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Tax Foundation on What Senate Tax Reform Would Mean to RI

The Tax Foundation, specifically Nicole Kaeding and Morgan Scarboro, has estimated the effects of the U.S. Senate’s version of tax reform:

The TAG model estimates that the plan would result in the creation of roughly 925,000 new full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs, while increasing the after-tax incomes by 4.4 percent in the long run, meaning families would see an after-tax income boost of 4.4 percent by the end of the decade. The increase in family incomes is due in part from individual income tax reductions and the broader rise in productivity and wages due to economic growth.  These estimates take into account all aspects of the Senate version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, including changes to the individual and corporate tax codes.

The results are provided by state, and Rhode Island stands to gain 3,135 jobs, with the typical middle-income family seeing another $2,707 in income.

Keep in mind that this is the outcome of improving the tax climate nationally.  Imagine what would be possible if the State of Rhode Island were sufficiently forward thinking to improve its own tax and regulatory climate relative to other states.

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A Living Constitution as a Creature of the Elite

Rhode Island’s far-left Democrat U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse has joined the ranks of his colleagues engaging in (let’s say) enhanced questioning techniques of Christian nominees.  As National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru highlights:

Whitehouse then asks nominee Trevor McFadden seven questions based (loosely) on these facts about his church. Whitehouse asks McFadden whether he agrees with the associate pastor, for example. Several other questions relate to whether McFadden could faithfully apply the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which required governments to recognize a fundamental right to same-sex marriage.

Suggesting that Whitehouse’s line of questioning is inappropriate, Ponnuru draws a distinction between a person’s being a member of a religious organization, like a church, and making statements similar to those that a senator finds objectionable.  That approach misses the bigger problem (and hypocrisy) with Whitehouse’s approach.

Progressives such as Whitehouse believe that the Constitution ought to be interpreted so as to adjust to the changing standards of the times, as a “living document.”  The only mechanism for doing that in a democratic society would be for the country, through elected representatives, to appoint judges who match their standards and will rule accordingly, even if it means overturning decisions that prior courts have made.

Of course, one suspects that Whitehouse and his ilk don’t really want the Constitution to be interpreted according to the standards of the people at the time.  They want it to be interpreted according to the standards of an elite that sees itself as more enlightened than the hoi polloi.

This means that Whitehouse wants the evolution only to go in the direction that he believes to be correct.  Those with whom he agrees should feel free to reconsider rulings of the past, while those with whom he disagrees should be kept from the bench.

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In Support of Some Risk on Social Media and in a Free Society

Some of the responses of America’s tech barons under questioning by Rhode Island’s far-left Democrat Senator Sheldon Whitehouse should raise concerns about the future of freedom in the United States.  Of course, we should keep in mind that these are private corporations that can make their own decisions, but they do talk and act as if they’re somehow more fundamental to society than that.  And so:

Twitter’s acting general counsel, Sean Edgett, told Whitehouse and other members of the Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on crime and terrorism that detecting foreign-based influence campaigns run through phony shell corporations set up as American companies is a challenge. …

All three witnesses also agreed on the threat presented by shell corporations.

“Anything that prevents us from policing the authenticity of our users is a menace,” said Stretch.

It isn’t difficult to imagine freedom — whether explicit in law or simply part of the fabric of American culture — as just such a “menace.”

We accept that people will use freedom in ways that allow them to take advantage of other people because it’s unavoidable, and it would be unacceptable to give government (or oligarchs) the power to set the line between taking advantage of freedom and simply utilizing it in ways that powerful people don’t like.  The fact that powerful people didn’t like the outcome of an electoral contest would be a poor reason to pressure tech companies to set up roadblocks to speech.

Instead, we should seek to educate people sufficiently that a few bogus stories on Facebook won’t dupe enough of them to change the course of history.  We should also encourage more-respectable purveyors of news to get their bias under control so that they have the credibility to offer objective resources.

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Sheldon Whitehouse, Man of the People

Here’s another interesting item that Dan McGowan found for Nesi’s Notes this weekend:

So what did Senator Whitehouse think of his big dinner with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump earlier this month? “They live well,” Whitehouse told reporters this week. “Really big house. Very fancy food.”

Ah, yes.  Sheldon Whitehouse, man of the people, with his $535,000 annual income and  $2.7 million Newport mansion.

I’ve heard it said that there is no class difference so confounding as that between the rich and extremely rich.  The appropriate response of the rest of us, though, should probably be to laugh at them all… and insist that they implement policies that empower us to take their money through commerce and competition, not government redistribution that buys them a dependent underclass.

