Beware legislation with catchy, 'Mom, apple-pie' titles

TRACKSIDE © by John D’Aloia Jr. July 22, 2003

Diabolical politicians are on to something, a simple stratagem for whizzing an obnoxious or dangerous program past their trusting compatriots and over the heads of their constituents. Give your legislation a catchy name, one that conjures up visions of Mom, Apple Pie, and Flag, one that when people hear it, they will create mental images of innate goodness. At the federal and state level, it is being proven that a carefully chosen name, even if it is diametrically opposite to the effect of the legislation, sells, time and again. Next time you hear a catchy bill title, do not get caught up in political mind-games. Find out exactly what the bill will do to you and to your freedom. For wary Kansans, the battlecry should be "Remember HB2005."

Kansas politicians, never satisfied with the amount of tax dollars they have to spend to remain in power and reward political accomplices, eye the Internet as a new source of revenue. Thwarted by federal law which prohibits taxing Internet commerce, they are attempting to lay the ground work for eventual Internet taxation by imposing a new sales tax collection scheme on Kansas businesses. The tax-to-spend (or spend-to-tax) crowd then hopes, in conjunction with like minds in other states, to present to Congress an inevitable situation - "We all want to tax the Internet - get out of the way or lose our political support." To sell the idea within the Kansas legislature and with sycophant groups which ostensibly look out for the interests of their members, state political leaders on both sides of the aisle touted joining the Simplified Sales Tax organization, a multi-state group established to present Congress and taxpayers a fait accompli. One element of the plan is for each state to require the collection of sales tax at the destination, not the point of sale for goods or services to be delivered at a place other than over the counter. This will simplify everything they said, making it so much easier to do business across the country. (What they did not mention, other than to pooh-pooh the concern, was that it also gives up state sovereignty to some non-elected bureaucracy located who-knows-where.)

The Orwellian twisting of the meaning of "simplified," a commonly understood word, is typical of how they operate. A Kansas state senator was asked by a mortician constituent for help in deciding how he was going to charge sales tax on a typical funeral. The mortician wanted to know how he was to assign sales taxes when embalming was in "X" county, the church service in "Y" county, and the burial in "Z" county. Which costs of his many services - embalming, casket, vault, hearse, digging grave, tombstone - are assessed in which county for sales tax purposes? Here verbatim is The Clerks explanation of how they simplified the mortician’s collection of sales tax. "I apologize for the delay in responding to your June 26 e-mail. We are working on a ruling with the Kansas Funeral Directors Association on the specific issues raised below. The funeral situation is an example of where different interpretations could be made as to when and where the "customer" "receives" the product. The KFDA is suggesting that the earliest point where change of possession occurs should govern. We are inclined to agree with KFDA's suggestions. This would source the casket to the funeral home, regardless of where the casket may be moved to the church for the service and to the cemetery. Same with flowers. The vault and tombstone would be sourced to the cemetery. Some of the services you mentioned (minister, musicians) would not be subject to sales tax."

Another demonstration of the need to look beyond a title is the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The title plays on the anything-for-the-children emotion; the text greatly increases the federal strangle-hold on government schools. It should really be called "The Local School Board Left Behind Act," for it effectively removes from local school boards what little autonomy they had left in deciding what should be taught and how it should be taught. Is controlling education an enumerated power given to Congress by the Constitution? In a 1792 speech on the floor of the House, James Madison used education as an example his peers would recognize as not being an enumerated power of Congress; his response to a proposal to give French refugees alms was in the same vein. "I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article in the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on the object of benevolence, the money of their constituents." It is a constitutional imperative that should be applied to every bill in the hopper.

See you Trackside.


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