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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How about emanicpation from taxes?

April 18 was Tax Day. Normally that would have been April 15, but our Glorious Leaders in Washington D.C. put it off until Monday so they could celebrate Emancipation Day.
Ahhh the irony. I have no problem with celebrating the day Abraham Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation, but it is a bit ironic to do so on Tax Day.
Especially given the fact Tax Freedom Day was just three days earlier.
What is this thing you speak of "Tax Freedom Day?" It's the day when you've stopped working for the government and actually started working for yourself.
That's right folks, just over three months of your hard work went to just pay taxes — if that ain't slavery I don't know what is.
This comes just days after President Barack Obama gave a speech in which he admitted to wanting to raise taxes yet higher. Granted he said he wants to raise them on "the wealthy," but since just exactly what constitutes "wealthy" is a moving target, I'd like a bit more information, thank you very much.
This of course leaves aside the fact that poor people do not provide jobs for anyone. Well, that's not quite true, we do have a plethora of government agencies whose sole function is to "help" the poor. Also seems to be the only place where jobs are being created.
There's also the irony of who has to pay taxes. My son filed his first tax return this year. He was less than amused to find out he not only was not getting any money back from the feds, but he owed the state $20. The reason? Well he's single, a college student, and made just a few thousand bucks last year. I don't know anyone much poorer than a college student, so while the vast majority of the poor paid no taxes at all, he ends up ponying up.
Anybody starting to notice a pattern here?
The tax code makes no sense. Forty-nine percent of the population pays no taxes at all, or because of various tax credits actually gets more money back than they paid in. Of the 51 percent who actually pay taxes the top one percent actually pay nearly 40 percent of the total tax burden and the top 10 percent pay nearly 70 percent of the tax burden. So Obama would like to ask them to pay more. I'd like to know, when half the country is paying no taxes at all, what percentage of the total burden Mr. Obama thinks is fair.
What's even more interesting is something an acquaintance of mine Larry Corriea noted in a post on his blog:

"A long time ago, some university did a test. They made up a fictitious family of 5, gave them dual income, some investments, some rental property, and a few other little things, nothing too weird or complicated, and then had 150 different CPAs, tax accounting companies, and even tax software packages prepare this family’s returns. They got 150 different answers. All of they were equally arguable as being correct. All of them were equally auditable and capable of being wrong. What does that tell you about the complexity of the tax code?"
By way of disclosure, in addition to being an author, Larry is also a CPA.
We have got to do something about a tax system which is so screwed up no one can actually be right when they do their taxes. For one thing it gives the IRS more than enough authority to screw anyone they want to.
Meanwhile Standard and Poors has just downgraded the United State's long-term credit outlook from "stable" to "negative." This is the first step in downgrading our AAA credit rating. Gas is hitting $4 a gallon and Congress deadlocks over cutting spending by $38 billion when our budget is over $1.5 trillion.
This is like something out of a Mel Brooks movie, except the whole thing isn't funny. Folks we have an election coming in less than two years, provided the republic lasts that long. We best get serious about getting spending under control and getting a tax system that actually makes sense before the people who really are footing the bill decide to move to Upper Whosiwhatisstan and leave the rest of us here to starve.
All IMHO, of course.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Get off the golf course and lead Barack

A colleague of mine Bryan Preston noted that the last time we got reliable numbers which was last July, President Barack Obama had spent roughly a month of his presidency playing golf as well as several weeks on vacation.
Since then, of course, he's played a lot more golf and taken a bunch more vacations. He's also, Bryan reports, complaining he's no longer anonymous, that he can't take a walk or go to the grocery store.
First, I'm not sure a man with ego enough to tell protesters in Libya "I am with you," rather than "we are with you," or "the American people are with you" is really upset by a lack of anonymity. Second, well, you knew that was part of the job when you took it bucko.
I've come to the conclusion Obama really just doesn't want the job.
Well that's not entirely accurate — he wanted the job he just doesn't want to DO the job. I'm not the first one to note Obama enjoys the trappings of the job, everyone standing when he walks in the room, the private 747 jet, the best food all of that. He doesn't, however, seem to enjoy the grinding work of the job.
No one I'm sure really does, but most presidents buckle down to do the work. George W. Bush gave up golf because he didn't feel it was appropriate to be seen playing golf while our troops were fighting for their lives. He also aged visibly within just a few months of taking office — something I have yet to see happen with Obama.
The job of president is, no joke, the most difficult job in the world. Every decision you make affects not just America but lives the world over. Nearly all of them are life and death decisions for someone.
When a president makes the decision to take military action he knows he's sending people out to die. When he makes decisions on the economy he knows there will be winners and losers which means someone is going to lose everything.
If we choose to trade with one Third World nation over another there's a good chance some child is going to do without food.
The president lives with the knowledge his decisions affect the entire world, for better or for worse. He also lives with the knowledge his mistakes have huge ramifications as well.
He has to accept that knowledge as well as understanding he's still just a man — and mistakes are inevitable.
The pressures of the job are beyond anything anyone who hasn't done the job can imagine.
I can understand Obama's wish to simply get away from the job. I have no issue with a president taking vacations or playing golf. First because he never really gets to get away from the job, he's always working. Second because the pressures would kill him if he didn't have some time away.
However, I've seen very little leadership from this president. Very little decisiveness.
The Arab League has gone to the United Nations to ask for a no-fly zone over Israel. I would hope we will veto it. Unfortunately I have no confidence we will. The Middle East is on fire. In neighboring Syria the same sorts of things are happening as happened in Libya — the president there is breaking up protests with gunfire. Instead of calling in air strikes, Hillary Clinton describes Syrian President Bashar Assad as a "reformer."
Obama struggles to make decisions, to take a position, in short — to lead.
I was taught in the Marine Corps that in a crisis it's better to make a decision and take action — even if it's the wrong action — than to do nothing.
It's a lesson Obama needs to learn.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

