December 25, 2007
Bible-based Critique of State Tax and Spending Policies
Today's New York Times features Professor Susan Pace Hamill's (Alabama) critique of state tax and spending policies based on biblical grounds which is published in her recent book, As Certain as Death (Carolina Academic Press, 2007). See Professor Cites Bible in Faulting Tax Policies. In Hamill's opinion, a progessive tax and spending policies designed to aid the poor are mandated by the Bible. Hamill asserts that 18 states "seriously violate biblical principles" in the way they tax and spend.
The Sinful Six. Hamill calls Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas "the sinful six" because they require the poor to pay a much larger share of their income than the rich while doing little to help the poor improve their lot. The worst is Alabama which "taxes its poor more than twice as heavily as its rich, while holding a tight rein on education spending."
Only one state, Minnesota, came within reach of the biblical principles she applied, because its tax system is only slightly regressive and it spends heavily on helping the poor, especially through public education. For more see our post on Hamill's As Certain as Death. [JH]
A Moment to Reflect on What's Really Important
Impressive and beautiful clips from around the world produced by the BBC Motion Gallery. [JH}
Merry Christmas from the Andrews Sisters
Here's the Andrew Sisters singing "Jing-A-Ling, Jing-A-Ling" [JH]
December 24, 2007
A Quick Look at USAspending
www.USAspending.gov, a relaunch of FederalSpending.gov, is designed to provided citizens with easy access to government contracs, grants and other awards data as required by the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006. Information provided:
- The name of the entity receiving the award;
- The amount of the award;
- Information on the award including transaction type, funding agency, etc;
- The location of the entity receiving the award;
- A unique identifier of the entity receiving the award.
Hat tip to beSpacific. [JH]
Digital Millenium Copyright Act: An Example of Analogue Circumvention and Idiocy
Treasury Department Releases Study Addressing Global Competitiveness of U.S. Business Tax System
The Treasury Department's Office of Tax Policy recently released a comprehensive study addressing business taxation and global competitiveness, Approaches to Improve the Competitiveness of the U.S. Business Tax System for the 21st Century (pdf). The study outlines two broad approaches to business tax reform: (1) replacing the business income tax system with a business activity tax (BAT) and (2) broadening the business tax base and lowering the statutory tax rate/providing expensing. It also outlines specific business tax areas that can be addressed, including multiple taxation of corporate profits, tax bias favoring debt finance, and taxation of international income. From the press release: "There are no policy recommendations in this study. We believe it will provide significant substance for discussion, and will further the effort to inform the public policy debate."
Hat tip to beSpacific. [JH]
Wanted Posters Go Digital
CNN has the story. [JH]
Understanding Mortgage Foreclosure: Recent Events, the Process, and Costs
From the summary: As evidenced by the numerous bills introduced in the 110th Congress during the first session, there is much concern over recent developments in the housing and mortgage markets. Bills such as H.R. 3019, the Expand and Preserve Home Ownership Through Counseling Act (Representative Judy Biggert) and H.R. 3666, the Foreclosure Prevention and Home Ownership Protection Act (Representative Betty Sutton et al.) include sections that speak specifically about foreclosures. These bills would authorize studies on current defaults and foreclosures, as well as possible causes.
This report provides a general analysis and overview of current foreclosure issues addressed in the bills cited above. It begins with a description of the behavior of aggregate foreclosure rates. The behaviors of foreclosure rates are placed in the context of activity in the housing and mortgage market to illustrate any relationships. The foreclosure process is then explained, first from the point of view of a traditional financial lending institution, and then from the viewpoint of securitization when loans are sold in secondary markets. Finally, this report collects information from other studies to obtain an estimate of the average foreclosure costs. A brief discussion of the effect uniform foreclosure legislation may have on costs follows.
December 23, 2007
Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies: Iran, the U.S. and the Twisted Path to Confrontation
List Price: $24.95
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (October 16, 2007)
Book Description: With lucid analysis and engaging storytelling, USA Today senior diplomatic correspondent Barbara Slavin portrays the complex love-hate relationship between Iran and the United States. She takes into account deeply imbedded cultural habits and political goals to illuminate a struggle that promises to remain a headline story over the next decade. In this fascinating look, Slavin provides details of thwarted efforts at reconciliation under both the Clinton and Bush presidencies and opportunities rebuffed by the Bush administration in its belief that invading Iraq would somehow weaken Iran's Islamic government. Yet despite the dire situation in Iraq, the Bush administration appears to be building a case for confrontation with Iran based on the same three issues it used against Saddam Hussein's regime: weapons of mass destruction, support for terrorism, and repression of human rights. The U.S. charges Iran is supporting terrorists inside and outside Iraq and is repressing its own people who, in the words of U.S. officials, 'deserve better.' Slavin believes the U.S. government may be suffering from the same lack of understanding and foresight that led it into prolonged warfare in Iraq.One of the few reporters to interview Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as well as his two predecessors and scores of ordinary Iranians, Slavin gives insight into what the U.S. government may not be taking into account.She portrays Iran as a country that both adores and fears America and has a deeply rooted sense of its own historical and regional importance. Despite government propaganda that portrays the U.S. as the "Great Satan," many Iranians have come to idolize staples of American pop culture while clinging to their own traditions. This is clearly not a relationship to be taken a face value. The interplay between the U.S. and Iran will only grow more complex as Iran moves toward becoming a nuclear power. Distrustful of each other's intentions yet longing at some level to reconcile, neither Tehran nor Washington know how this story will end.
Fact Sheet: U.S.-Iraq Declaration of Principles for Friendship and Cooperation
"The U.S. and Iraqi "Declaration of Principles" is a shared statement of intent that establishes common principles to frame our future relationship. This moves us closer to normalized, bilateral relations between our two countries. With this declaration, leaders of Iraq and the United States commit to begin negotiating the formal arrangements that will govern such a relationship." [RJ]