The Inherent Dangers of the Democrat Socialists of America (DSA)

As we pay attention to what’s happening around us, a series of videos have begun appearing from Project Veritas exposing something terribly wrong with the administrative state, this largely un-elected and apparently un-manageable myriad of employees within the deep state of civil servants who seem have forgotten what that title of civil servant means.

With just two videos released so far, it is clear that our administrative body of government has been infiltrated by a Socialist front which is using their positions to break the law, specifically, the Hatch Act of 1939, advanced as “An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities”, whose main provision prohibits employees in the executive branch of the federal government from using their positions to engage in specific forms of political activism. The act specifically prevents federal employees from membership in “any political organization which advocates the overthrow of our constitutional form of government.”

The Democrat Socialists of America and their counterpart, the National Socialist movement advocates for a form of government so alien to the principles of our Constitutional Rule of Law as to be un-American.  It is, in short, treasonous.

And yet, we seem to live in a political environment where we simply turn a blind eye to such open and blatant activity where these actions see little to no consequences.  That individuals would feel so secure in their positions where they are abusing their role as civil servants to the extent of advancing the tenants of socialism from within our own government while bragging about breaking the law without consequence should be alarming.

In these videos, hired employees boast about their actions while laughing about the fact that they can’t be fired for their actions.  They claim that their actions are unknown to their supervisors even though they admit to writing their socialist propaganda messages during work hours and are skirting the laws by waiting to send out their propaganda emails after work hours, as though this somehow prevents them from prosecution.

They admit to using deliberate stalling tactics in the enforcement of official government policy to undermine the law knowingly adding to the cost of government and business.

And all that’s just from the first two videos.

We can delude ourselves into thinking this is just a small faction of civil servants but look at the national political landscape and you will see the rise of the Democrat Socialist Party in advancing candidates and we see something drastically different.  This is not a small faction but a powerful and well-funded effort in the fundamental transformation of our nation from a Constitutional Republic to a Socialist mandate.

The Democratic National Committee chair, Tom Perez, wholeheartedly embraced Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 28-year-old socialist who stunned the political world when she unseated a 10-term incumbent New York Democrat, calling the democratic socialist “the future of our party.”
“I have three kids, two of whom are daughters. One just graduated college, one who is in college, and they were both texting me about their excitement over Alexandria because she really — she represents the future of our party,” Perez said during an interview with the liberal radio-show host Bill Press.

Let that sink in.  We’re not really talking about diversity here.  We are talking about identifying this candidate as the future of the Democrat Party and she’s an avid socialist.

The tactics of this “resistance” movement of the DSA (Democrat Socialists of America) is straight from the playbooks of other socialist takeovers of countries.  Using fear and intimidation tactics, the resort to infiltration and then shouting down opposing voices claiming the exercise of freedom of speech when they are, in fact, by their own actions, refusing to consent to the free speech of others.  In the real world we know that as fascism.   No extreme is to far, including launching charges of racism, homophobia, or even making false allegations in their attempts to silence the voice of anyone who disagrees with them.
The platform of the DSA includes the radical ideology of shutting down ICE (essentially abolishing any enforcement of immigration laws), shutting down all local and state law enforcement (which would necessarily mean the replacement of those agencies by a federal arm of law enforcement), and the closing of all prisons (which, they neglect to admit, would include incarceration camps controlled by the Socialists for their political enemies).

The DSA makes the claim that “At the root of our socialism is a profound commitment to democracy, as means and end.”  They go out of their way to make it all sound warm and fuzzy as though this is something different.  In reality, there is nothing new and certainly nothing warm and fuzzy when the wolves are in control of the sheep and they are voting for what’s going to be on the supper table.

The promise that this new socialism will be different is a traditional characteristic of all socialists and once implemented the historical record proves one thing, it’s the same old socialism where personal liberty is stolen and we all become slaves to the state.  In America that means trampling on our protected rights and abandoning the Constitutional Rule of Law that is intended to protect everyone equally to the creation of massive protected classes in a system that will create the ultra-elite and the rest of us will experience equality through being equal in our poverty.

The Website for the Democrat Socialists of America (DSA) also boasts of being the largest socialist front in America and the Democrat Party is openly embracing them.

Abraham Lincoln once warned “At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it?– Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never!–All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.”
“At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.

The Democrat Socialist of America have the poison pill to accomplish that suicide and now it’s up to the people of America to determine the future of our nation.  We can collectively take a knee and remain silent as we die by suicide or we can stand up, exposing and refusing this poison.

James O’Keefe and his Project Veritas videos offer me hope that we will take a stand.  I pray that it gives you such hope as well, not just hope in silence but the courage you need to take a stand for Liberty.

To watch the Project Veritas videos go to https://www.projectveritas.com/

More videos in this series are coming and you’ll want to stay informed in this important exposé.

Advertisements

Theft by Taxation

nor shall private property be taken or applied to public use, without authority of law and without just compensation being first made or secured.

Article 1, Section 10 of the PA Constitution

 

The Pennsylvania Constitution is supposed to be the law of the land.  When a law is passed that violates the Constitution, those who passed that law are guilty of violating the Constitution…guilty of violating the law and their oath of office.

Throughout the history of the fight for property tax elimination we have pointed out egregious violations of our rights to property that exist because of the Property tax.  We have pointed out that 10,000 people lose their homes to the property tax each year.  It’s time to consider what happens during this property seizures and eventual sale on the tax auction block

A recent article in the Times Leader (https://www.timesleader.com/news/715302/luzerne-countys-september-back-tax-sale-roster-at-2545-properties) reported on an recent tax auction that took place in Luzerne County on August 8 of this year.  It demonstrates clearly what takes place. It listed seven of 81 properties that were sold on the suction giving some details of the sales.  As you read this please note the actual sale price contrasted to the actual assessed value of the property and remember what Article 1, Section 10 says.

  • Wan C. Ho, of Queens, New York, representing Wilkeshire RE LLC —$20,000 for a 3,000-square-foot, double-block assessed at $80,300 on Hillside Avenue in Edwardsville.
  • Daniel Cruz, of Wilkes-Barre — $22,000 for a 2,300-square-foot house in the 200 block of Academy Street in Wilkes-Barre assessed at $100,900.
  • Michelle Hernandez, of Queens, New York — $26,000 for a 1,350-square-foot house on Spruce Street in Wilkes-Barre assessed at $60,900.
  • Karina Broes, of Randolph, New Jersey — $30,000 for a 1,500-square-foot house assessed at $117,600 on Pond Hill Mountain Road in Conyngham Township.
  • Antonio Mannino, of Hanover Township, representing Puma Motors Inc. — $39,000 each for a vacant 0.23-acre lot assessed at $10,000 on Buck Birch Lane in Buck Township and a 2,170-square-foot house assessed at $174,500 on Foothills Drive in Butler Township.
  • George Karosa, Wyoming — $42,000 for a 1,544-square-foot house in the 100 block of Slocum Street in Forty Fort assessed at $104,000.

Not a single one of these properties reached the actual assessed value of the property.

The article states that the total price generated from the auction of 81 properties came to $642,781.  The total revenue from the seven listed properties comes to $179,000 of the $642,781 leaving $463,781 for the remaining 74 properties.  Simple math tells us that the average revenue generated from the remaining properties comes to less than $6,300 per property.

What happened in Luzerne County is not an exception to the rule.  It is commonplace when homes are seized and sold at public auction for tax delinquency.

The property owners faces the distinct potential of loosing everything.  The only real concern at these tax auctions is to meet the delinquent property taxes due on the property with no regard of just compensation to the actual owner of that property being first made or secured.

The property owner is treated as a criminal simply because the they couldn’t keep up with the tax demands against their property even though those tax increases often exceed inflationary growth of wages.  A serious illness, the death of a spouse, a downturn in the economy that results in a temporary job loss can all lead people to find themselves unable to meet the demands of property taxation.  There are many reasons that people can fall behind on their property taxes because the property tax is not based on ability to pay.  It is based on an arbitrary value placed on a property where the homeowner really has little, if any, say.  While the assessed value is often sold to us being the fair market value of a property, that is simply not the case.  Fair market pricing should be determined on a price agreed upon by a willing seller and a willing buyer.

In the case of a tax auction, the actual property owner has no say.  The property is sold based on a price agreed upon by a buyer and the government, not the homeowner.  Their voice is removed from that process.  There is no consideration of the property owners investment in that property or in the equity acquired in that home.

I said that the home-owner is treated like a criminal but that’s not really true.  In other criminal proceedings, the accused has protected rights not afforded to the property owner. In other criminal proceedings just penalty for a crime is not to be excessive.  The penalty is to be equated to the crime.

That is hardly what happens in the tax seizure and sale of property.  The penalty goes far beyond the crime by taking something completely from the property owner without any real consideration of just compensation.

Adding insult to injury, the property tax impacts everything we do.  That includes the goods we purchase, services we need and even the entertainment we pursue.  Property taxes levied on businesses are passed on to the consumer resulting in higher prices.  As our property tax continues to increase above the rates of inflation, it impacts the prices of everything because all of those businesses are paying the property tax as well.

We often here that eliminating the property tax for business is a huge tax savings for them but we rarely consider how the property tax on those businesses impacts the cost of the things we use.

Looking at a local business in the county where I live that sells something as simple as Ice Cream, I found that their total property tax is $21,624.  Now remember that the average property tax where I live is about $2,400.

A large Ice Cream Cone sells for $2.49.  In order to sell enough large Ice Cream Cones to meet the tax obligation they would have to sell 8,684 cones and that’s not factoring in the cost of materials, employees and other operating expenses.  If $2.00 of that cone covers all other expenses they would have to sell 41,131 ice cream cones to pay the property tax without accumulating a single penny in business profit.  That’s also being generous.  I would assume that it costs more than $2.00 in other operating expenses but I’m just trying to generate an example of how this impacts the cost of the things we use.

Adding insult to injury, if this property was located just 1/2 mile to the east it would be in a different school district where it’s property taxes would be $8,500 more which is roughly about 30% more in taxes.   They would have to sell an additional 3,414 ice cream cones again with not factoring in materials, employees and other operating expenses.  Allowing for the $2.00 in other operating expenses per cone, they would have to sell 61,478 ice cream cones to meet the tax obligation without earning any profit.  The differing property taxes creates an unequal business opportunity which might help to explain why it’s so difficult to attract businesses to the higher taxed school district.

The local Walmart, the business that so many love to hate, pays about $250,000 in property taxes.  If they were just a few blocks away in a different school district, those property taxes would total $353,919, an increase of more than $100,000.

To refuse to accept the notion that property taxes make everything we do cost more is simply ridiculous.

