Praying for Oklahoma
Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the families in Oklahoma impacted by yesterday’s devastating tornado, and especially for those who lost loved ones. As first responders and volunteers continue to search for survivors, Bankrupting America will be using our social media outlets to direct people to donate to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. In addition, NBC News is informing readers of a number of national and local charities providing relief here: How to Help Oklahoma Tornado Victims.
Former IRS Commissioner to Be Questioned
According to the Associated Press, “Lawmakers are getting their first chance to question the former head of the Internal Revenue Service, the man who ran the agency when agents were improperly targeting tea party groups. Some of the questions on Tuesday will be direct: What did you know, and when did you know it? They also want to know why former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman didn’t tell Congress that agents had been singling out conservative political groups for additional scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status – even after he was briefed. Shulman, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, left the IRS in November when his five-year term ended. He could prove to be a significant player in a scandal that has driven the Obama administration to distraction. Shulman is testifying before the Senate Finance Committee, which has launched a bipartisan investigation into the matter.”
Majority Believe IRS Scandal Was Political
POLITICO reports, “A majority of Americans believe the IRS scandal was part of a deliberate plan to harass conservative groups, according to a poll released Tuesday. Only 31 percent in the new Washington Post/ABC News poll think the IRS’s targeting was an honest administrative mistake, while 56 percent believe it was deliberate. And 45 percent say the administration is trying to cover up facts about the scandal, while 42 percent believe it is honestly disclosing what it knew. While there are sharp partisan divides on both of those questions, a wide majority of 74 percent of Americans believe the IRS’s actions were inappropriate. Fifty-one percent said the actions were likely illegal, and 44 percent said otherwise.”
“Fifth Iteration” from White House on IRS Scandal
POLITICO reports, “The White House on Monday once again added to the list of people who knew about the IRS investigation into its targeting of conservative groups — saying White House chief of staff Denis McDonough had been informed about a month ago. Press secretary Jay Carney said again that no one had told President Barack Obama ahead of the first news reports: not his top aide McDonough, nor his chief counsel Kathy Ruemmler, nor anyone from the Treasury Department. Monday’s revelation amounts to the fifth iteration of the Obama administration’s account of events, after initially saying that the White House had first learned of the controversy from the press.” Click here to read a timeline of the White House’s evolving account on the IRS scandal.
Chief of Staff Knew of IRS Audit
The Associated Press reports, “White House chief of staff Denis McDonough and other senior advisers knew in late April that an impending report was likely to say the IRS had inappropriately targeted conservative groups, President Barack Obama’s spokesman disclosed Monday, expanding the circle of top officials who knew of the audit beyond those named earlier. But McDonough and the other advisers did not tell Obama, leaving him to learn about the politically perilous results of the internal investigation from news reports more than two weeks later, officials said. The Treasury Department also told the White House twice in the weeks leading up to the IRS disclosure that the tax agency planned to make the targeting public, a Treasury official said. The apparent decision to keep the president in the dark about the matter underscores the White House’s cautious legal approach to controversies and reflects a desire by top advisers to distance Obama from troubles threatening his administration.”
White House Urges Senate to Drop Insurance in Farm Bill
Reuters reports, “The Senate should cut crop insurance subsidies, the most expensive part of the farm safety net, by $1 billion a year before it passes the new farm bill, the White House said on Monday. The five-year farm bill would cost about $500 billion, with three-fourths of the money going to food stamps for the poor. Senators could vote on the bill within a week. The House was expected to debate its version in June. Both bills cut traditional subsidies by substantial amounts and put much of the savings into an expansion of federally subsidized crop insurance. They also cut conservation and food stamps. The House wouldmake the biggest food stamp cuts in a generation, $20 billion, compared to $4 billion in the Senate. … The administration also would limit insurers to a 12 percent rate of return, down 2 points, and lower the annual payment, now $1.3 billion, to defray overhead costs. Altogether, the reforms would save an estimated $1.1 billion a year.”
Some in GOP Aim to Equate Sebelius Fundraising as Another Scandal
Reuters reports, “With the White House already reeling from three major controversies, some Republican lawmakers are zeroing in on what they perceive is another possible scandal tied to President Barack Obama’s landmark health reform law just as it nears implementation. On top of the troubles the administration is facing over its handling of the attack on the Benghazi mission, the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups, and the Justice Department’s seizure of Associated Press phone records, Republicans hope to target Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. They are questioning her soliciting of funds on behalf of a non-profit group, called Enroll America, from two private entities, a practice which if not unprecedented is at the very least unusual. Federal law bars officials from soliciting any organization or individual with whom they do business or regulate.”
