October 23, 2014
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Eliminating sales tax looks more and more viable
Lonnie Barham

STATE’S SALES TAX POSITION DOESN’T MAKE SENSE: The R.I. Center for Freedom and Prosperity, a public policy think tank, has projected the financial effects of eliminating the state sales tax. It projected the state would initially lose $313 million per year in taxes but would gain 25,000 jobs. Paul Dion, Rhode Island Office of Revenue Analysis Chief, in his attempt to discredit the Center’s analysis, said the state would lose $604 million per year in taxes, would create only 5,000 to 10,000 private sector jobs, and would lose 6,000 public sector jobs.

O.K., what’s wrong with this picture? Let’s assume Dion is right. If eliminating the sales tax would result in the state paying 6,000 fewer public sector employees an average of $100,000 per year in salaries and benefits, that’s a savings to the taxpayers of $600 million per year. If we lose $604 million in taxes and gain $600 million in lower tax spending, isn’t that a wash? On top of that, we would be creating 5,000 to 10,000 private sector jobs. Wow! Eliminating the sales tax is looking better and better all the time.

CLAY PELL’S DISTASTE FOR VOTING: It seems totally illogical that a rich, outsider with a famous family name thinks he can come into Rhode Island and become our governor when he has failed to vote in ten of the last 18 elections.

How lazy can a person be when he hasn’t the strength or the interest to get off his butt and vote? Do we want a governor who has failed repeatedly to exercise his civic duty? Can we trust someone to do what’s right for our state when he has so consistently failed to care enough about government policies and actions to cast a ballot?

Valerie Endress, Professor of Communications at Rhode Island College, said, “His spotty voting record, combined with a lack of elective experience, could ultimately prove to be Pell’s Achilles’ heel. While the Pell family name will have some currency as well his celebrity spouse, with this latest revelation, he’s even more vulnerable to his opponents’ attacks.”

While some may consider this an issue of minor concern, it may well be the most important issue in the gubernatorial campaign. Only honesty and civic mindedness are more important than experience and ability in a potential governor. Mr. Pell’s callous disregard for the voting booth clearly shows that he fails the test on caring about what goes on in government.

GUNS AGAINST CLUBS AND ROCKS IN KIEV: An old saying goes, “You don’t bring a knife to a gunfight.” In other words, if you expect to prevail or at least get the attention of your opponent, you must be similarly armed.

One only had to observe the pitched street and barricade battles in Kiev, Ukraine during the past couple of weeks to see how outgunned the protesters were. The battles reached their climax last Wednesday when government snipers gunned down almost one hundred anti-government protesters who were armed only with clubs and rocks.

While the protester prevailed through sheer numbers, the deaths - indeed, the need for the protest itself - could have been prevented had Ukraine’s citizens been armed. An armed citizenry keeps government from venturing too far outside the bounds of constitutional law. The words of Thomas Jefferson should be well-remembered, “What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms.”

While it seems unlikely that a Ukraine scenario could play out in the U.S., it definitely is not outside the realm of possibility. As Congress and the courts relinquish more and more authority to the executive branch, and as the executive branch takes more and more unilateral actions that contravene the Constitution, it is clearly conceivable that one day our country could devolve to a condition similar to Ukraine’s. 

Similar to Jefferson’s statement, other statements by our Founding Fathers preceding the writing of the Constitution were specific. They clearly intended for American citizens to be armed; not just for self-defense, but also to ensure their own government did not become tyrannical.

Should anti-Second Amendment forces continue to succeed in ridding our law-abiding citizens of firearms, we may someday find ourselves in the same position the protesters in Kiev found themselves - having only clubs and rocks to face an oppressive government that is armed with machine guns and sniper rifles.

OBAMA ALLOWS IRS TO ISSUE NEW ANTI-FREEDOM RULES: We all remember when President Obama’s Internal Revenue Service targeted conservative groups through lengthy delays in approval of their non-profit status just before Obama’s reelection in 2012. Clearly, the targeting was to delay the groups’ spending on conservative ads that would cost Obama votes. It worked.

Now the IRS has proposed new rules that will further derail non-profits’ ability to exercise free speech. The IRS proposes to remove tax-free status from any group that engages in “political activity”. Unfortunately, the IRS is interpreting voter registration drives, get-out-the-vote campaigns, and bi-partisan political education forums as “political activity”. These activities do not support any one candidate or one political philosophy and are simply expressions of free speech by the non-profit organizations.

But, guess what? The non-profit organizations that heavily support Obama and Democratic candidates - labor unions - are to be exempt from the IRS rule. It certainly looks like Obama and his anti-freedom henchmen are at it again, this time trying to sway the midterm elections.

PROS AND CONS OF RASING MINIMUM WAGE: According to an analysis by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour will lift 900,000 people out of poverty but will also cost 500,000 jobs; jobs cut by businesses that can’t afford the increase.

So, about a million people will be a little better off but a half million people will lose their jobs altogether. It’s robbing Peter to pay Paul; but in this robbery, Peter is direly injured while Paul is paid very little.

FUNG AND BLOCK ON GUN CONTROL: To the dismay of Second Amendment advocates, both Republican candidates for governor previously supported anti-Second Amendment positions.

In 2004, then-city councilor Allan Fung voted in favor of a Cranston city council resolution calling on Congress to renew its ban on semi-automatic rifles that look like “assault weapons.” In 2010, Ken Block told the NRA that he supported state legislation banning the lawful manufacture, private possession, ownership, purchase, sale and/or transfer of semiautomatic weapons. And he told Project Vote Smart that he supported restrictions on the purchase and possession of guns, that he supported requiring a license for gun possession, and that he opposed allowing individuals to carry concealed firearms.

Both candidates have changed their positions and now supposedly support the right of law-abiding citizens who have passed background checks to purchase, possess and - with licenses - to carry firearms, to include semiautomatic rifles and handguns.

Of the two, it appears that Fung is the least culpable. He was a young city councilor ten years ago when he voted, along with other city councilors, on a resolution he says he didn’t understand. Since then he has been mum on gun control issues but claims to have evolved to now understand the issues and supports citizens’ rights to purchase, own and carry firearms.

Block, on the other hand, has opposed the Second Amendment as recently as 2010. He has not only opposed it, he has voiced his opinions again and again that law-abiding citizens should be severely restricted in gun purchasing, ownership and carrying. His 2010 comments to Project Vote Smart indicate he favored the registration of all firearms - even small caliber, single-shot firearms kept in homes.

Because Block’s strong anti-Second Amendment comments were so recent and were so far-reaching, he will have a very hard time getting votes from Rhode Islanders who support the Second Amendment.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Posted anonymously on the Internet and attributed to Professor Robert Levy of Georgetown University, this quote speaks to the erroneous interpretation of the Second Amendment by those who believe the Founders intended only for the militia to possess firearms: “Suppose the Second amendment said ‘A well-educated electorate being necessary for self-governance in a free state, the right of the people to keep and read books shall not be infringed.’ Is there anyone who would suggest that means only registered voters have a right to read?”


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