As reported in the Huffington Post

Written by Robert Reich

It’s a perfect storm. And I’m not talking about the impending dangers facing Democrats. I’m talking about the dangers facing our democracy.

First, income in America is now more concentrated in fewer hands than it’s been in 80 years. Almost a quarter of total income generated in the United States is going to the top 1 percent of Americans.

The top one-tenth of one percent of Americans now earn as much as the bottom 120 million of us.

Who are these people? With the exception of a few entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, they’re top executives of big corporations and Wall Street, hedge fund managers, and private equity managers. They include the Koch brothers, whose wealth increased by billions last year, and who are now funding tea party candidates across the nation.

Which gets us to the second part of the perfect storm. A relatively few Americans are buying our democracy as never before. And they’re doing it completely in secret.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are pouring into advertisements for and against candidates — without a trace of where the dollars are coming from. They’re laundered through a handful of groups. Fred Maleck, whom you may remember as deputy director of Richard Nixon’s notorious Committee to Reelect the President (dubbed Creep in the Watergate scandal), is running one of them. Republican operative Karl Rove runs another. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a third.

The Supreme Court’s Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission made it possible. The Federal Election Commission says only 32 percent of groups paying for election ads are disclosing the names of their donors. By comparison, in the 2006 midterm, 97 percent disclosed; in 2008, almost half disclosed.

We’re back to the late 19th century when the lackeys of robber barons literally deposited sacks of cash on the desks of friendly legislators. The public never knew who was bribing whom.

Just before it recessed the House passed a bill that would require that the names of all such donors be publicly disclosed. But it couldn’t get through the Senate. Every Republican voted against it. (To see how far the GOP has come, nearly ten years ago campaign disclosure was supported by 48 of 54 Republican senators.)

Here’s the third part of the perfect storm. Most Americans are in trouble. Their jobs, incomes, savings, and even homes are on the line. They need a government that’s working for them, not for the privileged and the powerful.

Yet their state and local taxes are rising. And their services are being cut. Teachers and firefighters are being laid off. The roads and bridges they count on are crumbling, pipelines are leaking, schools are dilapidated, and public libraries are being shut.

There’s no jobs bill to speak of. No WPA to hire those who can’t find jobs in the private sector. Unemployment insurance doesn’t reach half of the unemployed.

Washington says nothing can be done. There’s no money left.

No money? The marginal income tax rate on the very rich is the lowest it’s been in more than 80 years. Under President Dwight Eisenhower (who no one would have accused of being a radical) it was 91 percent. Now it’s 36 percent. Congress is even fighting over whether to end the temporary Bush tax cut for the rich and return them to the Clinton top tax of 39 percent.

Much of the income of the highest earners is treated as capital gains, anyway — subject to a 15 percent tax. The typical hedge-fund and private-equity manager paid only 17 percent last year. Their earnings were not exactly modest. The top 15 hedge-fund managers earned an average of $1 billion.

Congress won’t even return to the estate tax in place during the Clinton administration – which applied only to those in the top 2 percent of incomes.

It won’t limit the tax deductions of the very rich, which include interest payments on multimillion dollar mortgages. (Yet Wall Street refuses to allow homeowners who can’t meet mortgage payments to include their primary residence in personal bankruptcy.)

There’s plenty of money to help stranded Americans, just not the political will to raise it. And at the rate secret money is flooding our political system, even less political will in the future.

The perfect storm: An unprecedented concentration of income and wealth at the top; a record amount of secret money flooding our democracy; and a public becoming increasingly angry and cynical about a government that’s raising its taxes, reducing its services, and unable to get it back to work.

We’re losing our democracy to a different system. It’s called plutocracy.

Robert Reich is the author of Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future, now in bookstores. This post originally appeared at RobertReich.org.

M&A Bankers Suffer 35% Drop in Fees as Deals Dry Up From Record  

As reported in Bloomberg

 

March 31 (Bloomberg) — Mergers and acquisitions bankers suffered a 35 percent drop in fees during the first quarter, just weeks after cashing bonuses from a record year.

Advisory fees fell to about $8.7 billion from $13.4 billion in the first three months of 2007, data compiled by analysts at New York-based Freeman & Co. show. Executives at Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Bank of America Corp. predicted in December that takeovers would decline about 20 percent this year.

“As recently as three months ago, we thought we had seen the worst and it was going to begin to get slowly better,” said Eduardo Mestre, 59, the former head of Citigroup Inc.’s investment banking unit and now vice chairman of New York-based advisory firm Evercore Partners Inc. “It only got worse.”

