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Sunday, Apr 19, 2015

The Right Stuff

A politics blog by Tom Jackson

Tom Jackson's baseball card - if he had one - would report he throws left, writes right. In his columns and blog, "The Right Stuff," southpaw Jackson provides insight into the evolving human condition from a distinctly conservative point of view.

Fixing our annual taxation complication irritation

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The Right Stuff

Tom Jackson’s “The Right Stuff” blog updates throughout the week at TBO.com.

Tax Day came and went last week with its traditional panicked flurry for which most of us are ill-equipped and resentful. If the deadline has a redeeming quality, it’s as a reminder that we fund the federal government using a system that is hopelessly, needlessly and aggressively complicated, opaque, cumbersome, punishing and worse.

At the same time it relies on Americans to be truthful about their income and deductions, the code’s daunting weight combined with the likelihood that — with so many returns pouring in — we won’t be caught encourages us to fudge. It’s perverse incentives run wild.

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Rent-seekers among solar activists

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By Tom Jackson

Two things are becoming increasingly clear about the so-called “grassroots” coalition pushing a constitutional amendment to expand solar energy in Florida. The first is commendable. The other, not so much.

The commendable portion: They’re not going away. They’re determined, organized, energized and committed. Good for them. Getting a potential amendment on the ballot is a heavy lift not for summer soldiers or the faint of heart.

If only they were as interested in being truthful about what they propose. Instead, they hide their agenda, as you would expect from anyone seeking special status in the law.

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Rubio’s evergreen relevance

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By Tom Jackson

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne has a bone to pick with Marco Rubio, the newly minted Republican presidential candidate from Miami. Evidently, Dionne considers Rubio some sort of political Dorian Gray, a fellow who presents a fresh face to the public that disguises a portrait of antique thinking stashed in some secret garret.

But this is not Dionne’s first rodeo — he was around when John Kennedy originated, presumably, the passing of the torch to a new generation — and he’s seen through to the ancient heart of Rubio’s spruced-up pitch.

And while Rubio casts himself as an innovative thinker, it’s quite hard to distinguish between what he’s saying and what [Ronald] Reagan ran on 35 years ago. In his announcement, Rubio spoke with compassion about “small-business owners who are left to struggle under the weight of more taxes, more regulation and more government.” Nothing new there. He spoke of “our leaders . . . taxing and borrowing and regulating like it’s 1999.” Change “1999” to “1979” and that could be the Gipper talking.

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The Taxation Complication Irritation

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By Tom Jackson

Tax Day is a timely reminder that our system of funding the federal government is hopelessly and needlessly complicated, opaque, cumbersome, punishing and worse.

At the same time it relies on Americans to be truthful about their income and deductions, the code’s daunting weight combined with the likelihood that — with so many returns pouring in — we won’t be caught encourages us to fudge.

Add complaints (possibly legitimate) from the IRS itself that requests for service outstrip overburdened agents’ ability to provide information and advice, plus the annual roundup of “experts” supplying widely varying interpretations of a single hypothetical tax situation, and you begin to appreciate our national, bipartisan frustration.

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Clinton: Outlaw anonymity

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By Tom Jackson

As if there weren’t already reasons enough to resist Hillary Clinton’s White House aspirations, along comes this on Day Two of her campaign, when the Mystery Machine rolled into Monticello, Iowa:

Hillary Rodham Clinton is calling for changes to the nation’s campaign finance system, saying ... Tuesday that she would support a constitutional amendment if that’s what it takes to fix what she called a “dysfunctional” system.

Holding her first official campaign event at Kirkwood Community College in rural Monticello, Clinton identified campaign finance reform as one of several pillars of her 2016 presidential campaign.

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Hillary’s reimagination instigation

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By Tom Jackson

Hillary Clinton’s long-anticipated announcement regarding her next career choice arrived the other day in fresh wrappings, featuring friends and associates elbowing for space to declare an end to our misconceptions built up over her nearly quarter-century in the national — nay, global — spotlight.

For reasons even these Hillary intimates cannot adequately express, the woman they know has persistently hidden the qualities that endear her to them: Her charm, humor, vulnerabilities, curiosity, empathy, reliability and sense of duty.

No, they hasten to say, this is not Hillary 2.0. That would suggest the original needed improvements. Just give her a second chance to make a first impression, they say.

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Justice and the Lois Lerner inevitability; Harry Reid’s awfulness

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The Right Stuff

Tom Jackson’s “The Right Stuff” blog updates throughout the week at TBO.com.

Because it has been apparent for quite some time no bending of rules and norms that have stood since the Constitution was delivered to the printers — a long time covering lots of rules and norms — is beyond the Obama administration, Wednesday’s news out of the Justice Department comes as neither a surprise nor a disappointment, but merely a reaffirmation.

In a letter to John Boehner, shoved through the House speaker’s mail slot as its author headed out the door to the private sector — another slithery trick, but who’s counting anymore? — the Justice Department revealed it would not seek contempt of Congress charges against Lois Lerner, the former division chief at the heart of the IRS’ prolonged targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.

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Harry Reid’s instructional exit interview

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By Tom Jackson

For a quick reminder of the awfulness that is Harry Reid, it’s hard to do better than Jay Ambrose’s tidy recapitulation published on the editorial page of Thursday’s Tampa Tribune.

In “Ex-boxer Reid constantly hits below belt,” Ambrose, writing for the Tribune News Service, lays out Reid’s broad and varied dirty dealings, all of which were connected by a single unifying thread: They promoted the former Senate Majority Leader’s unquenchable self interest.

Running interference for President Obama by blocking bipartisan bills passed by the House of Representatives; overturning the Senate’s filibuster rules on presidential nominees; reducing political arguments to bad-faith name-calling (he especially liked sliming the philanthropic brothers Koch); and abusing even Capitol Hill’s flexible ethical code.

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The Obama negotiating revelation

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By Tom Jackson

It is fascinating, to say no more, the negotiating tables from which the Obama administration is willing to walk.

Even as U.S. officials in Lausanne, Switzerland, bust every deadline, cross every red line and drop every objection in embarrassing pursuit of a deal on Iran’s nuclear weapons program — which seems, anyway, unenforceable — federal officials have declared a two-week suspension of talks with the State of Florida over a $2.1 billion fund used to compensate hospitals for care of the poor.

Can the explanation be as simple as who’s across the table? In Switzerland, self-appointed hard-line Iranian mullahs with whom President Obama plainly, desperately wants a reset. In Florida, representatives of the elected Republican governor, Rick Scott.

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Justice and the Lois Lerner inevitability

Published:
By Tom Jackson

Because it has been apparent for quite some time no bending of rules and norms that have stood since the Constitution was delivered to the printers — a long time covering lots of rules and norms — is beyond the Obama administration, Wednesday’s news out of the Justice Department comes as neither a surprise nor a disappointment, but merely a reaffirmation.

In a letter to John Boehner, shoved through the House Speaker’s mail slot as its author headed out the door to the private sector — another slithery trick, but who’s counting anymore? — the Justice Department revealed it would not seek contempt of Congress charges against Lois Lerner, the former division chief at the heart of the IRS’ prolonged targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.

When Lerner, close followers of the scandal will recall, presented herself to the House Oversight Committee investigating the targeting of tea party groups, she read from a prepared statement proclaiming her wind-driven-snow purity in the matter, then abruptly clammed up, relying on the Fifth Amendment’s provisions against testifying against herself.

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