I love it!
— Josh Romney (@joshromney) April 15, 2014
Now THAT is how it’s done, y’all.
The Hill has a story up today that points out vulnerable Democrats running for re-election this year will have more than just Obamacare to worry about come November:
President Obama and Democrats may not be able to rely on the economic recovery to bolster their chances in November’s midterm elections.
Even though there has been a raft of positive economic news recently, experts in key battleground states caution that other issues, notably ObamaCare, could loom even larger than the economy.
They also add that congressional races, whether for the House or Senate, can swing as easily on local priorities as on broader questions of the national economy. And in some cases, the local economic story is different from the emerging national trend.
For the GOP to wrest control of the Senate, the party needs to pick up six seats.
In Arkansas, where Republicans fancy their chances of ousting incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor, the unemployment rate has edged up over the past 12 months and, at 7.5 percent, is now above the national average.
In Louisiana, where Sen. Mary Landrieu is the Democrat under threat, unemployment has also ticked up year-on-year — but only to 6.3 percent, a figure that is relatively healthy, at least in comparison to the country at large.
A mirror image of that situation is found in North Carolina, a key battleground where the GOP is seeking to topple Sen. Kay Hagan (D). Unemployment has dropped more precipitously in the Tar Heel State than anywhere else in the country, falling a full two percentage points between November 2012 and November 2013. Yet it still remains high, at 7.4 percent.
“I think there is a general sense that the state could be doing better, but I’m not sure the U.S. Senate race is going to be a referendum on the state economy,” said Chris Cooper, a political science professor at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N.C. “Healthcare will be huge and the real question for me is how much does the election end up being a referendum on each party’s brand?”
Democrats would of course hope that a rising economy nationally would help their brand. The national unemployment rate is now 7.0 percent which, a significant decrease from 7.8 percent a year ago. At the same time, unemployment remains elevated in historical terms, and much of the drop in the unemployment rate has come from people leaving the workforce.
In spite of the strong dislike of Obamacare across many parts of the country and the fact that many states aren’t seeing the so-called “economic recovery” the Obama administration (and their allies in the mainstream media) keeps touting, the Republicans are known for blowing elections spectacularly even when conditions on the ground favor them to win. So don’t think 2014 is a lock for the GOP in terms of winning seats in Congress. All the same, if things keep going south for Democrats as they have been for the last several months, it might just be that the GOP picks up seats by default because so many are sick of being told one thing by Democrats and actually experiencing something much different (and not for the better) later on.
As always, stay tuned.
As if premiums weren’t too high already thanks to the so-called “Affordable Care Act.” Via Fox News:
New Year’s Day marks the start of coverage under ObamaCare for millions of people — but it also marks the start of a massive tax increase which could further inflate premiums.
Beginning Wednesday, the Affordable Care Act imposes an annual fee on health insurers. The fee is projected to bring in $8 billion next year and roughly $100 billion over the next decade, making it one of the biggest under the law.
The health insurance industry has been howling about the “tax” for years, and is trying to rally support for a bill in Congress that would repeal it. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., has 229 co-sponsors — which represents a majority of members in the House.
But the White House will fight any effort to repeal it, and for now the measure is in effect.
On Tuesday, America’s Health Insurance Plans President Karen Ignagni warned that the fee will end up hitting consumers in the form of higher premiums.
“Taxing health insurance makes it more expensive and that undermines the goals of health care reform,” she said.
The health care overhaul impacts what people pay for health insurance on the individual market in a host of ways.
For some, premiums will rise, but they’ll be eligible for subsidies to offset the cost, ultimately bringing down their health care tab. Others, who make too much to qualify for subsidies, will see their health care costs rise. The impact will vary depending on the state, the level of coverage sought and other factors.
Happy New Year!
**Posted by Phineas
You’d think, after admitting wrongdoing back in May and being thoroughly pilloried by the public since then, the IRS would have had the good sense to stop singling out groups based on political beliefs. You would also be wrong:
Republicans investigating the IRS targeting scandal said Wednesday that the agency continued to conduct secret surveillance on tea party groups even after approving them for tax-exempt status.
Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel said he shut down the monitoring program after he found out about it, and said he has halted all audits of tax-exempt organizations based on political activity as he tries to get a handle on the embattled agency.
In May, the IRS acknowledged subjecting conservative groups to intrusive scrutiny and delaying applications for far too long before approving them. Some applications are still awaiting approval after three years.
The newly revealed surveillance, however, applied to applications that had been approved, but where the IRS apparently wanted to determine whether the groups strayed too far into political activity to keep their tax-exempt status.
