Editorial: Tax reform that could benefit Nevadans slipping away

It looks like a tax reform proposal that could have resulted in lower income tax rates for Nevadans is swirling down the drain.

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that congressional Republicans are considering jettisoning a part of President Trump’s proposal that would eliminate IRS deductions for state and local taxes. Dropping the deduction would generate $1.3 trillion in additional federal revenue, thus allowing lower rates for the 70 percent of Americans who do not itemize and take the standard deduction.

While Democrats insist tax reform should in no way benefit the wealthy, the retention of the state and local tax deduction does precisely that for the wealthy who live in Democrat-controlled high tax states, such as New York and California.

The Times conceded that Californians benefit more from the state and local tax deduction than taxpayers in any other state. In fact Californians managed to dodge $101 billion in taxes in 2014 — New York, New Jersey and Illinois were next on the list of top tax dodgers. Of the top 10 states for the deduction, Trump carried only three.

The New York Times also is reporting that some Republican spines are weakening, noting that elimination of the deduction has Republicans in high-tax states worried about backlash from voters whose tax bills might rise.

The newspaper said that Rep. Chris Collins, a New York Republican, said in an interview that party leaders had assured him “there’s not going to be full repeal” of the state and local tax deduction. The paper also quoted Gary Cohn, the director of the National Economic Council, as saying the deduction was not a “red line.”

Using 2010 statistical data from the IRS, Californians who filed for state and local income tax deductions claimed deductions of $10,700 per return. Nevadans who filed for the state and local sales tax deduction claimed only $1,430 per return. Calculated on a per capita basis, Californians claimed $2,116 in federal income tax deductions, while Nevadans claimed only $166 per person for sales tax deductions.

Nevadans — along with residents of New Hampshire, Florida, Wyoming, Texas, South Dakota and Alaska — get to deduct about 1 percent or less of their adjusted gross income, while those who live in New York, Maryland, D.C. and California deduct more than 5 percent.

“Republicans have said the deduction largely affects the wealthy and is unfair to residents in lower-tax states,” the Los Angeles newspaper reported. “Eliminating the break would help simplify the tax code and make it more equitable, White House officials said.”

In 1985 Ronald Reagan argued for eliminating the state and local tax deduction. He said in a speech: “We’re reducing tax rates by simplifying the complex system of special provisions that favor some at the expense of others. Restoring confidence in our tax system means restoring and respecting the principle of fairness for all. This means curtailing some business deductions now being written off; it means ending several personal deductions, including the state and local tax deduction, which actually provides a special subsidy for high-income individuals, especially in a few high-tax states. Two-thirds of Americans don’t even itemize, so they receive no benefit from the state and local tax deduction. But they’re being forced to subsidize the high-tax policies of a handful of states. This is truly taxation without representation.”

Reagan failed, primarily because there were too many Republican lawmakers from New York and California, just as there are today. California has 14 Republicans in the House and New York has nine.

If Congress caves in to the few who want to keep their lucrative state and local tax deductions, it is unlikely the 70 percent of Americans who currently do not itemize can be afforded a doubling of the standard deduction as is currently being contemplated.

The tax code should be fair and equitable for all and not carve out breaks for some.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

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Editorial: Trump tells it like it is at the U.N.

Trump at United Nations (AP pix)

The New York Times editorial called the speech bellicose and said it had a dark tone and focus. It compared the speech unfavorably to one by a more humble President Obama in 2009 when many of the same problems existed — without a hint of recognition that Obama had failed to resolve any of those problems.

The Los Angeles Times editorial said the message was undermined by bombast, boastfulness, illogic and was needlessly offensive. “It was a bizarrely bellicose message for an American president to send to an audience of world leaders,” the paper opined.

So President Trump’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly was obviously a rousing success.

“As president of the United States, I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries will always, and should always, put your countries first,” Trump told the assembly, which, despite the negative reviews of the liberal press, reacted with applause.

Yes, he pulled no punches when he talked about the regimes in North Korean, Iran and Venezuela, and he did not let Russia and China escape criticism.

“We must protect our nations, their interests, and their futures,” Trump declared. “We must reject threats to sovereignty, from the Ukraine to the South China Sea. We must uphold respect for law, respect for borders, and respect for culture, and the peaceful engagement these allow. And just as the founders of this body intended, we must work together and confront together those who threaten us with chaos, turmoil, and terror.”

He pointed out that North Korea has shown contempt for other nations and its own people by starving, imprisoning, torturing and killing them.

