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Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Taxman Cometh, and We Ain't Dead Yet! (part 3 of a series)

This is part three of a series. If you truly want to know all the facts and opinion on this, it would serve you well to read the prior two posts. FYI, I have spent more time on this than any paper I ever did at any level of schooling. I have done my best to research the facts here. I am reporting my opinion, but am also trying to provide the facts and figures that led me to this conclusion so you can make your own. One last comment prior to getting to the meat of the matter: it amazes me with all the technology and information at our fingertips how difficult it is to find unbiased raw financial data concerning most aspects of taxes.

In the previous post I inserted a spreadsheet I put together to help me get all my research numbers in one place. (which is another aspect of this I have found amazing - there is no repository of comprehensive data on tax revenue, policy, rates, etc. anywhere! But, I digress). As I have been evaluating these numbers I came up with a few more that I thought would be relevant.

There are grave differences in what the tax rates are set at and what the actual effective rates (what is actually paid) are. This is especially true of the households at the very low end of incomes and those at the extreme upper end of incomes. This is due to tax credits and such at the low end and tax credits and what are called "tax breaks" on the upper end. These adjustments mean those at the low end usually end up getting money from the government when filing, which are usually even above what they paid in. At the upper end, it means the rates are adjusted down based on investments, donations, etc. This means that the effective rates are less than zero at the lower end and can be halved at the upper end. (this varies based on the year and the tax code, but is always lower from 25% to 50%) 
What this means is, sometimes tax increases or cuts are actually neither. (to give you an example, let's say I give you a dollar but then tell you there is a fee for you getting that dollar of fifty cents. Now, you give me the fifty cents. Does that mean I gave you a dollar, or fifty cents? That is how the tax code changes work. There are all sorts of "stuff" written into any tax bill that GREATLY changes what people actually pay in taxes.

All that being said, from looking at the figures - ultimately tax cuts do NOT cut tax revenues when allowing two to three years for those with money to adjust their investment strategies. Here are some facts on the tax revenues received the year following the largest tax changes since 1960:

As you can see, the tax changes did not make much difference to the revenue brought in. (these figures come from the IRS.gov site, FYI)

If you look at my large spreadsheet from the previous post you will see there are no negative affects on income levels either or any other measure that I could find. I will stand by my evaluation - if I had to chose between the government getting more money and spending it and it staying with those that earned it - leave it in the hands of the taxpayers. Remember, even if you are not a libertarian as I am looking for smaller government; if the tax cuts do not cut revenue or negatively impact negatively any financial aspects I can find - why give it to Washington? They are proven to be the least efficient spenders of our money.

Now comes the argument that the rich do not save taxes and the tax cuts only benefit them. Well, obviously the @50% of people that do not pay Federal income taxes cannot pay less, so from that standpoint - YES tax cuts benefit the "rich". However I will end with on last chart. This shows the percentage of Federal income taxes paid by the top 1%, top 5%, and top 10% the year after the largest tax cut years since 2001 (could not find earlier years! I also included 2012 as a reference). 


As you can see, the "rich" pay well above their income percentage even after tax cuts. FYI, the top 1% in 2014 paid just over 40% of the Federal income taxes collected. So, the rich don't pay taxes?

I welcome any cogent and civil comment. I do not publish advertisements nor crude comments. You are welcomed to disagree (preferably with proof) and it will be published immediately. I also welcome questions.

I hope someone takes the time to study all this. Like I said, I spent more time on this than any paper I have ever done and probably more time than any sane person would that was not being paid or forced to do it! 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

More on Taxes, Still No Death...

This is part 2 of the taxes and economy. If you have not read Part one (the post immediately prior to this one) you may want to. It can be read either before or after reading this one)

To quickly catch you up in case you have not read the other, I was commenting on the issue of people posting so vehemently and positively about cutting taxes and the effect that has on the tax revenues. What amazed me is that the belief runs BOTH ways! It would seem to me that this is nothing more than a math problem. Now, although I hated math in school, I have always loved it for research and problem solving. Because, Open Core and Modern Math be damned, 2 + 2 should ALWAYS = 4! The same is true for complex problems. If you can distill it down to math, the answer is indisputable.

