• Category Archives Special Interests
  • Eliminating the State and Local Tax Deduction Is a Terrible Idea

    The tax “reform” currently being discussed in Washington is mostly a political exercise for politicians who can use the process to extract more campaign contributions from supporters, and punish non-supporters. The actual tax burden imposed on Americans overall will change little.
    The proposed elimination of the deduction for state and local taxes (SALT) is an excellent illustration of how the tax reform is really about playing political games. Forever in pursuit of “revenue neutral” tax reform, the GOP is simply turning to the elimination of the SALT deduction so it can raise federal revenues, and this allows for a tax cut for some other well-heeled special interest group. Using bizarre “logic,” supporters of the deduction’s elimination claim that an increase in the federal tax burden will somehow lower state and local taxes – some day. Why? They imagine that if they raise federal taxes for people in states with high taxes (i.e., California, New York) then the majority of voters in those states will then be clamoring for a cut in state and local taxes. The GOP also relies on the tired claim that that a tax deduction (e.g., the home mortgage interest deduction) “subsidizes” those who claim the exemption. But only in the Orwellian world of Washington doublespeak is a tax break a “subsidy.”

    This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on 11/29/2017.


  • US State Department Admits Plans To Meddle In Hungary’s Democracy

    As we noted last week, hypocrisy may be the only consistent guiding principle of US foreign policy.
    ***
    The Rex Tillerson State Department will pump $700,000 into Hungarian media to remove Viktor Orban.
    TheDuran’s Alex Christoforou writes:
    When another nation state uses media to communicate it’s point of view, its flagged as a foreign agent, a ‘bad actor’, and often declared as an ‘act of war (i.e. RT).
    When the US government uses its petrodollar strength to insert its agenda into another country’s politics it’s branded ‘democracy and human rights programming’.

    This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 25, 2017.


  • Amazon Makes Money Exploiting Honest Merchants

    It’s not enough to lobby. Nor is it enough to buy a newspaper that then has one of its “allegedly honest” writers show up as a speaker at a hard-left political confab the purpose of which is to tilt United States political policy.
    Now we’ve got another report — this one from merchants, and it’s ugly.
    Mike Molson Hart, who sells toys on Amazon.com Inc.’s marketplace, realized earlier this month something was amiss. His company’s popular disc-shaped plastic building set, called Brain Flakes, had dropped precipitously in the ranks of Amazon’s best-selling toys as the critical gift-giving season approached.
    He visited the product page on Amazon.com and suspected he was the victim of “sniping,” when one merchant sabotages another by hiring people to leave critical reviews of their goods and then voting those reviews as being helpful, making them the most prominent feedback seen by shoppers.
    This is a problem trivially solved by Amazon: Do not allow “reviews” from people who haven’t bought the product through the site!

    This post was published at Market-Ticker on 2017-11-24.


  • New Footage From Inside Riyadh Ritz-Carlton Reveals Princes Swapping Assets For Freedom

    A BBC reporter and film crew has gained rare access inside Riyadh’s “gilded cage” – the Ritz-Carlton which became a luxury prison after a dozen or more princes were detained during the shocking events which began with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s (MbS) internal purge on November 4th.
    ***
    BBC’s tour was “facilitated” under highly controlled and coordinated conditions, as initial photographs and short cell phone videos produced during the first few days of the crackdown revealed harsher and more restricted conditions as princes and/or their staff were forced to sleep on the floor camp-style in the middle of the luxury hotel’s lobby.
    According to the new BBC broadcast from inside the Ritz-Carlton, the princes are desperately scrambling to cut deals through their lawyers in order to secure release, this as new unconfirmed reports of torture have emerged:
    When people were brought here around midnight on November 4th they were understandably angry. Some of them thought it would just be a show and it wouldn’t last. And then when they realized they were here to stay they were furious. Almost everyone here – 95% I was told – are willing to make a deal, to give back what are said to be substantial sums of money in order to get out of here.

    This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 24, 2017.


