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Sarah Jean Seman - Guess What Your Income Tax Would Have Been in 1862
Posted: 4/15/2014 6:56:00 PM EST

Five percent— in 1862 any American making more than 10,000 dollars a year handed only five percent of their income over to the government. Well, times have changed…a lot. The Tax Foundation gathered a list of statutory tax rates spanning from more than 150 years ago to today.

In 1862 only two brackets existed:

Today, there are seven tax brackets, with the top income earners handing almost 40 percent of their annual earnings over to the government:

These rates have fluctuated greatly over the years. The first income tax dates back to 1861, when Congress passed the Revenue Act to help pay for the expenses of the Civil War. The tax was repealed a decade later, according to the Library of Congress:

However, in 1894 Congress enacted a flat rate Federal income tax, which was ruled unconstitutional the following year by the U.S. Supreme Court because it was a direct tax not apportioned according to the population of each state. The 16th amendment, ratified in 1913, removed this objection by allowing the Federal government to tax the income of individuals without regard to the population of each State.

The Federal government has been reaching into the pockets of Americans all across the nation, ever since. In the the 1950s the statutory top marginal tax rate rose to more than 90 percent! Thankfully this is not currently the case, however the government is still claiming a huge chunk of our paychecks, and an increasing amount of it is going towards entitlement programs.

The Heritage Foundation used the following graphic to reveal that almost 50 percent of tax dollars go towards entitlement programs:

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Leah Barkoukis - Barack Obama Marks Passover With A Picture Of Himself
Posted: 4/15/2014 5:03:00 PM EST

Passover, the Jewish holiday celebrating the Exodus of the ancient Israelites from their slavery in Egypt, began at sundown on Monday. And, like clockwork, Barack Obama’s wished everyone a ‘Happy Passover’ with, you guessed it, a picture of Barack Obama.

Here’s a list of just a few other times President Obama has celebrated or commemorated situations with photos of himself:

-The Grand Canyon’s Birthday

-Anniversary of the day Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus.

- JFK Assassination anniversary

- Nelson Mandela’s death

-The birthday of Obama’s Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough

- 71st anniversary of Pearl Harbor attack

-Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

-Honoring Neil Armstrong

You get the idea….

Narcissist in chief.

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Guy Benson - Heartache: Wendy Davis Getting Crushed in Texas
Posted: 4/15/2014 4:19:00 PM EST


Surprise: Texas voters aren't particularly excited about electing a tax-and-spend liberal whose claim to fame is filibustering a widely-supported bill to ban sixth-month abortions. With a grain of salt due to its provenance, feast your eyes on the latest polling out of the Lonestar State (which Katie covered earlier here):



Republican Greg Abbott -- currently the state's Attorney General -- leads by 14 points, with Davis struggling in the mid-to-high 30's. Recall that Davis got swamped in heavily Hispanic areas along the southern border in the Democratic primary. She leads Hispanics by just ten points in this poll. Abbott leads among men by 21 points (perhaps some Texas men sympathize with Wendy's ex), and eight among women. Davis has also experienced a stark reversal on personal favorability:



Abbott is sitting at (+13), with Davis limping along at (-14). Women view her roughly just as unfavorably as men. Maybe she'll turn things around after her secretive meeting with President Obama, with whom she declined to appear in public. As a tip of the hat to Texas tweeter Will Franklin, be sure to read his recent analysis of Texas' exceptional public education stats, which continue to compare very favorably with similarly-situated California on both costs and student outcomes. As for Democrat-aligned PPP's polling in Texas, their track record is...interesting. Dan McLaughlin delivers this fun juxtaposition:



The only worrying element of this survey is that the under-45 crowd skews toward Davis. Meanwhile, is Al Franken in trouble in Minnesota? A new poll shows President Obama deep underwater in the state, with Obamacare doing significant damage to the Democratic brand. Incumbents Mark Dayton (Governor) and Franken (Senate) fare better than Obama does, but neither one looks invincible. Franken, a former SNL writer and performer, has gone out of his way to cultivate a sober and serious image since he first sought elective office in 2008. He's generally eschews national interviews, and appeared to deliberately excise silliness from his daily diet ever since an infamous run-in with Mitch McConnell. But deep down, it looks as if he's still Stuart Smalley:



"Goshdarnit, fewer voters like me."

