Randall Bolten Blog

July 02, 2011
In the current debate about the U.S. federal government’s fiscal predicament, there is much rhetoric, from both sides of the aisle, about the need to “rationalize” and “simplify” the federal income tax code, and lower tax rates in the process. The real issue, of course, is the deficit, and the only way to reduce a deficit is to either spend less or tax more. So how can “lowering tax rates” help solve the problem?



June 25, 2011
The word for today is context. Yesterday’s New York Times ran a story about a bill in the New Jersey state legislature about to become law, which will reduce the state’s cost of benefits for government employees and retirees. The fiscal condition of the states is a burning issue nationwide, and deserves a clear and concise airing for interested citizens.



May 17, 2011
Housing starts in April dropped more than 10% from housing starts in March. That was one of NPR’s lead stories this morning , as it was for many other news services. In the spoken version of the story, the NPR reporter attributed the drop in new construction to the glut of existing homes that are on the market because of mortgage foreclosures. The reporter went on to say that one of the problems these foreclosed homes posed was that they “were selling below their value.”



May 12, 2011
In an ExxonMobil TV ad supporting the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI), the voice-over says that “high schools. . . enrolled in the NMSI have raised AP test scores by 138%.” ExxonMobil reasserts this claim on their corporate website.



May 10, 2011
A headline in today’s Los Angeles Times reads, “Boehner demands trillions in cuts in exchange for debt vote.” Wow! But wait! It gets even more specific! Since the cuts the Times cites Boehner as demanding cuts greater than the increase in the debt ceiling being negotiated, that somehow means he’s demanding cuts of “$2 trillion or more.” Double wow!! (Have I used too many exclamation points?)



May 09, 2011
When you write about presenting numbers, sometimes your subject matter is right under your nose. This morning I was in my local county clerk’s office, and I ran across a piece of paper taped to a table in the waiting room...



April 28, 2011
Kudos goes to Mark Whitehouse for his April 9 “Number of the Week” piece in the online Wall Street Journal. The topic is an important one – how much we spend on healthcare – and he presents some very important numbers in a clear and concise way. Here’s the chart he included in his post.



April 22, 2011
Arthur Levitt, former SEC Chairman and Wall Street statesman, has an excellent piece in the Wall Street Journal, pleading for more “plain English” in financial disclosures. Invoking the ghosts of Mark Twain and Will Rogers, he observes that most readers and listeners react with suspicion when they encounter language that seems more complex and uses bigger words than necessary.



April 17, 2011
On this morning’s “Meet the Press,” the usually oracular Alan Greenspan was unusually plain-spoken. He suggested that while tax increases rarely achieve their intended deficit-reduction purpose, given the U.S. government’s current deficit troubles, it might be best to allow the Bush era tax cuts (“BETCs”) to expire for all taxpayers, not just those in the upper income brackets.



April 14, 2011
If you can understand the federal budget from what you see and hear from newscasters and soundbites from our legislators, you’re more astute than I. So take matters into your own hands: go straight to the source, and you’ll be amazed by what you can learn.


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