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Illinois’ Cartel Economy

Dan Proft headshot 2014 WEB

Illinois’ Cartel Economy

By Dan Proft

 

“That’s all the realm is now: backstabbing and scheming and ass-licking and money-grubbing.” – King Robert Baratheon, “Game of Thrones”

 

Game of Thrones

 

It is fun to watch the popular HBO show “Game of Thrones.” It is considerably less fun to live in a dressed up iteration of the feudalism of the Middle Ages.

 

If we are being honest with ourselves, the realm of Illinois is such a version with ruling families of shared interests replacing strict bloodlines.

 

It is a government-directed cartel economy where the rule of men has replaced the rule of law.

 

Normally in cartel economies the rule of law is undermined from the outside as was the case during the heyday of Columbia’s Medellín drug cartel made infamous by Pablo Escobar. The kingpin bribed government officials and murdered the competition while the state looked the other way.

 

In Illinois, Irish Chicago Democrats in elective offices have cut out the middlemen. Why wait for bribes? Undermine the rule of law from within. Be the kingpins you wish to finance you. And they are.

 

There is no need to kill off those trying to horn in on your action. Simply decree your competitors illicit under force of law.

 

To wit, Illinois Attorney General Tom Hagen issued a Christmas Eve opinion that fantasy sports sites DraftKings and FanDuel constitute illegal online gambling.

 

What about buying state-sanctioned lottery tickets online? You can’t win if you don’t play.

 

What about gambling at a state-sanctioned casino? No problem.

 

What about patronizing a state-authorized video poker parlor? Please do.

 

How about making an exacta bet on the 3-7 horses in the fourth race at a state-subsidized racing track? Good luck to you.

 

Perhaps if DraftKings and FanDuel had sizeable brick and mortar businesses in downtown Chicago that could’ve retained a certain law firm of a certain House Speaker to abate their property taxes things might have been different.

 

Perhaps if DraftKings and FanDuel had retained Chicago Alderman Ed Burke to represent their interests, arrange to welcome them to Chicago properly with a city proclamation, and pin them with the green 14th Ward sigil, things might have been different.

 

Alas, the kingpins were not cut in, so DraftKings and FanDuel were cut out.

 

Or, to borrow from Escobar’s colorful lingo, they didn’t pay the silver, so they got the lead.

 

You see, the Land of Lincoln is the Land of Let It Ride so long as Illinois’ elected kingpins are collecting the vig.

 

But if you are not a member of one of the ruling families of shared interests, it does not make much sense to gamble on Illinois.

 

And so people leave. And they did again in record numbers again in 2015.

 

According to US Census Bureau estimates, Illinois net lost more than 22,000 residents between July 2014 and July 2015 (despite 156,000 births during the same period)—the most in the nation.

 

It turns out that Hoosiers, Cheeseheads and Volunteers are not nearly as frightening as the mystical monsters of the Middle Ages that lied in wait just beyond the horizon or the political cartels of shared interests that lie in wait on Election Day.

 

Those who are done working and those whose children have moved beyond high school have U-Hauled themselves to less medieval confines.

 

Simple policy reforms will not keep productive people from leaving.

 

No matter what property tax relief is provided, what worker’s compensation reform is enacted or whose pensions are restructured, people will continue to leave until the political cartels of shared interests are broken.

 

As for DraftKings and FanDuel, don’t even think about getting into the marijuana business in Illinois.

 

Source: Will County News

How Many Illegal Immigrants Live in the US

You Only Think You Know How Many Illegal Immigrants Live in the US

The Census Bureau does its surveys by mail and by visits to selected homes. In neither case does it ask: ‘Are you in the United States illegally?’ (Photo: S. Rocker/ Picture Alliance/ Newscom)

Call any journalist, pundit, anchor, strategist or lobbyist and ask: 1. How many illegal immigrants are in the United States? 2. What is your source for that number?

Almost without exception he or she will answer: 1.  11 million. 2. The Pew Research Center.

