Friday, February 1, 2019

Your Tax Refund, Compliments of ...

The hyper-partisan Democrats have one thing going for them: lockstep unity against anything that could be perceived as a Trump success.
"[T]he biggest part of the tax cut by far was tax cuts for individuals....The most common middle class marginal tax rates of 15 and 25 percent were reduced to 12 and 24 percent, respectively."
So as you receive a bigger tax refund this year, remember this from the Patriot Post:

Democrats Cut Jobs, Republicans Cut Taxes

It's tax-filing season, which is going to be great news for millions of Americans.
Nate Jackson · Jan. 31, 2019
Last July, DNC Chief Tom Perez made an election pitch based on despair: “Too many members of our society are still struggling to find a good-paying job.” His assessment was quite the contrast to a little place we like to call “reality,” where unemployment is at record lows and wages are up due to competition for talent. The only ones taking away jobs are Democrats imposing unrealistic minimum wages in blue states and cities. Dems are hoping for recession, after all. A month into 2019 and three months removed from the Democrats’ win in the House, where do things stand?
One example of leftist policy is a report on Barack Obama’s crackdown on franchising as a favor to his Big Labor pals. “A report put out by the International Franchise Association and a Chamber of Commerce found that the Obama administration provoked an ‘existential threat’ to the franchise model in which small business owners operate under the umbrella of a national corporate brand,” reports The Washington Free Beacon. (Think McDonald’s and other fast-food chains.) “The Obama administration departed from decades of precedent when the National Labor Relations Board [NLRB] held that parent companies could be held liable for labor violations committed by franchisees. The report estimated that the new joint employer standard set curtailed expansion in the industry, leading to between 142,000 and 376,000 lost job opportunities — a 2.55 to 5 percent reduction in the workforce.” It also put a $33 billion dent in the economy each year since 2015. Thanks Obama.
The damage was already done, but at least the NLRB under Donald Trump has begun unwinding that regulation.
On the Republican side, 2017 saw the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act — without a single Democrat vote. This week marked the beginning of tax-filing season for 2018 income, which means millions of Americans will be reminded just how much money they’re saving. While most of the attention was focused on corporate rate cuts, and while no tax law benefits everyone, Ryan Ellis, president of the Center for a Free Economy, reminds us “the biggest part of the tax cut by far was tax cuts for individuals.”
He explains, “To start with, tax rates for families were cut across the board — for everyone. The top rate of 39.6 percent was reduced to 37 percent. The tax rates underneath went down, too. The most common middle class marginal tax rates of 15 and 25 percent were reduced to 12 and 24 percent, respectively. The marriage penalty was eliminated in all but the top tax bracket.” Furthermore, because the standard deduction was substantially raised, nearly 30 million fewer families will waste time tracking down receipts for itemized deductions — saving both time and money by going for the standard deduction. And the child tax credit doubled to $2,000 per child.
Ellis also notes, “A median income family of four with two kids makes about $80,000 per year. Their income tax burden was reduced from about $4,600 to about $2,300, a 50 percent cut in income tax. A single parent with two kids making $60,000 per year got an even bigger tax cut, seeing her taxes reduced from $3,000 to $800. Even an individual making $35,000 got in on the fun — his taxes are cut from $3,200 to $2,600.”
Maybe the mainstream media should spend a little more time reporting that good news instead of attacking Catholic boys.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Trump as the Best Man?

Over the last few weeks, I have been embarrassed by the depth to which U.S. Senators wearing the label "Democrat" will go in their efforts to thwart democracy. And I don't mean that just being in the minority they should have deferred to the majority. Rather, they substantively oppose democracy.
The most controversial social issues of our day are legal policies that via the democratic process the voting public and elected legislators rejected, only to be over-ridden by a SCOTUS ruling. Think of issues like obscenity, flag-burning, abortion, homosexual marriage among others. Through the democratic process, laws had been passed to define what a majority (often overwhelmingly) believed to be appropriate behavior in a civilized society. Left-wing activists objected to the will of the majority, and convinced (often after multiple attempts) the SCOTUS to create a "right" of the objectors to rebel against the communities in which they lived.
That is the role of a liberal/progressive court: changing laws against the will of the people. By contrast, a conservative court goes out of its way to affirm the will of the people.
Is this clear? Conservatives Justices are pro-democracy. Liberal Justices are anti-democracy.
In a few weeks we will get a sense of whether the voters generally support Trump's pro-democracy direction or, as the media coverage attempts to portray (and create), want Congress to check him. Following is an interesting article from the Patriot Post.

