“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)

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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)

Still Searching For A Solution to Homelessness

(The following was published today as a Guest Column in my local newspaper, The Signal: https://signalscv.com/2017/03/09/brian-baker-still-searching-solution-homelessness/#comment-3196757063)

On March 8 The Signal published a column by Gary Horton entitled “Deciding to decisively end homelessness.”

It seems that Gary and I agree on this issue, and I’m sure that blows his mind as much as it does mine.

In his column he called Measure H a “boondoggle of epic proportions,” and I’m right there with him. He also states, “We’ve got to have the backbone to declare homelessness plainly unacceptable and even ‘illegal.’”

The problem, as I pointed out in my own column urging a “no” vote on Measure H, is that the measures that used to be in place to combat homelessness – and they were pretty effective – were deemed decades ago to be violations of the rights of homeless people to self-determination and autonomy.

The “declare it illegal” strategy, as effective as it was, was nullified. That ship has sailed.

I actually believe that was proper, because if one class of people can have their rights taken away based solely on their economic status, none of us is safe.

Gary speaks of “zoning to allow both government and private enterprise to build affordable, or even free, housing,’ and maybe there’s a partial answer there.

But that has to be done in a realistic manner, putting aside the pie-in-the-sky approach so many bleeding hearts want to impose by forcing “affordable” housing into existing or developing communities in which such housing isn’t a natural fit with the rest of that community.

Sticking Section Eight or other “affordable” housing units in the middle of a planned gated community, for example, isn’t going to work, on many levels, and it also unfairly penalizes property owners who will suffer loss of the value of their homes when such units are dropped in their midst like meteorites falling from the sky.

Yes, areas can be specifically zoned for such housing, but then we have to accept that we’re just creating more “projects,” like Nickerson Gardens in Los Angeles and other such disaster areas.

And that still doesn’t address the unfortunate fact that, unlike in the movies, you can build it and a lot of people still won’t come.

It doesn’t acknowledge the reality that some homeless choose to be so, or are unable to live in such units due to mental deficiency or substance abuse, and simply won’t avail themselves of such accommodations.

So it seems he and I agree on the nature of the problem, and the fact that Measure H is going to be less than useless in actually “solving” it, but differ on what can actually be done about it.

Gary said he’s going to make some proposals in an upcoming column, and I’m eager to see what he proposes.

Frankly, I don’t see an actual solution that’s practical and legal.

 

 

Arrogance, Personified

Take a look at this man’s face.

koskinen

Is this Monte Burns from “The Simpsons”?

 

This is John Koskinen, the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), arguably the most powerful and feared bureaucracy in the Federal Government.

Who does he remind you of? Doesn’t he bring to mind the character of Mr. Burns in the long-running TV series The Simpsons? Sure does to me. And like that character, he has the ability to destroy people’s lives through the wanton exercise of raw, sheer power, in his case via his agency’s ability to direct the force of government against individuals and organizations.

The only check against such naked power is the Congress.

We all know about the scandal surrounding the IRS’s illegal targeting of conservative organizations for harassment, and the efforts by the House of Representatives to get to the bottom of that mess. And those acts took place before Koskinen’s assumption of the reins of that agency.

But when he took over the agency six months ago he vowed to be proactive “in restoring public trust” to that institution (businessweek.com/news/2014-01-07).

So… how’s he doing?

I think the latest development sums it up pretty well. It seems the IRS has “lost” several years’ worth of emails that Lois Lerner – the miscreant at the center of this whole fiasco – sent out to her minions, emails that anyone with half a brain realizes could prove to be very incriminating, not only to her but to others farther up the political food chain. Quite possibly as high as the Oval Office itself.

Bear in mind, this is the exact same agency that won’t accept YOUR excuse that you lost your receipts for some tax deduction you claimed.

And how has Koskinen reacted when asked about these “lost” emails by Darryl Issa’s House committee members?

With absolutely smug sanctimony, contempt, arrogance, and a rigid refusal to even offer any kind of apology for the malfeasance of his agency. Way to go in “restoring public trust” in the IRS, John-Boy!

This, my friends, is what the face of arrogance looks like.

When Nixon was President the Watergate scandal took center stage. Members of the House from both parties set aside partisanship to ensure the rule of law prevailed. Nixon resigned, and several members of his staff – including Attorney-General John Mitchell – went to prison for acts that were utterly benign compared to the level of outright corruption we’re seeing from this administration.

