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I am the inferior of any man whose rights I trample underfoot

        HORACE GREELEY

 

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Tuesday
Mar032015

SIMPLE! DOES THE LAW MEAN WHAT IT SAYS, OR WHAT THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH THINKS IT OUGHT TO MEAN!

Tuesday
Feb242015

SEEMS REASONABLE

Tuesday
Feb172015

AND NOW FOR SOME REAL WORLD INFORMATION

Cato Institute scholars are, simply, brilliant and pragmatic, characteristics which too infrequently are partnered. In this short piece by Alex Nowrasteh ("Injunction aginst Obama's Immigration Action: Policy and Political Consequences") considers the political/policy consequences of the recent injunction issued by a federal judge on implementation of several key components of President Obama's misguided executive actions on immigration.

U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen granted a preliminary injunction to block the implementation of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration – specifically the DAPA program and his expansion of DACA - until he decides on their legality.  Constitutional scholars are going to be writing about this for the near future (I recommend reading Josh Blackman’s comments here and our Cato brief here) and the appeals will come quickly.  In the midst of this lively debate, the political and policy consequences of Judge Hanen’s ruling should not be ignored. 

The political consequences could be immediate.  Speaker Boehner could use this moment of GOP “victory” to pass a clean DHS funding bill as he hides behind thepreliminary injunction.  It could tone down the intensity of the political debate on Capitol Hill now that the courts will decide DACA/DAPA’s future.  The GOP does not have the votes to force the Democrats to accept defunding either of those programs.  This preliminary injunction allows Speaker Boehner to stop the DACA/DAPA defund fight while claiming some victory and avoiding the defeat he seems to be preparing for.  Now he can leave it to the courts with some confidence, more than he is likely to be feeling right in the DHS defunding fight, that they will rule in the GOP’s favor in a few weeks.  Regardless, this provides an opportunity for Boehner to skip the bruising DHS funding fight without suffering a political rout.

The policy consequences are more uncertain.  Obviously the future of DACA/DAPA depend on how the courts will rule on appeals.  If the courts side with the administration in the future, then we’ll be right back where we are now – except maybe without a fight over DHS funding. However, the defunding cheerleaders know that this would happen so they might not be eager to give up the fight so easily (see previous paragraph). 

The best possible scenario would be if the GOP leadership on Capitol Hill use this opportunity to pass a clean DHS funding bill, leave the fate of the President’s actions up to the courts, and begin to seriously debate and introduce the liberalizing portions of immigration reform.  Senators Hatch, Flake, and others already gave them a head start with the I-Squared bill that would liberalize the immigration of highly skilled workers.  Combined with a lower-skilled guest worker visa program, the DREAM Act, and a repeal of the 3/10 year bars, immigration reform’s most important pieces would become law. 

Vitally, many conservatives on the Hill have endorsed all of these portions of reform.  More importantly, these reforms would improve the immigration system, shrink illegal immigration currently and in the future, and provide human capital that will help grow the economy.  It’s a long shot, but a continuing court-dominated procedural and constitutional debate over DACA/DAPA could result in the passage of some of these portions of immigration reform.

Tuesday
Feb032015

FAIR SHARE AND ALL THAT....

Democrats and other "progressives" love class warfare. They prey upon one of the most base of our human character flaws--envy--with the "they have more then you, you should get some". And that, of course, means "they" should give more to the government in the form of taxes. From those taxes, like any good pyramid schemer, the government will take a nice upfront fee to feed its insatiable appetite for an ever-bloating bureaucracy then dribble some down to persons it considers to "need it". In this instance, naturally, "needing it" means they will be reliable voters for the status quo.

Our President has been banging the "fair share" nonsense since he first grabbed office in a wave of widespread voter ignorance. The argument, as near as I can understand it goes something like this: "They don't pay their fair share. You do! You could have more if only they would pay more. But I only want even these greedy, undeserving people to pay what is fair. And we will determine what is fair!"

I, on the other hand, would argue that the person earning the money should keep all of it, and give--grudgingly and carefully--only enough to allow government to meet its legitimate and  necessary role.

So, let's take a look at what "fair" is, as a legitimate starting point in this conversation. Let us begin with this chart, using recent IRS data:

PUTTING A FACE ON AMERICA'S TAX RETURNS: A CHART BOOK, Oct. 2013"

So, let's take a tug on those facts.

  • Taxpayers earning under $100,00/year, contribute 49% of total taxable income. 
  • Those earning over $100,000 contribute 51% of total taxable income.

The income distribution is pretty even, then. Of course, there are a lot less people in the over-$100,000 brackets. If it's THAT distribution which is "unfair", then the solution would be to migrate to a Soviet-style system of full redistribution of wealth (except amongst the power classes) and wait for our government to collapse. While that might appeal to some "progressives"--but not those earning over $100,000, I'd imagine--most Americans are unlikely to see that as a problem,.

So, the problem must be that the unfairness lies in the "fact" that these over-$100,000 earners finagle and loophole their way out of paying what is fair. But the data do not support that. The over-$100,000 earners carry 81% of the total tax burden, the under-$100,000 taxpayers carry just 19%...even though aggregate taxable income for both groups is pretty much even. (In fact, those earning under $30,000 actually receive more in tax credits than they pay in income taxes.)

To me, the current progressive tax system is fair...maybe too fair. Those with more resources contribute more and even support those with less. What is unfair in all this is that it is the government--not taxpayers--which has squandered and advanced its own objectives to the detriment of ALL taxpayers. 

For some reason, maybe the fast-approaching tax season, I felt I wanted to take a poke at the ridiculous tax fairness issue. 

Friday
Jan302015

SO HOW'S OBAMACARE ENROLLMENT LOOKING?

Well, as I try to review the data as of the 3rd quarter of 2014, and struggling to do that objectively (since I firmly believe this law may well do such serious damage to the American health care system that it is, frankly, hard to be objective about it) I have concluded that the honest answer is this: It is terrible if you are someone who is a supporter of individual liberty and smaller governmentand it is wonderful if you are a "progressive" who believes in a nanny State.

Let us examine the numbers first:

  • There are 4.9 million less persons with employer-based coverage;
  • 5.8 million more people have picked up private coverage; and 
  • 7.5 million more individuals picked up coverage through the expanded income qualifiers under Medicaid.

Now let us look at what those numbers mean. In short health care coverage in Obamacare's first year of coverage increased by 13.3 million through the combination of new private coverage and newly-qualified Medicaid recipients. But, 4.9 million lost coverage which they'd previously had under their employer plan.

That puts the net gain extrapolated for all of 2014 at 8.4 million individuals.

But, here's the hook. Of that 8.4 million increase 7.5 million came from increases in the Medicaid rolls. In short, almost 90% of the "new coverages" resulting from Obamacare came through new Medicaid recipients.

Good news or bad news. Well, it has been the stated goal of "progressives" to have a single-payer system for all Americans. That is, to have a health care system controlled by and mandated by the federal government. It would give the federal government almost unbridled control over a massive and critical piece of our economy. So, to the extent Obamacare has begun a rapid expanse of Medicaid--basically, our very own single payer precursor--it is good news for "progressives".

However, to those of us with libertarian leanings, it is not just bad news but it stands as an example of the blatantly unethcial and unjust design of Obamacare. It is absolutely unsustainable, and as this expansion continues the purpose for which Medicaid was intended--to support the truly poor and children--will yield to economic realities. This is very bad news on a lot of levels. (I will explain in more detail why some of us see Obamacare as dangerous and unfair in a subsequent post.)