About Me

In writing the "About Me" portion of this blog I thought about the purpose of the blog - namely, preventing the growth of Socialism & stopping the Death Of Democracy in the American Republic & returning her to the "liberty to abundance" stage of our history. One word descriptions of people's philosophies or purposes are quite often inadequate. I feel that I am "liberal" meaning that I am broad minded, independent, generous, hospitable, & magnanimous. Under these terms "liberal" is a perfectly good word that has been corrupted over the years to mean the person is a left-winger or as Mark Levin more accurately wrote in his book "Liberty & Tyranny" a "statist" - someone looking for government or state control of society. I am certainly not that & have dedicated the blog to fighting this. I believe that I find what I am when I consider whether or not I am a "conservative" & specifically when I ask what is it that I am trying to conserve? It is the libertarian principles that America was founded upon & originally followed. That is the Return To Excellence that this blog is named for & is all about.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Freedom Of Association Dispels Homosexual Wedding Discrimination Claims

"When law & morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law." – Frederic Bastiat 
 
***
 
The enemies of America have been having a field day with duplicitous insidious attacks against the Indiana & Arkansas state versions of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) that was introduced in the House by then NY Congressman Chuck Schumer, in the Senate by the late Senator Ted Kennedy, & signed into law by President Bill Clinton.  There was a unanimous vote in the House & a near unanimous 97 to 3 vote in the Senate supporting RFRA.
 
RFRA provides a means for a religious objector to become exempt from applicable law & claims of discrimination.
 
For instance a landlord could ask for an exemption under RFRA if for religious reasons he objected to renting an apartment to an unmarried man & women even though state law prohibits marital status discrimination in housing matters.  Such a situation has been referred to as living in sin so this example of claiming an exemption has a religious basis for some. 
 
A more recent example was the Hobby Lobby case in which the Supreme Court determined in a 5 to 4 vote that employers are not required to provide female employees with no-cost contraception because of religious convictions to the contrary.
 
With the above as background the enemies of America have turned the matter into a clash over pretending to respect people of faith versus citing them for discrimination against homosexuals – examples include bakers, florists, & photographers who do not want to provide their services on religious grounds for homosexual marriage ceremonies. 
 
A simple question is what couple (homosexual or straight) would want to have a baker, florist, or photographer be part of their wedding ceremony if the service provider did not share in the happy occasion – if there was not another agenda or ulterior motive like undermining the founding principles of our country?
 
In the latest assault the media has added Memories Pizza of Walkerton Indiana to the list of bakers, florists, & photographers to be charged with discrimination against homosexuals after Memories co-owner Crystal O'Connor told a local news station that if a homosexual couple wanted to order pizzas for their wedding, "we would have to say no."  How many weddings or receptions have you been to that served pizza?  So why would the media interrogate a pizza store owner?
 
Of course the media driven brouhaha has nothing to do with discrimination against homosexuals & everything to do with destroying both individual rights & freedoms.  The late Harvard professor Robert Nozick, author of one of my favorite books – Anarchy, State, & Utopia – wrote that only a minimal state "limited to the narrow functions of protection against force, theft, fraud, enforcement of contracts. . ." could be justified without violating people's rights - & in this case involving RFRA & claims of homosexual marriage discrimination the principal right violated is the constitutional right of freedom of association.
 
The Constitution does provide anti-discrimination protection for age (in voting), citizenship (in naturalization), race (in voting), sex (in voting), & voting (no poll taxes).  Unlike the foregoing specific constitutional anti-discrimination protections there is no specific constitutional anti-discrimination protection for homosexual weddings.  This means that homosexual supporters who want to cite people of religious faith with discrimination against homosexuals must rely on the 14th Amendment to defend their actions – "No state shall. . . deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
 
The basis for disposing of this position regarding the current argument is found in The Federalist No. 78 where Alexander Hamilton wrote that the Constitution is the fundamental law that has the superior obligation & validity that takes preference over statutes. 
 
This means the law referred to in the 14th Amendment is the Constitution & in particular the First Amendment guaranteeing the free exercise of religion & the right of expressive association – that is there is a right to associate to engage in the activities protected in the First Amendment. 
 
Anti-discrimination statutes such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, or the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 do not take preference over any parts of the Constitution.  Accordingly, the religious rights & rights of association of the First Amendment take precedent over the aforementioned statutes.
 
This is not to say that the courts could not find against the Constitution - in violation of the justices' oaths - in ruling for their notion of the greater good of not promoting any perceived discrimination in America – of course a ruling in favor of forced participation in homosexual marriages in this case means a vote against the free exercise of religion of bakers, florists, photographers, & pizza pie makers.  With four left wing justices on the Supreme Court willing to find any statist presentation constitutional & three others of the nine reading the text of the Constitution as originalists means that every decision will be decided by either Roberts' &/or Kennedy's feeling that particular day.  What a terrible way to decide the issues in our country.
 
