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June 30, 2013

Do the Rich Pay Their Fair Share in Taxes?

In a brief analysis (only two pages) for the National Center for Policy Analysis (No. 770, August 15, 2012), Peter Ferrara writes:

"The central theme of President Obama’s tax policy has been that “the rich” do not pay their fair share of federal taxes, and the middle class pays more as a result.  But a report issued by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in July 2012 shows this to be false."

He then writes: "According to the CBO, the top 1 percent of income earners paid 39 percent of federal individual income taxes in 2009, while earning 13 percent of the income.  That is down from 2007, before President Obama was elected.  In 2007, after 25 years of Reagan Republican tax policies, the top 1 percent paid 40 percent of federal individual income taxes — more than double the 17.6 percent share of taxes paid by the top 1 percent when President Reagan entered office in 1981."

Although brief, Ferrara's analysis provides a helpful analysis for taxpayers to have handy to counter liberals who try to argue that the "rich don't pay their fair share." His paper includes the following graphic:


He concludes his analysis with a most thought-provoking suggestion:

"The federal government should abolish the remaining minor share of federal income taxes paid by the middle class.  That would enable a rational flat tax to be adopted for the top 40 percent of income earners, who earn 72 percent of all income anyway.

"In the last two decades, the two successful Democrat nominees for president campaigned on a tax cut for the middle class, then never delivered a permanent cut after they were elected.   But with income taxes for the middle class eliminated, that game would be over."

Kudos to Mr. Ferrara and the National Center for Policy Analysis for the thought-provoking suggestion.

June 29, 2013

Columbia Pike Streetcar + Federal New Starts Program

If you have been following the Columbia Pike streetcar initiative, the Arlington County Board's latest $300 million vanity project, you know that in April, the county lost its chance at $75 million under the federal government's so-called New Starts program. We growled about it on April 23, 2013.

In a paper published by the Cato Institute  just 10 days ago (Policy Analysis, No. 727, June 19, 2013), Randal O'Toole, the author and senior fellow at Cato, says in the paper's executive summary:

"The New Starts program has proven a failure and gives transit agencies incentives to build overly costly systems. Congress created the program in 1991, directing the Federal Transit Administration to ensure each grant be "justified based on a comprehensive review of its mobility improvements, environmental benefits, cost effectiveness, and operating efficiencies." In 2012, Congress added "congestion relief" and "economic development effects" to this list, but dropped "operating efficiencies." By any of these criteria, the program should be abolished."

Here are the points he makes in explaining why the New Starts should be abolished, again from the paper's executive summary:

  • Many New Starts projects reduce transit mobility because transit agencies sacrifice bus service to low-income neighborhoods, where such mobility is needed, in order to deliver rail transit to middle-income neighborhoods, where such mobility is merely an amenity.
  • Planning documents for many New Starts projects predict that they will increase congestion by taking up more roadway space, disrupting traffic signal coordination, or increasing queues at park-andride stations.
  • Planning documents often admit new rail lines will use more energy and generate more air pollution than the cars they take off the road. Other plans do not account for increasing automobile energy efficiencies or the effects of congestion on energy consumption and air pollution.
  • The Bush administration attempted to use the cost-effectiveness requirement to place an upper limit on project costs, but the transit lobby has persuaded the Obama administration and Congress to effectively eliminate this criterion altogether.
  • Numerous projects are far from operationally efficient because they increase operating costs without improving transit service. The transit lobby persuaded Congress to drop this criterion in 2012.
  • Claims that rail transit promotes economic development are contradicted by the FTA’s own research.

He concludes this way:

"Urban transit funds should come from local, not federal, taxpayers. Until Congress is ready to stop funding transit, it should abolish New Starts and distribute all transit funds using formulas, the way most funds for highways and buses are distributed today. This would reduce, if not eliminate, incentives for transit agencies to build high-cost systems when low-cost systems would work just as well."

Links to the entire policy analysis are available in several formats, including Adobe's .pdf, and to related Cato content material. Kudos to Randal O'Toole and the Cato Institute for this very timely paper.

June 28, 2013

A Thought on Comprehensive Immigration Reform

"Say what you like about George III, but the Tea Act was about tea. The so-called comprehensive immigration reform is so comprehensive it includes special deals for Nevada casinos and the recategorization of the Alaskan fish-processing industry as a “cultural exchange” program, because the more leaping salmon we have the harder it is for Mexicans to get across the Bering Strait. While we’re bringing millions of Undocumented-Americans “out of the shadows,” why don’t we try bringing Washington’s decadent and diseased law-making out of the shadows?"

~ Mark Steyn

HT His column, posted June 28, 2013 at National Review Online

June 27, 2013

Presidential Travel Abroad: An Updated Study

Our taxpayer friends at the National Taxpayers Union Foundation released an updated study today of presidential travel abroad "and its uncertain costs." Authored by Michael Tasselmyer, here are the opening two paragraphs of the NTUF press release announcing the updated study:

"As President Obama continues his extensive week-long trip to Africa, taxpayers at home are left stranded with basic questions over costs and transparency. That’s the underlying conclusion of an updated study released today from National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF), which compared the foreign travel habits of Chief Executives as well as some of the expenses he and the First Lady would incur on their voyages.

"NTUF’s examination shows that Barack Obama is on track to be one of the most traveled Presidents in the nation’s history. He is currently trailing only George H.W. Bush among postwar U.S. leaders. Furthermore, President Obama’s tendency to take more trips, that are shorter in duration, make him likelier (after adjusting for obvious factors like inflation) to have bigger bills (air travel, security detail, planning) than his predecessors. Due to opaque reporting by government sources on such expenses, the full cost of the President’s travel is difficult to pin down."

At the NTU blog, Government Bytes, Dan Barrett writes about one key fact from the foreign travel study, writing:

"One key fact Tasselmyer points out is the unknown total cost of each or all of the President's trips, which reach the tens of millions of public dollars. Just as Presidents Clinton and Bush, Obama has many hundreds of traveling companions and multiple aircraft to guarantee his security and travel but taxpayers are not purview to the top-line costs. Tasselmyer said:

"NTUF does not dispute the widely-held belief that a vital component of the President's duties is to represent our nation in foreign countries. [This study] is provided in the interest of fostering rational public discussions over the transparency as well as the costs and benefits of such activity."

