Sunday, June 27, 2010

Granato needs to make Mike Lee wear this!

hat tip -- Richard Warnick & SLTrib

The GOP chose the worst possible candidate (I guess Cherilyn Eager would have been worse) and opportunity is knocking for Utah Democrats -- make Mike Lee wear this every chance you get Sam Granato!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Utah's Closed Primaries

Utah had our next Senator decided in last week in the closed Republican Primary. Many are crying foul because Utah has a 30+ year unblemished record of blindly sending GOP candidates to the Senate, therefore making the November election a coronation (for lack of a better term) rather than a real election. Critics of this argument point out that anyone can register as Republican to vote in GOP primaries and that those who complain that there voices weren't heard because of the GOP closed primaries are at fault for not registering GOP.

I'll ask the question -- why shouldn't I register GOP? Other than the fact that I have vowed never to register with a political party again, is there any harm in registering Republican just to vote in the GOP primary? From a "signed" unsolicited picture of President Bush while I was a registered Republican, I know that the Utah GOP benefits from receiving my personal information which it shares with the RNC when I register as a Republican. However, there is a bigger question for which I would like an answer:

1.) Do Utah GOP's benefit financially from each voter who declares themselves as Republicans?

If any one can answer this question, let me know. I've inquired with my county and the Lieutenant Governor's office, but I have not yet received a response.

If the answer is no, than those in favor of the closed primary are right. If you want to vote in the GOP primary, the real Utah election, than you either register GOP or shut up about it. However, if the answer is yes, than we have a really abusive system in place that either shuts voters out of the system or forces voters not only to declare alligence to a political party they may not believe in, but to monetarily support one party over another through state dollars. That is wrong!

I will never register with a political party, and I'm prepared to deal with the consequences of that decision in myopically GOP Utah. However, I think we need to ask some questions of the GOP majority (and more importantly the GOP controlled state government) especially since they have closed primary elections at the expense of all Utahns.

Streamlined Death

The governor of Utah is for a more streamlined death penalty. I suppose the specter of a 25-year death row occupant being gunned down last Friday, was a bit of an embarrassment for Herbert. The Governor is wanting to pursue limits for appeals of Death Row inmates. Here are a handful of quotes from Governor Herbert on the matter:

"25 years is just too long, there ought to be a process that’s more timely."

“It’s just too long and it becomes too much of a circus atmosphere. … And it doesn’t serve the families very well.”

“I think justice delayed is justice denied,”
To be honest, I think the governor is partially right. The death penalty has become a circus, and it is far more expensive to the system than it is worth. If we are going to embrace barbaric 19th century justice, than we should be barbarically expeditious in carrying those sentences out. Yes, the state would run the risk of killing falsely condemned individuals, but its a price the state needs to be prepared to deal with if Utah decides to "streamline" sending convicts to the eternities.

Abandoning the Death Penalty

On the other hand, maybe the governor should consider removing the death penalty all together. Information from the Death Penalty Information Center suggests that states without the death penalty have consistently lower murder rates that state that have a death penalty -- apparently impending death hasn't been as great a deterrent to murder as many people think.

Utah doesn't sentence very many individuals to die. Between 1985 and today Utah has 9 live prisoners on death row, and Utah has carried out the death sentence 6 times for a grand total of 15 death sentences in 25 years. Between 1996 and 2008, Utah averaged 54.21 murders a year. So, if Utah only hands the death sentence out in a small minority of cases and these cases end up costing the state its reputation and millions in legal fees -- why should the state continue the practice?

The answer for some may very well be the outdated notion of blood-atonement and for others it is simple vigilante-ism. Murder is an awful crime, and (usually) murderers that are granted a death sentence are guilty of an extra level of brutality against their victims. I'm sure the abrupt termination of these monster's lives provides at least momentary satisfaction for retribution for the family members of condemned murderers victims. However, is justice truly being served or is it the appetite for retribution that is being satiated? For those who cling to the blood-atonement notion, maybe it needs to be reminded (assuming the belief in blood-atonement is connected to a belief in God) that all men will be rewarded for their works in the eternities -- that includes those who use the death sentence when it is not warranted.

Personally I think we should abandon the death penalty. Although there will continue to be horrific crimes that warrant it's use (like the Sloop case) I'm don't believe the monetary and ethical costs are worth it.

