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Archive → December 16th, 2017

Latest welcoming community ordinance part of larger push

Supporters say latest welcoming community ordinance part of larger push

FILE - police, traffic stop
Shutterstock photo

ILLINOIS NEWS NETWORK

Supporters of the latest welcoming community ordinance in Illinois say the push is not about creating a sanctuary city, but they hope for something more than a simple change in police policy.

Bloomington is the latest to look at a welcoming ordinance.

Tom Cullen with Illinois People’s Action said a welcoming ordinance is not the same as a sanctuary city policy, although they both prohibit local police from asking about immigration status or holding people who are in this country illegally for federal immigration authorities. 

“What it’s talking about is how the police [in Bloomington] are going to treat the immigration population,” Cullen said. “And how they are going to facilitate the work of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in that community.”

While neither “sanctuary city” or “welcoming city” has an official legal definition, sanctuary cities generally discourage or prevent local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration officials, while welcoming cities prevent law enforcement and other government officials from asking about legal status. The terms can vary from one community to the next depending on the local governing body’s intent.

Cullen said the ultimate goal of his organization is to expand the scope of who has a right to be in this country under the 14th Amendment.

“No state shall deny due process of law to any person,” Cullen said. “Or equal protection under the law to any person. That means any human being in that state.”

Cullen said supporters hope to get immigration added as a protected class, like race or sexual orientation. 

There are about a dozen welcoming communities in the state. Cullen said most of them are suburban or university towns.

Bloomington leaders are set to talk about the ordinance Dec. 18. Cullen wants a vote by Christmas.

Source: Will County News

Illinois county aims to wean pensions from newly-elected officials

Illinois county aims to wean pensions from newly-elected officials

FILE - Old McHenry County (IL) courthouse
The old McHenry County courthouse and jail in Woodstock, Illinois. (Carldaniel | Wikimedia via Creative Commons)

ILLINOIS NEWS NETWORK

A northern Illinois county is doing what it can to get out from under the public pension system officials say has been squeezing their budgets for years.

The McHenry County Board decided last year that it would no longer offer Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund pensions to its new members. Now the board is looking to wean countywide elected officials such as the sheriff, clerk and others off of the defined-benefit plan as well.

The newest proposal would give a 401k-style retirement plan to any new elected officials but only if they pass on the pension.

Specifically, the plan would offer elected officials enrollment in a 457 deferred compensation plan. If they enroll on the condition of pledging not to participate in IMRF, the county will provide a one-to one contribution match not to exceed $8,000 a year. The maximum contribution allowed by the IRS to 457 plans will be $18,500 for participants younger than 50, and $24,500 for participants age 50 and older. That’s for 2018, and the number changes annually.

“When they’re done, we’re done,” said board member John Reinert, who crafted the plan with another on the board. “Taxpayers can no longer afford to offer lifelong retirement plans.”

Pension obligations, Reinert said, are continually a problem come budget time.

Reinert is running for state senate next year.

The board previously tried to scrap the pensions for newly elected officials completely but learned that state law forbade that.

The offices of County Board Chairman, State’s Attorney, County Clerk, Circuit Clerk, Treasurer, Auditor, Recorder, Coroner and Sheriff would all be affected. The local superintendent would not since its pension comes from the Teachers Retirement Fund.

County Board Chairman Jack Franks, as well as the coroner, sheriff and recorder, have all refused a pension plan.

The IMRF has long been complimented as a model for other pension funds in that it’s better funded than others. What’s often left out of that conversation is that Illinois law requires local governments to give their required IMRF contributions precedent over any other expense, including core services and other pension plans that are likely less funded.

If approved, the plan would be available to elected officials sworn into office as of Dec. 1, 2018.

Reporter

Cole Lauterbach reports on Illinois government and statewide issues for INN. Lauterbach has managed and produced shows for news/talk radio stations in both Bloomington/Normal and Peoria, and created award-winning programs for Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

Source: Will County News

The Kitties That Took Down Ethereum

 

The Kitties That Took Down Ethereum
Alexandra Perry Photo By Alexandra Perry
Written Dec.  2017
What a week for digital currency.

