Fixing Asset Forfeiture

I discussed civil asset forfeiture in “Spoils of War” and also discussed the IRS seizure of assets for “structuring” deposits in “Repeal the Bill of Rights” under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments.  I won’t say these policies should be eliminated because, in some cases, they do serve to disrupt cash flow for criminal activities, however when the NYPD boasts that they seized more cash than they can count they sound more like Blackbeard’s pirates than civil servants.  When innocent citizens have to file expensive lawsuits to recover wrongfully seized property the system is broken, so let’s fix it.  Here’s one way.

Assets seized from people not charged with a crime must be returned to the owner within one business day if criminal charges are not filed within a reasonable time, e.g., 48-72 hours.

Assets seized from people charged with a crime must be held in escrow pending outcome of the trial.  If the defendant is found “not guilty” the assets must be returned to the owner.  If the asset was cash it must have been held in an interest-bearing account and the cash returned with accrued interest.  If lawfully acquired real property (buildings, vehicles, firearms, etc.) was seized the state must preserve and maintain that property such that it can be returned intact and without loss.  If the individual is found “guilty” the judge will determine what happens to the seized property.

I think this is a reasonable balance between the needs of law enforcement to disrupt criminal activity and the rights of citizens to keep their lawfully acquired property.  When police departments consider themselves to be profit centers the entire concept of law enforcement is maligned.

Advertisements

Ten Percent is a Low Bar

We often hear the criticism of the Clinton Foundation that it only gives ten percent of it’s income to charity.  The rest is used for salaries, expenses, travel, etc., while the foundation serves as a funnel for foreign countries to contribute to the Clintons.  For once, however, that 10% isn’t a case of “Clinton privilege” but rather the result of a rather weak IRS law defining a charity.  Ten percent is the minimum an organization has to contribute to it’s stated cause to qualify for tax-exempt status.  Consequently some charities give little more than 10% .  So, where does the rest of the money go?  Well, to salaries and expenses of course, but a lot of it goes to solicitors (those people who phone endlessly and send out address labels hoping you’ll at least cover the cost).  Now we know it takes money to make money but I think 10% is a pretty low bar to effectively get a subsidy from the taxpayers.

Let’s raise that minimum number to 35% incrementally.  A new charity would start out at 5% for the first year then increase by 5% each year up to 35%.  An existing charity would start out at the current 10% and would see the same increase each year.  Any charity could request one one-year extension and the increments could be delayed in the event of a major recession.  While it’s true that a charity might see a decline in total revenue if it hired fewer solicitors, that amount would have to fall by around 70% before the stated cause would receive less money than it would at the current 10% minimum.  The effect might be to sort out organizations run by people who really want to help humanity from those who simply want an income.  In some cases it might must make the organization more efficient.

Think 35% is too high or 1-year interval increases are too short?  How about 30% and/or 2-year intervals?  Even 25% should provide more money for those in need while better justifying the tax exempt status.  My point is simply that tax exempt status equals a taxpayer subsidy, and if that money is supposed to be helping worthwhile causes that’s what it should be doing.  A “slush fund” is not a charity.

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.

Repeal the Bill of Rights?

In “The Freedom Triangle” I explained how freedom is defined by three components: democracy, rights, and responsibilities.  Our basic inalienable rights are found in the first ten amendments to the Constitution, commonly known as the Bill of Rights.  Every one of them is important.  Every one was included because the authors of the Constitution, in their wisdom, had seen how authoritarian governments had abused their subjects and sought to protect us.  In fact the Constitution doesn’t talk about “subjects”, it talks about “We the People”.

Now the Constitution can be changed by the deliberately cumbersome process of amendment.  It’s long and tedious and the outcome is uncertain, but in this case that’s a protection, not an inefficiency.  Democrats, socialists, and other progressives, however, have found ways to weaken our rights by DE FACTO means.  That term simply means “that’s how it is”.  If you don’t like a law but can’t easily change it, find ways to circumvent it.  These tactics might be unofficial, like intimidation, or official, through restrictions or taxation.   In this article I’ll look at how several amendments are being attacked.

