Monday, January 6, 2020

POLITICS AND RELIGION





This is not said often enough - and is not properly understood by many.

Freedom of religion and the separation of Church and State are among the basic cornerstones of America, American values and American “philosophy”.  Every American has the right to worship and believe as he or she so chooses – or to choose not to worship or believe.  The government cannot force anyone to choose one religion and set of beliefs over any other, or to choose any religion or beliefs.  No specific religion or church can dictate government policy or legislation. 

There is no official “American” religion or church.  America is not a “Christian” country.   

While religious beliefs may motivate involvement in politics as a practice of good citizenship, and the religious can preach the gospel, or their version or interpretation of the gospel, to those who will listen, the specific religious beliefs of a specific religious sect or religion must never be the basis of legislation, and the religious cannot force those of different beliefs, or no beliefs, to live their lives according to the specific individual beliefs and rules of their specific religion or religious sect.

All law in America is based on the Constitution and civil law - and is not, and must NEVER be, based on specific religious law.

Murder is not illegal because God said, “Thou shalt not kill”.  Murder is illegal because life is protected under the Constitution and under civil law. 

If the specific religious beliefs of your chosen sect or religion tells you that abortion is wrong – don’t have an abortion.  If the specific religious beliefs of your chosen sect or religion tells you that homosexuality and same-sex marriage is wrong – don’t practice homosexuality and do not marry someone of the same sex.  But you cannot force someone with different religions beliefs, or no religious beliefs, to act in accordance with the specific religious beliefs of your chosen sect or religion, and most definitely not via legislation.

Many people mistakenly identify those who want to legislate the specific religious beliefs of fundamental Christianity as being “conservative” and identify legislating these specific religious beliefs as being a component of conservative political philosophy.  Nothing could be further than the truth.

The basic fundamental tenet of conservative political philosophy is limited government, and the protection and maximizing individual rights.  True conservatives believe that the government should have minimal involvement in the personal and business life of the individual.  The so-called “evangelicals” of the “Christian right” wants the government to tell individuals how to live their lives – in direct contradiction to true conservative philosophy.

Unlike “love and marriage”, politics and religion NEVER go together!













Monday, December 30, 2019

FULL DISCLOSURE



My name is Robert D Flach.  I am a self-employed professional tax return preparer, a tax writer and a tax blogger who was born in November of 1953.

I was born and grew up in Hudson County, New Jersey – the poster child for political corruption - where it was almost illegal to NOT vote Democrat.  My parents were Republicans.  My father was a Republican Committeeman, and both my parents worked as officers on local election boards as representatives of the Republican Party.  I moved to rural northeast Pennsylvania in 2012.

I am not a registered Republican nor a registered Democrat.  I consider myself to be a true “Independent”.  In the past I have voted for Republican, Democratic and 3rd Party candidates at various levels of government.  My votes have been based on the individual candidate and the issues.

I am not a “socialist”.  I support some Democratic policies and some Republican policies.  I support some liberal policies and some true conservative policies – and perhaps support more true conservative principles than liberal ones.  Winston Churchill is credited with saying if you are not liberal by age 20 you have no heart and if you are not conservative by age 40 you have no head.  I believe that, in my 60s, I have both heart and head.

I am not a political scholar.  I am a relatively intelligent college-educated middle-class American.  I am a heterosexual White Anglo-Saxon Protestant – aka WASP (Protestant by upbringing and not current church membership or practice).  I have never served in the military, but consider myself to be a patriotic American.

I vocally and aggressively oppose and denounce Trump as a human being and as President.  I have vocally and aggressively opposed and denounced him since he first announced his candidacy for President in 2015.  At the time I said, and posted, that the most disturbing political development in my lifetime was the fact that Trump was being taken seriously as a Presidential candidate. 

Even before announcing his candidacy for President I believed Trump to be a totally worthless self-absorbed piece of garbage who is totally devoid of humanity – which he still is today.

I am a true and aggressive “Never-Trumper”, and am proud to so be.  I have been “out to get” Trump – because he truly deserves to be “got” - and working to remove him from office from the day he was sworn in as President, after actually losing the election by almost 3 Million votes, because I have always known that he is mentally unhinged and unstable and totally unfit to be President, and that he is a true clear and present danger to America, American values and democracy, and the world – and nothing he has done since taking office has changed my opinion. 

