IVN.us http://ivn.us Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News Fri, 17 Apr 2015 21:47:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Does The Public Have A Right to Your Privacy? http://ivn.us/2015/04/17/public-right-privacy/ http://ivn.us/2015/04/17/public-right-privacy/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 21:47:28 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295661850 Does The Public Have A Right to Your Privacy?

WTOP reported Tuesday that District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser wants to exempt footage taken from body cameras worn by city police from Freedom of Information Act requests. Bowser, who introduced the FOIA language in her budget bill, says the exemption would protect the privacy of city residents who interact with local police officers.

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Does The Public Have A Right to Your Privacy?

WASHINGTON, D.C. — WTOP reported Tuesday that District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser wants Freedom of Information Act exemptions extended to include footage taken from body cameras worn by city police. Bowser, who introduced the FOIA language in her budget bill, says the exemption would protect the privacy of city residents who interact with local police officers.

“[Bowser] says the government doesn’t have the resources or staff to look at every hour of footage picked up by body cameras, redact personal information and release it to the general public. And she doesn’t want the program to become swamped by “voluminous” public information requests.

 

Bowser says citizens have a right to privacy in those citizen-police interactions.

 

“So what we have to figure out is how we can have information available to the public, but also protect the privacy of individuals,” she says.” – WTOP, April 14, 2015

However, WTOP reports that some people are concerned about how a blanket exemption would affect transparency. Yet, does the public’s desire for greater transparency outweigh an individual’s right to privacy?

“Legislators in at least 15 states have introduced similar bills exempting the videos from public records laws. But advocates for open government say such bills would undermine the ability of the cameras to serve as a tool to hold police accountable for their actions.” – WTOP, April 14, 2015

Read the full article here.

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Iceland to Consider ‘Better’ Monetary System http://ivn.us/2015/04/17/iceland-consider-better-monetary-system/ http://ivn.us/2015/04/17/iceland-consider-better-monetary-system/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 19:36:12 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295661616 Iceland to Consider ‘Better’ Monetary System

Frosti Sigurjonsson, a member of Iceland’s Parliament, has presented a proposal for a “better” monetary system for that nation to adopt. The proposal is the product of a study commissioned by Prime Minister Sigmundur Daviö Gunnlaugsson. There are, of course, many issues involved in any idea for a different kind of monetary system, but let's focus on the biggest, most general aspects of the Icelandic proposal.

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Iceland to Consider ‘Better’ Monetary System

Frosti Sigurjonsson, a member of Iceland’s Parliament, has presented a proposal for a “better” monetary system for that nation to adopt. The proposal is the product of a study commissioned by Prime Minister Sigmundur Daviö Gunnlaugsson. There are, of course, many issues involved in any idea for a different kind of monetary system, but let’s focus on the biggest, most general aspects of the Icelandic proposal.

Make no mistake: this proposal truly is something new under the Sun. It would change the way monetary policy is established and implemented, creating a system much different from any that has ever existed.

The proposal has two major goals: (1) eliminate the possibility of ‘collateral damage’ to the economy that might result from risk that banks undertake; and (2) allow for Iceland’s supply of money to be increased without debt being incurred in the process.

The first of those goals would be accomplished by separating the checking function of banks from the functions that involve risk. Banks incur risk in two ways: (1) when they lend money and (2) when they invest money to (hopefully) increase revenue and protect against possible losses (i.e., ‘hedging’).

In the Icelandic proposal, banks would offer their customers two kinds of accounts. What we now call a ‘checking account’ would become a “Transaction Account.” Money in that account would be subject to a fee. If desired, people and businesses could also put money into interest-bearing “Investment Accounts.”

Banks would offer different investment accounts, from ones used to fund riskier business that would pay higher rates of interest to accounts funding less risky investing and lending that would pay less interest. Transaction and Investment Accounts would be the only two types of accounts banks would offer their customers.

Currently, banks can use money in all of their customers’ accounts to lend and invest (though the total amount of that money that banks can put at risk is subject to certain restrictions). In the Icelandic proposal, banks would not have access to money in Transaction Accounts, except to transfer money as necessary when the account holders made transactions using their accounts. The money in those accounts would be held at the central bank at all times, insuring against bankers’ being tempted to tap into it.

"Currently, banks can use money in all of their customers’ accounts to lend and invest."Stephen Yearwood, IVN Independent Author
Banks would only be allowed to lend and invest money in Investment Accounts. If a person or business borrowed money from a bank, that money would be taken from the pool of money the bank had available to lend and put in the borrower’s Transaction Account (whatever bank that account might be with).

