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November 28, 2014 / 6 Kislev, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘economics’

How Obama is ‘Saving’ the Middle Class

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

President Barack Obama won re-election by selling the idea that he was the champion of the middle class.  Now he is forcing them into poverty and driving them from their homes.

That is the effect of new taxes going into effect on Jan. 1, regardless of how negotiations on the fiscal cliff turn out (unless, as seems unlikely, Congress decides to extend all of the Bush tax cuts to everyone).  The new marginal rates on dividends and interest (43.4%) and capital gains (20%, or 23.8% including the ObamaCare surcharge for high earners) will be devastating for the middle class.

Not only will it apply to those not-so-rich high earners who breach the $200,000 level, but it will harm those under the limit by undermining their desire to get ahead.  Why work longer or harder with 43.4% of marginal income going straight to Washington, another 15% to 20% going to state and local taxes, and 55% of whatever’s left going to death taxes when you pass on?  It’s easier to do what Obama wants and just stay poor.

New tax rates are just the beginning.  There’s the failure to address the Alternative Minimum Tax.  And with the president’s unwillingness to negotiate, there’s the restoration of higher tax rates on all earners.  There is also a host of indirect taxes, such as an onerous tax on medical device makers and lower reimbursements to doctors and hospitals, that will be passed on to consumers one way or another.

Altogether, Obama is “saving the middle class” with a $494-billion tax hike, three-fourths of it on the middle class.

Those who will be hurt the most are small businessmen, professionals, and modestly affluent retirees.  Many of these filers claim more than $200,000 on their tax returns, but they are hardly the evil 1% that Obama vilified during the campaign.  They operate family farms and small construction companies.  They are dentists and accountants.  They are the hardworking owners of retail stores and fast-food outlets.  In short, they are middle-class Americans.

Granted, they are successful.  But isn’t success what Americans aspire to?  By raising taxes on the middle class and especially on those among the middle class who are more successful than others, Obama is sending the message that Americans might as well not aspire to anything.  If they do, they too can expect to be taxed back into dependency.

That has been the plan all along.  That’s why the president exudes such spite toward those who aspire to be rich (while the Buffetts and Zuckerbergs who support him get a free ride).  As far as the left is concerned, all Americans should be dependent on government.  When’s the last time Obama celebrated the success of anyone other than someone like Christopher Brian Bridges (aka “Ludacris”)?  When’s the last time he spoke in a heartfelt manner about the great gift of capitalism and the everyday sacrifices of those in the middle class who make it work?

Never.  What he constantly proclaims is the glorious benefit of Big Government, with the implication that those who control Big Government possess an absolute right to rule over the middle class.  That is why he insists that Congress hand over control of the debt ceiling.  And to make government bigger, Obama demands bigger revenues.  Why should he negotiate?  On January 1, he gets up to half a trillion more in revenues to force more Americans into dependency.

Next week, all or part of that half-trillion in taxes is going into effect, including the Obama death tax.  Just think of those family farms whose owners pass away in the new year.  With Obama blocking reform, rates will return to 55% of assets over $1 million (in addition to whatever state death taxes are due).  At current prices, a typical 200-acre Midwestern farm is now valued at nearly $2 million.  That farm will have to be sold or mortgaged to pay estate taxes.  It will be difficult for surviving family members, who may be dependent on the farm for their livelihoods and may already have been operating the farm for years, to continue operating “half a farm.”  But that’s what Obama wants.

Small business owners are in the same boat. In order to pay that 55% death tax, many who inherit a franchise, a retail operation, or even a service station will be forced to sell the business.  And everyone who worked at that business loses his job.

Pairwise Matching Revisited (Podcast)

Monday, December 24th, 2012

Professor Robert Aumann, winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2005, returns to Goldstein on Gelt to share more of his insights on pairwise matching, what this means, and how to apply its logic to making everyday decisions.

Secrets of Strategic Thinking (Podcast)

Monday, December 17th, 2012

How do business owners plan? Is there a specific set of thinking skills that you need to make your enterprise a success? And can strategic thinking be applied to everyday life? This week, Doug interviews Professor Stanley Ridgley, Assistant Professor in the Department of Management at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business. Professor Ridgley is the author of The Complete Guide to Business School Presentations: What your professors don’t tell you…what you absolutely must know. Professor Ridgley tells Doug which skills you need to make the most of your business.

