Monday, October 30, 2017

The Road To Tax Reform

You are going to be hearing a lot about tax reform in the next several weeks as Congress attempts to craft and pass a legislative package before year end.

I thought I would try to put the issue in some form of context to help you better understand the issues surrounding tax reform.

The Democrats' favorite talking point on any discussion of tax reform or tax cuts is that it "benefits the rich."

I guess it depends on what your definition of "rich" is but the fact is that almost all income taxes are paid by "the rich".  It just depends on your perspective. After all, to most of us, anyone who makes more or has more than we do, is rich. It is a relative term.

Here is the breakdown for 2015 which is the latest data available from the IRS Statistics of Income Tax Stats.

If "rich' is defined as the top 50% (it probably is if you are in the bottom 50%), that groups pays 97% of the income tax burden. The top 50% starts at about $40,000 of adjusted gross income.

The top 25% (starting at about $80,000) is paying 87% of the total income tax burden.

The top 10% (starting at about $140,000) is paying 71%.

The top 5% ($200,000+) is paying 60%.

The top 1% ($500,000+) is paying 40% of all income taxes even though their income makes up only 20% of total AGI. That shows how progressive our tax system is.

I think it is also important that you also know how a progressive tax system works. The concept is that as your income gets progressively higher the tax rate increases.

For example, a tax rate might be 0% on the first $20,000, 10% on the next $30,000 and 20% on everything over $50,000.

That means someone making $20,000 pays nothing (a 0% effective rate), someone making $50,000 pays $3,000 (6% rate) and someone making $100,000 pays $13,000 (13% rate). The tax gets progressively higher as income increases.

However, notice that everyone is treated equally within each income level. The person with the high income still pays 0% on the first $20,000.

Therefore, if you make the tax rate 0% on up to $30,000 of income that does not produce any tax savings to the lowest earner as they were paying nothing to begin with. The $50,000 earner will see their taxes cut by $1,000 (from $3,000 to $2,000--a 33% cut). The $100,000 earner will see a tax cut from $13,000 to $12,000 (an 8% cut)--- the same $1,000 tax savings as the $50,000 earner.

Therefore, when you consider the tax table above and the progressive tax system that we follow, it necessarily follows that any tax rate cut is going to benefit the rich if it benefits anyone else. It is in the math and is unavoidable in a progressive tax system.

It is simply impossible to reduce any tax rates at any level of income and not "benefit" the rich.

Keep this in mind as you listen to Democrats complain about tax reform.

However, Republicans are sensitive to the criticism and want to skew the benefits as much as they can to the middle class. How do you accomplish that when the rich pay so a large proportion of total income taxes.

You go after deductions and tax benefits that disproportionately favor the rich.

That is why you have heard so much talk about eliminating or reducing the deduction for state and local taxes. This is the easiest way to increase the taxable income of the "rich" without hurting the middle and lower classes.

First, consider the total number of tax returns filed between those who use the standard deduction compared to those who itemized deductions. Of over 150 million individual returns filed in 2015, almost 70% used the standard deduction.

A major goal of this tax reform effort is to make the number of those taking the standard deduction even higher. The goal is 90%. They want to do this by increasing the standard deduction/exemption amount and by limiting itemized deductions.

When it comes to limiting itemized deductions, the easiest target is state and local deductions. Those in liberal, high tax states like California and New York argue it is political retribution by the GOP against these blue states. That might be a side effect but the biggest reason is that is where the biggest pot of money is when it comes to itemized deductions.

Mortgage interest and charitable contribution deductions are much less costly to the federal government.

Therefore, if you are trying to reduce tax rates and get some of the money back elsewhere, the biggest bang for the buck comes from going after the SALT deduction.

It is also much easier to go after state and local tax deductions than it would be to try to take away deductions for home mortgage interest or charitable contributions. There are much more entrenched special interests protecting these deductions.

In addition, the deductions for state and local income taxes are taken disproportionately by the "rich" who have much higher state and local income taxes and property taxes than the middle class.

For example, consider that in New York City the top 1% of income earners (35,400 tax filers, $580,000+ income) paid 46% of the total income taxes that the city collected in 2014. That was $3.3 billion that also got deducted on federal income taxes returns.

You see a similar pattern in California. The top 1% ($550,000+ income) pays 48% of the income taxes in the state.

The big picture can be seen by looking at the graph below that compares the number of returns filed that claimed the state and local tax deduction (only 38 million out of 150 million) with the amount of the deductions claimed.

Consider that those with incomes over $500,000 took only $17 billion in mortgage interest deductions (a lot of cash buyers in that income group) compared to $132 billion in SALT deductions

Charitable contributions deductions ($114 billion) are also lower for this group than what is deducted for SALT ($132 billion).

You will  notice that the amount of state and local tax deductions taken by the 1.2 million filers making $500,000 and above ($132 billion) is nearly as much as the $145 billion taken by the 32 million filers that itemized these deductions and make less than $200,000.

Of course, the fact that someone else is getting hammered harder than you are still does not play well in Pomona or Poughkeepsie if you are paying (and deducting) your state taxes and you think you are going to "lose" something. That is why, despite looking at the numbers above, this is still a difficult political issue.

Many people will save more in the rate reductions in tax reform than they lose in tax deductions but few will combine the two and do the math. To them, they are losing something if the state and local tax deduction is eliminated.

I would not be surprised if a compromise is reached to allow state and local tax deductions up to some maximum amount or provide some type of limited tax credit.

You can see the possibilities for how this could work in looking at the average state and local tax deduction per income group.

Allowing the state and local tax deduction but capping it at around $10,000 (or allowing a $2,500 tax credit) would probably reduce the noise level considerably.

There has even been talk to eliminate both the SALT and home mortgage interest deduction and replace it with a homeowners credit. This could be structured to hurt the "rich" but to leave most of the "middle class" unscathed. One idea would provide a 12% tax credit (dollar for dollar reduction in taxes) for the amount of interest and property taxes on your home.

I am strongly in favor of tax reform. I wrote about my general philosophy on the subject over five years ago in "Broad, Flat and Simple."  Here is what I wrote then which I still believe the principles we should follow in tax reform.

On the individual income tax system we should be making the tax base as broad as possible by eliminating as many deductions, credits, preferences, exclusions and exemptions as we can.  The rate structure should also be as flat as possible to eliminate the cross currents of class warfare that divide us and to provide incentive for future work, investment and capital formation.  Finally, it should be simple enough that anyone can comply with the tax law without an accounting or law degree.