The ongoing IRS mess; Operation Fast & Furious; the Benghazi affair; the NSA spying on civilians; the illegal “rewriting” of laws, such as all the Obamacare extensions and exceptions; the imperial imposition of “rules”, such as through the EPA, that far exceed presidential authority; the failure of the Justice Department and the FBI to pursue action based on political considerations; the outright refusal to enforce immigration law and border security; the Veterans’ Administration letting vets die on secret “waiting lists”; the list goes on and on and on. This President and his minions have absolutely no regard for the rule of law that I can see. The level of corruption in this administration is simply staggering and unprecedented.

Koskinen’s is only the latest face in a Rogue’s Gallery of arrogance, personified.

Further, this corruption of our system is being willfully abetted by the Democrat members of Congress who are facilitating the destruction by not only standing idle, but actively supporting the administration’s efforts. I’m talking about people like Harry Reid, Elijah Cummings, Nancy Pelosi, and far too many others to name.

Jonathan Turley is a well-known professor of law at George Washington University Law School with a self-described “socially liberal agenda”, often seen on various news shows as a commentator and expert analyst, and has had many of his works published. On his own blog he’s written a couple of essays that are well on point. In one, “How Nixon Won Watergate”, which was also published in USA Today (how-nixon-won-Watergate) he states, “…the painful fact is that Barack Obama is the president that Nixon always wanted to be”. He expands on that topic in his essay “A Question of Power: The Imperial Presidency”, which was also published last month in American Legion Magazine (the imperial presidency), in which he writes, “The shift of power to the presidency certainly did not start with President Barack Obama. To the contrary, this trend has been gaining ground for decades. But it has accelerated under Obama, who has succeeded to a degree that would have made Richard Nixon blush.”

If Nixon would be blushing, Obama and his acolytes have exceeded all bounds. The scandals pile up so fast you need wings to stay above them. It’s absolutely dizzying.

 

©Brian Baker 2014

 

(6/30/2014: My local newspaper published an edited version of this essay today:  http://www.signalscv.com/section/33/article/122832/)

 

Phew! We Didn’t Fall Off The “Fiscal Cliff”!!!

Um… wow… I’m so relieved, I’m sure. The world has been saved from a return to the Dark Ages.

Or not.

I’m sick to death of hearing about the ginned-up non-emergency of the “fiscal cliff”. As a matter of fact, the term tops the annual list published by Lake Superior State University of words that should be “Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness” ( Link ).

I read an article today ( here ) entitled “How Much Should We Really Fear the Next Budget Fight?”

And my reaction was: We shouldn’t FEAR it at all. We conservatives should WELCOME it as an opportunity to take this battle to where it needs to be: about profligate and insane SPENDING. No country in history ever taxed and spent its way to prosperity. We’re squandering the next couple of generations’ inheritance and chance at prosperity, and dooming them to poverty and government dependency, AT BEST.

Is that what “the land of the free and the home of the brave” is supposed to mean? The populace chained to and enslaved by the government’s dependency plantation, slaves to whatever “largesse” our government masters deign to let us keep of our own earnings?

fiscal cliff bipartisanReally? THIS is what we fought a Revolution for? To trade in a tyrannical King George for a tyrannical Commissar Obama and Slavemaster Reid, aided and abetted by Quislings Boehner and McConnell?

I say no! By God, I hope not!

© Brian Baker 2013

Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown and the Usual Class-Warfare Shtick

Typical One-Trick Pony

Reporting From Greece On The Pacific: This Just In!

Greeceifornia’s $16 BILLION in the red. That’s $16,000,000,000. The number 16, followed by nine zeros. A lot of money in anyone’s book.

Moonbeam

And, as usual, the socialists running this state – the Top Dog being Governor Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown – can only think of one solution to the problem: more taxes.

There’s enough money for a $100 BILLION “high-speed rail to nowhere” boondoggle.

There’s enough money to pay illegal aliens to go to college through the state DREAM law.

There’s enough money to give public employees retirement pensions and medical benefits that private-sector workers can only envy.

There’s $54 million hidden away in a Parks Department bank account.

We have 1/8th of the nation’s populace and 1/3rd of the nation’s welfare recipients.

And they shrug their shoulders that we’re $16 billion in the red and swirling the drain? And tell us that we need to increase taxes… AGAIN?

Welcome to Greeceifornia!

Giving those morons more money is like taking a drunk to a bar to dry him out. No way, Jose.

So the solution, according to Moonbeam and his socialist minions, is a pair of competing ballot propositions this November, Propositions 30 and 38. Prop 38 is an increase in income tax rates on everybody; Prop 30 – promoted by Brown – allegedly goes to the state’s “education” behemoth, but in reality it allocates funding to try to stem the tsunami of red ink. It imposes an increase in the state sales tax (again affecting everybody) in addition to tax increases on “the rich”, defined as those earning over $250K annually.