For example, in Ronnie Lee Gardner's case, he was on trial for 2nd degree murder for a bar robbery and he killed again trying to escape an impending guilty conviction and a long prison term -- these all sound like 2nd degree murder to me. Combine that to the disallowed mitigating evidence of a screwed up life at his trial and we have misused the death penalty. There is no doubt that the man was a slime, but I'm pretty sure that the death penalty may not have been warranted in his case.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mike Lee is the GOP choice.

Mike Lee pulled out the W. The Tribune gives some of the credit to rural Utah and Mike Lee's work as attorney in Kane County’s lawsuit insisting it has rights to roads in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and (illegally) lobbying the Legislature on a proposal for the state to use eminent domain power to seize federal lands.

He says he will be just as alienating in the general election campaign as he has been in the primary:
“I don’t. The message is right. It just resonates with people,” he said. “It’s the right message based on truth. It’s based on a 223-year-old document that created the federal government … and not one I tailor for one audience or another.”
I suppose "constitutional expert" Mike Lee dislikes the ability to amend the 223 year old document. Which ones does he want to repeal? So far he wants to get rid of 14 and 17:

The Simpsons - An Amendment To Be

I agree with the Granato campaign:

“The answers to our nation’s toughest problems are not held exclusively by Democrats or Republicans. If we put partisanship aside, I believe we can develop common sense solutions to the important issues, including a return to fiscal responsibility, sustainable economic growth and long-term job creation. It will take every single one of us, regardless of party affiliation, to develop these sensible solutions for America’s future.”
Utahn's need to seriously look at candidates, and stop myopically voting down Republican party lines. As soon-to-be former Senator Bennett and candidate Granato suggest, we need common sense and reason in Washington rather than more partisan rancor.

A level-headed approach to immigration reform in Utah:

Sutherland Institute policy manager Derek Monson wrote a great piece regarding the Arizona immigration bill and proposals that Utah pursue a similar course. The best line from his piece is as follows:
To ensure a reality-based approach, we must view our undocumented neighbors as we view ourselves — as people, not objects. We must reject the Arizona solution which simply objectifies human beings as "criminals" that can be rounded up and shipped out in the pursuit of an unreasonable definition of the "rule of law."

Rejecting Arizona's strategy in favor of a reality-based approach will be difficult, as doing the right thing often is. It will require Utahns to check their emotions, including their frustration with the federal government's ineffective immigration system. Even more difficult, a reality-based approach will involve a lot of soul searching and critical self-reflection, which may reveal things about our thinking we may find to be unpleasant.

Hey, Mike Lee -- tell me how is the mass-deportation of 20 million people is realistic or fair for a violation you admit is as severe a crime as speeding -- a crime I'm guilty of each time I get in a car?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Today's Vote

As an independent, I didn't vote in either primary today. Did you?

Ethan Millard isn't fond of Mike Lee supporters calling for Election Day fasts on Twitter. I have to agree with him. Although the LDS Church has suggested that members use spiritual tools like prayer and fasting in determining whom will be the best candidate to elect, I don't think it is appropriate for a political campaign to openly ask for a fast. Such rhetoric alienates the non-LDS population of Utah and erroneously suggests that Mormonism and the Republican Party are (although unofficially "wink") connected.

Mike Lee has been trying to intertwine Mormonism and his candidacy. The use of "he's a true conservative" is just a small example of his campaigns manipulative strategies to connect his candidacy to Utah's predominant religion.

I'm not fond of either GOP candidate. I'm leaning towards Sam Granato irregardless of which GOP candidate wins tonight.

On the Democratic primary side, I'm pretty certain the Democrats won't be dumb enough to vote Matheson out -- doing so would be all but ensure a Morgan Philpot victory. THE Democrat Claudia Wright would lose in a landslide everywhere but SLC.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Bennett States the Obvious

In an apparent jab at his ousters, Senator Bennett told the Deseret News that the new senator will be unable bring change to Washington for quite some time:

it can take years to earn enough respect to start influencing other senators to the point of enacting policy.

Bennett also points out the new senator won't be given Bennett's powerful seat on the appropriations committee.

So take that GOP Convention delegates! Although it is sad to watch a good man desperately cling to his position of power, the choice voters are given for his replacement is worse.

Mike Lee seems more sincere and trustworthy, but some of his positions are as one commentator pointed out "horse@*&$". Tim Bridgewater has more reasonable positions (especially on immigration -- although "anchor baby" makes him look like a jerk) but the inconsistencies between his business dealing and his rhetoric make him look like a potential charlatan.

