Raymond Richman - Jesse Richman - Howard Richman
Richmans' Trade and Taxes Blog
The Corporate Income Tax Cut Is Unnecessary; Treat Corporations As Partnerships
Corporations are artificial entities and artificial entities bear none of the burden of income taxes; those who own them bear the burden of the income tax and gain from tax reductions. The burden of the corporate income tax is borne by the shareholders, and guess what? The top one percent of the richest Americans own forty percent of the stock of American corporations and the next nine percent own forty percent. The corporate income tax cut from 35% to 20% will reduce their burden 42%. That is why the U.S. stock markets have been booming since Trump’s election. But the purpose of income tax reform is not to make the rich richer; it is to lower taxes on the middle class and eliminate loopholes. So why are we giving the rich (and foreigners who own 15% of American corporate shares) such an enormous tax break?
The reasons given by its proponents is that the U.S. high rate causes American companies to 1) invest in or move their headquarters and factories to lower tax countries, 2) cause U.S. multi-nationals to keep their foreign earnings abroad because to return them to the U.S. will subject them to the higher U.S. income tax rates, and 3) U.S. multi-nationals will use the high rates and low or non-existent American tariffs resulting from international trade agreements to produce their products abroad and to export them to the U.S. duty-free. These and many other evils of the corporate income tax can be corrected by a costless solution, namely, taxing corporate earnings under the personal income tax just as we tax partnership earnings. After all, the corporation is simply a limited liability company and most American partnerships and proprietorship have registered as limited liability companies (LLCs), and 4) stimulate economic growth. Under our proposal, the earnings of foreign subsidiaries would be subject to the personal income tax so there would be no incentive to keep earnings abroad. ...
China's Predatory Economics and How to Stop It -- we're published in American Thinker this morning.
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Job Requirement for Federal Reserve Chair: The Vision to Balance the Dollar
Janet Yellen is nearing the end of her current term as Chair of the Federal Reserve. She may be reappointed. She may be replaced. But either way, whoever takes on the Federal Reserve job needs to work to develop the vision to include managing the value of the dollar as part of the Fed role. The US trade deficit is once again growing, driven by overvaluation of the dollar. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve is contemplating how to 'unwind' the trillions in US bonds it acquired as a result of quantitative easing.
The solution to one problem should be used to address the other. As US bonds mature, the Fed should use the proceeds to purchase bonds and other assets as a sovereign wealth fund in countries that are running a large and persistent trade surplus with the US. These purchases will strengthen the US.
1. They will improve the US net international investment position, reducing the extent to which the US is a global debtor.
2. They will help bring about a readjustment in currency values that will help market forces correct the trade deficit.
It is past time to levy a large excise tax on prescription opiods
While many of the costs of opiod addiction are borne by the addicts themselves -- costs that range up to and including 183,000 deaths according to CDC estimates for the period from 1999 through 2015 -- these costs also spread to the broader society in terms of treatment expenses, emergency response, crime, lost productivity, and much more. Hence, opiod addiction creates negative externalities for society, which some estimates put at 80 billion dollars.
A basic principle of the economics of managing negative externalities is that one should seek to make those creating the externality -- those involved in the production and consumption of opiods in this case -- pay for the external costs they are creating through their market transaction. And one of the easiest ways to do this is to impose a tax upon those transactions.
There have been some scattered efforts to do so. For instance Senator...
Needed Corporate Tax Reform Is to Eliminate It
The principal cause of the anemic growth of the U.S. economy in recent decades has been the chronic trade deficits with the rest of the world which have cost millions of U.S. manufacturing jobs and converted the U.S. from the world’s leading creditor to the world’s leading debtor. There are many causes of trade deficits. Tax reform, contrary to the claims made for it, will not balance our trade at all. The US international trade deficits averaged about 3 percent of Gross Domestic Product in recent decades. If trade had been in balance, the growth of the GDP would have been 5.3 percent on the average since 2001 instead of 1.6 percent.
