Recently in Politics, Government & Public Policy Category
Andrew McCarthy lays out a compelling case that the IRS scandal should be resolved politically rather than through the legal process. A special prosecutor/special counsel would focus on bringing lawbreakers to trial rather than fixing a horribly broken bureaucracy. If anyone broke the law they can be prosecuted for years to come, but an investigation now would likely end any hope of significant
reform of the underlying tax system.
Let's put law and atmospherics aside and try to be completely practical. The imperative in the IRS scandal is not criminal prosecution. It is political accountability: to lay bare what corrupt officials have done, for the purpose of swiftly determining whether they are unfit to hold offices of public trust and whether the system in which they operate tends to corruption. The appointment of a special counsel would undermine that goal.
The moment a prosecutor -- special or otherwise -- takes over, the public flow of information stops. All witnesses will claim that the pendency of a criminal investigation means they cannot discuss the matter "on advice of counsel." They will cease cooperating with congressional investigators. The prosecutor will claim that grand-jury secrecy rules bar comment about the expansive investigation (a claim the government routinely makes, even though the rules actually bar comment only by the prosecutor, investigative agents, and grand jurors -- not the witnesses).
Public disclosure should be the goal here. It is the one thing that has driven the IRS story to this point. Public disclosure of the shockingly intrusive harassment of the president's political opponents, the prohibitive legal and regulatory expenses imposed on ordinary people for merely exercising their right to participate in the political process, is what has broken through the administration's Obamedia fortress. Yet public disclosure is precisely what would be lost if Congress were to punt its oversight responsibilities to a special counsel.
So the IRS admits that it has been targeting conservative groups for years. Duh? I was hit way back in 2009.
Instead of griping about the past or hallucinating about impeaching President Obama, let's consider the best possible resolution for our country. The power of the IRS wasn't abused because any of the actors in this scandal are particularly evil; they're just normal people doing what they think is "best". Don't get me wrong -- no one behaved nobly, but their failings were well within the normal range of human behavior.
Unfortunately, and inevitably, vast power wielded for good intentions leads to bad results. The people aren't the problem, not even the President. They're no worse than average. The problem is that the tax system is hopelessly twisted. There's no way for a bureaucracy made of normal human beings to administer our tax system in a fair and just manner. The system has too much complexity, too many purposes, too many rent-seekers, too much discretion, too many rules, too many holes, and too much history for anyone to expect it to function.
The solution is to execute the IRS. Dissolve the entire organization, repeal all the tax laws, and start over with a blank slate. A Flat Tax would be my preference, but it almost doesn't matter. Any new system would be better than what we've got right now.
The current scandal may have enough punch to penetrate the consciousness of the general public, which already has a low opinion of the IRS. President Obama is popular and protected by the media, but more importantly he's impotent and he's leaving office in a few years anyway. However much you dislike President Obama, don't worry, he won't be around much longer. But the tax system will never die on it's own. It will have to be killed. Take this opportunity to strike at the heart of the Beast.
(And yes, this post makes me nervous. If I attract the Beast's attention it could easily crush me.)
The Missouri legislature has tried and failed to pass a right-to-work law for a while, but now they're sending a "paycheck protection" bill to Governor Nixon which would have a similar effect, though more limited. Nixon is likely to veto the bill, and the Republican legislators don't appear to have enough votes to override a veto.
But the legislation, which earned final approval at the Capitol on Monday, would require public employee unions to get consent every year from members before deducting fees from their paychecks. Additionally, the bill also would require such unions to get annual written permission from members before using those fees for political purposes. ...
The measure passed the Republican-controlled House in an 85-69 vote -- well below the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto.
The ongoing sequestration has reduced federal spending by only about 3%, but since "mandatory" spending is exempt those cuts all come from "discretionary" spending. The cut to "discretionary" spending is somewhat less than 6%. Anyone who has managed a family budget knows that cutting expenses by 6% is a walk in the park that should barely be noticed, and yet we're being flooded by doom and gloom from federal bureaucrats. I don't believe the complaints.
Jenny Brown is in her 27th year as an examiner for the Internal Revenue Service, where she answers peoples' tax questions. The IRS is a major employer in Ogden, Utah, where Brown works, but her co-workers are getting fed up and leaving -- and they aren't being replaced.
"We keep being told things like, 'Work smarter, not harder.' Or, 'Well, you're just going to have to do more with less,' " Brown says. "And there's only so much you can do."
As a result of understaffing, Brown says, wait times on the IRS hotline have quadrupled. And after more than an hour waiting on the phone, taxpayers get downright ornery.
