Free Markets, Free People

Congress

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Obama allows Holder to “hide behind” executive privilege

I’m sure no one is surprised that the most transparent administration in history has chosen to invoke executive privilege in the Fast and Furious investigation being conducted by Congress and deny that institution it’s ability to conduct its oversight responsibility.

Here’s President Obama as candidate Obama in 2007 talking about the use of executive privilege (btw, irony alert – note the CNN banner – the answer? No.):

 

 

That was then when it was the GOP’s fat in the fire. However, now that it is his and Eric Holder’s that’s being roasted, well that’s different.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R., Iowa) criticized the White House. "How can the president exert executive privilege over documents he’s supposedly never seen?" Mr. Grassley said.

Details, details. 

At issue are Justice Department documents that Messrs. Issa and Grassley have sought and that the department resisted turning over in the congressional investigation into a botched gun-trafficking probe called Fast and Furious. The department said the documents reflected internal deliberation or were related to continuing criminal investigations and therefore weren’t subject to congressional subpoena.

Of course no one knows if any of that is true (or true of all the documents requested) since no one outside the Justice Department is able to inspect them.  And this was an operation that AG Holder characterized as a “low-level operation”.  Now, suddenly it needs executive protection?  Seems like a heck of a sudden escalation in “levels” doesn’t it?

Apparently the decision to invoke executive privilege came after a meeting between AG Holder and Rep. Issa:

Messrs. Issa and Holder met Tuesday for 20 minutes. From their accounts, it has become a game of chicken, with each side insisting the other act first to resolve the standoff.

Mr. Holder said Mr. Issa rejected his offer to provide documents because the lawmaker wouldn’t agree that they would fulfill a subpoena, effectively ending the contempt threat. Mr. Issa said the attorney general didn’t come prepared to provide documents and that the contempt threat can’t be removed until the documents are produced.

Holder then proceeded to take the documents off the table via the President and executive privilege.

Mr. Grassley said Tuesday night: "The attorney general wants to trade a briefing and the promise of delivering some small, unspecified set of documents tomorrow for a free pass today. He wants to turn over only what he wants to turn over and not give us any information about what he’s not turning over. That’s unacceptable. I’m not going to buy a pig in a poke. Chairman Issa is right to move forward to seek answers about a disastrous government operation."

Contempt of Congress should now move forward.  Frankly, Holder has been contemptuous of the law since the first day he took the office of the Attorney General.

And, for most folks, human nature says that those who have something they don’t want known have a tendency to try to hide it.  Whether true or not, that’s how it appears … just as it did in the example in the video when Obama spoke out against the use of what he invoked today.

Matt Burden came up with my favorite bit of irony today as concerns this burgeoning fiasco:

Okay, I want to know what freaking idiot leaks all kinds of classified operations putting military, civilian agents, and allies at risk but pulls EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE on Fast and Furious documents (that AG Holder said was a low level op)?!

Oh, wait…

Heh …

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Circling the drain

The NY Times has an article out saying that extended unemployment benefits are beginning to wind down.  Of course that’s in the face of at least 5 million still unemployed.   And while it obviously has to happen, i.e. the cut-off of extended unemployment benefits,  my guess is that Democrats are less likely to want it to happen than Republicans.

In case you haven’t heard there’s an election soon.

But, that said, it does take us to a number that should concern everyone:

49.1%: Percent of the population that lives in a household where at least one member received some type of government benefit in the first quarter of 2011.

Cutting government spending is no easy task, and it’s made more complicated by recent Census Bureau data showing that nearly half of the people in the U.S. live in a household that receives at least one government benefit, and many likely received more than one.

Yes, that number.  49.1%.  Why should we be concerned about it?  Well if I have to explain, you most likely won’t get it anyway.  Make this comparison:

The 49.1% of the population in a household that gets benefits is up from 30% in the early 1980s and 44.4% as recently as the third quarter of 2008.

That’s a very large increase from 1984.  It speaks, at least to me, of dependence.  Now I know the recession has somewhat skewed the numbers.  Got it.  And, as the unemployment benefits wind down, the number will probably drop.

But in reality it points to a trend in which more and more people depend on less and less working people to help pay their way (CBO says food stamp rolls will continue to grow through 2014).  What this points too is increased government spending (no matter how you slice it – those drawing money from the government is up and that means government is spending more) in an era we can’t afford it.

With increased government spending comes the need to pay for it, and if taxes aren’t going to increase that means deficits. Nearly three-quarters of Americans blame the U.S. budget deficit on spending too much money on federal programs, according to a Gallup poll last year, but when the conversation turns to which programs to cut, the majorities are harder to find. For example, 56% of respondents oppose making significant changes to Social Security or Medicare.

