Monday, July 26, 2010

A jobs program for the IRS and the Post Office

This President has said for months that jobs and the economy are his number one priorities. ObamaCare has demonstrated his sincerity... just not in the way we might think. While American shores are littered with the carcasses of millions of octopi who sacrificed their lives so that their ink might be used to expound upon the disaster that is ahead, one of the most damaging elements of ObamaCare doesn't have anything to do with healthcare in the first place. It really belongs amongst the 2,300 pages of economic malpractice known as Dodd-Frank. We are of course talking about Section 9006.

What is Section 9006? It is nothing less than a bullet aimed at the foot of the American economy as it competes in the race out of our economic malaise. Up until ObamaCare, businesses were required to provide 1099’s (the miscellaneous income form from the IRS) to individuals who provided them with services (via an other than employee relationship) if the total amount spent was in excess of $600. As such, consultants, freelancers and temporary help are often paid for their services this way. It keeps companies from having to collect and track taxes for short term relationships and it lets individuals who may deal with numerous clients during the year handle their own taxes.

Unfortunately, thanks to Section 9006 of ObamaCare the Dr. Jekyll 1099 we’ve all come to know and love is going to become the Mr. Hyde 1099 that will cause many businessmen to head for the exits. Beginning in 2012, 30 million businesses in the United States will have to begin issuing 1099s as if they were Internet diploma mills sending out bachelor degrees. In addition to everyone they already are required to issue 1099s to, ObamaCare will require them to issue 1099s to every single entity with which they do in excess of $600 in business in the calendar year. Buy a computer at Best Buy? Issue them a 1099. Buy 5 cases of $12 wine from Vinnie’s Wine shop? Issue them a 1099. Pay PG&E $100 a month for electricity? Issue them a 1099. Large companies with internal accounting staffs will be able to add another desk in the department to handle the extra work. Small businesses don’t have that luxury.

Of all of the lunacy that the Democrats have engaged in over the last 18 months, this may well be the most Bellevue worthy. Imagine you are a trucker who drives 2,000 miles a week, stops for gas 3 times a week and spends $200 each time. At the end of the year that trucker will have to go through 150 gas station receipts, find the station matches and figure out at which of those he spent over $600. (Of course it’s not quite as easy as it might sound as some branded gasoline stations are franchises and others are company owned while some companies own stations carrying different brands… but I digress.) Once they navigate through all of that mess, they then have to contact each company, find the correct person and ask for their Federal Tax ID. Then they have to issue to each of those companies a quad form 1099 – One for them to keep, one for the IRS, one for filing with the state and a fourth for any possible local taxes.

And of course this is only for their gas. There are a plethora of other services for which our intrepid trucker may have to issue 1099s. If he spends $25 a week at McDonalds in 15 states, he may have to provide them with a 1099 if half of the stores are company owned. (Good luck keeping track of that…) If he buys two tires from a service store in Mustang, Oklahoma he’ll need to send them a 1099. If he gets a paint job in Bollingbrook, Illinois or a few tune ups in Macon, Georgia he’ll better make sure he gets the Tax IDs.

Unfortunately for many of the tens of millions of small businesses across the country this trucker story is no fantasy. It is reality and they will be feeling the pinch just as badly. A real estate agent who drives 30,000 miles a year and fills up at 5 different gas stations will need to add a new file to her Rolodex. A plumber who buys piping at Home Depot, tools at Sears and work boots for his crew at Wal-Mart will be adding some numbers to his accountant’s check. Then there is the phone company, the office supply store and even their insurance companies. I can’t even get my phone company to figure out what all the fees mean on my bill and now I have to depend on them to provide me with the correct Tax ID information and address information for the IRS under the penalty of jail… for me, not for them. That’s comforting…

As small businesses across the country seek to find their footing and get back on the growth track, the last thing in the world they need is another stream of government regulations that force them to divert their attention from actually running their businesses. This is of course no surprise as it’s just another example of what happens when Americans put people with virtually no private sector experience and who are hostile to capitalism in charge of the government.

The bottom line however is that they are sticking to their word and indeed jobs are priority number one. Unfortunately in this case the jobs belong to the IRS agents who will be ensuring compliance and postal workers who will be delivering the millions of 1099 forms. Now that's change we can believe in...

