Friday, March 26, 2010

Not Riverdale too!

As I get older I find myself saying things like "When I was a kid, this used to be a post office." and boring anyone who is polite enough to listen about what used to be what. The town I grew up in has grown quite a bit and honestly, most of the changes were in the last 15 years so it's not quite like I'm a grandpa on the porch swing cogitatin' on days gone by.

I was just reading an Archie's comic digest I picked up at the store the other day to see how the gang was doing. It seems that Riverdale now has a supermall complete with an indoor amusement park. When I was a kid there was just a malt shop and a few stores.

Now I know I'm old when I can point out that the fictional places of my life have undergone urban sprawl.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Well, is it constitutional?

In this whole thought experiment the answer to that question just isn't that easy to come up with. Now I know if you don't like the healthcare bill you already have decided that it is not constitutional. This is the knee-jerk reaction of partisans who respond to the political success of the hated other wing. I heard tons of similar arguments during the Bush years. Idiot Seattle progressives yacked all the time about how Bush was crapping on the constitution, and often they were right but they really didn't understand why.

Whether you agree or not with the bill, a challenge on the constitutionality of the law will need to be brought by someone who claims they have been damaged directly by it. They must have a case. This will not be possible for some time until the law has been enacted for awhile. The threats of lawsuits by a few State Attorney Generals is merely symbolic and probably a ploy for free publicity as they gear up a future run for governor.

The type of case will need to come from shareholders of an insurance company that may claim that they were ruined directly by the law. This will hardly be possible as the Federal Government can protect any insurance company from failure with an executive order. It may be brought by a doctor who claims that his disassociation from a 3rd party payor is infringed. Most certainly this is a reasonable claim, but will it be taken seriously by court that thinks the meaning of laws are as elusive as holding a water weiny? Once the law is in place and someone can be damaged by it...then and only then can someone bring a case on the slow journey through the federal courts on its way to the Supreme Court. The Court must consider the claim of someone damaged as they view any enacted law as the will of the people...whether you like it now or not.

As I've predicted over and over that President Obama will be re-elected, it is quite possible that in the year 2014 the Supreme Court will have that quaint living and breathing view of the law of the land. The kind of view that will make amendments obsolete because its words will evolve into the useful meaning of the day rather than original intent.

And by the way...this bill is not socialism. Not even close. This bill is just more good ol' fashioned Corporatism where the winners and losers will be chosen in DC. It's significant but hardly radical. Not nearly as radical as say...attacking a sovereign nation who never attacked you...just sayin'.

Oh, and a message to you angry GOP morons out there. Maybe you would've been more believable in this whole argument had you whined and protested like this during the Medicare prescription plan a few years ago that so many of you voted for. You expanded the state by throwing bill after bill at a president who didn't veto any proposed legislation until well into his second term. It's so frustrating to watch someone else expand the state while you have to just sit back and watch isn't it?

As for me, this bill is not compatible with The Constitution I've read. It is not compatible with that of a free society...but neither was the former system. I have a replica of the constitution on the wall in my downstairs bathroom. I joke constantly that I can tell what political party my friends belong to when they use that bathroom. The Democrats look at it and ask what it is and the Republicans try to use it for toilet paper.

So anyway, get used to it. It's the law and will be for a long time.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Hooray Ninth Circuit!

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has been busy lately. News from this court is a mixed bag as they are known for being the most overturned circuit court in our country. Two different rulings from this court over the last week have given me some hope as it relates to freedom and liberty.

First, a seminarian (this is a dude training to be a Roman Catholic Priest) sued for overtime pay as his duties at the seminary, which included helping with mass, probably made his timesheet rather busy. The seminarian claimed that he was due compensation for time-and-a-half but the ninth circuit rightly ruled that he wasn't. Protecting the first amendment and his freedom of association (or diassociation) was key in ruling against him. He should try being Lutheran...just a suggestion.

Secondly, the court ruled in favor of the son of Texas oil tycoon Howard Marshall, who was married to Anna Nicole Smith back in 1994 after meeting him while working at a strip club. This one was tough as over 300 million dollars was up in the air. It either went to the oil tycoon's son or it went to the very young daughter of dead tycoon's wife who was also dead...whose only legal heir was her oldest son who was also dead. Seems like common sense prevailed and they decided to just let the tycoons keep their money. What's more American than that? It'd be nice if the tycoons setup a trust for the young girl just the same.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The 'No Earmark Pledge' is silly

The Democrats and Republicans are making an empty election year promise to not engage in the hated practice of congressional earmarks. Everyone hates it when someone else's congressman asks for a little of their district's money back in taxes. The dirty little secret is that it won't matter.

Now forget the argument that earmarks collectively don't make up much of the federal deficit. Let's just say that you agree in principle that any cutting in government is good and this pledge cuts at the heart of pork barrell projects. Even this so-called moral high-ground of principle won't cut even a single dollar in spending. But how can this be?

Earmarks don't add to spending, instead they say where spending will be prioritized. The congress will approve a budget that leaves in it room for discretionary spending. This is where the real problem is. Once it is in the approved budget, it's up to members of congress to start carving out where this money should be spent. So what will happen if no earmarks are submitted? One of two things will happen: The president will spend the money instead of congress or they will define in law what the proportion of spending will be by state and just allow for grants that can be applied for. How much money will be saved by either of these moves? Not a penny.

Don't be fooled by this. They're not interested in spending less and most of you don't want them to stop bringing home the bacon either. We should at least stop pretending that earmarks are the cause of all of our problems.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Another Income Tax? Not so fast.

My state legislature is working on an income tax proposal to help offset the huge budget hole Olympia is in. Apparently over the years we just haven't paid them enough taxes to do everything they want to do so they're simply going to need more.

It's not as if there is no support for it in this state though. Like almost every state, citizens here walk the irrational tight-rope of wanting fewer taxes, more services, and more laws enforced.

Washington state currently operates with a state-wide sales tax (food is exempt), a handful of excise taxes and property taxes. Each apportioned equally and every citizen subjected to the tax pays the same. In the minds of most on the western part of the state this is considered a regressive tax as it impacts the poor more because they may pay a larger portion of their income. It's hard to know if this is correct or not as normally the poor do not subject themselves to the sales tax associated with big ticket items...but I'm sure there's a statistic for it somewhere.

The current solution in Olympia is to lower the state's portion of the sales tax to 5.5% (from 6.5%) and impose a 4% income tax on people who earn an income of $200,000 annually. This will be attractive if it goes to voters...nevermind that if it passed this $200,000 figure would slide its way down to impact anyone necessary to pay for the next budget hole that will inevitably occur.

There's one glitch though. The law of our state probably won't allow this. Our state's constitution is horribly old fashioned when it comes to taxes. Courts have repeatedly upheld that income is property. The state's constitution requires that all taxes on property be apportioned. To expect a segment of society to pay 4% on their property and others to pay nothing isn't going to work without an amendment...which in this state could happen. Likely what will happen is that any bill will be amended to include a modest income tax on everyone until the amendment is passed. The important part is to get the income tax on the books...after that it's simply a matter of parliamentary procedure in a one-party state.

But in the meantime, I'm thankful that I have lived (if even temporarily) in a state where all taxation was voluntary and that I could choose whether or not I wanted to subject myself to any tax.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Why Charities are Dying

With the growth of government intervention over the last decade, the empty suggestion that private charities could step in and take back the role of helping the less fortunate is laughed at. Why does it have to be this way?

My mom was born in a charity hospital. Today there are no more charity hospitals left in my state. Were they forced out by giant corporations or an aggressive medical industry? Were they closed due to lack of funding or excess regulation?

Over the years, charity hospitals closed due to the Great Society legislation of Lyndon Johnson. In this legislation and expanding legislation since, the government can treat all hospitals like charity hospitals through programs like Medicaid. This isn't all bad on paper. A person can go to a hospital and get treated and if they qualify for a subsidy, they can get it. The hospital gets paid no matter if it's a county hospital or a Presbyterian hospital.

Charities are having a hard time competing against the government primarily because a charity can only spend what it collects as a foundation. The government can spend more than it collects and pretends that everyone enrolled in their programs are treated just like all citizens. Of course this isn't true.

Charities, unlike corporate businesses, are not allowed to have a learning curve for raising and allocating funds. A business is allowed to adjust their business model and even deny their investors a profit to shape their business. The first hint that a charity is not releasing a certain percentage of their funds and they're on the radar of their state's Attorney General. Perhaps a new taxable non-profit status would allow new charities to build powerful foundations for causes without the fear of unreasonable regulation.

Many doctors resent taking patients that are on government assistance. They know in advance they're not going to get paid for their costs. My mother who was born in the charity hospital and received treatment for polio in that same hospital today finds herself having problems finding a doctor who can treat her with post-polio syndrome under medicare. Her choices for doctors are very limited due to location and their acceptance of the insurance she is forced to have as a retired American citizen. How is that charitable? Most elderly people out there don't have children who insist that so-called government assistance is never an option for them.

There are charities out there battling away trying to help her and many have...but any shortfall is made up privately. And by privately I mean it's ME competing against bottomless government dollars.

Charities are slowly dying because they must compete against a government that doesn't even bother to count receipts anymore when they spend money on these programs that are designed to help people. Only when charities are able to forcefully make you donate to them, or print their own money will they ever play a significant role in America again. That's very sad and very true.