Posts tagged with: congress

fight-for-15-and-a-union-672x372Sometimes predicting the future is difficult (ask anyone who thought we’d have flying cars by now). But sometimes foreseeing what is going to happen — at least to a high degree of probability — is all too easy.

For example, it’s fairly simple to ascertain that sometime in 2017 or 2018 we will see a huge spike in the unemployment for the working poor and increasing the replacement of low-skilled jobs with automation (i.e., robots). The reason: the $15 minimum wage.

Earlier this year the first and fourth most populous states in the U.S. — California and New York — adopted the increase to $15. Numerous cities have also adopted the higher wage floor. But perhaps the most significant step forward for the “Fight for $15” movement is that it is being adopted by the entire Democratic Party.

On Friday, the Democratic National Committee released a draft of the proposed party platform that includes a number of economically destructive proposals, including a federal minimum wage of $15:

rules-and-regulationsIn the Old Testament there are 613 commandments. Apparently, God deemed those to be enough to regulate almost every aspect of the lives of his people for thousands of years. You could read all of them in less than 30 minutes.

The American federal government, however, is not so succinct. There are over 1 million restrictions in the federal regulations alone (i.e., not counting the statutory law). And thousands more are added every year.

Each year the Competitive Enterprise Institute puts out annual survey — Ten Thousand Commandments — that reveals the size, scope, and cost of federal regulations. Here are some highlights from the 2016 edition:

Americans are growing in their distrust of the U.S. government and its leaders, with polls typically showing approval of Congress somewhere around 11%. As Senator Ben Sasse put it in his first remarks to the U.S. Senate, “The people despise us all.”

“No one in this body thinks the Senate is laser-focused on the most pressing issues facing the nation,” he said, “No one. Some of us lament this; some are angered by it; many are resigned to it; some try to dispassionately explain how they think it came to be. But no one disputes it.”

In a recent interview with Peter Robinson on Uncommon Knowledge, Sasse expounds on this further, noting that the problems in Congress have less to do with nefariousness (though that surely exists) than with efficacy. “There is a gigantic deficit of vision,” he says. “We have generational challenges, just at the level of federal policy.”

Sasse traces the decline of American government from Teddy Roosevelt onward, highlighting the 1960s as the eventual tipping point away from constrained constitutional governance. The federal government has now expanded into far too many areas, he argues, and the culture has responded in turn. (more…)

As the Pope’s address to the US Congress drew to a close, France 24 Television turned to Kishore Jayabalan, Director of Istituto Acton in Rome, for a reaction to Francis’ message. You can view his analysis below.

Speaking on The Steve Malzberg Show on Newsmax TV on Friday, Rev. Robert Sirico addressed questions regarding the new papal encyclical, Laudato Si’, which reportedly will be released this week.

Sirico commented on Pope Francis’ tendency to speak “off the cuff,” saying this may be exploited by the press or others who simply want to push their own agenda regarding the environment and climate change. Sirico also expressed trepidation regarding the pontiff’s plan to address a joint session of Congress during his U.S. visit in September.

Had I been asked, and I wasn’t, on whether the Pope should address the joint session of Congress, I would’ve said no,” Sirico said.

Why? Because it lends a whole political atmosphere to whatever he’s going to be saying to the Congress.

There’s no way the Pope is going to come out of that chamber without people putting a political spin on it whether to the right or the left,” Sirico said.

The Pope is visiting us not as the head of Vatican City State, not as a politician, not as a monarch, but as a pastor, as a bishop.”

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has issued its 2015 annual report on religious liberty around the world. In their report, the USCIRF documents religious freedom abuses and violations in 33 countries and makes county-specific policy recommendations for U.S. policy. One country worthy of particular attentions is Afghanistan.

religiousfreedomreport2015For the past nine years USCIRF has designated Afghanistan as a country of particular concern, a country where the violations engaged in or tolerated by the government are serious and are characterized by at least one of the elements of the “systematic, ongoing, and egregious” standard. As the report notes,

Afghanistan’s legal system remains deeply flawed, as the constitution explicitly fails to protect the individual right to freedom of religion or belief, and it and other laws have been applied in ways that violate international human rights standards.

Notice that the country has been on the list since two years after the adoption of their new constitution—a constitution that the U.S. helped to create.

In 2004, after U.S. military and allied forces overthrew the Taliban, American diplomats helped draft a new Afghani constitution. Many people around the world were hoping the result would be similar to the constitution of Turkey—or at least be distinguishable from the constitution of Iran. Instead, what was created—with the help of the U.S. government—was an Islamic Republic, a state in which “no law can be contrary to the sacred religion of Islam.”

While the White House issued a statement calling it an “important milestone in Afghanistan’s political development,” the USCIRF had the courage to admit what we were creating: Taliban-lite.

29taxes.2-500In an attempt to trap Jesus, some Pharisees and Herodians asked him, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” In response, Jesus said,

“Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

The Pharisees and Herodians “marveled” at Jesus answer, but had they asked an agent of the Roman IRS they likely would have been given a similar answer.

Governments have always had to contend with citizens who make what are considered “frivolous tax arguments” to avoid complying with tax laws. Such arguments rarely work (it’s usually not effective to try to present a creative interpretation of tax law to the people who interpret tax laws) but people keep trying.

The IRS has an entire list of responses to the most common frivolous tax arguments. Here are four of my favorites: