Gay marriage, taxes, and the law of unintended consequences

Gay-flowerLast year was a triumphant year for gay marriage in California.  That means that this year, for many newly wed gay couples, April 15 was the first time they filed their taxes as married couples.  I have it on very good authority that many of these newly nuptialed couples are extremely unhappy now that they’re dealing with the infamous marriage penalty.

Considering how politically powerful gay men have become, could gay marriage lead to lower taxes?

And while we’re talking about taxes, Bill Whittle offers a sensible tax policy, one that would give all citizens a stake in America, while ending the current policy of taxing the producers right out of existence:

Flat taxes, once I understood how they worked, were one of the stepping stones on my way to conservativism. Twenty years ago, a brilliant conservative managed to explain to me how an across the board 10% sales tax would work. When he first told me about it, I got ruffled, pointing out that this was regressive tax that would hurt poor people. He shook his head sadly at my ignorance and explained that the most that poor people would get taxed, if they spent every penny they had, would be 10%, which is a reasonable amount to pay to have a stake in this country. (This was 20 years ago, before 51% of Americans paid nothing at all.) Moreover, he said, the bulk of taxes would come from those who aren’t poor, because middle class and rich people buy more. Everyone buys staples, but it’s the classes above the poverty line who have always — as a practical matter — bought into the American dream.

A 10% tax wouldn’t be high enough to deter high income spending, especially if there were no other taxes, so middle and upper class Americans would have an incentive to invest in the economy through purchasing goods. In the meantime, a 10% sales tax might be high enough to encourage a poor person to save more, rather than to buy inessential products, helping the poor person to stay solvent.

Certainly, a flat sales tax (or any flat tax) would be cheaper to administer than our current tax system. If it unleashed a rising tide of prosperity, it would bring in more revenue. On the other hand, if it brought in less revenue, it would stop rampant government spending (this was also before debt ceiling wars).

Bottom line:  Anything more simple and more fair than what we have now is a better tax system.

What is our obligation to those who make bad decisions?

wic3One of the things I’ve tried to drill into my children is the truism that the single biggest indicator of poverty is single motherhood.  That data, incidentally, does not reflect the old-fashioned kind of single motherhood, which was the result of widowhood or abandonment.  Instead, we’re talking about modern single motherhood, the kind that sees women who are deluged with birth control choices nevertheless get pregnant with boyfriends or hook-ups who feel no emotional connection or sense of economic obligation to either mother or baby.

One of my children has a part-time job at a cafe and is, for the first time, meeting adults who have full-time jobs but who aren’t middle-class professionals living in single family homes in solidly upper middle class neighborhoods.  One of these adults is pregnant and is unhappy about the fact that the cafe, where she’s been working for only five months, will not give her maternity leave.

Inquiry revealed that the pregnant woman is not married; that she’s living with a boyfriend who may or may not be the father of her child (my kid doesn’t know), and that the boyfriend doesn’t work.  Except for getting regular nooky at night (assuming that the pregnant woman still wants that kind of attention), the mother-to-be will be, for all practical purposes, a single mother.

My child found it concerning that the boss won’t pay this single mother not to work for him.  My child was therefore stymied when I asked this question:  “Why should he pay for her foolish choices?”

I noted that, while it’s entirely possible that this woman was using enough birth control to protect six woman, and nevertheless still managed to get pregnant, the greater likelihood was that she was careless. Indeed, if she really wanted to protect against single motherhood, she could have abstained from sex until she had a ring on her finger and some economic prospects.

I threw in the fact that it’s incredibly costly to do business in California, especially in the food service industry, which have extremely low profit margins.  Employers generally are drowning in regulations, which makes businesses very expensive to run.  Add in taxes and all the other costs of business (rent, insurance, salaries, benefits, supplies, etc.), and it’s guaranteed that the employer is clearing just enough money for his personal expenses (mortgage, insurance, food, etc.).  This owner is almost certainly not living extravagantly but is, instead, living a very temperate life.

