201712

December 21, 2017 5:52PM

New Report on Illegal Immigrant Criminality Reveals Little & Admits Its Own Shortcomings

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) today released a report that found that about 94 percent of foreign-born inmates in Federal prisons are illegal immigrants.  That is not surprising, as illegal immigrants convicted of an immigration offense are incarcerated in federal prison and account 7.3 percent of all inmates.  Likewise, drug traffickers who cross international borders are also in federal prison and account 46.3 percent of all prisoners.  Thus, illegal immigrants are overrepresented in federal prison because the federal government enforces immigration laws and many drug trafficking laws but only a small fraction of all those incarcerated for all crimes committed in the U.S. are in federal prisons. 

The authors of this DHS/DOJ report do deserve credit for highlighting its shortcomings.  On the first page, it states:

This report does not include data on the foreign-born or alien populations in state prisons and local jails because state and local facilities do not routinely provide DHS or DOJ with comprehensive information about their inmates and detainees.  This limitation is noteworthy because state and local facilities account for approximately 90 percent of the total U.S. incarcerated population.

The federal prison population is not representative of incarcerated populations on the state and local level, so excluding them from the report means that it sheds little light on nationwide incarcerations by nativity, legal status, or type of crime.  On the last point, it is shocking how unrepresentative federal prison is regarding the types of crimes its inmates are convicted of. In 2016, 67,742 people were sentenced to federal prison.  Almost 30 percent of them were for immigration offenses.  Those immigration convictions comprised 100 percent of the convictions for immigration crimes in the United States in 2016.  By contrast, there were only 85 federal convictions for murder out of a nationwide total of 17,785 murder convictions that year, comprising less than 0.5 percent of all murders.

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December 21, 2017 1:33PM

NRO Article Errs on Tax Cuts

National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru has a new article, “The Tax Cut Doesn’t ‘Tilt Toward the Middle Class.” The piece apparently responds to commentary by Veronique de Rugy and me about the effects of the GOP tax plan.


Ramesh says:

According to the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), households making between $20,000 and $30,000 pay 0.7 percent of all federal taxes now and will pay 0.8 percent of them under this law in 2025 … Households making $30 – 40,000 pay 1.3 percent of federal taxes now and will pay 1.4 percent of them in 2025. Households making between $40,000 and $75,000 will see their share of federal taxes unchanged at 10.2 percent.

His point is, “the tax cut reduces tax burdens proportionally,” rather than giving the biggest cuts to the middle, as I found here and here.


Alas, Ramesh used the wrong data. The tables published on the JCT website include reduced subsidies from repeal of the ACA individual mandate. Those would be almost entirely spending cuts, not tax increases. (This JCT score shows that the ACA effect will be $314 billion over 10 years, of which $297 billion, or 95 percent, will be spending). 


The JCT produces tables without the ACA subsidies, but they are not posted on the JCT site, in a typical example of the agency’s nontransparency. Phil Kerpen received them from GOP staffers, and they are attached below.


Anyway, here are Ramesh’s points rewritten from the JCT 2025 table that excludes the ACA piece:

Households making between $20,000 and $30,000 pay 0.7 percent of all federal taxes now and will pay 0.6 percent in 2025. Households making $30,000 to 40,000 pay 1.3 percent of federal taxes now and will pay 1.3 percent in 2025. Households making $40,000 to $50,000 will see their share of federal taxes fall from 2.2 to 2.1 percent, and households making $50,000 to $75,000 will see their share fall from 8.0 to 7.9 percent.

The non‐​ACA JCT table shows that the percentage tax cuts for the middle groups in 2025 are larger than the cuts for the top groups. So even aside from the (misguided) payroll tax issue raised by Ramesh, the JCT table shows that the GOP bill especially favors the middle class and will make the tax code more progressive (unfortunately).


Here is the JCT table, and Veronique responds to Ramesh here.

December 21, 2017 12:00PM

How Can Republicans Entrench the Tax Cuts?

