DLGWGTW: November 19, 2017

November 19, 2017 · Posted in Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Don't Let Good Writing Go To Waste, Maryland Politics, National politics, Personal stuff, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on DLGWGTW: November 19, 2017 

In the spirit of “don’t let good writing go to waste,” this is a roundup of some of my recent social media comments. I’m one of those people who likes to take my free education to a number of left-leaning social media sites, so my readers may not see this. 

Again, this looks like a two-part piece for tonight and Tuesday night.

You had to know there would be Democrat spin to counter with the GOP tax plan. It wasn’t just the Harris townhall. So I had a question for Steny Hoyer:

Maybe you can answer this question. The Bush tax cuts went into effect 2001 and 2003, and Reagan’s in 1983. Just how did tax cuts cause deficits when income tax revenue rose from $288.9 billion in 1983 to $445.7 billion in 1989 and $793.7 billion in 2003 to $1,163.4 billion in 2007 (before the Pelosi-Reid recession hit)?

There was plenty of money there, Too bad there were a lot of greedy hands that wanted to spend it.

A day later, Steny modified his propaganda offensive to point out the Republican opposition (based on the removal of state and local income tax deductions.) So some wag suggested we go back to the IRS code of 1956, marginal rates and all (when the top marginal rate was 90%.) So I said:

Okay, do I get the spending from 1956 too? You may have yourself a deal.

I reminded another it’s about the tax rates:

This is why you work to lower your state and local tax rates, too. Why should the rest of the country subsidize their spendthrift ways?

In that same vein, to another comment:

I would bet what Steny is leaving out is that (Rep. Peter) King’s constituents simply don’t want to lose the state/local tax deduction or have the mortgage interest limits reduced. It’s an issue somewhat unique to that area (high taxes + high home prices.)

As for the claim the GOP plan won’t help taxpayers like me:

Nope. Did the back of the envelope calculations – we stay in the 25% bracket and the increased standard deduction is just about a wash for losing the three individual exemptions. Where we will gain is the increased child tax credit, especially since they jump the phase out past our income level. It’s not a ton but it is more in OUR pockets since we don’t itemize. (And if we did the child tax credit would still help.)

My favorite, though, was the guy who blamed Steny for losing the Democrat majority.

“Why did you give (the House majority) to the Tea Party?”

Maybe because they earned it? “The people who stayed home and didn’t vote” didn’t exist anymore so than they did in the 2006 midterm since turnout was slightly higher as a percentage of voters (41.8 to 41.3, per the United States Election Project.)

It was the people motivated to come out that did the Democrats in.

A few days later, Steny came out with some pollaganda that needed to be addressed:

Well, if you ask the question that way you can expect that answer. How about asking them what they think of their own tax cut?

So when someone sniveled that they liked their taxes just fine but didn’t want tax cuts for millionaires because “the lost dollars will start a downward spiral of the economy,” well, you know I had to do some edumacashun.

I personally don’t care if millionaires get more tax cuts or not. Why should you? See, this is a teachable moment because your last statement tells me you have completely bought the notion that the government has first claim to our money, which is false – they do not perform the labor or create the value implicit in it, we do. There is no such thing as a “lost dollar” to them but there is to you and me.

He didn’t even like the fact the economy added a lot of jobs because wages went down a penny.

You say the same thing EVERY TIME. It’s like a broken record. And even the New York Times is admitting the wage loss is an anomaly. So what do you really have here besides a batch of hot air?

Once again, someone asserted that I’ll “have to learn the hard way.” Ma’am, I think I’ll do the educating here.

Okay, let’s go through this one point at a time.

“a giant giveaway to Corporations” – per the WSJ, about 2/3 of this package goes to corporations. Yes, $1 trillion may seem like a lot but it’s spread over 10 years – and in a $20 trillion economy $100 billion a year is a drop in the bucket. Of course, that’s a static analysis which doesn’t account for gains in GDP thanks to new investment, higher dividends, and so forth.

By the way, companies that “raise executive pay and buy back shares of stock to raise prices” find they lose market share over time to those that invest more wisely. And to be quite frank, the companies earned it in the first place – the government did nothing but put its hand out and maybe was even in cahoots with the company.

