Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Moral conservatism makes fiscal conservatism possible

Conventional political wisdom tells us that there are social conservatives and then there are fiscal conservatives. This is a canard. Though we appear determined to learn this lesson the hard way, the tenets of conservative philosophy cannot be split down the middle.

A moral, productive people are necessary to maintain a healthy society - you cannot have one without the other. They are wholly dependent upon one another, not upon government. At the end of the day, there simply is no adequate substitute for personal responsibility. Man cannot achieve as a dependent what he can achieve for himself.

Not only are the social and the fiscal inseparable, to a large extent it is social conditions that are directly driving our economic dilemma. America has been fundamentally transformed (disintegrated) by progressive fashions and trends. Within the last several decades these trends broke up the family unit, said it wasn't needed anymore. Fathers were driven away for larger welfare payments. Mom was "liberated" and sent back to work. The stigma once connected to divorce and abortion was removed. Within all these shifts, we find the deliberate weakening of morality and an absence of personal responsibility at the heart of the matter.

With our tacit consent the progressives consequently built a dependent class, a permanent underclass demanding an ever-growing safety net. Today, the plague has grown so severe that we send children to public schools during the summers just to insure they are fed.

As a result of society's supposed "enlightenment" our families are both smaller and more fractured, increasing the demand for public care of the elderly in lieu of the greater family involvement that was instilled in the society of our past. All along the way we continue to dip into a bottomless public treasury that is non-existent.

The public education racket

Then there's the damage to our public education system. Though we have thrown unprecedented sums of money at our education problems, data proves that the more we are forced to pay the less we actually get.

The nation suffers from too much extortionist college loan debt, even though not all students should be directed to higher degrees, too many students lacking basic "life skills", and the escalating costs of remedial courses required to deal with declining skills.

Many states and locales are finally dealing with the harsh reality that there's no longer enough money to go around. Though a myriad of problems contribute to driving up costs in public education the factor that no government agency or amount of tax-dollars can overcome is the utter lack of basic values a child is taught at home.

Paying for the sins of others

We all pay more for the lack of morality exercised by a few. Many retail items we consume are necessarily marked-up to cover losses from shoplifting. Similarly, insurance premiums, credit card interest rates and banking fees are higher due to irresponsible behavior. In the financial arena everything from greedy financial executives to growing trends such as bankruptcy and foreclosure cost everyone.

Progressive trends have even pressured local and federal law enforcement to abdicate its responsibilities, leading to a nation over-run with 12 million undocumented aliens. So many that we're told we could not possibly shoulder the expense of effectively dealing with the problem. This too is a moral issue because it is a breach of social contract and public trust. Worse yet, it is the attempted removal of the stigma of illegality.

Hand-in-hand with our laze-faire attitudes on immigration we have subsequently experienced increasing demands on our systems of education, health care, law enforcement and incarceration.

America has become collectively conditioned to ignore the pain, suffering and emotional scars that come with immoral behavior. While we may have learned to bear the social costs, there are growing concerns that the accompanying economic price may prove insurmountable.

The next time someone tells you they are a fiscal conservative, ask them to explain just how that line of thinking works.



Dodd-Frank 'help' hurts bank customers

"I'm from the government, and I'm here to help." Ronald Reagan called those "the nine most terrifying words in the English language" – and with good reason. Nowhere do we see good intentions go awry more regularly than in the hallowed halls of government. Case in point: bank fees. You'll likely be paying more in the coming months, if you're not already, for many ordinary transactions.

Banks are looking at how they can slap additional fees on credit cards and checking accounts, as well as ways to make more money from ATMs and debit-card purchases. Why? No, it's not old-fashioned greed. After all, these institutions are competing with each other for your business. They want to attract customers.

Unfortunately, though, they're coping with the fact that last year's much-heralded financial "reform" legislation – better known as Dodd-Frank, after its congressional champions – is dictating what they can and can't charge for certain transactions.

As part of Dodd-Frank, The Wall Street Journal recently noted, the Federal Reserve has proposed limiting what banks can charge for debit-card purchases, from an average rate of 44 cents a transaction, to seven to 12 cents – a drop of as much as 84 percent. Great, you may be saying, I'd like to pay less.

But banks can't, and won't, just kiss this revenue goodbye. The amount being reduced goes to the financial institution that issues the card, and the loss of this income may cause certain card issuers to either drop their cards or limit their availability.
That's why these institutions are looking at other ways to make up the lost funds. "We don't want to raise fees on our customers, but unfortunately, regulation is forcing us to do it," a spokeswoman for Chase bank told the Journal.

One of the stated purposes of Dodd-Frank was "to protect consumers from abusive financial services practices." Debit-card fees aren't fun, but they're hardly abusive. And even if they were, now we have government trying to "protect" us in typically inept fashion. We'll wind up paying as much as before, if not more, just at different times and for different reasons. Thanks for the "help," Uncle Sam. Government to the rescue, huh?

The problems with Dodd-Frank don't end there. The law also created a Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, which, we were told, would protect consumers from unfair practices. But the new bureau is no mere watchdog. It has broad powers to limit the financial products and services that banks can offer consumers. Yes, the government will "protect" you by limiting your access to certain financial products, even in situations where you know and understand the risks.

Making credit more expensive and harder to get is not exactly a help to consumers. But that's the practical effect of Dodd-Frank.
Worse, we won't know the full impact of the legislation for some time to come. It required nearly a dozen government agencies to write hundreds of rules, reports and studies – and, as they say, the devil's in the details.

In an effort to get some handle on the impending costs, House Republicans recently asked nine of these agencies to detail how much it will cost them to enforce Dodd-Frank. "It is our responsibility to ensure that federal agencies have the tools they need to carry out congressional mandates," House Financial Services Chairman Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., and Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, told regulators. "In addition, it is our responsibility to ensure that mandates are not overly burdensome or wasteful of taxpayer money."

