IRS set off fireworks with fine on small business

By Michael Vass | July 4, 2015

Obamacare-Tax-Small-Business-Confusion
As the nation celebrates its birth, the IRS had already set off its own brand of fireworks 3 days earlier. Sadly for small business owners these fireworks will bring no smiles nor fond memories. While most may have not noticed it yet, potentially thousands of small businesses have already received an on-going daily fine that is growing at this moment.

In massively under reported news, the IRS has changed the rules, effective July 1, 2015, for health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs); employer reimbursements; and health flexible spending arrangements (health FSAs). These changes affect small and large business, with 2 employees or more. This is in direct opposition to the promise by President Obama and supporters of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) that businesses with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from Obamacare.

“It makes it somehow worse that this penalty is part of the IRS regulations under Obamacare. Obamacare itself—the many-headed hydra that Congress had to pass to see what was in it—doesn’t include it.” – Robert W. Wood, Forbes, July 2, 2015

Notice 2013-54 (issued September 2013, but initially delayed until July 1, 2015), from the IRS and does not appear in the Obamacare website or legislation, states that the above plans – often used by small businesses in lieu of healthcare plans – will receive a penalty of $100 per day per employee (up to $36,500 per employee a year, up to a maximum of $500,000). Thus a small florist, as an example, with 3 employees who receive employer reimbursement for health care, would be fined $109,500. This is in addition to regular business costs (like the salary for the employees, goods, rent, ect) and corporate taxes as normal. While not explicitly mentioned, standard IRS late payment fees would most assuredly apply.

Depending on the nature and size of the small business, the fine alone could quickly equal or exceed the operating revenues of the company. All because an employer that does not otherwise qualify for the Obamacare requirements will be punished for attempting to help employees pay for health insurance. According to the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) this would affect 1 in 7 small businesses that fall under the less than 50 employee exemption of Obamacare.

“Reimbursing employees for the cost of insurance or medical services is a way for small businesses to help their workers without the administrative headache of setting up a costly group plan. Most small employers don’t have HR departments or benefits specialists, so this is a simpler, easier way to help their employees.” – NFIB policy director Kevin Kuhlman

Currently there is a bill, issued June 25, 2015, by Rep. Charles Boustany Jr. of LA, that seeks to correct this situation. HR 2911 stated purpose is,

“To provide an exception from certain group health plan requirements to allow small businesses to use pre-tax dollars to assist employees in the purchase of policies in the individual health insurance market, and for other purposes.”

The likelihood of HR 2911 getting out of committee is 2% according to Govtrack. The chance of passage is 1% at this time. This is in part due to the fact that the Bill has the support of 1 additional member of Congress.

In the Senate, S 1697, was introduced by Sen. Charles Grassley on June 25, 2015. It also has the support of just 1 additional Senator. According to Govtrack it has a 3% chance of passing the Senate at this time.

Credit: St Louis Fed
Perhaps coincidentally, the number of self employed sharply reversed a 3 month growth in June. As reported by the BLS (and as seen as from the St. Louis Fed chart) 540,000 businesses ceased to exist. The trend has generally been negative since 2008, but the potential of small businesses being crushed by this daily fine from the IRS could cement an even greater downturn.

While the nation will enjoy fireworks today, the IRS will likely create political fireworks in the months to come as small business owners receive fines, and supporters of the Affordable Care Act come under fire to explain the logic behind the fine.

** For our readers in NY State – if you wish to ask your Senator where they stand on this issue, or if you are in the NY 22nd Congressional District, we have provided their contact information below:

Rep. Richard Hanna – http://hanna.house.gov/contact/

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand – http://www.gillibrand.senate.gov/contact/

Sen. Charles Schumer – http://www.schumer.senate.gov/contact/email-chuck

Rating 3.00 out of 5

5.3% unemployment for those that count

By Michael Vass | July 2, 2015

Once again the unemployment rate has decreased as announced July 2, 2015, and the Obama Administration will take a bow. At a rate of 5.3% unemployment, the nation has returned to a level that has not been seen since 2008 well before the sub-prime mortgage crisis. For those only looking at the headlines the trend of good news is continuing. But for anyone taking an even cursory look at anything beyond the headlines will find far darker news has yet to abate.

While the oft quote U-3 adjusted rate is the figure most are aware of, it is not the only figure used. Seen as a more accurate depiction of real struggled of the public as a whole, the less mentioned U-6 factors in those forced to work part-time because they can’t get a full-time job and those marginally attached to the workforce. The U-6 sits at 10.5%, which is down from May at 10.8% and a significant improvement from a year ago at 12%.

Credit: St Louis Fed

Of course another critical part of the true economic health of the nation is the participation rate. That is the number of Americans working out of the total that are available for work. For June that figure is 62.6%, down from 62.9% in May and lower than the 62.8% from a year ago. The new low in participation matches the weakness last seen in October 1977. The national unemployment rate in October 1977 was 6.8%, as the Vietnam War had ended just 2 years prior, the Civil Rights Movement was still fresh in the minds of the nation, as was the introduction of women in the workforce in greater and growing numbers.

Comparisons to 38 years ago are difficult. The nation was smaller, less diversified, and far more manufacturing based. America was recovering from an unpopular and largely unsuccessful war, oil shortages, and growing pains. The sting of President Nixon resigning over Watergate was still fresh. Yet, the same percentage of people were working in that tumultuous time as there are today. A big similarity between the two times was that the nation was recovering and unemployment was decreasing. The big difference was that the participation rate was improving in 1977, while it has been steadily getting worse now.

