The IRS: A Bottomless Bowl of Corruption

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By Clay Olsen | May 20th, 2013

If you have been watching the news lately (depending on the news you are watching/reading), then you probably have seen a few scandals that the federal government has recently been involved in. What are we to make of these instances? Are we to think of them as mere accidents in the government’s noble quest to make life better for its citizens? I would assert that these cases should clearly reveal to us the overreaching monster that our federal government has become.

News has surfaced that the IRS has been focusing its harassment on Conservative groups around the country. The Obama administration wants to assure the American people that, as always, they are “going to get to the bottom of it.” A translation of this statement from D.C. jargon to plain English: We, the bureaucrats, are going to investigate ourselves and replace IRS officials with more bureaucrats. And that is supposed to put the issue to rest.

It turns out that the commissioner of the IRS division in charge of handling tax exempt organizations during the bullying of the Tea Party, Sarah Hall Ingram, is now the director of the IRS division in charge of implementing Obamacare regulations. Are we to expect the same targeting in dealing with the American people’s healthcare? This woman was involved in inappropriate actions for years, and apparently, no one was there to keep her accountable.

Now there is news that a major donor to the Romney campaign was targeted after donating a large sum of money. What country do we live in when a government organization is targeting citizens for their political views and contributions? The donor was never audited before; he was not a man with a questionable record. This man was audited, his business lost customers, and he had to pay $80,000 in lawyer fees. And every week there is news coming out about how this federal government is pushing around and bullying the “little guy” who it so often claims to defend.

President Obama’s initial response when the IRS story broke was that he did not know about it. That seems to be a popular defense for the Obama administration and was used to respond to the Benghazi scandal. If there is no accountability within this government, than perhaps it is too big. The bullying by the IRS has been going on for years and we are expected to accept that no one knew about it. It makes me wonder what other things are being done by the government that we are unaware of.

The growing corruption of the government should not be a huge surprise by those who have studied history. An increase in power without accountability will always lead to more corruption. The Framers understood this and sought to limit the power of the federal government by leaving a significant amount of authority in the hands of the states. The federal government has always tried to increase its power and reach at the expense of local authority. Perhaps it is time to pull back and return power to state and local governments.

Both sides of the political spectrum were for simplifying the tax code in the 2012 campaign. Of course, the proposed path of simplification is different for different parties. This IRS scandal, I think, supports the Conservative’s stance on a flat tax. The proposed tax is simple: a citizen will pay a proportionate amount of the product of thier labor. This would be a great way to roll back the IRS, which would in affect, reduce corruption. This government is long overdue for a significant reduction in power. In order to make sure these outrageous scandals do not happen again, we must decentralize the federal government and empower local authorities.

The Ambivalent Elephant in the Room

Gang of Eight

Senator Marco Rubio speaking at a press conference on Capitol Hill with his Senate colleagues outlining his ideas for an immigration overhaul
Picture Courtesy of Desecret News

Danny Zeng | May 9, 2013

Many on the Right have come out in full force against Sen. Marco Rubio’s courageous effort to reform the current immigration system. Although there are legitimate arguments to be made against “amnesty,” economic and social, some rhetoric are nonetheless blown out of proportion. Smart people on very short attention span seem to forget just how bad the current immigration system is for lawful and unlawful immigrants. As it stands now, we don’t even know who’re in our country! Not to mention an unsecure border that let’s in criminals and narcotics, a legal system that deprives many of economic and social mobility, and a conscious polarization of our society between citizens and the foreign-born. Many immigrants have been active in their communities, working and living in the U.S. for many years, paying taxes, raising a family, and saving up for college. Even the most ardent exclusionists can appreciate the powerful motive of human beings’ innate desire for a better life. Immigration is plagued by systemic problems, so naturally it requires systemic solutions. Sen. Rubio and others have started this conversation. Let’s finish it and act in good faith to make our immigration system work for those who are currently in the country and many more highly skilled workers and entrepreneurs who thirst to benefit from our capitalist enterprise and to achieve their American Dream.

The current Senate bill, first and foremost, focuses on securing the border. It asks the Department for Homeland Security to come up with a border security plan that will be conditioned as a triggering mechanism for providing undocumented a provisional status. The path to citizenship is at least 13 years. Currently, undocumented immigrants will have to pay back fines and taxes. The bill cuts down chain migration by eliminating adult siblings and children from the preference system. It also boosts the number of allowance for skilled immigrants and provides uncapped access to foreign entrepreneurs. This shift from family-centric to skill-based immigration regime is monumental. It will contribute to America’s competitiveness in an increasingly globalized economy. 

On Monday, Heritage released its heavily criticized study that concludes that “If amnesty is enacted, the average adult unlawful immigrant would receive $592,000 more in government benefits over the course of his remaining lifetime than he would pay in taxes.” Unfortunately, by only examining taxes and welfare, Heritage fails to consider positive economic contributions from provisions embedded in the reform bill, such as opening up our system more to high-skilled workers. The Heritage study counts retirement benefits that are decades away without even acknowledging the possibility of entitlement reforms in the near future. The government predicates that Social Security will dry up by 2036, at which time benefits will either be curtailed, people will shore up by paying more taxes, or government defaults on its obligations to its citizens. Entitlements will be reformed sooner or later as a matter of necessity. Thus, projecting the current welfare spending level outward into the future is misleading.

The study has also been criticized by leading free-market experts from the American Enterprise Institute and the Cato Institute for its misleading figures that fail to take into account the dynamism in our economy. Daniel Foster, who writes for National Review Online, argues that the Heritage study, if anything, is a strong case to roll back the welfare state. Cato condbucted a study a few years back that concludes that comprehensive immigration reform will have a net positive $1.5 trillion contribution to our economy, as real wages tend to go up for unlawful immigrants who come out of the shadow, yielding higher consumption and more government revenues.

The immigration bill is also found by the Chief Actuary of the Social Security Administration to have a “substantial positive effect” on the economy by shoring up entitlements. According to the Social Security Administration, the bill would add more than $275 billion in revenue to Social Security and Medicare, increase the gross domestic product by 1.63 percent and add more than 3 million jobs over the next decade” (May 8, 2013 Bloomberg)

Instead of a coordinated campaign of shooting ourselves in the foot, let’s shore up our nation’s broken immigration system by actually leading on the issue. Ignore the fringe noise of exclusionists. GOP leaders should be vocal in support of reform. There are those who advocate for incrementalism in reforming immigration. Democrats and their union stooges will never opt for that route, so realistically incremental reform will get us nowhere, if not worse than status quo. Comprehensive reform is the only politically viable way forward. The defeatists within the Party would suggest that the 11 million undocumented would necessarily vote Democrat in decades to come. That is synonymous to waving white flag and admits defeat without even putting on a fight.  If our party cannot figure out dynamic ways to engage our fellow Americans with an optimistic vision and sound public policies, then our party will be swept into the dustbin of history. The GOP House will have sufficient political sway to ensure whatever safeguards deemed necessary to strengthen border security and enforcement provisions. The Republicans have the upper hand in this negotiation. Let’s not squander the opportunity to lead on an issue that will create a safer and stronger United States of America for the 21st century.

Forget Reason: Self Defense is Simply Human Nature

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State Rep. Allen Fletcher speaking in favor of HB 972 in the Texas House
Courtesy of Austin American-Statesman

Danny Zeng | May 6, 2013

Washington Post did a followed-up story titled, “A clear case of self-defense rallies supporters of gun rights,” about an incidence that happened in January, when a Georgian Mother shot a burglar who broke into her house when both of her children were home. That’s the point that defenders of gun rights have been making time after time: it’s about self-defense; it always has been.

In the past few months, this debate was distorted in the public discourse to support a menu of “reasonable” measures. Whenever a piece of legislation is broken down into component parts, people are more likely to support individual parts than the legislation as a whole.  That’s the polling tactic used by gun-control advocates throughout this debate. It’s the same tactic used to push Obamacare through. An overwhelming majority, Republicans and Democrats, supported provisions such as a coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, tax credits for individuals and small businesses, and closing the Medicare “doughnut hole;” even though Obamacare overall remains divisive. The Texas Legislature is presently wrestling with campus carry bills. The argument for us is still the same: it’s about self-defense.

Though an important detail ignored – intentionally or otherwise – in the WaPo story is the burglar’s history of criminality. ABC reported in January, “Last year he [Paul Slater] served 6 months in jail for battery and has at least six other arrests on his record.” The story never even mentions this point. In fact, the lingering impression is almost sympathetic to Zakia Slater’s (wife of the burglar) predicament. Her role as a schoolteacher, a mother of six, and a depicted “victim” in the situation attempt to humanize the other side of the conflict. This distracts from the fact that her husband’s a criminal, an important fact that underlies the whole logic behind gun-rights advocates for self-defense.

Same rationale, rooted in human nature, applies to support for campus carry. Why should we as college students living in one of the most high-density areas in Austin deny possibilities of irrational violence and criminality  and deprive ourselves of effective means to self-defense? Simple faiths in the security of our campus and the professionalism of our police force have failed to prevent campus shootings and violent crimes in recent years. DOE’s Office of Postsecondary Education reports 649 burglaries, 124 motor vehicle theft, 66 aggravated assaults, and 51 forcible sex offense, and 33 robberies on Texas college campuses.  In this sense, to be against campus carry is to be for status quo, a situation that exposes us to dangerous and perhaps irrational minds in our society.

Melinda Herman did what any mother would do for her children. In moments of inexplicable chaos, I can’t imagine any self-preservative motive greater than one’s inherent instinct to protect people we love. I do realize that in the Hermans’ case, the gun is within the confines of her home, but the underlying logic is nonetheless the same: the possession of a firearm is the only effective mean to stop a violent perpetrator, as opposed to a slew of ridiculous guidelines offered by universities across the country:

  • Wichita State University counsels students in the following manner: “If the person(s) is causing death or serious physical injury to others and you are unable to run or hide you may choose to be compliant, play dead, or fight for your life.”
  • The University of Miami guidelines suggest that when all else fails, students should act “as aggressively as possible” against a shooter. The guidelines, taken from a Department of Homeland Security directive, also recommend “throwing items and improvising weapons,” as well as “yelling.”
  • Otterbein University, in Ohio, tells students to “breathe to manage your fear” and informs them, “You may have to take the offensive if the shooter(s) enter your area. Gather weapons (pens, pencils, books, chairs, etc.) and mentally prepare your attack.”
  • West Virginia University advises students that if the situation is dire, they should “act with physical aggression and throw items at the active shooter.” These items could include “student desks, keys, shoes, belts, books, cell phones, iPods, book bags, laptops, pens, pencils, etc.”
  • The University of Colorado at Boulder’s guidelines state, “You and classmates or friends may find yourselves in a situation where the shooter will accost you. If such an event occurs, quickly develop a plan to attack the shooter … Consider a plan to tackle the shooter, take away his weapon, and hold him until police arrive.

The Texas House gave Rep. Fletcher’s campus carry bill, which includes an “opt out” provision allowing institutions to decide its own gun policy, a preliminary OK over the weekend. The eyes will now be on the Senate and the Lieutenant Governor who has the power to reassign Birdwell’s bill to another committee. The fight goes on. We are that much closer to a more sensible campus carry law that would contribute to the safety of our campuses throughout Texas.