The Unmasking of President Barack Obama

obama45President Donald Trump was ridiculed in March when he made this bold tweet:

Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism.”

The FBI was under orders from Obama political operatives and officials to wiretap Trump Tower. And these intelligence actions have grave consequences for California as we are under a North Korean nuclear threat that is growing daily.

Unfortunately, government breaches under the Obama administration are nothing new. The United States Office of Personal Management breach (the main hiring and vetting arm of the U.S. government) occurred in 2013. CNN has admitted Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was wiretapped and Trump’s conversations were likely caught up in Obama’s intelligence apparatus. CNN has also begrudgingly confirmed that candidate-Trump’s U.S. Constitution Fourth Amendment rights were violated. If President Obama didn’t know this was happening it was a gross dereliction of duty and this also makes Trump less likely to assist California as our debt and health care costs explode.

Top Obama intelligence and national security officials who unmasked Americans and foreigners without proper Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court warrants for wiretapping have never been prosecuted or even thoroughly questioned. Imagine if President George W. Bush had wiretapped then-candidate Obama’s campaign manager – David Plouffe – for contacts with foreign governments when Senator Obama gave a 2008 campaign speech at the Berlin Brandenburg Gate speech. Would the U.S. media or Trump-bashers from each party ever cover the story with the same vigor as they have violations against Trump? Yet California policymakers continue pushing this narrative that the presidential election was rigged via the Russians. However, nothing conclusive has ever come from extensive investigations when Obama’s intelligence breaches are more damaging than the false Russian collusion story.

These are the high-ranking Obama officials that have been caught unmasking American and foreign officials: former U.N. ambassador Samantha Powers who supposedly tried to “unmask American citizens on a daily basis,” former CIA Director John Brennan, former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates who both admitted, “they reviewed communications of political figures, secretly collected under President Obama.” The most damning part of these revelations is the acknowledgement that:

U.S. intelligence agencies secretly monitored conversation of members of the U.S. Congress while the Obama administration negotiated the Iran nuclear deal.”

Seemingly, U.S. intelligence agencies had been weaponized, and that has far-reaching implications for how allies and American voters moving forward trust the CIA, FBI, NSA, the U.S. Justice Department and the White House. These actions caused a U.S. FISA Court judge to tell the National Security Agency, “They had an institutional lack of candor.” In 2013 Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper assured Congress that the NSA “wasn’t collecting any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.” Where was Congressman Adam Schiff, a staunch anti-Trump Democrat to expose the actions of Obama’s intelligence officials? The issue becomes how can allies and others who aren’t staunch California Democrats trust any president if this happened under Obama’s watch?

American intelligence agencies under Obama look like the old East German Stasi secret police spying on citizens, allies and whomever they deem against their agenda for political purposes. Even Obama allies weren’t immune to attack. In 2011 Congressman Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, was wiretapped and in 2014 the CIA under John Brennan got caught spying on Senate Intelligence Committee staffers.

U.S. allies in Europe, NATO, Southeast Asia and, more importantly, California should be asking what else Obama did to undermine their governments and policies through secret wiretaps and surveillance.

The FBI also shouldn’t be trusted when it continued wiretapping President-elect Trump’s top advisers without his notification. The reality was the incoming head of the U.S. government was being secretly “wiretapped” and somehow Barack Obama had no idea it was happening. That’s incredibly hard to believe that he didn’t know his intelligence officials and agencies were surveilling at least half a dozen top Trump officials – and that’s just what we know about so far.

But these illegal intelligence actions also included private citizens; particularly journalist, also in possible violation of U.S. constitutional rights. An internal email exposed by Wikileaks from the global intelligence firm Stratfor shows the depth of political targeting:

“Dated Sept. 21, 2010, [John] Brennan [then an Obama Homeland Security adviser] is behind the witch hunts of investigative journalists learning information from inside the beltway sources. There is a specific tasker (political operative) from the WH (White House) to go after anyone printing materials negative to the Obama agenda. Even the FBI is shocked.”

The Obama administration got caught monitoring journalists at Fox News, The Associated Press and CBS News. Sharyl Attkisson of CBS News alleges in an ongoing federal lawsuit that her computers were hacked by “an unauthorized, external, unknown party on multiple occasion, confirming her previous revelation of hacking. Ms. Attkisson, through forensic investigation in her suit, has shown dates, times and methods of illegal activities used against her through software that only the U.S. government had access to during Obama’s presidency. A computer forensic expert assisting Ms. Attkisson confirmed to a U.S. court:

This wasn’t a mistake; it is not a random event and it is not technically possible for these IP addresses to simply appear on her computer systems without activity by someone using them as part of the cyber-attack.