The collapse of the U.S. sub prime mortgage market threatens to stifle economic growth and further curb corporate purchases. New York-based Goldman Sachs Group Inc., the world’s leading M&A adviser, reported a 47 percent decline in revenue from providing takeover advice in the first quarter from the fourth.

Our Perspective 

Is bigger always better?

Companies are looking to expand their footprint, increase their brand awareness.

Once a merger or acquistion is proposed, all the due dilligence is done upfront. Attorneys and accounts pour over documents and make recommendations as to the feasibility of the proposal.

Once all the i’s have been dotted and the t’s are crossed, signatures are placed on the contract. The next step is that all these papers must be sent to the state(s) to be registered.

The wheels come off the cart 

Once the contracts have been signed, all the focus goes into reviewing the existing operations and implementing efficiencies. What most companies fail to realize is that the states have a very difficult time recording these transactions.

 50% error rate 

The Department of Labor statistics show that 50% of the companies who have been involved with a merger or an acquisition have been assigned the wrong rates and as a result are overpaying payroll taxes.

How can this be? Isn’t this 2008! 

Again, let me make this clear. These errors have nothing to do with all the due diligence that was done prior to the acquisition or merger. Companies fail to take the next step and determine if these transactions were properly recorded.

Our clients are taking the next step.

We have a 90% success rate.

Our clients’ rates are corrected. 

They are getting refunds. 

Has your company been involved in a merger or acquisition within the last 3 years?

What rates were assigned to your company?

These errors can effect as many as 5 different tax rates.

Are you overpaying payroll taxes? 

Our services are done on a contingency fee.

There are no upfront costs.

Let us know your thoughts?

Do you have a question?

You may email george@hbsadvantage.com

Hutchinson Business Solutions ……Your CFO on the Go.  

Creating Opportunities Today,…Defining Savings for Tomorrow.

Visit http://www.hutchinsonbusinesssolutions.com/ to learn more about saving opportunities available for your company. 

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March 28 (Bloomberg) — The dollar fell against the euro, headed for its biggest weekly decline since January 2006, as traders increased bets that the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates again to avert a recession.

 Is this too little to late? 

Ask Gov. Corzine, he said the R word this morning on Morning Joe. He was asked by Joe Scarborough, “ Do you think we are in a recession.” His answer…”Yes.”

He went on to say that many of the things that the government is now doing is correct but they were too slow to pull the trigger. The Government should have taken these steps months ago.

Now what do we do? 

Ask John McCain, He doesn’t think the government should do anything.

Both Obama and Clinton are saying they will take steps to address these issues but that could be another year from now.

In the meantime, the economy is on a roller coaster.

The Feds keep cutting rates but the banks are not lending money. The housing market continues to suffer for people cannot get a mortgage.

Those stuck with high mortgage rates, try to take the high road and continue to pay high monthly payments with no relief in site. Some are even opting to walk away from their investment. That only will cause more problems down the road.

 What about the small business owner? 

Sales are down and costs continue to increase.

We are working with many small and medium size clients, reviewing costs, creating opportunities that will help them weather the current crisis.

Many hours have been vested to help build their American Dream.

This is not the time to be complacent!

There may not be a silver bullet cure-all but there are steps that can be taken to help reduce cost.

This is the time to be pro-active. 

Let us know your thoughts?

You may email george@hbsadvantage.com

 Hutchinson Business Solutions ……Your CFO on the Go. 

Creating Opportunities Today,…Defining Savings for Tomorrow.

Visit http://www.hutchinsonbusinesssolutions.com/ to learn more about saving opportunities available for your company.

Spread the good news….. share this information with a friend.

As reported on Bloomberg.com March 25 (Bloomberg) — U.S. consumer confidence fell more than forecast in March as Americans’ outlook for the economy dropped to the lowest level since Richard Nixon was president.

The Conference Board’s confidence index fell to 64.5, a five-year low, from a revised 76.4 in February, the New York- based research group said today. A report from S&P/Case-Shiller showed home prices in January fell by the most on record.

Declining stock and property values have unnerved Americans, heightening concern spending will falter. A drop in spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the economy, would deepen what economists say is almost certainly the second recession of the decade. The Dow Jones Industrial Average remained lower after the report, while Treasury notes held gains.

“Consumers are going to pull back pretty sharply,” said Carl Riccadonna, an economist at Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. in New York. “The labor market is starting to deteriorate and income growth is barely keeping pace with inflation. These are all pretty negative omens for what’s to come.”

The Conference Board’s gauge of expectations for the next six months slumped to 47.9, the lowest since December 1973, when the Watergate scandal rocked the Nixon administration and an embargo by a group of Arab oil exporters was in effect, the report showed.

