Economy & Budget

Grassley Goes After Profiteering Preachers

You may have heard these words before: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.”

You may have heard these, too: “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

Those are the words of Jesus, of course, right out of the New Testament. But some so-called Christian ministers have turned Christ’s teaching upside-down — and replaced it with their “Prosperity Gospel.”

Consumer Protection Anarchy

I don't normally offer advice to women, but I need to alert them to danger. So here goes:

If you are in a bar, and you see some guy playing with Aqua Dots, be very careful. In fact, if I were you, I would not let him buy you a drink.

Of course, I'm referring to the latest bizarre outrage where these beads, if swallowed, can turn into the infamous "date rape drug."

It's simply the latest in the endless parade of dangerous, even deadly products brought to us not only by amoral Chinese manufacturers, but by the U.S. executives who ignore the dangers to enhance their bottom line, and of course, their own obscene compensation.

The World's Economy

PetroChina, a Chinese energy conglomerate, became the world’s first company to be valued at more than a trillion dollars on its first day of trading in Shanghai earlier today. It is worth more than ExxonMobil and General Electric combined.

Lou Dobbs will see nothing but sinister forces in this event. But as almost every investor knows, this is just a sign of a hot international marketplace that is actually propping up the American economy.

According to a poll, most Americans think we are heading for a recession. But the rest of world is continuing with a brisk economic expansion. China is booming. India is hot. Even Russia is rich with energy revenues. London threatens to surpass New York as the financial capital of the world.

With Liberals, The Taxes Just Keep Coming

When we last left the tax debate, you will recall that liberal Democrats had already weighed in with ways to spend the money that would supposedly be generated (a figure surely inflated) by canceling the Bush tax cuts. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) opted to spend the money on her Hillarycare II national health plan. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) opted to fund a middle-class tax cut. John Edwards has enunciated spending schemes too numerous to mention. Note that NO ONE proposed using the money to reduce the federal deficit, supposedly a high priority of the new Democratic majority in Congress.

Carried Interest

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) said on Bloomberg News this weekend that in the interests of “fairness and equity,” he was going to sharply increase the tax rate on so-called carried interest.

Bloomberg went on to report “Rangel said he was ‘not impressed’ with criticism by Senate Democrats such as Charles Schumer of New York and John Kerry of Massachusetts that increasing taxes on private-equity firms and hedge funds could disrupt financial markets and hurt job creation.”

Dems Are Out of Touch on Taxes

Earlier this year, The Tax Foundation released a poll about the attitudes that Americans have towards the tax code. It found that a majority of U.S. adults believe the federal tax code is complex, that the federal income taxes they pay are "too high," and that the federal tax system needs major changes or a complete overhaul. It also found that just one in 10 (10 percent) say they are willing to pay higher taxes to eliminate 2007's projected $244 billion federal budget deficit.

The American people aren’t necessarily convinced that they need more tax cuts, although they do believe that they pay too much in taxes. But they sure as heck don’t want their taxes increased.

Deficit Politics

Last week, the White House announced that the deficit for fiscal 2007 was $163 billion, or about 1.2 percent of GDP. The 40-year average is 2.4 percent. Over the last three years, the deficit has dropped about $250 billion.

We are in the middle of a fairly expensive war, probably per capita one of the most expensive wars in our nation’s history. And yet, our deficit is well below the historic average.

Free Trade and the Republican Debate

Something struck me as I watched the Republican debaters in Dearborn, Mich. No, it wasn’t the arrival of Fred Thompson to the dance. It wasn’t the strange inability of John McCain to hear Maria Bartiromo’s questions. It wasn’t the strange allure of Ron Paul’s neo-populist, neo-libertarian, neo-conspiracy-theory explanation of the carried-interest debate.

All of those points were notable. But to me, the most notable development was the drift of the Republican Party to protectionism.

The Detroit Debate

The debate today in Michigan is set against a stark backdrop of high unemployment and low economic growth. The American auto manufacturers face tough competition from abroad and a challenging legislative landscape with the Congress threatening to impose Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards that will give a distinct advantage to Asian companies. Detroit is a city run by a corrupt mayor that has become increasingly unlivable over the past four decade, beset by high crime and horrible schools.

Michigan faces the worst economy in the country. It has been run by a once popular but now besieged Democratic governor. Dearborn, where the debate will actually happen, has one of the largest Muslim populations of any city in America.