Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Does stopping corporate inversions require a stick, or a carrot?

The Obama administration and Democrats in Congress have recently focused on corporate “inversion” as something needing quick attention. In an inversion, a US company starts or buys into another company in a country with a lower corporate tax rate and then calls the new country home, enabling it to avoid some taxes in the US. Although US companies still pay the same rates on US income, the lower rates apply to income earned abroad.

The Congressional Research Service reports that there have been 47 inversions in the last decade, and Business Week online identified 14 since 2011. The administration brought the issue to the fore with a letter from Treasury Secretary Jack Lew saying that inversions ‘’hollow out the U.S. corporate income tax base.”

The issue has both practical and political importance, highlighting the lower amount of corporate taxes collected, and also providing politicians who may be or become candidates for office a populist issue to exploit, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., considered a potential presidential candidate.

Leaders of both political parties on the Senate Finance Committee – chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah – agree that the tax code needs major reform, however, the two parties have different approaches on exactly how to accomplish that goal.

Peter Merrill, a director at PricewaterhouseCoopers, testified before the Finance Committee and discussed how US corporate taxation rules compare to those of other countries. He named two areas of the US tax system that “fall far outside international norms: the high corporate rate, and the worldwide system of taxation,” both of which he said make it more difficult for US companies to compete in global markets. Citing increasing competition from other nations, he said in the last 15 years the number of US companies on the Forbes Global Top 500 list has dropped by a third, from 200 to 135, and noted that the US corporate tax system contributes to this decrease.

The US corporate tax rate is the highest among major economies, Dr. Merrill said, more than 14 points above the average for the other Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, and nearly 10 points higher than the average for the other G7 countries. And he noted that while other countries have substantially lowered their tax rates since 1986, the US raised its rate to 35 percent in 1993.

President Barack Obama wants Congress to enact corrective legislation that is retroactive to May, arguing that the proposal will stop companies from rushing into deals to avoid lower taxes. And he accuses these corporations of being economically unpatriotic.

Reuters reported that Mr. Obama said in remarks at Los Angeles Technical College: "Even as corporate profits are higher than ever, there’s a small but growing group of big corporations that are fleeing the country to get out of paying taxes.” And he added, "They’re technically renouncing their U.S. citizenship, they’re declaring their base someplace else even though most of their operations are here. You know some people are calling these companies 'corporate deserters.'”

Other prominent Democrats echoed that sentiment. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., quoted in The Wall Street Journal, characterized these companies as "deserting the U.S. in order to dodge their obligations to the country and American taxpayers."

Senate Finance chairman Wyden wants to make it harder for U.S. companies to move their headquarters abroad, and commented, "… corporations must understand that they won't profit from abandoning the US." Secretary Lew joined that view, calling for a "new sense of economic patriotism."

Attacking companies as “unpatriotic” because the US tax system is punitive and encourages them to move overseas to lower costs is both hypocritical and dumb. They are legally operating within the complex and confounding framework government provides for them, and are trying to maintain profitability in an increasingly competitive global market.

Democrats want action taken now to limit inversions, but there are sound arguments that this will make things worse. Putting duct tape on the tax code instead of rewriting it and making it comprehensible and sensible is why things are such a mess. Comprehensive tax reform is the best solution.

It’s not for nothing that the Democrat Party has been tagged “the tax and spend party.” They go happily along championing high taxes to fund politically popular programs without any apparent clue that their policies frequently do more harm than good.

“Comprehensive tax reform would reduce deductions and lower tax rates for everyone," said Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

The way to encourage businesses to stay in the US and expand, or relocate to the US is to make it desirable for them to do so, and have a tax code that says “we want you here.” That means slashing tax rates to competitive world levels, stop taxing foreign income and eliminating some deductions.

Businesses provide goods and services that people want and need. They also provide jobs that enable people to afford things they want and need, and they pay taxes that support governments at all levels.

Business is the goose that lays the golden egg. Democrats need to understand that instead of beating the goose, they need to nourish it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Israel continues to survive irrational hatred and violent attacks

Christians and Jews know from studying religious texts that the Hebrews lived in what is now Israel roughly 3,000 years ago, and many independent sources confirm their occupation of that land three millennia ago.

Even the Quran, the Islamic equivalent of the Bible, notes: “Sura 17, The Children of Israel (Banî Israel)” in the Khalifa translation, and perhaps others, as well.

Charles Krauthammer provided context in The Weekly Standard in 1998, commenting that “Israel is the very embodiment of Jewish continuity: It is the only nation on earth that inhabits the same land, bears the same name, speaks the same language, and worships the same God that it did 3,000 years ago. You dig the soil and you find pottery from Davidic times, coins from Bar Kokhba, and 2,000-year-old scrolls written in a script remarkably like the one that today advertises ice cream at the corner candy store.”

The land occupied by modern Israel is small, about the size of Wales or half the size of Costa Rica, and is located roughly on the site of the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah, except that these ancient kingdoms also included what is now the West Bank.

Israel is 263 miles long and varies from 9 miles wide at the narrowest point to 70 miles wide at the widest point. It is a little larger than Connecticut and a little smaller than New Jersey, and is home to approximately 8 million Israelis, 5.5 million of whom are Jews.

Israel is bordered on the west by the Mediterranean Sea, and its contiguous neighbors are Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, with Iraq, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran not far away.

Israel is smaller than any of its neighbors, both in geographic size and population. The nations that surround it don’t like Israel or Jewish people. “Death to Israel” is in fact a common sentiment among those nations and their people. This sentiment is reflected in a BBC poll last year showing Israel as the fourth least popular nation on the planet, behind Iran, Pakistan, and North Korea.

This perception is based largely on the fact that there are more voices in the region where Israel and its enemies reside demeaning Israel – those would be the voices of the “Death to Israel” crowd – than there are Israeli voices telling the other side of the story. It is not so different than going to Boston and asking which American League team residents think is the most unpopular, and finding most named the New York Yankees, not the Red Sox.

As the saying goes, the more you tell a lie, the more it is believed, and with the help of dishonest reporting, the lie spreads far and wide.

In fact, while the enemies scream “Death to Israel,” Israel only asks for peace, and has made numerous concessions towards that goal, only to be slapped in the face with violent attacks.

The current fighting follows an unprovoked attack on Israel by Hamas. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, Hamas “is the largest and most influential Palestinian militant movement … [and] is a Sunni Islamist group and a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization violently opposed to the state of Israel.”

The murders of three Israeli boys and the murder of one Palestinian boy initially stirred tensions, and Hamas unleashed a barrage of rockets on Israel to kick-start the conflict.

The differences in how the two sides operate could not be starker: Hamas fires rockets aimed at civilian-occupied areas; Israel targets Hamas compounds, militant command centers, weapons storage facilities and tunnels into Israel and Egypt.

Thus far, more casualties have occurred on the Palestinian side of the conflict, due in part to the Israeli Iron Dome defense system used to protect their citizens by intercepting rockets aimed at population centers. Hamas, however, is said to store rockets in homes and schools, and reportedly uses civilians as shields against attacks on the storage areas.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the two philosophies: “We are using missile defense to protect our civilians, and they're using their civilians to protect their missiles."

Such tactics help explain the greater number of casualties among Palestinians, and Hamas turns this into anti-Israel propaganda, helping to propagate Israel negative image worldwide.

Steven P. Bucci, who served America for three decades as an Army Special Forces officer and top Pentagon official, writes that “before the Israelis strike a building, every home in it gets a call on its landline phone, as do all the cell phones associated with the inhabitants of the building — the cells additionally get text messages — telling them that in a few minutes the building will be targeted. Finally, to make sure everyone gets the message, Israel drops a dud bomb—one containing no explosives—onto the roof of the structure. … There is no instance in modern military history where a force has taken greater measures to give the innocents as much chance to get out of the way.”

The broad hatred of Israel and love for its enemies is irrational. Despite this, Israel behaves honorably in defending itself against repeated attacks, holds its own against the haters, and survives.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Illegal immigration problem is largely a federal government creation

As a result of inadequate security measures along the southern border, the Obama administration’s leniency toward illegal entry into the country, and the idea of amnesty for illegal immigrants, the long-standing border security problem is now at crisis level due to the recent tsunami of Central American young people arriving in the US.

These kids left their homes in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador because of horrible conditions in those countries, entered Mexico and traversed the length of the country in an arduous journey frequently highlighted by unspeakable abuse, and crossed the border into the US.

That so many thousands could accomplish this ought to be more than a casual curiosity. Don’t you wonder how these young people can get into Mexico and travel more than a thousand miles through the country to the US border without being arrested and imprisoned? This question is particularly curious considering what happened to the US Marine war veteran Andrew Tahmooressi, who merely made a wrong turn at a confusing intersection on the border, accidentally ended up in Mexico, was arrested and has been in a Mexican jail for nearly four months. How do thousands of these kids who willfully enter Mexico illegally avoid arrest when an innocent wrong turn and a few minutes in Mexico gets Sgt. Tahmooressi put in jail?

However they manage it, when they cross the Rio Grande, the youthful illegals follow instructions to the Border Patrol station and turn themselves in. "They know that once they get to the station, we are going to give them paperwork and we are going to set them free into the United States," said Chris Cabrera, a leader of the local chapter of the National Border Patrol Council, a labor union representing U.S. Border Patrol agents.

"Most of the time, they're getting released to relatives in the U.S.," he said. "There's nowhere to put them, so they're released on their own recognizance and have a pending court date. I'd say between 95 and 97 percent of adults or youths don't show up for court."

So, due to a “soft on deportation” government attitude that serves as an invitation to people in Central America, and a fatally flawed US border policy that allows illegal aliens to easily enter the country by the thousands, they illegally cross the border and shortly thereafter disappear into the ether.

This huge influx has secondary effects that are potentially much more problematic: their presence forces border agents to be transferred away from the border so they can handle the kid tsunami, making it even easier for others to come in, such as members of drug cartels, members of MS-13 gangs, human sex traffickers, and people from the Middle East, China and Russia. Who knows what horrors these people may intend to unleash on our country?

Despite this disgraceful reality, the website tells us: “… today border security is stronger than it has ever been."

We are also told that deportation of illegals is at record levels, but Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson admitted before the House Appropriations Committee that “a very large fraction” of deportations aren’t really deportations, but instead are “turn-backs” at the border. Categorizing “turn-backs” as “deportations” paints a rosy but inaccurate picture: actual deportations are down sharply.

Let’s be honest: With his pen and his phone Barack Obama takes care of the things he thinks are important, like trying to lessen the damage of the Affordable Care Act, even if doing so is not legal or constitutional. Everything else he tosses aside with simplistic denials, or third grade humor, like "Maybe they'll need a moat. Maybe they want alligators in the moat."

He could have fixed the porous southern border and stemmed the influx of illegal aliens entering the country, but instead his actions made the situation worse, because fixing this dangerous problem is not important to him.

Mr. Obama wants nearly $4 billion in “emergency spending” to take care of these youthful illegals, but the situation does not qualify for emergency spending. The border crisis isn’t “sudden, unforeseen and temporary,” as the law requires.

Even so, the plan as outlined puts precious little of the funds toward securing the border, and lacks details on how the program would work, and how the money will be spent.

This situation has to be remedied as soon as possible. Some laws must be changed so that illegals from Central America aren’t treated more liberally than those from Mexico and Canada. Then secure the border.

Building a wall on the border, like a fence around your property, helps you control who comes in; it is an act of sovereignty, of common sense. Support it with agents and observation methods, and a second fence, if needed.

Instead of inviting people to come here illegally with a message that they won’t be sent back, send a message that will discourage people from seeking to illegally enter the country.

Americans are compassionate people who truly desire to help those in need, but we cannot do so at our own peril, as is the case with promises of amnesty and reckless border policies.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

SCOTUS Hobby Lobby ruling sends the left into Never Never Land

The daunting effects on individual freedom of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are legion, despite the Herculean efforts of statist advocates and the agenda media to ignore them or explain them away. One element of the law that created a storm of opposition is the requirement that employers provide 20 different forms of contraception to their female employees who have company-provided health coverage.

That element of the ACA prompted a legal challenge from Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, two closely held for-profit businesses owned by people who oppose abortion on religious grounds, and challenged the requirement to provide free access to four of the twenty required items on the list that are regarded as “abortifacients,” or abortion-causing drugs.

The United States Supreme Court upheld that challenge by a narrow 5-4 majority, allowing the plaintiff companies to refuse to provide the offending drugs that interrupt the fetal development process after conception, and thus are abortifacients.

While relieving the two employers of the requirement to provide coverage forbidden by their religious beliefs, the ruling did not affect the requirement to provide 16 other contraceptive items.

Nevertheless, the businesses have been accused of waging a “War on Women.” And, the case has unleashed a flurry of ill considered, factually deficient, and inane comments from those who want to persuade others that there actually is a “War on Women.”

To wit: “It’s very troubling that a salesclerk at Hobby Lobby who needs contraception, which is pretty expensive, is not going to get that service through her employer’s health care plan because her employer doesn’t think she should be using contraception,” said Hillary Clinton last week.