The principal causes of international trade deficits are the relative costs of producing goods and services in different countries, the foreign exchange rates, and the existence of barriers to trade imposed by trading partners. Wilbur Ross, the Secretary of Commerce, in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal 8/1/2017 states that the U.S. imposes fewer barriers on imports than the European Union and China with which we have huge trade deficits. Other countries with which we are experiencing large chronic trade deficits are Japan, Korea, and Mexico. Together with China and the EU, these countries accounted for 88.9 percent of our trade deficit in 2016. An unintended consequence of all of our trade agreements to date is that they enabled American corporations to invest in countries that have low corporate income tax rates and to export their products to the U.S. duty-free, exacerbating the trade imbalances. We would not be concerned about this practice if U.S. trade were in balance.
There is a simple solution to the trade deficits. We can impose single-country-variable-tariffs which are authorized by the world trade agreements which permit member countries to impose tariffs designed to balance trade. The tariff would apply to all imports from the trade surplus county including those of the multi-nationals formerly producing their products in the U.S. So long as trade remains unbalanced, the single-country-variable tariff would produce substantial revenues. Would it start a trade war? Countries with trade surpluses cannot win a trade war with countries they have trade surpluses with. The trade deficit country has the advantage in a trade war. If trade diminishes with the trade surplus partner, it will increase with the other trading partners with whom we have no trade deficit....
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Did Trump Cause the Improved GDP Growth -- Ray and I were published in the American Thinker this morning
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Did Trump Cause the Improved GDP Growth?
By Howard Richman and Raymond Richman
Real GDP rose by 3.0% during the second quarter of 2017, the fastest quarterly rate in over two years, according to data released on Wednesday by the Commerce Department. Did President Trump cause the accelerating economic growth?
The answer is yes. The rapid growth was led by a surge in business fixed investment (purchases by businesses of new tools and structures). If not for that surge, Real GDP would have only grown by 2.2%. The following table shows the contributions of the different types of spending upon economic growth during the second quarter:
How the Democrats and Anti-Trump Republicans Seem Bent on Creating a Fascist USA
Trade Deficits vs.Income Tax Reform to Stimulate Economic Growth
The principal cause of the anemic growth of the U.S. economy in recent decades has been the chronic trade deficits with the rest of the world which have cost millions of U.S. manufacturing jobs and converted the U.S. from the world’s leading creditor to the world’s leading debtor. Multi-country trade agreements encourage American corporations to invest in countries with low corporate income tax rates and to export the goods they produce to the U.S. duty-free. The government’s first task is to bring our trade into better balance. Tax reform will not do it. As the U.S. Gross Domestic Product statistics show, the US international trade deficits averaged about 3 percent per year in recent decades. If trade had been in balance, the growth of the GDP would have been nearly five percent on the average instead of one to two percent. ...
What Income Tax Reforms Are Needed?
A Comment on Recent News
Congress voted sanctions against Russia nearly unanimously for interfering in the U.S. presidential election of 2016 and voted restrictions on Pres. Trump’s ability to lift those sanctions. Congress cannot do much about curbing Russian interventions in the internal politics of other nations. But Congress is hypocritical because the CIA has been interfering in other countries' elections since the middle of the last century, including most recently in the Ukraine....
Suggested Reforms of the Personal Income Tax
After passage of the 16th Amendment in 1913 authorizing enactment of income taxes, Congress enacted the personal income tax. Income had always been considered a good measure of ability to pay. The income tax was conceived as not merely a revenue source but could be used for social engineering. The first bit of social engineering was the taxation of income at progressive rates as a way of reducing income inequality. Another reason given was that very high annual personal incomes are basically undeserved resulting from what economists term economic rents.
But how progressive should the income tax be? That was a question not easy to answer. During WWI, the top marginal rate reached 92%. But that rate could not continue because of its anticipated adverse effect on investment. Reason suggested a better rule based on benefit and cost, namely, that in normal times, the top tax rate should not be higher than the rate that at which the negative effects on the economy equaled the perceived benefits of reduced inequality. No one knows how to determine that rate.
