Monday, February 5, 2018

Intelligence Committee’s Republican Memo: A Test of Intelligence – Intelligence Test.

The Republicans have released their memo on the abuse by the DOJ/FBI and other intelligence agencies regarding their investigations into Russian activities and possible interference in US elections and policies. The Democrats are attempting to get their memo’s release approved which is not a given. This trust in our DOJ/FBI is an important issue in regard to our national government and democratic system. Of course, the question is: What is the salient issue or issues? Now that’s an interesting question because the memo / report / claims have become an independent issue of their own. How exciting to be able to assess the reasoning and judgement that we might expect of our elected officials. Of course, we ‘might’ become unease with how the issue is understood and what follows from examining the question of how the operation of the Intelligence Committee occurred.
Well, in a democracy it’s each of our responsibilities to question whether our elected officials are serving the public or other interests. In this test, the questions will indicate the path you want taken. So, if you have a preference for some ideology that differs from often stated American values then you should be willing to accept the consequence that such differences might cause.
If you find an intelligence test about our Congressional Intelligence Committees (House and Senate) amusing or disturbing, it’s just an intellectual exercise in building trust or distrust in our political parties and process. WARNING: Trust must be hard earned; though it is easily lost.
Question A:   What is Congress’s responsibility regarding the Dept. of Justice and associated entities?
Select those that apply.
(1). Funding
(2). Provide direction of their work
(3). Oversight
(4). Pass legislation authorizing DOJ/entities programs
(5). None of above
Question B:   The Intelligence Committees (IC) have responsibilities to:
Select those that apply.
(1). Oversee Intelligence entities
(2). Advise Department and agencies on legality of work
(3). Budget
(4). Being notified regarding covert actions
(5). Insure operations are consistent with laws
(6). Investigates agencies when accused of wrong-doing
(7). Propose legislation to Senate Committee regarding Intelligence community and operations
Question C:   To whom does Intelligence Committee(s) report any violations of the law within the DOJ or entities?
Select those that apply.
(1). President
(2). Vice-President
(3). Senate Majority Leader
(4). Speaker of House
(5). Attorney General
(6). Inspector General
(7). House and Senate
Question D:   By whom would a violation by an entity within the DOJ be Investigated (I), Prosecuted (P) and Resolved (R)?
Indicate which entity would perform a task with an I , P , or R.
(1). Intelligence Committee(s)
(2). Attorney General’s office
(3). Supreme Court
(4). Inspector General’s office
(5). An appointed Special Prosecutor
(6). Deputy Attorney General
(7). Federal Circuit Court
(8). Federal Bureau of Investigation
Question E:    Who would decide if a violation within an DOJ entity occurred?
(1). Intelligence Committee(s)
(2). Attorney General’s office
(3). Inspector General’s office
(4). An appointed Special Prosecutor
(5). Federal Circuit Court
(6). Deputy Attorney General
(7). President
(8). Congress
Question F:    Are the Intelligence Committees competent to make an assessment of abuse?
(1). Yes
(2). No
Question G:   What would a finding that the claims made by either/both Intelligence Committees are unfounded, false or politically motivated cause?
Select all that apply.
(1). Nothing
(2). A report would be issued
(3). It would become a political issue
(4). Someone of no import would have to resign
Question H:   If you didn’t trust Congress, didn’t trust the FBI/DOJ, and didn’t trust the Administration; who would you trust to determine if there was a violation of the law that an Intelligence Committee’s report indicates may have happened?
Select those that apply.
(1). No one
(2). Independent Special Prosecutor
(3). STEM-oriented leadership investigation team
(4). Intelligence officials retired prior to ‘issue’
(5). Joint Congressional, DOJ, and Judicial lead team
(6). Triumvirate of Legal Scholars (preferably not Party aligned)

Answer - A:  1, 3, 4
Rationale - A:      Because Congress authorizes all funding for the federal government’s activities, Item 1 is a given. It’s would not be important in this issue unless Congress were going to restrict funding or resources to deny the DOJ and entities the ability to do their work.

