I Get It Now

Nicolás Maduro is J. Jonah Jameson. Maduro even looks a little like Jameson. And he certainly acts like him:

What to do if your country’s economy is on the ropes, inflation is soaring, shortages are rampant, political support is fragile and violence is flaring? For critics of Nicolás Maduro, the president of Venezuela, the answer is that you wrap yourself in the national flag and blame somebody else, anybody else, even Spider-Man.

Since becoming president five months ago, Mr Maduro has routinely cited vague international conspiracies by capitalist plotters, or even cartoon superheroes, for Venezuela’s mounting problems that range from a lack of toilet paper and national electricity blackouts to one of the highest murder rates in the world.

Most recently, he has set up a hotline 0-800-SABOTAGE, for Venezuelans to file reports on illegal economic activity, part of new measures aimed at countering economic “sabotage”; said he would sue Airbus with “the help of an international law firm” after his presidential aircraft suffered a fault; and identified what he calls US “factories of anti-values” such as Hollywood.

“Take a 14-year-old youngster who has a 9mm pistol in his hand and is carrying in his head thousands of hours of violent programming,” mused the 50-year-old president this month, after watching Spider-Man 3 with his wife. “Stimulated by such consumerism and violence, no wonder he goes out and kills.”

Yup. Spider-Man is responsible for Venezuela's economic crisis, according to Maduro. And you thought that Venezuela's governing political class couldn't get any crazier.

I Am Sure that This Is a Sign of a Thriving Society

Everything is going just fine in Venezuela. What could make anyone think otherwise?

Oh.

A Venezuelan state agency on Friday ordered the temporary takeover of a factory that produces toilet paper in what it called an effort to ensure consistent supplies after embarrassing shortages earlier this year.

Critics of President Nicolas Maduro say the nagging shortages of products ranging from bathroom tissue to milk are a sign his socialist government's rigid price and currency controls are failing. They have also used the situation to poke fun at his administration on social media networks.

A national agency called Sundecop, which enforces price controls, said in a statement it would occupy one of the factories belonging to paper producer Manpa for 15 days, adding that National Guard troops would "safeguard" the facility.

"The action in the producer of toilet paper, sanitary napkins and disposable diapers responds to the state's obligation to ensure a steady supply of basic goods for the people," Sundecop said, adding it had observed "the violation of the right" to access such products.

Further commentary really isn't needed, is it?

How Obamacare “Works”

$12 billion ain't exactly chicken feed:

President Barack Obama's decision to delay implementation of part of his healthcare reform law will cost $12 billion and leave a million fewer Americans with employer-sponsored health insurance in 2014, congressional researchers said Tuesday.

The report by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office is the first authoritative estimate of the human and fiscal cost from the administration's unexpected one-year delay announced July 2 of the employer mandate - a requirement for larger businesses to provide health coverage for their workers or pay a penalty.

The analysts said the delay will add to the cost of "Obamacare's" insurance-coverage provisions over the next 10 years. Penalties paid by employers would be lower and more individuals who otherwise might have had employer coverage will need federal insurance subsidies.

"Of those who would otherwise have obtained employment-based coverage, roughly half will be uninsured (in 2014)," CBO said in a July 30 letter to Representative Paul Ryan, Republican chairman of the House of Representatives Budget Committee.

Under Obama's healthcare reform law, employers with 50 or more full-time workers were supposed to provide healthcare coverage or incur penalties beginning January 1. But the requirement will now begin in 2015.

The delay intensified doubts about the administration's ability to implement Obama's signature domestic policy achievement and stirred Republican calls for a similar delay in another Obamacare mandate that requires most individuals to have health insurance in 2014.

Note that the decision to delay the implementation of Obamacare was made by an imperial presidency that isn't being called an imperial presidency by all of the people who were worried about the supposed imperial presidency of George W. Bush, because now that their guy is the imperial president in question, having an imperial presidency is presumably not a big deal anymore.

Oh, and there is also this:

Be careful you don't fall off the Obamacare "cliff" when the boss asks you to put in some overtime.

Working more could ultimately mean thousands of dollars less for you under a quirk in the new health-care law going into effect this fall. This could prompt some people to cut back on their hours to avoid losing money.

"Working more can actually leave you worse off," the price-comparison site ValuePenguin.com notes in a new analysis.

"It's sort of an absurd scenario," said Jonathan Wu, ValuePenguin.com's co-founder. "It's something for people to be aware of."

In that scenario, an individual or family whose annual income surpasses maximums set by the federal government—if only by $1—will totally lose subsidies available to buy health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

The loss of those subsidies in some cases will mean that people potentially would have been better off financially if they had worked less during the year, Wu said. And they then would have to work significantly more to make up for the lost subsidy.

"I think they'd be surprised to see how drastic it is," said Wu. "I'd be kind of shocked to see if I make $100 less (in total income each year), I get all these benefits, but if I make $100 more, I get nothing."

"You basically don't want to fall in that hole," said Wu, adding that he believed contractors and others with more control over their incomes would be apt to adjust their hours worked to avoid the subsidy cliff.

Don't you love how much we are finding out about the health care "reform" bill, now that we have passed it?

When Nobel Prize Winners Miss a Trick

A strange post by Paul Krugman. I know, I know; that's like saying "water is wet," but this is an especially fascinating case of Krugmanian shortsightedness.

Krugman is commenting on the habit of wealthy New Yorkers to purchase

. . . pied-a-terres in newly fashionable Lower Manhattan. You have to read a bit carefully to realize that these are, for the most part, people with apartments on the Upper East Side; their downtown bolt-holes are to avoid the need to trek uptown after a night out.

Krugman approves of this, because

. . . the truth is that of the various things the wealthy might spend on, this is one of the less offensive; it might even reduce externalities, if people walk back to their downtown hideaways instead of having a limo wait outside the restaurant for hours.

I get the reasoning here. I really do. Krugman believes that if people have second apartments, they will be able to rely less on limousines or other forms of motorized transportation, which means less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which might help solve the global warming problem. But not a thought spared for the poor limo driver who might lose his/her job as a consequence of all of this (even as real estate agents get richer)? And no conception of the possibility that a limo doesn't have to have the engine running while it waits for someone?

You know, it's best to think things through before writing a blog post. Too bad that Krugman often doesn't.

Of Venezuela and Toilet Paper

For those who think that all has gone swimmingly in Venezuela under Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro, I give you this.

I'll spare you the obvious jokes that I could make about this situation; this is a family blog, after all, and one tries to keep things clean. I will note, however, that if the Venezuelan government can't handle the relatively easy task of ensuring that people have sufficient access to toilet paper, it is probably fouling up a host of other more complicated projects even as I write and you read this blog post.

Also, who still thinks that price controls are a good idea? It's 2013. Have we learned nothing?

Apple's Tax Saga Shows Why We Need to Get Rid of the Corporate Tax

Mark Kennedy explains:

Apple has traditionally been known as an apolitical company. Americans should be thankful that CEO Tim Cook is abandoning that approach to come to the U.S. Senate today to push for a change to one of the most ill-advised aspects of America's gargantuan tax code: its global corporate tax structure.

It is true that Apple holds $100 billion offshore, but rather than breaking out the pitchforks, Americans should ask why one of the world's savviest tech companies is behaving this way.

The United States, unlike nearly every other advanced economy, taxes foreign earnings brought back to its shores. That approach has forced American companies to fight global competitors with one hand behind their backs.

When Apple is competing with Samsung in the cell-phone market or Caterpillar is competing with Komatsu to determine who helps build the skyscrapers in tax-free Dubai, Apple's California-based and Caterpillar's Illinois-based workers are at a cost disadvantage because their employer must pay tax on its earnings in Dubai while Samsung and Komatsu do not.

To mitigate this disadvantage, companies have been allowed to defer paying this tax until they bring the money back to the United States. That creates an incentive to invest in international markets, not the United States. This is like America shooting itself in the foot. It's extremely difficult for a one-armed, one-footed company to compete against multinational corporations whose governments don't impose additional burdens on their international business operations.

In addition to being a drag on American businesses, it's also one of the most misrepresented aspects of the tax code. President Barack Obama and others who oppose removing this provision demonize it by calling it a tax loophole that "encourages American companies to ship jobs overseas." It's a charge that political fact-checkers have 
disputed, but the line lives on. The true effect is that it simply makes it more difficult for American goods and services to compete in a global marketplace.

Read the whole thing. We very much need tax reform, and eliminating the corporate tax must be part and parcel of that reform.