On the last day of the fiscal year, Congress approved a short-term spending measure that keeps the federal government operating through Dec. 11.
The bill passed easily in the Senate, 78-20:
The bill faced strong dissension in the House, where 151 Republicans voted against it because the bill does not cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood (vote roll call here).
President Barack Obama signed the spending bill late Wednesday.
The vote was notable in the House in that it provided a chance for candidates for upcoming leadership races to weigh in on a controversial issue in the caucus.
Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who is the leading candidate to replace Speaker John Boehner, voted for the measure.
His only opponent for speaker, Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Fla., voted against the bill, as did Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., who is one of two lawmakers running for majority leader.
The other majority leader contender, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., voted for the spending bill.
Some House members believed that the vote on the continuing resolution, as the funding measure is known, would be telling in how potential new leadership may handle future issues.
Conservatives argued that leadership candidates would be judged on if they stood up to Planned Parenthood in the face of a potential shutdown.
“It’s unfortunate that this thing passed,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, in an interview with The Daily Signal. “But I think the most unfortunate thing is we should have back on July 14, when the first [Planned Parenthood] video came out, went full commitment to making this a national debate and really elevating it and going all in. We could have been in a position to win, but we didn’t, and this is the part that frustrates me.”
“Our new leadership has to commit, whoever that happens to be, to the same effort on things that we’ve told the voters we were gonna do – like we all told them we were pro-life, right? – we have to have the same intensity in getting those things done that we did on, for example, trade promotion. We have to demonstrate we are actually fighting on the things we said and have that full debate. And that’s what we are not doing.”
Taking a different view, Rep. Charlie Dent, a moderate Republican from Pennsylvania, told the The Daily Signal that conservatives were wrong to try to hold up the spending measure to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood.
“Leadership will look feckless and ineffective if they try to appease the rejectionist members of this conference,” Dent said.
“Going forward,” Dent remarked, “leadership will have to find a way to move forward on five or six measures that must be resolved, including a budget agreement, tax extenders, the debt ceiling, and a long-term transportation measure. All will require a level of compromise required to move beyond the warfare and get to a better place.”
The continuing resolution funds the government at a rate of $1.017 trillion annually for the next two and a half months. Senate leaders argued the deal gives Congress time to negotiate a budget deal with the president, though Obama has been pushing Congress to break the spending caps imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act.
The continuing resolution also provides $74.7 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations and reauthorizes the Federal Aviation Administration, E-verify program, and Internet Tax Freedom Act.
Senate Republican leaders introduced a government spending bill last week that included a one-year moratorium on funding for Planned Parenthood. The legislation also directed the $235 million in savings derived from the government funding allocated for Planned Parenthood to be directed to community health centers.
That bill, however, was blocked in the upper chamber, after it failed to reach the 60 votes needed to advance.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump unveiled an ambitious tax plan Monday that he says would eliminate income taxes for millions of households, lower the tax rate on all businesses to 15% and change tax treatment of companies’ overseas earnings.
Under the Trump plan, no federal income tax would be levied against individuals earning less than $25,000 and married couples earning less than $50,000. The Trump campaign estimates that would reduce taxes to zero for 31 million households that currently pay at least some income tax. The highest individual income-tax rate would be 25%, compared with the current 39.6% rate.
Many middle-income households would have a lower tax rate under Mr. Trump’s proposal, but because high-income households generally pay income tax at much higher rates, his proposed across-the-board rate cut could have a positive impact on them, too. For example, an analysis of Jeb Bush’s plan – taxing individuals’ incomes at no more than 28% – by the business-backed Tax Foundation found that the biggest percentage winners in after-tax income would be the top 1% of earners.
Mr. Trump’s plan appears designed to help him, as the GOP front-runner, cement his standing as a populist – though that message is complicated by the fact that the billionaire, like other Republican leaders, would eliminate the estate tax.
“My plan will bring sanity, common sense and simplification to our country’s catastrophic tax code,” Mr. Trump said in an interview. “It will create jobs and incentives of all kinds while simultaneously growing the economy.”
But Mr. Trump will face a challenge in convincing skeptics that his aggressive tax cuts can be implemented without adding to the federal deficit.
To pay for the proposed tax benefits, the Trump plan would eliminate or reduce deductions and loopholes to high-income taxpayers, and would curb some deductions and other breaks for middle-class taxpayers by capping the level of individual deductions, a politically dicey proposition. Mr. Trump also would end the “carried interest” tax break, which allows many investment-fund managers to pay lower taxes on much of their compensation.
A significant revenue gain would come from a one-time tax on overseas profits that could encourage U.S. multinational corporations to return an estimated $2.1 trillion in cash now sitting offshore, largely to avoid U.S. taxes. His proposal would impose a mandatory 10% tax on all of that money, even if the money stays overseas, but allow a few years for the tax to be paid. The Trump campaign estimates that many companies would choose to bring their money back home, boosting jobs and investment in the U.S.
Mr. Trump also would impose an immediate tax on overseas earnings of American corporations; currently, such tax payments can be deferred. All told, the campaign says the plan would be revenue neutral – neither raising nor lowering federal revenues – by the third year and then begin adding revenue.
With the tax plan’s release, Mr. Trump is moving to quell criticism that his campaign has been more style and less substance. This tax proposal follows his well-known immigration plan in the summer and one on gun rights last week.
Mr. Trump saves some money and fiscal headaches by skipping some of the big but complicated and costly changes that other candidates have embraced, such as business-expensing breaks and so-called territorial taxation for multinational corporations.
On the individual side, Mr. Trump would consolidate the current seven rates to four, of 0%, 10%, 20% and 25%. Those changes alone would exempt all married couples making $50,000 or less from the income tax, as well as singles making $25,000 or less.
The 10% bracket would apply to incomes from $50,000 to $100,000 for a married couple; the current 10% bracket has a ceiling of $18,450. The new 25% top bracket would apply to married couples’ incomes in excess of $300,000, which currently are subject to rates as high as 39.6%. Mr. Trump also would cut the top capital gains rate to 20%, from the current 23.8%. And he would eliminate the alternative minimum tax.
But the candidate doesn’t propose to end taxation of individuals’ investment income, as some other Republicans propose, nor would he expand the standard deduction, child-credit and other middle-class breaks as some other GOP candidates have suggested.
For businesses, Mr. Trump’s 15% rate is among the lowest that have been proposed so far. Rand Paul has proposed a 14.5% flat-tax rate for all types of income. Marco Rubio, another candidate with a detailed plan, would tax all business income at no more than 25%. Mr. Bush has proposed a 20% top corporate rate. The current top corporate tax rate is 35%, and small business income is subject to rates of as much as 39.6% (although many small businesses pay out a lot of their profits as lower-taxed dividends or capital gains). The campaign argues the rate would be among the lowest among industrialized nations, giving U.S. companies an edge to compete.
The lower corporate rates would provide “a tremendous stimulus for the economy,” the campaign’s plan argues. Mr. Trump would not, however, allow businesses to expense all their new equipment purchases, as some other Republicans do.
The plan proposes to simplify tax filing for many lower- to middle-income households. The plan says that some 42 million households that currently file tax forms to establish that they don’t owe any federal income tax now will be able to file their returns on a single page.
The 31 million households that have been paying some taxes but now won’t have any tax liability can use the same single-page, and keep an average of $1,000 in tax savings, the Trump campaign says. Today, 36% of American households today pay no income taxes, and that number would grow to 50%.
The Trump plan would raise revenues in at least a couple of significant ways. It would limit the value of individual deductions, with middle-class households keeping all or most of their deductions, higher-income taxpayers keeping around half of theirs, and the very wealthy losing a significant chunk of theirs. It also would wipe out many corporate deductions.
All taxpayers would keep their current deductions for mortgage-interest on their homes and charitable giving.
The plan also proposes capping the amount of interest payments that businesses can deduct now, a change phased in over a long period, and would impose a corporate tax on future foreign earnings of American multinationals.
H/T Right Scoop
The Obama administration announced Wednesday morning a series of efforts worth more than $120 million aimed at boosting solar and other clean energy sources.
The initiatives focus on the Department of Energy, where the bulk of the funding will go to programs to develop solar power technology and get it into homes, businesses and other facilities.
“President Obama and Vice President Biden are committed to promoting smart, simple, low-cost technologies to help America transition to cleaner and more distributed energy sources, help households save on their energy bills, and to address climate change,” the White House said in a fact sheet outlining the efforts.
“All told, this funding will drive the development of affordable clean energy throughout the country,” it said.
The actions aim to help out solar power in 24 states, officials said.
The announcements come the same day Biden, currently considering a bid for president, is scheduled to speak at a major solar industry conference in California and at a climate change summit with U.S. and Chinese leaders later in the afternoon.
Solar power has been a top priority and talking point for the Obama administration’s energy and environmental policy priorities as officials push for an increase in low- or zero-carbon electricity sources.
The industry has expanded greatly under Obama. The White House says approximately 734,000 homes have solar panels, up from 66,000 homes when Obama took office.
