts for a country that was hugely in debt (while current deficits were still huge was another. Yes anyone can claim (and he did) future surpluses, but there had yet to be a single year of surplus, and obviously we would have been in deficit even before the tax cuts put us much much further in debt, history has shown .
That is either amazingly bad economic forecasting or a lie. My guess is he knew this wasn’t true. Which would make it a lie. If he really was that out of touch with economic reality, we have to question why we ever thought he had insight into the economy.
GREENSPAN: I should say they should follow the law and let them lapse.
WOODRUFF: Meaning what happens?
GREENSPAN: Taxes go up. The problem is, unless we start to come to grips with this long-term outlook, we are going to have major problems. I think we misunderstand the momentum of this deficit going forward.
Accepting that, I don’t agree with those that vilify his performance. He was Fed chairman from 1987-2006. He made some very bad decisions that cost people dearly. But it isn’t very surprising someone in such power for so long would make some very bad and costly decisions. My guess is he caved to pressure from political allies that reminded him how the current President Bush’s father blamed Greenspan’s decisions for his losing the Presidency. And so Greenspan was trying to do what he could to do what the then President Bush wanted. Not a very honorable explanation but people often do not make the most honorable choices.
In 2003 he publicly disagreed with the wisdom of additional cuts:
Politicians, eager to give favors, at the expense of the future, went ahead and passed more tax cuts – weakening the country for their (and their political allies) short term benefit.
Greenspan’s thoughts on the economy, from his July 16th 2010 interview:
Failing to pay for the deferred costs of current expenditures gets all those practicing credit card budget thinking in trouble. That includes lots of individuals. But it also includes many governments. They pay huge rewards to special interests and act like they think the cost doesn’t exist. Only an extremely financially illiterate society could elect so many of these people. We have not learned that in the modern financial economies financial illiteracy is a huge societal problem (along with scientific illiteracy).
Such poor financial management by public sector organization (California is horrible also) are causing huge damage to those living in such poorly managed states.
The use of public money for outsize retirement pay really stings when budgets don’t balance, teachers are being laid off, furloughs are being planned
Roughly one of every 250 retired public workers in New York is collecting a six-figure pension, and that group is expected to grow rapidly in coming years, based on the number of highly paid people in the pipeline.
Thirteen New York City police officers recently retired at age 40 with pensions above $100,000 a year; nine did so in their 30s.
Before Yonkers adopted a richer pension formula for police in 2000, for instance, it was told the maximum cost would be $1.3 million a year. But instead, the yearly cost is now $3.75 million and rising. David Simpson, a spokesman for the mayor of Yonkers, said pension cost projections were “often lowballs,” so the city could get stuck. “Once you give something, you can’t take it away,” he said.
It isn’t complicated. So long as you elect people that are financial illiterate and only care about granting favors to special interests, not the consequences of doing so, you are setting yourself up for a great deal of pain once your credit card bill comes due.
The Wall Street Journal wrote “Their Fair Share” in July of 2008 claiming that the rich are paying their fair share of taxes.
Wow. The Wall Street Journal against a tax cut? Well I guess if it is a tax on the poor they don’t support cutting those taxes. I think it may well make sense to reduce the social security and medicare taxes on the working poor (including the company share). Of all the taxes we have this is the one I would reduce, if I reduced any (given the huge amount of government debt any reduction may well be unwise). But reducing income taxes for those under the median income doesn’t seem like something worth doing to me.
They seem to ignore that income inequality has drastically increased. When you have a system that puts a huge percentage of the cash in a few people’s pockets of course those people end up paying a lot of cash per person. One affect of massive wealth concentration is that the limited people all the money is flowing to naturally will pay an increasing portion of taxes.
It is fine to argue that the rich pay too much tax, if you want. I don’t agree. I think Warren Buffett explains the issue much more clearly and truthfully when he says he, and all his fellow, billionaires (and those attempting to join the club) pay a lower percent of taxes on income than their secretaries do. He offers $1 million to any of them that prove that isn’t true.
And I guess you can say that the top 22% of the income paying the top 40% of the taxes is “steeply progressive.” I wouldn’t call that steep, but… It is nice the graphic is at least decently honest. Saying just “top 1% of taxpayers, those who earn above $388,806, paid 40% of all income ” is fairly misleading. It is much more honest (I believe) to say that “the top 1% (that made 22% of the income) paid…” Those with the top 22% of income paid 40% of the taxes, the next 15% payed 20%, the next 31% paid 26% the next 20% 11% and the final 12% paid 3%. That is progressive. From my perspective it could be more progressive but I can see others saying it it progressive enough.