Is this tax reform all those things? No. You are never going to get everything you want in Washington. However, it takes us down the road closer to where we need to be and it would be broader, flatter and simpler than it is today.

Ideally, I would use the tax system to raise revenue--nothing more. It does not have to be complicated, confusing or complex.

You need to realize that all of its complexity is not needed to raise revenue.  It is only necessary for government to have the power to legislate, regulate and stipulate what its citizens should and should not do. Picking winners and losers. Redistributing income. Promoting and protecting special interests rather than promoting the public interest. You don't need a massive and complex tax system to protect, defend and serve the general welfare. You do need one to manage, control and serve special interests.

It is hard to go broad, flat and simple because you are attacking the lifeblood of Congress. If it cannot grant special rules or status it substantially limits its influence and power--particularly with special interests. At the same time, if there are no exceptions or preferences, there is little need for special interests to try to curry favor.

You can already see how much the special interests swing their weight around based on the recent report that the National Association of Home Builders will oppose the GOP tax bill because of 1) the increased standard deduction and 2) the potential loss of the SALT and/or home mortgage interest deduction. Why is this a problem to Republicans? The NAHB is a big supporter of Republicans. 83% of its contributions in the last election cycle went to GOP candidates.

Yes, I would like to get further down the road on tax reform compared to where we will likely get. However, in the world of Washington, I have learned to that any step forward is a win. I will take whatever we can get and be happy.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Trick or Treat Teaching Moment-2017

I wrote one of my favorite blog posts five years ago this week.

Now that Halloween is upon us I thought I would publish it once again. After all, an entire new group of trick or treaters is with us. In fact, I have had four grandchildren since I wrote that post.

This post provides a suggestion as to how any parent (or grandparent) can use Halloween as a teaching moment. It is never too early to start imparting lessons that can last a lifetime.

Please spread this message liberally to the next generation. They need all the help they can get with what they have in front of them. Too many tricks ahead, very few treats, from what I can see.

As an example, here is a chart that I developed spreading the federal debt burden against U.S census data for just those under the age of 18.

Why look at it this way?

The burden of our $20 trillion of federal debt will fall hardest on the trick or treaters who come to our doors on Halloween. They will live under its burden for the rest of their lives.

Treat them generously. They face a debt burden unlike any other previous generation.

In real terms, it is over 7 times what faced me in my future as I trick or treated in 1957.

Even more sobering is that the debt burden on our children has almost doubled in the last 10 years.

Compare that to the 30 years after World War II when the debt burden per child actually decreased as war debt was managed down and the population of baby boomers came on the scene.

Bear in mind that all of these children are going to need to pay their own bills (as well as ours) as they go through life.

In addition to the lessons below, in due time our children will discover that we ate the treats and left them with the bill. You can't even call it trickery. It is nothing less than thievery.

What is my recommended treat of choice for youngsters this year?

They are going to need a lot of them.

Trick or Treat Teaching Moment
(originally published October 29, 2102)

Halloween is here and why should we waste such a great teaching moment for younger Americans?
Our schools all too often fill our children's heads with liberal, progressive mush.  It occurs to me that we could teach them a few lessons about economics, capitalism and freedom using Snickers, Starbursts and Swizzlers.

How about a lesson on taxation? When the children bring home their candy haul on Halloween night and spread it out on the family room floor, take 40% of it away before they get their hands on it. They need to understand the burden of taxation. They need to see first hand that when they work hard they also have a "partner" that wants to share in everything they work for-GOVERNMENT.  You need to explain to your child that their "partner" is always hungry.  It has an insatiable appetite for taxes (and spending).

Pre-Tax Candy Haul

After-Tax Candy Haul

How about a lesson on the redistribution of wealth?  One of your children doggedly rings doorbells on two additional streets after your other child calls it quits because they are tired and cold.  As a result, they have 40 more pieces of candy in their bag when they get home.  When you see that they have more goodies, immediately tell them that it is not fair that they have more than their sibling.

They will invariably protest and say that they earned it by doing more than their sister.  You then tell them that they could never eat all of that candy by themselves anyway and they are just being selfish. What is really unfair is not giving their fair share.

For good measure you can also point out that they did not build the sidewalk they walked on, nor the streetlights they walked under or the houses they rang the doorbells at to get the candy.

How about a lesson on regulation that would make Mayor Bloomberg proud?  If your children happen to get one of those large Snickers bars instead of the little bite size ones, prohibit them from eating it. It is not healthy to take in all of those calories at one time so ban the large size and mandate that they limit themselves to small sizes.

King Size- Banned

Regular Size- Limited Availability

Enjoy the Fun Size!

Isn't if funny that we are told to enjoy everything in moderation. However, that rule never seems to apply to the role of government in our lives.

Enjoy Halloween and keep the kids safe.  A little chocolate makes everything better!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Follow The NFL's Money

One of the most famous movie lines of all time was in All The President's Men which recounted the journalistic pursuits of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein involving the Watergate Scandal.

Their "Deep Throat" informant repeatedly sought to guide them on the story without giving too much away by telling Woodward and Bernstein,

"Follow the money..."

So it is with almost anything. If you follow the money it usually leads you to the truth. ( It might even get us to the ultimate truth behind the Uranium 1 deal, the Trump Dossier and Russia Collusion story).

The same can be said with where the NFL anthem protests will lead.

If you follow the money it tells you this will not end well for the players.

TV money is what makes the NFL the biggest money maker in professional sports.

The NFL brings in $7 billion in tv revenues per year according to this article in ""

ESPN pays $2 billion a year for Monday Night Football and one wild card NFL playoff game that airs on ABC and ESPN. 
Fox pays $1.1 billion a year for the NFC television package and its playoff games.  
CBS pays $1 billion a year for the AFC television package, its playoff games, and an additional $230 million for five Thursday night football games. 
NBC pays $950 million for Sunday Night football, some playoff games, and an additional $230 million for five Thursday night football games.  
In addition to this, Fox, CBS, and NBC all rotate the Super Bowl every three years, which is a massive revenue generator worth several hundred million dollars a year. 
Finally, DirecTV pays $1.5 billion a year for the NFL Sunday Ticket. 

TV networks pay these sums because they believe they will have the ratings to sell advertising.

However, tv ratings are down since Colin Kaepernick started the anthem protest last year.  TV ratings started trending down last year but the NFL blamed that on the election. What do they blame this year's tv ratings loss on?

The Sporting News reported today that NFL tv ratings are down 18.7% from the same period in 2015.

