Virtual Interview with Howie Lind – Candidate for US Congress, Virginia 10th District

Freedom Forge Press resides in the 10th Congressional District in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The seat for the House of Representatives is being contested this year due to the planned retirement of incumbent Frank Wolf (R-VA) who has represented the citizens of the Virginia 10th District since 1981.

We invited all candidates who have publicly announced their intention to run for the seat to a Virtual Interview.

Howie LindFreedom Forge Press (FFP):  Chris Christie remarked in July 2013, “This strain of libertarianism that’s going through parties right now and making big headlines I think is a very dangerous thought.” Christie appeared to be discussing the government’s role in fighting terrorism and responding to critics of all the federal government’s widespread domestic spying programs. Do you think Christie is right, or do civil libertarians have legitimate concerns?

Howie Lind (HL): The legitimate role of the Federal government has been subverted; we all want “the bad guys” tracked and interdicted. There is absolutely no evidence that the widespread dragnet of metadata accomplishes this. As an example, our intelligence agencies knew that we had major issues with the two individuals involved in the Boston bombing, yet failed to respond. Obviously, we have a major disconnect here, and if we continue the indiscriminate gathering of individual information, someday it will be used for the worst of reasons.

FFP: What would be your top 3-5 legislative priorities if elected?

HL: Repealing and replacing Obamacare, Reforming the tax code, reforming Federal spending, Restoring defense capability.

FFP: Considering all the federal government does and all the influence and control it exerts on states via Medicare/Medicaid and other spending, do you think the federal government is successfully doing its job to “promote the general welfare” of all citizens in these United States?

HL: No.

FFP: Gallup recently released a poll with a record number of respondents (72%) saying that “Big Government” is the biggest threat to the future of the country. “Big Government” has always led the other categories (Labor, Business). Yet the president, a clear advocate for transformational large government, won re-election with 51% of the popular vote. What do you think we are missing here?

HL: Our culture and our educational institutions have not been promoting or educating the American public on the foundational constitutional precepts of liberty and individual responsibility.

FFP: A quote is attributed to John Adams: “But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.” Looking over the past 10 to 15 years and the rapid pace of government expansion invites a lot of pessimism to accept that quote as true. Do you think that quote is true? And if not, what do you think it will take for the country to get back on track?

HL: Historically it is accurate. I don’t think it is too late, but time is growing short. Reagan is the model to follow; it is possible to turn the ship of state, however, it takes bold, consistent effort.

FFP: When, if ever, do you think it is acceptable for the federal government to play favorites with favorable regulatory requirements, grants, tax credits, or other policy levers?

HL: As a general rule, no, there should always be a level playing field. Of course, there may be some exceptions that are of such national importance that they demand attention; the space race, interstate highways, and some other very narrow exceptions come to mind.

FFP: Grover Cleveland is one of our favorite Democrats. Following a drought in Texas! Congress passed an appropriation for a seed bill of a modest sum of $10,000 (about $289,000 in today’s dollars). Cleveland vetoed the bill and issued this statement:

“I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the general government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering… …though the people support the government, the government should not support the people. The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow-citizens in misfortune. … Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood.”

Given the various types of federal aid, the increased participation in those welfare programs—which shot up markedly during the current administration, and the record high level of people who have left the labor force, do you think Cleveland had a valid point, or does government have a duty to relieve individual suffering?

HL: Yes, Cleveland was broadly correct. Cases of calamity and individual suffering, the individual community and its private resources, and the state are the best provider of services. The Federal government has proven time after time that the least efficient manner in which services can be delivered is through the central government, regardless of constitutionality. FEMA comes to mind. Certainly the Federal government has a role in exceptional circumstances where a region or state is affected and request support, but clearly we have “federalized” every type of event that should and can be handled locally.

FFP: Is it time for term limits?

HL: Yes.

FFP: If elected, what will you do in office to promote individual freedom?

HL: Adhere to the Bill of Rights.

FFP: If elected, what will you do in office to limit the size, scope, and power of government?

HL: Tax reform and the elimination of base line budgeting. Complete reorganization of EPA and its oversight functions. Consolidation of antiquated agencies and programs spread throughout the government.

FFP: The Tax Foundation estimates that the average tax payer will work into the 2nd week of May just to pay his/her federal, state, and local tax bills for the year. Do you think this is appropriate?

HL: Of course not; anytime that the federal budget grows beyond 18%, there is clear historical evidence to suggest that there negative economic growth is stalled. The tax structure is in need of major reform.

FFP: By many objective measures, spending by the federal government has ballooned out of control in the 20th Century to unsustainable levels where we find ourselves today.

Is there a specific aspect of government (e.g., an agency, program, function) that you would agree to freeze, reduce, or cut?  (If so please name the agency/program/function?)

HL: I believe the time has come for massive re-organization; one tiny example is that there are 19 job training programs spread over the government. We need to ask a basic question: What is the legitimate constitutional role of the Federal government, what are those things that only it can do? Everything else needs to be returned to the states to pursue – and we’ll find many of them are never picked up by the states because they simply are not critical programs.

FFP: Why are you running for office? (Or if you’d like to address a question we didn’t ask, please add it here and give your response).

HL: I want to go to Washington to do something, not be someone. The Republic is in a critical place, and there may be little room left to turn our course back to economic sanity and individual liberty.

We would like to thank Howie Lind and members of his campaign staff for participating in our virtual interview. For more information about Howie, visit his campaign website.

Status of campaign participants (As of 3/29/2014):

[Republican Candidates]

Barbara Comstock – Has not yet responded to our invitation to participate.

Stephen Hollingshead – Has accepted our invitation; responses are pending.

Howie Lind – Has accepted our invitation and submitted responses.

Bob Marshall – Has not yet responded to our invitation to participate.

Marc Savitt – Has accepted our invitation; responses are pending.

Rob Wasinger – Has not yet responded to our invitation to participate.

[Democratic Candidates]

Richard Bolger – Has withdrawn from the race.

John Foust – Has not responded to our invitation to participate.

Sam Kubba – Has withdrawn from the race.

Our Interview with Katrina Pierson

We had the exciting opportunity to talk to Katrina Pierson. Katrina is running for Congress in the 32nd Congressional District in Texas.

Freedom Forge Press: We love your outlook for freedom, liberty, and limited government. Our mission aligns with your outlook—we found you on Twitter because of these beliefs. Your website indicates that you have a preference for promoting market-based reforms. So to get started, what kind of specific proposals would you bring with you to Congress in terms of improving the healthcare system?

Katrina PiersonKP: I have years of experience in healthcare. I was an administrator at a hospital; I ran outpatient neurology. I have experience with how these things can work. I know lots of people are talking about Heath Savings Accounts (HSAs), which should be on a market level, not a federal level. We need to have full transparency with all medical costs for patients so they can compare costs, rate doctors, and know where to go. We need to incorporate those types of transparency requirements so patients know where to find good quality care at an affordable price.