Mr. Werfel quibbled with calling the continued “surveillance” and said he didn’t see any evidence that groups on the list for scrutiny was improperly influenced by any IRS employees.
But he said the program was troubling enough that he shut it down two weeks ago.
This deserves one of those “Hitler in the bunker” Downfall videos of its own. I mean, what was going on, here? Did Boris Badenov, one of those hypothetical rogue agents in Cincinnati, twirl his Evil Mustache(tm) and laugh maniacally while receiving orders from Fearless Leader to carry on with Phase Two?
Whether this latest harrassment was born of arrogance or cluelessness –or both– it is yet another example of why the IRS needs to be seriously reduced in size and power, if not eliminated altogether, and why our tax code should be radically simplified and flattened so that one’s entire tax filing fits on a single postcard. The permanent bureaucracy as a class is fundamentally hostile to that large swath of Americans who prefer smaller, less intrusive government, which makes it the natural ally of those political factions that see the State as the solution to all problems and the ultimate arbiter of fairness.
And a mindbogglingly complicated tax code is a weapon in their hands to harry those they disapprove of, as we’ve seen time and again these last few months. The pols don’t even need to give explicit instructions to their allies in he bureaucracy; as ST reported, a “wink and a nod” is enough. The simpatico is that strong.
We don’t need to trim the federal government. We need to take a chainsaw to it.
via Bryan Preston
(Crossposted at Public Secrets)
**Posted by Phineas
Well, here’s a surprise (he wrote in sarcasm): while harassing Tea Party and other conservative groups –and interfering with their ability to participate in the 2012 elections, coincidentally enough– our public servants in the IRS decided it would be a good idea to audit veterans organizations, the members of which are largely opposed to the Obama administration.
From The Army Times:
A Kansas senator wants the IRS to explain why veterans groups are being asked to prove their members actually served in the military.
Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said he is “troubled” by an IRS rule that could make veterans service organizations provide DD-214 separation documents “for every member at posts around the country.”
The American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans group, has about 2.4 million members and 14,000 posts. Veterans of Foreign Wars, with 1.5 million members, is the nation’s second largest veterans group. It has more than 7,600 chapters
The policy that has Moran and others excited was published in January 2011 in an Internal Revenue Service Manual chapter covering tax-exempt veterans’ service organizations. Apparently, the policy is just now getting attention from veterans’ groups.
The tax code sets requirements for veterans groups to qualify for exempt status; for example, 75% must be current or former members of the Armed Services. That’s reasonable enough, but what has Moran and others up in arms is the apparent lack of notification to these groups that they have to provide DD-214s and that failure to comply can mean fines of up to $1,000 per day.
As you can imagine, American Legion, VFW, and other groups are pretty upset, and Moran has some questions for IRS Acting Commissioner Werfel that he wants answered. Now.
From Bridget Johnson at PJM:
I can see auditing groups about which there have been reports of fraud. But that would be on an individual, case-by-case basis when there’s been credible reports of a violation. But this kind of blanket “prove to us you’re not doing anything wrong” sweep looks like more of the “We don’t like small-government/conservative types, so we’re going to make their lives miserable” arrogance that we’ve seen plenty of already from our “Lois Lerner” bureaucracy. Rather than a conspiracy, it seems like Leviathan has developed an attitude problem towards their bosses — us.
And it looks like an attitude adjustment is in order.
PS: But I do want to thank the IRS for handing every Republican candidate in veteran-heavy areas even more wonderful material for campaign commercials. You guys are the bestest!
(Crossposted at Public Secrets)
**Posted by Phineas
I’m sure Rep. Ellison will get an earful from Minority Leader Pelosi for giving the game away:
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) told a gathering of Democrats, “The bottom line is we’re not broke, there’s plenty of money, it’s just the government doesn’t have it.”
So, there you have it. It’s not your money; it’s Washington’s to redistribute as it sees fit. Like Obama. Ellison thinks the government has first call on your money. Unlike Obama, he wants it all. The President, at least, only wants your excess income.
“Excess” as defined by the government, of course.
(Crossposted at Public Secrets)
If this story doesn’t make you laugh out loud with glee while doing a little “Toldjah So!” chant, I don’ t know what will:
Gov. Rick Perry’s high-profile efforts to lure jobs to Texas from other states may be good business and smart politics back home, but they’re infuriating to prominent Democrats around the country.
And now at least one Republican business leader says Perry’s taking the Lone Star swagger a little too far.
