HONG KONG -- We read about famous people like French film star Gerard Depardieu, who moved to Belgium to avoid a 75 percent income tax on millionaires proposed by France's Socialist government (a measure rejected last week by a French council, though French leadership has vowed to resubmit a similar proposal). Then there is Eduardo Saverin, who took the extreme step of giving up his U.S. citizenship and could see a savings of $39 million on his Facebook investment, according to the research firm Wealth-X. He says business reasons, rather than high taxes, were his primary motivation.
I had read about financially motivated expatriates but never knew one who had taken the ultimate step until I visited with my longtime friend "Sam" (I'm withholding his real name to protect his current employment). Sam works for a large investment firm. He has lived here for the last 25 years.
President Obama will kick off the new year the same way that he kicked off the old year: by demanding that the wealthy pay their "fair share" in taxes. But while millions of small-business owners, struggling entrepreneurs, inventors and investors brace for a double whammy of fiscal cliff tax hikes and new Obamacare taxes, the class-warrior in chief's richest pals are getting a pass.
It's a Golden Pass for liberal millionaires and billionaires who support higher Obama taxes for everyone but themselves. Meet the Democratic tax evaders of the year.
I wonder, as we begin 2013 and look forward to four more years of this insufferable poseur in the White House, where Sandra Fluke might be. Miss Fluke is the lady who made birth control a matter of national security, in particular her own personal supply of pills and God knows what else. Prior to her appearance on the national scene I always thought it was a male?s responsibility to supply condoms, as the occasion warranted. Yet Miss Fluke enlightened me. Actually she never told us what she used these items for. I suppose I am jumping to conclusions. She might be an artiste, and they may be part of her palette. There are all sorts of things birth control devices can be used for. At any rate, she brought birth control to the fore in American presidential elections at least four decades after they became a fixture in America. In that respect she made history.
Prior to Miss Fluke's public campaign for birth control, those who follow national politics had believed that elections revolved around the economy. But in 2012 we had an economy in a feeble condition. After four years in the White House, President Barack Obama presided over the weakest recovery from a recession on record. He had given Keynesian economics a bad name, even with many Keynesians. He had enlarged the federal government to almost 25 percent of GDP, from its traditional size of 18 or 19 percent. He was running deficits of a trillion dollars a year and promised them for years to come.
I am bored with politics, refuse to pay attention to the news and am watching only True Crime TV shows and Turner Classic Movies these days. With the Democrats controlling the Senate and presidency, nothing good can possibly come out of Washington for at least another two years. So I thought I'd start the new year with something useful, like a short list of bad inventions.
(1) SILENT DISHWASHERS
Are people installing dishwashers next to their beds? I've checked my "Top 500 Daily Irritations" list and dishwasher noise is not on it.
What possible benefit derives from having a dishwasher that makes absolutely no noise? Was that gentle whooshing sound driving some homeowners bonkers? Is this a product designed by the same people who gave us the electric car, a vehicle so silent that the first sign of its approach is the sound of your pelvis breaking as the car hits you?
Everything that everyone loathes about Washington was present in the "fiscal cliff" bill just passed by Congress. It is 153 pages long; most members probably hadn't read all of it before voting on it; it was delivered in the middle of the night; it was loaded with pork -- the mother's milk (to mix a metaphor) of politicians -- and while the country is already swamped with massive debt, it contains massive giveaways to satisfy interest groups and campaign contributors. Did I mention the bill raises taxes on top of the coming Obamacare taxes, but does nothing -- nothing -- to address the debt problem?
As with previous congresses, this one (again) delayed the debt issue for two months and will have to face it again, along with what to do about the debt ceiling. Only expletives that can't be printed in a family newspaper accurately characterize this bunch, so I'll have to settle for pathetic, unprincipled and irresponsible.
Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shootings, said: "The British are not coming. ... We don't need all these guns to kill people." Lewis' vision, shared by many, represents a gross ignorance of why the framers of the Constitution gave us the Second Amendment. How about a few quotes from the period and you decide whether our Founding Fathers harbored a fear of foreign tyrants.
Alexander Hamilton: "The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed," adding later, "If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no recourse left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government." By the way, Hamilton is referring to what institution when he says "the representatives of the people"?
When President Barack Obama was re-elected, the winds waned behind many patriots' ships' sails. My wife, Gena, and I felt that sock in the gut for our country and posterity, too. But instead of cowering in defeat, I believe we need to discard conventional (unsuccessful) strategies and advance in new directions.
The future of our country is going to hinge not upon the Republican Party's reinvention (as so many think) but upon each of us patriots asking what isn't working about our approach and modifying our attacks for greater impact in the culture and political wars. You don't fight and win unconventional wars with conventional weapons; that's why we lost in November.
