President Barack Obama promoted his tax proposals Wednesday while criticizing congressional Republicans who are pushing to repeal the estate tax.
The House is expected to pass a bill this week to repeal what some lawmakers call the “death tax,” saying it prevents small business owners and family farmers from passing on their businesses to their heirs. But Obama wants to increase the estate tax and has threatened to veto the legislation.
At a Charlotte, North Carolina, “town hall” meeting Wednesday on working family issues, Obama said the estate tax only affects about 5,000 families, including just 120 households in North Carolina. He said it would cost $270 billion, “which is the cost of the tax breaks I’m giving to 44 million people.” (What’s this – I’m giving stuff?)
“My view is we don’t need tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. I don’t need a tax cut,” Obama said.
Obama touted his proposals to help families pay for child care, college tuition, and retirement.
Congress hasn’t embraced any of the president’s ideas.
Obama also was asked about the income gap between women and men and responded that it’s a personal issue for him since he was raised by a single mother and his grandmother was the family’s primary breadwinner.
“Michelle would point out first ladies get paid nothing. So there’s clearly not equal pay in the White House when it comes to her and me,” Obama said. (The people did not elect Mrs. Obama for a job – they elected Obama – just think all of the perks she gets. If you totaled all of the perks she probably makes more than Obama and doesn’t even have to work for it.)
House leaders, meanwhile, used Wednesday’s tax filing deadline to vote on a package of bills designed to protect taxpayers from potential abuse by the IRS, a response to recent scandals at the agency. (And they should jail the ones that are guilty.)
One bill would prevent IRS employees from using personal email accounts for official business. One would enact a taxpayers’ bill of rights, and another would require the tax agency to fire employees caught targeting individuals or groups based on their politics.
Two other bills would require federal workers and contractors to be current in their federal taxes. (It’s is about time.)
Most of the bills had bipartisan support. House Republicans said they were part of their efforts to “rein in the IRS.”
“On a bipartisan basis, now folks are saying ‘this is too much, IRS. You’ve got too much power and the American people are going to push back against you,'” said Republican Rep. Peter Roskam of Illinois, chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight.
In 2013, the IRS acknowledged that agents had improperly singled out conservative groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status during the 2010 and 2012 elections. An inspector general’s report cited poor management in allowing it to happen, and the Justice Department and several committees in Congress launched investigations.
Much of the agency’s leadership has since been replaced, including the commissioner. None of the investigations has publicly produced evidence that people outside the IRS directed the targeting of conservative groups or knew about it.
“We’ve put in place all the recommendations of the inspector general to make sure that the mistakes that happened in properly looking at criteria for how to respond to an application shouldn’t have happened and it shouldn’t happen again,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said on Wednesday.
“At this point I think my response is that it’s important for the public to understand that we’ve taken these responsibilities seriously and wherever there were legitimate points raised, we’ve fixed them,” Koskinen said.
Ways and Means investigators said several IRS workers sent confidential taxpayer information to personal email accounts. Among them was former IRS official Lois Lerner, a central figure in the committee’s investigation. (She should still have to go to trial.)
Lerner, who has retired, headed the division that processed applications for tax-exempt status.
IRS policy already prohibits workers from using a personal email account to transmit confidential taxpayer information. The bill would make the policy law.
The use of personal email accounts by government officials became a hot issue after it was disclosed that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton used one to conduct government business while she was secretary of state. Clinton has turned over thousands of emails to the State Department, which is reviewing them before it makes them public.
Republican Jeb Bush, a potential candidate for president, also used a private email account when he was governor of Florida. Bush has posted online more than 275,000 emails from his two terms in office. (Yes, he also marked that he was a Hispanic on his voting ballot.)