SOPA Sponsor Pulls Bill From Consideration

Jan 20, 2012, 1:15 pm EDT

Score one for Silicon Valley.

Two days after prominent websites such as Wikipedia and Reddit shut down completely in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act bills being debated in the U.S. House and Senate, the Congressman responsible for introducing SOPA, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, announced he was withdrawing the bill from consideration “until there is wider agreement on a solution.”

Along with news that Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid postponed a vote on PIPA — a bill similar to SOPA currently under debate in the Senate — it seems like the protests that spanned websites ranging from Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) to Facebook to even LOLcat haven ICanHazCheezBurger had their desired impact. Read 

Newt Gingrich’s Ex-Wife Alleges He Asked For Open Marriage

Jan 20, 2012, 12:22 pm EDT

It was the best of days and it was the worst of days for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Fresh off of Perry dropping out of the GOP race and endorsing Gingrich, ABC News ran an interview with Gingrich’s ex-wife, Marianne Gingrich, in which she claimed Newt asked for an open marriage between her, Newt and Gingrich’s then-mistress and now current wife Calista Gingrich.

While this isn’t exactly the freshest of news — Esquire magazine ran a story in 2010 profiling Newt in which similar allegations were brought up — this story came from a widely watched television news source on the eve of a crucial debate for the South Carolina primary, and included the “open marriage” bombshell. Gingrich’s marital record — he is twice divorced, and both divorces occurred while his ex-wives were suffering from serious diseases — has been more than ample fodder for evangelical and family-values voters.

Whether this matters, of course, depends on whether you think family values are an important issue in this campaign. His affair took place at the same time Congress was impeaching former President Bill Clinton for denying his affair with Monica Lewinsky. However, that affair — and the allegations brought up in this recent interview — occurred a long time ago. Read 

Gingrich Beats GOP Foes to Tax Return Punch

Jan 20, 2012, 9:47 am EDT
Gingrich Beats GOP Foes to Tax Return Punch

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has put additional pressure on former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and the other remaining GOP candidates by releasing his 2010 federal tax return on his website.

According to the form, Gingrich filed a joint return with his wife Calista, and the two paid a 31.45% tax rate on their income. They paid $994,708 on $3,162,424 in total income. Most of Gingrich’s income comes from businesses, the largest of which is Gingrich Productions, a multimedia production company that creates documentaries, books, newsletters, audio books, and photo essays, as well as handles Newt and Calista’s appearances on television, radio, and for speeches. At least some of Gingrich’s income was likely to have been taxed at the ordinary income tax rate of 35%.

Gingrich also has promised to release his 2011 tax return when it is completed in April, and thus far seems to be well on top of the tax return game. It might be a political ploy, but it is still refreshing to see a candidate implying, however indirectly it might be, that paying a fair share of taxes is a good thing, and not something to avoid. Read 

Topsy-Turvy South Carolina Primary Enters Final Stretch

Jan 20, 2012, 9:06 am EDT

On Monday of this week it looked as though Mitt Romney was cruising to victory in the Republican primaries. He had won in Iowa and New Hampshire and had a sizable lead in the polls in South Carolina. What a difference a day makes. Over the course of Thursday morning, Rick Perry dropped out of the race and endorsed Newt Gingrich and Iowa announced that, upon recount, Rick Santorum, not Romney, actually won the caucus. Later in the day, a slew of polls were released that showed Gingrich leading Romney in South Carolina, building on what was considered a strong debate performance two days ago.

Gingrich entered the final debate with a considerable amount of momentum and capitalized on it. The Romney campaign suddenly seems to be wobbling. The former House Speaker is now poised to win the South Carolina primary on Saturday.

What are the takeaways from tonight’s debate and what does it mean for the race going forward? Read 

More National Debt Storm Clouds Roll In

Jan 19, 2012, 4:23 pm EDT

Despite the overall improvement in the market, I’m still having a hard time understanding how the economy can foster genuine, sustained growth. Consider the number of ill winds kicking up:

First, there’s the multibillion-dollar cloud of belated “robo-signed” foreclosures that are about to hit our fragile real estate system. Then, you’ve got the donnybrook Congressional environment taking up arms again in March when the stop-gap payroll tax cuts expire. There’s also the “gloves off” Presidential campaign that is quickly picking up speed, which you can count on to essentially stall all vital and necessary legislation until 2013. Finally, there’s our Federal Reserve, which has few to no arrows left in its quiver to address another economic downturn.

So let’s enjoy this period of optimism while we can. The soaring national debt has reached a symbolic tipping point, and it won’t be long before the market must confront this reality. Read 

Romney Tithed Stock to Church to Receive Tax Deductions

Jan 19, 2012, 12:13 pm EDT

A Reuters article recently shined some light on the way that some of the very rich, like former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, handle their obligations to God and government.

More specifically, it showed how Romney tithed to the Mormon church and received large tax deductions at the same time. By donating stock he had obtained through his dealings at Bain Capital, he not only avoided paying capital gains taxes on any stock that had appreciated in value — which would have been necessary if he had sold the stock and either pocketed or donated the money from the sale —  but he was allowed to deduct some or all of the value of the donated stock from his taxable income. Typically, the church would sell the stock immediately after it was donated and pay no tax on the sale.

While Romney should be commended for sticking to the tenets of his faith, even as it potentially cost him millions of dollars in future profits, the tax loophole that stock donations appears to exploit is a curious one. Stock tithing seems to allow both Romney and the Mormon church from paying taxes that other stockholders might have to pay. Read 

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