March 29, 2017

Effort to Bilk Social Security of $500 Million Stymmied

At Government Executive magazine on Monday, Charles Clark reported, "In a break for the governmentwide effort to thwart improper payments, the Justice Department on Friday announced a guilty plea by a Kentucky disability attorney involved in a scheme to defraud the Social Security Administration of as much as $550 million."

Clark provides these details:

"Eric Christopher Conn, 56, of Pikeville, Ky., pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky to one count of theft of government money and one count of payment of gratuities.

"From October 2004 to April 2016, according to the plea, “Conn participated in a scheme with former SSA administrative law judge David Daugherty and multiple doctors that involved the submission of thousands of falsified medical documents to the SSA. Conn and his co-conspirators obligated the SSA to pay more than $550 million in lifetime benefits to claimants for these fraudulent submissions.”

"Conn’s Floyd County firm spent two decades representing claimants, and he admitted in his plea that he paid Daugherty about $10,000 a month to award disability benefits to 1,700 claimants for whom Conn submitted falsified medical documents from December 2004 through April 2011, Justice reported.

"Daugherty and a clinical psychologist named Alfred Bradley Adkins, who is alleged to have signed inaccurate evaluation reports for disability claimants before the patients were examined, were indicted separately. They were charged with conspiracy, fraud, false statements, money laundering and related offenses.

"Conn admitted that he received more than $5.7 million in representative fees from SSA based upon the fraudulent claims.

"Sentencing for Conn is set for July 14.

"The development was welcomed by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which has been mulling legislation addressing disability fraud.

“This is an important step in the fight against Social Security disability fraud," he said . . . ."

Clark embeds a number of links in the even you desire further details.

We growled about the Social Security disability fund on July 24, 2015, growling that the fund was predicted to run out of money in late 2016.

Kudos to those many government officials responsible for bringing this Conn-man, and his partners in crime, to justice.

March 28, 2017

The Cost of Complying with the Federal Tax Code

At the Washington Free Beacon yesterday, Ali Meyer reports on a Tax Foundation event on Monday. Her opening paragraphs provide two major takeaways:

"Taxpayers spend 6.1 billion hours a year just to comply with the federal tax code, according to experts at a Tax Foundation event on Monday.

"Pete Sepp, president of the National Taxpayers Union, said that tax compliance costs taxpayers $234 billion per year in direct costs and lost productivity.

"The problem is the status quo—thinking that, well, if we don't do tax reform this year it will just be that bad," Sepp said. "No, the status quo is not the static quo—it's going to get worse."

"The paperwork burden inventory at the Office of Management and Budget related to Treasury is expected to rise by another 2 billion hours in the next few years," he said. "One-third added to that, we're looking at tax compliance costs of north of $400 billion a year."
I couldn't find anything at the Tax Foundation website about Monday's event. However, there are a number of research papers about individual tax compliance and complexity. Most of those hours, by the way, are devoted to complying with business returns although they say that 1.6 billion hours are devoted to 1040 returns. With approximately 130 or so million individual tax returns, the average tax filer spends about 12 hours in preparing and filing a 1040. The Tax Foundation was founded in 1937; for more information. click here.

The National Taxpayers Union (NTU) was founded in 1969; for more information, click here.

Sounds like time for a flat tax or the FairTax.

March 27, 2017

Ameericans Paid Record $540.7 Billion in Property Taex in 2016

At CNS News this afternoon, Terry Jeffrey reported that "Americans paid a record $540,701,000,000 in property taxes to state and local governments in fiscal 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau."

 He continues, explaining:

"That was up $16,748,620,000—or about 3.2 percent--from $523,952,380,000 in property taxes (in constant 2016 dollars) that state and local governments collected in fiscal 2015.

"The prior national record for property taxes was set in fiscal 2009, when they hit $527,850,500,000 in constant 2016 dollars. Fiscal 2016's record total of $540,701,000,000 was up $12,850,000,000—or about 2.4 percent—from that previous record.

"The nationwide state and local property tax receipts for fiscal 2016 were released last week with the Census Bureau’s 'Quarterly Summary of State and Local Government Tax Revenue for 2016: Q4.'"

He also writes, "Most of the property taxes were collected by local governments. Of the $540,701,000,000 in total property taxes collected nationwide in fiscal 2016, according to the Census estimate, $16,040,000,000—or about 3 percent—was collected by state governments."

Several links are embedded in the original, where you can find further details.

Jeffrey includes the following chart showing how per capita property taxes have increased from 1992 to 2016:

 

Growls readers can find information about real estate property taxes in Arlington County in "Section B -- Revenues" of the Arlington County Manager's proposed FY 2018 budget.

March 26, 2017

Explaining the Bad Behavior of Arlington County's Homeless

Arlington County taxpayers spent close to $10 million for a homeless services center, according to this Arlington County webpage, yet on "a cold and windy day" recently "a bus stop at the corner of Wilson Boulevard and North Rhodes Street" was being used as a bedroom, and apparently as a bathroom, too, according to an online report by Scott McCaffrey at the Arlington Sun Gazette.

These details came from a Rosslyn resident who spoke to members of the Arlington County Board.

What was disconcerting to Board members was learning that although "two police officers were on hand, talking to the man in the shelter . . . a day later, the feces still had not been removed." According to McCaffrey:

"That part of the story left County Board member Libby Garvey flabbergasted. Cleaning crews, she said, need to be “out there immediately” in such instances.

"Her board colleague, Christian Dorsey, also expressed concern, based on the facts as they were presented, that “nothing was done.”

"County Manager Mark Schwartz, too, expressed displeasure. “The expectation is that [police] will immediately get to the right people” about cleaning up biohazards like human excrement, he said.

"Asked about the incident several days after the board’s March 18 meeting, county officials said they followed up with police, but because no specific time or date of the incident was provided, the department was unable to find a complaint based on it.

"County-government spokesman Mary Curtius said it was “exceedingly rare” to find human waste at bus stops. The responsibility for clean-up rests with Solid Waste Bureau of the Department of Environmental Services. (Anyone seeing this type of health hazard should call the police department’s non-emergency number, 703-558-2222, officials said.)

On behalf of the county government, Curtius offered up a bit of a defense of the homeless hunkering down in bus shelters, so long as they are not creating a hazard.

“It is not illegal to be homeless, and police officers cannot compel people . . . to vacate benches in the public right-of-way if their presence is not impacting others,” she said.

"On the other hand, “If staff encounters such a situation, and the person’s presence is impacting ridership, staff engages . . . outreach workers, or police, as appropriate,” Curtius said."

McCaffrey then mentioned two more specific areas of community concern:

  • "Residents of a high-rise condominium adjacent to the homeless-services center in Courthouse remain unhappy with supervision at the facility.
  • "Staff at Central Library are known to complain about a proliferation of homeless who at times congregate there, often using bathrooms inappropriately."

He concluded by quoting Arlington County Board chairman Jay Fisette, writing, "the government needs to 'manage the situation for the community and the individuals.'"

By the way, the cost of the homeless shelter was "$9.679 million," and according to the county, "was completed within budget." Here's the cost breakdown: "$6.610 million construction authorization; $0.692 million for furnishings, security and IT equipment; $1.585 million in soft costs (design, construction administration, County staff time allocated to the project, permits and inspections); and, $0.792 million for installation of an emergency generator (added scope of work)."

The shelter is administered by the Housing Assistance and Homeless Programs unit of Economic Independence within the Department of Human Services (DHS). Unfortunately, the DHS budget does not breakout the cost of operating the shelter.

Growls readers who are Arlington County taxpayers should contact the Arlington County Board with any relevant questions about the homeless shelter. Just click-on the following link to send the Board a message:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130.

And tell them ACTA sent you.

March 25, 2017

Sen. Franken Earns March 2017 Porker of the Month Award

Porker of the Month is a dubious honor given to lawmakers, government officials, and political candidates who have shown a blatant disregard for the interests of taxpayers.

                                           - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

In a press release earlier this week, "Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) named Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) its March 2017 Porker of the Month for his absurd defense of the bureaucratic takeover of the internet."

Here's CAGW's explanation:

"There has been a substantial amount of misinformation about so-called net neutrality over the past decade.  For starters, it’s not neutral.  The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reclassified Internet Service Providers (ISPs) under antiquated provisions of Title II of the 1934 Communications Act, which allowed the agency to regulate ISPs as if they were rotary phone companies.  Further confusing the public, the FCC name for the mandate when it was pushed through on February 26, 2015, was the Open Internet Order (OIO).  Placing ancient government standards onto a modern communications platform stymies innovation and free speech.

"Sen. Franken has been a leading proponent of these regulations during his tenure in the Senate.  Soon after new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai signaled his intention to repeal these bygone regulations, Sen. Franken seemed to revert to his prior career as a comedian.  He laughingly mused that a repeal of net neutrality constituted a threat to “the basic principles of our democracy,” and that it was “the free speech issue of our time.”  Sen. Franken’s flawed assertion that ISPs would attempt to unfairly stifle internet speeds is both unfounded and nonexistent.  Indeed, the lack of bureaucratic interference allowed the internet to thrive and consumers to prosper.

"CAGW President Tom Schatz said, “Sen. Franken’s preposterous defense of draconian regulation of the internet is perhaps the greatest joke he’s ever told.  Net neutrality has always been a solution in search of a problem.  It was intended to expand the FCC’s ability to dictate anything and everything that happens online.  Consumers are best served by an internet that is free from the domineering hand of bureaucrats, which is something Sen. Franken would do well to realize.”

"For invoking ridiculous hyperbole to defend the bureaucratic takeover of the internet, CAGW names Sen. Al Franken its March 2017 Porker of the Month."

For more information about Citizens Against Government Waste, click here.

March 24, 2017

Are Too Many People Still Dependent on Government?

According to a Rasmussen Reports poll reported yesterday, "Americans continue to feel that too many people are getting financial help from the government and that anti-poverty programs just make the problem worse."

Here's how the polling firm put it:

"A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 55% of American Adults think there are too many Americans dependent on the government for financial aid, although that’s down from the mid-60s in surveys over the last four years. Only 13% say not enough people are being helped by taxpayers. Nineteen percent (19%) believe the current level of dependency is about right, while another 13% are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)"

Links available at the Rasmussen website. Survey methodology is available at the web link. In addition:

"The survey of 1,000 Adults nationwide was conducted on March 20-21, 2017 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology."

In a related poll, or survey, reported a day earlier, Rasmussen Reports said:

"Most Americans still think welfare programs in this country are being abused.

"A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 56% of American Adults think the bigger problem with welfare programs in the United States today is that too many people are receiving welfare who should not be getting it. Just half as many (28%) disagree and think the reverse is true: That the bigger problem is that too many people who should receive welfare do not. Sixteen percent (16%) are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)"

Meanwhile, they also reported on Tuesday, "A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 51% of American Adults think the government spends too much on poverty programs. That’s up 13 points from 38% in April 2011. Just 21% feel it doesn’t spend enough, while 20% say the amount spent is about right."

March 23, 2017

U.S. Business Taxes are Highest in the World

In an editorial two weeks ago, Investors Business Daily (IBD) wrote, "American businesses face the highest tax rate in the world, a new report says. We already knew it faced the biggest regulatory burden. Is it any wonder then that the prospect of lightening the load has led to rising stock prices and more jobs?"

The IBD editorial explained in part:

"The Congressional Budget Office, in a study released last Wednesday, noted that U.S. corporations now face a 39.1% tax rate, the highest statutory corporate tax rate in the wealthy G20 group of nations. The U.S. was in third place, but both Japan and Germany — wising up to the fact that higher taxes hurt economic growth — recently cut their corporate rates, leaving the U.S. atop the tax heap.

"The United States made no change in federal corporate tax rates between 2003 and 2012," said the CBO, "and by 2012, it had the highest top statutory rate in the G20."

"This may be a big reason why American companies now have an estimated $2.4 trillion parked overseas — they don't want to be hit by absurdly confiscatory tax rates when they bring it home."

Read the complete editorial here.

Here is the link to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report.

IBD concludes their editorial by writing:

"As we note above, businesses are showing a little spring their step. And the stock market, as measured by the S&P 500 Index, is up nearly 11% since Trump was elected. Investors clearly expect more than 2% growth.

"Trump can do a lot to shrink the regulatory state. But that high corporate tax rate is worrisome. Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says tax reform must wait until next year. But why wait? Republicans have a great chance to turn the economy into a growth machine. It would be a shame if their political dithering blew it."

Growls readers are urged to make their views about the competitiveness of the United States' corporate income tax rate known to their representatives in Congress. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

Ask for a written response. And tell them ACTA sent you.

March 2017
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Items in Growls are written by individual ACTA members and do not necessarily represent the views of the Arlington County Taxpayers Association, Inc. Please send comments about Growls to The Growl Meister