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Samuel Adofo: Financial Freedom at Stake

I have spent many years learning about financial freedom and focused on how to teach students to achieve it. Focus on paying your debt, invest, and begin to make your assets pay for your liabilities. These are very simple rules I would tell students so they can attain ‘financial freedom’ in their lives. However, while they may be focused on building their wealth, they may be losing another aspect of their financial freedom. This is their freedom to keep their finances private.

Recently Janet Yellen, the United States secretary of the treasury, advocated for giving the IRS the ability to look at all transactions over $600. You just bought a new TV? The IRS wants to watch with you.

You want to pop the question with an engagement ring? The IRS wants to know how many carats. You want to buy a new car? The IRS wants to know the make and model. Even your rent payments are not safe from the IRS eyes under this rule. Yellen wants your bank to tell the IRS whenever you have reached any major milestone in your life.

Now why is this important? Many – I would presume Yellen included – would say, ‘If you have nothing to hide, then why do you care?’

Well, you should care because one, your transactions are none of the IRS’s business. Two, the IRS will use this power to target Americans. Three, you have a right to privacy as an American. And four, your transactions are none of the IRS’s business.

The IRS has already shown its willingness to target Americans it does not like. In 2017, the IRS was forced to settle with over 40 conservative non-profits after the agency attempted to restrict their 501-c3 status because of their ideological leanings.

This is not the only time the IRS was embroiled in a scandal either. If you catch their attention in any way the IRS will audit you until they find the smallest error in your taxes. The IRS will not even shy away from releasing your tax records if they really want to shame you. The agency has shown it is willing to abuse its power already, why should we give them more of it?

We should tell Janet Yellen to go back to her office and let the IRS know they can either keep working as normal or lose the power they currently have. Our financial freedom is worth infinitely more than any money the IRS wants to take from us, and we need to fight for that freedom.

No government official should feel comfortable asking for that much power, and when they do, we should turn around and take all their power away.

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Politics This Week with John DePetro: Closing Out the Year

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for December 28, included talk about:

  • The Guv’s house as the new protest spot
  • A whittled down RI Congressional delegation
  • 2020 winners and losers
  • Things to watch for in 2021

I’ll be on again Monday, January 4, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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Politics This Week with John DePetro: The Absence of Competition… Sleaze

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for October 7, included talk about:

  • The petty sleaziness behind the Jeff Britt trial
  • Taking stock in Congressional races
  • A turning point in COVID dictatorship

I’ll be on again Monday, October 12, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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Politics This Week with John DePetro: Theater of Courts and Corona

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for September 21, included talk about:

  • Progressive protesters seek Senate shutdown
  • COVID crackdown at Providence College
  • Mail ballot application apprehension
  • No bother with budget before election
  • Fenton-Fung fields Mattiello’s obvious flaws

I’ll be on again Monday, September 28, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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Politics This Week with John DePetro: Government and Twitter Flames

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for March 30, included talk about:

  • Raimondo v. Cuomo
  • Cheit v. Fung
  • Rhode Islanders v. the state budget
  • Democracy v. mail ballots
  • and the U.S. Senate as the means of grabbing money

I’ll be on again Monday, April 6, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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Tyranny Out of Partisan Gripes

Read around social media for even a short time, particularly in Rhode Island, and you’ll come across a Never Trumper making some sort of claim that he must be impeached so future presidents don’t get the impression that they can do whatever they want.  Put aside that President Trump is, if anything, an improvement in this regard from his predecessor.

If folks are truly concerned about tyranny as the child of our political moment, statements like this ought to set off alarm sirens:

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The translation is that these things cannot be decided at the ballot box “for we cannot be sure that the vote will be won by us.”  With even Never Trump Republicans (or former Republicans) saying they don’t care who the Democrats nominate so long as they get rid of President Trump, the mission is clear.  Nothing matters to them but making sure the outcome they want is the outcome the United States gets.

If Mr. Schiff is concerned about the integrity of our elections, then that’s where his attention should be focused.  As it is, he’s being either recklessly ignorant or horrifically welcoming of an obvious consequence of his self-proclaimed mandate:  Namely, if differences like this are not decided at the ballot box, sooner or later, they will be decided in the streets, with blood.

Avoiding that outcome is the basic underlying principle of our republic.

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Political Monday with John DePetro: Bad Positions for Political Actors

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for January 6, included talk about:

  • RI Congressmen’s bad alignment with the enemy
  • Projo points to key issues for the legislature
  • Linc finds another party to run with
  • RI pols try to get out of the way of the Census

Open post for full audio.

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RI’s Leadership Role in the Climate Shakedown

Ocean State Current alumnus Kevin Mooney has an American Spectator article highlighting Rhode Island’s role in the vanguard of the inside-government attack on the fossil fuel industry:

In 2018, Rhode Island became the first state to file climate change litigation against 21 fossil fuel producers, a move that directly assaults the free speech rights of those who dared to voice a dissenting opinion on climate policy.

