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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  January 26, 2015 7:00pm-9:01pm EST

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agenda. they've said it over and over now for a period going back as long as 70 years. that is the view of islamic extremists that we are up against. this is a global war. these extremists, the warriors are sprinkled everywhere from the eastern shore of the mediterranean to the indus river, from the deserts of north africa all the way akroscross to the red sea down at thethe arabian peninsula across the waters to somalia, and they are rampaging at large apparently at will in africa'sest country today where boko haram has also declared itself a new caliphate. now, the relationship of this to us with the attack last week on "charlie hebdo"." freedom of the speech is a core value of western civilization.
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it's not a coincidence that it's the first amendment to our constitution. and it's not a coincidence that the terrorists chose an element of the press in france, the free press, as their target. yet here in the united states and in europe there's -- there are signs, have been signs of a sort of unilateral intellectual disarmament in the face of these kinds of threats. we all saw the pusillanimous initial reaction of sony to the threats of the north koreans. we saw that the associated press pulled "charlie hebdo" cartoons from its gallery because they were afraid some of them might be "hurtful" to people. for a week the "washington post" here refused to publish the
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cartoons. thanks to the brave men who run the editorial page they did publish the cartoon on the editorial page last week. but the paper itself refused to publish it. they did in the end finally. and the american government took quite a while to figure out what to call these events. first they didn't call them a terrorist event. then they just called it a terrorist event. and they still won't call it what it really is, which is islamic terrorism, jihadist extremism. they still won't say that. why is there this reluctance to call things as they are? my own view is a lot of it has to do with the atmosphere of political correctness that has overtaken a lot of america and a lot of europe, i must say. if you look at colleges and universities, there are these codes of conduct. codes of verbal conduct. things which are allowed and not allowed to be said which have had the effect of tamping down
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freedoms in those -- let me tell you the two places the general mentioned. at yale, where i went. yale published several years ago an academic book about the danish cartoons. you remember the danish cartoons by the joelland post. they published a full academic study and decided not to put the cartoons in the book. an act of exemplary cowardice by yale. at harvard, not to be outdone, the president of harvard had the timidity of suggesting that a useful form of research would look into the question undeniable fact that women are not as well represented in the hard sciences as men. and he thought that would be something that an academic would be worth studying. why is that? he got fired. he's no longer president of harvard.
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so these -- this unilateral intellectual disarmament is a serious problem. what are the implications of all this for american foreign policy? just to move to a broader point. first of all, 3/4 of all americans alive today were born after world war ii. they have grown up in a world of expanding freedom freer trade, freedom of expression, freedom of the high seas. they take for granted the limited political atmosphere we live in. i use the word liberal just so i don't confuse people in the classic european sense of liberal. open and free. progress toward a more liberal world was not inevitable as a scholar known to many of you here, robert kagan has reported
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the values of the world's hegemon at any given time, the values of the world's hegemon determine the values that are adapted by the international community. and the internationally liberal order in which we live today, we've grown accustomed to, is actually quite young. it dates only to the 1830s. which is when britain abolished their corn laws to open borders to trade, outlawed slavery, and reformed the rotten borough political system. and for the next century it was the royal navy that policed the seas to have freedom of the seas. this was not inevitable. as kagan points out, if you go back to spain under phillip ii or france under the louis or the
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soviet union or nazi germany, none of those countries will have imposed or imposed a liberal economic and political value system. now, at the end of the second world war the united states inherited the role that britain -- britain was exhausted and we got the job of being the hegemon and of policing the freedom of the seas, promoting free trade and defending the freedoms that are listed in our very constitution. all of this order it seems to me is potentially at risk. which is have it's so important that we react vigorous lyly to these acts that happened last week but more broad lyly to the
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overall geopolitical problem. now, i know from reading the polls and listening to all the pundits that americans are "tired of war." for the first time in 70 years pew polls are showing that both political parties are calling for america to pay more attention at home. we hear from politicians not only are they tired of war but it's time to mind our own business. where polls show the americans no longer want to be the world's policeman. of course these comments raise two questions. what is america's business? and what kind of a world would it be if we're not the policeman? in my speaking around the country, i've been to a lot of cities, i often ask when this question comes up about not being the world's policeman, if i'm talking in chicago do you
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have policemen in chicago? do you have policemen in des moines? do you have policemen in eugene oregon? of course you do. what kind of a city would it be if there were no policemen? what kind of a world is it going to be if there were no american policemen? now, american defense spending is at an all-time low as a percent of the federal budget. i won't go through all the details. but if the budget and the sequestration stay in place, we are on track to have the smallest army we've had since 1939. the smallest navy since 1917. and the smallest air force in our history. that does not suggest a country which is prepared to continue to be the leader in defending liberal world order. now, of course military power isn't the only way to defend and advance american interests.
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but as frederick the great said, who knew a thing or two about both diplomacy and war, diplomacy without arms is like music without notes. it isn't going to work. now, some people argue and i've heard it say over -- we've heard it really for almost 20 years that the era of great power conflict is over. but this is exactly what the pundits and cognoscenti said. the conventional wisdom was nat nation state was becoming irrelevant. don't forget that in the 1890s and right through the first 15 years of the 20th century travel was freer in europe than it is today. there was no need for all that. there were no visas. there were no passports.
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don't forget that britain and germany were each other's largest trade partners. their royal families were intermarried. wilhelm was after all the granddaughter of queen victoria. they regularly visited each other. i sometimes point out that wilhelm's visits to the annual regatta in the isle of white was they were always conducive to better relations between germany and britain. but the fact of the matter is absolutely nobody thought there would be a reason for a great power war or particularly between britain and germany. and yet europe 101 years ago staggered into the biggest political catastrophe of modern european history because i include one of its results was world war ii. it was an absolute catastrophe. so it is not enough to say that just because everybody gets along along there isn't going to be a
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war. i know history doesn't necessarily repeat itself, but as the great great american philosopher mark twain said sometimes it rhymes. it's worth paying attention to where we are today. because we've all heard the same arguments. modern communication. ease of travel. the internet. dependence on each other for trade. these are all the things that were said all throughout the 1890s for the first 15 years of the 20th century. and yet the war came. so here's the question for us. if america is not prepared to continue to be the global hegemon what are the alternatives? i see there are three in theory. none of them very tasteful. the first is that we get replaced as the world's hegemon. there are three possible
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replacements. russia, china, and europe. one can dismiss russia and china rather quickly if you want to have a liberal world order. no need to argue about that. neither of them are politically or economically liberal. europe certainly shares our values and has significant soft power. but the europeans are completely transfixed by their own political and now economic problems and have so cut their defense budgets that they cannot even, as we saw in libya and mali they can't even project power across the mediterranean without american help. so there isn't going to be a single hegemon to replace us. second alternative is you have a multipolar world. you say you don't really need a hegemon, we just have everybody get along. since one of my professional deformations is as a historian, i would just point out that the
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multipolar worlds of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries led to essentially perpetual war. and today with many states, syria, iraq, lebanon libya, mali, maybe others potentially falling apart on a sectarian basis, then i would refer you to the prewest in europe. you're going to love a multipolar 20th century. that option doesn't look very appealing. well, the third option not going to have a replacement hegemon, not going to have a multipolar world, is well, we can maybe hand off all of our responsibilities to the u.n. or some international organization. i won't spend a lot of time on this because the failures of the league of nations, the u.n., and
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i would argue even the difficulties that the europeans find trying to run a multinational organization structure, political structure suggest that option isn't going to work. so there actually is no alternative to continued american leadership if we want to have a reasonably peaceful 21st century. if we want to enjoy the kinds of freedoms that were trampled on last week in paris and are challenged around the world not just by muslim extremists but by other autocratic regimes, americans are going to have to advocate and yes where necessary fight for those freedoms. june 15th this year we will celebrate the 800th anniversary of the signing of magna carta by john -- king john. those events at runny meade 800
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years ago this summer really set in motion the entire difficult long struggle to reach where we have reached in terms of individual freedoms because magna carta established that there was no single political power. in that case the king had to share power with the barons. it was an important signal first event toward the freedoms we enjoy. i hope this june 15th we'll be able to celebrate again that we've got a government here and in europe, governments that are prepared to stand up for those same freedoms. thank you. >> go ahead. sit down. very good. you can make a speech. >> no, no speeches. >> stand up here. >> all right. >> i guess we're doing questions. >> right.