For a decade now, no number has been given greater certitude and less investigation than that. Not even the number of planets in our solar system has enjoyed such constancy and acceptance.

Since so much of the national discourse, debate, culture and treasure hinges on the accuracy of the number 11 million, one would think that some enterprising reporter would seek his Pulitzer by validating or debunking it.

Nope. Just unquestioned faith. No curiosity as to the source for that iconic value, or the methodology creating it.

So the correct answers are: 1. Nobody really knows. 2. It’s not Pew.

Suppose you were tasked with determining how many left-handed Swedes are in the U.S. A good statistician would come up with a survey asking: Are you a Swede? Are you left-handed?

Simple, no? You’d come up with a pretty good number after a few adjustments such as discounting the too-many Vikings in Minnesota and excluding the ambidextrous and amputees.

Now let’s give the task to the U.S. Census Bureau, a congressionally funded agency headed by a political appointee. That simple survey takes on new impedimenta.

First, you can’t actually ask the respondents if they are Swedes or left-handed. Nope, strictly forbidden. You have to do workarounds and make inferences such as “Do you like lutefisk and ABBA songs?”

Also, no enforcement process guarantees the respondents will answer the mail-in survey accurately, truthfully or completely. Just a little warning on the form, like those tags on your mattress that you rip off.

Oh, one more thing, as Columbo would say.

Imagine being a left-handed Swede is illegal. If you identify yourself as such, you will not be able to get a job legally, your family won’t get any welfare benefits, you might get thrown in jail and you could be deported back to Scandinavia.

Now fill out that form.

Ridiculous? Well, that’s how we get that 11 million figure.

Meet the Players

Three main players were involved in generating that number of 11 million illegal immigrants: Pew Research Center, the Center for Immigration Studies and the Department of Homeland Security. But they were only masseurs of the source data, which comes from the Census Bureau by means of two surveys: the Current Population Survey and the American Community Survey.

We need to identify these players.

Pew claims impartiality, but the methodologists for its numbers come from decidedly liberal roots such as the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute.  The Center for Immigration Studies approaches the question from the side of more controlled and limited immigration flows. Homeland Security is a bureaucracy with a presidentially appointed secretary who carries out administration policies.

The Census Bureau’s surveys are conducted both by mail and in-person visits to selected homes. Neither asks directly, “Are you in the United States illegally?”

In fact, the instruction manual for Current Population Survey canvassers states explicitly:

We do not ask for nativity data to identify illegal immigrants. Note that we ask whether a person is a citizen, and that we do not ask whether he/she is legal or not (that is, has a green card or some other legal residence status).

Those who have followed the invasion by illegal immigrants have noticed that, in spite of their own observations and a wide-open southern border, the 11 million number has been used for more than a decade.

Pew, the most-quoted source, has used the figure since 2005. Some Homeland Security references approximating that number go back to 2003.

Rather remarkable, given that “official” sources have said the annual illegal entrants over that period range from 300,000 to 3 million in peak years. Even the low estimate means another 3 million illegals added to the 2005 estimate of 11 million, yielding at least 14 million.

Sarah Saldana, who runs Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the chief deportation agency and part of Homeland Security, testified Dec. 2 before Congress that the illegal population could be as high as 15 million. That estimate suggests a potentially bigger problem than the government generally acknowledges.

But no one really knows—illegal aliens sneak in.

The Big Unknown

To keep that 11 million a near constant, one would have to assume an equal number were repatriating themselves, or dying off in similar amounts. Has anyone reported a southbound crush on the Rio Grande bridges, or a plague attacking illegal immigrants?

Study the methodology of Pew, and that of the Center for Immigration Studies and the Department of Homeland Security, and you’ll find a lot of assumptions and circular references.

But even if all the assumptions were reasonably accurate, the original single-source data is highly flawed. The Census Bureau admits that even in the decennial census many people are missed. The enumeration has to be “adjusted” by the agency, too often for political ends rather than mathematical accuracy.

