Monthly Archives: February 2016

Sharp Differences Mark Candidates Tax Ideas

Democrats and Republicans have sharply differing views of the role of the federal government, and that is reflected in the tax policies their presidential candidates advocate.

Generally, Democrats believe that higher taxes provide more revenue to finance anti-poverty and other programs.   They favor a more nuanced tax code that allows Washington to use tax policy for social and ideological goals.

Republicans tend to believe that lower taxes provide a more vibrant economy that  reduces poverty through greater employment, and note that a private sector unburdened by high taxes actually produces more revenue than higher rates. They believe that it is mostly inappropriate to use the tax code for ideological purposes.

Various analyses of the leading candidate’s tax proposals essentially confirm those different views. Here are brief snapshots of their ideas:

These are some of Donald Trumps’ concepts noted by The Tax Policy Center:

“Collapse the current seven tax brackets, which range from 10 to 39.6 percent, into three brackets of 10, 20, and 25 percent.  Increase the standard deduction to $25,000 for single filers and $50,000 for joint filers in 2015, indexed for inflation thereafter.  Leave personal exemptions unchanged at $4,000 per person in 2015, indexed.  Tax dividends and capital gains at a maximum rate of 20 percent.  Limit the tax value of itemized deductions (other than charitable contributions and mortgage interest) and exclusions for employer-provided health insurance and tax-exempt interest.  Increase the phaseout rates for the personal exemption phaseout and the limit on itemized deductions. Repeal the alternative minimum tax. Tax carried interest as ordinary business income.  Repeal the exclusion for investment income on life insurance contracts entered into after 2016. Repeal federal estate and gift taxes. Reduce the corporate tax rate to 15 percent. Limit the top individual income tax rate on pass-through businesses such as partnerships to no more than 15 percent. Repeal most tax breaks for businesses.  Repeal the corporate alternative minimum tax.  Impose up to a 10 percent deemed repatriation tax on the accumulated profits of foreign subsidiaries of US companies on the effective date of the proposal, payable over 10 years. Tax future profits of foreign subsidiaries of US companies each year as the profits are earned.”

The Tax Foundation reports that the Clinton Plan.

“would increase marginal tax rates for taxpayers with incomes over $5 million, enact a 30 percent minimum tax (the Buffett Rule), alter the long-term capital gains tax rate schedule, and limit itemized deductions to a tax value of 28 percent. Her plan would also restore the estate tax to its 2009 parameters and would limit or eliminate other deductions for individuals and corporations.”

Forbes outlines Bernie Sanders tax plan:

Sanders proposes a top rate on individual income of … 52%, … the top rate on someone earning $250,000 would increase from 33% under current law to 37% under Sanders, while someone earning $500,000 would see his top rate jump from 39.6% to 43%.

In addition, Sanders would do away with the preferential treatment long afforded capital gains and dividends, meaning those types of income would be taxed at the same rates as ordinary income for taxpayers earning in excess of $250,000. Under current law, the top rate on such income is 23.8%; as a result, a taxpayer who, for example, sells a business for $5 million of gain would pay $1.19 million in federal tax under current law, but would pay $2.4 million in federal tax under the Sanders plan (a rate of 48%).

Sanders would also limit the benefit of all itemized deductions to a 28% rate, meaning a taxpayer who earned $500,000, and was thus in Sanders’ 43% bracket would effectively pay a 15% tax on deductions such as mortgage interest, state and local taxes, and charitable contributions.

National Review  outlined the Rubio tax plan. He would reduce the corporate tax rate from 35 to 25%, establishing a 25% tax rate on all business income and a maximum 25 percent maximum rate on all small businesses that file using Schedule C as part of a 1040 tax return. The proposal eliminates the capital gains tax, the double tax on dividends, and the second layer of tax on interest. The proposal alters depreciation rules to encourage new business investment. The rule mandating that businesses pay a second layer of tax on income that is earned and already subject to tax in other nations. The death tax would be eliminated entirely. The plan eliminates the state and local tax deduction.