There are several problems with this statement, not the least of which is that Ms. Clinton has no idea what she is talking about. Given the facts of the ruling, the assertion that the employer thinks people shouldn’t use contraception is plainly absurd. It is likely true that these business owners probably do think women should use contraceptives to avoid the “need” for abortions, which violate their religious beliefs. And, women may “want” contraceptives, but they don’t “need” them.

Social justice attorney and California State Senate candidate Sandra Fluke on MSNBC’s “Hardball”: “What this is really about at its base is trying to figure out as many ways as possible to limit women’s access to reproductive healthcare.” If you oppose 20 percent of required “contraceptives” – the challenged items aren’t really contraceptives at all – you are trying to limit women’s access to reproductive healthcare? Seriously?

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called the decision “an outrageous step against the rights of America’s women.”  Of course, not wanting to provide abortion drugs for women is tantamount to attacking all women’s rights.

Senator Patty Murray said it is “a dangerous precedent and takes us closer to a time in history when women had no choice and no voice.”  She apparently forgot that she, a woman, was elected to the US Senate, and that women have held and currently hold many high positions in government and the private sector.

Democratic National Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said, “It is no surprise that Republicans have sided against women on this issue as they have consistently opposed a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions.” Has she discovered a Republican bill now being drafted to appoint male health agents to make healthcare decisions for all women?

Massachussetts Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted: “Can’t believe we live in a world where we’d even consider letting big [corporations] deny women access to basic care based on vague moral objections.” The First Amendment protection of religious beliefs is “vague”?

Perhaps the first reaction to comments like these is, “Do these people really believe what they are saying?” And then you realize that they either do or they don’t, and either possibility represents a serious problem. Worse, all of these people are in or are seeking positions of influence and power.

How about the idea that women somehow have a right to contraception, as well as the right for it to be paid for by their employer? A quick search of the Bill of Rights, however, found no such guarantee. But there is a very prominent guarantee of religious liberty, the right to believe as one chooses, a belief that is free from control by and interference from government.

But in today’s upside-down America, business owners who honor their religious beliefs opposing abortion are called “enemies of women.” These businesses hire women, Hobby Lobby started all employees at $13 an hour before the ruling, they probably have women in management positions, may have women owners, make health insurance available to all employees, and somehow this means they are waging a “War on Women.”

But since facts and truth are not on their side, deceit and exaggeration are all they’ve got to work with, and these pathetic women are doing their best to create another class of victims to collect government largess.

But be forewarned: If you disagree with any aspect of a “progressive” cause, no matter how ridiculous that cause is, or how tiny your disagreement, you will be labeled a “woman-hater,” a “racist,” or something equally horrible.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Planned Parenthood president thinks when life begins isn’t relevant

Many of us living today remember when pregnancy was regarded as the beginning of a new life, was usually a welcome and celebrated event, and religious people often viewed pregnancy as a gift from God. There were baby showers where the mother was treated to gifts for use after the birth of her child, and a positive air about the “blessed event.”

Abortion was considered taboo by society and was illegal, and because of the social and legal strictures, it was rare. As a result, abortions were usually performed in secret by the woman or by some shady character. It was dangerous to the mother because of the unsanitary “back alley” conditions of the procedure. A physician rarely performed an abortion, unless the life of the mother was at stake, or some other unusual situation required it.

Back then, people accepted responsibility for their behavior and took great care to prevent pregnancy until they were ready for parenthood. In those comparatively rare times when an unwanted pregnancy occurred, the man and the woman most often became parents, or perhaps the mother gave the baby up for adoption. Unwed mothers were a rarity.

Through the decades unintended and unwanted pregnancies have increased from rare episodes of bad luck and careless behavior to epidemic proportions, and instead of being seen as a reason to make changes to accommodate the new life that had been created, unwanted pregnancy is viewed today as an intrusion on the woman’s freedom, an inconvenience that demands relief, not so different from a headache or a cold. And to accommodate many women’s preference not to have the baby they have created, abortion has evolved from a rare thing to a routine procedure performed thousands of times each year. Now, many view a woman deciding to end the life of the child developing inside her as a right she may exercise as freely as the right to speak her mind.

Today, half of pregnancies among American women are unintended, and about 40 percent are terminated by abortion. Twenty-one percent of all pregnancies, excluding miscarriages, end in abortion.

In 1981, world-renowned scientists and physicians testified before a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee that life begins at conception, which was the traditional view through the centuries. However, the question of when life begins is now being questioned by abortion advocates, and knowing the exact instant that life begins after conception and before the birth of a child is an important, if difficult to identify, piece of data to determine the point after which abortion becomes murder.

However, Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards thinks when life begins is not important.

Appearing on Fusion TV's America with Jorge Ramos, she was asked, “For you, when does life start? When does a human being become a human being?”

“This is a question that I think will be debated through the centuries,” she said.

“But for you, what's that point?” Ramos asked.

"It is not something that I feel like is really part of this conversation,” she said. “I think every woman needs to make her own decision,” she finally said.

"But why would it be so controversial for you to say when do you think life starts?" Ramos pressed.

"I don't know that it's controversial. I don't know that it's really relevant to the conversation," she replied.

“I'm the mother of three children,” she finally said. “For me, life began when I delivered them,” adding that her children have “probably” been the most important thing in her life since their birth.

“But that was my own personal, that's my own personal decision,” she said.

The abortion industry certainly does not want to know the absolute point at which life begins, because then it would be clear that aborting a fetus is at some point killing a child. That would not be a good thing for those who perform abortions for money, for organizations like Planned Parenthood that get federal money for advising women on unwanted pregnancies, or for those who think women should have a right to end an inconvenient pregnancy at anytime.

From this less strict attitude about when life begins all sorts of horrors might evolve. And they have.

For example, some Planned Parenthood officials have gone so far as to advocate infanticide, giving women the right to end their child’s life after it has been born.

And only a little further down that slippery slope are the preposterous acts of Kermit Gosnell, the disgraced and imprisoned former physician who was in the habit of ending the lives of babies who were inconsiderate enough to survive his efforts to abort them by clipping their spinal cords after they were born alive. He is in prison for life after being convicted of murdering three babies.

An interesting sidebar to this story is that the baby-killer managed to spare himself a death sentence when he waived his right to appeal in return for a life sentence, an option millions of aborted babies never had.

It must be pointed out that all of those who support the unfettered right for women to abort their babies have already been born.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The United States of America: “a nation of laws, not a nation of men”

A primary element that has separated the United States of America from virtually every other nation in history is the concept of it being “a nation of laws, not a nation of men.”

“A nation of laws” means that laws, not people, rule. Everyone is to be governed by the same laws, regardless of their station; whether it is the most common American or Members of Congress, high-ranking bureaucrats or the President of the United States; all must be held to the just laws of America. No one is, or can be allowed to be, above the law.

This idea was paramount in the complex process of establishing the United States of America, a young nation whose brave leaders had put everything on the line to escape the tyranny and oppression of the British Crown, which at the time was a nation ruled by people, in the person of King George III.

The Founders wrote restrictions into the Constitution against bills or laws of attainder, which are laws that do not apply equally to everyone, but target specific persons or groups in their enforcement, and are also known as “bills of pains and penalties.” In the hands of corrupt officials, these laws could be used as a weapon that would give an incumbent politician a major advantage over anyone else.

Can there be a better way for a nation to deal with its citizens than treating all of them equally under the law? About the only people who would disagree with this concept are those who are in a position, or want to be, to abuse the law and use their official positions unfairly, or those who benefit from that abuse.

Sadly, there are plenty of these un-American folks on the loose.

If laws are too numerous, abusive, designed to help or penalize one group at the expense of others, that nation is not a nation of laws.

A nation of laws will not permit or tolerate laws designed for reasons other than justice, and it will not permit or tolerate laws that are ignored or selectively enforced because of some official’s political whim.

"We're a nation of laws, not of men and women," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared, talking about a Nevada rancher refusing to pay grazing fees on land he and his ancestors grazed for free, until recently. Someone needs to remind Sen. Reid that what is good for the goose is good for the gander. He condemns one of his constituents for not obeying the law, but himself failed to bring a federal budget before the Senate for years, as required by Article I of the US Constitution.  He has violated his oath of office and terms of the Constitution, and has done so without penalty.

Attorney General Eric Holder earned the wrath of a federal judge for directing prosecutors to pursue shorter prison sentences for drug crimes before new guidelines for sentencing had been approved. “The law provides the Executive no authority to establish national sentencing policies based on speculation about how [the U.S. Sentencing Commission] and Congress might vote on a proposed amendment,” Judge William H. Pryor, Jr. remarked. AG Holder also advised state Attorneys General that they do not have to enforce laws they disagree with, which essentially renders laws meaningless. Apparently, Mr. Holder thinks only those laws individual government officials believe in are important. He does not have authority create these policies.

