Why a Trauma Kit is essential and what it should contain

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Tiny SquirrelGun shows are great places to meet kindred spirits and at the last one I went to I met David Dietrich who is co-owner of GetReady! Emergency Planning Center, getemergencyready.com. He was selling a fantastic range of Trauma items (although I admit he got my attention with a small pack on his stall labeled “Vasectomy Kit.”) Anyway, I asked him to come up with something that would really be of use to you guys and he produced a doozy. Check this list out. Thanks David, this is really useful. 

Most people likely think about equipment for trained specialists in Emergency Medical Services (EMS) when they hear “Trauma Kit.”  Other terms used are “Blow-Out Kit,” and “Individual First Aid Kit” (IFAK).  However, they would be wrong.  Such kits are instead designed to be used by the first responder, whether he is a police officer, infantryman, or just a Good Samaritan.

A Trauma Kit is a far cry from a typical First Aid Kit.  While the latter is designed to support minor injuries and medical issues, the former is essential for saving someone’s life in the next ten minutes.  That means such kits are focused on major bleeding from gunshots, stabbings, and amputations.  In addition, they address breathing obstructions from anaphylaxis or massive tissue damage.

For the purposes of post-disaster preparedness, a Trauma Kit provides coverage where there will likely be no medical services for some time.  That means we will be on our own.  We ourselves may be not only the first responder, but also the last.  So, acquiring and learning to use the components of such a kit is a critical capability.  This is one reason why so many military combatants have survived serious wounds in our recent wars.

One axiom is indisputable – all bleeding stops.  The question becomes, how it will stop?  Do you want to let it stop on its own, after the casualty has bled out, or do you want to play an active role, stopping the bleeding yourself in sufficient time for the casualty to become an asset once again?  The Trauma Kit provides a means to that end, through various included devices.

jbc-corporation-medical-assault-kit
Image: Pictured are the JBC Corporation Medical Assault Kit, costing over $200, and the GetReady! Field Trauma Kit, listing at $99.95.

So, what does a Trauma Kit look like?  First of all, it is relatively small, easily carried on a belt, armor plate, or in a backpack.  Secondly, it does not usually contain the items we expect to see in First Aid Kits.  Rather, they include tourniquets, pressure bandages, blood clotting agent, occlusive dressing, tension pneumothorax needle, and nasopharyngeal airway. There may be a few other odds and ends as well, but those are the basics.

 

Let’s take a look at components of a trauma kit, to better understand why they are used:

 

tourniquets
Image: Pictured are rubber tubing, RATS, SWAT-T, and CAT-T.  Others to consider are are SOF-TT, and TK-4.  They range in price from approximately $6 to $32 each.

Tourniquet.  There are many designs and brand available, from simple rubber tubing to complex windlass or ratcheting designs.  But, they all have one purpose – to constrict or eliminate blood flow to the bleeding extremity.  While these used to be a tool of last resort, military experience has proven their worth in saving lives as the tool of first choice.  If properly applied and combined with other devices, they can be safely removed later.

 

compression-bandages
Pictured are the H&H Medical H-Bandage and the ubiquitous “Israeli Bandage.”  They range in price from approximately $6 to $15 each.

Compression (Pressure) Bandage.  There are several commercial brands out there, typically based on the original Israeli Bandage.  As the tried and true method for staunching blood flow is pressure and elevation, their purpose is to maintain pressure at the injury site, as well as provide a clotting medium.  This is accomplished through an integrated dressing and pressure device.  The hands are then left free to perform other functions. Here are some examples of commercially available Pressure Bandages:

 

Pictured are the Celox Hemostatic Granules,  QuikClot Combat Gauze, and QuikClot Clotting Sponge.  They range in price from approximately $13 to $42 each.
Pictured are the Celox Hemostatic Granules,  QuikClot Combat Gauze, and QuikClot Clotting Sponge.  They range in price from approximately $13 to $42 each.

Hemostatic (Clotting) Agent.  There are mainly two commercial brands out there, found in three forms.  These are QuikClot and Celox, using sponges, gauze wraps, or poured granules.  The key component is either a clay mineral (kaolin), used in QuikClot, or a crustacean derivative (chitosan), used in Celox.  Both types interact with blood plasma to rapidly form clots.  They work independently of blood platelets or thinning drugs.

 

 

Pictured are the H&H Medical Wound Seal Kit and Compact Wound Seal.  Other companies also produce simple and valved options.  They range in price from approximately $15 to $30 each.
Pictured are the H&H Medical Wound Seal Kit and Compact Wound Seal.  Other companies also produce simple and valved options.  They range in price from approximately $15 to $30 each.

Occlusive Dressing (aka Chest Seal).  Several brands are used by the military and other agencies.  They are designed to block inhalation through the thoracic cavity, rather than normally, into the lungs.  If such a condition, known as a “sucking chest wound,” is allowed to continue, the lung on that side will likely collapse, putting pressure on the aorta and heart, resulting in painful breathing and associated circulatory problems.

 

 

 

Pictured are the BD Angiocath and the H&H Medical Tension Pneumothorax Needle.  Enhanced versions are also available.  They range in price from approximately $15 to $43 each.
Pictured are the BD Angiocath and the H&H Medical Tension Pneumothorax Needle.  Enhanced versions are also available.  They range in price from approximately $15 to $43 each.

Tension Pneumothorax Needle (TPN).  Several brands are used by the military and other agencies.  They are designed to release air and/or fluid pressure in the external thoracic cavity that may lead to the same conditions described under Occlusive Dressing above.  So, this device is for closed, versus open chest wounds.  The TPN is probably the most difficult of all the Trauma Kit devices to apply, and should by studied and practiced.

 

Naso-Pharyngeal Airway (NPA)

Pictured is the Rusch Robertazzi Nasopharyngeal Airway.  Packaged with water-soluble lubricant, they range in price from approximately $5 to $15 each.
Pictured is the Rusch Robertazzi Nasopharyngeal Airway.  Packaged with water-soluble lubricant, they range in price from approximately $5 to $15 each.

Numerous brands are used by the military and other agencies. They are used to maintain breathing in the event of an airway blockage due to anaphylaxis or tissue damage.  They are basically comprised of a stiffened rubber tube, beveled on one end and enlarged into a bell shape on the other.  Assisted by accompanying water-based lubricant, they are fully inserted into a nostril up to the bell.

compressed-gauzeCompressed Gauze.  Numerous brands are used by the military and other agencies.  They are used primarily to absorb and aid in the clotting of blood.  Almost always comprised of cotton, they are the most versatile Trauma Kit component.  And it cannot be overstated that you can never have enough gauze.  Additional uses include absorbing other bodily fluids, covering burns and lacerations, wrapping dressings, and securing splints.

 

Trauma Shears

Pictured are 3.5” and 5.5” light duty Trauma Sheers from Rescue Essentials and Ronson.  Other, more robust sheers are available.  They range in price from approximately $3 to $50 each.
Pictured are 3.5” and 5.5” light duty Trauma Sheers from Rescue Essentials and Ronson.  Other, more robust sheers are available.  They range in price from approximately $3 to $50 each.

Numerous brands are used by the military and other agencies.  They are used primarily to cut away clothing and other accessories (eg bra underwire) to quickly access the point of injury.  Their unique design provides a safe and easy method to cut through almost anything, including coins!  The major take-away regarding arterial bleeding is that saving clothing comes in a distant second to saving a life.

 

 

 

 Pictured are rolls from eGear and H&H Medical.  Also found among survival gear, they range in price from approximately $1 to $4 each.

Pictured are rolls from eGear and H&H Medical.  Also found among survival gear, they range in price from approximately $1 to $4 each.

Medical (Duct) Tape.  This ubiquitous resource really comes into its own in a medical kit.  Not only can it be used to secure bandages and dressings, but it also has applications for foot care (eg prevention and treatment of blisters), wrapping splints, making snow goggles, and repairing medical gear and other items.  Mini rolls, primarily for storage purposes, are the best configuration.  Don’t leave home without them!

 

 

Pictured are rolls from eGear and H&H Medical.  Also found among survival gear, they range in price from approximately $1 to $4 each.
Pictured are rolls from eGear and H&H Medical.  Also found among survival gear, they range in price from approximately $1 to $4 each.

Medical Gloves.  These are included in Trauma Kits primarily to protect the responder, not the patient.  Bodily fluids can carry many dangerous diseases, and having additional barriers during treatment may keep the responder from becoming a casualty.  In addition, they may preclude the need for further cleansing following treatment.  Simple glove removal and disposal may be sufficient action under tactical conditions.

Marking Pen

Pictured are mini Sharpies.  Full-sized versions can also be used.  They range in price from approximately $1 to $3 each.
Pictured are mini Sharpies.  Full-sized versions can also be used.  They range in price from approximately $1 to $3 each.

This is important not only for recording information on a Casualty Card, but also for marking other information, such as the date and time of a tourniquet application.  Such marking can be on the device itself, or even on the forehead of the patient.  There are other uses for such pens, such as taking notes on environmental conditions, and descriptions of agents (eg animals, plants, suspects) involved.

 

Pictured are the H&H Medical standard and Marine Combat Casualty Care Cards.  They range in price from approximately $2 to $4 each.
Pictured are the H&H Medical standard and Marine Combat Casualty Care Cards.  They range in price from approximately $2 to $4 each.

Casualty Response Documentation Tool (CRDT).

This is an event recording card, containing information describing patient and injury, treatment (including drugs) administered, mental state, circulation, respiration, mechanisms of injury (MOIs), medical conditions, and overall patient medical status, from routine to critical.  It’s always good to keep track of what’s happening in such cases, for reference prior to future treatment.

 

 Pictured are medical pouches from Eagle Industries and Maxpedition.  Another common brand is Rothco.  They range in price from approximately $15 to $45 each.

Pictured are medical pouches from Eagle Industries and Maxpedition.  Another common brand is Rothco.  They range in price from approximately $15 to $45 each.

Pouch.  Typical military kit dimensions are 8 inches long by 6 inches wide by four inches deep when full.  It uses the Pouch Attachment Ladder System (PALS) to fasten to Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment (MOLLE) configured backpacks.  Made of rugged Cordura nylon, this Pouch can be used under adverse environmental and tactical conditions.  It should be readily accessible for immediate use.

 

Other Components.  A number of other items may be included in a Trauma Kit for various reasons.  For example, if the owner would like to access the kit for minor injuries, and not dip into important trauma components, then adhesive bandages may be included.  In addition, medications (eg aspirin) should be considered.  Sterile wipes and water for cleaning wounds, flashlight for nighttime, and CPR shield round out the list.

 Pictured are a CPR Shield, regular strength Aspirin, Moist Towelettes, Sterile Water, Penlight, Adhesive Bandages, and Gauze Pads.  They range in price from approximately $1 to $5 each.

Pictured are a CPR Shield, regular strength Aspirin, Moist Towelettes, Sterile Water, Penlight, Adhesive Bandages, and Gauze Pads.  They range in price from approximately $1 to $5 each.

_________________________________________________________________

 

David Dietrich is co-owner of GetReady! Emergency Planning Center, getemergencyready.com. He has been preparing for uncertainty since he was a youth, recognizing that backpacking is about smaller, lighter, and multi-capability.  His experiences in the Boy Scouts and military have given him an appreciation for the real meaning of the Scout Motto – “Be Prepared.”  Today, David runs a disaster preparedness business that is focused on the creed – helping you help yourself.  It is about delivering resources, training, education, and consulting in preparation for a failure of civility.  Prepared people are survivors.

 

 

 

 

What you didn’t learn in Conceal Carry Training. And how this information could change your life.

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Image: Target shooting, Kelly McCarthy. Now’s the time to think about the consequences of pulling the trigger in a defensive situation

Pulling that trigger is something you need to have thought about BEFORE you ever have to do it. Could you shoot a kid? No? Could you shoot a kid with a gun aimed at your wife? Maybe? Could you shoot a pregnant woman? Never? Could you shoot a pregnant woman with a gun to your kid’s head. Would you shoot a gunman threatening a clerk in a convenience store if you’re safely hiding at the back and in no immediate danger? Could you shoot your wife? Are you going to risk your life for a stranger? Are you willing to endure the court case? The massive hit to your finances? To even, possibly, have to move town because people won’t believe that what you did was necessary. So many ifs, right?

Here are the steps that COULD follow a defensive shooting:

  • Shots Fired
  • 911 Call
  • First Responders
  • Local law enforcement supervisors
  • Detectives – In some places the ADA will be dispatched
  • Investigation/Questioning
  • Prosecutor Determination
  • Trial Phase
  • Sentencing
  • Appeal Process
  • Civil Trial

See what I mean. Being the hero can get you in a whole world of trouble? That’s why I am probably only going to draw and shoot if I’m saving someone with the same last name as me.

Reporting a defensive shooting

So you pulled the trigger. You need to prepare for how you would report a defensive shooting. Rule No. 1. Don’t incriminate yourself. The 911 operator is not your friend but is trained to keep asking questions which are being recorded. Keep it simple.

  • Dial 911
  • Report there’s been a shooting.
  • Give them your name and the address you’re at
  • Tell them who is in the house/building. (Maybe send the kids next door if they are present.)
  • Describe any injuries and whether you need EMS
  • Describe yourself, your clothes. Put your weapon on the floor or in clear sight. (Unless you are using it to subdue a criminal.)
  • If you are insured with an organization that provides an attorney, call them. If you have an attorney call them.
  • Tell the police the bare minimum. Be cooperative but spare the details. Say only:
    • Officer, I was in fear of my life/my family member was threatened and at risk of losing their life. (You would not pull the trigger to save property. The fallout is NOT worth it for something insured or inanimate.)
    • I will sign the complaint.
    • Be helpful and show them what the assailant used to attack you.
    • Introduce any witnesses.
    • Tell them you are invoking the Fifth Amendment until you have had time to talk to your attorney and calm yourself down. You should say you’ll be back within 24 hours to talk to them. Be prepared to be arrested. And be prepared to spend a long time being questioned.
    • Remember to say: “If he/she survives I want to press charges.” Remind everyone that you’re not the aggressor here. 

What Made George Washington Great?

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After leaving the military, George Washington set out to become a farmer with the land at Mount Vernon he received from his brother, Lawrence. I am lucky enough to live close to Mount Vernon. If you haven’t visited, you should. Check out their website for details of Washington and his astonishing life.

From The Daily Signal: America’s greatest statesmen did not think that national holidays were merely about family dinners, watching fireworks, or getting a three-day weekend.

These occasions, to the contrary, were needed to encourage all citizens to together raise their gaze above the enthrallment of their private lives, so as to see or imagine something greater than themselves and worthy of their admiration.

Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July, first conceived by our Founders, are illustrative.

Thanksgiving, as George Washington writes in his Thanksgiving Day proclamation, should instill in citizens gratitude to our nation and our creator, thereby asking citizens for a moment to acknowledge our frailty, our dependence on higher powers, and the imperfection of our understanding.

Thanksgiving, therefore, is a holiday that restrains democratic self-satisfaction and pride.

The Fourth of July, by contrast, celebrates courage and manliness, the kind required to defeat a great empire and to found a community devoted to political liberty. It reminds citizens of public spiritedness on behalf of our ideals, and that our ideals require of us sacrifice and courage.

Thus, these two holidays celebrate starkly contrasting spirits—that of subordination and that of assertion, both healthy aspects of the republican character.

What we today call “Presidents Day” is in fact Washington’s birthday. Just like a republican people must on occasion be reminded of the need for manly assertiveness and modest gratitude, so too must they be reminded of examples of human greatness.

First instituted as a federal holiday in 1879, this day ought to celebrate Washington, not an abstraction called “presidents.” There is no meaning in celebrating “presidents” generally, and for this reason, the holiday today has no real content, being viewed as merely another day off work.

To confuse James Buchanan for Washington is to conflate copper and gold.

During Washington’s life, he deservedly became one of the most famous men in the world. His remarkable courage and prudence had, despite great odds and at great peril, carried to victory our 13 colonies against the most powerful empire on earth. The weight of this task fell upon his shoulders.

In times of peace, moreover, Washington’s self-possession and equanimity—by contrast to the brilliant but somewhat impulsive advisers surrounding him—meant that the country’s fate could be responsibly entrusted to him. The example of his control over his passions, his judgement, and devotion to the common good made him the new model of republican greatness, which until recently filled the American imagination for generations.

Indeed, so clear were his virtues that both Federalists and Anti-Federalists reached unanimous agreement about Washington’s worthiness to be president, despite their immense disagreements on almost everything else.

Today, examples of human greatness are needed perhaps more than ever. In the hurly-burly of the crass and silly images in popular culture, film, and music, such examples are absent.

In our books and textbooks, individual greatness is often tacitly denied by teaching that vast cosmic forces—like economic forces, or technological advancement—rather than individuals, cause events. And when individuals are the cause, they are often characterized merely as oppressors.

Our experiences of these things combine to instruct us in vulgar aspirations, enervating fatalism, or hatred of greatness.

Revering Washington and living with his example is not just a matter of arbitrary, antiquarian taste. In fact, reverence for human greatness, as Tocqueville observes, is among the things most needed in democracy.

One of the many reasons for this is to counterbalance the overwhelming power of a democratic majority. Tocqueville writes:

In aristocracies, men often have a greatness and a force that are their own … There is nothing like this among democratic peoples. [In democracies], public favor seems as necessary as the air that one breathes, and to be in disagreement with the mass is, so to speak, not to live. [The majority] does not need to use the laws to bend those who do not think like it. It is enough for it to disapprove of them. Their sense of isolation and their impotence immediately overwhelms them and drives them to despair. [“Democracy in America,” Mansfield Trans., p. 569]

In this context, human greatness means maintaining moral and intellectual independence despite the tyranny of the majority over the individual. Such independence is the source of statesmanship and the kind of steadiness of character required for it.

It is inconceivable that a man like Washington would go along with arbitrary new tastes or ideas. But without such examples as his remembered on a specially assigned day for all Americans to consider, we have few occasions to learn from his example. By Arthur Milikh

Love Mike Rowe? You’ll love this.

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I believe that I have won the greatest lottery of all time. I am alive. I walk the Earth. I live in America. Above all things, I am grateful.

If you are feeling down, listen to this and see if it helps pick you up.

Mike is busy trying to get people back into The Trades. And back in 2008, Mike wanted to find a way to articulate the qualities he values most. He ended up writing The S.W.E.A.T. Pledge, which stands for “Skills and Work Ethic Aren’t Taboo.” It’s a collection of beliefs that outlines the importance of work ethic, personal responsibility, delayed gratification, and a positive attitude that we believe every worker can benefit from embracing it. But anyone who applies for the Work Ethic Scholarship Program must agree with and sign it.

Top 7 Guns I wish I didn’t buy

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His language is a bit salty but he’s very thorough in his examination of these firearms. He’s also kinda funny.

Do Americans know their presidents?

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Do you know who the first president was? What about the 5th, the 20th, or the 32nd, president? In honor of President’s Day, Will Witt went to the streets of Hollywood to find out just what Americans know about the men who have led our country.

Graphic images: Man who hand wrestled Mountain Lion describes the experience.

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Travis Kauffman, 31, was trail running at Horsetooth Mountain Open Space when he was attacked by a mountain lion on Feb. 4, 2019. In this candid interview, Kauffman shared the details about his experience.

The cougar, also commonly known as the mountain lion, puma, panther, or catamount, is a large felid of the subfamily Felinae native to the Americas. Its range, from the Canadian Yukon to the southern Andes of South America, is the most widespread of any large wild terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere.

9 Big Questions About Democratic Socialism

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Democratic socialism is hot in the United States right now. Both the American media and young people seem to be enamored of the thought of steeply progressive, redistributive tax rates designed to achieve some vision of justice.

As with most public policy ideas, we tend to get pretty far down the road before we ask basic questions related to the project. In other words, we imagine a result that appeals to us before we’ve really considered whether other effects are likely and whether the proposal is morally right in the first place.