The bigger issue isn’t Donald Trump’s tweets saying Obama spied on him, instead it’s that foreign and American media along with quasi-news sites continually publishing false and misleading quotes and stories stating this isn’t true. That puts California in the political crosshairs of the Trump administration but staying silent when impeachable offenses by the former president occur. This undermines our representative democracy no matter which party is in charge.

Former Obama officials now vie for innocence through implying anyone suggesting the former president or his officials are guilty of Stasi-like behavior of having “vivid imaginations,” and “conveniently dismissing forensic evidence from three independent examinations.” The truth is these illegal actions had taken place for years. In light of the geopolitical earthquakes taking place in North Korea, Russia, Iran, Syria – and the brewing war between Shia and Sunni interests in the Middle East – why would any ally, country or foe that could be turned into an ally trust the United States? That should shivers down California’s collective spine. We need allies to help us fight the hegemonic Iranians, geopolitical monsters in Beijing, and the newly minted Russian tsar in the Kremlin.

Blame whoever you want: the deep state, Obama administration holdovers, Trump enemies or the unchecked intelligence agencies, but privacy concerns for domestic and foreign interests coinciding with abusive polices are ruining the US’ ability to have cogent intelligence for the President, Congress and Allies. Senator Feinstein sits on the Senate Foreign Intelligence committee and these treasonous actions should have her questioning what she receives from US intelligence agencies. But she hasn’t publicly stated anything to deny, confirm or attempt to understand these charges.

FISA warrants, which originally were for “foreign spies inside the U.S.,” now has far-reaching legal reach and an entire surveillance apparatus that is abusing power like never before. FISA section 702 as an example allows collection of data from Google, Facebook and other social media sites if it’s deemed a foreign power or individual is under investigation.

Neither Valerie Jarrett, Susan Rice, John Brennan, James Clapper, Samantha Power, or previously fired FBI Director, James Comey won’t speak to congressional investigators or Robert Mueller’s commission about this unlawful behavior then rogue regimes across the world will continue to believe the U.S. and its allies are weak; and ripe for the taking. Putin, Xi and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard will take advantage of apparent U.S. weakness. I’d argue Trump would defend other U.S. states before he even considers California, because we have looked the other way at Obama’s intelligence treachery.

Obama and his top officials seem satisfied to let all of this wretched behavior fade away since the world’s media hates Donald Trump. Better to mock his tweets than to actually take them seriously – especially in light of them now being true. Before Trump’s presidency ends he may need to pardon Obama for crimes against U.S. citizens, its government and any foreign entity caught up in his thug-like surveillance and wiretapping net. California policymakers better take notice or the fires that come from these revelations could make the Northern California fires seem like a candle flickering in the night.

Todd Royal is a geopolitical risk and energy consultant based in Los Angeles.

In California’s war on Trump, everyone loses

Donald TrumpFor a state so enamored with passing laws, California can seem awfully lawless sometimes. Our progressive Legislature and elected leaders have decided to make political and litigious war on the duly elected president of the United States.

The Resistance is here!

Truth is, Donald Trump has driven them all a bit batty. Our legislators have become so unmoored that even Gov. Jerry Brown — who just the other week signed the self-destructive “sanctuary state” law — had to step in and veto legislation requiring presidential candidates to release their tax returns. Brown said that as politically appealing as such a law might be, he was uncomfortable with California setting election policy for the country.

It’s nice to see the light of reality break through the progressive miasma once in a while. If only some of that light could break through the state attorney general’s office.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Wednesday announced he’s seeking a restraining order to stop the Trump administration from ending Obamacare’s reimbursements to insurance companies. California is one of 17 states challenging the decision, which would cut off $10 billion in subsidies. The lawsuit is a fool’s errand, of course, but entirely in character with Becerra’s strategy of suing the administration at every turn, regardless of the merits. …

Click here to read the full article at the Sacramento Bee

Related content: California’s War Against Donald Trump: Who Wins? Who Loses?

City of Stockton to Consider America’s First Basic Income Grant

StocktonThe city of Stockton, California, is planning to offer a basic income grant of $500 per month to poor residents, making it the first U.S. city to provide a guaranteed income.

Mayor Michael Tubbs announced the program on Wednesday, according to Capital Public Radio. “This is not a handout, it’s a hand up,” he reportedly said. The program is to be privately funded by the Economic Security Project, which Capital Public Radio describes as “a network of researchers, elected leaders, and organizers” and which is run by Facebook co-founder and Barack Obama campaign veteran Chris Hughes.

Stockton declared bankruptcy in 2012, a result of high pension costs, economic stagnation, and “a 15-year spending binge.” Though the city and its finances have recovered somewhat, and the city emerged from bankruptcy in 2015, poverty remains a problem.

The idea of a guaranteed basic income has been gaining traction lately, largely thanks to the advocacy of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who has suggested it may become necessary in the future as technological innovation pushes more people out of traditional jobs.

