There is something frustrating about the financial planning calendar. People need to make decisions by the end of the year, but that is exactly when the distractions of the holiday season are at their peak. There is an added twist for 2012: with the pending expiration of the Bush tax cuts, no one knows for sure what tax rules will be in effect for 2013 and beyond.
One still needs to do what one can. Bill Harris, CEO of Personal Capital, sets forth a checklist on Inc.com. The general theme is to accelerate as many deductions as possible into 2012, where the tax treatment is likely to be more favorable.
His suggestion on capital spending will be of particular interest to small business owners. The generous Section 179 write-off drops next year from $139,000 to $25,000, while the 50% “bonus” depreciation deduction goes away entirely. It makes sense in this environment to do one’s capital spending by the end of the year if possible.
It may be hard to schedule during the holiday rush, but a timely chat with your tax advisor by December 31 may be the best guarantee against Santa leaving a lump of coal in your stocking. Of course, there is not much one can do escape the longer term designs of a government (and an electorate) enamored of high tax rates.
The U.S. Supreme Court is allowing a separate legal challenge to ObamaCare to go forward that had been stopped at the appeals court level. The Court has ordered the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond to hear arguments on the constitutionality of two key provisions of ObamaCare: they include the employer mandate and the contraception mandate.
Stephen B. Presser, professor of law at Northwestern University: “It is very difficult to see the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as anything but an extraordinary case of overreach on the part of the federal government, a blatant ignoring of our tradition that the federal government ought to be one of limited and enumerated powers. Chief Justice Roberts’s astonishing repudiation of this tradition in his opinion for the Court upholding the Act was a surprise, and, for many of us, a betrayal of a fundamental principle of our Constitutional scheme. We can only hope that this case, which is likely to end up once again before the United States Supreme Court, will give that Court in general, and Justice Roberts in particular, an opportunity to correct the error of its recent ways.”
Dem Leader Once Said ‘The Need To Muster 60 Votes… Is A Tool That Serves The Long-Term Interest Of The Senate And The American People’
DEM LEADER: ‘One Of The Most Sacred Rules Of The Senate’
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV): “As majority leader, I intend to run the Senate with respect for the rules and for the minority rights the rules protect. The Senate was not established to be efficient. Sometimes the rules get in the way of efficiency. The Senate was established to make sure that minorities are protected. Majorities can always protect themselves, but minorities cannot. That is what the Senate is all about.” (Sen. Reid, Congressional Record, S.11591, 12/8/06)
· REID: “For more than 200 years, the rules of the Senate have protected the American people, and rightfully so. The need to muster 60 votes in order to terminate Senate debate naturally frustrates the majority and oftentimes the minority. I am sure it will frustrate me when I assume the office of majority leader in a few weeks. But I recognize this requirement is a tool that serves the long-term interest of the Senate and the American people and our country.” (Sen. Reid, Congressional Record, S.11591, 12/8/06)
· REID: “I say on this floor that I love so much that I believe in the Golden Rule. I am going to treat my Republican colleagues the way that I expect to be treated. There is no ‘I’ve got you,’ no get even. I am going to do everything I can to preserve the traditions and rules of this institution that I love.” (Sen. Reid, Congressional Record, S.11591, 12/8/06)
· REID: “…one of the most sacred rules of the Senate – the filibuster… It is a unique privilege that serves to aid small states from being trampled by the desires of larger states. Indeed, I view the use of the filibuster as a shield, rather than a sword. Invoked to protect rights, not to suppress them.” (Sen. Reid, Congressional Record, S.434, 1/5/95)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL): “The American people want less partisanship in this town, but everyone in this Chamber knows that if the majority chooses to end the filibuster, if they choose to change the rules and put an end to democratic debate, then the fighting, the bitterness, and the gridlock will only get worse.” (Sen. Obama, Congressional Record, S.3512, 4/13/05)
· OBAMA: “[T]he American people sent us here to be their voice… What they do not expect is for one party, be it Republican or Democrat, to change the rules in the middle of the game so they can make all the decisions while the other party is told to sit down and keep quiet.” (Sen. Obama, Congressional Record, S.3512, 4/13/05)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY) On Any Threat To The Filibuster: “The basic makeup of our Senate is at stake. The checks and balances that Americans prize are at stake. The idea of bipartisanship, where you have to come together and can’t just ram everything through because you have a narrow majority, is at stake. The very things we treasure and love about this grand republic are at stake.” (Sen. Schumer, Congressional Record, S.4801, 5/10/05)
· SCHUMER: “We are on the precipice of a crisis, a constitutional crisis. The checks and balances which have been at the core of this republic are about to be evaporated by the nuclear option. The checks and balances which say that if you get 51% of the vote you don’t get your way 100% of the time. It is amazing it’s almost a temper tantrum… They want their way every single time, and they will change the rules, break the rules, misread the Constitution so they will get their way.” (Sen. Schumer, Congressional Record, S.5208, 5/16/05)
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL): “Those who would attack and destroy the institution of the filibuster are attacking the very force within the Senate that creates compromise and bipartisanship.” (Sen. Durbin, Congressional Record, S.3763, 4/15/05)
· DURBIN: The filibuster is “[one] of the most treasured and cherished traditions of the United States Senate.” “Many of us in the Senate feel that this agreement tonight means that some of the most treasured and cherished traditions of the United States Senate will be preserved, will not be attacked and will not be destroyed.” (Sen. Durbin, “Statement Of Sen. Dick Durbin Regarding The Agreement On Judicial Nominations In The Senate,” Press Release, 5/23/05)
