Hans Bader

Harvard economist Martin Feldstein, who has advised Obama, warns that “the barrage of tax increases proposed in President Barack Obama’s budget could, if enacted by Congress, kill any chance of an early and sustained recovery.” He compares Obama’s tax increases to the ones that contributed to the Great Depression and the “Lost Decade” of economic stagnation and decay in Japan.

Feldstein, who serves on Obama’s economic advisory board, has also “warned of serious inflation and higher taxes down the road” as a result of Obama’s policies.

Feldstein singles out for criticism Obama’s proposed global-warming tax. “Mr. Obama’s biggest proposed tax increase is the cap-and-trade system of requiring businesses to buy carbon dioxide emission permits. . .CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf testified before the Senate Finance Committee on May 7 that the cap-and-trade price increases . . . would cost the average household roughly $1,600 a year, ranging from $700 in the lowest-income quintile to $2,200 in the highest-income quintile.”

That’s a highly regressive tax increase, since lowest-income earners don’t make a third of what highest-income earners make, but they would incur a third as much cost. It’s regressive in the same way as the 1932 excise tax increase by Herbert Hoover that deepened the misery of the Great Depression.

During the Great Depression, Herbert Hoover damaged the economy, and impoverished the American people, with costly, artificial attempts to stimulate the economy through increased government spending, financed by heavy taxes like the Revenue Act of 1932.

Obama earlier admitted that “under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.” As Obama admitted, that cost would be directly passed “on to consumers” — just the way Herbert Hoover’s regressive excise taxes were in 1932. Although the tax’s supporters claim it will cut greenhouse gas emissions, it may perversely increase them and also result in dirtier air.

In reality, Obama’s proposed “cap-and-trade” tax is likely to raise $2 trillion over the next decade, far more than even Feldstein anticipates. That’s far more than the $646 billion the Administration earlier estimated — amounting to at least $3,100 per family per year. And that figure may be dwarfed by the amount of money siphoned from consumers to well-connected corporations that have learned how to game “cap-and-trade” schemes.

In the Great Depression, President Herbert Hoover raised marginal tax rates to 63%, and went on a deficit spending binge. Similarly, Obama has proposed higher marginal tax rates, which will produce another $1.9 trillion in tax increases.

In spite of its massive size, Obama’s carbon tax won’t begin to pay for all his spending increases, such as a budget that will generate $4.8 trillion in increased deficits, Obama’s trillion-dollar toxic-asset program, and his $800 billion, economy-shrinking “stimulus” package, all of which contradict Obama’s campaign pledge of a “net spending cut.”

These tax increases are breaches of Obama’s campaign promise not to raise taxes on people making less than $250,000 a year, which he earlier broke by signing into law the regressive SCHIP excise tax increase.

It’s part of a long line of broken promises, such as Obama’s pledge to enact a “net spending cut,” which he discarded by offering mind-bogglingly large budgets that will explode the national debt through $9.3 trillion in massively increased deficit spending.

Obama’s proposed tax increases create a massive financial penalty for married couples, by subjecting them to much higher income taxes than if they had chosen to live together without getting married. (Unmarried people voted decisively for Obama. But as the Associated Press notes, “married people tend to favor” Republicans like McCain).

Under the tax increases contained in Obama’s recent budget proposals, a married couple making $232,000 a year would be in a higher tax bracket than many unmarried couples making $370,000 a year. Simply by getting married, a man and woman making $170,000 each would be pushed up from their current level of 28 percent to 36 percent. But an unmarried couple making $340,000 a year ($170,000 each) would be taxed at 28 percent. And a married couple making $380,000 would be taxed at 39.6 percent — not counting certain adjustments that bring the rate to 40.7 percent. (That’s just the federal standard rate. You have to add to that state income taxes (up to 10.3 percent), and federal self-employment taxes, which many small business owners pay — which could result in marginal rates of well over 60 percent).

Obama’s proposals impose tax increases on any single person making over $190,650. Worse, they increase taxes on all married couples making over $231,300 — even if each spouse only makes half of that, or $115,650, far less than the $190,650 that drives up the rate for singles.

These tax increases are breaches of Obama’s campaign promise not to raise taxes on people making less than $250,000 a year, which he earlier broke by signing into law the regressive SCHIP excise tax increase and by proposing a global-warming “cap-and-trade” energy tax that could charge up to $2 trillion.

