Geez, so much depressing news today

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Talk about depressing news. The following came out just today:

  • The Republicans’ House tax bill includes a provision lifting a 1954 ban on political activism by churches.
  • According to the New York Times, one complaint to NBC about “Today” host Matt Lauer came from a former employee who said Lauer , who is married, had summoned her to his office in 2001, locked the door and sexually assaulted her, instigating intercourse. She told The Times that she passed out and had to be taken to a nurse.
  • North Korea showed on Wednesday that missiles it has developed could reach all of the United States.
  • The House of Representatives passed a bill (H.R. 38) on Wednesday that would allow concealed-carry permit holders from one state to legally carry their guns in any other state, regardless of any other state’s concealed-carry laws. Additionally, the bill specifies that a qualified individual who lawfully carries or possesses a concealed handgun in another state: (1) is not subject to the federal prohibition on possessing a firearm in a school zone, and (2) may carry or possess the concealed handgun in federally owned lands that are open to the public.
  • Garrison Keillor, the down-home host of A Prairie Home Companion until last year, has been fired by Minnesota Public Radio over allegations of misconduct.
  • With the U.S. Department of State in turmoil, there are reports that President Trump will replace Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, who has held his job for only 10 months, with Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA. Politico reported today that Pompeo has no formal diplomatic experience and is widely considered a hawk skeptical of the kind of international deal-making, even with America’s enemies, that many diplomats consider a necessary part of U.S. foreign policy.
  • Yesterday, President Trump shared videos on Twitter that supposedly portray Muslim turmoil, committing acts of violence, images that are likely to fuel anti-Islam sentiments.  UK Prime Minister Theresa May admonished Trump, declaring that he was “wrong” to share anti-Muslim videos posted online by a “hateful” British far-right group. Some MPs in Parliament called Trump “racist,” “fascist” and “evil.”
  • While Trump and Republican members of Congress are pushing to lessen regulation of for-profit schools, California is suing for-profit online-only Ashford University and its parent company, Bridgepoint Education, for misleading students about its tuition costs, burying them in student loan debt and offering little of value in return.
  • Steven T. McLaughlin, a member of the New York Assembly, was only moderately disciplined for sexual harassment after an investigation by the Assembly’s ethics committee found that he had asked a female Assembly staff member for naked pictures. The sanctions include forbidding him to employ interns, and an official statement of admonition from the Assembly speaker. The ethics committee also determined that he leaked the name of his accuser, in violation of instructions he had received that the victim’s name and incident remain confidential.
  • Despite warnings from investment professionals Jamie DimonJack Bogle, Warren Buffett , Joseph Stiglitz and Ben Bernanke that Bitcoin is a fraud, people are still buying it.  Bitcoin advanced yesterday to a high of $11,434 before the reversal took it as low as $9,009,” though “as of 3:36 p.m. in New York, it traded at $9,911.10. “If you’re stupid enough to buy it, you’ll pay the price for it one day,” Dimon said.
  • Media disclosed that the Republicans’ House tax bill includes a provision conferring a new legal right for fetuses. The provision would allow families to open 529 educational savings accounts for “unborn children” – essentially college plans for fetuses. Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, argues, “Affirming this language through the tax code would lay the foundation for “personhood,” the idea that life begins at conception thus granting a fetus in utero legal rights. It’s long been the holy grail of the anti-choice movement, since it would be the basis on which they would argue to outlaw abortion entirely.”
  • Media reported that playwright-screenwriter Israel Horovitz has been accused by nine women of sexual harassment. One accuser said she was 19 when she began a summer fellowship with Horovitz at the Gloucester Stage Company in Massachusetts. On her first night, she said, Horovitz drove her to the family home. locked the door, kissed and fondled her,  then led her to his bedroom, where she said he raped her.
  • A Nov. 26-28 poll by pro-Trump group, America First Policies, found Republican Roy Moore ahead of Democrat Doug Jones 46 percent to 45 percent.

    And finally…

  • After spending eight years bitching about the unconscionable $9 trillion increase in the national debt under Obama, Republicans are pushing a tax bill that could add $1.5 trillion or more to the deficit over the next 10 years and maybe a lot more if Congress renews expiring tax provisions.

All this in just one day. Depressing.

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Tweedledee. Tweedledum: The two parties spend with abandon.

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Tweedledee. Tweedledum. This is what we get when the two parties work together, a massive spending spree.

A $1.1 trillion federal spending bill and a $650 billion tax package unveiled today show that neither party gives a damn about holding down spending. It’s not that all the items to be funded are wasteful or unneeded, but the package will push spending above previously agreed limits by $66 billion in 2016 and permanently extend a vast array of tax benefits that will add at least a half-trillion dollars to the federal deficit, once a matter of great concern.