“If this is not twisted enough, now North Korea’s reckless pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles threatens the entire world with unthinkable loss of human life,” he said of the ruthless dictator he dubbed the “Rocket Man,” who is on a suicide mission for himself and his regime.

Trump called the Iranian nuclear deal brokered by Obama the worst, most one-sided deal ever entered into by the United States.

As for Venezuela, Trump singled out the root cause of its economic collapse under the dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro.

“The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented,” the president said to a round of applause, despite the fact the L.A. Times called this a gratuitous insult and a simplistic denunciation of socialism likely to offend many countries. “From the Soviet Union to Cuba to Venezuela, wherever true socialism or communism has been adopted, it has delivered anguish and devastation and failure. Those who preach the tenets of these discredited ideologies only contribute to the continued suffering of the people who live under these cruel systems.”

He also warned the U.N. members that the United States is fully aware that it bears a disproportionate burden, noting there are 193 countries in the U.N., but the U.S. pays 22 percent of the entire budget.

Trump concluded his tell-it-like-it-is speech with a stirring call to action, “So let this be our mission, and let this be our message to the world: We will fight together, sacrifice together, and stand together for peace, for freedom, for justice, for family, for humanity, and for the almighty God who made us all.”

The liberal media is going to criticize Trump no matter what he says, and he too often deserves criticism for popping off. Perhaps he should give more speeches like this one and send fewer Tweets.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Immigration: Court says Trump can’t do what Carter and Reagan did

A difference without a distinction?

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has refused to reinstate President Trump’s executive order restricting immigration from six majority Muslim nations.

“In suspending the entry of more than 180 million nationals from six countries, suspending the entry of all refugees, and reducing the cap on the admission of refugees from 110,000 to 50,000 for the 2017 fiscal year, the President did not meet the essential precondition to exercising his delegated authority: The President must make a sufficient finding that the entry of these classes of people would be ‘detrimental to the interests of the United States,’” the three-judge panel wrote.

The also stated that the order “runs afoul of other provisions of the INA (Immigration and Naturalization Act) that prohibit nationality-based discrimination and require the President to follow a specific process when setting the annual cap on the admission of refugees.”

But about halfway through the 86-page ruling the judges seemed to condense the nationality discrimination engaged in by Presidents Carter and Reagan (cites deleted):

“In two instances, former Presidents have distinguished classes of aliens on the basis of nationality. But these distinctions were made not because of a particular concern that entry of the individuals themselves would be detrimental, but rather, as retaliatory diplomatic measures responsive to government conduct directed at the United States. For example, President Carter’s proclamation barring the future entry of Iranians occurred during the exigent circumstance of the Iranian hostage crisis. This was one of many sanctions imposed to increase political pressure on the Iranian government to ensure the safe return of American hostages. … President Reagan’s suspension of entry of certain Cuban nationals as immigrants came as a response to the Cuban government’s own suspension of “all types of procedures regarding the execution” of an immigration agreement between the United States and Cuba, which had “disrupt[ed] normal migration procedures between the two countries.”

Then in head scratching turn the judges declared: “Indeed, the President recently confirmed his assessment that it is the ‘countries’ that are inherently dangerous, rather than the 180 million individual nationals of those countries who are barred from entry under the President’s ‘travel ban,’” noting a tweet in which Trump stated: “That’s right, we need a TRAVEL BAN for certain DANGEROUS countries, not some politically correct term that won’t help us protect our people!”

In fact, the order states that Trump’s executive order explains:

Each of these countries is a state sponsor of terrorism, has been significantly compromised by terrorist organizations, or contains active conflict zones. Any of these circumstances diminishes the foreign government’s willingness or ability to share or validate important information about individuals seeking to travel to the United States.

So, Carter and Reagan can bar immigration from Iran and Cuba, based on what the government did nor did not do, but Trump can’t do the same with the six rouge countries identified in his order, which explains specifically that those countries can’t or won’t help vet travelers?

Sounds like a distinction without a difference. In fact, Trump offered specific rationale for his actions, which amounted to “retaliatory diplomatic measures responsive to government conduct directed at the United States.”

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. — F. Scott Fitzgerald

Protesters opposed Trump travel ban. (LATimes pix)

A newspaper that will be fair, unbiased and accurate?

We are definitely inside the rabbit hole now.

Both Las Vegas “newspapers” today are reporting that the man who announced the sale of the Las Vegas Review-Journal to a new company called News + Media may be the pseudonymous writer of a lengthy article in a small Connecticut newspaper that criticized a Clark County judge who is handling a civil case involving casino owner Sheldon Adelson, the once secret money behind the newspaper purchase.