But solar still only represents a small sliver of the country’s power generation. Solar produced 0.4 percent of the United States’s electricity last year.
Immigrant-headed households in the U.S. use welfare at a much higher rate than their native-born counterparts and that trend holds true for both new and long-time immigrant residents, according to a new study.
According to a report released Wednesday from the Center for Immigration Studies, 51 percent of immigrant-headed households (both legal and illegal) reported using at least one welfare program during the year in 2012. Thirty-percent of native-headed households meanwhile used at least one welfare program.
The CIS report analyzed welfare data from the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP). Included in the center’s definition of welfare is Medicaid, cash, food, and housing programs.
“If immigration is supposed to benefit the country, then immigrant welfare use should be much lower than native use,” Steven Camarota the CIS’s Director of Research and the report’s author said. “However two decades after welfare reform tried to curtail immigrant welfare use, immigrant households are using most programs at higher rates than natives.”
Camarota noted that the skill and education level of many current immigrants is contributing to their welfare use.
“The low-skill level of many immigrants means that although most work, many also access welfare programs. If we continue to allow large numbers of less-educated immigrants to settle in the country, then immigrant welfare use will remain high,” he added.
While welfare use among both new and old immigrants is high – with 48 percent of immigrants in the U.S. for more than 20 years reporting welfare use – the rates vary based on region of origin.
In 2012, 73 percent of immigrant-headed households from Central America and Mexico reported using one of more welfare program. Households from the Caribbean used welfare at a rate of 51 percent, African immigrants were at 48 percent, South America at 41 percent, East Asia 32 percent, Europe 26 percent, South Asia 17 percent.
The report further highlights that while immigrant-headed households use welfare at a higher rate than natives they also pay taxes at a lower rate.
“On average, immigrant-headed households had tax liability in income and payroll taxes in 2012 that was about 11 percent less than native households, or about 89 cents for every dollar native households pay, based on Census Bureau data. Immigrant households have lower average incomes (from all sources) than native households and are a good deal larger, giving them more tax deductions. As a result, their average income tax liability is less than native households,” the report reads
Other findings in the CIS report include:
• No single program explains immigrants’ higher overall welfare use. For example, not counting subsidized school lunch, welfare use is still 46 percent for immigrants and 28 percent for natives. Not counting Medicaid, welfare use is 44 percent for immigrants and 26 percent for natives.
• Immigrant households have much higher use of food programs (40 percent vs. 22 percent for natives) and Medicaid (42 percent vs. 23 percent). Immigrant use of cash programs is somewhat higher than natives (12 percent vs. 10 percent) and immigrant use of housing programs is similar to natives.
• Many immigrants struggle to support their children, and a large share of welfare is received on behalf of U.S.-born children. However, even immigrant households without children have significantly higher welfare use than native households without children – 30 percent vs. 20 percent.
• The welfare system is designed to help low-income workers, especially those with children, and this describes many immigrant households. In 2012, 51 percent of immigrant households with one or more workers accessed one or more welfare programs, as did 28 percent of working native households.
• The large share of immigrants with low levels of education and resulting low incomes partly explains their high use rates. In 2012, 76 percent of households headed by an immigrant who had not graduated high school used one or more welfare programs, as did 63 percent of households headed by an immigrant with only a high school education.
• The high rates of immigrant welfare use are not entirely explained by their lower education levels. Households headed by college-educated immigrants have significantly higher welfare use than households headed by college-educated natives – 26 percent vs. 13 percent.
• In the four top immigrant-receiving states, use of welfare by immigrant households is significantly higher than that of native households: California (55 percent vs. 30 percent), New York (59 percent vs. 33 percent), Texas (57 percent vs. 34 percent), and Florida (42 percent vs. 28 percent).
Stocks plunged again Tuesday, continuing a rocky ride for Wall Street, after an economic report out of China rekindled fears that the world’s second-largest economy is slowing more than previously anticipated.
The sell-off adds to what has been a difficult few weeks for U.S. and international markets. U.S. stocks just closed out their worst month in more than three years. Tuesday’s drop also dashed hopes that, after some relatively calm trading Friday and Monday, the stock market’s wild swings were coming to an end.
“This market remains fragile,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank. “There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the U.S. economy, but we are going through this correction process. We’ve got a rocky road ahead of us.”
Stocks started the day sharply lower and never recovered, with the Dow Jones industrial average falling as much as 548 points. No part of the market was spared. All 10 sectors of the Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell more than 2 percent. Just three stocks in the S&P 500 closed higher.
“Monday’s relatively peaceful markets are a distant memory as Chinese data and shares sparked another severe … reaction from the developed world,” said John Briggs, head of fixed income strategy at RBS.
In the end, the Dow lost 469.68 points, or 2.8 percent, to 16,058.35. The S&P 500 fell 58.33 points, or 3 percent, to 1,913.85 and the Nasdaq composite fell 140.40 points, 2.9 percent, to 4,636.10.
As it’s been for the last several weeks, the selling and problems started in Asia.
An official gauge of Chinese manufacturing fell to a three-year low last month, another sign of slowing growth in that country. The manufacturing index, which surveys purchasing managers at factories, dropped to a reading of 49.7 in August from 50.0 in July. A reading below 50 indicates a contraction.
China’s stocks sank on the news, with Shanghai Composite Index closing down 1.2 percent. The index has lost 38 percent of its value since hitting a peak in June.
The Chinese economy has been a focus for investors all summer, and the concerns have intensified in the last three weeks. China devalued its currency, the renminbi, in mid-August. Investors interpreted the move as a sign that China’s economy was not doing as well as previously reported.
Investors moved into traditional havens like bonds and gold Tuesday. Bond prices rose, pushing the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note down to 2.16 percent from 2.22 percent on Monday. Gold rose $7.30, or 0.6 percent, to settle at $1,139.80 an ounce.
Faced with the possibility of slowing demand in China, the commodity markets once again took the brunt of the hit.
U.S. crude oil fell $3.79 to close at $45.41 a barrel in New York. Brent Crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell $4.59 to close at $49.56 in London.
Energy stocks were once again among the biggest decliners. Exxon Mobil fell nearly 4 percent and Chevron fell 2.5 percent. Exxon is down 22 percent this year, Chevron 30 percent.
In a sign of how battered energy companies have been this year, ConocoPhillips announced it was laying off 10 percent of its workers, roughly 1,800 workers, as a reaction this year’s plunge in oil prices.
Along with worries about China, speculation about whether or not the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates as soon as this month continues to weigh on markets. Traders say a lot hinges on the August jobs report, which will be released this Friday. Economists are forecasting that U.S. employers created 220,000 jobs in the month and that the unemployment rate fell to 5.2 percent.
The Federal Reserve meets September 16 and 17. Some economists are predicting that policymakers will be confident enough in the U.S. economic recovery to raise interest rates for the first time in almost a decade. While Fed officials are mostly focused on the U.S. economy, they cannot ignore problems in the global economy.
“China’s problems are totally a concern for the Fed,” said Tom di Galoma, head of rates trading at ED&F Man Capital. “With inflation remaining low here, I just don’t a reason why they would raise rates.”
Markets in Europe were broadly lower. Germany’s DAX fell 2.4 percent, France’s CAC-40 lost 2.4 percent and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 index declined 3 percent. Japan’s Nikkei 225 was also volatile, dropping 3.8 percent. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong sank 2.2 percent. Stocks also fell in South Korea and Australia.
The dollar fell to 119.68 yen from 121.20 yen on Monday. The euro rose to $1.1307 from $1.1225.
In other energy markets, wholesale gasoline fell 10.3 cents to close at $1.396 a gallon, heating oil fell 12.3 cents to close at $1.578 a gallon and natural gas rose 1.3 cents to close at $2.702 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Copper lost 4 cents to $2.30 a pound and palladium slumped $23.05 to $578.50 an ounce. The price of silver edged down four cents to $14.61 an ounce and platinum edged down $2.10 to $1,008.40 an ounce.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) overpaid individuals a total of $371.5 million in disability benefits from fiscal year 2009 through fiscal 2013, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.
These overpayments are cause for concern, as the Social Security’s Disability Insurance Trust Fund is expected to go broke by 2016, according to SSA’s 2015 annual report.
“During a time of growing concern about the solvency of the DI trust fund, it is important for SSA to take every opportunity to help improve the financial status of the program,” the GAO said. The report examined how these concurrent Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) payments affect Disability Insurance (DI) overpayments.
The GAO found that SSA did not detect concurrent FECA payments for about 1,040 individuals during at least one month from July 1, 2011, through June 30, 2014.
To test SSA’s internal controls, GAO randomly selected 20 beneficiaries for review. In all 20 cases, SSA’s controls failed to detect and prevent overpayments. In seven of the cases, SSA did not detect overpayments for more than a decade, and each of these individuals received $100,000 in overpaid benefits.
One of these seven individuals received FECA benefits in the 1980s and was approved for disability benefits 14 years later in 1994. The GAO found that this individual received $200,000 in overpayments for more than 20 years.
The SSA’s “internal controls” rely on beneficiaries to self-report overpayments.
