Earning my presidential vote: taxation

As I noted yesterday, the economic portion of my study began with how people can better get more money in their pockets, but this morning I’m going to discuss how best people can keep what they earned. (To start from the beginning, go here. I’m linking to each succeeding part at the end.)

Regarding taxation, the next president should (in five bullet points or less):

  • Strive for a consumption-based taxation system to replace the income-based system.
  • Work to repeal the Sixteenth Amendment, as that is a key element in accomplishing the first point above.
  • Corporate taxes should be lowered to be competitive with other nations.
  • Do away with the estate tax while we’re at it.
  • Stop using the tax code to reward behavior, aside from the reward for saving and investing a consumption-based tax would produce.

So how do our candidates look regarding these points? Honestly, some look pretty good – and this is one of the shorter parts. This is the first of our double-digit point categories; 10 points are available.

Castle: I have proposed a taxing system whereby taxes would be apportioned to the states as the census dictates. If my state of Tennessee had two percent of the nation’s population, for example, it would be liable for two percent of the budget. It would be incumbent upon the representatives from Tennessee to help hold down Federal spending. The Federal Government would be encouraged to spend less not more. The states would be empowered and Washington would be dis-empowered. Washington’s hold over the states would be broken and the states would be sovereign again – Washington would have to ask the states for money. States would be free to collect their revenue as they see fit. Alaska might tax its natural resources and Florida might tax tourism. In Nevada, it would obviously be gambling. Since people could keep their income the economy would explode with growth.

Prefers FairTax to income tax, but has less control by states. “I would like to see (the Sixteeneth Amendment) repealed, if possible.” (Facebook page)

Hedges: Until renewed Volstead Act (Prohibition), higher taxes on alcohol and tobacco.

“There is no way to cut back income and at the same time deliver more services. Things that taxpayers want, the taxpayers must pay for.”

Hoefling: We consider the federal income tax to be destructive of our liberty, privacy, and prosperity. Therefore, we are working to bring about its complete elimination and the repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. We recommend that the current system be replaced by an equitable, simple, noninvasive, visible, efficient tax, one that does not destroy or even infringe upon our economic privacy and liberty. (party platform)

Johnson: Stop special interest loopholes. Reward responsibility. And simplify our tax code.

Today’s federal tax code does all the wrong things. It penalizes productivity, savings and investment, while rewarding inefficiency and designating winners and losers according to political whim.

For far too long, tax laws have been used not just as a means to collect needed revenues, but as a way for special interests to penalize their competitors while subsidizing themselves. The result is a tax code that is more than 70,000 pages long, enforced by a government agency with almost 100,000 employees. As a result, our tax code has created a nightmare for the average American, while providing shelter for those with the means to manipulate it.

Governor Johnson advocates for the elimination of special interest tax loopholes, to get rid of the double-taxation on small businesses, and ultimately, the replacement of all income and payroll taxes with a single consumption tax that determines your tax burden by how much you spend, not how much you earn. Such a tax would be structured to ensure that no one’s tax burden for the purchase of basic family necessities would be increased. To the contrary, costs of necessities would likely decrease with the elimination of taxes already included in the price of virtually everything we buy.

Many leading economists have long advocated such a shift in the way we are taxed, and Gary Johnson believes the time has come to replace our current tax code, which penalizes the savings, productivity and investment we so desperately need. (campaign website)

McMullin: Evan McMullin will…make the tax code fairer and simpler, helping to spur business innovation, especially the growth of small businesses, which are the country’s most important job creators. Small businesses should pay closer to 25 percent of their profits in taxes, whereas now there are many that must pay almost 40 percent. Right now America also has the highest corporate tax rate – 35 percent – of any advanced economy. Even Barack Obama has said that it should be substantially lower. Income tax rates also need to come down, especially for the middle-class; once the economy starts growing again at an acceptable rate, high-earners should also get a break.

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is one program that shows how we can fight poverty while encouraging work—it provides a tax refund for those who have jobs but don’t earn enough to be self-sufficient. One shortcoming of the EITC is that tax refunds may not arrive until someone has been working for more than a year. To provide a stronger incentive to work, there should be immediate benefits for those who have jobs. This can happen by transitioning from tax refunds to wage supplements, which add money to every paycheck, starting from day one. Wage supplements also create a strong incentive to spend more time at work, since the benefit rises with each hour spent on the job.