Two American Economists, One Jewish, Win Nobel Prize

Monday, October 15th, 2012

Alvin Roth and Lloyd Shapley, American economists with ties to Israeli universities, won the Nobel Prize for Economics.

The professors won the prize, called the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, for their research in how to make economic markets work better by more precisely matching supply with demand. Shapley used game theory to study the problem. Roth helped redesign the medical residents’ match program to make it more efficient for young doctors.

The prize was announced Monday.

Shapely, 89, was awarded an honorary doctorate from Hebrew University in 1986 and has worked with Israeli Nobel Prize laureate Robert Auman, who won his Nobel for his work with game theory.

Roth, who is Jewish, was a visiting professor of economics at The Technion in Haifa in 1986, and a visiting professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv University in 1995. Roth frequently visits Israel, Auman told JTA.

“I have been hoping for this for years,” Auman said of the award to Roth and Shapley. “It is absolutely the best choice that could be made.”

Roth, 60, is a professor at Harvard University in Boston, but will be leaving for Stanford University, where he is currently a visiting professor of economics, at the end of the year. Shapley is professor emeritus at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Surfside Welcomes New Commissioner Sheldon Lisbon

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

Sheldon “Shelly” Lisbon was sworn in recently as a new commissioner in the town of Surfside, Florida.

Lisbon was born in 1946 to Holocaust survivors in a displaced persons camp in Germany. At the age of three he sailed from Europe with his parents, starting a new life in America.

Sheldon Lisbon being sworn in as Surfside commissioner.

Lisbon is the quintessential American success story. He graduated from Boston Lubavitch High School, going on to study at Yeshiva University, the University of Maryland and Catholic University where he received advanced degrees.

He and his wife, Miriam, ran a successful Judaic gift and bookstore in Maryland for 25 years. They have a married son and daughter and seven grandchildren.

Lisbon is also an educator and has taught AP United States government, world history and economics since 1970. The couple moved to Surfside in 2006. They both teach in yeshivot in North Miami Beach.

Lisbon had served on Surfside’s planning and zoning board since 2010. The only negative effect of his new position is that the popular president of Young Israel of Bal Harbour has had to resign his position in the shul. It could have been construed as a conflict of interest.

Strike Ends, but Negotiations to Continue

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

A two-day strike that disrupted municipal services nationwide came to an end late Tuesday night as the Union of Local Authorities and the Prime Minister’s Office found middle ground on a range of economic issues.

The most significant outcome of the understandings reached by the two sides was the granting of discounts on water tax rates, which have already risen sharply over the past year, and a freeze on planned changes to municipal tax rates that would primarily benefit large families but dig into the budgets of financially strapped towns.

Still unsolved are about a dozen issues, including education and special needs programs, the distribution of national lottery revenues and other services, with both sides insisting that the other should bear the burden of financing the programs. According to the agreement reached late Tuesday night, these issues will be examined by a committee that is to be established in the coming days.

Responses to the agreements were divided along party lines. Interior Minister Eli Yishai, of Shas spearheaded support for the ULA’s list of demands, with support from Labor and Kadima. Most of the mayors who agreed to end the strike were affiliated with the Likud Party – following the lead of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who strongly opposed the ULA’s demands, which he said would cost the government billions of shekels.

On Wednesday, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz announced that the Bank of Israel had adjusted its expectations for economic growth in 2012 downward, from 4% to 3.2%.

Recollections Of Rabbi Dr. Aaron Levine

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

   Rabbi Dr. Aaron Levine, z”l, passed away on the first day of Pesach, one day before his 65th birthday. He was an erudite scholar who had received semicha from the Rabbi Jacob Joseph Theological Seminary and a PhD in economics from New York University. He was equally at home in the world of Torah and in the secular world, and thus a unique combination of Torah and chochmah, something that is increasingly rare today. Furthermore, this intellectual prowess was clothed in a mantel of extreme humility.
 
