The SALT Fight Is Coming To a Head

In April, this column reported on the great SALT controversy and how it impacts California taxpayers. SALT stands for “state and local taxes,” and for many years prior to President Trump’s term in office, taxpayers could deduct those taxes from their federal tax returns without limitation. But in 2017, Congress enacted Trump’s tax reform, which limited the amount of state and local taxes that taxpayers could deduct up to $10,000. Whether limiting the SALT deduction is good or bad tax policy is not nearly as interesting as the politics behind it.

The adoption of the limitation by the Republican-led Congress was broadly perceived as a big middle finger to high-tax states such as California. Whether a pretext or not, states with modest income tax rates, or no income tax at all, complained that their residents were essentially subsidizing residents of profligate, big-spending states.

But moderate- to high-income taxpayers in California and other high tax states lost a valuable deduction on their federal returns. Suddenly they felt the full pain of high state income tax rates and property taxes. Frantic state politicians began plans to lessen that pain. For example, immediately after passage of the tax reform law, California floated the idea of a semi-voluntary “charitable deduction” scheme to give high-wealth Californians some relief. It would have created a “charitable” fund within the general fund so high-earning taxpayers could claim a deduction for “donating” the equivalent of what they owed in state taxes. But the IRS, in an opinion letter, quickly shot down that idea.

More successful was a method adopted by many states to provide relief for certain “qualified entities,” consisting mostly of small businesses organized as partnerships, LLCs or S corporations. While Gov. Gavin Newsom signed California’s workaround embodied in Assembly Bill 150, it provided little relief for citizen taxpayers.

Click here to read the full article at the Pasadena Star News

Government Regulation of Social Media Won’t Protect Free Speech

Sen. Amy Klobuchar wants to put HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, the former California attorney general with a reputation for being a partisan hack, in charge of “health disinformation” online.

Is it me or does the Facebook whistleblower’s “bombshell” revelations seem like much ado about very little? The company’s former product manager, Frances Haugen, has given the Securities and Exchange Commission and The Wall Street Journal thousands of internal documents that say more about the state of American culture than they do about the social-media company.

“No one at Facebook is malevolent, but the incentives are misaligned, right?” Haugen told CBS News. “Like, Facebook makes more money when you consume more content. People enjoy engaging with things that elicit an emotional reaction. And the more anger that they get exposed to, the more they interact and the more they consume.”

If that’s the issue, then one can just as easily blame newspapers, TV news shows, talk radio, and political parties—all of which benefit by stirring the pot. For some reason, people prefer conflict to happy thoughts about puppies (although there are plenty of those posted on Facebook). Do we blame the medium or the human condition?

Haugen shared an internal Facebook survey showing that Instagram increases thoughts of suicide and worsens eating disorders among teens. I would never minimize the tribulations of being a teenager, but Haugen seems woefully naive. Young girls have always compared themselves to the photos of fashion models in magazines. Teens were vicious to one another long before Instagram.

Again, do we blame social media or something deeper? The same goes for commenters who post incendiary information on their Facebook pages. These are platforms, which people use for good or ill. This nonsense reminds me of liberal politicians who blame video games for gun violence and conservative politicians who blame Hollywood movies for an erosion of the nation’s morals.

It’s time to grow up. The problem with the latest hysteria: A rash of new rules and regulations will certainly follow. As The Wall Street Journal noted, Haugen’s testimony before Congress “builds momentum for tougher tech laws.” Of course it does, and conservatives—who will be on the receiving end of whatever passes—will only have themselves to blame.

“(T)he time is ripe for the regime and the digital medium to face a long-overdue just comeuppance,” wrote Josh Hammer in The American Mind, in a typical conservative diatribe against tech firms. Hammer calls for Congress to “rein in the ‘Mountain View-Menlo Park nexus of woke leftist corporatism…lest technocracy vanquish democracy anew.'”

Click here to read the rest of the article on Reason.com

Democrats consider attacking their own California candidates to win back Congress


The filing deadline for California’s June primary has passed, but Democrats and their affiliated groups aren’t done trying to shape the field of candidates running to unseat Republican members of Congress.