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  • Bowing to pressure on Republicans and Democrats from medical device manufacturers across the county, including in Oregon, anti-Obamacare zealots, and ticked-off unions with expensive healthcare plans, the legislation will postpone for two years (which probably means forever) a 2.3 percent excise tax on medical devices manufacturers, that was expected to raise $29 billion of net revenues over 10 years and a so-called “Cadillac Tax” tax on expensive employer-sponsored healthcare plans, that was projected to raise about $30 billion over 10 years to cover new spending under Obamacare. Then, to add insult to injury, the legislation makes the Cadillac tax refundable when it restarts. The lost taxes will blow a hole in planned funding to cover the cost of Obamacare.
  • The Defense Department will get $1111 billion for new military equipment, including F-35 Joint-Strike Fighters, Black Hawk helicopters, attack submarines and guided missile destroyers.
  • A 40-year-old oil export ban will be rescinded and, in trade, Democrats will get expensive extensions of wind and solar power tax incentives.
  • A research and development tax credit will be expanded and extended permanently.
  • The $1,000 Child Tax Credit will be extended permanently.
  • The Earned Income Tax Credit will be permanently extended.
  • A federal health program for first responders and construction workers who worked at the World Trade Center site after 9/11 and a separate victims compensation fund will be extended at a cost of $8 billion.
  • A National Oceans and Coastal Security Fund will be created to “support work that helps Americans understand and adapt to forces like sea level rise, severe storms, and ocean acidification” associated with climate change.
  • The American Opportunity Tax Credit, an annual credit for tuition and other qualified expenses, will be permanently extended.
  • A $250 annual deduction on qualified expenses of teachers will be indexed for inflation and permanently extended.
  • Five tax credits tied to charitable donations by individuals and businesses will be permanently extended.
  • Funding for the IRS will be frozen, punishing the IRS for targeting conservative groups, but also further limiting its ability to go after tax scofflaws and, this, reducing tax receipts.
  • A $255 per month pre-tax benefit for parking and public transportation expenses will be permanently extended.

But aside from all the spending, Congress did accomplish a few good things.

There will be a pay freeze for Vice President Biden, for example.

Also, earlier this year the dour, stick-in-the-mud Capitol Police said sledding by gleeful children and adults on the snow of Capitol Hill would no longer be allowed. The package asks that the Capitol Police rescind that prohibition so the jollity can resume.

Capitol-Sledding

Sock it to ’em: the left dreams of more taxes and more government

The left’s collective veneration of the state and readiness to surrender self- reliance to its generosity are becoming ever more evident as the presidential race accelerates.

After exhaustive research, the New York Times has concluded that if the federal government raised taxes on the wealthy it could generate a lot of money. You don’t say.

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The Times also figured out that the potential amount of revenue the government could raise from the wealthy would depend on how much the government raised their taxes. That’s groundbreaking.

Not only that, The Times said, but the government could raise one hell of a lot of revenue from high earners “…while still allowing them to take home a majority of their income,” How very thoughtful.

The Times effused over the things the government could do with a ton of additional tax revenue, like eliminating undergraduate tuition at all the country’s four-year public colleges and universities, as Senator Bernie Sanders has proposed. The potential next step — student loan forgiveness?

With the base of the Democratic Party moving swiftly to the left, you can expect more of these “we can do it because the wealthy will pay for it” proposals.

In the end, the Times took 2085 words to conclude that the more you tax rich people, the more taxes the government will collect (assuming the well-off don’t figure out how to avoid paying the taxes) and the more the government can spend on all sorts of stuff.

What the Times didn’t do is address the question of whether it would be a good thing for the government to reap enormous revenue increases and vastly expand its penetration into our daily lives.

Do we really want a massive expansion of government that would be a successor to the New Deal and the Great Society?

When you invite the government to pay for more things, the government becomes your partner, or, more likely, your boss. Is that what Americans want?

When government gives you things, they always come with new federal rules and regulations accompanied by known and unknown costs. Is that the American dream?

The Times also didn’t address the growing fiscal problems we are already facing:

  • Federal spending still exceeds revenue by over 400 billion dollars a year
  • deficits are expected to resume growing
  • even with declines in discretionary spending imposed by sequestration, entitlements are expected to grow in the future.

“You wouldn’t know that we have an unsustainable fiscal path from the debate we’re having right now,” Rudy Penner, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office, told the Wall Street Journal.

A message to the left and the NY Times. Be careful what you wish for.

 

(P.S. – Yes, I know, you also have conservatives proclaiming how they want to cut taxes when we can’t even pay our bills now, but that’s another story)

The Democratic debate: Soak the rich. Yeah! that’s the ticket!

Remember how Jon Lovitz, as Tommy Flanagan, the pathological liar on Saturday Night Live, would build a narrative that was a series of lies and say, “Yeah! That’s the ticket!”?

The Democratic debate was like that.

Want something for nothing? When I’m president, you’ll get it: Tuition-free public colleges and universities; free mandatory parental leave, without burdening small businesses; $15 minimum wage with no increase in productivity; enhanced Social Security benefits; Tax cuts for middle-class families; Refinancing of federal college debt at a low interest rate; Government subsidies of Obamacare for people in the United States illegally; move America to 100% renewable energy with federal subsidies.

The Democrats offered up a grab bag of free stuff. How would they pay for it all? Hillary summed up the Democratic Party’s answer. “ I know we can afford it, because we’re going to make the wealthy pay for it,” she proclaimed.