In the spirit of disclosure I did go into this with the hypothesis that cutting federal income taxes would increase tax revenues when given enough time for those with increased after-tax incomes to do something with it - spend it, invest it in a new business, add growth to an existing business, or just put it in a bank - then let them do the above. However, I did go into this needing to find proof of my hypothesis or to disprove it.

The first thing I found is that is is VERY difficult to find historical economic figures WITHOUT commentary or "adjustments". I was looking for raw data as well as different opinions. I found a lot of the latter and after research, enough of the former. With more disclosure I also found this issue, like a lot of complex issues with strong held opinions on both sides, is very hard to pin down. As I looked at tax rates, tax receipts, and the economic figures for the same period I realized just how complex this issue is! I also found that nowhere on the internet (at least that I can find and I am somewhat legendary for my ability to find things on the internet!) is a compilation of all or even most of the economic data over history. So, I made my own. Below is a spreadsheet I made to help me see the "big picture". (most entered by hand or cut and pasted by me when I could find data that allowed that!)

I hope you will be able to click on this and see it larger. If not, and you have an interest in the file - email me and I will send it to you.
The columns are: Tax rates at certain income levels by year for every year from 1960 through 2014. The income levels and the start and stop dates were arbitrarily picked by me early on when I realized I had to limit my data somewhat. Income taxes started in earnest in 1913, but to include that much data and to find corresponding data was too large a task. The "modern" tax cut did not start until JFK (implemented by Johnson after his death) in the mid-60s, so that is why 1960. These are at the rates with incomes NOT indexed by inflation. I struggled with that as well and have figures that are indexed but it did not make much difference in my evaluation.
Then we have Total Government Revenue for the same years, followed by Spending. These are indexed to either 2009 or 2012 dollars (sorry I lost my notes  - there is not a lot of difference between those two luckily) The main takeaway I got from these figures is WE SPEND TOO DAMN MUCH! Our revenues have grown tremendously. But, our spending has grown even more!
That is followed by the Income Tax Revenue for the period. The first revenue number included all government revenue. This is just that portion that is collected from individual income taxes. Since that is the point of my study, it was critical that I find these figures.
Then we have GDP with the percentage increase/decrease year to year.
Next is the Median Household Income for each year. To refresh your memory, a median of a group of numbers is that number which has half the numbers above it and half below it. This and the other household income numbers start in 1967 as I cannot find these figures from years before.
Then is the Mean (average) Household Income for each quintile of population (fifth).
Again, for explanation for those of you that do not use math often, it is important to look at Medan and Mean when comparing a large group of data. Take a group of seven incomes - 10K, 12K, 16K, 25K, 28K, 30K, & 50K. The median = 25K. The mean is 28.5K. That is a close approximation of the same. Then use the same numbers but let's say the top wage earner makes 500K instead of 50. There are still six of the numbers exactly the same but the mean goes to 103.5K. That is not at all reflective of the 25K which is still the median. Both have relevance, so I found and posted both.
Lastly I found the Unemployment Rate for each of the years.

I have just decided to do this in three installments. You can study the figures above if you like and see what you see. I have already put my thoughts in the first post at a high level. I will do some more detailed analysis in the next post.

FYI, I have tried to be as thorough as possible. I have tried to look at this with an open mind and from as many "angles" as possible. Also, these figures were gathered from many, many sources. I did use .gov sources wherever possible. Every figure was found on in at least two places before I used it. Other than rounding errors, they all did so. There could be errors here, if so they are mine and totally unintentional. As I said above I did have to manually enter most of these numbers. They have been checked and rechecked but errors are possible. You are welcomed and invited to try to find conflicting numbers. Just remember I used numbers that were adjusted for inflation to 2009/2012 figures with the exception of the incomes on the tax tables.

More to come...

