Actions Have Consequences

First of all, I need to say that I support freedom of speech. I also support organizations creating behavior guidelines and enforcing them.

The NFL Handbook includes the following rule:

The National Anthem must be played prior to every NFL game, and all players must be on the sideline for the National Anthem.

During the National Anthem, players on the field and bench area should stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand, and refrain from talking. The home team should ensure that the American flag is in good condition. It should be pointed out to players and coaches that we continue to be judged by the public in this area of respect for the flag and our country. Failure to be on the field by the start of the National Anthem may result in discipline, such as fines, suspensions, and/or the forfeiture of draft choice(s) for violations of the above, including first offenses.

I am not sure what the NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem were trying to prove, but actions have consequences.

The Wall Street Journal posted an article today about some of the consequences of kneeling during the National Anthem.

The article reports:

DirecTV is letting at least some customers cancel subscriptions to its Sunday Ticket package of NFL games and obtain refunds if they cite players’ national anthem protests as the reason, customer service representatives said Tuesday.

Sunday Ticket’s regular policy doesn’t allow refunds once the season is under way. But the representatives said they are making exceptions this season—which began in September—in response to the protests, in which players kneel or link arms during the national anthem.

…It isn’t just the political stakes that are high. Football draws the biggest TV audiences of American sports and is a vital income source for a host of major media companies. Sunday Ticket is a major customer draw for DirecTV and one of the NFL’s premier franchises, earning it $1.5 billion a year in licensing revenue.

A substantial number of cancellations risks further damage as the league tries to rebound in ratings. Viewership fell last year and continues to do so this year. Network executives and league officials attributed last year’s declines in part to viewing competition from the presidential election, consumer distaste with the pace and quality of games, and the anthem protests.

The revenue of the NFL comes from the fans–tickets, team merchandise, and advertising. If the income stream from the fans dries up and the fan base dries up, the advertisers may go elsewhere. The actions of the players may have bigger negative consequences than they planned on.

On another note, one of my Facebook friends suggested that if the players are concerned about the treatment of black Americans, they should be willing to go into the black schools and teach the students what they need to know to be successful.

A Great Idea That Will Never Work

Yesterday PJ Media posted an article about what to do with the Dreamers. Just as an aside, isn’t it interesting that ‘dreamers’ was the media’s choice of a name for this group of people?

The article suggests that whatever is decided, we don’t ever allow the Dreamers to vote. If that were honestly part of the debate, it would totally change the debate. Does anyone believe that the Democratic Party sees the Dreamers as anything other than future Democratic voters?

The article reports:

People who claim to be shocked that Donald Trump is prepared to make an amnesty deal for the”Dreamers” — most of whom are Mexicans who entered the USA at around the age of six — are being more than a tad disingenuous. The president has been hinting as much for over a year to anyone paying attention. In fact, it’s hard to conceive how he could have done otherwise, considering the (excuse the cliché) “optics” of shipping 800,000 young people back to a homeland they may never have seen.

The question is what your definition of amnesty is. It’s a vague word at best that can mean many things.

I suggest we keep it simple. In the case of the “Dreamers” amnesty should allow for just about anything citizenship entails, for them to work and study here as long as they wish, except for that most precious of all things in a democratic republic —  the vote. Under no circumstances can or should someone who has arrived in our country illegally, no matter at what age, be allowed ever to vote in our elections at any level — federal, state or local.

I love this idea, but how long would it take for Democrats in Congress to begin efforts to allow the Dreamers to vote?

The article further points out:

It would be to the benefit of the Democratic Party as well to separate amnesty from voting and thus strike a blow against “identity politics.”  As was clear from the election of 2016, the public is becoming disgusted with it.  Identity politics now actually works against the Democrats in the long run and, frankly, makes them seem quite dumb and self-destructive. Democrats aren’t the cool kids anymore.  We’re in the era of Kid Rock and progressives are stuck on Linda Sarsour.  As liberal Columbia professor Mark Lilla noted in a recent Wall Street Journal essay:

As a teacher, I am increasingly struck by a difference between my conservative and progressive students. Contrary to the stereotype, the conservatives are far more likely to connect their engagements to a set of political ideas and principles. Young people on the left are much more inclined to say that they are engaged in politics as an X, concerned about other Xs and those issues touching on X-ness. And they are less and less comfortable with debate.

The generation now reaching voting age is going to have a profound impact on American elections if they choose to be involved. The results will be somewhat unpredictable and totally interesting.

 

The July Jobs Report

I am not an economist, and I don’t play one on television, but I am capable of basic observations. The July jobs numbers came out Friday. This put the rather biased media in a position of having to say that the report beat expectations. When do they ever get their expectations right?

The Wall Street Journal posted the statistics on Friday. Here are some highlights:

The economy created 209,000 jobs in July, well above this year’s average monthly gain of 184,000.

…The jobless rate fell by a tenth of percentage point to 4.3%, matching May as the lowest level of unemployment in 16 years. It declined despite an expansion in the labor force.

…The average hourly wage for private-sector workers grew 2.5% in July. That’s a modest pace historically, but it looks better when considering inflation is so low.

…The share of Americans holding jobs or actively looking for work rose a tenth of a percentage point last month to 62.9%. That’s very slight progress.

…A measure underemployment—one that takes into account jobless workers, reluctant part-time workers and Americans too discouraged to look for work—remained at 8.6%. That’s two tenths of percentage point higher than May’s level, though it’s down more than a point from the prior year.

You can’t turn eight years of anemic economic growth around in seven months. However, we are definitely moving in the right direction. Despite the lack of cooperation from the Washington establishment, President Trump is deregulating and moving forward. If we are to see real economic growth, we need to drain the swamp of those establishment politicians who are blocking President Trump’s economic policies. We need to find primary challengers to many of the so-called leaders in Washington.

This Really Was Not Unexpected

Yesterday Breitbart posted an article about the Russian investigation. It seems as if this investigation has been going on forever, and so far nothing has been found. I am waiting for the eventual charge that someone went to a Russian tea room for a cup of tea and therefore should be prosecuted. Unfortunately, because special prosecutors tend to want to charge someone with something, all these lawyers with political leanings may eventually charge someone with a process crime (they forgot something in their testimony and gave an answer on a minor point that did not satisfy the investigators). However, it is becoming rather obvious that the tale the left has been spinning since the election of foreign intrigue tied to the Trump campaign or Trump Administration is pure fiction.

Breitbart reports:

Investor William Browder testified at the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday that Fusion GPS, the firm that had been responsible for creating and pushing the so-called “Russia dossier” against Donald Trump, had been paid by the Russian government to push for the repeal of the human rights sanctions in the Magnitsky Act of 2012. In other words, the Russian government may have been paying to smear Trump with false and salacious accusations.

Until now, the media and the Democrats have proceeded under the assumption that Russia intervened in the 2016 election by hacking the email server of the Democratic National Committee, as well as the private email of Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, and releasing their emails via Wikileaks. They have further claimed — with no evidence — that the Trump campaign may have colluded with the Russians in obtaining or releasing the emails.

The entire theory rests on the ridiculous claim that Trump had invited Russia to hack Clinton and the Democrats when he joked last July about the Russians releasing the emails Clinton had deleted from her illicit private server.  (The left-wing HuffPost observed Thursday as the anniversary that Trump “asked for Russian help in the election.”) That joke prompted then-CIA director John Brennan to convene an investigation of alleged Russian interference.

