Clinton, Trump and the housing crisis: a different perspective

Hillary Clinton and her surrogates think they have found something to damage Donald Trump, statements he has made about opportunities to profit from a housing market crash.

But have they? A deeper look suggests Trump was prescient in his analysis of the housing market.

Ten years ago Trump was recorded saying, “I sort of hope that (a housing market crash) happens because then, people like me would go in and buy” and “If there is a bubble burst, as they call it, you know you can make a lot of money.”

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At a campaign rally on Tuesday, Clinton jumped on the quotes, accusing Trump of wishing for a financial crash so he could “make some money for himself.”

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) piled on, saying in a press release that Trump “cheered on” the collapse of the housing market. The DNC also observed that the housing crash devastated minorities such as Hispanics and African-Americans (who happen to be a key part of Hillary’s base).

“Donald Trump’s lack of concern for the economic well-being of hard-working families shows that he doesn’t have the judgment and temperament to occupy the Oval Office,” wrote DNC spokesperson Luis Miranda.

But another way to look at it is Trump was being pretty smart and perceptive—and if the Clintons had been smart, they could have made some money, too (not that they needed any more).

The 2008 financial crisis was triggered to a significant degree by subprime mortgages, loans made to people with poor credit or with little documentation to back up their financial fitness. These mortgages were transformed into toxic financial products by investment specialists who made a bundle when the products were sold.

The danger these subprime mortgage products posed wasn’t foreseen by Janet Yellen, Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

“While a tightening of credit to the subprime sector and foreclosures on existing properties have the potential to deepen the housing downturn, I do not consider it very likely that such developments will have a big effect on overall U.S. economic performance,” Yellen said well into the foreclosure crisis. ” I say this, in part, because these mortgages represent only a small part of the overall outstanding mortgage stock.”

Yellen went on to misread the economy, saying, “I think that the current stance of policy is likely to foster sustainable growth with a gradual ebbing of inflation over time.”

The danger these subprime mortgage products posed also wasn’t foreseen “by the chief executives of America’s premier banks,” said a New York Times book review of the best-selling book, The Big Short. “It was not foreseen by government regulators, by Treasury officials or by the Fed. It was foreseen, however, by a handful of investors, who were aghast at the madness they saw on the Street and who used their prescience to make a fortune off the financial system’s calamitous meltdown.”   

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Trump should fire back at Hillary by pointing out that she’s made some contentious allegations her supporters might resent. For example, she laid some of the blame for the housing crisis on greedy, dishonest homeowners.

“…certainly borrowers share responsibility as well,” Clinton said in a speech at NASDAQ headquarters. “Homebuyers who paid extra fees to avoid documenting their income should have known they were getting in over their heads” and people across the country “…who were busy buying two, three, four houses to sell for a quick buck don’t deserve our sympathy.”

Nothing’s simple, is it?

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“War, huh. What’s it good for?

On this Memorial Day, it seems like the United States has been at war for most of my lifetime. The cost in American lives has been unbearable. Parents of friends, and friends themselves, have died. The financial cost has been astronomical. The impact on our culture has been massive. The resulting erosion of trust in government has been substantial. What have we accomplished?

Vietnam

In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson used reports of attacks on two American ships in the Gulf of Tonkin as political cover for a Congressional resolution that gave him broad war powers in Vietnam. There were only two dissenting votes, Senators Morse of Oregon and Gruening of Alaska.

As American involvement in the war and body counts escalated, so did anti-war protests at home. The end came when Saigon in South Vietnam fell to the communists in April 1975.

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David Halberstam wrote “The Best and the Brightest” about the overconfident people in leadership roles in the United States who pursued the war.

“The basic question behind the book,” he said, “was why men who were said to be the ablest to serve in government this century had been the architects of what struck me as likely to be the worst tragedy since the Civil War.” (The term “Best and the brightest “ has often been twisted since then to mean the top, smart people, the opposite of Halberstam’s original meaning)

Now, 41 years later, the U.S. and Vietnam are reconciling. The U.S. wants the business opportunities that are expected to open up in Vietnam and a counterweight to Chinese adventurism.