What the hell! Maybe voting Democrat is the best idea this year -- at least Utah might have a better place at the table in the currently Democratic party controlled Senate. As Bennett says the new senator won't be a factor is Washington for years, so why shouldn't we have a voice on the controlling side of the isle

Does party affiliation really matter anyways?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Utah Utes' PAC-12 Financial Windfall -- Not So Fast!

Well it happened. Utah accepted an invitation to join the PAC-10. Now we Ute fans are supposed to be so excited for all the wonderful changes that will happen to University of Utah Athletics. One of the changes that is being lauded so loudly is the increase in TV revenues.

That isn't actually the case. ESPN reports the following:

Here’s the quote:
“Our conference has a long-standing policy of equal revenue sharing with some exceptions for football television revenue,” Scott said. “We intend to keep that concept in place. There may be some changes as things evolve. The principles will stay in place. The arrangement worked out is that Utah will become a full member of the conference over a period of three years in regards to revenue sharing.”

The next question pertained to Colorado’s revenue share and Scott said the Buffs will be full members in 2012 and there will be discussions about full member benefits if the Buffs join in 2011.

So basically, Utah will only get a portion of the revenue sharing for the first three years because it's coming from a nonautomatic qualifying conference and it has to prove itself.
That's right! Utah, two time BCS bowl game winner, has to prove itself worthy of PAC-12 money while Colorado Buffalo's (no BCS appearances) will be given full membership almost immediately.

I wonder if that policy will hold true if the Utes' earn a PAC-12 championship (Rose Bowl bid) in year one or two. Isn't it great! One of the highest BCS bowl winning teams is being treated like little brother.

PAC sucks. I hope the Utes' stick it to them and run the table in the first year.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Immigration, The Old Testament, and the Arizona and Utah Immigration Crusaders (or Marauders?)

I found this blog post last night and I thought it was quite profound, especially here in Mormon Utah. The author is discussing a couple of verses that he found in the Old Testament:

The Israelites are told directly in Leviticus 19:33-34 that “if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex (or oppress) him. But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself.”
Mr. Miller than discusses that our policy towards illegal immigrants should more closely follow this admonition.

I wonder if Utah Senate candidate Lee, Utah Rep. Sandstrom and his Aryan-loving friend the Honorable Rep. Pearce from AZ have read Leviticus lately? In Reps. Pearce and Sandstrom's case, I would guess that they haven't.

Pearce is proposing AZ legislation, and Rep. Sandstrom would love to pursue the same course in Utah, that would not make it illegal to provide birth certificates to babies of illegal immigrants born in the United States. Beyond the violation of the 14th amendment, there are a ton of problems with this proposal. First, this bill would (although not explicitly mentioned) require hospitals to inquire of the immigration status of patients -- would the bill require hospitals then to turn in the illegal expectant mothers? It seems like the kind of cheap Gestapo-esque trick that the Arizona legislature would pull. Second, is the constitutional ramifications of the bill. The 14th amendment states the following:

Section 1 -- All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Especially this proposed legislation, and (I believe) the already enacted legislation are both clearly unconstitutional. Not providing birth certificates doesn't change the fact of birth location and the qualifications for citizenship in the 14th Amendment. Arizona legislators must realize this and so the only reason (or what I hope would be the reason) I could see Arizona passing a law like this is for this law's controversial nature -- possibly in a effort to push Congress to finally act on illegal immigration.

Otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants deserve a pathway to citizenship without being forced to leave the country first. The illegal immigrants I have dealt with have come seeking better opportunities like the millions of immigrants that this country has openly received since its inception. All these proposed mass-deportation proposals are ill-conceived and knee jerk reactions to fallacious, bigoted rhetoric from some on the extreme far-right. The mass-deportation arguments don't consider cost or fairness, and they do nothing to solve the illegal immigration problem.

We need to follow the admonition in Leviticus and try and find ways to help illegal immigrants achieve citizenship in an efficient and cost-effective manner, instead of spewing hateful and often false rhetoric about the stereotyped ills that illegal immigrants are bringing across the border -- in a majority of cases these stereotypes aren't true.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Utes to Leave the MWC, and Ron Paul endorses Lee

First, this is a non-political issue but it is an issue that is important to Utah. It is being reported that the Utes are going to receive an invite to the PAC-1?. Although I hope against hope that the Utes aren't actually considering this, statements from Utah President Young indicate otherwise:

On Friday, Young said while Utah and BYU have benefited from being in the same conference as rivals, the two schools had to do what was best for themselves. He expressed a desire for the rivalry to continue no matter what happens.

