A Really Rotten Anniversary

It was 100 years ago this month that the 16th Amendment to the Constitution officially became the law of the land. Since this is the one that authorized the Federal government to implement a graduated income tax in the United States, you’ll understand why I say that Feb. 3, 1913, was a very bad day for liberty.

One of the many complaints against King George in the Declaration of Independence was that “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.”

But the amount of colonists’ “substance” that was taken by British authorities was the equivalent of a gnat’s nibble, compared to what our rulers in Washington seize from us every day. I think it’s safe to say that without a graduated income tax — a key plank in The Communist Manifesto, by the way — there is no way that we would have the gargantuan government we face today.

By the time the income tax was imposed on us, the rules had already been rigged so the super rich could hide their wealth in foundations and family trusts. The income tax would keep most of us from ever hoping to compete with them, while giving government the funds it needed to offer a gullible public all of the bread and circuses it could want.

But it wasn’t just the legalization of the income tax that made 1913 a truly terrible year for freedom. That was the same year that the Senate foisted the Federal Reserve System on us. In the past century, its money-creation policies have caused the U.S. dollar to plummet.

Since the conspiracy to foist the Fed upon us succeeded (if you doubt that statement, read G. Edward Griffin’s monumental study, The Creature from Jekyll Island), the dollar has lost way more than 90 percent of its value. It now takes more than 20 Federal Reserve notes to equal the purchasing power of a single buck 100 years ago.

Yes, the dollar has lost about 95 percent of its value since the creation of the Federal Reserve. That’s quite a record. The situation can only get worse, since the Fed continues to pump out $1 trillion a year to help finance Obama’s out-of-control deficits.

Oh, and let me mention one more tragedy inflicted on our country back in 1913. In March of that year, Woodrow Wilson became the 28th President of the United States.

Wilson helped foist a bunch of “progressive” policies during his first term. But nothing did as much damage as his success in getting us into World War I. One of the most duplicitous men to ever hold our Nation’s highest office, Wilson campaigned for re-election in 1916 on the slogan “he kept us out of war.” But all the while, he was scheming to get us into it.

Once we were committed to battle, the new slogan became that we would make the world “safe for democracy.” What a bunch of baloney. At the end of World War I, instead of more “democracy,” the world witnessed a rise in some of the most murderous and destructive dictatorships in history.

Yes, the old order was dead — to be replaced by communism, fascism, socialism, and Nazism.

Wilson’s dream of using the war to create a world government fell apart when the U.S. Senate refused to ratify America’s membership in the League of Nations. But as the leader of the victorious allies, he did succeed in forcing the losers to sign the Treaty of Versailles. That agreement’s incredibly harsh terms paved the way for Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in Germany and led to another world war.

Famed free-market economist Milton Friedman argued that Federal Reserve policies brought on the Great Depression. That led directly to the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal. There was no President in the past century who did more to promote the growth of government than FDR. Longtime socialist leader Norman Thomas said Roosevelt implemented more of his policies than he ever could himself.

And let’s not forget Roosevelt’s lies and manipulations that got us into World War II, all the things Roosevelt did to give aid and technology to the Soviet Union during the war, or the horrible concessions afterward that condemned millions of people to a lifetime of slavery under communist rule.

Yes, FDR has to be high on every conservative’s list of the worst Presidents ever. But nothing he did changed the country as much or had an impact as long-lasting as the momentous events that took place one century ago.

A few years ago, I had the privilege of interviewing then-Congressman Ron Paul for Personal Liberty Digest™. During our discussion, he said what this country really needed to do was “repeal 1913.”

While his statement was clearly meant to be rhetorical, I could tell Paul was excited about the concept.

“That way we could get rid of the income tax and the Federal Reserve at the same time,” he said. “If you repeal big government, you stop the hemorrhaging of the dollar. You repeal inflationary conditions. You restore a sound currency, which would go a long way to restoring a sound economy.”

Yes, a lot of good things could happen if we could just repeal 1913. Don’t you wish it were possible?

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Obama’s Missed Deadline

Obama ignores the law — again. President Obama is required to submit an annual budget to Congress every year by Feb. 1. It’s not just a tradition, it’s the law. But for the fourth year in a row, the Administration ignored this unequivocal requirement. Naturally, his friends in Congress and his allies in the mainstream media have pretty much ignored his flat refusal to obey the law. Are you surprised?

The first Social Security recipient. Ida May Fuller was the first person to receive a monthly benefit check from Social Security. She worked as a legal secretary and paid the new tax for three years, starting in 1936. Her total contribution when she retired was $24.75. She received her first benefit check from Social Security on Jan. 31, 1940.  It came to $22.54 — or 91 percent of all the money she paid into the system. She continued to receive a check every month until her death in 1975 at age 100. By then she had collected $22,888.92, or more than 900 times what she contributed. You can be sure you won’t do as well.

Ted Cruz proudly bats 0 for 11. So far this year, Ted Cruz, the Tea Party-endorsed junior Senator from Texas, hasn’t met a bill he likes enough to vote for it. He has been on the losing side of every Senate vote since taking the oath of office last month. “Sen. Cruz promised the voters of Texas he would take principled stands when it comes to fiscal responsibility and protecting America’s sovereignty,” said Cruz spokesman Sean Rushton.

The iron is gone from Monopoly. Fans of the board game Monopoly were asked to vote on Facebook to select a new token and also to boot one off. The shoe, wheelbarrow and iron led the list to be dropped, with the iron getting the most votes by the time voting ended. A cat will join a dog as one of eight game pieces. Can you name the others? (A car, a thimble, a shoe, a battleship, a hat and a wheelbarrow.)

–Chip Wood

Stop The Illegal Invasion

So now a “Gang of Eight” in the U.S. Senate has come up with new proposals for immigration reform. In a brilliant public-relations move, the Republicans have chosen Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a Tea Party favorite, to win conservative support for the proposals.

But before you jump on this bandwagon, let’s look at some recent history.

Do you remember that in 1986 President Ronald Reagan proposed and Congress approved the Immigration Reform and Control Act? That legislation was supposed to solve the immigration crisis once and for all. It granted amnesty to nearly 3 million “undocumented workers” then living in this country. We were told this would set them on the path to becoming law-abiding, English-speaking, taxpaying citizens.

We were also assured that the flood of illegal immigration into this country would be stopped. Congress subsequently approved legislation to build a massive wall along the U.S.-Mexican border and to hire thousands of additional agents for the Border Patrol.

None of this happened. Not a single thing we were promised 27 years ago came true.

Instead, the flood of illegal aliens into this country became a tsunami. Where we once had 3 million or 4 million illegal aliens, we’re now told the correct number is more than 11 million — several times higher than we faced in 1986, when we allegedly solved this problem “once and for all.” It’s enough to overwhelm our schools, our hospitals, our prisons and our law enforcement officials wherever illegal aliens settle in any significant numbers.

This is not immigration. It’s an invasion. And we need to deal with it as such. This is not just my opinion. It is what our Constitution says.

Article IV, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution clearly states, “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion…”

Right now, there are around 11 million illegal aliens within our borders. Practically all of them came here by crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. More are entering every day. It’s worth noting that the Constitution does not specify a military invasion or the use of arms. No, it simply says “invasion.” And if that is not what we are facing, what is?

Faced with such an invasion, what must our response be? There is only one promise I want to hear, only one action our government must take.

First, we must secure our borders.

Yes, it is time for Congress to act. It’s way past time, in fact. Stop blathering about an omnibus immigration bill that tries to be all things to all people. We must demand that Congress pass and the President enforce legislation that will stop the invasion — nothing less and nothing more, at least for now.

Will that mean hiring thousands of new border guards? Fine. Let’s do it. Hire them, train them and give them the equipment they need to do the job.

Will that mean building a wall along the border with Mexico, stretching from California to Texas? Then appropriate the money, get bids on the contracts and let’s build the darned thing.

Forget about spending billions of dollars on a high-tech fence that won’t work. We don’t need it. Just build a regular old fence, like the Israelis did across the West Bank. I agree with Charles Krauthammer, who said: “It’s very simple. Fences have worked for 5,000 years, and they work everywhere. Why don’t we build one…?”

In addition, we must tell the government of Mexico that we require its cooperation in halting the tidal wave of illegal immigration pouring out of its country — a tidal wave that it has been actively encouraging. That must stop. This is not a request; this is a condition for our continuing friendship.

We must also warn the people of Mexico (and their friends, family and allies in our country) that the United States is going to enforce its laws. Make it clear that we will no longer look the other way or compromise on enforcing our rules and regulations. There will be no way across the border except legally. Period.

