The Real IRS Scandal.

The IRS should be embarrassed by revelations that it singled out Tea Party Patriot groups for extra scrutiny after they applied for 501(c)4 status. Not because scrutinizing these groups was wrong. But because the IRS did not deny them such status.

That’s right. None of these groups deserve to be considered 501(c)4 organizations. Neither do liberal groups. As Lawrence O’Donnell has pointed out on his show, The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, that designation is supposed to be reserved for groups that promote the social welfare. In fact, the tax code describes qualifying organizations as “civic leagues or organizations not organized for profit but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare.”

What in that code describes the Tea Party?

Tea Party groups that have received the designation have almost entirely devoted their money and time to attack President Obama, Democratic candidates, progressive issues and the federal government. How does that meet the criteria of promoting social welfare?

Amazingly, despite the increased scrutiny, not a single Tea Party organization was denied 501(c)4 status. The same cannot be said for progressive groups. During the same period, numerous progressive groups were also asked to submit more information (I was involved with one), and, unlike the Tea Party, some progressive groups were denied non-profit status!

Congress and the IRS need to revisit the tax codes governing political groups. They should also take a serious look at the tax-free status of churches.

The Constitution states “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion.” The tax-free status of churches flies in the face of this clause by forcing those who do not choose to belong to a church to indirectly subsidize religion through taxes. Indeed, it was because some states forced residents to subsidize churches that James Madison included the establishment clause in his Bill of Rights.

By declaring all church property (including church-owned hospitals and other income-producing businesses) tax-exempt, the rest of us have to make up for the lost revenue through increased taxes. And this amount is not insubstantial. Some reports claim that as much as 25 percent of all US property is tax-exempt for religious purposes.

If this public subsidy of churches is not bad enough, many churches intentionally involve themselves in politics contrary to IRS codes governing their tax-free status. In fact, hundreds of churches have not only campaigned from the pulpit. They have recorded their political rants and sent the videos to the IRS to show their contempt for the codes. During the last election, many churches (the Catholic Church primary among them) even told their members that they would “go to hell if they voted for President Obama.” Yet the IRS refused to enforce its own codes.

Now that’s a real IRS scandal!

Repealing Obamacare…Again.

In case you haven’t heard by now, Teapublicans don’t like the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Since taking control of the House in 2011, Teapublicans have voted to repeal Obamacare 37 times.

The latest vote came yesterday.

Of course, there is absolutely no chance that the law will actually be repealed. Not only do Democrats control the Senate, President Obama would be certain to veto any bill calling for the law’s repeal. The Teapublicans know this. So why do they continue to vote for repeal?

According to Speaker Boehner, it’s because the freshmen congressmen have not yet had a chance to vote for repeal. Without such a vote, how would they ever be able to face their conservative supporters back home? Failing to vote for repeal might result in them being labeled RINOs (Republicans In Name Only) and being “primaried” by some nitwits who are even more hateful toward Obama and his landmark legislation.

Meanwhile, the other issues these Teapublicans claimed to support during their campaigns for election have languished. There have been no bills to create jobs, to reform taxes, to rebuild infrastructure, or to replace sequestration with a real budget designed to cut the federal debt without forcing departments to make mindless across-the-board cuts. And they most certainly have not reached across the aisle!

But they have held more kangaroo court-style hearings on Benghazi and they’ve threatened to start a couple more wars.

31 To 5.

Teapublicans continue to demand accountability for the deaths of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others in Benghazi. They might begin with some simple addition and subtraction.

For example, under President George W. Bush, the US State Department suffered the following attacks:

  • 2002 Karachi, Pakistan Embassy – 10 dead
  • 2004 Tashkent, Uzbekistan Embassy – 2 dead
  • 2004 Jidda, Saudi Arabia Consulate – 8 dead
  • 2006 Damascus, Syria Embassy – 1 dead
  • 2007 Athens, Greece
  • 2008 Belgrade, Serbia Embassy
  • 2008 Sana, Yemen Embassy – 10 dead

That adds up to a total of 31 who died at embassies on Bush’s watch.

During the Obama administration, the US State Department has thus far suffered the following attacks:

  • 2012 Benghazi, Libya Embassy – 4 dead
  • 2013 Ankra, Turkey Embassy – 1 dead

That adds up to a total of 5 who have died on Obama’s watch.

Now for the subtraction. Since 2010, the Teapublican-controlled House cut the State Department’s budget for embassy security by $296 million. Okay, Rep. Issa, investigate that!

You simply can’t be “outraged” by the events in Benghazi, if you weren’t equally outraged by the many events that preceded it. And you can’t blame the State Department for failed security if you don’t fully fund its requests.

