Killing charitable deductions slowly – the sunset of PEP and Pease

Roberta Flack’s 1973 hit tune “Killing Me Softly with His Song” comes to mind when writing about how the tax codes have dramatically changed effective January 1, 2013. Two of the major changes are charitable deductions under the Personal Exemption Phase-out (PEP) and the Pease deduction cap under 26 US Code § 68.

According to the Indiana University Foundation:

As of January 1, 2013, itemized deductions will be limited in several ways:

The Pease limitations will reduce the amount of certain itemized deductions high-income taxpayers can claim: either 3% of the taxpayer’s income over the modified adjusted gross income limit, or up to 80% of certain deductions (whichever amount is less).

The taxpayer threshold for claiming medical expenses as an itemized deduction will be increased from 7.5% of AGI to 10% (though individuals age 65 and older will continue to use the 7.5% threshold from 2013 to 2016).

As was the case in 2012, the option to deduct state and local sales taxes rather than income taxes will not be available.

Kelsey Snell from Politico wrote in December, 2012, “Tax rate increases aren’t the only way in which Democrats are aiming to collect more tax dollars from the rich — they’re also looking to resurrect a dormant pair of oddly named laws that targeted the wealthy for decades.”

Snell states:

Known as PEP and Pease, they’re a little bit like the original “Buffett rule.”

The Personal Exemption Phase-out, or PEP, and the “Pease” deduction cap — named for the late Rep. Don Pease (D-Ohio) — were introduced in the 1990s to try to help balance the budget by getting the rich to chip in more. PEP reduced the value of exemptions for high-income earners by as much as 2 percent for every $2,500 earned over a set amount. Pease limited itemized deductions for the wealthy.

Read more.

According to Barbara E. Little, an associate with New Jersey based Schnader Attorneys at Law in their Tax and Wealth Management Department and the Trust and Estates, Nonprofit and Higher Education Practice Groups.:

On January 2, 2013, President Obama signed into law the “American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012” (ATRA). In this Alert, we explore the good news and the bad news that charitably minded individuals received with the passage of ATRA.

Bad News

Let’s start by getting the bad news out of the way. ATRA revived the itemized deduction limitations, also known as the “Pease Amendment” (named after Congressman Donald Pease, the amendment’s proposer in the 1990s). Under Pease, total itemized deductions are reduced by 3 percent not to exceed 80 percent, of the amount the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income exceeds the threshold amount – $250,000 for single filers, $275,000 for heads of household and $300,000 for married filing jointly (indexed for inflation). Charitable deductions are included in the limitation equation.

Depending on the taxpayer’s income level and other deductions, this limitation could adversely affect charitable contributions. For example, consider a married couple with $60,000 of itemized deductions ($25,000 mortgage interest, $10,000 state taxes and $25,000 charitable deduction) and an adjusted gross income of $450,000. The couple’s adjusted gross income exceeds the threshold by $150,000. The couple must reduce their total itemized deductions by 3 percent of $150,000 or $4,500.

The other bad news is that two charitable deductions were not extended: 1) contributions of book inventories to public schools; and 2) corporate contributions of computer inventory.

Good News

One piece of good news is that under ATRA, once again, individuals 70½ years of age or older may make tax-free IRA distributions to charitable organizations. The maximum distribution amount is $100,000 per individual, per tax year.

Speaking with a Florida donor to local charitable organizations he bemoans the fact that under ATRA his personal exemptions are eaten up by other, primarily tax deductions, thus limiting his charitable giving. He is concerned that ATRA is written so that non-profit organizations, many of which are faith based, will be irreparably harmed. With the passage of ATRA the new charity will be government and its ability to redistribute tax revenues to those non-profits it see as fit for public donations.

The new normal is “government charity” at every level.

Listen to Roberta Flack singing Killing Me Softly:

[youtube_sc url=”http://youtu.be/4mpqXu0z3wU”]

Global Climate Status Report sent to Senator Reid and Speaker Boehner

The Orlando, Florida based Space and Science Research Corporation (SSRC) announced the public release of the Executive Summary for its Global Climate Status Report for 2013. This scientific data based document provides political leaders, business executives, educators and the general public with a concise overview of the actual climate trends now present and an analysis of the Earth’s climate future based on these trends.

In the Executive Summary, the SSRC report authors show convincing evidence that the Earth’s atmospheric and oceanic temperatures are on a long term temperature cool down as a result of the just started reduction in the Sun’s energy output. Called a “solar hibernation,” this rare and powerful natural cycle of the Sun has been shown to bring long and potentially dangerous cold climate eras to the planet.

Using data form numerous researchers and science organizations, in addition to the SSRC’s own research, the Executive Summary spells out with detailed charts of climate trends, what is actually happening with the climate.

According to SSRC President, Mr. John L. Casey, “This report was planned for some time. Clearly though, its release at this time is intended to put some reality into the ongoing Congressional debates about to begin on the administration’s proposed new carbon taxes and other regulations supposedly designed to stop man-made global warming.”

“The government’s release of its own draft climate assessment report continues to show our government is on the wrong track for addressing climate change and is still shackled to the disproved greenhouse gas theory of climate change. As is well known, however, past predictions about the climate using that theory have been all wrong, global warming ended years ago, and now a new cold climate has arrived. The general public and our leaders need the truth about climate change at their disposal before making long term decisions about climate change for government policy and managing their day-to-day lives. This next climate change to a potentially dangerous cold climate needs to be well understood by all so they can best prepare for what is coming,” notes Casey.

“I am sending letters and copies of the report to Senate President Harry Reid and Speaker of the House John Boehner as well as other leaders at the federal and state level,” states Casey.

The Executive Summary is now posted for public download from the SSRC web site. The full Global Climate Status Report, will be available for a fee when published on March 4, 2013.

UN maps show, “more guns, less crime” is true internationally as well as domestically

Awr Hawkins discovered some maps created by the United Nations in 2007. The world maps depict levels of gun ownership and homicides. As Hawkins points out, “”[T]hese maps show, ‘more guns, less crime’ is true internationally as well as domestically.”

Hawkins states, “Since 1998, John Lott’s seminal work More Guns, Less Crime has been used to show that areas with the highest gun ownership in America experience the least crime on a per capita basis.” The United Nations appears to confirm Lott’s finding on a global scale. As has been stated time and again, the efforts to restrict law abiding citizens from owning firearms is all about control, not guns.

Crime and guns are inextricably linked. If you want to reduce crime, buy a gun.

Here are the maps presented by Hawkins:

Is this the best solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict?

Dr. Mordechai Kedar, the Director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), a research associate of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies and a lecturer in the Department of Arabic at Bar-Ilan University in Israel visited Sarasota, Florida, while on a thirty-day tour of the United States. Dr. Kedar presented his “Palestinian Emirates” solution as part of the Israel@65 celebration hosted by the Sarasota/Manatee Jewish Federation.

Dr. Kedar’s solution is based upon the realities of Arab culture in the Middle East.

Dr. Kedar is the architect of a solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict which calls for the creation of eight Palestinian Emirates within the state of Israel. The eight city-states would comprise the areas of Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah, Jericho, Tul-Karm, Kalkilya, the Arab part of Hebron and Gaza. The concept is simple in its design. Dr. Kedar pointed out that the most prosperous and peaceful nation states in the Middle East are culturally homogeneous. Examples include: Dubai, Qatar, the United Arab Emeritus, Kuwait and Bahrain.

Dr. Kedar believes that the two state solution proposed by the United States, the EU and supported by the United Nations and Israeli politicians is the greatest threat facing Israel. According to the Palestinian Emirates website, the creation of two states, “could lead to the demise of our beloved Israel? After all, it’s been the mainstay policy thrust upon Israel with various international initiatives and road-maps to peace. But in reality it would bring about the opposite result.”

Dr. Kedar discusses his Palestinian Emirates solution on ReThingingIsreal.com:

The Palestinian Emirates solution is based on the following eighteen points (realities):

1. The only true loyalty for Middle Eastern Arabs is to family, clan and tribe and the local sheikhs who are their true leaders.

2. There is little trust that currently exists between peoples of the different tribes in the Arab Palestinian cities of Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

3. Any PA led government of a Palestinian state would most likely become another corrupt and failing Arab state.

4. If a Palestinian state existed the more militant Hamas would soon seize control in Judea & Samaria from the less militant, weak and corrupt PA/Fatah.

5. Israel would be faced on two borders by Hamas whose Charter openly calls for the destruction of the Jewish Homeland and the killing of Jews worldwide.

6. The PA/Fatah and Hamas are not reliable negotiating partners for peace and the concept of the Two State Solution must be abandoned.

7. Israel must now take the lead to find a workable solution in light of the recent UN vote which did not confer actual statehood to the Palestinians.

8. As tribal leaders the individual sheikhs may want their independence from the PA to chart their own destiny of peace and prosperity.

9. Israel should recognize the development of independent city-states in seven cities of Judea & Sumaria which would likely occur over a period of years.

10. The eight city-states would comprise the areas of Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah, Jericho, Tul-Karm, Kalkilya, the Arab part of Hebron and Gaza.

11. Local residents would become citizens of these eight independent city-states while those remaining in rural lands would have the choice to become citizens of Israel.

12. The Palestinian refugee problem can only be addressed once the UN realizes that there is no Right of Return for Arabs as citizens of Israel. Naturally Arabs should find their solutions in Arab states, not the one Jewish state.

13. As these independent Arab Palestinian city-states develop they may choose to form a beneficial alliance together to increase security, economic development and other aspects of common interest.

14. The leaders of these emerging city-states are more likely to accept Israel as the Jewish Homeland and root out terrorist and jihadist elements within their secure borders.

15. Israel would absorb and control the less populated areas of Judea & Samaria to enhance security for the region and expand housing and commercial development.

16. The PA leadership will eventually disappear from Judea & Samaria once the city-state movement takes root.

17. Gaza remains an ongoing problem requiring possible future Israeli defensive military action and will only have freedom and opportunity for it’s citizens once Hamas and the other jihadists no longer behave like terror groups against Israel, but rather manage their state for the sake of their people.

18. Jerusalem will remain as it has been since 1967, the undivided capital of Israel that welcomes peaceful people of all religions to live, visit and pray there.

As Victor Hugo (1802-1885) wrote, “Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come.”  Dr. Kedar’s solution may be the last best solution because it empowers the tribal peoples of the Palestinian Emirates.

Democrats Against Sustainable Development and Smart Growth

If you go to your city, county, school board or state official website you will see words like “sustainable development” and “smart growth”. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) uses these words on its website. The FDEP website states, “The goal of the Sustainable Initiatives programs is to promote sustainability in Florida businesses, schools and homes. Sustainability is meeting the needs of the present population without compromising the ability of future populations to meet its needs.”

Another example is the University of Florida sustainability website. The about page reads, “Simply defined, sustainability is meeting contemporary needs without compromising the ability of future generations to satisfy their needs. More comprehensively, it means looking at the issues and problems facing our world with a new perspective – one that focuses on three interdependent areas of concern: ecological preservation, economic viability, and social justice.” Note the words “social justice”.

Florida even has a Sustainability Institute, whose mission is to address, “Direct threats, such as sea level rise and extreme weather events, and indirect risks linked to our region’s status as a global destination and trade center, place Florida on the front lines of the fight against global warming. ”

So why are Democrats, especially progressive ones from California, against sustainable development and smart growth? Answer: It is all about taking away property rights.

The leader of these progressive Democrats is Rosa Koire, ASA, who is a forensic commercial real estate appraiser specializing in eminent domain valuation.  Her twenty-eight year career as an expert witness on land use has culminated in exposing the impacts of Sustainable Development on private property rights and individual liberty.

Koire is on the Board of Directors and Executive Director of The Post Sustainability Institute. The Post Sustainability Institute was established to study the impacts that “Sustainable Development” and “Communitarianism” have on liberty.  The intent is to track the progression of the sustainability movement and to forecast the most likely outcomes if it proceeds unchecked.

Koire became involved in 2005 when she was elected to a citizens’ oversight committee in Santa Rosa, Northern California, to review a proposed 1,300 acre redevelopment project in which 10,000 people live and work. Her research into the documents justifying the plans led her, with her partner Kay Tokerud, to challenge the fraudulent basis for the huge Gateways Redevelopment Project. The City, in an attempt to block Koire from exposing the project, removed the neighborhood in which Koire and Tokerud’s properties were located from the redevelopment area.

Koire and Tokerud fought on, however, not wanting to abandon the thousands of business and property owners still in the area. They formed a business and property owners association and a non-profit organization (Concerned Citizens of Santa Rosa Against Redevelopment Law Abuse) and were able to raise nearly $500,000 in donations and pro bono legal work to sue the City of Santa Rosa to stop the project. The court case, Tokerud v. City of Santa Rosa, lost in Superior Court but the court ruled that they could continue, and they appealed to the San Francisco First District Court of Appeals where they lost again in 2009. The three years of litigation fighting eminent domain and the redevelopment project succeeded in delaying the project while the economy collapsed–the City has failed to implement its plans, but still has the power of eminent domain over the 1,100 acre area until 2018.

Koire is the author of the book “Behind The Green Mask“. In the book Koire states:

No matter where you live, I’ll bet that there have been hundreds of condos built or planned in the center of your town recently. Over the last ten years there has been a “planning revolution: across the US. It was the implementation of Growing Smart.

Your commercial, industrial and multi-residential land was rezones to “mixed use”. Nearly everything that got approvals for development was designed the same way: ground floor retail with two or three stories of residential above. Mixed use.

Very hard to finance for construction, and very hard to manage since it has to have a high density of people in order to justify the retail. A lot of it empty and most of the ground floor retail is empty too. High Bankruptcy rate. Two areas like this in Jacksonville Florida – off Gate and Southside where Three Forks Restaurant is? And at Town Center mall. [My emphasis]

Florida has been run by Republicans for over a decade. It was during that decade that “sustainable development” became the cause of the party and those elected at every level. All in the name of the taking of property to insure social justice for future generations.

All 67 Florida County Sheriffs sign pledge to protect the right of citizens to bear arms

Constitutional Sheriffs sent an email stating, “I have added the names of the following 61 Florida County Sheriffs [who] joined the previous six Florida County Sheriffs to announce that they will not enforce laws that violate the Constitution or infringe on the rights of the people to own firearms.”

This means all of Florida’s county sheriffs have now signed the pledge, the first state to achieve 100% compliance with the 2nd Amendment. The list is bi-partisan.

The following Florida Sheriffs have taken a stand to defend the second amendment:

Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell
Baker County Sheriff Jerry B. Dobson
Broward County Sheriff Scott J. Israel
Calhoun County Sheriff Glenn H. Kimbrell
Charlotte County Sheriff William G. Prummell
Citrus County Sheriff Jeffrey J. Dawsy
Collier County Sheriff Kevin J. Rambosk
Columbia County Sheriff Mark A. Hunter
Desoto County Sheriff William P. Wise
Dixie County Sheriff Dewey H. Hatcher
Duval-Jacksonville County Sheriff John H. Rutherford
Escambia County Sheriff Thelbert “David” Morgan
Flagler County Sheriff James Manfre
Franklin County Sheriff Mike Mock
Gadsden County Sheriff Morris A. Young
Gilchrist County Sheriff Bobby Schultz
Glades County Sheriff Stuart Whiddom
Gulf County Sheriff Mike Harrison
Hamilton County Sheriff Jay Harvey Reid
Hardee County Sheriff Arnold Lanier
Hendry County Sheriff Stephen Whidden
Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis
Highlands County Sheriff Susan Benton
Hillsborough County Sheriff David A. Gee
Holmes County Sheriff Tim Brown
Indian River County Deryl B. Loar
Jackson County Sheriff Louis S. Roberts III
Jefferson County Sheriff David C. Hobbs
Lafayette County Sheriff Brian N. Lamb
Lake County Sheriff Gary Borders
Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott
Leon County Sheriff Larry Campbell
Levy County Sheriff Bobby McCallum
Liberty County Sheriff Nick Finch
Madison County Sheriff Benjamin Stewart
Manatee County Sheriff W. Brad Stuebe
Marion County Sheriff Chris Blair
Miami-Dade County Sheriff J.D. Patterson
Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay
Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper
Okaloosa County Sheriff Larry R. Ashley
Okeechobee County Sheriff Paul C. May
Orange County Sheriff Jerry L. Demmings
Osceola County Sheriff Bob Hansell
Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric L. Bradford
Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco
Pinellas County Sheriff Robert “Bob” Gualtieri
Putnam County Sheruff Jeff Hardy
St. Johns County Sheriff David B. Shoar
St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara
Santa Rosa County Sheriff O. Wendell Hall
Sarasota County Sheriff tom Knight
Seminole County Sheriff Donald Eslinger
Sumter County Sheriff William O. Farnsworth
Suwannee County Sheriff Tony G. Cameron
Taylor County Sheriff L.E. “Bummy” Williams
Union County Sheriff Jerry Whitehead
Volusia County Sheriff Ben F. Johnson
Wakulla County Sheriff Charlie Creel
Walton County Sheriff Michael A. Adkinson
Washington County Sheriff Robert Haddock

Stealth gay marriage bill introduced by Senator Eleanor Sobel (D-FL 31)

Senator Eleanor Sobel (D-FL 31)

The Florida Family Policy Council (FFPC) in an email to supporters states, “Deceptively named by its Democrat sponsor [Senator] Eleanor Sobel the ‘Families First’ bill, it at first glance appears to be creating a mere domestic partnership like the others in Florida that would usually include hospital visitation and burial rights. But then after getting deeper into the fine print of the monster 30 page bill, it is discovered that it is brazenly proposing an exact mirror of the every aspect of both Federal and Florida marriage laws allowing for gays and lesbians to enter an arrangement that is both ‘treated as marriage’ and which is not just the ‘substantial equivalent’ of marriage but audaciously attempt’s to be an exact equal to marriage.”

