Please Hold While the IRS Ignores Your Call + More – Daily Digest

Posted on Fri 04/17/2015 by



“Happy will it be for ourselves, and most honorable for human nature, if we have wisdom and virtue enough to set so glorious an example to mankind!” —Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 36, 1788


Please Hold While the IRS Ignores Your Call

A few days before Income Redistribution Day, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen declared the IRS had once again pulled off a successful heist of the American pocketbook tax season. “The system has worked flawlessly,” he said. (We’re sure Lois Lerner would say the same thing.) But those aren’t the words the Treasury’s inspector general would use to describe the IRS’s ability to pick up a phone. According to a new IG report, before March 7, Americans called the IRS 45.6 million times, but the agency answered the phone just 38.5% of the time. And that was after Americans stayed on the line for an average of 25 minutes. About 10 years ago, The Hill reports, the IRS answered its phones 90% of the time and citizens only needed to wait a few minutes. The U.S. tax code has only grown in complexity, while the IRS doesn’t seem to consider customer service as a metric of success. More…

Obama’s Taxing Rhetoric

It’s no surprise that Barack Obama likes to misrepresent his policies and his record. The latest example is the whopper he told a town-hall audience in Charlotte about his record on taxes and spending. “If you listen to some of my political critics, they always want to paint me or the Democratic Party as this tax-and-spend, you know, irresponsible,” he complained. “Since I came into office, the federal deficit’s come down by two-thirds.” He loves this line because his adoring audiences don’t know the difference between “debt” and “deficit,” and because it allows him to leave out two particularly inconvenient truths: First, he and his party nearly quadrupled the deficit before the Tea Party gave Republicans control of the House in 2010; and second, the national debt has gone from $10.6 trillion to more than $18 trillion since Obama took office. But, hey, he cut the deficit! Furthermore, Obama’s never met a tax he didn’t like, and he’s always looking for new “investments” to make in education, infrastructure, job training, or any number of other leftist programs. Raise taxes, spend more money, repeat. That’s the Democrat way.

No Tip for You!

Hillary Clinton is “hitting the road to earn your vote,” but she managed to visit an Ohio Chipotle restaurant without actually interacting with or being recognized by anybody. Even the employees didn’t know she was there until after she left. But maybe that was a good thing, since she didn’t leave a tip. The store manager said, “Her bill was $20 and some change, and they paid with $21 and left” without putting anything in the counter tip jar. Normally, it’s not a huge deal to skip the tip at a fast food restaurant when no particular person is serving you at a table. Indeed, even the manager played it off as no big deal. But Hillary is worth north of $100 million and hauls in $300,000 just for making a speech. Surely she could spare a few bucks for the hard-working people at Chipotle when she had the opportunity to make a difference — if for nothing else than a photo-op of her caring generosity. After all, she tells us “everyday Americans need a champion.” Evidently, that champion isn’t her.

Despite Obama Rhetoric, Jihadis Advance in Middle East

The Obama administration keeps trying to tell a rosy narrative about terrorism and Islamic jihad in the Middle East, but the facts keep getting in its way. Despite reports that American military and intelligence have pulled out of the country, Barack Obama continues to claim that Yemen is still a successful model for counterterrorism foreign policy. But this just in: After a brief clash with a Yemeni brigade, al-Qaida captured an airport, a seaport and an oil terminal — and that was just Thursday’s activities for the terrorist organization. So much for al-Qaida being “decimated” or “on the run.” While al-Qaida was taking victories in Yemen, Joe Biden was saying the fight against the Islamic State was turning against jihadis. “The momentum is in the right direction,” he told the National Defense University just last week. But ISIL has taken several towns around Ramadi and stands poised to capture the city itself. Ramadi is the last city in western Iraq controlled by the Iraqi Army. And this is despite the United States’ Operation “Inherent Resolve.” Charles Krauthammer observed, to put it mildly, “The administration is quickly developing a huge problem of credibility.”