Tax reform is a good starting point—there’s been talk of eliminating that tax exemption altogether, and providing either a tax credit, or dumping it into an HSA. We can also break up insurance markets to compete across state lines. If you have a plan for a family of four, you could compare the prices side-by-side and have a difference of five thousand dollars from one state to another. [Selling insurance across state lines] would drag down the cost because the companies would have to compete with each other.

Also with regard to Medicare, we’re not means-testing people. I know a lot of people who don’t need to be on Medicare but are, and this shouldn’t be. There are so many common sense solutions that we just so completely ignore.

FFP: One of our editors has had a Health Savings Account since 2008. Talking about transparency: when he got to the dentist and asked about the cost of getting a cavity filled, the response was, well it depends on what insurance you have. It’s that complicated. So should the private market sort this out through an insurance conglomerate, or what?

KP: I don’t think it should be a federal government mandate. Take Texas, for example. If we want transparency in Texas, that would become a state law. Most people want transparency. With larger HSAs, which would cover many insured, you could change health care in just a few years [by increasing transparency]. Something not a lot of people are talking about are wellness programs. AFLAC is ahead of the curve in this. Some big employers are providing wellness programs. Companies should provide wellness programs for employees as a substitute for preventative medicine, even. But as long as we keep things at the state level, individuals have a lot more control.

FFP: Speaking of a national marketplace, Congress’s duty is to regulate interstate commerce. If Congress were to try to set up a national market for insurance, do you think this infringes on states?

KP: I don’t think the federal government should establish a national market; I just think they should eliminate the inability to buy across state lines.

FFP: What would your priorities be if elected?

KP: You wish you could fix everything, but there are a few things more heavy on my to-do list than others: one of those things is I believe we have to make a priority of fundamentally changing the education system in our country. We should be able to have this debate with the public. This is where we lose on a lot of issues; people go into smoke-filled rooms and work things out with fellow bureaucrats, and we lose out.

We should put the states on notice and say “no” to the Department of Education (DOE). The DOE was established in the 1970s. If you look at all the big innovators and the successful people, they didn’t go through public education. We’re losing that [type of innovation] right now—we’re not getting anywhere with education in this country. It’s a big issue for me because if we’re going to change anything in this country, we’ve got to save our kids.

There are simple policies to put in place like a federal check registry. I think we should require every department and agency to do the same thing. We’re living in the age of technology. We should not have to wait for the GSA scandal to break before we find out how outrageously they’re spending money. This is the people’s money; they should see it. The technology is there; the state of Texas does it.

I’d also like to get back to single-issue bills. We shouldn’t have to be in a situation where we have to pass it before we know what’s in it. The reason we have such outrageous spending is they tack on these little things to these bills they know are going to pass, and we find out later we’re paying for things like breast implants for prostitutes. We need to raise the standard on how we do business and how we govern.

Think also about bringing back the anti-appropriations committee. That committee was cranking out three billion dollars of waste. Why is the committee gone? Because it was cranking out three billion dollars of waste!

FFP: Back to education for a moment: What do you think about Common Core?

KP: I am adamantly opposed to Common Core. It’s more of a curriculum thing—I know some people like the structure of it. I have a background in science, and when we look at education standards in the US versus the other countries, we teach linearly. But when you look at the human brain, it doesn’t think in a straight line. It thinks in colors. The BBC did an interesting program about struggling students, and they taught them how to draw their ideas with curvy colors. These students improved in education, and their self-confidence and behavior improved. We’re teaching with a very archaic system, and we won’t fundamentally change it—we need drastic changes to get our children back on track.

FFP: So the Common Core wouldn’t allow for individual flexibility. Looking at the history of our education system, wealthy industrialists contributed to our educational system, and the mindset was, “we don’t want thinkers; we want assembly line workers.” So it seems we’re still training people to live in the 20th Century.

KP: We have an opportunity here. One pet peeve of public school [in Texas] is in the African American community: these students can hardly speak English, but they are required to speak and write Spanish. Mastering lower education—reading, writing, arithmetic—shouldn’t be too difficult. We are taking away kids’ ability to think on their own. They are being pushed into group think. Math classes now push students to do math in group, four to a table, and have to pass or fail based on what your group comes up with. A straight-A student was upset because she was receiving grades based on what her group did, and she wanted to quit school. These students are mixed together so their grades average out. Luckily in some schools, like in Texas, we still have AP classes, but in some states it’s getting really bad.

FFP: Taking America as a whole, thinking about everything that is happening, what do you think is wrong, and what do we need to do to fix ourselves?

KP: We have a morally bankrupt society. We’re too complacent. We’re going to struggle with that. By electing people who are interested in engaging the public rather than joining the club and making decisions behind closed doors, we will fix some of the complacency part. When the Tea Party started, we had people who had never been involved before, and now we can’t get them to stop being involved. Problem is, there are few people willing to lead on principle.

I’ll go back to one of my legislative priorities. We need to have debate about the UN. I have spent years on the local level pushing back against the international standards being pushed into our community, whether it’s zoning, putting up signs that don’t require people to read and speak English, we’re just seeing the UN dictate the way we plan our cities, the way we interact with international communities, the way we hold our elections. That isn’t what our country is about. The UN has been operating outside its mission system for quite some time. We need to revisit the UN and our involvement in it.

FFP: “Soft tyranny” seems to have the UN written all over it. It’s not the power to overtly destroy, but to make every one play to a lowest common denominator. You don’t have pioneers willing to depart from the norm. It’s hard to see or prove.

KP: I think we can fix the engagement of the American public. We have so many qualified people who would be very good legislators, good on a local, state, and national level—good, solid freedom fighters. But our society is so conditioned in fear, in every aspect. They have us afraid of everything and everyone. The cycle of people stepping out there, like myself, it’s a question of “who is going to take the beating?” Once we break that mold and get more people to fight back… well, human beings follow courage. Nothing has changed with the human psyche, but we’re conditioned to not stir up the pot. Hopefully it’s not too late.

FFP: Looking at a recent Gallup poll, a record number of people said big government is the biggest threat to the country. Big government has always been at the top of the list, well above big business or big labor. So what are we missing? Americans seem to think big government is the problem, but we have a president who won the election and is an advocate for big government.

KP: Republicans have to govern on principle. It’s sort of tragic, what we have on “our” side (if we’re on the side of freedom). We’re not just going to blindly vote for anyone. The perfect example is Mitt Romney. When he ran and knocked out each conservative one at a time, before he won the nomination, he was completely against Obamacare. After he won the Republican primary, he said, “I’ll repeal Obamacare, but I want to replace it.” People didn’t like that.

