The Beginning Of The End
The Beginning Of The End By Michael T. Snyder - Kindle Version

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The Good, The Bad And The Ugly From The Fiscal Cliff Deal

The Good, The Bad And The Ugly From The Fiscal Cliff DealThe fiscal cliff deal contains more bad news than it does good news.  Yes, the tax increases on the middle class could have been much worse, and we should be thankful that Congress at least did something for the middle class.  Unfortunately, they didn’t do enough.  Every American worker is going to pay higher taxes next year as a result of this deal.  The fiscal cliff deal represents the biggest tax increase in 20 years, and it is also projected to increase the U.S. national debt by an additional 4 trillion dollars over the next decade.  In the final analysis, U.S. government finances are still wildly out of control and we are all going to be paying higher taxes.  Not a whole lot to be excited about, and nothing has really been fixed for the long-term.  Our politicians have kicked the can down the road once again, but someday they will run out of road and all of this debt will absolutely crush us.  And of course a lot of our politicians didn’t even really know what they were voting for.  The fiscal cliff bill was more than 150 pages long, and our Senators got the bill into their hands just 3 minutes before they voted on it.  So none of them actually read the bill.  But that is the way things work in America today.  The blind are leading the blind and everyone is mindlessly hoping that everything will turn out okay somehow.

For a few moments, let’s take a closer look at the fiscal cliff deal.  There are some good things in there, there are some bad things in there, and there are some things about the deal that are downright ugly.

The Good

-One of the best things about the fiscal cliff deal is that income tax rates did not rise on the poor and the middle class.  This is great news for millions of families that are struggling to make ends meet each month.  A significant rise in income tax rates would have been crippling.

-The Alternative Minimum Tax will now be permanently adjusted for inflation.  This is something that I had screamed about in previous articles.  If an AMT fix had not been passed, approximately 28 million households would have been hammered with the Alternative Minimum Tax on their 2012 earnings.

-Millions of unemployed workers will continue to receive extended federal unemployment benefits.  We probably cannot really afford to keep doing this, but at least now there won’t be millions of unemployed workers that suddenly have their only source of income shut off.  The next trick will be to find jobs for all of those workers.  Unfortunately, millions of our jobs continue to be shipped to the other side of the world.

The Bad

-Payroll taxes are going up for every American worker.  The fiscal cliff deal allows the 2 percent payroll tax cut to expire, and so now the average U.S. household bringing in about $50,000 a year will pay approximately $1,000 more per year in payroll taxes.  As a result, it is being projected that U.S. consumers will have $115 billion less in disposable income to spend in 2013.  Happy New Year American workers!

-The fiscal cliff deal did nothing about the new Obamacare taxes that went into effect on January 1st.  Many of these taxes will hurt the middle class.  To see an example of a receipt where a consumer was charged the new “medical excise tax” in Obamacare, just check out this article.

-The carried-interest deduction loophole remains intact, so incredibly wealthy hedge fund managers will continue to get away with paying very little in taxes.  If the rest of us are being taxed into oblivion, then they should share in the pain with the rest of us.  Of course I personally believe that the income tax should be abolished entirely, but none of our politicians seem interested in that idea at all.

-Income tax rates will increase for high earners.  This will hurt a lot of small businesses.  Many small businesses that earn more than $400,000 a year will now be faced with making some really tough choices.  Some may have to lay off workers.  The top rate will now be 39.6 percent, but when other federal and state taxes are factored in, many small businesses will now be paying a top marginal rate of well over 50 percent.  That is absolutely obscene.

-A compromise was reached on the estate tax.  The exemption was scheduled to fall to just $1 million and the rate was scheduled to go up to 55 percent, and fortunately Congress decided to do something about that.  As I have written about previously, that would have been a disaster for many small businesses and family farms.  As a result of the fiscal cliff deal, the estate tax will only rise from 35 percent to 40 percent.  The exemption for individuals will be about 5 million dollars and for couples it will be about 10 million dollars, and those figures will now be indexed for inflation.  A tax increase is never a good thing, but if Congress had done nothing things would have been far worse.

