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December 4, 2017 | Tax-Reform Hubris Reaches a Deafening Pitch

Rick Ackerman

Rick Ackerman is the editor of Rick’s Picks, an online service geared to traders of stocks, options, index futures and commodities. His detailed trading strategies have appeared since the early 1990s in Black Box Forecasts, a newsletter he founded that originally was geared to professional option traders. Barron’s once labeled him an “intrepid trader” in a headline that alluded to his key role in solving a notorious pill-tampering case. He received a $200,000 reward when a conviction resulted, and the story was retold on TV’s FBI: The Untold Story. His professional background includes 12 years as a market maker in the pits of the Pacific Coast Exchange, three as an investigator with renowned San Francisco private eye Hal Lipset, seven as a reporter and newspaper editor, three as a columnist for the Sunday San Francisco Examiner, and two decades as a contributor to publications ranging from Barron’s to The Antiquarian Bookman to Fleet Street Letter and Utne Reader.

The spectacle of the stock market rising vertically in anticipation of alleged tax “reform” is a burlesque to behold, rich in greed, hubris and appalling misjudgment. The bill, like virtually everything else Congress churns out, is just another stinking heap of garbage, as anyone who follows the headlines will have concluded. As to its goal of simplifying the tax code, not one person in ten thousand could explain how it might conceivably improve our economic lives. It’s not for no good reason that Congress’s popularity rating is lower than that of Chris Christy, arguably the least popular politician in modern times; or that of a politically obsessed news media that has fallen under the sway of hacks, slackers and economic imbeciles.

Nearly every day, we read about some new provision in the tax bill that will not only thwart economic growth, but also stand common sense on its head.  Today, for instance, the Wall Street Journal led with a story about how the Senate, in its infinite wisdom, has retained the dreaded alternative minimum tax for corporations.  It seems the greedy f**ks couldn’t let an opportunity to nickel-and-dime us to death elude their slimy grasp. The effect will be to seriously undermine a research-and-development tax credit that the bill’s understandably anonymous authors had showcased earlier on.  The change will also exceed, in the arrant stupidity category, a House provision to eliminate the tax deductibility of alimony — a gratuitously anti-husband modification that almost no one, even women,  wants and which would raise a paltry $1 billion a year.

Uber and Other Deflators

And were you aware that even the tax bill’s raison d’etre, a reduction in the corporate rate to 20% from 35%, was mildly in doubt because, it was feared, the change would not be revenue neutral? Regardless of what rate obtains, it is a strain to imagine that companies will find something better to do with their cash surpluses than what they are doing with them now — i.e., warehousing the money in Treasury paper and/or buying up their own shares. Such are these economic times that massive overinvestment in glorified ad agencies like Google and Facebook, and hypervaluation of deflationary juggernauts like Uber, qualifies as a “boom” in capital investment. Can anyone appreciate the irony that General Electric’s shares are sliding toward oblivion as virtual, New Era companies from the digital world suck up the world’s supply of investment capital?  This is not Schumpeter’s ‘creative destruction’ doing its thing; rather, it is insanity rising to a once-in-a-lifetime crescendo.

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December 4th, 2017

Posted In: Rick's Picks

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