Lars Larson 05/13/13Lars says he isn't buying the apology from the IRS for targeting conservative groups for audits...
Lars Larson 05/09/13Lars can't figure out why people in the Northwest don't like jobs...
Lars Larson 05/08/13Lars talks about what he expects to happen in today's hearings on Benghazi
Lars Larson 05/07/13Lars raps about the discovery of three women in Cleveland who had been missing for a decade!
Lars Larson 05/06/13Lars talks about the effort by some groups to remove the names of juveniles from public sex offender registries.
Lars Larson 05/03/13Lars talks about the possibility of voting ballots being printed in a number of different languages
By Doug DeFilipps
Imagine your government laid a tax on the entire population, one in which in the same amount is paid by virtually everyone. And people are not simply taxed the same percentage of income, but the same dollar amount. Now imagine the money raised from this tax is spent on entertainment for the upper classes. You might think this sort of thing only happened in ages past, under rulers like Marie Antoinette; but it is happening today, here in Portland, Oregon. An annual head tax of $35 per resident over the age of 18 is being levied―the only exception granted is for those living under the poverty line.
The funds will go first to Portland-area schools, with the goal of hiring one art teacher to every 500 students. The remainder will fund various art endeavors in the city. These endeavors include the Oregon Symphony, as well as other organizations and museums. I am by no means trying to diminish the cultural importance of any of these artistic organizations. I myself thoroughly enjoy visiting museums around the city.
However, I also know that many of these are patronized primarily by middle- and upper-class Portlanders―not low-income Portlanders. Nonetheless, lower-wage earners will be forced to pay for these artistic endeavors through the new tax in spite of the fact that they enjoy them far less. Though the tax is only on those making above the poverty line ($23,681 for a family of four), I think it is safe to say that not everyone making above that amount is exactly rich.
Equally appalling is that, as mentioned above, people with low incomes will pay the exact same amount as people with high incomes, in spite of the fact that $35 means a great deal more to them. Why should those who have the least sacrifice the most for something that will benefit them the least? Furthermore, the Portland art community is already generously supported voluntarily. If the wealthy are already willing to open their wallets, why should the poorest be forced to open theirs?
The City of Portland is imitating Marie Antoinette’s follies. Most of the tax dollars that went to pay her expenses were raised through highly regressive taxation mostly imposed on poor peasants. These included the Gabelle, a tax on salt that fell most heavily on the poor. Those same poor peasants, for the most part, would never see or enjoy what their money had paid for (the Palace at Versailles was open to the public but well out of traveling distance for most). They would never see Marie Antoinette’s lavish jewels or gowns or walk through the lovely gardens outside her Petit Trianon.
It is also worth pointing out that this kind of tax is forbidden by the Oregon Constitution. The constitution, which supersedes any laws passed by the city, specifically forbids a head tax. The Arts Tax obviously would fall under the category of a head tax, demanding an equal amount from all adult citizens regardless of means.
The Portland Arts Tax is unnecessary and unfair. It taxes those who are least able to pay for something they will rarely, if ever, use. And since many Oregonians already subsidize the artistic institutions the tax will benefit of their own free will, why should everyone else be forced to?
Doug DeFilipps is a research associate at Cascade Policy Institute. He is a recent graduate of Santa Clara University.
The transit agency for Vancouver (C-TRAN) is reconsidering its support for the Columbia River Crossing Project, which includes light rail to Vancouver. In a staff report prepared for this week’s C-TRAN board meeting, the following claims are made:
- Light rail offers faster service (17 MPH) than bus rapid transit (14.5 MPH);
- The extended Yellow MAX line will arrive in Vancouver every 7.5 minutes; and
- Light rail will carry 6,100 people over the Columbia River during the peak period.
All of these answers are wrong.
C-TRAN express buses running from various points in Vancouver to Portland city center currently average 31-45 MPH (depending on the route) in the morning peak period. In the afternoon peak they average 20-30 MPH traveling northbound.
Current Yellow MAX line service is one train every 15 minutes, all day. There will be no peak-hour service to Vancouver at 7.5-minute intervals, because TriMet has reduced service by 14% in the past five years. The agency is broke.
Finally, the maximum one-way capacity of a two-car light rail train is approximately 274. Multiplying this times eight trains per hour in the peak direction is 2,192 riders, not 6,100.
The fact is, C-TRAN’s express bus service is far superior to the slow MAX, so why spend $930 million on a slow train to Vancouver? That’s the question that should be asked.
John A. Charles, Jr. is President and CEO of Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.
Please join us for Cascade’s monthly Policy Picnic, led by Cascade President and CEO John A. Charles, Jr., on Wednesday, May 15, at noon.
The legislature continues to spend more than Oregonians can afford. Join John in discussing the psychology of legislative decision-making.
By Roger Stark, MD, FACS
President Obama signed the federal health care bill, The Affordable Care Act (ACA), into law three years ago. Let’s look at what has happened over the past three years.
The law remains extremely unpopular with Americans. Since passage, polls have consistently shown at least 50 percent of voters disapprove of the law. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll revealed that only 41 percent of respondents actually understood the law, while 57 percent did not.
The estimated cost of the law has gone up dramatically. Originally, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated ObamaCare would cost $940 billion over its first 10 years. This was based on a deception written into the law of 10 years of revenue starting in 2010 but only six years of benefits starting in 2014.