And then there is the President of the United States, Barack Obama. He who rules by Executive Order is at the top of the list of those destroying the ideal of  “a nation of laws.”

It’s not about the good intentions of an Executive Order; it’s about process, and the fact that in the United States we have a detailed process for changing laws, and that process does not empower the president to do so unilaterally. Congress must amend a law, or the judiciary can strike down an unconstitutional law.

So, when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that the president so strongly advocated came up far short of the miracle we were told it would be, Mr. Obama suspended parts of the law to mitigate the harm it would cause, but that is not allowed by the Constitution. It ought to strike everyone as dangerous when the president says things like if Congress won’t do what he wants, he’ll use his pen to do it through an Executive Order. Perhaps he does not understand that the executive branch is equal to the legislative branch; the president is not more powerful than the Congress.

Speaking of Congress, it’s habit of shirking its law-making duty by passing legislation that enables administrative agencies to create and implement rules with the force of law goes a long way toward undermining the “nation of laws” concept. The Founders made Congress the law-making branch of the government, and did not allow for Congress to pass that duty to the executive branch.

The sad truth is that the United States is not functioning as a nation of laws today. That status must be restored, and soon, or our very freedom is at risk.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

More crazy stuff from the world of “You can’t make this stuff up!”

Everyone says something dumb once in a while, some more than others, of course, but some people in prominent positions have a real knack for it, and others seem to think they can say whatever they want to, and people will believe them. Worse, though, is that for some of these people, like politicians, there are millions of folks who do believe what they say, no matter how weird it may be, how unlikely to happen it is, or how simply unbelievable it is.

In the most recent example, you may remember that IRS official Lois Lerner was called to testify by three Congressional committees looking into the abuse of IRS power in the intimidation of conservative applicants for 501(c)(3) status, and after making a lengthy statement declaring her innocence then availed herself of the 5th Amendment protections against self-incrimination, and then refused to answer any questions. She apparently forgot that as a hired government worker, she is accountable for her actions to the American people.

The committees had requested Ms. Lerner’s emails months ago, but, Shazam!, the IRS announced the other day that, darn the luck, those emails have just disappeared.

Adding considerable interest to this much-too-convenient occurrence is that Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen testified in March that Lois Lerner’s emails were archived.

Oh, well. Maybe the NSA or Edward Snowden has copies.

Just a couple of days earlier, Hillary Clinton, told the world that when hubby Bill finished his eight years as President of the United States they were broke and in debt.

That fails both the smell test and the laugh test. Is it possible? Yes, but doubtful.

The American taxpayers paid President Clinton $200,000 a year in wages, $1.6 million over his eight years in the White House. Presidents may have to pay for some of their normal expenses, like food, clothes, and such, but there are several expense accounts that enter into the picture, so it is difficult to imagine exhausting $1.6 million in only eight years with all the help presidents get through expense accounts.

On the other hand, given the liberal penchant for spending money they don’t have, it is entirely possible they really were broke and in debt, and if that is true, maybe we ought to remember that if Mrs. Clinton decides to seek the presidency.

Outlandish statements sometimes serve to cover up misdeeds of government employees and burnish the bona fides of politicos. Sometimes it’s difficult to make up things that are more ridiculous than what reality gives us, as we have just seen, while other times making stuff up is precisely what people do to mislead the public for some narrow political end, as the next example shows.

“Since the December 2012 shooting in Newtown, CT, there have been at least 74 school shootings in America.” So states the Website for “Everytown for Gun Safety,” which explains, “Everytown is a movement of Americans working together to end gun violence and build safer communities.”

If you are wondering why you haven’t heard about 74 more Sandy Hooks or Newtowns, it’s because there haven’t been 74 of them. In fact, CNN investigated these claims, and found that only 15 percent of them – 11 incidents – involved “a minor or adult actively shooting inside or near a school.”

Politifact “quotes a former member of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit as stating ‘[t]here is an ocean of difference’ between what average people consider a school shooting and various episodes in the Everytown accounting.”

Stipulated: Even one shooting in a school is one too many. But the dishonest use of data to try to scare people is intolerable.

Data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) shows that the annual number of school-associated violent deaths, and the annual number of homicides and suicides of students ages 5-18 at school, were lower during the 2010-2011 school year than at any time in the last 20 years. And, in fact, they had been reduced by almost half.