The Tax Foundation outlines the Cruz tax plan as follows:

“Senator Cruz’s (R-TX) tax plan would enact a 10 percent flat tax on individual income and replace the corporate income tax and all payroll taxes with a 16 percent “Business Transfer Tax,” or subtraction method value-added tax. In addition, his plan would repeal a number of complex features of the current tax code. Consolidates the current seven tax brackets into one bracket at 10 percent on all personal income (wages, salaries, interest, capital gains, dividends, and business income). Increases the Standard Deduction from $6,300 ($12,600 married filing jointly) to $10,000 ($20,000 married filing jointly) while retaining the personal exemption. Eliminates all itemized deductions except for the home mortgage interest deduction and the charitable deduction. Places a tighter cap on the home mortgage interest deduction. Eliminates the Alternative Minimum Tax. Eliminates the Net Investment Income Tax of 3.8 percent and the Medicare surtax of 0.9 percent, which were passed as part of the Affordable Care Act. Eliminates all individual tax credits except for the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit. Expands the Earned Income Tax Credit by 20 percent. Preserves the exclusions from income of pension contributions, employer-provided health premiums, and imputed rent, similar to current law. Creates a new “universal savings account” that allows up to $25,000 of tax-deductible saving. Eliminates the payroll tax. Eliminates the corporate income tax. Provides a temporary tax holiday at a 10 percent rate (instead of a full 35 percent rate) on any deferred foreign profits that are repatriated.”

Again, these are snapshots, and greater details can be found on each of the candidates’ websites.

 

China attacks U.S. Steel Industry

In a rare display of bipartisanship not only on Capitol Hill but between labor and management, action against China’s harmful against the American economy is taking place.

The U.S. Department of Commerce has found that Beijing is “dumping” (a term indicating that  nation is selling a product at less than normal value or the cost of production Typically, the goal of this is to destroy the local industry and establish a monopoly for the foreign source.) steel products in the United States.

The Department of Commerce has concluded Chinese dumping has occurred in several areas, including:

  • Producers/exporters of steel nails from China have sold steel nails in the United States at up to 118.04 percent less than normal value. As a result of the affirmative final determination in the China investigation, Commerce will instruct U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to continue to collect a cash deposit or bond on entries of steel nails from China based on the final rates.
  • Imports of corrosion resistant steel products from China. A dumping margin of 255.80 percent was noted.

Currency manipulation is another area in which Beijing wages economic warfare against other nations. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka notes:

“China’s currency manipulation lowers the wages of Chinese workers and lowers manufacturing costs in China, creating an unfair trade advantage that has already cost millions of American jobs and closed thousands of American factories. This latest move, which will act as a tax on our exports and a subsidy for Chinese imports, further exacerbates the existing problem….The failure to address currency manipulation and undervaluation…has been a major cause of the U.S. trade deficit and manufacturing decline. It has turned trade agreements into trade tragedies and made the trade deficit a major drag on economic recovery.”

A Forbes Review noted that “Chinese steel exports rose roughly 25% year-over-year in the first ten months of 2015…The rising penetration of imported steels has driven down both shipments and realized prices of domestic steel producers. U.S. Steel reported year-over-year declines of 27% and 8% in shipments and average realized prices respectively for its U.S. Flat-rolled Steel division in the first nine months of 2015.  ArcelorMittal’s NAFTA division reported year-over-year declines of 3% and 13% in shipments and average realized prices respectively in the first nine months of 2015. Domestic steel mills have idled nearly 38% of their total production capacity in response to the increase in steel imports.The imposition of anti-dumping duties on Chinese steel imports will make them prohibitively expensive, which should boost both demand and pricing for domestically produced steels. The final determination of duties on imports is expected by mid-2016.”

Unlike private companies, government-owned concerns can engage in extensive dumping practices without worrying about the bottom line. The American Manufacturing Organization, citing a Wall Street Journal study, noted that “most of these companies [engaging in dumping] were government-owned or closely linked to local governments — and given their role as employers and providers of tax revenue, those mills are ‘unlikely to close or cut production even if running losses.‘ Major state-owned steelmakers also continue to have their loans rolled over or refinanced. And on top of all that, the Chinese government manipulates its currency, giving Chinese steelmakers a major economic advantage… As a result, more than 12,000 steelworkers have been laid off in recent months. Steel plant activity is operating below 70 percent of its capacity, and major steelmaking facilities have closed. If things don’t change, additional layoffs and closures are expected.”