So, while the property tax makes everything more expensive, our property tax continue to increase continues to exceed above the rate of inflation making it harder for people support local business because they have less revenue to spend and the things they purchase will cost more because of the property tax.

You see, when people make the claim that business can afford to pay more, they are foolish enough not to understand that they really don’t pay more because that cost will be passed on to us and therefore, we pay more, not just more in property taxes but more for everything.

The clothing you wear, the food you eat, the medications you need, the legal services you seek, and yes, even that ice cream cone with which you treat yourself…it all costs more because of the property tax.

Then, if you find yourself in a position where you can no longer afford the property tax, they’ll take your home away from you and sell it in an auction where you will most likely lose your investment in that home all the while with supporter of property tax applauding the stability of the income tax as a revenue source for government.  That government tax collection stability is always predicated on the instability it causes for people who have to pay it.

It stifles job creation and job growth because it stifles business relocation to the state and because the property tax varies so much from school district to school district we find that establishing business in higher taxed but lower economic third class cities are actually driving business to locate out of those districts making them more reliant on homes rather than business to meet the tax wants.

In the latest report from the Independent Fiscal Office on Property taxation we find that $7.048 billion of the property tax comes from owner occupied homes.  More than 40% of that, or $3.087 billion, comes from seniors over the age of 60 even though seniors over the age of 60 make up only 20% of the total state population.

Image1

For the seniors living on fixed income with limited resources, the increase in property taxation can be overwhelming.  While watching the cost of everything continue to go up, including essential medical costs.

These seniors are more apt to have actually paid off their homes and then to face losing that home that is paid for in full, having it seized and sold for pennies on the dollar all in the name of tax fairness and tax stability should be reprehensible to all of us.

We started this by looking at a news article from Luzerne County.  I quoted the price of homes sold in auction in August.  The article also states that just one month later a new property tax auction is set to go forward in September that could involve a potential 2,545 properties.  It is unlikely that any of these properties sold on auction will reach the assessed worth of their homes values.

In a series of related article on property taxation, they looked at property tax increases in just 4 counties in Pennsylvania.  The article cited that property owners saw a 28% average increase in their property taxes over a time span of just 10 years.  Then as you look into this deeper you find that some district saw only a 15% increase while other districts went up by more than 50%  (http://www.philly.com/philly/news/pennsylvania/pennsylvania-property-tax-increases-bucks-chester-montgomery-delaware-county-20180227.html)

That article covered Bucks, Chester, Montgomery and Delaware county.  In an earlier article the same research efforts discovered that more than 200,000 properties in the same counties were over-assessed which means they are paying property taxes on property they don’t really own because the assessment is higher than their home can be sold on the open market.  That’s just four counties in the state but the story hold true no matter where you live in the state.  There is simply nothing arbitrarily fair about property taxation.  (http://www.philly.com/philly/news/pennsylvania/pennsylvania-property-taxes-assessment-20171214.html)

We not only have a system of taxation that robs us of our homes without just compensation to the property owner, we have a system of taxation that, because of faulty assessments, large numbers of properties are over-assessed paying more in taxes than their home is actually worth.  It may be a stable source of revenue.

The most recent chart from the Independent Fiscal office shows the cumulative growth in revenue from the property tax, PIT and SUT.

Image2

What this chart doesn’t tell us is that the growth in revenue in the SUT and PIT taxes occurred without the need for tax increases in the generation of that revenue.   On the other hand, the property tax required, literally, thousands of tax increases by the various school districts, municipalities and county government to generate that revenue with the largest contributing factor being increases by school districts.

For the half of the population in this state that lives below the median household income level, how do they prepare for such an assault in their burden of taxation?

Is it any wonder why the poverty rate is as high as it is in Pennsylvania considering how the property tax impacts to cost of everything in this Commonwealth.

Image3

These statistics come from the U.S. Census Bureau.  The property tax plays a role in this and we shouldn’t ignore that.  As the cost of everything increases while wages stagnate for those in the lower median household income bracket or with seniors on fixed income, poverty rates must increase. When those increases result in the tax seizure of a home and then that home is sold for a fraction of its worth on auctions with no consideration of the tax-payer we have despotism, not fairness in taxation.

It also plays a role in the increases in the cost of rent.

Image1

How do we continue to look at these charts and continue to talk about the stability of the property tax in relation to the people who are hit with the burden of providing for the tax?

The property tax steals from us in so many ways.  It lowers the value of our homes denying us the equity we should have earned in that home.  It makes us pay more for the goods and services we use.  It robs the state of business growth opportunities and job creation. And then, eventually it can lead to the governmental theft of a home that allows them to sell that home on an auction without any consideration of the person who is actually supposed to own that home.

It is, in short and simple terminology, Theft by Taxation!  It is precisely what Article 1, Sections 1, 8 and 10 of our Constitution is supposed to protect us from!  It’s long past time that our legislators fix this egregious violation of our protected rights, eliminate the property tax and replace that revenue with a system that is fair and based on ability to pay.  It’s time to stop talking about stability for the tax collector to look at the instability it is causing for the working families of this Commonwealth.  It’s time to start creating tax policy that creates stability for the people who must pay the tax.

Yes, authority of law as it now stands allows for the seizing of property but that authority must include just compensation to the property owner according to article 1, Section 10.  Since the current law does not accomplish that than the authority of such a law needs to be questioned because such a law operates outside the realm of the authority granted to it by our Constitution.  That should make such a law void.

 

 

 

To reach real solutions we have to honestly understand cause and effect.

In a 2017 article in the Morning Call, the issue of outmigration was explored (http://www.mcall.com/news/local/data/mc-map-pennsylvania-migration-census-20170322-htmlstory.html_.  The article states “Pennsylvania is once again a place that people love to leave. Although the state’s births outnumbered deaths, more people left the state last year than moved in, resulting in a population loss of almost 7,700 people.”

While the article talks about some positive population growth in specific areas of the state, the article does not discuss the details in the statistics of the in-migration that contributed to the growth in these areas.  Those statistics are important especially if the in-migration is largely people moving to locations because of the ease of obtaining entitlement benefits which adds a greater strain on the economy of the county and state.  In-migration in an of itself it not necessarily a good thing, it the factors that make up the in-migration that determines whether or not this is good.  An in-migration of working families who are going to hold down jobs and contribute to the tax base is a good thing.  An overwhelming in-migration of people who are not isn’t.  Likewise, if the out-migration is largely made up of people who aren’t contributing to the economy of the state isn’t necessarily a bad thing either.  However, if the out-migration is working families moving to other states where those incomes are lost to this state and are now going to another state is a very bad thing.  We need more a more detailed breakdown and much deeper analytics of these statistics before we can honestly assess what is taking place.

I’ve read several articles on the problems of out-migration from Pennsylvania.  Those articles were in both state and Federal publications.  I have yet to read one article that discusses the economic station of those leaving the state.  Are these working families or individuals who flee the state because of the tax burden and greater economic prospects in other states?  That’s a very important part of this equation because we can’t find workable solutions until we understand the depth of problem.  I believe we need to know that number because it is important in understanding the depth of this problem.

I also find the comparison of statistics interesting.  While it’s been documented by independent researchers that 10,000 people lose their homes each year because of Pennsylvania’s broken system of property taxation we don’t see the number of articles reporting that statistic, certainly not at the national level.  Yet 7,700 people leaving the state because national headlines.

The fact of the matter is that we don’t keep statistics concerning how many people lose their homes to property taxation.  You won’t find this statistic anywhere in any government site.  Nor will you find a statistic that breakdowns the number of foreclosure and bankruptcy that happens as a result of property taxation.  Maybe many just don’t want to know.  It took the hard work of private citizens to do that research on a county by county basis.

Without understanding the driving factors behind statistics, we can’t possibly have honest and accountable debates on solutions.  Because we often ignore these driving factors to focus only on the end statistics is, in my opinion, exactly why Pennsylvania continues to fall into the 5 and 10% number of the negatives for economic growth and development in our state, sometimes actually taking the number one position.

A recent study demonstrated one of those instances of a number one negative statistic.  Pennsylvania leads the country in student debt, accord to the following article (https://triblive.com/state/pennsylvania/13969077-74/pennsylvania-2017-college-grads-lead-the-nation-in-student-debt)

Once again we find a lengthy report of an actual statistic that fails to make the connect between student debt and the out-migration problem.  Are these graduated students with large college debt a large part of the out-migration statistics?  It would seem reasonable to assume this would be the case.

Graduating from college with a debt that’s the equivalent of the purchase of a new car or even to the point of the equivalence of a mortgage on home is going to drive people to look for employment opportunities in more tax friendly states.  A lower tax burden doesn’t lower their college debt but it does become a motivator to live somewhere where paying back that debt is less burdensome.  There is no correlation, in the article to declining enrollments in State run colleges in  Pennsylvania.  While nationwide college enrollment declined by 1%, Pennsylvania’s state-run colleges double that percentage with a 2% decline (https://triblive.com/news/education/career/13097071-74/college-enrollment-down-in-pennsylvania-and-across-the-nation).  The Trib article states that “Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education recorded their seventh annual decline in enrollment this fall. They registered 102,300 students, or a loss of 17,213 students since peaking at 119,513 students in 2010.”’

Once again, though, we get statistics without any analysis of why this problem exists.  The correlation between cost of an education in Pennsylvania which yields greater student debt and dwindling enrollments simply isn’t a part of the story.  As a result, we yield excuses and not solutions and Pennsylvania remains on its path of economic frivolity.

The State education system asked for an increase in the state budget of $73.1 million dollars (https://www.pennlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/10/state_universities_enrollment.html) citing declining enrollment and increased education costs as the excuse.  Certainly, that needs to be considered but we should also be looking at the reasons for the increases in education costs.  Throwing more money at bad policy is a logic that keeps us on the path of unsustainability.  That money has to come from somewhere and when the State educational system is asking the state for more money, they are actually asking that money for us, the tax-payers because the only money the state has is money it takes from us.  That request, in the mind of legislators and our governors, has continually been to consider one of three means, taking that funding from other services in the state, finding new things to tax or increasing the tax burden on the rest of us.

What we should be doing is analyzing the cost drivers to find ways to meet revenue needs that are both thorough and efficient.  I see nothing in the constitution that includes the word, taxation that is most convenient, in Article 3, Section 14 of our state constitution.  Maybe I missed it, so I’ll include here for your convenience.

The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.

If you find the word convenient in regards to legislative responsibilities in taxation for education, please let me know.

Property taxation defenders often use the termination of stability of taxation of the property tax.  By that they really mean the ease of convenience of collecting and raising the tax because of the importance so many people place on home-ownership, i.e. the right to property.  It may be thorough for the tax collector but that is not the intent.  The intent is that the system of education public education that is thorough and efficient, not a system of taxation.  To even the most naïve observer, the system of property taxation in the funding of education is neither.

Because we embrace as bad policy of taxation, it creates other problems that negatively impacts the economic condition of the state.  We all know that blight is problem.  Where are the articles that explain how the rising burden of the property tax is a contributing factor in the inability of many families to do the proper upkeep and maintenance of their homes?  I ask this question seriously because I think it’s important.  Can anyone steer me to an actual article from a newspaper written by journalist, not a civilian op-ed piece, where this factor is even considered?  If you find one, send it to me and I’ll sing its praises.

I do believe that we are smart enough, in Pennsylvania, to come up with workable solutions to the many problems we face.  I also believe that to come to these solutions we need open and honest debate coupled to the political and journalistic will to start analyzing the drive factors related to these problems and stop simply spewing statistics.  Everything has a cause and effect and to solve the problems we have to be able to honestly debate the cause.

Ask yourself this simple question:  Is it reasonable to consider that outmigration, higher unemployment than the national average, debt, foreclosure, bankruptcy, blight, transient populations, Pennsylvania’s lack of ability to attract new business without property tax incentives and other issues have any correlation to the high burden of property taxation in the state?

If you answer that question with a yes, then ask yourself why you don’t read about these connections in articles that discuss these issues. Why is this factor always ignored?

Then look deeper.  Why does Pennsylvania have so many property tax related exclusions?  Why do we have homestead exemptions, KOZs and LERTAs, Clean and Green, rent and housing subsidies if the real problems isn’t property taxation?  It should be obvious to all of us that the reason these things exist is because we have a property tax to begin with.  Without the property tax, the other things would not be necessary.

While we often read defenses of these programs, especially with KOZs and LERTAs, where we hear about how much money these programs have generated, those finding are never coupled to how much these programs actually cost because, once again, this isn’t a statistic that we make available to the public.  We can talk about the benefits of a program only when we weigh that to the cost of the implementation of that programs and how that cost is met.  Once we understand that we begin to see that these programs, regardless of the arguments for their necessity, exist only because we have a property tax.

Likewise, if property tax is so fair, as proponents claim, why do we need regular county-wide assessments that are expensive and add to our property tax burden?  Isn’t the fact that we need these assessments proof enough that the property tax is not fair.

Taking the re-assessments further, the evidence that assessments like this don’t actually work is evidence by the number of successful appeals that follow every reassessment.  Those appeals demonstrate a clear failing on the part of assessment companies to do what they were designed to do.

I’ve spent the greater part of the last 10 years digging into the problem of property taxation in this state.  The fact is that the more I have dug into this issue, the more egregious the property tax becomes to me.  I guess about every excuse that can be heard in defense of property taxation and what I have found is that those excuses are exactly that, excises.  They are not substantive reasons because the excuse is riddled with easily exposed holes if you actually have taken the time to understand the cause and effect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Case for Property Tax Elimination from 1795

The Pennsylvania legislature, in an attempt to settle a land dispute between state residents and out-of-state purchasers from Connecticut, passed a law vesting title to the disputed property in the out-of-state purchasers. State residents with bona fide claims were compensated with an equivalent tract. Several Pennsylvania residents sued, claiming that the legislative resolution of the land dispute deprived them of their vested rights and right to a jury trial.

Justice William Patterson, serving on the Circuit Court of the United States for the Pennsylvania district, supported the Pennsylvania claimants. His charge to the jury defended the judicial power to declare laws unconstitutional. Patterson then concluded that the Pennsylvania “quieting and confirming act” violated the
constitution of Pennsylvania and the Constitution of the United States. Vanhorne’s Lessee may be the first instance in which a federal court held state legislation unconstitutional.

There is even a greater importance to this case because Justice William Patterson mad a case for property rights that, I believe, can and should be used against continuing to allow our homes to be held hostage to this ominous tax.

Let’s start with a little background.  Pennsylvania’s first constitution came just a few months after the passing of the Declaration of Independence.  In September of 1776, this became the rule of law in Pennsylvania.  In 1790, a constitutional convention was held in Pennsylvania to amend the constitution bringing it more inline with the support of the Federal Constitution.  Just as it does today, both the 1776 and the 1790 Constitution included a section specifically titled “Declaration of Rights” where the individual rights of all Pennsylvanians were included as part of the governments responsibility to protect.

After hearing the case, Justice Patterson gave a recommendation to the jury as to how this case should be weighed and that included an in-depth analysis of the importance of the rule of law in the Constitution.  Any law, he warned, outside of the Constitutional rule of law should be deemed void.

As part of admonition to the jurors Justice Patterson said:

What is a constitution? It is the form of government, delineated by the mighty hand of the people, in which certain first principles of fundamental laws are established. The constitution is certain and fixed; it contains the permanent will of the people, and is the supreme law of the land; it is paramount to the power of the legislature, and can be revoked or altered only by the authority that made it. The life-giving principle and the death-doing stroke must proceed from the same hand. What are legislatures? Creatures of the constitution; they owe their existence to the  constitution: they derive their powers from the constitution: It is their commission; and, therefore, all their acts must be conformable to it, or else they will be void. The constitution is the work or will of the people themselves, in their original, sovereign, and unlimited capacity. Law is the work or will of the legislature in their derivative and subordinate capacity. The one is the work of the creator, and the other of the creature. The constitution fixes limits to the exercise of legislative authority, and prescribes the orbit within which it must move. In short, gentlemen, the constitution is the sun of the political system, around which all legislative, executive and judicial bodies must revolve. Whatever may be the case in other countries, yet in this there can be no doubt, that every act of the legislature, repugnant to the constitution, is absolutely void.

Justice Patterson then defined the Constitutional limitations of the legislature in the creation of any act that would violate the protects guaranteed in our Constitution.  He explained to the jury the issue at hand with regards to the case.  As I read this I was struck with the harmonious indictment of the law and with the property tax as it stands today, especially with regards to the school property tax.  Justice Patterson said:

The proprietor stands afar off, a solitary and unprotected member of the community, and is stripped of his property, without his consent, without a hearing, without notice, the value of that property judged upon without his participation, or the intervention of a jury, and the equivalent therefor in lands ascertained in the same way. If this be the legislation of a republican government, in which the preservation of property is made sacred by the constitution, I ask, wherein it differs from the mandate of an Asiatic prince? Omnipotence in legislation is despotism. According to this doctrine, we have nothing that we can call our own, or are sure of for a moment; we are all tenants at will, and hold our landed property at the mere pleasure of the legislature. Wretched situation, precarious tenure! And yet we boast of property and its security, of laws, of courts, of constitutions, and call ourselves free! In short, gentlemen, the confirming act is void; it never had constitutional existence; it is a dead letter, and of no more virtue or avail, than if it never had been made.

This case, which took place 223 years ago, includes a description of the way the property tax now functions.  While it deals with an exchange between Connecticut and Pennsylvania, the same principle apply when it comes to the individual rights of property ownership.

The Constitution, which created the General Assembly, which in turn created and gave certain authority to our school districts where the proprietor (property owner) has little say in the burden of taxation being placed upon them.  They are outside of school district contract negotiations and play no role in the consent of the assessed values attached to their properties as these come through appointed agents of government, not elected by the people so that the value of their property is judged by an appointed force without the participation of the property owner or the intervention of a jury.   As a result we find home-owners stripped of their property, without their consent and without a hearing.  Justice Patterson declared that such omnipotent powers over our right to property is not Justice, it is Despotism.

When the opinion for the case was written, The Judge read from the 1st. 8th. and 11th articles of the Declaration of Rights in the Pennsylvania Constitution.  The 1790 Constitution read as follows:

Declaration of Rights: Section 1: That all men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent and indefeasible rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property and reputation, and of pursuing their own happiness.

Declaration of Rights: Section 8: That the people shall be secure in their persons, houses, papers and possessions, from unreasonable searches and seizures: And that no warrant to search any place, or to seize any person or things, shall issue, without describing them as nearly as may be, nor without probable cause supported by oath or affirmation.

Declaration of Rights: Section 11: That all courts shall be open, and every man, for an injury done him in his lands, goods, person or reputation, shall have remedy by the due course of law, and right and justice administered, without sale, denial or delay. Suits may be brought against the commonwealth in such manner, in such courts, and in such cases, as the legislature may by law direct.

It is important to note that each of these protections of our rights to property are still a part of our Constitution after all these years.  Today they are found in Article 1, Section 1, 8 and 11, the same sections as the 1790 Constitution.  I would add to this argument Section 9 which reads:

In all criminal prosecutions the accused hath a right to be heard by himself and his counsel, to demand the nature and cause of the accusation against him, to be confronted with the witnesses against him, to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and, in prosecutions by indictment or information, a speedy public trial by an impartial jury of the vicinage; he cannot be compelled to give evidence against himself, nor can he be deprived of his life, liberty or property, unless by the judgment of his peers or the law of the land.

Keep in mind that when the law of land violates other aspects of the Constitution, Justice Patterson declared that such laws were void.

After citing the Constitutional reason that the law passed by the Pennsylvania Legislature was unconstitutional he wrote the following:

From these passages it is evident; that the right of acquiring…property, and having it protected, is one of the natural, inherent, and unalienable rights of man. Men have a sense of property: Property is necessary to their subsistence, and correspondent to their natural wants and desires; its security was one of the objects, that induced them to unite in society. No man would become a member of a community, in which he could not enjoy the fruits of his honest labor and industry. The preservation of property then is a primary object of the social compact, and, by the late constitution of Pennsylvania, was made a fundamental law.

Let that sink in.  The preservation of property is a primary object of the social compact (the reason for the Constitution and the government created to support it) and since these rights are still affirmed in our Constitution that it is still the legislators RESPONSIBILITY to uphold these principles of the sacred and inherent right of property which is routinely ignored and violated under the current abuses of the property tax, especially with regards to the current state of the property tax.

It should be added here that the school district boards are not governing bodies.  While they have certain authority to govern their schools, they have no real governing authority outside that limited realm.  The school board has no authority over our homes in any other realm except for the purposes of taxation and even that power should be questioned.

The school board is a created body within government which should, like all other created bodies within government, be devoid of any authority to independently tax of have any control over our property whatsoever.  This then calls into question the General Assembly’s action of granting such authority to the school district from the outset.

In my opinion, the school districts should require the consent of the governed, either through referendum or through granted authority from actual elected governing bodies at either the Local, County or State level before that can increase any tax burden on the residents.

I have cited this case in this blog to explain that the right of property was once highly esteemed in this country as was an important part of the founding principles in this nation.  The growing abuses of these rights stand in direct opposition to our founders in their intent and purpose.

That some may look at the above and attempt to refute what is written here demonstrates how far we have gone from the intent of our founders when it comes to property rights of the individual and the governments responsibility to protect those rights.

IN the debate to eliminate the school property tax, we often hear that property taxes have been around as long as their has been civilization and there is some truth to that.  However, the school property tax has not.  We cannot compare our obligations and the property taxes from the elected county and local municipal taxes, where such constitutional powers have been granted to the school districts.  They are different types of bodies, one is an elected governing body and the other, although elected, has now powers of governing in our community outside their limited functions as a school district.  They are no different from other created bodies within government who have no such taxing authority over us.

I’ll close with these words from Justice Patterson regarding this case:

But admitting, that the Legislature can take the real estate of A. and give it to B. on making compensation, the principle and reasoning upon it go no further than to shew, that the Legislature are the sole and exclusive judges of the necessity of the case, in which this despotic power should be called into action. It cannot, on, the principles of the social alliance, or of the Constitution, be extended beyond the point of judging upon every existing case of necessity. The Legislature declare and enact, that such are the public exigencies, or necessities of the State, as to authorise them to take the land of A. and give it to B.; the dictates of reason and the eternal principles of justice, as well as the sacred principles of the social contract, and the Constitution, direct, and they accordingly declare and ordain, that A. shall receive compensation for the land. But here the Legislature must stop; they have run the full length of their authority, and can go no further: they cannot constitutionally determine upon the amount of the compensation, or value of the land. Public exigencies do not require, necessity does not demand, that the Legislature should, of themselves, without the participation of the proprietor, or intervention of a jury, assess the value of the thing, or ascertain the amount of the compensation to be paid for it.

 

 

Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results!

It is said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results.

 

It has been my honor and blessed privilege to chair a local grassroots organization known as the Lebanon 9-12 Project.  This organization was formed in the early days of tea party movement with an emphasis on remembering the events that followed September 11, 2001; not to simply remember the horrific event itself but to hold fast to the spirit in America that followed where we came together as a nation and, for a moment, set aside party and other divisions to work together as a people united in purpose.  While established during the rising “tea party” movement, it was also something different, where policy was more important than personalities or party.

At the center of the Lebanon 9-12 Project, is the subject of Liberty…personal Liberty… and this differs from simple freedom.  Freedom can become absolute anarchy because the absolute freedom to do as we wish can include the violation of the liberties of others and this becomes a threat to the exercise of both Freedom and Liberty.  Liberty, true Liberty, contains within it, the restraining principle that I am free to exercise my rights so long as I do no harm to others.

To engage in the principle of liberty is to embrace foundational truths on our natural and inherent rights.  It embraces the sacred principles of the inherent and protected personal expressions of the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, the freedom of religion, the freedom of association.  There is not a single issue in our Declaration of Independence, our Bill of rights or Pennsylvania’s Constitution in Article One that is not, somehow, directly connected to the right of property.

These sacred and inherent rights have one singular limitation that, in the expression of these rights, we seek to do no harm to others.  It is a foundational truth established long before the land we now call America became a nation.  It is found in teachings of Jesus Christ. He expressed it like this “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12).  We believe those words can equally be applied as a summary of the Law as established through a just government.

It is found in the writings of Aristotle, Cicero, Thomas Aquinas, Algernon Sydney, John Locke and Montesquieu…all of who preceded our founders and the birth of this Nation as a free an independent Union of States under the guidance of the rule of law as established in our Constitutions making us a nation that was best described as a Constitutional Republic..

As Thomas Jefferson declared in his rough draft of the Declaration of Independence “to secure these ends, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government shall become destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying it’s foundation on such principles & organizing it’s powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their safety & happiness.”

Those words were so profound that it’s one of the few segments of the rough draft of the Declaration that made it through without being altered.

If we accept that there is just government we must also accept that there is also unjust government; that sometimes laws established in even the most just of governments become corrupted and that those laws become unjust in their forceful execution.  Those unjust laws then become instruments that no longer protect the natural and inherent rights of the  people but, instead, become instruments of harm to both individuals and society as a whole.

Through the organization of the Lebanon 9-12 Project we have set as one of our highest priorities, the reestablishment of the inherent rights of property to the people in the protection of those sacred, natural and inherent rights.  Our guidance in this matter has been framed around a moral principle laid out for us at the founding of this nation and in the founding of Pennsylvania as a Commonwealth.

Before I go any further, I need it to be clearly understood that, by property, we mean all property; not just the property of our real estate.  As James Madison said “Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government which impartially secures to every man whatever is his own.” (James Madison, Essay on Property, 1792)

In the Preamble of the Constitution of the United States we find a list of the six ends to which the Constitution is addressed: union, justice, domestic tranquility, defense, general welfare, and liberty. The matter of liberty described most fully in these words, “to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”

In 1679 William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, wrote “Three Rights are so peculiar and inherent to us, that if we will not throw them away for Fear or Favor, for Meat and Drink, or those other little present Profits, that Ill Men offer to tempt us with, they cannot be altered or abrogated….The First of these Three Fundamentals is Property, that is, Right and Title to your own Lives, Liberties and Estates: In this, every Man is a Sort of Little Sovereign to himself: No Man has Power over his Person, to Imprison or hurt it, or over his Estate to Invade or Usurp it”

Now I’m saying all of this to lay a framework for an argument.  That which follows is in the context of that which preceded.

I fully understand the economic peril that the school property tax has become since it’s abuses began in the late 1960’s.  I accept the truth that people are losing their homes because they can’t keep up with the weight and burden of this tax.  While I accept the economic wrong of the abuse of this method of funding education, I firmly believe that the economic impact is a symptom of the acceptance of a moral wrong in the invasion of our supposedly protected rights to be secure in our homes and possessions.  It is the violation of the principle of liberty that creates the economic condition.  It does so because it is an unjust Law.

Those who are comfortable with property taxation accept it without looking at the consequences of the school property tax in inflating the costs of all the goods and services we not only use, but also need for survival.   Food and clothing cost more because there is a property tax.  Our homes cost to us personally more because their a property tax.  Even those who rent will pay higher rental prices because there is a property tax.

The principle of Liberty is violated because it is a law that, although some are comfortable with it, it requires doing harm to others.  In 2015 Governor Wolf acknowledged that simple fact when he said “There is a need to understand the investment that is education.  There is a choice of supporting education, but it comes with the cost of taxes and the possibility of losing a home for some” (The Pocono Record, Mat 27, 2015)

Governor Wolf’s words are a kinder and gentler way of expressing the sentiment expressed during a hearing on Property Tax Elimination by Michael Wood of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center when he said that 10,000 people losing their homes each year is not a significant enough number to do something about it.  To demonstrate that the Governor must apparently agree with the sentiment of Michael Wood, understand this: In 2015, under Governor Wolf, he became Executive Budget Manager of the Pennsylvania Office of the Budget (June 2015 – July 2018) and then in July of this year Michael Wood became the Policy Director of the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue.

Michael Wood and his ideological positioning to accept a corrupted system of taxation, a system supported by Governor Wolf’s statement is one way that we can understand how the deep state works.  Once appointed after spearheading an organization that works against the best interest of the citizenry of this Commonwealth, these people can advance their agendas.  Adding insult to injury, by appointing them to critical positions within this deep state shadow government, they can operate behind the scenes, hidden through a general lack of transparency when it comes to the actions of this myriad of Departments, Agencies and Commissions where they will further influence policy and impose regulations that further perpetuate the violations of our homes and possessions.

Recently we saw another appointment of an individual as Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.  That person was Jerry Oleksiak who was lauded as being a teacher upon the announcement of his nomination.  Oleksiak was, actually, a ghost teacher, where instead of teaching in the classroom, he was paid to do the work of the PSEA, Pennsylvania’s largest public sector unions representing teachers.  While a ghost teacher, Oleksiak advanced through the ranks to become the President of the PSEA.  Prior to being elected PSEA President, Oleksiak served as PSEA Vice President, PSEA Treasurer, a member of the PSEA Board of Directors, and President of Mideastern Region of PSEA, which includes Bucks and Montgomery Counties. He also served as Chair of the Coordinated Bargaining Committee.

As head of the Department of Labor and Industry he will now oversee the Collective Bargaining aspects related to the PSEA.

As James Madison wrote in Federalist Papers, No. 10, November 23, 1787: “The apportionment of taxes on the various descriptions of property is an act which seems to require the most exact impartiality; yet there is, perhaps, no legislative act in which greater opportunity and temptation are given to a predominant party to trample on the rules of justice. Every shilling which they overburden the inferior number is a shilling saved to their own pockets.”

In this same document Madison explained that no man should allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity. Through the deep state, however, this is exactly what we see happening.  Individuals with personal self-serving interests are setting policy and controlling regulatory authority allowing them to be the judge in their own cause.

To accept the taxation of property to fund education is to accept the institutions established that are working behind the scenes to perpetuate this violation of our rights to property where doing harm to others is entirely acceptable behavior so long as a few benefit greatly by its implementation or, as Senator Folmer explained, “Sacrificing principle on the altar of self-interest.”

The goal of the Lebanon 9-12 Project is the complete elimination of all property taxes, starting with the egregious school property tax.  We must move away from bad taxation principles that violate our personal liberties.  Those bad policies begin by first ignoring our sacred and inherent rights to property and the government’s responsibility, if they wish to remain a just government, of protecting that sacred and inherent right.   To be clear, taxation as a means to fund the necessary functions of government is a shared responsibility.  That responsibility, however, should never primarily be limited to one class in society, especially where, within that class, exemptions are continually carved out that passed that burden on to fewer people with in that class.  That responsibility MUST be based on taxation established through the principle of ability to pay.

The property tax is not based on ability to pay.  It assumes a wealth based on property ownership and imposes a special penalty on us.  That assumed wealth will never generate the income necessary to pay for the property tax.  By shifting to an income related tax or to a sales and use tax, we better reflect ability to pay and con do so in a way that is for more equitable and will not require the constant tax increases that are necessary because we rely on property tax to fund education and our government.

The goal is, elimination and how we get there is very important.  We accept our mutual responsibility in the funding of something so important as education.  In this fact, we agree with our opposition that education funding is important, where we disagree is in how we fund that system of education.

Our opponents accept the immorality of the unjust system of taxation that is not based on ability to pay that has the power to deny some the liberty in their sacred and inherent rights to pursue their own happiness through the purchase and complete ownership of their home.  We understand that either we have a right to our own property or we become the property of others.  Through the property tax, we become the subservient player where the protected privilege of denying liberty to some, thus actually denying it to all whether directly or indirectly, knowingly or unknowingly, and giving agencies of government an authority over our homes in ways that were never intended by our founding or through the foundational doctrines of our Commonwealth and Country…for certainly the abuse of property taxation has become a perversion of the intent of those who were tasked with creating those profound documents.

The continual efforts of fixing this issue through relief schemes or through carving out more exemptions has continually demonstrated that these tactics aren’t working.  They not only aren’t working, they are making the situation more intolerable for more people.  And yet, we continually hear about their temporary fixes where they plot and conspire to do the same things in the name of property tax relief all while promising different results this time.  That’s insanity.

When the same tactics continue to prove themselves to be unworkable, you have to be willing to go in a different direction.  You must look for alternative solutions to this unreasonable tax burden that plagues, not only individuals, but the entire Commonwealth making us a less attractive place to establish roots, attract new business to the Commonwealth or to allow for existing business to expand.

To my way of thinking, any one defending the status quo of property taxation is also preserving the potential of pushing Pennsylvania further into that downward spiral that continues to hurt our economy.  It does so because of the immoral principles that supports the property tax itself.  Once you correct the injustice of the property tax, you set us on a course of better being able to fix those other issues as well.

 

 

 

If you are going to engage in the political realm, there are no safe spaces!

For the first time since the property tax elimination debate has taken root in Pennsylvania, we have a candidate for Governor who has been out on the campaign trail championing school property tax elimination.  It is a centerpiece of his pledge to Pennsylvania and everywhere he goes we hear the same promise.  If Scott Wagner is elected as Governor of Pennsylvania, he will eliminate our property taxes.

Recently, Scott has taken some heat because he responded to a socialist plant during a debate in a short and curt manner.  He called her young and naive.  This fueled a socialist led media fury that attempted to make far more out of this than it really was.

I always find the realm of political rhetoric interesting.  By this I mean the political rhetoric that goes beyond a candidate or a politician’s actual statements into a whole different realm.  The fact that the press has given this as much attention as it has, reveals much about our press.  A young woman was supposedly offended by a response to a planted political question intended to advance an agenda of socialism.

Those pushing the narrative are others who have been involved in organizing some of the more radical elements of the progressive socialist narrative.  The woman is allowing herself to be exploited to advance an agenda, a narrative, fueled by socialist extremists who want to tear down the fabric of our Constitution  and the rule of law here in Pennsylvania.

The young woman feigns being offended by the way she was treated and the press has a field day with it and the promoters of the socialist dismantling of America are pushing the narrative.

We live in a state where, each year, 10 thousand people face losing their homes because of a tax that has exceeded their ability to keep up.  If they can’t meet the tax demands, their home will be seized, sold at a public auction where there is an excellent chance that the home will be sold for far less than the actual worth of the property.  The property owners investment in that property can be lost.  Any equity they may have acquired while living in that home….gone.

The property tax works in a way that a layer of taxation is applied that adds to the cost of everything we purchase and every service we use.  The property tax becomes part of the operating expense for a business and in order to continue to provide the goods and services we need and use, they must pass the cost of the property tax on to the consumer.

For those already struggling to meet their tax obligation, insult is added to injury, because now the other things they need to survive; things like food, clothing, medications, legal services….it all costs more because of the cost of maintaining a property tax.  It’s called the Cascade Effect of taxation and I cover this in more detail elsewhere in this blog.

For the renters, they may complain about the increasing costs of their rent every time the landlord is forced, because of property taxation, to raise the rent.   When the rent exceeds the affordability of the tenant, they too are forced to find somewhere else to live.  As the property tax drives up the rent beyond these tenant’s ability to pay, the tenant must now incur the expense of moving and the disruption of their family’s life.

Now I’m saying all of this to make this simple point.  The press has a field day because they’ve spun a news story about a socialist plant at a Scott Wagner political event to decry that she was offended.  While nothing was physically taken from this woman in the process, each year many families are crushed by the burden of an unreasonable and unfair burden of property taxation.

They will be forced out of their homes and their rented properties while the property tax continues to make the cost of just living more expensive for more people.  And yet, where is the same outrage from the press?  Where is the outcry of these socialist social justice warriors when it comes to the process of this theft by taxation that is known as the property tax?

Shouldn’t we all be more offended by the actual physical seizing of personal and private property than we are offended by a mere statement made during a political campaign?

Back in 2015 Governor Wolf was on one his many support our schools, taxpayer funded tours.  The press was there making sure he got all the coverage he needed and they did their best to paint these tours in a positive light.  Even when the Governor said something that should have offended all of us, the press just dismissed it.  They did provide the quote but never contextualized it.  The Governor said, according to The Pocono Record, May 27, 2015:

“There is a need to understand the investment that is education.  There is a choice of supporting education, but it comes with the cost of taxes and the possibility of losing a home for some.”

Again, where was the outrage in the press and the public concerning a statement by a governor who accepts that losing a home is a part of education funding the way it is accomplished through property taxes

The home owners who loses their homes; the tenants who have to vacate their rented property; that is not a choice.  That is a forced action generated by a government that backs a system of taxation that disrupts the lives of families across the Commonwealth.  The choice referred to by the governor is a choice to continue to support property taxation by the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of government…not a choice by, for or of the people.  It is a choice government continues to make in spite of the cries from the public to do away with such a tax.

Even more offensive, at least to me, is the fact that the Governor admits knowing that people are losing their homes and in three years, since that statement, he’s done nothing….absolutely nothing…to support alternative education funding methods that would eliminate the unfair and regressive property tax.

Today, in this realm of political polarization, hardly a day passes where I’m not personally offended by the comments of somebody in the political spectrum;  From journalists more interested in promoting opinion rather than actual news to politicians who say things that really get under my skin.

That’s not news.  Yet when this woman claimed to be hurt by Scott Wagner’s response, that became news.  In the stories I’ve read, they didn’t even focus on the debate of the context of her question or to report the fact that there are noted scientists in the field who would refute her claims.  That was irrelevant.  The only relevance was that her feelings were hurt.

None of the stories reported her connection to extreme socialism or that she was a plant meant to disrupt the Wagner campaign event.  None of the stories connected her to radical movements like Antifa where fascist tactics are used while claiming to be anti-fascist.  There was one singular motive and that was to use this event and this person through the press and social media to paint this girl as a victim.

That’s crap.  She wasn’t a victim.  Her feelings, she says, were hurt…Welcome to the real world where feelings getting hurt are a real part of life.  Something that shouldn’t be a part of life is taxation by theft that steals our homes out from underneath us to support of broken and unsustainable system of taxation that, by its design, inflicts the most damage to those least able to sustain that damage.

The disregard for the plight of those most vulnerable to being exploited by this broken and regressive system of taxation should have us all outraged  But I have to ask, why don’t more of us feel that the theft by taxation that is the property tax is an  offensive front to humanity where the most vulnerable can be physically victimized by a system of taxation that steals their property?  Why do so many continue to defend the indefensible in the theft of one of the most fundamental necessities of life: a shelter that we can call our own?

Governor Wolf has had 4 years to do something about the property tax and he made a choice.  That choice was to do nothing.   That choice included accepting that the way we fund education requires the theft of the property of some of our citizens.  By doing nothing the Governor has demonstrated that the issue isn’t important enough to be on his radar.

Now, to be fair to the Governor, I did spend some time in meetings with him on the issue.  He admitted to the problem and even went so far as to declare that if SB76, a plan to eliminate the property tax by replacing it with a far more equitable system of education funding, made it to his desk, he would sign it into law.  Then his Lt. Governor cast the deciding vote that killed the bill in the Senate in 2015.

The bill was re-introduced but the Governor has remained silent on it.  He has not chosen to use his position as Governor and the strength of the bully pulpit that comes with that office to advance the narrative or to drum up support from among his colleagues.

And yet he was quick to jump on the hurt feelings of a socialist plant at a Republican political event.  He championed her hurt feelings and expressed his concern for her while saying nothing about the feelings of the thousands of families whose who have been exploited through taxation by having their home ripped out from underneath them to support of system of taxation he’s done nothing to change.

I don’t know about you but when I have to weigh on the importance of the issue of a woman who was supposedly hurt by a comment on the campaign trail, a comment from a person who knew she was going to ask a controversial question and, most likely get a controversial response.  I mean what did anyone really expect.

When you make salient points concerning property tax elimination or expose the prejudice of property taxation, they don’t debate the fact or the issue, they resort to the personal attack of pointing out that I have no “formal” education that granted me initials after my name.  It’s not that our facts our wrong, it’s that we somehow don’t have a right to defend the facts because we aren’t part of their “educational” hierarchy.  It’s almost as though they think that you can’t become informed through work and hard effort on your own unless you’ve been indoctrinated first to be a part of their elite club.  Pardon my frankness here but that’s bullshit!

I know, when you go into the controversial realm, like discussing eliminating property taxes, you are going to get criticized.  I’ve been called everything from a socialist to a neo-con.  It’s a part of the political realm.

When you engage you have to expect that you are going to be attacked, especially in this age of political polarization.  If she honestly didn’t expect that, then yes, she is young and naive.  I am highly suspect that she didn’t expect the results she got.  It’s hard to claim yourself as a victim when your entire purpose was to set yourself up for such a response.  When your goal is to raise a controversial question of a candidate who you know is not in alignment to your political view and they respond harshly, you are not a victim.  If you then exploit that narrative to paint yourself as the victim, you are, in reality, the exploiter and you are then the bully of the playground, not the victim.

If you are going to engage in the political realm, there are no safe spaces.  If you expect otherwise, you are not just naive, you are ridiculously naive.  That’s just not how politics work and it doesn’t matter if you like it or not…if you aren’t willing to face political realities head on then you can’t change the process.

When you take a position on an issue that finds others on the opposite side, you have to expect resistance.  You have to expect that your position is going to be opposed and that sometimes that opposition will be expressed in ways that you, personally, may not like.  Frankly, having watched the “entire” video, not just the extracted version, I don’t find anything overtly offensive in the response by Scott Wagner.

Scott has made it clear that there are issues where he doesn’t have all the immediate answers.

Wow, a politician that admits to his own humanity.  Certainly we haven’t reached a point in society where we actually think are governors are gods incapable of having the absolute correct answer to all the problems.

Scott has also made it clear the he will bring on advisers to help him in making the most informed decisions possible in the solution to problems that face our Commonwealth.  That’s assuming the correct position that a governor should be in.  They are, after all, human just like the rest of us and it is impossible for them to know everything.

There are also limitations related to his position as Governor of Pennsylvania and matters that are beyond his Constitutional limitation.  That was Scott’s reply to this woman.  He said it in short and curt terms.  He said “Look you’re electing a governor, not a scientist” but that demonstrates that Scott recognizes the limitation to his office and that he will remain within those Constitutional limitations, unlike our current governor who has used the courts to subvert our Constitution.

She may not like his response and, to my way of thinking, that’s okay.  Then again, I was raised during a generation where an expression reigned in teaching us to deal with hurt feelings.  You might remember it as well…

Sticks and Stones can break my bones but names will never harm me.

In other words….SUCK IT UP SUNSHINE…it’s part of the process.

When I weigh what happened with this young woman against the continual support of the theft through the taxation of property, I see no real comparison.  The press is worried about name calling but when it comes to the Sticks and Stones of theft by taxation and the victims of such an abuse, there are painfully silent.

When I’m out on the road and I meet with families and individuals who are in the process of having their homes stolen from them, I believe that those are news stories and yet when was the last time you picked up a newspaper and read a similar outcry as we’ve seen with this woman.

There is only one candidate in this race for Governor who actually understands the real victimization that comes with the property tax.  There is only one candidate in this race who worked to advance property tax elimination in the past four years and there is only one candidate who promises to eliminate the theft of property through taxation and that candidate is Scott Wagner.

It is a realm that, as Governor, Scott can and will Constitutionally lead, something that has been sorely missing in this debate.  It is a realm in which he is very informed.  He knows the problems and he understands the solution.

Our current Governor is also informed.  I know that from my conversations with him.  He recognizes the problems but he has made a choice not to lead on this issue.  He has made a choice to spend four years and do nothing to work towards elimination of the school property tax.

The difference between the two is stark.  Scott Recognizes our inherent right to property. Tom Wolf does not.  Tom Wolf thinks that funding education means that your property actually belongs to government and if you are not in step with their demands, that government has a right, not only to seize you of your property but to deny you just compensation in the seizing of the property in direct violation of one of most fundamental rights in this process of eminent domain.

The difference is as far apart as the Earth is from Pluto.  After all, either we have a right to our own property or we become the property of others.  The current governor has accepted that we are the property of government, not the other way around.  If he didn’t, he’d do something about!

 

 

 

How The Property Tax Negatively Impacts the Entire Economy of the State!

Watching the fiscal reports from the state, I’ve read how the revenue generated by the sales tax is not meeting the revenue expectations.  While it’s still generating more revenue than it did last year, it’s not growing the way they expected.  I then read about factors that lead into this but oddly enough, I never read anyone talking about the increased burden of property taxes and the negative impact this has on sales tax revenue.

To me, this is like ignoring the elephant in the room.  Certainly when you increase the tax burden of people in one area it’s going to have a negative impact in other areas.  Yet, when it comes to property taxes, it’s like the sacred cow that can’t be criticized when evaluating economic performance in a community or in the state.

Let’s go back to a chart released from the Independent Fiscal office.

image43

This chart shows revenue growth from the school property tax, Personal Income Tax and the SUT tax.

You will notice that the Personal Income Tax (PIT) and the Sales and Use tax (SUT) generated more revenue over time as did the Property Tax.  The difference that is not noted in this chart is that during this time period, neither the PIT nor the SUT, saw an increase in the tax.  In order to meet the revenue growth of the Property Tax, it literally required thousands of tax increases across the commonwealth.

You will also note that there are two dips in the PIT and SUT generated revenue.  Both were during an economic recession with the 2007-08 recession taking a much harder hit.  And yet, during this time we can see the property tax burden keeps increasing and this is what opponents to elimination refer to as the stability of the tax.  By that they mean, during bad economic times, school districts can continue to raise the tax burden to generate more revenue but we don’t stop to discuss how this negatively impacts the other revenue streams.  It stable for them but to reach this conclusion they ignore the instability this causes everywhere else.

When our tax burdens increase, our spending ability decreases.  We will naturally have less disposable income to purchase other items or use in service related industry.  As a result, a property tax increase will create a negative impact on the revenue generated from the sales tax.

That impacts revenue to be used for other essential services in the Commonwealth so while the Property tax creates a stability for the school district in raising taxes, it creates an instability for the entire state making it more difficult to come back off a recession.  It does so in ways to go beyond the realm of the SUT tax generated revenue.

You see, it’s not just this period during a recession where rising property taxes hurts the entire economy of the state, during normal times property tax increases, especially in those districts where the property tax increase exceeds the rates of inflation, the revenue generated from the sales tax and the personal income tax will become less stable and less predictable creating an instability in the economic future of the entire Commonwealth.

While we may understand this impact in our daily lives, we sometimes don’t think about how this impacts the business community.  After all, they are dealing with rising property taxes as well.  While larger corporations may find it easier to deal with these constant tax increases at the property tax level, small businesses continue to struggle.  With less items to spread the cost of an increased tax burden, the small business world finds it more difficult to compete with the Corporate business world.

Would it be wrong to suggest that this fuels Corporate opposition to the elimination of property taxation?  Why wouldn’t they want to preserve a punitive system of taxation that hurts or even eliminates their competition?

When it comes to property tax to fund education, more than 60% of the revenue is collected from home-owners.  Their property generates absolutely no income to provide for the property tax.  The remaining revenue comes from the business community and a very large percentage of that revenue is coming from the small business community.  It’s the pizza and coffee shops, family owned restaurants and diners, small business retailers, corner stores, book shops and the many other small business entities that make up our communities.  They obviously provide goods and services but they also provide jobs and revenue that supports our community and state.  The jobs they provide creates income and that income will generate PIT income and Sales Tax revenue to the state.

If you force a small business to struggle through property taxes, that will translate into less jobs which will negatively impact the PIT and SUT revenue that provides other services for the state.  The rest of the state will struggle while the property tax revenue remains stable in its increases.  To maintain that stability for the school district we are creating instability in so many other areas.

The stability argument sounds good on the surface but when you dig underneath the surface, the stability of the property tax for the school districts ignores the instability it causes for those who have to pay it; it ignores the instability it causes in the small business community; it ignores the instability it causes in generating revenue at the state level.  By ignoring the instability it causes at the state level, it also ignores the instability is causes for other services needed in the state.

When SUT and PIT increases don’t meet state budget expectations we have three choices: find new things to tax, raise existing taxes or look at cutting funding to other services.

Look, you do not need to be a rocket scientist to figure this out.  If the consumer has less money to spend, they will spend less.  That translates into less demands for goods and services which then results in less needs for the jobs that support those goods and services.

In order to attract more business to the State, we’ve created the Keystone Opportunity Zones (KOZ) and LERTAs (Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance) for the business community.  While these are often sold to the public as tax abatement or even tax forgiveness and assistance programs they are, in fact, tax shifts.  The burden of taxation is shifted to everyone else in order to attract new business to the community.  The reason for the need of the programs is to ease the property tax burden for establishing businesses in our community and they do work.  They do become incentives to businesses in where they locate.  But the reason for the need is the property tax itself and it puts a higher burden on the remaining taxpayers to meet that need.

But it goes beyond the for-profit business.  It also has a negative impact on charitable giving.  Many of the non-profits that provide valuable services to our community depend on the charitable giving of others.  When that charitable giving drops they have to turn to more of a reliance on government funding to meet their objectives.  That adds to the expense at the state government level.

One way to negatively impact charitable giving is to raise property taxes higher than the rate of inflation making it harder for many working families to make those charitable contributions.  While there’s still that stability for the school district tax collector, it creates an instability in charitable giving.

A 2017 story from Fortune website (http://fortune.com/2017/10/18/charitable-giving-america/) tells us that charitable giving has dropped over the past 10 years.  That’s not the result of the PIT or the SUT taxes, those taxes are still the same but property taxation has dramatically increased and that was, in part, the result of thousands on tax increases over the period on the above chart.

While it isn’t entirely the fault of increasing property taxation we do not reflect on how a property tax increase impacts us beyond the personal increase to our taxes.  We often fail to understand that higher property taxes will mean higher costs in goods and services.  Those businesses pay property taxes to and if they want to keep their doors open, they have to make up the difference.  The same holds true for rent.  As property taxes increase, rent must increase, not to keep up with the demands of consumer needs, but to keep up with the demands of forced taxation.  Everything you purchase will be affected by the property tax; every service you use will be affected by the property tax.

We can see the instability the rising property taxes creates for working families in the number of homes that fall delinquent in their property taxes.  In some cases this eventually will result in a tax seizure of their homes where an average of 10,000 individuals will lose their homes as a result of an inability to keep up with the demands of the property tax.

The rising property tax plays a role in foreclosure and bankruptcy.  The rising property tax plays a role in blight which generates higher cost for government.  The rising property taxes plays a role in contributing to abandoned properties which creates more cost for government.  The rising property ta plays a role in contributing to a more transient population which adds to the cost of education.

The property tax itself must be maintained by an expensive and continual reassessment of property which adds yet another level of cost to government.  Without it, the expensive cost of the reassessment would be totally unnecessary.

The instability the tax creates in other areas is not so easy to see, especially since most fiscal studies looking to understand why revenue expectations weren’t met rarely, if ever, look at the growing tax burden of property taxation.

We won’t know what this years property tax increases across the commonwealth will amount to until later in this year but as I’ve followed this across the state, it appears like more districts are pushing the limits of property taxation.  Every school district in my county is raising taxes this year and I’ve read of other counties where the same is true.

The total impact this will have on the economy of the state remains to be seen, but there is no escaping the inevitable.  The stability of the property tax and the ease with which those taxes increase creates an instability in the economy for homeowners, the business community and the entire state.

That instability creates an unsustainable future for many individuals while adding to the cost of government.  There has to be a better way to fund education and it’s time we all start seriously considering the need to eliminate the property tax and replace it with a more sustainable revenue source if we want to see an prosperous economic future for everyone in the Commonwealth!

 

 

 

Is Scott Wagner serious about School Property Tax Elimination?

As a long time advocate for the elimination of the school property tax, seeing Scott Wagner on the campaign trail as he talks about this issue is a refreshing change in the race for Governor.

At the same time I find it very frustrating when supporters of this legislation take every opportunity to nitpick and complain that Scott might be just another politician blowing smoke to get elected.

Over the last four years I’ve spent some time in Harrisburg and I’ve gotten to see a side of Scott Wagner that is not a part of the general narrative about him.  His opponents seek to paint him as a one dimensional tyrant who forces his will on everyone like a bully on the playground.  That is, quite frankly, not Scott Wagner.  Sure, He’s a bit gruff and he speaks his mind in terms that don’t always sound like a typical politician  but he is also a person who actually genuinely cares about people and I’ve seen that first hand as well as heard it in his voice.

Here’s a cold hard fact!  As a Businessman, Scott will NOT benefit from eliminating school property taxes.  He’ll wind up paying more through the PIT than he currently pays in property taxes.  In my conversions with Scott he has shown me how this will impact his business.  While that’s important, that’s not what matters to him the most.  What matters is that Scott understands that the school property tax, as it is, is fundamentally flawed and is crushing thousands of people every year and he’s willing to take a stand and fight for them because they matter to him.

Scott knows that eliminating the school property tax will be a benefit to the state and in the long-term, that’s good for Pennsylvania and ultimately, good for businessmen like Scott.  Scott is willing to take a stand for a principle instead of sacrificing those principles for his own self-interest.

His passion for school property tax elimination is very genuine and its rooted in principled fiscal reforms that work.  I’ve sat through meetings in Harrisburg where Scott was present and that passion has been there since he was elected as Senator during a contentious write in campaign.  I was there when this was coming up for a vote in 2015 and I saw, first hand, the effort Scott put in to making this happen against incredible pressure from lobbying self-serving special interests who buy politicians through campaign funding mechanisms like most of us buy coffee.

A few months ago I was honored to be a part of group who interviewed candidates before the primary.  This group, the Tri-County Coalition, consisted of leaders from the grassroots efforts from Lehigh, Berks, Schuylkill and Lebanon.  As part of those interviews we spent 90 minutes with Scott Wagner.  A good deal of that meeting was involved in a discussion related to School Property Taxes and their elimination. Part of the honor was in watching as others heard and saw what I’ve known all along.  Scott is our best chance of seeing this become a leading issue from the desk of the Governor.  Scott won’t be waiting for a bill to sign into law, he’ll be using his office to help make that law happen and it’s about time!

Scott understands the issue and he understands the solution.  He supports it.  End of story.

I find it incredibly ironic when supporters of HB/SB76 raise all these negative sentiments, particularly the sentiment that Scott isn’t polished or that he doesn’t act like a normal politician.  Aren’t we all tired of that?

What would you rather have, a polished politician who has their rehearsed lines to tell you what you want to hear or a person who cares enough to look you in the face and say in plain and simple terms things we all need to hear?  No, he’s not polished and I find that to be a refreshing change from the status quo.

I’ve participated in about two dozen legislative meetings over the past four years that Scott was a part of.  He has never wavered in his support of this legislation even when some of his colleagues started to jump ship after the 2015 vote.  He’s now taken this issue on the campaign trail and the same people who constantly complain that “nobody” knows about the bill are now complaining as Scott is telling everyone he meets about School Property Tax Elimination.  I don’t get it!  I really don’t get what the point is!

Scott is doing what NO OTHER candidate for Governor has done in the entire history of more that 35 years in the fight to eliminate this egregious tax.  He has made it a centerpiece of his election and he’s out on the road talking to people.  He’s making commercials and he’s pushing the effort.  He’s not only doing what NO OTHER candidate for Governor has done in the past, Scott is doing something that damned few of our legislators, the ones necessary to get this bill to the Governor’s desk, aren’t doing…He’s talking about it.

Yes, I’ve been thankful that people like Senators Folmer and Argall have talked about this publicly.  I’m thankful for my house Rep. Frank Ryan, who also made this bill a centerpiece of his election efforts and has done much in advancing this issue in the house.  Their work and effort can not be overlooked but having a candidate for Governor to take the lead on this issue should be a sign of hope, not the continually doubt and despair I see from some supporters.

They say, “We’ve heard all this before.”  Yes, but you haven’t heard it like this and you certainly haven’t heard anything close to this from a candidate for the Governor’s office.

We have to understand that we have a leadership issue in Harrisburg and it’s a disease that impacts both chambers.  We have leadership whose only real vision for Pennsylvania seems to be to appease the powerful campaign funding lobbying interests who are more than willing to sacrifice principles on the altar of self interest.  That leadership wields that power over legislators to punish those who won’t walk in step.  No need to point party fingers here-both are guilty.

That’s not going to change until leadership in the parties changes and that’s where the office of Governor comes in.  As Governor, Scott Wagner will fight for School Property Tax Independence.  He will put the pressure on leadership to do what is necessary to make that happen and then we will see the movement and momentum we need to see.  He will challenge the naysayers and stand up for the people of the Commonwealth because he really does care about them, all of them, not just the public sector union bosses who funnel taxpayer supported funding into campaigns that work against the best interest of their own members and the rest of the state.

We are on an unsustainable path and the current governor’s solution is to take us further down that path.  This fiscal insanity has to stop before it collapses under its own weight and nowhere is that more evident than it is with the property tax.  Waiting for the collapse is not a solution, its a recipe for disaster.

The current governor has had almost four years to use his position as Governor to advance this issue of School Property Tax Elimination to reform how we fund education.  I was part of a series of meetings with the Governor and he told me that if the bill came to his desk he would sign it.  That was more than two years ago and what has he done since then.  NOTHING!

But now, here is Scott Wagner who has actually been fighting for this issue since he became a Senator and has now brought it to the forefront of an election forcing an issue to be discussed that many don’t want talk about and he’s moving us forward. Yet supporters come out of the woodwork to make silly statements of doubt and distraction.

The same opposition that is fighting against us and against this legislation will be fighting against Scott Wagner.  They already know what some of our supporters don’t seem to get.  Scott Wagner will do everything in his power, once elected, to make this happen.  They will be raising tons of money to spread misinformation about this legislation as they already have in the past.  Stop making their job easier!

We spend far too much time making this fight harder than it has to be.  Lord knows, with all our opposition it’s been an incredible struggle, but to see this among our own rank and file is counter-productive.

During the primary, I made an attempt at explaining the difference between the political rhetoric of another candidate and Scott Wagner’s actual support of School Property Tax Elimination.  What I said then still stands!  Electing Scott Wagner as our Governor is a tremendous step forward in seeing school property taxes eliminated.  It will make our job of pressuring legislators easier because we’ll have a Governor who will be doing the same.  Isn’t that what we all want?  Isn’t getting this bill passed what we are here for!

Please don’t misconstrue anything written here to be self-serving by promoting my role in pushing this legislation forward.  It’s not about me.  I’m just trying to share information and perspectives on this issue from what I’ve seen as an advocate.  I know that we wouldn’t be here without the hard work of many in this process, without the efforts of people from both sides of the aisle from all walks of life and I’m eternally grateful for everything that’s been done.   It will be working together that will get this across the finish line and maintaining a proactive and positive voice about the importance of the issue in support of those fighting so hard to make it happen.

No one person will make this happen.  It takes all of us and to everyone who has stepped up, I say thank you!

While no one person will make this happen, the end goal is elimination and Scott Wagner makes that far more possible.  So let’s stop the nit-picking and work to get him elected as we continue to push for a legislative body that finally hears the voice of the people of this Commonwealth to put an end to the most hated tax in the state.

 

 

 

A Different Perspective on Assault Weapons

Today we hear so much about attempts to ban assault weapons.  The language is generally used, in my opinion, to promote a delusional aspect concerning firearms.

Understanding language is important so let’s look at the language.  Let’s apply a bit of common sense to the subject.

An assault weapon should be ANY weapon used as a tool in assault against another individual or group of people.  This is different from being a defensive weapon. It’s all about intent, and since the object itself is incapable of intent, the intent is in the user not the object being used.

A law-abiding citizen who purchases a firearm for the purpose of defending themselves, their family and their property has purchased a defensive weapon not intended to assault anyone but rather to defend themselves from those who would choose to assault them, their family or their property.

As an advocate for Property Rights, the Constitutional Protections of such Rights need to be preserved.  People general refer to the Second Amendment at the Federal level or to Article 1, Section 21 of of Pennsylvania Constitution but there is another equally important perspective found in our Pennsylvania Constitution also found in Article I which is identified as the Inherent Rights of the citizens of this state.

Here in Pennsylvania our Constitution states in Article 1, Section 1 that “All men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent and indefeasible rights, among which are those of enjoying and DEFENDING life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing and PROTECTING property and reputation, and of pursuing their own happiness. ”  (Caps, boldface and italics added for emphasis!)

The push to ban assault weapons is actually a push to ban defensive weapons.  It is a push to disarm law-abiding citizens from defending themselves from those who choose to use a weapon to assault another individual. It is then, a violation of our Constitutional Rights.  Let me explain my position!

An individual with criminal intent, displayed by breaking into your home, is in the process of committing an assault against your personal liberty.  The mere fact that they have chosen to trespass on your property demonstrates a willingness on their part to disregard any respect for your personal property or well-being.  Any weapon the criminal trespasser would use would then become an assault weapon.

On the other hand, the owner of the property, in using a weapon to defend themselves, their family and their property would be using a defensive weapon.  The term “Assault” would not apply to the person forced to defend themselves against the aggressive actions of the violator.

By allowing the narrative to be changed, those who use a weapon in their own defense can be criminalized through language simply by changing the wording and therefore shifting the paradigm.

Today, the AR-15 is commonly referred to as an assault weapon.  However, by itself the AR-15 cannot be considered anything other than a firearm.  The defining use of the weapon is determined by the person using the weapon, not the weapon itself.  Calling it an “Assault Weapon” implies that it’s use is specifically for the purpose of criminally committing an assault.  It implies intent.

An AR-15 that is purchased with no intent to do others harm is not an assault weapon since the purchaser has no intent of assault.  It will not become an assault weapon until someone takes that weapon with the full intent to break the law by using it in an assault against another person or group of people.  When that person decides to do so, that person is already willfully violating the law.

While I firmly believe that shootings like the Parkland shooting are serious and tragic events, it is always the intent of the perpetrator that will turn a firearm into a  weapon used for willful assault, not some convoluted and twisted logic or label.

The use of a firearm, like all actions, comes down to intent.  It is intent that defines, not the weapon itself, but the person who uses the weapon.    The object can not be determined an assault weapon because the weapon, by itself, is incapable of assault.

Intent is important.  The object being used is incapable of intent.  Obviously, when an individual chooses to violate the rights of another there is intent.  A person doesn’t break into a home without criminal intent.  They know before they set foot on that property that they are willfully violating the personal liberty of another.

Intent is so important to our legal system that intent must be proven in a court of law.

This is why the lawsuit from the parents targeting gun-manufacturers bothers me.  It assumes a position of willful intent on the part of the gun manufacturer to commit crimes of violence regardless of a gun-manufactures continual attempts to be in full compliance with the law.  However, it doesn’t shock me since the rhetoric of Assault Weapon does the same thing;  it implies the intent of the gun owner.

The word “Assault” requires an action, that action is dependent upon an individual, not on an object.  It also requires proof of intent.  There must be an action by an individual that demonstrates some level of willful intent to inflict bodily harm as an agressor.

Common Law defines assault as “an intentional act by one person that creates an apprehension in another of an imminent harmful or offensive contact.”  A firearm is incapable of such action.  It is only in the action of the individual that the word assault has any real meaning.

I don’t want anyone to think that I believe that gun violence is not a serious problem.  In searching for responsible solutions, we need to make responsible decisions, not irrational emotional responses that result in portraying law-abiding citizens as having criminal intent simply through the labeling of an object.  This is exactly what the term “Assault Weapon” does.  It implies intent by the gun owner and the gun manufacturer that defies logical reasoning and simple common sense.

The use of a firearm to commit any crime, any violent act of aggression, should be a serious offence.  It should never be taken lightly but to portray law-abiding citizens as having the willful intent to assault when their purpose is for defense is equally egregious in my opinion.

Let’s make sure we always correctly portray the real criminal.  It is never the weapon that is used but the individual who has decided to use any weapon to willfully do harm to others.  Even then, the object is not the problem, but the individual who uses the object with such intent.

What Do I Have Against Educators?

One of the questions I’ve been asked many times since becoming an activist supporter of School Property Tax Elimination is “What do you have against educators?”  The question usually comes from an educator.

I find the question annoying because it is based on an ill-informed opinion that, because I do not support using a person’s home, which generates no income to pay for the property tax bill, that means that, somehow, I do not support educators.

Let me start by stating that I chair a local grassroots organization and we use an education model to do much of what we do.  In fact, the majority of the work done by many of the grassroots efforts around the state to advance School Property Tax Elimination has been to work in the role of educator.  Countless hours of research, data analysis and other tools have been used in the development of the presentations used in town halls.  In other words, on this issue, we work as educators. Just because we aren’t doing so in the environment of the public school classroom doesn’t negate our role as educators.

My activism at the grassroots level has brought me into contact with a lot of people who work within this system and I find that much of what is done is about using educational models to teach about issues that are relevant to many of us.  In attending other grassroots organization’s meetings, again, the model from the front of the room is about educating.  There are teachers and there are students in these environments.  Students who are free and open to challenge the position of the teachers.

You see, I have nothing against educators.  I think educating is a valuable and necessary part of life.  At 62 years of age, I still make attempts at educating myself.  As a history geek, especially with regards to the events leading up to the American Revolution, I have a home library where I continue to study in an attempt to further educate myself.   In spite of the thousands of hours of study on the topic of the ideology that led to the American Revolution, I would never be so arrogant to assume that I have all the answers or to demand, in any discussion on this topic, that mine is the only acceptable view.

You see, the question I’m asked is really a question of what I have against educators in the public school system.

The short answer is, in general, nothing.

I am partially a product of a public educational system.  I had some excellent teachers, some mediocre teachers and a few that, quite frankly, in my most humble opinion, should not have been in a classroom teaching students.  That’s not an indictment of the entire teaching profession, that’s a reality of all professions.

Every profession has a similar employee landscape.  I’ve taken my education in the public school classroom and accepted the responsibility that my educational process did not end with my graduation.  In other words, education is not limited to the public school classroom.  The occupation of educator is not limited to those identified as public school educators.  Just because someone is not paid to educate, does not mean they aren’t an educator.  By the same token, just because someone is paid to do so, does not necessarily mean they are actually good at what they are doing.

My real problem, and the problem that HB/SB76 specifically addresses is education funding.  It is not a problem with teachers; it is with how we fund education.  The supposition that because I want to change how we fund education automatically translates into a prejudicial view of all teachers in the public educational system is a ridiculous assumption.

In the past, I have taken issue with those in the hierarchy of the public school educational system.  The PSEA, the Pennsylvania State Educational Association, has put a lot of resources in fighting back against us and in doing so have used the tools, not of educators, but of those who indoctrinate by using misinformation and misdirection.

The PSEA is the state’s largest teacher’s union.  Utilizing tax-payer funded collection of union dues, public sector unions have amassed a huge financial ability to influence political policy.  The Commonwealth Foundation tells us that unions have spent $72,670,498 since 2010 to influence politics.

Their report goes on to explain “During the 2016 election cycle, government unions spent a total of $19 million—from dues and PAC money—on politics. Of that total, $3.7 million went directly to candidates. PSEA alone made $1.5 million in contributions, double the spending of the next largest PAC contributor, SEIU State Council.”  (https://www.commonwealthfoundation.org/policyblog/detail/policy-memo-government-union-political-spending-trends)

Using tax-payer funded resources to advance a political agenda is one thing; using those resources to provide misinformation and misdirection, is something very different.  As I said, that’s not about education, that’s about indoctrination.  I have a real problem with that.

The same criticism holds true when it comes to virtually all of the many organizations that supposedly “represent” the public educational system.  Here’s just a few of the other institutions:

  • PSBA: The Pennsylvania School Boards Association
  • PASA: The Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators
  • PASBO: The Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials
  • The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center (Not officially a public education group but many of their board members are from the state public sector unions)
  • The Keystone Research Center (Sister Organization of The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center)
  • The Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce (Again, not officially a representative of the Public Educational system but a look into the boards of local Chamber groups and you’ll find strong representation from the School Boards Association and School Administrators)

Each of these above organizations have taken official positions against School Property Tax Elimination through HB/SB 76 and have used tools of misinformation and misdirection to fight against it.    There have been cases where school districts have used tax-payer resources to send home flyers containing some of this misinformation to try to convince parents of students to oppose school property tax elimination.

When, as activists, we point out the misinformation coming out of these organizations and we refute the claims using the actual legislation itself, we get hit with the question about our disdain for educators.  We are accused of attacking teachers.  This is simply untrue.

In order to sustain the traditional revenue growth that we have seen through property taxation, it requires constant increases in the property tax.  The property tax, unlike the Personal Income Tax (PIT) and Sales Tax (SUT), has a revenue stream that does not grow naturally.

Had HB/SB 76 been passed in 2015, the last time it came up for a vote, the natural growth of the replacement PIT and SUT taxes would have generated an additional $750 million dollars to be used for education and it would have done so without the need of a single tax increase after the implementation of HB/SB76.

The current path we are on is an unsustainable path.  It is a path that will eventually fall down upon itself crushed by the public’s inability of keep up with the demands.  We already know that at least 10,000 people lose their homes through government seizure of property each year.  That just accounts for seizure of property for the inability to keep up with the demands of property taxation.  It does not account for the foreclosures and bankruptcy claims associated to the inability to keep up with the property tax.

The property tax issue contributes to the population exodus from Pennsylvania, the problems of blight, the massive inequities we see in education funding and the inability to attract more business to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  It hurts small business development and growth.

It contributes to teacher’s layoffs and has drawn attention to an unsustainable pension debt problem that, if not handled soon (some believe its already too late), will drastically impact the future of teacher’s retirement.

That’s because, in all this talk about the stability for the tax collector’s when it comes to property taxation; the problems of the instability it is causing for home owners and the business community; the problems it causes in the instability of the future of all Pennsylvania economics is ignored.

By shifting to a different funding mechanism to fund education we can stabilize the other issues by creating a predictable revenue stream through the PIT and SUT specifically designated for education funding that will allow us to responsibly address the other issues in ways that will help to protect future teachers and their retirements in ways that are more responsible and accountable.  It’s not about hurting teachers, it’s about helping them by looking at the future.

We can stay on the path we are on, which, by all accounts, is unsustainable, or we can shift to a different system and make the future of teachers in Pennsylvania more secure.

In a recent conversation with a public school teacher, we talked about the inequity problem and the teacher said “How do you provide adequate funding to rural schools who care more abut the education of the children?”

I found the question rather dumbfounding because, again, it is based on an assumption that is not rooted in reality.

Parents in low income 3rd class cities care about the education of their children.  They simply don’t have the economic resources of their neighboring school districts.  As an example.  I live in Lebanon County and the median household income of the City School District is more than $20,000 less than the median household income in the neighboring school districts.  To assume that, because these people in the city have less income so they care less about education than their neighboring school districts is to isolate education funding from the other problems that exist within a community.

It’s wearing blinders to discuss a problem and when you do so, you can not reach solutions that work.

As I look at what is happening with home-ownership and with the business environment in the state, I could reach similar conclusions and make half-hearted claims based on unfounded assumptions.  I could ask the same teachers who hit me with the “what do I have against educators” question with the same rhetoric.   “What do you have against home ownership”; I could ask “What do you have against small business growth and opportunity?”

Such conversations, however, are futile.  I think that many teachers do care and I wouldn’t want to lump them all together as some teachers have done in their criticism of us.  There are also many within the above named organizations who disagree with the official positions of their organizations.

That doesn’t mean that myself, or others within our efforts to put an end to school property taxes, don’t get frustrated with those organizations who take official positions of opposition.  Sometimes we get angry and I believe that the anger is justifiable.

Unlike the detached position of Michael Wood of the Pennsylvania Public Policy and Research Center who said, in an official testimony before the General Assembly, that 10,000 people losing their homes to property taxation is not a significant enough number to do something,  I’ve been out there in my travels across the state to offer education on this issue.  I’ve met those people.  I’ve seen the devastation and instability to the lives of the people who have been crushed by this tax.

It is true that it’s a lot of seniors but it’s young families as well.  I’ve listened to their stories and I’ve shared in their heartaches.  In those travels I’ve gone through communities plagued with the issue of blight; where homeowners must choose between maintaining their property or maintaining their property tax.

I’ve spent time talking to small business owners, some of whom have closed their doors.  Recently, I talked to a local owner of an Italian Ice store and another who sells Ice Cream from their local business locations.  We talked about how many items they have to sell just to pay their property taxes which prevents them from expanding and providing more jobs in our communities.

I only say all of this to make a point.  I do care about the future of education in Pennsylvania.  I also care about home owners and local business establishments.  I care about the future economic condition of the Commonwealth.

What I want is a solution to the problems that works for all of us, not just systems where some benefit at the expense of others.

I think we can change how we fund education in ways that secures the future for educators and education in Pennsylvania without putting homeowners and the small business community at risk.

HB/SB 76 is a responsible solution that will help to pave the way for other solutions.  In those solutions,  we have to look at the big picture, not through some narrow window of any one particular group of people.  It must be systems that are fair and equitable for all because anything else is inequitable.  It is unfair.