The peculiarity of Congressional 10-year budgeting has left its mark on the tax debate. In the UK, if something like the Republican bill had passed, it would be regarded as a significant tax cut, pretty much across the board. And rightly so.

As JCT analysis has shown, in 2019, 44 percent would see tax cuts of more than $500, 17 percent tax cuts between $100 and $500, with just 8.1 percent seeing tax increases greater than $100. Even by 2025, just before most of the individual income tax cuts would expire, 56 percent would see tax cuts of more than $100, with just 13.5 percent seeing tax increases of $100 or more. And this includes as “tax rises” the reduction in subsidies paid out as the removal of the individual mandate penalty leads to fewer people opting for health insurance.

As Chris Edwards has explained, even on the JCT’s own figures (which attribute most of the burden of corporate income taxes to the rich), the biggest financial winners in terms of a reduction in the proportion of federal income and corporate taxes they bear will be the middle-class.

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December 21, 2017 9:28AM

Bill Niskanen: Monetary Policy Radical

Several days ago a colleague of mine, having been sent a copy of the Niskanen Center's recent conspectus, wondered whether Bill Niskanen, the former Chairman of the Cato Institute after whom the Niskanen Center is named, would have agreed with a claim it made. The claim was that promoting sound monetary policy was basically a matter of encouraging "policymakers to support the Federal Reserve's dual-mandate" and of getting "pro-growth" candidates appointed to the Board of Governors.

My short answer to the question was, "No." But it occurs to me that that answer is worth fleshing-out here, because many people may not be familiar with Niskanen's ideas for improving monetary policy, and because those ideas show that he was far from being a cheerleader for the status quo, or for a more "pro-growth" version of the status quo, whatever that might mean.

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December 20, 2017 3:06PM

Biggest Tax Cuts for the Middle, Per TPC Data

Republicans have enacted the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the largest tax overhaul since 1986. While many people seem to think that the legislation favors the rich, it actually delivers the largest relative tax cuts to the middle class. That is clear if you dig beneath the surface of estimates from the liberal Tax Policy Center (TPC).

TPC’s new analysis shows tax changes for the final GOP bill for households by income quintile (or fifth). But the data is not presented in a neutral context to understand the relative sizes of tax cuts for each group. I present TPC data in context in the table below.

Column 1 shows the GOP tax cuts as a percent of income in 2018 from the new TPC study.

Column 2 shows total current federal taxes (income, payroll, excise, and estate) as a percent of income for 2018, estimated by TPC here.

Column 3 shows the GOP cuts (column 1) as a percent of total current taxes (column 2). The cuts are fairly equal across-the-board, although a little smaller at the top.

However, the tax bill does not change payroll taxes, so including them in the denominator of the column 3 calculation slants the results. Column 4 removes them. (The tax bill tweaks a few minor excise taxes, but with little effect on overall excise revenues, so I removed them also).

Column 4 shows TPC estimates of current-law income and estate taxes for 2018. The bottom two quintiles are negative because those groups do not pay any income and estate taxes, on net.

Column 5 shows the GOP cuts (column 1) as a percent of total current-law income and estate taxes (column 4). Middle-income households will receive a 28 percent tax cut, which is substantially larger than the cuts received by the higher income groups.

This is the fairest way to present the effects of the Republican tax bill. It indicates that for 2018, the tax changes will make the federal tax system more progressive. The GOP tax bill will result in higher earners paying a larger share of the overall federal tax burden.

Media Name: tpc_final_bill.png

 

A similar analysis of the official Joint Tax Committee data is here.

December 20, 2017 1:34PM

FISA “Reform”: The Surveillance Fear Mongering Campaign Ramps Up

The House GOP leadership must be at least somewhat worried about the prospects for passage of their Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act (FAA) Sec. 702 bill, HR 4478, which the House Rules Committee will consider later today in an “emergency” session.


I say this because this morning, the House GOP leadership circulated a wanted poster‐​style flyer of a dead man: Haji Iman, the alleged ISIS deputy finance minister and second in command to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al‐​Baghdadi, who was killed in eastern Syria on March 25, 2016. The flyer puts the phrase “ISIS” in a huge font, just in case the reader wasn’t getting the message.


