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September 30, 2009

Massive Energy Tax Bill Introduced in Senate

Juliet Eilperin writes in today’s Washington Post that Senators Boxer (D-California) and Senator Kerry (D-Massachusetts) are expected to introduce their so-called “cap-and-trade” bill today. The bill would “make deep cuts in U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions in the near and long term while setting a limit on the cost of carbon allowances”

But Investors Business Daily (IBD) writes in an editorial:

“ The Boxer-Kerry bill isn't a whole lot different from the Waxman-Markey bill that was passed by the House of Representatives in June. And that's the problem.

“Both bills provide for a "cap-and-trade" system to slash the use of fossil fuels and replace them with solar, wind and other "alternative" energy sources. The idea is to impose strict limits on the output of CO2, a supposed cause of global warming.

“If this sounds like a good idea, it isn't. It'll lead to massive new taxes, the demise of entire industries, the elimination of millions of jobs and lost income for all. As the Heritage Foundation found when it ran the numbers on Waxman-Markey, the economic losses entailed in imposing cap-and-trade are enormous.”

Jim Manzi, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, wonders what “is the point” of the legislation? in an op-ed in today’s Washington Examiner. He summarizes the op-ed this way:

“As Capitol Hill prepares to take up climate change legislation once again, senators should cast a far more critical eye at the chief cap-and-trade proposal than their House counterparts did in June. Waxman-Markey would impose costs at least 10 times as large as its benefits, would not reduce the deficit, and wouldn't even really cap emissions.”

We’ve growled numerous times (most recently September 22) about global warming, and have yet to see any evidence to change our minds from being global warming skeptics. As the following ad by the Heartland Institute, one of three ads  calling for an open debate on the science of global warming, which recently ran in the Washington Post, says, “Let’s make global warming about the science again, not politics. Demand that elected officials and media stop hitting the mute button on truth.”

Resources for Learning More About Global Warming (9/30/09): Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang; Popular Technology; Competitive Enterprise Institute; Climate Audit; Climate Depot; Climate Science/Roger Pielke, Sr.; Dr. Roy Spencer; Al Gore's Climate Project; Ponder the Maunder; Science & Environmental Policy Project; Science & Public Policy Institute; and, Sen. James Imhofe (R-Oklahoma), Ranking Member, Senate's Environment & Public Works Committee.

UPDATE (10/1/09) Nick Loris at the Heritage Foundation's blog, The Foundry, includes links to at least two new studies and the following quote from OMB director Peter Orzag regarding just who pays for this massive energy tax:

“Under a cap-and-trade program, firms would not ultimately bear most of the costs of the allowances but instead would pass them along to their customers in the form of higher prices.”

September 29, 2009

Controlling Costs in Socialized Health Care Systems

Conservative talk show hosts have done a good job of informing their listeners on the faults of the socialized health care systems in Canada and Great Britain, but there has been little discussion about the care provided by other socialized health care systems.

Consequently, it was interesting to read a September 15, 2009 analysis (requires Adobe) by the ranking Republican on Congress’s Joint Economic Committee, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas)  asking whether “socialized health care systems (are) controlling costs?” Brownback writes:

“While the initial level of spending is important, it is the rate of growth in costs that is the more important factor in determining overall long-run costs.  It is those higher rates of cost growth that make the promises of government provided health care benefits essentially unsustainable.

“A review of the latest evidence reveals that the annual percent change in per capita health care costs in the U.S. has not been any higher than that of other developed nations that have primarily government-run health care systems.”

Readers are invited to take a look at the two charts. One shows that “U.S. health care cost growth (is) on a par with other developed nations.” The second shows that “U.S. healthcare cost growth (is) lower than the average OECD country over the last decade.” Specifically, Sen. Brownback writes:

“Between 1997 and 2006, health care cost growth in the U.S. averaged 5.9%, compared with an average for all OECD countries of 6.6%. During this period, the U.S. growth rate was below that of the U.K. (7.2%) and Canada (6.0%), and above that of France (4.7%).”

In conclusion, Brownback writes:

“Despite the proven ability of some other nations to hold down their overall level of government health care spending, largely through government-imposed-rationing, the evidence does not suggest that those government-run health care systems have succeeded in “bending the cost curve.” To the contrary, health care costs are growing in those countries, just as they are in the United States. The evidence does not support the notion that we can “bend the cost curve” by giving the government more control over our health care.”

One more argument for the public option, aka socializing the American health care system or national health care, debunked.

Reading Resource: The Wall Street Journal has “a comprehensive collection of (their) editorials and op-eds” at “The WSJ Guide to ObamaCare” that goes back to the beginning of 2009.

September 28, 2009

Thought for the Day

“There are two methods, or means, and only two, whereby man’s needs and desires can be satisfied. One is the production and exchange of wealth; this is the economic means. The other is the uncompensated appropriation of wealth produced by others; this is the political means.”

