Taxes

North Carolina is undergoing some changes in the way we tax ourselves.  For more than 100 years the state has been dominated by democrats in the senate, house and governor’s mansion.  That changed in 2010 when both the house and senate flipped red but a democrat, Bev Purdue, was still the  governor.

In 2012 Pat McCrory won the governor race and the trifecta is complete; republicans control all three major law making bodies.

It should not be a surprise that this change in leadership is going to bring about changes in laws – tax collection being one of them.  And starting January 1, NC is seeing some changes:

Republicans insist the new tax law will help the state to attract new businesses and create jobs by lowering income tax rates that have been the highest among Southeastern states. They’ve emphasized the new lower flat rate of 5.8 percent for personal income tax — compared to the outgoing three-tiered system of 6, 7 and almost 7.8 percent — and noted more than 40 credits, exemptions and deductions ultimately will expire or be repealed.

The income tax has been reduced; we’ve been one of the highest taxed states in the south for years.  There is some who argue that jobs aren’t impacted by higher or lower income taxes – people go where the work is.  However, there is some calculus for people who are able to control where they live.

Also gone?  Certain exemptions:

Owners of many types of businesses lose a deduction on their first $50,000 of income, while home-related deductions on mortgage interest and property taxes are capped at $20,000 combined. A credit for child care expenses and deductions on certain kinds of pension income are gone.

Also gone – and most likely the most contentious of the list – is the earned-income tax credit:

Also set to expire on Jan. 1 is the earned-income tax credit, which gives payments to some of the working poor even if they owe no taxes. The credit’s elimination means some low-income families might have to pay a small tax bill again.

And my favorite change is the corporate rates:

The corporate tax rate, meanwhile, will decline from 6.9 percent to 6 percent in 2014. Both personal and corporate income tax rates fall further in 2015.

Unlike the income tax, the corporate rate does influence the decisions of businesses to move to North Carolina.  And, for those that are already here, it frees that money for growth and investment.

Generally, an easier and cleaner tax code is better.  Lower taxes, not higher, are better for growth and prosperity.  In general, I like the changes.  And yes, I know that some folks, likely those of lower incomes, are going to pay more than they previously did, however, I think it’s important that we don’t use the tax system as a redistribution machine – I don’t like negative tax rates.

 

Filibuster

Harry Reid ended the filibuster today.  I know that he only changed rules that impact nominees other than Supreme Court Justices, but this is Washington – no good deed goes unpunished.  Even if the rules are changed back the last day of the session before republicans take the chamber, you can bet that this won’t be forgotten – the republicans will be highly motivated to not only respond in kind but conduct an escalation – in time, there will be no filibuster.

Okay, I guess.  There may be worse things.

I happen to believe in the idea that presidential nominees should be afforded the opportunity of a vote.  He did, after all, win.   Further, Ii think that votes should be brought before the chambers to be voted on.  Needing 60 to agree to vote on something that needs 51 is silly.

However, I also believe that the leaders of each chamber should be more willing to allow votes on issues that they don’t necessarily agree.  For example, the recent non-discrimination act for gay employees will never see a vote in the house.  I don’t like that.  And, similarly, Reid doesn’t bring up for votes issues that he personally disagrees with.  In fact, one of the reasons the filibuster has been used so often in recent years is that Harry fills the amendment tree preventing the republicans from amending bills.

So, what do people have to say about the nuclear option?

Here is Salon:

Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says Democrats are fixing to “blow up 200 years of Senate history” just because they’re not getting their way on a handful of “radical” judicial nominees. On Capitol Hill, the threat of the “nuclear option” has created a sort of political ground zero, and activists on both sides believe that the way this thing plays out will control the shape of the federal judiciary — and with it, the interpretation of the U.S. Constitution — for decades to come.

