Supreme court was wrong on Obamacare!

I will respect the ruling of the Supreme Court in upholding the subsidies under Obamacare, but the decision was wrong.

Those who drafted, supported, and voted for Obama care clearly intended to withhold money from those states that did not set up their own state health insurance exchange – just like many other laws that require states to meet certain requirements in order to get federal money.  In this case, they intentionally wrote the law to provide subsidies only to people in states who purchased their health insurance through an “exchange established by the state.”  It was intended as a carrot or a stick to get the states to comply.  Many did not comply, so the strategy backfired.

The job of the Supreme Court is to resolve disputes based on the law, the facts, and the Constitution.  It is not the job of the Court to fix mistakes in political strategy.  That is what they did, and it was wrong.

Social Security – don’t end the cap on taxable wages.

Recently, more people have called for an end to the cap on wages that are subject to the social security tax.  (For 2015, only the first $118,500 of wages are taxable, no social security tax is paid on wages above that amount.)  I think that would be the wrong way to go.  Social Security was sold to the public as a retirement plan where the amount of benefit received had some relationship to the amount paid in. It was not sold as a welfare program where the rich subsidize the poor. The benefits paid under Social Security are limited.  That is why taxable wages are limited.  Social Security is was intended to cover only a portion of a person’s needs during later years.  People should expect to continue to work throughout their lifetimes unless they save enough for their own retirement.  Unless, of course, we want to change over to a welfare system, where benefits are determined by politics rather than the amount you pay in.

New YMCA pool should not receive federal or state funding assistance

The new downtown Des Moines YMCA should not receive federal funding for its new Olympic size swimming pool.  The Register reported that the Y did not receive the $6 million in federal tax credits it had requested, but that it had reapplied for funding next year under the same program.  I don’t blame the Y, or any of the thousands of similar organizations across the nation, for applying for available grants.  I blame our federal government and elected representatives for creating such spending programs.  Building swimming pools, and other local community projects, is clearly an improper role for our federal government.  There is no authorization for this kind of spending in the Constitution.  Wanting to fund good causes is not sufficient.  (As a longtime member, financial supporter, and twice past board member, I believe in the good cause of the Y.)   Spending proposals that are not authorized under the Constitution must be opposed for that reason alone – no matter how good the cause.  Let’s see if the newly Republican controlled Congress will honor their oath to uphold the Constitution and work to reign in these Constitutionally abusive spending programs.

Civil Asset Forfeiture is wrong!

Thanks to The Des Moines Register for exposing the unconstitutional and abusive use of civil asset forfeiture laws against U.S. citizens by the Iowa State Patrol, county attorneys, and the Iowa Attorney General.  Civil asset forfeiture laws  allow law enforcement agencies to take people’s cash (and other property) without charging them with a crime!   Then, citizens must prove they are innocent in order to get their money back.

Most amazing is the fact that the three law enforcement agencies that are involved get to split the money!  Whatever they can keep becomes a slush fund they can use to expand their budgets without legislative approval.  The conflict of interest is clear.  As a result, rather than arresting people and charging them with a crimes, our law enforcement officials make getting cash and other assets an end unto itself.

This is another example of how the failed drug wars have gotten out of control.  Our police have become militarized trying to fight the drug wars.  People who have never been violent or used any force against anyone have been made into criminals.  Then, because of their “criminal record”, they can’t get jobs and are prohibited from participating in benefits of our society.

We need to put a complete halt to civil asset forfeiture and we need to stop making criminals out of people who do no harm to others.  Ask candidates if they will help put an end to this travesty of justice.

Link to Register article: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/crime-and-courts/2014/09/30/iowa-state-patrol-cash-seizure-illegal-gamblers-say/16511135/

National Institute of Health – budget does not need to increase.

On 9/29/2014, The Des Moines Register reported on its front page, “The budget for the National Institute of Health… has shrunk about 20% over the past decade…”  The article went on to describe the reduction in medical research dollars flowing to the University of Iowa and Iowa State University.  What was not stated was the the reduction in spending was not a reduction in the actual dollars.  It was only after adjusting for inflation that there was any decrease.  Over the last decade (2003 – 2013) the dollars increased by $2.2 billion from $27.1 to $29.3 billion, an increase of 8%.  Adjusted for inflation, this equals a cut of about 15%.  If we look at the prior decade, (1993 – 2003), the appropriations increased from $10.3  to 27.1 billion – an increase of 164%!  Taking the two decades together, the increase is 67%.  Over the same two decades inflation totaled 61%.  So, it appears that funding has mostly kept up with inflation plus a little more.
The demand for medical research funding paid for by taxpayers is almost unlimited.  Therefore we must first decide how much we can spend, and then select research projects based on our priorities.  Maybe the research that U of I and ISU have been proposing is not as high on our priority list as other proposals.  Or, maybe we don’t have as much political power as some of the other research institutions.
Source NIH appropriations: http://www.nih.gov/about/almanac/appropriations/part2.htm
Source inflation – see table 24:  http://www.bls.gov/cpi/cpid1408.pdf

Export-Import Bank need to end.

 

 

The essay in The Register on 9/15/2014, by Mary Andringa and Jay Timmons in support of reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank) was well done.  The fact that the Ex-Im Bank returned $1 billion in profits to the U.S. Treasury is very persuasive.  Of course the same thing could be said about the U.S. government getting into about any business.  If our government ran a grocery store or a tractor manufacturing plant, it is very likely that it could make a profit.  But we don’t (or shouldn’t) do things that way in the United States.
In this case, there is good reason to believe that privately owned banks could provide this kind of financing for our manufacturers who want to export their products to other parts of the world.  The manufacturers should be willing to guarantee the debt of their customers if that is what is needed to secure financing for their buyers.  The fact that Ex-Im Bank financing, “is available to any exporter of any size” does not mean that this isn’t an example of crony capitalism.  In this case, the crony capitalists just happen to be a very large group of manufacturers who want the government to guarantee loans for their foreign customers.
We have created a crutch for these businesses.  We need to take away that crutch and move towards free market capitalism.
Link to Register article:  http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/iowa-view/2014/09/15/iowa-view-export-import-bank-economic-engine/15650761/

Don’t demonize Walgreens.

Don’t demonize Walgreens for taking action to legally lower its U.S. federal income taxes.  The Des Moines Register and President Obama are wrong when they say that taking advantage of this legal tax break is unpatriotic.  As the Register reported, Walgreens can save $4 billion in federal taxes over the next 5 years by changing its corporate headquarters to Switzerland.  (See Register article: “Walgreens turns back on taxpayers” 8/3/2014)

The Register asked: “How much profit does a company need?”  “How much is enough?”  They went on to list all of the benefits that Walgreens receives by operating in the U.S. They tried to shame Walgreens for their proposed action, and effectively called for a boycott of Walgreens in protest.

The Register gave lip service to the fact that the U.S. has very high corporate tax rates compared to most other modern countries, and that tax reform is needed to close loopholes and bring down rates.  That should have been the primary message of the editorial, that we need to close loopholes and lower rates, not that Walgreens might take advantage of one.

Many companies and other taxpayers pay substantially lower their taxes by taking advantage of loopholes:  Oil and other natural resource extraction industries have their depletion allowance; hedge fund managers have their “carried interest” bonuses payments.  There are many many types of tax credits and deductions that benefit only politically favored businesses.  Many unfair loopholes go to very wealthy and profitable companies and individuals.  How does Warren Buffet pay less than 20% in federal income taxes?  Loopholes.  Why do some of the largest, wealthiest, most profitable research based companies in Iowa pay no income tax?  Loopholes.  Are all of these people and companies unpatriotic because they don’t pay more taxes than required by law?

In this case, the problem is not Walgreens or the specific loophole.  It is the high corporate income tax rates in the U.S.  The U.S. needs to significantly lower its corporate income tax rates.  Otherwise, over time, companies will actually move their headquarters to lower tax countries.  Given the inherent unfairness of special interest loopholes, and given the unconscionably high U.S. federal debt, it seems obvious that we should close as many of these loopholes as possible, and lower tax rates at the same time in a revenue neutral way.

Full disclosure:  I am a Walgreens stockholder.

Link to Register editorial:  http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/editorials/2014/08/03/editorial-walgreens-turns-back-taxpayers/13531911/

Hobby Lobby decision correct.

A Supreme Court ruling today (6/30/2014) upheld our fundamental right to use our own private property in accordance with our own moral beliefs.  The ruling gives priority to natural religious and private property rights over the politically created guarantee that private business owners will provide employees with a health insurance benefit that covers certain birth control pills.

The owners of Hobby Lobby objected to the Obama Care legal requirement that they provide their employees with an insurance benefit that covered morning after “abortion” pills.  The law was in direct conflict with their sincerely held, honest and peaceful religious beliefs.  Hobby Lobby has never used force or fraud to get people to either work for or patronize their business.

Governments are the only organizations that can legally use force against peaceful people.  We created our government to use force, if necessary, to protect our fundamental right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness.  Government force should not be used to make peaceful people act against their own religious beliefs – no matter how good the cause or the intentions.

By the way, I am a peaceful, honest, pro-choice, atheist, libertarian.

Our government is spying on us.

Should there be some limit to government spying on we citizens?  Remember, we the people created our government to protect our lives, our liberty, and our property.  We granted only limited powers to our government.  We retained for ourselves and the States all powers not specifically granted to the federal government in the Constitution.  We believe that people are innocent unless proven guilty and that there needs to be some “probable cause” before our government is allowed to search our property or intrude into our private lives.  A key question is: Should private data that is held by third parties be subject to search without any probable cause?  Specifically, should our government be able to “scoop up” data related to our phone calls, internet activity, or banking activity without a specific warrant based on probable cause.  Today, the answer appears to be yes, our government can do that to us.  I think the answer should be no.  I understand that if the answer is no, that it will be more difficult for our government to protect us from terrorists.  The price of freedom and liberty is not free.  Along with our freedom, including privacy, comes risks: risks from which our government may not be able to protect us.  At the same time, the history of humankind is littered with oppression of people by their governments.  That is why our founding fathers intentionally made it difficult for our government to expand its powers.

Good idea from Canada.

The Canadian Postal Service announced that it will cease home delivery over the next five years.  This would be a good idea for the U.S. Postal Service.  It would not be an undue hardship if we all had to walk or drive a few blocks to a community group of mail boxes. In rural areas, maybe we would have to travel a few miles.  If we want to continue to protect the U.S. Postal Service’s monopoly on first class mail, and if we want to continue with daily mail service, then we should allow the Post Office to stop home delivery.