"At the end of the day I feel a real sense of commitment to this conference," Young said of the MWC. "But every circumstance is different and you have to evaluate what is best for your institution, just as (BYU) President (Cecil) Samuelson does. If they got an offer from the Big 12 and we didn't, we wouldn't stand in their way if it is the right thing for their school and we'd think they'd do the same for us. We'd miss them and work with them, but we'd find ways to continue to work with them."

A Bay area sports website has gone online with information confirming that the invite will be formally extended to Utah tomorrow.

I really wish Utah wouldn't take the invite.

First, the MWC is so close to getting an AQ spot in the BCS and Utah is a critical piece of the puzzle. The PAC-10 is a competitive league, but the MWC could be just as competitive if Utah or the other strong schools in the conference don't jump ship for the bigger money leagues.

Second, I enjoy the BYU-Utah rivalry almost more than Christmas. If Utah and BYU are no longer in the same league than the rivalry game becomes a meaningless (or less important) non-conference game -- it will still have venom and passion for fans without meaning or importance to the players.

Oh well.

Ron Paul

In what appears to seal Mike Lee's (to quote Ethan Millard) "fulfillment of the white horse prophecy" campaign, fellow beloved politician of far-right wingers Ron Paul has endorsed Mike Lee for Utah senator. Paul gave the following statement to the press:

Mike is a dynamic young leader who understands our constitution and will fight against out-of-control government to restore our liberty. Mike has the courage to stand up against the bailouts and government takeovers being forced down our throats by Washington insiders"
The Lee campaign appears to take the endorsement in stride saying that they realized that the Paul endorsement is not a game changer.

Ron Paul was a candidate who turned a lot of people off with the rhetoric used by supporters. For instance, one of the clearest memories I have of the Paul campaign was a (this is the only way I can describe him) street preacher proclaiming the end to be near and Ron Paul to be the man that will save us all outside the ESA before Jazz games in 2008. A whole lot of Mike Lee's rhetoric turns me off as well.

I have a hard time taking Mike Lee seriously, mainly because he is so willing to advocate for the mass deportation of 20 million illegal aliens while admitting that crossing the border illegally is a civil violation akin to "speeding". Tim Bridgewater, despite his continued use of the term "anchor baby", at least gets the fact that the immigration solution needs to include border protection and immigration laws that allow hopeful citizens to attain that goal in less time and for less than their entire life's fortune.

UPDATE: The Utah Board of Trustees has set a meeting for Thursday. The Tribune reports that it expects the board to approve the departure from the MWC for the PAC-12. The meeting is set for 12:30pm tomorrow.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Sutherland Debate -- What I have heard.

I was supposed to be in Salt Lake for the Senate debate at the Sutherland Institute, but circumstances that were beyond my control kept me from making it.

The only account I have read so far has been that of Tribune writer Robert Gehrke. From what I read in Gehrke's column the debate was just how you'd expect a GOP Senate debate to go down. Both candidates trying to prove they are Ronald Reagan reincarnated. There were some interesting clarifications made by both candidates regarding their views.

The biggest revelations came in regards to both candidates tough campaign positions on illegal immigration. Both Mike Lee and Bridgewater concede that illegal immigration's seriousness as a crime is more a civil infraction than that of a felony. Paul Mero posed a fairly enlightening hypothetical:

Assume you have an ecclesiastical calling (both Lee and Bridgewater are Mormon) and your next-door neighbor is a Hispanic family. You are asked to minister to one of their sick children and in the course of a heartfelt moment they tell you they're here illegally. Do you rat them out?
Both candidates said they would not rat out the offending family, but Bridgewater said he would encourage the family to "begin the process to follow the law and come into the country legally." I assume that "come into the country legally" means go back where they came from and go down the ludicrous "legal" pathway to American citizenship. Somehow I find it hard to believe that Mr. Bridgewater would, in the capacity of a ecclesiastical leader, tell members of his congregation that they need to leave the country and come back to the US legally. By this we see that Mr. Bridgewater can pander on the immigration issue just as well as Mike Lee can. It needs reminding that Bridgewater has refused to remove the term "anchor baby" from his website despite its offensive connotation -- Lee at least did that although his plan for immigration is much harsher on illegals than Bridgewater's.

