Categories
Featured Intelwars

The Real Constitutional Crisis

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a crisis (plural: crises) is:

1a: the turning point for better or worse in an acute disease or fever

b: a paroxysmal attack of pain, distress, or disordered function

c: an emotionally significant event or radical change of status in a person’s life; a midlife crisis

2: the decisive moment (as in a literary plot); The crisis of the play occurs in Act 3.

3a: an unstable or crucial time or state of affairs in which a decisive change is impending; especially: one with the distinct possibility of a highly undesirable outcome; a financial crisis, the nation’s energy crisis

b: a situation that has reached a critical phase; the environmental crisis, the unemployment crisis

And likewise in other dictionaries.

The Constitution

Regardless of any flaws or problems that the Constitution had or has (the countenance of slavery, the assumption of the right of eminent domain, ambiguous clauses, the income tax), it is the supreme law of the land that the federal government is supposed to follow. The Constitution is neither a long nor an obscure document. Any American with a computer or smart phone can access it in a matter of seconds. Yet most Americans are woefully ignorant about the Constitution.

The Constitution was drafted in 1787, ratified in 1788, and took effect in 1789. It established the United States as a federal system of government where the states, through the Constitution, granted a limited number of powers to a central government. As James Madison, the father of the Constitution, so eloquently explained in Federalist No. 45,

The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the Federal Government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State Governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will for the most part be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects, which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties and properties of the people; and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.

There are about thirty enumerated congressional powers listed throughout the Constitution. Most of those powers are found in the eighteen paragraphs of Article I, Section 8. Six of them concern the militia and the military. Four of them concern taxes and money. The rest relate to commerce, naturalization, bankruptcies, post offices and post roads, copyrights and patents, the federal courts, maritime crimes, and the governance of the District of Columbia. The last paragraph gives Congress the power “to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers.” The Bill of Rights (the first ten Amendments to the Constitution) was added to the Constitution in 1791. The first eight Amendments protect civil liberties and fundamental rights. the Ninth and Tenth Amendments make it clear that all rights and powers not delegated to the federal government are retained by the people and the states.

The ignorance that most Americans have of the Constitution is exceeded by the ignorance of the Constitution that most congressmen have. Members of Congress swear to uphold the Constitution. Article VI, Clause 3, of the Constitution requires that senators and representatives be “bound by oath or affirmation, to support this constitution.” U.S. law requires that members of Congress be sworn in before they can take their seats. The congressional oath of office begins, “I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.” One would think that members of Congress — most of whom have at least a bachelor’s degree and many of whom are lawyers — would have a firm grasp of what the Constitution says. Yet they are often the worst offenders when it comes to violations of the Constitution.

The crisis

It was called a constitutional crisis.

After the death of a black man, George Floyd, while in the custody of a white Minneapolis police officer on May 25, anti-police demonstrations erupted in large, predominantly black cities across the country. Yet, Portland, Oregon, which is about 77 percent white and 6 percent black, became the epicenter of anti-police demonstrations this past summer. Some of the demonstrations were peaceful, but others not so much. Protesters shut down streets, broke windows, set fires, committed acts of vandalism and looting, and clashed with police. Then, on July 10, it was reported that armed federal forces were making arrests and using tear gas against the demonstrators.

Writing in the Guardian, Trevor Timm, the executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, mentioned the Constitution in his report about Portland: “A remarkable and nightmarish scene playing out in Portland should terrify anyone who cares about the US constitution: unmarked vans full of camouflaged and unidentified federal agents are pulling up next to protesters on street corners, then snatching and arresting them with no explanation.” Writing for the Associated Press, journalist Gillian Flaccus is the one who termed the events in Oregon a “constitutional crisis”: “Federal law enforcement officers’ actions at protests in Oregon’s largest city, done without local authorities’ consent, are raising the prospect of a constitutional crisis — one that could escalate as weeks of demonstrations find renewed focus in clashes with camouflaged, unidentified agents outside Portland’s U.S. courthouse.” In a lawsuit filed against the Department of Homeland Security, the United States Marshals Service, Customs and Border Protection, and the Federal Protective Service, the Oregon Attorney General, Ellen Rosenblum, accused the federal agencies of violating the constitutional rights of Oregon residents.

According to the Constitution (Article I, Section 8, Paragraph 15): “[Congress shall have power to] provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions.” The Insurrection Act of 1807 requires state legislatures or governors to request help from the federal government. It empowers the president to call into service the U.S. Armed Forces and the National Guard to address “an insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination or conspiracy, in any state, which results in the deprivation of Constitutionally secured rights, and where the state is unable, fails, or refuses to protect said rights.” The armed federal forces that descended uninvited on Portland were not members of the Militia, U.S. Armed Forces, or the National Guard. Under the guise of “protecting” federal property and maintaining “law and order,” they were functioning as de facto secret police — wearing military fatigues, sporting all manner of weapons, driving unmarked vehicles, compiling dossiers on journalists, grabbing people indiscriminately off the streets without regard to their lawful presence or personal behavior, assaulting people who weren’t engaged in criminal activity, detaining people who weren’t near federal property, and holding people for hours without charge.

But according to acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Chad Wolf, “I don’t need invitations by the state, state mayors, or state governors, to do our job. We’re going to do that, whether they like us there or not.” According to attorney and chronicler of the police state John Whitehead, “Just about every nefarious deed, tactic or thuggish policy advanced by the government today can be traced back to the DHS, its police state mindset, and the billions of dollars it distributes to local police agencies in the form of grants to transform them into extensions of the military.”

Constitutional scholar and senior judicial analyst at Fox News Judge Andrew Napolitano well explained the constitutional crisis in Portland:

The only constitutional role for armed federal forces in Portland, Oregon, was to assist U.S. marshals in protecting federal property and personnel there.

Under the U.S. Constitution, the feds have no lawful role in policing streets unless requested to do so by the governor or legislature of any state.

The feds’ activities are unconstitutional because they are using government force to arrest people without probable cause or arrest warrants. We know there is no legal basis for these “arrests,” as they have not charged anyone.

The First Amendment to the Constitution requires the government to protect speech, not assault those who exercise it. If these indiscriminate beatings and kidnappings are intended to deter folks from publicly dissenting, it is profoundly unconstitutional, counterproductive and will be costly to the federal government.

Under the Constitution, the ability to regulate for health and safety belongs to the states and local governments. The feds simply do not have the lawful authority to fill in gaps in local law enforcement, no matter how offended they may be.

This last point is why Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ken.) commented about the situation in Portland, “We cannot give up liberty for security. Local law enforcement can and should be handling these situations in our cities but there is no place for federal troops or unidentified federal agents rounding people up at will.”

Past constitutional crises

There have been other constitutional crises since the adoption of the Constitution in 1789.

The Constitution wasn’t even ten years old when the first constitutional crisis took place. In 1798, in the name of “national security,” the Federalist majority in Congress passed, and President John Adams signed into law, four pieces of legislation known collectively known as the Alien and Sedition Acts. The Naturalization Act, the Alien Friends Act, and the Alien Enemies Act targeted noncitizens (who were perceived to be political opponents of the Federalists) by extending the residency period for aliens seeking citizenship, allowed the president during peacetime to imprison or deport aliens considered “dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States,” and authorized the president to imprison or deport any male citizen of a hostile nation above the age of 14 during times of war. The most egregious piece of legislation was the Sedition Act. It authorized fines or imprisonment for persons who, in speech or print, criticized “the government of the United States, or either house of the Congress of the United States, or the President of the United States.” (The office of the vice president, which at the time was held by Adams’s nemesis, Thomas Jefferson, was not mentioned.) Critics of the Sedition Act argued that it blatantly violated the freedom of speech and freedom of the press clauses of the First Amendment. Federal courts prosecuted many Jeffersonian newspaper editors for violating the Sedition Act.

The so-called Civil War was itself a constitutional crisis. According to Thomas J. DiLorenzo, author of The Problem with Lincoln (2020), Abraham Lincoln ruled as a de facto dictator. He essentially “resurrected the Sedition Act,” imprisoned judges, suspended the writ of habeas corpus, authorized government officials to read Americans’ mail, imprisoned “tens of thousands of Northern state citizens” for “criticizing the government,” and “shut down more than three hundred opposition newspapers in the Northern states.”

The Sedition Act was actually resurrected in 1918 while the United States was fighting World War I. The Espionage Act of 1917 made it a crime for any person to convey information intended to interfere with the U.S. war effort. The Sedition Act amended and broadened the Espionage Act. It effectively criminalized speech and expression that criticized the government. Whoever “shall willfully utter, print, write, or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States, or the Constitution of the United States, or the military or naval forces of the United States, or the flag” could receive a $10,000 fine and twenty years in jail. Under the Sedition Act, Americans were arrested for reading aloud the Declaration of Independence or singing German beer-hall songs. Although World War I ended in 1918, the Sedition Act was not repealed until 1921.

More recently, there is the USA PATRIOT Act, passed in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. It vastly expanded the federal government’s authority to spy on Americans, while at the same time reducing checks and balances on those powers. It is an assault on both the First and Fifth Amendments. Napolitano terms sections 215 and 505 of the PATRIOT Act as “fatal to freedom,” “weapons of mass surveillance,” and “instruments of a totalitarian government that defy the Constitution.”

The real constitutional crisis

There is currently a constitutional crisis in America, and it has existed since long before the Portland protests and the PATRIOT Act. It is a crisis that has been perpetrated by both political parties in the Congress, approved by the president, sanctioned by the Supreme Court, and carried out by the bureaucrats who administer the myriad departments, bureaus, agencies, corporations, endowments, commissions, administrations, authorities, and boards of the federal government.

The existence of Social Security is a constitutional crisis. Not only is Social Security immoral because it takes money from those who work and gives it to those who don’t, the Constitution nowhere authorizes the federal government to have a retirement program, a pension plan, a forced savings account, or a disability plan.

The existence of Medicare and Medicaid is a constitutional crisis. Not only should no American be forced to pay for the health care of any other American, nowhere does the Constitution authorize the federal government to subsidize any American’s health insurance or health care, pay for anyone’s prescription drugs, have health-care programs, or have anything whatever to do with health insurance, health care, or medicine.

The existence of the war on drugs is a constitutional crisis. Not only is the drug war a failure and a colossal waste of the taxpayers’ money, nowhere does the Constitution authorize the federal government to regulate, monitor, or restrict Americans’ consumption, medical, or recreational habits; what Americans put in their mouths, noses, veins, or lungs; or Americans’ eating, drinking, or smoking habits.

The existence of federal aid to education is a constitutional crisis. Nowhere does the Constitution authorize the federal government to have a Head Start program, student loans, Pell Grants, teacher-education or certification requirements, school accreditation, math and science initiatives, a Department of Education, an Elementary and Secondary Education Act, a Higher Education Act, special-education mandates, or national standards, or to have anything to do with the education of anyone’s children. Education should be a service obtained on the free market just like any other service.

The existence of the welfare state is a constitutional crisis. Nowhere does the Constitution authorize the federal government to have food stamps, refundable tax credits, Section 8 housing vouchers, or entitlement programs. Nowhere does the Constitution authorize the government to fight poverty, maintain a safety net, provide public assistance, or guarantee income security. All charity should be private and voluntary.

The existence of foreign aid is a constitutional crisis. Article I, Section 8, Paragraph 1 of the Constitution says that the Congress shall have power “To lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States.” It does not say that taxes should be collected to provide for the general welfare of people in other countries. Like domestic charity, foreign charity should be entirely voluntary.

The existence of federal subsidies for art, culture, and the humanities is a constitutional crisis. Government funding for them is basically providing welfare for cultural elitists. It is always immoral for the government to take the resources from some Americans and redistribute them to other Americans. And the Constitution nowhere authorizes the federal government to subsidize them. Although the Constitution does authorize the national government to issue patents and copyrights, it does not follow that that entails giving subsidies to inventors and writers.

The existence of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is a constitutional crisis. The TSA provides security for private entities — the airlines. But not only is the security provided not paid for, not asked for, and just security theater, the Constitution nowhere authorizes the federal government to provide security for the airlines or any other private business.

The existence of the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (NRPC) is a constitutional crisis. Amtrak, as the NRPC is more commonly known, is a government corporation that has relied on government subsidies every year it has been in operation. But since when does the Constitution authorize the federal government to have a corporation, be a stockholder in a corporation, appoint and confirm a board of directors, or operate a passenger rail service?

The existence of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a constitutional crisis. The existence of the EEOC is predicated on the idea that the federal government should prevent and punish acts of discrimination in employment that it considers to be unjustified. But not only is discrimination not aggression, force, coercion, or violence — and therefore, as far as the law is concerned, not the concern of government — the Constitution nowhere authorizes the federal government to have an EEOC or oversee any employer’s hiring or firing practices.

The existence of the National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA) is a constitutional crisis. It outlaws the selling of one’s body organs. Aside from the obvious fact that if you own your own body, then you certainly own the organs in your body, the Constitution nowhere authorizes the federal government to be concerned in the least with what Americans want to do with the organs in their body.

What is so perplexing and frustrating about the massive constitutional crisis that the United States is in is that it could quickly and easily be fixed. All federal programs that are not explicitly authorized by the Constitution should be eliminated. All federal departments, bureaus, agencies, corporations, endowments, commissions, administrations, authorities, and boards that carry out functions not explicitly authorized by the Constitution should be shuttered. Doing that would reduce the federal government by about 95 percent. And therein lies the problem. Not only do the Congress, the hundreds of government agencies and programs, and the entrenched bureaucracy resist a reduction in the government of any size, most Americans receive some kind of payment, benefit, or subsidy from the federal government.

This article was originally published in the November 2020 edition of Future of Freedom.

The post The Real Constitutional Crisis first appeared on Tenth Amendment Center.

Share
Categories
Conservatives CURRENT EVENTS federal funding foreign aid Foreign Policy HYPOCRISY Intelwars

Conservative Hypocrisy on Foreign Aid

After initially threatening to veto it, Donald Trump signed into law a $2.3 trillion, 5,593-page spending bill that no member of Congress had read.

The “Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021” (H.R.133), which is a combination of twelve annual funding bills, COVID-19 relief, and pounds and pounds of pork, passed the House in two separate votes of 327-85 and 359-53. The first vote was on appropriations for the federal departments of Commerce, Justice, Defense, Treasury, and Homeland Security, and some federal components, including the White House and the District of Columbia. The second vote included appropriations for the remainder of the federal government as well as coronavirus stimulus and relief and many other miscellaneous provisions. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 92-6.

This bill funds the federal government through the end of the fiscal year (September 30, 2021) with $900 billion allocated for COVID-19 relief and a new $300 weekly supplement for the unemployed. But it also includes:

  • $4 billion for New York’s MTA as part of bailouts for mass-transit systems.
  • $15 billion earmarked toward grant programs for live entertainment venues such as Broadway.
  • $7 billion toward expanding broadband access.
  • $1.4 billion for the construction of a wall on the southern U.S. border.
  • $101 million to combat “the transnational threat of wildlife poaching and trafficking.”
  • New museums on the National Mall that will focus on Latinos and women.

And let’s not forget $25,000,000 for the Red Cross.

What is particularly egregious in this bill is the billions of dollars it appropriates for foreign aid, while Americans are each given a paltry $600 (unless the government decides that they make too much money, in which case they won’t get anything).

In Division K — “Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2021,” under Title II, “United States Agency for International Development” — here are some of the countries getting foreign aid and the amounts that they are getting:

  • Jordan — $1,650,000,000
  • Egypt — $1,300,000,000
  • Sudan — $700,000,000
  • Ukraine — $453,000,000
  • Israel — $500,000,000
  • Burma — $134,950,000
  • Nepal — $130,265,000
  • Cambodia — $85,505,000
  • Pakistan — $25,000,000

Senate Majority Leader Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) defended foreign-aid spending as just “1 percent of all American spending.” “Pakistan is a place I really worry about,” he told Fox & Friends Tuesday. “Eighty-five countries a woman can’t open a bank account without her husband’s signature, she can’t inherit property [sic]. If you’re a young girl in Pakistan, life is pretty tough, so we’re trying to make life better for women throughout the world.”

Many conservatives denounced the bill for its billions in foreign-aid spending.

But why?

Since when do conservatives object to the U.S. government’s spending money on foreign aid? Not just moderate Republicans or RINOs, but self-proclaimed conservatives. I can remember callers to Rush Limbaugh’s radio show being told not to make an issue of foreign aid, since it is only a small part of the U.S. budget. But how is that any different from what Republicans such as Lindsey Graham say?

ForeignAssistance.gov claims to be “the U.S. government’s primary tool for making U.S. foreign assistance data available to the public.” It serves as “the central repository for a range of budgetary and financial data produced by U.S. government agencies that manage foreign assistance portfolios”:

Foreign assistance is aid given by the United States to other countries to support global peace, security, and development efforts, and provide humanitarian relief during times of crisis. It is a strategic, economic, and moral imperative for the United States and vital to U.S. national security.

The first U.S. aid program took shape after World War II when then Secretary of State George Marshall acted to provide significant aid to Europe after the war to assist the continent in rebuilding its infrastructure, strengthening its economy, and stabilizing the region. This led to the creation of several foreign assistance programs in subsequent years to build off the success of the Marshall Plan. The next milestone for foreign assistance occurred in 1961, when President Kennedy signed the Foreign Assistance Act into law and created the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). This marked a significant increase in U.S. foreign assistance efforts and USAID became the first U.S. foreign assistance agency whose primary focus was long-term global development to include economic and social progress.

Today, the U.S. manages foreign assistance programs in more than 100 countries around the world through the efforts of over 20 different U.S. government agencies. These investments further America’s foreign policy interests on issues ranging from expanding free markets, combating extremism, ensuring stable democracies, and addressing the root causes of poverty, while simultaneously fostering global good will.

Foreign-assistance funding is classified into nine categories, which are further detailed into 52 sectors. The categories are environment; humanitarian assistance; program management; multi-sector; peace and security; democracy, human rights, and governance; health; education and social services; and economic development.

According to ForeignAssistance.gov, here is what the United States spent on foreign aid in each of the last eight fiscal years:

  • 2020 — $27,064,353,440
  • 2019 — $34,779,516,730
  • 2018 — $32,931,513,141
  • 2017 — $34,278,435,721
  • 2016 — $40,321,782,361
  • 2015 — $34,463,138,249
  • 2014 — $28,499,626,933
  • 2013 — $27,454,812,743

Every penny given away to foreign countries had to first be appropriated by Congress. Conservative Republicans had a part in that as much as anyone else.

Oh, conservatives talk about reforming foreign aid, or withholding foreign aid if a country does something particularly amiss, but they have no philosophical objection to it. James Carafano, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the Heritage Foundation — a well-respected conservative think tank — wrote just before Christmas that spending on foreign aid was wrong, but only because it was included in the COVID-19 relief bill. He said that Americans are right to be “upset about Congress sticking foreign aid and other international affairs items in omnibus spending along with the COVID-19 relief bill.” But —

There is absolutely a place for foreign assistance in federal spending. The U.S. is a global power with global interests and global responsibilities. To look after Americans and their interests, sometimes it makes good sense to spend money over there, for the benefit of folks back home.

A good example of that is investment in the Three Seas Initiative. Not only will that help allies, in the end, the U.S. will actually turn a profit from our investments.

Another example: The Trump administration implemented a strong program in support of women in other countries, addressing issues such as property rights and rule-of-law reform, initiatives that will help those nations and make them better partners for the U.S.

It’s definitely part of a sound “America First” foreign policy.

These programs are realistic, with concrete deliverables promoting the values that Americans cherish, and they track right back to supporting American policy objectives that further U.S. interests.

Sorry Mr. Carafano, but there is no place for foreign assistance in federal spending.

Foreign-aid spending is not authorized by the Constitution. Article I, Section 8, Paragraph 1 of the Constitution reads: “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.” Spending on foreign aid has nothing to do with providing for the common defense and general welfare of the United States. The list of powers granted to the federal government in Article I, Section 8, Paragraphs 2–18 does not include the power to take money from Americans and give it to foreign governments.

Foreign-aid spending is not a legitimate purpose of the U.S. government. The purpose of government is supposed to be to protect the lives, liberties, and property of the people who form it. Providing welfare and relief is illegitimate. And if it is illegitimate for the U.S. government to provide welfare and relief to Americans, then it is even more illegitimate for the U.S. government to provide them to foreigners.

Foreign-aid spending is not something that Americans want to spend their money on. Shouldn’t they have a say in how their tax dollars are spent? The amount of foreign assistance that has been requested for six Central Asian countries for fiscal year 2021 is:

  • Afghanistan — $371.8 million
  • Uzbekistan — $35.24 million
  • Turkmenistan — $200 thousand
  • Kazakhstan — $1.7 million
  • Kyrgyzstan — $20 million
  • Tajikistan — $28.45 million

If they were asked, how many Americans would want to give $457.39 million of their hard-earned money to six counties that they can barely spell? How many doors would you have to knock on before you found one American willing to write a check or even give you some pocket change?

Foreign-aid spending just makes no sense. With millions of Americans out of work and suffering the effects of the federal, state, and local governments’ response to the COVID-19 “pandemic,” it makes absolutely no sense for the U.S. government to send billions to foreign countries and give Americans each a $600 check.

Foreign aid spending is not an investment. It is not a “moral imperative.” It is simply the looting of American taxpayers. If Americans are worried about Pakistan, then let them get out their checkbook. If Americans want to do something about women not being able to open bank accounts or inherit property, then let them make withdrawals from their bank accounts. If Americans want to make life better for women throughout the world, then let them put their money where their mouth is.

All foreign aid, like all domestic charity, should be individual, private, and voluntary.

No matter how many times conservatives recite their mantra of the Constitution, limited government, private property, and individual liberty; and no matter how much they talk about the private sector, free enterprise, personal responsibility, and the free market, they only selectively believe in those things.

As I have said and written on countless occasions, the only limited government wanted by conservatives is a government limited to control by conservatives.

The post Conservative Hypocrisy on Foreign Aid first appeared on Tenth Amendment Center.

Share
Categories
CURRENT EVENTS Donald Trump federal power Federal Programs healthcare Intelwars Obamacare Trumpcare

Trump’s “New and Improved” Obamacare

At an appearance in Charlotte, North Carolina, last month, President Trump unveiled his replacement for Obamacare that “puts patients first, families first, and — perhaps most importantly for all of us — America first.”

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as the PPACA, ACA, or Obamacare, was signed into law on March 23, 2010. It consisted of numerous “reforms” to health care and health insurance and a bevy of new taxes and tax increases to pay for them.

Obamacare expanded Medicare; created state health-insurance exchanges; began federal subsidies for the purchase of health insurance; and required that insurance companies provide policies with minimum standards, cover all applicants without regard to their pre-existing medical conditions, eliminate annual and lifetime caps on benefits, eliminate co-payments and deductibles for selected health-insurance benefits, and allow children to remain on their parents’ insurance plan until their 26th birthday.

Obamacare increased taxes on wages and investment income for higher-income taxpayers, decreased the medical-expense tax deduction (thus effectively raising taxes), and imposed new taxes on indoor tanning services, drug companies, health insurers, medical-device manufactures, and comprehensive health-insurance plans.

Obamacare also instituted employer and individual mandates. The employer mandate dictated that all employers with 50 or more full-time or full-time-equivalent employees must offer them “affordable” health insurance that provides “minimum value” or pay an annual tax penalty of $2,000 per employee. The individual mandate dictated that every American not covered by Medicaid, Medicare, or private health insurance must purchase health insurance or pay up to $285 per family or 1 percent of taxable income (2014), up to $975 per family or 2 percent of taxable income (2015), and up to a maximum of $2,085 per family or 2.5 percent of taxable income (2016 and beyond) as an “individual shared responsibility fee.”

Said Trump in his speech about Obamacare, “It was terrible and very, very expensive. Hurt a lot of people. Premiums were too high. Deductibles were a disaster. Patients had no choice. You couldn’t keep your doctor. But, by far, the worst part of Obamacare was this thing called the ‘individual mandate.’”

But in spite of many attempts, Republicans could not bring themselves to just simply repeal Obamacare lock, stock, and barrel. To their credit, Republicans did eliminate the individual mandate in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 and a federal district court and a federal appeals court then ruled that the individual mandate was unconstitutional. Democrats and Republicans united in 2019 to repeal the medical-device tax and the “Cadillac tax” on high-cost, employer-sponsored health-care plans. The rest of Obamacare still stands.

But according to Trump,

Obamacare is no longer Obamacare. As we worked on it and managed it very well. We stabilized it and got premiums down very substantially.

But it’s still unacceptable to me because it’s too expensive and doesn’t really do the job as well as we could have. So what we have now is a much better plan. It is no longer Obamacare because we’ve gotten rid of the worst part of it — the individual mandate — and made it much less expensive. A lot of that was through good management. We manage it properly. We have tremendous people working on it. Simultaneously with all of this, we are joining in a lawsuit to end this ill-conceived plan. I’m in court to terminate this really, really terrible situation.

If we win, we will have a better and less expensive plan that will always protect individuals with preexisting conditions. If we lose, what we have now is better than the original — the original version of Obamacare, by far. Much better. Much better. Again, we will always protect patients with preexisting conditions.

The president’s new and improved version of Obamacare is called “An America-First Healthcare Plan”:

We will ensure the highest standard of care anywhere in the world, cutting-edge treatments, state-of-the-art medicine, groundbreaking cures, and true health security for you and your loved ones. And we will do it rapidly, and it’s in very good order, and some of it has already been implemented.

My plan expands affordable insurance options, reduces the cost of prescription drugs, will end surprise medical billing, increases fairness through price transparency, streamlines bureaucracy, accelerates innovation, strongly protects Medicare, and always protects patients with preexisting conditions.

The “three pillars” of Trump’s plan are choice, lower costs, and better care. Here are the highlights:

Under our plan, you’ll have the freedom to shop for the option that is right for you and your family. These options include new, affordable choices that cost up to 60 percent less than Obamacare.

Through a massive expansion of health reimbursement arrangements, millions of Americans will be able to shop for a plan of their choice on the individual market and then have their employer cover the full cost.

My plan will also revolutionize access to telehealth.

We will end surprise medical billing.

My plan also includes the vital reform of price transparency.

I’m taking on the lobbyists and the special interests to lower the price of prescription drugs.

We will finally allow the safe and legal importation of prescription drugs from Canada.

Under my plan, 33 million Medicare beneficiaries will soon receive a card in the mail containing $200 that they can use to help pay for prescription drugs.

Under my plan, hundreds of thousands of Medicare patients will see their insulin costs capped at just $35 a month.

We’ll ensure that all seniors pay the same price for the same service, whether at a hospital, a surgery center, or a doctor’s office.

As long as I’m President, no one will lay a hand on your Medicare. Your Medicare is going to be safe and it’s going to be solid.

The historic action I’m taking today includes the first-ever executive order to affirm it is the official policy of the United States government to protect patients with preexisting conditions.

We’ll require doctors to make your records available electronically, and you’ll own them, and you’ll control them, and they will be portable, and you’ll be able to work seamlessly with all of your medical providers.

Trump then issued an executive order (no. 13951) about his health-care plan that mostly recounts, in a very long section 1, “Purpose,” his administration’s health-care accomplishments. Section 1 concludes,

Taken together, these extraordinary reforms constitute an ongoing effort to improve American healthcare by putting patients first and delivering continuous innovation. And this effort will continue to succeed because of my Administration’s commitment to delivering great healthcare with more choices, better care, and lower costs for all Americans.

Section 2, “Policy,” merely says, “It has been and will continue to be the policy of the United States to give Americans seeking healthcare more choice, lower costs, and better care and to ensure that Americans with pre-existing conditions can obtain the insurance of their choice at affordable rates.”

Section 3, “Giving Americans More Choice in Healthcare,” merely says, “The Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall maintain and build upon existing actions to expand access to and options for affordable healthcare.”

Section 4, “Lowering Healthcare Costs for Americans,” relates to expanding access to “affordable medicines,” “facilitating the safe importation of affordable prescription drugs from abroad,” ending “surprise billing,” and reducing “waste, fraud, and abuse in the healthcare system.”

Section 5, “Providing Better Care to Americans,” concerns improving “quality in the delivery of care for veterans,” and government promotion of “medical innovations to find novel and improved treatments for COVID-19, Alzheimer’s disease, sickle cell disease, pediatric cancer, and other conditions threatening the well-being of Americans.”

Would it be good if the United States and its citizens had the highest standard of care anywhere in the world, cutting-edge treatments, state-of-the-art medicine, ground-breaking cures, true health security, affordable insurance options, reduced prices on prescription drugs, no surprise medical bills, price transparency, more choice, lower health-care costs, increased access to telehealth? Would it be good if waste, fraud, and abuse in the health-care system were reduced?

Of course it would.

But a government plan is not the way to do those things. Everything the government touches it distorts and corrupts. And aside from the fact that Trump’s health-care plan is a government health-care plan — and therefore not only illegitimate but doomed to fail — there are a number of troubling aspects of his plan.