Facing the risk that the party could get shut out of the general election race for one or more competitive Republican-held seats, liberal groups formed to attack Republicans now say they are at least considering spending money to support particular Democratic candidates in the primaries. National Democratic officials say all options are on the table in the lead-up to June – including launching negative attacks on members of their own party, a tactic that stirred controversy in the Texas primary.

Democrats’ efforts in California could determine whether the party wins back control of the House of Representatives this fall.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton won seven Republican-held congressional districts in the state 2016, which has raised hopes that Democrats could win seats in traditional GOP strongholds like Orange County and the Central Valley in 2018. Six of the seven Clinton-won districts now have four or more Democratic candidates bidding for the seat. That’s prompted spirited, and sometimes downright nasty, Democrat-versus-Democrat campaigning. …

Click here to read the full article from the Sacramento Bee

Ed Royce, longtime Orange County congressman, announces retirement


Longtime Orange County congressman Ed Royce, chairman of the high-profile Foreign Affairs Committee, announced Monday that he will retire when his current term is completed at the end of the year.

The conservative Republican, 66, has repeatedly won reelection by broad margins but has seen the GOP advantage in his district slip to less than 2-percentages. And since Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in his district in the 2016 election, Royce has drawn six Democratic challengers.

While he said Monday that his polling shows he’d win reelection, the task would require considerable time on the campaign trail and away from Washington.

Royce, who is required by Republican protocol to step down from his committee chairmanship after 2018 because of a 6-year limit, said he plans to focus his last year entirely on his committee work. …

Click here to read the full article from the Orange County Register

A quick look at some of the biggest tax changes for Californians

Congressional Republicans are framing their tax cut bill as a Christmas gift that will give Americans an average tax cut of $2,059. For Californians, especially in the wealthier areas along the coast, the situation isn’t as clear cut.

When the measure comes up for a vote in the House on Tuesday morning, it’s expected to pass along party lines. At least two Republicans say they will join Democrats in the California delegation to oppose the plan because they fear it will hurt their constituents’ bottom line.

Here’s a quick look at what some of the biggest changes in the tax bill might mean for average Californians.

State and local tax deduction, standard deduction and new tax brackets

A third of California taxpayers take an average state and local tax deduction of $22,000. But the GOP bill will cap the deduction going forward to $10,000.

For many Californians who deduct their state and local taxes on their federal return, this would amount to a tax hike. …

Click here to read the full article from the Los Angeles Times

At What Point Will We Say Politics Is Out of Control?


It’s no secret people are not excited over President Trump, and tensions are high among supporters and dissidents alike about the current situation in Washington. Debates over the health care bill (in every iteration), social issues and gun rights have lost all logical merit, and we are starting to see similar tendencies in state governments, who are clinging to as much agency as possible in these interesting times.

But now we’ve reached the point of violence; violence that could have been prevented with less partisanship and better discourse. Political gamesmanship has gotten out of control, for both politicians and fervent supporters. This seems to be a known fact, but when we will finally accept it? When will we finally accept politics are out of control?

Politics Over Policy, Party Over Country

How many representatives vote against their own party? Outside of Democrats in more conservative districts and Republicans fearing backlash in districts without a strong base, barely any, and when someone does break ranks, it is for sure-to-pass bills or when the risk of a scandal is just too high. While political parties were formed in part to organize ideas and provide a united front to defend them (much to the chagrin of some of the founding fathers), the fact that representatives have little individual voice is concerning, most of all to constituents from districts that stand to be most affected by legislation.

Is party loyalty not turning into a great cost to America? What bipartisan efforts have we seen coming from Congress? The only things of note this writer could find were a mental health bill passed last year and a budget that’s necessary for the government to run in the first place. Business as usual has become no business at all, and conservative ideas won’t fly if they come from a liberal, and vice versa. Policy has become about the person, not the benefit to society.

Legal Corruption and Rigging the Game

Gerrymandering is doing nothing to improve democracy, both at the state level and federally. It encourages pandering exclusively to a party base, silencing moderate and centrist voices that keep radicals out of office and limit partisanship.

