Taxpayers Coughing Up Salaries for Union Staffers; California Suffering From 'Misplaced Priorities'

Sunday, 24 Aug 2014 03:26 PM

By Special From Newsmax's Most Informed Sources

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Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. Federal Employees Working Full-Time for Their Unions
2. California Suffering From 'Misplaced Priorities'
3. Al-Qaida in Yemen Joining Forces With ISIS
4. Mississippi Offers Biggest Bang for the Buck
5. GOP Backers Funding Attacks on Sen. Begich in Alaska
 

1. Federal Employees Working Full-Time for Their Unions

Hundreds of federal employees are working full-time for their unions rather than the agencies that pay their salaries.

At the IRS, 286 full-time staffers worked exclusively for the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) while collecting federal paychecks in 2012, the latest year for which statistics are available.

The IRS provides not only salaries but also office space and equipment to NTEU agents representing 92,000 IRS workers, the Washington Times reported.

The IRS deputy commissioner calculates that these union workers spent 573,319 hours on NTEU business that year, the equivalent of 286 full-time employees performing only union labor.

Taxpayers also shelled out $687,400 in travel expenses for the union operatives.

"The union naturally wants greater benefits, bigger salaries and more handsome bonuses, so Congress pays the union to do it," the Times reported.

More than 90 percent of NTEU campaign contributions go to Democrats, according to Kenric Ward, a reporter for Watchdog.org.

And the union's president is Colleen Kelley, an Obama appointee to the Federal Salary Council, which consults with the government on how much to pay federal workers.

"They're not working for taxpayers. Instead, they're working against the agency by bringing grievances and trying to increase the cost to taxpayers through collective bargaining agreements," Nathan Mehrens, president of Americans for Limited Government, told Watchdog.org, a project of the nonprofit Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity.

The IRS is not the only federal agency where employees work full time on union business.

At the Department of Veterans Affairs, more than 250 employees are working full time for one of four unions, according to Mehrens' organization.

At the Department of Transportation, 35 employees work exclusively for a union, some receiving annual salaries of more than $170,000.

The Environmental Protection Agency pays more than $1.6 million a year to employees who work full time for their union.

Altogether, "taxpayers spent around $156 million on federal employees who did no federal work at all" in 2012, Mehrens said.

Amy Kremer, former chair of the national Tea Party Express, told Watchdog: "I've always said that no taxpayer money should go to fund any union activity whatsoever, especially partisan politics."

Editor's Note:

 

2. California Suffering From 'Misplaced Priorities'

The nation's most populous state is battling double-barreled calamities — California's agriculture is in a downward spiraling due to drought, and its debt is soaring amid increasing immigration and staggering pension obligations.

But perhaps an even bigger problem facing the state is "misplaced priorities," according to Forbes.com contributor Thomas Del Beccaro.

California has seen a wave of immigration over several decades and now has more than 38 million residents, with an equal number of Latinos and non-Hispanic whites. But projections show that the population will continue to grow due to immigration and could reach 50 million within two decades.

That should mean Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown would place a high priority on job creation. But that is not the case today, according to Del Beccaro, former chairman of the California Republican Party and a frequent radio and television commentator.

California has one of America's highest unemployment rates. And with 12 percent of the nation's population, the state has 30 percent of the country's welfare recipients.

Debt at the state and municipal levels stands at more than $1.1 trillion, much of that tied to pensions.

Gov. Brown recently signed a large tax increase with a top rate of 13.3 percent, and California taxes are 42 percent higher than in Texas. The Golden State also has implemented a 15-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax increase to fight climate change — all factors not likely to spur new job creation in the state.

On top of that, California is in the midst of a three-year drought that is estimated to result in economic losses of $2.2 billion in the state's agriculture industry this year alone, plus the loss of more than 17,000 jobs.

But rather than focus on these problems, Del Beccaro writes that Gov. Brown has focused his energies on bringing high-speed rail to the state. He rejected an $11.3 billion water bond proposal, insisting it was too expensive, but sought $68 billion for high-speed rail despite the lack of consumer demand.

The rail line would connect Los Angeles and San Francisco and allow for future connections to San Diego and Sacramento. But studies by several independent observers estimate that far fewer riders will use the rail line than the rail authority projects.

Gov. Brown did ultimately agree to a $2.5 billion bond for water storage, a figure "woefully short" of what is needed, Del Beccaro asserts.

He concludes: "By emphasizing high-speed rail over water and failing to deal with its debt crisis, California poses a long-term threat to our national economy and is on an economic collision course with increased immigration and lack of water."

Editor's Note:

 

3. Al-Qaida in Yemen Joining Forces With ISIS

In a reversal of its previous stance, al-Qaida's Yemen-based branch, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, has expressed "solidarity" with the ISIS militants who have been terrorizing Christians and others in Iraq and Syria.

"We announce solidarity with our Muslim brothers in Iraq against the crusade," AQAP declared in a statement reported by the Yemini Times.