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Obama administration’s race colored glasses…

The Obama administration last week gave one of its strongest denunciations to date of al Qaeda. The administration didn’t refer to them as Islamo-Fascists, didn’t call them radical Muslims, indeed, did not even call them murderous thugs… no, instead, they used the most important and powerful invective this administration can conger; they accused al Qaeda of being racist. Despite having killed 3,000 Americans of all colors on September 11th, 52 diverse Brits in the London Bombings and thousands of other victims of all colors and races from Madrid to Bali to Chechnya, President Obama proclaimed that their killing of 74 mostly black Ugandans, demonstrated that al Qaeda is a racist group because they “do not regard African life as valuable in and of itself.” By that logic al Qaeda is a collection of self loathing souls as they have killed thousands of Saudis, Indians, Pakistanis, Iraqis and Afghanistanis amongst others.

Not only is this suggestion ludicrous, it’s not even the best argument one might make for their absurd proposition. If one really wanted to make the case that al Qaeda terrorists were racist, a much stronger argument could be found by noting that most of the civil wars that occur on the continent include groups affiliated with al Qaeda and a significant majority of the brutality and murder that is inflicted on millions of African people is inflicted by al Qaeda affiliates. Indeed, even as he was explaining the President’s comments, a White House spokesman provided a superior alternative theory for al Qaeda’s use of Africans: U.S. intelligence has indicated that al Qaeda leadership specifically targets and recruits black Africans to become suicide bombers because they believe that poor economic and social conditions make them more susceptible to recruitment than Arabs.

Al Qaeda is a lot of things. They are control freaks. They are homophobes. They are sexist. Indeed they are Islamo-Fascists. Perhaps the only thing they are not is racist.

The President made about as much sense with this argument as Kane West did when he opined “George Bush hates black people.” While most of America expects such empty- headed commentary from the Hollywood left, they do not typically expect such vapid rhetoric from their president.

One has to wonder what was going on in Barack Obama’s head to utter such nonsense. This is not like "I’ve now been in 57 states? I think one left to go.” which we hope was a gaffe and that he actually knows how many states are in the Union. Nor is it like “spread the wealth around” where he didn’t have a chance to prepare for Joe the Plumber’s blistering questioning. No, this was something all together different. Simply, it was an interview for which he had plenty of time to prepare. And he still blew it.

More importantly, one wonders what kind of analysis went into making that kind of determination. In a universe where Eric Holder has to twist the English language like a pretzel to avoid putting the words Islamic and terrorist in the same sentence, Barack Obama suggesting that the World Cup bombings in Uganda demonstrate al Qaeda’s inherent racism is not surprising, despite being bizarre. Does he somehow live in a universe where the only color that makes it through the prism is black? With the backdrop of “the police acted stupidly” and the more recent Justice Department actions (or non-actions as the case might be) one might just wonder.

The worst part about this witless proposition (along with similarly inane charges commonly emanating from the left) is that by labeling actions that are so obviously not racist as racist, one diminishes the word itself. The unfortunate consequence of such diminishment is that when actual racism raises its ugly head many people will be inclined to dismiss reports of such as just another Obama fiction.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Obama's NASA saves America

Sometimes it’s helpful to take a step back and get some perspective in order to be able to evaluate something that is right in front of you today. Sometimes that perspective goes back 40 years sometimes it goes back 40,000 years.

When Neal Armstrong stepped on the surface of the Moon in July of 1969 it was the culmination of one of the swiftest periods of advancement in the history of mankind. Since the dawn of human history, man had been watching with great fascination and jealously as birds soared above them. From giant eagles capable of carrying off an oblivious lamb to hummingbirds that floated on air, birds seemed to somehow have the favor of the Gods.

Although man often fantasized about flight, few it was a real possibility. One of the first to seriously suggest man could break away from terra firma was Leonardo da Vinci. We’ve all seen his 15th century helicopter sketches with their rotors that look more like a corkscrew than a modern rotor. Nonetheless, da Vinci was one of the first to actually believed mankind could break the bounds of earthliness and posit how it might be done.