-The fiscal cliff deal contains a lot of pork.  In particular, it contains provisions that extend specific tax breaks related to Puerto Rican rum, electric motorcycles, biodiesel and renewable diesel fuel, the film and television business, and motorsports entertainment complexes.

The Ugly

According to the Congressional Budget Office, as a result of this deal the U.S. national debt will be about $4 trillion higher a decade from now than it would have been if Congress had done nothing.

The deficit for fiscal year 2013 alone will be about $330 billion higher than it would have been if Congress had done nothing.

So this deal has made our debt problems even worse.

Right now, the U.S. has a debt to GDP ratio of about 103 percent.  We are already well into the “danger zone”, yet most Americans still don’t seem very concerned about all of this debt.

The fiscal cliff deal contained hardly any spending cuts at all.  In fact, there was a 41 to 1 ratio of tax increases to spending cuts in the deal.  The Democrats definitely won this round.  But of course they had most of the leverage.  If Congress had done nothing, the middle class would have been absolutely devastated by all of the tax increases, and the Republicans were desperate to prevent that.

But now that the battle over taxes is done, the leverage is going to shift over to the Republicans for the next big fight.

The battle over the debt ceiling is next.  If Congress does not act, the U.S. government will soon not be able to borrow any additional money.  This battle will be one of the stories that dominates the headlines over the next few months.

If the Republicans want to do something serious about spending, now is their chance.  The battle over tax rates is already over, and there is no election in November.  The Republicans could conceivably say “NO” to a debt ceiling increase if they want to.  If that happened, the federal government would only be able to spend the money that it already has.  It would not be able to borrow more.  That would mean that we would have to start living within our means.

What a novel concept.

Of course there is no reason to believe that the Republicans in the House will suddenly grow a spine.  They have folded every other time that the debt ceiling has come up.  It will probably be the same again in 2013.

And Barack Obama is already saying that there will be “no negotiations” over the debt ceiling this time.  He expects the Republicans to raise the debt ceiling for him without getting anything in return

“I will not have another debate with this Congress over whether they will pay the bills they’ve already racked up.”

But the U.S. government cannot spend a single penny or borrow a single penny without the approval of the U.S. House of Representatives.

If the Republicans in the House want to ever get serious about government spending, the upcoming battle over the debt ceiling is a golden opportunity.

They could stop the Obama administration from piling up crazy amounts of debt if they want to.  All they need is the courage to take a stand.

During the first four years of the Obama administration, the U.S. government accumulated about as much debt as it did from the time that George Washington took office to the time that George W. Bush took office.

The Republicans have had control of the House for about half of that time.  That means that they have been willing accomplices.

So will they take a stand?

That is very doubtful.  Over the past few years they have exhibited the intestinal fortitude of a frightened chicken.  They will probably huff and puff a little bit, but in the end they will probably give in to Obama once again.

But what we are doing to our children and our grandchildren is so immoral that it is hard to describe.  We are stealing more than 100 million dollars from them every single hour of every single day, and we plan on leaving them with the biggest pile of debt the world has ever seen.  We should be absolutely ashamed of ourselves.

Why can’t we just spend the money that we have?

What would be so wrong with that?

Unfortunately, that would mean such a painful downward adjustment in our standard of living that most Americans would freak out.  We are addicted to debt-fueled prosperity, and so we can’t stop stealing from future generations.  We need their money to feed our addiction.

In the end, this gigantic mountain of debt is absolutely going to destroy everything that our forefathers built for us.  There have been some people that have been warning about this for decades, but the American people did not listen.

Soon enough, we will all pay the price for this foolishness.