IRS Consulted Treasury on Plans to Apologize
The Wall Street Journal reports, “The Internal Revenue Service briefed the Treasury Department extensively last month about a looming inspector general’s report that would find the agency had inappropriately targeted for extra scrutiny applications from conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, a new timeline of events shows. The IRS consulted Treasury in late April about its plans to pre-emptively apologize for its actions, and a flurry of conversations transpired that included White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and senior Treasury officials, Obama administration officials said Monday. Two people kept out of the loop, according to administration officials, were President Barack Obama and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew. Neither was consulted, administration officials said, because their staff wanted to ensure that it didn’t appear they had interfered in any way in the process. Mr. Lew is testifying before a Senate panel Tuesday, where the matter is certain to be raised.”
“Obama The Uniter? Not Really.”
The Washington Post reports, “Americans are deeply divided over President Obama’s ability to bring the country together in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, the latest sign that his pledge to end decades of partisan warfare in the nation’s capital is flagging. Forty-seven percent of Americans say that Obama has done more to unite the country during his time in office while 45 percent say he has done more to divide it — a statistically insignificant difference. Among registered voters, it’s 47 percent uniter and 47 percent divider. Look deeper into the numbers and partisanship quickly rears its head. Almost eight in 10 Democrats say Obama is more a uniter, about the same percentage of Republicans who call him a divider. … Still, that the country is split literally down the middle on Obama’s ability to unite/divide it is a telling indication that the man who pledged he could change Washington has struggled mightily to make good on that promise.”
“The Deficit Dip”
The Washington Times editorializes, “The deficit is shrinking, but it’s too soon to celebrate a return to sanity. America is still sinking more into debt by the minute and is still on a path to ruin. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported last week that the government will borrow just $642 billion from China, as opposed to the $845 billion previously expected. That’s about as good a bit of news as a homeowner learning he has ‘mostly maxed out’ his credit card instead of ‘totally maxing it out.’ America’s long-term fiscal situation remains as unsustainable as ever. … The crocodile tears that big-government advocates cry over sequestration cuts are meant to lend the impression that spending is coming under control. But it isn’t. Over the past seven months, the “cut” has amounted to 0.5 percent of total federal spending, but that reduction has nothing to with reducing the deficit. That deficit is shrinking because taxes are up, and the government housing giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are making repayments. Government revenues are up by about 15 percent, as almost every American who gets a paycheck was slammed by a 2 percentage point hike in the payroll tax at the start of this year. Wages that once showed up in their pockets went instead into the tax man’s pocket. Income-tax rates also went up for some this year, and the higher taxes are reflected in the declining deficit.”
DOE Overpaid Contractor Millions
The Washington Guardian reports, “The Energy Department paid the builder of its planned weapon-grade plutonium reprocessing plant millions of dollars in taxpayer money for unnecessary employee living expenses, government auditors concluded Monday. Read more…
$500k in Stimulus for Recycling Plant Never Built
The Washington Free Beacon reports, “A Richmond company which received $500,000 in federal stimulus money to build a recycling plant that would employ at least 50 people has built nothing and created no jobs, NBC 12 reports. Cephas Industries received the grant as part of the U.S. Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and it was overseen by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy. When ground was broken in April 2010, Mayor Dwight Jones, Rep. Bobby Scott (D., Va.), and City Council members Reva Trammell and Kathy Graziano posed with hard hats and gold shovels. But nothing came of the investment of taxpayer dollars to build a multi-million dollar biomass manufacturing and recycling center meant to convert demolition and construction waste to fuel, even though the DMME insists Cephas was vetted properly. During a February visit, reporters discovered the ‘company was gone’ and a new one was moving in to clean up a mess of garbage Cephas left behind.”
Labor Unions Unhappy with Obamacare
The Hill reports, “Labor unions are breaking with President Obama on ObamaCare. Months after the president’s reelection, a variety of unions are publicly balking at how the administration plans to implement the landmark law. They warn that unless there are changes, the results could be catastrophic. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) — a 1.3 million-member labor group that twice endorsed Obama for president — is very worried about how the reform law will affect its members’ healthcare plans. Last month, the president of the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers released a statement calling ‘for repeal or complete reform of the Affordable Care Act.’ UNITE HERE, a prominent hotel workers’ union, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters are also pushing for changes. In a new op-ed published in The Hill, UFCW President Joe Hansen homed in on the president’s speech at the 2009 AFL-CIO convention. Obama at the time said union members could keep their insurance under the law, but Hansen writes ‘that the president’s statement to labor in 2009 is simply not true for millions of workers.’”
