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What a buffoon, how pathetic was this? The markets sure didn’t like it.

In Debt Downgrade Aftermath, Obama Serves Up a Silly Speech

First, do no harm. That is a useful injunction for doctors, lawyers, and, it turns out, U.S. presidents.

But President Obama’s useless speech Monday about the basic soundness of the American economy managed to reinforce all the concerns Americans on the left and right have about his stewardship of the country.

The speech did at least temporary harm. As soon as he finished speaking, the already jittery financial markets plunged.

. . .

His calm, passionless, “voice of reason” message, without a single new proposal except his pledge to make specific proposals in the future and work with the Congressionally designated super-committee to address the deficit and debt crises – “leading from behind again” – actually panicked the markets. And no wonder. Americans were looking for a leader, and what we got was the professor again.

See also:
Dow plunges as Obama says US A-OK
Presidential Failure
Matt Gurney: Obama’s speech writers should have their salaries downgraded
Obama’s jobs-message problem
Obama’s Jobs Message Isn’t Catching On
The Washington-Wall Street Disconnect Grows Even Wider
The most powerful man on Earth?
World’s Most Powerful Man Seems … Powerless
Republicans pan Obama’s speech
Democratic logic downgraded

If Obama can’t lead the economy out of the wilderness, he needs to at least call off his regulatory zealots and generally get out of the way. I’m guessing his resignation would be too much to expect from someone so obsessed with himself.

/Obama wouldn’t know sound economic policy if you tattooed it on his forehead backward, so he could read it in the mirror

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Drain The Swamp Watch

Will he stay or will he go? Charlie Rangel is the gift that keeps on giving . . . to the GOP.

Dems keep distance from Rangel

Several Democrats facing competitive elections began distancing themselves Tuesday from embattled New York Rep. Charles Rangel as a potentially damaging hearing on whether he violated House ethics rules drew near.

As Rangel’s lawyers tried to negotiate a settlement to avoid a public ethics trial — set to begin Thursday — Democrats attempted to shift focus away from vulnerable lawmakers under pressure from GOP challengers over the Rangel controversy.

“I think everyone would like to have it go away in the sense that this is not a pleasant process,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. Hoyer was peppered with questions about Rangel at a news conference designed to detail the party’s message for the upcoming recess period in August.

An ethics subcommittee charged Rangel, a Democrat, with unspecified violations July 22 after an 18-month investigation into his fundraising, taxes and financial disclosure statements. The charges will be unveiled at the hearing — the first step in a process unfolding before the midterm elections.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., chairwoman of the House ethics committee, denied that lawmakers were working on a plea deal with Rangel to avoid a trial. She told the Associated Press that Rangel’s lawyers are negotiating with the committee’s non-partisan staff.

If the negotiations result in an agreement, the committee could vote to accept it at the meeting this week.

See also:
House Panel Charges Rangel With Ethics Violations
Panel hits N.Y.’s Rangel with ethics violations
Jim Traficant’s trying times of 2002 could be repeated for Rep. Charles Rangel
Rangel seeks plea agreement to avoid ethics trial
Rangel in a sleaze squeeze
Rangel Settlement Talks Continue
Rangel Scrambling to Make Deal on Ethics Charges
Dean: Ethics Charges Could Get Rangel ‘Thrown Out of Congress’
Rangel Maintains Innocence; Admits Controversy Has Taken Its Toll
Rangel: More Alleged Violations, Still Optimistic
Charles B. Rangel
Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.)
Charles B. Rangel
Committee on Standards of Official Conduct
United States House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct

Remember when Nancy Pelosi vowed to drain the swamp and run the most ethical Congress ever? Well, how’s that working out? Apparently the swamp doesn’t want to be drained. Fight on Charlie, fight on!

/big, huge bonus for Republicans if there’s a public Charlie Rangel ethics trail in the House this Fall, going into the midterm elections

2010 Is The Year To Die, If You’re Rich

Rich Cling to Life to Beat Tax Man

Nothing’s certain except death and taxes — but a temporary lapse in the estate tax is causing a few wealthy Americans to try to bend those rules.

Starting Jan. 1, the estate tax — which can erase nearly half of a wealthy person’s estate — goes away for a year. For families facing end-of-life decisions in the immediate future, the change is making one of life’s most trying episodes only more complex.

“I have two clients on life support, and the families are struggling with whether to continue heroic measures for a few more days,” says Joshua Rubenstein, a lawyer with Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP in New York. “Do they want to live for the rest of their lives having made serious medical decisions based on estate-tax law?”

Currently, the tax applies to about 5,500 taxpayers a year. So, on average, at least 15 people die every day whose estates would benefit from the the tax’s lapse.

The macabre situation stems from 2001, when Congress raised estate-tax exemptions, culminating with the tax’s disappearance next year. However, due to budget constraints, lawmakers didn’t make the change permanent. So the estate tax is due to come back to life in 2011 — at a higher rate and lower exemption.

To make it easier on their heirs, some clients are putting provisions into their health-care proxies allowing whoever makes end-of-life medical decisions to consider changes in estate-tax law. “We have done this at least a dozen times, and have gotten more calls recently,” says Andrew Katzenstein, a lawyer with Proskauer Rose LLP in Los Angeles.

Of course, plenty of taxpayers themselves are eager to live to see the new year. One wealthy, terminally ill real-estate entrepreneur has told his doctors he is determined to live until the law changes.

“Whenever he wakes up,” says his lawyer, “He says: ‘What day is it? Is it Jan. 1 yet?'”

Estate-tax experts didn’t expect Congress to allow the tax to lapse, and are flabbergasted that it is actually happening. “All fall when I gave speeches, I said I was willing to bet anyone in the room $10 that we would have an estate-tax extension by the end of the year,” says Thomas Ochsenschlager, head of taxes for the American Institute of CPAs. “Thank goodness I didn’t have any takers,” he says.

Now, all bets are off. “If Congress couldn’t do it this year, why will they be able to do it next year?” says Prof. Michael Graetz of Columbia University, who worked both at Treasury and for Congress. He calls the lapse “congressional malpractice.”

Under current laws in effect until the end of this year, the size of the exemption is $3.5 million per individual or up to $7 million per couple. The tax is slated to disappear entirely on Jan 1.

But estate planning in 2010 will be complicated by a new twist: a complex tax on capital gains that will affect a broader swath of taxpayers. The estate tax is scheduled to return in 2011 at a 55% rate with an exemption of slightly more than $1 million.

The looming lapse of the estate tax is presenting some families with unprecedented ethical quandaries.

“I’ve been practicing for more than 30 years, and never has the timing of death made such a financial difference,” says Dennis Belcher, president of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel. “People have a hard enough time talking about death and addressing estate planning without this.”

See also:
Lack of Estate Tax in 2010: Now Cheaper to Die?
The Death of the Death Tax (Or: How to Die in 2010)
Estate tax set to expire Thursday
Estate tax set to disappear Friday, reappear in 2011
Surabian: Federal Estate Tax expires tonight
Taxing the Estate Heirs: What’s Fair?
As estate tax drops to zero, Congress should take action
Trusts and estates attorneys advise inaction

Of course, if Congress does nothing to fix this mess, the perverse opposite of what is occurring now will transpire. Instead of keeping loved ones on life support to make it until 2010, when there’s no Federal estate tax, some families will have to decide whether or not to pull the plug on their loved ones in 2010, before the 55% estate tax rate returns in 2011.

/it’s [expletive deleted] like this that drives us estate planning attorneys crazy