The updated study is supported with 19 footnotes and at least four tables comparing foreign travel by various presidents, e.g., during first term, in fifth year, and days spent abroad.

Tasselmyer concludes the updated study by saying:

"The President has the important responsibility of representing the nation on a global scale, as well as maintaining key diplomatic relationships with other world leaders. For many reasons, foreign travel is a necessary, albeit expensive, part of the job. Given that reality, and that official travel is funded with public dollars, taxpayers should be offered greater accountability regarding the full cost of these trips, especially as modern Presidents take more of them."

Kudos to the NTUF and Michael Tasselmyer for a most informative study of presidential travel to foreign countries.

June 26, 2013

Another Month, Another Porker

Porker of the Month is a dubious honor given to lawmakers, government officials, and political candidates who have shown a blatant disregard for the interests of taxpayers.

Earlier today, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) announced its latest recipient, naming:

"Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) its June Porker of the Month for using immigration legislation to solidify federal tourism subsidies in his home state.  Sen. Heller appears to have held out for what CAGW has dubbed the “Sin City Sweetener,” an alteration to the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act that will extend matching government funds for “Brand USA” indefinitely.  The bill’s revision is worth millions in taxpayer-funded tourism promotion for Nevada."

Here is how CAGW justified awarding Sen. Heller as its latest Porker of the Month:

"Brand USA is an independent group that receives matching funds of up to $100 million from the federal government for every dollar it raises from the private sector.  Unsurprisingly, Sen. Heller has every reason to believe that its continued existence will reap big benefits for his pals running casinos and hotels in Nevada.  According to Breitbart.com, when the law establishing the Corporation for Travel Promotion (since renamed Brand USA) was first created under the Travel Promotion Act of 2009, the blog on Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) website proudly explained that the Travel Promotion Act would “greatly benefit Nevada because we have so many wonderful tourist attractions.”  Several hotels and casinos expressed their gratitude by thanking Sen. Reid on their marquees along the Las Vegas strip.

"Unlike the floor amendments to the immigration bill, which are currently being considered by Congress, Sen. Heller managed to embed his home state’s kickbacks into the language of the committee’s marked-up bill before it reached the floor.  In the original draft of the bill, Brand USA was slated to receive funding “for each of fiscal years 2012 through 2015.”  In the bill’s latest go-round, that language had been altered to read “for each fiscal year after 2012.”  Sen. Heller was not a co-sponsor of the original immigration bill, but he is now.

"Nor is Sen. Heller’s tourism ploy the only lunge he has made for extra federal cash in the run-up to a vote on the immigration bill.  In what is plainly an effort to secure additional federal law enforcement money for his state, Sen. Heller introduced amendment #1227 to include a representative from Nevada on the Southern Border Security Commission, despite the fact that Nevada is not a border state.  While Sen. Heller is hardly the first lawmaker to stretch geographic truth – Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) once attempted to get research money for Vermont by declaring Lake Champlain a “Great Lake” – his ambitions are no less parochial.

“There is absolutely no reason that private businesses should have their marketing campaigns subsidized by the federal government,” said CAGW President Tom Schatz.  “Worse, there is no transparency in how Brand USA determines which companies are allowed to have their contributions matched under the $100 million cap, although it seems clear that Sen. Heller knows where some of it will go.  Las Vegas is the most famous gambling and tourist attraction in the world’s richest nation.  The city can pay for its own promotions.” (links embedded in the original)

Kudus to Citizens Against Government Waste for its continuing it fight against government waste.

June 25, 2013

Only in Arlington County: Spending to Save Money

We growled about about Arlington County's $1 million "Super Stop" bus stops on March 29, 2013. We even included a picture so that every Arlington taxpayer can see what a $1 million "Super Stop" bus stop looks like.

Now we learn the county will let three contracts to "hire (a) independent contractor to review $1 million bus stop," according to Patricia Sullivan in today's Washington Post. Here's how Sullivan begins her report:

"Arlington County officials said Monday that they will hire an independent contractor to review the cost and design of the $1 million bus stop that opened in March along Columbia Pike and the plans for 23 additional bus-and-streetcar shelters.

"County Manager Barbara Donnellan said in April that the county and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority would review the cost and design after the cost of the bus stop became the focus of complaints and ridicule. On Monday, however, Donnellan issued a statement that said the county would use “independent, third-parties to ensure unbiased reporting and focus.” Officials could not immediately say how much the review would cost.

"The three-month-old shelter is called a “super-stop” because it can accommodate a proposed streetcar as well as buses.

"The county had previously said $575,000 of the “super stop” price was for construction and fabrication, while $440,000 was the cost of management and inspections. Arlington designed the stop, which was built to serve both buses and a future streetcar, while WMATA built it.

"But it wasn’t just the cost of the bus shelter that upset residents. It took 18 months to build, and riders have said the slanted glass roof does not keep rain and snow off them while they wait for the bus . . . ." (embedded links in the original)

But three separate reviews. apparently by three separate consultants? In today's Arlington Sun Gazette, Scott McCaffrey writes:

"County officials announced June 24 they were hiring consultants to conduct three reviews – one on transit riders’ views, one on design and one on cost issues – before moving forward with the remaining 23 high-tech transit stops in the corridor. Those stops are designed to serve bus riders today and a combination of bus and streetcar riders down the road.

< . . . >

"The SuperStops project is a joint effort between Arlington officials and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, but the cost of the review will be paid through county dollars.

"Emanuel said county staff had conducted its own in-house dissection of the situation, but hiring consultants would “give us another perspective.”

“We’re committed to doing an independent, third-party review,” he said."

We have all these highly-paid county employees, but, apparently, neither they, nor the County Board masterminds can make a decision on how to construct 23 functional, yet moderately-priced, bus stops. Sheesh!

You can read the county's press release here.

June 24, 2013

Are Federal Regulations Making You Poorer?

A year ago, on May 21, 2012, we growled about the high cost of federal regulations upon the release of the Competitive Enterprise Institute's 2012 edition of Ten Thousand Commandments, their “annual snapshot of the Federal regulatory state."

The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) pointed out the regulatory costs could be "equivalent to over 48% the level of federal spending itself." That would be roughly $1.7 trillion (48% of $3.6 trillion).

Well, the cost of all the federal regulation is likely to be much, much worse. Ronald Bailey of Reason magazine reports on a study in the Journal of Economic Growth. Here's how Bailey begins his article:

"The growth of federal regulations over the past six decades has cut U.S. economic growth by an average of 2 percentage points per year, according to a new study in the Journal of Economic Growth. As a result, the average American household receives about $277,000 less annually than it would have gotten in the absence of six decades of accumulated regulations—a median household income of $330,000 instead of the $53,000 we get now. (emphasis added)

"The researchers, economists John Dawson of Appalachian State University and John Seater of North Carolina State, constructed an index of federal regulations by tracking the growth in the number of pages in the Code of Federal Regulations since 1949. The number of pages, they note, has increased six-fold from 19,335 in 1949 to 134,261 in 2005. (As of 2011, the number of pages had risen to 169,301.) They devise a pretty standard endogenous growth theory model and then insert their regulatory burden index to calculate how federal regulations have affected economic growth. (Sometimes deregulation extends rather than shortens the number of pages in the register; they adjust their figures to take this into account.)" (links embedded in the original)

CEI summarizes their new, 2013 edition of Ten Thousand Commandments this way:

"The scope of federal government spending and deficits is sobering. Yet the government’s reach extends well beyond the taxes Washington collects and its deficit spending and borrowing. Federal environmental, safety and health, and economic regulations cost hundreds of billions—perhaps trillions—of dollars every year over and above the costs of the official federal outlays that dominate the policy debate."

At this point, you are probably wondering why, as Bailey asks, "if the effects of regulation are so deleterious to economic growth and the prosperity of citizens, why do countries enact so much of it" Here's how Bailey explains it:

"Dawson and Seater's paper mentions three theories: Arthur Pigou's notion that governments enact regulations to improve social welfare by correcting market failures, George Stigler's more cynical view that industries capture regulatory agencies in order exclude competitors and increase their profits, and Fred McChesney's argument that regulations are chiefly aimed at benefiting politicians and regulators. I asked if their results fit most closely with McChesney's. Dawson replied: "This could be the conclusion that one reaches based on our empirical results (since they show a net cost of regulation over time), but again we did not set out to prove or disprove any particular theory." Seater added that their research does not address the question of "why society allows excessive regulation....It's an important [issue], but it is one for the public choice people to study, not for macroeconomists like me and my coauthor."

"One such public choice theorist, Mancur Olson, argued in The Rise and Decline of Nations (1982) that economic stagnation and even decline set in when powerful special-interest lobbies—crony capitalists if you will—capture a country's regulatory system and use it to block competitors, making the economy ever less efficient. The growing burden of regulation could some day turn economic growth negative, but in a note Dawson and Seater suggest that in the long run that will "not be tolerated by society." Let's hope that they are right." (again, links in the original)

Kudos to Ronald Bailey for bringing the Dawson and Seater study to our attention. As the title of his article says, "federal regulations have made you 75 percent poorer." Indeed!

June 23, 2013

More of Your Tax Dollars NOT at Work?

USA Today's Paul Singer reported last week that taxpayers are paying millions of dollars for federal government workers student loan repayments. According to Singer, "The perk was designed to make government jobs more appealing to those who might earn more in the private sector. But a debate is brewing about whether it's due for the chopping block."

The lede in Singer's detailed story is that:

"Congress may let student loan interest rates double July 1, but some federal workers and congressional staff likely are protected from the impact by a taxpayer-funded benefit that provided more than $20 million last year for them to pay down their college debts.

"Congress created the benefit more than 10 years ago to make government jobs more appealing to job candidates who could get higher-paying jobs in the private sector. Meanwhile, a 2007 law that cut student loan interest rates in half will expire July 1, and Congress has been unable to reach a deal to extend it.

"A review of congressional spending records by USA TODAY and the non-profit Sunlight Foundation, a watchdog group, showed that the House of Representatives spent almost $15 million last year to pay down staffers' student loans, while the Senate spent almost $6 million. Members of Congress are not eligible for the program.

"Federal agencies — which provide more detailed information — spent about $72 million in 2011, the last year for which data are available, to pay down student loans for 10,134 federal workers"

As Elizabeth Cowan concluded a story at The American Thinker yesterday about another abuse of American taxpayers, "it appears that the American taxpayer truly doesn't stand a chance!"


June 22, 2013

Your Tax Dollars at Work? Not!

According to a CNS News report last week, the Internal Revenue Service sent almost 24,000 tax refunds worth over $46 million to "unauthorized" alien workers who "used the same address in Atlanta, Ga., in 2011." CNS News cited a report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. If that's not bad enough, the IRS also sent over 17,000 tax refunds, worth over $6 million, to three other Atlanta addresses.

CNS News reported there were "(o)ther locations on the IG's Top Ten list for singular addresses that were theoretically used simultaneously by thousands of unauthorized alien workers." For example, one address in Oxnard, Calif., where the IRS sent over 2,500 refunds worth $10.4 million, and one address in Raleigh, NC, receiving over 2,400 refunds worth $7.3 million.

TIGTA's report highlights explains how this all started:

"In Calendar Year 1996, the IRS created the Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) so that individuals who are not eligible to obtain Social Security Numbers could obtain an identification number for tax purposes. However, IRS management has not established adequate internal controls to detect and prevent the assignment of an ITIN to individuals submitting questionable applications. A lack of adequate controls over the processing of ITIN applications can result in the improper assignment of ITINs to individuals who have not substantiated their identity or foreign status, which can result in fraudulent tax returns . . . ."

In explaining why they performed the audit, TIGTA's report said the "audit was initiated because TIGTA received IRS employee complaints referred from members of Congress alleging that IRS management responsible for overseeing the ITIN operation was encouraging employees to assign ITINs to applicants when the ITIN application was fraudulent."

Kudos to the IRS employees who made to the complaint to members of Congress.

UPDATE (6/23/13) At American Thinker, Silvio Canto writes:

"Wonder what the neighborhood mail man said about that?  Did he notice a heavier bag or a stuffed mail box?  Did he bring it to the attention of his supervisor?  What did the IRS mail room do when thousands of "return to sender" letters came from the same address?"

June 21, 2013

A Thought on Fairness and Taxation

"To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it."

~ Thomas Jefferson, letter to Joseph Milligan — 1816

HT Founder's Quote Database, The Patriot Post

June 20, 2013

A Thought on Climbing Out From Poverty

"Here’s Williams’ roadmap out of poverty: Complete high school; get a job, any kind of a job; get married before having children; and be a law-abiding citizen. Among both black and white Americans so described, the poverty rate is in the single digits."

~ Walter E. Williams

HT John Hawkins' List of 20 Greatest Quotes from Walter Williams

June 19, 2013

Thoughts About Frederick Douglass

Michael Tanner, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, has a column today at National Review Online -- writing about a monument being dedicated today in the Capitol Rotunda to Frederick Douglass (for more, see Wikipedia). According to Tanner, "it is hard to think of a man more deserving of the honor."

According to Michael Tanner:

"Douglass understood that the proper role of government was to protect individual rights and guarantee equality before the law, not to dispense favors to this group or that. For example, in his famous April 1865 speech, “What the Black Man Wants,” Douglass declared, “The American people have always been anxious to know what they shall do with us. . . . I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! If the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone!”

"Douglass’s message was not just about African Americans. Rather, it offers a stinging rebuke to all those who believe that men and women cannot be the masters of their own fates."

It is evident that Frederick Douglass understood well what the Founding Fathers bequeathed to all of us. Tanner writes:

"He strongly believed in limited government, claiming there was no “governmental authority to pass laws, nor compel obedience to any laws that are against the natural rights and happiness of men.” (emphasis in the original)

"Moreover, Douglass understood that economic liberty was a crucial component of liberty more generally. He believed in private property and the accumulation of wealth. When a speaker from the Rhode Island Anti-Slavery Society compared “wage slavery” to “chattel slavery,” Douglass declared such sentiments to be “arrant nonsense,” and argued forcefully that “so far from being a sin to accumulate property, it is the plain duty of every man to lay up something for the future.”

"He rejected class warfare, saying, “I have no sympathy for the narrow, selfish notion of economy which assumes that every crumb of bread which goes into the mouth of one class is so much taken from the mouths of another class.” And while acknowledging the imperfections of capitalism in practice, he nonetheless saw it as the best engine for both individual betterment and economic progress.

"As for the redistribution of wealth, Douglass warned, “The non-producers now receive the larger share of what those who labor produce. The result is natural. Discontent culminates in exactly the same ratio that intelligence sustains aspiration.”

"Those are not exactly the sentiments that one would hear from Occupy Wall Street or the Obama administration. In fact, modern liberal historians have accused Douglass of having a “pro-capitalist bias,” in the words of the University of Virginia’s Waldo Martin. Yale’s David Blight criticizes Douglass for preaching “laissez-faire individualism.”

Tanner concludes by writing, "A memorial to Douglass in the Capitol is long overdue. But an even better tribute would be for a few more members of Congress to remember what this great man said, and what he stood for."

Kudus for an article that is well-worth reading, and another great read at National Review Online.

June 18, 2013

Are Government Watchdogs Being Gutted?

On Friday, former Inspector General (Corporation for National and Community Service) Gerald Walpin raises the issue in a National Review Online article of whether federal inspectors general are being intimidated by the Obama administration. He raises the question this way:

"Among all the unanswered questions about the IRS’s illegal targeting of conservative organizations, one is most crucial: Who ordered this extreme scrutiny?

"Amazingly, IRS inspector general J. Russell George, responsible for the investigation asking those questions about the IRS, has testified that he did not obtain that information.

"Details of that testimony are interesting . . . ."

After further explanation, Walpin concludes:

"Similar questions have been raised about other IGs who somehow have been discarded. Amtrak IG Fred Weiderhold, Treasury special IG Neil Barofsky, and International Trade Commission IG Judith Gwynn all left their positions after disputes that weren’t appreciated by the administration, giving more reason for others to go easy with the administration. Further, the president has significantly failed to fill IG vacancies in important agencies (State, Interior, Labor, Homeland Security, and USAID) – well-documented by former IG Joseph Schmitz — demeaning the importance of the IG position.

"This administration’s treatment of IGs is not conducive to active, independent, and objective inspectors general, and explains at least in part why key questions about the IRS still have not been asked or investigated."

Growls' readers are encouraged to read Mr. Walpin's entire article because it contains the full explanation behind his charge.

There's more, however. Also last Friday, Newsmax's Paul Scicchitano reports on an interview with former DoD inspector general Joseph Schmitz. Here is how Scicchitano begins:

"A former Defense Department inspector general is calling on Congress to step in and fill the void left by President Barack Obama's failure to appoint watchdogs over key agencies, saying the president has gutted the "heart and soul" of a longstanding law mandating the appointments.

"In an exclusive interview with Newsmax after he addressed Capitol Hill aides on Friday, Joseph Schmitz described the president's failure to appoint Senate-confirmed inspectors general in six of the largest federal agencies responsible for billions of dollars in taxpayer money as a "scandalous" attempt to "flout" congressional oversight.

"Schmitz is calling on one of two congressional committees with responsibility for the Inspector General Act of 1978 -- either the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, or the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee -- to appoint someone in each agency on a temporary basis where the president failed to nominate a Senate-confirmed inspector general.

"You have six major federal agencies, four in the national security space, that simply have not had any confirmed IG for years," said Schmitz, a Newsmax contributor. "And there don't seem to be any prospects for this president even nominating anybody for these positions."

"The State Department, for example, has not had a Senate-confirmed inspector general since Jan. 16, 2008, according to Schmitz."

An article posted at U.S. News & World Report by David Brodwin reports on why truly independent inspectors general are needed at every government agency. Here's the background to Brodwin's reporting:

"Last week, a newly-released government report revealed widespread dysfunction and special dealing in the energy market. The study, completed by the Inspector General's Office, examined how the Bureau of Land Management negotiates leases of federal lands containing coal deposits. This study plus earlier investigations found that the Bureau fails to collect the fair market value of the coal extracted. We, the taxpayers, own these public lands and the coal on them. We are being shortchanged.

"The practices uncovered in the report are an affront to anyone who believes in a market economy. Vigorous competition is essential for a robust economy. It promotes innovation and brings discipline to inefficient producers. Unfortunately, the market for coal lands is not competitive; it has been deliberately distorted to protect and subsidize incumbents. Ironically, the business interests that take greatest advantage of federal favors are often the ones that protest most strongly against government investment in alternative energy."

And finally, Brodwin explains just "how bad a deal" the "current arrangement" really is:

"By law, leases for coal on federal land are supposed to reflect the fair market value of the coal on hand. But, according to a report last year by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, the leases have fallen short of market value by $29 billion over a 30 year period, or roughly $1 billion per year.

"This underpricing is massive relative to the size of the deals. It amounts to a 30 percent to 50 percent discount below a fair and reasonable price. The lost value is enough to hire more than 20,000 elementary school teachers. (Most recent media coverage focused on the wrong number: a figure of $62 million, which represents just a small part of the problem of undervalued leases.)"

Kudos to former IG Walpin for raising an important question in regards to the current IRS scandal.

June 17, 2013

A Thought on Bureaucrats

In wrapping-up a highly informative, but relatively short, history of the federal bureaucracy, Jay Cost writes at The Weekly Standard website:

"The Declaration of Independence vested all sovereign power in the people alone, while the Constitution established a government to manage that power in a republican fashion. While the people still swear fealty to the founding ideals, they have not put much thought recently into the problems the Founders tackled. As society has become more complex, the government has, too; Americans have not reexamined the structure of government, in an age in which it accounts for more than 20 percent of the national economy, to ensure it still reflects the republican spirit. In fact, there has not been a serious public discussion about the organization of the bureaucracy since the 1880s, even as it has doubled in size many times over. And so today, it is a vast enterprise of millions of workers, with precious little oversight from the people’s elected representatives.

"It’s no wonder that some agency somewhere in the bureaucracy could have worked so perniciously for so long against the people’s interests. Perhaps the only surprise is that we ever noticed the malfeasance at the IRS at all. Were it not for the over-the-top questioning from the IRS—asking one group to pledge not to protest abortion clinics, another to reveal what books their members were reading, another to say what they’re praying about—all this might still be hidden in the shadows, unbeknownst to an overburdened Congress and an incurious media. And it remains to be seen what will be done about it, whether the bureaucracy, now under attack, has the resources and wherewithal to block oversight and prevent reform."

Read the entire article if you have the time. Kudos to Jay Cost.

June 16, 2013

A Thought on Limited Government

"Today, Congress exercises police powers never granted by the Constitution. Conservatives who favor federal “wars” on drugs, gambling and other behaviors should understand the damage they have done to the constitutional underpinnings of limited government."

~ George Will

HT Conclusion of his June 16, 2013 Column in The Washington Post

June 15, 2013

On The Road to Economic Non-competitiveness?

The Arlington County Board made "energy" a part of the county's comprehensive plan at its monthly board meeting today (item 27 of the June 15, 2013 Board agenda; note there is a Manager's supplemental report, too). Below are the comments made to the Board by Tim Wise, president of the Arlington County Taxpayers Association:

"Good morning, Board members. My name is Timothy Wise, and I am president of the Arlington County Taxpayers Association --- www.acta.us.

"The Community Energy Plan (CEP) -- this Board’s latest contribution to America’s stock pile of New York City Mayor NannyBloomberg Awards.

"The task force that developed the plan was given the long-term, mid-term, and short-term goals of reducing greenhouse gases, which means their charge was primarily environmental religion. In case you are not aware, there has been virtually no global warming going on 17 years now, and the computer models which predict global warming are being proved wrong almost daily.

"The Manager’s report mentions a desire to “achieve ambitious economic competitiveness” and “energy security.” But what is in the news? The county just lost the National Science Foundation because your policies made this county economically uncompetitive.  And Thursday’s news is the county is bracing for loss of the Fish and Wildlife agency, apparently because their space is too expensive.

"So while your policies add to the cost of commercial real estate, your neighbors are outcompeting you economically. Instead, you implement high-cost vanity projects such as the Columbia Pike trolley and a $100 million swimming pool in a largely unaccessible location.

"Finally, a few words about energy security. In an op-ed yesterday, Senator Tom Coburn pointed out that except for the obstruction by environmental ideologues, America’s energy potential “could turn North America into another Middle East in the next two decades.”

"So while the five of you pretend to be “forward-thinking” and play your environmental ideology games, economic competitiveness marches forward. Unfortunately, Arlington taxpayers will pay the price."

The county government has been working on the CEP for more than three years, according to the press release, which probably means that taxpayers are already on the hook for over a million dollars since the effort involved consultants.

Note that testimony is time-limited.

June 14, 2013

A Thought on Debt and Taxation

"The fore horse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follow that, and in its turn wretchedness and oppression."

~ Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Samuel Kerchival, 1816

HT Patriot Post

This day in history, according to FactMonster.com:

In 1775, the United States Army was founded, and in 1777, the Continental Congress adopted the Stars and Stripes as the official flag of the U.S. And, thanks to Patrioticon.org for the use of the following graphic:

 

June 13, 2013

2013 Social Security Trust Funds Report

At the San Antonio Express-News, a Social Security Administration public affairs specialist, Oscar Garcia, explains the annual report about the Social Security trust funds this way:

"Every year, the government-appointed board of trustees releases a report on the financial outlook for the Social Security and Medicare trust funds. The 2013 trustees report was released on May 31.

"In the 2013 annual report to Congress, the trustees announced the combined trust fund reserves are still growing and will continue to do so through 2020. Beginning with 2021, the cost of the program is projected to exceed income."

He notes that you can find the complete report at the Social Security website.

Senior research fellow, Veronique de Rugy, at George Mason University's Mercatus Center in Arlington, Virginia writes that the latest reports "prompt a reexamination of the current and projected financial status of the trust funds," and includes updated charts to present "the costs, balances, and prospective program insolvency dates for Medicare and Social Security programs."

The chart below shows "the trust funds annual annual cash flows." According to Dr. de Rugy, "Since 2010, the Social Security program has been running a permanent cash-flow deficit. This means that the taxes collected for the program aren’t enough to cover the benefits paid out to retirees." Here's the chart:

Dr. de Rugy also writes:

"The dwindling trust fund determines the spending authority of the program. Without a positive balance in the trust fund, the program won’t have the authority to pay out full benefits and will be limited to what the program collects in taxes — which today means a 23 percent cut in benefits across the board.

"There was no change in the combined (retirement and disability) exhaustion dates for the Social Security trust funds when compared to the 2012 Trustees Report. The combined trust fund is projected to exhaust its reserves in 2033, but this projected year of insolvency is 20 years sooner than the date projected in 1990."

Take a minute or two, and study the other three charts in Dr. de Rugy's short report.

Finally, we learn the number of Medicare enrollees is expected to increase from 50.7 million in 2012 to 88.9 million in 2040 while the cost per enrollee is expected to climb from $11,294 in 2011 to $20,000 in 2040.

Makes you wonder what the Speaker of the House was thinking when he recently said his top priority is getting a comprehensive immigration reform bill passed instead of working to solve the nation's entitlement programs. Especially considering the size of the "entitlement problem," which according to numbers put together by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin), and reported by National Review Online range between $72 trillion and $120 trillion. Jonathan Strong, reporting for National Review Online, writes (HT Mark Levin Show):

"But according to GOP deficit projections subsequently prepared by Johnson and obtained by National Review Online, the true size of the problem is staggering, and surprised even many of the seasoned budget negotiators involved.

" . . . Try $106 trillion, the medium estimate. That’s $106,954,000,000,000. Even the lowest, extremely conservative estimate comes in at $72 trillion; the highest is over $120 trillion."

Makes you wonder just who members of Congress are working for. Themselves or the future of America.

June 12, 2013

Familiar Economic Mistakes?

In an intriguing essay, written just days before last November's election in the free market Manhattan Institute's City Journal, Jay Hallen provides a short history of Argentina, and wonders if America is making the same economic mistakes as Argentina did under Peron. For readers unable to partake of the entire essay, which is less than three pages in length, here are the introductory, a middle, and the concluding paragraphs:

"The opening decade of the twenty-first century has seen a slow but distinct decline in American capitalism. Economic policy has become increasingly overrun by central planning, redistribution, and government picking of industrial winners and losers. Beginning about half a century ago, those elements helped sink another free-market powerhouse—Argentina. While Barack Obama is no Juan Perón, the president’s misguided policies threaten to squander our economic advantages, just as Perón’s did in Argentina.

< . . . >

"Argentina’s fall from grace remains unprecedented in modern history. It was driven by the hubris of a government that took its country’s affluence for granted and thought it could manage the economy better than the private sector could. And it shows what America could look like in 30 years. The size of the U.S. government has accelerated measurably under the Bush and Obama administrations. From 1980 to 2000, government spending held steady between 30 percent and 35 percent of GDP, but it jumped to 37 percent after Bush’s second term and is now at 41 percent as Obama’s current term comes to a close. As government grows, so do annual budget deficits, themselves a brash assumption that economic growth will continue indefinitely. Interest rates today are at rock bottom, penalizing those who would save or invest conservatively. The Fed’s current expansionary policies may devalue the dollar by as much as 33 percent over the next 20 years.

< . . .>

"The Argentine case study shows that even wealthy New World countries, blessed with natural resources and a diligent immigrant workforce, can bring ruin on themselves through economic mismanagement. To restore growth and escape economic stagnation, the United States must return to its free-market roots, rather than travel farther down the path of intervention, dependency, and decline."

Sure makes you want to read the entire essay, doesn't it. And then makes you wonder just where America is headed.

HT Potemkin.

June 10, 2013

A Thought on Freedom

"Free people never trust their government with power, regardless of who’s in power. Free people instinctively reject the idea that just because something’s legal, it’s a good idea for the government to do it. And while free people are willing to make considered, wise tradeoffs for security, they believe that  freedom isn’t risk-free.

"What else are we willing to forfeit because the encroachment is, or may be, lawful and supported by the elites?"

~ Peter Kirsanow

HT His "Losing America" Column at National Review Online

June 09, 2013

A Thought on Economic Freedom and Free Markets

"Why is it that most of the citizens of the United States are very rich by international standards, but people in Cuba, Zimbabwe, and North Korea are materially very poor? There are lots of explanations but one of the most obvious answers is the free enterprise system. It turns out that the one formula for advancing human welfare, standing head and shoulders above the rest -- including all the "isms": communism, socialism, progressivism, Keynesianism, fascism -- is economic freedom. This is the magic formula that allows a nation's citizens to advance up the income scale. It is, as Nobel prize economist James Buchanan has put it, "The goose that lays the golden eggs."

~ Stephen Moore, page 53, "Who's the Fairest of Them All?"

HT Barnes & Noble

June 08, 2013

Arlington Loses Bid for National Science Foundation

"Alexandria Wins, Arlington Loses Battle for National Science Foundation" reads the headline in today's online Arlington Sun Gazette. Here's the lede from the Sun Gazette's story by Scott McCaffrey:

"Arlington County government officials reacted angrily to the news that the General Services Administration has picked Alexandria as the new home of the National Science Foundation - which for years has been located in Ballston - and suggested that, from their perspective, the battle may not be over.

"Expressing “disappointment” in a statement Friday, county officials were pointedly critical both of the decision, and the decision-making process.

“We do not believe such a move would be in the best interests of the NSF, the federal government or the American taxpayer,” County Manager Barbara Donnellan said. ”Moving the NSF out of Arlington would run counter to the federal government’s investments over the last two decades in Arlington’s ‘scientific center of excellence’ that serves our defense and national security interests so well.”

"The GSA on Friday said it would move National Science Foundation headquarters staff to a complex in the Hoffman Town Center complex, across from the Eisenhower Avenue Metro station and near the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which previously had relocated from Arlington."

McCaffrey points out that Alesandria created "a redevelopment zone that will result in lower real estate tax rates for the parcel, a savings of $23 million to the developer that will be passed along to the federal government over the life of the lease." McCaffrey adds, "The tax break is considered reasonable by Alexandria officials, given the “extraordinary economic benefit” of the relocation, city officials said in a statement."

The county's press release on losing the NSF headquarters to Alexandria is here.

A question for the elected officials on Capitol Hill: will the federal government now rely on state and local governments to help finance the federal behemoth? And speaking of "bids" makes you wonder what the businesses in Ballston (i.e., the Ballston Business Improvement District) expected from the extra 4 1/2 cents of real estate taxes they have been paying the past three years. Perhaps the Arlington County Board should be creating "redevelopment zones" like Alexandria rather than raising taxes on commercial property though such things as "business improvement districts."

