Sometimes Crazy Is Just Crazy

In the wake of the recent horrific Las Vegas massacre the leftist anti-gun coven has kicked their hair-on-fire hysteria into overdrive. In the immortal words of former Obama chief-of-staff and current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, “Never let a good crisis go to waste”.

Contrary to their hysterical assertions, gun violence and deaths are in fact at historical lows. For the last 30 years violent crime rates, including murder, have been decreasing at a rate in direct correlation to the easing of restrictive gun laws, particularly for concealed carry, in those jurisdictions that have enacted such policies. In contrast, where gun laws are the most restrictive, those jurisdictions suffer disproportionate violent crime rates, including murder. Chicago, DC, and many other urban areas illustrate that fact.

The actions of this madman are no different from those who have driven their cars into crowds and committed mass murder, including recently in Las Vegas, but I don’t see anyone talking about banning cars. Why is that? Cars are at least as “dangerous” as guns, with a higher death toll.

I’ll answer my own rhetorical question: it’s because we don’t discuss abridging the rights of the vast mass of law-abiding citizens because of the actions of some lone nut job…. EXCEPT when it comes to guns.

Is there an unfortunate price to be paid for people to enjoy those rights? Yes, sadly there is. But that’s unavoidable in a free society, and the only way to avoid it is to eliminate the freedoms themselves.

That’s an unacceptable price. If we’re not willing to do it with cars, why should we do so with guns? Just because leftists don’t use or like them?

But there’s an even more important underlying issue, too. The Second Amendment isn’t about hunting. It’s there to assure that citizens have the ability to protect themselves if the government fails to do so, either by failing to respond in a crisis, or by trying to impose tyranny.

We saw this illustrated most vividly during the Los Angeles Rodney King riots in 1992, when the Korean shop owners protected their businesses, and themselves, with their own weapons – including semi-automatic “assault rifles” – when the cops and National Guard refused to enter the area for several days. The Koreans were on their own, and if you’re stuck in what is essentially a war zone, you want to be able to bring the most firepower to bear that you can if you have to.

But the Founders’ ultimate purpose in the Second Amendment was to make sure that the citizens had the ability to prevent their own government from trying to impose tyranny, and the only way to do that was to make sure that said government couldn’t outgun them. Never forget that they’d just fought a successful revolt against their own previous legitimate government, and they weren’t foolish enough to think it couldn’t happen again, right here at home.

In order to realize that potential, it’s important that the citizens have the same firepower as the average grunt they could be facing across the firing line. And that’s not some scoped bolt-action hunting rifle.

The “militia” to which the Second Amendment refers is not the active duty military, what our Founders called the “standing army”, of which they were very leery. In fact, as defined under 10 U.S. Code Section 311 (Link) the “militia” is composed of the National Guard (as anti-gunners dutifully note) as well as the “unorganized militia” which is composed of all law-abiding people of military age “who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States” (which the anti-gunners always manage to conveniently forget). That’s all of us, folks: you, me, and Joe Sixpack.

The AR-15s used by the Vegas madman, contrary to the hoplophobes’ characterizations, aren’t “weapons of mass destruction” or any of the other hyperbolic descriptions. In fact, they’re no different from any other semi-automatic firearm, in that they only fire one round per trigger pull. Further, as they’re the most commonly-owned rifle in general circulation, the Supreme Court decision in the landmark case of “D.C. v. Heller” assures their legitimacy.

Calling these guns a “full-on grade military arsenal”, as Gary Horton did earlier this week in his rant column against guns, is like calling Johnny Depp a real pirate. It makes no sense at all. In fact, if you ever found yourself on an actual battlefield and all you had was an AR-15, your life expectancy could be measured in minutes.

In Vegas, the killer used a “bump stock”, an after-market device that attaches to the rifle, to increase the rate of fire of his guns. Frankly, I’d never heard of this device before, and I’m pretty knowledgeable about guns. Whether or not this is an illegal modification of the guns is, I believe, a legitimate topic for discussion. But other than that, the jihad against AR-15s is a cynical exploitation of this tragic event to piecemeal advance the anti-gunners’ ultimate objective of trying to completely outlaw gun ownership in this country.