“We should explore ideas like universal basic income to make sure everyone has a cushion to try new ideas,” Zuckerberg said in May at the commencement ceremony at Harvard University.

In a Facebook post in July, Zuckerberg touted Alaska’s Permanent Fund — which pays dividends to residents every year from a portion of oil and gas revenues — as an example of a successful basic income grant. However, few states have Alaska’s vast resources and low population.

Others in Silicon Valley have also advocated for the idea. The Stockton pilot project will reportedly involve 25 to 75 families.

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 article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

CA GOP Has Fared Poorly in ‘Jungle Primary’ Era

VotedOver the past few weeks, leading into the California Republican Party’s convention in Orange County this weekend, there have been mailings supporting the argument that the “top two” or “jungle primary” system created by Proposition 14 in 2010 is a good idea.

It is not a good idea – at least not for conservatives. In fact, as the California Republican Party itself predicted when it strongly opposed the passage of Prop 14, it has been a disaster.

Prop. 14 changed the way elections for partisan office are held in California. Prior to its passage, each qualified political party held a primary in June, and the winner of that primary would advance to a general election ballot featuring all of the nominees of each party, as well as independent candidates.

Under the new system all candidates run in June, and the top two vote-getters advance to the general election.

Since Prop. 14’s passage, not a single Republican has been elected to statewide office. Since the passage of Prop. 14, there are fewer Republicans in Congress from California. Since the passage of Prop. 14, there are fewer Republicans in the State Senate. Since the passage of Prop. 14 there are fewer Republicans in the State Assembly.

Now, is Prop. 14 totally responsible for flagging GOP numbers in partisan elected offices? Of course not. But it certainly is not helping the Grand Old Party pick up numbers, as proponents said it would do.

I think it is important for us all to remember how we ended up with Prop.14 in the first place. Back in 2009, a terrible budget deal was brokered by insiders. Then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, along with legislative leaders from both political parties, pushed through what was at the time the largest tax increase in the history of California. In order to get the deal done, three Republicans in each chamber had to vote for it. One of the three GOP votes in the Senate, Abel Maldonado, refused to vote for the deal unless the so-called “open primary” measure was placed on the ballot as part of the deal. So a terrible deal was made worse.

Governor Schwarzenegger then championed the ballot measure, raising millions of dollars to pass it.  And Maldonado, who campaigned for its passage, was rewarded with an appointment as Lieutenant Governor – but he was rejected by the voters when he ran for election as the appointed incumbent.

Just days after the tax-increase was passed, the state GOP gathered in Sacramento and passed a scathing resolution cutting off party funding to those Republicans who voted for the tax increase.

The delegates to the California Republican Party, when Prop. 14 was on the ballot, voted overwhelmingly to oppose the measure. And for good reason. First and foremost, eliminating the right of every political party to nominate a candidate in June, and have its nominee appear on the general election ballot, has meant that many races have no Republican on the ballot in the general election. The most glaring example was last year’s U.S. Senate race, where voters in November had to choose between then-Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) or then-U.S. Representative Loretta Sanchez (D).

Prop. 14 has also created circumstances in which the general election is a food-fight between two Republicans, bringing an intra-party feud to the general election.

And, of course, the open primary has led to much higher costs to campaign (candidates now have to talk to every voter in June, and again in November). This higher cost for elections has worked out just fine for the Democrats, whose coalition includes very well-funded interests like the California Teachers Association.

In fact, at this weekend’s convention, there is a somewhat quixotic proposal to create a process for the State GOP delegates to have a vote – kind of a straw poll – to potentially endorse candidates in statewide races.  But that endorsement would not be binding on anyone, and of course would not limit ballot access to the endorsed Republican candidate alone. It is doubtful as to whether a candidate endorsed by the California Republican Party would have an advantage unless the party spends party resources to help communicate its endorsement to Republican voters. No one thinks that will happen.

Proponents of Prop. 14 also said that its passage would lead to a more moderate California legislature. However, as impossible as it once seemed, the state legislature has become more liberal than ever before! In fact, if you have money, which the liberal interest groups in the state do, Prop. 14 gives you more power, not less.

California Democrats have moved to the left. But on the GOP side, there has not been an offsetting move to the right. On the contrary, it seems like there are more Republicans than ever before who are willing to vote with Democrats for bad public policy, including big tax increases.

There is no better example, of course, than the recent vote to extend the state’s “Cap and Tax” program – the result of which is a GOP patina on a draconian program and an estimated over $25 billion in higher taxes over a decade!  Democrats control the legislature now with super-majorities in each chamber. If Prop. 14 was working out poorly for them, they could just vote to place a repeal of it onto the ballot.

The California Republican Party faces many challenges. But Prop. 14 has made the path forward more difficult, not less, for Republicans in the Golden State.

