A. Barton Hinkle

House Republicans should probably investigate Senate Democrats for the big role they played in the IRS scandal

House Republicans have spent a significant amount of time over the 13-plus months investigating the Internal Revenue Service and disgraced official Lois Lerner over the targeting conservative and Tea Party groups.

But a series of ethics complaints filed by the Center for Competitive Politics earlier this month highlights the involvement of nine Senate Democrats, including Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY), in the IRS scandal, as A. Barton Hinkle explains:

The complaint details several letters Levin wrote to the IRS in which he insisted that “a message needs to be sent” to social-welfare groups “on an urgent basis,” and that the message should make it “crystal clear” they needed to restrict their political activities. Just so the IRS would not misunderstand, he drew attention to two TV advertisements—one by Crossroads GPS and another by Patriot Majority USA.

Unsatisfied by the IRS response, Levin continued to press the agency to give such groups—which are organized under Section 501(c)4) of the tax code—”a choice: either lose their exempt status (and pay taxes) or eliminate the partisan political activity.” He followed that up with a demand to see confidential information about Crossroads GOP, Priorities USA, Americans for Prosperity, and Patriot Majority USA. Informed that “the IRS cannot legally disclose” what he wanted, he tried again—and again. As the ethics complaint notes, “IRS Acting Commissioner Steven Miller acknowledged in an interview that Senator Levin’s effort did, in fact, have an effect on the IRS’ internal proceedings.”

No, the United States isn’t in an “era of austerity”

President Barack Obama has frequently complained that the United States is in an “age of austerity,” decrying modest cuts to the rate of spending increases he once supported. This, despite the fact that taxpayers have seen the national debt grow by nearly $6.8 trillion since the beginning of his presidency.

The idea that we’re living in some “age of austerity” is just mindboggling, as A. Barton Hinkle sarcastically explained in his latest column:

The end of austerity cannot come soon enough, as far as your humble correspondent is concerned. And a quick look at the historical budget tables shows why: In 2008, the federal government spent just a hair under $3 trillion. After six years of President Slash-and-Burn, spending has shrunk to almost $4 trillion. If we keep cutting like this, it will be down to $5 trillion before you know it.

These savage reductions have taken place in nearly every major federal program. Take defense spending: The year before Obama took office, it stood at $594 billion. It’s now $597 billion. Back in 2001 it was almost $300 billion. Even if you adjust for inflation, it’s clear that defense spending has shrunk at an alarming rate.

Same deal for food stamps: Under President Barack Obama, spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has gone from $40 billion to $78 billion, in constant dollars. And that’s after it went from $20 billion to $40 billion under Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush. Spending cuts like that are simply barbaric.

Federal Money to the States Isn’t ‘Free’

Written by Tad DeHaven, a budget analyst at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist A. Barton Hinkle recently made what should be a simple point to understand, but it’s unfortunately one that few people seem to appreciate. Writing about the supposed win-win situation whereby states expand Medicaid coverage and the federal government foots most of the bill, Hinkle reminds readers that the “free” federal money isn’t really free:

In Virginia, officials estimate expanding Medicaid would cost the state $137.5 million over nine years, while the state would receive $23 billion from Washington.

Other states report similar figures. California expects to enroll up to 910,000 residents for a cost beginning at only $46 million a year, while collecting $44 billion in federal funds over a six-year period. An Illinois study estimates that state would spend about $2 billion on expanded Medicaid over the next decade, while reaping $22 billion in federal funds. According to Danielle Holohan, who is in charge of New York’s insurance exchange, Medicaid expansion “actually works out to be an enormous savings” for the Empire State. And so on.

This all sounds great—if you are a state official. But if you are a lowly taxpayer, it leaves out one rather significant point: Where is all that federal money coming from?

Occupy Wall Street is the fringe of the political left

Over at Reason, A. Barton Hinkle explains that the message being carried by Occupy Wall Street, though part of it may resonate with an American public weary of bailouts, is the carries the same anti-capitalist we come to know and roll our eyes at from the Left:

The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement, obsessed with fairness, has benefitted from the lack of it. The protesters don’t think so—but that is because many of them have not thought enough.

The demonstrators resent disparity. So consider the disparity in coverage of OWS and the Tea Party. A single (still unsubstantiated) allegation that someone in the crowd at a 2010 Tea Party rally in Washington hurled a racial slur at Rep. John Lewis sufficed to prove the entire movement a kissin’ cousin of the KKK. But that “Google Wall Street Jews” guy? A lone nut. As for the signs calling for the “death of capitalism” and telling Wall Street bankers to “Jump, you [expletives]” and declaring “capitalism can’t be fixed—we need revolution”? Unrepresentative, surely. Ditto the 5:30 Oakland seminar on Marxism 101, and the dude in the Lenin T-shirt, and… .

What if Congress was seeking more credit from a credit card company?

With Congress looking to saddle Americans with even more debt, as they soon look to increase the debt ceiling, you have to wonder how a credit card company would react to such a request considering that we’ve maxed out so quickly, have long-term liabilities and large debt service payments. Our debt quite literally stretches to the sky. A. Barton Hinkle gives us an idea of what the rejection letter would look like:

Thank you for your interest in the American Public Trust’s Gold Card credit program. Rest assured your application has been given thorough and careful consideration by the American people.

After reviewing the information provided in your application as well as your credit report, we regret to say that we are unable to extend you further credit at this time. The reasons for our decision are as follows:

(1)Inadequate income. Our records indicate that your annual income for the 2011 taxable year was $2,170,000,000,000. You have requested a credit limit of $17,000,000,000,000. These figures exceed the American Public’s debt-to-income guidelines for credit issuance.

(2)Excessive spending. The receipts you provided indicate your annual expenditures for the 2011 fiscal year total $3,820,000,000,000, or $1,650,000,000,000 more than your total income for the year. The American Public prefers that its members of Congress maintain a positive or neutral rather than a negative cash flow.


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