The upshot is that if a bank became insolvent because too many of its loans and investments ended up losing money, the money in its Transaction Accounts would not be tied up in the business of the bank. Money in Transaction Accounts would still be available to the Account holders, even if a bank failed completely. It would simply be transferred by the central bank to a different bank of the customer’s choosing. Money in Investment Accounts would be at risk, and could be lost completely.

That brings us to the second goal of the Icelandic proposal, adding to the supply of money for the economy without creating additional debt. In current monetary systems, money is added directly to a nation’s money supply when money is created by its Treasury to give to the central bank for it to buy government bonds. (Yes, that really is how it works.) So, the government adds to the supply of money by incurring debt.

Government can do that on purpose when it engages in ‘deficit spending’ to ‘stimulate’ the economy (which is classic Keynesian policy). Government can also add to the supply of money by incurring debt even though the intent is not to stimulate the economy, but simply because spending dictated in the budget exceeds the revenue the national government collects in taxes.

Either way, money is created ‘out of thin air’ by increasing the national debt (or—cough, cough—reducing the government’s surplus) and enters the economy through government spending. The central bank decides for itself how much of the government’s bonds that it purchases will be paid for using money it has on hand and how much money it will call on the Treasury to create, so the final word on how much money will be created rests with it.

Being allowed to call on the Treasury to create money for it to buy the national government’s bonds is how central banks are able to guarantee that all bonds the national government issues will be purchased. That is what being the ‘lender of last resort’ to the national government really means in contemporary terms.

In the Icelandic proposal, Mr. Sigurjonsson states very clearly and explicitly that depending on using debt to get money into the economy has always been connected to economic instability. Allowing money to enter the economy without debt is accomplished in the proposal for the express purpose of breaking that connection. Money would be added to the economy by simply creating it and handing it to the national government, without debt being involved in the process.

There would be an “independent monetary committee” in the central bank, which would decide if and when and how much money to create. If the committee determined that the economy needed more money, it could simply create money and hand it to the national government to spend (though the proposal does cite other options for government to use to get that ‘new money’ into the economy).

Whatever the further details of this proposal, it does represent the possibility for the first really new monetary system for an individual nation with a central bank since the Bank of England was established in 1684, creating the central-bank model.

Author’s note: The document containing the Icelandic proposal is titled “MONETARY REFORM: A Better Monetary System for Iceland.” In it, Sigurjonsson cites “Modernising Money,” by Andrew Jackson and Ben Dyson, who refer to their prescription for the monetary system as the Sovereign Money Proposal. Sigurjonsson’s document is embedded in its entirety in this article.

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Stop The Presses! The House Passed a Bill! http://ivn.us/2015/04/17/stop-presses-house-passed-bill/ http://ivn.us/2015/04/17/stop-presses-house-passed-bill/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 17:29:06 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295661812 Stop The Presses! The House Passed a Bill!

The pressing issue that required the full attention of our legislative body was the perception that huge political donors might have to pay a gift tax on the vast amounts of money that they give to nonprofit political groups who are not required to disclose their donors.

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Stop The Presses! The House Passed a Bill!

Hey! Guess what?! The house passed a bill!

“That’s refreshing,” you’re probably saying. You’re probably also wondering what important issue united our historically incompetent United States Congress. Was it infrastructure? Our over-crowded prison system? What about climate change reforms?

Nope, none of the above.

The pressing issue that required the full attention of our legislative body was the perception that huge political donors might have to pay a gift tax on the vast amounts of money they give to nonprofit political groups who are not required to disclose their donors.

As Politico reported Thursday, money that is donated to political parties or candidates is tax exempt — that much is clear. What is not so clear is if donations to all 501(c) groups are exempt from the gift tax. These groups include big money players like:

“…the Karl Rove-conceived Crossroads GPS and the Tom Steyer-funded NextGen Climate (both of which are registered under section 501(c)4 of the Tax Code) to major labor unions (501(c)5) to the Koch brothers-backed Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce (501(c)6).” – Politico

Okay, so right now all these big donors are paying a lot of taxes on donations to these organizations, right? Wrong. In fact, most donors do not pay any taxes on the absurd amount of donations made to groups who constantly bug you during the commercial breaks of The Walking Dead.

It was the perception that these donations could be flagged by the IRS that got giant mega-donors all hot and bothered.