First Amendment:

Intimidation (aka Bullying):  At this time intimidation is the primary weapon against free speech.  It began with political correctness, a crybaby concept that has grown from a minor nuisance into a state religion.  We see intimidation on college campuses where students complain about “micro-aggression”, demand “safe spaces”, and are even told to call police if they hear something “offensive”.  Now that’s intimidation.  On a larger scale, political correctness stifles communication to a point where serious issues can’t even be discussed.

Intimidation also threatens religious freedom by erasing religious equality.  When Christian churches remove exterior crosses so they don’t “offend” Muslim immigrants they’re not accommodating newcomers, they’re surrendering their right to exist as a public entity; doing exactly what is required in Muslim countries.  From a Christian point of view they’re denying Christ just as Peter did.  When a restaurant owner is bullied into removing a sign advertising bacon for breakfast his free speech is suspended.  Jews don’t eat pork either but they’ve never tried to impose their dietary rules on others.

Legal Action:  Can the USA have laws against free speech beyond the “don’t yell fire in a theater if there isn’t one” and “don’t threaten violence”?  Maybe, because it’s happening in European countries that guarantee free speech.  In Germany a comedian has been arrested for insulting the president of Turkey, and In Sweden people can be arrested for ethnic slurs.  Some in the US are saying that “climate change deniers” should be arrested and oil companies should be sued because they “knew” their products would cause climate change.

Second Amendment:

Propaganda:   No amendment is under heavier public attack than this amendment, even though self defense it a fundamental human right.  It’s in common law because historically only the un-free (prisoners, serfs, slaves) were denied the right to protect themselves and their families.  We hear anti-gun propaganda everywhere, much of it funded by billionaires who are surrounded by armed bodyguards.  Their message: “be rich or be dead”.  They blame the NRA for Chicago violence, not the gang members doing the shooting.  They make their case with bogus logic that anyone who has learned how to think can spot as invalid.  Any criminal act is the act of a person, not an object.

Legal Action:  In addition to funding propaganda campaigns, billionaire Mike Bloomberg spends millions to buy local elections for anti-gun candidates who will then enact restrictive laws.  The result is a confusing patchwork system of laws that turn honest people into criminals while doing nothing to stop crime.  Liberal San Francisco’s laws are so tough that the last legal gun shop had to close, yet they did nothing to stop an illegal immigrant with a stolen gun from murdering an innocent young woman.  Chicago’s tough gun laws can’t stop the endless gang wars that have made it the murder capital of the US. The latest effort to drive gun makers out of business is to attempt to sue them for gun violence.  No company has ever been held liable for criminal use of their products because the company has no control over the consumer.

Taxation:   Everyone has heard Chief Justice Marshall’s statement that “The power to tax is the power to destroy” and liberals know punitive taxes can be used to deny “little people” their rights while preserving “billionaire rights”.  Seattle has a $25 tax on guns, a US territory has a $1000 tax per gun, and Hillary wants a 25% tax on guns (all for more money to squander).  What part of “right” don’t they understand?

Health care:  President Obama and his British-born Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy want to draft doctors into their war on legal gun ownership.  They have decreed that “gun violence” is a public health problem (but gang violence isn’t) so doctors should question patients about gun ownership, presumably to then evaluate their mental fitness to own a firearm while simultaneously creating a national gun registry in those digitized medical records.  Since doctors don’t get “gun violence” training (they don’t get knife or fist violence training either) they’ll be fed the far left agenda and sent out on a mission to declare as many people “mentally unfit” as possible (it’s already happening at the VA).  That won’t work on doctors who are also hunters but it will on many.  The answer is “no”.

Intimidation:  I discuss the DOJ’s “Operation Choke Point” under the Fifth Amendment.

