Tax And Destroy

Everyone has heard the famous quote “the power to tax involves the power to destroy” from Chief Justice John Marshall in an 1819 Supreme Court ruling that states could not tax the Federal government.  What about government use of taxation against the people it’s supposed to be working for?  What is that destroying?

For much of US history, taxes were collected to fund essential government services such as national defense, border security, law enforcement, public infrastructure, education, and resource conservation.  In fact Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said “taxes are what we pay for civilized society”.  Progressives have changed that through taxation for wealth redistribution and “social engineering”.  Social engineering typically involves the use of punitive taxes to discourage “wrong behavior” as defined by some omniscient Big Brother.  I’ll start with punitive taxation.

Billionaire Mike Bloomberg is pouring millions of dollars into local efforts to impose a punitive tax on sugary sodas.  OK, they’re not particularly healthy, but where does that process end?  Under the influence of UN Agenda 21 Denmark is seriously considering a tax on meat.  Once the USDA includes sustainability in diet recommendations it won’t be long before progressives want taxes on meat, and eventually dairy products.  This is about controlling people, and more control equals less freedom.  Eventually the only choice progressives will allow is for an abortion.  Bloomberg also pours millions into local gun control efforts, some of which include punitive taxes on guns and ammunition.  No ammo tax will ever stop a street gang, psychopath, disgruntled worker, or jihadist from unleashing mayhem.  What it will do is hurt honest shooting sports participants, particularly those involved in competitive target shooting.  It takes thousands of hours and probably close to a million rounds to reach Olympic level competitor status.  It’s those honest achievers who will be hurt, not the criminal who loads a “Saturday night special” to rob a convenience store.

(Hey Mike, why don’t you ever ask for more taxes on billionaires?)

President Obama wants a ten dollar per barrel tax on oil, even though it would raise prices of gas and heating oil and could send the economy into recession.  This is a punitive tax to punish those who insist on using fossil fuels.  As I pointed out in “Alternative Energy: The Missing Link”, however, we don’t have the technology to convert to renewable fuels overnight.  How many cities are 100% powered by renewable energy 24/7?  The answer is none.  How many all-electric vehicles have a 500 mile cruising range, or even a 100 mile range that can recharge during a 5 minute rest stop?  Again the answer is none.  An all-electric vehicle is a great choice for commuting from the suburbs to the city but would you want to set out to “see the USA” in one?  Incidentally if that electric vehicle doesn’t recharge from a renewable source it isn’t fully “green”.  He claims that the tax revenue would be used for research, and while some might be, some of it might also be used for global wealth redistribution.

So, what about wealth redistribution?  Within the US wealth redistribution is accomplished through various welfare programs and a widely abused tax credit program called EITC.  If you read my proposal for the ISIC welfare reform program you’ll know that I’m not opposed to welfare as a hand up for the unfortunate or as assistance for those who are unable to fully support themselves due to disability.  When children are starving in spite of school meal programs, SNAP, and WIC, however, something in the system isn’t working.  When a person who is fully capable of working decides to live off the labor of others and then jokes about it on social media welfare fraud has gone too far and reform is past due.  That’s an insult to every working family that’s struggling to support itself.  I’m also opposed to allowing foreigners to enter the US and immediately land on extended welfare.  Traditionally our immigration policy only admitted honest healthy people who were capable of supporting themselves within a reasonable time frame.  See my “Immigration is a Privilege, not a Right” post for more.  Global wealth redistribution is a recent concept arising from UN Agenda 21.  Third world nations are demanding billions of dollars from developed nations to “go green” under Agenda 21 while having no intent to meet the human rights objectives specified in that agenda.  See my post “UN Agenda 21 vs the Wealthy Wimpy West” for more.  I believe that global wealth redistribution is unconstitutional.  Nothing in our Constitution allows the government to send our tax dollars overseas or be taxed by any foreign entity.

So, what are the socialist progressives destroying with social engineering and Marxist wealth redistribution?  Essentially everything that made the USA exceptional: freedom (choice, not control); individual responsibility (the flip side of the rights/responsibility coin); the value of the family, and national sovereignty.

As many have pointed out, the US will never be conquered from without, it will destroy itself from within..  Progressives/socialists are leading the charge.