To that end, I want to acknowledge and thank Representative Steve Knight for his courage and conviction in standing firm for the rights of gun ownership. It’s thanks to people like him that we have any rights left at all.

The reality is that there isn’t any law at all that would have prevented that maniac from committing his insane act. None. We don’t know why he did it. We probably never will. I don’t think it matters. Sometimes crazy is just crazy.

He wanted to kill a bunch of people. He rented a hotel room and used guns. He could have rented a van and mowed them down. Timothy McVeigh rented a van and used fertilizer. The 9/11 jihadis bought airline tickets and hijacked jet aircraft.

Sometimes crazy is just crazy.

 

 

 

©Brian Baker 2017

(This column was published today in the print edition of my local newspaper, The Signal, as part of a pro/con debate on the issue of gun control in light of the Las Vegas massacre)

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Like Clockwork

 

Leftists hate the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Last week it was the First Amendment; this week it’s the Second. Under attack, one after the other, like clockwork.

In the wake of the horrific events last weekend in Las Vegas, a massacre perpetrated by a madman, anti-gun leftists (are there any other kind?) wasted not a minute in raising the hue and cry to exploit the tragedy for their own political agenda.

In the Wednesday, 4 October edition of The Signal (link), Gary Horton’s column entitled “America the unexceptional” typified their hysteria.

I anticipated the now-standard emotional hyperbole from the Left every time something like this happens. It’s as predictable as the sun rising in the east. But really, Horton’s exceeds even those expectations.

Horton: “It’s time for a moment of silence and thought in America.”

An empty, hypocritical platitude. The shooting took place Sunday night. The column was published Wednesday. In order for his column to have been in that day’s edition The Signal’s editors would have had to have it in hand Monday. Which means there wasn’t any “moment of silence” from Horton. Oh, no.

Like some grisly vulture, I have no doubt that within hours at most, like the rest of his leftist ilk, he was at his keyboard scrawling his bile before the bodies had even cooled.

I noticed that his little chart of the gun death rates in various countries seemed to be real selective. Why is that, I wonder? For example, Switzerland has virtually universal gun possession, yet their rate of gun deaths is about 1/3 of that in this country. Under his inane thesis, shouldn’t their death rate be at least as high as ours? Or could it be that the underlying problem is something other than possession itself of guns?

To that point, how come I never see leftist loons bleating for car bans every time some nut commits mass murder by driving his car into a crowd?

Horton: “Freedom to amass personal military arsenals – or a simple freedom to simply gather un-assaulted in public spaces?”

As I already illustrated, it’s not an either/or issue. They’re not mutually exclusive at all. But let’s consider a practical element. Now, I know this is alien territory to Horton and those like him, what with their leftist unfamiliarity with practicality and all. But let’s give it a shot. Let’s say Horton could get some law passed banning …. something. He’s not even clear on what he actually DOES want to ban (as usual with those guys), but let’s say he could waive his magic wand and pass some kind of ban.

Then what happens?

Does he actually think every gun owner is going to waltz into the local cop shop and hand his guns over? If he does, that’s laugh-out-loud funny.

Is he going to stop murders, or even mass murders? Killers are already ignoring the law just by doing their killing. Does he think they’re going to worry about a gun control law? And what about all the people who kill – including mass killings – with other implements?

Under his loony thesis, this country should be drug-free! Yet heroin and cocaine flood the streets. Not to mention (though mention it I will) all the illegal aliens who shouldn’t be freely walking around. After all, it’s “against the law”, right?

Even more problematic is the underlying idea, as expressed by Horton in this case, that any right enjoyed by this country’s citizens is hostage to the actions of a very tiny fraction of that population that abuses the right. Well under one percent of legally-owned guns in this country are ever used in a crime, yet Horton et al would severely restrict, if not outright outlaw, private gun ownership, a fundamental right.

