The Toy Soldiers’ Tantrums

Bundy RidersThey aren’t just amusing toy soldiers, costumed and ready for a puerile re-enactment of childish gun-games.  The ‘protestors’ who showed up waving their banners and showing their guns in Las Vegas, want us to know they are “seriously” opposing immigration reform, and against applying current law to the refugee children and families from Central America. [Photos @ NVProgressive]

As with the childhood game narratives of days past, these toy soldiers in the war to win America have their own story. The story doesn’t have to make sense — what improvised tale of Cowboys and Indians ever did? — it simply has to provide an opportunity for them to feel good about expressing their opinions and reinforce their distorted view of patriotism.

The dissonance between their claim that the ‘government is lawless’ while denouncing the application of existing law to Central American migrants doesn’t bother them.  Their point isn’t centered on rational inquiry and disquisition into immigration policy, it’s an expression of how they feel, their emotional reaction to their circumstances.

There are many threads woven into the fabric of their banners. (1) Good old fashioned racism, (2) Imperiled sense of entitlement, (3) Discouragement about economic prospects, and perhaps (4) the Tendency to adopt simplistic conspiracy theories in lieu of protracted, complicated, and often nuanced policy arguments.  However, when they act, it might not matter what the origin might be — their proclivity toward violence is what makes them dangerous.*

Myths Are Dangerous

They are an amusing sideshow, promoted by a sensationalist press and not worthy of public attention.   While the incidents do tend to promote “If It Bleeds It Leads” journalism, the violence wrought by these groups and their affiliates isn’t child’s play. Witness the recent execution of two law enforcement officers in Las Vegas, NV. [LVRJ] Right wing extremists killed 34 victims between September 11, 2001 and April 2014. [CNN]  Further, while the groups may not be organized in traditional ways, they are coordinated.  Those who believe that the incidents related to the stand off at the Bundy Ranch were spontaneous would do well to review the information available from the SPLC’s “War in the West,” report. (pdf) And, it bears repeating, there was nothing ‘sideshow’ about the deadly attack on the Federal Building in Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh and associates.

The right wing extremists are only trying to ‘do their own thing’ and the government should leave them alone.  Doing their own thing doesn’t necessarily mean they are law-abiding when not actually shooting at someone.   In 2010 two Sovereign Citizens in Sacramento, CA, cooked up an insurance scam in which they sold policies which did not come close to satisfying the requirements for insurance sold to the public in that state — or for that matter, in any other.  Numerous accidents, paltry payments, and several court cases later, the two were indicted and convicted of fraud and money laundering. [FBI]  Extremists from Kansas, Missouri, and Nevada launched a “Diplomatic Identification” scam; the three found themselves convicted of fraud in 2009. [FBI] Other sales schemes have included vehicle license plates, phony driver’s licenses, and even currency. [FBI]  More Sovereign Citizens have been sentenced for their fraudulent “treasury scheme.” [RS 7/14]

They’re just interested in protecting their 2nd Amendment rights and keeping the values of a Christian nation.  Fine, except when we notice that the number of militia groups has grown from 149 in January 2009 to approximately 1,274 today. What’s changed? Could this have something to do with the fact that the President of the United States happens to be an African-American?  As for “values,” the number of hate groups has seen a similar increase, from 604 in 2000 to about 1,000 today. [Grio] The SPLC puts the number at 939. [SPLC]  Neither racism, nor exclusionism, is a traditional American value.

What to do?

Support your local sheriff.  Most extremists come to the attention of local law enforcement officials before they rise to the awareness of national agencies.  Local law enforcement budgets should be augmented to include adequate funding for the surveillance of domestic terror/hate groups.  Local jurisdictions should have adequate resources to investigate, and prosecute, offenders for related crimes (fraud, assaults, etc.). When local candidates for law enforcement positions tout their budget restraint positions, make certain this doesn’t mean cutting funding or allocations for watching/prosecuting the extremists among us.

Support efforts to coordinate law enforcement activities.  NRS Chapter 239C authorizes the creation of a Nevada Homeland Security Commission, which reports to the Governor.  Enacted in the wake of the 9/11/01 attacks, it focuses on threat assessment and communications inter-operability.  The current mission statement appears to be trapped in this time slot:

“The Governor’s Office of Homeland Security (OHS) acts as the Cabinet-level State office for the prevention of and preparation for a potential terrorist event. Nevada OHS directs and coordinates a comprehensive counter terrorism and “all threats-all hazards” approach in its prevention, preparedness and response strategies.”

