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Last Days of the Clinton Empire?

August 3rd, 2015 - 1:07 pm
Busted?

Busted?

This page last covered Huma Abedin, the Clintons, and Teneo back in June (“Dirty Deeds Done for a $250,000 Monthly Retainer“), but now there are fresh details:

Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said an inspector general probe suggested Huma Abedin leveraged her State Department job to benefit her two other employers at the time: the Clinton Foundation and a consulting firm called Teneo Strategies.

Teneo Strategies was founded by a longtime aide to Bill Clinton, Douglas Band, and boasted the former president as a paid board member when it first launched in 2011.

Abedin allegedly sent or received more than 7,000 emails on her government account that involved Band, the letter said.

As an example of the potential conflicts of interest at play, Grassley cited an email exchange in which Band pressed Abedin to encourage her State Department boss, Hillary Clinton, to facilitate a White House appointment for one of his clients.

Judith Rodin, the Teneo client in question, was then president of the Rockefeller Foundation, “which donated hundreds of millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation, a fact which Mr. Band allegedly noted in his email to Ms. Abedin,” the letter said.

“[E]mail evidence allegedly suggests that Ms. Abedin and Ms. Mills shared a desire to find a way to ensure the Department paid for Ms. Abedin’s travel to and from New York,” the letter continued.

To refresh your memory about Teneo, here’s what I found two months ago:

And what is it Teneo does, exactly? The company claims to provide “integrated counsel for a borderless world.” Here’s more from Teneo’s corporate website:

Leveraging the deep global relationships, experience and intellectual capabilities across all 12 of our operating divisions, we sit at the center of information and networks, offering unparalleled execution to capture opportunities and solve complex problems.

That, my friends, is a whole lot of nothing. In other words, Teneo is in the shady business of protecting wealthy people who have done or who wish to do shady things.

Unlike Hillary’s private email server, Abedin’s 7,000 emails with and about Band on her government account are a matter of public record, and ought to be subpoenaed posthaste by Senator Grassley.

We’ve already had the Obama Administration destroy electronic evidence of wrongdoing by the IRS, but would they dare do that again to protect Hillary Clinton? And if someone at State did take that chance, yet another round of these Nixonian antics might prove too much for even the Complicit Media to ignore. There can be only so many cries of “Will no one rid me of these meddlesome hard drives!” before people take notice.

We have a dirty Administration protecting a dirty candidate’s dirty personal assistant. Eventually, somebody may be forced to sell out somebody else — and Senator Grassley is in the perfect position to force somebody’s hand.

With a tip of the hat to Longtime Sharp VodkaPundit Reader™ cfbleachers comes the heartwarming tale of a presidential “candidate,” a private email server, and the whistleblower who says you ain’t seen nothin’ yet:

The Daily Caller learned of a three-hour May 1 meeting two State Department whistleblowers held with the general counsel and staffers for the Oversight Committee, which is led by Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz.

According to a copy of notes from that meeting, State Department whistleblower Richard Higbie and another whistleblower told of an inspector-turned-whistleblower with State’s office of the inspector general who claims his investigation into Abedin’s work with Teneo Holdings, a consulting firm, led to the discovery of Clinton’s private email server.

According to the notes, the whistleblower also told Higbie that the investigation was shut down by Harold Geisel, the former acting inspector general for the State Department whose tenure was marked by accusations of political favoritism.

According to the notes, the whistleblower in question “was the case agent on a criminal investigation pertaining to Huma Abedin and outside employment/income. The investigation involved the unlawful use of the clintonemail by Abedin to conceal their activity.”

While investigating Abedin’s gig with Teneo, a firm founded by former Bill Clinton adviser Doug Band, the inspector “identified the HRC email server and its use as part of his investigation. This developed into evidence implicating HRC,” according to the notes.

The whistleblower reportedly has his own notes and recordings to back his claims and says that the evidence shows that Clinton was “criminally culpable” to some degree.

The first thing that jumped out at me was the detail about Huma Abedin and “outside income.” Let’s dial the Wayback Machine to May, 2013:

Huma Abedin — Hillary Clinton’s longtime aide and the wife of all-but-declared New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner — spent her final months at the State Department working as a part-time consultant with the agency who at the same time was allowed to represent outside clients, POLITICO has confirmed.

Abedin, a fixture at the Clintons’ side for at least 15 years — from Iowa to Indonesia — shifted to her new role after maternity leave in the early summer of 2012, according to a source familiar with the arrangement.

The new status made her a “special government employee,” which was tantamount to being a consultant, according to the source, whose information was confirmed by two other staffers familiar with the matter. Multiple sources told POLITICO Abedin did work for other clients, which a friend of Abedin said totaled four, including the State Department, Hillary Clinton, the William Jefferson Clinton Foundation and Teneo, the firm co-founded by former Bill Clinton counselor Doug Band.

And what is it Teneo does, exactly? The company claims to provide “integrated counsel for a borderless world.” Here’s more from Teneo’s corporate website:

Leveraging the deep global relationships, experience and intellectual capabilities across all 12 of our operating divisions, we sit at the center of information and networks, offering unparalleled execution to capture opportunities and solve complex problems.

That, my friends, is a whole lot of nothing. In other words, Teneo is in the shady business of protecting wealthy people who have done or who wish to do shady things.

More from Wikipedia:

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair were paid advisers to Teneo. The New Republic described “the extent to which Teneo’s business model depend[ed] on [Band's] relationship with Clinton” as “striking”.[2] Clinton ended his relationship with Teneo on February 2012.[20] Doug Band’s longtime advisor relationship with Clinton ended in 2013 after concerns that Band had leveraged his ties with Clinton too much for his own business interests with Teneo.[2]

Wikipedia also states that “Teneo’s monthly retainer fees have been as high as $250,000.” That’s just the retainer, folks — if you have to ask about the hourly rate, you can’t afford it.

Band is the company’s president, who apparently got into too many shady dealings for even Bill Clinton to remain connected to him or the company — at least publicly. But at the same time, not so shady that Hillary Clinton’s longtime confident, Abedin, couldn’t collect multiple paychecks from Teneo, Hillary, and the US State Department.

(In retrospect, Anthony Weiner’s penis-waving antics around that time barely even register as a sideshow to whatever it was the Clintons were up to.)

Meanwhile, we are assured that Hillary deleted 32,000 emails pertaining only to wedding plans and “yoga routines,” and that she willfully ignored the Federal Records Act as a “matter of convenience” because she doesn’t like to carry two devices. But as the Daily Caller story reminds us, Huma also used a clintonemail.com address at the time she was triple-dipping for Hillary, Teneo, and State:

It was reported in April that State’s current inspector general, Steve Linick, informed Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley that his office was investigating Abedin’s past arrangement with Teneo.

In a letter to Grassley, stated that “based on my staff’s current knowledge, the OIG was not aware of Secretary Clinton’s and Ms. Abedin’s use of a private email system until recent media reports.”

Just yesterday, speaking about an unrelated issue, Hillary repeated “an old Arkansas saying” Bill is fond of:

You find a turtle on a fencepost, [it] did not get there on its own.

Like a snapping turtle, those words could very well turn around and bite her on the ass.

This investigation is only now really getting started, and already there are enough turtles sitting on fenceposts to bring down most anyone not named “Clinton.”

UPDATE: There’s more on Teneo and the Clintons in a Dick Morris/Eileen McGann column from earlier this week — and if there’s anyone who understands anything about shady dealings, it’s Dick Morris.

Read:

[In 2011 Bill Clinton] envisioned a network of corporate and foreign clients who would give him speaking fees, generate consulting income in which he could share, and give to his Foundation, whose assets and income he could use as he wished.

But to realize this grand vision, he needed an intermediary that would get clients and nurture the web he envisioned. So, working through his top aide and protege, Doug Band, he set up Teneo.

Band, for his part, realized this was the way to cash in on the relationship with his boss.

But Doug and Bill faced a problem. They needed the approval of the State Department Ethics Office that President Obama had made Hillary set up to monitor the business dealings of her peripatetic husband.

So they scrubbed the application. Band’s role as a principal of Teneo was omitted and he was identified just as the Clinton aide who submitted the application. The real purpose of the new company was hidden and the application claimed it was only designed “to study geopolitical, economic and social trends.”

In fact, it was a deal to hire Bill using his name and relationship with Hillary to attract global corporate and government clients. In return, Teneo paid him handsomely, solicited donations for the Clinton Foundation and set up lucrative speaking engagements for Bill.

Win-win for Teneo and Clinton. He’d get them clients; they’d get him speaking gigs.

Team Teneo desperately wanted Bill Clinton to head its advisory board — so it could hold out the former president and husband of the secretary of state as part of its team.

The “dupes” as Morris calls them at State more or less rubber-stamped its approval to this setup, after the Clintons whitewashed the application. What was the Obama White House doing all this time, despite promises about State Department Ethics Office oversight? Apparently, nobody at the White House was looking too closely at what was going on at State, in the same way Sergeant Schultz never looked too closely under Colonel Hogan’s bunk.

And Abedin? Her position at State was Hillary’s Deputy Chief of Staff, so presumably she wasn’t directly involved in the Ethics Office. But certainly she performed some kind of duty worthy of getting an unreported paycheck from Teneo. Teneo’s “job” was to funnel foreign money to the Clintons in exchange for influence and access– so what influence or access was provided by the SecState’s own Deputy Chief of Staff, and to whom?

Rolling in It

May 22nd, 2015 - 9:58 am
He's so money and he knows it. (AP photo)

He’s so money and he knows it.
(AP photo)

The Drudge headline simply reads “slush,” but WaPo has the details:

The Clinton Foundation reported Thursday that it has received as much as $26.4 million in previously undisclosed payments from major corporations, universities, foreign sources and other groups.

The disclosure came as the foundation faced questions over whether it fully complied with a 2008 ethics agreement to reveal its donors and whether any of its funding sources present conflicts of interest for Hillary Rodham Clinton as she begins her presidential campaign.

The money was paid as fees for speeches by Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton. Foundation officials said the funds were tallied internally as “revenue” rather than donations, which is why they had not been included in the public listings of its contributors published as part of the 2008 agreement.

