John Irons's Blog


Economic News, Data and Analysis

H&R Block flubs own taxes

Not exactly good for the marketing department….

Reuters Business Channel |
H&R Block reports tax miscue, lower net, cuts view
Thu Feb 23, 2006 7:14 PM ET
By James Kelleher
CHICAGO (Reuters) – H&R Block Inc. (HRB.N: Quote, Profile, Research), which provides tax advice to millions of Americans, made an embarrassing confession on Thursday. It goofed on its own taxes.
The company, which is in the middle of its make-or-break season preparing other people’s tax returns, said it had underestimated its own “state effective income tax rate” in previous quarters — meaning it owes another $32 million in back taxes.
As a result, H&R Block said it would restate previously reported earnings going all the way back to 2004.

Filed under: Economics

Slow growth in Net worth

Looks like the housing market is driving any increases. Overall, not very encouraging…
Update: Here is the Fed’s report.

Fed wealth survey: How do you stack up? – Feb. 23, 2006
Debt, lower wages clip net worth growth
A Federal Reserve survey finds slowest increase in Americans’ net worth in over a decade.
By Jeanne Sahadi, senior writer
February 23, 2006: 12:26 PM EST
NEW YORK ( – Americans’ net worth grew between 2001 and 2004, but not nearly as strongly as it did between 1998 and 2001, according to the Federal Reserve’s triennial Survey of Consumer Finances released Thursday.
The big reason: while household assets increased, thanks largely to increased home ownership and higher housing prices, debts – especially home debt — rose considerably more.

Filed under: Economy

Firm Sizes: Facts, Formulae and Fantasies

Good stuff. I need to brush up on my distribution theory a bit…

Firm Sizes: Facts, Formulae and Fantasies
Recently discovered facts concerning the size distribution of U.S. firms are recapitulated-—in short, these sizes are closely approximated by the Zipf distribution, a Pareto (power law) distribution with exponent of unity.
Interesting consequences of this result have to do primarily with formulae for the distribution’s moments, and difficulties of reasonably characterizing a ‘typical’ firm. By assessing the Kesten random growth process in terms of its realism vis-�-vis actual firm growth, the author finds fluctuations that are quite different in character from actual firm size variability. The Kesten and related stochastic growth processes qualify more as fables of firm growth than as credible explanations.
New explanations of the facts are proposed by considering firms to be partitions of the set of all workers. Assuming all partitions to be equally likely, the observed distribution of firm sizes is hypothesized to be the distribution of block sizes in the most likely partitions. An alternative derivation of this distribution as a constrained optimization problem is also described.

Filed under: Economics

Debt Limit nearly reached

Treasury today begins shifting fund to avoid hitting the debt limit…

Treasury moves to avoid hitting debt ceiling – MarketWatch
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — The U.S. Treasury acted Thursday to avoid hitting the national debt limit and said it’s “imperative” Congress raise the debt ceiling by the middle of March.
Treasury is suspending reinvestment in the so-called “G-Fund,” an investment vehicle for a federal employees’ retirement system. The action will free up $65.266 billion, a Treasury spokeswoman said.
“Without this action we would reach the debt limit today,” spokeswoman Brookly McLaughlin said Thursday.
Congress and the Bush administration have been negotiating an increase in the current $8.18 trillion debt limit. On Wednesday Treasury said it would suspend sales of state and local government non-marketable securities.
Now Treasury Secretary John Snow is urging Congress to raise the debt limit by mid-March.
“I know that you share the president’s and my commitment to maintaining the full faith and credit of the United States,” Snow wrote to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., on Thursday.
Beneficiaries of the government retirement fund won’t be affected by the temporary halting of reinvestment, Snow explained to Frist. The fund will recoup all payments, including interest, Snow said.
“Once I am able to make the G-Fund whole, the effect on the G-Fund and its beneficiaries will be the same as if this temporary action had never taken place,” Snow wrote to Frist.
Meanwhile, with the federal budget deficit projected to reach $423 billion in 2006, both Republicans and Democrats have so far balked at raising the debt limit.

