Friday, September 28, 2012

Mitt's Tax Cut Mulligan

For some unknown reason, Mitt Romney dialed back his tax-cut plan yesterday, the same day new reports showed incomes are dropping.

Last month, median household income fell by about $500, and since Obama became president, income is down over $4,500. But under Mitt Romney’s 20 percent tax-cut plan, if he truly believes it and follows through with it, a married couple making $70,000 a year would save over $2,000. And take-home pay for a middle-class married couple earning about $140,000 -- with their tax rate dropping to 20 percent from 25 percent -- would increase by over $7,100. Obama has no such middle-class tax cuts.

So why would Governor Romney tell an Ohio crowd on Wednesday that they shouldn’t “be expecting a huge cut in taxes, ’cause I’m also going to lower deductions and exemptions.”

What is that all about? What kind of message is he sending? Is it pro-growth take-home pay? Or is he pulling back and hedging his bet?

I wrote in my last column about the potential benefits of the Romney plan. And I suggested that Romney should give specific examples of higher take-home pay from his tax cuts. And then I suggested that he draw a red line for middle-income taxpayers, and say “you will not lose you’re your deductions.” In other words, send a true growth message. And make it clear, not muddied.

This afternoon, one of the most senior people in the Romney-Ryan camp called me to say that Mitt misspoke, and that I should give him a mulligan. This person told me there’s no pull-back on the pro-growth tax-cut message, no new overemphasis on debt, and no departure from the Reagan-Kemp tradition.

Okay, even though I’m a tennis player, I’m willing to give Mr. Romney a mulligan. But I’ll say this: The growth message has to be crystal clear for the debate next Wednesday night. Mitt is slipping in the polls. People are confused about his message. He must clarify it.

Lower marginal tax rates. Higher middle-class take-home pay to offset lost income under Obama. More family financial resources. More growth and more jobs.

This doesn’t have to be so hard.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Just How Fragile is the U.S. Economy?

As if the looming "fiscal cliff" isn’t frightening enough, new results suggest it’s already doing very serious damage to the economy. And it’s only September.

According to a new survey released by the Business Roundtable, corporate America’s view of the economy is as bleak now as it was in 2009, when the economy was struggling to emerge from recession.

Also, the survey shows executives are now more likely to cut jobs over the next six months, and that companies are less likely to raise their capital spending.

Largely the CEOs who participated in the study cited the "fiscal cliff," or the confluence of tax hikes and spending cuts that could go into effect as soon as January 2013, as a major influence behind their decisions.

Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris called the fiscal cliff a 'multiplier' that makes any negative catalyst that much worse.

As much as $500 billion in federal spending reductions and expiring tax cuts are due to take effect if Congress and the White House are unable to find a compromise on these issues by Dec. 31, 2012.
As a result, the CEOs also lowered their forecasts for U.S. economic growth.

“The government is failing us as a whole,” charged Liveris on The Kudlow Report. “This is self-inflicted uncertainty.”

They now expect real gross domestic product to rise 1.9 percent in 2012, down from a June forecast of 2.1 percent growth.

In turn, these concerns have already begun to ripple across the economy, and may in part explain the spate of lowered earnings forecasts from companies such as FedEx and Norfolk Southern.

The findings come less than two months ahead of the U.S. presidential election, in which the weak economy and stubbornly high unemployment are shaping up to be key elements in voters' choice between incumbent Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

The Romney campaign was quick to call out the results as a sign that Obama's economic policies were not working.

"Business leaders have the gloomiest outlook in three years and the President's failed economic policies of higher taxes and more regulations will only make things worse," spokesman Ryan Williams said in a statement.

The Obama campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Whatever president and congress we get in November, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we get one that gives us solutions,” said Liveris.

CEOs who participate in the Business Roundtable collectively generate $7.3 trillion in annual revenue and employ some 16 million people.