The Law of Unintended Consequences

Or, why you should be opposed to this attempt in New York to get at Trump’s tax returns, whether you think he should release them or not.

The media and the Left1 are pretty much the only ones who really want to see Trump’s tax returns. Ostensibly, they want to ensure that he has no conflicts of interest, but let’s be honest, they wouldn’t mind finding some dirt. But Trump isn’t budging on them.

So New York Democrats have crafted a law that would reveal five years of state tax returns for any President, Vice President, governor, attorney general or senator who filed in New York. Not “require the person to release”, but require the state Department of Taxation and Finance to release the returns without needing the permission of the people who filed them.

Apart from the obvious constitutional problem that this is essentially a Bill of Attainder2 and thus a violation of Article I, it wipes out current protections in the law against the disclosure of anyone’s tax returns.

The Tax Law prohibits the disclosure of information obtained from a tax return or during the course of an audit to any unauthorized person. The Tax Law, however, does permit us to share your tax information with the IRS and other government agencies, within defined standards of secrecy and reciprocity.

And once those protections are gone, then everything is up for grabs. Can you imagine how much data-mining companies would love to buy your tax returns from the government, even in anonymized and aggregated bulk?

In their zeal to get Trump, these lawmakers are putting everyone’s privacy at risk. People need to calm down and move on. It isn’t worth it.

  1. But I repeat myself, hey-o! I’m here all week, try the veal.
  2. A law aimed at the behavior of an individual or group of persons, making them guilty of a crime or imposing a penalty without benefit of a trial.

What They Really Want is Lower Taxes

When conservatives and liberals debate taxes, many liberals often take pride in paying taxes, extolling the virtues of all the services that we receive from government paid for by our taxes. But the quiet reality they’d rather not admit is often that they would rather not have to shell out quite so much to the government.1

To whit, Lifehacker, a reliably liberal lifestyle blog aimed at millennials of the liberal bent, recently had an article titled “You Could Save on Your Student Loan by Moving to a Different State—Here’s How Much.” That’s a bit of a misnomer really. In reality, what they’re highlighting is that different states have different income tax rates and if you move from a high income tax state to a zero income tax state, you can use that extra money in your pocket to pay down debt, any debt, including student loan debt. And suddenly they love the idea of lower taxes!

Except when they don’t. The same writer penned an article yesterday on President Trump’s proposed tax cut that makes it out to be a sop to the rich (who pay the vast majority of income taxes and thus would logically reap the most benefit), but also have negligible economic value while depriving government programs of their funding.2

But where was the concern for people paying lower taxes when Lifehacker and their writer were suggesting readers move to places where they could pay no taxes? Of course, the argument is always that someone else should be paying more, usually those dastardly rich people who don’t deserve it.

  1. At the same time, the dirty secret many conservatives don’t want to admit is that while they want lower taxes, they’re reluctant to give up all those government services they like.
  2. Although, to be honest, I wouldn’t mind the tax cut as I’d end up with a $1,700 per year tax cut.

Why Fund the Arts?

President Trump has proposed de-funding the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and other budget items conservatives have been dying to get rid off for decades. Liberals are understandably upset and the debate has centered around the controversial and offensive artworks that the NEA has sponsored in the past, as well as the weird art they still promote sometimes.

Jazz Shaw at Hot Air says this is precisely the wrong argument to have. He argues that the NEA should be done away not because they supported weird or offensive art, but because the federal government shouldn’t be supporting art at all.

The arts, like everything else in society, can rise and fall on their own merit. The reason that we don’t have tremendous federal funding supporting the creation of blockbuster Hollywood movies is that such offerings tend to be popular and the business of making them is profitable. Creating paintings, sculpture, poetry or theatrical performances may not be as profitable, but if it has value to sufficient people, patrons may be found to support the work. If no such patronage is forthcoming then perhaps the “art” is better left to the lonely artist toiling away in their studio.

Unfortunately, Shaw is wrong because this is precisely why we should have public support of the arts, especially those less commercially viable forms. Look, I think NEA funding can be reduced or even eliminated, because I think having a federal bureaucracy as gatekeeper for the arts has been disastrous (cf. Mapplethrope and Serrano as Shaw references them).

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The Right to Be Wrong

Last week, the controversial academic and author Charles Murray, author of The Bell Curve among other works, was invited to speak at Middlebury College in Vermont. However, before he could even begin, the audience began booing and hissing, making it impossible to continue. The college moved him to a TV studio where he made his talk as a streaming video, but after he came out of the building, he and another professor were attacked by a group of thugs.