Accordingly, I encourage anyone thinking about democratic socialism to ask the following questions:

1. What is the moral basis for taxing some incomes at higher rates than others?

Countries that impose high taxes often find that they end up losing some of the best payers of taxes as they move elsewhere.

2. Do we imagine that incomes are entirely the result of some random process? While John Rawls makes an argument along those lines—essentially, that no one really deserves their money because they didn’t control the family they were born into, their genes, etc.—there is a reasonable argument to be made that many people with such advantages seem to fail, while others who lack those advantages seem to succeed. In other words, attributes such as determination, hard work, the willingness to delay gratification, conscientiousness, and others may well matter more than whether one was born into a family of means.

3. Do we understand that people with high incomes are the most mobile people on earth and that such persons are most able to leave one tax regime for another? Countries that impose high taxes often find that they end up losing some of the best payers of taxes as they move elsewhere. The same is true of corporations who seek to preserve capital from taxes. There will always be nations who offer more competitive rates of taxation.

4. Related to question 3, do we realize that governments exist in a competitive landscape, very much like businesses do? If one government offers a bad deal—high tax rates, inadequate value for taxes, etc.—then citizens and companies who can move will. They will select a friendlier sovereignty. Unless you want to be a nation who builds walls to keep people in rather than out, you have to give good incentives to stay. There is a reason the toughest places to leave are also the places many people would like to leave. They have been captured and effectively enslaved.

Why exactly are we entitled to a large share of someone else’s earnings?

5. Do we have a right to treat wealthy individuals and organizations as a resource for our benefit? In other words, while it sounds good to impose a wealth tax that can bring trillions into the treasury, do we have a right to do it? The right can’t be created simply by the fact of a majority voting for it. We should all recognize that majorities do not automatically vote for just results. So let’s double down here a little: Why exactly are we entitled to a large share of someone else’s earnings? Is it the mere fact of someone else’s need? If so, then we should authorize on the spot confiscations whenever an immediate need is obvious.

6. Will democratic socialism damage innovation and economic growth? Steeply progressive tax rates provide a substantial disincentive to earn income above a certain level. The natural result would be to opt for more conservative returns from known methods and products. There is little reason to take risks for breakout success when the profits will be subject to a confiscatory rate.

7. Why do we prize many other kinds of freedom more than economic freedom? For example, Americans live in a culture that attaches a tremendously high value to sexual autonomy. The result is that we have high numbers of abortions, children born without married parents, generations who live in cycles of poverty, and other negative effects. To paraphrase a professor friend of mine, “Why do we place such a high value on consensual sexual acts, but such a low value on consenting acts of capitalism?”

Are we looking to the tax system as a substitute for individual morality and stewardship?

8. Do we really need higher taxes or do we need to rethink the way we spend our money now? Should entitlements be reconsidered? Should the defense budget find a lower level as the United States seeks to share responsibility for international order rather than being the primary one to shoulder it? Should we make greater use of localized governments where citizens can make choices for either more or less government so we can judge the effects in the great laboratories of democracy?

9. Are we getting taxation wrong? Isn’t taxation really about funding the government rather than redistribution or some kind of social realignment? Are we looking to the tax system as a substitute for individual morality and stewardship? Is the tax system actually alienating in the sense that it applies some kind of automatic transfer to an arena that should entail real connections among people in communities?

This article is reprinted from the Acton Institute.

Hunter Baker

Hunter Baker

Hunter Baker, J.D., Ph.D. is an associate professor of political science at Union University and an Affiliate Scholar in Religion & Politics at the Acton Institute. He is the author of The End of Secularism and Political Thought: A Student’s Guide.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

What’s Good, Bad, and OK in the Omnibus Bill

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Image: Kelly McCarthy

Congress is back at it with a last-minute, massive spending bill that no one will have time to read.

Late Wednesday night, House and Senate negotiators released text of a nearly 1,200-page omnibus spending bill that does nothing to reduce wasteful spending and is a letdown for America’s taxpayers. 

Lawmakers are expected to vote on the bill by Thursday evening, less than 24 hours after its release, leaving no time for a thorough debate and amendment process. 

In total, the compromise agreement provides $333 billion to fund the nine remaining Cabinet agencies and related programs through Sept. 30.

As is the case with most compromises, the bill is far from perfect. It makes no effort to rein in wasteful spending and would limit funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to provide detention beds.

However, the agreement could have been even worse. Unlike past omnibus bills, this legislation does not include a laundry list of add-ons and does provide additional resources for border security.

Here’s the good, the bad, and the OK of the fiscal year 2019 omnibus bill.

The Good

Disaster Funding and Other Add-Ons Not Included

It was assumed that any compromise agreement would include billions of dollars in uncapped disaster spending. In the past month, the House and Senate both pursued disaster packages of $14.2 billion and $12.7 billion, respectively. 

While supplemental disaster funding is sometimes warranted, neither proposal directed any funding toward the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund, the federal government’s primary lead in disaster response efforts. Instead, much of the money would have continued to abusethe disaster spending designation by sending funding to ineffective grant programs and subsidies that have no direct role in disaster response.  

Just because the omnibus didn’t include disaster funding doesn’t mean that Congress won’t pursue a package later. But the fact that Congress is separating disaster spending from a “must pass” spending bill is a step in the right direction. It allows for a more thorough debate and alleviates the pressure for lawmakers to vote for something they may not agree with just because it is tied to a broader funding bill.  

The omnibus also didn’t attach reauthorization language for programs such as the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and Violence Against Women Act programs. In the past, government shutdown threats have been exploited as an opportunity to stuff legislation full of unrelated provisions. Not doing so will allow these programs and other federal expenditures to be more fully and openly debated outside the context of a massive spending bill.

The Bad

Adheres to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 Spending Levels

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 increased the Budget Control Act of 2011 discretionary spending caps by $296 for fiscal year 2018-19. This omnibus adheres to the higher spending levels. 

Instead of using this bill as an opportunity to exhibit fiscal restraint and roll back some of the $68 billion in fiscal year 2019 domestic spending increases, Congress has instead chosen the status quo. 

With the national debt now over $22 trillion, that’s doesn’t cut it. Lawmakers must get serious about making spending reforms and putting the budget back on a path to balance. This bill should have been the time to start taking small steps toward that goal. 

Uses Gimmicks to Increase Spending

Changes in mandatory programs are one of the most commonly used gimmicksin the appropriations process. On paper, mandatory spending is delayed, creating new savings that can be put toward unrelated discretionary spending. 

In reality, the vast majority of the delayed funding would never have been spent in the first place and generated no real savings. Each year, billions of dollars in new spending is enabled through Changes in Mandatory Programs.

The largest change each year is delayed spending from the Department of Justice’s Crime Victims Fund. The bill would cap spending from the Crime Victims Fund at $3.35 billion in fiscal year 2019. However, the fund would consistently carry a balance of around $13 billion, meaning that any unobligated balance above $3.35 billion can now be captured as savings and used to circumvent the Budget Control Act caps.

And the Crime Victims Fund is not the only Change in Mandatory Programs. In fiscal year 2018, changes with no real savings increased spending by nearly $18 billion. 

This gimmick undermines fiscal accountability and transparency and wastes taxpayers’ money. Congress must take steps to end this practice once and for all.

$3.3 Billion Federal Pay Raise Ignores Performance While Increasing Pay Inequity

The omnibus includes a 1.9 percent pay raise for federal employees, costing roughly $3.3 billion in 2019, and more than $40 billion over the next 10 years. 

This would overturn a December 2018 executive order from President Donald Trump freezing federal pay. And, for more than half of federal workers, it will serve as their second pay raise in 2019 because federal workers receive both cost-of-living increases as well as step increases based on tenure. 

On average, federal employees receive $121,000 in total compensation, compared to average private-sector total compensation of $69,000. Part of this differential stems from the fact that federal workers have more education and experience, on average, but studies consistently find that federal employees receive a significant compensation premium. 

While a freeze in federal pay is not the most efficient way to address this gap (primarily because the government’s highest-level employees are actually undercompensated), it is one way of chipping away at the growing inequity. 

Until Congress enacts comprehensive federal compensation reforms, lawmakers should not increase the compensation gap through automatic pay raises that ignore performance. A better solution would have been to provide funding for the president’s proposed $1 billion workforce fund to attract, retain, and reward the government’s highest performers.

Limits Funding for Immigrant Detention Beds and Fails to Close Loopholes

The area of the bill with the most potential for harm is in the critical areas of immigration enforcement, particularly detention beds. 

As the number of caravans, children, families, and asylum-seekers has drastically risen, the administration has been handcuffed by loopholes and prevented from quickly removing many illegal immigrants. The result is that many illegal border crossers or asylum-seekers are “caught and released,” and many will disappear into the public and never be seen again. 

The Trump administration has attempted to limit catch and release, both at the border but also in the interior, by expanding the number of detention beds. 

In this bill, Democratic efforts to set a hard cap on immigration detention were stopped, but the bill does try to push the administration to reduce the number of detention beds by limiting funding. That said, the administration is allowed to transfer or reprogram funds to expand detention, but does so at the expense of other homeland security programs. 

In essence, the bill forces the Department of Homeland Security to steal from other important security and preparedness missions in order to fulfill the immigration enforcement mission.

Critically, the bill fails to address the key loopholes in U.S. immigration law that have encouraged the drastic increases in asylum claims and families and children coming to the border. Without fixes to these loopholes and other immigration enforcement tools, border security is only a superficial fix and detention beds will always be too few. 

Overall, the bill may take some steps forward on immigration, but it falls short of providing the fixes we desperately need.

Continues Congress’ Dysfunctional Budget Process

Text of the 1,169-page compromise bill was released just before midnight on Wednesday. Within 24 hours, Congress will likely have voted on it and by Friday morning, the omnibus could already be law. 

Once again, Congress is ignoring its own budget rules. The House requires that text of legislation be available for at least 72 hours before a vote is held. 

This is not the way the process is supposed to work. It leaves no time for lawmakers to even read the bill, let alone have a chance to debate and offer amendments to improve the legislation.

That’s just a symptom of the larger problem. The fiscal year is already more than four months old and Congress still hasn’t finalized funding. If lawmakers were doing their job and passing budget and appropriations bills on time, continuing resolutions, omnibus bills, and government shutdowns could become obsolete, or at least the exception rather than the rule. 

Congress should strengthen the budget process that it has in place and provide incentives to make the process function more smoothly. 

One potential option would be a “no budget, no pay” provision, in which lawmakers’ salaries are withheld when budget deadlines are missed. This could motivate them to abide by budget deadlines. Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., recently introduced a bill that would implement this enforcement mechanism. 

The OK

Provides New Border Wall and Technology Funding

The most controversial elements of the bill are the immigration provisions. 

The bill includes $1.375 billion for new border wall funding—short of what the president has requested, but which will still be put to good use in high-traffic areas in the Rio Grande Valley Sector. 

It also includes much-needed technology and tools that can support physical infrastructure and also support inspection of vehicles at ports of entry. Given that most dangerous drugs like fentanyl and other opioids enter the U.S. through U.S. ports of entry, such tools are important additions. 

These provisions strike a good balance between cost-effective border barriers, border security technology, and valuable infrastructure and tools at our ports of entry—yet they are unlikely to be enough to secure the border. 

The bill also worryingly adds some limits on where border barriers can be placed, such as in various natural parks and some cities. 

Taxpayers Deserve a Responsible and Transparent Spending Process

While the omnibus bill is not exactly what conservatives would have wanted, it could have been worse—for instance, spending even more money on wasteful programs and less money on border security. 

But the process that led to this bill was a complete failure. Lawmakers must get serious about following the budget process that is already in place and stop this dysfunction. Taxpayers cannot afford year after year of bloated spending bills and budget uncertainty.

COMMENTARY BY

Justin Bogie is a senior policy analyst in fiscal affairs at The Heritage Foundation.  Justin Bogie @JustinBogie

David Inserra specializes in cyber and homeland security policy, including protection of critical infrastructure, as policy analyst in The Heritage Foundation’s Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies. David Inserra@dr_inserra Read his research.

Rachel Greszler is research fellow in economics, budget, and entitlements in the Grover M. Hermann Center for the Federal Budget, of the Institute for Economic Freedom, at The Heritage Foundation. Rachel Greszler  Read her research.

Reproduced with permission from The Daily Signal.


The Truth About Border Walls’ Effectiveness

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“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not to his own facts.” 

That pithy observation is attributed to the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who served in the Senate from 1977 to 2001. 

Photo: EdmondMeinfelder/Flickr (cc by 2.0)

The final two years of Moynihan’s stint in the Senate overlapped the first two years of that of his fellow New York Democrat, Sen. Charles Schumer. 

President Donald Trump, at a rally set for Monday night on the border in El Paso, Texas, should remind Schumer of Moynihan’s maxim in their fight over the need for more walls and fencing along the U.S.-Mexican border to help stem the flood tide of illegal immigration.

Schumer and his House counterpart, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., are entitled to their opinions about Trump’s proposed border wall, but they aren’t entitled to their own facts.

In their rebuttal to the president’s Jan. 9 nationally televised address outlining the need for a border barrier and his request for $5.7 billion in funding for them, both described the proposed wall as “ineffective”—Pelosi once and Schumer twice. 

Good fences make good neighbors

In her rebuttal to Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday night, 2018 Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams didn’t echo Schumer and Pelosi’s “ineffective” claim, but she advanced an argument that was equally fallacious. 

“America is made stronger by the presence of immigrants, not walls,” Abrams said, disingenuously omitting the key adjective in this debate, “illegal.”

Insisting that walls are “ineffective” over and over again doesn’t make it true. The facts on the ground—both in the U.S. and around the world—not only don’t support that opinion, they decisively refute it. 

Walls along four Customs and Border Protection sectors—El Paso; San Diego, California; and Tucson and Yuma, Arizona—have reduced illegal immigration “by at least 90 percent,” according to the Republican National Committee’s Borderfacts.com page.

Byron York of the Washington Examiner recently cited figures from the Center for Immigration Studies showing that before construction of border barriers in Yuma, the Border Patrol apprehended 138,438 illegal immigrants in 2005, compared with 26,244 last year. While not 90 percent, that’s still a dramatic drop.

The comparable before-and-after figures for the San Diego sector, according to the Border Patrol, were more than 565,581 in 1992 and 26,086 in 2017—a 95 percent reduction. 

Meanwhile, USA Today reported last May that “[s]ince the start of Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, at least 800 miles of fences have been erected by Austria, Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, Slovenia, and others.” 

Do Schumer and Pelosi know something all these other countries don’t? Not according to Hungary, which said that fencing on its border with Serbia helped reduce illegal immigration by nearly 100 percent since 2015, according to the USA Today report.

Israel’s fencing along its borders with the Gaza Strip and West Bank, as well as with Egypt and Jordan, has likewise all but eliminated illegal immigration and terrorist attacks. (The Jewish state announced Feb. 3 that it was beginning construction of an additional 40 miles of 20-foot-high, state-of-the-art fencing.) 

“Walls should not be controversial,” Trump said Jan. 25, when he called Pelosi’s bluff and agreed to reopen the government for three weeks so bipartisan negotiations on border security could proceed. “Every Border Patrol agent I’ve talked to has told me that walls work. It’s just common sense.”

But for Schumer and Pelosi, a crass political calculus trumps (pun intended) common sense. 

Their only real reason now for opposing a wall that both previously supported—and with far more funding for it then than what’s on the table today—is to deny the president a win on border security. 

“We’ve seen that walls can and will be tunneled under, cut through, or scaled,” said Rep. Pete Aguilar, another California Democrat, echoing the Pelosi-Schumer line, referring to walls as “archaic solutions” to a “modern problem.” 

But as one of Trump’s presidential predecessors, John Adams, observed, “Facts are stubborn things,” and Aguilar isn’t entitled to his own facts, either, because in the absence of a wall, it isn’t necessary for illegal immigrants to tunnel under or scale it.

More walls and fences of the sort Trump envisions would discourage many would-be illegal immigrants—especially women and children, who would be unable to scale them—from even attempting to migrate here from Central America in the first place. 

At a bare minimum, walls significantly slow down would-be illegal immigrants who attempt to climb over or tunnel under them, making it much easier for the Border Patrol to catch them than if there were no such obstacles. 

The concept of the path of least resistance suggests that additional walls would funnel would-be border crossers to areas where there are none. The need for fewer Border Patrol agents in walled areas would then enable the agents to be redeployed to where they are more urgently needed.

“Our Border Patrol tells us they need physical barriers to help them do their job … strategically placed where traffic is highest,” said Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala. 

That’s a keen grasp of what should by now be obvious, but even if Schumer and Pelosi don’t want to believe Trump that walls are effective, they should heed the Border Patrol agents who are the boots on the ground. 

Those agents know better than either Schumer or Pelosi what works and what’s needed for them to do their jobs, and they have said repeatedly that walls are a must. 

Even the head of the Border Patrol during the Obama administration has said that walls “absolutely work.” 

“I cannot think of a legitimate argument why anyone would not support the wall as part of a multilayered border security issue,” Mark Morgan said on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News Channel program on Jan. 7.

“Why aren’t we listening to the experts and the people who do it every day?” he asked. “I don’t understand that.”

The president should have had a group of uniformed Border Patrol agents as his guests in the House gallery during Tuesday night’s address. 

He could have turned around to Pelosi, sitting behind him, and pointed them out when he said of the wall: “It will be deployed in the areas identified by border agents as having the greatest need, and as these agents will tell you, where walls go up, illegal crossings go way down.

It really is no more complicated than that.

————————————————————————————————————–

COMMENTARY BY: Peter ParisiPeter Parisi is an editor and writer for The Daily Signal. Reproduced with permission.

The Muddy Waters of the Supreme Court’s Next Gun Decision

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By Bob Barr. When it comes to the Second Amendment, the Supreme Court moves with the all the dispatch of a giant tortoise; slow, plodding and deliberate.  After all, it took the High Court 217 years from the time the Second Amendment was ratified in 1791 to finally figure out in 2008that its guarantee of a “right to keep and bear arms” did actually apply; in that case, to a resident of the District of Columbia. The Court returned to the same question two years later to affirm this point clearly as against infringement by the government of any one of the 50 states.   But in the decade since, it has reverted to its comfort zone and declined to tackle any of the myriad questions left hanging by these two narrow decisions.

That silence finally may be broken, as the justices recently agreed to hear a challenge to one of New York’s many absurdly restrictive gun control laws.  Before Second Amendment supporters break out the champagne, however, a few observations from Supreme Court history and procedure are in order. 

First, it must be kept in mind that only in the rarest of circumstances will the Court render a decision on other than the narrowest grounds possible.   Thus, in its decisions in 2008 (Heller) and 2010 (McDonald), the five justices in the [bare] majority held that neither the District of Columbia government nor that of a state, could enforce laws that were so restrictive that an individual was prevented thereby from possessing a firearm in their home.  The Court left for future cases all other aspects of how far the “right to keep and bear arms” extended beyond that narrow situation.  

Thus, virtually the entire panoply of questions about what restrictions on the exercise of the Amendment’s guaranteed right would be considered constitutionally “reasonable” remains judicially unanswered.

Second, as an entity of government, once the Supreme Court renders a decision on a question, it will dust its hands of the issue and move on to other problems; revisiting only when unavoidable.  (Congress does this all the time.)

Finally, as we know from the 2012 decision by the High Court upholding the individual insurance mandate provision at the heart of the Affordable Care Act, Supreme Court Justices do not always vote as one might expect, or as their prior decisions would suggest.  The Obamacare vote made clear that Chief Justice Roberts falls into this category.  

So, where does this leave us?

The particular case the Supreme Court decided to consider is New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. City of New York.  The law being challenged is one that is virtually unique in its restrictive provisions; prohibiting the transport of a firearm outside the home to any other location, even to a shooting range and even if the person possesses a State firearm ownership permit.

