IRS: An Abuse of Power

IRS: An Abuse of Power

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What the IRS scandal reveals about the state of the U.S. administration

Investigations into the dealings of the Internal Revenue Service have begun after irs officials confirmed on May 10 that they had targeted groups with “tea party” or “patriot” in their names. From 2010 to 2012, at least three officials, one in Washington and two in California, directly targeted these groups, which were seeking tax-exemption status. The actions of the irs run diametrically opposite to what is expected of the agency. It is supposed to remain free of bias.

There were at least 75 such groups that were targeted merely because of their names. They make up almost one quarter of all groups that were singled out for further analysis by the irs in Washington in that time period. Some of the targeted organizations were burdened with questionnaires that were designed to determine, among other things, the extent of their voter outreach. Not only were these questionnaires time consuming, they forced the conservative groups to give up valuable, confidential information.

In a Jan. 9, 2012, letter to the Richmond Tea Party, for example, irs officials asked questions about “the names of donors, contributors and grantors,” as well as how much money they gave, and when they gave it. According to Richmond Tea Party officials, the harassment led to a drop in donors, because the donors were concerned about remaining anonymous.

Other groups were frustrated by the irs after being blocked and delayed for two years. The Wetumpka Tea Party of Alabama was delayed in its acquisition of tax-free exemption before being hounded with more questionnaires that asked for the names of all its volunteers and contributor amounts, as well as the names of legislators it had been in communication with. This questionnaire came in 2012, in the lead-up to the presidential elections. Political conservatives are calling it an intimidation tactic.

The organizations with “tea party” or “patriot” in their name were not the only ones singled out. There were groups that opposed the Affordable Care Act—Obamacare—that also came under heightened scrutiny. This raises concerns that the scandal goes beyond the irs, to the White House. Recent U.S. history proves that the irs isn’t immune to manipulation by the government.

Presidents have used the irs to harass political opponents in the past. In 1969, President Nixon agreed to use the irs to examine left-wing tax-exempt organizations. In the ’90s, conservative non-profit organizations accused the Clinton administration of targeting them through the irs.

The irs is not only selective with individuals and organizations, but also with states. A study published in the Economics and Politics journal in 2001 stated that “the percentage of tax returns audited by the irs is markedly lower in states that are important to the sitting president’s reelection aspirations. We also find that the irs is responsive to it oversight committees.” The pattern was noticed between 1992 and 1997. It shows that the irs is willing to be less troublesome to states that the president wants in his electoral camp.

As soon as the latest irs scandal started making headlines, Republicans across the board began calling for heads to roll. However, there are few in the irs that can take the blame. The commissioner at the time, Douglas Shulman, stepped down in November 2012. He could hold partial responsibility after receiving a briefing from the treasury inspector general for tax administration that gave a rundown of how the irs was targeting specific groups. He received the briefing in May 2012. His assistant, Steven Miller, was also made aware of the situation at that time. As the White House began to respond to the scandal, one of the first steps was for the Secretary of the Treasury, Jack Lew, to request and accept the resignation of Mr. Miller. Since Mr. Shulman stepped down, Mr. Miller fulfilled the role of acting-commissioner.

Both men were supposedly informed numerous times about the problem within the irs. “I wrote to the irs three times last year after hearing concerns that conservative groups were being targeted,” said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, a Republican on the Senate Finance Committee.

Now it is time to ask, Did the White House know? With the White House condemning the irs scandal and distancing itself from it, it is not yet clear what role it had in the irs’s targeted investigations. The president claimed he first heard of the story on May 10. It was on the same day the irs acknowledged it was targeting specific groups.

Lois Lerner, the irs official overseeing tax-exempt groups, said the targeting was “a misguided effort to come up with an efficient means of dealing with a flood of applicants from organizations seeking tax-exempt status between 2010 and 2012.” Another way of saying that would be to give pro-liberal organizations a free pass, and burden the opposition with as many questionnaires and delays as possible.

Lerner may try to hide behind “misguided” efforts, but her actions speak louder than her words. When President Obama’s half-brother applied for tax-exempt status for his organization, Mrs. Lerner approved the application within a month. This is despite the fact that it operated illegally for years prior to that time. The application was submitted on May 23, 2011, and Lerner signed off on it on June 26. That is a stark contrast to the three years that other non-profit organizations had to wait. The situation has continued to stir controversy between Washington’s chief political parties.