Why do you suppose that is? Why would 56% oppose making significant changes to Social Security or Medicare?

Because they have a vested financial interest in the two programs.  Government has, for decades, taken money out of their pay check, spent it on other things and over promised the benefits.  Or to simplify it for you, they’ve grossly mismanaged the two programs to the point that anyone in the private sector would be in jail.

And yet, the number of Americans getting benefits from government continues to trend upward.

Can you not spot the big red kangaroo here?

Why is it obvious to everyone but our politicians (yeah, that’s a rhetorical question for those wondering)?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Senate Dems: Loud, but clueless

If you were a group pushing legislation called the “Paycheck Fairness Act” that demanded gender equity in pay and benefits for working women (i.e. women being paid the same as men) and were beating up the other side and accusing them of making “war on women”, do you suppose before you did either you’d ensure your skirts were clean (no pun intended)?

Would you ensure you were paying women in your employ equally before trotting out your bombastic accusations?

Well most smart folks would, but we’re talking about Democratic Senators here.  Five female Democratic Senators held a press conference yesterday in which they did exactly that – demanded equal pay for women and beat up Republicans.  But:

Of the five senators who participated in Wednesday’s press conference—Barbara Mikulski (D., Md.), Patty Murray (D., Wash.), Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.), Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) and Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.)—three pay their female staff members significantly less than male staffers.

Murray, who has repeatedly accused Republicans of waging a “war a women,” is one of the worst offenders. Female members of Murray’s staff made about $21,000 less per year than male staffers in 2011, a difference of 35.2 percent.

That is well above the 23 percent gap that Democrats claim exists between male and female workers nationwide.

Its not just the Democratic women in the Senate though:

The pay differential is quite striking in some cases, especially among leading Democrats. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), who runs the Senate Democratic messaging operation, paid men $19,454 more on average, a 36 percent difference.

Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) paid men $13,063 more, a difference of 23 percent.

Other notable Senators whose “gender pay gap” was larger than 23 percent:

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.)—47.6 percent
  • Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D., N.M.)—40 percent
  • Sen. Jon Tester (D., Mont.)—34.2 percent
  • Sen. Ben Cardin (D., Md.)—31.5 percent
  • Sen. Tom Carper (D., Del.)—30.4 percent
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.)–29.7 percent
  • Sen. Kent Conrad (D., N.D.)–29.2 percent
  • Sen. Bill Nelson (D., Fla.)—26.5 percent
  • Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore)—26.4 percent
  • Sen. Tom Harkin (D., Iowa)—23.2 percent

By the way, you do recall that one of the first pieces of legislation passed in the Obama administration was something called the “Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act” which supposedly “solved” the gender pay disparity issue?  Hey, it’s in all of Obama’s campaign literature.

“We passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act—the first bill I signed—so that equal pay for equal work is a reality all across this country,” he said in June 2009.

And you can see how well it “solved” the disparities that exist among Democratic Senatorial staffs, can’t you?

Forward!

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Lies, deficits and even more irony

I’m sure you have seen the chart that’s been circulating by Rex Nutting of Marketwatch in which he claims that Obama has overseen the least growth in federal spending.  In fact what Nutting reproves is the old “lies, damn lies and statistics” cliché.  James Pethokoukis  takes his argument apart here.

Then there is this story today.  It too pokes huge holes in the attempt downplay spending for the past few years during the Obama administration.  In this case the story points out the accounting practices, or lack thereof, that Congress uses that would likely find any business using them accused of keeping double books:

The typical American household would have paid nearly all of its income in taxes last year to balance the budget if the government used standard accounting rules to compute the deficit, a USA TODAY analysis finds.

Under those accounting practices, the government ran red ink last year equal to $42,054 per household — nearly four times the official number reported under unique rules set by Congress.

A U.S. household’s median income is $49,445, the Census reports.

The big difference between the official deficit and standard accounting: Congress exempts itself from including the cost of promised retirement benefits. Yet companies, states and local governments must include retirement commitments in financial statements, as required by federal law and private boards that set accounting rules.

The deficit was $5 trillion last year under those rules. The official number was $1.3 trillion. Liabilities for Social Security, Medicare and other retirement programs rose by $3.7 trillion in 2011, according to government actuaries, but the amount was not registered on the government’s books.

If you think unemployment is under reported, when it comes to the deficit, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet, brother.

$5 trillion dollars.  Let that sink in a bit.   If this were any business out there using standard accounting rules, that’s what they would, by law, have to report.