2016 Update:  Not unexpected: the UN has advocated for all nations to tax sugary drinks like sodas.

Unexpected: the UN also wants taxes on 100% fruit juices.  Who wants their morning OJ taxed?  It’s past time to tell the UN that we’re a sovereign nation, and while we’ll work with them on international issues, we will not surrender our rights or our freedom to them.

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Responsibility and Authority Disconnected

Fifty years ago colleges didn’t need remedial math and English courses; today they do.

Remedial courses cost students time and money, things they can’t afford in today’s high cost higher education world.  One state lawmaker has proposed an innovative way to relieve students of this cost.  The plan would charge local school districts the tuition for remedial courses required by their former students on the grounds that the local school didn’t adequately prepare the students for college.  To families of students and people fed up with poor public school performance this sounds great.  To property owners who would see their taxes go up this sounds like a bad idea.  It’s actually a disconnected idea.  The disconnect with holding local school districts responsible for college remediation is that local education is no longer under local control; it’s dictated by the Federal government through Common Core, NCLB, required testing programs, and numerous unfunded mandates.  The concept of being responsible for something implies that you have the authority to control that for which you’re responsible.  When your actions are dictated by an external authority your sole responsibility is to follow orders.  The outcome is presumably assured by the authority figure issuing those orders.  In the case of public education the Federal government doesn’t “know” the outcome, it’s just trying yet another approach in an ongoing series of costly experiments to “improve” public education.

The Federal takeover of public schools is also another progressive attack on the family as the basic unit of society. When control is local parents have far more influence over the schools than when control rests with the Department of Education and it’s head who thinks that all children should be raised by the state.  Even the former Soviet Union didn’t go that far.

If you want to hold local school districts responsible for student outcomes abolish the Department of Education (which has no Constitutional basis for existence) and return control of education to the states (where the 10th Amendment says it should be).  If you’re happy with Federal control of your schools ask the Department of Education to pay for remedial college courses and see how fast that department points the finger back at the local school districts.

Authority must always be commensurate with responsibility.

No Accountability, No Consequences, No Problem.

Here’s a mission statement for all public employees:

The mission of public employees is to serve the people professionally and ethically at all times.

That’s right. Public employees work for the government, but since the government represents We the People , they work for us, and we have a right to expect integrity. It’s time to revisit the subject of responsibility with respect to recent events. There’s a lot going wrong and no one is being held accountable. All government employees receive procedural training, security training, and some form of ethics training. Technical employees are supposed to know their profession. Those who break the rules are subject to disciplinary actions ranging from pay cuts or days off up to removal and filing of criminal charges, yet this isn’t happening. Let’s look at a few cases where the objective seems to be protecting a corrupt administration rather than serving the public.
Let’s start with the problems at the VA. The President acknowledged there were problems at the VA in 2008, but didn’t take ownership of the issue until public outrage forced him to. The long delays in providing treatment to our veterans are medically and morally unacceptable. Whistleblower retaliation is legally unacceptable. Equally unacceptable are cover-up efforts, including falsified records and destruction of records. Any employee, regardless of level, who falsifies official records is subject to disciplinary action, yet there has been none. The issue of overpaid administrators and excessive non-medical purchases must be addressed too so that the money can be used to hire medical providers.
Now turn to the IRS and its “lost” emails. Anyone who buys the hard drive crash story is computer illiterate. When a email is sent it goes to an agency server where addresses can read it at any time. Servers have three levels of protection against data loss: fault tolerance, backup power, and periodic backup copies. While a copy of the email may reside on the sender’s computer it is hardly the sole backup. Suspicion is also raised by an email that said to be careful what was sent in email because Congress might want to see them. As liberals love to say when defending surveillance of honest citizens “why should you care if you’re not doing anything wrong?”. The supervisor in charge could have been fired (at least) but instead was allowed to take retirement with an unblemished record.
The State Department had serious problems under Hillary Clinton. Where are the missing 6 billion dollars? Was it poor accounting practices or is the money really missing? What about the lies surrounding the Benghazi attack? No one believed the movie protest story from the start, so why did our officials keep repeating it and threaten to jail a film maker in violation of the First Amendment? Who authorized the lie? What about using personal email accounts to avoid Federal record keeping and security requirements? The average Federal employee would at least lose their job and probably face charges. Again no one has been held accountable.
The Department of Justice isn’t immune to criticism either. The “Fast and Furious” operation allowed 2000 “assault weapons” to be transferred to Mexican drug cartels. One was used to kill a US border agent. How many Mexicans have died is unknown. Who’s accountable? No one. Incidentally those are the same guns Democrats say honest citizens shouldn’t be allowed to own.
Now look at the last “crisis” on our southern border involving “unaccompanied minors”. Why the secrecy? Why were doctors told not to discuss possible public health threats? Why was a US Congressman denied entry into a US base housing “undocumented immigrants”? Why aren’t “immigrants” with violent gang tattoos being turned away? Again, where’s the accountability at Immigration and the CDC for failing to protect our nation and it’s citizens?
Finally let’s look at the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA wants to control “ephemeral” water, i.e., every puddle in the country. Those same scientists and engineers managed to poison an entire river system with three million gallons of toxic mine waste. Has anyone been fired?
Ethical and procedural lapses are pervasive, and ethical behavior cannot be restored at this point without a purge. Managers who directed or were aware of illegal activities must be fired. Any employee who falsified or destroyed records must be disciplined. Incompetent employees must be dismissed. Any contractor that participated in records “loss” must lose the contract and be barred from Federal contracts for 10 years. Employees must then be retrained, making it clear that illegal or unethical actions will not be tolerated. Without an example of real consequences they won’t believe it.