From Kathie Lee To Bangladesh.

Nearly a decade ago, the media were awash with stories tying Kathie Lee Gifford to sweatshops in Honduras. It seems she had endorsed a line of clothing sold at Walmart and, when it was discovered that Walmart outsourced the clothing manufacture to sweatshops using children, Kathie Lee was vilified. Walmart, on the other hand, emerged from the scandal unscathed.

Of course, much has changed since then. Such clothing lines are no longer made in Honduras. They are now outsourced to countries with even cheaper labor and even more deplorable working conditions…countries like Bangladesh where more than 1,100 recently died while working in an unsafe building.

But one thing hasn’t changed. The retailer, clothing brand and contractors are still held blameless for outsourcing their brands to sweatshops.

As long as they offer clothing at low prices, we simply shake our heads at such tragedies and continue to shop for the next bargain. It doesn’t matter that the clothing is as disposable as the workers forced to make it. All we really seem to care about is price. We’re seemingly unconcerned that adding a few pennies to the cost of a garment would improve working conditions. Likewise, we seem unconcerned that the owners of Walmart and other large retailers pressure manufacturers to continue to cut costs in order to line their own pockets with millions more.

This, of course, is a never-ending cycle.

As long as there are regions of desperate, impoverished people in the world, manufacturers and retailers will take advantage of them. And, as long as consumers reward those corporations by continuing to purchase their junk, the practice will continue.

The sad truth is that we’re all as responsible for the deaths of the workers in Bangladesh as the owner of the building and the brands being made there.

Sex, Politics, Religion And Poverty.

According to a new Census Bureau report, Social and Economic Characteristics of Currently Unmarried Women With a Recent Birth: 2011, more than 6 out of 10 women who have children in their early twenties are unmarried. That number has accelerated in recent years – up 80 percent since 1980. Overall, 36 percent of all births in the United States were to unmarried mothers in 2011.

The Census Bureau attributed the increase, in part, to changing norms for sexual behavior and a decrease in marriage rates. But before you religious zealots decry the alleged decline in our nation’s moral values, you should know that teen mothers are far more common in the US than in Europe, despite the fact that, according to studies, US teens have less sex than European teens.

Obviously, there are reasons beyond the imagined moral decline. The most important is economic. Women with college degrees and higher incomes are far less likely to be single mothers. And according to many studies, the greater the gap between the poor and the middle class in any particular region, the more likely an unmarried woman is to have a baby while she’s young!

Pushing the mother to marry the child’s father often makes matters worse. It results in a variety of associated problems including domestic abuse, early divorce and children who are traumatized by parental conflict, broken households and overall instability.

Given the fact that most of those in the US who are living on public assistance are single mothers and their children, it’s in all of our best interests to find a solution to this phenomenon. In searching for answers, we should first look at sex education and contraception. Several studies have found that education on correct contraceptive use works best in preventing teen pregnancy. These studies also conclude that abstinence-only education may, in fact, contribute to an increase in teen pregnancies.

A 10-year government study found that that “students in abstinence-only programs were no more likely to have abstained from sex, had similar numbers of sexual partners, and had sex for the first time at around the same age as students not in abstinence-only programs.”

All of this shows that, instead of allowing Teapublicans to cut sex education in public schools, we should be increasing it. Instead of allowing the Catholic Church and evangelists to deny easy access to contraceptives, we should be making them more available. And instead of cutting public assistance and food stamp programs, we should be improving them. Studies prove that doing otherwise only perpetuates the problem.

As usual, the right is wrong!

A Role Model For The US Senate.

If US senators are wondering what they can do to endear themselves to their constituents, they should look to their new colleague, Sen. Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts. In her short tenure, Warren has already shown a willingness to tell truth to power. She has also shown she has the guts to stand up for those who are not represented by lobbyists and special interests.

In other words, unlike most other senators, she is actually doing the job she was elected to do. What a concept!

To see what a senator should look like and sound like, check out this link from This wasn’t a one-time event. She wasn’t grandstanding. She wasn’t seeking approval or looking for votes. She wasn’t engaging in blind partisanship. She was simply representing the American people…all Americans.

More recently, Warren has written a bill that would give college students the right to borrow money at the same rate the too-big-to-fail banks enjoy. Imagine that…government money being loaned to ordinary people in order that they might improve themselves and our country. Students would not only be required to pay the money back, as they become successful, they would increase government revenue by contributing more in income taxes.

It’s the ultimate win-win.

