- Associated Press - Monday, September 22, 2014

The Alpena News. Sept. 16.

DHS chief’s comments on terror should be regarded

Let us hope Department of Homeland Security officials took note of recent remarks by their boss, Jeh Johnson, on a major terrorism threat.

Speaking to the American Bar Association, Johnson, who is secretary of the agency, reviewed various types of terrorism challenges. Indeed, the department has to cope with everything from airline security to what is coming through the nation’s seaports.

But Johnson also said this: “We are concerned about the independent actor, who did not train at an al-Qaida camp, or associate with or take orders from any member of al-Qaida, but who is inspired by al-Qaida’s terrorist ideology - the so-called ‘lone wolf’ who may be lurking within our own society.”

He is absolutely right. Of the 15 or so terrorist attacks on our soil since President Barack Obama took office, all appear to have been conducted by “independent actors.” They range from the Fort Hood shootings to the Boston Marathon bombs.

Clearly, Johnson’s department - working closely with local law enforcement agencies - should view such “lone wolf” attacks as a concern at least as pressing as guarding against another mass assault such as Sept. 11, 2001.

_____

The Detroit News. Sept. 17.

‘Worst’ tax code behind corporate flight

It’s not corporate greed or a lack of patriotism that is driving American corporations overseas, as President Barack Obama contends. It’s one of the worst corporate tax codes in the developed world. The cold, hard evidence of that is detailed in a new study ranking the tax competitiveness of 34 industrialized nations.

The United States ranks 32nd, ahead of just Portugal and France, according to the Tax Foundation, a free market institute. It measured nations on 40 variables, including corporate and individual income taxes, sales taxes, property and estate taxes and international tax rules.

That the country that taught the world the principles of capitalism and free markets now ranks so poorly should shame American policymakers. Instead, the president and Senate Democrats want to heap additional, punitive taxes on corporations that move their legal domicile overseas to avoid already confiscatory rates in the U.S.

Estonia, a former Soviet satellite, is new to the free marketplace. And yet it ranks first in tax competitiveness because, the study says, it has a relatively low 21 percent corporate tax rate, no double taxation on dividend income, a nearly flat 21 percent income tax rate and property taxes only on land, not on buildings and other structures.

Compare that to the United States, which has the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world at 39 percent and is one of only six industrialized nations that taxes the overseas earnings of corporations. The U.S. is also dinged for its estate tax and chaotic state and local property tax policies.

The study faults the high U.S. top marginal income tax rate and a double taxation on capital gains and dividend income.

Those all are things that can be fixed with the sort of smart tax reform proposed by Michigan’s Rep. Dave Camp, R-Midland, who is retiring.

Other nations have proved they can change their rankings in a hurry if they adopt the right reforms.

New Zealand, for example, was far down the competitiveness list in 2010. But it lowered its corporate tax rate, cut top marginal income tax rates and shifted a greater portion of its tax burden to a goods and service tax. This year, it ranked No. 2 on the list.

By comparison, the last major change to the U.S. tax code was 28 years ago, when Congress and President Ronald Reagan dropped corporate income taxes to 34 percent from 46 percent.

Since then, most other nations have leap-frogged the U.S. in making their tax climate more attractive to business. The average corporate tax rate among industrialized countries is now 25 percent, down from 47.5 percent in the 1980s.

The Tax Foundation gives considerable weight to the neutrality of the tax code, meaning policies that seek to raise the most revenue with the fewest loopholes, credits and tax breaks, and without favoring consumption over saving.

Tax competitiveness is a good indicator of economic competitiveness, and thus growth. The U.S. recovery has been sluggish, in no small part because of tax and regulatory policies that dampen growth.

Rather than concocting a tax scheme to hold corporations hostage, the president should be crafting reforms to make them flock here

_____

Daily Press (Escanaba). Sept. 17.

The time of year to watch for deer

Here’s some good news. Michigan drivers are more than 2 percent less likely to collide with a deer in the next 12 months than they were last year, according to a recent study. The odds drivers will hit a deer in Michigan the coming year are 1 out of 94 - still above the national odds of 1 in 169.

The bad news - Michigan is ranked 11th in the country for the most deer collisions.

With those sort of odds, it pays to be on the lookout for deer when you’re behind the wheel. This is especially true now - in the fall - when deer are even more active. The months a driver is most likely to collide with a deer in Michigan, mostly due to mating and hunting seasons, are:

1. November

2. October

3. December

Hitting a deer can be an expensive proposition. The national cost per claim average is $3,888, up 13.9 percent from 2013 when the average was $3,414.

Avoid becoming a statistic. Injuries, vehicle damage and fatalities all can result from vehicle collisions with deer. In 2012, 175 deaths were the result of collisions with animals, with deer being the animal most often struck, according to the Insurance Information Institute and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. These tips could help drivers avoid a collision:

- Use extra caution in known deer zones

- Always wear your seatbelt

- At night, when there is no oncoming traffic, use high beams

- Avoid swerving when you see a deer

- Scan the road for deer and other danger signs

- Do not rely on devices such as deer whistles

And here are some deer facts that all drivers should know:

- Deer are on all roads

- Deer are unpredictable

- Deer often move in groups

- Deer movement is most prevalent in the fall

- Dusk and dawn are high risk times

_____

Lansing State Journal. Sept. 15.

Aramark woes easy to predict and avoid

A few words about the change that turned food service in Michigan’s prisons over to an outside contractor: The way to demonstrate that privatizing government services can work well is to make sure they work well.

Michigan so far has fallen down in that regard when it comes to managing prison food service.

There’s no doubt that the union that once represented state employed food service workers has a vested interest in finding fault with the contractor.

There’s also no doubt that Democratic candidates for office, starting with gubernatorial contender Mark Schauer, are using problems and missteps to further their cause, delighting in the chance to poke at incumbent Gov. Rick Snyder and his executive team.

Yet that can hardly be a surprise to anyone involved, from contractor Aramark to top staff at the Department of Corrections or to Snyder’s own inner circle. Everything about government can be politicized, especially in an election year.

That’s one reason it’s surprising to discover that a $98,000 fine levied in March due to problems in Aramark’s early performance was never collected because Corrections officials decided to waive it. Yet clearly problems continued, reaching the point that Gov. Snyder’s team later levied a $200,000 fine, which has been collected.

Snyder’s team found themselves scrambling late last week when the public learned for the first time that the $98,000 fine had been forgiven. Correction’s spokesman Russ Marlan was left explaining that the initial disclosure of the fine had happened in response to a Freedom of Information request, but had never been announced by the department. “As such, the director’s decision to suspend the fine would not be anything we would publicly announce,” Marlan told the Detroit News.

Allegations also flew about redactions made before releasing emails between the governor’s staff and corrections officials. Again, predictable.

All of this could have been avoided by applying a good dose of common sense and living up to the intent and spirit of the Freedom of Information Act by conducting the people’s business openly.

To be sure, the contractor can only blame itself for problems delivering wholesome meals in sufficient quantities and keeping its employees from fraternizing with prisoners.

In July it was suggested here that it was past time for getting tough on Aramark. Lack of transparency and ongoing problems have left taxpayers - many of whom also vote - with doubts.

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