James Pethokoukis

Politics and policy from inside Washington

Kudlow: WH dismissive of business complaints

Jul 26, 2010 13:47 UTC

From the Great One, Larry Kudlow:

Then there’s the confidence-threatening war between business and the White House, which is also related to the liberal tax revolt. It’s still a battle royale between the nation’s business leaders and the administration over taxes, spending, regulation, and trade.

Treasury man Geithner made lite of this war at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast this week. A Daily Caller headline read: “Geithner Bored by Complaints from Business about Obama Policies.” White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel also doesn’t seem that concerned. In a Wall Street Journal interview with Jerry Seib, Emanuel was a bit more conciliatory about reexamining regulatory issues, but he was still inconclusive.

There are two big things that businesses want right now: One is an across-the-board corporate tax cut, including cash expensing for investment. This is the single most powerful job-creator of all. The other is a senior business executive in one of the key economic policy slots in the White House. Neither of these requests seems to be on the table. But to conclude that the White House is burying the hatchet with business you’d have to see these conditions met.

So far it ain’t happening.


Starting to get boring; big corps want a big tax break, but what have they done to deserve one? They ship out all the jobs to the third world; they have so many loopholes in the tax code that nine-out-of-ten pay miniscual to no tax at all; they continue to spend liberally on lobby groups and advertising (TV news spots included) that somehow make them seem to be victims.

What I would propose in the face of all this propoganda is an offer of a flat-tax/no loophole policy for corporations: 15% (less than half what it is now), no deductions, take it or leave it. My guess is – with no loopholes to exploit – they will leave it and move on to exploit the developing world more fully.

PS: Kudlow is not the Great One; Wayne Gretzky is! Kudlow is a minor thinker who has been too insulated to have a fair taste of reality, but at least he can debate in earnest which is very important for real progress to be made in America. I will say this in Kudlow’s defence he was the first to make Cramer look like the utter buffoon, double-talking hedgie whore that he is. But I digress…

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Bernanke right, Geithner wrong on Bush tax cuts

Jul 26, 2010 13:30 UTC

Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, doesn’t want tax rates to reset higher at the end of this year, even for the rich. The White House and the Treasury think differently. Here’s how an off-the-record Bernanke might try to talk Tim Geithner, the Treasury secretary, around to his point of view.

From:      Ben Bernanke <HelicopterBen@xxxxx.com>

To:          Tim Geithner <ObamaFan2008@xxxxxxx.com>

Subject:   Bush tax cuts

Date:       July 25, 2010

T-Dawg: First, major congrats on getting the financial reform bill passed. Trust me, I don’t want to have to make another late-night trip to Capitol Hill to beg Congress to bail out the banks. (Still worried about TBTF, though.) Man, can that Pelosi give a guy the evil eye! Hope the bill doesn’t cost you that future CEO gig at Goldman! (Totally joking!)

Second, those Bush-era tax cuts that are set to expire. Look, I told Congress  that extending them might help support the fragile economy, while you said they should expire, at least for the rich. And Congress seems on both sides of the issue — of course!

I know you guys are worried about the $1.5 trillion budget deficit. So am I. And I know the president campaigned against extending the tax cuts. But as I told Congress, the economic outlook was “unusually uncertain.” I’d prefer that the few monetary policy bullets I have left stay in the barrel.

So maybe you guys could help with fiscal policy. While letting all the Bush tax cuts expire would help lower the budget deficit by $341 billion over the next two years, it would also be the equivalent of about 3 percent of GDP in fiscal tightening over that period.

Letting rates rise on just the wealthy would be less contractionary, but could still bite. Here’s the thing: Your Treasury economists have found that capital gains taxes, mostly paid by the rich, have a big economic impact. Cutting them could generate enough growth to recoup 50 percent of the lost revenue. And I just ran across a Berkeley study hinting that the tax burden on higher earners may be at the point of diminishing returns. And if you look at history, cutting capital gains taxes is followed by more initial public offerings and more venture capital. That’s all good stuff.  Plus, letting income taxes on the “rich” expire would raise taxes on two-thirds of small business profits.  Just to be on the safe side, maybe we should leave rates alone for the next year or so.

As for the deficit, you probably saw that POTUS’s commission may agree to match every $3 in spending cuts with $1 in tax increases. Getting that sorted out correctly is more important than short-term tax revenue.

Anyhoo, I am wheezing on longer than my Humphrey-Hawkins testimony. Take care and say hi to Summers for me. (Hope he’s not still cranky about my second term!)




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