Bitcoin soared to a new all-time high, smashing through $18,000 like a bull in a china shop.

IOTA, one of our earliest Wealth Daily spotlights, forged a partnership with Microsoft. Since we spotlighted it, the digital currency has experienced gains over 800%.

Considering that our research team was talking about both these digital assets pretty early, I am going to give them a pat on the back.

But there was one event they didn’t predict.

That event was CryptoKitties, an adorable blockchain-based game that wreaked havoc on the Ethereum network.

Now, CryptoKitties taught a whole new audience about blockchain technology. It also demonstrated exactly how far digital currencies have to go.

That is why I want to talk about CryptoKitties and the future of the Ethereum network. 2017 was the year of digital currency, but 2018 will be the year people finally start to understand it.

Blockchain-based games like CryptoKitties — as ridiculous as that sounds — can help investors understand the steps left for these technologies before mainstream adoption.

So What is CryptoKitties?

CryptoKitties was one of the most talked about events of the week, covered by TechCrunch, BBC News, and CNBC.

In truth, I think I was pretty late to the game on this one. As soon as the application hit, my Twitter started blowing up — and not from the usual traffic. Friends who knew nothing about digital currency were asking me about Ethereum and blockchain.

They were willing to learn about something they considered complex and bewildering to get their hands on a “CryptoKitty.”

So I checked it out.

Long story short: CryptoKitties are really just glorified digital Beanie Babies. I took a screenshot of one of my favorites:

Crypto_cat_baby

Isn’t he cute? The CryptoKitty above was only $4. With him, you receive details about his genetic makeup right down to specific character traits. And if $4 seems like a lot for a digital cat, then I have news for you.

This is actually a “discount” cat. Some CryptoKitties are selling for over $20,000. The first cat ever created — known as the Genesis cat — sold for over $100,000.

And, in fairness to its buyer, it is really cute, and I am a bit jealous.

Still, to most people, these are outrageous prices for digital cats. Yet, like all collector items, they have gathered their own audience.

Online digital pets aren’t new. When I was a kid, I bought a stuffed animal called a WebKinz.

It had a digital counterpart that I could interact with online. We also had Neopets and Tamagotchi. These were virtual pets, but people spent real money on them.

Now, CryptoKitties is a bit different. The information surrounding these digital cats is all stored on a blockchain. That means there is no central company. Nothing can truly shut CryptoKitties down. The cats are decentralized.

That said, the game did create some mayhem.

Demand was so high that at one point it consumed a good portion of the traffic on the Ethereum network.

This congestion caused outrage for other Ethereum users, inciting complaints about slower transaction times. It also raised some legitimate concerns.

Can Ethereum actually handle an increased user base?

Or will it fall into the same trap as Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is now valued above $15,000. Yet, in the last several days, it has taken up to 141 minutes to confirm a transaction. Now does that sound like an effective decentralized network to you?

Luckily for Ethereum, congestion may be a thing of the past.

Big things are coming down the pike for the digital currency.

Ethereum’s Next Important Steps

When I talk to people about Ethereum and Bitcoin, most people agree that Ethereum is the smartphone to Bitcoin’s calculator.

Despite Bitcoin’s meteoric rise, the actual Bitcoin network is far slower and less suited for transactions than the Ethereum network. Some efforts have been made to fix this, including the Bitcoin Lightning Network, which is still being rolled out.

That said, with Bitcoin’s multiple scaling issues, users aren’t so certain that these upgrades will be made anytime soon.

Ethereum, on the other hand, has some things planned.

The first of these things is the Raiden Network, which will allow Ethereum to process smaller transactions off-chain. The Raiden Network held its ICO this October, and now Ethereum supporters are waiting to see how this scaling solution will help Ethereum in the coming year.

Another big step for Ethereum will be the Casper PoS (Proof of Stake) protocol. If PoS is implemented correctly, it should speed up transactions.

We explore the benefits and risks of PoS in our digital currency educational service, which you can learn more about here.

All this technical information aside, just know that either Raiden or PoS could change the Ethereum network for the better, positioning Ethereum ahead of the competition.

Looking Forward to 2018

I don’t know about you, but I am looking forward to 2018.

2017 was the year digital currencies broke through to a mainstream audience. And, while that breakthrough brought a lot of irrational exuberance and dumb investing, it also introduced a whole new technology market with immense profit potential.

Heading into 2018, the Wealth Daily team is going to continue to monitor digital currencies. We are expecting 2018 to be a hot year for digital assets, especially smaller tokens currently dwarfed by Bitcoin.

And we are not alone in that belief.

The MIT Technology Review published content stating that, while Bitcoin dominates the market today, its hold on the market “will drop significantly in the next few years.”

That means now is the time to start looking at other digital currencies.

If you’re interested in learning more about digital currencies, can you check out our FREE digital currency education service.

With this service, you get multiple videos, reports, and a 44-page e-book breaking down the value behind some of the top digital tokens — tokens that could potentially skyrocket in value in the coming year!

You can learn more about that service here.

Happy holidays, and best of luck with your investments.

alexandra-perry-signature

Alexandra Perry

follow basic@AlexandraPerryC on Twitter

Alexandra Perry is a contributing analyst for Wealth Daily and Energy and Capital. She has multiple years of experience working with startup companies, primarily focusing on artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, alternative energy, and biotech. Her take on investing is simple: a new age of investor can make monumental returns by investing in emerging industries and foundational startup ventures.

Source: Will County News

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of the GOP Tax Reform Plan

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of the GOP Tax Reform Plan
Jason Williams Photo By Jason Williams
By this time next week, it’s quite possible that we’ll have a new tax plan. Republicans in the House and Senate are rumored to have agreed on some major differences between their two plans, and the president is calling for an approved version to be on his desk by next Wednesday.

He really wants to get this thing through as soon as possible. He especially wants it passed by the end of the year. That’s because it would be the first major piece of legislation he’d have accomplished in his first year of office. And it would be the first major campaign promise he’s kept as well.

i want you to pay taxes

There are still some hurdles to jump. But the major ones have already been cleared, and now they’re more like speed bumps on the way to a final deal.

I’ve got to be honest. I didn’t think the GOP could get this to happen. The party has been split over every other major policy. And it hasn’t been able to get anything substantial through either part of the legislative branch — even with a majority in both.

But it looks like this is going to happen. And, contrary to what politicians from both parties would like you to believe, there are some good and bad parts to this reform.

Democrats would have you believe it’s the worst thing to happen since smallpox. And Republicans want you to think it’s the best thing since sliced bread.

The truth? It’s neither. There are some great pieces to this tax plan. There are some terrible ones, too. And there are some that are just ugly.

Of course, everyone’s going to have a different opinion on these sections of the tax reform. These are mine…

The Good

First off, the corporate tax rate is getting slashed. Currently, it’s at 35%. That’s a lot higher than many other countries. That’s why American corporations have so much cash stashed offshore.

Now, the left wants you to think that lowering the corporate tax rate is just pandering to big business. And it sort of is. But those big businesses have trillions of dollars just sitting in bank accounts in other countries. And it’s not helping the U.S. economy at all having it there.

Lowering the corporate tax rate to 21% — which seems to be the number both branches of Congress have agreed upon — would encourage them to bring that cash back home. And that’s good for average Americans.

These are companies like Cisco, IBM, Apple, and Alphabet. If you’ve got a retirement account of any kind, chances are high that you’re a shareholder in at least one of them.

And when companies have a windfall of cash, there are only a few things they can do with it. They can reinvest in the company — expand operations, increase research and development, acquire other smaller companies. They can buy back shares of their stock. Or they can pay the funds out to investors as special dividends.

