Friday, December 28, 2012

Better living from the IRS

The Ukraine has a long history of getting stomped on, abused, and put through unspeakable suffering. How are they doing these days?

Those spice blue eyes of the original human Barbie - now on her way to a mall opening near you (or not )-  hold more misery than the director's cut of Dune.

Which reminds me of a song - a song that poses the eternal question : Whiny or pretentious?

Sorry for the Polish subtitles - I couldn't find a Ukrainian, or even a Hungarian Horntail. But the Ukraine is hardly the only part of the world with suffering. The real question today is : How do we deal with the suffering of others?

There are a lot of approaches. Think kindly thoughts, but only act when it's in your face is a common one, usually effective as far as it goes, which is about the end of your nose. Another is political action. You know how to do that, & it's not really so difficult, although it certainly has risks. Another is to decide what's important to you, and join in the effort.

Here, for once, there's an  answer.  The IRS will help you find people of like mind, in your area, who are doing something. There are over a million active organizations - and half a million whose exemption has been revoked for nonfiling, so you can probably find a ton within an easy walk. Or,you can go the other way. Hear about a likely organization - say Ducks Unlimited - well, the IRS will tell you where they're headquartered whether they have a valid exemption, and if it has been revoked. (If you're just looking to give to a charity, something like Charity Navigator is useful too, but not as good if you're looking to find the nearest monastic historical society where you can go to weekly meetings and wear hairshirts in public)

The IRS does not post the annual filings on its website, although they are public information. Still, not a problem. There are various databases that collect this stuff. One easy way is to go to the home state AG. In Massachusetts, for example, it would be easier if you have a TIFF viewer, since the AGs office has switched to that annoying file type. Ducks Unlimited raises money in the Commonwealth, so there are hundreds of pages of documents and audited financials that tell you how they take in $150,000,000 per year, and how they spend it.

Looking for something cosier? How about the Boylston Chess Club? Alas, they had their 501(c)(7) exemption revoked. The name search at the IRS looks for an any word match, so otter gives 406 results. Fortunately, the Sea Otter Foundation of Yarmouth, Maine is near the top, so we can close with a bit of squee -

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Survivors of 2012

It's been about 10 years since I first heard of Dead Pools. They seemed like a pretty safe wager (either you win, or your team lives) so I did some research & entered one. Happily, most years I've finished near the bottom. It's time to congratulate some of the mainstays over the years, people who beat diseases, turned their lives around, or just plain hung on through sheer cussedness.

Annette Funicello has had MS for 20 years. It started soon after she did ads for Skippy peanut butter. It's gotten worse, of course.

Correlation, causation - whatever. I stay away from Skippy.

Tommy Morrison is a former WBO heavyweight champion who retired after testing postive for HIV in 1996. Morrison was a BSer from an early age, as well as being absurdly tough. He made a comeback in boxing a few years ago, apparently after faking blood tests. He hangs on from when boxing was big & HIV meant death,  because BS backed by real toughness never goes out of style.

Jan Michael Vincent went from pretty boy to tough guy to Hollywood washout with more dedication than even Nick Nolte. After failing to kill himself with motorcycles, alcohol, and who knows what else, his roles ran out 10 years ago and he retired to Mississippi.

Michael Douglas is here to remind us never to believe anything we read in a paper, and certainly not in a blog like this.
Congratulations also to Michael J Fox, Ralphie May, Ethan Zohn, Muhammed Ali, Ted Johnson, Benny the Rat & Aretha Franklin. If you have any can't miss picks for 2013, please leave them in the comments, or stop by Hobies & join the fun. 6 days left to enter.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Keeping up with the Ohlemacher

There are good ways to use numbers to explain things. Tables*, charts and online calculators** are all well known. Changes in tax law need them.

Then there's the AP way : Throw a bunch of numbers in at random points in a narrative to make it confusing, like Stephen Ohlemacher did this weekend.

The basic story is fairly interesting : Since the IRS has been told repeatedly : Don't worry, things will change, they haven't sent out new withholding tables.

Social Security payroll taxes are set to increase on Jan. 1, so workers should immediately feel the squeeze of a 2 percent cut in their take-home pay. But as talks drag on over how to address other year-end tax increases, the Internal Revenue Service has delayed releasing income tax withholding tables for 2013.
As a result, employers are planning to withhold income taxes at the 2012 rates, at least for the first one or two paychecks of the year, said Michael O'Toole of the American Payroll Association.

Clear enough, yes? A side point that this means the Fiscal Cliff is an even gentler slope than you probably realized, and this would be a useful squib. Alas, however, it's a Big Story, which means 17 more paragraphs of increasing pointlessness.

