According to a recent report from openthebooks.com, non-military spending on guns, ammo and military-style equipment soared from $119.3 million in 2008, President George W. Bush’s last year in office, to a high of $224.7 million dollars in 2012, the year Obama won re-election.
Kellan Howell report: The U.S. Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service doesn’t seem like a Wild West sort of federal agency since its biologists mostly check on the human health impact of animal and plant species.
“Much of this spending on guns, ammunition and military-style equipment is redundant, inefficient and unnecessary.”
But it reported buying $4.7 million in high-powered weapons, ammunition and military gear during the last decade, including shotguns, night vision goggles, and propane cannons, according to federal purchasing records reviewed by the nonpartisan government spending watchdog openthebooks.com.
About $1.7 million of that spending occurred in 2014 alone.
The agency says it needs the equipment to protect its workers in the wild from feral swine, more commonly known as wild hogs. But spending critics like openthebooks.com see such purchases as part of a much larger trend toward militarizing federal civilian agencies and local police at taxpayer expense.
“Beyond automatic rifles, armored cars and hollow-round bullets, some agencies seemed to have expanded their purchases to the more sublime, even booking hundreds of thousands of dollars of paint ball equipment, the report showed.”
And the irony is such purchases have massively expanded over the last decade, even as President Obama has repeatedly pushed to limit access to high-powered gun and weapons in America, most recently after the Orlando terror attack last month.
“This massacre is, therefore, a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub,” the president said after the most recent mass shooting.
But on his watch, government agencies are arming themselves more than ever before.
According to a recent report from openthebooks.com, non-military spending on guns, ammo and military-style equipment soared from $119.3 million in 2008, President George W. Bush’s last year in office, to a high of $224.7 million dollars in 2012, the year Obama won re-election.
In 2014, the latest year for which there are complete records, total militarized spending by civilian federal agencies dropped to $150 million, still much higher than the end of the Bush years.
Robert W. Wood writes: It seems crazy to call it the ‘New Normal’, but once again, record numbers of Americans are renouncing citizenship. Every three months, the Treasury Department publicly names individuals who renounced. It is surely more about FATCA, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act enacted in 2010, than it is about politics. Still, numbers are flying, with one poll saying that 1 in 4 Americans would consider leaving if Trump is elected. Others claim they will leave if Hillary is elected.
“FATCA has been painstakingly implemented worldwide by President Obama’s Treasury Department. It now spans the globe with a network of reporting that is unparalleled in the world. America is requiring foreign banks and governments to hand over secret bank data about depositors.”
Of course, these numbers seem tiny compared to the influx of immigrants. Yet expatriations have historically been much lower, making the uptick worrisome. Moreover, the published list is incomplete, with many not counted. Surprisingly, no one seems to know exactly how big the real number is, even though the IRS and FBI both track Americans who renounce. There is no single explanation, though some renounce because of global tax reporting and FATCA. One law adding to the mix is the IRS power to revoke passports.
The reasons for renouncing can be family, tax and legal complications. Dual citizenship isn’t always possible, as this infographic from MoveHub shows. And leaving can be expensive. Some countries have no fee, but America charges $2,350 to hand in your passport. That is more than twenty times the average of other high-income countries. The U.S. government has collected about $12.6 million in fees since the fall of 2014, after hiking its fee to renounce citizenship by 422%. Some renouncers write why they gave up their U.S. citizenship. Read the rest of this entry »
The Friends of Abe has acted as a clandestine club for Hollywood conservatives for more than a decade, hosting secret events where they could vent rightwing views and hear speeches from visiting Tea Party luminaries.
“Effective immediately, we are going to begin to wind down the 501 c3 organization, bring the Sustaining Membership dues to an end, and do away with the costly infrastructure and the abespal.com website,” the executive director, Jeremy Boreing, told members in an email, a copy of which the Guardian has seen.
“Today, because we have been successful in creating a community that extends far beyond our events, people just don’t feel as much of a need to show up for every speaker or bar night, and fewer people pay the dues that help us maintain that large infrastructure.”
The announcement caught members by surprise and fueled speculation that infighting over Donald Trump’s candidacy, among other factors, had drained commitment. Others said the group had been losing steam for years.
Lionel Chetwynd, a producer and screenwriter and co-founder of the FOA, recently spoke of the primary campaign causing a “civil war in slow motion”, which fractured friendships and shredded solidarity.