These effects sound like they're caused by a cut of more than 6%, so what's going on? Presumably Jenny Brown's office has been cut by more than 6% so that other spending could be protected. I can see why that would frustrate her (and the taxpayers who require her services). Perhaps her office's funding shouldn't have been cut so heavily, but from the outside it's hard to know.
However, as a taxpayer it's reassuring to me that the bureaucrats are being forced to make trade-offs. If every bureaucrat was heavily funded and content then we'd know that waste was running rampant.
It's outrageous that the Marathon Bombers received over $100,000 in taxpayer-funded benefits, but doesn't it amaze you that anyone can get that much "help" over a 10-year span? It's no wonder that our country is practically bankrupt.
The Tsarnaev family, including the suspected terrorists and their parents, benefited from more than $100,000 in taxpayer-funded assistance -- a bonanza ranging from cash and food stamps to Section 8 housing from 2002 to 2012, the Herald has learned.
"The breadth of the benefits the family was receiving was stunning," said a person with knowledge of documents handed over to a legislative committee today.
But... but... Obamacare is such a great law! Why would Congressmen and their aides want to be exempt?
There is concern in some quarters that the provision requiring lawmakers and staffers to join the exchanges, if it isn't revised, could lead to a "brain drain" on Capitol Hill, as several sources close to the talks put it.
The problem stems from whether members and aides set to enter the exchanges would have their health insurance premiums subsidized by their employer -- in this case, the federal government. If not, aides and lawmakers in both parties fear that staffers -- especially low-paid junior aides -- could be hit with thousands of dollars in new health care costs, prompting them to seek jobs elsewhere. Older, more senior staffers could also retire or jump to the private sector rather than face a big financial penalty.
Plus, lawmakers -- especially those with long careers in public service and smaller bank accounts -- are also concerned about the hit to their own wallets.
Uh, "regular" Americans who don't work in/for Congress are concerned about these same problems. Can we all be exempted please?
It's completely absurd and disgusting that Congress is considering exempting themselves and their henchmen from the effects of their idiotic lawmaking. Are we a Republic or an aristocracy?
Shouldn't be too complex for our legislators, right?
What does it mean to "consider the impact on global warming" before the federal government approves development projects?
President Barack Obama is preparing to tell all federal agencies for the first time that they should consider the impact on global warming before approving major projects, from pipelines to highways.
The result could be significant delays for natural gas- export facilities, ports for coal sales to Asia, and even new forest roads, industry lobbyists warn.
"It's got us very freaked out," said Ross Eisenberg, vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers, a Washington-based group that represents 11,000 companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and Southern Co. (SO) The standards, which constitute guidance for agencies and not new regulations, are set to be issued in the coming weeks, according to lawyers briefed by administration officials.
Stanley Kurtz says that Obama has found a way to shift blame for environmental restrictions from the government to environmental groups.
But let's concentrate on Keystone. The Bloomberg report makes it clear that Obama's order opens the way for further litigation and substantial delays on Keystone, whether the federal government officially blocks construction or not. That's because NEPA allows citizens and environmental groups to file claims against projects even after they win government approval.
So the Obama administration could green-light the pipeline, file a report that stops short of calling Keystone a major global-warming hazard, and still find the project delayed for years by environmental groups bringing court challenges under the new NEPA guidelines.
In this scenario, headlines loudly proclaiming Obama's approval of Keystone would shield him from Republican attacks. Simultaneously, the president could mollify the left by claiming credit for guidelines that effectively allowed his allies to stop the pipeline. And that would be right. Obama can publicly "approve" Keystone, while simultaneously handing the left the tool they need to put the project on semi-permanent hold. Environmentalists would take the political heat, while Obama would get off scot-free. Pretty clever.
By creating an opportunity for outside groups to challenge projects in court on global warming grounds Obama may have opened a can of worms. Will the most extreme environmental groups allow anything to be built without their blessing? What rents will they extract with their new standing to sue?
I'm tired of reading about furloughed bureaucrats. How about something new: can we furlough President Obama and Congress?
By now everyone remembers that the sequestration was President Obama's idea, despite his persistent efforts to fudge the facts.
The White House instead has, with great success, fudged the facts. The administration has convinced a majority of the country that Republicans are more to blame by emphasizing that Republicans voted for the plan. Which they did -- after Obama conceived it.
The truth is that Obama and Republicans supported it because everyone believed it was a such a stupid idea that the grown-ups in Washington would never actually let it happen. They thought Obama and Congress would come up with a grand bargain on spending, entitlement cuts and tax increases, instead of allowing the sequestration ax to fall. They were wrong.