Congress?   Well, they’re special.  They get to make up the rules as they go along and then follow them only if they wish too (with the option then of again changing the rules to fit what they’ve decided to do).  In fact, since today seems to be irony day, the irony is:

"By law, the federal government can’t tell the truth," says accountant Sheila Weinberg of the Chicago-based Institute for Truth in Accounting.

Amazing but not shocking.  In fact, not even surprising.  We didn’t get here by being told the truth.

Oh, and remember real unemployment is at 8.1%. (*cough, cough*)

Forward!

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Reid: “No Keystone for you!”

Can’t pass a budget in three years, is pretty sure the biggest reason to keep the financially insolvent USPS open is senior citizens like getting junk mail and wants the government paying your tax dollars to keep cowboy poetry alive, Harry Reid is a poster boy for the arguments against seniority as a means of picking leaders. 

But when it comes to screwing over the best interests of the United State, well, you can definitely count on Harry to be on the side of those doing the screwing.

Senate Democrats will hold firm and reject House Republican demands to include approval of the Keystone oil pipeline in transportation funding legislation, their leader said Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he would not in any way help Republicans move Keystone approval across the finish line.

“Personally, I’m not — I’m not one of the conferees — but personally I think Keystone is a program that we’re not going, that I am not going to help in any way I can,” Reid told reporters. “The president feels that way. I do, too.”

I’m sure the president does indeed feel the way Reid does.

Which should tell you all you need to know about where the President’s priorities are as well.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Sen. Democrats can’t produce a budget, but they can still find ways to raise taxes and redistribute income

The latest vote buying scheme?  If you’re a small business man who owns an S-chapter corporation (that would be me), read it and weep:

Congressional Democrats and the White House have agreed to pay for a bill to freeze student loan interest rates for a year by raising taxes on so-called S Corporations, according to a top Senate Democrat and senior House and Senate aides, but Republicans said the tax increase may ensure the bill’s defeat in the Senate.

“We’ve got it worked out,” Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said on Tuesday of the formula for paying for the legislation. Harkin spoke after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he will introduce within the next day a bill to prevent interest rates from doubling to 6.8 percent on July 1. That sets up Senate action on the bill next month after senators return May 7 from a one-week recess. A spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she and House Education and Workforce ranking member George Miller, D-Calif., also signed off on the proposal.

The bill will require S Corporations with three or fewer shareholders who declare income of at least $250,000 a year to pay employment taxes, according to Harkin and Democratic staffers involved in the talks. An S Corporation is a specially structured entity that pays taxes under rules that allow earnings or losses to be passed through shareholders, reducing federal tax payments.

That’s right, S corps would be taxed to help keep interest rates on student loans down.  Remember, the government now owns student loans. 

And what have we looming right after the July 1st interest rate increase that might be hurt if that happens?

Why the November presidential election, of course.

Any wonder why the White House and Democrats are all for screwing small business to buy off a critical constituency?

It is no different in the category of desired political result than the $8 billion in spending HHS would do at the behest of the White House to slide the Medicare supplemental cost increase seniors will undergo from before the election to after.

This is outrageous.  This is blatant vote buying and income redistribution to “pay” for Obama’s re-election.  This is the essence of the Democratic ideology laid bare and the deviousness  and immorality of their methods exposed for all to see – if they’ll see it.

No one makes anyone take out a student loan.  And although it may be expensive, decades worth of those who’ve gone before have acted like adults and paid off the obligations they agreed too.

Now, if the Democrats get their way, it will be the job of those who’ve risked all to open a small business and built it with sweat equity and delayed gratification to pay to keep government controlled interest rates down?

“I don’t think anybody believes this interest rate ought to be allowed to rise,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday. “The question is, how do you pay for it? How long do you do the extension?”

Republicans are “in the process of discussing it among ourselves,” McConnell said.

Don’t even think about it Mr. McConnell!  If, as Obama has said, it is wrong to raise taxes in an economic downturn, it is ALWAYS wrong.  And if you think we’ve turned the corner economically, you’re not paying attention.

Government decided to take over the student loan business and now government can suffer the consequences of its actions.  I have no desire or intent to bail it out.

If this doesn’t make you angry as hell then I’m fairly certain which lever you’re pulling in November. 

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


There’s a reason Nancy Pelosi is the least popular member of Congress

She’s dangerously thick but in a position of power.  This is the woman who attempted to redefine what it means to be Catholic (because actual Catholicism didn’t support her views on abortion).  She passed a piece of legislation called ObamaCare without even knowing what was in it.