Another factor that has been a constant for years is the number of people no longer looking for jobs, and not counted in the unemployment rate. For June 432,000 people just disappeared from the unemployment calculation. In fact the number of people not in the labor force has increased to 93.6 million people in June 2015. That’s up from 93 million in May and over 1.5 million people higher than June 2014.

Credit: St Louis Fed

Also a factor in the health of the nation, and rarely ever quoted, is the number of self-employed in the nation. As is agreed without argument, the engine of job creation and growth is small business. It can be said that the number of small businesses is an indicator of an economy that is expanding or contracting. The trend here is again a negative. While the 8.6 million self employed figure is marginally better than the 8.57 million of June 2014, it is a large drop from May with 9.14 million. in a month, roughly half a million small businesses ceased to exist, with jobs and potential jobs going with them.

Looked at from a total perspective, the national debt stands at $18.29 trillion, roughly 16 million people are out of work (according to U-6), the median income has increased $337 since 2000, and over 155 million people are receiving some form of Government aid. New business growth is at a relative standstill, and sharply down month to month. Fewer people are working, and the number not counted in unemployment figures continues to increase. The headline says things are improving, but the reality says the average American wont see it.

Rating 3.00 out of 5

Once again a casino is the hope for the Southern Tier of NY

By Michael Vass | July 2, 2015

gambling

In the back and forth battle to gain a casino in the Southern Tier of New York, a new salvo has been launched. A last minute offer to create a casino within the City of Binghamton was presented to a special meeting of the City Council on June 30, 2015. The City Council unanimously approved the deal.

The acceptance of the proposal by Albany-based project manager (for an undisclosed developer) Jeffrey Hyman, does not guarantee acceptance by the NY State Gaming Commission. The Commission has already once ignored the Southern Tier region, instead approving a casino in the Finger Lakes region in Lago, NY. Under a unified push by politicians in both the Republican held State Senate and the Democrat controlled State Assembly, Gov. Cuomo publicly requested that the Gaming Commission review applications from the Southern Tier once again. The deadline for those application is July 6, 2015.

Even with the unanimous decision by the City Council (comprised of 4 Democrats and 3 Republicans – all of which are up for (re-) election this year – but without Councilwoman Teri Rennia who was not at the meeting) and Mayor Rich David, the deal and the potential of a casino in Binghamton has not been met with universal cheer. Concerns about pollution remediation, the location – at the former Stow Manufacturing Company, and the lack of input by or access from the public due to the sudden nature of the proposal have come to the fore.

Mayor Rich David has enthusiastically address many of the concerns about the proposed casino,

“We’re talking about a significant amount of money when it comes to gaming revenue, when it comes to property taxes, when it comes to job creation, when it comes to an overall investment in the North Side of the City of Binghamton and all the ancillary economic development opportunities that will spin off of this catalytic project.”

But the question of revenues remains unclear. As of July 1, 2015, the cost of the project and the source of the funding were not divulged by Mr. Hyman when asked by the news media. Further, the 4.6% of gaming revenue (as of July 2014), from Lotto and other sources, has yet to lower taxes nor improve the State deficit – calling into question the claims made by Mayor David. In addition, the July 2014 downgrade of credit rating by Moody’s for Atlantic City indicates the pressure that multiple casinos in several states has had on the industry. The 10.5% unemployment rate for Atlantic City also underscores the lack of confidence some have towards the promise of job creation (Atlantic City has 10 casinos in operation over 20 years and approximately 7,000 fewer people than Binghamton, NY).

Some answers will undoubtedly be resolved by Monday, with the submission of the casino application. Still that will not resolve the lingering questions, nor guarantee they hype, surrounding this last minute move. Perhaps the biggest gamble, ultimately, will be if a casino in Binghamton, NY will be able to increase revenues and create jobs or drain the surrounding area of the dwindling discretionary funds available.

** Update – Late on July 5, 2015, reports emerged that Jeffery Hyman has backed out of the bid to create a casino in Downtown Binghamton. Mr. Hyman attributes this to the loss of investors after publication by NY State of Environmental Zone maps that do not include the Stow manufacturing site. The proposed casino had already passed in 2 special meetings of the Binghamton City Council. Both meetings had left many details unaccounted for and questions unanswered.

Rating 3.00 out of 5

The Due Process Clause case that America missed

By Michael Vass | June 30, 2015

denied visa

In a move that could have taken the steam out of some of the celebration from last week’s Supreme Court decisions on gay marriage and Obamacare (had the cases been decided in a different order), on June 20, 2015 a decision was reached that affects aspects of immigration. While not a landmark case, the precedent does set the standard on if due process applies in some immigration cases.

Without fanfare the Court’s action addressed the due process clause. The underlying case was Kerry v. Din. In question was the right of an American spouse (Mrs. Din) to sue for their foreign national spouse (Mr. Berashk ) in regard to denial of an immigration visa request (due to terrorist activity). In essence, does a foreign national seeking to legally emigrate to the US gain the protections of due process, as an extended right of marriage to a citizen?

The position of the ACLU, National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), and several other organizations aserted that under the 1st Amendment there is a right for spouses to be connected on US soil.

