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Sunday, January 25, 2015

American Hero

Dianne Feinstein: Obama’s ISIS Strategy Has Failed And It’s Time For Special Forces

Dianne Feinstein: Obama’s ISIS Strategy Has Failed And It’s Time For Special Forces

Why Don’t Lawmakers Want to Update the Tax Code?

Why Don’t Lawmakers Want to Update the Tax Code?

By Ed Feulneron Sun, 25 Jan 2015

Lawmakers in Washington have plenty of work ahead of them this year, so the temptation to punt on everything but the “hot” issues will be strong. Here’s one they should tackle without hesitation: tax reform.

It’s long overdue. One glance at the tax code, and you won’t be surprised to learn it’s been nearly 30 years since it was overhauled. Small wonder, as I noted in a recent column, that we’ve wound up with a Byzantine system of credits, deductions and exemptions, spread across tens of thousands of pages — one that can bewilder even the most seasoned tax preparer.

Complexity, though, is the least of our problems. The rates are simply too high. We’re making it needlessly difficult for Americans to save and invest. That hurts job growth and depresses wages.

Even people who know the rates are too high are often unaware of how much they’re paying to fund the federal government. Thanks to income and payroll tax withholding, and what tax expert Curtis Dubay calls “the hidden costs of corporate, employer payroll and excise taxes,” the full price tag remains something of a mystery to most of us.

The lack of true tax reform affects millions of hardworking Americans. “Families use savings to pay for down payments on homes, education, retirement, unexpected bills, or anything else that they may desire to buy in the future,” Dubay writes in “Opportunity for All, Favoritism to None,” a new policy book from the Heritage Foundation. “High rates discourage them from saving by making spending today more attractive than spending in the future.”

Take the corporate tax rate. To hear some politicians talk about it, it affects only corporations, which are often portrayed as ruthless and greedy. But what is the result of the United States having one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world? Less investment by companies headquartered here and abroad. That translates into fewer jobs and lower wages. The corporate tax rate, like so many others, affects all of us.

It’s not simply a question of lowering rates — as important as that is. It’s crucial that we apply these lower rates to the right tax base. This may sound technical, but it’s really not. What we’re talking about (if we get reform right, that is) is taxing consumption, not investment. The way to encourage savings and investment is to move more toward a traditional flat tax (one rate for all).

Why would this help? Because a flat tax is geared toward a tax base that’s more neutral. That means it doesn’t positively or negatively influence economic decision-making by families, businesses, investors and entrepreneurs. Instead of picking winners and losers, the government gets out of the way of individuals and businesses.

Another benefit to genuine tax reform is that it can help reduce the size of government. Federal spending is on an unsustainable path. Left unchecked, it will grow to levels that threaten the security of families. Tax reform, though, would make it easier to put government on a much-needed diet by making the cost of it more transparent to the American people.

And let’s not overlook one other obvious and very tangible benefit. “According to the Tax Foundation, the economy could grow as much as 15 percent more over 10 years because of tax reform,” Dubay writes. “After those 10 years, the average American family’s wages would be almost 10 percent higher. That would mean an extra $5,000 in the pockets of families making $50,000 per year (roughly the median income in the U.S. today).”

A smaller government. A healthier economy. More savings and investment. When you consider all the benefits of tax reform, the only question for lawmakers is this: When are you going to get started?

Obama' Ugly Tantrum Endangers Israel

Editorial: Obama’s ugly tantrum


President Obama’s refusal to meet with Benjamin Netanyahu when the Israeli prime minister comes to Washington in March to address a joint meeting of Congress is a petulant, juvenile snub — one that couldn’t be more badly timed.

The Israeli leader “spat in our face,” an unnamed senior U.S. official told Israeli newspaper Haaretz, “and there will be a price.” An unnamed source “close to Kerry” told the Washington Post the House speech “could blunt Secretary Kerry’s enthusiasm for being Israel’s primary defender.”

That’s gangster talk, aimed at one of America’s closest allies — all because the Israeli leader dared to accept House Speaker John Boehner’s to address Congress on the emerging Iranian nuclear threat without consulting them first.

Too bad. Boehner leads the House. He can invite who he wants. Netanyahu leads his country. He can speak where he likes.

In fact, it’s completely understandable that the prime minister would accept the speaker’s invitation — because the President, who should be happily receiving him, has made a hash of the Washington-Jerusalem relationship.

Liberals Exploit Race & Gender

By Jack Kelly - January 25, 2015

When People magazine asked Michelle Obama last month about her “personal experience” with racism, she cited a 2011 visit to a Target store in Virginia.

“The only person who came up to me in the store was a woman who asked me to help her take something off a shelf,” the first lady said. “Because she didn’t see me as the first lady, she saw me as someone who could help her. Those kinds of things happen in life.”

Why is it “racist” for a short white woman to ask a much taller woman (Ms. Obama is 5 feet, 11 inches) who happens to be black to get a box of detergent for her from a high shelf?

Racism and sexism are nearly as rampant in America today as half a century ago, some liberals suggest. The first lady’s anecdote illustrates how difficult it is to find evidence to support this charge.

The greatest civil rights leader dreamed in 1963 “that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Jim Crow was killed by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Since the 1970s, blacks have been admitted to colleges and universities with grades and test scores below those of other students, been given preference in hiring for many jobs. For decades now, Martin Luther King’s dream has largely been true.

Unthinkable in 1968, improbable in 1988, Americans in 2008 elected a (half) black man president of the United States. But there are those who say the fact that many who voted for Barack Obama have since soured on him proves racism endures.

The growth and impoverishment of the black underclass in cities governed for decades by Democrats is our greatest domestic tragedy. Blaming it on mostly mythical white racism obscures the real causes, prevents solutions.

But if liberals acknowledged the progress that’s been made, more blacks might wonder why all the “help” they’ve gotten from Democrats has done them so little good. So they pretend every year is 1963.

Half a century ago, career opportunities for women pretty much were limited to nursing, teaching, the secretarial pool. Women today are doctors, lawyers, corporate CEOs, generals and admirals.

The pay gap has all but disappeared for women who work in the same fields as men and have done so for just as long. Young women in urban areas earned about 8 percent more than their male peers, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report in 2009.

Holly Lynne, my granddaughter, born Dec. 23, will be able to do pretty much whatever she wants to do and likely will be paid more for doing it than will boys her age.

Workplace equality wouldn’t be on the cusp of achievement were it not for the efforts of early feminists. But feminism died as a civil rights movement when “the sisterhood” embraced President Bill Clinton despite his serial abuse of women.

Hillary Clinton, who got to start at the top because she’s Bill’s wife, is a feminist heroine, despite having orchestrated smear campaigns against the women who accused him of sexual misconduct. So are Elizabeth Warren, who obtained appointment to the faculty of Harvard Law School after claiming, falsely, to be of Native American descent, and Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke, fired for incompetence by the family firm (she says she was “downsized”).

But the first female fighter pilot to fly in combat, the first female Hispanic governor, the first African-American woman to be secretary of state aren’t feminist heroines because they’re Republicans.

To be a feminist today is to be a dishonest shill for Democrats. To deny progress, they push their definition of “sexism” ever further into the realm of absurdity. Lately, feminists in New York City are having hissy fits over “man-spreading,” the tendency of male subway riders to sit with their knees apart.

Nothing in politics is more despicable than sowing race and gender discord for partisan advantage

White House going nuclear on Netanyahu

White House going nuclear on Netanyahu

Thou shall not cross Dear Leader.

With their gutter sniping failing to stop Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned March speech before Congress, White House aides are unloading their full arsenal of bile.

“He spat in our face publicly, and that’s no way to behave,” one Obama aide told an Israeli newspaper. “Netanyahu ought to remember that President Obama has a year and a half left to his presidency, and that there will be a price.”

It is pointless to say petty threats do not become the Oval Office. Trying to instruct this White House on manners recalls what Mark Twain said about trying to teach a pig to sing: It wastes your time and annoys the pig.

Still, the fury is telling. It reminds, as if we could forget, that everything is always about Obama.

How dare Israel be more concerned with the existential threat of Iranian nukes than with Obama’s feelings? And what do members of Congress think they are, a separate branch of government or something?

Yes, the presidency deserves respect, even when the president doesn’t. Although Obama routinely ignores lawmakers and their role in our constitutional system of checks and balances, there is an argument afoot that Congress should have taken the high road and consulted him before inviting Netanyahu.

The argument has a point — but not a compelling one. To give Obama veto power over the visit would be to put protocol and his pride before the most important issue in the world.

Photo: AP

That is Iran’s march to nuclear weapons, and Obama’s foolish complicity. His claim at the State of the Union that “we’ve halted the progress of its nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material” would be laughable if it weren’t so dangerous. The claim earned him three Pinocchios, with four being an outright whopper, by The Washington Post.

Outside the president’s yes-men circle, nobody believes the mad mullahs will voluntarily give up their quest for the bomb. International sanctions made life difficult for the regime, especially with oil prices cratering, but Obama relaxed restrictions with nothing to show for it except negotiations where he keeps bidding against himself.

He is desperate for a deal, and the Iranians know it, so they want to keep talking. They are gaining concessions and buying time, which means a reversal of their weapons program becomes much harder to achieve.

The ticking doomsday clock is what led to the remarkable comments by Democrat Robert Menendez. After Obama warned that more sanctions, even if they would not take effect unless the talks collapsed, could scare off the Iranians, the New Jersey senator said Obama was repeating talking points that “come straight out of Tehran.”

That’s a zinger for the ages — and has the added advantage of being true.

Any deal that leaves Iran with a capacity to make a nuke in weeks or months will ignite a regional arms race. As I have noted, American military and intelligence officials believe a nuclear-armed Iran will lead to a nuclear exchange with Israel or Arab countries within five years.

Israel has the most to lose from an Iranian nuke, and Netanyahu can be expected to articulate a forceful argument against Obama’s disastrous course. That’s why House Speaker John Boehner invited him, and it’s why the president is so bent out of shape and refuses to meet with Netanyahu. He doesn’t want Americans to hear the other side.

But we must. And Congress must not shirk from its duty to demand a meaningful agreement with Iran, or none at all.

An extra layer of sanctions waiting in the wings is good backup, but another pending bill is more important. It would demand that any agreement come before the Senate for a vote.

Naturally, Obama opposes it, but that’s all the more reason why it is needed. As Ronald Reagan famously said about Soviet promises, “Trust but verify.”

So must it be with Iran and, sadly, our own president.

Tipping off the enemy

front-page story in The Wall Street Journal is a stunner — for all the wrong reasons. Under the headline, “US, Iraq Set Sights on Mosul Offensive,” it lays out plans for a summer attack against Islamic State, including the locations and numbers of allied Kurdish fighters and which Iraqi units will lead the charge.

Most shocking, the source is Gen. Lloyd Austin, the top American commander in the Middle East. He told the Journal US ground troops might be involved and that the military “would do what it takes.”

What the hell is going on? Since when does the military give the public, and the enemy, advance notice of battle plans? Has Gen. Austin lost his mind?

This is nuts.

Andy is in one Shel of a mess

Don’t be surprised if Gov. Cuomo looks as if he’s missed a meal or two. Preet Bharara is eating his lunch.

A day after Bharara, the Manhattan US attorney, busted Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, he urged the public to get mad as hell and demand an honest government.

“Wherever corruption is on the rise, that means democracy is on the decline,” Bharara said, calling Albany “a cauldron of corruption.”

The prosecutor also mocked the infamous “three men in a room” phenomenon, asking pointedly, “When did 20 million New Yorkers agree to be ruled like a triumvirate in Roman times?”

The brilliant performance earned a ringing ovation from his law-school audience — and nervous silence in the Capitol. There, legislators huddled quietly in little groups or scurried to the safety of their offices. If there is a “Dump Silver” caucus, nobody has seen it.

Cuomo’s odd behavior is the most troubling. After ducking a reporter’s question Thursday about Silver’s fate, the governor went silent, missing yet another chance to claim the role of honest reformer.

He’s already in Bharara’s sights after abruptly closing the Moreland panel while it was investigating Silver’s outside income. And the prosecutor promises more political cases, each of which will stain Cuomo’s reputation.

As head of the Democratic Party, the least Cuomo should do is demand that Silver step aside as speaker. As governor, he should simply refuse to negotiate with someone so thoroughly disgraced.

He must decide soon: Silver says he will return to work Monday and carry on business as usual.

So which side are you on, Governor: Do you stand with Silver or Bharara?

Blas’ strange bedfellows

Mayor de Blasio’s praise for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver as a “man of integrity” after Silver was charged with taking $4 million in payoffs and bribes is raising hackles, but bad taste is par for the de Blasio course.

Remember, he sees Al Sharpton as “a blessing for this city” despite Sharpton being a serial tax scofflaw who owes a reported $4.5 million.

“The more people criticize him, the more I want to hang out with him,” de Blasio said.

Maybe the mayor just has a thing for crooks.