Wednesday, September 12, 2012

An open letter to American Islamic Leaders

The United States of America was founded on the principles of freedom, among them the freedom of religion. It is for that reason that you and your followers are allowed to worship as you choose. It is why you have been able to build your Mosques and other places of worship throughout this country.

With the freedom of religion comes a certain responsibility. You must work to be good Americans and stick up for the freedoms that we hold so dear. You have complained about profiling of your followers as security efforts were ramped up in the wake of the 9/11/2001 attacks. Many Americans defended Islam and its followers, saying that you cannot condemn a whole religion on the basis of the actions of a few. I have counted myself among those defending you. Given the fear caused by those attacks, it is only natural that people who don't know any better would want to afraid of all Islam. Therefore you must work even harder to show that you mean no harm.

Today, because of protests over an amateur film that was supposedly made in the United States, Islamic radicals have attacked a U.S. consulate in Libya, killing the U.S. Ambassador and 3 others. What I want to know is where is the condemnation of this attack that should be coming from you. As the leaders of Islam in America, you should be speaking out in support of the right to speak or make movies freely, without fear of violent reprisal. You should be condemning the killing of innocent people that had nothing to do with the making of that movie. Yet, I don't see any such condemnation.

There was very little condemnation by Islamic leaders of the 9/11 attacks, the attack on the USS Cole, or any of the other attacks by Islamic radicals against Western interests around the globe. Why not? Silence implies agreement with those that committed the violent acts. If that is the case, why shouldn't Americans be afraid of Islam and its followers? Why shouldn't you be singled out for special security treatment? To take it to the extreme, why should we be tolerant of your religion and even allow you to stay in the United States any longer?

If you as the leaders of Islam in America want the respect of the American people, and the right to worship freely, then you must step up to the responsibilities that come with it. I expect to hear condemnation of these attacks and of Islamic terrorist groups by the end of the day. If not, I will stop arguing for tolerance on your behalf. It is well past time for you to become responsible Americans and speak out against the violence toward innocent American victims.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

My Corporate tax reform plan

In my last article, I outlined a plan for personal income tax reform, so today I'll tackle corporate taxes.

As with personal taxes, lets start with the current rate chart:

      Taxable income over     Not over      Tax rate

          $         0        $    50,000        15%
               50,000             75,000        25%
               75,000            100,000        34%
              100,000            335,000        39%
              335,000         10,000,000        34%
           10,000,000         15,000,000        35%
           15,000,000         18,333,333        38%
           18,333,333         ..........        35%

Many, particularly those in the GOP, have decried the rates listed above as being onerous and among the highest in the world.They may be right, so I'll produce a new table below. Remember though that Corporations are taxed only on their profits (not revenue), and virtually every reasonable business expense is deductible from the revenue.

      Taxable income over     Not over      Tax rate

          $         0        $   100,000        15%
              100,000          5,000,000        20%
            5,000,000         ..........        25%
There, a much lower rate, and a simpler table. Now, what are the deductions that we cut to make up for the lower rates?

First, lets start with salaries, bonuses, and the like. Those expenses will continue to be deductible up to a maximum of up to the equivalent of the salary of the President of the United States for any individual. The company is free to pay people more than that, but the excess will come from after tax profits. Why should taxpayers essentially be subsidizing the salaries of CEO's, athletes, entertainers, and others to the tune of 25% of their salary? Are those jobs really more important than that of the President? If not, perhaps the President is underpaid, and they can lobby to have that salary (and the deduction amount) raised.

Next let's cut the advertising deductions. Companies don't care how much they pay for Super Bowl ads because they just pass on the costs as higher prices, and also write off the cost against their revenue for tax purposes. I propose limiting advertising expenses to 20% of gross revenue or $1,000,000, whichever is higher. I realize that start-up firms and smaller firms may need to spend higher percentages of gross revenue to get started, hence the $1,000,000 figure. As with salaries, companies are free to spend on advertising whatever they wish to spend. Anything above 20% of gross revenues must come from after-tax profits.