Trump’s words, tweets and deeds as President have proven that he is totally unfit to be President, unfit to hold any office of power at any level of government, and they continue to do so every day he remains in office.  I firmly believe that the most important issue in the 2020 election is removing Trump from office, and removing his hypocritical Republican enablers in Congress from office.

Any questions?



















Monday, December 23, 2019

MEDICARE FOR ALL? I VOTE NO



I do not support the “Medicare for All” proposals of Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders.  And I do not support the US transitioning to socialized medicine.

While I think in different times “Medicare for All” should be seriously discussed, I certainly do believe it should not be included in the 2020 Democratic Party platform.  There must be nothing to prevent independents and anti-Trump conservatives and Republicans from voting for the Democratic nominee.

I do support free tuition at state colleges and trade schools – but that is a different topic.

I believe that Obamacare, aka The Affordable Care Act, has good, bad and ugly.  Obamacare was a truly flawed hastily written and passed Act created to get an early legislative victory for Obama.  It was voted on along strict Party lines without a single member of Congress actually reading the bill.  They were told by their Party’s leaders to either vote for it or against it and all followed in lock-step.

As an aside, the GOP Tax Act was exactly the same – flawed legislation hastily written and passed along strict Party lines that was not actually read by a single member of Congress.  

I do not believe that individuals and families should be financially penalized for not having “adequate” health insurance coverage for all household members, and I do not believe employers should be financially penalized for not providing health insurance coverage to employees.  I strongly oppose any kind of “shared responsibility penalty”.

I do believe insurance policies should be required to cover “pre-existing conditions”.  And I especially like and strongly support providing “point of purchase” credits toward monthly premium payments for those who cannot afford coverage – the Obamacare “advance premium credit” – although I do not necessarily believe it should be reconciled after the fact on the Form 1040.

Here is a proposal related to health insurance coverage that I have not heard discussed by candidates.

Often individuals and families lose employer-provided group health insurance coverage when the individual or the head of the household loses his or her job, and are without insurance for several months until they get a new job and qualify for employer-provided, or can afford to purchase outside, coverage. 

What about the government providing automatic temporary Medicare coverage for up to perhaps 6 months to individuals and families in such a situation – either free of charge or at the same premium cost as paid by those 65 or older who qualify for Medicare?

So, what do you think?













Monday, December 16, 2019

OBSTRUCTION OF THE CONSTITUTION



Obstruction of Congress is one of the two Articles of Impeachment presented against Trump.  Obstruction of Justice was considered as a third Article but was, in my personal opinion erroneously, not included.

Mirriam-Webster tells us to obstruct “to hinder from passage, action, or operation: impede.”  It also describes “Obstruction of Justice” as “the crime or act of willfully interfering with the process of justice and law especially by influencing, threatening, harming, or impeding a witness, potential witness, juror, or judicial or legal officer or by furnishing false information in or otherwise impeding an investigation or legal process.”   

Obstruction of Congress is hindering the operation of Congress or a committee of Congress.

There is another ongoing form of obstruction in national politics today – Obstruction of the Constitution.  Trump is guilty, but there is someone even more guilty.  That person is Addison Mitchell “Mitch” McConnell Jr, the current Senate Majority Leader.

Under the US Constitution here is how a bill becomes law.  After being reviewed and discussed by a House or Senate committee the bill goes to the House or Senate floor for further debate and amendment, if necessary. It passes or fails by a simple majority vote: 218 of 435 in the House or 51 of 100 in the Senate. Once passed, it repeats the process in the other house.  After a passing a vote, conference committee members from the House and Senate work out any differences between the two versions of the bill. The revised bill then goes to each house for final approval.  The final legislation is sent to the President for signature.

Trump and the Republican Party is constantly accusing House Democrats of “getting nothing done in Congress,” and being consumed by impeachment.  This is another of a long list of Republican lies.  The House of Representatives has passed nearly 400 bills since January of 2019.   Congress has actually passed less than 80 bills into law this year.  Recent previous Congresses have usually passed from 300-500 bills passed in a 2-year period.   Mitch McConnell refuses to allow the Senate to hold a vote on any substantive legislation passed by the House.