"Their blood and injuries are ours and we will surely support them. We stand by the side of our Muslim brothers in Iraq against the American and Iranian conspiracy and their agents of the apostate Gulf states."

The Times referred to a report that AQAP members were in Syria and Iraq, affiliated with ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), while some ISIS militants were training al-Qaida fighters in Yemen.

The AQAP statement, if authentic, would be significant because al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri publicly disavowed ISIS last year, CNS News pointed out. At the time, Zawahiri ordered ISIS leader Ibrahim al-Badri to limit his activities to Iraq. Instead, ISIS extended its operations in Syria as well and has now seized control of portions of both countries.

The statement from AQAP also offered ISIS advice on how to avoid the airstrikes President Obama has ordered against the militants in northern Iraq.

"Based on our experience with drones, we advise our brothers in Iraq to be cautious about spies among them because they are a key factor in setting goals; be cautious about dealing with cellphones and Internet networks; do not gather in large numbers or move in large convoys; spread [out] in farms or hide under trees in the case of loud humming of warplanes; and dig sophisticated trenches because they reduce the impact of shelling," the statement said.

On Tuesday, ISIS posted a gruesome video showing the beheading of American journalist James Foley, who disappeared in Syria in 2012, and al-Badri has warned that ISIS will soon be "in direct confrontation" with the United States.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Christians and members of other religious groups, including Yazidis, have fled their homes to escape the onslaught of ISIS, which has told Christians they must convert to Islam, pay a fine, or face death.

The spectacle of the endangered Christians moved an Iraqi TV host to break down in tears on the air while discussing their plight, CNS News also reported.

"They are our own flesh and blood," Nahi Mahdi said on Asia TV. "Some of them have left for Sweden or Germany. Who does (ISIS) think it is to drive out our fellow countrymen?"

Editor's Note:

 

4. Mississippi Offers Biggest Bang for the Buck

Because average prices for similar items can vary significantly from state to state, what $100 can buy in Mississippi is quite different from what that amount can purchase in a high-price state like New York or Hawaii.

The Tax Foundation has used data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis to adjust the value of $100 to reflect how prices differ in each state.

Mississippi is a low-price state, where $100 will buy what would cost $115.74 in another state that is closer to the national average.

The states where $100 is worth the least in buying power are Hawaii ($85.32), New York ($86.66), New Jersey ($87.64), and California ($88.57). But $100 is worth even less in the District of Columbia ($84.60).

After Mississippi, the states where that amount is worth the most are Arkansas ($114.16), Missouri ($113.51), Alabama ($113.51), and South Dakota ($113.38).

So the same amount of dollars is worth nearly 40 percent more in Mississippi than in D.C.

A person earning $40,000 a year after taxes in Kentucky would need to have after-tax earnings of $53,000 in Washington, D.C., in order to have an equal standard of living, the Tax Foundation calculates.

States with high income for the most part have high price levels. But some states, like North Dakota, have high incomes with low prices.

Kansas has lower average incomes than New York, but when factoring in purchasing power, Kansans have more purchasing power on average than New Yorkers.

"The tax policy consequences of this data are significant," the Foundation points out. "For example, because taxes must be calculated based on nominal income, the average New York resident pays significantly more in taxes than the average Kansas resident.

"But the Kansas resident actually has higher purchasing power, meaning that they get to pay lower taxes despite getting to have a richer amount of consumption."

Editor's Note:

 

5. GOP Backers Funding Attacks on Sen. Begich in Alaska

Republican financial backers obviously think Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska is vulnerable and are spending sums to unseat him in their efforts to win control of the Senate in November.

Crossroads GPS, an advocacy arm of American Crossroads, has launched a $1.25 million ad buy against Begich, Roll Call reported. The ad slams Begich on women's issues after Democrats launched attacks on Begich's Republican challenger Dan Sullivan, Alaska's natural resources commissioner.

The ad asserts that Begich pays female staff 71 cents for every dollar he pays men.

And Americans for Prosperity has announced a major new multimedia effort focused on Begich's poor record of representing Alaskans on key Senate votes.

The ad points out that Begich missed more votes than 80 percent of all U.S. senators last year.

"When it comes to critical issues facing Alaskans, Mark Begich seems to have more important things to do than fight for them in the United States Senate," said AFP President Tim Phillips.

"Missed votes means the voices of Alaskans are marginalized and unheard. With one of the worst voting records in the Senate, Begich has failed to represent Alaskans on important issues like government spending, energy regulations, and agricultural policy. Unfortunately, Mark Begich just hasn't been showing up for work."

The ad will run on broadcast and cable television across Alaska for several weeks at a cost of more than $1 million, AFP stated.

Begich was elected in 2008, defeating incumbent Ted Stevens, the all-time longest serving Republican member of the Senate, who was found guilty of seven felony counts eight days before the general election. His conviction was later set aside due to prosecutorial misconduct.

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Editor's Note:

 

Editor's Notes:

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