Former Congressman Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke isn’t exactly setting the world on fire with his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. In an Emerson College poll of Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa conducted before and after the debate this week, his support was so low, it didn’t even register. The man who was once considered the liberals’ best hope for retaking a U.S. Senate seat in overwhelmingly red Texas is running so far in back of the pack, he’s in danger of falling out.
Now, he’ll have to pander to the single-issue constituencies within the Democratic Party, as well as the punditcrats who fell in love with him during his Senate bid, for enough support to keep his campaign afloat.
That’s probably why he answered unhesitatingly and in the affirmative when CNN’s Don Lemon asked in a recent forum, “Religious institutions like colleges, churches, charities—should they lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage?”
To be fair, he probably didn’t think about the question very thoroughly before answering. He didn’t consider all the implications inherent in his response for a nation like ours, which was founded, in no small way, as a sanctuary for those seeking religious liberty. But answer that way he did, and he has to accept he’ll be criticized for it.
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O’Rourke’s answer reminded me of another political leader who, centuries ago, when confronted with an unresolvable conflict with the church over a different issue regarding marriage, chose to take matters into his own hands.
It’s a complicated story, central to the storyline of the Academy Award–winning film A Man for All Seasons, that’s not as well-remembered as it should be. In brief, King Henry VIII, unable to obtain a papal annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, broke with Rome and established the Church of England with himself as the head. He then moved into the second of the many marriages for which he is infamous.
While this schism horrified church leaders and Catholics who continued to profess allegiance to Rome, others went along quietly, if not gladly, for economic reasons. Henry, as he moved forward to consolidate his control, seized church assets, bringing valuable land and other properties under royal control or, to put it more bluntly, taxed them into submission.
This is precisely what CNN’s Lemon proposed, and O’Rourke supported, despite this country’s long history of tolerance on matters of individual conscience and religious doctrine. The so-called separation of church and state, a phrase that appears nowhere in the U.S. Constitution but comes instead from a letter on the subject of religious liberty written by Thomas Jefferson to a congregation of Baptists in Danbury, Connecticut, exists to protect the church from the state and not vice versa.
Religious organizations are part of the dynamism that makes the nation what it is. It’s an observation going back as far as Alexis de Tocqueville, if not further. They are a vital part of the national fabric and perhaps the only ones strong enough and well-funded enough to compete with the state in the delivery of what we now consider essential social services. Like the government, religious groups run hospitals, provide for the poor, educate the young, care for the old and engage in other activities without which the country might grind to a halt.
That they can do as much as they do to improve Americans’ lives is in part because they are largely free of the burden of taxation imposed on individuals and businesses. To force them to turn over funds that would be used for good works, as punishment for not getting with the rest of the cultural elites on the doctrinal matter of the nature of marriage, would constitute an enormous constitutional and cultural overreach. Yet O’Rourke went there, even if he did later clarify his position, walking it back outside the area of doctrine and into the bright light of matters related to the delivery of public services. Can other Democrats who want to be president be all that far behind?
It used to be said that what was once called the “religious right” wanted to use the power of the government to impose its views on everyone else. Maybe—though I always found the allegation specious. Now, the pendulum is swinging. It is the secularists, whose views O’Rourke initially endorsed (again, one hope’s without thinking), who appear to be driving the train in a way that could have profound implications for the future of America.
The US House of Representatives is getting closer to voting on the Butch Lewis Act, which failed to pass last year. While a number of provisions in the current version of the legislation make it an unworthy solution, the truth is the problem it attempts to address is real and the legislation even with its flaws does create the opportunity to amend and improve it so that a serious financial crisis can be avoided. Conservatives should consider this an opportunity.
Many multi-employer pension and defined pension plans are now on the brink of failure. They carry over $600 billion of unfunded liabilities and are dangerously close to failing. Millions of retired Americans in states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Nevada, Florida, Colorado, Maine and New Hampshire could lose their retirement. If that happens, they will be thrust onto the welfare rolls and the fruits of their life’s work will be lost.
Even those who don’t have such pensions, are at risk. The 2008 housing bubble that triggered a huge economic slowdown, impacted everyone — not merely those whose mortgage was foreclosed upon. And we spent the next five plus years in economic turmoil and that was used as an excuse to grow the government. So we paid twice — first with the economic downturn and lost jobs and second, when government spending and debt grew dramatically and government’s penchant to over regulate drastically expanded.
