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Rep Scott Garrett: Fannie Mae is like a child with a credit card in a toy store

House Budget Panel Holds Hearing to Receive  Views on Fiscal 2012

June 16,2016

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ, Rep. Scott Garrett (NJ-05), Chairman of the Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government-Sponsored Enterprises, released the following statement after the Federal Housing Finance Authority (FHFA) issued an alert that Fannie Mae increased the projected budget for their new Washington, D.C. headquarters by over 50 percent. Fannie Mae is one of the government-sponsored enterprises that was put in conservatorship after taking a $200 billion taxpayer bailout in 2008.

“Like a child with a credit card in a toy store, the bureaucrats at Fannie Mae just couldn’t help themselves. After being forced to bail out the GSE’s to the tune of nearly $200 billion, American taxpayers now get the news that they are underwriting lavish spending at Fannie Mae’s new downtown Washington, D.C. headquarters. So while Americans around the country are living paycheck to paycheck, Washington insiders are blowing through budgets by designing glass enclosed bridges and rooftop decks.

“Even more troubling, the Federal Housing Finance Authority—the entity whose sole job it is to oversee the GSE’s—appears to have been asleep at the wheel as costs spiraled out of control.  This is the same FHFA that just last year thought it was a good idea to give GSE executives a pay raise to nearly $4 million. This complete failure by FHFA and the excess displayed by Fannie Mae are the exact reasons why the American people are disgusted by business as usual in Washington, D.C.”

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Some thoughts, facts, and charts for Tax Day: Bring us back to 1913 (or even better, bring us back to 1912!)

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Mark J. [email protected]_J_Perry

April 14, 2016 11:38 am

Tomorrow is April 15, which means we are approaching the deadline for filing (and paying) our federal and state income taxes (extended to April 18 this year because of Emancipation Day), and that means it’s time for my annual post at tax time to help put things in perspective.

1. Some Historical Perspective. “In the beginning” when the US federal income tax was first introduced in 1913, it used to be a lot, lot simpler and a lot easier to file taxes; so easy in fact that it was basically like filling out your federal tax return on a postcard.

For example, page 1 of the original IRS 1040 income tax form from 1913 appears above. There were only four pages in the original 1040 form, including: two pages of worksheets, the actual one-page 1040 form above, and only one page of instructions, view all four pages here. In contrast, just the current 1040 instructions for 2014, without any forms, runs 105 pages (down from 207 pages for 2013).

Individual federal income tax rates started at 1% in 1913, and the maximum marginal income tax rate was only 7% on incomes above $500,000 ($12.02 million in today’s dollars). The personal exemption in 1913 was $3,000 for individuals ($72,000 in today’s dollars) and $4,000 for married couples ($96,000 in today’s dollars), meaning that very few Americans had to pay federal income tax since the average income in 1913 was only about $750. The Tax Foundation has historical federal income tax rates for every year between 1913 and 2013 here for tax brackets expressed in both nominal dollars and inflation-adjusted dollars.

Some thoughts, facts, and charts for Tax Day: Bring us back to 1913 (or even better, bring us back to 1912!)

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New York City’s Pension System in Danger of ‘Operational Failure,’ Report Says

look_4_the_Union_label_theridgewoodblog

By SUSANNE CRAIGJAN. 26, 2016

New York City’s pension system, which encompasses $160 billion in retirement funds, is rife with problems that leave it vulnerable to an “operational failure,” according to an independent report commissioned by the city comptroller’s office.

The report found that the city’s retirement system, the fourth largest in the country, needs additional resources, is understaffed and lacks many basic tools required to gain insight into the complicated risk embedded in its investments. Some managers rely on fax machines to send and receive vital information.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/27/nyregion/new-york-citys-pension-system-in-danger-of-operational-failure-report-says.html

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Sidestepping Apple dispute, Obama makes case for access to device data

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By Jeff Mason
Reuters
March 11, 2016

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday made a passionate case for mobile devices to be built in such a way as to allow government to gain access to personal data if needed to prevent a terrorist attack or enforce tax laws.

Speaking at the South by Southwest festival in Texas, Obama said he could not comment on the legal case in which the FBI is trying to force Apple Inc. to allow access to an iPhone linked to San Bernardino, California, shooter Rizwan Farook.

But he made clear that, despite his commitment to Americans’ privacy and civil liberties, a balance was needed to allow some intrusion when needed.

“The question we now have to ask is: If technologically it is possible to make an impenetrable device or system where the encryption is so strong that there is no key, there’s no door at all, then how do we apprehend the child pornographer, how do we solve or disrupt a terrorist plot?” he said.

“What mechanisms do we have available to even do simple things like tax enforcement because if in fact you can’t crack that at all, government can’t get in, then everybody is walking around with a Swiss bank account in their pocket.”