The naysayers also seem to assume that this package will “cost” the government the full $1.5 trillion over the decade, when it’s been properly referred to as “up to.” It could be 1.3, 1.0 or maybe even a wash. Do yourself a favor and look up income tax revenues in the periods after large tax cuts – you may be shocked to learn something new.

If a higher debt actually led to higher interest rates, we should have had Carteresque interest rates throughout both Bush 43 and (especially) Obama. But we did not.

This package will significantly limit deductions, but the question is: how many middle-class people itemize? If you don’t itemize deductions, which are often pegged to only apply if they add up to a significant percentage of income, then the changes which affect you most will be the expanded brackets at the lower end, the larger standard deduction, and the increased child tax credit.

“It likely cuts public services. It raises the specter of cutting Medicare and Medicaid.” Speculation at best. Besides, many of the functions the federal government has usurped for itself should properly be done by the states.

“The very rich will pay less taxes…” Well, wait a second – I thought we were eliminating all these deductions. The high-end rate is still the same, but they lose out with the mortgage interest and second home changes, among other things. Not that it truly matters anyway, since the so-called “1%” pay a share of the tax bill that is almost double their share of income. As I have often told Steny and now tell you, the class envy card is not accepted at my establishment. On principle alone the government should not be entitled to anyone’s estate just because they achieved their heavenly reward.

If the rich own 40% of the stock market, that means the rest of us own the other 60%. I don’t begrudge wise investors their success.

Now I will concede the point that the rich “don’t spend nearly as large a percentage of their income, as the middle class, and poor” to the extent that they don’t spend the same percentage on necessities: i.e. they eat, drive, heat their home, etc. But I argue they do spend a significant portion of their income as the drivers who bring prices on certain items down for the rest of us, which is a less tangible benefit. They also donate the large sums of money to charity that we can’t. (My wife’s employer is a beneficiary – a local philanthropist donated $1 million toward their renovation and expansion. I know I couldn’t do that.)

“It’s a dumb and backwards plan, written by people who either, don’t know what they are doing, or know it, but are prepared to lie about it.”

Or you could be swallowing the lies. I just know what I have seen, and the most prosperity I recall under a president is when Reagan was in office. Second was Bill Clinton when Newt Gingrich ran the House.

The one constant is that we were always told Republicans do tax cuts for the wealthy. It’s funny because I’m nowhere near wealthy but my taxes went down, too, and I put the money to good use.

Let this be a lesson to those who read here.

I quit picking on Steny for a bit, but I had an observation on someone else’s writing:

It’s been almost a year since Donald Trump was elected as President by enough voters in enough states to win the Electoral College. (This said to satisfy those on the Left who whine about Hillary winning the popular vote overall.)

But something I noticed right away upon his election was a change in economic outlook among the average Joes of the country, and it’s something I am sensitive to. I was laid off from a great job in December of 2008 basically because of pessimism over how Barack Obama would handle the economy, seeing that we were in the depths of the Great Recession (or as I call it, the Pelosi-Reid recession.)

Eight years and a few months later, the good Lord blessed me with a return to that same great job because of optimism over how Donald Trump would fix a stagnant economy.

So I submit this as evidence of my suspicions.

I have also found out that even Andy Harris isn’t immune to people who don’t know about the benefits of tax cuts or limited government. They comment on his site, too. For example, the people who think killing the estate tax is a bad idea got this:

Why? It’s a tiny percentage of federal revenues but can be devastating to family businesses and farms.

Yet people try to give me left-wing claptrap that it’s a “myth” the estate tax threatens family businesses and farms, So I find an example of one that would be only to be told it’s a biased source. Fun little game they play.

So I found a really unimpeachable source:

If you can’t refute the evidence, question the source?

But you’re missing the point: the government has NO right to the money just because the person died. If my neighbor had an estate of $5.48 million and got to pass all of his along yet mine was $5.5 million and my heirs had to fork over 40% to the government, how is that right in your eyes? I consider that arbitrary and capricious.

Nor do I stand for communist principles, to wit:

“Democracy would be wholly valueless to the proletariat if it were not immediately used as a means for putting through measures directed against private property and ensuring the livelihood of the proletariat. The main measures, emerging as the necessary result of existing relations, are the following:

(i) Limitation of private property through progressive taxation, heavy inheritance taxes, abolition of inheritance through collateral lines (brothers, nephews, etc.) forced loans, etc.”