Now she wants to redefine free speech.  Said Ms. Pelosi, while discussing Citizens United v. FEC (via The Rightscoop):

We have a clear agenda in this regard: Disclose, reform the system reducing the roll of money in campaigns, and amend the Constitution to rid it of this ability for special interests to use secret, unlimited, huge amounts of money flowing to campaigns.

I think one of the presenters [at a Democratic forum on amending the Constitution] yesterday said that the Supreme Court had unleashed a predator that was oozing slime into the political system, and that, indeed, is not an exaggeration. Our Founders had an idea. It was called democracy. It said elections are determined by the people, the voice and the vote of the people, not by the bankrolls of the privileged few. This Supreme Court decision flies in the face of our Founders’ vision and we want to reverse it.

Obviously she’s about as much a Constitutional Scholar as our President. 

The First Amendment pertains to freedom of political speech and requires Congress to “make no law …” that would suppress it.

Ed Morrissey said it best:

The best campaign finance reform is still transparency. If burning a flag in the street is free speech, then so are political contributions, especially when made in the open. If the reformers in Congress want to clean up elections, then force immediate reporting on the Internet of all contributions to all presidential, Senate, and Congressional races, and full weekly financial reports on expenditures. That will do more than all of the speech-restricting, unconstitutional efforts made since Watergate, and make the entire system a lot more honest.

That’s where she and the left should be headed with this (after this campaign season of course – they want all that slime to flow into their coffers for at least the rest of this year).

Bottom line, Ms. Pelosi – “Congress shall make no law …”.

What part of that don’t you understand?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Congress to mandate “black box” on all cars after 2015?

Yesterday I pointed to a piece of legislation that is in the House right now (after being passed by the Senate) which would give the IRS the power to confiscate your passport without judicial review and merely on the suspicion you owe a certain amount of back taxes.

Given the Orwellian name Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act or MAP-21,  the legislation also mandates that all new cars have a “event data recorder” installed starting in 2015.

Now other than for government use, there are very few reasons why an owner of a vehicle would want such a device installed in his or her car.

The only reason an owner might want one was in case of an accident, it may provide some proof of their innocence in terms of fault.  But we’ve become quite sophisticated in accident investigation already and seem quite capable of determining that now without the aid of an onboard “event data recorder”.

Section 31406 of Senate Bill 1813 (known as MAP-21), calls for “Mandatory Event Data Recorders” to be installed in all new automobiles and legislates for civil penalties to be imposed against individuals for failing to do so.

“Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall revise part 563 of title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, to require, beginning with model year 2015, that new passenger motor vehicles sold in the United States be equipped with an event data recorder that meets the requirements under that part,” states the bill.

Nice.

Although the text of legislation states that such data would remain the property of the owner of the vehicle, the government would have the power to access it in a number of circumstances, including by court order, if the owner consents to make it available, and pursuant to an investigation or inspection conducted by the Secretary of Transportation.

And, one would assume, government access to such data would be expanded as government found additional reasons to want it.  Not to mention the addition of new “recording” devices or the like which might be even more intrusive in the future (if they manage to get away with this).  Like imposing a road use tax.  How handy would such a device be to government then?

This sort of government intrusion bothers the heck out of me.  Never mind that this mandate (along with new CAFÉ standards) will increase the cost of a new car, the real point is this is being done as something government desires, not the individual.  There’s no hew and cry or demand for such a device now.  This serves one constituency and one constituency only – government.

Additionally, it isn’t optional.  You have no choice but to pay for one if you buy a new car.  And you will most likely be prosecuted if you disable it.

These are the sorts of intrusions citizens ought to be fighting tooth and nail.  It isn’t the job of government to mandate recording devices on private vehicles.  If they want to have them installed on their vehicle fleets, that’s fine.

But not mine.  Not without my consent and damn sure not as a mandate with legal consequences for non-compliance.

There are now two reasons MAP-21 should be shot down in the House.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


IRS to have power to confiscate passport?

Iguess we’ve moved into the realm of “guilty until you prove yourself innocent”:

The Republican House of Representatives may soon follow the Democratic Senate and give the IRS the power to confiscate your passport on mere suspicion of owing taxes. There’s no place like home, comrade.

‘America, Love It Or Leave It" might be an obsolete slogan if the "bipartisan transportation bill" that just passed the Senate is approved by the House and becomes law. Contained within the suspiciously titled "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act," or "MAP 21," is a provision that gives the Internal Revenue Service the power to keep U.S. citizens from leaving the country if it finds that they owe $50,000 or more in unpaid taxes — no court ruling necessary.

