Thursday, August 19, 2010

Column for August 19, 2010

Last week I wrote about the facade put on by politicians trying to look good so they will be re-elected. This hypocrisy is especially strong when they want to look like they are doing us constituents a favor by not taking more of our money from us. I also hit upon the hypocrisy of pitching tiny tax cuts and not bothering to try to keep the tax cuts we already had but are going to expire at the end of this year.

I decided that rather than take the word of any one particular media outlet about tax cuts, tax credits, and provisions that are going to expire, I would seek out that information my own self and spend some time reading about them. I found a 48-page document put out by the United States Congress Joint Committee on Taxation full of sun setting tax provisions that simply astounded me.

I despise the federal income tax for several reasons. First, the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution forbids involuntary servitude. Working to involuntarily pay a percentage to the government is a form of servitude. Secondly, the tax code can be easily manipulated, amended, and made to be either rewarding or punitive towards or against a particular behavior, ideology, or political agenda. Thirdly, it is purposely lengthy and confusing so as to require professional assistance and cost an exorbitant amount of time and money with its compliance. The tax system should be so simple that you should be able to do your tax return on the back of a post card. Better yet, we should not have to file anything with the Internal Revenue Service, which would be the case with The Fair Tax.

If Congress were serious about economic recovery and freedom, most of the tax provisions about to expire would be made permanent. The lowest tax rate of 15% that was cut to 10% is about to revert back to 15%. That means that the poorest taxpayers are about to get a 50% tax increase as of January first. The marriage penalty for the standard deduction is about to make its re-appearance. The previously doubled per child tax credit is about to revert from $1000 back to $500. That particular tax credit provision helped benefit a lot of families, including my own, and now it is being taken away.

The "death tax" is about to rear its ugly head once again. People who worked hard to leave a large estate for their heirs will leave 55% less of it because the government will be taking that much of it. Over half of one's estate will be taken away by the government just because it is being left as an inheritance. To me, that is one of the most unethical taxes ever devised. People can work hard all their lives only to pay taxes on their income. Then they take those taxed dollars and invest, save, or purchase property. Investment dividends are taxed, and the property they buy with taxed money will be taxed annually. Then, those who were fortunate enough to have amassed even a small fortune to pass on to their survivors will be painted with the label of greedy while the government steals and devours over half of that wealth. By the way, for those who do save and invest for their futures are going to run across a return to a higher rate of dividend and capital gains taxes. This is all insidious and just plain evil.

On top of all of this, we are going to be hit with the costs associated with the new health care legislation. People like me who use flexible spending accounts will no longer be able to use those funds for non-prescription items, which will hurt the family budget.

Another big hit will come in the form of health care insurance benefit taxation. If your employer has a health care benefit, you will have to start paying taxes on the portion of the benefit paid by your employer. For people like me who chose an employer that has an excellent benefits package, we are going to have a much higher income tax burden as these benefits will also count as income.

There are too many tax provisions expiring or about to be enacted to mention in this column. Look it up for your own selves. We are going to get reamed by our already out of control, excessively spending government that thinks that you just don't pay enough in taxes as it is. We had a revolution in this country for less than this.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Column for August 12, 2010

For those who are on the internet a lot, like myself, you probably get a good amount of "spam" email. For those who are not inclined to be in the cyberworld, spam is not just processed meat, it is a term used for junk electronic mail. I got what I consider a spam email from Congressman Bob Etheridge.

I opened the email to see what old Bob "Who are you?" Etheridge had to say this time. Here is some of what he had to say.

"My top priorities in the U.S. House of Representatives have been jobs, jobs, and jobs. Specifically, I support common sense policies that will create an economy that works for the middle class so every North Carolinian who is willing to work hard has the opportunity to make the most of his or her God-given abilities."

Well, I have a hard time disagreeing with him so far. Is a Democrat allowed to say "God-given"? I would have thought that would be viewed by liberals as a "separation of church and state" issue. What else did Bob have in store?

"We need to rebuild America and restore the American Dream. Economic recovery in our country will be powered by small businesses. I have been working to enact eight separate tax cuts for small businesses to jumpstart hiring and boost the economy."

He is correct. We do need to rebuild America. Small business is indeed the engine that keeps America going. I find it amusing that both a man and a political party that have been supportive of massive spending and tax increases would recognize that tax cuts are what stimulate the economy. Tax cuts worked for John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush. Why then do Democrats feel the need to pass Cap and Trade, health care legislation, and financial regulation packages that will only increase taxes, increase federal spending, and increase government intrusion into the economic and business sector?

This is simply talking out of both sides of one's mouth. You can not have it both ways. Either you are for tax cuts or you are for tax and spending increases. If tax cuts are so beneficial, then why does Congress propose these piddly little tax cuts while refusing to make the previous tax cuts under the Bush administration permanent? The answer is easy to find further down in the letter.

