Shortly before the unexpected announcement he won’t seek re-election two days after the Democrat’s sweeping electoral victories in Virginia, I read U.S. Sixth District Delegate Robert Goodlatte’s glowing appraisal of the Trump-House Republican tax plan. In his “Legislative Update” our delegate painted so rosy a picture of the plan I was prompted to explore exactly what has been laid on the national table as tax reform by the Trump Administration and House Republicans.
I will use our now lame-duck Sixth District delegate’s appraisal as a starting point for that tax bill exploration:
“After many months of work and discussion, I am encouraged by the introduction of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. At its very core this bill is about tax relief for American families. It nearly doubles the standard deduction to protect more of your hard-earned money, and lowers individual tax rates for low and middle income Americans,” Goodlatte began rosily, adding, “The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will also help to bolster the growth of businesses of all sizes in the United States, and keep jobs in our communities instead of being shipped overseas.”
Well that all sounds GREAT – unless on that latter point the reason jobs will be kept home is that American workers are in the process of being reduced to a Third World labor force as far as wages and benefits are concerned; and as far as the first point – well, what if at best it’s partisan hyperbole, and at worst just NOT TRUE?!!?
Multiple media outlets across the country had a far different assessment after a first look at the November 2 Trump-House Ways & Means Committee roll out of the long ballyhooed tax reform plan. One even called it the groundwork for a new “Gilded Age” for America’s super rich. Some of those national reports led me to the analysis of an independent, non-partisan, non-profit tax watchdog group founded in 1980.
The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) estimates more than two-thirds (66%) of the proposed tax cuts would go to the richest one-percent (1%) of Americans. In all, ITEP estimates the Trump tax plan would give more than $100 billion in tax cuts to the wealthiest one-percent of Americans. People who earn at least $615,800 a year would enjoy an average tax cut of $90,610.
“Meanwhile, those who earn between $41,000 and $66,000 a year would see an average tax cut ranging from about $400 according to ITEP estimates, to $1,100 according to the Trump/House plan’s own estimates,” Truthout’s Lindsay Koshgarian reported.
And despite that “average” middle income savings, ITEP and other sources report some taxpayers in the middle income bracket would actually end up owing more taxes under the plan. According to the Reuters news agency, those other sources include administration officials – “Trump economic adviser Gary Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have also acknowledged that some people could see a tax hike” from the “tax cut” plan.
But HEY, what does a 37-year-old non-partisan tax watchdog group, or administration officials for that matter, know anyway?
I decided to take a look at a fairly independent Republican, not part of development of the plan at the House level, for another perspective. Prior to being laid up after a neighborhood lawn mowing dispute, Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul asked if the plan “was really Republican?”
“This is a GOP tax plan? Possibly 30 percent of middle class gets a tax hike? I hope the final details are better than this,” Rand tweeted in response to the unveiling of the plan in the House Ways & Means Committee.
So we must ask, tax reform for those who really need it the most – the middle and lower working classes – or an early Christmas present for those who need it least; but would have you believe (with some delegates’ assistance) that when they’re not taxed on their millions and billions, it’s really everyone else (trickle, trickle) who is benefiting?
On Wall Street
I decided to try Wall Street and the conservative Wall Street Journal for reactions sure to trumpet the Trump tax plan as a BIG boon to the U.S. economy. But it seems that almost immediately Trump was tweeting that the Wall Street Journal just “doesn’t get it” as far as the plan’s positive impact on the economy.
While lauding the plan’s reduction of business taxes, the WSJ wrote that pro-growth aspect of the plan was “marred by a mess on individual taxes that makes that part of the code even worse than it is now.”
CBS’s Moneywatch reported a Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget analysis that estimates the plan’s “cuts will be worth a total of $5.8 trillion through 2027 while the tax increases will be worth $3.6 trillion. That would result in a net increase to the national debt of $2.7 trillion including interest” – with no stated plan on how that revenue gap will be filled.
But perhaps there is a plan – just a currently unstated one first verbalized by Republican strategist Grover Norquist some time ago – “We don’t want to destroy the federal government, we just want to shrink it to the size where it can be drowned in a bathtub.”
Way off Wall Street
Okay, let’s get off Wall Street and away from Republican ghosts – Greg Gardner of the Detroit Free Press noted the Trump-Republican tax plan includes elimination of a $7,500 tax credit applied to the purchase of hybrid and electric cars. Gardner observed, “Wiping out the credit would create another obstacle for automakers who are trying to nurture a market for battery-powered transportation” for automobiles ranging around $37,000 to $40,000 or so.
Hey, gotta keep old Secretary of State and former Exxon-Mobile CEO Rex Tillerson happy – even if he has not denied calling you a “(some such) moron”.
But if the plan strips economic incentives to promote development of alternative, less polluting means of motor transportation, it also lowers the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent and repeals the estate tax – not things of major concern to middle or lower income Americans.
Interviewed by the ABC affiliate TV-3 in Harrisburg, PA, CPA Robert Wilson concluded that the reduction of tax brackets (from 7 to 4) “just results in people in the lower brackets paying more tax.”
Oh well, so much for the “little people” Mr. Goodlatte and pals have promised will benefit from the plan.
Local government impacts
A story in the journal Governing: The States and Localities analyzed a potential impact on municipal governments nationwide:
“The bill would eliminate all private activity bonds, which allow tax-exempt municipal bonds to be issued on behalf of a government for a project built and paid for by a private developer … The proposal caught the infrastructure finance community completely off-guard … ‘For months, we’ve been hearing that munis were safe,’ said tax attorney Will Milford, of the firm Bryant, Miller, Olive.”
Why the alarm?
“Tax-exempt bonds fetch lower interest rates in the municipal market and therefore lower the overall cost of financing,” Governing explains, “The projects financed with this type of debt are typically things in the public interest, such as low-income housing, hospitals, airports” – and schools they might have added.
Governing called elimination of the low-interest bonds “devastating for governments trying to find money for economic development projects.”
Local government reactions
Such low interest bonds have been an important tool of local municipal capital improvement projects in Warren County for some years.
“The issue here is really about the ability to refinance bonds when the interest rates come down,” County Administrator Doug Stanley told us, observing, “The Board of Supervisors has been able to save a significant amount of money in past few years when we were able to refinance bonds associated with school construction.”
Long-time Warren County project consultant Springsted circulated a call to action in opposition to the plan forwarded to us by Stanley, “In addition to a dramatic cut in the corporate tax rate, the recently announced House tax bill takes serious, direct aim at the municipal bond market. Both measures are sure to interfere with state and local governments’ ability to cost-effectively provide financing for projects,” Springsted wrote.
EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald also alerted us to the fact that one national organization, The Council of Development Finance Agencies (CDFA) will discuss strategies to fight this provision of the tax plan at its upcoming National Summit in Atlanta. The CDFA called this aspect of the Trump-Republican tax bill “a move that would prove devastating to development finance efforts nationally.”
McDonald agreed, telling us, “Some of the proposed tax cuts and job acts could be detrimental to the economic development of not just this community, but the nation as a whole. Economic development relies on some of these very successful programs to create jobs and tax revenue for the community.”
Noting the tax bill “is the product of months of collaboration between senior members of the House, Senate, and White House” the CDFA said that “without major pushback and input there is a good chance the bill may become law.”
So it seems that like some middle-income Americans, the communities they live in may also be negatively impacted by the Trump-House Republican tax plan as presented after months of partisan development behind closed doors.
Back to Bob
But maybe there’s hope! After all, the ever-elusive Mr. Goodlatte concluded his “Legislative Update” initial praising of the tax plan rolled out under his nose by stating, “As the Ways and Means Committee prepares to consider this bill next week, I will carefully examine the details of the plan and how they will impact the Sixth District. I’ve advocated for common sense tax reform throughout my time in Congress, and I am pleased to see this effort move forward to deliver the tax relief folks in Virginia and across the country need. Let’s get down to business.”
I know I, for one, believe our Sixth District delegate when he says he’s getting ready to roll up those legislative sleeves and do some in-depth, non-partisan analysis of a Trump-Republican initiative that has been talked up for months as economic Nirvana for all.
NO I don’t. – But you knew that, didn’t you?
Okay, maybe I need a divorce from my Sixth District delegate – let’s just call it quits, Bob. After all, political representation is a lot like a marriage in its give and take and mutual responsibility, right? And I never see you anymore, Bob – at least not out here in the northwestern reaches of your district (or other districts too I hear from the “kids”).
Uh oh, not so fast.
Other than the fact I woke up today to find an “I’m leaving – soon” note from my delegate, Market Watch’s Quentin Fottrell writes, “There’s no longer a silver lining to paying spousal support. President Trump’s tax plan unveiled this week will abolish tax deductions on alimony. This won’t impact people who have already agreed on their payment amounts but – assuming the GOP tax bill is passed by Congress – this new arrangement will be in effect for divorce decrees on Jan. 1, 2018 and thereafter.
“This will create a total re-evaluation of divorce cases,” said Malcolm Taub, partner and co-chair of the divorce and family law practice group at Davidoff Hutcher & Citron LLP. “It’s major.”
“We settled a case this week in court where my wealthy client agreed to pay his dependent wife significant alimony because he could deduct it,” added Randy Kessler, an Atlanta-based lawyer who wrote the book, Divorce: Protect Yourself, Your Kids, and Your Future. “The deduction, as it stands, is a great motivator to encourage the higher wage earner to agree to help support the spouse with less income.”
Uh oh, you don’t think THAT’S what this whole tax “reform” charade is about, do you? – Melania, Melania, has anyone seen Melania since China?!!?
Supervisor Mabe seems badly informed
Supervisor Walter Mabe’s long letter offering advice with respect to the dying days of the Covid infection saga that was published on January 23rd appears remarkably misinformed.
If he had written the letter a year ago, one could acknowledge his good effort to be helpful by just summarizing a lot of the voodoo science recommendations flowing out of the CDC and from Fauci that were once believed. But so much of his advice and assertions, such as the efficacy of masks, have at this point in 2022 been proven bogus.
Also, his generalizations repeat the failure of policy makers to discriminate between the old and vulnerable and the young and healthy. That failure caused such unnecessary hardship to the healthy and the school-age children.
For example, he referred to a crisis in hospitalizations. Currently, the VA Department of Health website says that in the 23 months of this “pandemic” Warren County has had just 221 Covid hospitalizations, which is a rate of 0.5 of 1%. He mentioned 111 deaths which is a mortality rate of 0.3 of 1%. But worse, he failed to point out that about 75% of the deaths came from the small demographic of over 70, and according to the CDC, they would have had one or more comorbidities. To put those 111 deaths into context and to illustrate the abuse of school-age children by persons presenting out-of-context scaremongering, in the whole state of Virginia’s huge under age 20 demographic, only 17 died either with or because of Covid! His assessment of the value of vaccination as worth doing at this point is problematic because evidence suggests that the vaccinated are getting the current Covid variant and transmitting it to others more so than the unvaccinated are. And no argument at this point in time can demonstrate that benefits outweigh the risks.
Judging from the refusal of Democrat-dominated school boards around the state to give parents the freedom to unmask their children, it almost seems that Democrats have nostalgia for the power they enjoyed controlling our lives, so they want to keep the propaganda flowing. The presentation of bogus and out-of-context information contributes to that propaganda.
Tom McFadden, Sr.
Front Royal, Virginia
Delayed implementation of the Second Step SEL program
I’d like to thank and congratulate the Warren County School Board for its recent, unanimous decision to indefinitely delay the implementation of the newest version of the very controversial Social-Emotional Learning (SEL), “Second Step,” until all SEL material has been carefully reviewed by the school board and parents.
I give particular thanks to school board member Ralph A. Rinaldi of the Shenandoah District for making the motion that was passed unanimously by the board.
Many Warren County parents are concerned about SEL. Several want the program stopped!
I strongly support providing the log-in-codes and passwords so parents can “fully access electronically” — at their leisure — all lesson-plans, videos, teacher scripts, student handouts, and student worksheets.
Parents need this access to make a properly informed decision.
Taxpayers need the data to determine if education dollars are being well spent.
A committee of local citizens has formed to review the program and make a presentation with recommendations to the board. The committee was formed when we learned the details about Sam Crowley, a beloved public school music teacher in Utah, who publicly resigned his position on the grounds that he “cannot teach to your children a program that is harmful.”
Providing this access should not be a problem since Copyright laws allow “fair use” for purposes such as evaluations.
I ask the School Board to direct Dr. Ballenger, the school Superintendent, to give parents and taxpayers complete access to SEL material so they can properly evaluate this very controversial program.
Eugene G. McGuirk, BA, MA, MBA
Front Royal, Virginia
Delay SEL implementation; time needed to review SEL material at our elementary schools
The Warren County School Board is considering implementing the latest version of the highly controversial, unproven Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) “Second Step” in local public schools.
The school board unanimously voted on Jan. 5, 2022, not to approve any SEL material until parents have reviewed the program and approved it. Now three very short, hour-long open houses — quickly organized last week — have been scheduled at the following schools Wednesday, Jan. 26th, to get parental support for dubious SEL:
- Warren County Middle School, 522 Heritage Drive, Front Royal — 5 p.m.-6 p.m.
- Ressie Jeffries Elementary School, 320 Criser Road, Front Royal —6 p.m.-7 p.m.
- E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School, 40 Crescent Street, Front Royal — 6 p.m.-7 p.m,
Parents and taxpayers are strongly encouraged to attend one of these meetings and tell public school administrators to:
- Delay SEL implementation until parents and taxpayers have the same access to SEL material as teachers, administrators, and the school board, It is vital that that parents and taxpayers be provided with “log-in-codes” and “passwords so they can review the material online— at their leisure.
- Host a true public hearing on SEL at the Government Center so all aspects of this controversial program can be fully vetted.
Google Sam Crowley, a beloved, highly respected music teacher in Utah, resigned from public school teaching rather than “teach content to children that I believe is harmful.” His story can be found here.
The school board should not approve SEL at any local school at this time.
U.S. Army Colonel (retired)
Front Royal resident
Ostrich or Eagle?
Right and left, sometimes reality is too painful for our dearest friends and neighbors to face. From time to time, I have the same problem, going to the dentist for example. Then too, others in our community may be swept along in the frenzy of conspiracy theories du jour, trusting extremist rumors instead of the jargon of evolving science that speaks another indecipherable language altogether, at times confusing us with changes – based on factual analysis – hard to keep up with. I too find hype and spin easier to grasp.
Our polarization bothers me. Though we may for the moment be mystified by their point of view, seeming to bypass critical thought, these friends and neighbors are still the good people who may have pulled us out of a snowdrift last year or lent a comforting ear in a time of crisis just when we needed that. My tolerance falls upon the shoulders of these good people. While not agreeing, I try to understand and hope they feel the same way about me. We always liked each other. Why stop now?
In that vein, I’ll listen to what you have to say. But for the moment listen to me. There are others amongst us preying upon our deepest fears, scaring us to the extent that some of us bury our heads in the sand of any other point of view. They get us to buy into their fiction instead of our “lying eyes”. You know them. They’re the loudest, the most aggressive – they insult, they bully, they threaten, they feed on your fears and create new ones; they promise and never deliver, and they make stuff up. They’re so sure of their hypnotic power over us that at least one of them told us January 6 was just tourists led astray by Antifa infiltrators – and some believe it. Is hypnosis the only explanation I can come to? Our eyes weren’t lying.
There are big issues that we, as a community, have to face. – Really BIG. The virus that’s killed 800,000+ Americans is not spin, global warming is not a myth, and racism is a fact (I know it and so do you.) Together, let’s get our heads out of the sand and deal with these issues. We CAN do something about each of them. Stop listening to rabble-rousers manipulating your fears for their own short-term self-interest and power grabs. They know what they’re doing. Don’t fall for it.
Listen to Fox News. I do. And tune in to PBS or CNN. I do. Don’t take my word for anything, or anyone else’s. Listen to both sides – then use your good common sense, not political agendas, and make up your own mind. Don’t let anyone else do it for you.
Be eagles instead of ostriches.
Generally what we know and don’t know
Today I’d like to talk about the COVID virus and our path forward as a county. This virus has tested our county and our country like nothing we’ve experienced in decades. It may not nearly be over in the foreseeable future without continued support. There is all sorts of information out there and so do any thoughts and opinions that go right along with the beliefs about it. We each should look at our own situation, health, and information that we feel is correct and make a choice to vaccinate or not to vaccinate. Questions, “Check and discuss this with your Doctor”, that choice is ours.
We have more cases on average now than we did at the height of the infections at the start of the challenge in 2020. One in almost every 5 + people (that number is just from the ones that have been formally checked by the hospitals, doctors, and Valley Health) have been infected already and it is predicted this surge has not reached its peak. Yet already our local ICU beds are being challenged to even admit additional patients or are near a level of capacity. We’ve all seen or heard the horror stories of counties, states, and countries that were overwhelmed by COVID-19 and had to ration healthcare for those most in need. We cannot let that happen here.
Warren County’s COVID-19 and its variants have a high transmission rate due to any reason but it seems that unvaccinated people are at an even higher risk. Vaccinated people have a lower risk, but it is still there, even with the two shots plus the booster, it can still strike again.
There’s a developing consensus that there will be more tough times before it gets better. How bad? We don’t know for sure. How long? We don’t know that either.
There is still a lot we don’t know about this virus. Exactly how it’s transmitted, by the air, close contact, crowds, etc… We know it can be deadly, but we also don’t know how many survivors will have permanent damage to their hearts, lungs, brains, and other body parts. We don’t know if the antibodies will last for those exposed to the virus or if a vaccine is even a realistic possibility in the long term without continued boosters like the flu or the many other diseases for which we have taken shots.
Until we have solid solutions, the unknown is going to be with us. To me, that’s an unsettling thought but it doesn’t leave us defenseless.
There are things we can do individually and collectively that work to reduce the risk of catching the COVID-19 virus in the first place…social distancing, limiting personal contact time, washing your hands, wearing a mask in public, and getting the shots and booster. You’ve heard them all repeatedly. What I want to drive home today is why it’s important to you and your family and friends, and maybe your business to continue following all reasonable guidelines during this time for the foreseeable future. I don’t expect mandates unless the government changes its direction on prevention. Public opinion is just too high for this to be changed. Precautions are a choice.
There will be some that say this idea is unsound, crazy, or worse but realistically, the COVID virus doesn’t care about who you are, your political position, your health, your religious beliefs or social standards your wealth, or living standard. The Virus only “cares” about finding the next host so it can infect, multiply and continue to infect others, multiply and mutate. If it can’t find a new host, it slowly dies.
We’ve been “fortunate” in Warren County and haven’t been as hard hit as other parts of Virginia. I put fortunate in quote marks, however. Over 7699 plus confirmed cases are reported so far and that is the number having been reported, included in this number is the 111+ deaths is mind-numbing to me. I grieve for each family and person that has suffered in any way from this relentless infection.
Yet, as a county, we are fortunate because, for the most part, people are learning to do their part to prevent the spread of the disease. Imagine though, if we have a continued spike in cases. Hospital beds would continue to fill up like they are in Florida, Texas, California, and other places in the country. Medical staff, who are already tired and some even exhausted, would quickly continue to be short-staffed and overwhelmed. Businesses would have to close or be short-staffed and less than what they would like to be again, some never to reopen. Jobs lost. We’d be right back to square one.
That’s why we can’t allow a surge to continue to happen here, in Warren County. It would continue to be devastating.
The virus spreads when a carrier, someone who’s infected, is in close proximity with others for several minutes. I find it hard to stay 6 feet away from people I’m talking to. And I talk with people a lot during the day with all activities I do.
Our actions should tend to put us into what we feel is a new normal and to be within 6 feet of someone when you’re talking. I understand that and I have to concentrate and make an effort to distance myself all the time.
There are times it is impossible to stay a safe distance away. Keep the conversation short. It takes several minutes of exposure to infect someone or get infected. IF you feel unsafe or in a new situation wear a mask. We seem to feel a mask provides limited protection for the person wearing it but offers some protection for others. Some protection is better than none. Avoid touching your face and wash or sanitize your hands thoroughly as soon as you’re done. Remember it only takes one time being in the wrong place at the wrong time or situation to get infected.
A friend of mine has an interesting way of looking at it. He tells his kids that anyone they come in close contact with is a part of their family for 14 days…someone at work, someone at school, random people at the grocery store, or park anywhere. The more people you come into close contact with, the greater the risk. So take precautions and just be aware.
While supporting our local businesses to support customers and staff to wear masks help some in restaurants and other service areas. Admittedly I understand it is their choice. The stance is getting harder, be patient with it and if you can comply, try and do your part. It is a choice.
Our businesses recognize the need for precautions in close quarters. We get many visitors from Northern Virginia and the District and all over the region and adjoining states after all we are a tourist town. Still, areas are having an increase in cases right now. While we want them to come and enjoy our beautiful area, we also want them to be safe and not spread the virus or take it back with them when they leave, if at all possible.
We’re expecting our schools to know how to safely provide the best education we can for our young people no matter how they are given it. Let’s try our best to continue to help keep the schools open. The plan has to be safe for students, teachers, and staff to the best of the school system’s ability. A lot is being asked on so many levels by our parents, teachers, and students so we need to be reasonable and aware.
More broadly, we must look “down the road” to see how to be better prepared for possible unintended consequences of the COVID-19 virus and its various variants that may be headed our way.…the potential food supply chain interruptions (look at some of the food shortages now, they are not bad, but look like a possibility), homelessness, frustration or even unrest, we need to work with our non-profits and our churches to be as prepared as much as possible for the potential’s that could be out there. If there is a local spike, we can’t start planning then, then it will be too late, it will have to be now. Build our community, and county from a different level, protecting our own.
We’re already feeding at-risk children and their families. Since the epidemic started, boxes of food have been delivered to local families and in the future, more boxes of food will be delivered, if the need exists. I’m proud of a Victory Garden that was started this summer and run by volunteers that have produced fresh vegetables that have been taken to C-CAP, Loaves and Fishes, Salvation Army, and other Church food banks for distribution to those that may or even want it to the tune of 4 tons of fresh produce. The recipients have always been appreciative. There is room for more.
It is that sense of volunteerism in our community that gives me the greatest hope. By putting aside our differences and looking out for each other, we can overcome this virus and continue to be another step down the road to economic and social recovery.
Times are tough. Tough times can bring out the best in people, all people. That is what I’m counting on.
Be considerate of others by wearing a mask in public if you choose. Be aware of getting too close. Reduce the risk of infection by avoiding crowds washing your hands and sanitizing whenever you’ve been out.
I know there is the possibility I will be inundated with other comments about all the reasons why this is all false. The simple fact is people are sick, some have lost their lives and that should just keep us aware that something is going on. I am not one for the politics of it, or the religious or even medical possibilities. The Risk does not seem to outweigh the need to protect yourself and others when and where you can. Be aware.
IF you choose, “Get the Vaccine”.
If you have questions about the vaccine and if it is right for you and with your current medical situation. “Talk to your Doctor“
We are stronger together.
Revival vs Revolution
Probably most young people under the age of 35 may not know what a revival is, because all that is being melted out nowadays is a revolution!
In medical terms, to revive someone from the brink of death is to do whatever is necessary to keep that person alive.
In religion, it means to bring back the moral, integrity, and character of God in one’s life.
Speaking of today’s ideologies, theories and phycological thinkers, it’s all about being one-sided in the political realm; there is no debate, there is no hearing what the others may have to right a wrong or seek common ground on things that just might work of all citizens.
No, not today! Some people want what they want and that is a lawless and disorderly society so they can riot, protest in hate and foolish destruction and call it justice!
Some foreigners that are here say, “You don’t want a dictatorship government or military intervention!”
The whole reason they say that is because America is different from where they were born and raised. They see the freedoms and liberties given to all citizens here. Not just a few in wealth and prestige.
Through the decades we as a nation have withstood wars and disasters, hardships and calamities, and yet that is being forgotten over one’s will to control the minds of the forgotten and helpless!
Wake Up America
Front Royal, Virginia