Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Voter Registration Forms in Color

According to the New York Post, Peter Rivera, a New York State Assemblyman from the Bronx, seeks to introduce a bill to require racial and ethnic data on voter registration forms.

This is, of course, absurd on its face. For one thing, there has not really been any racial purity amongst the population for the past 2,000 years or so. How would someone of diverse parentage and grandparentage fill out the form? And, of no less concern, what would be gained by placing what would inevitably be a strain on the New York State Budget, which is in poor shape as it now is?

What is even more amazing (though not at all unwelcome) is that the Congress for Racial Equality (C.O.R.E.) and the NAACP are not warming up to the idea! Given the historical stances taken by those two groups, one would not be surprised to see either back such a scheme.

But it does sort of make sense for CORE and NAACP to steer clear of this one. They stand to gain little, and in fact, it may well backfire by yielding statistics which would embarrass them. There is too much of whatever credibility CORE and NAACP may possess that would be risked. Hey, it is so easy to register to vote by mail anymore that NAACP and CORE would be very hard pressed to find any of their constituents actually being denied the right to vote on racial or ethnic grounds.

Whether the nonplussedness (if there is such a word) of CORE and NAACP is based upon principle (which I sort of doubt) or practicality, it should be a signal to Rivera to forget about the whole thing and stick his proposed bill into the paper shredder.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Taxing Sleep and Sweat

The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has just complained to the Office of Congressional Ethics regarding various Congresscritters who sleep in their offices and use the House Gym to shower. According to CREW, this is a misuse of House resources for personal purposes, and a violation of the tax laws if the value of this perquisite is not reported as personal income.

I truly have mixed feelings about this.

On one hand, CREW's personnel seem to fall largely into the left-of-center ranges of the political spectrum. On the other hand, CREW does not seem to discriminate on the basis of political orientation when it shoots barbs at Congresscritters and others.

On one hand, the various and sundry self-appointed government ethics watchdogs will invariably start barking and blowing whistles whenever a Congresscritter goes on a travel junket or on a vacation to an exotic place. This time, the Congresscritters complained of are in fact spending more time in their offices, which, one would think, would be where they ought to be spending time.

As for using the House Gym to shower, there are plenty who would complain even louder if the Congresscritters didn't shower. Imponderable: Just how intense a workout must the Congresscritters do at the gym in order to legitimately use the showers? Is three drops of sweat enough, or do they have to be totally farshvitzed?

And as for sleeping in their offices: How does sleeping in their offices at night conceptually differ from putting their heads down on their desks for a 5 or 10 minute nap during lunch break? And isn't the public better served if its legislators can get immediately to work without a long, tiring commute? Or, for that matter, a leisurely commute in the back of a taxpayer-financed limousine?

[Disclosure: I took a 1-hour nap in my office today before teaching my classes. I do similarly at least once per month, and sometimes more frequently.].

On one hand, a Congresscritter's control of his or her own office expenditures redounds to the benefit of the public. On the other hand, shouldn't those Congresscritters who want to ramp up the taxes on the more affluent of American society themselves be taxed for the privileges of office they themselves receive?

I'm pleased to no end that there is a group holding Congress's collective feet to the fire in a politically-neutral manner. But this complaint to the OCE, I believe, has more than a few wasteful and nitpicking aspects.

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Crediting the Public Purse

Haven't posted in a while, preoccupied as I have been with teaching, the law practice, and some travel.

Remember how the banks were whining when Congress recently imposed more consumer-friendly restrictions on their credit card operations? Well, the solicitations from the banks for credit card accounts have continued to come to my mailbox, unabated. This includes me, the wife, kids, an alias I used a number of years ago to investigate a former client's case, and my son's pet guinea pig who passed away about 9 years ago and whose name was once used as an alias by my son. And our names are not always spelled correctly.

As much as we might despise the banking industry, I think we can all agree that the executives in that industry are, intellectually speaking, at the upper reaches of the bell curve. And I would venture to say that the industry as a whole would not continue its wholesale mail solicitation program if its upper managers believed it to be money-losing proposition.

But these solicitations, as often as not, contain a business reply envelope with the legend "no postage necessary if mailed in the United States."

So I take the envelope in which the solicitation arrived, tear off any identifying info that might be on it (oftentimes there is none), fold up the solicitation envelope and stuff it into the business reply envelope. I then put it in with my stack of outgoing mail.

In addition to the basic postage (currently 44 cents), the addressee pays a per piece fee (now 10 cents for the high volume accounts).

And because the bank's addresses are high volume addresses, the Postal Service can deliver efficiently, i.e., make some profit on each mailpiece.

Postal delivery service is one of the relatively few legitimate functions of a sovereign government (The fact that the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970 transformed the postal apparatus from a Cabinet Department to a public corporation is only incidental). Giving money to failing banks is not a legitimate function of sovereign government.

And so, I recoup the TARP funds from the banking industry back into the public fisc, one half dollar at a time.

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