That comes straight from the Marxists themselves. Deny that.

Then someone tried to say that trickle-down economics didn’t work and the tax cuts in Kansas were proof. I pointed out there were extenuating circumstances:

First of all, the issue in Kansas wasn’t the tax cuts – it was the state’s lack of willingness to curtail its spending to match, along with some issues with low prices in the commodity markets they depend on that eroded tax revenue even further. This is a good explanation.

Similarly, what increased the federal deficit during the aughts was a lack of willingness to cut spending to match tax income (as it has been for every year this century, including some real doozies of deficits under the last President, But back then deficits didn’t matter.)

But given the fact that this district voted handily for our Congressman and for President Trump, by extension it would be logical for Andy to vote for a tax plan the President supports.

And if you don’t agree that tax cuts create an economic boom, let me ask you: are you working for yourself or are you working for an allowance from the government? I don’t see Uncle Sam doing the work for which I show up at 7 and work until 5 most days. I earned the money and I want to keep more of it.

(A good question for Rep. Andy Harris, M.D. – is the reason we don’t adopt the FairTax a worry about lack of revenue or worry about lack of control of our behavior through the tax code?)

And again, I got the charge of biased source because Koch brothers or something like that. I can play that game too.

The contributor is actually a member of the Tax Policy Center, which is more left-leaning. And note that it was a court order demanding increased education spending that caused their budgetary problems for the year.

I think the truth is probably somewhere closer to the KPI version of events (since they are actually on the ground in Kansas) as opposed to a Beltway-based Forbes contributor. Actually, that’s a pretty good metaphor for the role of government, too.

This will be enough for tonight. Stay tuned on Tuesday for more.

Harris hears the hullabaloo, Salisbury edition

Back in March Congressman Andy Harris hosted what could be described as a contentious town hall meeting at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills. It was believed that yesterday’s event would be more of the same, but a disappointing fraction of that traveling roadshow of malcontents came down to Salisbury in their attempt to jeer, interrupt, goad, and otherwise heckle Andy Harris for the entire hour-long event.

There were a couple other departures from the Wye Mills townhall, one being the choice of moderator. In this case, we had Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis acting as the questioner and doing a reasonable job of keeping things in order.

Interestingly enough, the people at these “progressive” group tables outside have our Sheriff – the same one they were castigating for his “divisive rhetoric” a few weeks ago – to thank for their continued presence there.

As one would expect, the Harris campaign wasn’t cool with the presence of these tables outside and had asked them to leave, but they were overruled by Lewis. This was an event open to the public and not a school function, Lewis told me, so as long as they did not create a disturbance or block access or egress they were free to be there. The table on the left was run by volunteers for Democratic challenger Michael Pullen and the one on the right by “nonpartisan progressive grassroots volunteer organization” Talbot Rising. The latter group was there two hours early when I arrived.

The other departure was the lack of a PowerPoint presentation to open the townhall meeting, slated for an hour but lasting a few minutes extra. Harris rolled right into the questions, which were divided into tax-related questions and everything else.

Outbursts were frequent, but Lewis only had to intercede a couple of times. There was also a staged incident where a man dressed as Rich Uncle Pennybags thanked Harris for his tax cut, with two helpers holding a fake check – all three were escorted from the premises.

Speaking of tax cuts, this was to be the main emphasis of the program. It was the part that drew the sea of red sheets from the crowd.

(By the way, there was a young man there who passed red and green sheets to everyone. I was too busy writing and trying to follow to use them much, though.)

Now I will warn you: the rapid-fire way of getting questions in, coupled with the frequent jeering interruptions from the crowd (which was closer to me than the loudspeaker was) made it tough to get a lot of quotes so my post is going to be more of a summary.

I can say that Harris said the “vast majority” of the middle class would get tax cuts, and that was President Trump’s aim – to have them “targeted to middle income.” This was one of the few slides he showed.

