Archive for the ‘elections’ Category

On Richard Nixon

OnRichardNixon   <– PDF version

It was 40 years ago this week (9 Aug 1974) that Republican President Richard M. “I am not a crook” Nixon resigned his office because he was discovered to be a crook.  He had willingly and knowingly covered up a burglary of the Democratic Party offices at the Watergate office building in Washington, committed by his supporters, some of whom worked in his campaign or his administration.  Nixon had waged a long internal battle to save himself from disgrace, but in the end the facts came out about his knowledge of the burglary and his abuse of power in covering it up.  We will probably never know if the burglary itself was his idea.  Many people in his own Republican party, understanding enough about history to know that honest government is always preferable to raw power, assisted in Nixon’s decline.  Nixon himself knew by then that he was about to be impeached, and would probably be removed from office, so he resigned in order to prevent a drawn-out political turmoil to the exclusion of other important issues (the Vietnam War being one of them).

So Nixon said good-bye and retired with full benefits to his mansion in San Clemente.  He was subsequently given a full pardon by his successor, President Gerald R. Ford, ostensibly to avoid seeing his old buddy have to stand trial for abuse of power and other crimes.  It was the worst mistake Ford ever made because it set the precedent by which future Presidents knew they could get away with anything.

Nixon was a crook.  He knew he was a crook, everyone else knew he was a crook, there was no means left by which he could talk his way out of it, and few in Congress or the courts were willing to tolerate any more of his corruption.  But let’s give old Tricky Dick some credit here: at least he retained some semblance of integrity such that deep down, he recognized that the American people deserved better than him.  Therefore, he did what was right by resigning.

We do not have that sentiment in politics any more.  The respective political parties have become so ideologically motivated towards the acquisition of power by any means that they will defend their crooks no matter what.  There is no limit to the crimes and abuses of power that will be tolerated so long as they expand their powers and associated privileges.  We have suffered with recent Democratic President William J. Clinton who even now cracks a smile whenever he is reminded of the massacre at Waco, the IRS targeting of his enemies, and the undermining of American elections with Chinese money (not to mention his personal victims).  Our current Democratic President, Barack H. Obama, regarded as the messiah by some of his supporters, has violated his oath of limited powers per the Constitution too many times to count, has once more encouraged and tolerated IRS abuse of his political enemies, and has implemented socialism at home and weakness abroad.

Unlike Nixon, who believed the American people deserved better, these two moral midgets believe the American people are not good enough for them.  I suspect the Republicans are no better.  So it will continue until “we the people” start demanding better, and start ignoring the slick political advertising extolling the alleged virtues of those who love power for its own sake.  In that spirit, I have three recommendations for elections:

1.  Regard every word by every candidate as being submitted to you, the citizen, as under penalty of perjury.

2.  Never vote for anyone who has committed perjury per #1.

3.  Only vote for those who have demonstrated a willingness to limit themselves to the enumerated powers granted to their offices under the appropriate local charters or state and federal constitutions.

 

 

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A Review of the IRS Phony Scandal

AReviewOfTheIRSPhonyScandal  <– PDF version

We have all heard the reports about how the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) selectively targeted social welfare organizations by delaying their applications for 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status over the course of two federal election cycles (2010 and 2012).  Singling out certain groups was important to the current administration, since the 21 Jan 2010 Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court prohibited limitations on political spending by nonprofit groups.  After that ruling, a great many “Tea Party” and other pro-freedom groups applied for tax-exempt status, to enable them to raise funds and use part of those to inform the public about issues of importance in the upcoming elections.

The method of identifying which groups were to be delayed or denied was based on their names (“Tea Party”, 9/12″), or their views on the Bill or Rights or Constitution, or their views on the federal budget and spending in general.  The ever-efficient IRS even created a spreadsheet called “Be On the Look Out for” (BOLO) as a way to establish targeting keywords that would trigger “closer scrutiny”.  None of the 501 applications were denied outright during the period from March 2010 to April of 2012.  Instead, the IRS non-profit review offices delayed approval of applications in several creative ways:

a.  By demanding information that could not exist (“What books are your members reading”);

b.  By asking whether any of their members intended to run for elective office;

c.  By demanding a list of donors, the amounts donated, and how the donations were spent;

d.  By demanding copies of all web pages, blog posts, and brochures ever used by the organization;

e.  By demanding copies of all emails sent or received by organization members.