Senator Sobel has a long history with the GLBT community in Florida. The Sun-Herald reported in 2008, “Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl, the first openly-gay member of the Commission, today endorsed Democratic State Senate candidate Eleanor Sobel for the open seat in District 31. Sobel, a member of the Broward School Board, has long been an ally of the GLBT community.”

“I’m excited to accept Commissioner Keechl’s endorsement,” Sobel said. “I have a long history of working with Broward’s gay and lesbian community, and Ken’s support underscores that.” Sobel and Keechl are pictured above (photo courtesy of the Sun-Herald).

Pages 19-21 of the bill SB-196 reads “Any privilege, right, or benefit granted…by marriage… is granted on equivalent terms… to an individual who is or was in a domestic partnership…”

“Therefore SB-196 is not a domestic partnership but an attempt to create a full blown civil union – or an alternative gay marriage. This bill is in direct violation of the Article I, Section 27, the Florida Marriage Protection Act, which was enacted by 62% of Floridians as Amendment 2 on the ballot in 2008 and is therefore blatantly unconstitutional on its face,” notes the FFPC.

The full text of the bill may be read here. There are currently no co-sponsors of the Senate bill.

Representative Mark S. Pafford (D-FL 86)

The companion bill in the Florida House is HB 259. HB 259 was introduced by Representative Mark S. Pafford (D-FL 86) and is co-sponsored by state Representatives Berman (D- FL 90) , Clarke-Reed (D- FL 92),  Cruz (D-FL 62), Danish (D-Fl 63), Edwards (D-FL 98), Fullwood (D-FL 13), Jones (D-FL 14), McGhee (D-FL 117), Moskowitz (D-FL 97), Rader (D-FL 81), Rangel (D-FL 43), Rouson (D-FL 70), Saunders (D-FL 49), Slosberg (D-FL 91), Stark (D-FL 104) and Stewart (D-FL 47).

Efforts are underway to create domestic partnership registries across the state of Florida. Wikipedia lists the following Florida cities with domestic partnership registries:

  • Broward County (Fort Lauderdale): Residents of the county or at least one partner employed by the county. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • City of Clearwater: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • City of Gainesville: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • City of Key West: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • City of Kissimmee: Employees of the city. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • Leon County: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • City of Miami Beach: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • Miami-Dade County: Residents of the county or at least one partner employed by the county. Both opposite- and same-sex couples. The cities of Miami and South Miami also grant additional benefits to domestic partners registered in Miami-Dade County.
  • Monroe County: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples. County employment benefits only.
  • Orange County: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • City of Orlando: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • Palm Beach County: Residents of the county or at least one partner employed by the county. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • Pinellas County: Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • City of Sarasota: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples. City employment benefits only.
  • City of St. Cloud: Employees of the city. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • City of St. Petersburg: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • City of Tampa: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • City of Tavares: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • Volusia County: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • City of West Palm Beach: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.

NOTE: Senator Sobel and all of the Florida House sponsors of HB 259 represent one of these communities.

SB 196, if passed, will then allow those listed on domestic partnership registries to be considered as legally “married” in Florida. The bill would have taken effect on July 1, 2013. However, HB 259 died in Civil Justice Subcommittee.

Are hedge fund managers moving to Florida a good idea?

Cheryl Carpenter Kilmek in BizPac Review reports:

“The word is out among hedge fund owners that Palm Beach County is the place to be. Kelly Smallridge, President and CEO of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County, says in the past two weeks she has been getting phone calls every day from New York hedge fund owners tired of high taxes and cold weather looking for a change.

Following a recent New York Post article that said, “The city’s hedge-fund executives are flying south — and it’s not for vacation,” Fla. Gov. Rick Scott sent a letter to hedge fund owners asking them to consider Florida, which prompted a tremendous response.”

But is this really good for Florida?

Florida has had its share of hedge fund managers gone bad. Can you say Ponzi scheme? For example, Scott W. Rothstein, is the disbarred lawyer and the former managing shareholder, chairman, and chief executive officer of the now-defunct Fort Lauderdale law firm Rothstein-Rosenfeldt-Adler. He was accused of funding his philanthropy, political contributions, law firm salaries, and an extravagant lifestyle with a massive $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme.

HedgeCo.net lists the following recent cases of hedge fund manager fraud:

Hedge Fund Manager Convicted by Jury In Black Diamond Ponzi Scheme

February 12, 2013 :

New York (HedgeCo.Net) – A Federal jury has convicted a certified public accountant Jonathan D. Davey, 48, of Newark, Ohio, of four criminal charges relating to an investment fraud conspiracy, the FBI reports. The federal indictment, returned in February 2012, […]

Charges Allege $311 Million Global Hedge Fund Fraud Scheme

February 8, 2013 :

New York (HedgeCo.Net) – An indictment was filed and an information unsealed today charging two business associates in the hedge fund management industry with defrauding institutional investors and causing collective losses of more than $311 million, announced United States Attorney […]

Witness in Rajaratnam Hedge Fund Insider Trading Case Gets One Year Behind Bars

February 1, 2013 :

New York (HedgeCo.Net) – Roomy Khan, a government co-operator in the biggest hedge fund insider trading conspiracy in US history, has been sentenced to one year in prison. Khan has pleaded guilty to passing inside information to Galleon Group fund […]

BCM Hedge Fund Analyst Sentenced in Manhattan

February 1, 2013 :

New York (HedgeCo.Net) – Jason Pflaum, a former research analyst with the hedge fund Barai Capital Management (BCM), was sentenced to time served, followed by two years of supervised release, for his participation in an insider trading scheme in which […]

Insider Trading: California Hedge Fund Founder Gets 2 Years Behind Bars

January 25, 2013 : Permalink

New York (HedgeCo.Net) – San Francisco hedge fund founder Doug Whitman was sentenced yesterday to two years behind bars after a conviction on securities fraud and conspiracy charges. Whitman Capital, the hedge fund he had presided over had about $100 million in assets. […]

Hedge Fund Fraud: Wireless Analyst Sentenced to 4+ Years

January 16, 2013 :

New York (HedgeCo.Net) – The securities research analyst who had publicly refused in 2010 to wear a wire in a hedge fund insider trading trading probe was sentenced yesterday to over four years in prison, Bloomberg’s HedgeWorld reports. John Kinnucan […]

California Hedge Fund Manager Jailed For Fraud

January 15, 2013 :

New York (HedgeCo.Net) – Albert Ke-Jung Hu, a silicon valley hedge fund manager, has been jailed for 12 years on charges of defrauding investors out of at least $6.5 million. “Instead of investing the money as promised, Hu “converted that money […]

Madoff: Doomed Hedge Fund Magnate Speaks Out

December 28, 2012 :

New York (HedgeCo.Net) – The master of manipulation, Bernie Madoff, second only to Charles Ponzi himself, sent out a Christmas memo claiming that “Insider trading… has been present in the market forever, but rarely been prosecuted.” “Markets have always focused on […]

2 Prominent Hedge Fund Managers Found Guilty

December 18, 2012 :

New York (HedgeCo.Net) – A New York jury has found Anthony Chiasson and Todd Newman, both former hedge fund managers, guilty of insider trading charges. The NYT reports: “The government built its case around the testimony of two key witnesses: Spyridon Adondakis, […]

Three Unregistered Brokers Charged For Improper Sales Of Hedge Fund Interests

December 10, 2012 :

New York (HedgeCo.Net) – The SEC has charged three brokers who raised funds for an Oregon-based hedge fund manager for failing to register as broker-dealers before engaging in securities transactions. “Broker-dealer registration is crucial to protecting investors from Ponzi schemes […]

SAC Hedge Fund Insider Trading Professor Resigns

November 30, 2012 : 

New York (HedgeCo.Net) – The Neurologist linked to the Alzheimer drug tests/hedge fund insider trading case, has resigned from his position at the University of Michigan. Professor Sid Gilman is accused of leaking data to SAC hedge fund trader Mathew Martoma. Gilman was paid […]

SEC Preparing Civil Suit Against Cohen’s Hedge Fund SAC Capital

November 29, 2012 :

New York (HedgeCo.Net) – A week after hedge fund trader Mathew Martoma was charged with insider trading, the SEC is going after the hedge fund in question, Steven A. Cohen’s hedge fund SAC Capital, according to people familiar with the situation. “In […]

Study finds red light cameras cause accidents

Barbara Langland-Orban, PhD, John T. Large, PhD, Etienne E. Pracht, PhD from the University of South Florida (USF) conducted a study on red light cameras in 2008. They updated their study in 2011. Langland-Orban, et. al. found that red light cameras (RLC) increase the number of accidents at intersections by 28%.