"We're not discriminating against anyone, that's just our belief & anyone has the right to believe in anything" – pizza maker Crystal O'Connor told a local news station.
 
Many businesses clearly display the sign "We reserve the right to refuse service to anybody."  Business owners who display such a sign try to enforce the words as they see fit but I don't know of any that refuse service to anyone that the aforementioned Civil Rights Act considers a protected class.  In brief, if they did it would be bad for business – most people would exercise their freedom to associate by not associating with bigoted business owners.
 
There are dress codes @ Saratoga Race Course, fine restaurants, golf courses, & businesses.  Bars regularly offer "ladies nights" where women are served @ a discount & students, veterans, & senior citizens are often encouraged to use certain products or services @ lower costs than the general public – there is nothing about students, veterans, or senior citizens that make delivering the products or services less expensive – it is simply a marketing ploy to make these people partake.
 
Stutterers can find it hard to get a job; older people are perceived as feeble; deaf people love to say they are deaf not stupid; & single sex schools do not admit people of the opposite sex – like the above these additional examples display forms of discrimination to one degree or another.  Even signs that say "no solicitations" can be considered discriminatory when all the owner of a business or medical practice wants to do is be left alone – similar to the no call telephone list.
 
How far we want to go with all of this should be carefully considered.  If we make or enforce rules so politically correct that they become burdensome we are in danger of creating unintended weapons against our entire way of life – if we haven't already.
 
RFRA was intended for such matters like disputes over whether or not Muslim prisoners had to shave their beards – the Muslim prisoner had to prove it was a religious hardship to shave his beard & if he did the government was then compelled to use the least restrictive means of achieving the state interest.  
 
RFRA enforcement has been expanded in the above homosexual wedding examples to require the religious objector to make his case explaining why he should be excused from an activity deliberately distorted to be portrayed as hurtful discrimination – this is a burden not freedom of association & accordingly it is not right in a free society.  People should not need a reason like showing how religious they are to not participate in something.  It is akin to being guilty before given a pass. 
 
We can see where this is going – we already have a healthcare law that requires people to buy a product or be fined (taxed) & a Medicare law that requires people to privately insure the government's single payer partial coverage if they want decent coverage.
 
Freedom of association as described above solves the dilemma of the cruel alternative presented by Frederic Bastiat above – unless someone is purposely looking for trouble.
 
Christine Upton summed this up when she wrote "How we perceive of the world around us determines the outcome of what it is we choose to see or not see."
 
 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Income Tax - The Base Of America's Road To Ruin

click on graphic to enlarge
 
The above graphic shows the result of an estimate by the Tax Policy Center (TPC) of the distribution of the shares of both income & federal income taxes paid in 2014 by all 325 million Americans divided into quintiles of 65 million people in each quintile.
 
Tax Report columnist Laura Saunders writes in the WSJ that "unlike IRS data, it includes information about nonfilers – both people who didn't need to file & people who should have filed but didn't.  The total also includes Americans living overseas & others, which is why it is greater than the U.S. Census estimate of 319 million."
 
Saunders adds "Another important difference: The income cited includes untaxed amounts for employer-provided health coverage, tax-exempt interest & retirement-plan contributions & growth, among other things.  This can be significant."
 
Yes, receiving employer provided healthcare insurance @ no out of pocket cost in an income tax system is quite a significant benefit for those who earn it as part of their total compensation.  Please be assured that no employer provides this benefit for any reason other than being competitive for talent in the labor market in their search for people whose education, training & experience meets the employer's needs.  So many people work just to keep healthcare insurance through their employer or are looking for work with good healthcare insurance & yet do not consider this benefit as income although if pressed they would have to admit it is a significant part of their total compensation that is earned.
 
Although the above TPC estimate is for federal income tax payments only, the overall distribution follows the same top quintile pays the overwhelming majority of federal taxes profile when payroll taxes of Social Security & Medicare are included.  It is the return of cash payments of these payroll taxes to people who do not pay any federal income tax that result in 40% of Americans' share of federal income taxes being negative @ –3.2% as shown on the graphic.  Even more insidious - the graphic shows that close to 80% of the people pay either no federal income tax or so little federal income tax that tax reform is of little or no interest to them meaning that America is stuck in a rut where statist politicians can present shams like income inequality, raising the minimum wage, & class warfare that hold back & actually thwart tax reform that would result in economic growth & prosperity for all.
 
In this regard I wrote two posts ago "Congressman Woodall learned in 2014 that the Joint Committee of Taxation has no methodology to properly evaluate the FairTax meaning that it will not come out of the Ways & Means Committee onto the floor of the House as it stands.  It is like the House statists have checkmated the FairTax into the corner of W&M where they plan to keep it."
 
With the FairTax bottled up in a bureaucratic dead end this leaves us some Republicans talking about an undefined flat income tax that stirs up some conservatives while others talk about tinkering around the edges of the current income tax code – falsely calling either meaningful tax reform.  Estimates of foregone investments and consumption resulting from the federal income tax system increase the deadweight loss to the economy every year – Professor Martin Feldstein calculates a recent fiscal year deadweight loss due to the federal income tax to be $385 billion or 2.55% of GDP.
 
The above 2014 distribution duplicates similar results for 2013 – the TPC determined that a middle class family of four paid only 5.3% (effective tax rate) of its income in federal income taxes & the CBO determined that overall federal taxes (income, payroll, excise, & imputed corporate taxes) for such a family were @ their lowest levels in decades.  See graph below for effective federal income tax rates for a middle class family of four.
 
click on graph to enlarge
 
So with the FairTax slowed down in W&M & no other compelling Republican tax reform message taking hold to date it is easy to see how far too many people in the bottom 80% of income earners consistently fall for Democrat tax the rich schemes that vilify millionaires & billionaires.  This 80% don't pay much in taxes & they also don't make much money if they are working @ all – the majority of these people are not happy & prefer to close any perceived income inequality by bringing the top earners down since they don't hold much hope for going up themselves.  Confiscation of wealth is @ the end of this road to ruin we are travelling.
 
But we need to recognize that it is not taxes but rather what we spend money on that is the enemy – namely Social Security, Medicare, & Medicaid entitlements, interest on the national debt, & the 126 welfare programs recognized by the Cato Institute.  These entitlements & programs take money from the high income earners & give them in one form or another to people in the lowest three quintiles.  For instance Scott Hodge of the Tax Foundation determined that the average middle class family receives over $7,000 more in benefits than they pay in federal taxes each year.  See table below to see what the top 20% of income earners pay – you have to reach the 90 to 95 percentile of income earners in order for the share of income to equal the share of federal income taxes paid.
 
This means that far too many people don't have skin in the game or think they don't.  But they do.  Their entire way of life is about to be changed forever, if it hasn't already, to one of government dependent socialism.  Trying to eliminate or reverse a welfare state that has taken hold in the apathy to dependence stage of an entitlement society like it has in America has always been a political loser throughout history & every Republican & Libertarian candidate for president is facing this losing compulsion.  Even President Reagan, 35 years ago, could only slow, not reverse this course.
 
Hillary Clinton opened her official campaign for president saying "the deck is still stacked in favor of those @ the top."  A more accurate statement would be "the Democrat deck is stacked against everyone who has not educated themselves properly to support themselves & who relies on government for nourishment & safekeeping" – namely the people who currently support her & can't see her programs will keep people down.
  
But the worst part of socialism to me is that it cheats people out of reaching the potential in life they were born to live.  They will never experience the thrill & triumph of high achievement - the highs of life that Ayn Rand wrote about in We The Living - so that to reverse paraphrase TR - everyone's place will always be with those cold & timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.  As such the true cost to any socialist society, namely the opportunity cost, is more than just enormous - it is literally unimaginable.
 
click on graphic to enlarge
 

Reference Post - Why Income Inequality Has Not Increased In America

 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

History Quiz From The 50s

I know people love quizzes & I have been saving some up.  The one below was received from a long time subscriber of RTE.  Please let me know how you make out.  Unlike most quizzes on RTE I present the answers to this one @ the bottom.
 
Note – although some of the questions refer to the 40s the topics were still fashionable & not out of date in the 50s especially for middle class families.
History Quiz ...  
Everyone growing up in the 40s & 50s should have a pretty easy time
 
 taking this quiz. If you are under 50 you can claim a handicap.

It will test how much you really remember about what went on in your life. 

*** Get paper & pencil & number from 1 to 20...
****Write the letter of each answer & score at the end
 
1. In the 1940s, where were automobile headlight dimmer switches located?  
a. On the floor shift knob.
b.. On the floor board, to the left of the  clutch.
c. Next to the horn.
 

2. The bottle top of a Royal Crown Cola bottle had holes in it. For what was it used?
 
a. Capture lightning bugs.
b. To sprinkle clothes before ironing.
c.. Large salt shaker.
 

3.. Why was having milk delivered a problem in northern winters?
 
a. Cows got cold and wouldn't produce milk..
b. Ice on highways forced delivery by dog sle d.
c. Milkmen left deliveries outside of front doors and milk would freeze, expanding and pushing up the cardboard bottle top.
 

