Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Moving Ahead With It

Speaker Beth Harwell and Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey are pressing ahead with plans to reduce or eliminate the death tax and the Hall Income Tax:

Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) and Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) both say that they are going to press ahead with respective House and Senate plans to cut and/or eliminate the death tax and the Hall income tax on dividends. Speaker Harwell told the Associated Press's Erik Schelzig that " House Republicans have wanted to address this issue [the inheritance tax] for a long time." Indeed, many House Republicans campaigned and were elected throughout Tennessee on platforms that included abolishing the death tax, and Republicans in both Houses of the General Assembly have the numbers to do it is they but stand together. As with any other Governor in Tennessee, a Haslam veto is a worthless one if a simple majority in both Houses chooses to override it.

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Monday, December 12, 2011

If Not Now, When?

If Tennessee taxes will not be cut now, when will they be cut?:

Despite Haslam's admission that these taxes do not represent long-term good or a pro-growth economic policy for Tennessee, the Governor claims that we can't afford to cut or eliminate them, or for that matter to abolish Tennessee's tax on groceries, which hurts the poorest citizens of our State. Haslam says we are still in an economic pinch and need to conserve every penny, and if these taxes were reduced or eliminated, that neither he nor the General Assembly has a strategy to replace the lost revenue that would result. Perhaps the Governor and the General Assembly need to come up with such a strategy so that these taxes can be cut for the benefit of all Tennesseans. Governments always come up with some excuse why they can't really cut taxes or reduce their size, and at some point when economic times are a bit better, it still isn't likely that either Haslam or a future Governor of either party will be beating the doors to the House and Senate Chambers down to demand passage of a major tax reduction. As is currently the case, a group of legislators will have to take the initiative, and we will again hear excuses from all quarters about why it can't be done or shouldn't be done now.

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Saturday Mail

Do we really need Saturday postal delivery?:

Yes, most restaurants and merchants are open on Saturday, but most government entities aren't and many banks are only open for half-days on Saturdays, and bank managers and financial service managers take the weekend off. Some companies-especially utilities-remit bills by mail-although that isn't necessary with most credit card prividers, since the option exists with nearly all of them to go paperless and receive bills and make payments via the internet alone. If you do receive your utility bill by mail, most utilities' billing offices are closed on Saturdays, so if you get your electric, water, or gas bill on Saturday, you can't pay it until Monday anyway.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Grand Design

The supercommittee that was designed to fail did what it was designed to do:

No Democrat on that committee was going to agree to cut entitlements to the degree needed to restore the full faith and credit of the United States because it will undermine the Democrats' core constituency groups. No Republican would agree to tax increases without significant cuts and reform to entitlement spending, nor should they. The even numbers on the committee in light of those realities insured that the process would fail before it even began. The President likely wanted it that way, because now he can cut national defenses so deeply that he will make this country a weakling and a by-word in the earth, but he'll find ways to increase entitlement spending if Obama should, God forbid, remain in office. Failure is what the President wanted all along, since failure is what his administration is all about.


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Friday, October 14, 2011


Herman Cain may be a great candidate, and very well could be the Republican nominee in 2012-but he might want to rethink the third 9:

As Tennesseans are aware, we are fortunate in this State not to be burdened with a State income tax, and that means that the State is dependent on sales tax revenue for its daily operation, and many counties and localities throughout Tennessee are at least partly dependent on sales tax revenue to keep their books in balance. In Jefferson County, where this writer lives, that means that we pay a combined sales tax rate of 8.75% on non-food items, and-thanks to a Republican effort to lower the grocery tax at the State level-7.25% on our grocery bills. A tax chart from the Tennessee Department of Revenue gives the reader a very good idea of what we pay in combined sales taxes, and it drives up the cost of goods and services quite a bit, though it is worth it to avoid an income tax. However, the Cain 9-9-9 plan would cause the combined 8.75% tax rate in Jefferson and many other Tennessee counties to double to 17.75%, since we would have to add the new federal 9% sales tax to the government's take of our bills for goods or services. The 9-9-9 plan would cause the sales taxes that most East Tennesseans pay to increase anywhere from 100% to 125%-something that Tennessee Republicans would, in recent times at least, call an act of tyranny.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Corporate Welfare?

The new Electrolux plant in Memphis may be more corporate welfare than job creation:

The Tennessee Valley Authority has offered a total of $6.5 million in grants, loans, and incentives-paid for by the taxpayers of this State and the nation-to Electrolux. The City of Memphis and Shelby County have taken out enough debt to be paying on the project for the next 25 years, and the taxpayers of Shelby County and the State of Tennessee are footing the bill for the construction of the factory. However, as soon as the first product produced at the plant completes its journey through the assembly line, Electrolux gets to take over ownership of the facility, even though the company didn't pay for its construction. There is also nothing in the contract-if the Commercial Appeal's investigation bears any credibility-that would mandate that Electrolux remain in Memphis or in Tennessee for a specified period of time.