And most important of all: We must demand that our government do whatever needs to be done to secure our borders. No more excuses. No more delays. The time to act is now.

There is much more that could and should be said on this subject. As we move to resolve this crisis, let’s make sure that illegal aliens who knowingly and deliberately broke our laws aren’t given a better deal than all those applicants for entry who have played by the rules.

Let’s make it our choice who gets to come here — when, from where, how many and for how long. If we need more temporary workers, fine. Let’s decide how many can come, how long they can stay and what they must do (and not do) while they’re here.

And let’s also insist that we get to decide what to do about the millions of illegal aliens who are already here. I’ll agree that if they’ve been law-abiding, tax-paying contributors to our society since they arrived, they deserve some consideration. But just because someone got away with a crime for years doesn’t mean they’ve earned a free pass to citizenship.

Yes, I know the Democrats are drooling at the thought of millions of new and very grateful voters. The Republicans would be committing electoral suicide if they went along with this scheme.

All of these secondary issues and more we can debate and decide later on. For now, there is only one thing that must be done: We must secure our borders.

If you agree, then there are two things you can do. First, forward this column to several other friends and family members. Urge them to read it, to act on it and to pass it on to others.

Then, contact the three people in Washington who have been elected to represent you: your two Senators and one Representative. It takes only a moment to call their office or send them an email and tell them: “Before doing anything to fix the immigration mess, I demand that you secure our borders. If you won’t help stop the invasion of our country, I will elect someone who will.”

If you’re not sure how to contact your Congressmen (or even who they are), there’s an easy-to-use website that will give you this information in moments. Simply go to www.contactingthecongress.org and click on your State. Everything you need will be just a keystroke or two away.

It isn’t often you get an opportunity to help decide the kind of country your children and your children’s children get to live in. This is one of them. So please, do it now, while you’re thinking about it and while we still have time.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Obama Denied

Appeals Court overrules Obama. Remember a year ago, when President Barack Obama claimed he was making “recess” appointments to the National Labor Relations Board and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (except the Senate wasn’t really in recess)? On Jan. 25, a three-judge panel of the U.S. court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the appointments were an illegal abuse of executive power. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court decided not to get involved in the dispute. That means all of the pro-union orders the NLRB issued last year could be thrown out. Stay tuned; this could get interesting.

Some really super ads. There were a couple of commercials that really resonated with viewers during last Sunday’s Super Bowl. Budweiser was back with another winning Clydesdale story. This one had more schmaltz than a Hallmark commercial, with even some male viewers choking back a tear or two. No comment about the dialogue, because not a word was said during the entire spot. That wasn’t the case with my second favorite, Chrysler’s powerful tribute to America’s farmers. The prose poem by Paul Harvey was deeply moving. I wonder how many younger viewers had no idea who they were hearing.

Just how low were those skeet? In a recent interview, President Barack Obama said, “(U)p at Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time.” Really? In an effort to support the President’s claim, the White House released a photograph of him holding a shotgun that had just been fired. The gun is pointed straight ahead, however, not up in the air, as would normally be the case. This led some critics to suggest that the picture was a PR shot, not a skeet shoot. That, in turn, caused some supporters to denounce “Republican conspiracy nuts” who would make such an accusation.

No legislation needed. When asked about legislation to implement President Barack Obama’s climate-change proposals, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) had this to say: “A lot of you press me … on: ‘Where is the bill on climate change? Where is the bill?’ There doesn’t have to be a bill. There will be many approaches, but I’m telling you right now, EPA has the authority in the transportation sector, in the electricity sector, and the industrial sector under the Clean Air Act” to do everything that legislation could accomplish. Nice job of abdicating your authority, Senator.

–Chip Wood

 

 

Viewers Ignore Obama

Ratings plunge for Obama inaugural. Fewer than half as many Americans watched Barack Obama’s second inauguration on cable news channels as they did on his first Inauguration Day back in 2009. Four years ago, close to 17 million people tuned in to the special coverage on CNN, MSNBC and FOX News. This time around, fewer than 7 million Americans watched any of the coverage.

New York City surrenders to honkers. In a sign that it is abandoning the battle to stop New Yorkers from honking their car horns, the city’s Transportation Department says it is removing all of the “Don’t Honk” signs from the streets. City officials say that the move is part of an effort to “declutter” the streets of New York of signs that everyone ignores. There’s no word about what the city will do with all of the signs once they’re down. If they’re smart, they’d auction them on eBay, where they’d be sure to fetch a pretty penny.

Venezuela sinks to the bottom. In Hey, Phil, Move To Florida!, I listed the top 10 countries in the latest Index of Economic Freedom. Sad to say, the United States has fallen to the 10th spot on the annual survey. Still, that’s a whole lot better than the sorry situation in Venezuela. Pro-communist strongman Hugo Chavez has driven his country to its position near the bottom of the list. Only Zimbabwe, Cuba and North Korea rank lower.

Some folks will wager on anything. It should come as no surprise that more money will be bet on this Sunday’s Super Bowl than any other event this year. But what I didn’t know is that you can bet on almost any aspect of the game, including what color liquid will be dumped on the winning team’s coach. As I write, yellow is the favorite at 7-to-4, according to online sports book Bovada.

–Chip Wood

Hey, Phil, Move To Florida!

Pro golfer Phil Mickelson (known as “Lefty” to friends and fans) backed into a buzz saw when he said he might make some “drastic changes” about where he lives. Thanks to the confiscatory taxes he and his family will now be paying, he said he was even considering moving out of the People’s Republic of California.

Apparently, a whole bunch of folks thought it was shockingly insensitive of him to mention how much he pays in taxes, when he pulls in 20 times more money a year than the average worker earns in a lifetime. After a media firestorm erupted, he apologized for his remarks, saying that “finances and taxes are a personal matter” and that in the future he wouldn’t say anything about them.

According to SI.com, Mickelson’s total income last year, counting prize money, endorsements and appearance fees, came to $60.7 million. Even though his tax rate is more than 60 percent, that still leaves him a net of about $24 million. The media mob let it be known that, with that much moola, the acclaimed golfer should sit down, shut up and be glad he could pay the piper.

Strangely enough, there was very little criticism of other all-star athletes who fled “The Golden State” long before Mickelson suggested he might do such a thing. Tiger Woods moved from California to Florida in 1996, the year he turned pro. He said last week that the difference in State tax rates had a lot to do with his decision.

In the early 1990s, tennis greats Serena and Venus Williams also moved from California to Florida, where there is no State income tax, so that the sisters could train. I don’t remember anyone raking them over the coals for doing so.

Back when these pros moved out, the top marginal tax rate in California was 9.3 percent. Today, it’s more than 40 percent higher. At the prodding of Governor Jerry Brown, the State Legislature last year raised the State’s grab to 13.3 percent. And what’s more, lawmakers made the new rate retroactive to all of 2012.

So Mickelson has an $8 million incentive to wave goodbye to California’s golden shores — or almost. The State revenuers are going to nail him on his 2012 income, no matter what he decides now. But looking ahead, it sure would make sense for him to head for more hospitable climes. After all, Woods has saved an estimated $100 million by moving to Florida, a State that doesn’t tax income at all.

By the way, it’s not just all-star athletes who are fleeing from California’s great tax grab. The Wall Street Journal reports: “About 3.5 million Californians have migrated to other states over the past two decades.”

Of course, professional athletes have a huge advantage when it comes to moving to tax-friendly environs. Their jobs don’t depend on where they live. That’s not true for most of us, where moving to tax-friendly climes would require finding new employment.

It isn’t just California that takes a double-digit bite from its residents. According to the Tax Foundation, other States with a tax burden of 10 percent or more on its residents are: Arkansas (10 percent), Connecticut (12.3 percent), Hawaii (10.1 percent), Illinois (10.2 percent), Maine (10.3 percent), Maryland (10.2 percent), Massachusetts (10.4 percent), Minnesota (10.8 percent), New Jersey (12.4 percent) and New York (12.8 percent).

If you live in one of those high-tax States, maybe it’s time to do what so many professional athletes have done and consider heading elsewhere. Here are the seven States with that assess no tax on income: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming. We should probably add New Hampshire and Tennessee to the list, since those States tax only dividend and interest, not salaries.

Golfers seem to prefer Florida, probably because of the huge number of superb golf courses in the State. Many professional baseball players head to Texas. And Las Vegas is home to a number of top-ranked tennis players.

Despite its tax advantages, I haven’t heard of many professional athletes who decided to make Alaska their home. That’s understandable; they’d not only face some pretty fierce winters, but also one heck of a commute to every match.

We’re All Losing Economic Freedom

Yes, moving from a high-tax State to a low- or zero-tax one will leave you with a few more pennies in your pocket. But we need to remember that the biggest tax bite, by far, comes from Washington. And there the news is not encouraging.