Call it a primer on the judicial confirmation process. Call it what you get when you spend way too much time reading Riddick’s Senate Procedure. Just don’t call it the “nuclear option” — at least not when Harry Reid is around to correct you. The Senate majority leader doesn’t want his plan to sound so explosive, but be forewarned: Unless somebody blinks first, we’re in for a mind-warping set of unprecedented Senate maneuvers that could put Joe Biden in charge of deeming the filibuster “unconstitutional” — without a word from those folks in black robes across the street — and grease the way for each and every left-wing extremist Barrack Obama ever cares to put on a district court, an appellate court or the U.S. Supreme Court.

And here’s The Hill:

“To change the rules in the Senate can’t be done by a simple majority. It can only be done if there is extended debate by 67 votes,” McConnell said.

“They are talking about doing something illegal. They are talking about breaking the rules to change the rules, and that is not appropriate. That is not fair, and it is not right,” he said.

And what did The Democrat have to say?

A filibuster allows any Senator to prevent a full vote by extending debate on an issue or a presidential appointee indefinitely and requires a supermajority of 60 votes to “break” the filibuster and force a vote. The ability of three-fifths of the Senators to end such debate — two-thirds, in the case of a motion to change Senate rules — is codified in the Standing Rules of the Senate, Rule 22, also known as “Precedence of Motions.”

… the Democrat majority, in an effort to push through Barack Obama’s far left-wing judicial nominees, sought to get rid of the filibuster via the “nuclear option,” which would have solidified absolute, one-party rule and allowed all of Bush’s nominees to go through with essentially only Republican approval — thus removing any reason for the minority party to even show up in the Senate chamber.

But unlike an ideologically-driven hack like Reid,  Mitch McConnell is a Senate purist who believes in the way the Senate has always run and the wisdom of its traditions, even if some of those will benefit the Democrat minority over the next few years.

Okay okay, those sources are accurately linked but  changed the names and parties to represent the opposite of reality.

These guys are all a bunch of pukes – both sides.  All of ‘em.  They have all blocked nominations and they have all complained of the minority party having too much power.  But now Reid has done it, he’s broken the rule.  And the rule will be broken again – and the next time it will be pay back.

 

Teacher

For the first time in 150 years, North Carolina has a republican controlled government.  It should surprise no one that republican favored agendas are being passed into law.

[ It should also serve as a stark lesson to all liberals who rejoiced in massive democratic majorities following the election of Obama that such majorities are not always good ]

One of the priorities of the republican legislature is to pass a voucher bill:

The House budget set aside $10 million for vouchers this year for families meeting income requirements, and $40 million next year. Parents would receive $4,200 per child to help cover private school tuition. Vouchers are in play in the negotiations between House and Senate budget writers.

Such “hatred of poor kids” is, of course, the subject of Moral Monday marches in Raleigh.  For as long as I can remember, the concept of vouchers in specific and private schools in general have been a special hatred of the left.

And I can’t understand why.

I get that the state has a vested interest in the education of its children.  And in so far as the state is interested in said education, I would suppose that how that education was delivered would largely be inconsequential.  What MIGHT be of importance is who is best able to deliver education that results in the highest levels of quality.  That is, if the state can do it better than the private school, then I get the argument that the state should provide education.

However, our public schools are horrible, yes?  And if private schools are able to deliver at least equal levels of education at prices that are dramatically cheaper, ought we not go where it makes sense?  And there is little evidence to suggest that public schools are superior to private ones.

So why the outrage over private school vouchers?

Is it because the left feels that parents of the most at risk students don’t care enough even to apply for and receive such vouchers?  Or is it because the democrat machine is dominated by the most powerful lobbying force in the country – the Teacher’s Union?

Republicans in North Carolina are advancing a bill that would require drug tests for welfare recipients:

Raleigh, N.C. — Applicants the welfare program known as WorkFirst would need to pass a drug test before enrolling in the program under a bill that passed the state Senate Monday night.

The measure, which passed 35-15, now goes to the House.

There are currently 21,124 people in North Carolina enrolled in WorkFirst, a program that provides cash payments to people looking for jobs. It is targeted to the parents of young children.