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President Obama reviewing a guard of honor during a welcoming ceremony at Vietnam’s Presidential Palace in Hanoi, May 23, 2016.

 

Cost of the Vietnam War to the United States                                            $173 billion

U.S. military fatal casualties of the Vietnam War                                             58,220

Grieving families of U.S. military fatal casualties of the Vietnam War       58,220

 

Afghanistan

The Afghanistan war began in October 2011 to oust the Taliban that sheltered al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

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The U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan ended its combat mission in December 2014, according to the White House.

In terms of Western goals — things are right back where they started: needing to keep Afghanistan free of extremists and a viable country for its people, CNN recently reported. The result is thousands of refugees and a continued safe haven for ISIS.

The Taliban currently controls more territory than at any time since 2001, when it ruled from the capital, Kabul, Western defense officials say, and the United Nations says civilian casualties are at a high since it began keeping records in 2009, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The United Nations said 3545 civilians were killed in 2015 as Taliban stepped up attacks after British and American troops left at end of 2014.

Furthermore, U.S. intelligence agencies have been warning the White House that the Taliban could seize more Afghan territory, including population centers, during this summer’s fighting season, in part because the Afghan government and its military forces are so weak, according to the Journal.

 

Cost of the war in Afghanistan to the United States                            $686 billion

U.S. military fatal casualties of the war in Afghanistan                          2,381

Grieving families of U.S. military fatal casualties                                      2,381

Iraq

On March 19, 2003, the United States and coalition forces, began a war in Iraq against Saddam Hussein, the Sunni leader of Iraq.

When explosions from Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from U.S. fighter-bombers and warships in the Persian Gulf began to rock Baghdad, President George W. Bush said in a televised address, “At this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.”

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U.S. soldiers hold back crowds as the statue of Saddam Hussein falls in Baghdad, April 9, 2003, by Peter Nicholls

The Shia-led governments that have held power since Hussein was toppled have struggled to maintain order and the country has enjoyed only brief periods of respite from high levels of sectarian violence. Violence and sabotage have continued to hinder the revival of an economy shattered by decades of conflict and sanctions.

Politically and economically, Iraq’s trajectory is currently a negative one, Brookings said recently. The country is politically fragmented at all levels and the centrifugal forces appear to be gaining strength. This, in turn, has paralyzed the government, suggesting that the most likely paths for Iraq are toward a situation analogous to the Lebanon of today.

Cost of the Iraq War to the United States                                             $818 billion

U.S. military fatal casualties of the Iraq War                                             4,491

Grieving families of U.S. military fatal casualties of the Iraq War       4,491

 

“War, huh

Good God, y’all

What is it good for?”

      “War” by Edwin Starr

 

 

Down with capitalism! The IWW and Burgerville

Down with capitalism!

That’s the message from Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) as it tries to unionize Burgerville workers.

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“It is the historic mission of the working class to do away with capitalism,” says the Preamble to the IWW Constitution. “The army of production must be organized, not only for everyday struggle with capitalists, but also to carry on production when capitalism shall have been overthrown.”

The IWW says its long-term goal is for the “working class” to “take possession of the means of production (and) abolish the wage system”. If you were a company owner, would you welcome a union with these ultimate goals?

Citing as their inspiration garment workers in Cambodia, factory workers in China, and other fast food workers across the United States, Burgerville employees pushing for a union have a list of demands, including:

  • an immediate $5 an hour raise for all hourly workers
  • affordable, quality healthcare
  • paid maternity/paternity leave
  • free childcare and transportation stipends

The employees involved in the organizing effort say a typical Burgerville worker makes $9.60 an hour and is scheduled 26 hours a week, generating a monthly income of about $990 a month before taxes.

Burgerville has said the average hourly pay company-wide is $11.36 per hour and in Oregon the average is $10.89 per hour.

Whoever’s figures are used, the IWW’s demands, if implemented, would put the wages of Burgerville’s hourly workers far above the levels in the minimum wage law signed by Governor Brown in March 2016.