  • Duties Imposed Against Chinese “Dumping” Hurt American Consumers

    For years, special interests have called on the U. S. government to ‘level the playing field’ in the form of duties, levies, and other antiquated measures. Democrats and Republicans alike have aired their grievances over the trade deficit, grumbling about exporters hurting American workers by flooding the market with cheap goods. These complaints are deeply misguided.
    Over the last decade, China has been accused of tilting international trade in its favor. Is this true? No, it is demonstrably false, as Beijing’s subsidized exports greatly benefit American consumers far more than the Chinese population.
    You can’t tell that to the U. S. government, though.
    In late October, the Department of Commerce announced that China dumped aluminum foil on the U. S. market, selling the goods at ‘unfairly low prices.’
    Trade policy under Trump hasn’t been dramatically different from his predecessors, though. Who who monitor trade deals have forgotten about President Barack Obama’s 35% tax on Chinese tires and President George W. Bush’s 20% tax on imported steel.
    US Imposes Anti-Dumping Duties Before Trump’s stop in Beijing as part of his 12-day Asian tour, the U. S. government imposed duties ranging between 96.81% and 162.24% on Chinese aluminum foil. The preliminary report determined that China dumped nearly $400 million worth of aluminum foil imports on the U. S. market in 2016 at very low prices.

    This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on November 16, 2017.


  • Federal Prosecutors Are Running Amok

    It is hard to know where to begin regarding the charges against Paul Manafort, the former campaign director for Donald Trump’s successful presidential bid, but having read the indictments and knowing some background about both the case and the investigation, I cannot say it is exactly a high point of American justice. In fact, when former FBI chief Robert Mueller first was appointed as a special prosecutor to look into the allegations that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia the tilt the election to Trump’s favor, I feared his investigation would turn out to be an assault on the Constitution – and Mueller has done nothing to dispel those fears.
    I have included a link to the actual indictment, and while federal indictments can be a bit mind-numbing to read, nonetheless I have found nothing in it that relates to the original reason the Mueller probe was created: alleged Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. Instead, it is clear that Mueller engaged in a legal ‘fishing expedition’ against Manafort and found evidence of tax evasion involving income that Manafort made while serving as a lobbyist for the government of Ukraine.
    The criminal charges themselves clearly don’t match up to the original purpose of the investigation. Writes Judge Andrew Napolitano:
    Both were accused of working as foreign agents and failing to report that status to the federal government, using shell corporations to launder income and obstruction of justice by lying to the federal government.

    This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on November 13, 2017.


  • Stocks and Precious Metals Charts – The Yellow Sign

    “In reality, though, it was never about us and our economy at all. Today it is obvious that all of this had only one rationale: to raise up a class of supermen above us. It had nothing to do with jobs or growth. Or freedom either. The only person’s freedom to be enhanced by these tax havens was the billionaire’s freedom. It was all to make his life even better, not ours…
    We endure potholes and live in fear of collapsing highway bridges because our leaders wanted these very special people to have an even larger second yacht. Our kids sit in overcrowded classrooms in underfunded schools so that a handful of exalted individuals can relax on their own private beach.
    Today it is these same golden figures with their offshore billions who host the fundraisers, hire the lobbyists, bankroll the think tanks and subsidize the artists and intellectuals.
    This is their democracy today. We just happen to live in it.”
    Thomas Frank, We Built a Paradise For Offshore Billionaires
    “I opened the box. On the pink cotton inside lay a clasp of black onyx, on which was inlaid a curious symbol or letter in gold. It was neither Arabic nor Chinese, nor as I found afterwards did it belong to any human script.”
    Robert W. Chambers, The Yellow Sign
    As the commentators on Bloomberg TV noted, someone literally dumped a $4 billion block trade at market in the gold futures shortly before noon. And as one would assume with such an obvious and clumsy bludgeoning, it knocked the wind out of the price down to the mid-70s. Oops?

    This post was published at Jesses Crossroads Cafe on 10 NOVEMBER 2017.