The 2008 study found:

“Rather than improving motorist safety, red-light cameras significantly increase crashes and are a ticket to higher auto insurance premiums, researchers at the University of South Florida College of Public Health conclude. The effective remedy to red-light running uses engineering solutions to improve intersection safety, which is particularly important to Florida’s elderly drivers, the researchers recommend.

Instead, they increase crashes and injuries as drivers attempt to abruptly stop at camera intersections. If used in Florida, cameras could potentially create even worse outcomes due to the state’s high percent of elderly who are more likely to be injured or killed when a crash occurs.”

“The rigorous studies clearly show red-light cameras don’t work,” said lead author Barbara Langland-Orban, professor and chair of health policy and management at the USF College of Public Health.

The 2011 study update states:

“It is important for the public at large and federal, state, and local officials to understand that motor vehicle safety is advanced through evidence-based methods. Attempts to generate revenue through traffic citations are directly contrary to public safety since infractions are increased by improper roadway engineering, creating hazards and expense for the public.”

The 2011 study update indicates that the media is complicit in promoting the positives of red light cameras and ignoring negatives. The 2011 study update noted:

“One journal reporter, who requested anonymity, revealed that the media can be a source of misinformation on RLCs. She disclosed that special interests that profit from cameras have threatened to reduce or withdraw their advertising revenues if the news is not reported that RLCs provide a safety benefit. The reporter explained that with such threats, journalistic ethics permit an editor to report the advertiser’s perspective if also disclosing the contrary assessment that RLCs pose a safety threat, leaving readers to form their own conclusion. However, she explained that not all editors abide by this principle, which is compounded by the many controversies surrounding RLCs. For example, a Florida newspaper reported that their local poll found support for RLCs. The second half of the article mentioned some of the concerns about RLCs, which included using them to generate revenue, failing to save lives, failing to significantly reduce crashes, and increasing rear-end crashes (Thalji, 2010).”

Cities and counties install red light cameras as a “hidden tax” on motorists. RLCs are a new revenue stream for government and those companies that produce RLCs according to the study:

Comprehensive studies from North Carolina, Virginia, and Ontario have all reported cameras are significantly associated with increases in crashes, as well as crashes involving injuries. The study by the Virginia Transportation Research Council also found that cameras were linked to increased crash costs.

Some studies that conclude cameras reduced crashes or injuries contained major “research design flaws,” such as incomplete data or inadequate analyses, and were conducted by researchers with links to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The IIHS, funded by automobile insurance companies, is the leading advocate for red-light cameras.

 The Florida legislature is considering HB 4011 which would repeal the use of red light cameras in the state.

Rubio Introduces Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio joined Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and a group of senators to introduce the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act (CIANA). If enacted, this legislation would give states the authority they need to properly enforce laws requiring a parent to be notified before their minor daughter receives an abortion.

The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Roy Blunt (R-MO), John Boozman (R-AR), Richard Burr (R-NC), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Bob Corker (R-TN), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Deborah Fischer (R-NE), Charles Grassley (R-IA), James Inhofe (R-OK), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Rand Paul (R-KY), Jim Risch (R-ID), Pat Roberts (R-KS), David Vitter (R-LA) and Roger Wicker (R-MS). A House version of the bill is being sponsored by Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).

Many states have adopted parental notification laws to protect minors and the rights of parents. These laws, however, are easily and often circumvented due to differing abortion laws in neighboring states. There is currently no federal framework in place to prevent a minor from traveling across state lines to undergo an abortion without parental knowledge or consent. CIANA would prohibit the act of transporting a minor to obtaining an abortion if this action evades the parental involvement law in her home state. In addition, it would require abortion providers to notify a parent of an out-of-state minor before performing an abortion.

Senator Marco Rubio: “With the rights of parents and the safety of our nation’s daughters at risk, Congress must take action to prevent underage abortions by giving states the federal backing necessary to enforce their parental involvement laws. These laws allow teenagers to receive the advice and guidance of a loved one before undergoing a procedure for which they may not be medically or emotionally prepared. Under current law, minors are subject to the exploitation and safety risks that often come from an overzealous interstate abortion industry.”

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell: “Senator Rubio is a strong advocate on behalf of American families, and I am proud to join him and several of my colleagues in introducing this important legislation.  As parents, we are responsible for our children and parental involvement is almost always required before a child can receive medical treatment, and it should also be required when their minor daughter is taken across state lines for an abortion. I believe that every life has worth, and I will continue to push for legislation that protects innocent life.”

Senator Orrin Hatch: “Senator Rubio and I have brought this bill to the table again because the parents in this nation should be permitted to guide and help their children make decisions, particularly one as profound and life-changing as choosing to have an abortion.  We’ve taken into consideration appropriate exceptions and safeguards, and we feel that this is legislation the vast majority of Americans can agree on. This bill is a legitimate, constitutional way for Congress to address this issue and help protect children and support parents.”

Senator Roy Blunt: “I’m proud to support Senator Rubio’s important legislation, which will help protect America’s children and provide more consistency regarding critical parental notification nationwide. By empowering states to enforce their laws, this bill will rightly safeguard against children making a drastic and life-changing decision without their parents’ involvement.”

Senator John Boozman: “We need to promote an appreciation for the family and for all human life. As a father I understand the importance of being involved in the lives of teenagers. This legislation arms parents with the right to stop teen abortions.  Parents need to do what is best for their children and they need to be aware of decisions they make.”

Senator Richard Burr: “I am proud to support this common sense bill which protects the rights of parents to be informed and involved in the serious life and death decisions involving their child.”

Senator Saxby Chambliss: “As a pro-life American and a father, I believe parents have every right to be involved in the health and medical decisions of their minor children. I am pleased to join my colleagues in co-sponsoring this legislation.”

Senator Charles Grassley: “This initiative values the role of parents in our society, to guide and protect their children.  The legislation is needed to support state notification laws and to prevent individuals from circumventing them, so that parents have a say in medical decisions for their children.”

Senator James Inhofe: “It is important that the Senate act to protect the young women of our country and ensure parents are involved when their children are making decisions that can lead to serious health complications and regret later in life. I have long been a staunch supporter of family values and protecting the sanctity of life, and this bill takes a positive step in promoting both. I am proud to stand by Sen. Rubio and my fellow colleagues as we continue to implement pro-life legislation in the Senate.”

Senator Mike Johanns: “Abortions can have long-term physical and psychological repercussions. Parents need to be prepared to help their children and counsel them on alternative choices, instead of being kept in the dark until it is too late.”

Senator Jim Risch: “I am pro-life and always have been.  CIANA ensures parents are involved when their child is seeking to undergo a medical procedure.  When schools can’t even give a student an aspirin without a parent’s permission, a doctor should never be allowed to perform an abortion on a minor child without at least notifying the parents.”

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the bill’s House sponsor added, “I’m pleased to have the support of my Congressional colleagues in re-introducing this commonsense legislation. This bill will protect parents’ rights to be involved in decisions relating to their minor children. There are many health and safety risks associated with abortions and it is our duty to protect minors from exploitation from the abortion industry. This bill is the right step in protecting parental rights and ensuring that young girls have a safer, healthier, and brighter future.”

Display of Ten Commandments Upheld by Federal Court

Gainesville, FL – A federal district court has dismissed the ACLU’s six-year-old challenge against a Ten Commandments monument in Dixie County, Florida. As part of the court-ordered dismissal, the ACLU will now have to pay court costs caused by its failed lawsuit.

The controversy began in late 2006, when a private citizen was granted permission to place a privately owned, six-ton monument of the Ten Commandments atop the Dixie County Courthouse steps, pursuant to a policy that allowed similar expression by all citizens. The ACLU filed a lawsuit claiming that the monument was unconstitutional because it offended “John Doe,” an anonymous 75-year-old ACLU member from North Carolina. Liberty Counsel defended the county and challenged the ACLU’s standing to bring suit on behalf of a member who lives hundreds of miles away. Initially, however, the district court held that the ACLU had standing, and ordered the removal of the monument.

