John Irons's Blog


Economic News, Data and Analysis

Random Useful Tip

This makes a huge difference… give it a shot….

TaxProf Blog
I Can See Clearly Now
Forgive the non-tax content, but I thought I would pass along a cool tip from Walter Mossberg, the Wall Street Journal’s tech guru. You can dramatically improve the clarity of text on your computer by activating a hidden feature in Windows XP called “ClearType”:
* Right-click and select “Properties”
* Select the tab “Appearance” and press the “Effects …” button
* Check the box “Use the following method to smooth edges of screen fonts” and select “ClearType” in the drop-down list
* Click on “OK” and then press “Apply”
I made this change on both my desktop and laptop, and the results are stunning.

Filed under: Other

Tax Reform Panel?

Well, it’s 3 days until the President’s Tax reform Panel is officially set to report their findings to the Treasury department.
It is widely expected that the report will be delayed–the panel’s final two meetings were postponed, and press reports have indicated at least a month delay.
However, there has yet to be a revision in the official Sept 30th deadline (as revised by an amendment to Executive Order 13369.)
Unsubstantiated rumor has it that the administration is not happy about the Panel’s final report, and is perhaps looking for a way out. Perhaps the treasury will get the report and not release to the public?
Google Search: “tax reform panel”

Filed under: Economics

No clue

No clue…

Katrina’s Cost May Test GOP Harmony
Congressional Republicans from across the ideological spectrum yesterday rejected the White House’s open-wallet approach to rebuilding the Gulf Coast, a sign that the lockstep GOP discipline that George W. Bush has enjoyed for most of his presidency is eroding on Capitol Hill.
Trying to allay mounting concerns, White House budget director Joshua B. Bolten met with Republican senators for an hour after their regular Tuesday lunch. Senators emerged to say they were annoyed by the lack of concrete ideas for paying the Hurricane Katrina bill.
“Very entertaining,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said sarcastically as he left the session. “I haven’t heard any specifics from the administration.”
“At least give us some idea” of how to cover the cost, said Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), who is facing reelection in 2006. “We owe that to the American taxpayer.”
The pushback on Katrina aid, which the White House is also confronting among House Republicans, represents the loudest and most widespread dissent Bush has faced from his own party since it took full control of Congress in 2002. As polls show the president’s approval numbers falling, there is growing concern among lawmakers that GOP margins in Congress could shrink next year, and even rank-and-file Republicans are complaining that Bush is shirking the difficult budget decisions that must accompany the rebuilding bonanza.

Filed under: Economics, Economy, Fiscal Policy

Reforming the Tax Code to Assist Small Businesses

I hear they have a good panel lined up…
Small Business Committee” href=”″>House of Representatives > Small Business Committee
Reforming the Tax Code to Assist Small Businesses
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Type of Event: Full Committee Hearing, 2 pm, 2360 Rayburn HOB
Staff Contact: John Westmoreland, 202-225-5821

Filed under: Economics

Death of TV

Podcasting meet TIVO.
Our head tech guy at the center recently put up a video of a speaker on the interenet (at least internally, so I guess the intranet) that had TV-quality video.
When the TIVO meets podcasting technology and HD monitors are connected to media PC’s, we’ve reached the end of TV as we know it. I’d peg it at about 5 years.
It’s becoming obvious that I’m soon going to need an iPod, additional access to our in-house radio studio, and perhaps a digital camera (video).

Filed under: Uncategorized

Mission Accomplished

Tom Delay claims Republicans have cleaned up pork in the budget.
If you believe that, I also have a $223 million bridge to a remote island in Alaska I’d like to sell.

DeLay declares ‘victory’ in war on budget fat – Nation/Politics – The Washington Times, America’s Newspaper
DeLay declares ‘victory’ in war on budget fat
By Amy Fagan and Stephen Dinan
September 14, 2005
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said yesterday that Republicans have done so well in cutting spending that he declared an “ongoing victory,” and said there is simply no fat left to cut in the federal budget.
Mr. DeLay was defending Republicans’ choice to borrow money and add to this year’s expected $331 billion deficit to pay for Hurricane Katrina relief. Some Republicans have said Congress should make cuts in other areas, but Mr. DeLay said that doesn’t seem possible.
“My answer to those that want to offset the spending is sure, bring me the offsets, I’ll be glad to do it. But nobody has been able to come up with any yet,” the Texas Republican told reporters at his weekly briefing.
Asked if that meant the government was running at peak efficiency, Mr. DeLay said, “Yes, after 11 years of Republican majority we’ve pared it down pretty good.”
Congress has passed two hurricane relief bills totaling $62.3 billion, all of which will be added to the deficit.
Republican leaders have been under pressure from conservative members and outside watchdog groups to find ways to pay for the Katrina relief. Some Republicans wanted to offer an amendment, including cuts, to pay for hurricane spending but were denied the chance under procedural rules.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Rebuilding on the Cheap

It’s not just New Orleans’ homes and buildings that will have to be rebuilt — the economy will have to be rebuilt as well.
Do we relly want to start off by lowering wages? Don’t workers in New Orleans deserve to be treated fairly?

Bush allows Katrina contractors to pay below prevailing wage – Sep. 11, 2005
Bush lifts wage rules for Katrina
President signs executive order allowing contractors to pay below prevailing wage in affected areas.
September 11, 2005: 11:59 AM EDT
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Bush issued an executive order Thursday allowing federal contractors rebuilding in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to pay below the prevailing wage.
In a notice to Congress, Bush said the hurricane had caused “a national emergency” that permits him to take such action under the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act in ravaged areas of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.
The Davis-Bacon law requires federal contractors to pay workers at least the prevailing wages in the area where the work is conducted. It applies to federally funded construction projects such as highways and bridges.
Bush’s executive order suspends the requirements of the Davis-Bacon law for designated areas hit by the storm.

Filed under: Economy

Eroding the Publics Right to Know

Good policymaking and accurate evaluation of public policy depends on the public having good information.
Looks like we’re getting less of it these days.

Open The Government – Let’s Reverse the Pattern of Secrecy Releases New 2005 Secrecy Report Card:
Government Secrecy Still Growing with Few Controls
Government agencies are expanding secrecy in many areas, according to the findings of a report released today. The 2005 Secrecy Report Card, the second annual report on secrecy from, found secrecy in 2004 extended to more classified activity, more federal advisory meetings, more new patents deemed “secret,” more domestic surveillance, and more new state laws restricting public access to information.

Filed under: Policy

35, 70 bill cuts

CBPP has the latest on reconciliaiton…

Reconciliation Bills Would Increase the Deficit and Favor the Well-Off, 9/8/05
As a result of the need to devote attention to legislation dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Congressional leaders apparently plan to delay scheduled action on reconciliation legislation (the deadline for committees to act on the first of two reconciliation bills was September 16) by two or three weeks. As Congressional committees strive later this month to meet to meet the new deadline to report reconciliation legislation cutting mandatory programs by $34.7 billion over five years, we are likely to hear committee leaders claim that “we have to use the reconciliation process to make these painful cuts in Medicaid, Food Stamps, Student Loans and other programs because we must reduce deficits that are unacceptably large.”
Such statements, however, would not be accurate. While projected deficits are too large, the reconciliation process this year will not reduce them. To the contrary, if the reconciliation bills envisioned by this year’s Congressional budget resolution are enacted, deficits will be increased by more than $35 billion over the next five years.
▪ Taken together, the two planned reconciliation bills — one cutting programs, the other cutting taxes — would increase the deficit by more than $35 billion over five years.
▪ Never before has Congress split reconciliation into two separate bills when the overall effect of reconciliation would be to increase deficits, rather than reduce them.
▪ The separation into two bills may be intended, in part, to divert attention from the fact that the cuts of almost $35 billion in programs such as Medicaid, Food Stamps, and student loans would be used not to reduce the deficit, but to offset partially the $70 billion in tax cuts.
▪ A significant part of the budget cuts would come in programs serving low- and moderate-income Americans, while the benefits of the tax cuts are likely to go overwhelmingly to the best-off taxpayers.
Just one week after Congressional committees are to act on legislation to reduce mandatory (i.e., entitlement) programs by almost $35 billion, the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees are supposed to report separate reconciliation legislation that will cut taxes by $70 billion. This $70 billion reduction in revenues would more than offset the effect on the deficit of the program cuts in the first reconciliation bill. Taken together, the two reconciliation bills would increase the deficit by more than $35 billion over five years, not counting the effects of this increase in deficits and debt on federal interest payments. When the increases in interest payments are taken into account, the increase in the deficit is likely to be closer to $40 billion over five years. (See Table 1.)
Indeed, Congress appears to be using two separate reconciliation bills, rather than a single bill, at least in part to mask the fact that reconciliation is being used this year to increase deficits rather than shrink them. The reconciliation process has been in use for 25 years. Never before in this 25-year span has Congress split reconciliation into two bills when the net effect of reconciliation was to increase the deficit. Presumably, Congressional leaders hope that separating the two bills will keep journalists and the public from realizing that the program cuts in areas such as health care, food assistance, and student aid are not contributing to deficit reduction but instead are being used to offset part of the cost of the tax cuts.

Filed under: Economics

Reform panel apparently not afraid to take on political battles – White House Panel Seeks Simpler Tax Code
After an August break, the panel will resume meeting next week and is expected to issue its recommendations by the end of September. Among breaks the commission is examining are those for employer-provided health insurance, state and local taxes, home-mortgage interest, 401(k) contributions and charitable contributions. Depending on what the White House and Congress do with the commission’s recommendations, higher-income earners eventually could see some or all of those deductions diminish while other tax relief is added.

Filed under: Economics