SCOTUS:  In the case “D.C. vs. Heller” the Supreme Court upheld the right of honest people to own a firearm for self defense.  Progressives would love to get this ruling overturned.  That would effectively repeal the Second Amendment.

Fourth and Fifth Amendments:

Legal Action:  The fourth Amendment protects private property from unreasonable search and seizure without due process.  The fifth Amendment protects individuals from being deprived of “life, liberty, and property” without due process.  Government departments are using often dubious tactics to deprive people of their property without adjudication.  Here are two of them.

The IRS can seize bank assets of individuals or businesses if they suspect small deposits are being “structured” to avoid reporting requirements of amounts in excess of $10,000.  They don’t need any evidence of criminal activity, indictment, trial, or conviction to proceed.  Victims are often small businesses that deposit money regularly just to avoid being a robbery target.  Even innocent people must file an expensive lawsuit to get their money released.

Police can seize property under “civil asset forfeiture” if they suspect criminal activity, and that includes “untainted” assets, i.e., those not associated with the suspected activity.  Again the word is “suspected”; no indictment, trial, or conviction required.  Asset seizure can make it difficult for an accused person to hire attorneys and prepare a defense; a right guaranteed by  the Fifth Amendment.

Eminent Domain:  Eminent domain was included in the Constitution to allow governments at all levels to take private land, with compensation, for public projects that would benefit the community.  The intent was to support construction of roads, bridges, schools, and other public facilities.  That concept has unfortunately been expanded to allow taking of private property for private developments under the guise that they will expand the local tax base.  This “public good ” is nothing but a gift for wealthy developers at the expense of the people.

Intimidation:  The DOJ has initiated a process of intimidation not supported by any law called “Choke Point” to cut off “high risk” businesses from having bank accounts and obtaining credit.  Basically banks are threatened with legal action so they cancel the accounts of many honest businesses that pay taxes and wages.,  High risk businesses include firearms dealers, short term lenders, used car dealers, and adult entertainment.  So, what constitutes “high risk” is determined by politically motivated bureaucrats, not the law.  Congress has been urged to outlaw this practice but liberals support it because it furthers their agenda of control of the people.

Ninth Amendment:

Legal Action:  This amendment protects “unenumerated rights” of the people, i.e., those not specifically guaranteed by the other nine amendments in the Bill of Rights.  The most important right that has been asserted under this amendment is the right of privacy.  As the Federal government demands more an more tracking of peoples’ lives privacy is being lost, often in the name of the “common good”.  That is collectivism, the antithesis of what the Constitution stands for.  To make the situation even worse, neither the government nor various private data collection agencies can adequately secure their data against hacking or insider misuse.

Tenth Amendment:

Congress:  This amendment says that all responsibilities not specifically assigned to the Federal government by the Constitution remain with the states or the people.  Congress has been more than happy to de facto repeal this amendment with “one-size-fits-all” programs.  Nothing in the Constitution allows the Federal government to control public schools yet Congress created the Department of Education and has given it unlimited power over the states and parents.  This has allowed billionaire Bill Gates to fund development of Common Core, his vision of an ideal system, and coax the government to enforce it.  Nothing in the Constitution allows the Federal government to use the IRS to enforce health insurance yet it approved the ACA.  All the promises associated with this program were lies: costs will go down, you can keep your doctor, etc.  Even the insurers are losing money on this one.  Rising health care costs are a problem but the ACA does nothing to solve it.

Intimidation:  The Department of Education uses threats of withholding education money from school districts that refuse to comply with it’s directives.  Simply put, it uses our tax dollars against us.

So, that’s the picture, and it isn’t a good one if you value freedom because without rights you are not free.  Can the Bill of Rights be saved?  Yes, but time is running out.  The 2016 elections will pretty much determine whether your children will stand in freedom or kneel in servitude.

 

If you like your rights you can keep them… NOT.

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.