    ~ Albert Jay Nock (1870-1945), Journalist, Author and Essayist

HT OnPower.org

September 27, 2009

Tax Dollars for New Toys for the Rich

Friday’s Wall Street Journal reports that a company backed by Al Gore has been selected to get a large loan from the U.S. government, specifically they write:

“A tiny car company backed by former Vice President Al Gore has just gotten a $529 million U.S. government loan to help build a hybrid sports car in Finland that will sell for about $89,000.

“The award this week to California startup Fisker Automotive Inc. follows a $465 million government loan to Tesla Motors Inc., purveyors of a $109,000 British-built electric Roadster. Tesla is a California startup focusing on all-electric vehicles, with a number of celebrity endorsements that is backed by investors that have contributed to Democratic campaigns.

The awards to Fisker and Tesla have prompted concern from companies that have had their bids for loans rejected, and criticism from groups that question why vehicles aimed at the wealthiest customers are getting loans subsidized by taxpayers.

"This is not for average Americans," said Leslie Paige, a spokeswoman for Citizens Against Government Waste, an anti-tax group in Washington. "This is for people to put something in their driveway that is a conversation piece. It's status symbol thing."

Regarding the Gore connection, the Journal wrote:

“Fisker's top investors include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a veteran Silicon Valley venture-capital firm of which Gore is a partner. Employees of KPCB have donated more than $2.2 million to political campaigns, mostly for Democrats, including President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks campaign contributions.

“Officials at Kleiner Perkins didn't return requests for comment.”

CAGW’s Leslie Paige’s comment that the cars are not being built for average Americans seems on the money and right out of taxpayers wallets.

UPDATE (9/28/09). Rick Moran comments at American Thinker:

". . . it's nice to know that our tax dollars are being used to fund new toys for the rich. They are going to want to buy these vehicles just to make themselves feel better after Obama raises taxes on them.
"And if these companies are so hot, what the hell do they need government money for? Has the investor class, entrepreneurial funds, and others in the private market lost their ability to see a sure thing and simply taken a pass? Or are these investments so risky that Obama and his energy department were too busy to hit Vegas and Reno so they decided to gamble the taxpayer's money on these politically motivated giveaways instead?
"And the printing presses are busy working overtime creating more worthless dollars for this?"

September 26, 2009

Thought for the Day

"My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.”"

   ~ Thomas Jefferson

HT OnPower.org

September 25, 2009

Small Favors, We Don't Live in New York

ACTA members may complain about the real estate taxes in Arlington County, but at least we don’t live in New York or New Jersey. A new analysis (Fiscal Fact No. 192, September 22, 2009) of Census Bureau housing data by the Tax Foundation contains the following conclusion:

“The Northeast remains the area with the highest property taxes on homeowners. These states also have high per capita income, and the highest property tax bills, in terms of dollar amounts, are usually found in the areas with the highest incomes. As for the percentage-of-home-value measure, counties in upstate New York still dominate as they tend to impose high property taxes on homeowners, albeit in a location with lower home values and thereby higher effective tax rates.”

To see just how bad things are in the Northeast, consider that all of the “top 10 counties in median real estate taxes paid, 2008” are in either New York or New Jersey with median real estate taxes paid ranging between $7,324 and $8,890. When looking at the top 10 counties in median real estate taxes paid divided by median home value, 2008,” every county is in the state of New York.

For a bit of comparison, the median property taxes paid on homes throughout the United States is $1,897 and in Virginia, it is $1,854 (ranking Virginia #22). In the nation, the median home value is $197,600 while in Virginia, it is $269.900. For taxes as a percentage of home value, it is 0.96% in the United States and 0.69% in Virginia (ranking #33). The median income for homeowners in the nation is $65,385 and $75,504 in Virginia. Finally taxes as a percentage of income is 2.96% in the United States and 2.46% in Virginia (ranking #28).

I guess one should be thankful for small favors. 

September 24, 2009

Taxing the Rich Backfires in New York

Yesterday’s Ithaca New York Journal reports that New York’s efforts to "tax the rich" has backfired. The newspaper wrote:

“This year, the deep pockets of New York's rich were tapped like never before. The state's wealthiest pay new higher income tax rates, higher taxes for limousines and yachts, more to enter a horse in a race and more to dabble in real estate.

“Meanwhile, many are losing millions from the closing of business tax loopholes and those making over $1 million are losing tax deductions others get.

“Now, early revenue figures suggest that taxing the wealthy more under this year's state budget may have driven away richer New Yorkers. That could make the economic comeback for the state even harder.”

New York governor David Patterson told a group of newspaper editors, “You heard the mantra, 'Tax the rich, tax the rich . . . We've done that. We've probably lost jobs and driven people out of the state." The state’s lieutenant governor added, "People aren't wedded to a geographic place as they once were. It's a different world,"

The news story added, “Developer and New York icon Donald Trump told Fox News in April that the higher tax rates were foolish, stupid and "a total disaster for the state." The wizards of politics, eh?

HT Taxing Tennessean

September 23, 2009

Thought for the Day

"The road to socialism is not natural. It must be paved with the hard work of class envy, demonization of the successful, and obfuscation that each new massive spending program that will raise both taxes and deficits (that’s the point, after all, to create so much red ink that we must raise taxes and redefine what constitutes income) must be passed immediately, without delay, now-or-never to stave off Biblical hunger, plague, and flood."