Liberty Counsel quickly appealed that decision to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. In August 2012, that court reversed, finding John Doe’s testimony and his asserted intention of someday buying property in Dixie County not credible. The appellate court remanded the case back to the district court to resolve various unexplained inconsistencies in John Doe’s testimony.

Back before the district court, the ACLU vigorously opposed Liberty Counsel’s efforts to take John Doe’s deposition, but the court ordered John Doe to be deposed so that he could account for the inconsistencies in his prior testimony. Rather than provide that explanation, the ACLU has now admitted that John Doe does not plan to buy property in Dixie County and that, therefore, the ACLU lacks standing. The court has entered a final dismissal. The ACLU will have to pay Liberty Counsel $1,300.00 for court costs, on top of more than $2,300.00 it was forced to pay after the appeal.

The private Ten Commandments monument will remain undisturbed.

Liberty Counsel Senior Litigation Counsel Harry Mihet said, “The ACLU got caught with its hands in the constitutional cookie jar. Its prolonged campaign against the good citizens of Dixie County has come to a screeching halt. In getting kicked out of court, the ACLU has learned that it cannot impose its San Francisco values upon a small town in Florida, using a phantom member from North Carolina.”

ABOUT LIBERTY COUNSEL:

Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.

Recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) organization, Liberty Counsel is funded by tax-deductible donations from concerned individuals, churches and organizations.

Abner (Abbie) Schoenwetter: Poster boy for Florida’s American Law for American Courts Bill

For several years the Florida legislature has considered a bill titled American Law for American Courts (ALAC). ALAC was crafted to protect American citizens’ constitutional rights against the infiltration and incursion of foreign laws and foreign legal doctrines into American courts, including Islamic Shariah Law.

On February 7, 2013 the Florida House Civil Justice Subcommittee voted on HB 351 – Application of Foreign Law in Certain Cases. Florida House Civil Justice Subcommittee voted 9-4 to approve bill which prohibits courts from considering certain provisions of international law.

While many focus on the issue of Shariah law, there is the case of a Florida businessman named Abner (Abbie) Schoenwetter who is the poster boy for why HB 351 needs to become Florida law. In August of 2011 Brian Walsh from the Heritage Foundation reported on Abbie’s case.  Abbie was charged, convicted and sent to prison by federal prosecutors because he used plastic instead of cardboard to ship lobsters, which violated a Honduran regulation.

Walsh reported:

[S]uppose you were a small-business owner, and for twelve years both U.S. Customs and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had been inspecting the shipments of seafood you were importing to sell to U.S. restaurant distributors.  Suppose that for the entirety of those twelve years you had always packaged your shipments using plastic bags rather than cardboard boxes.  Suppose that there is no U.S. law requiring you to use anything other than plastic.

It would never occur to you that you might be charged with a federal crime and sentenced to over 8 years in federal prison because a third federal agency, the National Marine Fishery Service, decided that you had violated another nation’s obscure–and invalid–regulation requiring cardboard rather than plastic.

As chronicled by this Heritage Foundation video, that is exactly what happened to Abner (Abbie) Schoenwetter.  Abbie had no criminal record whatsoever.  No one alleged that he was smuggling drugs or weapons.  He was not cheating on his taxes.  No one alleged that he used or even threatened violence.

Abbie spent six and one half years in confinement and is now under the supervision of a parole officer for three years.

VIDEO: THE QUAD the conservative news show for high school and college students launched

Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA

Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA, who is only 18 years old is the new leader of the conservative youth movement. He is challenging the Liberal and Progressive hold on our youth. His charisma, his intelligence, and his amazing understanding as to how to reach the youth of the country with the conservative message is something to behold.

Turning Point USA is a student run 501 C4 Non-Profit educational group, dedicated towards educating the youth about the realities of generational theft, and educating students across the country about fiscal responsibility living within ones means, and government transparency.

An email announcing the launch of THE QUAD Kirk states, “This is a weekly program that I feel will become very popular on YouTube.”

Watch the inaugural episode of THE QUAD:

Read Kirk’s column titled “How College is Harming American Entrepreneurship: A 19 Year Old’s View of Today’s “Bumper Bowling Generation“.

RUBIO’S REPUBLICAN ADDRESS TO THE NATION

Republican Address To The Nation

Remarks As Prepared For Delivery

Senator Marco Rubio

February 12, 2013

ENGLISH REMARKS AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY

Good evening. I’m Marco Rubio. I’m blessed to represent Florida in the United States Senate. Let me begin by congratulating President Obama on the start of his second term. Tonight, I have the honor of responding to his State of the Union address on behalf of my fellow Republicans.  And I am especially honored to be addressing our brave men and women serving in the armed forces and in diplomatic posts around the world. You may be thousands of miles away, but you are always in our prayers.

The State of the Union address is always a reminder of how unique America is. For much of human history, most people were trapped in stagnant societies, where a tiny minority always stayed on top, and no one else even had a chance.

But America is exceptional because we believe that every life, at every stage, is precious, and that everyone everywhere has a God-given right to go as far as their talents and hard work will take them.

Like most Americans, for me this ideal is personal. My parents immigrated here in pursuit of the opportunity to improve their life and give their children the chance at an even better one. They made it to the middle class, my dad working as a bartender and my mother as a cashier and a maid. I didn’t inherit any money from them. But I inherited something far better – the real opportunity to accomplish my dreams.

This opportunity – to make it to the middle class or beyond no matter where you start out in life – it isn’t bestowed on us from Washington.  It comes from a vibrant free economy where people can risk their own money to open a business. And when they succeed, they hire more people, who in turn invest or spend the money they make, helping others start a business and create jobs.

Presidents in both parties – from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan – have known that our free enterprise economy is the source of our middle class prosperity.

But President Obama?  He believes it’s the cause of our problems.  That the economic downturn happened because our government didn’t tax enough, spend enough and control enough. And, therefore, as you heard tonight, his solution to virtually every problem we face is for Washington to tax more, borrow more and spend more.

This idea – that our problems were caused by a government that was too small – it’s just not true. In fact, a major cause of our recent downturn was a housing crisis created by reckless government policies.

And the idea that more taxes and more government spending is the best way to help hardworking middle class taxpayers – that’s an old idea that’s failed every time it’s been tried.

More government isn’t going to help you get ahead.  It’s going to hold you back.

More government isn’t going to create more opportunities.  It’s going to limit them.

And more government isn’t going to inspire new ideas, new businesses and new private sector jobs.  It’s going to create uncertainty.

Because more government breeds complicated rules and laws that a small business can’t afford to follow.

Because more government raises taxes on employers who then pass the costs on to their employees through fewer hours, lower pay and even layoffs.

And because many government programs that claim to help the middle class, often end up hurting them instead.

For example, Obamacare was supposed to help middle class Americans afford health insurance.  But now, some people are losing the health insurance they were happy with.  And because Obamacare created expensive requirements for companies with more than 50 employees, now many of these businesses aren’t hiring.  Not only that; they’re being forced to lay people off and switch from full-time employees to part-time workers.

Now does this mean there’s no role for government?  Of course not.  It plays a crucial part in keeping us safe, enforcing rules, and providing some security against the risks of modern life. But government’s role is wisely limited by the Constitution. And it can’t play its essential role when it ignores those limits.

There are valid reasons to be concerned about the President’s plan to grow our government. But any time anyone opposes the President’s agenda, he and his allies usually respond by falsely attacking their motives.

When we point out that no matter how many job-killing laws we pass, our government can’t control the weather – he accuses us of wanting dirty water and dirty air.

When we suggest we strengthen our safety net programs by giving states more flexibility to manage them – he accuses us of wanting to leave the elderly and disabled to fend for themselves.

And tonight, he even criticized us for refusing to raise taxes to delay military cuts – cuts that were his idea in the first place.

But his favorite attack of all is that those who don’t agree with him – they only care about rich people.

Mr. President, I still live in the same working class neighborhood I grew up in. My neighbors aren’t millionaires. They’re retirees who depend on Social Security and Medicare. They’re workers who have to get up early tomorrow morning and go to work to pay the bills. They’re immigrants, who came here because they were stuck in poverty in countries where the government dominated the economy.

The tax increases and the deficit spending you propose will hurt middle class families. It will cost them their raises. It will cost them their benefits. It may even cost some of them their jobs.

And it will hurt seniors because it does nothing to save Medicare and Social Security.

So Mr. President, I don’t oppose your plans because I want to protect the rich. I oppose your plans because I want to protect my neighbors.

