We don’t need a new mandatory federal government entitlement program.

Our population is aging and we all want to stay in our own homes as long as possible.  We definitely do have an increasing demand for in-home caregivers.  But I urge our Presidential candidates and our elected federal representatives to not support the mandatory Universal Family Care proposal as described  by Al-jen Poo in her recently published essay.  (See link below to the “Your Turn” essay by Al-jen Poo published in The Des Moines Register on 9/19/2109)
We do not need, and should not create, a new federal government sponsored, taxpayer funded entitlement program!   Such a scheme would make us even more dependent on our government.  Caregiving for family members at home should be left to family, friends and voluntary charitable efforts. This is part of being a family and accepting responsibility for ourselves and our loved ones.  Yes it is a burden, but it is one that we should accept.
LInk to Register “Your Turn” essay:

 

Time to start reducing use of government force in transportation fuels.

The forced use of biofuels, euphemistically called the Renewable Fuel standard (RFS), was established in 2005.  Then as now, the RFS requires refiners and importers of transportation fuels to add minimum amounts of ethanol or bio diesel to their fuel, or be subject to fines.  The requirement has grown from 4 billion gallons in 2006 to 15 billion gallons for traditional ethanol for 2019.  Existing legislation requires a completely unrealistic total of 36 billion gallons by 2022, including at least 16 billion gallons from cellulosic biofuels.
The current “rebellion” by Iowa biofuel leaders against the waivers of the FRS requirement that are being granted to small refiners is understandable.  (The waivers allow small refiners to be exempt from adding bio-fuels to their gasoline or diesel.)  All businesses that are dependent on government protection will fight back if they feel their favored status is being threatened.  Biofuels producers and their suppliers (corn farmers), will lobby hard and loud to stop any reduction of the RFS.
Will the subsidies and use of force ever end?  After 13 years of increasing subsidies, we now need to pass laws to start reducing, and over time end, the forced use of ethanol.

Crop insurance is essential, but no taxpayer subsidy is needed.

Craig Hill’s editorial explaining the importance of crop insurance to farmers made a lot of sense. (“This much is certain – For farmers, crop insurance is essential” 10/5/2016)   Most business and individuals buy insurance to reduce risk, and, as Mr. Hill explained, farmers have plenty of risk.  What he did not explain is why taxpayers need to subsidize about 60% of the premium.  Contrary to his opinion, it definitely is a handout.  Farmers, on average, have much more wealth than the average person.  It doesn’t matter that much of the wealth is tied up in land values.  Land can be sold for cash just like any other asset.  Crop insurance is a good idea, it just should not be subsidized by taxpayers.  In the next farm bill, a couple of years from now, we need to eliminate the taxpayer subsidy for crop insurance.

Link to Register article: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/iowa-view/2016/10/04/much-certain-farmers-crop-insurance-essential/91551614/

Consider Gary Johnson, Libertarian for President

Many of us feel very dissatisfied about having to choose between the lesser f two evils for president.  Many think that Hillary Clinton is dishonest and has been bought and paid for by large special interests, and many think that Trump is unqualified in international affairs and a braggart bully with no substance on the issues.  We shouldn’t have to make the least bad choice.

Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico and the Libertarian Party candidate for President, is a good choice.  Johnson is a down-to-earth, common sense person who believes in fiscal responsibility, social tolerance, strong defense international good will, and individual liberty.   Socially, he has a live-and-let-live philosophy – you should be able to do pretty much whatever you want as long as you don’t initiate force or fraud against others, and don’t put others in danger.  Fiscally, he believes the federal government should play a much smaller role in our lives.  He does believe there is a proper role for government – to help protect our lives, our liberty, and our justly acquired property.  He is against crony capitalism.  He knows that  a welfare state creates dependency.  He believes that we should work together, cooperatively and voluntarily, to solve our common problems.

If you are polled about who you would support or vote for President, tell them that you are for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for president.  At least that might get him into the national debates and give us a chance to learn about an alternative to the the lesser of two evils.

Income inequality is not the problem.

Madeline Cano conflated income inequality with poverty in her recent letter  letter to the editor in the Des Moines Register.  (Hunger is symptom of income inequality. 10/15/2015)  Poverty is the problem, not income inequality.  Rich people earning even more does not make poor people earn less.   Cano did not actually advocate taking money from the wealthy and redistributing it to the poor.  She simply repeated the erroneous meme that income inequality is the problem.
Cano correctly identified that, “…Iowans are not earning sufficient incomes to support themselves and their families.”  Increasing the incomes of Iowans in a sustainable way to reduce hunger in Iowa should be a priority.  The best way to do that is through education, work experience, and opportunity, not through an increase in the minimum wage.
Raising the minimum wage definitely hurts most those who have no job and those who have the fewest skills.  It makes it more difficult for them to get a job and, at the same time, has a tendency to make things more expensive.
To the extent that we want taxpayers to subsidize low income earners, it is better done through the current  Earned Income Tax Credit, which targets benefits to those with real need, and excludes those with higher incomes or who are claimed as a dependent by others.

Anti-immigration feelings – some things never change

In 1862 California passed the, “Act to protect free white labor against competition with Chinese coolie labor, and to discourage the immigration of Chinese into the State of California.” Some things never change. Even though we are not that many generations away from our own ancestor immigrants, once we get settled, we don’t want others to come in and change things.

Immigrants are both producers and consumers. They are mostly honest and hard working people – looking for a better life for themselves and their families. We need to allow illegals some way to become legal. I don’t think there should be a pathway to citizenship, but there should be a pathway to legality. The path should require payment of a penalty, and immigrants should not have access to our taxpayer funded safety net until they become legal, but deportation is not the right answer.

Social Security funding solutions

If we do nothing to fix our Social Security scheme, our trust fund will be depleted by 2033, and then benefits will be required to be reduced by 23%!  There are only two ways to fix this problem: raise taxes or reduce benefits.  Taxes can be raised on all workers, on only certain workers, or on non-workers.  Benefits can be reduced by lowering monthly payment amounts or by raising the retirement age.  Of course, any combination of the above is possible.

Recently, more and more people have been calling for the elimination of the cap on Social Security taxable earnings.  (For 2014, earnings over $117,000 are not taxed for Social Security.  The cap is increased every year.)  The original idea for the cap was that Social Security is an insurance-type plan and taxes paid in should bear some relationship to benefits paid out.  The tax is limited because the benefits are limited.  Social Security was never intended to be, or sold to the public as, a welfare plan.  (We have a broad welfare safety net for those who are poor.)

Like so many government programs, Social Security provided benefits greater than the amount of tax collected.  Current and past retirees got their benefits and shifted much of the cost to future generations.  This needs to stop.  Wherever possible, those who receive benefits should pay the cost.  It would be morally wrong to place extra taxes on high earners just because we can.  That would be an example of tyranny by the majority.

To the extent that we do not want to reduce benefits, it seems most fair to raise taxes on all earners.  But maybe the best solution would be to continue to raise the normal retirement age.  Today we live much longer and healthier lives than when Social Security was created.  Should a required government retirement insurance plan be designed to pay for 20 or 30 or more years of retirement?  For those unable to work, we do have Social Security Disability benefits.  For those who are healthy, it seems better to delay retirement and not reduce the benefit amount.

Disclosure:  I am currently semi-retired and my earnings are below the cap.  So, increasing or eliminating the cap would not increase my SS taxes.  An overall increase in the SS tax rate would increase my SS taxes.  Most proposals to increase the normal retirement age would not affect me since I am 61 years old.