Saturday, December 24, 2016

Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Inauguration

The church has accepted an invitation to sing at Donald Trump's inauguration. The church has a long standing policy of singing at the inauguration of any president that offers an invitiation. There has been 10 inauguration performances since their very first invitation from Howard Taft. The presidents that have offered invites include, Taft, LBJ, Nixon,  Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II. However, many critical of the move feel that Trump's rhetoric and arguably racist policy proposals should have led the church to reject the invitation as a sign of disapproval of the incoming president despite a nearly century old policy of accepting all invitations. Such an arbitrary snub would be a mistake, and there are many reasons why.

Political bans for charities and the LDS church - Policies are like bricks in a wall: As a charitable organization, the church is strictly banned from being involved in political activity for or in behalf of any candidate or either political party. However, the church may be involved in political activity in regards to public policy proposals and issues. There is a clear dividing line. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints follows this mandate and they have policies to make sure lines are not crossed and they do not take risks in regards to their charitable status. Policies build a wall against legal challenges that keep the church safe from scrutiny and from losing their ability to function as a charity in the US. If policies are followed, the wall is strong and legal challenges against their charitable status are thrown out as being without merit. If policies are followed and ignored arbitrarily, the wall is weakened and legal challenges may begin to look like they have merit.

For example, during the course of the presidential campaign and other immigration debates in the past, the church openly condemned Trump's anti-Muslim proposals and they have condemned harsh immigration proposals that pursued merciless deportation of aliens without consideration of the damage that such harsh proposals can inflict on families. These political statements are within the parameters of the law and the policies of the church. However, the church annually disclaims political affiliation to its members and to the public and they avoid the appear of endorsing candidates to the best of their ability.

The church regularly faces accusations of political violations because of their involvement in anti-gay marriage campaigns. As a whole these accusations have been rejected by Federal courts as meritless and frivolous for one main reason. The church consistently applies policies of engaging in public policy debates that involve issues that are important to the church, and avoiding the appearance of being involved in political activities for or against candidates or political parties.

Arbitrarily saying no to Donald Trump's invite would arguably be making a political statement. Since he is a candidate, this would also arguably be in violation of the political ban in IRC 501(c)(3). Given the evangelical right wing's embrace of Trump and their everlasting disdain for Mormons, I would venture to bet that there would be a lawsuit (one with merit) if the decision to arbitrarily rescind their agreement to sing at Trump's inauguration was to happen. The once strong brick wall of consistent policy adherence begins to erode and the church would risk more scrutiny on this issue and possibly even risk their charitable status.

I have heard the argument that the church needs to say "they don't like Trump, but they are only singing to keep right with the law". This would still be a statement that violates the church's neutrality policy, and arguably violates the statute. 

Making friends and influencing people (and more importantly influencing policy: Donald Trump is not an ideal president. The man has character flaws that shine as bright as the sun. I wish there was someone else being inaugurated next month with all of my heart. However, he will be the president. There is nothing short of a military coup that can keep him from being inaugurated. 

Those that suggest the church should squander an opportunity to build a positive relationship with the man that (unfortunately) will run public policy in the US and (arguably) the free world are ignoring the political price of such a petty snub. 

Presidents have traditionally asked for the input of religious leaders on policy proposals that can have an effect on families, cultures, and religious groups. The church has built up a reasonable amount of clout in the US as one of the largest centralized Christian churches in the world. 

Of the many publicly discernible character flaws of Donald Trump, his tendency to engage in petty feuds is one of the most visible. He has been known to engage in petty feuds with anyone who criticizes him for decades. His past enemies include celebrities like Rosie O'Donnell and Alec Baldwin, and politicians like Mitt Romney, Marc Rubio, and Utahn Evan McMullin. McMullin ran a barely noticeable independent presidential campaign that was heavily critical of Trump, and McMullin still draws Trump's pettiness to this day (he recently called McMullin, McMuffin at a "thank you" rally).  

Given the fact that Trump will be making major policy changes, I would rather that the LDS Church be one of the religious groups that this buffoon turns to when making decisions like whether or not to go ahead with Muslim registries or deport 12 million individuals.

If the church engages in petty snubs with Trump, we can all guarantee that they will receive petty snubs in return.

Not to mention the fact that pettiness flies in the face of church doctrine. From LDS scripture D&C 121:43, "reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy".  The church has already reproved this world leader and engaging in a petty snub would lead to being esteemed an enemy - not a wise squandering of political capital.

