Five Outrageous Ways the Federal Government Has Wasted Your Money (Pt. II)

The federal government is no stranger to out-of-control spending. The national debt has now reached a startling $21 trillion!

That’s not all: Congress recently passed an omnibus spending package that will cost $1.3 trillion. But wasteful federal spending doesn’t stop there.

The federal government has misused your money on various pet projects, both large and small, over the years. It’s time to expose this waste.

Read on to discover five more absurd examples of government waste, as described in Sen. Jeff Flake’s 2017 Wastebook report.

$1.5 Million Spent Studying Fish on Treadmills 

University of California – San Diego study spent a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to measure the endurance of mudskipper and bluegill fish on a treadmill.

Sounds like a fishy use of taxpayer funds!

While the National Science Foundation regularly gives grants to universities for research purposes, that taxpayer-funded research is best when it has some tangible benefit for the American people who pay for it.

$1.7 Million Spent on a Comedy Club Featuring Dead Comedian Holograms

The U.S. Department of Commerce spent $1.7 million to help construct a comedy museum in Jamestown, New York that will “resurrect” dead comedians – from Lucille Ball to George Carlin – in the form of holograms.

The holograms will perform in a basement bar for visitors of the National Comedy Center, as a way to attract tourists to Jamestown.

While tourists might chuckle at the holographic comedians, the $1.7 million bill for the project on the taxpayer’s dime is no laughing matter.

$3 Million Spent Studying the Jaws Theme and People’s Perception of Sharks 

In 2016, taxpayers funded a $3 million National Science Foundation grant to study the public’s fear of sharks in relation to the Jaws theme song and music played during documentaries.

Researches noted, “this study specifically highlights the need to raise the public’s awareness of the effect of background music in shark documentaries in hope that it would decrease the extent by which they are affected by it.”

With federal debt soaring, the feds should work to be better stewards of our tax dollars and ensure that every research project funded is a worthwhile use of those dollars. Spending $3 million to study the Jaws theme’s impact on shark perception is not.

The Department of Defense Spent $2.4 Million to Learn How to Get More “Likes” on Social Media  

The Department of Defense funded a $2.4 million study to “counter misinformation or deception campaigns with truthful information,” as part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Social Media in Strategic Communications program.

The researchers examined 1.1 randomly selected photos on Instagram and analyzed numbers of follower on social media accounts.

More than $2 million is a hefty price tag for taxpayers to spend on research that could (and has) easily been done by private groups.  

$3.4 Million Spent on Hamster Cage Matches  

Over the past twenty years, the National Institutes of Health has spent $3.4 million studying aggression and anxiety in more than 1,000 male hamsters.

The study, sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, involves pitting juvenile male hamsters against each other at Northeastern University in Boston.

Much like a hamster wheel, our national debt continues to spin out of control. It’s time for the federal government to stop wasteful spending on pet projects and use our hard-earned tax dollars in a more responsible manner.

While many of these examples may seem funny, wasteful spending is no joke.

The federal government has spent millions of your hard-earned tax dollars over the years on pointless projects, and the cost borne by current and future taxpayers only continues to grow.

Tell Congress to stop wasting our hard-earned tax dollars and cut wasteful and egregious spending as they write the FY 2019 spending bills.

The post Five Outrageous Ways the Federal Government Has Wasted Your Money (Pt. II) appeared first on Americans for Prosperity.

Read more from Americans for Prosperity…

The GOP’s fear factor

A bill authored by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) that would require the federal government to balance the budget each year was soundly defeated last week in the Senate. Even Paul admitted he thought the bill had no chance, but he told the Washington Post his …

Read more from Rand Paul…

Waco

“Five thousand people to every one officer of the law. You know how we keep order with those odds?” asks one senior FBI agent in Paramount’s new TV miniseries Waco. “Because they believe we are more powerful than we are. We project strength and the people believe in that strength.”

The line is startling in its brutish cynicism, but it accurately sums up the lesson of Waco‘s six-episode dramatization of the infamous and deadly 1993 standoff between the federal government and the Branch Davidian religious sect.

