Matt Vespa - The Obamas Paid 19.6 Percent In Federal Taxes for 2014
Posted: 4/12/2015 8:05:00 PM EST

Next week, your taxes are due. It’s the worst time of the year. So, how much did the Obamas pay in income taxes this year? Around 19.6 percent (via Politico):

President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, paid nearly $94,000 in federal taxes on $477,000 in income, they said in tax returns released Friday.

That translates to an effective tax rate of 19.6 percent.

This is the first tax filing season the Affordable Care Act requires people to say whether they’ve had coverage.

Obama reported receiving $395,000 in salary in 2014, about $90,000 related to his books and $16,000 in taxable interest.

The Obamas gave about $70,000 or 14.8 percent of their income, to charity.

The biggest beneficiary was the Fisher House Foundation, a group that helps military families. It received $22,000. The Obamas also gave $5,000 to Sidwell

Friends, the exclusive private school in Washington their children attend.

They gave between $1,000 and $2,000 to more than 30 other groups, including the

Central Illinois Food Bank, the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition and the United Negro College Fund.

The Obamas reported being due a $20,000 tax refund.

The publication added that the Obamas paid $22,000 in Illinois state taxes, and Vice President Joe Biden paid an effective rate 23.3 percent in taxes after donating $7,000 to charity.

So, the Obamas and the Bidens have their taxes all set, but what about everyone else? Tax policy brings the typical liberals voicing their opinions about the wealthy, also known as the job creators, paying their fair share. Well, it seems that they are–and then some. In fact, if you expand the bracket, the top 20 percent of earners pay 84 percent of all federal income taxes (via WSJ):

The income cited in the tables includes untaxed amounts for employer-provided health coverage, tax-exempt interest and retirement-plan contributions and growth, among other things. This can be significant.

On average, such benefits double the income of people in the bottom quintile and add more than 25% to the income of people in the top quintile, says Roberton Williams, an income-tax specialist at the Tax Policy Center. That means a taxpayer whose stated pay is $130,000 might be reaping another $35,000 annually in untaxed income.

“Most people focus on the income they see in their paychecks or portfolios and forget about untaxed benefits they receive,” Mr. Williams says.

The tables show just how progressive the income tax is. The three million people in the top 1% of earners pay nearly half the income tax.

Why is the share of income taxes negative for 40% of Americans? In recent decades Congress has chosen to funnel important benefits for lower-income earners through the income tax rather than other channels. Some of these benefits, such as the Earned Inc

ome Tax Credit and the American Opportunity Credit for education, make cash payments to people who don’t owe income tax.

People receiving such payments do pay other federal taxes, of course, such as those for Social Security and Medicare. If these taxes are included, the share of federal taxes paid by the lowest two quintiles turns positive.

Still, even if those rates of taxation hit the post for those paying negative income taxes in the tables above, it wouldn’t come near the amount the top 20 percent fork over every year. Additionally, as George Will has written, the number of people paying little to no federal income taxes creates a situation of moral hazard. He noted how the bottom 50 percent only pay three percent of federal income taxes. Thus, we have a segment of the population that has no vested interest in limiting a government that they’re not paying for. 

Yet, before we can address that problem, we have to revamp our tax code, which is only slightly under 74,000 pages.

Yes, Happy Tax Day, folks.

Cortney O'Brien - Take Two: Hillary is Officially in for 2016
Posted: 4/12/2015 3:11:00 PM EST

Young feminists were giddy at Saturday's first annual Young Feminists Conference in Richmond, Virginia, where one of the speakers declared it "Hillary Eve." I didn't stay for Sunday's festivities, but I imagine they are now beside themselves.

Sunday afternoon, one of the former Secretary of State's top advisers, John Podesta, officially announced she is running for president in 2016 and unveiled her new campaign website, With that, Clinton's second bid for the White House has begun. Here was the message via her newly renovated Twitter page, complete with her new campaign logo.

Her official announcement video, "Getting Started," is featured on the new website:

For what it's worth, this announcement was much more entertaining.

As Guy said, Hillary's hat in the ring marks the "commencement and conclusion" of the Democratic Primary.