President Trump could ensure his reelection in 2020 and conservatives in the House could insure a return to the majority as well — if they can fashion a sustainable, conservative fix to the pending multiemployer pension plan crisis.
In 2016, Trump won a number of states narrowly — states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. In those states and many others — Ohio, Colorado, Nevada, Minnesota, Maine, New Hampshire and Florida — there are millions of citizens who are participants in multi-employer pension plans. Each of these potential voters has family and friends which only multiplies their electoral influence. By stepping in and averting this potential economic pitfall, Trump would win millions of blue collar voters in key states. Likewise, GOP congressmen who had a difficult year in 2018, could find themselves swimming with the current and regain the majority if they can take the opportunity to use the Butch Lewis Act as a starting point to address the multiemployer pension plan crisis in a conservative and sustainable way. Even Senate Republicans could see their majority grow if they move helpful legislation.
In Pennsylvania, there are more than 493,000 participants in multi-employer pension plans. In Michigan, there are more than 440,000 multi-employer pension participants. In Wisconsin, there are almost 150,000. Ohio has almost half a million. Florida has more than 340,000. Colorado has almost 200,000. In Maine, more than 50,000. In Nevada almost 135,000. In Minnesota, more than 278,000.
In each case, those numbers could either expand upon Trump’s 2016 victory, or flip a state that he narrowly lost in 2016, to make it part of his expanded victory in 2020. And once you account for family friends and relatives, those numbers only increase the potential for an impressive reelection victory.
For GOP members of Congress, this provides a powerful way to win the support of working class voters and pave the way to reclaiming the majority in the House and help the Senate preserve and grow its majority.
It may be tempting to leave this problem to fester and then let some future President and Congress deal with it when this pending crisis becomes a full blown, current crisis. But that’s dangerous and risky. The far Left has repeatedly signaled that they won’t let a “crisis go to waste.” They will use any crisis as an excuse to grow government, bust the budget and further smother economic opportunity with burdensome regulations. So solving this now is actually the conservative thing to do. It protects taxpayers and it can keep government growth in check.
A workable and permanent solution will include a number of important principles. First, the affected pension plans must be reformed by requiring them to meet more rigorous and realistic actuarial standards. Second, the reform must engage all the stakeholders to share in the costs, including at least temporarily, the retirees — rather than passing off the costs to taxpayers. Third, modest loan guarantees must be authorized to help pension plans that make the required reforms. This will allow them to get through their short term cash crunch and get back on a firm actuarial footing when the loans would be fully repaid. Fourth, the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC) must be reformed to make it function as a real insurer where risks and cost balance out. If nothing is done, the PBGC will be bankrupt within 6 years — leaving taxpayers to make good on its promises which will cost hundreds of billions.
If President Trump and GOP conservatives become the champion of a wise pension plan solution like this, they can easily win re-election in 2020, regain the House majority, and expand their Senate majority. That is why the Butch Lewis Act with all its problems, presents conservatives with a real opportunity to fashion a solid conservative solution that benefits all Americans.
By Tripp Mickle • Wall Street Journal
Apple Inc. AAPL 1.65% said it would pay a one-time tax of $38 billion on its overseas cash holdings and ramp up spending in the U.S., as it seeks to emphasize its contributions to the American economy after years of taking criticism for outsourcing manufacturing to China.
The world’s most valuable publicly traded company laid out its plans Wednesday in a statement that was full of big-dollar figures, though it said that much of the money reflected Apple’s current pace of spending.
Apple said it would invest $30 billion in capital spending in the U.S. over five years that would create more than 20,000 jobs. The total includes a new campus, which initially will house technical support for customers, and $10 billion toward data centers across the country. It also will expand from $1 billion to $5 billion a fund it established last year for investing in advanced manufacturing in the U.S.
All told, Apple said it would directly contribute $350 billion to the U.S. economy over the next five years, with the bulk—about $55 billion this year, for example—coming from ongoing spending on parts and services from U.S. suppliers. That number also includes the federal tax payment and capital spending.
by David French • National Review
I’m starting to think that all too many Democrats believe that private citizens and private corporations don’t actually own their private income or their private property.
Otherwise, how can we explain the Democratic insistence, repeated endlessly over the last 24 hours, that Republicans somehow are poised to execute a grand “heist” by cutting corporate and individual tax rates, granting an estimated 80.4 percent of taxpayers an average tax break of $2,140.
The rhetoric was remarkable, and the hysterics weren’t confined to fringe figures on the left.