The tax increases could be steep. If Congress fails to act, workers at every income level face significant tax increases next year as part of the year-end "fiscal cliff."
A taxpayer making between $50,000 and $75,000 would get an average tax increase of $2,400, according to the Tax Policy Center, a Washington research group. If the worker is paid every two weeks, that's about $92 a paycheck, on average.
Someone making between $75,000 and $100,000 would get a tax increase averaging nearly $3,700. If the worker is paid every two weeks, that's about $142 a paycheck.

Feeling stupider? It's working.

There's one fun bit along the way:

In addition, dozens of other tax breaks for businesses and individuals that are routinely renewed each year already expired at the end of 2011. Congress was expected to renew many of them by January, so taxpayers could still claim them on their 2012 tax returns.

Read it over a couple times, and it just gets crazier. This one we can't blame on Ohlemacher : He's clearly stated the actual situation. The year is likely to end, and tax law will be retroactively changed. The biggest provision is the annual AMT patch. Since it isn't indexed to inflation, there is $92,000,000,000 at stake for 2012.

*Forbes laid out the tables nicely last month
Scenario 1: Tax cuts under the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for all
RateSingle FilersMarried Joint FilersHead of Household Filers
10%$0 to $8,950$0 to $17,900$0 to $12,750
15%$8,950 to $36,250$17,900 to $72,500$12,750 to $48,600
25%$36,250 to $87,850$72,500 to $146,400$48,600 to $125,450
28%$87,850 to $183,250$146,400 to $223,050$125,450 to $203,150
33%$183,250 to $398,350$223,050 to $398,350$203,150 to $398,350
35%$398,350 and up$398,350 and up$398,350 and up
Scenario 2: Tax brackets under the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts for all
RateSingle FilersMarried Joint FilersHead of Household Filers
15%$0 to $36,250$0 to $60,550$0 to $48,600
28%$36,250 to $87,850$60,550 to $146,400$48,600 to $125,450
31%$87,850 to $183,250$146,400 to $223,050$125,450 to $203,150
36%$183,250 to $398,350$223,050 to $398,350$203,150 to $398,350
39.60%$398,350and up
Which means a tax increase basically of $450+ 3% of your excess over the top of the 15% bracket, a bit more if you make over $200,000 taxable. There are also various credits, the AMT, the possible reversion of dividends to ordinary, the increase o fhte capital gain rate to 20%. the expansion of the Medicare tax.... Well, there's a lot of details.

**Bankrate has a simple calculator

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

We Can't Have Nice Things

Sure, US exceptionalism means we can't have security from violence, a low prison population, well fed children or universal health care, but what about physical projects?

In the 40 years since Apollo, what neat public stuff has the US built? I can't think of anything major. Sure, there are a lot of big projects (Aswan High Dam) that would have been better not getting started, but let's take a look at some good ones:

Bullet trains
Even India has them.

London Eye

(We have Coney Island & used to have the Jersey Shore)

Dubai City:

This is like a giant version of Las Vegas. Maybe not so great.

In any event, I'm just trying to point out a contradiction. The more we insist on Private Sector Rulez! Gummint fails, the less hope we have of doing anything really special.

And I want special, not more eyesores.

At last, a Church that GOD won't touch!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

If you have something nasty to say...

I need to hear it.

This is post #189 on this blog. Every now & then I produce a real lemon*.

Only twice has anybody mentioned this. Once I wrote a post about Them when it should have been about Us. Someone got upset. I don't know if the rewrite is good, but I'm damn sure it's better.  My last post was just a mess, and needed a straightforward cleanup.

So seriously : what other ones in this work need Edit: Stat??

*At least worse than usual. If it's time to just surrender, say so.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ohlemacher does Steno

On a day the Chronicle of Higher Education did a salary survey , finding 36 private (non-profit) college presidents making over a million last year, the Asspress excreted an atrocity that will have to bump it. Sorry, Bob Kerrey! Your $3 million pay will be the story another day.

Stephen Ohlemacher has done it again. Every easily refuted chestnut about tax hikes and small business you ever heard, taken down with a breathless stenography worthy of Paula Broadwell.

I could stop here, but why not sear your eyeballs with the gory details? Let's roll:

President Barack Obama's plan to increase taxes on top earners would have only a small impact on the nation's economy, according to congressional budget experts. But don't tell that to small business owners facing a tax hike.
Obama's proposal would hit about 940,000 people who report business income on their individual or household returns, says the Joint Committee on Taxation, the official scorekeeper for Congress. That's only 3.5 percent of the people who report business income, but those business owners are projected to earn 53 percent of the $1.3 trillion in business income that will be reported on individual returns next year.
That, Republicans in Congress argue, makes those business owners an important engine for economic growth and job creation.
They recite it as gospel: Paying higher taxes will reduce the amount of profits business owners would otherwise re-invest in their companies, making them less likely to expand and hire more workers. Many economists agree that tax increases in general limit economic growth. But there are big disagreements about magnitude - how much relatively small changes in the top two income tax rates would affect the economy and job creation.