Republican and Democratic political parties view each other as wrong, if not evil. When a political party holds such a mindset, then it is likely to do whatever it can to stop its opposition. Obviously such a mindset should be intolerable at the governing level, particularly for the president. Yet, as Peter Morici from Fox News said, “President Obama cultivates a culture of anything goes to defeat opponents and advance his liberal agenda.” This is evident in the way his subordinates within the irs have singled out certain groups for questioning.

At the outbreak of the scandal, President Obama responded by saying, “If you have the irs operating in anything less than a neutral and nonpartisan way, then that is outrageous, it is contrary to our traditions.”

The traditions that the president is referring to are the national laws which state that the federal government is not allowed to target specific people for tax purposes without a valid cause.

Here’s more on the response of the president and other policymakers:

The irs is a bureau within the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The commissioner is elected by the president of the United States for a five-year term. He reports to the secretary of the treasury. When the highest official in the irs is directly involved in the cover-up of the scandal (the acting commissioner responded to concerns from Congress last year by assuring it no such groups were being targeted), it shows a level of corruption that has permeated the government of the nation.

This latest scandal—the latest of many—has come just after the Philadelphia Church of God released a booklet titled America Under Attack, which highlights the corruption within the U.S. government, the judicial system and the attack on the law of the land. If the administration used the irs to attack its political opponents, that is an outright violation of constitutional law. In the booklet America Under Attack, Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry writes, “This type of anti-Constitution reasoning is suddenly becoming quite popular. Do you know why? It is because the Obama administration is taking actions just about every week that raise constitutional questions and that threaten to undermine America’s foundational document.”

If you haven’t already, order a free copy of the booklet. It will show you how the administration has been systematically undermining to the point where it is working to bring down the very nation that it governs! The booklet will show you the reason behind society’s deadly decline, as well as where the attack is coming from, and how it is undermining the Constitution.

The irs investigation is the latest in a slew of scandals that lead right up the steps of the White House. Watch as this pattern of corruption continues as the Obama administration disregards the laws that were set in place to provide safety, and instead chooses to continue down its destructive path.

Is France Europe’s Next Crisis?

Is France Europe’s Next Crisis?


France’s economic collapse has destroyed the Franco-German alliance. That means the end of the EU as we know it.

“The trouble with socialism,” said Margaret Thatcher, “is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” Although a bit of an oversimplification—it ignores the major role of the euro—it sums up France’s economy.

France’s citizens face the highest tax burden in the eurozone. Public spending makes up 57 percent of the overall economy—also the highest in the eurozone—yet the country can’t get its debt under control, and its economy is shrinking.

No wonder the French are currently the world’s biggest pessimists. But the consequences reach far beyond France. This is about a fundamental change in the most important relationship in Europe—the Franco-German axis.

The collapse of the French economy is part of a trend catapulting Germany to the forefront of Europe.

The bad news seems to come out of France on a daily basis. The latest was on May 15, when France’s statistics office revealed that the economy had shrunk 0.2 percent over the first three months of 2013, putting France in a “triple dip”recession. The International Monetary Fund said earlier this year it expected France’s economy to shrink over the course of 2013, putting it on a list of countries that includes Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain.

After publishing a poll of European nations on May 14, Pew Research concluded that “No European country is becoming more dispirited and disillusioned faster than France.” On the same day, the Financial Times wrote, “Whereas Spain and Italy are suffering from a severe credit crunch and drastic austerity, France’s biggest problem appears to be the generalized gloom infecting businesses and households.”

Unemployment is at 11 percent—double Germany’s. For youth, it’s 26.5 percent, compared to Germany’s 7.6 percent. At 3.2 million, the number of unemployed is setting new records. And it’s been rising every month for nearly two years. Many in France are cutting their spending, as they fear they could soon add to those statistics. “Scarcely a week goes by without another factory closure or a redundancy plan,” wrote the Economist last month.

Under eurozone rules, the French government cannot borrow more than 3 percent of gross domestic product each year. With borrowing at 4.8 percent, it was forced to ask permission from the European Commission to miss its target for the next two years.

French President François Hollande has painted himself into a corner. As a result, he is the most unpopular president in France’s history. He is a socialist, and was elected based on promises to reverse the austerity of the previous government. But now that he’s in office, he can’t get around the fact that the government has run out of other people’s money. With the tax burden already so high, he can’t raise taxes to increase revenue. Since he came to power opposing spending cuts, he’s stuck.

