Category: Jon N. Hall

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The Fiscal Lunacy of Electing Democrats to Congress


On Sep. 7, Barack Obama waded into the midterm elections fray with a speech at the University of Illinois, proclaiming that the good economy we’re currently enjoying actually started under him.  According to Obama, Trump inherited it all.  Be that as it may, what did Obama inherit?

Some will make Obama’s economic inheritance out to have been the worst situation ever.  But actually, the crisis that we faced in Sep.-Oct. of 2008 had already been dealt with by the Bush administration.  Recall that the financial markets were seizing up; we were looking into the abyss, the collapse of capitalism.  Treasury secretary “Hank” Paulson even reportedly knelt before Speaker Pelosi, begging her to usher the $700B TARP through Congress.

Bush, Paulson, and Fed chairman Ben Bernanke stepped into the breach and stopped the hemorrhaging.  By the time of Obama’s inauguration, the markets had reopened, money was flowing again, and disaster had been averted.  So the worst of the crisis had been dealt with before Obama became president.  But don’t tell that to Barry, as he likes to think not only that he is responsible for all the good stuff that came after him, but also that nothing that preceded him was important.

What Obama’s recovery was really about was propping up prices in the stock market and real estate, and in funneling money to his base – e.g., union members.  What Obama’s recovery was not about is government reform.  Because Congress didn’t deal with the underlying causes of the crisis, we’re still vulnerable.

Obama’s recovery, the most anemic since the 1940s, came at one helluva price.  What’s more, America has not yet paid that price and settled accounts.  The Federal Reserve created trillions of dollars through multiple rounds of quantitative easing – i.e., Q.E.  The “unwinding” of the Q.E. asset purchases continues.

More sobering than the Fed’s Q.E. are the unprecedented deficits that Congress ran during the Obama administration.  Even so, in his speech, Obama claims to have cut the deficit “by more than half.”  But in FY2008, the last full fiscal year before Obama became president, the deficit was $458B, which at the time was the largest deficit in history.  Only one of the deficits during Obama’s tenure got below the 2008 figure, and that by only $20B.

So when Obama claims to have cut the deficit by half, he’s talking about cutting it from his own high point, and the high and low deficits under Obama were $1,412B in 2009 and $438B in 2015.  From the high to the low, the deficit was cut by almost 69 percent; that’s nearly $1T.  So the cut in the budget deficit was not just more than one half, but more than two thirds.

However, this improvement did not happen under Speaker Pelosi.  The improvement happened only after the 2010 midterm elections, when Republicans took back the House and replaced her.  Pelosi and the Democrats were never able to get the deficit below a trillion dollars.  (One can verify these numbers by looking at Table 1.1 on page 25 of the OMB’s historical tables.)

Over the last two years, Republicans have disappointed on the deficit.  But giving control of the budget back to Democrats at this time would be quite stupid.  That’s because the bill for the Democrats’ deficits under Obama will start coming due on October 1, which is the start of fiscal 2019 and will mark the ten-year anniversary of Pelosi’s first trillion-dollar deficit.

Any ten-year securities sold in 2009 will mature in 2019.  And here’s the thing: most of the public debt is Treasury notes, not bonds, and T-notes have a max term of ten years.  Democrats actually expect voters to put them back in charge of the budget at the exact moment that we start paying back the bulk of the trillion-dollar deficits that they, the Democrats, ran up under Obama.

The federal government will soon be rolling over an unprecedented amount of debt, which will cause the interest rates on those U.S. securities to rise.  Now is long past time for Congress to cut spending, but all you hear from Democrat candidates for Congress is more spending: “free” college, single-payer government health care, and other “free” stuff.

When Nancy Pelosi was campaigning to take control of Congress back in 2006, she touted PAYGO, pay-as-you-go financing meant to keep the deficit from rising.  But her first budget, FY2008, had the largest deficit up to that point; her second deficit was nearly a trillion higher; and trillion-dollar deficits followed.  In the midst of running her $1.4T deficit in 2009, Pelosi shamelessly flogged her fraudulent PAYGO at a House news conference.  Talk about chutzpah.

On June 6 this year at The Hill, we read: “House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and other top Democrats are vowing to abide by fiscally hawkish pay-as-you-go rules if they seize the majority next year, rejecting calls from liberals who feel they’d be an impediment to big legislative gains.”

Also on June 6 at The Nation, we read: “Bold progressivism and ‘pay-go’ fiscal conservatism are mutually exclusive.”

On June 7 at the Washington Post, we read: “If they’re successful in winning back Congress this year and winning the White House next year, it [PAYGO] could seriously hamper their ability to pass progressive legislation.”

On September 4 at The Intercept, we read: “Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has made the public a big promise, vowing to handcuff her party’s progressive ambitions, including in the event that a Democratic president succeeds Donald Trump, by resurrecting the ‘pay-go’ rule that mandates all new spending is offset with budget cuts or tax increases.”

Fret not, my progressive friends: Pelosi’s promise to abide by PAYGO was a lie in 2006, and it’s a lie today.  Voters should remember that in the middle of the Great Recession and a trillion-dollar deficit, Democrats passed a huge new entitlement: Obamacare.  If Democrats really cared about fiscal responsibility, then rather than the easily ignored PAYGO, they’d be urging a balanced budget amendment.

On Sep. 10, former speaker Pelosi told CNN that she feels comfortable with the support she has in the Democrat caucus and that after the midterms, she will again be speaker. Decency would dictate that the person who ushered through the nation’s first trillion-dollar deficit might demur from commenting on smaller deficits run by others, but not Nancy.

If it becomes ever larger in comparison to the economy, the debt will someday become unmanageable and America will have a “debt crisis.”  Leading up to that dreadful day, there’ll be interest rate hikes, which are already underway.  These rate hikes are coming at the very time when we’ll be rolling over more government securities than ever.  Politicians of both parties are responsible for this scary situation, but Democrats are worse.  Democrats belong to the only party that has run trillion-dollar deficits while controlling both the Congress and the presidency.

Rather than a “blue wave,” Democrats need to be spanked in November.  When Democrats told us in 2006 that they would not make the deficit worse and would abide by the constraints of PAYGO, we gave them power, and they made the deficit far worse than it’d ever been.  Now, twelve years later, Democrats again tell us they’ll abide by PAYGO and expect us to put them back in power.  And this, at the very moment the bill for their extravagant borrowing and spending under Obama is starting to come due.  Holders of U.S. securities aren’t like Obama’s General Motors bondholders – they must be paid.

If there’s even a remote possibility that Democrats might retake Congress and again control the budget and spending, real Americans should run to the polls on Election Day and vote Republican.

Jon N. Hall of ULTRACON OPINION is a programmer from Kansas City.

On Sep. 7, Barack Obama waded into the midterm elections fray with a speech at the University of Illinois, proclaiming that the good economy we’re currently enjoying actually started under him.  According to Obama, Trump inherited it all.  Be that as it may, what did Obama inherit?

Some will make Obama’s economic inheritance out to have been the worst situation ever.  But actually, the crisis that we faced in Sep.-Oct. of 2008 had already been dealt with by the Bush administration.  Recall that the financial markets were seizing up; we were looking into the abyss, the collapse of capitalism.  Treasury secretary “Hank” Paulson even reportedly knelt before Speaker Pelosi, begging her to usher the $700B TARP through Congress.

Bush, Paulson, and Fed chairman Ben Bernanke stepped into the breach and stopped the hemorrhaging.  By the time of Obama’s inauguration, the markets had reopened, money was flowing again, and disaster had been averted.  So the worst of the crisis had been dealt with before Obama became president.  But don’t tell that to Barry, as he likes to think not only that he is responsible for all the good stuff that came after him, but also that nothing that preceded him was important.

What Obama’s recovery was really about was propping up prices in the stock market and real estate, and in funneling money to his base – e.g., union members.  What Obama’s recovery was not about is government reform.  Because Congress didn’t deal with the underlying causes of the crisis, we’re still vulnerable.

Obama’s recovery, the most anemic since the 1940s, came at one helluva price.  What’s more, America has not yet paid that price and settled accounts.  The Federal Reserve created trillions of dollars through multiple rounds of quantitative easing – i.e., Q.E.  The “unwinding” of the Q.E. asset purchases continues.

More sobering than the Fed’s Q.E. are the unprecedented deficits that Congress ran during the Obama administration.  Even so, in his speech, Obama claims to have cut the deficit “by more than half.”  But in FY2008, the last full fiscal year before Obama became president, the deficit was $458B, which at the time was the largest deficit in history.  Only one of the deficits during Obama’s tenure got below the 2008 figure, and that by only $20B.

So when Obama claims to have cut the deficit by half, he’s talking about cutting it from his own high point, and the high and low deficits under Obama were $1,412B in 2009 and $438B in 2015.  From the high to the low, the deficit was cut by almost 69 percent; that’s nearly $1T.  So the cut in the budget deficit was not just more than one half, but more than two thirds.

However, this improvement did not happen under Speaker Pelosi.  The improvement happened only after the 2010 midterm elections, when Republicans took back the House and replaced her.  Pelosi and the Democrats were never able to get the deficit below a trillion dollars.  (One can verify these numbers by looking at Table 1.1 on page 25 of the OMB’s historical tables.)

Over the last two years, Republicans have disappointed on the deficit.  But giving control of the budget back to Democrats at this time would be quite stupid.  That’s because the bill for the Democrats’ deficits under Obama will start coming due on October 1, which is the start of fiscal 2019 and will mark the ten-year anniversary of Pelosi’s first trillion-dollar deficit.

Any ten-year securities sold in 2009 will mature in 2019.  And here’s the thing: most of the public debt is Treasury notes, not bonds, and T-notes have a max term of ten years.  Democrats actually expect voters to put them back in charge of the budget at the exact moment that we start paying back the bulk of the trillion-dollar deficits that they, the Democrats, ran up under Obama.

The federal government will soon be rolling over an unprecedented amount of debt, which will cause the interest rates on those U.S. securities to rise.  Now is long past time for Congress to cut spending, but all you hear from Democrat candidates for Congress is more spending: “free” college, single-payer government health care, and other “free” stuff.

When Nancy Pelosi was campaigning to take control of Congress back in 2006, she touted PAYGO, pay-as-you-go financing meant to keep the deficit from rising.  But her first budget, FY2008, had the largest deficit up to that point; her second deficit was nearly a trillion higher; and trillion-dollar deficits followed.  In the midst of running her $1.4T deficit in 2009, Pelosi shamelessly flogged her fraudulent PAYGO at a House news conference.  Talk about chutzpah.

On June 6 this year at The Hill, we read: “House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and other top Democrats are vowing to abide by fiscally hawkish pay-as-you-go rules if they seize the majority next year, rejecting calls from liberals who feel they’d be an impediment to big legislative gains.”

Also on June 6 at The Nation, we read: “Bold progressivism and ‘pay-go’ fiscal conservatism are mutually exclusive.”

On June 7 at the Washington Post, we read: “If they’re successful in winning back Congress this year and winning the White House next year, it [PAYGO] could seriously hamper their ability to pass progressive legislation.”

On September 4 at The Intercept, we read: “Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has made the public a big promise, vowing to handcuff her party’s progressive ambitions, including in the event that a Democratic president succeeds Donald Trump, by resurrecting the ‘pay-go’ rule that mandates all new spending is offset with budget cuts or tax increases.”

Fret not, my progressive friends: Pelosi’s promise to abide by PAYGO was a lie in 2006, and it’s a lie today.  Voters should remember that in the middle of the Great Recession and a trillion-dollar deficit, Democrats passed a huge new entitlement: Obamacare.  If Democrats really cared about fiscal responsibility, then rather than the easily ignored PAYGO, they’d be urging a balanced budget amendment.

On Sep. 10, former speaker Pelosi told CNN that she feels comfortable with the support she has in the Democrat caucus and that after the midterms, she will again be speaker. Decency would dictate that the person who ushered through the nation’s first trillion-dollar deficit might demur from commenting on smaller deficits run by others, but not Nancy.

If it becomes ever larger in comparison to the economy, the debt will someday become unmanageable and America will have a “debt crisis.”  Leading up to that dreadful day, there’ll be interest rate hikes, which are already underway.  These rate hikes are coming at the very time when we’ll be rolling over more government securities than ever.  Politicians of both parties are responsible for this scary situation, but Democrats are worse.  Democrats belong to the only party that has run trillion-dollar deficits while controlling both the Congress and the presidency.