Boreing, a director and producer, put a positive gloss on the announcement, saying the initial hunger for fellowship had prompted the group to build an expensive website, rent offices and hire staff, including lawyers and accountants.
“It’s time to change how we do it. As our group has grown in size and success, many of the structures that helped us grow have become less useful … It means an end to the standing organization, but not an end to the mission or the fellowship.”
Boreing vowed to maintain the mailing list and stage events, but without the infrastructure, staff or budget requirements.
“We will still get together for drinks and speakers, but we may reassess how we approach those events logistically. In short, FOA will return to its roots. It will be a passion project, like it was in the beginning … We’ll still be a private organization that protects the names of our members at all costs.”
Boreing did not immediately respond to interview requests.
Members expressed surprise and dismay at the weakening, and perhaps loss, of a refuge from what they see as Hollywood’s bullying liberal ethos.
It was the one place where many of its members – actors, producers, writers and technicians – felt safe from liberal sneers and potential retribution. Read the rest of this entry »
Governments will seek to focus on general tax evasion charges to distract from evidence of corruption by public officials.
Ed Krayewski writes: While contemporary governments have carved out for themselves significant authority in demanding citizens of their countries do specific things with their money, it doesn’t change the principle of self-ownership. Were private citizens to follow their money off-shore in the wake of this, would their governments demand to control their flight as well as their capital’s? It’s not just theoretical.
“A person’s money belongs to them, not the government, just as their bodies and their freedoms do.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has pushed the idea of seizing the passports of citizens who have too many interests overseas. Maybe he ought to support Donald Trump building a big wall after all—at least that’d be consistent and honest. Capital controls are restrictions of free movement much like walls are.
“The ‘Panama Papers’ are the largest leak in world history, revealing millions of documents related to the offshore accounts of politicians, former politicians, and billionaires around the world.”
Despite much of the media’s focus on tax evasion as the primary theme of the Panama Papers story, which embarrassed governments are happy to adopt as the primary theme as well, the question is one of official corruption.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) itself, which first published the data, says it reveals the holdings of “drug dealers, Mafia members, corrupt politicians and tax evaders–and wrongdoing galore.”
Yet the numbers they offer tell a different story. According to ICIJ, 214,000 entities are described in the Panama Papers. They include the off-shore assets of 140 politicians and other public figures (including 12 current or former heads of state or government), as well as 33 people and companies that were “blacklisted by the U.S. government because of evidence that they’d been involved in wrongdoing, such as doing business with Mexican drug lords, terrorist organizations like Hezbollah or rogue nations like North Korea and Iran.” Yet The Economist counts 33 Forbes list billionaires to the 140 politicians in the Panama Papers. Read the rest of this entry »
Driving a Stake in the Heart of Bloodthirsty IRS Agents, Americans Living Abroad Renounce U.S. Citizenship in Record NumbersPosted: February 9, 2016
Uncle Sam’s Global Tax Police Crawl Over International Borders to Extract Tribute from U.S. Citizens.
The number of citizens and long-term residents cutting their official ties to Uncle Sam jumped more than 20% last year to 4,279, according to a CNNMoney analysis of the latest government data.
“Unlike most other countries, the U.S. taxes its citizens on all income, no matter where it’s earned or where they live.”
It’s a trend that’s been increasing in recent years. Many of those severing links are Americans living overseas who are tired of dealing with complicated tax paperwork, a headache that has worsened since new regulations came into effect.
“For Americans living abroad, that results in a mountain of paperwork so complex that they are often forced to seek professional help, forking out high fees for accountants and lawyers.”
Eighteen times as many Americans renounced their citizenship or long-term residency in 2015 compared with 2008. Last year was the third record-breaking year in a row.
“The burden has gotten heavier in recent years with the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, which became law in 2010.”
Unlike most other countries, the U.S. taxes its citizens on all income, no matter where it’s earned or where they live. For Americans living abroad, that results in a mountain of paperwork so complex that they are often forced to seek professional help, forking out high fees for accountants and lawyers.
The burden has gotten heavier in recent years with the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, which became law in 2010.
It requires individuals to report certain foreign assets and banks to disclose all foreign accounts held by Americans. That comes on top of another rule that requires Americans to disclose foreign bank holdings above $10,000. Read the rest of this entry »
“Commissioner violated the public trust. He failed to comply with a congressionally issued subpoena, documents were destroyed on his watch, and the public was consistently misled.”
“Impeachment is the appropriate tool to restore public confidence in the IRS and to protect the institutional interests of Congress. This action will demonstrate to the American people that the IRS is under repair, and signal that Executive Branch officials who violate the public trust will be held accountable.”
— Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz in a news release
While the numbers have fluctuated slightly since 2007, the trend has been largely stable since 2010. However, the percentage of U.S. adults who see corruption as pervasive has never been less than a majority in the past decade, which has had no shortage of controversies from the U.S. Justice Department’s firings of U.S. attorneys to the IRS scandal.
These figures are higher than some might expect, and while the lack of improvement is somewhat disconcerting, the positive takeaway is that Americans still feel fairly free to criticize their government. This is not the case in some parts of the world. Questions about corruption are so sensitive in some countries that even if Gallup is allowed to ask them, the results may reflect residents’ reluctance to disparage their government. This is particularly true in countries where media freedom is restricted.
This is why it is most appropriate to look at perceptions of corruption through such lenses as the Freedom House‘s Press Freedom rankings. Ratings vary among countries with a “free press,” including the U.S., and range from a high of 90% in Lithuania to a low of 14% in Sweden. The U.S. does not make the top 10 list, but notably, it is not far from it.
These data are available in Gallup Analytics.
Results are based on telephone interviews with approximately 1,000 U.S. adults each year, aged 15 and older, conducted between 2007 and 2014. For results based on the total sample of national adults in the U.S., the margin of sampling error has typically been ±4.0 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
For results based on the total sample of national adults across the 134 countries surveyed in 2014, the margin of sampling error ranged from ±2.1 percentage points to ±5.6 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. Read the rest of this entry »
At Americans for Tax Reform, Paul Blair reports: In 2013, more than 200,000 people on net fled states with Democrat governors for ones run by Republicans, according to an analysis of newly released IRS data by Americans for Tax Reform. “People move away from high tax states to low tax states. Every tax refugee is sending a powerful message to politicians,” said ATR President Grover Norquist.
“They are voting with their feet. Leaders in Texas and Florida are listening”…(read more)
But who’s to say they’re not bringing their economically self-defeating pro-Democrat voting habits with them? Along with their expectations for government services, benefits, progressive leadership, and inevitably, the increased taxation and economic damage that comes with it?
One view is that red states are gaining prosperity and influence, due to this economic migration of dissatisfied Democrats. Newcomers are abandoning overtaxed, poorly-managed blue states, embracing conservative fiscal governance, low taxation, economic opportunity, sunnier new horizons. But is this true?
Another view is that they’ll contaminate the states they migrate to, invading, like swarms of parasites, altering the electorate, eventually turning these states blue. If they migrate in large enough numbers, it will result in spreading the corrupt, malignant blue-state disease to healthy, welcoming, unsuspecting new hosts. When Democrats move to a new state, what makes us think they’ll do anything other than continue to vote for Democrats? How is this a good thing? Something to consider.
Source: Americans for Tax Reform
Judge Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court also demanded Clinton, Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin provide assurances by Wednesday that they would not delete any federal records in their possession.
Sarah Westwood reports: A federal judge ordered Hillary Clinton and two of her top aides not to delete any potentially work-related emails after Clinton’s former chief of staff vowed to discard all electronic copies of her records by Monday.
“The destruction of federal documents in the face of a court order is par for the course for a Clinton-related scandal….If not for the swift action of Judicial Watch’s legal team and an alert federal judge, there is no telling what important public information would have been lost forever.”
— Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch
The order came Friday evening in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch seeking documentation of a controversial employment status bestowed on Abedin, Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, that allowed her to work simultaneously for the State Department, the Clinton Foundation and a consulting firm called Teneo Strategies.
After Sullivan asked Clinton, Mills and Abedin to certify under penalty of perjury that they had each submitted all work-related emails, only Clinton reportedly responded.
Mills and Abedin seemingly ignored requests that they had handed over all their emails as each continued to prepare emails for the State Department. Read the rest of this entry »
Alexander Hendrie continues: The House Oversight Committee report cites an officially transcribed
interview with John Minsek, senior investigative analyst with the IRS Criminal Investigations (CI) unit. Minsek examined the Lerner hard drive in 2011. In the transcribed interview, he notes Lerner’s hard drive contained “well-defined scoring creating a concentric circle in the proximity of the center of the disk.” The Oversight Committee report states:
“Using the CI unit’s digital forensic facilities, Minsek opened the hard drive and conducted additional tests. Once he opened the hard drive, Minsek noticed “well-defined scoring creating a concentric circle in the proximity of the center of the disk.”
