May 31, 2013

Keystone XL Stalling Exposes Obama Hypocrisy

By Donald G. Mashburn

The continued stalling of the Keystone XL pipeline project exposes a level of Executive Branch hypocrisy not seen even in the Carter and Clinton years. President Obama has a record of opposing development of fossil fuels, in general, and oil independence in particular. He has made that clear in his election campaigns and during his first four years as president.

However, to polish that record and to appease his liberal base, he has taken that opposition to a new low by his use of false arguments and bureaucratic red tape to shackle progress in the United States toward enhancing our energy self-reliance and in achieving oil independence.

During the last election cycle, a failing economy and the obvious need for more jobs presented the president with a choice of professing support for businesses that produce jobs or pandering to the left wing of the Democratic Party, the anti-oil zealots in particular.

So the president resorted to the one skill he brought to his job as president: words – and more words. He was forced to pay lip service to oil industry initiatives he didn’t believe in, want, or support, by appearing to support investments like the Keystone Pipeline Project that will produce large numbers of good-paying jobs.

The president’s approach was one he had used often: pander to both sides, even if it involved resorting to brazen hypocrisy.

The hypocrisy may have reached its high point with his pre-election trip to Oklahoma City and his March 22, 2012, helicopter visit to nearby Cushing, the major storage and pipeline hub for crude oil movement in the United States. In a borrowed hardhat, the president posed for photo ops standing in front of stacked line pipe at the huge pipeline facility, and said, “Today, I’m directing my administration to cut through the red tape, break through the bureaucratic hurdles, and make this project a priority, to go ahead and get it done.”

In true Obama fashion, he didn’t mention that the southern leg of the project he referred to was already under construction and did not need his administration to “cut through red tape, break through bureaucratic hurdles … to go ahead and get it done.”

All the pipeliners and their oil industry customers needed was for the bureaucrats to get out of the way and they would “go ahead and get it done.”

The Keystone XL proposal is phase four of the overall Keystone project, and it would not only bring additional oil from Canada but would also bring a reliable pipeline outlet to the large oil reserves from the booming Bakken shale development in Montana and North Dakota.

The nation needs the oil from both sources. Gasoline at four dollars a gallon should be sufficient for Obama to “cut through the red tape, break through the bureaucratic hurdles,” as he hypocritically proclaimed in Oklahoma for the southern section of Keystone.

Keystone XL will be the main link that connects our Gulf Coast refineries and processing plants with huge oil reserves in Canada, Montana, and North Dakota.

The Obama administration continues to stall the completion of the project. It has dragged its feet from the beginning, despite the weak economy that’s begging for jobs, and high gasoline prices that needlessly drain the pocketbooks of American workers.

The Obama administration’s stalling has deprived American workers of thousands of well-paying jobs, and yet the president has continued to hide behind “reviews,” and studies. However, in the event the Keystone Project can be completed in its entirety – including Keystone XL, phase four – we can be certain Obama will point to it as an important achievement of his administration.

For some politicians, hypocrisy knows no shame, nor does it seem to remember what it said before the achievement occurred.

IRS Scandal Could Reach White House

By Donald G. Mashburn

The IRS scandal has legs and they’ve grown stronger. No longer are the conservative individuals and organizations targeted for special IRS snooping the only ones concerned. Even the advocates of big government and the purveyors of big government propaganda are nervous.

And they should be. All thinking citizens should be concerned with them. Because if the IRS can target the more vocal and effective critics of the administration, they can go anywhere and do anything to anybody.

We have heard of cases where IRS agents suddenly seized property and the evidence later showed their claims were unjustified. And countless small businesses have been ruined by IRS agents and their supervisors when individuals and their enterprises simply caved in rather than face potential financial ruin or prison time.

The recent IRS targeting is somewhat bizarre: Conservative activists, Tea Party participants, and journalists thought to be anti-Obama, or to have connections to information sources in government. It seems they were targeted because they had the “wrong” words, such as “Tea Party,” “Israel,” or “focused on government spending” in their applications for tax-exempt status.

The IRS no doubt was aware that some of them planned to be active voices in the 2012 election campaigns. But testimony before Congress shows the “extra scrutiny” – or possibly, “purge” – efforts were known in some quarters as early as June 2011.

IRS official Lois Lerner reportedly knew about the targeting as early as June 2011. Yet, when she had the opportunity to provide some enlightening information, Lerner took the Fifth Amendment before Congress.

“Extra scrutiny” from the IRS is a scary thing to almost any taxpayer. For the IRS to a large extent defines its own power, and its limitations. An example is the three years statute of limitation Congress passed several years ago. The intent was to limit to three years the time the IRS could audit a taxpayer, except in cases of fraud.

Years ago, the IRS had a backlog of companies to be audited. So the IRS asked many companies, including mine, to sign a waiver giving them more time to audit the targeted taxpayer.

I informed the IRS that I thought it would be a waste of time to waive the statute of limitations, and asked them to schedule us for audit before the deadline. They refused.

I then asked what would happen if I refused to waive the statute of limitations? I was informed that they would “deny all deductions for the current year!” I told him that our books were clean that there would be no problem with them. He informed me, in a level tone, “We can still deny ALL your deductions!”

Needless to say, when weighing the signing of a time waiver against fighting the IRS over all business deductions for a tax year, signing the waiver and becoming a cooperative taxpayer was an easy choice.

That’s but one illustration of the almost unlimited power of the IRS. They have been known to break businesses – and people – with tactics that were relentless, unethical, and in some cases, downright cruel.

Congress has made a few token efforts at curbing rogue behavior of IRS agents. But oversight by Congress often lasts only as long as it is useful as a campaign issue. In the meantime, the taxpayer is left to weigh the cost of prolonged battle with the bureaucratic leviathan and its army of lawyers, or agree to some kind of IRS-dictated concession.

The current scandal at the IRS should be the concern of every citizen. First, because of the awesome power of the IRS to make life miserable for an individual taxpayer. Second, is that the very idea of a federal agency – in particular, the nation’s taxing agency – being used to intimidate political opponents is a major for concern for all of us.

Just the thought of an aggressive president being able to call in the IRS to curb the efforts and clout of an opposing voice is scary. It’s important that citizens and taxpayers can and do believe that their government is honest and even-handed.

Because of this president’s ongoing hypocrisy and low regard for the truth, he’s in danger of losing the confidence of most of the nation. To counter the growing suspicions, he must pull out all the stops to find who authorized and carried out the acts that triggered the scandal.

The president himself is suspect. Just this week it was reported that during the last Bush administration, an IRS commissioner visited the White House once in some four years, but that during 2011 and 2112, the IRS commissioner visited the Obama White House 118 times!

To keep the scandal from growing to unmanageable proportions, Obama needs to finally abandon the “campaign mode” and level with the American people.

If it turns out the White House was complicit in the IRS actions, Watergate will look like a quiet tea party.