All of these estimates rely on what is called the residual method of estimation, which in Pew’s methodology equates to: C (illegal immigrants) = A (total foreign born) – B (estimated number of legal immigrants)

Border-jumpers don’t sign a register. The roughly half of illegals who have overstayed visas are not tracked in any meaningful way, since America has no worthwhile exit controls. Lack of exit controls also affects the accuracy of imputed repatriation numbers.

So the illegal component of the total foreign born (“A”) is grossly unknown, especially since illegal aliens tend to hide or to deny their status to government officials.

When “A” is underrepresented by an admitted short count and “B” is an estimate, it takes a lot of assumptions, outright guesses and much chutzpah to pretend that “C” can be fixed to a hard number of 11 million. These studies are eloquent in substituting “imputation techniques” and other esoteric words for “guesses.”

Other equally credible studies have produced numbers quite different from the now doctrinal 11 million.

In 2005, a Bear Stearns study estimated the total number of illegal immigrants at 20 million using other data perhaps more valid than sole reliance on Census Bureau surveys. These include remittances, school enrollments, housing statistics in immigrant enclaves and Border Patrol apprehension data.

Why Sacrosanct?

Though now dated, these numbers implied many more illegal immigrants in 2005 than were acknowledged by Pew and the Center for Immigration Studies.

Why, then, has the 11 million figure become so sacrosanct?

Well, professional and institutional reputations are invested heavily in the number, perhaps because with its longevity the public has become comfortable or apathetic. Were it 20 million or more–a larger population than New York state–Americans might be getting really angry.

Imagine the reaction if the media reported daily that this 20 million cohort, supplemented by chain migration and family reunification mandates, would swell to 40 million or 50 million in a decade.

A few years ago, I suggested that if 11 million were so accurate, then Congress should pass an amnesty bill strictly limited to exactly 11 million. Everyone beyond that would be committing a felony and subject to imprisonment and deportation. The idea got no takers, suggesting that the experts and their political allies know quite well that the number is much higher.

President Ronald Reagan’s much-heralded amnesty of 1986 estimated about a million illegal immigrants would be eligible. The number turned out to be about 3 million. Would amnesty for 11 million turn out to be 33 million? There is that precedent.

Existential Decisions

A full exposé on the dogma of 11 million requires much more space than possible here. It would make for a score of Ph.D. dissertations and millions of dollars in studies by a government that is reluctant to challenge the conventional political wisdom.

But major, indeed existential, decisions are being made regarding illegal immigrants that affect the wide spectra of laws, culture, budgets, sovereignty, security, language, economy, health care and voting.

The Heritage Foundation has suggested that if given amnesty, 11 million illegal immigrants would cost taxpayers $6 trillion or more over the immigrants’ lifetimes.

While not exactly linear, those costs would double or more should the real count be in the range of 20 million to 30 million. That money could buy a lot of high schools, highways and health care for Americans.

With such impacts and the prospect of changing America in so many ways, shouldn’t we have a better way and greater urgency to identify the scope of the problem, so that we can address and develop solutions rationally?

Let’s question that 11 million. It’s not Scripture. It’s a guess.

Source: Will County News

Let the States take control of public land giving local authority thus local control

How Federal Missteps Make the Case to Transfer Public Lands to States, Localities

A wildfire sweeps through 4,000 acres in Glacier National Park, Montana, in July. Federal officials restricted use of state helicopters to fight the fire. (Photo: Erin Conwell/ Reuters/ Newscom)

A forest fire on national parkland in Washington state in 2014 overtook a young black bear, seriously burning its front paws. This little bear, which would gain world renown, crawled on its elbows out of the massive Carlton Complex fire on land managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

Later named Cinder, the malnourished and horribly burned bear was rescued and treated by wildlife officials and volunteers.

After months of medical care and physical rehabilitation, officials last Junereleased Cinder into the federally managed Black Bear Rehabilitation Center near Boise, Idaho.