The CBO now estimates the cost to be $2 trillion over the 10 years starting in 2012. Revenue comes from a $716 billion cut to Medicare providers and over $1 trillion in new or expanded taxes. None of the significant Medicare cuts have taken place as scheduled, so the cost overrun of ObamaCare has already started. Health insurance companies are warning of 30 to 116 percent increases in premiums, and the government’s own CBO estimates at least 10 to 13 percent increases in rates.
Even President Obama sees the failure of parts of the law. He has signed the repeal of the long-term care provision, or CLASS entitlement. He also signed the repeal of the $1.7 billion Small Business Tax Reporting Requirement, which would have forced businesses to report every vendor transaction over $600 to the IRS. A bipartisan majority in the U.S. Senate recently voted 79 to 20 to repeal the 2.3 percent tax on medical device makers’ revenue (not profits).
The administration has, to date, granted 1,600 waivers to unions and various favored companies allowing them to opt out of ObamaCare. For the rest of us, the government has issued 20,000 pages of new regulations for implementation of the law and will force patients to fill out a 21-page application to receive care under the ACA (that’s the EZ form; the long form is 60 pages).
Medicaid expansion and new government-run insurance brokerages, or exchanges, are fundamental provisions of ObamaCare. Yet, 18 states have opted not to expand Medicaid, and 26 states have no plans to set up a state-run exchange.
The proponents of ObamaCare cling to a number of inconsequential benefits. Young adults from ages 19 to 25 now can be covered on their parents’ health insurance plans. These are the young and healthy, however, and the vast majority don’t need health care and don’t have much impact on health care costs. Also, when they turn 26 their parents’ coverage ends. They then will have to pay more than their fair share for health insurance because of the community rating requirement that forces young, healthier people to pay the same premium as older, sicker individuals.
Proponents also tout the mandated preventive care in the law. Yearly physical examinations and other preventive care are not “free,” and for large numbers of patients have no impact on health outcomes, nor do they save money.
We are also told the law prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage to patients because of pre-existing conditions. Research shows that only 62,000 people in the United States are in this group with no insurance and a pre-existing health problem. Spending $2 trillion to provide coverage to this small group is irresponsible and could be handled by shared-risk pools like the one Washington State already has.
The ACA is a 2,700-page, achingly complex, monstrous law that will soon control one-sixth of our economy. The country continues to dislike ObamaCare and remains puzzled by its mind-numbing complexity.
Everyone agrees health care needs to be reformed. Patients making informed choices in a free market―not top-down government mandates that will only result in higher costs, not better care―will put patients in charge of their health care decisions and their own health care dollars.
Dr. Roger Stark is a health care policy analyst at Washington Policy Center in Seattle, Washington and a retired physician. He has authored numerous in-depth studies on health care policy. Dr. Stark was one of the cofounders of the open-heart surgery program at Overlake Hospital in Bellevue and served on the hospital’s governing board. He is a guest contributor for Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research center.
“So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!” declares Thomas More’s son-in-law in Robert Bolt’s classic play, A Man for All Seasons.
“Yes,” More replies. “What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?”
“I’d cut down every law in England to do that!”
“Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you―where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast―man’s laws, not God’s―and if you cut them down―and you’re just the man to do it―d’you think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.”
Sir Thomas More is remembered as a great statesman, humanist, and hero of conscience. Bolt’s play shows him to be all three, but particularly focuses on More’s defense of the rule of law against its disintegration and a culture of “political correctness.”
Henry VIII’s decision to make himself head of the Church of England to divorce Catherine of Aragon is famous. Considered less today is how Henry’s actions changed the balance of power in English government and civic life. Having dispensed with his opponents, the king became nearly an absolute monarch, formally limited by the English Constitution and Parliament, but only to the extent that the people’s representatives were willing and able to oppose his wishes. The fewer the checks on the power of the king, the harder it became for any individual to hold a different position from that favored by the monarch.
And all the shiftier became the political sands.
At the core of the drama is the dangerous rise of Early Modern autocratic government and how individuals react to it. More neither desires nor seeks a public conflict with Henry, who is also his personal friend. As Lord Chancellor, he tries scrupulously to follow the law and refuses to take positions he believes are not justifiable according to legal precedent or logic. He will not swear a false oath. In that he differs from most other officeholders, some of whom adopt the king’s domestic and diplomatic agendas for substantial material gain. Others concur publicly with the king because they would rather not rock the boat. As More’s friend the Duke of Norfolk says:
“You’re behaving like a fool. You’re behaving like a crank. You’re not behaving like a gentleman….We’re [the nobility] supposed to be the arrogant ones, the proud, splenetic ones―and we’ve all given in! Why must you stand out?”
More’s response shows how sincerely he values integrity, the expression of one’s personhood, over political expedience:
“I will not give in because I oppose it―I do―not my pride, not my spleen, nor any other of my appetites but I do―I! Is there no single sinew in the midst of this [grabbing his shoulder] that serves no appetite of Norfolk’s but is just Norfolk? There is! Give that some exercise, my lord!”
A nation’s rule of law depends on certain basic things, such as equal justice, clearly defined statutes, enforcement of contracts, respect for property rights, and the sanctity of the oath. Dispensing with these tips the scales toward factionalism and autocracy, against the rights of individuals and citizens. A Man for All Seasons reminds us how delicate is the fabric of freedom.
(Paul Scofield won Best Actor for his role as Thomas More in the 1966 film version of A Man for All Seasons, which won six Oscars, including Best Picture. Scofield also won the 1962 Tony Award for Best Actor for the original Broadway production. Charleton Heston both directed and starred in a 1988 television movie, also based on Bolt’s play.)