By adding to the paychecks of low-income workers, EITC and wage supplements accomplish the same goal as an increase in the minimum wage, but without reducing the number of jobs available or punishing job creators. If the federal minimum wage rose from $7.25 to $15 per hour, many jobs that pay $9 or $10 per hour would disappear, because employers could not afford the cost. When such jobs disappear, the primary victims are the poor and unemployed, who depend on such jobs to acquire skills and get a foot in the door so they can eventually rise up. (campaign website)

With the exception of a slightly higher corporate tax rate, McMullin’s tax proposal is largely in line with the tax reform plan put forth by House Republicans over the summer. Individual income taxes would be reduced to three brackets from seven at rates of 12%, 25% and 33%. Small business taxes would be reduced to 25%, and the corporate tax rate would also be reduced to 25% (the House GOP plan pegs the corporate tax rate at 20%). (TheStreet.com)

**********

I think Darrell Castle‘s idea is very intriguing because it would certainly rein in the federal government. Let’s say the federal budget is $4 trillion. Castle uses 2% as an example; it so happens Maryland is roughly 2% of the national population. That would mean the state would be liable for $80 billion, which is about twice our state’s annual budget – but certainly is doable when you figure the state’s GDP is about $365 billion. If a state didn’t want to come up with its share, well, maybe its Congressional delegation would become serious about rightsizing government. To me, that’s the beauty of the idea. He also gets the point regarding the Sixteenth Amendment. 8.5 points.

I question the wisdom of Jim Hedges and his ideas about taxation. It’s understandable that he wants higher sin taxes given the nature of his party (albeit these are consumption taxes, which doesn’t make them completely bad), but the implication that taxpayers want more services is the part I am at odds with. I think taxpayers want more efficient services, but if you ask almost anyone they can point out something they feel the government is wasting money on. This is another area where Hedges’ more leftward tendencies step away from what I think his party really stands for. 1 point.

Tom Hoefling and his America’s Party platform is spot on, except for not specifying the types of taxation which would qualify as “equitable, simple…” and so forth. He has the basics down cold, though. 8 points.

In so many words, Gary Johnson is for a consumption-based tax, too. His misstep is not calling for repealing the Sixteenth Amendment because everyone knows that when the government wants to spend more money they will immediately return to soaking us with the income tax as double taxation. 5.5 points.

The problem with Evan McMullin is that his tax platform tinkers around the edges of a terrible system; in fact, he makes it worse and more progressive to the extent that high-income earners will have to wait for their break until the economy improves. (But who really drives the economy with investment as opposed to consumption?) I think the EITC was intended as a tool to help the working class but now it’s become just another government handout – yet McMullin wants to double down with wage supplements? We do not need another entitlement program. Stick with the lower rates for all, mmmmkay? 2 points.

Well, that spread the field out some. We will see how much more of that occurs tomorrow when I resume the series with immigration.

Some skin in the game

Even though he won the coveted monoblogue endorsement, I wasn’t really trying to make this an all-Bobby Jindal all the time site. Surely he’s spending hundreds if not thousands of dollars weekly on his own internet presence so Bobby doesn’t really need my help with making and sharing news.

But it seems as of late that Jindal is putting out stuff that’s, well, presidential. He grabbed the bully pulpit with his remarks on cultural decline the other day and now he has come out with a somewhat unique tax plan that makes the point people need to step up and take a little responsibility. Unlike many others in the race, Jindal believes that it’s a “terrible mistake” that nearly half of people pay no federal income tax. Instead, he proposes a modest 2% tax bracket for the lowest wage earners, with many others falling into a 10% bracket and the top bracket paying 25%.

Now that low top rate and the fact everyone pays will obviously get the Democrats and their class-envy allies screaming about tax cuts for the wealthy being paid for by everyone else. My advice to them: shut up. I’m tired of that rhetoric, particularly when we live in a nation where the top income earners pay far more in tax than their share of the overall wealth.

