Corporate Tax in Need of Reform

Steve Hanke argues that it is about time for the United States to reform its tax code, particularly the corporate tax rate.

“The Tax Foundation released its inaugural ‘International Tax Competitiveness Index’ (ITCI) on September 15th, 2014. The United States was ranked an abysmal 32nd out of the 34 OECD member countries for the year 2014… The poor showing of the U.S. resulted from other countries recognizing the need to improve their competitive position in an increasingly globalized world.”

“Indeed, the only OECD member countries not to have cut their corporate tax rates since the onset of the new millennia are Chile, Norway, and, yes, the United States. The high U.S. corporate tax rate not only raises the cost of doing business in the U.S., but also overseas. The U.S., along with just 5 other OECD countries, imposes a ‘global tax’ on profits earned overseas by domestically-owned businesses.”

Working Capital Review: A Q&A with House Ways and Means Committee Member Rep. Jim Renacci

EPA Clean Power Plan Could Save Thousands of Lives

New York Times: “New carbon emissions standards that were proposed last year for coal-fired power plants in the United States would substantially improve human health and prevent more than 3,000 premature deaths per year, according to a new … study, led by researchers at Syracuse and Harvard Universities.”

“The researchers calculated three different outcomes using data from the Census Bureau and detailed maps of the more than 2,400 fossil-fuel power plants across the country.”

“The model with the biggest health benefit was the one that most closely resembled the changes that the Environmental Protection Agency proposed in a rule in June.”

“Researchers calculated that the changes in the E.P.A. rule could prevent 3,500 premature deaths a year and more than 1,000 heart attacks and hospitalizations from air-pollution-related illness.”

“The largest declines in pollution — and consequent benefits to health — would happen in states in the Ohio River Valley, including Pennsylvania and Ohio, which have some of the highest levels of emissions, researchers said.”

Medicaid Enrollment Nears 12 Million

The Hill: “More than 11.7 million more people have health insurance through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance through ObamaCare, new data show.”

“The new report from the Obama administration shows that as of the end of February, there were over 11.7 million more people enrolled in the programs compared to the period before October 2013, when ObamaCare’s coverage expansion went into effect.”

“The numbers come on top of another 11.7 million people who signed up for private insurance through the law’s marketplaces.”

A Split in Priorities for Republicans and Democrats

Wall Street Journal:  “Members of the two political parties are split over which issues are most important for the government to address, with Republicans giving much higher priority to national security issues than do Democrats, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds.”

“Asked which issues should be the federal government’s top priorities, Republican primary voters’ top three issues were national security, the deficit and the issue of job creation and economic growth. Democratic primary voters, by contrast, named jobs first, followed by health care and climate change.”

“In the new survey, some 27% of Republican primary voters named national security and terrorism as the government’s highest priority, compared with only 13% of Democratic primary voters who picked that as the top priority.”

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Obamacare Boosts Medicare Savings With New Program

The Hill: “A pilot program created under ObamaCare to change Medicare’s payment system saved almost $400 million and will be expanded, the administration announced Monday.”

“An independent report released by the Department of Health and Human Services on Monday finds that the pilot program saved Medicare more than $384 million across 2012 and 2013.”

“Under the program, groups of doctors agree to accept lump payments under Medicare instead of individual payments for each service they provide, as in the traditional Medicare payment system.”

“’The Affordable Care Act gave us powerful new tools to test better ways to improve patient care and keep communities healthier,’ HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said in a statement.”

Stop Calling the Estate Tax a ‘Death Tax’

Barry Ritholtz explains why it is “misleading” to use “the phrase ‘death tax’ to describe the levy on the estates of deceased multimillionaires.”

“In 2013, 2,596,993 Americans died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 5,000 of them paid a tax after that mortal event. To be more accurate, their estates paid whatever tax was owed. That means 2,591,993 Americans died that year without paying any tax.”

“In other words, just 0.19 percent of all deaths in 2013 resulted in a tax. When 99.81 percent of all deaths don’t create a taxable event, calling it a death tax is mathematically nonsensical. What is the actual trigger for this taxable event? If your estate is worth less than $5.43 million dollars in 2015 (or $10.86 million dollars for a couple), you are exempt from the federal estate tax. Over that and your estate pays, which by the way is why the Internal Revenue Service calls it an estate tax.”