First some stuff that, if read closely, confirms income concentration. Nice start, but the Secret Language of Newspapers is already getting in the way. Then he gets into "Many economists".
Strip out the he said/she said - as Ohlemacher doesn't even try - and you find that there is no evidence that a change in the top tax rate will affect anything. Nada, zip, squat. Ohlemacher more or less concedes this - with an estimate that the effect will be 1/14th  of the total if everything bounces back. A litttle later, Ohlemacher moves into the shallow end of tax policy:

Qualified dividends, which are now taxed at a top rate of 15 percent, would be taxed as ordinary income for top earners, or at a top rate of 39.6 percent.
That, some business owners complain, would leave them with less money to hire new workers or keep the ones they have.
"We're trying to encourage people to go out and hire and take risks," said Brian Reardon, executive director of the S Corporation Association. "If you are reducing the marginal value, you are reducing the incentives for folks to take that risk."
An S corporations is a common business structure in which profits flow directly to shareholders who report the income on their individual tax returns.
Business owners note that they often pay taxes on profits they don't necessarily receive. For example, if you borrow money to start or expand your business, you can use some of your profits to repay the loan, but only the interest portion of the loan payment is tax deductible.
When business owners use profits to buy new equipment or make other upgrades, it often takes several years to write off the cost of those upgrades, depending on depreciation rules.

This sounds like it follows smoothly, but actually takes some sharp bends. Dividend tax rates are utterly irrelevant to S-Corporations. Their distributive share is taxed based on the underlying income, and owner/officers are paid taxable/deductible salaries similar to other employees. One thing about S-Corps: They have a unique loophole in Medicare taxes. Unless it's paid in salary, the owners income is not subject to FICA or Medicare tax. There was some noise about this earlier this year when Newt Gingrich's tas returns came out. There have been several attempts to close this loophole, but it seems the S-Corpation Association is bulletproof. It even survived the new Medicare surtax untouched.

This stuff about startup expenses is 100% hooey. Sure, the expenses you incur before you start a business are amortized undet Sec. 197 over the first 15 years of the business. How are you going to earn over $400,000 in a business you haven't even started?

Now we get to the stenography.

Dan McGregor, chairman of McGregor Metalworking Companies in Springfield, Ohio, said he and the other six shareholders in the business are looking at a tax increase of $250,000 to $300,000 next year under Obama's plan.
Under Obama's plan to increase the top two income tax rates, a taxpayer would have to have an income of around $4 million - depending on how it's structured - to face a tax increase of $250,000.
McGregor's company, which has 365 employees at five locations, does about $80 million a year in sales, McGregor said. Each year, a portion of the profits are distributed to shareholders, along with money to pay taxes. The rest, he said, is invested back into the company.
If taxes go up, distributions to shareholders must go up to pay the higher taxes, leaving less money to reinvest in the business, McGregor said.
"I feel a $40,000 reduction is the loss of one job, so if it's a $200,000 tax increase, that's five jobs," McGregor said.

First, for an S-Corporation, 3% is the increase - we covered the Medicare surtax loophole already. So that tax increase implies profits of about $9,000,000, or $25,000 per employee. That's profits - because all the shareholders/officers salaries are deductions. So he's saying he could afford to give everybody in the company a $25,000 raise! But he won't, because it's more important that the McGregor family each gets their million bucks a head distribution. It's a very old company. If they need more capital to expand, they can raise or borrow it. Also, accelerated depreciation means that if they really were plowing everything back in, the deductions would pile up.

Is this one of those places where things are so expensive that a million bucks a year is just getting by?

In Springfield, the median house price is under $60,000.

We've all heard about these "typical small businessmen" who turn out to be spokesmen for some wingnut front group. Is Dan McGregor? Hard to tell right now. I will note that he seems to be in charge of something called "Christian Mentoring"

Not sure what that has to do with this other Christ, who said:

Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys."

(of the Hibbing Zimmermenschen. Heh indeedy)

Monday, December 10, 2012

30,000 Pageviews Ho-Hum

With a moderate amount of posting and a big step-up in marketing, the RuN has reached 30,000 pageviews a bit ahead of schedule.

Thanks as always to Kate Beckinsale, Balloon-Juice open threads, Roger Ailes, Susan of Texas, and those Krazy Kids on the University of California Board of Regents.

Let's review our missions:

Fighting the increase in University costs.
Preparing for the end of the cheap energy age.
Warning uselessly of environmental collapse.
Providing a few laughs & a lot of breasts.

Hokay...0.5 for 4.

soooo. Wonder Woman movie. Why?

Nice suit. But who is she in 2012?

Anyhow, I have a new candidate :

Sunday, December 09, 2012

AssDeans are Asses : Film at 11

One important thing to remember about having too many administrators : The more there are, the more time they have to do really stupid stuff.

UC has come up with a new logo for their system.

Not sure who stared at that annoyed loading circle, and instead of muttering profanity like everybody else thought : Let's steal this!

Opposition was immediate. A petition is up.

The reviews are in:

It looks like a flushing toilet.
The logo fails because its embodies an abstraction on top of an abstraction. One layer of abstraction is sufficient.

There are some efforts thrown in to explain the difference between a logo & a seal, and to note the the seal remains the same. They fail, because the logo sucks.
 I found a better one:

Anyhow, this all reminds me of when NBC pulled the same stunt.

That was 36 years ago, and the logo wasn't as bad. It just cost NBC $600,000 to develop & a million to buy off NETV. People still remember.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Dead Zones

One of the quiet nightmares of the last 50 years has been the growth of ocean dead zones as a result (mostly) of nutrient runoff. A cycle starts that ends up with rot on the bottom and no oxygen in the water.

You know where this is going : Michigan. Not the lakes - although the Great Lakes have more than their share of problems.

The cultural dead zone : The Suburbs .
How did Michigan, of all places, get to a point where the elected government could stage a coup against their people and institute right-to-work evil? Because so many of them know absolutely nothing of labor history. From the Pullman riots to the relative peace of 1945-1970 was a long, sometimes bloody struggle.

And the history of it was just vanished. The plutocrats stood aside for a generation, while pumping out reams of propaganda. The means of transmission of folk history vanished with the public spaces and places where teens could interact with elders. Places that were systematically excluded from the antiseptic residential monocultures planted in the Auto Age. By 1980, peoples heads had been emptied enough that the White Folks litany could be pumped into a vacuum. The Class War was on, in secret. Victory has been complete. Even 30 years ago, could someone as clueless & odious as Willard Mitt Romney, with his constant denigrating of most of the population, his history of corporate evil, and his sheer cluelessness been allowed anywhere near a nomination? Maybe, but the stories that he ran on - the moochers, dependent, winks, nods, dog whistles & fables - would have at least drawn derision. Now? we are cursed with Very Serious People, who appear to have been raised in jars & don't even have scruples to lose to become pundits.

Corporate profits as a share of national income in red, wages in blue. See any improvement since 2009? This chart is almost enough to turn an O-Bot into a Firebagger. In any event, it's a call to action:

Wake up, and start knitting, all you zombies out there!

Also, too : The rest of the country, walking quietly down the chute.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

5 Dead in Boston

There have been 5 people killed riding their bikes in Boston in 2012, all in the last 6 months.

The latest was today. A 23 year old was moving too fast to avoid a truck making a right turn from the left lane.

In November, a 28 year old was hit by a bus.
In September, a woman was hit by a truck.
A bit before her, an older man hit by a pickup truck was the only case this year where the driver has been charged.

A woman was hit by a bus in June :

They all seem to have come to Boston from far away - Taiwan, Ireland, Seattle. One of them - the oldest - never seems to appear in the story of his death. He has a name & an age, but nothing of his life was in the dozens of stories I searched.

Statistically, it's getting a bit safer to bike. More and more bikes, about the same number of accidents. If there is a point to this post, it's Slow Down.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Like I said, I'm usually hungry*

Before** Star Trek, there was a show with the exact same characters: Gunsmoke.

None of those are the characters with which we are concerned today. Today, we explore a man's man, Quint - the Worf of his day:

In 20 years, Gunsmoke changed with the times. A lot. The early black & white shorts were violent & hard. Later they went to color, got longer, got sillier. Quint was in the transition. Indians as the Enemy were stale by the early 60s, so the half breed Comanche got to be sympathetic, while dealing with the dopey kid of the week. (Gunsmoke villains were either hardened scumbags or dopey kids)

So maybe not the most interesting character. That would be Miss Kitty. How did they keep up the euphemism for 20 years about what was going on upstairs at the Long Branch?

I dunno. This is making no sense. Now we're all in a stupid fight about how to pronounce Zauberberg.

Avengers assemble!

*Which is not good for coherence. Bear with us.

**Also during & after - it ran 20 years

& if that made sense, hah!

Saturday, December 01, 2012

The REal Story of the New Member of the Nuclear Club

By now you know that the graph the AP ran proving that Iran was developing a bomb was not quite the threat it was presented to be. What my team of crack investigators and an undercover operative  has discovered is that this was a distraction planted by another country that is about to unviel their own weapons.

We would be happy to reveal everything. Unfortunately, we have incurred some expenses, so there will be a payment needed. You know the price.