You may have heard claims that once Hillary secures the nomination, the presidency is inevitable. Yet, as Matt has pointed out, she is not invincible. For one, voters don't trust her. Not only is her email scandal suspicious, her weak defense of her using a private email server to conduct her Secretary of State affairs was unconvincing and downright embarrassing. 

The whole episode perhaps makes this parody tweet more accurate.

Americans haven't forgotten about Benghazi, either. The slow response to save our American diplomats in Libya can be traced back to Clinton, who failed to provide ample security in the region. In a sit down interview with CNN's Dana Bash Saturday, 2016 GOP presidential candidate Rand Paul called Benghazi a "3 am pohone call she never picked up." As for her "What difference does it make?" comments, they may indeed make a difference at the polls.

Welcome to the race Hillary, and good luck. Fawning liberals may not believe it - but you're going to need it.

Update: The RNC has reacted to Hillary's announcement.

“Americans need a president they can trust and voters do not trust Hillary Clinton. Over decades as a Washington insider, Clinton has left a trail of secrecy, scandal, and failed policies that can’t be erased from voters’ minds. The Clintons believe they can play by a different set of rules and think they’re above transparency, accountability, and ethics. Our next president must represent a higher standard, and that is not Hillary Clinton."

“Clinton’s announcement comes in the shadows of looming investigations over deletion of State Department records and suspicious foreign donations. For weeks Clinton has stonewalled the American public on unanswered questions around these many scandals. As an official candidate, Clinton must come clean with the American people.

“Republicans have a strong and diverse set of candidates who will engage in a productive debate on how to move our country forward. Clinton’s coronation represents more of the same, and voters have made it clear they want a new direction.”

Cortney O'Brien - Cuomo’s StartUp NY Program Creates a Whopping 76 Jobs, Costs Taxpayers $53 Million
Posted: 4/12/2015 12:00:00 PM EST

Governor Andrew Cuomo was all too proud to unveil his StartUp NY program in the Empire State. They called it a 'game changer.' The ingenious program offered tax-free environments to tech and manufacturing companies for 10 years if they worked with state colleges and universities. It was supposed to boost entrepreneuralism and create thousands of jobs throughout the state. Yet, one year later, the most New Yorkers have to show for it is emptier pockets.

The ubiquitous Start-Up NY promotional campaign has cost taxpayers $53 million since the program's inception in late 2013, while it has led to $1.7 million in private investment so far, state records show.

The state spent $47 million on the ads alone since the program started in December 2013, and the total cost included production expenses and other marketing efforts through last month, according to Empire State Development Corp. In July, the agency said $28 million had been spent on the ads.

To put it in even grimmer perspective, the state has spent $697, 368 per job so far. These grisly numbers come in after the governor made several pledges across the state that jobs were going to start pouring in. Seventy-two in Albany, 123 in Western New York, he said. His promises have been mostly air thus far. 

Perhaps even more embarrassing for the governor, however, is the fact that New York has just come in dead last for economic competitiveness, as ranked by The American Legislative Exchange Counci.

As many politicians do when their heralded programs don't fare as well they claimed they would, Democrats are coming to StartUp NY's defense and saying it will take more time, two or three years, to truly know whether the investment was worth it. Assemblyman Sean Ryan (D-Buffalo) acnowledges that $53 million in taxpayer money is enough to make New Yorkers gasp, but insists, “What we know is we have the bones of a good program, and we’re trying to build on that.”

One brick at a time, I guess.

Leah Barkoukis - ICYMI: Drastic Reduction in Food Stamp Use After Maine Begins Work Requirements
Posted: 4/12/2015 9:00:00 AM EST

Maine has already seen a drastic reduction in the number of able-bodied adults with no children that are collecting food stamps from the state thanks to new rules put in place by Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s administration.

Before January 1, there were roughly 12,000 adults in the program, but after work and volunteer requirements were put in place late last year, the number of participants in the program dropped to 2,680 as of March.

The Associated Press reports:

Since October, healthy adults without children have been required to work at least 20 hours a week, volunteer or participate in a work-training program to continue receiving benefits in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program after three months. It's the result of the administration's decision to no longer seek a waiver for the federal requirement, which it had used since 2008. […]

Maine was one of at least eight states that declined to use the federal waiver this year out of the 37 states that had been eligible, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service. The Center on Budget and Policy priorities, a left-leaning think-tank in Washington D.C., estimated in January that about 1 million people nationwide would be removed from the program as a result of those changes.