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Kevin Glass - The Astounding Tax Rates On America's Poor
Posted: 4/15/2014 4:15:00 PM EST

One of the difficulties of devising social safety net programs is dealing with what are called "welfare cliffs" - as low-income people move up the income ladder, they see government benefits phase out. Many of these welfare benefits, like the Earned Income Tax Credit, are administered through the tax code. That results in sky-high effective marginal tax rates. There are a few different ways to try to mitigate this, but it's certainly not clear that the federal government is doing it correctly.

The Congressional Budget Office analyzed marginal tax rates that affect different income levels under 2012 tax law and found that people just above and below the poverty line in America can face the highest marginal tax rates:

What this means is that there are massive work disincentives for Americans who are just working themselves out of poverty. As the Heritage Foundation's Salim Furth wrote:

...futility of work for a single parent with one child[:] If he does not work at all, he receives $19,300 in government benefits. If he instead earns a salary of $30,000—which is full-time work at $15 per hour—he has disposable income of $28,000. This means that he is working full-time for only $8,700 per year more than if he did not work at all, making his effective take home wage $4.35 per hour ($8,700/2,000 hours per year). Is it rational to expect someone to work hard for such a low wage?

And Furth had an accompanying chart similar to the CBO's:

This is largely a function of the welfare state, but it's illustrated nicely by the fact that so much of our welfare state spending is now done through the tax code. The Tax Policy Center had a good report, "The War on Poverty Moves to the Tax Code," [pdf] explaining this - you can see the rise of tax code welfare policy like the Earned Income Tax Credit:

.

There are two ways to flatten the disincentive cliff - by increasing subsidies further up the income ladder or increasing them lower down the income ladder. It's difficult to increase the subsidies lower, as some of this welfare assistance is based on working. Increasing them higher often gets absurd, which is why we see Obamacare subsidies available to families making more than $80,000 per year. There's also, of course, the option of making the benefits as a whole less generous, or of disentangling them from work. This is why Milton Friedman was drawn to the idea of replacing the welfare state with a "negative income tax" - the disincentives would still be there, but would be less gradual as a low-income worker moved up the income ladder.

What is clear, however, is that welfare cliffs are real, and are a real problem - and on tax day, it's important to highlight the problem of welfare cliffs, and that policymakers need to be thinking of them as they design new policies.

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Heather Ginsberg - Network News Stations Leave out Major IRS Scandal Updates Last Week
Posted: 4/15/2014 3:55:00 PM EST

Last week, new developments were made in the case of the IRS-Tea Party scandal, but according to all of the network news channels, these were not important enough to be covered. IRS official Lois Lerner received a criminal referral from the House Ways and Means Committee and new emails surfaced, proving she fed tax information on a targeted group to Rep. Elijah Cummings. But both ABC and NBC news did not feel this was news worthy and gave ZERO coverage to these developments.

CBS This Morning kept it brief with a 90 second report on Thursday. This was the only showing on any network news channel about the scandal. What’s even more absurd is that these news networks had plenty of opportunity to cover the updates, but apparently felt the American people didn’t need to know.

In fact, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen appeared on ABC’s World News on Friday, but the host spent time asking about long wait times on the agency’s phone line instead of asking questions about the scandal. It’s Tax Day today and yet still no one found the time to ask the pressing questions.

You ask about the Sunday shows, well no, none of them could address the latest news on the IRS targeting scandal. Isn’t the whole point of those shows to wrap up and analyze the news of the last week? Isn’t this kind of important?

As not all Americans are lucky enough to have cable, many rely on getting their news from these network channels. How is it that the American people don’t need to know about the unfair bias at the IRS? The network news channels should be focusing on reporting the news straight to the viewers, and it is frankly irresponsible for them not to.

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Katie Pavlich - Greg Abbott Beating Wendy Davis in Texas Among Women
Posted: 4/15/2014 3:40:00 PM EST

Texas Attorney General and Gubernatorial Candidate Greg Abbott is beating State Senator and feminist hero Wendy Davis in the Lone Star State...among women. According to new data from the left leaning Public Policy Polling, Abbott is not only leading Davis with overall voters, but by a whopping eight percent among female voters.

Further, Davis' has an overall 47 percent unfavorable rating while Abbott enjoys a favorable rating of 40 percent. Among women, Davis' approval favorable rating is just 32 percent.

Going into this race, Davis was defined by her pro-late term abortion stance. At the time of her now infamous filibuster and before she announced her bid for governor, Davis was at odds with Texas women, and women in general, over the issue. The overwhelming majority of women support a late-term abortion bans and strict regulations on abortion clinics. I'm sure lying about how she made her way as a "single mother" didn't help win her any votes, either.