So, in yet another example of how Washington has become a concierge to powerful interest groups, the House passed a law to make sure that people who can afford to buy public servants don’t have to put a dime toward anything that would actually serve the public interest.

Read the full article here.

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One Man Dedicated to Nonpartisan Election Reform Gets Hearing in Nevada State Senate http://ivn.us/2015/04/17/one-man-dedicated-nonpartisan-election-reform-gets-hearing-nevada-state-senate/ http://ivn.us/2015/04/17/one-man-dedicated-nonpartisan-election-reform-gets-hearing-nevada-state-senate/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 14:57:10 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295661419 One Man Dedicated to Nonpartisan Election Reform Gets Hearing in Nevada State Senate

One person not associated with any special interest group, dedicated to the idea of election reform, willing to expend the time and effort to get something done rather than waiting for someone else to act equals Nevada State Senate bill #499.

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One Man Dedicated to Nonpartisan Election Reform Gets Hearing in Nevada State Senate

1 = 499. This is not a true or false math quiz. It is a statement of fact.

One person not associated with any special interest group, dedicated to the idea of election reform, willing to expend the time and effort to get something done rather than waiting for someone else to act equals Nevada State Senate Bill #499.

Back up to September 2013. Nevada has closed partisan primary elections for county, state, and federal elections. No group working election reform in the state had a legislative plan or agenda. I decided, bottom line, if anything was going to happen in Nevada, I had to do it.

Lean More About How Primaries Work

In Nevada, a citizen’s ballot initiative, once the petition is approved, can be a three-year process. Once the required signatures are gathered and verified, it must go before the next session of the Legislature. However, the Nevada Legislature meets every two years (on an odd year) for 120 days. Then, the initiative must go before voters in the next election (on an even year).

In May 2014, I outlined the concept I was presenting to Nevada lawmakers, the Nevada Election Modernization and Reform Act (NEMRA), in an article on IVN titled, New Type of Nonpartisan Election Reform Proposed in Nevada. I began posting voter turnout and registration figures along with other studies and information on a blog and on Twitter. I continued meeting with legislators and interest groups.

Fast forward to February 2, 2015. The 2015 session of the Nevada Legislature convenes. I am now a registered lobbyist. Over twelve hundred Bill Draft Requests (BDR) were submitted by legislators, committees, state constitutional officers, and agencies authorized to submit BDRs. Of those, 1,045 were introduced as bills or resolutions. Of course, most of these will not become law.

On February 16, 2015, the final day for BDR submissions, the Senate Legislative Operations and Elections Committee filed a BDR for NEMRA. On March 23, 2015, the deadline for BDR’s to be introduced as bills, a modified version of NEMRA, SB #499, was introduced and referred to committee for a hearing. The bill had a hearing on April 1, 2015. Political reality set in, and on April 8, 2015, SB #499 was amended for another purpose.

Was this an unhappy ending? Not even close. For a private citizen with virtually no connections to have a radical proposal considered, filed, introduced, and receive a hearing is highly unusual. For this to happen on the first try is even rarer.

I wear glasses. I often pointed out to legislators that they were not rose-colored.

The current session of the Legislature ends on June 1, 2015. By then, I will have already started planning the future of NEMRA before the 2017 session — hopefully with an even better ending. One person can make a difference; 1 does equal 499.

Photo Credit: Niyazz / shutterstock.com

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Proposed N.C. Abortion Restrictions Reduce Women’s Safety, Opponents Say http://ivn.us/2015/04/17/proposed-n-c-abortion-restrictions-reduce-womens-safety/ http://ivn.us/2015/04/17/proposed-n-c-abortion-restrictions-reduce-womens-safety/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 13:39:59 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295661131 Proposed N.C. Abortion Restrictions Reduce Women’s Safety, Opponents Say

NORTH CAROLINA — Recently proposed bills in the North Carolina House and Senate aim to tighten restrictions on abortion. A key point in House Bill 465 would extend waiting periods between when women consult with their doctors and when they … Continued

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Proposed N.C. Abortion Restrictions Reduce Women’s Safety, Opponents Say

NORTH CAROLINA — Recently proposed bills in the North Carolina House and Senate aim to tighten restrictions on abortion.

A key point in House Bill 465 would extend waiting periods between when women consult with their doctors and when they can obtain an abortion. The waiting period under current state law is 24 hours — the bill would triple that to 72 hours.