Sheldon Whitehouse, the state’s Democratic U.S. senator, joined with Governor Gina Raimondo and Attorney General Peter Kilmartin to announce the suit at a press conference last July. Rhode Island’s litigation closely mirrors lawsuits that have been filed by 14 municipalities across the U.S.

Although climate change litigants have repeatedly failed to successfully make their case in court, state attorneys general persist in reloading the same arguments.

That’s just the beginning of the sordid tale of political showmanship and lawyers’ fees that makes up this abuse of power.

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“Choice” is Clear in Upcoming Furious Healthcare Debate

A federal judge recently ruled that Obamacare is unconstitutional because the individual mandate, repealed in the 2017 federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, is no longer in force. Even though existing federal health-care laws will remain in effect during the appeals process, states should not panic and codify Obamacare into state law, as it is not certain how long federal subsidies will remain intact.

While the courts hear the appeals, and with Democrats winning back control of the U.S. House of Representatives largely on the health-care issue, another furious debate is about to unfold.

Democrats will probably introduce some kind of government-centric plan, while Republicans are poised to introduce their own free-enterprise solution. What we all want are simply more choices at lower net costs.

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Waning Success, Waning Congressional Influence

Well, the good news, with Rhode Island’s looming loss of a Congressional seat, is that we can’t go any lower than the minimum:

Rhode Island last had a single seat in the House in the original Congress in 1789, when the number of seats was set directly by the U.S. Constitution. Since then, under a mandate in the Constitution, the number of House seats has been determined under a complex formula approved by Congress and based on state populations. Since the 1790 census, Rhode Island has always had two seats in the House, except for two decades in the early 20th century, when a booming immigrant population earned the state three seats.

The complex formula ranks potential House seats for each state. The top 385 are awarded seats in the House. That’s in addition to the minimum of one seat that every state is guaranteed by the Constitution.

I’ll admit that my thinking has changed a little on this over the years, at least to the extent of acknowledging some complications.  Yes, Rhode Island is set to lose a Congressional seat after the next census because our local society doesn’t offer the opportunity that it should for families to grow.

Our failures have mainly been an accelerant, however.  In the long run, we simply don’t have the space to keep up with other states’ expanding populations.  My changing perspective is the understanding that it isn’t irrational for Rhode Islanders to resist a NYC-tri-state-area level of population density.

Still, losing a Congressional seat because your successful state doesn’t have room to fit more people looks very different than our current case of losing it because the state isn’t successful.  We’d all be much wealthier in the former case and have disproportionate national influence for that reason.

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The Congressional Plot Thickens

Looks like local political pundits will have to adjust their predictions for another candidate: Dr. Evil!

But of course his lair is in Rhode Island.  Hasn’t that been obvious all along?

His entry into the Congressional game is definitely going to mix things up when we lose one of our two congressional seats in 2020.  At least my five year old already knows all of the words to our soon-to-be-new national anthem.

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Dr. Prakash Chougule: Choose Flanders for Balance of Representation in Congress

It’s been almost three decades since we have had balance of power in Rhode Island’s representation of U.S. Senators in Washington DC. Senator John Chafee(R) and Claiborne Pell(D), both highly regarded and respected across party lines, made Rhode Islanders proud at home and in Washington DC.

Time has come for Rhode Island to do it again.

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Dueling Conservative Analyses of Russiagate Memos

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Cicilline Reinforces the Suspicions That Elected Trump

In the Bonus Q&A of a recent Rhode Island Public Radio Political Roundtable, Democrat Congressman David Cicilline responded to a question by RIPR commentator Scott MacKay in a way that affirms the suspicions that many of us have had about the thinking of federal politicians, especially on immigration and especially among Democrats.  MacKay asked, “Would you be willing to appropriate federal money to build Trump’s wall in exchange for taking care of the Dreamers?”  Cicilline responded as follows (emphasis added):

You know, the proposal that Senator Schumer put before the president, that he has now withdrawn is something that I think it would be challenging for most Democrats to support. I support border security. I think that will obviously mean repairing some of the existing wall, maybe building some fences. It ought to be done in a smart, efficient, effective way. The president’s own chief of staff said a wall is not the way to secure our border. So, it’s probably not the best way to go forward.

Although, Louis Gutierrez said the other day: We ought to vote for the wall, take care of the Dreamers and then when we get back into the majority, in November, we can repeal the wall. That’s not a bad strategy.

As the recent cliché goes, this is why we got Trump.  Part of the reason that immigration has become such a challenging issue is that the political Right has known for decades, now, that any deal must implement the stronger security that they seek before any of the laxity that the political Left wants can be done.  That’s because we know that any sort of amnesty or relief will be done immediately, and then the federal government will never get around to implementing greater security.  All that sequence does is send the message worldwide that the U.S. will ultimately bend its rules for people who can get here while leaving open the gaps to enter the country.

The lesson applies more broadly, too.  We know from experience, and now from Cicilline’s own words, that his party nationally is not interested in fair negotiation and good faith negotiations.  They have political objectives, and any promises, rules, and a sense of shared nationality are nothing in the face of those goals.

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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.