Tagged: tax

In Oklahoma’s tornado alley, some better prepared than others

shelters save lives

The mayor of Moore, Oklahoma, a municipality twice devastated by tornados in the past 15 years, is fixated on garage doors, knowing they are a key to protecting the city from even more damage during this year’s tornado season.

Moore, in the heart of “Tornado Alley,” where twisters frequently hit, will be operating this year under new building codes, arguably some of the most stringent in the nation, to protect people and structures from deadly winds…

“Garage doors are the first to come off during a tornado. Once the garage door comes off, the roof comes off,” Mayor Glenn Lewis said in an interview last week…

In May 2013, twenty-four people were killed and 240 injured when a top-rated tornado devastated Moore, a city of about 55,000 south of Oklahoma City. Some 2,400 buildings were damaged or destroyed, including Plaza Towers Elementary School, where seven children were killed.

It was even worse in 1999 when one of the strongest tornadoes ever recorded, with wind speeds of 300 mph, struck Moore, killing 44 and leaving a path of destruction in its wake.

“The new building codes are great, but I wish they were approved sooner,” said Lewis, who was mayor when both tornadoes hit.

Moore, Oklahoma City and other cities began operating this year under building codes offering more protection, but inadequate structures and a dearth of shelters persist in large parts of the state.

One hold-up appears to be in the state legislature, where lawmakers have been bickering over funding tornado protection.

One Democratic lawmaker proposed using funds from the state’s franchise tax, a levy suspended in 2011, to pay for tornado and storm shelters for the majority of schools in the state without them. Republican lawmakers, who dominate the legislature, have balked at the proposal, saying they want to eliminate the tax altogether.

There’s the point of it all. Republicans, Tea Party Brown Shirts and Blue Dog Democrats care more about tax cuts and money in their wallets than the lives of school children.

I have nothing but contempt for corrupt human beings who value greed over need. They do not advance society. They care little or nothing for those who stand beside them on this planet. Self-centered, egregious, nothing counts more in their mean little lives than money and personal power.

Swaziland government urged to increase witch-doctor tax


A Swazi Member of Parliament has urged the government to hike taxes on traditional healers and soothsayers to help solve a funding crisis in Africa’s last absolute monarchy.

The mediums, known as sangomas in the landlocked southern African nation, pay an annual $1.15 license fee, but MP Majahodvwa Khumalo said they had jacked up their fees fourfold in the last few years and should pay more…

Swaziland’s budget deficit ballooned to 15 percent of its annual economic output in 2010 but the government managed to keep itself afloat by running through central bank reserves and delaying payment of wages to civil servants.

The International Monetary Fund declined to launch a bailout because of reluctance by King Mswati III, who has at least a dozen wives and a personal fortune estimated at $200 million, to cut royal or military spending.

Well, they asked him to do twice as much as would satisfy most Americans. We don’t have any royals to get rid of.

Excepting the ones in Congress, that is.

Op-Ed: Supporting a minimum tax for the wealthy

Orange Creamsicles rule!

Suppose that an investor you admire and trust comes to you with an investment idea. “This is a good one,” he says enthusiastically. “I’m in it, and I think you should be, too.”

Would your reply possibly be this? “Well, it all depends on what my tax rate will be on the gain you’re saying we’re going to make. If the taxes are too high, I would rather leave the money in my savings account, earning a quarter of 1 percent.” Only in Grover Norquist’s imagination does such a response exist…

…Let’s forget about the rich and ultrarich going on strike and stuffing their ample funds under their mattresses if — gasp — capital gains rates and ordinary income rates are increased. The ultrarich, including me, will forever pursue investment opportunities.

And, wow, do we have plenty to invest. The Forbes 400, the wealthiest individuals in America, hit a new group record for wealth this year: $1.7 trillion. That’s more than five times the $300 billion total in 1992. In recent years, my gang has been leaving the middle class in the dust.

A huge tail wind from tax cuts has pushed us along. In 1992, the tax paid by the 400 highest incomes in the United States (a different universe from the Forbes list) averaged 26.4 percent of adjusted gross income. In 2009, the most recent year reported, the rate was 19.9 percent. It’s nice to have friends in high places…

Even if they’re bought-and-paid-for.