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as moderateor i would like to open the discussion with you. and if i may i have the privilege to ask you one or two questions questions. you obviously tried to provide a historical context and we know from history that unfortunately we don't learn from history. but at any rate -- >> we learn from history we don't learn from history. >> yeah. there are different views about -- 33 years ago -- and by the way, as academics obviously we look at the calendar every single day. and the month of january i recall 33 years ago, malcolm care was the president of the american university in beirut. was assassinated because i knew
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him at ucla and all that. by the jihadist group there under hezbollah in iran and all that. so my question to you again, since you began with the lessons of history, what in your view are the most critical challenges on the terrorism level that we have to be concerned about those policy makers that wakes memorandum up at night. is it homegrown terrorism in terms of the perpetrators? is it cyberterrorism or weapons of much discussion?
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is the nature of the threat in the united states and of course globally. >> i think the homegrown terrorists, which is sort of the fashion of the day because of a lot of things that have recently happened, at least for the time being it certainly is a danger. it's a very hard one to deal with because these people travel -- can travel and get training as we saw in the case of "charlie hebdo" and come back using in that case french passports. they were french citizens. from a practical point of view it's very difficult to stop that. and the only good news is at least for the time being they are relatively restrained in terms of the damage they can do. not to suggest any lack of sympathy for the people who died
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in paris. but there's a big difference between 15 people dying and 3,000 people dying. however, we can't rest. we must assume, because they said so, i read some statements i could read more, that the terrorists, particular lyly would like to have an ability for mass casualty terrorism as we predicted in the national commission on terrorism, as we predicted they would. the most significant way for them to do that would be to get weapons of mass destruction. where i think the biggest danger is biological for a lot of reasons. all of which means what do we do about it? all of which means intelligence. now, i've been at this game of
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foreign policy for more than 50 years. twice before i saw what happens when we start to dismantle our intelligence capabilities. we did it in 1975 to 76 and '79 and we paid a very big price. in not being able to understand what happened in iran in nicaragua, and particularly russia when they went into afghanistan. in the 1990s we did it again when the then director of cia put very restrictive guidelines on how to go about recruiting terrorist agencies. and we paid a price. i don't say that 9/11 would have been caught if we hadn't had those in place. but it's absolutely clear we paid a big price. we're in the next cycle now.
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we have discounted the terrible effect of what snowden has done whom our president called a hacker. he's not a hacker. he's a traitor. and what he did was substantially hurt our capabilities to get good intelligence about terrorists. we now have the fight going on between the parties, and i'm not going to get into it about the enhanced interrogation techniques. but the effect of that i know from talking to friends still in the intelligence community is to put a damper on their enthusiasm to take risks. and i'm telling you, there's no point in having a covert intelligence service unless it takes risks. you have to have a risk-taking culture. intelligence about terrorism is
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about the most difficult target there is in the world. much more difficult to understand that than to understand the chinese order of battle because we have ways of knowing about the chinese order of battle. but terrorists are organized on a cellular basis so that everybody is kept in the dark except the top guys. so you have to have somebody inside the terrorist group, inside the cell at a reasonably high level to figure out what's actually going on. so if you say to me against these dangers what do we do, the very first thing we've got to do is we've got to pay attention to our intelligence capabilities. both our electronic and our human intelligence. that's what we've got to do. and we need to be very concerned about the potential of terrorist groups getting weapons of mass destruction. and i would -- of course nuclear would also be a big -- but that's a much more complicated problem for the terrorists
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thank god. >> one more question. on the response how do you see the role of the civic society to combat terrorism? because according to our studies we do know that governments cannot do it alone without the support of the public. and my question is for example if we take different segments of the society the role of religion for example, the religious community, because of the propaganda elements and the exploitation of religious ideas, concepts and all, that or the role of education dealing with that you spoke about,
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intellectual maybe bankruptcy and the role of the media that covers terrorism so on and so on. in other words can we focus on the role of civic society in the united states and around the world? >> there are a number of answers, yonah. of course in the end you have to mobilize the population. no question about that. on the question of religious communities it's not for us to define the bounds of acceptable -- wrong word. it's not for us to define the bounds of what is permitted or not permitted in islam. that's for muslims to do. and basically, i've said now for 40 years it is moderate muslims who are going to have to stand up and do the fight. and i must say to my surprise
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president sisi gave an extraordinary speech in al azar university i think january 1st in which he basically said to the -- this is -- you all know, it's the intellectual center of the arab world for 1,000 years, and he said we have got to come up with a reformation of islam to deal with these extremists. he is, after all, somebody who knows something about the muslim brotherhood, which said qutub founded who i quoted earlier. that's what we have to see not what we heard out of the turkish president the day before yesterday where he's condemning us, it's our fault we were attacked. that's not responsible muslim leadership. in the end this problem is going to have to be solved by muslims. we should support the moderates wherever we can through whatever means. the media social media all that good stuff. speaking of the media i will
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know that we are on the track of beginning to get rid of this political correctness when our media starts attack the speech codes that are at every single american university. how can that possibly be in the interest of the journalists to allow these speech codes, it's not allowed, you can't say this, you can't say that because it's "considered hurtful to someone." well, a lot of things are considered hurtful to people. but that's not a reason to suppress freedom of speech. so i'll be very happy when the american media starts paying attention to that. but in the end the muslim world is going to have to solve this problem. with our help? sure. where necessary even military help. it's going to have to be moderate muslims who speak up. what we call the silent majority because i'm sure that's what it is a majority. ambassador luckman, i know he has -- ambassador fily. he has to leave.
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he's an old -- he's not an old friend. he's not even old. >> i hope i'm a good friend. >> good friend. >> first of all, happy new year. and let me thank you for your hard work and support on iraq. we'll always seek that and we'll always look forward to your input on how we can improve and strengthen the american-iraqi relationship. i have two questions. one in release to the indispensability of the united states. do you see the current structure and culture in d.c. and others will help or do you think there is a key question in relation to cooperation between white house, congress and others to strengthen that or not? and the other question is do you see the current situation in religion to isis and more so in relation to iraq? as a good example in which this indispenseability can be articulated. thank you. >> those are good questions, ambassador fily.
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first, on the situation in washington it's no surprise we have a two-party system here. that's good. i'm very much in favor of it. i'm always critical of this idea that partisanship should not be part of our politics. of course it should be part of our politics. it's essential to our politics. that's why we have political parties. they should be disagreeing. the outlook for the next couple of years, it's going to be pretty hard to get to a consensus. so we probably have to wait. and see what happens -- there are isolationist voices in both political parties. when you listen to some of them talk you are reminded of the french expression [ speaking french ] you end up getting far enough left and far enough right you end up talking to each other
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there are examples of this in washington. i thought it was a serious mistake to pull all our troops out at the end of 2011. and people should remember that the iraqi army the people are now so disdainful of, the iraqi army with american help during the surge defeated al qaeda in iraq. al qaeda in iraq was defeated. there's no reason to believe the iraqi army can't defeat isis which is the son of al qaeda in iraq. baghdadi was a member of al qaeda in iraq. it's the same organization with a different name. i have absolute confidence that the iraqi army once reconstituted and once the officer corps that had become highly partisan under the previous iraqi government, i have confidence they can succeed. i think the president made a serious mistake in 2011. i give him credit tore making what was a very tough decision to go back in, to put boots on the ground again. that's what they are.
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and by the way also combat boots. but let's not argue about the definition. i think to his credit the largely -- because of the air campaign we have at least stopped the 235rdforward motion of isis. trouble is they face trouble stopping them at samarra. in my view it will necessarily involve a more robust american assistance. probably more forward placed so you can have american observers doing the targeting because you can't bomb your way to success in mosul. i give the president credit for making a very difficult decision that was against his previous record, against his base and he has carried it out.
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i would like to see it more robustly carried out. i believe it will succeed in time in iraq. i am less certain about the outcome in syria where as the "wall street journal" pointed out today, in fact while isis is being pushed back in iraq it has gone forward in syria taking over parts that were formerly controlled by the so-called moderate rebels. so it's a mixed picture. >> what is your opinion -- >> one second. >> pardon me? >> wayne zeidman. in the news today they mentioned that five gitmo detainees were released with yemeni backgrounds from al qaeda in yemen. and in light of what happened in france with the connection with
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yemen i'm just wondering what your opinion is on the timing of releasing these five terrorists and if you think the presidents intent on shutting down gitmo entirely before he leaves office. >> i don't -- excuse me. let me make a practical point and then a philosophic point. practically i don't think he's going to be able to close it down in the next two years. even though he's still able to send batches of these guys back. and at least according to the press, and that's all i know, these five were picked up back in 2001-2003 on suspicions of connections with al qaeda that turned out to be wrong. so who knows? they're not going back to the yemen. i think the administration's made clear it's not going to send any of the yemenis back to yemen. whether you have have recidivism which has been the case, we've had about a 30% rate of these guys going back into terrorism
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again. although the administration says its recidivism rate is lower. i don't know. but there's a hard core of something like 61 or 62 of those guys who he's not going to be able to place out. i don't think congress will let him bring them to the united states for trial. so i don't see how he's going to be able to close it. but let me make a more general point. i want to go back to the point about intelligence. because while i'm a supporter of the drone attacks we have to remember that two things happen. we kill the person who might have been able to give us good intelligence if we do it right. and secondly we largely kill some of his friends and maybe family. so i would much prefer just like the case that i mentioned of interior minister pasqua in
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1987, it's better to capture those hezbollah guys and find out what they're up to, where do they get their weapons, where do they go. as french police are doing today. they found the guy in belgium that sold the weapons. this is called good police work. and you do that by having live people talk to you about what they know. not by killing them. again, i'm in favor of drone strikes when it's the only way to do it. but we do lose the capacity for important intelligence if that's the only way we respond. and if we treat terrorists as if they were just criminals and therefore have the right to legal representation the moment we take them into custody, which is the problem we fell in also in the '90s. big mistake. please. >> hi. george knuckleson, a policy consultant for the u.s. special operations command. one of the things the previous commander, admiral bill mcraven now the chancellor at the university of texas talked
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about is we can surge forces but we can't surge trust. and the problems we're having, i was at a session with ambassador crocker two weeks ago and he was talking about the problems for instance, in pakistan and going back to the pressler amendment. and the damage that did with us. my friend former ambassador watch fowler to saudi arabia, very close friend of the saudi royal family says their concerns about the way we treated the shah of iran after he left, the way we treated mubarak even though he had problems. and again, we find for instance in so com the issue of the leahy amendment. the political correctness on trying to vet people. your comments on those kinds of problems. >> well trust really comes down to credibility. and one of the criticisms i have of this administration is that i
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don't think when they came into office they understood that credibility is the currency of national security policy. it's not the aircraft carriers, the f-22s, the marines. they're all an important part. but at the heart of it all the other countries have to believe you mean what you say. especially this is true if you are the world's hegemon. if you're guatemala you can fudge around a little at the margins. if the united states and you say assad must go you have to mean it. if you say assad can't use chemical weapons, you have to mean it. and so one of the concerns i have 3r9ly in the area lyparticularly in the area of the middle east, is that our -- we have given the impression -- i don't think it was intended but that's sort of
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the impression, that we are leading from behind in syria. and of course that then -- you used the word trust. i used the word credibility. they are closely related. friends of ours in the region the saudis would be a good example. have to be concerned. and they're of course mostly concerned about what we're going to do with iran because that's the geopolitical competition that interests them. the problem with losing credibility is it's much harder to get it back than to lose it. it's an interesting sort of academic question. you can lose credibility by going this far back. but to get back to here you've got to go here. in some ways you almost have to react even more strongly to re-establish your credibility. and that's going to be a problem for the next administration.
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whatever administration it is. is going to be to try to recoup the trust. the credibility that has been lost somewhat. iman 37. >> we all know -- >> you have to identify yourself i think according to the rules. >> my name emad diah. i worked with ambassador bremer in iraq during the cpa. and i worked forts iraqi government secretary-general of the council of ministers. and now i'm just helping the iraqi government in some advice i give to them. the point i'm trying to make we really need also to address the roots of terrorism. where are the roots of terrorism? where they draw their elements
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of support, where they draw their finance. and even intelligence. and also we know islam has many sects, or several sects. and we've seen some sects made fatwa for their people to join isis and fight with them. other sects made fatwa to fight isis. i also like what i heard from president sisi last week. or last -- ten days. and we need to support that. they are sf our allies. they are teaching in school. so we really need to address that as well. thank you. >> well i agree, emad, with all
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of those observations. we were talking about the saudis. the saudis played a very important role in establishing madrasas in pakistan which to put it nicely teach a rather radical form of islam to some students. they also funded quite a number of madrasas in the united states. we need to be able to talk frankly in private with people like that, with our friends in the saudi arabia say this is not consistent with the kind of world we want to see. so i agree with all of the points you made that we have to do all of those things. yes, sir.
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>> carl olson with the olson group. mr. ambassador, you outed yourself already as a historian. so i wanted to ask you a question from a historic context. when we look at the radical islamic movement today and it's a collection of movements and it's global. there's obviously a romance to their ideology. there's a narrative there that has obviously captured the imagination of people in many countries around the world. looking back historically, back into for example the rise of radical socialism and communism in the 19th century and our own experience in that long twilight struggle, are there lessons we can look at particularly when we think about what happened in paris last year where it doesn't appear to have been -- does not appear to have been an attack that was driven by command and control from any of the radical groups but rather was an inspired action. are there lessons we can take
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from 150 years or so of the war against communism that might be an example or are there other examples we might be able to extrapolate a strategy? >> that's a good question. if we take the battle against communism, it required obviously a strong military engagement throughout the whole periphery of the soviet union. i'm not talking about china now. but it took self-confidence. it took success -- every american president of both parties for a period of more than 50 years supported the policy of containment which effectively was set in place in 1945. and every president of both parties and a majority of congress were willing to fund a military that gave credibility
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to the fact that we intended to stand up to them. but we also had confidence in our own system. there were people that didn't. there were various domestic groups revolting one way or the other. particularly by the way in the case of communism on the university campuses in the late '60s and early '70s. but other than that i think the american people solidly supported -- which is why i keep coming back to the values. we have to believe in the values that we stand for. they're written down. it's not hard to figure out. probably any sixth-grader could give you a pretty good sense of what our values are. so we have to retain self-confidence in that we have to -- we promoted the narrative in the case of the communists through organizations like radio free europe. so there are ways to have a
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counternarrative put out but at the bottom it has to be driven by self-confidence in our own society. and again, the political correct correctness begins to gnaw a little bit at the edge of that when you start telling people you can't say that because that might be taken as harmful by somebody. once you start compromising at the edges like that, you get yourself into a potentially -- i'll give you a good example. guantanamo. you talked about guantanamo. there was a story in the press last week that the presiding judge, he's a colonel decided that we would no longer use female -- i guess they're mps. to escort the prisoners to and from wherever they were going because the prisoners objected to having the females there. now, i find that just the kind of thing that should not be happening. if our system if the military rotates these people, i don't know how long they stay in
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guantanamo, 90 days or however long they stay, and a woman comes up and it's her turn to go and she goes and then we say no, but you can't escort the prisoner, aren't we then agreeing with the prisoner's definition of how he should be treated? you know? it's little steps like this that make me uneasy. but if we're confident in our own free society and we have every reason to be that counternarrative can be put out through all available means and should be. let me go to somebody who doesn't have a question. mr. ambassador. you need a mike here. >> i couldn't agree more with practically all the things you said. but let me ask you to comment on two aspects. one is on the indispensable nation. the other one also on the
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treatment of the muslim populations in the west. the indispensable nation. i quite agree with you we need the united states to remain the indispensable nation. obviously, there's been some dithering in the last few years about whether the americans or the america, the leadership in america wanted to keep that sort of leadership. but at the end of the day you don't -- first of all, you don't become indispensable because you want to be indispensable but you don't cease to be indispensable because you want to cease to be indispensable. what we are watching the last few times and what is happening that at the end of the day there is some sort of indispensability in the americans coming to the rescue. you know? which i think is a very positive and a very philosophic and political lesson. i would like you to comment on that inevitability of the
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indispensability. i was ambassador here. but later on i was the executive director for counterterrorism at the united nations. and one of the things we were dealing -- well, my side was practically juridical and legal. we were dealing with the sessions of the security council and general assembly. one of the problems we were looking into was how to deal with the minorities in our societies and in particular with the muslim minorities in our societies. in america in europe, in the west in general. and that is a very different approach as you know very well. your approach, which i personally think is the right approach very much the american president writes to the new citizens, you are not here new citizen, because of race or religion or color whatever you are here because you decided to adopt a number of principles,
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constitutional principles. and then you have your religion you have your customs but don't import your own customs. you don't go against the customs. in europe it's very different. because in europe unfortunately in france, in belgium in paris, in the united kingdom you have practically muslim ghettos of people who are doing exactly what they feel. isn't it possible to have some sort of conversation among us to reach some sort of consensus? it's not the solution to the problem but it's part of the solution to the problem where people would understand that at the end of the day they have to conform with the rules and regulations and the laws of the country where they're living. thank you. >> well on the indispensability question i hope you're right that under whatever circumstance comes up when the whistle blows the united states comes back on
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the field. the record of the last few years makes me uneasy predicting that. and when i look at both political parties not just the democrats, republicans have got a whole wing that is as isolationist as anybody on the left. [ speaking french ] and i look at the opinion polls. the opinion polls since isis and the beheadings are starting to move in the right direction. and maybe we'll get back to where there is more political support for the kind of robust engagement that i'm in favor of. but i would not take it as inevitable if -- if the inevitable always happened in history there would be no job for either you as a diplomat or me as a historian, right? you would just sit down like einstein and you'd draw out the trend lines and say that's where we're going to be 50 years from now. doesn't work that way. because guess what. there's a bunch of human beings
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involved and a bunch of human beings are inevitably unpredictable. secondly on the minorities. we have a huge advantage because as henry kissinger used to say used to say we were the only country founded on an idea, not on terrain but on an idea. europe has fought, i hardly need to tell you over territory for so long with so many people moving around it's quite different. when you take office in the united states government, as i did a number of times when you go into the military you swear to defend not a person, not a regime, not a government, a piece of paper. i swear to uphold the constitution of the united states. not the president. very unique thing. and the constitution contains basically the charter. that's what the president says when he welcomes a new person in, they get sworn in under the constitution.
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now, it's not that we don't have problems. we do obviously. particularly with some of our minority communities and i think the muslim community in america is rightly concerned about the direction things are going. it's not as bad as it is in parts of europe. and, of course, we have to talk. the europeans have a more difficult problem because in a way it requires -- when i was in the netherlands more than half the people, this is now 30 years ago, more than half the people in prisons were not dutch. they had other passports. they were traffickers and so forth. and so it began to raise the question what does it mean to be dutch? you just have to speak dutch or do you have -- in america by swearing, you're swearing in on the constitution, you basically
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commit to a series of political agreements, it's not like that in europe. and that's why in some ways why you have the ghettos, particularly in france and britain that you mentioned. there as in my answer to your earlier question the need is for better dialogue between the people in power whoever they are, parliaments or whatever they are, and the leaders of those communities and the burden is on the leaders of those communities to bring those communities along and bring them into broader society. absolutely essential. much more difficult to do in europe than here, not that we don't have problems. we sure do. >> one more question, maybe. >> thanks very much. >> i did not sell tickets to
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this thing. >> but actually i want to raise an issue that predates you. >> good lord. >> when secretary schultz was in office, when i came to work there, one of the things we we've into president regan's speeches terrorists were criminals, they should be caught prosecuted regardless of the cause they were not freedom fighters, and mr. olson mentioned, you know this issue seemed to be a romantic aspect among some people being attracted to terrorism. do you think we're doing enough to try to deglamorize terrorism. the london bombings what does that do to further the cause or bill's one of his goals in 9/11 was to hurt the american economy. it was a very small blimp. the point is i think we're failing to get that any of these
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guys are criminals, most involved in terrorism have criminal backgrounds. they really haven't accomplished a great deal except for the headlines and you know maybe some personal gratification. >> well, i am -- i actually don't and i didn't as you know agree with defining them as criminals in the reagan years. i thought they are not criminals, they are ideologues. some were criminals. they committed criminal acts. murder is a criminal act. as for their self-glamorization i think anybody who witnessed the beheadings on television got a pretty good idea what kind of people we're dealing with here. so i don't -- i think it would be a mistake to consider them as criminals only. they are criminals but that's the wrong approach. they are ideologues.
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they have declared these muslim extremists, as we reported they declared war on the west in the late 1980s, and the early 1990s. we didn't declare war on them. they declared war on its. it's an ideological war and it's global. it may not be at this point a threat to the united states could get there if they get their hands on really bad stuff but it certainly can pose a threat to other countries, particularly in the middle east region. so, it's something we need to take seriously if we're going to continue to be the world leader. and i think, again, just to finish on the same point when we say what should we do, we should go back and examine what we stand for. this is really the message of
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"charlie hebdo." what do we stand for. once we have answered that honestly and done away with the cobwebs of political correctness and speech codes and not saying anything that might be hurtful to somebody we can begin to construct a realistic and robust foreign policy. thank you very much. [ applause ] >> you're pretty smooth in your old age, huh? i think you're getting politically correct. >> before, ambassador we let you go, on a personal level i would like to present to you what we call an award of excellence because of your many years of support of our work, so we have a little plaque here,
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the center for terrorism study, award of excel lens presented to paul bremer in recognition of extraordinary contribution to academic counterterrorism program. >> thank you. >> thank you very much. [ applause ] >> all yours. >> well let me just add, mr. ambassador, superb. i thought a great dialogue, a great discussion and certainly the questions and comments from all of our colleagues here were very good. i think in closing, it would -- the thought occurred to me when we talk about terrorism and all that and i said this before in other forums. terrorism is a tactic. no more, no less. and i personally don't think you can have wars and combat whether it's military, economic or any other of the elements of
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national power influence against the tactic. what we really need to do is sit down some day in a quiet place and really discuss what this is all about. and what this radical jihadist movement is trying to accomplish. and as it has been pointed out it's been stated many times by these radical leaders what their intent is. not unlike hitler's intent in the 1930s. so the intent is out there. and we need to mobilize not just our country, but the free world as we know it today combat this intent because it's not good for anybody's future. and if you want your children and those that you love and all that to really have an opportunity 50 or 100 years from now this intent must be defeated and it can't be defeated only by the military or economic or
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sanctions. it needs to be defeated by a total capability and total support of all the elements of national capability and power and has to be done together. one of the strong points of the defeat of communism, for example, really was nato. the north atlantic treaty organization which was formed and kept at the time 16 nations together on what had to be done and we need that -- we have these kind of alliances. we need more of them. i would hope that in the future we can have some seminars and some discussions to talk about a really, a true strategy to come to grips with this challenge that we face and defeat it and the way you defeat it in the long run is really convince these people that it's not worth it. and i agree with the idea too that it has to have a major major player has to be the muslim religion, the moderate
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muslim religion that we know exists all around the world including in indonesia and elsewhere. in fact, they are among the most moderate in my humble opinion. that's my thought for the day. thanks to you all for being with us. [ applause ] coming up tonight here on c-span 3 taxpayer advocate nina olson talks about irs operations. then a discussion on the government's budget scoring process. and later, a look at the financial influence that outside groups have in today's elections. next, a look at irs operations and how budget cuts have impacted the agency's ability to provided equate customer service. from washington journal this is an hour. at the time table nina olson the national taxpayer advocate here to join us to talk about
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budget cuts and customer service. related issues. remind us what your job is. what does a national taxpayer advocate do? >> the national taxpayer advocate leads an organization within the irs that is charged with helping taxpayers solve problem's with the irs and make administrative and legislative recommendations to congress about how to improve how the irs treats taxpayers and protect taxpayer rights. >> how long have you been doing this job? >> since march, 2001. >> your office put out this annual report to congress so we can take a look at it here. one of the headlines that came from it is from the new york times. need help from the irs? it may take more patients this year. what does it tell us about the conditions this year in the tax season? >> what we have tried to identify is the impact on funding cuts to the irs on the taxpayer service side.