Our Perspective:

The whispering has stopped. People are now communicating their fears about the economy. I stopped at a friends shop the other day and one client told him that this is the worst they have seen the economy in 25 years.

Everyone has been holding their breath with an eye toward summer. We keep pushing the recovery out in hopes that it will work itself out. We all like instant gratification, however we may find this will not be the case.

If you are a business owner, what steps are you taking?

Are you being proactive, looking at your cost?

There is no silver bullet. Baby steps must be taken to review specific cost that will provide savings and increase efficiencies.

Complacency may not be prudent in this case.

Let us know your thoughts?

You may email george@hbsadvantage.com

Hutchinson Business Solutions ……Your CFO on the Go. 

Creating Opportunities Today,…Defining Savings for Tomorrow.

Visit http://www.hutchinsonbusinesssolutions.com/ to learn more about saving opportunities available for your company.

Spread the good news….. share this information with a friend.

Another Cut

March 18, 2008

The Fed cut its federal funds rate another ¾ of a point today  to 2.25%, 

This is an overnight bank-lending rate.  

It is the sixth cut in the past six months and comes at a time when the Fed is trying to keep the economy from slipping into recession –  

Although many think it’s already entered one. 

What’s your thoughts on this? 

The Fed also took the unprecedented step, on Sunday, allowing brokerage firms to borrow money directly from the Fed, a right previously reserved for commercial banks.

In addition, the central bank lowered its discount rate, which is what it charges banks to borrow money, by a quarter of a point. 

As a result, the dollar rose the most it has in almost four years against the yen and gained against the euro.

All this, in an effort to boost the economy and bring confidence back to the financial markets.

Is this being reactionary or is the Fed trying to be proactive?

 Is this too little too late? 

What are your friends and associates saying?

Personally we are hearing a lot of uncertainty.

Most people are hoping it is all just a dream and that it won’t affect them.

However, the signs are real and it is already affecting them.

This is an election year.

Listen to what the candidates are saying and see which one is speaking to you.

Who offers the best plan to address the issues we are dealing with?

Who will address the long-standing issues that have plagued our economy?

I must admit I feel let down.

I always thought that politicians would act in our own best interest to address these issues.

However, too many years have passes and we are still talking about the same things.

What about the hopes and dreams we look to pass onto our children?

What steps are we taking to give them the opportunities we were afforded?

We look to politics to address the global issues,

However what steps can we take to make sure we are not talking about the same issues in years to come.

If you are in business, what are you doing to make it more competitive?

Where do you see your business in 5 years?

What steps are you taking to increase the efficiencies?

What if you lost a key person?

Is there a succession plan in place?

What are your employees saying about health benefits?

Do you have a retirement program in place?

These are opportunities we handle on an everyday basis.

To learn more visit our website

www.hbsadvantage.com

We look forward to hearing your thoughts and discussing them with you.

What’s it worth?

January 11, 2008

Just in the last week, firms operating in Pennsylvania received their new Unemployment Tax Rate notices in the mail…….. Happy New Year!

 What is your new rate? 

Many people don’t realize it but Unemployment is the 2nd highest employer mandated tax.

Mistakenly, it is taken as just another cost of doing business.

 The whole Unemployment process can be likened to having a checkbook with the State.

  • The State tells you what your rate is.
  • The State tells you how much money you should be depositing in this account over the next year.
  • The State tells you how much they have taken out of your account to pay claims.

 Who is holding the State accountable that the rate is correct?

 Who is holding the state accountable that the claim amount taken from your account is correct? 

That is what we do!

The national average for overpaying Unemployment Claims is 9.5%, in some states it is over 25%.

Maybe this is something you should be keeping an eye on?

This is just not another cost of doing business. 

Did your rate increase?

I was speaking to a prospective client the other morning. They told me their Unemployment rate went up 2%. Doesn’t sound like much?

Well 2% to this small company means an additional $24,000 in Unemployment taxes for the next year.

How much additional revenue will be needed to cover this cost?

Stop the runaway train! Start asking questions!

Is your current unemployment rate correct?

Why not ask us?

We will do a no cost analysis of your current rate.

We have a 90% success rate reducing unemployment cost and getting refunds for overpayments.

 You may fax your current rate notice to our office 856-857-1233 for a no cost analysis of your current rate. 

Call 856-857-1230 or email us george@hbsadvantage.com to discuss your current unemployment rate. 

Hutchinson Business Solutions…Your Business Tax Advocate.

Our clients do not overpay taxes!