“… respondent has a constitutionally protected interest in seeking unification with her spouse in this country.” – Amicus Brief - NIJC

” …the government’s exclusion of foreign citizens from the United States can implicate the First Amendment rights of U.S. citizens…” – Amicus Brief - ACLU

This opinion was supported by 4 of the Supreme Court Justices (Kagan, Ginsberg, Sotamayor and Breyer) who would later further extend the Due process Clause. It was under this Clause that the Court ruled to create a federal right to gay marriage, a process by which many feel violates the 10th Amendment. These Justices felt that due process was needed, for the foreign spouse of a citizen.

“… Court has long recognized, the institution of marriage, which encompasses the right of spouses to live together and to raise a family…” – Dissenting opinion pg 2 (document page 25)

But the counter to this argument, held by the majority of the Justices, is that an “unadmitted and nonresident alien” – the spouse of Mrs. Din – does not have an uncontested right to enter the country nor the right to sue the case. The key being that Mrs. Din is claiming her rights were violated by an action against another person, in this case her husband. The majority believes no such right exists in the Constitution.

“Although the amount and quality of process that …under the Clause has changed considerably since the founding, … it remains the case that no process is due if one is not deprived of “life, liberty, or property”… Only by diluting the meaning of a fundamental liberty interest and jettisoning our established jurisprudence could we conclude that the denial of Berashk’s visa application implicates any of Din’s fundamental liberty interests.” – Majority opinion pg 3, 11 (document page 5, 13)

As a result the Supreme Court let stand the previous ruling, without taking up the case. In doing so, a clear separation of the rights of citizens, and aliens within the US borders, are clearly separated. After expanding due process, the Court in this case, noted a limit to that expansion.

That limitation was taken poorly by some. For those still rejoicing on the gay marriage issue, it was an opportunity to attack Justice Scalia once again. For the more extreme it was a call to arms on the “global offensive against the basic right of citizenship.” And for the LA Times t was an opportunity to twist the ruling into a Women’s Rights issue (as the headline infers) as well as an immigration issue,

“Yet four dissenting justices bashed the majority ruling, saying that Din and Berashk were the victims of an arbitrary and obtuse legal system.”

One thing is very clear, regardless of the passions of the Left, the Due Process Clause is not the catch-all quick fix to all the issues that liberals would like it to be.

Rating 3.00 out of 5

Seeking clarity from Rep. Richard Hanna

By Michael Vass | June 28, 2015

On June 16, 2015, we sent letters to Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, NY State Senator Joseph Griffo, Representative Richard Hanna, and Senator Charles Schumer. These letters, acknowledged as received, were in reference to the on-going investigation on the $5 million in tax dollars spent – and millions in proposed spending – for the unmanned aerial systems (drone) testing sites, with emphasis on the Griffiss International Airport site located in Rome, NY. These letters requested a response to the claims made by each elected politician on the benefit of jobs and tax revenue for New York State, made since 2013, based on the Drone testing site becoming operations – which was achieved in 2014.

Rep. Richard Hanna

As of this article, none of the politicians have responded to this request. Instead we have received a monthly newsletter from Representative Richard Hanna. This public newsletter was sent by the office of Rep. Hanna on June 28, 2015. In response we have sent the a followup letter to request again the response to our letter on June 16, 2015, as well as in regard to the following issues:

In the public news letter, Rep. Hanna states in part,

“Affordable Care Act (Ruling on Thursday): I respect the Supreme Court, however, I am disappointed with today’s decision and maintain my opinion that the Affordable Care Act is deeply flawed.”

“Marriage equality (Ruling on Friday): While it is often difficult, democracy – and how it is defined – is not simply what we demand for ourselves but how and what we defend for others.”

In addition the newsletter provided a link to a monthly veteran’s update. The June update speaks to the Traveling Vietnam Memorial which will be in the 22nd Congressional district. The May spoke to the passage of the NDAA and support of veterans.

Our letter sent to Rep. Hanna on June 28, 2015 states,

    Representative Richard Hanna,

    I am contacting, both as a constituent and as a member of the press, in regard to 2 items. For full disclosure I note that you and your staff know me and are aware of my credentials – which have been acknowledged in the past.

    Therefore I ask first, why have neither you, nor your staff, responded to the request for an update and comment on the claims you made previously – and the tax dollars you have proposed to spend – on the unmanned aerial systems testing sites. This request was sent to you and your staff on June 16, 2015.

    Second, I ask, in reference to the public email you sent on June 28, 2015, the following:

    You note your displeasure with the Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare. But on multiple occasions in the past you have disputed the Republican Party position on the Affordable Care Act. You in fact voted to fund the ACA and opposed the shutdown of the Government to support Obamacare. Further, you have stated that in your support of 3 separate abortion Bills over the past 3 years, your reason was to provide women health care coverage, which is derived from Obamcare.

    Based on your past actions, your statement of displeasure with the Supreme Court ruling seems to be at odds. Can you clarify the discrepancy?

    In reference to the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, you note in the public mailing, that you state,

    “While it is often difficult, democracy – and how it is defined – is not simply what we demand for ourselves but how and what we defend for others.”

    Based on that statement, how do you resolve the apparent breach of the 10th Amendment, as noted by the dissenting Supreme Court Justice? Further, what is your position of the apparent application of the logic used to justify the gay marriage ruling to the 2nd Amendment – specifically in light of the NY SAFE Act and the 23 Executive Orders issued by President Obama?

    Lastly, Rep. Hanna, you link in that same public email to your monthly update on veterans site. Neither in the update site, nor found in searches, has there been any comment on the news that Veterans are waiting 50% longer than last year as the VA Scandal shocked the nation. What have you done to address veteran concerns that have increased wait times in New York State and across the country?

