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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Property Tax Exclusion is NOT Property Tax Elimination

It’s important that we all understand something.  A Property Tax Exclusion, regardless of how it is sold, is not Property Tax Elimination.

When discussion began on homestead exclusions as a path to raise property taxes.  Some of us very close to the issue challenged the basis of these bills in relation to the Constitutional Amendment.  We explained that the amendment did not allow for elimination.  It left the final decision up to school districts.  We were told we were wrong.

In the process, we allowed this discussion to continue to see how this would develop because we aren’t absolutely unreasonable but deep down inside we had this feeling that the Homestead plans would not be able to deliver on the promised claims.  It now turns out, after reviewing some of these proposals that we are right.

Initially the talk was centered around complete elimination for homestead/farmstead properties.  It was said that it would be complete elimination for all homestead.farmstead properties without exception.   As we feared, this is simply not the case.  It’s not elimination, it’s an exclusion and there is a difference.

Think of the gambling exclusion.  This is money generated by the gambling industry in the Commonwealth that was sold to us as a path to complete elimination.  We all know how that worked out.  That reduction in property taxes quickly was outpaced by increasing property taxes.  Yes, we still get the gambling exclusion but many of us have seen property taxes that increased by far more than the gambling exclusion gave to us.

This was just another failed band-aid approach to the property tax problem.

 

Homestead only bills are being introduced and some of them are being sold as elimination bills but this is simply not the case.  They offer an exclusion of property taxes for homestead properties but it still comes down to whether or not the school district accepts the exclusion.

What happens when we raise the state Personal Income Tax (PIT) on everyone to fund this but school districts decide not to exclude?  Residents in those school districts will be forced to pay a higher PIT and still have to pay the full local property tax in their school district.   There’s no way around that.  A state-wide PIT increase would affect everyone but not everyone would see their school property taxes excluded.

As many as 1/3 of our school districts apply for exemption of the Act 1 limits which are routinely rubber stamped by the Department of Education.  In many cases these are school districts in our 3rd class cities where median household income is often much lower.  Those school districts would likely reject the homestead exclusion meaning that residents in lower income districts would be the ones still paying the PIT increase and the full Property Taxes.

I seriously doubt that any school district which regularly applies to exceed the Act 1 limits will accept the exclusion plan.

Another point we made about the exclusion path is that school districts, even those who initially accept the exclusion, would still be levying a property tax on homestead property.  This could mean that while a school district would initially grant a 100% exclusion, as property taxes kept rising the exclusion of the newer implemented property taxes would not be a part of the exclusion.  Those people would then be paying a higher PIT as they watch their school property taxes continue to increase while residents in other school districts would also be paying the higher PIT and see no exclusion of their property taxes.

The reason for this is simple.  These plans are exclusion plans, not state-wide elimination plans.  It becomes a tax shift and a tax increase for anyone living in a school district where 100% exclusion is not accepted and could become a tax increase for some school districts that do because some of those school districts could still provide an exclusion but in years to come, it would not cover 100% of the property tax in that district.

The Property Tax structure in Pennsylvania is already regressive and unfair.  Despite expensive reassessments that are supposed to make the Property Tax uniform, the assessments continually fail to achieve that intended uniformity.

A homestead plan that offers exclusion where school districts decide would only serve to make the new system of education funding all the more regressive and far less uniform than the current system.  In looking for a quick fix, the so-called proposed cure becomes worse than the disease.

SB76 is still the best option to deal with the problems of using our homes to fund education.

We are all aware that inequity in education funding is a serious problem in the Commonwealth.  As long as the property tax exists we will never be able to address the inequity problem because it’s a constantly moving target.  The landscape of property taxation changes from school district to school district every year so no equitable funding formula can remain stable.  It will have to be adjusted every year as they deal with property tax changes in 500 different school districts across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Once school property taxes are eliminated a funding formula for equity can be developed that will be stable and predictable allowing us to deal with the inequity problem.  Until then nothing will change because the property tax still exists making it virtually impossible for ANY equitable funding formula to successfully achieve that aim.

Throughout this debate, one thing becomes very clear, we understand this issue far better than some of our legislators.  As we have reviewed the issue and studied everything from the amendment to the more recent proposals of Homestead exclusions, we continue to look at the big picture and not some quick fix that promises to deliver something that, by the very nature of the limitations of what they are doing, will fail.