The same kind of story has been repeated over and over in recent years and has reached a fever pitch after this past election. College campuses are in a constant uproar whenever a controversial speaker attempts to talk resulting in audience disruptions, property destruction, and mob violence, with professors often at their head. The high-minded and longstanding principles of free speech and open academic inquiry seem to have been lost in favor of safe spaces and countering (non-liberal) micro-aggressions.

In a truly civil society, the one we used to live in, if you disagreed with someone else’s views, you could either engage them in a civil debate or ignore them, but you’d acknowledge their right to be wrong. But not any more. In today’s uncivil society, you are not allowed to be wrong. If you hold wrong beliefs—i.e. wrong according to my measure—then you must either change your mind or be destroyed, one way or the other.

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Buckle Up for a Bumpy Four Years

I declared last year that I would be a NeverTrumper, that I would vote third party before I voted for Donald Trump.

Then last July I realized that if Trump were to somehow win the Electoral College and Clinton won the popular vote, it would tear the country apart like never before. (I wish I hadn’t been right on that one.) So I asked NeverTrumpers to reconsider so as to ensure he won both popular and Electoral votes.

Later, I began to embrace the idea of Trump as a pro-life and conservative ally, albeit a personally odious one, even as it became more and more certain he would lose. And then suddenly, he had won.

Meanwhile, in the first week of his administration we have made more pro-life and conservative gains than we did in the entirety of the last Bush administration. Not only did Trump defund International Planned Parenthood again, he reiterated his promise to appoint a Supreme Court justice who is a strict constructionist (i.e. will not find the umbras and penumbras used to justify Roe v. Wade in the first place); the House took the first step to repeal the bloated mess of Obamacare and to defund the Planned Parenthood Federation of America; and Trump appointed cabinet secretaries with the mandate to start downsizing bloated bureaucracies like the Departments of Education, Commerce, Agriculture, and Energy, among others. In addition, by sending Vice President Mike Pence to speak at the March for Life and publicly chastising media for its annual failure to give the March its due, he ensured it would get unprecedented media exposure this year. For these actions, pro-life conservatives rightly cheered.

On the other hand, Trump has followed through on some of his less savory campaign promises. He got into a diplomatic Twitter war with Mexico over the border wall. He ordered a freeze on all government research grants in several departments and issued a gag order on public communications in all executive departments.1 And worst of all, he ordered a halt to all refugee arrivals for 120 days and permanent halt to refugees from a handful of majority Muslim countries and created a giant mess of chaos and recrimination and anecdotal stories of innocents caught in jeopardy and a media firestorm that has even those of us who voted for him shaking our heads.2 This was the part of Trump-as-president that made me a NeverTrumper in the first place.

My social media feeds have been filled with heads exploding all over the place, and not just the usual liberal friends sprinkled in the mix, but a broad spectrum of people. And while I think that many were and are overreacting (No, Trump is not an incipient Hitler), there is justification for anger from all sides for this last misstep.

So this is what I’ve been preparing myself for: The next four years are going to be very bumpy, whipsawing between joy at some advance of the conservative agenda and chagrin or outrage over some bombastic excess and then back again. I can console myself that this is certainly better than what we would have got under Hillary Clinton, but I fear for what the future brings. Will people get so fed up over the excesses that Congress shifts to the Democrats in 2018? Will they get so fed up with Trump that we get some populist ultra-liberal (like Elizabeth Warren) in 2020?

My hope is that Trump settles down and gets in a groove. He’s never held elective office before and so there’s a steep learning curve. But as a prominent real estate developer in New York and New Jersey, he’s certainly had to be a political wheeler and dealer. Let’s hope that part of his personality helps him overcome this other nonsense.

  1. Never mind that these are standard procedure and temporary. The hold is designed to allow the new administration to formulate and promulgate new policies for communications that reflect the new president’s priorities. It’s entirely justified, but the way it was done led to a media storm.
  2. As I write this, a federal court has ordered a temporary hold on the executive order while its constitutionality is challenged.

Why Non-Swing State Conservative Voters May Want to Vote Trump Anyway

I have publicly stated before that I didn’t plan to vote for Trump or Clinton or Johnson or Stein, that I might throw away my presidential vote this year.