Government agents are shown as almost uniformly incompetent, heartless, and oblivious to the consequences of their decisions. The Davidians are meanwhile depicted as mostly honest, sympathetic, and smart people taken in by charismatic messiah figure David Koresh. Bridging the gap is an FBI negotiator, Gary Noesner, who pushes his bosses to treat the Davidians as human while constantly fretting about the dangers of militarized cops.

At Waco‘s heart is a sharp critique of power and those who exercise it. This includes federal agents as well as the cult leader, whose own manipulative emotional hold over his followers eventually leads everyone to their doom. Though at times ignoring Koresh’s flaws and those of his acolytes, the show is a refreshing rehabilitation of a group of people unfairly derided for too long as murderous cultists up against brave, upright law enforcement.

Read more from Reason.com…

Yes, there really is a tax break for upper-income graduate students and Congress won’t let it expire – AEI – American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

In an earlier Evidence Speaks post this year, Susan Dynarski and Judith Scott-Clayton summarized important research showing that federal tax benefits for college tuition have had no measurable impact on increasing college-going behavior.[1] Moreover, they note that the benefits are numerous, overlapping and complicated. Yet for all their flaws, these tax breaks enjoy such strong support from lawmakers that even the oddest one, which quietly expires each year, is always revived in a last-minute bill just in time for the tax filing season. The tuition and fees deduction (“the deduction”) was recently extended for a seventh time in an omnibus budget bill in February.[2] Out of all the tuition tax benefits the government offers, this one should be relatively easy to let go because of whom it unintentionally targets.

@brybree via Twenty20

Here is how the deduction works. Tax filers can deduct up to $4,000 of tuition and fees paid for higher education in the tax year. It is an “above-the-line” deduction, meaning filers can claim it without having to itemize deductions. As a deduction, filers earn a benefit equal to their marginal tax rate. The maximum benefit any filer could extract from the deduction is $880, the top marginal tax rate of those who are eligible (22 percent) times $4,000. There is no limit to the number of times a filer can claim the deduction, so long as he has incurred tuition expenses, and it does not matter what type of credential he pursues. There is, however, an income limit. Taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes above $80,000 ($160,000 for joint filers) cannot claim it.

There is nothing odd about those terms per se, but they interact with other tax benefits the government offers for tuition such that only upper-income graduate students benefit from the deduction. First, undergraduates, while eligible for the deduction, don’t claim it because a different tax credit only for undergraduates is more beneficial: the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which is worth up to $2,500 in tax relief for filers earning up to $90,000 ($180,000 for joint filers).[3] Tax filers can claim only one tuition tax benefit although they usually qualify for more than one. Second, graduate students with lower and middle incomes are also eligible for the deduction, but they can claim the $2,000 Lifetime Learning Credit, which almost always delivers a bigger tax break than the tuition and fees deduction.[4] But the Lifetime Learning credit has a lower income cut-off than the deduction. Those earning over $66,000 ($132,000 for joint filers) in 2017 cannot claim it.[5]

That’s how the deduction ends up targeting upper-income graduate students. While graduate students would always obtain a larger benefit from the Lifetime Learning Credit, they cannot claim it if they earn more than $66,000 ($132,000 for joint filers). They can, however, claim the deduction until their earnings exceed $80,000 ($160,000 for joint filers). Thus a narrow band of graduate students, those earning between the income limits for the two benefits, are the only students who would claim the deduction. At those levels, their incomes are higher than the incomes of about 80 percent of U.S. households.[6] Of course, tax filers can unintentionally claim a less generous benefit if they are eligible for more than one, such as an undergraduate claiming the deduction when she was eligible for the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which does happen.[7]

What the data say about eligible students

Using a representative sample of graduate students in 2011-12, Kim Dancy of New America and I estimated that just 8 percent of graduate students would benefit from the deduction. Meanwhile, 64 percent of graduate students would benefit most from the Lifetime Learning Credit. The rest of graduate students (28 percent) were ineligible for any tax benefit because they have no taxable income, their tuition was fully covered by grants and scholarships, or their earnings were too high.[8] The analysis assumes that tax filers claim the benefit that provides them with the largest tax reduction if they qualify for more than one. These numbers have likely shifted in recent years, with even fewer students benefiting from the deduction, because Congress has increased the earnings cap for the Lifetime Learning Credit to account for inflation but left the limits for the deduction unchanged.