This outrage points to the necessity for more than a simple revision in upper-end tax rates, though that’s the place to start. I support President Obama’s proposal to eliminate the Bush tax cuts for high-income taxpayers. However, I prefer a cutoff point somewhat above $250,000 — maybe $500,000 or so.

Additionally, we need Congress, right now, to enact a minimum tax on high incomes. I would suggest 30 percent of taxable income between $1 million and $10 million, and 35 percent on amounts above that. A plain and simple rule like that will block the efforts of lobbyists, lawyers and contribution-hungry legislators to keep the ultrarich paying rates well below those incurred by people with income just a tiny fraction of ours. Only a minimum tax on very high incomes will prevent the stated tax rate from being eviscerated by these warriors for the wealthy.

Above all, we should not postpone these changes in the name of “reforming” the tax code…All of America is waiting for Congress to offer a realistic and concrete plan for getting back to this fiscally sound path. Nothing less is acceptable.

It doesn’t really offend Congressional Republicans when one of the wealthiest investors in the United States tells the truth about taxes and investing. After all, they already ignore science, history and ethics. No surprise about the addition of sound economics to the body of knowledge ignored by demagogues.

No reforms? U.S. retirees to face dwindling funds — in 21 years!

Yeah, I know. “Jolting news” that would cause Congressional hacks to jump into action in 20½ years!

These creeps want to shut down Social Security – after all, they don’t need it

Aging baby boomers got some jolting news on Monday when the U.S. government said the Social Security retirement program is on track to go bankrupt three years earlier than expected if reforms are not made.

Unless Washington politicians, who have been at war with each other over government spending priorities and federal budget deficits, can decide how to put Social Security on a sound footing, retirees’ pension checks would start running out in 2033, according to an annual report…

“Never since the 1983 reforms have we come as close to the point of trust-fund depletion as we are right now,” trustee Charles Blahous told reporters. “Our window for dealing with it without substantially disruptive consequences is closing very rapidly,” he said…


Blahous and fellow trustee Robert Reischauer said lawmakers should be aware that it will become increasingly difficult to “avoid adverse effects” on retirees or those close to retirement if legislative changes are delayed much longer…

Members of Congress also have mulled raising the retirement age or cutting some benefits to the wealthy. But no action is expected before the November elections.

You can RTFA for all the gory details. All the pissing and moaning about coming up with solutions are hogwash. Want to see me solve the question for another hundred years or so? With one sentence?


That’s it. All that is needed is to remove the cap which stops collecting the tax once you’ve earned $104,000. That carries through well into the next century. The NY TIMES surveyed readership on that solution and got a 76% “Yes” vote. So, what’s the problem with Congress getting off their rusty dusties and following through?

Brits will tax food depending on whether it’s hot – or not!

George Osborne has been mocked by MPs over his “pasty tax” after it emerged people could avoid paying VAT on hot baked goods if they wait for them to cool in the shop.

The tax status of Cornish pasties has caused an unexpected backlash against the Chancellor, after he imposed VAT on hot baked goods bought from supermarkets and bakers in the Budget.

Greggs, the high street chain, has warned extra VAT on the hot snacks will cause a decline in sales, while businesses in the south-west are claiming there could be job losses in the Cornish pasty industry…

MPs on the Treasury Select Committee also made fun of the fact the Chancellor “can’t remember” when he last bought a pasty from Greggs. “That sums it up,” said Mr Mann, implying the Chancellor’s experience of hot snack consumption on the high street may be limited.

Raising one potential problem, John Mann, a Labour MP, said a lukewarm pastry would be taxable in warm weather, but not in cold weather, because of different “ambient temperatures”.

Mr Osborne insisted the tax made sense, but said the Government would not check the temperature of every pasty sold…

“The way we operate with companies and large retail chains and the like is that we don’t do a check on every product sold. We come to an agreement with companies over what proportion of their products are sold hot.”