   ~ Victor Davis Hanson

HT Pajamas Media

September 22, 2009

Take Action on Cap-and-Trade

Don’t let Congress raise taxes on so many forms of energy, including gasoline, jet fuel and home heating oil. We’ve growled numerous times about the damage the massive Waxman-Markey energy tax bill will do to American taxpayers, American jobs, and  the American economy, most recently on September 17, but also June 26, June 23, May 19 and May 2.

It amounts to a war on prosperity. As the National Taxpayers Union (NTU) says,

“While supporters of cap-and-trade tout the bill as a step towards cutting carbon dioxide emissions from our atmosphere, everyone – from farmers to truckers to airline pilots to small businesses – will end up footing the bill for this poorly designed legislation. Prices for gasoline, diesel, airline fuel, and home heating oil will increase – even though the Government's own data shows that this hidden tax will produce almost no reduction in CO2 emissions from the transportation sector. Farmers, truckers, delivery services, small businesses, freight haulers, airlines, railroads, shipping, and others would face higher fuel costs because of this hidden tax, which could limit an economic recovery that just might be on the horizon.

“Nearly everyone agrees that the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill will cost American jobs. According to the non-partisan Brookings Institution, "Despite the promise of green jobs, ACESA would, if enacted, inevitably depress total employment from baseline levels. The bill would divert resources now used to produce additional goods and services into the work of obtaining energy from sources that are more costly than fossil fuels."

Take action! NTU makes it easy to write Senators Jim Webb and Mark Warner to tell them the Waxman-Markey bill is bad for Arlingtonians, bad for Virginians, and bad for Americans. Click here for a brief explanation of how Waxman-Markey will raise taxes and reduce freedom, and then you’re one click away from using NTU’s form to write Sen. Webb and Sen. Warner.

September 21, 2009

What Would Thomas Jefferson Say Today?

"I think we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious."

   ~ Thomas Jefferson

HT Patriot Post

September 20, 2009

Thought for the Day

"The third, and most cogent reason for restricting the interference of government, is the great evil of adding unnecessarily to its power. Every function superadded to those already exercised by the government, causes its influence over hopes and fears to be more widely diffused, and converts, more and more, the active and ambitious part of the public into hangers-on of the government, or of some party which aims at becoming the government. If the roads, the railways, the banks, the insurance offices, the great joint-stock companies, the universities, and the public charities, were all of them branches of the government: if, in addition, the municipal corporations and local boards, with all that now devolves on them, became departments of the central administration; if the employés of all these different enterprises were appointed and paid by the government, and looked to the government for every rise in life; not all the freedom of the press and popular constitution of the legislature would make this or any other country free otherwise than in name. And the evil would be greater, the more efficiently and scientifically the administrative machinery was constructed—the more skilful the arrangements for obtaining the best qualified hands and heads with which to work it."

   ~ John Stuart Mill

HT Cafe Hayek. The quotation was preceeded by the comment: "In chapter V of On Liberty, John Stuart Mill eloquently explained one important reason for Americans today to oppose any further centralization of power in Washington:"

September 19, 2009

Thoughts for the Day

“The American Republic will endure, until politicians realize they can bribe the people with their own money.”

    ~ Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859), French Philosopher and Author

"Liberty has never come from the government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of government. The history of liberty is the history of resistance. The history of liberty is a history of the limitation of governmental power, not the increase of it."

    ~ Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859), French Philosopher and Author

HT Mark Levin Show and OnPower.org

September 18, 2009

Thought for the Day

"There is nothing in the world like a persuasive speech to fuddle the mental apparatus and upset the convictions and debauch the emotions of an audience not practiced in the tricks and delusions of oratory."

   ~ American author and humorist Mark Twain (1835-1910)

HT Patriot Post

September 17, 2009

Cap-and-Trade = Massive Tax on Energy

A news release today from the Competitive Enterprise Institute says:

“Internal Treasury Department documents released this week confirm the Obama administration’s expectations for a nationwide global warming “cap and trade” plan.  The documents were obtained by CEI Senior Fellow Christopher Horner through a Freedom of Information Act request.

“Internally, Treasury indicates it expects that the sort of plan that the president is calling for – a plan that either immediately auctions off carbon dioxide emission permits or sells nearly all after a few years of giving industry most of its permits for free – would bring from $100-200 billion per year in revenue for the government.

“That is money taken either directly from household and business energy consumers, according to the Congressional Budget Office when it was headed by Obama's budget director, Peter Orszag. (See Orszag statement). Those billions translate into between one and two thousand dollars per year for the average household.”

