Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Government Charges Hastert with “Crime” of Withdrawing His Own Money

More misuse of the law to target conservatives.  The next Republican administration should return the compliment

Dennis Hastert, former Speaker of the US House of Representatives, has been charged with lying to the FBI about the reason he was withdrawing money from bank accounts. Should what Hastert did be illegal, or any of the government’s business? Let’s look at the facts.

From the charges, it appears that Hastert (1) withdrew $3.5 million of his own money from banks to (2) pay an individual “to cover up past misconduct” and (3) lied to the FBI about the reason he was making the withdrawals. It appears that the past misconduct was (4) molesting a student when Hastert was a high school teacher and wrestling coach. Let’s look at each of these four things to see whether the charges are warranted.

I’m going to wait to discuss (4), but will state the obvious up front. It’s not acceptable for teachers to molest their students, and it is also against the law. I’ll discuss this at the end of the post, because Hastert is not being charged for this.

1. The $3.5 million was Hastert’s money, which should give him the right to spend it as he sees fit. Withdrawing a person’s own money from a bank should never be a crime, although it can constitute the crime of structuring, if it appears that the withdrawals might be to finance some illegal activity. But note that under structuring laws, there need be no evidence of any actual illegal activity; just a suspicious pattern of withdrawals. If someone is doing something illegal, charge them with that. While someone’s suspicious behavior might lead law enforcement officials to follow up and detect illegal activity, suspicious behavior by itself should never be illegal. Doing so puts every law-abiding citizen at risk, and the abuses of civil asset forfeiture show this. Hastert did nothing wrong when he withdrew his own money from his own bank accounts.

2. Paying money to a former student also should not be illegal. Note that Hastert is not being charged with this. I just bring it up because it is part of what Hastert did. If Hastert wanted to give money to someone, that’s between the giver and the recipient, and it is none of the government’s business. It is not, and should not be, illegal to give money to people. (I will note that it is likely that the recipient in this case should have paid income taxes on the money, but I have no indication that the IRS has shown any interest in pursuing this.)

3. Apparently, when questioned by the FBI about the withdrawals, Hastert claimed he felt the money would be safer if it was not in the bank, which the FBI says was a lie. I could twist this around to make it true: Hastert might have thought the money would be safer in the hands of the person he paid rather than languishing in the bank. But, I would argue that it is none of the government’s business anyway, because it is Hastert’s money to use as he sees fit.

My conclusion is that regardless of the actual law, none of (1), (2), or (3) should be illegal, even though (1) and (3) actually are illegal, and Hastert is being charged with violating (1) and (3). Those laws are examples of government overreach that threaten every American, innocent or not, that violate our privacy, and allow people to be penalized based on activities that look suspicious to some government employee even when no wrongdoing has occurred.

Now let’s look at (4), which should be a crime, because if the accusation is true, Hastert was violating the rights of his students. If that is the crime we believe has occurred, he should be accused and tried for that crime, not for withdrawing his money from a bank or lying to the FBI.

Assuming the accusation is true, what would be the appropriate punishment? Jail time, coupled with being labeled as a sexual predator once released? Such a punishment would be typical for the crime.

However, libertarian scholars such as my colleague Bruce Benson argue that such punishments do nothing to compensate the victims of crime, and that a libertarian legal system would require those who violate the rights of others to pay restitution to the injured parties. Then justice would be served. A prison sentence for the rights violator falls short because it does nothing to compensate the person whose rights were violated.

In this particular case, Hastert did just that. He paid the victim $3.5 million, which the victim apparently thought was fair compensation because we have heard nothing from the victim. I’m not arguing that because of those payments, justice has already been served, and it appears there may be other victims who were not compensated. I’m just saying that libertarians often argue that restitution is the appropriate way to justly settle rights violations, and Hastert paid what, apparently, his victim viewed as fair compensation.

My big issue with this case is that while almost everyone would agree that a teacher molesting a student is a repulsive criminal act, Hastert is not being charged for that crime. He’s being charged with withdrawing his own money from his own bank accounts. Our legal system allows people suspected of one crime to be charged with something else that only amounts to suspicious behavior. Everyone should be against that perversion of the law.



Public Pension Crisis Robs Future Generations

Politicians across the nation have promised public employees larger pensions while low-balling the contributions needed to fulfill those promises. Consequently, city and state governments have wracked up piles of debt that may take three decades to pay off, rather than the 15 to 20 years recommended by the Society of Actuaries. Young people will bear a huge share of the burden, even though they have had no say in the matter.

“The injustice and immorality of using Millennials as piggy banks should be apparent to all but the willfully blind,” Independent Institute Senior Fellow Lawrence J. McQuillan writes in an op-ed at Forbes. “Public pension funds should not be balanced on the backs of students or younger Americans.”

How should the crisis be handled? According to McQuillan, it could be solved by adopting just a few reforms: (1) Public pension plans should be made financially transparent and should be required to achieve full annual funding without issuing “pension obligation bonds”; (2) plans should be required to pay off unfunded liabilities in 15 to 20 years; (3) state and local governments should be given the flexibility to switch to a 401(k)-type defined contribution plan; and (4) voter approval should be required for any changes that would result in greater pension obligations. Together these reforms would, McQuillan writes, “save future generations from paying for promises they did not make.”



Jeb Bush and Medicaid Reform

Despite his reputation as a “moderate,” 2016 presidential hopeful Jeb Bush pushed for bold reform in education and healthcare during his years as governor of Florida. Bush’s Medicaid reform pilot project merits particular attention as lawmakers consider a new round of healthcare reform. According to Independent Senior Fellow John C. Goodman, several indicators suggest that Bush’s program, which was expanded from two counties to five under Governor Rick Scott, was a success.

