California Voters Could Be Asked To Impose An Estate Tax

property taxCalifornia voters would consider a state-mandated tax on the assets of wealthy residents, one that could generate as much as $1 billion a year for low-income families, under legislation introduced in the state Legislature on Tuesday.

The bill would ask voters next year to impose an estate tax of a size equal to what was loosened in 2017 by President Trump and Republicans in Congress as part of a broad tax overhaul law. The goal, said the proposal’s author, is to create an overall tax burden for wealthy Californians equal to what existed before the federal tax break was created.

Under Senate Bill 378, the revenues from the tax would be earmarked for programs designed to combat income inequality.

“A California estate tax benefits low-income families by helping them build wealth and end the cycle of intergenerational poverty,” state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) said in a written statement. …

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

The Vast Attempt to Undo the 2016 Election Has Failed

Robert MuellerWell, I am going to miss the full-bore SWAT-team raids at dawn against aging political factota like Roger Stone and Paul Manafort. It was really very courteous of CNN to have been parked outside the homes of those hapless victims so that television audiences all across the country could all be edified by these exhibitions of the coercive arm of state power in action. Mr. Mueller could just have had one of his 17 Obama-and-Hillary supporting prosecutors ring up the latest mark and ask him to pop down to headquarters. But that would not have been as dramatic, as expensive, or as cruel.

All good things come to an end, however, and yesterday, after 674 days, the investigation of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, G-Man extraordinaire, finally came to an end when he filed his long-awaited report with the Attorney General, William Barr.

As for what’s in the report, I know exactly as much as you, Rachel Maddow, Jim Acosta, Anderson Cooper, and their brethren in the Fourth Estate, that is, nothing at all.

Nor is it at all certain that we will ever know all that much that’s in the report. Since the law prohibits the dissemination of potentially damaging information about people who were investigated but not charged with a crime, there are bound to be large sections of the report that will remain forever under lock and key, especially now that James Comey and Andrew McCabe are not in the FBI to leak them.

All we really know at this point pertains not the the contents of the report per se but rather to the future action of the Special Counsel. There will be no more indictments.

How that announcement must have stung the NeverTrump fraternity. Here they were, huddled around Bill Kristol’s Twitter feed for the last two-plus years, praying, predicting, posturing that very soon now, any day in fact, Robert Mueller would descend into their midst, the deus ex machina through whose instrumentality they were to be delivered at long last from the nightmare of Donald Trump and his unacceptable record of robust economic growth, hundreds of constitutionally-minded judicial appointments, rising wages, historically low unemployment, a more rational and business-friendly regulatory environment, deeper ties with Israel, a revitalized military, and serious attention to our immigration crisis and the growing threat of an increasing militant China. Yes, it’s been a bad couple of years for the NeverTrumpers.

And even though Robert Mueller has hung up his spurs, their travails are not yet at an end. Mr Mueller indicted a slew of individuals and three Russian companies. He extracted seven guilty pleas from various people close, or formerly close, to President Trump, from the shyster Michael Cohen, at one time Trump’s personal lawyer, to Michael Flynn, briefly the president’s National Security Adviser before he was set up by the FBI and ruined financially by the-process-is-the-punishment legal fees.

The really splendid thing about Mueller’s indictments, though, is that not one of them pertains to the ostensible subject of his investigation, to wit: possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians to steal the 2016 election.

The question is, however, what comes next? Last May in these virtual pages, writing about the efforts of Devin Nunes, then Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, to get to the bottom of the skullduggery that instigated the Mueller investigation, I wrote that

‘What is being exposed is the biggest political scandal in the history of the United States: the effort by highly placed — exactly how highly placed we still do not know — members of one administration to mobilize the intelligence services and police power of the state to spy upon and destroy first the candidacy and then, when that didn’t work, the administration of a political rival.’

John Brennan, James Clapper, James Comey, Sally Yates, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, John McCain, Christopher Steele, Glenn Simpson, and others did their best to undo the results of the 2016 election. The Mueller investigation was their not-so-secret weapon upon which vast hopes rested.

It has, unfortunately for them, been increasingly clear for some time that Robert Mueller was coming up empty-handed, at least on the main task, which was to unseat the President. Hence the newly energized efforts by Rep. Jerrold Nadler and others to construct an ‘insurance policy’ in the form of impeachable offenses that might be brought against the president should, horrible dictu, Robert Mueller’s efforts at decapitation fail. As I wrote here a few weeks ago, ‘no one not named Bill Kristol now thinks that Mueller’s expensive, long-running entertainment will issue in any actionable charges against the president.’ Nevertheless, Nadler and his colleagues have opened a sweeping corruption probe in a desperate search for compromising tidbits from Donald Trump’s past business dealings that could plausibly form the basis for articles of impeachment.

