Thursday, August 22, 2013

Organizing For Action: where is the outrage?

In my previous bit, I discussed President Obama's latest (and quite silly) initiative in the field of college education costs. And low and behold, when I checked my (e-)mail box today, I found this lovely message from none other than the President, himself:
Robert --

Michelle and I wouldn't be in the White House today if it weren't for our college educations.

It wasn't cheap. We didn't finish paying off our student loans until about nine years ago.

That's why it's been a personal mission of mine to make higher education more affordable for more Americans -- and starting today, I'm hitting the road to talk about real reforms to fundamentally rethink how we pay for college in this country.

I'm asking you to speak out as well.

Stand with me today -- tell Congress you support real action to make college more affordable for American families.
 
Right now, the average student who takes out loans to pay for school graduates with more than $26,000 in debt. Something's got to change -- it's not enough just to tinker around the edges. We've got to shake up the current system.

My plan won't be popular with everybody, especially those who profit from the way things are. But we owe it to our students to make sure that our colleges are working for them.

While we'll need Congress' help to get some of this done, my administration will continue to do what we can to make sure quality, affordable higher education is in reach for millions more young Americans.

So far, we've taken some good steps forward. We've published college scorecards to ensure that families are getting the best information as they pick a school, doubled funding for Pell grants, and established a college tax credit. And thanks to the income-based repayment program, which caps student loan payments based on new graduates' incomes, 1.6 million young Americans can keep more money in their pockets.

But there's much more we can and should do -- this is key to creating a better bargain for the middle class.

That's something I've talked a lot about -- every day, I think about what I can do to live up to it.

That's why I'm calling on Congress to tackle rising tuition costs and pass reforms, so families can get a better bargain when it comes to getting a world-class education.

I'm counting on OFA supporters to be part of this fight. Not much gets done in Washington without the voices of people like you.

Add your name:

http://my.barackobama.com/College-Should-Be-Affordable
Thanks,

Barack

Some may be wondering why I'm getting e-mails from the President of the United States. Rest assured, I'm not. The letter came from Organizing For Action, that 501(c)(4) social welfare organization built from the ashes of President Obama's reelection campaign, which is of course completely independent and not directly under the control of the President (or not directly in control of him, I should hasten to add). Never mind that its website is "http://www.barackobama.com/," never mind that its official twitter account is also Obama's official twitter account, never mind that's its principals all hail from Team Obama, it's non-partisan dammit! It even says so on the website:
OFA is not a partisan political organization and will not engage in electoral activity with any partisan political organization. It welcomes Democrats, Republicans, and Independents to support its work, and its advocacy will be directed to all Americans, without regard to party or other political affiliations.
OFA explains is activities thusly:
Organizing for Action is a nonprofit organization established to support President Obama in achieving enactment of the national agenda Americans voted for on Election Day 2012. OFA will advocate for these policies throughout the country and will mobilize citizens of all parties and diverse points to speak out for speedy passage and effective implementation of this program, including gun violence prevention, sensible environmental policies to address climate change and immigration reform. In addition, OFA will encourage the formation of chapters that will be dedicated at the grassroots level to this program, but also committed to identifying and working progressive change on a range of issues at the state and local level. In carrying its work, OFA will operate as a "social welfare" organization within the meaning of section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code.
And the IRS rules for a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization are as follows (my boldface):
To be tax-exempt as a social welfare organization described in Internal Revenue Code (IRC) section 501(c)(4), an organization must not be organized for profit and must be operated exclusively to promote social welfare. The earnings of a section 501(c)(4) organization may not inure to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual. If the organization engages in an excess benefit transaction with a person having substantial influence over the organization, an excise tax may be imposed on the person and any managers agreeing to the transaction. See Introduction to IRC 4958 for more information about this excise tax. For a more detailed discussion of the exemption requirements for section 501(c)(4) organizations, see IRC 501(c)(4) Organizations. For more information about applying for exemption, see Application for Recognition of Exemption. To be operated exclusively to promote social welfare, an organization must operate primarily to further the common good and general welfare of the people of the community (such as by bringing about civic betterment and social improvements). For example, an organization that restricts the use of its facilities to employees of selected corporations and their guests is primarily benefiting a private group rather than the community and, therefore, does not qualify as a section 501(c)(4) organization. Similarly, an organization formed to represent member-tenants of an apartment complex does not qualify, because its activities benefit the member-tenants and not all tenants in the community, while an organization formed to promote the legal rights of all tenants in a particular community may qualify under section 501(c)(4) as a social welfare organization. An organization is not operated primarily for the promotion of social welfare if its primary activity is operating a social club for the benefit, pleasure or recreation of its members, or is carrying on a business with the general public in a manner similar to organizations operated for profit link]. 
Seeking legislation germane to the organization's programs is a permissible means of attaining social welfare purposes. Thus, a section 501(c)(4) social welfare organization may further its exempt purposes through lobbying as its primary activity without jeopardizing its exempt status.
I can't speak for everyone else, but I don't enjoy being forced to play the fool. OFA is breaking the rules and the people running the show damn well know it. Note how it's purpose is to "achieve the national agenda Americans voted for." Never mind that Americans didn't vote for any agendas, they voted for candidates, the idea being sold is that OFA is dedicated to this specific agenda, not to the agenda of a particular politician (Barack Obama) because this latter standard would disqualify OFA from tax exempt status. But this latest e-mail from OFA is not directing me to support an initiative offered during the last campaign, but rather one Obama has just introduced! Gah! And OFA is allowed to get away with this nonsense as a matter of course. Why? We all know why.

But even forgetting about the IRS tax exemption issue, OFA is still seriously bad news. What we have here is a huge propaganda machine under the direct control of the head of state, an organization answerable only to that head of state which exists to serve his or her needs, no one else's. I've broached this point before, as well:
It's a truly scary idea--for people actually concerned with liberty and individualism--insofar as this step [creating OFA] represents an attempt to empower populism as a specific tool of the Chief Executive, a tool that cannot be checked by the reminder of the government. And of course the acceptance of such a creature demonstrates the massive hypocrisy on the part of people who applaud it and would participate in it, people who feign outrage over the amount of money in politics, over the Citizen's United decision, who pretend that the latter was some sort of death knell for democracy.

Like Mao's idea of permanent revolution, such an org would--as a matter of course--always be pushing change; there would be no single goal to be reached (unlike with a campaign org), nor specific rights to protect (unlike with most other politically motivated orgs), there would just be the constant struggle.

Socialism in one country. Who would have thought it would be here?
That piece was from the beginning of the year, shortly have Obama began his second term, just after OFA had been created. Since then, we've learned how government bureaucracies have targeted conservative/tea party orgs for "special attention," either under the direction of partisan appointees or via instructions from higher up the food chain (we'll probably never know the truth). And we've watched as the President ignores the laws he, himself, worked to create. Meanwhile, the propaganda machine that is OFA rolls on, gathering up millions upon millions in small-denomination donations from people who really don't have a clue about any of this. All the while, our self-styled gatekeepers of freedom, the media elites, sit idly by and either ignore everything or openly carry water for the Administration and its agenda.

And they all cheer, they pat each other on the back for their own ignorance and duplicity in all of it. This is how freedom dies? Over drinks at a stylish DC bar and to thunderous applause?

Cheers, all.

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