An Open Letter to my Brothers and Sisters in Christ

Photo from CBC News

A Guest post from Robert Short Sr.

This message is only for those who claim to follow Christ, it does not apply to others as they cannot, and should not, be expected to live like Christ followers.

 

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Even if you have been living under a rock, you have heard about President Trump’s recent actions on immigration. For clarity, I am speaking of the at least 120-day ban on all refugees, at least 90-day ban on all people from seven countries, and the indefinite ban on Syrian refugees. You also likely have your own opinion on this issue, and I will not provide you with any new facts today, however, I hope to provide you with a perspective that you may not have considered.

These Muslims are fleeing countries where it is, either de facto or de jure, illegal for Christians to tell others about Christ, and where people who get saved face death. They are begging to be allowed to come to a country where they can hear about Christ, where they will not have to choose between rejecting Christ and martyrdom. Yes, that isn’t why they want to come, but the woman didn’t go to the well to meet Jesus either. 

We are told that Satan is the father of lies, that he deceives people, and is active in our world. After hearing of the barbarisms of ISIS, I cannot see how anyone doubts this. Yet, the main reasons people in the Church cite for supporting the ban are all based on lies. No refugee has killed a single person in a terrorist attack in the US. The countries that have actively sponsored terrorists that have attacked the US homeland aren’t even on the ban list. Whether other Muslim majority countries allow refugees in or not is beside the point, we are not called to live and act as the world does. In fact, we are commanded to do the opposite, for Christ said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

This is not to mention the fact that we are not called to sit inside our safe zones and worry. We are meant to be taking the fight for the lost to the enemy. As Christ said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”, and as an infantry veteran, I can tell you, when you attack you don’t bring the gates.

We are commanded to go into all the world and tell them about Jesus, and part of the world we have been shut off from is begging us to let them come here. Our choice by brothers and sisters cannot be more clear, do we give in to fear and the petty politics of this world, or do we set the concerns that hinder us and run this race that he has set before us, because anyone who is against letting the lost hear the word is not serving the Word.

Remember:

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?

Your yokemate in Christ,

Robert W. T. Short, Sr.

 

R.W.T. Short, Sr. is an accountant and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He is a civil libertarian and Veteran’s Rights activist. He lives in Covington, Va. with his wife of ten years, their three children, and their dogs. He can be reached via email at Robert.W.T.Short.Sr@GMail.com and on Twitter at @RobertShortSr.

Corporate Taxes: More Trouble than They’re Worth

Image from http://economics21.org
Image from http://economics21.org

A Guest post from Robert Short Sr.

The ofttimes ignored question when tax policy is discussed is, “What is the purpose of Taxation?”, in particular, “What is the purpose of this tax?” The question is important because the common sense answer is to fund the government. Yet most of the time politicians and others don’t even mention this. The normal reason given for a certain tax rate is either to “make everyone pay their fair share”, “punish the greedy wall street leaches”, or “unleash America’s job creators”.

So which is it? Well actually it’s all of the above. Our tax policy is the result of a continual shift in public sentiment. When the public is focused on other issues, which to be honest is north of 99.9% of the time, those with a high degree of interest in the tax code are able to lobby, reason, beg, and bribe their own carve outs into law. But once these carve outs hit a critical mass the public rebels, demanding an end to Crony Capitalism and the corrupt officials who partake. We get inundated with lists of companies that didn’t pay a dime in taxes (a note, these lists almost always only mention income taxes, as a company paying billions in other taxes kinda takes away from the reports message) and so on. This goes on until another soccer ball distracts the public and the process repeats, over and over again.

Not only is this cycle stupid, but it leads to greater corruption and huge amounts of waste. Logic dictates that a company will support any tax cut or loophole that saves it more in taxes than it costs to comply with. Especially since the company can deduct the costs of complying with the carve out from their remaining taxes. Whole industries have come into being merely to facilitate this compliance. Many people make all of their taxable income by helping other people minimize their taxed income. Leading to, by some estimates, up to a million people who are motivated to maintain or increase compliance costs.

According to the IRS, American companies spend over 4.4 billion dollars a year just filing their tax returns, and this is the smallest cost of compliance. According to a study done by Jason J. Fichtner and Jacob Feldman of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, the total cost of compliance is well over 200 billion dollars a year. To put this in perspective, the corporate tax compliance cost is larger than the economy of South Carolina, larger than the economies of 23 states.

So is there a way to save those billions, get rid of most of the corruption in Washington, “make everyone pay their fair share”, “punish the greedy wall street leaches”, AND “unleash America’s job creators”?

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

End corporate taxes and tax the owners of the companies instead. Rather than taxing profits companies make when they earn them, tax the profits when they are given to the owners, either through dividends or through stock buybacks.