Where are the parents?

Every time I see a child running around a store knocking things off shelves or bothering patrons in a restaurant, I ask “Where are the parents?”.  Why aren’t you teaching your children respect for others and their property?  That’s your responsibility.

Every time I hear of an unattended child dying in a pool, bathtub or hot car, I ask “Where are the parents?”.  Why did you leave your child in a potentially unsafe situation?  If your child isn’t old enough to be responsible in a particular situation and no other adult acknowledges and accepts that responsibility, then you are responsible.

Every time I hear of a child finding a gun at home and shooting someone, I ask “Where are the parents?”.  Responsible gun ownership includes securing firearms from children who shouldn’t have unsupervised access to them.

When I heard that schools increasingly have to call authorities to deal with students, I ask “Where are the parents?”.  Parents have a responsibility to teach children to behave, to motivate them to attend school, to see that homework is done, to attend any teacher conferences, and to get them medical help if they need it.

There’s that annoying word “responsibility” again and again.  Forget the liberal “It takes a village”.  It takes responsible parents to raise a child.  If you think parental responsibility for a child ends at birth do everyone a favor and don’t have children.

We have seen “the village” and don’t like it.  It was called the Soviet Union.

Welfare is neither a right nor a requirement, it’s a program.

And every program has rules, so if you want to participate, live with them.

Welfare was supposed to be a hand up, not a handout, but the “War on Poverty” that began with President Johnson in 1964, while it helped some, also enabled a generation of people for whom the safety net became a hammock.  Instead of ending poverty it institutionalized poverty and contributed to the breakdown of the nuclear family by incentivizing single parent homes.  The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996 reversed some of this by incorporating a responsibility to work and by replacing AFDC with TANF, where the “T” stands for “temporary”.  We also have SNAP and WIC programs that provide food aid and both public housing and rent subsidies to provide help with shelter.  It’s an alphabet soup of up to 80 programs with each having different eligibility requirements.  It’s also an invitation to fraud and waste.  Since all welfare should be managed at the state level, is there any reason why there couldn’t be just one program run by one agency that covered everything?   The goal isn’t to deprive people of benefits for which they’re eligible, it’s to make the system more efficient with less overhead, fewer forms to fill out, and less fraud.  I’ll suggest a model I call ISIC, but first I’ll discuss a few related  topics.

Deadbeat Dads: Social services would cost less if every man who fathers a child and then walks away from mom paid child support.  An aggressive effort to pursue child support needs to be a part of welfare.  Sorry guys, but I shouldn’t have to pay for you to play, so “man up” and take responsibility for your kids.

Earned Income Tax Credit: EITC is a Federal welfare program that provides tax credits for low income people who work.  For some it’s a disincentive to work because it’s easy to look at the EITC chart and figure out how to get maximum money for minimum work.  Eliminating it would be politically unpopular, but why not replace it with a single coordinated welfare system?.  The amount of the tax credit is currently based on charts for 0 to 3 children, with the third being a recent expansion to EITC.  If we can’t eliminate EITC, return it to a maximum of 2 children, or even use just one chart somewhat below number 2 for everyone, and impose a maximum number of years in which it can be collected.  Why on earth are we subsidizing people to have children they can’t afford instead of encouraging smart lifestyle choices?  Also, the IRS should be prohibited from issuing EITC to those in the country illegally.