Obama And Boehner - The Debt Ceiling Battle Comes Next

Happy New Year Middle Class: The Fiscal Cliff Is Going To Rip You To Shreds

Happy New Year Middle Class - The Fiscal Cliff Is Going To Rip You To ShredsThe middle class has quite a gift welcoming them as the calendar flips over to 2013.  Their payroll taxes are going to go up, their income taxes are going to go up, and approximately 28 million households are going to be hit with a huge, unexpected AMT tax bill on their 2012 earnings.  So happy New Year middle class!  You are about to be ripped to shreds.  In addition to the tax increases that I just mentioned, approximately two million unemployed Americans will instantly lose their extended unemployment benefits when 2013 begins, and new Obamacare tax hikes which will cost American taxpayers about a trillion dollars over the next decade will start to go into effect.  If Congress is not able to come to some sort of a deal, all middle class families in America will be sending thousands more dollars to Uncle Sam next year than they were previously.  And considering the fact that the middle class is already steadily shrinking and that the U.S. economy is already in an advanced state of decline, that is not good news.  You would think that both major political parties would want to do something to keep the middle class from being hit with this kind of tax sledgehammer.  Unfortunately, at this point it appears that our “leaders” in Washington D.C. are incapable of getting anything done.  So get ready for much smaller paychecks and much larger tax bills.  What is coming is not going to be pleasant.

So what happened?

Weren’t the tax increases only supposed to be for the wealthy?

Well, that is what the politicians always promise, but it is always the middle class that ends up getting hit the hardest.

In this day and age, the big corporations and the ultra-wealthy are absolute masters at avoiding taxes.

For example, Facebook paid approximately $4.64 million in taxes on their entire foreign profits of $1.344 billion for 2011.

That comes out to a tax rate of about 0.3 percent.

Overall, the global elite have approximately 18 trillion dollars parked in offshore tax havens such as the Cayman Islands.

Keep in mind that U.S. GDP for 2011 was only slightly above 15 trillion dollars.

So the global elite have an amount of money parked in offshore banks that is substantially larger than the total value of all goods and services produced in the United States each year.

According to one estimate, a third of all the wealth in the entire world is stationed in offshore banks.  Our politicians are playing checkers and the global elite are playing chess when it comes to taxes.  Our current system of taxation is irreversibly broken and should be entirely thrown out and replaced with something else.

And of course under our current system those that are poor don’t pay much in taxes because they are just trying to survive.

So who always ends up getting the painful end of the hammer?

The middle class does, and that really stinks.

Let us hope and pray that our politicians can come together and do something for the middle class.  In particular, we should all be screaming and yelling at our politicians about the Alternative Minimum Tax.  It was originally designed as a method to “tax the rich”, but unless Congress does something the middle class is about to be ripped to shreds by it.  The following is from a recent CNBC article about the AMT…

In a cruel epilogue to 2012, roughly 28 million families would owe the IRS $86 billion more than they anticipated for this year should the country plunge off the cliff, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

Those families would face the “Alternative Minimum Tax,” which was introduced in 1969 to supposedly guarantee that wealthy Americans could not elude the taxman. But the AMT not only flopped, it was never indexed to inflation. So with each passing year, it seeps away from high society and into the wallets of Target and Wal-Mart shoppers. That sets up a disaster for April 15.

So how much money are we talking about?

According to that same article, many families are about to be socked by tax bills that will be absolutely huge…

On the whole, 98 percent of those with incomes between $200,000 to $500,000 would pay an additional $11,000 in AMT this year, according to the center’s estimates. About 88 percent of those with incomes of $100,000 to $200,000 would need to fork over another $3100, and even the majority of Americans with earnings between $75,000 and $100,000 would have an AMT liability.

Most of the tax increases that will be coming as a result of the fiscal cliff will be for 2013 earnings, but the AMT tax hike will apply to 2012 earnings.  So if you end up falling under the AMT, you better get ready to write a very large check to Uncle Sam in just a couple of months.

And the AMT is only just one of the very painful tax increases that American families will be facing.  If no deal is reached in Congress, every single middle class American taxpayer will be dealing with significantly higher taxes.

A recent ABC News report entitled “Fiscal Cliff: By The Numbers” detailed some of the other tax increases that you can expect in 2013…

So why don’t our politicians do something about all of this?

What are they fighting so bitterly about anyway?

Sadly, neither side is actually serious about substantially reducing the size of government deficits or about getting government spending under control.

During a recent interview on CNBC, Ron Paul explained that “they pretend they are fighting up there, but they really aren’t. They are arguing over power, spin, who looks good, who looks bad; all trying to preserve the system where they can spend what they want, take care of their friends and print money when they need it.”