It’s a fool’s errand. That chapter is closed. There may be a few backwards glances as the story moves forward, but moving forward it is, and not in a direction that the NeverTrump fraternity and the anti-Trump coven in the media and the government will like. Here we are just a day after Mueller pushed his report over the transom at Main Justice and we’re getting headlines like this: ‘As Russia collusion fades, Ukrainian plot to help Clinton emerges.” That story begins:

‘We now have strong evidence that retired British spy Christopher Steele began his quest in what ultimately became the infamous Russia collusion dossier with a series of conversations with top Justice Department official Bruce Ohr between December 2015 and February 2016 about securing evidence against Manafort.

‘We know the FBI set up shop in the U.S. embassy in Kiev to assist its Ukraine–Manafort inquiry . . . while using Steele as an informant at the start of its Russia probe. And we know Clinton’s campaign was using a law firm to pay an opposition research firm for Steele’s work in an effort to stop Trump from winning the presidency, at the same time Steele was aiding the FBI.’

Uh oh. And there is a lot more where this came from.

Schadenfreude is an unlovely emotion, one it behooves us to renounce, especially in the midst of Lent. But I suspect we’ll be seeing a lot of it abroad in the coming weeks and months as the beady eyes of the FBI swivel away from Donald Trump onto those who have spent the last two and a half years trying to destroy him.

This article was originally published by The Spectator

California Gov. Newsom offers rare praise for Trump

Gavin Newsom budgetPresident Trump and California Gov. Gavin Newsom have been at odds long before the latter took office in Sacramento earlier this year – lambasting each other in speeches and on social media over issues ranging from immigration to high speed rail projects.

So it probably came as a shock to many when Newsom on Monday offered rare praise of a Trump administration policy that provides tax breaks to spur investment in low-income areas.

During a speech at Stanford University, Newsom said the Opportunity Zones program will not only help boost California’s already enormous economy, but would also help provide funds to deal with state’s housing crisis and would promote energy investment to help the state reach its climate change goals. …

Click here to read the full article from Fox News

Trump-picked judge confirmed to liberal 9th Circuit Court

CourtThe Senate on Tuesday confirmed President Trump’s nominee to be a judge on the liberal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in a party-line vote – and, in a historic snub, the White House ignored the input of the judge’s two Democratic home-state senators in the process.

The aggressive and unprecedented move to bypass the traditional “blue slip” consultation process and plow ahead with the confirmation comes as the Trump administration seeks to systematically erode left-wing dominance on the key appellate court, which Trump has called “disgraceful” and politically biased.

With a sprawling purview representing nine Western states, the appellate court has long been a thorn in the side of the Trump White House, with rulings against his travel ban policy and limits on funding to “sanctuary cities.” A lawsuit is currently pending before the 9th Circuit concerning Trump’s emergency declaration over border security — and Trump had sarcastically predicted that Democrats would purposefully file suit in the San Francisco-based appellate court to improve their odds. …

Click here to read the full article from Fox News

Legitimate Lawsuit Against Trump? Or Political Posturing?

donald-trump-2The big news last week was the lawsuit filed by California and 15 other states challenging President Trump’s declaration of an emergency related to border security and the building of a physical barrier on the southern border. The reaction was a great deal of political hyperventilating from both sides of the political spectrum.

So, after everyone has taken a breath, what should rational taxpayers think about this lawsuit and the dozens of other lawsuits filed by California against the Trump administration?

Let’s stipulate that there are times when litigation is appropriate between states and the federal government. The United States is a constitutional republic with a political structure based on federalism. Brilliantly, our founding fathers (with some intellectual help from our founding mothers, no doubt) devised a system of divided government. Not only was the federal power divided into three branches, but substantial political power was reserved to the states via the Tenth Amendment.

Controversies between the federal government and the states have been bitter and, when one considers the Civil War, they’ve been violent as well. Fortunately, modern disputes between the federal government and the states involve lawyers, not bullets.

To read the entire column, please click here.

Trump Administration Demands California Pay Back Over $2 Billion for Bullet Train

High Speed Rail FresnoThe Trump administration announced on Tuesday that it is exploring “every legal option” to reclaim $2.5 billion in federal funds spent by California on its now-defunct high-speed rail project, and also that it intends to cancel $928 million in federal grants not yet paid for the project to link Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.

The move was a dramatic escalation in the ongoing war of words and policy between California and the White House. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, declared during his State of the State address last week that he was shelving plans for the $77 billion rail project that had been championed by environmental groups, admitting that “as currently planned, [it] would cost too much and take too long.”

In response to the Trump administration’s legal threat Tuesday, Newsom vowed that he would not sit “idly by” as the White House engaged in what he called “political retribution” against California. …

Click here to read the full article from Fox News

Trump demands $3.5 billion back from ‘disaster’ high-speed rail project

donald-trump-2President Donald Trump is demanding California return billions of dollars to the federal government following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to scale down the state’s costly high-speed rail project.

In a tweet on Wednesday, Trump called the project a “’green disaster.’”

California has been forced to cancel the massive bullet train project after having spent and wasted many billions of dollars,” Trump added. “They owe the Federal Government three and a half billion dollars. We want that money back now.”