As a side note, I sent the above suggestions to my Representative and Senators for consideration more than 10 years ago, without so much as a response other than form letter.

In addition to these tax changes, lets eliminate all the oil, gas, and farm subsidies.

That should do just fine.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

My plan for personal income tax reform

In a previous article, I outlined a series of spending cuts that I advocated, along with some preliminary revenue thoughts. In this article I'm going to suggest the overhaul to our personal tax code that I think should take place. The next article will address the corporate income tax code.

First, let's look at the current tax brackets. This article will use married filing jointly rates, but the other categories would be modified similarly.

      Taxable income:                   Tax:
  Over     But not over         Tax       +%   On amount over            

$          0     $ 17,400        $        0.00  10       $         0
   17,400        70,700           1,740.00  15          17,400
   70,700      142,700           9,735.00  25          70,700
 142,700      217,450         27,735.00  28        142,700
 217,450      388,350         48,665.00  33        217,450
 388,350      .......             105,062.00  35        388,350

My suggestion is as follows:

      Taxable income:                   Tax:
  Over        But not over              Tax       +%   On amount over            

$              0     $  15,000        $        0.00  10       $          0
       15,000         60,000           1,500.00  15          15,000
       60,000       150,000           8,250.00  25          60,000
     150,000       250,000         30,750.00  28        150,000
     250,000       500,000         58,750.00  33        250,000
     500,000    1,000,000       141,250.00  35        388,350
  1,000,000    2,500,000       316,250.00  38     1,000,000
  2,500,000    5,000,000       886,250.00  40     2,500,000
  5,000,000  10,000,000    1,886,250.00  43     5,000,000
10,000,000     ........           4,036,250.00  45   10,000,000

All income, whether wages, interest, dividends, capital gains (long and short term), carried interest, or any other form of income would all be taxed at the same rates. From a deductions standpoint, I would eliminate the mortgage interest deduction for 2nd homes. Only interest on your personal residence would be deductible. I would need to do a further analysis of allowed deductions before making other suggestions.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Separation between church and state

There has been a great outcry from the right about the possibility of Sharia law somehow becoming the law of the United States. Yet, at the same time, they are trying to impose Christian Law as the law of the United States. Our founding fathers went to great pains to ensure religious freedom in this country for all. That means for Christians, followers of Islam, Hindu, other religions, and even atheists and agnostics too.

Recently, there have been several states that have proposed "person-hood" laws. These laws declare that life begins at conception and therefore, even a fertilized egg is considered a person. The intent of these laws is to outlaw abortion, because killing a person is of course considered a crime. If only it were that simple.

Let's look at the unintended consequences for a Government that is supposed to be free from religious influence if these "person-hood" laws actually come into force.
  1. If a fertilized egg is a person, should the Government start issuing Conception Certificates instead of Birth Certificates? How is the exact date and time established? 
  2. If a Conception Certificate has been issued, can the "parents" get a Social Security Number for the fetus and claim it as a dependent on the income tax return?
  3. How do we handle miscarriages? Do we issue a Death Certificate? Does that negate the tax deduction?
  4. Other issues for miscarriage:
    1. Do we investigate the mother and family to see if anyone did anything that might have contributed to the miscarriage, thus committing murder?
    2. What about the many eggs that are fertilized, but never implant properly? Does anyone really even know for sure that a "person" was even created? 
  5. How about birth defects? Should we start investigating the mothers, families, and doctors involved to see what might have caused the defect and then charge the responsible party with child neglect, assault, or attempted murder?
  6. What about in-vitro fertilization? What do we do with cell masses that are not implanted? Can they be frozen for possible use later, or would that be considered child abuse?
Clearly there are too many legal problems to implement "person-hood". Birth is the traditional time selected for centuries as the start of life, as it is a clearly observable event. For a Government that cannot make any law establishing a religion, the most expedient thing is to keep for legal purposes that life begins at birth. If the religious institutions want to believe otherwise and their followers want to do what their faith requires, that is their personal decision to make.