The thrust of the public documents available offers the perspective of an organization focused on major events, without actually defining what such an event might be — perhaps it is understood given the origin of the group that it would prevent or respond to foreign acts of aggression such as attacks on infrastructure, facilities,  or communications.   On the other hand, it does publish an “active shooter” booklet (pdf) the contents of which emphasize common sense: Evacuate or Hide.

Without knowing what activities might be garnering the attention of the organization, and the penalties for unauthorized disclosure of Commission materials are stringent, it’s hard to gauge how effectively the Commission is attending to home grown extremist organizations and their activities.

A Commission which is taking in a full view of the potential threats to the security and safety of Nevada residents should (1) promote the active assessment of domestic threats,  (2) periodically report to the public on its threat assessment, and (3) inform the general public what measures it is taking to secure Nevada residents, their infrastructure, and their facilities from both domestic and foreign sourced threats.

The minutes of the March 21, 2014 meeting (last available online pdf) indicate decreased funding for the Commission activities, and a ranking of priorities which places cyber-security first, and “Intelligence and Information Sharing” second.  Not to be looking askance at the need to prevent cyber-security problems, but in light of the activities at the Bundy Ranch, and the propensity of lone wolf  extremists to target law enforcement officers in this state, the gathering of intelligence concerning extremists and sharing that throughout the law enforcement community would seem to be of more immediate concern.

Support private and non-profit groups which address and publicize the problems associated with domestic extremism.  For example,  objections to programs which promote tolerance in schools and other institutions should be met with equal levels of  advocacy.  Any efforts made by educational institutions to mitigate the toxic combination of ‘entitlement’ and ‘victimhood’ should be promoted. Programs which seek to alleviate bullying, racial discrimination, and sexism should be encouraged.

Local programs promoting civic pride, from all segments of the community, should be a priority.  Whether these events and activities are large and highly organized or small and relatively informal, local broadcast and other media should be encouraged to give these as much publicity as possible.

The most effective way to diminish the threat of domestic terror is to support local efforts to identify the sources, coordinate investigations and prosecutions, and take advantage of any and all opportunities to alleviate the forces which drive the toy soldiers into their frenzy of emotional reactions to a world in which they feel uncomfortable.

——-

*Christian Right secession fantasy, Salon, July 1, 2014. Anti-government extremists stir an unhealthy political brew, Newsday, June 18, 2014. Sources of anti-government extremism, Consortium News, May 27, 2013.  What drives anti-government extremists?, Huffington Post, June 10, 2014, from CNN, June 10, 2014.  The Sovereign Citizen Movement, FBI, April 13, 2010.  Statement before Senate Judiciary Committee, FBI, September 19, 2012.  Focus on Militia Extremism, FBI, September 22, 2011.  U.S. right-wing more dangerous than jihadists, CNN, April 15, 2014.

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Burdensome Regulations

Titanic Life BoatsAnswer here.

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The Do Almost Less Than Nothing House?

FYI: There are only a few more days until the Congress of these United States takes off for the August vacation.  If they’d like to catch up on the legislation actually enacted — or even voted on — best they hurry.  Here’s what a quick chart looks like of the 113th:

Congress Calendar Legislation

Even Speaker Dennis Hastert got more to the floor during the 109th than Speaker John Boehner has managed thus far.

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VA Health Care: “Postponed Proceedings”

The bills to improve the performance of Veterans Administration operations have passed the House and the Senate, in fact they’ve been waiting for a conference committee to iron out the differences between the two bills since mid June. That’s why it’s disappointing to find the following update on the progress of the final bill posted as follows:

“7/17/2014 POSTPONED PROCEEDINGS – At the conclusion of debate on the Barber motion to instruct conferees on H.R. 3230, the Chair put the question on adoption of the motion to instruct conferees and by voice vote, announced the noes had prevailed. Mr. Barber demanded the yeas and nays and the Chair postponed further proceedings until a time to be announced.”

No instructions from the House, no conference, no conference no conclusion.  What are the differences between the House and Senate versions?

# The House bill specifically bans the use of bonuses for VA employees, while the Senate version does not. The VA has already suspended performance awards of this nature.

# The Senate bill would allow the VA to lease 26 new facilities for veterans’ health care and would allocate $500 million for hiring new staff.  The House version doesn’t contain these provisions.

# The Senate bill provides for guaranteed in-state tuition for veterans at public colleges and universities; the House version of the bill does not.

# The Senate version of the legislation provides for expanding access to care for military sexual assault victims. The House version does not include this provision.  [WaPo]

# The House version assumes a maximum wait time of 14 days, the Senate version could allow up to 30 days. [CBO]

# The CBO analyzed the costs of implementation for securing private health care services when VA service could not be provided

“The Senate bill would require that all privately provided care be implemented through contracts. CBO expects the costs of contracted care to be closer to commercial rates, which are generally higher than Medicare rates. Although such contracts would probably be used under the House bill to cover some care, CBO estimates that the average payment rate under the House bill, including both contractual and non-contractual payments, would be lower than that under the Senate bill.” [CBO]

# The House version would allow direct reimbursement to private facilities, while under the terms of the Senate version as analyzed by the CBO the VA would negotiate contracts with providing facilities.  Thus, the access might be faster under the House version, but with less expense predictability than if the terms of the Senate version were applied.

Unfortunately, the situation is reduced to a battle over money.  The CBO released its appraisal of the costs on June 17, 2014:

House Version: “Based on that preliminary assessment, CBO estimates that implementing sections 2 and 3 of the House bill for that two-year period would have a net cost of about $44 billion over the 2014-2019 period, assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts. That net amount comprises increased costs of about $51 billion for VA, less a reduction of $7 billion in federal spending for Medicare and Medicaid.” [...] All told, CBO expects that if the bill was fully implemented, some veterans would ultimately seek additional care that would cost the federal government about $54 billion a year, after accounting for savings to other federal programs.”

New “scoring” from the CBO reduced the figure from the original $54 billion to approximately $30 billion, but the negotiations were still stalled. [Hill]

Conferees from the House have been looking to cover the costs by using discretionary funding, those from the Senate are supporting a mandatory funding formula.  The House sponsor, Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), argued: “The Senate wants to throw money at a situation that is not defined, in an amount of money that is not defined. We’re re trying to define the issue and figure out how to pay for it,” Miller said.” [MilTimes]

Miller’s assessment may be overlooking the differences in the cost predictability between the provisions for paying private entities for health care services for veterans.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) expressed his impatience with the protracted timeline of the conferencing, “We’re having a little trouble getting the House to help us complete the conference,” Reid said.. “You know … just because we want something done when we’re in conference doesn’t mean it gets done.” [The Hill]

In the mean time — proceedings are postponed.

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May the Force Abandon You: Heller and S. 2578

Heller 3Face it ladies, Senator Heller’s (R-NV) just not that into you.  As noticed by the NRDC, Senator Heller was one of those who voted in favor of sustaining the GOP filibuster of the Hobby Lobby Decision fix.  Here it is, big as “Pro-Life” itself, on Senate vote 228, Senator Heller’s opposition to a bill that would have:

“Affirmed requirements, notwithstanding the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, that: (1) an employer that establishes or maintains a group health plan for its employees must provide coverage of a specific item or service for the employees or their dependents where the coverage is required under federal provisions or regulations pursuant to those provisions; and (2) group health plans sponsored by an employer or employee organization, and any health insurance coverage, must provide coverage required under the Public Health Service Act, including preventive health services.

Authorizes the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Treasury to modify regulations concerning coverage of contraceptive services by group health plans of religious employers consistent with the purposes and findings (regarding coverage of birth control services and the Supreme Court decisions in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Burwell) of this Act.” [S 2578]

Simple, if the employer offers group health insurance plans as part of the earned benefits in the employee compensation package, the plans must meet federal standards; if the employer is a non-profit religious organization the rules can be modified.

But, but, but… The Republicans have another plan — yes, and it doesn’t address the problem. The GOP version of the legislation merely states that “no employer can block any employee from legal access to her FDA-approved contraceptives.” [TP]  All this does is reiterate that contraceptive medications are legal.  We already know they are legal, and there’s  a big difference between “Access” and “Affordability.”  For some individuals Affordability determines whether or not there is Access.

There appears to be a singularly silly bit of balderdash on offer from the Right Wing that contraceptives are available at the corner convenience store. [NBC]   They are, if your definition of ‘contraceptives’ is what we oldsters called a Rubber.  They aren’t, if we’re discussing The Pill, actually several kinds of pills, which are available only by prescription.  This means, of course, that there is an appointment with a physician required, and a prescription to be filled.  Honestly, I never thought I’d ever have to explain this to anyone, but in case Nevada contains some troglodytes only recently emerged from the cave, here goes:

#1. Contraceptives require a prescription, and a prescription requires a visit to a physician.  Physicians want to be paid.  In Massachusetts, for example, the cost for a female exam ranges from $185 to $240 per visit. [BCMa pdf]

#2. The notion that any woman can get prescription Pills for $9 per month is a myth.  Yes, there are some contraceptives which can be purchased in a pack of 28 for $9.00. However, some women are prescribed specific pills for specific purposes, and to address specific symptoms.  Jezebel explains:

“Birth control pills are made of hormones—sometimes just one hormone and sometimes a combination of two hormones (progesterone and estrogen). The combinations and sequences vary and are selected for each patient to distinctly meet her needs. For example, women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) will need a different level of hormones than other women and thus, her prescription needs to be carefully managed under a doctor’s care. The same goes with women suffering from irregular menses, dysmenorrhea, vaginal bleeding, ruptured cysts, or hemorrhagic cyst. That being said, birth control can cost a woman up to $129.99 per pill pack.” (emphasis added)

By the way… women don’t take Pills the way men take Viagra, when the “mood is right.”  So, the range spans the low end $9 form to the $130 per month packets, every month.  Some of the simpler compounds (estrogen/progestin) can be in that lower price range, but when folate is added (estrogen/progestin/folate combinations) the price tag hits the $116.00 per month for a 28 pill packet. [GoodRx]  The type of prescription medication is determined by the physician, and there are at least 57 types of birth control pills ranging from $18 to $130 per month. [GoodRx]

Remember, not so long ago, when the Republicans were bellowing that any federal reform of our health care system would be putting a third party in between a person and the physician?  That’s exactly what the Supreme Court did in the Hobby Lobby decision. It inserted an employer between the woman and her doctor, in essence telling the doctor, “We’re sorry if in your best professional judgment an IUD is the best option, because we’re not going to offer coverage for that in our group health insurance plans.”  By the way, an IUD costs between $500 and $1,000 and must be inserted by a health care provider — not the guy at the counter at the Gas ‘N Go.  And, NO, it doesn’t cause abortions.

Cheesy Whines

Why should an employer have to pay for something he doesn’t believe in?

Because — He’s providing an earned benefit (group health care insurance plans) as part of the total employee compensation package. Employee compensation packages are regulated.  There are minimum wages, there are overtime provisions, and there are rules for what must be covered in employer sponsored group health insurance plans.

Why do we have to give women free birth control?

Because — it isn’t free.  Employer sponsored group health insurance plans are usually set up such that both the employer and the employee are paying into them.  Why should an employee have to pay into a plan that doesn’t meet the federal standards for comprehensive health insurance coverage for basic medical services? However, there’s more to this argument isn’t there?

Send the children out, it’s time to talk about sex.

There are at least 5 million reasons for a comprehensive health care insurance plan being required to cover some contraceptive prescriptions — that’s the number of women in the country who suffer with endometriosis.  That’s a ball park figure because the NIH estimates that from 6% to 10% of all women in this country have this condition. [NIH]  Polycystic Ovary Syndrome affects about 5% to 10% of the female population, especially those between the ages of 18 and 44.  [NIH] Serious menstrual irregularities plague about 9% to 14% of the women in this country. [NIH]  Add all these numbers up and there are more than enough medical reasons contraceptive medication is covered in comprehensive health insurance plans.  But we know why many couples use contraceptives…

Contraceptives are used when partners want to have sex and don’t want more children.  To the Talibanic among us this is “sex without consequences.”   This sounds a bit silly because most sexual intercourse comes without those little consequences.

“..women who are 25 and have been trying to get pregnant for three months have an 18 percent chance of getting pregnant in their next menstrual cycle. By contrast, women who are 40 and have been trying for three months have only a 7 percent chance. After one year of trying, 25-year-old women have a 10 percent chance of getting pregnant in their next cycle; 40-year-old women have a 3 percent shot.” [HuffPo]

Obviously, if the woman has an irregular menstrual cycle it’s harder to “lower” those chances, but the odds of producing a little consequence are still rather low, even for healthy, young, females in their prime child bearing years.   Therefore, let’s leave the odds-making part of the procreation argument and move on to the recreational part — which has more health benefits than one might expect.

The Health Information Database provides this happy news:

“Frequent, pleasurable sex in marriage has countless emotional and physical benefits for both partners. In fact, sex, marriage, and well-being are closely related.  Studies show that frequent sex can help you live a longer and healthier life. For men, it can lower the risk of prostate cancer. Sex improves blood circulation and may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. It also has a positive effect on the immune system, which helps to protect you against diseases of all types.”

But wait, there’s more — posture improvement, muscle tone, functioning as a sleep aid, chemicals released in the brain assist in memory and mental functions, sexual activity burns off cortisol which in turn reduces appetite (weight loss anyone?) — with the added bonus: “The chemicals released in the brain during sex – oxytocin, serotonin, phenyl ethylamine, endorphins – all play a role in diminishing both chronic and acute pain.” [HID]

But for all the scientific wonders of sexual activity, perhaps the best reasons are emotional and psychological, and good for sustaining the marriage:

“Feelings of commitment and affection between partners are heightened by sexual activity. Sex boosts your self-esteem, reduces insecurity, and causes you to feel better about yourself. It makes you more optimistic and helps to combat depression. It is also one of the greatest stress relievers imaginable.” [HID]

With all this in mind, why would anyone oppose the use of contraception if it made marriage partners more likely to engage in the intimacy which produces all these good results?

Misogyny

Patriarchal religions, and that includes most of the major ones, devalued women.  There are Biblical references to women as property, as inferior beings, as subservient to male partners, but interestingly enough neither Jesus nor Mohammed was quite as strict on the subject as their followers. [RatWik]  Couple this with a common interpretation of Genesis 2 and we have the quotidian put down.

God planted the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen 2:9), and the Serpent advises Eve to eat the fruit because “your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3:4)  The First Couple eats the fruit and God tosses them out of the garden.

What do they realize when they awaken? They are naked. The rest of the animal kingdom doesn’t care.  Note, it’s not God who has a problem with nakedness — all the rest of the creatures aren’t sewing fig leaf fashions.  But then, all the rest of the creatures haven’t decided they have the god-like capacity to pronounce judgment about what’s good and what’s not.  Somehow, the message that mankind lost the innocence of the natural state, and set itself apart from the rest of Creation got transformed into Eve Bad Adam Good  But for Her.

Just how far this transformation can go is illustrated in John Knox’s  1558 “The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women.” Knox was particularly displeased with female monarchs,

“To promote a woman to bear rule, superiority, dominion, or empire above any realm, nation, or city, is repugnant to nature; contumely to God, a thing most contrary to his revealed will and approved ordinance; and finally, it is the subversion of good order, of all equity and justice.”  [BBC]

What Knox got for his trouble was the succession of Elizabeth I to the throne of England.   However, his 16th century sentiments still have their followers.  The idea that nakedness = sex, and sex = bad, and women tempt men, ergo women are bad, requires some mental gymnastics, but we appear to have an abundance of those who find this plausible.

The Victorian Era promoted motherhood and domesticity, and the unfortunate notion that sex was something to be endured while “closing one’s eyes and thinking of England.” Fast forward to women in the 1930a, and the advice is essentially the same, “nothing destroys the happiness of married life more than the lazy slovenly wife.” [Telegraph]  Notice, that’s not philandering, or lazy and slovenly,  husbands.  Fast forward once again, and we have Republican mouthpiece Rush Limbaugh proclaiming that men who support the contraceptive mandate only want sex.

“But the thing I have learned is that men are totally supportive. Today’s young men are totally supportive of somebody else buying women their birth control pills. Make sure the women are taking them, ’cause sex is what it’s all about.” [Politicususa]

From John Knox (and others) to the advice columns and treatises of the modern era; right down to the atrabilious Limbaugh, the old canard that sex = sin, maintains its force.

That force was in evidence yet again in Senator Dean Heller’s vote to filibuster X. 2578.  May this force leave us.

*Update & Mea Culpa for mis-identifying the bill number in the original, a mistake deeply regretted.

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Amodei and the Perils of the Second Question

Amodei 3I lasted for two questions and Amodeian Answers during last evening’s telephone town hall session.  The Second Question I  heard was from “Dorothy from Fernley” asking: “I live in Lyon County, what does the government plan to do to bring jobs…”

The previous post described the nature of any response on offer from Nevada’s 2nd District Congressman, Mark Amodei (R-NV2).  So, imagine the serpentine syntax and the following reply:

Representative Amodei was quick to let the caller know that the House had just passed a Jobs Bill, one that was a “general measure, instead of extending unemployment benefits.”

The Congressman didn’t specify what bill that was, but might have been referring to the Highway Trust Fund bill, or to the Federal Register Act, but those aren’t generally classified as “jobs” bills by the Republican leadership.  The bill to which he was most likely referring was H.R. 4718, amending the IRS code to make bonus depreciation permanent.  The bill “generally” helps businesses, and is an exemplar of Trickle Down in its almost pure form.

The bill passed on an almost  party line vote 258-160. [roll call 404] The Nevada delegation supported the measure. So, what would it do?

One rather brutal way to describe the bill is that it adds some $287 billion to the Federal budget deficit without doing much more than allowing businesses to write off the costs of capital improvements and investments more quickly.  [HuffPo]

If a person is waiting for a job in Yerington, Fernley, or Silver Springs — this bill doesn’t shorten the time. First, the corporation would have to make a capital investment or improvement, and the investment would have to be an expansion, and if it were an expansion, then it would have to expand in Lyon County…. you get the picture.  Describing the bill as “generally” promoting jobs is generous indeed.

More importantly, under the Austerian/Trickle Down Theory of Republican economics this kind of measure is supposed to have an overall stimulative effect.  First, bonus depreciation breaks have been in effect from 2008 to 2013.  Secondly, according to the Congressional Research Service report, (pdf) they weren’t all that stimulative:

“A temporary investment subsidy was expected to be more effective than a permanent one for short-term stimulus, encouraging firms to invest while the benefit was in place. Its temporary nature is critical to its effectiveness. Yet, research suggests that bonus depreciation was not very effective, and probably less effective than the tax cuts or spending increases that have now lapsed.”

It was a bust.  However, it was a tax break and Republicans believe, as an article of faith, that all tax breaks have a stimulative effect on the economy.

Not only was it a bust, but at the moment it is an expensive bust; again according to the CRS analysis:

“If bonus depreciation is made permanent, it increases accelerated depreciation for equipment, contributing to lower, and in some cases more negative, effective tax rates. In contrast, prominent tax reform proposals would reduce accelerated depreciation. Making bonus depreciation a permanent provision would significantly increase its budgetary cost.”

Remember how all those major corporations are forever telling us that the are paying the highest corporate tax rate in the Universe and that they can’t compete with other corporations based in foreign lands?  Well, here’s a tax break they can enjoy:

“Compared to a statutory corporate tax rate of 35%, bonus depreciation lowers the effective tax rate for equipment from an estimated 26% rate to a 15% rate. Buildings are taxed approximately at the statutory rate. Total tax rates would be slightly higher because of stockholder taxes. Because nominal interest is deducted, however, effective tax rates with debt finance can be negative. For equity assets taxed at an effective rate of 35%, the effective tax rate on debt-financed investment is a negative 5%. The rate on equipment without bonus depreciation is minus 19%; with bonus depreciation it is minus 37%.”  [CRS pdf]

Someone has to love the part wherein the capital improvements or investments are financed, the interest is deducted, and the effective tax rate can be a negative — what’s not to love? Except:

#1. The tax break was supposed to be a temporary stimulus for business expansion, with a temporary incentive for business spending.

#2. The way the current bill is drafted it’s going to cost the Federal government about $263 billion in lost revenue — from corporations, not the little guys.

#3. The CBPP informs us: ” Under current law, companies pay far less than the statutory 35 percent corporate tax rate on the profits flowing from those investments.  In some cases, they pay nothing and actually receive a tax subsidy.  Bonus depreciation only increases this favorable tax treatment.”

While the residents of Lyon County, Nevada are waiting for some business to expand and start hiring — the accountants at the corporate HQ of Soakem & Runn, Inc.  are tasked with finding yet more ways they can reduce their federal tax liability.  Therefore, the Lyon County residents must wait for the corporation to take its deductions, decide to use the money saved to expand the business, decide to locate the firm’s new improvements in the county, and take the plunge to build or expand operations.  Please do not hold your breath during this process.

Meanwhile, the extension of unemployment benefits, so disparaged by Representative Amodei have a far more immediate stimulative effect on the economy.

When we were discussing the extension of unemployment benefits back in 2011, the Congressional Budget Office estimated (pdf) that the cost of the extension would be approximately $44.1 billion during the first year. [Roosevelt Inst]  Yes, there is a cost, but the money circulates back into state and local economies.  The Congressional Budget Office estimated more recently that not extending unemployment benefits puts an approximate 0.2% “drag” on the overall economy. [CNN]  The percentage may not sound like much but when we consider that our gross national product is $17,268.7 billion [FRED] that isn’t chump change.

Instead of waiting for Soakem & Runn, Inc. to decide whether to use the new tax break for any expansion, and to determine what kind of expansion that will be, and if it will actually be in the county — Lyon County citizens might pin their hopes more realistically on the continued growth in the American GNP:

US GNP

With all due respect, they’ll have a shorter wait watching the GNP and GDP charts than they’ll have waiting for the corporations to decide how to apply their new tax breaks.  However, there’s more, as Representative Amodei tried to get more specific about Lyon County.

He referred to the need to pass the “Yerington Bill” which would create jobs and passed in the 112th Congress, but not in the present 113th.  Again, we’ll have to speculate that he meant the bill to assist the Pumpkin Hollow Mining operations, [PHM] one which has previously gotten itself mired in partisan politics, wherein an amendment was attached allowing Border Patrol agents to bypass environmental laws they deemed too restrictive.  [LVSun]

Representative Horsford (D-NV4) and Senator Heller (R-NV) are both supportive of the bill so it may have some future… but again the residents of Lyon County will have to wait.   It’s July 16th, and the House is only scheduled to be in session for nine more days until the month long August break, after which the House will have ten working days in September, another two in October, seven in November, and finally another eight working days in December. [House Cal. pdf]  That leaves a total of 36 legislative working days from now until the end of the year.  Again, Lyon County residents might want to just keep watching the GNP and GDP trends.

 

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Amodei Does The Phone Thing: Immigration Edition

Amodei 3Please don’t ask me to transcribe what I heard during Representative Mark Amodei’s (R-NV2) Telephone Townhall thing he had tonight, during the dinner hour.  I always seem to be contacted while the “town hall is already in progress,” and Amodei’s dismaying propensity for scrambling his answers into disjointed phrases interspersed with touching attempts to give the questioner reason to believe he might have heard and understood the question, combined with hunger, means I rarely stay for the whole performance.

I got in just as “Linda from Reno” was posing a direct question: “When are we going to close the borders? Don’t you think we ought to close the borders?

There’s nothing nuanced about this inquiry.  It’s about as straight forward as it gets. Closed border good?  Representative Amodei responded, as he nearly always does, by starting a sentence — shifting to an independent clause — shifting to another thought — reverting to the initial topic long enough to — insert another qualifier, before — circling back to touch on whatever it was that made him think of — another qualifying statement, leading to the beginning of another sentence.

As nearly as I can guess, Representative Amodei believes that the current crisis of too many undocumented and unaccompanied children at our border detention facilities means we have no control over our borders.

Whoa — if we didn’t have control over our borders then they wouldn’t be in DHS Border Patrol detention facilities would they?

The obvious point that if the southern border were “open” these children would be “all over the place” instead of in detention and case processing facilities stipulated, the notion that the opposite might be the case leads Representative Amodei to suggest that deploying the National Guard should be implemented.

For what? We have 21,000 border patrol agents, local, state, and tribal governments have programs funded by the Federal government to assist in border security, and we need the National Guard? According to Representative Amodei (I think, from my notes with arrows and lines trying to track his answer) this is necessary to have “absolute control of the border.”  I’ll return to this point in a moment, but first there’s a need to be more specific about the difference between the question from Reno and the answer from Amodei.

Closed Minds and Borders

Let’s pause for a moment, because Representative Amodei really isn’t offering a direct answer to “Linda’s” direct question.  She wasn’t talking about controlling the border she was advocating closing the borders. Closed borders have serious consequences, consequences “Linda” may not have considered when expressing her desire to stop all immigration.

First, and most obviously, a closed border works both ways. While closing the borders would prevent immigration, it also prevents trade and tourism.  If country A closes down its border with country B, B always reacts.  The reactions, and the economic implications thereof, create a plethora of issues which often have consequences intended and unintended.

The most obvious example of a closed border in recent memory is that between East and West Germany.  The destruction of the Berlin Wall provided iconic images, but the process of reunification was far more problematic.  For example, East Germany had been considered one of the more prosperous Eastern Bloc countries, but without Russian assistance/hegemony, and without a universally valued currency, when the wall fell so did the East German economy.  Further, there were those, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher included, who saw a re-unified Germany as a threat to European security and urged the Russians to prevent the process as much as possible.  However, a central point to remember is that for all the drama associated with PM Thatcher’s practice of carrying a 1937 map of German borders in her handbag, or the complex problem of what to do with East German industrial subsidies, the closed border between the two Germany-s before 1990 allowed the economy on the East side of the line to paper over serious economic flaws and abysmal infrastructure.

In other, simpler terms, closed borders hide and obscure as much as they secure.

Secondly, borders don’t exist in the imagination, they define regions, and in doing so they create “border areas,” those sections on either side of a closed border which create social, political, and economic environments simply because they are border areas.  There’s another European example of the consequences of closed borders as they apply to border regions.

In 2005 a study was conducted of the consequences of the Emerald Curtain, i.e. the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. [The Emerald Curtain pdf] Unlike it’s German counterpart, the Emerald Curtain didn’t come as a response to any specific migratory or economic trends, it accreted over time.  Established in 1921, and discussed intermittently until 1925, the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic is a “tale of unintended and unforeseen consequences.”

One of those unintended consequences was the creation of a border area, without major urban areas, and without any robust trade, which engendered dependence on agriculture, under-employment, lack of market access, lack of transport, and the inaccessibility of services like education.   The areas on both sides of the Emerald Curtain tended not to be amenable to economic diversification, which in turn exacerbated social and economic trends including low disposable incomes and higher levels of illiteracy.  Even the “Irish Tiger” boom period, didn’t have the same impact in the southern border regions as it did further south.

