Ed Driscoll

Change: US No Longer One of the Top Ten Most Economically Free Countries

We’re number 12! We’re number 12! “Regulation, taxes and debt knock the U.S. out of the world’s top 10,” Terry Miller of the Wall Street Journal reports:

World economic freedom has reached record levels, according to the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom, released Tuesday by the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal. But after seven straight years of decline, the U.S. has dropped out of the top 10 most economically free countries.

For 20 years, the index has measured a nation’s commitment to free enterprise on a scale of 0 to 100 by evaluating 10 categories, including fiscal soundness, government size and property rights. These commitments have powerful effects: Countries achieving higher levels of economic freedom consistently and measurably outperform others in economic growth, long-term prosperity and social progress. Botswana, for example, has made gains through low tax rates and political stability.

Those losing freedom, on the other hand, risk economic stagnation, high unemployment and deteriorating social conditions. For instance, heavy-handed government intervention in Brazil’s economy continues to limit mobility and fuel a sense of injustice.

It’s not hard to see why the U.S. is losing ground. Even marginal tax rates exceeding 43% cannot finance runaway government spending, which has caused the national debt to skyrocket. The Obama administration continues to shackle entire sectors of the economy with regulation, including health care, finance and energy. The intervention impedes both personal freedom and national prosperity.

News such as this helps to explain America’s ongoing economic backslide: “The Fix Is In in the IRS Abuse Scandal,” Bryan Preston writes at the PJ Tatler:

The FBI says criminal charges in the IRS abuse scandal aren’t likely.

The officials said investigators didn’t find the kind of political bias or “enemy hunting” that would amount to a violation of criminal law. Instead, what emerged during the probe was evidence of a mismanaged bureaucracy enforcing rules about tax-exemption applications it didn’t understand, according to the law-enforcement officials.

That’s bogus. President Obama himself at least set the tone that led to the abuse of conservative, Christian and Tea Party groups by calling for them to be investigated in several of his public comments. He may have done a whole lot more than just set the tone. Obama placed William Wilkins into the IRS counsel’s office, and that office was responsible for developing the IRS guidelines that led to the targeting of the president’s opponents. IRS chief counsel Wilkins met with President Obama just two days before his office handed out the guidelines that agents used to target the president’s opponents. A day after that, the head of the IRS workers union also met with President Obama. Either of these meetings looks bad, but both together look terrible. Also, then IRS commissioner Doug Shulman attended 118 meetings in the White House across the time of the abuse.

The IRS is a unionized government bureaucracy. If you want the lower-level functionaries in a unionized bureaucracy to do anything, you have to get buy-in from those above them in the bureaucracy. The BS has to roll downhill — unionized bureaucrats do not act on their own initiative, ever. Circumstantially, there’s evidence in the two meetings noted above for the BS to have been set on its path downhill to the IRS office in Cincinnati that functioned as the center of the abuse, by the president himself. President Obama has never explained what those meetings were for, if they weren’t for the purpose of starting the IRS off on its assignment to target his enemies and slow them down ahead of the 2012 election.

The White House counsel is also a politically appointed office that answers to the president. The White House counsel had developed a “careful plan” to roll out the scandal before the IRS’ Lois Lerner upset that plan with her own managed rollout.

That strongly suggests states plainly that the White House counsel — political appointee Kathryn Ruemmler at the time — knew about the abuse before it was known to the public. That’s because it did: The White House counsel knew of the targeting very early on.

JWF notes that “Just last [week] some Tea Party groups said they were contacted by the FBI for the first time:”

The FBI finally has begun to contact some of the tea party groups targeted by the Internal Revenue Service for inappropriate scrutiny in the first public signs that the administration’s criminal investigation is progressing.

A lawyer representing some of the tea party groups that battled the IRS for tax-exempt status told The Washington Times that a “small number” of his clients were recently contacted, seven months after the investigation was supposed to have begun.

Ace adds, “That’s usually how you do investigations — you figure out the conclusion and then, as you’re finishing up your report, you reach out to the actual victim-witnesses to hear whatever lies you’ll have to mention in your footnotes.”

Hey, good enough for Comcast-MSNBC, which contacted representatives of Koch Industries for a rebuttal 45 minutes before their hit piece aired, good enough for the FBI. Or to put it another way:

The probe has been freighted with political suspicions. Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who has represented about a dozen groups that faced such IRS questioning, said the FBI has yet to contact her clients over the issue. “As far as I can tell, nobody has actually done an investigation. This has been a big, bureaucratic, former-Soviet-Union-type investigation, which means that there was no investigation,” she said. “This is a deplorable abuse of the public trust, but I am not surprised.”

A totalitarian nation-style whitewashing of the IRS? Really, I just can’t see it myself.


Exit paraphrase, to return to the original topic of this post: “Obama not waiting on legislation: ‘I’ve got a pen and I can use it to sign executive orders’…”