A census report released this month shows that Maine had one of the highest participation rates in the food stamp program in 2013 at 18 percent. Only Oregon and Mississippi higher rates that year, according to the report.

The goal of the new requirements is to encourage people to find work, DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew told the Associated Press.

"If you're on these programs it means you are living in poverty and so the more that we can help incentivize people on that pathway to employment and self-sufficiency the better off they're going to be," she said.

While critics say there aren’t enough jobs or volunteer positions available to meet the requirements, a spokesman for the DHHS pointed out to the AP that recipients only need to volunteer 24 hours per month in order to comply with the requirements; the administration also believes there are enough opportunities available throughout the state to do so.

Matt Vespa - Chaos: Christian Street Performers Fight Arizona Police, One Left Dead
Posted: 4/11/2015 5:10:00 PM EST

UPDATE: First, it seems only three members of the family are part of the band Matthew 24 Now. I've corrected the original post below. Second, this goes without saying; the police were not at fault for this brawl. Officer Rick Hicks who fired the fatal shot that killed 21-year-old Enoch Gaver has since retuned to work after his actions were deemed justified.  You can see the struggle made by one of the family members for Sgt. Jeremy Daniel's firearm. Daniels is disarmed and shot. Hicks proceeds to hit Gaver with his baton, but to no effect. That's when he drew his sidearm and shot Gaver (via AZ Central):

Cottonwood Police Chief Jody Fanning said that Enoch Gaver, 21, had disarmed Sgt. Jeremy Daniels and had shot him in the leg. He said Gaver was still armed with Daniels' gun when Officer Rick Hicks started hitting him with a baton.

After Hicks determined the baton had no effect, he resorted to shooting Gaver to death, Fanning said.

Hicks also shot and wounded David Gaver, who also had been on top of Daniels and had charged towards Hicks, Fanning said.

The preliminary investigation has given me enough evidence to place him back on duty,'' Fanning said, adding that he believes Hicks' actions were justified.

"The officers did a very good job of restraining themselves,'' Fanning said. He said they only resorted to deadly force when the Gavers left them with no other choice.

Nathan Gaver told police that his mother, Ruth, was using the restroom, and that he and his brother Jeremiah were guarding it.

Police are seen in another video snippet arriving at the scene, where a large group of people are standing near a Chevrolet Suburban. The brawl ensues almost immediately after the third and fourth officers arrive.

Fanning said he still does not understand why the Gavers chose to fight his officers, rather than simply speaking to them. He said the likely outcome of the call would have been a misdemeanor citation with no one going to jail if the Gavers had not escalated the incident.

The officers and the Gavers are seen punching each other on the video. At some point, an officer attempts to use a stun gun to bring the Gavers under control, but that appears to have little effect.

**Original Post**

An investigation into an assault of a Walmart employee turned into a deadly brawl between Cottonwood Police and an Idaho family, where at least three members were part of a Christian street performing act called Matthew 24 Now. One person was killed. When police said they needed to separate the family for routine questioning, a fight broke out–with one family member putting an officer in a headlock. The scuffle, which lasts almost nine minutes, is featured below. You can also clearly hear one family member calling the officer a "Nazi." (via CNN):

[Warning: graphic content and some strong language]

Arizona investigators have released dramatic video of a Walmart parking lot brawl that left a police officer wounded, one man dead, and reportedly involved members of a Christian family band.

Enoch Gaver, 21, was killed in the fight in the town of Cottonwood, and suspect David Gaver, 28, was shot in the stomach and taken into custody. Police Sergeant Jeremy Daniels was hit in the leg by a bullet fired during the melee.

The police dashcam video, released Friday, shows Cottonwood Police approaching the group of eight people -- all identified as members of the Gaver family -- around a large SUV in a Walmart parking lot on March 21.

Officers wanted to question them about the alleged assault of a Walmart employee who was going into the store bathroom. The police were accompanied by another Walmart employee.

On the video, an officer tells the group that they "need to separate these folks and talk to them." Someone then responds, "No, you are not going to separate me from my parents," and, "don't touch me."