Even better from my perspective is that we’re not shooting for revenue-neutral here. No, this will bring less money to Washington so more stays in your pocket where it belongs. Jindal admits, “the only way to shrink the size and influence of Washington is to starve it.” Or, as I call it: an admirable start.

While this isn’t a substitute for the benefits of a consumption-based tax, Jindal makes an important nod in that direction by allowing tax-free savings accounts with contributions of up to $30,000 per year. If you can’t tax consumption, at least reward savings.

Winning my endorsement came not just because Bobby was well-versed in a conservative manner on the issues, but in large part because these positions are thought out and explained for the benefit of both the average voter and those who are interested in the wonkish side, like me. Compared to the Jindal campaign, too many others have the depth of a cookie sheet.

Finally, I want to play devil’s advocate for a moment. I can almost see the argument about how the states will have to step in and increase their budgetd because the federal government will have to cut out of necessity. This may be true – but wouldn’t you rather fight budgetary battles in Annapolis, Dover, or Sacramento than in Washington? Even after seven years, Jindal spends less money than his predecessor did. We praised Larry Hogan for only raising the budget by one percent, but imagine if he cut it nearly 10%.

We stand at a crossroads in this nation. Many seem to be conceding that our course is now just to do the best we can in hoping our freedom isn’t extinguished in one fell swoop, and seem to be happy with tamping on the brakes as we lurch toward a train wreck of our own making.

I look at things differently. People see Donald Trump as someone who would shake up the status quo, but I question his conservatism on a number of issues. He authored a tax plan which removes over half of taxpayers from the rolls, meaning the takers will always outvote the givers and the incentive to reduce government will be gone. In a nation formed on the principle of limited government, we retreat further and further from the ideal. Sooner or later we will be back where we started since Trump isn’t serious about addressing our runaway spending.

I spoke to my mom the other day, and I reminded her of what Washington is. Years ago we lived in a house where a colony of bees had taken residence under the porch. So my parents put out a piece of cardboard and spread a sticky substance on it – a couple days later it was full of bees. To me, Washington is that piece of cardboard and all that taxpayer money is the sticky stuff the bees flock to. The only differences are that we’re all stuck and we’re all being stung by that mass of bees that have taken up shop inside the Beltway.

It’s long past time to call in a beekeeper to put those worker bees in a more productive place. Bobby Jindal just might be that guy.

Swerving toward a hard truth

Each week I read Dan Bongino’s commentary at Conservative Review, normally nodding my head in agreement to the point being made. This week’s is no exception, but the title of the piece led me to believe he was swerving into a point I have made for years. He began moving in the right direction when he wrote:

As small business owners, my wife and I do not have income taxes withheld from the money we earn. As many small business owners do, we have to periodically write checks to the state and federal governments for taxes owed. I mailed these tax payments this past week and, while writing out the checks and observing the amounts, I couldn’t believe how much money I had to pay to finance this out-of-control government. I cannot be the only one writing these substantial checks who feels this way.

Later in the piece he adds:

Income tax withholding has softened us. Many of us no longer have to go through the motions of actually picking up a pen and writing out a check to the government to pay our individual tax bills. We all owe it to ourselves to look at the amounts we are paying and to ask ourselves why we aren’t demanding better.

As far as that goes, I couldn’t agree more. But several years ago I penned a series of pieces which eventually became the kernel of a book I wrote. One of them dealt with taxation, and it was written about a year before we had the unsuccessful attempts to “stimulate” the economy through tax rebate checks. At that time I noted:

All right, so I get an $800 check. The feds want me to buy something in the hopes of goosing the economy. But a lot of people who are behind on their mortgage bills and credit cards will simply send that cash along to whomever they owe, which will help bail the banks and creditors out. It’s a similar argument to the one over the subprime mortgage bailout, which helps the creditors but doesn’t teach those who weren’t of enough sense to borrow within their means that they should consider their options more carefully.

And why is it that the federal government now reflexively hands out taxpayer money when the chips are down? They seem to have become the insurer of last resort for America.

If you really want to put money in the pockets of Americans right now, I have another suggestion for a short-term fix. How about suspending backup withholding for a few months? Since most Americans have their tax lives set up to get a hefty refund and “screw” the government (who’s actually screwing these people by receiving an interest-free loan from them) all that would do is make their eventual refund a little smaller. Furthermore, maybe if people actually had to write a check for the full amount due they’d understand just how much of a bite we all have taken from us.

