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.

Choice and consequences.

The “War on Poverty” failed because it institutionalized poverty by providing a hand out instead of a hand up.  It’s flawed underlying assumption is that society is 100% to blame for poverty.  Maybe society did give some families a bad deal at some time, but you can’t undo the past, you can only look ahead.  Let’s look at how personal choices factor into continuing poverty.  Two of the biggest factors in poverty are lack of a high school education and young single parenthood, so these are our examples.

Start with a teenage boy who is considering dropping out of school.  Now if he has responsible parents they may talk him out of it, but he doesn’t so he makes a choice to drop out.  Now, with nothing to do he makes a choice to join a local gang that sells drugs and burglarizes homes.  As a consequence of that choice and his activities with the gang he’s arrested and jailed.  Several years later he’s a young man with no diploma and a criminal record angrily blaming society because he can’t get a decent job.  Society didn’t force him to make those choices, did it?

Now consider a young single mother.  She’s a mom because she and a man made a choice to have unprotected sex.  Dad isn’t in the picture because he made a choice to not be involved or to pay child support.  This is the only point at which society has some power.  It can legally force dad to pay child support, thus reducing the burden on both the mom and on society.  Maybe mom has a hard time holding a job as a consequence of her drug use.  Well, at some time she made a choice to use drugs once, use them twice, and eventually become addicted.  Again society didn’t force her to make these choices.

This is not to say society has no responsibility to help the poor; it actually has three. The first is to provide for those who are physically or mentally unable to work, because disability is not a choice. The second is to provide a hand up for those who are able to work that leads to independence from welfare through a combination of temporary support and training that leads to productive work. This approach is similar to the Individual Development Plans that schools use for special needs students, and is precisely what my ISIC plan reflects. The third is to make sure jobs are available. This is accomplished by having a strong economy with minimal wasteful overhead (e.g., government reporting), a fair and simple tax structure, an educated workforce, a supportive infrastructure, and a restored feeling that work can get you ahead in the USA. Real emotional security comes from self-reliance, not dependence on a nanny state that forces you to trade your freedom for security.

Update 2017: Although it’s common to associate bad choices with poverty a recent occurrence at a college shows that bad choices have no socioeconomic boundaries. A large group of students were celebrating in the streets. Most of them behaved but a few chose to get rowdy and destructive; in fact their destruction reached felony level. These young people will have to pay a fine and restitution but probably won’t serve jail time because they don’t have prior criminal records. Their problems, however, are just beginning. The college could kick them out, which seems appropriate if the college is serious about not tolerating destructive behavior. Even if they are allowed to continue, that felony conviction will hang like an albatross around their necks for life. Every time an employer or bank does a background check, there it will be. Career choices will become limited. Here are a few jobs that might not accept felons: jobs requiring a security clearance, jobs in the financial industry, and jobs working with children. A military or law enforcement career is off the table because felons can’t possess firearms. Recreational shooting sports will also be off limits. So here’s a group of young people who have already done far more damage to their futures than they did to the property they destroyed. That’s choice and consequence.

ISIC: a one-stop welfare model.

Here’s a model for single welfare system (one application at one state agency handles all benefits) I call ISIC, for Identification, Support, Independence, and Community.  The first three are the program and the fourth is voluntary.

Identification:  This step fully identifies the applicants and their eligibility.  It’s purpose is to ensure that applicants aren’t using a false ID or misrepresenting their financial status in any way.  Their life style should reflect their means.  If someone claims to have earned $9000 in one year and paid $8000 for rent they need to explain how they and their dependents ate for that year.

Support:  This second step identifies what levels of support applicants need while they’re on the path to independence, i.e., food, medical care, child care, rent subsidies, etc..  Their needs may change with time but everything will be handled through the one program.  A work requirement will be part of the program.  Note 1: food does not include alcohol, tobacco, or recreational pot.  Note 2: anyone caught selling their benefits will lose them.

Independence:  This step addresses what the applicants need to be able to earn a living without social services support.  Completion of high school is one of the key factors in employability, so any applicant who dropped out will be required to earn an HS equivalency.  After that job training and educational opportunities will be based on the applicants’ interests, abilities, and job availability.

Community:  This last step is voluntary as involuntary servitude is unconstitutional.  Once independent, applicants will be asked to volunteer with some charity or service organization for some reasonable period of time.  They can choose whatever they want to do (e.g., help in a food pantry, animal shelter, or building houses) and no one will monitor them.  It’s simply based on the idea that if someone accepts help from society they should be willing to help society, and it could help build responsible communities.

To re-establish a work ethic the value of work must exceed the value of not working.

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.

Immigration is a privilege, not a right.

Immigrants built this country (even when they weren’t welcomed) and they’re still a vital part of it.  Neither closing our borders to all nor opening them to all are sustainable options.  We must manage immigration fairly and securely.  While much of the current discussion of immigration reform focuses on “undocumented workers” I’ll talk about the legal immigration process first.  It’s complicated and probably unnecessarily so.  Let’s rebuild it to be simpler, fairer, and more in line with what you’d find in other developed nations.  I’ll start with four principles:

  1. The US government’s obligation to protect it’s citizens from foreign criminals is absolute.
  2. “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country” – President John F. Kennedy.
  3. E Pluribus Unum. It’s Latin for the “great melting pot”.
  4. US citizenship is a commodity of value that cannot be stolen or won.

Anyone applying for permanent or long term residency must undergo a medical exam to ensure that they won’t present a risk to public health and a background check for criminal or terrorist activity.  Convictions for crimes that are felonies in the US, violent misdemeanors, multiple DUI convictions that show a disregard for life, participation in genocide, and known association with a criminal or terrorist organization are automatically disqualifying (see #1 above).  An individual with a lengthy record of petty crime that suggests that person just wants a criminal career might also be disqualified.

No nation on earth invites people in to be on welfare. Some countries require visitors to have booked their passage out before they’re allowed in.   Immigrants are expected to have some training or skill to be able to obtain employment (see #2 above).  This doesn’t apply to student visas if the students are financially supported from their home nation.

Some countries, including Canada, use a merit-based immigration system.  Applicants are awarded points for education, job skills, professional licenses, speaking the language, etc. and they must meet a threshold to be admitted.  Criminals are kept out.  Canada’s immigration is so strict that visitors (not immigrants) who have a prior DUI conviction cannot drive in the country.  That’s protecting a nation’s citizens.

Applicants for citizenship must pass a civics exam and they must learn English.  Learning English doesn’t mean reading “See Spot run”; it means being able to conduct typical life activities like opening a bank account, visiting a doctor, voting, or reporting an emergency to 911.  A common language unifies a nation (see #3 above).

Those on student visas are expected to be enrolled for the full academic year.  Universities will be required to report any foreign students who fail to register for a regular term.  The US also reserves the right to deny student visas to residents of nations deemed hostile to this country.

The “Diversity Lottery” should be ended.  We shouldn’t be handing out 50K permanent resident visas to random people who may not even be able to support themselves.

Refugee status isn’t supposed to be permanent.  Refugees should return to their home nation as soon as whatever situation they were fleeing (often a civil war) ends.

Now let’s look at how we can make it easiest for immigrants.  The laws are complicated and waiting times long.  Some are loaded with travel restrictions and time limits.  Some keep families separated for no apparent reason.  Every one of them needs to be examined and, if they are arbitrary or outdated rules that provide no real benefit to anyone, eliminated.  Implement a merit-based applicant screening system to create a system that’s both fair and secure.  The only ones who profit from this current legal maze are immigration lawyers.