The IRS is abusing its authority once again by employing the help of a private law firm in its case against Microsoft.
By Peter Roff • USNews
If there is one federal agency that has clearly run amok during the Obama administration, it’s the United States Internal Revenue Service. From the harassment of tea party groups applying for nonprofit status to the defiance of congressional subpoenas, it’s an agency badly in need of a thorough housecleaning.
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen is already under threat of impeachment by the U.S. House of Representatives. That might be a good start, but removing him won’t fix the problems any more than the ouster of his predecessor did. The problems run too deep. Congress needs to act, not just by stepping up oversight of the tax collectors but by jerking their chain and narrowing their authority.
From top to bottom the agency is engaged in a wholesale abuse of its authority – and is defying attempts to investigate what it has been doing. Groups on the right are still reportedly having their applications for tax-exempt status slow-walked through the process. Confidential data is still leaking out and the auditing process is out of control. Continue reading
by Kenneth Bloomquist
Standing before an audience of college students, President Obama remarked that “As Americans, we can and should be proud of the progress that our country has made over these past six years. This progress has been hard, but it has been steady and it has been real. And it’s the result of the American people’s drive and their determination and their resilience, and it’s also the result of sound decisions made by my administration.” These remarks sound more defensive than confident. The President asserted that Americans should feel proud of the modest economic gains his administration frequently cites, but given that over half of Americans still consider the economy to be meandering through a recession it seems they have overwhelmingly rejected his outlook and chosen to remain humble instead.
Perhaps they’re being overly pessimistic? In the President’s defense, the metrics commonly used to measure the duration of recessions do indeed place the end of the Great Recession in 2009. Since then, GDP has risen slowly, but steadily, at an adjusted rate of just over 2% per year. The unemployment rate has fallen from its 2009 high of just under 10% to just under 6%, and new jobs are being created at a pace which is improving with time. And yet despite the graphs and charts, Americans refuse to be optimistic no matter how often they are told to be. The economy as described in press conferences doesn’t seem to be same one which most Americans live and work in, where family and friends remain unemployed or underpaid, where they have been passed over for raises, and where there just isn’t enough income leftover to save. Americans may not all have advanced economics degrees, but they are intuitively aware when times are good and when times are bad, and they remain skeptical even when bombarded by a steady stream of rose-tinted statistics. Continue reading
And secret friend of the one percent.
by Jay Cost • The Weekly Standard
In last week’s State of the Union address, President Barack Obama came across as the ultimate class warrior. His domestic agenda consists of more spending on roads and infrastructure, new entitlement programs for community college and preschool, and tax preferences targeted to low- and middle-income earners. All of this he would pay for with new inheritance taxes on the wealthy, a hike in the capital gains tax, and a special levy on the biggest financial institutions.
But don’t be fooled. Obama may seem like the newest member of Occupy Wall Street—chanting “We are the 99 percent!”—but his record shows him to be a corporate liberal, and a closer look at last week’s proposals confirms it. Continue reading
Obama goes where the money is to pay for ‘free’ education programs – your savings account.
by Glenn Harlan Reynolds • USAToday
Bank robber Willie Sutton is said to have explained his career this way: “That’s where the money is.” Whether Sutton ever really said that, it’s an aphorism that, according to Bloomberg’s Megan McArdle, explains President Obama’s plans to go after middle class assets like 529 college savings plans and home appreciation.
Though millions of Americans have been putting money into “tax free” 529 plans to save for their children’s increasingly expensive college educations, President Obama would change the law so that withdrawals from the plans to fund college would be taxed as ordinary income. So while you used to be able to get a nice tax benefit by saving for college, now you’ll be shelling out to Uncle Sam every time you withdraw to pay for Junior’s dorm fees.
This doesn’t hurt the very rich — who just pay for college out of pocket — or the poor, who get financial aid, but it’s pretty rough on the middle– and upper–middle class. In a double-whammy, those withdrawals will show up as income on parents’ income tax forms, which are used to calculate financial aid, making them look richer, and hence reducing grants. Continue reading
by Stephen Moore • The Washington Post
It was 40 years ago this month that two of President Gerald Ford’s top White House advisers, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld, gathered for a steak dinner at the Two Continents restaurant in Washington with Wall Street Journal editorial writer Jude Wanniski and Arthur Laffer, former chief economist at the Office of Management and Budget. The United States was in the grip of a gut-wrenching recession, and Laffer lectured to his dinner companions that the federal government’s 70 percent marginal tax rates were an economic toll booth slowing growth to a crawl.
To punctuate his point, he grabbed a pen and a cloth cocktail napkin and drew a chart showing that when tax rates get too high, they penalize work and investment and can actually lead to revenue losses for the government. Four years later, that napkin became immortalized as “the Laffer Curve” in an article Wanniski wrote for the Public Interest magazine. (Wanniski would later grouse only half-jokingly that he should have called it the Wanniski Curve.) Continue reading
Despite his memory lapses, the ethical problems related to his work on Obamacare are plain.
by John Fund • National Review Online
An old Soviet joke had men carrying briefcases marching alongside tanks and soldiers in a Kremlin parade. “Why are those men in a military parade?” a boy innocently asks his father. He replies, “Those are the economists. They are the most dangerous of all.”
