Late last month I asked, who will interrogate top al Qaeda terrorist Umar Patek? Patek, who was captured in Pakistan, is wanted for his role in the 2002 Bali bombings, among other attacks and plots. He is easily one of the most important international terrorists captured in the past few years. Indeed, Marc Thiessen argued that Patek is the “biggest terrorist catch of the Obama era.”
The problem is that the U.S. has no clear policy for detaining and interrogating terrorists such as Patek. President Obama ordered Guantanamo shuttered as one of his first acts in office. That hasn’t happened, but the administration isn’t going to send any new detainees to Cuba any way. And Obama closed down the CIA’s interrogation program, with little concern for what would replace it.
Ken Dilanian of the Los Angeles Times reports on the result of Obama’s new detention and interrogation policies, or lack thereof
He's considered one of world's most dangerous terrorism suspects, and the U.S. offered a $1-million reward for his capture in 2005. Intelligence experts say he's a master bomb maker and extremist leader who possesses a wealth of information about Al Qaeda-linked groups in Southeast Asia.
Yet the U.S. has made no move to interrogate or seek custody of Indonesian militant Umar Patek since he was apprehended this year by officials in Pakistan with the help of a CIA tip, U.S. and Pakistani officials say.
Patek undoubtedly has vital information on al Qaeda’s operations in Southeast Asia. He was in Pakistan for a reason, too. Patek was likely meeting with senior al Qaeda leaders there. And, as Thiessen pointed out, there are reports that Patek visited Yemen, where he may have met with al Qaeda’s most prolific branch of late – al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
In other words, Patek is just the sort of terrorist American officials should be questioning. He has worked with terrorists around the globe and can provide unique insights into the current state of the terror network. But instead of questioning Patek ourselves, the Obama administration is outsourcing the job.
The Los Angeles Times report continues:
Pakistani officials say they plan to deliver Patek to authorities in Indonesia, where he is wanted in the Bali case. Although seven Americans were among those killed in the bombings, no U.S. criminal charges are pending against him, a senior Justice Department official said.
A Pakistani intelligence source said no one from the CIA or any other U.S. agency had asked to question Patek.
U.S. officials say they expect the CIA will be given access to intelligence gleaned from Indonesia's interrogations of Patek, and may even be allowed to sit in and provide guidance, given the close ties between U.S. and Indonesian counter-terrorism officials.
Raising tax rates on the rich will NOT get the government more money
I've often said that I wish there were some humane way to get rid of the rich. If you asked why, I'd answer that getting rid of the rich would save us from distraction by leftist hustlers promoting the politics of envy. Not having the rich to fret over might enable us to better focus our energies on what's in the best interest of the 99.99 percent of the rest of us. Let's look at some facts about the rich laid out by Bill Whittle citing statistics on his RealClearPolitics video "Eat the Rich."
This year, Congress will spend $3.7 trillion dollars. That turns out to be about $10 billion per day. Can we prey upon the rich to cough up the money? According to IRS statistics, roughly 2 percent of U.S. households have an income of $250,000 and above. By the way, $250,000 per year hardly qualifies one as being rich. It's not even yacht and Learjet money. All told, households earning $250,000 and above account for 25 percent, or $1.97 trillion, of the nearly $8 trillion of total household income. If Congress imposed a 100 percent tax, taking all earnings above $250,000 per year, it would yield the princely sum of $1.4 trillion. That would keep the government running for 141 days, but there's a problem because there are 224 more days left in the year.
How about corporate profits to fill the gap? Fortune 500 companies earn nearly $400 billion in profits. Since leftists think profits are little less than theft and greed, Congress might confiscate these ill-gotten gains so that they can be returned to their rightful owners. Taking corporate profits would keep the government running for another 40 days, but that along with confiscating all income above $250,000 would only get us to the end of June. Congress must search elsewhere.
According to Forbes 400, America has 400 billionaires with a combined net worth of $1.3 trillion. Congress could confiscate their stocks and bonds, and force them to sell their businesses, yachts, airplanes, mansions and jewelry. The problem is that after fleecing the rich of their income and net worth, and the Fortune 500 corporations of their profits, it would only get us to mid-August. The fact of the matter is there are not enough rich people to come anywhere close to satisfying Congress' voracious spending appetite. They're going to have to go after the non-rich.
But let's stick with the rich and ask a few questions. Politicians, news media people and leftists in general entertain what economists call a zero elasticity view of the world. That's just fancy economic jargon for a view that government can impose a tax and people will behave after the tax just as they behaved before the tax, and the only change is more government revenue. One example of that vision, at the state and local levels of government, is the disappointing results of confiscatory tobacco taxes. Confiscatory tobacco taxes have often led to less state and local revenue because those taxes encouraged smuggling.
Similarly, when government taxes profits, corporations report fewer profits and greater costs. When individuals face higher income taxes, they report less income, buy tax shelters and hide their money. It's not just rich people who try to avoid taxes, but all of us -- liberals, conservatives and libertarians.
What's the evidence? Federal tax collections have been between 15 and 20 percent of the nation's Gross Domestic Product every year since 1960. However, between 1960 and today, the top marginal tax rate has varied between 91 percent and 35 percent. That means whether taxes are high or low, people make adjustments in their economic behavior so as to keep the government tax take at 15 to 20 percent of the GDP. Differences in tax rates have a far greater impact on economic growth than federal revenues.
So far as Congress' ability to prey on the rich, we must keep in mind that rich people didn't become rich by being stupid.
Get politics out of tax policy
Someone once said that taxes are the price we pay for civilization. That may have been true when he said it, but today taxes are mostly the price we pay so that politicians can play Santa Claus and get reelected.
That's not the worst of it. We may think of taxes as just a source of government revenue. But tax rates are a big political statement on the Left, whether they bring in any revenue or not.
For more than 80 years, the political left has opposed what they call "tax cuts for the rich." But big cuts in very high tax rates ended up bringing in MORE revenue to the government in the Coolidge, Kennedy, Reagan and Bush 43 administrations. This included more – repeat, more – tax revenue from people in the highest income brackets than before.
That was because high-income people took their money out of tax shelters like municipal bonds and invested where they could get a higher rate of return, after these returns were not being taxed as much. This has happened repeatedly, over so many decades, in administrations of both parties, that you might think this would put an end to the "tax cuts for the rich" demagoguery.
But the same rhetoric that "progressives" like Senator Bob La Follette used against tax cuts in the 1920s is still going strong in the 21st century. When you point out to today's "progressives" that "the rich" paid more total tax revenue to the government after what were called "tax cuts for the rich," that doesn't make a dent.
After all, "the rich" paid that larger sum of taxes only because their incomes had risen. Their paying a higher share of all taxes doesn't matter to the "progressives," who see high tax rates as a way to take a bigger bite out of the incomes of higher-income people, not just provide more revenue to the government.
Tax rates are meant to make an ideological statement and promote class-warfare politics, not just bring in revenue.
There has been much indignation on the left over the recent news that General Electric paid no taxes, despite its large amounts of profit. But another way of looking at this is that high tax rates on paper do not mean high tax revenues for the government.
The liberal answer to budget deficits is almost always to raise tax rates on "the rich," to bring in more revenue. The fact that higher tax rates have often brought in less revenue than before is simply ignored.
Our corporate tax rates are higher than in many other countries. That may have something to do with the fact that many American corporations (including General Electric) expand their operations in many other countries, providing jobs – and tax revenues – in those other countries.
But high-tax ideologues don't see it that way. They would be horrified at the idea that we ought to lower our corporate tax rates, just so that more American businesses would do more of their business at home, providing more Americans with much-needed jobs.
To ideologues, that is just a cop-out from the class-warfare battle. It is far more important to them to score their political points against "the rich" or "Wall Street" than that a few million more Americans out of work would be able to find jobs.
The idealism of the Left is a very selfish idealism. In their war against "the rich" and big business, they don't care how much collateral damage there is to workers who end up unemployed.
It so happens that many – if not most – of those called "the rich" are not rich and many, if not most, of those called "the poor" are not poor. They are people who happen to be in a particular part of the income stream as of a given moment in their lives when statistics are collected.
Internal Revenue Service data show that the income of people who were in the lowest income tax bracket in 1996 rose by 91 percent by 2005. But people in the "top one percent" had their incomes drop by 26 percent in those same years.
There is nothing complicated about this. Most people simply start at the bottom when they are young and their pay rises as they get more experience. Most people in the top one percent are there for only a single year when they happen to have a spike in income. They too are not an enduring class.
The time is long overdue to start thinking about taxes as sources of revenue, not as ways of making political statements.
Boehner Wins Vital Concessions
Speaker John Boehner extracted more budget concessions from President Obama and the Democrats than was at first evident when the deal was announced last week.
Not only did he squeeze nearly $40 billion out of this fiscal year's remaining budget, but also another $40 billion in increases Obama had proposed for agency budgets that Congress never agreed to accept.
The deal Boehner negotiated for fiscal 2011 means that spending this year will be $78.5 billion less than what Obama requested last year from the Democratic-run Congress, which failed to enact any budget. In one key respect, Boehner and the Republicans did what the Democrats irresponsibly refused to do -- cut spending.
While these sums pale in the face of a $3.7 trillion annual budget, that is running a record $1.6 trillion deficit and $14 trillion in debt, the GOP's interim victory has thrown Obama and the Democrats on the defensive as they enter a critical two-year presidential election cycle, with Obama's job approval scores falling dangerously into the mid-40s, and 23 Senate Democrats -- a number of whom are vulnerable -- up for re-election next year.
Obama, who proudly called Boehner's budget deal "the largest spending cut in our history," is turning himself into what Washington Post political reporter Dan Balz called "a born-again budget cutter."
In the aftermath of the deal, the White House was scrambling to reposition the president on spending and soaring debt that their own polls show is fast turning into a Mount Everest-size political issue that endangers his re-election prospects.
Suddenly, Obama was more tightly embracing the proposals of his presidential budget reform commission that he had kept at arm's length -- speaking warmly about its provisions to scuttle a raft of tax breaks and other loopholes in exchange for lowering the corporate and individual tax rates. He was practically sending love letters to the bipartisan "Gang of Six" senators who were working behind the scenes to come up with a compromise 2012 budget based on the commission's report.Trouble is, though, they have not been able to reach an agreement.
"It's pretty hard for (Obama) to hitch himself to something that doesn't exist yet," said Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, a waste-fighting Republican member of the gang. "There's nothing I've agreed to that could be announced this week," Coburn told the Washington Post.
Obama was expected to lay out his latest budget plans in a major speech here Wednesday, but, as is his style, he wasn't going to get his hands dirty on any specifics. Instead, he will speak only in broad themes, his advisers said. Such is "leadership" in the age of Obama.
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)