We’ve seen the same thing happen regarding the First Amendment right to free speech with calls for banning so-called “hate speech”. Such “hate speech” laws have actually been enacted in some “free” countries, to sometimes devastating effect.

The real threats to liberty – and yes, our security – come from the opportunistic and cynical policy proposals advanced by leftists like Horton, who swoop down on every tragic event to exploit it for political gain, and to advance their own divisive and destructive agenda.

Don’t ever let them succeed.

 

 

©Brian Baker 2017

 

Liberty Is Under Fire

 

Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and

murders itself. There was never a democracy yet that didn’t

commit suicide – John Adams, 1814

 

Anthony Breznican’s column “Hart’s Messina wrong man for leadership role” in the Weekender edition of The Signal (Link) published September 23rd was a reminder to me of how dangerous leftism is to the liberties we take for granted in this country.

Breznican’s focus is on Hart school board member Joe Messina, and views Messina has expressed in social media (apparently Facebook) and a self-published book, both of which Breznican claims are “disturbing acts”. Breznican complains that in spite of those stated views “the district has taken no action to censure or demand even an apology from him about his inflammatory remarks.”

Nor should they. This may come as a surprise to Breznican, but what a citizen says or does on his own time, as long as it’s legal, can’t be sanctioned by any governmental agency. It’s called the First Amendment. It’s not subject to the district’s approval or disapproval.

From what little I know of him I happen to agree that at least some of what Messina says makes no sense, but if that were some kind of threshold, I can’t think of anybody in the Dem/socialist party who would be qualified to hold public office.

If that board tries to do anything, that’s the action of a government body reacting to, and taking action against, a person for exercising their right to express an opinion, which is EXACTLY what the First Amendment prohibits.

Breznican goes on: “”That’s what Joe Messina has done. He is harming the students and the district with these fabrications.”

Well, that’s Breznican’s opinion, and it’s only an opinion. Clearly, a lot of people don’t agree with him, or Messina wouldn’t have been able to get elected. And at the next election, if other people share Breznican’s opinion, Messina won’t be re-elected. Right?

I think that Bernie Sanders is a Trotskyite communist, and his ideas and policies are insane, but that doesn’t mean I think he should be silenced, or booted from the Senate. He was duly and properly elected to the Senate by his constituents, as crazy as that seems, and there’s nothing anybody can do about it.

I think every Dem/socialist in Sacramento, along with about two-thirds of the GOPers, are nuts. But that doesn’t bar them from office, or justify any form of governmental sanction.

That pesky First Amendment again.

Which brings us back to that threat to our liberties that I mentioned at the beginning of this column. Conservatives believe that the liberties guaranteed to us by the Constitution and Bill of Rights mean exactly what they say. I may not agree with you but I won’t try to silence you. Or, as attributed to Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

But the Left… Ah, the Left. If they don’t like what you say, they’ll try to destroy your life, demonize you, silence you, shun you, exile you from the public square, get you fired from your job, and outlaw what you can say.

If that’s not a threat to liberty, I don’t know what is.

 

©Brian Baker 2017

 

(Also published today in my local newspaper, The Signal )

Political ‘purity’ demand deserves ‘blue wall’

(This column, written by me, was published today in my local newspaper, The Signal) 

 

In his Sept. 7 column “Heeding Robert E. Lee’s advice,” (here) Jim de Bree told us of how, as a youth, he was “obsessed” – his word – with Civil War-era history, and how statuary and monuments to Confederate heroes helped him understand the context of that conflict.

He goes on to say that perhaps the time has come to reassess the propriety of the continued display of such monuments, particularly in light of the current political climate.

Though many of his points are well-taken, the “statue problem” of today doesn’t fall into the orderly historical model.

If municipalities (for example) want to erect public monuments, they usually go through a public democratic process to decide whether or not to do so. The ongoing process of installing a monument to our local war KIA in Veterans Plaza is an excellent example. It’s been going on for over a year, and now we’ve finally broken ground to actually install it.