“That bill is one of the most extreme waiting periods in the U.S.,” said Amanda Allen, state legislative counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Currently, only three states have a 72-hour waiting period.”

Oklahoma legislators recently passed a bill that would extend that state’s wait period to 72 hours — meaning that North Carolina could become one of just five states with such a restriction, if House Bill 465 becomes law.

Another provision in the bill bans hospitals in the University of North Carolina Health Care System from performing abortions, except in cases where carrying the pregnancy to term would threaten the life of the mother, or when the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest.

“Combine this extreme waiting period with the ban on abortions performed at UNC System Hospitals — where patients with the highest risk of complications go to receive top-of-the-line care — and the law actually reduces women’s safety, rather than enhancing it as [bill sponsor] Rep. McElraft has claimed,” said Chavi Koneru, policy director for NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina.

Though McElraft said the proposed three-day wait isn’t aimed at restricting women’s access to abortion, some experts disagree.

“Waiting periods are unnecessary, because we know that over 90 percent of women have made the decision to get an abortion before they pick up the phone to make the appointment,” said Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues associate with the Guttmacher Institute. “These types of restrictions then only serve to delay access to services.”

Also in the works is Senate Bill 604, dubbed the “Women and Children’s Protection Act of 2015.” This bill outlines various certification requirements for facilities providing abortions.

“These bills also impose a range of requirements on abortion providers, from inspections to a transfer agreement with a hospital, as well as limiting access to abortion and abortion training at two public universities,” Nash said. “Taken together, these types of requirements impact not only the care women receive, but the ability for physicians to be able to provide abortion services. We have seen similar laws related to clinic regulations and abortion training enacted recently in states such as Arizona, Alabama, and Kansas.”

"Even those who believe abortion is not an option they would choose believe politicians are ill-equipped to practice medicine."Chavi Koneru, NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina
If restrictions become too burdensome, it could drive women away from getting the care they need, according to Allen.

“Tripling the amount of time a woman is forced to wait between receiving counseling and receiving abortion care can have dangerous consequences,” she said. “Mandatory delays like this could force women to delay obtaining care. It could force a woman to forgo obtaining care altogether.”

On a national level, American dissatisfaction with current abortion policies is growing, according to a Gallup poll from February. Researchers found that dissatisfaction was highest among Republicans, who tended to want stricter laws.

Even when considering the political climate, however, experts say the N.C. bills might not go over well with the public.

“Even those who believe abortion is not an option they would choose believe politicians are ill-equipped to practice medicine,” Koneru said.

As of April 2, House Bill 465 had been referred to the Committee on Health, according to the N.C. General Assembly’s website. Senate Bill 604 was referred to the Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate on March 30.

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Don’t Be Deceived By The Federal Reserve; It Is Not An ‘Independent’ Agency http://ivn.us/2015/04/17/dont-be-deceived-federal-reserve/ http://ivn.us/2015/04/17/dont-be-deceived-federal-reserve/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 12:00:27 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295659672 Don’t Be Deceived By The Federal Reserve; It Is Not An ‘Independent’ Agency

Fed Chair Janet Yellen and other officials within the central bank have argued that a full audit (the Fed already must comply with a partial audit) and greater oversight over the Federal Reserve from Congress would compromise the independence of the agency, and would subject the Fed's monetary policy to the politics of the Legislative Branch.

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Don’t Be Deceived By The Federal Reserve; It Is Not An ‘Independent’ Agency

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Audit the Fed, a cause championed by former U.S. Representative Ron Paul (R-Texas), was picked up by Paul’s son, U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.), early on in his political career.

For some voters, including more libertarian-minded voters, auditing the central bank is as important of an issue as raising the minimum wage is for progressives. Now that Sen. Paul has entered the 2016 presidential election, the issue may get a little more attention.

The goal behind auditing the Fed is to increase transparency in the U.S. central bank. According to Rand Paul’s campaign website, in the “Audit the Fed” section under “Issues”:

“The Federal Reserve was created by Congress and is supposed to be overseen by Congress. The Fed is now in every nook and cranny of banking with unprecedented regulatory powers and no Congressional oversight. I believe the Fed should be audited and the regulatory power should be placed back under the control of Congress.”

The Federal Reserve, created by Congress in 1913, is the “independent” central bank of the United States. This means it is supposed to operate outside the political scrutiny of the executive and legislative branches, and is charged with providing “the nation with a safer, more flexible, and more stable monetary and financial system.”