I’ll get to the numbers in a second, but first I want to focus on the aforementioned goals. For starters obviously the switch would eliminate the compliance costs associated with the current tax scheme, and as a bonus it would transfer the compliance obligation to one of the cheapest, in terms of compliance, taxes, the Capital Gains Tax.

Such a change would also upend the current Crony environment of Washington. The reason corporate lobbying is so pervasive is that over 50% of Americans own stock, mostly through retirement accounts, and if someone asked them would they rather the value of their investment go up or down, every single one of them would say up. So companies have a great incentive to make that happen. But if the taxes for corporate profits were transferred to the owners, their incentives would no longer line up as neatly, and it would be much harder to organize an effective lobbying effort to create new carve outs, not impossible but much, much harder.

What’s that I hear? A Bernie Sanders supporter yelling about how this is a give away to big business? Fear not my friend, this plan will ensure that “everyone pays their fair share”. Currently if you are a multinational corporation you can basically pick your tax rate by manipulating where your income is ‘earned’ (a future post will go into this), but if you are a family owned business, a small manufacturer, an Etsy mogul, you cannot, you earn your income here in the US and pay the full amount of taxes. Under this plan the multinational and the mom and pop pay the same amount. The mom and pop are also no longer disadvantaged by their inability to hire someone like me full time to find and exploit the carve outs, like the GE’s of the world can.

Now diverse contingents of folks, everyone from the last occupier on Wall Street to the ardent Ron Paul fans, are thinking what about those who gamed the system. Those who took millions from the government only to screw over the workers? Well, this system fixes much of that. Most Corporate Welfare is not direct payouts; rather it is handled through what are called Tax Expenditures. These have the advantage of not showing up on the budget as actual spending items but having the exact same effect. This plan eliminates every single one of them. Then if Congress wishes to support a private company, it must do so in full sight of the American people.

Additionally, this plan punishes greed. If someone wants to buy a company and bleed it dry, without regard to the workers or common decency, they still can, but they will pay through the nose in taxes. But if someone chooses to buy a company, manage it correctly, and reinvest their profits into the company, they pay no taxes, and get to grow their investment tax deferred, essentially turning every company into a 401(k).

This piece dovetails with the oft repeated goal of “unleashing America’s job creators” (ignoring that it is worker spending that creates jobs in a market economy, not investment from on high). Since the job creators do not pay any taxes on their profits while they are creating jobs, they are incentivized to continue doing so. Only when they choose to take income out for their own use do they get hit with a tax bill. This allows them 100% control over how much they pay in taxes.

Now for the actual numbers, the part of the show where Larry comes out and sings a silly song, (sorry was listening to my kids’ movie in the background). Currently the federal government takes in 300 billion dollars in corporate taxes. Meanwhile, Michael Thompson, Managing Director and Chairman of S&P Investment Advisory Services at S&P Capital IQ the top 500 companies in the US, known as the S&P 500, give back over one trillion dollars in dividends and stock buybacks this year. That one trillion is not the total amount, only the fraction that those 500 companies make up, and that is also after they paid their share of corporate taxes and compliance costs. So this plan could be revenue neutral if all investment income was treated as regular income, assuming no economic growth caused by this plan.

Oh and it would also allow for the repatriation of the two trillion dollars hiding overseas from US taxes (again a topic that a future post will discuss).

But that’s just my two cents.

R.W.T. Short, Sr. is an accountant and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He is a civil libertarian and Veteran’s Rights activist. He lives in Lynchburg, Va. with his wife of eight years, their three children, their dogs, and a colony of former stray cats his daughter adopted. He can be reached via email at Robert.W.T.Short.Sr@GMail.com and on Twitter at @RobertShortSr.

The Most Important Aspects of the McKinney Pool Party Incident, Why isn’t Anyone Talking About it?

Image from http://cdn.uinterview.com
Image from http://cdn.uinterview.com

A guest post by Robert W. T. Short, Sr.

By now everyone reading this has seen the video released last week of Cpl. Eric Casebolt throwing a teenage girl to the ground, sitting on her, and pulling out his gun on some teenage boys. But I’d like you to watch it again, see if you notice the breath taking aspect of it that the media has ignored. When Cpl. Casebolt pulls his gun out, the other officers, who are not fearing for their lives, do not stop him. Cpl. Casebolt is obviously emotionally disturbed, but the other officers ignore that. Why?