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Gaming GOP Health Care for Scary Numbers

Dan McLaughlin points out a… let’s say… significant caveat about that study showing trillions in “cuts” to states in the latest Senate GOP health care proposal:

The study finds a $215 billion-over-seven-years reduction in spending from 2020-2026, but then jumps up to $489 billion when one more year is added, and ends up at $4.15 trillion by 2036. Why? Because Graham-Cassidy provides funding through 2026, then requires an affirmative reauthorization of the block grants after that. Avalere treats that “funding cliff” as if Congress has barred future funding. (“As the bill does not appropriate block grant funding to states after 2026, Avalere does not assume any state block grant funding available from 2027 onwards.”) Even over the full 17-year time horizon, as CAP Health Care analyst Topher Spiro confirmed to me on Twitter, the study assumes $1 trillion in cuts from the changed funding formula, meaning that 75% of the projected “cuts” are attributable entirely to the program requiring further authorization by Congress by 2026.

So, basically, researchers with integrity would have limited their time line to the period actually covered by the legislation.  When 2026, either the program would be working well and therefore be easily renewed or it wouldn’t be working well and Congress would have to come up with something else.  But the objective of this study — which the long window of itself strongly suggests — was clearly to stoke fear and gin up outrage.

Of course, as I emphasized last week, what really ought to be scaring Americans is the cost of ObamaCare if nothing is done.  Somehow, that angle doesn’t make it into the reporting, though.

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Limits on Your Health, Not on Government

With Rhode Island’s own Democrat congressional delegation, particularly Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, signing on for Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders’s single-payer, Medicare-for-all health care plan, Betsy McCaughey’s recent New York Post article is worth a read for its turning of the tables.

Details on how Sanders’s plan would actually work, notably with regard to paying for it, are sparse, but McCaughey teases out some implications of concern.  For one thing, according to McCaughey, private health care would be made illegal.  Everything would have to go through the government system.  Consideration of UHIP and DCYF in Rhode Island and the Veterans Health Administration nationally (to pick just three examples) make that prospect terrifying.

Perhaps even more significant, though, is this:

BernieCare guarantees you hospital care, doctors’ visits, dental and vision care, mental health and even long-term care, all courtesy of Uncle Sam. Amazing, right? But read the fine print. You’ll get care only if it’s “medically necessary” and “appropriate.” Government bureaucrats will decide, and they’ll be under pressure to cut spending.

That’s because Sanders’ bill imposes an annual hard-and-fast dollar limit on how much health care the country can consume. He makes it sound simple — Uncle Sam will negotiate lower prices with drug companies. Voilà. But driving a hard bargain with drug makers won’t make a dent in costs. Prescription drugs comprise only 10 percent of the nation’s health expenditures.

Consider this “hard-and-fast dollar limit” in the context of another national controversy over the debt ceiling and debate of the Senate GOP’s latest health care proposal, which would limit the expansion of government spending on health care, a prospect that Democrats and the media elite (not just news, by the way) are endeavoring to tar as inhumane.  How can it be cruel to limit government spending on health care, but just dandy to ration health care generally?

The quick (if specious) answer may be that government spending accrues to the vulnerable and disadvantaged, but that argument dissipates if the wealthy are barred from supplementing their own care.  Single-payer simply becomes the government providing care for services that and to people whom it considers worthy.

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State House Report with John DePetro, No. 26: Resurrected Legislation and the Ghost of Failures Past

For my weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WADK 1540 AM show, last week, the topics were the likelihood of an evergreen veto override, whether the DCYF would haunt Gina, PawSox, DACA, and Rhode Works transparency.

Open post for full audio.

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State House Report with John DePetro, No. 24 and 25: Voter Fraud, Pawsox, Dreamers, and DACA

I neglected to post my August 30th appearance on John DePetro’s WADK 1540 AM show, so this week, you get twice the audio.

On August 30, the topics were Elorza’s Dreamers, Pawsox, and District 13 follow up. On September 6, the topics were official silence on Ken Block’s voter fraud report, the start of the Senate’s PawSox road show, and local response to the DACA.

Open post for full audio of both episodes.

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“Principles” Do Seem to Have Selective Application

I wouldn’t 100% endorse Kurt Schlichter’s criticism of national Republicans, but he articulates a feeling that a great number of conservatives around the country surely share:

Yeah, so after nearly two years of tiresome finger-wagging about “the Rule of Law” and how we need to put our “principles” above our desire for “winning,” the whole sordid scam we always knew it always was is revealed for the world to see. They can’t hide it anymore and they aren’t even trying. Their glorious “conservative principles” aren’t principles at all but a skeevy ploy designed to tie our hands and keep us from pursuing policy goals our establishment coalition partners disfavor. They want open borders. They want illegals. They want cheap foreign labor that doesn’t get uppity to man their donors’ corporations so the Captains of Crony Capitalism don’t have to fuss with American workers who won’t tolerate being treated like chattel. Yeah, “we’re better than that” all right – if you mean that we are better than enforcing the laws the American people passed through a constitutional process if the ruling class decides it doesn’t like them.

One aspect that Schlichter leaves out is the role that the national Democrats are playing by being so radical.  In the absence of a plausible alternative for either party, the power of voters loses out in the balance against the power of moneyed special interests.