Congress gave themselves an oversight role (Item 2) on the DOJ to help insure that the DOJ didn’t operate outside their authorized arena and to investigate corruption and abuse. So, we have a group of untrustworthy individuals monitoring our law enforcement entities. Nothing dangerous there.

When and where Congress finds a need to alter the scope of the DOJ, Congress would be the authorizing body. To the extent that Congress passes such legislation (Item 4), it becomes the DOJ’s responsibility to execute the law. This would not include Congress directing the work; they would only oversee that it is done properly.
Answer - B:  1, 4, 5, 7
Rationale - B:      Item 1 is affected through the Committee. Items 4 and 5 are part of the process of oversight. Item 7 is how Congress carries out any changing and adapting the DOJ’s functions and operations as they determine are needed.

Item 6 isn’t directly the responsibility of the IC, they can decide for themselves that they will investigate; however, the Inspector General’s office is the more appropriate place to conduct misconduct, corruption or abuse within a DOJ entity.

Item 2 is not an IC role since that was done by Congress in passing legislation. Item 3 is a Congress role (Question A).
Answer - C:  5, 6, 1
Rationale - C:      First, let’s premise the following with a proviso that the person or entity that is suspected or determined to have violated the law would not be informed by the IC. So, if the violation included the Attorney General, the IC would not notify the Attorney General (AG) of their office.

The AG would be the logical place for being notified first. The AG would then direct the Inspector General (Item 6) to initiate an investigation, which is the entity that would pursue such charges.

Notification of other offices, like the President, would rest with the AG and that office’s determination that there was a substantive reason for notifying additional entities that would not compromise the investigation and/or was required because of those entities’ responsibilities in other areas.
Answer - D:  4 = I, 2 = P, 7 = R
Rationale - D:      Inspector General (Item 4) would investigate unless it was a violation by this office, which would revert to AG assuming investigation responsibility.

Prosecution would be by AG (Item 2, unless violation was AG itself).

Resolution would be via the Federal Circuit Court (Item 7) in which the case’s jurisdiction would appropriately belong.

Answer - E:  1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8
Rationale - E:      Since a violation might occur in any number of different entities of the DOJ and related to many different situations, this isn’t a particularly answerable question. However, in cases where a perceived violation surfaces it could come from activities that are a normal part of all the listed entities (1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8).

The missing Items 5 and 7 are just not involved in activities that would surface a violation or that wouldn’t already involve one of the other entities on the list.
Answer - F:  2 – No
Rationale - F:      The IC gets reports and briefings to keep them appraised on what programs and activities are taking place. If some event occurs that raises questions within the IC they may try to get information, but they are largely not analyst, or skilled in investigative work, and they will not be doing the work anyway. So, no they are not competent to make an assessment. That’s what other bodies are for and are delineated to do, e.g., Inspector General’s office.

Answer - G:  1 - Nothing
Rationale - G:     The IC(s) would state that they worked with the relevant parts of government to determine that nothing was found or could be proven to be a violation of the law; and so, they would say they did their job. Of course, if they didn’t have substantive evidence upon which to make a claim there would have been no need to demonstrate that it was false.

There would certainly be a report issued about the issue, but it would not be particularly meaningful.

It is likely that it would be a political issue since there is no reason in politics to be concerned about truth, integrity or intelligence.

Answer - H:  3, 6, 2, 4 (ordered by precedence)

Rationale - H:      If you selected 1 – No one, I can appreciate your distrust of our political officials, but in a democracy, you have to determine who you will accept to make a fair and appropriate decision. It’s good to question those elected or who are part of our government, but at some level you have to decide on what basis you accept or reject what they say and do.

Item 3 – A STEM-oriented leadership team operating based on reasoning, logic and problem-solving approaches (and wasn’t politically aligned) would arrive at an assessment that reflects the information assembled and conclusions that could be traced back to that information.

Item 6 – A Triumvirate of Legal Scholars that follows the law would represent a group that offers some basis for granting some credibility in an investigation’s outcome. The trio would have to be recognized as unbiased, unpartisan and honorable.

Item 2 – An Independent Special Council while the most likely to be the recommended approach presents the partisan politics problem in choosing someone to lead it and in what entities’ resources are involved.

Item 4 – Retired Intelligence officials, retired prior to issue, may be acceptable to public if they are not viewed as overly partisan or identified to a particularly ideology; but they will easily fall to political attacks that reduce the trust that the decision they reach would have.

Monday, December 4, 2017

American Intelligence Test: You’ll Know Tax Reform By Its Fruits

Tax Reform is in the offing with the Senate’s passage of its version of the House’s “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” bill. The title is not an unimportant or irrelevant set of words, particularly the word ‘Jobs’. Embedded in the justification for Tax Reform is the objective, goal, ‘Promise’ of Jobs. The reason this is salient is that there must be underlying reasons that the Tax System needs to be changed, else why is it important to change it? With Republican control of the government, they are positioned to accomplish what their ideology and policies are founded upon. So, it can be expected that the new Tax System will align with, support and deliver upon those principles; and the reasons that Republicans promised will come forth as the “Fruits of their labor”.
Conveniently, the nation can and should take this opportunity to test and validate the reasons and results promised by the Republicans, the ‘Cause and Effect’ of their ideology, judgement and intelligence. Now to derive the value from this opportunity it is essential that we know what it is that can be expected from the Republican tax plan. This may not be obvious to everyone, or even most people, but if you don’t know what to expect then you won’t know if you achieved it. This doesn’t mean that everyone will agree on what to expect or how it should be measured; but without attempting to define it, we relinquish our dignity and the honor we would rightfully claim from fulfilling our duty to our American values.
What then are the outcomes, the results and expectations that are to be delivered by the Tax Reform effort? Since the House and Senate have passed their versions of the bill, it should be very easy to know what to expect. There may be some variations in the absolute values from some facets of the bills until they are reconciled and ultimately passed and signed into law; but there should be little room for misunderstanding of what direction and types of outcomes will come.
Shall we see how well you do in defining these, and how aligned you and your Congress are in the world to come? This may be the most important test you ever take. Choose wisely.
 Question A:   What are reasons it’s important to pass tax bill? Select all that apply.
(1). Reduce size of government
(2). Reduce taxes on lower income wage earners
(3). Increase wages
(4). Reduce taxes on middle income wage earners
(5). Increase tax revenues
(6). Reduce taxed on higher income wage earners
(7). Increase corporate investments in domestic production
(8). Recover tax revenues from overseas profits of US corporations
(9). Increase domestic employment
(10). Reduce National Debt
(11). Grow Small Businesses
(12). Increase portion of overall wealth held by lower and middle-class families
(13). Improve American competitiveness
(14). Increase the US’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) level
(15). All the above

Question B:   Which reasons for tax bill can be quantified and measured? Select all that apply.
(1). Use Items from Question A as Choices for this question.

Question C:   How would you know Jobs improved because of Tax Reform?
(1). There would be more jobs
(2). Total taxable wages from jobs would be higher
(3). The rate of jobs growth would increase for a sustained interval
(4). Employment level would be higher
(5). Average wages in each tax bracket would increase

Question D:   Will your personal taxes and individual economic situation improve?
(1). Yes
(2). No
(3). Yes at first, but then No
(4). Not at first, but then Yes
(5). I don’t know

Question E:    Who benefits under new Tax Code?
(1). Everyone
(2). Wage earners under $50K
(3). Wage earners under $100K
(4). Wage Earners under $500K
(5). Wage Earners under $1M
(6). Wage Earners over $1M
(7). Corporations
(8). Small Businesses
(9). Non-wage incomes under $100K
(10). Non-wage incomes under $1M
(11). Non-wage incomes over $1M
(12). Estates under $11M
(13). Estates over $11M
(14). No One

Question F:    How would you know wages improved because of Tax Reform?           
(1). Your paystub would be higher
(2). Your level of personal debt would be lower
(3). Your cost-of-living would be lower
(4). Wages would increase above average rates that have occurred over last 5 years in each tax bracket

Question G:   Would your personal wealth increase because of Tax Reform?
(1). Decrease
(2). Increase
(3). Stay the same
(4). I don’t know

