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Bill USA

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Member since: Wed Mar 3, 2010, 04:25 PM
Number of posts: 3,698

About Me

Quotes I like: "Prediction is very difficult, especially concerning the future." "There are some things so serious that you have to laugh at them.” __ Niels Bohr Given his contribution to the establishment of quantum mechanics, I guess it's not surprising he had such a quirky of sense of humor. ......................."Deliberate misinterpretation and misrepresentation of another's position is a basic technique of (dis)information processing" __ I said that

Journal Archives

Can an international agreement stop the global taxation shell game?


A few months ago, a Senate committee grilled Apple CEO Tim Cook over the company’s creative accounting strategies, accusing it of cheating the U.S. Treasury by stashing away billions of dollars that live in no tax jurisdiction at all. The company didn’t dispute the truth of the accusations, but blamed the United States for building a tax system that makes bringing overseas earnings back to the United States very expensive, and proposed simplified rules that would make it cheaper to do so.

The problem isn’t unique to the United States. Over the past few decades, as corporations have gotten more multinational and earned more money from intangible goods, it’s become easier to shift profits around the world to achieve the lowest possible tax rates. That leads to “base erosion,” wherein cash-strapped countries have less economic value around to tax. And it’s a really hard problem for one country to solve by itself: Tightening tax rules for the purpose of capturing more revenue will only incentivize companies to pick up their headquarters and leave, not unlike the quandary states must face when deciding whether to raise tax rates above their neighbors’.

The 34-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has been working on this problem for a while now. In February, they issued a comprehensive report on how companies have found ways to game the international tax system (also known as “aggressive tax planning“). And last week, they marched forward with an “Action Plan” that sets out 15 steps for stopping it.

They’re hardly concrete proposals, so it’s difficult to say what exactly they would mean for American companies (and indeed, they would affect different industries in different ways). But here are a few of the major ones, with the help of a PricewaterhouseCoopers analysis to sort out the tax policy gobbledegook:

Eliminate double non-taxation: Sure, taxation by multiple countries that claim the same chunk of a company’s profits is a headache. But so is double non-taxation, where a company finds a way to shift revenue untaxed by its home country to a country that also doesn’t tax it, in what’s called a “hybrid mismatch.” The OECD thinks countries should harmonize their tax systems to make sure that doesn’t happen.


House G.O.P. Sets New Offensive on Obama Goals - NYT


House G.O.P. Sets New Offensive on Obama Goals - NYT
(emphasis my own)

WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans are moving to gut many of President Obama’s top priorities with the sharpest spending cuts in a generation and a new push to hold government financing hostage unless the president’s signature health care law is stripped of money this fall.

On Tuesday, a House Appropriations subcommittee formally drafted legislation that would cut the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by 34 percent and eliminate his newly announced greenhouse gas regulations. The bill cuts financing for the national endowments for the arts and the humanities in half and the Fish and Wildlife Service by 27 percent.

For the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, Mr. Obama requested nearly $3 billion for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs — a mainstay of his economic agenda since he was first elected. The House approved $826 million. Senate Democrats want to give $380 million to ARPA-E, an advanced research program for energy. The House allocated $70 million.

A House bill to finance labor and health programs, expected to be unveiled Wednesday, makes good on Republican threats to eliminate the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The labor and health measure — for years the most contentious spending bill — will protect some of the White House’s priorities, like Head Start, special education and the National Institutes of Health, but to do so education grants for poor students will be cut by 16 percent and the Labor Department by 13 percent, according to House Republican aides.

GOP advisors paid with taxpayer money - GOP do support Public Financing of campaigns!

... only for THEIR campaigns though!

(all emphases my own)

WASHINGTON — Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann and other high-profile House Republicans have paid thousands of dollars of government funds to a top GOP campaign consultant for help writing speeches, shaping their message and improving their TV and public speaking skills.


Since early last year, several Republican congressional offices — including the House Republican Conference, the office representing all House Republicans — have paid political consultant Brett O'Donnell more than $52,000 from their taxpayer-funded accounts.

O'Donnell & Associates is a "strategic communications" firm, specializing in political campaigns. The firm's website says, "We believe that an effective communications strategy is the foundation of getting a candidate recognized and developing potent advocacy for outstanding ideas." Politico reported this week that O'Donnell became a consultant in May to the gubernatorial campaign of Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

In June 2011, Bachmann's congressional campaign hired O'Donnell's firm for "communications consulting," the same month she made her first debate appearance and announced her presidential candidacy. By July, she had created a presidential campaign that paid O'Donnell more than $15,000 each month until she dropped out of the race in January 2012. O'Donnell's website says he was the "chief strategist" for the Bachmann campaign. O'Donnell declined to comment for this story.

The House Democratic Caucus — the parallel to the Republican conference — does not pay for similar outside media training.

For-profit 'colleges' giving big to helpful House members

For-Profit 'colleges' who's real business is signing up suckers for Governemnt student loans, are paying BIG to grease the skids for legislation which is designed to stop the Executive Branch from even passing legislation to enforce some control in the wild-west realm of For-Profit government Loan application business.


(emphases my own)

WASHINGTON — House Education Committee Chairman Rep. John Kline, who saw a dramatic upsurge in campaign contributions from for-profit colleges in recent months, is pushing legislation that would help the industry preserve its access to federal student loans.

The measure, "Supporting Academic Freedom through Regulatory Relief Act," was introduced July 10 by the Minnesota Republican and two other members of the education panel and would bar the Obama administration from moving forward with rules to cut off federal student aid to schools whose graduates have high debt ratios and low repayment rates.
Kline's committee approved the bill Wednesday.

A 2012 investigation by the Democratic-controlled Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee slammed the for-profit industry over its recruitment practices, high costs and student debt. For-profit colleges educate about 10% of college students, but account for nearly half of student-loan defaults.

.... More than $30 billion in taxpayer funds flow to the schools each year, according to the Senate education panel's report. About 60% of for-profit colleges receive more than 70% of their revenue from U.S. government programs, federal data show.

Republicans are concerned about the Public Debt when talking about rates charged on student loans ..but not when it comes to policing For-PROFIT "colleges" who turn out more worthless 'degrees' and defaulted loans than sufficiently educated and duly employed graduates. We wouldn't want Government Financial responsibility get in the way of the cash flows of conmen and crooks, would we GOP?.

Treasury Chief's ultimatum (to Wall Street and compliant Congressman) may advance bank reform.


Every once in a while, Washington posturing turns into actual policy.

That may have been the case for Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on July 17 when he was forced to deliver an ultimatum of sorts to Wall Street: New regulations already enacted into law need to get implemented by year's end, or else we'll have to consider more drastic options.


Lew warned his Wall Street audience against "any efforts to delay or dilute" implementation of Dodd-Frank rules.

"If we get to the end of this year and we cannot with an honest straight face say that we have ended too big to fail," said the former budget director and White House chief of staff, "we're going to have to look at other options."


The senators Lew was referring to were Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and David Vitter, R-La., who have proposed punitive capital ratios for banks above a certain size, and a second bipartisan group — Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; John McCain, R-Ariz.; Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Angus King, I-Maine — who seek to reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act separating commercial and investment banking.

Thought for the day: Contact the Senators interested in making sure Bank Reform becomes a reality by email and even phone - let them know you do not want to let banks engage in another orgy of reckless risk taking by Casino Banks leading to inevitable tax-payer bailouts to preclude the total collapse of the economy.

Reinstating Glass Steagall would be a nice start. Another would be to make the punishment for reckless bank management by the CEOs involve snipping-off certain of their body parts. Maybe that would scare some common sense into them.

Bank Lobbyists Help in Drafting Financial Bills
(emohasis my own)

WASHINGTON — Bank lobbyists are not leaving it to lawmakers to draft legislation that softens financial regulations. Instead, the lobbyists are helping to write it themselves.

One bill that sailed through the House Financial Services Committee this month — over the objections of the Treasury Department — was essentially Citigroup’s, according to e-mails reviewed by The New York Times. The bill would exempt broad swathes of trades from new regulation.

In a sign of Wall Street’s resurgent influence in Washington, Citigroup’s recommendations were reflected in more than 70 lines of the House committee’s 85-line bill. Two crucial paragraphs, prepared by Citigroup in conjunction with other Wall Street banks, were copied nearly word for word. (Lawmakers changed two words to make them plural.)

The lobbying campaign shows how, three years after Congress passed the most comprehensive overhaul of regulation since the Depression, Wall Street is finding Washington a friendlier place.

Young Adults Want and Value Health Insurance - Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, June 2013


Young Adults Want and Value Health Insurance, Worry About Paying For Medical Care

One of the major goals of the ACA is to expand coverage to more people, and the June poll finds that health insurance is something the large majority of Americans want and value. Among the public overall, 87 percent say it is “very important” to them personally to have health insurance, 88 percent describe health insurance as “something I need,” and two-thirds (68 percent) say insurance is worth the money it costs.

Even among younger adults – a group that many have speculated may be resistant to getting coverage under the ACA – more than seven in ten rate having health insurance as “very important,” and similar shares feel it is something they need and that it is worth the money. Overall, just a quarter of those ages 18-30 feel they are healthy enough to go without insurance.

Figure 1

While young adults are sometime described as viewing themselves as “young invincibles,” the poll findings indicate that many young adults worry about affording medical bills, particularly catastrophic ones. Among those ages 30 and younger, roughly two-thirds say they are worried about “not being able to pay medical bills in the event of a serious illness or accident,” while over four in ten say they worry about affording medical bills “for routine health care services.”