    NFL games averaged 15.1 million viewers through Week 7, according to Nielsen data obtained by Sporting News. That's down 5.1 percent from 15.87 million viewers during the same period last season and off 18.7 percent from 18.35 million viewers during the same period in 2015.

    That tv money is critically important to the players (in addition to the owners) because it is the most significant source for the salary cap pool of each team that is $167 million in 2017. In the salary cap formula, players receive 55% of media revenues.

    Therefore, if tv revenues stall or drop in the future it will be the players who take the biggest hit in their pocketbooks.

    Of course, all of this is also occurring against the backdrop of many people "cutting the cord" and getting out of large cable tv bills.

    Those cable tv bills are a big reason that ESPN can afford to pay $2 billion per year for one game a week and one playoff game per year. If you are counting, that is only 20 games for that $2 billion. That works out to a cool $100 million per game.

    You simply cannot sell $100 million in advertising for a 3 hour game.

    In fact, Forbes estimated that ESPN/ABC only generated $285 million in advertising revenues in 2016 for their games. Given that it also cost money to produce the games it means that ESPN is losing something on the order of $2 billion per year on its NFL coverage when you calculate the difference between its ad sales and what it is paying for the NFL rights and its production costs.

    How does that makes sense? The cable package.

    ESPN is charging about $8 per month for every household with cable that has the network. Considering that there are 88 million households with ESPN that provides a lot of extra cash. However, the average Monday night game only has about 12 million viewers but ESPN (and the NFL) is getting paid a fee by 88 million.

    The annual cost of the Monday night tv package to cable customers---$19.50 per year whether you watch the games or not!

    This has worked great in the past for ESPN and the NFL but this model is starting to break down with increasing numbers of households cutting their cable off for more flexible (and cheaper) viewing options.

    How does ESPN pay $2 billion for the NFL in the next contract?

    Do the other networks continue to pay more for NFL rights fees if ESPN is not as competitive in its bidding and tv ratings are dropping?

    It all spells trouble for the NFL in the future if you follow the money.

    What makes all of this more interesting is that the NFL anthem protests were started and have continued principally because the players are supposedly protesting police shootings and racial injustice towards African Americans.

    However, a recent study by an African American professor at Harvard University found that there is absolutely no racial bias in police shootings. Here is how Professor Roland G. Fryer, Jr. explained his research in a New York Times story published just before NFL players started taking a knee.

    “It is the most surprising result of my career,” said Roland G. Fryer Jr., the author of the study and a professor of economics at Harvard. The study examined more than 1,000 shootings in 10 major police departments, in Texas, Florida and California.
    The result contradicts the image of police shootings that many Americans hold after the killings (some captured on video) of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.; Tamir Rice in Cleveland; Walter Scott in South Carolina; Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La.; and Philando Castile in Minnesota.

    In the city of Houston, which Fryer looked at particularly closely in the study, he found that police officers were less likely to draw their weapons with Blacks 22%-24% less than they would in the same situation with Whites.

    This is not to say that there is not a racial component to many police actions. Fryer found that Blacks were definitely more likely to have lesser amounts of force applied to them (handcuffed, pushed to ground or against a wall, weapon drawn) than Whites. However, the NFL players seem to be vastly overplaying their hand citing police shootings if you look at the actual facts in this research.

    I particularly liked Professor Fryer's comment on why he undertook the research study.

    “You know, protesting is not my thing,” he said. “But data is my thing. So I decided that I was going to collect a bunch of data and try to understand what really is going on when it comes to racial differences in police use of force.”

    Perhaps the NFL players should be looking at more data.

    Start with the Fryer study and compare the results with their perceptions about police shootings.

    Then proceed to the tv ratings, ad revenues and cable cancellations.

    If they follow this data, and the money that goes with it, they may start to see things differently in using the National Anthem as their platform for protest.

    The NFL players have ever right to protest social injustice. However, they need to do it on their own time away from the game. They also need to keep the flag and the National Anthem out of it. Their fans just want to watch football.

    Wednesday, October 25, 2017

    Is The Dam Starting To Break?

    The mainstream media has finally reported what was patently obvious to me months ago. The Washington Post reported yesterday that Fusion GPS, the research firm that produced the notorious “Trump Dossier,” was funded by the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

    This has the potential to be a game changer in the entire "Russian Collusion" story that Hillary Clinton and the Democrats have been trying to hang on Donald Trump since she lost the election.

    The Clinton campaign tried hard to peddle the dirt in the so-called "Trump Dossier" but it has been generally regarded as unsupported or unsubstantiated allegations or an outright fabrication of lies.

    What is particularly interesting is that the FBI under James Comey also got interested in the Trump Dossier and there are reports that the FBI paid expenses of the individual producing the dossier to continue to try to find dirt on Trump in the latter days of the campaign.

    Bear in mind that the Clinton campaign is already defending its involvement in this as only doing opposition research. If that is the case, what was the FBI doing in using taxpayer dollars to pay for opposition research against one candidate in a Presidential campaign?

    Of course, what is ironic about the entire story is that Clinton has argued since she lost the election that it was due to Trump colluding with the Russians to influence the election. However, it is now evident that the Clinton campaign was clearly colluding with the Russians (though its agent) by seeking dirt from the Kremlin and others about Trump.

    Another interesting twist in the story is whether the Obama administration used some of the information in the Trump Dossier to justify the "unmasking" of those close to Trump in requests to the FISA court for wiretaps and other surveillance.

    There are those in the Obama administration that may also be caught up in the backdraft of this story depending on what the paper trail indicates was used for the support in FISA requests. Curiously, the FBI has stonewalled the House Intelligence Committee for over two months on what was used to support those FISA requests.

    Bear in mind that earlier in the year the Obama administration had previously been denied a FISA request on Trump because of the lack of any compelling reason to do so. They may have used the Trump Dossier contents on the subsequent successful request but there seems to be evidence that they should have known the allegations therein were unproven. If so, perjury charges may be await those that were involved in the request.

    You have to ask whether the dam is starting to break?

    Many have long thought that the Clintons were untouchable due to their power and friends in high places

    Of course, many thought the same about Harvey Weinstein.

    When the dam breaks, the flood that engulfs those downstream is fast and furious.

    Watch the news carefully in the coming weeks to see who is being thrown under the bus and who is running for cover.

    We are already seeing evidence of this taking place by high profile Democrats who are famously known for circling the wagons and never breaking ranks.

    A couple of examples in the last week.

    Former President Jimmy Carter recently stated that he does not believe Russia stole the election from Hillary Clinton by changing any votes.