Concern over China’s practices led to the introduction of the American Trade Enforcement Effectiveness Act, H.R. 2523,  sponsored by Rep. Bost, Mike [R-IL. ] The legislation aims to ease the way for U.S. companies and workers to seek redress against unfair practices. The bipartisan measure currently has 46 co-sponsors. A companion bill, S1269,  was introduced into the U.S. Senate by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah.)

The United States is not alone in its concern over China’s practices. The Financial Times reports that European states oare demanding that the European Union take action against Beijing as well.  According to the report, “Europe’s steel industry has lost a fifth of its workforce since 2009…European steel industry executives have accused China of using its massive overcapacity at steel mills to dump products on the European market, selling them beneath the cost of production.”

The 2017 Federal Budget: More Deficit, Hiked Taxes

The President has released his 2017 proposed budget. At the unveiling, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest noted:

Budgets are important because they enumerate priorities.  And when you have something that’s this detailed, there’s no fudging.  It becomes quite clear when you look at the numbers what you believe rates.  And that’s the importance of this exercise.  I readily acknowledge, as I have on many occasions, that there are some priorities that we have that are deeply held that Republicans in Congress do not share.  And there will be differences of opinion about the priorities that are laid out in here.”

The New York Analysis of Policy & Government has reviewed the White House’s statements,  information from the Office of Management and Budget,  and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO)   as well as comments from those both favoring and disagreeing with his general direction, such as the National Priorities Project,  the Heritage Foundation,  and other sources.

Total spending comes to about $4.2 trillion, an increase of approximately 4% over 2016 levels. The President anticipates taking in about $3.6 trillion in revenue, leaving a vast gap of $398.4 billion to add to America’s current debt of over $19 trillion. Analyzing the current budget shortfall, the Congressional Budget Office reports, “At 2.9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), the expected shortfall for 2016 will mark the first time that the deficit has risen in relation to the size of the economy since…2009.”

CBO notes:

“In 2016, the federal budget deficit will increase, in relation to the size of the economy, for the first time since 2009, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s estimates. If current laws generally remained unchanged, the deficit would grow over the next 10 years, and by 2026 it would be considerably larger than its average over the past 50 years, CBO projects. Debt held by the public would also grow significantly from its already high level… The deficit projected by CBO would increase debt held by the public to 76 percent of GDP by the end of 2016, the agency estimates—about 2 percentage points higher than it was last year and higher than it has been since the years immediately following World War II.”

According to Office of Management and Budget, spending is divided as follows:

Social Security, Unemployment, & Labor, $1.39 trillion, 33% of all federal spending

Medicare & Health, $1.17 trillion, 28% of all federal spending

Defense, $632 billion, 15% of all federal spending

Interest on the National Debt, $303 billion, 7% of all federal spending

Veterans Benefits, $179 billion, 4% of all federal spending

Agriculture & Food, $138 billion, 3% of all federal spending

Transportation, $109 billion, 3% of all federal spending

Housing & Community Development, $90 billion, 2% of all federal spending

Education, $85 billion, 2% of all federal spending

Environmental and Energy, $51 billion, 1% of all federal spending

International relations, $45 billion, 1% of all federal spending

Science, $32 billion, 1% of all federal spending

Government expenses, $8 billion, less than 1% of all federal spending

As noted above, there will not be adequate revenue to pay for the proposed spending. The heaviest burden of providing payments comes from Individual income, payroll, and corporate taxes. The projections are based on an assumption that the economy will grow at an average rate of 2.5 percent, a continuation of the weak rate that the nation has endured over the past several years.