The IRS Tax Exempt review division also illegally leaked donor lists of some organizations to their opponents, audited those who had donated to the “Tea Party” groups, and in some cases, urged other government entities (FBI, ATF, OSHA) to illegally investigate or harass the applicants.  Finally complaints about the abuse of power at the IRS became so distracting that the Treasury Department Inspector General was forced to look into it.  He released a report [1] detailing the basics of the IRS activities, along with a list of nine recommendations.  In summary, he concluded:

The IRS used inappropriate criteria that identified for review Tea Party and other organizations applying for tax-exempt status based upon their names or policy positions instead of indications of potential political campaign intervention.  Ineffective management: 1) allowed inappropriate criteria to be developed and stay in place for more than 18 months, 2) resulted in substantial delays in processing certain applications, and 3) allowed unnecessary information request to be issued.

President Richard “I am not a crook” Nixon was nearly impeached for merely asking the IRS to attack his opponents.  President Bill “Perjurer in Chief” Clinton successfully used the IRS to harass his opponents. It appears that the current administration has done the same thing, and when caught, has responded to this series of events by denial, obfuscation, and changing the subject, same as usual. Numerous IRS officials delayed informing Congress of what they knew as the internal investigation proceeded.  One of them, Deputy Commissioner for Enforcement and Services Steven T. Miller, falsely stated on 15 May 2012 that the abuses were the work of two rogue agents in Cincinnati; but as it turned out, was being orchestrated from Washington the whole time, probably by Lois G. Lerner, Director of IRS Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division.  We will probably never know who Lois Lerner was taking orders from, whether it was the President, his staff, the Department of Justice, the Treasury Department, or the upper echelon of the Democratic party. In August of 2012, Congress issued a subpoena for all emails to and from Lois G. Lerner for the period 1 Jan 2009 to 2 Aug 2013.  After 18 months, on 13 Jun 2014, the IRS finally admitted that it would not comply with the subpoena because Lerner’s computer hard drive crashed on 13 Jun 2011, and the emails prior to that date are irretrievably lost.  Three days later, the IRS admitted that it also no longer had subpoenaed emails from six other IRS employees in Lerner’s division because their hard drives also crashed.  Meanwhile, Attorney General Eric Holder has refused to open an investigation into the abuse of power.

We the People have a right to evaluate the conduct of our government agencies.  To do so, we need only review the statements made by the principals involved.  On 14 May 2013, President Barack “I lied, period” Obama called the reports of IRS abuse “intolerable and inexcusable”.  Lois G. Lerner testified under oath before Congress on 22 May 2013:

My professional career has been devoted to fulfilling responsibilities of the agencies for which I have worked, and I am very proud of the work I have done in government.  I have not done anything wrong. I have not broken any laws, I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations, and I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee.

On 24 Jul 2013, the president said the entire episode was nothing more than a “phony scandal”; on 2 Feb 2014, he told interviewer Bill O’Reilly that there “was not a smidgen of corruption” at the IRS.

There is only one conclusion.  Lois Lerner faithfully fulfilled her responsibilities to implement administration policies, and did therefore nothing wrong.  It is a “phony scandal” because the correct intended policy was actually enacted by the IRS; the corruption is intolerable and inexcusable only because Lois Lerner and her accomplices were dumb enough to get caught.  Fortunately, they were able to get the most damaging evidence destroyed in time (remember, this started in March of 2010).

They’re all Lerner’s now.  We do not need a special prosecutor to establish it.  When IRS Commissioner Douglas H. Shulman-Lerner told Congress on 22 May 2012 that “there is absolutely no targeting”, he was correct because the IRS was not singling out certain disapproved non-Democratic groups, it was harassing and delaying applications from all of them.  When current IRS Commissioner John Koskinen-Lerner said on 26 Jun 2014 that a special prosecutor would be “a monumental waste of taxpayer money”; he is correct because it will not be able to find anything.  All the other Lerner’s, their supporters, and the usual Democratic minions in the media will run out the clock until Obama pardons them on his last day in office.

Another successful operation.