Much of the money that the federal and state government are taking away from this man, both from his business and from him personally, is going to welfare programs for single mothers, something this employer must know.  Since he’s already paying for the welfare this young woman will inevitably end up using, why should he pay twice by carrying her on the books even though she’s contributing nothing to his business?  Even if he was feeling charitable, the government has left him nothing with which to be charitable,  not to mention the fact that the government, by snatching money from his pockets, has already decided on his behalf which charities he should support — including economically foolish single motherhood.

Such a simple question:  “Why should he pay for her foolish choices, when the government is already taxing him heavily in advance to pay for all the foolish choices of intentionally single mothers across America”?

 

It’s tax time and people are feeling the Obamacare pain

Tax formsWe went to our accountant last night.  She looked exhausted.  When we asked why, she explained that this has been an exceptionally painful tax season.  Obamacare taxes are hitting this year, and she had to informed people (well-to-do people, admittedly), that their taxes have increased by thousands, tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.  They were not pleased.

Interestingly, none of them saw this coming — which, when you think about it, tells you an awful lot about the mindset of people here in Marin, most of whom are overwhelming Leftist, including the rich.  The rich here know how to make money, but they really don’t know much else.  They’re uninformed about the world and how it works.  Moreover, because they think that voting Democrat makes them nice people, and voting for a black Democrat makes them good people, they are as blindly uninformed and as easily led as the 20-year-old college student or the 50-year-old cafeteria worker who reads only People and watches only Dr. Phil.

Lois Lerner’s demand for immunity before she’ll testify before Congress

The IRS’s Lois Lerner, who bungled taking the Fifth the last time she appeared before Congress, is now set to return to Congress.  Her lawyer has announced, however, that she’ll testify only in return for immunity, otherwise her lips are sealed.

It seems to me that whether Congress takes her up on that offer depends on how much information she has.  If she’s a criminal pipsqueak, giving her immunity means she gets away with a crime, while offering nothing in return.  However, since she is a highly placed IRS functionary, if the agrees to sing like a birdie, it may well be worth it simply to get information on everyone else.  Having said that, I suspect that there are people in government who will not be thrilled if she talks.  Am I being overwrought if I think that she might actually find herself at risk if her testimony has the potential to send high government officials to jail?

I deeply disrespect the Obama administration, from the top down, but it’s a big step from disliking them to considering them capable of turning to violence or even murder.  It seems to me that Lerner, who knows the administration better than I do, assumes that they will not hurt her, or else she wouldn’t have made the offer.  Even if the whole administration doesn’t go rogue, though, there may still be some lone fruit-loop out there who will stop at nothing to avoid jail or just the end of a career.  If I were Lerner, I’d look very carefully before crossing any streets.

What’s your take on this?  Would you offer her immunity in exchange for information?

Marriage’s open frontiers in America

A few days ago, I commented about a profound problem with the Supreme Court decision striking down DOMA:  before DOMA, we had a societal consensus that marriage was between one man and one woman.  During DOMA, we had a law that said marriage was between one man and one woman, even as the societal consensus broke down.  Post-DOMA, we have nothing.  There are no boundaries, and there is nothing to stop a “loving” marriage based upon bestiality, incest, pedophilia, polyamory, etc.  The boundaries are gone.

In addition, the demands on government will change substantially with this “new frontier” approach to marriage.  A friend of mine who knows all things military sent me this email:

The other thing I’ve been thinking about is how recent Supreme Court decisions have rendered marriage and family meaningless. For instance, if I were a young private or PFC in the military I would find another guy to get married to (contract marriages between service members are nothing new. It’s a great way for two otherwise unattached people to get free money for being married). Getting married is often the best way for service members to get themselves out of crappy barracks life so I could marry a male service member from another unit and move into my new house. We would not even have to be gay to do it. Then we could run around with as many women as we wanted and essentially be room mates and get paid a basic housing allowance (x2) for being married. If I were caught in some kind of adultery situation (hard to prove usually) I would simply state that I and my life partner are straight and though we are married we do not sleep together. Further, who is to judge how we choose to run our family/household? Anything goes according to the Supreme Court and if two gay men can get married why can’t two straight ones?

So that’s two of us figuring out that Anthony Kennedy’s decision creates tremendous societal problems.  Can we add three of us or four of us?  Yes, we can!

