As a conservative-leaning libertarian, I think I can do a better job spending my money than the government can. Naturally, I was skeptical that the Trump Tax Cuts would actually result in a lower tax rate for us. Most tax cuts are in name only. Seeing a tax cut in 2018 would be particularly difficult. 2018 was a good income year for us. In addition to my salary, we had some capital gains and our side gig had its best year ever. This should be the year we jump into the next tax bracket. Yesterday I completed my tax return using TurboTax. Since I have been using TurboTax for five years, the Tax History Report shows that both the 2018 Effective Tax Rate and the Tax Bracket are lower than any time in the last four years! Wow, that was a pleasant surprise!
One of the unanswered questions is who told Mr. Halper to go after Mr. Page, Mr. Papadapolous, and Mr. Flynn? If in 2019 there is not enough evidence to indict anyone for Russian collusion, what evidence actually triggered this “matter”. According to an article by Sara Carter, Mr. Halper “received roughly $1 million in tax-payer funded money to write Defense Department foreign policy reports “. If Mr. Halper was actually being paid for intelligence gathering evidence of Russian collusion in the 2016 election, one would suppose that Mr. Halper would have the evidence that led him to suspect Mr. Page, Mr. Papadapolous, and Mr. Flynn of Russian collusion. After all, he was being asked to spy on American citizens for the American government. The Magna Carta and the United States Bill of Rights is part of our common history. Instead, Mr. Halper and Mr. Mifsud started out with various attempts to entrap Mr. Page, Mr. Papadapolous, and Mr. Flynn. It was as if evidence gathering did not matter. These men were guilty until proven innocent. That was a strange tactic if this “matter” was actually a counter-intelligence investigation sanctioned by the CIA or the FBI. The United States frowns on the CIA or the FBI spying on American citizens without due cause. It is the Fourth Amendment to our Constitution. Hey Mr. Clapper, does contracting the spying of an American citizen to a foreigner somehow make this legal?
I was intrigued by this chart in the Instapundit post, PAUL KRUGMAN, MEET DATA. DATA, MEET PAUL KRUGMAN. The chart says that modern day anti-semitism is predominately coming from people who have a Muslim-extremist or left-wing view. This is a serious accusation with economic implications if true.
The source for this chart is the document, Antisemitic Violence in Europe, 2005-2015. That document was jointly published by the Center for Studies of the Holocaust and Religious Minorities and Center for Research on Extremism (C-REX), University of Oslo. The source data for that document was a 2012 survey by the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) on discrimination and hate crimes against Jews in the EU. I could not find the original document but I did find a recently completed update to the original survey. Sadly here are their key findings:
Antisemitism pervades everyday life Antisemitism pervades the public sphere, reproducing and engraining negative stereotypes about Jews. Some Member States responded by appointing coordinators on combating antisemitism, while others adopted or endorsed a non-legally binding, working definition of antisemitism(link is external) agreed on in May 2016 by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and welcomed by the European Commission as a useful initiative aiming to prevent and combat antisemitism.
Pervasive antisemitism undermines Jews’ feelings of safety and security Many Jews across the EU cannot live a life free of worry for their own safety and that of their family members and other individuals to whom they are close. This is due to a risk of becoming targets of antisemitic harassment and attacks.
Antisemitic harassment is so common that it becomes normalised People face so much antisemitic abuse that some of the incidents they experience appear trivial to them. The normalisation of antisemitism is also evidenced by the wide range of perpetrators, which spans the entire social and political spectrum.
Antisemitic discrimination in key areas of life remains invisible The very low reporting rate for antisemitic discrimination, combined with the apparent normalisation of incidents, prevent the true extent of antisemitic discrimination from coming to the attention of relevant authorities, equality bodies or community organisations.
I think the second survey is sending a warning message to people like Mr. Krugman because he is normalizing antisemitic harassment by the Muslims with extremist views and the left. The lack of action by the left already has had economic consequences for Europe. As I said in my comment to the original post:
It should not be a surprise that in “2015 around 10,000 Jews left western Europe for Israel, the largest number to do so since 1948.” It is kind of hard to make Europe’s economy great again if a lot of your best talent is leaving for Israel.
“McCarthyism is the practice of making accusations of subversion or treason without proper regard for evidence” according to Wikipedia. Listen to part of this interview with Erin Burnett of CNN.
Nadler: “If we’re going to do anything, you have to have proof.”
Erin Burnett: “So, that’s what this is about, you don’t yet have proof?”
Ms. Burnett is expressing the frustration that after two years of Democrats talking about impeaching President Trump the Democratic party still does not have the evidence needed to make the case for impeachment. The American people are expecting impeachment hearings and the Democrats are not ready! Instead, they are getting promised more investigations. The Mueller investigation is almost over. The last thing the American people wants is more investigations!
The Democratic party could lose badly in 2020 if the impeachment hearings are botched. So it looks like we will be getting impeachment-like investigations. Unfortunately, these investigations could be a gift to the Republican party, too. If Congressman Nadler’s investigations become a political circus like they did under Senator McCarthy, the Democrats will have no one to blame except themselves if independent voters abandon them in 2020. It is a lose-lose situation. You lose if you conduct impeachment hearings you are not prepared for and you lose if you conduct investigations that look more like partisan attacks than congressional oversight. It is easy to see these investigations becoming a prime-time circus and President Trump getting the sympathy vote.
I hate to criticize other people’s plans without offering a better alternative. Democrats in Congress should be talking about reforming the Affordable Care Act to have affordable health care before they have burned all bridges to a compromise. That issue is more likely to get them re-elected in 2020 than impeachment investigations. Unfortunately, history has shown that the Democrats cannot multi-task when they are talking about impeaching President Trump.
I brewed Midwest Supplies Bourbon Barrel Old Ale and Karl’s Ninety 90 Shilling last year and they finally are fun to drink. I knew the Old Ale was going to take three months to mature but Karl’s Ninety 90 took a long time to carbonate. The Old Ale has some wonderful oak flavors but the bourbon flavor is too small. Although I like it, the Old Ale was too much work. There are just too many outstanding stouts available commercially.
Karl’s Ninety 90 Shilling is a brown ale that I find competitive with the commercial varieties. I like it enough that I may brew it again.
Recently I found out that my brokerage account offers a money market fund, SWVXX, that yields 2.3%. That is even higher than the 2.1% rate offered by Discover Online Savings. Both of these rates are much better than the rate on the sweep account attached to my brokerage account. That account yields about 0.1%. Unlike investments in short term bond funds, there is no risk to the principal if the Federal Reserve continues to increase rates in 2019. This money market rate is even higher than the Consumer Price Index(1.6%). A positive real interest rate on a money market fund is rare. This is such a rare occurrence you have to wonder what is the Federal Reserve thinking! Regardless, this money market fund looks like the perfect way to put your money to work while you wait for the next stock market pullback. Low-interest rates courtesy of the Federal Reserve was a massive gift to investors in the stock market over the last ten years. During this time there was no viable alternative to the United States stock market. We even had a name for it, There Is No Alternative (TINA). Are higher returns on money market funds the answer to the TINA question? The Federal Reserve giveth and the Federal Reserve taketh away.
Governor Northam is a huge Michael Jackson fan. In a recent news conference, someone asked whether he could demonstrate his moonwalk and Governor Northam flipped his head around looking for an appropriate place to demonstrate his dance moves. Fortunately, wiser minds prevailed and his wife talked him out of it.
In the fall of 1982, Michael Jackson’s career went from superstar to supernova with the release of Thriller. By 1983 I bet Northam’s interest in everything Michael Jackson had become unbearable to his friends. So they submitted a totally inappropriate photo to the yearbook and looked forward to the shock on Northam’s face. They probably never thought their attempt at humor would backfire on them 36 years later. Although this is pure speculation on my part, I would not be surprised if the person wearing Ku Klux Klan outfit is a black person. Irony is a dish best served cold.
I try not to listen to her but this tidbit caught my attention, “there are parts of Alabama where people are still getting ringworm because they don’t have access to public health”. When my son was in high school he was diagnosed before a wrestling match with a ringworm infection. It took us several days to get a doctor’s appointment so we treated it with Selsun Blue we picked up at the grocery store. By the time the doctor saw him, it was gone. Ringworm is a contagious skin infection but it is not a public health crisis.
If Ms. Ocasio-Cortez had spent just a few moments checking her facts, she would have noticed two things wrong with her statement. According to al.com, the two problems with her statement are:
The problem in Alabama is with hookworms, not ringworms.
Rural Alabama has a hookworm problem because it has a sewage problem. It has nothing to do with access to public health.
I found it especially ironic that the first public health crisis that the representative from Brooklyn can think of is hookworms in Alabama. The opioid crisis is undoubtedly a better example of a public health crisis she should have used her position to discuss. Unlike the hookworm problem in Alabama, public health policies play an important part in treating opioid addiction. Her opinion on this public health crisis is important and relevant to her constituents.
If building the fence is the issue then history says the prudent action is to let Trump have his fence. Building a border fence is even more complicated today than in 2006. There is a pretty good chance the only border fence built is where the Federal government and locals agree that it is necessary. That sounds like they will spend more than Ms. Pelosi’s $1 but probably considerably less than 5 billion dollars. That sounds like a win-win for the taxpayer and immigration control. Maybe we can get a DACA fix, too!
President Trump surprised some people recently when he announced that the United States would be withdrawing troops from Syria and Afghanistan. President Trump and I come from the Vietnam War generation and understand the mistakes that were made in those years. Good intentions gave way to mission creep. By the end of the Vietnam War, no one knew why we were there. Thousands died and for what? With a considerable amount of bitterness and frustration, we brought our soldiers home. For many years after the fighting in Vietnam ended, the American people continued to fight the aftermath of the war. Was it guilt or remorse, I do not know. It was a painful experience. As an example, it took several years of introspection before the American people finally came to the conclusion that a Vietnam War memorial was in order. President Trump is like many people who grew up during the Vietnam war who promised themselves to never let our politicians get us involved in a stupid foreign war ever again. Both Democratic and Republican politicians got the message. In a rare bipartisan agreement, both sides promised we would never get involved in a foreign war without a clear exit plan. We had learned our lesson or so we thought.
In the last twenty years, both the Republicans and the Democrats succumbed to the old ways. President G. W. Bush may have had good intentions in deploying soldiers in Afghanistan after 9/11 to pursue Osama bin Laden. In 2018 we have soldiers being deployed today who were not born when the initial fighting started. The time for a clear exit plan from Afghanistan has come and past. To the credit of the Obama administration, both President Obama and Vice-President Biden started the ball rolling at bringing our soldiers home. The problem is that the Obama administration screwed up the Iraq exit plan. The administration’s encouragement of the Arab Spring made a mess of the Middle East but in particular, Libya and Syria. With foreign policy disasters in Libya, Syria, and Iraq, the wind-down in Afghanistan was put on hold. We were so close and yet so far away!
What I did find surprising about President Trump’s announcement is that the only people applauding it are Libertarians and Trump supporters. The Syrian war is going to end soon and Bashar_al-Assad is going to run the Syrian government. President Obama’s argument for regime change in Syria is just not going to happen. The only question is what happens to the Kurds when the United States troops leave. I think the Kurds will do just fine. They are a battle-tested fighting force. The United States is not abandoning the Kurds as much as establishing a different relationship with them. There are solid foreign policy reasons why keeping the Kurds strong is in America’s best interest. Politically and militarily both Turkey and Iran have to come to grips with the Kurds. They are not going away and invading them will only embolden them. For the United States, the pullouts in Syria and Afghanistan are overdue. We may not get the pullouts right but if we learned from our mistakes in the Iraq pullout it will probably be close enough to claim success and move on. If our military industrial complex wants to endear itself with the American people, this would be the time to say we can cut our defense budget 5% like the domestic programs. That sounds like a win-win for the American people. We’re all in this together!