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Daniel Doherty - Biden to #BostonStrong Survivors: “You’re Living Proof that America Can Never, Never be Defeated”
Posted: 4/15/2014 3:30:00 PM EST

Today marks the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings. On April 15, 2013, hundreds of people were injured, and three were killed, when two home-made bombs exploded near the finish line. Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Boston today to participate in the commemoration ceremony, delivering remarks and reflecting upon the courage of the survivors and the resiliency of the city of Boston.

“I’ve never witnessed a tribute [like] I heard today,” he said. “Let me say to those quote ‘survivors’ [those who spoke before him]. My God you have survived and you have soared. It was worth it, I mean it sincerely, just to hear you speak. You are truly, truly inspiring. I have never heard anything so beautiful.”

“I really mean it,” he added.

Then, speaking directly to the victims and their families, he conceded that mere words were not enough to convey the depths of their struggles over the past 12 months. But at the same time, he hopes they at least know that their courage and example have been an inspiration to the nation.

“I know that no memorial, no words, no acts can fully provide the solace that your hearts still yearn to acquire. But I hope it eases your grief a little bit,” he said. “You’re living proof that America can never, never be defeated.”

On a somewhat lighter note, he told the audience of survivors, family members, first responders, and politicians that he was never a Boston sports fan growing up -- “you got the living hell kicked out of you [if you were],” he said -- but he nevertheless admired Boston’s sense of community and its unwavering commitment to its citizens.

“You have become the face of America’s resolve not unlike what happened on 9/11,” he said.

He went on to say that he had traveled all over the world as vice president -- some 900,000 miles. And that everywhere he went, people were familiar with the city of Boston, and the remarkable way in which they responded to the bombings.

Terrorists, however, could not bask in the damage they had wrought, he said; in fact, they had only made Bostonians more committed to the ideals the country was founded upon: pluralism, tolerance, and freedom.

“Terrorists try to make us afraid,” he intoned. “If they instill enough fear [they think] we will change. And it infuriates them that we refuse to bend.”

He continued:

“What makes me so proud to be an American is that we have never ever yielded to fear," he said. "Never."

"Just look [at] what you’ve done.”

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Christine Rousselle - One Year Later: Reactions to the Boston Marathon Bombing
Posted: 4/15/2014 2:30:00 PM EST

It's been a year since two bombs were detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring 264. A shooting three days later by the perpetrators of the bombing left a policeman dead, and the ensuing hours-long police standoff and manhunt had the entire city on edge until suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was finally captured by police. Here are some reactions to the anniversary:

The Boston Globe organized a photo at the finish line of the marathon composed of survivors, runners, first responders, bystanders, medical personnel, and notable figures in Boston.

Many organizations and people tweeted using the "#bostonstrong" hashtag:


Former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino gave tribute to his city's resiliency at a memorial service today:

"I want you to hear this solemn promise: When lights dim and cameras go away, know that our support and love for you will never waiver."

Vice President Joe Biden echoed his sentiment:

"America will never, ever, ever stand down. We are Boston. We are America. We respond, we endure, we overcome, and we own the finish line."

ESPN dedicated its Sports Center Featured segment on the healing effect Boston's professional sports teams had on the people of Boston. The Boston Red Sox earlier this year honored the people of Boston and their resilience on Opening Day.


The White House also announced that the president will be partaking in a moment of silence at 2:49 p.m., the time of the first explosion.

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Daniel Doherty - Poll: 52 Percent Say Federal Income Taxes "Too High"
Posted: 4/15/2014 1:45:00 PM EST

Hopefully by now you’ve filed and/or paid your federal incomes taxes. Today, after all, is the deadline. But if you did owe money to the federal government and find yourself grumbling about it, you wouldn’t be alone. A new Gallup study released this week shows that more than half of respondents -- 52 percent -- believe they pay “too much”:

 photo taxes1_zps69002462.png

Between the late 1960s and the late 1990s no less than 60 percent of Gallup respondents said federal income taxes were “too high.” But that all changed markedly around the turn of the century. In fact, between 1999 and 2002 the percentage of respondents who said their taxes were “too high” dropped some 18 percentage points. Why? According to the pollsters, the passage of the Bush tax cuts in 2001 -- and then again in 2003 -- had something to do with it.

Interestingly, too, when Gallup surveyed partisan groups, they found that Independents were more likely than Republicans to say Uncle Sam takes too much of their money:

 photo Taxes2_zps9538fb0d.png

Democrats are the only partisan group wherein more than half of respondents say the amount of money they pay in federal income taxes is “about right.” However, all groups seem to recognize that the IRS isn't underfunded, either.