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the way that most taxpayers communicate with the irs is by phone or correspondence. what the irs is projecting this year is that it will not be able to answer about half of the phone calls they are trying to get through to talk to a live person and they are so far behind in answering their correspond. if they get through on the phones they are likely to have a 30 minute wait, >> did you expect it to be this severe. >> i did because i have been projecting this for years seeing the trend that was happening on the taxpayer side. there isn't an answer to the phones or correspond other than having more human beings to answer the volume of the calls. the irs gets about 100 million calls per year on average and 10 million pieces of correspondence
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a year. that's a lot of stuff to process. >> the piece points out that comes from the report, points out that callers who get through are expected to be on hold for an average of 30 minutes that is a decline of 61% average waiting time 18 minutes in the 2013 fiscal year. when the wait is too long, the agency offers what is called a courtesy disconnect, otherwise known as hanging up. >> in our report we have a flowchart, we try to make a phone call and get through to a particular part in the irs after six minutes and nine seconds my staff received one of those courtesy disconnects. which is polite saying we are unable to handle your call at this time, please call back. i think the diagram shows the craziness of what you have to go through to try to find your way around. >> our guest will be with us for
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about 15 minutes. she's nina son-in-law the national taxpayer advocate. we have phone lines at the bottom of the screen. i'm sure we will have lots of calls coming in here but tell us more of the takeaways from the report. >> some of the things we have been trying to say is that i do recognize that congress is very unhappy with the irs and the taxpayers have a high distrust with the irs. i think not giving them sufficient funding actually harms the taxpayers themselves. i don't think people recognized -- when i say taxpayer service it is not just answers to tax law questions which the irs is no longer doing in any significant fashion. also people getting notices from the irs that says you owe money,
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the same number you are calling and the same people are answering to help you unwind that notice to stop something bad happen to you. you want a penalty abated, you have a notice saying the social security number for your child is incorrect, you are to give them the correct number and you cannot get through and the irs will disallow your dependency exemption or any refundable credits. that is harm to the taxpayers, tangible harm. >> here is a picture from one of the business publications. difficult tax season lies ahead. it has a picture of the current irs chief. it talks a little bit about how difficult the season will be. it makes me ask about collections and enforcement. what do your customers know? >> i think people need to not
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if the irs sends you a letter saying you owe money. the irs says they won't be able to do as many audits or as much collection. this is where i make a distinction between taxpayer service or enforcement. i spent my life examining the irs and that is my job. for years, i have been critiquing the way the irs conducts audits and collection activities. i view this as an opportunity to see how we are doing it and get revision and some very taxpayer friendly burden off the taxpayer on the enforcement side. on the service side there is no
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substitute for having more people to answer the phone. last year, the irs limited the scope of tax law questions it was willing to answer. it said it would only answer simple tax law questions. it would no longer answer a question like, my child has a bank account, how should i report the interest income? on my return on my child's return? that is too complex for the irs to answer. when you get to that level, that is just absurd. to ask taxpayers to continue to comply with the laws when we are not giving them that kind of assistance you have to rethink what you're asking. >> what has the head of the irs said about dealing with the service? >> he has said, be patient. i think he has said this is
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where we are. i am concerned the message is to go out and pay for assistance. we have a lot of qualified return preparers but there are a lot of unqualified preparers. i am concerned that what will happen as a result of these cuts and the consequences, is that taxpayers will go to people who are not qualified to give them advice and they will do things wrong. then bad things will happen to taxpayers. >> before we get to calls, one big thing we are talking about is the affordable care act. how will this complicate tax filing season? first of all, what will happen and what does it mean? >> this year is the first year that people who have got the advanced premium tax credit, the subsidy to help pay for health insurance will have to file and reconcile the advance payments they get with the actual
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payments they should have gotten based on their actual income. if you recall when they qualified for these advance payments we were really using old income information from their 2012 income tax return updated with whatever information they had for their current year. you really don't know until the end of the year when you file your taxes what you should have gotten. that is a complicated process for taxpayers and the irs. this is also the year where we will be issuing the first individual shared responsibility payment, taxpayers who should have got health insurance and did not or who may have had an exemption but didn't claim texas elmtion in advance and this is happening in the crunch of the filing season where we're short staffed as it is. it will take a lot of patience to get through the filing season. >> nina olson takes calls now, first from bob. from el paso texas.
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a democrat. hi, bob. >> good morning. >> good morning. >> bob, if you can turn the sound down on your set we'll hear you a lot better. >> i got you. >> this is bob from el paso. >> are you ready for my question >> yes, sir. go ahead. >> i would like to know when president obama says if you have medicare you don't have to worry about anything involving extra payments. et cetera. and my friends alltel me no you still have to go out and buy extra insurance policy and i said well, you know, i got a state policy that's supposedly my back up like the state told me but i would like for her to clarify the fact that now that i'm on medicare period do i have to worry about my income tax forms that are coming down. >> if you're covered by medicare
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no you don't have to do any reconciliation or anything like that. and, you know, coverage by medicare/medicaid, other state funded programs means you wouldn't be subject to the individual shared responsibility payment either. so you don't have to worry about that. >> jeff from rockville, maryland outside of d.c. >> good morning, i just want to say i think you do very good work and i read your report year every year, but i'm curious with the recent budget cuts that have occurred, i see their funding keep going down. generally every year i see reports that x number of billions of dollars are lost through fraudulent returns. what is your take on that as far as the resources being used to combat fraud with tax returns? >> there has been an explosion in two areas.
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in terms of refund fraud. let me say that one of the reasons why that is occurring is because the government enacts laws that run a lot of social programs through the internal revenue code programs. like the earned income tax credit a refundable credit for the working poor. a number of credits on the business side. that makes it very attractive target for organized crime or even random criminals who think they can try to game the system. and get some of these credits. there is that aspect of fraud and then there is identity theft which we have seen an explosion of in the last few years. the irs has spent a lot of time building filters in their filing seasons, filing systems so that every return that comes in asking for a refund moves through that system and tries to identify characteristics of
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fraud. i think over the years it has done a good job identifying fraud. having said that, criminals are very clever and are able to move very quickly and there always be stuff going through the system. what i am concerned about is, there will always be some false positives, when you free up refunds and the taxpayer is entitled to that refund or there is a legitimate taxpayer whose refund has been frozen. if you don't have the right staffing to help those victims, then you are re-victimizing those victims and they have to wait up to six months or even longer to get their issues revolved. we have seen that in my own organization, refund fraud is the fastest growing category of cases that we have for helping taxpayers with significant hardship. identity theft cases make up 20% of my 240,000 case receipts per year.
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it's a major issue. >> what can people do to prevent fraud? there's a tweet here. stolen social security numbers are used to file fraudulent tax returns, how can folks protect themselves. >> first of all, checking your credit report on a regular basis is very important. secondly the irs -- if you have been a victim of identity theft, once you get through the irs process the irs will give you what they call an ip pin which is a separate norm social security number that you can put on entrepreneur come tax return in addition to your social security number and that willett your return move through quickly. even if an identity thief tries to file another return, we won't hold up your return. they're doing a pilot this year and several locations including the district of columbia offering people the opportunity to come in and get an ip pin.
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they have to go through a validation process. that may be the future not just your social security number but also this unique number that you can put on that the identity thief would not know. >> payback from the irs. a budget cut means poor service and she writes as the irs screams about not issuing your refunding a timely manner or answer phones or provide easy access for the elderly there's another answer. they can stop wasting billions of dollars every year. in 2013 the newspaper reported that the irs paid $13.6 billion in bogus claims, the income tax credit and as much as 132.6 billion over the past decade. an internal audit has some members of congress questioning how the agency can administer obamacare. >> i will talk about the income tax credit but i will say that i do not scream, i am a moderate
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voice and i try to make clear what the impact is. i'm not involved in the politics of it. let me say something about the earned income tax credit. it was enacted in 1975 as an off set for the working poor against the regressive effect of social security which comes out of the very first dollar that you earn. over the years, with both bipartisan support, it has been expanded to the major anti-poverty program for the working poor in the united states and, again it's run through the internal revenue code. the idea of running it through the code if you were low-income but worked and had family members, children that you would get money back -- even if you didn't pay anything in and that would raise you above the federal poverty line and ensure that people below the federal poverty line didn't pay income
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taxes. now the issue is there is a lot of overclaim. a very complicated law. i'm a tax lawyer with several advanced degrees in taxation and i taught courses on the earned income tax credit. it is right up there with advanced trade for pricing. it deals with language, mobility, trans and see, that population is -- transiency, that population is unregulated. a lot of it dealing with preparers who are facilitating errors in fraud. let me make one other point which is that the earned income credit, as a benefits program that is administered through the internal revenue code, the inspector general has estimated that it really only has about
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1% cost in administrative cost. it has a 22% error rate. it has between 75% and 80% participation rate. you compare that to other programs like welfare or food stamps or children's health insurance and you will see very high administrative overhead costs because they are dealt with in appointments and person to person. some fraud and very low participation rates. if you look at it in a holistic way it's an incredibly successful program. i would suggest we not just look at the over claims but the cost of administering it. >> let's get back to calls. kathy has been waiting from columbus, ohio. a republican. good morning. >> good morning, thank you for taking my call. miss olson, i commend you for the job you have been trying to do sincerely. i must tell you that all of this
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makes a strong case, a really strong case for radical tax reform in this country. specifically the flat tax which would eliminate the irs and you could retire. [laughter] just a staggering number of calls. just that millions of calls annually and correspond that remain pretty much unaddressed and the frustration and aggravation to taxpayers who really want to do the right thing. and are unable to. that is my comment. i wish you well. >> i agree with you 100% that the need for comprehensive tax reform. in past annual reports that has been the number one most serious problem for taxpayers. i have testified before any number of panels, president bush's panel on tax reform and on and on about the need.
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on my website, we have a place where people can make tax reform suggestions because i felt taxpayers themselves really have a sense of what -- we asked them what benefit tax benefit would you be willing to give up in exchange for a more simple tax code and what do you think is really unfair of the tax code? sort of two questions that get to the heart of it. i would make a comment about the flat tax. i don't think it gets rid of the irs, with the flat tax someone will have to collect it. there has to be a collection mechanism so there is someone or some agency that will be around whether you replace it with value added tax or just have a flat rate proportional -- i will note that most of the provisions really are not flat because they give an exemption -- they might
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say the first $20,000, a first $50,000. the minute you have entered an exemption rate you have something that's not a flat tax. there are two rates in that at least. but something that is far simpler and i think what most people are saying is get rid of the deductions and exemptions in the code. once you do that, you have to be willing to give up your mortgage deduction and local sales and use tax deduction or property tax deduction or have your health insurance premiums that are paid by your employer taxed or have your tax sheltered retirement savings taxed. those are big questions that so far there has not been any political will to address. >> we have howard from new jersey on the independent line. hey, howard. >> hi. i have a solution to your problem. you can hire all the people you
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want in the irs reduce the compensation that all public employees get. especially their benefits, their -- they are way out of line what the private sector gets. nothing like the private sector, you get in trouble and cannot provide services, you reduce pay -- that is here in new jersey which is a very high tax state it would solve your problems and have all the people you need to answer the phones and i wonder what the woman's background on the show today, i wonder -- does she work for the government? did she come up in the private sector? i wonder what these lobbyists backgrounds are? >> two pieces. howard's ideas. >> federal employees are paid on a government pay scale that
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congress and office of personnel management have designed and tlfb many many panels and commissions that have looked at the pay of civil service employees. i think that the findings are varying. they find that at the lower pay scale, grade levels of the federal workforce that the benefits are much higher and the pay is higher than at the higher levels of the pay scale compared to the private sector. i would also say that for every study that says that there is another one that says the opposite so i personally do not have a position. those decisions are made by congress and the executive branch. as far as my background, i started preparing tax returns as a soul proprietor in 1975.
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and my clients were small business and, you know individuals. i did return preparation for about 18 years while going to law school at night and raised my son and kept my tax preparation business afloat. in 1992 i created a nonprofit that was the first low income taxpayer front in the country serving low income taxpayers who had disputes with the irs. the first nonprofit low taxpayer. it wasn't affiliated with the law school and i funded that nonprofit and volunteered my own time until he could get on my own two feet. i worked there for eight years continuing my private practice until i was appointed as a secretary of treasury. as the national taxpayer advocate. i'm not a lobbyist. the internal revenue code charges me to speak up and be the voice inside the irs.
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i am inside the irs. my agency by law is separate and independent from the irs. i also need to make this point. by law, the person who serves as a national taxpayer advocate cannot serve or work for the irs for two for years before taking the position and five years after taking. i have no career path inside the irs. once i finish this job, i am out of their. i try to maintain my independence and i think i do a fairly good job. >> when does your term of service end? >> i have no term of service, i serve at the pleasure of the secretary, i served the democratic and republican administrations. >> we have about half an hour left. maybe a little bit more with our guest nina olson. the annual report to congress
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is right here and folks can get this where? >> they can get it online, there is a whole page dedicated to it. it is a lengthy volume. we have an executive summary that summarizes >> you dedicated the report to dave camp who retired from congress. tell us why. >> congressman camp, from the very beginnings, announced that tax reform would be a major focus. what he put forward this year and his tax reform bill was really a movement for the need for comprehensive tax reform. it had legislative language. it was a starting point in a conversation that should've been picked up by democrats and republicans. any bill that comes out first is going to be modified. i really viewed chairman camp's
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the equivalent of something that happened in 1984 1985 when treasury put out the blueprint for tax reform which came after several years of going back and forth in revisioning. the 1986 tax reform act -- that was really the last tax reform act that brought some publication to the code. we are in desperate need of that. i thought it was a heroic effort on his part to start the dialogue running. >> quincy from chicago, illinois. democrat. >> hi there. >> fine. how are you doing >> i'm fine. >> the reason i'm calling is because i'm 70 years old. i worked for 40 years. the irs has been taking -- all i receive is a social security check each month which is not a whole lot. they've been taking $300 a month from my checks in the past three years. i'm really upset about that. this is all i have to live on.
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i can barely make it. i'm waiting and waiting and waiting on the phone. it is because of some kind of tax conflict i have three years ago. $300 a month from my social security check. i paid in a lot of money in my 40 years of work. i worked no iv years before i retired. >> your story breaks my heart. i'm going to give you some advice in a way to get some help. here's what you need to do. you need to call my organization -- the taxpayer advocate service. we have an office -- at least one office in every single state. that is required by law. my employees are there to help you. this $300 a month coming out of your check is causing a significant hardship.
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the phone number is 1-877-ask-tas1. 1-877-ask-tas1. you will get someone from my office who will take the canes. we will assign a case advocate to help you and you will have that one person's direct line on their desk to get through to them. let me tell you what this program is which i've really disagreed with for years and have written a lot of about. i tried to get congress to act on it. congress authorized the irs to take 15% of social security benefits monthly if a person has a tax debt. i am trying to institute a low
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income filter so that persons who rely primarily on social security will not have this 15% taken away from them. if you have a back tax debt, you may not. your case advocate when you call that number will help you figure out what that is. the background problem. you also get a release of the levy because it is causing you economic hardship in getting your $300 back. what you may also try -- if you have been trying to talk to the irs all this time, we can look at the records and see if we can get some of the money that has been levied on you already. that has caused you and economic hardship back to you. this is a very serious problem and i very serious concerns about this program. i've written about it for the last seven or eight years and made legislative recommendations to fix it.
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so far have not been able to get purchase on this. >> we have brenda. thank you for waiting. from tallahassee, florida. >> yes. this is brenda. my question s-illegal aliens will be made legal by obama as long as they pay their tax. these people more than likely will earn less than 25,000 annually. will they qualify for tax credits? also how can this ever work since it's other taxpayers who pay for these credits? i'll take your answer off the air. >> thanks, brenda. >> undocumented people -- or i'm going to say it this way. anyone who resides in the united states for over 365 days on average over the last three years -- it is a very complex formula. or if they have a green card and
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are committed to reside in the united states is taxable under the internal revenue code under worldwide income. we are the only country -- there may be one other in the entire world that has that approach to taxation. whether you are here legally or illegally, you have an obligation to file and pay your taxes. that is a bedrock of the internal revenue code as the congress wrote it and the irs administers it. they can get and i-10 so they can file their income tax returns today. if they have and i-10, they are not eligible for the earned income tax credit and they are generally not eligible for a lot of other credits because those are limited to persons who have social security numbers. it is not clear to me under the administration's proposal
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whether folks who come in under the new program, the program that the administration is proposing would they get a social security number or not. if they got a social security number and authorized to work then they would be eligible for the various credits unless congress acted to bar that. in terms of who is paying for what -- all the social programs that are run through the code are no different than direct spending programs. they are no different from welfare or food stamps or military authorizations or grants to communities for floods or disasters or infrastructure or anything like that. they are the equivalent of direct spending programs. they are called "tax expenditures." for any spending, it is for all the taxpayers who are paying for it. you really do not want the irs in that conversation. that is a conversation between you and the administration and
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congress to decide what as a populist you want tax dollars ascribed to. you do not what the irs ignoring it and picking and choosing what it chooses to administer. >> one tweet for nina olson. do you see evidence that the irs is acting to further the political agenda of the obama administration or any politician? >> it is hard not to have the appearance of being politically involved. congress passed the affordable care act and we have a duty to administer it as best as we can. some may view that as furthering the obama administration agenda. i would say it is in the internal revenue code so we have to administer it. there has been controversy of the irs' scrutiny of political
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organizations. i am not conducting an investigation of it. there are six congressional investigations going on and they have subpoena power and they will publish their reports about what their findings are. >> this question points out that congress cut irs funding in december. does that mean irs will go after people fraud but not the complicated nonprofit and for-profit fraud? >> i do think the irs will do whatever it can through automation. that means that we will probably miss a lot of things. i am very concerned about that. i will also say that it would be very hard for people to be able to communicate with the irs during audits. we do a lot by correspondence and that is not the best way to do an audit.
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you often get wrong answers. taxpayers have to appeal it and go to tax court to get the right answer. that is a burden on the taxpayer. i do think that there is a lot that the irs can do to identify the right places to audit and have the most indirect effect of those audits. it needs to really improve its auditing. >> let us hear from trudy now. somerville, south carolina. trudy is a democratic caller. welcome. >> thank you. speaking of political lines, it seems to me that the cut in the irs funds is a result of the republican congress due to the loud squawking of the tea party. that stands for taxed enough already. if i were irs agent, i would take a look at people's tax
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reforms of members of the tea party. thank you. >> some of these cuts -- the irs budget increased from 2005 to 2010. decline since 2010. some of that has been directly attributable to the sequestration that impacted the entire government. the problem has been that on top of sequestration, we have had these cuts. it is very clear that a lot of what has driven the most recent cuts is the distrust of the irs on the part of many people in congress and certainly many people in the united states as far as what happened. i think it is a very difficult one. the law is very unclear.
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the law says that these organizations have to be exclusively organized through social welfare which would imply that they can do nothing else except social welfare. the united states supreme court said that you could basically have an insubstantial not exempt purpose. so clearly something less than 100%. it is not really clear what is that threshold amount of political activity that you can do and still qualify as a tax-exempt social welfare organization. because folks have been organizing, which is their right and i and encourage that, the irs has had to look closely. the problem as i see it is that employees were not given guidance over a year and a half about how they were supposed to look at these organizations and they held these entities for very long periods of time. they didn't get the scrutiny
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because they did have the guidance -- did not have the guidance. i think that stinks to high heaven. i understand the outrage. my point is that it is a small part of the work of the irs does. it affects the 150 million taxpayers and enforcement on a day-to-day basis. that is being harmed because of where we are and that budget. >> if you missed the earlier part of that segment, we read from the report talking about budget cuts and delays in service. this report says that 35.6% of phone calls went unanswered by customer service representatives. 50% of pieces of correspondence were not handled timely. virtually, zero tax returns were prepared by irs walk-in sites.
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on and on lots of other statistics. i meant to ask you are some parts of the country more affected than others by these cuts? >> one of the things that we did in this report was took a look at the irs local presence. they have been accumulating people to several large service centers that are scattered throughout the country. the actual physical presence of irs employees in a geographical accounts has shrunk enormously. there are today 13 states that have no human being responsible for reaching out to the small business and self-employed population and educating them and helping them not get into trouble on the enforcement side. that is a quarter of the states in the united states. that is astonishing to me. there are 12 states that do not
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have appeals officers or appeals officer that deals with collection issues in the state. why that is important is because every state is different and its economy. some states have an economic downturn attributable to another's kind of disaster. other states -- the commodity that they are working with the most has gone under. like coal goes under. each states have their own culture. taxpayers will not be served and the people that are trying to help them may not understand the economic and geographic conditions that they are facing and why they won't be able to pay their tax bills. that is why congress said as a taxpayer advocate service, my 1900 employees have to have at least one office in each state. there's at least some office
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that understands. and my report, we pointed out that the irs has to get back to a geographic presence to understand the taxpayers. that in the long run is much more effective. we highlighted the report wyoming, which is not a populous state, but a large state geographically. then we looked at the city of the number of tax papers -- taxpayers and those locales increased significantly i doubled agents. -- by double digits. in one instance, irs presence decreased, and one instance, by 15%. that is a recipe for disaster going forward. he will not have people understand conditions on the ground.
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>> we go to fort lauderdale, florida now. independent caller, mark. hi there. >> hi. good morning to both of you. >> i've seen miss olson a couple of times on your show. i guess she shows up there once a year during tax season. what seems to be not focused on enough is her actual office of taxpayer advocate. at the turn of the millennia, i had problems with the irs. due to a crummy employer i had that didn't send in the tax like they were supposed to. the irs held up a sizable chunk of refund for me. the taxpayer advocate got that money back for me with interest. it took several years. i think it's a shame when this lady shows up she gets all these
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political questions, people saying how much they hate the irs and we have to have a flat tax. this is an opportunity to learn about her particular department and what it can do for people like us. it is unfortunate in a situation where they cut the budget. maybe i wouldn't have the same experience i had 12, 15 years. i hope that's not the case. i do not know if you can screen the calls better or people should realize not to look at this lady as just being a general representative of the irs when she is on your show. she has a really useful office and a useful purpose there. i owe them thanks. so, basically that is what i wanted to do. >> thank you for calling. what is the job? >> i really appreciate the caller calling in and saying that. and i run the taxpayer advocate service.
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we have about 1900 employees. we have 74 offices around the united states, at least one in every state. and some of the most populace states, more than one. they have spared my office is some of the budget cuts. we have helped taxpayers who have had significant hardship. that means, if the irs is not doing something, like in the gentleman's case where the irs was not getting his refund, something that the iris is not doing -- we tried a work through the process and get the issue resolved. that is a systemic problem. we assign a case advocate and have a toll-free advocate extension to call. we get up to 3000 cases a year.
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you do get one person who sticks with you through the whole process. as the caller said, it sometimes takes years to get things resolved. we also have issues that involve multiple parts of the irs. i do have a very important tool that congress gave us which is a taxpayer assistance order. that allows me to order the irs to stop doing something, do something, or not do something that it is about to do. we can order them to do it within a certain amount of time. if they do not agree, they can appeal it. once it is appealed all the way to the commissioner and it lands on my desk --, only the deputy commissioner can overturn it. even there i get the last word.
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congress mandated in my annual reports to congress i tell them about any taxpayer assistance order that i've issued that the irs has not complied with. if congress doesn't like the results they can intervene. what we are seeing is that some of these issues are very difficult. my own employees are having a hard time finding the right irs employee. irs training has been cut by 83% since 2010. whereas in 2000 -- 2010 or so, they were spending $1700 on training per employee, they are now spending $373 or something in that range. we're finding people in the irs saying that this needs to be done and that we do not know how to do it. i'm seeing more and more of
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that. >> we have a few more calls in here. carrie from arlington, virginia. >> i think there's more to tell of of the irs does and how people complicate things by filing papers for foundations. there's 29 categories of nonprofits that people qualify under. the people at the irs rely on the documents that they are given and they are considered truthful until someone comes along and says it is not a real foundation. the irs has a program for which people can provide information on. for all these false foundations or these foundations that have failed to file, that are pulled away from the system, that frees up manpower.
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there are good people working at the irs. >> thanks. nina olson? >> i thoroughly agree. and some ways, what is sad about that sample is that there is a very's mall unit of the irs and that there are very few and flurries involved in it. there are 82,000 other employees that are working on lots of things that impact taxpayers every single day, including trying to get to taxpayers even in this environment. >> we have mark from huntsville, alabama. independent caller. hey, mark. >> good morning. i've two questions real quick. i think. in 2014 i was working but never had insurance. my employer didn't provide insurance. i went through a navigator for
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and they walked me through it. i cannot find a plan that i could afford. i didn't have health insurance in 2014. >> until the exchange is dwen, it's an evaluation of whether you do have a harsh effect. the plan that was available to you, you know, was above your
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ability to afford. and so that was built into the law. and you really should look into that today or this week and that gives your application for march. and when you go to file your return, you can go and right that on and it will be adequate. >> >>. >> how do programs like turbo tax affect it? >> it has affected the change. we used to have to do coding of the paper returns. now, all of the electronic filing, the more we get electronic filing, fewer people are reviewing the answers for mistakes and things like that. we do have a vast majority of people filing electronically. and one thing about turbotax, there's a ritlelittle unintended
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consequences that mayke filing easy. we've lost the reality of just how complex. >> democratic caller, hi, there. >> caller: good morning. i'm pleased with the work she does. i would think if she really wants to advocate for us poox e taxpayers, what we should do is make it so we could call them. i had a problem with irs and i could not reach them by phone. i'm a disabled person and it took almost 7 hours to see someone. when it went in i told the irs that this was fraudulent. i did not file it.
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i've been disabled since '97. they said okay, and would take it under advisemented. in three weeks, got a check from them for the full amount plus the interest, which i returned. i went down and told these people it was fraud proved with three different kinds of identification that it was me and they told me to disz regard it. they gave me the interest due on i wanted, as well. the fact that you have people that are just incompetent and we can find find them, maybe the others would actually do their work. and i'd like to see you add voevocate for that and tell people the good work that you do. >> first of all, i'm really sorry that you had to go through that experience. again, that's a good opportunity to call the taxpayer add voevocate services if something like that happens because then we can --
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your case add voevocate is supposed to monitor the acount and make sure fraudulent refunds don't go out. a lot of people are trifling to solve the problem. i have felt for a long time, and in this annual report, i actually recommend it the irs thinks it's more efficient to let things go. like the next available assister will help you. and there's just some areas -- every time you talk, you actually get a different person. and there's just some areas where you need to assign work to one person and hold them acountable. that would be the kind of thing you've got there. it's very much one of the first things you should do is basically put a marker on the acount when you've come in to make sure that no erroneous refunds go out. that you just stop that right then and there. and it would be very hard to trace back who is the person who intake -- took in your concern and didn't e didn't do that. i can point the finger in my own organization because people are assigned to a case and i know who's doing what on what.
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and i've encouraged the irs and recommended it. and? this year's report asked congress to hold ifthe irs accountable for doing that. hey, you're waiting so long right now already, what's a little bit longer if you've got somebody who's accountable for the decisions that are being made? >> one more caller. >> caller: hello. >> good morning. >> caller: good morning. i need to report someone who has not filed a tax form. a tax -- you know what i'm talking about. >> right. please don't give that person's name out online. >> caller: right. >> okay. >> caller: i need a person that i can contact in the office. >> okay. so you can call our 877 number that we gave out, ask 877-askt 877-askpask1.
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we can refer you to the criminal investigation unit. tell them you called c-span and i told you to call them, and, for everybody who's calling, you can say you heard me on c-span and that will help. >> our guest has been nina olson, the national taxpayer advocate. appreciate your time this morning. >> thank you. >> on the next kwt wa"washington journal" discusses his bill to change the process of investigating any death of a citizen by the police. then, generalny beth martin is here to disz cuss the influence of the tea party heading into the 2016 president shl e lebss. washington washington washington
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washington george journal is live every morning. >> as a result of the winter storm that's occurring in the north east region of the country, world e roll call votes were postponed today in the house on a series of bills aimed at limiting human trafficking. the schedule change has also led to a border security bill being pulled from the agenda later this week. instead, members will consider more bills on human trafficking and legislation that would expedite natural gas exports. the senate today went forward. senators will continue debate on the legislation when they return tomorrow at 11:00 a.m.'s tern. the senate you can see live on
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c-span2. >> here are a few of the comments we recently received on the state of the union address. >> caller: i heard a lot of great things talking about science and nasa. and, as a scientist myself i can really aappreciate the president's decision on expanding nasa's role. i know there's a lot of really good people who do siechx. i'm excited to look at the future instead of the past. >> caller: a couple points i wanted to raise tonight. i thought the comment to the republicans was really, really spectacular. i haven't seen a state of the union be so imp ro veezised for a really, really long time. we're finally getting our act together in opening trade with a nation that's been really important in our hemisphere within inception. but the same thing that can be
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linked to foreign policy is the fact that we've been doing the same thing in afghanistan and iraq. every ten years, we go into a country and then, you know there's a repercussion, so kind of blow back, the c.i.a. talks about it. he even mentioned how he was using drones responsibly and the idea he's killed hundreds, if not thousands of people, without congressional authority. >> caller: i've got a few things. i've seen a few things about the president's state of the union address. some of the stuff that's been leading up to it, i've got to argue the opposite. they've said unemployment has gone down, the economy is improving. i don't think that's the case. people have to remember, with unemployment, you can only have your extension for so long then you don't qualify for unemployment benefits. so when those people get dropped from unemployment, then they're no longer counted as unemployed.
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that's not really an indicator of the economy going up. that's just people falling through the cracks and being forgot about. if you look at it from that perspective, the rate of unemployment in this country is probably 10 point something higher than what it's actually beingest mated as as far as the figures of what they're showing. >> continue to let us know what you think about the programs you're watching. call us at 202-626-3400. e-mail us at join the c-span conversation like us on facebook, follow us on twitter. >> next, a look at the budget scoring process with economists and tax policy experts. they disz cusscuss the government's procedure for drafting a budget and the steps taken to make budget figures and other information easy to access. this was hosted by the brookings institution.


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