Archive for February 2012
Feb 22nd 2012, 21:46 by G.I. | WASHINGTON
[Greg Ip] LIKE the weather, American politicians talk a lot about tax reform but do nothing about it. Which is a pity, because while Americans have been talking, other countries have been doing; since the late 1980s, top corporate tax rates around the world have dropped to a point that America’s, once below the international average, is now well above.
As this has happened, American-based multinational companies have shifted more activity offshore; their foreign employment steadily rose over the last decade as domestic employment fell. This is mostly because of the appeal of cheap labour and growing markets in the emerging world, but business groups and many economists think America’s tax rate is also to blame. Liberal analysts blame the tax code for a different reason: it allows multinationals to stash income in foreign havens and indefinitely defer taxes on it, encouraging the outsourcing of jobs.
Barack Obama claims to be ready to do something about it. Read the rest of this entry »
Feb 16th 2012, 19:16 by G.I. | WASHINGTON D.C.
Politics has tied budget-making in knots
[Greg Ip] Feb 18th 2012 | WASHINGTON, DC | from the print edition
BACK in 2009 Barack Obama’s first budget called for repealing his predecessor’s tax cuts on the rich, eliminating tax breaks for multinationals and boosting the tax rate on capital gains. A year later Mr Obama repeated those proposals, and added new ones: no more breaks for fossil-fuel producers and a “financial crisis responsibility fee” on banks.
On February 13th Mr Obama issued his fourth budget. Besides recycling the proposed tax increases of previous years, it also proposes repealing the preferential tax rate on dividends for the wealthy, and penalising multinationals that outsource jobs. In all, the budget would raise taxes on companies and the wealthy by $2 trillion over the next ten years.
There is little reason to think Congress is any more likely to grant those tax increases than their predecessors. Of course, Congress tends to be unco-operative when it comes to fiscal matters; since the House holds the purse-strings, a president’s budget has always been as much aspiration as road map. But the gap between aspiration and reality is now enormous. Mr Obama’s first budget foresaw the budget deficit, then roughly 10% of GDP, falling to 3.5% this year. Instead, it will clock in at 8.5% (see chart). The public debt was supposed to peak at 67% in 2011. Mr Obama now sees that happening in 2014, at 78%.
In part that is because of a worse than expected economic situation. A smaller economy puts upward pressure on debt and deficit ratios, and leads politicians to shift priorities—sensibly—from balancing the budget to stimulating growth. Read the rest of this entry »
Rule-making is being made to look more beneficial under Barack Obama
Feb 18th 2012 | WASHINGTON, DC | from the print edition
Feb 15th 2012, 22:36 by G.I. | WASHINGTON D.C.
Employment springs to life; will it fade again?
[Greg Ip] Feb 11th 2012 | WASHINGTON, DC | from the print edition
EVEN people who don’t normally care much for football tune in to the Super Bowl to watch the best commercials Madison Avenue can dream up. The most talked about this year was Chrysler’s gritty tribute to the economic revival of America and Detroit. More short film than commercial, it ends with the actor Clint Eastwood huskily declaring that “Our second half is about to begin.”
The muscular patriotism brought lumps to the throats of sentimental viewers; the more cynically minded called it a re-election ad for Barack Obama, whose administration saved Chrysler from oblivion with a bail-out in 2009. A better explanation may simply be timing: it coincides with the best evidence in months that America’s economy, led by manufacturing, really is on the mend.
Five days before its ad aired, Chrysler, now part of Italy’s Fiat, reported its best January sales since 2008, up 44% from a year earlier. The next day it announced it would hire 1,800 people at a plant in Belvidere, Illinois, to build its new Dodge Dart. The good news is hardly confined to Chrysler. The auto industry as a whole sold 1.2m vehicles in January, many more than expected, and a 4% increase from December. Read the rest of this entry »