Sophisticated drug tunnels found in desert

Drug Tunnel found in 2012Reuters is reporting that the San Diego Tunnel Task Force has found two different sophisticated drug smuggling tunnels in the desert between Mexico and a warehouse facility in San Diego, complete with ventilation systems and railways.

Enabled by our War on Drugs, well-designed tunnel systems that travel underneath the U.S./Mexican border enable the transport of large quantities of drugs between countries.  Tunnels usually connect with innocuous-looking buildings to avoid unwanted suspicion.

U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said of the incident that “going underground is not a good business plan”.  In actuality, going underground is the only business plan to avoid the expensive and ineffective drug enforcement laws instituted within the United States.

The report said that in the past eight years, the feds have uncovered at least 80 different cross-border smuggling tunnels – California and Arizona serving as the more popular entrance points into the country.  This, of course, only scratches the surface of the true physical network of drug-enabling systems into the U.S.

For every tunnel found, dozens more exist.  How much money does it cost to plan and execute surveillance programs that seek to uncover drug tunnels?  When virtually any middle-school aged student can get their hands on drugs, we must ask ourselves: is it worth it?

Is it worth it?

Tax the rich? Guess what, we already are, big time!

Although the rich are often criticized for exploiting loopholes in our tax system to reduce their tax burden (which does happen), the top 10% in this country also holds the mark for shouldering a widely disproportionately big percentage of federal income taxes every tax year.  Although the top 10% collect about 45% of our nation’s total income, they are responsible for paying over 70% of the nation’s income tax.

I suppose it is clear to see why states with the highest tax burden, like California, New York and New Jersey, have seen a net loss in domestic migration of its residents, while states with lower tax burdens like Arizona, Florida and Texas have seen a rise in migrations.  Combined with state income taxes, many residents in the more heavily taxed states pay more than half of their income straight to the government.

Empirical evidence is clear that taxes effect inter-country migrations, and the states that confiscate more from residents are always on the losing end.  When the rich leave, who is left footing the tax bill?  The bill does not simply go away.

Even Bill Maher, hardly a source for right-wing or conservative commentary, has lamented on his program just this year that taxes are getting more and more outrageous.  “Liberals, you could actually lose me,” Maher said. “It’s outrageous what we’re paying [in taxes]. Over 50 percent. I’m willing to pay my share, but yeah, it’s ridiculous.”

California is often cited as an example of negative inter-country migration, and why not?  Californians recently passed Proposition 30, which not only raises sales taxes from 7.25% up to 7.5%, but also creates new and higher tax brackets for the state’s more successful residents.  Folks making between $250,000 and $300,000 are now forced to fork over 10.3% of their income to the state, up from 9.3%.  The richest people, those earning more than $1 million a year, will pay 13.3%, up from 10.3% (a whopping 3% increase).  Combine that with federal income tax rates and people’s tax burdens in California easily extend past 50%.

In terms of making the rich “pay their fair share”, I agree.  Let’s lower the income tax rate, encourage further innovation, hiring and spending, and keep our nation’s rich people (and their money) happily settled into the United States and our bank accounts rather than in Cayman Island accounts to avoid our nation’s punitive system of taxation.

No need to apologize, Phil; taxes plague us all

phil-mickelson-298x300Professional PGA golfer Phil Michelson released a statement apologizing to his fans and those who felt insulted after the left-handed golfer said that due to extremely high state taxes in California, some “drastic changes” are looming in the near future, including a possible move out of the state.

“Finances and taxes are a personal matter, and I should not have made my opinions on them public,” Mickelson said in a statement. “I apologize to those I have upset or insulted, and assure you I intend not to let it happen again.”

A couple weeks ago, Mickelson had broached the subject of politics during a Pebble Beach Pro-Am conference call.  After his final round last Sunday, Mickelson was asked to elaborate on what he meant by his comments.  “There are going to be some drastic changes for me because I happen to be in that zone that has been targeted both federally and by the state, and it doesn’t work for me right now,” he said. “So I’m going to have to make some changes.”

Is there anyone out there who would honestly feel insulted by another person expressing discontentment with having to pay more than 60% of his or her income to the state?  Our tax system is a disgraceful mess and  incomprehensible by the majority of Americans.  As a taxpayer, I would be more insulted if nobody found fault with our clearly lopsided progressive system of taxation.

The public was both supportive and critical of Mickelson’s comments.  Some mocked the golfer, who pulled in close to $45 million last  year, for complaining about taxes while making so much money.  But Mickelson has no reason to apologize for “insulting” anybody.  While talk of politics is probably not the best course of action for any public sports figure, milking the rich out of their money has no place in a free society and it is perfectly natural for people to protect their earnings.  If Mickelson does end up moving, it once again proves a point that we’ve made plenty throughout – that if you milk the rich, you lose the rich.  And what state doesn’t want their tax revenue, or in the case of business owners, their jobs?

Rich Perry has already invited Mickelson to move to Texas, which has no state income taxes.  Many golfers live in Texas or Florida because neither state collects income tax.  Tiger Woods admitted to moving to Florida for precisely that reason back in the middle 90s.  Mickelson, a native of San Diego, lived in Scottsdale, AZ for several years before moving back to California.  California residents are the highest taxed in the nation.