The issue of birth control has raised due to proposed rules that would require all employers that offer medical insurance to ensure that birth control was available without co-payment. The catholic church and others immediately objected because to offer this would violate their religious rights. Just as some have noted that the phrase "separation of church and state" does not appear in the U.S. Constitution, neither does there appear any exemption from laws by religious institutions. Any exemptions for taxes, zoning, or other laws have been written into those specific laws, without any real Constitutional basis. I can understand the reasoning for the operation of the religious institution itself (church, mosque, synagogue, etc.), but why should an ancillary business such as a hospital or nursing home be exempt from the rules that all other businesses have to follow, especially when their employees are not all followers of the specific religious institution? If those institutions want the Government to stay out of its religious affairs, then they should stop trying to change the laws to reflect their beliefs. In short, they should stay out of politics. 

Though I am a Christian, I have no problem reconciling that which I believe for myself and that which I would have be the law of the land. For example, while I think abortion is wrong, I also think that it is none of my business whether someone who believes differently should be able to have an abortion or not. This is the classic definition of "pro-choice". Contrary to what the "right to life" group would have you believe, most "pro-choice" believers are this way, not "pro-abortion".

If we are going to be upset at the possibility of Sharia Law, we should also be upset at the possibility of Christian Law. The Government is supposed to be neutral in this respect, not favoring any one religious institution. Similarly, with the exception of their free exercise of their religion, people and religious institutions should not try to force their beliefs on everyone else. If those institutions have businesses that are not part of the actual church, mosque, synagogue, etc., then they must obey the laws set up for all businesses. It is time that everyone stops trying to have it their way and only their way. Step back and think about the principles this country was founded upon, and make the laws consistent with that.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

So what's the big deal about Iowa?

Last night the State of Iowa held its Republican caucuses. According to the N.Y. Times, more than 120,000 Republicans took part. That is fewer people than vote in the Republican primary in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Why does everyone make such a big deal about a contest in which such a small population votes? Further, the views of Iowa are hardly representative of the nation as a whole. And what is even more ridiculous, the results are not even binding on Iowa's 25 delegates to the Republican National Convention later this year.

So, it appears to me that this whole proceeding is virtually meaningless. Yet, we now have Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney headed to New Hampshire (yet another small State not representative of the nation) in the lead for the GOP nomination, with Ron Paul close behind. Let's take a closer look at these 3 candidates.

Rick Santorum surged to the front in Iowa, so let's look at him first. Among other things, he has said, "We’re not looking for a chief executive officer. We’re looking for a commander in chief." Apparently Mr. Santorum is not familiar with the U.S. Constitution, in which Article II, Section 1 states, "The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America." Section 2 of the same Article details that this executive power entails, with Commander in Chief being only one of them. He is a supporter of a Personhood Amendment to the Constitution (see ref 1). This amendment would declare that life begins at conception, and that the fertilized egg is immediately considered a person in the eyes of the law. This would give the Government the power to investigate all miscarriages to ensure that the mother didn't do anything to cause the miscarriage, thus committing murder. It would allow the Government to investigate all birth defects to ensure the mother didn't do anything during pregnancy that could have cause the defect, thus causing malicious harm to a person. It would allow children to sue their parent for child neglect while in the womb if they found out their mother smoked, or drank, or did anything else not considered healthy while pregnant. This might even be a simple as not taking prenatal vitamins. He also claims to want to make big cuts in spending, yet he is proud of all the pork barrel legislation and earmarks he sponsored (see ref 2).