Reform proposals include a reduction of the number of tax brackets from currently seven to three. This does not simplify the calculation of the tax at all. Regardless of the number of brackets, once taxable income is calculated the calculation of the tax liability is simple involving at the most calculation of the sum of two numbers. Reducing the number of brackets interferes with the progressivity of the tax. Over wide ranges of income the tax rate becomes constant with those at lower levels of the income brackets paying the same rate as those at the highest level of the range.
In any case, progressive taxation has been in existence since the first days of income taxation. Congress, soon after the 16th Amendment was adopted in 1913, learned that they could conceal in the income tax code and regulations all kinds of subsidies that benefitted selected constituents. That made it unnecessary to show in the budget how much those benefits, called tax expenditures by economists, cost taxpayers. What followed is that Congress passed bill after bill adding thousands of pages to the personal income tax law which encompassed about 500 pages in 1930 and now covers 2652 pages. Some estimate that the internal revenue code and its regulations cover 74,000 pages!
As the Tax Foundation points out, Over the decades, lawmakers have increasingly asked the tax code to direct all manner of social and economic objectives, such as encouraging people to buy electric and hybrid vehicles, turn corn into gasoline, purchase health insurance, buy a home, replace that home's windows, adopt children, put them in daycare, purchase school supplies, go to college, invest in historic buildings, spend more on research, and the list goes on....
European Union Loots Google - we're published in today's American thinker
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Trump Actions on Trade
Writing in the Washington Post's Monkey Cage blog, trade economist Chad Bown recently examined the early evidence on Trump's trade policy. Bown argues that Trump's trade actions are increasing protectionism and trade enforcement across a range of different trading partners. China is a major focus, but not the only one. The article is at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/06/12/trump-is-a-new-kind-of-protectionist-he-operates-in-stealth-mode/?utm_term=.f3a31b3b34e6&wpisrc=nl_cage&wpmm=1.
Tax Corporate Earnings As Personal Income; That Would Be Real Reform
The administration and the Congress are considering reform of the federal government’s corporate income tax by reducing the top rate of the corporate income tax from 35% to as low as15%. Real corporate tax reform would treat corporations the same as partnerships are currently treated, namely, to tax the earnings of corporations as the personal income of shareholders just as partnership earnings are taxed as the personal income of their partners. Corporations are simply limited liability partnerships. The distinction of limited liability no longer since most States enable partnerships to register as limited liability enterprises. So the first real major reform would be to eliminate the corporate income tax and to tax corporate earnings as the personal income of the shareholders. There is precedent for taxing corporate earnings as personal income. The earnings of partnerships, individual proprietorships, and “S” corporations are already taxed as personal income. Moreover, there are many other good reasons to tax corporate earnings under the personal income tax.
Economists have long considered the corporate income tax a bad tax. It violates the principle that persons in equal economic circumstances should receive equal treatment. The corporate income tax falls with the same weight on the earnings of the very wealthy as it does on shareholders with lower incomes. Shareholders in lower tax brackets bear the same tax rate on corporate earnings as millionaires and billionaires. As a result their incomes at retirement are much less than they would be if their share of corporate earnings were taxed at personal income tax rates.
It violates the principle of progressivity, that those with higher incomes should pay a higher rate of tax than those of lower incomes. The case for progressivity rests on the fact that incomes are unequally distributed. The personal income of most individuals with very high incomes is attributable to monopoly power caused by differences in personal ability, to different degrees of monopoly power inherent in a free market economy, to real and sometimes illusory product differences, to location, and even serendipity. Such differences are called economic rents and progressively taxing economic rents has little or no negative economic effects.
Economists have long pointed out the negative economic effects of the corporate income tax that the personal income tax does not have. These include encouragement of corporations to rely more heavily on borrowed capital rather than equity capital because the former is deductible as an expense. Other distortions include that fact corporations are encouraged to buy-back their stock instead of paying dividends. The former creates capital gains which are taxed at a lower rate than dividends. ...