It’s part of a long line of broken promises, such as Obama’s pledge to enact a “net spending cut,” which he flouted with proposed budgets that will explode the national debt through $9.3 trillion in massively increased deficit spending.

Here is mega-accounting firm Deloitte’s summary of Obama’s tax increases:

“Tax increases, deduction limitations for high-income earners

Second, Obama’s budget outline delivers on several of his campaign promises to increase income taxes on higher-income individuals, including:

* Reinstating the top two individual income tax rates, currently 33 and 35 percent, at their pre-2001 levels – 36 and 39.6 percent – beginning in 2011. The 36 percent bracket would begin at taxable income of $190,650 for singles and $231,300 for married couples. While the budget proposal does not specifically indicate the taxable income level at which the 39.6 percent rate would apply, under current law for 2009, the highest tax bracket starts at $372,950 for singles and married couples. Presumably, this taxable income level would not likely change significantly for the new 39.6 percent bracket, although the Obama administration says the taxable income levels for this rate would “vary by filing status.” The 28 percent tax rate bracket would be expanded to reflect modifications to the upper limit of that bracket (where the 36 percent bracket would begin).
* Increasing the capital gains and dividends rate to 20 percent for taxpayers in 36 and 39.6 percent tax brackets. The reduced rates on gains on assets held over five years would be repealed. In both cases, the increased rates would apply beginning in 2011.
* Reinstating in 2011 the personal exemption phase-out and itemized deduction limitation, which are scheduled to be fully phased out starting in 2010. Phase-out thresholds would be $200,000 of adjusted gross income for singles and $250,000 for joint filers.

In effect, the Obama budget would raise the top income tax rate, considering these phase-outs, to 40.79 percent.”

Obama promised to end the military’s ban on gays, but his Administration has not done so. In fact, it recently kicked out a West Point graduate “who is fluent in Arabic and just returned from Iraq,” just because he’s gay. Never mind that there is a severe shortage of Arabic speakers and translators in the U.S. military. (Liberal gay groups seem to have given him a pass on this issue, perhaps because he has promised to push another bill they support — the federal hate-crimes bill — which would erode civil liberties).

This is just one in a long line of broken campaign promises by Obama, like his pledge to enact a “net spending cut,” his promise not to raise taxes on anyone making less than $250,000 a year, and his promise not to sign bills without first giving the public five days of notice.

The Congressional Budget Office says that Obama’s proposed budgets will explode the national debt through massive spending increases, increasing the already large deficits left behind by the Bush Administration from $4.4 trillion to $9.3 trillion. His record-setting budgets flagrantly violate his promise to propose a “net spending cut.”

Obama broke his campaign promise not to raise taxes on anyone making less than $250,000 a year by signing a regressive SCHIP excise tax increase, and by proposing a cap-and-trade energy tax that could charge up to $2 trillion, a massive cost that Obama himself has said will be passed “on to consumers,” as well as homeowners and motorists. (In 2008, Obama privately admitted to the San Francisco Chronicle that if he was elected, electricity bills would “skyrocket” under his Administration, but it didn’t report that).

Over and over again, Obama has broken his campaign promise to give the public five days of notice before signing bills into law, including his very first law, the trial-lawyer backed Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Obama also repeatedly made false claims about the Supreme Court decision that the Ledbetter law overruled, misstating the facts of that case and how long it gives employees to sue over pay discrimination.

Obama broke seven campaign promises dealing with transparency and clean government in signing the $800 billion stimulus package, much of whose contents were secret until shortly before Congress voted on it, and whose 1400 pages went unread by most Congressmen who voted on it.

Obama’s broken promises are part of a larger pattern of dishonesty. Obama claimed his $800 billion stimulus package was needed to avert “irreversible decline.” But the Congressional Budget Office concluded before and after its passage that the stimulus package will actually cut the size of the economy in the long run. Obama’s budgets don’t add up, either, piling up $9.3 trillion in red ink, according to the Congressional Budget Office, a staggering $2.3 trillion more than Obama claimed.

Obama has asked the big three networks to give him a free hour of air time on his hundredth day in office. They have said they’ll probably give it to him — not surprising if you consider all the support they gave him in the 2008 election.

One thing they probably won’t do is ask him any inconvenient questions about all his broken campaign promises, like his pledge to enact a “net spending cut,” his promise not to raise taxes on anyone making less than $250,000 a year, and his promise not to sign bills without first giving the public five days of notice. Obama has broken his campaign promises far more flagrantly than his predecessors did in their first 100 days in office.