All of this could push France onto the list of problem countries. “France could get into a situation that is not too dissimilar to Spain if you see the economy contract a couple of percent from where we are now,” said the cio of Armstrong Investment Managers, Patrick Armstrong.

But the French aren’t just worried about the short-term economy. Only 9 percent think their children will be better off than they are, according to the Pew survey.

The unhappiness is so bad that Le Point magazine recently published an article titled, “How revolutions are born: Are we in 1789?”—referring to the year the French Revolution began.

Some argue that it’s not that bad. The French government can still borrow money cheaply. With Japan printing money, investors are desperate to put their cash anywhere they can avoid losing money. They assume France is “too big to fail,” and that Germany will always back it up.

They could be right. France may not ever request a bailout. But that doesn’t matter. Spain and Italy on their own could force a revolution in the eurozone.

The fact is, France is now a problem for Europe. Economists debate how big a problem it is, but almost no one disputes that it is a problem. It’s not one of the strong economies that will pull Europe out of this mess. It’s actually dragging the euro down.

In the long term, this gives more power to Germany. In the short term, it’s having the opposite effect as France sides with southern Europe against Germany. This shift in the balance of power makes it harder for Germany to gets its way.

However, in the long term, the golden rule applies: He who has the gold rules. France has run out. The borrower is servant to the lender. And France is a borrower.

The director of global economic attitudes at Pew Research Center, Bruce Stokes, says that its survey on economic attitudes in Europe suggests that France and Germany, “which have for decades been the driving force behind European integration, increasingly see the world through different lenses.”

“The Franco-German alliance was based on rough equality between these two continental powers,” he continues. “In the 1980s, West Germany’s economy and population were slightly larger than France’s, but not overwhelmingly so, and French economic growth actually exceeded its neighbor’s.”

Three decades later, this rough balance between Germany and France no longer exists,” he writes. “Germany’s population is now a quarter larger than that of France, the German economy is 38 percent bigger” (emphasis added).

“Today the French and the Germans differ so greatly over the challenges facing their economies that they look as if they live on different continents, not within a single European market,” he writes.

“This new evidence of a dramatic divergence of public opinion across the Rhine on the problems now facing Europe and the merit of the European Union itself raises new questions about prospects for the European project,” Stokes concludes.

He’s right. Pew’s study shows that before the euro crisis, France and Germany were in broad agreement about the advantages of the EU and its future. Now there’s a huge difference. The French are now more Euroskeptic than the British—only 22 percent believe they’ve benefited from European integration.

This news comes just weeks after a public spat between the two countries. Last month a French government paper on European policy was leaked. It scolded Germany for “the selfish intransigence of Chancellor Merkel, who thinks of nothing but the deposits of German savers, the trade balance recorded by Berlin and her electoral future.” Merkel’s coalition partners, the Free Democratic Party, hit back, publishing an internal report titled “France—Europe’s biggest problem child”—which somehow made its way to the German press.

There is no more Franco-German axis. This means the end of an era and the end of the EU as we know it.

As both the Telegraph’s Ambrose Evans-Pritchard and think tank Open Europe’s director, Mats Persson, point out, this isn’t a temporary falling-out that will go away if a left-wing party wins the German elections. There’s a broad agreement between all of Germany’s major parties when it comes to Europe and the euro. Germany won’t become more like France after the election.

The direction of Europe will no longer be decided by meetings of French and German leaders, who used to get together ahead of EU summits. Instead it will be a clash of wills—the future of Europe will be dictated by whoever can get their own way.

Germany, with its healthy economy, holds most of the cards. It doesn’t hold all of the cards, so it will have to make some compromises. But with the French economy weakened, France can no longer compete with Germany for leadership of Europe.

“Germany has more economic weight and political will to determine Europe’s future than it has had since World War ii,” wrote Reuters’s Fred Kempe. “Now, though, it lacks a partner that can replace France’s pivotal importance.”

France and Germany used to share the driving seat, listening to the demands of the other EU passengers and choosing the overall direction. France is out of the driving seat—it is now occupied by Germany alone.

