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Electoral College: DO YOUR REAL JOB!!

According to Marc Schulman, editor of Historycentral.com, one of the reasons that the founding fathers established an electoral college was to protect the voters.

“The founding fathers were afraid of direct election to the Presidency. They feared
that a tyrant could manipulate public opinion and come to power
. . . . Hamilton
and the other founders 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.
”  See full article here:

Well, then, the electoral college should do its job – it should protect America from a tyrant named Donald Trump who has manipulated public opinion through the use of something that the forefathers could not have possibly imagined – the internet, which he used to spread lies, fear, hate, and misinformation.  The electoral college should do its job and insure that only a qualified person becomes President.  Donald Trump is NOT qualified for this great office and unless the electors  have been deaf and blind or in a coma for the last 18 months, they know that this is a fact.

It is clear that the electoral college was never intended to be a “rubber stamp”.  If that was the intention of the forefathers, they would have required that the electors  cast their votes for the candidate who won the popular vote in their respective states.  They did not do this.  There is nothing in the Constitution or in federal law that requires this.  Most of the requirements relating to how the electoral college should vote have been established at the State level  and, according to the National Archives and Records Administration, only 26 of the 50 states have specific laws regarding this issue. Pennsylvania is not one of the 26.

The electors are people, most of whom, I presume, have families – children, parents, siblings.  For the sake of the future of their families and of this nation, I ask them to take a long, hard look at what is happening now, even before Trump officially takes office as President, and I implore them not to vote for Trump.

–Trump has appointed an alt-right extremist (Steve Bannon) as his Chief Strategist – a man who has published stories such as these on his online “news site”: See more disgusting Breitbart headlines here:

–The KKK endorsed Trump and Richard Spencer, the leader of the alt-right in Dallas, feels that Trump’s election is a dream come true.

–Trump’s ties to Russia and Putin are becoming clearer with each passing day.  Trump invited Russia to hack Clinton’s emails and now both the CIA and the NSA has stated that Russia did in fact hack the U.S. election.  Paul Manafort, Trump’s advisor, was forced to step aside when his pro-Russia activities became public.  Not only was Manafort a paid lobbyist for the previous pro-Russian leader of the Ukraine who now lives in Russia but he also received money to lobby for pro-Russian interests in the United States.  Michael Flynn, the man Trump just named as national security advisor, has appeared on RT, the Russian government propaganda network, and attended a dinner in Moscow where he sat at the same table as Russian President Vladimir Putin.  Flynn’s private consulting firm also recently registered to lobby for a Dutch company owned by a wealthy Turkish businessman close to President Erdogan of Turkey who has been accused of war crimes and arresting journalists.

Trump did not win the popular vote.  In fact, as of the date of this post, Hillary Clinton is more than 1.3 Million votes ahead of Trump and there are still millions of votes being counted, mostly in Blue states.  In light of the frightening events that are enfolding with respect to Trump and his cabinet picks, this is the time for electors to stop being rubber stamps and start doing their real job – protect this nation from tyranny and honor the will of the majority of Americans who do not believe in racism, divisiveness, and the weakening our own country by Russia.  Do not reward corruption and do not allow a country such as Russia, who has never been a friend to the United States, to interfere with the United States’ treasured election process and benefit from their own crimes.

There are some who suggest that Trump can always be impeached.  Impeachment is NOT the answer because even if it were to happen, we would be left with Mike Pence who would most likely select the same frightening people that Trump has chosen.  We need the electors to stop Trump from ever taking office – PERIOD.

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A Flat Tax System Sounds Fair But Is It?

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.

(c) 2016

This Is So Wrong On So Many Levels

Congress must pass a National Defense Authorization Act which funds the military.  However, an anti-LGBT Amendment has been wrongfully attached to that bill which grants a religious exception to federal contractors that would allow them to discriminate against LGBT workers even though they are receiving federal funds.  In effect, if passed, this bill would override President Obama’s 2014 executive order which protects LGBT employees of federal contractors from discrimination.  Here’s the link to the full story:  https://thinkprogress.org/ndaa-lgbt-mccain-c71d44ccc62b#.cgw5bda9t

This is so wrong on so many levels.

First, the funds provided to federal contractors come from tax revenues which are collected from ALL working Americans – straight, gay, every color, every religion.  As long as you are working and paying taxes,  your money is what is being used for federal expenditures including contracts AND the salaries paid to Congressional members. Therefore, no federal expenditure bill should allow for discrimination against any American citizen.

Second, there are approximately 30% of Americans who do not consider themselves as followers of the Christian faith.  The largest segment of this non-Christian group consider themselves either atheist (who don’t believe in God or gods)  or agnostic (neutral, don’t care or undecided).  Therefore it is wrong for federal legislation to be advancing the cause of one particular religious group.  In fact, it is wrong for any legislation that uses public funds to be advancing the cause of a specific religious group.

Third, the differences and disagreements arising out of religious beliefs have no place in politics.  Religion is an individual choice guaranteed by the Constitution and not one of those things that can or should be decided through a vote where the majority rules. This is why I fail to understand the pro-choice/pro-life fight that has been going on for decades.  If you are pro-life, then you are free to live your life in accordance with your own beliefs and you will never consider having an abortion.  But it does not make sense to deny that choice to someone who doesn’t believe as you do.  That, to me, is religious oppression.  The same reasoning follows with this anti-gay movement.  I don’t understand it.  Even if you believe that being gay is a choice (which it is not), then choose not to be gay. Period.  But you have no right to dictate the choice that other people make with respect to the most private part of their lives as long as they are not harming anyone.  The anti-gay forces know this, which is why some of them have argued that gays “recruit” heterosexuals to turn them gay – a stupid argument fueled by fear and unsupported by facts.

Finally, I am so disgusted with this practice that often occurs in Congress – the attachment of a special interest amendment to an important bill that needs to be passed.  This is tantamount to extortion and should not be allowed, not only because it’s wrong but because this is why it takes Congress so long to get anything done.  I agree with Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA).  “This kind of discriminatory language is inappropriate anywhere, but it’s especially wrong to put unrelated anti-LGBT language in a national security bill. … Why we’d keep in a provision like that when we’re trying to pass the NDAA is beyond me.”

Now let’s see if John McCain does the right thing.

 

Sick and Tired of a Do-Nothing Congress and All The Lies Being Told

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