Five of the 74 incidents involved accidental non-fatal shootings; and two other incidents were apparent acts of self-defense. Again, any shooting at a school, other than in self-defense or to stop someone from hurting or killing people, is unacceptable. But that is a very different matter than when someone intentionally shoots and kills or wounds kids.

It appears the anti-gun fanatics will stop at nothing, even creating fairy tales to try to persuade people to their point of view. In doing so, however, they prove that their point of view is unworthy of public attention.

“Everytown” is the brainchild of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and unfortunately contains the same absurdities as Mr. Bloomberg’s other manias, like his war on sodas.

If making things illegal actually worked, we’d have no drug problems, robberies, murders or rapes. If limiting the right of law-abiding citizens to own weapons as powerful as those criminals possess made any sense, people would support it.

Does anything say, “Come on in” to a criminal more succinctly than posting a “No Guns Allowed” sign on the door?

Gun violence is the result of the desire to commit violence, not the gun.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Update from the classroom: Common Core is on the chopping block

With US secondary school students lagging behind many other nations in educational performance, combating this with a voluntary education initiative developed and operated by the states received much favorable attention.

The Common Core State Standards Initiative “seeks to establish consistent educational standards [in English Language Arts and Mathematics] across the states as well as ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to enter credit-bearing courses at two- or four-year college programs or enter the workforce,” according to the Common Core State Standards Initiative Website.

At one point 45 of the 50 states had signed up. But as time passed and the program evolved, 17 states have seen things that have caused them to adopt the language standards but not the math standards, to question the program generally, or to drop out altogether.

The most recent to bail out is Oklahoma, following the lead of Indiana in March, followed just days before Oklahoma’s exit last week by South Carolina.

“We are capable of developing our own Oklahoma academic standards that will be better than Common Core,” Governor Mary Fallin said in a statement released by her office. “Unfortunately, federal overreach has tainted Common Core. President Obama and Washington bureaucrats have usurped Common Core in an attempt to influence state education standards.”

She continued: “What should have been a bipartisan policy is now widely regarded as the president’s plan to establish federal control of curricula, testing and teaching strategies.” Oklahoma will return to the standards previously in place, and develop new standards aimed at meeting the needs of industry and academia.

In South Carolina, Governor Nikki Haley signed legislation that requires a committee to review and implement a new set of academic standards by the 2015-16 school year, and return to the former assessment tests by 2014-15.

In a letter supporting the legislation, Gov. Haley said the following: “South Carolina’s educational system has at times faced challenges … that cannot be solved by increasing our dependence on federal dollars and the mandates that come with them. Just as we should not relinquish control of education to the Federal government, neither should we cede it to the consensus of other states.”

As an early supporter of Common Core, Indiana’s recent rejection is seen as pivotal, perhaps encouraging other states to abandon the program, as well. What drove the Hoosiers away? Growing criticism over costs imposed by the program, and concerns that eventually it would evolve into a national education standard.

Stating Indiana’s thinking on the subject, Governor Mike Pence said, “I believe our students are best served when decisions about education are made at the state and local level. By signing this legislation, Indiana has taken an important step forward in developing academic standards that are written by Hoosiers, for Hoosiers, and are uncommonly high, and I commend members of the General Assembly for their support.”

Missouri reportedly also has legislation to withdraw awaiting approval by governor Jay Nixon. And North Carolina is moving in that direction.

Complaints from North Carolina parents over the unfamiliar material and believing the standards to be an intrusion by the federal government prompted legislative action that would maintain state control over education standards. Both houses of the legislature have approved measures to replace Common Core standards with new ones to be created by an appointed commission.

These two measures must be reconciled and submitted to Governor Pat McCrory, who has expressed support for Common Core, before the withdrawal will be complete. The measures passed each house by margins that could override a veto. Alaska, Nebraska, Texas, and Virginia also are resisting the program.

This resistance actually began several years ago, just after the standards were developed in 2009. Five members of the 30-person Common Core validation committee refused to sign on to the standards, two of whom are experts in content: Stanford University’s James Milgram, professor emeritus of mathematics, and the University of Arkansas’ Sandra Stotsky, professor of education reform emerita and co-author of Massachusetts’ highly regarded ELA standards.

When 17 percent of the committee doesn’t support the standards the committee designed, that signals trouble in paradise.

These rejections reveal two important things. First, these 17 states recognize Common Core is something different than what they were led to believe it would be, and objections to some specific content and methods arose, convincing some states that they can do better. And, second, these states are resisting the statist, authoritarian federal government, and its “Washington knows best,” one-size-fits-all approach.

Back in the day, when the American education system was doing a great job of educating young people, state, county and local school systems bore responsibility for deciding what goals were important and how to achieve them. Somehow, without the central planning of the federal government, American high school graduates managed to be well prepared for the next step in their lives.

America does best when Americans are left to think for themselves and to make decisions and follow the course that best suit their purposes. It’s called “freedom,” and once was the hallmark of our nation.

That’s what built the country, and that is what will restore it.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

VA failure is a symptom of a bloated and over-reaching government

Sometimes, something beneficial results from a horrible tragedy. The intolerable chaos at Veterans Affairs is one such tragedy from which something useful emerged: America finally knows how out of control the VA has become.

It’s horrible that it took the mistreatment of thousands and the lives of at least 40 American veterans, who trusted their government to provide them adequate care in return for their service to the country, to bring this to the nation’s attention, but now people are aware, and they are angry about this disgusting situation.

The VA has had been a mixed blessing for veterans, providing good care to many, but treating others with neglect. The problems started a long time before Barack Obama was elected President of the United States, but the confusion and malfeasance we see today have grown to be far worse recently, despite Presidential assurances beginning seven years ago that it would be repaired.

“As president, I won’t stand for hundreds of thousands of veterans waiting for benefits. We’ll make sure our disabled vets received the benefits they deserve,” candidate Obama declared in 2007.

“I know you’ve heard this for years, but the leadership and resources we’re providing this time means that we’re going to be able to do it. That is our mission, and we are going to make it happen,” President Obama said in 2009.

And, he said a year later: “At the same time, every American who has ever worn the uniform must also know this:  Your country is going to take care of you when you come home.  Our nation’s commitment to our veterans, to you and your families, is a sacred trust.  And to me and my administration, upholding that trust is a moral obligation. That’s why I’ve charged Secretary Shinseki with building a 21st century VA. We’re going to keep on making historic commitments to our veterans.“

The President made similar promises in 2012 and 2013. They made no difference. Just empty words, like “If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period.” Instead of action to fix the problems and discipline the bad behavior, many VA workers got bonuses.

It is very difficult to fire a federal employee for virtually any reason, because they belong to a union. Why do federal employees, who work for the entity that makes and enforces the rules of the workplace, need a union, and why did the government agree to allow a union to protect taxpayer-funded employees from discipline or dismissal for misfeasance?

The disgraceful performance of the VA is not the only example of a federal government out of control and drastically in need of overhaul. It is not just fat and sloppy, it is a danger to the freedom and safety of the citizens that it was created to serve and protect.

Several other agencies also fail their duty of service. It’s difficult to pick the worst offender from among the IRS, which used its power to attack political enemies; or the Department of Education, which sent a SWAT team to find a woman who had defaulted on a few thousand dollars in education loans; or the EPA, which has attempted to impose penalties for spilt milk and wants to regulate mud puddles on private property.

Let’s not forget the Bureau of Land Management, which has taken control of thousands of acres of state-owned land, ostensibly to protect a “threatened” species of turtle which is thriving, except for being killed off by that same federal agency; or the Department of Justice, whose Operation Choke Point goes after companies the administration considers politically objectionable, like those that sell guns, despite the fact that they are legal businesses.

These agencies could cause much less mischief with a staff half the current size. Currently, there are nearly 3 million federal civilian employees, about one for every 115 citizens. Last year the average total compensation for a federal civilian employee was about $133,000. Cutting the civilian workforce in half could save approximately $360 billion annually. What a boost to the private economy that would be, and what a relief from the overreaching of the bloated and mismanaged federal bureaucracy.

Of course, bad government is not limited to the feds, it also occurs at the state and local level, and also involves over-achieving and foolish behavior. A candidate for governor in Minnesota was in a park collecting signatures to get on the ballot. When police discovered he didn’t have the required permit, he was handcuffed and taken to headquarters.

Police were within their authority to arrest the man, but was that really necessary or desirable, or even sensible? Could they not simply have told him to stop and go get a permit? After all, in a country where a large number believe it’s wrong to require proof of citizenship in order to vote should a candidate be required to obtain a permit to “advertise” in order to get signatures to place his name on the ballot?

None of this is what America is supposed to be about. Someday enough people may figure this out and demand a return to good government.