One of the biggest problem in US politics, is that we have become far to willing to be swayed by passions and act rashly in anger and less willing to consider issues dispassionately with reason and wisdom. Assuming the Russian hacking allegations are correct, this is exactly the flaw in the American people that the Russians played upon to help get Trump elected.  I believe my church leaders are being wise by being guided by and in following long standing policies and church doctrines rather than the angers and passions of short-sighted members and the public.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Romney v Trump

It appears that Conway has been chosen as the voice regarding Trump's true feelings on Mitt Romney and the fabricated consideration for Secretary of State. For a week now, she has been on the airways discussing how the base views Romney, "People feel betrayed to think that … Romney, who went out of his way to question the character and the intellect and the integrity of Donald Trump … would be given the most significant Cabinet post of all,”  

This is disappointing, but not at all surprising. When the idea of Romney as Secretary of State was floated a few weeks ago, I was skeptical. However, I felt like this may be a moment where Donald Trump might prove me wrong. "Maybe, just maybe, he is not the small handed Napoleon that I took him to be." 

Romney would have been a wise choice. In the 2012 debate, he forecasted the current situation with Russia and Putin better than the Obama administration in any of the succeeding 4 years that they remained in office. Comparatively, he is well liked abroad and in the US. Most importantly, this was an opportunity missed to show some capability on the part of the impending POTUS to handle differing points of view (something he seemed incapable of during the campaign on even the GOP side of the isle). He could have taken this opportunity to make GOP #neverTrump people step back and take another look at him as a leader and a POTUS.

Unfortunately, Trump is predictable. He may through one or two critics in the cabinet, but as a whole he will fill the cabinet with yes-men, cronies, and cheerleaders of him and whatever policies he pursues. This coming administration will come with a heavy price for the GOP and conservative politics for many years to come.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Social Security - Changing the Way We Look At Things

So, social security is a big issue for me. With severely disabled kids, I realize that my sons may be extremely dependent on social assistance at some point in their life. Social security is a big resource for assistance to disabled individuals. Soon recipients will out number contributors. This is a disastrous set of circumstances for a retirement system that operates as a Ponzi scheme. The fact that we have not taken appropriate steps to make social security viable for retirees and the disabled is very concerning. Honestly, this should be the biggest domestic concern for all Americans.
This meme is (well) stupid. Social security is a legal Ponzi scheme (I understand, that wasn't the intent of the law when it was framed) but that's what it is. Americans need to get that fact.
Sadly, politicians keep punting this issue to the next generation with worse field position each time. President Trump seems determined to punt yet again, and sadly I fear that this punt will leave us pinned with our backs to the wall and no real way to escape a full collapse of the Social Security system.
We need to stop looking at Social Security as money in the bank and rather look at Social Security as money stolen from future generations. Heavy social security tax hikes or severe cuts are inevitable in order to avoid a real financial meltdown, and these things should be happening now.
I understand Social Security helps many American retirees and disabled individuals, but we need to be honest about Social Security. Social Security doesn't save anyone money, and it never has. It is a welfare program, falsely advertised as retirement savings. Benefits are paid from those that work to those that are not or no longer working. The longer we keep maintaining the status quo the larger the potential disaster becomes.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Trump and Hillary - The Election and Campaign of the Impeachables

During this election cycle,  people spent far too much time wringing there hands about voting for the lesser of two evils. The left is continuing to suffer needlessly. There is a simple fact that could have saved and can save alot of agony - both candidates were and are destined for scandal, possible impeachment, and/or single terms.

Hillary's email issues would have crippled her presidency with ever persistent hearings and innuendo of criminal charges. However, she wasn't elected and her demise is not at issue.

Trump has issues and they are plentiful. He is currently dealing with numerous lawsuits related to his companies and most importantly for Trump University fraud allegations. In his forming administration, there are numerous possible conflicts of interest, he doesn't seem to see problems with nepotism, and he has appointed an alleged anti-Semite to his administration. The problems continue. He was caught on tape admitting to what can only be described as sexual assault (or at least indiscretions) with the President-elect citing the fact that being a celebrity allows him to "do whatever he wants to women". He has further threatened to sue women who have alleged to have suffered his sexual advances. There are so many possible avenues of disgrace for the Democrats to lead him through.

The left should look at Donald Trump as a gift. If they play the hand they have been dealt properly, they can ensure the Democratic party several years of Congressional and Executive branch control of the Federal government.