The USA Should End Its Support for Climate Agreements
Thirty-one U.S. multi-nationals and domestic corporations bought a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal May 12, 2017 addressed to President Trump expressing their “strong support for the United States remaining in the Paris Climate Agreement.” Signers included 3M, Cargill, Cummins, Coca Cola, General Electric, Goldman Sachs, Proctor & Gamble, Tesla, and Walt Disney. What is interesting is how few of America’s leading manufacturers were represented. They do not speak for American industry. This is the “swamp” pretending to be “concerned about keeping the doors open for the global flow of American manufacturing goods at this critical time when our manufacturing sector is starting to grow from our competitive energy advantage.” Where is the evidence of that? Where were they while the U.S. chronic trade deficits decimated American manufactures and caused millions of American manufacturing workers to lose their jobs. Those were real costs. We are not even sure that the costs of global warming exceed its benefits, contrary to what the global warming fanatics have been scaring us with.
The architects of the Paris climate accord deliberately designed it to get the Congress of the U.S. to approve it by pretending it does not bind the U.S. to set emissions targets or to do anything. The authors were mindful of the Kyoto Protocol which was roundly rejected by the United States Congress because it set binding emissions targets for wealthy countries while letting most developing nations, including China, off the hook. But now, as forces within the Trump administration continue to debate whether to leave the Paris agreement, they face a far different calculus. The accord, agreed to in 2015, is alleged to be nonbinding, imposing no serious legal restraints on the United States or any other nation. If so, why have a treaty? Because it does bind the U.S. to make periodic reports of what action it has been taking to reduce CO2 emissions.
But the evidence is irrefutable that the U.S. has already spent billions on alternative energy, subsidies to producers of alternative evergy, subsidies to millionaire buyers of expensive electric autos, and subsidies to those who install insulation or heat panels without having any effect at all on global warming. Why continue to waste billion of taxpayer money? ...
Rosenstein's huge favor to Trump
by Raymond Richman and Howard Richman
[Note: This piece appeared in American Thinker blog this morning.]
Rob Rosenstein, Trump’s new Deputy Attorney General, did the Trump agenda a huge favor on Wednesday when he appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller as Special Counsel to investigate the Trump-Russia connection.
His action has already taken the wind out of the Democratic media’s sales. They were running story after story in an attempt to keep the pretend-scandal on the front pages. Now, they must await the outcome of the investigation. Congressional investigations will also be put on hold, so as to avoid interfering with the special counselor’s investigation.
The press will be forced to cover Trump’s ground-breaking trip to the Middle East. They will be forced to report the new job-creating trade deal with Saudi Arabia and the new alliance that Trump is shepherding between Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf Arabs against Iran and ISIS. Trump will come home from the Middle East a hero.
Our prediction of a positive outcome runs counter to the opinion of knowledgeable Trump supporters Dick Morris and Pat Buchanan. Both predict a negative outcome based upon their past experiences with independent prosecutors. Some Trump underling could even find himself falsely convicted of perjury (as was Scooter Libby, by the last special prosecutor).
But the difference here is that the 72-year-old Mueller is close to retirement, so he does not need to take scalps to further his career. Furthermore, no crime has been committed (except by Trump opponents who leaked and published classified data).
So Trump will be exculpated, which would put an end to the Trump-Russia allegation. We predict that Mueller’s investigation will end within 6 months.
Then, turnabout will be fair play as Attorney General Sessions prosecutes the Obama Administration for real crimes, perhaps beginning with their improper use of IRS power and NSC data for political purposes.
The Changing Balance of International Power
One of the key facts of the twentieth century is that the balance of international power is not the same as it was during most of the 20th century. A key contrast is the relative power of the United States and China. The graph shows the CINC (Composite Index of National Material Capabilities) for the United States and China. Through nearly the entire 20th Century the United States was clearly the more capable party. But over the last two decades, China has taken a clear lead. In part this may be driven by an index that puts substantial weight on population -- that may bias China's power up. But it also likely reflects a reality.