[1]        Michael E. McKenney, Acting Deputy Inspector General for Audit, U. S. Treasury Department, “Inappropriate Criteria Were Used to Identify Tax-Exempt Applications for Review”, Reference Number 2013-10-053, 14 May 2013

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The Central Lie of the 2014 Elections

CentralLieOf2014Elections   <– PDF version

Happy New Year, 2014.  This marks the beginning of the 2014 Congressional election cycle, ready or not.  At stake is control of the House (currently controlled by the Republicans) and the Senate (currently controlled by the Democrats).  Since the Democrats have more vulnerable Senate seats in play, and require only a small number of victories to take control of the House, it is important for the Democrats to capitalize on their successes to expand their power base.  Unfortunately, they do not have any successes.  Therefore, it will be important to turn their most important fiasco, namely, the roll-out and implementation of Obama “I Lied, Period” Care into a net positive.  To do so, the Democratic Party Central Lie must be repeated early and often (the same way dead people vote in Chicago).  The Democratic Party Central Lie this election year may be:

“Because of the interference of the evil Republicans, the Messiah/President has found it necessary in the public interest to make adjustments in the Affordable Care Act, which has resulted in its having been effectively repealed.  Therefore it is necessary to elect Democrats to large majorities in both the House and Senate so that the principle of free health care for all can be re-established without the undermining activity of the evil Republicans.”

It is possible that the talking-point narrative from the Democratic Party hacks, reinforced through constant repetition by the adoring sycophants at ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, PBS, and The New York Times, may be something like “More Democrats must be elected because….

a.  The initial difficulties with the health care exchange website were due to PATRIOT ACT restrictions imposed by the Republicans, which prevented the rollout from going as smoothly as planned.”

b.  The exemptions given to certain Democratic political groups were necessary in order to prevent the Republicans from taxing health care benefits of families whose main breadwinner are Union members.”

c.  The delay in the employer mandate was necessary because the Republican-driven government shutdown and sequestration prevented the economy from growing fast enough to allow employers to expand their businesses and provide free health care.”

d.  Over 350 million Americans have been provided with free health care already under the Affordable Care Act, but more needs to be done for minorities to counter the racist faction of the Republican Party.”

The Republicans are not politically clever enough to formulate a Central Lie of their own (and no one would broadcast it anyway).  It is better that way.  If the Republicans did attempt a Central Lie, they would inadvertently tell the truth about something and shock the entire political system.

 

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The Politics of the “Fiscal Cliff”

ThePoliticsOfTheFiscalCliff  <– PDF version

So the elections are finally over and our illustrious federal officials now turn their attention to the so-called “fiscal cliff”.  At issue here is whether the Bush-era tax cuts will expire, along with the Social Security withholding reduction enacted in 2010 as a temporary stimulus measure.  The “fiscal cliff” came about per an interim agreement reached last year, as a result of the debt-ceiling escalation in Aug 2011 and the subsequent failure of Congress to come to a consensus on a fiscal policy.  The idea behind the interim agreement was simple: impose across-the-board spending cuts of $1 trillion over ten years and let the Bush-era tax cuts expire on 1 Jan 2013 unless a long-term fiscal policy is enacted.  The $1 trillion in spending cuts, spread over ten years, result in $100 billion in cuts every year, split approximately equally between defense and non-defense.  This was regarded by its designers as so abhorrent that it would provide sufficient motivation for Congress and the President to actually make a deal.  But the negotiations since the election have not been going too well; and of course both sides are busy blaming each other.

I will review the situation, and show how the Republicans, contrary to conventional wisdom, actually hold all the cards here.  First, a few undisputed facts:

1.  The President campaigned successfully on two notions: that tax rates must go up for the wealthy, and must come down for the middle class.  He has said the marginal rates on the wealthy should go back to the 1990’s; in other words, from 35% now to 39.4% as they were in theClintonera.

2.  If the “fiscal cliff” occurs, tax rates will go up for both the wealthy and the middle class.

3.  The long-term fiscal problem of the nation cannot be solved by spending cuts alone, nor by tax increases alone; a combination of the two is necessary (i.e., a comprehensive package).

4.  The history of past “comprehensive” reforms, as enacted under Reagan and Bush, Sr., shows that the Democrats always insist on tax increases immediately, with a promise of spending cuts in the distant future.  Of course, politicians being who they are, those cuts never happen.  It is safe to say that no Democrat in Congress will ever vote for any bill that actually cuts spending in the near term unless he is forced to do so.

5.  No Democratic President will sign a bill that results in immediate spending cuts, unless he is forced to do so (like Bill Clinton).

6.  If anything bad happens to the economy, the propaganda wing of the Democratic Party (i.e., CNN, CBS, ABC, NBC, and PBS; plus the major newspapers led by The New York Times) will blame the Republicans; if anything good happens in the economy, they will give Mr. Obama all the credit.

7.  The Democrats and their propaganda wing have long held that the Republicans are the party of the rich (conveniently ignoring the fact that tax provisions favoring the wealthy were passed mostly by Democratically-controlled Congresses over the last 50 years).

8.  The Democrats and their propaganda empire have claimed that the Republicans are holding the middle class hostage to protect the rich.

9.  Mr. Obama has stated that he will only accept a “fiscal cliff” deal if it raises tax rates on the wealthy.  He has claimed the wealthy are those with incomes over $250,000.

10.  The Republicans have thus far admitted that revenue increases are necessary and are willing to do so by removing some loopholes used by the wealthy and limiting some deductions.  They do not want to raise tax rates on the wealthy due to a “tax pledge” made some years ago.

Here are a few observations and applications.  First, consider the cuts in the “fiscal cliff” legislation.  The cuts are across-the-board, without the necessary and prudent prioritization that rational people would do.  However, let’s be realistic: it actually imposes spending cuts immediately, and for that reason alone is probably the best that our ruling elite can do as things stand presently.

Secondly, the wealthy already pay a large portion of income taxes.  So, if revenues are to be increased via the Republican preference (closing loopholes and limiting deductions), or increased by Mr. Obama’s preference (raising marginal rates), the wealthy are going to pay more either way.  In reality, the best thing for the nation is the Republican way, since it will do more to promote fairness in the tax code, and limits the ability of Congress to punish their enemies and reward their friends through the tax code.

Third, if we go over the “fiscal cliff”, taxes will go up for those of us in the middle class.  So taxes will go up — what else is new; and how will it matter all that much?  State and local taxes of all types have been going up all along.  Recall that the Social Security withholding reduction was intended to be temporary anyway (it was also a bad idea).  The increase in taxation via federal marginal rate increases is small compared to the already-occurring increases in the cost of living due to the Federal Reserve’s currency-printing machine.  If either side truly cared about the middle class, perhaps they would take action to restrain Mr. Bernanke.

Fourth, although most Republicans were dumb enough to sign “no-tax” pledges at the urging of Mr. Grover Norquist, the simple fact is that both the expiration of the Bush-era cuts and the repeal of the Social Security withholding reduction are already accomplished facts if a deal is not made.  They cannot be accused of raising taxes if they allow law per a vote already taken in 2011 to occur.  Only a moron would sign such a pledge anyway; since when did Mr. Norquist assume the authority to supersede the needs of the nation and the powers of Congress contained in the Constitution?  If Mr. Norquist wishes to be emperor, perhaps he should run for the office.

Fifth, the “smart money” has known for months that our ruling elites are incapable of anything better than the impending “fiscal cliff”.  As for the future of the stock market, the “smart money” managers have probably already priced-in the effects.

Sixth, if one is going to be accused of something, one may as well do it.

With these facts and observations in mind, it seems to me that the Republicans hold all the cards here, and it is possible to get true reform that actually helps the nation.  Mr. Obama needs to score political points by raising taxes on the wealthy (it won’t solve the fiscal problem, but he needs to score points).  He won re-election, so let him have his political points.  The increases on the wealthy are his most famous political need, but not his most important one.  Many of his supporters are middle-class.  He needs a tax cut for them much more than he needs a tax increase on the wealthy.  The Republicans in the House should immediately pass legislation that raises marginal rates on the wealthy to 50%, with no corresponding demands for spending cuts and no other conditions subject to objection.  This is far above the rates that prevailed in the Clinton era.  In fact, they should pass a series of bills that raise rates on the wealthy to 60, 70, 80, or 90%, and let the Senate Democrats and the President choose the one they want.  This turns the argument around while costing the Republicans nothing: taxes are going up on the wealthy either way.  If the Democrats think those marginal rates are too high, it will be incumbent on the Democrats to negotiate lower rates for the wealthy to protect their friends in the tall buildings in Manhattan.  If the Democrats do not really want higher rates on the wealthy, by all means they shall have their “fiscal cliff”.  If they settle on the new rates for the wealthy, Mr. Obama will have his political points, but leaves the Republicans in control of what he needs more (the middle class tax cut).  Then the Republicans can actually do what they’ve been accused of: hold the middle class tax cuts hostage — not to protect the rich, but to get spending under control and thus stabilize and secure the nation’s long-term financial health.  They should demand immediate spending cuts in return for an immediate reduction in tax rates for the middle class, thus forcing the Democrats to do what is necessary but have never done before.

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