Conner Lynch

Meet the Shredder That Destroyed Lois Lerner's Hard Drive

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Posted by Conner Lynch on Thursday, June 25th, 2015, 2:15 PM PERMALINK

Lois Lerner’s hard drive met its end in the amoral maw of an AMERI-SHRED AMS-750 HD shredder, according to testimony submitted today by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

In 2011, after an IRS-contracted Hewlett Packard technician serviced Lerner's laptop and determined the hard drive "more than likely crashed due to an impact of some sort," and after a different technician in the IRS Criminal Investigation Division noted there was “some scoring on the top platter of the drive,” the hard drive made its way to a recycling facility in Florida operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

The testimony states:

“We determined by obtaining the certificate of destruction dated April 16, 2012, interviews with the facility manager, and a search of the facility, that this shipment of hard drives was destroyed using an AMERI-SHRED AMS-750HD shredder. TIGTA agents observed the shredder in operation and noted that the shredder cut the inserted hard drives into quarter-sized pieces, and according to the facility manager, those pieces are then sold for scrap.”

Video footage of the 7.5 horsepower, 2,700-lb. shredder in action can be found here

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Report Shows Americans Flee High-Tax States, Embrace Low-Tax States

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Posted by Conner Lynch on Wednesday, June 24th, 2015, 4:00 PM PERMALINK

Americans are fleeing states with high taxes for low-tax states according to recent analysis by John Schoen and CNBC.

By inspecting data from the Federation of Tax Administrators and national moving companies United Van Lines and Atlas Van Lines, a clear link appears between higher taxes and residents looking to relocate. Not surprisingly, these individuals are looking to migrate to states that encourage innovation and economic growth rather than stay in hostile business and tax climates.

Low Taxes Precipitate Population Inflows

As states lower their tax rates, they can expect individuals to flock there for better jobs, higher wages, and greater opportunity. As Travis Brown describes, states with the lowest tax rates like Texas are experiencing booms in their populations under the age of 18 while those states with high tax rates lost a large percentage of their youth population in recent years:

“Many of the states that lost a significant percentage of their under-18 population between 2000 and 2013 are those with fewer opportunities for growth – thanks to high tax rates that discourage innovation and expansion. Ranking at the very bottom, with its youth population decreased by 15.9 percent, is Vermont. Not at all coincidentally, Vermont also levies the nation’s seventh-highest personal income tax rate on its working citizens.”

Predictably, as younger people seek to find new jobs and opportunities, the obvious choice for residency is low-tax states. If states drastically increase the cost of working and living, they will lose their younger population to places that welcome their innovation. Brown claims that these pro-growth states are drawing in the best young talent across the nation:

“Clearly, population grows more quickly in places where work is rewarded and the price on that work is kept low. But the key new piece of information that the 50-State Scorecard shows us is that a large segment of the next generation of American business leaders and innovators are growing up in states that encourage growth.”

Tax Increases Force Exodus of Businesses and Residents

As many states wrap up their legislative sessions and finalize their budgets, the evidence is clear that states that choose tax increases see losses of both residents and businesses. Connecticut recently finalized its budget and passed a $1.2 trillion tax hike that raised income, sales, and corporates taxes. In response, GE and other major companies are looking to relocate and find a state that would welcome their business and jobs them rather than simply hike their tax rates. In addition, the CNBC study shows that Connecticut has experienced a net outward household flow of 58 percent in recent years while also levying some of the highest taxes in the country. This leads one to believe it’s probably not a coincidence.

As states move forward and examine their tax policies, the results are clear. Lower taxes leads to increased migration, population booms, balanced budgets, and economic growth. Higher taxes lead to net citizen and business losses, stagnation, and budget deficits. It appears the choice is a clear one.

 

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Candidate Obama Decried Ex-Im Cronyism, President Obama Embraces It

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Posted by Conner Lynch on Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015, 5:30 AM PERMALINK

As a candidate for President in 2008, Barack Obama wanted to eliminate the Export-Import bank, which in his words was a “fund for corporate welfare.” Now that he is President, Obama has changed his mind and the White House now brazenly characterizes Ex-Im’s work as “essential,” and “vital” in helping big business access financing.

With the Ex-Im Bank set to expire on June 30, its supporters are desperately fighting to keep it alive. After a series of scandals including allegations of bribery, the bank has become toxic and many former supporters have decided enough is enough. Curiously, President Obama has taken the opposite approach. 

The President remains stubbornly committed to preserving the culture of crony capitalism that is emblematic in the nation’s capital. In recent months, the Obama Administration has gone all in to ensure the bank's charter is renewed. Speaking at the Export-Import Bank’s Annual Conference in April 2015, National Security Advisor Susan Rice stated that it was an important tool for American competitiveness and apparently no longer corporate welfare:

“That’s why the Export-Import Bank of the United States is essential.  Last year, financing from the Bank helped thousands of American entrepreneurs reach new markets and grow their small businesses.  It supported 164,000 private sector American jobs . . . And, I can tell you, when President Obama meets with foreign leaders, Ex-Im is an important part of our diplomacy.  So, I join the President, Members of Congress from both parties, the American Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and small business owners across the country in calling on Congress to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank with a long-term mandate to continue its vital work.”

Recent studies have shown these arguments to be false. Ex-Im subsidizes a small fraction of exports, and the overwhelming majority of its loans benefit a few well-connected corporations. One politician who understood this was presidential candidate Obama. In stark contrast to President Obama, candidate Obama argued it was time to end this wasteful tool of crony capitalism:

“I am not a Democrat who believes that we can or should defend every government program just because it's there . . . there are some that have been duplicated by other programs that we just need to cut back, like waste at the Economic Development Agency and the Export-Import Bank that has become little more than a fund for corporate welfare.”

So what has changed in this time? Well, since then the Ex-Im Bank has been used to finance companies with close connections to the administration like Solyndra. Just one year before Solyndra declared bankruptcy, Ex-Im granted Solyndra a loan to the tune of more than 10 million dollars to “finance the overseas sales of products.”

In fact, the Ex-Im bank is a huge part of the Democrat political machine. In a candid moment, Bill Clinton said that the audience at one of the bank’s recent conferences was “full of people who once worked for me.” Furthermore, the head of Ex-Im was a Clinton appointee and has been a prolific donor to the Clinton’s over the years. Perhaps this is why Obama supports the bank, and why Hillary Clinton wants to “put the Ex-Im Bank on steroids.”

Instead of supporting a Bank that pick winners and losers and subsidizes huge corporations, President Obama should listen closely to candidate Obama’s remarks and help eliminate this “fund for corporate welfare.” 

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Today in History: Winston Churchill's "Finest Hour" Speech

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Posted by Conner Lynch on Thursday, June 18th, 2015, 5:00 PM PERMALINK

Today marks the 75th Anniversary of Winton Churchill’s “Finest Hour” speech delivered in the House of Commons on June 18, 1940. In this speech, Churchill expresses the need for the British people and the world to stand up to Hitler to not only save themselves but also to preserve freedom, democracy, and human civilization.

Beginning in 1939 with the invasion of Poland, Hitler’s war machine launched blitzkrieg warfare and steadily made gains across mainland Europe. By 1940, Germany had occupied the majority of France and only through bold action were the remaining British and French divisions evacuated from Dunkirk in June 1940, leaving equipment and ammunition to fall into German hands. After the end of the “Battle of France,” Winston Churchill knew Hitler would soon attack the British people as they were the last obstacle standing in the way of him conquering Europe. Churchill called upon the British people to embrace their duty and stand up bravely to the Germans, citing dire consequences if they were to fail to stop Hitler’s ambitions:

“If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, "This was their finest hour."

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Watchdog: $2.8 Billion In Obamacare Payments Not Vetted

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Posted by Conner Lynch on Wednesday, June 17th, 2015, 10:00 AM PERMALINK

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) failed to properly distribute $2.8 billion worth of subsidies and payments to individuals on Obamacare according to a report by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). During the first four months of these payments, the OIG examined a sample size of 100 payee group-months and found that CMS failed to ensure the correct amounts and that enrollees were actually eligible.

As the report notes, the OIG found that CMS did not have proper mechanisms in place to ensure enrollees were eligible for Cost Sharing Reductions (CSRs) and Advance Premium Tax Credits (APTCs):

“CMS did not have systems in place to ensure that financial assistance payments were made on behalf of confirmed enrollees or for State marketplaces to submit enrollee eligibility data for financial assistance payments.”

Because CMS did not have verification mechanisms in place or the necessary enrollment data, the OIG found that huge amounts of federal funds may been misused or improperly allocated:

“We could not verify that CMS correctly applied any of the nearly $2.8 billion in financial assistance payments that it made during the period January through April 2014.”

CMS has indicated that they will be unable to amend these payments until 2016 at the earliest due to various problems with insurance providers and shows no expectations of speeding up the process:

“Due to the risk of QHP issuers providing inaccurate data to calculate actual CSR amounts, CMS stated that it has postponed reconciling advance CSR payments made to all QHP issuers for the 2014 benefit year until April 30, 2016.”

With a lack of complete, verifiable data, CMS was unable to monitor these payments and address any potential errors that arose in a timely manner costing taxpayers millions of dollars. As ATR’s Alexander Hendrie recently noted, a previous IG report found the IRS had failed to properly administer Obamacare tax credits by giving them to individuals who were not actually eligible. With potentially billions of dollars and individuals’ livelihoods at stake, the federal government has proved wholly incapable of administering financial assistance and subsidy payments. 

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Sharing Economy Flourishes, Federal Government Looks to "Help"

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Posted by Conner Lynch on Thursday, June 11th, 2015, 10:30 AM PERMALINK

On June 9, the Federal Trade Commission hosted a daylong panel, “The Sharing Economy: Issues Facing Platforms, Participants, and Regulators.” The sharing economy encompasses the various peer to peer platforms, such as Uber and Airbnb, which have transformed the worldwide marketplace by facilitating transactions directly between consumers. By using data, social media, and smartphone apps to match buyers and sellers, individuals can rent out their personal assets such as cars, homes, and apartments, in addition to their own time and skills, for a determined fee.

As the sharing economy has grown exponentially in the past few years and shows no signs of stopping, more and more economists, academics, and entrepreneurs are beginning to pay attention. NYU Professor Arun Sundararajan, a leading expert on this issue, participated in an afternoon panel and discussed various topics including the transformations, consumer benefits, and regulations pertaining to these platforms.

When discussing consumer benefits, Arun described how the sharing economy improves standard of life and cuts costs, especially for lower-income individuals and families:

“Looking at the economic impacts of peer to peer markets projects a story of inclusive growth, a growth where the benefits are positive but they are captured disproportionately by people below median income because these are the people who are able to expand their consumption through rental where ownership was a barrier . . . people can get access to a higher quality of life through the work done in the sharing economy.”

However, just as these platforms are growing and consumers enjoy the benefits, the government and other entities are seeking to draw up more regulations to govern these platforms. Professor Sundararajan highlights that self-regulation in the sharing economy can now replace some of the things the government had to oversee in previous decades:

“It seems natural to think about the self-regulatory approaches that this might introduce into the economy that maybe there are things that this third party entity that didn’t exist in the past can now shoulder for society that the government had to in the past . . . This is not the same as no regulation. This is not the same as de-regulation. It is simply the performing of regulatory acts by entities other than the government.”

Lastly, Professor Sundararajan stressed when speaking about regulation that one of the most fundamental changes brought about by the sharing economy is that traditional business models are being upended:

“When thinking about regulating the sharing economy, to me a central point in this discussion in what this policy framework should like is the recognition of the fact that a lot of these platforms blur the lines between personal and professional in commercial services.”

The sharing economy allows individuals to earn extra money on the side, work flexible hours, and spend more time with family. As Americans procure these new opportunities and benefits, the federal government needs to stay on the sidelines, not enact new, burdensome regulations. 

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Should Congress Bust the Budget Caps for Salmon Mating Earmarks?

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Posted by Conner Lynch on Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015, 9:30 AM PERMALINK

In a recent article from the Hill, “Washington is ready to spend,” Rebecca Shabad highlights how Members of Congress are seeking to eliminate spending caps imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011. Those budget caps proved successful in forcing Congress to spend less and budget more efficiently. Not surprisingly, politicians find it easier to eliminate budget caps and increase spending than to save taxpayers money.

While members of Congress cry for more funding, they are simultaneously finding inventive ways to waste taxpayer money. As Citizens Against Government Waste notes in their 2015 Congressional Pig Book Summary, $15,000,000 was set aside for the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund (PCSRF) by Congress to “reverse the declines of Pacific salmon and steelhead, supporting conservation efforts in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Alaska.” The organization notes that “since FY 2000, 20 earmarks costing taxpayers $149.5 million have been added for the PCSRF.”

As Congress squabbles over how to replenish the Highway Trust Fund, eliminate the national debt, and fund our military, policymakers need to examine their own spending habits before looking for new taxes and fees on Americans. Instead of calling for more spending, lawmakers should rein in government waste and put more of that money back in taxpayers’ wallets.

As ATR noted recently, federal funds are being spent on projects like “squirrel sanctuaries” and “bicycle paths, walking trails, and environmental projects” in addition to the PCSRF. Washington may be “ready to spend” but the federal government does not need more money to misuse. If Congress is serious about getting America’s fiscal house in order, the first step would be for lawmakers to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which is a written promise for no new tax increases and focus on spending cuts. This commitment protects American taxpayers by reducing government waste and eradicating burdensome tax hikes. Maybe instead of preserving fish, Congress should spend more of its time focusing on lowering taxes and cutting spending.

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