The same process is available to determine whether or not to remove such monuments. And in my opinion every jurisdiction certainly has the right and power to determine for itself whether to erect or remove such monuments. It’s a deliberative mechanism.

Of course, it’s even simpler on private property. The property owner can erect, or remove, pretty much whatever he or she wants.

But what’s different now is that we don’t have an orderly process taking place. We have mobs, ginned up with sanctimonious outrage, running around creating riots, threatening and carrying out violent acts, and defacing statuary.

More than anything else, they remind me of the Taliban taking over in Afghanistan, then destroying thousand-year-old statuary because it didn’t conform to their religious fervor.

Further, the current “outrage” doesn’t confine itself just to Civil War Confederate figures. There have already been calls to shun, or even take down, the Jefferson Memorial because Jefferson owned slaves. The Lincoln Memorial has been defaced.

There’s no end in sight to the iconoclasm of the fanatics in their efforts to impose some undefined and amorphous requirement for political “purity” on historical figures.

The very first step toward putting an end to this nonsense is for the legitimate institutions of this country – the city councils, universities, media, state governments, everyone – to stop giving credence to these outlaws – which is exactly what they are – and meet their violence with a “blue wall” of cops, backed up with high-pressure fire hoses and tear gas, ready to deploy at the very first hint of violence, followed by the arrest, prosecution, and incarceration of any and all offenders.

Then we have to stop treating the demand for purity with any legitimacy at all. It should be met with the scorn and mockery it so richly deserves.

Until those things happen, I think the lunacy will simply continue.

 

 

©Brian Baker 2017

 

Both Political Parties’ Establishments Don’t Get It

Donald Trump’s election to the presidency was as clear a clarion call as there could be that “business as usual” was no longer acceptable to the voters. The GOP Establishment seems to be utterly deaf to the message.

We’ve seen this reality play out from Trump’s first announcement of his candidacy right through to the present day.

During the election primaries, none of his opponents thought he had a slightest chance of actually winning the nomination, an incredulousness shared by the party machine. They mocked and belittled him, refusing to take him seriously. They were utterly stunned when he went on to actually win that primary.

But did that win alert the GOP that something profoundly different was going on this time around? Nope.

Many of Trump’s former opponents refused to endorse his candidacy, a few even threatening to endorse his opponent, Clinton. The GOP’s candidates for other offices continued to run on the promise to “repeal and replace Obamacare” in their own campaigns, repetition of a 7-year-old party campaign theme. But clearly, most of them didn’t take Trump’s campaign seriously, either.

How do we know this? Because when the most shocking and unexpected event took place, and Trump actually won the General Election, nobody was prepared to actually move forward and fulfill the promises they’d campaigned on for many years.

Having secured both chambers of Congress and the White House, was the GOP now prepared with a “shovel ready” plan to actually live up to and fulfill that years-old campaign promise of getting rid of Obamacare?

Not even close. They had absolutely nothing, because, as a party, they’d banked on the idea that Trump had absolutely no chance of actually winning the election.

In scientific parlance, this is what’s called “stupid”.

Compounding the problem, that stupidity continues, with no sign of abating. The “Never-Trumpers” are still in full roar, glorying in their “moral superiority”, reminiscent of Nero fiddling while Rome burned, utterly oblivious to the voices of that plebian mass in fly-over country that elected Trump. Elitist snobbery personified.

On the other side of the aisle, Hillary Clinton’s defeat was sending the same message to the Democrat Party, with the same result: deafness and denial.

When the campaign season opened the Establishment Democrats deemed Clinton the ordained candidate, and no other “mainstream” Democrat even threw their hat into the ring.

And then along came Bernie Sanders, the Democrat equivalent of Trump, an “outsider” who wasn’t even a member of the Democrat Party, having been elected throughout his career in the House and Senate as an “Independent” who only caucused with the Democrats.

To the consternation of the Establishment Democrats, Sanders’s candidacy put the coronation of Clinton in serious jeopardy, to the point that party officials conspired with Clinton campaign people to cheat Sanders out of any chance of winning that party’s nomination. Needless to say, the Sanders supporters were outraged by this when it became publicly known.