Here’s where the anticipated revenue is expected to come from:

Individual income taxes, $1.79 trillion, 49% of all federal revenue

Payroll taxes, $1.14 trillion, 31% of all federal revenue

Corporate income taxes, $419 billion, 11% of all federal revenue

Miscellaneous & legislative proposals , $146, (approximately) 4%+ of all federal revenue

Excise taxes, $110 billion, 3% of all federal revenue

Customs Duties, $40 billion, 1% of all federal revenue

A controversial revenue enhancer contained in the President’s budget is a $10 per barrel tax on oil, which observers estimate would result in 22 cent per gallon tax passed down to consumers of gasoline, diesel fuel, home heating oil, jet fuel, and other petroleum liquids.

Socialism’s False Hope

For the first time, Americans face the prospect of an openly socialist candidate potentially ascending to the Presidency.

Voter angst has given rise to interest in Bernie Sanders’ platform of a socialist system, in which production is controlled by the government. The U.S. economy faces a dearth of middle income employment. Students are deeply indebted due to sky-high college tuition.  There is a strong belief that substantial, perhaps radical, change is needed.

The feeling is understandable, but the solution is a proven failure. The “most pure” socialist nations, the Soviet Union and the nations it held in captivity, all suffered inferior economies and ill-served citizenry.  Others are exceptionally impoverished. Most feature dictatorial governments. Some semi-socialist nations have weakened economies that, ironically, could not survive without help from, or access to, the markets of capitalist economies.  China’s vaunted (but now faltering) economy would collapse if access to U.S. consumers vanished.

Some will point to the economies of European nations as an example of socialist or semi-socialist economies that have not collapsed. Once again, however, the support of the capitalist American economy proves indispensable. Both as a market, and as the major financier of the enormous cost of providing defense for the Continent, the capitalist U.S. essentially underwrites its semi-socialist allies.

Not surprisingly, Thomas Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, has opposed the rising acceptance of socialism, noting:

“Socialism is a wrong and dangerous path for America. It’s failed everywhere it’s ever been tried, bringing shared misery instead of shared prosperity. It undermines personal initiative and responsibility, stunts innovation and growth, makes people serve government—not vice-versa—and robs individuals of the dignity of earning their own success and charting their own course.”

The Foundation for Economic Freedom delivered a similar message:

“Socialism is the Big Lie of the twentieth century. While it promised prosperity, equality, and security, it delivered poverty, misery, and tyranny. Equality was achieved only in the sense that everyone was equal in his or her misery.

“In the same way that a Ponzi scheme or chain letter initially succeeds but eventually collapses, socialism may show early signs of success. But any accomplishments quickly fade as the fundamental deficiencies of central planning emerge. It is the initial illusion of success that gives government intervention its pernicious, seductive appeal. In the long run, socialism has always proven to be a formula for tyranny and misery. A pyramid scheme is ultimately unsustainable because it is based on faulty principles. Likewise, collectivism is unsustainable in the long run because it is a flawed theory. Socialism does not work because it is not consistent with fundamental principles of human behavior. The failure of socialism in countries around the world can be traced to one critical defect: it is a system that ignores incentives.

“In a capitalist economy, incentives are of the utmost importance. Market prices, the profit-and-loss system of accounting, and private property rights provide an efficient, interrelated system of incentives to guide and direct economic behavior. Capitalism is based on the theory that incentives matter! Under socialism, incentives either play a minimal role or are ignored totally. A centrally planned economy without market prices or profits, where property is owned by the state, is a system without an effective incentive mechanism to direct economic activity. By failing to emphasize incentives, socialism is a theory inconsistent with human nature and is therefore doomed to fail. Socialism is based on the theory that incentives don’t matter!”

Even socialist nations endowed with exceptional inherent wealth cannot long remain prosperous. CATO describes how Venezuela, which possesses the world’s largest oil reserves, has become impoverished under socialist leadership.

“Despite receiving over $1 trillion in oil revenues since 1999, the government has run out of cash and now relies heavily on printing money to finance itself. The result is the highest inflation rate in the world: officially 56 per cent last year, although according to calculations by Steve Hanke of Johns Hopkins University, the implied annual inflation rate is actually 330 per cent.”