    We look forward to your response, and as always will publish your response verbatim and in full context. If you prefer, we are open to the opportunity to provide a video interview on these and other issues if you prefer.

    Sincerely

    Michael “Vass” Vasquez

We have provided this information as the public needs to be aware of what publicly elect officials are doing. In addition it is critical for the public to know the issues the news media are presenting to public officials and the response that is made (or avoided as the case may be).

Rating 3.00 out of 5

Commentary: It’s not the what but the how

By Michael Vass | June 27, 2015

Michael Vass Vasquez
In the past week there have been a series of events that have exemplified the status the nation has fallen into. This is not new, but it has been exasperated under the Obama Administration. That is, changes of law effected by means not intended or stated by the Constitution and laws of our nation resulting in the expansion of the power of the Government and a reduction in the freedoms of the people.

Because so many want to protect the vested interests they may have, I say again, this is not new. EVERY president has done this to some extent. This is not about if this is happening, but the speed and degree to which it is happening.

We have collectively seen that a faction within the Government, due to a temporary transition of power, act to achieve political goals a decade old – even as the consistent and overwhelming majority of the public objected. We have seen a President, acting unilaterally and in direct opposition (as opposed to in concert with) another faction in the Government, effectively create laws and enact restrictions on freedoms, based on his sole prerogative. We have seen the mass media enflame public outcry to effect a change in policy, without consult of the will of the public, to the detriment of at least a portion of the public. We have seen our top judicial system take action to preserve political goals under specious circumstances via logical fallacies. These are just the most popular actions that have occurred.

To be more specific, with the Affordable Care Act, a law passed via supermajority of one Party, the public has consistently objected to the law. It was admittedly not read by at least some of those entrusted with the responsibility to represent the people. It was admittedly vague, and we have learned since that it is massively flawed (requiring multiple corrections and delays in enacting its parts) as well as misrepresented. Yet it was upheld, twice, under rulings that call to question the very process of our legal system in the future.

With regard to gun restriction law and the 2nd Amendment, we have observed the very proponents of the changes admit their actions have no impact on public safety. Looking act factual data we have been shown that the Executive powers being brought to bear are misfocused and inappropriate to achieve the goals promised.

With regard to immigration, we have seen whole classes of people affected – which violated the terms and the spirit of the laws that govern the nation. These changes were not legislated nor brought to public debate. The power of the people was circumvented, again to promote an ideology held by a few and imposed on the mass.

With regard to Rights, we have seen a creation of a class of rights that for centuries prior never existed nor were ever considered. We have seen an interpretation of the Constitution that requires a willful and active misrepresentation of the words and meanings of our legal system. In fact, we have gone so far as to actively insert unwritten and unknowable intentions as the substitute for written law to allow for the political and economic end result preferred.

In each instance we have seen the Rights and Freedoms of the citizens reduced, enumerated, confined, and wholesale removed. The freedom of choice has been eliminated. The freedom to defend against enemies foreign and domestic has been enumerated and confined. The Right, through elected representation, to enact laws and to alter those laws, has been superseded. This has all been done in the name of the good of the people, without consideration of the will of the people – in fact without even providing the people the opportunity to reflect.

Let me be clear. The issue is not whether or not same-sex marriage exists. Whether this or that flag flies in this or that place is unimportant in the grand scheme. The issue is not that we all agree that health care should be reformed, as should immigration policy. The fact that all citizens wish to be safe from the potential dangers of the criminal and criminally insane as they promote violence is moot.

These are all the “what” of Government and law. What you change is secondary to “how” you change. Especially in a democratic republic where the ultimate power to change emanates and resides with the citizens. If the “how” is flawed, regardless of the outcome in the short-term, then the entirety of Government has been harmed and degraded. Inevitably these flaws will cause the cessation of the Government as it was intended and as it exists.

Our society has been molded and well trained to accept 30-second soundbites in place of substantive talk. We have been given the Pavlovian treatment, substituting entertainment and style at any point that an issue becomes more intense and complicated than a 2-day cycle in the news. It has come to the point that our rejection of anything political verges on the pathological. We, as a nation, have been lulled in to the belief that we have no impact as individuals and our voices (and votes) are merely services to be bought by the purchaser with the flashiest style and highest price.

Health care reform, by its nature and impact, requires a bi-partisan solution then encompasses the concerns of all Americans. Instead we have a shambled mess that fails at its primary mission of reducing cost, that has eliminated choices that millions preferred, and imposes requirements that baffle credible explanation (at least until modern science creates the means for men to carry babies). The cost has been the very real fact that the Government can now dictate what people can and cannot do, regardless of their liberty and pursuit of happiness.

Immigration reform, which has implication on a global scale, requires both enforcement of the law as it exists and a bi-partisan solution for what it can be. Instead the unilateral desires of a singular person, outside the rule of law, governs who can enter the nation and how the nation must embrace these people. Further it absolves the consequence of existing law, to the benefit of people beyond the scope of the nation. The cost is the subtle but credible power of the Executive to create law akin to the manner of King George III, who was the source of the nation itself via revolt.

Gay marriage, which at its core is a fight over the manner of thinking some would prefer, should have been a State by State action that could have become an Amendment. What it did become is a defined and deliberate statement of the Federal over the State (and therefore the people). Henceforth, the Federal has the power to create – and thus enumerate and limit – the Rights that citizens have. The sole determinator of what Rights exist lies in whichever political preference resides in the Executive with the possible counterbalance of the Judicial lest the Judicial has the desire to override. Written law is but a technicality.

