Food: A New Sin Tax For Utah?

That’s right. I’m going to say it again: Food is perfectly eligible as a sin tax.

…and by sin, I’m referring to the politician’s and crony organizations’ sin.

Utah legislators are contemplating raising taxes on food because they’re worried about a budget shortfall. It’s funny how that may be the case after we’ve spent, bonded and redirected who knows how many millions or billions on crap outside the proper role of government. I guess all those cute ‘it only costs a tenth/half percent of the budget or it’s just a few dollars a day’ projects add up and you start to fall short for important stuff…like more useless projects government shouldn’t be involved with.

Rather than just slapping everyone with another tax hike, maybe they should look at cutting some of the crony capital junk (UTA, Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce front group boondoggles come to mind, among others). How about also ditching wasteful incremental budgeting with all it’s skunks, while your at it?

On the local level, we keep hearing that RDAs for a new, unnecessary city hall building won’t raise taxes. As I said in the past, it’s robing Peter to pay Paul and the piper will come calling when taxing entities find they’ve fallen short of money because the RDA etc. ate some of it up. The above is another example of the fallacy of the city council’s argument.

Finally, politicians don’t own all the guilt. The public (you and I) will band together to form groups demanding stuff like recreation centers, theaters, RAP taxes which impose on budgets and, ultimately, on families. Hopefully, we’ll consider the propriety and whether it’s a core governmental function or not next time we want something, else we’re our own worst enemy.

Tax Vampires: Our Schools Now Is The Latest Political Elites’ Front Group

In December, I highlighted an article on front groups used by Utah political power brokers (with the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce as the typical hub). The latest front group they’ve come up with to raise you taxes is “Our Schools Now”.

With the legislative session, Our Schools Now has popped back up to make their push to convince you to raise everyone’s taxes. Don’t fall for it. This is a good time to review the article that traces all the connections and front groups used by the people you aim to benefit from this latest push:

WHO CONTROLS UTAH? An Investigative Report on Utah’s Elite Political Brokers

It’s not just the DC swamp that needs to be drained. We need the “drain the swamp” in Utah as well.

Utah’s Secret Sweetheart Deal With Amazon (Update)

Prior to Christmas, Governor Herbert announced a deal with Amazon.com that would have the site collect Utah taxes. Amazon is known to support requiring all online retailers to collect tax (in part to provide Amazon a competitive advantage) and the Utah Legislature has also been making forays for such. At the time, I wondered why Amazon had agreed to do this and figure it had to have some benefit (I was thinking Herbert had assured them he would get the tax bill through the legislature). Evidently, we won’t know much about the deal – Herbert refuses to release the details: Advocacy group wants copy of secret Utah-Amazon tax deal.

Libertas Institute, a Utah group that advocates for personal liberty, was denied a request for a copy of the tax deal struck by internet retailer Amazon and the state of Utah.

They justify the secrecy by saying it is “protected information”. It seems very dubious that government can make such things secret that have no national security value. The only thing we know right now is Amazon is collecting the tax and is getting a kickback that I don’t believe any brick-and-mortar or Utah online company receives:

The State of Utah made an agreement with Amazon where the company gets a 1.3 percent cut of the tax collected.

So it looks like more crony capitalism from the Herbert Administration.

I’m done with it and will actively avoid directly buying from Amazon too (not that I buy much from them anyway). They have plenty of third party sellers who don’t collect the tax (and Amazon doesn’t get the kickback). I’ve also noticed that third party sellers also have their own websites and tend to sell the same product for less thereon. As an added bonus, buying directly from the little guy also allows you to better support small business.

UPDATE: Just checked my messages and low and behold, Libertas Institute is going to follow up on this. Hope they’re successful. Here’s the alert they sent out:

Despite failed efforts to (unconstitutionally) require out-of-state companies to collect and remit the Utah sales tax, the executive branch hasn’t given up its insatiable appetite for tax revenue.

The Utah State Tax Commission entered into a secret agreement with Amazon whereby the e-commerce website would voluntarily do it. The question is, what were they given in return?

We don’t know—and the state doesn’t want us to know.

We requested the document that has those details, but were denied. Many are outraged by that, and the Standard-Examiner and Salt Lake Tribune have editorialized in opposition.

Next week we’ll be appealing the decision, fighting for transparency—fighting against our own government that refuses to let taxpayers know basic information about secret deals with out-of-state companies.

Edit for transparency: I had initially written that I won’t use Amazon anymore but changed that to “actively avoid”. I got thinking about it and if I am given an Amazon gift card, I’m not just going to give Amazon the money and not use it. Nevertheless, I can use it for a third party purchase on the site and also use something like camelcamelcamel.com to get a sale or best price for an item.

Kissing Cousins: Salt Lake Chamber Of Commerce – Utah Government Elite Interconnections Wag The Dog

The article is lengthy but ends up being an easy read as you delve into the various front groups used to create nifty confirmation bias for politicians to justify their tax and policy excesses favoring connected businesses.

The article (WHO CONTROLS UTAH? An Investigative Report on Utah’s Elite Political Brokers) starts with a key points summary but it is well worth the read for the details supporting the conclusion:

When discussing public policy in Utah, it is important to recognize that policy elites use every tool at their command to achieve the results they want. Any pretense of objectivity is just that – a pretense.

It’s fun to have your finger on the scales of government power. It’s a good time to be a crony capitalist in Utah.

Ironically enough, the article misses the most recently created Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce front group:

Our Schools Now

Gee, I have no idea why Zions Bank would want to run a group that seeks more bond money. Oh and the address for Our Schools Now? It’s co-located with the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce.

And these folks still wonder what produced Trump.