Rather than a “blue wave,” Democrats need to be spanked in November.  When Democrats told us in 2006 that they would not make the deficit worse and would abide by the constraints of PAYGO, we gave them power, and they made the deficit far worse than it’d ever been.  Now, twelve years later, Democrats again tell us they’ll abide by PAYGO and expect us to put them back in power.  And this, at the very moment the bill for their extravagant borrowing and spending under Obama is starting to come due.  Holders of U.S. securities aren’t like Obama’s General Motors bondholders – they must be paid.

If there’s even a remote possibility that Democrats might retake Congress and again control the budget and spending, real Americans should run to the polls on Election Day and vote Republican.

Jon N. Hall of ULTRACON OPINION is a programmer from Kansas City.



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McCain, Bipartisanship, and the 'Congress Problem'



Republican members of Congress should forget about bipartisanship. Democrats don't care about bipartisanship.



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Election Integrity in Kansas and Beyond


The uproar over President Trump’s putative “capitulation” to Putin in Helsinki and the “hack” of the 2016 election by the Russians has a message for anyone willing to hear it, and it is this: sixteen years after the debacle of the 2000 Florida recount, America’s elections were still open to attack.  That a great democracy’s election systems would still be vulnerable to foul play four election cycles after a meltdown is proof that a fraud-free, error-free, tamper-proof election system is something America’s political class just doesn’t want us to have.

It’s scandalous that our election systems are still vulnerable.  It should be well nigh impossible to interfere with America’s elections.  It’s disappointing that America’s tech gurus haven’t come up with systems that secure our elections from tampering and fraud.  You’d think they’d be competing with each other to be the first to come up with the most elegant solution.  Sad!

By pushing for laws that require proof of citizenship to register to vote, Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach has long been the whipping boy of the political left.  One of the candidates who ran on August 7 to replace Kobach is Dennis Taylor.  Mr. Taylor had an interesting guest column on July 23 in the Kansas City Star headlined “Three easy steps to securing our election results in Kansas.”

Taylor’s three easy steps don’t deserve much comment.  His first step is, “Audit, post-election, the eligibility of voters.”  Shouldn’t eligibility be vetted beforehand, when one registers or when one votes?  The second step is, “Back up all votes cast in Kansas with verified paper ballots.”  Why, so we can have recounts?  And his last step: “Constantly verify system security, comprehensively and proactively, to ensure protection of online voter registration data.”  Right, but how do we “verify”?

The Kansas secretary of state oversees elections and voter registration in the state, so it’s good that Taylor’s article gets more substantive in the second half, where he makes some salient observations.  One of them is that citizenship has never been validated in the state of Kansas, not even under Kobach’s requirement for proof.  Regarding the proof of citizenship law, Taylor writes:

The requirement to provide documentation fell only on those who were registering for the first time in Kansas, as a result of turning 18 or moving from another state.  The law did not require those already registered to disclose whether they were citizens or non-citizens.


To effectively address the belief and concern that non-citizens were registering and voting, wouldn’t it have made more sense to require that all Kansans currently registered, as well as new registrants, provide such proof of citizenship?  That way, any non-citizens already registered and voting – if any – would have been discovered, since they presumably would not have been able to supply valid documentation.  Applying the law only to prospective voters [i.e., new registrants] could never address the belief that non-citizens have registered and voted.

So Kansas’s proof of citizenship law was never adequate.  But it’s doubtful that Kansans who are already registered would appreciate having to register yet again just so registrars can see their documents.  One simple solution would be for voters to show their Social Security cards at the polls.  (Maybe that’s too simple.)

Just how should the states verify citizenship?  The way to determine whether a registrant is a citizen is to go online and access federal databases to see if he is on file.  Employers access federal files when they use E-Verify.

But besides verifying citizenship, the states have another problem.  You see, there’s no federal law that prohibits foreigners voting in state and local elections, and some local governments want to allow aliens to vote in their elections.

The snag arises when the states mix elections – that is, have federal and state-local officials on the same ballot.  Because there is a federal law that one must be a citizen to vote in federal elections, one solution to this problem might be for the states to conduct separate elections for federal officials.

Having separate elections for the federal offices has attractions, because the quadrennial presidential election is the election that brings out the voters and creates those long lines at the polls.  If there were only one to three items on the ballot (that is, U.S. representative, U.S. senator, and U.S. president), that would expedite voting.  What takes the most time in mixed elections is the state and local items.  To support that, take a look at this 2016 Kansa City ballot and see what all we had to vote on – everything from president to state amendments.  By having separate elections, there’ll be greater “throughput” in the federal election, and voting will go faster.

In August of 2016 at America Thinker, I outlined an idea for how America might have hack-proof election systems.  I then exchanged a few emails with the expert whom I cited, MIT’s Ron Rivest.  He wasn’t buying my idea.  What I had urged was using the internet to vote, which means remote voting – i.e., voting from anywhere.  One thing that concerned Rivest is that with remote voting, it becomes easy to sell one’s vote.  Selling one’s vote may be more of a problem than I had appreciated, even though selling one’s sacred vote is a federal crime.  However, it’s still legal to sell your soul (as long as you pay the sales tax).  Remote voting also enables another crime: coerced voting.  If a voter is not at an official voting station and is using a smartphone or computer to vote, an abusive spouse or an imperious boss could force a voter to vote the “right” way.  But with absentee and mail-in ballots, isn’t coercive voting possible right now?

Mr. Rivest is an expert on cyber-security.  I don’t know how much experience he has in applications programming, such as for payroll, accounts receivable, budget, time management, etc.  But one thing I learned as an applications programmer is that there’s usually a “workaround” to most snags.  I believe there are workarounds for the problems associated with internet voting, but I’m not going into that here because I’ve concluded that professional politicians don’t want such serious change in our election systems.

In a recent article, I presented an idea that is a workaround for the election systems currently in use.  My goal was to come up with a minimalist “fix” that would allow the states to continue conducting presidential elections but would also make possible the identification of alien voters and other fraudsters and thereby give Americans an accurate count of the legitimate vote.

The article urged that all presidential “ballots” in all the states be sent to the feds to go into a single file, which could then be used to identify alien voters, multiple voters, etc.  Even if a state has perfect voter registries, that doesn’t prevent election crime; elections can be stolen in backrooms during recounts.  The states are doing such a lousy job of vetting registrants that the only solution is to vet the voters in federal elections by accessing their records on federal databases, like the database at the Social Security Administration, as is done with E-Verify.

The Russian hacking narrative is a “shiny object” Democrats use to distract us from looking at the real foreign interference in our elections.  This other “hacking” is done not remotely from Minsk or Romania, but right here at home under the noses of our election officials.  And unlike Russian hacking, this other hacking actually does affect vote counts.  But the Dems are okay with this other hacking by foreigners because it helps them “win” elections.

Democrats’ idea of democracy is so warped that they really need to rename themselves.  How about the “Aliens First Party”?

Jon N. Hall of ULTRACON OPINION is a programmer from Kansas City.

The uproar over President Trump’s putative “capitulation” to Putin in Helsinki and the “hack” of the 2016 election by the Russians has a message for anyone willing to hear it, and it is this: sixteen years after the debacle of the 2000 Florida recount, America’s elections were still open to attack.  That a great democracy’s election systems would still be vulnerable to foul play four election cycles after a meltdown is proof that a fraud-free, error-free, tamper-proof election system is something America’s political class just doesn’t want us to have.

It’s scandalous that our election systems are still vulnerable.  It should be well nigh impossible to interfere with America’s elections.  It’s disappointing that America’s tech gurus haven’t come up with systems that secure our elections from tampering and fraud.  You’d think they’d be competing with each other to be the first to come up with the most elegant solution.  Sad!

By pushing for laws that require proof of citizenship to register to vote, Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach has long been the whipping boy of the political left.  One of the candidates who ran on August 7 to replace Kobach is Dennis Taylor.  Mr. Taylor had an interesting guest column on July 23 in the Kansas City Star headlined “Three easy steps to securing our election results in Kansas.”

Taylor’s three easy steps don’t deserve much comment.  His first step is, “Audit, post-election, the eligibility of voters.”  Shouldn’t eligibility be vetted beforehand, when one registers or when one votes?  The second step is, “Back up all votes cast in Kansas with verified paper ballots.”  Why, so we can have recounts?  And his last step: “Constantly verify system security, comprehensively and proactively, to ensure protection of online voter registration data.”  Right, but how do we “verify”?

The Kansas secretary of state oversees elections and voter registration in the state, so it’s good that Taylor’s article gets more substantive in the second half, where he makes some salient observations.  One of them is that citizenship has never been validated in the state of Kansas, not even under Kobach’s requirement for proof.  Regarding the proof of citizenship law, Taylor writes:

The requirement to provide documentation fell only on those who were registering for the first time in Kansas, as a result of turning 18 or moving from another state.  The law did not require those already registered to disclose whether they were citizens or non-citizens.


To effectively address the belief and concern that non-citizens were registering and voting, wouldn’t it have made more sense to require that all Kansans currently registered, as well as new registrants, provide such proof of citizenship?  That way, any non-citizens already registered and voting – if any – would have been discovered, since they presumably would not have been able to supply valid documentation.  Applying the law only to prospective voters [i.e., new registrants] could never address the belief that non-citizens have registered and voted.

So Kansas’s proof of citizenship law was never adequate.  But it’s doubtful that Kansans who are already registered would appreciate having to register yet again just so registrars can see their documents.  One simple solution would be for voters to show their Social Security cards at the polls.  (Maybe that’s too simple.)

Just how should the states verify citizenship?  The way to determine whether a registrant is a citizen is to go online and access federal databases to see if he is on file.  Employers access federal files when they use E-Verify.

But besides verifying citizenship, the states have another problem.  You see, there’s no federal law that prohibits foreigners voting in state and local elections, and some local governments want to allow aliens to vote in their elections.

The snag arises when the states mix elections – that is, have federal and state-local officials on the same ballot.  Because there is a federal law that one must be a citizen to vote in federal elections, one solution to this problem might be for the states to conduct separate elections for federal officials.

Having separate elections for the federal offices has attractions, because the quadrennial presidential election is the election that brings out the voters and creates those long lines at the polls.  If there were only one to three items on the ballot (that is, U.S. representative, U.S. senator, and U.S. president), that would expedite voting.  What takes the most time in mixed elections is the state and local items.  To support that, take a look at this 2016 Kansa City ballot and see what all we had to vote on – everything from president to state amendments.  By having separate elections, there’ll be greater “throughput” in the federal election, and voting will go faster.

In August of 2016 at America Thinker, I outlined an idea for how America might have hack-proof election systems.  I then exchanged a few emails with the expert whom I cited, MIT’s Ron Rivest.  He wasn’t buying my idea.  What I had urged was using the internet to vote, which means remote voting – i.e., voting from anywhere.  One thing that concerned Rivest is that with remote voting, it becomes easy to sell one’s vote.  Selling one’s vote may be more of a problem than I had appreciated, even though selling one’s sacred vote is a federal crime.  However, it’s still legal to sell your soul (as long as you pay the sales tax).  Remote voting also enables another crime: coerced voting.  If a voter is not at an official voting station and is using a smartphone or computer to vote, an abusive spouse or an imperious boss could force a voter to vote the “right” way.  But with absentee and mail-in ballots, isn’t coercive voting possible right now?

Mr. Rivest is an expert on cyber-security.  I don’t know how much experience he has in applications programming, such as for payroll, accounts receivable, budget, time management, etc.  But one thing I learned as an applications programmer is that there’s usually a “workaround” to most snags.  I believe there are workarounds for the problems associated with internet voting, but I’m not going into that here because I’ve concluded that professional politicians don’t want such serious change in our election systems.

In a recent article, I presented an idea that is a workaround for the election systems currently in use.  My goal was to come up with a minimalist “fix” that would allow the states to continue conducting presidential elections but would also make possible the identification of alien voters and other fraudsters and thereby give Americans an accurate count of the legitimate vote.

The article urged that all presidential “ballots” in all the states be sent to the feds to go into a single file, which could then be used to identify alien voters, multiple voters, etc.  Even if a state has perfect voter registries, that doesn’t prevent election crime; elections can be stolen in backrooms during recounts.  The states are doing such a lousy job of vetting registrants that the only solution is to vet the voters in federal elections by accessing their records on federal databases, like the database at the Social Security Administration, as is done with E-Verify.

The Russian hacking narrative is a “shiny object” Democrats use to distract us from looking at the real foreign interference in our elections.  This other “hacking” is done not remotely from Minsk or Romania, but right here at home under the noses of our election officials.  And unlike Russian hacking, this other hacking actually does affect vote counts.  But the Dems are okay with this other hacking by foreigners because it helps them “win” elections.

Democrats’ idea of democracy is so warped that they really need to rename themselves.  How about the “Aliens First Party”?

