Fiscal Cliff Looming, Senate Still Finds Time to Name Post Offices

From Heritage:

The country is poised to go over the “fiscal cliff” if Congress fails to act on impending tax hikes and sequestration cuts by December 31. All parties agree the results would be disastrous.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) made clear on Thursday that he will not bring a bill to the floor to avert the cliff, and challenged Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) to send legislation to the Senate.

But Reid’s chamber did find time Thursday evening to conduct other, more mundane business – specifically, naming seven post offices and a section of the Internal Revenue Code.

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Fiscal cliff: How it affects your taxes

From San Diego U-T:

What happens to my taxes if there’s no deal?

Nationally, expect some $478 billion in tax increases, touching nearly all Americans, because various federal tax cuts and breaks expire at year’s end. In most cases, these increases won’t be immediate.

“It will affect million upon millions of taxpayers,” said Eileen Brown, district manager in Los Angeles for H&R Block, the tax preparation firm. “They are looking at a smaller paycheck and many credits and deductions that will change or expire.”

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Big changes brewing in California’s Capitol

From Sac Bee:

The advent of Democratic supermajorities in both houses of the California Legislature has spawned much speculation, especially in the media, about what the majority party might do with its newly minted power.

It’s likely to be much less than those on the left hope and those on the right fear, because the margins are still fairly narrow and expanded blocs of Democratic moderates in both houses would likely not go along with anything radical, such as levying heavy new taxes.

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Photo courtesy Franco Folini, flickr

Americans Want Stricter Gun Laws, Still Oppose Bans

From Gallup:

Americans’ support for strengthening gun sale laws, as well as for passing new gun laws, is up sharply. But views toward banning semi-automatic rifles and handguns are unchanged, with majorities opposed to both proposals.

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French court invalidates 75 percent tax rate as unfair

From Human Events:

Socialist president Francois Hollande of France swept into office with a promise to soak the rich as they had never been soaked before, raising eyebrows around what remains of the free world by socking incomes above 1 million euros (about $1.3 million U.S. dollars) per year with a 75 percent tax rate.  There aren’t many people in France who earn that kind of money – about 1,500 families, according to the Wall Street Journal – and it seems as if just about all of them were thinking about fleeing the country to escape it, led by famed actor Gerard Depardieu.

But now comes word that France’s Constitutional Council, which reviews laws in much the same manner as the United States Supreme Court, has invalidated the confiscatory tax rate.  Their reasoning is provocative: they weren’t so much upset by the confiscatory nature of the tax as its “unfairness.”  In other words, the new tax doesn’t affect enough people, so it will most likely be rewritten to affect more.

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Rose Parade Runs Over Taxpayers

The world didn’t end in 2012, but several municipalities did.

Four California cities, Stockton, Atwater, San Bernardino and Mammoth Lakes, declared bankruptcy this year. One financial expert described the problem as “spreading like a disease.” Of course, these bankruptcies were caused, in part, by wasteful government spending.

Don’t expect the threat of municipal bankruptcy to rain on every city’s parade.

Twenty-seven percent of the floats in next week’s 124th Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade will be sponsored by a government agency. In many cases, taxpayers directly foot the bill to design and build these elaborate floats. Even responsible cities that rely on donations and corporate sponsorships rack up thousands of dollars in indirect taxpayer expenses.

In addition to two public universities, the 2013 Rose Parade will feature floats from the cities of Alhambra, Burbank, Downey, Glendale, La Canada-Flintridge, Los Angeles, San Gabriel and South Pasadena. The long tradition of city-sponsored parade floats takes all year and thousands of dollars to prepare for just a few seconds of global publicity.

“The Rose Parade’s elaborate floats have come a long way since the Tournament’s early days,” the Rose Parade boasts on its website. “Today, float building is a multi-million dollar business and float construction begins just after the previous year’s Parade is over.”

Taxpayers pay for award-winning floats

The city of Glendale started planning for the 2013 parade in March, when the city council approved a $100,000 contract with the award-winning Phoenix Decorating Company to design and build the city’s 2013 float. Appropriately themed, “Living the Good Life,” the city fronted the cash with the hope that public donations and corporate sponsorships would backfill the public treasury. By late July, city staff had secured just $60,000 in sponsorships.