Jump ahead to the court of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie-Antoinette at Versailles, France in 1783 where brothers, Joseph-Michel & Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier were putting their names in the history books by inventing the hot air balloon. Although they were certain their invention was capable of supporting humans, they decided to hedge their bets by choosing as the first passengers a sheep, a rooster, and a duck. A month later the first men would take flight in a Montgolfière balloon, although the brothers themselves demurred.

One hundred and twenty years later the Wright brothers took the next leap when they flew their biplane at Kitty Hawk, NC. Theirs was the first step in the most spectacular journey in human history. Over the next 66 years manned flight would advance at a staggering pace, from propellers to jet engines to rockets to breaking the sound barrier to putting men in space. The culmination of that journey would occur in July of 1969 when NASA not only put Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldren on the moon, but brought the pair (along with command module pilot Michael Collins) back to earth safely. From a rickety plane on the dunes of Cape Hatteras to the dark side of the moon and back the advances came at a blistering pace. Imagine, man spends thousands of years staring up at the sky and America goes from flight to the moon in 66 years...

Most of that sixty six year journey took place during a time of great national tumult and uncertainty; the Great Depression, two World Wars, the Cold War and the navel gazing sixties. Nonetheless, when JFK said: "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth" there was a feeling across the country that although no knew exactly how to do it, it was going to get done. While some of the science that helped reach JFK’s goal had its genesis outside the United States, it’s no coincidence that putting a man on the moon was an American success. Forty years later no other country has matched the feat.

NASA succeeded largely for one reason: it had a clear objective and nothing was more important than doing what was necessary to achieve that goal. Its success stands in stark contrast to the failure of government since the advent of the steroid era of the nanny state – 1965 and beyond. Today the government takes an unprecedented amount of our national income, involves itself in virtually every aspect of our lives and fundamentally fails at more of its basic responsibilities than at any time in our history. Simply put, government today is the anti-government of 1961 NASA.

Rarely does politics provide us with such a clear opportunity to measure Presidents against one another. Kennedy’s challenge provides just such a measure. In 1961 he challenged NASA and the country to do something that not only had never been done before, but something which no one knew for sure was even possible. That challenge resulted in a burst of activity that percolated throughout the economy from computers to telecommunications to construction materials to aerodynamics.

Compare Kennedy’s challenge to Barack Obama’s, as told by his NASA Administrator Charles Bolden: When I became the NASA Administrator — before I became the NASA Administrator — He (President Obama) charged me with three things: One was he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, he wanted me to expand our international relationships, and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering.

Rather than suggesting NASA build a base on the Moon, rather than fostering a healthy competition amongst the nascent private space industry, rather than challenging Americans to pull together and put a man on Mars, Barack Obama wants to use NASA (and your tax dollars) to bolster the self esteem of Muslim nations. While he’s at it he might as well use the Defense Department to braid the hair of little girls in Africa so they look nice when they become victims of genocide or contract AIDS or malaria, or he may even want to consider using Amtrak employees to teach Sunday school to the increasingly secular Europeans. All three are equally ludicrous.

If there is a better example of the absurdity of Barack Obama as President I can’t think of one. One might have thought that even through osmosis he would have picked up a couple of nuggets on how to do something right, anything right as President, even if he was simply using his highly vaunted rhetorical skills to inspire a nation to achieve things no one knew was possible. Unfortunately for America he hasn’t, so we’re stuck with a dysfunctional community organizer for the next two and a half years. Maybe by then the self esteem of the Muslim nations will have increased enough that they can stop exporting terrorists to the United States and the West. Don't count on it...

Monday, July 5, 2010

Elena Kagan, Rights and the Constitution

The nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court has once again presented America with the vacuous exercise that is the confirmation hearings. Democrats are lauding praise on the nominee, occasionally in the form of a question while Republicans are asking questions for which no answers are really expected. And thus it has been since Robert Bork was sent packing by such Constitutional giants as Ted Kennedy and Joe Biden.

Today, rather than have Bork’s clarity of opinion we have Elena Kagan explaining to Senator Tom Coburn “I don’t have a view of what are natural rights independent of the Constitution” during a discussion about fundamental “unalienable Rights” as expressed in the Declaration of Independence.