  • North Korean Propaganda On Trump: ‘Garbage That Reeks Of Gunpowder To Ignite War’

    After North Koreans heard from their state-run media (propaganda) that Donald Trump had said some harsh things about life in the isolated nation, they fired back. And many believe Trump will ‘ignite a war’ between the United States and their own country.
    In a speech on Wednesday, President Trump called the isolated communist country ‘a hell that no person deserves.’
    But the rebuttal from North Koreans was equally harsh. One woman, who CNN spoke to on the streets of Pyongyang called Trump’s assertion ‘foolish,’ ‘absurd,’ and another word CNN claims they cannot print. ‘The reality here is very different. We’re leading a happy life,’ Ri Yong Hui, a housewife in Pyongyang, told CNN.
    North Korean state media reported that Trump had spoken on Thursday, but did not include concrete details of his speech, in which the President slammed Pyongyang’s human rights abuses.

    This post was published at shtfplan on November 9th, 2017.


  • US Gross National Debt Spikes by $640 billion in 8 Weeks

    But the debt-ceiling charade is back.
    The debt ceiling charade being played out every few years in Congress makes the entire world shake its collective head and pray that Congress will for the umpteenth time raise the dang thing or at least ‘suspend’ it. The other option is a US default, the global consequences of which are too ugly to imagine, even for Congress.
    In its infinite wisdom, Congress didn’t raise the debt ceiling in September; it only suspended it through December 8, after which the horse-trading will start all over again. But Congress is busy listening to lobbyists about the tax cuts – who gets them and who pays for them – and the debt ceiling isn’t even on the back burner. So here we go again.
    But this charade has some peculiar effects, beyond its entertainment value: For months on end, it covers up the true extent of US government debt, and its continued surge. Then suddenly, the floodgates open.
    Over just these six years, the debt has ballooned by $5.7 trillion, or by 39%, from $14.8 trillion to $20.5 trillion. In the chart below, note the last three debt-ceiling fights, the long flat lines in 2013, 2015, and 2017, followed each time by an enormous spike when the debt ceiling was lifted or suspended, and when the ‘extraordinary measures’ with which the Treasury keeps the government afloat were reversed.

    This post was published at Wolf Street by Wolf Richter ‘ Nov 4, 2017.


  • “Did He Wear A Wire?”: Former Trump Campaign Aide Pleads Guilty To Lying To FBI

    Update: Papadopoulos’s attorney has weighed in…
    * * *
    In addition to the news that former Trump campaign executive Paul Manafort and his longtime deputy, Rick Gates, have been indicted on 12 counts including tax fraud, money laundering, failing to register as a lobbyist for a foreign country, and conspiring against the US, unsealed court documents have revealed that former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty on Oct. 5 to making false statements to the FBI.
    Noting that the Russian government often uses foreign intermediaries to accomplish its foreign policy goals, the FBI said it investigated Papadopoulos, who served as a foreign adviser for the Trump campaign starting on March 2016 and continuing through most of the campaign, for any such contacts. This investigation included an interview in January 2017. According to the indictment, there is probable cause to believe that on Jan. 27, Papadopoulos made material false statements and omitted material facts to the FBI regarding his interactions during the campaign with foreign contacts, including Russian nationals.
    Specifically, Prosecutors charged Papadopolous with lying to investigators and that he falsely described his interactions with a certain foreign contact, identified as a professor, who discussed “dirt” related to emails concering then-presiential candidate Hillary Clinton, when in fact, he had repeated communications with that contact while serving as an adviser on the campaign. Papadopoulos allegedly told the FBI that those conversations happened before he joined the campaign, statements rebutted by the Justice Department’s timeline.

    This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 30, 2017.