Obama Administration Cutting Payments to Doctors and Hospitals Following Cost Overruns
The New York Times reports, “The Obama administration said Monday that it was cutting payments to doctors and hospitals after finding that cost overruns are threatening to use up the money available in a health insurance program for people with cancer, heart disease and other serious illnesses. The administration had predicted that up to 400,000 people would enroll in the program, created by the 2010 health care law. In fact, about 135,000 have enrolled, but the cost of their claims has far exceeded White House estimates, exhausting most of the $5 billion provided by Congress. Under a new policy issued by Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, ‘health care facilities and providers will get paid less’ for providing the same services to patients in the federal program, known as the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan.”
Good morning folks,
The 2014 cycle keeps looking worse and worse for Democrats. Already facing a tough map, many Democrats were already extremely worried about the chaotic implementation of ObamaCare, which Leader Mitch McConnell predicted will be the ‘biggest issue’ of the election.
As President Obama and Democrats in Washington juggle multiple major scandals, a new USA TODAY poll conducted by Princeton Survey Research finds:
- Nearly 3/4 Americans say the controversies will make it harder for the president to accomplish his goals.
- A 53% majority say the IRS targeting conservative groups was made for political reasons, something the administration flatly denies.
- Nearly 6/10 say the federal government threatens their rights and freedoms, a case that Speaker Boehner, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and many Republicans have repeatedly made against Democrats and the Obama Administration. 58% percent call the government a threat (35% a major threat, 23% a minor threat).
- Americans disapprove of Obama’s handling of the attack in Benghazi and its aftermath by 44%-37%. Critics feel more intensity about the issue: 26% strongly disapprove, compared with 16% who strongly approve.
As the scandal engulfs the Democratic agenda in Washington, it is getting ugly for them outside of Washington as well. Democrats are in such a chaotic state that a feud between two major Democratic power brokers – Harry Reid and Tom Daschle -has gone public in South Dakota.
Politico reports that “the rift between the current and former Senate Democratic leaders threatens their party’s effort to keep control of the Senate seat held by the retiring Sen. Tim Johnson since 1997.” The stakes couldn’t be higher. “The spat between Reid and Daschle — who refer to each other as “brothers” and have been close professionally for years — shows what’s at stake in the 2014 elections as Senate Democrats are forced to defend their majority in red states like South Dakota, Arkansas, Alaska, Louisiana, North Carolina and West Virginia. Republicans are hoping to cut into the Democrats’ 55-45 seat majority — if not take control of the Senate outright — threatening President Barack Obama’s second-term agenda in the process.”
It is so nasty that Harry Reid’s team seemed to resort to threats toward Tom Daschle. “A source familiar with Reid’s thinking said the majority leader has a long memory. ‘He’s not a guy you want to cross. He usually gets his revenge one way or another.’” Yikes.
Democrats cannot hold their majority in this kind of environment. This atmosphere must be an enormous concern not just Democratic incumbents running for reelect in 2014 like Mary Landrieu, Mark Begich, Kay Hagan and Mark Pryor, but for those weighing running versus waiting for a strong political environment.
Seize the day,
Please keep keep the state of Oklahoma and all of her people in your prayers. Visit this page to understand the devastation and scale of the tornado. Here’s how to help.
2014 BATTLEGROUND SONAR
(ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT) The Road to the Republican Senate Majority is Easier than You Think:
The red path to the Republican majority would require holding states such as Georgia and Kentucky and defeating at least three incumbents, which would be equal the number they have defeated in total in the last decade. But the GOP would not need to win any of the Democrats’ open seats in Michigan, Iowa, and New Jersey. …That means all of the analysis about Republicans’ inability to appeal to swing voters or wooing moderate Democrats in blue states could be pointless. Republican candidates need to identify the voters who supported Mitt Romney over Barack Obama, in what ended up being a comfortable Democratic win, and get them to support GOP Senate nominees. If that happens, the game is over for Democrats.
(MASSACHUSETTS) Gomez on Offense: Gabriel Gomez blasts Edward Markey on safety
Republican Gabriel E. Gomez, on defense in the early weeks of his race against Democrat Edward J. Markey, on Monday unleashed a frontal attack on his opponent’s homeland security credentials, trying to put Markey on his heels just over a month before voters go to the polls and elect a new US senator. “The bottom line is: Nothing he’s done has made our nation safer,” Gomez said of Markey at a high-dollar fund-raiser, one of the two events he attended with Senator John McCain.
- Ed Markey feels some love from Chevy Chase – his hometown community in Maryland and the actor.
- Washington scandals problematic for Markey
- 3rd Time’s a Charm: Markey finally accepts Gomez invitation to debate issues.
- In Massachusetts Senate PPP Poll, Read the Numbers— Not the Memo
- Ouch: Ed Markey needs to step it up
(MASSACHUSETTS) Massachusetts G.O.P. Hopes Lightning Strikes Again in Senate Race
Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas, who is the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said that his analysis of the polling data and discussions with Mr. Gomez and others led him to conclude that the race is “clearly winnable.” “We intend to participate to the fullest extent possible and legally permissible,” he said, though he declined to say how much money the national party would put in and how it would be used.
(MICHIGAN) NRSC calls on Peters to return campaign cash to IRS union in wake of scandal
The National Republican Senatorial Committee is calling on Peters to return $6,000 in campaign contributions from the IRS Employees Union. The release comes as the IRS admitted to targeting Tea Party organizations for audits.
(COLORADO) Republicans ask Udall to give back campaign contributions from IRS union
National Republicans have urged Sen. Mark Udall, who is up for re-election next year, to give back more than $10,000 in campaign contributions from the Internal Revenue Service Employees Union.
(GEORGIA) Nunn embraces Obama in midsts of scandal-ridden investigation, prepares to make announcement
After appearing at a weekend fundraiser for Senate Democrats, party leaders expect Michelle Nunn to make a final decision on the Georgia Senate race within weeks.
- Even PPP has Obama at 45/53% approval disapproval in GA.
(IOWA) Bruce Braley Can’t Have It Both Ways
A few years ago Senate Democrats began pressuring the IRS to target many of the conservative groups that the embattled agency now stands accused of doing. In fact, the Senate Democrat majority even threatened to take legislative action against the agency if it failed to target the groups. Perhaps that’s why so many Democrats are today feigning outrage. This story has been well known for YEARS. Why did Bruce Braley keep quiet?
(MINNESOTA) New Minn. GOP Chair Begins Rebuilding Effort
That comeback won’t come solely from beefed-up fundraising, better candidate recruitment or savvier advertising. “Getting back out in front of the people of Minnesota is job No. 1,” Downey said. “Identifying the new groups of voters that Republicans are going to have to appeal to and making sure that we know them in a meaningful way. Making sure we have a better brochure in October of 2014 is not going to win an election.”
ON THE TWITTERS
@jiminhofe – The devastation in Oklahoma is heartbreaking. Please join me and #PrayforOklahoma. Spread the word.
@Slate – This time lapse video of the Moore tornado is absolutely bonkers: http://slate.me/163kyxx
@HotlineReid - Serious tension between Harry Reid and Tom Daschle over SD SEN seat -http://ow.ly/leKUn
@BostonGlobe – With McCain in town, Gabriel Gomez blasts Markey on 9/11 vote. http://b.globe.com/10eZjRt #mapoli #masen
@TheOklahoman – How to help tornado victims http://okne.ws/18djMeu
@HuffPostPol- IRS faces first lawsuit over Tea Party targeting scandal http://huff.to/19XIZsw
@ArgusMontgomery – .@DemandAction made a teensy little typo in an ad thanking @SenJohnsonSD for a recent gun vote: http://ow.ly/le9h2
(NYT – ROBERT PEAR) ObamaCare Cuts Payments to Doctors/Hospitals: The Obama administration said Monday that it was cutting payments to doctors and hospitals after finding that cost overruns are threatening to use up the money available in a health insurance program for people with cancer, heart disease and other serious illnesses. The administration had predicted that up to 400,000 people would enroll in the program, created by the 2010 health care law. In fact, about 135,000 have enrolled, but the cost of their claims has far exceeded White House estimates, exhausting most of the $5 billion provided by Congress. Under a new policy issued by Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, “health care facilities and providers will get paid less” for providing the same services to patients in the federal program, known as the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan.
(COLORADO PEAK POLITICS) CAN’T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS: Bennet Can’t Claim Concern Over A Partisan Witch Hunt He Called For
We’ve spent a good deal of time calling Bennet out for his involvement in the current IRS scandal that has been widely condemned by Republicans and Democrats alike. Since then, Bennet has been trying desperately to distance himself from the growing IRS mushroom cloud suffocating the Obama administration…Bennet is responsible, Bennet is the problem. Bennet signed and sent his letter to the IRS admonishing them to attack non-profits and highlighted only a conservative group in his press release trumpeting the letter.
(HOWARD FINEMAN – HUFFPOST) White House Response To IRS Scandal Making The Situation Worse: White House aides are tempting fate with their reluctant, piecemeal and contradictory disclosures of what they knew and when they knew it, especially about a report on the Internal Revenue Service’s 18-month effort to target tea party and other conservative groups for special scrutiny. The aides either have forgetten or are unable to implement the basic lesson of scandal control in Washington: Get the full story out — all of it — as fast as you can before your critics accuse you of a cover-up or worse. From the start, the White House’s response on this potentially explosive matter has been grudging at best and, in retrospect, ignorant or arrogant or both.
