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Thoughts from the Frontline

Capital Formation and the Fiscal Cliff

November 26, 2012

Choose your language

In today’s economic environment, we often complain about volatility and uncertainty, but there is one thing I think we can be fairly certain of: taxes are going up. I constantly try to impress upon my kids, most of whom are now adults, that ideas and actions have consequences. In today’s letter we will look at some of the consequences of an increase in taxes. Please note that this is different from arguing whether taxes should rise or fall. For all intents and purposes that debate is over. As investors, our job is to deal with reality. We must play the hand we are dealt. Taxation is a complex issue, but let’s see if a few word pictures can help us understand what we face.

Two quick notes to begin with. The full video interview with David Krone and Rob Lehman, the chiefs of staff for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), two of the key figures in the current budget negotiations, is now available online. This was not a debate but a thoughtful exchange of ideas and positions that occurred as part of our recent Post-Election Economic Summit. It is helpful to recognize that negotiations over the fiscal cliff were being conducted weeks before the election. Everyone knew what was coming, and the very professional staffs that are charged with coming up with a reasonable resolution to the issue were already hard at work, knowing that there would be a lot still to do after the election. Krone and Lehman are two men at the very center of that debate.

If you want to get some real insight into the congressional process, this is an excellent way to do it. I’m grateful that they agreed to sit down for this rather unprecedented sort of interview. You can watch the full interview. You can also view an edited version of the entire Post Election Summit, with Mohamed El-Erian, Dr. Gary Shilling, Rich Yamarone, Barry Ritholtz, Jim Bianco, Barry Habib, and myself. It has been getting rave reviews, and I trust it will be worthy of your time.

I’m also pleased to announce that my very good friend Dr. Lacy Hunt has agreed to do a special Fireside Chat with me on December 4. Regular readers of Outside the Box are quite familiar with Lacy. As always, we will cover a wide variety of topics, but I’ll make a point of getting his views on where the economy will be going for the next few years. Lacy is one of the finest economists I know. I am always amazed at the breadth of his knowledge and the depth of his insight. This webinar will be available to members of the Mauldin Circle. If you have already joined, you will get a notice of the event details. If you have not yet joined, you can go to This webinar is sponsored by my partners at Altegris Investments and is for accredited investors. (In this regard I am president and a registered representative of Millennium Wave Securities, LLC, member FINRA.) Now, shall we dive off the fiscal cliff?

Your Perception Is Your Reality

There’s a very interesting article in The Atlantic this week, called “How Partisans Fool Themselves Into Believing Their Own Spin.”  While the author, Alesh Houdek, engages in some spin of his own, he makes some very good points that we should keep in mind not only as we look at the potential effects of a tax increase but as we tackle new ideas and accompanying “facts”…

Discuss This


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Nov. 26, 2012, 1:18 p.m.

Please explain how you came up with 40% for all taxes. This is a large part of your argument but you offer little factual information to substantiate it.

Also, I know several millionaires (net worth) who don’t have million dollar salaries. Your “typical millionaire” seems to have a paycheck in that amount. Why shouldn’t you consider a “typical millionaire” as having an adjusted gross income of a million dollars instead?  Maybe that’s what you meant.

Anyway, I can well see your point of the effects of a marginal increase on capital formation, but starting with a 40% tax seems to be an even better example of your theme of biasing one’s belief and statements of facts. I might add, that perhaps the increase amount of a tax increase could be offset by a similar reduction in the $300,000 living allowance.

Very, very few of us even have an adjusted gross of $300,000.

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