American Elephants


Why Obama’s Stimulus Could Never Have Worked by The Elephant's Child

Economist Veronique du Rugy of George Mason University’s Mercatus Center explains, by using the example of neighboring Maryland, why Obama’s stimulus program could not have worked, why the ideas were flawed, and what happened when he put it into practice.

Doomed from the beginning, it’s another lesson in how “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”



January 1, 2013: Financial Armageddon. by The Elephant's Child

“What if your President, your Senator and your Congressman knew a crisis was coming?  What if they knew why it was happening?  What if they knew what they needed to do to stop it from happening?  What if they had the time to stop it?  And what if they chose to do nothing about it…because they thought it wasn’t good politics? 

“What would you think of that person?”

These words of Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan are something we really need to  take to heart. Economist Alan S. Blinder of Princeton University, and a former vice-chairman of the Federal Reserve explained in depth in a column in the Wall Street Journal yesterday.

A number of decisions to kick the budgetary can down the road have conspired to place a remarkably large fiscal contraction on the calendar for January 2013 — unless Congress takes action to avoid it.

Well, that gives Congress plenty of time, right? Yes. But if you’re like me, the phrase “unless Congress takes action” sends a chill down your spine — especially since the cliff came about because of Congress’s past inability to agree.

President Barack Obama is in full campaign mode, and doesn’t want any inconvenient cuts in his budget — at least none that affect his voting blocks until after the election, which he intends to win. On January 1, 2013, the Bush tax cuts will expire, meaning a sharp tax increase for everyone. The temporary payroll tax cut will end. Unemployment benefits will be severely curtailed.

Further, last August, the president and Congress created the bipartisan Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, commonly known as “the super committee.” It was charged with finding ways to trim at least $1.5 trillion from projected deficits over 10 years. Aware of the history of super committees, Congress stipulated that formulaic spending cuts of $1.2 trillion would kick in automatically if the committee failed. Of course the committee failed. The formula Congress set up aimed half of the cuts at the Pentagon.

Cowardly congressmen who don’t want anything but good news prior to the election will surely find ways to squeeze out of this situation, won’t they?  Alan Blinder says “It is next to certain that nothing will be done about the fiscal cliff during the election season.”  So then they would have about eight weeks, including Sundays and Holidays to find a solution or kick the can down the road again. And the can is getting bigger and bigger and heavier too as campaign promises are added in. We will probably be bumping up against the national debt ceiling again. And for fixing things — a lame-duck Congress.

Last week Indiana’s Republican Governor Mitch Daniels said that the size of the U.S. national debt and the rate at which the debt is accumulating will lead the United States to “ruin” — and no other outcome is mathematically possible.

Whether one believes in a large, very active government or something more limited, mathematically, the amount of debt we already have and the terrifying rate at which it is accumulating will lead to national ruin.

Daniels said that Congress has become dysfunctional in terms of dealing with our economic and fiscal situation — and picked a “lousy time” to become dysfunctional, since the United States has never faced “a non-military danger or threat as large as the one we face today.”

“There is absolutely no way” that cutting or taxing our way our of our fiscal problems are the solutions. Instead, we need a private economy that grows much faster, and meaningful entitlement reform.

Congress hasn’t passed a budget in nearly 3 years now. The deficit this year will be $93 billion larger than estimated only two months ago, hitting $1.2 trillion for all of 2012. The nonpartisan CBO says that spending will hit 25% of GDP in 2012. Public debt will continue to rise, the Heritage Foundation observes, from 73.3% of GDP today to an alarming 93.2% in 2022, only 10 years away.

In the message Obama attached to his proposed 2013 budget, he claimed that he’s “taken many steps to reestablish fiscal responsibility.” It boosts spending by $227 billion,  and adds another $6.4 trillion in new deficits over the next ten years. This is sheer irresponsibility.

No wonder they’re trying to distract us with the “War on Women” nonsense.



Tax Time: You’ll Be Happy to Know the IRS Failed to Adequately Screen 77% of New Hires. by The Elephant's Child

Have you finished doing your taxes? Have you started? Your tax return undoubtedly will contain information that you expect will remain private, between the gigantic IRS and  you. Now the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has challenged the IRS on their pre-screening and employment practices. They found that at four of nine branch offices, nearly 77% of new hires were not adequately screened  to meet standards of honesty, integrity and security. Oops!

In Fiscal Year 2010, taxpayers filed over 230 million tax returns that contained sensitive financial information. Because many IRS employees must have access to sensitive taxpayer information to administer the Nation’s tax system, the IRS must be particularly cognizant of hiring only those applicants who hold themselves to the highest standards of integrity. The IRS uses several controls to deter and detect the abuse of sensitive information. Pre-screening applicants and conducting background investigations on them are the initial steps in the process of ensuring that the IRS meets the highest standards of honesty, integrity, and security.

The IRS has implemented controls designed to ensure that applicants pursuing permanent or temporary employment with the IRS are suitable, and background investigation requests are properly initiated. However, our review at four of nine Employment Operations branch offices revealed that nearly 77% of the cases reviewed (507 of 662 cases) did not have sufficient documentation that would allow us to verify that the Employment Operations offices completed all of the required pre-screening steps before the employee reported for duty.

(ht: TaxProfBlog)




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