If 22% to 40% is “steeply” progressive what is 1% to 22%? The income distribution seems to be what? very hugely massively almost asymptotently progressive? The to 1% of people, by income, take 22% of the income, the next 4% take the next 15% of the total income, the next 20% take 31%, the next 25% take 30% and the bottom 50% take 12%. This level of income inequality is much more a source of concern than any concern someone should have about a slightly progressive tax result.
From Greg Mankiw’s Blog
France .461 x 33,744 = $15,556
Germany .406 x 34,219 = $13,893
UK .390 x 35,165 = $13,714
US .282 x 46,443 = $13,097
Canada .334 x 38,290 = $12,789
Italy .426 x 29,290 = $12,478
Spain .373 x 29,527 = $11,014
Japan .274 x 32,817 = $8,992
The USA is the 2nd lowest for percent of GDP taxes 28.2% v 27.4% for Japan. But in taxes per person toward the middle of the pack. France which has 46% taxes/GDP totals $15,556 in tax per person compared to $13,097 for the USA.
Related: Government Debt as Percentage of GDP 1990-2008 – USA, Japan, Germany… – Oil Consumption by Country in 2007 – USA, China and Japan Lead Manufacturing Output in 2008 – Bigger Impact: 15 to 18 mpg or 50 to 100 mpg?
There was a $1 trillion gap at the end of fiscal year 2008 between the $2.35 trillion states had set aside to pay for employees’ retirement benefits and the $3.35 trillion price tag of those promises, according to a new report released by the Pew Center on the States. The shortfall, which will have to be paid over the next 30 years by state and local governments, amounts to more than $8,800 for every household in the United States.
The figures detailed in Pew’s report, The Trillion Dollar Gap, include pension, health care and other non-pension benefits promised to both current and future retirees in states’ and participating localities’ public sector retirement systems.
Pew’s numbers likely underestimate the bill coming due because the most recent available data do not account for the second half of 2008, when states’ pension fund investments were particularly affected by the financial crisis. Additionally, most states’ accounting methods spread the investment declines over a period of time–meaning states will be dealing with their losses for several years.
“While the economic crisis and drop in investments helped create it, the trillion dollar gap is primarily the result of states’ inability to save for the future and manage the costs of their public sector retirement benefits,” said Susan Urahn, managing director, Pew Center on the States. “The growing bill coming due to states could have significant consequences for taxpayers—higher taxes, less money for public services and lower state bond ratings. States need to start exploring reforms.”
In fiscal year 2008, states’ pension plans had $2.8 trillion in long-term liabilities, with more than $2.3 trillion reserved to cover those costs. Overall, states’ pension systems were 84 percent funded—above the 80 percent funding level recommended by experts. Still, the unfunded portion–$452 billion–is substantial, and states’ performance is down slightly from an 85 percent combined funding level in fiscal year 2006. Pension liabilities have grown by $323 billion since 2006, outpacing asset growth by almost $87 billion.
Retiree health care and other non-pension benefits, such as life insurance, create another huge bill coming due: a $587 billion total liability to pay for current and future benefits, with only $32 billion–or just over 5 percent of the cost–funded as of fiscal year 2008. Half of the states account for 95 percent of the liability. Because of a 2004 Governmental Accounting Standards Board rule, the full range of non-pension liabilities was officially reported in fiscal year 2008 for the first time across all 50 states.
Many state and local governments continue to provide very large pay to state and local government employees and often use very generous retirement packages as a way of disguising the true cost of the pay packages they provide.
Related: NY State Raises Pension Age to Save $48 Billion – True Level of USA Federal Deficit – Charge It to My Kids – USA Federal Debt Now $516,348 Per Household – Politicians Again Raising Taxes On Your Children – Consumer Debt Reduced below $2.5 Trillion
As I have said previously, capitalists support the estate and inheritance taxes. Not those that see themselves as nobility, and call wish to be called capitalists, that want to reward the children of the wealthy (because we all know they need more advantages than they already get). While the Democrats voted in favor of capitalism (letting those who earn wealth prosper) instead of supporting nobility, as has been the recent trend, they did so only for the richest few. So they decided Kings and Queens should not pass all their wealth to the kids (still they can pass more than 50% of it – oh don’t you feel sorry for those poor kids you might have to get just $3.85 million instead of the $7 million they “need”). So the Democrats decided all the children of Lords, Dukes, Earls… should not have to have their trust funds impinged in any way.
