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Thing One: Fiscal Cliff Watch! Imagine a version of the movie "Groundhog Day" in which you did the same thing over and over again every single day, except you did not learn to play the piano, befriend an entire small town and sleep with Andie MacDowell by the end of it. Welcome to our least-favorite recurring nightmare, Fiscal Cliff Watch.
Yes, the fiscal cliff, or slope, or austerity bomb, or slope of dope, or whatever the kids are calling it these days, continues to be a thing we are all supposed to be very worried about, forever. President Obama is hitting the road to sell his plan for avoiding the cliff and closing the budget deficit to the public today, the Washington Post writes, in what would seem to be an unnecessary effort to rally public sentiment behind the idea of raising taxes on the wealthy. Apparently he, too, has forgotten that he won an election on this very topic earlier this month.
Obama and Negotiator-in-Chief Tim Geithner met with some more corporate CEOs yesterday to talk about the cliff, and it has emerged that Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles are just wandering around the nation's capital spreading folksy deficit "wisdom" like they do, the New York Times reports. As often happens in negotiations of this type, Obama and the Democrats are hardening their positions on the cliff, while Republicans on the other side are also hardening their positions, too, the Wall Street Journal writes. This predictable hardening caused a mild panic in the moronic stock market yesterday because the robots in charge of our stock trading these days don't understand how negotiations work. Meanwhile, companies are shoveling cash out the door in special dividends at a record rate to get ahead of higher tax rates next year, the Financial Times writes. Companies may soon start buying back buckets of their own stock for the same reason, the NYT writes.
The wealthy -- led by CEOs and house organ CNBC -- are doing their level best to keep us in a panic about the fiscal cliff because it means their taxes are going to get raised very soon. But eventually we're all going to have to pay more in taxes anyway, writes Eduardo "Eeyore" Porter of the NYT, panic or not. Hopefully we are soon about to enter the "bored cynicism" phase of this so-called crisis. A similar thing happened with the European debt crisis earlier this year, when we finally realized that it was never going to end, but was also probably not going to kill us all in our beds. These fiscal issues aren't ever going to end either -- they will probably be kicked down the road at the last minute so we can do them all over again next year. But they aren't going to kill us, either. Don't drive angry.
Thing Two: Just When You Thought It Was Safe: Of course, if we do fall fully off the fiscal cliff, a process that will take several months, then the economy will end up in a recession. Which would be a shame, because it's showing some real signs of improvement lately. Home prices and consumer confidence are both rising, according to new reports yesterday, boosting an economy slowed down by panicky CEOs closing their own wallets. Even California is starting to pull out of its malaise -- despite, or because of, raising taxes with Proposition 30, the New York Times writes.
Thing Three: Spanish Banks, A New Hope: Meanwhile in the other interminable crisis, Europe: The European Commission has approved a plan for restructuring Spain's troubled banks and OK-ed 40 billion euros in relief, in what Reuters says could be a solution to the country's banking crisis. And in another hopeful sign, Germany's finance minister said he could maybe see forgiving a little bit of Greece's debt, over the strenuous objections of Germany's biggest newspaper.
Thing Four: Debt Crisis, The Next Frontier: While Americans have worked down a good bit of their household debt, they still have quite a bit, which could be holding back the recovery, writes the Washington Post. And they are loading themselves up with ever-more frightening levels of student-loan debt, raising questions about a federal gubmint scheme to get everybody edumacated, writes the Wall Street Journal. Rick Santorum tried to warn us!
Thing Five: Insider Trading: In shocking news that will no doubt shock you, corporate insiders are often eerily skilled at perfectly timing the purchase or sale of their own companies' stocks, according to a study by the Wall Street Journal: "Executives can trade for entirely legitimate reasons, such as to raise money to meet a tax bill or simply to diversify. But of course they must avoid trading on nonpublic information, and that can lead to sticky situations, since executives do possess just such information much of the time."
Thing Six: SAC Dance: Speaking of insider trading! Secretive hedge fund SAC, run by secretive hedge-fund manager Steven Cohen, is hosting a conference call with investors today to tell them not to worry about the fact that a former SAC employee has been caught up in the government's insider-trading dragnet, in a case that mentions, but does not charge, Cohen himself.