Under that law, the minimum wage within the Portland urban growth boundary is now $9.75 and will increase as follows:

July 1, 2017: $11.25

July 1, 2018: $12.00

July 1, 2019: $12.50

July 1, 2020: $13.25

July 1, 2021: $14.00

July 1, 2022: $14.75

Add in healthcare coverage, paid maternity/paternity leave, free childcare and transportation stipends and the cost of hourly workers would go through the roof for Burgerville.

In arguing its case for a Burgerville union, the IWW quotes a Burgerville worker: “Most people can’t even afford to have an apartment. In Portland, everyone knows that the cost of living is insane. It basically took me a second job to be able to have a place of my own. I couldn’t afford it with what Burgerville pays me.”

I get it. It’s hard to live on an hourly wage of a typical Burgerville worker, but most of these jobs are not expected to be family-wage jobs, nor are they intended to be lifetime careers.

Burgerville says, for example, that and over half of its hourly employees are age 22 or younger. If they expect their hourly jobs to ever generate enough income to support a family they are delusional.

And if a Burgerville union succeeded in pushing the company to meet its demands, it’s likely that this would disproportionally hurt the very people the union organizers say they want to help, less-educated low-skilled workers.

A broadly cited study by David Neumark, an economics professor at the University of California at Irvine, and William Wascher, deputy director of research and statistics at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, examined the literature on this issue and found “the weight of the evidence points to” lower employment effects.

That’s of considerable concern to people like Craig Garthwaite, an assistant professor of management and strategy at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

“That’s troubling, because I think it’s important for people to get into the labor market,” Garthwaite said. “Even if these aren’t great jobs, they lead to better jobs as your skills improve. That’s the idea. I don’t think we should be doing anything to dissuade people from entering the job market right now.”

Minimum wages are intended to be commensurate with a worker’s skills, education and productivity at that point in time, enable them to develop higher skills and work their way out of minimum wage and up the pay scale.

It’s clear that the IWW and the Burgerville workers demanding expensive wages and benefits just don’t get it.

 

 

 

 

 

Hear that sucking sound? That’s Oregon tax Initiative Petition 28

Democrats and their union allies want to suck more money out of Oregon businesses than we thought.

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Oregon’s Legislative Revenue Office predicted today (May 23, 2016) that Initiative Petition 28, if approved in November, would generate $6.1 billion in new revenue by the 2017-19 biennium. That’s almost $1 billion more than the $5.3 billion initially predicted.

Talk about greed!

The Revenue Office’s report also estimated that 38,220 private sector jobs would be lost by 2022 if the initiative passed. Meanwhile, in an odd twist, the public sector would add 17,700 jobs.

Talk about an absurd outcome!

And Gov. Kate Brown’s thoughtful response?  “I greatly appreciate the analysis provided by the Legislative Revenue Office, which helps inform our understanding of the impacts of IP-28,” Brown said. “As I have said previously, the problem I remain focused on is how to improve our graduation rate and fund essential services while sustaining economic growth and protecting Oregon jobs. I will begin discussions with my legislative colleagues about a way forward that, should the measure pass, would safeguard new revenue for education while sustaining economic growth and protecting Oregon jobs.”

Whew! Makes you wonder if the governor is being paid by the word.

Initiative Petition 28 is being promoted by A Better Oregon, a campaign organization operating under the umbrella of Portland-based Our Oregon, a coalition of unions and progressive groups.

The measure would raise the corporate minimum tax on Oregon sales of more than $25 million a year from the current minimum of $50,000 to $30,001 plus 2.5 percent of the excess over $25 million. The tax would be based solely on sales, not profit.

Corporate taxes during the 2017-2019 biennium under the current system are projected to reach about $1.1 billion.

In other words, the passage of Initiative petition 28 would increase corporate tax collections per biennium by almost 600 percent in one fell swoop.

Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D-Portland), when endorsing the measure, said it would eliminate much of the constant need to choose between funding critical budget concerns each legislative session. “If that passes, we’ll have a lot of money to pay for stuff,” Greenlick said.