Cinder was one of the lucky ones. Millions of animals of all kinds, including privately owned livestock, have been burned and killed in massive wildfires on federal lands in recent years.

With forests overgrown and piling up with underbrush and dead and dying trees, some would argue that releasing Cinder into a federal  preserve carried a degree of risk to the tough little bear.  Federal “no-logging” policies, it seems, are turning America’s national forests into kindling.

A growing number of state organizations seek to remedy what they consider negligent policies and shoddy oversight of public land on the part of federal agencies.

>>> How Much Land Near You Does the Federal Government Control? This Map Tells You

Under the umbrella name “Transfer of Public Lands,” the movement offers a solution to the problem that is simple in concept:  transfer ownership and management of public lands administered by federal agencies to equivalent state agencies. These agencies, being accountable to governors, state legislators and citizens, will manage the public lands in a more conscientious, cost-effective way.

According to a report by the Property and Environment Research Center, a think tank focused on property rights, federal management results in a net loss of revenue but state management produces a net gain.

Lands1

Unlike states east of the Continental Divide, public lands in Western states such as Washington and Idaho predominantly are owned by the federal government. They are under the management of the Interior Department and a plethora of subagencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service, and the Fish and Wildlife Service.

This map from the Bureau of Land Management illustrates the imbalance between West and East when it comes to how much land is under federal control:

Land2

A Growing Movement

Utah is at the forefront of the Transfer of Public Lands movement. In 2012, the Utah state legislature passed legislation that lays down the foundation for transferring public lands to state ownership.

National parks, national monuments, tribal lands and Defense Department property are excluded from the transfer. Called the “Transfer of Public Lands Act and Related Study,” it was signed into law by Gov. Richard Herbert, a Republican.

The American Lands Council has been tireless in making the legal and moral case for transferring public lands in the West to the states.

“Public lands stay public,” says Ken Ivory, council spokesman, “and our national treasures will be well protected and preserved.”

In late October, The Los Angeles Times published an article noting that seven Republican candidates for president had expressed support for devolving federal jurisdiction to the Western states.

Bungling, overreach and overreactions by the federal government may make the strongest case of all. Within such instances of federal mismanagement are stories of human suffering and environmental degradation.

In November 2008, Rose Backhaus, a 54-year-old Colorado woman, was hiking in Utah’s federally managed Little Wild Horse Canyon. She became lost in the canyon when she took a wrong turn on the trail. She likely wandered for days, eventually succumbing to exposure. Her body was found by hikers the following April.

The local office of the Bureau of Land Management, which is responsible for the property, had received requests from locals for years to place a sign in the canyon directing hikers to the proper trail. The federal agency failed to act, arguing that such a sign would be too expensive and have an adverse impact on the “wilderness experience.”

More recently, a woman in Josephine County, Ore., feared for her life as her ex-boyfriend broke into her home. She called 911 and was told there was no one available to help her because of budget cuts. The local sheriff’s office, lacking the resources to pay deputies and staff, failed to respond to the woman’s pleas. Although the dispatcher remained on the phone with the woman, the intruder later sexually assaulted her.

Josephine County was built on the logging industry. When the federal government began to implement policies to “protect habitats” for threatened or endangered species in the Northwest, the timber industry imploded.  Federal timber funds dried up. Broke and beleaguered, the sheriff’s office experienced firsthand the economic effects of misguided federal policies.

Two Cases of Overkill

In September 2014, The Los Angeles Times ran a feature story, “A Sting in the Desert,” detailing a case of massive overreaction by the Bureau of Land Management in Southeastern Utah.

A respected family man, civic leader and local physician named Jim Redd was under scrutiny by agents with the land agency and the FBI on suspicion that he looted nearby American Indian archaeological sites and traded artifacts on the black market.

The Times reported that a paid, undercover informant working for the land agency and FBI,  equipped with a “button” surveillance camera, spent hundreds of hours in Dr. Redd’s home, perusing artifacts his family had collected for generations.

