Politicians and bureaucrats are notorious for manufacturing euphemisms -- clever but deceptive substitutes for what they really mean but don’t want to admit. That’s how the phrase “revenue enhancement” entered the vocabulary. Some of our courageous friends in government couldn’t bring themselves to say “tax hike.”
“It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future,” says a proverb often attributed to Yogi Berra. Imagine the world of freedom, or lack of it. Who could foresee the technologies that make our lives so rewarding and convenient? The same technologies have us all under the government’s giant microscope. Thankfully, the brave have turned the microscope around.
In the months since Edward Snowden revealed the nature and extent of the spying that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been perpetrating upon Americans and foreigners, some of the NSA's most troublesome behavior has not been a part of the public debate.
National Treasury Union President Colleen M. Kelly recently described the 2014 IRS budget allocation as “woefully inadequate.” But the agency has not proven itself to be an efficient steward of taxpayer dollars. Here are ten ways the IRS lost the trust of the American people.
It’s easy to be negative about the U.S. economy these days. Find a glint of silver, and folks come running to point out all of the dark clouds looming about. This, of course, is what we got last week when the monthly jobs report was released from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Folks pooh-poohed the number of jobs and whining that they’re not enough or that it’s less than a bunch of economists thought that it might be. But you know what? Stuff ’em.
Given how poorly states like California and Illinois have funded the pension funds for their own employees, one would think that this would stop dead in its tracks any plan to have the government assist in managing private sector funds too. The spate of recent activity, however, suggests otherwise.
Facts are easy. You can check facts. What supporters of the Affordable Care Act are doing, on the other hand, transcends factual bungling. It’s far more advanced: a warping of reality so debauched it looks like something out of a tale by H.P. Lovecraft.
The problem for NSA apologist is that when guys like Snowden disclose that the government conducts comprehensive surveillance in ways that would have made 1984’s O’Brien drool, it puts the entire progressive agenda in jeopardy.
The east coast and parts of the southern U.S. were to varying degrees paralyzed by blizzards a few weeks ago. The snow as expected rendered the roads treacherous, and in anticipation of slick streets, shoppers flocked to the grocery stores in advance.The rush into grocery stores, and its aftermath, offers worthwhile lessons in economics.First up, […]
The financial world is plodding along like a drunken sailor avoiding debt collectors by keeping no cash in his wallet. It’s not the kind of calm that’s going to last or end well. But the storm will have to wait until after the Olympics.What a game! We’ve never watched ice hockey closely before. But watching […]
“When they come for my gun, they will have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands,” is a common refrain I often hear from the Neo-Cons when there is a threat, credible or otherwise, that the U.S. government is going to take their firearms.And, when I hear this crazy talk, I agree with […]
The highest form of charity, argued the 12th-century Jewish philosopher Maimonides, is when the help given enables the receiver to become self-sufficient.But our systems of state charity — aka welfare — have too frequently had the opposite effect: They have actually created dependency. It is time to rethink the way we help people.I’m going to […]
In times of war and national emergency, it’s sometimes necessary to sacrifice civil liberties to secure vital gains in public safety. In those cases, we may have to accept a loss of privacy or freedom rather than invite mass slaughter of Americans.The National Security Agency’s domestic phone records collection is not one of those.Never have […]
President Obama crowed in his State of the Union speech about the economy, even mentioning “a rebounding housing market.” Maybe he was referring to friends in high places, like the seller of Penthouse One in New York, which just closed for $50.9 million, all cash. Millions of mere-mortal homeowners likely wanted to throw something at […]
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is acting in a bipartisan way to cover up the biggest single threat to the bipartisan political alliance that is stripping America of its wealth: the United States Congress.There is no question that the following policy is bipartisan. Democrats and Republicans in Congress are completely agreed that the following information […]
Recent difficulties with implementing the Affordable Care Act have increased opposition to the program. A majority of Americans now oppose it. Problems with the HealthCare.gov website are in all likelihood temporary. However, there are serious long-term problems, particularly considering long-term finance and labor supply issues. Given the mounting difficulties with and growing concerns about the […]
Amidst all the revelations about how the American people, many of whom are absolutely convinced they live in a free society, have their telephone calls, emails, website visits, and who knows what else under surveillance by their own government, let’s not forget the massive infringements on financial privacy that have gone on for decades.Consider, for […]
Image: ShutterstockBitInstant CEO Charlie Shrem, along with alleged co-conspirator Robert Faiella, was arrested by federal authorities last week for allegedly laundering more than $1 million worth of Bitcoins. This is a tiny amount compared to the largest drug-and-terrorism money laundering case ever. Yet when British bank HSBC was found guilty in 2012 of laundering billions, […]
Do you trust your doctor? Most patients assume their doctor is working in their best medical interests whenever he or she orders a diagnostic test or recommends a particular treatment. Customers might wonder whether an unscrupulous auto mechanic is being truthful when he recommends a brake job or a new transmission. But most patients trust […]
The exercise had an awesome name, inspired by the movies: “Quantum Dawn 2.”On July 18, scads of U.S. banks, stock exchanges and government agencies took part in a digital fire drill — a practice run in the event all of Wall Street came under massive cyberattack.This isn’t the first time banks have come under an […]
The faces of the Detroit bankruptcy are the thousands of pensioners whose promised benefits are suddenly part of the restructure negotiation. When Motown filed for Chapter 9 last July, the city had $11.5 billion in unsecured liabilities. The vast majority of this was pension and health care benefits owed to retired city employees.The images of […]
So you’ve maneuvered the Obamacare website, plugged in your top-secret information and found out how much you are forced to pay to avoid a fine.And for some of you, it turns out you qualify for a government subsidy — making the premium sound like a bargain. But signing on that line to accept the government’s […]
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”As the inequality gap grows, there is an ideological battle unfolding in the West.On the one hand, there are those who think government can fix things. It must do more, tax more, […]
On Feb. 7 the United States will once again reach its statutory debt limit, meaning it cannot legally borrow any more money. Since the obvious option of cutting spending to match the amount of revenue that the government collects is off the table for some inexplicable reason, Congress will have to pass a new, higher […]
The New York Times published an interminable article on health care recently. Plenty of facts — how scrupulous are these journalists! — but the article displayed absolutely no comprehension of the basics of cause and effect. I was left wondering about the whole point.The article details how the health care system rewards specialists to an […]
For critics of the surveillance state, it is tempting to see President Obama’s speech a few weeks ago as a partial victory: Prompted by Edward Snowden’s leaks and the public pressure for National Security Agency reforms, he announced significant changes to the program that collects and stores information about all telephone calls. And he promised […]
We put in a good-citizen call to the SEC the other day.“There’s a massive scheme to manipulate stock prices,” we told the friendly agent.“I have to tell you that your call is being monitored so that we can better serve the public,” he replied.“Oh, don’t worry about that. The NSA is tapping our call anyway.”“Are […]
Let’s say that a thief demands $100 and lets you keep $10 because he likes your suit. He calls that a deduction. The next day, he demands the whole $110. He says that he is not stealing more. He is only eliminating deductions and closing loopholes. That’s the GOP’s tax plan in a nutshell.
