Saturday, June 21, 2014

Stockman bill allows taxpayers to use same lame excuses as IRS


WASHINGTON -- Taxpayers who do not produce documents for the Internal Revenue Service will be able to offer a variety of dubious excuses under legislation introduced by Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX 36) a week after the IRS offered an incredibly dubious excuse for its failure to turn documents over to House investigators.

“The United States was founded on the belief government is subservient and accountable to the people.  Taxpayers shouldn’t be expected to follow laws the Obama administration refuses to follow themselves,” said Stockman.  “Taxpayers should be allowed to offer the same flimsy, obviously made-up excuses the Obama administration uses.”

Under Stockman’s bill, “The Dog Ate My Tax Receipts Act,” taxpayers who do not provide documents requested by the IRS can claim one of the following reasons:

1.         The dog ate my tax receipts
2.         Convenient, unexplained, miscellaneous computer malfunction
3.         Traded documents for five terrorists
4.         Burned for warmth while lost in the Yukon
5.         Left on table in Hillary’s Book Room
6.         Received water damage in the trunk of Ted Kennedy’s car
7.         Forgot in gun case sold to Mexican drug lords
8.         Forced to recycle by municipal Green Czar
9.         Was short on toilet paper while camping
10.       At this point, what difference does it make?

Stockman’s bill comes a week after the IRS refused to turn over to House investigators emails from former Exempt Organizations Divison director Lois Lerner that would implicate agency personnel in illegal targeting of citizens critical of President Barack Obama.

The IRS claimed a “computer glitch” has erased the hard drives of all incriminating evidence.  The IRS further claimed the hard drives are not available for forensic investigation as they had just been destroyed for recycling.

The full text of the resolution follows:

The resolution may be cited as the “Dog Ate My Tax Receipts Resolution.”

Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) must allow taxpayers the same lame excuses for missing documentation that the IRS itself is currently proffering

Whereas, the IRS claims that convenient, unexplained, miscellaneous computer malfunction is sufficient justification not to produce specific, critical documentation; and,

Whereas, fairness and Due Process demand that the American taxpayer be granted no less latitude than we afford the bureaucrats employed presently at the IRS;

Now, therefore, be it resolved that it is the sense of the House of Representatives that unless and until the Internal Revenue Service produces all documentation demanded by subpoena or otherwise by the House of Representatives, or produces an excuse that passes the red face test,

All taxpayers shall be given the benefit of the doubt when not producing critical documentation, so long as the taxpayer’s excuse therefore falls into one of the following categories:

1.         The dog ate my tax receipts
2.         Convenient, unexplained, miscellaneous computer malfunction
3.         Traded documents for five terrorists
4.         Burned for warmth while lost in the Yukon
5.         Left on table in Hillary’s Book Room
6.         Received water damage in the trunk of Ted Kennedy’s car
7.         Forgot in gun case sold to Mexican drug lords
8.         Forced to recycle by municipal Green Czar
9.         Was short on toilet paper while camping
10.       At this point, what difference does it make?

In any case, IRS can see the NSA for a good, high quality copy.


In these Kansas towns, driving a car makes you a potential criminal


HANDS OFF: Police in Prairie Village, Olathe, Lenexa and Overland Park won’t hand out personal requests for automatic license plate reader data, citing a state exemption for “criminal investigation records.”

OSAWATOMIE, Kan. — Have you ever driven a car through Lenexa, Olathe, Overland Park or Prairie Village? Then congratulations! Local law enforcement considers you and me — everyone on the road — to be a potential criminal.
In April, my fellow reporter Kathryn Watson had the tenacity to ask police in Alexandria, Va., what information they had collected on her through the use of automatic license plate readers. What she found was nothing short of creepy. Law enforcement records tracked her vehicle home, around Old Town Alexandria and even on her way to Bible study.
My curiosity piqued, I set out to do the same, only to run into a brick wall tossed up by law enforcement.
I have no way of knowing when and where police in Lenexa, Olathe, Overland Park or Prairie Village have recorded my movements with automatic license plate readers, because all three departments cite an exemption to the Kansas Open Records Act.
What exemption is that, you ask? The one explicitly reserved for “criminal investigation records.”
I was more than a little alarmed the first time this blockade was tossed in my face. Sure, I have a few speeding tickets on my record, but as far as I know I haven’t committed any criminal activity in the aforementioned municipalities. Wes Jordan, Prairie Village chief of police, John Knoll, Overland Park assistant city attorney, and MacKenzie Harvison, Lenexa deputy city attorney, assured me I wasn’t the focus of any investigation.
I’m still waiting on clarification from the Olathe Police Department, but I expect a similar response.
With that being the case, I’m left with only one alternative.
These law enforcement agencies consider everyone to be a potential criminal — you just may not have committed the crime yet.
“It seems to infer that,” said Holly Weatherford, advocacy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas.
For the record, state law defines criminal investigation records as any police evidence or information “compiled in the process of preventing, detecting or investigating violations of criminal law.”
“To me, you know, it seems like a core principle in our society that government doesn’t invade peoples’ privacy, they don’t collect information about citizens and our activities just in case they do something wrong,” Weatherford said. “And refusing to disclose your personal activities or information to you claiming it’s a part of a criminal investigation seems to fly in the face of that principle.”
My colleague in Virginia was able to acquire her information because of the state’s Government Data Collection and Dissemination Act, which instructs public entities to fulfill open records requests for personal information like this. Kansas has no such directive.
“Kansas has one of the most restrictive open records laws in the country, so we’re paying attention and we’re really interested when people are asking for information and being denied and for what reason, we’re really trying to understand how the different government agencies in Kansas use those exemptions,” Weatherford added. “This is one I haven’t heard yet.”
For what it’s worth, Harvison said while Lenexa wouldn’t give me any actual information because of the cited exemption, they don’t yet have any record of my plates in the system.

Leawood throws the book at Little Free Library


By Travis Perry │ Kansas Watchdog

OSAWATOMIE, Kan. — The city of Leawood is using the full power of the law to protect property values from the threat of, uh, free cabinet-sized libraries.
A municipal statute designed to ban all detached structures is being levied against Leawood residents Brian and Sarah Collins after their 9-year-old son, Spencer, worked with his dad and grandpa to build the Little Free Library as a Mother’s Day gift.
The concept is nothing if not quaint; think “take a penny, leave a penny,” except with books. While the initiative has been allowed to flourish unhindered in surrounding communities such as Prairie Village, Leawood has taken a strict stance against the matter. The issue isn’t the diminutive library’s existence, but rather its location.
City code starkly forbids any detached structure, “including garages, barns, sheds, greenhouses, above ground pools, or outbuildings.” The Collins would need to attach the storage box to their house to comply with the law, but that would also drastically reduce its current curbside visibility.
While the Collins have already aired their grievances on the matter, other folks are taking to the web to spout off about the city’s judgement — or lack thereof — on the issue.

Public Safety: Immigrant asked minor for “sexual favors” on social media


A man is behind bars after authorities issued a warrant for his arrest on a charge of online solicitation of a minor.
Alexis Fernandez was arrested in Edinburg earlier this week.
A complaint was filed that he was harassing a child under the age of 16, Brownsville police said.
The 19-year-old is accused of using social media to ask the minor for sexual favors, police said.
With the help of the Edinburg Police Department, the Brownsville Police Department was able to obtain a warrant.
The exact age of the minor was not released.
His bond is currently pending at this time.

Colombian Judges Suspect They’re Being Spied On


BOGOTA – The president of Colombia’s highest administrative court said on Friday that an investigation is under way to determine whether the tribunal has been a victim of cyber-espionage.

“We suspect what has been called a ‘grab,’ or a leak of inappropriate information, so we request the support of the Attorney General’s Office,” the head of the Council of State, Maria Claudia Rojas, told RCN La Radio.

“We hope for results in the shortest possible time because this is very serious,” she said.

Concerns about spying arose after the publication of reports that appeared to have been stolen from the computer of council magistrate Gustavo Gomez, whose portfolio includes the controversial case of Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro.

The mayor, a leftist former guerrilla, was reinstated in April after a court found that his March 19 ouster contravened Colombia’s obligation to honor formal requests from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Petro turned to the commission, a body of the Organization of American States, after losing a battle in Colombian courts against a decision by the Inspector General’s Office to remove him from office for alleged mismanagement.

The IG’s office ruling would also bar the 53-year-old Petro from holding any public post for 15 years.

In the wake of Petro’s reinstatement, the IG’s office asked the Council of State to overturn the April ruling in the mayor’s favor.

Gomez is reviewing the brief from the IG’s office.


3,137-County Analysis: Obamacare Increased 2014 Individual-Market Premiums By Average Of 49%


There are hundreds of aspects of Obamacare that people argue over. But there’s one question that matters above all others: does the Affordable Care Act live up to its name? Does it make health insurance less expensive? Last November, our team at the Manhattan Institute published a study indicating that Obamacare had increased the underlying cost of individually-purchased health insurance in the average state by 41 percent in 2014, relative to 2013. We’ve now redone the study on a county-by-county basis, complete with a brand-new interactive map. Depending on where you live, the results may surprise you.
Our new county-by-county analysis was led by Yegeniy Feyman, who compiled the county-based data for 27-year-olds, 40-year-olds, and 64-year-olds, segregated by gender. We were able to obtain data for 3,137 of the United States’ 3,144 counties.
Buchanan County, Mo. sees 271% rate hike for men
Among men, the county with the greatest increase in insurance prices from 2013 to 2014 was Buchanan County, Missouri, about 45 miles north of Kansas City: 271 percent. Among women, the “winner” was Goodhue County, Minnesota, about an hour southwest of Minneapolis: 200 percent. Overall, the counties of Nevada, North Carolina, Minnesota, and Arkansas haven experienced the largest rate hikes under the law.
The best-faring county for both men and women was St. Lawrence County in northern New York, with premium decreases of 70 percent in 2014 relative to 2013. The New York City metropolitan area—the five boroughs, Long Island, and Westchester County—are the clear winners under Obamacare, with decreases in the 63 to 64 percent range.
Map2 home
Obamacare bails out New York’s death spiral
There’s a reason why New York does so well. In 1992, then-Gov. Mario Cuomo (D.) signed a law barring health insurers from charging different rates based on age, gender, health, or smoking status: what wonks call pure community rating. Naturally, older and sicker people thought this was a great deal, while younger and healthier people dropped out. As I detailed last summer, New York quickly became the poster child of the dreaded adverse selection death spiral.
Obamacare’s regulations are similar to Mario Cuomo’s, with two key differences. First, Obamacare has an individual mandate forcing young people to buy costlier insurance than they need. Second, many low-income people qualify for subsidies under Obamacare, encouraging healthy (but poor) people to sign up. Indeed, Cuomo’s successor George Pataki (R.) instituted a subsidized exchange called “Healthy New York” that did somewhat mitigate the Cuomo death spiral for those who were poor enough to qualify.
In addition, Obamacare allows a slightly wider age-rating band than New York; the federal law allows insurers to charge older individuals three times as much as younger ones. Since older people consume around six times as much health care as younger people, this is still a rip-off for the young in most parts of the country, but it doesn’t make a difference in the Empire State, which has deliberately chosen to maintain its requirement that age can play no factor in health premiums.
Women face rate hikes in 82% of U.S. counties; men 91%
Across the country, for men overall, individual-market premiums went up in 91 percent of all counties: 2,844 out of 3,137. For 27-year-old men, the average county faced 91 percent increases; for 40-year-old men, 60 percent; for 64-year-old men, 32 percent.
Women fared slightly better; their premiums “only” went up in 82 percent of all counties: 2,562 out of 3,137. That’s because Obamacare bars insurers from charging different rates to men and women; prior to Obamacare, only 11 states did so. Because women tend to consume more health care than men, the end result of the Obamacare regulation is that men fare somewhat worse.
Relative to men, the average rate increase for women was less extreme: 44 percent for 27-year-olds; 23 percent for 40-year-olds; 42 percent for 64-year-olds.
Map2 Florida counties

Methodology consistent with previous studies
To calculate these figures, we used the same methodology we’ve used in the past. We compiled an average of the five least-expensive plans in a particular county pre-Obamacare, adjusted to take into account those with pre-existing conditions and other health problems. We then did the same calculation with the five least-expensive plans in each county under the Obamacare exchanges. We then used these county-based numbers to come up with population-weighted averages pre- and post-Obamacare.
Remember that these figures represent the underlying, unsubsidizedhealth insurance prices. If you’re eligible for a subsidy—if your income is below 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level—taxpayers will help defray a portion of these costs. Those subsidies will disproportionately help those in their late fifties and early sixties, because of the way the Obamacare exchanges interact with the subsidy formula.
new report from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (ASPE HHS) indicates that among those who signed up for Obamacare exchange plans this year, subsidies covered on average 76 percent of the underlying premium. That is to say, the exchanges attracted the low-hanging fruit of those who had the most to gain from taxpayer-funded subsidies.
If you go to our interactive map, and click on the “Your Decision” tab, you can find out whether subsidies will help you. For example, in Texas, if you’re a 27-year-old man and you make more than $27,991, you’re likely to pay more under Obamacare, even if you qualify for a subsidy. If you’re 30 years old, with an average household size, you’ll need to make less than $36,409 to break even under Obamacare. 64-year-olds in Texas, on average, will see decreased rates, hence the table lists “$0” as the income at which net premiums increase.
Will Obamacare rate shock affect the 2014 election?
Our map only looks at counties, not Congressional districts. But it is certainly conceivable that there are competitive House races where rate shock will be an issue. And we will start to get more information about 2015 premiums starting this summer. Thus far, it’s not clear how 2015 premiums will look relative to 2014; reports from insurers like WellPoint and Aetna have been mixed.
If the polls are any guide, however, most voters haven’t benefited from the law. Remember that President Obama often promised that his plan would “lower premiums by up to $2,500 for a typical family per year…by the end of my first term as President of the United States.” It’s an understatement to say that this has not happened.
Those who face higher premiums, higher taxes, or both, appear to outnumber those whom the law has made better off. That alone isn’t a test of the law’s virtue—but it is a measure of the law’s failed promise.
*    *    *
UPDATE: In a follow-up post, I respond to certain left-wing critics who claim that rate shock doesn’t matter, because certain individuals will have their higher premiums offset by taxpayer-funded subsidies.
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INVESTORS’ NOTE: The biggest publicly-traded players in Obamacare’s health insurance exchanges are Aetna (NYSE:AET), Humana (NYSE:HUM), Cigna (NYSE:CI), Molina (NYSE:MOH), WellPoint (NYSE:WLP), and Centene (NYSE:CNC), in order of the number of uninsured exchange-eligible Americans for whom their plans are available.