Jon Fleischman is the Politics Editor for Breitbart California.  His columns appear regularly on this page.  You can follow him on Twitter here.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Progressive Cities: Home of the Worst Housing Inequality

America’s most highly regulated housing markets are also reliably the most progressive in their political attitudes. Yet in terms of gaining an opportunity to own a house, the price impacts of the tough regulation mean profound inequality for the most disadvantaged large ethnicities, African-Americans and Hispanics.

Based on the housing affordability categories used in the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey for 2016 (Table 1), housing inequality by ethnicity is the worst among the metropolitan areas rated “severely unaffordable.” In these 11 major metropolitan area markets, the most highly regulated, median multiples (median house price divided by median household income) exceed 5.0. For African-Americans, the median priced house is 10.2 times median incomes. This is 3.7 more years of additional income than the overall average in these severely unaffordable markets, where median house prices are 6.5 times median household incomes. It is only marginally better for Hispanics, with the median price house at 8.9 times median household incomes, 2.4 years more than the average in these markets (Figure 1).

The comparisons with the 13 affordable markets (median multiples of 3.0 and less) is even more stark. For African-American households things are much better than in the more progressive and most expensive metropolitan areas. The median house prices is equal to 4.6 years of median income, 5.5 years less than in the severely affordable markets. Moreover, for African-Americans, housing affordability is only marginally worse than the national average in the affordable market.

Things are even better for Hispanics, who would find the median house price 3.8 times median incomes, 5.1 years less than in the severely affordable markets. This is better than the national average housing affordability.

Among the four markets rated “seriously unaffordable,” (median multiple from 4.1 to 5.0) the inequality is slightly less, with African-Americans finding median house prices equal to 2.2 years of additional income compared to average. The disadvantage for Hispanics is 1.5 years.

In contrast, inequality is significantly reduced in the less costly “moderately unaffordable” markets (median multiple of 3.1 to 4.0) and the “affordable” markets (median multiple of 3.0 and less).

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The discussion below describes the 10 largest and smallest housing affordability gaps for African-American and Hispanic households relative to the average household, within the particular metropolitan markets. The gaps within ethnicities compared to the affordable markets would be even more. The four charts all have the same scale (a top housing affordability gap of 10 years) for easy comparison.

Largest Housing Affordability Gaps: African American

African-Americans have the largest housing affordability inequality gap. And these gaps are most evident in some of the nation’s most progressive cities. The largest gap is in San Francisco, where the median income African-American household faces median house prices that are 9.3 years of income more than the average. In nearby San Jose ranks the second worst, where the gap is 6.2 years. Overall, the San Francisco Bay Area suffers by far the area of least housing affordability for African-Americans compared to the average household.

Portland, long the darling of the international urban planning community, ranks third worst, where the median income African-American household to purchase the median priced house. Milwaukee and Minneapolis – St. Paul ranked fourth and fifth worst followed by Boston, Seattle, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Chicago (Figure 2).

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Largest Housing Affordability Gaps: Hispanics

Two of the three worst positions are occupied by the two metropolitan areas in the San Francisco Bay Area. The worst housing affordability gap for Hispanics is in San Jose, a more than one-quarter Hispanic metropolitan area where the median income Hispanic household would require 5.0 years of additional income to pay for the median priced house compared to the average. Boston ranks second worst at 3.9. San Francisco third worst at 3.3 years. Providence and New York rank fourth and fifth worst. The second five worst housing inequality for Hispanics is in San Diego, Hartford, Rochester, Philadelphia and Raleigh (Figure 3).

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The San Francisco Bay Area: “Inequality City”

Perhaps no part of the country is more renowned for its progressive politics and politicians than the San Francisco Bay Area. Yet, in housing equality, the Bay Area is anything but progressive. If the African-American and Hispanic housing inequality measures are averaged, disadvantaged minorities face house prices that average approximately 6.25 years more years of median income in San Francisco and 5.60 more years of median income in San Jose.

Moreover, no one should imagine that recent state law authorizing a $4 billion “affordable housing” bond election will have any significant impact. According to the Sacramento Bee, voter approval would lead to 70,000 new housing units annually, when the need for low and very low income households is 1.5 million. The bond issue would do virtually nothing for the many middle-income households who are struggling to pay the insanely high housing costs California’s regulatory nightmare has developed.

Smallest Housing Affordability Gaps: African-American

Tucson has the smallest housing affordability gap for African-Americans. In Tucson, the median income African-American household would pay approximately 0.4 years (four months) more in income for the median priced house than the average household. In San Antonio, Atlanta and Tampa – St. Petersburg, the housing affordability gaps are under 1.0. Houston, Riverside – San Bernardino, Virginia Beach – Norfolk, Memphis, Dallas – Fort Worth and Birmingham round out the second five. It may be surprising that eight of the metropolitan areas with the smallest housing affordability gaps for African-Americans are in the South and perhaps most surprisingly of all that one of the best, at number 10, is Birmingham. (Figure 4).

