Op-ed Attempting to Revive IRS Scandal Falls Completely Flat

An op-ed by Bart Hinkle appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch this weekend with the ominous title, “IRS scandal implicates Democrats“, suggesting more wrongdoing by high-level Democrats has been found to go along with the zero wrongdoing by high-level Democrats that’s been found regarding this non-scandal.  As with most rhetoric surrounding this situation, it fails miserably to suggest anything new that can be construed as devious, particularly when considering the facts.

One general idea Hinkle makes is just because these groups are spending money and making ads, doesn’t mean they will gain more votes for their favored candidates, which is ludicrous.  I would suggest Hinkle go to any academic database and look at the mountain of research on “name recognition” or just go to any psychologist or advertiser and ask them if repetition works.  Some might point to the recent loss of Eric Cantor despite the huge disparity in campaign spending, but that is the exception, not the rule.  The vast majority of the time elections end with the bigger spender winning.

Hinkle also hints at the heavily debunked idea that the Obama administration had something to do with the targeting:

The U.S. has a long and sordid history of presidents trying to sic the IRS on their political foes; that was even one of the charges of impeachment against Richard Nixon…Granted, the administration did laughably appoint an Obama campaign donor to investigate whether Obama critics had been treated fairly.

First, this suggests that there somehow hasn’t been an investigation to this point.  I’ll assume this is the first time Hinkle has heard of the IRS targeting despite the slew of previous news coverage.  Second, I’m not aware of anyone under oath claiming they have evidence the order to target came from the White House, including the conservative Republican manager overseeing the screening unit.

The main point of the op-ed is that Democrats were sending letters and questioning whether the IRS was properly monitoring these new groups.  I emphasize new because Hinkle fails to note this and he should since it is the main reason the groups were being investigated in the first place.  I’ll quote myself from a previous post on this:

Inspector General J. Russell George suggested in his testimony the IRS made these bad decisions “because of a lack of resources and manpower”.  We also know there was a drastic increase in election spending by 501(c)(4) groups beginning in 2008, where spending went from just over a measly $1 million in 2006 to over $82 million two years later.  This was followed by a continued increase in 2010.

Two things should be noted about the 2010 election spending.  First, it’s rather odd for spending to increase from a presidential election to a midterm.  Just look at the 501(c)(4) spending from the years given in the link or total election costs over the past eight cycles.  Second, conservative versus liberal group spending was not very lopsided until 2010, when conservative groups spent more than double their ideological counterparts.  This was followed in 2012 with conservative groups spending nearly five times what liberal groups spent.

These points taken together give us an idea of what the IRS was up against when it came to enforcing the law: a sudden and unforeseen increase of more than %6000 in election spending by 501(c)(4)s from ’06 to ’08 with a further increase in the ’10 midterms on top of a dwindling workforce and budget to deal with the new problem.

The spending increases, particularly considering the mid-term in 2010, can’t be emphasized enough.  With this explosion in spending, what did people expect the IRS to do?  Ignore it despite evidence the groups were clearly breaking the law?

Which brings me to the last point about Hinkle’s op-ed: his admission yet overlooking of the reality the law was essentially being broken.  His statement:

And remember what terrible offense those groups were committing: They were supporting or opposing candidates for public office, often by buying TV ad time…What Levin, Durbin, Schumer, et al. find outrageous is the fact that some Americans have been speaking about political candidates without those candidates’ authorization. (Emphasis added)

According to the law, these groups can’t support or oppose an individual candidate or engage in campaigns unless it is the minority of their spending.  If they do run ads, they are going to be questioned by the IRS to prove they aren’t spending most of their funds on it.  That’s how proper justice should work here.  And it shouldn’t be surprising the Democrats mentioned were making sure the law was being properly enforced.

This op-ed just looks like another failed attempt to make something out of nothing.  But we all know that will never stop people from trying…

The Working Poor and Raising Minimum Wage

Blow_New-thumbLarge-v2A powerful argument by Charles M. Blow in the NYT on why the minimum wage should be increased with the rising numbers of the working poor in the “Land of Opportunity.”

He argues that it is about dignity and not being in a state of constant worry over paying one’s bills. He also makes the good argument that the working poor cannot afford to donate to political campaigns and can only reach the voting boot on election day with great effort.

Read Here.

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Young Voters Not Afraid of Government

SUB-jp-liberals-1-articleLargeA good article in the NYT reports how surveys, studies, and polls are showing that “millenials” (or Americans under 30) think government is not a “boogey man” and that it should play a role in society’s problem-solving processes. It is good to have a young generation that understands that there is a place for Medicare, Social Security, and regulations for Wall St.

