April 15, 2014

Budget cuts and additional responsibilities are hitting the Internal Revenue Service hard, and there are fewer agents auditing returns than at any time since the 1980s, The Associated Press reports. If that's the case, what are your chances of getting audited?

According to the The Washington Post's Christopher Ingraham, pretty slim. Ingraham dug through annual IRS reports, and found that last year was the first time audit rates fell below 1 percent since 2006. Rates were at their highest in the 1980s, when more than 2 percent of taxpayers were audited.

Ingraham went on to explain that audit rates differ by income, and while the IRS does not provide consistent income breakdowns of the data over time, the likelihood of being audited in 2013 was 0.88 percent if your income was less than $200,000, 3.26 percent for incomes above $200,000, and 10.85 percent for people earning more than $1 million per year.

The final result is that you're roughly half as likely to get audited in 2014 as you were in 1980, but twice as likely as you were in 2000. (Ingraham has a nice chart of the audit rates.) As long as you at least appear to be on the up and up, chances are you'll escape a dreaded audit.

"We keep going after the people who look like the worst of the bad guys," IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told the AP. "But there are going to be some people that we could catch, either in terms of collecting the revenue from them or prosecuting them, that we're not going to catch." Catherine Garcia

4:45 a.m. ET

At a CNN town hall forum in Racine, Wisconsin, on Monday, House Speaker Paul Ryan addressed President Trump's various comments in the wake of a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the previous week. He told one constituent that he believes Trump was "pitch perfect" in his remarks on white supremacists and neo-Nazis a week ago Monday, but added, "I do believe that he messed up in his comments on Tuesday, when it sounded like a moral equivocation or at the very least moral ambiguity when we need extreme moral clarity." He added that he doesn't support a motion to censure Trump because he doesn't want condemning white supremacy to turn into a "partisan food fight."

If he appeared a little hesitant to criticize Trump, Ryan was happy to scold the Senate for not passing a health-care reform bill — part of the audience cheered when he mentioned the bill's failure, which he took in stride — and he encouraged the upper chamber to revisit the legislation. He optimistically predicted that "it's going to be far easier for us to do tax reform than it was for, say, health-care reform," because of Senate rules that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) invoked so no Democratic votes would be needed.

Ryan also said he wished Trump would tweet less, and there are "some of those tweets that I'd prefer not to have seen," but he is only responsible for his actions and Trump probably isn't going to change his Twitter habits. Which seems fair — White House Chief of Staff John Kelly can't tame Trump's tweeting habits, and the House speaker has enough other things on his plate. In September, for example, Ryan actually needs to shepherd through a budget, fund the government, and pass legislation to raise the debt ceiling. He did not address those must-pass bills at the CNN town hall. Peter Weber

4:14 a.m. ET

At a CNN town hall forum on Monday, House Speaker Paul Ryan faced some pointed questions from the home-district audience in Racine, Wisconsin. The town hall directly followed President Trump's speech on the Afghanistan War, and Ryan praised the address, saying he thinks he heard a new Trump doctrine, "principled realism," and appreciated that Trump did not set any deadlines for ending the war, arguing that the U.S. "shouldn't telegraph our timetable for when we're leaving," because the Taliban would just "wait us out."

In another notable exchange, a Dominican nun, Sister Erica Jordan, asked Paul how he squares his Catholic faith with his and his party's laissez-faire policies of cutting taxes, social services, and health care support. Ryan said he wants to help the poor, and he thinks the best way to do that is by promoting "upward mobility and economic growth." The "war on poverty" has largely failed, he said. Jordan did not look terribly impressed.

Ryan's answers drew some questions and comments from people who weren't in the room, like Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), who pushed back on Ryan's timetable quote, tweeting: "If your view is that any declaration of a war's end will precipitate victory for some undefined enemy, then the war can never end." The Week's Ryan Cooper added that the Taliban doesn't "have to know the exact moment we're going to give up to be 100 percent certain we will eventually." The Huffington Post's Matt Fuller cut deep:

And even Ryan's likely Democratic challenger, Randy Bryce, had some questions he posed in an ad, since he wasn't invited to the town hall, Ryan's first in his district in two years.

Bryce ran that and another, more polished ad during the CNN broadcast in the district. Peter Weber

2:33 a.m. ET

No one understands the struggles of self-sacrifice like Louise Linton, the #hermesscarf-wearing, high tax-paying wife of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Linton, an actress, posted a photo to her Instagram feed on Monday showing her and Mnuchin disembarking from a government plane in Kentucky. Mnuchin was there to try to drum up support for the effort to overhaul the tax code; Linton apparently joined him so she could take a picture that resembled something that might appear in a fashion magazine profile, if you first stared at the eclipse then crossed your eyes.

One Instagram user took umbrage at the use of a government plane (typically, the treasury secretary takes domestic flights when traveling inside the U.S.), commenting, "Glad we could pay for your little getaway. #deplorable." Linton's sarcastic reply came quickly. "Cute!" she wrote. "Aw!!! Did you think this was a personal trip?! Adorable! Do you think the US govt paid for our honeymoon or personal travel?! Lololol." It only got worse from there. "Have you given more to the economy than me and my husband? Either as an individual earner in taxes OR in self sacrifice to your country? I'm pretty sure we paid more taxes toward our day 'trip' than you did. Pretty sure the amount we sacrifice per year is a lot more than you'd be willing to sacrifice if the choice was yours." Then came the kicker: "You're adorably out of touch."