Presumably – and this is a big presumption – the Court decided to take this New York case because there is a majority of Justices who would rule against the State.  But even if this happens, the majority may find, or only have the votes to thus act, on the narrowest of grounds on which to strike down the law; thereby limiting its applicability in effect only to New York pistol permit holders who then could transport their guns to gun ranges.  Such an opinion would be cause for little celebration elsewhere or in other circumstances; and it might then put us back in the situation to which the Court decides not to take another Second Amendment case for an extended period.  

Photo: Pixabay CC0

On the other hand, if Roberts holds true to his professed constitutionalist roots, and if new Associate Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh boldly hold fast to principles reflected to decisions in which they participated while on lower court benches, and if we do not lose  Justice Thomas (which would be a shock indeed) or Justice Alito (who authored the McDonald opinion), we might – just might — squeeze out a 5-4 majority opinion that the right to possess a firearm in one’s home, as recognized finally in 2008, extends necessarily to possess that instrument outside the homeplace.  

Such a ruling would of course be welcome, but it is by no means the guaranteed result.   And even if we turn out to be so lucky, it remains a legitimate question, why, with so many other firearms cases of broader applicability that have been presented to the Supreme Court, it has regularly refused to decide. 

In the end, perhaps, we should be happy with even small victories when it comes to so fundamental a right as protecting oneself with a firearm.  Still, that remains a constitutionally unsatisfying situation.

Bob Barr represented Georgia’s 7th District in the House of Representatives from 1995-2003. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and is Chairman of Liberty Guard (a non-profit, pro-liberty organization). He also heads the Law Enforcement Education Foundation (LEEF) and a consulting firm, Liberty Strategies.

5G is coming. Will this merger help rural users and boost the economy?

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Sprint-T-Mobile will help bring 5G nationwide and transform the U.S. economy forever. By Robert Romano

At the Feb. 13 hearing of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, the proposed merger of T-Mobile U.S., Inc. and Sprint Corporation was considered by members of Congress, with T-Mobile CEO John Legere and Sprint Executive Chairman Marcelo Claure testifying.

By the far the biggest selling point that was offered is how a combined Sprint and T-Mobile will be able to deploy a nationwide 5G network. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) stated in his opening remarks that “5G deployment is important and valuable to consumers and the economy and whether the merger expedites 5G roll-out merits consideration.”

By that measure, then, Sprint-T-Mobile is exactly what the U.S. market needs. To get to 5G, the U.S. needs to allocate a whole lot of spectrum. That is why the proposed merger is so important. It will enable T-Mobile and Sprint to share their respective 600 MHz and 2.5 GHz spectrum across the low and medium bands.

As T-Mobile’s Legere noted in his testimony, “T-Mobile possesses low-band (600 MHz) spectrum, which is particularly useful for providing coverage across broad geographic areas, but has limited capacity, and high-band (mmWave) spectrum, which is useful primarily for outdoor applications and in targeted densely populated areas. By contrast, Sprint lacks low and high-band spectrum, but possesses substantial mid-band (2.5 GHz) spectrum, which has more limited coverage capabilities than low-band spectrum, but provides deep network capacity. Combining T-Mobile’s low-band and high-band wireless spectrum with Sprint’s mid-band spectrum will allow for both extremely broad coverage and deep network capacity, providing the optimum scenario for a robust, nationwide 5G network.”

Sprint’s Claure pointed out in his testimony how separately each company on its own won’t be able to effectively compete in 5G: “It is important to understand how our plans for 5G in the absence of a merger will necessarily be limited by our spectrum portfolio, lack of scale, and resource constraints. In particular, our limited low-band spectrum cannot provide a basis for launching a ubiquitous coverage layer for 5G, and building ubiquitous nationwide 5G coverage using only Sprint’s 2.5 GHz spectrum would be impractical and economically infeasible. To be sure, Sprint’s 2.5 GHz spectrum will deliver very high speeds and support substantial capacity where we are able to deploy it, but due to the propagation characteristics of 2.5 GHz spectrum, it would not provide a blanket of coverage outside of major metropolitan and suburban areas.”

Again, it’s all about the spectrum. While T-Mobile’s low band spectrum will help bring the network nationwide and particularly to rural areas, Sprint’s medium spectrum will give it the network capacity it needs to function in big cities and densely populated suburbs. You cannot do nationwide 5G without these shared characteristics. So, if you want 5G, you need access to the entire spectrum.

Meaning, to get to 5G, if we didn’t have Sprint-T-Mobile, we’d have to invent it.

The economic benefits appear obvious enough. Accenture has estimated that 5G will create 3 million new jobs in the U.S. and boost the economy by more than $500 billion. It will mean many new investments made leveraging the network that simply cannot happen right now because they are not achievable without 5G.

In Sept. 2018 FCC Chairman Ajit Pai stated the need for 5G: “U.S. leadership in 5G technology is a national imperative for economic growth and competitiveness.” And here, the merger helps the U.S. compete globally with China, while fostering competition in 5G versus AT&T and Verizon.

Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning in a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology emphasized the importance of vigorous market competition to keep the U.S. ahead of China on 5G: “While China races ahead in 5G with its command and control economic approach, threatening U.S. intellectual property, the U.S. has continued to achieve unparalleled innovation over the past century through robust competition. T-Mobile and Sprint joining forces will create more competition in the 5G market versus AT&T-Time Warner and Verizon — helping the U.S. to stay ahead of its foreign adversaries.”

In addition, 5G speeds will promote competition with direct-line broadband. So, if you want to cut the cord, with 5G speeds, you could set up wireless Internet in your house with your cellular plan. Again, that’s a boon for rural areas and will help bring down prices, too. What’s not to like?

Finally, bringing 5G to the U.S. with Sprint-T-Mobile and other carriers will technologically transform everything about the U.S. economy. Smart cities, driverless vehicles, factories with robots and so many other things not yet contrived, all possible because of the next generation of wireless technology. Combining Sprint and T-Mobile’s spectrum is a huge piece of the 5G puzzle, helping to bring about a future of endless possibilities for the American people. This is one example of consolidation in the marketplace that regulators should embrace.

Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.

The Democratic Primary Derby ~ Installment 2

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I view the following candidates as serious contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, not because they’re quality people — they’re not — but because fate has elevated them into the public spotlight.  You might say they are accidents of history.

Joe Biden.  One-percent Joe has a real shot at the Democratic nomination, for no other reason than because he was Obama’s stooge for eight years.  He’s such a clown, however, that time is against him; i.e., the more he’s in front of the cameras, the more he will screw up and the more support he will lose.  Trump would have a field day with Joe’s gaffes, but whether Biden will even make it to the general election is questionable.

Michael Bloomberg.  Nanny Bloomberg is America’s version of Napoleon, but he’s far more dangerous than was the famous French emperor.  He’s a self-righteous little varmint who seems intent on using his 50-billion-dollar fortune to dictate to others how they should live their lives.

Like all his Dirty Dem cohorts, he’s willing to say anything to get attention.  He demonstrated that in his speech at Saint Anselm College when he ludicrously said about President Trump, “He failed at business, and now I think it’s fair to say he is failing at government.”  This kind of “don’t believe your lying eyes and ears” stuff is sure to backfire on Bloomberg if he runs, because it’s insulting to all halfway intelligent voters.

Bernie Sanders.  Let me make it clear that I have a soft spot for Uncle Bernie.  He’s a character right out of the movie Reds — a red-diaper baby who honeymooned in his beloved Soviet Union.  I doubt he can win the Democratic nomination — and certainly not the presidency — but this time around I expect him and his rabid supporters to be out for blood now that they realize Horrible Hillary and the Dirty Dems screwed them out of the 2016 nomination.

That’s right, no more stupid comments like “The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.”  Uncle Bernie and his Radical Left supporters are wiser and much madder now, and they might just tear the Democratic Party apart this time around if the Dirty Dems’ shenanigans start up again — which they will.  Go Bernie, go!

“Beto” O’Rourke.  Beto is perhaps the biggest joker of all in a field saturated with jokers.  But remember, many jokers have actually become president, Jimmy Carter being the best example of that.  Beto’s credentials are paper thin, so he relies on gimmicks like putting his teeth-cleaning appointments on Instagram and coming on stage at his rallies on a skateboard.

He’s become something of a fad with the Dirty Dems, but over the long haul I expect him to outcool himself with his childish, attention-getting behavior.  Democratic voters are attracted to clowns, but ultimately even they are likely to grow weary of Beto’s middle-school antics.

Howard Schultz.  Schultz is the wildcard in the Democratic presidential race.  He’s threatening to run as a “centrist independent,” which has the Dirty Dems up in arms.  Like many billionaires, Schultz has long been a guilt-ridden liberal who has instituted some of the most hairbrained schemes imaginable for his Starbucks stores, two of the most embarrassing being his “Race Together” and open-bathrooms projects that made him look like a naïve fool.

Now, the capitalist compartment of Schultz’s brain has started to emerge, and he says he is dismayed by the Democrats’ radical ideas, especially their push for socialism.  He says he is also concerned about the national debt and the idea of free, universal healthcare.  This, of course, has infuriated most of the Democratic Party, even though Schultz is still quite liberal on social issues.

Clearly, the Dirty Dems have a problem if Schultz decides to throw his hat in the ring.  If he runs as an independent, he could, along with Uncle Bernie, succeed in destroying what’s left of the Democratic Party.  However, if it actually got to that point, and if the polls showed him doing well, I believe the Democrats might have to eat crow and make a deal with him.  They might have no choice but to give him the Democratic nomination in exchange for his promise to adopt a majority of their radical platform.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  First, we have to see if Schultz actually has the courage to declare his candidacy or if he allows the Dirty Dems to scare him off.

The next installment (update) of the Dirty Dem primary candidates will be when I have something significant to share with you.  Stay tuned.  

CLICK HERE TO READ INSTALLMENT 1.

Copyright © 2019 Robert Ringer

ROBERT RINGER is a New York Times #1 bestselling author who has appeared on numerous national radio and television shows, including The Tonight Show, Today, The Dennis Miller Show, Good Morning America, ABC Nightline, The Charlie Rose Show, as well as Fox News and Fox Business. To sign up for a free subscription to his mind-expanding daily insights, visit www.robertringer.com.

The Democratic Primary Derby ~ Installment 1

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This is the first in a series of pieces I’ll be doing on the 2020 Democratic primary derby.  I plan to update it periodically, particularly when I see a major shift in the prospects of any of the candidates, write Robert Ringer.

I’m not going to include the army of no-names who have announced, or who have hinted they might announce, that they’re running — e.g., Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, and former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro.  I doubt any of them seriously believe they have a chance of capturing the Democratic nomination, but they certainly are aware that by running they could raise their public profiles and position themselves for future political positions or book/speaking deals.

Nor will I include better-known figures like Mark CubanDwayne “The Rock” Johnson, or Hillary Clinton, because they, too, have no chance of winning.  Also, I doubt they will actually run.  Obviously, Hillary would be a dream come true for Republicans, because she would have zero chance of winning, but I think Democrats would have her taken out — Vince Foster style — if she dared to announce that she was going to run in the Democratic primaries.

Likewise, I will not be including high-profile people who have already stated that they definitely will not run.  These include Andrew Cuomo, Deval Patrick, Oprah Winfrey, and Michelle Obama.  Contrary to popular belief, neither Oprah nor Michelle O. possesses a giant intellect, but I’m pretty sure they’re at least smart enough to know that Donald Trump would humiliate them on a national stage.

He would reduce Oprah to tears early on by dismantling her public facade of being an intelligent, middle-of-the-road figure who appeals to all segments of American life.  Oprah realizes that Trump knows her far too well for her to risk getting into the ring with him, especially since she has already badly damaged her reputation by campaigning for Obama and Stacy Abrams.

Trump’s destruction of Michelle Obama would be even more brutal, because he would not hesitate to expose her as the media-perpetrated fraud that she is.  Given that the president has never hesitated to attack the physical appearance of his opponents or enemies (e.g., Carly Fiorina and Stormy Daniels), Michelle the Malevolent is unlikely to risk spoiling the media’s absurd portrayal of her as an intelligent, glamorous, gracious woman.  Trump would have a field day dismantling all of the media’s doublespeak nonsense about her persona by bringing out her true, snarky personality for all the world to see.  Trust me, Michelle Obama is not going to allow that can of worms to be opened.

Now, on to the no-chance candidates.

No-Chance Candidates – Tier 2

This is an odd mix of wannabes whom the media keeps telling us are viable contenders, even though they are not.  Only Amy Klobuchar and Tulsi Gabbard have announced their candidacies, but the others have hinted that they might run.  What they all have in common is that they have absolutely no chance of winning the Democratic nomination, regardless of what the FNM would like us to believe.

Bill de Blasio.  Bolshevik Bill’s Cuban honeymoon says it all.  He’s the real thing — a true commie with delusions of spreading his redistributionist faith throughout America.  I hope he runs, because it would be great fun to watch him twist himself into a pretzel with his idiotic anti-American rhetoric.  Sadly, I doubt that he will.

Amy Klobuchar.  Amy is the ultimate no-name, no brains, no accomplishment joker, one of the many Dirty Dem senators who made asses of themselves with their infantile and outrageous attacks on Brett Kavanaugh.  If Klobuchar actually makes it to the first Democratic debate — which she may not — she will be lucky to capture 1 percent support in the polls.

Tulsi Gabbard.  Gabbard has impressive assets — an Iraq War veteran who is smart, young, pretty, and ambitious.  Her problem is that many Democrats harbor an intense dislike for her for many of the positions she has taken, not the least of which are her support for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and her past anti-LGBT and anti-gay stances.  Gabbard will be around for a long time to come, but her entrance into the 2020 presidential primaries is premature.

Eric Holder.  Holder is a hardened criminal whom Obama openly referred to as his “wingman.”  Hitman would have been a more appropriate description for him.  The Fast and Furious scandal, the Philadelphia voter-intimidation incident that he refused to prosecute, and lying before Congress are just three examples of his dishonesty and lack of character.  The Dirty Dems are fortunate that Holder has no chance of winning the Democratic nomination, because he surely would turn off millions of voters with his Obama-like arrogance.

John Kerry.  Gigolo John has excelled at one thing in his life — marrying wealthy women.  How can anyone take seriously a guy who doesn’t know how to pronounce Genghis Khan?  If he actually entered the race — which I don’t think he will — he would embarrass himself even more than he already has.  One of the most detestable reprobates ever.

Terry McAuliffe.  A long-time lieutenant in the Clinton Crime Family, the former governor of Virginia is up to his eyeballs in corruption.  I doubt he will run, but if he did, Republicans would have a field day exposing his dirty laundry, which is far greater than that of the newest Virginia governor, Blackface Northam.

No-Chance Candidates – Tier 1

These are the Dirty Dems whom the media wants us to believe are serious contenders for the Democratic nomination.  With one possible exception, they are not.

Kirsten Gillibrand.  Gillibrand is downright embarrassing.  She gives new meaning to the word shameless.  She will say anything, any time, to any medium if she thinks it might elevate her status.  Gillibrand has been caught on video so many times saying things that have come back to bite her that she will make an absolute fool of herself on the debate stage.  It is sure to make for great entertainment.

Kamala Harris.  As she proves every time she opens her mouth, Unkempt Kamala is a truly vile human being.  When she likened ICE to the Ku Klux Klan, it once again underscored the fact that she’s all in with the Radical Left.  Not only will she say anything she believes will boost her profile, she also will do anything, as evidenced by her extramarital affair with former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown — an affair that kickstarted her political career.  Truly a disgusting woman.

Elizabeth Warren.  Even if Pocahontas changes her name to Hiawatha, she has no chance of winning the Democratic nomination.  Her hilarious self-destruction is enough to make one believe in karma.  Even though she will not come close to winning the Democratic primaries, watching her gasp for air as she chokes on her own lies should provide a mental orgasm for Republicans.

Cory Booker.  Booker is the Dirty Dem version of Li’l Marco — slimy, cunning, and totally devoid of principle.  In other words, he possesses all the characteristics needed to be a successful politician.  Booker is another one of those truly bad human beings, but he seems to be making a serious effort to hide his true self from the public.

I have to admit that the press conference he gave when he announced his candidacy was impressive.  He appeared to be trying to come across as a moderate Democrat, and if that’s his strategy, it shows that he’s actually thought through what his best path to victory might be.  Which makes him smarter than most of the other candidates he’s running against.

As a result of pretending that he’s moderating his radical views, I’ve come to believe that Booker could be a dark horse — but only if he’s able to keep up his act, which I doubt he can.  The probability is that he will not be able to control himself and will put on another Spartacus performance that will expose him as the embarrassing drama queen he is.

So much for the No-Chancers.  In tomorrow’s installment I’ll be reviewing the serious candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination.  Be sure not to miss it.  

Copyright © 2019 Robert Ringer

ROBERT RINGER is a New York Times #1 bestselling author who has appeared on numerous national radio and television shows, including The Tonight Show, Today, The Dennis Miller Show, Good Morning America, ABC Nightline, The Charlie Rose Show, as well as Fox News and Fox Business. To sign up for a free subscription to his mind-expanding daily insights, visit www.robertringer.com.

AOC’s Success Formula: GND = SOC

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By now, you know all about AOC’s Green New Deal and have probably been splitting your sides laughing.  But I once again caution you not to brush her off lightly.  The reality is that this she is probably going to be around for another 50 years or more, so it would be wise to take her seriously.

That’s right, I said 50 years.  We know from experience that any Radical Left congressperson who comes from a Radical Left district has a lifetime job.  Exhibits #1, 2, and 3 are Granny Pelosi, Dickie Durbin, and Chuckie Schumer, none of whom ever have to worry about being reelected.

So, while I don’t want to give AOC too much of my writing time, her meteoric rise to fame makes it unwise to completely ignore her.  Of course, I have to be careful what I write, because I don’t want to be accused of child abuse.

That said, let’s all swallow our pride and take a cursory look at AOC’s latest SNL skit — the Green New Deal.  The formula is simple:  GND = SOC.  SOC, of course, is an acronym for Same Old Crap, which is exactly what the Green New Deal is.

Green New Deal FAQ by on Scribd

 

That’s right, none of the ideas in the GND manifesto are new.  It’s the same old crap (i.e., wish list) that the Radical Left has been spewing out for at least two hundred years — at least since the heyday of that drunken old lunatic, Karl Marx, and his wealthy sidekick, Friedrich Engels.

In other words, the Radical Left plays the long game.  And make no mistake about it, the long game has always been about bringing Marxism to America and exterminating those immoral folks who stubbornly cling to their outdated beliefs in capitalism and individual sovereignty.

Which brings us to another Green New Deal formula:  GND = RI.  No, the “RI” doesn’t stand for Rhode Island.  You guessed it, it’s Runaway Inflation.  As anyone who isn’t handicapped by an economics degree from Boston University knows, no matter much you raise taxes, you will never bring in enough money to pay for everything for everybody.

So, what’s the solution offered by AOC and her green comrades in arms?  Simply borrow whatever you need!  Unfortunately, though this idea is appealing to low-information Radical Lefties, borrowing has its limitations.  Do you really believe China will continue to empty its piggy bank to support the United States of Free Stuff?  Of course not.

Enter the phenomenon of “monetizing the debt,” which is a euphemism for borrowing from ourselves by creating “money” with no inherent value.  It’s a complete scam, of course, a criminal activity that ultimately leads to runaway inflation.

Throughout history, dozens of countries have embraced this scam, with the result always being runaway inflation.  A handful of examples include Weimar Germany, Brazil, Greece, Argentina, Hungary, and, most recently, Zimbabwe.

Runaway inflation is more powerful than any invading military force, because it makes it virtually impossible to engage in everyday commercial activity.  In a runaway inflation, businesses refuse to accept paper money in exchange for their goods and services, and people are afraid to enter into long‑term agreements because they have no idea what money will be worth in the future.