  • UK PMs Push Back As Regulators “Bend The Rules” To Accommodate Saudi Aramco IPO

    All IPO’d up and no place to go? UK portfolio managers with $6.9 trillion resist rule bending by regulator to achieve Aramco London listing

    Another potential problem for the world’s biggest ever (potential) IPO…
    A lobby group representing UK portfolio managers with $6.9 trillion AUM has warned the UK financial regulator that bending the rules to accommodate Aramco’s IPO will damage London’s status as a global financial centre.
    In a letter to the head of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the embattled Andrew Bailey, the Investment Association (IA) argued that it threatened the ‘high standards’ of London’s listing regime.
    In ‘Funds fire broadside over Saudi oil float’, the Sunday Times noted that ‘Britain’s largest investors have turned up the heat on the City watchdog over its controversial plans to allow Saudi Arabia’s oil giant to float in London.’
    Besides the tricky issue of its oil and gas reserves (especially the Ghawar field), the IA argued in the letter that ‘For the premium segment of the UK main market, investors must have confidence that a company is run for all shareholders, not just the major or controlling shareholder.’

    This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 17, 2017.


  • Finally Belgium Speaks Out Against Spanish Oppression

    The Belgium Prime minister Charles Michel has come out against Spain and now other European leaders applaud him for taking a position against the repressive action by Spain’s Civil Guard and National Police despite the fact that those in Brussels remain silent because they care only about their own jobs. Brussels has been silent fearing others will rise up as separatists against their rule. So Brussels has demonstrated to the world that human rights come second to self-interest. This oppression in Spain has done far more damage to the EU than most people realize. Their silence has been taken as proof that they too would resort to violence to protect their jobs as well.

    This post was published at Armstrong Economics on Oct 16, 2017.


  • Nightstick Democracy at its finest…

    The last several days in Venezuela have been absolutely mind-blowing.
    Pretty much all the stories you’ve heard are true – countless people eating out of garbage cans, the appalling shortages of basic staples like food, medicine, and even soap… and the lines.
    Oh boy, the lines.
    The longest lines I saw, in fact, were not at grocery stores, but at banks.
    Hundreds of people were queuing up, many of them to pull money out of their accounts to exchange cash on the black market.
    Lines snaked through a bank’s cavernously large lobby, continued outside, wrapped around the entire building, and terminated at some point down the street.

    This post was published at Sovereign Man on October 3, 2017.


  • Behind Vancouver’s Housing Bubble: How Canadian Casinos Are Use To Launder Millions In Chinese Drug Money

    Nearly two years after we first observed that Vancouver‘s soaring real estate market is nothing but a bubbling melange of criminal Chinese oligarch “hot money”, desperate to get parked offshore in any piece of real estate, but mostly in British Columbia regardless of price, a new multi-year investigation has uncovered extensive links – including money laundering and underground banking – between China’s criminal underworld and British Columbia drug and casino cash and VIPs, as well as their connections to China, Macau and the notorious triads.
    In retrospect, and as many suspected, it appears that much of the B. C. real estate bubble can be explained as nothing more than the “layering” and “integration” aspect of a giant money laundering scheme involving billions of dollars of Chinese hot money and the criminals behind it.
    Here is Postmedia’s real estate reporter Sam Cooper reporting on and explaining how British Columbia casinos are used to launder millions in drug cash.
    * * *
    On Oct. 15, 2015, a Mountie burst through the front door of an office in Richmond, carrying a battering ram and with a rifle slung on his back. The door swung shut behind him, locking him inside. He was in the lobby of Silver International Investment, a high-end money transfer business, surrounded by bulletproof glass. Behind a second glass door, a woman rushed to make a call while hiding several cellphones. Under her desk was a safe stuffed with bundles of cash. The Mountie, a large man, counted seconds anxiously, wondering if the woman would unlock the interior door.

    This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 1, 2017.