According to the legislative analysis of Prop 30: “These new tax rates would affect about 1 percent of California PIT (personal income tax) filers. (These taxpayers currently pay about 40 percent of state personal income taxes.)”

Occutard

Look at that again. That “greedy” one percent is ALREADY paying 40% of the income taxes collected by the state. How dare they? Not enough! Let’s jack them up even more!

Brown’s strategy here is painfully transparent. Had he tried to have enacted a proposition that depended solely on a sales tax increase to close the budget shortfall, it would have been lucky to get a single vote at the ballot box. That would have affected everybody, and would have required a very significant increase in the sales tax rate, which is already high in this state. Instead, we have a whopping increase in the tax rate on those evil “rich”, a move that in this state – with so many people victims of class envy and participants in class warfare – gives it a much better chance of passage. This is the cynical tune the Left has been playing for many years, from Brown at the state level all the way up to Obama in this year’s presidential election.

Should Prop 30 pass, of course, the rest of us suckers who live in this sorry state will also be on the hook for some of that tab that’s now come due for many years of unfettered and obscene spending. But Brown’s counting on class warfare to make our “contribution” more palatable and politically viable, particularly since – again according to the Legislative Analyst – “… the vast majority of the additional revenue from this measure would come from the PIT rate increases on upper-income taxpayers.” The small portion the rest of us are stuck with is simply Brown’s “beard” for yet another unfair tax increase on the small business owners and job producers, what few who still live here, as it gives him an excuse to claim that the burden is being “spread around”. It’s not, other than in a very minor and almost purely symbolic way.

All of this while there’s no discussion at all from Brown & Company on any meaningful cuts or reforms on the spending commitments in this state. Don’t fall for it! Let’s see some major cuts in spending first! Let’s reprioritize first! Then we can talk about what taxes need to be raised – if any – to address any remaining shortfall.

This state used to be able to function within a reasonable budget with reasonable tax rates, and even enjoy surpluses. That’s the condition to which we must return. There is no Money Tree Forest, and it’s time the socialists who run this state learn that simple fact.

As Maggie Thatcher noted, “The trouble with socialism is that it always runs out of other people’s money”.

©Brian Baker 2012

A Manifesto To Save America

 

“A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy”

                                                                       Alexander Tytler   1747 – 1843 (Pop. Attrib.)

When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic. Sell not liberty to purchase power”

                                                Benjamin Franklin  1706 – 1790

People familiar with my writings, both in my blogs and in various Letters To The Editors and Guest Columns published in newspapers, know I’ve long maintained that this country is far down along the path to self-destruction. Back in February 2008, at my Townhall blog, I wrote an essay entitled “Bread and Circuses” (Read it here) in which I drew parallels between our country today and the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

The Roberts Court

Most recently, we have the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) discovering and endowing the government with vast new powers to use taxation to force people to behave in certain ways, and enter into contracts to purchase goods and services. For the first time in our history, a tax can be imposed on people for not doing something. It’s as if King George imposed a tea tax on the colonists for not drinking tea.

To achieve this repugnant decision, as I’ve described previously, Chief Judas Roberts ignored all bounds of reason, logic and constitutionality in order to side with the liberal “ignore the Constitution” faction of the Court. Whatever his motives – and speculation on that runs rampant – neither Roberts nor any other Justice will ever suffer any consequences for their actions or decisions because the Constitution guarantees them lifetime tenure.

Then we have the problem with the inequitable nature of our current tax system which has led to debts and deficits that will inevitably bankrupt this country if not resolved somehow. Almost 50% of the populace pays little to no federal income taxes at all, and the top 5% of earners – those earning anything over a mere $154,643 (statistics) – pay almost 59% of all the income tax money collected. Yet they’re still castigated for “not paying their fair share”.

Meanwhile, that bottom 50% pays almost nothing at all but still has an equal say, through their power to vote, in how tax burdens are allocated and the funds spent. Naturally, as they really have no skin in the game as far as fiscal prudence is concerned, they’re going to be inclined to vote for their own economic self-interest, meaning that they’re all for robbing Peter to pay Paul, since someone else is always going to be the Peter that pays their Paul. Paul really doesn’t care if Peter goes broke.

Further, what’s going to happen when the tax non-payers outnumber the taxpayers? Then we’ll have a situation akin to three foxes and a chicken voting on what’s for dinner. It won’t be pretty, and at that point this country will be completely doomed.