The Washington Post buried their story about the “cap-and-trade memos” on page A9 today, perhaps expecting them to “fire up the skeptics,” They also reported comments by a spokesman from the Environmental Defense Council and a Treasury Department official who said, “the furor was much ado about a little.” Not so quick, we think. As the final paragraph of the CEI press release reads:

”CBO, under Obama's now-budget director, makes clear that the outcome for the American taxpayer remains the same,” said Horner. ”It doesn't matter who gets the money in the first few years or ever- -- whether 85 percent are at first given away to special interests, or 100 percent immediately goes to the government – it still comes out (of) the taxpayer’s pocket.”

Horner has some interesting comments about the "Big Green Fury & Bile" in a post at CEI’s OpenMarket blog, including:

“The greens have responded with, so far as my experience has it, unprecedented fury and bile to my FOIA request exposing the Department of the Treasury’s internal discussion of how the administration, like the rest of us, expect cap-and-trade to chase away manufacturing jobs particularly in key industries like steel, chemical and cement, and lard the full equivalent of the entirety of environmental regulation on what’s left of the economy (while shaving a full 1% off of GDP).

“What has (them) most riled them, indicating that it is what most frightens them, is the internal assessment that the administration expects to raise between $100-200 billion per year from the taxpayer in revenues from selling CO2 ration coupons. Oddly, that’s up to three times how much the administration asserted to the public in February it expected to raise from 100% auctioning, which they said they still expect it to raise,  as of three weeks ago (p. 33), well after the March memo citing the $100-200 billion was written. So much for having abandoned their position of auctioning, which it turns out is still the administration position.”

By the way, if you’re wondering what $200 billion is on a per capita basis, the Post article cites Declan McCullough saying, "At the upper end of the administration's estimate, the cost per American household would be an extra $1,761 a year." Take a few minutes to read the documents obtained from the Department of Treasury (requires Adobe) under CEI’s FOIA request.

September 16, 2009

Commercial Assessments a Budget Buster?

Scott McCaffrey reported a story this morning at the online Arlington Sun Gazette, beginning the article by writing:

“(Arlington) County government officials are staring at the potential of a $67.5 million budget gap over the next 18 months, based on preliminary estimates of real estate reassessment notices that will be sent to taxpayers next January.

“County Manager Ron Carlee on Sept. 11 painted a bleak picture in a memo to members of county advisory panels and the Arlington County Civic Federation, saying he expects residential real estate assessments to fall from 3 to 7 percent from 2009 figures, and, more dire, that the assessed value of commercial property could drop from 8 to 17 percent.” (emphasis added)

“Combined, this is an overall decline between 5.3 percent and 11.6 percent, with a ‘probable’ scenario at negative 9.14 percent,” Carlee said.

Perhaps as a reminder of what the Arlington County Board did earlier this year, McCaffrey wrote:

"To offset the lower assessments that were announced back in January, County Board members in the spring voted to raise the real estate tax rate 2.7 cents per $100 assessed value, an increase of just over 3 percent.

"Homeowners saw average tax bills rise slightly from 2008 to 2009, a far cry from some other Northern Virginia jurisdictions - especially those with more vibrant two-party political systems than Arlington - where tax bills declined substantially for many homeowners."

McCaffrey cited comments by Arlington resident Wayne Kubicki:

“Wayne Kubicki, a former member of the county government’s Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission and probably the most respected budget-watcher outside the government ranks, said the coming year would require serious choices by elected officials.

“Service cuts, hiring freezes and terminations will all be on the table again, and this time the schools will be affected, as well,” he said. “At minimum, I would hope we do not see an increase in the average residential tax bill, as higher tax bills on homes whose values have declined would be a real double-whammy for Arlington homeowners.”

The County Manager was very clear in his February 11, 2009 memo, saying, “Current economic indicators reflect Arlington’s sustained strength . . . however, our first set of real estate assessment scenarios reveals clearly that Arlington is not immune to the larger economy. Of particular concern is the lack of commercial credit and its impact on commercial values.”

September 15, 2009

“Single Payer” - Myself

Thomas Sowell’s latest column, posted at Townhall.com, provides some needed history of how Americans historically paid for medical care. He writes:

“There was a time, within living memory, when most Americans did not have health insurance-- and it was not the end of the world, as so many in politics and the media seem to be depicting it today.

“As someone who lived through that era, and who spent decades without medical insurance, I find it hard to be panicked and stampeded into bigger and worse problems because some people do not have medical insurance, including many who could afford it if they chose to.

“What did we do, back during the years when most Americans had no medical insurance? I did what most people did. I depended on a "single payer"-- myself. When I didn't have the money, I paid off my medical bills in installments.

The birth of my first child was not covered by medical insurance. I paid off the bill, month by month, until the time finally came when I could tell my wife that the baby was now ours, free and clear.

“In a country where everything imaginable is bought and paid for on credit, why is it suddenly a national crisis if some people cannot pay cash up front for medical treatment?”

Sowell says that may not be the ideal way of paying for medical care, however, “if every deviation from the ideal is a reason to be panicked and stampeded into putting dangerous arbitrary powers into the hands of government, then go directly to totalitarianism, do not pass "Go", do not collect $200.

No one says it any clearer than Thomas Sowell.

September 14, 2009

Will Congress Now Investigate ACORN?