   Rabbi Dr. Levine served for many years as the rav of the Young Israel of Avenue J in Brooklyn and as head of the Department of Economics at Yeshiva University. He also served as a dayan at the Beth Din of America. He was also much in demand as a lecturer, speaking both here and abroad on topics relating to economics and ethics. In addition, he had a marked effect on the intellectual development of many of his students at Yeshiva University.
 
   Rabbi Dr. Levine was not just an observant Jew whose vocation happened to be the teaching and study of economics. On the contrary, he pioneered a new approach to economics, namely, the analysis of current economic issues through the prism of Torah. Thus, his “secular” endeavors were, in truth, Torah endeavors.
 
   While all of this is most impressive, it does not give one “a feel for the man.” I hope to do this by sharing a few of my recollections of him. However, let me first make one thing clear. Rabbi Levine and I were not related. He used to introduce me to people saying, “This is Dr. Yitzchok Levine. We are not related. However, we are friends.” I have to admit that I was honored that he counted me among his friends.
 

Kashrus

 

   Over time, Rav Levine became aware of my interest in kashrus. At one point he related the following to me.
 
   Shortly after he became the rav of the YI of Ave. J he learned that the shul’s annual dinner had been scheduled in a certain well-known catering hall. The caterer was an observant Jew, and he was considered reliable by the Orthodox community. Rabbi Levine called the caterer and asked whose hashgacha he had. The caterer replied that he had none, something that was not uncommon in the 1980s.
 
   Rabbi Levine told the caterer that he could not let his shul’s dinner take place in an establishment that did not have hashgacha, and that he would have to hire a mashgiach for the dinner. The caterer replied that if he did this and it became known, then people might think that his establishment had not been reliably kosher in the past. This could wreck his business. Rabbi Levine thought for a moment and said, “I will be the mashgiach for the shul dinner.” In conclusion, Rabbi Levine told me he spent most of the night before the shul dinner making sure that all was done properly. Shul members never knew, and I doubt that until he told me of this incident he had told anyone else, save for his wife and perhaps some of the members of his immediate family.
 

   This was his style – meticulous adherence to halacha but without show and fanfare.

 

Scholar Par Excellence
 
   A look at Rabbi Dr. Levine’s Yeshiva University website www.yu.edu/faculty/alevine/page.aspx and the link there to his publications shows the extent of his scholarly academic accomplishments. He was the author and/or co-author of seven books as well as numerous scholarly articles in refereed, academic journals.
 
   His most recent achievement was being the editor of the Oxford University Handbook on Judaism and Economics which appeared in 2010. Robert John Aumann, professor emeritus, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and co-winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics for 2005, wrote the following about this book:
 

   “Rabbi Dr. Aaron Levine is a world-renowned authority on the Talmud, on economics, and on ethics. Here he has put together a remarkable collection of essays on and surveys of a very wide range of issues bearing on the relationship between Jewish literature, law, and practice on the one hand, and, on the other hand, economic theory and business practice – especially business ethics. The volume spans thousands of years, from Biblical times to modern Israel, and one may expect it to become a standard reference.”

 

His Last Years
 
   Over the years my friendship with Rabbi Levine developed. At one point he wrote to me in an e-mail that I should stop referring to him as Rabbi Levine and simply write “Aaron.” I was not comfortable with this and settled on “Reb Aaron.” I was honored that he had extended this privilege to me.
 
   About two years ago it became known that Rav Levine was sick. Given the humble, private person that he was, it is not surprising that his congregants knew little about the details of his illness. I respected his right to his privacy, but at one point I wrote to him saying that while I was not prying, I was certainly available if he ever wanted to talk with me. Characteristically, he never took me up on my offer.
 
   For a while it looked like whatever treatments he was undergoing were working. However, it became painfully clear a few months before his passing that this was not the case.
 
   This year when I went to sell my chometz, his son, Rabbi Ephraim Levine, was there to handle the sale. Sadly, I knew what this meant and, as I wrote above, he passed away on the first day of Pesach. It is hard for me even now to believe that he is gone.
 

   Reb Aaron, my friend, I miss you! We all miss you! You have left a huge void in our lives.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/recollections-of-rabbi-dr-aaron-levine/2011/05/25/

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