“Every kid in North Carolina deserves to live in a drug-free home,” said Sen. Jim Davis, R-Macon, the bill’s sponsor.

Sen. Angela Bryant, D-Nash, said the bill violates the U.S. Constitution because it calls for a blanket search of people who haven’t otherwise raised suspicion.

The measure requires those seeking benefits to pay for the drug tests. If the tests are negative, applicants would be reimbursed for the tests. If they test positive, they would be ineligible for benefits. At an average of $100 per person for testing, the state could be liable for reimbursements of more than $2.1 million.

“The impact of this bill, if not the intent, is to hurt the most vulnerable,” Bryant said.

I think that Angela Bryant is wrong.  It doesn’t violate the US Constitution.  New York is allowed to search the homes of gun owners, NC can require tests for people who wanna take state aid.  And she’s wrong regarding intent.  No one wants to hurt anyone.

The intent of the bill is to prevent state money, tax payer money, from going towards the purchase of drugs.  Plain and simple.

With ALL of that being said, the bill is wrong minded.  The reason, a large reason, that people are in need of help to begin with is the fact that they are hooked on drugs.  These folks need help, addiction help, not a push away from that help.  Wanna test for drugs?  Sure, but then offer rehabilitation services to get these folks off of those drugs.  Otherwise…well, otherwise they go underground, keep using, keep hurting their kids and never getting help.

Republicans are wrong here.  But, BUT, democrats need to admit that society is willing to help someone out, to get back on their feet.  We are not door mats just waiting to give our money to folks that will just flush it down the toilet.

Prayer

Okay, so, awhile ago I mentioned that North Carolina is dangerously republican:

In the state house?  The republicans not only held serve but they extended their majority.  To the point that they hold a veto proof majority.  In fact, they are so in the majority that the republicans are able to submit constitutional amendments to popular vote without even one democrat agreeing.

Well, another piece of legislation has been proposed that will try to take advantage of this republican advantage:

A bill filed by Republican lawmakers would allow the state to declare an official religion, in violation of the Establishment Clause of the US Bill of Rights, and seeks to nullify any federal ruling against Christian prayer by public bodies in North Carolina.

The bill grew out of a federal lawsuit filed last month by the ACLU against the Rowan County Board of Commissioners. In the lawsuit, the ACLU says the board has opened 97% of its meetings since 2007 with explicitly Christian prayers.

Overtly Christian prayers at government meetings are not rare in North Carolina. Since the Republican takeover in 2011, the state Senate chaplain has offered a explicitly Christian invocation virtually every day of session, despite the fact that some senators are not Christian.

I can’t imagine that this bill will pass into law.  In fact, I have no idea what the point of the legislation is about.  North Carolina already has a requirement in our constitution that speaks to religion:

Sec. 8.  Disqualifications for office.

The following persons shall be disqualified for office:

First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.

Serious, under the state constitution, if you deny the existence of God, you are disqualified from holding office.  And, as the article mentions, prayer at meetings is not rare; apparently we do it fairly often.

Again, not sure what the point of the bill is, but it certainly will be interesting to watch.

elephant on a limb

North Carolina has gone decidedly red in recent years.  After voting for Obama in 2008 along with a democrat for governor and senator we have gone red; very red.  In 2010, however, that all changed.  Republicans won majorities in both the house and the senate.  In fact, it was the first time that had been the case since the Civil War ended.

In 2012 the trend continued.  North Carolina was the only battle ground state to switch and go for Romney.  The governor’s race was, in essence, a rematch between the candidate from the 2008 election.  Except the sitting governor chose not to run and instead we saw her Lt. Governor get trampled.  In the state house?  The republicans not only held serve but they extended their majority.  To the point that they hold a veto proof majority.  In fact, they are so in the majority that the republicans are able to submit constitutional amendments to popular vote without even one democrat agreeing.

I think this level of dominance is dangerous.  Dangerous in the same way that I thought the democrats held control of the federal powers in 2008.

So far, the majority has taken to a little political payback.  The democrats, predictably, have squealed, but to be very fair, the fact that they are not getting their way after more than 100 years of uninterrupted control is a bit of righteous karma.

As I feared the republicans are using their muscle in a way and manner that would be checked with a more balanced government:

Resurrecting last session’s bruising battle over the death penalty in North Carolina, a Republican state senator on Wednesday filed a bill to wipe all traces of the Racial Justice Act off the books.

The 2009 law allowed statistics compiled statewide to be used to prove racial bias in the prosecution, jury selection or sentencing in capital cases.

Now, in full disclosure, if I could have the “Eye of God” and be certain that the guilt or innocence of an individual could be ascertained with certainty, I have no problem with the death penalty for certain crimes.  However, we do not possess this “Eye of God” certainty and, in fact, I have no more faith in the government “getting it right” when determining said innocence or guilt, or the sentence associated with that verdict, than I do with that government managing health care, or nutritional needs, or education.

In short, I don’t trust government all that much at all.

So when people tell me that the poor and minorities are subject to sentences of the death penalty in meaningful volumes, I advocate creating a law that has the ability to not change the verdict, but change the sentence from death to life in prison.

And the republicans are changing that.

And it’s wrong.

 

Harry Reid

It’s been years since the senate has passed a budget; we’re going on 5 now.  And if you wanted to know why that is, you have to look no further than these two articles from The Hill.

First, Paul Ryan gettin’ it done:

Ryan, the former Republican vice presidential candidate who chairs the House Budget Committee, will release his 2014 budget on Tuesday. He’s expected to outline a plan to balance the budget in 10 years.

And why does this contribute to the reasons democrats won’t pass their own budget?

Senate Democrats promised Monday to make Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) new budget a focal point of their 2014 campaigns.

Democrats argue changes to Medicare and other spending cuts outlined by Ryan will pay political dividends for their Senate candidates, who face a difficult 2014 landscape.

“The Ryan budget will be a gift that gives throughout the 2014 cycle for Democrats,” pollster Geoff Garin said on a Monday call hosted by the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee.

And now over to the article describing progress on the senate’s budget:

Senate Democrats say they will soon pass their first budget in four years, but it is proving a test.

Disputes over tax cuts, spending reductions and entitlement reform all present challenges to Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

One reason Senate Democrats did not pass a budget bill for the past four years was that they wanted to avoid unpopular votes to cut spending and hike taxes.

Leadership aides say Democrats from red states are less nervous now.

“The 2012 election showed that being in favor of revenue does not tar and feather you as a tax-and-spend liberal,” one aide said.

For the democrats, being elected to public office is the whole of the point.  There is no effort to govern or lead, only to win the next election.

Paul Ryan submits a budget and the democrats do nothing but “run against” the “gift that keeps giving.”  Yet when it comes time to pass their own budget, we get nothing because they are afraid to make the tough decisions.

Not surprising really.

Compromise

The headlines this week are going to focus on “compromise”.  What each party thinks that means, for themselves and for the other guys, is going to be interesting.  And will be at the heart of the conflict.

In the over-arching context, compromise refers to the effort to reduce the deficit so that we can begin to work on reducing the debt.  And the whole concept of compromise is the smaller individual effort to accomplish this goal by either increasing revenue or reducing spending.  Or, a third method, which is that the whole framing of the “problem” isn’t correct.  That is, while we do have a debt and a deficit, any conversation should be couched in our ability to carry, or repay, each.  However, I would suggest that such a take on the subject is awfully “inside baseball” and is even further removed from common understanding than such basic concepts as debt, deficit, baseline budgeting and “cuts”.

With the failure of Washington to stop the Sequestration, the conversation switches to:

  1. What can we do to prevent further cuts?
  2. How are we going to deal with the expiration of the continuing resolution on March 27?

And right now, the conflict between the democrats and the republicans is the whole idea of compromise.  One one side you will hear that any spending decrease will have to be matched by a conversation that discusses an increase of revenues through the tax code.  And on the other?  You’re gonna hear that revenues have already been addressed during the legislation that handled the expiration of the Bush Tax Cuts.

So, if I was the President of the United States or, if I was just a manager tasked with handling this budgetary effort, how would I guide the parties forward?

First, I would establish that for this effort, I was the President of the United States, not the President of the Democrat Party.  In other words, Obama has got to stop the party politics and blaming of the republicans.

I acknowledge that this is near impossible and why I would suck at politics.  Obama was elected because he is a democrat and he continues to receive the support he has because he’s expected to be a democrat president helping those same democrats take the House in 2014.  Which, by the way, puts him in a position that is firmly in his wheelhouse:  Campaigning.

I would approach the republicans and work on an idea that took two forms:

  1. We will reduce spending across the board; including and specifically the “entitlement” programs.
  2. We will increase revenues through tax reform – including a mix of ideas contained within Romney’s plan AND by ending tax subsidies to energy firms.

After speaking with the republicans I would approach the democrats and work on that same idea giving them:

  1. Tax benefits to oil and gas companies.
  2. Smart reforms to entitlements that ensure they continue to remain strong and viable.

In order to accomplish this plan, the main components of my plan would include:

  1. Let both sides claim victory.  Only in Washington can you INCREASE spending on programs and claim to cut them at the same time.  In other words, allow the entitlement programs to grow, but grow more slowly.
  2. Acknowledge that ALL forms of government must subscribe to the cuts, including defense and border protection.
  3. Remove “loopholes” for energy companies; oil, gas and coal BUT include alternative “green energy” firms in the legislation.  Again, this should be a win for both sides.
  4. Reduce the corporate tax in exchange for the removal of the energy legislation.
  5. Increase tax revenues by limiting deductions in exchange for a reduction in tax rates.

Items 1-4 above should be straight forward and relatively easy; the 5th is a tougher sell.   The republicans are against any revenue increase and the democrats can’t let go of the class warfare and are intransigent on the issue of tax rates; specifically on the wealthy.

 

 

I’m pretty sure this explains a lot.  And why I’m continually surprised by conversations that I have with people out and about.  America is changing how she views the path to prosperity and security.

53% of democrats have a positive image of socialism.  While I’m sure few respondents don’t have an accurate definition of the word socialist or socialism, the idea is the same; “Someone else labors to my benefit.”

 

So, I’m just reading around when I came across a Gallup poll on creationism, evolution and who believes in what.  I grew up Christian, went to church almost every Sunday for 18 years, Sunday School ’till I graduated high school, sang in the choir and take my kids to church today – though not every Sunday.

I don’t think I can remember ever thinking, when I was old enough to begin to think independently, that God created humans in human form.  I certainly NEVER believed that science was wrong.  I’ve always accepted that rocks were very old, that people once couldn’t read, write and do the things we can today.

In short, I’ve always felt that evolution was very clearly how we got to where we are today.

So, I’m stunned, freakin’ STUNNED, to learn that a plurality, 46% of American’s, believe that God created humans in current form just 10,000 years ago.

Unbelievable.

The first thing that came to my mind was that it was that group of people that the Left loves to hate; the Tea Party:

Certainly republicans are leading the charge, but not by the margins I would have thought.  I mean, 41% of democrats think that God created, what I have to believe, is Adam and Eve in literal form.

Only slightly less surprising is the numbers that support my view that God guided evolution to get us where we are today [I'm not sure that we're the finished form, by the way.  Which may explain my "meh" attitude on supposed crisis like overpopulation and global warming].  I would have thought that as education increased, the view that God guided evolution would decrease:

Nope.  In each case, high school, college and then postgraduate, the rate increased supporting God involved evolution.

I can’t explain it.

Anyway, no commentary, just cool.