That’s the question asked by the editorial in today’s Washington Examiner. The editorial begins:

“Dozens of states have charged ACORN employees with voter registration fraud, numerous corporations have paid exorbitant sums of hush money to get the group to call off its demonstrators crying racism, and media organizations have exposed serious questions about how the radical group has spent the hundreds of millions of federal tax dollars it has received over the years. Yet the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now continues uninterrupted with its corrupt voter registration campaigns and corporate shake-downs, while still collecting millions from the government for mortgage and foreclosure counseling, and other purposes. (emphasis added)

“But an unheralded young man and woman, acting as citizen-journalists, may have finally thrown open ACORN's doors wide enough to shine light on the ugliest of truths about the group. James O'Keefe, a filmmaker, and Hannah Giles, an aspiring investigative reporter with the National Journalism Center, posed as a pimp and prostitute while using a hidden camera to get the goods in ACORN's Washington, D.C., and Baltimore offices.”

Reuters reports the U.S. Senate voted today 83-7 to deny ACORN "access to federal housing funds.” Even Senate Majority Harry Reid (D-Nevada) voted for the amendment submitted by Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Nebraska). Both Virginia senators, Jim Webb (D) and Mark Warner (D), voted YEA. The seven senators who voted against were: Burris (D-IL); Casey (D-PA); Durbin (D-IL); Gillibrand (D-NY);Leahy (D-VT); Sanders (I-VT); and, Whitehouse (D-RI), according to Senate Roll Call vote 275.

Additional readings about ACORN include a column at American Spectator by Matthew Vadum, a senior editor at Capital Research Center, a Washington, D.C. think tank that studies the politics of philanthropy, plus an article at Capital Research Center and one at Andrew Breitbart's Big Government.

Call or write senators Jim Webb and Mark Warner to thank them for their support of Sen. Mike Johanns' amendment. Then call Rep. Jim Moran’s office and encourage him to support a similar amendment in the House. Tell them Congress needs to investigate ACORN, too.

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Representative Jim Moran (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376


UPDATE (9/15/09): American Thinker reports ACORN is seeking an additional $6 million in federal funds. Michelle Malkin reports that ABC anchor Charles Gibson confessed the reason he "hasn't covered the ACORN scandal is that he didn't know about it."

September 13, 2009

We Came, We Marched, and We Sent a Message

Andrew Moylan of the National Taxpayers Union, one of the sponsors of the 912 March on Washington, D.C., has a short essay, including the above title, of the day's events posted at NTU’s blogsite, Government Bytes. He also has a link to some early pictures from the march.

Another major sponsor of the 912 March was FreedomWorks, which also has pictures from yesterday’s march. Tea Party Patriots has a video up at this time on their homepage featuring the White Coats to Congress Rally, i.e., the doctors rally that started off the weekend of protests on September 10. In addition, Amy Ridenour blogs at the National Center for Public Policy Research and includes a video of the speech by Deeneen Borelli, a fellow of the Project 21 black leadership network. Finally, American Thinker has two great reads: America Spoke by James Simpson, and 9/12 was a transformative event by Clarice Feldman and Rosslyn Smith.

What a great weekend. What great Americans for coming to Washington to protest an out-of control government. Makes you proud to be an American. And unlike so many others who have protested on the mall, conservatives left it clean, see Gateway Pundit. And thanks to all the hardworking groups who planned and put-together the 912 March on DC [follow the link for the list of sponsors].

We need to keep up the pressure, however, so call or write Senators Jim Webb and Mark Warner and Rep.Jim Moran [see yesterday’s growls for phone numbers and their web contact forms].

UPDATE (9/15/09): C-SPAN has 2 hrs, 50 minutes of coverage of the 912 March on DC.

September 12, 2009

King George Didn’t Listen Either

According to the Washington Post report, that’s what one sign at today’s Taxpayers March on DC said. And the headline in Britain’s Mail Online said it pretty well:

“Up to two million march to US Capitol to protest against Obama's spending in 'tea-party' demonstration”

The headline of the New York Times claimed attendance of “thousands” and the Washington Post claimed “tens of thousands.” However, looking at the picture that accompanied the Mail Online story, we’re inclined to think the Times and Post seriously underestimated the number who attended. Take a look:


Two other things. First a great shoutout to the many, many groups who sponsored the 912 Taxpayers March on DC, e.g., FreedomWorks, National Taxpayers Union, Grassfire.org, Tea Party Patriots, and so many others. Second, take a few minutes and listen to Lloyd Marcus sing the American Tea Party Anthem.

Finally, take a few minutes to write (just click-on their online contact forms) or call Virginia's Senators Webb and Warner and Arlington County's Rep. Jim Moran. If needed, cite one sign that caught the eye of the Mail Online reporter, “Go Green! Recycle Congress.”

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Representative Jim Moran (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

And brickbats to the Washington Post for changing the headline from their original "Anti-Government Protests Draws Tens of Thousands to DD.C." to "lashing out at the Capitol." which appeared on page A1. What a way to slur hundreds of thousands if not two million American patriots who marched on Washington.

September 11, 2009

Thought for the Day

"The people can never wilfully betray their own interests; but they may possibly be betrayed by the representatives of the people; and the danger will be evidently greater where the whole legislative trust is lodged in the hands of one body of men, than where the concurrence of separate and dissimilar bodies is required in every public act."

   ~ Federalist No. 63

HT Patriot Post

September 10, 2009

912 March on Washington This Weekend

For more information, visit the Tea Party Patriots website. The following information was provided in a Tea Party Patriots e-mail I received earlier today:

Tea Party Patriots Welcome Destk Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill
Tea Party Patriots Hotel!!! Be sure to come see us!!  Tea Party Patriots will have a Welcome Desk setup the following times:
Thurdsay, September 10, noon to 8 pm
Friday, September 11, 8 am - 11 pm
Saturday, September 12, 6 pm - 9 pm
Helpful Addresses: 

Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill
400 New Jersey Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C., USA 20001
Closest Metro stop: Union Stn .29 miles NE and Judiciary Square Metro Station .31 miles W

September 09, 2009

"Cherish, therefore, the spirit of our people, and keep alive their attention. Do not be too severe upon their errors, but reclaim them by enlightening them. If once they become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress, and Assemblies, Judges, and Governors, shall all become wolves."

    ~ Thomas Jefferson, letter to Edward Carrington, 1787

HT Patriot Post

September 08, 2009

Tapping Taxpayers Is Their First Choice

That seems to be the working philosophy of the Metro board when it comes to raising fares. According to a story in today’s Washington Post:

“Metro's leaders have warned that they might have to raise fares because of the poor economic climate. Last year, the agency consolidated bus routes, laid off hundreds of employees and tapped its rainy-day fund to close an even larger budget deficit, but it avoided raising fares. Board members acknowledge that the choices will be tougher this time.”

"There is nobody who wants to raise fares, not a single one of us," said Peter Benjamin, chairman of the board's finance committee. "The fare decision is essentially the last one in that series of things. It's only when you have exhausted all other possibilities that you get down to service and fares." (emphasis added)

The Post article then reports:

“As part of a compromise vote that raised fares in January 2008 for the first time in four years, the board agreed in principle that fares should increase with the rate of inflation every other year.

“Those fare increases, which are expected to amount to about 6 percent, are still open to public debate, but the budget forecast assumes $37.5 million in additional revenue from inflation-adjusted fares.”

But why get Metro riders upset when you can reach into taxpayers’ wallets for ever larger subsidies?  As the Post reports, “Slightly less than half of Metro's operations funds come from governments in the region.” However, the Post also reports, “The forecast anticipates that there is a "low probability" of an increase in the subsidy from those jurisdictions, largely because they are facing their own shortfalls.”

According to the numbers in the county’s financial reports, Arlington County’s Metro operating subsidy for FY2010 will be $20.5 million. Assuming 55% of the subsidy comes from residential property owners, the residential share of the subsidy is almost $11.3 million. Divided by 29,000 residential properties means a subsidy of about $389 for each residential homeowner.*

In addition, the financial reports show the FY1999 subsidy was $6.6 million, and grew by 164% to $17.4 million in FY2008. That growth was significantly faster than the increase of inflation.

A director of MetroRiders.org thinks that taxpayers should be picking-up any increase in Metro's operating expenses. According to the Post:

“But an official of a riders advocacy group wants participating jurisdictions to increase their support as fares go up. Jack Corbett, a director of http://MetroRiders.org, said there is an inherent conflict in the way Metro's board is organized because the jurisdictions that subsidize Metro appoint representatives to the board.

"So they're caught in a box," he said. "Given the huge gap, both the jurisdictions and the riders have to be flexible, because there's no fat left in the system from what we can find."

If Metro is looking for savings, they may want to consider a RIF of employees making more than $100,000, scrapping their public art program, and scrapping their so-called NextBus effort. But as Metro board member Benjamin noted in the Post story, it’s only after you can’t squeeze taxpayers any harder that you have to consider “other possibilities” and “get down to service (cuts) and fares.”

HT Wayne Kubicki

*UPDATE (9/9/09) Mr. Kubicki suggests the subsidy number should be $189 (first computing the Metro subsidy as a percentage of total real estate taxes paid as a percentage of all real estate taxes, and then multiplying that percentage by the estimated average single family residenial tax bill of $4,499). However . . . assuming that only 55% of real estate taxes are paid by residential property owners, and using the average real estate taxes per single-family residence, I still arrive at a Metro subsidy per residential property owner of $340. Perhaps Arlington County's superb number-crunchers in the Department of Management & Finance can resolve the difference by including the Metro subsidy per capita/homeowner in the Manager's proposed FY2011 budget next February.

September 07, 2009

Health Care Reform and the End of Privacy

According to Tom Giovanetti, president of the Institute for Policy Innovation, any semblance of privacy will be thrown under the bus if health care reform is passed that approaches the bills currently before Congress. In the August 20, 2009 “TechBytes,” he writes:

“Privacy advocates who enjoy focusing on issues like browser cookies, behavioral advertising, database privacy and deep packet inspection can just throw in the towel if anything approaching HR 3200, the current draft of the health care bill in the House of Representatives, becomes law.