Why Is Trump's Approval Up?

Thomas Gallatin

Was it the good economic news of record-low unemployment numbers? Was it the successful renegotiation of NAFTA? Was it the Senate Democrats' hateful smear job of newly confirmed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh? Was it a combination of all of these? This past Friday, Rasmussen released its latest presidential tracking poll showing that 51% of likely voters now approve of President Donald Trump's job performance, compared to 48% who disapprove. This is Trump's highest approval rating since March 2017.

One reason for Trump's growing approval may have more to do with his uncanny ability to get his political opponents to reveal their true colors. By refusing to play by Washington's conventional politically correct "rules," Trump tweaks the "sensibilities" of the political elites. In so doing he has effectively exposed a growing political cancer of social-Marxism that has almost completely infected today's Democrat party — a party that now has no room for political centrists but rather has become a bastion of the extreme Left.

When Americans witnessed the number of high-profile Democrats who willingly threw out one of our nation's bedrock principles of jurisprudence — the concept of "innocent until proven guilty" — in order to weaponize a "social justice" mob all for the sake of seizing power, many were rightly horrified and left wondering, just who are these Democrats?

It appears now that more Americans are recognizing that despite, or maybe even because of, his obvious character flaws, Trump is actually the best man for this dirty job. Through thick and thin, Trump has demonstrated that he will stand and fight to come through on his promises. Frankly, the fact that his approval rating isn't even higher shows just how far the nation still has to go.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Manafort & Cohen: Finally, Grounds to Impeach?

It is fascinating to watch the straw-grasping going on. Nothing Manafort was being tried for, and certainly nothing the jury convicted him of, had anything remotely to do with the Trump campaign. The guy is obviously being punished for being on the wrong side of the establishment. How about Cohen?
Contributing one's own money to one's own campaign is not a campaign finance violation. Many wealthy candidates run largely self-funded campaigns; there is no limit on the amount of your own money you spend to try to get elected. Such spending often takes the form of paying people to disclose information you want circulated: better known as political advertising. Another way of spending your own money may be to pay someone to not disclose information: we might call that "political non-advertising." Neither political advertising nor political non-advertising is a campaign finance violation, when you spend your own money. If Cohen paid two women for Trump non-advertising with Cohen's own money, that may be a problem for Cohen since he would be making undisclosed contributions to Trump's campaign; but if he did it with Trump's money, acting on behalf of Trump, that would simply be Trump paying for non-advertising, 100% legal expenditure of his own money. 
Cohen, an obvious liar who just plead guilty to various crimes unrelated to Trump, issues a public statement that his payments to the women was directed by Trump. Here is the expert's legal opinion (not mine) on that:
"If [the Court] believes Cohen, that the president directed him to do it, then it’s not a crime at all. If he doesn’t believe Cohen, then Cohen [alone] has committed the crime." 
Long-time liberal legal scholar Alan Dershowitz, who disagrees profoundly with Trump on many policy issues, is nevertheless one of the more rational analysts when it comes to the various legal accusations being thrown against the wall. Mark Alexander, quoting Dershowitz at length, provides a good overview.
The following is from the Patriot Post. 