He added that there were now competing House and Senate versions of the bill, with key differences: for example, the Senate bill has the adoption tax credit the House bill lacks, but the House has the $10,000 real estate tax deduction where the Senate bill still has the full elimination of state and local tax deductions. “We know they are areas of concern,” said Harris. Another area he worried about was losing the deduction for medical expenses, which he believed “we should retain.” He noted, too, that “my office door has been knocked down by special interests” who want to keep a particular deduction or credit intact. Later, he warned us this was the “first part of a very long process,” predicting nothing will be final until next spring at the earliest. (Remember, Trump wanted it for Christmas.)

Andy also contended that passing business tax reform would help to increase wages, which would increase productivity. That assertion was ridiculed, of course, although it would be interesting to know just how many of those objecting actually ran businesses and signed the front of paychecks.

At one point Andy was asked about the $1.5 trillion deficit figure that’s been bandied about by the Left in reaction to the GOP tax package, to which Harris asked the folks who applauded the question whether they applauded the $1.3 trillion in deficits Barack Obama ran up in his first year in office. (I thought I heard someone behind me say something along the lines of “but that did more good,” and I had to stifle a laugh.) Essentially, that $1.5 trillion figure assumes no economic benefit from tax reform, said Harris. That echoed his one concern about passage: “We need the economy growing now.”

And, yes, trickle-down does work, Andy added, and no, George W. Bush did not do trickle-down with his tax cuts because they were only for individuals, not businesses. We have had a stagnant corporate tax rate since the 1980s while the rest of the world went down. “If we don’t give relief to American corporations they will go offshore,” said Harris. (In one respect, the “progressives” are right on this one: Harris left out the salient point that corporations are over-regulated, too.)

Over the years, Andy continued later, he’s found out that Washington cannot or will not control spending, so they have to grow the economy to achieve the balanced budget he’s working toward. (Tax cuts have worked before – ask Coolidge, Kennedy, and Reagan.)

Toward the end, someone else brought up the estate tax, which Andy naturally opposes and these “progressive” folks, like the good Marxists they are, reflexively favor. Andy pointed out the examples of family farms and small businesses that work to avoid the estate tax that the opposition claims won’t affect them, but then Andy cited the example of a car dealer who spends $150,000 a year to avoid estate taxes. Someone had the audacity to shout out, “see, he’s helping the economy!” I really wish I had the microphone because I would have asked her: how much value is really created with that $150,000? If there were no estate tax the dealer could have used that to improve his business, hire a couple employees, or whatever he wanted.

Now for some of the other topics. First was a question on net neutrality. The crowd seemed to favor government regulation but Harris preferred to “leave the internet to prosper on its own.” (A lot of mumbling about Comcast was heard after that one.)

This one should have been a slam dunk, but even it was mixed. Harris pledged to allow people to keep and bear arms for whatever reason they wanted, and when some in the crowd loudly objected Andy reminded them his parents grew up in a communist country where the people had no guns but the government did. That doesn’t usually end well.

And after the recent Sutherland Springs church massacre, there was a question about the federal gun purchase form (Form 4473, as I found), because the shooter had deliberately omitted information on a conviction. Harris pointed out that he had asked then-AG Eric Holder that very question about how many people he had charged with lying to the government on that form and he said 10, because he had higher priority items. Okay, then.

There was a question asked that I didn’t really catch about the student savings program being extended to the unborn, and before Andy got real far into his answer someone behind me got in a way about this being a trick to “establish personhood” for the unborn. I thought they already were. This actually relates to a question asked later about the Johnson Amendment, which is generally interpreted as a prohibition on political activity from the pulpit so churches maintain their tax-exempt status. Harris called the Johnson Amendment “ridiculous,” opining that a church should be able to tell its parishioners which candidates have similar political views without fear of the IRS – much to the chagrin of the traveling roadshow.

This one was maybe my favorite. A questioner asked about a lack of women in leadership positions under Trump, but when that questioner was asked about Betsy DeVos – a woman in a leadership position as Secretary of Education – well, that didn’t count. “This President is going to appoint people who do the job,” said Harris. (Speaking of women seeking leadership positions, among those attending was state Comptroller candidate Angie Phukan. She was the lucky monocle returner.)

There was another questioner who asked if anything was being done in a bipartisan manner, to which Harris pointed out the House cleared a number last week. “Watch the bipartisan bills being passed on Monday,” said Harris.

