The Freedom Triangle

Our heritage is defined not by the term “democracy” but by the broader term “freedom”.  Those terms are not synonymous.  Democracy is one part of three that have kept us strong and free.
Democracy is that part of freedom that allows citizens to vote for their leaders instead of taking orders from a dictator, monarch, or cleric.  It’s necessary but not sufficient.
The second part of freedom is a defined set of rights that protect citizens from government excesses.  You could remove the entire Bill of Rights (that’s the first ten amendments folks) from the Constitution and still have a democracy, but you wouldn’t be free.  Government officials could censor your speech, outlaw your religion, search your home at will, seize your property, or charge you with a crime and keep trying you until the prosecution got the verdict it wanted.
The third part of freedom is responsibility.  It starts with being an informed voter, but it really means that citizens take responsibility for their own lives and their country’s future.  Those who signed the Declaration of Independence, pioneered westward, farmed the soil, built our industries and universities, ended slavery, and defended freedom in many wars all took responsibility.  You can’t hand your life over to “the system” without also surrendering some of your freedom.
The triangle is strong, but it’s not invulnerable.


Congress has a job description and it isn’t “Do nothing”.

That job description is found in Article I of the Constitution, and it’s hefty.  It includes managing the country’s finances, e.g., budgets and debt, ratifying treaties, and passing laws.  Congress can also impeach (remove from office) a president who fails to fulfill executive obligations.

When Congress fails in it’s responsibilities, the country can experience financial and legal crises, lose credibility internationally, and find that the president is assuming too much power.  When Congress fails in it’s responsibilities, it’s up to “We the people” to replace underperforming senators and representatives with people who will step up to the job.

Unfortunately, while it’s easy to say “vote them all out” you have to remember that you’re replacing career politicians with more career politicians who probably won’t behave any differently in Washington than the ones you vote out.

There are two ways to make Congress more responsive to “We the people”.  One is to limit campaign contributions from all organizations and individuals as well.  I include individuals because of certain wealthy elitists who think their money gives them the right to tell us “little people” how to live.  Money may buy power but it doesn’t buy rights.  The other is term limits, around 18-20 years total between the House and the Senate.  Term limits would restore the concept of citizens serving their nation rather than career politicians serving their party.

Flat out easier.

The principle of a flat tax is simple.  All income is taxed at the same rate for everyone.  I specify all income because some wealthy individuals want a flat tax that leaves capital gains untaxed (I wonder why).  I don’t believe in “wealth redistribution” but I do believe everyone should pay their fair share and there’s no reason why passive income is “better” than earned wages.  To encourage small investors and help seniors without gifting hedge fund managers a limited amount of investment income (interest, dividends, and capital gains) could be exempt, e.g. $10-25K.  The capital gain exemption on the sale of a primary residence should also remain.  A flat tax would provide larger personal exemptions to protect low wage earners, a higher standard deduction to reduce the need for itemizing, and no loopholes.  There would be no tables or scales.  If the government wanted to impose any surcharges they would also be flat.  Deductions for those who chose to itemize would include dependents, state and local taxes, uninsured medical expenses, charitable contributions capped at 10% of income (if you’re poor you can’t afford to give away more and if you’re rich you don’t need taxpayer support for your generosity), uninsured catastrophic losses, and capital losses with carryover to be written off at an age-dependent rate.  The mortgage interest deduction would go away as would both the AMT and the current EITC.  As I said, the sole purpose of a tax is to collect revenue.

Corporations have asked for a lower tax rate to be more competitive in the world.  Let’s give it to them, but in exchange they must give up some of the subsidies and other taxpayer-funded benefits they enjoy.  Make it simpler and reduce overhead, that’s the goal.

While a national sales tax would be even simpler it would hit lower income people disproportionally hard as they spend more of their income on necessities and less on discretionary items. If they had to file for some form of refund the system could be as complicated as the income tax it replaced.

It’s that time of year again, so let’s talk taxes.

No one likes paying taxes, but they’re the cost of “having a civilized nation”.

People ask “where’s my refund?” or “what do I owe?” but how many are asking “what am I getting for my money?”?    These would be questions like “are my taxes fixing bridges in the US or in Iraq?”, or “why do they keep funding programs year after year that show no success? ” or “are my taxes helping welfare recipients get back on their feet or helping welfare cheats stay off them?”.  You get the idea.  Here are my criteria for taxes:

  1. The sole purpose of a tax is to raise revenue. “Social Engineering” is overdone.
  2. Revenue from a special purpose tax must be used for that purpose.   If the gas tax is earmarked for highway maintenance I expect to see road crews out.
  3. Niche taxes that generate no significant revenue should go away.   Eliminate the overhead.
  4. Taxes should be easy to understand and easy to file.

The last item is the biggest problem: it’s excess overhead, something I will discuss further in more detail.  No one person could understand the entire tax code and various court decisions about it.  The IRS has over 100,000 employees (and increasing) to keep track of it all and supposedly watch for fraud.  People spend millions of dollars a year getting tax forms prepared (essentially a tax on a tax).  The IRS gets all wage, pension, interest, dividend, and brokerage transaction information yet it all has to be entered again.  If those are your only sources of income you should be able to file on one page.  A simpler tax structure would also make it harder to cheat.  The simplest income tax structure is a flat tax and I’ll make specific recommendations next.