Mark Alexander
Donald Trump’s troubles are the trouble with Donald Trump. He is a package deal, and part of the deal is ugly. This is not a revelation, but it certainly does provide plenty of obstructionist fodder for Democrat Party hacks and their Leftmedia conglomerate.
More on that in a minute, but first…
Those of us who supported his election over Hillary Clinton had no illusion that Trump had the character of George Washngton or Ronald Reagan. But as Nate Jackson noted yesterday, Trump’s considerable character issues were “baked into the 2016 election cake.” We knew what we were getting. It is unfortunate that Republicans have to defend a current president by comparing his failings to past Democrat presidents, but that is the degraded reality of contemporary politics.
Frankly, I have been surprised at how effective Trump has been as, to put it mildly, an “unconventional president.” A review of his first year MAGA accomplishments, and adding numerous legislative, judicial, regulatory, and economic accomplishments thus far in his second year, is remarkable. No conventional president has done more to turn the country back toward Liberty in his first 18 months in office than Donald Trump.
Writing recently about the epidemic of Trump Derangement Syndrome afflicting the Left, I noted the reason why: “The day Trump arrived in DC, he dropped a bomb on the status quo in Congress and its special interests. He dropped a bomb on the regulatory behemoths and their bureaucratic bottlenecks. He dropped a bomb on the trade and national security institutions and alliances that failed miserably over the previous eight years. And he dropped a bomb on all the pundits and mainstream media outlets.”
Trump’s “style” has caused more political consternation resulting in more uncivil discourse than any president in the last century. But as seasoned political observer Walter Williams notes, sometimes men of high character make bad presidents, while sometimes men of low character make good presidents.
Enter the Russia collusion setup — orchestrated by former CIA Director John Brennan, former FBI Director James Comey and, of course, Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Comey, by his own admission, released details of the fake Russian dossier (which became a Trump investigation centerpiece based on a questionable FISA memo) in order to prompt the appointment of a special prosecutor. That was a masterful play to keep Trump on the ropes through the 2018 midterms.
It was clear that the appointment of Robert Mueller and his team of Clintonistas would open up the proverbial “can of worms” in regard to all things Trump, and those connected to him, despite the fact there has been and likely will be no evidence of Russian collusion. To date, Mueller has not indicated any investigation into the genuine 2016 election collusion between Team Clinton and the Russians to set Trump up for a takedown.
And that brings us to this week, which featured the convictions of Trump associates Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen. Nothing in those convictions and plea deals have anything to do with “Russian collusion,” but again, the worms are out, and in the case of Cohen, so much for “lawyer-client privilege.”
For starters, all the analysis from Right and Left notwithstanding, the biggest concern for Trump right now is not what Manafort and Cohen have been convicted of thus far. Manafort has an upcoming trial that pertains to his past dealings with Russian companies. But a much greater threat to Trump is what Cohen has yet to tell prosecutors about Trump. As his former attorney, Cohen knows where, on Trump’s behalf, he hid corporate and personal legal skeletons.
As for the current charges against Cohen related to “hush money” paid to a couple of women with whom Trump had some salacious involvement long ago, the Left is trying to spin that into “high crimes and misdemeanors” for a faux impeachment proceeding.
Trump insists, of course, that he has broken no laws. “Michael Cohen plead guilty to two counts of campaign finance violations that are not a crime. … The only thing that I have done wrong is to win an election that was expected to be won by Crooked Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.”
In regard to these latest Trump troubles uncovered by Mueller, my money is on the most cogent analysis from Democrat Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz.
On the hush money, Dershowitz concluded:

If Mr. Trump the candidate contributed several hundred thousand dollars to his own campaign to pay hush money to women who were either truthfully or falsely alleging against him, that is not a crime. The candidate can contribute as much as he wants. … The election laws are a morass of misdemeanors, felonies, crimes, non-crimes, with exceptions, so you have to get over the legal barrier first. Then you have to get over the credibility barrier. The only evidence that the president did anything that might be unlawful even arguably comes from a man who has admitted to be a liar, had a lawyer-client privilege with the president. There are a lot of barriers to what Cohen said … in court. Remember, there has been no indictment, grand jury, only a statement, an elocution, by a man who has admitted to criminal conduct. So we are far away from impeachable offense or a criminal offense against the president.

On Trump’s asking Cohen to make the payments:

Cohen would be acting for Trump as Trump’s representative, and the campaign contribution would be lawful as long as [the candidate] paid for it. … So the prosecutor is in a “catch-22.” If he believes Cohen, that the president directed him to do it, then it’s not a crime at all. If he doesn’t believe Cohen, then Cohen has committed the crime. The legal pundits who are saying that if Cohen admits a crime, that makes Trump and “un-indicted co-conspirator,” they are just wrong as a matter of basic criminal law.

Asked by Bret Baier why Cohen would plead guilty to this campaign finance violation:

This was an add-on. They had him dead to rights on the medallions, on the taxes — they threw this in … in order to give him an opportunity to say something negative about Donald Trump. Look, they’re not interested in Cohen, they’re interested in Trump. Judge Ellis said that in the Manafort case. So they threw in the campaign contribution law in order to find a connection to Trump. Medallions have no connection to Trump. Taxes have no connection to Trump. This is the only alleged crime that has a connection to Trump.

Regarding absurd comparisons to Watergate, Dershowitz declared:

It’s not even a close question. That is so over the top. It’s just not a crime to contribute to your own campaign. … I challenge any of those saying it’s a crime to find anything in criminal law that would make it a crime for a [candidate] to pay someone [to benefit] his own election. It’s not against the law. … The Rule of Lawrequires that when you say something is a crime, show me the statute. There is no statute that would make that a crime. It might be a misdemeanor for the campaign to fail to report that payment, but that would be the campaign, not the candidate."

And on the Left’s political impeachment rhetoric:

If you are talking about high crimes and misdemeanors, that’s absurd. That’s not the kind of thing the Framers had in mind. … You need a high crime and misdemeanor. Every campaign has violated some technical election law. The Democrats are going to run on "Give us the House and we’ll impeach the president.” … They’re not going to get close on an impeachment track. They are not going to find the crime. … The candidate is entitled to contribute a million dollars to his own campaign.

Predictably the Democrats are using the latest Trump troubles to insist a delay in the confirmation hearings for U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Brett Kavanaugh, an outstanding choice to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Moving on, we will see what else Cohen has to say.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

So-called "Liberals" Oppose Freedom: We've Come a Long Way!

The following article by Michael Barone quite nicely summarizes the strange place we have come to in America. Liberal used to mean free, and liberals used to advocate greater freedom, especially from government control and restriction. In our modern world, "liberals" have confiscated the word and given it an entirely different meaning, advancing the totalitarianism of a Brave New World and promoting the "Newspeak" of 1984
By clear contrast, those who promote limited government and maximum personal autonomy - the "conservation" of government action for necessary and constitutionally-mandated purposes - are the advocates of freedom.