By blocking the Senate from voting on House bills McConnell is obstructing the Constitutional process for passing legislation.  Granted, many House bills, having been introduced and passed along Party lines, would be defeated in the Senate.  But McConnell is not allowing the process to proceed as was intended by the Constitution.

This article – click here - from VOX provides a list of some of the major legislation passed by the House in 2019.

The Congress has been extremely partisan for over 20 years – and both Republicans and Democrats are at fault.  I have often said that the Democratic Party could introduce legislation that would beyond any doubt end all war forever and Republicans would vote against it only because it was introduced by Democrats – and vice versa.  While both sides are to blame, this obstruction and incompetence began in the mid-90s under the leadership of Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

Mitch McConnell is up for re-election in 2020.  While it is vital that Trump, if he survives impeachment, he be voted out of office in 2020, it is equally vital that McConnell also be voted out of office.  McConnell has obstructed the operation of Congress as outlined in the Constitution.  He is guilty of Obstruction of Congress and Obstruction of the Constitution. 

Every single Republican member of Congress who supports, defends and enables Trump and the Trump Presidency must be voted out of office when they come up for re-election. Not because Democratic policies are better than traditional Republican policies, or because liberal policies are better than true conservative policies - but because these Republicans in Congress have totally abandoned all integrity and credibility and clearly put personal and partisan interests above the interests and security of the country.   

As a point of information, my parents were registered Republicans, and my father was a Republican Committeeman, in Hudson County NJ, home of the infamous Hudson County Democratic Machine of Frank Hague and John V Kenny, poster child for political corruption, where it was almost illegal not to vote Democratic.  My parents worked on the polls as Republicans, and in my 20s so did I.  At the time I would say I was paid to register Republican – I had to register as a Republican to be able to earn my stipend for working on the polls.  Over the years I have voted for Republican, Democratic and third-party candidates at various levels of government, my vote based on the individual candidate and the specific issues.












Monday, December 9, 2019

THE TAX CODE MUST BE DESTROYED!





I am a tax professional who has been preparing 1040s for individuals in all walks of life since 1972.  As a tax preparer I know full well that the United States Tax Code has grown into a complicated and convoluted “mucking fess”.

The major reason for tax return errors, by both paid tax preparers and taxpayers who self-prepare, is the excessive complexity of the Code. It needs to be shredded and totally rewritten from scratch.


Bring me the head of the US Tax Code!

Like Frankenstein, the Tax Code must be destroyed.  It must be shredded and totally rewritten from scratch, acknowledging that the one and only purpose of the Tax Code is to raise the money necessary to fund the government.

The new Tax Code must

(1) Be simple – easy for everyone to understand.  Simplicity for simplicity’s sake.

(2) Be fair and equitable - treat all taxpayers equally.

(3) Be consistent – treat specific conditions, situations, and activities, and maintain specific definitions and descriptions, the same in all instances.

(4) Encourage savings, investment, and growth.

(5) Index for inflation all allowable deductions and credits.

The new Tax Code must not

(1) Be used for social engineering, to redistribute income or wealth, or to deliver social welfare and other government benefits.

(2) Encourage or discourage certain economic decisions (other than savings, investment, and growth), or provide exclusive benefits for specific industries, business activities, or classes of taxpayers.

(3) Contain any refundable credits, or any phase-outs, exclusions or adjustments based on Adjusted Gross Income or Modified Adjusted Gross Income. 

(4) Contain any “alternative” tax calculation systems (such as the current “Alternative Minimum Tax”).

(5) Contain any temporary deductions, credits, benefits, or provisions.
A new Code would state “Everything is taxable, except . . .” and “Nothing is deductible, except . . .”.  Only those “excepts” – exclusions and deductions - that are absolutely necessary and appropriate, in the context of the “musts” and “must nots” listed above, should be added back.

The Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan, educational organization, has earned a reputation for independence and credibility. All Tax Foundation research is guided by the principles of sound tax policy, which should serve as touchstones for policymakers and taxpayers everywhere.  It has identified key principles of sound tax policy:

Simplicity: Administrative costs are a loss to society, and complicated taxation undermines voluntary compliance by creating incentives to shelter and disguise income.

Transparency: Tax legislation should be based on sound legislative procedures and careful analysis. A good tax system requires that taxpayers be informed and understand how tax assessment, collection, and compliance works. There should be open hearings, and revenue estimates should be fully explained and replicable.

Neutrality: Taxes should not encourage or discourage certain economic decisions. The purpose of taxes is to raise needed revenue, not to favor or punish specific industries, activities, and products.

Stability: When tax laws are in constant flux, long-range financial planning is difficult. Lawmakers should avoid enacting temporary tax laws, including tax holidays and amnesties.

No Retroactivity: As a corollary to the principle of stability, taxpayers should be able to rely with confidence on the law as it exists when contracts are signed and transactions are completed.

Broad Bases and Low Rates: As a corollary to the principle of neutrality, lawmakers should avoid enacting targeted deductions, credits, and exclusions. If tax preferences are kept to a minimum, substantial revenue can be raised with low tax rates. Broad-based taxes also produce relatively stable tax revenues from year to year.

Put simply, good tax policy promotes economic growth by focusing on raising revenue in the least distortive manner possible.

This new Code would state “Everything is taxable, except . . .” and “Nothing is deductible, except . . .”.  Only those “excepts” – exclusions and deductions - that are absolutely necessary and appropriate, in the context of the “musts” and “must nots” listed above, should be added back.

One of the biggest problems with the current system is the inappropriate use of the Tax Code to deliver social welfare and other government benefits – hence its appearance as #1 on our list of “must nots”.  This practice is not only inappropriate, but it also invites and encourages tax fraud.

The Internal Revenue Service, and the tax professional community, should not be required to act as Social Workers and administer and verify government program benefit payments.

I am not saying that the government shouldn’t provide financial assistance to the working poor and college students, provide encouragements for purchasing health insurance, making energy-saving purchases and improvements and other “worthy” benefits.  What I am saying is that such assistance and encouragements should not be distributed via the tax return.

The benefits provided by the Earned Income Tax Credit and the refundable Child Tax Credit should be distributed via existing federal welfare programs for Aid to Families with Dependent Children. The benefits provided by the education tax credits should be distributed via existing federal programs for providing direct student financial aid. The benefits provided by the Premium Tax Credit, energy credits, and other such personal and business credits should be distributed via direct discount payments to the appropriate vendors or direct rebate programs funded by the budget of the appropriate Cabinet department.

Distributing the benefits in this manner is much better than the current method for many reasons:

1. It would be easier for the government to verify that the recipient of the subsidy, discount or rebate actually qualified for the money, greatly reducing fraud. And tax preparers, and the IRS, would no longer need to take on the added responsibility of having to verify that a person qualifies for government benefits.

2. The qualifying individuals would get the money at the “point of purchase,” when it is really needed, and not have to go “out of pocket” up front and wait to be reimbursed when they file their tax return.

3. We would be able to calculate the true income tax burden of individuals. Many of the current “47 percent” would still be receiving government benefits, but it would not be done through the income tax system, so they would actually be paying federal income tax.

4. We could measure the true cost of education, housing, health, energy and welfare programs in the federal budget because benefit payments would be properly allocated to the appropriate departments.

Unfortunately, my dream of true substantive tax reform will probably remain just that - a dream.  Tax law is written by Congress the members of Congress have absolutely no knowledge of or experience with the practicality of tax return preparation.  And, of course, there are the personal agendas of Congresspersons, who rely on the political contributions of lobbyists working to maintain specific tax breaks, and who more often than not, especially today, avoid independent thought and merely do what they are told by their Party.






















Monday, December 2, 2019

WE NEED A NEW MAJOR POLITICAL PARTY




It is clear that the Republican Party has lost all credibility as a legitimate political party.  It has abandoned all honor and integrity and abandoned true conservative philosophy and policies by embracing Trump and “Trumpism” and the agenda of the “Religious Right”.  As I previously posted “The Republican Party is Dead!