MIT economist Jonathan Gruber’s factually impoverished testimony on Obamacare didn’t get nearly the attention it should have, as congressional Democrats cleverly decided to release a report on CIA torture abuses on the same day. Continue reading
Editorial Board • Wall Street Journal
One reading of the midterm election wave is that voters have concluded that President Obama ’s answer to falling incomes and slow growth—higher taxes on the rich and more redistribution—is tapped out. These policies have been up and running for six long years but the middle class is no better off as a result.
On taxes, Mr. Obama often claims that the rich don’t pay their “fair share,” yet the most affluent one-fifth of taxpayers on average supplied 68.7% of federal revenue for 2011. That’s according to the Congressional Budget Office, which last week updated its statistics on the U.S. distribution of income and taxes for 2011 and preliminary calculations for last year.
As for the top 1%, they funded 24% of everything the government does in 2011. The CBO also estimates that the end-of-2012 fiscal cliff deal that lifted the top marginal income tax rate to 39.6%, plus ObamaCare’s taxes on high-income individuals, increased their average federal taxes by 4.3 percentage points to 33.3% of income. The Warren Buffett minimum-tax rule asserted that no millionaire should pay an effective tax below 30%. Mission accomplished. Continue reading
by Phil Kerpen • American Commitment
Since 1998 it has been prohibited by federal law for states and localities to tax Internet access. This policy, known as the Internet Tax Freedom Act, has been extended three times with broad bipartisan support. But it is set to expire again on November 1, and some Senate Democrats appear willing, this time, to allow it to actually expire if they can’t use it to leverage an unrelated tax issue. It’s a dangerous game that could cost taxpayers billions of dollars and worsen the digital divide by pricing some lower income Americans off of the Internet entirely.
The House, led by Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, passed a bill last month to make the ban on Internet access taxes permanent. Continue reading
by Megan McArdle
Yesterday, I outlined what we knew about Halbig v. Burwell, the case in which a federal appellate court ruled that subsidies for purchasing insurance under Obamacare can only be made available on marketplaces established by states. Now I propose to outline what we don’t know: namely, what will happen after the case winds its way through the court system.
If the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately rules for the government, the answer is, “not much; things go on as they are.” But what if the justices take the case and rule for the plaintiff? Continue reading
A federal court on Tuesday struck down health insurance subsidies for people in the 36 states that did not set up their own Obamacare exchanges.
The ruling “is a repudiation of Obamacare and all the lawlessness that has come with it,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tweeted shortly after a three-judge panel in Washington, D.C. issued its ruling in Halbig v. Burwell.
While the ruling is a “significant victory for the American people & rule of law…we must not rest,” Cruz added. Continue reading
The government is making you work longer and longer to cover its hefty costs. It took Americans 186 days of work to pay for their massive government.
Just in time for American Independence Day, the folks over at Americans for Tax Reform have released their annual Cost of Government Day findings – and the news is not good.
According to the annual study, which the group began to compile in the early ’90s, an American would on average have to work for 186 days into the calendar year before they earned enough to pay their share of government’s total cost at all levels – not just for the spending and borrowing, but for the cost the regulatory burden imposes as well.
For 2014, Cost of Government Day falls on July 6, the sixth consecutive year it comes in the seventh month of the year. Prior to President Barack Obama coming to office, the group said in a release, the latest date it had ever fallen was June 27. Continue reading
Federal tax revenues continue to run at a record pace in fiscal 2014, as the federal government’s total receipts for the fiscal year closed April at $1,735,030,000,000, according to the Monthly Treasury Statement.
Despite this record revenue, the federal government still ran a deficit of $306.411 billion in the first seven months of the fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1, 2013 and will end on Sept. 30, 2014.
In the month of April itself, which usually sees the peak tax revenues for the year, the federal government ran a surplus of $106.853 billion. While taking in $414.237 billion in total receipts during the month, the government spent $307.383 billion.
In fiscal 2013, the federal government also ran a one-month surplus in April, taking in $406.723 billion during the month and spending $293.834 billion, leaving a surplus of $112.889 billion. Continue reading
While the 2000s may have been a lost decade for the American dream, a revival of our model’s advantages is still a real, worth-desiring possibility.
Because it was tax day recently, because he mentions me and because I’m easily provoked, below the quote you’ll find three rejoinders to Jonathan Cohn’s admirably forthright argument that American society would be much better off if most of us were writing larger considerably larger checks to Uncle Sam:
Maybe you don’t like tax day … [because] it reminds you of how high taxes are—and you think that, because of those high taxes, the economy grows more slowly. That would mean fewer jobs and less pay for you—and the country as a whole. It’s not a crazy argument … But the evidence for this point of view turns out to be thinner than you’ve probably heard. Relative to other countries, tax rates in the U.S. are relatively low, even when you throw in local and state taxes and add them to federal levies. Overall, according to the Tax Policy Center and Center on Budget and Policy Priorities … taxes in the U.S. are among the lowest in the developed world. The average for countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an organization of rich countries, is higher. And in countries like Sweden, Norway, and the Netherlands countries, the average is much higher. In those nations, taxes account for more than half of total national income. Continue reading
by Grover Norquist
With the arrival and passing of yet another April 15th Tax Day, the federal government will consume 20.5 percent of America’s total income this year. It’s not as bad as in France or Greece, but somewhat worse than when we formed these United States. When we were Colonies under the British, the average tax burden on American colonists was 2 percent. That was considered unbearable, and the revolution was on.
There has been some slippage over the years. The 16th Amendment allowing the income tax opened the door to truly European, supersized government. Continue reading