Cutting the Corporate Income Tax Will Not Create Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
The corporate income tax cut being considered by the Congress will accomplish none of the goals claimed for it. It will not stimulate the economy and create jobs, it will not do anything to balance trade, it will cause the federal budget deficit to grow, it will worsen the already unequal distribution of income. The President seems to have bought the ideas of some economists called supply-siders who assert that the economic growth stimulated by the tax cut will more than offset the initial loss of revenue. Most economists disagree asserting that if growth occurs, it will because of other forces. Most economists agree that the corporate tax lacks interpersonal equity, has negative economic effects, and worsens the distribution of income. These negative characteristics can be avoided by eliminating the corporate income tax and taxing corporate earnings as the personal income of the shareholders, just as partnership earnings are currently treated.
One of the criticisms economists make of the corporate income tax is that shareholders of modest incomes pay the same rate of tax as those in the highest personal income tax bracket pay. In fact, those in the top personal income tax bracket are favored because corporate earnings are now taxed at a top rate of 35% compared with 39.6%, the top rate of personal income tax. Corporate stock is highly concentrated in the hands of the wealthy. Thus the corporate income tax makes it easier for the wealthy to become more wealthy than if they paid the personal income tax rate on corporate earnings, while those of middle income find it more difficult to provide enough for their retirement. The pension funds owned by middle income families are invested mostly in corporations whose incomes are taxed at 35% by the corporate income tax when they as individuals may be in the 20 percent personal income bracket. How much faster their retirement funds would grow if their share of corporate earnings were taxed at the rate of 20% instead of 35%/, as they would be if corporate earnings were taxed as personal income.
Corporations would pay the Treasury the top rate of personal income tax on its earnings and shareholders would be credited with the tax paid by the corporations on their behalf. The most wealthy taxpayers would pay more than the 35% to corporate rate, 39.6%. Less wealthy taxpayers, say those in the 20% personal income tax bracket would get a tax credit for the excess tax paid to use as a credit against their other taxable income. To illustrate how this would work, in 2016 Amazon Corporation had 474 million shares of stock outstanding and had net earnings before tax of $3,892 million or $3.25 per share. Suppose all the earnings were taxed at 39.6%, Amazon would pay $1,541 billion to the federal government as withholding of personal income tax or 3.25 per share. If a shareholder owned 100 shares, he would report income from Amazon of $821 and receive a tax credit of $325, while those in the 20% personal income tax bracket would pay $164 and apply the excess paid as a tax credit against his other income. The result is a substantial increase in progressivity. ...
Why Conservatives should Support Raising the Gas Tax
By Jesse Richman, Howard Richman and Raymond Richman
[This piece was also published in the American Thinker on May 8.]
On May 1, President Trump mentioned that he might be willing to support raising the gasoline and diesel tax to pay for infrastructure improvements. Bloomberg News reports:
“It’s something that I would certainly consider,” Trump said Monday in an interview with Bloomberg News in the Oval Office, describing the idea as supported by truckers “if we earmarked money toward the highways.”
However, the next day Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform, tried to quash Trump’s openness on this issue. He told Fox Business that the current rate of taxation would be sufficient if certain other changes were enacted.
In contrast, to this “conservative” defender of taxpayers, the lobbyists for those who would pay the tax actually favor raising its rate, so long as the revenue really goes toward improving the roads. For example, in 2015 the American Automobile Association and the American Trucking Association joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in a letter to lawmakers which stated:
Americans are frustrated with our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, including increasingly congested highways and deficient roads and bridges. Thirty-two percent of major roads are in poor or mediocre condition. This neglect costs the average driver $324 each year in additional vehicle repairs and operating costs.
In this case, the taxpayers are right, and this “conservative” defender of taxpayers is wrong. User taxes are an appropriate and efficient way to pay for highway spending. They fall directly on those who benefit from such spending. Each purchase of fuel to run an automotive vehicle helps pay for the roads on which that vehicle will drive.