“We make the estate tax go away for 99.75 percent of the people in the country,” said North Dakota Democrat Earl Pomeroy, the main sponsor. Republicans who voted against the measure said they favored repealing the levy.
Congress in 2001 decided to drop the estate tax in 2010 before reinstating it in 2011 at the previous higher top rate of 55 percent for estates valued at more than $1 million.
Isn’t it amazing how little the children of wealthy are asked to share in the huge inheritances they get. But until the economic literacy of the country improves they are able to pretend noble blood lines passing down huge fortunes are not just those with the gold making the rules.
You might notice the government is in pretty desperate need of money. But some still think asking the kids of the super rich to part with some of their inheritance is too much to ask. I wish they would learn about economics. It is not capitalist to reward being born in the right house with more cash than than many will every earn working 40 plus years (a 50% inheritance tax on the super rich is less than it should be – and it shouldn’t be just the super rich that pay inheritance tax). Maybe exempt $1-2 million and index that. The next million at 50%. Then increase the rate 5% every million. I don’t really see any need to give some kid $100 million because they happen to have been born to a rich parent. Capitalism is about rewarding economic productivity not the birth lottery.
Related: Rich Americans Sue to Keep Evidence of Their Tax Evasion From the Justice Department – Killing Capitalism in Favor of Special Interests – Ignorance of Capitalism – Charge It to My Kids – Buffett on Taxes
The Federal Weatherization Assistance Program has been around for decades and funding has been increased as part of the stimulus bills. This type of spending is better than much of what government does. It actually invests in something with positive externalities. It targets spending to those that need help (instead of say those that pay politicians to give their companies huge payoffs and then pay themselves tens of millions in bonuses).
The Depart of Energy provides funding, but the states run their own programs and set rules for issues such as eligibility. They also select service providers, which are usually nonprofit agencies that serve families in their communities, and review their performance for quality. In many states the stimulus funds have increased the maximum funds have increased to $6,500 per household, from $3,000.
The weatherization program targets low-income families: those who make $44,000 per year for a family of four (except for $55,140 for Alaska and $50,720 for Hawaii).
The program provides funds for those with low-income for the like of: insulation, air sealing and at times furnace repair and replacement. Taking advantage of this program can help you reduce your energy bills and reduce the amount of energy we use and pollution created. And it employs people to carry out these activities.
The Weatherization Assistance Program invests in making homes more energy efficient, reducing heating bills by an average of 32% and overall energy bills by hundreds of dollars per year.
Weatherization is also often a very good idea without any government support. If you are eligible for some help, definitely take a look at whether it makes sense for you. And even if you are not, it is a good idea to look into saving on your energy costs.
Related: Oil Consumption by Country in 2007 – Japan to Add Personal Solar Subsidies – personal finance tips – Kodak Debuts Printers With Inexpensive Cartridges – Personal Finance Basics: Dollar Cost Averaging
Is it cynical to think that politicians want to provide payments from the treasury to those that paid the politicians? More cynical to think the politicians that created huge Wall Street Welfare payments won’t actually do anything except talk about how they think it is bad that those they paid billions to are buying new mansions and yachts? More cynical to think they will continue to provide huge amounts of nearly free cash for those that paid them to speculate with? More cynical to think if any of those speculators lose money they will give them more welfare? More cynical to think those bought and paid for politicians won’t actually take any steps to tax or curtail speculation? I think maybe I am cynical about Washington doing anything other than talk about how they don’t want to provide huge amounts of cash to Wall Street all the while giving their Wall Street friends huge amounts of cash that will be paid back by our grandchildren.
Wouldn’t it be nice if the politicians actually took actions to fund a partial payback of the hundreds of billions (or maybe trillions) of bailout dollars by taxing financial speculation? I doubt it will happen. But maybe I am too cynical. Maybe politicians will not just do what they have been paid to do. But it seems the best predictor of what congress will do is based on what they are paid to do, based on their past and current behavior. Now what congress will say is very different. those paying Congressmen might not love it if the congressmen call them names but through a few billion more and they are happy to be called names while given the cash to buy new jets and sports teams and parties for their daughters.