In a country caught in a runaway-inflation spiral, a final collapse of the economy begins when people start guessing at what future prices will be.  This sets off a chain reaction where sellers increase prices even faster than the supply of money increases; i.e., panic eventually pushes prices up faster than government’s inflation of the currency.

It is at that point that government faces its last chance to avoid a total collapse of the economy.  As the great libertarian economist Henry Hazlitt put it, “Every inflation must eventually be ended by government or it must ‘self‑destruct.’”

Worst of all, since very few people understand why their paper money is losing its value, the move toward a dictatorship begins to look appealing.  And guess who loves dictatorships?  The Radical Left!

On a more fundamental level, the question becomes:  Why are people not able to resist the temptation to venture down the road to serfdom and runaway inflation?  The answer is because they have no knowledge of either history or economics — not to mention the evolution of dictatorships — thus they are easy prey for a charismatic leader who promises them easy solutions to their problems.

When it comes to history repeating itself, I never tire of sharing one of my favorite Thomas Sowell quotes that perfectly sums up why people continue to be attracted to socialism, which is the driver of runaway inflation:  “Everything is new if you are ignorant of history.  That is why ideas that have failed repeatedly in centuries past reappear again, under the banner of ‘change,’ to dazzle people and sweep them off their feet.”

Austrian economist and Nobel laureate F. A. Hayek blamed the phenomenon of history repeating itself not only on ignorance, but on people’s stubborn attraction to self‑deception, to wit:  “It seems almost as if we did not want to understand the development which has produced totalitarianism, because such an understanding might destroy some of the dearest illusions to which we are determined to cling.”

But whether it be ignorance or self-delusion — or both — the welfare state and its natural bedfellows, runaway inflation and totalitarianism, are the result.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not suggesting that the Green New Deal has any chance of being adopted in its totality any time soon.  It’s a childish manifesto that is likely to sink the Dirty Dems in the 2020 elections unless establishment Democrats are able to silence the crazy radicals in their own party.

Let’s get real:  The biggest threat to humankind is not climate change.  The biggest threat to humankind is progressivism, an Orwellian term intended to mask the endgame, socialism and/or communism.  Progressivism is nothing more than a psychotic urge to control all aspects of life — especially the lives of others — which, if left unchecked, is sure to bring forth the dark forces of tyranny.

As to my little friend, Alexandria Moronio-Cortez, I’m sorry to have to break the news to you, but there is no climate-change crisis, there will never be trains that go fast enough to glide across the water to Hawaii, working folks will never be willing to support those who are unwilling to work, and free college tuition is nothing more than an Uncle Bernie fairytale.  Oh, and by the way, in case you haven’t heard, the last presidential election was about getting rid of “massive government intervention.”

Now, don’t go getting all depressed on me, AOC.  There is a silver lining to all this:  Even if none of your socialist fantasies come true, in a free market you will always be able to buy a farting cow for emotional support.

Copyright © 2019 Robert Ringer

ROBERT RINGER is a New York Times #1 bestselling author who has appeared on numerous national radio and television shows, including The Tonight Show, Today, The Dennis Miller Show, Good Morning America, ABC Nightline, The Charlie Rose Show, as well as Fox News and Fox Business. To sign up for a free subscription to his mind-expanding daily insights, visit www.robertringer.com.

The Green New Deal calls for net-zero carbon emissions in 10 years. It’s utterly insane.

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By Robert Romano

It took a century to build the nation’s electric grid, but if the goals of a resolution, H. Res. 109 sponsored by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) are reached, dubbed the Green New Deal, anywhere from 62 percent to 82 percent of the grid would need to be replaced within ten years with so-called renewable energy, as the plan calls for eliminating coal and natural gas electricity generation — and nuclear, which does not even emit carbon.

All consumption of natural gas and petroleum for home heating in the winter and making hot water would have to cease and all homes would have to somehow be refitted with electric heat generation and boilers.

Every car and truck in America that runs on petroleum would have to be replaced with electric vehicles. It would be the end of the internal combustion engine.

Every building in America would have to be “upgrade[d] or replace[d]” to be net-zero carbon emitting.

Or else, scarce carbon sequestration technology would have to be rapidly deployed to reach the resolution’s goal of “net-zero emissions” by 2030, outlined in a summary distributed by Ocasio-Cortez and reported by NPR.

It’s nothing short of a revolution.

The U.S. emits about 5.1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide every year as of 2017, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency: 45 percent from petroleum, 29 percent from natural gas and 26 percent from coal.

Of the portion of emissions devoted to natural gas, 1.47 billion metric tons a year, only 506 million is from electricity generation. The rest is from heating homes in the winter, making hot water, cooking food and the like.

The Ocasio-Cortez summary states, “The Green New Deal resolution [is] a 10-year plan to mobilize every aspect of American society at a scale not seen since World War 2 to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and create economic prosperity for all. It will… Move America to 100% clean and renewable energy.”

The summary outlines getting to net-zero emissions by 2030: “IPCC Report said global emissions must be cut by… 40-60% by 2030. US is 20% of total emissions.  We must get to 0 by 2030 and lead the world in a global Green New Deal.”

So, to reach the goal, carbon emissions must be reduced, and whatever cannot be reduced must be sequestered, to the tune of 5.1 billion metric tons every year. And then there’s the rest of the world — another 30 billion metric tons a year or so — which of course the plan fails to specify how much of that the U.S. will have to subsidize, too, in order to reach the critical goal of cutting emissions in half globally.

Nor does the plan explicate how we intend to persuade the rest of the world to commit economic suicide, too, for that matter. What if China and Russia won’t comply?

As for nuclear, although the resolution did not actually mention eliminating it as an electricity source, the Ocasio-Cortez summary did, stating, “the plan is to transition off of nuclear and all fossil fuels as soon as possible.”

As for how much that might all cost taxpayers, the Green New Deal has a radical idea: Print the money and otherwise utilize command-and-control socialism. According to the Ocasio-Cortez summary: “The Federal Reserve can extend credit to power these projects and investments and new public banks can be created to extend credit. There is also space for the government to take an equity stake in projects to get a return on investment.”

So, probably trillions and trillions of dollars.

As a part of the plan, apparently air travel and cow flatulence will eventually be eliminated too but not immediately, per the Ocasio-Cortez summary: “We set a goal to get to net-zero, rather than zero emissions, in 10 years because we aren’t sure that we’ll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast, but we think we can ramp up renewable manufacturing and power production, retrofit every building in America, build the smart grid, overhaul transportation and agriculture, plant lots of trees and restore our ecosystem to get to net-zero.”

With no planes, apparently, we’ll all have to use high-speed trains when we travel and I suppose boats to get overseas.

It’s utterly insane, and so naturally, Democratic presidential hopefuls including Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have all signed onto the resolution. Another 67 House members have signed on, too.

It’s an albatross now, with the 2020 election right around the corner.

As if all that was not enough, the Ocasio-Cortez summary of the resolution — which was revised on the New York representative’s website — was then pulled off of the website altogether on Feb. 8.

Maybe it was too honest.

Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.  Reproduced with permission. Original can be viewed here. 

Green New Deal FAQ by on Scribd

From The NationYoung People Really, Really Want a Green New Deal

Policing For Profit: How Civil Asset Forfeiture Has Perverted American Law Enforcement

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Picture this: You’re driving home from the casino and you’ve absolutely cleaned up – to the tune of $50,000. You see a police car pull up behind you, but you can’t figure out why. Not only have you not broken any laws, you’re not even speeding. But the police officer doesn’t appear to be interested in charging you with a crime. Instead, he takes your gambling winnings, warns you not to say anything to anyone unless you want to be charged as a drug kingpin, then drives off into the sunset. 

This actually happened to Tan Nguyen, and his story is far from unique. It’s called civil asset forfeiture and it’s a multi-billion dollar piggybank for state, local and federal police departments to fund all sorts of pet projects.

With its origins in the British fight against piracy on the open seas, civil asset forfeiture is nothing new. During Prohibition, police officers often seized goods, cash and equipment from bootleggers in a similar manner to today. However, contemporary civil asset forfeiture begins right where you’d think that it would: The War on Drugs. 

In 1986, as First Lady Nancy Reagan encouraged America’s youth to “Just Say No,” the Justice Department started the Asset Forfeiture Fund. This sparked a boom in civil asset forfeiture that’s now become self-reinforcing, as the criminalization of American life and asset forfeiture have continued to feed each other. 

In sum, asset forfeiture creates a motivation to draft more laws by the legislature, while more laws create greater opportunities for seizure by law enforcement. This perverse incentive structure is having devastating consequences: In 2014 alone, law enforcement took more stuff from American citizens than burglars did

The current state of civil asset forfeiture in the United States is one of almost naked tyranny. Don’t believe us? Read on.

The Origins of Civil Asset Forfeiture

Civil asset forfeiture has a deep history in maritime law. In many cases, it just wasn’t practical to bring owners of vessels carrying contraband in front of an American court. So customs enforcement would simply seize the contraband. But in practice, seizure of assets was rare and generally required a felony conviction in court. Often times these convictions were obtained in absentia, but the point is that there was a criminal proceeding and due process. 

During the Civil War, as part of sweeping attacks on liberty that included Lincoln suspending habeas corpus and obtaining an arrest warrant for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, supporters of the Confederacy had their property confiscated without due process. Civil asset forfeiture was used during the Prohibition Era to seize assets from bootleggers and suspected bootleggers. Even innocent owners had no defense during Prohibition if their property was used in violation of the Volstead Act.   

In 1984, civil asset forfeiture entered a new phase. The Comprehensive Crime Control Act, championed by then-President Ronald Reagan, allowed for police agencies to keep the assets they seized. This highly incentivized the seizure of assets for the purpose of funding police departments rather than pursuing criminal charges. However, the game changed completely in 1996 – the year of the landmark Supreme Court decision Bennis v. Michigan(516 U.S. 442). This ruling held that the innocent owner defense was not sufficient to recover assets seized during civil asset forfeiture. 

The plaintiff, Tina Bennis, was the joint owner of a vehicle with her husband John. The latter was arrested by Detroit police when caught with a prostitute on a street in Detroit, and the car was seized as a public nuisance. The court found that despite having no knowledge of the crime, there was no violation of either her property rights or her right to due process. Michigan’s law was specifically designed to deter people from using their assets in criminal activity, which the Supreme Court found to be Constitutional in a 5-4 decision. The Supreme Court likewise found that there was no right to compensation for Bennis.

Criminal Asset Forfeiture vs. Civil Asset Forfeiture

Civil Asset Forfeiture: A Guide to Policing For Profit

Before going any further, it’s important to delineate the differences between criminal asset forfeiture and civil asset forfeiture. The primary difference is that criminal asset forfeiture requires a conviction while civil asset forfeiture does not. However, there are other differences worth mentioning. 

Civil asset forfeiture is a lawsuit against the seized object in question rather than a person. This leads to rather strange lawsuits like “Texas vs. One Gold Crucifix.” The legal burden of proof varies from one state to another, but the most common is preponderance of evidence, notreasonable doubt. What this means is juries decide if the state’s case is more likely to be true than not – not beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil asset forfeiture trial, courts can weigh the use of the Fifth Amendment. This is not true in criminal trials. 

The burden of proof question becomes crucial when it comes to retrieving property. In criminal cases, assets are returned if the prosecution fails to prove the guilt of the accused. In a civil asset forfeiture trial, the accused effectively has to prove their innocence to get their property back. Thus, civil asset forfeiture is a highly attractive option for police departments looking to scare up extra scratch in tight budgetary times. What’s more, the accused is not entitled to legal counsel. This is why, in most cases, it’s not economically advantageous to try and get one’s property back. The lawyer fees will quickly eclipse whatever value the seized assets have. 

2015 study from FreedomWorks graded the states on their civil asset forfeiture laws. Only New Mexico received an “A,” after the state passed sweeping reforms with regard to its civil asset forfeiture processes. Over half the states received a “D” or less. 

Sound paranoid? Keep reading.

Civil Asset Forfeiture: Big Business For Police

To say that police departments are funding themselves with civil asset forfeiture is more true than you might think. Civil asset forfeiture has exploded since 1986, when total seizures were at $93.7 million. By 2005, this had passed the $1 billion mark. That was double the 2004 amount, $567 million. By 2010, this figure jumped to $2.5 billion with more than 15,000 forfeiture cases – 11,000 of which were civil, not criminal. 

By 2014, this figure climbed to $4.5 billion, with $29 billion seized between 2001 and 2014. Between 1985 and 1991, federal forfeitures increased by 1,500 percent, an increase of over 26 times. The Justice Department’s forfeiture fund (that does not include customs forfeitures) ballooned from $27 million in 1985 to $644 million in 1991. By 1996, this fund grew to over $1 billion for the first time. By 2008, it had tripled again to $3.1 billion

Cash seizures in Tennessee have gotten so widespread that the state legislature has begun investigating it. Traffic stops have turned into shakedown operations. Interstate 40 was described as “a major profit center” by Phil Williams, a reporter for Channel 5 in Nashville. Much like extra-legal gangs, police gangs in Tennessee have started engaging in turf warfare over the spoils of civil asset forfeiture. The Dixon Interdiction Enforcement (DICE) and the 23rd Judicial District Drug Taskforce were caught on video trying to cut one another off in their vehicles to stop civilians and search for cash. Indeed, officers were in danger of losing their jobs if they didn’t seize enough cash. The head of DICE admitted that it was funded entirely by civil asset forfeiture cash.

Civil Asset Forfeiture Drives Bad Policing

Civil Asset Forfeiture: A Guide to Policing For Profit

Civil asset forfeiture isn’t just effectively a legalized form of theft. It also drives (and indeed, incentivizes) bad policing. There is ample evidence to suggest local smokies use civil asset forfeiture to pad their budgets. For example, a 1994 study found that police delay drug busts to increase the value of a forfeiture. A 2001 study of 1,400 police departments published in the Journal of Criminal Justice found that half of the departments surveyed agreed that civil asset forfeiture was “necessary as a budget supplement.” Far more disturbing is the 2004 report showing that police departments keep wish lists for items they wish to obtain via civil asset forfeiture. 

To provide some context, in 2014, the total amount of civil asset forfeiture seizures in the United States was $4.5 billion. The total value of property stolen in burglaries was $3.9 billion. This means that police agencies in the United States are taking more from the American public than burglars. More to the point, all the time police agencies use seizing assets from citizens who are in no way a danger to their neighbors is time they don’t spend tracking down actual criminals. In some cases, it might be more “profitable” for a police department to harass a law-abiding citizen while entirely ignoring dangerous criminals. 

Case in point: In Tennessee, officers set up a post to bust drug traffickers on a known highway used for muling drugs from Mexico into the United States. However, their post was not set up to stop the flow of drugs into the United States, which one would think would ostensibly be the goal of the “War on Drugs” – to protect American citizens from the inflow of drugs. Instead, the post was set up to bust cars bound for Mexico that might be carrying cash, a far more valuable commodity for the police departments.

Civil Asset Forfeiture Targets Regular People

Let’s assume that you’re against the War on Drugs and against civil asset forfeiture on principle. So what? Who cares about big-time drug kingpins getting their assets seized by the government? Well, as it turns out, the police aren’t generally taking things from drug lords operating in what are effectively domestic war zones. They’re taking them from average Americans. 

First, it’s important to remember what the “civil” in “civil asset forfeiture” means. It means that no one has actually been convicted of a crime. Once property has been seized, it’s not only difficult to regain it, but it can also be dangerous for the person who has had their items effectively stolen by the police. 

Additionally, it’s worth looking at the scope creep associated with civil asset forfeiture, for which there are currently over 400 federal statutes on the books. This amount has doubled since the 1990s. People who are victims of civil asset forfeiture are many times not even suspected of drug crimes or money laundering. Civil asset forfeiture is applied to crimes like DWI or violating the National Halibut Fishing Act. In 85 percent of all cases, no one is ever charged with a crime, though many people are pressured into signing away their right to a defense in exchange for a guarantee against criminal prosecution. In the case of seized vehicles, between 50 and 80 percent were being driven by someone other than the owner when seized. 

In one particularly egregious example, a Philadelphia family had their home seized because their son did a $40 drug sale on the porch. In New York City, police seize money from people with as little as $100 in their pocket. A whopping 94 percent of California seizures in 2013 were for $5,000 or less, but the average DEA seizure in 1998 was $25,000 – precisely the cap on what attorneys advise against trying to reclaim due to legal fees and court costs. Indeed, 88 percent of Department of Justice seizures are “administrative,” meaning they were never challenged in court, likely due to the high cost and risk associated with challenging a seizure. 

In addition to the legal fees being prohibitively high for most people, anything you say in the course of recovering your property can be used against you in criminal proceedings. This includes the nebulous charge of “lying to investigators” that is so often invoked against people once it has been determined that they committed no other crime. 

It’s a rare moment when the American Civil Liberties Union and the Heritage Foundation come together, but when they do, it’s worth noting. Both oppose civil asset forfeiture.

Civil Asset Forfeiture Nightmares

While such cases are hardly the rule, it’s worth pointing out that there have been instances of civil asset forfeiture that can only be described as nightmarish. Some examples of egregious overreach of civil asset forfeiture include: 

  • Sheriff’s deputies in Campbell County, TN tortured a suspect until he agreed to sign over his assets. 
  • In El Monte, CA, narcotics officers shot a 65-year-old grandfather as he knelt beside his bed. They then seized his life savings and hauled his family in for questioning before admitting that no one had any connection to the drug trade. 
  • Police in Bradenton, FL have a longstanding policy of coercing drug suspects into  signing over their assets
  • In many municipalities, it is policy to seize vehicles from intoxicated drivers who have had no criminal trial. 

Nightmarish scenarios aren’t necessary to show the tyranny of civil asset forfeiture, however. While losing a Honda Civic with a market value of $1,000 might not sound like a huge tragedy to you, it certainly is to the woman who has to use the vehicle to get to and from her waitressing job every day.

Don’t Carry Cash!

One of the most disturbing aspects of civil asset forfeiture is what some have called “the war on cash.” Put simply, don’t be caught with a large amount of cash in your vehicle, even if it’s 100 percent legal, unless you wouldn’t mind a budget-strapped local police department taking your wad. 

United States courts have repeatedly ruled that simply having a large amount of cash on hand is “strong evidence” of criminal wrongdoing, in particular drug trafficking. Then it’s up to you to prove you didn’t get the money from drug trafficking, and even then you probably won’t get it back. The Patriot Act created a new crime called “bulk cash smuggling,” which expanded the scope of civil asset forfeiture of cash.

Civil Asset Forfeiture: A Slush Fund for Police Departments

Civil Asset Forfeiture: A Guide to Policing For Profit

Much of the militarized police forces increasingly common in the United States are funded through civil asset forfeiture. This is a highly disturbing trend. However, civil asset forfeiture is also used to purchase things that there is virtually no argument for a police department “needing.” 

Here’s a short list of frivolous purchases made using civil asset forfeiture funds: 

Confiscated cash has also gone to local Chamber of Commerce chapters, youth baseball leagues, and local Baptist churches.

How Civil Asset Forfeiture Works

Civil asset forfeiture is big business and many times only tangentially related to law enforcement, if at all. But how does the process work? 

First, there are three different kinds of property that can be seized under the law: 

  • Proceeds: Anything of value obtained through the commission of a crime. 
  • Facilitating Property: Anything used in the commission of a crime, including property and assets used to hide a crime or make its commission easier. 
  • Property Involved In: This is generally property used in money laundering (for example, a cash-based business). 

This property can be real or imaginary, anything from cold, hard cash to intellectual property rights, websites, interests, claims and securities. However, it must be connected – in theory, at least – to some crime that has been committed. 

Different states have different standards of proof when it comes to civil asset forfeiture. Unsurprisingly, states with a lower burden of proof tend to seize more assets. Likewise, states with the fewest restrictions on how the money can be used tend to seize more. 