Fed Chair Janet Yellen and other officials within the central bank have argued that a full audit (the Fed already must comply with a partial audit) and greater oversight over the Federal Reserve from Congress would compromise the independence of the agency, and would subject the Fed’s monetary policy to the politics of the Legislative Branch.

 

Rand Paul Doesn’t Actually Want to Audit the Federal Reserve

 

However, when so many other issues are politicized, such as Obama reopening relations with Cuba or the Iran nuclear deal, can the Fed get by without political scrutiny in its job of preserving the economy?

According to the U.S. government, there are roughly 70 different “independent” government agencies that were created by Congress. If politicizing the Fed’s monetary policy is not enough, what about controversial Environmental Protection Agency policies?

The EPA and Social Security Administration are two other prominent agencies that were created by Congress to oversee policies that go beyond the “scope of ordinary legislation.”

Any government agency that claims to be independent is not truly independent because it owes its very existence to Congress. The president also nominates the C-level administrators for these groups and the Senate goes through the motions of approval.

By politicizing these issues, it would allow politicians, regardless of party affiliation, a greater say in every miniscule policy — such as monetary policy.

Perhaps the economist James Galbraith said it best: “That independence [of the Federal Reserve] is of course independence from the executive branch.”

It is Congress’ responsibility to hold the central bank accountable for its decisions and the impact they have on the economy. There can only be unilateral action until Congress calls a hearing, an investigation, or even an audit. Independence from the Legislative Branch, in this case, is a myth.

Photo Credit: Orhan Cam / shutterstock.com

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3 Pitfalls of the Fair Tax Proposal http://ivn.us/2015/04/16/3-pitfalls-fair-tax-proposal/ http://ivn.us/2015/04/16/3-pitfalls-fair-tax-proposal/#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2015 19:00:02 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295658428 3 Pitfalls of the Fair Tax Proposal

The crux of the Fair Tax argument is that once in place, everyone would automatically see how beneficial the program is, and it would get overwhelming support to repeal the Sixteenth Amendment. This, of course, completely ignores our entire history: Americans, in general, hate all taxes regardless of the type or perceived fairness.

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3 Pitfalls of the Fair Tax Proposal

Several weeks ago, several people criticized the article about comparing America’s tax rates to the rest of the world, countering with comments on Facebook like:

Who cares? These comparisons are always intended to show us just how lucky we are to be in indentured servitude to the state when we should be trying to be a shining light of individual freedom and liberty to the rest of the world. Fair Tax   — Michael Storc

In a very long thread, the Fair Tax proposal was debated, with at least one reader asking for a separate article on the pitfalls of the proposal.

While there are numerous criticisms to the Fair Tax, this article will only focus on 3 pitfalls — ones that should make any voter leery of the idea.

What this article will not focus on are the endless “what if” scenarios, which include the rise of a black market, whether businesses would actually turn over collected taxes, whether the tax rate is actually high enough to be revenue-neutral, whether interest would be fully taxable, or the possibility that increased prices could result in less consumption.

While these are all valid concerns, the purpose of this article is to focus only on the pitfalls in the text of the bill.

Most bills in Congress are written in fairly plain, but “legalese” English. However, support for a bill is too often based on other people’s interpretations of what the bill says, rather than the supporter actually reading the bill.

H.R. 25, The Fair Tax Act of 2015, is a fairly short bill (as far as bills of Congress go), with just over 23,000 words of text. It can be read in one sitting and doesn’t take a law degree to understand.

This was one of the hallmark points of support from the bill’s sponsors: bills in Congress are too complicated for the average American to read or understand. The underlying crux of the bill is to eliminate all payroll, estate, and gift taxes and institute a 23 percent consumption tax on all goods and services purchased.

But just because something is easy to read, doesn’t mean that there won’t be plenty of pitfalls and shady mathematics remaining within the proposal.

Pitfall #1: It Isn’t A 23% Tax

From the very beginning, shady math is employed to make the tax rate seem smaller than it really is — even most of the proponents on Facebook failed to see the difference in their criticism:

If you buy something for $85 they would multiply that number by 15% and add it back to $85. That’s what I’m saying you made up and don’t have a source for. –Michael Storc

This is how almost all Americans view sales taxes: the sale price is multiplied by tax rate, then the tax amount is added to the sale price to give the gross price (15% was just used for illustration purposes; it has nothing to do with the Fair Tax proposal).