Even legislation itself, the written and declared values of the nation and the means to limit chaos via regulation and punishment, has become arbitrary. We have instilled the intent of the framers of law, modified by the political and the economic. Regardless of the declared intent, without care for the definitive meaning, the arbitrary is the rule of law. That application of intent residing in powers separate and unequal to the public.

Yes, as individuals there is cheer. Minor victories have been won, changes have been made. But the manner in which each of these victories has occurred has long-term stripped the nation of its foundation. Some are gleeful, as 30-second soundbites promote headlines and avoid the substance of the consequences. As a nation we gained a cane as we lost a leg.

There is only one ultimate positive that a select portion of the nation can take solace in. The rapidly aging population will largely die before the probable worst ramifications of these acts of “how” come to fore. Generations raised on less and less freedom and Rights will never know what they have lost as they have never experienced it. The America in 50 years will not be a place that will resemble today – not because of technology or economics, but the loss of the intrinsic freedoms we have enthusiastically waived.

If the “what” of law is the body of the nation, the “how” is the soul. We are becoming a soulless nation as we seek, in each faction with more desperation as each change occurs, each “what” at any “how”.

Sincerely,

Michael “Vass” Vasquez

Rating 4.00 out of 5

The battle for the term gay marriage and SCOTUS

By Michael Vass | June 27, 2015

** Published by Michael “Vass” Vasquez at Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner.com on 6/26/15**

In the second landmark case in as many days the Supreme Court has once again taken a position that does not exist in the Constitution. Instead, in a 5-4 vote on June 26, 2015, the Court has decided to infer meanings that do not exist. Worse, the action taken directly tramples on the 10th Amendment in favor of a recent trend.

In looking at the issue of gay marriage, or same-sex marriage, the critical issue is to separate the emotion from the facts, the law from the desire for change. Said another way, the issue of same-sex marriage is not, and should not be confused with, the acceptance or denial of homosexual lifestyle. The issue of same-sex marriage is purely a question of legal standing in a contract recognized by the States. Any other aspect of the issue that is argued is in fact an attempt to change a mindset, which has no place in a contract dispute.

The legal construct of marriage, as authorized by a State (not the Federal Government), is “A contract made in due form of law, by which a free man and a free woman reciprocally engage to live with each other during their joint lives, in the union which ought to exist between husband and wife.” The purpose of a legal marriage is for the vesting and transfer of property; the authority over the spouse; authority over any offspring; entitlement to Social Security, retirement funds, and other assets of the spouse; and inheritance. These are legal issues, which have no exception for popularity, trends, or personal desires.

The religious construct of marriage is where most of the argument is being made. Traditionally, religious marriage is a union of a man and a woman, for the purpose of procreation, according to terms and values respective to that religion. Religious marriage conveys no legal standing, and in itself conveys none of the legal rights stated prior. It is the tradition, in the United States and globally, that a religious marriage is enacted at the same time (or within a time period normally connected to) a legal marriage contract.

If a change is made, separately, to either a legal marriage or a religious marriage, it has no impact or repercussion on the other. Thus in one State it may be legally possible to be married at the age of 14, another State at the age of 18, but in a religious marriage no age requirement may exist at all. The same can be said of the other contractual prerequisites to marriage, like a blood test or mental acuity.

A constant term that is used above is the word State. It means one of the 50 States of America. It does not mean the Federal Government. Only States may issue marriage contracts, and the terms of those contracts as well as the prerequisites of that contract, are in the domain of the States alone. Reciprocity allows a legal marriage of one State to be recognized in another, so long as the minimum legal requirements of that marriage contract are met – ie over the minimum age, mental acuity, ect.

Supreme Court Justice Kennedy - Credit: Wikipedia

This brings us to the Supreme Court and its decision. Supreme Court Justice Kennedy states, in the Majority opinion,

“Marriage is sacred to those who live by their religions and offers unique fulfillment to those who find meaning in the secular realm… As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves… Their stories reveal that they seek not to denigrate marriage but rather to live their lives, or honor their spouses’ memory, joined by its bond.” – pages 3, 4, 6  respective (pages 8,9,11  of the document)

As Justice Kennedy clearly denotes, the argument is not primarily a legal question that is being address but a social one. Love, disrespect, sacred, denigrate, these are not legal terms. You cannot legislate love, or what is sacred or disrespectful. To do so would violate the very core of the freedoms of the Constitution, both in its direct wording and the intent – under virtually ever interpretation made since its writing. Thus the argument should be outside the purview of the Supreme Court. It is a State issue, solidly confined to the trends, desires, and opinions of the people of each State, individually. Moreso, the very nature of the terms used to structure the argument – Love, sacred, et. al. – implies if not directly refers to religious marriage, which has no bearing nor legal status and is completely outside the power of the Government (Federal and State).

Therefore, it would be logical to extrapolate, if the core of the argument is without jurisdiction, all other branches and fruit of that argument are without jurisdiction. Yet, the majority of Justices of the Supreme Court have taken action. In doing so, not only has the Federal Government become a de facto agent of Church – in defiance of the separation of Church and State – it as also usurped the powers of the people as defined by the 10th Amendment.