The informant, identified as Ted Gardiner, was seeking evidence that would link Redd to the illegal antiquities trade. Eventually Dr. Redd’s wife, Jeannie, gave in to Gardiner’s insistence by selling him a pair of yucca sandals. With that transaction supplying the evidence they wanted, the land agency and FBI launched a massive, military-style raid on the Redd home.

The Times reported that dozens of armed agents dressed in body armor arrived in a convoy of SUVs and arrested Dr. Redd, 60, at gunpoint, handcuffed him and marched him into his garage where they taunted and interrogated him for hours.

Dr. Redd and his wife were charged with numerous felony counts and both faced decades in federal prison. The day after the raid, Dr. Redd took his own life.

Following the suicide, Gardiner shot and killed himself, witnesses said, in remorse over the raid leading to Redd’s death.

Even if Dr. Redd were guilty, why did these federal agencies react with such massive force to raid the home of a beloved small town doctor who had no history of violence?

In another case, father-and-son Oregon ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond were convicted of arson and sentenced in October to five years in federal prison for setting fires that burned 140 acres owned by the Bureau of Land Management.

A former Forest Service agent had testified on behalf of the Hammonds, saying: “The Hammond family is not arsonists. They are number one, top-notch. They know their land management.”

The prosecution of the Hammonds under an antiterrorism law is another disquieting example of federal overreaction to a relatively minor crime.

At times, though, federal management decisions simply defy reason.

This past summer, while massive wildfires shot across regions of Montana, the Forest Service—under the direction of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack—restricted the state from using its fleet of helicopters to suppress the fire without justification or explanation.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, declared a state of emergency and authorized the National Guard to use its resources to aid fire-fighting efforts. But under federal management, the state’s firefighting fleet of Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters remained grounded.

One Size Fits All?

Citizens and leaders in the West understandably are frustrated and angry with federal overlords.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s devastating—and preventable—spill of millions of gallons of toxic mine waste into Colorado’s Animas River made national news in August. To many, the incident was illustrative of the need for local and state control over managing natural resources and preserving the environment.

Ivory, the spokesman for the American Lands Council, describes the problem this way:

The one-size-fits-all bureaucratic ‘solution’ is really the problem. Wildfires resulting from overgrown and diseased forests in the West burn millions of acres every year. We all want clean air, water, healthy habitats for wildlife, and vibrant sustainable communities with abundant recreational opportunities. But we’ve been told for decades that in order to have those things our precious natural resources need to be managed by federal bureaucrats thousands of miles away.

As the legal wrangling over the Transfer of Public Lands movement plays out, the critical moral case for state control of public lands within state boundaries is being made by a growing list of federal debacles, injustices, waste and abuse.

Source: Will County News

H.R. 3762 amends the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

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This bill has been passed in the House and the Senate, but the Senate made changes and sent it back to the House on Dec 3, 2015.

Bill Summary

TITLE I–HEALTH, EDUCATION, LABOR, AND PENSIONS

H.R. 4257 IRGC Sanctions Act

Rep. Devin Nunes (R, CA-22)

(Sec. 101) This bill amends the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) to terminate the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which provides for investment in prevention and public health programs to improve health and restrain the rate of growth in health care costs. Unobligated funds are rescinded.

(Sec. 102) Funding for community health centers is increased.

(Sec. 103) Certain funding for U.S. territories that establish health insurance exchanges is no longer available after 2017.

(Sec. 104) The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) may not collect fees or make payments under the transitional reinsurance program.

(Sec. 105) This bill makes appropriations for FY2016 and FY2017 for HHS to award grants to states to address substance abuse or to respond to urgent mental health needs.

TITLE II–FINANCE

(Sec. 201) This bill amends the Internal Revenue Code to require individuals to pay back the full amount of advance payments in excess of their premium assistance tax credit. (Currently, there is a limit on the amount of excess an individual must pay back.)

(Sec. 202) Provisions relating to the premium assistance tax credit, reduced cost-sharing, and eligibility determinations for these subsidies are repealed on December 31, 2017.