The Uninsured Also See Coverage as Important, But Cost is the Biggest Barrier to Getting It

It’s not just the people who have insurance that value it: A majority of those who currently lack coverage also want it. Two-thirds of the uninsured say it is “very important” to them personally to have health insurance (with another 21 percent saying it is “somewhat important”), and three-quarters (76 percent) describe health insurance as “something I need.” Overall, only one in ten of the uninsured say coverage is not important to them, and just under a quarter believe they are healthy enough that they “don’t really need health insurance.” Compared with their insured counterparts, the uninsured are somewhat less convinced that health insurance is worth the money it costs, though a slim majority (56 percent) of those without insurance believe it is worth the money.

Private Health Insurance premiums were $3.4 billion LOWER in 2012, in part due to the "80:20 rule"


"In total, the administration says the 80/20 standard contributed to $3.4 billion in lower premiums for 77.8 million consumers because health insurance companies charged less up front. "Their incentive will be to keep their premiums at a level where they would at least meet the 80/20 rule," Cohen said."

"In addition to the $500 million in rebates that will go out to individuals in the form of refunds this year or discounts on next year's health insurance premiums, or to employers that provide health benefits, the Obama administration claims the 80/20 rule contributed to lower premiums in 2012.

Health insurance customers received $1.1 billion in rebates last year on their 2011 premiums, more than twice the amount projected for this year. That's partly the result of companies keeping prices lower in 2012 to avoid paying rebates, Cohen said."

"I don't think that we are claiming that the $3.9 billion in savings is entirely due to the 80/20 rule," he said. "But what we are saying is this year compared to last year, what we are seeing is the loss ratios are going up, administrative costs as a percent of premiums are going down and the law is having its intended effect of making insurers more efficient, more cost-effective and providing more value to consumers."

Individuals Health Plan costs to fall at least 50% (uh-huh, FIFTY %) for 2014 in New York


Individuals buying health insurance on their own will see their premiums tumble next year in New York State as changes under the federal health care law take effect, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Wednesday.

State insurance regulators say they have approved rates for 2014 that are at least 50 percent lower on average than those currently available in New York. Beginning in October, individuals in New York City who now pay $1,000 a month or more for coverage will be able to shop for health insurance for as little as $308 monthly. With federal subsidies, the cost will be even lower.


Supporters of the new health care law, the Affordable Care Act, credited the drop in rates to the online purchasing exchanges the law created, which they say are spurring competition among insurers that are anticipating an influx of new customers. The law requires that an exchange be started in every state.

“Health insurance has suddenly become affordable in New York,” said Elisabeth Benjamin, vice president for health initiatives with the Community Service Society of New York. “It’s not bargain-basement prices, but we’re going from Bergdorf’s to Filene’s here.”

“The extraordinary decline in New York’s insurance rates for individual consumers demonstrates the profound promise of the Affordable Care Act,” she added.

Health care law opponents dominate advertising wars (outspend proponents 5 to 1)


WASHINGTON — Opponents of the 2010 health care law have out-spent supporters by nearly 5-1 on the airwaves — as conservatives seek to cast doubts about its effects and pledge to keep it at the forefront of federal, state and local races, an analysis shows.
Critics of the Affordable Care Act spent at least $385 million from March 2010, when Congress enacted the sweeping health care measure, through the end of last month, according to an analysis of TV advertising nationwide by Kantar Media.

The biggest spender among opponents: Crossroads GPS, a political advocacy group affiliated with Republican strategist Karl Rove. It pumped at least $40 million into advertising that mentioned the law. Backers, led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, spent roughly $78 million.

Kantar's Campaign Media Analysis Group predicts spending on the law will hit $1 billion by its fifth anniversary in 2015, according to the analysis released this week.


National groups (headquartered in DC) dominate spending in Special Elections -


Carpetbagging super PACs and nonprofit groups are dominating this year’s special congressional elections in a potential foreshadowing of the 2014 midterms, where even the sleepiest locales aren’t immune from out-of-state, cash-flush special interests.

Take Massachusetts’ U.S. Senate election, which last month propelled veteran Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., to Congress’ upper chamber — and attracted millions of dollars in outside spending from political groups based in California, New York and Florida.

Organizations in Illinois, meanwhile, spent precisely zero dollars to advocate for or against several candidates who vied early this year to replace ex-Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., while outfits from everywhere but collectively burned through more than $2 million.

South Carolina? The biggest players backing or bashing eventual House seat winner Republican Mark Sanford, or his Democratic opponent, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, weren’t from Columbia or Charleston, but Washington, D.C.

So far this year, just 4 percent of the $12.4 million spent by political groups or party entities on congressional races came from groups based within the state where they’re doing their spending, a Center for Public Integrity analysis of federal independent expenditure data indicates.
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