Most in the mainstream media are making it sound like some kind of a “battle royal” is going on in Washington, but as Lou Dobbs recently pointed out, the U.S. national debt is going to end up in just about the same place no matter what happens.

According to Dobbs, if we “do nothing” the U.S. national debt will be approximately 25.8 trillion dollars in 2022.

If “Obama wins”, the U.S. national debt will be approximately 25.4 trillion dollars in 2022.

If “Boehner wins”, the U.S. national debt will be approximately 25.2 trillion dollars in 2022.

You can watch the entire analysis by Lou Dobbs right here

So they are putting all of us through all of this torture even though nothing will really change in the long run no matter who wins?

What kind of a circus is this?

Meanwhile, the reckless spending continues.

Barack Obama has just issued a new executive order that ends the pay freeze for federal workers that had been in place.

So now all federal employees will be getting a nice hefty pay raise.

For example, Vice President Joe Biden brought in $225,521 this year.

Next year, he will make $231,900.

Not that our politicians really need the money.  Most members of Congress are millionaires anyway.  But if they can get us to pay for it, they might as well go for it, eh?

There are now close to half a million federal employees that bring home at least $100,000 a year.  Plus, it is important to keep in mind that the benefits that federal employees get are absolutely outstanding, and it is close to impossible to actually fire a federal worker.

Life is good if you are working for Uncle Sam.

Meanwhile, our politicians seem determined to keep draining more blood out of the middle class.  Even if a “deal” is reached, we will still be hit by some categories of tax increases.  Let’s just hope and pray that we don’t get hit by all of the tax increases that are scheduled to go into effect.  That would be a financial disaster for millions of families.

So happy New Year middle class.  Your taxes are about to go through the roof and our politicians are too busy fighting with each other to do anything about it.

What else will 2013 bring?

Funny Baby

All Of This Whining About The Fiscal Cliff Is Pathetic

The fiscal cliff is coming!  Run for the hills!  There have been endless stories in the mainstream media about the “fiscal cliff” that our country is facing if the Democrats and the Republicans can’t come to some sort of an agreement.  If there is no agreement, taxes will go up and government spending will be reduced by a very small amount.  And yes, that would likely push the U.S. economy into another recession, although there are many that would argue that we are already in a recession right now.  In any event, there is a tremendous amount of distress out there about the fact that something might interrupt the debt-fueled prosperity that we have all been enjoying.  You can almost hear them now: “No! Please don’t cut government spending! Please don’t raise taxes! Please keep stealing more than 100 million dollars from our children and our grandchildren every single hour of every single day so that we can continue this economic illusion that feels so very good.”  The American people want the government to give everything to everybody, but they definitely do not want to pay for it.  They want a big government that showers them with government checks and government benefits, but they don’t want to cough up the ridiculous amount of money that it would take to fund such a government.  So we just keep ripping off our kids and our grandkids.  What we are doing to future generations is not just immoral, it is criminal.  If they get the chance, someday they will look back and curse us for destroying their futures and destroying their country.  So why do we continue to do this to them?  Because we are greedy and selfish and we are absolutely desperate to maintain the massively overinflated standard of living that we have been enjoying.  We have lived way above our means for so long that we don’t even know what “normal” is supposed to be anymore.

But nobody can spend far more money than they bring in forever.  At some point an adjustment comes, and our adjustment is going to be exceedingly painful.

Right now, the overwhelming consensus in the United States seems to be that we should put off any economic pain for as long as possible.  The American people don’t want significant cuts to government spending and they don’t want taxes to be raised to pay for the spending that we are already doing.

But if the Republicans and the Democrats don’t agree to a deal soon, we are going to see taxes raised substantially and government spending cut by a little bit.  A recent CBS News article did a good job of describing exactly what this “fiscal cliff” that we are facing actually is…

There are two parts to the so-called fiscal cliff. The first is the scheduled expiration of the tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 under President George W. Bush, the payroll tax holiday enacted under President Obama, and a host of other tax breaks. The second is $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts to defense and domestic programs that are looming due to a 2011 deal that resulted from House Republicans’ reluctance to raise the debt limit.