Jon N. Hall of ULTRACON OPINION is a programmer from Kansas City.



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NeverTrumps and Fox News


Although the truly florid lunacy concerning the Trump presidency is confined to the political left, we can’t forget the other breed of anti-Trumpism on the political right: the #NeverTrump movement.  These folks are the conservatives, the libertarians, and (especially) the establishment Republicans who were staunchly against Trump from the moment he rode down the escalator at Trump Tower on June 16, 2015 to announce his candidacy.

NeverTrumps got heavyweight support from the February 15, 2016 issue of National Review, the cover of which was emblazoned with “Against Trump.”  Since “never” means never, there seems to be no assuaging these folks, many of whom are the stars of conservatism – i.e., intellectuals whom many right-wingers admire.  Here’s a list of well-known NeverTrumps.  Some NeverTrumps, however, may be faux conservatives.

During most of the 2016 campaign, I was not a Trump-supporter, as I thought Trump would do nothing less than take down the whole Republican Party with him.  In fact, I wrote maybe 15 articles for American Thinker urging primary voters, convention delegates, party committees, and anyone interested to back someone else.  I my-damn-self voted for Ted Cruz in the Missouri primary, and not because I was hot and heavy for Sen. Cruz, but because I feared ruination of the party.  And if primary voters didn’t do as I urged, then I wanted them to be ignored by delegates.  Even so, in the first of those 2016 articles calling for the GOP to go with someone else, I indicated that I would vote for Mr. Trump if he were the nominee, and that I did.  So this kid was never a NeverTrump.

On Dec. 29, 2017, the New York Times ran “Why I’m Still a NeverTrumper” by Bret Stephens.  Stephens starts his column well and even acknowledges the several successes of Trump’s first year.  But he then admits that he still wishes Hillary Clinton were president and wonders whether he’s really a conservative.  (My dear Bret, you seem to have gone over to the Dark Side.)

Some of President Trump’s most visible and vocal supporters are on FNC, the Fox News Channel.  Because Fox News has long been the bête noire of the radical left, when NeverTrumps rail against Fox News, they need to be aware of whom they’re getting in bed with.

On March 30, the Washington Post ran “Why I left Fox News” by Colonel Ralph Peters.  The article seems to have created a stir.  When one Googles the first sentence of the article, 992,000 hits come back.  The article was also run in McClatchy newspapers.  Col. Peters is not a regular at the Post, but he does have his own column (archive) at the other Post, the New York Post, Alexander Hamilton’s old newspaper, which happens to be owned by News Corp, a Rupert Murdoch company, as is 21st Century Fox, which owns Fox News.  (Let’s hope the good colonel doesn’t burn all his bridges.)

Over the years, I’ve appreciated Col. Peters’s appearances on Fox News, but this article has problems.  Peters trots out Fox’s attacks on institutions as though there are no problems with America’s institutions.  Don’t pretend there’s nothing wrong with our institutions, Colonel; they’re the problem.  Peters also talks about “Fox’s assault on our constitutional order” but provides no examples of such.

What probably provoked Peters’s article was the March 20 BuzzFeed leak of his Fox News resignation email, which was followed the next day by an article in the Post by Max Boot: “A conservative commentator revolts against Fox News.”  But whereas Peters showed some grace and equanimity in his article and even thanks his Fox colleagues, Boot isn’t so nice.  The last paragraph of Boot’s article contains one of the more deranged statements I’ve encountered by a NeverTrump (italics added): “Fox News’s creation in 1996 by Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes was one of the most damaging developments in modern American history.”

It’s a pity that there are no editors at the once decent Washington Post charged with protecting their writers from making fools of themselves.  Incidentally, you can find Mr. Boot on the list of NeverTrumps above.  He supposedly endorsed Hillary Clinton (and yet he thinks he’s a conservative).

The reason Boot might have it in for Fox is because he didn’t acquit himself well there in July of last year when he appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight, which you can watch at RealClearPolitics.  That appearance was the day after Col. Peters had appeared on the same show; watch the whole exchange at RCP, or just the fiery moments on Twitter.  Tucker may be the most gentlemanly host on cable news, but don’t call him a Nazi, a quisling, or a Putin accommodationist unless you’re ready to rumble.

The reason some NeverTrumps have it in for Fox News is not because the company hired Tucker Carlson to take over the time slot of Mr. Big (i.e., Bill O’Reilly).  Mr. Carlson isn’t a Trump apologist (I can make that assessment because I watch the guy every night).  Rather, the reason NeverTrumps have their panties in a bunch over Fox News is the guy who follows Carlson: Sean Hannity, who refers to the MSM as the “Destroy Trump Media,” which he promises never to be.

Democrats and the radical left have put their hopes for getting rid of Trump in the Mueller probe. But that all seems to be boomeranging; what the Democrats have accused Trump of doing is what they actually did.  For months now, Hannity’s program has doggedly focused on Democrat scandals, and they hate him for it.  Hannity’s show may well be the tip of the spear in uncovering wrongdoing in the 2016 presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton.  And it’s the loons of the left whom NeverTrumps are now grouped with.  The NeverTrumps are more concerned about possible crimes that candidate Trump may have committed than with the demonstrable undeniable crimes committed by candidate Clinton.  They care more about getting Trump than cleaning up the corruption, the institutional rot, at the top of the FBI and the Department of Justice.

What happened in the 2016 general election still seems a miracle, especially when one factors in the GOP’s success on the state level: Trump had coattails to burn.  A cogent case might be made that the most important thing Trump did was to save us from the Dragon Lady.  Had Mrs. Clinton won, it’s doubtful that any of what we’ve been learning on Fox News about the DOJ, the FBI, the FISA court, the Steele dossier, etc. would have come to light.  America will cease being America if we continue to have a two-tiered justice system.  Mrs. Clinton, her campaign, and all Deep State malefactors need to face the music.

Trump could denuclearize North Korea, could get the economy humming along at 4-percent growth, turn water into wine, and many NeverTrumps would persist in their disdain of The Donald.  Why?  Could it be a deep fear of not being taken seriously, of being irrelevant?  Perhaps they’re more concerned about being shown to have been wrong than about everything blowing up.

A wise old defense secretary once said, “You go to war with the army you have.”  Well, you run a country with the president you have.  If Trump has some deficiencies, then let us work to help him.  He’s done some fine things since he’s been in office, some very conservative things.  Even Bret Stephens admits it.

Without Fox News, America would be much deeper into socialism than she already is.  Fox News is all we conservatarians have on the boob tube.  If Rupert’s son decides to lurch left in the programming on Fox News, it’ll be enough for this kid to finally “cut the cord.”

Jon N. Hall of ULTRACON OPINION is a programmer from Kansas City.

Although the truly florid lunacy concerning the Trump presidency is confined to the political left, we can’t forget the other breed of anti-Trumpism on the political right: the #NeverTrump movement.  These folks are the conservatives, the libertarians, and (especially) the establishment Republicans who were staunchly against Trump from the moment he rode down the escalator at Trump Tower on June 16, 2015 to announce his candidacy.

NeverTrumps got heavyweight support from the February 15, 2016 issue of National Review, the cover of which was emblazoned with “Against Trump.”  Since “never” means never, there seems to be no assuaging these folks, many of whom are the stars of conservatism – i.e., intellectuals whom many right-wingers admire.  Here’s a list of well-known NeverTrumps.  Some NeverTrumps, however, may be faux conservatives.

During most of the 2016 campaign, I was not a Trump-supporter, as I thought Trump would do nothing less than take down the whole Republican Party with him.  In fact, I wrote maybe 15 articles for American Thinker urging primary voters, convention delegates, party committees, and anyone interested to back someone else.  I my-damn-self voted for Ted Cruz in the Missouri primary, and not because I was hot and heavy for Sen. Cruz, but because I feared ruination of the party.  And if primary voters didn’t do as I urged, then I wanted them to be ignored by delegates.  Even so, in the first of those 2016 articles calling for the GOP to go with someone else, I indicated that I would vote for Mr. Trump if he were the nominee, and that I did.  So this kid was never a NeverTrump.

On Dec. 29, 2017, the New York Times ran “Why I’m Still a NeverTrumper” by Bret Stephens.  Stephens starts his column well and even acknowledges the several successes of Trump’s first year.  But he then admits that he still wishes Hillary Clinton were president and wonders whether he’s really a conservative.  (My dear Bret, you seem to have gone over to the Dark Side.)

Some of President Trump’s most visible and vocal supporters are on FNC, the Fox News Channel.  Because Fox News has long been the bête noire of the radical left, when NeverTrumps rail against Fox News, they need to be aware of whom they’re getting in bed with.

On March 30, the Washington Post ran “Why I left Fox News” by Colonel Ralph Peters.  The article seems to have created a stir.  When one Googles the first sentence of the article, 992,000 hits come back.  The article was also run in McClatchy newspapers.  Col. Peters is not a regular at the Post, but he does have his own column (archive) at the other Post, the New York Post, Alexander Hamilton’s old newspaper, which happens to be owned by News Corp, a Rupert Murdoch company, as is 21st Century Fox, which owns Fox News.  (Let’s hope the good colonel doesn’t burn all his bridges.)

Over the years, I’ve appreciated Col. Peters’s appearances on Fox News, but this article has problems.  Peters trots out Fox’s attacks on institutions as though there are no problems with America’s institutions.  Don’t pretend there’s nothing wrong with our institutions, Colonel; they’re the problem.  Peters also talks about “Fox’s assault on our constitutional order” but provides no examples of such.

What probably provoked Peters’s article was the March 20 BuzzFeed leak of his Fox News resignation email, which was followed the next day by an article in the Post by Max Boot: “A conservative commentator revolts against Fox News.”  But whereas Peters showed some grace and equanimity in his article and even thanks his Fox colleagues, Boot isn’t so nice.  The last paragraph of Boot’s article contains one of the more deranged statements I’ve encountered by a NeverTrump (italics added): “Fox News’s creation in 1996 by Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes was one of the most damaging developments in modern American history.”

It’s a pity that there are no editors at the once decent Washington Post charged with protecting their writers from making fools of themselves.  Incidentally, you can find Mr. Boot on the list of NeverTrumps above.  He supposedly endorsed Hillary Clinton (and yet he thinks he’s a conservative).

The reason Boot might have it in for Fox is because he didn’t acquit himself well there in July of last year when he appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight, which you can watch at RealClearPolitics.  That appearance was the day after Col. Peters had appeared on the same show; watch the whole exchange at RCP, or just the fiery moments on Twitter.  Tucker may be the most gentlemanly host on cable news, but don’t call him a Nazi, a quisling, or a Putin accommodationist unless you’re ready to rumble.

The reason some NeverTrumps have it in for Fox News is not because the company hired Tucker Carlson to take over the time slot of Mr. Big (i.e., Bill O’Reilly).  Mr. Carlson isn’t a Trump apologist (I can make that assessment because I watch the guy every night).  Rather, the reason NeverTrumps have their panties in a bunch over Fox News is the guy who follows Carlson: Sean Hannity, who refers to the MSM as the “Destroy Trump Media,” which he promises never to be.

Democrats and the radical left have put their hopes for getting rid of Trump in the Mueller probe. But that all seems to be boomeranging; what the Democrats have accused Trump of doing is what they actually did.  For months now, Hannity’s program has doggedly focused on Democrat scandals, and they hate him for it.  Hannity’s show may well be the tip of the spear in uncovering wrongdoing in the 2016 presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton.  And it’s the loons of the left whom NeverTrumps are now grouped with.  The NeverTrumps are more concerned about possible crimes that candidate Trump may have committed than with the demonstrable undeniable crimes committed by candidate Clinton.  They care more about getting Trump than cleaning up the corruption, the institutional rot, at the top of the FBI and the Department of Justice.

What happened in the 2016 general election still seems a miracle, especially when one factors in the GOP’s success on the state level: Trump had coattails to burn.  A cogent case might be made that the most important thing Trump did was to save us from the Dragon Lady.  Had Mrs. Clinton won, it’s doubtful that any of what we’ve been learning on Fox News about the DOJ, the FBI, the FISA court, the Steele dossier, etc. would have come to light.  America will cease being America if we continue to have a two-tiered justice system.  Mrs. Clinton, her campaign, and all Deep State malefactors need to face the music.

Trump could denuclearize North Korea, could get the economy humming along at 4-percent growth, turn water into wine, and many NeverTrumps would persist in their disdain of The Donald.  Why?  Could it be a deep fear of not being taken seriously, of being irrelevant?  Perhaps they’re more concerned about being shown to have been wrong than about everything blowing up.

