October 23, 2014

Everyone In America Would Be Better Off If We Soaked The Rich: "While conservatives warn that higher tax rates on the wealthy will hurt so-called “job creators,” economists point out that higher taxes and economic growth can go hand-in-hand."

A 90 percent tax rate on the top 1 percent of American earners wouldn’t just significantly reduce income and wealth inequality and boost government tax revenues. It would also be the optimal level for Americans’ welfare, according to a new paper from economists Fabian Kindermann and Dirk Krueger.
They find that the top marginal tax rate that maximizes government revenues before being so high as to discourage the wealthiest from earning more is very high, or 95 percent on those who are among the top 1 percent of earners. They also find that a 90 percent tax rate on the richest 1 percent could significantly reduce the Gini index, a measure of income inequality, and wealth inequality would also steadily decline.
But these effects aren’t worth the policy change in and of themselves, they argue. In an email to ThinkProgress, Krueger wrote, “One could certainly reduce inequality in the economy to zero, by the government confiscating all income and wealth and redistributing it equally among all households… Of course people would stop working and saving and the outcome would be disastrous.” But the interesting finding in their paper is that the same tax rate that would maximize revenues and drive down inequality is nearly the same one that would make everyone better off, or what they call the optimal top marginal tax rate.
Everyone’s welfare is improved if a tax change allows the government to compensate them with enough wealth so that they are at the same level they were before the change, but the government still has money left over. “The more is left over, the better is the reform,” Krueger said. Everyone’s welfare improves or stays steady, including that of the 1 percent, under a 90 percent top tax rate. In fact, the welfare gains are “very substantial,” they note in the paper.

There are trade offs to such a policy change. About 10 percent fewer people would enter the labor force and consumption would decline in the long run by about 7 percent. But most of this would happen at the very top and not impact most Americans. Average consumption for people who don’t make it to the top 1 percent would actually be higher. Most of the labor force reduction is also among the richest. “Not knowing whether one would ever make it into the top 1% (not impossible, but very unlikely) households would be eager to accept a life that is somewhat better most of the time…and significantly worse in the rare case they climb to the top 1%,” Krueger noted.

Fox News Thinks Young Women Are Too Busy with Tinder to "Get" Voting

Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle, a woman, shared some advice for us feeble-minded young ladies out here: Let's not burden ourselves with voting! After all, we're far too busy swiping for a man on Tinder to cast an educated vote in the midterm elections, or any election for that matter.
"It's the same reason why young women on juries are not a good idea," Guilfoyle explained to her approving co-hosts. "They don't get it!"
"They’re not in that same life experience of paying the bills, doing the mortgage, kids, community, crime, education, healthcare. They’re like healthy and hot and running around without a care in the world," she added.
But what to do with all of our overabundant, perky energy!? Guilfoyle says not to worry–just "go back on Tinder or" and all will be right in the world.

The 10 Most Bizarre Neighborhoods On The Planet (10 pics)

October 22, 2014

Australian Government says, website blocking is not Web filtering.

Government agencies would be required to put up "stop pages" alerting the public to websites blocked under Section 313 of the Telecommunications Act under proposals put forward by the Department of Communications.
In April 2013, following a bungle by ASIC that resulted in accidentally blocking customer access to 250,000 websites for at least two ISPs — when the agency was just seeking to block websites associated with investment fraud — it was revealed that three commonwealth government agencies had been using Section 313 of the Telecommunications Act to compel ISPs to block customer access to websites on their behalf.
Earlier this year, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull launched a parliamentary inquiry into the government's use of the power, following public backlash. In his department's submission to the inquiry, the government said that the use of this power doesn't amount to internet filtering.
"There has been criticism that government agency use of Section 313 to disrupt access to illegal online services constitutes a policy of broad-based internet filtering. This is not the case. Broad-based filters typically block access to all instances of a specific category of services; for example, all webpages containing online gambling or featuring images or descriptions of pornography," the department stated.
"In contrast, the disruption of access to online services under Section 313 to date has been a targeted response to specific instances of illegal services. The types of services that can be targeted are restricted by Section 313(3) of the legislation, and disruption of access is typically only requested where an agency considers there is a strong public or national interest to do so. A decision to disrupt access to a service is specific to that instance."
There is, however, a valid concern in the lack of transparency and oversight of the whole process, the department admitted. It proposed developing "services disruption procedures" that government agencies must follow when seeking to get websites blocked.
The agency would need to get the approval of the agency head or portfolio minister before seeking for a website to be blocked, and then, if there is no security or operation issue, announce the blocking of that site through media releases or a website announcement.
The sites that are blocked should be replaced with a "generic government stop page" similar to that used in blocking the child abuse websites on the Interpol "worst of" list.
The department has suggested that the page would indicate which agency made the request, the reason for the request, a contact for the agency, and information on how to seek a review of the block.
The review could ultimately end up in court, or through a commonwealth or state ombudsman, the department indicated.
The department revealed that there have been 32 requests made, that it knows of, from government agencies between the 2011 and 2013 financial years. The Australian Federal Police (AFP) accounted for 21 of these, mainly to block child abuse websites, and one instance of blocking malware. ASIC's efforts accounted for 10 requests, and a single request came from an agency in the attorney-general's portfolio to block a website "on counter-terrorism grounds".

Economists Say We Should Tax The Rich At 90 Percent: "A 90 percent top marginal tax rate doesn’t mean that if you make $450,000, you are going to pay $405,000 in federal income taxes. Americans have a well-documented trouble understanding the notion of marginal tax rates."

America has been doing income taxes wrong for more than 50 years.
All Americans, including the rich, would be better off if top tax rates went back to Eisenhower-era levels when the top federal income tax rate was 91 percent, according to a new working paper by Fabian Kindermann from the University of Bonn and Dirk Krueger from the University of Pennsylvania.
The top tax rate that makes all citizens, including the highest 1 percent of earners, the best off is “somewhere between 85 and 90 percent,” Krueger told The Huffington Post. Currently, the top rate of 39.6 percent is paid on income above $406,750 for individuals and $457,600 for couples.
Fewer than 1 percent of Americans, or about 1.3 million people, reach that top bracket.
Here is the conclusion from the report, charted:
marginal tax rates
What you’re seeing is decades of a more or less strict adherence to the gospel that tax cuts for the highest income earners are good. The trend began with President Kennedy, but his cuts were hardly radical. He lowered rates when the American economy was humming along, no longer paying for World War II and, relative to today, an egalitarian dreamland. To put things in perspective, Kennedy cut rates to around 70 percent, a level we can hardly imagine raising them to today. The huge drops -- from 70 percent to 50 percent to less than 30 percent -- came with the Reagan presidency.
In comparison to decades of cuts, Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama each raised taxes at the top by a historically insignificant amount. Obama also proposed modest tax increases, raising taxes on families making more than $250,000 from 33 to 36 percent, and on individuals making more than $200,000 from 36 to 39.6 percent. These increases failed in the House.
A 90 percent top marginal tax rate doesn’t mean that if you make $450,000, you are going to pay $405,000 in federal income taxes. Americans have a well-documented trouble understanding the notion of marginal tax rates. The marginal tax rate is the amount you pay on your income above a certain amount. Right now, you pay the top marginal tax rate on every dollar you earn over $406,750. So if you make $450,000, you only pay the top rate on your final $43,250 in income.
A very high marginal tax rate isn’t effective if it’s riddled with loopholes, of course. Kindermann and Krueger's paper is also focused solely on income, not wealth, and returns on wealth are how the truly superrich make a living.
Despite these limitations, Kindermann and Krueger say that a top marginal tax rate in the range of 90 percent would decrease both income and wealth inequality, bring in more money for the government and increase everyone’s well-being -- even those subject to the new, much higher income tax rate.
“High marginal tax rates provide social insurance against not making it into the 1 percent,” Krueger told The Huffington Post. Here’s what he means: There’s a small chance of moving up to the top rung of the income ladder, Krueger said. If rates are high for the top earners and low for everyone else, there’s a big chance you will pay a low rate and a small chance you will pay a high rate. Given these odds, it is rational to accept high income tax rates on top earners and low rates for the rest as a form of insurance.
This insurance takes the form of low-income people paying dramatically less in taxes. “Everyone who is below four times median income” -- that’s about $210,000 for households -- “pays less,” Kruger said.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) said Tuesday that he wants to "find a way" to provide health insurance to the state's 70,000 uninsured, even though he vetoed legislation in April that would have done just that -- and at no cost to the state.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) said Tuesday that he wants to "find a way" to provide health insurance to the state's 70,000 uninsured, even though he vetoed legislation in April that would have done just that -- and at no cost to the state.
During a gubernatorial debate, LePage said he vetoed the Medicaid expansion billbecause it would have covered people with incomes at 400 percent of the federal poverty level. The bill would have accepted millions of dollars in federal funds for the state's MaineCare program under the Affordable Care Act, which LePage has criticized. The federal government would have paid for the entire cost of the Medicaid expansion until 2017, at which point it would lower its coverage to 90 percent.
"I do agree, there are people under the federal poverty level," LePage said. "They need to be able to go to the exchanges. The federal exchanges will allow anyone from 100 percent on up to 400 percent to quality for large subsidies. We need to maximize that aspect of it. Take those that do not qualify and then find a way to get them insurance."
LePage's comments were confusing, though, because the exchanges are part of the Affordable Care Act. The debate moderator pointed out that health care options available to low-income residents outside of the president's health care law may have unaffordable deductibles. LePage blamed that on the Affordable Care Act.
"That's ACA. I didn't put that in," he said.
When the moderator clarified he was talking about private health care options outside of the Affordable Care Act, LePage blamed that on the Affordable Care Act, too.
"Yeah, well that's ACA. That's what I'm saying," LePage said. "The ACA has changed the entire system."
LePage's Democratic challenger, Rep. Michael Michaud, said as governor he would send a bill to the state legislature on his first day in office that would take advantage of the federal Medicaid dollars.
"I'll be submitting legislation to the legislature that will cover the 70,000 Mainers who were denied access under the Affordable Care Act, and of which 3,000 were veterans," Michaud said. "Not only because it's the morally right thing to do, but the state will save over $600 million over a 10-year time frame."

Coffee May Protect the Liver: Drinking coffee — even decaffeinated coffee — may protect your liver, a large new study has found.

Drinking coffee — even decaffeinated coffee — may protect your liver, a large new study has found.
Researchers examined the coffee-drinking habits of 27,793 people who filled out diet questionnaires in a large national health study from 1999 to 2010. The scientists also tracked blood levels of four enzymes that indicate liver function. The study is online in Hepatology.
More than 14,000 of the subjects drank coffee. After controlling for age, sex, race, education, smoking, alcohol consumption and other factors, the researchers found that compared with people who drank no coffee, those who drank three cups a day were about 25 percent less likely to have abnormal liver enzyme levels. Among the more than 2,000 who drank only decaffeinated coffee, the results were similar.
The reason for the effect is unclear. “There are more than a thousand compounds in coffee,” said the lead author, Qian Xiao, acancer prevention fellow at the National Cancer Institute. “There are a few candidates, but I don’t know which is responsible.”