Serving God & Country....Defending Faith & Freedom

An Outreach of What's Right What's Left Ministry



Civics in Seconds

Perhaps a Better Prayer

The Historical Lessons of Lower Tax Rates

Courts, not Legislators run our government, by decree not votes!

Railroad To The Casinos - A $700 Million Boondoggle

Power Trips: Congressional Staffers Share the Road, Thanks to taxpayers




Congress, aides enjoying free trips
By UPI Staff
United Press International
June 6, 2006

WASHINGTON (UPI) -- A new study says U.S. lawmakers and their aides took nearly 23,000 privately funded trips during the first half of this decade.

"Power Trips: Congressional Staffers Share the Road" is the result of a yearlong investigation by American Public Media reporters, Northwestern University Medill School graduate students and Center for Public Integrity staffers who analyzed 25,000 travel documents from January 2000 to June 2005, filed not only by Congress members but also by their staffs.

During the five-year period, congressional travelers took at least 200 trips to Paris, 150 to Hawaii and 140 to Italy.

Most of the nearly $50 million spent on trips by private sponsors was enjoyed by congressional staffers who act as gatekeepers to Congress members whom special interest groups want to reach, the study said.

Copyright 2006 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved





The Right Frame of Mind
Perhaps a Better Prayer

By Rev. Mark H. Creech
May 23, 2006

AgapePress) - Thursday, May 11, Senate Chaplain Mike Morris delivered the following prayer before the guests and members of the North Carolina Senate:

"This morning we offer thanks, O God, for the unexpected blessing of a $2 billion surplus in the State Treasury. We're also grateful for the Senators who understand such a sum. For the poor in our State, $2 billion is an incomprehensible amount -- a different monetary language. In their world, a few dollars more each month means the difference between despair and hopefulness. So to those of us who know the meaning of $2 billion, help us also respond to the language of dollar bills and pocket change."

After the prayer, I turned to a colleague sitting next to me in the gallery and said: "That prayer was decidedly progressive." In other words, the suggestion of the prayer was that North Carolina lawmakers ought to take the surplus and dole it out in various government programs for the poor.

Unfortunately, we are living in a time when most people would offer a whole-hearted "Amen" to the chaplain's prayer. Yet the chaplain is actually espousing a form of economic deviance -- one far from the teaching of Holy Scripture.

There's no doubt that Christianity is deeply concerned for the poor. But the Scriptures do not authorize the government to be involved in matters of housing, food, child-care, health-care, etc. Romans 13:3-5, the definitive text for understanding the role of government, says government is to bear the sword against evil doers and protect the innocent. The apostle Paul clearly delineates this to be the reason people should pay taxes -- to provide for sufficient military, police, and court services; to protect the public's right to life, liberty, and private property. It's neither altruistic nor compassionate, however, when the government coercively extracts money from one group and gives it as an act of public charity to another -- even when it's needed! Such is just another form of violating the eighth commandment: "Thou shalt not steal."

It's hard to believe that America, which was birthed in part because of its opposition to unjust taxation, would so passively accept a tax burden that is considerably squelching its hopes at opportunity. Taxation that seeks a more equitable distribution of wealth by seizing the property and possessions of those who have in the name of those who don't, significantly suppresses a nation's ability to produce.

Moreover, this approach to economics undermines the strength of the national character.

Alexis De Tocqueville, the famous French philosopher, once warned: "America will last until the populace discovers that it can vote for itself largesse out of the public treasury." For those who might not know, "largesse" means: "liberally vote themselves gifts and handouts from public coffers."

Without question, today government has become the opiate of the people. We look to it to solve all our problems, but in doing so we preempt the genius of private enterprise, the power of private charity, and the profound influence of the church. All of these serve to make us a better people -- to nurture the nation's spirit -- to serve the public more effectively. When the public begins to look to the government as a panacea for all its woes, the end is indolence, vice, and less liberty. Can we honestly deny this is where public or state charity has taken us?

No, Senate Chaplain Morris' prayer shouldn't receive an "Amen," but an "Oh me." It was, whether intentional or not, an unholy alliance with socialism -- pure and simple. In a sermon titled, The Bible and Economics, Dr. D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Ministries rightly notes that such "[i]nstead of drawing people to the church and God who is the provider of every good and perfect gift, it leads them to a more and more secularized state and engenders more and more of a disbelieving populace. Furthermore, it leads to a loss of freedom, to tyranny as we sell our souls to the government store. More and more people are willing to sell their birthright for a mess of pottage or, as somebody said, a pot of socialistic message. They will end up as a people totally dependent upon the state and without liberty."

Indeed, perhaps a better prayer before the N.C. Senate during a time of surplus would have been:

"Our Heavenly Father, forgive us, for we are wise in our own sight, yet far removed from the true wisdom found in Your ways. Though we sought to help, we created hindrances. Though we sought to give, we were actually stealing. In this chamber, we now scramble and fight over that which is not our own. Today we humbly consecrate the $2 billion surplus in the State's treasury and vow to place it where it actually belongs. In repentance, we give it back to the people."

I feel relatively certain they won't be asking me to pray before the N.C. Senate anytime soon.




The Historical Lessons of Lower Tax Rates

by Daniel J. Mitchell, Ph.D.

August 13, 2003 | 

There is a distinct pattern throughout American history: When tax rates are reduced, the economy’s growth rate improves and living standards increase. Good tax policy has a number of interesting side effects. For instance, history tells us that tax revenues grow and "rich" taxpayers pay more tax when marginal tax rates are slashed. This means lower income citizens bear a lower share of the tax burden – a consequence that should lead class-warfare politicians to support lower tax rates.

Conversely, periods of higher tax rates are associated with sub par economic performance and stagnant tax revenues. In other words, when politicians attempt to "soak the rich," the rest of us take a bath. Examining the three major United States episodes of tax rate reductions can prove useful lessons.

1) Lower tax rates do not mean less tax revenue.

The tax cuts of the 1920s
Tax rates were slashed dramatically during the 1920s, dropping from over 70 percent to less than 25 percent. What happened? Personal income tax revenues increased substantially during the 1920s, despite the reduction in rates. Revenues rose from $719 million in 1921 to $1164 million in 1928, an increase of more than 61 percent.

According to then-Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon:

The history of taxation shows that taxes which are inherently excessive are not paid. The high rates inevitably put pressure upon the taxpayer to withdraw his capital from productive business and invest it in tax-exempt securities or to find other lawful methods of avoiding the realization of taxable income. The result is that the sources of taxation are drying up; wealth is failing to carry its share of the tax burden; and capital is being diverted into channels which yield neither revenue to the Government nor profit to the people.

The Kennedy tax cuts
President Hoover dramatically increased tax rates in the 1930s and President Roosevelt compounded the damage by pushing marginal tax rates to more than 90 percent. Recognizing that high tax rates were hindering the economy, President Kennedy proposed across-the-board tax rate reductions that reduced the top tax rate from more than 90 percent down to 70 percent. What happened? Tax revenues climbed from $94 billion in 1961 to $153 billion in 1968, an increase of 62 percent (33 percent after adjusting for inflation).

According to President John F. Kennedy:

Our true choice is not between tax reduction, on the one hand, and the avoidance of large Federal deficits on the other. It is increasingly clear that no matter what party is in power, so long as our national security needs keep rising, an economy hampered by restrictive tax rates will never produce enough revenues to balance our budget just as it will never produce enough jobs or enough profits… In short, it is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high today and tax revenues are too low and the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the rates now.

The Reagan tax cuts
Thanks to "bracket creep," the inflation of the 1970s pushed millions of taxpayers into higher tax brackets even though their inflation-adjusted incomes were not rising. To help offset this tax increase and also to improve incentives to work, save, and invest, President Reagan proposed sweeping tax rate reductions during the 1980s. What happened? Total tax revenues climbed by 99.4 percent during the 1980s, and the results are even more impressive when looking at what happened to personal income tax revenues. Once the economy received an unambiguous tax cut in January 1983, income tax revenues climbed dramatically, increasing by more than 54 percent by 1989 (28 percent after adjusting for inflation).

According to then-U.S. Representative Jack Kemp (R-NY), one of the chief architects of the Reagan tax cuts:

At some point, additional taxes so discourage the activity being taxed, such as working or investing, that they yield less revenue rather than more. There are, after all, two rates that yield the same amount of revenue: high tax rates on low production, or low rates on high production.

2) The rich pay more when incentives to hide income are reduced.

The tax cuts of the 1920s
The share of the tax burden paid by the rich rose dramatically as tax rates were reduced. The share of the tax burden borne by the rich (those making $50,000 and up in those days) climbed from 44.2 percent in 1921 to 78.4 percent in 1928.

The Kennedy tax cuts
Just as happened in the 1920s, the share of the income tax burden borne by the rich increased following the tax cuts. Tax collections from those making over $50,000 per year climbed by 57 percent between 1963 and 1966, while tax collections from those earning below $50,000 rose 11 percent. As a result, the rich saw their portion of the income tax burden climb from 11.6 percent to 15.1 percent.

The Reagan tax cuts
The share of income taxes paid by the top 10 percent of earners jumped significantly, climbing from 48.0 percent in 1981 to 57.2 percent in 1988. The top 1 percent saw their share of the income tax bill climb even more dramatically, from 17.6 percent in 1981 to 27.5 percent in 1988.

Harmful Spending & Complexity
Lower tax rates are important, but they are not the only critical issue. Both the level of government spending and where that money goes are very important. And even when looking only at tax policy, tax rates are just one piece of the puzzle. If certain types of income are subject to multiple layers of tax, as occurs in the current system, that problem cannot be solved by low rates. Similarly, a tax system with needless levels of complexity will impose heavy costs on the productive sector of the economy.

This WebMemo is excerpted from the author’s, Daniel J. Mitchell's, Backgrounder, The Historical Lessons of Lower Tax Rates, published July 19, 1996. 

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Courts, not Legislators run our government, by decree not votes!

What happens when courts run schools and prisons and transit authorities and . . .

Miracles do happen. In Los Angeles last week a state judge lifted a consent decree issued in 1991 after parents filed a lawsuit claiming that public schools in poor neighborhoods had too few experienced teachers. The court has since ordered the school district to spend an average of $11 million a year on teacher training in certain schools. And now, almost 15 years later, the judge has finally declared herself satisfied and declined to extend the decree for another five years.

Other locales aren't so lucky. Consent decrees are judicial decrees that enforce agreements between state and local governments and the parties suing them. But such decrees have proliferated to the extent that judges are micromanaging many public institutions in the name of protecting "rights." And they're costing taxpayers money and infringing on the right to self-government.

In New York, a 1974 federal consent decree has mandated bilingual education in the city's schools for more than 30 years--even though many parents want no part of it. In Tennessee, a federal consent decree from 1979 prevents the state from requiring generic, rather than brand-name, drugs for Medicaid patients despite the fact that this is standard practice for many private drug plans and other state Medicaid programs. And in Los Angeles, a 1996 consent decree has forced the Metropolitan Transit Authority to spend 47% of its budget on city buses no matter what the MTA deems to be its priorities.

New York Law professors David Schoenbrod and Ross Sandler call this "democracy by decree," or the process by which public-policy decisions are taken out of the hands of elected legislators and left to an unelected judiciary. Their 2002 book of that name is the inspiration for legislation introduced in the Senate last month that would limit the use of federal consent decrees.

The legislation's sponsors are Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander and Arkansas Democrat Mark Pryor. It's no coincidence that both Senators were once state officials. "I'm looking at this as a former Governor," says Mr. Alexander. "The idea is to try to let those who are elected make policy unencumbered by courts." Mr. Pryor is a former Arkansas Attorney General. Similar legislation is pending in the House.

Consent decrees can be a huge burden on state and local officials. They sometimes last for decades, long after the officials who agreed to them have left office. Newly elected officials often find themselves locked in by the decrees, unable to put in place policies they were elected to implement. Outgoing officials have been known to sign their names to such decrees in an effort to force their successors to go along with policies they oppose.

One part of the Alexander-Pryor solution is term limits--either four years for a decree, or the expiration of the term of the highest elected official who signed his name to it. Their legislation also sensibly shifts the burden of proof for modifying or ending the decree to plaintiffs from state and local governments.

The legislation endorses the view of a unanimous Supreme Court, which in 2004 called for limiting decrees. It warned in Frew v. Hawkins that federal consent decrees could encroach on state and local power. They may "improperly deprive future officials of their designated and executive powers," the Court said. They may also lead "to federal court oversight of state programs for long periods of time even absent an ongoing violation of the law."

There are federal consent decrees in force in all 50 states, with judges running prisons, schools, welfare agencies, health-care systems and more--based on the advice of the advocates who brought the original lawsuits. It's time to turn those jobs back to the elected lawmakers, and it's good to see at least someone in this ostensibly conservative Congress show some modesty about federal authority. OpinionJournal Tuesday, April 18, 2006

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Railroad To The Casinos - A $700 Million Boondoggle
By Paul M. Weyrich
May 01, 2006

If you thought the "bridge to nowhere" was too expensive, take a look at the price tag of the "railroad to the casinos." The anticipated changing of a railroad route may not be a surefire route to riches for the citizens of Mississippi but it would be a straight flush for the casinos. Economic conservatives are critical of this deal; social conservatives also should be.

Senator Thomas Coburn (R-OK) challenged an appropriation earmark valued at $700 million sought by the political establishment of Mississippi - namely, Senators Trent Lott (R), Thad Cochran (R) and Governor Haley Barbour (R). (Senator Cochran is Chairman of the Appropriations Committee.) Coburn takes strong exception to Mississippi politicians' attaching the earmark to the Iraq/Katrina Emergency Appropriations Bill. His amendment to derail funding for the rail line and a number of other projects lost 49-48. Another amendment offered by Senator Craig Thomas (R-WY) to strip earmarks, including the rail funding, from the Emergency Appropriations Bill also lost.

Coburn knew his fight was uphill but offers compelling points that address a larger problem within the institution of Congress and its appropriations process.

Here's the background on this controversial project and the challenge that will occur.

The Senate Appropriations Committee this week considered the Iraq/Katrina Emergency Appropriations Bill. The House had passed a bill last month. The Senate took up the bill after some $14 billion had been added.

The railroad issue demonstrates just how far off-track the appropriations process has become. The rail tracks have been repaired and the railroad is fully operational. That lead Coburn to charge, "It is ludicrous for the Senate to spend $700 million to destroy and relocate a rail line that is in perfect working order, particularly when it recently underwent a $250 million repair." (Later accounts put the estimate at $300 million.)

Lurking behind the issue is how the appropriation is handled and where the relocation would lead. Supporters say moving the tracks would allow a new highway to be built and protect the rail line from future storms. Coburn counters, "Emergency supplemental bills are designed to help our nation confront emergencies. While the current location of this rail line may be displeasing to local economic developers and politicians, it is hardly a national emergency."

ABC NEWS reporter John Cochran has reported that the movement of the rail tracks was an item high on the agenda of local developers. One businessman, identified as representing the Isle of Capri Casino, told ABC NEWS that he believed economics took a backseat to safety but moving the tracks "would probably help development and give us a good east-west connector that is safe." If that is the case, then why not wait and let Senators Cochran and Lott advance this proposal through the regular appropriations process?

Many opponents of the appropriation contend the earmark clearly is intended to help assist the casino industry and cite a report issued by the Mississippi Governor's Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal, which notes the redesign can help the "evolving" activities for the Port of Gulfport which include "a mix of commercial businesses and gaming."

The Christian Science Monitor has called the plan an attempt to establish "a Las Vegas South." The New York Times reported last December that the casinos to replace those destroyed by the hurricane are to be sited on land, not on barges as they had been located before.

Architect Andres Duany, a leader in the New Urbanism movement who advocates mixed development, had recommended interspersing casinos with stores and restaurants. The casino owners balked at Duany's proposal because as Bernie Burkholder, President and CEO of Treasure Bay Casinos, explained, "A casino owner wants people to stay on the property." In short, Mr. Burkholder wants them gambling, risking their personal financial security and that of their families.

Social conservative leaders and organizations unfortunately were silent on the issue, leaving the protests to The Nation and The New Republic. Several economic conservative groups made public their opposition to the amendment just before Coburn offered the amendment. Will social conservative groups come forward and urge the Congressional leadership to strip the rail line funding out in conference? It is a bad earmark and not only from the standpoint of the Federal budget and its abuse of the emergency supplemental appropriations process. It is bad for Mississippi's citizens. True development of Mississippi's economy would be fostered by attracting industries with a future. Gambling may have a future in Mississippi but what does it have to offer the State's citizens? Many will have a bleaker future. Here's what the American Family Association of Mississippi says about the corrosive impact of the Mississippi gambling industry:

"According to a study published in our own state by the University of Southern Mississippi in 2000 (found under the resources section), an estimated 5% of our population in 1996 were "problem" gamblers and an estimated 2% of our population have a "probable pathological" problem with gambling. Given the population of a census estimate for 2001 at 2,858,029 people in MS, that's 142,901 people and 57,161 people, respectively. Every gambler with a problem costs society varying estimates in money on a yearly basis. One study places just the pathological gambling costs at $13,586 per pathological gambler. Looking at just the estimated 57,161 people with a "probable pathological" problem, the costs to society are $776,575,760 per year. Gambling costs us all and not just in the counties in which it is legal. In no matter which area of our state you live, you can read about case after case of embezzlement that didn't used to be such a high rate."

Congress is gambling with our future and those of coming generations by its unwillingness to trim spending. The earmark for the proposed rail line sitting stuffed in the Iraq/Katrina Emergency Supplemental Spending Bill illustrates Congress' unwillingness to trim Federal spending. Blame falls on members of both parties but it is distressing that key Senators of the party which claims to support less spending and real government reform are lending this massive spending effort support. Parochial special interests are placed ahead of the national interest. Is it any wonder one ranking lobbyist recently told The Washington Post that lobbying would remain an industry in demand in Washington because "We still have a pretty big government and it has a pretty long reach?"

Fortunately, the White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy just before the vote which emphasizes the need to fund operations in Iraq and to overcome Katrina but declares "the Administration is seriously concerned with the overall funding level and the numerous unrequested items in the Senate bill that are unrelated to the war or emergency hurricane relief needs. The final version of the legislation must remain focused on addressing urgent national priorities while maintaining fiscal discipline." The next sentence declares President Bush's willingness to veto the bill if it remains stuffed with items such as the rail line earmark. (Majority Leader William Frist, M.D. (R-TN) believes he has the necessary votes to sustain such a veto.)

A rebuilt, revivified casino industry may spur employment in Mississippi -- and if the State's citizens want it, fine - but it should not receive Federal funds and Mississippi citizens should ask themselves what toll casinos take on the State's moral climate and the work ethic. The odds may be stacked against Mississippi's gamblers' hitting the jackpot; maybe the safer bet is to become K Street lobbyists pushing earmarks.

Senator Coburn was right and courageous to challenge this earmark. He should continue his fight for fiscal responsibility. President Bush is right to threaten the veto. Let us hope that the President decides to wield his veto stick often to rein in Congress' lack of fiscal restraint.

Paul M. Weyrich is Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.

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