I don’t want to tread upon copyrights, so let me just direct you to Michael Ramirez’s post-DOMA cartoon and Terminal Lance’s post-DOMA cartoon (warning:  ever so slightly risque).  They both make the point perfectly, one with regard to society at large and the other with special focus on the military.

Andrew Klavan is right that we need to view this as a Democrat “squirrel” moment, one in which the Democrat powers that be distract their sometimes mindless constituents from more important issues such as the economy, or the fact that Syria is imploding, Egypt is on the verge of imploding, and Turkey is working towards imploding.  However, we cannot ignore the legal ramifications flowing from the Supreme Court’s rulings, because these ramifications can become very expensive very quickly.

If nothing else, the end of DOMA is one more reason that the tax code and IRS should be done away with and a flat tax instituted.  After all, the current tax code gives married couples distinct benefits, with an eye to advancing a stable, two-parent family.  Since that’s now out the window, we better revisit where all those tax benefits are flowing.

Using the tax code and tax authorities as Leftist sledge hammers

I’ve written before that the IRS’s aggression towards conservative groups and individuals is the worst presidential scandal in American history because it represents the first time a government agency, which falls under the executive’s control, has used its vast power to target people and groups that oppose the administration’s agenda.  Before the IRS started doing this, taxes had to come through a legislative process which was, in theory, vox populi.  Legislators were at least somewhat sensitive to voter concerns — they can, after all, get kicked out of office.  Administrative agencies with a partisan agenda feel that they’re untouchable and nothing can stop them.

Earl has now alerted me to the fact that the California legislature, which is so overwhelmingly Democrat as to make California a one-party state, has decided to copy the IRS’s behavior and use taxes to destroy political opponents:

What the IRS was doing behind closed doors may soon be official policy in California. Last week, the State Senate voted to revoke the nonprofit status of any group within the state that does not allow full participation of homosexuals, a move aimed directly at the Boy Scouts of America. According to the Associated Press, the bill “would require those organizations to pay corporate taxes on donations, membership dues, camp fees and other sources of income, and to obtain sellers permits and pay sales taxes on food, beverages and homemade items sold at fundraisers.” Groups that sponsor troops would also have their tax returns and membership policies scrutinized by the Franchise Tax Board, California’s version of the IRS.

If further proof was needed that the BSA’s partial surrender on the homosexual issue only emboldened their opponents, here it is. Compromise is not in the left’s vocabulary. Not until Dan Savage is taking your son camping will they be happy, and probably not even then.

Read the rest here.

It used to be that, if the Boy Scouts (or any other private organization) wouldn’t have you, you’d start your own organization and it would be so successful people would be knocking down your door and the Boy Scouts (or whatever) would be copying your model.  Or perhaps you’d start your own organization and it would fail, because the Boy Scouts (or whatever) actually had a good idea and were doing things right.

Nowadays, you don’t take your marbles and go play with other, more friendly people.  Instead, you stand there and kick the other side’s marbles all over the place and, if a few remain, you stomp them into dust.  My way or the highway — and I don’t care if my way destroys your essential essence, so long as you bow down before me.

Some random factoids about Lois Lerner, the gal who was the head of the IRS exempt organization’s division

Lois Lerner

A little more than a week ago, no one had heard of Lois Lerner.  Now she is the poster child for government machinery run amok.  She first thrust herself into our awareness with her clumsily staged revelation that, “Oh, by the way, the IRS persecuted conservatives, but really, there’s nothing to worry about….”  Since then, it’s only gotten worse, with Lois being exposed as a serial liar.  Finally, today, she announced in advance that, if called before Congress, she would plead the Fifth, so please don’t embarrass her by calling her.  I say “Call away” and, so far, Committee Head Issa agrees.

Now that Lois has emblazoned herself as a household name, people are starting to look at her very closely.  It turns out that her hostility towards conservatives predates her tenure at the IRS, and goes back to her FEC days.  She may have failed math, but she gets an “A” in harassment.

Conservatives are doing the logical thing, which is to try to link her to Obama.  As Walter Olson at Overlawyered points out, however, the only linkage currently available is truly a link bridge to far — it’s so tenuous as to be silly.