Trump has been looked at as a businessman of questionable integrity for my entire life. From his use of eminent domain to take private property for his businesses, to bilking contractors, to bankruptcies, and so forth. He has been willing to attach his name to anything for the right price for years. Unfortunately, some of those things with his name attached are coming back to haunt him. Trump University sought to capitalize on the private university market of the past 10 to 20 years. However, like many private for profit universities, they took money and provided nothing of value in return. The degrees were useless, and now students are coming back for damages. This can be a huge black eye, and source of impeachable evidence against the Trump administration.

Trump is moving to have his three competent children made members of his administration, and he is planning to hand control of his businesses to these same children. There are two huge issues here. Nepotism, from what I understand, is pretty strictly prohibited in the federal government. The children having access to the president and sensitive data, and controlling the presidents businesses creates conflicts of interest as large as Mount Everest. This needs to be monitored very heavy for inappropriate use of privileged information, security information leaks, the qualifications of his children for high level positions in the administration, and mishandled conflicts of interest by the Trump kids. The possible problems here are massive and the potential for scandal is equally as massive.

Donald Trump has threatened to sue his victims. The left should do all they can to ensure that this happens. He has already confessed to being a serial sexual harasser - he even provided motive. The motive he provided is even chillingly similar to the motive many cite for rapists. Donald Trump felt like he could treat women like objects because his celebrity status gave him the power. The left should do all they can to make him end up in court facing these women.

I actually consider myself a conservative. However, we need to be honest. The GOP elected a time bomb waiting to explode. Any sensible Trump advisors will seek to dismantle these traps as quickly as possible. If the wounded left knows their game, they should and will seek to exploit these traps at every opportunity.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Political Social Disorders

After this presidential election, one thing is clear - Americans need to learn how to communicate together about politics.

On the morning after the election, the biggest symptoms of this disease were clearly manifested. Social media was full of vitriol between Trump and Clinton supporters who were either gloating or in the anger stage of mourning. Feelings were hurt, anger was expressed, and one thing was clear, rationality had left us.

On Facebook, I saw a sarcastic post about becoming a new supporter of Bernie's free college platform after seeing what happens in an election with such a so many under educated Americans voting. To this post, a friend responded that he was showing prejudice by claiming stupid people voted for Trump, Another friend went even further. This friend felt like she needed to defend all of their ancestors who received little to no education from this insult. Sadly, the sarcasm was not understood or was received with less humor than was intended. At times, we seem to be talking past each other, and no one seems willing or able to step back, listen, and respond in thoughtful manners.

Here is my suggestion.
  1. Stop using Social Media as the main outlet for Political posts. Twitter only allows 140 characters. This is not sufficient to express anything but zingers and catchphrases, none of which helps political discourse advance past the realm of a "yo mama so fat" fight. Remember when Facebook was this amazing place where you could connect with people you hadn't seen for decades. Now many of those people are spending their days in political squabbles and they are wondering why they were ever friends in the first place. Facebook is made for pictures of family, pictures of fancy desserts, and staying touch with others. The political posting to Facebook has made it an uncomfortable place. 
  2. Utilize Blogs. The blog website was a great fad in the early 2000's. Generally, bloggers wrote in an eloquent manner, they put in the effort to write informative and thoughtful pieces, and the debate among bloggers was often robust but also stimulating. The best part about it was that you had to seek out blogs and blog posts rather than having everyones opinion in a gigantic scroll that you may only be looking at to waste a few minutes. They would be a great option for the Facebooker that insists on sharing their political opinions, but would like to maintain more civil relationships with people on the FB - link your blog post and only those who want to engage in a political discussion will go and read it. Other Facebook friends and family members can stick to enjoying your more casual posts about your family or cat memes. and Wordpress are great blog hosting sites.
  3. Do not share your political opinions unless you are willing to put in the work to write thoughtfully. The main problem of social media political posts and commentary is that the dialogue is far too emotion driven. Take the time to develop a thesis, make sure your grammar and spelling is correct, use punctuation, and do some research if you are claiming to cite a fact, and walk away for a while first if you are angry. Poor writing makes it more likely that you will be misunderstood and that you may offend even when you had no intent to cause offense, and poor writing makes you look stupid. Taking time to write will often allow you to calm down, and (maybe) even see things from the perspectives of others.
This last election was almost completely void of intelligent policy discussions and reasoned logical consideration of how either candidate might make changes (good or bad) to our country. I think this may be reflective of the fact that too many of us are will to express our political ideals in 140 characters or less. If you are going to discuss weighty matters, it is best to take the time to express yourself eloquently and with clarity. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Staying the Course with Trump and Ethical Gymnastics