Well it might be that those cops were hoping he would open fire on the teens, I highly doubt it though. So what would cause two seemingly rational people to ignore a threat? Could it be that cops have found out that trying to keep other cops honest is detrimental to their careers? In case after case the police officers who defend the public against bad cops are punished. In Virginia a police officer who asked that some out of state cops obey the speed limit was told, “there is no room for people like you in law enforcement.” And that is not the only case it happened in Florida, New York, New Jersey, Georgia, and many, many, more.

As we have been told by economists since Adam Smith, incentives matter. If you incentivize something you get more of it. If you incentivize cops not to report, or stop other cops from breaking the law, then you get fewer cops who will report or stop other cops. But that then incentivizes cops to break the law, since you eliminate most consequences of doing so. In fact if we wanted corrupt police, then we have set up a system that is optimal for providing that. This is why whistleblower protections are so important. As long as we, as a society, insist that good cops live in fear for their lives and careers we cannot expect the system to improve.

I mentioned earlier that Cpl. Casebolt was emotionally disturbed, I think from a neutral viewing of the video that this is obvious, however, I am not a psychologist, I was not there, so where do I get off saying that? Well Cpl. Casebolt himself said as much. He released a statement in which he apologized to those her hurt and explained how much of a toll going from one suicide to the next, including one where a man shot himself in fron of Cpl. Casebolt, took on him. When I first read that I was shocked, how could an officer leave a scene where a man kills himself in front of his very eyes and then be expected to immediately respond to a disturbance call? Not to excuse his actions, but what kind of supervisor would allow that to happen? If someone commits suicide in front of you, ten minutes later you are not emotionally ready to work a checkout at Walmart, much less to have a gun and attempt to enforce order. So more than just an investigation into Cpl. Casebolt’s actions at the pool, there needs to be an investigation into why he was there in the first place.

Finally, I must commend Cpl. Casebolt, while he made a very bad mistake, at least he was man enough to admit to it and apologize. In this he is an example to everyone of what we should expect from those in Law Enforcement.

R.W.T. Short, Sr. is a US Army veteran of both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn. He is a civil libertarian and Veteran’s Rights activist, as well as a political consultant. He lives in Lynchburg, Va. with his wife of eight years, their three children, their dogs Bellum, Maria and a colony of former stray cats his daughter adopted. He can be reached via email at Robert.W.T.Short.Sr@GMail.com and on Twitter at @RobertShortSr.

Thoughts From a Veteran

A Guest post from Robert Short Sr.

Photo from Wikipedia
Bowe Bergdahl. Photo from Wikipedia

I know this isn’t what this blog normally posts, but I felt that this should be written.

Recently I was asked on Facebook, by someone who had never  served, why would Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl want to commit suicide. It made me realize that there was this huge disconnect between what we  soldiers who were there experienced and the mythos of our experience that the civilian world believes. I completed two tours in Iraq, 2007-2008 and 2009-2010, so some of these experiences might not apply to other times, such as the initial invasion; however, many veterans have fairly similar experiences.

We never see the enemy. I don’t mean ‘never’ like I never see the Skins win a Super Bowl.  I mean “never” as in I never knowingly laid eyes on someone who I was sent there to fight despite having spent two years looking for them. Sure we were attacked repeatedly, people were hurt, trucks were destroyed, but never in all the miles we patrolled (~30,000 over two years) did I ever actually see any bad guys. And that’s the problem: for years I drove around waiting to be killed, without any way to stop it. It wasn’t about being better at your job, you could be sleeping or wide awake, it was all about how good the bad guy was.  Just take a moment and imagine spending a year or more doing your job, surrounded by people, knowing that people were trying to kill you and your comrades, but having no way to identify them.  It’s not something that you ever get used to, and you certainly don’t just leave that there when you return home either.

We love it over there, when we’re not on mission. Other than a few mortar attacks on post, only about a hundred or so out of the 600+ days I was in country, the base was pretty nice. Yes it was a half mile walk to eat and an eighth of a mile to the latrine, but you know how nice it is not to have to do laundry? Just drop it off and pick it up, washed dried and folded, a few days later? We would go work out for an hour, go play Call of Duty at the MWR and watch illegally downloaded movies. No bills, no responsibility, except for missions, it was nice.

Everyone wants out. But you’re stuck. You can’t leave and the gym, the MWR and the PX are the extent of your entertainment options. None of your loved ones are there, there is no sex, there’s no hanging out with friends or any actual time by yourself. This becomes especially hard when a significant life event happens, such as the birth of a child (my two oldest were born while I was in country), their first steps, or negative ones like a girlfriend/wife leaving you/cheating on you, or a death in the family.  One of the three suicide attempts I saw while in the service happened when a guy waited in line for two hours (a pretty standard wait time) to call home and talk to his fiancé. She then told him that not only was she leaving him, but that she was pregnant by one of his friends back home whom she had been with since he had left the US five month prior. He walked out of the phone booth, pulled out his M9 and put it to his head; only the quick action by a passing soldier prevented him from doing it.

PTSD isn’t something weak soldiers get, it’s something every soldier gets. If someone tells you they were in combat and they don’t have any touch of PTSD then they are either lying or they view their symptoms as normal. The problem is that for a long time, going back to before Patton slapped that soldier, PTSD was viewed as a weakness. One thing about a soldier, he would rather die than be thought of as ‘weak’. So instead of getting help, soldiers will try to self-medicate, which is part of the reason alcohol abuse is so common. Some other percentage will try to remove themselves from the situation; maybe they go AWOL before the deployment or they injure themselves. Two cases of the latter that I personally experienced: one soldier refused to drink any water for a couple of days and took a diuretic till he finally went down and almost died of heat stroke; the other was a ‘tough’ guy who finally couldn’t handle being at the mercy of an enemy we never saw and slammed his head into an armoured door, fracturing his skull and getting him a one-way ticket home.

It’s hard to connect to people outside the veteran community. No one else understand us, or gets our dark humour. In the military you learn to laugh at things that ‘normal’ people would never laugh at, videos showing insurgents being killed or IEDs, or at jokes, like coming upon a blown-up convoy and how it was “raining Iraqi policemen”. If you don’t then you focus on the very real fact that you are only an instant away from being on the next video. Unfortunately, there isn’t an off switch, and like everything else, you have to relearn that it’s not appropriate to tell jokes about people being killed and the like. We end up hanging around with other vets, even before we know the other guys are vets, just because they’re the only ones who laugh at our jokes. In most of my college classes by the second week of class every veteran in the class was sitting on the same section of the room, it makes for interesting group discussions like, Normal Student: “We should invade Russia.” Veteran: “That is a stupid idea, why shouldn’t my kids have a father?” Normal Student: “What? I’m not talking about us going, I’m saying we should send the Army.” (By the way, that is a verbatim exchange between myself and another student in class.)

It’s hard to readjust to civilian life. Humour is not the only aspect of life that is difficult to readjust to. It’s simply hard for veterans to get a job. A recent Labor Department study said that young veterans had an unemployment rate of 25%, a Depression-era level. When you consider the two to three year wait time for the VA to process a disability claim, you end up with a huge group of veterans who need medical care, but can’t afford to drive up to two hours away to see a doctor and who can’t find work, basically living on welfare waiting for the services promised to them. It’s demoralising.  Is it any wonder that every sixty five minutes a veteran decides it would be better to die than to fight on?

We live in fear of ‘The Question’ “So,” the guy says in a hushed tone, “Did you ever, you know, kill anyone?” It is the most feared question a veteran will ever encounter, if he never was forced to take another human life, you might think his service wasn’t as important. If he was forced to kill someone, then no matter what he says you have forced him to relive one of the most painful experiences of his life. Please just never ask this question.

We really do love Ron Paul, or we don’t care. Mainly because we want to come home, and because we saw the millions of dollars wasted, seemingly without purpose or reason on the wars. We were assigned multimillion dollar trucks, only to have them taken away weeks later, and replaced with new multimillion dollar trucks. Often they would have huge design flaws that were obvious to everyone on the ground and to the enemy, but those flaws seemed to escape whoever approved the truck. For example, one truck took 6 bottle jacks to change a tire, but it only came with one jack. The situation was complicated further by the fact that on a standard mission only five trucks would go out. Not that the lack of jacks truly mattered, since we weren’t issued any spare tires. If we were attacked and lost a tire we would have to call for a recovery, which meant sitting outside the wire for hours waiting. The response to this was either, “Who cares, there’s nothing we can do about it” or “We have to elect someone who will do something about it.”

Back to the  Sgt. Bergdahl situation.  From everything that has been reported I think he decided to kill himself but instead of using a gun he decided to use the Taliban. It doesn’t make sense that he wanted to join the Taliban to fight America, since he left millions of dollars of easily carried equipment behind, left his equipment in neat piles, and then left in a pair of shorts, a T-shirt and a reflective belt. As for why he would want to end his life? Only he knows the exact reasons, but it’s an understandable one. Remember, in the time it took me to write this at least one other veteran made the same choice.

R.W.T. Short, Sr. is a US Army veteran of both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn. He is a civil libertarian and Veteran’s Rights activist, as well as a political consultant. He lives in Lynchburg, Va. with his wife of seven years, their three children, their dog Bellum, and a colony of former stray cats his daughter adopted. He can be reached via email at Robert.W.T.Short.Sr@GMail.com and on Twitter at @RobertShortSr.