Once Clinton had secured the nomination, the DNC and her campaign apparatus evidently felt so confident of her chances of winning, and so scornful of Trump, that they decided to concentrate their campaign on the coastal urban centers and special-interest coalitions that in reality were already in the tank for her, utterly and completely ignoring everyone in “fly-over country”, as well as the masses of people who were ardent and now-outraged Sanders supporters, essentially wasting their time, energy, and resources.

Then the unthinkable happened. Trump actually won.

The result? A Democrat party in complete disarray and dissension, to the point of being in a shambles. A schism over what the meaning of such an unexpected and catastrophic loss means.

The Clintonistas are welded to the idea – really just an excuse – that it was “the Russians” and Comey at fault, unwilling to accept that Clinton was a terrible candidate who ran an incompetent campaign.

The Establishment, with a very few exceptions, can’t seem to decide whether their message to the electorate was too far to the left, not far enough to the left, too married to “corporate” interests, or what.

The very few who seem to get it have said that their party needs to take a serious look at the direction they’ve taken and the policies they’re promoting, and that it could be that the emphasis on social engineering – letting men use the same bathrooms as little girls, amnesty for illegal aliens, and the like – taking priority over bread-and-butter concerns about jobs and the economy may just be a very big mistake. The far-left culture-war policies that play so well in the coastal blue regions and some other major urban areas don’t go over at all well in areas outside of those enclaves.

Unfortunately for the Democrat party, if they want to be relevant on a national scale moving into the future, those voices really are being lost in the wilderness.

I think voters are clearly signaling to their respective parties that the old “Establishment” way of doing business isn’t going to cut it anymore. In the case of the GOP, that means they’ll no longer accept empty campaign promises that aren’t followed up with serious and concerted effort to actually implement the promised policies if elected. For Democrats, it means dropping the obsession with Social Justice and class warfare, and directing attention to matters that are of more concern to average everyday Americans.

Will anyone in either party “Establishment” pay any attention?

I don’t think Trump is the causative agent of any of this. The success of his primary campaign, and Clinton’s failure to beat him in the general election, are merely symptomatic of a greater dissatisfaction in the body politic, and the results of the last election – from primaries to general election – were the overt expression of that exasperation.

What’s truly interesting is how both parties are suffering at the same time from the same kind of malaise and disaffection. How this will play out at the polls is anyone’s guess.

Or in the streets.

 

 

©Brian Baker 2017

(Also published today in my local newspaper, The Signal)

“Transgendered” In the Military: No

 

I wanna be an Airborne Ranger,
I wanna lead a life of danger,
I wanna go to Vietnam,
I wanna kill some Viet Cong.

– Vietnam Era double-time cadence

 

As I’m writing this it’s been a few days since President Trump declared that transgendered people will no longer be allowed to join the military. As an Army veteran, I strongly applaud that decision.

Restrictions on who can serve in the military are nothing new. There are many conditions that can prohibit people from serving: deafness, blindness, asthma, epilepsy, age, lack of education, criminal record, height and weight restrictions, low IQ, psychological conditions, and many more. Each of these criteria categorize those individuals who fail to meet the required standard as unfit to serve based on the underlying principle of what is “good for the needs of the service”, and rightfully so.

The job of the military is to kill people and blow things up. It’s not a social engineering lab. Anything that detracts from that primary mission makes it less effective, and gets the wrong people killed: our own.

In basic training one of the first things the cadre does, part of the primary goal of basic, is to subdue or eliminate individualism, because it harms the team effort. That’s why everyone gets the buzz haircut, badly fit uniforms, yelled at all the time by everybody, and driven until you drop. Because you have to get past the idea that you’re “special” and learn you’re just one cog in the machine, and only THEN can you start learning how to function effectively in a military environment.

In battle, ANYTHING that detracts from the team effort can get you killed. And there’s no such thing as “privacy”. You eat, sleep, crap, fight, bleed and die together. You can’t have disruptive issues in a unit, because again, they can get you killed.