Perry’s forceful recruitment campaigns, featuring radio and magazine ads as well as personal appearances, promise low-tax, pro-growth policies in Texas —and they also trash the business climate in places like California (“…I hear building a business in California is next to impossible”) and Illinois (“…an environment that, intentionally or not, is designed for you to fail.”)
Those attacks hit where it hurts and have touched off an angry political backlash against Perry outside the Texas borders, with Democrats mocking his attempts to steal jobs as clownish – and warning the Republican governor to keep his hands off. In a memorable put-down, Gov. Jerry Brown said Perry’s incursions into California were about as effective as breaking wind.
But other observers say Perry knows exactly what he’s doing.
“At the end of the day, no matter how any of the [states] respond, people are left with two distinct messages: That guy down in Texas has got big brass balls and he’s creating a lot of jobs,” Mark McKinnon, a political strategist with deep Texas ties, told POLITICO. “It’s brilliant marketing and very smart politics.”
McKinnon also noted, “Of course it breaks all the rules of inter-state diplomacy and protocol.”
Perry has stepped up jobs raids into the blue states of Illinois and California this year, efforts that come as he looks to announce his next political step after the Texas legislative session concludes. His current gubernatorial term is up in 2014, and he hasn’t ruled out a 2016 presidential run.
Heh. Read the rest of the article to find the names of the Democrat feathers he’s ruffling, and which Democrats are putting on airs about how Perry ‘can try, but he won’t succeed.’ Hilarious because … many CA companies are indeed finding Texas to have a much more hospitable business climate. Some California companies have ALREADY moved to TX – with many more considering. Get used to it, Dem. Governors. And while you’re at it -why not make your respective state’s business policies as friendly as Texas’ are so that these companies won’t want to relocate? This is the spirit of good ol’ American competition. Hello?
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Internal Revenue Service apologized Friday for what it acknowledged was “inappropriate” targeting of conservative political groups during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status.
IRS agents singled out dozens of organizations for additional reviews because they included the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their exemption applications, said Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups. In some cases, groups were asked for lists of donors, which violates IRS policy in most cases, she said.
The agency — led at the time by a Bush administration appointee [note the AP’s attempt at covering for the admin there – ST] — blamed low-level employees, saying no high-level officials were aware. But that wasn’t good enough for Republicans in Congress, who are conducting several investigations and asked for more.
“I call on the White House to conduct a transparent, government-wide review aimed at assuring the American people that these thuggish practices are not under way at the IRS or elsewhere in the administration against anyone, regardless of their political views,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
White House spokesman Jay Carney declared it was indeed inappropriate for the IRS to target tea party groups. But he brushed aside questions about whether the White House itself would investigate.
Instead, Carney said the administration expects a thorough investigation by the Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration. The inspector general has been looking into the issue since last summer, and his report is expected to come out next week, the IG’s office said Friday.
Many conservative groups complained during the campaign that they were being harassed by the IRS. They accused the agency of frustrating their attempts to become tax exempt by sending them lengthy, intrusive questionnaires.
The forms, which the groups have made available, sought information about group members’ political activities, including details of their postings on social networking websites and about family members.
IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman told Congress in March 2012 that the IRS was not targeting groups based on politics.
“There’s absolutely no targeting. This is the kind of back and forth that happens to people” who apply for tax-exempt status, Shulman told a House Ways and Means subcommittee.
Absolute, total, and complete BULL SH*T. This was an ELECTION YEAR and groups hostile to the re-election of President Obama were TARGETED BY THE Internal Revenue Service. John Hinderaker at Power Line explains:
The IRS claims that “the practice was initiated by low-level workers in Cincinnati and was not motivated by political bias.” That last point is risible. Of course it was motivated by political bias. Ms. Lerner says further that “no high level IRS officials knew about the practice.” That, too, seems extremely doubtful. If I knew the IRS was auditing Tea Party groups, how likely is it that no senior agency officials had heard about it?
Congress should investigate this, obviously. By Congress, I mean the House of Representatives. There is zero chance of the Democratic Senate investigating anything related to the Obama administration. (See David Gelernter’s essay posted immediately below.) Come to think of it, this may be one more reason why Obama is so single-mindedly devoted to winning back the House in 2014: the way his administration’s scandals are multiplying, an all-Democrat Congress provides insurance against having to leave office via helicopter.
