Friday, April 23, 2010

Private Property Rights...

My Weekly Column for Utah Homemakers for America... Private Property Rights...
The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is about more than keeping mum and not being compelled to testify against oneself, it’s also about property rights. It states, "No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."
In his very interesting paper Property Rights in American history, James W. Ely writes, "...stable property rights are a powerful inducement for the creation of wealth and prosperity, prerequisites for successful self-government. Conversely, as the English politician and author Edmund Burke declared: ‘ A law against property is a law against industry.’" However, the paper makes a compelling argument that property rights have been diminishing since FDR and The New Deal. Why does this matter?
In his book Economic Facts and Fallacies, Thomas Sowell explains that the easiest way to see the importance of property rights is to look at societies where they don’t exist. These are not free people. And, in addition to a lack of freedom, they may really scramble and work very hard, but remain in poverty. Sowell writes, "The Economist magazine has estimated that, in Africa, only about one person in ten works in a legally recognized enterprise or lives in a house that has legally recognized property rights... Such lack of legal recognition is not a mere formality. It is a crippling handicap for those seeking to rise from poverty to prosperity, whether as individuals or as nations." A void in property rights literally means that whatever you are willing and able to obtain through your effort or labor may not actually remain yours. It may be taxed away or simply taken.
Property rights have been facing increasing infringements from many fronts here in the United States. Maybe the most subtle, but the most damaging is the current government bailout mania. The ten thousand little dishonesties from Wall Street to Main Street that have given us a climate where contracts are no longer inviolate, where someone’s word is not their bond and where government/taxpayers are expected to "bail out" Wall Street banks who did not fight legislation making it possible for people to buy homes well beyond their means and the people on Main Street who signed those loans. The bail out mentality sent us over a waterfall of trouble where we now hear radio ads pronouncing that we should look to the government to help us out of credit card debt. In order for The Fifth Amendment to remain a protection to the people, they must be honest and watchful.
Watchful because property rights have many challengers. Environmental law has become an encroachment on property rights. The Central Valley of California, a 400 mile long fertile garden, produces almost one quarter of America’s food supply, but there is a little minnow called the Delta Smelt on the endangered species list and that minnow gets stuck in irrigation pipes so the farmer’s water has been shut down. Beautiful almond groves that take years and years to nurture have dried up, died and been bulldozed. Millions in jobs and profits have been wiped out along with private property and the rights of owners.
In a landmark case, Kelo v. City of New London, The Supreme Court ruled that through eminent domain law, property can be taken and sold to the highest bidder. In his article, "Don’t Liberate me," Thomas Sowell wrote, "Through legislation and judicial rulings, property rights have been eroded with rent control laws, expansive concepts of eminent domain, and all sorts of environmental restrictions. Some of the biggest losers have been people of very modest incomes and some of the biggest winners have been fat cats who are able to use political muscle and activist judges to violate other people’s property rights. Politicians in cities around the country violate property rights regularly by seizing homes in working-class neighborhoods and demolishing whole sectors of the city, in order to turn the land over to people who will build shopping malls, gambling casinos, and other things that will pay more taxes than the homeowners are paying. That’s why property rights were put in the Constitution in the first place, to keep politicians from doing things like that."
If all that weren’t assault enough, property taxes have made it almost impossible to own or buy property in many states. In Rhode Island and many eastern states, property taxes are more than a thousand dollars per month on a modest family home making the dream of home ownership impossible for most. Here in Davis County, Utah, my property taxes have nearly tripled in seven years. I wonder if our county government is anxious to catch up with those eastern states. I also wonder how home ownership/property rights are really possible when those taxes are equal to rising lease payments to the government. Do you really own property that you must pay so much to the government to keep? In the United States, a little elderly widow on a fixed income ought not be put out of a home she purchased because of property tax.. and yet that can happen.
The answer is for our nation to be more honest and more responsible, know and understand The Constitution and work toward more limited government.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Tax Impact...

For many Utahns, "Tax Freedom Day" arrives on April 11th. Whew! We are almost there! This, according to The Tax Foundation is, "the day is the day when Americans finally have earned enough money to pay off their total tax bill for the year. In 2010, Utah taxpayers work until April 11 to pay their total tax bill." However, the Tax Foundation’s figures are just including state, federal and local tax figures, those are just the obvious taxes. There are many more hidden taxes. In addition, this year we now have the national healthcare reform bill and the Bush tax cuts expiring, who knows where we will be.
I would like to know what my total tax bill actually is, but it’s difficult thing to figure out because they get you coming and going. In Utah we pay a five percent flat tax on all personal income and if it ended there, we would be doing great, but it doesn’t.
For example, in Utah we pay 24.5 cents per gallon of fuel we purchase, but then there is an added federal tax of 18.4 cents per gallon making it 42.9 cents per gallon. My husband and I both drive cars that are very fuel efficient getting around 36 miles to the gallon. I fill up my tank, buying about 12 gallons each time, about twice per month. So for both cars, we spend at least $247.10 per year in just gas tax. Now if you drive an SUV or a Van, you can blow that figure to bits. There are also state tax and licensing fees. It was impossible to figure out what that number might be from the DMV web site. If you purchase a new car, the taxes can be thousands, but we don’t notice because those taxes are built into the car loan.
Utahns pay 3% tax on food. How much is that per year for your family? We pay 6.6 percent sales tax for items other than food. So if for example if you spent another $500 per month on other items like paper towels and clothes for your kids or new tires, you would pay another $400 to the state per year.
We are not even half done and we are getting into some real money here. There are taxes on all the utilities we use. If you live in Salt Lake County, you will find a $2.56 cent franchise fee tax on your Comcast cable bill. You pay a tax on you cell phone bill every month.
There are taxes we don’t even really see. There are payroll taxes that employers pay to employ us. Our doctors, hospitals and dentists pay taxes and those taxes are passed on to us, but I couldn’t find a bill when the taxes were itemized so I have no idea how much tax I’m paying there.
Even those Americans (about 50 percent of us) who don’t pay state and federal tax and also qualify for "earned income credit" (a government effort at wealth redistribution) pay most of these hidden taxes.
One great concern we have is that our property taxes have almost tripled since we moved to Davis County eight years ago. Tripled. What is government doing? My brother lives in Rhode Island and he makes a good living, but cannot afford a modest family home because the taxes are over $1,000 per month. And, in Rhode Island, the roads are horrible and the schools leave much to be desired.
The way tax monies are handled is a national disaster ripe for fraud and waste. Monies are taxed away from the states in federal tax and filtered through bureaucracy after bureaucracy until the value of the monies initially taxed away has greatly diminished. Government does not and can not add any value to the dollar.
In Davis County Utah, we recently had a stark example of this when $4.3 million federal tax dollars were embezzled away from the school district. Read here...
If you happen to own a business, you can spend more time dealing with taxes than working to earn money. It is no wonder that more than half of new businesses fail in the first year. Truly the power to tax is the power to destroy.
I often wonder if instead of hiding these taxes in all the little purchases we make, what would happen if we had to write out a tax check every month to the government for the entire amount for the month? Would we be warming the tar and shaking the feathers out of our pillows and sharpening the pitchforks to march on Washington? Benjamin Franklin wrote, "It would be thought a hard government that should tax its people one tenth part." We are far beyond that tenth.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

NASA Admits Climate Data Flawed...

Read here...

NASA was able to put a man on the moon, but the space agency can't tell you what the temperature was when it did. By its own admission, NASA's temperature records are in even worse shape than the besmirched Climate-gate data.
E-mail messages obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request reveal that NASA concluded that its own climate findings were inferior to those maintained by both the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU) -- the scandalized source of the leaked Climate-gate e-mails -- and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center.
The e-mails from 2007 reveal that when a USA Today reporter asked if NASA's data "was more accurate" than other climate-change data sets, NASA's Dr. Reto A. Ruedy replied with an unequivocal no. He said "the National Climatic Data Center's procedure of only using the best stations is more accurate," admitting that some of his own procedures led to less accurate readings.
"My recommendation to you is to continue using NCDC's data for the U.S. means and [East Anglia] data for the global means," Ruedy told the reporter.
"NASA's temperature data is worse than the Climate-gate temperature data. According to NASA," wrote Christopher Horner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute who uncovered the e-mails. Horner is skeptical of NCDC's data as well, stating plainly: "Three out of the four temperature data sets stink."
related links
Global warming critics call this a crucial blow to advocates' arguments that minor flaws in the "Climate-gate" data are unimportant, since all the major data sets arrive at the same conclusion -- that the Earth is getting warmer. But there's a good reason for that, the skeptics say: They all use the same data.