Left Eyes Cliff As Opportunity
‘Emboldened Liberals’ Are Prepared To Jump The Cliff & Trigger ‘A Significant Recession’ Because They Think It Would Give Them ‘More Leverage’
SEN. MITCH McCONNELL (R-KY): “It’s time for the President to present a plan that rises above these reckless and radical voices on the hard Left, that goes beyond the talking points of the campaign trail, and that has a realistic chance of passing the Congress. The time for campaigning is over. It’s time for the President to lead.” (Sen. Mitch McConnell, Prepared Remarks, 11/26/12)
‘Emboldened Liberals’ Eye ‘More Leverage’
“A growing bloc of emboldened liberals say they’re not afraid to watch defense spending get gouged and taxes go up on every American if a budget deal doesn’t satisfy their priorities.” (“Fiscal Cliff: Will They Jump?” Politico, 11/25/12)
“…If tax rates snap back to the higher levels from the 1990s and painful budget cuts start to hit the Pentagon, these Democrats — led by Washington Sen. Patty Murray — believe they would wield more leverage over the GOP…” (“Fiscal Cliff: Will They Jump?” Politico, 11/25/12)
· “Murray, colleagues agree, doesn’t issue idle threats. ‘Everyone takes Senator Murray seriously because she does not bluster,’ Reid said. ‘She simply says what she means and stands by it.’” (“Patty Murray Likely To Be A Key Voice In Senate On Budget Deal,” Washington Post, 11/23/12)
Some Senior Dems Comfortable With That Outcome
“… senior Democrats say they are prepared to weather a fiscal event that could plunge the nation back into recession…” (“Democrats Threaten To Go Over ‘Fiscal Cliff’ If GOP Fails To Raise Taxes,” The Washington Post, 7/15/12)
“…Democratic Senator Patty Murray said her party is willing to risk racing over the fiscal cliff and into financial chaos in 2013.” (“US Lawmakers Head Home, Severe Challenges Loom,” AFP, 8/4/12)
“Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who outlined the Democratic strategy … that her party would rather plunge off the fiscal cliff than extend tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. White House aides pointedly backed Murray’s threat…” (“Democrats Waxing Tough On Fiscal Cliff,” National Journal, 7/25/12)
· SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D-WA): “…our country is going to have to face the consequences…” (Sen. Murray, Remarks At The Brookings Institute, 7/16/12)
CBO Projects ‘Significant Recession,’ ‘Jobless Rate Rising’
NATIONAL JOURNAL: “CBO: Jumping Off Fiscal Cliff Would Cause Recession” (“CBO: Cliff Would Cause Recession,” National Journal, 8/22/12)
NEW YORK TIMES: “…if Congress takes no action to stave off tax increases due and automatic budget cuts scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, the economy could fall into a recession, with total output shrinking and the jobless rate rising to about 9 percent in the second half of 2013… Fears about tax increases and spending cuts — the ‘fiscal tightening’ — are depressing economic growth…” (“Report Sees Risk Of Recession If Budget Stalemate Persists,” The New York Times, 8/22/12)
WASHINGTON POST: “The nation would be plunged into a significant recession during the first half of next year if Congress fails to avert nearly $500 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts set to hit in January…” (“Significant Recession Imminent If Congress Doesn’t Act On Fiscal Cliff: CBO Report,” The Washington Post, 8/22/12)
REUTERS: “…even worse economic damage than previously thought if Washington fails to come up with a solution, Congress’ budget referee said on Wednesday.” (“U.S. CBO Sees Deeper ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Recession Next Year,” Reuters, 8/22/12)
AP: “… fresh, dire projections by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.” (“Analysts: Recession Likely Without Budget Accord,” AP, 8/22/12)
CBO: “…a recession, with real GDP declining by 0.5 percent between the fourth quarter of 2012 and the fourth quarter of 2013 and the unemployment rate rising to about 9 percent in the second half of calendar year 2013.” (“An Update To The Budget And Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2012 To 2022, Congressional Budget Office, 8/22/12)
STUDY: ‘710,000 fewer jobs’ “This report finds that these higher marginal tax rates result in a smaller economy, fewer jobs, less investment, and lower wages. … Employment in the long-run would fall by 0.5% or, roughly 710,000 fewer jobs, in today’s economy.” (“Long-Run Macroeconomic Impact Of Increasing Tax Rates On High-Income Taxpayers In 2013,” Ernst & Young LLP, 7/12)
- The average Black Friday online shopper bought 5.6 items per order. That’s down 13% from last year. It’s also down 40% from Friday, November 16th, a week earlier. Hard to know what to make of that.
- The average shopping “session” length was 6 minutes and 39 seconds. That’s down about 10% from last year. Compare that to the average hellish shopping session in a physical store, and you’ll see why ecommerce is continuing to grow as a percent over overall retail sales.
- The “conversion rate” of online shoppers–the percentage of those who visited the site who actually bought something–was 4.58%. That’s up 9% from last year.
- Mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) accounted for 16% of sales. That’s up from 10% last year.
Shares of Research In Motion, the makers of the BlackBerry, are, by some Thanksgiving miracle, up by a whopping 26 percent this week. Yes, you read that right.
On Monday, shares of RIM were trading on the Nasdaq at $8.69 apiece. Now they’re trading at $11.76 per share with no signs of stopping.
Wait, we’re talking about RIM, right? The same company that continues to bleed customers and cash like a bad Kung Fu movie? The same company whose outdated BlackBerrys are being tossed aside in favor of iPhones and Androids? And the same company whose savior product — the BlackBerry 10 — has been delayed?
Rigged with a live camera, the Tundra Buggy roves the tundra in Churchill, Manitoba, tracking polar bears and other native species during daylight hours. Best viewed from 7 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. central time, this footage is brought to you courtesy of Explore.org, Polar Bears International, and Frontiers North Adventures. It is part of explore.org’s Pearls of the Planet series of live cams created to help people fall in love with the world again.