(Sec. 203) The small employer health insurance tax credit does not apply after 2017. (This credit is for certain employers who make contributions toward employee health coverage purchased through a health insurance exchange.)

(Sec. 204) The penalty for individuals who do not maintain minimum essential health care coverage is eliminated.

(Sec. 205) Large employers are no longer required to make shared responsibility payments.

(Sec. 206) For one year, this bill restricts the availability of federal funding to a state for payments to an entity (e.g., Planned Parenthood Federation of America) that:

is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization; is an essential community provider primarily engaged in family planning services and reproductive health; provides for abortions other than abortions in cases of rape or incest, or where a physical condition endangers a woman’s life unless an abortion is performed; and received a total of more than $350 million under Medicaid in FY2014, including payments to affiliates, subsidiaries, successors, or clinics. (Sec. 207) This bill amends part A (General Provisions) of title XI of the Social Security Act (SSAct) to require the additional payments to U.S. territories for Medicaid under the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 to be made by the end of FY2017 instead of the end of FY2019.

This bill amends title XIX (Medicaid) of the SSAct to end the expansion of Medicaid under PPACA on December 31, 2017.

After 2017, hospitals may no longer elect to provide Medicaid services to individuals during a presumptive eligibility period.

States must maintain Medicaid eligibility standards for individuals under 19 years old through FY2017 instead of through FY2019.

The federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP, the federal matching rate for Medicaid expenditures) for U.S. territories is 50% after 2017 (currently, the FMAP is 55%).

The increased FMAP for childless adults and home and community-based attendant services under PPACA ends December 31, 2017.

After 2017, states may no longer elect to provide certain individuals with a presumptive eligibility period for Medicaid.

Medicaid benchmark plans are no longer required to provide minimum essential health benefits after 2017.

After 2017, states are no longer required to operate a website for Medicaid enrollment that is linked to the state’s health benefit exchange and Children’s Health Insurance program (CHIP).

(Sec. 208) Medicaid allotments for disproportionate share hospitals are increased.

(Sec. 209) The excise tax on high cost employer-sponsored health coverage (popularly known as the “Cadillac tax”) does not apply after 2017.

(Sec. 210) Health savings accounts (HSAs), Archer medical savings accounts (MSAs), health flexible spending arrangements (HFSAs), and health reimbursement arrangements may be used to pay for over-the-counter medications.

(Sec. 211) This bill lowers the tax on distributions from HSAs and Archer MSAs that are not used for medical expenses.

(Sec. 212) Salary reduction contributions to an HFSA under a cafeteria plan are no longer limited.

(Sec. 213) The annual fee on manufacturers and importers of brand name prescription drugs is eliminated.

(Sec. 214) The excise tax on medical devices is eliminated.

(Sec. 215) The annual fee on health insurers is eliminated.

(Sec. 216) Medical costs are allowed as a tax deduction regardless of whether the costs are taken into account when determining the amount of the subsidy for an employer-sponsored retiree prescription drug plan under Medicare part D (Voluntary Prescription Drug Benefit Program).

(Sec. 217) A tax deduction is allowed for medical expenses in excess of 7.5% (currently, 10%) of adjusted gross income.

(Sec. 218) The additional Medicare tax on income above a certain threshold is eliminated.

(Sec. 219) The indoor tanning services tax is eliminated.

(Sec. 220) The net investment income tax is eliminated.

(Sec. 221) A health insurer is allowed a tax deduction for the full amount of an employee’s compensation. (Currently, there is a limit on the amount of an employee’s compensation that a health insurer may deduct.)

(Sec. 222) Provisions relating to the economic substance doctrine are repealed. (The economic substance doctrine treats a transaction as having economic substance if it has a purpose other than reducing income taxes. Currently, there are penalties for claiming tax benefits for transactions without economic substance.)

(Sec. 223) Funds are transferred from the Department of the Treasury to the Federal Hospital Insurance Trust Fund.

Source: Will County News