That spring, Romney got on a microphone and said, “There are some things about Obamacare that we’ll keep.” I talked to hundreds of grassroots leaders in swing states, and millions of those people did not vote. Their reason for not voting? They said that they refused to have Obamacare under a Republican. It wasn’t enough to vote against Obama; they didn’t have a reason to vote for Mitt Romney. That was very telling. I mean, you look at Ted Cruz in Texas. People couldn’t find a reason not to vote for Ted Cruz. He beat all odds. That’s what’s happening. The Republican Party is all talk and no action. They say they’re free market, but they’re not. They’re pro-business. This is not the same as free market. It’s all depending where the money’s coming from. Challenge politicians to define what they mean. They’re saying what they want you to hear, but they’re not saying what they mean. For example, the word “amnesty” is one of those words. It means different things for different people.

FFP: You had been a Tea Party activist in your area, and a grassroots leader. It seems like you’ve reached the point where enough is enough.

KP: I can’t just sit there and walk. I met with my congressman for the better part of the year, tried to explain what conservatives in our district wanted, and he just wasn’t interested. He was only interested in supporting John Boehner. He didn’t want to hear it. He made it seem like we didn’t know what we were talking about. He supports farm bills, amnesty, the NSA, indefinite detention. I couldn’t sit back without challenging him.

FFP: Do you think we need a third party. Could the Tea Party provide a viable option?

KP: I don’t know if the question today is if we need a third party. That’s a question for 2010 or 2011. I think the question today is with Republicans actively trying to stomp out conservative voices and freedom and liberty-minded voices. The question today is if we’re going to be able to stop a third party. I have no idea if the Tea Party is a viable option. There are some people saying the Tea Party was “kind of” right about Obamacare, “kind of” right about privacy. I don’t know if they can recover from all the image damage done to them over the years. I think we’ll know over this next cycle or two if we’ll be able to stop a third party, though I think a third party will be devastating to Republicans. I can’t see organizations backing the Republican Party again after all that’s coming. The Republicans are not governing like Republicans. I hope this election cycle, we can make enough noise to guide the ship back onto the right course.

FFP: John Adams said, “A Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.” Do you think there’s hope for freedom in the future or is it too late?

KP: I think we still have hope. I do believe once it’s gone, it’s gone; I just don’t think we’re there yet. I think we’re in the transition, and it’s going to be up to the American people to make the final decision. That’s why it’s so important to bring these discussions to the American public so they know exactly what’s going on and exactly how these things are happening… like the IRS, DOJ, and NSA scandals.

If Republicans were smart, they would jump on this, bypass the media, and go straight to the people and say “this is what’s happening to you.” The federal government should send a letter to every single person whose cell phone was spied on. Then you would start to see the American people say, “Wait!” The problem is, everything done in DC is kept in DC. Americans have to be touched personally before they get engaged. There has been no accountability on the federal level, there is no one going to the American public. People don’t know what do to, so they say, “Oh well, nothing I can do about it.”

FFP: So do you believe the media isn’t doing its job for the American people?

KP: Absolutely. The media needs to point out how the government isn’t doing its job. There are now three million signatures on petitions against Obamacare. People had no idea what was coming with Obamacare, but because Ted Cruz  and others went to the American public, people are now questioning Obamacare. That’s why they blamed the shutdown on Cruz, but people can see that he was trying to warn us. That was just a month or two ago, and now no one is mad at him anymore—people are thankful to him for informing them. Imagine if all Republicans did that—how much they could inform the American people.

FFP: Is anyone even about small government anymore? The Republicans don’t offer a difference from Democrats.

KP: I wish Republicans would take the anger against conservatives, and use it against the Democrats every once in a while.

FFP: Grover Cleveland once vetoed a bill from Congress aimed at easing severe drought conditions in Texas by spending $10,000 on distributing grain seeds to farmers.

In his veto message, Cleveland said:

I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the general government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering… Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct [individual charity] which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood.

We like some Democrats, but it seems the good ones are gone. Thinking about the Texas Seed Bill, does the federal government have a role to play in easing individual suffering?

KP: It is so not a government duty. Think about how long ago that was and where we are today. We’re the most abundant nation in the world. Not only have we given up our responsibilities, but our churches have, too. Our states have, too. The states are now copying the governing in Washington, DC. Texas’s state budget is now fifty percent federally funded. States are going to go crazy, but it [cutting federally-funded budgets and programs] has to be done. It’s not the federal government’s role to babysit people or states. Responsibility has to be put back on the states.

FFP: It’s exciting to find people like you who are standing up and running for office.

KP: It was not an easy decision to run. I tell people, the good news is I’m not your traditional Republican candidate. I’m not an old rich guy, I’m a single mom. That’s also the bad news. I’m going to go into it fully prepared for a full character assault. Nobody else would step up. I’ve reached the point where, as Thomas Jefferson said, “resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.” I’m young enough that I’m able to recover. If I have to move, I’ll survive. I couldn’t consciously not do anything. Ted Cruz always says, you lose one hundred percent of the battles you don’t fight.

Katrina Pierson is a candidate for the United States Congress in the 32nd District in Texas. Keep track of her at her website, on her Twitter feed, and Facebook.

Budget “Deal” Shows Why You Shouldn’t Trust Politicians to Fix Anything

House Republican Paul Ryan and Senate Democrat Pat Murray proudly emerged from crafting their back-room budget deal. Finally, an end to the dreaded “sequester” budget cuts that were promised to be so intense and so devastating that the sky might literally fall if they were enacted. Finally, an end to the threat of another government shut down when the continuing resolution passed in October expires in mid-January.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor praised Ryan for “the hard work behind trying to get a deal in this divided government we’re in.”

Speaker John Boehner was so angry that conservatives in his caucus weren’t widely supporting the budget deal, he yelled “Are you kidding me?” at one point into a microphone at his press conference earlier today.

That’s funny. We think the question really should be asked of him and those who support the budget “deal” and think that something meaningful has actually been accomplished.  Maybe a better question is “who are you trying to kid?”

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office scores the deficit impact of the laws Congress passes.  They evaluated this budget deal and reported the law would result in about $150 billion in deficit reductions. Over ten years.

Of course Representatives have two-year terms–meaning there will be five elections between now and the end of this projection. Even the Senate will go through nearly two full election cycles of its members during this timeline. What is the chance that the cuts enacted will be left in place? If you need a hint, the budget cuts that went into effect January 2, 2013 lasted until…well until about today, so not even a full year. What’s the likelihood that budget cuts enacted ten years from now actually remain in place?

This is the dishonesty of budget projections. All the budget pain is in the later years of the timeline. But politicians claim to have made “the hard choices” now and done “the hard work” now of getting a deal done today. They’re hoping you don’t notice when the cuts go into effect.

The “hard choice” made in the House today is to make NO change to the projected deficit in 2014. That’s right. Zero change. All changes take place after 2014. And we know 2014 is an election year, meaning in 2015, fresh faces in Congress may alter this budget blueprint at will.

The pie chart below shows the dollar value of deficit cuts in each year of the budget plan.  Yes, 2014, the year when Congress could have actually enacted something that would stick, is zero. As each year passes, the likelihood of the cuts remaining in place drops–so we shaded the chart to reflect lighter pie slices until 2023 when the final slice is a pale white-green color.