A wise old defense secretary once said, “You go to war with the army you have.”  Well, you run a country with the president you have.  If Trump has some deficiencies, then let us work to help him.  He’s done some fine things since he’s been in office, some very conservative things.  Even Bret Stephens admits it.

Without Fox News, America would be much deeper into socialism than she already is.  Fox News is all we conservatarians have on the boob tube.  If Rupert’s son decides to lurch left in the programming on Fox News, it’ll be enough for this kid to finally “cut the cord.”

Jon N. Hall of ULTRACON OPINION is a programmer from Kansas City.



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Delinquent Debt in America: To Forgive or Not to Forgive


Back in the 1800s in Great Britain, those who couldn’t pay back their loans would be sent to “the workhouse,” AKA debtors’ prison, where they would be forced to work off their arrearage – i.e., their delinquent debt.  Consequently, taking on debt was a serious undertaking back in jolly old Dickensian England.  But then it was a more serious age than ours, with more serious people.

In today’s America, the gravity of debt no longer tugs at us as it did back in the 19th century, when we had debtors’ prisons.  Attitudes toward debt have changed.  Some even think their debts should be “forgiven.”  Interesting term, that.  It suggests that going into debt is sinful.  Indeed, in the various versions of the Lord’s Prayer, “debt” is synonymous with “sin” and “trespass” and is therefore in need of forgiveness: “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”  We should hope the term “forgive” will continue to be used in the context of loans, because too many Americans aren’t taking debt seriously enough.

Be that as it may, when it comes to delinquent debt, what’s actually sinful is when it’s forgiven.  That’s because when debts are written off, someone must take a loss, and it’s often not the party that extended the loan.

One large group of Americans that believes in debt forgiveness is college students, as they have racked up some $1.4 trillion in student loan debt.  Their idol, Senator Bernie Sanders, wants all student debt forgiven.  But who’s to take the hit?  I’d say it should be the colleges that have admitted so many students who can’t afford it and who really shouldn’t be in college anyway.  Let the colleges pay off the kids’ delinquent loans.  That would force colleges to be more careful about whom they admit, as well as work to moderate the price of tuitions.

Debts are incurred in loans.  Loans are contracts.  When considering any contract, one should be clear about what happens when one of the parties reneges and the contract is broken.  One area where the new attitudes towards debt have been fairly well “institutionalized” is in bankruptcy, when a contract that is a loan is broken.  In a bankruptcy, one’s debts are “discharged”; one’s slate is wiped clean; one gets a new lease on life; one is – forgiven.  And if one acts responsibly enough for a while, one can eventually start running up debt again.

A bond is a type of loan.  From a legal standpoint, bondholders are the first in line to get the proceeds of a corporate bankruptcy.  But that didn’t happen in the 2009 auto bankruptcies.  The bondholders and other creditors got shafted, and the assets that should have gone to them went to shore up union pensions.

In 2012, the Cato Institute ran “The Truth about the GM and Chrysler Bailouts,” an incisive little blog post by Randal O’Toole, who wrote (italics added):

Under bankruptcy laws, stockholders would have lost the value of their stocks, but bond owners – who have first claim to company assets and profits – would have been paid off, if not in whole than at least in part.


Instead of letting the companies declare bankruptcy, Obama decided to “bail them out” by taking them over.  Once the administration had control of the companies, it had them file for bankruptcy, just as they would have done without the government takeover.  Stockholders still lost everything, but so did Chrysler’s bond holders.  Instead of renegotiating union contracts, the administration gave the unions greater say over the companies.  In other words, the administration didn’t bail out the companies; it bailed out the unions at the expense of (in Chrysler’s case) the bondholders.

The treatment of bondholders in the auto bankruptcies should alarm us.  It was theft perpetrated by the government, and it should repel all Americans who care about the rule of law.  Giving the proceeds of the bankruptcies to unions is not at all different from if Obama had paid off the stockholders at the expense of the bondholders.  Are we still a nation of laws?

Bankruptcy in America is insane.  All a bankruptcy should do is this: stop the debtor from taking out more loans so he can’t pile up more debt, and then reset interest rates and payback schedules so that loans can be paid back over a longer period of time.  Debts should stay with debtors until they’re paid off; they should never be forgiven.

In February of 2016, the National Legal and Policy Center ran “After Original Bondholders Stiffed, GM Issues New Debt” by Mark Modica: “GM announced last week that it will be offering an estimated $2 billion of unsecured debt to help prop up underfunded pensions.”  (“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”)  One wonders if GM autoworkers feel any remorse about Obama giving them what he stole from the bondholders.

It’s not only in debt forgiveness that someone else gets hit and must pick up the tab; it also happens when government borrows and future taxpayers must pay for today’s spending.  But that doesn’t seem to gnaw at many of today’s Americans; they want their “free stuff” from the government, and right now.  Future generations will just have to tough it out.

Of course, debt delinquency isn’t an issue with the federal government because the feds can roll over their debt again and again.  The federal debt hasn’t been paid off since Andrew Jackson, and it is rarely even paid down.  One might say the entire national debt is delinquent.

The feds have deliberately conditioned the citizenry to accept indebtedness.  The feds are like an obese person urging you to eat more dessert so you can share in his “sin.”  The federal government has done nothing less than corrupt us.

In February of 2018, the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s Frontpage Mag ran “The Progressives’ Legacy: Debt, Deficit, and Entitlement” by Bruce Thornton, who addresses how government has corrupted us:

[The Founders] knew that dependence on others corrupts character and accustoms people to getting something for nothing.  And they saw the dangers in a people who have grown used to taking “the property of their neighbors,” who will not brook a diminishment of those transfers, and who will punish any politician who suggests that they can no longer expect such largess. …


Imagine what will happen in the lean years that are coming ever closer and closer.  If we think we’re polarized now, wait until the hard choices will have to be made on diminishing the transfers of wealth which we have been trained to believe are sacred rights to which we are “entitled.”

Maybe America should bring back debtors’ prisons, especially for those who have run up the biggest debt in the history of the universe: the U.S. Congress.  But not only could we throw members of Congress into debtors’ prison; we might also imprison their families, including their grandchildren as yet unborn.  After all, Congress has condemned our unborn grandchildren to being debtors.  So when Congress begs for mercy, tell them this: we are not in the forgiving mood.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer from Kansas City.

Back in the 1800s in Great Britain, those who couldn’t pay back their loans would be sent to “the workhouse,” AKA debtors’ prison, where they would be forced to work off their arrearage – i.e., their delinquent debt.  Consequently, taking on debt was a serious undertaking back in jolly old Dickensian England.  But then it was a more serious age than ours, with more serious people.

In today’s America, the gravity of debt no longer tugs at us as it did back in the 19th century, when we had debtors’ prisons.  Attitudes toward debt have changed.  Some even think their debts should be “forgiven.”  Interesting term, that.  It suggests that going into debt is sinful.  Indeed, in the various versions of the Lord’s Prayer, “debt” is synonymous with “sin” and “trespass” and is therefore in need of forgiveness: “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”  We should hope the term “forgive” will continue to be used in the context of loans, because too many Americans aren’t taking debt seriously enough.

Be that as it may, when it comes to delinquent debt, what’s actually sinful is when it’s forgiven.  That’s because when debts are written off, someone must take a loss, and it’s often not the party that extended the loan.

One large group of Americans that believes in debt forgiveness is college students, as they have racked up some $1.4 trillion in student loan debt.  Their idol, Senator Bernie Sanders, wants all student debt forgiven.  But who’s to take the hit?  I’d say it should be the colleges that have admitted so many students who can’t afford it and who really shouldn’t be in college anyway.  Let the colleges pay off the kids’ delinquent loans.  That would force colleges to be more careful about whom they admit, as well as work to moderate the price of tuitions.

Debts are incurred in loans.  Loans are contracts.  When considering any contract, one should be clear about what happens when one of the parties reneges and the contract is broken.  One area where the new attitudes towards debt have been fairly well “institutionalized” is in bankruptcy, when a contract that is a loan is broken.  In a bankruptcy, one’s debts are “discharged”; one’s slate is wiped clean; one gets a new lease on life; one is – forgiven.  And if one acts responsibly enough for a while, one can eventually start running up debt again.

A bond is a type of loan.  From a legal standpoint, bondholders are the first in line to get the proceeds of a corporate bankruptcy.  But that didn’t happen in the 2009 auto bankruptcies.  The bondholders and other creditors got shafted, and the assets that should have gone to them went to shore up union pensions.

In 2012, the Cato Institute ran “The Truth about the GM and Chrysler Bailouts,” an incisive little blog post by Randal O’Toole, who wrote (italics added):

Under bankruptcy laws, stockholders would have lost the value of their stocks, but bond owners – who have first claim to company assets and profits – would have been paid off, if not in whole than at least in part.


Instead of letting the companies declare bankruptcy, Obama decided to “bail them out” by taking them over.  Once the administration had control of the companies, it had them file for bankruptcy, just as they would have done without the government takeover.  Stockholders still lost everything, but so did Chrysler’s bond holders.  Instead of renegotiating union contracts, the administration gave the unions greater say over the companies.  In other words, the administration didn’t bail out the companies; it bailed out the unions at the expense of (in Chrysler’s case) the bondholders.

The treatment of bondholders in the auto bankruptcies should alarm us.  It was theft perpetrated by the government, and it should repel all Americans who care about the rule of law.  Giving the proceeds of the bankruptcies to unions is not at all different from if Obama had paid off the stockholders at the expense of the bondholders.  Are we still a nation of laws?

Bankruptcy in America is insane.  All a bankruptcy should do is this: stop the debtor from taking out more loans so he can’t pile up more debt, and then reset interest rates and payback schedules so that loans can be paid back over a longer period of time.  Debts should stay with debtors until they’re paid off; they should never be forgiven.

In February of 2016, the National Legal and Policy Center ran “After Original Bondholders Stiffed, GM Issues New Debt” by Mark Modica: “GM announced last week that it will be offering an estimated $2 billion of unsecured debt to help prop up underfunded pensions.”  (“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”)  One wonders if GM autoworkers feel any remorse about Obama giving them what he stole from the bondholders.

It’s not only in debt forgiveness that someone else gets hit and must pick up the tab; it also happens when government borrows and future taxpayers must pay for today’s spending.  But that doesn’t seem to gnaw at many of today’s Americans; they want their “free stuff” from the government, and right now.  Future generations will just have to tough it out.

Of course, debt delinquency isn’t an issue with the federal government because the feds can roll over their debt again and again.  The federal debt hasn’t been paid off since Andrew Jackson, and it is rarely even paid down.  One might say the entire national debt is delinquent.

The feds have deliberately conditioned the citizenry to accept indebtedness.  The feds are like an obese person urging you to eat more dessert so you can share in his “sin.”  The federal government has done nothing less than corrupt us.

In February of 2018, the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s Frontpage Mag ran “The Progressives’ Legacy: Debt, Deficit, and Entitlement” by Bruce Thornton, who addresses how government has corrupted us:

[The Founders] knew that dependence on others corrupts character and accustoms people to getting something for nothing.  And they saw the dangers in a people who have grown used to taking “the property of their neighbors,” who will not brook a diminishment of those transfers, and who will punish any politician who suggests that they can no longer expect such largess. …


Imagine what will happen in the lean years that are coming ever closer and closer.  If we think we’re polarized now, wait until the hard choices will have to be made on diminishing the transfers of wealth which we have been trained to believe are sacred rights to which we are “entitled.”

Maybe America should bring back debtors’ prisons, especially for those who have run up the biggest debt in the history of the universe: the U.S. Congress.  But not only could we throw members of Congress into debtors’ prison; we might also imprison their families, including their grandchildren as yet unborn.  After all, Congress has condemned our unborn grandchildren to being debtors.  So when Congress begs for mercy, tell them this: we are not in the forgiving mood.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer from Kansas City.



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The Dollar: Lionel Shriver on Ruin


Could the U.S. dollar ever be ruined?  Other currencies, like the German mark in the 1920s, have been ruined, so why not the dollar?

Recently, I wrote a book review of The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047, a novel by Lionel Shriver that deals with the demise of the dollar due to a default on the national debt.  The novel’s default is a response to outside pressure – namely, the creation by foreign powers of the “bancor,” a new currency meant to supplant the dollar as the world’s reserve currency.  Adding insult to injury, the creators of this new currency demand that U.S. debt be repaid in bancors and that “American bonds sold to foreign investors must henceforth be denominated in bancors.”

Upon the debut of the bancor, the dollar plummets in value.  But America doesn’t accede to the foreign demands and makes it a felony for Americans to hold bancors, even abroad.  Then, in a speech to the nation, the president announces the renunciation of the national debt, whereby all U.S. Treasury securities are declared “null and void.”  (Don’t try this at home, kids; the feds are pros.)