It’s becoming very apparent that the Homestead Plans aren’t viable options to anyone seriously studying this issue.  No more band-aid approaches to property tax.  The only real solution is complete elimination of all property taxes on all property.

 

 

Can Dan Meuser eliminate property taxes at the Federal level?

There’s a radio ad airing where Dan Meuser says that he will introduce a proposal that will eliminate our property taxes at the Federal level.  On his campaign website he says the following:

“Under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution no state tax can contradict those enumerated in the United States Constitution. Should I win election to the United States Congress, I will introduce legislation that will require the states to comply with the Constitution and stop the unfair practice of taxing hardworking families out of their home.”

This concerns me because the Supremacy clause is often used to violate state rights.  The Supremacy Clause is only supposed to deal with powers enumerated to Congress  in our Constitution…not as an excuse to do what they will whenever they want.  What are those powers….interstate commerce, foreign affairs and commerce, matters of the military and war.

Meuser is only partially correct.  States cannot contradict Federal policy when Federal Policy coincides with the enumerated powers delegated to Congress by the states.  The problem with this proposal is that there is no power granted to Congress that would allow them to interfere with the internal taxation of the state that exists within that states border.  There is no enumerated power in the Constitution delegated to Congress to do what Meuser says he wants to do.

Granted, if there were a Federal Property Tax, Dan Meuser would be able to use the enumerated powers of Congress to eliminate such a tax because such a tax is outside the enumerated powers of Congress.  That’s not the case here.

It doesn’t matter how much we may hate the property.  This is not a Federal Issue.  It may even be that the Property Tax in Pennsylvania violates our State Constitution.  I think there are solid arguments to be made that the property tax violates parts of Article 1, Sections 1,2, 8, 9 and 10.  That, however is a state matter.

Perhaps Dan Meuser is operating on a false assumption that the property tax means the same thing from state to state.  That’s simply not true.  Property Taxes a levied through different means in different states as well.  It applies to different types of property in some states.  In no case whatsoever does the property tax in one state force the same principles of property taxation in any other state so it isn’t even remotely connected to principles of interstate commerce.

Alexander Hamilton says in Federalist 78: “There is no position which depends on clearer principles, than that every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid.”

Again, Hamilton speak of delegated authority.  Congress can only act within the framework of the powers delegated to them by the people through their states.

Madison says in Federalist 45 that the “powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined and those powers are to be principally exercised upon foreign affairs, such as war, peace, negotiations, and foreign commerce.

Again, Madison speaks only of delegated authority.

Jefferson wrote in the Kentucky Resolves of 1798. “Whenever the general government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritive, void and of no force.”

Let’s be clear, Any law made by Congress that is not made in pursuance to the Constitution, that is not withing the authority delegated to them by the people through the states, is no law at all.

That is why we have the 9th and 10th Amendments to our Constitution in our Bill of Rights.

The Supremacy Clause is NOT a limit of State authority, it is NOT a statement of absolute supremacy of the federal government in any matter they choose over the power of the States.

The Supremacy Clause tells those in the federal government that their power is limited by the Constitution through the delegated authority of the enumerated powers of Congress as ratified by the people through the States.  The States do not have to submit to any imposed or pretended authority of the federal government that is not made consistent with the powers delegated by the Constitution, which the States themselves created.

SB1137 – Exclusion is NOT Elimination!

A new bill dealing with property tax elimination was introduced on April 23.  It’s SB1137.  The bill is being touted as an elimination bill but it’s not really elimination and I’ll explain why.

To begin with the bill is not an elimination bill. It actually admits this on page one of the bill which states the bill is to be known as “the School Property Tax Exclusion Act.

On page 3 the bill offered definitions where it describes a homestead as “A dwelling, which is owned and not rented, and so much of the land surrounding it as is reasonably necessary for the use of the dwelling as a home, occupied by an applicant.

My immediate response is who gets to determine how much of the land on my property is necessary as a dwelling place. My wife and I no longer have any children living in our home. We live in a medium sized home within the city limits. We have street parking available to us. Do we really NEED our backyard to our city home? Do we really NEED that driveway? I guess that all depends on who you are talking to.

If you are talking to the people who want to use my home to fund their wants, then no, our small backyard and our driveway isn’t necessary.

On page four I learn that this tax is based on a privilege because I am employed. It says “Every resident individual, estate or trust shall be subject to, and shall pay for the privilege of receiving each of the classes of income enumerated in section 303 of the Tax Reform Code of 1971, a tax upon each dollar of income received by that resident during that resident’s taxable year at the rate of 1.98%

In other words I don’t actually earn my income…to the tax collector, I don’t get paid because I work, I receive it as a privilege for doing my job and because of that privilege they have a right to extort 5.05% of my income. If they look at us like this, is it any wonder why taxes in this state are such a mess.

Language like this would be laughable if it weren’t so insulting.  It’s not really just this bill.  The problem is that our tax code is established in such a way that this is how we are viewed.  We are the cash cow to be milked to provide for the governments growing desire to do political favors to certain groups of people at the expense of everyone else.  There is always some government “need”.  There is always some “crisis”.   This bill just exposes the way we are viewed by the people who want to tax  us as they continue in these efforts to reduce us to the realms of serfdom.

The additional 1.98% in PIT is not really elimination regardless of the rhetoric used to describe it.  For many of us, we will be paying the additional tax and still paying the property tax.  It’s an exclusion based on a determination of how much of your owner occupied property is actually eligible to be excluded and that’s going to be determined by some undefined powerful all-knowing beings who obtain that omniscience by some act of benevolent bestowance by the General Assembly. You know, just like those hired to do assessments on our properties for the property tax. Regardless of how many mistakes have been made, we were constantly told that their determinations for the purpose of taxation are accurate. Why?  Certainly not based on the evidence.  It true simply because they say so.

 

I’ve become so jaded and cynical that I constantly question why I stay in this fight.  We simply don’t have enough legislators willing to do the right thing because its the right thing to do.  We also have developed a system where the common working family gets raked across the coals by bad tax policy that views us as nothing more than collateral damage in a system that doesn’t really seem to care. That ideology is advanced and reinforced by the campaign funding lobbyist special interests. 

As I read through this bill I also came across this:

page 12…Each owner of real property seeking to have property approved as homestead property shall file an application with the assessor on a form developed by the department. Determinations with respect to the qualification of all or a part of a parcel of real property as homestead property shall be made by the assessor.

Page 13 says Applications shall be filed with the assessor not later than March 1 of each year

We have to file an application to get this exclusion. We have to file it annually. Failure to do so and you’ll have to pay the property tax because last years exclusion doesn’t count for this year. How much is that going to cost us for the additional paperwork and the filing of those papers? Will this require more government employees to process that work? More questions and few answers!

Then there is this:

The assessor may select, randomly or otherwise, applications filed under subsection (a) to review for false or fraudulent information

This is backwards. An assessor can do this randomly without suspicion to look for anything they would interpret as being fraudulent. There are just too many things in this bill that raise some very serious concerns to be able to support it. The above clause makes it so that I can no only not give it my support but is reason enough to fight against it. 

The good part of SB1137 is that by reading it you can discover so much that is wrong with how working families are treated in this Commonwealth.

I am reminded of Thomas Jefferson’s grievances against King George in our Declaration of Independence.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

Frankly, that is what I see with this legislation.  This becomes one more attempt to look at a very serious problem and make the problem worse, not better.  A way to expand the powers of government and take more of the protections to our Life, Liberty and Property away from us.  And yet, so many seem not to care.  

There will be those who hear elimination and will want to support this but be warned: The devil is always in the details and the details here contain grave potential.

The small business community will suffer because of this bill. It will give advantages to the corporate chains by punishing small business in the Commonwealth.  Where SB76 provided property tax elimination of those properties this does not. Many small business are already struggling with meeting property tax obligations. By going to a PIT only option, that will only increase that struggle.  

Renters will be hit very hard by this legislation. Under SB76 the property of a landlord would have been exempt but not under this legislation. That means that the property tax will still be in place for rented properties and they will continue to see the above inflationary taxes on those properties which will continue to increase the cost of rent by necessity. The authors of this bill claim they will provide for renters but there is NOTHING is this bill to justify that claim. Renters will continue to pay higher and higher rent while also paying the higher PIT rates.