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Death and Taxes - OK, Just Taxes

I have been working on this one for a LONG time. I have studied and analyzed for hours. It is time to get something in print! I know my detractors think I just spout off figures and find facts to support my thoughts and ideas. Wrong lizard breath! I actually do research on every post I do here (or in my life) that involves facts and figures to be found. I come to my opinions AFTER research. Sure, I go in with ideas and sometimes even hopes of what I will find. However, I have sometimes found that my ideas are not supported. Rather than scream and cry or stick my head in the sand I change my opinion or ideas. Such is life.

This post is one concerning one of those "facts" that gets thrown out every so often - that cutting taxes raises (or lowers) government revenues. It amazes me that people have such steadfast and positive thoughts and opinions on this one. Most either believe it is a definite raising of revenue or a definite cutting of revenue. I can tell you after hours, and hours, and hours of studying numbers I have a good idea that my original thought that tax cuts bring more money into the federal coffers is marginally correct - more to come. I can say with almost absolute certainty that it does not lower revenues, except sometimes in the first year the cuts (or increases) go into effect. That makes sense as the people that have the money have to adapt and change their investment and spending strategies based on the tax codes. That takes some time to compute and execute. See next:

To me that is the issue with trying to determine what the effect of a tax change will be.The major tax collected by the federal government is the INCOME tax. (a LARGE portion of the money comes from payroll taxes like social security and medicare/aid - but that is another subject) Income and wealth are two entirely different things. A very wealthy person may have an income lower than yours. They can be worth millions upon millions and show a rather middle class income. That is because they do not necessarily work a job with a salary or draw a definite income. They own things - like companies, land, buildings, ideas, etc. We do tax those at certain rates and certain times, but not at the level of income and not consistently. So, a wealthy person can choose to only take the minimum amount of income that they need to exist at the lifestyle they desire. The rest of their assets are not taxed as income because it is not used to produce income. This is especially true when taxes are very, very high on the highest levels of income. That is also the reason the tax revenues do not go down, and have historically gone up within two years of a tax cut. They rich use their wealth to create income - then pay income taxes.

There is an old standard that says "I never got a job from a poor person" or variations of that. It is argued where it came from and who said it first. It has caused much argument, but there is definite truth there. To offer employment to someone, a business must have wealth, cash flow, and ultimately income. Now, one can work for themselves and not take a salary or at least much of one. One can work for a company and not take an income. Instead, you might take stock or stock options/ownership in the hopes that someday that will pay off. However, wealth provides income. So, the standard is true, at least at the base level. That is why lower taxes on those with higher incomes (and higher wealth) is good for the economy.

That brings up another part of this discussion. There are many that say that the "trickle down" economic theory does not work.There are just as many that say it does. What amazes me about those statements is that both will use Ronald Reagan's presidency as the proof. "Reagan found that out" is the defense for both sides of that argument. Amazing, to me at least. So, one of the reasons this took me so long to do was I included the following in my studies:

     1) income tax rates for the years of 1960 through 2013
     2) average household incomes for the years of 1967 through 2014
     3) the mean household incomes for each quintile for the years 1967 through 2015
     4) the mean income of the top 5% for the years 1967 through 2015
     5) the unemployment rate for the years 1960 through 2016

The dates vary because the sources varied. I used no figures that I could not find matching from at least two independent sources. I used the IRS.gov and the US Census figures where available.
I got this additional information due to a comment a friend of mine made about a post I did on Facebook critical of people saying tax cuts are bad. He expressed a valid point that the economy is extremely complex. Just looking a one part of it (or changing one part) is not a good measure of what is going on. We all know the story of the group of blind men that come upon an elephant. Depending on what part they are at, they all have a totally different "vision" of what it is they have come upon.

This is going on way too long. I will say this:
     1) I found that it can be said that tax cuts do NOT cut tax revenues. There is no case where the tax rates have been cut that two years later the revenue was not equal to before the cuts.
     2) In most instances there was growth in revenue within 2-3 years after every tax cut.
     3) Unemployment tends to go down three to four years after a tax cut in almost all cases.
     4) I am still evaluating incomes. That is a tough one. It appears that tax cuts have little to no effect on very low incomes. It does seem to help the middle and upper classes.
     5) Recessions, wars, etc are VERY hard to factor in or factor out. The complexity is crazy. The first three statements are ones that I think I can back up with figures. You can be the judge.
I will have more actual facts and figures in the following post. I will do my best to get it done in the next few days - a week at most.