Since I had time to kill before the event, I wrote a total of four questions to ask and it turned out three made the cut. Here were the three and a summary of the answers.

What are the factors holding back true tax reform? Is it a fear of a lack of revenue or the temptation of government control of behavior that stops a real change to the system?

The biggest factor Andy cited was the K Street lobbyists, which I would feel answers the second part of the question better than the first, Note that he had said earlier special interests were beating down his office door. He also said he would really prefer a flat tax.

We have tried the stick of forcing people to buy health insurance through Obamacare and it didn’t do much to address the situation. What can we do on the incentive side to address issues of cost control and a lack of access to health care?

For this question, Andy gave the state-level example of the former Maryland state-run health insurance program, which acted as an insurer of last resort. And when someone yelled out, “it went bankrupt!” Andy reminded her that the program was profitable until Martin O’Malley raided it to balance a budget. Then there was some shouting fit over how bad the program was from someone who was a social worker, but then could you not have that same issue with the Medicare for All these people want (and Andy says “is not going to work”)? After all, both were/are government programs.

On that same subject, Andy said the American Health Care Act that died in the Senate “would have been good for Maryland” if it had passed.

The recent election results would tend to suggest President Trump is unpopular among a certain segment of voters. Yet the other side won simply because they ran against President Trump, not because they presented an agenda. What agenda should the GOP pursue to benefit our nation going forward?

This one had a short, simple answer I can borrow from a Democrat: it’s the economy, stupid. Get tax cuts passed so we can keep this accelerating economy going.

Lastly, I get the feeling I’m going to be semi-famous.

Given the fact that probably half the audience was rabid left-wing and/or open supporters of at least one of his Democrat opponents were there, I’m thinking the camera belongs to them. So if you stumble across any of the video, I’m the guy sporting the Faith Baptist colors up front.

Seriously, I was shocked at the lack of a media presence there. I gathered the Daily Times was there and they will spin it into more proof that Harris is unpopular. Maybe the Independent, the Sun, and the WaPo were too. But don’t let it be said that Harris was afraid to face his opposition. “This (townhall) is what America is all about,” said Andy near the end.

Personally, I get the frustration some on the Left feel about being in this district since we on the Right feel that way about the state. There was actually a question about gerrymandering asked, and while Andy properly pointed out it’s a state-level issue he also added that Governor Hogan has attempted to address this without success. They may also be frustrated because I know there were at least a couple cards in the hopper trying to bait Andy into answering on the Roy Moore situation, which Andy already addressed.

Overall, now that I’ve experienced the phenomenon for myself, it seems to me that our friends on the Left can complain all they want about their Congressman not listening. But every one of us there had the right to ask questions and common courtesy would dictate that we get to hear the answers whether you like them or not. So maybe you need to listen too.

Oh, and one other question for my local friends on the Left: are you going to clamor for Senators Cardin and Van Hollen to have a town hall here like you did for Harris? I know I would like one.

Tax cuts and jobs?

November 5, 2017 · Posted in Business and industry, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Tax cuts and jobs? 

Since I said this yesterday:

I guess I better use the space for something besides music reviews, analysis of baseball trades, and other non-political items.

As many of you who know my site probably also know, the House put forth its initial proposal for what is being called the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. (President Trump would have preferred the Cuts Cuts Cuts Act himself, though.) So most of the argument and commentary seems to be on whether this does enough for individual taxpayers – naturally, Democrats revert to their age-old “tax cuts for the rich” saw while some Republicans fret about losing particular deductions.

But I want to address two things in this post. First, I want to try and step into the shoes of a small business owner because part of the bill title is “that three-letter word, J-O-B-S” (with apologies to Joe Biden) and they are the ones who create most of them – including the ones I have now.

I’m not going to get into actual dollars and cents here because this is more of a philosophical argument. Each year business owners hand a share of their revenues off to various branches of government for a host of reasons, but the one item that perhaps draws the most blood, sweat, and tears is that federal tax return they (or, more likely, their accountants) fill out each year. Thus, the idea of both lowering rates and making things simpler works positively in two ways: a little more money to invest in the business for new hires, capital improvements, or expansion (people in my line of work perk up their ears at the latter) and a little more time to enjoy life or improve the business plan. They may not need to give that accountant quite so much, but, alas, there are winners and losers in life. (However, the day we find out H&R Block is lobbying against a tax reform proposal is the day we’ll know we have the right formula.)