Chief Justice Roberts

Chief Justice Roberts makes that point clear in his Dissenting opinion, and citing the direct intention of the framers of the Constitution (which has apparently become the guiding principle of the current Court),

“But this Court is not a legislature. Whether same-sex marriage is a good idea should be of no concern to us. Under the Constitution, judges have power to say what the law is, not what it should be. The people who ratified the Constitution authorized courts to exercise “neither force nor will but merely judgment.” The Federalist No. 78, p. 465″ – page 2 of the Roberts Dissenting opinion (page 41 of the document)

Justice Scalia went further in his own Dissenting opinion,

“Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court. The opinion in these cases is the furthest extension in fact—and the furthest extension one can even imagine—of the Court’s claimed power to create “liberties” that the Constitution and its Amendments neglect to mention… This practice of constitutional revision by an unelected committee of nine…robs the People of the most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves.” page 2 of the Scalia Dissent (page 70 of the document)

Justice Thomas also expands on the 10th Amendment in his Dissenting opinion,

“By straying from the text of the Constitution, substantive due process exalts judges at the expense of the People from whom they derive their authority… They ask nine judges on this Court to enshrine their definition of marriage in the Federal Constitution and thus put it beyond the reach of the normal democratic process for the entire Nation.” pages 2 & 3 of the Thomas Dissenting opinion (pages 78 & 79 of the document)

Finally Justice Alito, in his Dissenting opinion, added to the other dissenting voices, and expands to them,

“The question in these cases, however, is not what States should do about same-sex marriage but whether the Constitution answers that question for them. It does not. The Constitution leaves that question to be decided by the people of each State… Today’s decision usurps the constitutional right of the people to decide whether to keep or alter the traditional understanding of marriage. The decision will also have other important consequences.” – pages 1, 2, 6 of the Alito Dissenting opinion (pages 95, 96, 101 of the document)

Thus the question should not be whether 9 Justices of the Supreme Court believe or not if same-sex and/or gay marriage is a right or privilege or State issue. It is a clear defining point of the Constitution that the legal contract falls under the 10th Amendment, and the religious aspects are out of the jurisdiction of Government (at the Federal, State and local levels). Justice Alito is correct that consequence will arise from this decision. Judicial activism is a danger to the Rights and freedoms of this nation, and while some may cheer this singular decision, that same activism may well return in a later decision to enact a wrath upon those same citizens and the nation far worse than currently envisioned.

Rating 3.00 out of 5

Letter to the Editor: Call for public attention to Owego Village Trustee meeting

By Michael Vass | June 26, 2015

Owego Police Department insignia

By Theresa Gosart – Member of I Want My Owego Police Department (OPD).

In reference to the June 14, 2015 Board Meeting Summary:

It was brought to the Village Board to vote on moving the August start date of a new hire OPD Officer to June because of short staffing.

  • Trustee J. Ceccherelli voted yes
  • E. Hartman voted no citing even though the background checks had been done and approved since he had not personally reviewed them his vote was no.
  • M. Phelps voted no
  • R. Manville voted no
  • S. May agreed with E. Hartman and voted no
  • P. Morris voted yes
  • Mayor Kevin Millar voted yes

    Referring to E. Hartman’s and S. May basis for voting no, the background checks have been done, reviewed and is hired. This was a matter of moving up the start date not hiring. Which makes that argument of trustees personally reviewing the background check to move a start date an excuse and irrelevant.

    When it came to Trustee Reports Trustee Steve May had a presentation he brought to the Board. This presentation was nearly identical to the personal mailing card about our policing services mailed to select people in the village prior to election. The main changes were “supposed” results from that mailing and examples of other municipalities condensing services.
    He made a motion to send this presentation as is to all residents.

    Owego mailing
    This presentation once again had many noticeable errors and May refused to give a source of this information. The Mayor stated that the Village Public Safety Committee was supposed to work with the Tioga County Public Safety Committee and they haven’t. So where Steve May got any of the information in the presentation is still not clear.
    This raised a heated discussion. Trustee Morris and Mayor Millar raised issue with sending information to the public that has errors and not knowing if it was factual.

    Trustee Mike Phelps stated he had tried to help OPD all he could but is now done. (If you look through his voting record you will see he votes no to any votes that could improve OPD and their ability to serve the village better).

    Trustee Phoebe Morris made the point that trustees E.Hartman and S.Mays would not move up a start date for a hired officer because they had not seen the back ground checks personally however the same trustees would like everyone to put their name on this mailing without fact checking and taking their word for it? She stated for all we know these numbers came from only Steve May’s thoughts.

    Steve May at one point said himself and Robin Manville get attacked on the street because they haven’t gotten rid of OPD yet. Phoebe Morris countered saying many people have spoken to her and have shown great support for OPD.

    Trustee Mike Phelps stated we do not have a Police Force that is adequate to protect.

    After a while of back and for this topic was tabled to fix any errors in the mailing and fact check. It will be on the agenda next Village Board Meeting.

    A member of. I Want My OPD stood up for public comment stating she was shocked that the village would even consider sending a non factual biased opinion to the public. The survey mailing results are inaccurate as they were meant to be. As having two registered voters who have voted in prior village elections we didn’t receive a mailing most likely because those who strongly support OPD votes were not wanted. Also that the board sending this out is irresponsible and not professional behavior or a Village Board.

    Another resident stood up questioning the vote on moving the hire date for the new officer. Trustee Mike Phelps went back and forth with the resident for a few minutes.

    We are shocked by what we are seeing. It should be very clear to the residents that Trustee Steve May, Earl Hartman and Mike Phelps have a clear goal of sending false information out to the village public to mislead them only to hold a referendum to vote to dissolve OPD. They have been denying this goal for over a year and now have came out with it. We suggest all residents and supporters of OPD to attend this next Village Board meeting. No matter if you have a horse in this race deceptive actions are not acceptable from local government representatives.

    Sincerely

    Theresa Gosart

    Update – Chief Karen Vinti was unable to give a Dept report because she was working due to staff shortage. Thank you Chief Vinti for your hard work and dedication to our community.

    ** Note from Editor ** – The above referenced mailing card was the subject of the article Small town politics just as messy as all politics, written on March 11, 2015. That article included a quote from Mrs. Gosart. In addition it contained quotes from Owego Mayor Kevin Millar, and Lisa L. Curatolo of A Positive Change. Trustee Steven May has yet to respond to our request for comment on that article. ***

    Rating 3.00 out of 5
  • SCOTUS on Obmacare: Too big to fail

    By Michael Vass | June 26, 2015

    ** Originally written by Michael “Vass” Vasquez at Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner.com **

    Affordable Care Act

    In the most simple and common of language, the 6-3 decision of the Supreme Court in the case King. v. Burwell, has stated that for all intents and purposes Obamacare is too big to fail. It is a decision that is being decried by Conservatives, while being hailed by the Obama Administration. The impact of the decision may well have ramifications though that all Americans may well regret.

    The decision handed down on June 25, 2015, was the second time that Obamacare, passed by Congress in 2010 as the Affordable Care Act (ACA), had come before the Court. Since the inception of the ACA, it has been amended, altered, in part delayed and subject to numerous court cases. It has been called a tax and a boon. It infamously did not allow millions to keep the insurance or the doctor they had and wanted. Equally it has caused havoc with the tax returns of tens of thousands of Americans. All of which has been credited to the rushed nature of the writing and passage of the law.

    In June 2012, Supreme Court Chief Roberts made the deciding vote that Obamacare is not a tax on Americans. As such it is constitutional. The key to this determination being on the definition of “shall” and construing “penalty” to not indicate “as punishing unlawful conduct” (as stated on page 25 of the majority decision). This determination was highly controversial.

    Chief Justice Roberts

    In the majority opinion issued by Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts today, he noted that the wording used by Congress for the Affordable Care Act “contains more than a few examples of inartful drafting.” Chief Roberts went on state,

    “When analyzing an agency’s interpretation of a statute…we ask whether the statute is ambiguous and, if so, whether the agency’s interpretation is reasonable…The tax credits are among the Act’s key reforms…Whether those credits are available on Federal Exchanges is thus a question of deep “economic and political significance” that is central to this statutory scheme; had Congress wished to assign that question to an agency, it surely would have done so expressly… This is not a case for the IRS.” – page 8 of the Majority opinion (pg 13 of the document)

    In reading this section of the majority position the argument seems to be the dissenting position. It is stating that the key term in dispute “an Exchange established by the State”, which is central to the ACA, is neither ambiguous, nor was it the intent of the IRS to decide what is meant by that statement. The literal meaning removes the option of the Federal Exchanges from receiving the tax credit. But, it is the inclusion of “economic and political significance” that gives rise to a need to go further, according to Chief Roberts.

    “In other words, State Exchanges and Federal Exchanges are equivalent—they must meet the same requirements, perform the same functions, and serve the same purposes. Although State and Federal Exchanges are established by different sovereigns…A Federal Exchange therefore counts as “an Exchange” under Section 36B… If we give the phrase “the State that established the Exchange” its most natural meaning, there would be no “qualified individuals” on Federal Exchanges… These provisions suggest that the Act may not always use the phrase “established by the State” in its most natural sense. Thus, the meaning of that phrase may not be as clear as it appears when read out of context… All of the requirements that an Exchange must meet are in Section 18031, so it is sensible to regard all Exchanges as established under that provision.” – pages 10 – 12 of the Majority opinion (pages 15 – 17 of the document)

    Thus Chief Roberts provides an equivalence not found in the terms of the law, nor naturally found in the reading of the law. Instead he infers a meaning that is neither explicit nor necessarily implied. He then uses a syllogistic fallacy, apparently, to justify his logic. Essentially:

    • No State is the Federal Government
    • The Federal Government is like a State
    • Only States can have an Exchange
    • Therefore the Federal Government can have an Exchange

    The decision seems to rely, repeatedly, on the emphasis that Congress had an intention that it did not express due to inartful drafting but should be followed anyway. This of course flies in the face of the multiple and clearly stated speeches of Jonathan Gruber noting that it was the explicit intention of Democrats to exclude the Federal Government as a means to entice compliance by the States. While Jonathan Gruber was not facing the Supreme Court, the arbitrary assumption of what Congress meant was. Multiple people may interpret the actions of Congress in multiple ways, which may or may not be accurate. Thus the natural meaning is the meaning – except when billions of dollars and the political future of a Party are at risk apparently.

    It is to this point that the Dissenting opinion speaks. Justice Scalia, along with Justice Thomas and Justice Alito, make their position about as clear and concise as may ever be seen in a Supreme Court case,

    “Words no longer have meaning if an Exchange that is not established by a State is “established by the State”… Under all the usual rules of interpretation, in short, the Government should lose this case. But normal rules of interpretation seem always to yield to the overriding principle of the present Court: The Affordable Care Act must be saved.” – page 2 & 3 of the Dissent (pages 28 & 29 of document)

    Even with plainspoken and direct message of the minority opinion of the Supreme Court being stated, the fact remains that Obamacare has survived this court battle. But in following the slippery slope logic of the opinion of the majority of the Court, a question must be raised. If the intent of the Congress, or more specifically those framing and creating the law, is the meaning that must be accepted and acted on then how does this apply to the 2nd Amendment and the term

    “…the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

    The Founding Fathers intent was to prevent the newly formed nation from regressing into a sovereignty like that of England. They sought to provide the populace with the means to protect themselves and overthrow any government seeking to limit or restrict freedoms. Under the finding by Chief Justice Roberts, that intent alone provides the boundaries of the 2nd Amendment. Therefore the public should be free to own any firearm or weapon deemed necessary to defend themselves and overthrow a Government. Which would mean that the NY SAFE Act, the 23 Executive Orders on gun restriction by President Obama, and a host of other laws are defunct.