Question H:   How would you know the Economy improved because of Tax Reform?
(1). Gross Domestic Product would be higher
(2). National Debt would be lower
(3). Inflation stays below 3%
(4). Gross Domestic Product increases at a higher rate than last 8 years
(5). Wages are higher
(6). Trade Deficits are declining

Question I:      How would the distribution of wealth change in US under Tax Reform?
(1). Increase
(2). Decrease
(3). Stay the same
(4). Greater percentage of wealth is held by upper 1%
(5). Lower percentage of wealth is held by lower 99%
(6). There is no way to measure this

Question J:    Will the Nation’s Debt be higher or lower after 4 years, 8 years, 10 years? Assign each term to a category. Answer for each year range.
(1). Higher
(2). Lower
(3). Stay roughly the same

Question K:   Will Corporate investments require Government Infrastructure investments?
(1). Yes
(2). No

Question L:    If wages don’t meaningfully increase, employment rate doesn’t increase, wealth ownership for lower and middle-class doesn’t increase, and national debt doesn’t decrease will the Tax Reform bill have delivered on its “Promises”?
(1). Yes
(2). No

Question M:   How would you define “Failure” for the Tax Reform bill? Select all items that you would include.
(1). Wages versus Cost-of-Living is at or below where I am now (in 2017 dollars)
(2). Employment level is less than it is now
(3). National Debt is higher
(4). Average wages grew slower than Inflation
(5). Upper 1% control more of nation’s wealth
(6). Average personal taxes are higher as percent of income in each tax bracket except top

Now that the test is done, you may find solace in advice from the past.
Quote: My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure. – Abraham Lincoln

Answer - A:  Items 2 through 11, and 13, 14
Rationale - A:      These items are expectations, claims or promises that have been made about the results from the tax bill. It is by delivering upon these items that the nation will be better off under this governmental funding process. The needs of government will be funded as it is today via taxes. The Tax Reform is just changing how that will occur, and what must happen within the US’s economy for it to work.

This doesn’t mean that Item 1 won’t be required under the bill, but it isn’t directly cited as a reason to undertake the reform.

As to Item 12 – wealth distribution, it isn’t discussed or accounted for. This doesn’t mean that the new tax policy won’t have an impact, only that it is not a stated objective or goal against which to measure or assess the results.

Answer - B:  Items 2 through 11, and 13.   Note: 1, 12 and 14 are also measurable.
Rationale - B:      Every item in Question 1 can be measured in one or more ways, including those that aren’t implicitly claimed by proponents of Tax Reform bill. The ability to measure them should be properly understood as not inherently demonstrating a causal improvement from the tax bill without having a proper reference for what are normal rates of change in those factors. If for example GDP were to increase going forward, to assess the causal impact of the tax bill you must know how it has been changing previously to say the ‘rate of change’ changed.

Answer - C:  3
Rationale - C:      Since jobs have been increasing for over 8 years, just the fact that there are more in the future isn’t attributable to the tax reform bill. Likewise, if there are more jobs there ought to be more taxable wages going forward. This is why Item 3 is the right answer. Tax Reform to have an impact has to demonstrate a change in direction or amount relative to the run-rate that has been delivered for the past 8 years.

The above explains why Item 4 need not be caused by the Tax Reform unless it is a meaningful change above what has been already occurring in the economy. Likewise, Item 5 needs a quantifiable gain above the ‘norm’ or it’s just more ‘business as usual’ and not caused by the tax bill.

Answer - D:  5 - In the context of this test, the most informed (or uninformed) answer is 5.
Rationale - D:      I have no idea what the new tax code will do to or for you personally; hence the ‘uninformed’ qualifier in the answer above.

You probably have your own view of what the outcome will be; but it’s more a hope or expectation than a known quantity. If the answer were considered in the context of the whole nation, where that perspective is important in the total impact relative to everyone then you surely can’t know but only hope. Other questions in this test offer insight into how you would define the conditions that ought to be a basis for making that determination.

Answer - E:  Some of the people in Items 2 through 13 for at least some period of time.
Rationale - E:      That some will benefit in the initial year or two of the plan is assured if for no other reason than even politicians can’t find a way to insure only those they need to benefit will benefit. Now as to what happens over time, that will depend upon many things. The new tax code doesn’t and can’t insure anything unless the underlying factors that determine the results to the economy, the public and the nation are delivered in ways that accomplish those ‘promises’, expectations and beliefs. Such results rely upon the laws of physics, principles of economic, societal reactions to those outcomes, and unfortunately decisions made by politicians.

