Index finds Rallying Home Purchase Market in 2016

Today, AEI’s International Center on Housing Risk (ICHR) and First American Financial Corporation release the AEI/First American National Housing Market Index (NHMI), the first index ever to analyze sales transaction volume for the entire home purchase market.

The national housing market continued its rally in the fourth quarter of 2016. On an annualized basis, 5,810,000 sales transactions were reported, which is up 350,000 transactions, or 6.4 percent, from 2015.

  • 2015 had already seen demand grow by 340,000 transactions or 7.6 percent from 2014.
  • The home purchase market also closed out 2016 with strong growth as transactions increased 9.1 percent in the fourth quarter compared to a year ago.
  • Cash sales continued to trend down accounting for only 29 percent of all transactions in 2016, down from 30 percent in 2015 and 36 percent in 2013.
  • Filling its void was government-backed lending, which accounted for 55 percent of all transactions in 2016, up from 53 percent in 2015 and 50 percent in 2013. 
  • The AEI/First American National Housing Market Index (NHMI) is the first index to report on the entire home purchase market.
  • Transaction numbers are also available on the state and metro area level for unprecedented geographical detail.

The NHMI combines ICHR’s data on the federal agency market (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Federal Housing Association, Veterans Affairs, and Rural Housing Services) with data provided by First American via DataTree.com for the private side of the mortgage market and for cash and non-institutionalized lender sales. The combined data set nearly covers the volume of the entire market at the national, state, and metro levels. To account for the small amount of incomplete data, housing data are scaled to estimate total volume at the various reported levels.

In contrast to existing estimates of home sales, the AEI/First American NHMI is based on comprehensive loan- and transaction-level data and does not involve extrapolations from a survey or sample of the housing market. Other published data are based on surveys or samples, necessitating assumptions about the entire market. The NHMI is the only metric that (i) compiles data from virtually the entire housing market, (ii) provides views into the data from many key perspectives, and (iii) is published quarterly with minimal time lag.

The AEI/First American NHMI is released quarterly by AEI’s ICHR. It provides counts for home purchase transactions undertaken with institutional financing or other financing, as well as cash sales. In addition, dollar volumes, loan counts, average loan amounts, and market shares for primary owner and secondary owner/non-owner tenure types will be provided at the national, state, and metro area level for each of the five loan agencies (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the FHA, the VA, and Rural Housing Services), as well as for the private (non-agency) loan sector in order to give an accurate and detailed picture of activity in the home purchase and the mortgage loan markets. Today’s release reports on transactions from the fourth quarter of 2016. The quarterly time series tracks housing data back to the fourth quarter of 2012 and is based on almost 23 million home purchase transactions. The number will grow with each additional quarter of data.

“The NHMI-Primary Owner Purchase Loan volume index rose to 141 in 2016: Q4, as compared to 124 in 2015:Q4 and 116 in 2014:Q4,” noted Edward Pinto, co-director of the American Enterprise Institute’s (AEI’s) International Center on Housing Risk. “Based on these and other data, I expect 2017 purchase originations to continue to grow robustly.”

“The total value of residential purchase transactions in the U.S. housing market approached $1 trillion in 2016, coming in at $965 trillion for the year. The share of cash sales continues to decrease, but remains a significant portion of the overall market at 29 percent,” said Mark Fleming, chief economist at First American. “Entering the busy spring home buying season, I expect prices to continue to rise and transaction volumes to continue to grow, spurred on by the strong sellers’ market and increasing Millennial, first-time homebuyer demand.”

The NHMI for the first quarter of 2017 will be released on June 26, 2017.

To arrange an interview with Ed Pinto, please contact AEI Media Services at mediaservices@aei.org or 202.862.4870.

To arrange an interview with First American Chief Economist Mark Fleming, please contact First American’s corporate communications team at 714-250-3298. Mark Fleming’s unique research and analysis of real estate, mortgage risk and housing trends is available at www.firstam.com/economics.

About First American

First American Financial Corporation (NYSE: FAF) is a leading provider of title insurance, settlement services and risk solutions for real estate transactions that traces its heritage back to 1889. First American also provides title plant management services; title and other real property records and images; valuation products and services; home warranty products; property and casualty insurance; and banking, trust and investment advisory services. With revenues of $5.6 billion in 2016, the company offers its products and services directly and through its agents throughout the United States and abroad. In both 2016 and 2017, First American was recognized by Fortune® magazine as one of the 100 best companies to work for in America. More information about the company can be found at www.firstam.com.

About AEI

AEI’s International Center on Housing Risk provides research, commentary, and new tools for measuring housing and mortgage market trends. Mr. Pinto is the codirector of the ICHR, a resident fellow at AEI, and a former executive vice president and chief credit officer for Fannie Mae.

Refugee Resettlement is ‘Changing America by changing the people!’

This story at WRAL.com is meant to be one of those warm and fuzzy stories about ‘welcoming’ refugees (and diversity) to a southern city and how mean old Donald Trump has slowed their progress in changing Durham.

The last line of the story by reporter Tess Allen is the most instructive:

A new community is being built in Durham, one that is constantly evolving, one with a mix of faces, languages and cultures. And World Relief Durham and its volunteers plan to be there every step of the way.

Turning red states blue by seeding diversity. Map showing where all of North Carolina’s refugees came from in 2016.

Here are a few bits worth highlighting:

World Relief depends on federal funding for the majority of their financing. They receive a per capita grant dependent on the number of refugees coming into their area. That money helps support the agencies’ offices, staff and, mostly, the refugees themselves.

Matthew Soerens

With the dramatic decrease in refugee arrivals that would accompany the reinstatement of this order, World Relief’s funding will drop equally dramatically. The Durham office, for example, will lose one-fourth of its federal funding, or about $250,000 a year. Nationwide, five World Relief offices will close and 140 staff members will be laid off.

[….]

Soerens [Matthew Soerens, World Relief’s U.S. director of church mobilization] also said that the loss of funding is why it’s increasingly important for their Good Neighbor teams to help refugees find jobs. World Relief can no longer afford to cover rent for families for more than a couple of months.

Wasn’t finding refugees a job a top priority all along? Or, it didn’t matter so much when they were flush with federal dollars.

Is Soerens saying that, because they (at World Relief) need to pay their staffs and keep offices open, they are going to be stingy about refugee rent going forward? Sounds like it to me.

If you feel like reading all the good news about good neighbors, continue reading here.

For our complete archive on changing North Carolinago here.  See especially my post on the 2016 Presidential election.

For more on World Relief’s finances, go here.

See what else Soerens said by clicking here.

RELATED COLUMNS: 

Comment worth noting: It might be too late for some American communities

Democrats put Nebraska voter registration forms in refugee welcome baskets

Not everyone in the Jewish community thinks it is wise to import Middle Eastern Muslims to U.S.

Here we go again, refugee numbers jump, 342 since Wednesday

In 24 States, 50% or More of Babies Born on Medicaid; New Mexico Leads Nation With 72%

Arizona, Massachusetts and New Hampshire refugee contractors cutting back

In my previous post I told you about the reality setting in in Arizona, and now we see that New England refugee contractors are facing that reality too and cutting staff, or shortening hours.

I am delighted to see more effort being made on the part of reporters to get their facts.

Here at WBUR News (NPR Boston) reporter Shannon Dooling actually did some work (emphasis is mine)!

Immigration lawyer Kerry Doyle

Look at this, right up front—refugee agencies paid by the head!

Refugee resettlement agencies receive funding based on the number of people they anticipate resettling, so the uncertainty around President Trump’s travel ban has serious fiscal consequences. [They are paid by how many they actually resettle as they bid for bodies.—ed]

Jeff Thielman is the CEO of the International Institute of New England, a resettlement agency working in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. His agency expects eight refugees to arrive by March 28.

“It means that we have not filled a number of positions that were open in all three of our offices in the resettlement area,” he said. “It also means that we may have to make further reductions. We’re going to make those decisions in the next few weeks.”

Ascentria Care Alliance, a resettlement agency based in Worcester and operating in both Massachusetts and New Hampshire, announced Monday that as a result of Trump’s travel ban it had laid off or reduced hours for 14 employees.

“Although the orders have been stayed, even the most recent one, we are no longer receiving any refugees in the pipeline and we don’t anticipate receiving any more refugees until maybe four to six months out at the earliest,” said Jodie Justofin, Ascentria’s vice president of communications.

For new readers, see that in 2013, Ascentria’s CEO admitted that refugee resettlement IS A BUSINESS!

Dooling continues….

Despite that temporary freeze, the finances of resettlement agencies are still unstable. But a return to pre-Trump quotas could boost their coffers.

Before he left office, President Obama capped the number of refugees admitted into the U.S. during the current fiscal year at 110,000. Resettlement agencies engineered their budgets through September based on those projections.  [If they did that it was really really dumb because that (110,000) was by far the highest ceiling proposed since before 9/11. The average for most of Bush and Obama years was 65,000.—ed]

[….]

President Trump cut that cap on refugees to 50,000. That’s an action within the powers of the executive.

But since Trump’s cap is part of an executive order, the constitutionality of which is under question, Boston immigration attorney Kerry Doyle says the quota may be challenged in the courts.

Ha! Wishful thinking?

“While the president does have broad authority to set the fiscal numbers, because it’s caught up in a lot of the other problems with this executive order being potentially unconstitutional, the question is whether the 50,000 is also stayed,” Doyle said.