Yep. And not to freak y’all out even worse, but there’s also this from Professor William Jacobson:
Remember, the IRS is the Obamacare mandate enforcer. What level of confidence do you have as to fair enforcement, and that “low level” IRS employees will not misuse information gained in connection with assuring compliance with the health insurance requirements? (I’ve been warning about that since August 14, 2009, IRS The New Health Care Enforcer.)
BTW, thank Mark Levin for this issue getting sunlight to begin with:
Let several other points be noted, though. First, I think our friend Mark Levin merits a lot of the credit for forcing the apology; he was the main one who forced the issue, legally. It was his Landmark Legal Foundation that sent the letter that pressured the IRS into coming clean.
Sunlight is, of course, always the best disinfectant when it comes to lies and corruption – especially in government.
As I noted on Twitter, this has been a bad week for the Obama administration, but a good one for America. Phineas pointed out earlier, the administration’s web of lies on Benghazi is unraveling thanks to more than one or two in the media finally giving a rip, and now comes the forced admission by the IRS that opponents of this President were targeted for audits during a re-election year. More questions will have to be answered on both, and in the case of the IRS, we need to know who ordered the 75 groups to be targeted and why (even though we all know why), and hearings are already in the works. Bottom line: The truth about the corruptocrat liars in the White House – and the Chicago Way types who surround them in a protective cocoon can no longer be contained by the our celebrity President’s allies in the mainstream press.
It’s about damned time.
**Posted by Phineas
Or maybe it’s the off-ramp to Cyprus.
Over at lefty blog Talking Points Memo (h/t Joel Gehrke), Brian Beutler has noted an interesting item in the White House’s latest budget proposal: a cap on the amount one is allowed to save in tax-deferred accounts. Anything over that is open to the taxman.
Per the budget, “Individual Retirement Accounts and other tax-preferred savings vehicles are intended to help middle class families save for retirement. But under current rules, some wealthy individuals are able to accumulate many millions of dollars in these accounts, substantially more than is needed to fund reasonable levels of retirement saving.”
But how would they close this loophole?
One way experts believe financial managers avoid the current annual contribution limit to IRAs is by using IRAs to participate in investments and assigning those investment interests a nominal value vastly below fair market.
Obama wouldn’t curb this practice directly. Instead his budget calls for an overall cap of about $3 million on the net balance across all of an individuals’ tax-preferred accounts. Only have one IRA? It can hold $3 million. Have three? Their holdings must sum to $3 million or less.
The $3 million figure is approximate. A formula would set the cap at a level just high enough to finance an annual distribution of no more than $205,000 per year in retirement for someone retiring this year.
Now, I can imagine TPM is just thrilled with this; it just reeks of class warfare disguised as “fairness.” We’ve got “reasonable levels” (Defined by whom? Oh, wait…) and the ever popular “loophole,” with its scent of someone getting away with something, cheating the rest of us.
What the administration is talking about, I believe, are self-directed IRAs and other retirement vehicles that allow you to invest your money where you see fit (1). When you sell the stock and withdraw the funds, under the rules you’re taxed at a much lower rate. It’s a great vehicle for wealth creation and the encouragement of saving for retirement.
And that’s what they can’t stand. The rules as written prevent them from taxing this sheltered wealth to fund their bloated spending, so they’re going to change the rules. Oh sure, they say this is aimed the the “Romneys” of the world, those rich people who have sheltered more the $3 million, but how long do you think that barrier will last? About as long as it takes them to realize they need more.
Rocco always wants more.
This idea to tax sheltered money isn’t new; FDR, to whom Obama acolytes compare him, has his own undistributed profits tax, to punish businesses that were holding on to cash. (Look out, Apple!) That scheme blew up in Roosevelt’s face as business investment collapsed and the nation entered a new recession in 1937-38. You can bet a move like this would have its own unintended consequences, which the social engineers at Team Unicorn would blame on anyone but their own ham-handed, grasping, greedy policies.
This is progressivism showing its face as Leviathan. Forget that it was your skill and acumen and good habits that accumulated that wealth (and, through investing it, helped others by creating jobs, &c.); forget that this is, in the end, your money, yours to dispose of as you see fit, beyond that portion needed to fund the basic functions of government.
Forget all that.
The administrative state beloved by progressives knows what’s best. It has its plans and goals for us all, because it has divined the national will. Thus all the resources of the nation are at its disposal to meet those goals.
Including your retirement accounts.
This budget is dead on arrival, thank Heaven, but don’t think this scheme is going away. Oh, no. Once broached, it’s out there, waiting.
PS: I wonder if this is where Obama got the idea?
(1) You know: your money, your property, your liberty.
(Crossposted at Public Secrets)