So simple even I get it

I received an interesting email the other day asking, me to do a column on a specific subject. Since I usually get people throwing metaphorical rocks at my head, not "please write on this," I thought I would oblige.
The email had attached an opinion piece from a Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) which was published in the Wall Street Journal. I won't go into much detail about the piece which talked about the life-saving surgery his daughter received many years ago and which was quickly available because of our excellent medical system, but I will share a few observations from the column about the system which is under assault by what has been termed ObamaCare.
Now under ObamaCare you will be required to purchase health insurance whether you want to or not. If you don't you will be either fined or taxed by the Internal Revenue Service, depending on which definition the administration is using this week.
There were a few interesting nuggets in Johnson's piece I thought I would share:

"Since 1970, American doctors have won more Nobel Prizes for Medicine than all other countries combined. According to McKinsey and Co., thousands of foreigners come to the United States every year for medical care they cannot get at home—due to rationing or because it is simply not provided. And cutting-edge drugs to treat serious illnesses are more widely available in the U.S. than abroad.

Take cancer as one example. Compared to the U.S., breast cancer mortality is 9% higher in Canada (according to the government statistics of each country), 52% higher in Germany and 88% higher in the United Kingdom (according to studies published in Lancet Oncology). Prostate cancer mortality is 604% higher in Britain.

Those in need of timely care from specialists are better off in the U.S. Drawing on several peer-reviewed studies, Dr. Scott Atlas of the Stanford University Medical Center notes that patients who need knee and hip replacement, cataract surgery, and radiation treatment wait months longer in the United Kingdom and Canada than in the United States."
Keep in mind as well, this is the "reform" to the health care system which a federal judge in Florida found to be unconstitutional and struck down. U.S. District Judge Robert Vinson struck the law down and enjoined the administration from implementing it.
They proceeded to do it anyway. Granted this thing is going to end up in front of the Supreme Court, but the administration is ignoring a federal judge's order.
Even more interesting is the fact that despite being behind this federal take over of health care, various states and unions are now applying for waivers so they can keep the plans they already have.
A little research on the Internet to confirm the information I was given leads me to this: Florida, Tennessee, Ohio, New Jersey and Maine have all been granted waivers and Kentucky, Nevada and New Hampshire waiting to be excused. Multiple unions, all of whom were behind the law in the first place have all applied for and received waivers as well. Those would include: The Service Employees Benefit Fund, United Food and Commercial Workers Allied Trade Health & Welfare Trust Fund, Transport Workers Union, United Federation of Teachers Welfare Fund, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (AFL-CIO) as well as the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and many, many others.
Now let me ask this question: If the very people who told us we had to do this sweeping transformation of health care in this country, who pushed it down the throats of an American people who did not want it in the first place, are now getting waivers so they do not have to comply with the patently unconstitutional law, why should we?
Somewhere along the line someone should be able to figure out that adding huge layers of bureaucracy to anything is a bad idea.
Yes, there are issues with the health care system. Yes, costs are out of hand. However, there is a straight-line correlation between when costs started rising dramatically in the 1970s and when employers started offering comprehensive medical plans as employee benefits.
It's simple economics 101. So simple even an idiot journalist like me can understand it. When you subsidize something, in this case health care, you get more demand for it, but generally speaking you can't increase supply fast enough to keep up with demand.
That's what's happened in the nations with socialized medicine. Once health care became "free" (it's not, as the inestimable Robert A. Heinlein once pointed out "There Ain't No Such Thing as a Free Lunch,) the demand for health care far out-stripped the supply and rationing followed. Shortly thereafter quality dropped as well.
Do I have all the answers? No. I do know that returning the health care system to basic free-market principles would help. Introducing more competition into any system always has the beneficial effects of reducing costs, increasing choice and increasing quality.
Conversely, limiting competition always increases costs, limits choice and decreases quality as it removes any incentive to improve anything.
I hate to go all Glenn Beck, but it's impossible that the administration isn't aware of this reality. Which means they have other reasons for doing what they're doing. What those are I can only speculate about but nothing I come up with is good.
We have to continue to press our Representatives in Washington D.C. about this and make sure they repeal or at least defund this unconstitutional law. We simply can't depend on the Supreme Court to do the right thing.
All IMHO, of course.