For the past few days/weeks, Donald Trump has been under fire for a recorded conversation with Billy Bush about having his way with any woman he wants (more specifically how he sexually assaults women). This is not surprising - Donald Trump is in the least a two time adulterer and at the most a serial groper borderline rapist. It is surprising that this did not stop him in the primaries, and that these revelations did not come up sooner. The 2012 candidate that was a Domino's Pizza CEO had much tamer sexual harassment accusations surface and those destroyed him very early on, but (uncomfortable cringe) he was African American and maybe his quick demise is another glaring indictment of the racism the GOP would like to distance itself from.

The surprise of all this is the gold-medal ethical gymnastics displayed by prominent talk personalities and Trump leaning bloggers. The common theme is "nobody has a right to condemn Trump because Bill Clinton was done so much worse" or, "sure, what Trump said was bad, but Clinton did far worse" or "Hillary is a criminal" (the most unintelligent argument of the bunch).

Think of this, the party of the Christian right, the formerly moral majority is making the argument that a man who either lied about committing horrific acts (or in fact committed) horrific acts of sexual deviance is justifiable as a candidate to carry the Christian rights' banner of moral superiority. The moral triple Lutzs' are enough to make your head spin.

I have every right to condemn Donald Trump as an unfit choice for President, in fact it is my duty as an American. I cannot and do not judge him on an eternal or spiritual level - I hope he has changed his ways and behavior towards women (I doubt it, but one can hope). However, I have the duty to vote for men or women that have the character to keep the oath of office. This man has no respect for any oaths, virtues, promises, or covenants - he doesn't have the capability of faithfully executing the office.

Furthermore, Trumpster leaning Republican's of the Christian right that pursue socially right wing legislation have lost all moral high ground to do so. Hard right wing associates that rail against pro abortion and pro-gay marriage activism will also find themselves without even less moral justification to publicly denounce their foes if they continue defending the indefensible actions of this orange man (or lies about actions by the GOP nominee).

Please friends, do not let yourself stoop to level of accepting a candidate you struggle to justify on a level higher than Bill Clinton. There are other options - vote 3rd party, write-in the candidate you really like. I cannot take you seriously if you continue to try and justify Donald Trump.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Best Intentions -- Campaign Positions Series.

I am going to get back to the campaign positions series, I will finish by election day!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Whistleblower v Commissioner

I am making the effort to study for the US Tax Court exam for non-attorneys for the second time. My test date is in 2018. As part of my study regimen, I ready daily decisions off of the US Tax Court website.

There is one this week involving a whistleblower who is pursuing the reward of 15-30% of collected tax revenue based on information he provided to the IRS. I love the opinion, because the whistleblower successfully compelled the IRS to release IDR's the IRS claimed was irrelevant. It has long been my suspicion that the IRS will do all that they can to avoid paying rewards, an I love seeing a taxpayer come after them for his piece.


Saturday, July 30, 2016

Romney is Trump's excuse for not releasing his tax returns

In an interview on Meet the Press, Trump asserts that Mitt Romney lost because he released his tax returns. Therefore, this is why Trump will not release his returns.

While he is correct that some people used Mitt Romney's income against him, this is rather lame excuse for Trump's hard line against providing his tax returns. The position that people voted against Mitt Romney because he has been too successful in business and finance flies against all logic and sensibility. Looking at exit polling data and other information from 2012 points to many other issues, most of which include comments the were portrayed as Romney saying, "I think 47% of American's are free-loaders". As a free-loader, I think that was actually a correct observation, but alot of people found that offensive.

Trump's assertion that the tax return was too damning for Romney's campaign is a red herring. There must be other issues in play.

Early on in the primaries, Trump mentioned that his personal tax return is under audit and has been under audit every year. Contrary to Trump's assertions, the IRS doesn't have a policy of auditing people on an annual basis simply because they are rich. They audit people annually because they see smoke (you know the old saying, "where there is smoke, there is fire") in the individuals financial behavior and record keeping.