What Makes a Car Unsafe?

Malcolm Gladwell: “The public approach to auto safety is preoccupied with what might go wrong mechanically with the vehicles we drive. But the chief factor is not what we drive; it is how we drive. Richard Schmidt, who is perhaps the world’s leading expert on pedal error, says that the Toyota sudden-acceleration controversy ought to have triggered a national discussion about safer driving. He argues for overturning the deeply held—and, in his view, irrational—proscription against two-foot driving. If drivers used one foot for the accelerator and the other foot for the brake, he says, they would be far less likely to mistake one pedal for the other. Accidents could be prevented; lives could be saved.”

“But in order to talk about solving the pedal-error problem you have to accept the fact that, when it comes to saving lives, things like the number of police on the road, and the price of alcohol, and the techniques we use to drive our cars are vastly more important than where a car’s gas tank is mounted.

The Shale Boom Has Peaked

Bloomberg: “The meteoric rise in U.S. oil production has ended, easing a global glut and driving a rebound in crude prices from below $50 a barrel, according to crude trader and hedge fund manager Andrew J. Hall.”

“Oil production from Texas to North Dakota peaked at almost 10 million barrels a day in February and has been falling since then, Hall wrote. A drastic reduction in drilling rigs is starting to shrink U.S. oil output, according to government data cited by Hall.”

“That’s helped drive a 36 percent rally in the past six weeks, and prices will continue to rise because it will be harder for producers to ramp up than it was to cut back, Hall said in his letter. Lower crude prices have also boosted demand, while the risk of supply disruptions across the Middle East is growing amid sectarian tensions.”

 

Crude Production in the U.S. is Already Falling

Which City is the Most Polluted City in America?

Eco Watch: “The state of the air in the U.S. is still appalling. As much as we criticize China for its abhorrent air pollution levels, the U.S. has a long way to go to ensuring clean air for everyone. More than 4 in 10 people in the U.S. live in counties that have unhealthy levels of either ozone or particle pollution, according to the ALA.”

“The report is very thorough, breaking down the findings to rank cities and counties based on short-term particle pollution, year-round particle pollution and ozone pollution. It found that nearly 24 million people (7.6 percent) in the U.S. live in counties with unhealthful year-round levels of particle pollution and nearly 17.8 million people live in 12 counties with unhealthful levels of all three: ozone and short-term and year-round particle pollution.”

Time: “Here are the U.S. cities with the most ozone pollution in 2015:”

1. Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA
2. Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, CA
3. Bakersfield, CA
4. Fresno-Madera, CA
5. Sacramento-Roseville, CA
6. Houston-The Woodlands, TX
7. Dallas-Fort Worth, TX-OK
8. Modesto-Merced, CA
9. Las Vegas-Henderson, NV-AZ
10. Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ

“The six cities without any days of unhealthy ozone or particle pollution are Bismarck, N.D.,Cape Coral-Fort Myers-Naples, Fla., Elmira-Corning, N.Y., Fargo-Wahpeton, N.D.-Minn., Rapid City-Spearfish, S.D. and Salinas, Calif.”

 

Emergency Room Visits Continue to Climb

Wall Street Journal: “Emergency-room visits continued to climb in the second year of the Affordable Care Act, contradicting the law’s supporters who had predicted a decline in traffic as more people gained access to doctors and other health-care providers.”

“A survey of 2,098 emergency-room doctors conducted in March showed about three-quarters said visits had risen since January 2014. That was a significant uptick from a year earlier, when less than half of doctors surveyed reported an increase. The survey by the American College of Emergency Physicians is scheduled to be published Monday.”

“Medicaid recipients newly insured under the health law are struggling to get appointments or find doctors who will accept their coverage, and consequently wind up in the ER, ACEP said. Volume might also be increasing due to hospital and emergency-department closures—a long-standing trend.”

“More than 40% of emergency physicians said they expect emergency-room visits to increase if the Supreme Court rules that subsidies provided to people who obtain insurance on the federal exchange are invalid. The court is expected to rule by late June.”