Filed under: Economics


SGE Events Calendar
Upcoming SGE Luncheons
February Monthly Luncheon Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Noon to 1:30
Speaker: John Irons
Affiliation: Director of Tax and Budget Policy, Center for American Progress,
Title: “The long-term budget outlook”
Chinatown Garden Restaurant
618 H St., NW, Washington
Metro: Gallery Place (Red, Green, and Yellow Lines).
Restaurant is 1/2 block east of the Metro station’s
northern (H Street) exit.
Reservations by 12 noon February 14th, to or 202-691-5093.
$15 for SGE and NEC members
$20 for non-members

Filed under: Uncategorized

Human-Animal Hybrids!

So, I was thinking of posting something about Bush’s State of the Union highlight–the line about human-animal hybrids–and his aparent quest to be the first “science fiction” president… but Moby beat me to it.
Also, I notice that is already taken… as is
Update: there are currently 752 links to “Human-animal hybrid” Bush on google.

journal |
ok, i’ll weigh in with my comments on gw’s state of the union speech.
something about iraq and freedom, not sure, i think i nodded off for a while. kind of tautological.
then immigrants. huh, that’s not going to make his base very happy.
ah well. nodding off again.
and then, animal-human hybrids?
awesome, where do we get one or some?
i want animal-human hybrids.
gw, what the hell are you talking about?
the world’s falling apart and you’re talking about animal-human hybrids?
i hereby nominate gw ‘the science fiction president’.
does anyone remember his push to go to mars?
or steroids?
he likes science fiction, which is cool, cos i like science fiction, too.
it’s fun, right gw?
i guess one might be excused for expecting more from a president than platitudes and science-fiction, but remember: better to have platitudes WITH science fiction as opposed to platitudes WITHOUT science fiction.
and, not to sound like too much of a boy, but mary landrieu is kind of sexy.
that’s just an aside.
but i’m a boy. i like science fiction and sexy senators like mary landrieu.
getting back to the animal-human hybrids, i assume from what he said that gw is opposed to said hybrids.
that’s where we part company.

Update 2: for a list of illegals under the new anti-hybrid regime see
calamityjon: So, I didn’t – and have made it a point – worth a visit.

Filed under: Technology

Tax Notes

This came out in Tax Notes yesterday… click below for a link to the full pdf.
Tax Reform: First, Do No Harm – Center for American Progress
Tax Reform: First, Do No Harm
by John Irons
January 30, 2006
With two very different tax reconciliation bills pending in the House and Senate, Tax Notes asked two prominent members of the tax policy community to face off on tax priorities. In this article, John Irons, Director of Tax and Budget Policy at the Center for American Progress, urges Congress to begin the debate over fundamental tax reform while rejecting Republican proposals to further reduce taxes on capital gains.
They say addicts have to hit rock bottom before a healthy recovery can begin. On tax policy, we may not have hit bottom yet, but we’re getting close. The Congressional Budget Office last week projected an increase in the deficit for 2006 to $360 billion once money for some Iraq-related military spending and some hurricane relief is included. Without any legislative changes, $1.1 trillion will be added to the national debt over the next five years. Extending expiring tax provisions and reforming the alternative minimum tax would add a whopping $3.4 trillion to the debt over the next 10 years.
Given the nation’s current fiscal needs, and the need to prepare for future expenses like the retirement of the baby-boom generation, the current path is unsustainable. Furthermore, the tax cuts since 2001 may have been a boon to the wealthy, but have done little to help middle-income America and the economy.
This year Congress should stop digging and enact as few tax changes as possible, specifically by avoiding making permanent changes to the code. Instead, Congress needs to admit that it has a problem — the tax code is badly in need of an overhaul — and begin the long road to recovery.
Read more of… Tax Reform: First, Do No Harm – Center for American Progress

Filed under: Economics