The clown prince is appearing before elected representatives in Parliament – not only trying to defend this silly regulation; but, I presume he’ll detail each differentiation according to weather, demographics, seasoning, fat content and – no doubt – who’s winning the football match where it’s being consumed.

Folks in Colorado will vote on legalizing recreational marijuana

Colorado voters will decide whether to legalize possession of limited amounts of recreational marijuana…

The initiative, known as Amendment 64, makes Colorado the second state to put a measure to allow recreational marijuana on the Nov. 6 ballot. Washington state put similar measure on the ballot last month…

Mason Tvert, co-director of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, one of the measure’s chief proponents, said the campaign would use the next eight months to build a “broad base of support” across the state. “Coloradans have a chance to make history this November, and we believe they are ready to do just that…”

The measure would legalize possession of as much as 1 ounce of marijuana for adults age 21 and older. It would also let people grow as many as six marijuana plants in their home.

Specially regulated stores would be permitted to sell marijuana, but communities would have a right to ban such businesses.

State lawmakers would create a special marijuana tax, with the money going to education.

Decriminalizing marijuana is overdue. I expect similar measures to pass in any sensible state or nation – sooner or later. That doesn’t mean I think rational thought and reflection has suddenly affected every American. Or that our politicians have ceased to base their perpetual re-election campaigns on anything more than the lowest common denominator of education and perception.

It’s just that damned near everyone in this neck of the prairie smokes a little weed, considers it roughly akin to having a beer with supper. And rightly so. Most of the hypocrite fundamentalists who get their rave on over the topic are just as likely to watch their Saturday NASCAR fix on television – roach clip in hand or bong on the living room table next to their bible. Enough people realize the agitprop agin ganja is nothing more than garden variety crap for Sunday morning at church – and the real world needs to get on with living in the present.

Scott’s Miracle-Gro turns from weed killer to growing killer weed

The people at Miracle-Gro are going to start marketing to marijuana farmers, reasoning that they need fertilizer, too.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting:

In an unlikely move for the head of a major company, Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. Chief Executive Jim Hagedorn said he is exploring targeting medical marijuana as well as other niches to help boost sales at his lawn and garden company.

“I want to target the pot market,” Mr. Hagedorn said in an interview. “There’s no good reason we haven’t.”

Sales at Scotts rose 5% last year to $2.9 billion. But the Marysville, Ohio, company relies on sales at three key retailers—Home Depot Inc., Lowe’s Cos. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.—for nearly two-thirds of its revenue. With consumers still cautious about spending, the retailers aren’t building new stores as quickly as they used to, making growth for suppliers like Scotts harder to come by. Against that backdrop, Mr. Hagedorn has pushed his regional sales presidents to look for smaller pockets of growth, such as the marijuana market, that together could produce a noticeable bump in sales.

NPR is reporting:

The medical marijuana market will reach $1.7 billion in sales this year, the story says. Scotts-Miracle Gro’s annual sales are $2.9 billion.

So on the face of it, marijuana growers can’t add much to the company’s revenues. Of course, there’s clearly a very large non-medical-marijuana industry in this country that the company could also sell into.

Overdue. Get the fracking politicians out of the simplest of homegrown relaxation therapies. Tax it. Regulate it – as little as possible. Let’s get on with the real world, please.

Americans know how to solve deficits – is Congress listening?

A new University of Maryland study finds that when average Americans are presented the federal budget in some detail, most are able to reduce the budget deficit dramatically and resolve the Social Security shortfall.

Through a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, on average, respondents cut the discretionary budget deficit projected for 2015 by seventy percent. Six in ten solved the problem of the projected Social Security shortfall through adjustments in payroll taxes, premiums, and benefits. The projected Medicare shortfall was also dramatically reduced…

Unlike conventional polls [Program for Public Consultation] PPC consults with the public by first presenting respondents with information on policy issues and a range of options for addressing them. “When given information and a chance to sort through their options, most Americans do a pretty good job of dealing with America’s budget problems – better than most politicians,” says…Steven Kull, who directs PPC…

On average respondents made net spending cuts of $145.7 billion. The largest cuts included those to defense ($109.4 billion), intelligence ($13.1 billion), military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq ($12.8 billion) and the federal highway system ($4.6 billion) – all of which were cut by majorities.