Spoils of War

Has the “War on Drugs” become a secret war on private property?  This “war” is a war with vague rules of engagement and little obvious success in reducing drug use.  It offers the rather perverse incentive that law enforcement can collect “spoils of war” in the form of property confiscation, even if it harms innocent people.  A wife might not know her husband is dealing drugs but she and her children could wind up homeless if the house is raided.  The property might even be destroyed in the raid, and even if property is destroyed during a “wrong address” raid the government has no liability to compensate innocent victims.  You might not know a friend is dealing drugs but if he’s caught in your car you could lose it.  A person traveling with a large amount of cash can find it seized “on suspicion” without other evidence of drug-related activity, and getting it back means hiring a lawyer to file an expensive lawsuit.  Why do laws provide for spoils of war under the name of “Civil Asset Forfeiture”?  Even the military can’t loot captured territory.

Parts of these laws also seek to stop money laundering by requiring banks to report deposits over $10,000.  The law also prohibits “structuring” by making regular deposits of lesser amounts to avoid that reporting rule.  If the IRS sees regular deposits into an account of somewhat lesser amounts it can confiscate the account without due process and without any evidence of criminal activity.  It is then up to the depositor to prove innocence rather than the government to prove guilt.  A simple reality is that small businesses make frequent deposits of lesser amounts just because they don’t want to keep a lot of money around to entice robbers.  Another reality is that, thanks to pervasive drug abuse, a significant portion of our currency is contaminated with drug residue that can be used as evidence against innocent people.  Can’t those high paid desk jockeys figure that out or are they just enjoying a power trip?

A fundamental principle of our legal system is “innocent until proven guilty”. The drug war shouldn’t be exempt from that concept.

Free For Who?

The President’s proposal for free community college for anyone who wants to try it is his latest attempt to turn the USA into a European-style socialist nation.  It’s basically welfare with no eligibility requirements, a handout that would be available even to the wealthy.  Here’s what else is wrong.

First, there is no “free” government money, it’s all our tax dollars, a bill that will fall on working people and seniors who may or may not benefit from it.  Since 25% of the cost must be paid by states there would be tax increases at both Federal and state levels.

His plan sets a pretty low bar for this “free” money too, just a 2.5 GPA for what is essentially a full 2 year scholarship.  Wow!  How about 2.5 for the first term then rising to 2.7 or 2.8?  A 2.5 GPA won’t impress potential employers at all.

There’s no “free” government money without government control either.  What starts out as a basic set of conditions that participating schools must meet will evolve into Common Core 2.0 and ultimately Federal takeover of public higher education.  Considering what a lousy job the Feds have done with public schools we don’t want to go there.  Colleges never needed remedial math and English courses until Washington started dictating how schools should run.

The “college for all” mantra is a socialist “one-size-fits-all” solution that doesn’t. College isn’t right for everyone and everyone in college isn’t right for the nation. The US also needs skilled tradespeople as I’ve mentioned before.  Inevitably some people will jump for it just because it’s free, and every person who takes a couple of courses and quits will have wasted the teachers’ time and our money.

The plan would require more employees in already bloated government agencies to administer it.  Undoubtedly the politicized IRS would be involved with the finances and the Department of Education would quickly come up with another tracking database.  Big Brother will always trade free stuff for your freedom.

There’s some question as to whether there are enough community colleges and/or space in existing ones to meet the potential demand.  Would reasonable entrance requirements suddenly become “discrimination”?

There’s no provision to exclude people who are in the country illegally.  Since when should free college be a reward for breaking the law?

Are there alternatives?  Yes, and I’ve already suggested some.  Industries already cooperate with community colleges to develop a modern workforce.  With corporate tax reform and pro-US policies we could incentivize more apprenticeships and co-op programs from businesses.  For the poor, an associate degree might be part of the “I” (independence) phase of my ISIC welfare proposal, but so could a trade school.  Scholarships are available for students who have demonstrated achievement.  Military service has been an option to earn money for college for years.  Unlike the “free for all” plan, these all require a commitment on the part of the students and commitment is what makes successful graduates.