By Doug Porter
It’s pretty easy to dislike the Internal Revenue Service; a fact of life exploited by Congress on a regular basis. Since 2010 the agency’s budget has been slashed by more than $1 billion. Staffing has been reduced by 8000 employees, including 5000 frontline personnel.
Those staffing cuts, combined with October’s 16 day shutdown of the government by Tea Party ideologues hoping the repeal Obamacare, are at the center of an announcement yesterday that the opening date for tax filing season will start on Jan. 31, instead of the initially-planned Jan. 21.
A little noticed press release by the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) quotes union President Colleen M. Kelley saying, “As the holiday credit card bills come due early in the year, millions of Americans count on a quick refund to help cover those costs. This year, that money may not be there when they need it.”
Not only that, said Kelly, the severe staffing shortage at the IRS as a result of the drastic budget cuts of the last two years will have a cumulative effect resulting in delays and slower service throughout the filing season.
An additional part of the 2014 lump of coal gift from the Congressional right may also extend into credits that are supposed to be extended via the Affordable Health Care Act as the already short staffed agency struggles with its workload. I’m sure Representative Darrel Issa will feel the need to “investigate” these matters. And speaking of the devil…
Issa on the Hot Seat?
It looks like House Democrats have reached a breaking point with the Vista Republican Congressman. Appearing on MSNBC last night House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called for a high level security briefing on the operations of Darrell ‘Collateral Damage’ Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Testifying under oath, Issa would have to be forthcoming about what information he has released and to whom after he got his hands on sensitive documents from the MITRE corporation regarding security for HealthCare.Gov. The Department of Justice would then be asked to make a determination about his actions..
From Sarah Jones at PoliticusUSA:
The administration asked Issa for a personal briefing in order to explain the security risks, but he declined to meet with them. So they had little choice but to escalate the matter, pointing out that he had not followed protocol in the procuring of the documents and his refusal to even listen to the security concerns “reckless in the extreme”.
Democrats have been calling for a classified meeting with administration cyber security officials to discuss the proper handling of documents, including writing a letter requesting an immediate classified briefing “about the extremely significant risks of disclosing sensitive contractor documents relating to the Healthcare.gov website.”
Issa subpoenaed sensitive documents from the MITRE Corporation, the contractors who worked on the security of the ObamaCare federal exchange. He had already been given unredacted access to the information, but then he wanted a set of documents for himself.
Issa Shills for Faux News
Not satisfied with the amount of facetime he’s been getting on TV news reports in Washington, Issa’s been taking his anti-Obamacare act on the road, staging carefully scripted “hearings” restricted to witnesses opposed to the ACA.
Writer Jeff Mariotte has been following these Congressional escapes at Daily Kos. Reporting about a Texas (the state with the most uninsured people) event, he tells us:
When Randy Farris, the regional administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services was allowed to speak, this is what Issa told him:
“Issa asked Farris whether he knew that all applicant information ended up on the federal site. Farris said private information was not stored there. ‘You need to watch more Fox, I’m afraid,’ Issa said.”
No American needs to watch more Fox. A healthy democracy demands that the citizenry be more informed, not less. Watching Fox has the opposite effect, according to this and this and t
And by the way, Congressman Issa, you’re wrong on the facts, too. But then, since you apparently watch so much Fox, that shouldn’t be a surprise.
Carl DeMaio’s Economic Hucksterism
Earlier this week we told you about congressional candidate Carl DeMaio’s online petition where he’s hoping to capitalize on local reaction to a federal judge’s ruling last week ordering the removal of crosses from Mt. Soledad. DeMaio says incumbent Scott Peters Rep. voted to remove the memorial and cost San Diego “Years of legal battles and millions in taxpayer dollars wasted,”
Voice of San Diego’s Lisa Halverstadt ran with a Fact Check and found that while Peters did vote for removal, those votes were based on the premise that further legal appeals would be costly and unlikely to succeed. The part of DeMaio’s statement about taxpayers dollars wasted earned him the coveted “Huckster Propaganda” award.
