Category Archives: Congress
Ethics attorneys Richard Painter, Chief Ethics Counsel for George W. Bush, and Norman Eisen, Chief Ethics Counsel for Barack Obama, have both taken the position that if Donald Trump does not sell his businesses and place his assets into a blind trust by December 19, the electors of the electoral college MUST REJECT HIM because he will be in violation of Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution from Day One of his Presidency.
Harvard Law Professor Larry Tribe, a scholar in constitutional law, agrees with those ethics attorneys and has stated that “Trump’s ongoing business dealings around the world would make him the recipient of constitutionally prohibited ‘Emoluments’ from ‘any King, Prince, or foreign State’ — in the original sense of payments and not necessarily presents or gifts — from the very moment he takes the oath.” One of the main purposes of the electoral college is to assure that a qualified person sits as President. In other words, the electors are not there to simply rubber-stamp a candidate. Tribe stated ““[T]o vote for Trump in the absence of such complete divestment… would represent an abdication of the solemn duties of the 538 Electors.” Read the entire article here:
Up to now, those who are fighting against a Trump Presidency have been asking electors to honor the will of the majority of Americans and vote for Clinton or to vote for what is “right”. This legal conclusion regarding the applicability of Article 1, Sec. 9 of the Constitution, however, changes everything. There is an ENORMOUS difference between a Constitutional provision that requires electors to reject Trump as President and asking them to vote their conscience or with the popular vote.
The Founding Fathers created the Electoral College because “[T]hey feared a tyrant could manipulate public opinion and come to power [and they] believed that the electors would be able to insure that only a qualified person becomes President. They believed that with the Electoral College no one would be able to manipulate the citizenry. It would act as check on an electorate that might be duped.” March Schulman at HistoryCentral (an educational site that has been online for over 20 years) explaining Hamilton’s Federalist papers.
Donald Trump is EXACTLY the kind of person who the Founding Fathers sought to protect us from – a tyrant who manipulated public opinion, possibly in collusion with Russia, to gain power and who is absolutely unqualified to sit as President. If that was not clear to some prior to the election, it is absolutely clear now.
- Russia’s interference with the Presidential election for the purpose of getting Trump elected has been established. Yet, despite the evidence, Trump continues to deny Russian involvement. That, alone, should invalidate Trump’s win.
- His selection of cabinet members and those who will be in charge of some of the most important agencies of the government is frightening and clearly not in the best interests of the people. Steven Bannon, alt-right promoter and supporter, as Chief Strategist, Mike Pompeo, Tea Party Member, for CIA Director, Michael Flynn, who has promoted fake conspiracy theories and has ties to Russia, for National Security Director, – just these three would be disturbing enough but it doesn’t stop there. Mitch McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, to head the Department of Transportation, Scott Pruitt, climate change denier, to head the EPA, Jeff Sessions, denied a federal judgeship for racist remarks, as Attorney General, Ben Carson, who admitted that he has no experience in running a federal agency, as head of Housing and Urban Development.
- He has refused to attend daily intelligence hearings but has time for his “thank you” tours where his massive ego is stroked by his supporters.
- He has already caused an international incident with China.
- He has essentially bribed an American company, Carrier, with a $7 Million tax break to keep some jobs in the United States and then lied about the number of jobs that he “saved” which sets a precedent for other companies, including his own, to receive the same sort of monetary incentive, with taxpayers footing the bill.
- The KKK and other white supremacists consider his win a “dream come true”
- He continues to refuse to reveal his tax returns and and will not set up a true blind trust. In light of his hundreds of business interests globally, this presents serious conflicts of interests questions.
Will Trump’s decisions as President be made to benefit America or his own personal interests or the interests of his children? Will our nation end up partnering with anti-democratic governments simply because Trump wants to expand his businesses or because he owes them a debt (such as his Presidential win)? Will our nation end up declaring war if one of his hotels or properties in a foreign land becomes a target of anti-capitalist groups and terrorists? Will the U.S. lose its allies and worldwide credibility which will affect our economy and safety? Is he in collusion with or controlled by Putin or other Russian interests? These are NOT questions that we should have to ask ourselves about the President of the United States.
WHAT MORE WILL IT TAKE TO CONVINCE ELECTORS THAT THEY CANNOT VOTE FOR THIS MAN? AND IF THEY WILL NOT ACT ON THEIR OWN TO HONOR THEIR DUTY AND PROTECT THIS NATION AND ITS CITIZENS, THEN CITIZENS AND APPROPRIATE ORGANIZATIONS SHOULD SUE, ON CONSTITUTIONAL GROUNDS, FOR AN INJUNCTION TO PREVENT THEM FROM CASTING THEIR VOTES FOR DONALD TRUMP.
There are some electors who are willing to be “faithless electors” – a term with a bad connotation. HOWEVER, some of these electors are planning on voting for a third party candidate. THIS WOULD BE A MISTAKE, a waste of their vote, and would most likely result in Trump becoming President. Why? Because if neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump receives the requisite 270 votes to secure the Presidency, the matter goes before the House of Representatives. The House will then cast their vote for one of the top three candidates. Yes, the same House of Representatives filled with Republicans who were not strong enough to fight Trump or who actually support him and would rather the nation be controlled by a corrupt demagogue instead of by Clinton or any other Democrat.
Other people seem willing to wait for Trump to be impeached, believing that it is inevitable. However, an impeachment does not guarantee removal of Trump from office. The House of Representatives, once again, has the power to impeach the President which is tantamount to an indictment. The Senate has the power to place the impeached person on trial. With both the House and Senate under GOP control, it is doubtful that Trump would be removed. Even if he is removed, his despicable and frightening cabinet members and appointees to federal agencies would remain in power.
The other thing to keep in mind is that under Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution, Congress can vote to approve of any gifts or payments received by the President. A Republican controlled Congress will most likely do just that.
THERE IS NO QUESTION: Trump must be stopped now, before he takes the oath in January.
The ONLY way that a flat income tax system could possibly be fair is if it taxed all gross income and eliminated all credits, tax write-offs, exemptions, basically anything that currently allows someone to reduce their taxable income. For example, we would need to:
ELIMINATE LOSS CARRYOVER. Currently, those who have a business-related loss can carry that loss forward and use it as an offset against future taxes owed. Yes, this is what Trump did with his nearly $1 Billion of losses. To be fair, that type of carryover would have to be eliminated. You can claim it in the year it was incurred and that’s it. In my opinion, this should be done under the current tax system. At the very least, there should be a short time limit with respect to how many years a loss can be carried over.
ELIMINATE THE FOREIGN TAX CREDIT. Currently, multi-national companies get to reduce the amount of federal taxes owed to the United States by the amount of taxes they paid to the foreign country where they operate. To be fair, that credit needs to be eliminated so that the corporation pays its full share of taxes to the United States. In my opinion, this should be done now under our current tax system. How is it fair for a foreign country to receive full payment of its taxes while the United States does not? But under a flat tax system, it would be imperative. Otherwise, those multi-national corporations will most likely pay no tax at all to the U.S. Multi-national companies can also currently avoid paying taxes until they actually bring the income back to the United States (repatriation). This, too, must be eliminated.
ELIMINATE TAX EXEMPT STATUS. Currently, non-profits such as religious organizations are exempt from federal income tax (and State taxes and property taxes). Churches and very large non-profits take in massive amounts of money through donations. They don’t pay income taxes on that money and the donors get to use their donations as tax deductions. To be fair, under a flat tax system, these organizations should not be exempt from paying taxes on donated funds and donations to these organizations should not be a tax deduction. Understand, of course, that this would affect small non-profits as well.
ELIMINATE ALL TAX EXEMPTIONS. Currently, a taxpayer can reduce the amount of his/her taxable income through exemptions and credits. A married couple with 2 children can reduce their taxable income by 4 exemptions with each exemption worth $4,000 ($4,000 x 4). To be fair, these exemptions will also need to be eliminated. A person who earns, for example, $40,000 should pay the flat tax on $40,000 whether that person is single, married, or has children. Otherwise, the married couple will be paying far less taxes then a single person ($3,600 vs. $6,000 in taxes using a 15% tax rate just on gross income alone).
ELIMINATE ALL DEDUCTIONS. Deductions allow people to reduce their taxable income. To be fair, a flat tax system must eliminate these deductions. Otherwise, only those who have deductions such as mortgage interest or very large medical expenses or large donations will receive a benefit. There can be no deductions that will reduce the amount of taxable income, including the Standard Deduction which is currently used by those who do not have enough deductions to itemize on a Schedule A form and which is different for married people, head of household, single taxpayers, and those who are over 65 and/or blind.
ELIMINATE ALL TAX CREDITS. Tax credits reduce the amount of a person’s tax liability (as opposed to the amount of their taxable income). To be fair, all of these credits need to be eliminated as well – the education credit, the earned income tax credit, the additional child tax credit, fuel tax credits, energy credits, and so forth.
ELIMINATE ALL BUSINESS EXPENSES. Currently, businesses pay taxes on their net income (gross income less expenses). To be fair, these expenses need to be eliminated since expenses can always be manipulated in order to lower taxable income. The only deduction businesses should be able to claim would be the amount paid out as salaries or wages since their employees will be paying the taxes on that.