The common perception from the Left is that every business owner is a fat cat member of the 1% who pays his employees less than minimum wage, skimps on benefits, and hoards his profits to spend on his fancy car and yacht – Ebenezer Scrooge personified. I don’t know about you but I haven’t met one like that yet, although I will note my previous employer went out and got a BMW i8 complete with vanity plate (and installed the charger in our parking lot) thanks to a series of very successful businesses. But that came after years of long days and lots of hard work, so I wasn’t going to complain because he had aptitude, drive, and a range of talents I didn’t.

By the same token, it’s not unknown for my current employer to be at the office or meeting clients late into the evenings or on the weekends – I know because I used to work in there at those times myself (on top of my full-time job) in order to seize the opportunity I was presented to get back into his firm. Ambitious people laugh at a 40-hour work week, and the overriding question that is being answered to an extent by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is whether they should be rewarded for those efforts or forced to hand over the excess to government to redistribute to the less ambitious.

After all, hopefully there comes a point in the life of a business where the boss can’t do it all himself (or herself.) Adding people, though, brings a whole new world of complexity to the tasks so the rewards should be maximized and risks minimized in order to encourage even more hiring when business dictates. If the government takes a pinch less maybe the additional economic activity will make up for it in time.

This brings me to my second point: whose money is it anyway?

Consider the average dollar, which is representative of an intrinsic value. There’s an old joke where someone leaves a $100 bill on a hotel counter while he inspects a room and it quickly makes the rounds paying off various debts up and down the street before the customer decides the room isn’t satisfactory and takes back the Benjamin, which seconds before had paid off the last debt owed to the hotel clerk. Everyone had a value assigned to the cash although the overall transaction was a wash.

When a worker makes a dollar, it’s a tradeoff: even at minimum wage, it’s about eight minutes of his labor in return for a dollar’s wage. In a successful business, the employee performed more in the way of value to the company than the pay but the rate of pay was still acceptable to the employee. (On top of that you have benefits, but for the purpose of this argument I’ll concentrate on pay.) My full time employer bills me out at a rate that is supposed to cover the wage, benefits, and overhead so in return I have work to do. My writing employer gives me an assignment on Thursday night and expects a turnover for the following morning. As long as this is done profitably for both parties, everything is cool – the problems occur when labor costs begin to outweigh value added. (For an example, consider why you are faced with a kiosk instead of a live person in some fast food restaurants – human order takers didn’t add a lot of value if they were inaccurate, grouchy, not feeling well, or disorganized, especially at the $15 an hour for which they were pining.)

Now think about a dollar spent in taxes, where the tradeoff is completely different. There are a number of vital services these taxes pay for, especially at a local level where the business receives its public safety protection, maintenance for the roads, portions of the utility infrastructure, and various other items which vary based on the jurisdiction.

Unfortunately, the higher up the taxation food chain you go, the more likely you’ll find these tax dollars aren’t creating value. Oftentimes these entities will act as a pass-through, returning tax dollars to the state or local jurisdiction after keeping a cut for themselves and necessitating the employment of a grant writer on a local level. It’s making a pencil-pusher rich, but that’s not really adding to society like a guy out working on an oil rig, writing computer code, or burning the midnight oil trying to figure out how to please her engineering client. Even worse, that dollar may be paying the bureaucrat who’s writing the rule that will do the business in at the behest of a lobbyist bought and paid for by some special interest.

By keeping dollars in the more productive and efficient private sector, not only does lowering taxes help increase GDP but it also provides the incentive for people to work harder. I’ve often cited Atlas Shrugged as one of my favorite books, not because it’s a feelgood story but because I see it as an absolute indicator of where our nation could be headed under the government we’ve put in place. If working harder has no reward, then why do it?

We have a long way to go before we see tax reform, if it even comes about at all because Republicans in Congress aren’t completely sold on the package. (I thought the GOP was supposed to be the party that supported lower taxes – didn’t you?) But the argument shouldn’t be who wins and loses financially – it should be about whether we believe it’s our money we’re getting for our labor or if we feel we just get to use that which is benevolently granted to us by government.

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