Conn Carroll - Don't Expand Government, Cut the Payroll Tax Instead
Posted: 7/24/2014 3:25:00 PM EST

The Earned Income Tax Credit is one of the federal government's most successful anti-poverty programs. As House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) notes in his newly released anti-poverty plan today, it "makes low-income families more likely to work by increasing work's rewards" and "encourages households to enter the labor force."

However, the EITC is also far from perfect. Which is why it was disappointing to see Ryan ignore some of the program's biggest shortcomings in his newly released anti-poverty plan.

To his credit, Ryan does note that the EITC's "complexity requires low-income individuals to either negotiate a complex maze of rules and forms" or "to pay tax preparers to file the necessary paperwork with the IRS to receive the credit."

"The IRS instructions run 39 pages, involve 15 'rules' and includes 12 separate forms that could apply in filing for the EITC," Ryan's report continues. "The credit is received as much as 15 months after the individual earned his or her pay. ... Its complexity also contributes to high error rates for the EITC. In many cases people just don't know whether they qualify or not."

What Ryan fails to mention here is just how hight the "error rate" for the EITC actually is. According to the latest Treasury Department Inspector General's report, the IRS made up to $15.6 billion in "improper" ETIC payments in 2013. That comes to 26 percent of all EITC spending.

Ryan's plan does call for EITC reform, but Congress has ordered the IRS to eliminate improper payments before, and the IRS has simply failed to do so (imagine that). Why on earth should conservatives expand a program with 25 percent error rate before IRS cleans up the existing program?

Especially considering that there is an easy way to both fight poverty and cut government at the same time: just cut the payroll tax!

Cutting the payroll tax would put more money in the hands of the working poor, encourage more poor people to work, and create more jobs. No 39 pages of IRS instructions or 15 month delays needed. Americans would just immediately see more money in each of their paychecks.

And all this could be done without raising the deficit. Whatever money Ryan was going to use to pay for his EITC expansion by cutting other ineffective programs, could also be easily funneled into the Social Security system to replace the revenue lost by the payroll tax cut.

Conservatives can fight poverty and shrink the government at the same time. Expanding the EITC is not the way to do that.

Guy Benson - Video: Israeli Spokesman Schools MSNBC Host
Posted: 7/24/2014 2:56:00 PM EST

Via Noah Rothman, an excruciating interview between MSNBC's Joy Reid and Israeli spokesman Mark Regev. To clarify, Reid's questions make this interaction an excruciating spectacle for informed viewers. Regev's patient and thorough answers are a model of of effective professionalism. Skip ahead to 1:45 and soak it in. Brief commentary to follow:

Reid's questions are laden with faulty premises, with the most obvious error being her assertion that Gaza is "occupied" by Israel. In fact, Israel unilaterally ended its occupation of Gaza in 2005 as a gesture of good faith, forcibly uprooting settlements and withdrawing entirely from the territory. That olive branch was greeted with violent madness, as the local population promptly and decisively elected a terrorist organization -- Hamas -- to represent them. Hamas then overthrew the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, leading to Israel's blockade. Israel's generosity has been repaid with the firing of thousands of rockets at its civilians over nearly a decade, including the bombardment that served as the catalyst for the current conflict. Reid presses Regev on why Israel is attacking hospitals and bulldozing private homes. He responds with the depressing truth: The IDF is forced to use surgical strikes against non-traditional targets because Hamas is using those locations as staging grounds for their terrorist activities. And they're using their civilians as human shields, urging them to disregard Israel's humanitarian pre-attack warnings, which sometimes even entail leaflets with maps identifying safe zones.

Reid demands to know where displaced Palestinians should go, and who is responsible for their fate. Hamas is responsible for their fate. Hamas started this war. Hamas shoots rockets at civilians from clinics and schools. Hamas puts children in harm's way to protect their stockpiles and leaders. Hamas inculcates its population with hateful bigotry from the earliest age. Yet every accusatory question from the MSNBC host is premised on Israel's culpability. What happens to the people who live in houses above the terror tunnels Israel destroys? There may not be a great answer to that challenge, but the cause of that dilemma is, you know, the terror tunnels -- which Hamas builds to smuggle weapons and surreptitiously enter Israeli territory, often with murderous intentions (see below). What is Israel supposed to do? Not attack the enemies who are trying to kill their civilians? Not destroy the tunnel network? It's a cliche at this point, but it's true: If Palestinians renounced violence and laid down their arms tomorrow, they would have their own state, and achieve peace. If Israel did the same, she would be annihilated.

The Los Angeles Times has a front page story today positing that the present Gaza blockade is causing and fomenting terrorism. Actually, the blockade was only imposed when Hamas proved itself to be unable to resist terrorism. Its purpose is not to cut off humanitarian supplies or legitimate commerce -- both are permitted to pass through -- but to interdict munitions re-supply shipments from sources like Iran. People got excited yesterday when a Hamas leader said his group was open to a truce. The problem is that his peace offer came with strings attached, the primary one being the lifting of the anti-weapons blockade. Hamas wants Israel to lunge for a temporary quiet at the price of allowing terrorists to re-arm. Such a concession would be counter-productive and short-sighted, and Israel realizes this. The Washington Post editorial board can't understand why many of their media brethren stubbornly refuse to cover the Israel-Palestinian struggle based on a fair assessment of the parties' morals and motives:

Hamas’s offensive tunnels should not be confused with the burrows it has dug under Gaza’s border with Egypt to smuggle money, consumer goods and military equipment. The newly discovered structures have only one conceivable purpose: to launch attacks inside Israel. Three times in recent days, Hamas fighters emerged from the tunnels in the vicinity of Israeli civilian communities, which they clearly aimed to attack. The ­concrete-lined structures are stocked with materials, such as handcuffs and tranquilizers, that could be used on hostages. Other tunnels in northern Gaza are designed for the storage and firing of missiles at Israeli cities. The resources devoted by Hamas to this project are staggering, particularly in view of Gaza’s extreme poverty. By one Israeli account, the typical tunnel cost $1 million to build over the course of several years, using tons of concrete desperately needed for civilian housing.

By design, many of the tunnels have entrances in the heavily populated Shijaiyah district, where the Israeli offensive has been concentrated. One was found underneath al-Wafa hospital, where Hamas also located a command post and stored weapons, according to Israeli officials.
The depravity of Hamas’s strategy seems lost on much of the outside world, which — following the terrorists’ script — blames Israel for the civilian casualties it inflicts while attempting to destroy the tunnels. While children die in strikes against the military infrastructure that Hamas’s leaders deliberately placed in and among homes, those leaders remain safe in their own tunnels. There they continue to reject cease-fire proposals, instead outlining a long list of unacceptable demands.

Exactly. 'Blame Israel First' agitators are either ignorant of these facts, or they don't care to know them. And far too many of them simply hate Jews, which no amount of empirical evidence will reverse.

Katie Pavlich - Exclusive Photos: Drug Mules Easily Smuggle Narcotics Into U.S. as Border Patrol Remains Overwhelmed
Posted: 7/24/2014 2:45:00 PM EST

The flood of illegal immigrants on our southern border shows no signs of stopping and drug mule and cartel operations aren't slowing down either. These exclusive photos were taken yesterday, July 22, 2014 in southeast Arizona just north of the U.S. southern border with Mexico. Each pack of narcotics being smuggled weighs 50-60 pounds.

Despite claims from President Obama and Majority Leader Harry Reid, the border is anything but secure.

Christine Rousselle - Darth Vader Polling Higher Than Every Potential 2016 Candidate
Posted: 7/24/2014 2:40:00 PM EST

A poll released yesterday on the blog FiveThirtyEight shows that Star Wars villain Darth Vader is currently polling at a higher favorability rating than any of the potential candidates for the 2016 presidential election. Additionally, Jar Jar Binks, the near universally-despised character from Episodes I, II, and III, has a higher favorability rating than many high-profile members of Congress as well as "Congress" as a whole.

On the other hand, with a net favorability of -8, Jar Jar is considerably more popular than the U.S. Congress, which currently enjoys a net favorability rating of -65. In fact, the last time congressional net favorability was above that was February 2005. Incidentally this was just before the release date of "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith," which marked Jar Jar's last appearance on the big screen.


None of the 2016 hopefuls is polling higher than Darth Vader. You'll recall that Vader chopped off his son's arm and blew up an entire planet, but evidently in the eyes of the American public these are minor sins compared to Benghazi, Bridgegate and Gov. Rick Perry's hipster glasses. These numbers suggest that if "Star Wars" were real and Darth Vader decided to enter the 2016 presidential race, he'd be the immediate front-runner.

The chart compiled by Washington Post comparing favorability rankings between the fictional characters of the Star Wars universe and the real-life "characters" of Congress is pretty jaw-dropping, yet somewhat amusing:

This shows how cynical Americans have become towards mainstream politicians. Americans, at least those polled, are just not enthusiastic about...really anyone, apparently - unless they happen to live in a galaxy far, far away.

Greg Hengler - "One Word That Explains The Loss of Innocent Life: HAMAS," says...Schumer
Posted: 7/24/2014 2:35:00 PM EST

SCHUMER: We are frustrated with the media's "double standard."

Katie Pavlich - President Who Learns Everything Bad From The News Says He Doesn't Watch The News
Posted: 7/24/2014 12:30:00 PM EST

In an effort to impress fundraisers about how incredibly smart he is, President Obama recently told a group of rich California liberals this week that he doesn't watch the news because he already knows all about what's being reported. Interestingly, Obama claims to know nothing about the numerous scandals plaguing his legacy until of course...he learned it on the news.

I could list examples of former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and Obama himself citing news reports as the administration's first time finding out about a particularly unpleasant issue, but I'll hand it over to Greg Gutfeld instead.

Conn Carroll - How Paul Ryan's Poverty Plan Will Weaken States and Empower Presidents
Posted: 7/24/2014 12:20:00 PM EST

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) released a "discussion draft" today outlining a "Agenda for New Opportunity" designed to "make federal aid more accountable and more effective."

The centerpiece of Ryan's proposal is a new "Opportunity Grant" pilot program which would allow states to consolidate a slew of federal welfare programs into one coordinated plan.

To qualify for an Opportunity Grant, states would have to submit "a concrete plan to develop a new aid program" to the federal government.

The federal government would then have the power to approve or deny states plans based on four criteria, including: 1) "the plan must demonstrate how the funds would be used to move people out of poverty and into independence"; 2) the plan "would have to require all able-bodied recipients work or engage in work-related activities"; 3) the plan "would need to use some funds from the consolidated programs to encourage new approaches by innovative groups as well as non-governmental organizations"; and 4) "the state and federal government would have to agree on measures of success and evaluation by a third party."

These all sound like fabulous good government requirements. And as long as someone both slept through the Obama presidency and knows nothing about how administrative law works, they might sound like a basis for conservative reform.

Unfortunately, however, we live in a world where presidents use and abuse every grant of power from Congress to control and weaken states. And the Ryan plan would only make it easier for future presidents to do that.

True, Ryan's Opportunity Grant program would be voluntary... at first, but so was Medicaid. Eventually all the states signed up for that program and the federal government has been using it as leverage ever since.

The same would happen with the Opportunity Grant program. Let's say Texas got an Opportunity Grant program approved in year one. Well, eventually that plan would need to be renewed, but only after Texas had reorganized its entire social safety net delivery system.

Now the next president would have Texas dead to rights. He (or probably she) could demand Opportunity Grant funding go to progressive activist groups like La Raza or Casa de Maryland. The president could gut the program's work requirements or change the definition of "work-related activities." Or the president could insist on hostile third party evaluators who would push for more progressive big government solutions.

We've seen President Obama do something very similar with the No Child Left Behind law. He has used that programs waiver process in an unprecedented way to force big government Common Core curriculum and conservative states that don't want it.

Ryan's Opportunity Grants would eventually be used by progressive presidents in the exact same way.

Matt Vespa - Anti-Israel Protesters Ask: What If The IDF Bombed Rockville, Maryland?
Posted: 7/24/2014 11:46:00 AM EST

As Israel continues its air and ground offensive in Gaza to protect itself, MRCTV’s Dan Joseph encountered an anti-Israel protest earlier this week outside the DC Convention Center where Christians United For Israel is having their annual summit.

One protestor said “Israel has a right to defend themselves if there is an equal army.” Joseph aptly noted the irrationality of her point since that’s not how war works. Things got even hazier when this person asked “but would it be ok for Israel to come in and bomb Rockville, Maryland?” She added, “Rockville doesn’t have a military.”

Actually, Rockville does; it’s part of the United States, therefore, protected by the most powerful and technologically sophisticated military in the world. Moreover, if the imaginary Democratic People’s Republic of Rockville existed, they didn’t fire rockets into Gaza! So, where is this narrative going?

An older protestor took a more conspiratorial tone saying, “ I say the government set it up and I don’t now if they were serving the United States.” Joseph pressed her asking, “you think the Israeli government set it up?”

“Yeah, I do,” she said.