Ameri-Shred’s AMS-750HD hard drive shredder will shred 900 to 1800 hard drives per hour, depending on your voltage and shred width. It can be plant based or placed in a truck for mobile hard drive shredding.
So how did the scoring get there?
Last month, testimony from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) revealed that Lois Lerner’s hard drive had “scoring on the top platter of the drive.” The testimony also noted that the IRS technician that inspected the hard drive believed that additional steps could have been taken to recover data, although this did not occur and the hard drive was later destroyed by an industrial strength AMERI-SHRED AMS-750 HD shredder.
Given these facts, it is logical to question how the “scoring” occurred and whether there was foul play involved. Here it what is known thus far:
– According to TIGTA testimony submitted to the Oversight Committee on June 25, 2014, Lerner’s laptop stopped communicating with the IRS server on Saturday June 11, 2011, between 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
– According to the same testimony,the laptop was likely physically located in Lerner’s office the moment it stopped communicating with the server: Read the rest of this entry »
When it was revealed in 2013 that the IRS had targeted conservative groups for exercising their First Amendment rights, President Obama correctly called the policy “inexcusable” and pledged accountability. He even fired the then-acting IRS commissioner because he said it was necessary to have “new leadership that can help restore confidence going forward.”
“A taxpayer would never get away with treating an IRS audit the way that IRS officials have treated the congressional investigation.”
Unfortunately, Commissioner Koskinen, who took over in the wake of the IRS targeting scandal, has failed the American people by frustrating Congress’s attempts to ascertain the truth. A taxpayer would never get away with treating an IRS audit the way that IRS officials have treated the congressional investigation. Civil officers like Mr. Koskinen have historically been held to a higher standard than private citizens because they have fiduciary obligations to the public. The IRS and Mr. Koskinen have breached these basic fiduciary duties:
• Destruction of evidence. Lois Lerner, at the time the director of the IRS’s exempt-organizations unit, invoked the Fifth Amendment on May 22, 2013, when appearing before Congress; her refusal to testify put a premium on obtaining and reviewing her email communications. On the same day the IRS’s chief technology officer issued a preservation order that instructed IRS employees “not to destroy/wipe/reuse any of the existing backup tapes for email, or archiving of other information from IRS personal computers.”
“John Koskinen has violated the public trust, breached his fiduciary obligations and demonstrated his unfitness to serve. Mr. President, it’s time for Commissioner Koskinen to go. If you don’t act, we will.”
Several weeks later, on Aug. 2, the House Oversight Committee issued its first subpoena for IRS documents, including all of Ms. Lerner’s emails. On Feb. 2, 2014, Kate Duval, the IRS commissioner’s counsel, identified a gap in the Lerner emails that were being collected. Days later, Ms. Duval learned that the gap had been caused in 2011 when the hard drive of Ms. Lerner’s computer crashed.
Despite all this—an internal IRS preservation order, a congressional subpoena, and knowledge about Ms. Lerner’s hard-drive and email problems—the Treasury inspector general for tax administration discovered that the agency on March 4, 2014, erased 422 backup tapes containing as many as 24,000 emails. (Congress learned of the discovery only last month.)
Ms. Duval has since left the IRS and now works at the State Department, where she is responsible for vetting Hillary Clinton’s emails sought by congressional investigations of the Benghazi attacks.
• Failure to inform Congress. Mr. Koskinen was made aware of the problems associated with Ms. Lerner’s emails the same month Ms. Duval discovered the gap. Yet the IRS withheld the information from Congress for four months, until June 13, 2014, when the agency used a Friday news dump to admit—on page seven of the third attachment to a letter sent to the Senate Finance Committee—that it had lost many of Ms. Lerner’s emails. Read the rest of this entry »
The number of pistols made has nearly tripled during the Obama administration, which could reflect more people turning to firearms for personal protection.
Tim Devaney writes: Gun production has more than doubled over the course of the Obama administration, according to a new report from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“The ATF report confirms what we already know, that Barack Obama deserves the ‘Gun Salesman of the Decade’ award. People have been rushing to buy firearms because they’re afraid that Obama will take away their Second Amendment rights.”
— Erich Pratt, spokesman for the Gun Owners of America
The manufacturing boom has come in the face of the president’s push to expand background checks and place new restrictions on guns in the wake of high-profile shootings like the recent mass-killing in Charleston, S.C., and the 2012 massacre at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school.