  • Surprise! The Rules Will Change (But Not to Your Benefit)

    These expedient fixes end up crippling the mechanisms that are needed to actually solve the systemic sources of the crisis.
    We can add a third certainty to the two standard ones (death and taxes): The rules will suddenly change when a financial crisis strikes.</em
    Why is this a certainty? The answer is complex, as it draws on human nature, politics and the structure of societies/economies ruled by centralized states (governments).
    The Core Imperative of the State: Expand Control
    As I explain in my book, Resistance, Revolution, Liberation, the core (i.e. ontological) imperative of every central state is to expand its reach and control. This isn’t just the result of individuals within the state seeking more power; every centralized state views whatever is outside its control as a threat. The way to reduce or neutralize a threat is to take control of the mechanisms that generated it.
    Once the state has gained control of these mechanisms, it is loath to relinquish them; to relinquish control is to invite chaos.
    There is of course an intensely self-serving dynamic to extending state control: those being paid to enforce this state control have an immense vested interest in the state retaining (or even extending) this control, as their livelihoods now depend on the state doing so.
    The higher-ups in the state also have a vested interest in retaining these new controls, as more control means more wealth and power accrue to those at the top of the centralized power pyramid: this extension of state control means private enterprise must now lobby the state for favors, and it gives the higher-ups more perquisites and favors to dispense – for a price, of course.
    This vested interest arises throughout the power pyramid, from the bottom functionary with newfound power over common citizens to the managers of the departmental bureaucracy tasked with enforcing the new control to the apex of state authority.
    This hierarchy of state power creates another threat to the central state; the corralling of state power by fiefdoms within the state itself. In other words, fiefdoms can become semi-autonomous agencies that are only nominally under the control of central authority. The answer is of course additional layers of oversight, compliance, investigation and enforcement within the state itself.

    This post was published at Charles Hugh Smith by Charles Hugh Smith.


  • Exposing The Slimy Business Of ‘Russia-Gate’ (What The Mainstream Media Doesn’t Want You To Know)

    As the U. S. government doles out tens of millions of dollars to ‘combat Russian propaganda’, one result is a slew of new ‘studies’ by ‘scholars’ and ‘researchers’ auditioning for the loot…
    ***
    The ‘Field of Dreams’ slogan for America’s NGOs should be: ‘If you pay for it, we will come.’
    And right now, tens of millions of dollars are flowing to non-governmental organizations if they will buttress the thesis of Russian ‘meddling’ in the U. S. democratic process no matter how sloppy the ‘research’ or how absurd the ‘findings.’

    This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 29, 2017.


  • Stocks and Precious Metals Charts – The Big Banks Cometh

    “While the largest banks can correctly claim that they have offloaded risky assets and bolstered the amount of cash on their balance sheets over the last decade, their business model has become fundamentally disconnected from the very people and entities it was designed to serve. Small community banks, which make up only 13 percent of all banking assets, do nearly half of all lending to small businesses.
    Big banks are about deal making. They serve mostly themselves, existing as the middle of the hourglass that is our economy, charging whatever rent they like for others to pass through. (Finance is one of the few industries in which fees have gone up as the sector as a whole has grown.) The financial industry, dominated by the biggest banks, provides only 4 percent of all jobs in the country, yet takes about a quarter of the corporate profit pie.”
    Rana Foroohar, How Big Banks Became Our Masters, NYT
    Why doesn’t Washington reign in the obvious excesses and blatant frauds and abuses of the Big Banks? I will let you answer that one for yourself.
    The Dollar rally and a ‘risk on’ attitude continued to pressure the precious metals today.
    Trump and crew have unveiled their tax ‘reform’ plan’s framework. It will be interesting to see how their latest legislative effort actually unfolds. The special interests and Big Money are preparing to storm the swamp.

    This post was published at Jesses Crossroads Cafe on 27 SEPTEMBER 2017.


  • The EU Needs A Three-Child Policy – And China Should Pay For It!