One of my friends, who does not want to be known as a conspiracy theorist (and I can vouch that this friend wouldn’t be seen near a tin-foil hat), wondered if Lois’ anti-conservative propensities put her in an orbit other than the Obama’s.  My friend sent me this email, and assures me, as I assure you, that it’s idle speculation rather than a breaking story:

Listening to Michael Savage the other day, he brought up the intriguing questions about the IRS scandal: “Why now?” and “Who leaked it?”

One caller raised the possible theory that Hillary Clinton was behind it trying to deflect Benghazi criticism that was beginning to zoom in on her, to an Obama-centric scandal.

I was intrigued.  Here is what a quick Google search has taught me so far:

  1. The official who brought up the scandal is Lois Lerner, the head of the IRS Exempt Organizations unit
  2. Lois Lerner husband, is Michael R. Miles, a partner at the law firm Sutherland Asbill & Brennan.
  3. I saw some articles linking Sutherland Asbill & Brennan to hosting an Obama campaign event, but…
  4. What has not been reported is that in 1993 Bill Clinton appointed Hillary’s good friend, Margaret “Peggy” Richardon, as IRS Commissioner (http://www.nytimes.com/1993/02/24/business/clinton-picks-lawyer-to-be-irs-chief.html). 
  5. This is where it gets a bit interesting.  Peggy Richardson was also a partner at Sutherland Asbill & Brennan.  (Oddly enough, Sutherland Asbill & Brennan had one other partner as IRS Commissioner – Randolph Thrower, appointed by Nixon…).
  6. Peggy Richardson, is (allegedly) no stranger to quashing inconvenient investigations against the Clintons (http://www.judicialwatch.org/blog/2006/01/hillary-silent-clinton-presidencys-latest-cover/)
  7. This is where it turns highly speculative.  I could not find, in the limited time I searched, a link between Peggy Richardson and Lois Lerner or her husband.  But one would think that partners in the same very illustrious law firm would know each other and would know a lot about each other.
  8. This is all capped by the just breaking news that Lois Lerner is going to take the Fifth in her (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2013/05/21/irs-official-lois-lerner-to-plead-the-fifth/) and choose not to testify before the House Oversight Committee.

Conspiracy theories or not my favorites, but when it comes to the Clintons I am less reluctant to explore them.

No answers, but some awfully good questions.

I also have a little (a very little) of my own information to add.  Since my brain instantly shuts down even at the word “taxes,” I have no idea if I’ve found smoking guns or death rays of irrelevant boredom.  Nevertheless, here are my two contributions to the Lois Lerner saga:

Item The First is a transcript of the prepared remarks Lois Lerner gave in April 12 at Georgetown University Law School.  It makes no sense to me (tax stuff, you know), but some of you may be able to glean some pearls of wisdom.

Item The Second is a lawyer’s analysis of a question-and-answer period with Lerner at the ABA’s Tax Section meeting in September 2012.  The lawyer who asked the questions posted the transcript on his firm’s website, along with his interlineations.  Again, I would be delighted if the tax savvy amongst you could translate it into normal people talk.  (Incidentally, I came across that transcript at the website for The Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch website.  The Center for Media and Democracy is, as you may know, a very Left activist organization, fat with George Soros funds.)

The Forbidden History of Terrible Taxes

JKB was worried that he’d hijacked an earlier thread by introducing us to Australian Topher Field’s “Forbidden” histories.  JKB needn’t have worried.  I’ve become an overnight Topher Field’s fan.

I’m including here Topher’s Forbidden History of Terrible Taxes.  You should watch his other “Forbidden” video as well, which is about free speech. As far as I can tell, he’s also working on a video about the dangers of bureaucracy, which he funded using crowd sourcing.

Is this the most regressive tax in America?

My mother lives in a very nice retirement community.  Typically for an affluent suburb, the residents are rich and white, while the employees are low-income and represent a variety of races (white, Asian, black, and Hispanic).  They’re not downtrodden employees.  Many have been there for decades and have strong bonds with the elderly in their care.  But they’re definitely not middle or upper class.  Economically, they’re working or lower class.