Hard-working middle class Americans who don’t need us to come up with a plan to grow the government. They want a plan to grow the middle class.

Economic growth is the best way to help the middle class.  Unfortunately, our economy actually shrank during the last three months of 2012.

But if we can get the economy to grow at just 4 percent a year, it would create millions of middle class jobs. And it could reduce our deficits by almost $4 trillion dollars over the next decade.

Tax increases can’t do this. Raising taxes won’t create private sector jobs. And there’s no realistic tax increase that could lower our deficits by almost $4 trillion. That’s why I hope the President will abandon his obsession with raising taxes and instead work with us to achieve real growth in our economy.

One of the best ways to encourage growth is through our energy industry. Of course solar and wind energy should be a part of our energy portfolio. But God also blessed America with abundant coal, oil and natural gas. Instead of wasting more taxpayer money on so-called “clean energy” companies like Solyndra, let’s open up more federal lands for safe and responsible exploration. And let’s reform our energy regulations so that they’re reasonable and based on common sense. If we can grow our energy industry, it will make us energy independent, it will create middle class jobs and it will help bring manufacturing back from places like China.

Simplifying our tax code will also help the middle class, because it will make it easier for small businesses to hire and grow.

And we agree with the President that we should lower our corporate tax rate, which is one of the highest in the world, so that companies will start bringing their money and their jobs back here from overseas.

We can also help our economy grow if we have a legal immigration system that allows us to attract and assimilate the world’s best and brightest. We need a responsible, permanent solution to the problem of those who are here illegally. But first, we must follow through on the broken promises of the past to secure our borders and enforce our laws.

Helping the middle class grow will also require an education system that gives people the skills today’s jobs entail and the knowledge that tomorrow’s world will require.

We need to incentivise local school districts to offer more advanced placement courses and more vocational and career training.

We need to give all parents, especially the parents of children with special needs, the opportunity to send their children to the school of their choice.

And because tuition costs have grown so fast, we need to change the way we pay for higher education.

I believe in federal financial aid. I couldn’t have gone to college without it. But it’s not just about spending more money on these programs; it’s also about strengthening and modernizing them.

A 21st century workforce should not be forced to accept 20th century education solutions. Today’s students aren’t only 18 year olds.  They’re returning veterans. They’re single parents who decide to get the education they need to earn a decent wage. And they’re workers who have lost jobs that are never coming back and need to be retrained.

We need student aid that does not discriminate against programs that non-traditional students rely on – like online courses, or degree programs that give you credit for work experience.

When I finished school, I owed over 100,000 dollars in student loans, a debt I paid off just a few months ago. Today, many graduates face massive student debt. We must give students more information on the costs and benefits of the student loans they’re taking out.

All these measures are key to helping the economy grow. But we won’t be able to sustain a vibrant middle class unless we solve our debt problem.

Every dollar our government borrows is money that isn’t being invested to create jobs. And the uncertainty created by the debt is one reason why many businesses aren’t hiring.

The President loves to blame the debt on President Bush. But President Obama created more debt in four years than his predecessor did in eight.

The real cause of our debt is that our government has been spending 1 trillion dollars more than it takes in every year. That’s why we need a balanced budget amendment.

The biggest obstacles to balancing the budget are programs where spending is already locked in. One of these programs, Medicare, is especially important to me. It provided my father the care he needed to battle cancer and ultimately die with dignity. And it pays for the care my mother receives now.

I would never support any changes to Medicare that would hurt seniors like my mother. But anyone who is in favor of leaving Medicare exactly the way it is right now, is in favor of bankrupting it.

Republicans have offered a detailed and credible plan that helps save Medicare without hurting today’s retirees. Instead of playing politics with Medicare, when is the President going to offer his plan to save it? Tonight would have been a good time for him to do it.

Of course, we face other challenges as well. We were all heart broken by the recent tragedy in Connecticut. We must effectively deal with the rise of violence in our country. But unconstitutionally undermining the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans is not the way to do it.

On foreign policy, America continues to be indispensable to the goal of global liberty, prosperity and safeguarding human rights. The world is a better place when America is the strongest nation on earth. But we can’t remain powerful if we don’t have an economy that can afford it.

In the short time I’ve been here in Washington, nothing has frustrated me more than false choices like the ones the President laid out tonight.

The choice isn’t just between big government or big business. What we need is an accountable, efficient and effective government that allows small and new businesses to create middle class jobs.

We don’t have to raise taxes to avoid the President’s devastating cuts to our military. Republicans have passed a plan that replaces these cuts with responsible spending reforms.

In order to balance our budget, the choice doesn’t have to be either higher taxes or dramatic benefit cuts for those in need.  Instead we should grow our economy so that we create new taxpayers, not new taxes, and so our government can afford to help those who truly cannot help themselves.

And the truth is every problem can’t be solved by government. Many are caused by the moral breakdown in our society. And the answers to those challenges lie primarily in our families and our faiths, not our politicians.

Despite our differences, I know that both Republicans and Democrats love America. I pray we can come together to solve our problems, because the choices before us could not be more important.

If we can get our economy healthy again, our children will be the most prosperous Americans ever.

And if we do not, we will forever be known as the generation responsible for America’s decline.

At a time when one showdown after another ends in short-term deals that do little or nothing about our real problems, some are starting to believe that our government leaders just can’t or won’t make the right choices anymore.

But our strength has never come from the White House or the Capitol.  It’s always come from our people. A people united by the American idea that, if you have a dream and you are willing to work hard, nothing should be impossible.

Americans have always celebrated and been inspired by those who succeed. But it’s the dreams of those who are still trying to make it that sets our nation apart.

Tonight, all across this land, parents will hold their newborn children in their arms for the first time. For many of these parents, life has not gone the way they had planned.

Maybe they were born into circumstances they’ve found difficult to escape. Maybe they’ve made some mistakes along the way. Maybe they’re young mothers, all alone, the father of their child long gone.

But tonight, when they look into the eyes of their child for the first time, their lives will change forever. Because in those eyes, they will see what my parents saw in me, and what your parents saw in you. They will see all the hopes and dreams they once had for themselves.

This dream – of a better life for their children – it’s the hope of parents everywhere. Politicians here and throughout the world have long promised that more government can make those dreams come true.

But we Americans have always known better. From our earliest days, we embraced economic liberty instead. And because we did, America remains one of the few places on earth where dreams like these even have a chance.

Each time our nation has faced great challenges, what has kept us together was our shared hope for a better life.

Now, let that hope bring us together again.  To solve the challenges of our time and write the next chapter in the amazing story of the greatest nation man has ever known.

Thank you for listening.  May God bless all of you. May God bless our President. And may God continue to bless the United States of America.

SPANISH REMARKS AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY

Buenas noches. Soy Marco Rubio. Me siento bendecido por servir al estado de la Florida en el Senado de los Estados Unidos. Quiero felicitar al presidente Obama por el comienzo de su segundo mandato.  Esta noche, tengo el honor de responder a su discurso sobre el Estado de la Unión en nombre de mis colegas republicanos. Me siento especialmente honrado de estar dirigiéndome a nuestros valientes hombres y mujeres que prestan servicio en las fuerzas armadas y en cargos diplomáticos alrededor del mundo. Aunque están lejos de nosotros, siempre están en nuestras oraciones.

El discurso sobre el Estado de la Unión siempre es un buen recordatorio de que lo que tenemos aquí en los Estados Unidos es especial. Durante casi toda la historia, la gente ha estado atrapada en sociedades estancadas, donde la misma gente siempre se mantiene en la cima y todos los demás nunca tuvieron una oportunidad.

Pero los Estados Unidos es excepcional porque, aquí, creemos que cada ser humano, en cada una de sus etapas, es preciosa, y que todo ser humano tiene un derecho dado por Dios a llegar tan lejos como sus talentos y trabajo les permitan.

Como para la mayoría de los estadounidenses, este ideal es personal. Mis padres emigraron aquí en búsqueda de oportunidad para mejorar sus vidas y ofrecer a sus hijos la posibilidad de una vida mejor.  Ellos lograron ser parte de la clase media, mi padre trabajando de barman y mi madre de cajera y camarera. Yo no heredé dinero de ellos. Pero heredé algo aún mejor – la oportunidad de hacer realidad mis sueños.

Esta no es sólo mi historia. Aunque los detalles son diferentes para cada persona, cada estadounidense también tiene una historia especial.  Esta es la increíble historia de los Estados Unidos.