Note … “mere suspicion”.  Like the IRS screws up its audit and thinks you owe more than you do (and at least $50k), your passport is yanked without going to court.

Let freedom ring, eh?

And, as the lede points out, it isn’t just the Democrats.  Another attempt by both parties to shred the Constitution.

This is not the sort of power an unaccountable agency should be given.  Any idea of how many people will suddenly find themselves on the wrong end of a suspicion they owe $50k or more in taxes?  Whether true or not, with the power to grab your passport and only a suspicion needed (no court order), the IRS will likely “suspect” many people owe at least that much.

That’s certainly consistent with the history of such granted power. Go to the extreme quickly – there’s no reason not too.  No penalty for them, certainly.  Oh, you don’t owe $50k?  Here’s your passport. 

“Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century”?

Since when is changing the IRS to a form of the KGB a “move ahead?”

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Quote of the Day: How big and intrusive has government gotten edition

The quote comes from a Heritage Foundation post on taxes and notes that today is “tax freedom day”, or the day in which what you earn from now on actually is supposed to belong to you:

In other words, for the first 111 days of the year, everything you earned went straight to Uncle Sam. Compare that to back in 1900, when Americans paid only 5.9% of their income in taxes and Tax Freedom Day came on January 22.

And in 1900, Americans felt that amount was outrageous.  But this puts in context the huge growth of government in the last century.

Here’s the problem though, it’s going to get worse – 2013 would be the year of the Obama tax increases if he’s re-elected and Congress doesn’t move to keep the current tax rates (which the left insists on calling the “Bush tax cuts” but which have, instead, been our current tax rates for years).

If those tax rates are allowed to expire, you can tack on another 11 days before we see “tax freedom day”.

That’s all due to Taxmageddon — a slew of expiring tax cuts and new tax increases that will hit Americans on January 1, 2013, amounting to a $494 billion tax hike. Heritage’s Curtis Dubay reports that American households can expect to face an average tax increase of $3,800 and that 70 percent of Taxmageddon’s impact will fall directly on low-income and middle-income families, leaving them with $346 billion less to spend.

Like sequestration, these tax increases are scheduled to happen on January 1st of next year.  Both are likely to have huge negative economic impacts.

On the tax side, Heritage’s Dubay points to immediate impact of some of the taxes that will become effective on that day:

If Congress fails to act, workers won’t have to wait very long to feel the effects. Every payday, they would see a jump in their payroll tax as it takes a bigger bite out of every paycheck. And that only reflects one of the direct hits they’ll face. They’ll feel the pain of other tax hikes they won’t pay directly, like the health care surtax on investment income and salaries over $250,000 — which begins in 2013 along with five other Obamacare tax hikes — because these hikes will slow job creation by taking away resources from businesses, investors, and entrepreneurs.

James Pethakoukis puts it into a chart for you:

041612

Says Pethakoukis:

If you combine all the other tax increases from 1980-1993, they add up to 3.3% of GDP, according to the brilliant budget team at Strategas Research. The coming “taxmageddon” of 2013 surpasses all those tax hikes combined! How could the Obama White House even toy with the idea, which it has, of letting them happen?

If they happen, can anyone guess what will happen to the economy?

So obviously, stopping this is a priority with President Obama, right?

That fact, though, isn’t making its way into President Obama’s talking points. He’s not mentioning that, absent action, Americans will pay higher income taxes, payroll taxes, and death taxes. He hasn’t spoken about the impending increase in the marriage penalty, the decrease in the child tax credit and the adoption credit, or how those who get tax breaks for education or dependent care costs will see them decreased. He hasn’t mentioned the new taxes under Obamacare, or how middle-income families will be forced to pay higher taxes under the Alternative Minimum Tax — a measure that was only supposed to impact “the rich.” Sound familiar?

Instead of dealing with Taxmageddon, President Obama wants to change the subject with a gimmicky policy like the “Buffett Tax.” The Senate obliged him yesterday by voting on this distraction. Fortunately, it was rejected. Still, while President Obama trains his fire on this class warfare policy, he ignores that if Taxmageddon strikes, the lower and middle class Americans that he says he is fighting for will pay substantially more in taxes to the federal government starting on January 1. Call it the unadvertised side effect of Barack Obama’s failed leadership.

So many “unadvertised” leadership failures in so few years.  Let this happen and watch the economy head toward the bottom again.  Of course, Obama won’t particularly care if he’s re-elected.  He’ll no longer be answerable to the American people.  He’ll have more “flexibility”.  He’ll be free to move more to the left.

A wonderful scenario and, in answer to the question in the title – you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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