But by their very nature, what are the transgendered? If nothing else, based on their percentage of the overall population they’re certainly not “mainstream” in any way, at “around 0.6 percent of U.S. adults” (NPR Link), which assuredly makes them different from the average soldier, if not outright “special”.

Further, “transgender” is indisputably a psychological condition or disorder*. There is a host of psychological conditions that preclude military service, so this ban isn’t breaking any new ground in that respect. Most importantly, part of the transgender existence means adopting the appearance of the opposite sex. There’s no way that can take place without being disruptive to unit cohesion, particularly if it takes place during duty periods. That’s just an inescapable truth.

Have transgendered people served, and served honorably, in the past? Without a doubt. But – and it’s a big “but” – they’ve done so without displaying their transgender proclivities. Kind of a de facto “don’t ask, don’t tell” reality. That’s not what we’re discussing now. What we’re talking about now is “trans” people serving as openly “trans”, and there’s absolutely no way that wouldn’t be disruptive.

For example, the military regulations defining uniform design and grooming standards are different for men from what they are for women. So how would that work? Would transgender men in a unit suddenly be authorized to wear skirt uniforms and man-buns? And somehow or another the other men in the unit wouldn’t react to that, and the person appearing that way? That’s a complete denial of basic human nature, on top of which it encourages the very “specialness” that basic training was designed to eliminate, as I mentioned earlier. It’s going to unavoidably affect unit cohesion, and very possibly get people killed, ultimately.

What about transgender males wanting to use the females’ latrines and shower facilities, and vice versa? Not to mention trying to accommodate this problem in the field. How would that “specialness” be worked out without a whole lot of needless disruption to operations, not to mention unit cohesion?

Further, let me ask this question: if it’s “discriminatory” to bar transgendered people from serving, don’t we then have to open the doors to convicted felons, asthmatics, epileptics, people with Down’s Syndrome, blind people, and anyone and everyone else who’s currently barred from serving because they fail to meet certain required qualifications? Aren’t they being “discriminated” against, too? Isn’t the very idea of qualifications discriminatory?

So this bizarre left-wing idea that you can just dump any warm body into the military, especially combat units, without regard to any real-world concerns and everything is going to be hunky-dory is just insane.

Remember the mission: killing people and blowing things up, not social engineering.

*   http://www.icd10data.com/ICD10CM/Codes/F01-F99/F60-F69/F64-/F64.1, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_dysphoria

 

 

©Brian Baker 2017

 

(Also published today, in a slightly edited form, in The Signal)

Our Current Civil War

On July 20th The Signal published a column by Joshua Heath entitled “A Democrat’s defense of the GOP” (Link), in which he described what he perceived as the beneficial effects of the essentially two-party system of our political structure in this country.

The problem with his thesis is that the traditional Democrat Party he described is virtually non-existent today, having been hijacked by far-left extremists who seem to be obsessed with destroying our social order and cultural norms.

He has effectively described the political order that existed when I was his age. That was a very long time ago. In my opinion this country is currently engaged in a civil war every bit as intense and fundamental as the one that took place in the 1860s, the only difference being that thankfully much less blood has been shed… so far.

The transformation of the Democrat Party into what it’s become today began with the radical left of the 1960s, with the Vietnam War and race relations being the pivotal issues of the time.

If there’s a watershed event, it’s the 1968 Democrat convention in Chicago. I encourage everyone to research that event. There had already been riots over race relations, but they’d been primarily carried out by minorities. The lesson for the radical left that the Democrat convention debacle illustrated was that mainstream Middle American whites could also riot, and that the rioting could have a profound influence on the policy decisions of that party.

LBJ withdrew from the election; the Dems nominated his VEEP Humphrey, and Nixon was elected in a solid repudiation of LBJ’s policies on the Vietnam War.

And so the fuse was lit.

Over time, the left and right drove further apart, and rioting and other forms of bad behavior became a standard tool of the left. And one has to be honest and acknowledge that you just don’t see equivalent behavior of that scale from the right.