  1. It “strongly protects” Medicare. Trump criticized socialism nine times in his remarks in Charlotte. But what is Medicare if it is not socialized Medicine?
  2. It ensures “that Americans with pre-existing conditions can obtain the insurance of their choice at affordable rates.” It actually makes it “the official policy of the United States government” to do so. This is pure Obamacare. It is like buying a fire insurance policy for your home after it has burned to the ground.
  3. It gives “33 million Medicare beneficiaries” $200 “to help pay for prescription drugs.” This is simply a government handout to seniors — the largest class of voters — right before an election.
  4. It caps insulin costs for “hundreds of thousands of Medicare patients” at $35 a month. This is either blatant government price control or a massive subsidy to the pharmaceutical industry, or perhaps a little of both.
  5. It requires doctors to make your records available electronically. Perhaps electronic records are a good thing or perhaps not. My point is that the government shouldn’t be requiring doctors to do anything with medical records.
  6. It tasks the government with promoting “medical innovations to find novel and improved treatments” for diseases. But it is simply not the proper role of government to engage in or fund such activity.
  7. It is blatantly unconstitutional. Trump doesn’t mention the Constitution in his remarks. How could he have? The Constitution nowhere authorizes the federal government to have anything to do with health care, health insurance, medical devices, medical treatment, medical records, medical research, clinical trials, family planning, HIV/AIDS prevention initiatives, vaccination programs, hospitals, physicians, nurses, medical schools, or drugs, or to have Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, the National Institutes of Health, federal laboratories, the FDA, or the Department of Health and Human Services.

This article was originally published on the Future Freedom Foundation website

Share
Categories
CURRENT EVENTS Intelwars Social Security

Should Social Security Be Expanded?

Time is running out for Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), the chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security.

The Constitution, in Article I, Section 4, mandates that Congress assemble “at least once in every Year.” Each Congress is numbered and lasts two years, with two legislative sessions. The current Congress is the 116th to assemble since the first in 1789. Although congressional elections are held in November of even-numbered years, a new Congress does not begin until noon on January 3 of the following odd-numbered year. The first session convenes on or soon after that date. The second session convenes on or soon after January 3 of even-numbered years. Sessions typically adjourn before the end of the year, although they sometimes run all the way to January 3. All bills introduced during the first or second session that are not enacted by the end of the second session die, although they can be reintroduced in the next Congress.

The Social Security 2100 Act

Reintroducing a bill is exactly what Larson did last year and may have to do again if time runs out on him. On April 5, 2017, in the 115th Congress, Larson introduced the Social Security 2100 Act (H.R.1902) “to protect our Social Security system and improve benefits for current and future generations.” A companion bill (S.2671) was introduced in the Senate the next day by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

In a press release accompanying the bill’s introduction, Larson stated,

Social Security is not an entitlement — it’s the insurance Americans have paid for to fund retirement, disability, and survivor benefits through a lifetime of work. Seniors depend on Social Security and no one should be able to retire into poverty. I am committed to taking common sense steps to expand benefits and to make the system solvent for the next 75 years and beyond. The Social Security 2100 Act, will do just that, without adding to the national debt. Social Security is the most successful program in American history, it is time to expand it for the future. This bill will secure your future, your family, and our nation.

A year later, during a House Ways and Means Tax Subcommittee hearing, Larson defended Social Security and promoted his bill to expand Social Security:

Social Security is not an entitlement, it is the insurance that Americans pay for through the Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA) with every paycheck. It is exactly what it says, an insurance contribution that we pay into. My bill, the Social Security 2100 Act, would enhance the program, give current beneficiaries a benefit bump, and make the program solvent beyond the 75 year window. We need to come together and work on solutions, not cuts.

Although the bill eventually garnered 174 cosponsors (all Democrats), and was referred to several committees and subcommittees, including the subcommittee on Social Security, it died, as did the companion Senate bill.

Soon after the beginning of the 116th Congress, on January 30, 2019, Larson reintroduced the Social Security 2100 Act (H.R.860) in the House, with 201 cosponsors, while Blumenthal reintroduced his companion bill (S.269) in the Senate. In a press release accompanying the bill’s introduction, Larson stated,

Today, over 200 Members of Congress came together on the anniversary of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s birth to honor his legacy, and to enhance and expand the nation’s most successful insurance program, Social Security, which touches the lives of every American. With 10,000 baby boomers becoming eligible for Social Security every day, the time to act is now. The Social Security 2100 Act will provide economic security not just for today’s seniors but for future generations too.

A brochure put out by Larson’s office summarizing the Social Security 2100 Act says about Social Security,

You’ve paid for it.

It’s not an entitlement.

It’s an earned benefit.

Now, we have to protect it …

The brochure also echoes what Larson said in one of his press releases: “Social Security is not an entitlement. It is the insurance that you contribute to with every paycheck. That is what FICA stands for: Federal Insurance Contributions Act.”

A “fact sheet” that accompanies the Social Security 2100 Act touts that the bill increases Social Security benefits while strengthening the Social Security trust fund. It increases benefits by raising the amount paid out by about 2 percent of the average benefit (currently $16,848 a year), improving the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) formula by switching to a consumer price index (CPI) for the elderly (CPI-E), establishing a new minimum benefit at 25 percent above the poverty line tied to wage levels, raising the income threshold to $50,000 ($100,000 for married couples) before Social Security benefits are taxed, and ensuring that any increases in benefits from the bill do not result in a reduction in, or loss of eligibility for, other welfare benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medi-caid. It strengthens the trust fund by gradually phasing in an increase in the Social Security tax rate to 14.8 percent by 2043, applying the payroll tax to wages above $400,000, and combining the two parts of the Social Security trust fund.

The Social Security 2100 Act has been endorsed by the AFL-CIO, the NAACP, the National Organization for Women (NOW), the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the Daily Kos, MoveOn, and many other progressive groups. But time is running out. When the second session of the 116th Congress comes to a close at the end of this year, the opportunity for Congress to pass Larson’s Social Security 2011 Act will end with it.

Social Security

Social Security is officially the Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Program, and consists of two parts. The Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) program provides monthly benefits to retired workers, families of retired workers, and survivors of deceased workers. The Disability Insurance (DI) program provides monthly benefits to disabled workers and families of disabled workers.

Social Security is funded by a 12.4 percent (10.03 percent OASI and 2.37 percent DI) payroll tax (split equally between employers and employees) on the first $137,700 of employee income. Self-employed individuals pay the full 12.4 percent, but receive a tax deduction equal to 50 percent of the amount of the Social Security tax they paid. One must pay Social Security taxes for a minimum of 40 quarters, or 10 years, to be eligible for benefits. Social Security benefits are figured on the basis of one’s Primary Insurance Amount (PIA), the average of a worker’s 35 highest years of earnings (up to a particular year’s wage base), adjusted for inflation. For those born after 1959, the retirement age to receive full benefits is 67. Reduced benefits are available for those who have reached the age of 62; increased benefits are available for those who wait until age 70 to retire.

According to the latest annual report by the Social Security Board of Trustees (“The 2019 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Funds”),

At the end of 2018, the OASDI program was providing benefit payments to about 63 million people: 47 million retired workers and dependents of retired workers, 6 million survivors of deceased workers, and 10 million disabled workers and dependents of disabled workers. During the year, an estimated 176 million people had earnings covered by Social Security and paid payroll taxes on those earnings. The total cost of the program in 2018 was $1,000 billion.

Social Security is the largest expenditure in the federal budget. According to Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2021 budget proposal, annual outlays are expected to increase from $1.15 trillion in 2021 to $1.91 trillion by 2030.

Expanding Social Security

What is unusual about Larson’s Social Security 2100 Act is that it is an expansion of Social Security. What we usually hear are calls to save or protect Social Security for future generations by doing one or more of the following: raising the retirement age, raising the tax rate, reducing or eliminating COLAs, increasing or eliminating the payroll tax cap, reducing benefits, or means-testing recipients.

As even Larson says, “For 75 years, Social Security has been a promise to all Americans that they would have a chance to retire with dignity after a lifetime of hard work. We have an obligation to keep that promise; to safeguard Social Security for our seniors, people with disabilities, and all Americans — today, tomorrow, and forever.” Although Democrats sometimes accuse Republicans of wanting to cut Social Security, Republicans are just as committed to the program as Democrats. According to the latest Republican Party platform, “Saving Social Security is more than a challenge. It is our moral obligation to those who trusted in the government’s word.” And as Trump said earlier this year, “Democrats are going to destroy your Social Security. I have totally left it alone, as promised, and will save it!”

Larson is not alone in his desire to expand Social Security. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), one of the many Democrats who ran for president, had an ambitious expansion plan. She proposed increasing Social Security benefits immediately by $200 a month; further increasing benefits for “lower-income families, women, people with disabilities, public-sector workers, and people of color”; and increasing the Social Security “contribution” requirement by raising the tax rate to 14.8 percent on wages above $250,000 and implementing a new 14.8 percent tax on net investment income on persons making more than $250,000 ($400,000 for married filing jointly). Other Democratic presidential candidates were content to tax, at the existing rate, wages above $250,000 or $400,000 in the case of Joe Biden.

The problem with Social Security

Social Security is underfunded, unstable, and unsustainable. Since 2010, total expenditures of Social Security have exceeded the non-interest income of its combined trust funds. The trust funds are projected to be depleted in the early to mid 2030s. Once they are depleted, the Social Security trustees project that current revenue will be sufficient to cover only 80 percent of promised benefits. The ratio of those paying into the Social Security system to those collecting Social Security has declined from more than forty to one down to about three to one. Although Ida Mae Fuller, the first recipient of Social Security, paid in only $24.75 and received $22,888.92 in benefits (she lived to be 100), for many years now Social Security has been a bad investment.

A recent report by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, found that “Americans would be better off keeping their payroll tax contributions and putting them into private retirement accounts than having to sacrifice them to the government’s broken Social Security system.” Many workers who “pay into the program” end up with a negative annual rate of return. But there is a deeper problem with Social Security, and it has nothing to do with how solvent or insolvent or how good or bad an investment the program is.

Surely John Larson speaks for a majority of Americans when he maintains that “Social Security is not an entitlement,” but is “the insurance that you contribute to with every paycheck.” Yet nothing could be further from the truth.

Not insurance

First of all, the federal government doesn’t have a Social Security account with every American’s name on it. The Social Security trust funds are government accounting fictions. Unlike a real insurance company, which is required to carry huge reserves, there is no money in an account for people to withdraw from. All Social Security benefits are paid from current taxes collected. As the Social Security Administration acknowledges, “The money you pay in taxes is not held in a personal account for you to use when you get benefits. Today’s workers help pay for current retirees’ and other beneficiaries’ benefits. Any unused money goes to the Social Security trust funds to help secure today and tomorrow for you and your family.” The whole system is one gigantic fraud. Payroll taxes collected are deposited in the government’s general fund and immediately spent, not only on current Social Security benefits, but also on foreign aid, welfare, the drug war, the TSA, and countless other unconstitutional sinkholes.

Second, those who die before signing up for Social Security forfeit every penny they “contributed” to the system. Americans with lower life expectancies have the most to lose because they receive little or nothing in benefits and cannot pass along their years of “contributions” to their surviving relatives. In Flemming v. Nestor (1960), the Supreme Court held that the widow of someone who had paid into Social Security for years and then lost his citizenship was not entitled to any benefits. The majority opinion stated, “To engraft upon the Social Security System a concept of accrued property rights would deprive it of the flexibility and boldness in adjustment to the ever-changing conditions which it demands.” And even Justice Hugo Black, in a minority opinion, stated that “no private insurance company in America would be permitted to repudiate its matured contracts with its policyholders who have regularly paid all their premiums in reliance upon the good faith of the company.”

Third, there is no connection between the taxes one pays to fund the Social Security system and the benefits that one receives from the Social Security system. Although most Americans think the opposite, Social Security benefits have never been based on the amount of Social Security taxes paid. They have always been based on the 35 highest years of one’s income earned from wages during his life. The benefits are calculated with an arbitrary formula that Congress can change at any time. The additional Social Security taxes that the Democratic presidential candidates wanted “the rich” to pay would not have resulted in any increase in their benefits. Under the Social Security expansion plans of Larson and Warren, benefits would be increased for those who didn’t pay more in taxes. And even though Social Security taxes were cut by 2 percentage points in 2011 and 2012, no one will see their future benefits cut.

Fourth, Americans have no contractual right to receive Social Security benefits. In Helvering v. Davis (1937), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “the proceeds of both [employee and employer] taxes are to be paid into the Treasury like internal revenue taxes generally, and are not earmarked in any way.”

There is contractual right to receive Social Security benefits.

According to Title XI, section 1104, of the Social Security Act, “The right to alter, amend, or repeal any provision of this Act is hereby reserved to Congress.” This means that Congress can raise Social Security taxes, raise or eliminate the wage base upon which taxes are figured, cut benefits, raise the retirement age again, means-test recipients, eliminate yearly cost of living increases, or make all those changes at the same time. Section 1104 was affirmed in the aforementioned Flemming v. Nestor decision. There the Court ruled that “the noncontractual interest of an employee covered by the Act cannot be soundly analogized to that of the holder of an annuity, whose right to benefits are [sic] based on his contractual premium payments.”

And fifth, although insurance proceeds aren’t generally taxable, Social Security benefits can be taxed almost in their entirety. According to the Social Security Administration,

Some people who get Social Security must pay federal income taxes on their benefits. But, no one pays taxes on more than 85 percent of their Social Security benefits.

You must pay taxes on your benefits if you file a federal tax return as an “individual” and your “combined income” exceeds $25,000. If you file a joint return, you must pay taxes if you and your spouse have “combined income” of more than $32,000. If you are married and file a separate return, you probably will have to pay taxes on your benefits.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) defines “combined income” as adjusted gross income, tax-exempt interest income, and half of Social Security benefits. According to the annual report of the Social Security Board of Trustees, in 2018 the Social Security trust funds received $35 billion from the taxation of benefits — 4 percent of the trust funds’ non-interest income. And “more than 40 percent of current beneficiaries pay income taxes on part of their benefits.”

Social Security benefits were exempt from income taxation through 1983. Section 86 of the Social Security Amendments of 1983 provided that up to 50 percent of benefits could be taxed if “combined income” exceeded $25,000 for individuals or $32,000 for married couples. In 1993, Congress amended section 86 to allow for an additional taxation of up to 85 percent of benefits if “combined income” exceeded $34,000 for individuals or $44,000 for married couples. Those numbers have never been indexed for inflation. In addition, there are also thirteen states that tax Social Security benefits. Social Security couldn’t possibly be an earned benefit that workers have paid for — not if the government can tax you on 85 percent of your benefits. If Social Security was really “the insurance that you contribute to with every paycheck,” then it wouldn’t matter how much money you made after retirement. Your income shouldn’t affect your Social Security at all.