The Congressional Budget Office says that Obama’s proposed budgets will explode the national debt through massive spending increases, increasing the already large deficits left behind by the Bush Administration from $4.4 trillion to $9.3 trillion. His record-setting budgets flagrantly violate his promise to propose a “net spending cut.”

Obama broke his campaign promise not to raise taxes on anyone making less than $250,000 a year by signing a regressive SCHIP excise tax increase, and by proposing a cap-and-trade energy tax that could charge up to $2 trillion, a massive cost that Obama himself has said will be passed “on to consumers,” as well as homeowners and motorists. (In 2008, Obama privately admitted to the San Francisco Chronicle that if he was elected, electricity bills would “skyrocket” under his Administration, but it didn’t report that).

Over and over again, Obama has broken his campaign promise to give the public five days of notice before signing bills into law, including his very first law, the trial-lawyer backed Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Obama also repeatedly made false claims about the Supreme Court decision that the Ledbetter law overruled, misstating the facts of that case and how long it gives employees to sue over pay discrimination.

Obama broke seven campaign promises dealing with transparency and clean government in signing the $800 billion stimulus package, much of whose contents were secret until shortly before Congress voted on it, and whose 1400 pages went unread by most Congressmen who voted on it.

Obama’s broken promises are part of a larger pattern of dishonesty. Obama claimed his $800 billion stimulus package was needed to avert “irreversible decline.” But the Congressional Budget Office concluded before and after its passage that the stimulus package will actually cut the size of the economy in the long run. Obama’s budgets don’t add up, either, piling up $9.3 trillion in red ink, according to the Congressional Budget Office, a staggering $2.3 trillion more than Obama claimed.

The Liberal War on Science

by Hans Bader on April 15, 2009

Christina Hoff Sommers writes about a looming liberal war on science. Based on a campaign promise Obama made to feminist groups in October 2008, Sommers foresees the Obama Administration moving to artificially cap male enrollment in math and science classes to achieve gender proportionality — the way that Title IX currently caps male participation in intercollegiate athletics. The result could be a substantial reduction in the number of scientists graduating from America’s colleges and universities.

Critics have long argued that the Title IX cap is in tension with the Supreme Court’s warnings against proportional representation. In a ruling by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the Supreme Court said that it is “completely unrealistic” to argue that women and minorities should be represented in each field or activity “in lockstep proportion to their representation in the local population.” (See Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co. (1989)). In an earlier ruling, Justice O’Connor noted that it is “unrealistic to assume that unlawful discrimination is the sole cause of people failing to gravitate to jobs and employers in accord with the laws of chance.” (See Watson v. Fort Worth Bank & Trust Co. (1988)).

But the Title IX athletics regulation mandates proportional representation. It contains three alternatives for compliance, but two of them are illusory in the long run. The first way (and only permanent way) to comply is to adopt a quota that artificially caps male participation. The second and third ways, which are only short-term fixes, involve continuous expansion of participation by, or satisfaction of all desire to compete by, the “underrepresented” sex. In a world of finite resources, these latter two ways can only work for a short period of time. I used to work at the agency, the Office for Civil Rights, that administers this regulation, and I think that it would be a mistake to apply standards designed for allocating resources among all-male and all-female sports teams to the very different context of math and science classes, which are coed.

But this is not an Administration that is very good with math and numbers. Obama claimed his $800 billion stimulus package was needed to avert “irreversible decline.” But the Congressional Budget Office says it will actually cut the size of the economy in the long run. His budgets don’t add up, either, piling up $9.3 trillion in red ink, and breaking his promises to enact a “net spending cut” and not raise taxes on people making less than $250,000 a year.

Some liberal publications are suspicious of scientific advances. The agronomist Norman Borlaug, who pioneered the Green Revolution, saved perhaps a billion lives in the Third World by developing high-yield, disease-resistant crops through biotechnology. For this, he received the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Congressional Medal of Honor. For this, he was smeared in the liberal magazine The Nation, which has an irrational phobia of biotechnology and genetic engineering, as being “the biggest killer of all.”

Similarly, the Danish researcher Bjorn Lomborg was demonized and investigated after accurately pointing out that global warming is less of a threat to human health than AIDS and malnutrition.