    Tom Perez, the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, went out of his way to state that "the "new leadership" of the organization was not involved in any of the "decision-making" regarding the research firm behind the dossier". Of course, he did not state that the previous DNC was not involved.

    The other big news this week was the disclosure that Special Counsel Mueller, who is investigating Russian collusion, has reportedly expanded the probe to include the Podesta Group (tied closely to the Clintons).

    This is where it gets really interesting if you consider the theory that Larry Schweikart, writing in, is proposing.

    He asks the question in a recent article, "Is Mueller Actually Working For Trump?"

    I will admit that his thesis is way, way out there but he does raise some interesting questions and points..

    Schweikart argues that Mueller is actually working for Trump. The entire Russian collusion investigation is a smokescreen to investigate a number of high profile Democrats--- (the Podesta brothers, Loretta Lynch and potentially the Clintons). He makes the point that this is the only way that an indictment could be brought as the media and the Democrats would be constantly belittling the investigation if it was out in the open.

    Keep in mind that the media views its job as tamping down any fire that looks like it will engulf Democrats while fanning the flames on any embers around Republicans.

    Schweikart explains his theory in his own words..

    Mueller hires, supposedly, a bunch of biased lawyers (some of whom, it turns out, specialize in financial transactions—which was never, ever mentioned in the original “charges” against Trump). So in addition to the fact that Trump was told on multiple occasions he was not a target, it also appears that the types of lawyers Mueller hired were looking at something entirely different than “Russian collusion.”

    Trump, Sessions, and Mueller all knew that for the investigation to succeed in getting Loretta Lynch, James Comey, the Podestas, or anyone one else on the left, it had to operate in secret and totally below the radar. In other words, it had to look like it was pursuing Trump, even though he was told on multiple occasions he was not a target, and even though he has dismissed most—if not all—of his criminal defense team.

    Further, it had to look like Sessions was incompetent. Trump provided “Cheese in the maze” early with Tweets about “Why Sessions wasn’t doing anything” and the like. The giveaway was the following day, Sessions had a presser for another sting and was smiling as if he knew exactly what was going on. People in Alabama tell me he had a sterling record and never brought cases that couldn’t be won.

    Unfortunately, it was essential that at first Mueller/Sessions “look” at Trump people, hence some of the Trump associates had to hire lawyers—which Trump has graciously offered to pay for. I do not think the associates were at all in on the game.

    At some point, after Manafort’s “investigation” most likely, the investigation would shift to the Democrats. Note today NBC has reported that Mueller is investigating Tony Podesta. This is the tip of the iceberg.

    To recap: from the outset Trump hired Mueller via Rosenstein to carry out the investigation of the Dems, most notably Podesta, but likely ending with the Clinton Crime Family Foundation, as Rush Limbaugh calls it. No one would get Hillary Clinton on the e-mails–but you might get her on something else, the Foundation. Further, this is being carried out in utter secrecy on Mueller/Sessions’ part. Finally, word is starting to leak out from targets that the investigation has shifted. Oh, and none other than Jimmy Carter just came out praising Trump, and says the election wasn’t rigged. What’s that all about?

    Is the dam starting to break?

    Not yet but it has definitely sprung a leak.

    Let's keep a close eye on it.

    If it breaks it could sweep a lot of people away.

    Tuesday, October 24, 2017

    Horrific and Cruel?

    Did you see what Bernie Sanders said about the 2018 federal budget blueprint that was passed by the Senate last week?

    Bernie called it "horrific", "extremely cruel" and "the most unfair modern history."

    Let's take a closer look at the budget and put the numbers in context so that you can judge the validity of Bernie's remarks.

    The Senate budget that was passed forecasts total spending of over $4 trillion in fiscal year 2018.

    Let's put that in context.

    In real terms (adjusted for inflation), that would be the second highest level of federal spending in the history of the federal government. It would only be surpassed by the 2009 budget which included all of the Obama stimulus spending in that year. This chart shows federal spending (in constant 2017 dollars) from 1976-2017.

    Notice the spending in the last eight years in particular. We are now at an entirely different level of spending since that 2009 budget.


    The amount of federal government spending that is made up of payments to individuals in the 2018 budget (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Welfare, Food Stamps, Unemployment Assistance, Obamacare subsidies, Student Loans, Federal Employees Retirement, VA Benefits) makes up a record $2.9 trillion.

    Those payments to individuals do not include salaries to government workers or the military as these are considered to be payments in return for current services provided. Therefore, "payments for individuals" effectively represent what amounts to be the redistribution of income from one person to another with the federal government serving as the middle man.

    These are not outlays for the common defense, common good, public works or public safety.  These are government payments that are intended to benefit select individuals based on their age, their income, their health or any one of a number of other distinctions.

    If you do the math, that means that almost 71% (almost 3 out of 4) of every dollar of federal spending is being paid to individuals in some form. That means that everything else that we commonly think of as the functions of government makes up only 29% of the federal budget.

    Here is the breakdown of these payments to individuals by major category.

    Medicare, Medicaid and other Health Care Assistance   $1.249 Trillion
    Social Security and Railroad Retirements                         $1.015 Trillion
    Federal Employee & Military Retirements                          $219 Billion
    Welfare & Public Assistance                                                  $217 Billion
    Food Stamps & Nutrition Assistance                                       $98 Billion
    Housing Assistance                                                                    $47 Billion
    Student Assistance                                                                        $47 Billion
    Unemployment Assistance                                                             $34 Billion
    All Other                                                                                           $9 Billion  

    Does that look like it is "cruel' and "horrific" as it comes to individual needs?

    Let's also put that 71% in perspective. In 1945, as we fought World War II, payments to individuals were 2.4% of total federal spending. In 1960, it was 26%. In 1980, it was 46%.

    If Defense spending is excluded (arguably the one function of the federal government that is probably most essential), as well as interest on the federal debt, direct payments to individuals account for 93% of all federal spending.

    The Senate budget action was a critical step in order to bring income tax reduction and reform legislation before the Senate before the end of the year.

    In case you have been led to believe that your income taxes are too low and that the federal government could solve all of its problems with a little more tax revenue, look at this chart that shows income tax revenues for the years 1976-2017 in real dollars.


    The last three years have seen the highest income tax collections in U.S. history after adjusting for inflation. Income tax revenues for 2018 under current law are forecast at $1.836 trillion under by the Office of Management and Budget. That will be highest in history even after adjustment for inflation.

    It is interesting to note that income tax collections in 2018 will be about double what they were in the Clinton Administration (in inflation adjusted dollars) but the Democrats still believe that income taxes are too low today.

