Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Best Way to Improve US Government Dismal Approval Ratings: Near-term Grand Economic Bargain on Tax Extenders, Tax Incentive for Foreign Earnings Repatriation, Infrastructure Investments, ACA Improvements and Income Inequality Narrowing Measures

In a just released Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, President Obama's job approval rating was 41%.

And the US Congress had even lower approval ratings.  Only 29% of respondents have a favorable view of the Republican Party and 38% have a favorable view of the Democratic Party.

But just catch this about this poll..... only 16% of respondents had either a great deal of confidence or quite a bit of confidence in the US Federal Government.

And then also catch this included in this poll..... 86% of the poll respondents said that by far the most important quality that would make voters overall more likely to vote for a candidate for Congress  was if the candidate will work with the other party and compromise.

It's pretty clear that US citizens are unhappy with the US Government and are desperately looking for the US Congress to work together.  And they also want their economic situation to improve.

US real GDP growth has been clearly lacklustre and anyone who really thinks the future very optimistic US real long-term GDP annual percentage growth projections made by the CBO will be met is living in Dreamland.  

Thus to best significantly improve US Government's present dismal approval ratings and also substantially increase the present dismal real long-term US GDP growth,  I think the best legislative initiative right now would be something very substantial on the economic front.

To maximize the chances of legislative success, this legislation needs to be very broad.  What is needed is for the legislation to provide the opportunity for US Congressional members to so strongly agree with parts of it, that they will vote for the overall legislation even though they dislike some parts of it.  This will give them cover for their vote with their constituents. 

What would drop US Government approval ratings even lower than they are presently would be just passing all of the Tax Extenders, which are overwhelmingly the creation of additional tax loopholes and nearly all further expand the huge economic gap between the wealthy and everyone else.

Thus I think you need to insert some key Income Inequality Narrowing Measures to offset the overwhelmingly Income Inequality Expanding Tax Extenders.

The three key Income Inequality Narrowing Measures I would insert are:
  1. Letting former students refinance their US Federal Government Student Loans and their Private Student Loans at the current lower interest rates
  2. Increase the US Federal Minimum Wage on a reasonable, staggered basis and then indexed annually for inflation
  3. Extend Federal Unemployment Benefits in a reasonable manner and include related job skill enhancement measures especially targeted at the long-term unemployed
To at least somewhat appease the US Debt Hawks, I would require the overall legislation to not increase the projected US Debt, but not based on the way the CBO normally scores it, but instead on a more realistic Dynamically Scored basis.

To get to this no US Debt increase on a Dynamically Scored basis, you have to include some Tax Revenues.

My 1st choice for US Tax Revenues here would be the higher US Federal Tax Revenues resulting from lowering the tax rate from Foreign Earnings Repatriated.  But this must be wisely designed in a way that also increases directly US jobs.

My 2nd choice for US Tax Revenues would be to alter the US Federal Income Tax rules prospectively to prevent the clearly tax abusive effect of Corporate Inversions.

My 3rd choice for US Tax Revenues is for large US Corps, including the US operations of Foreign Corps, to be required to pay each year as deposits a very modest percentage of the amounts the IRS claims they owe them related to all open IRS audits.

My 4th choice for US Tax Revenues would be to require the Upfront Costs related to all Financial Derivatives of large Corps to be amortized over the life of the related Financial Derivative.

My 5th choice for US Tax Revenues is that Big Oil Corps should not be allowed the excessively abusive practice of reflecting Foreign Royalty Payments made to Foreign Governments in order to deplete a foreign country's natural resources as Foreign Income Taxes Paid and thus also being allowed to report it as as a Foreign Tax Credit for US Federal Income Tax purposes on a dollar-for-dollar basis.

My 6th choice for US Tax Revenues would be to accelerate the date of the required minimum distributions related to high dollar retirement plans.

My 7th choice for US Tax Revenues is to change the IRS tax rules which permit businesses to classify as independent contractors individuals working for the business who are clearly employees.

My 8th choice for US Tax Revenues is to assess a tax on shipping US jobs overseas by not allowing US Federal Tax Deductions for separation and related costs resulting from moving US jobs overseas and also by assessing a fair recapture tax of past Domestic Production Activities Tax Deductions.

My 9th choice for US Tax Revenues is to include as taxable income all present Tax-free and Tax-deferred Employee Benefits of clearly high income earners.

My 10th choice for US Tax Revenues is to eliminate the US Federal Tax Benefits now received from clearly abusive Janitor or Dead Peasant Life Insurance.

My 11th choice is to eliminate the current US Federal Subsidies given to Large Corp Agribusinesses.

My 12th choice is to mark to market value at the end of each tax year all financial derivatives, with the resultant change in market value being treated for US Federal Income Tax purposes as ordinary gain or ordinary loss in that year.

My 13th choice is to assess self-employment tax on SubS Corp income.

My 14th choice is that Inherited Property should get Carry Over Tax Basis.

And I would include a substantial amount of broad-based, multi-faceted US Infrastructure Investments, which are very popular and will definitely be very accretive to real long-term US GDP growth.  To soften the net US Government cost here, I would maximize the related user fees and also consider increasing US Federal Excise Tax on Fossil Fuel Sales by a reasonably modest amount.

I would make the clearly direct US job creating Research and Experimentation Tax Credit permanent, which more than any other legislative initiative will substantially increase real long-term US GDP growth.

And I wouldn't extend a handful of the most egregious of the Tax Extenders.

As a starting point on which rock-solid real US GDP growth-enhancing Business Tax Extenders I think should be extended, but only if the above three offsetting Inequality Income Narrowing measures are also incorporated in this Grand Bargain:
  • Section 212.....Extension of 15-year straight-line recovery for qualified leasehold improvements, qualified restaurant buildings and improvements, and qualified retail improvements
  • Section 215.....Extension of bonus depreciation
  • Section 217.....Extension of increased expensing limitations and treatment of certain real property as section 179 property
  • Section 219.....Extension of special expensing rules for certain film and productions  
Lastly, I would consider including a very limited number of very popular improvements to the Affordable Care Act which would enhance real US GDP growth, but I would require all of these ACA enhancements in the aggregate to not increase projected US Debt over the next ten years.

One reasonable pay for here for these ACA improvements is for Health Insurance Corps to pay US Federal Income Tax on the Unearned Premiums received in cash in the same year the cash is received.

A 2nd reasonable pay for here is that for US Federal Income Tax purposes, Health Insurance Corps would not be able to deduct health insurance claims until they are fixed in amount.

A 3rd reasonable pay for would be to collect Medicare Tax on all current tax-free or tax deferred employee benefits of high income earners.

A 4th reasonable pay for here is to assess a US Federal Income Tax on the bottom line profits in excess of 10% of Total Operating Revenues of a Non-Profit Hospital Organization in any year.

A 5th reasonable pay for is to assess a US Federal Tax on Hospital Non-Profit Organizations which are clearly Hoarding Net Assets.   
A 6th reasonable pay for is to reduce the current Federal Subsidies now given to drug manufacturers when their drug prescriptions are purchased by Dual Eligible Medicare and Medicaid recipients.

A 7th reasonable pay for is to permit Medicare to Negotiate Drug Prices with Drug Manufacturers.

An 8th reasonable pay for is to permit Medicare to Negotiate Purchase Prices and to Get Competitive Bids on its Durable Medical Equipment Acquisitions.

A 9th reasonable pay for is to permit Medicare to Make Drug Purchases Based on Rigorous Comparative Effectiveness Studies.

A 10th reasonable pay for is to cut US Government Subsidies granted to very profitable Non-Profit and Governmental Teaching Hospitals.

An 11th reasonable pay for is to simply reduce the amount of Medicare payments to hospital organizations.