This website (despite possible political leanings) makes some good observations about possible reasons why the Donald cannot get off the IRS radar.  Long story short, the IRS audits Donald each year because his business and personal conduct have major badges (red flags) of concealment, under-reported income, and over-inflated deductions. The IRS is run in a business like manner, IRS audits against Mr. Trump would cease if he managed to go through an audit without having major adjustments in the governments favor. However, as IRS revenue agents find concealed income and illegitimate deductions on an annual basis, the IRS (like any business with a new revenue stream) opens up each successive year.

Here is another article by a corporate tax lawyer that theorizes what we might find on Trump'a return.

I admit that all of this is speculation from (at least) a pair of tax professionals, and maybe there is some weight to a "Obama orders the IRS to audit Trump" conspiracy that tin-foil hat wearing Trump supporters would love to believe. However, the fact is that unless he releases his returns, the theories are going to continue with greater intensity. What will the orange man do?

Trump Positions "Tax Reform"

In my on going series that I meant to finish before the end of the RNC, I am going to take a look at Trump's tax reform plans. This is coming from his "Positions" page on his website. In Trump fashion, he provides alot of vauge assertions with alot of missing details.

What I Like

The Trump plan reduces the number of brackets from 7 to 4. The highest bracket is 25%. Here is how they look:

Income Tax RateLong Term Cap Gains/ Dividends RateSingle FilersMarried FilersHeads of Household
0%0%$0 to $25,000$0 to $50,000$0 to $37,500
10%0%$25,001 to $50,000$50,001 to $100,000$37,501 to $75,000
20%15%$50,001 to $150,000$100,001 to $300,000$75,001 to $225,000
25%20%$150,001 and up$300,001 and up$225,001 and up
Married filers that make under  50k will no longer have a filing requirement, and taxpayers making under 100k will enjoy a 10% rate. This is definitely a tax break for the middle class. Right now the 10% bracket ends at around 70k in taxable income.

The next items is good. Although, I can't imagine how he intends to circumvent social security and Medicare tax, he claims that business income (corporate, partnership, and sole proprietors) will be taxed at 15%.

  1. No business of any size, from a Fortune 500 to a mom and pop shop to a freelancer living job to job, will pay more than 15% of their business income in taxes. This lower rate makes corporate inversions unnecessary by making America’s tax rate one of the best in the world.
For sole-proprietors, who pay income and SE tax with high combined actual tax rates, a change to a flat 15% would be a very helpful change.

The Trump tax proposals also claim to plan an end to the Death tax and AMT.

All of these items are great, and if they are revenue neutral, they should be  very helpful to the economy.

Changes I dislike:

The first problem I see if that he makes a vague claim that some exemptions and deductions will become obsolete with his new tax plan:

With this huge reduction in rates, many of the current exemptions and deductions will become unnecessary or redundant. Those within the 10% bracket will keep all or most of their current deductions. Those within the 20% bracket will keep more than half of their current deductions. Those within the 25% bracket will keep fewer deductions. Charitable giving and mortgage interest deductions will remain unchanged for all taxpayers.
The paragraph is rather vague. He could be discussed eliminating the state income tax deduction or some lesser used miscellaneous deductions, or he could be discussing an elimination of a vast number of deductions that could lead to a virtual flat tax (which I have renounced many times in the past on this blog).

The second problem with the item above is that he is only promising to protect the home mortgage and charitable deduction. I believe charitable giving is the most sacred of all deductions, and so I completely agree with that option. However, the mortgage interest deduction is a special interest gift to the banking industry. It rewards taxpayers who for making purchase and for getting in debt for the remainder of their lives, There are deductions that should be given greater deference like...I don't know... the purchase of health insurance forced on us by our government. This something he claimed would happen as part of his better-than-Obamacare health plan.

.....will now file a one page form saving them time, stress, uncertainty and an average of $110 in preparation costs. Over 31 million households get the same simplification and keep on average nearly $1,000 of their hard-earned money.
Whenever Congress floats the idea of a simplified tax form, or a postcard tax return, you need to be wary. This will turn into a grift by the Treasury to catch the unwary into paying more in income tax than they should. A simplification in tax forms will end up in a un-official income tax hike to you the taxpayer.

The last issue I have with his plan, is that is narrow focuses on corporate tax loopholes and un-utilized tax breaks for the rich. There a lot of other ways that the government can increase revenue. Honestly, one way is simply funding the IRS sufficiently. During the Bush years, the IRS had the funding provide proper enforcement and tax revenues were through the roof. This is simply because the IRS had the man-power to collect the taxes owed.

