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Archive for September 15th, 2020


Some 16- and 17-year-olds might get voting rights after 2020 elections

Who cares, one might ask? Young people, for one. In fact, the movement was started by teenagers protesting guns on high school campuses in 2018, in turn generating the political energy for lowering the voting age, giving them a say. Another group that cares are people concerned about low voter turnout, feeling that could be improved by starting voting earlier in life. Politics, of course, is always part of election reform, and Democrats, who have stronger support among the more liberal young, like letting younger teenagers vote, while Republicans do not.
To understand this movement, you have to start by understanding our constitutional election system. We do not have one nationwide election, even for president, but rather 51 state elections (including the District of Columbia) as established by Article I, Section 4 of the Constitution. Then, cities and counties largely oversee their own elections for local offices. Short of a federal constitutional amendment, which is extremely difficult to enact these days, any change in voting age would be carried out at the state or local level, which is precisely what is underway.
The California ballot initiative, Proposition 18, would allow 17-year-olds to vote in the primary election if they turn 18 by the general election. Although this seems like a limited change, the Public Policy Institute of California recently estimated that in the 2016 and 2018 elections, it would have empowered 200,000 new primary voters, which could have affected the makeup of 33 general election races. Such laws already exist in 10 states and the District of Columbia. Not surprisingly, the California Democratic Party has endorsed the ballot proposition.
Interestingly, the Colorado ballot offers voters a chance to turn away from its law allowing 17-year-olds to vote in the primary. Amendment 76 would effectively strike down a law passed in 2019 allowing 17-year-olds to vote in primaries, saying that 18 is the minimum voting age there. The 2019 law passed without any Republican support, and the question now goes to the people. The cities of San Francisco and Oakland also have ballot propositions for younger voters, and other municipalities around the country allow younger voters in local races.
It’s difficult to find a compelling reason to reduce the voting age. In fact, many laws about the drinking age or the age for driving without supervision have moved in the opposite direction in recent years, in part recognizing that the brain is still developing reasoning capabilities at those ages. Young people below 18 cannot serve on juries, serve in the military without parental permission, or qualify for their own credit card. It’s not as though there is a fairness question on the table as there was in 1971: Should young people have to go to war yet be unable to vote for national leadership?
The only objective argument for allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to vote is that it might increase voter turnout to start the voting habit earlier. This has yet to be proven, and consistently younger voters do not turn out in high percentages. In 2016, for example, only half of eligible younger voters actually voted, compared with two-thirds of older cohorts. A much better proposal is to allow students to preregister to vote in high school but wait until age 18 for the registration to take effect.
If 16- and 17-year-olds voting is the answer, it’s difficult to see what the question is. Without more objective evidence supporting it, it looks a lot like other so-called reforms that are really intended to help one political party over another.
David Davenport is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and a visiting scholar with the Orrin G. Hatch Foundation. He is the co-author, with Gordon Lloyd, of How Public Policy Became War.

If Joe Biden says it, that’s good enough for much of the media.



Joe Biden won’t admit it, but his proposal
would hike taxes on the middle class

If Joe Biden says it, that’s good enough for much of the media.

So when Biden says he won’t raise taxes on anyone earning less than $400,000, fact-checkers call it “accurate” and reporters buy it.
But reporters shouldn’t buy it. Nobody should buy it, because the promise is belied by his own proposals.  Biden’s tax plan will raise taxes on middle-income people who are saving for retirement, while at the same time, restoring some special-interest tax cuts for the wealthy.  Here’s Biden’s pledge“Nobody making under 400,000 bucks would have their taxes raised, period, bingo.”
Sure enough, most of Biden’s proposed tax hikes — limited deductions and higher rates, for example — apply only to those earning $400,000 or more.
But Biden’s proposed change to 401(k) plans will hike taxes on the middle class. If you’re a single earner earning the median household income, Biden’s plan would give you a $1,000 tax hike, and mostly (but not fully) offset that tax hike with a government contribution to your retirement account.
Here’s how it would happen:
Under current law, income you put in your 401(k) retirement account today doesn’t get taxed until you can actually touch it— which is at retirement, at 59 and a half years old. It’s not a tax deduction like the deductions you get for health insurance and mortgage interest, as much as it’s a tax deferral. You will pay taxes on that income, but not until you get your hands on it and can spend it.  If you earn $62,400, which is close to the median household income in the United States, and you take the standard deduction ($12,400), leaving your taxable income at $50,000, and your federal income tax burden would be $8,963. (We’re simplifying this by removing other deductions and taxes.)
But say you want to save $5,000 a year for retirement. Then you get your employer to sock away $5,000 in your 401(k), which reduces your taxable income to $45,000, and thus reduces your taxes to $7,863 — down from $8,963. That $1,100 tax savings is equal to your $5,000 contribution multiplied by your 22% marginal tax rate.  Because of that tax savings of $1,100, you reduced your take-home money by only $3,900 in order to increase your retirement account by $5,000 — but remember, you’ll pay taxes on that $5,000, and all its earnings, once you cash it out in retirement.
Biden would tax you on that $5,000 you socked away, even though you don’t get to spend it, and even though he will tax you on it again when you cash out in retirement. To make up for it, Biden would have Uncle Sam make a contribution to your 401(k).  So if Biden were elected, and our $62,400-earner wanted $5,000 in his account, he could reduce his contribution to $3,968, and Biden would match 26% of that ($1,032), bringing the total contribution to $5,000. Our taxpayer would get zero tax break, a net $1,100 tax hike compared to current law, but would instead get a $1,032 gift from Uncle Sam in the form of a retirement contribution. So if you want to count the $1,032 as a tax credit (which is what Biden calls it), offsetting the $1,100 tax hike, it nets out to a small tax hike, but it’s a tax hike.
Your retirement account gets the same amount of money, you take home a little bit less money, and Uncle Sam takes home a tiny bit more money.
If you go up to a $100,000 earner trying to contribute 10%, whose taxes Biden promises not to hike, the tax hike would be bigger (about $335 less in take-home pay) because he’s in the 24% tax bracket.  Someone earning $350,000 is very high income, but Biden still swears this guy won’t get a tax hike under his plan. If we take his plan seriously, though, that earner making sure $10,000 goes into his 401(k) a year will see a $3,500 tax hike and a retirement subsidy of less than $2,100 — decreasing his take-home pay $1,400.
Now this differential, a larger tax hike for higher-income people, is exactly what Biden is aiming for with this 401(k) plan. The current system provides more incentive for people to save for retirement as their income grows because excluding income from current-year taxation becomes more valuable, the higher your tax bracket. Biden’s plan would increase the incentive of lower earners to contribute and decrease the incentive of higher earners.
Maybe you agree with Biden that middle-class people and above should get a tax hike for saving for retirement in order to subsidize retirement savings by lower earners, but this is still a proposed tax hike on middle-income people.  So how do Biden’s people, and likewise the reporters and fact-checkers agreeing with Biden’s people, see a policy that would increase taxes on a middle-class worker and say it wouldn’t increase taxes on a middle-class worker? They just say that they’ll make sure it doesn’t increase taxes on a middle-class worker.
Check out how the campaign replied to Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler:
  • “A proposal to shift some of the benefits of tax deferral in traditional retirement accounts toward lower- and middle-income earners could reduce the benefits for people earning above $80,250, but under $400,000. ‘In our retirement proposal, we would hold harmless those below $400,000,’ the Biden adviser said.”

Oh! If Biden’s campaign says it, it must be so!


The Senate picture looks really, really bad for Republicans

The Republican incumbent senator is trailing by a large margin in two different polls that came out today. It’s dire, and unless things turn around, Republicans will definitely lose the Senate this fall.
Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner trails John Hickenlooper, the former governor and former Denver mayor, by a 52% to 42% margin in the latest poll by Global Strategy Group.
In North Carolina, a Survey USA poll showed Sen. Thom Tillis trailing Democratic challenger Cal Cunnigham 47% to 40%. Tillis hasn’t led Cunningham in a poll since June, according to the RealClearPolitics collection of polls, and he’s surpassed 45% in a head-to-head poll against Cunningham only once this cycle.
Martha McSally in Arizona was trailing challenger Mark Kelly by 5 points and 7 points in two polls released in the past three days.
Susan Collins was trailing by 1 point in two different Maine polls that came out last week and notably was well below 50% in both. David Perdue was slightly down in Georgia. Joni Ernst is tied in Iowa, also well below 50%.
In short, Republicans, who have a 3-seat cushion in their majority, are playing defense in 10 races, and definitively trailing in three of those 10. At most, Democrats are playing defense in four races, and they are not behind in any of them.
A Democratic gain of eight seats or more would not be shocking at all. A Democratic gain of four seats, and thus the majority, seems more like\ than not.
That means that if Trump wins, he will probably not be able to place any justices on the Supreme Court, and almost all of his other federal judicial nominees will be blocked. This will leave massive court vacancies for the next president.
A Democratic takeover of the Senate would have an even bigger effect if Biden wins. Democrats are nearly guaranteed to hold the House, and so a Biden win would probably mean complete Democratic control. So even if Democrats don’t do what they tend to do, and chip away at minority rights, they could hike your taxes, fill judicial vacancies, and who knows what else.

John Nelson -
Bob Gilmore
Dick Fankhauser

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