We also estimated the average benefit graduate students would claim through the deduction for the 2011-12 academic year. At $621, it was smaller than the $859 average benefit that filers eligible for the Lifetime Learning Credit could claim.[9] Due to small sample sizes, however, we were unable to reliably assess important characteristics of filers eligible for the deduction, such as field of study.

The deduction didn’t start out as a graduate school tax break

As is often the case in public policy, lawmakers did not set out explicitly to provide a tax break to upper-income graduate students. In fact, graduate students were never the target group for the tuition tax breaks; undergraduates were always the focus. Although graduate students have been eligible for the tax benefits since their inception, changes to the policies over the years have left the deduction benefiting upper-income graduate students alone.

Prior to mid-1990s, the federal government did not offer widely-available tax breaks for college tuition. The idea first gained prominence when President Clinton proposed a $10,000 deduction for college tuition as part of his “Middle-Class Bill of Rights” reelection platform.[10] After critics noted that a deduction would provide more help to families in higher tax brackets, Clinton added a separate tax credit for the first two years of college to his proposal to provide more even benefits.[11] Congress adopted the president’s idea for the credit in 1997, naming it the Hope Tax Credit, but rejected the additional proposal for a $10,000 deduction. They instead replaced that proposal with a separate credit for “lifelong learning” (i.e., the Lifetime Learning Credit) that families could claim for education after the first two years of college, including graduate school.[12]

Thus, President Clinton’s original idea for a deduction and a credit was replaced with two credits, the Hope Tax Credit and the Lifetime Learning Tax Credit. In keeping with their original purpose to provide middle-class tax relief, Congress capped income eligibility for both benefits at $55,000 ($100,000 for joint filers) in 1997.[13]

With these two tax credits on the books, the idea of a deduction for tuition would be unnecessary and redundant, yet Congress later decided to add one anyway. Seemingly out of nowhere, lawmakers included a $4,000 deduction for tuition and fees in the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, the sweeping bill that included President Bush’s campaign proposal to cut marginal tax rates.[14]

The deduction differed from the two initial tax credits in a key way, which partially explains why lawmakers added it. Families earning up to $80,000 ($160,000 for joint filers) would be eligible as of 2004. That was significantly higher than the income cutoff for the Hope and Lifetime Learning Credits at the time and would therefore offer tax benefits to families with incomes arguably well above middle class. But why not just raise the income limits on the existing credits then? Because creating the new deduction was a way to restrict costs relative to expanding the existing Lifetime Learning Credit in terms of forgone revenue to the government. Recall that the value of the deduction is worth the amount deducted times the marginal tax rate, which at the time it was created would have been $1,120 at the most.[15] That is about half the maximum value of the Lifetime Learning credit.[16]

In other words, the deduction was a way to let upper-income families into the college tax benefit club on the cheap. It also ensured their benefits would be smaller than those of the middle-class families, who were eligible for the credits.

At the time it was created, the deduction was as much an undergraduate benefit as a graduate one. Upper-income families would claim it for tuition paid in pursuit of either degree. According to my analysis referenced earlier, about the same share of graduate students as undergraduates qualified for it prior to 2009.[17] But in 2009, Congress would make it pointless for almost any undergraduate to claim the deduction. That year, lawmakers replaced the Hope Credit with the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which provided larger benefits than the deduction with an income cutoff even higher than the deduction. With upper-income undergraduates now qualifying for American Opportunity Tax Credit, graduate students became the only group left who could benefit from the original tuition and fees deduction.

Conclusion

While Congress never decided to directly create a special tax break for upper-income graduate students alone, opting to extend the deduction year after year is effectively the same thing. The latest one-year extension, which made the deduction available for the 2017 tax year, cost the government over $200 million in forgone revenue.[18]

At a time when an undergraduate education feels financially out of reach for so many families, it’s fair to ask why Congress continues to spend these resources on students who have already earned an undergraduate degree. Moreover, these students earn a median household income of $102,000, according to my analysis.[19] There does not appear to be a good answer to that question other than inertia. Lawmakers have always extended the benefit so they continue to extend it. They may not realize, however, that it no longer benefits undergraduate students.