Also, another gentleman claimed the United States is the biggest terrorist organization.

Oh, and the claim that Hamas is using innocent Palestinians as human shields is a lie, or something.

Sarah Jean Seman - Paul Ryan Proposal Conflates Anti-Poverty Programs, Returns Power to States
Posted: 7/24/2014 11:00:00 AM EST

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) studied a blend of politics and economics at his Ohio alma mater and he has continually made this fusion a priority in Washington. The House Budget Committee Chairman proposed a pilot program to consolidate 11 federal anti-poverty programs into one fund which would stream directly to states which opted-in. This conflation would, in theory, allow more flexibility for states to create aid options based on the unique struggles of its impoverished residents.

Ryan explained his plan in a USA Today op-ed Thursday:

Here's how the program would work: Each state that wanted to participate would submit a plan to the federal government. That plan would lay out in detail the state's proposed alternative. If everything passed muster, the federal government would give the green light. And the state would get more flexibility to combine things such as food stamps, housing subsidies, child care assistance and cash welfare. This simpler Opportunity Grant would include the same money as current law.

Plans would be approved on four conditions: The state would have to spend all funding on people in need. Second, the state would have to hold people accountable through work requirements and time limits for every able-bodied recipient just as there are for cash welfare today.

Third, the state would have to offer at least two service providers. The state welfare agency couldn't be the only game in town. And fourth, the state would have to measure progress through a neutral third party to keep track of key metrics.

The House Budget Committee defined federal anti-poverty programs as “duplicative and complex” in a 205-page analysis of the War on Poverty in March. The government spent $799 billion on the programs in 2012, the report found.

The new program would give families choices between approved non-profits, for-profits, or community groups, removing the monopoly of state agencies. According to Ryan, the scheme, dubbed the “Opportunity Grant,” would create more accountability and could be more closely eyed for results rather than sums.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) claimed Democrats would welcome any programs that would “create pathways to the middle class,” however, he was wary that the term "reform" might actually be a clever attempt to cut “vital safety-net programs.”

Daniel Doherty - Rejoice: Meriam Ibrahim and Family Escape Sudan, Arrive in Italy
Posted: 7/24/2014 10:50:00 AM EST

Sentenced to death for apostasy and confined to a prison cell for months (where she delivered her second child) Meriam Ibrahim fully expected to die a martyr's death. But now, it can be said, her harrowing experience is finally over.

And Thank God.

To recap, she was initially granted a pardon and freed after Sudan’s government overturned her death sentence for apostasy when international lobbying efforts from humanitarian groups and Western governments proved successful, only to be detained at the airport for “falsifying” her travel documents. Her entire family was apprehended, too, and after some scary bumps in the road, was finally granted refuge at the US embassy in Khartoum -- where she’s languished for about a month. Today, however, with the help of the Vatican and the Italian government, and in conjunction with the US State Department, she and her family arrived safely in Italy this morning:

Meriam Ibrahim, the Christian woman who was spared a death sentence for apostasy and then barred from leaving Sudan, met Pope Francis on Thursday after arriving in Rome to jubilant scenes following intense international efforts to free her.

Ms Ibrahim and her husband Daniel Wani thanked the pontiff for his support and he in turn thanked her for staying true to her Christian faith despite the threat of execution if she did not recant.

The 27-year-old was flown to Italy in a government aircraft and landed at Rome’s Ciampino airport accompanied by her family and Italy's deputy minister for foreign affairs, Lapo Pistelli, who flew to Sudan to collect her late on Wednesday

She was released after intense diplomatic negotiations from the Italian government and the Vatican ended an ordeal that lasted almost a year.

So what role did Italy and the Vatican play in securing Ibrahim, and her family’s, release? An indispensable one, it would seem:

[Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Lapo Pistelli] said Italy had become involved in the case because, as a Catholic country, it was very moved by Ibrahim's story and wanted to help.

Italy has good relations with Khartoum and offered to help the U.S. Embassy there to speed up the process of getting U.S. passports for Ibrahim and her family to leave the country, the minister said.

They succeeded, and now one of the most infamous cases of Christian persecution in recent memory can be laid to rest. Pope Francis, meanwhile, welcomed Meriam Ibrahim to the Vatican with open arms upon her arrival. The photograph taken of them, I believe, serves as a fitting and joyous conclusion to an otherwise traumatic and enervating world-event:

Ibrahim, her husband, and their two children are expected to fly to the US in a few days.