A new true conservative-based party needs to be created based on a platform that embraces the following conservative principles -

·  Protect & Maximize Individual Rights
·  Ensure a Limited Government
·  Uphold the Rule of Law
·  Commitment to Federalism and the Separation of Powers
·  Maintain Free & Open Markets (Economic & Social)
·  Fiscal Responsibility

This new party must totally reject the political agenda of the so-called “Evangelicals” and the Religious Right, which seeks to minimize individual rights by having the government force the specific religious beliefs of Christian fundamentalism, related to  abortion, sexual preference and identity and same-sex marriage among other issues, on citizens via legislation in direct contradiction to the Constitutional separation or Church and State and the conservative tenets of protecting and maximizing individual rights and ensuring a limited government.

And this party must, in its conservative-based support and defense of the Constitution and the intent of the founding fathers in the development of the Constitution and its amendments, acknowledge that the real purpose of the Second Amendment was to ensure that state armies – the militia – would be maintained for the defense of the state, and has absolutely nothing to do with a citizen’s absolute and unfettered right to possess any type of weapon.

I believe the Republican Party is too far gone to be able to be properly reformed.  A new party to replace it really is needed.

What do you think?



















Monday, November 25, 2019

POLITICS AND RELIGION



I have never been able to understand why Republican candidates feel they must pander to fundamentalist Christians – aka “evangelicals”, the “religious right”, and the Tea Party – in order to be perceived as a true conservative.

I also find it the height of hypocrisy that these so-called Christians continue to support and defend the most “un-Christian” President in our history. 

It has always been my understanding that one of the basic tenets of conservatism is limited government – the belief that the government should intrude in one’s personal and business life as little as possible.  The role of government should be to provide citizens with the freedom necessary to pursue their own goals; conservatism emphasizes empowerment of the individual to solve problems.

Another quote from Barry Goldwater, the politician most often credited with sparking the resurgence of the American conservative political movement in the 1960s –

I am a conservative Republican, but I believe in democracy and the separation of church and state. The conservative movement is founded on the simple tenet that people have the right to live life as they please as long as they don't hurt anyone else in the process.”

Contrary to the belief in limited government, “evangelicals” want the government to tell citizens how to live their lives by forcing the specific religious beliefs of fundamentalist Christianity on them.  The Republican Party has perverted conservative philosophy to include the tenets of extreme fundamentalist Christianity.

Religious belief is personal and individual.  It should never be legislated, or used as the basis for legislation.  One’s religious beliefs may cause a person to become involved in political activity as a way of helping society and one’s “fellow man”, but one religious group’s specific religious beliefs and interpretations should NEVER be made into law.

I agree with Susan B Anthony, who said, “I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.”

Founding father Thomas Jefferson correctly observed, “Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law”.

Murder is not illegal because God said, "Thou Shall Not Kill".  It is illegal because it takes away the victim's civil right to life as guaranteed by the Constitution.

If your religious beliefs instruct you that abortion is bad – then do not have an abortion.  If your religious beliefs tell you that homosexuality and same-sex marriage is wrong - then don’t practice homosexuality or marry someone who is the same sex as you.  But you cannot force your specific religious belief on your neighbor, regardless of any sincere desire to save him or her from the “fires of hell”.

Returning once again to Barry Goldwater, from decades ago -

"Today's so-called 'conservatives' don't even know what the word means. They think I've turned liberal because I believe a woman has a right to an abortion. That's a decision that's up to the pregnant woman, not up to the Pope or some do-gooders or the Religious Right. It's not a conservative issue at all."

The religious can certainly "preach the gospel" to those who will listen, but cannot make the government force non-believers to follow their perception or interpretation of the gospel.

America is NOT a “Christian country” - it is not a religious country, period.  The idea of religious freedom and the separation of Church and State is a cornerstone of American democracy.  It is one of the main reasons the first settlers came here.  Separation of Church and State means that the government cannot tell a citizen how to worship or what to believe.  It also guarantees the right of citizens NOT to worship and NOT to believe.

I remember seeing a sign at a diner may years ago that said –

THE LAST TIME WE MIXED POLITICS WITH RELIGION PEOPLE GOT BURNED AT THE STAKE.