tedfrank

Posts by tedfrank

Barack Obama Senator Barack Hussein Obama Above the Law blog.jpg[Ed. note: Ted Frank's posts analyzing presidential candidate Barack Obama's tax plan, available here and here, were some of the most popular in ATL history. They generated over 900 comments and thousands of pageviews. Because there have been some developments on this front since February, when Ted Frank first issued his analysis, we requested an update; he kindly obliged.]
Above the Law’s Fearless Leader David Lat asked me to update my earlier posts on Obama’s tax plan. As you recall, Obama made a series of promises of “fixing” the tax code, mostly on the backs of investors and the upper middle-class — like Biglaw associates.
I ran a spreadsheet that showed that, with reasonable assumptions, those tax increases would have the same effect on associate after-tax income as a New York law firm cutting salaries by $34,000, but permitted one to change the assumptions if you disagreed with the assumptions I made. I made no endorsements, noting that, Thomas “no relation” Frank notwithstanding, taxes and economic issues were not the only reason to vote for a presidential candidate. (Still, commenters’ reactions can best be described by Tyler Cowen’s description of “Obama insecurity“: “For some people no comment on Obama, other than the purely laudatory, is anything other than a hackish right-wing attempt to forge an alliance of lies with Karl Rove and his ilk.”)
Since then, Obama’s two top economic advisors have posted a Wall Street Journal editorial and a website giving somewhat more detail to the Obama tax plan. David asked me to update my post.
1. The most notable change is Obama’s social security tax plan. Recall that his original promise was to simply lift the cap, changing the system from a pay-in to income-redistribution — something that would have cost law firm associates thousands or tens of thousands and raised marginal tax rates to nearly 60%. When Hillary Clinton started hitting him hard about it, he backed off his original plan to make social security taxes uniform and said he might (but might not) add a “doughnut-hole” between $97,000 and $150,000 or $200,000 or $250,000.
Now that Obama has clinched the nomination and is pretending to be a centrist for the general election, after the Wall Street Journal hit him hard about it, Obama pushed everything he promised in the primaries overboard. First, he said he would raise taxes not the full 12.4%, but just “2 to 4%” — so much for making Warren Buffett pay the same rate as his secretary. The latest is that Obama will avoid any tax changes in social security until 2019, i.e., punting the problem into President Jindal’s lap. So zero out the social security tax increases, unless Obama changes his mind for a fourth time. (People at my high school backed off of plans for trillion-dollar tax increases when faced with outrage from Above the Law commenters all the time. It was no big deal.)
Read more, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Obama Tax Plan
(Or: Ted Frank’s What’s the Matter with Manhattan?)”

Barack Obama Senator Barack Hussein Obama Above the Law blog.jpg[Ed. note: Yesterday's guest post about how Barack Obama's tax plan might affect Biglaw associates, authored by Ted Frank, generated a record number of comments on ATL: 564 (and counting). It also generated lots of reaction throughout the blogosphere (links collected below). So we thought we'd invite Ted to do a follow-up.]
Here it is. Ted wrote it in response to the following reader email, which makes many of the arguments that surfaced in the 564+ comments. From an Obama defender:

I’m sorry, but you are losing your credibility by posting this false propaganda on Obama. Look at Obama’s website. It clearly states, “Asked About Raising the Cap, Obama said, ‘You Might Have the Equivalent of a Doughnut Hole’–NOT That He Would Completely Remove the Cap.” Obama “has stated in various venues that ‘his inclination… has been for a ‘donut’ where the uncapping would take place above some threshold income level — probably around $200,000 or $250,000′ his economic adviser Austan Goolsbee said in an email. A donut would protect a certain portion of income (e.g., between $100,000 and $200,000) from the payroll tax and could be phased in over decades.”

In addition, that “$34,000 paycut” in the post title is misleading. Even if all your assumptions were correct (which they weren’t), the after tax pay cut under Obama is < $20,000. I love your site, but please correct this ridiculous false article before you lose all credibility.

And now, without further ado, Ted Frank.
* * * * * * * * * *
First, as I show in the spreadsheet, a $20,000 tax increase is the equivalent of a $34,000 before-tax paycut for a New York City resident, which would have the same after-tax effect. The $34,000 figure is accurate: that’s just math. The Obama tax plan would have the same effect on a NYC fifth-year associate being paid market as a $34,000 paycut.
Obama has never said he will have a doughnut-hole, only that his SS tax could include a doughnut-hole. When Hillary Clinton attacked Obama at the November 15 Nevada debate for wanting to eliminate the cap, Obama didn’t say that the attack was incorrect; he defended the policy because eliminating the cap would only affect what he called the “upper class.” The press has accurately reported that Obama has also proposed eliminating the cap; even Obama’s own website links to a thinktank’s analysis of the benefits of a cap elimination.
It would be really easy for Obama to promise to include a “doughnut-hole” or to not eliminate the SS-tax cap. He certainly hasn’t been afraid to promise drastically expensive programs of new spending or even tax giveaways to large swaths of the population who aren’t paying much tax now.
But when it comes to Social Security, Obama is suddenly vague; when he does discuss details, it is to cite examples (e.g., Warren Buffett) that could not be accomplished without eliminating the cap entirely. And the only reason a politician acts that way is because he supports the more drastic, politically unpopular plan, but doesn’t want to get tagged with it before the election, and will say after the election “I only said I would ‘consider’ a doughnut-hole.”
How Barack Obama’s Tax Plan Will Affect You [Microsoft Excel file]
Additional discussion and links, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “NY to… 147K? More About Barack Obama’s Tax Plan
(Or: Time to make the donuts?)”

Barack Obama Senator Barack Hussein Obama Above the Law blog.jpg[Ed. note: Today we bring you some "news you can use": a practical look at how political choices might affect your personal finances. This post is by Ted Frank, who blogs at Overlawyered.com and PointofLaw.com, and who has guest edited ATL in the past. Take it away, Ted.]
BigLaw lawyers love Obama. If one searches by law firm various databases on-line for campaign contributions, one sees an overwhelming sea of blue, and most of it to Obama.
But how will Obama affect BigLaw wallets? On Above the Law, we regularly see commenters threaten to abandon law firms for falling $5,000/year short of market. I therefore thought it worthwhile to examine the effects of Obama’s tax and spending plans on take-home pay.
We all know that Obama wants to end the Bush tax cuts. That is a 3% bump across the board to the bad old days when associates faced a marginal federal tax rate of 36%.
But the real hidden tax is that Obama plans to end the social-security tax cap. Right now, you may notice, sometime during the summer or early fall, your take-home pay suddenly goes up because they stop deducting FICA. Current law caps social security taxes: in 2008, the cap is at $102,000. Obama proposes to abolish this. That mid-summer bump will be no more: add about several thousand dollars to your annual tax bill.
But social-security taxes are not only on employees. The government also charges 6.2% to employers that you never see on your W-2s. But rest assured the partners see this, and will notice that the expense of keeping an associate has risen several thousand dollars a year when FICA taxes double and triple. Will they swallow that additional expense, or take it out of your bonus?
Find out, after the jump (or click here).

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Obama, BigLaw, and Taxes
(Or: Obama = $34,000 Paycut)”

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