Indeed it is. Here's another tip: Stop being so "helpful." Our wallets really can't take much more.



America's nonsensical tax system

Take my situation as an example. First, in an income tax system that made sense, I would be expected to pay the same percentage of my income in taxes as everyone else. That is the only fair way to operate an income tax system in a free country where everyone is supposed to be equal under the law. If the tax rate is 10 percent, then the person making $1 million would pay $100,000 and the person making $10,000 would pay $1,000. That is called fairness.

Unfortunately, our income tax system is a so-called “progressive” system where the more you make, the higher percentage you have to pay. Not very fair, but that is what we have.

My gross salary, then, puts me in the 25 percent marginal tax bracket. In a tax system that makes sense, I would be expected to pay 25 percent of my salary in taxes.

But no. The federal government decided to use the tax code to punish those who are not married. Because I am married, I actually drop into the 15 percent tax bracket. I should be expected, then, to pay 15 percent of my gross salary in taxes.

Not so fast. There are a gazillion tax deductions, exemptions and credits. Many of these have nothing to do with sound fiscal policy and exist merely for political reasons to achieve some social engineering result, which is certainly no way to run an income tax system.

After applying all the deductions for which I am eligible, I dropped into the 10 percent tax bracket. So, again, in a fair and sane system, I should be expected to pay 10 percent of my income in taxes.

Wait, now we add in the credits, which drops my tax burden to zero. While it sounds insane that someone with my salary would not owe any federal income taxes, it gets worse.

My employer, acting as a tax collector for the federal government, took $14 out of my paycheck in 2010 to cover any potential income tax I might owe. In a sane system, I would get a check from the government for $14 and we would call it even. Not so in 21st century America.

Instead of me paying the federal government a percentage of my income, the government is sending me a check not only for the $14 it took from me but for an additional amount equal to 12.04 percent of my gross pay.

Instead of me paying 25 percent in taxes, the government is paying me 12.04 percent. That is simply backward and there are probably millions of taxpayers similarly situated as I am.

Liberals want to increase taxes on the rich. That makes no sense. According to the IRS, in 2008, the top 1 percent of tax returns paid 38 percent of all federal individual income taxes, more than the bottom 95 percent, but earned only 20 percent of adjusted gross income.

Yet, a middle-class wage earner such as myself in a household near the national median for income, netted a 12.04 percent windfall.
Where is the fairness in that?

Perhaps, instead of taking more money from the rich and giving it to workers such as myself, why not stop the tax giveaway? No matter how many credits or deductions a person has, the federal government should not be returning more than it took for that year.

It is insane for the federal government to send millions of people thousands of dollars every year as part of its tax system. It is supposed to be tax collection, not a tax giveaway.

I fear for the future of any government that thinks sound fiscal policy includes borrowing $1.5 trillion every year while passing out free money to a large percentage of its citizens.




"Senior" journalist, Elizabeth Drew, has a carping article in The NY Review of Books telling us how good old sincere Obama is being persecuted by the evil GOP. Keith Burgess-Jackson takes her apart. He starts out: "Elizabeth Drew fancies herself a journalist, but she is little more than a political hack".

A reminder that most Egyptians are Muslims: "Top CBS foreign correspondent Lara Logan suffered a "brutal" sexual assault at the hands of a mob in Egypt while covering the downfall of president Hosni Mubarak, her US network says. "She and her team and their security were surrounded by a dangerous element amidst the celebration. It was a mob of more than 200 people whipped into a frenzy," CBS said in a statement. "In the crush of the mob, she was separated from her crew. "She was surrounded and suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers." [Western women are fair game to Muslim extremists]

Iranian regime suppresses Communist demonstration: "Iranian riot police fired tear gas and paintballs at protesters holding anti-government demonstrations in Tehran on Monday, websites and witnesses said, while an Iranian news agency reported that a gunshot killed a bystander. The report by the Fars news agency said a number of people were also wounded by the gunfire and blamed the outlawed former rebel group, the People's Mujahedeen of Iran"

The state never apologizes: "The federal law allowing for attorney fees limits recovery to individual and corporate defendants under a certain net worth. Congress intended the law to encourage small businessmen to challenge unfair regulatory actions. The FTC’s decision in Isely’s case effectively nullifies this. ... Leibowitz’s precedent sends a clear signal that no small businessman has any hope of winning anything more than a Pyrrhic victory against the FTC: Even a person who prevails in litigation will face financial ruin to pay their attorney fees."

A growing burden: Taxes and fees on wireless service: "Wireless users across the United States continue to face excessive and discriminatory federal, state, and local taxes and fees on their wireless bills. After several years in which taxes and fees on wireless users stabilized and even fell slightly, the trend toward higher impositions resumed between 2009 and 2010. Wireless users now face a combined federal, state, and local tax and fee burden of 16.3 percent, a rate two times higher than the average retail sales tax rate and the highest wireless rate since 2005."

Secret sex offender list: Is your kid on it?: "Other sex offender lists, as horrific and unjustified as they may be, at least wait until someone is convicted of a crime, even if the law itself is ludicrous. But this list requires no conviction, only a faceless bureaucrat who thinks their conclusion is 'reasonable.'"

High-speed pork: "Far from serving 80 percent of Americans, Obama's trains will serve only about 8 percent. High-speed rail's main market is downtown-to-downtown travel. But little more than 7 percent of Americans work in big-city downtowns, and fewer than 1 percent live there. Few aside from this fairly wealthy elite will regularly ride high-speed trains. For the few who use it, high-speed rail will substitute an expensive form of travel for much more affordable forms."


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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