In that one brief statement Elena Kagan has shown the light on exactly what is wrong with the left and the progressives: They fundamentally misunderstand the relationship between the Constitution and the citizens. The Constitution is not the source of our rights. Our rights preceded the Constitution… despite the fact that most governments did not respect them.

The US Constitution fundamentally does two things. First it gives the three branches of government certain powers as primarily set forth in Articles I, II & III. The second thing it does, and this is largely rooted in the Bill of Rights, is constrain the government in terms of stating what it cannot do to citizens. The Bill of Rights does not confer rights on the citizenry; rather it specifies various rights the citizens have that the government may not encroach upon. Technically, the 6th and 7th Amendments do indeed confer upon citizens a number of rights: speedy trial, trial by jury etc., but these rights are specific in that they are protecting the citizens from government action rather than natural rights such as life, liberty, speech, etc.

Many years ago I heard a comparison between the United States and Mexico as thus: In the United States you have the right to do anything you want unless there is a law against it, while in Mexico you don’t have the right to do anything unless the government says it’s OK. Although from anecdotal evidence it sounds right, in reality I don’t know for certain that the Mexican element of the above statement is true. I do however know that the American part is, or at least was until the progressive cancer started to infect the American body politic early in the 20th Century.

In forming a government and writing our Constitution, the Founding Fathers understood that the citizens were giving to the federal government certain limited powers and giving up similarly limited rights specifically because there are things which are better performed by a federal government than individuals or states – national defense, coin money, patents, etc. Indeed the founding fathers were explicit about both of those factors, enshrining the primacy of individual rights in the 9th Amendment: “The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” and in the 10th Amendment demonstrating clearly that the federal government was not intended to be the regulatory leviathan that it has become: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

To recognize how central these limits were to the founding fathers and the country, one has to know that without the limits imposed by the Bill of Rights, the Constitution would never have been ratified and the United States would never have come into being as we know it.

During the Constitutional Convention of 1787 George Mason, a delegate from Virginia, and often called the Father of the Bill of Rights, fought vociferously for the inclusion of a Bill of Rights in the Constitution. James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, was against including such a bill for two primary reasons. First, he felt that the enumeration of some rights in the document might imply the absence of others, and second, it was his contention that such rights did not need enumeration or protection because the government had not been given the power to usurp them.

Madison won and the Constitution emerged from the Convention without Mason’s protections. So passionate was Mason about the need for those protections that he left the Convention and fought against the Constitution's ratification in the Virginia legislature, sacrificing his lifelong friendship with his neighbor George Washington in the process.

On January 9th 1788 the Connecticut legislature ratified the Constitution by a vote of 128 to 40, the fourth state to do so out of the nine necessary for it (the Constitution) to take effect. It was then that the process hit a brick wall of Anti-Federalist opposition in Massachusetts. That opposition took the form of Sam Adams and John Hancock, who thought the Constitution vested too much power in the hands of the central government. Eventually the pair negotiated what became known as the Massachusetts Compromise, an agreement which allowed the state to ratify the Constitution with the explicit condition that the first order of business for Congress was to pass a bill of rights. If Congress failed to do so, the state’s ratification was revoked. Following Massachusetts, four of the next five states to ratify the Constitution incorporated that same language. As such, without the explicit promise of the protections enshrined in the Bill of Rights the Constitution would never have passed.

Which brings us back full circle to Elena Kagan. Later in her testimony she states that “I’m not saying I do not believe there are rights preexisting the Constitution and the laws, but my job as a Justice is to enforce the Constitution and the laws.” That’s the same kind of equivocating we heard when Senator Hatch asked if she had written a document he was holding in his hand: “The document is certainly in my handwriting.” In the above statement Kagan specifically avoids saying she believes “unalienable Rights” exist.

The Founding Fathers never intended for the Constitution to be the source of citizen’s rights. Rather, one of its original, specific purposes was to protect those “unalienable Rights” from an over reaching, tyrannical government. If Elena Kagan doesn't have an understanding about that most basic element of the Constitution, how is she qualified to determine whether or not something is Constitutional in the first place?