Today, Tim Cavanaugh is the happiest Purple Knight at Holyoke High School in Holyoke, Mass.
In front of a packed assembly yesterday, Fool co-founder David Gardner presented Tim with a $1,000 check for taking first place in our annual teen contest. We were looking for the most eloquent and effective advice for teens on personal finance, investing, or business, and his entry was a concise overview of some basic Foolish philosophies.
To read his advice, and find out why teachers across America need to know about this ongoing contest, read the full story.
In today's Motley Fool Take:
- A $350 Billion Tax Cut
- Quotes of Note
- Disney Kills a Killer Concept
- Discussion Board of the Day: Disney
- Annika's Ad Army
- Get a Broker
- Quick Takes: Citigroup, Sports Authority, Boeing, more
- And Finally...
A $350 Billion Tax Cut
The light atop the Capitol dome burned late into last night, and now both chambers of Congress have narrowly passed a $350 billion tax cut bill, with Vice President Cheney casting the deciding vote in the Senate. (He voted against the plan. No, wait -- he wouldn't do that.)
The bill now moves to George W. Bush's desk, where he'll celebrate signing into law a cut half the size he originally wanted, one he recently called "little kitty," or something like that. But what does the tax cut mean to you?
In the immediate, more money. Here's a rundown:
The long-term capital gains tax rate falls from 20% to 15%.
The dividend tax rate is capped at 15% for the four highest (most common) tax brackets.
The top tax bracket declines from 38.6% to 35%.
All other tax brackets aside from the very lowest decline by two percentage points.
The child credit rises to $1,000, so millions of families will receive $400 checks within months.
Married couples get relief from the "marriage penalty," and their standard deduction rises to $9,500, twice a single person's deduction.
Small businesses may expense $100,000 annually, up from $25,000, until 2005.
- $20 billion goes for emergency funding to state budgets that are sinking under deficits
Your paycheck should be larger after July 1, because withholding will decrease to reflect the new tax rates. Meanwhile, the new capital gains rate applies to investments made on or after May 6, 2003, and only to investments held one year or longer.
As with all things "taxes," the devil is in the details, which reveal most of these cuts as temporary. After 2004, most cuts in personal income taxes will end, and in 2009 (Bush would just be leaving office should he win a second term), the dividend tax would revert to marginal tax rates again. Theoretically, at least.
"Sunset" provisions in the bill dictate that most of these tax breaks end, but subsequent political parties wishing to maintain the public's favor may very well continue them. Should this prove the case in years ahead, critics say, the cost of this tax cut could actually rise to the trillions.
The benefits of roughly 60% of the $350 billion tax cut, or about $210 billion, should be felt by the public and by companies this year and next, and bill supporters suggest this money will help boost the economy quickly. Many disagree. This is the third tax cut in Bush's less than three years in office. Warren Buffett, for one, disagrees with the dividend tax cut.
Quotes of Note
"[The bill] is irresponsible as fiscal policy, it is ineffective in terms of stimulating the economy, and it is utterly unfair." -- Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.)
"Even with these modest tax cuts, we are going to spur the economy.'' -- Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas)
Disney Kills a Killer Concept
It started off as a "can't-miss" idea for specialty retail. Take the kid-tested and mother-approved Disney
With an explosion of color and a mountain of plush, Disney Stores was a hit early on. At its peak the stores numbered more than 700 locations worldwide and greeted well over 250 million guests annually.
"Disney Stores represent the face of our company in communities around the world," CEO Michael Eisner wrote in the company's Annual Report 2000.
That said, that face is now doing an about-face. Disney has confirmed that it's looking to either sell or close the chain. Translated loosely, Disney Stores are toast. AOL Time Warner
No one lined up then. It's hard to fathom much of a queue this time, either. If Disney Stores aren't generating enough cash for Disney, what's the selling point for another company to take that on and pay licensing fees to Disney?
Pressler may be tempted, but he's in a good groove now and this could be a credibility killer. My gut instinct tells me that the mall stores will be gone, possibly resurfacing in a year or two as a store-within-a-store at Toys "R" Us
Why did Disney Stores fail? While the company tried everything it could to juggle formats, layouts, and identity, it's biggest enemy was probably itself. The concept was a welcome novelty that simply overexpanded. If you were to wake up tomorrow in a world with 738 different Disneylands, would it still be an event-driven destination?
While Disney has tried to branch out into Disney-themed restaurants, interactive indoor playgrounds, and high-tech gaming arcades, at least those trial balloons were snuffed out quickly. Disney Stores just never learned when to say when.
The same iconic cloning that doomed Planet Hollywood and sent Rainforest Café scrambling to Landry's
Sorry, Mickey, you were never much of a mallrat.
Discussion Board of the Day: Disney
Do you think Disney Stores can be saved? Do you think someone will step up and buy the concept before Disney finishes it off? Is Goofy a dog or a gopher? All this and more -- in the Disney discussion board. Only on Fool.com.
Annika's Ad Army
Annika Sorenstam's historic appearance at the Colonial tournament in Ft. Worth, Texas, has won her many fans, but perhaps none bigger than Viacom's
The first woman golfer to play in a men's PGA Tour event since Babe Didrikson Zaharias in 1945, Sorenstam shot an extremely respectable one-over-par 71 in yesterday's first round, placing her seven shots off the lead.
According to USA Today, that effort from the 43-time women's tour winner has drawn huge advertising interest. CBS has added extra ad slots for the weekend to accommodate such latecomers as Callaway Golf
There's one small issue here, however. Sorenstam will have to play just about as well today as she did yesterday in order to have a chance at making the cut. If not, she doesn't play the final two rounds this weekend. While CBS is guaranteed the money from current advertising, it might gain even more if she plays Saturday and Sunday. And the ratings difference between an Annika and a non-Annika weekend are likely to be huge.
So, Annika's Army is growing with every stroke. As former CBS Sports President Neal Pilson says, "It's way beyond golf at this point."
Get a Broker
If you want to buy stocks, you're going to need a broker. And who wouldn't want to own stocks? There is no place over the past 100 years where your long-term savings would have fared better than the stock market -- not in bonds, not in real estate, not in gold, and certainly not in Beanie Babies. Our Broker Center makes it super-easy to pick the right broker for you, so check it out!
The country's largest sporting goods retailer, Sports Authority
In local news, crowds continue to flock to the Tucker farm to see the new baby calf born last Tuesday. Nicknamed "Roadie," the animal has a small, fuzzy patch on its rear end that resembles the state of Rhode Island.
Today on Fool.com:
- For updated stories throughout the day, bookmark our ever-changing News section.
- Whitney Tilson drops Barnes & Noble and E*Trade from his portfolio.
- Teen Contest: Tim Cavanaugh gets $1,000 just for doing his homework.
- The Future of LUV: Southwest CEO Jim Parker discusses the airline's future prospects and naked pilots.
- Gap keeps its revival plugging along.
- In Fool's School, trade dates vs. settlement dates. Which do you need for tax purposes?
Bob Bobala, Robert Brokamp, Mathew Emmert, Jeff Fischer, Tom Jacobs, LouAnn Lofton, Bill Mann, Selena Maranjian, Rex Moore, Rick Munarriz, Matt Richey, Reggie Santiago, Dayana Yochim