For all the attention, verbiage, studies, plans, and parliamentary speeches about improving the Emerald Curtain border regions — the area in 2005 was still characterized as “lagging behind national benchmarks for growth, employment, and development.” [The Emerald Curtain pdf]

The Emerald Curtain isn’t even drawn that tightly shut, but still Ireland’s largest customer is the United States, followed by the UK, Belgium, Germany, and France. Most Irish imports are from the UK, followed by the U.S., Germany, Netherlands, and China in that order. [MIT.edu]  Meanwhile, the economy in Ulster moves forward, with most trade between the UK and the Republic of Ireland. The economy in the north is still tied to the economy of the UK. [Belfast Telegraph]

Whether “Linda in Reno” is advocating a militarized tightly controlled border like the Iron Curtain, or a softer, less organized one like its Emerald counterpart, the results are essentially the same.  The fencing may obfuscate and render opaque issues which will cause major problems over time, and may as easily create regions in which economic activity is stunted or diminished.

Good fences may make good neighbors, but they tend not to encourage economic growth and development.

Absolute Control

As promised earlier, it’s time to get down to an item on Representative Amodei’s wish list: US absolute control of its borders.   This sounds good — it’s also meaningless.  But wait, meaningless is good, especially for the Republican talking point generators and distributors.

By oversimplification and sloganeering complicated and thorny issues can be reduced to ‘sound bites,’ easily digested and something of a Rorschach Test for the listener.  “Linda in Reno” may come away from her portion of the Amodei Word Salad Shooter Session believing that when he says “absolute control of the border” he’s espousing her version of a closed, militarized, border — or a softer more informal one, as might be characterized by a line between two groups of people not yet completely over the Battle of the Boyne.  The beauty of the oversimplified, and thus meaningless, sound bite is that whatever interpretation might be applied to it, the politician using it can pivot at any point and walk away … “I really didn’t mean precisely That…” Whatever “that” might have been.

Yes, Representative Amodei wants “absolute control of the border,” BUT not so much that the Mexican government responds with a closure on its side?  Or, BUT not so much that cities like Brownsville, Nogales, El Paso, and Laredo suffer economic declines from a lack of cross border trade?  Or, BUT not so much that the flow of international trade, commerce, and currency is disrupted?

What is “absolute” control?  Does that mean not a single solitary migrant moving over the borders without a visa is to be found?  Or, is there an acceptable level of ‘leakage?” If so, what’s the level? Once again, the Rorschach Test comes into play. The message means whatever the listener wants to hear.

Who do we intend to “control?” Another Rorschach Test — are we ‘controlling’ for racial or ethnic characteristics? Political or ideological perspectives?  Does “control” mean keeping lower income, ethnic minority populations, at bay?  Does it mean deporting PhD candidates in the field of applied physics? In order for there to be “control” there must be something, someone, under that control.  Who or what that might be is left to the interpretation of the listener.  These little bits of meaninglessness are handy for politicians who don’t want to specify policy positions or describe their legislative proposals.  They are also incredibly useful for criticizing the proposals of opponents.

Using sound bite slogans makes it an easy task to critique the elements of S. 744 by saying it “doesn’t provide absolute control over the borders.” Whatever that might mean. Or, “it doesn’t require enough from those applying for naturalization? Whatever “enough” could be. Or, “it’s too close to amnesty.”  What’s amnesty and what’s too close?

In the final segment, Representative Amodei wanted to reassure “Linda from Reno” that he’d contacted the Department of Homeland Security and they had indicated to him that there were no federal facilities in Nevada to which the unaccompanied children or families would be transported. Hint: There’s no need to round up the pick up trucks, letter the signs, and power up the bull horns?  Once up this easy grade, Representative Amodei got entangled in his explanation of how the federal government couldn’t insure that private organizations in Nevada, especially churches, wouldn’t accept detainees during processing. If I were to attempt to translate my notes this paragraph would read:

“Something, something, Federal Government can’t tell churches what to do, something, something, especially in light of the Supreme Court decision, which I agree with, something, something, it’s a sticky wicket, trying to tell churches what to do, something, something, government should stay out of church business. ”  I’m guessing he’s referring to the Hobby Lobby decision. I’m guessing he’s telling “Linda from Reno” that if a church or private non-profit organization wants to house detainees during processing there’s nothing he can do about it.

I lasted one more question and answer, and then the desire to return to dinner overwhelmed my inclination to try to make intelligible notes from Representative Amodei’s Word Salad Shooter.  Each one of these sessions makes me all the more appreciative of the members of the local press in Nevada who have the Herculean task, as a part of their job, to make sense of Representative Amodei’s verbal barrages, interminable regressions, and equally predictable sloganeering.   Somewhere there is a Salad Shooter spewing Scrabble tiles that needs a hug.

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Filed under Amodei, anti-immigration, Immigration, Nevada politics, Politics