Author Archives: Richard Larsen

Article V Convention – Congress Will Not Act, So We Will

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Government debt continues to amass at a dizzying pace. The federal government has displayed no discipline in reining it in and reestablishing a more sound fiscal footing for the future of the country. Our founding fathers, however, had the prescience to include in our Constitution the means whereby the states, and the people, could force the government to do what they have no appetite to do, to require a balanced budget.

Growth-Of-United-States-Government-DebtJust since 2006, federal government debt has shot from $6.7 trillion, to nearly $18 trillion. The largest segment of that spending occurred over the past six years with five years of deficits exceeding $1 trillion. Our government has been spending 60% more than it’s been collecting in tax receipts.

Those figures do not even begin to address our long-term debt due to non-discretionary entitlement programs. According to the General Accounting Office’s (GAO) 2013 annual report, unfunded debt including Social Security and Medicare is over $76 trillion, an increase of 8% over 2012 levels. Our national debt increases by an estimated $8.2 million per minute, and about $350 billion per month.

The GAO was explicit in its warning to the policy makers about our spending. They said in the very first paragraph, “GAO’s simulations continue to show escalating levels of debt that illustrate that the long-term fiscal outlook remains unsustainable.”

Budget-chartFormer Comptroller General of the United States, David M. Walker, has been sounding the clarion call of economic disaster for the nation if spending is not reined in, and politicians refuse to deal with fiscal realities of unabated spending. He describes America as a “sinking ship” in a sea of our own debt. He points out that, “The US ranks near the bottom of developed global economies in terms of financial stability and will stay there unless it addresses its burgeoning debt problems,” based on the Sovereign Fiscal Responsibility Index.

Something must be done before the dollar and our entire economic system collapses entirely due to our calamitous accumulation of debt. And the solution could be nestled in Article V of the Constitution. That Article declares how the document can be amended.

Debt-Ceiling-Cartoon“The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress.”

That second option, referred to as an Article V Convention, or Convention of the States, has never been utilized. It’s been attempted before, but never to fruition. It was added to the document after four earlier attempts at language that would have opened the door to a full constitutional convention. The precise and narrow limitations of an Article V convention only allows for adoption of amendments, not a complete “con con” which could facilitate mischief in rewriting our founding document. In Federalist Paper 43 James Madison explained, “It guards equally against that extreme facility, which would render the Constitution too mutable.”

cg536b7ae12610aThis is validated by Nick Dranias, Director of the Goldwater Institute’s Center for Constitutional Government, who has said, “Despite claims made to the contrary, the truth is that Article V does not provide authority for a foundational constitutional convention. The Founders specifically and repeatedly rejected efforts to substitute the current Article V language to allow for a foundational constitutional convention to be called.”

Currently there are active efforts to call an Article V Convention for at least two major issues: a Balanced Budget Amendment, and a National Debt Relief Amendment. Both are oriented toward forcing the federal government to get its fiscal house in order. The latter would disallow congress from increasing the federal debt without a majority of states approving an increase in the debt limit.

In order for such a convention to be convened, two-thirds of the states must pass resolutions calling for it, and then upon adoption of the specific amendments at the convention, three-fourths of the states must ratify. Therein lies the assurance that only viable and constitutionally sound amendments would emerge from such a convention.

Every citizen, and every state in the union has a stake in the solvency and fiscal stability of the nation, and should be actively embracing and supporting the Article V Convention process for these key issues. Hopefully an amendment will then be advanced for establishing term limits on congress, as well. Since Washington will not lead on these critical issues, it’s time for the people, and the states, to do so.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people”

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One of the predictable effects of the secularization of our culture and our society is the debasement of our collective moral fabric, our social mores. The absolute and fundamental matrix of values that form the basis of our Judeo-Christian society have steadily eroded, and at an accelerated rate over the past few decades. This erosion of traditional values has contributed to proliferation of a moral relativism that is profoundly evidenced by displacement of social standards and individual religious belief systems.

c45c6c37e8873f733f2bbba629d700685a861605a5252b951e200da2d32d574cThe late Alan Bloom, professor of philosophy at Cornell, Yale, and the University of Chicago, wrote, “There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative.” If all truth is relative, all morality becomes relative as well, for the elimination of absolute truth claims absolute morality as its first casualty.

This moral relativism has coincided predictably with the secularization of our culture. Supplanting our Judeo-Christian value system, by effectively removing it from the public realm, has effectively left our society as a ship without a moral rudder.

Moral relativism ensues when ethical standards, morality, and positions of right or wrong are culturally based and therefore subject to a person’s individual choice. There are no absolutes. All morality is relative and up for individual interpretation. Fixed standards of value don’t exist aside from the changing whims of society, social trends, and sometimes even government regulation.

teaching-ethical-thinkingWilliam McGuffey, who authored the McGuffey’s Readers, which were the mainstay of America’s public school system for nearly a century, wrote: “Erase all thought and fear of God from a community, and selfishness and sensuality would absorb the whole man.” Today we witness the veracity of his statement with certitude.

Moral relativism weakens our collective cultural conscience. It weakens our ability to identify evil and our resolve to confront it as such. It leads to the perfidious exoneration of individual responsibility and culpability for perpetrators of evil, and seeks blame for such actions in social, parental, and educational failures. It prevents us from recognizing the evil in our midst that threatens our families, our neighborhoods, our culture, and our nation. And if allowed to continue unabated, it perpetuates the continued erosion of our entire civilization.

John Adams said, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion . . . Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

qq1sgMosesMoralityBenjamin Rush, Signer of the Declaration of Independence said. “The only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be [based] in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments.  Without religion, I believe that learning does real mischief to the morals and principles of mankind.”

Noah Webster, for whom the Webster Dictionary is named, and often regarded as the father of American scholarship and education, echoed those sentiments. “The Christian religion, in its purity, is the basis, or rather the source of all genuine freedom in government. . . . and I am persuaded that no civil government of a republican form can exist and be durable in which the principles of that religion have not a controlling influence.”

The First Amendment to the Constitution assures the free exercise of religion, yet due to fear of lawsuits from the ACLU and other malcontents, religion has been nearly expunged from the public square. The freedom of exercise clause has been consequently whittled to a sliver, as religious expression and any semblance of religious morality has been systematically extirpated from society in general.

secularismWe have become such a paranoid secular society due to political correctness that even the establishment clause of the First Amendment is incessantly challenged. And when you think about it, by far the most coercive element challenging the establishment clause is secularism itself, which is little more than a godless belief system that substitutes God with human intellect. A student uttering a Christian prayer at commencement no more violates separation of church and state (which isn’t even in the Constitution) than a secular commencement address. Neither violates the compulsory prohibition as expressed in the establishment clause, which disallows a state-sponsored religion.

moral-choicesLast November Rev. Billy Graham presented his final broadcast to the American people. In it he declared, “Our country’s in great need of a spiritual awakening. If ever there was a time this country needed the intervention of God, it is now. We can and should pray for America as a whole, but remember that when God sets out to change a nation, He begins by changing people. It starts with individuals.”

Former LDS Church President Harold B. Lee uttered a similar statement. “This nation, founded on principles laid down by men whom God raised up, will never fail…. I have faith in America. You and I must have faith in America.”

America was not founded as, nor was it ever intended to be, a godless country. Secularism is euthanizing the soul of the nation, challenging even the bedrock institutions of civilization. If we are to survive, it will be by turning to God and reaffirming the natural rights acknowledged and ostensibly assured by our classical-liberal founders, and by those of moral clarity and conviction being involved in the political process.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

GOP Must Move To the Right For Electoral Success

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It is always entertaining to witness the unsolicited counsel pontificated from the left, telling the Republican Party what’s wrong with it. Since many liberals don’t view Republicans as simply different-minded Americans, but as enemies to be vanquished, isn’t that a bit like the U.S. being counseled by Russia? Republicans should be listening rather to the groundswell of grassroots conservatives who see where the country is headed and fear for our future.

125120_600Unlike the querulous ones barking from the left’s sidelines who cheer the current transformation of America, grassroots conservatives are calling for a return to the classical-liberal precepts upon which the nation was built; life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Not only is the country being fundamentally transformed into something it was never intended to be, but the economic and fiscal tipping points of debt and government intrusion are hastily approaching.

Republicans must disallow the liberals from dictating the premises of public discourse. When they shape public perception based on fallacious premises, the outcome will always to accede to the left. As it is now, rather than questioning whether we should have a deficit at all, it’s, “How much is too much of a deficit?” Rather than all human life is sacred and should be protected, it’s, “How many innocents’ lives are too many to abort?” Instead of government should not be bailing out any businesses, it’s, “How big is too big to fail?” And ultimately, instead of what government should be doing for (or to) us, it should be, “What is the proper role of government in a free republic?”

obama-media-bias-womens-vote-democrats-political-cartoonDemocrats do an excellent job of making promises to niche groups and demographics, and then, more often than not, failing to deliver. But they’re judged by their acolytes not based on results, but on their intent, and their expressed fealty to their objectives.

For example, the “Great Society” has redistributed trillions of dollars over the past five decades, and poverty levels remain, as a percentage of the population, about what they were when the “war on poverty” was declared. Promises to political niches are no more than efforts to buy votes, with someone else’s money. If Republicans want to win elections again, commit to doing what’s best for the country, and all demographic groups, rather than attempting to outbid for their votes, or dissect the electorate based on clichéd parsing of issues or catering to special interest groups. Return to the basic constitutional premise that government is to “promote” the general welfare of the nation, not “provide” it.

In our republic, government was intentionally granted specific, enumerated powers to maintain law and order, ensure our national security, protect life, facilitate interstate commerce, and preserve freedom. Government was never intended to be a panacea or balm for all the ills and travails of society. It was intended to provide a legal structure for the protection of liberty and rights that would allow individuals to get out of life what they were willing to invest personally into it. If Republicans are to succeed as a party, and save the nation from our self-destructive course, they must differentiate from the other side, based on correct constitutional principles, rather than competing to be “Democrat Lite.” Moving to the left will not save the Republican Party or the nation, but moving to the right will.

Question D3 on the bipartisan Battleground Poll conducted by George Washington University provides the evidence. It reads, “When thinking about politics and government, do you consider yourself to be… Very conservative, somewhat conservative, moderate, somewhat liberal, very liberal, unsure/refused.” Over the years the poll has been conducted, most Americans self-identify as conservatives. With just a point or two differential over the past ten years, 20% of Americans consider themselves to be very conservative; 40% somewhat conservative; 2% moderate; 27% somewhat liberal, and 9% very liberal; and 3% either didn’t know, or didn’t have a clue what the question even meant. Clearly, 60% of American voters consider themselves to be either very or somewhat conservative. Interestingly, these results were nearly identical in December 2012 after Obama won reelection, validating the obvious, that turnout of voter base is the determinant of electoral outcomes.

healthcarebillIn fact, according to a more recent poll by Harris, self-identified conservatives outnumber liberals in every state in the union, except for Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Republicans would succeed electorally much more if their appeals were based on constitutionally correct principles, and logically sound premises, rather than allowing the left to shape the debate.

Thomas Jefferson, who oxymoronically is heralded as the founder of the Democrat Party, succinctly stated, “A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned – this is the sum of good government.” That is not the message promulgated by the party that claims Jefferson as their founder.

If the constitutional and logical premises of “good government” are well articulated and marketed, there should be no election out of reach for conservative candidates. That’s what the data tell us.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

 

Obama’s “JV” Terrorists

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It is not uncommon to find inconsistencies and even contradictions in U.S. foreign policy. Usually a few years of separation are required to reveal our inconsistency, as in the case of Iran. Rarely do we see such striking contradictions in real time as we do today in the Middle East policies of the Obama administration.

isis-iraq-war-crimes.siISIS occupies the center stage of our current iteration of contradictory policy. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which subsequently changed their name to the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), apparently now wants to be known simply as The Islamic State (IS). This is the militaristic group that has emerged out of Syria, Al-Nusra, and merged with Al Qaeda of Iraq, to take over significant portions of eastern Syria and northern Iraq.

Threatening to violently take over all of Iraq and Syria, establishing an Islamic caliphate that would eventually cover the world, they have mercilessly spread their destruction from city to city. They behead or conduct mass executions against whoever opposes them (including American journalists), kidnap for ransoms to fund their operations, and have vowed to raise the ISIS flag over the White House. They are well funded from bank robberies, selling oil on the black market, and from kidnap ransoms. They are well trained, militant, and are well armed, predominantly with U.S. equipment.

rightThis is the Al Qaeda-linked group of terrorists that Obama referred to as “JV” (junior varsity) just a few months ago. In an interview with New Yorker magazine in January, the president applied a metaphor, saying of ISIS, that putting on a “Laker’s uniform doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant.” That “JV” group of militants, now figured to be 10,000 strong (including some westerners and as many as 300 Americans) is now perceived to be the greatest terrorist threat in the world.

During the 2012 presidential campaign, more than 32 times the president claimed Al Qaeda was “decimated” or “defeated.” To acknowledge their resurgence just two years later would not fit with his narrative as slayer of Osama bin Laden and vanquisher of his terrorist group. Consequently, their emerging threat had to be minimized.

But that’s just the tip of the ISIS iceberg for the administration. We have to realize that for the past few years the president has been actively engaged in toppling Middle Eastern regimes; Khadafy in Libya, Mubarak in Egypt, and Assad in Syria. In fact, just over a year ago the president was requesting $500 million to help the “freedom fighters” in Syria topple the Assad regime. The majority of those “freedom fighters” now go by the name ISIS, and the president was poised to fund them.

050913_ObamaBenghaziCoverUp_UFSCOLOREven worse, according to CNN last August, CIA sources have revealed that the Benghazi consulate attack of 9/11/12 was directly linked to a clandestine administration operation providing arms to the rebels in Syria. It wasn’t just the consulate compound in Benghazi that was demolished by the marauding jihadists, but the CIA facility two kilometers away, that housed the cash and weapons caches being smuggled into Syria. Jihadists got all of it.

This clarifies the need of the administration to fabricate a story about a YouTube video causing the “spontaneous demonstration” leading to the assassination of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others in Benghazi. In light of recent developments with ISIS, clearly the administration was displaying their naiveté, or, worse yet, intentionally downplaying the effects of surging jihadist groups, by willfully arming and funding them in their effort to displace Assad.

Clarifying the nature and ideological alignment of ISIS, last week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that ISIS and Hamas are “branches of the same tree.” He explained, “Hamas is ISIS, ISIS is Hamas. They’re the enemies of peace. They’re the enemies of Israel. They’re the enemies of all civilized countries.”

RAMclr-062514-attack-IBD-COLOR-FINAL.gif.cmsThis brings us to current events, with the president now authorizing bombing of ISIS targets in Iraq, and leaving the door open to possible raids even into Syria. So now he’s bombing the same militants that he sought to legally fund through congress, was actively arming and funding through clandestine CIA operations in Benghazi, Libya, and that he has characterized as being “JV” terrorists. And let’s not forget that by leaving Iraq so hastily without a Status of Forces agreement, the administration created the vacuum facilitating the successful march of ISIS across northern Iraq.

Last week Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said, “I think evidence is pretty clear when we look at what they did to Mr. Foley [the American journalist James Foley, beheaded last week by ISIS], what they threaten to do to all Americans and Europeans, what they are doing now, the — I don’t know any other way to describe it other than barbaric. 

They have no standard of decency, of responsible human behavior. And I think the record is pretty clear on that. So, yes, they are an imminent threat to every interest we have, whether it’s in Iraq or anywhere else.” He concluded, “We’ve never seen anything like it before.”

"We are in your state. We are in your cities. We are in your streets."

“We are in your state.
We are in your cities.
We are in your streets.”

Those who maintain that the U.S. should embrace a non-interventionist foreign policy would have us believe that this is not a concern to us. In social media and elsewhere they promulgate an attitude of, “let them kill each other off.”

It could already be too late for that. Last week Texas Governor Rick Perry said, “There’s the obvious great concern that because of the condition of the border from the standpoint of it not being secure and us not knowing who is penetrating across, that individuals from ISIS or other terrorist states could be [crossing the border] — and I think there is a very real possibility that they may have already used that.” Our southern border is not secure, and clearly anyone of means or resources could easily breach it.

There are signs that they have already done so. ISIS has posted and tweeted photographs of their flag flying in Washington, D.C. and Chicago, with the message, “We are in your cities.” Just this week, the United Kingdom raised their terrorist threat assessment from “substantial” to “severe” in response to the rising danger ISIS poses globally.

In the 1990’s, Al Qaeda declared war on the U.S. We didn’t take it seriously and dealt with terrorist attacks as incidents for law enforcement. We all remember what that led to. And according to Secretary Hagel, this threat is greater. Attorney General Eric Holder announced this week that the FBI would investigate the beheading of journalist James Foley. Is history repeating itself, due to incompetence and an ideologically driven approach to assessing and addressing our exogenous threats? Regrettably, it appears so.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

 

Ferguson Violence Is Symptomatic of Moral Degeneracy

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There is only one injustice, thus far, that has occurred in Ferguson, Missouri. And it’s not the shooting of a boy, because the jury is still out (actually, it hasn’t even gone to a jury yet) on the events surrounding the shooting of Michael Brown. The injustice is being perpetrated by those who take it upon themselves to be judge, jury, and executioner against the innocent citizens of the town.

article-2727579-209B470900000578-273_634x354Two weeks ago, on August 9, 2014, Michael Brown, a 6’2” 300 pound 18 year-old, was shot and killed in the middle of the road in front of an apartment complex in Ferguson, Missouri. Police officer Darren Wilson, who shot the young man, has been placed on paid administrative leave as the investigation continues. No charges have been filed so far against the policeman.

“Eyewitness” accounts vary greatly about what transpired that hot afternoon on the Ferguson street. But we do know that Brown was stopped for jaywalking, not because he was suspected in a nearby store robbery. It is also clear that the youth was unarmed, since no other weapon was found at the site, and all six shell casings were from officer Wilson’s gun. One casing was found inside the squad car. The final, and apparently lethal shot, was about 35 feet from the car. Dr. Michael Baden, former chief medical examiner for New York City, who conducted an autopsy on behalf of the Brown family, said “This one [the fatal shot] here looks like his head was bent downward. It can be because he’s giving up, or because he’s charging forward at the officer.”

The response to the shooting has been understandably disturbing to many, and has resulted in two weeks of demonstrations, riots, as well as destruction and looting of local stores in and around the small Missouri town of 21,000 residents. What is not understandable, or condonable, is the violence that has dominated the news cycle 24/7 since August 9.

ferguson453723074I would be willing to wager that nearly everyone in the nation wants to see justice served. The problem is, at this point we don’t know what justice will look like. If Brown was shot while charging and threatening the officer, justice will look quite different than if Wilson shot the youth while surrendering with his hands in the air.

Neither judicial outcome justifies the idiocy of violence and destruction perpetrated against the town and its residents. The fact that charges have not been filed against Wilson heretofore is due to the judicial process being played out behind the scenes and gathering evidence for grand jury consideration, not because of prejudice or racism. Emotionally charged racial considerations should have no bearing on the expediency of due process, especially with the eyes of the nation so focused on the rulings made in the case.

While the cogs of justice are meshing forward, demonstrations are perfectly acceptable. In America, any demonstration, however fervent, should be the unabated right of any citizen. The impetus behind the demonstrations is inconsequential since it is a constitutionally assured right, whether protesting a cop shooting, or demonstrating against war or excessive government taxation. As an aside, the word “cop” is not a pejorative, which may come as a revelation to some, as it’s an acronym for “constable on patrol.”

WPTV_Ferguson_looting_damage_1408218776028_7402994_ver1.0_640_480But when demonstrations lead to riots, violence, and property destruction, law enforcement is justified in utilizing whatever force is necessary in quelling the mayhem, and restoring law and order. To deny them that function is to deny the most fundamental requirement of our constabulary.

Those closest to the victim have called for sanity and peace, while denouncing the perpetrators of violence and destruction. The father of the deceased said a few days ago, “We don’t want no violence. Michael would have wanted no violence. We need justice for our son.” His cousin likewise called for order to return, saying, “I just want everyone to know and understand that the stealing and breaking in stores is not what Mike would want, it is very upsetting to me and my family. Our family didn’t ask for this but for justice and peace…. Please let my family grieve in Peace (and) stop the violence in the street tonight, we don’t want this happening when we protest for justice for my cousin Mike Brown, please get this message out to the people that the Mike Brown family do not want this.”

mrz081714dAPCThe violence has nothing to do with justice being served, but everything to do with a level of moral depravity in the country that seeks to rationalize illegal and violent behavior as a proxy for real justice. In what sort of twisted sense of judicial propriety can violence be condoned or encouraged as a rational response to a perceived wrong having been perpetrated? In what bankrupt belief system is the destruction of property and attacks on others justifiable for a wrongful death? It would appear we as a society have learned nothing in the 22 years since the Rodney King Los Angeles riots. This is despicable behavior regardless of the age, orientation, or skin color of the perpetrators.

The days of leaping to irrational and unwarranted conclusions, based on the age or color of the victim, before justice has completed the investigative process, should be far behind us. Assumptions of guilt and innocence of all involved might justify demonstrations, but never riots and provocations to violence. For they are, after all, assumptions made without all of the facts on the table. The calm voices calling for peace and justice should always prevail over those whose lawlessness is an excuse for moral degeneracy.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

 

Paying Taxes Is Not “Patriotic,” Nor is it “Voluntary”

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Six years ago Vice President Joe Biden said that paying taxes is patriotic. Citing the need for the wealthy to pay more of their “share” of taxes, he said it was, “time to be patriotic,” even though the top 20% of wage-earners pay 93% of federal income taxes. The latest iteration of the “paying taxes is patriotic” meme came last month when Treasury Secretary Jack Lew sent a letter to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden calling for a “new sense of economic patriotism.” The payment of taxes by a citizenry in a free society is not inherently patriotic, but such statements are not unexpected from those who conflate emotion with logic.

jack-lew-611x442The context of Secretary Lew’s letter is important, however. Dozens of American companies have made acquisitions or merged with other companies based in the United Kingdom, or more advantageously, Ireland, in order to circumvent the U.S. confiscatory 35% corporate tax rate, which is currently the highest in the world. By basing operations in Ireland, these newly migrated companies pay a relatively paltry flat 12.5% tax on profits. Nine of the top ten global pharmaceutical companies now have operations in Ireland, and some of the largest technology companies, including Google, Twitter, and Facebook, do as well.

The process is called inversion, and here’s how it works economically. A company acquires or merges with a company in Ireland (or Britain, Switzerland, or the Netherlands) and re-domiciles there for the cash savings from U.S. tax rates. The company then lends cash back to the U.S. creating tax-deductible interest payments to benefit American operations. And in the more elaborate variation, interest costs and royalty payments made to Dutch subsidiaries reduce the tax bill in Ireland to 6%. Royalties and interest payments are then funneled to Bermuda, which then cuts the tax in Ireland to zero since Ireland views it as a “Bermuda resident.” This creates a veritable “cash mountain,” as the UK’s Financial Times refers to it, allowing the newly reorganized Irish company to pay nothing in taxes. The Financial Times estimates the “cash mountain” built up through such inversions to be as high as $1 trillion.

The absurdity of our 35% nominal corporate tax rate is magnified when we realize that the $1 trillion sitting overseas is worth a paltry $16 billion in tax revenue to the treasury, as Secretary Lew said on CNBC last month. In other words, to save $16 billion in federal corporate taxes, formerly U.S. based companies have relocated $1 trillion in cash, and all of the economic activity, including jobs and manufacturing, that a trillion dollars of cash (M1) velocity can generate. Our inordinately high tax rates have exceeded the point of diminishing return.

corporate-tax-rate-600The reason the tax revenue can be so low as Lew’s estimate is because the average corporate effective rate is about 12% after deductions. Our tax code has become so porous through crony-capitalism that a company the size of General Electric with sales of over $120 billion, and net profit of $14 billion, could file a 57,000-page tax return for 2010 and pay no corporate income taxes. Our sieve-like tax code hemorrhages tax receipts to the U.S. Treasury.

It’s nothing short of duplicity for the administration to call for “patriotism” from entities they have been arguing are not people, and should not be afforded freedom of speech or freedom of religion rights. They have bemoaned the Citizen’s United case in which the Supreme Court ruled corporations have free speech rights, and the Hobby Lobby ruling affirming corporate freedom of religion, yet they claim such companies can have patriotism, which is an emotion and a trait that can’t be felt or manifest by inanimate objects or organizations. For logical consistency, they can’t have it both ways.

Even though Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid claimed a few years ago that paying taxes is “voluntary,” our taxes are collected from us based on principles of coercion. We pay our taxes under legal threat of fines and penalties, which could include jail time. Companies withhold a percentage of our income as a payroll deduction under threat of fines and penalties. This is also why paying taxes to “share the wealth” is not an act of magnanimity either, for coercion can never be mistaken for giving freely of our substance.

BstMy4OIEAAiQ_m.png-largeThe claim that paying taxes is patriotic is prima facie specious, even if some of the benefits from paying taxes are beneficial to us personally, for tax collection is facilitated by the threat of penalty, which is coercive. As such, it much more closely resembles extortion than patriotism. In a legal context, extortion refers to how the funds are expropriated, not in how they are appropriated. Extortion is forced, while patriotism is clearly voluntary. And since patriotism is attitudinal, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with harboring such sentiments whilst paying.

Taxes are an essential component to facilitate the operations of prudent and constitutional governance. As Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.” However, when tax code incentivizes the relocation of America’s engines of economic growth, its effect is deleterious to the nation. And taxation for reallocation is clearly immoral for our founders formed our system of governance to preclude the possibility of our government doing what would be illegal for an individual citizen to do.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Senator Ron Wyden is correct to not take the band aid approach to closing the inversion loophole. His preference is to overhaul the corporate tax structure which currently incentivizes U.S. corporations to relocate headquarters and manufacturing elsewhere in the global marketplace.

The most efficacious means of repatriating that $1 trillion sitting in overseas banks would be to shred the entire corporate tax code and go to a flat corporate tax rate. That additional trillion dollars in monetary velocity could make a significant contribution to GDP expansion, as well as augmenting U.S. tax receipts.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

 

We Must Always Stand With Our Ally, Israel

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The state of Israel this past year celebrated its 66th birthday, one that it would not have been able to observe had it not been for the leadership and tenacity of one brave and principled American president. President Harry Truman, going against nearly the entire Washington establishment, made the United States the first nation to grant official recognition of the State of Israel a scant 11 minutes after they declared their state official.

Israel Gap Year Destinations MapIsrael is the only free country in a region that is dominated by monarchies, theocracies, and dictatorships that repress freedom, oppress women, limit educational opportunities, outlaw religious and racial tolerance, and sponsor terrorism against freedom-loving people. As such, the approximately 8 million citizens of Israel, living in an area about the size of West Virginia (our 10th smallest state) including Jews and Arabs who live within the Armistice Lines of the 1948 War of Independence, enjoy freedoms not available to the hundreds of millions living in neighboring Muslim dominated countries. They can express their opinions, criticize their government, worship according the dictates of their conscience, publish opposition newspapers, and hold free un-coerced elections. They are by far the most free people in the Middle East. In spite of criticism to the contrary, Israel provides more freedom to Muslim citizens than neighboring Muslim countries grant themselves. Both Hebrew and Arabic are the official languages of Israel and Israeli Arabs enjoy the same rights as their Jewish neighbors, have representatives elected to the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) and have positions as associate justices on the Israeli Supreme Court

IsraelRally-6535On May 14, 1948, the day the British Mandate over Palestine expired, the Jewish People’s Council gathered to declare their independence. In that document, they declared that the Land of Israel “was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance.”

“After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people kept faith with it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom.

“Impelled by this historic and traditional attachment, Jews strove in every successive generation to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland. In recent decades they returned in their masses. Pioneers, and defenders, they made deserts bloom, revived the Hebrew language, built villages and towns, and created a thriving community controlling its own economy and culture, loving peace but knowing how to defend itself, bringing the blessings of progress to all the country’s inhabitants, and aspiring towards independent nationhood.”

OBAMA CARTOONS, THROW ISRAEL UNDER THE BUSThis right to gather in Israel “was recognized in the Balfour Declaration (1917), and reaffirmed in the Mandate of the League of Nations which, in particular, gave international sanction to the historic connection between the Jewish people and Israel and to the right of the Jewish people to rebuild its National Home.” This right was reaffirmed in 1948 by the United Nations.

The declaration then states the principles upon which the new nation of Israel would be established. “THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”

UnknownSince that time, Israel has struggled for its very existence, having fought military onslaughts in at least eight wars of self-defense against 22 hostile dictatorships and three major state-sponsored terrorist organizations – the PLO, Hezbollah and Hamas, and faced a determined terror-led attack that makes those against America pale in comparison. In the 18 month period following 9/11/01 alone, Israel suffered 12,480 terrorist attacks that killed more than 400; a per-capita death toll more than six times that of America’s 9/11 attacks.

It is with this historical backdrop that President George W. Bush addressed the world at Israel’s celebration of independence six years ago, where he declared, “You’ve lived too long with fear and funerals, having to avoid markets and public transportation, and forced to put armed guards in kindergarten classrooms. The Palestinian Authority has rejected your offer at hand, and trafficked with terrorists. You have a right to a normal life; you have a right to security.”

American and Israeli Flags over the U.S. Capitol - RTXL7AW.jpgThe President went on to say, “Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along.” Does anyone truly believe the bellicose leaders of Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, The Muslim Brotherhood, and Islamic Jihad, who all call for the eradication and annihilation of Israel, can be persuaded to change their minds?

The Middle East is home to the primary front lines of battle in the war against terrorism. Recognizing this, and the fact that Israel is a free democratic country, and an ally in combating the evil of terrorism, we must always maintain a resolute determination to stand by them and assure their defense, and not believe naively that Israel’s enemies can be appeased into pacifism. After all, they have sworn to wipe Israel off the map, and the rest of the world’s “infidels,” including us, are next on their list.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

 

Racism and Ignorance Abound in Gaza Conflict Coverage

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knell-report-15-7-pic-missiles-being-fired There are only two possible explanations for the anti-Semitic statements, tweets, demonstrations, and promulgations of the past few weeks after Israel began defending herself from the onslaught of missiles from the Hamas-held Gaza Strip; sheer ignorance or blatant racism. In some cases it could perhaps be a combination of both. Much of the culpability for the biased representation of the conflict in Gaza rests directly on the shoulders of the mainstream media who should know better.

The rationalized justification for the latest attacks on Israel traces back to an incident in June when three Israeli teenaged seminary students (one of whom was an American) were kidnapped, and subsequently killed, while hitchhiking in the West Bank. They disappeared on June 12 and their bodies were discovered eighteen days later in a field near Hebron. Hamas was blamed for the abductions and murders, and the night the bodies were discovered, the terrorist group began launching missiles into the heart of Israel. Nearly 1,000 missiles have been launched by Hamas against Israel since that fateful night, and Israel has responded by destroying the tunnels used by Hamas to infiltrate Israel, and by targeting the group’s missile and munitions storage sites, which are often strategically placed in schools, hospitals, mosques, and residential areas.

pc0264Clearly, Israel is fighting for her very existence, and fighting back against those who attack her. Self-defense is a natural human right, and the first responsibility of a nation to protect its citizenry. Yet in spite of these verities, Israelis are vilified for fighting back and refusing to turn the other cheek.

Mia Farrow has been posting pro-Palestinian comments over the past several days on Twitter, including, “What is Israel’s long-term plan for Gaza? They can’t kill everyone.” Madonna posted a photo with the comment, “These flowers are like the innocent children of GAZA! Who has a right to destroy them? No One!!!! CEASE FIRE!” Dozens of celebrities have been vocal in their anti-Israeli denunciations. There have been a few notable exceptions.

hamas_children_1594729iAcross the pond it has been even more strident, as typified by a letter from Spanish actor Javier Bardem that was published in a Barcelona paper last week. Bardem wrote, “This is a war of occupation and extermination against a whole people without means, confined to a miniscule territory without water and where hospitals, ambulances, and children are targeted and presumed to be terrorists.” A hundred Spanish celebrities, including Academy Award winners Penelope Cruz and Pedro Almodovar, endorsed the letter.

European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor responded to Bardem’s letter, by stating, “The assertion that Israel is perpetrating genocide is not only patently false and detached from reality, but also inflammatory and outrageous at a time when demonization against Israel is fueling unprecedented levels of anti-Semitic violence in Europe…I would be interested in reading the opinion of the same Spanish celebrities after 2,500 rockets explode on Madrid or Barcelona.”

Palestinian Girls taught to fire rocketsAnti-Semitic demonstrations have dominated European news, coinciding with the anti-Israel public posturing of so many from the high-profile glitz and glamour crowd.

As if to not be outdone, American media have been denouncing Israel for “targeting civilians” with their retaliatory attacks, as MSNBC has been doing with regularity. NBC’s David Gregory on “Meet the Press” castigated Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for such targeting, which brought a sharp rebuke from the PM. He said, “Hamas is responsible for the death of civilians. We’re not targeting a single civilian. We’re responding to Hamas action and we’re telling the civilians to leave. Hamas is telling them to stay. Why is it telling them to stay? Because it wants to pile up their own dead bodies. They not only want to kill our people, they want to sacrifice their own people.”

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????One major newspaper has printed over twenty articles on the current iteration of the Gaza conflict. But in all of their stories, not one mention has been made of the documented immoral placement of Hamas missile launchers and munitions in residential areas, schools, mosques and hospitals. Sometimes media bias is more blatantly evidenced by omission, than by commission.

Last year the Anti-Defamation League conducted its largest-ever worldwide survey of anti-Semitic attitudes. They polled 53,000 people in 102 countries, representing nearly 87% of the world’s population, and found 26% of the world is anti-Semitic. It’s difficult to come to grips with such blatant racism in this day and age when it is so pervasively denounced. Particularly inscrutable is the racism of the effete celebrity crowd and self-professed politically correct media personalities.

hamas_terror_academyHouse Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, made perhaps the most ludicrous comment this week in support of Hamas, also known as the Muslim Brotherhood of Palestine. She referred to them as a “humanitarian group.” The Hamas Charter states, “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it,” and it will be obliterated by “Jihad.” To most sentient people, that wouldn’t appear very “humanitarian.”

It is only by flagrant vacuity that some attempt to create a moral equivalency between a democratic nation defending itself and a terrorist organization that uses human shields to protect their weaponry. As Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, one of the founders of Hamas, said last week on CNN, “Hamas doesn’t care about the lives of Palestinians…And, by the way, Israel – the destruction of the state of Israel is not Hamas’ final destination. Hamas’ final destination is building the Islamic Caliphate, which means an Islamic state on the rubble of every other civilization. These are the ultimate goals of the movement.”

IsraelRally-6535Yet to Pelosi, Hamas is “humanitarian,” and for many in the media and of the celebrity elite, the terrorist group has been perched on moral high ground as victims, rather than denounced as the perpetrators of terrorism that they are. Such a perverted sense of misplaced indignation can only be attributable to abject ignorance of the relative facts, an intense racist bigotry against the Jewish state, or a combination of the two.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration.  He can be reached at [email protected].

 

How Smartphones are Dumbing Down Our Society

Business colleagues reading an SMS while in a line

Business colleagues reading an SMS while in a lineHow many times every day do you find yourself visiting with a friend or a family member and you feel like their phone or other electronic device is more important to them than you are? How often do you find yourself in a one-on-one or a group setting and the other person or individuals immediately pick up their phone with every chirp, beep, or ring-tone they emit? We have a society that is increasingly less humanly social, and have in some distorted way, become less connected sociologically and emotionally, and more isolated, precisely because of the electronic connectivity that has come to dominate our culture.

The smartphone is well on its way to creating a socially dumb society. According to eMarketer from a study completed last year, Americans now spend more time on their smartphones and other electronic devices than they do with anything else. The average American now spends over five hours every day tinkering, playing with, responding to, and interacting with their digital devices. Such over-reliance on electronic gadgets has now eclipsed watching TV as the single-most over-indulged time hog of the average American’s daily schedule.

Liam-Walsh-Cartoon-New-YorkerA CNN story last year calculated that by the time teens reach middle school, they text nearly 3,500 times a month, and spend more time with electronic media than they do with their parents or teachers. The report stated, “The impact of heavy media and technology use on kids’ social, emotional and cognitive development is only beginning to be studied, and the emergent results are serious. While the research is still in its early stages, it suggests that the Internet may actually be changing how our brains work. Too much hypertext and multimedia content has been linked in some kids to limited attention span, lower comprehension, poor focus, greater risk for depression and diminished long-term memory.

texting“Our new world of digital immersion and multitasking has affected virtually everything from our thought processes and work habits to our capacity for linear thinking and how we feel about ourselves, our friends and even strangers. And it has all happened virtually overnight.”

And that barely scratches the surface in terms of the social ineptitude fostered by such overt dependency on electronic devices. It’s virtually impossible to sit in a family, business, or even mealtime setting without someone being glued to their phones rather than visiting, interacting with, or communicating with the others who are present. The clear signal, via body language, is that the device, and whoever is texting or messaging on the other end of the digital conversation, is much more important than the living, breathing, cognitive beings in the room with them!

hfmbookRachel Macy Stafford was a young wife and mother who had an epiphany of sorts. She realized that her children, and other important people in her life, were being short-changed by the attention and devotion she paid to her smartphone. She started maintaining a blog of her observations and “confessions” of her own overuse of digital media.

One reader of her blog sent an email to her that was seismic in its impact. The reader said, “I can recall a time when you were out with your children you were really with them. You engaged in a back and forth dialog even if they were pre-verbal. You said, ‘Look at the bus, see the doggie, etc.’ Now I see you on the phone, pushing your kids on the swings while distracted by your devices. You think you are spending time with them but you are not present really. When I see you pick up your kids at day care while you’re on the phone, it breaks my heart. They hear your adult conversations. What do they overhear? What is the message they receive? I am not important; I am not important.”

On her blog, Handsfreemama.com, (and in her book by the same name) she has listed a series of introspective statements on “How to Miss a Childhood.” For those who have children at home, this is a real eye-opener. But to all of us, regardless of age or familial composition, the messaging is poignant with regard to our most treasured relationships.

She says that if you want to miss your children’s childhood, “Keep your phone turned on at all times of the day. Allow the rings, beeps, and buzzes to interrupt your child midsentence; always let the caller take priority.”

“Carry your phone around so much that when you happen to leave it in one room your child will come running with it proudly in hand—treating it more like a much needed breathing apparatus than a communication device.”

“Decide the app you’re playing is more important than throwing the ball in the yard with your kids. Even better, yell at them to leave you alone while you play your game.”

“While you wait for the server to bring your food or the movie to start, get out your phone and stare at it despite the fact your child sits inches away longing for you talk to him.”

gg58805038“Neglect daily rituals like tucking your child into bed or nightly dinner conversation because you are too busy with your online activity.

After listing many more such examples, the author concludes: “Follow this recipe and you will have: missed opportunities for human connection, fewer chances to create beautiful memories, lack of connection to the people most precious to you, inability to really know your children and them unable to know you, and overwhelming regret.”

If we are to avoid becoming a socially inept and illiterate society, we must learn to use our electronic devices not as proxy relationships, but as tools to broaden and enlarge our human experience, and with a sense of temporal balance, rather than as our veritable raison d’être or center of our existence. Perhaps it’s time to reintroduce social etiquette into our school’s curricula, before our anti-social behavior unravels our last few remaining threads of humanity.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

 

Obama’s Man-Made Disaster – Our Southern Border Invasion

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It’s impossible to avoid the coverage of the “immigration crisis” on our southern border. The media’s pervasive use of disinformation terminology and appeals to morality of a sentient populace is employed to shape public perception on the humanitarian tragedy unfolding daily in the news. The problems are manifold, but the creation of the crisis is causally singular. And the solution, at least to the cause, could be equally simple.

dt.common.streams.StreamServer.clsJust since October of last year, there have been nearly 60,000 children taken into custody for entering our country illegally. The majority of them are from Central America and unaccompanied by an adult.

The media report this as an “immigration crisis.” It is not. The government’s own definition of an immigrant is very precise: “persons admitted as legal permanent residents (LPRs) of the United States.” It would be more accurately described as an invasion, which is an “incursion by a large number of people.” As a friend sent me this past week, “Sneaking into a country doesn’t make you an ‘immigrant’ any more than breaking into a house makes you ‘part of the family.’”

Secondarily, the crisis with the children is man-made, and there is one man who is most responsible for it. Starting as early as August 2011, the administration started using “prosecutorial discretion” in applying the law against those who enter the country illegally. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano issued a communiqué stating that removing illegal aliens was not an “enforcement priority” of the Obama administration.

article-2694606-1FB0BDB600000578-269_634x415Almost immediately after that initial statement, DHS memos evidence an even less subtle approach; a broader “administrative amnesty,” would be applied especially for young people who would have benefited from the DREAM Act, which was never passed by congress. One such DHS memo to the director of United States Citizen and Immigration Services, indicated, “In the absence of Comprehensive Immigration Reform, CIS can extend benefits and/or protections to many individuals and groups by issuing new guidance and regulations.”

Internal memos clearly identify the motive behind such moves to be political. One such internal memo, uncovered by Pro Publica, stated, “The Secretary would face criticism that she is abdicating her charge to enforce the immigration laws,” but expressed hope she would “be viewed as breaking through the Washington gridlock in an effort to solve tough problems at a time when providing Latino voters with something they can support will be a win-win for us all.”

Then for the icing on the cake, just five months before the 2012 presidential election, “Obama announced that he would stop deportations for a half a million people who were brought to the United States as children. For this, he was rewarded with more than 70 percent of the Hispanic vote,” as reported by Nationalinterest.org.

BsmLwovIEAAa0ioEach of these official and unofficial announcements have yielded the administration’s apparently desired effect of escalating the invasion of our southern border. News regarding the relaxation of U.S. restrictions against illegal entry into the country travels like wildfire especially through the “coyote” grapevine, those who transport people across the border illegally.

This relaxation of deportation and border security laws is borne out by the data. According to the Los Angeles Times, “the number of immigrants younger than 18 who were deported or turned away from ports of entry declined from 8,143 in 2008 to 1,669 last year. There were 95 minors deported from the entire interior of the country last year. At the same time, the number of unaccompanied alien children arriving from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras exploded from less than 4,000 several years ago to over 40,000 since last October.”

Last weekend Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), along with several other congressmen, met with President of Honduras Juan Orlando Hernandez and President of Guatemala Otto Pérez Molina and their wives. According to Granger, the leaders “want their children back.”

“We found out that the president and the first ladies of Guatemala and Honduras want their children back and they’re willing to cooperate with us to send their children back as quickly as possible,” she said.

Flood-Gates-590-LAIn spite of claims the children are fleeing violence in their home countries, a new report indicates they’re coming primarily for amnesty. Two weeks ago the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC), which is led by the DEA with cooperation from Homeland Security, reported, “Of the 230 migrants interviewed, 219 cited the primary reason for migrating to the United States was the perception of U.S. immigration laws granting free passes or permisos to UAC (unaccompanied children) and adult females OTMs (other than Mexicans) traveling with minors,” the report said.

Clearly the administration has created this humanitarian crisis by its own policies. If they wanted to stop the illegal migration, it wouldn’t take much effort. Rep. Granger indicated that the Central American presidents she met with said it would be “very helpful” if the president would reverse his stance. They said a great start would be for the president to simply state, “Don’t send your children to the United States illegally because we will send them back, they will not complete their journey.”

The president had a perfect opportunity to send such a message when he was visiting Texas discussing the issue with Governor Rick Perry. He created the crisis with administration policies, and he could end it, if he wanted to.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

 

The Failure of Obamanomics

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net-worth-chart-2009-11The strongest component of the Federal Reserve’s Leading Economic Indicators currently is stock market performance. Such equity strength is more a case of artificial stimulation by the Federal Reserve through Quantitative Easing and the cozy relationship between Washington and Wall Street than it is a sign of a healthy economy or White House policies that have been conducive to growth. After nearly six years of President Obama’s economic policies, there is unmistakable evidence that White House policies have severely hampered economic viability.

The middle class real median household income in 2012 was less than it was at the end of the ’80s, and it’s down 9 percent from its high in 1999. The biggest portion of that decline, 8.3%, came in just the past five years.

6a00e54ecbb69a8833019104b3ec19970c-800wiThe median net worth of a family in 2010 was $77,300, compared to $126,400 just three years earlier. In 46 of our 50 states, the poverty rates have increased over the past six years, and the national poverty rate is over 15% for the fourth year running. The last time that happened was in 1965. More and more families are dropping from the ranks of the middle class into poverty.

One of the greatest factors adversely affecting median household income and net worth is the loss of jobs and extended unemployment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the Participation Rate, which is represented as a ratio or a percentage of the total population, is at the lowest levels in 50 years, with about 62.8% of the population working. According to the BLS U-6 data, 13% of the population is still unemployed or underemployed, and marginally attached to the labor market.

The job situation is directly effected by administration policies, and will not improve appreciably until the cost of doing business starts dropping. Last year the Small Business Administration reported that regulation costs American business $1.75 trillion per year, and costs small businesses as much as $10,585 per employee. Just the costs of Obamacare, Financial Regulatory Reform, and new EPA regulations, are projected to increase that cost per employee as much as 30%, according to Investor’s Business Daily.

37242E8628A0435CBA8B05A16E7BCE50In 2012, the President said, “This country doesn’t succeed when we only see the rich getting richer. We succeed when the middle class gets bigger. We grow our economy not from the top down, but from the middle out.” He was correct. But none of his policies have done what he gives such great lip service to.

In spite of the president’s consternation over income inequality, the income gap has increased exponentially under Obamanomics. As MSN Money declares, “The top one percent of Americans — those earning above $366,623 a year — have taken 81 percent of the fruits of the recovery. And the top 0.01 percent — earning about $8 million a year — took an astonishing 39 percent of the growth.”

Worst Post-Recession Recovery

Worst Post-Recession Recovery

Let’s look at the economy in general. The National Bureau of Economic Research officially scored the recession as ending in June, 2009, just five months after Obama’s inauguration. Historically, the nation has rebounded with significant growth coming out of a deep recession, but this has been the most tepid recovery in the last 100 years according to Forbes. They point out, “Under President Obama the American people have now suffered the worst 5 years since the Great Depression.”

Steve McCann of the American Thinker earlier this year wrote, “Instead what America got by year five was fewer jobs than before. Even though the employment age population has increased by nearly 12 million since January, 2008, there are now 3 million fewer Americans working, with employment declining from 146.3 million in January, 2008 to 143.3 million in December, 2012. If America enjoyed the same labor force participation rate as in 2008, the unemployment rate in December, 2012 would have been 11.4%, compared to 4.9% in December, 2007.”

OG-AB775_GDP061_G_20140625093832The latest revision of 1st quarter GDP growth was adjusted downward to -2.9%. Another quarter of negative growth, or economic contraction, and we’ll be officially in another recession, and it will be primary due to the policies that have restricted job growth, saddled the private sector with an average 91,000 pages of new regulation per year added to the Federal Register, and decimated the middle class.

Every one of these data are adversely affected by policies of the administration over the past six years. There have been precious few initiatives implemented that have facilitated free market principles in an attempt to augment economic expansion, job growth, or reduced fiscal burdens bourn increasingly by the middle class. Instead we’ve had nearly 550,000 pages of new regulation added to the Federal Register, and dozens of Executive Orders that have stymied the engine of capitalism that fuels the country.

The new Dow Jones Industrial Average record reached last week is good for investors, but belies the broad-based weakness in the general economy. With two years left of this administration that is so averse to free markets, a substantive and vibrant economic recovery will likely be elusive for the foreseeable future.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

 

Of Freedom, Patriotism, and American Exceptionalism

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flag2“Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?” Those lines from our National Anthem reflect what has been felt by most Americans over the years; that this country is the land of the free, and precisely because of those who are brave.

There has historically been a sense of pride in the level of freedom and liberty afforded Americans; a time when our National Anthem reflected a grateful people who lived in relative freedom from government coercion and tyranny. And as a people, we were proud of our heritage of liberty. But two new polls reflect a drastic change in how we view our freedom, and our pride in being Americans. There is perhaps no better time, than the celebration of our Independence Day, to reflect on what it means to be an American.

Just eight years ago, when Americans were asked in a Gallup poll how they felt about their individual liberty, 92% were satisfied, and felt they were living the American dream of optimal personal freedom. At the time, that was enough to earn the United States of America the top ranking, globally, in personal freedom. In just a few short years, Americans have responded to the same question in ways that reflects the diminution of liberty that comes from expansive government intrusion and a floundering economy that severely restricts economic freedom. We now rank #36 in the world, according to Gallup this week.

We were not the only nation to experience such a precipitous drop in our sense of freedom. Other countries that experienced comparable declines were Egypt, Greece, Italy, Venezuela, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Romania, Yemen, Pakistan, and Spain.

Certainly a significant contributor to this deterioration is the rise of governmental power and the micromanagement of nearly every aspect of our lives. Governments, and those who wield power within them, are historically the culprits in coercive erosion of freedom. But another component is likely economic, as it’s hard to feel free when jobs are scarce, good-paying jobs are even more scarce, and when the middle-class in America has taken a 9% trimming in real median household income, from $54,489 at the end of 2007, to $50,020 last year.

Patriotism-FlagPerhaps even more disconcerting than the perceived erosion of our liberties, is what was revealed in an extensive typology survey released last week by Pew Research. One of their shocking findings in their 187-page paper researching American attitudes was that a full 44% of us are not proud to be Americans. They separated polling groups by substrata of political self-identification, but in the conglomerate, 60% of “strong liberals” answered “no” to the question of whether they “often feel proud to be American.” The only groups that solidly agreed with the statement were those on the conservative side, from 72-81%.

Patriotism is now quantified as a dying trait of 21st century Americans. There was a time not long ago when in spite of ideological differences, the common glue holding our nation, society, and culture together was a shared love of country, a commitment to leave her better than we inherited her. We recognized that we were all Americans, and that we were a unique nation established upon fundamentally correct principles recognizing the equality of man because of our God-given inalienable rights.