(POLITICO) White House’s shifting IRS account: The White House on Monday once again added to the list of people who knew about the IRS investigation into its targeting of conservative groups — saying White House chief of staff Denis McDonough had been informed about a month ago.
(WALL STREET JOURNAL) A Journalist ‘Co-Conspirator’
The latest news, disclosed by the Washington Post on Monday, is that the Justice Department targeted a Fox News reporter as a potential “co-conspirator” in a leak probe. The feds have charged intelligence analyst Stephen Jin-Woo Kim with disclosing classified information to Fox reporter James Rosen. That’s not a surprise considering that this Administration has prosecuted more national-security cases than any in recent history. The shock is that as part of its probe the Administration sought and obtained a warrant to search Mr. Rosen’s personal email account. And it justified such a sweeping secret search by telling the judge that Mr. Rosen was part of the conspiracy merely because he acted like a journalist.
After months of advocating for a “balanced approach” to our debt and deficits, it seems like the administration is pulling a 180 on the debt ceiling. Despite the overwhelming support from Americans (73 percent) to tie a debt ceiling increase to spending cuts, the administration is saying they “will not negotiate.” A “balanced approach” to raising the debt ceiling would take steps to address our long-term fiscal crisis (as outlined in the latest CBO report). What’s “balanced” about a clean increase?
WHAT HAPPENED TO BALANCE?
Administration Demands Clean Increase In Debt Limit:
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew: “We Will Not Negotiate Over The Debt Limit.” (Peter Schroeder, “Extraordinary measures become standard as US hits debt limit again, The Hill, 5/19/13)
Despite Months Of Advocating For A “Balanced Approach” To Debt And Deficits:
UPI: “Obama Urges ‘Balanced Approach’ On Debt.” “President Barack Obama Saturday renewed his call for a ‘balanced approach’ to reducing the federal debt.” (“Obama urges ‘balanced approach’ on debt,” UPI, 2/16/13)
Yahoo! News: “Obama Calls For ‘Balanced Approach’ To Avoid Fiscal Cliff.” (Deborah Lutterbeck, “Obama Calls For ‘Balanced Approach’ To Avoid Fiscal Cliff,” Yahoo! News, 11/9/12)
Press Secretary Jay Carney “Balanced” Deficit Reduction: “It is the president’s position that in pursuit of balanced deficit reduction that includes both entitlement reforms and revenues from tax reform…” (Press Secretary Jay Carney, Press Briefing, 3/11/13)
Jay Carney Touts “Balance” In The President’s Budget: “The president’s budget proposal … continues the work of reducing our deficit in a balanced way.” (Jay Carney, Special Report with Brett Baier, Fox News, 4/10/13)
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew Calls For “Balanced, Long-Term Approach” On The Sequester: “We think that the sequester is irresponsible and it should be replaced with a more balanced longer-term approach …” (“Treasury Secretary Lew on Long-Term Unemployment, Party Divide on Spending Cuts,” PBS Newshour, 5/8/13)
AMERICANS OVERWHELMINGLY SUPPORT A BALANCED APPROACH TO THE DEBT LIMIT
Public Notice Poll: 73 Percent Of Voters Say That If Congress Increases The Debt Limit, Then Congress Should Also Require The Government To Cut Spending. (“New Poll: Majority of Americans Want Spending Cut, Taxes Lowered To Balance Budget,” Tarrance Group Survey, 4/22/13)
Latest CBO Report Says Long-Term Debt Will Continue To Rise, Warns Of “Serious Negative Consequences”: “Under current law, the debt is projected to decline from about 76 percent of GDP in 2014 to slightly below 71 percent in 2018 but then to start rising again; by 2023, if current laws remain in place, debt will equal 74 percent of GDP and continue to be on an upward path. Such high and rising debt later in the coming decade would have serious negative consequences: When interest rates return to higher (more typical) levels, federal spending on interest payments would increase substantially. … Finally, a large debt increases the risk of a fiscal crisis, during which investors would lose so much confidence in the government’s ability to manage its budget that the government would be unable to borrow at affordable rates.” (“Updated Budget Projections: Fiscal Year 2013 to 2023,” Congressional Budget Office, 5/14/13)
From the Spectator:
“For me, it’s about collaboration.” — National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley on the relationship between the anti-Tea Party IRS union and the Obama White House
Is President Obama directly implicated in the IRS scandal?
Is the White House Visitors Log the trail to the smoking gun?
The stunning questions are raised by the following set of new facts.
March 31, 2010.
According to the White House Visitors Log, provided here in searchable form by U.S. News and World Report, the president of the anti-Tea Party National Treasury Employees Union, Colleen Kelley, visited the White House at 12:30pm that Wednesday noon time of March 31st.