Thing Seven: A Few Bad Apples: The Apple Maps fiasco continues to claim victims: Apple has defenestrated the guy in charge of the crap map app that was released with the iPhone 5. The map app led to much confusion, Internet hilarity and a rare apology from Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Thing Seven And One Half: Holy Crap, Brazil, Seriously: Scariest. Prank. Ever. (h/t Uproxx).
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Calendar Du Jour:
10:00 a.m. ET: New Home Sales for October
2:00 p.m. ET: Fed's Beige Book
Heard On The Tweets:
Imagine if Wall Street banks had as low a tolerance for failure as Apple does. Or Congress!— Farhad Manjoo (@fmanjoo) November 27, 2012
Just bought powerball ticket. Now working on draft of my resignation letter. (Also, is bling it bitch a verb?)— Eddy Elfenbein (@EddyElfenbein) November 27, 2012
All grandparents are required by law to have earthlink email addresses.— Nic Cage Match (@NicCageMatch) November 26, 2012
"Words With Friends - The Board Game"? You mean SCRABBLE? That's like pretending to invent tennis and calling it Live Pong...— Mitch Benn (@MitchBenn) November 27, 2012
Looking for a way to save time? Instead of saying, "Make a U-Turn," say, "Bang a U-ey."— Eugene Mirman (@EugeneMirman) November 27, 2012
-- Calendar and tweets rounded up by Alexis Kleinman.
Also on HuffPost:
Residential Energy-Efficiency Credits
No tax breaks for being green in 2012. Homeowner investments in energy-efficient double-pane windows or high-efficiency refrigerators, <a href="http://www.energytaxincentives.org/">don't get any tax benefit</a>. More than 43.5 million Americans have filed and received this benefit, with an average reduction in tax liability of $765.84, according to H&R Block.
Mortgage Insurance Premiums
Bad news for homeowners: They cannot write off mortgage insurance premiums on 2012 tax returns. Congress can act to reauthorize these deductions retroactively to Jan. 1, 2012, and extend them through the end of 2013, but that would cost the government $1.3 billion over the next decade, the <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2012/oct/07/business/la-fi-harney-20121007">Los Angeles Times reports</a>.
Taxpayers who have out-of-pocket adoption expenses or who adopted a child with special needs can only claim the adoption credit to the extent of their tax liability. While the portion of the credit not taken into account in 2012, up to $12,650 per child, is carried forward to future years, the benefit is no longer fully refundable, according to tax experts.
Alternative Minimum Tax
If the alternative minimum tax legislation is not retroactively patched for 2012, current law could result in an increased tax liability for up to 34 million Americans. According to a study by the Tax Institute at H&R Block, an average family making $85,000 with children in college could see their tax liability soar from a $1,056 refund to owing $1,400.
American Opportunity Tax Credit
Tuition bills will be higher starting on Jan. 1 because families will lose the $2,500 American Opportunity Tax Credit, which ends in 2012 unless Congress takes action. More than 2.4 million Americans claimed this deduction in 2009, resulting in a combined decrease in taxable income of $5.4 billion, according to tax experts.
Payroll Tax Credit
Paychecks will be smaller starting Jan. 1, 2013. An American making $50,000, for example, will lose $80 in monthly pay after the credit ends. The temporary credit also has lowered the amount workers contributed to Social Security by 2 percent.
Educator Expense Deduction
Teachers lose their $250 maximum deduction on expenses related to buying school supplies. This credit expired at the end of 2011, and teachers won't be able to claim this benefit on their 2012 taxes unless Congress takes action. In 2009, more than 3.8 million teachers claimed this benefit for a combined deduction of $9.7 billion, according to H&R Block.
Sales Tax As An Itemized Deduction
Taxpayers will no longer have the option of claiming an itemized deduction for state sales tax in lieu of state income tax. This expiration will have a greater impact on taxpayers who reside in a state with sales tax, but no income tax, including Alaska, Florida, Texas, Nevada, Washington, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
IRA Retirement Funds
Taxpayers over age 70½ no longer have the option of directing their income from an IRA distribution to a charitable organization. Starting this year, older taxpayers must include the distribution in income and claim a charitable deduction, resulting in a potentially higher tax bracket and a need to itemize instead of claiming the standard deduction, according to H&R Block.
As if losing all those tax credits was not bad enough, the earliest date to file a 2012 tax return electronically has moved back to Jan. 22, 2013. As the IRS has indicated that refunds could take as long as 21 days to process this year, a refund in January to cover Christmas credit card payments, winter heating bills, or rent is unlikely.