Claiming that “Iman would still be plotting to kill Americans without Section 702,” the flyer then makes an interesting admission: that the search for Iman “was ultimately successful based almost exclusively on intelligence activities under Section 702″ (emphasis added).


Not only does the flyer provide no proof that Iman was planning attacks on the United States, it omits the fact that both the Iraqi and U.S. governments had previously claimed repeatedly that Iman had been killed — six times, in fact.


As I’ve noted previously, two other major post‑9/​11 surveillance programs — the illegal STELLAR WIND mass surveillance program, and the PATRIOT Act’s Sec. 215 telephone metadata collection program — failed to stop a single attack on America. If it took the NSA two years to find Iman using Section 702 “almost exclusively” after claiming repeatedly the man was dead, it should raise major questions about the veracity of the official government (and now House GOP leadership) account of this incident and the effectiveness of the Section 702 program.


And then there’s that tantalizing phrase — “almost exclusively.”


The flyer admits that programs besides Section 702 were responsible for finally — allegedly — killing Iman. So Section 702 collection was not, apparently, a “but for” capability (i.e., but for Section 702, Iman would still be alive). How effective is Secton 702? We don’t know. There’s never been an independent, case‐​by‐​case audit of claimed Section 702 “successes” during the nearly 10‐​year life of the program. And the bill being considered by the House Rules Committee today does not call for such an audit.


What the flyer also doesn’t say is that as written, HR 4788 would effectively expand warrantless surveillance under Section 702, including potentially against purely domestic targets. Given the abuses of the Section 702 program that have been exposed over the past several years, HR 4478 is an amazing statement of the contempt the House GOP leadership has for the Fourth Amendment rights of Americans.

December 20, 2017 1:28PM

Was There Fraud in Honduras’ Election?

There is a lot of circumstantial evidence pointing to electoral fraud in Honduras’ presidential election. Yet neither the opposition nor international electoral observers have conclusively demonstrated that such has occurred. In other words, there is a lot of gun smoke in the room, but no smoking gun.


Perhaps the most damning piece of circumstantial evidence so far is a statistical analysis by Georgetown professor Irfan Noorudin at the request of the Organization of American States (OAS). It demonstrates that:

The Honduran national election of 2017 experienced a dramatic vote swing away from the opposition alliance and towards the incumbent National Party. This analysis raises doubts about the plausibility of such a reversal of fortunes. If one believes the vote tallies to be accurate, it is plausible to have such a swing. But the pattern of votes, particularly in turnout rates, is suspicious. As documented above, there’s a marked break in the data that is hard to explain as pure chance.

Noorudin firmly concludes: “On the basis of this analysis, I would reject the proposition that the National Party won the election legitimately.”


Partly based on this analysis, the OAS Electoral Observation Mission in Honduras stated it could not be certain about the validity of the results. OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro has called for a new election.


But despite how compelling Noorudin’s analysis is, there is still a missing link that he mentions: the vote tallies from polling stations. Up until now, neither the opposition nor international observers have presented evidence showing that the vote tallies were systematically altered.


Given the magnitude of the alleged fraud — a little over 50,000 votes to swing the election — one would expect that during the recount the international observers would have discovered plenty of evidence of how vote tallies were tampered with or did not match the amount of votes registered in each ballot box. While the OAS found irregularities in a “small number” of vote tallies, it does not mention anything significant enough to change the result.


Thus, all the suspicion lies on how the computer system went down when opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla was ahead with 57% of vote tallies counted and the subsequent dramatic (and statistically implausible) swing in favor of president Juan Orlando Hernández. However, the results announced by the Electoral Tribunal are ultimately backed up by physical vote tallies from each polling station.


And that is the conundrum: Either widespread fraud was conducted with surgical precision up to a point where a multitude of international observers cannot conclusively prove that it happened, or the statistically implausible actually happened and Hernández won the election fairly.