The White House lists the IRS union leader’s visit this way:
Kelley, Colleen Potus 03/31/2010 12:30
In White House language, “POTUS” stands for “President of the United States.”
The very next day after her White House meeting with the President, according to the Treasury Department’s Inspector General’s Report, IRS employees — the same employees who belong to the NTEU — set to work in earnest targeting the Tea Party and conservative groups around America. The IG report wrote it up this way:
April 1-2, 2010: The new Acting Manager, Technical Unit, suggested the need for a Sensitive Case Report on the Tea Party cases. The Determinations Unit Program Manager Agreed.
In short: the very day after the president of the quite publicly anti-Tea Party labor union — the union for IRS employees — met with President Obama, the manager of the IRS “Determinations Unit Program agreed” to open a “Sensitive Case report on the Tea party cases.” As stated by the IG report.
By Wizard of Odd
If you haven’t tuned into politics for the past seven days, there’s too much to recap, but let me help you reorient yourself. You are a hobbit. Washington DC is Mordor. Sauron has dispatched thousands of bloodthirsty orcs to customer service desks throughout the Shire. Please direct any questions to the orcs wearing IRS uniforms and holding battle axes. Those who ask questions will be eaten. Surviving hobbits will receive first class, top-of-the-line, state-of-the-art, equitably regulated health care and reeducation.
What a week!
Roughly a third of the country made Barack Obama’s enemies list. The first amendment is still dizzy and bleeding from the executive branch’s multi-front surprise attack. The Carney-bot malfunctioned and started assaulting Descartes. Cincinnati turned Soviet and quickly became a KGB headquarters. And no one knows anything!
For each and every erupted, erupting or yet to erupt scandal, the answer is the same:
1) Barack, Hillary and Eric Holder weren’t there.
2) And they didn’t do anything, and it wasn’t their responsibility.
3) And they did exactly what they were supposed to do. Heroically.
4) And what scandal? I don’t see any scandal.
For a good twelve hours or so last week, America was rightly unified in bipartisan outrage over the federal government’s flagrant abuse of power, staggering incompetence, utter lack of accountability, and its ceaseless, shameless avalanche of bullshit. Then the media remembered whose side they were on.
Of all of the hopeless arguments proffered in defense of the Obama Administration, the funniest was also the one most often repeated: America doesn’t care about Benghazi.
Tune into to any national news network. If Benghazi is discussed at all, within the first minute of punditry a leftist will inform you: America doesn’t care. It was seven months ago. No one cares about edited talking points. No one is interested in the YouTube video that incited a protest, or whatever. It’s old news. People don’t care about Benghazi. Across the networks, that’s what the left’s best and brightest televised twits keep saying. And they cite opinion polls as supporting evidence.
Just once, for nostalgia’s sake, let’s apply a little critical thinking.
You know what else America doesn’t care about? The open pothole at the end of my street. And what does the Benghazi scandal have in common with the pothole? The national media doesn’t report on either. So media leftists choose not to report on a scandal. Then they take a poll asking Americans if they care about a scandal they’ve never heard of because it wasn’t reported. Then they conclude that Americans don’t care about the scandal. Brilliant. And they announce their findings without a hint of irony. That’s either evil genius or biohazard-level stupidity. (There’s more evidence for the latter.)
This week is going to be exciting for news and political junkies. For conservatives, there are a lot of reasons to be upset. Many of our worst fears have proved warranted. To be honest, I’ve never been more afraid for my country. With the IRS’s action, our government has taken direct aim at a wide swath of American citizens and at American freedom in general. If a Republican administration had targeted unions and progressive groups, I would be equally disturbed. Such brazen government action against citizens is as foreign as it is unnerving. The tepid reaction from the fourth estate is only slightly less unnerving.
But there’s comfort to be found in recent events as well.
Once upon a time, Barack Obama spoke confidently about a “smarter” government. Once upon a time, he was “the One,” an unstoppable, charismatic juggernaut who was going to fundamentally transform the greatest engine for prosperity the world has ever known. He’s not the One anymore. Obamacare, his only major legislative achievement, is looking more ominous (and losing Democrat support) every day. However these scandals unfold, the threat President Obama once posed is greatly and irrevocably diminished.
In the short term, Obama’s reduced standing is a comfort to conservatives who didn’t want his agenda enacted. But, it should also be a comfort in the long term. Why? Because we didn’t defeat Obama. This isn’t a victory conservatives fought for. Each failure and scandal is an outgrowth of progressive utopianism – the application of bad ideas collapsing under their own weight.
The recently departed Iron Lady famously observed that “The facts of life are conservative.” Current events inspired a corollary to that maxim: Reality is progressivism’s kryptonite.
Painful choices include appointing a special prosecutor on the IRS and offering an apology to The Associated Press.
Swamped in controversies, President Obama and his slow-footed team are essentially telling the American public, “We’re not crooked. We’re just incompetent.”
…In interviews, allies of the White House privately suggested a few things Obama could do, including:
Appoint a bipartisan oversight board to oversee the implementation of Obamacare. There is no way around the fact that a vast majority of voters will not trust the IRS to implement the greatest piece of social legislation in decades. Before the tempests, Obamacare was unpopular and largely misunderstood by most Americans. The law’s success hinges on the government recruiting young adults into insurance pools. And polls show young adults are the least likely to trust government.
Layer the White House communication team with experienced crisis managers. As I wrote here last week, Obama needs to realize that the dedicated public servants in the West Wing are not getting the job done.
Apologize to the AP and announce a new policy for leaks investigations. The White House needs to punish people who leak classified information that endangers national security. But the scope of the snooping at AP combined with Obama’s unprecedented zeal for leaks investigations raises doubts about his commitment to transparency and to an unfettered media. He has pursued more such cases than all previous administration combined, according to the Washington Post. The paper also reported that the administration spied on a Fox News reporter at the State Department. Again, this is a matter of trust.
Appoint a special prosecutor on the IRS. The last thing the country needs is another subpoena-powered fishing expedition like the Whitewater inquiries. But we might need a special prosecutor with a narrowly defined mission to investigate the actions and motives of IRS agents and their superiors. Is there a better way to restore the agency’s integrity? The administration investigating itself will not lift the cloud from Obama’s White House.
Reset the narrative and public expectations with a major speech on trust. Obama has spoken eloquently and convincingly about this issue. If his next address included painful solutions such as the ones above, he might restore the public’s audacity to hope.
Bankrupting America Launches New Debt Ceiling Resource Center
Bankrupting America, a project of Public Notice, today launched a Debt Ceiling Resource Center to provide facts and the latest news and developments as Congress debates increasing the nation’s debt ceiling this summer. The resource center will educate Americans about the key drivers of the debt, provide a 10-year projection of future increases and explain why any deal in Congress must include equal to or greater spending cuts in return. To help put the issue into perspective, Bankrupting America will also launch a new video series, “The Literal Debt Ceiling,” consisting of short web videos that will help break down the key issues, provide a commonsense perspective and highlight the dangers of failing to fix the problem.
White House Senior Advisor on IRS Scandal: “The law is irrelevant”
According to The New York Times, “The chief White House lawyer, Kathryn Ruemmler, learned last month that a Treasury inspector general had concluded an audit of the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups, weeks before the matter became public, according to a senior White House official. The White House counsel’s briefing came about the same time that Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew met with the Treasury inspector general for tax administration, J. Russell George, to learn his draft audit of the controversial I.R.S. effort was complete, the official said. The acknowledgment that Ms. Ruemmler knew about the I.R.S. inquiry weeks before it became known publicly came as a senior adviser to President Obama, Dan Pfeiffer, mounted a combative defense of the administration on Sunday. … On ABC’s news program ‘This Week,’ Mr. Pfeiffer said that he did not know whether laws had been broken at the I.R.S., but that regardless, the agency’s actions were seriously wrong. ‘I can’t speak to the law here,’ he said. ‘The law is irrelevant. The activity was outrageous and inexcusable, and it was stopped, and it needs to be fixed so we ensure it never happens again.’”
Paul Ryan: IRS Scandal Is “Big Government Cronyism”
The Hill reports, “Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Sunday called the Internal Revenue Service scandal a defining example of ‘big-government cronyism.’ ‘This is rotten to the core. This is arrogance. This is big-government cronyism,’ said Ryan on “Fox News Sunday.” The 2012 GOP vice-presidential nominee and House Budget committee chairman said the mismanagement which allowed IRS to target and delay applications for tax exempt status from conservative groups highlighted the failures of the Obama administration. … ‘This is what’s disturbing about this,’ he said. ‘We had a challenge in the campaign against empty rhetoric. Now the country is seeing what this kind of big unlimited government does in practice. And that is not a pretty picture.’”