Here’s what the Fair Tax bill says (after 2017, the rate would fluctuate based on the needs of what is currently called the Social Security Trust):

“In the calendar year 2017, the rate of tax is 23 percent of the gross payments for the taxable property or service.” — Section 101(b)1 of H.R. 25

Twenty-three percent of the gross payment is vastly different than a 23 percent tax added on to the sale price:

gross payment=(23%* gross) + sale price
100=23+77
100/77=1.2987
77*1.2987=100  (roughly, the rounding throws it off by a few cents — a $77 sale at 23 percent sales tax would equal $94.71)
The tax rate is 29.87 percent, not 23 percent.

This is an important distinction to make, primarily because no tax bracket currently has an effective federal income tax rate of 29.87 percent. This would be a tax increase for most Americans.

Why wouldn’t it be a tax increase for all Americans? The bottom four quintiles are likely to spend most of their incomes; the top quintile is equally likely to not spend most of its income, creating a very powerful tax deferment.

Shouldn’t it concern consumers when the sponsors of a bill conceal the real tax rate with phony math that isn’t normally used by any American consumers when calculating the sales tax on an item?

Pitfall #2: Americans Would Constantly Be One Medical Calamity from Financial Ruin

With a level of pride, the sponsors of the Fair Tax bill tout the fact that there are no exemptions and no loopholes to the tax. Plain and simple, all goods and services are taxed to the consumer — from food, shelter, and clothing, to prescription drugs and medical services.

Every household would get a prebate (calculated from the poverty level), but this amount would never take into account special life circumstances.

"Every household would get a prebate (calculated from the poverty level), but this amount would never take into account special life circumstances."David Yee, IVN Independent Author
The lifetime risk of a man developing cancer is 1 in 2; for a woman, it is 1 in 3. Cancer is one of the most expensive conditions to treat — often chemotherapy drugs cost over $100,000 per year.

While many Americans have health insurance, most have fairly high out-of-pocket deductibles and copays. These are all taxable services, payable by the patient, not their insurance company (oddly enough, the amounts paid by the insurer are tax-free under a special exemption in Sec 2(a)8C).

A report by Duke University Medical School noted that most cancer patients are currently forced to skimp on both care and necessities because of the out-of-pocket costs associated with treatment, with out of pocket costs often exceeding payments for housing. Adding taxes to this burden would only increase the financial distress.

Cancer is just one scenario. Millions of Americans have self-pay portions on long-term and nursing care (even when on Medicaid, the patient still has a self-pay portion due to the facility). For instance, in Kansas, a person on Medicaid is only allowed roughly $70 per month in income when in nursing care. The rest of their income is paid by the patient directly to the nursing facility as a copayment. This would also become a taxable amount.

Does it really make sense to be taxing the most vulnerable Americans at a time when most are spending more than they are earning?

Pitfall #3: The Fair Tax Law Would Be Subject To Its Sunset Clause after 7 Years

After all of the wrangling, the Fair Tax would just fade away after 7 years.

If the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States is not repealed before the end of the 7-year period beginning on the date of the enactment of this Act, then all provisions of, and amendments made by, this Act shall not apply to any use or consumption … — Section 401

This makes most of the arguments a moot point — there hasn’t been an amendment to the Constitution passed from start to finish in over 44 years (the Twenty-Seventh Amendment was intended to be part of the Bill of Rights).

The whole bill rests on the assumption that three-fourths of the states will go along with the program. Just one look at a current political map would indicate that this would never happen.

The crux of the Fair Tax argument is that once in place, everyone would automatically see how beneficial the program is, and it would get overwhelming support to repeal the Sixteenth Amendment. This, of course, completely ignores our entire history: Americans, in general, hate all taxes regardless of the type or perceived fairness.

The Fair Tax proposal has been introduced into every session since the 106th Congress. The bill has had more than ample chance to pass Republican-dominated, mixed-party, or Democratic-dominated Congresses, yet has failed each session to even make it out of committee.

President George W. Bush sponsored a panel to examine several different tax reform programs and found that any national sales tax scheme would be undesirable for many reasons (including the unlikelihood of being revenue neutral, the high risk of an emerging black market, and rampant tax evasion).

The most significant finding of the panel was that a national sales tax would have to be at least 49 percent to overcome rampant tax evasion (see pages 215-219).

Built into the Fair Tax proposal was a 15 percent tax evasion rate, which is lower than current rates.  The panel used three sources of data and determined that the tax evasion rate would likely be around 50 percent.

These recommendations effectively killed any support from the Bush administration for the Fair Tax proposal.

Likewise, President Obama is completely outspoken against any tax scheme that is not progressive in nature; simply put, the Fair Tax program doesn’t have support where it counts (in either party).

Does it really make a lot of sense to waste time and money on a proposal when it will almost certainly die during the legislative or amendment process?

Even worse, too many laws with sunset clauses become part of the bureaucratic nonsense of Washington, with the so-called democratic snooze button routinely employed to prevent sunset clauses from ever meaning anything. This added layer of legislative dishonesty only serves to provide false hope to voters — hope that will be stripped away by no-debate votes to extend promised sunsets.

Do we really need to add more provisions that Congress will never carry out?

Should Taxes Be Progressive?

Whenever you use the term “progressive tax structure,” you always have to be careful to define it. It’s not progressive in the sense of newness or reform; it’s progressive in the sense of higher income brackets paying higher tax rates.

The question of whether the rich should pay more (or the poor pay less) is a question of fairness versus equity. Fair is everyone paying the same amount. Equity is people paying proportional to the benefit they receive from society.

"The question of whether the rich should pay more (or the poor pay less) is a question of fairness versus equity."
The entire basis of the social contract theory is that people will have to give up rights (and at times their life or property) for the protections that government gives them. A rich person would not be rich for very long without the legal protection of the courts or the enforcement power of the police — there would always be someone willing to take their wealth by force.

Too often we think of the poor being the greatest burden on the system, but how much of the government’s time, money, and effort goes into ensuring the property rights of those with wealth? From deeds and titles, to court cases, most civil cases revolve around the protection of property rights.

Without the protections of government, only anarchy and brutality would remain.

To whom much is given, much is expected — a 2,000-year-old principle that is still valid today.

There is no doubt the American tax system is in constant need of reform, but any system that tries to spread the burden “fairly” ignores the fundamental principles of the social contract.

David YeeIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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No, Ann Coulter, American Voters Do Not Need Literacy Tests http://ivn.us/2015/04/16/no-ann-coulter-american-voters-do-not-need-literacy-tests/ http://ivn.us/2015/04/16/no-ann-coulter-american-voters-do-not-need-literacy-tests/#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2015 16:14:11 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295661678 No, Ann Coulter, American Voters Do Not Need Literacy Tests

During an appearance on Fox & Friends on Wednesday, conservative commentator Ann Coulter suggested that voting should be harder for the general population, advocating for the administration of literacy tests as a prerequisite for voting.

Jane SusskindIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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No, Ann Coulter, American Voters Do Not Need Literacy Tests

During an appearance on Fox & Friends on Wednesday, conservative commentator Ann Coulter suggested that voting should be harder for the general population, advocating for the administration of literacy tests as a prerequisite for voting.

“There is nothing unconstitutional about literacy tests,” Coulter said during a discussion about poorly informed American voters. 

“We have ballots being given in 124 different languages,” she continued. “And I’m pretty sure Senate debates will not be taking place in Urdu. So what are they voting on?”

The problem is not a language barrier. For starters, most English-speaking voters do not have their TiVo’s set to record every Senate debate that airs on C-SPAN. Even if they did, most voters do not have the time to watch hours of debate on issues important to their community, or read the transcript.  

So what’s to blame for the high number of uninformed voters?

The problem lies in an American mainstream media — including news outlets not dissimilar to Fox News — that is defined by overly-sensationalized headlines and riddled with partisan attacks that are grounded in little to no substantiation. 

We have created a system that incentivizes news sites for the number of page views they receive, forcing them to resort to click-bait if they want to compete for America’s attention and — more importantly — our advertising dollars.

The hyper-partisan trend in American politics has only worsened the partisan divide we see in mass media, allowing Americans to read articles only from news sources that routinely agree with them, reinforcing their point of view — not challenging it.

“The fracturing of the media means many things for how people consume information but one of the most important is that partisans can now read, watch and listen to only news and assorted punditry that agrees with their point of view,” writes Washington Post columnist Chris Cillizza.

Is it any wonder that American voters are under educated and overly disenfranchised?

A more informed electorate will not result from the administration of literacy tests, a practice which is synonymous to discrimination. 

What we need is a more accountable media.

Jane SusskindIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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Do Independent Voters Make American Politics More Polarized? http://ivn.us/2015/04/16/independent-voters-make-american-politics-polarized/ http://ivn.us/2015/04/16/independent-voters-make-american-politics-polarized/#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2015 11:30:07 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295661668 Do Independent Voters Make American Politics More Polarized?