However, there’s still a limit on what Germany can do alone—the passengers can still get out of the bus. The Trumpet has pointed before to the growing role of the Catholic Church in speaking up for southern Europe’s unemployed masses. The Vatican will supply the glue Germany needs to keep the EU together. The Catholic Church will soon take France’s place as Europe’s second driver.

The decline of France is a major milestone on the road to a new Europe. The next one will be the rise of the Catholic Church.

For an overview of what to expect from this crisis, see our 2008 article “Did the Holy Roman Empire Plan the Greek Crisis?

Detroit’s Financial Woes Worsen

Dave Bing announced Tuesday that he will not seek a second term as the mayor of Detroit. Bing has been unable to bring the city out of its financial free fall. The crisis has been so bad that Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has appointed a powerful emergency manager to try to fix what Bing could not.

Detroit was once the heart of a successful American auto industry. But the Motor City is now careening toward bankruptcy. Decades of corrupt leadership, poor management, high crime rates, selfish unions, high taxes and excessive spending have taken their toll.

Emergency manager Kevyn Orr reported on Monday that the city’s finances are even worse than expected. Its deficit is expected to rise to $386 million before July 1. Long-term liabilities are calculated to exceed $14 billion.

Officials are hoping that Orr can do for the city what others did for one of its biggest automakers.

Daniel Little, chancellor of University of Michigan, Dearborn: “When General Motors went into bankruptcy, it was able to eliminate its fixed costs and its future liabilities, and it had cars to sell. But the city of Detroit doesn’t have cars to sell. Really, what it has to sell are high-quality services, which people will then be willing basically to pay taxes for.”

However, about half of Detroit’s property owners don’t pay taxes.

East-side homeowner Fred Phillips asked, “Why pay taxes? Why should I send them taxes when they aren’t supplying services? It is sickening. … Every time I see the tax bill come, I think about the times we called and nobody came.” On Phillips’s block, only five people paid their taxes in 2011.

Bible prophecy shows that Detroit’s problems are coming to cities throughout the United States. For insight into this city’s slow-motion financial demise, read “Detroit Has a Spending Problem.”

Temperatures and Violence on the Rise

Ten shootings occurred within 48 hours in Chicago over Mother’s Day weekend. The shootings left three people dead and 11 injured. Three of the injured remain in critical condition.

Recent figures suggest a correlation between Chicago’s crime rate and its temperatures. As the temperature has increased, so has violence. As summer approaches, Chicagoans are becoming more concerned about their safety.

Lucy, a senior at Columbia University, said:

“I’ve been a victim of violence in Chicago. I was shot by a stray bullet in 2007, like a month before I went off to college. So I definitely feel the weather does have an impact on whether [there’s] gonna be more violence or not. … [I]t’s sad. And something needs to be done about it.”

Lucy’s family lives in southern Chicago. The frequent crime there makes her worry about her brothers and sisters, who attend middle school in the area.

Statistics confirm her concerns. Last year, more than 500 people were murdered in Chicago. That’s more than in Afghanistan, where 310 U.S. soldiers died during the same period.

Tragically, Bible prophecy indicates that what is now happening in Chicago will soon spread to many more American cities. To stay informed about where these crime trends are leading, subscribe to our free newsletter, the Trumpet Weekly.

Words of Peace in the Middle East

Words of Peace in the Middle East

Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images

What does the Middle East have to say about Israel?

The Qatari prime minister let slip that the Arab League would consider territorial compromises as part of an Israeli-Arab peace deal. As soon as the United States got word of it, Secretary of State John Kerry rallied behind the deal in an attempt to get Israel on board. The comment, made on April 29, was seen by the U.S. as a leap forward in the direction of a peace deal.

It is almost comical that the U.S. could be so moved by the smallest of statements, while at the same time ignoring the threats directed at Israel by many nations in the Middle East, including those that claim to seek peace with Israel. There are numerous instances when Israel has been verbally attacked by surrounding nations, yet the threats have generated almost no response from the U.S.

The Arab League consists of 22 nations, many of which are passively, if not openly, hostile toward Israel. They certainly make known their hatred toward the Jews through their speech.

In Egypt, during a sermon in which a cleric asked God to “destroy the Jews and their supporters and disperse them, rend them asunder,” President Mohamed Morsi said, “Amen.”

In 2010, Mr. Morsi described Zionists as “bloodsuckers” and “the descendents of apes and pigs.”