Here’s House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi:
“Shamefully, Republicans were cheering against the children as they rob from their future and ransack the middle class to reward the rich #GOPTaxScam”
— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) December 19, 2017
By Heather Wilhelm • National Review
Ah, the holiday season. It’s a magical time, bursting with joy and merriment, the laughter of children, jolly parties, twinkling lights, mildly terrifying mall-dwelling Santas . . . and the faint sounds of caterwauling blue-state politicians shrieking that the GOP tax bill signals the end of civilization as we know it.
Can you hear it? Fire and brimstone! The weeping and gnashing of teeth! According to Nancy Pelosi, this reshuffling of government regulations amounts to “Armageddon” and “the worst bill in the history of the United States Congress.” California governor Jerry Brown labeled the tax bill “evil in the extreme.” According to Bernie Sanders, the proposal amounts to “class warfare” and “one of the greatest robberies in American history.” In terms of sheer melancholy drama, comedian Patton Oswalt might win the prize: Because of the GOP tax bill, “there’s no America now. Not the one we knew. Sorry, feeling real despair this morning.” Continue reading
by Lawrence Kudlow, Stephen Moore, Arthur B Laffer, and Steve Forbes • Investor’s Business Daily
President Trump and Republican leaders in Congress must act with much more urgency and decisiveness on tax cuts.
In recent weeks the tax cut agenda seems stalled out and the delays and indecision are negatively affecting growth and the stock market. We hear that a tax plan from the White House may not come until the fall and may not even pass Congress until 2018 – if at all.
Is it any wonder that investors are getting jittery? The stock market had priced in much of the anticipated benefits to business, wages and profits, which accounts in no small part for the $3 trillion rise in equity values and the surge in business and consumer confidence after the election. Now the confidence is waning. Continue reading
IRS tax code totals 2.4 million words and additional regulations total 7.7 million words
by Ali Meyer • Washington Free Beacon
“One often overlooked issue in tax reform is complexity,” the report states. “For decades, the tax code has become more and more detailed, with thousands of additional pages of statutes, regulations, and case law. This added complexity imposes a real cost on the U.S. economy.”
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax code in 1995 totaled 409,000 words and since then it has increased to a total of 2.4 million words.
In addition to the tax code, there are 7.7 million words of tax regulations and there are 60,000 pages of tax-related case law, which accountants and tax lawyers use to decide how much their clients must pay. Continue reading
$2,883,250,000,000: Federal Taxes Set Record Through August; $19,346 Per Worker; Feds Still Run $530B Deficit
By Terence P. Jeffrey • Investor’s Business Daily
The federal government raked in a record of approximately $2,883,250,000,000 in tax revenues through the first eleven months of fiscal 2015 (Oct. 1, 2014 through the end of August), according to the Monthly Treasury Statement released Friday.
That equaled approximately $19,346 for every person in the country who had either a full-time or part-time job in August.
It is also up about $198,425,330,000 in constant 2015 dollars from the $2,684,824,670,000 in revenue (in inflation-adjusted 2015 dollars) that the Treasury raked in during the first eleven months of fiscal 2014. Continue reading
by Stephen Moore • The Washington Post
It was 40 years ago this month that two of President Gerald Ford’s top White House advisers, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld, gathered for a steak dinner at the Two Continents restaurant in Washington with Wall Street Journal editorial writer Jude Wanniski and Arthur Laffer, former chief economist at the Office of Management and Budget. The United States was in the grip of a gut-wrenching recession, and Laffer lectured to his dinner companions that the federal government’s 70 percent marginal tax rates were an economic toll booth slowing growth to a crawl.
To punctuate his point, he grabbed a pen and a cloth cocktail napkin and drew a chart showing that when tax rates get too high, they penalize work and investment and can actually lead to revenue losses for the government. Four years later, that napkin became immortalized as “the Laffer Curve” in an article Wanniski wrote for the Public Interest magazine. (Wanniski would later grouse only half-jokingly that he should have called it the Wanniski Curve.) Continue reading
Rather than trying to ban the practice, why can’t Obama address corporate tax reform?
by Charles Krauthammer • National Review
The Obama administration is highly exercised about “inversion,” the practice by which an American corporation acquires a foreign company and moves its headquarters out of the U.S. to benefit from lower tax rates abroad.
Not fair, says Barack Obama. It’s taking advantage of an “unpatriotic tax loophole” that hardworking American families have to make up for by the sweat of their brow. His treasury secretary calls such behavior a violation of “economic patriotism.”