All of the tax benefits may be a policy failure for not increasing enrollment or being overly complex, but at least those for undergraduates put more money in the pockets of low- and middle-income families working toward their first degree. Today, the deduction does neither. It helps those who already have an undergraduate degree and earn high incomes to boot. While its cost in terms of forgone revenue are relatively modest, those resources would be better spent on aid that encourages students to enroll in and complete an undergraduate degree.

Footnotes

[1] Sue Dynarski and Judith Scott-Clayton, “The Tax Benefits for Education Don’t Increase Education,” Brookings Institution, April 2018, https://www.brookings.edu/research/the-tax-benefits-for-education-dont-increase-education/.
[2] Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, Public Law 115–123, § 40203 (2018).
[3] Internal Revenue Service, “Instructions for Form 8863, Education Credits (American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning Credits) (2017),” https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/i8863.pdf.
[4] There are some circumstances when the deduction might produce a larger benefit than the Lifetime Learning Credit if a filer paid tuition and fees below $4,000 and he is in the highest tax bracket of those eligible for the deduction. For example, a filer in the 22% tax bracket who deducts $3,000 in expenses receives a $660 tax reduction; under the Lifetime Learning credit his benefit would be $600.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Author’s calculation using the American Community Survey, 2016.
[7] Government Accountability Office, “Improved Tax Information Could Help Families Pay for College,” May 2012, https://www.gao.gov/assets/600/590970.pdf
[8] Jason Delisle and Kim Dancy, “Graduate Students and Tuition Tax Benefits,” New America, December 2015, 6–7, https://na-production.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/graduate-students-and-tuition-tax-benefits.pdf.
[9] Author’s calculation using the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study 2011–12. See also Jason Delisle and Kim Dancy, “Graduate Students and Tuition Tax Benefits,” New America, December 2015.
[10] William J. Clinton, “Address to the Nation on the Middle Class Bill of Rights,” December 15, 1997, www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=49591.
[11] Douglas Lederman, “The Politicking and Policy Making Behind a $40-Billion Windfall: How Clinton, Congress, and Colleges Battled to Shape Hope Scholarships,” Chronicle of Higher Education, November 28, 1997.
[12] Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, Public Law 105–34 § 201 (1997).
[13] Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, Public Law 105–34 § 101 (1997).
[14] Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, Public Law 107–16 § 431 (2001).
[15] The top marginal tax rate for filers eligible for the deduction was 28 percent in the mid 2000s.
[16] See endnote 4. for an explanation of how sometimes when tuition and fees are below $4,000, tax filers can qualify for a larger tax reduction through the deduction than if the Lifetime Learning Credit.
[17] Jason Delisle and Kim Dancy, “A New Look at Tuition Tax Benefits,” New America, November 2015, https://static.newamerica.org/attachments/10416-a-new-look-at-tuition-tax-benefits/TaxCredits11.2.277d3f7daa014d5a8632090f97641cee.pdf; and Jason Delisle and Kim Dancy, “Graduate Students and Tuition Tax Benefits,” New America, December 2015, 6–7, https://na-production.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/graduate-students-and-tuition-tax-benefits.pdf.
[18] Joint Committee on Taxation, “Federal Tax Provisions Expired in 2017” (JCX-5-18), March 9, 2018.
[19] Author’s calculation using the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study 2011–12. See also Jason Delisle and Kim Dancy, “Graduate Students and Tuition Tax Benefits,” New America, December 2015.

Read more from American Enterprise Institute…

DZSP 21 files another protest after Navy chooses Fluor again for Naval Base Guam operations

DZSP 21 files another protest after Navy chooses Fluor again for Naval Base Guam operations The federal government reevaluated the proposals for Navy base support services on Guam and decided to hire Fluor Federal Solutions. Check out this story on guampdn …

Read more from Naval Base…

Will the Supreme Court’s gambling ruling help or hurt sports and budgets? – AEI – American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

“A true Englishman,” Jules Verne once quipped, “doesn’t joke when he is talking about so serious a thing as a wager.”

After the Supreme Court’s ruling two weeks ago effectively legalizing sports wagering, Americans, too, are starting to take gambling seriously, both inside and outside the world of sports.

Alex Ovechkin controls the puck against Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt in the first period in game one of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final. Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports via REUTERS

In Murphy v. NCAA, the Supremes held by a 7-2 margin (more or less) that a congressional act forbidding state legislatures from authorizing sports gambling violated the “anti-commandeering” doctrine of the Tenth Amendment and therefore was unconstitutional.