Our politicians are pretty absurd, but democracy means that we get what we deserve. The fact of the matter is that the public wants the budget to be cut, but no one wants to accept the loss of programs that a budget cut would mean. Politicians harp on "waste, fraud, and abuse", but that's hard to find and target. Everyone complains of bureaucratic bloat, but that's just another word for "jobs". Every anti-sequester sob story I've seen focuses on the poor bureaucrats who will suffer.
So, until the American people figure out what we want we shouldn't expect our politicians to do it. Politicians don't lead, they generally follow, and right now the boss, the public, is basically insane.
I've created a shop to sell sequester survival gear. There are various shirts and clothes, as well as other paraphernalia likes mugs and messenger bags. This is my first foray into CafePress, so I covet your feedback. I've set the prices just about as low as CafePress will allow, so enjoy!
Kurt Schlichter rails against those who treat government bureaucrats like our masters rather than our servants.
As for Barack Obama, and I say this with no disrespect, but he's just an employee. There's this thing military people know as the "chain of command." When it comes to American citizens, we're at the top of the chain. Done. That's the entire chain of command for an American citizen, and the President's not in it. Should he presume to suggest a course of action, with a few rare and well-defined exceptions, it is just that - a suggestion. ...
Is some minor bureaucrat giving you grief? Don't take it! Try this awesome word that we hear all too rarely from our fellow citizens - "No." Ask a relevant question - like "Who the hell do you think you are?" Complain, firmly and forcefully, to whoever is doing you wrong, and if that fails to his boss, and then to your city councilman, or state legislator, or congressman if you need to.
We need a lot fewer government employees.
I'm proud to be a conservative, and my interests certainly do not always align with the Republican Party. However, it's gratifying to see that the Republicans are serious about diversity and actually have a more diverse set of statewide office-holders than the Democrats.
This is why it might surprise you to hear that Republicans are by far the more diverse party when it comes to statewide elected officials such as senators and governors. On this front, they leave Democrats in the dust. And that's why the GOP actually has a greater depth of diversity on their potential presidential bench looking to 2016 and beyond.
It's counterintuitive but true. Numbers don't lie. Let's start with a look at the governors, the traditional launching pad of presidential ambitions.
Among the Republican ranks is Brian Sandoval, the Hispanic governor of Nevada. The 49-year-old former federal judge took on a corrupt conservative incumbent and is now racking up an impressive reform record in his first term. Likewise, there is New Mexico's Gov. Susana Martinez, a former district attorney who remains popular in her state despite an otherwise Democratic tide.
How many Hispanic governors do the Democrats have in office? Zero.
As James Taranto notes, this isn't "counterintuitive", it just runs against common stereotypes of Republicans. Republicans and conservatives are not racist or sexist.
Just a friendly reminder that sequestration was first proposed by President Obama in 2011.
No one disputes the fact that no one wanted sequestration, or that ultimately a bipartisan vote in Congress led to passage of the Budget Control Act. But the president categorically said that sequestration was "something that Congress has proposed."
Woodward's detailed account of meetings during the crisis, clearly based on interviews with key participants and contemporaneous notes, make it clear that sequestration was a proposal advanced and promoted by the White House.
In sum: Gene Sperling brought up the idea of a sequester, while Jack Lew sold Harry Reid on the idea and then decided to use the Gramm-Hollings-Rudman language (which he knew from his days of working for Tip O'Neill) as a template for sequester. The proposal was so unusual for Republicans that staffers had to work through the night to understand it.
So if the sequestration happens and disaster follows just remember who proposed it.
John Podhoretz describes in excruciating detail just how badly Chuck Hagel did at his confirmation hearing for Secretary of Defense.
So Hagel corrected himself, kind of: "I was just handed a note that I misspoke -- that I said I supported the president's position on containment. If I said that, I meant to say that we don't have a position on containment." Whatever that means.
Later he said he was sorry he'd called the Iranian government elected and legitimate; rather, he should have said it was recognized.
"I don't understand Iranian politics," Hagel said -- which would be understandable if, say, Khloe Kardashian were testifying. But Hagel is going to be a key official determining US policy toward Iran, and one would hope he'd bring a bit of pre-existing knowledge to the table. ...
"There are a lot of things I don't know about," Hagel said, when it came to America's defenses. "If confirmed, I intend to know a lot more than I do."
But why should he bother? After all, he said in perhaps the most head-shaking comment of the day, "It doesn't matter what I think."
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) begged to differ: "It matters what you think," she found herself saying in response.
Or maybe this was the most head-shaking comment: Defense secretary is "not a policymaking position," and because he has to work in consultation with others and in service to the president, he won't be "running anything."