“SSA officials told us that if beneficiaries do not self-report benefits, there are no system prompts that would alert SSA staff to ask beneficiaries if they are receiving any workers’ compensation benefits, including FECA payments,” states GAO. “SSA officials agreed that relying on beneficiaries to self-report benefits presents a challenge in identifying overpayments related to the concurrent receipt of FECA benefits.”
The disability insurance program is the nation’s largest cash assistance program for workers with disabilities. In fiscal year 2014 it paid $142 billion to 11 million beneficiaries.
In 2008, construction was completed on the 757-room Baltimore Hilton, a $305 million publicly-funded hotel spearheaded by Baltimore’s mayor at the time, Martin O’Malley. The hotel, in seven years of operation, has never turned a profit. The best year of operation saw a $2.9 million loss.
“It’s the biggest boondoggle ever. It’s hemorrhaging money every year and has less-than-stellar performance,” Democratic Maryland state Sen. James Brochin told The Daily Caller.
Originally intended to draw revenue from a supposed untapped convention market in Baltimore, the Hilton Hotel project slowly began losing money when conventions passed on Baltimore for other locations such as Austin, Texas and nearby Washington, D.C.
In July 2005, more than three years after the plan was finalized, it was still facing opposition in the city council. Of the 15 council members, only three said they believed the hotel would actually help the city.
“In my district, I can’t get funding to fix vacant houses,” Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke told The Baltimore Sun in 2005. “I’m worried about the financing and the kind of precedent this is setting.”
After O’Malley pushed the hotel vote to pass with the council, The Sun reported that this, the “costliest public project in Baltimore history” may see the fate of other cities’ failed publicly funded hotel ventures, such as St. Louis, Omaha, and Overland Park, Kan., “all cities that used public money to build hotels. Failing hotels.”
“The government shouldn’t be in the business of owning businesses. It was a catastrophic economical mistake by O’Malley, and the whole thing is ridiculous,” said Brochin.
O’Malley’s hotel, which he claimed in 2005 to be “risk-free,” is now entering its seventh year of public losses, the Sun reported earlier this year.
Even in times of great profit for the city, the hotel has weighed it down. In 2014, 2.4 million fans were drawn to Camden Yards when the Orioles took home the AL East pennant and, even though the hotel is situated directly adjacent to the stadium, it reported losses of $5.6 million.
Jan Freitag, a vice president with the Tennessee-based firm Smith Travel Research, told the Sun 2014 was a banner year for hotels across the country, including Baltimore, which saw a 7.9 percent growth in hotel revenue. Yet the Hilton’s losses persisted.
In a 2008 sports column in The Washington Post, Thomas Boswell used the Hilton Hotel’s burgeoning construction to illustrate the sadness of the Orioles as a whole. He described the sadness of their opening day loss as “begin[ning] their season as expected – in the utter misery of a complete rebuilding program,” referring to the ball club and the city of Baltimore.
Boswell continues: “The Hilton Convention Center Hotel next door, when finished, may merely be ugly. However, in its current state, with huge random splotches of yellow, white and blue, it’s like a cruel cubist joke. Forever, it will dominate the horizon and block views of the… adored Bromo Seltzer Tower… lording [its] eyesore [self] over previously perfect Camden Yards.”
A request for comment to the O’Malley campaign went unreturned.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has now spent over $3.5 million of taxpayer’s money to try and determine why the majority of lesbians in the US are obese.
The study entitled, ‘Sexual Orientation and Obesity: A Test of a Gendered Biopsychosocial Model,’ is aimed at concluding why nearly three-quarters of adult lesbians are dangerously overweight.
The study is also investigating why heterosexual men are twice as likely to be obese when compared to gay males.
Fat disparity: The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has now spent over $3.5 million of taxpayer’s dollars in an effort to determine why the majority of lesbians in the U.S. are obese
‘It is now well-established that women of minority sexual orientation are disproportionately affected by the obesity epidemic, with nearly three-quarters of adult lesbians overweight or obese, compared to half of heterosexual women. In stark contrast, among men, heterosexual males have nearly double the risk of obesity compared to gay males,’ says the study.
The NIH has cited public health and the risks associated with obesity in their continued funding of the project.
The study first began in 2011 and it will continue until June of next year.
Free Beacon reports that the total funding for the research is now $3,531,925. Funding has more than doubled since the study was first reported on by CNSNews.com in 2013.
A scientific paper associated with the study asserted that lesbians have lower ‘athletic-self esteem’ that could be linked to higher rates of obesity.
A separate research paper found that lesbians are more likely to see themselves as a healthy weight even if they are not.
