Freedom Fest, taxes, deficits

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Wendy and I recently attended Freedom Fest, a three-day annual gathering of conservatives, libertarians, gold and silver investors, health food proponents, Ayn Rand readers, stock investors etc. It was an intellectually stimulating experience.

We were among the more than 2,000 people who attended the event, which featured about 100 exhibit booths and your choice of over 100 lectures, debates and sessions. One of the featured speakers was Steve Forbes, publisher of Forbes magazine.

Forbes' perspective on the current political and economic scene in the U.S. was fascinating and only optimistic, like many in attendance because of the hope (and prediction by some) that the speed and grasp of President Obama's takeover of the free-enterprise components of this republic is getting the attention and negative reaction of many Americans.

I've heard the figure that about 50 percent of U.S. citizens pay no taxes, but reportedly 61 percent pay less than $200 in taxes, according to one of the speakers.

One of the items discussed was the estate tax. Some presentations and booths dealt with overseas investments and tax strategies to reduce death taxes. It's sad that time, energy and expenses to lawyers etc. are spent because of estate taxes.

One's estate has already been taxed 41 percent in Missouri (currently 35 percent federal and 6 percent state income tax) before the death tax. Presently House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's plans are to take this to 39.6 federal plus 3.9 percent health tax plus 6 percent state tax (49 percent), and upon death the already taxed balance will be subject to an additional 55 percent estate tax. Money that could go for business growth, jobs etc. would be spent by Uncle Sam. This is on top of taking the capital gains tax from 15 to 20 percent and the top dividend rate from 15 to 39.6 percent. Obama has made Hillary Clinton look like a conservative.

"Unsustainable" is a scary word that recently entered political discourse, coming authoritatively from Congressional Budget Office director Douglas Elmendorf. Unsustainability is the operative moniker for Barack Obama's massive deficit spending, which Elemdorf said "cannot be solved through minor tinkering."

The CBO predicts an increase in our public debt from $7.5 trillion at the end of 2009 to $20.3 trillion at the end of 2020 if Obama's fiscal 2011 budget is implemented. As a percentage of gross domestic product, the debt will rise to 90 percent from 53 percent.

Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., sharpened the focus by asking the CBO director: "What's going to be necessary (is) either a 25 percent increase in taxes or a 20 percent reduction in spending, or some combination thereof. Is that correct?" Elemdorf replied, "Yes."

Americans are beginning to wonder if Greece is the picture of the U.S.' future.

It's no surprise that unemployment keeps increasing, and the reason why the rate isn't higher than we are told is that the government has stopped counting people who have given up looking for a job. Employers are not hiring because taxes and regulations are expected to rise.

Starting Jan. 1, 28 million middle Americans will be socked with a massive alternative minimum tax, which Republicans had suspended. That's a "gotcha" that penalizes taxpayers in ways they never expect, adding big tax penalties based on an "alternative" way of calculating taxes due.

Marriage penalties will hit couples hard, both in the income tax law and in ObamaCare. Obama's financial favoritism toward unmarried women, his second biggest voting bloc, has become common knowledge.

Those who choose to control their own health care through Health Savings Accounts will be slapped with new taxes. That's just one more way to promote Obama's goal of moving all health care to government control.

Employers are not hiring because they know they will soon be paying not only higher taxes but also more health care costs or penalties. Depreciation allowances for investment in equipment will be lowered from $250,000 to $25,000, which means businesses will do less investing.

Our ability to compete in the marketplace, of course, depends on our advanced research and development. New taxes will hit R&D hard, which means more slowdowns and more outsourcing overseas.

The expiration of the GOP tax cuts will impose the largest tax hikes in history, affecting all taxpayers. The nearly 50 percent who pay no taxes will also be hurt by more loss of jobs. -- Phyllis Schlafly

The primary vote in Cape Girardeau County will be about 25 percent of the eligible voters. With primary races for two of the state representative positions in the county, recorder of deeds and presiding commissioner, I hope the turnout will be greater than projected.

Until recent years, Cape Girardeau County has been respected in the state for its $5 million rainy-day fund, growth, diversified industry, retail, education, hospital/medical facilities and positive conservative leadership.

Lately, we've become more a subject of "What new crazy thing" has happened or will happen.

The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say "I." And that's not because they have trained themselves not to say "I." They think "we." They think "team." They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don't sidestep it, but "we" gets the credit. This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done. -- Peter Drucker

Gary Rust is chairman of Rust Communications.

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