One Thing Missing

I'm not sure if he should have addressed social security and Medicare tax here. However, an increase in Social Security and Medicare tax is extremely necessary if Social Security is going to be saved or viable for the many millions of Americans now retiring from the baby-boomer era. Whether the rates increase, more items of income are subject to it, or the earned income ceiling is eliminated, Social security tax revenue must rise drastically.


Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Anti-Trump and Anti-Hilary Strategy

I have (in vain most times) been trying to promote a strategy to defeat Hilary and Trump at the same time.

Most people I know are not fond of either of the two candidates running for president. They general fall into one of three camps. "I am going to write-in Mitt Romney or Ted Cruz" or "I will vote for Trump or Hilary because they are better than the alternative" or last and most certainly least, "I love Trump or Hilary because of ridiculous reason A, B, and/or C". This is addressed the former two groups. The latter group is usually full of myopic idiots that have lost the ability to reason.

The only way to avoid both candidates as president is if they are denied 270 electoral votes. The only way for both candidates to be denied 270 electoral votes is if another third-party candidate wins enough states to slim the pool of available Electoral College votes to under 270 electoral college votes. If this doesn't happen, we are guaranteed with Hilary or Trump.

The most common argument both the GOP and the Democratic party make against voting third party is that a vote for anyone other than Trump (Hilary) is a vote for Hilary (Trump). For the nations entire history now that argument has worked. No third party candidate has won even a single state in a general presidential election.

One reason why third party candidates don't win states is that there are always so many. There are 36 minor political parties and 5 minor political parties. In the vast majority of elections, th majority of voters generally pay attention to the first 2 parties. However, a couple to a few million voters always vote third party candidates. This year, given the choices, many people are looking at third party options. This is where the strategy lies.

The anti-Trump and/or anti-Hilary camps need to come together to support one third party candidate. With high unfavorability ratings for both candidates, there are obviously a vast majority of American's that are not happy with their choices from the GOP and Democrats. Sadly, a majority of those will choose one or the other to prevent the less desired choice from winning. However, there may be just enough who just can't bring themselves to fall-in with Hillary and Trump to out-number those that do vote for along GOP and Democrat party lines.

The problem is that they all have differing views and opinions. Many will write in the candidate they liked that conceded in the primaries, many Mormon's plan to write in Mitt Romney, and another group will choose the third party option that they most prefer. This will dilute the effect on the popular vote for an outsiders chance of snatching states and electoral votes from the GOP and Democrats. This would likely leave us with Hilary or Trump even though the winner may actually only win 50+ million votes out of 150 to 200 million votes.

However, if the voters that hate the power party choices vote for a single candidate, the third-party candidate could win some states and those states' electoral votes. Neither of the power party candidates will win the election outright. If this happens the House of Representatives chooses the Pres from the top three candidates and the Senate picks the VP from the top two candidates. If the House of Representatives cannot come to a winner the VP chosen by the Senate acts as President until Congress votes a winner and escapes the deadlock.

Monday, July 18, 2016

RNC - Trump Positions "Healthcare Reforms"

In this series of posts regarding Donald Trump's actual positions, this one will be one where I actually find a lot of common ground with the orange man.

The biggest item that I applaud is making health insurance fully deductible under the US tax code for all individuals. This is an idea that will provide meaningful tax savings, especially for employees of companies that refuse to provide healthcare benefits. Due to the vagueness of many Trump positions, I am left to speculate how this would happen. I hope he would make health insurance an adjustment from income like health insurance is for the self-employed. However, even making it an unlimited itemized deduction would be a great change.

Other items I agree with include:
  1. Completely repeal Obamacare. Our elected representatives must eliminate the individual mandate. No person should be required to buy insurance unless he or she wants to.
  2. Modify existing law that inhibits the sale of health insurance across state lines. As long as the plan purchased complies with state requirements, any vendor ought to be able to offer insurance in any state. By allowing full competition in this market, insurance costs will go down and consumer satisfaction will go up.
  3. Allow individuals to use Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). Contributions into HSAs should be tax-free and should be allowed to accumulate. These accounts would become part of the estate of the individual and could be passed on to heirs without fear of any death penalty. These plans should be particularly attractive to young people who are healthy and can afford high-deductible insurance plans. These funds can be used by any member of a family without penalty. The flexibility and security provided by HSAs will be of great benefit to all who participate.
 The individual mandate is something that was reprehensible. There are many American's who know their annual health care costs and are quite capable of budgeting accordingly. Granted, emergencies arise. However, that should only mandate cheaper catastrophic coverage requirements at most instead of the more expensive plans required by ACA. The power of the purse for healthcare decisions should be with individuals (with a possibly a catastrophic individual mandate at most).