The Palestinian Authority’s religious leader, the mufti, said, “The killing of Jews is a religious obligation.” When a religious leader calls the destruction of Israel an obligation over the sound of cheering crowds, what hope is there of achieving peace?

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said that Hamas’s goal was the “liberation of the Palestinian territories”—by which he is referring to the entire nation of Israel. Israel gave up the Sinai to Egypt in 1978. Since Egypt has become radicalized in recent years, the Sinai has been used to send weapons and terrorists up to Gaza, from where Hamas has launched rockets into Israeli towns such as Sderot, and threatened cities such as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

To the north of Israel, Syria is in upheaval while the Israel Defense Forces conduct strategic attacks on weapons shipments that are on their way to Lebanon. The terrorist group Hezbollah, which is part of the Lebanese government, openly threatens the lives of the citizens of Israel. Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, said he was “against any reconciliation with Israel.” Mr. Nasrallah’s viewpoint is shared by many of his followers and by other Middle Eastern leaders.

Then there are the inflammatory remarks and actions of Iran, which actively pursues Israel’s destruction. While attending a United Nations meeting in New York on Sept. 24, 2012, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Israel had no roots in the Middle East and would be “eliminated.”

Regardless of how hard the U.S. tries to bring peace, it can’t satisfy the myriad players that affect stability in the region. Peace with Israel would contradict the religious convictions of many Islamist believers in the region. Some Iranian leaders, for example, believe Iran’s weapons will speed the second coming of the Mahdi, their version of the Messiah. It is a guiding principal of their foreign policy.

As Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry writes, “In the face of such problems—considering the existence of nation-threatening weapons today and the violent hostility bubbling up within whole populations in our world—you would think people would be scrambling to find some kind of a peace plan that would really work! Human civilization faces the very real threat of annihilation! This world desperately needs real peace.

“Herbert W. Armstrong actually showed this world a peace plan that does work: the way of God, and God’s law—the way of give versus the way of get. He taught about that way throughout his life, even taking the message of that way personally to kings and other leaders of nations all over the Earth.”

To understand the peace plan that works, read The Way of Peace Restored Momentarily.

Texas Groundwater Levels Plummeting

Texas Groundwater Levels Plummeting

Jack Newton

An effect of a three-year drought

The levels of groundwater in Texas’s aquifers dropped sharply between 2010 and 2011, according to a report by the Texas Water Development Board.

The report, published in February 2013, shows a sharp decline in groundwater levels in the state’s nine major aquifers. This is a major consequence of the ongoing U.S. drought.

Manager of the water board’s groundwater monitoring program, Janie Hopkins, said the drought has “affected even the groundwater levels to a greater extent than I’ve ever seen.” Ms. Hopkins expects the results for the 2011-2012 period—due for publication in August—to show a “continuing downward [trend] in the majority of [Texas’s observation] wells.”

The state of Texas has experienced the worst drought in the continental United States. Nearly 99 percent of the state is in “abnormally dry” or worse conditions, and almost 13 percent of it is experiencing “exceptional” drought conditions.

According to the report, the Trinity Aquifer of Central Texas was hardest hit. The 33 monitors in this aquifer recorded a median decline of 16.7 feet and an average decline of 19.7 feet during the 2010-2011 period. The Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer of South Texas recorded a median water-level decline of 4.4 feet and an average decline of 17.1 feet in its eight monitors.

Water levels in the Ogallala Aquifer in the Panhandle region receded in 25 of its 26 observation wells, with a median drop of 1.8 feet and an average drop of 3.5 feet.

The Ogallala is Texas’s major source of underground water, and it stretches all the way from South Dakota, spanning eight states. It is a chief source of water for these states as well.

The conditions in Texas give a stark, microcosmic picture of 51 percent of the continental United States that is in moderate to exceptional drought. These conditions are not normal and are significantly worse than those in previous years, even as the Texas Water Development Board report concluded.

When water levels recede drastically, water needed for agricultural, industrial and domestic uses becomes a scarce and pricey commodity. Money and effort will have to be expended to lower pumps in wells or to drill deeper wells.

The situation in Texas, and much of the U.S., is a result of the now-rapid removal of the prophesied blessings that were once showered on this great nation.

To learn more about why the U.S. has to experience these weather trials, request your free copies of The United States and Britain in Prophecy and Why ‘Natural’ Disasters?