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Smallest Housing Affordability Gaps: Hispanic

Among Hispanic households, the smallest housing affordability gap is in Pittsburgh, where the median priced house would require less than 10 days more in median income for a Hispanic household compared the overall average. In Jacksonville the housing affordability gap for Hispanics would be less than two months. In Baltimore, Birmingham, St. Louis and Cincinnati, the median house price is the equivalent of less than six months of median income for an Hispanic household. Detroit, Memphis, Virginia Beach – Norfolk and Cleveland round out the ten smallest housing affordability gaps for Hispanics (Figure 5).

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Housing Affordability is the Best for Asians

Recent American Community Survey data indicated that Asians have median household incomes a quarter above those of White Non-– Hispanics. This advantage is also illustrated in the housing affordability data. Asians have better housing affordability than White Non-– Hispanics in 37 of the 53 major metropolitan areas (over 1 million population).

The Importance of Housing Opportunity

Housing opportunity is important. African-Americans and Hispanics already face challenges given their generally lower incomes. However, by no serious political philosophy, progressive or otherwise, should any ethnicity find themselves even further disadvantaged by political barriers, such as have been created by over-zealous land and housing regulators.

Cross-posted at New Geography.

isiting professor, Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, Paris

A Fairer Tax Code Is a More Efficient Tax Code

Tax formThe last time we saw comprehensive tax reform in this country was also the last time UCLA won a Rose Bowl (1986), so we are talking about a long, long time. We know there have been several tax cuts, and tax increases, since then, but as for some legislative attempt to drive a change in the overall system of tax policy in this country, it has not happened in over 30 years. It would be easy to argue that partisan polarization is the cause of this legislative difficulty, but that would be inaccurate. Partisanship did not keep welfare reform or comprehensive trade agreements from being done in the 1990s. Partisanship did not keep significant national-security endeavors from passing in the 2000s. And President Obama’s reelection in 2012 coincided with the sunsetting of the George W. Bush tax cuts, creating one of the more bipartisan agreements in recent history, when Vice President Biden and Senate majority leader McConnell negotiated a permanent extension of the tax cuts that resulted in more favorable treatment for investment tax and estate tax and left the individual rates at the lower levels of the Bush plan, besides at the top rate. Bottom line: Partisans have done plenty of bipartisan work over the last 30 years; they just haven’t done it when it comes to reforming something that is broken.

The term tax reform is pivotal here. Tax cuts scream for people who pay too much in taxes wanting to pay less (fair enough). Tax reform implies something is structurally unfair, and therefore needing reformation. We do not need to reform that which is already good and right. Sure, we may turn a knob here and there on levels, but reform is more comprehensive, and more reactive. The catalyst to reforming something is admitting something needs to be reformed.

The catalyst for 2017/18 tax reform is a broken tax code, and that brokenness is most evident in two places: A brutally non-competitive business tax code that hasn’t come close to dealing with the global realities of the last 30 years; and a glut of tax brackets and deductions that are too confusing, too easy to manipulate, and too divorced from simplicity and fairness. Yes, the rates are too high, both individually and corporately, but beyond that, the system is not right. The efforts of the Trump administration, led by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, and the GOP leadership of the House and Senate, seek to use a new tax-reform bill to attack the fundamentals of what is broken in the tax code (a non-competitive corporate code) and clean up around the edges as well (alternative minimum tax (AMT), pass-through entities, etc.).

The math of passing tax reform is difficult because of Senate rules on reconciliation. To attach it to a budget bill and thereby enable 51-vote passage, the impact the tax plan can have on overall revenue (and therefore deficits) is limited. “Dynamic scoring” — the reality of supply-side math that pro-growth tax cuts move us in the right direction on Laffer’s Curve — allows for some more liberal use of this parliamentary reconciliation reality. But at the end of the day, the White House is limited in how much it can reform the tax code without “pay-fors” — offsets and such that will enable the plan to be scored within budget-reconciliation math.

After the inevitable death of the ghastly “border adjustment tax” idea, the best “pay-for” available is eliminating the deductibility of state and local taxes against federal tax liability. Should that tax deduction be eliminated, the comprehensive business tax reform needed (a 20 percent rate vs. a 35 percent rate, a territorial system, repatriation of foreign profits, and the elimination of nearly all special-interest deductions) can become reality. And yet the path to tax reform is being blocked by those who would hold on to the abysmal deductibility of state tax — a blockage being promoted by Republicans and Democrats alike (who says they never do anything on a bipartisan basis?).

Who would want to hold onto the deductibility of state taxation? Well, legislators in high-tax states, for one, who fear little consequence from the residents of low-tax states who end up footing the bill for their fiscal recklessness. In fact, the sole source of opposition to eliminating this deduction has come from blue state California, blue state New Jersey, blue state New York, and blue state Connecticut. Unfortunately, the fact that these states are all blue does not mean this is leftist partisanship, because the opposition is coming from Republican legislators and thought leaders in these states as well. That opposition underscores the fundamental need for reform — reform in our policy, but reform in our thinking as well.

There is never going to be reform that does not upset some people, somewhere in the tax food chain. If there could be such a thing, by definition, there would be no need for tax reform! The objective of a national tax-revenue system should be to fund the legitimate functions of government, and do so in a manner fair to the national self-interest, devoid of governmental favoritism or bias. The purpose of a tax system is not to implement social agendas, punish certain behaviors, reward certain behaviors, etc. The federal tax code is a funding matter, and it ought to be done in the least threatening way to growth and competitiveness possible. A 0 percent tax code is not a possibility, as competitive as it may be, as government has responsibilities, liabilities, and legitimate functions that require funding. But where funding can be achieved without compromising American economic growth, that must be the aim.

The business-investment tax code in our country is a disaster, and this is hardly denied by the other side of the aisle. The rate is too high, and the incentives for businesses to keep moneys offshore are gigantic. Additionally, the loopholes, deductions, and various ways in which certain privileged or selected companies benefit (while others do not) is a direct violation of the intent of the tax system. Simplification is the goal, and an even playing field that does not pick winners and losers is the aim. While I would prefer to get rid of the R&D credit (crony capitalism for pharma) and the low-income-housing credit (crony capitalism for real-estate developers), the proposed tax reform goes a long way towards equalizing the business code and creating a competitive scenario for our U.S. companies with large multinational presence.

So what is the hang-up? The aforementioned state-tax deductibility issue is being presented as a hang-up by Left and Right alike. Ironically, the concern the Left has always had with Republican tax maneuvering is that it unfairly assists those on the higher end of the wage spectrum. Here, the Democrats are supposedly upset about the loss of a tax deduction that, by definition, is used only by those on the higher end of the wage spectrum (those who itemize). But let’s look at the issue from the vantage point of Republican voters in high-tax blue states. Could it mean a higher overall net tax liability? That is very unlikely, since those most affected by this would be of such an income context that they have almost certainly been subject to the AMT anyways, a tax atrocity that was already disallowing the state-tax deduction. But for those who were not previously in AMT but are fearful of losing the state-tax deduction, two things must be said. First, no one knows whatsoever how their net picture would turn out in the new tax law, because the income levels receiving the new tax rates (12 percent, 25 percent, 35 percent) have not been announced. Any attempt to model tax liability in the new system will be rank speculation.

Second, if a very small number of people end up paying more, not less, in the new system, it should have no bearing on what we believe about tax reform. I do not believe that will happen, and if it does, I think the net impact will be so small and affect so few, it will not even register. But even if it did, the fundamental question is whether or not residents of South Dakota and Texas should be footing the bill for a federal loss of revenue just because their states choose to run their affairs with a high degree of fiscal sensibility and wisdom. Tax reform is meant to reform what is broken, and the use of a state-tax deduction is discriminatory, unfair, and, worst of all, enabling. It enables high-tax states to make foolish decisions, to overly rely on highly cyclical income streams, to spend without regard to consequences, and to not factor in competitive realities across our cherished 50-state union.

The need of the hour is beneficiaries of the broken tax system to maintain advocacy for reform. The generation-long resistance to reform is a by-product of special interests and a mentality that replaces common-sense tax policy with gaming of the system. We can do better, and for those who know how badly this economy and our national fiscal situation need growth, we must.

David L. Bahnsen is a trustee at the National Review Institute, the managing partner of a bicoastal wealth management firm, and the author of forthcoming book, “Crisis of Responsibility.”

This article was originally published by the National Review

Katy Grimes explains why California is crumbling on the Jon and Ken Show

 

Katy Grimes smallKaty Grimes explains why/how California is crumbling – from its education system to its infrastructure to its massive deficits and overwhelming pension debt.

California is the state with the highest poverty rate in the nation, has $1 trillion in unfunded pension liabilities and recent criminal justice reforms have led to higher crime rates.

Click this link to hear Grimes explain why this has been allowed to happen, and what possible solutions, if any, Californians can look to in the future:

https://www.iheart.com/podcast/John-and-Ken-On-Demand-20635765/episode/1013-4pm-katy-grimes-28554992/?cmp=web_share&pname=fb&campid=s&keyid=428674646

Also check out the new book, “California’s War Against Donald Trump: Who Wins? Who Loses?” authored by Katy Grimes and James Lacy, to see who is winning, and losing, from all the political grandstanding and “resistance” by state leaders to the Trump administration.