Newsom at his State of the State Address on Tuesday put the brakes on the $77 billion high speed project, an endeavor that voters authorized at the ballot box in 2008 with a plan to connect Los Angeles to San Francisco. …

Click here to read the full article from the Mercury News

Trump threatens to permanently close border if needed

donald-trump-2President Donald Trump is seizing on an attempt by 500 migrants to rush the southern border to use immigration as an issue to bolster his presidency at a critical political moment.

Trump spent weeks ahead of the midterm elections warning that the United States was about to experience an invasion from a migrant caravan trekking north across Mexico, and sent troops to the border in what critics branded a political stunt.

He seized on unrest at the frontier on Sunday to hike pressure on Mexico and to squeeze his political opponents in Washington as he demands financing for his border wall in a looming government funding showdown.

“Mexico should move the flag waving Migrants, many of whom are stone cold criminals, back to their countries,” Trump tweeted early Monday morning. …

Click here to read the full article from Fox 5 San Diego

San Francisco leaders hate Trump enough they voted to limit the city’s water rather than do this

Delta TunnelsFor months, San Francisco, a hotbed of anti-Donald Trump sentiment, has found itself in the awkward position of being aligned with his administration over California water policy.

On Tuesday, the city’s leaders said the alliance was unbearable.

In an 11-0 vote, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors agreed in a resolution to support the State Water Resources Control Board’s proposal to leave more water in the San Joaquin River and its tributaries to benefit struggling fish populations. The supervisors’ vote is subject to veto by Mayor London Breed, although the board could override the veto.

The vote splits the city from the Trump administration and instead moves its support to a state plan that its utilities commission warns could lead to severe drinking water shortages for its nearly 884,000 residents. …

Click here to read the full article from the Sacramento Bee

Trump memo orders Central Valley water changes

RB DroughtThe Trump administration has launched a bold effort to up-end water policies in the Central Valley and the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, calling for big changes that would favor farmers over endangered species in allocating water.

Helping craft the administration’s new approach: Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, a former lawyer and lobbyist for the Westlands Water District, which is the nation’s largest agricultural water district with 600,000 acres of farmland in Fresno and Kings counties.

As CalWatchdog reported in June 2017, the prospect of having Bernhardt overseeing the federal government’s California water policies was opposed by nearly all Democrats in Congress because of his history. Meanwhile, to GOP lawmakers from the Golden State, his nomination was seen as confirmation of Trump’s 2016 campaign promises to abandon the old status quo involving Central Valley agriculture.

The Oct. 19 memo signed by Trump reflected Bernhardt’s years of calling for lesser regulatory burdens, specifically including long-lived protections for endangered species. It underlined the determination of the Trump administration to make sure farmers got more water. The memo also ordered that major water projects receive faster environmental reviews.

Trump signed the memo before a campaign rally in Arizona while flanked by three California House members – Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, Jeff Denham of Turlock and Tom McClintock, who represents a wide swath of Central and Eastern California. All have denounced what they see as excessive federal deference to environmentalists – including by the George W. Bush administration, not just the Obama administration.

“This will move things along at a record clip, and you’ll have a lot of water,” Trump assured them.

But veterans of the water wars – including those who back Trump’s new policy – have warned farmers not to get their hopes up for the rapid changes the president predicted. More modest changes in policies by the last Bush administration were fought in both federal and state courts by well-funded environmental law firms. They won not just stays of federal orders but full victories from judges who agreed with their interpretation of Congress’ intent when it adopted far-reaching water laws last century.

Fight over economic impact of rules looms

Bernhardt’s remarks at a May 2017 Senate hearing point squarely to one coming fight with broad implications for all of the federal government. When asked whether the Interior Department would keep its commitment to “scientific integrity” in enforcing federal laws, Bernhardt said, “I will look at the science with all its significance and its warts. You look at that, you evaluate it and then you look at the legal decision you can make. In some instances the legal decision may allow you to consider other factors, such as jobs.”

The idea that governments can consider such economic factors when interpreting laws has been one of the favorite legal arguments of conservative and libertarian law professors since it was advanced in 1973 by Richard A. Posner, who went on to serve 36 years as a federal appellate judge and to emerge as one of the most important and provocative legal thinkers of the 20th century.

If there is any evidence this philosophy is leading to new Trump administration interpretations of federal laws, a strong legal challenge is certain – not just because of what it would mean for water policy but because it would give business interests a powerful new tool to challenge a wide range of laws that create economic burdens.

Posner’s most crucial, basic claim – that the “common law” that is the basis of the legal system holds efficiency as a value – is scoffed at by many legal academics. A Stanford law school analysis that was otherwise sympathetic to Posner’s theories says it is based on “ambiguous” precedents.

The fight over the Posner-Bernhardt view of the law is in some ways the reverse of normal fights over the extent of judicial authority. Democrats say the claim that “efficiency” is part of how laws should be interpreted was invented out of whole cloth, with no evidence it reflected the wishes of the nation’s founders.

This is the line of argument often made by conservative strict constructionists, who reject the idea that the Constitution and other long-standing laws are “living documents” subject to new interpretations because of changing circumstances.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com