Esta oportunidad – de ser parte de la clase media o más, sin importar donde se inició uno en la vida – no provino del gobierno. Se trata de una economía vibrante en la que la gente arriesga su propio dinero para abrir negocios. Y cuando tienen éxito, emplean a más personas, que a su vez invierten o gastan su dinero, ayudando a otros a iniciar un negocio y crear puestos de trabajo.

Presidentes en ambos partidos – desde John F. Kennedy a Ronald Reagan – han reconocido que nuestra economía de libre empresa ha sido la fuente de prosperidad para nuestra clase media.

Pero el presidente Obama cree que es la causa de nuestros problemas. Él cree que nuestra crisis económica sucedió porque nuestro gobierno no cobró más impuestos, no gastó más ni controló más. Y, como lo escucharon esta noche, su solución es darle al gobierno más dinero para gastar.

Esta idea – que el gobierno siendo demasiado pequeño es lo que creó nuestros problemas – no es cierta. De hecho, la causa de nuestros recientes problemas fue una crisis de vivienda creada por las políticas irresponsables del gobierno.

Y, la idea de que un gobierno que gaste más es la mejor forma de ayudar a la clase media es una idea que ha fracasado siempre que se ha implementado.

Más gobierno no les ayudará a salir adelante.  Les mantendrá estancados.

Más gobierno no les brindará más oportunidades.  Les limitará.

Y más gobierno no inspirará nuevas ideas, nuevos negocios y nuevos puestos de trabajo en el sector privado.  Crea más incertidumbre.

Porque el gobierno crea reglas y leyes complicadas que un pequeño negocio no tiene el dinero para cumplir con ellas.

Porque le sube los impuestos a los dueños de empresas quienes después pasan el costo a sus empleados a través de menos horas de trabajo, salarios más bajos y la eliminación de puestos de trabajos.

Y es así como muchos programas del gobierno que se pronuncian a favor de la clase media, al fin los lastiman a ustedes.

Por ejemplo, el programa Obamacare estaba supuesto ayudar a las personas de clase media a obtener seguro médico.  Pero ahora, algunos están perdiendo sus planes de salud.  Y ya que Obamacare creó costosos requisitos para empresas con más de 50 empleado, ahora muchas de estas empresas no están empleando.  Y algunas incluso están despidiendo o reemplazando empleados de tiempo completo por trabajadores de tiempo parcial.

¿Ahora, esto significa que no hay un papel legítimo para el gobierno?  Claro que no.  Sí tiene un papel crucial en protegernos, hacer cumplir las reglas y ofrecernos cierta seguridad frente los riesgos de la vida moderna.  Pero ese papel lo limita nuestra Constitución.  Y nuestro gobierno no puede cumplir su papel esencial cuándo ignora esos límites.

Hay razones válidas para estar preocupados por el plan del presidente para crecer el gobierno.  Pero cuando algunos de nosotros cuestionamos la agenda del presidente, él y sus aliados usualmente responden atacando nuestros motivos.

Si se le señala que no importa cuántas leyes aprobamos, nuestro gobierno no puede cambiar el clima, se nos acusa de querer agua sucia y aire sucio.

Si sugerimos que debemos fortalecer nuestros programas de protección social, dándole más flexibilidad a los estados para manejarlos, él nos acusa de querer dejar a las personas mayores y discapacitadas para que se cuiden por sí mismas.

Y esta noche, él hasta nos criticó por negarnos a subir los impuestos para evitar recortes a nuestras fuerzas armadas – recortes que él mismo propuso, en primer lugar.

Pero su ataque favorito es que aquellos que no apoyan su agenda – sólo están preocupados por los ricos.

Señor Presidente, yo todavía vivo en el mismo vecindario de la clase trabajadora donde crecí. Mis vecinos no son millonarios. Son jubilados que dependen del Seguro Social y Medicare. Son trabajadores que tienen que levantarse temprano en la mañana e ir a trabajar para pagar las cuentas. Son inmigrantes que vinieron aquí porque estaban permanentemente sumidos en la pobreza en los países donde el gobierno dominaba la economía.

Los impuestos y gastos de déficit que usted desea le quitarán a los trabajadores de la clase media su aumento salarial, beneficios y tal vez incluso sus puestos de trabajo. Y lastimará a las personas mayores porque no hace nada para salvar a Medicare y el Seguro Social.

Entonces señor Presidente, no me opongo a sus planes porque quiero proteger a los ricos. Me opongo a sus planes, porque quiero proteger a mis vecinos.

Y personas como ellos que no necesitan un plan que haga crecer el gobierno. Ellos quieren un plan para hacer crecer nuestra clase media.

El crecimiento económico es la única forma legítima para ayudar a crecer la clase media. Desafortunadamente, nuestra economía se contrajo durante el último trimestre de 2012.

Pero si pudiéramos hacer que la economía creciera un 4 por ciento por año, se crearían millones de empleos para la clase media.  Y esto podría reducir nuestro déficit en casi 4 trillones de dólares durante la próxima década.

No hay ningún aumento de impuestos que pueda logar eso. Aumentando los impuestos no va a crear puestos de trabajo en el sector privado.  Y no existe un aumento de impuestos realista que pueda reducir nuestra deuda por casi 4 trillones de dólares.  Esa es la razón por la cual yo espero que el presidente abandone su obsesión de aumentar los impuestos y trabaje con nosotros para lograr este tipo de crecimiento real en nuestra economía.

Una de las maneras más rápidas en que podemos promover el crecimiento es a través de nuestra industria energética. La energía solar y del viento debe ser parte de nuestra estrategia.  Pero Dios ha bendecido a nuestro país con recursos naturales, incluso carbón, petróleo y gas natural. En vez de seguir desperdiciando el dinero del contribuyente en apoyar compañías en bancarrota como Solyndra, debemos abrir las tierras federales para explorar más energía en forma segura y responsable.  También debemos reformar las regulaciones para que sean razonables y basadas en el sentido común. Eso ayudará a crear mejores empleos para la clase media en la industria energética, y traerá de nuevo la producción industrial de lugares como la China.

Simplificando nuestro código tributario también ayudará a crear oportunidades para la clase media al hacerlo más sencillo para las pequeñas empresas que buscan contratar a nuevos empleados.

Y estamos de acuerdo con el presidente de que debemos reducir nuestros impuestos corporativos – que actualmente son entre los más altos del mundo – para que nuestras compañías tengan más incentivo para traer su dinero y puestos de trabajo aquí, desde el extranjero.

También podemos ayudar a que nuestra economía crezca si tenemos un sistema de inmigración legal que nos permita atraer a los mejores y más brillantes profesionales del mundo y asimilarlos a nuestra forma de vida. Necesitamos una solución responsable y permanente para el problema de los que están aquí ilegalmente. Pero primero tenemos que cumplir con las promesas del pasado, asegurar nuestras fronteras y aplicar nuestras leyes.

Más allá de estos temas, un sistema educativo que le dé a la gente las habilidades y conocimientos que necesitan para los trabajos de la clase media de hoy y mañana – es otra forma en que podemos fomentar el crecimiento de la clase media.

Necesitamos que los distritos escolares locales ofrezcan cursos de enseñanza más avanzados y con más formación profesional y entrenamiento para carreras.

Tenemos que ofrecer a todos los padres, especialmente a los padres de niños con necesidades especiales, la oportunidad de enviar a sus hijos a la escuela pública o privada de su elección.

Y porque la matrícula universitaria ha crecido tan rápidamente, tenemos que cambiar la forma en que pagamos la educación superior.

Yo apoyo la ayuda financiera federal.  Yo nunca habría podido ir a la universidad sin esta ayuda.  Pero la cuestión de estos programas no es sólo gastar más dinero; es de mejorarlos y modernizarlos.

La fuerza laboral de este siglo no debe aceptar las soluciones educativas del siglo pasado.  Los estudiantes de hoy no son sólo de 18 años de edad. Son los veteranos que regresan de la guerra. Son los padres solteros que deciden obtener la educación que necesitan para ganar un salario decente. Y son los trabajadores que han perdido los empleos que nunca volverán y necesitan ser re-entrenados.

Necesitamos ayuda estudiantil que no discrimine contra los programas de los que dependen los estudiantes de mayor edad – como cursos en el Internet, o programas que le dan crédito por experiencia laboral.

Cuando yo terminé mis estudios, debía más de cien mil dólares, una deuda que terminé de pagar hace apenas unos meses. Hoy, muchas personas enfrentan enormes deudas de préstamos estudiantiles.  Tenemos que encontrar una forma de dar a los estudiantes más información sobre los costos y beneficios de los préstamos estudiantiles que están pidiendo.

Todas estas medidas ayudarán a que crezca nuestra economía.  Pero no podremos sostener una clase media vibrante si no resolvemos nuestra deuda nacional.