Whatever the case, this isn’t a healthy development.

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Some Real Scandals We Hear Less About than We Should

The headline given to Tyler O’Neil’s recent PJMedia essay probably captures the sense of many of us on the political right: “Imran Awan Scandal Shows Just How Much Dirt Dems Wanted to Hide By Focusing on Trump-Russia.”  Over on National Review Online, Andrew McCarthy offers a worthy summary, with due incredulity:

… the proceeds of the fraudulent $165,000 loan they’d gotten from the Congressional Federal Credit Union had been sent ahead. It was part of a $283,000 transfer that Awan managed to wire from Capitol Hill. He pulled it off — hilariously, if infuriatingly — by pretending to be his wife in a phone call with the credit union. Told that his proffered reason for the transfer (“funeral arrangements”) wouldn’t fly, “Mrs.” Awan promptly repurposed: Now “she” was “buying property.” Asking no more questions, the credit union wired the money . . . to Pakistan.

As you let all that sink in, consider this: Awan and his family cabal of fraudsters had access for years to the e-mails and other electronic files of members of the House’s Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees. It turns out they were accessing members’ computers without their knowledge, transferring files to remote servers, and stealing computer equipment — including hard drives that Awan & Co. smashed to bits of bytes before making tracks.

On NewsBusters, Tim Graham notes how little coverage the issue is getting in the mainstream media, including avoidance of party designations and some the more-disturbing aspects of the story, such as national security implications.  Meanwhile, Glenn Reynolds offers a significant observation with his habitual insight and brevity:

Weird how, since the connection to Democratic dirty-tricks firm Fusion GPS came up, the press stopped talking about the Russia “collusion” story overnight.

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“Regular Order” in the U.S. Congress and Rhode Island

Angelo Codevilla summarizes the history of how the U.S. Congress undermined our system of government as the end of “regular order.”  By this, he means the process by which laws were supposed to be reviewed in committee and then passed on the floor, all in full view and deliberation, with each legislator ultimately accountable for votes.  But…

… For over a century, congressmen and senators’ procrastination had pressed legislative business into the last weeks before the end of congressional sessions. Members had noted that they could slip items into bills in frenzied times, which would not have survived regular order’s scrutiny. In the 1970s, some committees started to procrastinate on purpose, so that the end of the government’s fiscal year would come without an appropriation for one or more department of government. The Appropriations Committee would then prepare a “continuing resolution” to substitute for the uncompleted appropriations. These were supposed to just “keep thing going next year as in the previous year,” thus avoiding all issues. At the very least, they obviated whatever major changes anyone might want to make. But it was never that simple: from the beginning, these CRs always had riders. The more influence you had, the more you could slip into the CR.

This gave leadership more power, because they had more leeway to determine what could and couldn’t be “slipped into” continuing resolutions.  In the last decade, according to Codevilla, Harry Reid pushed Congress to the final step, essentially making continuing resolutions the rule for the whole budget and, therefore, the whole government.

If this sounds familiar to local ears, it’s because this is exactly the way in which the Rhode Island legislature operates.  The entire session is warm-up and theatrics for a final push during which the action is frenzied, the rules are suspended, and legislative leaders have all of the say.

The solution is the same, too:  Voters have to insist on regular order, not a few oligarchs who leverage a weak version of representative democracy for their own benefit.  Unfortunately, the corrupt system works well for special interests, too, who corrupt our electoral system.

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Is Party or Country First for Whitehouse?

One of Rhode Island’s U.S. Senators, Sheldon Whitehouse, recently illustrated the outrageous level of partisanship that he exemplifies.  Asked at a South Providence event “how long we have to wait” for the impeachment of President Trump, Whitehouse provided the following response (captured by RI Future’s Steve Ahlquist).

Sure, the blame could go around on who has contributed to the current atmosphere in the United States, and the argument would become yet another political rabbit hole.  Not surprisingly, I’d fault the national Democrats and news media for stoking anti-Bush lunacy, an attitude that Barack Obama perpetuated as a theme of his presidency.  But putting blame aside, what struck me is that Senator Whitehouse didn’t even give lip service to responsible rhetoric or patriotic sentiment.

  • He didn’t caution his audience that investigations might produce nothing, or stop well short of the president.
  • He didn’t express even superficial hope that the country could avoid something that would be so disruptive and damaging to our unity.
  • He didn’t express a preference for a president who would grow in office, even if he’d find that miraculous, at this point.
  • Instead, he furthered the speculation and presented impeachment as something for which we can and should hope.

That is a shocking degree of callousness.  Until November 2016, we could have expected elected officials to muster at least the sense of responsibility for the health of the republic to express hope that even a horrible president wasn’t proven to have behaved in an impeachable manner and would correct himself in office, rather than drive the country to the point at which kicking him out would be the best option.

But not in 2017, apparently, and not Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.

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