Seventy cents of every dollar in proposed cuts won’t take place until after the 5 year mid-point (2019) of the budget plan. We won’t even have the same president by then. The remaining 30 cents in cuts will be realized between 2015 and 2019.

But the size of the cuts themselves are unbelievably small. Sure, politicians will claim to have cut the deficit by $150 billion (…*cough*overtenyears*cough*…)

But what does that mean? Even if every penny that is proposed to be on the budget chopping block remains on the chopping block, the size of the cuts is insignificant.

Over the same 10 year period where Republicans and Democrats are slapping each other on the back over their $150 billion in deficit reductions (…*cough*overtenyears*cough*…) your government is expected to spend some $46.6 TRILLION. Suddenly the $150 billion in reductions (your turn! *cough*overtenyears*cough) is little more than an insignificant rounding error–just 0.3% of funds to be spent.

We colored the area of the rectangle below green in a sea of red to represent the value of the cuts as a percentage of expected spending. You might need to zoom in to find the cuts.

This inability of Congress to address the country’s fiscal woes will lead to economic ruin in the form of crippling tax increases, inflation, and a damaged US Dollar in foreign currency markets. These effects in turn limit the freedom we have to enjoy a fruitful and prosperous lifestyle as we have less disposable income, must pay more for basic goods and services with the money the government was gracious enough not to tax, and an inability to afford goods and services that are not produced here.

All of which begs the question of Speaker Boehner and those who voted for the measure, “Are you kidding us?”

Book Review: Emily Gets Her Gun…But Barack Obama Wants to Take Yours by Emily Miller

Emily Gets Her Gun: But Barack Obama Wants To Take Yours (Regnery Publishing) is the story of Emily Miller’s personal experience and observations in navigating the convoluted, hostile, and even incompetent District of Columbia bureaucracy in order to secure her constitutional right to legally own a firearm in her home of Washington, D.C. The book is definitely worth your time, especially if you value your Second Amendment rights to own firearms.  You’ll learn a lot of “need to know” facts about legal gun ownership and information needed to effectively defend your right to “keep and bear arms” when dealing with political figures and “reasonable gun control” advocates who propose policies that are anything but reasonable.

Emily Miller is a journalist and a resident of Washington, D.C. One day she found herself defenseless as criminals broke into a friend’s home as she was house-sitting. Emily decided to follow the District’s process for purchasing and possessing a legal firearm in Washington, D.C., which turned out to be no small feat. The book is a nonfiction account of her journey (of several months) to navigate the city’s red-tape aimed at making legal handgun possession too difficult for most people to achieve.

The narrative is told in alternating chapters. Miller alternates retelling her personal journey for firearm possession with commentary on recent incidents involving politicians and the media, many of whom seem to be aimed at grabbing the guns of law-abiding Americans. Emily’s writing style is easy to understand—it’s almost as if she’s sitting down with you for a one-on-one chat about her experiences. The speeches, laws, and documents she cites are extensively documented, so it’s easy to do further research on any of the points she makes and references she uses.

As an example, here are some statistics she provides in her book:

  • 1 of 4 registered voters believes stricter gun control laws will reduce firearm-related violence. Nearly 1 in 3 Americans owns a gun. There are also 8 million concealed-carry permit holders in the U.S., according to a Government Accountability Office study released in July 2012. (p. 19)
  • Rank and file law enforcement do not support more gun-control laws. PoliceOne did an extensive survey of 15,000 active and retired law enforcement officers across the country in March 2013. When asked what kind of effect a ban on “assault weapons” would have on crime, 71% said “none.” Another 21% said such a ban on guns based on cosmetic appearance would make crime worsen (p. 45)
  • All rifles, whether or not they have the cosmetic features, accounted for only 323 of the 12,664 homicides in the United States in 2011.…Twice as many people—728—were killed by attackers using hands and feet as by all types of rifles. Yet no one is calling for an assault-fist ban. (pp. 46-47)
  • The CDC task force concluded that “evidence was insufficient to determine the effectiveness” of the “high-capacity magazine” ban. According to a Justice Department study released in May 2013, the number of criminal shootings (fatal and nonfatal) has decreased 7% since the decade-long federal ban on “high-capacity” ammunition devices expired in 2004. (p. 65)100 million gun owners own 300 million firearms in our nation. 47% of Americans self-report having a gun in the home, according to a Gallup poll released in October 2011. That number was up from 41% a year earlier and the highest Gallup has recorded since 1993. (pp.155-156)
  • Sturm, Ruger & Co.’s stock was $5.29 on the day Obama was elected in 2008.  On June 3, 2013, the Ruger stock was at $51.02. That is a jaw-dropping 864% increase. Don’t you wish you’d bought that stock? (p.159)
  • About 30,000 people are killed by firearms a year—two-thirds are suicides—while guns are used to prevent crimes as often as two million times a year. (p. 193)
  • The two cities with the stiffest gun control laws—D.C. and Chicago—had increasing crime. Murders in the Windy City were up 16 percent in 2012 to 506 people. And there were 2,460 shooting incidents—a 10 percent increase from the previous year. (p. 199)
  • By a 2 to 1 margin, Americans favor armed security guards and police in more schools, according to the Pew Research Center. (p. 275)
  • 2 out of 3 voters say the Second Amendment was, in fact, intended to protect them from tyranny, according to a Rasmussen poll. Only 17% disagreed. (p. 276)
I met Emily Miller at a book signing earlier this fall. I was amazed by how crowded her signing was!

We met Emily Miller at a book signing earlier this fall. We were amazed by how crowded her signing was!

Her personal journey to legally register a gun is frustrating, to say the least. She had to spend hundreds of dollars in fees (not counting the purchase of the actual gun), take time off work, navigate through a web of city officials ignorant of the actual laws and regulations, and jump through many hoops—when in the very same city, criminals and non-criminals alike refuse to register their guns. Emily proves time and again, that only the law-abiding citizens are being punished by strict gun-control measures.

But the focus isn’t just about guns. The last paragraph summarizes Emily’s primary purpose for writing the book. While the main topic is her fight for personal gun rights, the last line (and our favorite!) is, “A gun is just a tool. The fight is for freedom.” Before experiencing the frightening break-in at her friend’s house, Miller had never shot or even held a gun before. Her motive throughout the book is emphasized as wanting to help law-abiding citizens secure the same rights that criminals seem to have—the ability to own a firearm. She notes how anti-gun legislation doesn’t make anyone safer; it simply removes freedoms.

Throughout the book, she also explains how many of the politicians and “anti-gun” advocates seem to know little, if anything, about guns. For instance, many anti-gun lobbyists seem to believe that Americans can still purchase automatic weapons (think: Rambo). She reminds the reader that the most “dangerous” weapons Americans can possess are semi-automatic, meaning one trigger pull equals one bullet.