Once individual and corporate taxes are simplified, the IRS could be downsized for real tax dollar savings.  IRS employees at GS-11 and 12 grades (typical working level) earn from $60,000 to over $80,000, with supervisors earning more.  Using $75,000 as an average, if IRS employment could be reduced by 25% it would save almost 2 billion dollars a year just in wages!  Factoring in employee benefits, contractors, facilities maintenance, and technology the actual savings would easily double.  If we could simplify (not “reform”) tax law and get the IRS out of other businesses like welfare and health care, it could be downsized by 50%.  Simpler and fairer taxes, smaller and less expensive government, and less fraud sound good to me.

We the people want the president to be honest & dedicated to upholding the Oath of Office (seriously).

The President is the Commander in Chief of the most powerful military force in the world, the CEO of the largest civilian employer in the country, the voice of the USA to the rest of the world, and a role model for the country’s youth.  Is integrity too much to ask?

The executive powers are assigned in Article II of the Constitution.  While those powers are extensive, they do not include the authority to pass, amend or repeal laws (Supreme Court rulings, not my opinion).  That authority is reserved for Congress.

We must keep term limits for the office of president.  A president for life could achieve almost dictatorial power, or at least use the time to overload the government with like-minded individuals through the president’s appointment authority.

What do I think of President Obama?  I respect him as a person and as our president, but I’m disappointed in the continuous stream of lies and misinformation from his administration, his far left agenda, his divisiveness, and his failure to hold subordinates responsible for their actions.  He’s a good speaker and if he was more moderate he probably could have settled some of our differences and really moved the nation forward.

About US Agenda 22.

What US Agenda 22 is:

US Agenda 22 is about the future, the next century in fact. The children born in 2100 will either benefit from or suffer from the choices we make today.
The USA has experienced a remarkable two centuries. In 1776 a group of colonies declared independence from a monarchy, formed a nation, and that nation has grown into an economic and military superpower. It hasn’t always been easy, but, driven by a spirit of independence and entrepreneurship while simultaneously being stabilized by a growing middle class, it has succeeded without losing sight of it’s roots. Some say that it’s best days are in the past. Is that true? What will the USA that future generations inherit look like? Will it be an Orwellian prison or a decadent “Brave New World”? Will it be bought out by China, conquered from without, or will it fall apart from within? Maybe it will just be a “has-been”.
What the future will be is in the hands of “We the People”, at least according to our Constitution. Thus, the purpose of US Agenda 22 is to look to that future, identify where we might be headed in the wrong, or maybe right, directions, and propose actions that will keep us competitive in the world while still keeping us strong, secure, and free.

What US Agenda 22 isn’t:

US Agenda 22 is not an official US government publication.

It isn’t a political front.  I’m not a politician.  I don’t work for any organization, candidate, party, PAC, industrial consortium, labor union, think tank, or foreign entity.  If my status changes I’ll disclose that fact.  I’m a concerned adult citizen.  My views tend to be fiscally conservative, socially moderate, pro-Constitution and with a touch of Libertarianism.  If you’re far left or right, you may want to leave now.  If you put your country before your party, stick around.

It isn’t a “gripe-for-the-sake-of-griping” blog.  That’s a time-waster. When I say something should change I’ll try to provide specific recommendations, models, or at least some thoughts that others could develop.  My ideas aren’t the only ones and probably not the best ones, but they may provoke thought, and thinking citizens are what have made the USA a success.  Since a significant number of citizens can’t even name the three branches of government I’ll make a few comments on the Constitution and those branches along the way.

It isn’t a radical blog.  Any suggestions that I make are peaceful and workable within our system of government.  That’s not to say they would be easy.  Some may seem draconian, they’ll usually avoid  socialism, but they will always be focused on maintaining a vibrant economy, a strong defense, and the freedom that this country has offered it’s citizens.

The Constitution hasn’t failed us in 200 years. Don’t give up on it now.

The Preamble to the Constitution is essentially it’s mission statement. It begins “We the people”. That phrase means that the government exists for the people, not vice versa. President Abraham Lincoln reaffirmed this in his Gettysburg Address when he spoke of the “government of the people, by the people, and for the people”. Sometimes it seems that those three opening words have been forgotten.

The Constitution then proceeds to establish three branches of government with checks and balances so that, at least theoretically, no one branch assumes too much power, and goes on to assign specific duties to each branch. Since a significant number of citizens can’t even name the branches I’ll say a little about each as I go along. Powers not assigned to the Federal government are reserved for the states.

Some say that the Constitution is outdated and no longer relevant. Well, it has a procedure to amend it so if “We the people” really don’t like parts of it we can change them, but don’t throw it out.

There are a couple of dinosaurs in the Constitution, but I’ll suggest a museum later.

If you haven’t read the Constitution in years why not do it now? There are also some very readable books on it that don’t get bogged down in legalese.