Thursday The Wall Street Journal posted an article by Kimberly Strassel (the article is not linked here because it is subscribers only) noting a connection between Fusion GPS and the Democratic party.

In an interesting move, Congressional Democrats, who were ready to hold public hearings about Russian election interference featuring Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort, have decided to hold those hearings in private (where they can’t pontificate instead of asking questions). Why? Because if Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort were questioned in public, then Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson would also be questioned in public. For whatever reason, the Democrats were willing to give up their dog and pony show to avoid Glenn Simpson’s public testimony (where he would have been asked who paid for the false dossier on Donald Trump).

The Wall Street Journal article asks:

What if, all this time, Washington and the media have had the Russia collusion story backward? What if it wasn’t the Trump campaign playing footsie with the Vladimir Putin regime, but Democrats? The more we learn about Fusion, the more this seems a possibility.

We know Fusion is a for-hire political outfit, paid to dig up dirt on targets. This column first outed Fusion in 2012, detailing its efforts to tar a Mitt Romney donor. At the time Fusion insisted that the donor was “a legitimate subject of public records research.”

The article at Breitbart concludes:

Or the truth could be that Russia was trying to embarrass both parties, to weaken the eventual winner. Browder told the Senate Judiciary Committee that it is common for Russia to back both sides in elections, simply to create chaos.

Regardless, the Russia conspiracy theory has now collapsed. There is no evidence that Russia was colluding with the Trump campaign. But there is evidence Russia was working against it. And the truth is only beginning to emerge.

The following quote is from Shakespeare’s Macbeth:

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

The same thing can be said about the investigation into President Trump’s ties to Russia.

 

The Coming Battle Over Tax Reform

Tax cuts create economic growth. Government revenues soared to record levels during the Reagan Administration. Had Congress not gone wild with spending, we could have made serious progress on cutting our deficits. One of President Trump‘s campaign promises was to simplify the tax code and cut taxes. That is a fantastic idea that will encounter many obstacles. One of those obstacles is the federal deduction for state and local taxes, also known as the SALT deduction. The fight to eliminate this deduction is going to be brutal. Why? Because the SALT deduction essentially forces taxpayers in states with lower state taxes to subsidize taxpayers in states with higher state taxes. The states with ridiculous state taxes– for example California, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts–face less opposition to tax increases when their voters know their state taxes can be deducted on their federal tax forms. Residents of high-tax states get a break on their federal income tax because of the high state taxes they pay.

The Wall Street Journal posted an article about this on June 22nd.

The article reports:

An often overlooked but critical feature of Mr. Trump’s tax-reform proposal gives Democrats the perfect opportunity to meet him at the bargaining table. When Mr. Trump introduced “the biggest individual and business tax cut in American history,” he said he would “eliminate targeted tax breaks”—including the federal deduction for state and local taxes. Also known as the SALT deduction, this $100 billion annual tax break to state and local governments has been on the books since 1913, even surviving Reagan tax reform. But this time, threatening the federal deduction may seal a tax deal for the GOP. Here’s why:

First, it’s hard for Democrats to argue that the tax reductions in Mr. Trump’s plan are budget-busters when killing the SALT deduction would add $1.3 trillion to federal coffers over a decade, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. That would pay for a lot of personal and business tax cuts, even without factoring in the faster growth that could pay for those cuts over time.

Second, Democrats can’t say Mr. Trump’s plan isn’t real reform. The SALT deduction is a distortive subsidy to states. It encourages them to raise taxes, because voters can deduct those higher taxes from their federal tax bill.

Third, there’s little in this for red states, because they generally have lower tax rates to begin with. Therefore, according to the Internal Revenue Service, blue states with higher tax rates receive about two-thirds of this break. In fact, half of the $100 billion tax break goes to six deep-blue states: California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. Democrats in favor of preserving the SALT deduction are simply self-interested.

There is no doubt that the SALT deduction is going to be a major bargaining chip when the discussions on tax reform begin. Stay tuned.

It’s All A Matter Of Perspective

On Friday, Investor’s Business Daily posted an article about the American economy under President Trump. The article mentioned that the media is calling the 0.7% growth in the first quarter of 2017 a “lackluster beginning.” Somehow lost in that comment is the fact that President Trump did not take office until the end of January and that the Democrats in Congress have slow walked his cabinet appointments and obstructed anything he has attempted to do. Other than that, they have cooperated fully in helping improve the American economy.

The article reminds us:

CBS and the Associated Press tell us the first quarter’s “lackluster beginning … marks the first quarterly economic report card for President Donald Trump, who has vowed to rev up the U.S. economy.”

The Wall Street Journal, which should know better, called the number “the broadest report card on the economy in the nearly 100 days since President Donald Trump took office pledging a return to faster growth. …”

Bloomberg correctly stated that “the first-quarter figure isn’t a verdict on President Donald Trump’s policies,” but then added that economists are “generally skeptical that growth will reach his goal of 3% to 4% on a sustained basis.”

To start with, it’s simply not correct on any level to call this GDP number a “report card” on Trump. He hasn’t been in office long enough to take credit or blame for the GDP number, which, as any economist will tell you, is heavily influenced by policies in place well before the number ever comes out. That means President Obama.

The article contrasts the skepticism about President Trump with the mainstream media’s fawning over President Obama when he took office:

We tried to find mainstream media critiques of Obama’s policies early in 2009, but there were virtually none. In Obama’s defense, he did face a 6.1% decline in GDP in his first quarter. But no one blamed him for that. Instead, there was lavish praise, even as he stumbled from error to error. They blamed Bush.

For instance, the Media Research Center quotes Time’s Joe Klein, who wrote: “The legislative achievements have been stupendous — the $789 billion stimulus bill, the budget plan that is still being hammered out (and may, ultimately, include the next landmark safety-net program, universal health insurance).”

The article correctly concludes:

Eight years later, here is Obama’s “report card”: Slowest economic expansion for any president since the Great Depression, averaging just 2%, with no annual growth of more than 3%. More than $6 trillion in deficits, and a doubling of the nation’s debt to $20 trillion. A decline in real median household incomes of more than $4,000. Drops in homeownership to the lowest level since 1966. Labor participation rates near three-decade lows.

Sure, give Trump some time, and he’ll generate his own grades. But the first quarter GDP number has little or nothing to do with him, and the media’s bias is showing in suggesting it does.

There is a reason many Americans are tuning out the mainstream media in droves. If the mainstream media continues on its present path, there will be about two or three people actually paying attention to what they say.

 

Wisdom From The Voice Of Experience

Senator George McGovern was elected to the Senate in 1962. He left the Senate in 1981.

In June 2011, Forbes Magazine noted:

After leaving the Senate in 1981, McGovern hit the lecture circuit and in 1988 decided to invest his speaking fees in the Stratford Inn in Connecticut. He loved the idea of running a hotel. It went bankrupt a few years later, thanks in large part to the withering recession of 1990-91. But the experience gave McGovern new wisdom on how little politicians understand the arduous task of job creation.

