Recent Posts From Jason Pye
The House Ways and Means Committee voted yesterday afternoon to refer Lois Lerner to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution, revealing that the disgraced former IRS official at the center of congressional investigations went out of her way to target a specific conservative group:
The big surprise in the referral letter concerning Ms. Lerner: Lawmakers say she personally intervened to compel IRS actions against Crossroads GPS, the biggest and best-known conservative tax-exempt group in the 2012 election cycle.
The GOP referral letter, signed by Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R., Mich.), says that Ms. Lerner pushed IRS officials to deny an application for tax-exempt status by Crossroads in 2013. Around the same time, she also pushed other officials to audit Crossroads’s activities to date.
“The evidence shows that without Lerner’s intervention, neither adverse action would have been taken against Crossroads,” the letter states.
Though that’s the surprise in all of this, it’s just one part of the story. Ways and Means charges that Lerner “impeded official investigations by providing misleading statements in response to questions from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration” and may have leaked confidential taxpayer information, which is very illegal.
State House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenberg) may hold a slim lead over Republicans vying for the party’s U.S. Senate nomination, but he’s the only potential challenger who trails Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) in a head-to-head matchup.
The latest Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey out of North Carolina found that Hagan trails most of the Republican field. Mark Harris (44/40) and Heather Grant (43/39) both hold a 4-point lead over Hagan. Greg Brannon, who has received a lot of grassroots support, holds a 2-point edge, at 42/40.
But Hagan leads Tillis, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, by a 2-point margin, at 43/41. Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling, attributes this his being more well known than the other Republicans in the race.
“In Tillis’ case being well known is not necessarily a positive thing,” wrote Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling, “his time at the helm of an unpopular legislature has left him with a 20/39 favorability rating.”
Here’s the thing, though. Tillis is the Republican establishment’s pick in this race. Karl Rove’s American Crossroads dropped $1.1 million to promote Tillis ahead of the May 6 primary, hoping that it would help his preferred candidate grab the 40% he needs to avoid a runoff.
Most politicians like to beat on their chests when it comes to eliminating government waste and unnecessarily programs. But when it comes to actually doing it, they sound a lot like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who had the audacity to claim last year that “the cupboard is bare,” adding that “[t]here’s no more cuts to make.”
The fact is that there’s plenty of cuts that could be made, and the federal government could save taxpayers billions of dollars just by eliminating duplication. That, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a nonpartisan federal audit agency.
The GAO report identified 26 areas of fragmentation, duplication, or overlapping federal programs that, according to the report “span a broad range of government missions and functions.” That is in addition to the 162 areas identified in previous reports.
To give you an idea of how nonsensical the federal government is, the report, for example, found that 11 different agencies did autism research from FY 2008 to FY 2012. The funds awarded to these agencies totaled nearly $1.2 billion.
Another example is overlapping disability and unemployment payments. Simple reforms to address this problem would save taxpayers $1.2 billion over the next 10 years.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), who sponsored the law which requires the annual audit, said the areas identified in the report could taxpayers $45 billion over the next five years, adding to potential savings already identified by the GAO.
The White House and congressional Democrats have been eager to tout the Obamacare “enrollment” numbers, hoping that it will convince a skeptical public that the law isn’t as bad as Republicans say it is.
This football spiking, so to speak, isn’t convincing political analysts and prognosticators that the 2014 mid-term election will be any easier for Democrats, among them is Charlie Cook, founder of the eponymous Cook Political Report:
My Cook Political Report colleague David Wasserman has come to call this election environment “2010 Lite.” He sees this as an environment that is tough for Democrats, but perhaps a bit less tough than 2010, with different circumstances and minimal exposure to losses in the House, but greater exposure in the Senate. Although Obama’s numbers might be about the same as in 2010, the Republicans’ brand damage might offset it a touch. As in 2010, the Affordable Care Act, the president’s signature legislative accomplishment, is front and center. Some polls indicate the law is less unpopular, though for every poll that shows the ACA numbers improving, two show the public’s feelings remaining unchanged. At best, one can say that the improvement is inconclusive; mark me down as a skeptic.
During a House appropriations subcommittee hearing on Friday, Attorney General Eric Holder floated some ideas of “common sense” gun control efforts the Obama administration is considering. Among the Orwellian ideas that Holder mentioned are gun tracking bracelets for gun owners, via the Washington Free Beacon (emphasis added):
“I think that one of the things that we learned when we were trying to get passed those common sense reforms last year, Vice President Biden and I had a meeting with a group of technology people and we talked about how guns can be made more safe,” he said.
“By making them either through finger print identification, the gun talks to a bracelet or something that you might wear, how guns can be used only by the person who is lawfully in possession of the weapon.”
“It’s those kinds of things that I think we want to try to explore so that we can make sure that people have the ability to enjoy their Second Amendment rights, but at the same time decreasing the misuse of weapons that lead to the kinds of things that we see on a daily basis,” Holder said.