I said it was a rabbit hole. The swirl of ethical mishops is enough to boggle the mind.

Michael Schroeder, AKA Edward Clarkin? (R-J photo)

The R-J links Michael E. Schroeder, the man described as manager of News + Media Capital Group when the purchase was announced, as the probable person behind the Edward Clarkin byline on the aforementioned article.

The brief story reports that Schroeder’s middle name is Edward, and California marriage records show his father, Clarence J. Schroeder, married Karen A. Clarkin in 1957. Schroeder was born in the following year, the paper says.

Meanwhile, back in the Las Vegas Sun insert, a lengthy story on this topic recounts that “there is compelling circumstantial evidence that ‘Edward Clarkin’ is a pseudonym used by Schroeder. The publisher’s middle name is Edward, and his Facebook page at one time identified his mother as Karen Clarkin Carey. That reference was removed from the page, but the Facebook page for Karen Clarkin Carey contained a photo of Carey with Schroeder.”

Also, the Clarkin byline has shown up at various publications where Schroeder worked.

Both the R-J and Sun recount allegations in a Connecticut newspaper that sources quoted in the judge story never were contacted about the story and several passages were nearly identical to previously published reports.

What makes the Clarkin tale doubly dubious is that weeks before the R-J was purchased three of its reporters were assigned to shadow three judges for two weeks and report on their activity. One of those judges was Elizabeth Gonzalez, who is presiding over an Adelson lawsuit and who has fined his company failing to disclose evidence.

No story was ever published and no one in the newsroom was told who picked Gonzalez for scrutiny or why.

The Sun reports, “Mark Fabiani, a San Diego attorney retained by the new owners in the days after the sale, said Wednesday that Schroeder would not have a management role. He was retained as an adviser during the purchase and helped conduct due diligence, Fabiani said.”

Then on Wednesday the R-J published a front-page missive under the hed “A message from the new owners about the future of the Las Vegas Review-Journal,” which pledged to publish “a newspaper that is fair, unbiased and accurate.”

There was a short sidebar announcing that editor Michael Hengel had accepted a buyout that said, “Hengel described his decision to leave as ‘mutual’ and said he did not believe he was forced out.”

However, the Los Angeles Times reports today in a lengthy article on the shenanigans at the R-J that in a Wednesday interview Hengel told them he first learned of his acceptance of the buyout when someone from the paper read the editorial to him over the telephone Tuesday night. That was at the same time he received an email with a formal offer, the Times said, though there is a photo online purportedly showing Hengel announcing his departure after 5 p.m. Tuesday.

The Los Angeles paper also recounted how business reporter Jennifer Robison, “a diminutive 10-year veteran who had won awards for exposing the state’s faulty healthcare website,” recalled what happened when the sale of the paper was announced.

“They look like they were registered just to buy us,” Robison whispered to business reporter Howard Stutz, the Times reports.

“Stutz leaned over and whispered back one word: ‘Sheldon.’”

In a story posted online Wednesday, The New York Times quotes Hengel as saying concerns about potential conflicts of interest with Adelson’s ownership factored into his decision to accept the buyout offer — like there was a choice? “I’m not sure what their plans were and how I fit into them,” he told the other coast Times. “So when I got presented an offer based on what I knew the situation was, I had to determine whether it was acceptable or not. And for me and my family, it was.”

The NY Times went on to say that 15 employees have accepted “voluntary buyout offers,” according to a source, though several reporters told the paper they were aware of only one person besides Hengel who had accepted a buyout. Some of those other buyouts might not have been in the newsroom.

In a Sunday column under the hed “Adelson has chance to prove doubters wrong,” John L. Smith, who was sued into bankruptcy by Adelson before prevailing in a libel suit over a passage in a book about casino executives, said:

“Adelson has every right, and certainly the bankroll, to buy this newspaper. In theory, at least, a local ownership group might bring an improved sensitivity to the needs of the community in one of America’s most complex company towns.

“But Adelson is precisely the wrong person to own this or any newspaper. His disdain for the working press and its prickly processes is palpable — and easily illustrated by his well-known litigiousness.”

Now, about that promise to be fair, unbiased and accurate?

Michael Hengel announces he has accepted buyout offer. (R-J photo)

 

 

 

NOAA is not just hiding the decline, it is hiding the data from Congress

Scientists study temperature readings from ocean buoys and determined global temperatures did not plateau at the turn of the century, as had been previously concluded. (NOAA photo via LA Times)

Secret science is not science.