I would like to point out that the recession of 1990-1991 was caused by a bi-partisan deal to ‘raise taxes on the rich.’ This was done in the form of instituting a tax on ‘luxury items’ such as expensive boats and jewelry. As boat sales and expensive jewelry sales dropped significantly, people in the boat-building business and some areas of the jewelry industry began to lose their jobs. As these people decreased their spending on going out to dinner, travel, and entertainment, those industries began to suffer and more people lost their jobs. At that point Americans began to curtail their spending in other areas because of fear of a recession, and the recession followed. This was a graphic illustration of the Laffer Curve at work.

The Forbes Magazine article quotes a Wall Street Journal editorial written by Senator McGovern in 1992.

In The Wall Street Journal, Senator McGovern states:

In 1988, I invested most of the earnings from this lecture circuit acquiring the leasehold on Connecticut’s Stratford Inn. Hotels, inns and restaurants have always held a special fascination for me. The Stratford Inn promised the realization of a longtime dream to own a combination hotel, restaurant and public conference facility–complete with an experienced manager and staff.

In retrospect, I wish I had known more about the hazards and difficulties of such a business, especially during a recession of the kind that hit New England just as I was acquiring the inn’s 43-year leasehold. I also wish that during the years I was in public office, I had had this firsthand experience about the difficulties business people face every day. That knowledge would have made me a better U.S. senator and a more understanding presidential contender.

Today we are much closer to a general acknowledgment that government must encourage business to expand and grow. Bill Clinton, Paul Tsongas, Bob Kerrey and others have, I believe, changed the debate of our party. We intuitively know that to create job opportunities we need entrepreneurs who will risk their capital against an expected payoff. Too often, however, public policy does not consider whether we are choking off those opportunities.

My own business perspective has been limited to that small hotel and restaurant in Stratford, Conn., with an especially difficult lease and a severe recession. But my business associates and I also lived with federal, state and local rules that were all passed with the objective of helping employees, protecting the environment, raising tax dollars for schools, protecting our customers from fire hazards, etc. While I never doubted the worthiness of any of these goals, the concept that most often eludes legislators is: `Can we make consumers pay the higher prices for the increased operating costs that accompany public regulation and government reporting requirements with reams of red tape.’ It is a simple concern that is nonetheless often ignored by legislators.

We have just elected a President who has the experience of running a business and dealing with government regulations. Hopefully, he has already learned the lessons Senator McGovern learned after he left office.

The Iran Deal Just Gets Uglier

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday:

The Obama administration agreed to back the lifting of United Nations sanctions on two Iranian state banks blacklisted for financing Iran’s ballistic-missile program on the same day in January that Tehran released four American citizens from prison, according to U.S. officials and congressional staff briefed on the deliberations.

The U.N. sanctions on the two banks weren’t initially to be lifted until 2023, under a landmark nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers that went into effect on Jan. 16.

The U.N. Security Council’s delisting of the two banks, Bank Sepah and Bank Sepah International, was part of a package of tightly scripted agreements—the others were a controversial prisoner swap and transfer of $1.7 billion in cash to Iran—that were finalized between the U.S. and Iran on Jan. 17, the day the Americans were freed.

If the Iran nuclear deal is such a wonder thing, why has so much of it been kept secret?

The Middle East was in relatively good shape when President Obama took office. Hillary Clinton was his Secretary of State. Eight years later, where are we? In 2011 we saw the birth of the ‘Arab Spring’ which was supposed to democratize the Middle East. The Arab Spring brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Egypt, destabilized Libya, and eventually led to the civil war in Syria. Egypt (with no help from the Obama Administration) was able to wrestle its country back from the Muslim Brotherhood and install leadership that will fight the Muslim Brotherhood and terrorism. It’s far from a democracy, but it is keeping peace within the country and working to stop terrorism. I am not impressed with the Obama Administration’s foreign policy under the leadership of Secretary of State Clinton. We have consistently worked against freedom, and we have funded terrorism by giving money to Iran.

Please follow the link above to read the entire Wall Street Journal article. The foreign policy of the Obama Administration has been a nightmare for America. Electing Hillary Clinton as President will give us more of the same.

Who Made This Decision?

On Sunday The Wall Street Journal posted an article about some of the recent bank settlements that were supposed to help consumers. Well, I think consumers were on the list right after political entities.

The article reports:

Imagine if the president of the United States forced America’s biggest banks to funnel hundreds of millions—and potentially billions—of dollars to the corporations and lobbyists who supported his agenda, all while calling it “Main Street Relief.” The public outcry would rightly be deafening. Yet the Obama administration has used a similar strategy to enrich its political allies, advance leftist pet projects, and protect its legacy—and hardly anyone has noticed.

The administration’s multiyear campaign against the banking industry has quietly steered money to organizations and politicians who are working to ensure liberal policy and political victories at every level of government. The conduit for this funding is the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group, a coalition of federal and state regulators and prosecutors created in 2012 to “identify, investigate, and prosecute instances of wrongdoing” in the residential mortgage-backed securities market. In conjunction with the Justice Department, the RMBS Working Group has reached multibillion-dollar settlements with essentially every major bank in America.

The most recent came in April when the Justice Department announced a $5.1 billion settlement with Goldman Sachs. In February Morgan Stanley agreed to a $3.2 billion settlement. Previous targets were Citigroup ($7 billion), J.P. Morgan Chase ($13 billion), and Bank of America, which in 2014 reached the largest civil settlement in American history at $16.65 billion. Smaller deals with other banks have also been announced.

You might expect that maybe some of the money would go into the U.S. Treasury to pay off some of the deficit. Silly person.

The article reports:

…a substantial portion is allocated to private, nonprofit organizations drawn from a federally approved list. Some groups on the list—Catholic Charities, for instance—are relatively nonpolitical. Others—La Raza, the National Urban League, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition and more—are anything but.

…As part of their “consumer relief” penalties, Bank of America and J.P. Morgan Chase must also pay a minimum $75 million to Community Development Financial Institutions—taxpayer-funded groups propped up by the Obama administration as an alternative to payday lenders. “Housing Counseling Agencies” also get at least $30 million. This essentially circumvents Congress’s recent decision to cut $43 million in federal funds routed to these groups through the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The politicians who negotiate the settlements as part of the RMBS Working Group have also directed money to their supporters and states. Illinois’s Democratic attorney general Lisa Madigan announced she had secured $22.5 million from February’s Morgan Stanley deal for her state’s debt-ridden pension funds—a blatant payout to public unions. The deals with J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup yielded a further $344 million for both “consumer relief” and direct payments to pension funds.

The article concludes:

Despite the best efforts of a few principled legislators late last year, Congress missed an opportunity to amend the Justice Department’s funding bill to stop further handouts. Lawmakers now have another opportunity as Congress enters budget negotiation for fiscal year 2017. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.) introduced a bill in April that would prevent government officials from enforcing settlements that funnel money to third parties, and it needs to gain wider traction with his colleagues. The political shakedowns disguised as public service must end.]

Is there any doubt that we need a new paradigm in Washington? There was no “Main Street Relief” involved in any of this–there was, however, Washington corruption. It was nothing more than a legal stick-up.

When The Government Overrides The Free Market

On Wednesday The Wall Street Journal posted an article about the current controversy about the cost of an EpiPen. Anyone who understands free market economics has been scratching their head trying to figure out why there was no competition to manufacture this product (and thus a more reasonable price). Well, The Wall Street Journal article provides an explanation. For the moment, I am going to overlook the fact that the company involved made a large donation to the Clinton Foundation and that the person in charge of the company is the daughter of Democratic Senator Joe Manchin.