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Bancors

In keeping with the creeping Latinization the novel sees for America, the feds soon replace the dollar with the dólar nuevo.  But the “new dollar” moves beyond specie and paper money and becomes totally cashless – i.e., electronic, digital.  Ultimately, however, the feds cave and sign on to the bancor.  Adiós, U.S. dollar.

Shriver imagines one way by which the Almighty Dollar could be ruined and die.  A different type of currency death might be possible – one would be due not to foreign actions and the federal government’s (chosen) responses to them, but instead to the gradual erosion of the value of the dollar through inflation.  Inflation is what’s been happening to the dollar for the last century or so.  In this alternate scenario, the dollar limps along until it buckles, falls to its knees, and expires, rather like riding a horse to death.

This second scenario, the slow death, would make for a rather different novel from Shriver’s.  The feds would just keep borrowing and printing money until they could no longer do so because the sheer size of the debt becomes unmanageable and the currency becomes worthless.

However, one wonders if the second scenario is as plausible or as probable as Shriver’s.  For will the world allow the U.S. to continue down the merry path we’ve been on, borrowing and printing dollars?  Or will the world intervene and establish a new monetary world order, ending the Bretton Woods system we’ve had for seventy-four years?  Shriver’s “intervention” seems the more likely scenario.  (By the way, the idea for a supranational currency was floated back in the 1940s by J.M. Keynes, who called it, uh…oh, yeah, the “bancor.”)

But if a consortium of foreign powers sought to strong-arm America, even in such an insulting high-handed manner, would we actually renounce our debt and choose default?  Defaulting on the debt by way of renunciation would consign America to “pariah nation” status.  Also, much of the debt is held by Americans.

If reneging on the national debt would not be the “proper response” to Shriver’s scenario, what would be?  The proper response might be to remind holders of U.S. debt that they made a deal, as did the U.S. Treasury, and that America will keep its side of the deal by repaying maturing debt in precisely the manner stipulated.  That is, they’ll get their money back just as promised – in U.S. dollars.

Bust a Deal, Face the Wheel

But what’s the difference between losing your money from default and getting your money back when its value has been inflated away?  Holders of our debt wouldn’t want repayment in a worthless currency.  In order to stay in the good graces of the nations that have been buying our debt, the U.S. would need to demonstrate a new course of action.  What would that be?  The only thing that would suffice is to stop borrowing, which would entail balancing the federal budget immediately.

And just how would we do that?  Assuming we wouldn’t disband the military, the only way to immediately balance the budget would be to cut entitlements and welfare programs by hundreds of billions of dollars.  Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare – all of it would need to be pared back, if not ended.  If we wanted to save our currency and remain in the community of nations as a member in good standing, nothing else would do.

In Shriver’s 2029 America, however, the government is controlled by Democrats.  And her Democrats would rather risk ruining the currency and risk America becoming a pariah than touch the welfare state and entitlements, which is entirely plausible if one looks at today’s Democrats.  Indeed, Democrats should be urging spending cuts on the welfare state now.  The reason Democrats would rather bust a deal and default on the debt is because they don’t want to renege on their other “deals,” primarily their promises to America’s old folks.

These Horses Need Rest

This is one of the big takeaways from The Mandibles: those who fare best in the novel are old folks, retirees.  As Americans struggle in Shriver’s post-default depression, folks look forward to old age: “People used to dread being put out to pasture.  Desperate to qualify for entitlements, these days everyone couldn’t wait to be old [p. 322].”

In a 2009 article at MacLean’s, Mark Steyn presaged Shriver:

[F]or the political class, it’s easier to default on foreign debt and risk unknown consequences than to renege on social commitments and ensure the certainty of violent insurrection.  As attractive as it might be to tell ingrate geezers to go eat dog food, it’s not politically feasible[.]

Should what’s “feasible” and “easier” for politicians be the determining factors here?  Defaulting and ruining the currency would be far more painful than cutting back on social programs.

In April of 2017, Ms. Shriver appeared on The Mark Steyn Show to discuss The Mandibles.  The two quickly wade into the possibility of the collapse of the dollar.  At the 5:45 point, Steyn observes:

Everyone assumes, they look out the window, they see the skyscrapers, they see the fancy restaurants – the assumption of permanence underlies almost everything we do in our lives as we plan.  And the great thing about the book is the almost dizzying speed with which a prosperous Western society unravels.

(Those who know Mr. Steyn only for his appearances on Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News or as a guest host for El Rushbo will see a different side of the Canadian.  It’s a master class in what talk shows should be.  The courtliness of his interview reminds me of Dick Cavett.  The interview was shot in London, and one has a nice view of the Thames in the background.  The video quality is excellent.  It starts at the two-minute point and goes on for 32 minutes.  I highly recommend it.)

If the U.S. dollar ever were ruined, the agent of that ruin would almost certainly be the federal government.  If so, the heartache, loss, and degradation flowing from the destruction of our currency would be caused by the refusal of Congress to control its spending and by its run-up of the debt.  So are we going to ride the dollar to death?  Or are we going to grow up and start paying our way?

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer and analyst from Kansas City.

Could the U.S. dollar ever be ruined?  Other currencies, like the German mark in the 1920s, have been ruined, so why not the dollar?

Recently, I wrote a book review of The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047, a novel by Lionel Shriver that deals with the demise of the dollar due to a default on the national debt.  The novel’s default is a response to outside pressure – namely, the creation by foreign powers of the “bancor,” a new currency meant to supplant the dollar as the world’s reserve currency.  Adding insult to injury, the creators of this new currency demand that U.S. debt be repaid in bancors and that “American bonds sold to foreign investors must henceforth be denominated in bancors.”

Upon the debut of the bancor, the dollar plummets in value.  But America doesn’t accede to the foreign demands and makes it a felony for Americans to hold bancors, even abroad.  Then, in a speech to the nation, the president announces the renunciation of the national debt, whereby all U.S. Treasury securities are declared “null and void.”  (Don’t try this at home, kids; the feds are pros.)

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Bancors

In keeping with the creeping Latinization the novel sees for America, the feds soon replace the dollar with the dólar nuevo.  But the “new dollar” moves beyond specie and paper money and becomes totally cashless – i.e., electronic, digital.  Ultimately, however, the feds cave and sign on to the bancor.  Adiós, U.S. dollar.

Shriver imagines one way by which the Almighty Dollar could be ruined and die.  A different type of currency death might be possible – one would be due not to foreign actions and the federal government’s (chosen) responses to them, but instead to the gradual erosion of the value of the dollar through inflation.  Inflation is what’s been happening to the dollar for the last century or so.  In this alternate scenario, the dollar limps along until it buckles, falls to its knees, and expires, rather like riding a horse to death.

This second scenario, the slow death, would make for a rather different novel from Shriver’s.  The feds would just keep borrowing and printing money until they could no longer do so because the sheer size of the debt becomes unmanageable and the currency becomes worthless.

However, one wonders if the second scenario is as plausible or as probable as Shriver’s.  For will the world allow the U.S. to continue down the merry path we’ve been on, borrowing and printing dollars?  Or will the world intervene and establish a new monetary world order, ending the Bretton Woods system we’ve had for seventy-four years?  Shriver’s “intervention” seems the more likely scenario.  (By the way, the idea for a supranational currency was floated back in the 1940s by J.M. Keynes, who called it, uh…oh, yeah, the “bancor.”)

But if a consortium of foreign powers sought to strong-arm America, even in such an insulting high-handed manner, would we actually renounce our debt and choose default?  Defaulting on the debt by way of renunciation would consign America to “pariah nation” status.  Also, much of the debt is held by Americans.

If reneging on the national debt would not be the “proper response” to Shriver’s scenario, what would be?  The proper response might be to remind holders of U.S. debt that they made a deal, as did the U.S. Treasury, and that America will keep its side of the deal by repaying maturing debt in precisely the manner stipulated.  That is, they’ll get their money back just as promised – in U.S. dollars.

Bust a Deal, Face the Wheel

But what’s the difference between losing your money from default and getting your money back when its value has been inflated away?  Holders of our debt wouldn’t want repayment in a worthless currency.  In order to stay in the good graces of the nations that have been buying our debt, the U.S. would need to demonstrate a new course of action.  What would that be?  The only thing that would suffice is to stop borrowing, which would entail balancing the federal budget immediately.

And just how would we do that?  Assuming we wouldn’t disband the military, the only way to immediately balance the budget would be to cut entitlements and welfare programs by hundreds of billions of dollars.  Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare – all of it would need to be pared back, if not ended.  If we wanted to save our currency and remain in the community of nations as a member in good standing, nothing else would do.

In Shriver’s 2029 America, however, the government is controlled by Democrats.  And her Democrats would rather risk ruining the currency and risk America becoming a pariah than touch the welfare state and entitlements, which is entirely plausible if one looks at today’s Democrats.  Indeed, Democrats should be urging spending cuts on the welfare state now.  The reason Democrats would rather bust a deal and default on the debt is because they don’t want to renege on their other “deals,” primarily their promises to America’s old folks.

These Horses Need Rest

This is one of the big takeaways from The Mandibles: those who fare best in the novel are old folks, retirees.  As Americans struggle in Shriver’s post-default depression, folks look forward to old age: “People used to dread being put out to pasture.  Desperate to qualify for entitlements, these days everyone couldn’t wait to be old [p. 322].”

In a 2009 article at MacLean’s, Mark Steyn presaged Shriver:

[F]or the political class, it’s easier to default on foreign debt and risk unknown consequences than to renege on social commitments and ensure the certainty of violent insurrection.  As attractive as it might be to tell ingrate geezers to go eat dog food, it’s not politically feasible[.]

Should what’s “feasible” and “easier” for politicians be the determining factors here?  Defaulting and ruining the currency would be far more painful than cutting back on social programs.

In April of 2017, Ms. Shriver appeared on The Mark Steyn Show to discuss The Mandibles.  The two quickly wade into the possibility of the collapse of the dollar.  At the 5:45 point, Steyn observes:

Everyone assumes, they look out the window, they see the skyscrapers, they see the fancy restaurants – the assumption of permanence underlies almost everything we do in our lives as we plan.  And the great thing about the book is the almost dizzying speed with which a prosperous Western society unravels.

(Those who know Mr. Steyn only for his appearances on Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News or as a guest host for El Rushbo will see a different side of the Canadian.  It’s a master class in what talk shows should be.  The courtliness of his interview reminds me of Dick Cavett.  The interview was shot in London, and one has a nice view of the Thames in the background.  The video quality is excellent.  It starts at the two-minute point and goes on for 32 minutes.  I highly recommend it.)

If the U.S. dollar ever were ruined, the agent of that ruin would almost certainly be the federal government.  If so, the heartache, loss, and degradation flowing from the destruction of our currency would be caused by the refusal of Congress to control its spending and by its run-up of the debt.  So are we going to ride the dollar to death?  Or are we going to grow up and start paying our way?

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer and analyst from Kansas City.



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The Real Issue in Government Shutdowns


Before “Cryin’ Chuck” Schumer caved, the most recent skirmish over the federal government shutting down was about an issue that is entirely unrelated to keeping it open. But that’s usually the case. In 2013, the shutdown was about ObamaCare funding, this year it was all about the so-called DACA “Dreamers” and their desire to obtain legal status, which is even more unrelated. One wonders how many Americans know what Congress has always done to avoid or to end a shutdown. What Congress has done each time to end these spats is: raise the “debt ceiling,” also called the “debt limit.”

In past shutdown debates, some have raised the possibility of “default” if Congress were to not raise the debt limit. The webpage for Debt Limit at Treasury is mainly a bunch of links to government documents going back seven years, but it does have three short paragraphs of text, including this one:

Failing to increase the debt limit would have catastrophic economic consequences. It would cause the government to default on its legal obligations — an unprecedented event in American history. That would precipitate another financial crisis and threaten the jobs and savings of everyday Americans — putting the United States right back in a deep economic hole, just as the country is recovering from the recent recession [italics added].  

That’s loose talk, don’t buy it, Congress has shut down the government several times and the republic still stands. On Dec. 20, Forbes ran “10 Things You Need To Know About The Debt Ceiling And Potential Government Shutdown” by Jeffrey Dorfman, and item #3 on his list is: “Not raising the debt ceiling does not mean a default or not paying our debts.”