4. What was the popular chewing gum  named  for a game of chance?
 
a. Blackjack
b. Gin
c. Craps
 

5. What method did women use to look as if they were wearing stockings when none were available due to rationing during WW II.
 
a. Suntan
b. Leg painting
c. Wearing slacks
 

6. What postwar car turned automotive design on its ear when you couldn't tell whether it was coming or going?
 
a. Studebaker
b. Nash Metro
c. Tucker
 

7. Which was a popular candy when you were a kid?
 
a . Strips of dried peanut butter.
b.. Chocolate licorice bars.
c. Wax coke-shaped bottles with colored sugar water inside.
 

8. How was Butch wax used?
 
a. To stiffen a flat-top haircut so it stood up.
b. To make floors shiny and prevent scuffing.
c. On the wheels of roller skates to prevent rust.
 

9. Before inline skates, how did you keep your roller skates attached to your shoes?
 
a. With clamps, tightened by a skate key.
b. Woven straps that crossed the foot.
c. Long pieces of twine.
 

10. As a kid, what was considered the best way to reach a decision?
 

a. Consider all the facts.
b. Ask Mom.
c. Eeny-meeny-miney-MO.
 

11.. What was the most dreaded disease in the 1940s and 1950s?
 
a. Smallpox
b. AIDS
c. Polio


12. 'I'll be down to get you in a________, Honey'
 
a. SUV
b. Taxi
c. Streetcar
 

13. What was the name of Caroline Kennedy's pony?
 
a. Old Blue
b. Paint
c. Macaroni
 

14. What was a Duck-and-Cover Drill?
 
a. Part of the game of hide and seek..
b.. What you did when your  Mom called you in to do chores.
c. Hiding under y our desk, and covering your head with your arms in an A-bomb drill.
 

15. What was the name of the Indian Princess on the Howdy Doody show?
 
a.. Princess Summerfallwinterspring
b. Princess Sacajawea
c. Princess Moonshadow
 

16. What did all the really savvy students do when mimeographed tests were handed out in school?
 
a. Immediately sniffed the purple ink, as this was believed to get you high.
b. Made paper airplanes to see who could sail theirs out the window..
c. Wrote another pupil's name on the top, to avoid their failure.
 

17. Why did your Mom shop in stores that gave Green Stamps with purchases?
 
a. To keep you out of mischief by licking the backs, which tasted like bubble gum.
b. They could be put in special books and redeemed for various household items.
c. They were given to the kids to be used as stick-on tattoos.
 

18. Praise the Lord , & pass the_________?
 
a. Meatballs
b. Dames
c. Ammunition
 

19.. What was the name of the singing group that made the song 'Cabdriver' a hit?
 
a. The Ink Spots
b. The Supremes
c. The  Esquires



20.. Who left his heart in
 
San Francisco  ?  
a. Tony Bennett
b. Xavier Cugat
c.. George Gershwin
 
----------------------------- -------------------------------
  

ANSWERS  

1. (b) On the floor, to the left of the clutch. Hand controls, popular in Europe , took till the late '60's
 
to catch on.

2. (b) To sprinkle clothes before ironing..
 
Who had a steam iron?

3. (c) Cold weather caused  the milk to freeze and expand, popping the bottle top.

4 . (a) Blackjack Gum.

5. (b) Special makeup was applied, followed by drawing a seam down the back of the leg with eyebrow pencil.

6. (a) 1946 Studebaker.

7. (c) Wax coke bottles containing super-sweet colored water.

8. (a) Wax for your flat top (butch) haircut.


9 (a) With clamps , tightened by a skate key,  which you wore on a shoestring around your
neck.
 


10. (c) Eeny-meeny-miney-mo.

11. (c) Polio. In beginning of August, swimming pools were closed, movies and other public gathering places were closed to try to prevent spread of the disease.

12. (b) Taxi , Better be ready by half-past eight!

13. (c) Macaroni.

14. (c) Hiding under your desk, and covering your head with your arms in an A-bomb drill.

15. (a) Princess Summerfallwinterspring. She was another puppet.

16. (a) Immediately sniffed the purple ink to get a high.

17. (b) Put in a special stamp book, they could be traded for household items at the Green Stamp store.

18. (c) Ammunition, and we'll all be free.

19. (a) The widely famous 50's group: The Inkspots.
 


20. (a) Tony Bennett, and he sounds just as good today.
 

SCORING

17- 20 correct
: You lived through most of the questions covered by the quiz & remembered those times.  You are definitely someone who should share your wisdom!

12 -16 correct
: Still impressive but maybe you are a little younger than the highest scorers.

0 -11 correct
: You are not old enough to share the wisdom of your experiences.