Senators generally make terrible administrators. There are exceptions, but not many. The kind of skills and talents that make for even a great Senator (like who?) are very different from those that make a great executive. Senators don't run anything. Most of them are in charge of staffs that run into the dozens at most. They don't have to be experts on anything much less operate a bureaucracy, they just have to say "yes" or "no" when staffers and lobbyists tell them to.
I'd be happy to have a Constitutional amendment that bars Senators from the Presidency and cabinet-level positions.
Glenn Reynolds expands on his idea to reduce corruption by taxing it.
In short, I propose putting a 50% surtax -- or maybe it should be 75%, I'm open to discussion -- on the post-government earnings of government officials. So if you work at a cabinet level job and make $196,700 a year, and you leave for a job that pays a million a year, you'll pay 50% of the difference -- just over $400,000 -- to the Treasury right off the top. So as not to be greedy, we'll limit it to your first five years of post-government earnings; after that, you'll just pay whatever standard income tax applies.
This seems fair. After all, when it comes to your value as an ex-government official, it really is a case of "you didn't build that." Your value to a future employer comes from having held a taxpayer-funded position and from having wielded taxpayer-conferred power. Why shouldn't the taxpayers get a cut?
Sounds like a fine idea to me. While we're at it, maybe we should pay high-level government officials a lot more.
President Obama has decided to put women into primary combat roles in the US military. He says:
Today, every American can be proud that our military will grow even stronger with our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters playing a greater role in protecting this country we love.
The hacking group known as Anonymous is upset over the abuse of prosecutorial discretion and rightly point out that when the law makes us all criminals then it's the prosecutors who rule the world by deciding which charges to bring against whom. The group recently posted this statement on the hacked website for the US Sentencing Commission:
Anonymous has observed for some time now the trajectory of justice in the United States with growing concern. We have marked the departure of this system from the noble ideals in which it was born and enshrined. We have seen the erosion of due process, the dilution of constitutional rights, the usurpation of the rightful authority of courts by the "discretion" of prosecutors. We have seen how the law is wielded less and less to uphold justice, and more and more to exercise control, authority and power in the interests of oppression or personal gain.
Fortunately for Anonymous (and contra their actions to date) they don't need to perform any illegal activities to hold prosecutors accountable for their decisions! It is pretty easy to obtain court records via legal means and then publicize the names and activities of prosecutors who abuse their power, position and discretion. This monitoring would be a valuable public service, and it's a shame that the traditional media has been unable to perform it due to their pre-occupation with covering pop culture and cheerleading for Obama.
House Republicans may have kept their majority in November but they seem incapable of out-maneuvering President Obama.
Speaker John A. Boehner's effort to pass fallback legislation to avert a fiscal crisis in less than two weeks collapsed Thursday night in an embarrassing defeat after conservative Republicans refused to support legislation that would allow taxes to rise on the most affluent households in the country.
House Republican leaders abruptly canceled a vote on the bill after they failed to rally enough votes for passage in an emergency meeting about 8 p.m. Within minutes, dejected Republicans filed out of the basement meeting room and declared there would be no votes to avert the "fiscal cliff" until after Christmas. With his "Plan B" all but dead, the speaker was left with the choice to find a new Republican way forward or to try to get a broad deficit reduction deal with President Obama that could win passage with Republican and Democratic votes.
However the primary reason that Boehner appears to be failing is that the media mostly ignores that fact that the House has already passed numerous bills that would avert the fiscal cliff by reducing spending without increasing taxes, and the Democrats have continuously refused to consider those proposals. Instead of negotiating against himself and proffering ever-more-taxy proposals Boehner should have stood pat. Now the Republicans all look like fools.
The blue states just re-elected President Obama, and the one concrete point that he campaigned on was to raise taxes on "the rich". So, let's raise some revenue!
But suddenly liberals are having second thoughts, and our guess is that this is because residents of high-tax Democratic-run states are about twice as likely to take advantage of tax loopholes as taxpayers in low-tax states. For example, 44% of Connecticut filers itemize their deductions, but only some 21% of North and South Dakota residents do.
One tax writeoff in particular illustrates the point: the deduction for state and local income taxes. This allows a high-income tax filer who pays, say, $20,000 in state and local income taxes to deduct those payments from his federal taxable income.
Because the highest federal tax rate is 35%, the value of the state and local deduction is enormous for high-tax states. If President Obama succeeds in raising the federal tax rate to 39.6%, the value of those deductions rises to nearly 40 cents on the dollar. This deduction certainly eases the pain of New Jersey's 8.97% top tax rate, or Hawaii's 11%.
Cry me a river. The Left wants tax increases and they won the election, so let's do it. Close the "loopholes" all those "fat-cat" blue-staters use to avoid paying their "fair share".