Thanks to the horribly misnamed American Tax Payer Relief Act of 2012, about 99 percent of taxpaying Americans will see their taxes go up this year, not down. Every wage earner in the country will be subject to a higher payroll tax. Federal taxes on incomes of more than $400,000 will climb to 39.6 percent. Add to that a surtax of 3.8 percent on investment income, thanks to Obamacare, plus a hike of .9 percent in Medicare taxes on wages of more than $200,000. High-income earners will also be subject to new limits on itemized deductions.

These are just some of the reasons why the United States has once again lost ground in the annual Index of Economic Freedom that is compiled each year by The Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation.

The index is based on the theory, first promulgated by economist Adam Smith in his 1776 classic The Wealth of Nations, that “when institutions protect the liberty of individuals, greater prosperity results for all.”

So how is the United States doing in protecting the liberty of its citizens? As you might have guessed, not well at all. In the latest rankings, we lost ground in monetary freedom, business freedom, labor freedom and fiscal freedom. As a result we’ve fallen to 10th place in the index.

Which countries rank at the top? There’s no real surprise that Hong Kong is No. 1, Singapore No. 2 and Switzerland is No. 5. But we’ve been passed by several countries we used to lead, including Australia at No. 3, New Zealand at No. 4 and Canada at No. 6. The three other countries above us in the top 10 are Chile at No. 7, Mauritius at No. 8 and Denmark at No. 9.

So, Phil, if you’re looking to lower your State tax bill, come on down to Florida. You’ll find many of your peers are already here, enjoying low taxes and good weather all year long.

But if you really want to increase your economic freedom, I’m afraid you’ll have to leave our borders. Do you even know where Mauritius is? Or what sort of golf courses they have there?

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Jamie Foxx, Gun Hypocrite

Jamie Foxx is one of a bevy of Hollywood celebrities who appear in a new video urging Washington to come up with a plan to end gun violence. Chris Rock, Amy Poehler, Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Aniston and Will Ferrell join Foxx in pleading: “For the children of Sandy Hook, we demand a plan.”

But of course, like liberals everywhere, they’re talking about more controls over you and me — not what they do in their own lives. Or even more significantly, the on-screen violence that pays many of them so well. A majority of the films that received a Best Picture nomination this year are replete with bloodshed. Take gun violence out of “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Django Unchained,” “Argo” and “Lincoln” and there wouldn’t be much a movie left. Hey, murder and mayhem sell.

The ultra-violent flick “Django Unchained” has already raked in more than $129 million at the box office. Foxx plays a revenge-seeking ex-slave.

While hosting “Saturday Night Live” last month, Foxx bragged about all the bloodshed in the Quentin Tarantino-directed movie.

“I kill all the white people in the movie,” he boasted. “How great is that?”

That’s actually a bit of an exaggeration. Django doesn’t kill all the white people — just a whole bunch of them.

And, of course, all of the violence in “Django Unchained” and others like it is portrayed with as much realism as possible, which these days means very realistically indeed.

But movies are just one source of the mindless violence that permeates our society these days. Cable television has always been known for pushing the borders of sex and violence. Now, broadcast TV is following suit. “The Following,” a new series on Fox Television, literally wallows in blood as star Kevin Bacon tries to stop a serial killer and his cult of followers.

I’ve seen estimates that by the time the average teenage male reaches high school, he has witnessed more than 10,000 killings on TV and in the movies. If he’s a fan of ultra-violent video games — as was the case for Adam Lanza, the deranged shooter in Newtown, Conn. — that number is no doubt considerably higher.

Michael Medved pointed out in his syndicated column: “The fact that violent entertainment doesn’t influence everybody doesn’t mean that it fails to influence anybody. The habits of prolific mass murderers — including the insane shooters at Columbine,Aurora and, apparently, Newtown — reveal a taste for brutal diversion.”

Yet don’t anyone dare suggest there could be some sort of relationship with a fascination for on-screen violence and the fantasies of a mentally unstable young man. The Entertainment Merchants Association, which represents video game makers and other parts of the home entertainment industry, sent an open letter to Vice President Joe Biden warning him against even investigating any possible relationship between movies, video games and real-life violence.

And former Senator Chris Dodd, who is now the head of the Motion Picture Association of America, has been quoted as saying: “What we don’t want to get involved with is content regulation. We’re vehemently opposed to that.”

Of course they are. And, as a matter of fact, so am I. The only thing worse than the present situation would be to give some committee in Washington the power to dictate what we are allowed to see. I’d hate to see what would happen to Personal Liberty Digest™ if that were ever allowed to occur.

It should come as no surprise that there is nothing in President Barack Obama’s latest gun control proposals that will do anything to change the culture of violence that pervades Hollywood today.

Interestingly enough, even with all of the publicity and the emotional outpouring that followed the terrible tragedy in Newtown, most Americans do not believe that more gun control is the answer. In a new Gallup survey, when asked to identify “the most important problem” facing the country, responders rated “gun control” No. 6.

What were the five issues that were of much more concern to a majority of Americans? You won’t be surprised to learn that the economy was in first place, followed by the Federal budget deficit, dissatisfaction with government, unemployment and lack of money.

A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found similar results. “Enacting stricter gun-control laws” ranked fourth on a list of priorities that the public wants Washington to address. No surprise what was No. 1: It was the economy again. “Reducing federal spending” came in second. No. 3 was “restructuring the federal tax system.”

But none of this matters to the zealots in the White House and their liberal allies. Remember what Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff, said three years ago: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. … the opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.”

That is precisely why we are seeing such an aggressive push on gun control today by the Obama Administration and their friends. Remember: When promoters talk about additional gun control measures, what they’re really talking about are more measures to control you and other law-abiding Americans. Virtually none of the 23 executive orders promulgated by Obama will have any effect on deranged people who obtain weapons and then attack innocents in schools, theaters and other “gun-free” places.

That said, I’m not too worried about horribly restrictive new gun control measures being passed by Congress. In fact, it won’t surprise me if one of our best allies on this issue turns out to be Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Here’s why:

There are 34 seats in the U.S. Senate that will be decided in 2014. Of those, 14 are held by Republicans, 20 by Democrats. But get this: Many of the latter seats are in bright red States. In fact, Obama lost seven of those 20 States in November’s election.

That’s why Ted Cruz, the newly elected Senator from Texas, made this interesting observation: “There have got to be some Democrats who are up for reelection in 2014 who are very, very nervous right now that President Obama is picking this fight. The citizens of their states are not interested in the federal government banning gun ownership for law-abiding citizens.”

Yes, I’m sure we’ll see a slew of new gun-control legislation being submitted in the new Congress. Most of it will have three things in common:

  • One, it will be ineffective.
  • Two, it will be unConstitutional.
  • And three, I’m happy to say, it won’t get approved.

Yes, this is one battle we can win — despite all of the hype, hoopla and emotional rhetoric the left will use against us. Of course, this doesn’t mean we should relax one iota. Eternal vigilance is still the price of liberty.

So until next time, keep some powder dry… and your Congressmen on notice.

–Chip Wood

Score! Stocks Will Rise This Year

Stock bulls will like this Super Bowl. Are you familiar with Wall Street’s Super Bowl Predictor? It says that the stock market will go up in a year that an original National Football League team wins the Super Bowl, but will fall whenever a team from the former American Football League is victorious. Hey, don’t scoff; it’s been right more than 80 percent of the time. And since both contestants in this year’s Super Bowl were part of the original National Football League (the Baltimore Ravens trace their lineage back to the old Cleveland Browns), followers say the market will be up for the year. Time will tell if they’re right again.

Surprising opposition to the Hagel nomination. The Washington Post published an unusually harsh editorial opposing the nomination of former senator Chuck Hagel to be our new Secretary of Defense. The Post wrote: “Mr. Hagel’s stated positions on critical issues, ranging from defense spending to Iran, fall well to the left of those pursued by Mr. Obama during his first term — and place him near the fringe of the Senate that would be asked to confirm him.” Meanwhile, some anticipated opposition to the nomination vanished when New York Senator Charles Schumer issued a warm endorsement of his former colleague after a private meeting between the two.

Wal-Mart steps up. In a speech at the National Retail Federation’s annual convention, Bill Simon, president and CEO of Wal-Mart’s U.S. business, said the company will hire more than 100,000 honorably discharged veterans over the next five years. He said vets “are leaders with discipline, training, and a passion for service. There is a seriousness and sense of purpose that the military instills, and we need it today more than ever.” Simon also announced that the company will purchase an additional $50 billion of American-made products over the next 10 years, in an effort to create more jobs here at home.

