Is Our Nation Broken?

Lately I have been saddened by the division in our Nation. I think it has always bothered me that we have a long history of division. Like when we hated on the Indians and all but annihilated them and enslaved a portion of our society that was predominately black and further punished them with segregation and Jim Crow laws, but I had hoped we had left some of that behind.  The most obvious division today is among the Haves and the Have Not’s and between those who want more government control and those who do not. Those we have elected to lead us have been putting on a pretty good show of fighting for the cause of their constituents, yet our government continues on its set course. That course being more control over its people and more information about their lives and more of their money. Obviously they are not content to just control their own citizens, but people all over the world as evidenced by the surveillance of foreigners and the constant intervention in other nations by our government. Should we be in a constant state of war without a defined enemy. The stated enemy is terrorism yet we refuse to acknowledge that it is a war with Islam where the Quran calls for the killing of non-Muslims. We also have the internal and external war on drugs where tens of thousands of people have lost their lives in a struggle to illegally provide the United States with drugs and hundreds of thousands of Americans are imprisoned and lose their property because their drug of choice is not alcohol or tobacco. These things are being used as an excuse to gather information on every citizen in this country and many abroad. Privacy in our communications, information searches, shopping habits and our medical history is gone and all that information along with our location is now available to our government. We have surrendered our individual sovereignty for the illusion of safety.

Lets consider some of the implications from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. One provision is the smokers have been accessed a $3000 penalty or premium increase that cannot be subsidized with tax money. That $3000 is just an arbitrary number. What if it increases to $6000 or more and how hard would it be to say that anyone who uses an illegal drug should be charged more. You could always just not tell them but likely medical exams in the future will include toxicology exams since the government is picking up the tab. Laser powered molecular scanners will very likely find their way into medical diagnostics and drug use will be obvious, both legal and illegal. If you do not report your drug use you will be guilty of felony fraud.

The use of the Internal Revenue Service as the enforcement arm of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is also troublesome. Does anyone remember the abuse of power about awarding or withholding tax-free status to groups and individuals along party lines. The Internal Revenue Service has always been used by our elected leaders to reward those in their favor and punish those who are not. It is also being used to divide our nation. We are split between the Haves and the Have Not’s where according to CNN Money, 10% of the people pay 70% of all income taxes. Randi Rhodes once told me that it wouldn’t do any good to tax the poor because it is like squeezing blood from a turnip but I disagree. Those who do not pay income taxes ( about 47%) don’t have any skin in the game and they can vote for whatever benefits they want from government and not have to worry about how it is paid for. When we authorize our government to take away from a few to supplement others it is theft, even if it is backed by the rule of law. If everyone pays, then we could find the level of government benefits that we can agree on and pay as we go. This astronomical national debt thing has to stop if we are to leave any kind of decent future for our children and grand children.

If America wants to turn this around, it can be done, but we have to act in unison. Stop voting for lifetime politicians. Their allegiance is not to you but too their party. Demand term limits and run for office if you are dissatisfied with the selection of candidates. We need more ordinary citizens in office. Above all watch those that take office and let them know what you expect from them. Silence is seen as approval.

Randy Johnson

What Divides Us?

As the House of Representatives votes to de-fund Obamacare, with a bill that would fund the government by raising the debt limit to prevent a government shut down, the Senate and the President have vowed that the bill is dead with no chance of passing. Both Democrats and Republicans are locked in a struggle for a prize that would reward their constituents. That prize being health care, or more importantly who would pay for it. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is actually a huge wealth redistribution scheme. It raises the premiums on those that can afford health insurance to pay for the insurance of those that can’t and will be supplemented with Tax money and money that we had to borrow from the Federal Reserve. The whole problem with the battle is the taking of money. It could be simply called theft by government to give to those less fortunate. And of course while playing the role of the middle man, the associated regulatory bureaucracy, the IRS, will need increased funding in order to pay for expenses associated with running the new government cash eating monster. Why would anyone want to make the IRS bigger and more powerful.?

What we need as a nation is to get our budget under control and stop the process of borrowing 43% of what we spend and begin to pay that money back. The interest on the national debt alone is crippling with an estimated cost of 5 trillion dollars over the next decade. We currently owe $49,000 for every man, woman and child in the United States, or $135,000 per taxpayer in this country and it seems to be accelerating exponentially. The young voters in this country should be screaming at their elected officials to stop this madness that will cripple our future economy with debt we cannot repay. A burden that will be passed to our children and their children. Simply put, we need to pay as we go instead of borrowing the money, even if we have to raise taxes. That gets us to the crux of the problem, who gets the bill. Currently about 50% of Americans don’t pay income tax and some even get money they did not contribute. The people who do not pay taxes are not vested in the system.  When those that pay little or nothing start voting benefits for themselves, from the tax revenue of the few that pay the most taxes, it creates hard feelings, stifles innovation, and investment that creates jobs and rightfully so. While I am not a big fan of progressive taxes, lets just skip that part and assume that we should take a higher percentage from those who make more. The poor that can work should not be exempt from some income tax so that they share in the burden of helping those that can’t or won’t. Lets make it a fixed ratio of say, a 2 to 1 ratio or even a 3 to 1 ratio, where the wealthiest taxpayer pays a higher percentage, but all who have income should pay something and get rid of special interest deductions and credits. Then it is no longer the poor stealing from the rich with taxation, and we could raise the tax rates to whatever people were willing to tolerate and pay for what we want from government. We could find the balance that society wants with taxation and government services and it would heal the divide that has split our nation.

Randy Johnson

Marijuana And Money

In their effort to forge laws governing marijuana sales in Colorado, legislators are debating about the amount of taxes that should be associated with the sale. Colorado House of Representatives wants a 15% excise tax and a 10 or 15% tax on all sales in addition to the 2.9% state sales tax and any local taxes. Other cost relayed to the consumer will include the high licensing and application fees associated with starting a marijuana distribution center. Other legislative efforts that will continue to drive up costs are the rule governing that 70% of all marijuana sold must be grown by the distributor and no more than 30% may be furnished to another distributor. Also the legislators are considering limiting the amount of marijuana that can be sold and limiting the number of distributors state-wide which could create a shortage of legally sold marijuana. Shortages of supply would tend to drive the cost to consumers higher.

With taxes on sold marijuana approaching 30 to 35% it will be difficult to keep costs low enough to discourage a black market for marijuana. Brick and mortar stores have the added cost of a building, with all of its associated cost such as mortgage or rent, electricity, water, insurance and wages paid to a staff. Citizens of Colorado are allowed to grow their own marijuana and the profits of black market sales will be just too tempting for some to pass up, especially if the legal market is unable to meet demand.

Another problem facing marijuana distributors in Colorado is the continued prohibition of marijuana at the federal level. Since marijuana is still illegal by US law, it is difficult to find banks and insurance companies to do business with the distributors, forcing them into a cash only business with elaborate security systems. I’m sure the Federal government would not allow armed security in a business selling marijuana according to the Gun Control Act. This leads to increased security risks associated with robberies and burglaries and makes it difficult to obtain financing for startup and operating expenses. In addition the Federal Government has a long history of circumventing the will of the people by raiding marijuana distributors and confiscating their assets and property and incarcerating the owners.

All of these things combined make black market marijuana more appealing and profitable while making legal marijuana more expensive and easier targets for the Feds.

Randy Johnson