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Guy Benson - Manipulating Obamacare Stats: The Census Bureau's Suspect Timing
Posted: 4/15/2014 1:28:00 PM EST


In her post this morning, Carol linked to a New York Times story describing the US Census Bureau's ridiculous decision to change its formula for determining health coverage rates in America. "Ridiculous" not because it's out of bounds to overhaul methodology on principle, but because after three decades, they're implementing this shift at the exact moment we need a consistent baseline off of which to measure the impact of Obamacare. The brand new survey questions will unquestionably "reveal" a dramatic decrease in the uninsured population, bureau experts say, which will deliver Democrats a super handy talking point. And oh-by-the-way, the artificially improved numbers will be released...this fall:


The Census Bureau, the authoritative source of health insurance data for more than three decades, is changing its annual survey so thoroughly that it will be difficult to measure the effects of President Obama’s health care law in the next report, due this fall, census officials said. The changes are intended to improve the accuracy of the survey, being conducted this month in interviews with tens of thousands of households around the country. But the new questions are so different that the findings will not be comparable, the officials said. An internal Census Bureau document said that the new questionnaire included a “total revision to health insurance questions” and, in a test last year, produced lower estimates of the uninsured. Thus, officials said, it will be difficult to say how much of any change is attributable to the Affordable Care Act and how much to the use of a new survey instrument. “We are expecting much lower numbers just because of the questions and how they are asked,” said Brett J. O’Hara, chief of the health statistics branch at the Census Bureau. With the new questions, “it is likely that the Census Bureau will decide that there is a break in series for the health insurance estimates,” says another agency document describing the changes. This “break in trend” will complicate efforts to trace the impact of the Affordable Care Act, it said.


Allow me to paint you a picture: The Census Bureau releases its new figures in September, just a few weeks out from a major election. Per the bureaucrat-in-chief over at Census, the fresh stats on uninsured Americans will be "much lower," due to the heavily revised question wording. The wonks will make this abundantly clear, admonishing one another that the new and old data are like apples and oranges. Plus, they'll add, the new numbers don't even include the post-Obamacare implementation data from early 2014, so any attempt to trumpet the results as a triumph for the Affordable Care Act will be especially inapt. Even some elements of the center-Left smart set have begun grumbling about the indefensible timing of these methodological alterations:



Democrats, famously allergic to nuance when the political moment demands a cudgel, will shout from the rooftops about the "stunning" improvement in uninsured rates. Obamacare is working! They'll elide the crucial caveats mentioned above, plugging the exciting news into television ads, talking points and stump speeches. Sure, they'll receive multiple Pinocchios and "mostly false" ratings from fact-checkers, but when has that ever stopped them? The media's push-back will mostly be pro forma. When Republicans move to debunk the figures, Democrats will deride them as bitter and anti-science. They're from the non-partisan Census Bureau, after all. Josh Barro calls the move "insane," asking why this sea change couldn't have waited until, say, any other year. That's a serious question. If the need for this adjustment was so glaring, why wasn't it undertaken years ago? And considering the sensitive timing, why couldn't it have been pushed back for a few years? Whether they'll admit it or not (they won't), this amounts to a massive bureaucratic gift to Democrats, akin to "home cooking" officiating in sports. A White House official tweeted at me to downplay the significance of these developments, pooh-poohing the notion that census chicanery is a major "political flashpoint:"



Lee implies that this is all no biggie. Fine. Let's see if Congressional Democrats and his bosses will refrain from making political hay out of facile "official" statistics that make them look good. Color me intensely skeptical, especially in light of this White House's routine eagerness to brag about dramatically inflated Obamacare "enrollment" numbers. Another wrinkle to this: Obama and company regularly cited the loftiest (misleading) numbers possible when discussing the uninsured while selling this law, based on the Census Bureau's previous method. (Asking Americans if they'd been insured over the previous year turns up a lot of false negatives, it turns out, so the problem is being rectified). As such, it seems likely that Team O will end up benefiting politically from both frames of reference, the latter of which is being introduced just in the nick of time. Meanwhile, Ezra Klein is already "Voxplaining" that because the forthcoming data will only measure 2013 stats, next year's release will allow for an apples-to-apples comparison regarding Obamacare. That's true to some extent, but 30 years of stable data under one methodology would be a much more useful "control" set to examine, rather than just one year of recently-modified data. I'll leave you with this flashback, via John Ekdahl:


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