The stock market has gone up by 280 points so far today, fueled by FASB’s vote to relax rigid mark-to-market accounting rules, which require financial institutions to value assets at their current fire-sale prices, and magnify boom-bust economic cycles.

The market may also be getting a boost from the Senate’s earlier vote undercutting the Obama Administration’s proposed $2 trillion cap-and-trade carbon tax, which would impose burdens on the economy akin to Herbert Hoover’s disastrous 1932 Revenue Act at the beginning of the Great Depression.

The market’s rise contrasts with its fall in the weeks after passage of Obama’s $800 billion stimulus package, which Obama falsely claimed was needed to avert “disaster” and “irreversible decline.” Obama made that claim even though the Congressional Budget Office, controlled by his own Congressional allies, admitted that the stimulus package would shrink the economy over “the long run.

Many commentators have called for relaxation or repeal of mark-to-market accounting rules to stem the financial crisis, including former FDIC Chairman William Isaac, Congressmen Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and Paul Kanjorski (D-PA), the Wall Street Journal, John Berlau, Jeff Miller, Holman Jenkins, Newt Gingrich, and the Republican Study Committee.

While pushing through $8 trillion in bailouts, and trillions more in debt from massive budget increases, the Obama administration has until recently ignored inexpensive possible ways of mitigating the financial crisis like reform of “mark-to-market” accounting rules.

The Obama administration’s footdragging on accounting-regulation reform is inconsistent with the rationale for its trillion-dollar toxic-asset buy-up program, which defies mark-to-market concepts in a much more extreme way than a mere relaxation of mark-to-market accounting rules. The Treasury Secretary claims taxpayers won’t lose a full trillion under Obama’s toxic-asset program, because the assets aren’t as worthless as their current market prices suggest. But if that’s true, why did he continue to insist on federal accounting rules that force banks to value their assets at the current depressed market prices? Either the accounting rules were right — in which case taxpayers will end up losing a trillion dollars — or they were wrong, amplifying financial panics — in which case the rules should be repealed, so that banks, not taxpayers, will be able to take the risk of holding the assets. (If these accounting rules, known as “mark-to-market” accounting, had been in place in the late 1980s, “every major commercial bank would have collapsed,” wiping out the economy).

It’s not even clear that all these bailouts are needed. As William Seidman, the banking official who helped clean up the S&L Crisis as head of the RTC, notes, the government’s $170 billion AIG bailout was absurdly expensive and wasteful. “We paid off huge debts that AIG had in the swaps market, which we probably did not have to do. We bought a number of assets from AIG at high prices, which we probably did not have to do.”

That includes a huge unneeded windfall for the investment bank formerly headed by Treasury Secretary Paulson, Goldman Sachs, a major donor to liberal politicians, which received billions of dollars from taxpayers that it did not even need, through the AIG bailout.

Obama’s record-breaking tax and spending increases violate his campaign promises to enact a “net spending cut” and not to raise taxes “in any form” on anyone making less than $250,000 a year.

Ironically, Obama’s “cap-and-trade” carbon tax might have the perverse effect of increasing, rather than reducing, greenhouse gas emissions. Cap-and-trade is a pernicious “form of tax farming.”

During the Great Depression, Herbert Hoover damaged the economy, and impoverished the American people, with costly, artificial attempts to stimulate the economy through increased government spending, financed by heavy taxes like the Revenue Act of 1932.

Obama is now doing the same thing through his proposed $2 trillion cap-and-trade carbon tax. That tax fulfills his prediction in 2008 to the San Francisco Chronicle (which didn’t report it) that “Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.” As Obama admitted, that cost would be directly passed “on to consumers” — just the way Herbert Hoover’s regressive excise taxes were in 1932. Although the tax’s supporters claim it will cut greenhouse gas emissions, it may perversely increase them and also result in dirtier air.

The $2 trillion that Obama’s proposed “cap-and-trade” carbon tax on energy use and utility bills is expected to raise is far more than the $646 billion the Administration earlier estimated. That’s at least $3,100 per family per year.

Obama is also emulating Herbert Hoover’s protectionism. Hoover signed the Smoot-Hawley tariff, which helped turn a recession into the Great Depression by triggering a trade war with other countries.

Similarly, the bill incorporating Obama’s carbon tax contains protectionist measures that will likely trigger an economically-destructive trade war. Indeed, Obama already started a trade war through a provision in his $800 billion stimulus package that blocked a measley 97 Mexican truckers from U.S. roads. That minor NAFTA violation “caused Mexico to retaliate with tariffs on 90 goods affecting $2.4 billion in U.S. trade,” destroying 40,000 American jobs. (Even before that, the Congressional Budget Office admitted that Obama’s stimulus package would actually shrink the economy in the long run).

