More self-dealing for Treasury afoot?

Last week, the Boston Globe released a story by a staff reporter named Bryan Bender that suggests that some Beltway politicos may be contemplating changing the mission of the Secret Service.

The Secret Service is entrusted with protecting our nation’s currency from counterfeiting and is also entrusted with guarding our nation’s president.  The Secret Service was created during the 1860’s to battle counterfeiting, and its mission was expanded to presidential protection in the wake of President McKinley’s assassination at the start of the 20th century.  When the Department of Homeland Security was created, the Secret Service was placed within that department.

The question at hand:  Does the Secret Service have the resources to handle these twin missions when far more safety threats to the President are being identified and when counterfeiting is so much more technologically advanced?

I’m not even sure it’s an honest question.

How are we to know the scope of resources at the Secret Service’s disposal?  How are we to know if there truly are more threats against the President’s safety?  How are we to assess the sophistication and proliferation of present-day counterfeiting schemes?

The answers to these three questions being unknowable to the public can enable alarmists to inflate the risks and to downplay the available resources with the intent of framing an ensuing debate that may be based solely on conjecture.  What fact-checking tools are available to the public to quantify and qualify the risks vis-a-vis the resources?

It’s with that skeptical eye toward the original question that I peruse the rest of Bender’s report.

What if the Secret Service were given one mission instead of two?  Would it make sense that the Secret Service be divested of the anti-counterfeiting role that it’s held since its founding?  If so, should that responsibility be handed over to the Treasury Department?

Let me ask that last question another way:  Should the Secret Service’s powers to investigate specified types of financial crimes be handed off to . . . Tim Geithner???????????

I can answer that last question:  NO WAY!

Last year, when Hank Paulson was Treasury Secretary, I blogged against the power that would be granted to Treasury Secretaries by the bailout bill (which, sadly, was passed into law):

The fundamental crux of the matter is that this bill gives Hank Paulson, Secretary of the Treasury, friend to the Wall Street crooks and enemy of the taxpayer, $250 billion of taxpayer money right up front, and perhaps $700 billion over all (and maybe more, since the precedent has already been set) to bailout whoever he pleases, with no judicial review.  He already acted on behalf of Bear Stearns without getting permission from the American people.  He already acted on behalf of AIG without getting permission from the American people.  He was able to coax Congress into going along with a bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  He’s been a crybaby that threw a tantrum to get this latest bailout approved, but it didn’t work.  Now he’s handing out candy to get this bailout approved.  Paulson and his Wall Street cronies have been more manipulative than any spoiled rotten brat I know.  Has it occurred to anyone on Capitol Hill and in the MSM that Paulson has been wrong with every move he makes?  Has it occurred to anyone that on Capitol Hill and in the MSM that Paulson has quietly assured his Wall Street cronies that the fix is in, and that he guaranteed to them that he’ll deliver the goods?  If we want accountability and oversight, it has to start with denying any of this bailout money.  It has to start with not granting additional power to the Secretary of the Treasury.

My dim view of Paulson is coupled with my dim view of Geithner, Paulson’s successor.  I distrust them both.

With a further consolidation of power over all financial aspects of our nation, what mechanisms are at the people’s disposal to check and balance any abuses that might occur at the Treasury Department?

I doubt that it would ever become necessary to trim the Secret Service’s twin missions down to one, but if it ever came down to it, I’d be much more comfortable with the Department of Homeland Security retaining the role of investigating the types of financial crimes that the Secret Service currently has jurisdiction over, and letting the Treasury Department guard our President, than doing it the other way around.

Press release:House GOP Lawmakers Introduce Estate Tax Reduction Act

Editor’s Note: State Rep. Hottinger is from Ohio’s 71st House District, and State Rep. Grossman is from Ohio’s 23rd House District.

COLUMBUSState Representatives Jay Hottinger (R- Newark) and Cheryl Grossman (R- Grove City) today introduced House Bill 326 that would shrink Ohio’s estate tax liability, a proposal included in “The Future of Ohio” plan introduced earlier this fall by House Republicans.

“It is time to improve Ohio’s heavy tax burden by reducing the estate tax,” Hottinger said.  “Ohioans are already handicapped by one of the highest tax rates in the country, which is shortchanging our ability to attract jobs and families. The estate tax continues to be a contributing cause of our population exodus. This legislation would encourage many Ohioans to remain in the state where they can pass on their life savings to their heirs without penalty.”

This legislation would allot all estate tax revenues to local governments by eliminating the state share, which is currently 20 percent. Municipalities and townships would have the right to exempt the estate tax within their territorial jurisdiction. The bill would also increase the state estate tax credit to $15,575 and link it with the consumer price index, effectively raising the exemption threshold to $366,250 for estates with dates of death on or after January 1, 2010.

“Ohio is one of only 23 states that still impose a death tax,” Grossman said. “What kind of messages does this send to Ohioans who have worked hard their whole lives and invested in our communities? It is important as we seek ways to improve Ohio’s economy that we ease the tax burden in any way we can, including for those families struggling with the loss of a loved one.”

Under current Ohio law, every estate is taxed at a rate ranging from 2 percent to 7 percent, and most have an initial fee assessed as well. There are six classified tax brackets ranging from taxable estates of $40,000 or less to estates worth more than $500,000. The payment of this tax is divided to provide 20 percent to state General Revenue Fund and the additional 80 percent is distributed to the local municipalities.

This bill is a key component to “The Future of Ohio” package of proposals rolled out by House Republican members last month. These economic development proposals were drawn from discussions with constituents and small business leaders across Ohio.  The initiatives would come at a minimal cost to taxpayers, with long-term job creation, economic stimulus, and far greater revenue in state income than costs.  Jobs created by these proposals would have a multiplier effect on the economy by increasing tax revenues for state and local government.