  • Prima Facia / Probable Cause: This is the lowest level of proof required, which is little more than what might be required to search your car after a traffic stop. This is the standard in nine states (Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Wyoming). 
  • Preponderance: In these states, the state actor has to present evidence that is “more likely true than not.” Four states (Georgia, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington) use this standard in conjunction with probable cause. 20 states use this as a standard on its own. An additional three states (Kentucky, New York, Oregon) combine preponderance with “Clear and Convincing.”
  • Clear and Convincing: “Clear and convincing” is a higher standard of proof. Rather than just “more likely true than not,” the evidence must be compellingly more likely to be true than not. 11 states use this standard of proof alone, or in combination with preponderance or beyond a reasonable doubt. 
  • Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: This is the same standard used in criminal cases. It places the burden of proof on the state to eliminate all potential other reasonable explanations. This is the standard in three states (Nebraska, North Carolina, Wisconsin), as well as one (California) where it is used in conjunction with “clear and convincing.”
  • In Florida, criminal charges are required for seizure. Montana and, most recently, New Hampshire, require a criminal conviction for forfeiture. One state, New Mexico, has abolished the practice entirely. 

Civil Asset Forfeiture State by State¸

Civil asset forfeiture laws and procedures vary widely from one state to another. If you’re an innocent victim looking to get your goods and cash back, the process to do so can be byzantine and obscure. 

  • At the federal level and in 35 states, the burden of proof is on the owner. 
  • In five states, it depends on what kind of property was seized. 
  • In the remaining states and the District of Columbia, the burden of proof is on the government.
  • In some states, fighting seizure in court means the risk of paying the state’s legal fees. 
  • In half of all states, law enforcement keeps 100 percent of all forfeited assets. In an additional nine states, 80 percent or more is retained by law enforcement. 

Some high-profile abuses of civil asset forfeiture have taken place in Texas, which has become a sort of poster child for everything wrong with the civil asset forfeiture system: 

Teneha, TX: Population: 1,046

  • Police force targeted black and Latino motorists on Highway 84. The highway connects Houston with Louisiana casinos. 
  • In three years, Tenaha police stopped 140 drives for forfeiture. 
  • Drivers who refused were hassled for months and paid thousands in attorney fees. The fees generally cost more than the value of the seizure. 
  • Court records were found indicating that in 200 seizure cases, only 50 were charged. 

Kingsville, TX: Population: 25,000

  • Highway forfeitures paid for:
    • Souped-up Dodge Chargers
    • $40,000 digital ticket writers
    • Sniper rifles and military-style rifles

Kimble County, TX

  • District Attorney Ron Sutton used forfeiture to pay for travel to a conference in Hawaii.
  • The funds also paid for 198th District Judge Emil Karl Pohl’s travel. Pohl approved the expenditure and later resigned. 

Shelby County, TX

  • This is the county including Tenaha. 
  • District Attorney Lynda Kay Russel paid for tickets to a Christmas parade and a motorcycle rally using forfeiture money. 

Equitable Sharing: How Civil Asset Forfeiture Circumvents the Law

As if civil asset forfeiture wasn’t bad enough on its own, there is also a process allowing police organizations to circumvent the existing laws. It’s called equitable sharing and it’s a gold mine for both the federal government and police departments. This process further incentivizes civil asset forfeiture as a means of funding police departments at the federal, state and local levels.

Here’s how it works: state and local law enforcement turn assets over to federal authorities for federal crimes. The feds then return up to 80 percent of the assets back from whence it came. This effectively allows state and local authorities to circumvent relevant local laws by bringing in the feds. For example, in Missouri, seized money is supposed to go to the schools. When equitable sharing is used, nothing goes to schools. 

From 2000 to 2013, equitable sharing payments to states tripled from $198 million to $643 million. Only $3 million of this was actually seized in cooperation with federal authorities. Between 2008 and 2015, $5.3 billion was seized through equitable sharing. Where the burden of proof is higher, equitable sharing payouts increase. In 2009, the federal government paid out $500 million in assets under “equitable sharing” schemes. This is up 75 percent from the previous year. 

The top states for equitable sharing payouts (even when controlling for the number of drug arrests) are Rhode Island, California, New York and Florida. South Dakota, North Dakota and Wyoming are the states using the program the least.

The Civil Asset Forfeiture Process Is Not Transparent

Civil Asset Forfeiture: A Guide to Policing For Profit

Civil asset forfeiture might be a powerful tool for law enforcement to go after bad guys (and the word “might” is doing a lot of work there), but it suffers from a terrible lack of transparency. 

Only 11 states (Oregon, California, Minnesota, Missouri, Arkansas, Hawaii, Michigan, Georgia, New York, New Hampshire) and the federal government put any forfeiture information available. Three states and the District of Columbia were on track to put forfeiture information online (Nevada, New Mexico, Texas). The remaining states require public records requests or keep no records at all. 

Where information is available, it often lacks details like the percentage of criminal versus civil forfeitures or the type of property seized. When spending categories are included, they tend to be very broad, such as “equipment” or “salaries.” For its part, the federal government carefully tracks the type of property, but does not release statistics on which seizures involved convictions. The Institute of Justice found most state records it could actually obtain to be unusable. 

The four most transparent states with regard to spending are Arizona, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Texas. In these four states: 

  • 33 percent went to equipment
  • 21 percent went to salaries
  • 17 percent marked as “other”

Everything that’s not salary is incredibly opaque. For example, the aforementioned margarita makers could easily be filed under “equipment,” to say nothing of the totally nebulous “other” category.

Pushing Back Against Civil Asset Forfeiture

There has been an increasing skepticism from the bench about civil asset forfeiture, and some states are amending their laws to restore rights to people whose assets are seized in this fashion. Some recent reforms have been enacted at the state level, including: 

  • Arizona: In April 2017, the Arizona State Legislature unanimous passed civil asset reform legislation. The language of the bill is vague, however, it does raise the burden for civil asset forfeiture on police departments. The legislation likewise takes steps to close the equitable sharing loophole. 
  • California: In January 2017, new legislation took effect requiring a criminal conviction to seize any assets below $40,000. This limit is high because the main reason people do not challenge civil asset forfeiture is due to the property seized often not being worth the legal fees that would be involved in getting the goods back. 
  • Connecticut: Connecticut now requires an arrest for assets to be seized through civil asset forfeiture. Barring a conviction or a guilty plea, assets must be returned at the end of criminal proceedings. 
  • Georgia: The State of Georgia passed very modest civil asset forfeiture reform in 2015. The law created greater transparency in the process and required that seized assets be used directly for law enforcement. No more margarita machines. Despite these reforms, Georgia continues to have some of the worst civil asset forfeiture laws in the nation. 
  • Minnesota: The Metro Gang Strike Force settled with 96 victims in 2009 for $840,000. In the wake of this scandal, the state legislature passed SF 874, a sweeping reform of the state’s civil asset forfeiture laws. Criminal conviction or an admission of criminal conduct is now required in Minnesota to seize assets. The burden of proof was also shifted to the state. 
  • New Mexico: The Land of Enchantment passed what are perhaps the most sweeping reforms of civil asset forfeiture in the nation. Criminal convictions are required for forfeiture and the proceeds now go into the state’s general fund rather than acting as spoils for the seizing police department. The legislation sharply limited the degree to which local and state agencies can participate in the equitable sharing program.
  • Pennsylvania: In June 2017, Pennsylvania passed legislation raising the burden of proof on police departments involved in civil asset forfeiture cases and created innocent owner protections. A hearing is now required to seize property. 
  • Tennessee: Former state trooper and state Rep. Barrett Rich introduced a bill requiring a warrant, but this bill failed to pass. An amended version did pass, however, with far more modest reforms including the right to an immediate hearing before a judge. Previously, victims of civil asset forfeiture had to wait up to a year.

In addition to state reforms, the judiciary is becoming increasingly critical of civil asset forfeiture. In June 2017, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of civil asset forfeiture victims. What’s more, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas delivered a scathing critique of civil asset forfeiture as a whole in March 2017. While rejecting the victim’s appeal on procedural grounds, he called into question the entire existence of civil asset forfeiture as it currently exists.

How to Protect Yourself

You might think there’s nothing you can do to protect yourself against civil asset forfeiture. However, this is not the case. While there is no 100-percent guarantee against civil asset forfeiture, there are some things you can do to provide yourself with some level of protection: 

  • Establish innocent ownership. If you rent property, include a clause stating that illegal behavior is prohibited on your property. 
  • Be careful who you rent your property to. If you don’t trust someone completely, don’t let them borrow your car or house sit for you. 
  • Keep your LLC property on the up and up. It’s increasingly common for people to own property through an LLC. If you do this, make sure that all the legal i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed in terms of establishing your ownership. 
  • Exercise dominion over your property. You can protect your rental property by regularly visiting it and documenting these visits. 
  • Obtain fresh notes for any large amounts of cash. Nearly all circulated currency has drug residue on it, which is often used as evidence of criminal wrongdoing in civil asset forfeiture suits. You can protect yourself by requesting fresh notes when you go to the bank.

Show that you have taken active steps to prevent illegal activity on or with any property that you own, rent or lend. It won’t protect you completely, but it will give you a legal leg to stand on if you ever end up on the wrong side of a greedy police department. 

While civil asset forfeiture is certainly scary to anyone who values liberty and property, much like the War on Some Drugs, the tide seems to be turning in favor of liberty and against those who wish to take it.

Republished from Ammo.com’s Resistance Library with permission.

How to protect your data from cyberattacks

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Image: Brandpoint

(BPT) – Crime used to mean things like break-ins and thieves swiping packages from your doorstep. But now there’s an increasing number of cybersecurity threats that are also crimes of opportunity. With more and more people using unfamiliar networks and doing lots of online shopping, bad actors have plenty of targets to choose from. By following these simple steps for data protection, you can keep your digital information secure.

1. Be careful when using insecure Wi-Fi networks

If you’re traveling or out shopping, you may find yourself on an unfamiliar Wi-Fi network. Many stores, airports and rest stops offer free Wi-Fi as a convenience, but often those networks aren’t secured. That makes it especially risky to make online purchases because the traffic from your device can be easily monitored and stolen. If you are using public Wi-Fi networks, then browsing to any website, make sure your connection is encrypted and secure by looking for the lock icon in the top left of the address bar. Also, always double check that the address you are navigating to is what you expected. Many modern devices, like the ASUS NovaGo, now feature built-in LTE, which offers a more secure experience for your online shopping.

2. Don’t rely on passwords alone

Passwords and user IDs are a staple of cybersecurity, but they can only get you so far. To further ensure your data stays protected, consider using password management and verification apps. They let you use your face, fingerprint, eyes or other methods to access your data across devices. For example, the Microsoft Authenticator app adds an extra level of security with two-step verification that allows you to access your Microsoft account and apps quickly and securely without having to remember a password.

3. Avoid phishing scams

With so many companies emailing promotions, it can feel like your inbox is under assault. In fact, it very well could be. Some of those emails may be phishing scams designed to steal your private information. To protect your data, don’t click on any unfamiliar links and carefully review all notifications from your bank to catch any potentially fraudulent activity.

Remember, scammers can be sophisticated. They may use personalized emails to gain your confidence or replicate the style of a well-known financial services company. If an email or link looks the slightest bit suspicious, don’t click it. Go directly to your bank or other online account to confirm the information independently.

4. Back up your data

If all your data is stored in one place, it’s vulnerable. Bad actors can lock up your device and demand payment to release your files. That’s why backing your data up to the cloud is critical for protecting your files against ransomware attacks. The cloud allows you to safeguard your data and access it from multiple devices. Cloud storage services are secure and can also let you easily transfer your data if you’re upgrading to a new device.

5. Utilize privacy screens

Preventing people from looking over your shoulder and stealing your information is the simplest and easiest way to protect your personal data. When online shopping in public, use privacy screens to hide your information. Some devices, like the HP EliteBook x360 and HP Spectre x360, have integrated privacy screens that instantly shield your screen with the push of a button. If your device doesn’t come with one built in, you can purchase a privacy screen.

6. Keep software current

Using a modern operating system with the latest security updates and built-in anti-virus protection is the best way to ward off unwanted intrusions. Major tech companies continually upgrade software to account for the latest cybersecurity threats so you can be confident your data is protected. By keeping your software current, you can avoid many cyberattacks before they cause problems.

The 16th Amendment: How the U.S. Federal Income Tax Became D.C.’s Favorite Political Weapon

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The American Revolution was sparked in part by unjust taxation. After all, the colonists in Boston rebelled against Britain for imposing “taxation without representation,” and summarily tossed English tea into the harbor in protest in 1773. 

Nowadays Americans collectively spend more than 6 billion hours each year filling out tax forms, keeping records, and learning new tax rules according to the Office of Management and Budget. Complying with the byzantine U.S. tax code is estimated to cost the American economy hundreds of billions of dollars annually – time and money that could otherwise be used for more productive activities like entrepreneurship and investment, or just more family and leisure time. 

The majority of these six billion hours sacrificed by Americans to Washington each year goes to complying with a tax that didn’t even exist until 100 years ago – the federal income tax. 

Worse still, this tax has become a political weapon for Washington to incentivize certain activities (home ownership, charitable giving, etc.) and to punish others. It’s a tax that follows Americans wherever they go in the world, and it’s one that was originally sold to the American people by President Woodrow Wilson as a means of “soaking the rich” during the so-called Gilded Age

How did a country that was founded on the concept of limited government come to embrace such a draconian policy? And what does it say about Washington that tax reform has become synonymous with class warfare and corporate lobbyists? 

Read on to learn the history of the 16th Amendment – which authorized the federal collection of an income tax – and how that power has ultimately meant the growth of Washington at the expense of just about everyone else. 

Early Attempts to Implement an Income Tax 

Could you imagine a time in the U.S. when roads were being paved, there was zero national debt, and the federal government was completely operational – all without income taxes? This may sound like a Libertarian fantasy, but it’s actually an image of the America of yesteryear. Before the advent of the income tax, the U.S. government relied exclusively on tariffs and user fees to finance operations. 

Unsurprisingly, operations were much smaller compared with today’s extravagant government programs like welfare, social security, and subsidies. But even though spending was more conservative during the Republic’s early years, certain political events motivated the government to consider more direct ways of reaching into the pockets of its citizens. 

One of these political events was the War of 1812. This war may have inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner” as he famously watched the rockets red glare over Fort McHenry, but it was also straining our fiscal resources and the war effort needed to be financed. 

Enter the idea of a progressive income tax – based on the British Tax Act of 1798 (which should have been our first warning). Fortunately for the time, the War of 1812 came to a close in 1815, and the discussion of enacting an income tax was tabled for the next few decades. 

Ever so stubborn, progressive individuals were hell-bent on enacting income taxes, and they eventually found a way to do this at a local and state level. In time, they would reignite a new movement for the adoption of the federal income tax. 

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State Versions of the Income Tax 

The 16th Amendment: How the U.S. Federal Income Tax Went From Temporary to Political Weapon

With state governments increasingly embarking on public infrastructure projects and introducing compulsory public education, the money for these programs had to come from somewhere. For the income tax advocates whose hopes were dashed during the War of 1812, state income taxes served as a consolation prize. In turn, income tax supporters immediately got to work and started to chip away at state legislatures. 

In the mid-19th century, the fruits of the income tax crowd’s labor began to pay off as several states got the ball rolling. Some of these states included

  • Pennsylvania: 1840 to 1871
  • Maryland: 1841 to 1850 
  • Alabama: 1843 to 1884 
  • Virginia: 1843 to 1926 (later replaced with a modern individual income tax) 
  • Florida: 1845 to 1855 
  • North Carolina: 1849 to 1921 (later replaced with a modern individual income tax)

Slow but sure, income taxes started to make their way from one state legislature to the next. But once the 1860s arrived, income taxes got a tremendous push from one of the most destructive and pivotal events in U.S. history. 

Did the income tax supporters finally get their wish? 

The Civil War’s Boost for a Federal Income Tax 

To say the U.S. was divided during the 1860s would be an understatement. 

Ripped apart at the seams by a bloody Civil War (1861-1865), the Union government was desperate for funds to finance its ambitious quest to restore order to the beleaguered nation. Like the War of 1812, proposals for income tax were on the menu. Unlike the preceding war period, however, the U.S. was able to successfully enact an income tax. 

Abraham Lincoln signed the Revenue Act of 1861 as a means to finance the expensive war effort. This was followed up with other measures like the Revenue Act of 1862 and Revenue Act of 1864, which created the nation’s first progressive income tax system and the precursor to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). 

What seemed like a monumental victory for income tax supporters who hoped for a long-lasting income tax system would vanish into the ether once the Civil War ended. No longer needing a massive army to put down rebels and stitch the country back together, the U.S. government let Civil War era income taxes expire once Reconstruction was in full swing. The pro-income tax crowd would have to reassess its tactics and look at other avenues for political change. 

The American People Push Back 

The 16th Amendment: How the U.S. Federal Income Tax Went From Temporary to Political Weapon

How did the U.S. government go from embracing massive government expansions during the Civil War to later reverting back to its Constitutional roots of limited government during the next decade? Was it benevolent politicians who, in an act of political kindness, decided to hit the reset button and give Americans their cherished rights back? Or was there something else at play? 

Upon further inspection, there is reason to believe that taxes in the 19th century tended to be temporary in nature given the American people’s ideological propensities. Most people were still skeptical of government overreach, especially during the Civil War – a time where habeas corpus was suspended, and the first income tax was implemented. Shell-shocked from a horrific experience that laid waste to countless urban centers and left hundreds of thousands of Americans dead, the American populace wanted a return to normalcy. And that meant scaling back government as much as possible. 

Even Henry Ward Beecher, the brother of the famous author Harriet Beecher Stowe, was skeptical of the Radical Republicans’ zealous plans to grow government during the Reconstruction period. Historian Tom Woods in The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History exposed Beecher’s thoughts on the matter: 

“The federal government is unfit to exercise minor police and local government, and will inevitably blunder when it attempts it…To oblige the central authority to govern half the territory of the Union by federal civil officers and by the army, is a policy not only uncongenial to our ideas and principles, but pre-eminently dangerous to the spirit of our government.” 

Many Americans would agree with Stowe’s assessment – above all, members of Congress who sought to reassert Congressional dominance throughout the rest of the 19th century. But with the arrival of the Progressive Era, the rules of the political game began to change. Soon, ideas of expansive government, which were routinely scoffed at by intellectuals, politicians, and the American population at large throughout the first half of the 19th century, made a fierce comeback during the latter half of the 19th century. 

This time around, these ideas began to have considerable staying power.

The Income Tax: A Child of the Progressive Era 

Decades of legislative pressure and constant hand-wringing finally began to pay off for income tax supporters.The arrival of the Progressive Era was like Christmas for political figures in favor of an activist state. This was a time when reformers actively pushed for an energetic government to solve all of society’s ills, most notably poverty and income inequality. 

Although they were shut out from the federal government throughout the Gilded Age, Progressives focused their attention on local and state races. Additionally, academia became more receptive to the technocratic message of Progressivism, as numerous academics like John Dewey gained prominence during this period and made progressive ideas popular in the Ivory Tower circles. 

Many will scoff and think that Ivory Tower ideas have no impact in changing, that these ideas are simply too dense and inaccessible to the masses. However, free market economists like Nobel laureate F.A. Hayek understood the indispensable role ideas play in politics. In his work, The Intellectuals and Socialism, Hayek argued that when certain ideas promoting activist government become prominent among the academia and general culture, they eventually consume the political class whole. 

The idea of an income tax would have been laughed out the venue in previous decades. But in the 1890s, it was all the rage at universities throughout the U.S. Soon, political winds started to blow in a more favorable direction. 

For a brief moment, Progressives got their wish when the Congress introduced an income tax during the mid-1890s. The Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act, which had an income tax provision attached to it, gained the ire of then President Grover Cleveland for its last-minute amendments. Nevertheless, the Wilson-Gorman Act became law without Cleveland’s signature. The Supreme Court would later strike down the income tax provisions of the Wilson-Gorman Act in 1895’s Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan Trust Co. case. 