So a little over seven years ago, before anyone outside the circle of the Secret Service had ever heard of Dan Bongino, I was on this track of discarding backup withholding. The onus should be on the government to collect rather than the taxpayer to get back what is rightfully theirs because it’s our money. On the whole, I still think dispensing with backup withholding is a wonderful idea short of adopting a national consumption tax like the FairTax (after the repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment, of course.)

Still, this is a good indication of how much Dan Bongino “gets it.” Whether he decides to run for Congress again, the Senate again, or waits until 2018 to pursue a state office, it’s clear he has a clear understanding of how the economy should work.

The tax man cometh

I was perusing a LOT of e-mail today because I had a short night and long day, and among the items I found was from this Rasmussen survey:

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey conducted over the past weekend finds that 75% of American Adults have filed their income taxes, while another 13% expect to do so by today’s deadline. Five percent (5%) plan to get an extension.

Since I did the taxes for both Kim and I over the weekend, I think I qualified in that 75 percent category. (Surprisingly, I didn’t get screwed but probably screwed myself by giving an interest-free loan to Uncle Sam.) But what I can’t figure out is the 8 percent who are unaccounted for – are those the people who pay estimated tax? Or, were these the people who don’t earn enough to have to file? Way back when I was in college I had that situation, only filing because I wanted the money from my backup withholding back. It may have only been $50 or $100, but it was my money. Otherwise, if 8 out of 100 aren’t filing, that seems like a whole lot of civil disobedience.

Yet while April 15 is the day of infamy when we pay our tribute to the Internal Revenue Service, the real day we’re relieved from this annual burden falls on April 28. That’s the day those of us working in the Free State since January 1 finally pay our debt to the federal and state governments, according to the Tax Foundation. (Those of you reading across the line in Delaware are relieved a little earlier, this Friday the 18th as a matter of fact. Go out and tip a 16 Mile or Dogfish Head to celebrate.) Meanwhile, the state where Anthony Brown was endorsed to lead doesn’t have Tax Freedom until May 9, so he would feel right at home there in Connecticut.

Naturally, the whole idea of filing a return is one of aligning what the government thinks you should owe (and takes out of your paycheck) with the actual amount due after all the calculations are done. They don’t really mind sending your money back – or adding a little extra to that amount if you qualify for the earned income credit – but heaven help you if you owe them more than a few hundred dollars. They’ll have the audacity to penalize you even more money then! Unfortunately, that doesn’t work both ways, but most people believe they’ve pulled one over on the feds if they get a few thousand dollars back. $5,000 looks great as a lump sum, but if people were smart they’d work it in such a way they get the extra $100 a week. (That’s not always possible, though – again, the government sets the withholding rules and I’m sure they’re not doing it for us to accrue a benefit.)

Many of us live our lives in order to avoid paying taxes one way or another. But wouldn’t be easier if the nation did what several states have already done and decided to live without an income tax? I think the FairTax is a pretty good idea myself and talk about it always peaks this time of year. While nothing can be done about until 2017, why not lay the groundwork for doing something more than talk?

Odds and ends number 67

It’s very funny that I had a slowdown in newsworthy items around the holidays, so much so that I didn’t figure on doing an O&E post until perhaps mid-month. But over the last two days – bang! And here you are: bloggy snippets of goodness I felt were worth covering but not to the extent of a full post, just for a paragraph to three.

I’m going to start by promoting an event I plan on attending. Here’s what the Wicomico Society of Patriots has to say about their upcoming meeting January 15. The speaker will be Carroll County Commissioner and leading liberty advocate Richard Rothschild:

Who should attend?  Anyone who intends to continue to live and work on the Eastern Shore.  Elected officials will be in attendance.  This legislation impacts all of us, regardless of political orientation or affiliation, and all are invited to attend, listen, and question.  Two short videos will precede Commissioner Rothschild’s presentation to be followed by a question and answer session.  Mark your calendars now; you do not want to miss this meeting.  Alert your family, friends and neighbors. (Emphasis in original.)

Well, I’m alerting my neighbors and anyone else who stops by here. This will be a joint meeting of both the Worcester and Wicomico Society of Patriots, and will be held Tuesday, January 15 at 6 p.m. at Mister Paul’s Legacy Restaurant (1801 N. Salisbury Boulevard in Salisbury), a very nice facility familiar to those who follow liberty locally.

The SB236 law is perhaps the most heinous assault on property rights the state has ever produced in the name of Chesapeake Bay. In return for addressing a tiny percentage of the nitrogen problem in the Chesapeake, thousands of rural landowners could have their properties rendered worthless. So far Wicomico County has not submitted a map to the state, which in theory prevents certain subdivisions from being built at the present time.

A more damning check on progress is the national economy, but that’s a different subject. One potentially negative effect was discussed by Herman Cain in a recent commentary and it bears repeating, See if we haven’t heard this refrain in Maryland a time or two:

Democrats do not understand business very well. They don’t understand that when you pass a law that imposes new costs on businesses, those businesses will do what they can to mitigate the effects of those costs. When you make it more costly to hire people, there will not be as many people hired.

The fact that these real-world impacts are now being announced, as if no one anticipated them, is both entertaining and highly disturbing. We are being governed by people who don’t understand the impacts of their policies, people who think they can simply mandate anything and it will happen with no unintended consequences. I hope their ignorance doesn’t cost you your job.

You can say what you will about his support for the FairTax and the (unsubstantiated) allegations which derailed his run for President, but Herman Cain has common sense a-plenty about the effects of government regulation on the economy. The language of “mitigating costs” has real-world effects: cuts in hours and smaller paychecks for many millions of families whose breadwinners labor in a number of service industries, particularly food service. They may need to take a second (or third) job to make ends meet, and who knows how many out there are hiring?

And don’t dare rush from second job to third job either, at least in Maryland. A recent appeal from the Maryland Liberty PAC has these memorable lines:

Every speed camera in Maryland is an ATM machine for Martin O’Malley and his cronies in Annapolis.

Instead of cutting out wasteful spending to make ends meet like our families do, O’Malley invents new schemes to rob us of every penny we earn.

If you don’t think that’s true, consider that I personally witnessed the mobile speed cameras in operation during schools’ winter break on at least two occasions. I thought the idea was to make schools safer during the school year. (Yet they balk at allowing teachers to have guns.)

Of course, a couple years ago I told you how one local municipality was bending the rules, so those of you who read here know that speed cameras are truly a scam to fatten both county coffers and those of the operators who expect this to be a big business going forward. Rather than “reform and revisiting the speed camera law,” the Maryland Liberty PAC has the grand idea of having the speed camera law repealed. I fully support that effort.

I’m not as passionate, though, about one blogger’s call on Delegate Don Dwyer to resign now after being charged in the wake of a boating accident last summer. Certainly Dwyer has serious charges against him, but I would rather wait until his day in court has come and his fate is determined. Perhaps this was a “‘one-time occurrence’ which will not affect his performance in Annapolis.” (Oh wait, that was when Delegate Kumar Barve was arrested for DWI in 2007.)

The hypocrisy angle has been played up gleefully on the left, and if Dwyer is convicted I may change my mind. But the facts in the case seem to suggest the other boater was perhaps more at fault for the accident which left five children and Dwyer injured, so I think caution is in order.

Less cautious is the group Accuracy in Media, which released a statement that sees the acquisition of Al Gore’s little-watched Current TV by Al Jazeera as “an unacceptable danger to American citizens by further adding to the potential for home-grown Jihadists inspired by Al Jazeera’s inflammatory programming.” They also note that Time Warner Cable is dropping the channel.

While the punch line has generally involved Al Gore, the fact that he’s walking away with $100 million in what can be termed oil money has no lack of irony. And to think, he could have taken Glenn Beck’s money instead.

Yet there’s another side of the Al Jazeera issue not being mentioned:

The hearings, (Accuracy in Media head Cliff) Kincaid said, should also examine the fact that 30 public television stations around the U.S. are already airing Al Jazeera in violation of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules.

Florida broadcaster Jerry Kenney uncovered this aspect of the scandal and filed an FCC complaint over it. He discovered that Al Jazeera and other foreign propaganda channels are being provided to public television stations through the MHz Networks division of the Virginia-based Commonwealth Public Broadcasting Corporation.

This is a list of stations affiliated with the MHz Networks – notice many of them are in large cities with a significant Islamic population.

But the government’s lack of oversight doesn’t stop there. In a new study, the Center for Immigration Studies criticized the federal government for not enforcing visa laws:

Report author David North, a CIS fellow and respected immigration policy researcher, comments, “It is incredible that after the would-be Wall Street bomber, the Times Square bomber, and the two 9/11 pilots were all found to have student visas, the Department of Homeland Security makes so little effort to pursue corrupt visa mills, flight schools not authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration, and needless language schools. National security requires the enforcement of our immigration laws.”

Interesting tidbit: very little taxpayer money goes to this agency, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP.) They make most of their money on a $200 fee would-be students pay. But the SEVP apparently doesn’t care whether the student is going to an elite university or diploma mill set up to give foreign students a reason to come to the country – as long as they collect the fees it seems like they’re happy campers. Sounds like a typical governmental agency.

Another typical government move was pointed out by a group you’re going to be hearing more about in a couple weeks. The Coalition to Reduce Spending called the recent fiscal cliff agreement the product of a “can-kicking Congress.” CRS head Jonathan Bydlak also noted:

The longer Congress continues to act fiscally irresponsible, the longer the American people will have to wait for the return of a healthy and prosperous economy.

He’s precisely right on that assertion. And the reason you’ll hear more from the group: Bydlak is also the January 15 “Ten Question Tuesday” guest, and that plug is a good point to bring this post to a close.

Odds and ends number 54

Yes, it’s time to clear out the e-mail box and since “random thoughts on the passing scene” was sort of taken by Thomas Sowell I call this exercise “odds and ends.” Usually I put up anywhere from a sentence to three paragraphs or so for items not long enough to stand a full post but interesting to me nonetheless.

Perhaps I’m reading more into this than I should, but the other day I found out Andy Harris is likely no fan of the FairTax. This is because, as part of an e-mail I received from him on real estate issues he wrote:

I oppose plans that would result in net tax increases by restricting or eliminating the home mortgage deduction.

Now maybe this is only in context with his next statement:

Reduction, modification, or elimination of all or some of the current tax benefits for homeowners will remain a risk as long as the Administration strives to reduce debt by raising tax revenue without getting wasteful and unnecessary spending under control.

This is where Andy was discussing recommendations by Obama’s deficit commission that would eliminate the mortgage interest deduction for certain (presumably wealthy) homeowners or cut these deductions across the board in an effort to raise revenue.

Andy makes the correct point in his note that we need to cut spending, but I’m hoping he’s not shut the door on a consumption-based taxation system.

One thing I can also say about Andy is that he’s not on any vice-presidential radar screen. But I got the results of a survey the other day which surprised me.

The Liberty News Network, which purportedly is representative of the TEA Party given its parent company is Grassfire Nation, conducted an online poll asking who Mitt Romney should select as his running mate. While the piece claims a “majority” of TEA Partiers prefer Marco Rubio, the last time I checked 36.6% wasn’t a “majority.” That, friends, is only a plurality.

Despite that LNN headlining faux pas, Rubio won the poll but I also find it interesting that the “racist” TEA Party’s top three choices were Marco Rubio, Allen West with 23.4 percent, and Condoleeza Rice, who had 18.2 percent. No one else was over 5.2% of the vote. Apparently almost 80 percent of these “racists” are fine with a Latino or black vice-president – I would be more happy with West than Rubio or Rice, though.

Speaking of Latinos, but more generally of the variety of those having dubious legality to be in our country, I was alerted to a Washington Post story that glowingly describes the city of Baltimore’s efforts to repopulate itself via the immigrant population. Shani George, the Post employee who occasionally feeds bloggers items of interest from the paper, wrote in her e-mail:

The welcome mats thrown out by struggling cities and states stand in stark contrast to the reception immigrants have faced in places such as Arizona and Alabama. Most of the immigrant-friendly measures around the country are in their infancy, so it is difficult to assess how effective they are.

Critics say cities that lure immigrants end up with high numbers of undocumented migrants. That also is difficult to measure, particularly now that immigration from Mexico, the largest source of illegal immigration, has dwindled to essentially zero.