9-11neverforgetReflect on how the nation coalesced for a time after the attack at Pearl Harbor, or even more recently, after the attacks of 9/11. As a nation we were unified with a love of country, a patriotic fervor, and a determination to overcome all obstacles and enemies that stood in the way of our perpetuity as a free and prospering nation. Flags, patriotic bumper stickers, and unifying messages on signs and placards were virtually omnipresent. Such unity is predictable from people filled with the American spirit, when we feel we are at risk and fighting for our survival.

I would submit that we are still fighting for our survival, and the risks are no less onerous or menacing now than they were in 1941 or 2001. But even more than those exogenous threats to our physical existence, the policies of governance today, which are so intuitively antithetical to those upon which the nation was founded, are a fulfillment of Thomas Jefferson’s fear. As he said, “Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.” The greatest threat unraveling America today is domestic, and ideologically driven.

There is nothing erudite or chic to those who harbor antipathy toward America. It may indicate some deep psychological maladies, but it’s certainly not “cool.” Not only is it possible to love America and all she stands for while still being critical of politicians and policy, but I think that’s what is meant by dissent being the ultimate form of patriotism: a devotion to America and a commitment to her perpetuity so great that we speak out in opposition to those policies that we’re convinced challenge the unique position America bears as an ensign of freedom to the world.

960x540There are some incontrovertible facts about America that must be recognized across the entire political spectrum, for they are historical verities. For example, we all should recognize that for the first time in history, a nation, even this nation, was created by people, for people, based on a series of principles and tenets recognized to be God-given, not government bestowed. As James Madison said regarding the patriots who founded this nation, “Happily for America, happily, we trust, for the whole human race, they pursued a new and more noble course. They accomplished a revolution which has no parallel in the annals of human society.”

For the first time in history, a group of agrarian subjects united to throw off the tyranny of their monarch, and establish a new nation founded in the notion that rights are not simply granted by the ruler, but by God. And that since they were granted by God, they were inalienable, meaning that they were unable to be separated, surrendered, or transferred. And that among those rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This is the essence of American exceptionalism.

Even those who engage in national self-loathing, lamenting America as the cause of all the world’s grief, must recognize the power behind a country founded on the principle that for a government of free people to be legitimate, its powers must be derived from the consent of the governed.

Stock Photo of the Consitution of the United States and Feather QuillAmerica’s greatness is not based in an arrogant presumption of supremacy on our part, but on a recognition of our unique origins, national credo, historical evolution, distinctive political and religious institutions, and of America’s qualitative dissimilarity from all other nations. It is not arrogance to claim greatness in this young republic; it is historical and empirical fact. Our Declaration reduced government from master to servant for the first time in history, regardless of the fact that the role has in recent years been reversed.

Our United States of America is not perfect. No temporal entity operated by man can be, yet the principles upon which this country is founded are fundamentally correct, based in freedom and individual liberty, and the resulting government by and for the people, at one time was the best on earth.

patriotismPatriotism is not a matter of waving a flag, but is rather manifest in how we talk of America, and how we treat her and our fellow citizens. Adlai Stevenson admonished us that our patriotism should not be “short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.”

In this context, to be true patriots, we don’t just fly our flag on the 4th of July, but we live lives of dedication to preserving this land, and passing it on to later generations in better condition than we received it from our forbearers. To fail in this most basic task is to fail as Americans.

“Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?” To which we answer unwaveringly, “Yes!”

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

 

Obama Illegally Shutting Down Businesses with Operation Choke Point

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1. Obama_Constitution_ObstructionIn a free-market capitalistic system, the economy grows as companies compete freely for consumer dollars by producing superior products and services, adding jobs while their bottom-line grows. In such a system the government plays a role as referee by protecting consumers and ensuring all corporate players compete legally, and fairly. But in a crony-capitalistic system, the government does more than referee — it intervenes, attempting to assure success of some sectors and companies, while thwarting and even penalizing those that are out of favor with the prevailing ideology. Over the past six years our economic system has become increasingly controlled through governmental cronyism, and it just got much worse, and it’s based purely on ideology.

Early last year the Department of Justice (DOJ) initiated a new probe into questionable mercantile ventures facilitated by commercial banks. Initially, “Operation Choke Point” targeted banks that service payday lenders, especially online, and other services that they thought to be dubious. DOJ pressured banks doing business with such firms to “choke” or restrict access of such firms to banking services, even to the point of closing the accounts of such firms.

2. Lose-some-Weight-ALG-600This policy is not traceable to the passage of Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, commonly referred to as FinReg. That Act created consumer protection regulations, as well as other measures such as “too big to fail,” which were designed to prevent a collapse of the financial services industry as we saw in 2008. Those regulations are enforced through the Department of the Treasury.

Operation Choke Point, however, is being run through the DOJ as an extension of the president’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF). The Task Force was created in November 2009 for the express purpose of holding accountable the individuals and institutions that created the last financial crisis. This task force, headed by the DOJ, includes the FBI, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Secret Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The evidence for potential abuses is generated by banks through their reporting of Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs), making banking institutions partners with law enforcement agencies in identifying and flagging questionable financial activity.

3. Cartoon-Obama-the-Crook-600_zpsec017335This puts banks in a tenuous position with law-enforcement and government agencies. As the Wall Street Journal reported last month, “Banks, which need a reliable and safe payments network to survive, have always worked with law enforcement to fight fraud and even terrorism in the financial system. Banks provide tips to law enforcement when a customer’s behavior seems fishy, and they assist in investigations when asked. In the past year alone, banks have filed nearly a million suspicious activity reports with regulators, including suspicions of mortgage fraud, identity theft, counterfeit debit and credit cards, tax evasion and wire-transfer fraud.”

Clearly the intent of the FFETF is appropriate, as it relates to curtailing illegal or dubious financial ventures and transactions, and restricting money-laundering schemes. The problem is, it’s now gone much further than the original intent.

4. ObamaCare_Thomas_Jefferson_Tyranny_1-300x300Two weeks ago, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee reported that, based on internal DOJ documents, the administration is now using Operation Choke Point to target companies and sectors that are completely legal, yet not viewed favorably by the administration. The report stated that the DOJ is using pressure on banks to “shut down” companies that they find “objectionable.” “We have documented that they are going after gun and ammunitions manufacturers, gun sellers and non-deposit lenders. Their own memos show they are well beyond enforcing the law,” said Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer  (R-MO) after the report was made public.

And it doesn’t end there. The documents released by the House Oversight Committee show that the DOJ has included the entire firearms industry and classified them with other “high risk” targeted businesses. The trade association for firearms and ammunition manufacturers, The National Shooting Sports Foundation, has reported that, “several of its members have had banking relationships wrongfully terminated as a result Operation Choke Point.”

We have yet again an example of the administration utilizing the tools of governance to discriminate against activities and companies that are legal, that they don’t approve of. As previously documented, the administration has abused their power with the IRS, DOJ, Environmental Protection Agency, the Labor Department, FBI, ATF, and OSHA. The administration has abused the power of government, based on ideology, to harass, intimidate, and put out of business, companies led by conservative contributors, and conservative non-profit organizations.

5. obama-tyranny-irsThis is the type of political corruption we would expect from a banana republic, or a despotic Middle-Eastern regime, certainly not the United States of America. Columnist Charles Krauthammer believes we’ll be dealing for years with the “toxic residue of this outbreak of authoritative lawlessness.” This is no longer simply a partisan issue of concern. This goes right to the heart of what defines our constitutional system of government, for we have, until now, been a country governed by law, not presidential whims based on ideology.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

Idaho GOP Convention Provides Didactic Insights for Nation

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The Idaho Republican Party made national news last week when their state convention ended in contentious chaos, with a third of the delegates not seated, no platform passed, and no election on party leadership. While the story itself may be of greater interest in the Gem State, the lessons that can be learned apply nationally, as other states work through the divisiveness that is prevalent within the GOP today.

With the convention ending in obvious disarray, having conducted no business, the natural tendency is to presume a comparable state of disorganization within the Republican movement. That would be an erroneous assumption. Party principles and tenets are still in place; an existing platform (albeit laboriously and tediously lengthy) is still in place; only the leadership is in question, which will likely be resolved presently. The real question seems to be where the fractious Party goes from here.

122054_600All the cards for the convention seemed to have been held by the Credentials Committee, which was stacked with ideologues, last week as they opted to not seat several county delegations for the convention. Ada County’s delegation was disallowed because of perceived irregularities in the selection of delegates. Power County’s delegates were not seated primarily because of a change in the meeting schedule and timing issues. And Bannock County’s delegation was not seated because one person complained to the Committee about how the delegation was selected (legally) with one motion, rather than individual nominations, and a claim that he was discriminated against.

The result of eliminating over a third of the delegates who had made the long trek to Moscow, was divisive and acerbic from day one. The proceedings, having been tainted from the start, left little hope of deescalating tensions, and getting down to business.

Convention Chairman, 1st District Congressman Raul Labrador, said after the unproductive convention, “This is as low as the party can go. We have hit bottom. I think the party has no choice but to go up from here.” Whether Labrador’s comments prove true or not is up to the individuals and the various factions fighting for supremacy within the Party. If they individually and collectively continue to perceive those who agree with them 80% of the time as their “enemies,” the organization may not have yet hit bottom.

But if the members and various factions realize that the alternative to comity, mutual respect, and cooperation with one another is lost elections, resulting in more of a drift to the left of the political spectrum, the bottom may well have been observed last week. Each person who is active within the Party has a part to play in how this pans out. I would hope that maturity, a sense of shared values, and a desire to do what’s right for the state and its citizens would trump the pettiness and intransigent conduct of those who insist theirs is the only way to do things.

96220_600There are two major organizational components to this internal struggle. Those who have been in the trenches for years advancing the conservative cause, and the relative neophytes who have emerged as part of the tea party movement and the “Ron Paul Revolution.”

There are characteristics of both groups that have contributed to the escalation of tensions that climaxed at last week’s convention. One is the tendency of those who have been around awhile, who have, over the years, grown adept at compromising to the left to the point that the nation only slightly resembles what it was founded as. The neophytes, or newcomers, share essentially the same foundational principles, yet see compromise as a veritable sin. Consequently, they refuse to budge on anything, even slightly. They also are Machiavellian in how they interpret rules to their benefit, while ignoring those that don’t.

The solution is precisely where it typically is with most matters when there are two points at apparent irreconcilable odds: somewhere in the middle. Those who have been around awhile need to realize that some compromise to the right, rather than the left, is a move in the right direction, and be willing to give some ground to hold the GOP to the principled standard that historically has been the Party’s hallmark. And the newcomers need to learn that, in order to prevent complete electoral success of the left, those who are actively transforming the republic, they need to amicably cooperate with those who have attempted to carry the conservative banner for generations, before they came along. It should never be an either/or proposition for the party faithful. It should always be an inclusive, “You and I together can make it happen,” approach.

Regrettably, what we saw transpire at the convention last week was indicative of what happens when the unyielding, rigid, intransigent component of the Party is in control. Chairman Barry Peterson stacked the committees with his unyielding ones, who interpreted rules as they most suited their objectives. And when they were confronted with challenges to their autocratic rulings, rather than yielding to reason, became even more obdurate. It’s now clear which “Republicans” should not be leading the Party.

96033_600Even with the convention ending with such tumult, there is little effect on the grassroots or local Party efforts. New platform planks, especially of the ilk passed two years ago, and uncertainly over who the state chairman is, makes little difference at the local level, where elections are won or lost. The fact remains, if you prefer less government intrusion into your lives, less government debt and spending, more focus on the constitutional ideals that made America great, more individual liberty and free-market principles, the Republican brand is the closest you’ll get in our two-party system.

The direction of the Party apparatus is entirely up to the members. Last week could be the low point from which we pull ourselves up by the bootstraps, and start acting like adults to work together. This requires the realization by each member that we cannot control others, only ourselves. And if we comport our personal actions and words to be constructive and unifying, we can choose to be part of the solution, rather than the problem.

If we fail to do this, and continue the territorial and ideological purity tantrums, we will assure the victories in November go to the tax-and-spend Party of Obamacare, “skyrocketing” energy costs, redefinition of society’s foundational institutions, and leadership vacuum. The latter is not a logical alternative.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

Federal Debt and A Bad Law (FATCA) May Collapse the Dollar

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All of us have experienced the merciless effects of the “law of unintended consequences” at one time or another. We do something that we think is good or proactive, only to discover that there are negative effects produced as byproducts of our good intent. The creation of an unanticipated pejorative result from purposeful action is classified as an unintended consequence, and the government is masterful at it. Perhaps the granddaddy of them all is about to be enacted on July 1, 2014.

Growth-Of-United-States-Government-DebtIn March of 2010 the HIRE Act (Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act) was signed into law by the president, having been passed by the House under Speaker Pelosi, and the Senate under Harry Reid. It was designed as a bill that would provide incentives for employers to start creating jobs again. The bill’s efficacy could be debated, but one component of the law could prove debilitating to the dollar as the global reserve currency and the nation’s ability to finance our debt and deficit.

Embedded in that piece of legislation under Title V is the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which was designed to target American taxpayers with assets in foreign banks. It had nothing to do with the intent of the HIRE Act, but that seems to be the modus operandi of the federal government, to hide things in plain sight so as to not arouse suspicion. Forbes calls FATCA “the worst law Americans have never heard about.”

national-debt-per-capitaFATCA is creating a data retrieval system that some have compared with the NSA’s (National Security Administration) meta-data information dragnet. It requires all non-U.S. based financial institutions, including banks, credit unions, insurance companies, investment and pension funds, to provide data on all specified U.S. accounts to the IRS (Internal Revenue Service). From that data, the IRS will attempt to collect taxes on revenue from overseas-based accounts of U.S. citizens.

There could be as much as about $800 million a year that could be collected by the IRS from implementation of FATCA, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. Based on the nation’s current spending level, that’s enough to run the government for about two hours.

FATCA-IRS-bullyWhile $800 million is still a large sum, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen recently informed Congress that the cost of implementation will zero out any anticipated gain to the treasury. And the IRS’s internal Taxpayer Advocate Service issued a report that came to the same conclusion, indicating, “FATCA-related costs will equal or exceed projected FATCA revenue.”

The questionable enforcement measures implemented in the Act are what could portend ominous consequences for all of us. Beginning July 1, 2014, any foreign institution, including foreign government, failing to fully cooperate in providing the requested information to the IRS, can be classified by Treasury as “recalcitrant.” Such institutions will not be paid the full interest they are due on the U.S. bonds, notes, and bills that they own. The Department of the Treasury will consequently withhold as much as 30% of interest payments to them as an “economic sanction.”

In other words, we will not pay, as we have “guaranteed” in the past, full payment of interest on our debt, at least to those classified as “recalcitrant.” Such a partial payment is classified as a “default.” In this case, it’s a willful default, since the full interest payment will be withheld in favor of a reduced payment.

swiss-fatcaEven the possibility of the U.S. intentionally defaulting on some of its debt interest payments is creating some uncertainly in foreign markets. This is alarming since according to Treasury, over $5.8 trillion of our debt is held abroad. So far only about two dozen countries have signed FATCA agreements, indicating a willingness to cooperate with the IRS. And China, the largest foreign holder of our debt, is not among them.

James George Jatras, a former U.S. diplomat and U.S. Senate staffer, said recently regarding FATCA, “In the end, no one really knows how this will work, which is part of the problem. Foreign purchases of U.S. Treasury securities and the reliability of interest payments are essential to America’s financial stability. Even a slight market change in U.S. borrowing costs could have a disastrous impact on the deficit and our economy. Why play Russian roulette with the U.S. debt absent a big, identifiable, countervailing benefit?”

The likelihood is that foreign institutions and countries will be less inclined to purchase U.S. debt if they may be denied up to 30% of the interest due them. With our massive debt of nearly $18 trillion, we have bonds and notes maturing every month. What happens if previous buyers of our debt quit buying? For one thing, the cost of interest servicing that debt will rise, and it could be significant.

weak-dollarTwo years ago, Erskine Bowles, co-chairman of the president’s bipartisan deficit-reduction commission known as “Simpson-Bowles,” called the nation’s compound interest burden “one of the biggest long-term challenges facing the United States.” He said, “We’ll be spending over $1 trillion a year on interest by 2020. That’s $1 trillion we can’t spend to educate our kids or to replace our badly worn-out infrastructure.” And that was even without factoring in a significant increase in interest rates because of a diminished appetite for U.S. debt due to FATCA.

Our economic stability, and the strength of the dollar as the global reserve currency, is directly dependent on a stable bond market for our debt instruments. With the possibility of pending diminution of appetite for that debt, our economic stability as a country is at risk. Clearly, our massive debt and this poorly conceived and implemented legislation, are posing a national security risk that could potentially affect all of us.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration.  He can be reached at [email protected].

 

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