“Obama’s budget is another instance of lost credibility”
Jennifer Rubin editorializes in The Washington Post, “It turns out that President Obama’s Office of Management and Budget is no more trustworthy than the rest of his administration. His budget, unsurprisingly to conservatives, is not ‘balanced’ and does not deliver on its promise to cut $1.8 trillion in spending over a decade. The Post reports: President Obama’s most recent budget request would reduce borrowing by $1.1 trillion over the next decade compared with current law — almost entirely through higher taxes on the rich, large estates and smokers, congressional budget analysts said Friday. … The same accounting gimmicks remain (‘those savings include money the government never intended to spend anyway, such as a contingency fund for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and nearly $300 billion in unneeded disaster relief’). In fact, without these tricks, ‘Obama’s budget blueprint would actually increase spending over the next decade by roughly $700 billion, according to CBO figures.’ Oh, and his budget never balances. Once again, what he told us is very different from reality. The difficulty the president now faces is not merely the multiple scandals and the perception that his administration has crossed the line from partisanship to illegality, but the growing recognition that almost nothing he says can be taken at face value. The presumption of integrity and assumption of good faith has vanished in a cloud of unkept promises, wrongdoing and ineptitude.”
Lawmakers Have Been “Doing Nothing” to Bridge the Gap on a Budget Deal
Reuters reports, “A sudden improvement in the outlook for the government deficit over the next decade has alleviated some of the pressure on lawmakers to act. … The news about the shrinking deficit came Tuesday, when the Congressional Budget Office slashed its deficit forecast for 2013, projecting it will be equivalent to 4 percent of America’s economic output, less than half its 2009 level, and will drop to 2.1 percent, based on current projections, by 2015. But the report said the deficit would start widening again in 2016 and continue on an upward path with ‘serious negative consequences’ on the economy, increasing ‘the risk of a fiscal crisis.’… They [Lawmakers] have been doing little, for example, to bridge the gap between budgets passed in March by the Democrat-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. No conference committee has been formed to reconcile deep spending cuts in the Republican plan with nearly $1 trillion in tax hikes in the Democratic version.”
Small Businesses Fearing Obamacare Aren’t Getting Help from Congress
The Hill reports, “Small businesses looking for a break from President Obama’s healthcare law aren’t getting any help from Congress. The law’s critics spend a lot of time talking about its potential effects on employers, and small businesses in particular. But there hasn’t been a real effort on the Hill to address the provisions that will have the most immediate impact on small businesses. In part, the lack of action stems from Republican divisions over whether it’s OK to ‘fix’ parts of the healthcare law. Some conservatives say the party should focus solely on repealing the law and shouldn’t help Democrats solve potential problems.”
“Employers Eye Bare-Bones Health Plans Under New Law”
According to The Wall Street Journal, “Employers are increasingly recognizing they may be able to avoid certain penalties under the federal health law by offering very limited plans that can lack key benefits such as hospital coverage. Benefits advisers and insurance brokers—bucking a commonly held expectation that the law would broadly enrich benefits—are pitching these low-benefit plans around the country. They cover minimal requirements such as preventive services, but often little more. Some of the plans wouldn’t cover surgery, X-rays or prenatal care at all. Others will be paired with limited packages to cover additional services, for instance, $100 a day for a hospital visit. Federal officials say this type of plan, in concept, would appear to qualify as acceptable minimum coverage under the law, and let most employers avoid an across-the-workforce $2,000-per-worker penalty for firms that offer nothing.”
Tough Days Ahead for Obamacare Implementation
The Washington Post editorializes, “Thought you had seen the last of the fighting over the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare? Since its passage in 2010, after all, it has survived Supreme Court review, innumerable challenges from House Republicans and Mitt Romney’s unsuccessful campaign to evict its author from the White House. Nonetheless, with the heart of the reform set to take effect next year, its most contentious days may lie ahead. The law will affect Americans’ health and pocketbooks, and its implementation entails many challenges and quite a few unknowns. … President Obama last month said nothing will change for the 85 to 90 percent of Americans who have insurance. That’s not quite right. Even some people who are currently insured may see premium increases — or, depending on their health, gender and age, reductions. For example, the 10 percent or so who are in the individual insurance market will shop at ‘exchanges’ — new health-care marketplaces for individual purchasers — where the currently uninsured also will go. The law protects the old and the sick, but that also means that some of the young and the healthy might have to pay more than they do now, particularly if price-control mechanisms don’t work as well as hoped.”
S&P Analyst: ‘Political Brinkmanship’ Remains Major Threat on U.S. Credit Rating
The National Journal reports, “The debt-ceiling deal expired over the weekend, but the credit-rating agency that sent shock waves through financial markets when it downgraded the U.S. credit rating in 2011 is again warning Congress that a credible five-year plan to stabilize the federal deficit is as necessary—and elusive—as ever, National Journal’s Stacy Kaper reports. In an exclusive interview, Nikola Swann, Standard & Poor’s top analyst for the U.S. government’s rating, said that making big fiscal decisions in a crisis setting hurts the U.S. rating outlook and that continued ‘political brinkmanship’ remains a major threat. … S&P’s current AA-plus rating with a negative outlook means there is at least a 1 in 3 chance that the agency will lower America’s rating by 2014.”
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