The bill authorizes an exclusion, not an elimination of owner-occupied property. As already discussed, some assessor can determine that the land on which your home is located is not necessary for your home and therefore the land itself could still be taxed. When that happens you’ll pay a property tax on that land deemed non-essential for dwelling in your home and you’ll be paying the higher PIT tax. All of that seems like a potential train wreck to me.

The bill does nothing to address the non-uniformity of using property taxes to fund education. In fact it only pushes that non-uniformity even further.

The reason SB76 has not passed is because there is not enough political will among most of our legislators to get it done. That political cowardice is based on a fear of the campaign funding special interest lobbyists who continue to demonstrate how little they care about what happens to the people of this state so long as they get their slice of the pie.

I’m willing to concede that a homestead plan might be an option, but I don’t like it. I’d much rather see complete elimination. If there is a homestead plan it has to be responsible and while I question the potential of that, this bill certainly is not responsible. It is still looking at education funding on a select group of people while allowing for exemptions in education funding for many.  Rather than eliminating decades of tax shifting that we’ve seen with the property tax.  This becomes another tax shift scheme that fails to deliver on replacement.

Unlike 76 it is not a dollar for dollar replacement for the school property tax.  Since it doesn’t eliminate it, there remains that potential to be paying almost 2% of your PIT while also still having to pay property taxes.  To that end, it becomes another reduction scam, not an elimination plan.   That’s not why I got into this fight.  I know the inherent evil of the property tax and this will not put an end to that evil.

It doesn’t restore home-ownership to the home-owner but actually gives more power and authority to school districts and the government over our homes. That’s not why I got in this fight.

The property tax no longer works. It is now archaic and has already grown to be an out of control beast that can no longer be reigned in. It must be eliminated. This does not deliver. While claiming to reign in the beast, it is also unleashing other tentacles of this monster that has the potential of violating our liberties and that is a very serious problem to me.   

I hate to sound so pessimistic but is it really pessimism to look at something realistically and see little reason to be optimistic. 

Today I’me feeling very tired.  We understood that we were forced to support the referendum if we wanted to advance 76.  We were told that if the referendum failed it would send a signal that Pennsylvanians did not want to see school property tax eliminated.  Instead of using that tremendous opportunity to advance 76, they began to focus on ways to undermine 76 to give us the homestead plan.  Rather than give us a homestead elimination plan they gave us a homestead exclusion that doesn’t eliminate.  They gave us a plan that will reinforce the government desire to tell us what we need while unrestrainingly spending our hard-earned tax dollars on things government wants.  That’s a formula for economic disaster. 

This is a reminder of being careful what you ask for.  As I know there will be many who see this as beneficial to them personally at this point in time (and I would be among them-this plan would be very beneficial to me personally), the long term impacts on what this does to others for my benefit will ultimately hurt all of us.  That’s not why I got into this fight.  I don’t want to hurt others for my personal benefit.  I simply want a tax system that treats everyone the same. 

That is, apparently, too much to ask.

 

 

 

SB 1137 – Reigniting the Spark that set the American Revolution ablaze.

I am a student of the American Revolution…not just the War but of the events that led up to the American Revolution.  As I read through SB 1137 I came across a clause that shocked me.  Not just shocked me but began to anger me to the very core of my being.  Let me explain:
In 1760 The British, in their attempts to intimidate and control the people in the Colonies re-enacted and expanded something that was called the Writs of Assistance.
The Writes were endless search warrants that allowed appointed agents of government to search and seize property without due suspicion. It allowed the government to intimidate and target anyone who was not working to support the official position of the British ruling authority. Once a writ was allowed, the appointed agents in government were free to search your property whenever they felt like doing so.
James Otis Jr., a Boston Patriot and largely forgotten voice in the early days of the American Revolution rose up to oppose the Writs of Assistance in an very important hearing that led to the inclusion of the 4th Amendment in our Bill of Rights and the inclusion of Article 1 Section 8 in our Pennsylvania Constitution. It states:
The people shall be secure in their persons, houses, papers and possessions from unreasonable searches and seizures, and 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 subscribed to by the affiant.
James Otis Jr., argued that allowing this writs was a violation of our inherent rights. He argued that the writs were “the worst instrument of arbitrary power, the most destructive of English liberty and the fundamental principles of law, that ever was found in an English law-book
He would go to proclaim “Every one with this writ may be a tyrant; if this commission be legal, a tyrant in a legal manner, also, may control, imprison, or murder any one within the realm. In the next place, it is perpetual; there is no return. A man is accountable to no person for his doings. Every man may reign secure in his petty tyranny, and spread terror and desolation around him, until the trump of the Archangel shall excite different emotions in his soul.”
Then he argued “Now, one of the most essential branches of English liberty is the freedom of one’s house. A man’s house is his castle; and whilst he is quiet, he is as well guarded as a prince in his castle. This writ, if it should be declared legal, would totally annihilate this privilege. Custom-house officers may enter our houses when they please; we are commanded to permit their entry. Their menial servants may enter, may break locks, bars, and everything in their way; and whether they break through malice or revenge, no man, no court can inquire. Bare suspicion without oath is sufficient.”
At the time John Adams was a young lawyer who witnessed the Otis oration. He would later write “But Otis was a flame of fire; with a promptitude of classical allusions, a depth of research, a rapid summary of historical events and dates, a profusion of legal authorities, a prophetic glance of his eyes into futurity, and a rapid torrent of impetuous eloquence, he hurried away all before him. American Independence was then and there born. The seeds of patriots and heroes, to defend the vigorous youth, were then and there sown. Every man of an immense crowded audience appeared to me to go away, as I did, ready to take arms against Writs of Assistance. Then and there was the first scene of the first act of opposition to the arbitrary claims of Great Britain. Then and there the child Independence was born. In fifteen years, that is in 1776, he grew up to manhood, and declared himself free.”
This introduction is important to what I’m about to say. I became aware of a new bill related to the School Property Tax that was just introduced in the Senate. That bill is SB 1137.
SB1137 is a bill that claims to eliminate property taxes on owner occupied homes by levying a 1.98% PIT tax on everyone taken the Pennsylvania PIT from 3.07% to 5.05%.  There are many issues I have with this bill but there is one clause in particular that is appalling.
Within that bill is this clause:
Page 7: Notwithstanding the provisions of section 353(f) of the Tax Reform Code of 1971, the department may permit the proper officer or an authorized agent of a school district imposing a personal income tax under this subchapter to inspect the tax returns of any taxpayer of the school district or may furnish to the officer or an authorized agent an abstract of the return of income of any current or former resident of the school district or supply information concerning any item of income contained in any tax return. The officer or authorized agent of the school district imposing a tax under this subchapter shall be furnished the requested information upon payment to the department of the actual cost of providing the requested information.
Putting this in layman’s terms it would authorize school districts to conduct tax audits against us. The Majority of school board directors simply aren’t qualified to conduct a tax audit so the school board will have to hire someone like a business manager to conduct these audits.
These would be appointed positions where they would be accountable, not to the taxpayers, but to the body within government who hired the, They would be agents hired to act in the interest of the school board, not elected to protect the interests of the people.
That’s a dangerous precedent because it does not actually eliminate the property tax and allows the schools districts to still tax our property while also granting them the authority to asses our tax returns.  It’s true that the language of 76 includes this provision concerning the local PIT but it does so by totally eliminating the tax.  This bill does not.  It keeps the local property tax and through finagling of the homestead act would not provide completely elimination for a owner-occupied homes while, at the same time, also expanding the power of government into new areas.  While it may have been tolerable in HB/SB76 it becomes intolerable in SB1137 because it fails to deliver complete elimination.  Furthermore 1137 adds the following….
The assessor may select, randomly or otherwise, applications filed under subsection (a) to review for false or fraudulent information
We are essentially, through this bill, authorizing the appointed agents of the school district to conduct searches of our tax filing randomly giving them access to a lot of important and private information.
Things like which charities we support; which candidates we gave money to; what exemptions we have applied for; our social security numbers and other private information would all become accessible to our school district.
Adding insult to injury there is no reasons for this to be in this bill. Replacing the school district tax with a PIT tax that is automatically deducted from your paycheck is no reason to allow school districts to do this whenever and however they please.
This will act just like the Writs of Assistance.  Like the Writs, it is a permanent authority. The appointed agents can use this against you any time the so choose.
The writs by passed the protections of a search warrant and so does this clause in this legislation while still retaining the authority to levy the school property taxes on portions of our property. It defines homestead as  a dwelling, which is owned and not rented, and so much of the land surrounding it as is reasonably necessary for the use of the dwelling as a home, occupied by an applicant.
This bill, if enacted, does not deliver elimination.  If the assessor determines that the land surrounding your home is not actually necessary for you to live in that home then they will still be able to tax that land.  SO we still have the property tax on portions of property determined by people being granted the authority to review your PIT taxes randomly at their will.
The ability of abuse is rampant where these agents, as it was with the writs, could use it to target political enemies with the threat of seizing their tax records to audit them at the whim and will of the school board.
It creates the potential for intimidating us from speaking out against something the school district wants that we may disagree with. We would know that doing so would put a target on our backs where we could be audited by the school board.
This clause in this legislation is very similar to the actions of the Writs of Assistance that first led the colonists to realize the attempt by the British Crown to reduce them absolute serfdom. Appointed agents of the School Board would have authority granted by this legislation in violation of Article 1, Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, to conduct searches and seizures of our tax filing, our personal property whenever they choose without specific warrant stating the reason for doing so.
It makes these appointed agents of the school board no longer accountable to the people or to the courts in seizing our tax records.
This is no small matter.  By not totally eliminating the tax and still expanding this authority we have created conflicts beyond reason.  
No matter how well-intended this bill is, and after reading the bill I seriously doubt those intentions, but no matter, the inclusion of this clause while still leaving the potential for abuses to our property calls into question our inherent rights to our Life, Liberty and Property.
The bill authorizes this ability to the agent of the school board indefinitely. It authorizes that agent to do so selectively where particular individuals can be targeted without stating just cause. It not only authorizes them to do so whenever they please, but as often as they please with no real recourse for us.
It operates on a principle of assumed guilt on the part of the taxpayer by giving this agent carte blanche with little to no accountability to the people. It places the people under the control of the school board.
The Pennsylvania Constitution gives no authority to the General Assembly to act in this manner.
257 years ago it was the warning of England’s plans to reduce them to serfs. It should be a warning to us as well.
When our opponents to SB76 talk about loss of local control, they aren’t talking about our control over our school boards, they are talking about their fear of losing control over us.
This new property tax bill will increase that school districts control over the people in ways that were never intended for our government.
Article 1, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution says
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.
Section 2 of Article 2 continues by saying:
All power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority and instituted for their peace, safety and happiness. For the advancement of these ends they have at all times an inalienable and indefeasible right to alter, reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may think proper
This clause in this bill seeks to violate both Section 1 and 2 of Article 1 in Pennsylvania Constitution.
It removes the power from us and places that power in the hands of an appointed agent of the School District.
It is a violation of the very principles that forced America to take up arms in the defense of their Life, Liberty and property against a government intent on reducing them to serfdom.
This bill needs to die and the clause within this bill needs to suffer a death so painful it never surfaces it’s ugly little head again. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said “Not to Act is to Act. Not to Speak is to Speak”
I will fight it with every fiber of my being. I will not keep silent.

Who is Dan Meuser, Really?

Disclaimer:  I am not affiliated with any candidate in the race for the 9th Congressional District.  I am not affiliated with any organization which endorsed any candidate for any political office of any party in that district.  I raise these concerns because I care about the future of this country and our Commonwealth.

Most of us rely on slick commercials and campaign mailers to determine how we vote in elections but we really need to dig deeper.  We need to know and understand where those who seek our support in an election really stand.  That doesn’t mean getting into the dirt of personal attacks in the process of character assassination but we should at least be aware of the important part these candidates have played in shaping political policy and ideology.  We should be free to voice our concerns in the public forum about real issues that have an real impact or our lives.

Recently, the Dan Meuser campaign announced they have a proposal for the elimination of school property taxes. While, on the surface this sounds like good news for advocates of the proposal, I have to disagree. Dan Meuser is running for the 9th Congressional District in Pennsylvania. It’s a federal position, not a state position. The notion that a candidate who, if elected, would seek to violate the protection of state’s rights in establishing how they fund education in their state appalls me. It would be a direct violation of the 10th Amendment.

The Meuser campaign announced this as a proposal. That would mean a Federal bill since he’s not running for a state office. To then learn that some of our sponsors for the school property tax elimination plan are supporting this proposal only raises my concern about the political will to get this done at the state level. We’ve long held the concern about politicians who use this issue as a carrot on a stick in order to get elected or to hold on to their seats but haven’t fought for it once elected. Now Meuser is taking that Carrot to a whole new level.