The economic failures of socialism are matched by its detrimental effect on individual freedom. Ronald Reagan noted the inherent socialist tendency to attack personal liberty: “A government can’t control the economy without controlling people.” In its raw essence, socialism depends on force.

Ironically, the very problems socialists describe as a justification for their philosophy are caused by socialist-like federal programs.  The Great Recession was the result of federal mandates to financial institutions to provide loans to borrowers that were poor risks for repayment. The heavy taxes and regulations imposed on U.S. corporations have led them to be uncompetitive with their international rivals, resulting in sharply diminished employment.

Does Obama have Hidden Goals for Cuba and Guantanamo?

Did the President make a secret deal with Havana to first close the Guantanamo Bay prison, then return the entire naval base to Cuba?

By now, it’s obvious that Mr. Obama has difficulty even saying “Islamic terrorism.”  But his dangerously inept policies are far worse than mere semantics.  There continues to be no viable reason why the Guantanamo facility, off American shores and therefore keeping U.S. citizens safe from attempted attacks to free the hazardous inmates, should be closed. There is equally no viable reason for the President to open relations with the Castro regime when it continues to oppress its own population, sponsor terrorism abroad, and allow the Russian Navy to use the island nation’s facilities. In April 2015, the President withdrew the terror-sponsor designation from Cuba, despite Havana’s ongoing offenses.

It’s long past time to ask the President very difficult questions concerning his bizarre stance on terrorism, and his views on relations with Cuba.

The President’s actions in prematurely withdrawing from Iraq, and encouraging the various Moslem Brotherhood-supported “Arab Spring” movements which expanded the influence of terrorists, were terrible mistakes. His refusal to respond to the Benghazi attack or to seriously assault ISIS call into question whether he takes the terrorist threat seriously at all. Similarly, his announcement of a withdrawal date from Afghanistan repeats the mistake he made in Iraq.

The White House response to the Paris attacks was ridiculous. Jack Kelly, writing in realclearpolitics, notes: When 44 world leaders joined 1.6 million Parisians to condemn Islamist terror… Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were watching football. Secretary of State John Kerry was in India (where it’s been unseasonably cold), to give a speech on global warming. Attorney General Eric Holder was in Paris but didn’t attend because he was in “high-level meetings,” aides said. With whom? Nearly every prominent French official was at the rally.

Mr. Obama’s Oval Office remarks in response to the San Bernardino attack, falsely claiming wide-scale bias against Moslems and calling for more domestic gun control, were astounding. USNews wrote: “The shooters in San Bernardino were no more deterred by the gun control laws on the books when they modified the weapons they used than they were by the prohibition on the construction and use of the pipe bombs which, in this case at least, were fortunately duds. He doesn’t understand, and as a consequence, he’s fighting the wrong war.”

A House Armed Services Committee release reports that “Section 1222 of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY16 require[d] the Administration to deliver a strategy for the Middle East and countering violent extremism no later than February 15, 2016.  It requires the Administration to lay out a number of elements needed to defeat terrorist groups like ISIS and al Qaeda, including a description of the role the U.S. military will play in such a strategy, a description of the coalition needed to carry out the strategy, and an assessment of efforts to disrupt foreign fighters traveling to Syria and Iraq. The White House has failed to comply.  Reacting to the the Administration’s failure to submit the strategy, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, made the following statement: ‘Unsurprisingly the Administration cannot articulate a strategy for countering violent extremists in the Middle East.  Time and again, the President has told us his strategy to defeat extremist groups like ISIS and al Qaeda is well underway; yet, months after the legal requirement was established, his Administration cannot deliver that strategy to Congress.  I fear the President’s failure to deliver this report says far more about the state of his strategy to defeat terrorists than any empty reassurance he may offer from the podium.”

Information first obtained by the Washington Free Beacon indicates that the Presidents’ plan to close the Guantanamo Bay facility may force the Pentagon to release suspected terrorists.

In a letter to Defense Secretary Carter, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Ca) notes the high rate of recidivism of terrorist prisoners already released from Guantanamo Bay, and questions the disposition of future captured terrorists.

The President’s action are even raising eyebrows among his staunchest supporters. Several New York Democrats, led by Senator Charles Schumer, have been outraged by Mr. Obama’s move to cut anti-terror funds from America’s top target of Islamic extremists, New York City.

Mr. Obama has provided little explanation for its policy, or lack thereof, on terrorism. Nor has there been a convincing explanation about its stance towards Guantanamo Bay in particular, or Cuba in general. The hard questions need to be asked. Are the two issues related?

The Reality of Voting Fraud

The key issue of this year’s presidential contest may not be who the candidates are, the weak economy, or the hazardous condition of America’s national security. Increasingly, it appears that the integrity of the election process itself may be the most contentious topic to arise in the 2016 race.

Recently, as reported in the Free Beacon Ann Ravel, the former chair and current member of the Federal Election Commission stated (at a conference in Canada, interestingly enough) that the “United States political system benefits wealthy white men,” and “criticized the system by saying it is set up in such a way that makes it difficult for women and minorities to succeed.”

FEC member Ravel’s comments are not isolated words. They are part of an overall strategy to create a smokescreen for attempts to alter election results through a combination of election day antics, registration fraud, and opposition to voter id. Commissioner Ravel’s comments are designed to give cover to a bevy of approaches that seek to overcome the advantage Republicans have demonstrated in recent elections, and that the GOP is expected to have in response to anger over the dismal results of the Obama Administration’s policies at home and abroad, as well as (if Hillary is the candidate) dismay over rampant ethical issues or (if Sanders is the candidate) a rejection of a blatant socialist message.

Many factors in illegal voting and registration are in play, particularly with the increase in illegal immigration, allowing noncitizens to obtain driver’s licenses and “motor voter” rules in many states that offer voter registration when applying for a license.

The NOLO legal website notes:

“Due to the Motor Vehicle Act of 1993 (also known as the ‘Motor Voter Act’), states are required to provide people with the opportunity to register to vote when they apply for or renew their driver’s licenses. However, while a minority of states ask for proof of citizenship at the time of voter registration, employees in most states may not inquire about citizenship status before asking noncitizens if they desire to register to vote… some noncitizens are misinformed about their eligibility to vote. For example, a campaign worker may tell you that permanent residents (green card holders) may register to vote, even when they are not eligible, or a canvasser may knock on your door to ask you to register and give you incorrect information.”

Legitimate questions continue to go unanswered. Some proficiency in English is required for citizenship, but some states print ballots in numerous languages. Why?

Intelligentuspolitics.com reports:

“Dozens of lawsuits have been filed by the Obama Justice Department, the Democrat Party, the Clinton campaign and various other groups … Their primary and continuing objective has been to convince the electorate that there is no voter fraud, an objective with which they have had moderate success. To understand the magnitude of this effort, perform a Google exact-match search for the phrase ‘voter fraud is a myth.’ Google has 3,940 articles in their index that use that exact phrase. What are the odds? That is a great deal of content with the exact same phrase and message.

Their secondary goal has been to convince voters that voting rules of any kind constitute Republican voter suppression… Again looking at search trends, in the last eight years, ‘Republican voter suppression’ produces 11,500 exact-match Google search results and ‘GOP voter suppression’ produces 15,100 exact-match search results. Their most aggressive efforts are dedicated to opposing maintenance of voter registration rolls and opposing voter ID laws. These initiatives pose a very real threat to successful voter fraud. Democrats combine media bombardment with a mind boggling assortment of frivolous lawsuits to oppose voter ID laws.”

Reason.comreports:

“In a 2015 study that is currently under review, Lindsay Nielson—a political scientist at the University of San Diego—parses the effects of stricter voter ID laws on the voting patterns of the young, the elderly, the poor, and racial minorities [in general elections]. …Nielson finds that “there is little evidence that racial minorities are less likely than whites to vote when states institute voter identification requirements.” … There is also “no statistically significant gap in estimated turnout [between high-income and low-income voter] when the identification law becomes stricter.”

The U.S. Supreme Court, in its 2008 upholding of the constitutionality of Indiana’s voter identification law, stated that obvious examples of voter fraud exist throughout U.S, history.  The Heritage Foundation notes that the “Nonpartisan Commission on Federal Election Reform, chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker, found that our ‘electoral system cannot inspire public confidence if no safeguards exist to deter fraud or to confirm the identity of voters.”

Climate may be Cooling, not Warming

Scientific studies reported as recently as January are throwing the climate change debate into turmoil.

A number of scientists, examining the most recent solar studies, believe that the Sun is entering a quiet phase, and it may cause the Earth to cool, not warm.  It could change the political calculus behind the entire drive to engage in measures meant to address the theory of man-made global warming.

According to scientific sources reported in Space Today, the sun is  registering its quietest activity since records were first kept around 1750.

In December, as reported in the British newspaper Sunday Express  “A team of European researchers have unveiled a scientific model showing that the Earth is likely to experience a “mini ice age” from 2030 to 2040 as a result of decreased solar activity… at the National Astronomy Meeting in Wales, Northumbria University professor Valentina Zharkova said fluctuations an 11-year cycle of solar activity the sun goes through would be responsible for a freeze, the like of which has not been experienced since the 1600s.

A Principia Scientific  report disclosed:  A “New study by respected German scientists discredits alarmist global warming claims….climate cooling, not warming [is] more likely for the rest of this century. [According to] The Die kalte Sonne… Dr. Alexander Hempelmann and Carl Otto Weiss carefully examined climate changes of the past and have found that the recent [warming] changes (of the last 40 years) are nothing out of the ordinary and that we need to worry about a global cooling that will persist until 2080.

Space .com  notes: “Scientists have also often speculated whether the Maunder Minimum, a 70-year dearth of sunspots in the late 17th to early 18th century, was linked with the coldest part of the Little Ice Age, during which Europe and North America experienced bitterly cold winters. This regional cooling might be linked with a drop in the sun’s extreme ultraviolet radiation. In fact, the sun could currently be on the cusp of a miniature version of the Maunder Minimum, since the current solar cycle is the weakest in more than 50 years.”

Nature World News notes that: “It is known that the Sun plays an important part in controlling the Earth’s climate, but now researchers show that solar activity affects climate change more than previously thought, according to recent research. That is, especially during the Earth’s “cooler periods.

“Scientists have long debated how the activity of the Sun might influence climate, and new findings indicate that its impact is not constant. For the last 12,000 years, since the last Ice Age ended, the Earth has generally experienced a warm climate. However, during this period the climate has not been stable and temperatures have varied. So we have had a slightly cooler climate during the last 4,000 years, and ocean currents in the North Atlantic have been weaker.”

Science Times  describes the impact reduced solar activity may have:

“While solar activity is declining, our Earth may be slowly heading for a new ice age, according to scientists. Studying the decreasing number of sunspots, researchers found that we are possibly entering a nearly spotless solar cycle. This could result in lower temperatures for decades…In the 1645 it started a similar era with almost no spots, the so-called Maunder Minimum period. This coincided with the ‘Little Ice Age’ and it lasted for around 70 years. At that time North America and Europe experienced lower than average temperatures. However, up to date the theory that lower solar activity can cause climate change is still controversial since scientists do not have enough convincing evident to prove this correlation. A Lomonosov Moscow State University researcher, Helen Popovapredicts that this minimum will lead to a significant cooling similar to what was experienced during the Maunder Minimum Period if the existing theories about the impact of solar activity on the climate are true.

ClimateDepot reported in 2013 “Scientists at Russia’s famous Pulkovo Observatory are convinced that the world is in for a period of global cooling.  Global warming which has been the subject of so many discussions in recent years, may give way to global cooling. According to scientists from the Pulkovo Observatory in St.Petersburg, solar activity is waning, so the average yearly temperature will begin to decline as well. Scientists from Britain and the US chime in saying that forecasts for global cooling are far from groundless.”

Internet Censorship on the Rise

Free speech on the internet continues to take a pounding on several key fronts.