The Justice Department has sought to frame the Apple case as one not about undermining encryption. A U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation court order issued to Apple targets a non-encryption barrier on one iPhone.

https://ca.news.yahoo.com/obama-says-cannot-legal-case-apple-inc-223034884–finance.html

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Oregon stand-off militiaman killed in shootout with the FBI

Bundy Ranch

Oregon stand-off militiaman killed in shootout with the FBI: Traffic stop turns into deadly gunfight, ending with militia’s spokesman dead and leader Ammon Bundy arrested along with seven others

Traffic cops stopped the Bundy brothers and seven others on Tuesday
Shots were fired; LaVoy Finicum was killed, Ryan Bundy was wounded
Finicum, 55, a married father of 11 and grandfather of 19, acted as the militia’s spokesman
Told an Oregon paper a day before his death that law enforcement officials ‘have become more hardened’ towards their group
At the start of the occupation, Finicum said he would rather die for freedom than face arrest  
Ammon Bundy and four others were detained at the scene; they have been charged with ‘conspiracy to impede federal officers’
Another three were arrested elsewhere soon after, police confirmed
Not clear who opened fire; the hospital and highway were on lockdown
It comes more than three weeks after the Bundy brothers led an occupation of a federal building in Burns, Oregon, to protest 2 ranchers being jailed

By DAILYMAIL.COM REPORTER and ASSOCIATED PRESS and REUTERS

PUBLISHED: 21:10 EST, 26 January 2016 | UPDATED: 10:38 EST, 27 January 2016

Oregon militia spokesman LaVoy Finicum has been shot dead after a traffic stop escalated into a shoot-out that saw Ryan Bundy wounded and eight leaders of the occupation movement arrested.

The group’s leader Ammon Bundy was among the militiamen arrested during the encounter on Tuesday afternoon as they drove to attend a community meeting in the neighboring town.

It was the culmination of a tense stand-off between federal agents and the activists more than three weeks after they took over a government building in Burns, Oregon, to protest two ranchers being jailed.

According to local media, shots were fired within minutes of the traffic stop, killing Finicum and wounding 43-year-old Ryan Bundy.

It is not clear who opened fire first.

Ammon Bundy, Ryan Bundy, and three other leaders of the occupation – Ryan Payne, 32; Brian Cavalier, 44, and Shawna Cox, 59 – were charged with conspiracy to impede federal officers,Oregon Live reports.

All detained militia members were being held at Multnomah County Jail without bail Wednesday

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3418491/Ammon-Bundy-arrested-three-fellow-militiamen-shots-fired-Oregon-stand-off.html#ixzz3ySbLtU28

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Americans hate the U.S. government more than ever

dont-tread-on-me-meaning

A handful of industries are those “love to hate” types of businesses, such as cable-television companies and Internet service providers.

The federal government has joined the ranks of the bottom-of-the-barrel industries, according to a new survey from the American Customer Satisfaction Index. Americans’ satisfaction level in dealing with federal agencies –everything from Treasury to Homeland Security — has fallen for a third consecutive year, reaching an eight-year low.

The declines represent some backsliding for the U.S. government, given that satisfaction saw some improvement in 2011 and 2012, which may have been the result of spending in the wake of the recession. While the comparison with private enterprise isn’t apples to apples given the nature of government services, the findings have some implications for bureaucrats.

“Satisfaction is linked to broader goals in the political system that it wants to maximize, like confidence and trust,” said Forrest Morgeson, director of research at the ACSI. “It’s much more difficult to govern if the entire population dislikes you.”

Although satisfaction is down for the federal government as a whole, the research found that consumers have vastly different views of specific agencies. The department that received the highest score was the Department of the Interior, which received a ranking of 75 points. That could reflect Americans’ positive feelings toward national parks, which many visit while on vacation, Morgeson noted.

The lowest-ranked department may not be much of a surprise to taxpayers: Treasury, which received a score of just 55 points, or 20 points below the Department of the Interior. Treasury, as a reminder, oversees the IRS.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/americans-hate-the-u-s-government-more-than-ever/

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FCC accused of power grab on broadband

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By David McCabe – 01/23/16 01:23 PM EST

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote next week on an annual report about the state of high-speed Internet deployment around the country, something that has become a magnet for debate.

A proposed draft of the congressionally mandated report finds that advanced telecommunications capability isn’t being deployed in a “reasonable and timely fashion” to all Americans. According to a fact sheet released by the agency, 34 million Americans do not have access to wired internet service that meets the FCC’s definition of broadband — download speeds of 25 Mbps and upload speeds of 3 Mbps.

The commission also found that the divide between rural and urban Americans when it comes to broadband access persists. Thirty-nine percent of rural residents don’t have access to wired broadband, according to the report

“To maximize the benefits of broadband for the American people, we not only need to facilitate innovation in areas like public safety and civic engagement, but also to make sure all Americans have advanced communications capabilities,” said commission Chairman Tom Wheeler in a blog post. “The Commission has a statutory mandate to assess and report annually on whether broadband is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion.”

But critics say the report isn’t just a compendium of statistics, but a way for the FCC to expand its authority and place arbitrary standards on Internet service providers.

The commission is authorized to take steps to expand access when the annual report finds it lacking, which critics contend turns the report into a tool for amassing more authority.

The FCC sparked controversy when it raised the benchmark speeds for wired broadband to their current levels last year and forced Internet providers to rethink their offerings.

That decision seems certain to loom over the commission’s discussion on Thursday about the latest iteration of the report.

“It’s bad enough the FCC keeps moving the goal posts on their definition of broadband, apparently so they can continue to justify intervening in obviously competitive markets,” said Jim Cicconi, AT&T senior executive vice president for external and legislative affairs, in a statement earlier this month.“It’s beginning to look like the FCC will define broadband whichever way maximizes its power under whichever section of the law they want to apply.”

http://thehill.com/policy/technology/266770-fcc-accused-of-power-grab-on-broadband

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The Larger, but Quieter Than Bundy, Push to Take Over Federal Land

Bundy Ranch

By JACK HEALY and KIRK JOHNSONJAN. 10, 2016

DENVER — Ken Ivory, a Republican state representative from Utah, has been roaming the West with an alluring pitch to cattle ranchers, farmers and conservatives upset with how Washington controls the wide-open public spaces out here: This land is your land, he says, and not the federal government’s.

Mr. Ivory, a bespectacled business lawyer from suburban Salt Lake City, does not fit the profile of a sun-scoured sagebrush rebel. But he is part of a growing Republican-led movement pushing the federal government to hand over to the states millions of acres of Western public lands — as well as their rich stores of coal, timber and grazing grass.

“It’s like having your hands on the lever of a modern-day Louisiana Purchase,” said Mr. Ivory, who founded the American Lands Council and until recently was its president. The Utah-based group is funded mostly by donations from county governments, but has received support from Americans for Prosperity, the group backed by the billionaire Koch brothers.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/11/us/the-larger-but-quieter-than-bundy-push-to-take-over-federal-land.html?_r=0

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Armed group’s leader in federal building: ‘We will be here as long as it takes’

Bundy Ranch

By Holly Yan, Joe Sutton and Ashley Fantz, CNN

Updated 1404 GMT (2204 HKT) January 3, 2016 | Video Source: CNN

CNN)Armed protesters have taken over a building in a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon, accusing officials of unfairly punishing ranchers who refused to sell their land.

One them is Ammon Bundy, the 40-year-old son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who is well-known for anti-government action.

He spoke by phone to CNN on Sunday at 8 a.m. ET. Asked several times what he and those with him want, he answered in vague terms, saying that they want the federal government to restore the “people’s constitutional rights.”

“This refuge — it has been destructive to the people of the county and to the people of the area,” he said.

“People need to be aware that we’ve become a system where government is actually claiming and using and defending people’s rights, and they are doing that against the people.”

The group is inside part of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns after gathering outside for a demonstration supporting Dwight and Steven Hammond, father and son ranchers who were convicted of arson.

Prosecutors said the Hammonds set a fire that burned about 130 acres in 2001, to cover up poaching. The father and son were sentenced to five years in prison.

The Hammonds said they set the fire to reduce the growth of invasive plants and to protect their property from wildfires, CNN affiliate KTVZ reported.

http://edition.cnn.com/2016/01/03/us/oregon-wildlife-refuge-protest/index.html

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Big Brother : U.S. government reveals breadth of requests for Internet records

big-brother-poster

By By Dustin Volz | Reuters

By Dustin Volz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Federal Bureau of Investigation has used a secretive authority to compel Internet and telecommunications firms to hand over customer data including an individual’s complete web browsing history and records of all online purchases, a court filing released Monday shows.

The documents are believed to be the first time the government has provided details of its so-called national security letters, which are used by the FBI to conduct electronic surveillance without the need for court approval.

The filing made public Monday was the result of an 11-year-old legal battle waged by Nicholas Merrill, founder of Calyx Internet Access, a hosted service provider, who refused to comply with a national security letter (NSL) he received in 2004.

Merrill told Reuters the release was significant “because the public deserves to know how the government is gathering information without warrants on Americans who are not even suspected of a crime.”

National security letters have been available as a law enforcement tool since the 1970s, but their frequency and breadth expanded dramatically under the USA Patriot Act, which was passed shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. They are almost always accompanied by an open-ended gag order barring companies from disclosing the contents of the demand for customer data.

A federal court ruled earlier this year that the gag on Merrill’s NSL should be lifted.

 

https://ca.news.yahoo.com/u-government-reveals-breadth-requests-internet-records-093706228–finance.html