For the richest Americans, Democrats want to shift toward taxing their wealth, instead of just their salaries and the income their assets generate, reports The Wall Street Journal. The personal income tax indirectly touches wealth, but only when assets are sold and become income. At the end of 2017, U.S. households had $3.8 trillion in unrealized gains in stocks and investment funds, plus more in real estate, private businesses and artwork, according to the Economic Innovation Group, a nonprofit focused on bringing investment to low-income areas. Most of the value of estates over $100 million consists of unrealized gains. Much has never been touched by individual income taxes and may never be.
The problem, Democrats say, is that capital gains are taxed only when gains are realized through a sale and become income. An investor who buys $10 million in stock that pays no dividend and watches it grow to $50 million doesn’t pay income tax on that appreciation unless the stock is sold.
If an investor dies before selling, the unrealized gains get wiped out, for income-tax purposes. The heirs treat the assets’ cost basis as $50 million, not $10 million; they face no income tax on the $40 million of capital gains if they sell, although an estate tax may be due. This long-standing elimination of unrealized gains at death, for tax purposes, is called “stepped-up basis.”
It means the optimal tax strategy for the very rich, fine-tuned and promoted by the wealth-planning industry, is straightforward: Hold assets until death, borrow against them for living expenses and barely pay income taxes.
Prying Eyes on This Side of the Border
On the southwestern end of the Tohono O’odham Nation’s reservation, roughly 1 mile from a barbed-wire barricade marking Arizona’s border with the Mexican state of Sonora, stands a small black mast-mounted with cameras and sensors is positioned on a trailer hitched to the truck. The Border Patrol’s monitoring of the reservation has been a grim aspect of everyday life, reports The Intercept. And that surveillance is about to become far more intrusive.
The vehicle is parked where U.S. Customs and Border Protection will soon construct a 160-foot surveillance tower capable of continuously monitoring every person and vehicle within a radius of up to 7.5 miles. The tower will be outfitted with high-definition cameras with night vision, thermal sensors, and ground-sweeping radar, all of which will feed real-time data to Border Patrol agents at a central operating station in Ajo, Arizona. The system will store an archive with the ability to rewind and track individuals’ movements across time — an ability known as “wide-area persistent surveillance.”
CBP plans 10 of these towers across the Tohono O’odham reservation, which spans an area roughly the size of Connecticut. Fueled by the growing demonization of migrants, as well as ongoing fears of foreign terrorism, the U.S. borderlands have become laboratories for new systems of enforcement and control. Firsthand reporting, interviews, and a review of documents for this story provide a window into the high-tech surveillance apparatus CBP is building in the name of deterring illicit migration — and highlight how these same systems often end up targeting other marginalized populations as well as political dissidents.
Insurance Companies Encourage Ransomware Attacks
Ransomware is proliferating across America, disabling computer systems of corporations, city governments, schools and police departments. This month, attackers seeking millions of dollars encrypted the files of 22 Texas municipalities. Overlooked in the ransomware spree is the role of an industry that is both fueling and benefiting from it: insurance. In recent years, cyber insurance sold by domestic and foreign companies has grown into an estimated $7 billion to $8 billion-a-year market in the U.S. alone. While insurers do not release information about ransom payments, ProPublica has found that they often accommodate attackers’ demands, even when alternatives such as saved backup files may be available. The FBI and security researchers say paying ransoms contributes to the profitability and spread of cybercrime and in some cases may ultimately be funding terrorist regimes. But for insurers, it makes financial sense, industry insiders said. It holds down claim costs by avoiding expenses such as covering lost revenue from snarled services and ongoing fees for consultants aiding in data recovery. And, by rewarding hackers, it encourages more ransomware attacks, which in turn frighten more businesses and government agencies into buying policies.
Trump’s delusions and conspiracies are only one aspect of the distinctive American bias against reality
On this holiday, millions of Americans are gathering around a homemade feast of comfort food, basking in the warmth of familial love and giving each other a potentially life-threatening virus. One week ago, Erin Burnett asked during the lead segment of her nightly talk show on CNN, "The CDC is warning Americans not to travel or gather in large groups for Thanksgiving. Will they listen?"
Any fool could have answered the question: No. Millions of travelers have moved through the airports to greet their loved ones, perhaps with gestures of physical affection, all but coughing in each other's faces. One cannot help but wonder how many families will share napkins as they debate the efficacy of masks as protection against COVID-19.
True confessions of a ‘Trump supporter’ who just got donor-shamed by the president
As one of the patriots receiving the Con-Artist-In-Chief’s daily blizzard of fundraising emails, I am able to offer some rare insight into what it’s like to let Dear Leader down. It isn’t pretty.
Now, you probably are wondering what I’m doing receiving emails from the dark side, and I don’t blame you. I don’t recall asking to make this dubious list, but here I am, in a fine position to serve as a treasonous spy.
Sadly, I was just given the bad news that my lifetime Trump-giving record of $0 has not gone unnoticed or unforgiven.
“Friend,” the email from “Trump Donor Record” begins. “Did you see the President’s email? “
Can a reality-TV-addled America deal with a ‘delightfully boring’ Biden administration?
It’s probably not surprising for a nation addicted to reality shows like “The Bachelorette” or “The Voice” (or season four of “House of Trump”), but a popular online sport — while Joe Biden built a lead in the 2020 White House polls — was speculating on which big-time Democratic political celebrities would take jobs in his Cabinet.Sen. Elizabeth Warren for Treasury! Sen. Bernie Sanders for Labor! Top Barack Obama aide Susan Rice for State! Oprah for Commerce! … OK, I made that last rumor up, but who wouldn’t want to wear the glitter of a new administration, undoing the stain of the Trump years... (more…)