Read Here.

The Delusion that Money Equals Speech

House Members Give Their Families Millions in Campaign Cash – ABC News.

Politicians take care of their families.  Most people do the same.  This should surprise no one and really nothing in this article should be overly shocking to read.  But the implications of what this means about campaign donations should at least get your attention.

The fact that campaign laws are not stringent on where the money flows and sometimes this money can make its way into the pockets of politicians and their family members is logical.  (Keep in mind this article only mentions family and doesn’t say anything about money going to friends, business partners, etc.)  Politicians make these laws therefore it is in their interest for those laws to be lax so they can manage that money as they please.

What about the old adage that “money equals speech”?  This idea says a person calling their elected representative and voicing their concerns over a piece of legislation is the same as another person (or corporation, since they are people too according to the Supreme Court) donating a large amount of money to that representative and, likely in many cases, not speaking a word about policy with this official.  Let’s put this idea to the test with a couple of thought experiments.

First, let’s take money out of the equation and look at speech in a democracy and how it would work.  A candidate for office walks into a room with one hundred people.  Each person takes turns voicing their opinion.  The candidate takes these opinions under consideration and then models his views around the most popular (potentially not the best) ideas among the people in the room.  There we have most people’s idea of democracy where each speech and person has the same value.

Now let’s factor in money and the reality politicians can filter that money to their friends and family.  Same one hundred people in the room except this time ninety-nine speak and one sits silent.  That one, we’ll call him Enron Halliburton of the famed WorldCom clan, hands the politician (or their Super PAC) a check that has a crooked number and a whole bunch of zeros behind it.  In the interest of putting caviar on the table and staying at five-star hotels while campaigning in the future, who is the politician likely to keep in mind when voting on legislation?  Some may say his loyalty still bends toward the ninety-nine in the interest of winning the most votes.  But if that candidate is in a district that has been gerrymandered so his party wins easily, then what?

Let’s try it another way knowing politicians stand to profit from this donated money.  Say you are a business just starting out and you are the only game in town offering a certain service.  One of the factors playing a big role in your decisions will be the location where you spend your time and set up shop.  You’ve done your homework on two options and noticed the following differences.  One location has only a few very wealthy people but you can adjust the price of your service where your profit is six figures.  The other location has a larger population but most are in poverty and your profit is only half of the first location.  Which are you likely to spend more time and give your attention in the interest of making money?

Now read it again and exchange the word politician for business knowing the politician is in a non-competitive district.

The idea that money is speech in a democracy has been and always will be one of the most ludicrous assertions ever made.  If this needed any further proof, consider one last point.  Typically in close elections large corporate donors do not donate money to one candidate.  Why?  Because they donate similar amounts to both candidates of each political party (have fun poking around the FEC’s website finding out how true that is).  Are they donating for ideological reasons?  Obviously not and any argument suggesting that would be downright absurd.  They are simply buying influence with their money.

Oops.  My apologies for the typo.  They are simply buying influence with their $peech.

Will the Tea Party eat itself into oblivion?

llinois House race nears boiling point for tea party – The Washington Post.

I’ve always thought one of the most interesting factors to watch play out with the Tea Party would be their position on pork barrel spending and how it would affect elections moving forward.  These activists have been adamant about cutting that spending it puts some candidates in the following bind:  How do you get elected then represent your district by bringing nothing back home in federal dollars?  An added question would be how do you tell the long serving representatives in your own party you want to cut the funding to their districts?

This article shows that problem coming to the forefront in one Illinois’ district because of the new census redistricting pitting incumbents from the same party against each other.  As is shown here, there are Republican voters who want that pork coming back to their area and are asking these candidates to bring home those federal dollars.  So which part of the base does a candidate cater to knowing it could then affect them negatively in the general election?

How will the Tea Party cope with this issue in the long run?  In my opinion, it won’t and this is a big part of what will cause the eventual fading away of this group.  The self interest of the voter will eventually loom to large for these candidates to ignore.  As people see the things they now take for granted begin to diminish and disappear, such as the roads and bridges one voter was concerned about in this article, the Tea Party’s platform will be exposed to all and most will turn their noses to those positions.  It’s kind of like the poor guy at the town hall meeting now infamous for wanting the government to keep its hands off his Medicare.  Someone should ask him if he knows who wants to do away with that Medicare.  The answer, sir: the Tea Party candidates you are voting for.