And the story, by Carol Morello and Luz Lazo, starts right out with the emotional punch to the gut:

A native of Puebla, Mexico, (Alexandra) Gonzalez feels more at home in Baltimore with every passing year. She attends city-run nutrition and exercise classes in Spanish and takes her two young children to a Spanish-language storytelling hour at her neighborhood library. She plans to earn a GED and become a teacher.

Both of Gonzalez’s young children were born in America, so they are American citizens; meanwhile, the accompanying photo captions to the story say Alexandra and her husband are here sans permission. And it doesn’t sound like they’re looking to assimilate anytime soon, since she’s taking Spanish-language courses and sending her kids to similar classes. William Donald Schaefer is slowly spinning in his grave.

Of course, Pat McDonough weighed in. I did not change the text of this excerpt of his release – indeed, it is all caps:

THE MAYOR’S ‘AMNESTY ATMOSPHERE’ IS CREATING UNFAIR COMPETITION FOR JOBS AND ENTRANCE INTO COMMUNITY COLLEGE FOR THE LEGAL RESIDENTS OF BALTIMORE. THE MAYOR IS PANDERING TO THE HISPANIC VOTE, CREATING A SUPER MAGNET FOR AN INFLUX OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS.

(snip)

I AM SURPRISED THAT THE MEDIA, PRESS, AND OTHER ELECTED OFFICIALS HAVE NOT CHALLENGED HER IN THESE EXTREME AND RECKLESS POLICIES.

For the most part Pat is right, but how many people are going to kill the messenger? Dude, lighten up a little, stop being a publicity hog, and fire whoever is writing your stuff in all caps. You just might be the reason no one is challenging these policies.

And it’s a shame because being a bull in a china shop like that, in many instances, drowns out more reasoned arguments like this one from writer Hans Bader about upcoming proposed rule changes in Maryland schools. In many, the inmates would end up running the asylum. (Sorry about the link – Examiner is really overdoing it on intrusive ads.)

Finally, I want to send out a bat-signal to a couple of my loyal readers who have items before the County Council, ones which will certainly be decided during their next meeting. Both the Charter Review Committee and Redistricting Committee have finished their work, and I know the County Council held a work session on both in their last meeting.

If I can get an executive summary of the proposed Charter changes and a copy of the proposed map, I would find it most helpful for analysis of both. The briefing book County Council used in their last meeting is 90 pages long with a lot of extraneous information. Even though I’ve been described as “wordy,” “verbose,” and “wonky,” I like concise information.

The next County Council meeting will be Tuesday, August 7, and it should be the monthly evening meeting. From what I’ve read on the Charter changes, they should be palatable to most but I just want to make sure my interpretation is correct. Meanwhile, I understand the county’s district map had to change quite a bit and I think it would be helpful for my commentary on it to have a copy for sharing!

So there you have it, the odds and ends of life.

It’s time for a change

One of the reasons I was a Herman Cain backer early on in the 2012 campaign was his wisdom on tax policy. On Monday he wrote a piece reminding us that a number of patchwork, temporary “fixes” to our income tax rates expire at the end of 2012, and could doom what little recovery we might be enjoying if nothing is done.

Of course, there is no foolproof solution, even with Cain’s 9-9-9 plan – soon enough it could be 12-12-12 or even 15-7-21. Pick three divergent numbers and you might be a winner in this Russian roulette-style lottery involving both personal and federal finances. But the same is true for a flat tax as well, and it’s still based on income rather than consumption.

But even when a consumption tax is enacted, the other key is spending the money wisely. Back in 2008 the state of Maryland raised its sales tax from 5% to 6%, ensuring the state another $500 million or so in revenue. The problem was that the money was spent even before it was collected, as a governor who’s never met a government program he didn’t like (or wish he’d dreamed of himself) blew every dime of that (and then some) on new programs.

Given our experience with sales taxes from around the country, I don’t see how the argument that we can’t predict revenue from a consumption tax can be posed. And even so, it’s not like we don’t make adjustments to a budget (that is, when we actually have one) based on the events which occur between the time of passage and the moment that last dime is spent at the stroke of midnight on September 30.

It’s relatively simple to figure out how to get out of these messes we find ourselves in. On a state level, each year the GOP works out a budget that addresses the structural deficit without raising taxes; meanwhile, it’s worthy of note that if we retreated our federal spending to the level of the last Bush budget (FY2009, excluding the stimulus added by President Obama) of $3.1 trillion, a large part of our deficit would be addressed. Yes a deficit $500 billion or so is still absurdly high but it’s better than the $1.4 trillion we’ll likely run in the hole when the fiscal year ends September 30.

Beyond the numbers, though, is the concept of why a consumption-based tax scares those in government: it returns control to the people. The amount of money sent to Washington isn’t necessarily as important as the behavior influence our current labyrinthine tax code provides these faceless, unelected bureaucrats. Examples of carrots include buying a home or certain types of consumer goods deemed better for the environment, while sticks are things like holding stocks for too short of a time or making income outside normal channels (to trigger the alternative minimum tax.) There’s no doubt that H&R Block and others in the tax preparation field are deathly afraid of what a consumption-based tax would do to their business as well.

Moreover, the government isn’t paid first with a consumption-based tax because backup withholding is eliminated. Backup withholding was supposed to be a temporary program, enacted in a time of national crisis. But just like any other “temporary” tax, we’ve been saddled with this enforced deduction ever since, even in peacetime. It’s a little more fair for the self-employed who pay in quarterly installments; still, these numbers are based on a previous tax year and not present income. Some have been led to pay far more than they owe because of income fluctuations, but under a consumption-based tax they can adjust accordingly.

Over my lifetime they have made a sport out of tinkering with the tax code – rates go up, rates come down, and cherished deductions are created and then rescinded. For example, credit card interest could once be deducted, but that was changed. Dare to tinker with the home mortgage interest deduction, though, and you’ll have a lobby full of realtors calling for your head. It’s hard to buck the system that too many have become cozy with inside the Beltway.

And it’s because of that system that we may face taxmageddon in 2013. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like much will change in the next four years, barring the unlikely event of FairTax proponent Gary Johnson becoming president. Any change will have to be led by Congress and demanded by a tireless, irate minority who are willing to give up some of those deductions they annually take advantage of to restore broader control to themselves. Only then can we begin to take the yoke off our necks and begin to enjoy more economic freedom.

“You’re not defeated as long as you never stop fighting.”

The title of this post came from the first line of an e-mail I received from what I guess would now be considered The Cain Solutions. It was his explanation to supporters about his next steps in a continuing campaign to reshape America.

Rather than repost the entire essay here I want to focus on three passages, with the first being his reaction to the establishment.

…I knew the establishment would not like the idea of my success, because I will not get along by going along like so many do. I will not kick the can down the road to the next generation of leaders, because our problems are serious and they need to be solved now.

That threatens people who know there may be a political price to pay for enacting solutions that will work, and would rather wait things out and let someone else take the heat. That would not have been possible during a Cain presidency.

But if real solutions are achieved, it will not matter who achieved them.

This idea came from Reagan, who theorized that it didn’t matter who got the credit as long as the problem was solved. Obviously my view on that also comes from Ronald Reagan: “Government is not the solution, government is the problem.” Too often the cure is worse than the disease once Washington gets a hold of it, and if Washington doesn’t mess it up we can always count on Annapolis, Dover, Richmond, or somewhere else from Augusta to Honolulu or Juneau to Tallahassee to botch it. But sometimes they get it right, which is why we have 50 states which should take the lead in being laboratories to come up with solutions which might – I repeat, might – work in certain situations.

Unfortunately, we as a society fall into the trap of allowing government to take the lead rather than be the last resort.

Continue reading ““You’re not defeated as long as you never stop fighting.””

1 vs. 100

Well, okay, it’s not quite on the scale of the game show but one has to snicker at the thought of covering a protest in front of Andy Harris’s office that draws 20 people. Shoot, the TEA Party got more than that to go to former Congressman Frank Kratovil’s office, brought a noose, and still couldn’t get any local media attention besides local bloggers like me. Never mind that we’d get 300 or 400 for a nice local gathering, whether in the bright sunshine or pouring rain.

Continue reading “1 vs. 100”