Nice touch. Democrats used to wax indignant about having one’s patriotism questioned. Now they throw around the charge with abandon, tossing it at corporations that refuse to do the economically patriotic thing of paying the highest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world. Continue reading
President Barack Obama says it’s “not fair” and “not right” for U.S. companies to set up overseas to avoid taxes. Except when it benefits him politically.
The president calls these companies “corporate deserters.” He says they are “still using all the services and all the benefits of effectively being a U.S. corporation,” but have “just decided” to go through the “paper exercise” of corporate inversion, in which U.S. companies with foreign subsidiaries can reduce their tax bill by becoming foreign companies with U.S. subsidiaries.
“I think it’s something that would really bother the average American,” he said recently, “the idea that somebody renounces their citizenship but continues to entirely benefit from operating in the United States of America just to avoid paying a whole bunch of taxes.”
Many companies are planning to flee the country because the United States of America has the highest corporate tax rate — 35 percent — in the developed world. It simply makes sense for them to do so. They are obligated to shareholders to be as competitive and profitable as possible. Continue reading
Federal tax revenues continue to run at a record pace in fiscal 2014, as the federal government’s total receipts for the fiscal year closed April at $1,735,030,000,000, according to the Monthly Treasury Statement.
Despite this record revenue, the federal government still ran a deficit of $306.411 billion in the first seven months of the fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1, 2013 and will end on Sept. 30, 2014.
In the month of April itself, which usually sees the peak tax revenues for the year, the federal government ran a surplus of $106.853 billion. While taking in $414.237 billion in total receipts during the month, the government spent $307.383 billion.
In fiscal 2013, the federal government also ran a one-month surplus in April, taking in $406.723 billion during the month and spending $293.834 billion, leaving a surplus of $112.889 billion. Continue reading
Our corporate tax rates are far too high. The rate kills investment and job creation and it makes us less competitive with other nations who have had the good sense to lower their tax rates. Germany has cut its rates almost in half in the last 25 years. Socialist Sweden has cut its by more than one half. And Ireland has cut its rates by almost 75%. We, on the other hand, have raised our corporate tax rates over that time period — leaving us with the highest rates in the industrialized world.
It is no coincidence that our unemployment rate is historically high and our labor participation rate is historically low. It is also no coincidence that our economic growth rate is painfully slow and far too low.
We realize that there will not be any meaningful tax reform or lowering of the tax rates this year. But the idea that the Senate Finance Committee might consider extending some legitimate tax deductions for manufacturing that actually make profits and employ people, but killing others means that the Senate plans to raise taxes on some american corporations at a time when the economy is weak, employment numbers are bad and taxes are already too high. This is bad policy! Continue reading
The article below discusses the push in Illinois to raise the minimum wage to $10 and hour. While we cannot endorse each point made in the article, it does a good job of describing the absurdity of solving current job growth and economic growth problems by focusing on the minimum wage. In North Dakota where there is an economic and energy boom, there is rapid economic growth and full employment. Kids working at McDonalds can earn up to $15 an hour. This was done not be raising the minimum wage, but instead, by the free-market creating jobs and thus, driving wages higher through natural natural means. The article makes some excellent points. Enjoy!
Beyond the minimum wage
Gov. Pat Quinn wants to raise the minimum wage in Illinois to at least $10 an hour. Some of the Republican challengers to Quinn have danced clumsily around the issue. Our concern is that this narrow focus on a small shift in wages for a small number of workers misses the real point of debate.
Illinois is desperate for jobs of all kinds. This state has the fourth highest unemployment rate in the nation and, according to a recent, credible survey, the worst prospects for job growth. Unemployment is significantly higher than the state average in communities such as Rockford, Kankakee, Decatur and Danville. It is desperately high in some of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods. Continue reading
I am here today because I believe the public policy status quo in Washington – and in particular, within the Republican Party – must once again be challenged and transformed. The focus of my remarks will be the new tax reform proposal I will soon be introducing in the Senate.
But before I get into the specifics of the legislation, I think it’s important to explain the problem it has been designed to solve.
On this Constitution Day, allow me to begin with thoughts from perhaps the two most important constitutionalists in American history. The first, from James Madison, is that the “object of government,” is “the happiness of the people.” The second, from Abraham Lincoln, is that the role of government is: “…to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance in the race of life.” Continue reading