Obama Administration College Scorecard Offers Guide on Graduate Earnings, Debt – By Douglas Belkin Sept. 12, 2015 6:05 a.m. ET


New system using IRS data spells out how students fare 10 years after graduation

The 2015 graduating class of Texas Southmost College attending a commencement ceremony in Brownsville on May 16.ENLARGE

The 2015 graduating class of Texas Southmost College attending a commencement ceremony in Brownsville on May 16. Photo: Associated Press

The Obama administration released its much-anticipated college scorecardSaturday morning, offering new insights into the value of a university degree—and the risks associated with getting one.

The new system will present the average earnings of graduates at individual schools using Internal Revenue Service data. The scorecard spells out how students fare 10 years after graduation as well as how they compare with people who entered the workforce with just a high-school diploma.

Americans will “be able to see how much each school’s graduates earn, how much debt they graduate with, and what percentage of a school’s students can pay back their loans,” President Barack Obama said in his weekly radio address, according to prepared remarks provided by the White House. The scorecard “will help all of us see which schools do the best job of preparing Americans for success.”

The president announced a ratings system two years ago with the goal of exposing poor performing schools and curbing college costs. His approach sparked an immediate backlash from college presidents who claimed the paucity of reliable earnings data and the diversity of missions among postsecondary institutions would necessarily make a one-size-fits-all rating system both specious and misleading.

Mr. Obama bowed to that pressure by dropping his plan to compare schools against one another and abandoning plans to tie public funding to the results of the system. He also walked back expectations by changing the “ratings system” to a “scorecard,” saying the comparisons should be left to others.

Still, the watered-down scorecard didn’t please the higher-education establishment, which has a long track record of blocking federal accountability measures.

 

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http://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-college-scorecard-provides-figures-on-graduate-earnings-debt-1442052321

Blue billionaires on top – By Kenneth P. Vogel 1/11/15 8:04 AM EST


Democrats spent much of the 2014 campaign castigating Republican big money, but, it turns out, their side actually finished ahead among the biggest donors of 2014 – at least among those whose contributions were disclosed.

The 100 biggest donors of 2014 gave nearly $174 million to Democrats, compared to more than $140 million to Republicans, according to a POLITICO analysis of reports filed with the Federal Election Commission and Internal Revenue Service.

Donors who gave mostly or exclusively to Democrats held down 52 of the top 100 spots, including that of the biggest by far – retired San Francisco hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer, who spent $74 million helping Democratic candidates and groups.

Of course, that edge doesn’t take into account contributions to deep-pocketed non-profit groups that don’t disclose their donors. They heavily favored Republicans, with reports showing conservative secret money non-profits outspending liberal ones $127 million to $33 million. While that’s just a fraction of the overall undisclosed money spent in 2014, it’s indicative of a dramatic imbalance in a type of big money spending that likely would close the gap between Democratic and Republican top donors, if not put Republicans ahead.

(Also on POLITICO: Bush and Romney: Ready to rumble?)

For instance, the network of mostly secret-money non-profit groups helmed by the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers was on pace to spend $290 million in 2014. Yet David and Charles Koch, who Democrats worked to vilifyas the very personifications of the corrupting effect of big money in politics, ranked as only the 10th and 29th biggest givers of disclosed cash in POLITICO’s analysis.

Nonetheless, the analysis suggests that rich liberals have gotten over any lingering qualms about writing huge checks to unlimited-money groups like those made legal under a pair of 2010 federal court decisions – including Citizens United vs. FEC – that liberals including President Barack Obama had blasted as undermining American democracy.

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Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2015/01/blue-billionaires-on-top-114151.html#ixzz3Ob5Fw6pw

Jim Traficant Was Our Kind of Crook A Youngstown tribute. – By VINCE GUERRIERI September 27, 2014


Nobody believed the stories I told about Youngstown until Jim Traficant was indicted – for the second time.

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My tales – about a judge who got disbarred, ran for mayor and won; a prosecutor who was the subject of an attempted assassination and his predecessor, who did time for corruption; a group of gangsters who incorporated their own municipality for the express purposes of hiding a brazenly-operated illegal gambling casino from local law enforcement – were too far-fetched to anyone who’d never lived in the steel town on the Ohio/Pennsylvania border.

But James A. Traficant Jr., a man who once had his salary garnished by the Internal Revenue Service for failing to report a bribe by organized crime figures on his income tax – was the living embodiment of every yarn spun about the region and its residents. He was the Congressman you’d call from central casting – if Quentin Tarantino was directing the movie.

Traficant died Saturday at the age of 73 following a tractor accident at a family farm in the hinterlands of Mahoning County. Shy of him actually being “beamed up” after a Congressional speech – a phrase he was fond of using when the world had become too strange even for him – this is how it had to end. The farm had proven his undoing once already.

When Traficant was indicted for a second time in 2002 by a federal grand jury, the allegations included getting local contractors and staff members to do work for him on the farm. Traficant pleaded not guilty “by reason of sanity” – a local political enemy tried to have him declared legally insane in the 1980s, and it didn’t take, leading him to declare himself sane ever since – and once again swore to defend himself in court.
Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/09/jim-traficant-was-our-kind-of-crook-111376.html#ixzz3Eb8bN7Gq

I.R.S. Bars Employers From Dumping Workers Into Health Exchanges – By ROBERT PEARMAY 25, 2014


WASHINGTON — Many employers had thought they could shift health costs to the government by sending their employees to a health insurance exchange with a tax-free contribution of cash to help pay premiums, but the Obama administration has squelched the idea in a new ruling. Such arrangements do not satisfy the health care law, the administration said, and employers may be subject to a tax penalty of $100 a day — or $36,500 a year — for each employee who goes into the individual marketplace.

The ruling this month, by the Internal Revenue Service, blocks any wholesale move by employers to dump employees into the exchanges.

Under a central provision of the health care law, larger employers are required to offer health coverage to full-time workers, or else the employers may be subject to penalties.

Many employers — some that now offer coverage and some that do not — had concluded that it would be cheaper to provide each employee with a lump sum of money to buy insurance on an exchange, instead of providing coverage directly.

But the Obama administration raised objections, contained in an authoritative question-and-answer document released by the Internal Revenue Service, in consultation with other agencies.

The health law, known as the Affordable Care Act, builds on the current system of employer-based health insurance. The administration, like many in Congress, wants employers to continue to provide coverage to workers and their families.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/26/us/irs-bars-employers-from-dumping-workers-into-health-exchanges.html?hp&_r=0

The media ignore IRS scandal – Paul L. Caron 7:59 p.m. EDT May 12, 2014


 We need to get to the bottom of it by giving Lois Lerner full immunity in exchange for her testimony.

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The timeline of the Internal Revenue Service targeting of conservative groups reveals nothing less than a scandal. It is a scandal that blew into public view a year ago this week and about which the press has been far from curious.

In 2009, the president of the United States commented in a commencement address that the IRS would soon be auditing the president of the university and the Board of Regents for refusing to grant him an honorary degree. Supporters of the president dismissed critics who worried that the “joke” was a “dog whistle” intended to declare open season on the president’s political opponents.

In January 2010, the president in his State of the Union Address publicly berated the six Supreme Court justices in attendance for their decision inCitizens United, which held that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations and labor unions.

In the wake of Citizens United, many political groups formed in opposition to the president applied to the IRS for tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code, which does not require the disclosure of donors. Senators of the president’s party called on the IRS to investigate these groups.

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http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/05/12/president-obama-irs-scandal-watergate-column/8968317/

Fewer taxpayers face IRS audits – By ASSOCIATED PRESS | 4/13/14 8:26 AM EDT


WASHINGTON — As millions of Americans race to meet Tuesday’s tax deadline, their chances of getting audited are lower than they have been in years.

Budget cuts and new responsibilities are straining the Internal Revenue Service’s ability to police tax returns. This year, the IRS will have fewer agents auditing returns than at any time since at least the 1980s.

Taxpayer services are suffering, too, with millions of phone calls to the IRS going unanswered.

“We keep going after the people who look like the worst of the bad guys,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said in an interview. “But there are going to be some people that we should catch, either in terms of collecting the revenue from them or prosecuting them, that we’re not going to catch.”

Better technology is helping to offset some budget cuts.

If you report making $40,000 in wages and your employer tells the IRS you made $50,000, the agency’s computers probably will catch that. The same is true for investment income and many common deductions that are reported to the IRS by financial institutions.

But if you operate a business that deals in cash, with income or expenses that are not independently reported to the IRS, your chances of getting caught are lower than they have been in years.

Last year, the IRS audited less than 1 percent of all returns from individuals, the lowest rate since 2005. This year, Koskinen said, “The numbers will go down.”

Koskinen was confirmed as IRS commissioner in December. He took over an agency under siege on several fronts.

Last year, the IRS acknowledged agents improperly singled out conservative groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status from 2010 to 2012. The revelation has led to five ongoing investigations, including three by congressional committees, and outraged lawmakers who control the agency’s budget.

The IRS also is implementing big parts of President Barack Obama’s health law, including enforcing the mandate that most people get health insurance. Republicans in Congress abhor the law, putting another bull’s-eye on the agency’s back.

The animosity is reflected in the IRS budget, which has declined from $12.1 billion in 2010 to $11.3 billion in the current budget year.

Obama has proposed a 10 percent increase for next year; Republicans are balking.

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http://www.politico.com/story/2014/04/fewer-taxpayers-face-irs-audits-105661.html?hp=l11

Obama’s proposed IRS rules to limit tax-exempt status concern liberals, too – By Stephen Dinan-The Washington Times – Monday, February 24, 2014


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The Obama administration’s proposed crackdown on tea party and other nonprofit groups that want to play a role in politics is quietly crumbling as opposition builds across the political spectrum to new IRS rules.

Almost all of the nearly 70,000 public comments submitted as of Monday night were vehemently opposed to the proposal, which would limit the ability of social welfare nonprofits — those organized under 501(c)(4) of the tax code — to even talk about candidates in the two months before an election.


 


Conservatives have been battling the Internal Revenue Service, with the Republican-controlled House planning votes this week to try to halt the rules. But opposition from the other side of the political spectrum also is growing as liberal groups take a deeper look at the rules and realize they would affect more than just tea party and high-dollar conservative organizations.

The American Civil Liberties Union said the proposed rule “threatens to discourage or sterilize an enormous amount of political discourse in America.”

The Alliance for Justice, a coalition of more than 100 progressive groups, was opposed from the start. It led a signature drive on a letter asking the IRS to withdraw the series of changes, which it called “a very deep and troubling line in the sand.”

The League of Conservation Voters, one of the highest-spending nonprofits in the past election cycle, said it appreciates the IRS motives but worries that the agency is going too far.

Article continues:

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/feb/24/obamas-proposed-irs-rules-to-limit-tax-exempt-stat/