American Elephants

Good Work, IRS! Here’s $70 Million in Bonuses! by The Elephant's Child
June 20, 2013, 7:57 pm
Filed under: Politics

Victor Davis Hanson wrote today “Lies Subvert Democracy: Obama and his team have subverted the government they pledged to serve:”

Truth is the lifeblood of democracy. Without honesty, the foundations of consensual government crumble.

If the Internal Revenue Service acts unlawfully, our system of citizens’ computing their own taxes implodes.

Yet Lois Lerner, one of the IRS’s top officials, would not answer simple questions about her agency’s conduct during congressional testimony, instead pleading the Fifth Amendment. Any taxpayer who tried that with an IRS auditor would end up fined, if not in jail.

The IRS scandal is obviously tops. The public will forgive many little lapses in politics, we are growing used to them, but it is quite wonderful just how the Obamaites have picked their scandals. What could possibly offend the public quite so much? Fresh from having to struggle with their own returns, they find out that the Department of the Internal Revenue is not only completely crooked, its officials lie gratuitously and easily, they expend vast amounts of taxpayer money on frivolous conferences, and they attack groups of citizens whose only offense is to disagree with the administration, in order to prevent them from exerting any influence on the then upcoming election.

They not only persecuted Tea-Party members, “patriots,” anything sounding patriotic or espousing liberty,  anything to do with the Founding, but any groups that seemed to support Israel. The Council on Islamic-American Relations (CAIR) and other Islamist related groups sail right through. CAIR didn’t even have to renew its tax-exempt status each year as required by law. If you have friends in high-places, it apparently helps. Much remains to be discovered.

Like how come the IRS seized 60 million medical records and won’t explain why. Or that IRS agents misused credit cards and bounced 325 checks in a year. Or that IRS workers are paid far more than their peers in the private sector. It seems to go on and on. But it gets even worse.

So what is the fallout from all of the waste, corruption and general malfeasance? Is the IRS to be shut down, punished? Nah. Award them all giant bonuses for work well done. Just ask Economist Dan Mitchell:

The Internal Revenue Service is about to pay $70 million in employee bonuses despite an Obama administration directive to cancel discretionary bonuses because of automatic spending cuts enacted this year, according to a GOP senator.“The IRS always claims to be short on resources,” Grassley said. “But it appears to have $70 million for union bonuses…” Three congressional committees and the Justice Department are investigating the targeting of conservative groups. And key Republicans in Congress are promising more scrutiny of the agency’s budget, especially as it ramps up to play a major role in implementing the new health care law.


Do You Trust Your Government? And Just How Much and How Far? by The Elephant's Child

Americans are rightfully fairly skeptical about their government. One of the oldest and stalest jokes, yet sure to get a laugh is “Trust me, I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you.” Americans don’t particularly trust their government institutions, and according to Gallup, their confidence in Congress is at an all-time low of 10%.  As far as institutions go, Americans have the highest level of trust in the military at 76%, followed by small business at 67%, and police at 57%. The last three are the only institutions that garner over 50% confidence.

But what does that mean? Why such low confidence in Congress? These are your hand-picked representatives, you voted for them — it’s just the other guy’s picks that you don’t trust? A common refrain is that there is no difference between the two parties; and another, just as common, is that the other party is hateful, wrong about everything, and should be driven from office. Please notice that these two common refrains are contradictory. There is a common notion that anyone who disagrees with you is a bad person. That is what got the IRS in such trouble.

Our government with its three separate branches was set up — to slow things down. The Founders wanted carefully considered decisions, forcing all parties to compromise on something to which all could agree. Congress makes the laws, and they are meant to debate and argue so that all opinions are raised and discussed. Evidence is presented, testimony, studies, the pressure of lobbyists, and of all the various political factions.

The current debate about the Farm Bill is a splendid example. A small portion of the bill goes to farm support, most of that to large factory farms. The biggest portion of the bill involves Food Stamps, which also represent the biggest portion of the arguments. The Obama administration is working hard to get as many Americans as possible dependent on Food Stamps. Paid canvassers hit golf courses and old folks homes to sign up new people on food stamps. The number of Americans on Food Stamps has doubled in the Obama administration, clearly demonstrating that the president is not rescuing anyone from poverty, but increasing it. Canvassers get a bonus for every person they get to sign up. The idea is that once dependent on the government, you will continue to vote for Democrats in order to keep the benefits.

Republicans object to the Democrats request for more funding for food stamps. The Democrats have countered with the “SNAP Challenge” which purports to show how impossibly hard it is to survive on the allotment of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Being Democrats, there was of course the congressman who went to Whole Foods and purchased one hard-boiled egg for $1.08, or New York City’s Democratic comptroller John Liu who is running for mayor was photographed by one of his security crew in his SUV eating a can of Campbell’s Soup directly from the can (apparently cold and undiluted) and with a loaf of sliced white bread. Some Republicans took on the challenge as well and showed them that it is easily done and you can eat well. The Washington Post Fact Checker awarded the Democrat’s effort two Pinocchios.

The Farm Bill was defeated in the House. Democrats would not accept any cuts to the food stamp program, but then they won’t accept any cut in spending at all. The public is weary of these monumental bills that include everything but the kitchen sink, including earmarks for congressional districts.

Perhaps the biggest reason to distrust Congress is their habit in recent years of passing really big bills that include everything, hundreds of amendments, and yet assign the actual task of determining the rules and regulations that organize and support the purpose of the bill to a bunch of bureaucrats in assorted agencies. That is a real problem that results in bad law, over-regulation and over-criminalization. I just Googled the number of pages in the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare). The answers range from 1025 (Wikipedia), to 2,500, 2200, 20,000 (WaPo), 1990 (Library of Congress), undoubtedly depending on the amount of white space and the size of type.

Auditors say that HHS isn’t close to being ready to launch ObamaCare by the October due date. The exchanges aren’t ready and HHS has been stonewalling congressional oversight committees for years about progress. HHS has turned implementation into a black operation. Public support has hit a new post-passage low of 35%. If you need an example for the public’s low respect for Congress, consider the slyly-named Affordable Care Act.

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