Under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1991 (PASPA), instead of prohibiting sports gambling outright, Congress declared it “unlawful” for a state to “advertise, promote, license, or authorize by law or compact . . . a lottery, sweepstakes, or other betting, gambling, or wagering scheme” based on competitive sporting events.

In 2011, voters in New Jersey approved a state constitutional amendment authorizing just that, and the following year, the state legislature formally authorized sports betting. Shortly thereafter, the major sports leagues and the NCAA challenged the legislation in court, arguing it was barred by PASPA. New Jersey countered that PASPA itself was unconstitutional because the Tenth Amendment prohibits the federal government from “order[ing] the State to regulate in accordance with federal standards” — a principle known as the anti-commandeering doctrine.

After further judicial and legislative maneuverings, the case found its way to the Supreme Court, where Justice Alito, writing for the majority, explained that the anti-commandeering doctrine derives fundamentally from the Framers’ “decision to withhold from Congress the power to issue orders directly to the States.” This “structural protection of liberty” helps “promote political accountability” and “prevents Congress from shifting the costs of regulation to the States.”

And in the case of PASPA, the high court held that by purporting to tell legislatures not what they must affirmatively do but what they must not do, Congress overstepped its bounds and violated the doctrine.

Thus, New Jersey and the 49 other states found themselves suddenly liberated to enable sports betting within their borders. Anticipating the ruling, several states, including New York, West Virginia, Connecticut, Mississippi, and Pennsylvania, did exactly that. Another 15 states have taken steps in this direction.

But the Supremes’ Murphy decision nevertheless left sports fans and others alike wondering whether sports will benefit or suffer from the ruling.

Predictably, libertarians celebrated, and with good reason. Americans are already betting enormous sums of money on sports, they reckoned, so why not legalize it outright and at least capture some tax revenue?

According to statistics cited by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, while Americans legally wagered nearly $5 billion in 2017, they bet $123 billion per year on sports, almost all illegally. At the same time, the overwhelming majority of states conduct lotteries and permit some form of casino gambling, generally on Indian reservations.

But doesn’t widespread, legalized sports gambling run the risk of interfering with the integrity of games? Worse, wouldn’t the prospect of, say, in-seat touchscreens in sports arenas, on which spectators could place bets on all aspects of the game they’re watching, ruin the stadium experience?

The four major sports leagues, which had joined the NCAA in the original suit against New Jersey, wasted little time in calling for uniform national standards, with the National Basketball Association emphasizing that “the integrity of our game remains our highest priority” and the National Football League reportedly “focusing on getting paid for selling rights to its own data and video footage — intellectual property that legal betting operators will want to pay for in order to help them set lines and prop bets.”

What also remains uncertain is whether sports wagering will benefit local and state coffers.

Interestingly, misery and ecstasy have blended on the Strip: Las Vegas sports bookmakers stand to lose big as the city’s juggernaut National Hockey League expansion team, the Golden Knights, has overcome tremendous odds to reach the Stanley Cup Finals.

In addition, a 2016 report from the State University of New York’s Rockefeller Institute found that “state authorizations and promotions of gambling offer little long-run relief to state revenue problems” because while “new gambling activities may generate short-run increases in public revenues . . . these increases are getting smaller and their duration shorter, perhaps as more and more states compete for a limited pool of gambling dollars.”

Thus, many questions remain as we enter the brave new world of sports gambling. Jules Verne wasn’t joking around.

Read more from American Enterprise Institute…

Has the Iraqi presidency become a PUK slush fund? – AEI – American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Political jockeying is well underway in Baghdad, as Iraqi political leaders seek the magic political formula which will enable formation of the Iraqi government. While a Shi’ite will take the premiership, Iraq’s most powerful post, the jockeying is on for other plum positions. Beyond key ministries—Foreign Affairs, Oil, and Defense, for example—two of the top prizes are the presidency and speakership of the parliament.

PUK Iraqi elections

Kurdish supporters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) celebrate after the closing of ballot boxes during the parliamentary election in Kirkuk, Iraq, May 12, 2018. Reuters

For nearly a decade after post-Saddam Iraq’s first elections in 2005, Jalal Talabani held the presidency. While the speakership is more powerful, the Kurds wanted the presidency for two reasons: First, was its symbolic value given the efforts by Arab nationalists in general and Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime in particular to deny Kurds’ cultural identity and their place as equal citizens in Iraq. And, second, a Kurdish presidency for Iraq neatly bypassed one of the bigger problems in Iraqi Kurdistan: the rivalry between Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) leader Masoud Barzani and Talabani, who broke away from the KDP in 1975 to form the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). If Talabani was in Baghdad, then Barzani could be the undisputed leader in Kurdistan.

That division continued after Talabani’s incapacitation and eventual death. Fuad Masum, a co-founder of the PUK and a long-time PUK functionary, succeeded Talabani as president in 2014. While Talabani made the most of the position—serving as a much needed intermediary among Iraq’s disparate political groups at a time of much tension and violence—Masum has largely been quiet and, on the Iraqi political scene, a complete non-entity.

His quiet, however, is expensive: In the last year, the Iraqi budget allocated the presidency about 51 billion Iraqi dinars, almost $43 million. While some of that covers salaries for immediate staff, at a time of austerity in Iraq caused by years of war and depressed oil prices, it is not clear how that money has been spent. In theory, the presidency is subject to annual audits of its spending and must provide receipts and open its books, but many Iraqis say this has not been done in several years, if ever. Instead, they accuse the PUK leadership of now using the presidency as a cash cow. While Iraqi politicians are prone to exaggeration, some Kurdish officials say that Masum takes home a $50,000 per month salary and Hero Ibrahim Ahmed, Talabani’s widow and controller of PUK finances, assumes control over the rest. In effect, the Iraqi presidency then becomes a slush fund to support the extravagant lifestyle of PUK leaders at a time when many Iraqi Kurds still do not receive full salaries or back pay.

What does this scheme mean for Iraq and the Kurds? Most Kurds voted on May 12 in the hope of achieving the most favorable partnership with the federal government in Baghdad. PUK negotiators, however, appear less interested in legislative influence and power than access to finances. This is why Kurdish negotiators seem so dead-set against swapping the presidency and speakership with members of the Sunni Arab community.

But even if the Kurds decide to push for the presidency, access to what has become a slush fund may be the primary motivation for the position, rather than the best position and a figure able to transform the honorifics of the post into a catalyst for communal peace and reconciliation. The KDP has put party above all else in its apparent push to put Fazil Mirani, a man with a checkered legal and moral past. But Mirani’s nomination is likely more a negotiating ploy than a serious push; Barzani can then extract concessions from the PUK elsewhere conceding. The PUK, meanwhile is reportedly pushing for Latif Rashid, Talabani’s brother-in-law, a move that would put the presidency’s budget even closer under family control.

Corruption is endemic in Iraq, and the election system makes it worse. While most Iraqis condemn corruption and seek to punish the corrupt at the polls, it is the corrupt party leaders which then put together a government based on the numbers of seats won. Instantly, their motivation shifts from change to protection of the status quo.

It is against this backdrop, then, that the Iraqi parliament, integrity commission, and all party leaders should insist that the right to audit be exercised, not only for the forthcoming administration but forensically for the Masum and Talabani administrations. Certainly, not even Qubad Talabani, younger son of the late president, should disagree given his frequent rhetoric about transparency. Simply put, the discrepancy between the official budget and the salaries of staff (at least those who are not ghost employees) appears too high by an order of magnitude. The Iraqi presidency should be about more than lining pockets of relatives or party leaders.

Read more from American Enterprise Institute…

When a ‘spy’ claim is crazy but also totally legit

Trump Clapper 'spy' tweetA legal scholar says the U.S. Justice Department needs to conduct a thorough investigation into growing evidence the FBI used the power of the federal government for political purposes to target an opposition presidential campaign.

Read more from One News Now…

‘It got worse:’ Evacuation criticized after First Nation surrounded…

The federal government said it is stepping up efforts to evacuate two Manitoba First Nations that are threatened by a raging wildfire. Public Safety Canada said about 600 people were expected to be evacuated from the Little Grand Rapids and Pauingassi First Nations by the end of the day Wednesday with more to follow.

Read more from Air Crews…