June 07, 2013

A Thought on Organizing a Society and Economy

"We have basically only two available choices for organizing a society and economy -- socialism or the market. The difference between those two systems is primarily a matter of where power and control will be vested. Will control be centralized or decentralized?

"The benefits of organizing an economy and society around a voluntary-exchange market system are numerous. The most obvious is that the market is the most powerful wealth-producing force that ever existed.

"Besides the vast difference in terms of wealth creation, a market economy and socialism differ in regard to who has power and whether or not power is concentrated. A voluntary exchange economy is the greatest limiter of concentrated power ever conceived. Socialism concentrates power, the market disperses it.

"When you disperse power, you defang it. When you divide power into millions of pieces you remove most of its ability to do major and lasting damage. The greater the concentration of power, the greater the abuse. North Korea, Zimbabwe, and Cuba are extreme examples of that relationship.

"Private businesses have strict limitations on their power mainly for two reasons -- (1) they interact with people through voluntary exchange, and (2) they have competitors. The existence of competitors means that their customers have alternatives. When a privately-owned business abuses any of its customers it pays a price in terms of lost sales.

"Unlike the government, there is almost nothing that a private company can actually force you to do. You interact with Exxon or Microsoft by way of voluntary exchange. Each of them must entice you away from the many ways you can spend your money by offering something that has value to you. That something has to be competitively priced."

~ Ron Ross

HT His June 6, 2013 Column on the Larger Lessons of the IRS Scandal at American Thinker

June 06, 2013

Happy Birthday, Federal Gasoline Tax

The Tax Foundation reminds us at their Tax Policy Blog that the federal gasoline tax celebrates its 81st birthday today. The news, posted by Philip Hammersley, begins this way:

"7 in 10 Americans say that the high price of gasoline causes financial hardship for their family. The painful routine of filling up the gas tank is often all too familiar for many Americans. It is becoming more apparent as prices top $4 a gallon that the pain at the pump will only get worse. As the reality of climbing gas prices sinks in, we pause to recognize the birthday of the federal gasoline tax.

"The gasoline tax was first signed into law 81 years ago today by President Herbert Hoover on June 6, 1932. It was designed to combat growing budget deficits. The economic turmoil brought on by the Great Depression had sharply reduced federal revenue while spending on relief and public works programs dramatically increased. The 72nd Congress examined many options for revenue-generation and ultimately passed legislation creating a federal gasoline excise tax at a rate of 1 cent per gallon (the equivalent of about 17 cents per gallon today).

:The gas tax has significantly changed over the past 81 years. One year after its creation the IRS reported that it generated $125 million tax dollars, nearly 8 percent of all federal revenue. Since then, the gasoline tax has increased ten times (most recently in 1993) to its current rate of 18.4 cents per gallon. Federal gasoline and diesel taxes generate about $30 billion per year"

Not only do we have President Hoover to thank for the beginning of the Great Depression, now we can thank him for the federal gasoline tax.

And kudos to the Tax Foundation for their help in keeping us informed about taxes.

June 05, 2013

A Thought on a Governing Philosophy

"The Constitution is the guide which I never will abandon."

~ George Washington

HT Op-Ed, Ralph Reiland, Washington Times

June 04, 2013

No Surprise. Arlington's Richmond Delegation Are Liberals

Today's Arlington Sun Gazette reports, "By one standard, at least, three members of the Arlington legislative delegation veered deeper to the left from 2012 to 2013, while three others were more to the right in their voting patterns." The Sun Gazette adds, "The scorecard includes individual votes on issues ranging from taxation and gun control to property rights and health care."

The news report then explains:

"That’s the conclusion of the American Conservative Union, which is out with its ranking of the 140 members of the General Assembly, based on votes cast during the 46-day legislative session that took place in January and February."

Here's how the newspaper describes how Arlington County's legislators in the Virginia General Assembly achieved their very liberal rankings:

". . . All seven members of the Arlington delegation scored on the liberal side of the ranking. On a 0-to-100 scale, with higher meaning more conservative, the highest score among Arlington legislators was received by new Del. Rob Krupicka (D-45th), who garnered an “18” based on votes cast during the session.

"Among other local members of the House of Delegates, Bob Brink (D-48th) received a “9” (down from “13” a year before), with Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th) scoring “5” (from “4) and Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49th) taking home a “14” (up from “4”).

"On the Senate side, Adam Ebbin (D-30th) scored a “10” (up from “5”) while Barbara Favola saw the reverse – her “10” of 2012 became a “5” in 2013. State Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd) garnered what probably would represent bragging rights among the local delegation, scoring “0” for 2013 after coming close with a “5” in 2012."

A score of 100 earned some legislators, but not one of Arlington's, the ACU's "Defenders of Liberty" award while Senator Howell's score of "0" earned her the designation of "True Liberal of the Old Dominion" although it wouldn't surprise us to hear that every one of Arlington's Richmond delegation was envious of that designation.

Full details of the American Conservative Union ratings for Virgina's 40 senators and 100 delegates is available here.

June 03, 2013

Explaining "Gross Tax Mismanagement: 'Complexity'"

Townhall.com provides a great "cut" from today's House Appropriations Committee hearing on the Internal Revenue Service. Here is how Townhall describes the 3 min + 19 seconds clip:

"It was revealed during the House Appropriations Committee hearing on Monday that the IRS over-payed tax credit refunds by 20%. Congressmen pointed out that the overpayment totaled to more than the IRS' total budget. Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel explained that a major component of the gross mismanagement is the "complexity of the code and the complexity of the eligibility criteria."

You can watch the Townhall clip here. You can watch all two hours + 36 minutes of the committee hearing from the Appropriations Committee's webpage.

For more news on today's hearings:

  • At Real Clear Politics, Al Fram writes that IRS woes will "grow with report of conference spending." For example, at one conference a speaker received $17,000 for speaking about "leadership through art."
  • Washington Post has 46 second video posted of IRS commissioner saying additional budget funding is not solution to IRS's problem, but then in another video, Rep. Serrano (D-New York) urges commission to "clarify his statement."
Seems the Congress needs to do some outside-the-box thinking. For example, if the tax credits are too complex, why not do away with them. Or, why not solved the IRS scandals by replacing the 78,000 pages of the IRS tax code with a flat tax or the FAIRTax? Just saying!

June 02, 2013

Rep. Jim Moran, Virginia's 2nd Biggest Spender

Our friends at the National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF), and specifically Demian Braidy, Director of Research, have completed their annual BillTally report for the 112th Congress, which met "from January 3, 2011 until January 3, 2013, according to Wikipedia.

Here's how they describe the report in the policy paper (No. 171, May 28, 2013; .pdf version; press release):

"This report summarizes data from NTUF’s BillTally accounting software, which studies the cost or savings of all legislation introduced in the 112th Congress that affects federal spending by at least $1 million. Agenda totals for individual lawmakers were developed by cross-indexing their sponsorship and cosponsorship records with cost estimates for 1,076 House bills and 712 Senate bills under BillTally accounting rules that prevent the double-counting of overlapping proposals.[1] Each Congressional office was given the opportunity to review all sponsorship and cost data in this report confidentially prior to publication. Appendix A lists all Members alphabetically, Appendix B lists Members by state delegation, and Appendix C provides a thorough explanation of the BillTally methodology.[2]."

The BillTally report identifies 10 separate "key findings." Here are just the first four:

  • The 112th Congress saw a sharp rise in the number of bills to reduce federal spending, with 221 introduced in the House and 127 in the Senate. This is the highest number of spending-cut bills NTUF has recorded since the 105th Congress (1997-1998) when there were 265.
  • Legislation to boost spending, while still more numerous, is being introduced at a much slower pace than in the previous Congress. Representatives authored 855 increase bills – four bills for each savings bill. Senators offered 584 bills that would increase budgetary outlays, nearly five for each savings bill.  This is the first time in over a decade that the ratio of increases to cuts was not in double digits.
  • Excluding overlapping legislation, if each of the House increase bills became law, annual spending would rise by $2.2 trillion. The passage of all the House savings bills would subtract $861.1 billion, for a net rise of $1.3 trillion. This amounts to additional federal outlays of $11,402 per household. The Senate’s spending bills would add $1.4 trillion to federal outlays, saving $1.0 trillion – for a net cost of $344 billion ($2,930 per household).
  • For the first time, NTUF calculated the net cost of all non-overlapping legislation introduced in the entire Congress. NTUF identified 1,141 unique measures to increase spending between the House and Senate. If all of these proposals were enacted into law, spending would climb by nearly $2.5 trillion. Out of all of the savings bills offered by each Chamber, 198 were non-overlapping. In total, these would cut outlays by $1.2 trillion, leaving a net budgetary cost of $1.3 trillion. Therefore, enactment of this legislation all at once would boost the budget by nearly one-third.

Below are Figures 1 and 2 from the report, showing net spending agendas of Representatives and Senators over the past six Congresses:

The BillTally webpage includes a number of tools that enable readers to review whether their legislators are big spenders, plain spenders, or budget cutters. You can download information for individual legislators or for the entire state delegation. As a result, we learn the following (three biggest spenders highlighted):

  • Sen. Mark Warner (D): net budget cutter of $11.5 billion.
  • Sen. Jim Webb (D): net spending of $1.0 billion.
  • Rep. Eric Cantor (R): net budget cutter of $64.8 billion.
  • Rep. Gerald Connolly (D): net spending of $50.6 billion.
  • Rep. Randy Forbes (R): net budget cutter of $150.1 billion.
  • Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R): net budget cutter of $163.2 billion.
  • Rep. Morgan Griffith (R): net budget cutter of $73.0 billion.
  • Rep. Robert Hurt (R): net budget cutter of $63.1 billion.
  • Rep. James Moran (D): net spending of $154.1 billion.
  • Rep. Scott Rigell (R): net budget cutter of $228.0 billion.
  • Rep. Robert Scott (D): net spending of $1.23 trillion.
  • Rep. Rob Wittman (R): net budget cutter of $68.5 billion.
  • Rep. Frank Wolf (R): net spending of $1.3 billion.

In an e-mail, I learned from Demian that "Virginia's House delegation had the 29th largest average spending agenda."

Finally, Michael Tasselmyer provides some numbers for a few of the Congressional caucuses at NTU's blog, Government Bytes, last Wednesday, including the net spending agendas for the Blue Dog Democrats, the Republican Main Street Partnership, the Republican Study Committee, and the Tea Party Caucus. Here's the graphic:

Spend a few minutes researching the spending or budget cutting behavior of your legislator. Then use the links below to hold your elected representatives in Congress accountable for their legislation. If you live in Arlington County, here is the contact information for Arlington’s two Senators and Representative on Capitol Hill so you can either call them or e-mail them (Sen. Jim Webb has retired, but I've included contact information for Sen. Tim Kaine):

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -  write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Jim Moran (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

June 01, 2013

A Thought on Immigration and Western Culture

"Sociologists and psychologists can adduce all sorts of reasons for an immigrant’s contradictory behavior, whether the lethal kind of the Tsarnaevs or the more benign expression of the tens of thousands in the Rose Bowl. It is tough being a newcomer in any country, and tribal or religious affinities serve to offer familiarity and by extension pride to one who is otherwise alienated from contemporary culture.

"More practically, in the last half-century, having some identity other than white Christian made one a member of a growing “Other” that could level grievances against the surrounding culture that might result in advantages in hiring or college admission — or at least in a trendy ethnic cachet.

"What happened to create such fissures among America’s diverse tribes? At no time in our history have so many Americans been foreign born. Never have so many foreign nationals resided in America, and never have so many done so illegally. Yet at just such a critical time, in our universities and bureaucracies, the pressures to assimilate in melting-pot fashion have been replaced by salad-bowl separatism — as if the individual can pick and choose which elements of his adopted culture he will embrace, which he will reject, as one might croutons or tomatoes. But ultimately he can do that because he senses that the American government, people, press, and culture reward such opportunism and have no desire, need, or ability to defend the very inherited culture that has given them the leeway to ignore it and so attracted others from otherwise antithetical paradigms.

"That is a prescription for cultural suicide, if not by beheading or by a pressure cooker full of ball bearings, at least by making the West into something that no one would find very different from his homeland."

~ Victor Davis Hanson

HT His May 29, 2013 Essay at National Review Online

UPDATE (6/3/13): I got caught by my friend, Typo Patrol, for misspelling immigration in the title, received "a $35 ticket plus a $61 Virginia "processing fee" that isn't refunded even if you decide to fight this one in court ......."