Drug Testing: I won’t advocate drug testing because it’s expensive and has mixed results, but if a state wants to do it, it shouldn’t be considered an unreasonable search that violates the applicant’s rights.  Welfare application, like job application, is voluntary; it’s not an arrest situation.  If a judge rules that pre-welfare drug testing violates a welfare applicant’s right without also ruling that pre-employment drug testing violates a job applicant’s right, the judge is making a welfare applicant “better than” a job applicant.  What happened to equal rights?  I also wouldn’t say that drug use should automatically disqualify an applicant if they’re willing to go to rehab.  The objective of welfare is to help people reach financial independence, not to punish them.

Workforce Housing: This is not a welfare issue but it is an issue in some communities for lower income families trying to improve their lives so I’ll mention it.  They need affordable places to live.  There has to be something between run-down “poor housing” and the “mcMansions” that require six-figure incomes to buy.  Workforce housing is not public housing, it’s simply affordable housing.  Many communities oppose workforce housing because they fear it will lower property values or cause an influx of children who will place increased demands on schools and hence property taxes.

Job Training. This is often discussed in connection with both unemployment and welfare.  Like many government programs, there are too many job training programs, around 47.  Why not consolidate and cut this to two, one for office/paraprofessional jobs and one for skilled trades?  To be useful, candidates must have completed high school, one way or another, and jobs matching the training must be available.  To be fair, candidates only get one pass through.  No one should become a professional student at taxpayer expense.

Minimum wage: Also not directly a welfare issue, raising the minimum wage is a topic of recent interest.  Doing so would lift some out of poverty but could harm small businesses.  The minimum wage hasn’t been raised for years, so doing it makes some sense, but not by around $3-6 all at once.  The adverse effects on the economy could be minimized by raising it incrementally over a period of 3-5 years while still providing an immediate benefit to those working at minimum wage.  The impact of a minimum wage hike also could be minimized by allowing the unskilled labor market to tighten so wages would rise naturally instead of by government mandate. I realize that a minimum wage hike conflicts with strict conservatism but my goals are to shrink welfare rolls and government itself.  Also, with inflation predicted, some wage growth is necessary to avoid stagflation.  Finally, with liberals buying votes all around, standing your ground on “NO” won’t win elections, and if you can’t win elections you can’t change the course of the country.

To reduce the size of government you must reduce dependency on government.

“Unless you can point your finger at the man who is responsible when something goes wrong, then you have never had anyone really responsible.”

That quote by the late Admiral H. G. Rickover, the “Father of the Nuclear Navy”, points to Department heads and upper management.  There seems to be an epidemic of “Not me!”, “They did it”, “I didn’t know” and so on in Washington these days.  Where does the buck stop?

Department heads and managers must be knowledgeable of and responsible for the actions of their departments.  If someone buys a thousand bucks worth of unneeded office supplies it’s low level stuff, but if someone mismanages millions of taxpayer dollars, violates the legal rights of people or organizations, or gets people killed then that someone and possibly his or her immediate boss should lose their jobs.  Why was no one fired when the State Dept. failed to protect the embassy in Benghazi, or the Justice Dept.’s “Fast and Furious” operation sold weapons to drug cartels, or the IRS targeted conservative political groups?

To paraphrase John Donne, “ask not at whom the finger points, it points at you”.

2016 Update:  Why were no EPA officials or EPA contractors fired after polluting the Animas River with millions of gallons of toxic mine waste?  Heavy metals that settle out on the bottom will be there for a long time.

 

Every yin has it’s yang: rights and responsibilities.

Your rights end where mine begin because you are responsible to respect my rights.

Everyone talks about rights, Constitutional rights, legal rights, and even informal rights.  Responsibilities, well, not so much.  The word “responsibility” seems to convey a sense of burden.  Responsibilities are everywhere, a natural part of life, so get used to it.  If you are a citizen you have the right to vote.  You also have a responsibility to vote and to do so in an informed manner.  If you give up this right, i.e., fail in this responsibility, you have no business complaining when you don’t like what the government is doing.  I vote in every election: national, state, and local.  Percentagewise your vote counts more locally than nationally yet local elections tend to have lower turnouts.  Don’t ignore your community.

The US was built by people who accepted responsibilities and it won’t be sustained by those who shirk them.