    You might even call current income taxes "cruel" "horrific" or "the most unfair in modern history" if you had a mind to do it.

    The facts back it up.

    It is hard to look at the facts and say the same about spending in this budget being "cruel" and "horrific" to individuals in our society. That is where almost all of the tax dollars are being spent.

    You would think that $2.9 trillion would be enough to satisfy the various social needs of our society. After all, we are talking about a sum that is approximately 15% of our nation's total GDP. To put that in further context, there are only four countries in the rest of the world where the entire nation's  GDP exceeds $2.9 trillion---China, Japan, Germany and the UK.

    However, for the liberal left, whatever we spend is never enough. It would not be enough if were spending $3.9 trillion on payments to individuals in the federal budget.

    If you learned something in this post, send it on to a Bernie Sanders supporter you love. They might learn something as well.

    Speaking of Bernie supporters, I thought came up with an interesting insight in recent campus interviews. They went on the campus of George Washington University and asked students if they supported the Trump tax plan. All parroted the talking points of the liberal left. However, when given the details and told it was Bernie's plan, they thought it was a good plan.

    Click here if the imbedded video does not work in your browser.

    It is worth viewing in explaining why I write BeeLine. You have to get people past the headlines, hyperbole and histrionics and look at the context.

    Sunday, October 22, 2017

    All In A Name

    Last year I wrote about the business of baby naming and the fact that I was a "Name Nerd".

    Naming a baby is much more complex and complicated than it once was.

    A lot of that has to do with the fact that parents have much greater access to a range of name choices than they did in the past. This is how I explained it in my last blog post on the subject.

    Historically, family names have been the predominant means of naming a baby.  That is one of the reasons that if you went back to the 1880's, one in every four boys was named John, William, James or George. One reason--they did not have access to baby name books or the internet. What was the one book people had? Yes. The Bible.
    A lot has changed in the baby name business in the last 30 or 40 years. The most important change has been the accessibility of information on the internet. Instead of relying on a dog-eared baby name book of 1,000 names, that did not give you much more than the meaning behind the name, you can now peruse 10,000 names at the click of a mouse. You can also learn exactly how popular the name is, what other people think of it on 7 dimensions (strong? sexy? sophisticated? smart?) and other people's experiences with the name.

    There used to be a lot more conformity in name choices by parents. In 1950, only 5% of names were outside of the top 1000 names. In 2012, 27% of baby names were completely weird and were outside of the top 1000.

    The other thing that is interesting to me is the cyclical nature of names. Names cycle in and out of popular culture over the generations. When I was growing up names like Henry, Emma, Oliver and Cora were names of my grandparent's friends. My generation would not think of giving our children a name like that. The younger generation today never knew anyone with these names. To them it is new and cool. The names they are avoiding are the ones that many of my school classmates had in the 1960's--Larry, Terry, Brenda and Barbara. After all, they only associate these names as friends of their grandparents. is one of the internet sites devoted to baby names. One of the features on the site is a listing of the most popular names that are being researched on the site. This is the current list for 2017 girls and boys.

    Do you notice anything interesting about this list?

    How did Harvey end up at the top of the list for most popular names for boys?

    This is especially true considering what we now associate with the name Harvey.

    First, a catastrophic hurricane and flood named Harvey that devastated the Texas Gulf Coast.

    More recently, all the news surrounding Harvey Weinstein's alleged serial sexual harassment and assaults.

    The reality is that all of the news with the name Harvey involved may actually be the reason that Harvey has become a popular name search on Nameberry. After all, most young parents today have not heard the name Harvey very much.

    Here is a graphic from the's Baby Name Voyager that tracks the popularity of the name since the 1880's. All the graphs below are from this source.

    Harvey was in the Top 100 names from the 1880's through the 1930's when it started to sink in popularity. In the 2000's it was completely out of the top 1000 names. However, in recent years it has started a comeback. Will the increased visibility of the name translate to more Harvey's on birth certificates? I would be surprised as names with bad connotations tend to not stay popular.

    As an example, Katrina was #192 on the list of most popular names for girls in the 1990's. It was declining in popularity in the early 2000's but Hurricane Katrina in 2004 really did the baby name in. By 2010 it was no longer in the top 1000 names.

    It used to be that the name of the President of the United States would result in more babies with that name.

    For example, Theodore was a popular baby name when Teddy Roosevelt was President at the turn of the century.

    Or Franklin when FDR was President in the 1930's.

    That doesn't seem to apply anymore. Barack has never reached the top 1000 in any year. Schools may be named for him but very few parents are naming their children Barack.

    What about Donald and Hillary (or Hilary)?

    Did the 2016 election create any excitement about either name on the 2017 Nameberry Most Popular Names List?

    Hillary (or Hilary) is not to be found anywhere in the Top 1000 names. According to Name Voyager, that name has not been in the Top 1000 since 2009 (the year Mrs. Clinton became Secretary of State).

    Donald is #772 on the 2017 list. The last year birth records are available (2015) Donald was #441 among boys names. Not great but a far sight more popular than Barack or Hillary.

    You can see what having a duck named Donald did to this name. From the 1910's through the 1960's Donald was a Top 25 name every year. When Trump was born in the 1940's it was the #12 most popular name for boys.

    Getting back to Harvey, I thought it was interesting that meaning behind the name "Harvey" is "battle worthy" according to Nameberry. That seems appropriate considering what appears to be in front of Harvey Weinstein.

    It's all in a name.

    Thursday, October 19, 2017

    Corrupt To The Core

    Two stories that surfaced this week speak volumes about how the mainstream media and the Democrat establishment is corrupt to the core.

    The fact that you have likely not seen mention of either of these stories in the mainstream media should tell you all you need to know about the corruption therein.

    When you read the details below I want you to imagine how these stories would be played in the media if Trump or a top Republican was involved.

    While the media is spending all of its time the last couple of day on Trump's condolence call with the widow of a fallen Army solider (he allegedly was "insensitive" on the call), these stories have gotten almost no attention. It is almost incomprehensible considering the facts as they have been reported.

    The first story involves former U.N. Ambassador (under Obama) Samantha Power's closed door testimony to House Intelligence Committee investigators last week. Power was asked to testify in order to explain how 260 requests had been made in her name to "unmask" American citizens who had been caught up in National Security Agency surveillance of non-U.S. citizens. Those 260 requests were all done in the last year of the Obama administration. That works out to one request for every working day.

    Former UN Ambassador Samantha Power
    Credit: Washington Examiner

    Government Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy reported that Power testified that she made some requests but nothing on the order of the 260 attributed to her. She stated that someone else must have been using her name on the requests.