Glendale, like so many cities, was seeking just a few minutes of international publicity.

“If you ever tried to spot the Glendale Rose Parade float on television on New Year’s Day, you know you had to stay glued to your set and never blink,” wrote Glendale News Press columnist Ron Kaye. “You only get a passing glance.”

Just a few miles away, a unanimous Alhambra city council approved a $95,000 contract with the Alhambra Chamber of Commerce to oversee the construction and decoration of the 2013 float, according to council minutes.

While Glendale and Alhambra held public council votes on their Rose Parade floats, other cities provided contributions toward float building through the city’s parks and recreation department. This fiscal year, the city of Burbank allocated $54,720 in a direct cash contribution for the parade from its Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department. Drew Sugars, Burbank’s public information officer, is quick to point out that this year’s contribution is about 10 percent less than last year’s. Just two years ago, Burbank allocated $71,310 in direct taxpayer funds for the city’s float.

In-kind expenses: “A bit more complicated”

“Tracking in-kind costs can be a bit more complicated,” Sugars explained.

According to a 2011 city memo, which Sugars provided to CalWatchdog.com, the city’s cash contribution is supplemented by other city expenses for “essential staffing, storage, transportation, related mechanical expenses and miscellaneous expenses.” For example, city employees devoted staff time to train parade volunteers in how to operate a forklift. Additionally, it cost the city $55,000 to warehouse the float. In the 2010-11 fiscal year, the city estimated its “total cost of support” for the Burbank Tournament of Roses Association was $157,374.12.

City staff concluded that the bill was too much for taxpayers to bear.

“As the PRCS Department priorities core programs and services during the FY 2011-2012 Budget process, it recommends the elimination of the City’s $60,800 cash contribution to BTORA,” the city memo stated. Yet, the council declined to follow staff’s recommendation.

Even if some cities wanted to reduce their parade subsidies, not all indirect city subsidies are easily rescinded. In 1995, the city of Downey entered into a 25-year lease agreement with the Downey Rose Float Association. The city provided this benefit, according to the contract, for nothing more than “the favorable publicity from being represented in the annual Rose Parade.”

South Pasadena Float Association: Tax troubles

The cities’ direct and indirect contribution to these non-profit organizations often comes with minimal oversight or accountability. According to the IRS, the South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association had its federal tax exemption“automatically revoked for its failure to file a Form 990-series return or notice for three consecutive years.”

Ted Shaw, president of the South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association, said that he was working with the IRS to retroactively correct the organization’s filing requirements.

“We have reapplied to the IRS with a retro date to May 11th and have been advised once the fees are paid there will be no problem,” Shaw told CalWatchdog.com. “We are a small solely volunteer organization committed to building a float for our community once a year.”

Yet, the delinquent federal tax return didn’t stop the city from making its annual contribution. Sally Kilby, the city clerk of South Pasadena, said the city contributed $14,500 in business improvement tax funds for the annual Rose Parade float.

“The funds do not come from the General Fund (city), but from business improvement tax funds,” Kilby said. “These monies are collected from the business license tax on all businesses.”

Thousands of dollars: For what?

While South Pasadena dedicates business improvement taxes toward parade expenses, not all small businesses see an improvement in their bottom line from the parade.

“Amber Szabo, manager of the Old Pasadena store Lather, which specializes in skin and beauty supplies, said the store always closes for the Rose Parade day, as do many others on the route,” the Los Angeles Times reported last January.

Businesses may not benefit, but city officials do. San Gabriel Mayor Kevin Sawkins, who also chairs the city’s centennial committee, will be one of the float’s six lucky riders. According to the Los Angeles Times’ Rosanna Xia, “The float, which will cost an estimated $155,000 and is being funded by donations from local businesses and residents, captures the city’s historic roots as well as its evolution.”

Rose Parade: History of taxpayer subsidies    

Taxpayers may grumble, but city subsidies are a founding principle of the Rose Parade, which began as a publicity stunt for California cities.

“Back in 1890, the city of Pasadena wanted to showcase how their winter was soooo much better than yours,” reports Cracked.com. “And in 1890, there were only two ways to accomplish that: by commissioning an artist to paint scenes of local wintertime fun and then just nonchalantly leaving the paintings all around the country, or by holding a festival. Pasadena went with the second one.”

The Los Angeles International Airport, the agency representing the city of Los Angeles in this year’s parade, told the Los Angeles Daily News that “no taxpayer funds were used to pay for the float.” In 2011, the City of La Canada-Flintridgeprovided at least $10,000 in taxpayer funds to the city’s non-profit float association. However, current year expenses were unavailable.

(John Hrabe is a writer and contributes regularly to the Orange County Register and CalWatchdog.com. Originally posted on CalWatchdog.)

Never Surrender Your Second Amendment Rights

Photo courtesy simonov, flickr

“The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people.”  This fervent hope was expressed in 1788 by Continental Congressman Tench Coxe of Pennsylvania.

During the more than 200 years since ratification of the United States Constitution, no God-given right has resisted a more determined opposition than the right to keep and bear arms. Gun owners have been threatened with fines and imprisonment for wishing to defend family and property.  In Connecticut, law-abiding Americans were rendered defenseless by state statute, their slaughter knowingly and deliberately facilitated by politicians interested only in the implementation of an anti-gun agenda.

The Sandy Hook killings have predictably prompted calls to ban “assault weapons;” the firearms with which the American people can most effectively defend life and liberty. A horrified Left maintains private ownership of these rifles must end because such weapons are meant only for killing!  Self-important, nanny state elitists apparently don’t understand that the principle purpose of all firearms is killing. After all, the defense of life, property and liberty is only respected when a very real threat of death is forced upon those who would take these most cherished of possessions from us.

Yet our capacity to defend life and liberty is to be statutorily tempered by those who refuse to trust American citizens with the most effective weapons at our disposal. In short, the Left “…want us to believe that so long as we can own some kind of firearm, after our semi-auto military rifles are taken, we are not disarmed.”

Shortly after the battles of Lexington and Concord, Samuel Adams addressed the following to those who had assisted the British in their attempt to confiscate powder and weapons from the colonists:

“If you love wealth more than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, depart from us in peace. We ask not your counsel nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you. May your chains rest lightly upon you and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.”

Never were cowards and traitors more eloquently dismissed from the company of patriots.

Cowards and traitors exist now as in Adams’ day; cowards willing to surrender their weapons to a tyrannical state and traitors willing to surrender the rights of other Americans.

But the rest of us will overcome these individuals and resist the efforts of a corrupt government to enslave the American public by refusing to obey any law which further intrudes on our Second Amendment rights. Be it a ban on ownership or attempt at outright confiscation, the duty of Americans will be to fight, not comply.

Obama’s Potential Gun Ban Triggers Record Sales

Obama blames deputies for Benghazi defeat

From the Daily Caller:

President Barack Obama on Sunday blamed “sloppiness” by his deputies — not his national security policy — for the Sept. 11, 2012  jihadi victory in Benghazi.

“There was just some sloppiness — not intentional — in terms of how we secure embassies in areas where you essentially don’t have governments that have a lot of capacity to protect those embassies,” Obama said Dec. 30, during a high-profile, low-pressure interview with David Gregory, the host of the NBC’s “Meet The Press.”

Obama then presented himself as fixing his deputies’ management errors, even though many of the problems stemmed from his risky 2009 strategic outreach to Islamist radicals.

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Photo courtesy Joe Crimmings Photography, flickr

No Deal: Fiscal Cliff Negotiations to Reconvene on New Year’s Eve With ‘Significant Distance’ to Bridge

From The Blaze:

The Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol is seen as Congress convenes to negotiate a legislative path to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff” of automatic tax increases and deep spending cuts that could kick in Jan. 1., in Washington, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. (Photo: AP)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced Sunday that any potential deal to avert the impending “fiscal cliff” would come with only hours to spare.

Combative as ever, Reid said he was pleased to hear that Republicans had withdrawn their suggestions for modifying Social Security benefits– before saying the suggestion never should have been made.

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