The year 2012 is about to expire. It was a blank in my judgment — poof and it is gone. We have the same sorry vacuity in the White House, bereft of knowing how to run the government. Just now he is off to Hawaii to loll in the sun, having left behind questions as to how to avoid our "fiscal cliff." Yes, he wants to raise taxes on the top two percent, but how do we reduce the deficit and finish off the tax bill? He has headed for the beach — and practically no one remarks on the amateurism of it. The president is a poseur.
Not much more can be said for the rest of the leadership in Washington, in Congress, in the media, strutting down the halls of government. As year chases year, I have come to the conclusion that this whole town is abundant with poseurs or worse. The blandness of the Washington and New York City scenes is maddening to anyone familiar with American history, a history filled with great figures.
Here's the first paragraph of my last year's column "Democracy Is Impossible":
"After Moammar Gadhafi's downfall as Libya's tyrannical ruler, politicians and 'experts' in the U.S. and elsewhere, including French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, are saying that his death marked the end of 42 years of tyranny and the beginning of democracy in Libya. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said Gadhafi's death represented an opportunity for Libya to make a peaceful and responsible transition to democracy. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said, 'Now it is time for Libya's Transitional National Council to show the world that it will respect the rights of all Libyans (and) guide the nation to democracy.' German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that 'Libya must now quickly make further determined steps in the direction of democracy.'"
HANOI, Vietnam -- It has been 50 years since President John F. Kennedy ordered U.S. "advisers" to South Vietnam to help battle the communist North and 37 years since the end of that divisive war and the country's unification under Communism.
These simple common-sense steps are adapted from a post I published on my blog after the horrific Newtown, Conn., massacre. Our hearts ache, but we are not completely helpless or hopeless in the face of evil and the unknown. And we are not alone. This Christmas, cherish life, keep faith and practice self-empowerment.
7. Teach our kids about the acts of heroes in times of crisis.
Most people who haven't finished their shopping are starting to worry about what gifts to give a friend, relative or spouse. Quick, what did you give or receive last year? How about two years ago? Most of us can't remember, unless it was a big-ticket item.
What if you could give a gift that mattered; one that literally kept on giving and improved the life of another person? Would you buy that gift?
President Obama and congressional Democrats are still winning the messaging battle in the debate over the impending "fiscal cliff."
Republican House Speaker John Boehner tried to change that with a fallback position extending tax cuts for everyone except those making more than a million dollars a year and letting the scheduled spending cuts go through. As I write this, the vote on Boehner's "Plan B" has not been taken, but it doesn't really matter. Either way, Republicans will end up as losers in the court of public opinion.
Trying to explain an evil act like the one that killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., is on a par with explaining how the universe was formed.
The natural human reaction after extending sympathy and prayers for the victims and their families is to ask what actions might have been taken to prevent the massacre. More gun laws? Connecticut already has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. Those laws did not prevent a man with evil intent from carrying out his heinous act.
Suppose you saw a building on fire. Would you seek counsel from the arsonist who set it ablaze for advice on how to put it out? You say, "Williams, you'd have to be a lunatic to do that!" But that's precisely what we've done: turned to the people who created our fiscal crisis to fix it. I have never read a better account of our doing just that than in John A. Allison's new book, "The Financial Crisis and the Free Market Cure."
Allison is the former CEO of Branch Banking and Trust, the nation's 10th largest bank. He assembles evidence that shows that our financial crisis, followed by the Great Recession, was caused by Congress, the Federal Reserve, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and was helped along by the Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama White Houses.
Having survived the Supreme Court and the November elections, President Obama's health care law now faces an even bigger hurdle: the reality of making it work.
Implementation of any massive new program requires cooperation, something the health care law can't count on. Overall, just 46 percent of voters nationwide have a favorable opinion of the law, while 49 percent offer a negative view. The reasons are pretty much the same as they've been all along. Just 22 percent believe the law will reduce the cost of health care. Forty-eight percent believe costs will go up. By similar margins, voters expect the law to hurt the quality of care and drive up the federal budget deficit.
SINGAPORE -- While the U.S. unemployment rate "dropped" to 7.7 percent last month -- a figure even The Washington Post acknowledged was due "...in large part because the labor force fell by 350,000..." -- here in this modern and prosperous city-state of slightly more than 5 million people, unemployment is practically nonexistent.
A taxi driver tells me, "Everyone here works." With unemployment at an astonishingly low 1.9 percent, he is nearly right.
Republicans have been forced into a Hobson's choice of either letting the Bush tax cuts expire for everyone or agreeing to a tax hike on the top 2 percent of income earners (not to be confused with "the rich," who have already made, inherited or married their money).
If Republicans object to the Democrats' hitting job creators with a tax hike, three things will happen: Taxes will go up for everyone; Republicans will be seen as the "party of the rich"; and the inevitable economic collapse will be blamed on Republicans.