    This should be a bombshell story but I was lucky to find reference to it in any mainstream news source.

    First, why is a woman who is a diplomat at the U.N. have a security clearance to unmask names of U.S. citizens? That seems strange in itself. Her job is focused on diplomacy with other nations. It makes no sense whatsoever for the UN Ambassador to have "unmasking" authority for U.S. citizens.

    In addition, what kind of system and controls are in place that would allow someone else to use Power's name to unmask NSA surveillance data on a U.S. citizen? Are the controls in place that lax?

    You can only come to two conclusions after reading the report of Power's testimony.

    She has either lied and committed perjury before the House Committee


    There is a serious lack of control over the surveillance program and there should be an immediate investigation as to who used Power's name to access the data and that person should be arrested and tried for this serious intelligence breach.

    One other possibility is that Power could have also knowingly given her "password authority" to someone else that lacked authority and she is being cagey about the facts in her testimony before Congress.

    In any case, all of this points to serious corruption within the Obama administration in the handling of this intelligence.

    The failure of the media to aggressively follow this story is corrupt as well.

    It is corrupt to the core.

    The second story that you have not likely heard or read about involves reporting by The Hill that an FBI investigation uncovered a Russian bribery plot before the Obama administration approved the controversial deal that gave Moscow control of a significant amount of American uranium.

    According to the story, the FBI's investigation had gathered substantial evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering to control parts of the nuclear energy business in the United States.

    All that the Democrats and the mainstream media seem to want to talk about is Russian collusion with the Trump campaign in the 2016 election. However,  here is a story about an FBI investigation showing that Russian collusion was actually occurring in the takeover of a portion of our uranium assets and yet you hear nothing about it.

    The reporting of The Hill on the details of the FBI investigation are pretty damning.

    Federal agents used a confidential U.S. witness working inside the Russian nuclear industry to gather extensive financial records, make secret recordings and intercept emails as early as 2009 that showed Moscow had compromised an American uranium trucking firm with bribes and kickbacks in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, FBI and court documents show.
    They also obtained an eyewitness account — backed by documents — indicating Russian nuclear officials had routed millions of dollars to the U.S. designed to benefit former President Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation during the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton served on a government body that provided a favorable decision to Moscow, sources told The Hill.

    Consider that paragraph again. The FBI had an eyewitness account-- backed by documents-- that the Russians routed millions to benefit the Clintons at the same time that Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State and in a position in the Obama administration to influence the uranium transaction.

    What is most troubling in all of this is that, despite the investigation that uncovered extensive illegal activities and national security concerns, the FBI did not disclose any of this information before the Obama administration approved the sale of the uranium even though all of this evidence had been gathered and was known to the FBI.

    Why on earth would they sit on this information and allow this sale to go through considering its national security implications?

    It makes you wonder what was going on at the FBI or at higher levels in the Justice Department.

    All of this smells of corruption.

    As does the failure of the media to aggressively follow this story.

    All of it is corrupt to the core.

    If you doubt what I am saying about the failure of the mainstream media to report these stories look at these screen shots of a Google search of "Samantha Power testimony on unmasking" and "FBI Russia Uranium Investigation".

    Google search-- "Samantha Power testimony on unmasking"

    There is not one mainstream media news source other than Fox News at the top of the search results page.

    Google search--"FBI Russia Uranium Investigation"

    There is not one mainstream source here either other than The Washington Post. The Post story is actually a defense of Clinton and an attack on the story arguing that there is nothing to it. The New York Times, CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC and NPR are nowhere to be found on the search page results.

    Compare that with a search on Google of "Trump insensitive to dead soldier family".

    The New York Times, BBC News, Washington Post and Chicago Tribune are the first four hits. CNN, LA Times and ABC News are not far behind.

    Donald Trump is crude at times. He can be arrogant and antagonistic when challenged. His enemies think he is a clown or he is crazy. However, there is no doubt he loves this country. And there is no sense that he is corrupt.

    That is a darn sight better than what we see in these stories and in how the mainstream media is treating Trump.

    Corrupt to the core.

    How else do you explain it?

    Tuesday, October 17, 2017

    Electric Cars--Seen and Unseen

    Nothing gets a liberal more excited than the thought that the internal combustion engine will soon become nothing but an exhibit in a museum next to buggy whips and whale oil lamps.

    Of course, their gripe is not so much with the engine but with the power source---the fossil fuel that makes that engine go---and the carbon emissions that they blame for altering the planet's climate.

    That is why the promise of battery-powered cars are so important to the left. California already has a commitment to see to it that there are 1.5 million "zero emissions" vehicles by 2025. (There are 300,000 on the road today. This is about half the total electric or hybrid vehicles in the USA.).

    A California legislator wants to take it a step further and ban the sale of new cars powered by internal combustion engines by 2040. France and the U.K. have already announced a similar policy. India wants to get there by 2030. China says it wants to do it even sooner.

    How realistic are these goals?

    Let's take a look at two issues that relate to that "zero emissions" future.

    Of course, both of these issues are not at the forefront of thinking by the left.

    Liberal Democrats tend to focus only on that which is "seen" while ignoring those things that are "unseen". It makes things easier. Unfortunately, life is not that simple.

    Frederic Bastiat made this observation in an essay back in 1853 about economists but I believe it can be equally applied to politicians and policymakers.

    There is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: the bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen.
    In the economic sphere an act, a habit, an institution, a law produces not only one effect, but a series of effects. Of these effects, the first alone is immediate; it appears simultaneously with its cause; it is seen. The other effects emerge only subsequently; they are not seen; we are fortunate if we foresee them. 

    My experience is that Democrats generally confine themselves solely to visible effects.  They seem to consider only first-level effects and ignore everything else that might flow from that.  All of their focus is on what they see in front on them. They ignore the unseen issues. Republicans, on the other hand, are better at considering both the immediate effects and second-level effects. The seen and the unseen. Especially the unseen effects which should be foreseen. I have written about the seen and unseen in these pages before involving issues such as the budget deficit, immigration, abortion and gun control.

    So it is with "zero emissions" vehicles as well.

    Liberals want to ban gasoline powered vehicles for electric cars. However, where does the power come from that those electric cars need from the power grid when they plug in?

    This is the most recent forecast for power generation in the United States for 2026 by BMI Research.

    Note that in 2026 it is forecast that the largest single source of power generation will still be coal. Combined with natural gas and oil, fossil fuels are still forecast to make up almost 2/3 of U.S. power generation a decade from now. Nuclear is another 9%.

    The vehicles that are "seen" might be emissions free but the "unseen" power source is anything but emissions free.

    The other "unseen" issue is how that power will be distributed to millions of vehicles on the road. Today that number is approaching 300 million vehicles.

    After all, it is one thing to power a relative few "zero emissions" cars. It is something altogether different when all of those cars are trying to plug in to power up in the same manner as vehicles do at gas stations today. (By the way, the average gas station services 2,000 cars in a typical 12 hour period).

    A Canadian, David Booth, recently took a hard look at the "unseen" reality of the electric car future and he offers some inconvenient truths for the zero emissions enthusiasts.

    Anyone who tells you that the electric car in your future will be just as convenient as the gasoline-fueled vehicle you’re currently driving is lying. If not overtly, then at least by omission. Nor can they plead ignorance, the calculations required to reach this conclusion are hardly the stuff of graduate-level physics. Indeed, judging from the experts I’ve spoken with, plenty have been the warnings proffered to the politicians, policy makers and futurists advocating an all-battery-powered future.

    The major obstacle is how those 300 million vehicles will power up when you are on the road and don't have access to a home charger in your garage. Today it takes over 5 hours for a Tesla S to fully charge on a wall charger. That works fine if you are charging the car overnight for your daily commute but it is less than ideal for longer trips.

    A Tesla S Charging Up

    A 120kw supercharger station drops that time. A Tesla S can be charged from zero to 100% in 75 minutes and zero to 80% in 40 minutes.  However, that is a far cry from the two minutes it takes to fill up your car at a gas station.

    However, right now there are only 828 supercharging stations in the entire world with just over 5,000 charging points.  That will undoubtedly grow with time but what about the charging times and the "unseen" power requirements?

    Booth has done the math and in order to fully charge an electrical vehicle in 2 minutes to drive 300 miles, it would require a 3,000 kw (3 megawatts) charging station. That is 25 times more powerful than what exists today. A 350kw charger could do it in 20 minutes and these might be on the horizon. However, this is what Booth says about that possibility.

    The 350kW rechargers required for those promised 20-minute refueling is, according to the experts I spoke with, likely the upper limit of the equipment we humans will ever be allowed to handle. In fact, these 350kW rechargers generate so much heat, their amperage is so incredibly high, that the cables carrying all that current need to be liquid cooled. And anything that can recharge our batteries faster than 20 minutes will have to be automated, i.e., phantasmagorically expensive.

    The cost of those 350kw superchargers? $250,000 to $500,000 each. And you are still waiting 20 minutes at the charging station. That is 10 times longer than at the gas station. Your trip to Grandma's is going to get a lot longer.

    Of course, all of those charging stations will need electric power. Electric generation power that does not exist today for 30 million electric vehicles let alone 300 million.

    To replace the average gasoline station with equivalent charging capabilities you would need 30 megawatts of power. That is the same amount of electricity that a city of 75,000 people currently uses. Where does that energy come from and what is going to generate that "unseen" power?

    Oh, and by the way, all that electricity, unlike off-hour home recharging, happens during peak-usage daylight hours. 
    In other words, all that extra power, at least for intra-city travel, will have to come from new — not existing — sources. At the most optimistic prices posited for the future cost of solar panels — about a buck a watt — that’s another $30 million. If you want to go the windmill route, you’ll need 10 of them, each costing roughly $4 million. Just as further reminder, that’s for each and every roadside station. And for those thinking there may be some breakthrough in the future that will allow faster recharging, know that while battery technology is in its infancy, electricity generation is a mature technology and the laws of power transmission are likely to remain pretty much immutable.

    This does not even consider the time it takes to get a new power plant approved (environmental permits, community complaints etc) and built. These timeframes are often measured in decades, rather than years.

    I have no doubt that human ingenuity and innovation will provide advances in this area that are not imagined right now. My guess is that many of these are "unseen" today.  We may very well develop new technology that makes vehicular travel "zero emissions".

    However, I think it is unlikely to result with any extension of the technologies that are "seen" today. It is more likely that something that is completely "unseen" today will get us where we need to be.

    In the meantime, it seems quite foolish to try to legislate and regulate the internal combustion engine and the fossil fuel industry out of business. It has provided us a convenient, efficient and economical system of transportation that we have enjoyed for over a century.

    There may come a day when it has "seen" better days. However, that day remains "unseen" right now.

    There are just too many "unseen" issues lurking in the background regarding electric vehicles no matter how hard the left wants to ignore them.

    Sunday, October 15, 2017

    Your Financial Life

    When I lecture on financial planning to young adults I make the point that their life is roughly divided into four quarters---you could also consider them to be four seasons.

    The first quarter (roughly 18-23 years) you are generally relying on someone else for your financial needs. Someone else is paying your rent, making sure you are clothed and have food in your mouth. They are trying to make sure you are being educated. They are paying your cell phone bill.

    In this spring season of your life, someone else is paying for the seeds, fertilizer and water. Your main responsibility is to grow to be a responsible human being and be prepared to support yourself over the next three quarters (or seasons) of your life.

    The second and third quarters (the next 40-45 years) are your working years. You have to find a means to support yourself financially. Early in the second quarter, most will marry. This is highly advantageous economically as it allows you to share expenses, divide labor and tasks. Being married is a huge benefit in financial terms. Two cannot live cheaper than one but they can live much cheaper than two singles.

    Being newly married, with both individuals having incomes, is the golden age of your financial life. It is as if you are at the peak of the summer season.

    However, soon thereafter, little people have a habit of arriving around your home. With them come needs. Lots of needs. Needs that have to be met.

    That requires you to take some of your income and begin satisfying those needs just as was done for you. Children need food, clothes and other things. Over time, they need (and want) more and more. You are now not only supporting yourself but others as well.

    During that summer season, and into the fall season, you also begin to realize that at some point winter will come. You do not want to keep toiling in the field and laboring from sunrise to sunset. You will want to retire. You may be forced to retire. In that last quarter of life (which very likely can be 20-25 years) you have to live off savings accumulated during your working years. In effect, you need to store some of your summer work and fall harvest for the coming winter months.

    It looks something like this if you put it in graphic form.

    In the first quarter of life, someone else is taking care of your needs.

    In the second and third quarter of life, you have to take care of yourself and any children that come along.

    At the same time, in addition, you need to be putting enough savings away in order to support your needs in your fourth quarter---your retirement years.

    People wonder why it is so hard to get ahead.

    Think about what I just described.

    During your working years, you are effectively supporting three generations with one income.


    Your children.

    Your future self.

    That is a little sobering.

    That is why I tell young people to save until it really hurts. They typically respond that they don't have the means to do it. They say they are just getting started. They will put something away in the future.

    It never happens. It doesn't get easier. It gets harder.

    When you are young and single, you are only taking care of yourself. It won't be long until you realize what it is like to really be caught in the middle.

    Here is a graphic that really captures what it is like to be caught in the middle. This is a chart I saw in ValueWalk that provides a data visualization of the U.S. population sorted by current status in the labor force.

    Credit: Jeff Desjardins, Visual Capitalist

    This really makes the point about how those who are working in the second and third quarters of their life are really caught in the middle. The workers are surrounded on all sides---by children on the left hand side, by seniors on the right hand side and by those not working on top of them. They are paying for their kids, for their future retirement and, at the same time, a healthy amount of taxes to support those who are unemployed. Oh yes, they also are working to support themselves.

    Everyone needs to eat. They need a roof over their head. They need health care. It falls to those in the middle of that graph to provide it all in our economy. It is probably appropriate that the color of the working employed is purple in that chart. They deserve a purple heart for their efforts.

    Looking at all of this is why I  typically counsel young married couples to save at least 50% of what they make. Ideally, they should be saving all of what the higher income spouse earns and live off of the income of the lower income spouse.

    Not many take my advice but the reality is that they will never have a better time to save.

    Speaking of marriage, here is another data visualization of the marital status of Americans visualized by age.

    Credit: Jeff Desjardins, Visual Capitalist

    You can see from the chart that it is between the ages of 25 and 33 that most Americans are getting married. Marital status peaks between the ages of 45 and 55.

    You know the old saying, "Make hay while the sun is shining".

    It is also true when it comes to your financial life.

    For most, that is going to be before children are born or after they are no longer living in their parent's basement.

    However, a dollar saved early compounds over many periods. One saved late does not have the same leverage. That is why you should start early and you need to save the most when you are young. It is the easiest time to start turning The Wealth Wheel to your advantage.

    Keep this lesson in my mind in considering your financial life.

    Thursday, October 12, 2017

    The Washington Post Is "Surprised"

    The Washington Post is rarely "surprised"

    After all, those that control and write for The Washington Post seem to think they know everything. They knew Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton could do no wrong. They "know" that Donald Trump can do nothing right.

    That is why it was such a surprise for them to find out that 63 million American voters did not agree with them last November.

    They were "surprised" again this week when they fact-checked a Trump administration statement of policy that indicated that President Trump intends to sign the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act if it becomes law.

    This bill would generally make it unlawful for any person to perform or attempt to perform, an abortion after 20 weeks, with limited exceptions.

    This bill passed the House of Representatives 237-189 last week and is now being considered in the Senate.

    What "surprised" The Washington Post was this factoid in the Administration's statement.
    The United States is currently out of the mainstream in the family of nations, in which only 7 out of 198 nations allow elective abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

    The Washington Post immediately jumped on this and put their fact-checkers on it to prove that this could not be right. They could not wait to put their 4 Pinocchios on this outlandish statement by the Trump administration.

    There was only one problem---it was true.

    Much to the "surprise" of The Washington Post.

    In fact, The Washington Post actually conveyed the Geppetto Checkmark to this factoid. This is how this mark of distinction is described by The Washington Post fact checkers.

    The Washington Post explained their conclusion this way.

    This statistic seemed dubious at first, because it seemed extreme for just seven countries out of 198 to allow elective abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. But upon further digging, the data back up the claim.
    Further, what is telling is that the research from both sides of the reproductive rights debate confirm this figure. It’s not easy to boil down complex abortion laws in a cross-comparative manner like this, and there are some minor caveats associated with this talking point. Still, we did not find the caveats rise to the level of One Pinocchio.
    We award the elusive Geppetto Checkmark when a factoid surprisingly  (my emphasis) turns out to be true, as in this case.

    I thought it was interesting that The Washington Post fact checkers questioned the statistic because they thought it was "extreme" that just 7 countries out of 198 allow elective abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

    Isn't this revealing bias in itself?

    The Washington Post thought that the fact that only seven countries allowed elective abortions seemed to be "extreme" in their view.

    However, it never seemed to occur to them that the seven countries that are allowing the practice are those that are really on the far "extreme" side of the issue.

    What is more shocking is that the United States of America is one of the seven.

    The list of the seven countries compiled from The Washington Post research is below. Note that the only countries that have more liberal abortion policies than the United States are North Korea, China and Vietnam. These are hardly the countries you want to keep company with on any human rights issue.

    Note that there is not one European country in the seven other than the Netherlands. Since most European countries are generally considered to be more liberal and have weaker religious values than the United States, this also says a lot about how far out of the mainstream America is on abortion.

    From the Washington Post...

    Here’s a look at the seven countries. We sorted them from the most liberal on gestational limits to the least:

    North Korea and Vietnam: No specified gestational limit, though regulatory mechanisms vary.

    China: “Abortion is virtually freely available in China, and there are no defined time limits for access to the procedure,” according to Pew Research Center. China now has a “two-child” policy, and human-rights advocates have criticized China’s population and family planning laws.

    United States: No federal ban on gestational limit, but 43 states have prohibitions on gestational limits, from 20 to 24 weeks, or the point of “viability,” according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights research group. There are some exceptions made, usually for the life or health of the mother.

    Canada: No federal gestational limit, but provinces and territories vary as to whether they will offer abortion services after a certain gestational age. Some offer abortion services up to 12 weeks, others up to 24 weeks. (This is similar to how states operate in the U.S.) Abortions after 20 weeks are not always readily available for Canadians, so women are often referred to a clinic in the United States, according to an abortion rights group in Canada. These procedures may be paid in full or in part by provincial governments.

    Netherlands: Abortions are allowed up to 24 weeks. After that period, abortions are allowed only if the unborn fetus has an untreatable disease and would have little to no chance of survival after birth, or for the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman.

    Singapore: Abortions are allowed up to 24 weeks. After that, abortions are only allowed to save the life of, or for the physical or mental health of, the pregnant woman.

    Liberals often like to talk about the extremist views of conservative Republicans.

    However, there is almost nothing more extreme than the abortion policies that are in place in the United States of America.

    Watch closely if the "Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act" gains any traction in the Senate. If it does, we surely will hear from Democrats how extreme this bill is.

    However, you now have the facts to put that claim in context.

    The facts are that the extremists are those that will not support this legislation, not those who are supporting it.

    Feel free to share these extreme facts with a Pro-Choicer that you love.

    They may be surprised as well.