Conservative group sues to stop new gun controls. FreedomWatch, a conservative activist group, has filed suit in Federal court to block President Barack Obama’s new gun-control initiatives, including the 23 executive orders he issued on Jan. 16. The group claims that the White House task force that created the proposals conducted illegal meetings with lobbyists, without the public notice that is required by law. Don’t hold your breath waiting for a ruling in the group’s favor.

–Chip Wood

Your Tax Refund Will Take Longer

Delays expected in tax refunds. The Internal Revenue Service announced that the Congressional debate over the fiscal cliff has caused it to delay processing individual tax returns by eight days. The IRS needed the extra time to program its computers to include the changes and extensions the legislation included. The IRS says it will begin processing 2012 tax returns by the end of the month.

The rush to buy guns and join the NRA. Gun stores around the country are reporting record-breaking sales, thanks to all the publicity about further gun-control efforts. “If I had 1,000 AR-15s, I could sell them in a week,” one dealer said. The National Rifle Association also reports a surge in membership, with more than 250,000 joining the group in a month. The NRA now has some 4.25 million members and says its goal is to reach 5 million “before this debate is over.”

Time to stop subsidizing Planned Parenthood. In its latest annual report, Planned Parenthood says that it performed a record 333,964 abortions in 2011 and received a record $542 million in taxpayer support in fiscal 2011-2012. But here’s the real shocker: The same report says the abortion group has total assets of more than $1.2 billion (yes, that’s billion with a “b”) and “excess assets” (what normal businesses call “profits”) of $87.4 million. No wonder many in Congress want to stop taxpayer funding of the group.

Save your favorite Monopoly token. Hasbro, maker of one of the world’s most popular board games, has announced a Monopoly token contest. Fans are urged to vote on the “Save Your Token” Facebook page for their favorite game piece: the race car, iron, Scottie dog, wheelbarrow, boot, hat, thimble or battleship. Whichever one receives the lowest total when the contest ends on Feb. 5 will be dropped from future editions. Fans can also vote on what should replace the loser: a toy robot, helicopter, cat, guitar or diamond ring.

–Chip Wood  

Obama’s ‘In Your Face’ Nominations

Barack Obama’s second term hasn’t even officially begun. But we already know that the tone will be even more demanding and confrontational than his first term. That became clear in the so-called negotiations over the fiscal cliff.

Except there weren’t really any negotiations. It was pretty much “my way or the highway.” One of his most recalcitrant representatives in discussions with Congressional leaders was White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew.

In fact, Lew’s intransigence so infuriated Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that the normally mild-mannered Republican refused to meet with him anymore. To show you just how extreme Lew was, the Democrats brought in Vice President Joe Biden as a “moderating” influence. Imagine Biden being the calming voice in the room.

So how did all those negotiations end? Here’s how veteran Washington observer Pat Buchanan described the results:

“Rather than do a deal with Speaker John Boehner and offer one-for-one budget cuts for tax hikes, the president forced congressional Republicans into a humiliating climb-down and public retreat that split the House majority asunder. Then he spiked the football to rub it in, saying he had made good on his pledge to make the rich pay.”

Obama then added insult to injury, at least as far as conservative Republicans are concerned, by nominating Lew to succeed Timothy Geithner as Secretary of the Treasury.

John Carney, an editor at CNBC.com, said that by nominating Lew for the Treasury post, Obama was being intentionally antagonistic. Indeed, he is sending a “pointed message” that he is now ready to “pick fights with Congress.”

Indeed, that is precisely what has been happening.

Two years ago, when he was serving as Obama’s budget director, Lew testified that Obama’s budget “will get us… to the point where we can look the American people in the eye and say we’re not adding to the debit anymore.”

What a joke! Instead of not adding to the debt, Obama increased the national debt by $6 trillion in four short years. His Administration overspent receipts by more than $1 trillion a year every year he’s been in office.

And now he’s demanding that the debt ceiling be increased — or even worse, abolished altogether — so the spending spree can continue. To put it another way, for every dollar the Federal government spends, it saddles our children and grandchildren with an additional 34 cents of debt.

So much for promises of “not adding to the debt anymore.”

Lew’s nomination to the Treasury post probably won’t receive the opposition it should. There would have been a ton of fireworks on Capitol Hill had Obama proceeded with his original plan to appoint U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to succeed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. But the Administration wisely decided that it didn’t want to face the barrage of negative questioning that would have occurred over Rice’s repeated deceptions about the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya in September.

The last thing anyone in the Administration wanted was more attention placed on the murder of Christopher Stevens, our ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans. So Rice was persuaded to withdraw her name from consideration. Instead, Obama went with the very safe nomination of the liberal senior Senator from Massachusetts, John Kerry.

Kerry’s vision of what this country’s role in the world should be is certainly vastly different from mine… and probably yours. But it isn’t strikingly different from that of his new boss. He is generally respected by his colleagues in the Senate, or at least not too heartily disliked. After some tough questioning at his confirmation hearings, I predict that he will be easily confirmed to become our latest Secretary of State.

That won’t be the case for Obama’s third nomination that the Senate will have to consider. There will be some heated opposition for Chuck Hagel to succeed Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defense.

Normally, when a President nominates someone from the other party for an important post, it is smooth sailing all the way. This won’t be the case for Hagel, the former Republican Senator from Nebraska. Not only is he to the left of his Republican colleagues, but on some important issues he is to the left of Barack Obama — as hard as that may be to believe.

Hagel has gotten a lot of criticism for comments that made him appear to many as being anti-Israel. How else would one interpret things like “I’m a United States Senator, not an Israeli Senator” or “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here [on Capitol Hill]”?

A decade ago, after Yasser Arafat has launched his Second Intifada against Israeli, it was not the Palestinian terrorists whom Hagel condemned. No, he said that “Israel must take steps to show its commitment to peace.”

Charles Krauthammer, the popular FOX commentator, had this to say in response:

“Good God. Exactly two years earlier, Israel had proposed an astonishingly generous peace that offered Arafat a Palestinian state — and half of Jerusalem, a previously unimaginable Israeli concession. Arafat said no, made no counteroffer, walked away and started his terror war. Did no one tell Hagel?”

Regarding cutbacks in the defense budget, Hagel in the past has called the Pentagon “bloated” and says our military “needs to be pared down.” Those views are pretty much in accord with those of Obama. But they are sure to lead to some sharp questioning at his confirmation hearings.

But expect the most heat to be generated over Hagel’s squishy soft attitude toward Iran. Not only has he been outspoken against any military action to end the threat of a nuclear Iran, but he has also opposed American economic sanctions against the terrorist-sponsoring state. He even voted against designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization.

Krauthammer rightly calls Hagel “a fringe Senator who left no trace behind.” And he adds, “Hagel matters only because of what his nomination says about Obama.” And he concludes, “The lessons are being duly drawn. Iran’s official media have already cheered the choice of what they call this ‘anti-Israel’ nominee.”

In March, Obama whispered to then-President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia: “This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.”

Judging by the first three nominations for his new term, we now know what Obama meant by “more flexibility.” He will be even more demanding, hard-nosed and unyielding than he was during his first term. And he will push harder and faster in his quest to transform the country that has twice elected him to our highest office.

You all right to be worried, my friends, about what this means for our once-great Republic. Very worried indeed.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Not So Fast, Governor Christie

Did you see where New Jersey Governor Chris Christie lit into Speaker John Boehner and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives for delaying a vote on giving billions of dollars in Federal aid to States devastated by Superstorm Sandy?

Christie is one of the better ranters on the national scene. But even many of his admirers were taken back by the harshness of his attack.

“There’s only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims,” Christie proclaimed, “the House majority and their Speaker, John Boehner.”

Christie told reporters he called the Speaker’s office four times the night he heard the vote would be delayed but never got a return call. Just to rub salt in the wound, the White House announced the next day that Barack Obama had personally called the Republican Governor to discuss relief efforts. The Governor concluded his diatribe by declaring, “(S)hame on you, shame on Congress. … put aside the politics and help our people now.”

But of course, asking Congress to “put aside the politics” on anything is to ask for the impossible. In fact, politics has everything to do with why this disaster-relief bill is a pork-filled disaster. Representative Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) was correct when he said, “They had the opportunity to have a $27 [billion] to $30 billion dollar legit relief package, packed it with pork, then dared us not to vote on it.”

Among the absurd bequests in the aid package are $150 million to support Alaskan fisheries, a couple of million bucks for roof repairs at the Smithsonian and dozens of other pieces of pork, including $17 billion to support “community development” activists.