Now, it’s true that if lawmakers fail to work out any sort of deal, there will be severe long-term consequences for the economy: According to the Tax Policy Center, going off the “cliff” would affect 88 percent of U.S. taxpayers, with their taxes rising by an average of $3,500 a year. Many economists, as well as the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, say the combination of spending cuts and tax hikes that are set to take effect would tip the economy into a new recession.

Please keep in mind that the “$1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts” is not for a single year.  When you break it down, the cuts to spending would be somewhere around 100 billion dollars a year.  And a lot of those “cuts” are actually spending increases that would be cancelled.  So those spending cuts would not really put much of a dent in our yearly budget deficits at all.

The tax increases would be more significant.  Middle class families would be paying thousands of dollars more per year in taxes.  These tax increases would raise some more revenue for the federal government, but they would also do significant damage to the economy in the short-term.

Do you know what they call a combination of government spending cuts and tax increases over in Europe?

They call it “austerity”.

Nations like Greece and Spain have tried this.  They cut spending and raised taxes in an attempt to reduce government budget deficits.  What happens is that the spending cuts and the tax increases cause a significant economic slowdown and this causes tax revenues to come in much lower than projected.  So then more spending cuts and tax hikes are necessary in order to try to get closer to balancing the budget.  But then tax revenues fall even more.

In the end, both Greece and Spain still have large budget deficits and yet the economies of both nations are suffering through depression-like conditions.  The unemployment rate in both nations is now over 25 percent.  Just check out this chart right here to see how nightmarish austerity has been for the economies of both Greece and Spain.

So that is why everybody is freaking out about the fiscal cliff.  They don’t want to go down the same road of austerity.  They want to keep living in an economic fantasy land where we can borrow our way to “prosperity”.

But it is all a lie.  The lines at the Apple stores, the crazed consumers on Black Friday, the restaurants teeming full with people and the government that thinks that it can take care of everyone from the cradle to the grave and yet keep taxes low.  It is all a giant lie.

And no, please do not think that I am in favor of raising taxes.  I most definitely am not.  I believe that the government brings in more than enough money already.

Personally, I believe that we could have a system that completely eliminates income taxes and that funds the government through tariffs and various other forms of taxation.  It was good enough for the Founding Fathers and it should be good enough for us.  But that is a subject for another article.

Our current system has allowed us to live way beyond our means for an extended period of time, but it is only a matter of time until it all comes crashing down.

In fact, the game is already over.  We have already destroyed the future.  At this point it is only a matter of how long we can keep kicking the can down the road and putting off the pain.

Sadly, what we have done on a national level is simply a reflection of our “buy now, pay later” society.  We have become a nation that is constantly willing to sacrifice the future in order to make the present more pleasant.

Just check out this video.  We have become addicted to a prosperity that we cannot possibly pay for.  But as long as someone will keep lending us the money we will continue to enjoy it.

As I have mentioned previously, the government has spent about 11 dollars for every 7 dollars of revenue that it has actually brought in while Barack Obama has been president.

We print, borrow and spend without giving any thought to what we are doing to the future of this country.  We are shredding confidence in our currency and we are wrecking the greatest economic machine that the world has ever seen.

And all of our politicians and all of our “leaders” prance about as if they are the smartest generation of Americans ever, and they think that they are an “example” for the rest of the world, but if our Founding Fathers were around today they would be absolutely horrified about what they have done to the country that they built.

If you think that the economy is bad now, you just wait.

We are still in the “economic fantasy land” phase where we are enjoying a massively inflated standard of living constructed on a mountain of borrowed fiat currency.  Our economy is being held up by trillions of borrowed dollars, and all of that money makes the U.S. economy appear to be far more prosperous than it actually should be.

When we have to start living closer to what our real standard of living should be things are going to get really bad.

Most Americans simply don’t understand that if the federal government went to a balanced budget tomorrow it would instantly plunge the U.S. economy into a depression.

Just look at Greece and Spain.  The same thing is going to happen to us one way or another.

So enjoy this false prosperity while you still can.  This is about as good as things are going to get, and from here on out it is downhill for America.

Will The Wealthy Race To Dump Stocks And Other Financial Assets Before The Fiscal Cliff Kicks In?

The election results made it abundantly clear that taxes are going to be going up, and right now a lot of wealthy people all over America are trying to figure out how to best position themselves for the hit that is coming.  There are a whole host of tax cuts that are set to expire on December 31st, and many analysts are now speculating that we could see a race to dump stocks and other financial assets before 2013 in order to get better tax treatment on those sales.  Of course it is still possible that Congress may reach a bargain which would avoid these tax increases, but with each passing day that appears to be increasingly unlikely – especially regarding the tax increases on the wealthy.  Whatever you may believe about this politically, the truth is that we should all be able to agree that these looming tax increases provide an incentive for wealthy people to sell off financial assets now rather than later.  After all, there are very few people out there that would actually prefer to pay higher taxes on purpose.  If the race to dump financial assets becomes a landslide, could this push stocks down significantly late in the year?  Already there are all sorts of technical signs that indicate that stocks are ready for a “correction” at the very least.  For example, the S&P 500 has already closed below its 200 day moving average for several days in a row.  Could the “sell off” that has already begun become a race for the exits?

A lot of Americans have heard about the looming “fiscal cliff”, but most don’t really understand the specifics.

For investors, there are several key changes which will happen unless Congress does something by January 1st.

First of all, the tax rate on capital gains will go from 15 percent to 20 percent.  For those with high incomes, the rate will be even higher than that thanks to a tax increase that our politicians managed to sneak into Obamacare.  So, some wealthy individuals will see their capitals gains taxed at nearly 24 percent in 2013 unless something is done.

For dividends, the outlook is even more frightening.  The tax rate on dividends will increase from 15 percent right now to over 43 percent for the highest income earners.

We have already seen these tax increases play into business decisions that have been made in recent months.  For example, it is being reported that George Lucas potentially saved hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes by selling Star Wars to Disney this year rather than next year.

Anyone out there that wants to take advantage of the current tax rates on capital gains and dividend income better do so now, because these tax rates look like they are going to go away and they probably will not be back for a very, very long time.

According to CNBC, this makes the next couple of months an ideal time to dump stocks and other financial assets…

For many of the wealthy, 2012 is becoming a good year to sell.

They’re worried about the “fiscal cliff,” which is when tax cuts expire and spending cuts are set to go into effect at the end of the year.

Fearing an increase in capital gains and dividend taxes, many of the rich are unloading stocks, businesses and homes before the end of the year.

And the truth is that stocks simply did not have much higher that they could possibly go anyway.  Anyone that is trying to “get out while the getting is good” should take heed of what Marc Faber recently told CNBC

“The market is going down because corporate profits will begin to disappoint, the global economy will hardly grow next year or even contract, and that is the reason why stocks, from the highs of September of 1,470 on the S&P, will drop at least 20 percent, in my view.”

In fact, Faber is absolutely convinced that a full-blown stock market crash is coming no matter what happens with the fiscal cliff…

“I think the whole global financial system will have to be reset and it won’t be reset by central bankers but by imploding markets — either the currency [markets, debt market or stock markets,” he said. “It will happen — it will happen one day and then we’ll be lucky if we still have 50 percent of the asset values that we have today.”

Politics and economics have always been deeply intertwined.  The results of the most recent election are going to have some very deep consequences.  Already we have seen a large number of businesses either announce layoffs or that hours for their workers will be cut back.  You can find a bunch of tweets from small business owners talking about how they won’t be hiring anyone or that they will be forced to reduce hours right here.  You can find a bunch of tweets from average citizens all over the country talking about how their hours are already being cut back right here.

With each passing day, our country is getting poorer, it is getting even deeper in debt and our economy is becoming even more unstable.  We are on a path that will only lead to total economic disaster, but the American people just voted for more of the same.

So now we will get to see how this all plays out.

Is there anyone out there that is still optimistic about what is coming next for the U.S. economy?

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