Posted by: SWL | October 21, 2020

Critiquing 2020 Campaign Ads: Taxes

We have competing advertising regarding taxes. Former VP Joe Biden’s ads claim he won’t raise taxes for anyone making under $400,000/year. President Trump’s campaign has two or three ads on the subject, saying Biden’s plan would raise taxes on individuals 14% or about $3500, and prices on utilities and consumer goods would rise.

Technically, all these claims could be true – if the campaigns slice up the tax plan and only look at a piece at a time. But it is certainly more relevant to look at the impact the whole Biden plan would have on the average American taxpayer.

Biden says he will roll back the tax cuts enacted by President Trump. My family saw an increase in our after-tax income because of those cuts. If Biden does rescind the cuts, our tax rate will go back up to what it was previously – that’s called a tax increase – and we make less than $400,000.

According to the Tax Foundation, while those with incomes under $400,000 would see little change right away, all taxpayers, on average, would have 1.7% less net (after-tax) income by 2030. I consider candidates’ plans affect on my financial situation – not just right after the election, but 10 or more years out. Something that looks good now, may have far-reaching negative impacts.

Biden also plans to raise the corporate tax rate and the capital gains rate. Those of us with middle-class incomes may not think much about this, but it will affect you if you have a retirement fund invested in the stock market. A higher tax rate will impact the dividends and stock price of corporations, affecting the value of your mutual funds or 401Ks. The capital gains rate affects how much tax you pay when your stock holdings are traded/sold by fund managers. You may or may not actually notice these changes if you do not go over the details of your fund’s financial reports, since most of this is handled internally and you just see the final numbers.

All consumers, regardless of income level, will be affected by increases in the price of consumer goods as companies pass on the tax increase to customers.

Biden’s tax plan also includes a $15,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers. While this sounds kind and generous, it is poor financial policy. First, with a soaring debt, the federal government cannot afford to give away more money. Second, it is unfair – both to those who choose to rent and those who bought homes previously. (It was not easy for my family to save a down payment and pay an 8% mortgage decades ago, but we managed without government assistance – as have tens of thousands of other homeowners.)

Third, it will lead to inflation in the housing market. Realtors may encourage sellers to raise their asking price to reflect this “free” down payment. And the tax credit will encourage more people to buy, leading to a shortage of homes for sale in some areas, which will drive up prices. Fourth, this will likely lead to another situation where buyers who cannot really afford to purchase a home will qualify for a mortgage, as lenders add this $15,000 to their income. This would be similar to the causes of the housing bubble of the late 2000s when the Federal Housing Administration loosened down-payment rules and the Department of Housing and Urban Development “encouraged” lenders to lower qualifications to obtain a mortgage.

My overall evaluation of the Biden tax plan is that it will appeal to low and middle income voters who assume it will only affect the ultra-rich. But it will affect everyone within a few years through it’s impact on consumer prices and a slowing of the economy.

My evaluation of the ads: C for Biden who left out critical facts concerning the overall affect to the economy. B- for Trump who has possibly exaggerated the burden and is trying to scare voters.

Democrats have been using a new tactic in the past few days. They have tried to redefine “court packing”.

In modern times, the idea first came to the nation’s attention when Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed expanding Supreme Court seats from seven to fifteen. And FDR would nominate the new eight justices, “packing” in judges with his political leaning. His party controlled Congress, but balked at such a radical change.

Democrat presidential nominee Joe Biden spoke about that historic situation at least twice while he was a Senator – both times saying it was a bad idea.

Over the weekend, Biden and the Dems have been saying that President Trump is now trying to pack the court. They refer to his opportunity to nominate three justices during his 4-year term. But having the political luck to replace three justices due to retirement or death is not the same as creating new seats on the court and appointing a number of new justices all at the same time.

The Dems might not like the conservative nature of Trump’s nominees, but that does not give them the right to redefine words, or history.

Biden is trying to walk a tightrope here, knowing what he has said in the past and what his now far-left leaning party wants. He has refused to answer questions about whether he would try to pack the court (FDR style). This weekend a reporter asked if Biden didn’t think voters deserved to know where he stands. He literally said we do not deserve that. Maybe that was one of his frequent gaffs, spoken without thinking. Or maybe it truly reflects his thoughts (or those of the party).

But we do deserve to know. It is an important issue. And no candidate, when asked about an issue, should hide their intentions from voters.

Posted by: SWL | October 12, 2020

Coney Barrett Deserves Respect – and Confirmation

At today’s Senate hearings, Democrats at least showed some respect to Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Their words since her nomination by President Trump have been un-American and shameful.

The Dems talking points (and each says almost exactly the same words) have all dealt with Coney Barrett’s Catholic faith and how radical she is. It might be humorous if the situation was not so serious.

When Ruth Bader Ginsburg was nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1993, no one asked her opinion on abortion rights or speculated that her Jewish faith might influence her decisions. Coney Barrett should not be asked about – or judged on – her personal opinions on abortion or health insurance. And discussion of her practice of faith should be off-limits as much as the same topic was in confirmation hearings for other justices.

The US Constitution says there must not be any religious test for public office. Should the election of Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar have been declared invalid because she is a Muslim and Muslims were responsible for the 9-11 attacks? I dislike Omar’s extreme left politics, but that has nothing to do with her religion. There are others in Congress with the same political views but different religious backgrounds – and I disagree with them also!

In a diverse nation, we need diversity of thought in Congress and in our court system. It is inevitable that sometimes the liberals pass legislation or have a court rule in their favor; other times conservatives “win”. If one side always got their way, it would not fairly represent all the diversity of US citizens.

Until the nomination of Clarence Thomas by President George H.W. Bush in 1991, nominees to the Supreme Court were judged by their judicial records. Confirmation votes were close to unanimous. (There were only three no votes for Bader Ginsburg.)

Coney Barrett was nominated to the Circuit Court level not long ago (and was attacked even at that time). But she has excellent judicial credentials and was eventually confirmed. Nothing in her background has changed since then. So she should be confirmed to the US Supreme Court.

Posted by: SWL | October 8, 2020

Trump Wants Next Stimulus Narrowly Focused

For months, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has refused to compromise on another pandemic stimulus bill, adamantly insisting it must be her bloated bill or nothing. So earlier this week, President Trump said there would be no more negotiating.

The Dems legislation had many provisions Republicans could agree with, but attempted to sneak in other objectionable items:

  • stimulus checks for some illegal immigrants
  • protection for employers who hire illegal immigrants
  • federal authority for marijuana businesses to access banking services (which they cannot now because pot is still illegal at the federal level)

Almost 20 Democrat Congressmen voted against the bill, although most because of close election races rather than conviction about overspending.

When Trump tweeted that he was open to a stand alone bill providing funds directly to citizens and another to prop up the airline industry, Dems fell all over themselves to say Trump had reversed course, given in to them, etc.

Good try at spin. But I don’t see that. I see Trump focusing on the types of stimulus that will actually make a difference to families and to the economy. Our government does not have unlimited funds – although they could print more, which is a recipe for hyperinflation and possible devaluation of our currency in the future. Congress needs to remain sharply focused on the immediate needs of families, workers, and small businesses trying to stay afloat financially.

Posted by: SWL | October 2, 2020

Critiquing 2020 Campaign Ads: Biden, part 3

Former Vice-President Joe Biden has a lot of nerve to say that President Trump has been fomenting violence by not telling his supporters to stop their protests. Really???!!!

There have been a few skirmishes between supporters of both candidates. But the vast majority of the violence occurring across the US has been from the hands of demonstrators with progressive, liberal worldviews. There are anarchists hijacking some protests – and they want to get rid of Democrat policies and politicians too.

But calls to defund police departments and statements that looting stores (i.e. stealing) is a form of reparations for (mostly imagined) wrongs are absolutely not conservative or Republican ideals.

Also, Biden and running mate Senator Kamala Harris did not speak against the violent protests during the Democratic Convention. A poll reported before the debate showed that slightly over half of Americans polled believe Biden has not spoken strongly enough against the violence.

Biden has denounced the violence more recently, but it’s a case of “too little, too late”.

This ad is not just false, it is fiction.

Posted by: SWL | October 2, 2020

September Presidential Debate: Coronavirus

President Trump’s diagnosis of COVID-19 will certainly change how some voters look at this issue. But even if Trump might have escaped the virus by wearing a face mask more often, it doesn’t make former VP Joe Biden’s extreme COVID plan the right fit for America.

Biden would institute a nationwide face mask mandate immediately after inauguration. The US is diverse in geography, population density, etc. A one-size-for-all plan does not make sense.

If I were to walk my dogs in a city like New York, with residences tightly packed in the heart of the city, I would need a mask because I would pass close to many people on the sidewalk. In my small Nevada town, I can walk the dogs and never see anyone even walking past homes. So I do not wear a mask during our evening strolls.

Biden has also indicated he would try to limit gatherings, including in businesses and restaurants. In a world that was perfect (except for COVID), we would all miraculously have everything we needed and would not need to go to the store. And businesses would miraculously have money to pay their rent even without customers.

While Trump may have pushed for reopening a little too soon for some locales, we must balance health risks with the need for business owners to make money and workers to earn a paycheck. Just before the debate, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak – a Democrat – held a press conference to announce that he was raising the number of individuals allowed to gather from 50 to 250 or 50% capacity.

The ultimate problem with Biden’s coronavirus plan is that it would be an overreach by the federal government. Each state has a health department to monitor the population and decide what is best for their area. Again, one size does not fit all. Some states have managed the crisis better than others. But that is more a function of the unknowns about the virus and it’s treatment early in the year than about not taking the threat seriously.

Unfortunately COVID will be around for some time. Our children need to be educated. Our neighbors needs jobs to support their families. The federal government cannot afford to give everyone a salary so they can stay home – and who would staff the stores so we could buy food? Some essential workers have felt like second-class citizens because they could not stay safe at home.

If everyone would take personal responsibility by wearing a face mask in public and maintaining appropriate social distance, we could get through this with fewer illnesses and deaths – and without extreme government controls.

Posted by: SWL | September 30, 2020

September Presidential Debate, part 1

Last night’s shouting match – also called a presidential debate – was surprising in some ways.

Former VP Joe Biden’s statements were not as confused as in some previous appearances. Taking time from the campaign trail for debate prep paid off. He was mostly confident in his wording. But that wording was clearly a series of memorized policy statements, purposely lacking details and using emotional appeals.

One can always expect President Trump to be aggressive, but he was downright rude. He actually hurt himself when he continued interrupting over Biden responses that could have alienated the Democrat base if Biden could have been heard more clearly. Trump also looked like a petulant child at times. When moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump to please not interrupt, Trump said “him too” referring to Biden. It was like a school boy caught in some mischief, trying to spread around the blame.

I learned nothing new about either candidate. If they actually go through with the next two debates, I won’t watch.

Further analysis of specific issues “debated” still to come . . .

Posted by: SWL | September 24, 2020

Critiquing 2020 Campaign Ads – Biden, part 2

A Biden television ad stats that because of President Trump’s executive order giving a Social Security payroll tax holiday, Social Security will be bankrupt by 2023.

We have been hearing for years that the Social Security trust fund is in financial trouble. Even if it is true that the money will be gone in 3 years, it cannot possibly be only because of a four month suspension of the payroll tax.

Also, if you look into the details of Trump’s executive order, you will find that current regulations require workers to pay the tax next year. So in the end, there would be no change in the trust fund.

Trump has said that he will forgive the tax if re-elected. That’s a bribery attempt, which I personally think is unethical. But such a move would require Congressional approval, which is unlikely. And if Congress went along with the plan, they would be the ones ultimately responsible.

In the end, Biden’s ad is about 67% misleading.

Posted by: SWL | September 24, 2020

Grand Jury Says Police Did Not Murdered Breonna Taylor

The cry has been: “Say her name!”

But I can say “Breonna Taylor” without also calling for murder charges against police officers doing their job.

Taylor’s death was a mistake, a tragic mistake. But tragedies occur every day without criminal charges being filed:
* a neighbor – or even more tragic, a parent – backs up their automobile and runs over a toddler playing on the driveway
* a gun is dropped and discharges during a hunting expedition, hitting one of the hunters
* a brick falls off an old building, striking a pedestrian on the sidewalk

In each case, a family is devastated, as was Breonna Taylor’s family. People ask, why? But most people understand that bad things happen – sometimes it is an accident, other times someone was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Taylor’s previous boyfriend was the subject of the warrant the police were seeking to execute. He had been seen numerous times in Taylor’s company, entering and exiting her apartment. After Taylor’s death, he was arrested on drug charges.

Taylor’s current boyfriend was with her the night of the incident. He fired a weapon at the police, unsure of who was entering the apartment. The police fired back in self-defense, an act that is legal for civilians as well as law enforcement. Taylor was caught in the cross-fire.

Protestors are unjustly condemning Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who announced the results of the grand jury investigation. The “verdict” was given by the grand jury, which was made up of ordinary citizens.

If a patient dies on the operating table, the family may sue the doctors for malpractice. The case goes to a jury which examines all the evidence. They may say the doctors were negligent or that they were not responsible for the death.

In a similar manner the grand jury examined the evidence in the Breonna Taylor case and found the police officers were not guilty of any crime related to Taylor’s death.

Murder is a premeditated act. No police officer entered Taylor’s apartment with the intention to kill anyone. Protestors need to understand the facts and the laws related to what they are protesting. And NOTHING justifies protestors shooting at other police officers last night because they are upset at the results of the investigation.

Posted by: SWL | September 23, 2020

Critiquing 2020 Campaign Advertising: Biden, part 1

Update, 9/24/20:
Today President Trump gave a speech outlining his plan for American healthcare. He unequivocally stated that preexisting conditions would be covered under his plan.

Trump may have announced healthcare reform plans now because of Joe Biden’s advertising (discussed below) or because the Democrats have pivoted from Justice Ginsburg’s death being a crisis for legal abortion to being a crisis for the Affordable Care Act – aka Obamacare – which I guess will “sell” better with voters right now.  Either way, Trump’s position is now known. If Biden is ethical, he will pull the ad.

For the past two days I have seen Joe Biden television ads stating that President Trump is trying to “eliminate protections for preexisting conditions in the middle of a pandemic.”

There have been many half truths and misleading statements in Biden’s previous advertising, but this is an outright lie.

Trump has strongly criticized the current Obamacare healthcare insurance, but when he talks of repeal, he always says he will protect individuals with preexisting conditions.

Biden’s reference to the pandemic, while consistent with his focus on COVID in his campaign, is incorrect and irrelevant. The Trump administration has been mostly silent about healthcare insurance during the pandemic, unless something is directly associated with care for virus patients. And it doesn’t matter when a debate over preexisting conditions takes place since they are not related to coronavirus.

It seems that in the middle of a pandemic, Joe Biden is trying to scare voters into thinking they might lose insurance and not get care if they contract COVID-19.

Democrat Steve Sisolak, the governor here in Nevada, has stridently criticized President Trump for holding two campaign rallies in the state last weekend.

It was reported that face masks were available at the rally entrances, but the majority of attendees chose not to wear one. We have a lot of independent, rebellious individuals in Nevada. There are stores where employees do not wear masks, in defiance of state mandate. People seem to have gotten more used to wearing masks, but there are still places I go where I am one of few wearing one.

While I am an advocate of mask-wearing and think the rallies were not the best idea, I find Sisolak’s response ridiculous. Sisolak has received criticism himself twice for being spotted out and about without a mask early in the pandemic.

But the craziest part of his response to Trump’s rallies was his interview with KOLO 8 News. During his many news conferences during this pandemic, he has always taken off his mask when at the podium. So it was surprising to see him wear one during an interview. It became downright hilarious when he remarked that Trump could have worn a mask as he was doing in the virtual interview. He didn’t need a mask to speak to the reporter via computer – or was he concerned his computer would get a virus?

After six months of pandemic, we should be over politicization and melodrama.

Posted by: SWL | June 3, 2020

Rush to Justice Could Mean Justice Denied

In Minnesota, a Minneapolis police officer was initially charged with third degree murder in the death of George Floyd. Today those charges were changed to second degree murder. The crowds of protesters in Minneapolis, and other cities across the US, have been demanding a first degree charge.

A number of former judges and prosecutors said today’s change in charges came more quickly than in most investigations. That makes me wonder if the prosecutors in Minnesota took action today to placate the crowds, hoping to quell the protests and riots.

Do the media and protesters who are praising the upgraded charges realize that this may actually not bring the justice for Floyd that they desire?

A third degree charge is somewhat like a homicide charge: proof of intent to kill and motive are not necessary for conviction. Second degree murder includes intent to kill. It will be difficult to prove in the attempted arrest of George Floyd that the officer intended to kill Floyd. The officer did not know Floyd or seek him put specifically. If the officer is acquitted, will the protesters take to the streets again?

I understand the anger that fuels the call for the most severe charges possible against the police officer. But if justice is to be served, realism and logic must replace idealism. Idealism fuels the American dream of and drive for justice and equality for all. But rules and regulations, and concrete evidence run the justice system. Unfortunately, sometimes we have to choose between the two.

Posted by: SWL | April 30, 2020

Reopen Economy, But With Caution

In the past two weeks, there have been protests in 20 states over coronavirus business closure and stay-at-home orders. While there are businesses and individuals with legitimate concerns because they have lost their livelihood, and all Americans have the right to protest, there are questions about the wisdom or legitimacy of some gatherings.

First, in many locations, protestors have not kept six feet apart and many are not wearing masks. Just because they have the right to assemble, does not mean they should endanger others. With rights come responsibilities. It will be sad if in two weeks time there are spikes in virus cases in locations where there were protests.

Also, some protests are being hijacked for other purposes. In news reports I’ve seen protestors’ signs with “No 5G” and “Texans won’t take the mark of the beast” among others not related to coronavirus. Both liberals and conservatives are guilty.

There is some wishful thinking or ignorance going on about the “reopening” in some states tomorrow. Not every location will be opened at once. For businesses allowed to open right away, there will be limits on the number of customers inside at any time, all employees may not be brought back and many customers may not return right away amid continuing fear of the virus spreading.

Customer confidence is probably the most important. While the protests are getting significant news coverage, they represent a small portion of Americans. Surveys report two-thirds of Americans are concerned about reopening the country too soon.

And that thought is emphatically stated by most medical professionals. Many speak in terms of statistics, some are more emotional. One nurse said he couldn’t imagine getting back to normal when he is still seeing so much pain and death every day.

Protestors need to remember that the multiple needs of the majority of citizens must all be considered. They can also trust that with a president who is as impatient as they are to get the economy moving, it will happen as soon as possible, maybe even too soon.

Posted by: SWL | April 15, 2020

Trump Has No Power to Order States to Reopen

I’ve heard President Trump make exaggerated claims before, but his statements Monday were totally wrong. In weeks past, Trump has made the general comment that in this national emergency he has broad powers. But Monday he insisted he alone would say when the country will reopen, “authorizing” each governor to act.

But the President did not declare a national stay-at-home order or the national closure of any businesses. He specifically said he would not tell all states to ask citizens to stay home because each state has differing rates of infection and hospitalization. Governors have decided which emergency steps to take in their states, which is the proper constitutional procedure. Even to acquire federal disaster funds, each individual state must declare a state of emergency.

So without any national declarations, Trump does not have any policies or orders to rescind to get back to normal. That’s up to the governors for the same reason of differing affects from the virus.

Maybe Trump should have issued national orders given the varied, and sometimes ridiculous, classification of which businesses are essential. But he didn’t do that, so he’s just going to have to allow governors to continue making decisions even if it takes away an opportunity to promote himself.

Posted by: SWL | April 15, 2020

Is That Really an Essential Business?

I am amazed at what is considered an “essential” business in some cities or states during the coronavirus shutdown.

Several locations consider liquor stores essential. Some people joke that they need a drink to get through the boredom of staying home. But anti-abuse organizations are concerned about increased domestic violence with families living so closely for extended periods – and drinking alcohol can exacerbate that problem.

Marijuana stores, in states where the drug is legal, should not be considered essential, at least not for recreational use. The same arguments apply here as with liquor stores. If medical marijuana is considered essential, it could be handled easily. Identification is required for recreational or medical purchases, so it is not out of line to ask for IDs at the door, only allowing those with medical cards to enter stores. Here in Nevada, pot shops can operate only with delivery service. That policy seems ripe for abuse. Can identity and legal age be 100% verified? How secure are the drugs while being driven around town?

Pretty much everywhere, elective surgeries are being postponed. In Texas, Governor Abbot said that includes abortion, with an exception for a mother’s health. Planned Parenthood filed for an injunction. If delaying a procedure will not kill or cause permanent physical harm to the body, it is elective. While some may say timing is important in abortion, not having one will not kill the mother – if death is a threat the procedure will be allowed.

Probably the silliest instance was yesterday’s declaration by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis that sporting events will now be essential, because they are crucial to the state’s economy. WWE immediately said they would resume their wrestling matches, although without spectators.

While it is a financial hardship for any business to close for weeks, it is important to limit people’s trips outside their homes to prevent the spread of the virus. That includes those buying and employees going to work. “Essential” must be limited to those businesses that are necessary for supplying people’s nutrition, sanitation and medical needs.

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