Athletic confidence: A scientific paper associated with the study asserted that lesbians have lower ‘athletic-self esteem’ that could be linked to higher rates of obesity and that they exercised fewer hours when compared to their heterosexual female peers
A study published last month by the project’s lead investigator, S. Bryn Austin, concluded that young gay and bisexual men were more concerned with being lean than their heterosexual male counterparts . The study found that both heterosexual and homosexual males were concerned with their muscles at a young age.
‘Latent transition analyses revealed that sexual minority males (i.e., mostly heterosexual, gay, and bisexual) were more likely than completely heterosexual males to be lean-concerned at ages 17-18 and 19-20 years and to transition to the lean-concerned class from the healthy class,’ said the scientific paper.
‘There were no sexual orientation differences in odds of being muscle-concerned.’
The study also investigated body issues among young men and suggested that they should be screened to ensure they didn’t have too much of a preoccupation with their biceps.
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen has confirmed to Congress that illegal immigrants granted amnesty under President Obama’s new programs could claim back refunds even when they never filed returns to pay their taxes in the first place.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, who had pressed Mr. Koskinen over the issue, released written responses Wednesday in which the commissioner admitted he’d botched the question earlier and, in fact, illegal immigrants granted the amnesty will now be able to claim refunds on tax returns they never even filed, thanks to the Earned Income Tax Credit.
“To clarify my earlier comments on EITC, not only can an individual amend a prior year return to claim EITC, but an individual who did not file a prior year return may file a return and claim EITC (subject to refund limitations under section 6511 of the Internal Revenue Code),” Mr. Koskinen said.
He insisted, however, that he doubts many illegal immigrants will take advantage of the loophole because they would have to be able to prove their earnings for those years they never filed returns.
“Filers would have to reconstruct earnings and other records for years when they were not able to work on the books,” he said.
Taxpayers must have Social Security numbers in order to claim the EITC, and illegal immigrants aren’t supposed to have numbers. But Mr. Obama’s new deportation amnesty grants illegal immigrants work permits, which are then used to obtain Social Security numbers.
IRS lawyers have ruled that once illegal immigrants get numbers, they can go back and refile for up to three previous years’ taxes and claim refunds even for time they were working illegally.
The lawyers said since the EITC is a refundable credit, that’s allowed even when the illegal immigrants worked off the books and never paid taxes in the first place.
“Section 32 of the Internal Revenue Code requires an SSN on the return, but a taxpayer claiming the EITC is not required to have an SSN before the close of the year for which the EITC is claimed,” Mr. Koskinen said. “At your request, the IRS has reviewed the relevant statutes and legislative history, and we believe that the 2000 Chief Counsel Advice (CCA) on this issue is correct.”
Mr. Koskinen had initially said illegal immigrants could claim refunds, but only for years they’d filed returns and presumably had paid some taxes.
Most of Mr. Obama’s amnesty is on hold after federal courts ruled he likely broke the law by acting on his own without Congress‘ approval and without putting his policy out for public review and comment.
But a 2012 policy that applies to so-called Dreamers, or young adult illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, is in effect.
Homeland Security has approved 664,607 initial applications for Dreamers, and approved another 243,872 renewals over the last year, extending the initial two-year amnesty for another two years.
The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, has created more dependency on government and perverted the capitalist foundations of America, according to a top surgeon.
“You just can’t keep giving everything away to people without them working for it,” said Dr. Lee Hieb, former president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. “It’s not capitalism when you let people who are able-bodied not contribute to society but take the spoils. I mean, that’s just not capitalism. We have too many people that don’t work to eat.”
Obamacare appears to be worsening America’s dependency issue. The Associated Press reported food-stamp enrollment increased in 11 states between January 2013 and the end of 2014, the period during which Obamacare went into effect.
Ten of those 11 states expanded Medicaid under the ACA, and six of them used new online enrollment systems that made it easy for customers to sign up for both Medicaid and food stamps at the same time. Such streamlined application systems were built specifically for the health-care overhaul.
In total, nearly 632,000 people were added to the food-stamp rolls in those 11 states during that period, at an estimated cost of almost $79 million a month to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the food-stamp program also known as SNAP. This came at a time when the national economy was improving and food-stamp enrollment declined nationwide.
Dr. Jane Orient, executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, sees the phenomenon as part of a government attempt to place more Americans under its thumb.
“Self-reliant Americans are being crushed by taxation and regulation, directly and indirectly, and turned into government dependents,” Orient said. “How can you resist if government can cut off your food and medicine?”
In almost all of the 16 states that didn’t expand Medicaid, food-stamp rolls have been decreasing as the economy improves.
Hieb, author of “Surviving the Medical Meltdown: Your Guide to Living Through the Disaster of Obamacare,” said Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion damaged the American medical system by dropping people from their private insurance and putting them on Medicaid.
“People think that all these people getting on Medicaid through Obamacare were uninsured,” Hieb said. “That’s not true. A number of those people had private insurance, but now, because they qualify under these new guidelines, why not have somebody else pay for your health insurance? So instead of paying for health insurance, they’re taking Medicaid.”
She continued, “So you’ve turned paying patients into nonpaying patients. It’s absolutely, clearly a failing economic model, and I don’t understand how smart people believe it. I just don’t understand how they do not see that point.”
Hieb, an orthopedic surgeon, has observed firsthand the damage Medicaid expansion has done to hospitals. She recently reached the end of a contract to perform surgery two-and-a-half days a week at a small hospital, and she is now looking for a similar arrangement. However, she says she’s found hospitals are running scared from orthopedic surgeons like her because they fear they won’t make enough money to pay the surgeons’ salaries.
According to Hieb, the hospitals are struggling to bring in money because of the increase in Medicaid patients and corresponding decrease in private-pay patients. Medicaid does not reimburse hospitals as much as private insurance does. Hospitals have also struggled to cope with Medicare provider payment cuts and increased administrative paperwork.
But while Medicaid expansion has hurt hospitals, it has been a boon to health-care consumers. In states that expand Medicaid, adults with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level must qualify, and states are allowed to set even higher thresholds. Before the ACA took effect, the median Medicaid eligibility limit for parents was 106 percent of the federal poverty level. Medicaid expansion also made adults without dependent children eligible for the first time.
Hieb said she believes Americans are smart enough to act in their own financial self-interest, and, for many who hover just above the poverty level, that involves taking advantage of the welfare system. Hieb lives among the patients she serves in rural Iowa, and she says they know how to look out for themselves.
“It’s a mistake to think that all these poor people are children who cannot navigate this very complex medical system,” Hieb asserted. “These are the people who have figured out if you don’t make $35,000 a year working, it’s not worth working because you can do that well if you know how to work the system of welfare.”
If people can cobble together enough disability payments, unemployment payments and food stamps to earn a halfway decent living, Hieb argued, they are smart enough to hitch themselves to Medicaid, even if they might be able to afford health insurance on their own.
“People act in their own economic self-interest,” Hieb said. “If you can get things for free, why pay for them?”
She answered her own question: “One, because that’s ethical, and two, medical providers cannot be in business unless somebody actually pays the bill.”
The IRS doled out more than $5 billion in potentially bogus college aid payments under an Obama stimulus tax credit in 2012, according to a new report Tuesday from the agency’s inspector general that said the administration still doesn’t have a good handle on how to root out erroneous claims.
More than 3.8 million students received more than $5.6 billion in questionable tax credits, the audit found – more than half of those never filed their tuition statement, while others were paid tax credits even though the schools they attended weren’t acceptable institutions.
Still other students claimed the credit for more than four years.
“The IRS still does not have effective processes to identify erroneous claims for education credits,” said J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, who said he’s repeatedly warned the IRS about the problem but “many of the deficiencies TIGTA previously identified still exist.”
Many of the problems, however, lie with Congress, which needs to grant the IRS new powers to check students’ claims against other government databases, Mr. George said.
The tax break at issue is known as the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which was a creation of President Obama’s 2009 stimulus. It was slated to expire in 2010, but Mr. Obama and Congress have extended it through 2017.
The credits are designed to offset the costs of college.
IRS officials said part of the blame for the potential fraud lies with schools and the school year itself, saying that information on students’ attendance comes too late for the agency to be able to check it against returns.
But Debra Holland, IRS’s wage and investment division commissioner, insisted her agency does have “effective processes to identify erroneous claims,” saying they did catch 1.8 million questionable returns and put nearly 9,600 of those cases through a tax exam.
Ms. Holland blamed a lack of money for her agency’s inability to do more, and said they needed to limit their efforts to tax returns that had the highest risk of errors and the best chance of reclaiming money.
The IRS has already moved to add more checks to its system by looking to see who’s claimed the tax credit for more than four nonconsecutive years.
In a statement Tuesday, the IRS said Congress could help the agency out by granting it the power to automatically reject payments to students who claim more than four years of the tax credit. The agency also said Congress could approve new tools to access other government databases to check students’ eligibility for the tax credits, and could speed up the timeframe for filing the tuition forms that the inspector general said were missing in most of the cases it identified.
“Funding limitations have severely hampered our efforts in this and other compliance areas. Since 2010, the IRS budget has been reduced by nearly $1.2 billion and we expect to have 16,000 fewer employees by the end of this fiscal year. We simply do not have enough resources to audit every questionable credit,” the agency said.
The agency also said it believed the estimate of $5.6 billion was “overstated,” though the IRS acknowledged that it should try to do more to cut down on bad payments.
The U.S. economy slowed to a crawl at the start of the year as businesses slashed investment, exports tumbled and consumers showed signs of caution, marking a return to the uneven growth that has been a hallmark of the nearly six-year economic expansion.
Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services produced across the economy, expanded at a 0.2% seasonally adjusted annual rate in the first quarter, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. The economy advanced at a 2.2% pace in the fourth quarter and 5% in the third.
Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected growth of 1% in the first three months of this year, though many were braced for a surprise to the downside.
The latest reading on the economy came hours before Federal Reserve officials released their policy statement, in which they said slower growth reflected, in part, “transitory factors.” The Fed gave no new explicit clues on the timing of interest-rate increases, but the slower growth made the timing a bit more uncertain.
The first-quarter figures repeat a common pattern in recent years: one or two strong readings followed by a sharp slowdown. First-quarter GDP growth had averaged 0.6% since 2010 and 2.9% for all other quarters. That has worked out to moderate overall expansion but no growth breakout.
“This is another quarterly number which confirms the long-term slow-growth thesis, but there are good odds we get a bit of a bounce later in the year from stabilized business spending and the housing markets, which are setting up quite promising,” Guy LeBas, chief fixed-income strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott, said in a note to clients.
Last year, economists pinned much of the blame for a bad first quarter – GDP shrank 2.1% – on unusually harsh weather. This year, multiple factors appear to be at work, including another bout of blizzards, disruptions at West Coast ports, the stronger dollar’s effect on exports and the impact of cheaper oil.
Better weather, a return to normal at port terminals and steadying investment could boost growth later this year.
“We expect the economy will rebound in [the second quarter] and beyond, similar to last year,” said Michelle Girard, economist at RBS Securities.
But not all the factors behind the slowdown appear temporary. A stronger dollar and cheaper oil could persist, keeping exports and energy-sector investment at bay.
As well, rising inventories kept the U.S. economy out of recession, contributing 0.74 percentage point to GDP in the first quarter. A second-quarter repeat is unlikely.
Joseph LaVorgna, chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank, said producers probably will allow inventory positions to run off rather than building them up even more. “This tells us that current-quarter growth is likely to run around 2.5%, not the 4% snapback we had previously been anticipating,” he said.
U.S. households will have to pick up spending to help the economy grow. Wednesday’s report showed consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of economic output, decelerated to a 1.9% pace in the first quarter, down from 4.4% growth in the fourth quarter.
Rather than using savings from cheaper gasoline to buy more goods and services, Americans have been setting money aside for a rainy day. The personal saving rate at 5.5% in the first quarter was the highest since 2012. The figure was 4.6% in the fourth quarter.
Another key driver of the economy, business spending, also has faltered of late. Nonresidential fixed investment – which reflects spending on software, research and development, equipment and structures – retreated at a 3.4% rate, compared with a 4.7% rise in the fourth quarter.
Energy companies in particular are feeling the effects of cheaper oil. Business investment in structures fell 23.1%, led by a 48.7% contraction for mining sector spending on shafts and wells, Commerce said.
A stronger dollar, meanwhile, has made domestically produced goods more expensive overseas and foreign products cheaper inside the U.S. Combined with disruptions at West Coast ports, trade was constrained. In the first quarter, exports fell at a 7.2% rate, compared with 4.5% growth in the fourth quarter. Imports rose 1.8%, compared with 10.4% in the fourth quarter.
Federal government spending added little to the economy in the first quarter, expanding 0.3%, compared with a 7.3% fall in the fourth quarter.
Real final sales of domestic product, a measure that excludes changes to inventories, shrank at a 0.5% pace, compared with a 2.3% rise in the fourth quarter.
Alongside weak growth in the quarter, prices fell.
The price index for personal consumption expenditures – the Fed’s preferred measure for inflation – declined at a 2% annual rate, well below the central bank’s 2% inflation growth target. Core prices, which exclude volatile food and energy components, were up 0.9%, the lowest level since 2010.
Dennis Michael Lynch (born August 28, 1969) is an American entrepreneur, documentary filmmaker, and conservative commentator. He is the founder and CEO of TV360Media, a company specializing in the production and distribution of digital film, and often appears as a guest on Fox News and TheBlaze. He is currently running for President of the United States as a conservative Republican.
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