They say that it is not about raising your taxes. That’s what Democrats do, and Republicans don’t do that sort of thing. Instead, Republicans favor the “flat tax” that is “revenue neutral.” They will “pay for the tax cuts” by capping deductions on high income earners. Or perhaps they will just remove the mortgage interest deduction or other “loopholes” that allow you to keep more of your money.
How stupid do they think we are? Sadly, they might be right. Most people’s eyes glaze over when politicians start talking tax reform. They understand that “raising taxes” is generally bad, but they do not understand that “eliminating deductions” amounts to the same thing. Either way, you pay. The only real difference is the public relations pitch.
Actually, the GOP has been raising taxes for decades, just less openly so. Reagan’s tax increase of 1983, as recommended by the Greenspan Commission, was disguised as a premium increase to save Social Security, but it was actually a gigantic increase in the payroll tax that was later applied to general revenue. It put off the endgame for Social Security for a while, but for the average taxpayer, it was nothing but a tax increase.
This tax has extracted some $2.5 trillion since it was first enacted. Somehow, Reagan maintained his reputation as a tax cutter, and still does to this day. It has something to do with the need for partisan illusions. Premiums, they tell us, are not taxes. The same thing is happening with the Romney ticket. It is out there every day talking about raising taxes, just with a different name, yet the Democrats blast back with the claim that the Republicans are busting the budget with proposed tax cuts.
Both parties are pushing for some kind of tax reform, but the key rule is “revenue neutrality.” All these plans are doped out with the presumption that the planners can perfectly anticipate future revenue, but the regime change has no effect whatsoever on people’s behavior in the marketplace.
They presume that a cut here will decrease revenue by a certain amount and that an increase there will increase revenue by a certain amount. The truth is that you can’t know. No one expected or anticipated that government revenue would collapse after 2008, for example, and that was with no tax overhaul at all. The political parties can cite all the “studies” they want, but no one can perfectly anticipate the effects of changes in the tax law.
In effect, the rule of “revenue neutrality” means that no one is talking about serious change in taxes at all beyond increasing them in more or less serious ways. It’s the same with spending cuts: Politicians can talk about them, but they will not deliver them so long as the Federal Reserve stands in the background ready to print any amount money to cover any amount of debt that the Congress runs up.
If anything, the GOP position is the more dishonest of the two parties because the GOP is forever claiming that the Democrats want to raise taxes whereas the GOP does not. The truth is that both parties have their green eyes fixed on your bank account with the intent to grab more one way or another. The choice voters face really comes down to how they want their tax increases packaged: as a hurt-the-rich scheme or as a flat-tax scheme.
Every tax reform in my lifetime has actually been a push for higher taxes in one form or another. And there are still other ways to raise taxes besides raising taxes, reducing deductions, capping deductions, and closing loopholes. You can raise tariffs, increase user fees, enact quotas, inflate the money supply, or outright confiscate people’s property through police state tactics. All these methods suck resources from the private economy into the government.
The goal of every tax reform is to do this in the sneakiest way possible.
The media are no help in clarifying language. When a politician proposes a cut in taxes, the reporter imagines that he or she is a clever and hard-hitting journalist by shooting back: “How are you go to pay for that?” Nonsense. If the thief decides not to take your wallet, he shouldn’t be asked how he is going to pay for his failure to steal.
Of course, all of this is beside the point, really. The core problem is spending. If the government didn’t spend money, it wouldn’t need to tax anyone. The only real way to lower taxes over the long run is to cut spending, but again, this is not going to happen. Even those who talk about spending cuts are really talking about cutting the rate of increase in spending over five or 10 years in budget projections that have never panned out even one time in the history of the universe.
Knowing all of this makes you doubt the whole point of these ridiculous political debates. Yes, that’s the idea. It is worse than pure entertainment because the whole show masks the greatest racket in the world today. A useless elite is living off your money and telling you that you are better off as a result. And when you question why, they throw accounting trickery and fancy language in your face that all amounts to the same thing: The beatings will continue so long as you don’t run away.
And running away is precisely what is happening. The lower on the list of economically free countries the U.S slips, the more people are looking to the underground economy or to emigration to protect their own freedom. What this suggests is that the scam isn’t working as well as it used to. It’s long past time that people stop believing these thieves, much less trusting their motives.