This next part is, if you’ll excuse the word choice, rich:

The paid appearances included speeches by former president Bill Clinton to the Ni­ger­ian ThisDay newspaper group for at least $500,000 and to the Beijing Huaduo Enterprise Consulting Company Ltd., an investment holding company that specializes in the natural gas market, for at least $250,000. Citibank paid at least $250,000 for a speech by Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The disclosures underscore how much the Clintons have leveraged their star power to draw more money not just for their personal enrichment but also for the benefit of their philanthropic work.

While the story notes that the Clinton Foundation has raised $2 billion-with-a-b since its founding less than 20 years ago, it fails to note that in 2013, the last year for which reports are available, it gave only 6% of its revenues as charity. Travel and office supplies were bigger expenses than “giving.”

So I’ll leave it to the reader to decide whether the Clinton Foundation is more interested in “philanthropic work” or in the Clinton’s “personal enrichment,” but the numbers do seem to be rather lopsided towards the latter.

Gay Wedding Blues

May 20th, 2015 - 5:14 am

An Alabama Unitarian minister has been sentenced to 30 days, suspended, for performing a legally meaningless gay wedding:

Anne Susan DiPrizio, 44, entered the plea before Judge Ben Fuller, but not before some delays and judicial wrangling. He gave her 30 days in the Autauga Metro Jail, and then suspended the sentence in place of 6 months unsupervised probation. Fuller also ordered her to pay a $250 fine and other associated court costs.

On Feb. 10, DiPrizio offered to marry a lesbian couple inside the Autauga County Probate Office. The couple had received their marriage license just a few minutes before.

Probate Judge Al Booth had halted all marriage ceremonies in the office the day before. DiPrizio refused to leave the office after sheriff’s deputies were called and she was charged with disorderly conduct, court records show. She spent about three hours in the Autauga Metro Jail that day before posting a bond of $1,000, jail records show.

Let me get this straight — with no cheap pun intended. DiPrizio was arrested, fined, and sentenced for performing a wedding which Autauga County had licensed?

The scene during her plea wasn’t pretty:

An apparent plea deal was agreed to before the bench trial began. When Fuller pronounced the 30 day suspended jail sentence the first go round, DiPrizio balked.

“That’s not what we agreed to, we said no suspended 30 day sentence,” she said.

Fuller withdrew the plea agreement and told Desirae Lewis, the assistant district attorney handling the case to prepare to call her witnesses. During the break prosecutors huddled with DiPrizio, who was representing herself, and tried to clear up any confusion on the sentence.

Fuller came back to the courtroom and second time, handing down the sentence and DiPrizio interrupted him when he was talking about the fine.

“Can I ask a question?” she said to Fuller.

“When I’m done!” a visibly angered Fuller said with a raised voice. “We are here to take a misdemeanor plea. I don’t know if you think this is a game. If you do, you can learn differently very quickly.”

I understand that gay marriage isn’t allowed under Alabama law, which ought to be a matter for the people of Alabama to deal with one way or the other — but that’s an issue for another day. The simple and non-controversial solution in this case would be for the judge to declare the license (and thus the marriage) to be invalid under Alabama law and leave it at that. Why arrest DiPrizio for “disorderly conduct,” when near as I can tell there was nothing disorderly about a couple obtaining a license and then having a friendly minister perform a civil ceremony?

If there are any charges to be filed, perhaps the not-newlyweds should have paid a fine for “obtaining a license under false pretenses” or something similar, if it turns out one of them pretended to be a man to the clerk. And maybe something like that will or did happen — the USA Today story doesn’t get into that side of it. So I looked into the history of the case which dates back to February of this year:

The incident took place one day after a federal ruling went into effect that found Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Because the state’s top judicial officer, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, ordered probate judges to defy that ruling, a majority were refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Monday. A day later, the chaos only seems to be intensifying.

“I will say I was nothing but polite, and there was nothing disorderly about my conduct,” said 44-year-old Anne Susan Diprizio, the woman who was arrested Tuesday, to msnbc. “The only person who was behaving disorderly was [Autauga County Probate] Judge Booth, who was aggressive, rude, hateful, not gentlemanly, had no southern manners – nothing you would expect from a good man.” Msnbc reached out to Booth for comment, but his office declined to speak on the matter.

Yet the minister was convicted of disorderly conduct for presiding over a non-binding wedding ceremony? Near as I can tell from the these reports, Judge Fuller is just waving his little gavel around because he doesn’t like lesbians.

Fuller’s dislikes and biases are his business, of course — but that doesn’t mean he gets to bring them to the bench.

Money Under Mattress

One if by tax, two if by spend.

Megan McArdle reports on the White House non-starter plan to tax 529 education savings accounts — and everything else:

As I observed when I first wrote about the plan, the very fact that we are discussing taxation of educational savings — redistributing educational subsidies downward — indicates that the administration has started scraping the bottom of the barrel when seeking out money to fund new programs. Why target a tax benefit that goes to a lot of your supporters (and donors), that tickles one of the sweetest spots in American politics (subsidizing higher education), and that will hit a lot of people who make less than the $250,000 a year that has become the administration’s de facto definition of “rich”?

Presumably, because you’re running out of other places to get the money. The top tax rate on people who make more than $413,000 ($464,000 for married couples) is already almost 40 percent. That’s on top of Medicare taxes (2.9 percent, not capped), Social Security taxes, state and local taxes (in a deep blue area like New York City, these can amount to 10 percent, though you get some of that back by deducting state taxes from your federal tax) — a marginal tax rate of around 45 to 50 percent in blue states, and possibly even more if you run a business.