The article at The Wall Street Journal explains:

In a statement, the Democrat (Hillary Clinton) assailed the “outrageous” cost of EpiPen, an emergency treatment for allergic reactions known as anaphylaxis, and she demanded that drug maker Mylan “immediately reduce the price.” Federal and Senate investigations are pending into these spring-loaded syringes filled with epinephrine (adrenaline) used primarily by children with life-threatening sensitivities to food or insect stings.

Mylan has raised the price of EpiPen in semiannual 10% to 15% tranches so that a two-pack that cost about $100 in 2008 now runs $500 or more after insurance discounts and coupons. Outrage seems to be peaking now because more families are exposed to drug prices directly though insurance deductibles and co-pays, plus the political class has discovered another easy corporate villain.

Still, the steady Mylan rise is hard to read as anything other than inevitable when a billion-dollar market is cornered by one supplier. Epinephrine is a basic and super-cheap medicine, and the EpiPen auto-injector device has been around since the 1970s.

Thus EpiPen should be open to generic competition, which cuts prices dramatically for most other old medicines. Competitors have been trying for years to challenge Mylan’s EpiPen franchise with low-cost alternatives—only to become entangled in the Food and Drug Administration’s regulatory afflatus.

Approving a generic copy that is biologically equivalent to a branded drug is simple, but the FDA maintains no clear and consistent principles for generic drug-delivery devices like auto injectors or asthma inhalers. How does a company prove that a generic device is the same as the original product if there are notional differences, even if the differences don’t matter to the end result? In this case, that means immediately injecting a kid in anaphylactic shock with epinephrine—which is not complex medical engineering.

But no company has been able to do so to the FDA’s satisfaction. Last year Sanofi withdrew an EpiPen rival called Auvi-Q that was introduced in 2013, after merely 26 cases in which the device malfunctioned and delivered an inaccurate dose. Though the recall was voluntary and the FDA process is not transparent, such extraordinary actions are never done without agency involvement. This suggests a regulatory motive other than patient safety.

The article concludes:

Mrs. Clinton claims the EpiPen price hikes show the need for price controls, and she says she’ll require drug makers to “prove that any additional costs are linked to additional patient benefits and better value.” Somebody in Congress should require the FDA to justify how its delays are advancing the same goals.

Price controls are not the answer–a government agency that cannot be corrupted by special interests is the answer. The FDA has been interfering with the free market, and the price of the EpiPen is exhibit A in the case against the FDA. I am all for safe drugs and clinical trials, but I am tired of federal agencies being used to pick winners and losers.

Are There Any Honest People Left In Washington?

I know that there are some honest people in Washington, but sometimes it just doesn’t seem that way. What is really disturbing to me is that corruption seems to run from top to bottom. We may have to get rid of politicians with questionable ethics, and we may have to get rid of their staffs as well. This does not bode well for America.

Last week The Wall Street Journal posted a story that illustrates the total disregard for ethical behavior now running rampant in Washington. The story has to do with a company named Cadiz, Inc., and their plans to build an underground pipeline along the Arizona & California Railroad’s right-of-way to transport 50,000 acre-feet of water annually to Southern California.

The article reports:

The Department of Interior’s longstanding policy allowed railroads to run power, telephone and fiber optics lines along their rights-of-way without a federal permit, thus expediting environmental review. However, in November 2011, after Cadiz had modified its plan to reduce environmental opposition, Interior at the insistence of California Sen. Dianne Feinstein revised its policy to limit the use of railroad rights-of-way granted in 1875 to “activities that derive from or further a railroad purpose.”

The Cadiz pipeline was the only project subject to the new rules. Cadiz spent several years and $12 million reconfiguring the pipeline to “further a railroad purpose,” proposing the likes of hydro-turbines, power safety systems and automated fire suppression. None of Cadiz’s compromises satisfied regulators.

On Oct. 2, 2015, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) informed congressional staff—who tipped off Cadiz—of an imminent adverse ruling. A letter circulated by the bureau noted that the pipeline “does not derive from or further a railroad purpose” because the fire suppression system was “an uncommon industry practice,” among other complaints. The kicker was that the ruling could not be appealed because it “is not a final agency decision.” Thus the pipeline would have to undergo a formal environmental review. Ms. Feinstein has attached riders to every Interior appropriations bill since 2008 barring a review.

Within a week of the BLM ruling, Cadiz’s stock plummeted 65%. Yet one Cadiz investor had inside information that could have allowed him to make a killing. Emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by Cadiz reveal that BLM realty specialist Erik Pignata (who oversaw the Cadiz review from the Sacramento bureau) shared non-public information with Cadiz investor Thomas McGannon of Whetstone Capital Advisors. Cadiz provided the emails to us.

Thomas McGannon sold short based on the information that Erik Pignata shared and Mr. McGannon profited greatly. Just for the record, there is a 1990 executive order forbidding government employees from improperly using non-public government information to further a private interest. Let’s hope the government chooses to separate Mr. McGannon from his ill-gotten gains.

Just a note–I love the Freedom of Information Act.

Maybe Justice Will Be Done

I realize that I am not an impartial observer, but it seems to me that there are very different rules for democrats and republicans. Media bias right now is over the top, and the democratic party seems very willing to oppose voter identification laws that would play a role in preventing election fraud. One of the eye-opening events in recent years was the Internal Revenue Scandal (IRS) that specifically targeted conservative groups applying for tax exempt status. It was discovered that the IRS was targeting conservative groups, and the head of the IRS stepped down. However, there was some real question as to whether or not that targeting stopped. Evidently, it didn’t.

On Friday, The Wall Street Journal posted an article about a recent court decision regarding the IRS targeting of conservative groups.

The article reports:

A federal appeals court Friday revived a pair of lawsuits against the Internal Revenue Service stemming from the tea party targeting scandal.

The mixed ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit threw out claims for damages against the U.S. government and senior IRS officials sought by the conservative nonprofit plaintiffs.

But the appellate panel reversed a lower court that had dismissed the litigation entirely. The ruling expressed skepticism with IRS assurances that it was no longer subjecting conservative organizations to discriminatory treatment.

The decision Friday threw a lifeline to two lawsuits brought by dozens of conservative nonprofit groups, including Texas-based True the Vote, an advocate for stricter voter registration enforcement and voter identification requirements.

True the Vote discovered rampant voter fraud in Houston. The details are here. The fact that they were attacked does not say good things about the administration that targeted them.

The article further explains:

In 2013, the IRS apologized for improperly targeting conservative groups and said it had halted political screening of applications. But D.C. Circuit Judge David B. Sentelle, who wrote Friday’s opinion, said it was telling that the IRS had suspended the screening “until further notice.” Stated Judge Sentelle:

A violation of right that is “suspended until further notice” has not become the subject of voluntary cessation, with no reasonable expectation of resumption, so as to moot litigation against the violation of rights. Rather, it has at most advised the victim of the violation – “you’re alright for now, but there may be another shoe falling.”

The court said beyond the potential for more abuse, the IRS hadn’t ceased discriminatory conduct, noting that at least two tax-exempt applications submitted by plaintiffs were still pending.

That meant, in the judges’s view, that the case had not become “moot” as U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton had concluded in 2014 when he dismissed the lawsuits.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs said the ruling gives their cases a lifeline with an opportunity to dig for more evidence.

