Taxes and Audits

Fox Business reported the following earlier in the week:

The IRS says budget cuts forced the agency to reduce the number of tax audits last year to the lowest level in a decade.

In 2014, fewer than 1 percent of individual tax returns were audited, the lowest rate since 2004. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen says the number of audits is likely to decline again this year.

In a speech on Tuesday, Koskinen said there are fewer audits because the tax agency has fewer agents. He said the IRS is down more than 2,200 revenue agents since 2010.

A Thought on Net Neutrality

…as conceived in secret by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

The image below, from the AP via USA Today, is…illustrative. The outage about which the article was written was clearly the result of vandalism. Read carefully, those signs taped to the window in the image.NetNeutrality

Think about them. Think about what happens when Government controls the Internet. The concerns presently center of free speech, and those concerns are of extreme importance. But the same control gives Government control over what businesses will be allowed to operate on the Internet, and at what cost—unique, perhaps, to a company of which Government disapproves.

A “Clean” DHS Bill from the Senate

The Senate passed, yesterday, by 98-2, a bill that funds DHS fully and sent it to the House.

If (House) Republicans are smart, they’ll accept the trap the Senate Democrats have given them, take up the Senate bill, and amend it to include the original measures to block President Barack Obama’s immigration “executive actions.” That will force the bill to a House-Senate Conference Committee, and the result of that goes to each house of Congress for reconciliation vote—no filibuster.

Funding DHS

Senator Jeff Sessions (R, AL) had some thoughts on the Senate floor Tuesday following the Senate Democrats’ refusal to allow funding for DHS on Monday.

A number of things have been happening today with regard to the funding of the Department of Homeland Security. There’s been a lot of spin about that and that somehow the Republicans are blocking the funding of the Department of Homeland Security. This gives new meaning to the word “obfuscation,” I suppose, or “disingenuousness.” The truth is, the House of Representatives has fully funded the Department of Homeland Security. It’s provided the level of funding the President asked for. It’s kept all the accounts at Homeland Security as approved through the congressional process. It simply says, but, Mr President, we considered your bill, this amnesty bill that will provide work permits, photo IDs, Social Security numbers, Medicare benefits. You can’t do that. We considered that and rejected it. So we’re not going to fund that.

Another Perspective on Minimum Wage

Mark Perry has one in his Carpe Diem column for AEIdeas.

In a recent post, I posed the question: rather than calling it “an increase in the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 (or $15) per hour,” if we instead called it “imposing a $2.85 (or $7.75) per hour tax on employers who employ or hire unskilled workers,” would it make any difference to those who support “an increase in the minimum wage”? Maybe not for some of the strongest advocates of a higher minimum wage, but perhaps it would make a difference for some weaker advocates who were never challenged to think of it that way?

“Must Pass” Legislation

Alan Blinder, he of Princeton University, has a piece on this subject in The Wall Street Journal. Among other things, he wrote

The resolution funding the Department of Homeland Security expires at the end of this month. Both parties want DHS to remain fully operational, but the bills passed so far include provisions that would roll back the president’s executive actions on immigration. Mr Obama has threatened a veto. If neither side blinks, members of the Coast Guard, the TSA, and the border patrol might soon see their paychecks suspended, though they would be required to continue working.

A Greek Exit

In a piece in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal, about Greece’s economic status and its relations with the rest of the eurozone, Matthew Karnitschnig had this remark

[A] Greek exit would prove that the eurozone isn’t inviolable and trigger speculation over the future of other weak links, such as Portugal, Ireland and even Spain, in the currency bloc. The euro crisis could return in full force.

Perhaps the crisis could return. But only briefly, and only if misunderstood by the leaders of the eurozone. After all, what’s the long term (or even the medium term) downside of losing “other weak links” in the eurozone? What would be left would be, by definition, stronger.

More Excessive Government

US financial regulators are focusing renewed attention on Wall Street pay and are designing rules to curb compensation packages that could encourage excessive risk taking.

Regulators are considering requiring certain employees within Wall Street firms hand back bonuses for egregious blunders or fraud as part of incentive compensation rules the 2010 Dodd-Frank law mandated be written, according to people familiar with the negotiations. Including such a “clawback” provision in the rules would go beyond what regulators first proposed in 2011 but never finalized.

Congress created a bureaucracy, and it expanded it enormously with that Dodd-Frank. Now the bureaucrats have to do something to justify their existence. Regulators gotta regulate. And so we get this.

The Judicial Branch and the Law

In a couple of weeks, the Supreme Court will hear a case involving Federal subsidies to health coverage purchasers who bought their plans on ObamaMart instead of State exchanges. The Obamacare law limits those subsidies to purchasers via State exchanges argue the plaintiffs; the government demurs.

Some ACA critics fear the Supreme Court may hesitate to block the current subsidies because of a lack of confidence in the legislative branch in general.

Against that backdrop, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has said

The current Congress is not equipped really to do anything[.]

It’s Time

…for the Party of No to get out of the way and let legislation happen. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D, CA) had this to say through her spokesman Drew Hammill about her fellow Democrats’ insistence on shutting down DHS* in favor of protecting President Barack Obama’s unconstitutional “executive actions” concerning immigration:

With only four legislative days left until the Republican Homeland Security Shutdown, Speaker Boehner made it clear that he has no plan to avoid a government shutdown. The speaker’s reliance on talking points and finger-pointing was a sad reflection of the fact that the Tea Party continues to hold the gavel as they insist on their futile anti-immigrant grandstanding.