Today in Liberty: Economy shed 523,000 full-time jobs in June, conservative groups take IRS scandal to federal court

“Governments never learn. Only people learn.” — Milton Friedman

— Yeah, about June’s jobs report: On Thursday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 288,000 jobs were added in June. That sounds great on the surface, but the devil is in the details. “The Labor Department’s household survey reveals that the economy lost 523,000 full-time jobs in June. At the same time, it gained an astounding 799,000 part-time jobs - the largest such monthly jump in two decades. Part-time jobs now top 28 million for the first time since last July,” the Washington Examiner notes. “This shift to part-time labor is an echo from June 2013, when the economy added 360,000 part-time jobs and shed 240,000 full-time ones. So why has history thus seemingly repeated itself? One possibility is that Obama decided last July to delay Obamacare’s employer mandate from 2014 to 2015.” Interestingly, Politico ran a story over the weekend pointing out that many Obamacare supporters are now “abandoning the employer mandate” because the provision of the law does “more harm than good.” The relevant data from the June jobs report can be found here (under “full- or part-time status”).

— Conservative groups get hearings over IRS scandal: Judicial Watch and True the Vote are hoping that two hearings this week in federal court will lead to the appointment of a special prosecutor into IRS scandal. “Conservatives call the hearings an early step to getting IRS officials under oath to discuss why the agency was unable to recover all of Lerner’s emails from 2009 to 2011, something the IRS chalks up to a hard drive crash,” The Hill notes. “Some conservatives also see the hearings as a path to getting a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS, a step they’ve unsuccessfully sought for months from Attorney General Eric Holder.” But an ongoing investigation in Congress and the politics surrounding the IRS scandal will probably keep federal courts from weighing in and the most that these two conservative groups should expect is for the IRS to get is a slap on the wrist for its shoddy record-keeping practices.

— Democrats bracing for Obamacare rate increases: Premium hikes are coming and that’s a huge problem for Democrats in tough races this fall. That’s why the White House is hoping to get ahead of Republicans this summer and into the fall. “Aware that state insurance rate hikes could give Republicans a chance to resurrect Obamacare as a political liability just weeks before the midterms, the White House’s internal health care enrollment outreach apparatus immediately redirected into a rapid-response, blocking-and-tackling research and press operation geared toward preempting GOP attacks on the issue,” Politico reports. “In what aides say is a sign of a changed approach within the White House — but also heightened concerns around the midterms — they’re even coordinating with Hill Democrats, funneling localized background analysis and talking points to each state’s delegation through Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and New York Sen. Chuck Schumer’s Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Committee. They’ve also relied on California Rep. Henry Waxman’s staff at the Energy and Commerce Committee to produce rebuttal reports, often in advance, on GOP claims about insurance.” Good luck with that. Republicans may not have an alternative to Obamacare, but they do have President Barack Obama’s own words about the law. He said that premiums would be cut by $2,500 a year, and yet consumers are staring down another round of increases, with many facing double-digit hikes.

— Most Americans identify with the two major parties: But most aren’t pleased with them, according to a new AP/GfK survey. “Around 6 in 10 Americans say they identify with one of the nation’s two major parties. That figure rises to nearly 8 in 10 when those who say they lean toward either party are included. Yet both Democrats and Republicans inspire unfavorable views by a majority of Americans, including one-quarter who say they dislike both of them,” the Associated Press notes. “About a third go so far as to say they distrust both parties to handle some of the most basic functions of government: 35 percent trust neither party to handle the federal budget, and 34 percent trust neither Democrats nor Republicans to manage the federal government or address the concerns of ‘people like me.’” Believe it or not, the poll found that just “[a] small share” of people affiliate themselves with a party out of dislike of the other side.

— Clock running out on NSA reform: There isn’t going to be much political will to get anything done after the August recess, leaving what remains of the month of July the timeframe to get meaningful NSA reforms passed. “The Senate will return after the holiday weekend for four straight weeks of work in Washington before the month-long August recess. After that, government funding and the November elections are likely to take center stage, clouding the outlook for any controversial measures on Capitol Hill,” The Hill explains. “The NSA reform bill passed the House in May, after sailing through both the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees. In the Senate, however, there has been little action, more than a year after the disclosures from Edward Snowden thrust the issue into the limelight.” The USA FREEDOM Act is the “reform bill” in question. Its meaningful provisions were gutted by the House and the two Senate committees with jurisdiction haven’t moved on the measure. Of course, if nothing happens this summer, it could give reformers a chance to kill Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, the provision through which the NSA operates its bulk phone metadata collection program, when it comes up for reauthorization next year.

