Posts Tagged IRS

A Common Thread


With 24-hour cable news and an ever-present stream of information over the Internet it is sometimes difficult to discern trends or common threads due to the overwhelming amount of information that bombards us. But sometimes seemingly unrelated events or actions actually come together, much like a jigsaw puzzle, to form a bigger picture.

So what then do the “cattle battle” in Nevada, IRS persecution of conservative groups, NSA collection of so-called “meta-data,” and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act all have in common? They are all examples of growing, pervasive, out-of-control government over-reach. And there is sub-text: in each case the over-reach has been perpetrated by non-elected bureaucrats all operating under the purview of the executive branch.

The case of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy threatens to become the most explosive of these issues. The root of the problem extends back generations as the federal government has taken control of over 84% of the land mass of the state of Nevada. Similar land grabs have occurred in most other non-Pacific western states. As bureaucracies tend to do, the Bureau of Land Management has steadily expanded its control and placed more and more rules and regulations on federal lands.

Bundy claims the land grab is unconstitutional and that the territory belongs to the state. His refusal to pay grazing fees to the federal government stem from this state’s rights issue. He claims he will pay the back fees to the state of Nevada. The Bureau of Land Management nearly triggered armed confrontation by attempting to forcibly take Mr. Bundy’s cattle. This resulted in armed militia types rushing to defend Mr. Bundy. Wisely, the feds stood down.

This occurred against a backdrop of cooler heads, many state officials, meeting in nearby Utah to discuss ways to address the issue of federal land control. Clearly this is a problem that extends well beyond Mr. Bundy. While officials attempt to deal with the issue, a militia 50,000 strong in Oklahoma is vowing to take up arms, if necessary, to assist Mr. Bundy. Rational voices from media mogul Glenn Beck to Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe have spoken up against violent action. But it is clear that the age old issue of property rights remains a raw nerve for many mid-western Americans.

While the Bureau of Land Management oppresses ranchers, the watchdog group Judicial Watch this past week obtained e-mails showing the Internal Revenue Service’s jihad against conservative groups was more widespread than initially reported. Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton told the media “These new e-mails show that the day before she broke the news of the IRS scandal, Lois Lerner (then head of the IRS) was talking to a top Obama Justice Department official about whether the DOJ could prosecute the very same organizations the IRS had already improperly targeted.” In other words, Lerner was set to move from persecution to prosecution.

Less explosive, but more wide-ranging is the continued implementation of the flawed and deeply unpopular Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. While the president touted contested numbers purporting to have reached enrollment goals, his Secretary of Health was being dispatched back to the private sector transparently for the disastrous roll-out of the program.

Perhaps no example of government over-reach has been more glaring than Obamacare. From the passage of the act along strictly partisan lines, to the Obama Administration’s continual rewriting of the rules, granting of exemptions, and extending of deadlines, the program has been mismanaged by bureaucrats who apparently weren’t able to understand what was in the law even after congress passed the law.

Finally, the issue of the National Security Administration (NSA) snooping into the private lives of Americans continues to gain traction as whistle-blower Edward Snowden joined Russian President Vladimir Putin on a talk show to discuss how oppressive U.S. intelligence agencies have become. You know it’s bad when a former KGB agent claims the moral high ground. Again, as with the other agencies, the NSA operates with little effective oversight from elected officials.

Out-of-control federal bureaucracies are nothing new, and in fact have vexed both congress and presidents since the founding of the Republic. But the pendulum has now swung way too far. The president, who views himself as more of a dictator than a chief executive, fosters this swing to bureaucratic control. Democrats in congress follow their leader like sheep, and congressional Republican leaders are inept and ineffective.

As America enters a crucial two-year period where control of both the congress and the White House are up for grabs, reigning in the size and scope of the federal government is an issue that should be at the top of most voters’ list of concerns.

 

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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Jay Costa’s Big Government Agenda


In recent weeks Americans have seen the dark underbelly of big government: the IRS targeting conservative groups; the Department of Justice tapping the phone lines of journalists; stonewalling by the White House on Benghazi. It is not the best of times to be pushing a big government agenda. But here in Pennsylvania that is exactly what state Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa is doing.

Speaking before the Pennsylvania Press Club, Costa boldly proclaimed his caucus’ highest priorities over the coming months are raising taxes and expanding government programs. In essence he wants to double down on the failed policies that have gotten us into serious fiscal difficulty on a number of fronts.

Parroting national left-wing orthodoxy the Democratic leader of the state senate railed against Governor Tom Corbett for rejection of the Medicare health care exchanges being set up as part of the Affordable Health Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare. Pennsylvania would initially benefit from an infusion of federal cash, but according to the Heritage Foundation within five to six years massive state tax dollars would be required to sustain the program, quickly erasing the initial benefits. But that is part of the plan: ensnare the state in a massive new entitlement program; hook people on the benefits; run up a substantial deficit thereby creating a political climate that forces the enactment of new taxes.

Already Obamacare is showing signs of unraveling. So much so that veteran Democratic U.S. Senator Max Baucus of Montana several weeks ago termed the program a “train wreck.” And, with the current IRS scandal in full bloom, public confidence in that agency’s ability to fairly and efficiently monitor and enforce the program are, well, non-existent.

Costa also pressed hard for lifting the cap on the state’s oil franchise tax as a way of raising more revenue to fix roads and bridges. This would add over 20-cents per gallon to the cost of gasoline. There is bi-partisan agreement that the state’s aging network of roads and bridges need serious attention. But Costa also proposes diverting even more state dollars into public transportation – in particular the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Agency (SEPTA) and Port Authority Transit (PAT) in Pittsburgh. Both are legendary patronage havens sporting some of the highest labor rates in the nation.

Costa framed both the health care exchanges and spending on highway infrastructure as jobs programs. Yes, they would create jobs. But they would be jobs created by the transfer of private wealth to the government sector, not jobs created as a result of a growing economy. Some might say “jobs are jobs,” but the siphoning of money on the scale proposed by Costa from the private sector will result in further stifling a slow economic recovery. That will hinder the process of creating private sector jobs. In the end the real cost may be in net jobs lost.

At the same time as he trumpeted big government programs, Costa detailed senate Democrats’ opposition to reforms that would unleash the power of free markets to create real economic growth. Specifically, they are opposed to privatization of the state’s Soviet-era state store system. Credible polls show Pennsylvanians widely support the improved convenience and selection of wine and spirits should Penn’s Woods adopt a system currently employed by 48 other states. It would create an opportunity for thousands of small businesses, and add real jobs in the private sector.

Costa also called for a moratorium on the phase out of the Capitol Stock & Franchise Tax. This is an arcane tax, one with which most Pennsylvanians are unfamiliar.   It is levied on corporations in addition to Corporate Net Income taxes. Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation with both taxes. As a result, it contributes significantly to a poor overall state business climate giving other states a built-in advantage in competition for business creation and expansion.

Taken as a whole, the senate Democrat agenda is geared more to winning next year’s elections than in seriously addressing the problems and needs of Pennsylvanians. Costa employed populist rhetoric against Governor Corbett saying he is putting the needs of corporations over health care for people. But the opposite is true. The governor opposes putting state taxpayers on the hook for funding an already failing federal health care monstrosity, and pushes elimination of the Capitol Stock & Franchise tax as a way to spur real, private sector job creation.

So far polls indicate the Democrats’ political gambit is working. But that is little solace to Pennsylvanians who, if the Costa agenda is enacted, won’t be able to find work, will be saddled with a massive new state health care bureaucracy, will be paying more at the pump, along with higher taxes and smaller paychecks to fund a massive expansion of state government.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

 

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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IRS’ Next Target: Health Insurance


By Jennifer Stefano

The mainstream media is rightly shocked and outraged to find the IRS has admitted to harassing and targeting the political opposition of President Obama just because they had “tea party” or “patriot” in their name, or an even graver sin, put on the IRS applications that they were a group dedicated to liberty, the Constitution or, as one report said, “seeking to make America a better place to live.”

I truly appreciate the mainstream media’s coverage and outrage – it is well placed but not quite well timed. Those of us who got our start in the Tea Party have only been saying it for about 4 years.

I’ve been out in the mainstream media quite a bit this past week talking about how I shut down my little Tea Party group because I was fearful the IRS was going to come after me the way they were going after so many groups.

That’s right, for a time, I shut down my political voice because I was fearful and quite frankly, I was intimidated by what the IRS would do to me because I was opposing President Obama’s policies.

As much as I like to think I am one tough cookie – the fact is when all this was unfolding I was a pregnant stay at home mom – living on one income and I was extremely worried the IRS could come after me and my family and ruin our lives.   It wouldn’t be the first time in American history the IRS has done that.

Rather than risk that exposure – I shut down my group and I’m just glad bigger organizations dedicated to liberty – like Americans for Prosperity – were there when I wanted to have a platform to exercise my political voice.

But you know – it’s not THIS IRS abuse that keeps me up at night with worry. It’s something else to do with the IRS – far more dangerous and far more insidious and in just one more year, the IRS is going to have more power and more ability to gather personal information on Americans and use it to punitively punish us more than they ever had had before.

Even without this recent scandal, it’s pretty safe to say most Americans fear the IRS because they are unelected and unaccountable – yet the have the ability, at any time, to swoop in and take our hard-earned money – in the form of taxes – as they see fit. If we pay late, they fine us. If we fail to pay, it gets much worse than a fine. If we pay too little, we owe them big time on April 15th. If we pay too much during the year, they return our money to us in the form of a refund and act like they are bestowing a gift upon us rather than admitting they screwed up and took too much of our money. Our money. Our families. It’s all very personal.

And while we sit here and shudder at what has happened, it’s important to know that the IRS – the organization that just spent four years targeting the political opposition of the sitting President has been empowered by the President, through the healthcare law, to police every, single American’s healthcare choices.

Do you want to know how bad this is going to get?   Starting in 2014, all Americans are being forced to pay for health insurance. But under Obamacare – the IRS and not you will determine whether the insurance you have chosen “qualifies.” You’ll be forced now to send that information via your tax return. And if the government doesn’t like it? The IRS can hit you with a tax penalty.

That’s right, the IRS can raise money for itself simply by deciding that you don’t have “qualifying” health insurance.   Now, supporters of Obamacare will argue that there are rules and laws to mandate the IRS don’t arbitrarily do that. Right….just like there are rules and laws mandating that the IRS can’t go after people because they have “patriot” or “tea party” in their name or happen to oppose the sitting President’s policies. Didn’t seem to stop the IRS from doing just that for the last four years, did it?
And here’s what’s worse: under Obamacare, the IRS was already given a billion dollars and hired 700 agents just to police our healthcare.   It is estimated the IRS will need another 13 billion dollars and 15,000 new agents just to police Americans’ healthcare over the next decade and keep up with their tax collection duties.

There are so many reasons to repeal the President’s healthcare law – but the recent admission by the IRS that they intentionally targeted the President’s political opposition has to jump to number one. After all, do you want the people who can’t be trusted with our tax laws to be involved in your health care?

I’m Jennifer Stefano. You can find out more at Americans for Prosperity.org/Pennsylvania or

follow me on Twitter at @stefanospeaks!

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