I believe this country’s only hope of salvation lies in a major restructuring of how we do things, and that can only be properly enacted by amending the Constitution. Therefore I’d like to propose the following four constitutional amendments.

“Judicial Accountability Amendment:  After 12 years of serving on the federal bench, each judge including Supreme Court Justices shall be replaced, unless reconfirmed by the US Senate.”

Hopefully, that would force the judiciary to be more responsive to the actual Constitution, but no matter what it would impose accountability on the Mandarins In Black Robes.

“Flat Tax Amendment:  Every person who receives income, from whatever source and without exception, shall have that income taxed at the same rate of X%. The tax rate may be changed by Congress by votes of 2/3 in each House.”

The “X” rate of taxation would be determined during the amendment process, but this would certainly eliminate the inequality of tax rates and burdens. Further, it would eliminate the motivation of those with no tax exposure to burden those who actually do pay taxes with ridiculous obligations that simply can’t be met.

Everyone would then have at least some skin in the game.

Further, the super-majority requirement to change the tax rate would force some fiscal sanity on Congress, and force them to start to cut spending. Raising the tax rate would become a VERY politically risky move… as it should be.

“Voter Eligibility Amendment:  No person who is exempt, for whatever reason, from paying income taxes shall be eligible to vote.”

A companion piece to the prior Amendment, this would assure that anyone who might still escape any tax obligation would also lose their ability to influence the outcome of legislation that forces everyone else to pay up.

“Tax Legitimacy Amendment: Taxes shall be imposed solely to raise revenue for the legitimate function of government as defined in the US Constitution. Any tax or spending bill must cite the appropriate and legitimate constitutional authority for that program or expenditure. No tax shall be imposed whose purpose is to influence the behavior of citizens, either individually or as a group; nor shall taxes be imposed as a penalty.”

The most immediate effect of this Amendment would be to void Obamacare and repeal the recent SCOTUS decision, much like the 14th Amendment killed the Dred Scott decision; and it would prevent the kind of laws – as well as judicial decisions – that grant such unbridled power to the government that the people’s ability to make their own decisions is completely pre-empted.

Unless these amendments – or something very much like them – are enacted, this country as we know it is finished. We may still be in existence physically, but we’ll ultimately devolve into a Euro-trash “social democracy” like Greece. Unfortunately, I don’t believe the political will exists in this country to take those necessary steps.

I hope I’m proven wrong, but I am not sanguine…

© Brian Baker 2012

The Obamacare Decision’s In. What’s Next?

Chief Judas John Roberts

Well, as I noted in last week’s essay, the stunning decision of the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) was handed down last week on the Obamacare challenge, and Chief Judas Roberts – traitor to the Constitution and conservative principles – has granted the Federal Government expansive new powers to regulate behavior through the power to impose taxes; not only on what you actually do, but also on what you don’t do.

Another aspect of this new authority is that since exercise of this power is through the taxation process, such laws don’t require the usual 60 votes in the Senate required for most bills. It’s tax law, and as such can be passed by a simple majority in that chamber (as has always been the case with any law in the House). Thus has SCOTUS ruled.

That means that come November, if the GOP retains the House, wins the Presidency, and holds 50 seats in the Senate after the election (Romney’s VP would give the GOP a Senate majority as President of the Senate), they’ll be able to pass any such law they want without any fear of it being blocked by the Democrats (in the exact same manner as Democrats enacted Obamacare in the first place).

This does open up some interesting possibilities.

I’d like to propose a law that requires every eligible adult to own a gun. This would accrue a benefit to the country under the General Welfare Clause, as statistically it’s been shown that the more law-abiding citizens own guns, the lower the crime rate is. Further, gun ownership is actually a right enumerated in the Bill of Rights, as opposed to “healthcare”. Anyone who refuses to own a gun would see a “tax surcharge” penalty on their federal income taxes.

How about an abortion tax? You’d still be able to exercise your “right” to abort your baby; you’d just be dinged a few thousand bucks in a “tax surcharge” if you did it. There’s no doubt this would accrue benefits to the country’s “general welfare” as it will cut into the numbers of unborn babies slaughtered in the womb, not to mention the benefits accrued to the babies themselves. And think of the added revenue!

There are endless possibilities, and the limits have been removed. Get together with your friends. Think up a policy you’d like to see enacted. Turn it into a drinking game!

Then raise a toast to our socialist countrymen who have given us this wonderful opportunity.

©Brian Baker 2012