Further, the prevailing ideology of the left also moved steadily further toward radicalism, with formerly “mainstream” liberalism being more and more marginalized. There’s a cliché that in today’s political climate, Democrat icon JFK would actually be a Republican, and frankly, it’s true. That alone symbolizes the changes that have taken place to the Dem party.

The reality is that Washington’s political landscape, particularly in the Democrat party, has been warped and distorted by the rise to prominence of the radical left in that party.

This country is incredibly polarized. In my opinion, as I said earlier, his view is reflective of a political landscape that existed decades ago, not today.

 

©Brian Baker 2017

 

(Published 21 July 2017 on my blog and in The Signal)

 

 

 

“Fair Tax” or False Promise?

After the recent publication of my column on the GOP tax reform plan that would eliminate the federal tax deductions on home mortgage and interest payments (Republicans Shooting Themselves in the Foot, June 29th), I was discussing tax reform with some friends when a couple of them proposed instating the Fair Tax program, which would allegedly eliminate the IRS and simplify our tax code.

I admitted I didn’t know much about the plan, and after the discussion decided to educate myself. So I went to the website of the group promoting this plan (https://fairtax.org/) to learn more. But what I found out is that the Fair Tax is neither “fair”, nor even particularly sane. I’m not buying into this at all.

First of all, the federal mortgage and property tax deductions will be gone, once again, and I am dead set against that for the reasons I stated in my previous column. It would devastate the real estate market, drive down home values, and essentially steal people’s home equity, which is no different from robbing their savings account in a bank. In fact, it compounds the problem, as we’ll see in a moment.

Secondly, you’re essentially talking about a VAT, a “value added tax”, and that’s a recipe for disaster. I’ve seen it in operation, in Vancouver BC when I visited there about 15 years ago. They had a 14% VAT. It jacked up the price of goods and services immensely.

In the case of the proposed Fair Tax, the rate is 23%. Now, add that to any state taxes a person pays, and the tax burden’s even worse than now. How’d you like to add 23% in tax to the price of a new car? Or a new house, as I mentioned a moment ago? Here in LA, our local sales tax is about 11%. Add a VAT of 23%, and anything we buy (with certain limited exceptions) would have 34% added to the cost in sales taxes… PLUS we’d still face state income and property taxes, and any other taxes and “fees” imposed from the state level on down. It’s absolutely absurd.

Compound that with the fact that there’d be nothing to prevent that VAT from being jacked up in the future, and you can bet your last dollar — which would very soon be leaving your wallet under that system — that the VAT would continue to be jacked up as time went on.

On top of all of that, you just KNOW that in order for such a program to actually pass, there’d be so many “exemptions” and special treatments for “the poor” carved into it that not only would it NOT do anything to ease the burden on the current taxpayers, it would actually make it worse.

As to the amusing claim that the Fair Tax would “eliminate the IRS”, how would it do that? There would still be a need for a bureaucracy to administer and enforce the new tax laws, as well as to receive, process and distribute the funds. So, maybe, the actual name “Internal Revenue Service” would be replaced by something like “Fair Tax Administration Agency”, but it would still be the same animal with a different moniker, that’s all.

Which brings us to the root of the issue. The problem in this country isn’t the tax system. It’s spending. Ever since FDR we’ve been trying to create a bastardized mix of socialism and free-market liberty in this country, and that’s like trying to McGyver a car out of two bicycle wheels and an empty tuna can. It ain’t gonna work.

I have absolutely ZERO interest in any “tax reform” plan until I see some serious actual spending cuts. And I don’t mean cuts in the rate of spending increases, which is what that term actually means today.

I mean an actual decrease in the dollars shoveled out the door.

 

 

©Brian Baker 2017

(Also published today in my local newspaper, The Signal)

The GOP Aims At Its Own Foot — Again

On June 19th my local newspaper, The Signal, published an opinion letter by Thomas Oatway entitled “Legislators must stand up against potential tax reform threats” (Link). In that letter Thomas urged Congressman Steve Knight and other California Republicans to “fight to derail this plan”, and I want to add my voice to that chorus.

