September 5, 2022

One-time Checks Sent to Thousands of Pennsylvania Residents

2017: Hurricane Irma becomes the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic Basin region, with winds of 185mph.

Thousands of Pennsylvania residents are in for a pleasant surprise.

Gov. Tom Wolf (D) announced that older and disabled Pennsylvanians who received a rebate on property taxes or rent paid in 2021 are also set to get a one-time bonus rebate.

“I am proud that bonus rebates are starting to roll out to Pennsylvanians in need this week,” Wolf said on Aug. 24.

“I proposed these bonus rebates back in February to help low-income Pennsylvanians deal with inflation and higher costs. For older adults in particular – many of whom are on a fixed income – a bonus Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program rebate this year will be a gamechanger. These bonus rebates will help older adults and Pennsylvanians with disabilities stay in their homes.”

Qualified recipients will receive a one-time payment equal to 70% of their original rebate, up to $1,657.50. The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue has already processed 361,042 claimants.

Revenue Secretary Dan Hassell said that while the one-time bonus rebates are being sent out ahead of schedule, they ask certain claimants to be patient.

“At the same time, we are asking claimants who are expecting a paper check in the mail to be patient,” Hassell said.

“It will take several weeks to mail all of the checks for the one-time bonus rebates, whereas those who elected direct deposit on their application forms should see their bonus rebates sooner. I would also like to thank the staff at the Pennsylvania Treasury for working with us to ensure that bonus rebates are distributed as quickly as possible.”

Sources: Washington Examiner | Pennsylvania Government

August 23, 2022

Millions of Americans Receive $200 Tax Refund Checks

Indiana taxpayers may find an extra $200 in their accounts this week.

The Indiana Department of Revenue said the first group of automatic taxpayer refund (ATR) checks should arrive in the mail soon. Some residents started receiving direct deposits last week.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) proposed the refunds earlier this month, and state lawmakers approved them during a special session.

State officials expect that most of the ATRs will reach taxpayers by Wednesday.

“There are several factors that affect the time it takes for this process that are outside DOR’s control. Some banks are slower to accept outside ACH deposits than others,” a spokesperson for the Indiana Department of Revenue told WRTV.

“We expect most ATR direct deposits to arrive in Hoosier’s bank accounts on or around Aug. 24.”

According to the department’s website, to qualify for the $200 ATR, taxpayers must have received Social Security benefits during 2022 and must not be claimed as a dependent on a 2022 state income tax return.

Qualified Indiana taxpayers who don’t receive a check should contact the state’s revenue department after Nov. 1.

Auditor Tera Klutz told a local outlet that the state prints 50,000 checks daily but still needs to send them to roughly 1.7 million people. The process should be finished in early October, Klutz said.

Sources: WRTV | Indiana Department of Revenue | Fox 59 | Washington Examiner

August 15, 2022

Democrats Score Huge Legislative Victory Ahead of Midterms

The $740 billion Inflation Reduction Act is headed to President Joe Biden’s desk, signaling a big win for the Democrats ahead of the midterm elections.

The sweeping tax, climate, and health care bill passed through the House of Representatives in a 220-207 party-line vote, with every Democrat voting in favor and four Republicans not voting.

The House passage came just four days after the bill passed through the Senate in another party-line vote, wherein Vice President Kamala Harris cast the tie-breaking vote.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said the Inflation Reduction Act “saves the planet while keeping more money in your pockets.”

“This bill, the Inflation Reduction Act, a package for the people, increases the leverage of the public interest over the special interests and expands health and financial security now and for generations to come,” Pelosi said.

Senate Democrats have been negotiating the package for more than a year, The Hill reported.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) had argued against the bill in a 50-minute speech on Friday, calling it “misguided.”

“Democrats, more than any other majority in history, are addicted to spending other people’s money, regardless of what we as a country can afford,” McCarthy said from the House floor.

“Today, now they are choosing to end the session by spending half-a-trillion dollars more of your money, raising taxes on the middle class, and giving handouts to their liberal allies.” 

Source: The Hill

August 2, 2022

Millions of Americans Will Receive $1,500 Rebate Checks

Millions of taxpayers in Colorado will receive some of their hard-earned money back via rebate checks this year.

Gov. Jared Polis (D) announced that Colorado residents who filed their taxes before June 30 are set to receive $750 rebates, and joint filers will receive $1,500.

“We are providing real relief when Coloradans need it most,” Polis said.

“Everyone in our state is feeling the impact of rising costs, and I refuse to let the government sit on taxpayers’ money when it could be used to make life a little bit easier for the people of our state.”

The governor noted that the state’s “strong economy” enabled them to send “nearly double what we initially hoped” when he signed the Colorado Cashback tax rebate into law in April.

Colorado State Treasurer Dave Young echoed Polis’s sentiments: “We are getting money back to people as quickly as possible, providing much-needed relief to Coloradans and their families.”

July 29, 2022

House to Unveil Legislation Banning Stock Trading in Congress After Exposure of Widespread Wrongdoing

1905: US Secretary of War William Howard Taft makes secret agreement with Japanese Prime Minister Katsura agreeing to Japanese free rein in Korea in return for non-interference with the US in the Philippines.

House Democrats are set to unveil legislation banning stock trading for members of Congress, their spouses, and senior staffers.

Both Punchbowl News and Business Insider confirmed that lawmakers intend to move forward with the legislation.

The ban would require lawmakers, spouses, and senior staff members to either put their assets in a blind trust or sell them, as reported by Punchbowl. Under the ban, lawmakers would still be able to hold mutual funds.

According to the outlet, House Democrats plan to introduce the legislation early next month, with a potential vote in September.

“We’re almost ready to move forward on this,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), the chair of the House Administration Committee, told Punchbowl.

“Public office is a public trust. It is my personal view that there should be regulation, or cessation, with respect to members and their spouses owning or trading stocks and other financial instruments,” Lofgren said in a statement to Business Insider.

“For the past months, I have been seeking to build consensus on this issue so we can move forward. Having considered substantial input from our hearing and reviewed a range of legislative proposals, I hope to release a legislative framework for public review in the coming weeks.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) publicly addressed the plan on Thursday.

“We are so close and making progress! Keep up the pressure everyone!” Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter.

The news follows Business Insider’s “Conflicted Congress” report that exposed widespread violations of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, the outlet noted.

The “Conflicted Congress” investigation didn’t just identify dozens of lawmakers who violated the STOCK Act. It found dozens of other lawmakers whose stock market moves are directly incompatible with their public positions.

“This includes members who craft anti-tobacco policy but invest in tobacco giants and Democrats who receive plaudits from environmental groups for crafting policy aimed at combating the climate crisis — yet invest in fossil fuel companies,” Business Insider noted.

Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), has been under public scrutiny recently. According to Insider, he’s traded millions of dollars worth of stock and options across 19 companies since 2021.

When asked if her husband has ever made any trades based on information she’s given him, Speaker Pelosi said, “Absolutely not.”

July 26, 2022

Former Congressman Charged with Insider Trading

1945: Declaration of Potsdam – US, Britain, and China demand the unconditional surrender of Japan during WWII.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has filed insider trading charges against former Rep. Stephen Buyer (R-IN).

At a Monday press conference, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced the criminal charges against Buyer and eight others, including a former FBI agent trainee and an investment banker.

In the complaint, the SEC alleges that Buyer, a former U.S. representative for Indiana’s 4th Congressional District, made illegal stock purchases in at least two instances.

According to an SEC press release:

In March 2018, Buyer attended a golf outing with a T-Mobile executive, from whom he learned about the company’s then nonpublic plan to acquire Sprint. Buyer began purchasing Sprint securities the next day, and, ahead of the merger announcement, he acquired a total of $568,000 of Sprint common stock in his own personal accounts, a joint account with his cousin, and an acquaintance’s account. After news of the merger leaked in April 2018, Buyer saw an immediate profit of more than $107,000.

In 2019, according to the SEC’s complaint, Buyer purchased more than $1 million of Navigant Consulting, Inc. securities ahead of the public announcement that it would be acquired by another one of Buyer’s consulting clients, Guidehouse LLP. Buyer again spread the purchases across several accounts, including his own accounts, joint accounts with his wife and son, his wife’s personal account, and the same acquaintance’s account involved in the Sprint trading. The complaint alleges that, in August 2019, on the day that the Navigant acquisition was publicly announced, Buyer sold nearly all of the shares he had acquired across the various accounts and profited more than $227,000.

Gurbir S. Grewal, Director of the SEC Enforcement Division, said insider trading undermines the public’s trust in a fair market.

“When insiders like Buyer – an attorney, a former prosecutor, and a retired Congressman – monetize their access to material, nonpublic information, as alleged in this case, they not only violate the federal securities laws, but also undermine public trust and confidence in the fairness of our markets,” Grewal said.

“We are committed to doing all we can to maintain and enhance public trust by leveling the playing field and holding Buyer accountable for illegally profiting from his access,” he added.

July 19, 2022

Pelosi Addresses Husband’s Eyebrow-Raising Stock Purchase

1848: 1st US women’s rights convention held in Seneca Falls NY, organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott.

Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), purchased more than $1 million shares of computer chip company Nvidia just weeks before Congress is slated to vote on a bill that would bolster the industry.

According to a disclosure filed by Pelosi’s office, Mr. Pelosi purchased 20,000 shares of Nvidia, a semiconductor company. The Senate will soon vote on a bill that could provide up to $52 billion in subsidies to the semiconductor industry, Reuters reported.

Mr. Pelosi’s stock purchase raised eyebrows. Public Citizen lobbyist Craig Holman told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the disclosure was cause for concern.

“It certainly raises the specter that Paul Pelosi could have access to some insider legislative information,” Holman said. “This is the reason why there is a stock trading app that exclusively monitors Paul’s trading activity and then its followers do likewise.”

Fox Business asked Pelosi’s office to comment on her husband’s purchase.