— Seattle businesses want to repeal the $15 minimum wage: A coalition of Seattle business owners have submitted the signatures needed to place a referendum on the ballot to repeal the recently passed $15 per hour minimum wage. “Forward Seattle, which represents restaurants, retailers and other businesses, handed in just under 20,000 signatures to the Seattle City Clerk on Wednesday, more than the 16,510 needed to qualify for the November ballot, said group co-chair Angela Cough,” Reuters reports. “The proposal would ask Seattle voters to repeal a $15 minimum wage increase that was approved by a unanimous vote of the City Council last month and signed by Mayor Ed Murray. It is scheduled to go into effect over several years.”

— Neocons for Hillary: She’s never met a war she didn’t like, and that makes Hillary Clinton an instant favorite of neoconservatives. “Even as they castigate Mr. Obama, the neocons may be preparing a more brazen feat: aligning themselves with Hillary Rodham Clinton and her nascent presidential campaign, in a bid to return to the driver’s seat of American foreign policy,” Jacob Heilbrunn writes in an op-ed at The New York Times. “It’s not as outlandish as it may sound. Consider the historian Robert Kagan, the author of a recent, roundly praised article in The New Republic that amounted to a neo-neocon manifesto. He has not only avoided the vitriolic tone that has afflicted some of his intellectual brethren  but also co-founded an influential bipartisan advisory group during Mrs. Clinton’s time at the State Department.” He points to Max Boot as another example of a neoconservative who has said nice things about Clinton. “And the thing is, these neocons have a point. Mrs. Clinton voted for the Iraq war; supported sending arms to Syrian rebels; likened Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, to Adolf Hitler; wholeheartedly backs Israel; and stresses the importance of promoting democracy,” Heilbrunn notes. “It’s easy to imagine Mrs. Clinton’s making room for the neocons in her administration. No one could charge her with being weak on national security with the likes of Robert Kagan on board.” Neoconservatives will play the Republican presidential field, but if one of their preferred candidates (e.g. Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, or Marco Rubio) doesn’t perform well, this sort of unholy alliance could actually become a thing.

— A new angle in the Ex-Im reauthorization fight: There is a push to reverse anti-coal regulations adopted by the Export-Import Bank, a wrinkle that could make the fight over the future of the federal agency more interesting. “Both of the working proposals in the House and Senate to renew the bank’s charter would reverse Ex-Im guidelines that prevent financing for overseas power plants that decline to adopt greener technology,” The Hill reports. “Bank officials adopted the policies, which included exemptions for the world’s poorest nations, in December amid the Obama administration’s broader push to address climate change.” Reversal of the policy could help the coal industry, but that only furthers the argument that the Ex-Im Bank serves the interests of politically-connected industries. But many Republicans may not see it that way. The Hill explains, the “coal provisions could provide cover for some Republicans to support the bill.”

— House Ethics Committee reverses disclosure rules for lobbyist-paid trips: House members who take advantage of trips paid for by lobbyists will once again be required to disclosure the travel on their annual financial disclosures. “Some recent press reports regarding this change have created confusion in the House community by suggesting that Members and House staff no longer have to make any disclosure of privately sponsored travel, that the public would no longer have access to any information about privately sponsored travel, and that the rules governing what types of privately sponsored travel are acceptable have been changed,” said Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) and Ranking Member Linda Sanchez (D-CA) in a joint statement. “None of that is correct.” House members were still required to get prior-approval and report lobbyist-paid trips, so that didn’t change. But there were concerns that the new reporting requirements could make it easier for members to hide the trips. “In light of feedback we have received from our fellow Members and after further consideration,” Conaway and Sanchez said, “we have determined that the Committee will return to its previous guidance regarding disclosure of privately sponsored travel on financial disclosure reports, effective immediately.”

— Issa teases IRS commissioner testimony: House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) says that IRS Commissioner John Koskinen’s revised testimony on the tax agency’s records compliance procedures could come back to haunt Lois Lerner and her attorney, William Taylor. “Either Lois Lerner’s attorney is outright not telling the truth, which he’s played fast and loose with the truth several times, or the commissioner was inaccurate in his testimony before Congress,” Issa said on Fox News Sunday. “Now the lawyer, Mr. Taylor, is not under oath. The commissioner is.” Koskinen told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that Lerner “had hard copy records” of the emails that the IRS now says have been lost due to a hard drive failure.

— Congressman says email could link VA scandal and Bergdahl trade: At a recent town hall meeting in his district, Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) dropped a bombshell accusation relating to the trade that set free Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. “According to Congressman Mulvaney, there is believed to be an email from officials inside the White House exclaiming, ‘The VA scandal is killing us and we need to move on the Bergdahl trade without going through Congress,’” Shannon Grady reports at Politichicks. “If this email exist [sic] and can be brought forward as evidence it will certainly eliminate the President’s claim that he acted in the event of an emergency.” Grady floats the prospect of this email serving as “the best path for impeachment.” Given the political makeup of Congress, impeachment is a nonexistent option. Sorry, but that’s just a political reality.

Other items we’re reading this morning:

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