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For decades government officials have been touting the fallacy that International Monetary Fund payments cost American taxpayers nothing. Even former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin claimed that "the IMF has not cost the taxpayer a dime."This is misleading. Since the IMF operates under a veil of secrecy, these hidden taxpayer subsidies are not subject to annual appropriations, and they are nowhere to be found in the federal budget.
On Dec. 13 a federal judge in Virginia declared the individual mandate in President Barack Obama's health care law to be unconstitutional. That mandate--section 1501 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act--requires all U.S. citizens, beginning on Jan. 1, 2014, to either purchase health insurance or pay a fine to the IRS.
<p>Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., which operates hotels under the Sheraton, Westin and St. Regis brand names, paid DLA Piper U.S. LLP $500,000 in the first half of 2007 to lobby the federal government, according to a disclosure form.</p> <p>The firm lobbied on issues related to international travel, immigration reform, terrorism risk insurance, labor issues and the minimum wage, according to the form posted online Aug. 14 by the Senate's public records office.</p> <p>In addition to Congress, DLA Piper lobbied the White House.</p>
<p>The Republicans will lose three senate seats in next month's elections but will retain control with 52 votes. That's not my guess--it's how the bettors at Tradesports (www.tradesports.com) see it. (Tip: Take bettor wisdom over Zogby or Gallup any day.) For Democrats to assume control, James Webb will have to upset George Allen in Virginia, an unlikely possibility two months ago but plausible since Allen's verbal gaffes. To complete the turnover, Missouri's Republican incumbent Jim Talent would have to go down and Rhode Island's liberal Republican Lincoln Chafee would have to cross the aisle.</p> <p>The House is a near toss-up. Tradesports bettors have placed 57 cents of every dollar on the Republicans. They will lose 12 seats but hold the House by a 220 to 215 majority. Momentum favors Republicans right now, but that could change.</p> <p>Why, you ask, would either party want to control the House of Representatives? If the Tradesports bettors are right, the victorious Republicans will control the Senate and House in name only. Even if a battle-weary Republican House manages by some miracle to pass pro-growth reforms on Social Security or estate taxes, liberal Republican senators such as Chafee and Maine's Olympia Snowe will have new powers to block them. The 110th Congress will be weak as a kitten.</p> <p>By 2008 Americans will be tired of President Bush and sick of Republicans. That's a perfect setup for Democrats.</p> <p>Now let's suppose Democrats take the House by a slim majority. There will be joyous posts at the Daily Kos followed by loud singing of "Happy Days Are Here Again," "Don't Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)" or whatever it is that Democrats sing these days. But then comes January 2007--and cold reality. Consider this leadership lineup:</p> <p>Speaker of the House: Nancy Pelosi Chairman, Ways & Means Committee: Charles Rangel Chairman, House Judiciary Committee: John Conyers Chairman, House Appropriations Committee: David Obey Chairman, Government Reform Committee: Henry Waxman Chairman, Energy & Commerce Committee: John Dingell</p> <p>The average age of these congressmen is 72. By contrast, Newt Gingrich was 51 and Dick Armey was 54 when they led the Republican revolution and takeover in 1994. Revolution favors the young.</p> <p>Another number to keep in mind is 98--the above lineup's average voting-record rating, as scored by the liberal Americans for Democratic Action. Poor Dingell scores only 95. The Michigan congressman once served as a board member of the National Rifle Association. Obviously, this right-winger will have to go.</p> <p>What would the incoming Democratic House leadership make its top priorities? Thwarting terrorism? Growing the economy? Based on their recent legislative efforts, Pelosi and Dingell would try to nationalize health care. Obey would want more aid for farmers, because $180 billion over ten years is not enough. Rangel would raise taxes on income and capital gains, penalize outsourcers and institute a draft. Conyers would try to impeach President Bush. Waxman would strike evil at America's heart with a ban on</p> <p>Krispy Kreme</p> <p>doughnuts.</p> <p>What a comedy this promises to be.</p> <p>If I were John McCain, Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney--that is, if I wanted to be the GOP candidate for President in 2008--I'd say, "Go, House Democrats 2006!" I wouldn't say it out loud, of course, but I'd surely think it.</p> <p>Time to Invest in Mexico?</p> <p>Could be.</p> <p>The best-performing stock market since 2001 has been Peru's. It has grown at an annual rate of 42%.</p> <p>Is it Mexico's turn? That seems an absurd question given the recent election turmoil. The loser, Andres Manuel LA(sup.3)pez Obrador, and his sympathizers blocked Mexico City's streets for six weeks during the summer. Even now, Mexico's Hugo ChA vez wannabe is forming a shadow government, promising to dog and disrupt Felipe CalderA(sup.3)n's incoming administration. Despite all this, Mexico will clock a 3.5% growth rate this year. And probably 4% next year.</p> <p>Did you know that? I didn't.</p> <p>Mexico is riding a 20-year demographic tailwind. The country's biggest population bulge has just entered the workforce. The ratio of earners to dependents looks good for the next two decades.</p> <p>Consumer credit has grown by 400% since 2000, a measure of a rising middle class. I'll bet Obrador was surprised by the middle class' voting strength.</p> <p>The country's stock market trades for 37% of the GDP. That's low. Other Mexican assets: 3% inflation, thanks to a strong central bank; free-trade policy. Biggest liability: restrictions on foreign ownership of oil and natural gas producers and electricity distributors.</p> <p>Mexico is always a risk. It has flattened investors' hopes before. But Mexico looks interesting right now. Its fundamentals paint a rosier picture than the dreary headlines. That's usually a buy sign. </p>
<p>WASHINGTON, D.C. - Along with its proposed 2005 budget, the Bush Administration this week produced a document--known as the "blue book" for the color of its cover--detailing its proposals for $1.24 trillion in tax cuts over the next ten years. Compared to the budget, the blue book is light reading at just 195 pages. But like this year's budget itself, it is most remarkable for what it leaves out.</p>