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Yeah! That’s the ticket!

Reminds me of Margaret Thatcher’s observation, “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”

The national debt stands at $18.2 trillion, up from $10.6 trillion when President Obama took office, and it is continuing to increase an average of
 $1.88 billion a day. The debt goes up when the government doesn’t get enough revenue in a given fiscal year to pay its bills. Annual federal deficits have been shrinking lately, but that pattern isn’t expected to last as the budget takes hits in the coming years.

And then, of course, the country already faces problems with covering the huge costs of entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare.

Unless we want to embrace ever-higher deficits, money would need to be found to pay for the cornucopia of benefits the Democrats promise.

Hillary Clinton said not to worry, we’ll get it from higher taxes on the wealthy. “Right now, the wealthy pay too little and the middle class pays too much,” she said in the debate.

Echoing Clinton, Lincoln Chafee chimed in that the rich are doing fine, “so there’s still a lot more money to be had from this top echelon.”

The problem is that the top-earning 1 percent of Americans (earning about $400,000 +), a pretty fluid club of individuals on a year-to-year basis, already pay almost 50 percent of federal income taxes and the top 25 percent pay about 87 percent, making the United States extraordinarily dependent on small slices of the population.

The Congressional Budget Office has calculated that high-income earners receive only pennies in federal benefits for every dollar they pay in federal taxes. In contrast, those in the middle 20 percent of earners received $2.23 in benefits for each dollar they paid and the lowest 20 percent receive close to $20 in federal benefits for every dollar they pay in federal taxes. In other words, the high-income earners are already subsidizing middle-income and low-income Americans.

“Despite the data, accusations that the rich are not paying their fair share continue,” The Manhattan Institute has reported. “This rhetoric is based more on perception than reality, or on a mistaken belief that the government needs more funds to become further entrenched in Americans’ lives. While this rhetoric may work as a populist rallying cry, the data show that a central tenet of the political left’s platform is simply incorrect.”

The real war is on our children

Democrats are again pulling out from their rhetorical basement accusations that Republicans are waging a “war on women”. Meanwhile, they’re ignoring another war that’s real, the “war on our children” that government spending addicts are prosecuting.

Our children are going to pay a heavy price for the fiscal insanity that has already led to national debt in excess of $17 billion.

Obama-National-DebtThe increase in our national debt over the past 25 years. years has been mind-boggling. In 1990, it was $3.2 billion, in 2000 $5.7 billion. By 2010 it was $13.6 billion. Now it has leaped to $17.5 billion.

But Democrats, in the spirit of “see no evil”, want to keep the issue under wraps and focus on other things. During a February 2014 House Financial Services Committee hearing, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) even complained about two real-time running national debt clock displays in the hearing room. Ellison said it was just intended to send an ideological message.

Obama says his FY2015 budget proposal is an “opportunity agenda”. Yes, an opportunity for $564 billion more debt, an opportunity to increase total national debt to nearly $25 trillion over the next 10 years and an opportunity to pander to Americans who want it all without paying for it.

As Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, said, Obama’s budget is a declaration that “deficits don’t matter, debt doesn’t matter, and that reality itself doesn’t matter.”

Some Democrats are arguing that annual deficits are dropping, so we can all back off worrying about the problem.

But the most recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) budget forecast projects that after a few years of lower deficits they’ll climb again for an indefinite period. In addition, the national debt will increase annually by much more than the amount of the deficit because a considerable amount of federal borrowing is not counted in the budget.

As a result, the CBO projects $7.9 trillion will be added to the nation’s cumulative public debt over the next decade.

That’s because revenue will keep up with economic growth, but spending will grow even more. “Spending is boosted by the aging of the population, the expansion of federal subsidies for health insurance, rising health care costs per beneficiary, and mounting interest costs on federal debt,” the CBO said.

According to the CBO, interest payments will soon become the third largest item in the federal budget, after Social Security and Medicare. Right now, interest on the debt costs $233 billion. CBO projects that interest costs will reach $880 billion by 2024. As interest costs grow, they could crowd out investment in other priorities, including education, research and development, and other programs that could help our economy grow.

Large and growing federal debt that restrains economic growth will give policymakers less flexibility to respond to unexpected challenges, and eventually increase the risk of a fiscal crisis.

A Peter G. Peterson Foundation survey released on March 25, 2014 concluded that 67 percent of people say their concern about the national debt has increased over the past few years and 79 percent say that addressing the national debt should be among the President and Congress’ top 3 priorities.

And yet, Democrats continue to resist deficit-lowering efforts.

Deficit reduction surged as a policy priority during Obama’s first term: Between 2009 and 2013,  the share citing the deficit as a top priority rose 19 points, according to a January 2014 report from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. In the most recent 2014 survey, majorities of Republicans (80%) and independents (66%) continued to say reducing the budget deficit should be a top priority for the president and Congress, but just 49% of Democrats viewed it as a top priority, the lowest percentage since Obama took office. Going back 20 years, the gap between Republicans and Democrats on the issue has never been as large as it is today, Pew said.

Not exactly a hopeful sign for the emergence of bipartisan cooperation on the issue.