Congressman Etheridge continued, "The recent recession cost us 8 million American jobs—and years of policies that favored the special interests cost us 4.6 million American manufacturing jobs. Although too many people are out of work and family budgets are getting squeezed, bold action to correct the failed policies of the past has started to turn our economy around."

This is a classic case of blame everything bad on George Bush. In fact, the current recession is primarily because of the direct involvement in the economy by the Democrat controlled Congress in conjunction with a willing President Obama.

Don't get me wrong, I am not letting the Republicans slide on this at all. Republicans had control of Congress for years and did not act like they were in power. They were also corrupt and spent money in huge quantities, as well. I blame them just as much as I blame Democrats for the huge borrowing and spending problems that eventually led to an economic crash. These spending issues were hugely magnified and sped along under President Obama and his far left, socialistic agenda. Etheridge is claiming he is working to solve the very problems he helped create.

Since I only have so much space in which to critique, I will choose one last item. Etheridge wrote, "Long term, we need budget discipline and smart investments like Pell Grants and higher education assistance and school construction."

I wholeheartedly agree that we need budget discipline, but we will never achieve it when congressmen like Bob Etheridge vote for spending programs that will cost trillions of dollars. As to Pell Grants, education assistance, and school construction, I have yet to find anywhere in the United States Constitution that gives the power to Congress to either spend money on these things or regulate them.

Bob Etheridge's letter is unfortunately typical of most politicians in office today. They take credit for things they did not do, blame others for their own failings, try to "have it both ways" in order to look good, and attempt to tickle the ears of a predominantly ignorant constituency. Remember this when you vote in November.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Column for August 5, 2010

My family and I just returned from a wonderful two-week vacation in New England. It probably went better than most any vacation I have taken to date. There were still so many things left on my list of possible activities that we still have plenty of activities left for our next vacation.

The only bad part of the trip was the trip itself. In my 23 years of driving from North Carolina to New Hampshire and back, this was possibly the worst travel I have experienced. I continuously kept thinking to myself "I hope that North Carolina does not end up like this".

I know that each trip up or down the eastern seaboard, I am going to be hit with frequent tolls. I figured from experience that I will have to pay between $20 and $30 in tolls each way if I was going to take what is usually the most expedient route. The total was somewhere down the middle, at about $25 or so.

Some tolls were only a dollar or two. Some were $5 or over $9, depending upon where it was. The most expensive stretch of highway in the United States has to be through Delaware. In all, Interstate 95 goes through Delaware for about thirteen miles. Delaware is a small state, after all. I paid $4 on one end and $3 on the other end. That makes the toll rate about 54 cents per mile to travel through that tiny state.

Let's face the fact about highway tolls. Tolls are nothing but another form of taxation. Some may call them user fees, but they are taxes nonetheless. Ostensibly, tolls are enacted to help with highway maintenance and construction. Of course we all know how that concept works. North Carolina has raided the highway trust fund for use in the general fund. The Social Security trust fund was raided long ago to add to the US Treasury's general fund. I have no doubt that the North Carolina lottery trust fund will eventually end up as part of the NC general fund.

I can not remember in my 23 years of traveling up to New England a trip without some sort of construction going on in Connecticut along the interstate. This trip it took one hour to move four miles. On one of the busiest sections of American highway, I-95 coming out of New York City and through Connecticut, evening construction brought three lanes down to only one. Planning lane closures like that should be a capital offense.

The sad thing about it is that there are signs posted about how my tax dollars are helping fund that construction through the so-called stimulus spending under the Obama administration. Not only did I get to pay for tolls and taxed that way, I got to be taxed through federal income tax to help pay for inconvenient, incessant construction. In fact, federal dollars go into just about every stretch of major highway, so tolls are double taxation, even for non-residents of the state in question.

I saw more stimulus signage for paving projects in Massachusetts on roads that were already in excellent condition. I was wondering why they were in the middle of paving a perfectly good stretch of interstate.

While stuck in southern Connecticut, all I could think about is how every doggone trip that direction I run across construction in that state and how it reminds me of I-40 through Research Triangle Park. The construction there seems to have been going on for twenty years.

While sitting in lines at various tollbooths, especially without an E-Z Pass account since I don't normally encounter tolls in NC, all I could think of is that North Carolina wants to put toll booths on I-95 at our northern and southern borders. I-95 is indeed one of the most traveled corridors in all of America. Putting tollbooths along the interstate would certainly bring in revenue and soon recover booth construction costs. However, it is not a matter of finding more revenue, it is a matter of spending more than we take in as a state.

Tollbooths being nothing more than another form of taxation, I am just glad that I don't frequently travel either north or south of the NC border should we get them. But wait! North Carolina is also talking about putting tollbooths on the new outer loop of I-540 in Raleigh. If we give an inch for a tollbooth, we are going to end up having many miles taken from us, as well as dollar bills. And the insult to us taxpayers is that we will be taxed for the implementation and construction of the new taxation system and its maintenance.