The IRS needs to be either done away with or cleaned up. Neither is likely under an Obama or Clinton administration. The attack on conservative groups was designed to silence their voices during the 2012 election. Although the attack has morphed into other areas, the attack has not ceased. Any American who depends on the mainstream media for their news is routinely told things that are not true or not told things that are true. The picture that the mainstream media is painting of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are caricatures–they are not realistic images. Americans are responsible for the leaders they elect. However, there are forces at work that are attempting to prevent Americans from making informed choices in electing those leaders.

 

Beyond The Standard Accusations

We have all listened to the media report on the $400 million dollars paid to Iran. Iran claims it was a ransom payment; President Obama claims it was not. One of the hostages has stated that they were detained at the Iranian airport until the plane with the payment landed. That sounds like ransom, but ransom is not the real issue.

Andrew McCarthy posted an article in National Review today explaining another aspect of the payment.

The article explains:

At a press conference Thursday, Obama remarkably explained, “The reason that we had to give them cash is precisely because we are so strict in maintaining sanctions and we do not have a banking relationship with Iran.” Really Mr. President? The whole point of sanctions is to prohibit and punish certain behavior. If you — especially you, Mr. President — do the precise thing that the sanctions prohibit, that is a strange way of being “so strict in maintaining” them.

Now, the sanctions at issue exclude Iran from the U.S. financial system by, among other things, prohibiting Americans and financial institutions from engaging in currency transactions that involve Iran’s government. Contrary to the nuclear sanctions that Obama’s Iran deal (the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” or JCPOA) attempts to undo, the sanctions pertinent here were imposed primarily as a result of Iran’s support for terrorism. That is significant. In pleading with Congress not to disapprove the JCPOA, Obama promised lawmakers that the terrorism sanctions would remain in force.

…As noted above, the sanctions prohibit transactions with Iran that touch the U.S. financial system, whether they are carried out in dollars or foreign currencies. The claim by administration officials, widely repeated in the press, that Iran had to be paid in euros and francs because dollar-transactions are forbidden is nonsense; Americans are also forbidden to engage in foreign currency transactions with Iran.

Please follow the link above to read the entire article. The ransom payment to Iran was another example of the Obama Administration’s blatant regard for the laws that are supposed to govern our country. The payment also funds terrorism and puts our military (and all Americans) at greater risk for terrorism and kidnapping. This should be an impeachable offense, but I really haven’t even heard much complaining from the Republican Congress. We need to elect some Congressman who will support America. Right now those in office seem to lack a backbone.

Another Failed Government Program

Yesterday The Wall Street Journal ran a story about the now government-run student loan program. In 2010 Congress passed a law that essentially forced commercial banks out of the student loan business and made student loans a federal program. At the time, critics of the change pointed out that the banks had a better handle on how to screen people to see if they were likely to repay the loans. Congress chose to ignore those warnings. Now the U.S. taxpayers are quite likely to find themselves stuck with a bill for $125 billion in unpaid student loans. This is not good for our economy. It is another example of a government program that has failed miserably.

The article in The Wall Street Journal focused on two students from for-profit colleges.

The article points out:

Borrowers in long-term default represent about 16% of the roughly 43 million Americans with student debt, now totaling $1.3 trillion across the U.S., and their numbers have continued to climb despite the expanding labor market.

One story involves a student from Abdill College:

Mr. Osborne said Abdill provided a low-quality education and exaggerated the likelihood that they would find career success. And he said the government should have never extended them so much debt for jobs that are in low demand. The typical phlebotomist makes just under $32,000 a year, according to the Labor Department.

About 1 in 5 student borrowers who left Abdill in 2012 defaulted on their loans within three years, the latest federal figures show. Its default rate of nearly 21% is far higher than the national average of 12% among all colleges.

Would a commercial bank have given these loans? What is the responsibility of the borrower in doing research on the college and its graduates? I don’t have a problem with for-profit colleges, but there is a need for students to study the employment rates of these colleges before borrowing large amounts of money to attend them.

The story reported on another student:

He is in default on his private loans and in forbearance on his federal loans. Debt collectors call him almost daily but he ignores their calls.

Mr. Lopko, who lives in a Chicago suburb, now earns $32,000 a year as a customer-service agent for an Illinois manufacturer.

“The only way out of this situation honestly is to win the lotto or to find a job that pays me $300,000 a year,” Mr. Lopko said.

He says he tries to be frugal but admits he occasionally splurges. He recently upgraded to a one-bedroom apartment from a studio and took out a loan for a new Subaru WRX that carries a $445 monthly payment.

“Are you supposed to stay in inside all the time, never go out, and pay these loans?” he said.

Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I think I would have bought a cheaper car for a few years. I am also somewhat amazed that he was able to get a car loan. Part of the problem here is that we have not taught all of our young people financial responsibility and that there are always people willing to lend them money that they may not be able to pay back.

Some Details The Mainstream Media Somehow Forgot

Hillary Clinton loves to criticize Donald Trump’s management of his Atlantic City casinos. However, The Wall Street Journal posted an article on Wednesday that gives a more complete picture of exactly what happened there. Evidently Democratic policies in Atlantic City and New Jersey played a major role in the events there.

The article reports:

In 1976 New Jersey voters approved a referendum that legalized gambling in Atlantic City. The constitutional amendment required casino revenues to fund programs for senior citizens and disabled residents, but politicians have instead funneled the cash to favored projects and businesses under the guise of promoting development.

…A 1984 law required casinos to pay 2.5% of gaming revenues to the state or “reinvest” 1.25% in tax-exempt bonds issued by the state Casino Reinvestment Development Authority for state and community “projects that would not attract capital in normal market conditions.” Investment recipients have included Best of Bass Pro shop, Margaritaville and Healthplex.

A decade later, state lawmakers imposed a $1.50 fee (which has since doubled) on casino parking spots to fund Atlantic City transportation, casino construction and a convention center. In 2004 lawmakers added a $3 surcharge for casino hotel stays to finance new hotel rooms and retail establishments, which had the effect of promoting unsustainable commercial and casino development.

As the cost of operating the casinos rose (thanks to the policies of the state–run by the Democrats), other states legalized gambling–Connecticut in 1992 and Pennsylvania in 2004. Atlantic City not only lost its monopoly–but the cost of running the casinos increased significantly.

The article further reports:

Irony alert: Mr. Trump in 1997 sued to block the state’s redistribution of casino income when a competing developer stood to benefit from its investments. However, New Jersey’s liberal Supreme Court ruled that voters should have known that the referendum was actually intended to revitalize Atlantic City tourism, not help seniors.

The article concludes:

Employment in Atlantic City has declined by about 10% over the last decade. Since 2010 the city’s property tax base has shrunk by two thirds. Local politicians raised property taxes by 50% between 2013 and 2014 to compensate for the dwindling tax base, but this has merely deterred new business investment and propelled flight.

Meantime, local politicians have continued to spend like they work for Google. Between 2010 and 2014, expenditures increased by 10% while government debt doubled. The city government spends about $6,600 a year per resident—more than any other city in the state including Newark ($2,344). Its budget exceeds that of nearly half of New Jersey’s counties. Labor costs constitute about 70% of the budget.

Earlier this year, the city emergency manager projected a $393 million cumulative deficit over the next five years absent reforms. More than 100 workers have recently been laid off. In May Democratic legislators and Governor Chris Christie passed a bailout that allows the city to squeeze an additional $120 million out of casinos in revenues annually to compensate for lower property-tax revenue.

To sum up: New Jersey Democrats plundered Atlantic City casinos, redistributed the spoils and loaded up the city with unaffordable levels of debt. The gambling mecca is a five-star example of failed liberal policies.

This sounds like Detroit. This is what we are in for if we put Hillary Clinton in the White House and allow Democratic policies to control our economy. I need to mention that in both Atlantic City and Detroit, had the free market been allowed to operate without union and government interference, the industries involved might have been flexible enough to deal with the competition. Because of government interference (and in the case of Detroit, greedy union bosses), the cities went from prosperous and flourishing to poor and decaying.

The Consequences

The Wall Street Journal posted an article today about Britain’s vote to leave the European Union. As many Americans are looking at their losses in the stock market today and wondering what is coming next, we all need to step back and take a deep breath.

The article reports:

The United Kingdom has always had Europe’s most robust democracy, and with Thursday’s vote to leave the European Union it has given its Continental peers a powerful example of the meaning of popular rule. Now we’ll see if the British have the wisdom to make the best use of their historic choice.

The article reminds us that Britain is the second largest and most dynamic economy in the European Union. The exit of Britain will probably cause more problems for the European Union than it does for Britain.

The article reminds us of some of the mistakes made by the European Union:

If the EU wants to prevent other countries from catching the Brexit bug, our advice is to avoid the temptation to punish the U.K. with an arduous renegotiation of terms for its re-entry into the common market. The perception of EU high-handedness is what alienates public opinion across the Continent. Brexit ought to be the wake-up call the EU needs to return to serving as a common market that encourages growth and competition, and not—as it has become since the late 1980s—an innovation-killing superstate obsessed with regulatory harmonization, tax hikes, green-energy dogma and anticompetitive antitrust enforcement.

People don’t vote to leave organizations that are well run and respect their freedom. The Brexit vote is the result of the actions of the European Union. It will be interesting to see if the European Union learns the lessons they need to learn before more countries exit.

Why Supreme Court Justices Matter

Theoretically the Supreme Court is the third part of the checks and balances in our Representative Republic. They are sworn to uphold the U.S. Constitution and make decisions according to that Constitution. Unfortunately there are Americans who either do not understand the Constitution or choose to ignore it. Right now the Supreme Court is balanced four to four in terms of conservative and liberal interpretations of the law. The next President will have the responsibility of choosing the Justice that will decide cases involving gun rights, voting rights, medical care, religious freedom, and other important issues. A recent case illustrates how important the selection of the next Supreme Court Justice will be.

The Wall Street Journal posted an opinion piece on Tuesday about a recent Supreme Court decision. The case illustrates the problems police face when trying to keep us safe when dealing with the drug problem in America.

The piece reports:

The Supreme Court term is ending on a whimper of narrow decisions without Justice Antonin Scalia. But you wouldn’t know it from the overwrought progressive outrage after a 5-3 majority issued a common-sense ruling Monday concerning the so-called exclusionary rule for admitting evidence in criminal cases.

In Utah v. Strieff, police stopped Edward Strieff on his way out of a building after a tip that it was a drug-dealing location. After discovering an outstanding arrest warrant against Mr. Strieff, a police officer searched him and found methamphetamines and drug paraphernalia. Mr. Strieff claims the police lacked reasonable suspicion to stop him under the Fourth Amendment, so the evidence of his law-breaking should be dismissed.

The majority opinion was written by Justice Clarence Thomas and stated that the discovery of the outstanding arrest warrant required the police to arrest and thus search Mr. Strieff.

There was, however, a different opinion.

The article reports;

The outlier was Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who went off the deep end with an extended polemic about police misconduct, events in Ferguson, Mo., and race in America. “Although many Americans have been stopped for speeding or jaywalking, few may realize how degrading a stop can be when the officer is looking for more,” Justice Sotomayor wrote. And although Mr. Strieff is white, “it is no secret that people of color are disproportionate victims of this type of scrutiny.”

The Justice is getting huzzahs on the left, but her opinion is troubling for her insistence on dragging racial politics into a case that had nothing to do with race. This dissent continues her habit of wandering far from the law or precedent to decide cases based on her personal political and policy views. Her colleagues showed more judicial wisdom.

There are a few things to note here. Mr. Strieff was leaving a place where it was suspected drugs were being sold. Didn’t the police have a responsibility to investigate a tip about a location where drugs were being sold? Shouldn’t that investigation include stopping people leaving that location? If there was an outstanding arrest warrant for Mr. Strieff, didn’t the police have an obligation to arrest him? It is very possible that I am naive, but I believe that Mr. Strieff would have been treated the same way regardless of what color he is. Everything is not about race, and in the majority of cases, police are merely attempting to keep our communities safe and free from illegal drugs and the crime that goes with the drug trade. Bringing race into a situation where it is not relevant only divides Americans–it does not help us solve our problems.

Using The Government To Shut Down For-Profit Colleges

Yesterday The Wall Street Journal posted an article about the Obama Administration’s moves to drive for-profit colleges out of business. The first step in this process is to ‘clarify’ a 1965 law.

The article reports:

Last summer the Education Department established a “negotiated rulemaking committee” to clarify an obscure provision in the Higher Education Act of 1965 that authorizes the Secretary to discharge student loans based on “acts or omissions of an institution of higher education.” The committee failed to reach a consensus, so the White House is now rewriting the law wholesale.

The Administration has moved to provide mass debt relief to protect itself from student anger after it drove for-profit Corinthian College out of business. (See “Obama’s Corinthian Kill,” July 26, 2014.) Last year the Education Department set up an ad hoc process to forgive loans for some 85,000 Corinthian borrowers. Taxpayers could be on the hook for up to $3.2 billion. The new rule expands that process and is estimated to cost between $199 million and $4.2 billion annually—though loan-forgiveness expansions have already cost many times more than projections.

The new proposal sets conditions that would have to be met in order to have student loans forgiven. The article lists those conditions:

The new proposal would allow borrowers to discharge loans if a court renders a legal judgment against their college or if their school breached a contract. The department also wants to make borrowers eligible if their college made a “substantial misrepresentation.” This is defined as “any statement that has the likelihood or tendency to mislead under the circumstances” or “omits information” and on which that person “could reasonably be expected to rely, or has reasonably relied, to that person’s detriment.”

This would vastly expand the basis for debt relief since nearly all ads can be defined as misleading under some circumstance. Government bureaucrats would play King Solomon and oversee a tribunal—which means a rubber stamp.

The article concludes:

Naturally, the rule also bars class-action waivers and mandated arbitration in enrollment agreements. While the department claims that class action lawsuits will enable recoveries beyond government debt relief, the main beneficiaries will be plaintiff lawyers.

A fair rule would apply to all colleges, for profit or nonprofit, but public colleges would be exempt from the new financial responsibility rules. Education Secretary John King has said that the department’s goal is to target for-profits like Corinthian. Which more or less sums up the Administration’s campaign against for-profit schools: Shut down as many as possible, and then minimize any student backlash by handing taxpayers the bill for the wasted loans.

Student loans are not a government function. The idea of the government taking over student loans was bad enough, but the eventual cost to the taxpayers is only going to increase.

How This Presidential Campaign Will Be Unique

On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal posted a commentary on the role that President Obama is not playing in the current presidential campaign. The commentary is titled, “How Obama Gets Away With It.” The commentary notes that normally in a presidential campaign, the record of the sitting President is part of the campaign. In 2016 that does not seem to be the case.

The commentary observes:

Yet at the same time we were seeing those nice photos, videos and articles, a lot of other important stuff was going on where Mr. Obama was hardly mentioned, seen or questioned. For example, the U.S. economy grew at a meager 0.5% in the first quarter of 2016; Russian military planes lately have been buzzing U.S. Navy ships; and China is building its military forces and expanding their reach in the South China Sea. Early in May, a Navy SEAL was killed in Iraq (the president has assured the American public that U.S. troops there, increasing in numbers, are not in combat roles). Islamic State terrorist attacks in Baghdad in recent weeks have killed scores of civilians. The Taliban are on the march in Afghanistan. The vicious war in Syria continues. The Middle East refugee crisis shows no sign of diminishing. Military provocations by Iran and North Korea keep coming.

President Obama’s media handlers try to keep the president as far away from these crises as possible, leaving others in his administration such as Press Secretary Josh Earnest, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Joint Chiefs Chairman Joseph Dunford to be their public face. That way the problems don’t appear to be Mr. Obama’s problem, and he is free to bask in the good news.

The mainstream media has worked very hard to avoid painting the true picture of the negative impact of President Obama’s foreign policy and his domestic policies. Most Americans may not even realize there is a problem until it directly impacts them.

The article concludes:

One of the news media’s main jobs is to hold public officials accountable, from the president on down. But Mr. Obama is the beneficiary of news-media managers and reporters who mostly like his style and agree with his policies, from his reluctance to make strong military commitments to his advocacy for LGBT rights, fighting climate change and supporting tougher gun-control laws. Case in point: The administration’s easy orchestration of the media story line about the Iranian nuclear deal, recently revealed by Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, only scratches the surface of the White House’s skill at managing a media happy to be managed.

Given such a congruence of opinion, Mr. Obama’s policies don’t receive the scrutiny and analysis they should. Reporters who criticize or dig too deep are cast by the administration as spoilsports or, worse, cut off from sources.

With Donald Trump now the media obsession—and most in the media don’t like him—it is easy to see why Mr. Obama’s performance over the past seven-plus years is still not a major issue in the 2016 campaign. And that’s the way he likes it.

As the presidential campaign progresses, expect to see a focus on any mistakes Donald Trump has made since the age of three. Expect to see the misdeeds and lies of the Clinton’s swept under the rug as if they did not exist. As more information is discovered about the rather twisted finances of the Clinton Foundation, expect to find that information only in alternative media sources. Unfortunately, that is where we are at the present moment.

 

The Cost Of Over Regulation

The Wall Street Journal posted a story today about Arch Coal. The company has filed for bankruptcy.

The article reports:

As President Obama prepares to deliver his final State of the Union address Tuesday, we wonder if he’ll take pride in the damage his policies have done to the coal industry. According to the National Mining Association, 40,000 coal jobs have been lost in the U.S. since 2008.

The wealth destruction has been equally dramatic. Peabody Energy is a going concern, but its shares have declined by roughly 95% in the last year. Investor Paul Tice recently wrote in these pages that since 2012 “27 coal-mining companies with core operations in Central Appalachia, a region roughly centered in southern West Virginia, have filed for bankruptcy protection.” We told you in November that coal production nationwide has declined by about 15% since 2008. Reasons include slowing global demand and competition from natural gas in electricity generation. But commodity prices are cyclical, while regulation is forever.

Unfortunately the coal companies are not the only casualties of President Obama’s energy policies. Future casualties include utility customers.

The article further reports:

Even after recent declines in market share, coal-fired plants still provide roughly a third or more of American electricity. So utility customers will notice the coal carnage when they see their monthly bills—or perhaps when the lights don’t go on. But for now the pain is concentrated among those who used to work in the coal fields. They are still waiting for all those new green jobs Mr. Obama has been promising since he arrived in Washington.

Elections have consequences. Eight years of an administration strongly influenced by radical environmentalists have created joblessness, higher energy prices, and no real alternative forms of energy. We can use carbon-based fuel in ways that do not harm the environment. Since our economy is based on carbon-based fuel, it would be a good idea to elect a President who understands the impact over regulation can have on the economy. Our current President obviously does not.

The Internal Revenue Service Backs Down

The Wall Street Journal posted an article yesterday about a proposed change to charitable donation reporting to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The IRS had proposed a change to the law that would have given charities the ‘option’ of filing detailed reports on everyone who donates more than $250 to the charity. The detailed reports were going to be ‘voluntary’ (at least until the IRS was able to put them into law). The information reported would have included Social Security numbers. The Wall Street Journal is now reporting that the IRS has withdrawn the proposal.

The article reports:

Amazingly enough, in this case the IRS appears to have listened to concerns from the taxpayers who pay their salaries. On Thursday the IRS said it is withdrawing its proposal after receiving “a substantial number of public comments.” Many of the comments “questioned the need for donee reporting, and many comments expressed significant concerns about donee organizations collecting and maintaining taxpayer identification numbers for purposes of the specific-use information return,” said the IRS. The legitimate anger of average citizens was amplified by stalwart IRS watchdogs like Rep.Jim Jordan (R., Ohio) on Capitol Hill.

One year after Republicans took control of the Congress, and one year before President Obama leaves the White House, the pendulum is beginning to swing against IRS abuse of taxpayers. Coming on the heels of other reforms in the year-end tax and spending bills—including a ban on new IRS rules limiting political activity—Thursday’s news is reason to cheer.

Now if we could just get rid of the IRS, we would have something.

The infoplease website reminds us:

In 1913, the 16th Amendment to the Constitution made the income tax a permanent fixture in the U.S. tax system. The amendment gave Congress legal authority to tax income and resulted in a revenue law that taxed incomes of both individuals and corporations. In fiscal year 1918, annual internal revenue collections for the first time passed the billion-dollar mark, rising to $5.4 billion by 1920. With the advent of World War II, employment increased, as did tax collections—to $7.3 billion. The withholding tax on wages was introduced in 1943 and was instrumental in increasing the number of taxpayers to 60 million and tax collections to $43 billion by 1945.

It is interesting to me that the American government was able to fulfill its Constitutional duties prior to 1913 without the billions of dollars they now collect and spend. What are they doing now that has changed that? Do we need to go back to a government that follows the instructions and limitations of our Constitution? I think that would be a really good idea.

 

Would You Buy A Used Car From These People?

The Wall Street Journal printed an editorial today about the ongoing relationship between President Obama and Iran. President Obama has two things he wants to leave as a legacy–one is ObamaCare and the other is a nuclear deal with Iran that lasts at least until he is out of office. ObamaCare will collapse under its own weight within three years, so that leaves the deal with Iran. In the negotiations with Iran, America has pretty much negotiated with itself–making concession after concession until Iran had no choice but accept the deal. So where are we now?

The editorial reports:

The U.S. and United Nations both say Iran is already violating U.N. resolutions that bar Iran from testing ballistic missiles. Iran has conducted two ballistic-missile tests since the nuclear deal was signed in July, most recently in November. The missiles seem capable of delivering nuclear weapons with relatively small design changes.

The White House initially downplayed the missile tests, but this week it did an odd flip-flop on whether to impose new sanctions in response. On Wednesday it informed Congress that it would target a handful of Iranian companies and individuals responsible for the ballistic-missile program. Then it later said it would delay announcing the sanctions, which are barely a diplomatic rebuke in any case, much less a serious response to an arms-control violation.

So how did Iran respond? Last week Iran fired several rockets that landed within 1500 yards of the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman. This incident occurred in the Strait of Hormuz. In October, the Iranians arrested Siamak Namazi, an Iranian-American businessman. He is being held without charges. The Iranians have held Washington Post reporter Jason-Rezaian for more than 500 days.

The editorial further reports:

The sages now blaming hard-liners for Iran’s nastiness are the same folks who told us that the nuclear accord would empower the “moderates” in Iran by showing America’s peaceful intentions. When will this crowd figure out that Iran’s rulers don’t want better relations with the U.S.? They want to become the dominant power in the Middle East while driving the U.S. out of the region.

Make no mistake–the religious leaders of Iran want a world-wide caliphate with Iran in charge. They need to get America and Israel out of the way in order to do this. The Islamic concept of ‘taqiyya’ is loosely defined as deceit or dissimulation toward infidels. The Iranians have used it masterfully in dealing with President Obama.

The editorial reminds us:

Under the nuclear accord, Iran will soon receive $100 billion in unfrozen assets as well as the ability to court investors who are already streaming to Tehran. Sanctioning a few names is feckless by comparison, and Iran is denouncing even this meager action as a U.S. violation of the nuclear deal. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani responded to the sanctions reports on Thursday by ordering his defense minister to accelerate Iran’s missile program. Your move, Mr. Obama.

Do we really want to do this?

More Questions Than Answers

The Wall Street Journal posted an editorial this morning about Hillary Clinton’s charges that Donald Trump is sexist. Excuse me for being cynical, but I suspect that if you questioned or listened to most men long enough, you could eventually find something to refer to as sexist. I wouldn’t use the word sexist to describe Donald Trump. I would be more inclined to use the words rude, crude, and blunt, and frankly, based on the persona he shows to the media, he is not someone I would be interested in hanging around with. However, that in itself does not disqualify him as a presidential candidate.

The Wall Street Journal points out that Hillary needs to be careful when charging people with sexism and conducting a ‘war on women.’ Her closet does not lack skeletons in this area due to the escapades of her husband, Bill.

The Wall Street Journal editorial reminds us:

Yet no one in American politics better personifies a war on women than Mrs. Clinton’s husband. For readers too young to recall the 1990s, we aren’t merely referring to Trumpian gibes about female looks or “Mad Men” condescension. Mr. Clinton was a genuine sexual harasser in the classic definition of exploiting his power as a workplace superior, and the Clinton entourage worked hard to smear and discredit his many women accusers.

Start with “bimbo eruptions,” the phrase that Mr. Clinton’s Arkansas fixer Betsey Wright used to describe the women who had affairs with Bill. Gennifer Flowers almost derailed his primary campaign in 1992, until Hillary stood by her man on CBS ’s “60 Minutes” and the media portrayed Ms. Flowers as a golddigger.

The article also quotes James Carville‘s statement about Paula Jones, “If you drag a hundred-dollar bill through a trailer park, you never know what you’ll find.” Hardly an affirming statement. There were also the charges that Monica Lewinski was a stalker.

There have been various reports on the internet about Hillary Clinton being fired from the Watergate investigation for unethical behavior. When I checked out these stories, I found contradictory information. However, World Net Daily posted a story in 2008 that seems to verify that there were some problems with Mrs. Clinton’s conduct during the investigation. I have no idea if the story is true, but it is telling that Mrs. Clinton’s actions often seem right on the edge of honesty and ethics.

The Internal Revenue Service Has Become A Political Organization

The Wall Street Journal posted an opinion piece this morning about changes that the Treasury Department is proposing to current Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules. The proposed rule gives 501(c)(3) charities the ‘option’ of filling out reports on every donor who contributes more than $250 to the organization. This ‘option’ would include name, address, and Social Security number. As of now the rule will be voluntary, but based on past experience (particularly with the IRS) voluntary will soon morph into required.

The article reports:

Under current law, nonprofits must report only donors who give more than $5,000 a year, and then only names and addresses. Donors who give less than $5,000 to (c)(3) charities, and who want to claim a tax deduction, must obtain a “receipt” from the charity—to furnish to the IRS if they are audited or examined. This process has been in place for years, and even Treasury and the IRS acknowledge in their new rule that it “works effectively, with the minimal burden on donors and donees.”

So why change it? The IRS is claiming this will aid in more “timely reporting” of tax-deductible donations, and no doubt the agency’s auditors would love more information to harass taxpayers.

Unfortunately, the IRS has used donation information to harass taxpayers before. After a list of supporters was made public a business that donated money to the Proposition 8 proposal in California was target by opponents of the proposal. I reported another example of IRS abuse in February of 2014 (rightwinggranny.com).

The Wall Street Journal reports another example of IRS abuse:

Frank VanderSloot, a Mitt Romney donor, was audited by the IRS and Labor Department after the Obama campaign singled him out for criticism. Catherine Engelbrecht, the head of the 501(c)(3) True the Vote, was publicly attacked by Democrats and then hit with personal and business audits from the IRS, OSHA and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The National Council of Nonprofits, which opposes the proposed rule, notes that the IRS routinely warns taxpayers not to give out their Social Security numbers unless “absolutely necessary.” Donors will be suspicious of charities that now ask for them.

Many taxpayers will also lack confidence that nonprofits, which are often small operations staffed by volunteers, can safeguard their information. The proposed regulation is an invitation to fraud and identity theft by creating an opportunity for scam artists to claim to be charities and solicit Social Security numbers.

It may be time to go to a tax system that does not involve the IRS. Unfortunately the IRS has shown itself to be an agency that cannot be trusted to be above politics. I realize that a lot of the politicization has been under the Obama Administration, but there are no guarantees that any future administrations will not use the agency in the same way.

 

Accountability?

Fox News posted a Wall Street Journal story today about a federal audit of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The article reports:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency can’t adequately account for more than 70 percent of the money spent on fuel for New York in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, a federal audit released on Friday found.

FEMA spent $6.37 million for 1.7 million gallons of fuel as a gasoline shortage crippled the New York City area after the October 2012 storm, according to the audit from the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Homeland Security.

Has it occurred to Congress that this might be a part of the reason federal government spending is out of control?

It gets worse:

But the audit found “incomplete and questionable” documentation for $4.56 million of that spending. Additionally, $1.81 million worth of fuel went to recipients outside the scope of work that FEMA established for the crisis, the audit found. As a result, FEMA can’t be sure any of that fuel went to approved power restoration or emergency public transportation work in New York, the audit said.

…The unaccounted fuel deliveries occurred because FEMA didn’t comply with federal regulations requiring the agency provide proper documentation accounting for its work, the audit found.

There is a bit of irony here–a federal agency did not comply with excessive federal regulations.

Continually raising the debt limit is not a solution, because it does not address the actual problem–the spending.