Explaining Southern California's economy

Reportings: Money for Mitt, rich butlers, BlackBerry 10, Social Security is solvent

US-VOTE-2012-REPUBLICAN CAMPAIGN

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks in the rain during a rally in Newport News, Virginia. He's trying to rake in Wall Street money, with just a few weeks left until the election.

Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan go in seach of Wall Street money, with cocktails and photo ops at a Hilton in New York: "[A] batch of hedge fund and private equity bigwigs show up on the list, underscoring the broad and deep backing that Mr. Romney is receiving from the upper echelons of Wall Street." (DealBook)

 

Make more stuff, people! Retail sales in September beat expectations: "[D]ata show that 'consumers are out in force, buying everything that isn’t nailed down.'" (LATimes)

 

How not to make money: "Endowments and foundations had the worst returns of any class of institutional investor in the year through June, gaining 0.37 percent." (Bloomberg)

 

A venture capital goes to the Interwebs for a new brand identity — and doesn't do it on spec: "[E]veryone creating new work for this project will be compensated — not just the one winner who will carry out our complete brand identity." (USV)

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The tax cut even Republicans can hate

Reid And Senate Democrats Speak On Payroll Tax Plan

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 07: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) (C) holds a news conference about extending the payroll tax cut with Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-IL) (L) and U.S. Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA) at the U.S. Capitol December 7, 2011 in Washington, DC. Reid promised that the tax cut, which is set to expire at the end of the year, will be extended even if he has to keep the Senate in session through the holidays. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The debate in Congress over the payroll tax-cut extension, which is going down the same route as...pretty much every other debate in Congress this session, has created a sort of political Bizarro World. The proposed legislation wouldn't just extend the payroll tax cut, it would also tackle other funding issues. But the payroll tax-cut is where the action is.

The concern, among a strange axis of conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats, is that extending the tax cut will threaten Social Security. Benefits outpaced revenues in 2010. But as this chart from the New York Times shows, that's not unprecedented — Social Security payments ran above revenues in the 1970s and '80s. 

However, since the late 1980s, Social Security has been running a surplus, with the extra money invested in interest-earning Treasury bonds. That funds now stands at $2.6 trillion. The cost of the payroll tax cut? $105 billion.

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Supercommittee Fail: You didn't seen this coming?

So, you might have heard by now that the Congressional "Supercommittee," a bipartisan effort to overcome partisan gridlock, has succumbed to...partisan gridlock.

This is from USA Today:

Republicans refused to cross their ideological line against increasing taxes. Democrats refused to allow cuts in popular programs that serve the elderly and poor without a compensating growth of government income, especially from the wealthiest Americans.

No one really knew what the Supercommittee was doing, anyway, so the sham of its negotiations — which looked as if they would have high sham potential from the git-go — ended in #EPICFAIL shouldn't shock anyone. But the USA Today report is admirable for starkly stating the core difference between the two sides. 

That said, it's easy to cast the Democrats as pro-tax, in the interest of being pro-poor and pro-old folks, while saying that the Republicans wouldn't raise taxes if the future of the, um...republic depended on it.

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Rick Perry's Bizarro World tax plan

Mercer 21248

Win McNamee/Getty Images

GOP Presidential Candidate Rick Perry

I honestly didn't think anyone could — or would — come up with a worse plan for U.S. tax reform than Herman Cain did with his 999 proposal. But Texas Gov. Rick Perry just released his "Cut, Balance and Grow" plan, which is also being referred to as the "20-20" plan, echoing Cain's 999. The difference is that Perry replaces Cain's 9 percent flat income and corporate taxes with a 20 percent flat tax for both. But there's more! And just in time for Halloween, it's...terrifying!

I'd like to call it stupid, but ridiculously stupid would be better.

The plan has four key pieces:

  1. Americans will be able to choose between the current tax system and the 20-percent flat tax. 
  2. Corporations will see their tax rate cut from an average of 35 percent under the current system to a flat 20 percent with Perry's plan.
  3. Federal spending would be capped at 18 percent of GDP, which Perry argues is the average since 1960. This will, he insists, balance the budget by 2020.
  4. Workers would be able to opt out of Social Security.

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