Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Really, AG Kane Must Go

When Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane refused to defend the commonwealth's Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) I called for her impeachment in a previous blog (Do Your Duty or Resign AG Kane, 7/11/13).  Since that time she has made it eminently clear that she is unqualified for the post. 

As a reminder, the Commonwealth Attorneys Act of 1980 (Ch2, Section 204 (3) reads: It shall be the duty of the Attorney General to uphold and defend the constitutionality of all statutes so as to prevent their suspension or abrogation in the absence of a controlling decision by a court of competent jurisdiction. The Attorney General doesn't get to choose which laws she will defend or obey and which she can take a politically correct position on.  She is not to judge whether the General Assembly passed an unconstitutional law.  In the DOMA case she presumed the court's position before the case has even begun.  Her job, her duty, is to defend her client, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to the best of her ability.

Following that unchallenged abrogation of her duty she again has refused to defend a state law.  This time it is a law that makes it easier for gun owners and member groups to sue local municipalities.  Some local municipalities have passed ordinances in defiance of state law that place stricter requirements on gun ownership.  The General Assembly does not give local municipalities this authority and specifically reserves that power to itself.  Some local municipalities have passed these ordinances in defiance of the state law because there has been no mechanism in place to object or overturn them.  There has been no recourse for gun-owners intimidated (the real purpose of the laws) by the local ordinances.

Some cities (of course Pittsburgh and Philadelphia) and several state lawmakers brought a lawsuit against the Commonwealth November 10th, challenging that the law wasn't passed in accordance with parts of the state constitution designed to create transparent, fair legislation (i.e., one subject bills).  Note that the suit does not challenge the purpose or content of the law.  Everyone understands the General Assembly is exercising its rights on gun legislation and that local municipalities are out of bounds when they seek to restrict gun-rights.  AG Kane is obviously hiding behind a procedural issue.

Defending the process by which legislation was passed - which is what she would be called to do in this lawsuit - should be no burden for any ethical and right thinking attorney general.  Lawyers  routinely make arguments in court over procedural matters in cases where they may have doubts about their client's position.  Just like the DOMA case she has taken on the position of judge and is derelict in her duties as Attorney General!

These two derelictions of duty are enough to impeach AG Kane.  However, she gives another great reason: total incompetence.  Kane refused to prosecute Philadelphia lawmakers who took cash (recorded on tape!) from an undercover lobbyist and an ex-traffic court judge who accepted a $2,000 bracelet.  She claimed racism tinged her predecessors' investigation and that there were legal flaws and poor supervision.  Well, a grand jury, dominated by black citizens, have rebuked her on the racism charge and the evidence of the case is unusually damning based on eyewitness accounts, hours of tape recordings and detailed admissions of guilt.  Some observers believe her actions were all motivated by a feud she has with the former state prosecutor and current Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams.  Based on the grand jury's findings he is charging the state legislators in the case.

Further evidence of incompetence: Kane flubbed, and then retracted, two statements about her office's investigation of pornographic emails shared by former and current staffers.  Her review of Governor Corbett's almost 3-year investigation while he was attorney general of pedophile Jerry Sandusky, a retired Penn State assistant football coach, found no evidence that Corbett dragged out the investigation to win the governor's office, as Kane alleged in her campaign.  Then her office settled the last of cases involving eight people with ties to the Turnpike Commission whom Kane accused of corruption. Two months before taking office she had a grand press conference accusing the people of "using the turnpike to line their pockets and to influence elections."  The result - none of those charged went to prison.

The office of Attorney General is no place for an incompetent politician motivated by political correctness and personal agendas.  Pennsylvania deserves an honorable, dedicated to the law, attorney general.  The General Assembly needs to do its duty and impeach AG Kane.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Is the Pope Catholic?

I'm guessing the Papal Conclave is having buyer's remorse right about about now.  Pope Francis continues his habit of making what could be kindly characterized as progressive statements or perhaps more harshly described as heresy.  The latest: in delivering an address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences the pontiff appeared to endorse evolution and disputed that God was omnipotent or even divine.

While Pope Francis has been making secularists and religious liberals happy with his progressive ideas the conservatives have to be shocked.  Just two weeks ago a committee of bishops selected and convened by Pope Francis released a draft report that urged the church to recognize "positive aspects of civil unions and cohabitation."  The church should with regards to homosexuals be "accepting and valuing their sexual orientation." This led to a revolt among conservative bishops.  The English version of the policy statement was then revised to express a more traditional view.

Before I get into the latest bombshells I should address the issue some of my Catholic friends are undoubtedly thinking at this point: Why don't you mind your own (Baptist) business?!  Well, you know I have already committed to discussing in this blog the two biggest conversational no-no's -religion and politics - and I am going to jolly-well continue to do so. And this latest Francis-ism is meaningful news for anyone concerned about Christian orthodoxy. 

There are many things I disagree with in Roman Catholicism.  I am an independent Baptist and I have arrived at my beliefs not by birth or by accident, but by faith and searching the scriptures. (And I acknowledge many Catholics and Protestants would claim the same thing.) I am also a student of church history and an observer of society.  I have respected the Catholic church and its leaders where it has resisted popular movements in society that it viewed were contrary to scripture.  The sanctity of life is a good example.  I have supported and gladly worked with Catholic friends in the Pro-Life movement. (I will also admit there are many times that Protestant leaders - yes, even ones that claim to Baptist - greatly disappoint me in their apparent rejection of biblical truth.) 

Now the pope comes out with some statements that take serious believers' breath away.  So we don't lose our breath and faint let's take them one by one.  First Pope Francis said, "When we read about creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so."  Well, it is "not so" that God is a magician and uses a magic wand.  Pope Francis got that right. Let's point out God uses His words.  He spoke the world into existence.
And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light." (Gen. 1:3)
For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast. (Ps. 33:9)
By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. (Heb. 11:3)
What is most worrisome about the the Pope's statement is the " to do everything. But that is not so."  Oh, I hope this got lost in translation!  God most certainly can do everything. Otherwise He would not be God.  This is, of course, described by theologians as omnipotence.  God's Word tells us:
But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”(Matt. 19:26)
“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me? (Jer. 32:27)
Pope Francis continued his explanation on creation..."God is not a divine being or a magician, but the Creator who brought everything to life."  Again, I would have to agree with part of his statement.  God brought everything to life. 
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. (Is 40:28)
But Pope Francis' statement that God is not divine - surely this must be misreported, or mistranslated?  Or it has to be named as heresy. Does it not?  Catholic doctrine surely teaches the divinity of God, and without a recognition that God is divine we have no religion.
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.  (Col. 1:16)

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, (2 Peter 1:3)

For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse. (Romans 1:20).

So back to why should a baptist care about Pope Francis' statements? I care when society disregards God's truth. Is it expected that people will reject Truth? Yes, but not by the fellow who is recognized as the leader of the Roman Catholic church!

It seems that fundamental principles are now daily rejected.  Truths are up for debate or they change with the fashions. Obvious good is now considered evil, and evil good.  When more truths - such as God's divinity and omnipotence - are rejected it is to our peril.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Unpatriotic Corporations and Hedge Fund Managers

Two news items concerning our beloved leader and business caught my eye today.  President Obama castigated big (formerly) U.S. corporations for "magically becoming Irish to exploit the "unpatriotic loophole" and pay less U.S taxes, according to one news item.  Some American companies have acquired facilities in Ireland and in a merger inversion have technically moved their headquarters there.  This allows them to dodge the highest business taxes in the world (good ole USA) and take advantage of some of the lowest in the world (Ireland's corporate tax rate of 12.5 percent).

No good American wants to see U.S. grown businesses move, even just their headquarters, overseas.  On that issue I will give President Obama the benefit of the doubt (I mean both the 'good American' and the businesses moving!)  However, in Obama's thinking these businesses need to be punished and dragged back to the U.S. so they can be taxed more.  This is a natural reflex on his part.  Corporations are evil, and profit-seeking is evil.  They must be treated as the enemy and controlled by the wise central government for the good of the citizens.

Let's consider Pennsylvania.  I have worked with some business organizations over the years in an attempt to reduce the heavy tax burden Pennsylvania-based businesses bear (e.g., we have the second-highest corporate net income tax of any state).  The truth is that businesses leave Pennsylvania to other states seeking a better tax (and regulatory) environment.  Some businesses that would likely move here for the trained workforce, natural resources, or beautiful winters (a-hem) do not because of the red flags of our tax rates.

I ask you how this is different on a global scale?  I can easily see the rationalization of a company in Pennsylvania deciding to move to South Carolina for a better tax and regulatory environment, and similarly it is easy to understand the thinking of corporations looking overseas.  If a corporation has a fiduciary responsibility to its stockholders shouldn't it consider the best tax environment - along with all the other factors?  Sure the corporation has other stakeholders including employees, communities, and customers to name a few.  In the end the financial decisions have to loom big for corporate management.

So Obama wants Congress to work at changing laws that permit these merger inversions or other avenues to bring back the tax revenue from these "unpatriotic" corporations.  Locked into his "corporations-are-greedy-enemies-of-the-state" mentality he naturally approaches the issue this way.

Hey, how about the solution we have lobbied for in Pennsylvania. LOWER THE TAXES!!  Does it make sense to further chase American businesses with more regulation and government strangleholds (a stick approach)? Or would it be better to offer a more conducive business environment so more businesses could thrive in America (the carrot approach)?

The other nugget I read quoted President Obama as saying corporate America CEO's don't have a right to complain about regulations and should show greater social responsibility.  "If you look at what's happened over the last four or five years, the folks who don't have a right to complain are the folks at the top," Obama told the Economist. He expanded on this perspective by saying, "Oftentimes, you'll hear some hedge fund manager say, 'Oh, he's just trying to stir class resentment.' No. Feel free to keep your house in the Hamptons and your corporate jet, et cetera. I'm not concerned about how you're living."

There was a time (during his elections) when Obama carefully guarded his anti-capitalist/ anti-business/class warfare heartfelt feelings.  No more. These statements show his blatant envy and grandiose self-empowerment.  One of Obama's regular rhetorical techniques is to clearly describe his own (bad) behavior as if coming from the lips of his enemies. Then he ridicules and holds up this thought as absurd.  In this case he tells the truth of his actions when he quotes the fictitious hedge fund manager (oh, the vilest, greediest of all capitalists): 'Oh, he's trying to stir up class resentment.'  Well, of course this is exactly what Obama is doing.  But we're suppose to dismiss this crazy notion because it is coming from the despised hedge fund manager.

And do you know what? The evil hedge fund manager has a house in the Hamptons - and you don't! It would be laughable - that Obama immediately engages in his own class resentment after trying to disabuse us of the notion - if he wasn't the President of these United States.  But catch this: the hedge fund manager can feel free to keep his house in the Hamptons.  President Obama is allowing him, for now anyway, to keep these ill-gotten fruits. How kind of our beloved leader.

Then President Obama offers the biggest, most obvious lie yet: "I'm not concerned about how you're living."  Are you kidding me!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Who Should Pay for Your Contraceptives?

I overheard a friend discuss the implications of the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision.  She was relieved the court ruled in favor of religious liberty. However, she worried that this decision could be used by some cults to refuse to cover reasonable medical procedures.  She had heard that Jehovah Witnesses don't believe in blood transfusions.  "What if a business owner decides to not cover blood transfusions in healthcare coverage for his employees by claiming a religious exemption?"

This thought outraged my friend.  She wondered aloud if the court victory for Christians was worth the travesty this could be for employees' health insurance coverage.

Of course I was also relieved about the court's decision, though I was saddened that it was a 5-4 vote. Apparently four justices cannot understand the First Amendment (i.e., free exercise of religion) and the 1993 law known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).  Either they don't understand or they just want to defy the Constitution.

But my friend's misplaced outrage that some kooky employer would use this as a loophole to not provide reasonable health insurance to their employees was disheartening to me.  Do I think this could happen in this big country of ours?  Yes, I do.  Should we be concerned about it? No.

"Oh, there you go again, you heartless conservative," you may say.  Hold on. Let's take a step back from the minutiae of this case.  Here are the questions we should be asking ourselves:

  • Should the federal government be involved in specifying what health insurance benefits a private employer offers his employees?
    • Hint: nothing in the constitution gives the federal government this power, and we're talking about PRIVATE business!
  • Should private businesses be required by the federal government to subsidize citizens' sex lives?
    • Hint: you gotta be kidding me!
  • If private businesses opt out or can use a religious exemption from (in reality the Supreme Court ruling is for just some of the contraceptives) providing contraceptives in their health insurance plans should the federal government subsidize citizens' sex lives?
    • Hint: as usual, liberals want to show their compassion by spending your tax dollars!
  • Should the federal government require any business to provide abortifacients to its employees?
    • Hint: the federal government is prohibited from funding abortion due to the Hyde Amendment and cannot be allowed to force others to do it.  
  • Should someone who desires to use contraceptives buy it with their own money instead of acting as if it is their right to have it provided to them? (see image above)
    • Hint: of course!
We should not be outraged that some private business could use the Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case to refuse to fund some particular health insurance coverage.  We SHOULD be outraged that the federal government is so intrusive into private business as to require any specific health insurance benefit.  This is not a power granted to the federal government by the constitution.  Our founders must be turning in their graves.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Pennsylvania Needs You ... to Gamble More

Remember when the Governor and the General Assembly told us that opening up casinos in Pennsylvania would reduce our property taxes, save horse raising, expand school budgets, bring in tourism, keep our own gamblers from traveling out of state, help us compete with neighboring states, support local development, and cure cancer?  Well, in our continuing race to the bottom the General Assembly is now considering Internet poker and casino games.  This will help close up a big budget shortfall of $1.2 billion.

Like we do not have enough gambling already?  It is not bad enough that the state entices its citizens to "play to win" in multiple lotteries and is itself addicted to casino tax dollars?  Pennsylvania's 12 casinos generated $1.4 billion in state and local gambling taxes in 2013.  Over a billion dollars of losers' money!  Yet this is not enough to satisfy the ravenous appetite of our legislature.

We have two really big problems.  First is a state government that is desperate for tax revenue because it will not make tough cuts in spending.  The billion dollars raised from casino gambling that was suppose to CUT our taxes (and solve many of our ills) is not sufficient.  And did we not just see passage of a tax increase on our gasoline to help fix and build roads?  Then there is the year-after-year excuses about why we cannot reduce the country's highest corporate net income tax on businesses..."we just do not have the money in a very tight budget."  Stop spending so much!

The second problem is society's acceptance of what used to be called a vice, gambling, as a source for government funding.  When the mob runs a gambling operation it is evil and anti-social, but when the state runs it there is no harm?  I can make the case that state promoted gambling is worse.  Our government should lift up and edify good behavior, not be preying on its vulnerable citizens.

The General Assembly is reviewing a report that forecasts another pot of gold for the state if it permits internet gambling (and taxes the heck out of it).  This new found tax-money for Pennsylvania could be over $100 million a year.  (Not enough to put much of a a dent in the projected $1.2 billion deficit.)  The report also says we might squeeze out some more money from our casinos if we reduce pesky regulations like allowing cash advances with credit cards on the gaming floor or let players cash third party check and personal checks over $2,500 or reduce required state police presence.

Oh, and great news on internet gambling: It would have minimal effect on land-based casinos because it would attract a whole new market (of suckers).  IGaming caters to a younger, predominantly male demographic.  I guess not enough of our boys are showing up at casinos, but this way we can reach out to them on their smartphones for some poker!

Hey, I know!....let's use internet gambling money to reduce property taxes, fund education, provide medicine for grandma, and...We better do it soon because New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware are doing it.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Full-time and in poverty

"In America no one should be working full time and be in poverty!" I have been reading this recently and have heard President Obama make the assertion.  It sounds laudatory and everyone seems to accept this premise.  (Following the assertion we usually have the bemoaning of income inequality in America and drum beating for raising the minimum wage.)

I need to object to the premise.  It is not pleasant and probably terribly incorrect, but somebody has to point this out.  Because someone works full-time does not necessarily mean that they create adequate value - for themselves or for others.  Because someone works full-time does necessarily mean that they produce enough value that warrants a paycheck above the poverty level. I know, I'm just heartless.

Suppose I worked full-time sweeping and cleaning my street. And suppose I was successful at getting my neighbors to pay for it.  The ten other families on our cul-de-sac each agreed to pay me $100 a month for this service.  It was hard work and I was committed to doing a good job. I worked sun-up to sundown 5 days a week to accomplish the task.  Well, I would make $1000 a month before taxes, $12,000 per year.  This is half the official poverty level for a family of four in America.  According to Obama this is unfair.

What is unfair? I chose the work. My neighbors agreed to pay me a wage for the job that was, if anything, probably MORE than the real value to them (perhaps my good looks and neighborly ways added to the value provided!). In other words, the value of the work I produced for my neighbors was worth only $12,000 a year.  I am in poverty, but there is no injustice committed.

The reality is that some tasks are less valuable than others. Some tasks that require very little skill pay very little money.  It could be that engaging in the task on a full-time basis is not going to produce enough income to raise one above the so-called poverty level even if it is done with great effort and honor.  And it IS fair to pay someone for the worth or value of the task performed, be it valued at $100 a month or $100 an hour.

By saying this I am not wishing poverty on anyone. I desire an America of great opportunity for everyone. I would like to see everyone get a good education, acquire at least adequate skills and be at least a productive citizens.  I would hope, in America, this opportunity would be available to all and that some with talent and effort would realize great success and wealth.

So what to do about people working full-time and not making enough to lift them out of poverty? Well, first it does not happen much anymore.  The so-called safety net in America encourages our citizens to not work and bring in way more than the poverty level.  But that is an issue for another time. 

The answer is not to bemoan the injustice.  Workers need to develop sufficient skills to produce enough value so that they earn more than the poverty level.  This goes back to God-given talents, education and effort.  Perhaps in my example above I give up my day off on Saturday and in addition to sweeping the streets I add mowing yards and with some training, landscaping. Maybe I then double my value to my neighbors and double my income and exceed the official poverty line.

Yes, I know this is a simple example and the real world is messy and difficult.  Helping people acquire skills to make themselves more valuable in the marketplace is difficult and it starts with our education system. Making unfounded platitudes which end up requiring me to pay for the false premise is the easy thing.  Save the cries of injustice; I'm not buying it.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Not again! The Clamor for a Minimum Wage Hike

Here in Pennsylvania there are various voices from county courthouses to the General Assembly to the State Auditor General clamoring for a hike in the minimum wage.  On the national level President Obama has joined in the song.  He even joins in that part of the chorus that proclaims $10.10 is the equitable level.

Yes, believe it or not we are back to fighting this old, discredited idea from the liberal playbook.  I think it must be part of the liberal bylaws that this nutty government intrusion into the marketplace must be foisted on America every five or so years no matter what the economic conditions.  We hear  idiotic things like (e.g, from Auditor General DePasquale) making hourly wages greater than $7.25 would boost the state's economy and provide an alternative way to help the government's long-ailing bottom line.

I don't want to get side-tracked, but let's dismiss the idea of raising funds to help the poor state's bottom-line.  If it is "long-ailing" it is because it spends too much, not because it needs more money coming in.

Democrats in the state House introduced legislation last month that would increase minimum wages to $9 an hour and then one year later raise it to $10.10.  Obama would be proud.  Auditor General DePasquale argues that Pennsylvania needs to keep pace with Ohio and New Jersey, which are both boosting their minimum wages next year.  Keep pace? With what? Loss of jobs and wrecking already poor economies?  Oh, and shouldn't you being doing audits or something, Auditor General DePasquale?

Liberals will tell us the minimum wage rate of $7.25 hasn't been raised in "x" many years (insert the current time frame per the liberal bylaws), hasn't kept up with inflation, and you can't support a family at these meager wages. Blah, blah, blah.  Then we conservatives have to counter with the facts (don't you hate that): the minimum wage is not meant to support a family, most people earning it work part-time, are young, are unskilled, are just entering the workforce, are in training, etc.  We point out the number of years since it was last raised is irrelevant because it was a stupid thing to do back then, and why would we want to place another government imposed drag on a moribund economy at this time?

Economists in their right mind (I admit there ARE many who are not) say that if we make it difficult for a person to find a starting (i.e., minimum) wage job - because employers have to limit the number of hires at the new artificially high rate - then we have constructed an even greater hurdle for the person to enter the workforce, get the necessary training, and work their way up to a career-type of job.  It is true some people will be hired at the increased minimum wage, but many people who might have been hired will join the unemployed (or in Obama's America will join those who quit looking).

You know, the sad thing, I believe, is that most people advocating for raising the minimum wage know it will not help those they purport to care for in a kindly-government-knows-best sort of way.  They know it will likely hurt the overall economy and limit the number of unskilled jobs available.  It will make it look like they care.  And in the liberal playbook what better play to call?  They care and obviously anyone against raising the minimum wage doesn't care and just wants to keep the poor down.

It is very effective, politically. (Especially at the national level where the liberals have a great need to change the subject and get the Republicans back to defending against charges that they are mean and don't care!) Republicans are afraid to address the issue because they know they will be painted as selfish and uncaring, regardless of the real economic consequences of artificially setting wage rates.  Auditor General DePasquale (aren't you doing audits yet?) said, "I believe if it came up in the House or the Senate it would pass. I think it is a very hard thing to vote against."  He's probably right.  We know we can count on politicians to do the thing that feels good instead of the right thing.

A National Journal poll released recently found 71 percent of respondents nationwide supported boosting the federal minimum wage, with only 28 percent saying it could hurt the economy.  That's what happens when leaders fail to make the case with the facts and let the people pleasing and/or fear-mongering continue unchallenged.

I know, we get tired of arguing the same points against the same knuckle-headed ideas.  What is the alternative?  Just as every generation must fight again for their freedom, conservatives must be willing to counter the periodic feel-good nonsense from the Left with hard economic realities.