Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Internet Sales Tax: The Power of Any Government to Tax You Anywhere
By: Daniel J. Mitchell / Townhall Columnist and a top expert on tax reform and supply-side tax policy at the Cato Institute.
I’m either a total optimist or a glutton for punishment. I recently explained the benefits of “tax havens” for the unfriendly readers of the New York Times.
Now I’m defending a different form of tax competition for CNN, another news outlet that leans left. In this case, the topic is whether states can reach beyond their borders for tax revenue.
Here’s some of what I wrote about the so-called Marketplace Fairness Act that was just approved by the Senate and presumably will soon be considered by the House. I start by explaining that the powers of governments should be constrained by borders.
Let’s assume you live in Utah, Hawaii or South Carolina, and you go to Nevada for a vacation. While in Las Vegas, you spend some money in the casinos. Gambling is illegal in the state where you live, so should the cops in your home state be able to track your activities and arrest you for what happened in Nevada? The answer, needless to say, is no. Or at least it should be no. Common sense tells us that state laws should only apply to things that happen inside a state’s borders. But this sensible principle is being tossed out the window by the U.S. Senate, which has approved a proposal that would give states the ability to impose their taxes on out-of-state sellers.
I also explain that this issue isn’t about whether the Internet should be taxed. Indeed, as a fan of the flat tax, I don’t want special favors or special penalties in the tax code. Internet profits and Internet sales should face the same (ideally low) taxes as all other sectors of the economy.
Instead, the fight is really about whether a state government has the right to force out-of-state merchants to act as deputy tax collectors. If you believe that borders should limit the power of governments, the answer is no.
But that rubs politicians the wrong way.
…some governors and state legislators don’t like this system because many states don’t bother imposing any tax on sales to out-of-state consumers. And even if states levied taxes on sales to out-of-state consumers, what about the five states that don’t have any sales tax? Wouldn’t those states become “tax havens” for Internet sales? For these reasons, some politicians fret that the Internet will put competitive pressure on them to keep their sales tax rates from getting too high.
But this is exactly why politicians shouldn’t be allowed to tax beyond their borders. We want tax competition in order to limit the greed of the political class.
States with no payroll income taxes, such as Nevada, Florida, Tennessee, Texas and New Hampshire, help restrain the greed of politicians in states that have punitive income tax systems, such as California, Illinois, New York and Massachusetts. And if politicians in the high-tax states refuse to adjust their bad tax policies, then people should have the freedom to escape and earn income in other states. The same principle applies to sales taxes. If politicians in, say, Arizona are worried that consumers will go online or travel across the border to avoid the punitive sales tax, then they should reduce their sales tax rate.
So what’s the bottom line?
Politicians can choose to maintain uncompetitive tax systems, of course, but they also should be prepared to accept the consequences. I don’t think California and Illinois should try to become the France and Greece of America, but that’s something for the voters of those states to figure out for themselves. In any event, they shouldn’t have the right to force out-of-state sellers to act as deputy tax collection officials if they decide to impose bad tax policy. …To be blunt, a sales tax cartel is bad news for tax policy and bad news for privacy. Let’s limit the power of state governments so they can only screw up things inside their own borders.
Let’s close on a light note. Here’s a clever cartoon from Nate Beeler.
I agree with the cartoon’s message, at least to the extent that onerous taxes can be very deadly to an industry. But, as noted above, I don’t want special tax-free status for the Internet.
So the ideal cartoon would show lots of surfers from all industries exercising the freedom to pick the waves with the smallest and least destructive sharks. Some might even call that federalism.
Operation Smear Benghazi Whistleblowers
It's on. As the White House grapples with a growing backlash over its Libya lies and lapses, President Obama's apologists are gearing up for battle. Put on your hip-waders. Grab those tar buckets. Get ready for Operation Smear Benghazi Whistleblowers.
Capitol Hill hearings this Wednesday on the deadly 9/11 consulate attack by jihadists will feature three compelling witnesses, all State Department veterans: Gregory N. Hicks, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Libya and highest-ranking U.S. diplomat in the country at the time of the Benghazi jihad attacks; Mark I. Thompson, a former Marine who now serves as deputy coordinator for operations in the agency's Counterterrorism Bureau; and Eric Nordstrom, a diplomatic security officer who was the top security officer in Libya.
Nordstrom first testified last fall about how State Department brass spurned his requests for increased security at the compound. Hicks and Thompson are coming forward publicly for the first time this week with more damning evidence contradicting Team Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's claims about the administration's response the night of the attack and in the ensuing months of cover-ups.
According to the House Oversight Committee, Hicks reportedly will refute Team Obama's claims that nobody was told to stand down and that all military resources available were used in the rescue efforts. As Special Forces prepared to fly from Tripoli to Benghazi to save lives during the attacks, Hicks says the team received a phone call from the U.S. Special Operations Command Africa telling them "you can't go" and that the decision was "purely political."
The State Department press office already has accused Victoria Toensing, attorney for one of the Benghazi whistleblowers, of "lying" about administration pressure on her clients. Left-wing operatives funded by billionaire George Soros have taken to Twitter to mock reports of fear and intimidation among the new witnesses. White House press secretary Jay Carney continues to sing "Long, Long Ago" and deny all wrongdoing.
And one anonymous State Department official told Fox News reporter James Rosen that Hicks and Thompson have "axes to grind."
Gee, who wouldn't have an "axe to grind" if your bosses lied to you, blocked you from saving your co-workers and friends, and lied shamelessly and repeatedly to the American public about the reasons for their deaths?
It's this corrupt and vengeful White House that wields the sharpest axes and biggest grindstones. The casualty count in Obama's war on whistleblowers is double-digit.
ATF insiders who testified before Congress about Obama's Fast and Furious gun-running nightmare faced systemic retaliation and harassment -- both from government supervisors who openly declared witch hunts against them and from liberal media water-carriers.
Maverick journalist Sharyl Attkisson of CBS News faced White House retaliation of her own over her Fast and Furious investigations. Department of Justice spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler "was just yelling at me," and White House spokesman Eric Schultz "literally screamed at me and cussed at me," she told radio talk show host Laura Ingraham in 2011.
Former DOJ attorney J. Christian Adams, who blew the whistle on Attorney General Eric Holder's rule of law-perverting, race-baiting reign, was basely smeared as a "liar" and perjurer by DOJ proxy and Washington Post tool E.J. Dionne -- who ignored Adams' stellar career record at DOJ and unassailable sworn testimony.
Gerald Walpin, former AmeriCorps inspector general, was pushed out of his job by the Obamas after exposing fraud and corruption perpetrated by Democratic mayor of Sacramento and Obama friend Kevin Johnson. The White House baselessly questioned the veteran watchdog's mental health and never apologized for slandering him.
The Pleasanton (CA) Weekly was bullied by the White House press shop over a benign article that irked the administration because it made Michelle Obama look snooty. The San Francisco Chronicle was punished by the White House because a print pool reporter used a cellphone to record video of protesters at an Obama Bay Area fundraiser.
And in case you needed reminding: Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius threatened to crack down on health insurers for candidly tying Obamacare mandates to rising premiums -- something that Sebelius herself now acknowledges. Team Obama lambasted other whistle-blowing companies such as Deere, Caterpillar, Verizon and ATT for speaking out about the cost implications and financial burdens of Obamacare -- and then cheered from the sidelines while Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman attempted to haul the firms up for a congressional inquisition.
If you thought Chicago-on-the-Potomac was dirty, you ain't seen nothing yet. No stone will be left unturned in the effort to slime, sully and squelch the Benghazi truth-tellers. Mark my words: This is how Obama's thugs roll.
Special Ops halted from responding to Benghazi attacks, U.S. diplomat says
Deepening questions, a widening coverup. It seems likely that the Obama Administration aided the Libyan jihadists, and that the recipients of their help turned on them, and that the Administration scrambled to cover this up for fear that the Republicans would make it a campaign issue. Of course, the Stupid Party would have done no such thing.
"Special Ops halted from responding to Benghazi attacks, U.S. diplomat says," by Ernesto Londoño in the Washington Post, May 6:
As the weakly protected U.S. diplomatic compound in eastern Libya came under attack the night of Sept. 11, 2012, the deputy head of the embassy in Tripoli 600 miles away sought in vain to get the Pentagon to scramble fighter jets over Benghazi in a show of force that he said might have averted a second attack on a nearby CIA complex.
Hours later, according to excerpts of the account by the U.S. diplomat, Gregory Hicks, American officials in the Libyan capital sought permission to deploy four U.S. Special Operations troops to Benghazi aboard a Libyan military aircraft early the next morning. The troops were told to stand down.
Defense Department officials have said they had no units that could have responded in time to counter the attack in Benghazi, but Republicans on Capitol Hill have questioned whether the Obama administration could have saved lives with a nimbler, more assertive response. They say that the reluctance to send the Special Operations troops may have, at the very least, deprived wounded Americans in Benghazi of first aid.
Congressional investigators released a partial transcript of Hicks’s testimony Monday ahead of a hearing Wednesday at which he is scheduled to appear. His remarks are the first public account from a U.S. official who was in Libya at the time of the attacks about the options that were weighed as militants mobbed the American diplomatic outpost and CIA station in Benghazi, killing U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other government employees.
The new details are certain to reignite a debate over whether the Obama administration has been sufficiently forthcoming in its public accounting of the events and missteps that resulted in the first death of a U.S. ambassador in the line of duty in a generation. If Republicans in Congress succeed in portraying the administration’s response as feckless, the episode could dog any future political aspirations of Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was secretary of state when the attacks happened.
After the attacks ended without planes being scrambled or special forces dispatched, the lieutenant colonel in Tripoli who commanded the Special Operations team told Hicks he was sorry that his men had been held back.
“I’ve never been so embarrassed in my life that a State Department officer has bigger balls than someone in the military,” the officer told Hicks, according to the diplomat’s account. Hicks called that “a nice compliment.”
Hicks may have been the last American official to speak with Stevens. After an embassy security official ran into his residence to tell him about the initial attack, Hicks managed to get Stevens on the phone. “Greg, we’re under attack,” Stevens blurted out, according to Hicks. “My response is ‘Okay,’ and I’m about to say something else and the line clicks.”
The administration has said the independent review of the Benghazi assault was exhaustive, and State Department officials have vowed to implement reforms to make U.S. missions abroad safer. Republicans, however, say Hicks’s account suggests the administration has not been entirely truthful....
Four Years, Four Reasons Why I Loathe Obama
by John Myers / Personal Liberty Digest
OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE PHOTO BY PETE SOUZA
President Barack Obama visited Costa Rica and Mexico recently.
The official line from the White House was that the President went to reinforce the deep cultural, familial and economic ties that so many Americans share with Mexico and Central America.
I do not doubt for one moment that Obama has a lot in common with those Latin dictators who have bled their countries dry through overspending.
And there is always that lingering hope that you get when you buy a Super Lotto ticket: Obama may like it so well that he will set up another dictatorship south of our border. Either that or — like Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who recently moved back to the Vatican — our President will leave the Oval Office, become President emeritus and move into the basement of the White House.
You may think it’s an impossible dream. But the President recently joked he should “just pack up and go home” if Congress is going to continue resisting his policies. My reaction is: “Congress, keep up the good work.”
If I sound bitter, it is because I am. In my own defense I’ve been married for 33 years, and even my wife doesn’t think I am any more bitter than the average guy. I respect the office of the Presidency.
While I haven’t liked some Presidents, I did not hold them in disdain. But I’ve been writing about Barack Hussein Obama for more than four years, and it has been like covering a train wreck — something I know about because when I was in my 20s, I was one of the first reporters at the Hinton, Alberta, train collision that killed 23 people. Not only is a train wreck something you can’t look away from; but when your job is to cover it, you damn well have to look at it.
I see no difference in my responsibility three decades later, because I believe that it is my job as a writer for Personal Liberty Digest™ to report on the Obama train wreck that has methodically been killing our liberties.
Below I have listed the top four reasons why I loathe Obama.
4. Obama is an elitist.In case you haven’t been reminded enough, Obama not only graduated Harvard Law School, but he was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review and was a student at Columbia University. If any American were to ever doubt Obama’s intelligence, all his supporters have to do his point out his college pedigree.
The President’s own words only make it worse. In April 2008, Obama described small-town voters to rich backers in San Francisco: “[I]t’s not surprising, then, that they get bitter, and they cling to guns or religion, or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them.” Later, when speaking to wealthy donors in Massachusetts, Obama said his opponents were “playing on fear” and that “we’re hard-wired not to always think clearly when we’re scared.”
Obama may or may not be the smartest guy in the room, but he certainly thinks he is. He reminds me of a friend who couldn’t stop reminding everybody every two hours that he graduated Yale University. That was always his trump card if he was losing an argument.
3. Obama is a self-centered, egotistical celebrity.Given the international acclaim Obama has had for the past five years, he is Oprah Winfrey on steroids. (Picture that and tell me you’re not afraid.)
Everything that happens in America is about Obama. If times are fortuitous, like the killing of Osama bin Laden, Obama wants all the credit; yet he stands at the ready to blame others in his Administration if things go wrong. (This is pointed out in startling detail by bestselling author Richard Minter in his book Leading From Behind: The Reluctant President and the Advisors Who Decide for Him.)
When Neil Armstrong passed away, Obama celebrated that hero’s life by having himself photographed while looking at the full moon. (We never heard whether that experience made him grow hair, teeth and claws.)
And on April 26 in an opinion piece for POLITICO, Keith Koffler wrote:
Tuesday morning, a peculiar announcement trickled out of the White House press office: President Barack Obama would be holding a moment of silence for the victims of the Boston bombings. At the White House. By himself. No press or other intruders allowed.
Except the White House photographer.
That Obama assumed Americans would want an iconic photo of him privately mourning the victims of the bombings was emblematic of a kind of hubris that has enveloped the president and his White House as the president commences his second term.After the death of Trayvon Martin, the President said during a press conference that Trayvon could be his son. Unless Obama knows something about the Martin family that we don’t, he should just shut the heck up.
2. He is a righteous environmentalist.You name it, when it comes to fossil fuels, Obama is against it. He has obstructed U.S. offshore oil exploration, and the things he fancies the most are electric cars and windmills. And like any messiah, he is going to deliver his green prophecy to the world.
The Obama Administration has announced it will spend up to $400 million on green projects around the world. (He also wants to survey the satellite television viewing habits of Africans — which is funny because when I was in Africa, they didn’t have televisions.)
More delusions of grandeur, not only does our President want to reduce carbon in America, he also wants to limit that dirty oil mined and exported by those filthy Canadians. And now he wants to improve the “regulation and governance of Africa’s energy sectors” so they can make “low carbon development” a critical priority for themselves. I think Africans are probably more worried about having clean water, good crops and a reprieve from genocidal dictators.
1. He rejects the U.S. Constitution.It should not surprise anyone that Obama once taught Constitutional law at the University of Chicago. It seems to have only nurtured his hatred for the U.S. Constitution, and it was a launching point for his malicious attempts to undermine it. That would explain his all-out attack against American’s rights on everything from free speech to individual privacy to, most recently, our fundamental right to bear arms.
Last week, Missouri State Representative Casey Guernsey, a Republican lawmaker, said it best to Daily RFT regarding gun control: “Just because President Obama has declared that something is constitutional doesn’t make it so… I don’t think you can put a dollar amount on the value of constitutional rights.”
We need to be thankful for people who are willing to stand up to the President, like Guernsey and Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) who spoke last week at the National Rifle Association annual convention.
Cruz said: “For some reason Obama liberals want to disregard the First Amendment and take away our right to speak and political speech. For some reason they want to disregard the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. And, for some reason the Obama liberals want to disregard the Tenth Amendment and implement Obamacare and take away our liberties.”
Obama Is The Lincoln LawyerThe easy part in writing to you this week was putting down the words. The hard part was in narrowing it down to four primary reasons why I loathe Obama and why, after four years, you should as well. I could have written 44 reasons why I loathe him and still not said my peace. But these are my top four, and they reveal a fundamentally flawed President — a man who may envision himself to be a black Abraham Lincoln. His ego seems to have no limits, and his reckless disregard for individual liberties may yet make him the tyrant that his hero Lincoln was.
Yours in good times and bad.