She also points out that many gun laws seem arbitrary. For instance, when legislation was recently passed in New York, politicians mandated that residents could possess magazines able to hold no more than seven bullets. Had they done their research, they would have seen that seven-bullet magazines generally don’t exist for most handgun caliber models. The law was amended to allow residents to legally possess magazines that hold ten rounds, but lawmakers still restricted law-abiding citizens to only filling the magazine with no more than seven bullets. As she points out—a criminal will not abide by the law and will (a) secure even higher-capacity magazines by any means possible and (b) will not think twice about placing more than seven bullets in the magazine.

This point, that laws restricting gun rights only hurt law-abiding citizens, is a common theme running through the book. Emily provides examples to illustrate this point time and again in her book.

She also discusses the arbitrary nature of some of the “assault weapons” legislation aimed at limiting the types of weapons people may purchase. But non-functional, even completely cosmetic features of some guns are sometimes enough to earn them a place on an “assault weapon” ban list as defined in some state or city laws.

The gun Emily chose to purchase, for instance, is permitted in the District of Columbia in all black, or in black with a silver accent. But the same exact model was not allowed in the “Scorpion” version. The difference is cosmetic. The “outlawed” version is earth-toned tan. Imagine going to a car dealership to purchase a car, but finding out that you can only buy a white or gray one–red, and black, forget it–too dangerous!

The same is true for rifles. Many assault weapons are banned simply for having one or more cosmetic features. The type of grip, for instance, could make one gun outlawed but another, of the same exact caliber and functionality, would be legal. Adjustable stocks are also a big “no no” when it comes to a weapon’s legal status. It’s ironic that an adjustable stock simply makes it easier for a smaller person—such as a female—to comfortably hold the gun. Things like adjustable stocks and variable grip positions do not give criminals any advantage. Rather, they help people most in need of protection—such as petite women—hold the gun more safely and effectively if the weapon has to be used against a criminal. Once again, the people creating the laws seem to have no practical knowledge of guns, or what specifically makes them dangerous.

As is proven many times in the book, none of the laws deter criminals from possessing or using guns. The point is—criminals are criminals. Murder and theft are already illegal. Criminals ignore those laws. Even police officers surveyed admit that gun bans and stricter gun laws have little impact on criminals using guns. In fact, politicians usually ignore the most important points, which is that there already is a background system check in place for gun purchasers. The “gun show loophole” only actually allows an extremely small percentage of people to buy guns without a background check. Mental health checks—largely ignored, as states fail to upload important mental health data into a  national background check system that already exists—are the most important factor of keeping guns out of the hands of people who would most likely misuse them.

There’s also the argument that gun-free zones become like a playground for criminals. Knowing they won’t be confronted by any citizens who can lawfully conceal-carry a handgun, criminals feel free to shoot as many people as they like without fearing consequences. Just look at the crime rates in Washington, D.C., and Chicago. Miller also makes the point that even though gun sales have skyrocketed lately (with the threat of gun bans), crime has been steadily decreasing. Increased gun ownership has not increased gun-related crime.

The examples go on and on. (Someone could write a book! Oh wait, someone has!)

Toward the end of the book, Miller cites examples of seemingly arbitrary and capricious enforcement of gun laws, some aimed at veterans arrested for arbitrary reasons—one for having three unregistered guns in the city, one for having several loose rounds in the bottom of a backpack (but having no weapon). She also demonstrates how celebrities and people with political connections do not have to go through the same scrutiny. For both examples above, veterans were subjected to extensive legal fees, undue stress, even jail time though they committed no actual crimes and were eventually cleared of (most of) the charges.

Miller notes that she could easily move to Virginia, where gun laws are much more fair to law-abiding citizens, but she chooses not to: she wants to stay in Washington, D.C., and continue her fight for gun rights. She notes that, although she is allowed to keep her gun in her home, she is not allowed to carry it outside, even into the lobby of her apartment building. Along her journey to become legally armed, she has met many people who have confided in her, and her goal continues to be helping others exercise their Second Amendment Rights without unnecessary restrictions. Emily is truly a freedom fighter, and one worthy of two thumbs up from Freedom Forge Press.

Published by Regnery Publishing.

Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million

Cover Courtesy of Regnery Publishing

This…Actually Won Money…Money…Money…

The US Department of Health and Human Services and Young Invincibles teamed up to spend a sum of some thousands (we think $5,000 but it’s not clear, if you can interpret the beaucra-speak from the contest prizes rules and press release let us know) on this mess…

Even the White House joined in the fun of ripping off a pop song to try to turn it into political propaganda for an age group that so far  is largely not interested in buying into Obamacare.

Here’s why the video isn’t worth whatever price the government and its unwitting partner paid:

1. The video, which received financial compensation, makes heavy and unattributed use of a copyrighted song by Jessie J without attribution. We’re pretty sure if a Tea Party group had used a copyrighted song to illustrate a point against the Affordable Care Act, that concerted teams of IRS agents, left-wing activists, media types, lawyers, FBI swat teams, heavily armed Predator drones, even Eric Holder himself would descend on the Tea Party group to capture those involved and dispense whatever mob justice seemed appropriate at the time.

2. The video’s chorus asks you to “Forget About the Price Tag” for a program that’s been plagued with upward cost estimate revisions since the president claimed it would cost only $90 billion per year. Coming up on 5 years and 5 revisions later the current estimate stands at $2.7 trillion (3 times the president’s original figure) factored in a 10-year CBO projection. Forget about that price tag, indeed…

3. The program’s signature product website cost taxpayers more than $600 million, and was nowhere near ready for prime time on the administration’s launch date of October 1 of this year. Negligence and gross mismanagement abounded, but no one has been held accountable. But forget about the price tag; we guess it “ain’t about the uh-cha-ching cha-ching.”

4. Speaking of “cha-ching cha-ching,” the $600 million the federal government blew on a non-working website still has NO payment transfer mechanism to pay insurance companies those subsidies the federal government promised. As one observer has pointed out, the Armed Forces of the United States mobilized, deployed, fought, and defeated the Axis Powers, winning World War II in less time than it took the government to develop a non-functional website.

5. In a lilting exhortation, our singer says “there’s no excuse to be uninsured.” But the law applies to all Americans. You get a government-approved health plan, or you get fined. But “just stop for a minute to think.”  Do the super-wealthy like Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerberg, and Warren Buffet really need to purchase individual health insurance?

6. “Keep your mind at ease and get some security.” Like the 5 million+ people who had an individual health insurance policy and have had their plans cancelled due to the Obama Administration’s implementing regulations for the Affordable Care Act? But don’t worry about the “yeah bla-bling bla-bling”!

7. “We just wanna make it more fair with affordable health caaaare.”  But having an insurance policy that has the Obama administration’s gold (or maybe even red!) star seal of approval, does NOT mean you will be getting any health caaaare. It means you have coverage and now have to find a doctor that participates with that insurance program.

8. When coverage expands? Well coverage so far has only contracted with millions of cancellation notices and the president’s extra-legal request that insurers extend policies that his law, as his administration has chosen to implement it, are barred from having…  Even as Obamacare enters maturity as a federal program, the CBO projects we will still have 30 million some uninsured Americans.  But wasn’t that close to the number of uninsured before the government seized control of the health insurance industry?

9. “Take advantage of this opportunity!” What opportunity? Insurance actuarial tables work thusly: a population or risk pool pays premiums. Premiums are used to pay for the bad things that happen to members of the risk pool. Young people in general have far fewer health care requirements–and thus many could benefit from a plan offering catastrophic coverage and socking money into a Health Savings Account, which they control, for later in life when their needs, unfortunately, are destined to change. But like Social Security, the young are paying higher premiums into a program that will pay NOW for sicker people and will not have enough future money coming in to pay for the young when they advance in age and require more costly care.

10. “Why is everyone so oblivious?” Well, many aren’t. A recent poll suggests that only 1 in 4 young people (the target of the video) plan to sign up for “Obamacare,” suggesting that at least the remaining 3 out of 4 aren’t so oblivious and can do the simple math above and see that the program is not a good deal for them. It’s too bad we can’t count the video author among the un-oblivious.

11. “I know we’re in our prime. About time we opened our eyes.” Agreed!

We think the video’s author, Erin McDonald, could have gotten more benefit and closer to the truth if she had stuck with words from the original song:

“Seems like everybody’s got a price” (Like the Louisiana Purchase–Right, Sen Landrieu?)

“…when the sale comes first, and the truth comes second” (Ain’t that the truth? Right, Pres Obama? And your close to 40 recorded promises of “if you like your doctor/health plan you can keep your doctor/health plan.”

“It’s not about the money, money, money//We don’t need your money, money, money.” While Obamacare is precisely about the money, money, money, we’d much prefer a government that espoused this idea!

“Money can’t buy us happiness//can we all slow down and enjoy right now.” This sounds an awful lot like freedom to us. If government would stop worrying about what you and I do with our money and stop trying to steal it to buy votes, corruption, and political power, perhaps we could all just “make the world dance.”

Health Law Disproves Obama’s Rejection of “The Voices”

In May of this year at a commencement address, the president did his best to cast dispersions on his critics who say that government is too big and that tyranny lurks around the corner. The “voices” of criticism need to be rejected. Rejected because they have no validity. “Voices” warning of tyranny need to be rejected. Rejected because there is no truth to them of course. The “voices” aren’t even deserving of names–despite the fact that millions of people believe what the “voices” warn against. Because to give the “voices” an identity humanizes them and gives some sense of legitimacy to their concerns and their cause.

The Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) provides a confirmation of what the “voices” warn against: that tyranny may indeed be around the corner. That perhaps the “voices” should not be rejected but should be heeded

Tyranny is the exercise of power by a king, despot, or government that is either cruel, arbitrary, or both.  During the Affordable Care Act legislative debates in 2009, an amendment was added to the bill that requires members of Congress and their staff to purchase health insurance plans from the exchanges.

Various news reports confirmed that over the summer, the president personally involved himself in how the law should be applied to Congress. The decision he made, via the Office of Personnel Management, was that taxpayers would pay a subsidy for senators, congressman, and their staff members.

The president has been stating since the beginning of the healthcare debate and continues to say that his signature law lowered insurance premiums for people who will buy insurance on the healthcare exchanges. So if the president and many who support the healthcare law truly believe that the rates are on their way down (by as much as 3000% the president exclaimed in one speech), then why was it so important for taxpayers to provide a subsidy to elected officials? [Of course the premiums are not going down. The promised savings are turning out to actually be an increased cost.]

Why does Congress deserve special treatment? So much so that the president made the law say what he wanted it to say with regard to subsidies for Congress. If they really wanted to raid the public treasury to pay for their healthcare costs, all they need do is pass a law to that effect. The president meanwhile exercised power he doesn’t have, to alter a law he didn’t like. It wasn’t the only aspect of the law he took it upon himself to enact–he also granted a one year delay for large businesses to comply.

Republicans recently made the argument that this exemption should also be extended to small businesses and to individuals, and be enacted as a law instead of relying on a presidential whim. But the president and his party did not want to negotiate that point.

So in effect we have the president, arbitrarily altering provisions of his own law when politically advantageous to him and offering unequal treatment to different classes of citizens. And we have Congress not living under the laws that it passes. Where are the subsidies (again, written into the law by the president and his administration–not authorized by Congress) for people who share similar income levels as Congress and their staff? Why are elected officials deserving of subsidies when the people who actually pay taxes are not?

All of which leads us to what James Madison wrote in Federalist 57:

I will add…in the situation of the House of Representatives, restraining them from oppressive measures, that they can make no law which will not have its full operation on themselves and their friends, as well as on the great mass of the society. This has always been deemed one of the strongest bonds by which human policy can connect the rulers and the people together. It creates between them that communion of interests and sympathy of sentiments, of which few governments have furnished examples; but without which every government degenerates into tyranny. If it be asked, what is to restrain the House of Representatives from making legal discriminations in favor of themselves and a particular class of the society? I answer: the genius of the whole system; the nature of just and constitutional laws; and above all, the vigilant and manly spirit which actuates the people of America — a spirit which nourishes freedom, and in return is nourished by it.

If this spirit shall ever be so far debased as to tolerate a law not obligatory on the legislature, as well as on the people, the people will be prepared to tolerate any thing but liberty.

In the health care law, we have a law the congress did not have the constitutional authority to enact, a law the president had no authority to sign, and a law the supreme court had no authority to uphold as a tax.

It is up to the people to vote out those political actors who promote themselves above the constitution and the rule of law. It is up to us to insist that politicians and people in government live by the same laws that they require the rest of us to live by.

Voters must consider whether to elect politicians who will repeal the Affordable Care Act or not. But regardless of that decision, the only acceptable outcome is for Obamacare to be applied to all three branches of government. The president, all members of congress, the justices of the supreme court and their families should all get the same opportunity as the rest of us to log into the non-functioning website and begin the tedious process of selecting an insurance provider or preparing to be guilty of not complying with the law and paying a fine. Without raiding taxpayer’s wallets for subsidies for themselves.

“That Government of the People, by the People, for the People, Shall Not Perish from the Earth”

Seven and a half score (150) years ago, Abraham Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address, commemorating the Battle of Gettysburg in the American Civil War.

He closed his speech by saying:

“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Fast forward from 1863 to 2013 and consider a Fox News Poll released yesterday 10/3. The last question of the poll is disheartening: “In the United States, the people are supposed to be in charge of the government. What do you think is happening today?”  Eighty-eight percent of those polled said “the government is in charge of the people.” Eight percent said the people are in charge of the government.

Set aside any passions you may have for the new healthcare law or the government shutdown for a moment and consider where “We the People” currently stand in our relationship with our federal government:

-It openly admits, in glaring contrast to the guarantees of the Fourth Amendment of Constitution, to a domestic spying program, with surveillance of American citizens’ web-browsing, email, and telephone calls.

-It has mortgaged the future of young Americans, amassing $17 TRILLION in debt and another $126 TRILLION in promises made to current tax payers with no realistic ability to pay them.

-It has hoarded an arsenal of billions of rounds of ammunition–more than would be needed for 24 Iraq Wars, and refuses to provide a justification for the purpose for such purchases. (With one purchasing official advocating a race war and still on paid leave…)

-It has, via the Internal Revenue Service, engaged in active harassment, tax audits, and discrimination against persons and organizations who do not agree with the current administration’s political views and policies.

-It has engaged in armed raids on private property, using heavily armed tactical agents at civilian agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency.

-it has enacted a complex, confiscatory, and redistributive scheme of federal taxation, spanning nearly 74,000 pages, ensuring that even honest, law-abiding citizens are guilty of some unintended offense.

-It has denied farmers operating on federally managed lands their proper allocation of water because of rabid adherence to an arbitrary environmental policy.

-It has engaged in surveillance of journalists, with a keen interest in those who do not support the current administration’s politics.

The list could go on and on and on. And as the details of the anti-constitutional Affordable Care Act become known, the government is going to assert more control than ever before over the supply and demand of medical services. To make matters worse, enforcement of the ACA will be overseen by the same agency that has a documented history of bias against the current administration’s political opponents.

All this begs the original question from the poll: Should the government be in charge of its citizens, or should the citizens be in charge of the government? Are Americans citizens, or are they subjects ruled by their betters from a dysfunctional and corrupt capital?

Reading the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, we know that the United States federal government was established for one purpose:

(Declaration of Independence): We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

(US Constitution): We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

It is time to remind government of their purpose. By calling, tweeting, “Facebooking”, and writing to your elected officials at all levels, by holding them accountable with your votes, and by speaking out against government injustice, we the people must retake our birthright of freedom and ensure that it is the government who works for us, and not we who work for them.

John Quincy Adams once remarked, “Posterity: you will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it.” And so we must. We must make good use of our freedom. We must do our part now to ensure “that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

US Senate Says “Presto” And Free Money Appears!

Senate Proposed Marketplace “Fairness” Act Limits Personal Freedom, Choice

Freedom Forge Press

Yesterday the US Senate approved its version of the “Marketplace Fairness Act.” The proposed law seeks to require online retailers to collect and pay sales taxes to state and local jurisdictions. On the face of it, it seems like a good idea. After all, shouldn’t individuals buying goods across state lines have to pay sales tax? It’s only fair because if they went to their local store they would have to pay sales tax. Right? People who rudely seek a deal across state lines rob schools, police, and firefighters of their state and local tax funding.

Enter Senators Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming), Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), Dick Durban (D-Illinois), and Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota) with the “Marketplace Fairness Act,” which should be renamed the “Free Money from Thin Air Act.”

In the world before the bill, retailers did not have to collect and pay sales taxes on goods sold online to out of state customers. That is, unless, and we are over simplifying here, a) the seller had a physical location in the same state as the buyer; or b) the seller’s state had an agreement with the buyer’s state that would require sales taxes to be collected and paid to the buyer’s state.

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) is one group lobbying Congress in favor of the law.  According to the NCSL, states lost an estimated $23.3 billion in 2012 alone from their inability to collect taxes on online and out-of-state purchases. $11.4 billion of that figure is estimated to be lost from an inability to tax online sales. To make up for lost revenue, many states passed “sales and use” tax filing requirements. When filing state tax returns, residents would have to report on the amount of goods and services they purchased from outside their home state and pay their state’s sales tax. That attempt was about as successful as starting a fire with two wet sticks.

As a solution, states could opt to step up enforcement on their own residents who were not paying the sales and use taxes.  But we can only imagine how well the voting public would reward their politicians for dumping this increased tax bill on their laps. Plan B would be to impose the tax collection requirements on the seller of the goods and services. This is a more attractive option for politicians because the out of state sellers often have no local representation and no ability to hold politicians accountable for their actions. The only problem to date has been that if the seller resides in another state it is well outside the reach of the clutches of the home state’s taxing agency thanks a Supreme Court ruling that said such taxation was not constitutional unless authorized by Congress,

Enter the Senate with its “Free Money from Thin Air Act,” which if passed by the House of Representatives and signed by the president would provide the very authorization needed to overrule the Supreme Court and permit states to levy taxes on out of state businesses.

And it is only out of fairness (the bill’s name is the Marketplace FairnessAct didn’t you know?!) that states are requiring out of state Internet sellers collect and pay the same taxes as their in-state competitors. The politicians say it’s very unfair for the “bricks and mortar” store to have to inconvenience their customers by collecting taxes when the buyer can order the same item from an out of state online seller and avoid the sales tax. This argument completely overlooks the problem of shipping costs from the out of state seller’s point of view. Many customers have come to expect free shipping from online retailers. So adding a local sales tax on top of a shipping cost will place the online out of state store at a disadvantage. Where is the “fairness” now?

More than once, advocates of the law say, it’s not a new tax, it’s a “due” tax. But if the tax bill hasn’t been collected in the past, it seems like the Senate is expecting the $23 billion to materialize out of thin air–with no impact to consumers. If the issue is state budget pressures, one solution could be to stop dumping unfunded mandates (e.g., Obamacare) onto state budgets. This would relieve the pressure from state budgets without expecting consumers to fork over another $23 billion in “taxes due.”

Of course there’s no reasonable way to comply with the law without some complex tax accounting software. This may explain why made a sudden U-turn from its vigorous opposition to applying state and local taxes to its sales and now supports the law. Trying to find the answer to this reversal and new found friend for politicians doesn’t require much sleuthing. Amazon isn’t looking for tax fairness, it’s looking for customers. Amazon’s convenient new Tax Collection Services offers online merchants a convenient 3% fee for figuring out all that tax mess.  Three percent of $11.4 billion is likely a rich enough potential customer base to come out in support of the new taxing measure.

As usual, Congress, and in this case Democrats and several Republicans in the Senate show an abysmal intelligence of how commerce works outside of their DC dreamland. A few oversights that the Senate made:

1. Complexity. Suddenly, online retailers would be required to have a working knowledge of nearly 9,600 state and local tax laws and regulations affecting everything from different tax rates for different goods and whether certain items are exempted from sales taxes.

2. Enforcement. The bill authorizes state taxing authorities to target online retailers with audits to verify compliance. Businesses simply do not have the financial resources to put into defending and answering auditor’s questions from a variety of taxing authorities.  Not to mention that responding to audits takes them away from much more efficient uses of their time, like running their businesses. The Senate was generous to limit the audits to one from each state. (The Government speak looks like this: “single audit of a remote seller for all State and local taxing jurisdictions within that State”)

3. Ambiguity over what a “State” means. Most people grew up (at least those who were in school since 1959) understanding there are 50 states. This bill extends the “state” definition to include the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, US Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, and “and any other territory or possession of the United States.”