I'm not sure if this will make all the difference, but removing interstate barriers for health insurance purchases can only help reduce costs. Last but not least, HSA's were a wonderful tax savings device created in the Bush years that was all but destroyed with Obamacare. I love the idea of making them effective tax savings engines again.

The items I don't care for include:
  1. Require price transparency from all healthcare providers, especially doctors and healthcare organizations like clinics and hospitals. Individuals should be able to shop to find the best prices for procedures, exams or any other medical-related procedure.
  2. Block-grant Medicaid to the states. Nearly every state already offers benefits beyond what is required in the current Medicaid structure. The state governments know their people best and can manage the administration of Medicaid far better without federal overhead. States will have the incentives to seek out and eliminate fraud, waste and abuse to preserve our precious resources.
  3. Remove barriers to entry into free markets for drug providers that offer safe, reliable and cheaper products. Congress will need the courage to step away from the special interests and do what is right for America. Though the pharmaceutical industry is in the private sector, drug companies provide a public service. Allowing consumers access to imported, safe and dependable drugs from overseas will bring more options to consumers.
The first item seems to be a hint at keeping some of the bureaucracy that opponents of Obamacare hate. Many MD's and mid-level providers will complain that the over-reach of Obamacare into their work has reduced their ability to focus on the patient in order to satisfy bureaucratic requirements of the ACA. This price transparency requirement seems like more of the same overreach.

Medicaid before Obamacare had a sharp-cliff where recipients lose all benefits if there income exceeded a very small sum of income. I believe sharp benefit cut offs are a disincentive to work for many welfare recipients and that the current system gives recipients some breathing room to get into the work-force, gain experience, and increase their income until they can get jobs with solid benefits and income.

That last item that I disagree with is the idea of removing barriers for drug providers. Barriers in the pharmaceutical industry keep drugs safe. Even with the barriers we now have, drug providers have the guarantee of suits and paying damages for issues with side effects. Considering who is making this recommendation, gives me pause as well. "Who wants Trump chemo?"

Sunday, July 17, 2016

RNC -- Trumps Positions "Pay for the Wall".

In anticipation of the RNC tomorrow (frankly this may be one of the more exciting RNCs in my lifetime) I am going to post about each of Donald Trump's campaign positions. This should be helpful to anyone considering Trump's candidacy. To be clear, I do not advocate voting for DJT or HRC. I am voting Libertarian this year. Not because I believe in the party's platform, but because neither DJT and HRC are worthy of the office.

The material is coming directly from Trump's website:

Introduction: The provision of the Patriot Act, Section 326 - the "know your customer" provision, compelling financial institutions to demand identity documents before opening accounts or conducting financial transactions is a fundamental element of the outline below. That section authorized the executive branch to issue detailed regulations on the subject, found at 31 CFR 130.120-121. It's an easy decision for Mexico: make a one-time payment of $5-10 billion to ensure that $24 billion continues to flow into their country year after year. There are several ways to compel Mexico to pay for the wall including the following:
  • On day 1 promulgate a "proposed rule" (regulation) amending 31 CFR 130.121 to redefine applicable financial institutions to include money transfer companies like Western Union, and redefine "account" to include wire transfers. Also include in the proposed rule a requirement that no alien may wire money outside of the United States unless the alien first provides a document establishing his lawful presence in the United States.
  • On day 2 Mexico will immediately protest. They receive approximately $24 billion a year in remittances from Mexican nationals working in the United States. The majority of that amount comes from illegal aliens. It serves as de facto welfare for poor families in Mexico. There is no significant social safety net provided by the state in Mexico.
  • On day 3 tell Mexico that if the Mexican government will contribute the funds needed to the United States to pay for the wall, the Trump Administration will not promulgate the final rule, and the regulation will not go into effect.
  • Trade tariffs, or enforcement of existing trade rules: There is no doubt that Mexico is engaging in unfair subsidy behavior that has eliminated thousands of U.S. jobs, and which we are obligated to respond to; the impact of any tariffs on the price imports will be more than offset by the economic and income gains of increased production in the United States, in addition to revenue from any tariffs themselves. Mexico needs access to our markets much more than the reverse, so we have all the leverage and will win the negotiation. By definition, if you have a large trade deficit with a nation, it means they are selling far more to you than the reverse - thus they, not you, stand to lose from enforcing trade rules through tariffs (as has been done to save many U.S. industries in the past).
  • Cancelling visas: Immigration is a privilege, not a right. Mexico is totally dependent on the United States as a release valve for its own poverty - our approvals of hundreds of thousands of visas to their nationals every year is one of our greatest leverage points. We also have leverage through business and tourist visas for important people in the Mexican economy. Keep in mind, the United States has already taken in 4X more migrants than any other country on planet earth, producing lower wages and higher unemployment for our own citizens and recent migrants.
  • Visa fees: Even a small increase in visa fees would pay for the wall. This includes fees on border crossing cards, of which more than 1 million are issued a year. The border-crossing card is also one of the greatest sources of illegal immigration into the United States, via overstays. Mexico is also the single largest recipient of U.S. green cards, which confer a path to U.S. citizenship. Again, we have the leverage so Mexico will back down.
Conclusion: Mexico has taken advantage of us in another way as well: gangs, drug traffickers and cartels have freely exploited our open borders and committed vast numbers of crimes inside the United States. The United States has borne the extraordinary daily cost of this criminal activity, including the cost of trials and incarcerations. Not to mention the even greater human cost. We have the moral high ground here, and all the leverage. It is time we use it in order to Make America Great Again."

