Turning and turning in the
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
- The Second Coming, by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)
This coming week we shall likely see Congress pass an extension of the "temporary" payroll tax cut, first enacted as a stimulus to the economy in January of 2011. As I write, the extension is just for two months. We'll leave aside the politics and look at the economic implications of the extension, and then go on to examine the deficit in the US. That will give rise to some thoughts about Europe and what would have to happen for a country to leave the euro. We'll finally close with some thoughts and graphs about the more controversial part of the tax cut extension, the Keystone XL Pipeline. Just how radical is it to build such a pipeline in the US? And what are the implications for the deficit? I think looking at a few maps might surprise some readers. It should all make for a rather controversial letter, but then controversy is my middle name. (Note, this letter will print longer as there are lots of charts.)
But first, I want to thank one reader for helping to increase my reader base in a rather unusual way. I was sent this bit from a blog by Edward Ream today:
"I came across John Mauldin, http://www.johnmauldin.com, when someone left a printout of his blog in a railway carriage. His ‘Outside the Box' column is free to all.
"I enjoy his column, and I think some of you may enjoy it too. I especially admire his thirst for knowledge and his tolerance of diverse viewpoints. He actively seeks disconfirming evidence and the views of those who disagree with him. Imo, this stance is a model for what politics should be, and isn't :-) – Edward"
Thanks, Edward, and to whomever left the letter on the train. We take expansion of the number of our friends wherever we can find it. And let's see how he feels after this letter.
The payroll tax, as a way to pay for Social Security, has been 12.4% since 1990, with half paid by workers and half paid by business. Late last year a temporary payroll tax cut of 2% was enacted. This saved an average family of four about $1,000 per year and affected 160 million taxpayers. It is not peanuts. It also "cost" about $120 billion in revenue (best estimates). This…