War on Drugs Killed Thousands Here and Abroad and Cost Taxpayers Trillions
The immense cost of the U.S. war on drugs is unbelievable. Its cost in money and resources has been hundreds of billions of dollars. It cost in lives lost and careers ended runs into the hundreds of thousands. In spite of its costs, the drugs problem is worse than ever. It is not only a national, state, and local government problem but an international problem, involving many countries around the world, the UN, and numerous international bodies as well. Thousands of persons have been incarcerated whose only crime is marketing substances that drug users demand, a market response to a failed anti-drug policy. And the drug user is seldom prosecuted although he is the one governments are trying to save from addiction and spends billions trying to rehabilitate. Are we crazy or what?
Drug users, who include a number of Hollywood and society celebrities as well as ordinary people seeking a high while engaging in private sexual activities, ordinary thrill seekers, caused the death of thousands of innocent people, including judges, soldiers, and an army of black and white workers growing, marketing and distributing the drugs. You would think that the USA would have learned from its experience with its prohibition of alcoholic beverages. The eighteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution was enacted in 1919 and repealed in 1933. It caused thousands to become rum-runners, to engage in selling drugs, to open speakeasies, and to become racketeers like Al Capone.
The War on Drugs" began in 1914 with passage of a law to forbid prescribing drugs for addicted patients. Between 1915 and 1938, more than 5,000 physicians and pharmacists were convicted and fined or jailed. Hardly any patients were prosecuted. The Federal Bureau of Narcotics was established in 1930. In 1971, it was reported that ten to fifteen percent of the servicemen in Vietnam were addicted to heroin. In the 1980s, while the number of arrests for all crimes had risen by 28%, the number of arrests for drug offenses rose 126%. Prisons became a booming business. In 1994, the New England Journal of Medicine reported that the "War on Drugs" resulted in the incarceration of one million Americans each year. What was their crime? Meeting the demand of their fellow-citizens for drugs. ...
Pres. Trump Makes His Worst Deal Ever, the Pivot Toward China and Away From Russia
Chinese President Xi Jinping taught Pres. Donald Trump a lesson in how to make a deal last week. The deal will do little to reduce the huge trade surplus China enjoys with the USA. China promises what amounts to a trifling increase in imports of coal from the USA at the expense of N. Korea. Germany and Japan the second and third of our trade partners having a huge trade surplus with the USA, can get the same “deal” by promising to export fewer cars to the USA. They can make them in U.S. plants with the dollars they acquired by decades of huge chronic trade surpluses. Japan has already engaged once in this ploy. S. Korea, another trade surplus country can make the same deal. The deal will not reduce our enormous trade deficits. China succeeded in getting Trump to tone down the anti-China rhetoric of his election campaign. What did the USA get in return?
China promises to curb North Korea's nuclear program. The deal ensures China that it will be able to maintain a huge trade surplus with the USA. The deal will make Trump’s promise to Make America Great Again impossible because eliminating our trade deficits is essential to restoring economic growth and manufacturing employment. And During the campaign, Donald Trump promised to reduce our foreign involvements.
And there are other important considerations. Non-Communist Russia has always been a U.S. ally. Even as a Communist nation, she was our ally in World War II. Now we choose to ensure that the only country challenging U.S. economic power, Communist China, is enabled to continue its growth at the expense of the American worker, except for a few coal-miners! China’s economy became second in the world as a result of our misguided trade policies and multi-nationals, like Goldman Sachs, Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Caterpillar, and others, sharing their capitalist technologies with it. U.S. universities trained the creators of the atomic bombs in China and Russia. Russia as an ally did more to win World War II than any other country. So why are we turning on Russia and pivoting toward China, a huge mistake that guarantees the decline of American power and weakens us against former enemies Germany and Japan. ...
Trump is Right: Keep the Export-Import Bank -- we're published in American Thinker this morning
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Journal of Economic Literature:
Atlantic Economic Journal: