July 31, 2010

AP Covers ‘Paperwork Nightmare’ Provision in ObamaCare Without Explaining How It Got There

There’s a big “surprise” in the ObamaCare legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by the President in late March. Imagine that.

This morning, the Associated Press’s Stephen Ohlemacher reported on the status of one of them, namely an IRS-related provision in the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” that has nothing to do with patient protection or providing affordable care. The AP reporter does a decent job of explaining the current situation, but doesn’t tell readers how or why the problem arose in the first place. He also gives Democrats cover for what appears to be a half-hearted effort at repeal.

The key point Ohlemacher avoided is that no almost no one in Congress had any idea that the provision, which extends Form 1099 filing requirements to virtually all vendor payments exceeding $600 in a calendar year, was in the bill. It’s also clear that very few outside of Congress were aware of the provision in the run-up to the final votes, as the results of a Google News Archive search on “Obamacare 1099 $600″ (not typed in quotes) shows:

GoogleNewsArchive1099Ocare073110

Here are selected paragraphs from Ohlemacher’s report (bolds are mine):

Paperwork nightmare: A struggle to fix new law

Tucked into the new health care law is a requirement that could become a paperwork nightmare for nearly 40 million businesses.

They must file tax forms for every vendor that sells them more than $600 in goods.

The goal is to prevent vendors from underreporting their income to the Internal Revenue Service. The government must think vendors are omitting a lot because the filing requirement is estimated to bring in $19 billion over the next decade.

Business groups say it will swamp their members in paperwork, and Congress is listening. Democrats and Republicans want to repeal it, but getting them to work together on the issue is proving difficult in an election year.

The House rejected a bill Friday that would have repealed the provision. The two parties disagreed on how to make up the lost revenue.

“This foolish policy hammers our business community when we should be supporting their job growth,” Sen. Mike Johanns of Nebraska said in the Republicans’ weekly radio and Internet address Saturday. “It’s only one example of how the administration’s promise to support small businesses really rings hollow.”

Democrats blamed Republicans for Friday’s failure.

The House rejected the Democratic bill Friday after Democratic leaders brought it up under a procedure that requires a two-thirds majority for approval. The vote was 241-154, with nearly all Democrats voting in favor of the bill and nearly all Republicans opposed.

… Businesses already must file Form 1099s with the IRS when they purchase more than $600 in services from a vendor in a year. The new provision would extend the requirement to the purchase of goods, starting in 2012.

Uh, Steve, please re-read the bolded items, and kindly absorb these points:

  • Democrats in the House and Senate are the ones who voted for the legislation without reading it in March. The fact that the provision is in there in the first place, leading to the current “struggle” to fix it, is their fault. You should have noted that, and didn’t.
  • Democrats have a majority in both houses of Congress. If they really wanted to get rid of this provision, they could declare it “emergency” legislation as they have on so many other occasions, get around their phony PayGo rules, and pass it with simple majorities. You should have noted that, and didn’t.
  • But instead, “Democratic leaders” (i.e., Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, and perhaps other) ginned up a procedural vote requiring a two-thirds majority for passage. Why? It is because they don’t want it to pass, but instead want to engage in “blame the Republicans” rhetoric for the next 17 months? Why don’t you ask someone?

For those who believe that the search graphically illustrated above is based on a pejorative term (“Obamacare”) that the establishment press won’t use, be assured that a similar Google News Archive search on “health care 1099 $600″ (not typed in quotes) also returned nothing relevant during the first quarter of the year (the few February and March results that were returned are only there because those pages also contain more recently headlined stories).

Well, Nancy Pelosi can at least say that she warned us that there would be surprises like this when she said: “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Positivity: Heroic Afghan Dog Reunited with U.S. Soldier

Filed under: Taxes & Government,US & Allied Military — Tom @ 8:33 am

From Atlanta, Georgia, and Afghanistan (video is also at link):

ATLANTA, Ga., July 29, 2010

Dogs Prevented Suicide Bombing in Afghanistan, Saving Soldiers

When Georgia National Guardsman Chris Duke was serving in Afghanistan, he made friends with the locals – stray dogs Sasha, Target and Rufus.

“A lot of us used the three of them as an escape when you’re homesick,” Duke said.

But, as CBS News national correspondent Jeff Glor reports, the dogs did much more than keep him company.

“I firmly believe I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for him,” Duke said.

On a February night, a suicide bomber tried to get into Duke’s barracks. But the dogs began barking and biting the intruder. The attacker blew himself up before he could kill 50 soldiers inside.

Sasha was severely injured and had to be put down. But Rufus and Target were both nursed back to health. Duke returned home a month later – the dogs had to stay behind.

As another soldier kept an eye on the dogs, Duke wrote a letter to a veterans assistance group called “Hope for the Warriors.” In the letter, Duke requested bringing the dogs home to him.

“This was going to mean a lot to him,” said Robin Kelleher, President of Hope for the Warriors. “So whatever we needed to do to get this wish done we were going to do that.”

Other organizations heard about the story, too. A Facebook page went up, and raised $21,000 in less than 3 months – enough for the dogs to leave Afghanistan.

This week, Rufus and Target finally arrived in the U.S. Today, in Atlanta, they were reunited for the first time with Duke and his wife.

Target will live in Arizona with another soldier, while Rufus will stay with the Dukes. …

Go here for the rest of the story.

CNBC’s ‘Clarification’ of Bush Tax Cuts Still Ignores Their Across-the-Board Nature

CNBClogoIt would appear that someone at CNBC listened to the Mark Levin Show on Thursday. Either that, or someone at the network paid attention to his or her e-mail alerts and read my post that went up in the wee hours Friday morning (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog). Likely in response to our criticisms, CNBC has revised and “clarified” a report by CNBC staff writer Jeffrey Cox.

The network’s revised and “clarified” report still fails to sufficiently inform readers. In fact, the new version seems to be the result of a meeting where the topic of discussion was: “What are the least informative changes we can make while being technically correct?”

On his show Thursday night, Levin referred to Cox’s probably original version (now Google cached; copy saved here at my web host for future reference) addressing Deutsche Bank analysts’ fears that the expiration of the Bush tax cuts at the end of the year will have a sharply negative economic impact. (For what it’s worth, I prefer to describe what’s coming as a plain-and-simple tax increase, simply because after what will have been eight years — 2003 through 2010 — everyone has long since gotten used to the current income tax structure.)

Here are the first two paragraphs of Cox’s report as found by Levin and yours truly (bold is mine):

The nascent US economic recovery would be halted in 2011 if Congress fails to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, analysts at Deutsche Bank said.

The cuts were enacted in 2001 and 2003 under President George W. Bush and covered those earning more than $250,000, but they are set to expire at the end of this year.

Levin in passing, and yours truly with detailed support, pointed out that Bush’s tax cuts were across the board in nature and have affected well over 100 million taxpayers each and every year since their passage. Cox could easily have learned that in five minutes or less of Googling or going through Internet news archives.

Going a bit further with my point than I did in my original post — Those “tax cuts” in some instances turned into de facto tax handouts for some lower- and middle-income filers. The 2003 law allows certain tax credits (e.g., the child tax credit) to be taken even if they amount to more than the amount of tax otherwise due. In the otherworldly language of Congress and the IRS, such credits are characterized as “refundable.”

Here are the first two paragraphs as they now appear at CNBC, followed by the “clarification” that is now at the end of the article (HT to NewBusters commenter “charlestonjames” for catching this; bold is mine):

The nascent US economic recovery would be halted in 2011 if Congress fails to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, analysts at Deutsche Bank said.

The cuts were enacted in 2001 and 2003 under President George W. Bush and in part covered those earning more than $250,000, but they are set to expire at the end of this year. Tax decreases for lower-earning people likely will be continued, but the ones for the top end of the income scale are in danger of going away.

Clarification: An earlier version of this story failed to state that the Bush tax cuts covered more than just those earning more than $250,000.

The response by “charlestonjames” to CNBC’s pathetic effort is spot-on: “Of course, they still refuse to acknowledge these were across-the-board tax cuts.”

Really. Readers not familiar with the history might reasonably but erroneously infer that the revision’s references to “in part” and “lower-earning,” along with the clarification’s “more than just those earning more than $250,000,” mean that the Bush cuts only helped people making a bit less than $250,000.

It would have been so much easier from the start for Cox to merely write that “Across-the-board cuts were enacted in 2001 and 2003 under President George W. Bush, but they are set to expire at the end of this year.”

Crucially, it would also have been accurate based on the facts on the ground at the moment. Despite the confident assertion in CNBC’s revision, there is absolutely no assurance that “Tax decreases for lower-earning people likely will be continued.” C’mon, guys. Obama, Pelosi and Reid have had over 18 months to do this, and haven’t. Further, they have deliberately decided not to pass a budget and to keep the tax structure (and of course spending) on autopilot when the fiscal year 2011 begins on October 1. It’s more than a little likely that they’re not even going to bring up any other tax matters (or, of course, spending control) before the November elections.

Finally, there’s an error I didn’t bring up in my early Friday post that is in the first paragraph of both the original and revised versions.

It is simply not true that ending the Bush tax cuts for those earning over $250,000 will only affect “the wealthiest Americans.” Doing so will instead extract more money from people who happen to be the “highest-earning Americans” starting next year, regardless of whether they have previously accumulated a great deal of wealth or are saddled with a mountain of debt to the point of having a negative net worth.

I can’t believe I have to explain this to the people who work for what is supposed to be the nation’s leading business channel. If Fox’s competitive effort overtakes them, sloppiness such as what is described here, and which has telltale signs of being deliberate, will go a long way towards explaining why.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.