See and hear Holder’s comments for yourself:
Tax Freedom Day will arrive on Monday, April 21 this year, three days later than it did last year, according to a report from the Tax Foundation.
“Tax Freedom Day is the day when the nation as a whole has earned enough money to pay its total tax bill for year,” wrote Kyle Pomerleau and Lyman Stone. “In 2014, Americans will pay $3.0 trillion in federal taxes and $1.5 trillion in state taxes, for a total tax bill of $4.5 trillion, or 30.2 percent of income. This year, Tax Freedom Day falls on April 21, or 111 days into the year.”
The reason Tax Freedom Day falls three days later this year is because the United States economy is still growing at such a slow pace. If federal borrowing were included, Tax Freedom Day wouldn’t come until Tuesday, May 6.
Tax Freedom Day varies from state to state due to the differences in tax policies. Mississippi (April 2) and South Dakota (April 4), for example, have already paid their tax burden while Connecticut and New Jersey residents won’t pay their tax bill until May 9.
Tax Freedom Day came much earlier in the year in the early part of the 20th Century, but World War I-era tax pushed it back the date into February. It was all downhill from there, thanks to more tax hikes over the next several decades, thanks to tax hikes and increased federal spending. The latest federal Tax Freedom Day was recorded in May 1, 2000.
One of the biggest, most crucial tests facing the Republican Party are its ties to big business and unwillingness to, for example, end taxpayer-funded subsidies to favored industries. After all, most GOP politicians say, “it’s good for business,” all while cashing checks from lobbyists for their campaigns.
These policies, part of a $1.2 trillion corporate welfare culture, distort the market, allowing the government pick winners and losers. It gives Republicans the unfortunate, though not undeserved image of being in the tank for rich special interests. Sorry, but the “Democrats do it, too!” line doesn’t work, though it is very true.
In an editorial yesterday at National Review, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) explained that Republicans have an opportunity to take a step toward shedding this image when the reauthorization for the Export-Import Bank comes up for a vote.
“The Ex-Im Bank exists to dole out taxpayer-backed loan guarantees to help American exporters,” Lee wrote. “Most of the benefits go to large corporations that are perfectly capable of securing private financing anywhere in the world.”
“Whether the beneficiaries of particular Ex-Im Bank loan guarantees are respected, successful companies like Boeing or crony basket cases like Solyndra is irrelevant,” he explained. “Twisting policy to benefit any business at the expense of others is unfair and anti-growth.”
Two influential conservative groups, Club for Growth Action and FreedomWorks for America, unveiled separate ads yesterday taking aim at Sen. Thad Cochran’s (R-MS) horrible record on spending and the decades he’s spent in Washington, D.C.
The stakes have been raised in Mississippi in recent days. Cochran unveiled an ad taking aim at his Republican primary opponent, Chris McDaniel, over disaster relief funding for the Gulf Coast, including Mississippi. But these conservative groups, both of which are backing McDaniel’s campaign, have taken aim at Cochran.
In what’s described as a “large, six-figure ad buy,” Club for Growth Action points out that Cochran, who has served in Congress since 1973, voted for President Jimmy Carter’s expansion of federal education and President George H.W. Bush’s tax hikes.
“Today,” says the narrator, “Cochran votes with Obama to raise the national debt by trillions. Thad Cochran — five decades in Washington is enough.”
The House Ways and Means Committee will ask the Justice Department to pursue a criminal case against Lois Lerner, the disgraced ex-IRS official at the center of congressional inquiries into the agency’s targeting of conservative groups:
The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee says investigators have uncovered evidence that a former Internal Revenue Service official may have committed crimes as part of the agency’s tea party controversy.
Rep. Dave Camp set a committee vote for Wednesday on whether to refer Lois Lerner, who used to head the agency’s tax-exempt division, to the Justice Department “for possible criminal prosecution.”
Camp, R-Mich., did not specify which laws Lerner may have broken.
If the committee votes to refer Lerner to the Justice Department, the committee is expected to make the referral public.
This is separate from the contempt vote that the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold on Thursday. That resolution was made available this morning by the Washington Post.
Planned cuts to the popular Medicare Advantage program have been canceled by the Obama administration, handing an election year gift to vulnerable House and Senate Democrats who were worried that the issue could complicate their reelection bids:
The Obama administration announced Monday that planned cuts to Medicare Advantage would not go through as anticipated amid election-year opposition from congressional Democrats.
The cuts would have reduced benefits that seniors receive from health plans in the program, which is intended as an alternative to Medicare.
Under cuts planned by the administration, insurers offering the plans were to see their federal payments reduced by 1.9 percent, which likely would have necessitated cuts for customers.
Instead, the administration said the federal payments to insurers will increase next year by .40 percent.
Medicare Advantage rates were set to rise to offset $200 billions in cuts to the program to help pay for Obamacare. Rate increases for seniors were expected to be in the ballpark of $420 and $900 in 2015, according to America’s Health Insurance Plans.