Doyle confirms what we said that Trump did not have to reduce the CEILING or slow the flow through an Executive Order.

And Ms. Doyle does know that the judge can’t order the federal government to spend money and send agents abroad to process refugees. It would be insane if Trump’s people believed that! They should just go ahead and keep the numbers low (or at today’s level, see right hand sidebar, 38,111) ignoring the judge’s unconstitutional assertion.

More here at WBUR.

I want to reiterate another point I have been making. The resettlement agencies (aka contractors) are in a pickle because they have been running a kind of Ponzi scheme where they anticipate certain refugee numbers (paying clients) coming in in the future, but they never have enough private money in their budgets to tide them over if the flow slows. Why? I can only guess they have been operating for so long on mostly federal funding that they have gotten too lazy to do private fundraising.

Or, there aren’t enough private citizens willing to pay for refugee resettlement!

RELATED ARTICLE: Tucson area resettlement agency may close; Memory lane! Iraqis unhappy there in 2007

VIDEO: How your tax dollars are being wasted on a railway in Hawaii

From Fox News March 17, 2017

The city low-balled the cost and construction is five years late; William La Jeunesse has the story for ‘Special Report’.

$15M Change Orders: Redesign Rail Columns so they Don’t Collapse Under Weight of Stations

SA: Under earlier plans rail was supposed to have started running from East Kapolei to Aloha Stadium in September 2016, but that interim opening has now been pushed to July 2020….

More than $6 million will go to Kiewit Infrastructure West, as the firm building the system’s first 10 miles continues to make revisions to its columns and elevated guideway so it will support the load of the rail stations…..

The city awarded Kiewit contracts to design and build the guideway in 2009 and 2011 — before the contracts to design the stations went out.

Those station and guideway contracts should have been awarded together, former HART Executive Director Dan Grabauskas said in 2014 when the rail agency approved an earlier $6 million additional payment to Kiewit to address the issue. (Grabauskas joined HART in 2012 and resigned in August.)….

Kiewit’s latest $6 million will also go toward reinforcing underground sections of the West Oahu guideway near a channel that’s more susceptible to erosion than originally thought, HART officials said.

The remaining $8.7 million awarded Thursday will cover delay impacts to Ansaldo Honolulu JV, the firm contracted to design and build the train cars as well as the communications and controls system. Delays in building stations have kept the firm from running the proper tests, and delaying those tests then pushes back rail’s opening, Deputy Director for Core Systems Justin Garrod said in his board presentation Thursday.

The $9 million is a preliminary figure that’s expected to grow, rail officials said.

The project’s contingency fund, with a reported balance of more than $450 million, will cover all of the costs, officials say. HART has already approved more than $284 million in change orders to Kiewit to build the first 10 guideway miles and an operations and maintenance center, according to the agency’s most recent reports. The agency has approved nearly $27 million for Ansaldo in change order increases, the report further stated…..

A former rail consultant who left the project last year amid disagreements with HART has said that Kiewit expects to lose about $100 million on its contracts to build the first 10 miles of guideway….

The consultant, Bart Desai, questioned how those overseeing the project handled the early contracts.

“One could ask a question: Could HART have designed stations without much or no impact to the guideway elements? Or should HART have waited to delay issuance of Notice to Proceed (NTP) of the guideway project and give time to complete 75-90 percent design of station structure elements?” Desai, who dealt with claims on the project through subcontractor PGH Wong Engineering Inc., wrote in his letter. “Such option(s) would have saved the taxpayers multi-million dollars.”….

Hanabusa, then a rail board member, said, “Maybe we didn’t have a clear enough idea what we were doing”….

For the next stretch of rail construction, from Aloha Stadium to Middle Street, the stations and guideway are being designed and built as part of the same $875 million contract. The joint venture Shimmick/Traylor/Granite is expected to start that work later this year….

read … Change orders totaling $15 million approved for rail

HEALTHCARE REFORM: Freedom Is Its Own Indispensable Goal

The healthcare debate in D.C. is following predictable form: Miles off track with the media hyperfocused on the politics, rather than the substance. The coverage focuses heavily on the daily ins and outs of the political struggle, the D.C. winners and losers.

Will Republicans be able to placate the Freedom Caucus and still keep moderates? Will they put together something that can get through the House and have any life in the Senate? Is Ryan back-peddling? Is Trump? Will McConnell detonate the nuclear option? Is it Trumpcare or Ryancare?

The thing is, most Americans outside of political junkies don’t really care about that.

They do care about whether they will be able to afford health insurance. They do care about whether our country will drowned itself in unsustainable debt. They do care about their children’s future. But those are rarely the story. Because the truth is that in Washington, D.C., Americans are basically pawns to be played in the furtherance of personal agendas.

On the rare occasions when the substance of the proposal is actually explored, it is mostly along the lines of how many people are covered, will be covered, won’t be covered, how much it will cost, how the changes will play out politically for each party, etc. Those are fine in their place, and should be regularly reported on. They are not.

What Washington and the media never, ever talk about is the principle of American freedoms, which is at the heart of this. Virtually no one wants to talk about it.

So, status quo in the swamp. And for Americans.

The Old Liberties for Security Trade

But here is the whittled down nub of the issue: How much personal freedom are we willing to give away to get a little healthcare security? Because the reality of the human condition always and forever is that some people will be irresponsible with their life decisions — from relationships to finances to health.

So there will always be a percentage of Americans who do not want to purchase, or simply will not purchase, health insurance. Here’s the thing: They should be free to not and that point of freedom should be argued strenuously.

Because the only way to stop that dynamic is to give government total authority to force every single person to have health insurance. That was what Obamacare attempted to do, require every American to either buy a product — health insurance — or be fined increasing amounts by the government to financially force them to to buy it.

In an enormously tragic precedence, the Supreme Court made a political calculation and approved the forcible purchase requirements under Obamacare by calling it what it was not, what is authors including President Obama argued it was not, so as the court could rule it “constitutional.” Truly, a constitutional travesty.

Among the many things wrong with Obamacare, this was perhaps the most egregious because it went to undermining fundamental freedoms. It wasn’t just bad policy, or inefficient, or expensive — which are all true. It was a denial of basic liberty, the concept upon which our nation was founded and thrived to be what she is today.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Franklin was looking at the real physical and economic threat of a distant tyrant.

And so are we, though not so distant.

The Real Cost

Obamacare undoubtedly reduced the percentage of uninsured Americans, or more accurately, uncovered Americans. This was accomplished by expanding Medicaid — direct welfare — subsidizing plans in the state exchanges — indirect welfare — and forcing every American to participate — coercion. Even then, the total number of Americans not covered in some fashion, only declined a few percentage points.

Trillions of dollars, catastrophic rises in premiums and deductibles, loss of health care insurance options — often down to one in an entire state — all to pick up a few percentage points. About 9 percent of Americans remain without health insurance.

If Republicans did nothing more than simply repeal the Obamacare mandate, at least 10 million people would no longer have coverage, according to the Office of Management and Budget estimate of the repeal measure. The media reports this as Americans who will “lose” their coverage, but this particular 10 million will actually choose not to have coverage.

Whether that is a good idea or not is debatable. What is not debatable is what it represents: Freedom.

Because unless the government forces people by law to have health insurance, some will not. Freedom calls us to allow them to not and accept the consequences. Otherwise, with this precedent in place, the government could also make the case for regulating what we eat (because eating healthy is good for us) and forcing us to exercise (because exercising is good for us.) It could also require us to buy, say, solar panels and electric cars, because it deems those to be a good thing like health care insurance is a good thing.

You see the problem here. There is really no end to it, which is why it was a line that should never have been crossed.

So yes, Obamacare is costing hundreds of billions of dollars and would continue to until its complete failure. But it’s real cost is the loss of American liberty. And precious few seem to care.

Alas, Republicans fighting on Democrat ground

Republicans however, will not fight this on the grounds of freedom, the high ground and the right ground. They allow Democrats and the media to define the terms and put Republicans on the defensive on bad ground.

Republicans are doing what they always do, and part of it is the swampy D.C. mentality. Republicans end up abandoning conservative principles and going with Democrat-lite. They are willing to expand government, just less so. They are willing to raise taxes, just not as high. They are willing to trade rights for securities, just not as fast. But inexorably this moves in the same direction: More government control, more “free” giveaways, fewer American freedoms.

The health care coverage debate is a perfect example.

Democrats built it on the Democrat ground of heavy-handed government control and giveaways, and dared Republicans to come after it. To boil it down, in Obamacare, Democrats gave more Americans more free stuff that was not their’s and that we cannot afford — at the cost of lost freedoms — and Republicans now want to take some of that free stuff and restore those freedoms.

Meanies.

This of course is rough politics for Republicans, as so many Americans have lost the sense of liberty, self-reliance and personal responsibility. Too many are willing to trade a lot of liberties for a little security. But part of the reason for that is that no one is making the case for this and other issues on the grounds of freedom.

But in reality, Republicans aren’t even making the freedom case — or do so rarely. They want to make sure enough Americans get enough free stuff so they can be re-elected.

Taking away an entitlement once in place is just never done, and Democrats knew that in 2010. A big part of Obamacare is the entitlement portion. But that is only a problem if Republicans fight this on the grounds of coverage and giveaways, and not on the grounds of essential liberties.

Republicans hold every nationally elected office of power and there is one window for fixing the Obamacare debacle. If it does not happen now, Obamacare will be a permanent fixture of our health care system until it totally fails, and sucks the healthcare system into its death swirl.