Under pressure from heavy handed governments abroad and threats of lawsuits and left wing agitation in the U.S., the wide-open, free-wheeling character of the internet may see its days numbered.

Twitter, the source for very short comments and observations, is the latest battleground. The Daily Signal reports that a so-called “Trust and Safety Council,” containing left-wing groups with a history of endorsing political correctness and opposing free speech, is preparing to decide how to police what is allowed to be on and what will be forbidden on Twitter.

Self-censorship by internet forums is the new wave for blocking freedom of expression in cyberspace.

Breitbart reports that the German government is demanding that Google, Facebook and Twitter remove what it considers anti-immigrant “hate speech.” Of course, there was no precise definition of hate speech, leaving almost all comments opposed to the governments’ policies subject to censorship—exactly the result Berlin wanted.

The internet giants caved in, agreeing to delete any objected-to material within a day after a request to do so was delivered.

“The German government’s demand that social media giants Google, Facebook and Twitter remove what it calls anti-migrant ‘hate speech’ is having its first real test in the wake of the sickening sex attacks in Cologne over New Year’s Eve.”

Breitbart notes that The outlets agreed to apply domestic laws, rather than their own corporate policies, to reviews of posts, and already users in Germany are expressing disgust at the policy which came straight from German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office.”

Organizations such as the Gatestone Institute, which reports extensively on immigration issues, may be particularly hard hit.

“With Gatestone’s commitment to educating readers about what the media do not want them to know, however unpleasant these events may sound to would-be censors, we are concerned that if we disagree with policies that Facebook believes politically correct, it may decide to censor Gatestone, or even ban it.

“In the past month, Gatestone has already felt the quiet encroachment of censorship: In one instance, a New York-based online advertising network cut us off, saying our articles dealt with ‘sensitive’ topics. These included informing the public of the recent mass-sexual assaults of thousands of women by migrants in Europe. In a second recent incident, a well-known online content-promotion company rejected all of our German-language articles, for, they said, similar reasons.

“it just so happens to turn out that, lo and behold, this idea of “racist” speech appears to include anything critical of the EU’s current catastrophic immigration policy. … In lieu of violence, speech is one of the best ways for people to vent their feelings…Just last week, reports from the Netherlands told of Dutch citizens being visited by the police and warned about posting anti-mass-immigration sentiments on Twitter and other social media.”

In the U.S., there is a legal gray area when it comes to censorship by a private corporation, as opposed to a government agency.

The First Amendment Center notes that “The Bill of Rights provides protection for individual liberty from actions by government officials. This is called the state-action doctrine. Private property is not government-owned. Restrictions on individuals’ free-speech rights on private property do not involve state action.

“However, a few states have interpreted their own state constitutions to provide even greater free-speech protection than the federal Constitution offers. For example, the New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that individuals have free-speech rights at privately owned shopping malls. Most state supreme courts that have examined the issue have disagreed. In April 2002, the Iowa Supreme Court refused to extend its definition of public property to include large, privately owned shopping malls.”

Internet sites such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter are private, and not necessarily bound by the First Amendment. But what if the censorship on those sites is the result of government action or pressure? That is a legal dispute that needs resolution. Outside of the United States, where there are, of course, no First Amendment protections, the ability of even relatively open regimes to take action is not as restrained as it is within America.

Within the U.S., key censorship pressure comes from pressure groups.  When applied to internet sites, this could result in a fracturing of sites, with progressive/left wing groups patronizing self-censored sites, and the rest of the nation clicking onto sites that may be formed to continue the tradition of free speech in cyberspace.

More overtly heavy-handed internet censorship comes from Russia, China, and some Moslem nations. North Korea is noted for almost total lack of internet access by the general population.

Organizations such as George Soros’ “Open Society Foundation” are at the forefront of pressuring governments to engage in censorship. It is their contention that free speech rights are subject to restrictions if they offend religious or ethnic groups.  Frequently, their interpretation of “offensive” is less than convincing.

With the scheduled handoff of internet control from the U.S. to an international body, in accordance with President Obama’s policy, the prospects for freedom of speech in cyberspace appear deeply troubled.