Capital gains are taxed at a lower rate, of course. But if you combine the Obamacare capital income surcharge for higher earners, and the administration’s new proposal to raise the base rate to 28 percent, you’re looking at a capital gains tax of almost 32 percent for people who make more than $200,000 a year ($250,000 for married couples). We are simply running out of room to pay for generous new programs with higher taxes on the small handful of people who make many hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

Two thoughts on this, the first perfectly expressed in today’s ♡bamaCare!!! Fail comments by Longtime Sharp VodkaPundit Reader™ RBJ:

“My experience perfectly highlights the insanity of the Affordable Care Act. It forced me — a paying, insured, well-educated, healthy American — out of the coverage I’d had, then tried to push me into Medicaid.”

It’s not insane, it’s perfectly sane. The intent is to get you dependent upon the government for health care. It’s why Dear Liar’s plan to tax education 529 savings is sane: you do not work hard and save to pay for your education, it’s going to be a government freebie — making you dependent upon the government for higher education.

The second thought is slightly more involved.

Washington is reaching saturation point — it’s running out of income streams to finance its ever-increasing vote-buying schemes. It’s one thing to have a permanent underclass; it’s quite another to inflate the underclass with the ranks of the formerly middle class. And yet, that’s the road we’ve been on for a decade or longer now.

Those who survive this Big Squeeze are the Very Rich and the Devious Middle. The Very Rich will pay up enough in taxes to keep the Permanent Underclass from becoming revolutionaries, but will use their political clout to avoid any truly painful confiscations. The Devious Middle will be those remaining members of the middle and upper middle classes, forced into the ranks of the underground service economy, using Bitcoin and other electronic mattresses to hide their income and their savings.

It’s a nasty future, but don’t say that nobody warned you.

News You Can Use

December 12th, 2014 - 10:01 am

ESCAPE VELOCITY

Florida Man has done it again:

A Florida man was arrested after he stole a front-end loader and led authorities on a chase for up to an hour-and-a-half, police say.

Donald John Clark, 32, was being held at the Pinellas County jail in St. Petersburg, Fla., on $32,000 bail for stealing a Volvo L110G — a 20-ton, $250,000 front-end loader — from a construction site Saturday before leading police on a chase that lasted over an hour.

After receiving a tip about a front-end loader being driven erratically, police attempted to pull over Clark, who ignored sirens and emergency lights. The Tampa Bay Times reports Clark hit curbs and ran stop signs as he cut through side streets and neighborhoods.

Police traced the movements of the front-end loader, which traveled at a top speed of 25 mph, but officers had few ways to stop the vehicle.

That last line is priceless, but you know you’re not supposed to do that, right?

Sign “O” the Times

September 12th, 2014 - 11:10 am

YAHOO

It’s just what the headline says:

The U.S. government threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day in 2008 if it failed to comply with a broad demand to hand over user communications — a request the company believed was unconstitutional — according to court documents unsealed Thursday that illuminate how federal officials forced American tech companies to participate in the National Security Agency’s controversial PRISM program.

The documents, roughly 1,500 pages worth, outline a secret and ultimately unsuccessful legal battle by Yahoo to resist the government’s demands. The company’s loss required Yahoo to become one of the first to begin providing information to PRISM, a program that gave the NSA extensive access to records of online com­munications by users of Yahoo and other U.S.-based technology firms.

It’s clear that NSA is out of control, and that since this story is from 2008, it’s a problem above and beyond partisan politics.

I’m not kidding when I say that the NSA needs to disbanded, and anyone currently there at GS-9 or above should be forbidden from working, directly or as a contractor, for its replacement agency.

Bear Flag State Turns Bearish

August 19th, 2014 - 9:45 am

So it turns out that “California Comeback” was based on smoke and mirrors. IBD has the numbers:

This time last year, liberals around the country were trumpeting the big fiscal comeback of the Golden State in the wake of Jerry Brown’s giant tax increase — Proposition 30.

That initiative was passed by voters on Nov. 6, 2012, and it raised the personal income-tax rate on taxpayers making over $250,000 for singles and $500,000 for married couples to as high as 13% — which is the heaviest tax penalty on working and investing in the nation outside of New York City.

What was especially devious is that the tax hit was made retroactive to January 2012. Sacramento was so desperate for money that nobody seemed to mind this after-the fact taxation is really a form of confiscation.

In the short term, it worked and revenues climbed a whopping 21% because California’s top 2% had to pay taxes twice in 2013 — once on their current-year income and a supplemental check to pay for the retroactive tax on income from the year before.

And today? Sacramento’s personal income tax collections declined 11.1% last quarter, indicating that California is all out of tricks for disguising its serious spending problem. Besides, they can only hike taxes retroactively one time, right?

Right?