The final step will be nationalized healthcare.

And the result will be an even greater loss of freedoms, and precious little in the way of securities. The worst of trade-offs.

RELATED ARTICLES: 

GOP leaders unveil changes to healthcare bill

Nearly 200 State Lawmakers Are Pushing for Changes to GOP Obamacare Repeal Plan

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in The Revolutionary Act.

Trump’s Budget Defunds Leftist Bastions NEA, NEH, NPR

These are all propaganda arms for the far-left. They don’t deserve a penny of taxpayer money. Why should American citizens have to pay for globalist, anti-American, socialist propaganda? This budget is urgently needed.

“Trump’s Budget Would Finally Fire Big Bird, Defund NPR,” by Thomas Phippen, Daily Caller, March 16, 2017:

The new White House budget proposal, a wish list of President Donald Trump’s policies, would cut funding to several arts and grants programs that Republicans have decried for decades.

Trump’s 2018 budget, called “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” requests increases in defense spending and reduction of domestic programs.

Specifically, the budget “proposes to eliminate funding for other independent agencies,” including the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which sends some amount of funding to PBS and National Public Radio.

Though Big Bird only re-airs on PBS (“Sesame Street” is now on HBO), eliminating funding to things like the NEA Corporation for Public Broadcasting is not a new idea. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney suggested cutting the CPB during the 2012 presidential campaign, and was quickly criticized. Former President Barack Obama even accused Romney of trying to kill Big Bird in a campaign ad.

Congress has the final say over all discretionary budgets, so Trump faces a tough fight to get rid of agencies like the NEA and the NEH, even though many Republicans don’t believe the federal government needs to fund arts projects, especially those seen as subversive or frivolous.

Former President Ronald Reagan tried to eliminate the NEA in his first year in office, but ultimately failed when a council of his his friends convinced him government funding of the arts was important and beneficial….

RELATED ARTICLE: Trump’s ‘Skinny’ Budget Paves Way for a Leaner Government

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in The Geller Report.

Trillions in Debt and We’re Just Scratching the Surface by Antony Davies and James R. Harrigan

As the federal debt has gone from astounding to unbelievable to incomprehensible, a new problem has emerged: The US government is actually running out of places to borrow.

How Many Zeros Are in a Trillion?

The $20 trillion debt is already twice the annual revenues collected by all the world’s governments combined. Counting unfunded liabilities, which include promised Social Security, Medicare, and government pension payments that Washington will not have the money to pay, the federal government actually owes somewhere between $100 trillion and $200 trillion. The numbers are so ridiculously large that even the uncertainty in the figures exceeds the annual economic output of the entire planet.

Since 2000, the federal debt has grown at an average annual rate of 8.2%, doubling from $10 trillion to $20 trillion in the past eight years alone. Who loaned the government this money? Four groups: foreigners, Americans, the Federal Reserve, and government trust funds. But over the past decade, three of these groups have cut back significantly on their lending.

Foreign investors have slowed the growth in their lending from over 20% per year in the early 2000s to less than 3% per year today. Excluding the Great Recession years, American investors have been cutting back on how much they lend the federal government by an average of 2% each year.

Social Security, though, presents an even bigger problem. The federal government borrowed all the Social Security surpluses of the past 80 years. But starting this year, and continuing either forever or until Congress overhauls the program (which may be the same thing), Social Security will only generate deficits. Not only is the government no longer able to borrow from Social Security, it will have to start paying back what it owes – assuming the government plans on making good on its obligations.

With federal borrowing growing at more than 6% per year, with foreign and American investors becoming more reluctant to lend, and with the Social Security trust fund drying up, the Fed is the only game left in town. Since 2001, the Fed has increased its lending to the federal government by over 11% each year, on average. Expect that trend to continue.

Inflation to Make You Cry

For decades, often in word but always in deed, politicians have told voters that government debt didn’t matter. We, and many economists, disagree. Yet even if the politicians were right, the absence of available creditors would be an insurmountable problem—were it not for the Federal Reserve. But when the Federal Reserve acts as the lender of last resort, unpleasant realities follow. Because, as everyone should be keenly aware, the Fed simply prints the money it loans.

A Fed loan devalues every dollar already in circulation, from those in people’s savings accounts to those in their pockets. The result is inflation, which is, in essence, a tax on frugal savers to fund a spendthrift government.

Since the end of World War II, inflation in the US has averaged less than 4% per year. When the Fed starts printing money in earnest because the government can’t obtain loans elsewhere, inflation will rise dramatically. How far is difficult to say, but we have some recent examples of countries that tried to finance runaway government spending by printing money.

From 1975 to 1990, the Greek people suffered 15% annual inflation as their government printed money to finance stimulus spending. Following the breakup of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, Russia printed money to keep its government running. The result was five years over which inflation averaged 750%. Today, Venezuela’s government prints money to pay its bills, causing 200% inflation which the International Monetary Fund expects to skyrocket to 1,600% this year.

For nearly a century, politicians have treated deficit spending as a magic wand. In a recession? We need jobs, so government must spend more money! In an expansion? There’s more tax revenue, so government can spend more money! Always and everywhere, politicians argued only about how much to increase spending, never whether to increase spending. A century of this has left us with a debt so large that it dwarfs the annual economic output of the planet. And now we are coming to the point at which there will be no one left from whom to borrow. When creditors finally disappear completely, all that will remain is a reckoning.

This article first appeared in InsideSources.

Antony Davies

Antony Davies

Antony Davies is an associate professor of economics at Duquesne University in Pittsburg.

He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.


James R. Harrigan

James R. Harrigan

James R. Harrigan is the Senior Research Fellow at Strata, in Logan, Utah.

WTH?! 1984 is Here to Stay – Proof is Vault 7

By Wallace Bruschweiler and William Palumbo…

This article is addressed to the public in general, but especially the media, i.e., journalists who should know better but don’t.

Last week, WikiLeaks released classified documents relating to CIA-funded surveillance programs and techniques.  Under the code-name Vault 7, Julian Assange’s organization has so far disclosed only a small fraction (1%) of the total documents, which they claim to be the “largest intelligence publication in history.”  The “Year 0” release contains 7,818 web pages and 943 attachments.  (You can view the entire Vault 7 ‘Year 0’ collection here.  For a good overview of what Vault 7 consists of and some potential implications, follow this link.)

Some of the more sensational activities documented in Vault 7 explain how the CIA has retained, through electronic and programming loopholes and proprietary technology, an ability to remotely activate a variety of personal electronic devices, enabling them to – for example – listen to private conversations within earshot of your smartphones microphone.  Ostensibly, this is also true for cameras (e.g., on your smartphone phone, laptop, iPad, on your television).

For many Americans, this news comes as an unwelcome surprise.  Before we continue, let’s pause and examine whether the public outcry is justified.

You’re being listened to, recorded, and watched – and have been for a while

1984 is not fiction, it’s fact.  Electronic surveillance (or ELINT, electronic intelligence) is nothing new – it’s old.  Phone and all other transmission lines have been wiretapped for decades at least.  America, and our enemies and allies alike, spy on each other literally constantly.  You shouldn’t be surprised.  All governments surveil their domestic population for a variety of lawful, well-intentioned, and important reasons.  For example, to combat organized crime, the drug trade, and also counter-terrorism.

If you were born after 1950, wiretapping has been pervasive (yet likely unnoticed, in the background) for your entire life.  Unless you’re a criminal (or just plain paranoid), it’s highly unlikely these methods were ever of personal concern to you.  It’s totally unlikely that the FBI, CIA, NSA etc. ever bothered to listen to, much less analyze your chit chat.  The extent to which the average person’s  phone calls, emails, or internet usage, Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc. are scrutinized is in the form of metadata, i.e. global data used to determine norms, from which aberrations of interest can be identified and selected for further analysis.

There’s far too much data generated daily for even an army of intelligence analysts to review in any detail.

You get what you pay for (and even more)

“An army” is not an exaggeration.  Let’s take a look at some figures related to Vault 7 and, more broadly, the entire intelligence community.

Please note that the figures below are estimates, as exact figures are classified.*

NSA

  • Budget: $18.0 billion
  • Employees: 35,000 – 55,000
  • Salary (dependent on position): $60,000 – $115,000

CIA

  • Budget: $14.7 billion
  • Employees: 21,575
  • Salary: $100,000

National Intelligence Program (NIP) and Military Intelligence Program (MIP) Budgets

  • Total National Intelligence Program Budget (2016): $53.9 billion
  • Total Military Intelligence Program Budget (2016): $17.9 billion
  • Total Intelligence Budget: $71.8 billion

* All figures as-of 2016 or as current as possible.

With all of that money and all of those people, what does the public think they should do?  The security of the nation relies on the ability to discreetly collect accurate information by all means available, many which seem futuristic.  With $25.3 billion per year (2013) spent on data collection alone, we can expect and should demand that the CIA and NSA develop novel and sophisticated technological tools, and use them at their – legal – discretion.

Capability vs. Usage

A word should be said to differentiate between capability and usage.  Vault 7 proves that the CIA has the ability to electronically surveil anyone they wish to.  However, so far there is no proof that these programs are widely and systematically abused to target the innocent.  There are numerous legal protections in place that protect the public, such as the need for court warrants and the FISA court itself.  Again, the average member of the innocent public will never be affected by government surveillance.

Private Sector Cooperation and Investment

Of course, the CIA and NSA don’t work in a cocoon.  Their international counterparts are linked via programs such as CRUCIBLE, ECHELON, Perseus, TREMOR, UMBRAGE etc.  There is also a significant involvement in private sector, to the point of active investment in emerging HAL 3000-type technologies.

Enter In-Q-Tel, established in 1999, at the peak of the dot-com boom.  (Maybe “global warming” pundit Al Gore really did invent the internet after all?  After all, who knows?)

Officially, independent from the CIA, In-Q-Tel “invests in high-tech companies for the sole purpose of keeping the Central Intelligence Agency, and other intelligence agencies, equipped with the latest in information technology.”  Think “Q,” the techie character from James Bond.

Founded by a former Lockheed Martin executive, the portfolio of this company reads like an encyclopedia of modern information technology.  Consider: they’re behind companies/technologies such as Google Earth, Palantir Technologies (Peter Thiel’s company), automatic language translation, geospatial imaging, virtual reality, search engines and malware protection, and many, many others.

Studying an organization like In-Q-Tel, it is easy to see how high tech military and intelligence investment helps drive technological progress.

Assange’s Offer

Recently, FBI Director James Comey was quoted as saying there is “no such thing as absolute privacy in America.”

Noting the considerable outcry by the public at these revelations, Julian Assange has offered to work with hardware manufacturers and software companies to address bug fixes and shortcomings outlined in Vault 7.

For all Assange’s critics, and there are many, this move is telling of his motivations: like thousands of other privacy advocates, he genuinely believes in real privacy.  He acts out of personal conviction, without greed, and is totally apolitical.

Conclusion?

This may come as a surprise to our readers, but the leaking, release, and dissemination of Vault 7 should be viewed in a positive light.  While the leaking of this classified information does pose many risks and questions, now that it is available for public scrutiny, why not look on the bright side?

We now have incontrovertible proof that the United States and closest allies have the tools to not only fight, but decisively defeat, our various enemies.  The intelligence community should deploy these tools to their maximum potential against all those who seek to do us great harm and destroy us.

We possess the technical and imaginative abilities to achieve victory and should aim for total surrender.  Time to take off the gloves!

Waiting for the next chapter of this unfinished technical/political saga…

Money Won’t Save the Failing Public School System by Daniel J. Mitchell

The story of the private sector is that competition generates ever-more output in ways that bring ever-higher living standards to ever-greater numbers of people.

By contrast, the story of the government is inefficiency and waste as interest groups figure out how to grab ever-larger amounts of unmerited goodies, often while doing less and less.

Obama spent buckets of money to supposedly boost government schools.

In some cases, where government is doing bad things (stealing propertysubsidizing big corporationsfleecing poor people, etc), I actually favor inefficiency.

Sadly, the government seems to be most inefficient in areas where we all hope for good results. Education is a powerful (and sad) example.

The Costs Keep Rising

story in the LA Weekly is a perfect illustration of this phenomenon.

A little more than a decade ago, something unexpected happened. The district’s enrollment, which peaked in 2004 at just under 750,000, began to drop. …Today, LAUSD’s enrollment is around 514,000, a number that the district estimates will fall below half a million by 2018.

Anyone want to guess whether this means less spending?

Of course not.

L.A. Unified’s costs have not gone down. They’ve gone up. This year’s $7.59 billion budget is half a billion dollars more than last year’s. …Today, the district has more than 60,000 employees, fewer than half of whom are teachers. …LAUSD’s administrative staff had grown 22 percent over the previous five years. Over that same period of time, the number of teachers had dropped by 9 percent.

If these trends continue, maybe we’ll get an example of “peak bureaucracy,” with a giant workforce that does absolutely nothing!

Based on his famous chart, the late Andrew Coulson probably wouldn’t be too surprised by that outcome.

Government Makes the Problem Worse

There’s also lots of waste and inefficiency when Uncle Sam gets involved. With great fanfare, President Obama spent buckets of money to supposedly boost government schools. The results were predictably bad.

It was such a failure than even a story in the Washington Post admitted the money was wasted (in other words, there wasn’t enough lipstick to make the pig look attractive).

One of the Obama administration’s signature efforts in education, which pumped billions of federal dollars into overhauling the nation’s worst schools, failed to produce meaningful results, according to a federal analysis. Test scores, graduation rates and college enrollment were no different in schools that received money through the School Improvement Grants program — the largest federal investment ever targeted to failing schools — than in schools that did not. …The School Improvement Grants program…received an enormous boost under Obama.

The administration funneled $7 billion into the program between 2010 and 2015… Arne Duncan, Obama’s education secretary from 2009 to 2016, said his aim was to turn around 1,000 schools every year for five years. ..The school turnaround effort, he told The Washington Post days before he left office in 2016, was arguably the administration’s “biggest bet.”

It was a “bet,” but he used our money. And he lost. Or, to be more accurate, taxpayers lost. And children lost.

Some education experts say that the administration closed its eyes to mounting evidence about the program’s problems in its own interim evaluations, which were released in the years after the first big infusion of cash. …Smarick said he had never seen such a huge investment produce zero results. …Results from the School Improvement Grants have shored up previous research showing that pouring money into dysfunctional schools and systems does not work.

History Repeats Itself

Indeed, I’ve seen this movie before. Many times. Bush’s no-bureaucrat-left-behind initiative flopped. Obama’s latest initiative flopped. Common Core also failed. Various schemes at the state level to dump more money into government schools also lead to failure. Local initiatives to spend more don’t lead to good results, either.

Gee, it’s almost as if a social scientist (or anybody with a greater-than-room-temperature IQ) could draw a logical conclusion from these repeated failures.

And, to be fair, some folks on the left have begun to wake up. Consider this recent study by Jonathan Rothwell, published by Brookings, which has some very sobering findings.

…the productivity of the education sector depends on the relationship between how much it generates in value—learning, in this case—relative to its costs. Unfortunately, productivity is way down. …This weak performance is even more disturbing given that the U.S. spends more on education, on a per student basis, than almost any other country.

So what’s going wrong? …In primary and secondary public education, where price increases have been less dramatic, there has been a decline in bureaucratic efficiency. The number of students for every district-level administrator fell from 519 in 1980 to 365 in 2012. Principals and assistant principals managed 382 students in 1980 but only 294 in 2012.

The conclusion is stark.

Declining education productivity disproportionately harms the poor. …unlike their affluent peers, low-income parents lack the resources to overcome weak quality by home-schooling their children or hiring private tutors. Over the last 30 to 40 years, the United States has invested heavily in education, with little to show for it. The result is a society with more inequality and less economic growth; a high price.

Incidentally, even private money is largely wasted when it goes into government schools. Facebook’s founder famously donated $100 million to Newark’s schools back in 2010.

So how did that work out? As a Washington Post columnist explained, the funds that went to government schools was basically money down the toilet.

It is a story of the earnest young billionaire whose conviction that the key to fixing schools is paying the best teachers well collided with the reality of seniority protections not only written into teacher contracts but also embedded in state law.

But there is a bit of good news. Some of the money helped enable charter schools.

There is a more optimistic way to interpret the Newark experience, much of which has to do with the success of the city’s fast-growing charter schools. …The reasons are obvious. Unencumbered by bureaucracy and legacy labor costs, charters can devote far more resources to students, providing the kind of wraparound services that students like Beyah need. An analysis by Advocates for Children of New Jersey noted “a substantial and persistent achievement gap” between students at charter and traditional public schools: “For example, while 71 percent of charter school students in Newark passed third-grade language arts tests in 2013-14 — higher than the state average of 66 percent — only 41 percent of students in Newark traditional public schools passed those tests.

The Wall Street Journal also opined about this topic.

What happened with the $100 million that Newark’s schools got from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg?” asks a recent headline. “Not much” is the short answer. …The Facebook founder negotiated his gift with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and then-Mayor Cory Booker in 2010, and it flowed into Newark’s public-school system shortly thereafter.

The bulk of the funds supported consultants and the salaries and pensions of teachers and administrators, so the donation only reinforced the bureaucratic and political ills that have long plagued public education in the Garden State.

The editorial explains that this isn’t the first time a wealthy philanthropist squandered money on government schools.

In 1993, philanthropist Walter Annenberg sought to improve education by awarding $500 million to America’s public schools. …But the $1.1 billion in spending that resulted, thanks to matching grants, accomplished little. An assessment by the Consortium on Chicago School Research on the schools that received funds reached a dismal conclusion: “Findings from large-scale survey analyses, longitudinal field research, and student achievement test score analyses reveal that . . . there is little evidence of an overall Annenberg school improvement effect.

The report did not explain why the campaign failed, but the reason is fairly obvious: The funds wound up in the hands of the unions, administrators and political figures who created the problems in the first place.

Fortunately, not all rich people believe in wasting money. Some of them actually want to help kids succeed.

In 1998, John Walton and Ted Forstmann each gave $50 million to fund scholarships for low-income children to attend private schools. More than 140,000 students have attended schools with graduation and college matriculation rates that exceed 90% instead of going to the failing schools in their neighborhoods. Earlier this summer, hedge-fund manager John Paulson pledged $8.5 million to the Success Academy charter-school network, where 93% of students are proficient in math, compared with 35% of their traditional public-school peers. His gift will allow more such schools to open. The financier Stephen Schwarzman and his wife, Christine, a former attorney, donated $40 million to help endow the Inner-City Scholarship Fund, which provides financial aid to needy children attending Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of New York.

Which is a good segue into the real lesson for today about the type of reforms that actually could boost education.

I’ve shared in the past very strong evidence about how school choice delivers better education results. Which is what everyone should expect since competition is superior to monopoly.Well, as explained in another Wall street Journal editorial, it also generates superior results at lower cost. Especially when you factor in the long-run benefits.

…a study shows that Milwaukee’s landmark voucher program will save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. …the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, a nonprofit that advocates for limited government and education reform, decided to look at the relative cost and benefits of choice schools. And, what do you know, it found that students participating in Milwaukee’s voucher program will provide the city, state and students nearly $500 million in economic benefits through 2035 thanks to higher graduation and lower crime rates. …More education translates into higher incomes, more tax revenue and a lower likelihood of reliance on government welfare or other payments. Meanwhile, greater economic opportunity also prevents young adults from turning to crime.

Wow. It’s not just that it costs less to educate children in private schools. There’s also a big long-run payoff from having more productive (and law-abiding) citizens.

That’s a real multiplier effect, unlike the nonsense we get from Keynesian stimulus schemes.

P.S. School choice doesn’t automatically mean every child will be an educational success, but evidence from SwedenChile, and the Netherlands shows good results after breaking up state-run education monopolies.

And there’s growing evidence that it also works in the limited cases where it exists in the United States.

P.P.S. Or we can just stick with the status quo, which involves spending more money, per student, than any other nation while getting dismal results.

P.P.P.S. This is a depressing post, so let’s close with a bit of humor showing the evolution of math lessons in government schools.

P.P.P.P.S. If you want some unintentional humor, the New York Times thinks that education spending has been reduced.

Reprinted from International Liberty

$38 Million in Taxes? Donald Trump Needs a Tax Shelter by Daniel J. Mitchell

The multi-faceted controversy over Donald Trump’s taxes has been rejuvenated by a partial leak of his 2005 tax return.

Interestingly, it appears that Trump pays a lot of tax. At least for that one year. Which is contrary to what a lot of people have suspected – including me in the column I wrote on this topic last year for Time.

Some Trump supporters are even highlighting the fact that Trump’s effective tax rate that year was higher than what’s been paid by other political figures in more recent years.

But I’m not impressed. First, we have no idea what Trump’s tax rate was in other years. So the people defending Trump on that basis may wind up with egg on their face if tax returns from other years ever get published.

Second, why is it a good thing that Trump paid so much tax? I realize I’m a curmudgeonly libertarian, but I was one of the people who applauded Trump for saying that he does everything possible to minimize the amount of money he turns over to the IRS. As far as I’m concerned, he failed in 2005.

But let’s set politics aside and focus on the fact that Trump coughed up $38 million to the IRS in 2005. If that’s representative of what he pays every year (and I realize that’s a big “if”), my main thought is that he should move to Italy.

Yes, I realize that sounds crazy given Italy’s awful fiscal system and grim outlook. But there’s actually a new special tax regime to lure wealthy foreigners. Regardless of their income, rich people who move to Italy from other nations can pay a flat amount of €100,000 every year. Note that we’re talking about a flat amount, not a flat rate.

Here’s how the reform was characterized by an Asian news outlet.

Italy on Wednesday (Mar 8) introduced a flat tax for wealthy foreigners in a bid to compete with similar incentives offered in Britain and Spain, which have successfully attracted a slew of rich footballers and entertainers. The new flat rate tax of €100,000 (US$105,000) a year will apply to all worldwide income for foreigners who declare Italy to be their residency for tax purposes.

Here’s how Bloomberg/BNA described the new initiative.

Italy unveiled a plan to allow the ultra-wealthy willing to take up residency in the country to pay an annual “flat tax” of 100,000 euros ($105,000) regardless of their level of income. A former Italian tax official told Bloomberg BNA the initiative is an attempt to entice high-net-worth individuals based in the U.K. to set up residency in Italy… Individuals paying the flat tax can add family members for an additional 25,000 euros ($26,250) each. The local media speculated that the measure would attract at least 1,000 high-income individuals.

Think about this from Donald Trump’s perspective. Would he rather pay $38 million to the ghouls at the IRS, or would he rather make an annual payment of €100,000 (plus another €50,000 for his wife and youngest son) to the Agenzia Entrate?

Seems like a no-brainer to me, especially since Italy is one of the most beautiful nations in the world. Like France, it’s not a place where it’s easy to become rich, but it’s a great place to live if you already have money.

But if Trump prefers cold rain over Mediterranean sunshine, he could also pick the Isle of Man for his new home.

There are no capital gains, inheritance tax or stamp duty, and personal income tax has a 10% standard rate and 20% higher rate.  In addition there is a tax cap on total income payable of £125,000 per person, which has encouraged a steady flow of wealthy individuals and families to settle on the Island.

Though there are other options, as David Schrieberg explained for Forbes.

Italy is not exactly breaking new ground here. Various countries including Portugal, Malta, Cyprus and Ireland have been chasing high net worth individuals with various incentives. In 2014, some 60% of Swiss voters rejected a Socialist Party bid to end a 152-year-old tax break through which an estimated 5,600 wealthy foreigners pay a single lump sum similar to the new Italian regime.

Though all of these options are inferior to Monaco, where rich people (and everyone else) don’t pay any income tax. Same with the Cayman Islands and Bermuda. And don’t forget Vanuatu.

If you think all of this sounds too good to be true, you’re right. At least for Donald Trump and other Americans. The United States has a very onerous worldwide tax system based on citizenship.

In other words, unlike folks in the rest of the world, Americans have to give up their passports in order to benefit from these attractive options. And the IRS insists that such people pay a Soviet-style exit tax on their way out the door.

Republished from International Liberty.

GOP Repeal/Replace Bill Cuts Taxes By Nearly a Trillion Dollars

On the White House website one of the key accomplishments of President Trump’s first 50 days in office is:

PUTTING PATIENT HEALTHCARE FIRST: After years of false promises, rising costs, and shrinking accessibility, President Trump is championing reforms to put patients first.

  • President Trump has supported efforts by Republicans in Congress to repeal the worst parts of Obamacare and replace them with the American Health Care Act.
  • President Trump acted on his first day in office to instruct Federal agencies to minimize the burden of Obamacare on Americans.

Katie Pavlich in a Townhall article titled ATR: Obamacare Replacement Cuts Taxes By Nearly a Trillion Dollars reports:

Yesterday the Congressional Budget Office released its official score for the Obamacare repeal and replacement bill, better known as the American Health Care Act.

Reaction to the scoring, which estimates an additional 21 million Americans will become uninsured by 2020, was mixed. House Speaker Paul Ryan said last night he is “encouraged” by the score. However, the Trump administration is hardly pleased.

“We disagree strenuously with the report that was put out. We believe that our plan will cover more individuals at a lower cost and give them the choices that they want for the coverage that they want for themselves and for their families, not that the government forces them to buy,” Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said at the White House Monday evening.

But Americans For Tax Reform sees some good news. If passed, the bill will cut taxes by $883 billion. Here’s where the cuts come from:

Medicine Cabinet Tax on HSAs and FSAs
Flexible Spending Account Tax
Chronic Care Tax
HSA Withdrawal Tax Hike
Ten Percent Excise Tax on Indoor Tanning
Health Insurance Tax
Employer Mandate Tax
Surtax on Investment Income
Payroll Tax Hike
Tax on Medical Device Manufacturers
Tax on Prescription Medicine
Elimination of Deduction for Retiree Prescription Drug Coverage
$500,000 Annual Executive Compensation Limit for Health Insurance Executives

You can read more about the details and specific amounts behind this list of tax repeals here.

As we have said, this bill is out in the open. Now is the time for every citizen to read it and then contact their U.S. Senators and member of Congress and tell them what you think about this bill.

We’ve come a long way to get to this point, we’ve got a long way to go to make sure it gets done right.

RELATED ARTICLES: 

After Paul Ryan Admits Obamacare Plan Needs Changes, Conservatives Hope to Strike Deal Uniting Party

House Leadership’s Health Bill Is Not What Republicans Promised. We Can Do Better

Which Parts of the Obamacare Replacement Face Trouble in the Senate

Conservative Lawmakers Join Rally Against GOP Health Care Plan

Tennessee files suit against federal government over cost to state of refugee program

It’s been a  long time coming, but yesterday, the State of Tennessee filed its Tenth Amendment case against the US Department of State and the Department of Health and Human Services over the issue of cost-shifting of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program to the states.

Readers, this is big news!

Here is Michael Patrick Leahy at Breitbart yesterday (I see that Drudge featured the story last night and Fox News has picked it up as well):

The Thomas More Law Center filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the Tennessee General Assembly and the State of Tennessee in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee on Monday challenging the federal refugee resettlement program for violating the state’s sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The lawsuit places Tennessee at the center of the national debate concerning the operation of the federal refugee resettlement program.

President Trump will be holding a rally in Nashville on Wednesday to garner public support for his agenda. His revised Executive Order 13780 temporarily halting the federal refugee resettlement program and temporarily banning travel from six Middle Eastern countries goes into effect on Thursday.

[….]

The Refugee Act specified that 100 percent of each state’s cost of Medicaid and cash welfare benefits provided to each resettled refugee during their first 36 months in the United State would be reimbursed to each state by the federal government. However, within five years of having created the federal program, Congress failed to appropriate sufficient funding and instead, costs of the federal program began shifting to state governments.

Within ten years of passing the Refugee Act, the federal government eliminated all reimbursement of state costs, a huge financial cost to the states that was, in effect, yet another unfunded federal mandate.

[….]

The lawsuit seeks to define Tennessee’s rights in light of the forced expenditure of state funds in support of a federal program from which the state has formally withdrawn.

Continue here and see below the full text of the press release from the Thomas More Law Center.

For all of you in states that have withdrawn from the program***, you must push your governor and legislators to join this case.

If your state has not withdrawn and is willing to sue on states’ rights grounds, this is the direction you should be following: withdraw and then sue when the feds assign a non-profit to run the program!

To further your understanding, here (and below) is the full press release from the Thomas More Law Center, yesterday:

First in the Nation — Tennessee Files Lawsuit Challenging Constitutionality of the Federal Refugee Resettlement Program

ANN ARBOR, MI – The Thomas More Law Center, a national nonprofit public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, MI, today filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the State of Tennessee, the Tennessee General Assembly, and two State legislators, challenging the constitutionality of the federal refugee resettlement program as a violation of the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the principles of State sovereignty.

Defendants in the lawsuit include the U.S Departments of State and Health and Human Services, and their respective Secretaries.

Assisting the Thomas More Law Center, pro bono, is attorney B. Tyler Brooks with the law firm of Millberg Gordon Stewart PLLC located in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, noted, “Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts has observed, ‘The States are separate and independent sovereigns. Sometimes they have to act like it.’ We intend to follow that advice in our lawsuit on behalf of the State of Tennessee and its citizens. We are asking the Court to stop the bleeding out of millions of Tennessee taxpayer dollars each year to fund a federal program from which the State officially withdrew in 2007.”

Thompson added, “Although there are compelling policy reasons to dismantle the existing refugee resettlement program in favor of resettling refugees in Middle East safe- zones as President Trump has suggested, this lawsuit focuses solely on the unconstitutional way the federal program is currently operating in the State of Tennessee.”

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. The purpose of the lawsuit is not to inflict harm on refugees, but to preserve the balanced constitutional relationship between the federal government and the States. It seeks a court declaration that the federal government has violated the Tenth Amendment and an order permanently enjoining the federal government from forcing the State of Tennessee to pay money out of its treasury to finance the federal refugee resettlement program.

The Tennessee General Assembly, by overwhelming majorities in both the House and Senate, passed Senate Joint Resolution 467 (“SJR 467”) during the 2016 legislative session, which authorized legal action to stop the federal government from unconstitutionally commandeering State funds to finance the federal refugee resettlement program.

State Senator John Stevens and State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver are the two legislators who joined the lawsuit as individual plaintiffs. Senator Stevens is First Vice-Chair of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Finance, Ways and Means, which is responsible for all measures relating to taxes and oversight of public monies in the State’s treasury. Representative Terri Lynn Weaver is the Chairman of the House Transportation Subcommittee which is charged with oversight of the budget relating to transportation.

Senator Stevens stated, “Through federal economic dragooning of our State’s budget, past Presidents and Congresses have quieted my vote and thereby my constituents’ voices. President Trump through executive action has reversed the overreaches of the Obama Administration in numerous ways. I trust President Trump in this regard. However, he needs our help.”

Continued Stevens, “The Constitution does not allow the Federal Government to force me as the elected representative of the 24th Senate District to implement federal programs while they sit in Washington insulated from the consequences.”

Representative Weaver, who played an instrumental role in mobilizing legislative support for passage of SJR 467, commented, “Of all the legislation that I have worked on, this by far is the most important. The only way we can get back to our constitutional beginnings and the intent birthed by our Founding Fathers is to go and take it back. We are looking forward to linking arms with the Thomas More Law Center for the long haul to regain sovereignty for our great State.”

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, another strong advocate for the lawsuit, emphasized the point that the lawsuit should not be taken as a criticism of the Trump Administration, “We want to convey to the President that we support his efforts concerning immigration and refugee resettlement and believe this suit for declaratory relief is consistent with what would likely be his position regarding states like Tennessee which have withdrawn from the refugee resettlement program but are forced to continue paying costs associated with it.”

When Congress enacted the Refugee Resettlement Act of 1980, the explicit intent was to assure full federal reimbursement of the costs for each refugee resettled and participating in benefit programs provided by the states. Eventually, however, federal reimbursements to the states for these benefit programs were reduced and, by 1991, eliminated entirely. The states thereby became responsible for the costs of the programs originally covered by the federal government.

Tennessee officially withdrew from participation in the refugee resettlement program in 2007. However, instead of honoring Tennessee’s decision to withdraw from the program, the federal government merely bypassed the State and appointed Catholic Charities of Tennessee, a private, non-governmental organization to administer the program. Catholic Charities receives revenue based upon the number of refugees it brings into the State.

Currently, Tennessee State revenues that could otherwise be used for State programs to help Tennesseans are, in effect, appropriated by the federal government to support the federal refugee resettlement program. This arrangement displaces Tennessee’s constitutionally mandated funding prerogatives and appropriations process.

The Complaint is here.

The Thomas More Law Center defends and promotes America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and moral values, including the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, and the sanctity of human life. It supports a strong national defense and an independent and sovereign United States of America. The Law Center accomplishes its mission through litigation, education, and related activities. It does not charge for its services. The Law Center is supported by contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations, and is recognized by the IRS as a section 501(c)(3) organization. You may reach the Thomas More Law Center at (734) 827-2001 or visit our website at http://www.thomasmore.org.

NOTE: These are the so-called Wilson-Fish states that have withdrawn from the program over the years.

In addition to these below, several states have withdrawn in the last year and those include: Texas, Kansas, New Jersey and Maine. Florida is considering it right now.

Texas citizen activists must press your governor. He has already shown a willingness to sue the feds, but this is a much stronger case!

To the right of the state (and one county) is the federal NGO running the program in the state (I don’t know who has been assigned in the 4 recent withdrawals mentioned above):

Alabama: USCCB – Catholic Social Services
Alaska: USCCB – Catholic Social Services
Colorado: Colorado Department of Human Services
Idaho: Janus Inc. (formerly Mountain States Group), Idaho Office for Refugees
Kentucky: USCCB – Catholic Charities of Louisville, Kentucky Office for Refugees
Louisiana: USCCB – Catholic Charities Diocese of Baton Rouge, Louisiana Office for Refugees
Massachusetts: Office for Refugees and Immigrants
Nevada: USCCB – Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada
North Dakota: LIRS – Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota
San Diego County, CA: USCCB – Catholic Charities Diocese of San Diego
South Dakota: LIRS – Lutheran Social Services of South Dakota
Tennessee: USCCB – Catholic Charities of Tennessee, Tennessee Office for Refugees
Vermont: USCRI – Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program

RELATED ARTICLES:

Tennessee became the first state in the nation on Monday to sue the federal government over refugee resettlement

Hawaii teacher says he will not teach illegal immigrant students – Story | WFLD

Time for the Florida Legislature to Term Limit School Board Members

Term limits are very popular in America. One way to “drain the swamp” is to term limit members of Congress. The surge in term limit legislation has been at the state level.

The Florida Legislature in 2016 passed legislation making it the first in the nation to call for an Article V amendment convention exclusive to the subject of putting term limits on Congress. The memorial, HM 417, passed the State House and State Senate by a unanimous voice vote.

In 1992 Florida passed Amendment 9 term limiting members of the state legislature passed. The amendment was passed with the approval of 76% of voters. Amendment 9 offices covered are: Florida Representative and Senator, Lieutenant Governor, Florida Cabinet, and U.S. Senator and Representative. [Emphasis added]

So while the Sunshine State awaits an Article V amendment convention perhaps Floridians should look at term limiting local school board members?

One state is already on its way to term limiting school board members. In a column titled “Term limits for school board members would get public vote under House measure” by Ed Anderson, from the Louisiana Times-Picaune reports:

Voters across the state would decide this fall whether their local school board members should be subject to a three-term limit, according to a bill approved by a House committee Wednesday.

steve_carter_crop.jpg

Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge.

The Committee on House and Governmental Affairs voted 14-4 for House Bill 410 by Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, sending it to the full House for more debate.

The bill is a major education initiative by the state’s biggest business lobby, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry; the Council for a Better Louisiana, an education advocacy group; and the chambers of commerce across the state.

[ … ]

Carter said the bill allows local voters to decide the issue, not the Legislature. “Fresh blood is what is needed in education,” he said.

“Every four years, voters have an opportunity to decide to keep or replace school board members,” argued Nolton Senegal, executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association. He said 60 percent of the board members turned over four years ago.

According to Ballotpedia:

The following statistics about school board elections in 2014 apply to the top 1,000 public school districts, as measured by student enrollment:

  • A total of 2,189 school board seats were up for election in 670 school districts in 37 states.
  • 75.51 percent of incumbents whose seats were on the ballot ran for re-election.
  • 35.81 percent of those incumbents ran unopposed.
  • 124 school districts held elections in which all the incumbents ran unopposed.
  • Only 30 districts with 58 seats up for election featured no incumbents running.
  • 81.31 percent of incumbents were re-elected, including unopposed incumbents.
  • 70.88 percent of incumbents who faced challengers won re-election.
  • 61.40 percent of all seats up for election were retained by incumbents.

There are 67 county school boards in Florida. They wield great power to tax and spend, primarily via property taxes and local referendums. Incumbents are the problem as they become entrenched and typically vote unanimously on issues important to parents, students and teachers. Many parents, students and teachers feel disenfranchised. School choice helps somewhat to empower parents and students.

Another way to “drain the education swamp” is to impose term limits on local school boards.

RELATED ARTICLE: My Local School Board May Begin Silencing Parents Over Transgender Agenda

RELATED VIDEO: Candidate Trump promises to support Term Limits for members of Congress.

U.S. Senator Rand Paul Introduces Bill to Repeal/Replace Obamacare

The Obamacare Replacement Act (S. 222) introduced by Sen. Rand Paul, M.D. accomplishes the following:

Repealing Obamacare

Effective as of the date of enactment of this bill, the following provisions of Obamacare are repealed:

  • Individual and employer mandates, community rating restrictions, rate review, essential health benefits requirement, medical loss ratio, and other insurance mandates.

Protecting Individuals with Pre-Existing Conditions

  • Provides a two-year open-enrollment period under which individuals with pre-existing conditions can obtain coverage.
  • Restores HIPAA pre-existing conditions protections. Prior to Obamacare, HIPAA guaranteed those within the group market could obtain continuous health coverage regardless of preexisting conditions. Equalize the Tax Treatment of Health Insurance
  • Individuals who receive health insurance through an employer are able to exclude the premium amount from their taxable income. However, this subsidy is unavailable for those that do not receive their insurance through an employer but instead shop for insurance on the individual market.
  • Equalizes the tax treatment of the purchase of health insurance for individuals and employers. By providing a universal deduction on both income and payroll taxes regardless of how an individual obtains their health insurance, Americans will be empowered to purchase insurance independent of employment. Furthermore, this provision does not interfere with employer provided coverage for Americans who prefer those plans.

Expansion of Health Savings Accounts

Tax Credit for HSA Contributions

  • Provides individuals the option of a tax credit of up to $5,000 per taxpayer for contributions to an HSA. If an individual chooses not to accept the tax credit or contributes in excess of $5,000, those contributions are still tax-preferred.

Maximum Contribution Limit to HSA

  • Removes the maximum allowable annual contribution, so that individuals may make unlimited contributions to an HSA.

Eliminates the requirement that a participant in an HSA be enrolled in a high deductible health care plan

  • Currently, in order to be eligible to establish and use an HSA, an individual must be enrolled in a high-deductible health plan. This section removes the HSA plan type requirement to allow individuals with all types of insurance to establish and use an HSA. o This would also enable individuals who are eligible for Medicare, VA benefits, TRICARE, IHS, and members of health care sharing ministries to be eligible to establish an HSA.

Allowance of Distributions for Prescription and OTC Drugs

  • Allows prescription and OTC drug costs to be treated as allowable expenses of HSAs.

Purchase of Health Insurance from HSA Account

  • Currently, HSA funds may not be used to purchase insurance or cover the cost of premiums. Allowing the use of HSA funds for insurance premiums will help make health coverage more affordable for American families.

Medical Expenses Incurred Prior to Account Establishment

  • Allows qualified expenses incurred prior to HSA establishment to be reimbursed from an HSA as long as the account is established prior to tax filing. Ø Administrative Error Correction Before Due Date of Return
  • Amends current law by allowing for administrative or clerical error corrections on filings. Ø Allowing HSA Rollover to Child or Parent of Account Holder o Allows an account holder’s HSA to rollover to a child, parent, or grandparent, in addition to a spouse.

Equivalent Bankruptcy Protections for HSAs as Retirement Funds

  • Most tax-exempt retirement accounts are also fully exempt from bankruptcy by federal law. While some states have passed laws that exempt HSA funds from being seized in bankruptcy, there is no federal protection for HSA funds in bankruptcy.

Certain Exercise Equipment and Physical Fitness Programs to be Treated as Medical Care

  • Expands allowable HSA expenses to include equipment for physical exercise or health coaching, including weight loss programs.

Nutritional and Dietary Supplements to be Treated as Medical Care

  • Amends the definition of “medical care” to include dietary and nutritional supplements for the purposes of HSA expenditures.

Certain Providers Fees to be Treated as Medical Care

  • Allows HSA funds to be used for periodic fees paid to medical practitioners for access to medical care.

Capitated Primary Care Payments

  • HSAs can be used for pre-paid physician fees, which includes payments associated with “concierge” or “direct practice” medicine.

Provisions Relating to Medicare o Allows Medicare enrollees to contribute their own money to the Medicare Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs).

Charity Care and Bad Debt Deduction for Physicians

Amends the Internal Revenue Code to allow a physician a tax deduction equal to the amount such physician would otherwise charge for charity medical care or uncompensated care due to bad debt. This deduction is limited to 10% of a physician’s gross income for the taxable year.

Pool Reform for the Individual Market

  • Establishes Independent Health Pools (IHPs) in order to allow individuals to pool together for the purposes of purchasing insurance.
  • Amends the Public Health Service Act (PHSA) to allow individuals to pool together to provide for health benefits coverage through Individual Health Pools (IHPs). These can include nonprofit organizations (including churches, alumni associations, trade associations, other civic groups, or entities formed strictly for establishing an IHP) so long as the organization does not condition membership on any health status-related factor.
  • Requires that the IHP will provide insurance through contracts with health insurance issuers in fully insured plans and not assume insurance risk with respect to such coverage. Allows the IHP to provide administrative services to members, including accounting, billings, and enrollment information.

Interstate Market for Health Insurance

Cooperative Governing of Individual Health Insurance Coverage

  • Increases access to individual health coverage by allowing insurers licensed to sell policies in one state to offer them to residents of any other state.
  • Exempts issuers from secondary state laws that would prohibit or regulate their operation in the secondary state. However, states may impose requirements such as consumer protections and applicable taxes, among others.
  • Prohibits an issuer from offering, selling, or issuing individual health insurance coverage in a secondary state:
  1. If the state insurance commissioner does not use a risk-based capital formula for the determination of capital and surplus requirements for all issuers.
  2. Unless both the secondary and primary states have legislation or regulations in place establishing an independent review process for individuals who have individual health insurance coverage; or
  3. The issuer provides an acceptable mechanism under which the review is conducted by an independent medical reviewer or panel. Gives sole jurisdiction to the primary state to enforce the primary state’s covered laws in the primary state and any secondary state.
  • Allows the secondary state to notify the primary state if the coverage offered in the secondary state fails to comply with the covered laws in the primary state.

Association Health Plans

  • Association Health Plans (AHPs) allow small businesses to pool together across state lines through their membership in a trade or professional association to purchase health coverage for their employees and their families. AHPs increase the bargaining power, leverage discounts, and provide administrative efficiencies to small businesses while freeing them from state benefit mandates.
  • While AHPs currently exist, strict Department of Labor standards exist regarding the types of organizations that may qualify as a single large-group health plan under ERISA. The standard stipulates that the association must be a group of employers bound together by a commonality of interest (aside from providing a health plan) with vested control of the association to such an extent that they effectively operate as one employer. This is considered a difficult standard for most associations to meet.
  • Amends ERISA to define AHPs and allow for their treatment as if they were large group single employer health plans. This definition would allow a dues-collecting organization maintained in good faith for a purpose other than providing health insurance to benefit from the insurance regulation exclusions currently afforded to large-group health plans under ERISA.
  • Requires solvency standards to protect patients’ rights and ensure benefits are paid. o Requires AHPs to have an indemnified back-up plan in order to prevent unpaid claims in the event of plan termination.
  • AHPs must undergo independent actuarial certification for financial viability on a regular basis. o Requires AHPs to maintain surplus reserves of at least $500,000 in addition to normal claims reserves, stop loss insurance, or indemnification insurance.

Anti-Trust Reform for Healthcare

  • Provides an exemption from Federal antitrust laws for health care professionals engaged in negotiations with a health plan regarding the terms of a contract under which the professionals provide health care items or services.
  • This section applies only to health care professionals excluded from the National Labor Relations Act. It would also not apply to contracts or care provided under Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, the FEHBP, or the IHS as well as medical and dental care provided to members of the uniformed services and veterans.

Increasing State Flexibility to Conduct Medicaid Waivers

  • Provides new flexibilities to states in their Medicaid plan design, through existing waiver authority in current law.
  • For many years, including under Obamacare, States have had the option to request a waiver from HHS to allow states to test new coverage rules under Medicaid and other programs. This provision would allow states to make changes to their Medicaid plans without interference from Washington.

Self-Insurance Protections

  • Amends the definition of “health insurance coverage” under the Public Health Service Act (PHSA), and parallel sections of ERISA and the Tax Code, to clarify that stop-loss insurance is not health insurance.
  • This provision is designed to prevent the federal government from using rule-making to restrict the availability of stop-loss insurance used by self-insured plans.

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16 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Live In California

I was privileged to attend high school at a military academy in Carlsbad, California from 1965-1969, at which time I returned to Arizona to attend Northern Arizona University.  My years in southern California were terrific for many reasons one being the magic which was the California of yesteryear.  The beach (the academy had its own private 200 yard long beach) the weather, the life-style of the late 60s’ all contributed to a vision which is still etched into my memory.  Over the decades, I would travel for various events back to the academy, and you could see the not-so-good changes occurring in California.  For reasons that escape me, “California Dreamin” as the Beach Boys would sing, began to morph into a society almost separate from the rest of America; sort of like the individual style setting California which had been became even more stand alone, and even third-world-like as more third-world people slipped in and filled every nook and cranny of the once Golden State.

The brightness that California once was known for (among beaches, mammoth freeways, laid back life styles, fertile farm lands and mountains, and of course Home of Mickey Mouse) was being altered by gangs, poor populations requiring almost full subsidies from the State just to live, multiple cultures that no longer respected American culture, schools that no longer prepared students to become productive members of society; heck schools that barely teach reading, writing, arithmetic, steadily creeping higher costs of everything, closures of many things that use to be landmarks thereby further dulling the brightness that helped make California the Golden State.  But I chose to push all of that aside in my mind (hindsight bias is what this type of selective thinking is named), and I would still travel to the beach of Carlsbad or Oceanside remaining in small pockets next to those beaches, and recall a kinder and gentler era, as I walked up and down those beaches I had become so acquainted with during my youth.

At one time, California seemed to be the epicenter of the American Dream.  From “WolfMan Jack” on the radio to the movie American Graffiti depicting cruising up and down main streets talking to those walking, whistling to those simply sitting on sidewalk benches, and laughing all the while the “WolfMan” was talking and howling over the radio, Beach Boy music everywhere along with Jan and Dean, “California Dreamin” was a reality, a way of life – even for kids in other states.  But something happened sadly.  Of course times change, but have they changed really for the better?

The following article sheds light on the California Dream that has become very dull, without much brightness like the famous California coastal haze that burns off around noon, but now seems not to burn off revealing a clear and clean image like once.  Where did California go?  Where is California going??  I wish I knew.  I wish I could pull this once unique state back in time, or at least pull it away from what appears to be certain self-destruction.  Hard to believe I know thinking California will not always be there.  The below article by Nwo Report peeks behind the “California here I come curtain,” and reveals a once Great State in great need of new leadership; a return to principles that were simpler, but more honest and in keeping with American values than what is unraveling before our eyes.


16 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Live In California

by Nwo Report

At one time, California seemed to be the epicenter of the American Dream

It has been said that “as California goes, so goes the nation”.  That is why it is such a shame what is happening to that once great state.

At one time, California seemed to be the epicenter of the American Dream.  Featuring some of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the entire world, the gorgeous weather and booming economy of the state inspired people from all over the world to move to the state.  But now people are moving out of the state by the millions, because life in California has literally become a nightmare for so many people.

I certainly don’t have anything against the state personally.  My brother and sister were both born there, and I spent a number of my childhood years in stunning northern California.  When I was younger I would sometimes dream of getting a place on the coast eventually, but for reasons I will discuss below I no longer think that would be advisable.

In fact, if I was living in California today I would be immediately looking for a way to move out of the state unless I specifically felt called to stay.  The following are 16 reasons why you shouldn’t live in California…

#1 The entire California coastline is part of the “Ring of Fire” seismic zone that roughly encircles the Pacific Ocean.  The San Andreas Fault has been described as a “time bomb“, and at some point there will be a catastrophic earthquake that absolutely devastates the entire region.  In fact, a study that was just released says that a “major earthquake” on the San Andreas Fault “is way overdue” …

A recently published study reveals new evidence that a major earthquake is way overdue on a 100 mile stretch of the San Andreas Fault from the Antelope Valley to the Tejon Pass and beyond.

Researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey released the results of the years-long study warning a major earthquake could strike soon.

#2 Out of all 50 states, the state of California has been ranked as the worst state for business for 12 years in a row

In what is sounding like a broken record, California once again ranked dead last in Chief Executive magazine’s annual Best and Worst States for Business survey of CEOs – as it has all 12 years the survey has been conducted. Texas, meanwhile, earned the top spot for the 12th straight year.

Among the survey’s subcategories, the 513 CEOs from across the nation ranked California 50th in taxation and regulation, 35th in workforce quality and 26th in living environment, which includes cost of living, the education system and state and local attitudes toward business. Notably, California placed worst among the nine states in the Western region in all three categories.

#3 California has the highest state income tax rates in the entire nation.  For many Americans, the difference between what you would have to pay if you lived in California and what you would have to pay if you lived in Texas could literally buy a car every single year.

#4 The state government in Sacramento seems to go a little bit more insane with each passing session.  This time around, they are talking about going to a single-payer healthcare system for the entire state that would cost California taxpayers 40 billion dollars a year

On Friday, State Senator Ricardo Lara introduced legislation that would transition California’s healthcare into a single-payer system. (RELATED: Read what a retired colonel said about the real purpose of Obamacare). The system would be very similar to the healthcare system currently in place in Canada and would cost California taxpayers roughly $40 billion for the first year alone. Given the poor economic climate California has already created for itself, this will no doubt be just one more burden on the people of California, and one step closer towards total bankruptcy.

Micah Weinberg, the president of the Economic Institute at the Bay Area Council, raised concerns over the financial consequences of the proposed legislation. “Where are they going to come up with the $40 billion?” he asked. He went on to suggest that adopting a state level single-payer system is “just not feasible to do as a state.”

#5 The traffic in the major cities just keeps getting worse and worse.  According to USA Today, Los Angeles now has the worst traffic in the entire world, and San Francisco is not far behind.

#6 A lot of money is being made in Silicon Valley these days (at least for now), but poverty is also exploding in the state.  In desperation, homeless people are banding together to create large tent cities all over the state, and the L.A. City Council recently asked Governor Jerry Brown “to declare homelessness a statewide emergency“.

#7 Thanks to unchecked illegal immigration, crime is on the rise in many California cities.  The drug war that has been raging for years in Mexico is increasingly spilling over the border, and many families have moved out of the state for this reason alone.

#8 California is one of the most litigious states in the entire nation.  According to the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, the “lawsuit climate” in California is ranked 47th out of all 50 states.

#9 Every year wildfires and mudslides wreak havoc in the state.  Erosion is particularly bad along the coast, and I have previously written about how some portions of the California coastline are literally falling into the ocean.

#10 California has some of the most ridiculous housing prices in the entire country.  Due to a lack of affordable housing rents have soared to wild extremes in San Francisco, where one poor engineer was actually paying $1,400 a month to live in a closet.

#11 All over the state, key infrastructure is literally falling to pieces.  Governor Jerry Brown recently issued a list of key projects that needed to be done as soon as possible, and the total price tag for that list was 100 billion dollars.  Of course that list didn’t even include the Oroville Dam, and we all saw what happened there.

#12 Radiation from the ongoing Fukushima nuclear disaster continues to cross the ocean and wash up along the California coastline.  The impact of this crisis on the health of those living along the west coast could potentially be felt for generations.

#13 Illegal drug use in the state is on the rise again, and emergency rooms are being flooded by heroin overdose victims.

#14 On top of everything else, it is being reported that Russia is “quietly ‘seeding’ the U.S. shoreline with nuclear ‘mole’ missiles”.  The following comes from retired colonel and former Russian defense ministry spokesman Viktor Baranetz

“What are these mysterious ‘asymmetrical responses’ that our politicians and generals speak about so often? Maybe it’s a myth or a pretty turn of phrase? No! Our asymmetrical response is nuclear warheads that can modify their course and height so that no computer can calculate their trajectory. Or, for example, the Americans are deploying their tanks, airplanes and special forces battalions along the Russian border. And we are quietly ‘seeding’ the U.S. shoreline with nuclear ‘mole’ missiles (they dig themselves in and ‘sleep’ until they are given the command)[…]

“Oh, it seems I’ve said too much. I should hold my tongue.”

Hopefully what Baranetz is claiming is not accurate, because if it is even partly true the implications are absolutely staggering.

#15 North Korea is a major nuclear threat as well.  It is being reported that the North Koreans are developing an ICBM that could potentially reach the west coast of the United States…

Defense officials have warned that North Korea is on the brink of producing an ICBM that could target the United States. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced in January during his New Year’s address that Pyongyang had “entered the final stage of preparations to test-launch” an ICBM that could reach parts of the United States.

#16 Someday a very large earthquake will produce a major tsunami on the west coast.  According to the Los Angeles Times, one study found that a magnitude 9.0 earthquake along the Cascadia fault could potentially produce a massive tsunami that would “wash away coastal towns”…

If a 9.0 earthquake were to strike along California’s sparsely populated North Coast, it would have a catastrophic ripple effect.

A giant tsunami created by the quake would wash away coastal towns, destroy U.S. 101 and cause $70 billion in damage over a large swath of the Pacific coast. More than 100 bridges would be lost, power lines toppled and coastal towns isolated. Residents would have as few as 15 minutes notice to flee to higher ground, and as many as 10,000 would perish.

Scientists last year published this grim scenario for a massive rupture along the Cascadia fault system, which runs 700 miles off shore from Northern California to Vancouver Island.

Over the past decade, approximately five million people have moved away from California.

After reading this article, perhaps you have a better understanding why so many people are getting out while they still can.

To me, one of the greatest concerns is the rise in seismic activity that we are seeing all over the world.  In my latest book I express my belief that the United States will be greatly affected by this increase in seismic activity, and California is going to get hit harder than just about anywhere else.

Once again, I don’t have anything against California or the people that live there.  It is such a beautiful place, and it once held so much promise.

Unfortunately that promise has been shattered, and there is a mass exodus out of the state as families flee the horrific nightmare that California is in the process of becoming.