Find the book on Amazon here:

https://www.amazon.com/Californias-War-Against-Donald-Trump/dp/1543112722/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1505161571&sr=8-1&keywords=katy+grimes

 

 

Taxpayers shouldn’t tolerate gas tax extortion by transportation interests

Gas-Pump-blue-generic+flippedA coalition of government entities and special interests which thrive on transportation dollars recently sent a threat letter to Republican members of Congress because those members have the audacity to oppose the huge tax increase passed by the California Legislature with the enactment of Senate Bill 1. The threat was not well received and, in fact, will likely backfire on the tax increase supporters.

The SB1 tax hike, imposed without voter approval, is very unpopular according to virtually all public and private polling. (A more recent poll claims that repeal of the gas tax is not supported by a majority of Californians, but that poll is suspect for several reasons, not the least of which is that the hike has yet to take affect.) Realizing how unpopular the gas tax is, several Republican members of Congress are contemplating support for a measure to repeal that tax.

Had the letter stuck to issues of transportation policy — such as why California needs to have the highest gas taxes in the nation — it would still have been wrong but at least it wouldn’t have been offensive. Unfortunately, supporters of the tax decided to take the low road and issued a thinly veiled threat that would have been more fitting for an episode of the Sopranos. Specifically, the letter stated, “We don’t think your objective is to create new political adversaries.” Moreover, the letter states that the coalition would “mount a robust and powerful effort in opposition to this initiative, using the voices of California’s business community to counter your efforts.”

As distinguished from the self-interested motivations of the tax increase proponents, including big construction corporations, the California Republican congressional delegation has decided to put the interests of middle-class taxpayers first and they should be commended for it. Indeed, in their written response, they demolish the arguments advanced by the special interests. …

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

Dems want to raise property taxes to fund government pensions

Pension moneyI guess I should use the old vaudeville line: Stop me if you’ve heard this one: the push to increase commercial property taxes is about government pension costs. Returning to this subject at this time (I wrote on the same subject for the Sacramento Bee last April) is prompted by the coming together of a couple of recent events.

There was the League of Women Voters and other groups hosting a meeting in Los Angeles this past weekend to “educate” people and advocate for a split roll property tax seeking to raise billions of tax dollars on the back of businesses. Also last week, Stanford University’s Institute for Policy Research issued a report by professor and former Democratic legislator Joe Nation describing the pension burden that is beginning to strangle state and local governments in California.

The services that are affected by both the split roll rally and the Stanford report are quite similar.

Supporters of the split roll say that raising taxes on commercial property will provide $9 billion a year needed for schools and services provided by local governments. Meanwhile, Joe Nation’s report says that because of pension contributions by employers (i.e. governments) increasing an average of 400% over the past 15 years, educational services, recreation, community services and others are squeezed for lack of money.

Many “core mission services,” as defined by the Stanford report, will be starved of money because of pension demands. The split roll advocates talk about the need for more money for local services. What they don’t tell you is that money for those services is being diverted to cover the pension requirements of state and local governments because these governments made generous promises to workers and accepted revenue projections to cover those promises that did not play out.

Instead of admitting that more money is needed to cover pension costs, split roll advocates create a false argument about business dodging its fair share of property taxes. They claim homeowners now pay a much larger share of the property tax burden than they did prior to Proposition 13. A Legislative Analyst’s Office report undercuts that false claim.

The report states in part, “Homeowners pay a slightly larger share of property taxes today than they did when Proposition 13 passed. Proposition 13 does not appear to have caused this increase. … In part, this may be due to faster growth in the number of residential properties than the number of commercial and industrial properties.”

The so-called grassroots activity seeking support for a split roll is backed by powerful public employee unions who support more revenues to cover the pension costs. Yet, you won’t hear anything from the split roll advocates about the pensions strangling local budgets or pushing some cities toward bankruptcies.

Meanwhile, the Stanford study makes it clear with numerous examples that pensions are absorbing greater and greater portions of local government budgets. The Stanford study states clearly there is “agreement on one fact: public pension costs are making it harder to provide services that have traditionally been considered part of government’s core mission.”

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Gov. Brown signs major bills – How will they affect you?

jerry-brown-signs-lawsSACRAMENTO – In his veto message of two bills that would have banned smoking at California state parks and beaches, Gov. Jerry Brown argued that there must be “some limit to the coercive power of government.” Nevertheless, in a sea of bill signings this week, the governor vastly expanded the power of government to dictate private workplace rules, along with a number of other measures that expand state regulatory prerogatives.

One of the more far-reaching bills, Senate Bill 63, mandates that companies with at least 20 employees provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave to workers to care for a newborn or adopted child. Before the signing, state law required such leave for companies with 50 or more workers. The bill’s backers said it is about simple “fairness,” but the California Chamber of Commerce labeled it a “job killer” that “unduly burdens” small companies and “exposes them to the threat of costly litigation.”