Default is when you can’t meet your “legal obligations,” such as paying the interest on U.S. debt, and paying government contractors and suppliers. What default would not be is an inability to pay for government programs that are not contractual. Yet, the Treasury’s webpage treats spending the same:

The debt limit is the total amount of money that the United States government is authorized to borrow to meet its existing legal obligations, including Social Security and Medicare benefits, military salaries, interest on the national debt, tax refunds, and other payments [italics added].

Treasury doesn’t seem to know what a “legal obligation” is. If Boeing delivers a fleet of fighter jets to the military, there’s a legal obligation to pay Boeing. Not paying Boeing would signal default. Paying interest on the debt is also a legal obligation. But paying Social Security benefits isn’t a legal obligation. In fact, Congress could end Social Security today and there’s nothing that SS recipients could do about it, because it’s not a contractual obligation. Yet the Treasury webpage lumps all expenditures together.

On Jan. 22, Bloomberg ran “Get Rid of U.S. Government Shutdowns Forever” by Ramesh Ponnuru. The short article outlines a 2013 bill introduced by Sen. Rob Portman which is designed to avert shutdowns. It involves 1 percent cuts in spending when appropriations haven’t been passed. Portman’s bill was appropriately titled the End Government Shutdowns Act.

Also on the 22nd, Mother Jones ran a response to Ponnuru: “Ban Government Shutdowns? Maybe We Actually Need More of Them” by Kevin Drum, who writes: “If the government were put on automatic autopilot in the absence of a budget agreement, the incentive to pass a budget would shrivel even further than it already has.” Mr. Drum compares Ponnuru’s idea with the changes made to the filibuster half a century ago. His counterproposal to Ponnuru’s is worth considering; you might read it (despite it being at Mother Jones.)

What’s fairly certain is that neither Ponnuru’s nor Drum’s solutions will be in place in time for the next shutdown showdown on Feb. 8, (which was scheduled by the continuing appropriation H.R.195 on Jan. 22). And, if there’s again wrangling about the Dreamers or any other issue unrelated to the debt limit, then you’ll be witnessing government at its most cynical. The minority will be holding America “hostage” unless the majority gives them their “ransom.”

Congress could agree to never again use the debt limit to “take hostages,” and agree to raise the debt limit every time they bump up against it. But if Congress keeps borrowing money, they’re liable to bump up against something almost as horrific as default, and that’s high interest rates.

With soaring interest rates comes soaring inflation, and with soaring inflation comes a debased currency. And when a currency has been debased, debauched, and degraded, who wants to buy sovereign debt denominated in that currency? (Are you in the market for some nice Venezuelan bonds?) Inasmuch as interest on the debt is an item in the federal budget, it would seem that it must be paid for with tax receipts, not money created by the Federal Reserve. If so, then high interest rates crowd out other spending.

In 2010, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen said: “The most significant threat to our national security is our debt.” It’s easy to think that all the brouhaha about government shutdowns is a ruse, a way to divert the public’s attention away from the real issue: the fact that every time they hit the debt ceiling, Congress invariably raises it, and gives itself permission to take America ever deeper into debt.

But there’d be no need to raise the debt limit if Congress were running a balanced budget. The Treasury webpage, however, seems to be assuming that Congress will never again balance the budget. Balancing the budget could perhaps be easier than we think; read on:

In 2016, total federal revenue was $3.267T, an all-time high (see Table 1.1). The latest year for which that revenue would have been enough to cover all federal spending was 2008, when total spending was $2.982T. And in 2009, the year with still the biggest deficit ever (-$1.412T), 2016’s revenue would have been just $250B short of covering all of 2009’s massive spending: $3.517T.

Despite that, Congress just can’t bring itself to make the spending cuts that would balance the budget and keep us Americans from going further into debt. Yet all the media can talk about is the Dreamers. But hey, we’re all “dreamers.” And some of us dream of a balanced budget and an end to debt. Dream on.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 

Before “Cryin’ Chuck” Schumer caved, the most recent skirmish over the federal government shutting down was about an issue that is entirely unrelated to keeping it open. But that’s usually the case. In 2013, the shutdown was about ObamaCare funding, this year it was all about the so-called DACA “Dreamers” and their desire to obtain legal status, which is even more unrelated. One wonders how many Americans know what Congress has always done to avoid or to end a shutdown. What Congress has done each time to end these spats is: raise the “debt ceiling,” also called the “debt limit.”

In past shutdown debates, some have raised the possibility of “default” if Congress were to not raise the debt limit. The webpage for Debt Limit at Treasury is mainly a bunch of links to government documents going back seven years, but it does have three short paragraphs of text, including this one:

Failing to increase the debt limit would have catastrophic economic consequences. It would cause the government to default on its legal obligations — an unprecedented event in American history. That would precipitate another financial crisis and threaten the jobs and savings of everyday Americans — putting the United States right back in a deep economic hole, just as the country is recovering from the recent recession [italics added].  

That’s loose talk, don’t buy it, Congress has shut down the government several times and the republic still stands. On Dec. 20, Forbes ran “10 Things You Need To Know About The Debt Ceiling And Potential Government Shutdown” by Jeffrey Dorfman, and item #3 on his list is: “Not raising the debt ceiling does not mean a default or not paying our debts.”

Default is when you can’t meet your “legal obligations,” such as paying the interest on U.S. debt, and paying government contractors and suppliers. What default would not be is an inability to pay for government programs that are not contractual. Yet, the Treasury’s webpage treats spending the same:

The debt limit is the total amount of money that the United States government is authorized to borrow to meet its existing legal obligations, including Social Security and Medicare benefits, military salaries, interest on the national debt, tax refunds, and other payments [italics added].

Treasury doesn’t seem to know what a “legal obligation” is. If Boeing delivers a fleet of fighter jets to the military, there’s a legal obligation to pay Boeing. Not paying Boeing would signal default. Paying interest on the debt is also a legal obligation. But paying Social Security benefits isn’t a legal obligation. In fact, Congress could end Social Security today and there’s nothing that SS recipients could do about it, because it’s not a contractual obligation. Yet the Treasury webpage lumps all expenditures together.

On Jan. 22, Bloomberg ran “Get Rid of U.S. Government Shutdowns Forever” by Ramesh Ponnuru. The short article outlines a 2013 bill introduced by Sen. Rob Portman which is designed to avert shutdowns. It involves 1 percent cuts in spending when appropriations haven’t been passed. Portman’s bill was appropriately titled the End Government Shutdowns Act.

Also on the 22nd, Mother Jones ran a response to Ponnuru: “Ban Government Shutdowns? Maybe We Actually Need More of Them” by Kevin Drum, who writes: “If the government were put on automatic autopilot in the absence of a budget agreement, the incentive to pass a budget would shrivel even further than it already has.” Mr. Drum compares Ponnuru’s idea with the changes made to the filibuster half a century ago. His counterproposal to Ponnuru’s is worth considering; you might read it (despite it being at Mother Jones.)

What’s fairly certain is that neither Ponnuru’s nor Drum’s solutions will be in place in time for the next shutdown showdown on Feb. 8, (which was scheduled by the continuing appropriation H.R.195 on Jan. 22). And, if there’s again wrangling about the Dreamers or any other issue unrelated to the debt limit, then you’ll be witnessing government at its most cynical. The minority will be holding America “hostage” unless the majority gives them their “ransom.”

Congress could agree to never again use the debt limit to “take hostages,” and agree to raise the debt limit every time they bump up against it. But if Congress keeps borrowing money, they’re liable to bump up against something almost as horrific as default, and that’s high interest rates.

With soaring interest rates comes soaring inflation, and with soaring inflation comes a debased currency. And when a currency has been debased, debauched, and degraded, who wants to buy sovereign debt denominated in that currency? (Are you in the market for some nice Venezuelan bonds?) Inasmuch as interest on the debt is an item in the federal budget, it would seem that it must be paid for with tax receipts, not money created by the Federal Reserve. If so, then high interest rates crowd out other spending.

In 2010, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen said: “The most significant threat to our national security is our debt.” It’s easy to think that all the brouhaha about government shutdowns is a ruse, a way to divert the public’s attention away from the real issue: the fact that every time they hit the debt ceiling, Congress invariably raises it, and gives itself permission to take America ever deeper into debt.

But there’d be no need to raise the debt limit if Congress were running a balanced budget. The Treasury webpage, however, seems to be assuming that Congress will never again balance the budget. Balancing the budget could perhaps be easier than we think; read on:

In 2016, total federal revenue was $3.267T, an all-time high (see Table 1.1). The latest year for which that revenue would have been enough to cover all federal spending was 2008, when total spending was $2.982T. And in 2009, the year with still the biggest deficit ever (-$1.412T), 2016’s revenue would have been just $250B short of covering all of 2009’s massive spending: $3.517T.

Despite that, Congress just can’t bring itself to make the spending cuts that would balance the budget and keep us Americans from going further into debt. Yet all the media can talk about is the Dreamers. But hey, we’re all “dreamers.” And some of us dream of a balanced budget and an end to debt. Dream on.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 



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How to Prevent a Roy Moore-Doug Jones SNAFU


What should conservatives conclude from the recent special election that sent Doug Jones, a Democrat in all things, to the U.S. Senate to represent Alabama, one of the reddest of red states?

One takeaway should be that Alabamians haven’t been very well served by their past legislatures, as Alabama’s election laws were insufficient to handle this situation.  Vann R. Newkirk II reported on this in “How Alabama’s Election Laws Keep Moore on the Ballot” on Nov. 15 at the Atlantic: “[a] complicated labyrinth of Alabamian election laws makes it difficult to force Moore out or replace him with another Republican candidate.”

I’m no expert on Alabamian election laws, but I think the relevant language is to be found in Title 17, Chapter 6, Article 2, Section 17-6-21(b), where we read (italics added):

Any amendment filed after the 76th day before a primary or a general election shall be accepted by the judge of probate or the Secretary of State but shall not be cause for reprinting of the ballots. The name of a candidate who is the subject of the amendment and who is disqualified by a political party or who has withdrawn as a candidate shall remain on the ballot, not be replaced by the name of another candidate, and the appropriate canvassing board shall not certify any votes for the candidate.

What that means is that there’s no way to “correct” the results of a primary when late-in-the-game accusations come to light.  And if a candidate dies, becomes incapacitated, or goes to prison in the final 75 days before an election, sorry, but we accept no substitutions.

The Roy Moore-Doug Jones mess wouldn’t have arisen if we still selected U.S. senators by state legislatures, the way the Constitution originally stipulated.  Going back to that would require repealing the 17th Amendment, a heavy undertaking (but maybe someday…).  In the meantime, how can a political party protect itself from the likes of Roy Moore, and how can a state protect itself from being represented by someone like Doug Jones who is out of step with its values?

The 17th Amendment doesn’t say anything about how candidates are chosen; it doesn’t stipulate that in “the several States,” candidates must be “elected by the people thereof” – that is, in a primary election.  It’s the primary system that gave Alabamians a GOP candidate who appeared unacceptable and unfit for office.  Rather than by a primary election, the states should use the caucus to select their candidates for the U.S. Senate.  And the caucus members should be chosen solely by a state’s party apparatus, such as Alabama’s GOP committees.

The caucus system has advantages over the primary system.  For example, party caucuses wouldn’t cost a state any money.  Voter participation in primaries is low to begin with, and that may be especially true for special election primaries.  But the main reason to supplant primaries for U.S. Senate with party caucuses is that the primary system allows problem candidates like Moore to run.  Party insiders are in a much better position to decide against such candidates than the voter.

A caucus of GOP committee members would probably have chosen a more electable candidate than Roy Moore.  But if the Alabama Republican Party had tried to take Moore off the ballot, primary voters might well have been outraged.  To avoid such outrage, don’t have a primary; have a caucus instead.  And a caucus could accept input from the state legislature, which would get us a little closer to the original Constitution.

Roy Moore doesn’t seem to have ever been particularly popular in Alabama, and he never received all that many votes in his various runs for office.  Maybe he’s more trouble than he’s worth; maybe his deficits outweigh his assets.  But over the last decade, primary voters in Missouri, Nevada, Delaware, and Indiana have been selecting U.S. Senate candidates who fail in general elections that any decent Republican should have won.  And it’s all because of the primary system.

Now, Doug Jones may be a decent man, and a cut or two above Chuck and Nancy (who isn’t?).  But as a Democrat, he’ll “caucus” with Shutdown Schumer and other progressive Dems on many issues.  Not good for Alabama.

If the caucus system is good enough to select presidential candidates in Iowa, shouldn’t it be good enough to select candidates for other jobs?  I don’t believe that any of the states uses the caucus to select its U.S. Senate candidates.  So Alabama could serve as a model for all the other states by being the first state to replace primary elections for U.S. Senate candidates with caucuses.