The $2 trillion raised by Obama’s cap-and-trade carbon tax may be dwarfed by the money it siphons from consumers to well-connected corporations that have learned how to game cap-and-trade schemes.

In the Great Depression, President Herbert Hoover raised marginal tax rates to 63%, and went on a deficit spending binge. Similarly, Obama has proposed higher marginal tax rates, which will produce another $1.9 trillion in tax increases.

In spite of its massive size, Obama’s carbon tax won’t begin to pay for all his spending increases, such as a budget that will generate $4.8 trillion in increased deficits, Obama’s trillion-dollar toxic-asset program, and his $800 billion, economy-shrinking “stimulus” package, all of which contradict Obama’s campaign pledge of a “net spending cut.”

Obama’s carbon tax, like the tobacco tax increase he already signed into law, is a violation of his campaign promise not to raise taxes in “any form” on anyone making less than $250,000 per year.

“Nobel Prize-winning liberal economist Joseph Stiglitz points out that the Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s plan to have the government subsidize investments in ‘toxic assets’ creates a serious moral hazard: Private investors will pocket any gains, while the federal government promises to cover virtually all potential losses: ‘Quite frankly, this amounts to robbery of the American people.’”

It’s the London Telegraph that’s reporting this, though. U.S. newspapers are too busy running puff pieces about Barack and Michelle Obama — and describing critics of Obama’s $800 billion stimulus package, which the Congressional Budget Office admits will shrink the economy in the long run, as being opposed to what the papers dishonestly refer to as the “economic recovery plan.” (With a few exceptions, the press did not report the CBO’s finding that the stimulus will actually shrink the economy, which contradicts Obama’s false claim that failing to pass the bloated stimulus package would lead to “irreversible decline.”)

Although many economists oppose the Administration’s policies, the newspapers make it sound like only right-wingers object to the Obama Administration’s bailouts. They do that even though the liberal Nobel Laureate and economist Paul Krugman, a big Obama supporter, admitted that Obama’s trillion toxic-asset buy-up program is a rip-off best described as “heads I win, tails the taxpayers lose.”

The result is that although Obama has proposed record budget deficits (expanding deficits by $4.8 trillion to an eye-popping $9.3 trillion, despite tax increases of $1.9 trillion), public opinion polls show 52% of the public approves Obama’s handling of the deficit.

In 2008, Obama explained to the San Francisco Chronicle that electricity bills would “skyrocket” under his Administration due to its global-warming regulations. But the press by and large wasn’t interested in reporting it, since it would have hurt Obama’s chances of getting elected.

Now, the Obama Administration is backing a two trillion-dollar cap-and-trade carbon tax. But that, too, is getting little press coverage — as are Obama’s broken campaign promises, like his pledge of a “net spending cut” if elected.

The U.S. press has barely mentioned Treasury Secretary Geithner’s role in the destruction of the economy of Indonesia, a major oil-producing nation of 200 million people, in the 1990s (even though Australia’s long-time Prime Minister Paul Keating has been scathing in his criticism of Geithner).

Given their unwillingness to print interesting — but ideologically inconvenient — news, it’s no wonder that lots of newspapers, like the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, have folded in the past year. Biased coverage is boring coverage not worth paying for.

Obama’s proposed “cap-and-trade” carbon tax on energy use and utility bills is expected to raise up to $2 trillion, more than the $646 billion the Administration earlier estimated. The Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney explains how this hidden tax works.

(Before his election, Obama explained that electricity bills would “skyrocket” under his Administration, but the press by and large wasn’t interested in reporting it).

The $2 trillion raised by Obama’s cap-and-trade scheme may be dwarfed by the money made, at consumers’ expense, by well-connected corporations that have learned how to game such schemes.

It won’t put much of a dent in the $4.8 trillion in additional debt resulting from Obama’s proposed budget, or the $8 trillion in spending commitments incurred by the Obama Administration (not counting another trillion dollars for the toxic-asset buy-up program and $800 billion for the economy-shrinking “stimulus” package), all of which contradict Obama’s campaign pledge of a “net spending cut.”

But you sure will notice it in your electric bills if it becomes a reality.