Written by Michael Barone
Why is it considered “liberal” to compel others to say or fund things they don’t believe? That’s a question raised by three Supreme Court decisions this year. And it’s a puzzling development for those of us old enough to remember when liberals championed free speech — even advocacy of sedition or sodomy — and conservatives wanted government to restrain or limit it.
The three cases dealt with quite different issues.
In National Institute of Family Life Advocates v. Becerra, a 5-4 majority of the court overturned a California statute that required anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers to inform clients where they could obtain free or inexpensive abortions — something the centers regard as homicide.
The same 5-4 majority in a second case, Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, reversed a 41-year-old precedent and ruled that public employees don’t have to pay unions fees that cover the cost of collective bargaining. Echoing a position taken by then-President Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s, the court reasoned that collective bargaining with a public employer is inevitably a political matter, and that forcing employees to finance it is compelling them to subsidize political speech with which they disagree.
In the third case, Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the court avoided a direct decision on whether a baker, whose Christian belief opposed same-sex marriage, could refuse to design a custom wedding cake for a same-sex couple, contrary to a state law that bars discrimination against gays. Seven justices ruled that the commission showed an impermissible animus against religion, but the four liberal justices endorsed a separate opinion indicating they’d rule against the baker otherwise.
Rational arguments can now be made for the dissenters’ positions. In Becerra, they argued that the law simply prevented misleading advertising; in Janus, they argued that union members should pay for services rendered; in Masterpiece Cakeshop, they argued that selling a cake is a routine service, not a form of expression. You may not agree, but you can see why others might make these arguments.
But are they “liberal”? That word comes from a Latin root that means “free.”
And “free” is the keyword in the First Amendment to the Constitution, which bars Congress from passing laws “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion or “abridging the freedom of speech or of the press.”
The Supreme Court First Amendment jurisprudence got its start almost exactly 100 years ago, in cases challenging laws passed by a Democratic Congress and endorsed by a Democratic administration, prohibiting opposition to the government and, specifically, American participation in World War I.
The justices hesitated to block such prosecutions, but those considered “liberal” — Republican appointee Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes and Democratic appointee Justice Louis Brandeis — were most likely to look askance. The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 to defend the free speech rights of everyone, even vile extremists.
Unhappily, the ACLU today subordinates free speech to other values, like defending the sensibilities of certain students on campuses. And other liberals have been moving in the same direction. It’s less important for them that people say what they think and more important that they say what the government requires.
In his Bagehot blog, the Economist’s Adrian Wooldridge describes the process. Historically, he says, liberals understood that conflict was inevitable and tried to foster freedom based on their distrust of power, faith in progress and belief in civic respect. But today, Wooldridge writes, “liberalism as a philosophy has been captured by a technocratic-managerial-cosmopolitan elite.” They have moved from making “a critique of the existing power structure” to becoming “one of the most powerful elites in history.” In response, we see “a revolt of the provinces against the city”: Brexit, Donald Trump. In counter-response, as Niall Ferguson puts it in a column for The Times of London, “‘liberals’ are increasingly authoritarian.”
Like the “liberal” Supreme Court justices, who don’t see a constitutional problem with compelling crisis pregnancy centers to send messages they find repugnant, or requiring union members to subsidize political speech they disagree with, or forcing people to participate in ceremonies prohibited by their religion.
In the process, they are providing support for Friedrich Hayek‘s argument in “The Road to Serfdom” that moving toward socialism means moving toward authoritarianism. And they seem to not have noticed Yale Law Professor Stephen Carter‘s observation, as quoted in The Atlantic, that “every law is violent” because “Behind every exercise of law stands the sheriff.”
Carter calls for “a degree of humility” in passing and enforcing laws that compel speech against conscience — something today’s “liberals” seem to have forgotten.
Michael Barone is a senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and longtime co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Fight Poverty Effectively

Poverty is not always a moral issue, but in many instances it is. Morality, of course, in the broad sense of living in accordance with our God-given purpose. Which is another way of saying knowing the difference between right and wrong, making good choices instead of bad choices.

The following article caught my eye. So much government spending to combat poverty contains no real element of change in the individual being helped, and in a very basic way, rewards poor choices. The actual result, then, is to encourage people to continue making bad choices that have lead them into poverty, because they get free money for doing so. Twisted, but simply true. Which makes the following stand out from the typical welfare program:
"A program in Colorado that focuses on helping non-custodial fathers gain employment and pay child support provides a refreshing example of effective state-led antipoverty efforts."

What successful antipoverty efforts look like: A refreshing report from the Rocky Mountain State

"Initial results from the Colorado Parent Employment Program (CO-PEP) demonstrate the power of work and careful case management, with a focus on outcomes, in increasing the economic and social involvement of formerly addicted or incarcerated men in their families’ lives. Funded through a public/private partnership and administered by the new Colorado Division of Child Support Services, CO-PEP resembles similar projects in Texas that focus on transformational rather than transactional assistance. In other words, assistance isn’t just financial aid but an investment of both social capital and money coupled with some tough love.

"How did CO-PEP achieve this kind of success? They first had to understand that most absent parents (mostly fathers) want to work, earn money, and support their children and former partners. CO-PEP set up these absent parents with coaches and case managers, who trained them for up to 14 hours a month in work preparation, parenting skills, and financial literacy. Then they got them into employment — and the positive outcomes followed from there."
Read the whole article here.