Otherwise, Greenlick said, most of the additional revenue in the economic forecast for the 2017-2019 budget would go to cover increased PERS liabilities and the state’s increased share of Medicaid funding, leaving little additional revenue for new stuff.

“This measure will make sure that large and out-of-state corporations do their part to fund the schools and services that will make Oregon thrive,” Our Oregon says.

As long ago as I can remember advocates for higher taxes in Oregon have been making “out-of-state corporations” the bogeyman, the malignant beast that’s doing Oregonians wrong and needs to pay.

But as attractive a target as these corporations are, they’re not fools. They will find a way to avoid paying the taxes or they’ll pass on the added taxes to Oregon consumers.

Then we’d all pay.

The liberal coalition behind Initiative petition 28, recalling their success in a tax increase battle in 2010, may be figuring they have a sure thing again with another measure targeting big business, but hopefully Oregonians in their wisdom will see this proposal is a reach too far.

 

 

Should I stay or should I go: Bernie’s conundrum.

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Hillary Clinton and her allies want Bernie Sanders to withdraw from the race. For additional pressure, the liberal media, including Talking Points Memo,the Washington Post, Daily Kos and the NY Times are piling on in unison. With increasing vehemence, they all argue Sanders should quit because he can’t win the Democratic nomination.

“…Sanders’ campaign is now taking a scorched-earth approach toward its opponents—even if that means helping Donald Trump win the White House,” wrote David Nir in today’s Daily Kos.

Sanders’ continued presence in the race increases divisiveness in the party, his critics assert, makes it harder for Hillary to focus on Trump and forces Hillary to keep spending millions to secure her nomination that would be better spent in the general election.

On March 17, the New York Times reported that the previous week President Obama had privately told a group of Democratic donors that Sanders was close to when his campaign against Clinton would end and that the Democratic Party must soon come together to back her.

According to the Times, people at the donor event “took his comments as a signal to Mr. Sanders that perpetuating his campaign, which is now an uphill climb, could only help the Republicans recapture the White House.”

So let’s look at what Hillary did in her own 2007-2008 contest with Obama.

The objective of each of the candidates in the primaries and caucuses was to secure the support of 2,117 delegates, a majority, to the August 2008 Democratic National Convention.

At the end of 2007, Clinton led in the national polls with 42% of likely voters, over Obama at 23% and John Edwards at 16%.

On Jan. 3, Obama unexpectedly won the Iowa caucuses with 38% of the vote, over Edwards, 30%, and Clinton, 29%. That gave Obama 28 pledged delegates, Clinton 14 and Edwards 3.

At the conclusion of the next three primaries (New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina) on Jan. 26, the pledged delegate vote count was Obama 88, Clinton 46 and Edwards 3. This was after Obama won by a more than two-to-one margin over Clinton in South Carolina, taking 55% of the vote to Clinton’s 27% and Edwards’s 18%. After his shellacking, John Edwards suspended his candidacy on January 30, 2008.

With the Super Tuesday primaries looming, Senator Ted Kennedy endorsed Obama, a high profile endorsement that buoyed Obama’s hopes. On Tuesday, Feb. 5, with 23 states and territories and 1,681 delegates up for grabs, Obama captured 847 delegates and Clinton 834. That put Obama at 1036 pledged delegates and Clinton at 1056.

Earlier in 2008 it had been expected that the nominee would be known after Super Tuesday, but Obama and Clinton were essentially tied in pledged delegates.

During Feb. 9-19, Obama swept 11 state contests and expanded his pledged delegate lead by 120. By the end of February, Obama had 1,192 pledged delegates, Clinton 1,035. But Clinton led among super-delegates, 240 to 19.

In the March primaries and caucuses, both candidates hung in there, with Obama winning 210 pledged delegates and Clinton 205, putting Obama slightly ahead with a total of 1,562½ pledged delegates and Clinton with 1,421½.

 On March 29, Obama’s lead prompted Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vermont, to call for Clinton to drop out of the race. “I think that her criticism (of Obama) is hurting him more than anything John McCain has said,” Leahy said. “I think that’s unfortunate.”