The numbers, they are awful:

California enrolled 107,000 people in private plans in the first two months. But California has cancelled 800,000 current individual health plans effective January 1––all of whom have to buy a new plan by January 1 or become uninsured. The only place those who are subsidy eligible can get a subsidized plan is in the California exchange. In addition, California has about 2.5 million people uninsured and exchange eligible. A Robert Wood Johnson (RWJ) report estimated that California has 1.4 million of those people eligible for subsidies in the exchange. Given the $250 million in outreach and marketing money the federal government has earmarked for California’s exchange, the dearth of sign-ups so far is concerning.

Similarly, New York enrolled only 45,000 in an exchange plan through November but has over 2 million uninsured. The RWJ report estimated that 563,000 people alone are exchange subsidy eligible. The rule of thumb is that about half of those eligible for the exchanges will be subsidy eligible and half will not. That means that something close to the 563,000 subsidy eligible are also able to buy on the New York exchange.

Washington, the state most believe has done the best job building and running an exchange, has 959,000 uninsured, with RWJ estimating 223,000 are eligible for a subsidy in the exchange, but has only enrolled a total of 17,000 for private insurance in the first two months.

Kentucky has 646,000 uninsured and an estimated 132,000 eligible for subsidies yet has enrolled only 13,000 people in their exchange––both subsidy and non-subsidy eligible.

The rest of the states are either doing no better or are doing much worse.

Remember, the hard number by March 31 is now at least 11,000,000.

Brave Sir Robin

December 12th, 2013 - 10:08 am

LANDRIEU

“Brave Sir Robin” might become a regular headline around here, as the ObamaCare train wreck rollout train wreck continues to unfold.

Anyway, here’s more via Doug Mataconis:

Sen. Mary Landrieu, the vulnerable Louisiana Democrat, tried Wednesday to distance herself even further from both Obamacare and President Barack Obama in the first television commercial of her reelection campaign.

The $250,000 buy continues a marked change in Landrieu’s tone from the start of the year and speaks to how devastating Democrats realize the health care overhaul may be to their hopes of holding the Senate.

Built around news clips, the 30-second ad highlights legislation Landrieu introduced to let people keep their health care plans after the public outcry over hundreds of thousands of cancellations.

Doug adds:

Polling in the Louisiana Senate race has been limited, with the most recent poll more than a month old and those previous to that even older, and while they do show Landrieu with a lead over likely Republican nominee Bill Cassidy, they also show she pulling in less than 50% of the vote, and in some cases only garnering support in the low 40s. This is not where an incumbent wants to be even this far out from election, and especially not in a red state like Louisiana where Mitt Romney won by seventeen points just last year, and polling on the PPACA itself has been largely negative.

And I’ll add a couple things, too.

Sure, Landrieu “tried” to pass some phony-balony legislation which, even had it passed and been implemented without delay (ha!), still would have done nothing to reactivate cancelled policies, or to prevent millions more from coming. Her lame attempts were never anything more than window dressing with a dash of SQUIRREL.

What Landrieu was able to do successfully, was be one of ObamaCare’s staunchest proponents before it became law, and one of its staunchest proponents after it became law.

Now she’s running away from four years of her own best political efforts.

Don’t let her get away with it, Louisiana.

The Fiscal Cliff for Fun and Profit

December 30th, 2012 - 1:11 pm

Laws are made by men, not gods — but you’d never guess that from the talk coming out of (and about) Washington these days.

Democrats behave as though the Clinton tax rates were carved into stone by lightning on Mount Sinai. Republicans want you to believe the same thing about the tax rates enacted just a few years later under President Bush. And the Fiscal Cliff? “Why, that’s a geological formation — an act of God if there ever was one. It’s not our fault if we’re going over it!”

Right. And I’m the Pope of Siam.

Here’s what neither side wants you to remember: No matter what the rates are, our income tax code is a mess. It’s corrupt. And it will never raise enough revenue to pay for all the government we’ve saddled ourselves with.

Those Clinton tax rates the Democrats are so fond of only ever raised about two-thirds of the revenue the Democrats promised us would be collected. And that was during a perfect storm of tax collection. The 1992 recession was short, sharp, and extremely beneficial to our national economy. It set loose a wave of creative destruction which helped set the stage for the information revolution later in the decade. A GOP Congress in 1994 guaranteed enough gridlock (and, briefly, enough spending restraint) to keep things humming even louder. The Y2K bug — remember that? — and the dot com bubble further juiced capital expenditures while filling the Treasury’s coffers with capital gains.

Even so, those magical Clinton tax rates never fulfilled the Democrats’ promises of 1993. I’m repeating this point because I want you to remember it.

Bush and the GOP cut tax rates twice, in 2001 and 2003. Despite the 9/11 attacks, the bursting of the dot com bubble, and a pretty serious recession, tax revenues eventually surpassed those collected under the Clinton tax code. Everything must have been rosy, right?

Wrong.

There are things the Republicans want you to forget, too. The GOP tried to keep things goosed by going on an unprecedented spending spree. At the Fed, Alan Greenspan was happy to play along by keeping interest rates unprecedentedly low. (Both precedents would be very quickly surpassed by the Democrats and Ben Bernanke.) And Clinton’s Community Reinvestment Act added to the fun, by sweeping us all up into a happy, happy housing bubble. Tax revenues guttered when the bubble popped, and have stayed there since. Obamanomics, which consists of standing on the economy’s throat while pounding its face with a moneybag, hasn’t helped.