The Supreme Court’s rejection of the income tax was no trivial failure. It was the first step in starting the conversation on the need for an income tax. Progressives now smelled blood in the water and would come back with a vengeance in less than two decades. 

Enter the Wilson Presidency 

The 16th Amendment: How the U.S. Federal Income Tax Went From Temporary to Political Weapon

Not letting the temporary setback of the Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan Trust Co. deter their activism, Progressives continued plowing ahead and making their ideas more palatable to the political class and the masses. Progressivism reached its zenith during the administration of Woodrow Wilson, when progressive reformers finally got their wish as the 16th Amendment was ratified in 1913. This ratification settled any constitutional questions about the legality of this controversial tax. It started out as a relatively limited tax, with individuals making below $20,000 paying a rate of one percent, and the rich – those making making more than $500,000 – paying a seven-percent tax. 

Supporters of the income tax sold it as a tax that would only target the filthy rich. But as history has shown, government encroachments have a tendency of growing over time. In 1917, the lowest tax bracket paid two percent, although the highest income earners saw their taxes skyrocket to 67 percent. 

At the time, politicians reassured their constituents that those rates would not be permanent and they would eventually be scaled back. Little did taxpayers know what the 1930s and 1940s had in store for them. 

The Income Tax: A Normal Part of Public Policy 

Since its ratification, the income tax has been a calling card for politicians keen on growing the size of the State. By soaking the rich and redistributing their wealth, politicians can claim to be champions of the common man, all while consolidating their power in D.C. However, economic realities and political backlash have constrained politicians’ abilities to indefinitely raise taxes. 

Power-hungry politicians needed a little bit of outside help to make their wildest fantasies become reality. That help usually comes in the form of political crisis, which politicians exploited in its fullest. 

The New Deal was the first era that witnessed income taxes rise at astronomical rates. On the eve of the 1929 stock market crash, the highest income earners paid a marginal tax rate of 25 percent. But once the Great Depression was well underway in the mid-1930s, the top tax bracket was paying 63 percent, and the United States’ entrance into World War II catapulted these rates toward 94 percent. 

Certain political practices, such as the abandonment of the use of war bonds – debt securities the government issued to finance war efforts – changed certain political realities for the political class. The discontinued use of war bonds made using the income tax and deficit spending a necessity. This was the result of the populace starting to grow skeptical of military action abroad. With war bonds out of the picture, the U.S. relied more on income taxation and central banking to finance military actions and domestic programs after World War II. 

Like an annoying chore, the income tax soon became a part of the average American’s life, whether they liked it or not. For some Americans, the rabbit hole of inconveniences and frustration goes even deeper. 

Extraterritorial Taxation: The Income Tax’s Worst Kept Secret 

The 16th Amendment: How the U.S. Federal Income Tax Went From Temporary to Political Weapon

Living in foreign lands is one of the most tantalizing experiences for people all over the globe. And after decades of hard work and meticulous saving, many Americans dream of living abroad. 

Often times, unsavory political situations like economic collapses, heavy taxation, and even war compel people to search for greener pastures. For many, settling in new lands is a form of wiping the slate clean – disassociating with a tyrannical homeland and starting a new life in a land of opportunities. 

But for Americans abroad, the U.S. government still finds a way of sneaking back into their lives. Like an unwanted guest, the income tax has latches on to Americans and follows them all the way to their new place of residency. Thinking that their foreign villa by the beach is a refuge from potential U.S. government meddling, many Americans are caught by surprise when the tax bill comes at their U.S. embassy. 

A particularly unique feature of America’s income tax system is its power to tax extraterritorial income. In other words, Americans living abroad are subject to a worldwide tax on their income. One caveat is that American taxpayers enjoy a foreign earned income exclusion that reduces their overall tax burden. As of 2018, the maximum exclusion for taxpayers is $103,900. Nevertheless, the U.S. and Eritrea are unique in their extraterritorial taxation models. Eritrea, however, taxes its citizens living overseas at a flat rate of two percent. 

The extraterritorial nature of U.S. taxes has not been without its fair share of legal controversies. George Cook, an American living in Mexico for 20 years, was perturbed by the fact that he had to pay an income tax on his foreign earnings despite no longer having ties with his country of origin. George’s dispute eventually made its way to the Supreme Court in 1924, and the issue was resolved in the Supreme Court case Cook v. Tait.

The Supreme Court ended up ruling that international taxation of foreign income was constitutional because the U.S. government “benefits its citizens and their property” wherever they live. In essence, Americans are double taxed – they must pay both the taxes in their new country of residence and American income taxes. 

Still not satisfied, D.C. has made sure to extend its international taxation reach by passing the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) in 2010. FATCA essentially turns banks and financial institutions into de facto enforcement branches of the IRS. 

Although FATCA is an American law, foreign countries must comply with its ordinances. FATCA initially requires that all foreign financial institutions register with the IRS. In the case that foreign financial institutions don’t follow through with FATCA standards, the U.S. government can levy a withholding tax of 30 percent on the foreign bank’s earnings. 

The Sneakiness of Income Tax Withholding 

One of the sneakiest aspects of the income tax is the practice of withholding. Instead of paying a lump sum on April 15th, most taxpayers have their income taxes deducted from their paycheck. Their employer essentially becomes an unpaid tax collector that gradually extracts their income in relative silence. 

Come Tax Day, many Americans receive money back after paying excess taxes all year, so they’re left feeling like they’ve been given the gift of free money. Sounds too good to be true, right? Skeptics have every reason to question the euphoria certain Americans display on April 15th. In reality, the government is actually forcing taxpayers to loan it money to finance lavish programs, with zero interest. 

Ironically enough, withholding wasn’t an original feature of the income tax. It wasn’t until World War II that the practice of tax withholding was standardized through the Current Tax Payment Act of 1943. Withholding would later become a permanent feature of the current tax code, despite its original intentions of being a temporary wartime measure. 

Sales Tax Deductions vs. Income Tax Deductions

The 16th Amendment: How the U.S. Federal Income Tax Went From Temporary to Political Weapon

Though the income tax is a convoluted maze that creates headaches for business owners and individual taxpayers alike, there are certain features in the current tax code that can be used to help taxpayers reduce their overall tax burden and make their tax filing experience more comfortable. Tax deductions are just one of these features. 

Taxpayers have the choice of opting for a standard deduction or they can itemize their deductions. If an individual decides to itemize, one of the deductions they’re allowed to take is on various taxes at the state and local level. These deductions are called SALT deductions. Taking a sales tax deduction is a legitimate way to recoup an individual’s local and state sales tax obligations 

For 2018, the standard tax deduction was $12,000 for individuals, $18,000 for heads of household, and $24,000 for married couples filing together. Itemizing is a reasonable route to go if an individual’s itemized deductions are larger than the allowed standard deduction. Individuals can’t deduct all state and local taxes, however. They have to choose between deducting state sales taxes or state income taxes, but they can’t deduct both. That being said, taxpayers can deduct state and local property taxes irrespective of the options they choose. 

It should be noted that this deduction strategy is not necessarily a one-way ticket to lower taxes. In the case that itemizing deductions gives an individual a lower income tax burden than a standard deduction, the sales tax deduction is worth looking into. It makes sense for individuals who have realized major purchases, thus paying a considerable amount in sales taxes, or for those living in states with no income tax, to include the sales tax in their list of itemized deductions. 

Bear in mind that certain things have changed since the 2017 tax reforms. The Trump administration’s tax reforms have capped how much individuals can deduct from federal income taxes for state and local income, property, and sales taxes. Under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, taxpayers can only deduct a maximum of $10,000 in state income taxes and property taxes combined.

The IRS Sales Tax Deduction Calculator

For those who proceed to file a Form 1040 and itemize deductions on Schedule A, they have the option of choosing between claiming state and local income taxes or state and local sales taxes. 

If an individual is planning to claim sales taxes paid in order to lower their federal income tax burden, they should first go to the IRS’ Sales Tax Deduction Calculator page. This way they can better estimate their itemized SALT tax savings versus taking the standard deduction. 

The IRS’ Sales Tax Deduction Calculator is a handy tool for helping individuals figure out the amount of state and local sales tax one can claim. This is true even if the individual’s state and local sales tax rates changed during the year (e.g., because the rates changed or because you moved your personal residence). Be sure and have your Form 1040 draft in-hand when you are ready to calculate.

GILTI: The Global Intangible Low-Taxed Income Provision

Apart from lowering certain taxes, the 2017 Trump tax reforms came with a series of changes with global implications to the U.S. tax code. One that stands out in particular is the introduction of “The Global Intangible Low-Taxed Income” (which is subversively-nicknamed “GILTI”). GILTI is a new tax provision that specifically targets U.S. corporations that own Controlled Foreign Companies (CFCs) for U.S. tax purposes. 

Prior to GILTI, U.S. corporations with a CFC could defer U.S. taxes on the earnings of their CFCs until the CFC distributed those earnings to the parent U.S. corporation. (This is how a U.S.-based multinational like Apple Inc. came to have close to a quarter trillion dollars of foreign cash on-hand, and subsequently had to explain American tax law to U.S. Senators who couldn’t understand what Apple was in fact legally doing.) Post-GILTI, U.S. corporations are taxed at a rate of 10.5% on the earnings of their CFCs regardless of whether the earnings are distributed or not

To address this transition, the U.S. made two important changes. First, the law authorized the IRS to impose a Section 965 transition tax (also called “The Mandatory Repatriation Tax”) on the accumulated earnings of CFCs through the end of 2017. And second, the law authorized the IRS to impose on CFCs the aforementioned GILTI tax on all future (i.e., post-2017) foreign earnings. 

In practice, here’s how the GILTI tax works: Assume you have a CFC owned by a U.S. C corporation (like Apple Inc.) with $1,000 in earnings for 2019. Also assume it has tangible assets with a tax basis of $2,000. You would subtract $200 (10% of $2,000 tangible assets) from the $1,000 in earnings, leaving you with $800 to which a 10.5% tax rate is applied – and you’d get a GILTI tax due of $84. 

Amongst Constitutional scholars, the Section 965 transition tax has raised 5th Amendment due process concerns because it authorizes the IRS to impose a retroactive tax on foreign earnings nearly three decades after the fact. To comply with this change, companies have the option to pay in installments over eight years – but they still owe back taxes worth 15.5% on overseas profits computed under U.S. tax principles represented by cash and liquid assets, and 8% on profits represented by illiquid assets. 

It is this illiquid asset provision which is ensnaring some expected U.S. companies like Kansas City Southern and Tupperware (hardly Silicon Valley darlings like Apple Inc.), and causing them to pay taxes above the new statutory corporate rate of 21%. And in other cases, business owners must resort to becoming residents of the foreign country their multinational is operating in as a means of lowering their tax burden. This is on display when people consider establishing their residency in Puerto Rico, as will be discussed below.

Tax Reformers Still Have Work to Do 

The 16th Amendment: How the U.S. Federal Income Tax Went From Temporary to Political Weapon

Despite the marketing campaign that initially sold the income tax as a straightforward measure to finance government, it has morphed into a legal maze that keeps tax lawyers gainfully employed. After more than a century in existence, the income tax may no longer be worth the headache that millions of Americans must cope with every year on April 15th. 

Although the last few decades have witnessed politicians reducing income taxes at reasonable rates, fiscal irresponsibility and a lopsided tax burden remain lingering problems. 

As of 2018, the U.S. has been running a fiscal deficit of $778 billion, in a year when unemployment has reached historical lows. One can only imagine how deep those deficits will go under less favorable economic circumstances. A report from the Wall Street Journal also indicates that the U.S. income tax system remains very progressive, with the top 20 percent of taxpayers paying 87 percent of total income tax revenue. 

Tax cuts are not bad in of themselves. The great Libertarian economist Milton Friedman was in “favor of cutting taxes under any circumstances and for any excuse, for any reason, whenever it’s possible.” The real problem at hand is the political class’s insistence on maintaining unsustainable levels of spending 

In a tragic twist of fate, these deficits will negate all of the positive effects of the original tax cuts. As debt accumulates, future generations will be stuck with a hefty tax bill. Not only that, but big spending crowds out private-sector investment, thus creating a capital-starved future economy. History has shown, in such cases of fiscal irresponsibility, that governments will either raise taxes exorbitantly or turn to the printing presses to debase the currency. 

Alternative Tax Models to Consider 

For many Americans today, the idea of a world without income taxes seems almost absurd. Income tax has become a presence like furniture in the living room – a baseline they’ve been so used to that they no longer even notice it. But for many business owners, the income tax is a very real part of everyday life that must be dealt with, lest they want to suffer legal penalties. 

In the frustrated business owner’s eyes, any type of reform to simplify the tax code would be a release from the current income tax quagmire. The good news is that business owners no longer have to figure out alternatives to the present tax code. There are numerous individuals who have stepped up to plate and put forward reasonable alternatives to the current system. 

Several proposals to reform the income tax have come in the form of a national sales tax or a flat tax. Both of these taxes are preferable to the income tax status quo. A flat tax entails having a single tax that taxes every American at one rate. Additionally, the flat tax treats all taxpayers and income equally, in stark contrast to the current tax model. 

On the other hand, the national sales tax would repeal the current income tax code and replace it with a tax on the final sale of all goods and services to consumers. Although the most notable difference between the national sales and flat tax is the collection point, they are actually quite similar when it comes to how income is treated. 

Economist Dan Mitchell breaks down some of the similarities between the flat tax and a national sales tax: 

“A single flat rate. Under both plans, income is taxed at one low rate. This would ensure that the government treated taxpayers equally and would address the problem of high marginal tax rates. The single low rate also would promote faster economic growth by minimizing tax penalties on work, risk-taking, and entrepreneurship.” 

“No bias against savings and investment. Implementing either the flat tax or a national sales tax would eliminate the current tax code’s bias against capital formation by ensuring that no income is taxed more than one time. Because double taxation of capital income is a pervasive problem in the current law, going to the flat tax or a national sales tax would stimulate higher incomes and faster growth by minimizing the tax penalties on savings and investment.” 

“Equality. Adoption of the flat tax or a national sales tax also would end the discriminatory treatment caused by a tax code that grants preferences or imposes penalties on certain behaviors and activities. Either reform would change the code so that all taxpayers – and all income – are treated the same under the law.” 

Mitchell is correct in his assessment that the current progressive system punishes success and discourages saving and investment – two of the pillars of capital accumulation. In addition, risk-taking and entrepreneurship are crucial in a market economy. Progressive income taxes impede this process through its arbitrary redistributions on income. 

In the same token, income taxes do have a social engineering function that encourages certain types of behavior and favors certain interest groups over others. For example, on the class warrior side of the aisle, the earned-income tax credit effectively subsidizes low-income tax filers. Other uses of the tax code to socially engineer desired results include sweetheart tax breaks for the solar industry or making childcare costs deductible. 

All in all, a switch to either a national sales tax or a flat tax would lead to a simpler tax system that no longer incentivizes interest group politicking or places a disproportionate tax burden on a certain class of taxpayers. Instead, they would encourage productive activities like entrepreneurship, saving, and investment. 

Puerto Rico: Tax Incentives For Americans

Due to GILTI and other questionable features of the U.S. tax code, Americans have looked for ways to move abroad so as to lighten their tax burden. The U.S. is unique in its approach to taxing worldwide income, which makes it very difficult for Americans to substantially reduce the amount of taxes they are paying to the U.S. government, even if they live abroad. 

With the recent Trump tax reforms, it has become more difficult for U.S. citizens to lower their global tax burden, however, there are still ways around this. One of these strategies has been to move to U.S. territories, which are not subject to the U.S. income tax. 

One of the more popular destinations for Americans looking for favorable tax advantages is Puerto Rico. Provided that they they do their homework, Americans could potentially enjoy federal income tax exemptions and see their taxes drop by 90%. 

Two programs that the Puerto Rican government offers are Act 20 and Act 22, which are the island’s two major tax incentives. 

Here is a brief summary of what these programs entail:

Act 20: The Export Services Act

Act 20 targets certain types of qualifying businesses, like consulting or financial services, by offering incentives such as 4% corporate income tax rates. This is available to corporations who relocate to Puerto Rico and meet the following requirements: 

  1. Become a bona fide resident. In other words, an individual must relocate their center of life to the island and spend at least half the year (183 days) in Puerto Rico.
  2. Set up a Puerto Rican company.
  3. Establish an office in the country.

For Americans, GILTI has changed the tax outlook in Puerto Rico. Now that corporate tax policy has been streamlined for all CFCs, U.S persons will have to pay another 6.5% in corporate taxes to meet the GILTI minimum of 10.5%. The best way for Americans who have a CFC to deal with this provision is by becoming official residents of Puerto Rico.

Act 22: Individual Investor Act

Act 22, the Individual Investors Act, gives investors the ability to pay 0% tax on interest, dividends, and capital gains while living in Puerto Rico as a certified resident. Like Act 20, the taxpayer must be a bona fide resident who has relocated their life to Puerto Rico and must spend at least half the year (183 days) on the island. 

This program is especially attractive to traders and crypto-investors, or any individual with a large amount of passive income or capital gains from any source. 

A Cause for Hope 

The 16th Amendment: How the U.S. Federal Income Tax Went From Temporary to Political Weapon

The tedious process of filing tax returns is a common pain point for millions of Americans on April 15th. After more than a century’s existence, the income tax has become a political baseline, which many Americans take as a given. 

Make no mistake about it, the income tax is no mundane feature of the American political economy. In fact, it’s one of the largest enablers of government growth. To genuinely reduce the size of the American state in economic affairs, the abolition of the income tax – or at the very least, a gradual phase-out – would be solid steps in bringing fiscal sanity. 

Thanks to a few high-profile political campaigns over the last decade, the desire to get rid of the income tax is no fringe idea, and is starting to gain momentum in Conservative and Libertarian circles. 

Since 2008, each presidential cycle has featured candidates on the Republican side of the aisle with campaigns to abolish the IRS. Ron Paul did so in 2008 and 2012, whereas candidates like Paul’s son Rand Paul and Senator Ted Cruz followed in the retired Congressman’s footsteps during the 2016 Republican primaries. 

Should the Overton window of public opinion shift toward limited government, the days of Americans having to deal with the IRS may soon come to an end. 

After all, tax rebellions are in the American people’s DNA. And with the U.S.’s fiscal situation deteriorating annually, bold measures will need to be taken. 

Reproduced from ammo.com with permission. Original can be viewed here.

“Watch Your A**”: Watch her lips!

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A video clip from President Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday night shows Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) appearing to give a profane warning to Sen. Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) for giving Trump a standing ovation during his speech as he spoke about the passage of Right to Try legislation last year. In case you can’t lip read she’s warning the Congresswoman who decided not to dress in white to “watch her ass”.


The call to wear white for Trump’s speech was devised by the House’s Democratic Women’s Working Group and will be a symbol of “the ongoing fight to attain equal rights for all women,” members said. The move is a nod to the women’s suffrage movement, which encouraged followers to dress in white as a symbol of purity.

Unfortunately, it also drew a rash of sarcastic comments and unflattering memes.

Morally bankrupt Virginia Democratic Party implodes amid support for infanticide, blackface

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From being exposed as radical abortion extremists to having their racist pasts revealed to having to deal with a credible sexual assault allegation, Virginia Democrats have had a very bad couple of weeks in an epic implosion.

On Jan. 28, Democrat Del. Kathy Tran testified about her bill that makes it easier to obtain a late-term abortion. When she was asked if her bill would allow a woman who is dilating to have an abortion, she replied, “My bill would allow that. Yes.”

This legislation has been cosponsored by 21 other Democrats as well. Asked if similar legislation would be advanced if Democrats win control of the House of Delegates, Democrat House Minority Leader Eileen Filler-Corn, responded, “There’s a lot of support for this type of legislation.” While this bill might be popular with Democrat legislators, many people from across the country, including some who support abortion, strongly denounced the bill.