Iran Deal Sparks Nuclear Energy Race in Middle East

It didn’t take long for unintended consequences to crop up. In response to the terrible deal with Iran that Team Obama is touting, Turkey announced it broke ground on its first nuclear reactor, with a second one in the works. What further “sweetens” this deal is that Russia is constructing the plant for Turkey. We thought Barack Obama’s deal with Iran was supposed to prevent nuclear proliferation. In March, Saudi Arabia signed a Memorandum of Understanding with South Korea to build two smallish nuclear power plants in the country to the tune of $2 billion. It’s a small comfort, perhaps, that these countries are at this point only dabbling in nuclear energy, not weapons. But they are surely thinking that if Iran ever breaks out with deliverable weapons-grade fissile material they’ll have the nuclear expertise to catch up more quickly.

For more, visit Right Hooks.


Christie’s Third Rail Gamble

By Lewis Morris

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie unveiled a plan to reform entitlements while visiting New Hampshire this week. The potential GOP presidential candidate noted that entitlement spending is “growing the deficit and slowly but surely taking over all of government. In the long term, it will steal our children’s future and bankrupt our nation.” He’s certainly right about that.

Christie’s proposal would change means testing for Medicare, with wealthier recipients paying more for their premiums on a sliding scale. Those at the top of the scale with incomes above $196,000 per year would pay 90% of their premiums out of pocket. The retirement age for Medicare would slowly rise to 69, but not until 2064.

As for Medicaid, Christie suggests simplifying the program so states receive fixed amounts per enrollee. This, according to the Congressional Budget Office, would reduce the deficit by $500 billion over the next decade.

Christie’s plan for Social Security calls for restructuring the system into essentially a retirement insurance policy. He proposes raising the retirement age for Social Security to 69, again very gradually as with Medicare. Means testing would affect payees with incomes over $80,000, and Social Security would be phased out entirely for those with incomes over $200,000. The overall plan wouldn’t kick in until 2022.

The facts aren’t all in yet regarding Christie’s plan, but facts never stop the Left from attacking it. Any time entitlements are mentioned in the same sentence with reform, statists get nervous. A shrinking entitlement means a shrinking government, and a shrinking government means less power for the Left. And that won’t be tolerated.

Senators Bernie Sanders (Socialist-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (Unannounced Socialist-MA) have called for simply raising taxes on higher incomes to cover the rising entitlement costs that threaten to swamp the rest of the federal government’s fiscal responsibilities. Raising taxes is such a novel idea, after all.

Ramesh Ponnuru, senior editor at National Review, notes that there is no way to tax ourselves out of the coming entitlement train wreck. The numbers are so vast that for any tax increase to work it would have to be so large as to bury individual taxpayers, discourage investment and productivity, and bring the economy to a grinding halt.

But Ponnuru isn’t much of a fan of Christie’s plan, either. While the idea of lower benefits for wealthier people makes sense, Ponnuru notes that Christie’s plans for means testing would discourage people from saving for retirement or working in retirement at a time when both should be encouraged.

Ponnuru writes, “Ideally we would move toward a better system that guaranteed all senior citizens a decent floor of income — something Social Security does not do — while expanding people’s ability to use their own savings to finance retirement above that floor.”

Christie’s proposal brings entitlement reform back into the national debate. He’s the first possible GOP presidential contender to do so, which raises his profile a bit. The one-time shining star of the GOP has suffered a significant fall from grace over the last couple of years. His bold style was once considered to be a game-changer in the famously corrupt blue state of New Jersey, but, after the smoke cleared, his blustering and not-very-conservative policies have done relatively little to reverse the state’s dire economic situation. His fortunes weren’t improved by literally embracing Barack Obama after Hurricane Sandy or by the Bridgegate scandal, which the New York Times gleefully reminds us is not over.

None of these facts should discourage an honest assessment of Christie’s proposal for entitlement reform. He has staked his political career on shaking up the established government order, even if to varying degrees of success. He makes valid points about the dangers we face to the growing rate of entitlement spending. And the longer we wait to make a decision on how to fix the problem, the more painful the solution will be.

Ukraine in Need of a ‘Reset’ Button

By Michael Swartz

While the world is focused on the Middle East and Iran, there’s still a smoldering conflict in Ukraine. But indications are the war in that nation between Vladimir Putin’s Russian proxies and NATO-backed Ukrainian troops will soon be back in the headlines.

European monitors report “a general increase in the number of ceasefire violations,” with the situation escalating both in the besieged city of Donetsk and the coastal town of Mariupol. Both locations have been in the crosshairs before, but Mariupol is particularly important as its fall to Russian-backed rebels could open a land route to Crimea, which was wrested away from Ukraine last year and became a Russian rump republic. Reportedly the Russians have 400 tanks and 700 pieces of artillery in the region despite an agreement in the February cease-fire to withdraw the munitions.

Ukraine isn’t the only place where the Russian bear is poking around, though. Last spring we noted Russian involvement in Moldova’s region of Transnistria, which borders Ukraine on the southwest. In what some perceived as an escalation, 400 Russian troops conducted a drill on Moldovan territory in Transnistria — an exercise The Wall Street Journal surmised was “intended to create the impression Mr. Putin might take more drastic action to subdue the defiant country.” Moldova has a pro-Western government, as does Ukraine.

Moscow, however, considers pro-Western governments to be the true threat to its sovereignty. Russian Gen. Valery Gerasimov asserted as much, saying, “It’s clear that measures taken by NATO to strengthen the bloc and increase its military capabilities are far from being defensive.” Pay no attention to the thousands of troops and hundreds of heavy weapons amassing behind the (iron) curtain.

Yet the biggest fear isn’t so much Russia’s expansive actions — which we’ve come to expect over the decades — but the lack of action from both an impotent Europe that relies on Russian natural gas and an irresolute America led by Barack Obama’s malfeasant foreign policy of rewarding enemies and abandoning friends. It’s easy to see that Obama’s “reset” with Russia, conducted through Hillary Clinton’s “smart power” at the State Department, is an utter, if predictable, failure.

For more, visit Right Analysis.


For more, visit Right Opinion.


General Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964): “No man is entitled to the blessings of freedom unless he be vigilant in its preservation.”

Economist Stephen Moore: “[H]ere’s an argument against the [‘death’] tax that isn’t well understood. It hardly raises any money. This tax is all economic pain, with no gain. According to the latest IRS statistics, in 2013 the estate tax raised $12.7 billion. In 2001 the tax collected nearly twice as much money ($23.5 billion) as in 2013. So it’s a small and shrinking source of government revenues. That $12.7 billion collected is out of $2.8 trillion in total federal revenue in 2013. In other words, a trivial 0.5 percent of federal tax receipts now come from estates. Get rid of the tax and the government still raises 99.5 percent of its money — at worst. … One reason the tax raises such a pittance is that the exemption level is now $5.4 million on an estate; there just aren’t that many estates above that level. Fewer than 5,000 estates pay the tax each year or about 2 of every 1,000 estates. … Two-thirds of jobs come from small and family-owned businesses. Wouldn’t the smart way to create jobs be to make sure that the next generation can grow these enterprises rather than sell them off at auction to pay this economically destructive and fiscally inconsequential tax?”

Columnist Mona Charen: “Two relatively recent photos of Barack Obama with foreign leaders reveal much about his deep-dyed leftism. The first features President Obama and democratically elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of one of America’s most loyal friends. Obama looks strained. His face is stiff, and his eyes are veiled. The second is a snap of Obama at the recent Summit of the Americas in Panama. He’s seated with ‘President’ Raul Castro, leader of a bitter enemy, who has never received a single free vote. Obama is grinning, his eyes dancing with pleasure. In contrast to the bitterness with which Obama addresses Netanyahu, he is all honey with Castro. … While Obama and Castro were speaking, goons from the Cuban security services beat Cuban human rights activists who had traveled to Panama City at the invitation of summit organizers. That’s a ho hum story. Happens every day of the week in Cuba. But this one happened under Obama’s nose, yet he didn’t retreat an inch from his embrace of the man who ordered it. Everything is forgiven when it comes to the Castros. … Who benefits from the thaw with Cuba? Not the Cuban people, who earn a maximum wage (yes, you read that correctly) of $20 per month. More trade and commerce will benefit their oppressors — the worst regime in our hemisphere, a sworn enemy of the USA, but Obama’s newest pals.”

Comedian Argus Hamilton: “Ted Cruz raised thirty million dollars last week indicating the GOP donors will spend big on this group of candidates. Last month, Jeb Bush had dinner with Wall Streeters and raised ten million dollars. The next morning Donald Trump had breakfast by himself and raised a hundred million dollars.”

Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis!
Managing Editor Nate Jackson

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