In an attempt out-Chaffetz Jason Chaffetz, Mike Lee and Bridgewater both claim they refuse to set up a residence in Washington D.C. -- Mike Lee plans to buy a cot. (Collective Eye-roll at the lame "I'm a regular guy" attempt)

I'm a tad surprised that neither man wants to try and privatize the Postal Service. I don't disagree with them, but I'm surprised that two "fiscal conservatives" wouldn't want to rid the Federal government of a socialized program. Isn't the Post Office is a socialist program? Both UPS and FedEx are prime examples that private industry could successfully serve the nation's parcel needs, and it is interesting that two candidates who loudly proclaim against the ills of Obama-socialism wouldn't want a program that can be carried by the private sector off of the US government's Balance Sheet.

Not only are both men are against Elena Kagen's SCOTUS nomination, they feel she is unqualified. I assume her "lack of qualification" is due to the party affiliation of the President nominating her. Mike Lee can harp about her lack of judicial experience all her likes, but he cannot ignore the fact that several SCOTUS nominees have come from places other than the judiciary and that her professional and academic resume are of the highest quality. Mike Lee's opposition of the Kagen nomination is almost a case of plausible-deniabilty. If elected, everyone in this state knows Lee would eventually sit on the Judiciary Committee and he needs (or thinks he needs) to make sure that everyone in this state believes he would oppose every nomination made by abortion-loving Democrats no matter how qualified the nominees may be. He won't get a chance to vote on the Kagen nomination and so he has the luxury of opposing the nomination as candidate Lee while knowing full well that he couldn't do so as Senator Lee without looking like a partisan right-wing zealot.

As far as my vote goes, I'm not sure what I'm going to do. Due to my lack of Republican party affiliation, I'm excluded from voting between Mike Lee and Tim Bridgewater. To keep the November vote interesting for me I hope that Tim Bridgewater is the winner -- I have pretty much eliminated Mike Lee from contention for my vote. The possible November race between Tim Bridgewater and Sam Granato is still a tight one -- Bridgewater may be slightly ahead if for no other reason than I don't want to solidify a Democratic party super-majority in the Senate.

P.S. Former Congressman Jim Hansen just called to let me know he supports Mike Lee. I think that may have changed my, no I still don't like Mike Lee.

Boise State to the Mountain West Conference

Boise State just made the MWC's bid to be a BCS automatic qualifying conference more viable. Report's are out that the Broncos have accepted a invite to join the MWC.

Utah State is cheering.

However, this may be a perilous move for the three MWC powerhouses. If the move pays off with the MWC winning automatic qualifier status -- the MWC champ will always make it to the BCS. If the gamble fails -- these four powerful schools may likely end up cannibalizing each other out of the BCS for many years.

Nonetheless, next football season just got more fun and interesting!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Political Endorsements and Party Affiliation

With a few days to go before the primary elections, endorsements in the Republican primary have been emerging.

For Tim Bridgewater, the first big endorsement came from former Senate Candidate Cherilyn Eager. Glen Warchol put it best when he posted in Salt Lake Crawler:
Cherilyn Eagar should help land the most distant right of Utah's conservative voters. Eagar says Bridgewater has "mature statesmanship," which apparently means he listens politely to her Utah County tin-foil hat crazy talk.
That "Utah County tin-foil hat crazy talk" quote made me spew milk out of my nose -- bravo Mr. Warchol. She was a favorite for some of the Sarah Palin-loving far-right members of the GOP and her endorsement of Bridgewater may bring some of her supporters to his camp.

The second big endorsement for Bridgewater came today when it was announced that soon-to-be former Senator Bennett will endorse Bridgewater's candidacy. While this endorsement may bring back some disenfranchised Bennett supporters, it may prove problematic with the far right of the GOP. Mike Lee has definitely seen the Bennett endorsement as a potential advantage trying to use the Bennett endorsement as evidence that Bridgewater will join in "politics as usual in Washington if he is elected" -- although I suspect that Mike Lee's apparent partisan style politics would be more of a problem for Utah than Bridgewater's more moderate approach.