On average respondents increased revenues by $291.6 billion. The largest portion was from income taxes which were raised by an average of $154.8 billion above the levels currently in place. Majorities increased taxes on incomes over $100,000 by five percent or more, and increased them by 10 percent or more for incomes over $500,000.

Majorities also increased corporate and alcohol taxes, and turned to new sources of revenue, including a tax on sugary drinks, treating ‘carried interest’ income as taxable (also known as the hedge fund managers’ tax), and charging a crisis fee to large banks. A plurality (49 percent) favored a tax on carbon dioxide emissions. But a sales tax was rejected by 58 percent of respondents…

Most respondents also successfully dealt with the problem of Social Security. Respondents were presented eight possible steps for dealing with the Social Security shortfall that will occur as the baby boom generation retires.

Six in ten respondents selected enough steps to resolve the problem. This was the case even though many of them also chose to make the problem more difficult by increasing benefits to low income retirees.

This parallels the study done by readers of the NY TIMES a little while ago. Time after time, when Americans are presented with simple objective information about taxes and policies they come up with common sense solutions that escape the petty analyses of our payola politicians.

Meanwhile, if you’re one of those amazing human beings who actually reads stuff, here’s a link to the full report.

The Americans surveyed suggested increased spending on education and social security. The total deficit reduction was over $437 billion.

Pot sales in Washington state liquor stores proposed

As a 64-year-old woman with a grandchild, state Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, D-Seattle, says she’s not the type of person you would normally associate with marijuana. And yet Dickerson has again introduced legislation that would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana in Washington state.

I believe that it’s a smart way to raise badly needed revenue,” said Dickerson, who chairs the House Health and Human Services Appropriations and Oversight Committee. “It also would at the same time mean that we can focus our law-enforcement efforts on more important things.”

House Bill 1550, filed Tuesday, would regulate marijuana much like alcohol. It proposes that pot be sold through state liquor stores to adults age 21 and older, that the sales be taxed and that the state Liquor Control Board issue licenses to commercial growers. Most of the revenue would go to health care, and substance-abuse treatment and prevention.

The bill would also classify as felonies interstate transportation of marijuana and unauthorized transportation of marijuana within Washington above a certain amount.

Dickerson proposed a similar bill last year, but it failed in a House committee. New provisions in this year’s bill include authorizing the production of industrial hemp and allowing limited growing of marijuana at home for personal use.

Amazing. Someone in Washington state with a brain has been elected to state office.

Good thing we needn’t worry about that happening in New Mexico. Or Congress.

Faulty software tells Brits they’re owed tax refunds

HM Revenue & Customs was at the centre of fresh controversy after it emerged that its computer system was telling people they were owed five-figure tax refunds.

The error was uncovered by chartered accountants Blick Rothenberg which noticed a note on the self-assessment account of one of its clients stating that a refund was due. The group then checked the accounts of all of its clients and found that in every case HMRC was saying it owed them sums of between a few pounds and £24,000.

Frank Nash, tax partner at Blick Rothenberg, said: “HMRC’s online system for self-assessment was down a couple of days ago. It was resurrected and when we went on to it to look at our clients’ statements of account to tell them what their current tax situation was, we noticed that everybody was due a repayment.”

He said that it was not an isolated incident, as the group had spoken to other tax firms, and all of their clients were told that they were due a refund too. He added that the firm knew it was an error as they knew what their clients were due to pay, and they were not owed refunds…

He also said the error might mean that people who were genuinely owed money by HMRC could have to wait for longer before they received their refund. The situation is also likely to cause confusion among self-assessment taxpayers who do not have an accountant…

The problem came to light as it was disclosed that HMRC more than tripled the pay of a key architect of its controversial new PAYE system to stop him walking out at a crucial moment.

A package worth £600,000 a year pro rata was agreed to keep Deepak Singh as acting chief information officer (CIO) for an extra three months after he failed to land the post permanently.

To further sweeten the deal keeping him on for the three months, the government paid £19,200 to help him find a new job after the temporary cover had finished.