Brown also signed Assembly Bill 168, which bans all employers – including state and local governments, and even the Legislature – from asking for the salary history of any applicant. Instead, the employer must provide a salary scale. It was pitched mainly as a gender-equality measure.

“The practice of seeking or requiring the salary history of job applicants helps perpetuate wage inequality that has spanned generations of women in the workforce,” said Assembly member Susan Eggman, the Stockton Democrat who sponsored the bill. Opponents argue that there are many legitimate reasons for employers to seek out an applicant’s salary history and that the law will cause employers mainly to enlarge the pay range, thus making it much harder for applicants and employers to find the appropriate level of pay.

These bills were part of a package backed by the California Legislative Women’s Caucus. Not all of them were workplace-related. For instance, the governor signed AB10 by Assembly member Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, which “requires public schools serving low-income students in grades 6 to 12 to provide feminine hygiene products in half of the school’s bathrooms at no charge.”

And he signed AB273 by Assembly member Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters, which “expands the eligibility criteria for subsidized child care services to parents who are taking English as a second language or high school equivalency courses.” Brown also gave the OK to a bill that will subsidize diapers for poor women.

In other topic areas, the governor signed 11 bills on Wednesday designed “to improve California’s criminal and juvenile justice systems, restore the power of judges to impose criminal sentences and reduce recidivism through increased rehabilitation.” These include measures that would seal the records of people who were arrested but never convicted of a crime; allow a parole hearing for juveniles who were sentenced to life without parole; and a bill that gives judges additional discretion regarding the “firearms enhancement” for sentencing decisions.

Furthermore, the governor signed AB1448, by Assembly member Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, which allows the Board of Parole to continue its parole hearings for elderly prisoners who have served at least 25 years in prison after federal oversight of the prison system ends. The state had been under federal court decrees dealing with overcrowding, but has since passed a realignment law and other programs that have reduced the size of the inmate population. In his signing message, the governor said that this elderly-prisoner program has successfully reduced costs involving geriatric prisoners who no longer pose a risk to society.

The governor previously had signed SB384, by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, which creates a tiered sex-offender registry rather than the current system of lifetime registration. The bill received significant law-enforcement support. Supporters argued that “local law enforcement agencies spend between 60 to 66 percent of their resources dedicated for sex offender supervision on monthly or annual registration paperwork because of the large numbers of registered sex offenders on our registry,” according to the Senate bill analysis.

“If we can remove low-risk offenders from the registry it will free up law enforcement officers to monitor the high risk offenders living in our communities,” supporters argued. There was no official, recorded opposition to the bill, but Republican opponents expressed fear in the floor debate that these changes would put the public at risk.

The governor signed a controversial drug-pricing transparency bill, SB17, that forces “drug manufacturers to notify specified purchasers, in writing at least 90 days prior to the planned effective date, if it is increasing the wholesale acquisition cost … of a prescription drug by specified amounts.” The pharmaceutical industry fought vociferously against the measure, which it believes is a first step in a national campaign to impose government price controls.

The governor used some of his strongest – and most ideological – rhetoric in touting this measure. “The rich are getting richer. The powerful are getting more powerful. So this is just another example where the powerful get more power and take more,” he said, according to a National Public Radio report of the signing ceremony. “We’ve got to point to the evils, and there’s a real evil when so many people are suffering so much from rising drug profits.”

This was part of a package of recently signed medical-related consumer-oriented legislation. Other legislation puts limits on the gifts and benefits doctors can receive from drug manufacturers, prevents drug makers from steering consumers to higher-priced medications, creates a licensing system for pharmacy benefit managers, and creates a California Pharmaceutical Collaborative to help government agencies negotiate better deals for pharmaceuticals.

Signings have been far more plentiful than vetoes.

But the governor vetoed a bill that would require people who work for many web-based meal-delivery services that deliver pre-packaged uncooked meals to consumers to obtain a food-handler’s card. In his veto message, the governor wrote that he is “not convinced … that the existing regulatory scheme for food facilities is suitable for this new industry.” Brown vetoed a bill that would have created a new state task force that would examine opioid prescriptions in light of the state’s opioid crisis.

He also vetoed AB63, which would have imposed the same curfew (between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.) on drivers under the age of 21 that now applies only to those under 18. “Eighteen-year-olds are eligible to enlist in the military, vote in national, state and local elections, enter into contracts and buy their own car. I believe adults should not be subject to the same driving restrictions presently applied to minors,” Brown explained in his veto message.

Stay tuned. The governor has until Sunday night to sign or veto the remaining bills passed this session.

Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. Write to him at sgreenhut@rstreet.org.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com