    Authored by Andrew Korybko via Oriental Review,
    The EU’s policy of ‘replacement migration’ is an economic failure and threatens to undermine China’s New Silk Road strategy for Europe by diminishing the continent’s much-needed consumer market potential, which should thereby serve as an impetus for Beijing to consider investing in social programs there as a means of encouraging replacement fertility for the EU’s citizens.
    The Roots Of ‘Replacement Migration’
    The EU’s liberal-progressive ruling elite aided and abetted the Migrant Crisis as a means of encouraging ‘replacement migration’ to compensate for their falling populations, naively believing in the dogma of their bloc’s de-facto ‘Cultural Marxist’ ideology that civilizationally dissimilar migrants will seamlessly adapt to their new host societies and quickly become productive citizens. They expected that the relatively impoverished and in many cases largely uneducated ‘New Europeans’ from Africa, the Mideast, and South Asia who have uncontrollably flooded into Europe would have no problem climbing the ladder of socio-economic success in one day replacing their dying European counterparts in all professional spheres.
    It should also be reminded in this vein that these ‘New Europeans’ didn’t just appear out of nowhere, but are the product of the unipolar wars that created them in the first place and the NGO-assisted human trafficking networks that then imported these ‘Weapons of Mass Migration’ to Europe, both activities of which the EU elite have been complicit in. As could have been anticipated by any objective observer not under the influence of ‘Cultural Marxism’, this irresponsible multi-layered policy has totally failed in its presumed economic intentions, though it’s cynically succeeded in planting the seeds for a massive socio-cultural reengineering of some leading European countries’ demographics.

    This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 25, 2017.


  • Is Identity Politics Brewing a Holocaust?

    Signs of American collapse are everywhere. Apparently no one notices. The world continues to vote with the US in the UN. When even Russia and China serve as handmaidens to US foreign policy by voting with Washington against North Korea, it appears that the image of America as the exceptional and indispensable country is a propaganda success even among Washington’s most threatened enemies. When Russia and China follow Washington’s lead, it shows the world that there is no alternative to Washington’s leadership.
    A country with a $20 trillion public debt, an even larger private debt, a work force drowning in debt and employed in third world lowly paid domestic services, a stock market pumped up beyond all reason by Federal Reserve liquidity and companies using their profits to repurchase their own stock, a military that’s been tied down for 16 years by a few lightly armed Muslims, a propaganda ministry instead of a media with public ignorance the consequence, and with a total collapse of morality in public and private institutions along with the disappearance of courage, is nevertheless able to make the entire world dance to its tune. Washington is the Wizard of Oz.
    Washington in the past 16 years has destroyed in whole or part seven countries, murdering, maiming, orphaning, widowing, and displacing millions of peoples. Yet Washington still presents itself as the great defender of human rights, democracy, and all that is good. The American people have voiced few words of protest against the massive crimes against humanity committed by ‘their’ government.

    This post was published at Paul Craig Roberts on September 20, 2017.


  • Global Stocks Storm To New Record High Ahead Of Historic Fed Announcement

    Last week’s bullish sentiment that sent the S&P not only to a new all time highs, but a burst of last-second buying pushed above 2,500 for the first time ever, has carried through to the new week, with European and Asian shares rallying across the board, US futures again the green, and world stocks hitting a new record high on Monday ahead of a historic Fed meeting in which the FOMC is expected to announce the start of the shrinkage of its balance sheet.
    ***
    ‘The FOMC’s latest verdict will be of special interest,’ said Daniel Lenz, an analyst at DZ Bank in Frankfurt. ‘The Fed could well set the balance-sheet-reduction process in motion.’
    MSCI’s index of world stocks hit a new all-time high, adding to gains seen on Friday when Wall Street set its own record level, while Europe’s main stock index opened at a six-week high on Monday and MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares ex-Japan rose to heights not seen since late 2007.
    As DB’s Jim Reid summarizes the week’s key events, this week will be dominated by 3 of the most powerful women in the world “and I’m not talking about Daenerys Targaryen, Cersei Lannister and Sansa Stark. Instead we have our real world version with Mrs Yellen likely to announce the end of Fed reinvestment on Wednesday, Mrs Merkel firm favourite with the pollsters to see a big election win on Sunday and Mrs May set to outline her latest Brexit vision in Florence on Friday. Of the three, Mrs May’s speech is currently the least predictable but after a big week for the UK last week (GBPUSD +2.98%, GBPEUR +3.75%, 10yr Gilts +32bps, and the November hike probability from 18.4% to 64.5% according to Bloomberg’s calculator), Sterling assets are seeing some significant volatility at the moment.”

    This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 18, 2017.