At the very least, Alabama should change its election laws to allow the parties to make replacements on the ballot much closer to Election Day.  Otherwise, you have a situation where the Titanic has left port and her rudder has been locked in position and can’t be changed.  If an iceberg just happens to be sitting in your path 75 days later…well, good luck.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer and analyst from Kansas City.

What should conservatives conclude from the recent special election that sent Doug Jones, a Democrat in all things, to the U.S. Senate to represent Alabama, one of the reddest of red states?

One takeaway should be that Alabamians haven’t been very well served by their past legislatures, as Alabama’s election laws were insufficient to handle this situation.  Vann R. Newkirk II reported on this in “How Alabama’s Election Laws Keep Moore on the Ballot” on Nov. 15 at the Atlantic: “[a] complicated labyrinth of Alabamian election laws makes it difficult to force Moore out or replace him with another Republican candidate.”

I’m no expert on Alabamian election laws, but I think the relevant language is to be found in Title 17, Chapter 6, Article 2, Section 17-6-21(b), where we read (italics added):

Any amendment filed after the 76th day before a primary or a general election shall be accepted by the judge of probate or the Secretary of State but shall not be cause for reprinting of the ballots. The name of a candidate who is the subject of the amendment and who is disqualified by a political party or who has withdrawn as a candidate shall remain on the ballot, not be replaced by the name of another candidate, and the appropriate canvassing board shall not certify any votes for the candidate.

What that means is that there’s no way to “correct” the results of a primary when late-in-the-game accusations come to light.  And if a candidate dies, becomes incapacitated, or goes to prison in the final 75 days before an election, sorry, but we accept no substitutions.

The Roy Moore-Doug Jones mess wouldn’t have arisen if we still selected U.S. senators by state legislatures, the way the Constitution originally stipulated.  Going back to that would require repealing the 17th Amendment, a heavy undertaking (but maybe someday…).  In the meantime, how can a political party protect itself from the likes of Roy Moore, and how can a state protect itself from being represented by someone like Doug Jones who is out of step with its values?

The 17th Amendment doesn’t say anything about how candidates are chosen; it doesn’t stipulate that in “the several States,” candidates must be “elected by the people thereof” – that is, in a primary election.  It’s the primary system that gave Alabamians a GOP candidate who appeared unacceptable and unfit for office.  Rather than by a primary election, the states should use the caucus to select their candidates for the U.S. Senate.  And the caucus members should be chosen solely by a state’s party apparatus, such as Alabama’s GOP committees.

The caucus system has advantages over the primary system.  For example, party caucuses wouldn’t cost a state any money.  Voter participation in primaries is low to begin with, and that may be especially true for special election primaries.  But the main reason to supplant primaries for U.S. Senate with party caucuses is that the primary system allows problem candidates like Moore to run.  Party insiders are in a much better position to decide against such candidates than the voter.

A caucus of GOP committee members would probably have chosen a more electable candidate than Roy Moore.  But if the Alabama Republican Party had tried to take Moore off the ballot, primary voters might well have been outraged.  To avoid such outrage, don’t have a primary; have a caucus instead.  And a caucus could accept input from the state legislature, which would get us a little closer to the original Constitution.

Roy Moore doesn’t seem to have ever been particularly popular in Alabama, and he never received all that many votes in his various runs for office.  Maybe he’s more trouble than he’s worth; maybe his deficits outweigh his assets.  But over the last decade, primary voters in Missouri, Nevada, Delaware, and Indiana have been selecting U.S. Senate candidates who fail in general elections that any decent Republican should have won.  And it’s all because of the primary system.

Now, Doug Jones may be a decent man, and a cut or two above Chuck and Nancy (who isn’t?).  But as a Democrat, he’ll “caucus” with Shutdown Schumer and other progressive Dems on many issues.  Not good for Alabama.

If the caucus system is good enough to select presidential candidates in Iowa, shouldn’t it be good enough to select candidates for other jobs?  I don’t believe that any of the states uses the caucus to select its U.S. Senate candidates.  So Alabama could serve as a model for all the other states by being the first state to replace primary elections for U.S. Senate candidates with caucuses.

At the very least, Alabama should change its election laws to allow the parties to make replacements on the ballot much closer to Election Day.  Otherwise, you have a situation where the Titanic has left port and her rudder has been locked in position and can’t be changed.  If an iceberg just happens to be sitting in your path 75 days later…well, good luck.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer and analyst from Kansas City.



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The Trump Tax Cuts and the Obamacare Mandate 'Repeal'


The new tax bill is now law; it’s on the books; it’s an addition to the U.S. Code.  But unfortunately, the new law doesn’t have a very catchy title.  Its original title was the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017,” which is most excellent.  However, due to punctilios in the Senate, the name had to be changed, and in the rush to get the thing passed, congressmen settled on “An Act to provide for reconciliation pursuant to titles II and V of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2018.”  That’s not so catchy.  I don’t know if it can be retitled, but because titles matter, I’d wager that the new law will simply be called the “Trump Tax Cuts.”

Conservatives should be relieved that Republicans in Congress finally passed a big piece of legislation.  We were beginning to think they were incapable of coming together.

One of the pleasant surprises in the new law is the so-called “repeal” of Obamacare’s individual mandate.  But inasmuch as Obamacare is still “on the books,” just how did Republicans accomplish this repeal?

Okay, let’s look at the law.  One place to find the text of the Trump Tax Cuts is at congress.gov.  The copy there has hyperlinks, and in the section on the mandate, there is a single link, on “Section 5000A(c).”  But it doesn’t seem to have page numbers to navigate with, unlike the copy at the Government Publishing Office.  On page 101 of the PDF at the GPO, we come to PART VIII, which deals with the mandate, and it spans two pages.  Because I’m a nice guy, I’ve spliced together two screen grabs from the GPO copy for your convenience:

You can scour the rest of the text, but I don’t think you’ll find any other mentions of the individual mandate.  Notice at the bottom that the effective date is after this year, so folks still need to have health insurance in 2018 or pay the penalty.

The method by which the mandate was repealed is interesting: they merely zeroed out the penalty for noncompliance.  In the ACA, it’s called a penalty, but the Supreme Court ruled it a tax.  So the “tax” now has a rate of “zero percent” and a bottom levy of “$0.”  But because Obamacare is still on the books, some future Congress under Democrat control could easily raise the tax or penalty back to where it was, or even higher — and use reconciliation to do so!

Those who think Obamacare is bad law, bad economics, and grossly un-American won’t rest easy until the whole misbegotten mess is repealed (dashed to Hell, whence it came).  The snag in repealing the entire law is the soft hearts of some Republican senators who “don’t want to hurt anybody.”  That’s a fine and decent concern.  But there’s a simple solution to continuing with help for seriously ill Americans with “pre-existing conditions” currently getting Obamacare subsidies to buy private insurance: put them all in Medicaid.

The presence of these ill people in the tiny Non-Group market (the individual market) has caused premiums to soar, even reaching triple-digit increases.  It’s unfair for the smallest cohort to have all the sick, poor folks dumped into their pool.  By putting them into Medicaid, the costs can be shared by all Americans.

The individual mandate has been called the “linchpin” of Obamacare, but it really affects only the Non-Group market.  The Non-Group market could die (and it very well may), and the rest of Obamacare would continue.  We’d still have all the other taxes; the subsidy program; the expansion of Medicaid; the myriad demands on insurance companies to cover everything for everybody, regardless of what policyholders need.  Therefore, when some say the “repeal” of the mandate is really a repeal of Obamacare, they’re mistaken.

Perhaps the reason we haven’t heard a lot of caterwauling from the Dems about the “repeal” of the mandate is because the Non-Group market never was the primary focus of Obamacare.  Rather, the true aim of the ACA was to put a government imprimatur on an entire sector of the economy.  It was a fascistic power-grab.  The Non-Group market, only 4 percent in 2013, was just window dressing.  The real aim was all the new requirements on what health insurance policies must cover, the expansion of Medicaid, bringing “the several States” to heel, etc.

The entire “repeal” of the individual mandate takes up 77 words.  Because of that brevity, Republicans missed an opportunity, for they could have inserted some justification in it, perhaps even a little philosophy.  Compare PART VIII of the Trump Tax Cuts with Section 1501 in Obamacare on page 242 of the PDF (also see pages 907-910 for amendments to 1501).  This is where we find the Democrats’ justification for their “requirement to maintain minimum essential coverage,” aka the “individual mandate.”

Throughout Section 1501, we’re treated to the Democrats’ reasoning for requiring Americans to buy health insurance.  It rests on the authority of Congress to regulate interstate commerce under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause.  The thing is, their justification was overridden by the Supreme Court in NFIB v. Sebelius.  So it would have been terrific if the “repeal” had included some justification and had echoed the dicta in NFIB that the Commerce Clause does not give Congress the authority to command Americans to buy stuff.

Republicans need to recognize that come 2019, their “repeal” of the mandate is going to seriously affect the Non-Group market.  If healthy young folks exit the Non-Group risk pool due to their new freedom, insurance premiums for those who remain in the pool should soar even higher.  Does the GOP want to get blamed for the further destruction of the Non-Group market?

Also, because Democrats can so easily undo the “repeal” of the mandate, Republicans need to be thinking about making it invulnerable.  The way to do that is to repeal the ACA in its entirety and replace it with something better.  Democrats will not help Republicans do this, even if the health care system were roiling.  That means Senate Republicans need to be prepared to end the filibuster.

With the Trump Tax Cuts, Majority Leader McConnell and GOP senators may have thought they were out of the woods and wouldn’t need to again consider ending the legislative filibuster.  But how likely is it that Chuck and Nancy will allow their caucus to cooperate on any big bills this year?  I’d guess not very.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer and analyst from Kansas City. 

The new tax bill is now law; it’s on the books; it’s an addition to the U.S. Code.  But unfortunately, the new law doesn’t have a very catchy title.  Its original title was the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017,” which is most excellent.  However, due to punctilios in the Senate, the name had to be changed, and in the rush to get the thing passed, congressmen settled on “An Act to provide for reconciliation pursuant to titles II and V of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2018.”  That’s not so catchy.  I don’t know if it can be retitled, but because titles matter, I’d wager that the new law will simply be called the “Trump Tax Cuts.”

Conservatives should be relieved that Republicans in Congress finally passed a big piece of legislation.  We were beginning to think they were incapable of coming together.

One of the pleasant surprises in the new law is the so-called “repeal” of Obamacare’s individual mandate.  But inasmuch as Obamacare is still “on the books,” just how did Republicans accomplish this repeal?

Okay, let’s look at the law.  One place to find the text of the Trump Tax Cuts is at congress.gov.  The copy there has hyperlinks, and in the section on the mandate, there is a single link, on “Section 5000A(c).”  But it doesn’t seem to have page numbers to navigate with, unlike the copy at the Government Publishing Office.  On page 101 of the PDF at the GPO, we come to PART VIII, which deals with the mandate, and it spans two pages.  Because I’m a nice guy, I’ve spliced together two screen grabs from the GPO copy for your convenience:

You can scour the rest of the text, but I don’t think you’ll find any other mentions of the individual mandate.  Notice at the bottom that the effective date is after this year, so folks still need to have health insurance in 2018 or pay the penalty.

The method by which the mandate was repealed is interesting: they merely zeroed out the penalty for noncompliance.  In the ACA, it’s called a penalty, but the Supreme Court ruled it a tax.  So the “tax” now has a rate of “zero percent” and a bottom levy of “$0.”  But because Obamacare is still on the books, some future Congress under Democrat control could easily raise the tax or penalty back to where it was, or even higher — and use reconciliation to do so!

Those who think Obamacare is bad law, bad economics, and grossly un-American won’t rest easy until the whole misbegotten mess is repealed (dashed to Hell, whence it came).  The snag in repealing the entire law is the soft hearts of some Republican senators who “don’t want to hurt anybody.”  That’s a fine and decent concern.  But there’s a simple solution to continuing with help for seriously ill Americans with “pre-existing conditions” currently getting Obamacare subsidies to buy private insurance: put them all in Medicaid.

The presence of these ill people in the tiny Non-Group market (the individual market) has caused premiums to soar, even reaching triple-digit increases.  It’s unfair for the smallest cohort to have all the sick, poor folks dumped into their pool.  By putting them into Medicaid, the costs can be shared by all Americans.

The individual mandate has been called the “linchpin” of Obamacare, but it really affects only the Non-Group market.  The Non-Group market could die (and it very well may), and the rest of Obamacare would continue.  We’d still have all the other taxes; the subsidy program; the expansion of Medicaid; the myriad demands on insurance companies to cover everything for everybody, regardless of what policyholders need.  Therefore, when some say the “repeal” of the mandate is really a repeal of Obamacare, they’re mistaken.