 As the contest continued into April, a consensus began to grow that Clinton didn’t have much of a chance to overcome Obama’s lead in pledged delegates. Coincident with that growing feeling, some Democrats began to argue that Clinton staying in the race was damaging Obama’s likelihood of success in the general election.

Clinton did go on to win in Pennsylvania, but Obama won in North Carolina and the two almost tied in Indiana on May 6. At that point, Obama led Clinton by 164 pledged delegates and there were only 217 pledged delegates left to be decided, leading to more calls for Clinton to drop out of the race.

Even comedians got in the act. “Hillary Clinton says she isn’t dropping out because there are still six states that haven’t had their Democratic primary,” said Conan O’Brien. “That’s right. Barack Obama’s favored in the states of Oregon, Montana and South Dakota, and Hillary is favored in the state of denial.”

Clinton’s fortunes deteriorated further on May 10 when Obama’s super-delegate total passed Clinton’s, making it even more likely that Clinton’s run was doomed.

But Hillary Clinton persevered.

It wasn’t until June 3 when Obama’s delegates from South Dakota and Montana primaries, plus his announcement of more super-delegates, put Obama over the majority needed for the Democratic nomination.

Still, it took until June 5 for the Clinton campaign to post a letter to supporters on its website saying Hillary would endorse Obama on June 7.

From my perspective, that pretty well sums it up. Bernie, ignore the calls to drop out coming from Hillary and her bought and paid for acolytes. Keep a-pluggin’ away.

 

                                       If the hills are high before

                                       And the paths are hard to climb,

                                       Keep a–pluggin’ away.

                                       And remember that successes

                                       Come to him who bides his time,—

                                        Keep a–pluggin’ away.

“Keep a-plugging away”, Lyrics of Lowly Life, Paul Laurence Dunbar

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Stop the madness: Obama’s extravagant Presidential Center

Now we have a number. $1 billion. That’s what The Obama Presidential Center in Chicago is expected to cost.

“Eight years is only the beginning,” the Obama Foundation, which is driving creation of the Center, says on its website. “As President Obama has said, the change we seek will take longer than one presidency. The Obama Foundation is where the work we started together will continue.”

I’m reminded of an observation by Anthony Clark in his book, The Last Campaign: How Presidents Rewrite History, Run for Posterity, and Enshrine Their Legacies: “We once held the office of president, as well as its occupant, in high regard. As we have lowered our opinions of both, presidential libraries, consequently, have grown larger and more powerful—and, not incidentally, less truthful.”

Do we really need another extravagant, pretentious library and a recklessly large foundation funded by influence seekers and built by a legacy-hungry ex-president?

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It seems like our presidents are getting more and more concerned about their legacy and continued influence.

The New York Times reported, for example, that on election night in 1992, James L. “Skip” Rutherford, was celebrating in Little Rock, Ark., when he felt the hand of Herschel Friday, a member of the Clinton finance committee, on his back. “Hey, Skip,” Rutherford, recalled the lawyer saying. “Now we have to start thinking about that presidential library.”

Unfortunately, each successive administration seems to think its library needs to be more extravagant than its predecessor.

The 135,000 sq. ft. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, including endowment of an Institute at Harvard for the study of politics and public affairs, cost $20.8 million. Adjusted for inflation, that would be $72,143,125.55.

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Center for Public Affairs, the largest of all the presidential libraries, cost $60 million. Adjusted for inflation, that would be equivalent to a little more than $130 million now.

Obama’s $1 billion project would be twice what George W. Bush raised for his library and its programs.

It is also far more than the $165 million spent on William J. Clinton’s Presidential Center and Park in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Like the Clintons, if Obama hopes to raise $1 billion, he’ll have to hit up moneyed interests, a lot of them, and do a lot of backscratching.

Obama and his people say he plans to raise most of his haul after his presidency, but he’s already on the hunt. According to a report filed with the IRS by the Barack Obama Foundation, in 2014 Obama raised $5,434,877 million from 12 donors.

The donations ranged from $100,000 to $1 million. Michael J. Sacks, a Chicago businessman, gave $666,666. Fred Eychaner, the founder of Chicago-based Newsweb Corp., donated $1 million. Mark T. Gallogly, a private equity executive, and James H. Simons, a technology entrepreneur, each contributed $340,000.