“Because HR 3200 contains the most egregious violations of Americans’ privacy imaginable. Indeed, one way to characterize HR 3200 is as “The End of Privacy.”

“The bill creates a “Health Choices Commissioner” (henceforth sarcastically referred to as the Health Choices Commissar), and, of course, the Commissar needs to be able to pry into your finances. HR 3200 gives the Commissar the right to look at your tax return, so as to quickly determine your eligibility for services and for federal health care benefits.

“Yes, it’s right there, on pages 195-196 (out of 1,107 pages), in Section 431, entitled DISCLOSURES TO CARRY OUT HEALTH INSURANCE EXCHANGE SUBSIDIES. The Health Choices Commissar will be able to look at your tax return in order to examine your taxpayer identity information, filing status, your AGI (as defined in section 59B(e)(5)), the number of your dependents, and “such other information as is prescribed by the Secretary by regulation as might indicate whether the taxpayer is eligible.”

“This provision amends the Internal Revenue code, opens up taxpayer information to federal officials, requires your employer to also provide your financial information, and gives the Commissar wide discretion to ask for “other information” deemed necessary.

“And Section 1801 gives the Health Choices Commissar the right to look into your Social Security records.

“A companion bill in the Senate, as currently drafted (PDF link), could give the Commissar the right to look into your bank account in order to determine your ability to pay (Section 222 (a)(2)(D), page 343)

“Such easy access by federal health care officials to your financial records may indeed “streamline” the approval process and lead to “efficiency gains.” But you can kiss your financial privacy good-bye.

“Of course, the privacy of medical history and health records is also in danger. How many thousands of federal employees will have access to your records? The privacy of your health records will be only as good as the most nosy, most dishonest and most malcontented federal employee. Worried? So are we.

“But don’t worry, Senator Arlen Specter promised the other day at a town hall meeting that “we’ll do everything we can to stop people from breaking into the files.”

“Oh, and don’t count on courts and judges to protect your privacy from the Health Choices Commissar  -- virtually every section of the bill contains a “Limitations on Review” clause that states “There shall be no administrative or judicial review” of the provisions in that section.

“So say good-bye to privacy from the federal government. It was fun while it lasted for 233 years.

It’s incredible to learn how much of our freedom and liberty will be extinguished if health care reform is passed in anything close to its current form. No wonder 57% of likely voters in a recent Rasmussen poll said they “would like to replace (the) entire Congress” while “just 25% of voters nationwide would keep the current batch of legislators.”

September 06, 2009

Media Info Flawed, Deficient, Incorrect, Incomplete, or Wrong

In a study, dated November 13, 2007, by Gerald Auten and Geoffrey Gee of the Office of Tax Analysis, U.S. Treasury Department looked at “Income Mobility in the U.S. from 1996 to 2005” (requires Adobe). Auten and Gee write, “While many studies have documented the long-term trend of increasing income inequality in the U.S. economy, there has been less focus on the dynamism of the U.S. economy and the opportunity for upward mobility. Comparisons of snapshots of the income distribution at points in time miss this important dimension and can sometimes be misleading.”

Auten and Gee explain how their study differs from the others:

“This study examined income mobility of individual taxpayers age 25 and over for the period from 1996 through 2005 using information reported on individual income tax returns. The key findings are that there was considerable income mobility of individuals in the U.S. economy during the 1996 through 2005 period and that the degree of income mobility among income groups is unchanged from the prior comparable period (1987 through 1996).”

University of Michigan at Flint economics and finance professor Mark Perry explains it this way on Friday at Carpe Diem, writing:

“In other words, almost everything we hear in the media about increasing income inequality, the disappearing middle class, the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, and the lack of income mobility is either flawed, deficient, incorrect, incomplete or wrong. (emphasis added)

“The data show that there is significant income mobility up and down the income quintiles over longer periods of time, e.g. 1996-2005. Many of today's poor are tomorrow's rich, and many of today's rich are tomorrow's middle class or poor. The top income quintiles are not private clubs closed to new members, but are shifting, dynamic quintiles composed of an ever-changing group of different individuals from year to year. Consider that 75% of the individuals in the richest group of Americans in 1996, the top 1/100th percent, moved down into a lower income group by 2005, making room for a completely different group of individuals in that super-rich category.”

The topic of income inequality is important since liberals base much of their belief in the need for income redistribution on it, or in the words of then-candidate Barack Obama who told “Joe the Plumber” last year, he wanted to “spread the wealth around.” We see once again that a free market does the job of spreading the wealth around” quite well without the political class choosing winners and losers. Forget a progressive income tax. What we need is a flat tax.

September 05, 2009

Paying for Health Care Reform is ‘Difficult and Essential’

Writing in the September 3, 2009 New England Journal of Medicine, Henry Aaron, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute explains that:

“No health care reform bill can succeed unless Congress finds the money to pay for it. The challenge is brutally simple. The up-front costs of extending coverage are certain and immediate.”

Aaron goes on to say:

“The savings from delivery-system reform are speculative and slow. U.S. budget projections indicate explosive increases in government borrowing and rapid increases in debt-service costs, which could cause lenders to lose faith in the nation's repayment capacity. Prospects are so bleak that not even the achievement of the worthy goals of health care reform justify increasing already perilous budget deficits.”

The goal of healthcare reform may indeed be laudable, but unfortunately the reforms envisioned by HR 3200 certainly don’t seem laudatory. Rather they seem burdensome and confiscatory. For the evidence, just look at the organizational chart of HR 3200, the primary House bill for health care reform, which we growled about on July 23, 2009. And as we growled on September 2nd and September 3rd, HR 3200 not only looks like a tax bill, but would give far too much power to the IRS.

Take a look at the following chart Aaron provides, which identifies the various costs of “extending coverage” and “ways of paying for it.” While certainly useful for helping to understand so-called health care reform,” it surely seems further evidence that HR 3200 is nothing more a tax-raising measure rather than a health care reform measure.

September 04, 2009

Promises, Promises, Promises

Congress is due back in session next week with health care legislation their top priority, and President Obama is  scheduled to address a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, September 9 on health care. As a result, it’s worth considering the promises made by past Congresses and presidents.

In his Townhall.com column this week, economics professor Walter E. Williams looks at some of the promises made in support of past tax and social welfare legislation. Here is just one example:

“At its start, in 1966, Medicare cost $3 billion. The House Ways and Means Committee, along with President Johnson, estimated that Medicare would cost an inflation-adjusted $12 billion by 1990. In 1990, Medicare topped $107 billion. That's nine times Congress' prediction. Today's Medicare tab comes to $420 billion with no signs of leveling off. How much confidence can we have in any cost estimates by the White House or Congress?”

Take a few moments to read Dr. Williams’ entire column to learn other promises made in support of federal legislation. By the way, Dr. Williams guest hosted the Rush Limbaugh Show today, and here's a link to the webpage containing content links and several comments he made during the show.

September 03, 2009

Health Care Gives More Power to IRS

Yesterday, we growled about some “tax nasties” that are “in the health-care bill voted on by the House Ways and Means Committee," citing an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.

Byron York, writing in today’s Washington Examiner, points out that “health care reform means more power to the IRS." Here’s the substance of what health care would be come if the House gets its way:

“In short, health care reform, as currently envisioned by Democratic leaders, would be built on the foundation of an expanded and more intrusive IRS.

“Under the various proposals now on the table, the IRS would become the main agency for determining who has an "acceptable" health insurance plan; for finding and punishing those who don't have such a plan; for subsidizing individual health insurance costs through the issuance of a tax credits; and for enforcing the rules on those who attempt to opt out, abuse, or game the system. A substantial portion of H.R. 3200, the House health care bill, is devoted to amending the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 in order to give the IRS the authority to perform these new duties.”

He identifies three reasons to worry:

  • Can the IRS “handle the new demand?"
  • Will IRS have the resources to handle the "anticipated abuse of the system?"
  • "Should the IRS be involved in health care enforcement in the first place?"

York closes with this advice: “before Congress makes any decision on national health care, voters should know just what it will involve.”

September 02, 2009

Health Care Reform and Tax Nasties

An op-ed in the Wall Street Journal last week by James Peaslee, a partner in a New York law firm points our that “taxpayers will be fined for honest mistakes." He begins his op-ed by writing:

“Two tax provisions in the health-care bill voted on by the House Ways and Means Committee earlier this summer have gained significant attention. One would impose a surtax on high-income earners. The other would force individuals (or their employers) who do not have approved health-insurance plans to pay a tax penalty. But there are other "revenue provisions" in the bill that also deserve a close look.

“One would change the law to mandate that the Internal Revenue Service slap penalties on honest but errant taxpayers.

“Under current law, taxpayers who lose an argument with the IRS can generally avoid penalties by showing they tried in good faith to comply with the tax law. In a broad range of circumstances, the health-care bill would change the law to impose strict liability penalties for income-tax underpayments, meaning that taxpayers will no longer have the luxury of making an honest mistake. The ability of even the IRS to waive penalties in sympathetic cases would be sharply curtailed.”

Peaslee points out “(t)he proposed changes in penalty rules have largely escaped notice because they are buried in a part of the bill that purports to deal with abusive tax shelters.” Rather, he says, it “underscores the need to read (the bill) closely.” He cites other examples of "tax nasties" tucked away in what is supposedly a health care reform bill.

September 01, 2009

Another Thought for the Day

"Someone pointed out that blaming economic crises on "greed" is like blaming plane crashes on gravity. Certainly planes wouldn't crash if it wasn't for gravity. But when thousands of planes fly millions of miles every day without crashing, explaining why a particular plane crashed because of gravity gets you nowhere . . . Neither does talking about "greed," which is constant like gravity."

    ~ Thomas Sowell

HT Townhall.com