Another blogger made an excellent point about endorsements an the partisanship that exists in our two party system. He quoted Washington and made the following observations:

In his 1792 farewell address Washington warned us on the dangers of political parties:

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the
spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and
countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful

In my vision of "What would Washington do?" it would be exactly this on their first day in office: renounce being head of the Party. The Chief Executive, as our Supreme Court, should be above partisanship and the politicking of endorsement; and being the leader of a private political party does nothing to speak of representing the interests of ALL AMERICANS. While Washington might advocate the complete abolition of political parties, Executive declination of the leadership role while remaining part of the party would be a tremendous step in the right direction.

I am in complete agreement, but I wouldn't mind taking it to the level of Washington's warning. American politics has reached the despotism that Washington warned of in the farewell quote mentioned supra. By eliminating political parties American voters would be forced to examine candidates views and platforms rather closely, and we might be better at electing bright and innovative leaders and representatives. More importantly, partisanship would be a much more difficult political strategy to pursue in Congress -- representatives might actually take some time to analyze and truly debate bills that are brought to the floor rather than voting blindly on 2000 page bills at the urging of the prevailing party's leadership.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Utah State Tax Commission -- Offers in Compromise

I have been focusing my work on offers-in-compromise and taxpayer representation for the past several months. I receive lead from several different states including Colorado, Kansas, North Dakota, and our great state of Utah. Most of these leads are interested in pursuing offers-in-compromise, settlements of tax debts for less than you owe.

The IRS has a fairly clear and well-defined offer-in-compromise program. It explains in detail the reasons for which you may request an offer, how the amount of the offer may be calculated, and it outlines the terms for the offers acceptance and fulfillment. Colorado also has clearly defined offer-in-compromise program requirements and clearly explained procedures for submitting an offer to the Colorado state Department of Revenue.

Utah, on the other hand, doesn't give really clear criteria on how an offer is evaluated, and what requirements must be met for an offer to be accepted. The only official guidance that the the state of Utah provides is Utah State Tax Commission Publication 22, in Pub. 22 the statement for who qualifies to have an offer-in-compromise accepted is as follows:

When an analysis of taxpayer’s assets, liabilities, income and
expenses shows that a liability cannot realistically be paid in
full in the foreseeable future, an offer in compromise may be
If you compare that to the IRS' 46 page book complete with instructions, forms, and detailed formulas to assist taxpayers in completing acceptable offers.

I'll admit the IRS isn't the perfect model of fairness in accepting offers-in-compromise, but most offers that are denied by the IRS have (if not, logical) discernible reasons for the settlement request's denial. Offers-in-compromise that are rejected by the state of Utah are often offers that the IRS has already accepted without denial -- in one case that a colleague related the taxpayer being rejected a Utah State Tax Commission OIC was a widow who had her tax debt almost completely forgiven by the IRS without any IRS OIC denials or counter-offers (the taxpayer finally had the offer accepted by the State of Utah after an appeal). In the previous case the only discernible reason for initial offers denial was bad whether or a fight offer investigator must have the night before with their spouse.

The Utah Legislature could improve the offer-in-compromise by 1.) enact rules requiring the state of Utah to accept offers already accepted by the Internal Revenue Service, 2.) enacting a collections statute of limitations, and 3.) establishing an taxpayer appeals process that includes a "Utah State Tax Court" (a place where taxpayers can appeal Tax Commissions to independent third parties). If the State of Utah would simply accept IRS accepted offers than the state could save some money on offer investigation costs and taxpayers could have some assurance as to whether or not their offers-in-compromise would be accepted by the state of Utah. Enacting a collections statute of limitations would incentivize the state of Utah to accept a greater number of offers. Lastly, establishing an independent appeals process and a review court of tax commission determinations would allow taxpayers and taxpayer representatives a fairer playing field with the tax commission in the audit and collection functions of the Utah State Tax Commission.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Senate Candidates -- "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," Social Security and Taxes

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

The candidates have all opined on the reversal of "don't ask, don't tell". All three have towed the party line (at least, locally) regarding this subject. Granato has parroted Democratic party talking points calling the military policy a "violation of civil rights" while the Republican duo has stated solid opposition to removing the ban on gays being allowed to serve openly in the Armed Forces.

No one wins here.