TAX ALL INCOME FROM ALL SOURCES. This means that money received from a life insurance policy, currently not taxable, would be taxed. Other inheritance, child support, damages for personal injury, payments in lieu of worker’s compensation, veteran’s benefits – basically all sources of income now considered non-taxable – must be taxed.
In short, for a flat tax system to be really fair, everyone including corporations, must pay the flat tax rate on ALL income with NO deductions or credits or exceptions. People need to understand this because when politicians talk about a flat tax system, they usually are not talking about a completely flat or fair system. Their flat tax system will inevitably have exceptions. But if we start making exceptions because one group thinks that they should be allowed a certain deduction to reduce their taxable income because they have children or a business insists that it needs to write off expenses to remain profitable, etc., then the system is no longer flat or fair.
The rate of the flat tax is also important because the amount of tax revenue collected must be sufficient for government to operate. There must be enough funds for the military, for emergency relief, for infrastructure, education, and social programs because no matter what, there will be people in need such as abused and abandoned children or those who have physical or mental challenges and we, because we are Americans and not citizens of some third world country, are morally obligated to care for these people.
What would be a fair tax rate that would still generate sufficient tax revenue? I’m not sure, but I do know that there are currently 7 tax brackets. Those with the lowest income pay taxes of 10% for income up to $9,275 (single) or $18,550 (for married couples filing jointly). Income above those amounts are then taxed at 15% and then after a certain amount at 25% and so forth. That means that a flat tax rate of say, 20%, would increase the amount of income taxes paid by the lowest income groups. Those who would benefit tremendously would be those who currently fall within the 25%, 28%, 33%, 35%, and 39.6% income tax brackets.
Finally, a flat federal income tax rate doesn’t help you on the State level. Seven U.S. states currently have no income tax: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming. That sounds attractive, but most of these States have high sales taxes, gasoline taxes, or property taxes. It might be better to lower those taxes which are paid by ordinary people and impose an income tax which would apply to corporate income as well. Wyoming and Alaska get revenue from oil and coal. When that runs out, so will a huge chunk of their revenue.
The point is, striking a balance between what is really fair and what is needed to run this country is not as simple as some people make it sound, especially those politicians who like to blame the IRS for the tax laws when those laws were actually passed by Congress. To determine what is fair, you need to understand how taxes work and not just be in favor of something that sounds great but could, in reality, hurt you.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) recently stated that if Hillary Clinton is elected and if the Republicans held on to the majority in the Senate, the GOP “will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up.” He later tried to back track and clarify that statement but, judging by the obstructionism of Congress over the last eight years, one can only conclude that his initial statement is the reflection of the truth and of the GOP’s plan.
Some people may not understand the importance of this issue. One way of explaining why the appointment of the next justice to SCOTUS is so important is to look at the case of Citizens United. The Citizens United decision, in a nutshell, removed any restrictions on corporate political spending in relation to elections.
A ruling in favor of Citizens United was handed down by the court with 5 justices in favor of no limitations on corporations and four against. The justices who voted in favor were Chief Justice John G. Roberts and associate justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Dissenting were Justices John P. Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.
The four dissenting justices stated that the majority opinion was a “rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt.”
In my opinion, and in the opinion of many Americans, the dissenting justices were absolutely correct. Corporations and the mega-wealthy should never be allowed to use their monetary power to sway the vote of the American people in order to advance their own agenda which is often not beneficial to the average American.
Justice Stevens retired in 2010 and was replaced by Justice Elena Kagan. That appointment didn’t matter to the Republicans very much because it still left them with “their” five justices. However, in February of 2016, Justice Antonin Scalia died and the Republicans have since refused to approve President Obama’s choice of Judge Merrick Garland as Justice Scalia’s replacement because they fear that if a justice is appointed whose beliefs are aligned with the four dissenting justices in Citizens United, there is a strong possibility that Citizens United could be overturned. That would put a stop to large corporations being able to pump enormous funds into influencing elections.
I repeat, the Republicans who have repeatedly accused Hillary Clinton of having close ties to Wall Street are the ones who want to keep the ruling in Citizens United intact. Clinton has already stated that she wants to have Citizens United overturned.
This is not an isolated incident and if you consider yourself to be a true Republican, you should pay attention. The stated goals and beliefs of conservative Republicans have not been represented by the Republicans in Congress. The following is a very short list of what Republicans say they believe in and what has been happening in Congress. For me to go into detail would require a book.
Republicans say they believe that federal and state taxes should be as low as possible because money in the hands of people creates more jobs and prosperity. The Republicans in Congress, however, have been able to convince their supporters that “trickle-down economics” which puts more money in the hands of corporations and the wealthy is a good thing and have advocated tax cuts for the rich. The Republicans say that by giving more money to the rich, the rich will be able to generate jobs. In other words, make the rich wealthier and benefits will trickle down to the people. Reputable economists have found this to be completely untrue and we saw this approach fail disastrously under George W. Bush.
Under the Bush tax cuts, corporations and the rich received huge tax breaks and regulations on banks and hedge funds were relaxed in the name of free enterprise, another Republican buzz word. These actions, along with the $3 trillion war in Iraq, the subprime mortgage fiasco which was a result of poor regulation, and the bailout of large corporations to the tune of $700 Million (or $12.8 Trillion according to Bloomberg researchers if you take into account all funds spent), played a big part in nearly destroying the American economy and threw the nation into the Great Recession.
When President Obama took office, he adopted the reverse view of economics to rescue the economy. His stimulus plan put money directly into the pockets of citizens. Individuals may not have thought that the amount of money they received was significant but, collectively, Americans took that money, spent it on goods and services, and began rescuing the economy. The GOP in Congress objected to that plan, calling it reckless spending because obviously the President had to obtain the stimulus money from somewhere. But the last eight years have shown that President Obama’s economic approach was correct. The nation was slowly taken out of the Great Recession and, despite the misinformation spread by the GOP and especially, most recently, Donald Trump, statistics show that unemployment is down, crime is down nationally (despite upticks in violence in certain cities), the average American worker has experienced a rise in income, and more Americans have health insurance, including those who could never get coverage previously because of pre-existing health conditions. President Obama wanted to spend more money towards stimulus and many economists stated that he should have done so but, once again, the GOP prevented it.
Republicans also rail against “big government” and have called for, among other things, abolishing the IRS. However, the IRS is not responsible for the ridiculously complicated tax code. Those are laws that were passed by Congress. The IRS is an enforcement agency, responsible for making sure that people are paying their fair share of taxes according to current tax laws. If there was no enforcement agency, how would anyone be assured that taxes are being collected, that large corporations and the rich aren’t wrongfully hiding their money in offshore accounts or “cooking” their books and records so that they can avoid declaring income and avoid paying taxes?
Less taxation is such an appealing idea. However, giving the largest tax breaks to corporations and the mega-rich (once again being proposed by Donald Trump under a Republican platform) will seriously decrease the amount of tax collected. And without taxes, where would the money needed for federal emergency aid, infrastructure, education, social programs, and the military come from?
Ironically, or hypocritically, the same Republicans who claim that the federal government should stay out of their states’ business and spends too much money have had no qualms about asking the federal government for money when a disaster hits their State. For example, between January of 2009 and September of 2011, the state that received the most FEMA funds was Kentucky ($293 million) due to the severe ice storm in February 2009. Yet, Kentucky’s Republican senators, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, voted against increasing FEMA’s funding. Republicans said they opposed legislation to increase FEMA’s funding without spending cuts, including cuts to clean energy programs for the automobile industry. This argument might sound reasonable to those who aren’t paying attention, but McConnell and Paul were among the Republicans who, during 2010, threatened to block all of President Obama’s stimulus proposals if he didn’t agree to extend those Bush tax cuts. They, along with Paul Ryan, are also in favor of repealing the Dodd-Frank Act which placed regulations on the financial industry – banks, hedge funds, etc. – in an effort to prevent the kind of financial crisis that occurred under former President Bush.
In short, while the Republicans make their supporters believe that federal oversight is a bad thing, it was lack of oversight that caused the financial crisis that put the nation into the Great Depression. While they say they are in favor of cutting taxes, most of the taxes that they have sought to cut benefit the wealthy and corporations. While they say they want to protect your farms and your small businesses, they are working to benefit Wall Street and the financial industry. While they say they are against government spending, they have asked for federal funds for their own states. In fact, according to a March 2016 study done by WalletHub, Blue States are less dependent on the federal government than Red States. https://wallethub.com/edu/states-most-least-dependent-on-the-federal-government/2700/
If you are a one-issue voter – i.e., you only care about where your representatives stand on an issue such as abortion – you probably won’t care about anything that I’ve written. However, you should also not complain about the economy or your Social Security or not being able to get governmental assistance when you need it since those things were not part of your consideration in voting for a candidate.
If, however, you do care about your economic well being, your future and the future of your children, then you should pledge to stop voting only on the basis of what you’re being told and start understanding what is really going on in Congress and in your local government where many of the laws that directly affect your everyday lives are passed. I propose this not only to Republicans but to supporters of all political parties.
“Ignorance is a lot like alcohol: the more you have of it,
the less you are able to see its effect on you.”
– Jay M. Bylsma