Cada dólar que el gobierno toma prestado es dinero que no está creando puestos de trabajo al ser invertido en una empresa. Y la incertidumbre causada por la deuda es una razón por la cual muchas empresas no están contratando a nuevos empleados.

Al presidente le gusta echar la culpa sobre la deuda al presidente Bush.  Pero el presidente Obama creó más deuda en cuatro años que el presidente Bush creo en ocho.

La verdadera causa de nuestra deuda es que el gobierno ha estado gastando un trillón de dólares más de lo que recibe en impuestos cada año.  Por eso necesitamos una enmienda a la Constitución que requiere un presupuesto balanceado.

Y la gran parte de nuestra deuda se debe a programas con gastos controlados por la ley.  Uno de estos, Medicare, es especialmente importante para mí. Proporcionó a mi padre el cuidado que necesitaba para combatir el cáncer y en última instancia morir con dignidad. Y paga por el cuidado que mi madre recibe hoy día.

Yo nunca apoyaría ningún cambio a Medicare que haga daño a las personas mayores como mi madre que se encuentran actualmente en el programa. Porque cualquiera que esté a favor de dejar Medicare exactamente de la forma en la que está ahora, está a favor de su bancarrota.

Los republicanos ya hemos ofrecido un plan detallado y creíble que ayuda a salvar a Medicare sin afectar a los jubilados de hoy. ¿En vez de jugar juegos políticos con Medicare, cuándo el presidente va a ofrecer su plan para salvarlo?  Esta noche hubiera sido un buen momento para ofrecerlo.

Obviamente, enfrentamos otros retos. Todos sentimos el dolor tras la reciente tragedia en Connecticut.  Necesitamos lidiar con la violencia en nuestro país.  Pero disminuyendo los derechos constitucionales de los estadounidenses bajo la Segunda Enmienda no es la manera de hacerlo.

Y en el extranjero, los Estados Unidos sigue siendo indispensable para realizar las metas de libertad, paz, prosperidad y la protección de los derechos humanos. El mundo es más estable porque los Estados Unidos es el país más poderoso.  Pero no podemos seguir siendo la nación más poderosa, si no tenemos una economía sostenible.

En los dos años que yo he estado aquí en Washington, nada me ha frustrado más que el flujo constante de falsas opciones entre las que siempre se nos pide escoger – como las que el presidente presentó esta noche.

No tenemos que escoger entre un gobierno grande o las grandes empresas. En lugar de eso, necesitamos un gobierno limitado pero eficaz que permita a las pequeñas y nuevas empresas crear empleos para la clase media.

No tenemos que subir los impuestos para evitar los devastadores recortes a nuestras fuerzas armadas.  Los republicanos hemos aprobado un plan que reemplaza estos recortes con reformas responsables.

Para balancear nuestro presupuesto, no tenemos que escoger entre impuestos más altos o negarles a las personas la ayuda que necesitan del gobierno. En lugar de eso, vamos a permitir que la economía crezca para que estemos creando nuevos contribuyentes, en vez de nuevos impuestos, y para que nuestro gobierno pueda seguir ayudando a los que realmente necesitan ayuda.

Y la verdad es que todos nuestros problemas no pueden ser solucionados por el gobierno.  Muchos son causados por la descomposición moral en nuestra sociedad. Y las respuestas a estos desafíos se encuentran principalmente en nuestras familias y nuestras creencias, no en nuestros políticos.

A pesar de nuestras diferencias, yo se que ambos los republicanos y los demócratas aman a nuestro país.  Le pido a Dios que podamos unirnos a resolver nuestros problemas, porque las opciones ante nosotros tendrán un impacto profundo.

Si podemos hacer que nuestra economía crezca nuevamente, nuestros hijos serán como nunca los estadounidenses más prósperos. Y si no lo hacemos, entonces nosotros siempre seremos conocidos como la generación responsable por dejar caer en decadencia a los Estados Unidos.

En un momento cuando nuestra política ha venido convirtiéndose en un teatro, donde un enfrentamiento tras otro termina en operaciones a corto plazo que hacen poco o nada sobre nuestros verdaderos problemas, algunos creen que no somos capaces de tomar la decisión correcta.

Pero nuestra fortaleza nunca ha venido de la Casa Blanca o del Capitolio. Ha venido siempre de nuestro pueblo. Un pueblo unido por la idea americana de que, si uno tiene un sueño y está dispuesto a trabajar duro, nada debería ser imposible.

Aquí, celebramos a quienes tienen éxito. Pero siempre han sido los sueños de los que todavía están tratando de alcanzar el éxito que nos separa del resto del mundo.

Esta noche, en toda esta tierra, hay padres que abrazarán a su hijo recién nacido por primera vez. Para muchos de ellos, la vida no ha seguido el camino que habían planeado.

Quizás han nacido en circunstancias que han encontrado difícil de escapar. Quizás han cometido algunos errores en el camino. Quizás son madres jóvenes que están solas esta noche, porque el padre de su hijo se fue hace mucho tiempo.

Pero esta noche, cuando miren a los ojos de su hijo por primera vez, su vida cambiará para siempre. Porque en esos ojos verán lo que mis padres vieron en mí y lo que sus padres vieron en usted. Verán todas las esperanzas y sueños que alguna vez tuvieron para sí mismos.

Este sueño – de una vida mejor para sus hijos – es la esperanza de padres en todas partes. Muchos políticos aquí y en todo el mundo han hecho la promesa de que un gobierno más grande puede hacer realidad esos sueños.

Pero nosotros siempre hemos sabido mejor que esto. Desde nuestra fundación, hemos confiado en la libertad económica. Y por eso, éste es uno de los pocos lugares en el mundo donde estos sueños aún tienen la oportunidad de realizarse.

Cada vez que nuestra nación ha enfrentado grandes retos, nuestra esperanza de una vida mejor nos ha unido.

Ahora, dejemos que esa esperanza nos una nuevamente – para resolver los desafíos de nuestro tiempo y escribir el próximo capítulo de la increíble historia de la nación más grande que el hombre jamás ha conocido.

Gracias por escuchar.  Que Dios los bendiga a todos ustedes. Que Dios bendiga a nuestro Presidente. Y que Dios continúe bendiciendo a los Estados Unidos de América.

Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rand Paul (R-KY) will respond to the State of the Union speech

Earlier today, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) rehearsed the Republican Address to the Nation. Senator Rubio is set to deliver a live response from the Speaker’s conference room in the U.S. Capitol, immediately following the President’s State of the Union address. He will pre-record the same speech for Spanish-language networks earlier this evening. At the same time Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) will give the TEA Party Address to the Nation from the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Viewers will be able to watch Senator Paul’s speech live on the conservative website RedState.com.

Who will be the most watched: Marco or Rand?

Frank Hagler from Policy Mic reports:

For the third year in a row, two Republicans have been selected to give the GOP response to the SOTU address. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) will give the “official” GOP response and Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) will give the Tea Party Express response. This unusual practice started in 2011.

After the Tea Party helped usher in a Republican majority in the House of Representatives, they began exercising their power in the party. The Tea Party Express tapped Michele Bachmann to give a response that was televised to the nation. Tea Party Express Chairwoman Amy Kremer explained “The Republican Party doesn’t represent everybody in the Tea Party movement, and they certainly don’t speak for us.”

Scott Conroy from Real Clear Politics reports:

With Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul set to deliver the Tea Party’s third annual response to the State of the Union speech on Tuesday, the pressure is on for the group to prove its ongoing influence, particularly amid growing criticism from establishment Republicans who accuse it of promoting un-electable candidates at the larger GOP’s expense.

In an interview with RCP, Tea Party Express Chairwoman Amy Kremer acknowledged the moment’s significance.

“I really think it’s more important than ever for us to do it this year because there have been reports of the Tea Party’s demise, but we’re absolutely still here and focused and engaged,” Kremer said. “The Republican Party doesn’t represent everybody in the Tea Party movement, and they certainly don’t speak for us.”

The TEA Party is flexing its muscles with the creation of the TEA Party Community website. Launched on February 2, 2013 the site now has over 109,000 members.

The struggle within the Republican party pits the old guard lead by Karl Rove, against the conservative faction lead by Senator Paul, Michele Bachmann and others. It was the old guard that gave Florida the likes of former Governor Charlie Crist who won the state house as a Republican, lost the race as an Independent for the US Senate seat currently held by Rubio. It is expected that now Democrat Crist will run against incumbent Republican Governor Rick Scott in 2014.

Conroy notes, “Now, with Paul eager to rev up the Tea Party engine just as a new civil war against establishment Republicans appears on the horizon, the setting will look familiar.”

Perhaps now is the time for a civil war within the GOP?