The Wall Street Journal warned in an editorial: “Far from being must-pass legislation, this is a disgrace to the memory of the victims and could taint legitimate efforts to deal with future disasters.”

Under the circumstances, I think Boehner showed commendable courage by delaying a vote until the new Congress could consider the legislation. When they do, let’s hope they’ll vote to take a scalpel — or even better, a meat clever — to all of the pork that usually got stuffed into the bill. (I’ll leave for another day the argument about where in the Constitution you will find any authority for Congress to take our tax dollars for such charitable activities, no matter how noble they appear.)

I would like to see Congress discuss the folly of paying people to build homes and condos that everyone knows could be wiped out by a hurricane. Since insurance companies refuse to write policies for such properties, our benevolent Federal government decided to force all taxpayers everywhere to subsidize flood insurance for the happy owners.

When a storm comes along, as one inevitably does, the happy homeowner gets a free ride on rebuilding. In some areas, the same home has been hit, damaged and repaired several times — all at taxpayer expense. How about letting these ninnies take the risks themselves, rather than getting us to pay for it?

While on the subject of Congressional malfeasance, let me mention something that I neglected to include in last week’s column, Congress Sticks It To Us Again, on the rushed-through, unread legislation that kept this country from plunging over the fiscal cliff. Did you hear what our legislators decided to call this Frankenstein’s monster?

Even though the measure raises taxes on all working Americans, the bill is called the American Tax Relief Act of 2012. My friend Mark Skousen says the measure should have been called the “Congress Relieves Your Pocketbook Act of 2012.” But of course, that name could be used for just about any legislation that Congress passes.

While some Republicans are still trying to defend that abominable measure as “the best we could do in a bad situation,” Charles Krauthammer is one observer who isn’t buying it. He said the bill represents “a complete surrender on everything. … it’s a complete rout by the Democrats.”

The FOX News commentator said the President not only won increases in tax rates on the wealthy, he’s likely to gain another tax increase when Congress agrees to reduce deductions in the future. “So he gets a double rise in rates,” Krauthammer observed.

The Coming Clash Over The Debt Ceiling

With the fight over the fiscal cliff behind us, the next “line in the sand” for conservatives in Congress will be the battle over raising the ceiling on our national debt. The last time around, Republicans caved in and voted to raise the ceiling only after President Barack Obama agreed to spending cuts. There was supposed to be $1 in spending cuts for every $1 the debt ceiling was raised. If this wasn’t done, then $1.2 trillion in cuts would be mandated over the next decade — the so-called “sequestration” you’ve heard so much about.

Of course, the Federal budget wasn’t reduced. The Democrats didn’t even play their usual game of smoke and mirrors by agreeing to reductions in spending increases, which they would then call “spending cuts.” Nope, the spending spree continued, as Obama racked up another trillion-dollar deficit.

What’s next? We’re going to hear a lot of nasty threats and implausible promises over the next few weeks, including all of the disastrous things that will befall this country if we don’t give Obama all of the funds he wants.

But of all the absurd proposals that will be offered, this week produced the most hilarious of all: the suggestion that the United States mint a shiny new platinum coin, give it a nominal face value of $1 trillion and then deposit it with the Federal Reserve.

The theory is that the Fed could use the new funds to buy back U.S. Treasuries it holds, thus reducing the outstanding amount of government debt. Lowering the debt would mean there would be no need to raise the ceiling.

Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) says he is “absolutely serious” about putting such a proposal before Congress. Paul Krugman, the Pulitzer-prize winning economist and influential New York Times columnist, says it’s worth considering. There’s even a petition on the White House website asking the U.S. Mint to make such a coin.

I’ve learned over the years never to underestimate the ability of Congress to consider, and sometimes pass, some truly ludicrous legislation. It makes you wonder how we’ve managed to survive the government we have, doesn’t it? But at least we don’t get all the government we pay for; that would really destroy us.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Get It Through Your Thick Skull

We’re getting tired as well, Mr. President. Speaker of the House John Boehner told Wall Street Journal columnist Stephen Moore that during negotiations over the fiscal cliff, he kept trying to tell the President that the Nation doesn’t have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem. Moore quotes Boehner as saying he repeated this message so often that the President finally responded, “I’m getting tired of hearing you say that.” Well, we’re getting tired of having to say it, Mr. President.

The high costs of wind subsidies. In an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal, former Senator Phil Gramm gave an interesting comparison of the cost of various energy subsidies. Wind power tops the list, at a cost of $54.28 per one million watt hours generated. The same amount of electricity from nuclear power costs $3.10, from hydropower 84 cents, from coal just 64 cents and from natural gas 63 cents. Yet it looks like we will spend another $12 billion in wind subsidies this year. Why?

A costly break in a Presidential vacation. According to Newsmax, most of the Obama family’s vacations in Hawaii cost about $4 million, much of it for Air Force One. But when the President interrupted his Christmas vacation this year to fly back to Washington at the end of the fiscal cliff negotiations, the extra round trip added $3.4 million to this year’s tab.

Al Gore’s dubious deal. Current TV, the cable network founded by Al Gore and some friends, never caught on with the American public, averaging fewer than 40,000 viewers a night. But that didn’t deter the pro-Islamist network Al-Jazeera from ponying up $500 million to buy it. The sale will be worth about $70 million to Gore, who tried but failed to get the deal closed by Dec. 31 in order to avoid the higher tax rates that kicked in on Jan. 1. Gore reportedly will remain on the board of the new entity, to be called Al-Jazeera America.

–Chip Wood

More Lies

The Benghazi, Libya, deceit continues. Remember when the U.S. Department of State said that four top officials resigned after the release of a scathing report on the terrorist attack that killed our ambassador and four other Americans? It turns out that wasn’t quite true. One person simply got a new job, while three others were placed on temporary leave. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, blasted the deception, saying, “The discipline is a lie and all that has happened is the shuffling of the deck chairs.”

Should we kick the rascal out? Piers Morgan, a normally well-mannered Englishman who hosts a CNN television program, has gotten in hot water for his outrageous attacks on gun control opponents who were guests on his show. He called Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, “an unbelievably stupid man” with “dangerous” views. On another show, he denounced a guest as a liar and refused to let him explain his views. As a result, thousands of people have signed a petition calling for Morgan to be deported from this country.

Good riddance to this regulator. I was delighted to see that Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, has handed in her resignation. In the past four years, no one in Washington has issued more punitive regulations or done more to stifle American industry than this lady. Hopefully, her successor will stop issuing dictatorial edicts and defying Congressional authority. But I wouldn’t count on it.

Gold’s amazing track record continues. For the 12th year in a row, gold finished the year worth more than it was at the beginning of 2012 — a record no other investment class can match. The Midas metal finished up 6 percent on the year. But silver did even better, rising  9 percent for the year. Platinum climbed 8 percent. But it’s not that precious metals are getting more precious; it’s that the value of the dollar continues to decline — something that will probably be true this year as well.

–Chip Wood

Congress Sticks It To Us Again

Happy New Year, everyone! Weren’t you inspired to see how our elected representatives worked late into the night, even on New Year’s Eve, to keep this country from plunging over the fiscal cliff?

And what a great deal they got for us! Taxes are guaranteed to go up for the vast majority of Americans. Spending cuts will be postponed. Government is going to get bigger. So will the deficit. Barack Obama can gloat that he forced Republicans to accept higher taxes. In fact, an anonymous “official close to the talks” told FOX News’ Ed Henry that getting the GOP to break their tax pledge is “one of the most consequential policy achievements of the last couple of decades.”

My, doesn’t that make you feel better?

Conservatives in the House made a last-ditch effort to include some mandatory spending cuts in the legislation. But that effort failed when Democratic leaders in the Senate said they would refuse to consider any changes in the legislation they had approved the night before. When the final tally was taken, the measure passed the House 257-167, with about a third of the Republicans voting in favor of it.

The margin of approval was even bigger in the Senate, where it passed by a vote of 89-8. Among the tiny minority that voted nay were such Tea Party favorites as Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah).

And even though everyone is sick of all the politicking and posturing, we’re going to go through all of it again over the next couple of months. That’s when we run smack into the debt ceiling, have to deal with mandatory budget cuts and are supposed to come up with some sort of budget for the next fiscal year.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner added fuel to the fire when he said last week that the United States would reach its debt limit on Dec. 31 and, thus, presumably run out of money. But then he piously proclaimed that he could use some “extraordinary measures” to find the funds to keep government going for another couple of months. So the rhetoric to raise the debt ceiling from $16.394 trillion, where it is now, will get a lot hotter between now and March 1.

There is no rest for the wicked — or for the big spenders in Washington.

In a classic example of premature congratulations, the stock market celebrated the new accord. The Washington Post reported: “The Dow soared 308 points, or 2.4%, on Wednesday, the biggest point to start a year in history, after posting the biggest ever year-end point gain of 166 points on Monday.”

But don’t expect the euphoria to last for long, as the realities of what this new agreement does and doesn’t do begin to strike home.

Just how bad is this Frankenstein’s monster? The bill is packed with pork for many of the Administration’s pet projects, including subsidies for plug-in electric vehicles, special deductions for film and television productions, a $12.1 billion tax credit for wind energy and even first-time home buyers in the District of Columbia. Numerous subsidies, tax credits and other goodies are buried in the legislation. You can be sure that the more we learn about what’s in the bill, the less we will like it.

Although Barack Obama campaigned on promises to raise taxes for anyone making more than $200,000 a year and couples earning $250,000, the final legislation raised the base a bit higher. The new limit is families and small-business owners earning $450,000 a year. They will see their personal income tax rate go from 35 percent to 41 percent.

But that’s a fraction of the hit that income from investments will take. Thrifty seniors who lived within their means all of their lives will see the taxes on their investments go up dramatically, while the incentive for anyone to invest in productive businesses will go down. That’s because taxes on dividends and capital gains will go from 15 percent to 23.8 percent. (The final number includes an Obamacare investment income surtax of 3.8 percent.)

In addition to those higher tax rates, couples earning $300,000 or more a year will see their deductions and exemptions phased out. The more they earn, they less they will be able to deduct.

One of the few pieces of good news in the measure is that the estate tax won’t be quite as bad as was feared. If we had gone over the fiscal cliff, the death tax would have been 55 percent on all estates worth $1 million or more. The new number is 40 percent for estates valued at $5 million.

But there is another tax increase that will hit every wage earner in America. That is the payroll tax collected for Social Security, which will rise from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent. This is because a temporary reduction in payroll taxes that Congress approved two years ago, ostensibly to help stimulate the economy, expired on Jan. 1.

So every person earning $50,000 a year or more will pay an additional $1,000 in payroll taxes. So much for the myth that only “millionaires and billionaires” will have to ante up to help pay for Obama’s additional spending.

Taken all together, the Congressional Budget Office says this compromise legislation will add $4 trillion to the national debt over the next 10 years. And even that estimate assumes that the budget cuts required by sequestration actually do take effect this year. I wouldn’t bet on it. Although the sequestration cuts were supposed to begin on Jan. 1, the fiscal cliff compromise kicked that can down the road for another two months.

The bottom line is that this legislation raises income taxes, capital gains taxes, dividend taxes, death taxes and payroll taxes. It is a huge victory for Obama and his big-spending buddies in Congress and a big setback for everyone who believes that Washington has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.

In effect, we’ve given some chronic alcoholics the keys to the liquor cabinets. And now we hope they will somehow sober up? Don’t count on it.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Should We Arm Our Teachers?

There are several things that are not going to happen in this country in the aftermath of the terrible tragedy that struck Newtown, Conn., two weeks ago.

First of all, despite the recommendations of National Rifle Association top honcho Wayne LaPierre, we are not going to post armed guards in all of our nation’s schools. There are something like 135,000 schools in this country. The cost to put armed guards in all of them for every hour they are open would be staggering. I can’t imagine there are very many local communities that would be willing to pay the price.

Nor is there any chance that Congress will vote to strip our various entitlement programs to cover the costs, or to slash the military budget to do so. Yes, I know, only a heartless cretin would try to put a price tag on the value of saving the lives of those 20 6- and 7-year-olds, not to mention the six adults who were also murdered by the same deranged gunman. But let’s face facts here, folks. Would we really be willing to pay the costs of sending armed guards into our schools every day (and night) they are open, to prevent one or two incidents a year? I don’t think so.

Another idea some people have proposed is to arm some of our teachers. While I agree with the sentiment that the best way to stop a bad man with a gun is by a good man (or woman) with one, can you really see very many school boards that would approve such an effort?

As the father of five children, I’ve known a lot of teachers over the years. And frankly, there aren’t too many of them I would like to see armed and ready at any of the schools my children attended.

Yes, I’ve seen the emails circulating on the Internet claiming that school teachers in Israel routinely go to school armed and ready to deter terrorists. But the story is false. Israel has no such policy. Although I confess, it would make a lot more sense to do so in a country where military service is compulsory for every young person, male and female. Presumably they all have had some weapons training, which is not the case in the United States.

But let me play the devil’s advocate here for a moment and point out that it isn’t necessary for every teacher to be armed and ready to fend off an attack. All it takes is one. And there is a lot of evidence that responsible gun owners who have taken the steps necessary to comply with concealed-carry laws in their community can save lives.

Mass shootings at public schools in this country were extremely rare prior to 1995. That was the year that Congress approved the national Gun-Free School Zone Act. The assumption was that banning anyone from carrying a weapon into any of our public schools would make them safer.

No, it didn’t. All it did was make them sitting ducks for deranged lunatics. For starters, how about we rescind that law and encourage people who want to be ready to deal with such situations, rare as they may be, to get the training, permits and equipment necessary to carry a concealed weapon in public?

I’m told that something like 8.5 million Americans can legally carry concealed weapons today. Wouldn’t you feel safer if that number were several times higher? And wouldn’t you feel safer if our schools were no longer publicly advertised no-gun zones?

John R. Lott Jr., author of More Guns, Less Crime, asked an interesting question in USA Today this week: “Would you feel safer with a sign on your house saying ‘this house is a gun-free zone’? But if you wouldn’t put these signs on your home, why put them elsewhere?” Why indeed.

While we’re on the subject of getting weapons in the hands of the good guys (and gals), let’s discuss for a moment if it’s possible to do a better job of spotting the potential bad guys and stopping them before they act.

I don’t know of any mental health screening that would have identified Adam Lanza as a potential mass murderer; or one that would have warned the folks in Webster, N. Y., that William Spengler was about to go berserk and murder two firemen (and wanted to kill a lot more). And I shudder to think of the violation of our civil liberties that it would take to put any such program in place.

I suspect that one thing all of these murderous lunatics have in common is a sick desire for publicity for their crimes. Sadly, that’s one thing we can’t deny them. A free press means giving the public the news it wants, even if that means a morbid fascination with such terrible tragedies as the one that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School. But it’s interesting to contemplate whether their actions would be any different if they knew the media wouldn’t fill the airwaves with stories about them.

And finally, let me say a few words about the notion that taking guns away from law-abiding Americans will do anything to keep them out of the hands of criminals and psychotics. After the tragic deaths in Newtown, the gun-control lobby has gone into a frenzy. The vitriolic attacks against the NRA and other gun advocates have gotten a bit scary.

But I don’t believe that taking guns away from law-abiding Americans will do anything to make us safer. And no matter what the anti-gun lobby would like to believe, it ain’t going to happen. I expect the courts to continue to affirm our 2nd Amendment rights, which pretty clearly states, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.”

Oh, I’m sure we’ll see proposals to increase controls on assault weapons and large magazines. Now that President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are on the case, more restrictive legislation is bound to be proposed. Something may even get approved in Congress.

But to believe it will make us any safer is just wishful thinking. I for one would like to see more law-abiding Americans prepared to defend themselves and their community. And after the recent tragedies, maybe we will.

Let me close by thanking you all for your readership and comments. I appreciate the bouquets and yes, even the occasional brickbats.

It’s certainly been an interesting year. And 2013 looks like it will be, too. Although I’m reminded that the ancient Chinese expression, “May you live in interesting times,” wasn’t meant as a blessing, but as a curse.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

-Chip Wood

Benghazi Mistakes

Report confirms Benghazi mistakes. Well, it took more than three months, but the State Department finally released the results of an internal investigation into what actually happened during the Sept. 11 attack on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya. It concluded that our ambassador and three other Americans died as a result of “systemic failures” and “leadership and management deficiencies” at senior levels within the State Department. The report also rejected the now-discarded explanation, put forward by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and President Barack Obama, that the attack was the result of protests against an anti-Islamic film.

Another unConstitutional assault on our freedoms. An amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act cosponsored by Senators Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) was designed to guarantee Americans charged under the legislation the right to due process and a jury trial. It passed the Senate last month by a 67 to 29 vote. However, the safeguards were removed before the final vote, Paul reports, adding, “The idea of throwing American citizens in jail without being charged or given a jury trial goes against every principle this country was founded on.” Although Paul and a handful of others voted against the final version, the measure passed the Senate on an 81-14 vote.

So much for Obama’s mandate. Here’s an interesting stat from the 2012 Presidential election. It would have taken just a switch of 381,000 votes, or 0.003 percent of the total 126 million votes cast, to make Mitt Romney president instead of Barack Obama. Yes, that was the total margin of victory Obama enjoyed in four key States: Ohio, Virginia, Florida and Iowa. Had Romney won them instead of Obama, he’d be heading to the White House in January.

Making money finding “the disabled.” Remember Johnnie Cochran, the lawyer who successfully defended O.J. Simpson? Now there are 30 law offices around the country bearing his name that are helping people get on disability. “Denied disability? Call The Firm,” reads one of their billboards. Is it any wonder that in the past four years, the number of people on disability has risen more than seven times faster than the number of people finding jobs? “You get what you pay for,” Milton Friedman used to say. If you pay people to be disabled, it should come as no surprise that you’ll get a lot more of them.

-Chip Wood

Gold Rush

Gold sales hit new highs. The U.S. Mint reports that sales of American Eagles, the popular gold coins it produces, exploded in November, hitting their highest level in more than two years. The Royal Canadian Mint says that sales of the gold Maple Leaf were also up dramatically last month. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this follows on the heels of Barack Obama’s re-election. Do you?

Who will be the new secretary of state? It looks like there won’t be any nasty confirmation hearings for Susan Rice, our embattled ambassador to the United Nations. She has asked President Barack Obama to remove her name from consideration to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. That means that Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, now becomes the leading candidate for the post. If Kerry does get the nomination, I wonder if anyone from the Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth will be asked to testify at his hearings. Remember how they torpedoed Kerry’s campaign for the Presidency in 2004?

Thank you, Jim DeMint. One of the staunchest conservatives in the Senate, Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), announced that he is resigning his post at the end of the year to become the president of the Heritage Foundation, the influential Washington-based think tank. DeMint and the Senate Conservatives Fund which he founded were early supporters of such anti-establishment candidates as Rand Paul in Kentucky, Ted Cruz in Texas, Mike Lee in Utah, Marco Rubio in Florida and Jeff Flake in Arizona. Thanks for a great job, Jim! Let’s hope that Erick Erickson, editor of RedState.com, was correct in saying the change means that “Jim DeMint’s power in the conservative movement just grew exponentially.”

DeMint’s noteworthy successor. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley has named Representative Tim Scott to replace DeMint. Scott, an outspoken conservative and Tea Party favorite, will be the first black Senator from the South since Reconstruction. In fact, he will be the only black Senator in the new Congress. He will serve until 2014, when there will be a special election for the seat.

–Chip Wood

‘Right-To-Work’ Wins In Michigan

Union bosses in Michigan thought they had pulled off a real coup when they managed to get a measure on the November ballot that would have enshrined their power in the State constitution. Imagine their shock when voters overwhelmingly rejected the amendment.

That was just the beginning of the bad news for the maestros of compulsory unionism. Emboldened by the measure’s defeat, Republicans in the State Legislature promptly introduced legislation that would make Michigan the 24th “right-to-work” State in the Nation.

Union activists called on their supporters to march on the State capital to protest the proposal. Thousands of supporters showed up in Lansing in response. All of them were pretty noisy; a few were actually amusing, including the ones who put up four giant inflatable rats on the Capitol lawn bearing the names of Governor Rick Snyder and three Republican legislators.

But all was definitely not fun and games. A hospitality tent put up by Americans for Prosperity, one of the groups supporting the measure, was attacked by union partisans and torn down. At least one conservative supporter was physically attacked. A street vendor was called an “Uncle Tom” and worse and had his cart trashed for daring to sell hot dogs to the measure’s supporters.

But all the protests and threats — including one Democratic legislator who said that if the measure passed “there will be blood” — couldn’t prevent a vote from being taken. The legislation passed easily and a few hours later was signed into law by Snyder. The Governor previously had declined to support right-to-work legislation but said he changed his mind when he saw how a similar measure encouraged new jobs in other States.

The week before the vote in Michigan, President Barack Obama flew to the State and tried to rally support for the union. “What we shouldn’t be doing,” the President proclaimed, “is trying to take away your rights to bargain for better wages and working conditions.”

Of course, Obama knows that right-to-work legislation does no such thing. It doesn’t prevent anyone from joining a union, if someone wishes to do so. It doesn’t preclude unions from negotiating pay and working conditions with management, either.

What such legislation does do, however, is give an individual the choice to join or not join, to pay or not pay. And that freedom to choose is what the union bosses can’t stand. They know that if workers aren’t forced to join a union and pay dues, huge numbers won’t. That not only means they have less power in the workplace, it also means they have less money to give to politicians, whom they count on to pass legislation that protects their power.

It’s hard to ignore the fact that more and more manufacturing plants have moved to right-to-work States. Autoworkers had to have noticed when BMW built a plant in South Carolina, Mercedes-Benz did the same thing in Alabama and Volkswagen, and Nissan Motor Co. began assembling automobiles in Tennessee. Meanwhile, two of the Big Three automobile companies in Detroit declared bankruptcy and had to be rescued by Uncle Sam.

The results in the workplace support Snyder’s comments. In the past 30 years, total employment in right-to-work States grew by 71 percent, while employment in non-right-to-work States expanded less than half as much, a mere 32 percent. The differences are even more dramatic for the past decade. Since 2001, right-to-work States added 2.4 percent more workers, while employment in other States actually declined by 3.4 percent. During the same period, wages rose in right-to-work States by 12.5 percent, compared to 3.1 percent in union States.

No wonder that a whole bunch of people have been voting with their feet. Between 2000 and 2010, 5 million people moved from compulsory union States to right-to-work States. I don’t know if they all found jobs, but I’ll bet most of them did. So it appears that right-to-work is not only good for business, it’s good for workers, too.

The defeat in Michigan has to be a tremendous letdown for the United Auto Workers. The union was formed in the State and at one time had more than 1 million members. Today, its national membership is down to about 380,000. Now that workers in Michigan there can opt out of the union and know that they will still keep their job, UAW numbers — and revenue — are bound to decline even further.

Still, until recently, the right-to-work movement was pretty moribund. Prior to this year, Oklahoma was the last State to pass such legislation. And that was more than a decade ago — way back in 2001.

But that’s when union leaders made a huge mistake. Confident of their support in Washington, they tried to get Congress to pass “card-check” legislation. The measure would have done away with a secret ballot for elections on whether to unionize. Thanks to conservative gains, especially in the House of Representatives, the measure never got approved.

So then they tried another approach. They filed suit against Boeing Corp. for having the unmitigated gall to build an aircraft assembly plant in South Carolina, a right-to-work State.

Lafe Solomon, a pro-union lawyer whom Barack Obama appointed general counsel to the National Labor Relations Board, issued a complaint against Boeing for what he called an “unfair labor” practice. Public reaction to this union/Washington gambit was extremely unfavorable. Prior to 2008, Gallup polls showed 60 percent approval of unions in America. That number had been pretty consistent going back 30 years.

But in 2009, the approval number had fallen to 48 percent. Today, it’s only 52 percent. So it should come as no surprise that more and more States want to jump on the right-to-work bandwagon. The National Right to Work Committee reports that in the past two years, right-to-work legislation has been submitted in 19 States. The measures have passed in two of them, Indiana and Michigan.

In Washington, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said he will introduce the National Right to Work Act in the new Congress soon after it convenes. I’m sure Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will make certain it never comes to a vote on the Senate floor — at least not next year.

But it’s impossible not to see which way the wind is blowing. And once enough Americans support freedom of choice in the workplace and see how it benefits them, maybe they’ll want the same thing for their healthcare — and even the education of their children.

So don’t despair, conservatives. If right-to-work can pass in Michigan, pro-freedom legislation is possible almost anywhere. Sooner or later, even in Washington, D.C.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Better Be Glad Obama Won

I’m beginning to think it doesn’t much matter whether this country plunges over the so-called fiscal cliff in two weeks. Regardless of whether Congress and the President reach some sort of accommodation over how much the “rich” will be taxed, a financial train wreck looks almost unavoidable.

Consider a few of the warning indicators that are flashing.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics just reported that 847,000 new jobs were created in the United States in the past six months. While that’s not enough to make a meaningful dent in the unemployment numbers, it’s at least a step in the right direction, right?

Not when you read the fine print in the BLS report. When you do, you’ll discover that 73.3 percent of those new jobs are in government. That’s right; of all the new jobs created in the United States since June 1, the Labor Department says only one in four were in private enterprise. All of the rest are new government employees. No wonder government spending is going through the roof.

Speaking of government spending, in the first two months of Fiscal 2013 (which began Oct. 1), the Federal government spent $638 billion. But it collected only $346 billion in revenue. This means that it borrowed 46 cents for every dollar it disbursed.

Some of that money went to all the people who have been added to the food stamp rolls — more than 1 million in August and September alone. I haven’t seen the numbers for November yet, but I doubt if they’ll be much better. The Labor Department reports that some 350,000 people left the workforce last month — nearly three times the number who actually got jobs.

The short-term picture doesn’t look very good, does it? Well, I’m sorry to tell you that the longer-term picture is even more alarming.

The latest estimates from the Congressional Budget Office are that Federal deficit spending will surpass 100 percent of the gross domestic product of this country by 2025. And that it will double from there after another 12 years, reaching almost 200 percent of GDP by 2037.

But don’t worry about these astronomical levels of government spending. We’ll never reach them. Long before that can happen, the economy is going to crash. As former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said: “Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people’s money.”

The Federal behemoth will run out of “other people’s money” long before it is gobbling up 200 percent of our GDP.

So what happens when the feathers hit the fan? What happens when unemployment soars and tax revenues fall? What happens when it becomes obvious to everyone and his brother that our massive entitlement programs can’t be sustained?

The Federal government won’t be able to borrow its way out of the mess it’s created. And it won’t be able to print its way out, either.

Oh, sure, for a while it will try to do both. That’s why I’m so certain that the dollar will continue to decline in value, while tangible assets (with gold and silver leading the list) will continue to climb.

But sooner or later, things are going to get really messy. And when they do, I hope there will be a massive repudiation of the tax-and-tax, spend-and-spend policies that brought us there.

Sadly, that’s not what happened during our last economic catastrophe. The Great Depression got blamed on capitalism. As a result, the country took a massive turn to the left under Franklin Roosevelt and his comrades.

But even the talking heads on MSNBC will have a hard time blaming the coming crisis on the right. When that day comes, conservatives should be very glad that Barrack Hussein Obama won re-election in November.

That’s why it’s so vital that we conservatives hold our ground, that we continue to defend and promote the principles we know are true and that we do everything in our power to explain the economic facts of life to our families, friends and neighbors.

At a time when the future looked even bleaker than it does today, George Washington said: “Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair; the rest is in the hands of God.”

That’s the best advice I can offer today to help sustain you in the difficult days that lay ahead.

Oh, and one more thing. Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Underwear Flashing

An economic indicator goes positive. When he was chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan said that one of the unusual indicators he followed was sales of men’s underwear. The theory posits that sales decline when men are pessimistic about their incomes and the economy. Let’s hope the opposite is also true, because Hanes and other underwear manufacturers are reporting higher sales than they’ve enjoyed in years. The men’s underwear indicator is flashing positive.

Google avoids a bunch of taxes. Google has avoided a ton of taxes by funneling most of its overseas profits into a company in Bermuda, rather than bringing the money back to the United States. According to Bloomberg, Google saved about $2 billion in taxes by shifting $9.8 billion in profits. Since the U.S. tax on corporate profits is 35 percent, Google’s savings were probably a lot higher. Is it any surprise that people — and companies — will avoid paying higher taxes when they can legally avoid them? Washington, please take note.

A bountiful bonus. A record number of companies are paying out record amounts in dividends this month to avoid the higher taxes everyone expects next year. But I haven’t heard of anyone who will equal the payout that Sheldon Adelson will receive from his company, Las Vegas Sands Corp. The special dividend the casino operator approved last month will be worth about $1.2 billion to him, the press reports. That is more than 22 times the amount of political donations Adelson made this year. Clearly, he can afford them.

Why not just send them the money? A report from the Republican staff of the Senate Budget Committee says the United States spent $1 trillion on welfare payments last year. Of that total, $746 billion came from Federal taxpayers, while $254 billion came from the States. If the money were divided equally among the 16.8 million households below the official poverty line of $23,000, each one would receive $59,523. But then a lot of bureaucrats would be out of a job.

–Chip Wood  

Barack Obama’s Phony Mandate

Let me see if I have this right. Earlier this year, while campaigning for re-election, Barack Obama said he wanted to raise taxes $800 billion on everyone making more than $250,000 a year. Republicans were virtually unanimous in shouting, “No way!”

Then what happened when the Spender in Chief wins the White House for another four years? He promptly doubled down. Now, he says he wants $1.6 trillion in new taxes over the next 10 years. And our “don’t call my bluff” President made it abundantly clear that he’ll play hardball to get it.

When he appeared on “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who is serving as Obama’s messenger boy to Capitol Hill, declared flatly: “There’s no path to an agreement that does not involve Republicans acknowledging that rates have to go up on the wealthiest Americans.”

In other words, it’s our way or the highway. So what did the Republicans do? Rather than sticking to their earlier promise, the leadership countered by agreeing to give Obama the $800 billion he originally asked for. Way to fight for principle, guys.

Of course, $1.6 trillion in new tax revenue isn’t all that the Democrats are after. Obama also wants $50 billion in new stimulus spending and another $30 billion to extend unemployment benefits. Plus, he wants the death tax to go back up to 45 percent on estates and family farms worth $3.5 million and more.

And it doesn’t end there. Geithner, a tax cheater, also says that it’s time to abolish the ceiling on the Federal debt. No more coming back to Congress, hat in hand, to increase the limit on how much money our bankrupt Federal government can borrow. No, if Team Obama gets its way, there will be no limits on how much deeper this country will go in debt. Isn’t that a lovely situation to contemplate?

What about cutting some spending? “We’ll talk about that sometime down the road” is the best Team Obama will offer. No wonder Charles Krauthammer said that the Democrats’ proposal is “not just a bad deal, this is really an insulting deal.” In fact, he added, “Robert E. Lee was offered easier terms at Appomattox and he lost the Civil War.”

What happens if House Republicans dig in their heels and just say no? Well, inaction might give the Democrats an even bigger victory. It would mean that the Bush tax cuts (which Obama extended in 2010) would expire on Jan. 1. Those increases, plus all the new taxes and fees that are part of Obamacare, will mean that our taxes will go up even more.

A lot of observers are convinced that Obama and his advisers will be only too happy to see the U.S. plunge over the much-hyped fiscal cliff. Either way, they get the tax increases they want. Plus, under the latter scenario, they get to blame the Republicans for not being willing to compromise. It’s a heads-I-win, tails-you-lose proposition, with the big spenders in Washington coming out ahead either way.

By the way, did you see what one top Obama supporter is doing to avoid paying a bunch of those new taxes? Jim Sinegal, the co-founder, director and former CEO of Costco, was so smitten by the job Obama is doing that he agreed to give a prime-time address at this year’s Democratic convention. So you’d think he’d be hunky-dory with the Obama tax increases, wouldn’t you?

Not on your life. This past week, Costco announced that it would pay a special dividend this month to all of its shareholders. It is doing it in December — and even borrowing the $3 billion it will cost — so shareholders won’t have to pay the higher tax on dividend income next year.

Since Sinegal owns 2 million shares of Costco stock, that’s $14 million he’ll get in this special dividend. At the current tax rate of 15 percent on dividends, he’ll have to fork over a little more than $2 million of it to Uncle Sam. But had Costco waited until January to pay the dividend, Sinegal’s tax rate would be 43.4 percent, or more than $6 million.

In other words, the former Costco CEO gets to pocket an extra $4 million that otherwise would have gone to the Internal Revenue Service. Merry Christmas!

So much for the “shared sacrifices” by Obama’s wealthiest supporters. Now, please allow me to puncture a few more holes in the Democrats’ balloon. Let’s turn to the myth that Obama got a huge mandate in the November elections.

Nonsense! Obama won 51 percent of the votes for President on Nov. 6. But only 60 percent of eligible voters even bothered to cast a ballot this year. Winning support from 30 percent of eligible voters is hardly an overwhelming mandate.

Plus, exit polls of the people who voted revealed that a majority of them didn’t want taxes increased on people earning $250,000 or more. Obama’s claim that the voters this year sent “a very clear message” that they favored higher taxes is a bunch of baloney.

Anyone with an ounce of common sense knows that the problem in Washington isn’t too little revenue; it’s too much spending! If the Federal budget were reduced to what it was four years ago when Obama first took office, we wouldn’t need a nickel of new taxes to balance the budget.

In fact, if we held the line on spending and simply stopped increasing it every year, pretty soon Uncle Sam would enjoy surpluses once again. We could even start reducing the national debt, rather than see it go up more than $1 trillion a year.

Of course, there’s about as much chance of seeing this happen of a snowball surviving a trip through Hades. While it’s not what we wanted or worked for, I’m afraid it is now a virtual certainty we will see higher taxes and fewer new jobs and more new bureaucrats, regulators, tax collectors and other Federal busybodies next year.

And after that, it could get even worse.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood