Suburban Philadelphia is the latest front in the business campaign to keep taxes on capital low.

Rep. John Adler (D., N.J.), fighting Republican challenger and ex-Philadelphia Eagle Jon Runyan to keep representing Cherry Hill and most of Burlington County, said Monday he had 46 fellow Democrats signing a letter urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to extend the existing but temporary 15 percent tax rate for stock dividends and other capital gains.

That is against President Obama, who wants to restore the capital-gains rate to 20 percent - while also returning to treating dividends like income, more than doubling the current rate for the richest investors.

Obama says wealthier Americans should pay more. But Adler says his "middle-ground position" is more likely to "grow our private-sector economy and create jobs." Won't it boost the deficit? So cut programs like ethanol subsidies, he said.

Adler was cheered at a news conference by Verizon Corp. tax accountant Stacey Sprinkle and PSE&G chief financial officer Caroline Dorsa.

"Thank you so much for being out front on this issue [which matters] to our customers who hold our stock and receive our dividends," Dorsa told Adler.

I asked if PSE&G had trouble borrowing money, with recent record-low interest rates. No, Dorsa said, but the company has more funding alternatives when its shareholders are happy because their taxes are low.

Go away

Real estate billionaire Sam Zell told hundreds of students at the University of Pennsylvania on Monday, "The economic malaise is the result of the fact that people who have [resources to invest] are unwilling to take the risks, because there is no certainty, there is no conviction, on the part of the government, to leave us alone."

Zell says he warned Obama aide Rahm Emanuel: "You ought to do nothing more than focus on jobs and the economy [instead of trying to] fix health care and banks." Zell added: Now, to help the economy, Obama should "announce he's going to do nothing for the next 24 months."

Into Africa

Wal-Mart's proposed $4 billion purchase of Massmart, which is expanding grocery, general-merchandise, and home-repair store chains from its South African base to Nigeria, Uganda, and eight other countries, awakened Africa believers and skeptics Monday.

Massmart's largest owner is U.K.-based Aberdeen Asset Management, whose U.S. arm is based in Philadelphia. Devan Kaloo, its head of global emerging markets, told me that Massmart "has an exciting future ahead of it, whether or not it continues as an independent entity," and that it's worth a high price, given its "unique" position in Africa, and Africa's "hidden value."

But for Wal-Mart, "returns will lag for years to come," given the high price of the deal and Massmart's modest retail operating margins, in the 3 to 6 percent range, warns David Strasser, retail analyst at Janney Capital Markets in Philadelphia.

The deal can pay for itself if Massmart grows as planned. But, Strasser told investors in a report, "South Africa is the best economy on the continent, and it goes downhill from there. For every relatively stable country like Botswana, there is a Zimbabwe," with deadly political and economic troubles.

Not super juice

Pomegranate juice won't really "prevent or treat heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction." The owners of California-based POM Wonderful L.L.C. and Roll Corp., Stewart and Lynda Resnick and Matthew Tupper, "violated federal law by making deceptive disease-prevention and treatment claims," the Federal Trade Commission said Monday.

The Resnicks, former Philadelphians who owned Delaware County-based Franklin Mint during the years of its decline, had no immediate response.

The FTC says "Mark Dreher, POM Wonderful's former head of scientific and regulatory affairs and expert endorser, has agreed to a settlement that bars him from making any disease treatment or prevention claims in advertising for a POM Wonderful product" - unless the claims are actually true.

Contact Joseph N. DiStefano
at 215-854-5194 or