As Oatway correctly pointed out, eliminating the federal tax deduction for home mortgage interest and property taxes will have a very negative impact on home ownership, particularly for the middle class.

Why would the GOP be so stupid as to eliminate the deductions that their natural base depends on? It would be electoral suicide.

This is yet another loony proposal popping from the “mind” of Paul Ryan, a nerd without a lick of common sense.

Congressional Republicans promoting this plan claim that by increasing the personal exemption and decreasing the number of brackets, these eliminations will be essentially “harmless”, and they’ll still be there for people who elect to itemize their deductions.

But eliminating the mortgage and property tax deductions is going to immediately cause home values to drop (http://www.businessinsider.com/gop-tax-plan-could-affect-real-estate-market-2017-1). Who owns most homes numerically? The middle class, the exact same demographic from which the GOP draws most of its support.

So, as those people sit there, with their ongoing mortgages and property taxes, they’re going to see the value of their homes drop out from under their feet.

Then there’s the secondary, or ripple, effect. As home values drop, so do rental values. So, those who own investment properties are going to see their income decrease as rental incomes chase property values down. That’s a direct effect on income for those people.

As a homeowner, I’m looking at personally losing almost $50K in hard equity from my house. Why would I think that’s any kind of good idea at all? That’s exactly the same thing as taking $50,000 out of my savings account. Why would I vote for someone who wants to do that? I may as well vote for a Democrat!

Who actually benefits from this? People who can’t afford to buy homes, or others who are renters, and I’d guess the majority of them are people who support Dems.

So in reality, the GOP will manage to alienate middle class home owners and investment owners, their natural base (as I said), while providing a benefit for people who are never going to vote for them anyway.

In what alternate universe does that sound like a good idea?

 

 

©Brian Baker 2017

 

(Also published today in my local newspaper The Signal)

Waving the White Flag of Surrender

On June 14th, my local Santa Clarita newspaper, The Signal, published a column by Steve Lunetta entitled “In search of elusive compromise”, in which he tries to rationalize his support for government-run healthcare by claiming that “compromises” could be made that would make it more palatable to conservatives.

Early in his column Lunetta rattles his electoral saber:

“Even if the Republican AHCA is signed into law, four years later, if the Democrats control Congress (and current trends say they will), the AHCA will be swept aside for yet another program.”

Back in October “current trends” at the time were solidly showing that the Pantsuit Woman was going to be President. Look how that turned out.

There’s an old joke that goes like this: What’s a camel? It’s a horse built by a committee. The point being that “compromise” isn’t always a solution to an issue. In fact, it’s often vastly overrated, especially when you’re talking about core principles.

What if the Founders had tried to find a “compromise” with King George? Look how well Chamberlain’s “compromise” with Hitler turned out. There’s the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which ended with a little dispute called the Civil War.

The plain fact is that some differences are so fundamental that there’s no compromise possible.

Once again Lunetta’s trying to rationalize his support for socialized medicine. This time he’s taken a couple of the proposals that I and others like me have made – medical tort reform and the removal of state barriers to product sales – and proposed that there be some “compromise” to modify them to fit into the mold of socialized medicine, completely ignoring the fact that those proposals are made to provide a stark alternative to having the government involved in health care at all. That wouldn’t be a compromise on the part of free-market advocates; agreeing to such a proposal would amount to waving the white flag of abject surrender. It would render those proposals moot and meaningless.

On top of all of that, we have the historical record which clearly shows that over the past half century at least, any ground the left gains through “compromise” doesn’t end the debate on an issue. It merely becomes the starting point for their next set of demands. It’s slow suicide by conservatives and Republicans.

The final truth is that what he’s trying to do is very akin to trying to be a little bit pregnant. In reality, you either are or you ain’t. Steve supports government-run healthcare, which is socialized medicine, whether or not he wants to admit it. I, and people like me, don’t. It’s that simple and fundamental.

 

 

©Brian Baker 2017

(Published on 21 June 2017 on my blog and in The Signal)