So, to sum up, on the first day of a Donald Trump presidency he will start a trade war, damage diplomatic ties, and massively increase the size of government by adding new bureaucratic red tape and confiscating the earnings for/of millions of Mexicans living in the US legally and illegally. 

Personally, I find this position to be one of the more short-sighted and oppressive positions. First off, he will be burdening the already over-burdened, and under-funded Treasury department with the burden of enforcing this policy. Second, he will be garnishing the wages of hard-working individuals in an attempt to extort the Mexican government to pay for his fence. That's like me stealing my neighbors mail in order to extort him into paying for my fence. Sure, his dog pees on my yard, but it is my yard and my responsibility. 

Friday, February 12, 2016

Hello Again.....

It has been many years since I have visited the blogosphere. I must admit I miss writing. I don't know that anyone blogs anymore, but tweeting is so stupid and I just despise the political discourse that happens via Facebook.

I have lost most of my faith in the American political process. 10+ years ago when I was blogging daily, I would have laughed myself to tears if you would have told me Donald Trump was looking the be the GOP nominee. A nation that is willing to turn to that Oompa Loompa is a nation out of answers and out of ideas.

While I think much of the blame goes to baby boomers, the self-centered hippy generation given to us by the greatest generation before them. However, I'm afraid the worst generation has just reached voting age. The Millennials, a generation of left-wing brain dead parrots, a generation of spoiled brat-only children, a generation coddled, they are turning into the strongest voting demographic in America. They helped elect Barack Obama, and if the GOP is brain-dead enough to nominate Mr. Trump, they are sure to help elect Bernie Sanders or Hilary Clinton.

Interestingly enough, I believe Bernie Sanders is the most sincere and honest candidate in the entire field. Sincerity and honesty would win me over if it wasn't for his batshit crazy social policies. While I think Hilary is the most dishonest candidate in the field, I believe she would maintain the status quo - and maintaining the status quo sounds far better then any more hope and change.

On to Ted Cruz. When I here announcements from evangelicals that a certain candidate is a man of God, I dry heave. Making a pronouncement like that is such a huge turn off because, as president, this man will likely do so many ungodly things that will make Christian virtue look more like a vomit stain then a beacon of goodness. Evangelical endorsements are the biggest turn off for me.

I am fond of Marco Rubio and Mr. Kaisich. I am fond of them if for no other reason than they strike me nice moderate candidates. We need moderates, especially in the White House. Presidents on the extreme are either in-effective or they have to act as dictators to be effective. Moderates, on the other hand, are able to make compromises that, ideally, bring to pass the best solutions to our nation's issues. While extremists hate compromise, it seems better to me than the constant gridlock we now see,

Regardless, I do not have much faith that any of the current presidential candidates will do anything to make our country better. I plan on writing more heavily. I'm not writing to look for fights, but to sort through my ever increasing apathy to politics. Comment if you wish, I enjoy the dialogue Sometimes dialogue in the blogosphere has completely changed my mind on an issue, and I hope to have that kind of dialogue here. If nothing else, I enjoy writing essays.