State Capitol Janitor Frank Surprised to Find He’s Virginia’s New Governor

In a radio interview on Jan. 30, Democrat Gov. Ralph Northam defended Tran’s abominable bill and appeared, to some, to go even further by supporting infanticide. In a WTOP radio interview, when asked explicitly if an abortion could be performed as a mother was entering labor, Northam went further  and said the baby could be delivered and still killed, “When we talk about third-trimester abortions, these are done with the consent of obviously the mother, with the consent of the physicians, more than one physician, by the way. And it’s done in cases where there may be severe deformities, there may be a fetus that’s non-viable. So in this particular example, if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother. So I think this was really blown out of proportion.”

Unsurprisingly, many were disturbed by his comments. When given a chance at his press conference last Thursday to make it clear that he opposes infanticide, he did not, instead, he stated defiantly on Jan. 31 that he did not have any regrets.

The following day, on Feb. 1, the first day of Black History Month, the American people learned about Northam’s medical school yearbook photo, which showed an individual in blackface and another dressed as a member of the Ku Klux Klan. That night, Northam, who had portrayed conservatives as murderous racists during his gubernatorial campaign, released a video in which he apologized for appearing in the photo, “I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now…”

On Feb. 2, the media reported that another of Northam’s college yearbook had listed one of his nicknames as “Coonman.” That afternoon, Northam held a disastrous press conference. Among other things, he stated that he no longer believed that he was in the racist yearbook photo, but he admitted to wearing blackface on another occasion. He also denied knowing why he had been called “Coonman” in college.

Northam’s past may help explain his snubbing of black candidates from both parties. In 2013, at end of their lieutenant gubernatorial debate, Republican E.W. Jackson extended his hand to shake hands with Northam but got no response. Even when Jackson tapped him on the arm, Northam continued to ignore him. Four years later, Northam’s campaign intentionally omitted his black running mate, Justin Fairfax, from a flyer but still included the white candidate for attorney general.

Virginia Democrats’ problems, however, extend beyond abortion and Northam’s past. On Feb. 3, a news website reported that a California professor alleged that she had been sexually assaulted at the 2004 Democrat National Convention and that the alleged perpetrator was on the verge of a “very big promotion.” Democrat Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax quickly released a statement denying the allegation and threatening to sue “those attempting to spread this defamatory and false allegation.” Fairfax’s cause was not helped when it was reported that he had profanely lashed out at his accuser in a meeting with his staff on Monday night. On Feb. 6, the accuser released a detailedstatement describing the assault and revealing that she had begun telling friends about the assault in 2017.

As if all of that were not enough, Democrat Attorney General Mark Herring, who has called for Northam’s resignation, admitted that he also wore blackface at a Halloween party as a young man.

In the last two weeks, the nation has seen how morally bankrupt the Democrat Party of Virginia has become. That is why, when they go to the polls for state and local elections this November, voters may very well punish Democrats’ appalling actions by routing them.

By Richard McCarty, Director of Research at Americans for Limited Government Foundation. Original can be viewed here, reproduced with kind permission. 

The Trump card on NAFTA to Congress: Vote yes on USMCA or U.S. pulls out of NAFTA

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By Robert Romano

At the Feb. 5 State of the Union Address President Donald Trump once again appealed to both chambers of Congress to adopt the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) reciprocal trade deal that will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

“Our new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement — or USMCA — will replace NAFTA and deliver for American workers:  bringing back our manufacturing jobs, expanding American agriculture, protecting intellectual property, and ensuring that more cars are proudly stamped with four beautiful words:  made in the USA,” Trump said at the speech.

The agreement itself appears to improve on NAFTA from the perspective of U.S. producers and American workers, as the U.S. achieved significant concessions on country of origin requirements, labor, agriculture, currency, intellectual property, financial services and textiles (see below).

But the biggest incentive of all to pass it may be that President Trump has threatened to leave NAFTA altogether if Congress does not pass the USMCA replacement. Under fast track rules, a vote on the new trade agreement is mandatory.

On Dec. 1, 2018, Trump told reporters, “I’ll be terminating it within a relatively short period of time.  We get rid of NAFTA.  It’s been a disaster for the United States… And so Congress will have a choice of the USMCA or pre-NAFTA, which worked very well.”

Here, Trump would be invoking Article 2205 of NAFTA, which states, “A Party may withdraw from this Agreement six months after it provides written notice of withdrawal to the other Parties.”

That’s the President’s trump card — pun intended. Many members of Congress might prefer to keep NAFTA as it is, but if they want any trade agreement at all that includes Mexico — before NAFTA the U.S. had a bilateral trade deal with Canada — the USMCA is the only game in town. The U.S. has already withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which included Mexico and Canada and would have effectively replaced NAFTA, too. So now, it’s USMCA or bust.

And for those who are simply reluctant to deliver a legislative win to President Trump, they ought to consider that it’s no skin off Trump’s nose to pull out of NAFTA. Either way, Trump would be delivering on his campaign promise to get a new trade deal or else leave NAFTA.

But really, Congress should be addressing the trade agreement on its merits, which are well worth considering.

Country of origin requirements are being increased to 75 percent, up from 62.5 percent, requiring automobiles will have at least three-quarters of their parts made in North America.

Mexico will recognize the right of collective bargaining and all parties agreed that “40-45 percent of auto content be made by workers earning at least $16 per hour,” according to the U.S. Trade Representative. In 2016, average pay in Mexico for manufacturing was $3.91 an hour. In 2017, the Associated Press ran a report entitled “In Mexico, $2 per hour workers make $40,000 SUVs.” This is a tremendous concession, and most certainly an improvement on NAFTA from a U.S. producer perspective.

On agriculture, Canada is allowing in greater access for U.S. dairy products.

On currency, the USMCA “address[es] unfair currency practices by requiring high-standard commitments to refrain from competitive devaluations and targeting exchange rates, while significantly increasing transparency and providing mechanisms for accountability,” according to the U.S. Trade Representative.

Since 2008, the Mexican peso has depreciated against the U.S. dollar by 50 percent, from $0.10 per $1 USD to $0.05 per $1 USD. The new provision will give aggrieved parties an opportunity to target currency devaluation as an unfair trade practices, something that could set a new gold standard for trade agreements.

On intellectual property, cross-border copyrights, trademarks and patents will be enforceable to cut back on knock-offs, plus additional protections for pharmaceutical and agricultural producers.

On financial services, U.S. financial services will be allowed to compete with local financial services in Canada and Mexico, getting most-favored nation treatment.

On textiles, the agreement will “[p]romote greater use of Made-in-the-USA fibers, yarns, and fabrics by: [l]imiting rules that allow for some use of non-NAFTA inputs in textile and apparel trade… [and by] [r]equiring that sewing thread, pocketing fabric, narrow elastic bands, and coated fabric, when incorporated in most apparel and other finished products, be made in the region for those finished products to qualify for trade benefits,” according to the U.S. Trade Representative.

These are all wins for U.S. producers, labor organizations and the like. There’s something in it for everyone. Democrats who say they want better trade deals and Republicans who usually support widespread trade agreements will both be hard-pressed to say no.

Overall, Trump is doing exactly what he promised to in the Rust Belt states he picked up in 2016: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and elsewhere. Those were the states that put him over the top in the Electoral College. Trade was the issue that got him to the White House.

And surely those voters were listening when Trump mentioned them again in the State of the Union, saying, “I have met the men and women of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, New Hampshire, and many other States whose dreams were shattered by NAFTA.  For years, politicians promised them they would negotiate for a better deal.  But no one ever tried — until now.”

The choice for Congress is simple: NAFTA will be terminated, or replaced by the USMCA. Members may not appreciate being leveraged in this manner, but that’s the way it is. Either way, President Trump will be keeping another key promise he made to his base in 2016.

Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government. Reproduced with permission. Original can be viewed here. 

“New Satanism” Filling America’s Moral Vacuum?

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Image: Satanic Temple website

You could say Satanism has undergone a “rebranding” since the 1980s and 90s, when devil-worshipping occultists were supposedly to blame for a series of disturbing crimes – both real and imagined. Since then, in large part due to the founding of “The Satanic Temple” seven years ago in Salem, Massachusetts, Satanism has entered the mainstream of contemporary culture.  The clever marketers of this movement have traded notions of goat sacrifices and Black Magic for feel-good sophistry about equality, social justice, and personal freedom.

In fact, in a bizarre non sequitur The Satanic Temple claims its mission is not to worship the Devil. Instead, its self-proclaimed mission is merely “to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people.” If this rings somewhat contradictory, remember the Apostle Paul’s warning in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians, that “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.”

The Temple’s strategy appears to be bearing fruit.  Its enticing — almost reasonable – repackaging of Satanism has made it a seductive “philosophy” in today’s tumultuous society. If a Sundance Film Festival feature documentary on modern Satanists is any indication, Satanism 2.0 is on the rise, and even without the literal devil worship, this cleverly marketed ideology provides the perfect cover for the actual Satan to entrench himself deep within our society.

All this should come as no surprise. America (indeed, much of the western world) today is fertile soil for such snake oil sales pitches. The modern church is constantly mocked and demonized in the media, with regular attendance down across the board (a situation not helped by the continuing and highly publicized revelations about pedophilia within the Catholic Church).

The nuclear, two-parent family has become more and more the relic of a bygone era, fostering an environment in which children are increasingly less likely to attend regular religious services. Add to this equation the fact that any hint of religion (or patriotism, for that matter, as in required recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, with its reference to “one nation under God”) is categorically banned in schools, and the current moral drift of today’s young people is easy to comprehend.

Not only are churches feeling the pinch of this phenomenon, but secular social organizations like Rotary and Kiwanis are as well; with the median age of such organizations increasing significantly.  This reflects the reality that many Millennials have little interest in joining anything or anyone outside the orbit of their electronic devices.

Whereas the Church once provided a social and emotional support system, especially for young adults, our crumbling religious foundation has given way to a moral vacuum filled with vices like our “hook-up” culture (lust), decaying social skills and standards of decency (gluttony), and hollow “slacktivism” that seems to have bred a perpetual state of politically-motivated hate and rage in young adults against their peers and their elders (sloth, wrath, and pride).

This deficit of moral centering makes individuals struggling with personal identity easy targets for the siren song of the new Satanism. In exchange for a sense of belonging and purpose, Satanists work to detach those drawn to its melody even further from the moral foundations that for centuries served as the bedrock for a liberated and progressive society.

If you doubt the impact of this evil thinking, look no further than the abortion bill passed recently in New York, and another proposed in Virginia; both of which essentially legalize infanticide. In New York, lawmakers cheered and celebrated its passage, with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ordering New York City skyscrapers to light pink as a sign of the Big Apple’s progressivism. Meanwhile, Virginia’s Governor echoed the sentiments of his liberal colleagues to the north, suggesting newborn babies be “kept comfortable” (whatever that means) following delivery, while doctors and the mother discuss their options, including, as Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has implied, that the baby be left to die.

Comments such as this illustrate a culture completely untethered from basic decency and compassion. Yet, this is swiftly becoming the new norm, as seen in the way people rushed not to criticize New York and Virginia lawmakers, but to defend them. The warped world that considers such extreme abortion “rights” as these to be benign presents the perfect breeding ground in which Satanists can call new sheep to their flock.

The Devil does not need to be literally worshipped in order to be effective in his mission on Earth, which is to separate people from God. Liberals, who constantly chip away at America’s religious and moral foundation, and Satanists, who fill this vacuum with promises of community and purpose, are doing his bidding, and doing it well. The moral abyss into which it is drawing us, however, is cold and dark.

Bob Barr represented Georgia’s 7th District in the House of Representatives from 1995-2003. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and is Chairman of Liberty Guard (a non-profit, pro-liberty organization). He also heads the Law Enforcement Education Foundation (LEEF) and a consulting firm, Liberty Strategies.

SOTU 2019: It’s still about the Wall

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Trump makes bipartisan appeal to fund border wall in State of the Union Address, retains emergency declaration, veto options

By Robert Romano

Once again, President Donald Trump brought his case for the southern border wall and to address the humanitarian crisis on the border to Congress in his Feb. 5 State of the Union Address, urging bipartisan support for the project.

In the speech, Trump said, “My Administration has sent to the Congress a commonsense proposal to end the crisis on our southern border. It includes humanitarian assistance, more law enforcement, drug detection at our ports, closing loopholes that enable child smuggling, and plans for a new physical barrier, or wall, to secure the vast areas between our ports of entry.  In the past, most of the people in this room voted for a wall — but the proper wall never got built.  I’ll get it built.”

The rationale for continuing with Congress, even after the partial government shutdown has ended, is simple. Having Congress approve the funding for the wall is the quickest and surest way to ensure that the steel barrier the President is proposing is actually completed and to break ground this year.

The President put the question into moral and human terms, inviting the family of Gerald and Sharon David to the speech. The Davids were murdered in their home in Reno, Nev. by an illegal immigrant. Trump stated, “Not one more American life should be lost because our nation failed to control its very dangerous border. In the last 2 years, our brave ICE officers made 266,000 arrests of criminal aliens, including those charged or convicted of nearly 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes, and 4,000 killings.”

Yes, the President is retaining the option to declare an emergency and redirect military construction funds to securing the border with his proposed steel barrier. 33 U.S. Code Section 2293(a) provides that “In the event of a declaration of war or a declaration by the President of a national emergency in accordance with the National Emergencies Act [50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.] that requires or may require use of the Armed Forces, the Secretary, without regard to any other provision of law, may (1) terminate or defer the construction, operation, maintenance, or repair of any Department of the Army civil works project that he deems not essential to the national defense, and (2) apply the resources of the Department of the Army’s civil works program, including funds, personnel, and equipment, to construct or assist in the construction, operation, maintenance, and repair of authorized civil works, military construction, and civil defense projects that are essential to the national defense.”

But, there’s a hitch. Besides a surefire challenge in federal courts, Congress can disapprove the action under the terms of the National Emergencies Act. Surely, the Democratic-led House will do so and whether the Republican-led Senate will do so is a real question in Washington, D.C.

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) has predicted that if it came to that, Republicans in the Senate would ultimately back the President, telling CNN, “Let’s see how they vote. If the president does it, I’m willing to bet you a lot of Republicans who are saying it’s a bad idea and he shouldn’t do it, they’ll vote to support him.”

Before they vote, of course, members of Congress should consider that even if such a resolution of disapproval were to pass both chambers, the President would likely veto it, then requiring two-thirds majorities in both houses to override the veto. That’s his trump card.

As for the courts, the grant of authority Congress gives to the President in the National Emergencies Act is broad. 50 U.S. Code § 1621(a) states flatly, “With respect to Acts of Congress authorizing the exercise, during the period of a national emergency, of any special or extraordinary power, the President is authorized to declare such national emergency.”

Such declarations have not been successfully challenged in the past. The law has been used by presidents more than 50 times. Ultimately, it comes down to the President exercising the power that Congress has explicitly granted him. Trump should win that court case, as his powers are at their maximum with such an explicit grant of authority. It’s his sole determination to make under the law, not courts.

Which is why the President’s play in Congress to build the wall makes a whole of lot of sense. Right now, Congress has a bipartisan opportunity to achieve concessions from the President via a negotiation. It shows Trump is willing to compromise, even as he prepares to do everything in his power to protect national security.

But, there’s a time limit. Funding for the government runs out on Feb. 15. Congress has a window right now to make a deal — or not. It’s their choice. After Feb. 15, all bets are off.

If Trump goes the emergency declaration route, there’s no need to negotiate. In the end, it will be Congress’ loss, not Trump’s. The President can redirect the military construction funds, and Congress won’t get anything in return. See what he cares. Either way, Trump gets the wall.

Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.

Runner attacked by mountain lion. Chokes it.

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Image: Mountain lion. Colorado Parks and Wildlife

LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. – Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers, working with Larimer County Department of Natural Resources, are investigating a mountain lion attack on a trail runner using the West Ridge Trail at Horsetooth Mountain Open Space on Monday, Feb. 4.

The victim of the attack described hearing something behind him on the trail and was attacked by a mountain lion as he turned around to investigate. The lion lunged at the runner, biting his face and wrist. He was able to fight and break free from the lion, killing the lion in self-defense. The runner sustained serious, but non-life threatening injuries as a result of the attack.

As wildlife officers searched the trail area provided by the runner, the body of a juvenile mountain lion was found within feet of several possessions that the victim asked the officers to look for on the trail. The lion has been taken to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife animal health lab for a necropsy.

He defended himself without the use of weapons. He was able to suffocate the animal!

What to do if you encounter a mountain lion:

  • Do not approach a lion, especially one that is feeding or with kittens. Most mountain lions will try to avoid a confrontation. Give them a way to escape.
  • Stay calm when you come upon a lion. Talk calmly and firmly to it. Move slowly and never turn your back on it.
  • Stop or back away slowly, if you can do it safely. Running may stimulate a lion’s instinct to chase and attack. Face the lion and stand upright.
  • Do all you can to appear larger. Raise your arms. Open your jacket if you’re wearing one. If you have small children with you, protect them by picking them up so they won’t panic and run.
  • If the lion behaves aggressively, throw stones, branches or whatever you can get your hands on without crouching down or turning your back. Wave your arms slowly and speak firmly. What you want to do is convince the lion you are not prey and that you may in fact be a danger to the lion.
  • Fight back if a lion attacks you. Lions have been driven away by prey that fights back. People have fought back with rocks, sticks, caps or jackets, garden tools andtheir bare hands successfully. We recommend targeting the eyes and nose as these are sensitive areas. Remain standing or try to get back up!

ICYMI: The Covington Affair. Hitting outspoken celebrities where it hurts

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The video below was produced by the defense attorney handling affairs for the Covington schoolboys and in particular, Nick Sandmann. It alleges that the mainstream media, politicians, church officials, commentators, & celebrities rushed to judgment to wrongfully condemn, threaten, disparage and vilify Nick Sandmann based solely on a few seconds of an out-of-context video clip.

Since then, the attorney L. Lin Wood of Atlanta has informed many members of the media, and vocal celebrities not to destroy any material evidence.

Preservation Letter by on Scribd

Here’s the list as it stands. It’s missing Bill Maher.

  • The Washington Post
  • The New York Times
  • Cable News Network, Inc. (CNN)
  • The Guardian
  • National Public Radio
  • TMZ
  • Atlantic Media Inc.
  • Capitol Hill Publishing Corp.
  • Diocese of Covington
  • Diocese of Lexington
  • Archdiocese of Louisville
  • Diocese of Baltimore
  • Ana Cabrera
  • Sara Sidner
  • Erin Burnett
  • S.E. Cupp
  • Elliot C. McLaughlin
  • Amanda Watts
  • Emanuella Grinberg
  • Michelle Boorstein
  • Cleve R. Wootson Jr.
  • Antonio Olivo
  • Joe Heim
  • Michael E. Miller
  • Eli Rosenberg
  • Isaac Stanley-Becker
  • Kristine Phillips
  • Sarah Mervosh
  • Emily S. Rueb
  • Maggie Haberman
  • David Brooks
  • Shannon Doyne
  • Kurt Eichenwald
  • Andrea Mitchell
  • Savannah Guthrie
  • Joy Reid
  • Chuck Todd
  • Noah Berlatsky
  • Elisha Fieldstadt
  • Eun Kyung Kim
  • HBO
  • Bill Maher
  • Warner Media
  • Conde Nast
  • GQ
  • Heavy.com
  • The Hill
  • The Atlantic
  • Bustle.com
  • Ilhan Omar
  • Elizabeth Warren
  • Kathy Griffin
  • Alyssa Milano
  • Jim Carrey

The video is around 15 minutes. All the frames have been collected from social media – something the big press journalists should have done before rushing to comment. Here it is.

VIDEO: Gangbanger murder at Queen’s Subway. This is why we must be vigilant and armed.

