Saturday, April 28, 2007

Those Pesky Constitutional Amendments

Reading through Captain's Quarters, Ed found an article advocating the disarming of America and turning it into a police state. This is the absurdity that only a socialist could advocate:

LAST week's tragedy at Virginia Tech in which a mentally disturbed person gunned down 32 of America's finest - intelligent young people with futures ahead of them - once again puts the phenomenon of an armed society into focus for Americans.

The likely underestimate of how many guns are wandering around America runs at 240 million in a population of about 300 million. What was clear last week is that at least two of those guns were in the wrong hands.
When people talk about doing something about guns in America, it often comes down to this: "How could America disarm even if it wanted to? There are so many guns out there."
Because I have little or no power to influence the "if" part of the issue, I will stick with the "how." And before anyone starts to hyperventilate and think I'm a crazed liberal zealot wanting to take his gun from his cold, dead hands, let me share my experience of guns.
As a child I played cowboys and Indians with cap guns. I had a Daisy Red Ryder B-B gun. My father had in his bedside table drawer an old pistol which I examined surreptitiously from time to time. When assigned to the American embassy in Beirut during the war in Lebanon, I sometimes carried a .357 Magnum, which I could fire accurately. I also learned to handle and fire a variety of weapons while I was there, including Uzis and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
I don't have any problem with hunting, although blowing away animals with high-powered weapons seems a pointless, no-contest affair to me. I suppose I would enjoy the fellowship of the experience with other friends who are hunters.
Now, how would one disarm the American population? First of all, federal or state laws would need to make it a crime punishable by a $1,000 fine and one year in prison per weapon to possess a firearm. The population would then be given three months to turn in their guns, without penalty.
Hunters would be able to deposit their hunting weapons in a centrally located arsenal, heavily guarded, from which they would be able to withdraw them each hunting season upon presentation of a valid hunting license. The weapons would be required to be redeposited at the end of the season on pain of arrest. When hunters submit a request for their weapons, federal, state, and local checks would be made to establish that they had not been convicted of a violent crime since the last time they withdrew their weapons. In the process, arsenal staff would take at least a quick look at each hunter to try to affirm that he was not obviously unhinged.
It would have to be the case that the term "hunting weapon" did not include anti-tank ordnance, assault weapons, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, or other weapons of war.
All antique or interesting non-hunting weapons would be required to be delivered to a local or regional museum, also to be under strict 24-hour-a-day guard. There they would be on display, if the owner desired, as part of an interesting exhibit of antique American weapons, as family heirlooms from proud wars past or as part of collections.
Gun dealers could continue their work, selling hunting and antique firearms. They would be required to maintain very tight inventories. Any gun sold would be delivered immediately by the dealer to the nearest arsenal or the museum, not to the buyer.
The disarmament process would begin after the initial three-month amnesty. Special squads of police would be formed and trained to carry out the work. Then, on a random basis to permit no advance warning, city blocks and stretches of suburban and rural areas would be cordoned off and searches carried out in every business, dwelling, and empty building. All firearms would be seized. The owners of weapons found in the searches would be prosecuted: $1,000 and one year in prison for each firearm.
Clearly, since such sweeps could not take place all across the country at the same time. But fairly quickly there would begin to be gun-swept, gun-free areas where there should be no firearms. If there were, those carrying them would be subject to quick confiscation and prosecution. On the streets it would be a question of stop-and-search of anyone, even grandma with her walker, with the same penalties for "carrying."
The "gun lobby" would no doubt try to head off in the courts the new laws and the actions to implement them. They might succeed in doing so, although the new approach would undoubtedly prompt new, vigorous debate on the subject. In any case, some jurisdictions would undoubtedly take the opportunity of the chronic slowness of the courts to begin implementing the new approach.
America's long land and sea borders present another kind of problem. It is easy to imagine mega-gun dealerships installing themselves in Mexico, and perhaps in more remote parts of the Canadian border area, to funnel guns into the United States. That would constitute a problem for American immigration authorities and the U.S. Coast Guard, but not an insurmountable one over time.
There could conceivably also be a rash of score-settling during hunting season as people drew out their weapons, ostensibly to shoot squirrels and deer, and began eliminating various of their perceived two-footed enemies. Given the general nature of hunting weapons and the fact that such killings are frequently time-sensitive, that seems a lesser sort of issue.
That is my idea of how it could be done. The desire to do so on the part of the American people is another question altogether, but one clearly raised again by the Blacksburg tragedy.
Dan Simpson, a retired diplomat, is a member of the editorial boards of The Blade and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Where do I begin to cut this up. The logic and ignorance of the law and basic freedoms is so breathtaking - usually the kind that I only associate with Academics. This idea is akin to saving social security with the "Logan's Run" solution of killing all the elderly upon reaching a given age.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The real tax grab in Michigan

It seems that everyone talks about how the SBT is a "job killer" in Michigan. Granted, the single business tax is a onerous one that is responsible for its share of jobs leaving the state, but a lesser known tax is probably taking a bigger toll on Michigan businesses. That would be unemployment taxes, otherwise known in the business as SUTA.

The state of Michigan has been aggressively, and often over zealously targeting businesses for "SUTA dumping". That is, by definition, the transfer of employees from one entity with a high experience rating for SUTA taxes to one with a lower rate. The Michigan Treasury has been targeting businesses, rightly and wrongly, with huge assessments under this premise, because they hope to get quintuple penalties if they can make the charges stick.

The state has been targeting professional employer organizations (PEOs) with huge (sometimes multi million dollar) assessments, then try to bully the taxpayer into paying the amount. I know of a case where the treasury had a agent back date reports to say that SUTA dumping existed when it did not. This agent, in a tax tribunal hearing, took the fifth when asked whether or not he back dated a report stating he thought there was SUTA dumping. This agent, when I worked in Metro Detroit, did the SUTA audit on the client, and after several weeks at my former office going through all the records, originally reported that there was no wrong doing by the taxpayer. A few months later, the client received a massive assessment, and was accused by the Michigan Treasury of SUTA dumping. A good friend and former colleague of mine represented the client in tax tribunal when the fifth was taken.

This is not the first time the state treasury has bended the rules in order to revert to the Roman tax collection method. This harassment of Michigan employers, along with their back door methods to raise taxes by jacking up payroll taxes for employers, is not a good way to keep them in the state.

Way to go Governor Granholm! Back door payroll tax increases and egregious behavior by your auditors is not the way to bring jobs into the state.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Finally back

Hi everyone,

After an exceptionally busy tax season, where I started to ramp up the 60+ hour work weeks in early January, I finally am not burnt out to the point where I don't feel like writing. But, not like there hasn't been a lot of interesting stuff going on.

The first thing that catches my attention is the collective stupidity that is the Democratic party up in Lansing, Michigan. I've been reading the Detroit News rather religiously over the past few months, so when I read some of the stercoraceous ideas emanating from the state house, all I can think of is Bob Rae's illustrious stewardship of the province of Ontario.

Michigan is a state that has been economically hammered. It's core industry is fighting to survive. Major employers have either downsized (Big Three, Tier One auto suppliers) or relocated (hello Pfizer and Comerica). The state has the highest mortgage foreclosure rate in the nation, and people are leaving the state in droves (myself included).

All these signs scream for leadership. Drastic action must be taken to help Michigan right a listing ship with bold ideas. What have we seen from Jennifer Granholm and her allies in the state legislature in order to solve these issues and the huge budget deficit that is a result of this? Some of the ideas have been:

  1. 6% sales tax extended to services
  2. 2% sales tax extended to services
  3. Implement an estate tax
  4. Change the income tax from a flat 3.9% to a graduated rates
See a trend here? Tax your way back into prosperity... worked so well for Clement Attlee in the 1940's and Bob Rae in the 90's.. hey.. third time's a charm!