The video then shows a police officer being put in a headlock and knocked to the ground.

The sound of Taser fire is heard. Police say pepper spray was deployed and that at least three shots were fired in an apparent struggle for an officer's gun.

Several times on the video the group appears to surrender, but starts fighting again.

According to AZ Central, the Gavers would perform for $250-350 within a ten-mile radius of Boise. They had recently moved to Cottonwood due to “circumstances;” the cryptic reason given by Nathan Gaver, who is being charged for assaulting a police officer. Gaver said he did this to “protect his sister.” The publication also reported that a tussle over an officer’s sidearm occurred:

The redactions make the [Yavapai County Superior Court] document difficult to understand in parts, but it said the first Cottonwood officer who arrived at the Walmart parking lot was immediately attacked and disarmed by one of the Gavers.

A second officer who arrived on the scene reported hearing the first officer say, "they got my gun," as he confronted five members of the family in the parking lot, according to the court document. He also heard someone say, "stop or get shot," it said.

Matt Vespa - Capitol On Lockdown After ‘Apparent Suicide’
Posted: 4/11/2015 3:24:00 PM EST

If you’re in Washington D.C. to see the cherry blossoms and want to visit the U.S. Capitol, you might want to try another time. It’s on lockdown after a shooting was reported earlier this afternoon. It appears to be a suicide (via Politico):

The U.S. Capitol is on lockdown after shots were fired on the West Front of the complex, a spokesman for Capitol Police said.

Authorities confirmed that the shooting was an apparent suicide.

The suspected shooter has been neutralized but the U.S. Capitol Building has been locked down as a precautionary measure,” said Lt. Kimberly Schneider of the Capitol Police.

Police are also investigating a suspicious package on the lower West Terrace of the Capitol, Schneider said. Roads are closed around the Capitol.

NBC News’ affiliate in Washington reported that this doesn’t appear to be anything relating to terrorism.

Christine Rousselle - Gwyneth Paltrow Takes Food Stamp Challenge
Posted: 4/11/2015 2:45:00 PM EST

Actress Gwyneth Paltrow once said "I am who I am. I can't pretend to be someone who makes $25,000 a year," but she's doing just that this coming week. Paltrow and other celebrities have taken the #FoodBankNYCChallenge and will be living on a $29 food budget for one week. This, according to the Food Bank for New York City, is equal to about $1.38 per meal, or what a person living on SNAP would have for a food budget.

While it's certainly admirable that Paltrow is taking on the challenge (especially with her own diet being so exorbitantly expensive), the math involved is a little fuzzy.

According to the USDA, the maximum SNAP ("food stamp") benefit available for a household of one is $194 per month. This, assuming three meals a day for 30 days, is equal to $2.16 per meal, or a $45.30 budget per week--about 50 percent higher than the #FoodBankNYCChallenge suggests for their challenge. Furthermore, judging from the brands in the picture, Paltrow shopped at Safeway, one of the more expensive grocery store chains. Also, SNAP benefits aren't distributed weekly--they arrive at a set date each month in a lump sum. A person using SNAP is free to spend more than $29 or $45 or whatever for one week. The S in SNAP stands for "supplemental," so it's presumed that a person is not getting their entire food budget from the program, but that's kind of besides the point of this "challenge."

In order to stretch her food budget, Paltrow could have searched for deals, used a store loyalty card, or used coupons. She also could have bought more frozen vegetables, as they'll last longer than fresh vegetables and have the same nutritional value. Considering that Paltrow eats nearly exclusively organic foods, she's likely to spend more on groceries for questionable at best health benefits.

Still, it's a good thing that stars are taking a step back to appreciate how others who are less fortunate are living. Paltrow has been incredibly blessed to have success in Hollywood, and she's often criticized for being out-of-touch.

Matt Vespa - Poll: 72 Percent Of Democrats And Independents Want A ‘Robust’ Democratic Primary
Posted: 4/11/2015 2:30:00 PM EST

Democrats do not want a coronation, but sometimes you can’t always get what you want. Hillary Clinton is announcing her 2016 bid this Sunday–and the nomination is all but locked up for her. Nevertheless, a new Bloomberg poll found that 72 percent of Democrats and Independents want a competitive Democratic primary. Yet, it’s highly unlikely that a serious challenger could launch a successful insurgent candidacy a la Barack Obama this cycle; most of the possible candidates mentioned as potential 2016 primary challengers to Hillary have crumbled

Vice President Joe Biden has been traveling to the right spots, but he has zero campaign infrastructure set up at the moment. However, a Draft Joe movement did emerge in the past few weeks. Right now, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley seems to be the one poised to offer a Democratic alternative to Clinton in 2016. Two things continue to plague the Clinton team. One, the email controversy appears to be huge deal with voters, with 53 percent saying Clinton has not been truthful regarding disclosing all the details relating to her private emails address and server. Second, gender doesn’t seem to play an issue; 83 percent said it didn’t make a difference if she could become the first female president. Only 12 percent polled were more inclined to vote for her because of that fact:

As Clinton prepared to formally announce her candidacy on Sunday, nearly three-quarters of Democrats and independents in the survey said it would be a good thing for the Democratic Party if she were to face a "serious" challenger for the nomination. Democrats and independents hold the same view, with 72 percent of both groups saying her party would be best served by a robust primary.

That presents a potential opening for other Democrats considering bids, including former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley and possibly Vice President Joe Biden.

Facing a serious challenge "would prepare her for debates and things like that against the Republican nominee," said poll respondent Marc Witte, 66, a Democrat and clinical counselor from Poland, Ohio. Yet Witte, who supports Clinton, isn't quite sure he wants Clinton to face an overly combative challenger. "That could be a bad thing," he said.

The poll, taken April 6-8, also indicates that Clinton will confront continued skepticism about whether she has been truthful in saying that she's turned over all e-mails relevant to her time as secretary of state. Fifty-three percent of Americans say they think she purposely withheld or deleted some relevant e-mails from a private account and home server she used while in office. Just 29 percent of respondents said they thought she was being truthful.

Even 26 percent of Democrats believe she has purposefully withheld e-mails or deleted them.

The email scandal has been killing her favorable ratings. Additionally, Bloomberg noted that for those who do view her favorably; more than a quarter said she hasn’t been honest about her emails.

It’s becoming clear that Team Hillary made a huge miscalculation over their rationale regarding the American voter not caring about the emails. Some of those polled by Bloomberg consider this issue a testament to one’s character–and the Clintons have a checkered history with that aspect of politics, especially when Bill was elected in 1992.

For the most part, Democrats will be voting for Hillary in 2016, but her support has dropped ten points. In June of 2013, 52 percent of Democrats said they would definitely vote for Clinton in 2016; that number has dropped to 42 percent in April. Almost thirty percent of Democrats are either definitely not voting for her, or they’re unsure, which is an increase of almost ten points from June of 2013.

When you breakdown the gender politics, unsurprisingly liberals and women are more inclined to vote for Hillary due to the fact that she’s a woman, and could be the first female president. For men and women who consider themselves independent, those approval numbers take a dive–as usual:

Women and liberals are more likely than others to say they'd be more inclined to vote for Clinton because of her gender. Seventeen percent of women say the idea of electing the first female president makes them more inclined to vote for Clinton, more than double the percentage of men who say that. Among those who consider themselves liberals, a quarter said Clinton's gender makes them more likely to back her.

As is typical for Clinton, more women view her favorably than men, 54 percent to 42 percent. Still, her standing with women has dropped 9 points from two years ago.

Her ratings have suffered among independent women, with 44 percent viewing her favorably and 48 percent unfavorably. That’s a profound drop since June 2013, when that group viewed her favorably by almost a 2-1 ratio, 60 percent to 33 percent.

Last note: The number for independents and Democrats saying a robust Democratic primary would be a good thing might be slightly lower (or higher) than 72 percent. The sample size for that question was only 687. For a more accurate number, it should have been closer to 1,000 respondents, like the overall Bloomberg poll. Nevertheless, the email fiasco–and the fact that she’s just a polarizing figure who gets more unpopular the longer she sits in the limelight–has proven to be quite the factor in chipping away at her approval numbers. At the same time, it’s a bit odd that some Democratic strategists thought that the optics looking dishonest wouldn’t matter to voters.