4. Native American Tribes recognized as state taxing authorities. “And any tribal organization (as defined in 18 section 4 of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (25 U.S.C. 450b)).” There are 566 such tribal organizations.

5. What does an “audit” mean. State taxing authorities–to include the 550 new states the Senate found–can engage in all kinds of harassment of businesses without initiating a formal audit.

The bill introduced by Sen. Enzi was supposed to limit a small business’s risk of visits from state tax auditors to one per state. But with final bill markup, a small business is potentially at risk of more than 600 audits with the expanded definition of what a “state taxing authority” means.

The Wall Street Journal reports asking Senator Enzi’s office for clarification on the above issue. When the answer (today!) was that the Senator was still trying to figure out the answer when the bill was passed last night reminds us of the “have to pass the bill in order to find out what’s in it” stupidity started by then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi when referring to ambiguity in the Affordable Care Act.

The proposed law serves as another example of Washington ignorance of the private economy. It also illustrates the politicians’ ongoing search for free money at the expense of the freedom of small business owners who operate across state lines. While the search goes ever on and on, 69 Senators waved a magic wand and expected “free money” to come flying out of a magician’s hat. Sixty-nine Senators want you the taxpayer to believe their illusion that they’ve found a cost-free way to fund state and local budgets without harming consumers–ignoring the fact that the money will come from somewhere.

These politicians think they’ve done their part to spread the pain of state and local sales tax in a way that makes the process “more fair” for brick and mortar and online retailers. But they’ve failed to consider a more reasonable alternative–that instead of simply spreading around the tax pain, they could have acted to reduce or eliminate the tax pain by eliminating wasteful spending, ending duplicate government programs, and pretending that unfunded federal mandates such as education, Obamacare, and environmental regulations magically fund themselves

Freedom Proposal #1

To start the year with the appropriate bang, we propose ending pensions for Congress. Immediately. Being a Member of Congress was not intended to become a way of life, and the idea of a “professional politician” is one that stinks like…well like over-ripened sauerkraut at New Year’s. It’s time we gave professional politicians an incentive to shorten their stays in America’s legislative body, and take some time out of their busy schedules of campaigning, fund raising, and passing bad laws in order to live under the laws that they’ve created.According to the Congressional Research Service, taxpayers are footing pension bills for some 495 retired members of Congress. If you actually want to read up on how Congressional pensions are calculated, good luck. The report we’ve linked you to above takes about 20 pages to go through the various options, permutations, and categories of pension benefits. Of course a pension benefit is impossible to calculate to an exact figure. This depends on each recipients years in office, their salary while there, which retirement system they paid into, and how long they plan to live after leaving office.

As of 2011, the annual estimated bill for these retired Congress critters is some $28,282,440 per year. This is an annual pension payment. By our reckoning it doesn’t include retirement matching funds paid by taxpayers into individual retirement accounts during a member’s term of office (called a “Thrift Savings Plan”), does not include health benefits paid by taxpayers via the Federal Employee Health Benefit plan, and does not include pension death benefits that are paid to surviving spouses of deceased congressmen and senators.  All that to say: the $28.2 million price tag we apply to this proposal is probably a low-ball number.

Eliminating an unnecessary pension expense frees taxpayers from the financial burden of paying congressmen and women for the less than lusterful work they perform. But more importantly, if the idea succeeds in encouraging politicians to leave office before they become too entrenched in the culture of Washington waste, this has the potential to save much more than the sum of the pension checks. Imagine if some questionable laws would be passed if congressmen had to go home and actually live under the laws they passed. Would they still write multi-thousand page laws that leave still more thousands of pages of regulations to be written and imposed on business owners and citizens?

For our first proposal, we estimate a conservative savings of $28,282,440 to the taxpayer. Not a bad way to start the year!


Photo Credit: bclinesmith

Udderly Ridiculous

The federal government is at it again–meddling in the private marketplace, creating messes, and then trying to sell shoddy, temporary solutions in exchange for people forgetting about the freedom that the government has taken from them.

Recent media stories have stated that if Congress doesn’t act, the price of milk could skyrocket, perhaps more than double from a current average of $3.20 per gallon to more than $7.00 per gallon. What?! You may be asking yourself, why in the world would the price of milk require Congress to pass a law?

Politically motivated simpletons playing at “TV news reporter” wasted no time trying to fan the flames by working up headlines like “GOP Obstinacy May Force Milk Price Spike.” Any honest-minded reporter worthy of the title would have the intellectual honesty to ask how we arrived in our present situation instead of trying a sucker punch to score cheap political points.

As it turns out, more than 60 years ago, Congress passed a law called the Agricultural Act of 1949.  The law gave the federal government the authority and responsibility to “stabilize” the market prices of milk and a variety of other farm products. Government used its extensive knowledge of market forces in agricultural production, such as labor inputs and land yields, to establish a government-mandated formula that would establish a price floor for farm commodities. If the price of milk fell below the “stabilization rate” the federal government could, via the Commodity Credit Corporation (an agency still in existence today), buy up inventories of milk to artificially raise the price of milk to the price the government deemed to be the correct (or “stabilized”) price. The government would then give away the milk it purchased to “friendly countries” or approved non-governmental organizations to further distribute.

Some may say helping farmers makes sense and is worthy of a government program, funded by taxpayers. A price guarantee is a great thing if you’re a farmer–not such a great deal if you’re a taxpayer. The statist response goes something like, “well you like to eat don’t you? So you should be willing to have your taxes support farmers.” But this  argument completely ignores the dynamic facets of a free market system. If enough farmers go bust to affect the food supply, prices will rise and attract new suppliers into the marketplace.

The point is that a free market system that is unfettered by government interference is the most efficient way to allocate resources. The federal government is not smart enough to effectively formulate a one-size-fits-all solution to an agricultural market with multiple commodities.

As time has gone on and agricultural methods have shifted away from labor in favor of machines, the federal pricing formula has…remained the same. More than half a century after original passage, the same funding formula remains in effect as a permanent law. The federal law has made less and less sense over time. Of course Congress’s response to an out-of-date law wasn’t to repeal it, it was to pass temporary waivers and exclusions to the permanent law.

An adequate analogy is to think of a nasty house with a nasty plumbing problem that backs up sewage into the house. If Congress owned this house, instead of fixing the plumbing, it would spray air freshener whenever the air became too foul to breathe, and pretend like this was a permanent solution.

Recently, Republicans had the opportunity to repeal the bad law when they held both houses of Congress in the mid 2000s. They failed and kicked the can down the road. Democrats had a similar opportunity in 2009 when they held both houses of Congress (as well as the White House), but again failed to act.

It seems to us that rather than fixing problems, Congress is happy to be a malpracticing contractor who creates more problems than it fixes–but continues to charge for its shoddy services in terms of taking more taxes and more freedoms from the people they are supposed to be serving. The government solving rather than creating a problem? That will probably happen when cows learn to fly.

Photo Credit: Sin Amigos at