    We do not assume that is the purpose or intentional meaning of Chief Justice Roberts majority opinion. But it may be a consequence of that opinion. Application of rulings based on the “intent” of those who frame and legislate laws is a wild west zone of radical consequences and judicial activism. It is likely that this decision, and its consequences, will not end here.

    Rating 3.00 out of 5

    Iran nuclear deal potentially will do more harm than good

    By Michael Vass | June 26, 2015

    ** Originally written by Michael “Vass” Vasquez at Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner.com **

    Iran+Nuclear+deal

    As the unofficial deadline for the 6 nation nuclear arms deal approaches, the nature of the relationship between the US and Iran is become more confused. Complications in the talks are surfacing at the same time that US allies are becoming fearful of the potential outcome. Concurrently in Iraq, Iranian backed forces and US efforts are aligning, even as those same Iranian backed forces are aligning with the Assad military in Syria. In many ways, a modern soap opera is more direct to follow.

    In April 2015, the Obama Administration was pleased to announce that a deal to make a deal on Iran’s efforts to create nuclear weapons was finalized. Terms included the fact that Iran would be reduced to a mere 5000 centrifuges capable of producing weapons grade uranium. Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would be allowed to conduct inspections to confirm all development of a nuclear weapon had ceased. The biggest feather in the cap of Iran was the fact that sanctions would be lifted, freeing hundreds of millions of dollars for Iran. Another feather was that limiting long-range missile development, a crucial component in delivering any potential nuclear weapon, was abandoned in the talks.

    But almost immediately the hyped proposal was dealt serious blows. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif announced, on the same day that President Obama spoke, that Iran would continue to enrich uranium and that the sanctions would be lifted immediately rather than in the phased process promised by President Obama. Since that time Iran has consistently denied the terms to allow nuclear inspectors the right to speak with their scientists or inspect military instillations. By May of 2015 the issue of free reign to inspect had become a sticking point for France, one of the 6 nations involved in negotiations.

    As Iran continues to seem to dominate the nuclear talks, Middle East allies of the US are becoming concerned. Not only because the talks are empowering Iran, which neighbors find unsettling, but because the US appears more intent on garnering a deal for the Obama Administration’s place in history books than for a nuclear free Middle East.

    “They want to appease the Iranian regime. They’ve invested so much in this deal they want to do everything possible to get it done, even if it means turning their back on friends.” - Lebanese political leader Ahmad El Assaad, 6/22/15

    Adding to the confusion is how the US is acting to a far more aggressive Iran. When the Iranian Navy forcibly seized the Marshal Islands (a country that has a treaty with the US for protection) ship Maersk Kensington,in May 2015, the reaction by the US was credibly seen as a reluctance to take action lest the nuclear deal could be affected. In Yemen, the US is helping Saudi air forces in combating Iran-backed Houthi rebels. But in Iraq, at the Taqqadum military base, the US is sharing the based with Iran back militias that previously have fought, and killed, American troops at that base. Some of the militias are actively spying on US operations, according to U.S. intelligence community, causing fear of a future conflicts – even as some of the hard-line militias sit in on U.S. military briefings.

    “It’s an insult to the families of the American soldiers that were wounded and killed in battles in which the Shia militias were the enemy. Now, providing arms to them and supporting them, it’s very hard for those families to understand.” - Senator John McCain, 6/22/15

    Of course if there weren’t enough moving pieces already, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei threw in one more item that is mucking up the works. A fatwa by Khamenei stated that developing or using nuclear weapons is against Islam. While a beneficial statement on the surface, as understood by the Obama Administration, it in fact means that the requirement of the nuclear deal that Iran provide all past material on its nuclear research cannot be attained. Iran cannot admit its internationally know work on developing a nuclear weapon and violate the fatwa. A situation that caused Israeli senior minister Yuval Steinitz to state,

    “If the world allows you to lie about the past, this guarantees you will lie about the future.” – 6/22/15

    In summary what does all this mean? One interpretation can be that the Obama Administrations international policy, especially in regard to the Middle East and specifically Iran, is convoluted and focused on the impression of success rather than the reality. The effort being poured into creating this one deal may wind up increasing the instability of the region, while providing no concrete guarantees that the Iranian nuclear weapons programs will cease, nor that Iran will not become capable of long-range nuclear missile delivery within 10 years. Iran, for its part, stands to gain credibility, tens of billions in funds, and the ability to further enhance backing of militias throughout the Middle East. The fact that Iran may also become a nuclear power is of course a major victory for Iran that will have worldwide ramifications.

    All of which may lead some to wonder why the US is not stating the position France took on May 27, 2015,

    “Yes to an agreement, but not to an agreement that will enable Iran to have the atomic bomb. That is the position of France, which is independent and peaceful.” - French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius

    Rating 3.00 out of 5