If we assume for now that those registering as independent are the least ideologically aligned with the traditional party line, we start to see a dilemma emerge. If independent-minded voters remove themselves from dominant parties, then said parties become an increasingly isolated echo chamber of dogma.

Erik FoggIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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Do Independent Voters Make American Politics More Polarized?

American voters are downright fleeing the Republican and Democratic parties to become independent voters. Since 2008, the portion of Americans who identify as independent has risen steadily, and since 2010 it has continued to break its own record, now clocking in at 43 percent.

gallup-independents

But over the same time period, we’ve seen an uninterrupted increase in polarization in the American public, particularly among the dominant two parties. Republicans and Democrats now have far less ideological overlap than at any other point in modern U.S. history:

And more than ever, they actually see the other party as a “threat to the nation’s well-being.”

pew-research

We independents have left (or never joined) the dominant two-party system, in part to stay out of the madness.

"Since 1990, 10 percent of the American public has removed itself from the Republican and Democratic parties."Erik Fogg
But in doing so, I believe we are making the problem worse.

Since 1990, 10 percent of the American public has removed itself from the Republican and Democratic parties. This is a big chunk, given that each of those parties has significantly less than one-third of voters.

If we assume for now that those registering as independent are the least ideologically aligned with the traditional party line, we start to see a dilemma emerge. If independent-minded voters remove themselves from dominant parties, then said parties become an increasingly isolated echo chamber of dogma.

Without fresh perspectives, each party is prone to become more convinced that its own platform is unquestionably correct, and that the other’s is so wrong that it threatens the nation itself. Indeed, both parties are growing less and less moderate over time.

gallup-liberal

Because the United States uses “first-past-the-post” as its voting system, only two dominant parties can exist in a stable system. This means that the flight of voters to independent registry cannot spawn a third party unless the voting rules are changed dramatically.

And if there’s one thing that Republicans and Democrats can agree on, it’s that they’d rather compete with one party than many. So don’t get too excited for that changing any time soon.

Where does this leave the two-party system? In 32 of the 50 states, independents cannot vote in primary elections.

This means that the remaining, ideologically-pure party voters control who runs in the general election. And because independents have left these increasingly extreme parties, extreme hard-liner politicians percolate to the general election. We’re stuck choosing one of them.

Until the rules for voting in either primary or general elections are changed significantly, leaving a party to become independent may only be leading to further extremism in American politics. It’s a sobering thought, but hopefully it’s a call to action to lobby our own state legislatures to ensure we can vote in party primary elections.

It would be a start.

Erik FoggIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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It’s Prison Time in America http://ivn.us/2015/04/16/prison-time-america/ http://ivn.us/2015/04/16/prison-time-america/#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2015 11:15:32 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295661654 It’s Prison Time in America

One tried and true platform that is sure to be invoked during election season is public safety. Rhetoric that crime is prevalent and safety needs to be increased is popular with many politicians because it almost always rings true to voters.

Tige RichardsonIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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It’s Prison Time in America

Like it or not, the American campaign season is descending upon us. What that means for you and me is a host of new hopeful candidates pantomiming stale campaign platitudes.

You’re probably saying, “fine, okay, nothing new there.”

The problem is that when those candidates are elected to serve in public office, many times they actually do make good on those campaign promises. I’ll explain.

One tried and true platform that is sure to be invoked during election season is public safety. Rhetoric that crime is prevalent and safety needs to be increased is popular with many politicians because it almost always rings true to voters.

“Has there been a crime in your area recently? Have you seen graffiti on buildings or streets? Wouldn’t it be nice if that didn’t happen anymore? I’m the candidate that will make it stop.”

Voilà, your newly minted public servant now has a mandate to pass new laws that probably put people in jail and cost the state millions of dollars.

A new article in VOX sheds light on the accumulative impact that happens when a large number of legislators feel pressure to be tough on crime.

In Nevada, there are currently 35 bills in the State House that would create new crimes or stiffen penalties for existing offenses. Most of the proposed statutes do not have a significant impact on their own. But when all of these bills are piled together, they end up costing the state millions while also increasing the already overcrowded prison population.

Even bills that only imprison offenders for a year end up costing the state millions because similar bills are likely to be enacted in the next legislative cycle, creating a self-serving cycle that has increased prison populations during a period of time when overall crime has gone down.

Read the full article here.

Tige RichardsonIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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