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Stick To It

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam would win even more respect from everyday people in this State if he would decide what his positions are and stick to them:

We would guess that Amazon.com has indeed threatened to pull the plug on their proposed Tennessee distribution centers, because-lo and behold-Governor Bill Haslam has changed his mind again. He can call it whatever he might like, and he can warm it over in the political microwave all he wants, but his weeble is wobbling so badly at this point that he appears as though he is about to fall down.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Double Dip?

The Tennessee House and Senate Finance Committees should get ready, we may be in for it:

There are few East Tennesseans who this writer has spoken to who actually believe that we have ever completely recovered from our previous recession, and still more of us who think that the last recession never truly came to an end except in name. The State has a vested interest in whether there is a recession since our revenues at a State and local level are largely gleaned from sales and use taxes. In recent days we have learned that sales tax collections in July were higher than projected-good news for our fiscal health in the short term. If the economy is taking a southward turn, that news is very liable not to last, and the General Assembly will be obliged to adjust State spending accordingly.

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Revenue Is Up

As surprising as it may seem, Tennessee State tax revenue collections increased in July:

As Tennesseans know, our fair State doesn't have an income tax, so we are dependent on consumption taxes for the vast majority of our revenues, and especially on the sales tax. The fact that the State general fund has over-collected by $226 million (that means that $226 million more has been collected in tax than was originally estimated) is a sign that as bad as the economic situation is in Tennessee and elsewhere, it could be worse. Overall, the revenue growth is meager, but it is nonetheless a present reality. The second-and far more important-thing that the revenue numbers tell us is that while Standard and Poor's is threatening to downgrade Tennessee's bond rating, just as it has the federal government, Tennessee is in far better fiscal health than is Washington, and that should be considered when determining what our State's bond rating will be.

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Tuesday, August 09, 2011

In the Crapper

The real reason the Obama Administration is trying to say that Standard and Poor's is somehow wrong is because S&P essentially says we are in the crapper:

In other words, Standard and Poor's essentially believes that the situation in this country is (for lack of any better words to describe it) in the crapper, and that barring a miracle, our debt situation-which is already untenable-is likely to go from the crapper to the sewer line in very short order. Once we move into the economic and fiscal sewer there is no turning back, and without drastic reform of our entitlements system in this country-something S&P says in their report that they doubt we have the political will to accomplish-we have a one-way ticket to an economic version of the world of Mad Max. S&P essentially tells its investors in the that the United States either must drastically cut entitlements, including Social Security and Medicare, or we must very drastically raise taxes, and that the latter would be no cure-all if it induced anymore spending at all.

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Costs Mysteriously Increase With Federal Funds

Does the University of Tennessee really need to increase tuition?:

We often hear people talk about the rising cost of education and say that there is no choice to to engage in these kinds of tuition hikes since the cost of delivery of the educational product has increased so dramatically over the years. However, it has always been more than a bit curious that both tuition and salaries at public universities (and indeed, at most private ones who accept public money) have skyrocketed as the infusion of massive amounts of federal monies in the form Pell Grants, federally-backed student loans, and other federal cash has made its way into the higher education system. Rather than use the funds as they were intended-to keep the cost of education down and make it affordable for the average family-most public universities, including the University of Tennessee, have raised tuition steadily at the same time the federal dollars that were pumped into higher education have increased over the years, according to Dr. Richard K. Vedder of the Independent Institute.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

The Vote Was 59-39

The collective bargaining bill passed amidst a very historic debate indeed:

It was pleasing to see that there was actually a debate in the House Chamber, as opposed to the mere rediculous question-and-answer format that has prevailed by default for years that often makes debate in the General Assembly look like a television quiz show as opposed to a substantive parliamentary body. Yesterday's proceedings produced real debate with passionate pleas from both sides, something Tennesseans should see more of. The debate dragged on for so long, however, that it was limited first to five minutes per speaker, then to two minutes each. House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) bemoaned that debate was being limited at all. Someone should have responded to Fitzhugh with the truth, which was that no one wanted to be at the Capitol until 3:00AM, and that carrying on debate past a certain point would simply act as a cheap Democratic attempt to filibuster the bill when they didn't have the votes to carry out the real thing.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Time to Get Real

Either we can face the music on the national debt now, or we can face it later:

What would happen if the Dollar were no longer the world reserve currency? The debates we are having over raising the national debt limit would be useless, because without that special status the U.S. would go immediately into de jure default. Whether the Dollar maintains that special position is really up to the countries who use it as such, the biggest of which is China. The Chinese are already buying fewer dollars, and other nations are looking into the possibility of using another reserve currency-even creating one if need be. Either we face the music now and get our fiscal house in order, literally by default, or we have a much bigger default and crash later, making the Irish situation look like a cakewalk.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

More State of the State?

So we've heard the first word on the budget. Is there more?:

Rather than assail Haslam for the seeming copycat approach to government that emanates from his address and budget proposal, we should remember, as was said in this space yesterday, that in no way is Haslam's first word the final one on the budget. Last night's speech was also not, we hope, the last we'll hear from the Governor on the whole matter. It would be nice to hear some explanation as to how he believe his fiscal proposition, which he has stated meets the constitutional requirement of balancing the budget, is not the same as, but is in fact superior to the budgets of the Democrat who preceded him in the office he now holds.

Governor Haslam comes to Jefferson County Friday, March 25th to speak at the Jefferson County Republican Party's Lincoln-Reagan Day. Perhaps we'll hear more from him about the deeper principles behind his budget at that address.

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Thursday, March 03, 2011

The Tax Man

Local officials should remember that everyone pays taxes:

One thing that some people need to get out of their head is that there is no such thing in Jefferson County, Tennessee or anywhere else as a "non-taxpayer." Anyone who lives, works, shops, or eats in Jefferson County pays taxes here. Just because you don't own property-and, by the way, this writer does-doesn't mean you don't pay taxes. Did you buy groceries at the Food City this week? You paid Jefferson County taxes. How about eat at the Gondolier? You paid taxes in Jefferson County. Stop at the Dunkin Donuts in the Wilco Hess in White Pine? County Commission is going to get your dime. Pay your property taxes this year? Need I say more?

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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

You Know When It's Real

IN order to change our economic situation, we have to be realistic about it.

The real economic indicator, however, comes when unemployment numbers are examined, and those tell us that one in every seven Tennesseans is without a job. When we include those in that situation who aren't measured in the official statistics because they have dropped off of the unemployment roles, that number likely shrinks to one in every six of our neighbors.

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Foreclosure In Print

Some banking interests in Tennessee want to end the practice of publishing foreclosure notices in the paper. I explain why the reputation of the banking community could take a hit with such a move:

It seems that Tennessee's bankers may have forgotten that since the credit-induced economic depression from which the nation has yet to fully recover struck Tennessee and America, they've developed more than a bit of an image problem.

The reader may say "Oatney, isn't that the fault of the consumers for making irresponsible decisions?" In the end, of course, credit default or foreclosure of property are absolutely the fault of the people who made wrong-headed financial choices. However, large banking and credit interests also made bad choices by willingly extending credit to extremely high risk debtors who would never have gotten any credit at all 20 to 30 years ago and lobbying the government to force small community banks to do the same over the years (and then often buying the bad loans from the small banks when the little man couldn't play the collection game very well). The big boys, after all, could make a ton off of interest! When the house of cards came tumbling down, many of the people who were ultimately responsible for the extension of bad credit to high risks asked the federal government to bail them out.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Quit Playing Pretend

It is time to face the truth about our fiscal situation:

We cannot continue to pretend that we as a nation can go on like this. Many of my liberal friends talk about cuts in government programs having an impact on the most vulnerable people in our society-the elderly, the disabled, and the working poor. These well-meaning folks argue that when cuts have to be made, they will disproportionately impact these groups. As a person with a disability, this writer is acutely aware of the impact that some cuts and reductions in spending will have on vulnerable subsets in our society. However, the election-year rhetoric about old ladies being left to rot and homeless people starving in the streets will go from rhetoric to hard reality under an administration of either political party unless tough decisions are made in very short order. We can either make the cuts we need to make to save ourselves now, or we will become as others, and be forced to make them later.

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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Mr. Speaker Boehner

John Boehner is the Speaker of the U.S. House:

The House is now debating rules that would require some of the highest level of transparency ever known, including making bills available online as soon as they are filed. In a show of the decline of now-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's political capital, 19 Democrats did not vote for her for Speaker, but voted for another member-11 of those votes went to Western North Carolina Congressman-and former Tennessee quarterback-Heath Shuler, one of Pelosi's most vocal opponents inside her own party. Middle Tennessee's Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) was among the Democrats who received an anti-Pelosi protest vote.

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Look Back

Check out my year-end retrospective podcast-it may be the first of two.

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