Chances are they’ll do all three. The amount of money these companies are sitting on is massive, too big to just use for one of them. So, we’ll likely see some growth as far as their businesses go. We’ll also probably see increased share repurchase programs — that’s money back in our pockets. And we’ll also potentially get paid some very nice special dividends. We might even see the regular dividends some of these companies pay get hiked, some by as much as 50%.

I don’t know about you, but when my investments grow and pay me cold, hard cash, I think that’s a good thing.

There are some other beneficial parts to the GOP’s plan: lowering the income taxes for each bracket, repealing the Obamacare individual mandate (where you get fined if you don’t have insurance), doubling the standard deduction, keeping the mortgage interest deduction. But in my opinion, the corporate tax cut is one of the shining points of this tax reform.

The Bad

There are parts I don’t like, however. First, there’s the estate tax, also known as the death tax. It would likely stay in place. And it’s been a complete and utter failure.

The estate tax was supposed to prevent the formation of American aristocracy. It was intended to keep incredibly wealthy families from forming by making it impossible to pass a fortune from one generation to the next. You know, families like the Rockefellers, Morgans, DuPonts, and Trumps.

Obviously, it’s been a resounding success since none of those families are still super-wealthy.

What it really does is take from families who can’t afford the accountants and estate planners it takes to get around it — luxuries those super-wealthy families can afford.

So, I was all for eliminating it. But it looks like that’s not going to happen.

Second — and an even bigger failure in my eyes — is the limitation of the state tax deduction, also known as SALT. That stands for state and local tax deductions.

Currently, you can deduct taxes you pay to your state and locality. In places like New York, New Jersey, California, Massachusetts, and other major metro areas, this is a big deal. In fact, it’s the biggest deduction claimed every year by Americans. It amounts to $539.8 billion per year. The next biggest deduction is mortgage interest at about half that figure.

You can deduct your income taxes, property taxes, and sales taxes from your federal taxes right now. But the GOP plan places a limit of $10,000 on those deductions and makes you choose which state and local taxes to claim.

And, if you’re a homeowner in a city, you know how big those property taxes are. So, you’ll definitely lose out on a big deduction with this new tax plan. That rubs me the wrong way.

The Ugly

There are also a few pieces of this legislation that are downright ugly. The worst, in my opinion, is something that’s gotten very little press.

I actually didn’t learn about it until one of the members of my investing service, The Wealth Advisory, wrote in to ask about an email he’d received from his broker.

The email talked about how the reforms would limit his choices when it came to selling stock and reporting losses and gains in his taxes. That got me interested, so I read through the Senate proposal to find out what was going on. The dirty truth was on page 266.

Basically, it’ll do just what his broker told him. Right now, you can choose which shares you want to sell when trimming a position. If you bought some for $25 and some for $100 and the stock is trading at $50 now, you can sell the $100 shares and take a loss. You can then deduct that loss from your taxes.

But under the new legislation, you have to sell the first shares you bought. In accounting terms that’s known as first in first out, or FIFO.

So, if you bought those $25 shares first, you’ve got to sell them for a 100% gain and pay taxes on your profit, even though the entire position is flat.

If you’re selling enough shares, that could amount to a pretty hefty capital gains tax. All told, it’s going to cost regular Americans like you and me somewhere around $2.4 billion a year.

Not only is that an unfair shake for retail investors like us, but it’s been snuck into something called tax cuts. And that doesn’t sound like a tax cut to me.

The Tax Man Cometh

The one thing that’s not going to change with this bill is that we’re still going to be shouldering the burden of a bloated government that can’t control its spending. And we’re still going to be paying more in taxes than we’d like to.

Last year, I put together a list of some things to do to reduce your tax burden. I highly suggest you take a look and do what you can this year and next to give yourself a real tax cut.

I also recommend you check out this “cheat sheet” my colleague Briton Ryle and I put together for The Wealth Advisory community. It’s got lots of tips on maximizing your profits and your income, and it’s also got some very handy guidelines for reducing your overall tax burden.

To your wealth,

Jason Williams
Wealth Daily

Follow me on Twitter @AllBeingsEqual

Source: Will County News