In order for something to be scientific by definition it must be replicable. If the data are secret, they cannot be replicated. If the data cannot be replicated, it is not science.

A website called Understanding Science has this to say: “The desire for replicability is part of the reason that scientific papers almost always include a methods section, which describes exactly how the researchers performed the study. That information allows other scientists to replicate the study and to evaluate its quality, helping ensure that occasional cases of fraud or sloppy scientific work are weeded out and corrected.”

In June a study was published in the Journal Science in which National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wrote that the planet’s “global average surface temperature had climbed 0.2 of a degree Fahrenheit each decade since 1950, without interruption, due to the heat-trapping effects of greenhouse gases,” according to newspaper accounts. This was supposed to quash the awkward reports that there had been a 15-year or longer plateau in temperatures that none of the models predicted.

There were accusations at the time that NOAA scientists had tweaked the data to fit the global warming agenda. Some said the scientists selectively altered which temperature data to use prior to the plateau, adjusting those temperatures downward to make it look like there was a continued increase.

In July the House Science, Space and Technology committee Chair Lamar Smith of Texas asked NOAA for data and internal communications related to the study.

According to the magazine Nature, NOAA handed over publicly available data, but refused to turn over the internal communications.

“Because the confidentiality of these communications among scientists is essential to frank discourse among scientists, those documents were not provided to the Committee,” NOAA told Nature. “It is a long-standing practice in the scientific community to protect the confidentiality of deliberative scientific discussions.”

Smith replied, “NOAA needs to come clean about why they altered the data to get the results they needed to advance this administration’s extreme climate change agenda. The Committee intends to use all tools at its disposal to undertake its Constitutionally-mandated oversight responsibilities.”

Smith also said in a statement, “It was inconvenient for this administration that climate data has clearly showed no warming for the past two decades. The American people have every right to be suspicious when NOAA alters data to get the politically correct results they want and then refuses to reveal how those decisions were made.”

Remember those leaked emails from scientists at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit that revealed how data was being manipulated to fit the global warming agenda? Might that be the real reason a federally funded agency will not explain to the people who fund it how it is arriving at its scientific conclusions?

If there is no problem, there is no funding.

 

Newspaper tells of Musk largesse from government

According to calculations by the Los Angeles Times, California businessman Elon Musk and his Tesla Motors, SolarCity and SpaceX companies are sucking up $4.9 billion from the government trough.

The figure includes government incentives, including grants, tax breaks, factory construction, discounted loans and environmental credits, as well as tax credits and rebates to buyers of solar panels and electric cars. A hefty $1.3 billion of that comes courtesy of Nevada lawmakers in the way of tax breaks and abatements of the next decade for Musk’s battery plant near Sparks.

“The $1.3 billion that Nevada may wind up awarding Tesla is actually spread out over 20 years,” Musk said, adding that, “In order for the factory to receive that economic incentive we actually have to have an economic output from that factory of about $5 billion a year.

He said the factory will create 6,500 direct jobs, as wells as indirect jobs for support workers.

It also helps billionaire Musk to make a profit that otherwise might be elusive. The free market just won’t work.

Elon Musk (LA Times photo)

 

President says terrorists have legitimate grievances, we just have to win their hearts and minds

In an op-ed published online by the Los Angeles Times, Obama politely explains to us ignoramuses:

“Governments that deny human rights play into the hands of extremists who claim that violence is the only way to achieve change. Efforts to counter violent extremism will only succeed if citizens can address legitimate grievances through the democratic process and express themselves through strong civil societies. Those efforts must be matched by economic, educational and entrepreneurial development so people have hope for a life of dignity.”

And we thought their grievance was that they wanted to impose Sharia law.

As I pointed out before, many terrorists are quite well educated and rather well off financially.

There are people who want to kill us and impose a worldwide caliphate and Obama wants to send them foreign aid.

Then Obama dredged up this oldie: “Our campaign to prevent people around the world from being radicalized to violence is ultimately a battle for hearts and minds.”

Or as Lyndon Johnson said in a 1965 speech as I was about to graduate from high school and become eligible for the draft:

“So we must be ready to fight in Viet-Nam, but the ultimate victory will depend upon the hearts and the minds of the people who actually live out there. By helping to bring them hope and electricity you are also striking a very important blow for the cause of freedom throughout the world.”

How’d that work out? It didn’t work out. Ten years later we bugged out, even though Johnson, unlike Obama, put boots on the ground and Richard Nixon kept us there.

As a friend of mine says, those who do not remember history are condemned to quote George Santayana.

Bug out. (UPI photo)