Here is a two sentence take-away - if the tax cuts do not reduce revenue, do not hurt employment, and do not hurt household incomes; why would we not do them? Keeping money out of Washington and in the hands of those that earn it would seem to me to be THE superior goal.

More to come. If you stuck with me through this treatise - kudos!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day Tribute Video

I have a bit of a hard time with Memorial Day due to the fact my wife was in the hospital and died over Memorial Day weekend.

video
I produced this today in honor of Memorial Day and all those that died for this country. (my first video slideshow).

Monday, May 15, 2017

Meet a Trump voter

I have commented in various forums and in person to many that I am amazed at the vitriol and close-mindedness that is involved with all things Trump. I understand people being against his policies, but to truly hate and denigrate someone that voted for him is beyond me. For those of you that will take the time to read this, I wanted to introduce you to someone that did vote for Trump - ME! (I will do my best to keep this succinct, but...)

First, a small bit about me: I think and hope people that know me would vouch that I am not racist, homophobic, or misogynistic in any degree. Have I used the "N-word" - yes. (of which I have posted on before - I find it amazing that the one word that is totally off limits now in any discussion is the "N-word". There are MANY words that not so long ago would NEVER be used in polite company, that are widely accepted; but I digress). That word was thrown around like leaves blowing in a storm when I was growing up and well into my adulthood. It was used at, for, by, and directed to; whites, blacks, native Americans, etc. In addition, I have told jokes where blacks, browns, blonds, Polish people, Asian people, homosexuals, rednecks, farmer's daughters, and almost any other group you can name or think of were the punch line. I have been told jokes about those above named groups and many others BY those above named groups and many others. I have never watched Fox News, but neither have I watched MSNBC or CNN in 20 years. The only exception to this is Election Night. It is a fascinating sociological and psychological experiment to compare coverage of the election from the perspective of these comparatively - which I did the night of the last two national elections, but I digress again. I do not watch TV news of any type with the exception of the occasional BBC World Report or RT (Russia Television) when big events are happening. I get my news from news feeds, RSS feeds, and the websites of many, many, many sites. I do not get news from Facebook (I see it, but do not take it at face value, I research it) or any TV show (see previous). I consider myself an educated person that is trying every day to broaden my horizons and knowledge more. I typically vote Republican, although I would rather vote Libertarian; and have voted Democrat, especially when I know or know of the candidate personally. I am a staunch Libertarian Constitutionalist in belief, something that most people do not understand at all. I believe in a strict adherence to the Constitution and a very, very marginalized and small Federal Government. I do not think the Federal (or State in most cases) government should be involved in Education, Student Loans, Healthcare with the exception of Veterans and government employees, most R&D when not in the National interest for defense or such, support for the Arts, or most of the other things most have come to expect from the government. There are other posts here where I wax poetic on the Constitution and the Federal role in our lives, look around if you wish to know more.
Which sets up my Trump vote.

We are broke as a nation. We are paying in interest now at a rate of over $350 Billion a year to service our debt. That is more than we spend on Medicaid! What amazes me is every time ANY program is to be trimmed or even kept at the same level as the previous year - people SCREAM - "YOU CAN'T CUT THAT PROGRAM!" It does not matter what it is. That is insane. To give you an idea - the TOTAL spent by the Federal government as recently as 2000 was a little under $2.2 Billion. By 2010 we were spending $3.4 Billion! Last year we spent $3.5 Billion. There is no way we cannot absorb a 10% CUT in all Federal spending. Hey, if we went back to 2007 numbers it would be a 20% cut, So, we have my first reason for voting Trump. He understands budgets and cutting spending to reflect revenue.

We have WAY too many elected officials - of BOTH parties - that have made lifelong career choice of Washington. That is totally contrary to the Founding Fathers thoughts. The reason the House of Representatives term is set at 2 years is because it was to be a service to the public. It was envisioned that gentlemen (and later gentlewomen) would leave their estates and jobs and do the "work of the people" for two years AND THEN GO HOME!! Then a new batch would come in. The advantage to this is the Representatives could really represent their constituents as they were among them recently and were going back to them shortly. Trump and his bringing in (at least to the Executive branch where he can) of business people that have money and fame enough, is what we need. Although I think for the most part the career politicians on both sides are terrible, this is one area that I still see a small difference in Democrats and Republican. The elected are very similar, but their appointees are different. The Trump appointees are especially different, and better in my eyes; here is why: If you look at the appointees that Obama had and the appointees and such that Clinton had around her they were looking to "make it" through government service. The Trump appointees already have made it. They all took a pay cut to be there. In most cases they took a prestige cut. Rex Tillerson as the C.E.O of Exxon probably had more access to world leaders than as he does as Secretary of State. He definitely had more freedom to actually get things done! I voted for Trump to help break up the career politicians lock on Washington.

The appropriation of land and land use under the previous administration in the interest of "conservation" or "ecological reasons" is another reason that I voted for Trump. The grab of land from States is a travesty. Again, as a Libertarian I am for private ownership and usage of land and assets. If a person wants to put an oil well, a wildlife preserve, or an house on a land they own; they should be able to - without asking permission! I am for ecological preservation. However, I do not feel the Federal government has any ability to do this, at least not in any degree better than most individuals or State/Local governments. Trump gets this. Land ownership was one of the foundations of this country becoming the richest country on Earth.

Carrying on with the ecological and such issues, I am grateful that we have a President that is willing to say the "Emperor has no clothes" and call the "environmentalist" idiots with the global warming scare tactics out. I have said it before - this is the biggest hoax ever perpetrated on the people of the world. Every doomsday prediction made by these demigods has not only not come true, in a lot of cases it has not even been close. I have done many posts on this topic as well where I lay out fact and figures, so I will keep this brief. I voted for Trump because he is not to be bullied by the idiotic pseudo-science of global warming. (I know, 97% of scientists, blah, blah - bullshit! - that is a made up figure.) Screaming "because we said so" is NOT science! Read my other posts if you want more facts. I do know we have to live here. I do believe in caring for our home - Earth. However, not at the expense of our wealth and lifestyle.

I have personally met a woman that work(s)(ed) (not sure which, she worked for him 20 years ago) for Trump. She ran his NY real estate empire. I was on a flight with her in 1995 or 96. I asked her about him and working for him. She said he was wonderful to work for. She expressed the opportunity she had been given as a woman in a business dominated (especially at that time) by men. I asked if he was hard to work for. She said he had a set of requirements and goals but you were free to set your own work process and schedule to meet them. She said she only saw him twice a year at general review meetings unless he just dropped by to say hello. Trump employed women, blacks, Hispanics, etc. in positions of power well before it was "good business" to do so. I voted for Trump because I think he can help women, blacks, and other minorities while returning some sanity to the rules, regulations, and B.S. that surrounds hiring and employment practices now.

Lastly, I voted for Trump because he understands that a country is nothing without its borders! To allow unfetter entrance to any and all that can walk over the border is insane. We live in a dangerous world. Access to our country must be controlled. FYI, the USA takes in more LEGAL immigrants every year than any other country in the world. I (and most people I know that want the Wall) have NO PROBLEM WITH THAT! I know this country would not exist had it not been for immigration and immigrants. However, I do have a real problem with illegal immigrants. We have laws. We have borders. If you are here illegally, I have no problem what-so-ever in sending you back - now. I have no problem putting a wall around our country. I welcome any of you that do not like walls to leave your door unlocked at night. If you have a fence or wall around your property - tear it down. Then we can talk. Trump understands that people here ILLEGALLY are not immigrants, they are criminals. Sanctuary cities are idiotic as well. How about sanctuary cities for bank thieves, for murderers? If you break the laws, you should pay the price.