A spokesman for the Treasury Department told The Washington Post that Linton's travel costs were paid for by the couple, and that she was not compensated by any of the designers she tagged, not even #valentino (#rockstudheels) or #tomford (#sunglasses). Linton ended up deleting the post and making her account private, just the latest sacrifice she's had to make. Catherine Garcia

2:01 a.m. ET

On Monday's Daily Show, Trevor Noah took a quick look at what white supremacists actually believe, on the idea that many people have been using the term without understanding its meaning after the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville a week ago. It turns out, it's pretty self-evident: They believe white people are inherently smarter and better. "Don't get me wrong, white people have been doing very well for themselves for the past few hundred years," Noah said, citing the light bulb, air travel, and Macklemore wining the best rap Grammy. "It's been a solid run for white people, I cannot lie, but this stuff goes in cycles."

He poked fun at some of the actual white supremacists who participated in the Charlottesville melee, then brought out Roy Wood Jr. for some further analysis. Wood took things in an interesting direction. "Watching what happened in Charlottesville, it only made me wonder: How are you the master race, but you're so dumb?" he asked. "These dudes, they got a great thing going, and they're messing it up. Donald Trump's already given white supremacists pretty much everything they want. He's building the wall, he's banning Muslims, he's taking away black people's voting rights, he blocked Tyler Perry from dropping any new Madea movies."

That last part isn't true, probably, but Wood compared what the white nationalists are doing now to a mistake he made when a friend used to work at Wendy's, back in the day. "They've got a man on the inside, but all the stupid s--t they're doing is just bringing heat on them," he said. "Trump's trying to give them the hookup; this is not how you treat a hookup." He gave some more dubious examples, then brought it home: "Let me give you some advice, you, the genius master race. Comes courtesy of the Dr. Martin Luther King." Or West Side Story? Watch below. Peter Weber

1:16 a.m. ET

In President Trump's new Afghanistan War policy, laid out in a speech on Monday night, he pledged a deliberately unspecified troop surge, probably of about 4,000 extra troops, and declined to set a timetable for withdrawing the U.S. military from the country. Trump sided with the former generals in his administration rather than those advocating winding down the 16-year-old war as a lost cause, prominently his recently ejected chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, so perhaps it is no surprise that the foreign policy hawks in the Republican Party were very enthusiastic about Trump's speech...

...while Bannon's Breitbart News vehemently disagreed with Trump's decision. Specifically, the writers and editors at Breitbart took issue with Graham and other conservatives that the policy was significantly different that former President Barack Obama's.

Democrats criticized Trump's lack of details or vision. And while the reaction at Fox News was much more positive, not all Fox News regulars were on board. Laura Ingraham, a conservative radio host once considered for White House press secretary and reportedly in talks for her own Fox News TV show, sounded almost like the Democrats.

So, 2017, strange bedfellows, etc. Peter Weber

12:58 a.m. ET

When Rickee Stewart walks down the aisle next month, she won't have any wedding presents waiting for her to unwrap when the day is over — and that's exactly how she wants it.

The West Jordan, Utah, high school teacher has registered for winter coats and tennis shoes to give to homeless students, rather than china and sheets. Stewart told she had no idea there were more than 100 homeless students at Copper Hills High School until the school set up a food pantry for them. In her wedding invitations, she let guests know that instead of sending gifts to her, they could help her students. Her goal was reached before she sent out all of her invitations, and in the second batch of invites, she asked guests to consider donating money to provide coats and tents for every Jordan School District student in need.

Stewart said donations are coming in from friends and family across the U.S., and even strangers, and she plans on incorporating lessons about homelessness and charity into her curriculum. She told her "hope is that we get to not only have this amazing wedding and start our lives together, but that we are able to put some warmth on all of those kids." Catherine Garcia

August 21, 2017
Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

When President Trump finally settled on a strategy for the war in Afghanistan last weekend at Camp David, he went with the plan pushed by generals who understand the complexities of the situation and have battlefield experience, not what the non-interventionist faction in the White House wanted, several administration officials and Trump allies told The Washington Post.

Trump has spent months angry over the fact there's no quick fix for Afghanistan, the Post reports. He discussed yanking every U.S. troop out of the country, firing the commander, and even sending the controversial founder of Blackwater to Afghanistan to privatize the war, but finally, he settled on sending more troops after listening to Defense Secretary James Mattis, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, and new White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, whose son was killed in 2010 while fighting in Afghanistan.

One way McMaster convinced Trump that Afghanistan could become a more modern place, the Post reports, was by showing him a photo from 1972, before the rise of the Taliban; in it, women are shown walking down the street wearing miniskirts. For years, Trump was very vocal about how pointless he thought the war in Afghanistan was, calling it a "total disaster" that is "wasting our money" in 2012, and saying in 2013, "We should leave Afghanistan immediately." He echoed these sentiments during the campaign, but now, the Post says, he just wants to be seen as "strong and decisive" when it comes to fighting the war. Read more about the strategy, and how former chief strategist Stephen Bannon faced off against McMaster, at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia

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