Answer - F:  4
Rationale - F:      Your wages only increase if valued against a measure to places your wages in the proper comparative context. If your wages double but everyone else’s triples, I doubt you would find your wages actually increased.

So, just more money in your pay isn’t necessary an improvement; nor is lower personal debt necessarily tied to better wages (you may have had to file for bankruptcy). As to whether your wages are higher if the cost-of-living is lower is an item for discussion. It may be lower cost-of-living does equate to a higher wage equivalent, but you may or may not agree.

Answer - G:  4 - You might be able to answer this for yourself, but for the majority of tax-payers it depends upon how it works out over time.
Rationale - G:     For example, if you are wealthier off in the first four years by $X dollars, but are worse off in the last 6 years by $Y dollars the it will depend upon how X compares to Y.

This will be true for Corporations and Small Businesses just as much as it does for individuals. The lower Corporate tax rate doesn’t guarantee that a company will be better off; that depends upon the impact that the new Tax Code has across the entire economy. If it screws up the consumer markets it may really hurt Corporations that are directly dependent upon consumers. It will be easier for a company to make a profit with a lower rate but that doesn’t’ mean the company will.

Answer - H:  2, 4, 6
Rationale - H:      For the options given 2, 4 and 6 would be positive indicators of an improving Economy. There are conditions where a declining 2 - National Debt may not be, but that requires some severe circumstances so should that happen our National Debt is probably the least of our problems. A lower National Debt would generally be economically good news.

Items 4 and 6 are fairly good and reliable measures of economic growth, so as a measure they should be expected. Now how much they change depends upon what is normal and thus if Tax Reform has an impact then it has to increase more than that normal level of change at least over some time. It would also be expected to retain the increased level of normal improvement once any effect of the Tax-Reform effect ceased.

Answer - I:  4 – The rich will get richer (by rich, it’s the very rich {top 0.1%} that will get richer).
Rationale - I:        There’s nothing in the Tax Reform Act that is oriented to address the question or issue of wealth distribution within the nation. Add to this the changes which will occur will do little to nothing to alter the current dynamics that drive the manner in which wealth is accumulated differentially over the population.

This does raise the question of how the middle-class’s improvement is defined within the ideology behind the new Tax System.

Answer - J:  4-Years: 1,  8-Years: 1,  10-Years:  1
Rationale - J:       The general assessment is that it will be higher. Now that in and of itself doesn’t tell you directly whether that is an improvement of, an erosion of, or no real difference to the nation’s economy. However, unless there is an unrealistically drastic increase in the broad measures of the economy higher national debt will not be good for the Economy.

Answer - K:  Yes
Rationale - K:      Given the degraded nature of much of the nation’s infrastructure, the expectation that Corporations and businesses will invest in their own infrastructure will necessitate some public investment in public infrastructure. Inadequate public infrastructure will present a risk and in many locations a barrier to corporate investment. So there is an unstated, but hopefully not unrecognized, imperative for government spending that will coincide with the private sector’s investments. This alone could be jeopardy to the expectations and the assessment of the to be delivered benefits from the Tax Reform Act.

Answer - L:  No
Rationale - L:      While you may want to argue that not all these items have to be delivered for the national economy to improve because of the tax bill, it’s highly improbable that it can do so without most improving and maybe one not losing ground. It is unlikely that the benefits required to justify the Tax Reform bill can be achieved without these measurable items being part of the outcome.

Answer - M:  1, 2, 4, 5, 6
Rationale - M:     All the items except 3 would indicators that the Tax Reform bill has failed. As noted in Questions H and J more debt is highly likely to be an economic sign of failed policy, but there can be conditions where it would be neutral to positive even if unlikely.

As for the other items, they reflect contradictory conditions which the Tax Reform was to deliver. So, if these items were to be improved under the bill and they didn’t or declined then a rational description of the outcome is ‘failure’.