The choices in the last election were far from optimal. We have set up a system where the best qualified for the job will never run. The gauntlet that we have established is to daunting for any "normal" or even near normal person. We had a choice between the most corrupt career politician to ever run for President and Trump. Yes, I voted for a ego-maniacal, pompous, narcissist that tweets his thoughts unfiltered at 3 am. I voted for change.  

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Beginnings, Middles, and Ends; Oh My!

This is the second of the two I promised a couple of days ago. I actually had this one pop into my head first but the other "forced" its way out first. So with no further ado...

I was thinking how we spend our lives going from beginnings to ends. There is the BIG beginning - BIRTH, and the BIG ending - DEATH. Then LIFE is what happens in the middle. But, life is really a continuum of beginning - middle - end; over and over.

We humans, for the most part, LOVE beginnings. Think about one of our most celebrated personal days - the anniversary of our beginning - our birthday! We document, record, and celebrate other beginnings - baby's first words, first steps, first day of school, first date, first kiss, first car, first job, etc. We have such a love of beginnings that we keep seeking them all through our lives - just substitute NEW for FIRST. We have new jobs, new cars, new clothes, new loves, and so on. We move to new houses and neighborhoods. New is a good substitute for a beginning (and IS one in a way, I have to concede)

It can get somewhat complicated when we get to endings. Think of a graduation. It is called a commencement. To commence is to "begin, to start". We have taken an ending - of school, or at least that portion of school, and made it a beginning - a commencement of another chapter of life. We keep looking for beginnings after the endings. As stated above - we lose a job...YAAAAA we get a NEW JOB! We get a divorce...OH YEAH we get a NEW LOVE (or even NEW LIFE)! We even have a beginning attached to the BIG ending of death - metaphysics and/or religion offer up Heaven or reincarnation.

What I really find amazing is that most of our life is in the middle. Yes, almost every day has the small beginnings of new, but for the most part we are just existing and getting by. (I do not mean to imply that good and evil are not being committed and that people are not accomplishing things, but in a big picture kind of way - the middle is just getting through the days)

It seems to me however, that for all the beginnings and endings - even with the "news" in there - for the most part we live the majority of our lives in between. Every book has a cover and a back - a beginning and end as it were - but if you do not read the middle all books are basically the same.

IN THE END - I THINK WE FIND IT IS THE MIDDLE THAT MATTERS! 
                                                                                                                            "THE" 4/2017



Saturday, April 15, 2017

Slow Down And Listen!

I actually have had two ideas for a post in the last 12 hours. Here is one, stay tuned for another very shortly. I was going to combine them, but I think not...

We live in a FAST & NOISY world! All of us (at least in the U.S. and other "1st World" countries - a 3rd post just popped into my head) have a LOT of stimulation and demands on our attention and efforts almost 24 hours a day. Even television, which has been decried as a mind-rotting exercise in time wasting is now watched in binges and/or without commercials. We have our phones and data plans to never be out of touch. We are able to send photos and comments on where we are, what we are doing, and who we are doing it with (or to!?) Like they say - "it ain't real unless I post a photo"!
 I profess that a lot of our problems (again, 1st World problems) are due to this. We are constantly irritated, aggravated, stimulated, or otherwise motivated to look, listen, compare, contrast, become outraged, become forgiving, become sentimental, become hyper-aware, or in some other way engaged with this or that post, tweet, snap, snippet, etc.; again, all 24 hours a day!

My prescription is to SLOW DOWN, LISTEN; DISCONNECT, DISENGAGE, DEACTIVATE, and BREATHE!!!

We are surrounded by so much clutter that we don't listen to our own hearts.

Be still, seek silence, listen to your heart and let it guide you.

                                                                                                                                "THE" 4/15/17

Peace! I shall now try to partake of my own advice!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

A Poem



Getting Old

There are things I can’t remember,
That I’m not sure I ever knew.
There are places that I can’t recall,
I’m not sure I’ve ever been to.
There are people I can’t picture,
I'm not positive I ever met.
It can be hard to say if I ever knew,
Or did I just forget.

                                                                       “THE”

                                                                      4/8/17