So then, if Social Security is not a retirement plan, a trust fund, an annuity, an insurance program, a savings account, a 401(k)-type account, an investment vehicle, or a pension fund; if it is not “earned,” “paid for,” or “the insurance that you contribute to with every paycheck,” then what is it? It is simply an intergenerational wealth-redistribution scheme that has been an entitlement program for the elderly from the very beginning. Social Security doesn’t need to be expanded, and neither does it need to be reformed, privatized, fixed, or saved. Because Social Security is based on coercion, fraud, and theft; and because it is immoral for the government to take money from those who work and give it to those who don’t, the Social Security program should be eliminated, not expanded.

This article was originally published in the July 2020 edition of Future of Freedom.

Share
Categories
BLM Department of the Interior DOI federal land gao Intelwars land

The Question Never Asked about Federal Lands

The Government Accountability Office (GAO), known as the Government Accounting Office until 2004, “is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress.” It is headed by the Comptroller General of the United States. The GAO likes to be called the “congressional watchdog” because it “examines how taxpayer dollars are spent and provides Congress and federal agencies with objective, reliable information to help the government save money and work more efficiently.”

Note that the GAO does not question the constitutionality, legitimacy, or necessity of the programs and agencies created by Congress that taxpayer dollars are spent on. It just seeks to make them run more efficiently.

The GAO “provides Congress, the heads of executive agencies, and the public with timely, fact-based, non-partisan information that can be used to improve government and save taxpayers billions of dollars.” Its work “is done at the request of congressional committees or subcommittees or is statutorily required by public laws or committee reports, per our Congressional Protocols.” The GAO “maintains the FraudNet hotline to support accountability across the federal government.” Citizens who suspect “fraud, waste, abuse, or mismanagement of federal funds” can report it to the GAO, which will refer the allegations “to federal, state, or local agencies or departments, as appropriate.”

Again, I note that the GAO does not question the constitutionality, legitimacy, or necessity of the programs and agencies created by Congress that taxpayer dollars are spent on. It just seeks to improve them by rooting out fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement.

The GAO prepares about 900 reports every year. A recent report is titled Mining on Federal Lands: More Than 800 Operations Authorized to Mine and Total Mineral Production Is Unknown. It was requested by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.).

It turns out that the federal government doesn’t know how much gold, silver, and copper is being mined on federal lands. As of Sept. 30, 2018, there were 872 authorized mines on federal lands, 728 of which fell into the “locatable hardrock mineral” category. The GAO found that “the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service do not keep track of how many minerals are extracted under ‘locatable hardrock mine operations’ because companies that operate these mines do not need to pay royalties to the federal government.”

“Federal agencies do not generally collect data on the quantity of minerals extracted from locatable hardrock mine operations — which account for 83 percent of the total number of mine operations authorized to produce minerals on federal lands,” the GAO report said.

Grijalva has been “critical of an 1872 mining law that makes it so these operators do not need to pay royalties.” “Mining on American public lands today means taking from the people without paying for it, polluting public property without cleaning up after yourself, and lobbying against any attempt to tell the public what you’re taking or what it’s worth,” said Grijalva. “The free ride needs to end. Let’s close these loopholes and start getting a fair return for the valuable resources mining corporations are taking from the American people.”

Maintenance fees collected by the government from the above mining claims amounted to only $68 million in 2019. However, about $550 million in fees was paid to the federal government from other types of mines. The GAO report “found that 290 million tons of coal, about 11.6 million tons of non-energy solid minerals like sodium and phosphate and 143,000 tons of gold, silver and copper for a separate type of mine were extracted from public lands in fiscal year 2018.”

The most important question about federal lands was never answered by the GAO because it was never asked by Grijalva or any other member of Congress.

Why does the federal government own so much land?

The BLM is part of the Department of the Interior (DOI), which was established in 1849. The DOI “conserves and manages the Nation’s natural resources and cultural heritage for the benefit and enjoyment of the American people, provides scientific and other information about natural resources and natural hazards to address societal challenges and create opportunities for the American people, and honors the Nation’s trust responsibilities or special commitments to American Indians, Alaska Natives, and affiliated island communities to help them prosper.”

In addition to the BLM, the DOI oversees other agencies such as the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey. It has 70,000 employees and 2,400 operating locations with a budget for fiscal year 2021 of $12.8 billion.

The DOI “manages the Nation’s public lands and minerals, including providing access to more than 480 million acres of public lands, 700 million acres of subsurface minerals, and 1.7 billion acres of the Outer Continental Shelf.” It “is the steward of 20 percent of the Nation’s lands, including national parks, national wildlife refuges, and other public lands; manages resources that supply 30 percent of the Nation’s energy; supplies and manages water in the 17 Western States and supplies 15 percent of the Nation’s hydropower energy.”

Just how much land does the federal government actually own?

According to latest update to the Congressional Research Service report Federal Land Ownership: Overview and Data,

The federal government owns roughly 640 million acres, about 28% of the 2.27 billion acres of land in the United States.

The amount and percentage of federally owned land in each state vary widely, ranging from 0.3% of land (in Connecticut and Iowa) to 80.1% of land (in Nevada). However, federal land ownership is concentrated in Alaska (60.9%) and 11 coterminous western states (45.9%), in contrast with lands in the other states (4.1%).

Why?

Why should the federal government own more than a third of the land in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming?

The only land that the federal government ought to own is in the District of Columbia and in some states for courthouses and military bases. There should be no federal buildings in any state for any other purpose.

And regardless of how much land the federal government owns, there is no constitutional authority for it to have anything to do with mining and minerals, fish and wildlife, power generation, parks, wildlife refuges, forests, hydroelectric power, or national resources.

All federal land in the fifty states that is not being used for courthouses and military bases should be sold to the states, to developers, to conservationists, to environmentalists, or to commercial interests.

Share
Categories
Constitution CURRENT EVENTS Intelwars Political Parties

Democrats, Republicans, and the Constitution

In July 2017, after President Donald Trump had been in office for less than six months, Congressmen Al Green (D-Calif.) and Brad Sherman (D-Tex.) introduced in the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives an article of impeachment (H. Res. 438) against the president for “High Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Said Green, “I am introducing Articles of Impeachment to begin a long process to protect our country from abuse of power, obstruction of justice, and impulsive, ignorant incompetence.” The impeachment article concluded with the charge that “Donald John Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government.” Naturally, the article of impeachment went nowhere, since the Republicans controlled the House.

The Democrats regained control of the House in the 2018 election. On January 3, 2019 — the first day of the new 116th Congress — Sherman and Green reintroduced their article of impeachment. Later that day, freshman Democrat Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — who later said that the tenor of her language was just how people in Detroit talk — announced that Democrats would “impeach the ****.” Although House Speaker Nancy Pelosi initially sought to stifle calls by Democrats for Trump’s impeachment, by September she announced the beginning of a formal impeachment inquiry, citing Trump’s “breach of his constitutional responsibilities.”

On December 9, House Democrats unveiled two articles of impeachment (H.R.755) against President Trump for “abuse of power” and “obstruction of Congress.” Each article of impeachment concludes with the words, “Wherefore, President Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to the Constitution if allowed to remain in office.” On December 13, the House Judiciary Committee recommended that the House ratify two articles of impeachment against the president by a party-line vote of 23 to 17 on each article. The Committee released its official Report on the impeachment on December 16. The introduction concludes with the statement, “The Committee now transmits these articles of impeachment to the full House. By his actions, President Trump betrayed his office. His high crimes and misdemeanors undermine the Constitution.”

Trump became the third U.S. president to be impeached on December 18, 2019, after a mostly party-line vote in the House of 230-197 on the first article of impeachment and 229-198 on the second. On January 16, 2020, the House’s articles of impeachment were presented to the Senate. The Trial Memorandum of the House impeachment managers concluded, “President Trump has betrayed the American people and the ideals on which the Nation was founded. Unless he is removed from office, he will continue to endanger our national security, jeopardize the integrity of our elections, and undermine our core constitutional principles.” A trial was then held in the Senate from January 22 to February 5. All 100 senators affirmed an oath read by Chief Justice John Roberts: “Do you solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, president of the United States now pending, you will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help you God?” Both sides had 24 hours over three days to make their case for or against impeachment, after which senators had 16 hours over two days to submit questions in writing to be read by the chief justice. That was followed by two hours of closing arguments by each side. Before the final vote, senators took to the Senate floor to make their individual cases for or against impeachment. On February 5, Trump was acquitted in his Senate trial by a party-line vote of 52-48 on the first article of impeachment and a near party-line vote of 53-47 on the second article of impeachment.

The Democrats

In the Democratic party platform, adopted at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in 2016, Democrats don’t have much to say about the Constitution. It is, in fact, mentioned only four times:

We will finally enshrine the rights of women in the Constitution by passing the Equal Rights Amendment (p. 17).

The Democratic Party will fulfill, honor, and strengthen to the highest extent possible the United States’ fundamental trust responsibility, grounded in the Constitution, treaties, and case law to American Indian and Alaska Native tribes (p. 19).

The people of Puerto Rico should determine their ultimate political status from permanent options that do not conflict with the Constitution, laws, and policies of the United States (p. 21).

[We] believe the Constitution protects not only the powerful, but also the disadvantaged and powerless (p. 23).

The Democratic Party platform also speaks of freedom of expression as “a fundamental constitutional principle” (p. 16), support for “a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s decisions in Citizens United and Buckley v. Valeo” (p. 23), and “the constitutional principles of liberty and equality for all” (p. 23).

Democrats have never talked about the Constitution as much as they did during the impeachment hearings. Almost every Democrat who spoke about the need for Democrats to vote to impeach President Trump said that the president violated or betrayed the Constitution and that he had to vote in favor of impeachment because of the oath he took to support and defend the Constitution. On December 18, before the vote was taken in the House of Representatives on the articles of impeachment, members of Congress debated the articles prior to the vote. The comments of these House members are typical of the Democrats:

  • We in Congress, Article One, the legislative branch, must stand up and make clear to the American people and to all people, that this body still stands by the principles enshrined in the Constitution and defended by generations of Americans (Nancy Pelosi, Calif.).
  • President Trump has broken his oath of office. His conduct continues to undermine our Constitution and threaten our next election (Jerry Nadler, N.Y.).
  • I ask all of my colleagues to search their souls before casting their votes. I ask them all to stand up for our democracy, to stand up for our Constitution (James McGovern, Mass.).
  • The Constitution is the highest law of the land. The president breached and violated the Constitution of the United States of America.… The truth is that abusive power does violate the Constitution.… The Constitution must be preserved…. The bright light of this constitutional democracy has been dimmed because of his acts (Sheila Lee, Tex.).
  • Article Two of the Constitution does not authorize a president to do whatever he wants. The reason we have a Constitution is to keep government officials from doing whatever they want (Jamie Raskin, Md.).
  • President Trump’s actions force us to protect our elections and the Constitution. I urge my colleagues to defend the Constitution, support these articles of impeachment and remind the world that in America, no one is above the law (Ted Deutch, Fla.).
  • Every member of this body has a responsibility to uphold our Constitution, to defend our republic, and when necessary to hold the executive branch accountable. And we are exercising that responsibility today. So with that, and therefore, I will vote yes on both articles because it is what the Constitution requires, demands (Joe Neguse, Colo.).
  • For the sake of our democracy, our Constitution, and our country, we must do the right thing and vote to impeach President Trump (Don Beyer, Va.).
  • Impeachment is a constitutional remedy for these actions. Trump betrayed his oath, betrayed the Constitution, and undermined the integrity of our elections. Those who are against the impeachment inquiry are willing to turn a blind eye to constitutional violations by the President. As a nation, we have no other alternative. We must protect our Constitution and the United States of America (Bennie Thompson, Miss.).
  • I will uphold my oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States in favor of impeachment (Donald Norcross, N.J.).

Republicans likewise refer to the Constitution in their party platform and cited it during the impeachment hearings.

The Republicans

In recent years, Republicans have maintained that they are “the party of the Constitution.” The most recent Republican Party platform was adopted at the party’s convention in Cleveland in 2016. The Constitution is frequently mentioned in their platform as the Republicans’ authority:

We believe in the Constitution as our founding document.

We believe the Constitution was written not as a flexible document, but as our enduring covenant.

We reaffirm the Constitution’s fundamental principles: limited government, separation of powers, individual liberty, and the rule of law.

We affirm that all legislation, regulation, and official actions must conform to the Constitution’s original meaning as understood at the time the language was adopted.

The words Constitution, constitutional, constitutionally, unconstitutional, unconstitutionally, and constitutionality occur in the Republican Party platform a total of 80 times.

Before the vote was taken in the House of Representatives on the articles of impeachment, Republican members of Congress invoked the Constitution just as the Democrats did, but in this case in order to justify voting to not impeach the president:

  • This is a sad day for our nation. When one political party, along with their cohorts, and the deep state and the mainstream media, try to hijack our Constitution (Mike Rogers, Ala.).
  • Today’s articles of impeachment against President Trump are an assault on our Constitution and the American people (Peter King, N.Y.).
  • I want to thank my Republican colleagues who have toiled honorably in defense of the Constitution and the rule of law under difficult circumstances (Gus Bilirakis, Fla.).
  • In defense of the Constitution, I urge all members to oppose both articles of impeachment (Fred Keller, Pa.).
  • I will proudly vote no today, a vote that upholds our Constitution, defends our president, and preserves the pillars of our nation’s democracy (Tim Walberg, Mich.).
  • This impeachment betrays the nation, the Constitution, and the American people (Kevin Brady, Tex.).
  • I want my statement to be in the record for the end of time to show I was on the side of the Constitution (Donald Bacon, Neb.).
  • This process has been an embarrassment to our country, an insult to our Constitution, and a distraction from the real work we should be accomplishing for the American people (John Rose, Tenn.).
  • Madam Speaker, think of our republic, think of the Constitution, think of the oath that we all swore to protect and defend that Constitution, and vote against these partisan, reckless, and dangerous articles of impeachment (Liz Cheney, Wyo.).

Some Republicans recognized the hypocrisy of Democrats’ talking about the Constitution:

  • My colleagues speak eloquent about the constitutions they found under mothballs. Where’s respect for the Constitution when the people’s House daily refuses to do its actual job while shredding federalism and limited government (Chip Roy, Tex.)?
  • ? It’s very interesting to hear the socialistic left Democrats that have a newfound appreciation for the Constitution and our founders’ principles (Randy Weber, Tex.).
  • All of a sudden what we have is these strict constitutionalists on the other side of the aisle. Listen, this has nothing to do with the Constitution. It has nothing to do with anything but raw politics (Mark Meadows, N.C.).
  • Democrats won’t be able to hide behind a pretend veneer of caring about the Constitution. History will record the Democrats’ legacy as a betrayal of the Constitution (John Ratcliffe, Tex.).

How can Democrats who wanted to impeach the president and Republicans who didn’t both appeal to the Constitution as the basis for their decision?

The Constitution

The United States was set up as a federal system of government where the states, through the Constitution, granted a limited number of powers to a central government. As James Madison so eloquently explained in Federalist No. 45,

The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the Federal Government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State Governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will for the most part be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects, which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties and properties of the people; and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.

There are about thirty enumerated congressional powers listed throughout the Constitution. Most of those powers are found in the eighteen paragraphs of Article I, Section 8. Six of them concern the militia and the military. Four of them concern taxes and money. The rest relate to commerce, naturalization, bankruptcies, post offices and post roads, copyrights and patents, the federal courts, maritime crimes, and the governance of the District of Columbia. The last paragraph gives Congress the power “to make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers.”

Elsewhere in the Constitution, Congress is given the power to
admit new states into the Union, propose amendments to the Constitution, regulate national elections, establish courts inferior to the Supreme Court, direct the location of the place for the trial of a crime not committed within a state, declare the punishment for treason, provide the manner in which the public acts and records in each state are accepted by other states, dispose of and regulate the territory or other property of the United States, give the states consent to lay imposts or duties on imports or exports, and provide for the case of the removal, death, resignation, or inability of the president or vice president. Everything else is reserved to the states — even without the addition of the Bill of Rights and its Tenth Amendment.

Members of Congress swear to uphold the Constitution. Article VI, Section 3, of the Constitution requires that senators and representatives “be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution.” U.S. law requires that members of Congress be sworn in before they can take their seats. The language of the congressional oath has changed (it is set by statute) several times since it was first administered in 1789. It now reads,

I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

To hear the Constitution referred to over and over again in the impeachment hearings and Senate trial, one would think that Democrats and Republicans both follow the Constitution when they introduce new legislation or continue to fund the agencies and programs of the federal government established by previous legislation.

The reality, of course, is that nothing could be further from the truth. Democrats and Republicans in Congress violate the Constitution on a regular basis. Indeed, practically every bill that is introduced makes a mockery of the Constitution. It is a myth that Democrats appeal to the Constitution only when it suits them but Republicans are consistently the party of the Constitution. The fact that Republicans mention the Constitution in their platform, refer to it in their conservative mantra, and express their allegiance to it means only that they are bigger hypocrites than the Democrats.

All it takes to prove my thesis is to shine the light of the Constitution on some key agencies and programs of the federal government and see if they are authorized by the Constitution.

Education. Does the Constitution authorize the federal government to have anything to do with education? Of course not.

The drug war. Does the Constitution authorize the federal government to regulate or prohibit the manufacturing, buying, selling, or using of any drug? Of course not.

Gun-control laws. Does the Constitution authorize the federal government to pass any legislation related to guns, ammunition, or magazines? Of course not.

Minimum-wage laws. Does the Constitution authorize the federal government to establish a minimum wage? Of course not.

Foreign aid. Does the Constitution authorize the federal government to take money from Americans and give it to foreigners and their governments? Of course not.

AMTRAK. Does the Constitution authorize the federal government to operate a rail service? Of course not.

Medicare and Medicaid. Does the Constitution authorize the federal government to pay for any American’s health care? Of course not.

Social Security. Does the Constitution authorize the federal government to have a retirement or disability program? Of course not.

Food stamps. Does the Constitution authorize the federal government to feed anyone? Of course not.

Subsidies. Does the Constitution authorize the federal government to subsidize art, culture, agriculture, or scientific and medical research? Of course not.

Anti-discrimination laws. Does the Constitution authorize the federal government to have an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and prevent or prosecute acts of discrimination? Of course not.

Welfare programs. Does the Constitution authorize the federal government to fight poverty, establish a safety net, or give cash to the poor? Of course not.

Organ sales. Does the Constitution authorize the federal government to regulate the buying and selling of human organs for transplants? Of course not.

NASA. Does the Constitution authorize the federal government to explore outer space? Of course not.

Housing. Does the Constitution authorize the federal government to make home loans, give out housing vouchers, or even have a Department of Housing and Urban Development? Of course not.

Democrats and Republicans in Congress support all of these things. They may disagree on particulars,  such as the amount of foreign aid a certain country should be given, the work requirements for welfare programs, what the federal minimum wage should be, or how much farmers should be subsidized, but neither party opposes the existence or mission of any of these plainly unconstitutional agencies and programs of the federal government.

It is clear that no matter how many times the Constitution was referred to during the whole process of the investigation, impeachment, and trial of President Trump, members of Congress — Democrat and Republican alike — invoke it only to suit their own political purposes.

This article was originally published in the May 2020 edition of Future of Freedom.

Share
Categories
amtrak federal agencies federal funding Federal Programs Intelwars National Railroad Passenger Corporation

The Profitability of Amtrak Is Not the Issue

In addition to the federal government’s departments, such as Energy, Interior, and Education; and independent agencies, such as the CIA, FCC, and EPA; there exist government quasi-corporations, such as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).

What most Americans who take a train ride across the country probably don’t realize is that the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (NRPC), better known as Amtrak, is also a government corporation.

According to the most recent official company profile, Amtrak serves more than 500 destinations in 46 states, the District of Columbia, and three Canadian provinces; operates more than 300 trains daily over 21,400 miles of track; has an average of more than 89,000 passengers on a daily basis; and has more than 18,600 employees. Amtrak’s mission “is to provide efficient and effective intercity passenger rail mobility consisting of high-quality service that is trip-time competitive with other intercity travel options.”

Amtrak began national operations on May 1, 1971, with twenty-one routes serving forty-three states.

In 1970, after a decade of tremendous growth in the number of automobiles and in airline travel, instead of letting passenger rail service die a slow death or become a niche business, Congress passed, and Richard Nixon signed into law, the Rail Passenger Service Act (PL 91-518) to “provide financial assistance for and establishment of a national rail passenger system, to provide for the modernization of railroad passenger equipment, to authorize the prescribing of minimum standards for railroad passenger service, to amend section 13a of the Interstate Commerce Act, and for other purposes.”

The justification for this legislation was fourfold:

  • Modern, efficient, intercity railroad passenger service is a necessary part of a balanced transportation system.
  • The public convenience and necessity require the continuance and improvement of such service to provide fast and comfortable transportation.
  • Rail passenger service can help to end the congestion on the highways and the overcrowding of airways and airports.
  • The traveler in America should to the maximum extent feasible have freedom to choose the mode of travel most convenient to his needs.

Congress authorized $40 million to assist the new corporation in

  • Initial organization and operation.
  • The establishment of improved reservations systems and advertising.
  • Servicing, maintenance, and repair of railroad passenger equipment.
  • Research and development.
  • The development and demonstration of improved rolling stock.
  • Essential fixed facilities for the operation of passenger trains.

Although Amtrak was supposed to be “a for profit corporation,” it has relied on government subsidies every year it has been in operation. In recent years, Amtrak has received about $1.9 billion a year in subsidies. In addition to the federal government, seventeen state governments provide Amtrak with financial support for twenty-eight short-distance routes (less than 750 miles).

But all that is set to change, said Amtrak president and CEO Richard Anderson, who has since stepped down as CEO after fulfilling a three-year commitment to the company, but is remaining with Amtrak through the end of the year as a senior advisor to his replacement.

At the end of its most recent fiscal year, Amtrak reported that it carried a record 32.5 million passengers, a year-over-year increase of 800,000 passengers. The company also had its best operating performance in its history, with revenue of $3.5 billion, an increase of 3.4 percent over its previous fiscal year. Although adjusted operating earnings “were the best to date and an 82.8 percent improvement over the prior year,” Amtrak still lost $29.4 million.

“We listened, we invested, we improved, and our customers are noticing a difference,” said Anderson. “And we are not stopping. We have an aggressive plan to continue to advance our safety program, refresh train interiors, improve amenities, and renew stations and infrastructure.”

“Our expectation is that in 2020, we will actually make money, we will have positive earnings for the first time in the company’s history,” said Amtrak Board Chairman Anthony Coscia at a news conference. “This is an unbelievable accomplishment that a short period ago no one would have thought it was possible.”

It is good to see Amtrak almost break even, especially when another government corporation, the United States Postal Service (USPS) lost almost $9 billion last year. But the profitability of Amtrak is not the issue.

According to the aforementioned Amtrak company profile,

Amtrak is a federally chartered corporation, with the federal government as majority stockholder. The Amtrak Board of Directors is appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Amtrak was created by Congress in 1970 to take over the majority of the intercity passenger rail services previously operated by private railroad companies in the United States. Those companies showed they had operated these services at a huge net loss for many years.

Since when does the Constitution authorize the federal government to have a corporation, be a stockholder in a corporation, appoint and confirm a board of directors, or operate a passenger rail service?

The answer is: It doesn’t. The only commercial activity that the Constitution authorizes the federal government to perform is “to establish Post Offices and post Roads” (Article I, Section 8, Paragraph 7).

And aside from the Constitution, since when is it the proper role of government to have a corporation, be a stockholder in a corporation, appoint and confirm a board of directors, or operate a passenger rail service?

The answer is: It isn’t. Once it is accepted that the federal government should operate a passenger rail service, no reasonable or logical argument can be made against the federal government’s operating a pest-control service, a lawn-care service, or a dog-grooming service.

To justify its dependence on government subsidies, Amtrak claims that “no country in the world operates a passenger rail system without some form of public support for capital costs and/or operating expenses.” One could just as easily justify socialized medicine in the United States by saying that no country in the world has a health-care system without some form of public support.

Amtrak owns billions of dollars worth of locomotives, train cars, train stations, track, tunnels, maintenance facilities, and other infrastructure. It should all be auctioned off to the highest bidder and all passenger rail service made private again as it was for more than 100 years. With 32 million passengers a year, there is obviously strong demand for passenger rail service. There is no reason why such service could not continue with the same routes it has now. But the passengers who ride the trains should be the ones paying for the privilege. Railroad freight service is carried out by private corporations. Passenger rail service should be as well.

Share
Categories
Economy federal funding Income taxes Intelwars Tax Freedom Day taxation TAXES

No. Americans are Definitely not Undertaxed

According to the Tax Foundation, Tax Freedom Day “is the day when the nation as a whole has earned enough money to pay its total tax bill for the year.”

Tax Freedom Day “takes all federal, state, and local taxes and divides them by the nation’s income”; that is, “every dollar that is officially part of net national income according to the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.” For the last two years, Tax Freedom Day has fallen on April 16, 105 days into the year.

Tax Freedom Day for those living in high-tax states such as New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut actually came later, just as Tax Freedom Day arrived sooner for those living in states with lower taxes such as Alaska, Oklahoma, and Florida. During 2019, Americans paid “$3.4 trillion in federal taxes and $1.8 trillion in state and local taxes, for a total bill of over $5.2 trillion, or 29 percent of the nation’s income.” Americans collectively spent “more on taxes in 2019” than “on food, clothing, and housing combined.”

Yet, late last year, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) was practically declaring that Americans are undertaxed. “Trump’s Tax Cuts Push U.S. Burden Lower in World,” was the headline of one article. “The U.S. Now Has One of the Lowest Tax Burdens in the World,” said the headline in the WSJ’s newsletter on the economy. Both articles refer to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and both articles reference The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (the TCJA, or Trump tax cut).

The OECD report

Founded in 1961, and now consisting of thirty-six member countries, most of which are in Western Europe, the OECD “is an international organisation that works to build better policies for better lives.” Its goal “is to shape policies that foster prosperity, equality, opportunity and well-being for all.” The OECD draws on “almost 60 years of experience and insights to better prepare the world of tomorrow.” It works with “governments, policy makers and citizens” to establish “international norms” and find “evidence-based solutions to a range of social, economic and environmental challenges.” This ranges from “improving economic performance and creating jobs to fostering strong education and fighting international tax evasion.” The OECD member countries “regularly turn to one another to identify problems, discuss and analyse them, and promote policies to solve them.”

Late last year, the OECD issued “Revenue Statistics 2019: Tax Revenue Trends in the OECD.” This is an annual publication that “gives a conceptual framework to define which government receipts should be regarded as taxes.” It presents “a unique set of detailed and internationally comparable tax data in a common format for all OECD countries from 1965 onwards.”

According to the report’s executive summary,

In 2018, the average OECD tax-to-GDP ratio remained virtually unchanged compared to 2017, with almost no increase (a change of 0.02 percentage points). This ends the trend of annual increases in the OECD average tax-to-GDP ratio observed since 2009, following the financial crisis. The slowing in the growth of the OECD average was predominantly driven by the impact of the significant fall in the tax-to-GDP ratio of the United States as a result of their tax reforms.

Fifteen countries experienced a decrease in tax-to-GDP ratios in 2018 relative to 2017. The largest fall was seen in the United States (2.5 percentage points), following the reforms to corporate and personal income taxes and the one-off repatriation tax on foreign earnings implemented in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

And, as pointed out by the WSJ analysis of the report,

In 2018, U.S. governments collected 17.6 percent of their revenue from taxes on goods and services, the lowest in the OECD.

U.S. tax burdens dropped by the largest amount among those countries in 2018, and the U.S. now has lower taxes than all but three countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

U.S. taxes at all levels of government fell to 24.3 percent of gross domestic product in 2018, down from 26.8 percent a year earlier and 25.9 percent in 2016.

Measured as a share of the U.S. economy, taxes are now 10 percentage points below the 2018 OECD average of 34.3 percent.

That the U.S. tax burden, measured as the tax-to-GDP ratio, is now lower than every OECD country except Chile, Ireland, and Mexico is said to be “driven by the federal tax cut that Congress and Mr. Trump enacted at the end of 2017.” It “reduced the U.S. tax burden to one of the lowest among major world economies.” The TCJA “brought the U.S. tax code from one of the least competitive to one of the most competitive in the world,” said Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tex.). “We have to continue this work to improve our tax code to remain the world’s most competitive economy.”

The Trump tax cut

According to the WSJ, “The 2018 data mark the culmination of nearly two decades of tax-cutting in the U.S., starting with President George W. Bush’s tax cuts in 2001 and 2003.” Before the Bush tax cuts (the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 and the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003), governments in the United States collected 28.3 percent of GDP in taxes, “5.5 percentage points below the OECD average.” At 24.3 percent of GDP, “taxes are now 10 percentage points below the 2018 OECD average.” The main reason for this is the massive cut in the bloated corporate income tax rate by the TCJA. At a maximum of 35 percent, the U.S. corporate tax rate was for years one of the highest in the world. The top rate is now down to 21 percent.

Individual income tax rates are down as well. During the Bush years, there were six temporary tax brackets of 10, 15, 25, 28, 33, and 35 percent. In 2013, those rates were made permanent because of the passage of the American Taxpayer Relief Act. However, for those earning more than $400,000 a year ($450,000 for married couples), the top rate increased to 39.6 percent. Moreover, the estate tax rate increased, the tax rates on long-term capital gains and dividends were raised on higher-income taxpayers, and the personal exemption and itemized deduction reductions were reinstated.

Under the TCJA, there are still seven tax brackets, but the rates are 10, 12, 22, 24, 32, 35, and 37 percent. The corresponding income brackets in 2020 for single individuals (and married filing jointly) are:

10 percent: $0–$9,875

($0–$19,750)

12 percent: $9,876–$40,125

($19,751–$80,250)

22 percent: $40,126–$85,525

($80,251–$171,050)

24 percent: $85,526–$163,300

($171,051–$326,600)

32 percent: $163,301–$207,350

($326,601–$414,700)

35 percent: $207,351–$518,400

($414,701–$622,050)

37 percent: $518,400+

($622,050+)

The standard deduction is $12,400 (single) and $24,800 (married filing jointly). The TCJA eliminated personal exemptions, although there is now a $500 credit for each non-child dependent such as a child 17 or older, an elderly parent, or an older child with a disability. The Child Tax Credit is worth up to $2,000 per qualifying child. The tax rates on long-term capital gains are 15 percent on income exceeding $40,000 ($80,000) and 20 percent on income exceeding  $441,450 ($496,600). The estate tax rate is 40 percent, but only on estates valued at more than $11.58 million ($23.16 million). And then there is the Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT), which taxes investment income — including interest, dividends, capital gains, rental and royalty income, and non-qualified annuities — at a rate of 3.8 percent on investment income exceeding $200,000 ($250,000 married filing jointly).

According to an analysis of the TCJA by David Stockman, Ronald Reagan’s director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), “Aside from dead people and rich people, what you have left is a tiny $352 billion tax cut for the balance of 145 million tax filers over the entire next decade.” The TCJA “is also undoubtedly the smallest, not the biggest, individual tax cut in history.” Nevertheless, the Tax Foundation has estimated that, “on average, taxpayers in every income group in every congressional district in America saw a net tax cut.” Although the TCJA’s corporate tax-rate reductions are permanent, because of the way the legislation was passed, the individual income rates reduced by the TCJA will expire in 2025. Even so, the Treasury Department has released 1,025 pages of regulations related to the TCJA, and is still in the process of finalizing some regulations related to enforcement and administration of the TCJA’s reforms. So much for the TCJA’s simplifying the tax code.

Undertaxed Americans?

Are Americans undertaxed? Those who tout the recent OECD report are certainly implying that Americans are. But three things should be noted about the report. One, it doesn’t actually measure individual Americans’ tax burden. It merely presents tax revenues in the United States as a percentage of GDP (the tax-to-GDP ratio). If taxes increase by some percentage, but GDP increases by a greater percentage, then it can be said or implied that taxes have decreased. Two, even if taxes in the United States are lower (according to the tax-to-GDP ratio) than every OECD country except Chile, Ireland, and Mexico, it does not necessarily follow that taxes in the United States are low in an absolute sense. And three, what about all of the other counties in the world that are not in the OECD? If taxes in the United States are compared with taxes in them, perhaps it will be seen that the tax burden in a majority of counties is actually lower than that in the United States.

But regardless of the OECD report, all of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates think that Americans are undertaxed. They all favor a partial or total repeal of the Trump tax cuts and increased taxes on “the rich.” Some of them not only want to raise income taxes, but also to levy new taxes on accrued wealth. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has proposed “a 2 percent annual wealth tax on individuals with more than $50 million in net worth, increasing to 3 percent on those with more than $1 billion in wealth.” But do “the rich” need to be taxed more? After all, they are the ones who already pay the bulk of the income taxes.

According to the latest figures released by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS),

  • In 2016, the top 50 percent of all taxpayers paid 97 percent of all individual income taxes, while the bottom 50 percent paid the remaining 3 percent.
  • The top 1 percent paid a greater share of individual income taxes (37.3 percent) than the bottom 90 percent combined (30.5 percent).
  • The top 1 percent of taxpayers paid a 26.9 percent individual income tax rate, which is more than seven times as high as what taxpayers in the bottom 50 percent (3.7 percent) paid.

“The rich” are also punished through the phase-out of tax exemptions, deductions, and credits as their income rises. And not only do “the poor” pay little or no income taxes, they receive tax refunds of money they never paid in, in the form of refundable tax credits. Even if the federal government just confiscated all of the earnings of every American who makes more than $1 million a year, that would run the government for only a little longer than four months.

The American tax burden

Americans are not undertaxed. They are taxed to death, and some are even taxed after their death. Americans as a whole are not only not undertaxed, some of them are quadruple-taxed on their income in addition to all the other taxes they pay. Aside from the personal income tax described above, there are two other significant federal taxes that all Americans must pay.

First is the Social Security tax. This is 12.4 percent (split equally between employer and employee) on the first $137,700 of employee income. The same income is taxed upon which is assessed federal income tax. And according to the Social Security Administration,

Some people who get Social Security must pay federal income taxes on their benefits. But, no one pays taxes on more than 85 percent of their Social Security benefits.

You must pay taxes on your benefits if you file a federal tax return as an “individual” and your “combined income” exceeds $25,000. If you file a joint return, you must pay taxes if you and your spouse have “combined income” of more than $32,000. If you are married and file a separate return, you probably will have to pay taxes on your benefits.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) defines “combined income” as adjusted gross income, tax-exempt interest income, and half of Social Security benefits.

Then there is the Medicare tax. This is 2.9 percent (split equally between employer and employee) on every dollar of employee income. The same income is taxed upon which is assessed federal income tax and Social Security tax. There is also an additional Medicare tax of 0.9 percent that applies to income (including non-cash fringe benefits and tips) exceeding $200,000 ($250,000 for married filing jointly).

A federal unemployment tax of 6 percent is imposed on employers on the first $7,000 of each employee’s taxable wages during a calendar year. Each state likewise assesses employers an unemployment tax (less a credit against their federal tax liability). State unemployment taxes and wage bases are generally higher than the federal rate and base. Some states also require employees to pay state unemployment tax.

Other federal taxes include excise taxes on fuel, airline tickets, tobacco, alcohol, firearms, ammunition, and indoor tanning services. There is a federal tax per gallon of 18.4 cents for gasoline and 24.4 cents for diesel fuel. Domestic air travel is subject to a 7.5 percent tax on the ticket price, a $4.10 tax for each flight segment (one takeoff and one landing), and a “security fee” of $5.60 per one-way trip. There is a federal tax of $1.01 on each pack of cigarettes and small cigars, plus taxes on other tobacco products. The federal taxes on beer, wine, hard cider, and distilled spirits vary depending on the amount produced and the alcohol content by volume. Pistols and revolvers are subject to a federal tax of 10 percent of the sale price. Other firearms and ammunition are subject to an 11 percent tax. In addition to the medical-related taxes it imposed, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) also instituted a 10 percent tax on indoor tanning services.

And then, to add insult to injury, most of the tax money taken from Americans by the federal government is wasted on boondoggles and the welfare-warfare state. States and localities burden Americans with many taxes as well.

State taxes

Only nine states (Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming) do not have a state income tax. Tennessee and New Hampshire tax dividend and interest income, but not earned income. In states with an income tax, the same income is taxed upon which is assessed federal income tax, Social Security tax, and Medicare tax. Nine states tax income at a flat rate, but most of them have a series of progressive tax brackets like the federal income tax. New York has eight tax brackets ranging from 4.0 to 8.82 percent. Hawaii has nine tax brackets ranging from 1.4 to 11 percent. California has ten tax brackets ranging from 1.0 to 13.3 percent, the highest in the nation. States without an income tax may simply shift revenue generation to other areas. Many of those states have high property taxes, sales taxes, gas taxes, or sin taxes, and some have steep vehicle registration fees. Nevada collects more than a billion dollars a year in taxes on gambling in Las Vegas and other areas in the state where gambling is legal.

Thirteen states (Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, and West Virginia) tax Social Security benefits. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia levy an estate tax or an inheritance tax. Maryland has both. Only five states (Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon) do not have a sales tax. State sales taxes range from a high of 7.5 percent in California to a low of 2.9 percent in Colorado. Thirty-eight states collect sales tax at both the state and local levels. Only twelve states (Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Rhode Island) prohibit local sales taxes. Only six states (Nevada, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming) have no corporate income tax. Property taxes are found throughout the country.

Every state has taxes on fuel, tobacco, and alcohol in addition to federal taxes on them. Taxes on gasoline range from a high of 61.2 cents in California to a low of 14.66 cents in Alaska. Although most states exempt gasoline from sales taxes, some states collect both excise taxes and sales taxes on gasoline. State taxes on a pack of cigarettes range from a high of 44.35 cents in Connecticut and New York to a low of 30 cents in Virginia. Some cities, including Chicago and New York, also levy their own taxes on cigarettes.

Some of the more onerous state and local taxes are those imposed on hotel rooms and rental cars. Depending on the state and county or city, there might be state occupancy tax, local occupancy tax, tourism taxes, and convention taxes. Car rental fees might increase 20 to 30 percent after the addition of airport concession recovery fees, county rental taxes, state government surcharges, and consumer facility fees. And all of those taxes are in addition to the state and local sales tax that may also be imposed on hotel rooms and rental cars.

No, Americans are not undertaxed. The OECD Revenue Statistics report is highly misleading. Effective tax rates in the United States could be 50 percent, but as long as GDP is above a certain point, then it could still be said that Americans have a low tax burden if the United States is compared with selected other countries. That is ludicrous. Americans need tax relief, not tax reform.

This article was originally published in the March 2020 edition of Future of Freedom.

Share
Categories
Economy federal funding Income taxes Intelwars Tax Freedom Day taxation TAXES

No. Americans are Definitely not Undertaxed

According to the Tax Foundation, Tax Freedom Day “is the day when the nation as a whole has earned enough money to pay its total tax bill for the year.”

Tax Freedom Day “takes all federal, state, and local taxes and divides them by the nation’s income”; that is, “every dollar that is officially part of net national income according to the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.” For the last two years, Tax Freedom Day has fallen on April 16, 105 days into the year.

Tax Freedom Day for those living in high-tax states such as New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut actually came later, just as Tax Freedom Day arrived sooner for those living in states with lower taxes such as Alaska, Oklahoma, and Florida. During 2019, Americans paid “$3.4 trillion in federal taxes and $1.8 trillion in state and local taxes, for a total bill of over $5.2 trillion, or 29 percent of the nation’s income.” Americans collectively spent “more on taxes in 2019” than “on food, clothing, and housing combined.”

Yet, late last year, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) was practically declaring that Americans are undertaxed. “Trump’s Tax Cuts Push U.S. Burden Lower in World,” was the headline of one article. “The U.S. Now Has One of the Lowest Tax Burdens in the World,” said the headline in the WSJ’s newsletter on the economy. Both articles refer to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and both articles reference The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (the TCJA, or Trump tax cut).

The OECD report

Founded in 1961, and now consisting of thirty-six member countries, most of which are in Western Europe, the OECD “is an international organisation that works to build better policies for better lives.” Its goal “is to shape policies that foster prosperity, equality, opportunity and well-being for all.” The OECD draws on “almost 60 years of experience and insights to better prepare the world of tomorrow.” It works with “governments, policy makers and citizens” to establish “international norms” and find “evidence-based solutions to a range of social, economic and environmental challenges.” This ranges from “improving economic performance and creating jobs to fostering strong education and fighting international tax evasion.” The OECD member countries “regularly turn to one another to identify problems, discuss and analyse them, and promote policies to solve them.”

Late last year, the OECD issued “Revenue Statistics 2019: Tax Revenue Trends in the OECD.” This is an annual publication that “gives a conceptual framework to define which government receipts should be regarded as taxes.” It presents “a unique set of detailed and internationally comparable tax data in a common format for all OECD countries from 1965 onwards.”

According to the report’s executive summary,

In 2018, the average OECD tax-to-GDP ratio remained virtually unchanged compared to 2017, with almost no increase (a change of 0.02 percentage points). This ends the trend of annual increases in the OECD average tax-to-GDP ratio observed since 2009, following the financial crisis. The slowing in the growth of the OECD average was predominantly driven by the impact of the significant fall in the tax-to-GDP ratio of the United States as a result of their tax reforms.

Fifteen countries experienced a decrease in tax-to-GDP ratios in 2018 relative to 2017. The largest fall was seen in the United States (2.5 percentage points), following the reforms to corporate and personal income taxes and the one-off repatriation tax on foreign earnings implemented in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

And, as pointed out by the WSJ analysis of the report,

In 2018, U.S. governments collected 17.6 percent of their revenue from taxes on goods and services, the lowest in the OECD.

U.S. tax burdens dropped by the largest amount among those countries in 2018, and the U.S. now has lower taxes than all but three countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

U.S. taxes at all levels of government fell to 24.3 percent of gross domestic product in 2018, down from 26.8 percent a year earlier and 25.9 percent in 2016.

Measured as a share of the U.S. economy, taxes are now 10 percentage points below the 2018 OECD average of 34.3 percent.

That the U.S. tax burden, measured as the tax-to-GDP ratio, is now lower than every OECD country except Chile, Ireland, and Mexico is said to be “driven by the federal tax cut that Congress and Mr. Trump enacted at the end of 2017.” It “reduced the U.S. tax burden to one of the lowest among major world economies.” The TCJA “brought the U.S. tax code from one of the least competitive to one of the most competitive in the world,” said Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tex.). “We have to continue this work to improve our tax code to remain the world’s most competitive economy.”

The Trump tax cut

According to the WSJ, “The 2018 data mark the culmination of nearly two decades of tax-cutting in the U.S., starting with President George W. Bush’s tax cuts in 2001 and 2003.” Before the Bush tax cuts (the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 and the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003), governments in the United States collected 28.3 percent of GDP in taxes, “5.5 percentage points below the OECD average.” At 24.3 percent of GDP, “taxes are now 10 percentage points below the 2018 OECD average.” The main reason for this is the massive cut in the bloated corporate income tax rate by the TCJA. At a maximum of 35 percent, the U.S. corporate tax rate was for years one of the highest in the world. The top rate is now down to 21 percent.

Individual income tax rates are down as well. During the Bush years, there were six temporary tax brackets of 10, 15, 25, 28, 33, and 35 percent. In 2013, those rates were made permanent because of the passage of the American Taxpayer Relief Act. However, for those earning more than $400,000 a year ($450,000 for married couples), the top rate increased to 39.6 percent. Moreover, the estate tax rate increased, the tax rates on long-term capital gains and dividends were raised on higher-income taxpayers, and the personal exemption and itemized deduction reductions were reinstated.

Under the TCJA, there are still seven tax brackets, but the rates are 10, 12, 22, 24, 32, 35, and 37 percent. The corresponding income brackets in 2020 for single individuals (and married filing jointly) are:

10 percent: $0–$9,875

($0–$19,750)

12 percent: $9,876–$40,125

($19,751–$80,250)

22 percent: $40,126–$85,525

($80,251–$171,050)

24 percent: $85,526–$163,300

($171,051–$326,600)

32 percent: $163,301–$207,350

($326,601–$414,700)

35 percent: $207,351–$518,400

($414,701–$622,050)

37 percent: $518,400+

($622,050+)

The standard deduction is $12,400 (single) and $24,800 (married filing jointly). The TCJA eliminated personal exemptions, although there is now a $500 credit for each non-child dependent such as a child 17 or older, an elderly parent, or an older child with a disability. The Child Tax Credit is worth up to $2,000 per qualifying child. The tax rates on long-term capital gains are 15 percent on income exceeding $40,000 ($80,000) and 20 percent on income exceeding  $441,450 ($496,600). The estate tax rate is 40 percent, but only on estates valued at more than $11.58 million ($23.16 million). And then there is the Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT), which taxes investment income — including interest, dividends, capital gains, rental and royalty income, and non-qualified annuities — at a rate of 3.8 percent on investment income exceeding $200,000 ($250,000 married filing jointly).

According to an analysis of the TCJA by David Stockman, Ronald Reagan’s director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), “Aside from dead people and rich people, what you have left is a tiny $352 billion tax cut for the balance of 145 million tax filers over the entire next decade.” The TCJA “is also undoubtedly the smallest, not the biggest, individual tax cut in history.” Nevertheless, the Tax Foundation has estimated that, “on average, taxpayers in every income group in every congressional district in America saw a net tax cut.” Although the TCJA’s corporate tax-rate reductions are permanent, because of the way the legislation was passed, the individual income rates reduced by the TCJA will expire in 2025. Even so, the Treasury Department has released 1,025 pages of regulations related to the TCJA, and is still in the process of finalizing some regulations related to enforcement and administration of the TCJA’s reforms. So much for the TCJA’s simplifying the tax code.

Undertaxed Americans?

Are Americans undertaxed? Those who tout the recent OECD report are certainly implying that Americans are. But three things should be noted about the report. One, it doesn’t actually measure individual Americans’ tax burden. It merely presents tax revenues in the United States as a percentage of GDP (the tax-to-GDP ratio). If taxes increase by some percentage, but GDP increases by a greater percentage, then it can be said or implied that taxes have decreased. Two, even if taxes in the United States are lower (according to the tax-to-GDP ratio) than every OECD country except Chile, Ireland, and Mexico, it does not necessarily follow that taxes in the United States are low in an absolute sense. And three, what about all of the other counties in the world that are not in the OECD? If taxes in the United States are compared with taxes in them, perhaps it will be seen that the tax burden in a majority of counties is actually lower than that in the United States.

But regardless of the OECD report, all of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates think that Americans are undertaxed. They all favor a partial or total repeal of the Trump tax cuts and increased taxes on “the rich.” Some of them not only want to raise income taxes, but also to levy new taxes on accrued wealth. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has proposed “a 2 percent annual wealth tax on individuals with more than $50 million in net worth, increasing to 3 percent on those with more than $1 billion in wealth.” But do “the rich” need to be taxed more? After all, they are the ones who already pay the bulk of the income taxes.

According to the latest figures released by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS),

  • In 2016, the top 50 percent of all taxpayers paid 97 percent of all individual income taxes, while the bottom 50 percent paid the remaining 3 percent.
  • The top 1 percent paid a greater share of individual income taxes (37.3 percent) than the bottom 90 percent combined (30.5 percent).
  • The top 1 percent of taxpayers paid a 26.9 percent individual income tax rate, which is more than seven times as high as what taxpayers in the bottom 50 percent (3.7 percent) paid.

“The rich” are also punished through the phase-out of tax exemptions, deductions, and credits as their income rises. And not only do “the poor” pay little or no income taxes, they receive tax refunds of money they never paid in, in the form of refundable tax credits. Even if the federal government just confiscated all of the earnings of every American who makes more than $1 million a year, that would run the government for only a little longer than four months.

The American tax burden

Americans are not undertaxed. They are taxed to death, and some are even taxed after their death. Americans as a whole are not only not undertaxed, some of them are quadruple-taxed on their income in addition to all the other taxes they pay. Aside from the personal income tax described above, there are two other significant federal taxes that all Americans must pay.

First is the Social Security tax. This is 12.4 percent (split equally between employer and employee) on the first $137,700 of employee income. The same income is taxed upon which is assessed federal income tax. And according to the Social Security Administration,

Some people who get Social Security must pay federal income taxes on their benefits. But, no one pays taxes on more than 85 percent of their Social Security benefits.

You must pay taxes on your benefits if you file a federal tax return as an “individual” and your “combined income” exceeds $25,000. If you file a joint return, you must pay taxes if you and your spouse have “combined income” of more than $32,000. If you are married and file a separate return, you probably will have to pay taxes on your benefits.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) defines “combined income” as adjusted gross income, tax-exempt interest income, and half of Social Security benefits.

Then there is the Medicare tax. This is 2.9 percent (split equally between employer and employee) on every dollar of employee income. The same income is taxed upon which is assessed federal income tax and Social Security tax. There is also an additional Medicare tax of 0.9 percent that applies to income (including non-cash fringe benefits and tips) exceeding $200,000 ($250,000 for married filing jointly).

A federal unemployment tax of 6 percent is imposed on employers on the first $7,000 of each employee’s taxable wages during a calendar year. Each state likewise assesses employers an unemployment tax (less a credit against their federal tax liability). State unemployment taxes and wage bases are generally higher than the federal rate and base. Some states also require employees to pay state unemployment tax.

Other federal taxes include excise taxes on fuel, airline tickets, tobacco, alcohol, firearms, ammunition, and indoor tanning services. There is a federal tax per gallon of 18.4 cents for gasoline and 24.4 cents for diesel fuel. Domestic air travel is subject to a 7.5 percent tax on the ticket price, a $4.10 tax for each flight segment (one takeoff and one landing), and a “security fee” of $5.60 per one-way trip. There is a federal tax of $1.01 on each pack of cigarettes and small cigars, plus taxes on other tobacco products. The federal taxes on beer, wine, hard cider, and distilled spirits vary depending on the amount produced and the alcohol content by volume. Pistols and revolvers are subject to a federal tax of 10 percent of the sale price. Other firearms and ammunition are subject to an 11 percent tax. In addition to the medical-related taxes it imposed, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) also instituted a 10 percent tax on indoor tanning services.

And then, to add insult to injury, most of the tax money taken from Americans by the federal government is wasted on boondoggles and the welfare-warfare state. States and localities burden Americans with many taxes as well.

State taxes

Only nine states (Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming) do not have a state income tax. Tennessee and New Hampshire tax dividend and interest income, but not earned income. In states with an income tax, the same income is taxed upon which is assessed federal income tax, Social Security tax, and Medicare tax. Nine states tax income at a flat rate, but most of them have a series of progressive tax brackets like the federal income tax. New York has eight tax brackets ranging from 4.0 to 8.82 percent. Hawaii has nine tax brackets ranging from 1.4 to 11 percent. California has ten tax brackets ranging from 1.0 to 13.3 percent, the highest in the nation. States without an income tax may simply shift revenue generation to other areas. Many of those states have high property taxes, sales taxes, gas taxes, or sin taxes, and some have steep vehicle registration fees. Nevada collects more than a billion dollars a year in taxes on gambling in Las Vegas and other areas in the state where gambling is legal.

Thirteen states (Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, and West Virginia) tax Social Security benefits. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia levy an estate tax or an inheritance tax. Maryland has both. Only five states (Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon) do not have a sales tax. State sales taxes range from a high of 7.5 percent in California to a low of 2.9 percent in Colorado. Thirty-eight states collect sales tax at both the state and local levels. Only twelve states (Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Rhode Island) prohibit local sales taxes. Only six states (Nevada, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming) have no corporate income tax. Property taxes are found throughout the country.

Every state has taxes on fuel, tobacco, and alcohol in addition to federal taxes on them. Taxes on gasoline range from a high of 61.2 cents in California to a low of 14.66 cents in Alaska. Although most states exempt gasoline from sales taxes, some states collect both excise taxes and sales taxes on gasoline. State taxes on a pack of cigarettes range from a high of 44.35 cents in Connecticut and New York to a low of 30 cents in Virginia. Some cities, including Chicago and New York, also levy their own taxes on cigarettes.

Some of the more onerous state and local taxes are those imposed on hotel rooms and rental cars. Depending on the state and county or city, there might be state occupancy tax, local occupancy tax, tourism taxes, and convention taxes. Car rental fees might increase 20 to 30 percent after the addition of airport concession recovery fees, county rental taxes, state government surcharges, and consumer facility fees. And all of those taxes are in addition to the state and local sales tax that may also be imposed on hotel rooms and rental cars.

No, Americans are not undertaxed. The OECD Revenue Statistics report is highly misleading. Effective tax rates in the United States could be 50 percent, but as long as GDP is above a certain point, then it could still be said that Americans have a low tax burden if the United States is compared with selected other countries. That is ludicrous. Americans need tax relief, not tax reform.

This article was originally published in the March 2020 edition of Future of Freedom.

Share
Categories
Conservatives federalism hypocrites Intelwars

Conservatives Believe in Federalism, Except When They Don’t

When the Constitution was adopted by the states in 1789, a federal system of government was established. Federalism is the division of power between the national and state governments.

Articles I through III of the Constitution delegate certain powers to the three branches of the national government. The Tenth Amendment reserves to the states those powers not delegated to the national government: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

As future president James Madison explained in Federalist No. 45:

The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the Federal Government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State Governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will for the most part be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects, which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties and properties of the people; and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.

The notion of federalism is one of the most important and innovative concepts in the Constitution, although the term itself does not appear.

Where am I going with this?

The federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801). As a Schedule I drug, marijuana is said to have “a high potential for abuse,” “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States,” and “a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug under medical supervision.” The Supreme Court has ruled that the federal government has the authority to prohibit marijuana possession and use for any and all purposes.

But in spite of federal law, thirty-three states have legalized the medical use of marijuana and ten states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana.

Regardless of what one thinks about the safety, morality, or medical benefits of marijuana use, these actions by the states should be applauded. And they should especially be applauded by conservatives who are always reciting their mantra of the Constitution, federalism, States’ rights, the Tenth Amendment, limited government, individual freedom, free enterprise, and private property.

Conservatives claim to believe in these things, but when the subject of the drug war or even just marijuana comes up, they generally reject the truths that they claim to hold dear.

Conservatives believe in federalism, except when they don’t.

The U.S. House of Representatives last year passed the Secure And Fair Enforcement Banking Act of 2019 (H.R.1595). The bill would basically allow businesses selling marijuana in compliance with state law to participate in the banking system instead of having to be an all-cash business.

Just before the bill was passed, a conservative at the Heritage Foundation (“Charles ‘Cully’ Stimson is a leading expert in national security, homeland security, crime control, immigration, and drug policy at The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Legal and Judicial Studies.”) wrote an article (“Why Giving Pot Pushers Access to Our Banks Is Dangerous”) denouncing the bill.

In the middle of his article, Stimson brought up the subject of states’ rights and marijuana. Under the heading of “Legalizing Marijuana Is Not a States’ Rights Issue,” he wrote:

Some on the right who support the states in their push to legalize marijuana assert that doing so is a states’ rights issue. They’re wrong.

As a Heritage Foundation scholar has written in a law review in 2018, we do not allow states to decide whether to prohibit other controlled substances, such as heroin, and there is no good reason to put marijuana in a separate category.

Since the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act became law, the nation has authorized the FDA to decide which drugs to approve for therapeutic use. We do not make those decisions the subject of a referendum because the decision requires expert scientific judgment of professionals in medicine and biochemistry, not the moral judgment of the populace.

But what has happened is that states have taken the law into their own hands. Beginning in 1996, numerous states have enacted so-called medical marijuana regulatory schemes.

Starting in 2012, a smaller number of states have decided to go big or go home by adopting laws, either by statute or popular referendum, that legalize the distribution and use of marijuana for purely recreational use.

The article in question, which appeared in the Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy in 2018, is “States’ Rights and Federal Wrongs: The Misguided Attempt to Label Marijuana Legalization Efforts as a ‘States’ Rights’ Issue,” by Paul J. Larkin, a Senior Legal Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation who has written dozens of scholarly papers for law journals.

I am not impressed.

Stimson’s first three paragraphs reproduced above are actually a loose quotation of most of the paper’s abstract:

Advocates for liberalization of the federal statutes outlawing cannabis have argued that the issue whether and how to regulate marijuana should be left to the states to decide. Yet, we do not allow states to decide whether to prohibit other controlled substances, such as heroin, and there is no good reason to put marijuana in a separate category. Since the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act became law in 1938 the nation has authorized the Food and Drug Administration to decide which drugs to approve for therapeutic use. We do not make those decisions the subject of a referendum because the decision requires the expert scientific judgment of professionals in medicine and biochemistry, not the moral judgment of the populace. Congress should re-examine how federal law regulates marijuana, but Congress should be guided by the judgment of the FDA as to the costs and benefits of liberalizing marijuana use.

I have carefully read the paper so you don’t have to. I believe the abstract is an accurate summary and thorough overview of the paper.

Stimson has two arguments against federalism when it comes to marijuana. The first is that because the federal government (“we”) doesn’t allow the states to legalize other controlled substances—like heroin for example—then it shouldn’t allow them to legalize marijuana even if marijuana is “different.” The second is that because the federal government (“the nation”) authorizes the FDA to decide which drugs to approve, then we should leave marijuana legalization up to the FDA and Congress.

There is one glaring problem with Stimson’s arguments. Since when does the Constitution authorize the federal government to designate and prohibit “controlled substances” or have an FDA?

If the federal government is doing things it ought not to do (prohibiting drugs), then invoking federalism to get the federal government to not do a part of the things it is doing that it ought not to do is the first step toward getting the federal government to not do all of the things it is doing that it ought not to do.

I should point out that some conservatives do see the connection between federalism and state power over marijuana policy. The Federalist, an online conservative magazine co-founded by Ben Domenech, the husband of Meghan McCain, last year published a version of an article by Utah representative Ken Ivory titled “It’s Past Time For Congress to Give States Back Their Power to Regulate Drug Use” that he had written for the blog of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

But for the most part, conservatives believe in federalism, except when they don’t.

Originally published at LewRockwell.com and reposted here under a Creative Commons 4.0 license

creativecommons.org

Share
Categories
federal power Federal Programs Intelwars Socialism

Why Republicans Are Powerless against Socialism

If we are to believe the Republicans, they are all that is holding back the forces of socialism from taking over the United States and replacing a free and capitalist society with an authoritarian and socialist society.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

After suffering the humiliating loss of the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm election, and having to deal increasingly with the fallout from the govern-by-Twitter pronouncements of Democratic bogeyman, Donald Trump, Republicans needed a bogeyman of their own to feign horror over in order to help them convince moderate and independent voters (and on-the-fence Republicans) that they should be afraid of the policies pushed by Democrats and vote Republican in the 2020 election. That bogeyman is socialism. As Republicans gear up for the 2020 campaign, they are pressing their case that a vote for Democrats is a vote for the policies of socialism.

Republicans don’t have an easy road ahead of them. A Gallup poll taken last year found that 37 percent of Americans feel positive about socialism, including 16 percent of those who lean Republican. Young people are especially likely to view socialism positively, with about half of Americans under 30 (51 percent) responding that they had a positive view of socialism. That accords with other polls that reveal that an increasing number of Americans support progressive ideas such as government-mandated paid maternity leave, tuition-free college, government funding for child care, increasing the minimum wage, and Medicare for All. Popular political figures such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), as well as an increasing number of progressives, embrace the label “democratic socialist.” Even so, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has told reporters that the path to Republican success in the 2020 election is “running to be the firewall that saves the country from socialism.”

Back in April, Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) received approval from the U.S. House of Representatives for the creation of the Anti-Socialism Caucus. According to a press release that was posted on the congressman’s official website, “The purpose of the caucus is to inform lawmakers and the public on the dangers of socialism and to serve as a bulwark to stop the advancement of socialist policies and legislation.” According to Representative Stewart,

Socialism is a folly. Not only is it doomed to fail wherever it rears its head, it leaves a wake of destruction in lives and freedoms lost.

So much time has passed from the fall of the Iron Curtain that many have internalized — or never experienced — socialism’s ultimate price. If we fail to recall those dangerous times, the primitive appeal of socialism will advance and infect our institutions.

Our adversaries have one thing in common: they want to destroy freedom, democracy and the rule of law, for the life-affirming principles which define our liberal democracy represent an existential threat to their existence.

The Anti-Socialism Caucus will play a part in how we will defeat socialism once again.

“This caucus will defend individual liberty & free markets and highlight the dark history of socialism,” tweeted Stewart upon receiving approval from the House for the formation of the caucus.

At the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) held earlier this year outside Washington, D.C., White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), former White House deputy assistant Sebastian Gorka, head of the Republican National Committee Ronna McDaniel, and Vice President Mike Pence all played the socialism card.

According to the Associated Press and Business Insider, Kudlow implored conference attendees to “join us to keep America great and join us to put socialism on trial and then convict it.” Meadows, chair of the House Freedom Caucus, warned Republicans that Democrats are “embracing socialism.” Gorka asked and answered a question: “What is America’s biggest problem? Not socialism in Russia, but in America!” McDaniel told the conference that the GOP would look to “go out and educate” voters about socialism. Pence said in his speech that the choice in the next election is “between freedom and socialism, between personal responsibility and government dependence.” “The moment America becomes a socialist country is the moment America ceases to be America,” said Pence to the friendly crowd.

A Trump campaign official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the campaign was exploring ways to use the “socialism” message to drive a wedge between Democratic voters and independents. It was a surprise that Trump did not mention socialism in his speech to the crowd of conservative activists. But of course, he has mentioned it numerous other times. Just before the 2018 election in which Democrats regained control of the House, he predicted,

If Democrats win control of Congress this November, we will come dangerously closer to socialism in America. Government-run health care is just the beginning. Democrats are also pushing massive government control of education, private-sector businesses, and other major sectors of the U.S. economy.

In his State of the Union Address in February, the president again warned of the dangers of socialism:

Here, in the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country. America was founded on liberty and independence —not government coercion, domination, and control. We are born free, and we will stay free. Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.

Socialism in theory

The term “socialism” is increasingly bandied about by pundits and presidential candidates, resulting in much confusion. What is socialism? Although Republicans are increasingly trying to demonize Democrats with the label, they rarely stop to define the term in its specific historical sense or in its more general modern sense. Akin to that is their insistence that they believe in free markets and that the United States is a capitalist country that must be saved from socialism.

In its essence, socialism is the government ownership and control of the means of production, distribution, and exchange. That is why socialist parties, once in power, seek to nationalize major industries. Under socialism, government central planning, not markets, determines what should be produced, by whom, and in what quantities — at least in theory.

The Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises, in his 1944 book Bureaucracy, contrasted capitalism and socialism:

The main issue in present-day political struggles is whether society should be organized on the basis of private ownership of the means of production (capitalism, the market system) or on the basis of public control of the means of production (socialism, communism, planned economy). Capitalism means free enterprise, sovereignty of the consumers in economic matters, and sovereignty of the voters in political matters. Socialism means full government control of every sphere of the individual’s life and the unrestricted supremacy of the government in its capacity as central board of production management.

More recently, economist Walter Williams succinctly explained the difference between the capitalist and socialist systems: “The key features of a free-market system are private property rights and private ownership of the means of production. By contrast, socialist systems feature severely limited private property rights and government ownership or control of the means of production.”

But as Mises’s disciple and Nobel laureate economist Friedrich Hayek made clear in the preface to the 1976 edition of his classic work The Road to Serfdom (1944), the meaning of socialism evolved in the second half of the twentieth century from meaning “unambiguously the nationalization of the means of production and the central economic planning which this made possible and necessary” to mean “chiefly the extensive redistribution of incomes through taxation and the institutions of the welfare state.” Modern-day socialists and their fellow travelers aren’t calling for the nationalization of industry or the abolition of private property. They want a mixture of government ownership, government control by regulation, and government redistributive programs to ensure social justice and economic equality.

Socialism in practice

In spite of Republican rhetoric, and contrary to what most Americans think, the United States, like every democratic country, has — in the words of economist Thomas DiLorenzo — “islands of socialism in a sea of capitalism.”

Socialized education. Public education is one of the most blatant forms of socialism in the United States. Every state government has a provision in its constitution for the operation of K–12 schools, colleges, and universities in the state. K–12 schools are funded by local property taxes as well as the federal and state governments. Public universities are funded directly by state governments and indirectly by federal Pell grants, other federal educational grants, and federal student loans. Teachers are employed by local school boards (in the case of K–12 schools) or state governments (in the case of colleges and universities). Textbooks are selected, and curricula are designed, by government entities.

Every state, as well as the federal government, has a department of education. The states have mandatory-attendance laws and standardized-testing requirements. Government agencies mandate teacher-education requirements and certify teachers. The federal government has math and science initiatives, special-education mandates, bilingual-education mandates, research grants for colleges and universities, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Higher Education Act, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, Common Core, Title IX anti-discrimination mandates, the No Child Left Behind Act, and school breakfast and lunch programs. The accrediting agencies of colleges and universities are government agencies.

Socialized medicine. Americans who criticize the socialized medicine that exists in Canada and European countries forget that we have several forms of socialized medicine in the United States. Medicare is government-funded health care for Americans 65 years old and older and for those who are permanently disabled, or have end-stage renal disease or ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). It covers more than 55 million Americans, most of whom become eligible for Medicare when they reach age 65, regardless of their income or health status. Medicaid is government-funded health care for poor Americans of any age and people with certain disabilities. It is the primary source of health-insurance coverage for low-income populations and nursing-home long-term care, and covers about 70 million Americans. Medicaid is jointly financed by the federal and state governments, but designed and administered by state governments within federal guidelines. The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is a partnership between federal and state governments that provides federally funded health insurance to children in families with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid.

Government insurance exchanges help millions of Americans purchase health insurance subsidized by the federal government. The federal government has a National Institutes of Health (NIH), federal laboratories, a Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), HIV/AIDS prevention initiatives, vaccination programs, and nutrition guidelines.

Social Security. This is the largest socialist program in the United States. There are actually two parts to Social Security (OASDI). The Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) program provides monthly benefits to retired workers, families of retired workers, and survivors of deceased workers. The Disability Insurance (DI) program provides monthly benefits to disabled workers and families of disabled workers. More than 60 million Americans receive some sort of Social Security benefit. The government pays the benefits, determines the benefits, sets the retirement age, decides on cost-of-living adjustments, and makes the rules for eligibility.

Despite the name of the program, many Americans think that they are entitled to receive Social Security benefits because they earned them by contributing to the system over the course of their working life. But there is no contractual right to receive Social Security benefits. Congress can reduce benefits at any time, increase Social Security taxes at any time without increasing benefits, and raise or eliminate the wage base upon which Social Security taxes are figured at any time without increasing benefits. The federal government can even pay Social Security benefits in perpetuity regardless of the amount of Social Security taxes that are collected.

Socialized charity. There are in the United States about 80 means-tested welfare programs that offer benefits on the basis of the beneficiary’s income or assets. U.S. welfare programs provide cash, food, housing subsidies, utility subsidies, and social services to poor, disabled, and lower-income Americans.

The most egregious of the means-tested welfare programs is the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program. It pays cash directly to welfare recipients to spend as they please. States receive block grants from the federal government to design and operate TANF programs. In an average month, approximately 3.5 million Americans receive TANF benefits. The majority of poor families with children receive some form of cash assistance from the government.

The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program gives cash assistance to people who are disabled, aged, or both and who have low income and few assets. More than 5 million low-income households in the United States receive federal rental assistance through the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program. Most recipients of federal housing assistance pay 30 percent of their adjusted income toward rent, with the government paying the rest up to a certain amount.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP [formerly known and still referred to as food stamps]) is administered by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but operated by the states. Recipients of food-stamp benefits receive a deposit on an EBT card each month that can be used only for prepackaged food items. About 13 percent of the population are on food stamps.

Other means-tested welfare programs include the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP); the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP); Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); Head Start; Healthy Start; the National School Lunch Program (NSLP); the School Breakfast Program (SBP); the Special Milk Program (SMP); the Elderly Nutrition Program; the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), and subsidized low-income phone service. Some welfare programs aren’t means-tested at all, such as Unemployment Compensation, which is overseen by the U.S. Department of Labor and administered by the states. It provides benefits to those who become unemployed who meet certain eligibility requirements.

Socialized services. Governments at all levels in the United States provide services that could be provided by the free market. The most infamous example is the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). And to make matters worse, by law, only the Post Office is allowed to deliver regular mail. The federal government’s National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) costs taxpayers more than a billion dollars a year in subsidies. The federal government’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA) provides security at airports and forbids airlines to provide their own security.

Government “public works” projects are not only socialism on a grand scale, they are also the epitome of the term “boondoggle.” In many states, counties, and cities in the United States, it is the government that collects the garbage; operates mass transit; supplies electricity, water, and natural gas; operates fire departments; owns the airports; operates health clinics; provides ambulance services; operates hospitals; inspects restaurants; operates the liquor stores; and picks up stray and dead animals. Other things that are done by private businesses are also done by government-run enterprises.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), “In 2017, U.S. government spending for national, state and local budgets was 38 percent of GDP.” Almost two-thirds of the federal budget goes for transfer payments and subsidies.

The Republicans

Will the Republicans save us from socialism? To think so is to dream the impossible dream. Republicans are powerless against the onslaught of socialism, and for two reasons. One, they support the same socialist policies as the Democrats. And two, they did nothing to roll back socialism when they had the chance.

Republicans support the three biggest socialist programs in the United States: Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Just read what it says in the Republican Party platform:

As the party of America’s future, we accept the responsibility to preserve and modernize a system of retirement security forged in an old industrial era beyond the memory of most Americans. Current retirees and those close to retirement can be assured of their benefits. Of the many reforms being proposed, all options should be considered to preserve Social Security.

We intend to save Medicare by modernizing it, empowering its participants, and putting it on a secure financial footing. We will preserve the promise of Medicaid as well by making that program, designed for 1965 medicine, a vehicle for good health in an entirely new era.

Even worse, Republicans sometimes create new socialist programs of their own accord. In 1997, the Republican-controlled Congress created the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP, now just called CHIP), a partnership between federal and state governments that provides federally funded health insurance to children in families with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid. The program has been reauthorized with Republican support ever since then.

After many years of Democratic control of both houses of Congress, Republicans captured the Senate during the presidency of the Republican Ronald Reagan and held on to control of it for six years. They did absolutely nothing to stop the onslaught of socialism. In fact, they raised the Social Security and Medicare tax rates to bolster those socialist programs. If only we had control of the House, said the Republicans. During the last six years of the presidency of the Democrat Bill Clinton, Republicans had a majority in both houses of Congress. They did absolutely nothing to stop the onslaught of socialism. In fact, they increased the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) every year to redistribute even more of the incomes of American taxpayers. If only we had a Republican president, said the Republicans. When the Republicans finally got their Republican president in George W. Bush they had a perfect opportunity to abolish the federal government’s socialist programs and restore the United States to a free and capitalist society. The Republicans controlled both houses of Congress for more than four years during the Bush presidency. They had not had absolute control of the government since the first two years of Republican Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency. Again, they did absolutely nothing to stop the onslaught of socialism. In fact, they expanded Medicare, created the TSA, and tremendously increased the budget of the Department of Education. The Republicans had another chance to roll back socialism when they controlled both houses of Congress during the first two years of Trump’s presidency. But again, they did absolutely nothing to stop the onslaught of socialism. In fact, they could not even come together to repeal Obamacare, even though they had railed against it since the day the Democrats passed it in 2010.

The conclusion is inescapable: Republicans are powerless against socialism because — as shown by their words and deeds — they are socialists themselves.

This article was originally published on the Future Freedom Foundation website and in the August 2019 edition of Future of Freedom.

Share