Peters’ explanations for his 2005 and 2006 votes hinged on a desire to minimize expensive litigation for the city. Each time, he said it seemed clear that the courts wouldn’t side with the city and that the city would end up with costly legal bills.
DeMaio’s statement doesn’t acknowledge this – or explain that the city actually faced a lawsuit after voters said the cross should be transferred to federal ownership, the precise scenario Peters’ vote sought to avoid. Since that transfer, the federal government is now the primary government entity footing legal bills but it’s cross supporters and city voters who prolonged the decades-long court battle.
The Dallas, Texas based Liberty Institute has agreed to take time away from its fight against the “War on Christmas” to assist in the appeal the latest take-down order of the Mt. Soledad cross.
Abstinence Only Program Part of Congressional Budget Deal
It’s okay to cut food stamp spending, military pensions and extended unemployment insurance according to Congressional Republicans, but God-forbid anybody should even think about de-funding ‘just say no’ sex ed programs favored by evangelicals. Even if it’s been proven that they don’t work.
From Talking Points Memo:
The House of Representatives and the Senate have now both signed off on a bipartisan budget deal that the president is likely to sign. While animated and outraged politicos of every stripe will be busy declaring the end to budget brinksmanship for now with an eye toward pending re-election campaigns, the actual contents of this budget deal have flown under the radar. There has been very little attention paid to this: the deal contains funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs (ab-only) that have been proven not to work.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), in his ongoing effort to carry water for religious conservatives, spearheaded the reallocation of $250 million dollars to ineffective ab-only programs through 2019. Hatch did the same thing with a $250 million dollar amendment for ab-only which he tacked onto the Affordable Care Act. In fact, ab-only groups have pulled in over a billion dollarsin federal funding since 1996, the largest share coming under George W. Bush.
Words That Make Me Want to Yell ‘Bullshit’
I understand that marketing is a big part of selling any idea or product. I get it that fuzzy feel good words are used by everybody making a pitch. But lately the Orwellian grammar-speak of the Right just makes me…
If you haven’t figured it out already, “Common Sense Reforms” is Republican marketing for programs that increase economic inequality while promising “trickle down” rewards in the future. Even the Pope is hip to that hypocrisy.
Today’s Words To Watch are “Job Creation” and “Jobs Tax”…as in this bit of falderal from the San Diego County Taxpayers Association’s economic policy analyst Sean Karafin via an op-ed in the San Diego Daily Transcript:
The San Diego City Council recently voted to increase the fees on commercial construction by as much as 900 percent. The idea behind the linkage fee or Jobs Tax is that new commercial buildings create the opportunity for new jobs, and some of those jobs won’t pay enough to live locally.
That is how subsidized housing advocates mistakenly conclude that job creation produces a need for additional subsidized housing. The logic is so backward and damaging to our economy that it inspired the Taxpayers Association to join local businesses and other nonprofits in forming the Jobs Coalition to fight the massive tax increase.
In the real world, creating jobs helps people afford housing. In other words, creating opportunity does not make it harder to afford housing. The twisted logic of advocates resulted in a policy of taxing job creation to pay for subsidized housing.
This kind of thinking ignores the fact that most of the employment created in the current economy are low wage jobs. I guess we’re supposed to hear “jobs” and assume it means “prosperity”. These folks apparently don’t realize that, if someone works full-time yet still needs government assistance to make ends meet, it’s their employer who is getting the handout. Or maybe they do.
They also ignores studies by economists with mainstream think tanks like the Brookings Institution that conclude impact fees like the one passed by the City Council do not slow job growth.
Having dealt with the desecration of the English language, let me go to say I remain skeptical about the manner in which linkage fees (aka jobs taxes) are utilized to address housing needs. But given that the proponents of this Republi-speak have yet to propose any solutions beyond getting pissed on by the corporate wannabe-oligarchs that fund them, it will have to do for now.
Another Barrio Logan Christmas Story
On This Day: 1843 – Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” was first published in England. 1973 – Johnny Carson started a fake toilet-paper scare on the “Tonight Show.” 1987 – Paul Simon the musician, and Paul Simon, the presidential candidate, both host “Saturday Night Live.”
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