On top of that, the concept of a judge as a political appointment has escalated, with court appointments and resignations playing out like a chess board, and some appointment periods growing far longer than the constitution intended. These types of actions extend beyond terms and are clear efforts to entrench policy and power. It removes the American people’s ability to react to changes and political gestures.

People Are Afraid

People are doing everything they can to stay safe from real and perceived threats, but without organization or an acknowledgment of reality, what can they do? They can stay private from snooping and attempt to make an impact on the local level, but there is an entrenched attitude in Washington that is toxic and is only spreading fear.

Now people are afraid of their own government, with some talking of it as a police state or a country ruled by a tyrant. The narrative being spun by both sides of the media is that we’re headed towards disaster and that every action is taking us one step closer. It seems like we’ve been in a constant state of disaster or emergency for the last 15 years. People have either acclimated and stopped caring, which is bad if there’s a real disaster, or have lived in a state of panic, which makes them easily controlled.

Is it time to say enough’s enough?

There is a growing trend in this country towards the irrational and towards an utter breakdown of political discourse. Some people (likely justifiably) think that politics is completely out of control and that America needs to focus its efforts on finding a new, healthier political norm. Yet that isn’t going to happen until the voting public comes together and makes their voice heard at every level.

What do you plan on doing to raise the standard? Do you think that the current political situation is out of control? Please leave a comment below and tell us your thoughts.

Sandra is a writer and blogger who focuses on political topics and technological issues. Having lived in California for several years, she is seeing more division than ever within the state’s borders.

Democrats Talk Openly About Challenging Nancy Pelosi’s Leadership


Nancy-Pelois-denied-CommunionHouse Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is facing unprecedented pressure, as frustrated Democrats have begun — for the first time in seven years — to talk about replacing her after a series of disappointments at the ballot box.

Pelosi was hailed as a driving force behind Democrats’ victory in 2006, when the party seized both houses of Congress and set the stage for victory in the 2008 presidential election. She became the first female Speaker of the House, and set about centralizing power in the Speaker’s office, ruling her caucus with unquestioned authority and promoting an unapologetically liberal agenda.

However, Pelosi’s role in the Obamacare debacle of 2009-10 helped provoke the Tea Party wave, sending her party to historic defeat and costing her the Speaker’s gavel. Amazingly, Pelosi did not resign at that point, and dispatched several would-be challengers, most notably Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC), who later lost his seat to a Republican. She also fended off a challenge by Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) after 2016. Pelosi has been a prolific fundraiser for the party, even if she has also become a lightning rod for criticism and a useful political foil for Republicans to run against.

Ironically, Pelosi’s power within her caucus only grew as the Democrats lost seats, because most of the losses were in conservative swing districts. That left a core of liberal representatives from major cities, and blue states such as New York, Illinois, and Pelosi’s home state of California. There has been no political constituency in the caucus for an ideological alternative to the left-wing agenda that Pelosi and her coterie have continued to push even in defeat.

The high expectations that Pelosi set for Tuesday’s special election in Georgia may prove to be her undoing. Early in the week, with Jon Ossoff expected to win, Pelosi let it be known that she expected to take back the Speaker’s gavel after 2018. But Republican Karen Handel surged to victory, partly by tying her opponent to Pelosi.

As reality hit home, some Democrats began to break the taboo around challenging their leader. MSNBC analyst Matthew A. Miller tweeted: “No Dem wants to say it publicly, but taking their top bogeyman Pelosi off the table would help too. Fair or not, it’s the truth.”

Now, other critics are beginning to emerge.

“It’s time for some change. I think it’s time for a new generation of leadership,” said Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA). And Rep Filemon Vela (D-TX) told Politico: “I think you’d have to be an idiot to think we could win the House with Pelosi at the top … Nancy Pelosi is not the only reason that Ossoff lost. But she certainly is one of the reasons.”

But Pelosi also has her defenders — and she will not go easily.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

This piece was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

California members of Congressional baseball team check in safe after shooting


As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle:

California lawmakers began offering support Wednesday morning after Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), and several other people who were shot during a congressional baseball practice in Virginia.

Eight California lawmakers are listed on the roster for the 2017 game, and several went on social media to check in safe and condemn the shooting. The lone Republican player was not near the scene, according to local TV reports.  Democratic representatives, including Jared Huffman and Eric Swallwell of the Bay Area, used social media to share prayers for those injured and to credit Capitol Police for their quick response to the shooting.

The House has sharply curtailed its business Wednesday following the shooting.

A message from the GOP leadership says no votes are expected in the House Wednesday. Members also won’t be allowed to make short speeches during what’s known as the morning hour. …

Click here to read the full article

In Speech to Congress, Donald Trump Calls to ‘Restart the Engine’ of U.S. Economy


US Vice President Mike Pence (L) and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R) applaud as US President Donald J. Trump (C) arrives to deliver his first address to a joint session of Congress from the floor of the House of Representatives in Washington, DC, USA, 28 February 2017. / AFP / POOL / JIM LO SCALZO (Photo credit should read JIM LO SCALZO/AFP/Getty Images)

As reported by Fox News:

President Trump declared Tuesday that a “new chapter of American greatness is now beginning” as he made economic revival the centerpiece of his first address to Congress – issuing a clarion call to “restart the engine of the American economy” through tax cuts, better trade deals, immigration enforcement and a $1 trillion infrastructure program.

He also called on Congress to replace what he called the “imploding ObamaCare disaster” with legislation that lowers costs and expands access, an ambitious goal for GOP lawmakers still trying to come together on a plan.

The president outlined his agenda in an address to a joint session of Congress that lasted roughly an hour and focused largely on priorities at home, more than abroad. He offered a decidedly upbeat vision for the future of the country that stood in contrast to his at-times foreboding inauguration address.

“Everything that is broken in our country can be fixed. Every problem can be solved. And every hurting family can find healing, and hope,” Trump said, urging lawmakers to “join forces” to deliver.

Trump for the most part traded the contentious and punchy tone of the last few weeks for loftier – some might say more presidential – rhetoric. Declaring “the time for small thinking is over,” Trump appealed to the country to “believe, once more, in America.”

“A new chapter of American greatness is now beginning. A new national pride is sweeping across our nation,” he said. “And a new surge of optimism is placing impossible dreams firmly within our grasp.”

He described his address as a “message of unity and strength.”

The generally well-received speech could mark an opportunity for Trump to reset his young presidency after a rocky start in which clashes with the media and staffing controversies at times overshadowed action on the jobs front.

In perhaps the most memorable moment of the night, the audience broke out into extended applause as Trump introduced the widow of William “Ryan” Owens, the Navy SEAL killed in a raid in Yemen last month. Carryn Owens sobbed as lawmakers gave her a standing ovation and Trump said the raid he participated in yielded vital intelligence. His “legacy is etched into eternity,” Trump said.

In between the more dramatic moments were a host of policy prescriptions that could have a big impact on discussions in Congress.

Trump called for a “national rebuilding,” urging Congress to pass legislation that produces a $1 trillion public-private investment in infrastructure. …

Speaking to a key campaign promise that has yet to be realized, he said his team is developing “historic tax reform that will reduce the tax rate on our companies so they can compete and thrive anywhere and with anyone.” He vowed a “big, big cut” including “massive tax relief for the middle class.”

And he urged Congress to replace ObamaCare “with reforms that expand choice, increase access, lower costs, and at the same time, provide better health care.”

He outlined “principles” to guide negotiations, including …

Click here to read the full story

California water bill has three possible paths for passage


As reported by The News Tribune:

House Republicans this week are adding a controversial California water bill to an unrelated Senate energy package, opening a new front in a fight that’s already put Democrats on the defensive.

The unexpected energy bill maneuver gives San Joaquin Valley lawmakers a third vehicle they might propel all the way to the White House. At the least, it builds up steam for the GOP drive to boost California water storage and divert more irrigation deliveries to Valley farms.

“Farmers, families and entire communities are suffering, and unnecessarily so,” Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, Calif., said Monday.

On Tuesday, the leadership-controlled House Rules Committee is scheduled to pack the California water bill and about three dozen other bills onto the Senate energy legislation. The full House will then take up the massive package, spanning more than 1,000 pages, later this week. …