Goodman bases his conclusions on a study by two University of Arizona researchers, Michael Bond and Emily Patch, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Applied Business and Economics. Bond and Patch found that the pilot program, which gave private health plans flexibility in setting the benefits available to low-income patients enrolled the program, was associated with lower cost growth, improved access to care, and better health outcomes. From 2006 to 2009, for example, Medicaid costs per capita rose much less in the counties that participated in the pilot program than in the Florida counties with regular Medicaid. In addition, patients enjoyed greater access to dermatological care, neurological care, and orthopedic care.

Most important of all, however, was that patient outcomes were better for those in the pilot program compared to those in regular Medicaid. A lesson to draw from all of this, according to Goodman, is that Medicaid plans administered by private companies have significant and underappreciated potential to offer low-income and disabled people better care, and with less burden to taxpayers. It’s a lesson that more politicians should take to heart.



Carly Fiorina: No Citizenship 'If You Have Come Here Illegally and Stayed Here Illegally'M

When it comes to immigration, "Everyone talks about comprehensive solutions, but nobody starts with the basics," Republican presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Monday.

"My own view is, if you have come here illegally and stayed here illegally, that you don't get a pass to citizenship."

Fiorina's view differs from that of Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, all of whom advocate a more "comprehensive" approach, including eventual, earned legal status for illegal immigrants.

Fiorina did not rule out eventual legal status, but said it would be a long time coming:

"Well, I think legal status is a possibility for sure. I think their children maybe can become citizens. But my own view is, it isn't fair to say to people who have played by the rules -- and it takes a long time to play by the rules -- that, you know, it just doesn't matter."

She said the legal immigration system has been broken for 25 years and also needs fixing.



HUD's 'Housing Equality' Thud

Barack Obama’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is set to release a rule aimed at fostering “diversity” in wealthy neighborhoods around the country. “HUD is working with communities across the country to fulfill the promise of equal opportunity for all,” an agency spokeswoman said. “The proposed policy seeks to break down barriers to access to opportunity in communities supported by HUD funds.”

This diversity scheme has shades of the last time Democrats attempted to reconfigure banking to favor unqualified people. Promoters of the policy are suggesting it’s fair because, if states and communities don’t want to abide by Obama’s decree, they can forgo the federal money they receive. That’s a fair argument only if the people in those states can also choose to forgo paying taxes to the federal government.

Of course, most of Obama’s supporters pay no taxes. Political analyst Marc Thiessen said it best: “We as conservatives believe and diversifying communities too. The way you do that is through economic opportunity. It’s not by building more affordable housing in affluent communities, it’s by creating economic opportunities so that more Americans can afford housing in affluent communities.

Right now the problem is that people at the bottom of the Obama economy can’t get ahead.” HUD’s rule is nothing more than an Obama charade to ramp up class warfare and appease constituents who are enslaved on poverty plantations — the direct result of generations of failed Democrat economic policies.



A war that America fought to win would be different

Burt Prelutsky

"Because Obama is so adamant about having what only he regards as a major foreign policy achievement on his resume, he is leaving Israel and the Gulf nations to swing in the breeze while he offers Iran the entire Middle East in exchange for a signature on a nuclear deal.

If he had a single ounce of red blood in his veins, Obama would have sent our military over there months ago to wipe out ISIS before they burned, beheaded or crucified any more people. Instead, Obama and his stooges defend his inaction by insisting that Americans are war-weary. I beg to differ.

What we’re sick of is engaging in wars we have no desire to win unconditionally. If an American president ever pledged himself to wipe out those in the Middle East and North Africa who target Christians for extermination, who kidnap young girls and turn them into sex slaves and who exhort their pea-brained followers in the U.S. and Britain to execute soldiers, cops and civilians, I feel reasonably confident that his approval rate would hover well above 80%."



California dreaming

As we have repeatedly noted, the stylish new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge was 10 years in the making, a whopping $5 billion over budget, and yet riddled with safety issues. We have done our best to keep up with the problems, but they keep on coming.

As Jaxon Van Derbeken notes in the San Francisco Chronicle, about one-fourth of the steel rods that anchor the bridge’s town are in sleeves “flooded with corrosive salty water,” one of them up to five feet, and this was a critical threat” that compromises the very integrity of the new span. The 120 sleeves that encase the rods are designed to prevent damage from a major earthquake, which the Bay Area has had before and will doubtless experience again. As Van Derbeken observes, “salt is known to accelerate corrosion, which attacks metal over time and has been linked to numerous disasters,” such as the ruptured oil pipeline in Santa Barbara.

CalTrans boss Malcolm Dougherty told reporters the bridge’s foundation could never be fully watertight. But the bridge’s foundation structure has “sensitivity to water getting to some components,” therefore a solution was needed. This is the same Caltrans boss who in a 2014 Sacramento hearing said “the bridge is safe” so many times that then state senator Mark DeSaulnier asked him to stop. In the two hearings he chaired, DeSaulnier heard now Caltrans bosses, pushing to complete the project, compromised public safety by ignoring problems with welds, bolts, and rods. And they gagged and banished engineers, scientists and experts who had a problem with it. One whistleblower called for a criminal investigation, but that never took place. In effect, it was the bridge to no accountability, and that should come as no surprise.

During the hearings DeSaulnier let slip that his main problem with the safety issues was that they made people adverse to taxes, which in his view were needed for new infrastructure projects. DeSaulnier is now a member of Congress and he is sure to fit right in with the tax-and-spend squad.


There is a  new  lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


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