A ten-point drop among fellow Democrats, not being viewed as honest, swing state support waning; Hillary is limping out of the 2016 gate, but that could change.

Cortney O'Brien - Media Claims ‘Ferguson’ Play Will ‘Reignite Racial Tensions’
Posted: 4/11/2015 12:07:00 PM EST

Phelim McAleer, the fearless filmmaker who has previously exposed the extremes of the anti-fracking industry via his documentary "FrackNation," and is currently working on “Gosnell: The Movie” to raise awareness about the horrors of late-term abortion, is now stepping into live theater territory. "Ferguson: The Play" is a verbatim drama that will present a factual presentation of the shooting death of Michael Brown last year in Ferguson, Missouri, with actors reading straight from the trial testimony. The Ferguson grand jury decided not to bring charges against Officer Darren Wilson after evidence suggested he shot Brown in self defense.  The Department of Justice review of the shooting backed this up as well. Although the play is going to present the details of the case sans editorializing or bias, some in the media are already claiming McAleer's play will only stir racial tension, such as's Kevin O'Keeffe.

According to O'Keeffe, a former writer at The Atlantic and The Advocate, there is “nothing to be gained” by staging a play that features verbatim eyewitness accounts of the controversial shooting of black teenager Michael Brown by white officer Darren Wilson and will re-enact the actual shooting on stage. He described FERGUSON as a “danger” that “feels like a powder keg ready to reignite racial tensions” and an “incredibly frustrating provocation of the past.”

McAleer was disappointed in the unfair reaction.

“This is a call for a ‘hecklers veto’ on the arts — or, in this case, a ‘rioters’ veto,” he said. “I will not be shut down or censored by people threatening violence. If people don't like to hear the truth, then it’s not my fault if they react with violence.”

“This is what theater should be all about. It’s why I wrote the play — to ask provocative questions,” he stated. “I want to take FERGUSON on the road so that everyone can hear the truth.”

The early media backlash may stem from frustration, since McAleer's play doesn't allow them to set the agenda. Instead of picking certain parts of the case to highlight for their audience, "Ferguson" will simply offer all the details of the night in question. I'll add it's also ironic that the media is concerned McAleer's play will 'reignite racial tension,' when they're the ones who the lit the fire in the first place. Their obsession with the story can be partly to blame for the violent protests and looting in Ferguson, which left some small business owners without businesses.

That's why a play like McAleer's is needed in our agenda setting cutlure. Perhaps most intimidating of all for the liberal media, "Ferguson: The Play" will allow the audience to decide whether Officer Wilson is innocent or guilty. The IndieGoGo funding page shows McAleer is a little more than halfway to his goal. To help him provide the full Ferguson story, go here to donate.

Daniel Doherty - Tsarnaev's Mom: "My Son Is The Best"
Posted: 4/11/2015 9:00:00 AM EST

The mother of the two Boston Marathon bombing terrorists, one of whom was killed trying to evade capture and the other may soon be put to death, is on a public relations kick of sorts defending her surviving ‘baby boy’ and praising his honor and integrity. Please:

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s mother, Zubeidat, bashed Americans as “terrorists” Wednesday on social media for convicting her son — “the best of the best” — of 30 federal counts for the Boston Marathon bombing. A jury is now contemplating whether he will get the death penalty.

“I will never forget it. May god bless those who helped my son. The terrorists are the Americans and everyone knows it. My son is the best of the best,” she posted in Russian on VKontakte, a social media site, Vocativ reported. Her post was on “Support for Dzhokhar,” a group created on VKontakte by a family friend.

Well, no. As a matter of fact, your son is a condemned terrorist who was convicted on every single charge brought against him. Thirty for 30. And if he isn’t put to death, as some are hoping, he will likely rot in a prison cell for the rest of his miserable life.

Let’s not forget that Tsarnaev’s commitment to jihad left three innocent people dead, including a young boy, and grievously injured hundreds more. And while the city of Boston (my hometown) may have been shaken, it was never brought to its knees. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother failed in their quest to divide a city and intimidate a nation. In fact, they only brought Americans closer together.

I’ll leave you with this moving tribute video, which is a testament to the strength and resilience of the people of Boston: