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Posts Tagged ‘hypocrisy’

I don’t like it when politicians pass laws that undermine the freedom and prosperity of the American people. But I really hate it when politicians pass those laws and exempt themselves.

Years ago, as a lowly Senate staffer, I recall watching a debate about whether politicians were going to increase fuel economy regulations and thus force people into cars that were smaller, less convenient, and less safe. One good Senator, I think perhaps Don Nickles of Oklahoma, offered an amendment that basically would have forced bigwigs on Capitol Hill to live by the same rules by requiring limousines for congressional leaders to meet the same onerous restrictions. Needless to say, the arrogant political class thought this was absurd and to this day they get driven in luxury gas guzzlers (paid for by you and me).

We now have another version of this laws-for-thee-but-not-for-me mentality from the Obama Administration. No, I’m not talking about Tim Geithner, the Treasury Secretary who is in charge of the Internal Revenue Service but got a free pass after illegally hiding $80,000 of income from the IRS. I’m talking about the President and his personal fleet of limousines.

He wants us to abide by rules that will be expensive and lower the quality of cars, but those rules won’t apply to him. Here’s what the Detroit News reported.

The U.S. Secret Service said today that some federal vehicles for law enforcement and security purposes will be exempt from President Barack Obama’s directive that all federal vehicles purchased starting 2015 be advanced technology models. Secret Service spokesman Robert Novy said the directive wouldn’t apply to vehicles used for some law enforcement or security reasons by various federal agencies. …That would include the GM-built Cadillac presidential limousine and other vehicles in the motorcade. It also expected to include many law enforcement vehicles.

Not surprisingly, this is completely contrary to what the President said he would do, as noted elsewhere in the article. Unless, of course, you think “100 percent” means something other than “100 percent.”

Obama announced the plan this week to “green” the federal fleet. “I’m directing our departments and our agencies to make sure 100 percent of the vehicles they buy are fuel-efficient or clean energy cars and trucks by 2015.Not 50 percent, not 75 percent — 100 percent of our vehicles,” Obama said today at an appearance in Landover, Md., at UPS facility to urge private companies to green their vehicle fleets.

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Senator John Kerry is enriched by tax havens. Former Democratic Senator (and professional slug) John Edwards got to use tax havens. Former President Bill Clinton got to benefit from tax havens. Connecticut’s Attorney General (and Senate candidate), Richard Blumenthal, saves money with tax havens.

Now we find out that a major Democratic donor and significant other to a Democratic Congresswoman from Maine, Donald Sussman, appears to be guilty of the horrible crime of…gasp…trying to lower his tax burden by using a tax haven. What makes this story interesting in part is the hypocrisy angle. Why is it leftists want all of us to pay more, but they get to utilize havens – or, in the case of folks like Geithner, Daschle, and Rangel, engage in outright evasion?

I’ve argued many times that tax havens are very beneficial for the world economy, so I certainly have no objection to what these Democrats are doing. I just wish they would let the rest of us in on some of the action.

But the other juicy part of the story is that there appears to be a legal catch-22 for Sussman and Congresswoman Pingree. In order for Sussman to be eligible for the big tax savings in the Virgin Islands, he needs to be a legal resident. But in order for Congresswoman Pingree to legally take rides on Sussman’s corporate jet, he needs to be living with her in Maine (technically, riding on his jet is only supposed to be legal if he’s a family member, but I guess shacking up counts in today’s society). Here’s are some amusing excerpts from the Weekly Standard.

As far as liberal financiers go, you don’t get much more powerful than S. Donald Sussman.

Since 1989, the hedge-fund billionaire has pumped millions into the coffers of Democratic politicians and their political pet projects. …he’s been one of the top contributors to left-leaning 527 organizations during the 2010 election cycle.

But while Sussman has long kept a behind-the-scenes profile, a recent ethics controversy in Maine has flung him into the center of a complicated dispute over state residency, tax dodging and congressional ethics – the implications of which extend all the way from the rocky coast of southern Maine to the offshore tax haven of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

According to Sussman’s fiancée, Rep Chellie Pingree (D-ME), the philanthropist lives with her and has been a resident of Maine since 2009. But financial records and other documents indicate that Sussman has claimed full-time residency and extensive tax breaks in the U.S. Virgin Islands for years – and may be continuing to claim them.

…Confusion over Sussman’s residency status has been dogging his fiancée’s congressional reelection bid for weeks. As the former president of an ethics watchdog group, Pingree caught flack in late September after she was found to be traveling on Sussman’s private jet – an activity prohibited by election rules, unless the aircraft owner is a family member.

In response to Republican criticism over the incident, the congresswoman said that Sussman lives with her in Maine, which may qualify him as family. The House Ethics committee has since cleared her of any charges.

…But this seems to conflict with records that suggest a company owned by Sussman is currently receiving financial benefits in the U.S. Virgin Islands. A decade ago, Sussman founded Trust Asset Management, LLP., in St. Thomas, and began paying himself income from his Connecticut-based hedge-fund firm through it. As recently as September, Trust Asset Management LLP., was listed as an active beneficiary of the Virgin Island’s tax breaks, known as the Economic Development Commission (EDC) benefits.

U.S. Virgin Island tax attorneys said that in order to receive these benefits through the EDC, a company owner must be a “bona fide” resident of the territory – meaning that the individual needs to live in the area for more than six months out of the year.

…Other information has added to the confusion over Sussman’s residency status. During an interview with the Virgin Islands Daily News in July, the hedge-fund owner reportedly told the paper that he has resided full-time in the territory since 2000.

…Sussman’s Securities and Exchange Commission filings from September also list his address as the Virgin Islands, as do political contributions he made in 2009. The website for the Great Cruz Bay Homeowners Association in St. John names Sussman as the organization’s president.

Over the past few years, the U.S. Virgin Islands have come under scrutiny for being a magnet for criminal tax evaders; individuals who want to take advantage of the territory’s 90 percent tax savings, but don’t want to make it their primary home.

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Government bureaucrats think it is their business to prevent individuals from entering voluntary contracts with companies or organizations if the level of compensation does not meet some arbitrary threshold. Congress has used minimum wage laws to prevent certain arrangements, while the Department of Justice has a set of rules detailing when unpaid internships are considered legal.  Naturally, these rules do not apply to government.

At CEI’s Open Market, Brian McGraw points to these rules from the DoJ that won’t apply for the currently advertised unpaid internships at the White House:

  1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
  2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
  3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
  4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
  6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

Yes, number 4 really does say that it’s legal only for a corporation to use unpaid interns if they are counter-productive. No such restriction will apply for the White House, though, as “Unpaid internships in the public sector and for non-profit charitable organizations, where the intern volunteers without expectation of compensation, are generally permissible.”

It is obviously hypocritical for government to restrict the use of unpaid interns for others, while at the same time everyone knows that Washington thrives on the practice. But there is no good reason for these restrictions on anyone. Individuals that enter into unpaid internships do so because they will receive something in return, usually training and experience to add to their resumes, that they value more than their labor. They would not take the position if this were not true. Like most government actions designed to protect people from themselves, prohibiting individuals from entering into voluntary unpaid internships actually harms them by limiting their opportunities.

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There’s a wise old saying about “don’t bite the hand that feeds you.” But perhaps we need a new saying along the lines of “don’t subsidize the foot that kicks you.” Here’s a good example: American taxpayers finance the biggest share of the budget for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which is an international bureaucracy based in Paris. The OECD is not as costly as the United Nations, but it still soaks up about $100 million of American tax dollars each year. And what do we get in exchange for all this money? Sadly, the answer is lots of bad policy. The bureaucrats (who, by the way, get tax-free salaries) just released their “Economic Survey of the United States, 2010” and it contains a wide range of statist analysis and big-government recommendations.

The Survey endorses Obama’s failed Keynesian spending bill and the Fed’s easy-money policy, stating, “The substantial fiscal and monetary stimulus successfully turned the economy around.” If 9.6 percent unemployment and economic stagnation is the OECD’s idea of success, I’d hate to see what they consider a failure. Then again, the OECD is based in Paris, so even America’s anemic economy may seem vibrant from that perspective.

The Survey also targets some very prominent tax loopholes, asserting that, “The mortgage interest deduction should be reduced or eliminated” and “the government should reduce further this [health care exclusion] tax expenditure.” If the entire tax code was being ripped up and replaced with a simple and fair flat tax, these would be good policies. Unfortunately (but predictably), the OECD supports these policies as a means of increasing the overall tax burden and giving politicians more money to spend.

Speaking of tax increases, the OECD is in love with higher taxes. The Paris-based bureaucrats endorse Obama’s soak-the-rich tax agenda, including higher income tax rates, higher capital gains tax rates, more double taxation of dividends, and a reinstated death tax. Perhaps because they don’t pay tax and are clueless about how the real world operates, the bureaucrats state that “…the Administration’s fiscal plan is ambitious…and should therefore be implemented in full.”

But even that’s not enough. The OECD then puts together a menu of additional taxes and even gives political advice on how to get away with foisting these harsh burdens on innocent American taxpayers. According to the Survey, “A variety of options is available to raise tax revenue, some of which are discussed below. Combined, they have the potential to raise considerably more revenue… The advantage of relying on a package of measures is that the increase in taxation faced by individual groups is more limited than otherwise, reducing incentives to mobilise to oppose the tax increase.

The biggest kick in the teeth, though, is the OECD’s support for a value-added tax. The bureaucrats wrote that, “Raising consumption taxes, notably by introducing a federal value-added tax (VAT), could therefore be another approach… A national VAT would be easier to enforce than other taxes, as each firm in the production chain pays only a fraction of the tax and must report the sales of other firms.”

But just in case you think the OECD is myopically focused on tax increases, you’ll be happy to know it is a full-service generator of bad ideas. The Paris-based bureaucracy also is a rabid supporter of the global-warming/climate-change/whatever-they’re-calling-it-now agenda. There’s an entire chapter in the survey on the issue, but the key passages is, “The current Administration is endeavouring to establish a comprehensive climate-change policy, the main planks of which are pricing GHG emissions and supporting the development of innovative technologies to reduce GHG emissions. As discussed above and emphasized in the OECD (2009), this is the right approach… Congress should pass comprehensive climate-change legislation.”

You won’t be surprised to learn that the OECD’s reflexive support for higher taxes appears even in this section. The bureaucrats urge that “such regulation should be complemented by increases in gasoline and other fossil-fuel taxes.”

If you’re still not convinced the OECD is a giant waste of money for American taxpayers, I suggest you watch this video released by the Center for Freedom and Prosperity about two months ago. It’s a damning indictment of the OECD’s statist agenda (and this was before the bureaucrats released the horrid new “Economic Survey of the United States”).

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I sympathize with almost all taxpayers, but it’s difficult to feel sorry for government workers who get in trouble with the IRS. Compensation packages for federal bureaucrats are twice as lucrative as those for workers in the productive sector of the economy and their pensions are similarly extravagant. Yet they often can’t be bothered to fully pay their taxes, owing billions of dollars to the IRS according to a Washington Post report. Among the biggest scofflaws are the folks at the Postal Service, who have accumulated more than $283 million of unpaid taxes. Retired bureaucrats, meanwhile, have amassed nearly $455 million of back taxes. Even tax collectors sometimes fall behind. Treasury Department bureaucrats owe $7.7 million. How hard can it be for them to walk down the hallway and cough up? Or do they think they’re exempt since their boss barely got a slap on the wrist after “forgetting” to declare $80,000? The most startling part of the story, though, is the degree of tax dodging on Capitol Hill. Here’s an excerpt from the story.

Capitol Hill employees owed $9.3 million in overdue taxes at the end of last year…

The debt among Hill employees has risen at a faster rate than the overall tax debt on the government’s books, according to Internal Revenue Service data.

…The IRS data…shows 638 employees, or about 4 percent, of the 18,000 Hill workers owe money, a slightly higher percentage than the 3 percent delinquency rate among all returns filed nationwide.

…”If you’re on the federal payroll and you’re not paying your taxes, you should be fired,” [Congressman] Chaffetz said in an interview. He said the policy should apply across the board and “there should be no special exemptions.”

The shocking part about this blurb, at least to me, is not the 638 staffers who owe money to the IRS. It’s the fact that there are 18,000 bureaucrats working for Congress. Do 100 Senators and 435 Representatives really need that many attendants? How I long for the good ol’ days, when each politician had about two staffers. I suspect it’s no coincidence that the federal government was a much smaller burden back when there were far fewer staff.

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Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, the Congressional Budget Office follows a predictable pattern of endorsing policies that result in bigger government. During the debate about the so-called stimulus, for instance, CBO said more spending and higher deficits would be good for the economy. It then followed up that analysis by claiming that the faux stimulus worked even though millions of jobs were lost. Then, during the Obamacare debate, CBO actually claimed that a giant new entitlement program would reduce deficits. Now that tax increases are the main topic (because of the looming expiration of the 2001 and 2003 tax bills), CBO has done a 180-degree turn and has published a document discussing the negative consequences of too much deficits and debt.

…persistent deficits and continually mounting debt would have several negative economic consequences for the United States. Some of those consequences would arise gradually: A growing portion of people’s savings would go to purchase government debt rather than toward investments in productive capital goods such as factories and computers; that “crowding out” of investment would lead to lower output and incomes than would otherwise occur. …a growing level of federal debt would also increase the probability of a sudden fiscal crisis, during which investors would lose confidence in the government’s ability to manage its budget, and the government would thereby lose its ability to borrow at affordable rates. …If the United States encountered a fiscal crisis, the abrupt rise in interest rates would reflect investors’ fears that the government would renege on the terms of its existing debt or that it would increase the supply of money to finance its activities or pay creditors and thereby boost inflation.

At some point, even Republicans should be smart enough to figure out that this game is rigged. Then again, the GOP controlled Congress for a dozen years and failed to reform either CBO or its counterpart on the revenue side, the Joint Committee on Taxation (which is infamous for its assumption that tax policy has no impact on overall economic performance).

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I don’t know whether he is a poster child for the dangers of inbreeding or a rich dolt who is seeking meaning in his life, but Prince Charles takes left-wing hypocrisy to an entirely new level. His “carbon footprint” almost surely is bigger than 99.9 percent of the world’s population, yet this pampered and clueless aristocrat thinks he was put on the earth to save the rest of us from sins such as “global warming” and ”unbridled commerce.” If he gave up the throne and dedicated himself to a life of genuine self-denial, I would call him a clueless moron. Until that happens, he is best categorized as a hypocritical clueless moron.

The Prince of Wales says he believes he has been placed on Earth as future King ‘for a purpose’ – to save the world.

Giving a fascinating insight into his view of his inherited wealth and influence, he said: ‘I can only somehow imagine that I find myself being born into this position for a purpose.

‘I don’t want my grandchildren or yours to come along and say to me, “Why the hell didn’t you come and do something about this? You knew what the problem was”. That is what motivates me.

‘I wanted to express something in the outer world that I feel inside… We seem to have lost that understanding of the whole of nature and the universe as a living entity.’

His impassioned comments come during a film about his belief that unbridled commerce has led to the destruction of farmland and countryside.

…But the Prince has previously come under fire for hypocrisy over his eco-values.

Last year he commandeered a jet belonging to the Queen’s Flight to attend the Copenhagen climate change summit, generating an estimated 6.4 tons of carbon dioxide – 5.2 tons more than if he had used a commercial plane.

…Graham Smith, of the anti-monarchy group Republic, said: ‘He is under the impression he has been sent to save the world and deliver us from our sins. It’s quite delusional.

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