Forcing people to keep a key part of their identity secret in order to avoid losing their jobs is a violation of civil rights. However, the dangers and stresses of combat that the Armed Forces work under may merit different consideration regarding workplace policies. If the military can show that gays serving openly in the military (I have no idea how this is possible, but for the sake of argument I'm making the point) will cause a detriment to the Armed Forces ability to be effective -- then "don't ask, don't tell" should remain. I've never been in the military (I don't believe any of the Senate candidates have either) and I don't know how or why gays in the military is a problem, but if it truly is than we shouldn't make a policy shift like this especially while our country has wars on two fronts.

Social Security --

Mike Lee and Tim Bridgewater came out and openly discussed their views on what should happen to Social Security. Both Lee and Bridgewater support the ideas of raising retirement ages and giving American citizens control over Social Security in privatized investment accounts (the idea GW Bush recommended to Congress during his presidency) Lee went a little further -- Lee questioned the constitutionality of Social Security and suggested that control over Social Security be handed over to individual states.

The suggestion that Social Security be handed over to the states prompted a blunt response from a University of Wisconsin professor to SL Tribune reporter Robert Gehrke:

Timothy Smeeding, a professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison who studies Social Security, was blunt in his assessment of Lee's proposal: "That is total horseshit."

"What happens to people who move in and out of the state? It's just knee-jerk," he said. "[Social Security] is a federal program. It covers you no matter where you live and as long as you live."

With workers moving between states, a state-by-state patchwork is an idea that is impractical and should be discarded, Smeeding said.

While I agree that a few of Mike Lee's positions are "total horses*&@!", I'm not sure that allowing the states to control Social Security is that bad of an idea. Although Professor Smeeding in Wisconsin is concerned that the idea wouldn't be practical for people moving in and out of different states, I'm not sure that the social security funds couldn't be tied to voter registration and that it wouldn't be something that is completely unworkable. Social Security is a mess. It was created with shortsightedness and we are desperately needing Congress to address that shortsightedness and come up with solutions that will make Social Security a viable program once again. While I don't believe the "state's control" proposal is a viable solution to the Social Security problem, I appreciate that Mike Lee proposed it and that he is willing to bring up unpopular recommendations to a problem that many (if not most) Congressional leaders seem to ignore like a 800 pound gorilla in the room.

While I like the idea of private accounts, I wonder about how it would be implemented. There are a ton of questions that will need the best and brightest to solve. Unfortunately, as the baby-boomer crunch draws near the problem may be bigger than our ability to solve.

In a perfect world, Social Security would have been a forced savings or investment system from the beginning instead of the pay as you go system that we have now. American workers would have been able to build nest eggs through earnings from interest, dividends, and gains on investments. Federal government intervention would be necessary on a more limited scale at this point, and (all other things being equal) we would have a government run banking/investment system. However, what we got was a system that didn't account for an increasing average lifespan, the baby boom, and a major deficiency in social security tax-paying workers to support that baby boom generation in their retirement years and in a few years our nation will reach the squalor of those good intentions.

The social security staus quo will not cut it for future generations, and the longer changes are not made the more likely financial disaster becomes an inevitability for the social security program.

1 and 1/2 Points for Lee (showed some innovation), 1 point Bridgewater.
Taxes --

Both Republicans are advocating a flat tax or a "fair" tax system. I have written ad naseum regarding my opposition to all flat tax proposals. Before Utah enacted its "flat tax cut" I predicted that it would be a tax hike for Utahn's in the middle class whose incomes are consistently the same from year to year -- personally my tax bill went up more than 400% in the first year after the flat tax was enacted while my income dropped more tan 7000 dollars in the same year. Flat taxes can be tax cuts, but only if your income is high enough that a majority of middle class tax benefits have phased out

Sam Granato came out in opposition of flat tax proposals:

“The middle class is the backbone of this country. When middle class families prosper, we all prosper. And yet, even in these difficult economic times, the Republican candidates in this race are supporting a so-called ‘fair’ or ‘flat’ tax plans that economists say could result in substantial tax increases for 83 percent of American families. That doesn’t sound fair to me at all,”
While it sounds fair in theory that all Americans pay the same percentage of income as a tax (even more so in 10% tithe paying Utah) the numbers don't work out that way. A 10% bite of income for someone living on 40,000 is quite a bit different than a 10% bite out of income for someone making 400,000 -- one is left with 36,000 dollars to live on during the year and the other is left with 360,000 dollars (Fair, right?).

2 points Granato, 0 points Lee and Bridgewater