Let’s hope other politicians eventually follow Warren’s lead by focusing on the needs of their constituents. If they don’t, we need to elect different politicians.

The Austerity Fraud.

For more than 30 years, conservatives have pushed for smaller government. Their battle cry is to “Starve the Beast,” the beast being our federal government. They have demanded more and more tax cuts, especially for the wealthy, and they finally got them under President George W. Bush. Yet, when the tax cuts led to large deficits, Richard “The Dick” Cheney and other conservatives famously stated that “deficits don’t matter.”

Of course, when President Obama took office, their attitude suddenly changed.

Despite having driven our economy off a cliff, conservatives demanded that the new administration cut spending in order to bring the deficit and debt under control. To prove their point that these were the biggest challenges facing our nation (bigger than rampant unemployment, the housing crisis, losses by pension funds and the depressed stock markets), conservatives cited a Harvard University study by Reinhart and Rogoff which stated that economies suffer whenever a nation’s debt surpasses 90 percent of GDP.

This study was cited over and over by conservative politicians and conservative media.

Unfortunately for conservatives, it was recently debunked by a graduate student who found numerous statistical and computational inaccuracies which completely altered the study’s conclusions. Turns out, there were numerous exceptions to the Reinhart-Rogoff rule.

As for the effects of austerity measures, one need only look to Europe to see what happens when concern over deficits and debt trump job creation. Following strict austerity measures in both Greece and Spain, unemployment among young people now exceeds 60 and 50 percent, respectively. Both countries are facing major upheaval as the unemployed have taken to the streets to riot. In England, France and Italy, the effects of austerity have been less dramatic. Nevertheless, austerity has pushed their economies back into recession.

Had President Obama followed the advice of conservatives, we, too, could be struggling through another deep recession. Despite conservative claims to the contrary, the economic stimulus worked. For the past 3 years, we have not only recovered the jobs lost as the result of the Bush recession. We have added 1.5 additional jobs, and we would have added many more if not for layoffs in the public sector forced by Republican-controlled state houses.

We might well be back on the road to full recovery had the Teapublicans not taken  control of the House in 2011.

Virtually every economist has stated that the budget restraints imposed by our Teapublican Congress have hampered our economic recovery. Indeed, a recent article in The New York Times states that deficit reduction has already cost our economy at least 2 percent growth and 1 percent employment. And the budget cuts forced by sequestration have yet to fully take hold!

But don’t look for conservatives to give up on austerity any time soon. Despite our fragile recovery, they’re still demanding severe cuts to federal programs. They have proposed cuts to “entitlements” such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. They want to eliminate or severely reduce unemployment insurance, SNAP (food stamps), Pell grants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They even want to cut or eliminate the United States Postal Service!

During the last election, Teapublican candidates said they would target entire departments for elimination, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Education Department, the Commerce Department and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives. Some want to get rid of the Federal Reserve and return to the gold standard.

Given a limited (and false) understanding of history and our Constitution, today’s conservatives believe that the only constitutionally-allowed functions of the federal government are defense, homeland security, border security and highway construction. For everything else, you’re on your own.

It’s easy to see what these policies would do to our nation. Just look at Somalia.

All The Way To Crazytown, AKA Benghazi.

According to Teapublicans, it’s the “scandal” that’s “worse than Watergate.” Except for voting to repeal Obamacare 37 times, nothing has taken up more of their time since they took back the House in 2010. Not job creation. Not national security. Not terrorism. Not even tax reform.

For Teapublicans, this is the event that keeps on giving. At least, that’s their hope.

As mentioned before, they’re determined to find something that will expose both President Obama and former Secretary of State in a cover-up. They won’t. But that doesn’t matter to Rep. Issa and his pals. After all, they’ve already had numerous hearings, including testimony from Clinton. They also have a report from an independent investigation. None of those have shown any indications of malfeasance or a cover-up.

Now we have testimony from some long-time State Dept. staffers who are visibly upset by the events that led to the deaths of their colleagues. These people question decisions made by superiors and military commanders. That’s their right, and we should be concerned if they weren’t upset by the loss of their colleagues.

But, while they may question the decisions, they don’t have any more evidence of a scandal than Issa. Yes, a regional commander ordered a special forces response team to stand down. But he explains that he made the decision because he thought the response would be inadequate and too late. He also explained that sending fighter jets would require a tanker for in-air refueling, and no tanker was available.

Issa and his committee should accept that explanation and move on. According to testimony, the night of the attack was chaotic and confusing. There were demonstrations at US embassies throughout the region. No one knew for sure where the terrorists would attack, or even if they would. It would be far more productive for Teapublicans to restore the funding they cut from the State Dept. to better protect our diplomats. It would be more productive to streamline the chain of command.

But that wouldn’t achieve the Teapublicans ultimate goal…to gin up a scandal that doesn’t appear to exist.

Tea Party Conspiracy Theories: Tinfoil Hats Recommended.

Apparently, one of the criteria for becoming a Tea Party “Patriot” is to believe that our federal government is out to get you. These people actually believe that the Freemasons, beginning with our Founding Fathers, are intent on creating a New World Order in which our nation will become subservient to a New World government. Under this scenario, black-shirted thugs will arrive in black helicopters to take away our guns and our freedom.

But Tea Party paranoia doesn’t end there. These people also believe that the moon landings were staged by NASA, that the government blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City, that the government intentionally set fire to the religious compound in Waco, that 9/11 was an inside job, that Obama is a foreign-born Muslim who is the leader of al Qaeda, that the mass murders in the Aurora movie theater and the Sandy Hook Elementary School were staged by the government in order to take away our guns, and that the Boston bombings were staged by Obama in order to create more surveillance so he can take away our sovereignty and our guns.

The latest conspiracy theory being pushed by the Tea Party, Fox News Channel and right wing radio is that Homeland Security is buying up ammo to keep it out of the hands of individuals.

All of these theories have been embraced by the most paranoid Tea Party Patriots. But, seemingly, the most widely accepted conspiracy theories involve the United Nations. Paramount among them is the UN treaty on small arms sales, intended to keep weapons out of the hands of terrorists. This treaty does not regulate or interfere with gun sales within the borders of any nation, yet the wing nuts are convinced it will make the US subservient to the UN.

Perhaps, the most bat crap crazy theory of all involves Agenda 21. Evangelists for the politically insane, such as Glenn Beck, Alex Jones and Michael Levin, have worked the nitwits into a frenzy over this non-binding plan which resulted from the UN Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992.

Agenda 21 sets goals for (gasp) combating poverty, promoting human health, promoting sustainable development, protecting the atmosphere, combating deforestation, managing fragile ecosystems, conserving biological diversity and much more. In other words, Agenda 21 hopes to preserve our environment so that our species, along with most others, will not become extinct.

Who wouldn’t oppose such a devious plan as that?

Aside from the Tea Party, the groups most opposed to the goals of Agenda 21 are those whose profits depend on extracting resources from the environment without regard to the long-term consequences. The major opponents are big oil, mining companies, lumber companies, corporate farming, commercial fishing, and real estate developers.

Even so, Agenda 21 includes no regulatory mechanisms. There are no punitive measures and no policing. The only consequences for nations and industries failing to follow the proposed guidelines are paid by the individuals who will suffer as the result of the water and air being polluted, forests being clear-cut, fisheries being depleted, and agricultural land being depleted or forced out of production by runaway development.

Nevertheless, the conspiracy nuts want you to be afraid…very afraid…of Agenda 21. Because, in their feeble minds, sustainability is just another word for tyranny.

A Teapublican Twofer.

This Wednesday, Teapublicans in Congress will, once again, hold hearings on the murders of Ambassador Stevens and three other US government personnel at the consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Unwilling to accept the State Department’s account of the incident, the Secretary of State’s account, testimony in previous Congressional hearings, or even a report by a special Accountability Review Board chaired by Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Admiral Michael Mullen, the Congressional witch hunters are determined to expose evidence of egregious failure by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a cover-up by the Obama administration.

For Teapublicans, that would be akin to finding the Holy Grail and El Dorado, the lost city of gold, in one search.

It would not only cripple President Obama for the remainder of his term. It would seriously damage the prospects of a presidential run by Clinton. According to polls, Hillary would easily defeat any potential Teapublican candidate in 2016. So, of course, Teapublicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee are going to keep hunting for the Benghazi smoking gun. They’re going to keep claiming a conspiracy. They’re going to keep accusing the administration of a cover-up. They’re going to keep calling it “Benghazi-gate.”

Having failed to uncover any evidence of a scandal thus far, this time Teapublicans claim they have the goods. They have promoted the upcoming hearings by calling the new witnesses “whistleblowers.” They say they want to “find the truth” so that our nation “can better protect our diplomats in the future.”

If that were the real motivation, wouldn’t they also look into the attacks on US Embassies under President Bush resulting in the murders of 31 people? Where was the Teapublican outrage then?

Make no mistake. This hearing, like all the Benghazi hearings, the Fast and Furious hearings and the Solyndra hearings that came before are not motivated by a search for truth and justice. They’re motivated by politics, pure and simple.