The first official duty of every elected representative is to take an oath of office that includes pledging to uphold the Constitution. Congress has no enumerated powers to regulate how states fund education and for very good reason. It’s not a federal responsibility. The Meuser campaign is promising to violate the 10th Amendment to the Constitution and voter’s, because of their hatred for the tax, will base their vote on that promise without considering the consequences. The proposal is doomed to failure, but we need not worry about that because I strongly suspect that the proposal will go no further than a promise on the campaign trail. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be concerned that he would make such a promise to exploit voter’s in a district where this issue is important.

The 9th Congressional District represents the loudest voice in the entire Commonwealth concerning advocates for School Property Tax Elimination. The bill originated in the Reading area and quickly spread to bring strong advocates on board from Lebanon, Bethel and Schuylkill. The two successful citizen advocacy rallies dubbed the “Fill-A-Bus-Tours” originated from Lebanon through the Lebanon 9-12 Project. PA Liberty Alliance hails from Bethel. They’ve been behind the very successful door to door campaigns taking the message of school property tax elimination across the state. The founder of the PTCC hails from the Berks area.

The history of the town halls all have involvement from the Founder of the PTCC, The President of PA Liberty Alliance, who hails from the Schuylkill area and the Chair of the Lebanon 9-12 Project from Lebanon County. This is one of the hottest issues in this district and for it to be exploited for political purposes is an insult to those who have worked so hard to get this bill where it is.

The Berks County Patriots initiated a Tri-County effort that brought together representatives from Berks Patriots, PA Liberty Alliance, Lehigh Valley Patriots and the Lebanon 9-12 Project for the purpose of interviewing candidates. The hard work of this effort in doing research on the candidates that went beyond just interviews has brought very valuable information to the forefront.

As part of the Tri-County research team, this had me start doing some homework on this candidate. It turns out that this is not the first time that Dan Meuser has misrepresented facts to the people of Pennsylvania.

Dan Meuser was appointed as Secretary of Revenue during the Corbett Administration. In spite of Tom Corbett’s promise to sing the bill if it came to his desk. Corbett refused to use his office as Governor to advocate for the legislation. Even when he was seeking re-election, he refused to take this issue on the campaign trail.

As far as Dan Meuser, as Secretary of revenue he made two commitments to the people of the Commonwealth that were betrayed resulting in a cost in the millions that had to be paid for with tax payer dollars.

As Secretary of Revenue, Meuser pushed for privatizing the state run lottery system. He pushed to sell the lottery to a global lottery consulting firm, Camelot Global Services, not based in the United States, but a Canadian owned company operating out of the United Kingdom. The final decisions rested with Kathleen Kane but both Democrats and republicans in Pennsylvania voiced concerns about the legality of doing what Meuser proposed.

The Attorney general’s office reviewed the deal struck with Camelot Global and declared it unconstitutional. They pointed out that the deal included expanding the system of gambling in the Commonwealth beyond what was permitted by statutory law. The contract went beyond that which was approved by lawmakers when gambling was legalized in the state. It was also pointed out that profits from gambling in the state would have gone into a foreign based company rather than going to provide directly for services to seniors in the state. (https://www.watchdog.org/pennsylvania/updated-pa-s-private-lottery-contract-unconstitutional-ag-says/article_0ca2e77d-48a7-580b-9023-a50b0d48b80b.html)

And yet, Meuser still pushed for this. In 2013 AG DePasquale finally called for the termination of the deal which was originally supposed to cost taxpayers $725,000 to implement but had run up costs to $4.6 million, more than 4 times to original proposal. (http://www.paauditor.gov/press-releases/auditor-general-depasquale-urges-end-to-spending-on-lottery-privatization-calls-for-legislature-or-governor-to-act-by-dec-31)

As Secretary of Revenue Meuser also proposed an upgrade to the computer system that would cost Pennsylvanians $130 million dollars. The company hired to do the upgrade was Accenture, a global technology consultant, who had previously been fired by the state of Maryland for a similar project due to wasteful spending and missed deadlines. Dan Meuser assured Pennsylvanians that the same would not happen to Pennsylvania. He was wrong.

In 2015 the state cut ties with Accenture because it never delivered on it’s promise to upgrade the system. After over $100 million was spent they only upgraded state’s business tax system. A new firm had to be hired at an additional cost to taxpayers of $57 million dollars. (http://levittownnow.com/2018/03/08/pa-department-of-records-spending-57m-in-second-try-to-update-computer-system/)

Now Dan Meuser wants to take that type of fiscal irresponsibility to Washington D.C.

As we began to dig deeper we discovered some other troubling aspects.

Dan Meuser tells us that he supports building a wall to keep out illegal immigrants and yet Dan Meuser’s firm, Pride Mobility, was fined for hiring illegal aliens. Wayne County District Attorney noted that the fine was the largest fine ever levied on a Pennsylvania Manufacturing business consisting of 58 violations of immigration laws. The company was fined $41,000. According to Zimmer the first offense for hiring an illegal at the time was $2,000 per illegal alien. (https://www.timesleader.com/archive/272762/stories-records-on-fine-for-illegals-gone2c-meuser-says103673)

More digging revealed that Pride Mobility, Dan Meuser’s firm, “agreed to pay $80,000 to resolve its liability for violations of the kickback provision of the Civil Monetary Penalties Law.” according to the testimony of Dara Corrigan, Acting Principal Deputy Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services. That report, which discusses attempts to defraud the Medicare system, includes the following statement: “In Pennsylvania, an OIG investigation revealed that, through a marketing program, Pride Mobility Products Corporation, a manufacturer of power wheelchairs, scooters, and lift chairs, solicited and received monthly payments from supplies in return for referring sales leads to those suppliers.” The official testimony also states, “in addition to the payment under the settlement agreement, the company was also required to adopt and implement certain compliance measures.” (https://oig.hhs.gov/testimony/docs/2004/042804fin.pdf)

Then it was discovered that, according to the Pittsburgh Business Times (7/9/07) and The Citizen’s Voice (6/30/07), Dan Meuser’s firm was forced to settle in case involving Software Piracy. The case involved a $380,000 fine to settle a software piracy case with the Business Software Alliance (BSA). As BSA noted “Software piracy is against the law, costing millions of dollars in tax revenues and lost jobs. In 2005, the United States lost $6.9 billion as a result of software piracy”. The Citizens Voice reported that Meuser’s company was fined for “unauthorized use of Adobe, Autodesk, Microsoft, and Symantec software”.

All of this information is particularly troubling to me as a resident of Lebanon County since The Lebanon County Republican Committee rushed through an endorsement of Dan Meuser without allowing for input from any of the other candidates in this race. The Lebanon County Republican Committee is chaired by Casey Long, who is working for the Meuser campaign, but did not disclose this to the other committee members. To my understanding the only issue that was addressed concerning Meuser is that he doesn’t reside in the 9th Congressional District. Blaming last minute redistricting and downplaying the importance of actually residing in the district you are representing was the excuse.

That brings me to the final issue…Campaign Contributions.

Dan Meuser has been a financial supporter of Matt Cartwright, a Democrat that is sometimes referred to as being left of Obama. If Meuser ran in the district he lives, he would have to challenge Matt Cartwright, someone he’s financially supported in elections. Troubling contributions through his PAC go beyond just his support of Matt Cartwright.

While Dan Meuser claims to support Lou Barletta as a Senate Candidate, financial contributions from the Meuser run PAC have gone to his Democrat opponent, Bob Casey. Other questionable contributions include donations to Hillary Clinton, Charlie Rangel and Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Those contributions helped to give the Democrats control of Congress which, at the time, gave us Obamacare.

It would be good to have honest answers to each of these concerns but Dan Meuser has worked hard to evade directly answering these relative questions. When confronted about the hiring of illegals, Dan Meuser stated he can’t produce the records on the case because they no longer exist. He refers to only 3 illegals, but as District Attorney Zimmer pointed out, the fine indicates the problem was much greater than Meuser admits. That information comes from the Times Leader article cited above.

Records from the Software Piracy case have also mysteriously disappeared as well. If not for archived newspaper accounts, this information would not be known because they’ve disappeared from the record. That makes me incredibly uncomfortable and very reminiscent of the Hillary Clinton talent for making things disappear.

As Thomas Jefferson stated “Shake off all the fears & servile prejudices under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.”