The Foundation reported raising another $1.9 million in 2015, leaving it with a balance of $2.6 million after expenses and a massive fundraising effort needed to reach its goals. Major contributors in 2015, according to the Foundation’sForm 990 report to the IRS, included: the Gill Foundation (Tim Gill) , $347,000; Impact Assets Inc., $250,000; the Sacks Family Foundation, $333,334; Lisa Strickler and Mark Gallogly, $330,000; Marilyn and Jim Simons, $330,000; David and Beth Shaw, $250,000.

Meanwhile, like slimy remoras that attach themselves to sharks, connected Democrats are already at the money trough.

The Foundation’s 2014 expenses include $476,551 to the Smoot Tewes Group, a Washington, D.C. fundraising consultant. Julianna Smoot, served as Obama’s chief campaign fund-raiser in 2008 and 2012. Paul Tewes served as the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s National Coordinated Campaign Director in 2001-02 and its Political Director in 2003-04. He also directed Obama’s victory in the 2008 Iowa Caucus campaign.

$230,436 went to SKDknickerbocker, a Washington, D.C. public relations and political consulting firm that specializes in working for Democratic Party politicians. The firm collected another $182,865 in 2015.

SKDknickerbocker is a veritable cornucopia of Democratic operatives, including: Anita Dunn, former Obama White House Communications Director; Jessica Bassett, who has done press and site advance for Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton; Bill Burton, former deputy White House press secretary for Obama and co-founder of the super PAC Priorities USA Action during Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign; and Stephen Krupin, former chief speechwriter to Secretary of State John Kerry, director of speechwriting on Obama’s re-election campaign, and chief speechwriter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

While Obama is still president, it’s clear that he, his Foundation and these firms are already hard at work pressing the 1% to donate to the Obama Foundation. And this is surely only the beginning of what will become a massive fundraising effort, likely leading to all the same conflicts and questions associated with the Clinton Foundation.

This is all getting completely out of hand. It’s time to stop this arms race of ever-expanding presidential libraries and foundations.

The way we’re headed, presidential centers will surpass Egypt’s pyramids as monuments to the egos of leaders. Given that many of the pyramids entombed not only the deceased, but also the deceased’s servants, Obama’s current and former advisors like Valerie Jarrett, John Podesta, David Plouffe and David Axelrod may have reason to be concerned.

Portland’s XRAY.FM: skating on the edge

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XRAY.FM, a progressive non-profit radio station in Portland, was launched with much fanfare on March 15, 2014 with the backing of Portland taxpayers in the form of a grant from the Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC).

I was interested in how XRAY was doing, so I asked Cascade Educational Broadcast Service, XRAY’s parent, for copies of its Form 990 federal tax filings for 2013 and forward. I figured the station would get back to me without any fuss because the law requires tax-exempt organizations to allow public inspection of their recent federal annual information returns. In my case, no such luck. Despite repeated requests, Cascade never responded to my queries.

So I went directly to the IRS. They promptly sent me Cascade’s Form 990 for 2013, but that was it. “There is no record of filing for periods 2014 and 2015,” said Jeffrey Austin, Disclosure Manager with the IRS.

The 2013 filing, submitted on Nov. 12, 2014, shows that in 2013, during its organizational stage, Cascade took in contributions of $23,820 and spent $19,626.

What were its revenue and expenses in 2014, its first year of operation? Got me. How about its second year, 2015? Who knows? According to the IRS, after 2013, Cascade simply stopped filing any federal tax returns. There is no record of filing for periods 2014 and 2015,” said IRS Disclosure Manager, Jeffrey Austin.

That’s a problem.

Tax-exempt organizations are required to file annual returns. If an organization doesn’t file a required return or files late, the IRS may assess penalties. In addition, if an organization doesn’t file as required for three consecutive years, it automatically loses its tax-exempt status.

That means one more year of negligence would put XRAY’s tax-exempt status at risk.

What a shame it would be if that happened to this progressive mouthpiece.