Sunday, June 3, 2018

It’s Time to go Nuclear: Free Assange and Purge the Deep State

Americans are frustrated.  The left is convinced that President Trump colluded with the Russians, stole the election, and prevented them from permanently transforming the United States into a borderless welfare and regulatory state.  Conversely, the right is frustrated with the Obama administration’s weaponization of the administrative apparatus to persecute conservatives, obscure reality, and silence critics.  They view the FBI cover up of Fast and Furious, the IRS targeting of the Tea Party, the Clinton e-mail scandal, the lies surrounding the Benghazi disaster, and the prosecutorial targeting of journalists and political opponents as troubling abuses of government power.

All of these concerns are linked to a broader issue: transparency.  The excessive classification and redaction of government documents combined with mostly ineffective and toothless Congressional oversight leads many of the millions of career government employees to behave as an unelected ruling class that determines when laws will be enforced, who to punish with crippling regulations, or what spin on reality the public should be told.  Exaggeration about crowd size at an inauguration, for example, pales in comparison to the lies spun about Benghazi which disgraced the memory of the brave Americans who died protecting the Ambassador and embassy staff.  The tale of a spontaneous protest that Susan Rice and Hillary Clinton spun had no basis in truth and was solely to protect the political reputation of the Obama administration during a critical time in the election.

Political spin, aided by a compliant media, was commonplace during the Obama administration and ultimately lead to deeply rooted mistrust and opposition to the “Deep State” that emblemizes the corruption that has infected the bureaucracy.  In an age of biased partisan media, one of the few effective checks against government corruption around the world has proven to be WikiLeaks.  When Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks exposed NSA spying on average Americans, they also exposed National Intelligence Director James Clapper’s blatant lies to Congress and the American people during his March 2013 testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee.  Snowden and WikiLeaks were quickly villainized for exposure of classified information despite the clear probative nature of the data and the clarity it provided to the public.  This was just an early hint of the vast weaponization of the intelligence community and prosecutorial arm of the government under Obama.

In an era of “Fake News” and “mainstream” media outlets that are overtly biased and politicized, the people need an organization such as WikiLeaks that disseminates data and information in raw form, without bias or opinion, now more than ever.  Julian Assange has done more to expose government tyranny and corruption around the world than any investigative journalist or news organization in the modern era.  Civilized democracies, which should be governed for the benefit of the people rather than the state, should embrace and encourage transparency and support agents of truth.  It is time for the U.S. and others to offer immunity to Assange and embrace the truth that WikiLeaks delivers to the people.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Tax Reform: The GOP’s ObamaCare

With the Republican budget narrowly passing in the House, the groundwork is set for the GOP to proceed with tax reform legislation.  The rhetoric emanating from GOP leadership describes an idyllic world of lower taxes for all middle class taxpayers regardless of where they live.  In reality, there will be very significant winners and losers from their plan with middle to upper middle class taxpayers in predominantly high tax blue states suffering the bulk of the burden.

As the Atlantic has reported, residents of 14 states pay more in federal taxes than they receive in federal aid.  Many are states with high state and local taxes such as California, New Jersey, New York, Illinois, and Massachusetts.  The implication of this is that residents of these 14 states effectively subsidize the operating costs of the other 36 states, reducing their need to impose higher state and local taxes on their residents.  Now Republican legislators want to exacerbate this inequity by eliminating federal tax deductibility of state and local taxes, effectively resulting in double taxation of this income. 

Republican legislators distort reality by claiming that low tax states are subsidizing the profligate nature of these largely Democrat controlled states, many of which have comparatively high median incomes and significantly higher cost of living.  In New York City, for example, the NYT reports that the average apartment rents for $3,973 per month and the average price of a home was $1.46 million.  By their calculations, someone in NYC would have to make $166,000 per year to have a similar lifestyle to someone making $70,000 per year in other parts of the country.  This person would already be in a much higher marginal income tax bracket and would likely be struggling to cover the $4000 per month in rent and higher costs of necessities. 

If the Republicans truly wanted to help the middle class, they would look more broadly at the array of sacred deductions.  Rather than deeming mortgage interest, charitable giving, and child tax credits as sacrosanct, they should just cap all deductions at $100,000 per year.  This would effectively limit deductions for the very wealthy while enabling taxpayers across the country to respond to the local circumstances that define their lives. 

Ultimately, the GOP must face voters in 2018.  They should learn from the mistakes of the Democrats in their haste to ram through the Affordable Care Act (aka Obama Care) and realize that a legislative win on purported tax reform may cost them much more than they think.  They should decide if their fragile majorities in the House and the Senate are worth the pound of flesh they seek to extract from the coastal middle class.