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Investigators have now charged Ramiro Gutierrez, 26, who police say is a member of the violent MS-13 street gang, with murder, gang assault and weapons possession for the bloody Sunday afternoon shooting, where victim Abel Mosso, 20, was shot repeatedly in the face.

The murder was the first killing on the subway in more than a year. Six shots were fired. The victim was struck in the head and died at the 90th Street-Elmhurst Avenue station, where the altercation spilled out of a Manhattan-bound 7 train just before 1p.m.

And someone caught it on camera.

SPAS 12: The weapon that triggered a ban

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The Franchi SPAS-12 is a combat shotgun manufactured by Italian firearms company Franchi from 1979 to 2000. The SPAS-12 is a dual-mode shotgun, adjustable for semi-automatic or pump-action operation. The SPAS-12 was sold to military and police users worldwide on the civilian market and has been featured in many movies, TV shows, and video games.

The appearance and intended purpose of the SPAS-12 initially led to its “military” designation as a combat shotgun. The SPAS-12 was designed from the ground up as a rugged military shotgun, and it was named the Special Purpose Automatic Shotgun.

In 1990, Franchi renamed the shotgun the Sporting Purpose Automatic Shotgun, which allowed continued sales to the United States as a limited-magazine-capacity, fixed-stock model until 1994.

Following the United States Federal Assault Weapons Ban 1994, imports of SPAS-12 shotguns to the United States were stopped. In September 2004 the ban expired, but Franchi had ended production of the SPAS-12 in 2000 to focus on the manufacturing of the SPAS-15 model.

This comment under the video says it all:

…this weapon was the poster child of the 1994 assault weapons ban. this weapon was everything wrong with the ban. This was purely banned on the basis of looks and looks alone. this shotgun does nothing that any other shotgun at the time did. it ran pump or semi auto, that’s it. it didn’t load with a drum mag or other type of loading device. it loaded 1 shell at a time. however, because of HOW IT LOOKED! it was banned by name, and some would argue was the downfall of the company and an iconic shotgun. I both love and hate this gun. Love it cause how it looks and how it functions, but hate it because it reminds me of that dark day in 1994.

 

Trump economy roars ahead with 296,000 new private sector jobs created in January

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By Rick Manning

Washington D.C. economy watchers were holding their collective breaths waiting for the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics to release its January surveys measuring individual employment and business hiring reports and the results were somewhat predictable.

A huge gain in jobs created in the private sector of 296,000 was reported by BLS, while the data from the individual household survey was skewed by the partial government shutdown.  Here is how BLS explains it: “Both the unemployment rate, at 4.0 percent, and the number of unemployed persons, at 6.5 million, edged up in January. The impact of the partial federal government shutdown contributed to the uptick in these measures. Among the unemployed, the number who reported being on temporary layoff increased by 175,000. This figure includes furloughed federal employees who were classified as unemployed on temporary layoff under the definitions used in the household survey.”

In addition, the Bureau also revises the baselines for the surveys at the start of every year, which always skews the household survey in January causing headaches for those trying to compare apples to oranges and derive meaning from the individual job report numbers.

While it may seem like a bit of a cop-out, these two factors make analysis a bit more of a crap shoot than it normally is, however, there is one key factor that can be fairly asserted.

First, the number of people employed full-time should jump dramatically on a month to month basis in the February report due in twenty-eight days.  This is because all of those furloughed government workers should be back on their full-time job when the February survey is taken baking in more than 300,000 job gains into the cake without anything else happening.

The continued private sector job creation expansion flies in the face of expectations of many who expected peak employment to have occurred.  This is particularly good news for workers as competition for labor will continue to increase making the 3.2 percent wage gains of the past year look more like a norm than an anomaly.  With inflation only running at 1.9 percent in 2018, the 1.3 percent spread between pay increases and the devaluation of the money is a real pay increase rather than one that is all eaten by the cost of living rising.

Unfortunately, due to the changed methodologies for determining the overall workforce composition between 2018 and January 2019, it is not yet possible to determine the labor participation rate for the all-important 16-64 year-old age group, which is the driver of the economy.  This matters because since a 1997 labor participation high amongst this group of 77.37 percent, participation has dropped precipitously in these prime working ages down to 72.95 percent in December of 2016.  In the first two-years of the Trump presidency, the labor participation rate for this age group has increased to 73.64 percent as of December.

What does this mean?

At the end of 2016, there were approximately 9 million people aged 16-64 who would have been in the labor force had the participation rate remained the same, but who have simply disappeared from the workforce. When combined with an aging population, this meant that fewer and fewer Americans were working in effect to support a growing population.  The upward move in labor participation in this huge population under Trump means 1.4 million of these 16-64 year-olds entered the labor force who would not have been there if the participation rate had not grown.  This calculation is bolstered by same report data which shows that 16-64-year-olds not in the labor force dropped by 1.1 million people.  The bottom line is that Americans are re-entering the labor force reversing a 20-year trendline that was disastrous for the future.

But it also shows that there is much still to do, as approximately 7.7 million of the 16-64 group who would have been in the workforce if the participation rate was at 1997 levels are still on the sidelines, showing the room for growth within our own domestic labor force to meet the needs of the on-going job boom.

It is fair to anticipate that a combination of naturally occurring increased wages and the continued growth of career-oriented jobs in areas like the manufacturing sector, which has shown a 454,000 job gain since January 2017, will attract some of those previously sidelined back into the economy.

One important side note, it is incredible that the number of manufacturing jobs in the United States was the same in January 2009 and January 2018 at 12.56 million, while the rest of the private job numbers increased by just under 14 million over the same period.  This decade-long hollowing out of the manufacturing sector was a deliberate federal government policy combining the giant sucking sound of jobs being transferred overseas due to trade deals designed for that very purpose and the Obama administration’s regulatory regime and business taxes designed to make it unprofitable to make it in America.

Now, in Jan. 2019, it’s up to 12.8 million. It is the toxic impacts of these policies which President Trump has successfully attacked, and this is why wages are rising, jobs are plentiful and people have renewed hope that they can achieve the American dream.

Rick Manning is the President of Americans for Limited Government.

Also from ALG:

Whether a good deal can be had with China may depend on how bad the pain China is feeling right now

By Robert Romano

Last month, China reported growth of its economy in 2018 at 6.6 percent, the lowest in 28 years. The slowdown is real enough but whether it results in a grand trade deal by the U.S. and China may depend on how much pain China is really feeling at the moment.

Is Beijing feeling the pinch?

Currently, the U.S. is levying 10 percent tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods shipped to the U.S. that came atop a 25 percent tariff on $50 billion of goods from China.

While the talks were ongoing, Trump gave China a 90-day reprieve from the 10 percent tariff also rising to 25 percent, which was supposed to happen at the beginning of the year.

That’s the U.S. leverage. If the U.S. and China do not reach an agreement, then the tariff will more than double.

On the other hand, 2017 set a record for the trade deficit in goods with China at $377 billion according to the Census Bureau.

2018 will be even worse. Excluding November and December data not yet available for 2018, the goods trade deficit from Jan. 2017 to Oct. 2017 was $309.3 billion. For Jan. 2018 to Oct. 2018, it is up to $344.5 billion, an 11 percent increase.

By the time the rest of the 2018 data comes in, the trade in goods deficit with China could exceed $410 billion. And that’s with the already enacted tariffs in place.

This raises a big question of whether the proposed tariffs are big enough to eliminate China’s cost advantage and shift production back to the U.S. So far, the initial tariffs have not made a dent in the trade deficit. Not even a scratch.

China’s real manufacturing advantage comes on account of a combination of lower labor costs, fewer regulations and access to rare earth metals used in high-tech computer components.

We’re not really mining rare earths that much. We still import about 78 percent of our rare earths from China. And it’s one area where Trump has been reluctant to enact tariffs against.

China and other east Asian countries continue to dominate the textile manufacturing sphere in exports to the U.S., according to data compiled by the World Bank, with the U.S. importing more than $40 billion worth in 2017 from China.

The advantage on consumer goods remains similar, with the U.S. importing more than $226.6 billion worth from China in 2017.

While U.S. manufacturers are continuing to experience a resurgence — adding 454,000 jobs since Trump took office in Jan. 2017 — still, the U.S. has a long way to go to reclaim its prior dominance in this sphere. While data for 2018 are not yet fully available, the preliminary results from Census on the trade deficit suggest China continues to expand its market share of exports to the U.S.

As trade negotiators from both countries continue to meet, a final deal will have to be ironed out by President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to Trump who tweeted on Jan. 31: “No final deal will be made until my friend President Xi, and I, meet in the near future to discuss and agree on some of the long standing and more difficult points.”

Currently, U.S. trade negotiations of China revolve access to markets, currency valuation and intellectual property theft.

Trump articulated some of these sticking points on Jan. 31, stating, “Looking for China to open their Markets not only to Financial Services, which they are now doing, but also to our Manufacturing, Farmers and other U.S. businesses and industries. Without this a deal would be unacceptable!”

Some good news came as China agreed to import some more soybeans from the U.S., which it has been levying tariffs on. But soybeans is hardly the whole ball game. Those tariffs were retaliatory against the U.S. China lifting those tariffs in part and allowing some soybeans in merely gets you back to where you started.

But the real question might be if China has enough of an incentive to move forward with a deal. On paper, cases can be made that each side has strengths it brings to the table.

And if a deal was made, how much would it result in manufacturing shifting back to the U.S.?

Now, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a deal to be made. Analysts for years have speculated that China’s growth rates reported are overstated. If true, then the 6.6 percent rate being reported could indicate that real pain is being felt, and that Trump’s threatened 25 percent tariff rate would make that even worse. The question is whether the U.S. will get enough in return for not enacting it.

Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.  

 

Cheesecake Factory’s Free Cheesecake Disaster Is a Lesson in Scarcity and Prices

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Image: wikipedia

It sounded like a great idea. To celebrate its 40th anniversary, in November Cheesecake Factory announced it was giving away 40,000 pieces of cheesecake to customers who used the DoorDash app to place orders.

Giving away, as in free. What could possibly go wrong by giving away 40,000 slices of the most delicious cake on the planet? Well, quite a bit.

As CNBC reported, things got ugly fast. Restaurants were flooded with orders and delivery drivers. A fight broke out, police were called, and one person was arrested on a disorderly conduct charge.

Within a couple hours, CNBC reported that “all free slices had been ordered, leading some disappointed respondents to complain on social media that they were not able to get their hands on a piece of cheesecake, or if they did, it arrived hours after it was ordered.”

It was a well-intended marketing promotion turned into a PR disaster.

How did a seemingly good idea turn sour so fast? Economics can help us understand, particularly the ideas of scarcity and prices.

First, what is scarcity? Our friends at The Library of Economics and Liberty offer a definition:

Scarcity refers to the basic economic problem, the gap between limited—that is, scarce—resources and theoretically limitless wants. This situation requires people to make decisions about how to allocate resources efficiently, in order to satisfy basic needs and as many additional wants as possible.

Cheesecake is a limited resource and a tasty one at that. To see that limited resources are allocated most effectively, we use an important tool: prices.

Price is perhaps the most basic and important principle in economics. Yet despite the importance and simplicity of prices, it’s a concept the modern world ignores with stunning consistency, as the economist Thomas Sowell observed:

“Prices play a crucial role in determining how much of each resource gets used where and how the resulting products get transferred to millions of people,” Sowell wrote in Basic Economics. “Yet this role is seldom understood by the public and it is often disregarded entirely by politicians.”

It’s easy to forget that prices are a good thing. They help us allocate resources effectively and efficiently. By removing the price from a scarce, delicious resource, the operators of Cheesecake Factory practically assured a bad ending to their promotion.

It was not just economic theory that made the debacle predictable; empirical evidence also suggested such an outcome. Other chains—Build-a-Bear, IHOP, Domino’s, Tesla, and others—have tried similar stunts with similar results.

Fortunately, businesses are responsive to market forces and have an interest in avoiding long lines and angry customers. They want to avoid long lines, angry customers, and fights.

Government, however, does not face the same market pressure as private companies. Moreover, the incentive to control prices is much greater, and they can do it on a much larger scale.

Astute observers have observed that Venezuela’s disaster is less the result of classical socialism than the dismantling of its price system. History is replete with examples of governments discarding prices with similarly disastrous results, from the Emperor Diocletian’s effort to fix the prices of basic market goods such as grain, eggs, and beef to Richard Nixon’s effort to fix the price of gasoline.

Businesses and governments alike would do well to remember that resources are scarce, and prices are our friend. When we ignore these basic realities, bad things tend to happen.


Jon Miltimore

Jon Miltimore

Jonathan Miltimore is the Managing Editor of FEE.org. His writing/reporting has appeared in TIME magazine, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Forbes, Fox News, and the Washington Times. 

He previously served in editorial roles at The History Channel magazine, Intellectual Takeout, and Scout. He is an alumni of the Institute for Humane Studies journalism program, a former reporter for the Panama City News Herald, and served as an intern in the speechwriting department of George W. Bush.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

Our Globalist Nation Building – Results In Our Having Awful, Corrupt Bedfellows

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We less government types – want less government everywhere.

By that we mean – we want our government to do less everywhere.

If other nations want to be stupid and have their governments do more – that is their problem.  Unless or until it affects us.  Prior to that – it is not our responsibility to attempt to solve their stupidities.

Because no matter how noble our nation-building intentions – our executions have always stunk on ice.  (See: Afghanistan.  See also: Iraq, Egypt, Libya,….)

And no matter how noble our intentions – the people we’re “helping” – rarely view us as helping.

Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre knew this:

“The most extravagant idea that can be born in the head of a political thinker is to believe that it suffices for people to enter, weapons in hand, among a foreign people and expect to have its laws and constitution embraced. No one loves armed missionaries; the first lesson of nature and prudence is to repulse them as enemies.”

Once this Original Sin is committed – invading a nation to “fix” it – your subsequent choices devolve into being ever less and less attractive.

This less-attractive-options truism – is true even if we haven’t invaded a nation.  Being invited to be in places in which we shouldn’t be – creates these problems.

Until we ultimately end up over a barrel like this one – over which we’ve been for at least a decade.

Let’s Leave the Middle East Corruption – To the Middle Easterners

Behold Kuwait corrupt contractor Agility.  With whom our Defense Department (DoD) has had corruption problems for at least a decade.

U.S. Slaps New Fraud Indictment on Kuwait’s Agility:

“U.S. authorities filed a new indictment on Monday against Kuwaiti logistics firm Agility, which is accused of defrauding the U.S. military in the Middle East on multibillion-dollar supply contracts.

“The new indictment contained no new charges against Agility, the Gulf’s biggest logistics firm and the main food supplier to the U.S. military in Iraq and Kuwait.

“Instead, it extended existing charges to include two company affiliates: U.S.-based Agility DGS Holdings Inc and Agility DGS Logistics Services K.S.C., which is based in Kuwait.”

As a May 2017 final result of these 2009 charges:

Defense Contractor Resolves Criminal, Civil and Administrative Liability:

“Agility pays $95 million and gives up $249 million in claims to DOD.”

Which means Agility was charged at the very beginning of the Barack Obama Administration.  But spent the entirety of the Barack Obama Administration with charges pending – and We the People only received justice when the Donald Trump Administration took things over.

Because we have engaged in overseas missionary wars in the Middle East for decades – we have opened ourselves up to getting screwed like this for decades.

But the number of companies who can do the kind of work we need done when engaged in overseas missionary wars – is sorely limited.  Se have to keep using the same corrupt companies over and over and over again – even though we know they keep screwing us.

It also helps when you have a corrupt man inside the DC government.  Or a corrupt woman.

Kuwait Called on Hillary Clinton to Nix Criminal Fraud Case Against Defense Contractor Agility:

“In 2009, Kuwait called on then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to intervene with the Justice Department and help nix a criminal fraud case against a Kuwait defense contractor Agility Public Warehousing Company….

“In a letter to Clinton dated December 5, 2009, then Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Mohammed Al-Sabah writes that ‘in consideration of the special relations between our two friendly countries, we ask that this dispute be settled amicably without having to resort to criminal adjudication.’

“Kuwait has donated between $5 million and $10 million to the Clinton Foundation.”

Aha – there it is.  In the Clinton State Department’s pay-to-play operational model – $5 to $10 million talks and walks huge.

DoD rules state that while a contractor is charged as Agility was – they are ineligible for future contract consideration.

Thanks to Agility and Kuwait greasing the Clinton skids, Agility spent the entirety of the Obama Administration – receiving a grand total of FIFTEEN waivers from said ineligibility.

Since 2009, the DoD issued a total of 24 waivers.  Agility all by its onesies – received 71% of them.

Which means the Obama Administration time and again allowed the corrupt Agility – to time and again rip off We the People.

In part, again, because by engaging in overseas missionary wars – we set ourselves up to be repeatedly screwed.  Because there just aren’t that many contractors with which to deal.

As the Obama DoD admitted – when issuing its very first Agility waiver:

“Insufficient time exists to mobilize another contractor to replace Agility….”

As the Obama DoD repeatedly admitted – while repeatedly issuing Agility waivers in Pez-dispenser fashion.  They time and again stressed the potential damage to military operations if they were forced to enlist a new contractor.

As the Trump DoD also just tacitly admitted.  Having just finally adjudicated Agility’s corruption case – they last July gave Agility yet another DoD contract.

The short term solution:

Get the Congressional Armed Services Committees to finally apply some oversight to what we keep doing with Agility – and what Agility keeps doing to us.

That means you, Senators Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Jack Reed (D-RI) – and all your Committee members.

That means you, Representatives Adam Smith (D-WA) and Mac Thornberry (R-TX) – and all your Committee members.

The long term solution:

Get the US to stop engaging in overseas missionary wars.

Thereby mostly limiting our exposure to corrupt crony contractors – to just the domestic variety.

Seton Motley is the founder and president of Less Government.  Please feel free to follow him on Twitter(@SetonMotley) and Facebook.  It’s his kind of stalking.

Hypocrisy. Ralph Northam and The Inconvenient Truth about the Democratic Party

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Bear with me. This is a lecture on the hypocrisy of the Left as exemplified by one man. A man who started with such promise as a doctor and a member of the U.S. Army Medical Corps. A man who went on to become the current Governor of Virginia, beating out a well-known Republican in a purple state. This is the story of Ralph Northam. A man who looks good on paper, but falls apart under the disinfectant of sunshine.

Northam is currently under fire for a photo in his med school yearbook in which he is pictured as either a black-faced man or a KKK clansman in full attire. His racism was on show here, as even in 1982 this would have been frowned upon.

When we fast forward to his campaign for governor of Virginia, we see that he had the black man running for lieutenant governor photoshopped out of his campaign literature.

Moving on to his army career. Northam has claimed:

As a veteran of the U.S. Army, I have seen what military-style weapons do to the human body while caring for our troops in Operation Desert Storm,” Northam says in an online video. And this:

As a veteran, I served during Desert Storm and I took care of wounded soldiers who were on the receiving end of assault weapons. I know what assault weapons do to human beings. I want to tell you all something, and I hope it’s something you will stand up for. We do not need assault weapons on the streets in our state.”

According to this great article on Red State, the odds of a pediatric neurologist stationed in a completely different command having had a life-changing experience by treating small arms wounds approach zero. He served. That’s enough. Why would he try to big it up?

Ralph Northam’s Service Record. Via Red State

Was this the reason it resurfaced this week?

The yearbook photo was leaked in the same week as he, a trained and qualified pediatrician, argued for infant murder should a mother decide upon it after just giving birth. Personally, I wonder whether this is what pushed a fellow med student to come forward with the yearbook photo. Ed Gillespie’s team never found it and it would have silenced the claim that Northam made about GOP racists (see video below). But a doctor who saw the sickening video below might have decided that enough was enough and Ralph had to be stopped.

Northam endorsed the vile campaign ad below which depicts supporters of Virginia’s Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie as Confederates in tanks who attack defenseless minority children.

And in case you were wondering whether this is limited to the blind ambition of just one man, here’s Prager U on the real history of the Democratic Party.

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