Perhaps the reason we haven’t heard a lot of caterwauling from the Dems about the “repeal” of the mandate is because the Non-Group market never was the primary focus of Obamacare.  Rather, the true aim of the ACA was to put a government imprimatur on an entire sector of the economy.  It was a fascistic power-grab.  The Non-Group market, only 4 percent in 2013, was just window dressing.  The real aim was all the new requirements on what health insurance policies must cover, the expansion of Medicaid, bringing “the several States” to heel, etc.

The entire “repeal” of the individual mandate takes up 77 words.  Because of that brevity, Republicans missed an opportunity, for they could have inserted some justification in it, perhaps even a little philosophy.  Compare PART VIII of the Trump Tax Cuts with Section 1501 in Obamacare on page 242 of the PDF (also see pages 907-910 for amendments to 1501).  This is where we find the Democrats’ justification for their “requirement to maintain minimum essential coverage,” aka the “individual mandate.”

Throughout Section 1501, we’re treated to the Democrats’ reasoning for requiring Americans to buy health insurance.  It rests on the authority of Congress to regulate interstate commerce under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause.  The thing is, their justification was overridden by the Supreme Court in NFIB v. Sebelius.  So it would have been terrific if the “repeal” had included some justification and had echoed the dicta in NFIB that the Commerce Clause does not give Congress the authority to command Americans to buy stuff.

Republicans need to recognize that come 2019, their “repeal” of the mandate is going to seriously affect the Non-Group market.  If healthy young folks exit the Non-Group risk pool due to their new freedom, insurance premiums for those who remain in the pool should soar even higher.  Does the GOP want to get blamed for the further destruction of the Non-Group market?

Also, because Democrats can so easily undo the “repeal” of the mandate, Republicans need to be thinking about making it invulnerable.  The way to do that is to repeal the ACA in its entirety and replace it with something better.  Democrats will not help Republicans do this, even if the health care system were roiling.  That means Senate Republicans need to be prepared to end the filibuster.

With the Trump Tax Cuts, Majority Leader McConnell and GOP senators may have thought they were out of the woods and wouldn’t need to again consider ending the legislative filibuster.  But how likely is it that Chuck and Nancy will allow their caucus to cooperate on any big bills this year?  I’d guess not very.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer and analyst from Kansas City. 



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Unless Changed, the Tax Bill Should Die


Since the financial crisis of 2008, the federal government has been borrowing and spending money like there’s no tomorrow. In November, I reported about the new rollover regime we just entered, in which the feds will be refinancing the debt run up during the Obama era. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but the $8.388T debt the feds will be rolling over in the four years that started on Oct. 1, 2017 is more than the debt incurred during the eight years of Obama, which was $8.096T, (that’s the Public Debt from Jan. 20, 2009 to Jan. 20, 2017). So, we must redeem the Obama era debt in half the time it took to run it up!

A single $1T deficit in fiscal 2009 during the crisis might be acceptable, even warranted, but four trillion-dollar deficits in a row are unforgiveable. Those four deficits were so large that despite lower deficits in his second term, they gave Obama an average deficit of more than $1T a year for his eight years. The Public Debt, which is the real debt, went from $6.3T to $14.4T while Obama was in office. What did we get for all that debt and all that spending?

For years after the financial crisis the federal government and the Federal Reserve took extraordinary actions. What money the feds didn’t borrow, the Fed created, “out of thin air” as they say, through QE, “quantitative easing.” The Fed is now poised for a drawdown of its $4.5T balance sheet, and has already changed ZIRP, its “zero interest-rate policy,” slowly raising its funds rate. Now, add to all this the new tax bills under consideration that will cut revenue and raise deficits and we have uncertainty. Markets don’t like uncertainty.

Having looked at the House and Senate tax bills, there’s not much to like in them. It would be better to have no new tax legislation than this. And I write that having advocated tax reform for years. But there’s no real reform in these tax bills, and they raise the deficit at the worst time, (see above). As a Republican voter, I hate to write those lines, it pains me, but in their major legislative efforts this year the GOP Congress has been disappointing. They need to fix that soon.

The tax bill needs to be revenue-neutral; the feds need to be taking in at least as much money in the first year of its implementation as in the previous year. One reason for this is that Congress doesn’t seem to be able to cut spending. Also, in certain areas, like Defense, Congress needs to spend more than it has been. For example, there’s been a lot of news lately about our military readiness; some airplanes must be cannibalized to keep other planes operational.

One unacceptable change in both the House and Senate bills is the elimination of the AMT, the Alternative Minimum Tax. The AMT was instituted to ensure that earners with hefty incomes pay at least some income tax; it was a check against the excesses of Congress in their creation of exemptions, write-offs, and preferences like the “carried interest” loophole. Guess we’re headed back to the good ole days when some high-income earners paid no income tax.

One of the more daft things about fiscal legislation is the 10-year projections that lawmakers make. They need to stop that. Congress cannot bind a future Congress. If Dems get control of everything again, they’ll be able to dash the GOP’s tax law to smithereens, and they’ll end the legislative filibuster to do it. Dems will undo the GOP’s handiwork, and taxes in America will continue to be “a disgrace to the human race.”

What Republicans should be doing is forging a tax law that is so efficient, so sane, so just, so simple, and so popular that Democrats would be afraid to tinker with it. But that’s not what the GOP Congress is doing; they’re just rejiggering the same rickety mess, looking for “pay-fors” to offset rate cuts. There’s very little creativity in these tax bills, and at a time when creativity is sorely needed.

The big disappointment with the two tax reform bills is that the more important reform is being held hostage to the less important one. That is, corporate income tax reform has been yoked to personal income tax reform. Republicans are even selling their bill as a “middle-class tax cut,” when most middle-income Americans already have very low effective rates. They’re even telling personal income taxpayers that they’ll be able to file their taxes on a postcard, (presumably so others can see what their incomes are).

Since Congress isn’t likely to come up with sensible personal income tax reform before the end of the year, they should focus on just the corporate income tax, which is the tax that economists think is the bigger drag on the economy.

Some Republican members of Congress are saying that the GOP must pass tax reform or they’re toast in next year’s midterm elections. If they pass anything like the two bills before us, the opposite may actually be the case. In “The GOP’s Tax Plan: Paving the Way to a Democratic Majority” at The Corner, Andrew Stuttaford writes: “Even if we forget about their impact on the deficit (and we shouldn’t), the Republican tax plans have been characterized by extraordinarily sloppy thinking.” He then details proposed changes to formerly untouchable tax expenditures that the GOP had best rethink.

Republicans members of Congress need to pull back from the brink. What they ought to do in the waning hours of 2017 is repeal not only ObamaCare’s individual mandate, which the Senate bill proposes, but the employer mandate as well. And that needs to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018. They should then tell Americans that those repeals are actually tax cuts, which would be true. And then GOP members should set the corporate income tax rate to 30 percent. That also needs to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.

Although modest, the above changes would give GOP members of Congress a measure of credibility — they will have delivered some tax relief and partially made good on their promise to repeal Obamacare. That credibility would allow congressional Republicans to then proclaim that they intend to make additional changes to the tax system in 2018, which might be made retroactive to Jan. 1. Among the changes should be real simplification, especially for business, so that the cost of compliance can be cut.

Considering their historic victories last November, congressional Republicans seem intent on giving a bright new meaning to “screw the pooch.” However, there’s still enough time in what remains of 2017 for them to redeem themselves and demonstrate that they do have the “right stuff” after all.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 

Since the financial crisis of 2008, the federal government has been borrowing and spending money like there’s no tomorrow. In November, I reported about the new rollover regime we just entered, in which the feds will be refinancing the debt run up during the Obama era. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but the $8.388T debt the feds will be rolling over in the four years that started on Oct. 1, 2017 is more than the debt incurred during the eight years of Obama, which was $8.096T, (that’s the Public Debt from Jan. 20, 2009 to Jan. 20, 2017). So, we must redeem the Obama era debt in half the time it took to run it up!

A single $1T deficit in fiscal 2009 during the crisis might be acceptable, even warranted, but four trillion-dollar deficits in a row are unforgiveable. Those four deficits were so large that despite lower deficits in his second term, they gave Obama an average deficit of more than $1T a year for his eight years. The Public Debt, which is the real debt, went from $6.3T to $14.4T while Obama was in office. What did we get for all that debt and all that spending?

For years after the financial crisis the federal government and the Federal Reserve took extraordinary actions. What money the feds didn’t borrow, the Fed created, “out of thin air” as they say, through QE, “quantitative easing.” The Fed is now poised for a drawdown of its $4.5T balance sheet, and has already changed ZIRP, its “zero interest-rate policy,” slowly raising its funds rate. Now, add to all this the new tax bills under consideration that will cut revenue and raise deficits and we have uncertainty. Markets don’t like uncertainty.

Having looked at the House and Senate tax bills, there’s not much to like in them. It would be better to have no new tax legislation than this. And I write that having advocated tax reform for years. But there’s no real reform in these tax bills, and they raise the deficit at the worst time, (see above). As a Republican voter, I hate to write those lines, it pains me, but in their major legislative efforts this year the GOP Congress has been disappointing. They need to fix that soon.

The tax bill needs to be revenue-neutral; the feds need to be taking in at least as much money in the first year of its implementation as in the previous year. One reason for this is that Congress doesn’t seem to be able to cut spending. Also, in certain areas, like Defense, Congress needs to spend more than it has been. For example, there’s been a lot of news lately about our military readiness; some airplanes must be cannibalized to keep other planes operational.

One unacceptable change in both the House and Senate bills is the elimination of the AMT, the Alternative Minimum Tax. The AMT was instituted to ensure that earners with hefty incomes pay at least some income tax; it was a check against the excesses of Congress in their creation of exemptions, write-offs, and preferences like the “carried interest” loophole. Guess we’re headed back to the good ole days when some high-income earners paid no income tax.

One of the more daft things about fiscal legislation is the 10-year projections that lawmakers make. They need to stop that. Congress cannot bind a future Congress. If Dems get control of everything again, they’ll be able to dash the GOP’s tax law to smithereens, and they’ll end the legislative filibuster to do it. Dems will undo the GOP’s handiwork, and taxes in America will continue to be “a disgrace to the human race.”

What Republicans should be doing is forging a tax law that is so efficient, so sane, so just, so simple, and so popular that Democrats would be afraid to tinker with it. But that’s not what the GOP Congress is doing; they’re just rejiggering the same rickety mess, looking for “pay-fors” to offset rate cuts. There’s very little creativity in these tax bills, and at a time when creativity is sorely needed.

The big disappointment with the two tax reform bills is that the more important reform is being held hostage to the less important one. That is, corporate income tax reform has been yoked to personal income tax reform. Republicans are even selling their bill as a “middle-class tax cut,” when most middle-income Americans already have very low effective rates. They’re even telling personal income taxpayers that they’ll be able to file their taxes on a postcard, (presumably so others can see what their incomes are).

Since Congress isn’t likely to come up with sensible personal income tax reform before the end of the year, they should focus on just the corporate income tax, which is the tax that economists think is the bigger drag on the economy.

Some Republican members of Congress are saying that the GOP must pass tax reform or they’re toast in next year’s midterm elections. If they pass anything like the two bills before us, the opposite may actually be the case. In “The GOP’s Tax Plan: Paving the Way to a Democratic Majority” at The Corner, Andrew Stuttaford writes: “Even if we forget about their impact on the deficit (and we shouldn’t), the Republican tax plans have been characterized by extraordinarily sloppy thinking.” He then details proposed changes to formerly untouchable tax expenditures that the GOP had best rethink.

Republicans members of Congress need to pull back from the brink. What they ought to do in the waning hours of 2017 is repeal not only ObamaCare’s individual mandate, which the Senate bill proposes, but the employer mandate as well. And that needs to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018. They should then tell Americans that those repeals are actually tax cuts, which would be true. And then GOP members should set the corporate income tax rate to 30 percent. That also needs to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.

Although modest, the above changes would give GOP members of Congress a measure of credibility — they will have delivered some tax relief and partially made good on their promise to repeal Obamacare. That credibility would allow congressional Republicans to then proclaim that they intend to make additional changes to the tax system in 2018, which might be made retroactive to Jan. 1. Among the changes should be real simplification, especially for business, so that the cost of compliance can be cut.

Considering their historic victories last November, congressional Republicans seem intent on giving a bright new meaning to “screw the pooch.” However, there’s still enough time in what remains of 2017 for them to redeem themselves and demonstrate that they do have the “right stuff” after all.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 



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