Making Wall Street pay by Dean Baker
The logic of a financial transactions tax is simple. It would impose a modest fee on trades of stocks, futures, credit default swaps and other financial instruments. For example, the UK puts a 0.25% tax on the sale or purchase of shares of stock. This has very little impact on people who buy stock with the intent of holding it for a long period of time.
We can raise more than $140bn a year taxing financial transactions, an amount equal to 1% of GDP.
Since the financial sector is the source of the country’s current economic and budget problems it also makes sense to have this sector bear the brunt of any new taxes that may be needed. The economic collapse caused by Wall Street’s irrational exuberance has led to a huge increase in the country debt burden. It seems only fair that Wall Street bear the brunt of the clean-up costs. A financial transactions tax is the way to make sure that this happens.
The decisions over the past 30 years to pass huge huge tax bills to those in the future is unsustainable. Saying you cut taxes when all you actually do is postpone them is dishonest. However, many people go along with such false statements so politicians have learned to buy votes today by raising taxes on the future. Since the public keeps voting for such people when the facts are clear the only explanation is they support raising taxes, not today, but in the future (or, I suppose, they are not able to understand the clear implications of what they vote for). The Long-Term Budget Outlook
For decades, spending on Medicare and Medicaid has been growing faster than the economy. CBO projects that if current laws do not change, federal spending on Medicare and Medicaid combined will grow from roughly 5 percent of GDP today to almost 10 percent by 2035. By 2080, the government would be spending almost as much, as a share of the economy, on just its two major health care programs as it has spent on all of its programs and services in recent years.
CBO projects that Social Security spending will increase from less than 5 percent of GDP today to about 6 percent in 2035 and then roughly stabilize at that level.
Federal interest payments already amount to more than 1 percent of GDP; unless current law changes, that share would rise to 2.5 percent by 2020.
The cost of paying for a dysfunctional medical system has been a huge drain on the USA economy for decades. But that is nothing compared to what the future holds if we don’t adopted sensible strategies that reduce the huge extra costs we pay and the worse performance we receive for that cost.
Social security is not the huge problem many think it is. Still I would support reducing the payout to wealthy individuals and bringing the age limits more in line with the changes in life expectancy. 12.4% of pay for low and middle wage workers (high income earners stop paying social security taxes so in effect marginal tax rates decrease by 12% for any income above $106,800). Medicare taxes add 2.9% bringing the total social security and Medicare taxes to 15.1% (including both the amount paid directly by the employee and the amount paid for the employee by the employer).
Related: True Level of USA Federal Deficit – USA Federal Debt Now $516,348 Per Household – quotations about economics – articles on improving the health care system – USA Spent $2.2 Trillion, 16.2% of GDP, on Health Care in 2007
One problem with investing in mutual funds is potential tax bills. If the fund has invested well and say bought Google at $150 and then Google was at $700 (a few years ago) there is the potential tax liability of the $550 gain per share. So if funds have been successful (which is one reason you may want to invest in them) they often have had a large potential tax liability.
With an open end mutual fund the price is calculated each day based on the net asset value, which is fair but really the true value if there is a large potential tax liability is less than if there was none. So in reality you had to believe the management would outperform enough to make up for the extra taxes that would be owed.
Well, the drastic stock market decline over the last few years has turned this upside down and many mutual funds actual have tax losses that they have realized (which can be used to offset future capital gains). Say the fund had realized capital losses of $30,000,000 last year. Then if they have capital gains of $20,000,000 next year they can use the losses from last year and will not report any taxable capital gains. And the next year the first $10,000,000 in capital gains would be not table either. Business Week, had an article on this recently – Big Losers Can Be Big Tax Shelters
Yet it is Miller’s newer charge, Legg Mason Opportunity, which holds stocks of all sizes and can take short positions, that will prove to be the real tax haven. Morningstar pegs its losses at 285% of its $1.2 billion in assets.
There are other funds with returns so ugly and losses so large that it may not matter what their trading style is for many years: Fidelity Select Electronics (FSELX), -539%; MFS Core Equity A, -369%; Janus Worldwide (JAWWX), -304%; Vanguard U.S. Growth (VWUSX), -227%.
How does a fund have over 100% tax losses? The way I can think of is if they have a great deal of redemptions. If the fund shrinks in size from a $3 billion fund to a $300 million fund they could have a 50% realized capital loss (down to $750 million) but then another $450 million in redemptions). Now the $300 million has a $750 million capital loss or 250%.