After all, I live in Massachusetts, which has absolutely no chance of giving its electoral college votes to anyone but Hillary Clinton. As a pro-lifer, I won’t vote for Clinton or Johnson or Stein and while Trump has made some noises about being pro-life and appointing strict constructionist Supreme Court Justices, there’s too much crazy in his baggage train.

However.

However, a scenario has come to my attention that may make it more important that I cast a vote for Trump for the good of the country, even though it won’t affect the electoral college.

The FiveThirtyEight blog has an article that posits the circumstances in which Trump could win the Electoral College and lose the popular vote. I can’t think of anything worse for our country. If you thought the liberal reaction to Bush winning that way in 2000 was bad, it will be over the top in 2016. Our already fractured country will just dissolve into bits as liberals and Trump-haters of all stripes declare his presidency illegitimate and seek to overturn it or neuter it or overthrow it. It would tear us apart.

We need to make sure that if he wins, it’s both the popular and electoral college.1

  1. And, no, I won’t vote for Hillary for oh so many reasons, but not least because she loves abortion.

The End of the World and We Don’t Feel Fine

The media often touts economic news as the barometer for whether life is good in America or not. So when a new poll shows a majority of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track even as other news breaks that the middle class is finally starting to reap the benefits of economic recovery, they can’t make heads or tails of it.

Maybe, just maybe, that majority doesn’t base their sense of well-being for themselves or their country on how full their wallet is. Maybe they’re concerned about the breakdown of law and order, the division between races and between ideologies, the forced redefinition of fundamental realities like the nature of marriage or what it means to be a man or woman. Maybe we see violence and death and terrorism and incredible suffering around the world and are uneasy about how it will come to our shores and affect our children. Maybe we look at the media and government and corruption and lies and wonder whether we are self-governing citizens or merely dupes subjected to a ruling class.

As David French writes at National Review:

In other words, there are some problems that are beyond politics. Yes, good policies can adjust incentives, but — at the end of the day — good policies don’t keep families together or keep the needle out of a young man’s arm. As I wrote in the print edition of National Review a couple weeks ago, a true Ronald Reagan-style “morning in America” renaissance is made far more difficult when there is an increasing lack of cultural cohesion and family stability.

Chuck Schumer on the Excessive Burden of Taxes

N.Y. Sen. Chuck Schumer thinks federal taxes are an onerous burden on those who work hard and excel and thus should not be levied on them. Has the liberal Democrat taken a sudden conservative turn? Not exactly. Schumer is just pandering to fans of the Olympic Games.

“Our Olympian and Paralympic athletes should be worried about breaking world records, not breaking the bank, when they earn a medal,” said ‎Schumer. “Most countries subsidize their athletes; the very least we can do is make sure our athletes don’t get hit with a tax bill for winning. After a successful and hard fought victory, it’s just not right for the U.S. to welcome these athletes home with a tax on that victory.

Schumer is proposing that Olympians’ cash prizes should not be taxed. While it’s nice to see a liberal acknowledging the drag that excessive taxation causes on those who wish to excel, I wish he would see that the same principle applied to middle-class laborers and white-collar workers, and even to upper-class business owners who create jobs and capital.

The Democrat Party’s War on Religion

Democrat National Convention delegates were outraged last week that Chick-fil-A has a concession contract with the Wells Fargo Arena in Philadelphia and was allowed to sell its products during the DNC.

Liberals began their hate on Chick-fil-A several years ago over the Christian views of the Cathy family that owns the chain. CEO Dan Cathy has acknowledged supporting traditional marriage as part of his religious beliefs and the family is publicly pro-life. And of course, one of the defining features of their company is that its restaurants are closed on Sunday. That’s apparently beyond the pale.

They’re the type of company that closes on Sunday, puts money into lobbying against the LGBT community, and for that reason I will never support Chick-Fil-A until they change their ways,” Sacco said. [emphasis added]

That they close on Sunday is a reason not to support them? For a supposedly pro-labor party, I would think getting a day of rest would be a good thing. Of course, the reason the restaurants are closed is because the Cathy family takes seriously the Fourth Commandment and want to help their workers honor it. But public expressions of religious faith, more specifically expressions of traditional Christian religious faith, are forbidden among the liberal Democrats.

The veils are dropping and true natures are revealed. Like last week, when Nancy Pelosi blamed uneducated white men’s attachment to “guns, gays, and God” as the reasons why they support a Republican candidate over the Democrat “against their economic interests.” The lines are becoming clearer every day.

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