Mitt Romney has been at or near the front of the GOP field since the beginning of the campaign. He is the most moderate (if there is such a Republican being anymore) of any of the GOP candidates. The thing that most Republicans are wary of is that he is a Mormon and not an evangelical Christian. Of greater concern is that he has repeatedly lied about various things he has said or done (see ref 3). He claims to be a businessman and that's what America needs as President right now. Yet a number of his businesses went belly-up (see ref 4). In fact that was the purpose of Bain Capital (the company he headed). It bought companies, cut costs (i.e. laid off workers), and bankrupted many of them, all while generating massive profits for the owners of Bain Capital. Is that what we need for America?

Where to even start with Ron Paul? If you listen to Ron Paul in short spurts, he makes a lot of sense. The problem is, he keeps talking. That's when you realize he is way out there somewhere. He issued newsletters under his name for more than 10 years that were often racist, but now he says he doesn't know where the material for those newsletters came from. He has suggested that women that are sexually harassed on the job should just quit (see ref 5). He has stated that he would like to see the 16th Amendment repealed (the one allowing the Federal Income Tax). He wants no taxes whatsoever. He has not stated how the Government would pay for anything that it does, though he believes there should be little to no Federal Government. Basically, his policies come down to "every man for himself."

It is no wonder why almost half of the Iowa electorate was undecided right up until the vote. Do you really want any of these candidates? Of course, does it really matter? As I already pointed out, Iowa's 25 delegates are not mandated to follow the vote anyway. On to the next meaningless primary. See you in New Hampshire.


Monday, December 12, 2011

The latest Republican Debate

The Washington Post does a nice job of fact-checking of the debate that was held on 12/10/11. So I won't focus on the areas that they already covered.

One big issue that I do want to focus on is Rick Perry's discussion of the drone that was shot down / crashed / or otherwise captured in Iran. Mr. Perry was all upset that now Iran would be able to reverse engineer the drone, and that our enemies would have access to that technology. He said that President Obama had two choices. He could either go into Iran and take back the drone, or he could go into Iran and bomb it such that there was nothing left for them to reverse engineer. He then said that President Obama took the third option which was to do nothing.

Given that the drone was in Iranian airspace, that was already technically an act of war. Does Mr. Perry really think that it would be a good idea to send a rescue group into Iran to retrieve the drone, thus risking American lives and also initiating further war activities with Iran? Does he really think that dropping bombs in Iran on the drone would not be considered even further aggression? Does he think that Iran would just sit back and do nothing? If they were not capable of immediately striking back against the U.S., they would attack our surrogate in the area, the Israelis. Does Mr. Perry think that would be a good thing?

I, for one, support the restraint that President Obama showed in not escalating the situation. Oh, does Mr. Perry approve of the way the U.S.S. Pueblo situation was handled back in January of 1968? Does he think that President Johnson should have gone into North Korea to get that ship back, or gotten us into war with North Korea? If he does, then I am sure I don't want Mr. Perry as Commander in Chief.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Congress and the Payroll Tax Fiasco

Congress is once again tied up in knots over extending the Payroll Tax Cut and how to pay for that. The Democrats have proposed a surtax on incomes of over $1 Million per year. The Republican balk at that tax increase due to their pledge to Grover Norquist. Instead they would rather allow the Payroll Tax to expire, as somehow that increase on the middle class doesn't count against the Norquist pledge. Amazingly though, allowing the Bush era tax cuts to expire does count as a tax increase with respect to the pledge. It's enough to make your head spin.

In any event, I have a very simple solution to the problem. Permanently lower the Payroll tax to 4.2% but remove the earnings cap on the tax. Currently, only the first $106K of income is subject to this tax. What this means is that if you make more than this, your effective tax rate is much lower than someone who makes less. By removing the earnings cap, we would make this a "flat" tax. Now the GOP seems like they like "flat" taxes, so there should be no objection to removing the earnings cap, unless of course they are hypocrites. The additional income from taxing the amounts over $106K not only would pay for the reduction in the rate, but would make Social Security solvent for decades to come.

Does anyone expect that this idea will be picked up by Congress? I don't. Yes, I have sent this idea to my Representative and both my Senators, but I have found that ideas that make sense have no place in Congress.