Editorial April 22, 2016

TheWeekinCongress.com

Editorial

The House schedule this week was stacked with six IRS-related bills addressing concerns and issues that have long been discussed and could have been acted on years ago but with tax season upon us and the elections coming up any bill that seems to address how the IRS does business and pokes the agency in the eye is fair game. Makes it look like something is being done.

The bills address the obvious; that IRS forms are too long and complicated, that the IRS should not hire anyone who has or has had a tax delinquency along with requiring IRS to publicly announce it never hires those with delinquencies before it can hire anyone else, and cutting bonuses to IRS employees until a comprehensive IRS customer service plan is submitted to Congress.

It may be the dominant position during tax time that nobody likes to pay taxes and there has been endless promises to change the tax code by Members of this and previous congresses and the current presidential candidates but no one seems to get it done.

There is significant duplicity here from a Congress that decries taxes and the agency that levies them since it is Congress that created the tax code to begin with and Congress that can change it. They have talked a lot but done nothing. There are reasons for that seen in the proposals for change; the flat tax that promises to make all things equal will actually cause you to pay more taxes. Since there would be no right-offs anymore, that 10% tax-cap promised would come off your entire earnings. Another idea is to remove corporate loopholes so sophisticated that some corporations pay no taxes and others, it has been reported, actually get refunds. Considering the strength of the various business lobbies that are opposed to that idea, it, like the flat tax, is nothing more than campaign fodder.

It seems like the only thing this and previous congresses are willing to do is cut or not raise taxes on those generating significant income (called the 1% by some).

Not raising taxes and cutting as many government programs and services as deeply as possible is the mantra for lowering government outlays and reducing the budget deficit. But, in the midst of this imposing austerity there are those bills that, as written, add to the deficit because they offer no off-set. This week HR 636 is a $77 billion example of that paradox.

All of this comes under the heading of the federal budget which leads us to the real significance of all this IRS posturing; rising or falling taxes affect us directly, individually, but their role, their purpose is their relevance to the federal budget process; they are the primary source of revenue needed to operate the federal government. That budget process is stalled in the House. There is a congressional budget resolution out there but it has not come to the floor because of the threat of it failing without the support of the semi-anonymous, 30 to 40 member Freedom Caucus that insists on sticking to 4 year-old budget caps the rest of Congress found draconian. Those Members naturally see cutting spending as a path to their goal but also see cutting or not raising revenues as equally important.

If all this seems to be going in contradicting directions, it is and that contradiction is best demonstrated in the frequently-used comparison of the congressional budget process to mom, dad, and the kids around the kitchen table deciding what should be spent and not spent to meet the family budget. There are miles of difference between the budget of a family of four and that of a family of over 300 million not the least of which is that families of four working on their budget may consider ways to reduce their spending but they do not consider ways to reduce their revenue.

Read What Congress Reads

Shift in the International Security Environment: Potential Implications for Defense—Issues for Congress.

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This pdf provided via the US Naval Institute.


 

Quotes on the Issues

The Absence of a Budget

‘”Governing by crisis has become the norm in Congress in recent years…Congress has shown no urgency about addressing those issues. Maybe that’s not surprising from a Republican majority that can’t even adopt a nonbinding budget resolution after months of ‘family’ discussions.’ Roll Call

More Absence of a Budget

‘“With their failure to bring a budget resolution to the Floor and pass it by today’s statutory deadline, House Republicans have once again demonstrated the degree to which the sharp divisions within their conference are impeding Congress’s ability to work for the American people. ‘ House Minority Whip

More Tax Reform

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman today delivered a Tax Day speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In his speech, the Chairman discussed the need for pro-growth tax reform, the accomplishments of the PATH Act, and other topics under the Committee’s jurisdiction.’ House Ways and Means Committee


Foreign Affairs

Syria

BEIRUT — The Latest on the conflict in Syria as escalating violence in the north has prompted opposition representatives to suspend participation in U.N.-sponsored peace talks. Associated Press – New York Times.

Afghanistan

Militants staged a coordinated assault with a suicide bomb and three-hour gun battle, killing perhaps more than two dozen people and wounding more than 320 others in one of the most devastating attacks in Kabul in years, Afghan officials said. Tim Craig and Sayed Salahuddin –  Washington Post.

Iraq

Iraqi Kurds’ dire warnings of impending financial doom. Top officials from the besieged Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) made the rounds in Washington this week to warn that Erbil’s $100 million-a-month operating deficit was harming its ability to take on the Islamic State (IS). Julian Pecquet – Al Monitor.


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