“The Speaker does not own any stocks.  As you can see from the required disclosures, with which the Speaker fully cooperates, these transactions are marked ‘SP’ for Spouse. The Speaker has no prior knowledge or subsequent involvement in any transactions,” said Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for Pelosi.

“The Speaker believes that sunlight is the best disinfectant. The Speaker has asked Committee on House Administration Chair Zoe Lofgren to examine the issue of Members’ unacceptable noncompliance with the reporting requirements in the STOCK Act, including the possibility of stiffening penalties,” Hammill said. 

 “To be clear, insider trading is already a serious federal criminal and civil violation and the Speaker strongly supports robust enforcement of the relevant statutes by the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission,” he added.

“The Speaker led the House in passing the bipartisan Courthouse Ethics and Transparency Act, which would subject federal judges to similar disclosure requirements as those in the STOCK Act. President Biden signed this bill into law in May.”

Still, some lawmakers take issue with the purchase.

“Nancy Pelosi is the ultimate insider. Not only is her husband buying stock options on a much higher level than the average member of Congress,” said Rep. James Comer (R-KY).

“The average member of Congress may buys $5,000 or $6,000 of stock. He’s buying $500,000 worth of stock. He’s buying stock options which expire. To be able to trade stock options profitably, you have to know exactly which direction that stock’s going to move, and you can make a huge profit. This is wrong. This is another example of the media turning a blind eye to Nancy Pelosi’s bad behavior and unethical behavior,” Comer said.

July 11, 2022

Economists: No, Corporate Greed Isn’t Causing Inflation

Economists largely agree that profit-driven corporate greed isn’t causing inflation — despite what many Democratic lawmakers say.

“The CEOs of some of the biggest companies have been bragging to their investors that inflation has created a terrific opportunity for them to raise prices and boost profits,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said earlier this year.

But The Hill reports that “since 1980, the market power of companies over consumers has ticked up an average of about 1 percent a year, allowing them to keep marking up their prices higher and higher above input costs.”

“I am pretty skeptical about the ‘greedflation’ narrative,” Gabriel Unger, a Ph.D. student in economics at Harvard University told the outlet.

“It’s true that markups (and market concentration) have been rising sharply since around 1980. But over almost this whole period, up until the pandemic, inflation has been historically very low. So for most of the past 40 years, we’ve had an economy with high and rising markups, and very low inflation,” he continued.  

“It’s possible that in the absence of the former, inflation might have been slightly lower, but I still think this suggests it’s unlikely that high markups on their own cause an explosion of inflation.”

Chad Syverson, an economist at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, says the sentiment is gaining traction among economists.

“I don’t know how many people want to sign up for consensus on this, but there’s been a lot of research that people have found reasonably convincing that says that measures of market power seem to have been ticking up. It’s not unanimous, but more people think that’s true now than five years ago,” Syverson said.

The outlet noted a study from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute (EPI) that found the increased market power of corporations over consumers has resulted in sustained higher prices.

“It is unlikely that either the extent of corporate greed or even the power of corporations generally has increased during the past two years. Instead, the already-excessive power of corporations has been channeled into raising prices rather than the more traditional form it has taken in recent decades: suppressing wages,” wrote EPI economist Josh Bivens.

July 6, 2022

Couple Fined More Than $1,500 For Parking in Own Driveway

A San Francisco couple has parked their car in their driveway for the past 36 years — until the city said it’s illegal.

Judy and Ed Craine say the city sent them an email telling them they couldn’t park in their carport anymore.

“We got this email saying we can’t park in the pad anymore. I said what, that’s crazy,” Ed Craine told ABC7.

The city’s Planning Department imposed a steep fine: $1,542, plus another $250 per day until they moved the car.

“I wrote them back saying I thought this was a mistake,” Judy Craine said.

The couple says they’ve been parking there for nearly 40 years, and as far as they know, the space has been used for parking since the house was built in 1910.

Despite the couple’s disbelief, the city says that rules are rules.

“I recognize that the property owner is frustrated. I think I would feel the same way in their situation,” Planning Chief Dan Sider told ABC7 in an email. “But the Planning Code doesn’t allow for the City to grandfather illegal uses on account of their having flown below the radar for a length of time.”

June 29, 2022

House Democrats Blame Corporate Landlords for Rising Rent Costs

House Democrats blamed private equity firms for rising rent prices during a Congressional hearing on Tuesday.

“This predatory purchasing contributes to our nation’s shortage of affordable housing and exacerbates the racial wealth gap,” said Rep. Al Green (D-TX) at the House Financial Services subpanel hearing.

Data shows that rents are up 5.2% compared to last year, according to The Hill.

However, House Republicans say Democratic lawmakers are trying to deflect blame for record-breaking inflation.

“Another day, another new excuse from my friends across the aisle trying to explain [away] their role in causing record-breaking inflation,” Rep. William Timmons (R-S.C.) said. “None of these attempts to explain away inflation have worked.”

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) addressed the criticism, saying the Republican Party “rails” against rising inflation, but its lawmakers “don’t have any answers.”

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