Data Mining Utah’s Voter Records

This is follow-up to my recent post on this topic. Two news reports were posted related to this:

Utah voter info continues to be sold by the state for $1,050

and

Lawmaker wants to let you decide if Utah sells your voter info. From the second link:

“What I’m hearing from a lot of people is it’s the business of the government to protect the people, not sell your data,” Rep. Edwards said.

The information is a matter of public record. The Lt. Governor’s Office, which oversees elections in Utah, routinely sells it to political parties and campaigns for $1,050. The state elections director told FOX 13 that some of the information has also been sold to data mining groups.

Rep. Edwards, who ran similar legislation in 2014, said it is time the state changed its privacy settings with voters’ info.

“We have put voters in a situation where they are having to choose between registering to vote and protecting their privacy,” she said. “No voter in the United States should have to be put in that situation.”

Must be nice to know that your right to vote is contingent on data mining companies being able to have all the analytical fun they can with your data. People get upset with Google, Yahoo etc with personal information but don’t appear to realize that the State of Utah plays just as loose with information they’ve gathered based on exercising a right. Furthermore, the sale of these lists allows stalkers and abusers to identify unwitting “former” victims who may not realize that their information is up for sale and have not protected it (please go to the bottom of the first linked article for the document to protect your info!).

Here’s hoping Rep. Edwards succeeds but it will be an uphill battle against the Governor’s office and the Republican and Democrat parties.

“Available Jones” Strikes Again: Utah Violating Law To Sell Your Voting Records, Put Seniors, Others At Risk

First, please read the source op-ed, it also includes a link the the voter list website:

Herbert Admin Sells ALL Utah voters’ personal information – Except the Governor’s

Governor Herbert (aka “Available Jones”) continues to prove himself a donor’s best friend. Since 2012, I’ve tracked Utah’s mishandling of voters’ personal information. They simply don’t care at all about your privacy (note: if you have personal security concerns, please see this post to secure your info) – either you cease voting or you comply with political cronies’ data mining demands. This year, we find ourselves with yet another version of release of your voter information on the internet:

In its biggest single, ongoing release of personal information, the Herbert administration sells the full name, home address, phone number, age, year of birth, political party affiliation, etc.of virtually every one of Utah’s roughly 1.5 million registered voters to anyone willing to pay $1,050 for it despite an apparent prohibition in Utah Code—63G-2-302(1)(l).

First, take a look at the linked code citation. It is prefaced with “The following records are private:”

(l)    a record that:
(i)    contains information about an individual;
(ii)    is voluntarily provided by the individual; and
(iii)    goes into an electronic database that:
(A)    is designated by and administered under the authority of the Chief Information Officer; and
(B)    acts as a repository of information about the individual that can be electronically retrieved and used to facilitate the individual’s online interaction with a state agency;

It appears that the voter list would qualify under this section. Evidently, when priority is placed on pleasing the political elite and donor class, laws shall be ignored. Fortunately, they have good cover as the media and both political parties are complicit in this (Herbert may be the head honcho but the political enablers abound).

This release version also indicates that Lt. Governor engaged in kabuki theater when he was ‘asking’ for the voter list to be secured in 2014. As the custodian of the list and in charge of sales thereof, there’s been nary a complaint from him. Cox could also be a total dupe since Gov. Herbert’s information is protected and not on the website but Lt. Gov. Cox’s information (along with his family’s) is on the site.

The implications are obvious, anyone who has a security concern has a gaping personal privacy leak greatly simplifying an attackers’ job of identifying their victim’s (and family’s) location etc. The list also provides a convenient means for scam artists to target the elderly as year of birth, age, and phone number are also on the database. Finally, for a local touch, LDS Church and other local Jewish and Christian church leadership listed on the database may want to up their security given the recent threats from Daesh/ISIS to target them (see this post and scroll down for intel source links).

EDIT: Edited for clarity (see strikeout and underline). The list is still from the 2014 version but was posted in a new, easier to search format.

Will We Accept God’s Help?

For years now, this blog has generally kept everything pretty secular to avoid distracting debates over ‘who’s religion is better’. I’ve seen those pointless debates drive commenters and readers with shared values and common morals away from blogs. All from doctrinal tiffs that had nothing to do with the blog/article focus in the first place.

This post will be necessarily religious in nature and I’m warning everyone right now that I’m not going to tolerate any dumping  on anyone’s “quirky beliefs” (everyone has ’em – deal with it). While religious, this post isn’t a forum for a comparative religion debate. Disclaimer over.

I’ve long written about an erosion of fundamental values in this nation. I’ve primarily discussed Constitutional values. Today, I’m referring to the underpinnings of the Constitution itself: the morality of this nation. As John Adams stated:

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

This quote should shake us. Certainly, we all fall short of God’s perfection. However, the nation is well beyond that. We are now, and have long been, justifying clearly immoral acts that violate basic God-given tenets. Selfishness, envy of our neighbor, taking from neighbors (eg special interest taxes), gay marriage (and forced labor thereto), abortion heralded, out of wedlock births on the rise and sex after marriage is now considered odd…examples abound. Just look at the morality on TV as a reflection of society’s course (why do moral people consume and feed their children such destructive drivel they disagree with?).

God is a loving but just god. He is prepared to bless us as he clearly has in the past but we must accept such blessings and providence by our intents and deeds. To be blunt, as a nation we are not.

I pray that we (self included) will search to improve and repent of our wrong doings. We need to acknowledge these and return to our God-given moral principles and teach them to our children. As one calling in the wilderness: “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Nothing escapes God’s law. God need not lift a finger – we will push His loving hand away and choose to be left to our own self-inflicted consequences. This will not end well. God help us.