Man smoking

Here’s another broad statement I can make about the community in which my mother lives:  Almost none of the affluent residents smoke cigarettes, while a high percentage of the poorer employees smoke.  I know that my statement about the employees is true because I’m there often and I always see a rotating crop of employees hunkered down in the garage or standing out on the streets smoking.

I have to admit here to hating cigarettes.  (And yes, I know that “hate” is a very strong word.)  I have an unusually sensitive sense of smell, and cigarettes are very high on my list of unpleasant odors.  Just to give you an idea how much I hate the smell, back in the early 1980s, when I’d return to my flat in England after a night of dancing (not drinking, just dancing), I was so repulsed by the cigarette smell that clung to me that I’d instantly take a shower.  This doesn’t sound like a big deal until you realize that I was doing this between November and March, when the flat had no hot water after 10 p.m., and the shower water was probably just above freezing.  I hate cold water, but I hate the smell of cigarettes even more.

My loathing for cigarettes means that I’ve always had two thoughts when I’ve seen the employees puffing away.  My first thought is, “God, I hate that smell.”  My second thought, always, is “They must be spending a huge percentage of their income to support that habit.”

Cigarette pack

Today, my thoughts went one step further.  Yes, they are spending a huge percent of their income, but they’re not actually spending it on the cigarette.  Instead, they’re spending it on the taxes for that cigarette.  Here in California, cigarettes are taxed at a very high rate:

Cigarettes are subject to both the cigarette tax and the cigarette and tobacco products surtax. The tax and surtax are paid by distributors through the use of tax stamps, which are purchased from the Board of Equalization (BOE) and affixed to each package of cigarettes before distribution. The cost of the stamp includes both the cigarette tax and the surtax. Currently, each stamp costs 87 cents per pack of 20 cigarettes, comprising 12 cents for the cigarette tax and 75 cents for the combined surtax.

Tobacco products, not including cigarettes, are subject only to the cigarette and tobacco products surtax. Tobacco products include all forms of cigars, smoking tobacco, chewing tobacco, and snuff, as well as other products containing at least 50 percent tobacco. Effective July 1, 2011, through June 30, 2012, the rate is 31.73 percent.

I don’t know whether the consumer has to pay the usual county sales tax on top of all those state taxes, but I assume he (or she) does.  If that assumption is correct, you can add on an additional 8% or so to every cigarette pack sold in California, depending on the sales tax rate.

Shake down for money

This is a staggeringly high tax rate.  Worse than that, it’s a hugely regressive tax rate, meaning that it falls most heavily on those who can least afford it.  The regression is hidden, because it looks as if everyone who purchases cigarettes, rich or poor, pays the same “sin” tax for the product.  In fact, though, rich people in California have mostly given up on smoking.  This particular sin tax is passing them right by.  Poor people, whether they smoke because of peer pressure to smoke, or because they’re immune to government pressure to quit smoking, or because it’s a real pleasure in a life too financially constrained to have many pleasures, end up paying that tax.  Worse, because the government relies on this sin tax to fund health programs and education, as people quit, they keep raising the tax to stabilize revenue.

I hate cigarettes.  What I hate even more, though, is a government that funds itself by using regressive taxes.  It’s a sleazy practice.  How much better, of course, if we would fall back on a non-religious version of tithing, as Dr. Carson so gracefully suggested in the speech he gave before a manifestly bored and uncomfortable President Obama.

Was the tax increase a major Republican loss?

Today’s big story the new tax bill that Obama jetted off to Hawaii before signing, but that will soon (and inevitably) become the law of the land.  I don’t see any surprises.  I knew that we’d get hit hard and so we have.

I gather that sequestration has now been averted, so that Obama gets to continue spending.  As the headlines say, $1 in spending cuts for every $41 in tax increases.

Obama laughing

The media and the blogs are playing this as a major Republican loss.  Although I’m not sure it is, I actually rejoice in these headlines.  They sting, but they may have a benefit in the long term.

In my simplistic financial view of the world, there is one given that transcends any fancy economic talk from Ivory Towers and Leftist back rooms:  you cannot indefinitely spend more than you take in.  This is true whether you’re a person or a nation.  You can certainly spend more than you have for a while.  Indeed, if you’re rich (as America once was) you can keep spending money you don’t have for a long time.  You can borrow from friends who haven’t quite figured out yet that you’re broke.  And you can check kite — that is, you can use one empty account to pay off another empty account.  Essentially, you keep the same money floating around between accounts for a while until one of the banks or creditors figures out that you’re simply juggling a few dollars around and hoping that no one catches on that your accounts are usually empty.  And that’s all you can do.

Obama ran for, and won, re-election on a promise that he could fix our problems by taxing “rich” people more, while continuing to spend as before.  The voters bought it.

Another way to think of Obama’s promise, and the voter’s credulity, is to imagine that America is a corporation, with shareholders and various officers.  Obama is the CEO.  Because the CEO and his fellow officers have been spending corporate money like crazy without realizing a profit, the corporation is broke.  It’s worth noting that some of that spending involved distributions to select shareholders — those holding the fewest corporate stocks.

When the shareholders were considering making a push to fire the CEO, the CEO kept his job by telling the shareholders that he’d hire some armed robbers (i.e., the IRS) to force some of the richest shareholders to buy more shares in this essentially bankrupt company.  He made no promises about reducing corporate spending or trying different approaches to dealing with corporate debt.  The shareholders, none of whom could imagine himself (or herself) as being “the richest,” thought it was a great idea to have the “other shareholders” forced to subsidize the corporate spending binge. Those most enthusiastic were the ones who, despite holding the fewest shares, had been getting stock distributions on a regular basis.

Robber

Once his job was assured, the CEO used his renewed power to do exactly what he promised:  he brought in armed robbers to forcibly remove money from the “rich” shareholders without changing his management style, including his spending habits.  The only thing that surprised some of the shareholders was to discover that the CEO numbered them amongst the rich.

In other words, Americans — the shareholders in this nation — just got exactly what Obama promised and they voted for:  more taxing, more spending.

The question, then, is whether yesterday’s vote to increase taxes is a major Republican loss.  Certainly, the Republican party is in chaos — but it was anyway.  After the election, the Republican party was a demoralized, writhing, screaming, finger-pointing mass of loser-dom.

Pathetic loser

Given the Republicans’ already pathetic posture, is what happened yesterday even worse for the Republicans?  I don’t think so.  I think that, with the mid-term elections coming, this clarifies things for voters.  It doesn’t just clarify Republican and/or conservative principles, it also clarifies just who holds those principles.

White House Money Machine

More than that, the new taxes and spending clarify responsibility for America’s economy.  Obama got exactly what he wanted and he thinks that he’s laughing all the way to the bank.  Except when he gets to the bank, he’ll discover it’s still empty.  Within a few months, he’ll be thinking of that adage “be careful what you wish for; you might get it.”

Things are certainly going to be bad, very bad, for America in the short term.  But with a true compromise, of the type Boehner was trying to craft (proving either his good faith or his stupidity), things would have been very bad for America in the slightly longer term.  Short of a revolutionary change to America’s spending habits, which wasn’t going to happen with a compromise, America was always screwed.  Now, at least the Republicans can say “we tried to stop this, but Obama had a stronger political hand in the wake of the elections, so we were forced to give him what he wanted.  This is now, for real and for true, the Obama economy.”

Obama frowning

The one thing to remember is that Republicans had better start selling this Obama-economy message hard and fast now, while Obama and his media minions are still gloating about his victory over the GOP.  Once things go sour, as they inevitably will, Obama and the media will start blaming the Republicans.  We know that, where the media leads, the masses follow.  The only way to stop the sheeple is to drill home now the message that this is Obama’s victory, that Obama got what he’d promised and what he wanted, and that Obama joyfully accepts the responsibility for whatever flows from his glorious battle defeating the Republicans.

Remember:  Nothing, absolutely nothing, that came out of Congress today could have been good for America.  However, if Republicans willingly hand Obama this victory, the greatest likelihood is that it proves to be a Pyrrhic victory for Obama, with long-term benefits for conservative thinking and, therefore, for America.

(Alternatively, Obama could have been right all along, which will be good for America, and I’ll have to revert to my original Democrat allegiance.  Possible, but not probable.  Facts are stubborn things and so are numbers, and I’m betting that Leftist political ideology will not trump either facts or numbers.)