Pistols are the most popular type of gun, accounting for 4.4 million of the firearms made in 2013, according to the report. Meanwhile, gun manufacturers produced 3.9 million rifles and 1.2 million shotguns.
The numbers paint a picture of gun owners who are concerned about new restrictions on their Second Amendment rights, activists say.
“President Obama has been relentless in his attacks on the Second Amendment, and it’s not shocking people are frightened and want to protect themselves. He’ll stop at nothing to strip people of their constitutional rights to self-protection.”
— National Rifle Association spokeswoman Jennifer Baker
“The ATF report confirms what we already know, that Barack Obama deserves the ‘Gun Salesman of the Decade’ award,” said Erich Pratt, spokesman for the Gun Owners of America. “People have been rushing to buy firearms because they’re afraid that Obama will take away their Second Amendment rights.”
“President Obama has made it very clear he wants to strip away our gun rights, so people are going out and purchasing more firearms and ammunition.”
— Joe Neville, director of political affairs at the National Association for Gun Rights
The ATF’s annual firearms commerce report tracks the number of guns manufactured in the United State, which provides an indication of gun sales around the country.
“The gun lobby seizes on those fears and uses scare tactics and doomsday rhetoric in order to sell more guns.”
— Mark Prentice, spokesman for Americans for Responsible Solutions, the gun safety group run by former congresswoman Gabby Giffords
The number of guns manufactured increased by 18 percent during the George W. Bush administration, while the Clinton administration actually saw a 9 percent reduction. Read the rest of this entry »
Now That Our False ‘Love, Mutual Respect, Equality’ Argument Has Achieved its Purpose, Let’s Dump it and Unveil Our True AgendaPosted: June 28, 2015
George F. Will writes: Conservatives are dismayed about the Supreme Court’s complicity in rewriting the Affordable Care Act — its ratification of the IRS’s disregard of the statute’s plain and purposeful language. But they have contributed to this outcome. Their decades of populist praise of judicial deference to the political branches has borne this sour fruit.
“Since the New Deal, courts have permitted almost any legislative infringement of economic liberty that can be said to have a rational basis. Applying this extremely permissive test, courts usually approve any purpose that a legislature asserts. Courts even concoct purposes that legislatures neglect to articulate.”
The court says the ACA’s stipulation that subsidies are to be administered by the IRS using exchanges “established by the State” should not be construed to mean what it says. Otherwise the law will not reach as far as it will if federal exchanges can administer subsidies in states that choose not to establish exchanges. The ACA’s legislative history, however, demonstrates that the subsidies were deliberately restricted to distribution through states’ exchanges in order to pressure the states into establishing their own exchanges.
“The Roberts Doctrine facilitates what has been for a century progressivism’s central objective, the overthrow of the Constitution’s architecture. The separation of powers impedes progressivism by preventing government from wielding uninhibited power. Such power would result if its branches behaved as partners in harness rather than as wary, balancing rivals maintaining constitutional equipoise.”
The most durable damage from Thursday’s decision is not the perpetuation of the ACA, which can be undone by what created it — legislative action. The paramount injury is the court’s embrace of a duty to ratify and even facilitate lawless discretion exercised by administrative agencies and the executive branch generally.
The court’s decision flowed from many decisions by which the judiciary has written rules that favor the government in cases of statutory construction. The decision also resulted from Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s embrace of the doctrine that courts, owing vast deference to the purposes of the political branches, are obligated to do whatever is required to make a law efficient, regardless of how the law is written. What Roberts does by way of, to be polite, creative construing (Justice Antonin Scalia, dissenting, calls it “somersaults of statutory interpretation”) is legislating, not judging.
” The paramount injury is the court’s embrace of a duty to ratify and even facilitate lawless discretion exercised by administrative agencies and the executive branch generally.”
Roberts writes, almost laconically, that the ACA “contains more than a few examples of inartful drafting.” That is his artful way of treating “inartful” as a synonym for “inconvenient” or even “self-defeating.”
Rolling up the sleeves of his black robe and buckling down to the business of redrafting the ACA, Roberts invents a corollary to “Chevron deference.”
Named for a 1984 case, Chevron deference has become central to the way today’s regulatory state functions. It says that agencies charged with administering statutes are entitled to deference when they interpret ambiguous statutory language. Read the rest of this entry »