What neither side wants you to remember is the damage they’ve done to the once-beautiful tax code bequeathed to us by Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill. It wasn’t perfect — the AMT and too many deductions remained — but it was a big step in the right direction. The right direction being, if you want to collect taxes, make them simple and make them cheap. After the Tax Reform Act, collections briefly and barely dipped, then soared.

But, as Glen Reynolds likes to say, that didn’t present enough opportunities for graft. Clinton and Bush loaded up the tax code with deductions and credits and loopholes and incentives and subsidies and all the rest, until the giant wheezing beast interferes with every economic decision, big or small.

Politicians love this crap — little men doling out big favors. So do Big Business and their K Street cronies — entrenched interests squeezing out competitors via the tax code, like a boa constrictor smothers its prey. The rest of us? We’re the ones getting squeezed.

So Obama and Boehner can negotiate right down to the wire whether rates will go up on those making $250,000, or on those making $500,000, or maybe it’s on those making $400,000. Or $402,223 and 18 cents, but only if they were born on even-numbered Wednesdays, otherwise it’s $402,223 and 19 cents. It’s all nonsense.

Our problems remain threefold:

1. The promised taxes will not be collected.

2. No level of taxation will ever pay for our unfunded entitlements.

3. The system has become irresponsible and corrupt.

And if you think that #3 might have something kind of causal relationship with #1 and #2, please treat yourself to a well-deserved cookie. You have the kind of simple and honest insight that is as foreign to Washington as a pulled pork sandwich is to a mosque.

There are a few in the GOP who are willing to talk honestly about our spending problem. Their reward for what amounted to idle talk was to lose seats in both houses of Congress, and the reelection of the Six Trillion Dollar Man to the White House. The Democrats have a plan to just tax and spend the crap out of shit until prosperity returns, then blame the Republicans when it doesn’t. The Democrats are — and this just goes to show how corrupt the system has become — the good guys.

And the rest of us? The inside of that boa constrictor is stating to look pretty good. At the very least, it’s certainly close.

Tax THIS!

December 9th, 2012 - 11:30 am

Just a reminder, taxes are already going up on “the rich” in just three weeks:

Starting Jan. 1, investment income for individuals earning over $200,000 and households earning over $250,000 will be subject to a new 3.8 percent tax. Further, regular income above those thresholds will be hit with a .9 percent Medicare surtax. Should the Bush tax rates expire for those workers, those increases will be compounded.

What Obama wants is additional tax increases on top of the ones he and the Democrats imposed two years ago.

UPDATE: I almost forgot why I put “the rich” in quotes. And that is, you’re now “in the top 2% of earners” if you’re in the top 20% of earners. The NYT has that story for you:

Affluent people are much more likely than low-income people to have health insurance, and now they will, in effect, help pay for coverage for many lower-income families. Among the most affluent fifth of households, those affected will see tax increases averaging $6,000 next year, economists estimate. [Emphasis added.]

That top fifth includes households making $75k or so a year. But, yes, please let’s do keep talking about “millionaires and billionaires.”

It’s Obama’s party. We’re just paying for it.

Pay Up, Suckers

October 2nd, 2012 - 11:37 am

Get ready to feel the pinch of ObamaCare and all the rest:

A new study by Douglas Holtz-Eakin of the American Action Forum finds that President Barack Obama’s spending plan would raise taxes on the middle class. “[T]axpayers making as little as $30,000 will carry $1,500 more in taxes annually over the next 10 years,” the study finds.

The significance of this study is that it contradict Obama’s pledge not to raise taxes on the middle class. “If you are a family making less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes go up,” Obama said in 2008.

Stop whining — you didn’t build that.

Middle class taxpayers are already paying for the vile progs’ vile schemes. We’re paying for them at the pump, we’re paying for them at the ATM, and we’re paying for them bigtime at the grocery store. We don’t get a receipt for those invisible taxes, but that doesn’t make them any less real.

Oh, and we’re paying for it most of all with the “new normal” of slow growth and high joblessness. But there’s nothing normal about our crappy economy — it’s just another price we pay for their schemes.

BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE: Chins up, my fellow Americans! Jim Pethokoukis reports that you won’t be paying that extra $1,500, after all. Really, it’s more like $4,000.

An Idea Whose Time Has Come (for You)

August 8th, 2012 - 2:30 pm

Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan: “Let’s have a maximum income.” No, really:

Let’s have a maximum annual income of, oh, $5 million, pegged to inflation. All income above that would be taxed at 99 percent. Our precious national sports stars, celebrities, and corporate executives could still be fabulously wealthy. The daydreaming poor could still have a nice big number about which to hopelessly dream. Five million dollars a year. Five million! Anyone with $5 million can invest it conservatively enough to earn 5 percent a year and still be making $250K per year without lifting a finger. In other words, $5 million provides you with the means to live as a member of the one percent without ever touching the principal. It’s everything that any reasonable person could ask for, financially speaking.

Let me pull a number out of my ass that seems like a lot. 15,000 sounds like a very big number to me — it has a comma in it and everything. And now I’ll say that 15,000 should be the maximum amount of money a vile prog should ever be allowed to earn in a year. Maybe in 18 months.

(Quit your whining — that’s plenty to cover the basics, especially after ObamaCare kicks in. And the bus is even more efficient than a Prius, anyway.)

And just because I’m smart and mean, anything a vile prog earns over $15,000 will be taxed at… 110%. Because who doesn’t want to give 110%? The coach always told me to give that much. And he was a nice soccer coach, not some crypto-fascist football screamer. And at the end of the year, vile progs who made less than $15,000 will be given an attendance trophy in the shape of a bleeding heart.

Think of all the salary expenses George Soros will save in the first year alone.

The Dark at the End of the Tunnel

July 23rd, 2010 - 11:08 am

If you haven’t read today’s Wall Street Journal column by Senator James Webb (D-VA), you owe it to yourself. The key line is this one, where Webb argues that our “present-day diversity programs work against that notion, having expanded so far beyond their original purpose that they now favor anyone who does not happen to be white.”

What makes it key is: Why now? Why write this column today? What brought this particular issue out at this particular moment?

These questions are important, because Webb’s column is a virtual declaration of war on President Obama — at a time when Obama’s head must be already spinning after two weeks of racial strife from the NAACP and Andrew Breitbart. And a “recovery summer” that’s anything but. So it’s not often I find myself agreeing with Pat Buchanan, and when I do — even only partly so, like today — I always wash afterwards. But when Buchanan says that the White House is in a “panic” because it “fears it is losing white America,” he’s absolutely right.

But what Obama really ought to fear is losing his own party — because Webb’s column is just the most recent sign.

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Tax THIS!

April 7th, 2010 - 5:11 am

The Obama Plan promises a net tax cut for all American families earning less than $250,000 a year — unless they happen to buy any one single thing ever at all.

Tax THIS!

December 12th, 2009 - 11:05 am

Under the Obama Plan, no one making less than $250,000 a year will see a tax increase — except for 68 million middle class Americans who happen to buy health insurance.

Tax THIS!

July 7th, 2009 - 9:29 am

Under the Obama Plan, only taxpayers making more than $250,000 per year will see a tax increase, except for the ones making more than $200,000.

It’s tax code limbo!

Cap & Trade & Decline & Fall

April 17th, 2009 - 12:20 pm

Here it comes:

The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday formally declared carbon dioxide and five other heat-trapping gases to be pollutants that threaten public health and welfare, setting in motion a process that for the first time in the United States will regulate the gases blamed for global warming.

The E.P.A. said the science supporting its so-called endangerment finding was “compelling and overwhelming.” The ruling triggers a 60-day comment period before any proposed regulations governing emissions of greenhouse gases are published.

Remember, this will involve no tax increases on anyone making less than $250,000 a year. But those five or six guys who’ll be left still earning that much, man, are we going to sock it to them.

UPDATE: Ed Driscoll calls it a “rendezvous with scarcity” in his latest Silicon Graffiti video.

Will the Real Obama Please Shut Up?

March 22nd, 2009 - 6:36 pm

Here’s President Obama on 60 Minutes tonight:

“Well, I think that— as a general proposition, you don’t want to be passing laws that are just targeting a handful of individuals…And as a general proposition, I think you certainly don’t want to use the tax code—is to punish people.”

And here’s candidate Obama last year:

Mr. Obama, by contrast, started out much more directly, suggesting that if you make $150,000 or less you may be poor or middle class. A family with an income above $250,000, he went on to say, is “doing well.” And if you find yourself in that category, he’s going to target you for a tax hike — all in the name of creating “a sense of balance, and fairness in our tax code.”

So — what will Obama actually do? He talks a great centrist game, even to the point of hiring all kinds of former Clintonites. But when push comes to shove — and these days, that happens almost hourly — President Obama rarely misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity to swing to the left.

Taxes are going up. Sometimes directly, as “on the rich.” Sometimes indirectly, as the savings of the middle class are inflated away. And mostly way-indirectly, as the poor are kept poor thanks to Obama’s budgets putting the economy on permanent slowdown.

Deal with it: He won.

Uncle Sugar II

October 2nd, 2008 - 12:32 pm

Here are just a few items from the Senate’s bailout package:

• The FDIC deposit insurance limit would increase from $100,000 to $250,000 through 2009.

Because encouraging people to spread their risk around just now would be wrong.

• The bill would provide tax relief to victims of recent natural disasters.

Because not enough Texans were on board.

• An AMT “patch” to gloss over the AMT’s “bracket ratchet” for a while longer.

About time, although it doesn’t go far enough. The Senate deserves some mild applause for this move, but few will notice with all the rest of the clutter.

• Mandate some mental health coverage.

Because you’d have to be insane to vote for this thing.

And So It Begins

March 11th, 2008 - 1:25 pm

I just got my first fundraising email from John McCain. You can see the text below the fold.

While I’d almost certainly prefer him over Clinton or Obama, I just can’t bring myself to send money to a man who doesn’t believe that money equals speech.

Serves him right.

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Outrage

June 26th, 2006 - 12:52 pm

Ten years ago, I was working at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. Many of the airmen killed at Khobar Towers were deployed out of Eglin; their memorial was eventually built on the base grounds.

I doubt many of their survivors were comforted when they read this startling memoir by Louis Freeh in the WSJ:

It soon became clear that Mr. Clinton and his national security adviser, Sandy Berger, had no interest in confronting the fact that Iran had blown up the towers. This is astounding, considering that the Saudi Security Service had arrested six of the bombers after the attack. As FBI agents sifted through the remains of Building 131 in 115-degree heat, the bombers admitted they had been trained by the Iranian external security service (IRGC) in Lebanon’s Beka Valley and received their passports at the Iranian Embassy in Damascus, Syria, along with $250,000 cash for the operation from IRGC Gen. Ahmad Sharifi.

We later learned that senior members of the Iranian government, including Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Intelligence and Security and the Spiritual Leader’s office had selected Khobar as their target and commissioned the Saudi Hezbollah to carry out the operation. The Saudi police told us that FBI agents had to interview the bombers in custody in order to make our case. To make this happen, however, the U.S. president would need to make a personal request to Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.

So for 30 months, I wrote and rewrote the same set of simple talking points for the president, Mr. Berger, and others to press the FBI’s request to go inside a Saudi prison and interview the Khobar bombers. And for 30 months nothing happened.

Meanwhile, then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Mr. Clinton ordered the FBI to stop photographing and fingerprinting Iranian wrestlers and cultural delegations entering the U.S. because the Iranians were complaining about the identification procedure. Of course they were complaining. It made it more difficult for their intelligence agents and terrorist coordinators to infiltrate into America. I was overruled by an “angry” president and Mr. Berger who said the FBI was interfering with their rapprochement with Iran.

Finally, frustrated in my attempts to execute Mr. Clinton’s “leave no stone unturned” order, I called former president George H.W. Bush. I had learned that he was about to meet Crown Prince Abdullah on another matter. After fully briefing Mr. Bush on the impasse and faxing him the talking points that I had now been working on for over two years, he personally asked the crown prince to allow FBI agents to interview the detained bombers.

Several weeks later, agents interviewed the co-conspirators. For the first time since the 1996 attack, we obtained direct evidence of Iran’s complicity. What Mr. Clinton failed to do for three years was accomplished in minutes by his predecessor. This was the breakthrough we had been waiting for, and the attorney general and I immediately went to Mr. Berger with news of the Saudi prison interviews.

Upon being advised that our investigation now had proof that Iran blew up Khobar Towers, Mr. Berger’s astounding response was: “Who knows about this?” His next, and wrong, comment was: “That’s just hearsay.” When I explained that under the Rules of Federal Evidence the detainees’ comments were indeed more than “hearsay,” for the first time ever he became interested–and alarmed–about the case. But this interest translated into nothing more than Washington “damage control” meetings held out of the fear that Congress, and ordinary Americans, would find out that Iran murdered our soldiers. After those meetings, neither the president, nor anyone else in the administration, was heard from again about Khobar.

That’s the meat, but read the whole thing. And try and tell me again why Berger and his infamous pants shouldn’t be locked up.

Snark

July 19th, 2004 - 12:35 am

I like a good snark as much as the next guy, but what was Kevin Drum thinking when he wrote this?

END OF THE ROAD….We’ve finally apprehended Bobby Fischer. Thank God our long national nightmare is finally over.

Yes, that’s the entire post.

In case you don’t remember, Fischer is wanted in the US for breaking the economic embargo against Serbia in 1992:

Fischer spoke arrogantly to the press about the irrelevance of the sanctions, and practically dared the United States to keep him from playing. Annoyed, Washington decided to make an example of him; the Department of the Treasury issued a cease-and-desist letter to Fischer, stating that if he played chess in Yugoslavia, he would be in violation of Executive Order 12810. The penalty for defying the order was a $250,000 fine, ten years in prison, or both. Fischer appeared untroubled.

Fischer has spent the last 12 years on the lam, but it’s not like we’ve been out there hunting for him big-time, wasting assets better used to identify some smear on an Afghanistan cave wall as “something which once might have been a bit of Osama’s spleen.”

Nope, Fischer stayed under the radar mostly because it was hardly ever aimed at him.

In fact, “we” didn’t apprehend him at all. Japanese authorities did, for trying to leave the country with a bad passpot — and even so, we’re not exactly pushing Tokyo to turn him over:

A spokesman for the State Department, Richard A. Boucher, said Friday that it had not yet been determined whether the United States would ask that Fischer be turned over to U.S. authorities. He said only that Fischer, who has expressed virulently anti-American views since the warrant was issued for his arrest on Dec. 15, 1992, had been visited in detention by a U.S. consular officer.

So what’s with Kevin’s snark? You got me.

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In the Army

February 3rd, 2004 - 5:33 pm

So much for defending American interests overseas:

The U.S. military has asked South Korea to ban lap dancing and other lewd acts at local nightclubs near its bases, saying they negatively impact military discipline.

The officials said the military was taking similar steps at other bases in the United States and overseas against lap dancing.

The U.S. Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, which has 15,000 troops near the border with North Korea, recently sent letters to the South Korean Special Tourist Association and local mayors urging a crack down on lap dancing clubs near barracks.

Do we expect our military to perform when they can’t even relax with a little lapdance after hours?

Seriously though (OK, so I’ve only been half-kidding so far), the funniest part of the story is the Pentagonese for “lapdance” is “client-focused exotic dancing.”

And the Pentagon version costs $250.

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