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Posts tagged with Taxes

Chief Justice Says Following Constitution Not Important

Chief Justice John Roberts says in his opinion that the Interstate Commerce clause doesn't authorize the mandatory health insurance provision of Obamacare but that following the Constitution isn't important so long as the Chief Justice is in political agreement with what Congress wants a law to do.

Chief Justice Roberts has apparently forgotten that the Supreme Court's only authority to act is as a legal body. It is not a super house of Congress with the authority to correct what individual justices believe are errors in acts of Congress. The Court is supposed to base its actions on the Constitution rather than on the personal political opinions of the Justices. It is not the role of the Court to determine if a given act of Congress is desirable or not. That is the role of government officials who are elected by the people.

If a majority of the Justices believe the individual mandate isn't authorized by the commerce clause upon which the law is based, then any requirement for insurance purchases is unconstitutional. It doesn't matter if Congress could have made the requirement under another provision of the Constitution. If Congress calls a charge a "penalty" then the Court can only consider whether or not that penalty is in accord with the Constitution. The Chief Justice cannot change the word penalty to the word "tax" to make the law valid.

The only authority the Court has is to send a measure back to Congress so Congress can decide whether to correct what the Court considers to be an error. The Chief Justice cannot say in effect "you little boys and girls in Congress should have called this penalty a tax, so I'll change it to a tax for you." Congress might not want to call the charge a tax because voters wouldn't accept the charge as a tax.

Justices who believe criminals should be prosecuted will nevertheless overturn a conviction if the government used illegal means to obtain a conviction. The Court doesn't say "well the defendant is guilty and the trial court could have convicted him without using illegally obtained evidence so we'll let the conviction stand." The Supreme Court tells the trial court to retry the case without the illegally obtained evidence

The Court must take the same approach when ruling on the constitutionality of legislation. If the legislation is not based on an appropriate provision of the Constitution, then the justices must find the legislation unconstitutional regardless of their personal opinions --- that is if they want people to believe they are motivated by protecting the Constitution rather than on furthering their political beliefs.

Lifetime tenure for Supreme Court Justices may be justifiable if they at least go through the motions of basing their rulings on what the Constitution authorizes. They need to write some legal smokescreen that make it appear their rulings are based on the Constitution. If the Chief Justice or other Justices are going to say in their opinions that their political beliefs are more important than what the Constitution authorizes, then American voters must have the opportunity to determine who serves on the Supreme Court.

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The Real Sin of Sodom

I recently watched an old episode of my mom's favorite television show, the "Billy Graham Crusades". Dr. Graham surprised me with some of his comments about the Biblical city of Sodom. He said that greed was one of the sins of the people of Sodom. According to Ezekiel 16:49 - "Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy."

Many members of the Republican Party have a problem with this same sin. So why do Christians in the Republican Party encourage this sin by supporting low taxes for those with high incomes? Why do Christians support Republicans who don't believe in helping the poor?

Sodom isn't the only Biblical location whose residents were punished by God for mistreating the poor. The Israeli prophets warned the leaders of Israel about the consequences of mistreating the poor before wealthy Israelites were taken into captivity and the land left to the poor.

Ezekiel 22:12 - "you take interest and make a profit from the poor. You extort unjust gain from your neighbors. And you have forgotten me, declares the Sovereign LORD."

Amos 4:1 - "Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy and say to your husbands, “Bring us some drinks!”

Amos 5:11 - "You levy a straw tax on the poor and impose a tax on their grain. Therefore, though you have built stone mansions, you will not live in them; though you have planted lush vineyards, you will not drink their wine."

Luke and other gospels carry a statement by Jesus about the problem facing the rich. " Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." Luke 18:24-5

Preachers often suggest the camel analogy is about something large going through a tight opening. The analogy is more likely a camel saying like the "straw that broke the camel's back" or what happens if someone lets a camel get its head inside a tent. People of that era likely used the task of getting a camel through the eye of a needle as a way to determine how difficult the task was.

The problem with getting a camel through the eye of a needle is the shape of the animal and its sometimes uncooperative nature. The long neck, legs and hump means the task isn't simple even with a very large needle. Keep in mind that a needle has a long portion connected to the eye.

Christian Republicans need to recognize that abortion and sexual morality aren't the only moral issues in politics. Mistreatment of the poor and how the rich acquire wealth are at least as important. Christians need to move away from the greedy Republicans who believe the rich should escape the taxes needed to fund government.

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S & P’s Decision Appears Justified

Standard and Poor's decision to downgrade the U.S. debt rating appears justified because of the inadequacy of the U.S. response to the debt issue. Allowing the U.S. to keep the top rating would falsely indicate the U.S. is doing the best it can to correct its debt problem. American voters are choosing politicians who lack the ability or willingness to deal realistically with the U.S. debt problem.

I waited to write about Standard and Poor's decision to downgrade the U.S. debt rating because I wanted to think about it for awhile instead of taking a knee jerk reaction.

Dealing with a major crisis requires a strong experienced president. Unfortunately, Barack Obama is the weakest president since Gerald Ford. Obama's only apparent skill is an ability to read a teleprompter.

A smart president would have recognized he couldn't change the minds of House members and ended the debate early so he could prepare for a return match later.

Obama won the election because neither the voters nor the media understand the qualifications for an effective president. The President is the chief executive officer of the most powerful country in the world. Electing an president without executive experience makes no more sense then asking a high school quarterback to play quarterback in the Super Bowl.

Too many voters will support someone who promises to do "this, that and the other thing" even though the candidate has never demonstrated an ability to deliver on his promises. It's easy to make promises, but delivering on those promises can be difficult. Any quarterback can say he will win the Super Bowl, but very few are capable of doing so.

Unfortunately, many Republicans want to make the same mistake the Democrats did. These Republicans support Michele Bachmann who is just as inexperienced and unprepared for the presidency as Obama was.

The deficit debate was what we used to call the game of chicken. Two cars would approach each other in the same lane. The driver who veered off first was "chicken". Both sides seemed more interested in scoring political points than in conducting a serious discussion of the issue. They reminded me of the old beer commercials in which one side yelled "less filling" and the other side yelled "great taste".

One editorial cartoonist suggested the old Looney Tunes cartoon debate in which Daffy Duck says "Rabbit Season" and Bugs Bunny says "Duck Season". Bugs eventually gets Daffy to say "Duck Season", but Obama doesn't have Bugs Bunny's ability.

Too many members of Congress are either incapable of understanding the nature of the deficit crisis or don't care about dealing with the deficit in a realistic manner. Fixing the deficit will require an increase in revenue, preferably a tax on those with surplus income.

Cutting spending won't reduce the deficit as much as some expect because the federal government gets a kickback in the form of Social Security and income taxes from those it employs or from businesses government, and its employees, purchases from. Money given to welfare recipients goes to those they purchase goods and services from who in turn pay taxes.

If unemployment increases due to spending cuts, the next Congress may feel it needs to spend even more borrowed money to stimulate the economy.

Republicans and their supporters seem incapable of understanding the fact that it is not the amount of money someone has, but the financial status of the United States that is important. The financial health of the U.S. determines what its money is worth. For the rich, taxes are an investment in the financial health of the United States. Reducing the deficit would improve the financial health of the U.S. and make the money the rich have worth more.

There is a danger if the "rich" have too much money. Money can be addictive. As people obtain a certain amount of money they start wanting more and more. Like alcoholics they need more and more money to be satisfied.

When the "rich" obtain too much money a boom psychology can develop in which investors ignore the possibility of risk. They don't think they can lose money. They may think the stock market can only go up as many believed in the 20's.

The crisis of 2008 occurred because the rich had too much money and had bid stock prices up too high because too many expected everything to go up "forever". Many invested money in garbage like mortgage derivatives or gave it to crooks like Bernie Madoff who promised to make them even richer. If they had invested it in taxes, the country's financial health would be better today and many of them wouldn't have lost so much.

Talk about defaulting on debts incurred in the past raises concerns that the U.S. might default on newer debts. Those who started working 40 some years ago were told the Social Security taxes they were paying were for a pension program. They were loaning money to the federal government in return for a promise to provide them with retirement income. Congress may have handled Social Security funds like the program was a Ponzi scheme, but "investors" (Social Security taxpayers) were told they were investing in a pension plan.

Social Security and Medicare are debts, not entitlements. Benefits go to those who have paid in advance for them.

If the current Congress decides to default on the promise of Social Security payments to those who will be retiring in the next few years because the program was poorly administered by previous Congresses, how can those who purchase U.S. government securities today be sure that a future Congress won't decide to default on that debt because Congress in 2011 was not borrowing responsibly.

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The Perfect Tax Increase

Republicans oppose tax increases for higher income groups because Republicans suffer from the delusion that the group consists solely of small business owners. Many in the higher income group do not own small businesses and thus are not going to reduce hiring if their taxes go up or increase hiring if taxes are reduced.

Minimum wage dishwashers pay a Social Security tax. Business executives should be able to pay a tax on their income above some amount (for example, $200,000). This tax could be imposed as a temporary tax until the deficit is eliminated and the country begins paying off its debt.

The tax would be paid on gross income like the Social Security tax. Executives of "non profit" organizations would be subject to the tax as well as executives of for profit organizations.

Business owners wouldn't be subject to the tax. It would be limited to those who are employed by others, including the highly paid "employees" of sports teams and television and movie production companies. I doubt that Charlie Sheen will cut back on his female companionship and drug use if he has to pay a few more dollars in taxes.

Business executives aren't going to invest their money in new equipment for their employers even if they don't pay any income taxes. Raising their taxes won't keep them from creating jobs as Republicans claim is the case with business owners. Raising their taxes would help reduce the federal deficit.

President Barack Obama calls tax provisions allowing companies to deduct the cost of aircraft are "loopholes" even though allowing companies to deduct the cost of new equipment creates jobs in other businesses particularly in American businesses as is the case with most aircraft purchases.

If Obama wants to eliminate loopholes he should eliminate the ability of corporations to deduct the full cost of the salaries of their highly paid executives when figuring taxes. Government might allow a deduction only for the first $200,000 of each executive's pay when determining profit. Alternatively, government might allow deduction of executive salaries when determining profit, but impose a special tax on executive pay comparable to the Social Security tax.

Corporate income has traditionally been viewed in terms of profits which are the stockholders' income. However, the corporation is more than stockholders. Its financial beneficiaries include the people the corporation pays, particularly executives who can receive huge incomes even if the stockholders receive no incomes from the corporation.

Companies already pay taxes on their hourly employees through the Social Security system. Why should executive salaries get a tax break? Perhaps this tax provision could be temporary depending upon the size of the deficit.

Congress should replace the capital gains tax associated with stock and commodities trading with a transaction tax. Such a tax would provide a more predictable source of revenue and simplify tax collection while facilitating a tax increase during periods of high trading. There would be no provision for a capital loss deduction on stocks held less than a period of years. This change would not effect the number of jobs. The stock market in recent decades has at times been more of a gambling device than an investment facility.

The markets might drop briefly when the tax is implemented, but the markets would quickly adjust to the new cost and then ignore it.

Congress should increase the tax on casino gambling revenue and winnings. Congress should eliminate any deduction for casino and race track gambling losses on visits when losses are greater than wins. Increases in these taxes won't impact jobs. Most people visit casinos for entertainment rather than income.

Cutting spending without adversely impacting the economy isn't as easy as Republicans believe. For example, cutting Department of Defense purchases of equipment would mean the companies that produced the equipment would have to lay off workers. Most Social Security recipients spend all the money they receive. Cutting benefits would reduce their purchases forcing layoffs in businesses that recipients purchase goods and services from.

Major cuts will require Congress taking the time to evaluate each program to determine how to cut spending without cutting jobs in the private sector. Some programs could be dropped because the private sector could take over financing. Until that happens Congress shouldn't start any new funding programs and should delay the implementation of major health care changes such as Obamacare until the deficit is under control.

Groups like Planned Parenthood could be financed by private donations if there is sufficient support in the private sector. Programming for the Public Broadcast system could be financed by donations or by giving commercial stations the option of broadcasting a broader range of programming or providing programming to PBS.

Many of those who study climate claim that climate science is settled. Thus there is no reason to continue spending tax money on climate research. The only reason to spend tax money on science research is to learn something new.

Since the days of Senator William Proxmire politicians and journalists have often ridiculed some federally funded "science" research. Many of these projects may have been legitimate topics of research, but there was no real reason for the federal government to borrow money to fund them. Congress should consider a moratorium on science research until it can establish guidelines for what can be funded.

Congress should immediately end all funding for operations in Libya. If the Europeans want to spend money taking control of Libyan oil they should spend their own money. Bombing campaigns are notoriously ineffective in causing countries to surrender. Many historians believe even the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in WWII were not responsible for Japan's surrender because the government was about to surrender anyway.

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Lame Duck Session May Do Nothing

Those who are expecting the Lame Duck session of Congress to deal with controversial issues like taxes and immigration may be disappointed. The lame duck Demcrats who lost their reelection bids may not have to worry about voter reaction to their votes, but the Senators racing reelection in 2012 have a lot to worry about.

Senate Democrats up for reelection in 2012 may prefer to avoid dealing with any controversial issues because a vote either way could reduce the chance of being reelected. A Democrat who votes one way on an issue could motivate a strong Republican to run in 2012. A vote the other way might provoke a fellow Democrat to challenge in the primary.

The Democrats who were first elected in 2006 have the most to worry about because voters chose them more to protest President George W. Bush than from any real support for the Democratic Party.

Those facing reelection in 2012 will be in the spotlight during the lame duck session. No one cares what the lame ducks do. There won't be much interest in those Senators up for reelection in 2014

After the new Congress takes over in January some of the media attention will shift to the House and the new Republican Senators.

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