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View Diary: Can "the People" Sue the US Congress? (106 comments)

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  •  Not sure why Im still posting but.. (0+ / 0-)

    The diary states:

    The Constitution also requires that Congress levy taxes to pay for wars, military, navy, etc. (No mention in the Constitution that Congress has the power to levy taxes to pay Billions and Billions to: Halliburton, Xe, Blackwater)

    This strikes me as an emblematic argument throughout the diary and by the poster that keeps accusing the gov't of stealing people's overpayments.

    This EXACT argument has been brought to trial several times about whether people have a right to sue the gov't about how their tax money is being spent.  And every single time has been more and more clearly defined as "NO" and "NEVER".

    The main case I can think of at the moment is Flast v. Cohen, but there are many more cases and treatises going all the way back to those penned by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison about how a representative federalized democracy would work.

    You have NO SAY about what Congress does, doesn't do, pays for things, doesn't pay for things, etc except a) by voting to get an elected body more in line with the will of the majority, or b) seeking judicial relief in specific cases where government action intrudes on your explicit Constitutional rights.

    Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

    by Wisper on Mon Dec 05, 2011 at 11:44:13 AM PST

    •  Hi Sock Puppet (0+ / 0-)

      1) No where in this diary, or in the comments does anyone complain about the way Congress pays for things.

      2) No where does this diary or comments say or suggest overpaying the government is illegal or theft.

      3) This Diary is about Darrel Issa and Dennis Ross trying to pass new laws denying Postal Worker's they $57 Billion Dollars in overpayment - which is theft.

      Flast v Cohen is in no way, shape or form similar to the Postal Worker's being denied their overpayment.

      When you overpay the Treasurer on Fed Income Tax - you get your money back (refund)

      When your boss takes out MORE from your FICA withholding than he/she should and send that to the Treasurer as FICA - then the Treasurer sends you a refund for overpayment.

      Congress has NO Constitutional authority to KEEP a person's overpayment and Flast v. Cohen did not even address that.

      Sounds like you and your sock puppet pals fail basic reading.

      •  /sigh (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        VClib
        3) This Diary is about Darrel Issa and Dennis Ross trying to pass new laws

        This diary, as the title fairly clearly states, is a question about whether or not someone, or a class of someones, can sue on this issue.  The answer is no.  Several people have pointed out legal arguments, precedents, definitions, etc as to why.  You have pointed out none.   You just keep harping about people's bosses taking extra FICA earning.

        The diary asked a question.  The answer is no.  Now, if you want to get into some bill or argument Issa and company are putting forward in congress about this money, then that's a debate that can be had on SEPARATE merits.  But you keep trying to disagree with people that are legally clarifying what can and can not be decided by the Federal Courts with pithy cut-pastes from websters.com and a curious use of capital letters.

        But since you keep referencing Income tax refunds, I'll point out that those are ONLY refunded in accordance with statues of the Federal Code as adopted and revised by Congress.  Congress does have the power to address how that money is handled and it is not a constitutionally protected right that you get it back.  They could decide that it has to first clear all other government agencies, federal state and local to pay off any other debt you owe, from back taxes to late library fees.  (And in fact many states do this at the State Income tax with court mandated child support).  They could decide 10% of it is automatically re-purposed to fund the military due to our wars.  As we keep saying.. they can pass a law to do ANYTHING they want and you, me, postal workers and every other citizen in this country have NO SAY.  That is the point of Flast v Cohen and the dozens of other cases that make the same argument.

        Now, to your obvious position, yes.. the government could also (perhaps by passing this Issa bill) stipulate that the money be returned to the postal service employees, or to the USPS operating budget, or to a one-time fund to address postal service infrastructure and equipment needs, or whatever else they choose to do, if they pass it in the hous, and pass in the Senate and Obama signs it.

        But regardless: NO.  No one can sue over this.

        And please stop finding words in the Constitution and conflating them all into some kind of right or mandate.

        Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

        by Wisper on Mon Dec 05, 2011 at 12:18:54 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I disagree (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Wisper

          I've read all the posts on here and have yet to see one single comment that gives Congress the Legal authority to keep overpayments.

          There is no current law that allows Congress to keep overpayment.

          There is no current policy that allows Congress to keep overpayment

          There are no legal cases sited in these comments that ruled Congress can keep overpayments.

          Perhaps no one has ever sued the Congress for keeping overpayments because Congress has never done it before.

          This is the first time in history where the Congress is denying to give Taxpayers back an overpayment made from their Payroll Deductions.

          I asked a simple question - and I did not claim to have the answer but I will say, that out of all the comments I've read on here, legal and otherwise, I would have to say this one sounds most accurate:

          under the Federal Tort Claims Act. The FTCA provides a limited waiver of the federal government's sovereign immunity when its employees are negligent within the scope of their employment.

          Under the FTCA, the government can only be sued

              'under circumstances where the United States, if a private person, would be liable to the claimant in accordance with the law of the place where the act or omission occurred.'

          28 U.S.C. S 1346(b).

          Since a private person would be liable to give $57Billion Dollars in overpayment back to the Postal Workers then members of Congress who "steal" that $57Billion would be liable and could be sued.

          Out of all the comments you've made on here about how Congress has a right to keep overpayments from payroll taxes - you've yet to show the law or statute that supports your claim.

          Oh, thanks for reading my diary tho.

          •  The problem with your argument... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            VClib

            ...is that there has been no legal determination defining the funds deducted from the paychecks of US Postal Service employees, according to policies set by Congress (who have the power to set such policies under the Constitution), as "overpayments."

            In fact, the GAO report cited by another user goes out of its way to explicitly not present a legal definition of those funds as "overpayments."

            The funds were legally deducted from the employees' paychecks and put into the federal pension fund; at the moment, they may be rhetorically agreed to have been "overpayments," but there is no law, statute, or judicial statement establishing that as their legal status.

            For the moment, legally speaking, they are not "overpayments" at all, just more money in the federal workers' pension fund.

            "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

            by JamesGG on Mon Dec 05, 2011 at 12:46:39 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Why don't you (0+ / 0-)

              tell me the legal Policy or Bill passed that gave Congress the power to decide which taxpayers get their payroll tax overpayments?

              When your payroll taxes are taken out they go to Social Security and Medicaid, so if your boss overpays from taking too much out of your FICA then I suppose you don't get that money back - and I know you'd be cool with that, right?

              •  FICA and payroll-tax deductions... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                VClib

                ...are set statutorily by Congress.

                If Congress passed a law stating that such overpayments, once they'd reached the federal government, wouldn't be paid back, but that they instead functioned as an effective hike in the FICA rate, I'd be pissed off about it, but I wouldn't have any legal recourse in the matter.

                That is also the case for federal employees and their payments into the federal pension system. There has been no legal determination whatsoever that the payments in question were, in fact, "overpayments."

                "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

                by JamesGG on Mon Dec 05, 2011 at 01:47:45 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  That's just it JamesGG -Congress has NO SUCH LAW (0+ / 0-)

                  I agree with you,

                  If Congress passed a law stating that such overpayments, once they'd reached the federal government, wouldn't be paid back, but that they instead functioned as an effective hike in the FICA rate, I'd be pissed off about it, but I wouldn't have any legal recourse in the matter.

                  But Congress has no such law.  Nor do they have a law that says
                  "If fed employees overpay in payroll taxes they don't get their money refunded."

                  That's just it, there is NO SUCH LAW.

                  BTW: Postal Workers are not federal employees. They haven't been since the 80's but that's a technicality the point is, even if they were still Federal employees there is no law that Congress has ever passed that says overpayments won't be sent back to the employee.

                  Also, I don't think they'd have the Constitutional authority as the Constitution says the taxes shall be uniform and if Congress keeps overpayment then one group would be paying more than another group which would mean taxes were not collected "uniformly"

                  Art 1 Section 8
                  imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
                  •  That portion was superseded... (0+ / 0-)

                    ...by the 16th Amendment expressly permitting income tax, "from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration."

                    If I:8 were still in force for all taxes, then progressive income taxation would be unconstitutional.

                    "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

                    by JamesGG on Mon Dec 05, 2011 at 02:16:07 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

          •  Finally a comment from the diarist! (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            VClib

            Thank you for jumping back in.  The keepemhonest merry-go-round of Distorted Federalism was making me dizzy.

            I am at work so I dont have time to do a complete and formal search for the overarching authority, but as an example that should help shed light on this, Title XXVI, Section 6402 has language in it specifically authorizing the IRS to keep any overpayment of Federal Income Tax and assess it against any other government debt, including those at the state level.  You will also note that in the first section it clearly uses the word "may" in the sentence "In the case of any overpayment, the Secretary, within the applicable period of limitations, may credit the amount of such overpayment..."   In section "L" it even explicitly states that should the decision be made NOT to credit money back to the taxpayer, the secretary must provide an explanation.  

            Generally this is the overall policy as everyone of us that has ever received a tax refund knows, but if you want to get into the legal nitty-gritty that word "may" is a powerful term clearly showing that the Secretary certainly "may not" decide to issue that credit as well.

            Now this point is made of existing law, but my larger point is that Congress has the full authority to change this or make special decisions in other circumstances.  They could look at this postal overpayment and decide to pass a law saying "The secretary shall refund all money, etc etc" or they could pass anything else to do whatever else they want with it without coming close to a Constitutional issue.

            Anyway, you post a good question in your original diary and I appreciate you coming back with a fair and rationale follow-up.  
             

            Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

            by Wisper on Mon Dec 05, 2011 at 12:59:39 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I think you're reading the Law wrong? (0+ / 0-)

              § 6402. Authority to make credits or refunds
              In the case of any overpayment, the Secretary, within the applicable period of limitations, may credit the amount of such overpayment, including any interest allowed thereon, against any liability in respect of an internal revenue tax on the part of the person who made the overpayment and shall, subject to subsections (c), (d), (e), and (f) [1] refund any balance to such person.

              (c) Offset of past-due support against overpayments
              The amount of any overpayment to be refunded to the person making the overpayment shall be reduced by the amount of any past-due support (as defined in section 464(c) of the Social Security Act) owed by that person of which the Secretary has been notified by a State in accordance with section 464 of of [2] such Act. The Secretary shall remit the amount by which the overpayment is so reduced to the State collecting such support and notify the person making the overpayment that so much of the overpayment as was necessary to satisfy his obligation for past-due support has been paid to the State. The Secretary shall apply a reduction under this subsection first to an amount certified by the State as past due support under section 464 of the Social Security Act before any other reductions allowed by law. This subsection shall be applied to an overpayment prior to its being credited to a person’s future liability for an internal revenue tax. "

              To me, this states that the Postal Workers should be able to get a refund in the amount they overpaid - which is what Congress, Darrell Issa in particular, seems to want to deny them.

              •  Right (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                VClib

                So that was just an example of statutory authority that Congress has detailed for over-payments and reasons why the government can decide not to give it YOU, but rather to a state, county, or other Federal agency to which you owe money.

                The point isn't that this SPECIFIC section dictates the answer to your Postal Fund question, but that there is precedent for Congress to step in and make holistic decisions about how money can and will be handled.  

                This is a bit Cart before Horse, since the larger crux of your original post is whether this money constitutes a true "overpayment" or would be classified differently.  The GAO report references this topic a bit with their intentionally weasely "other people have described this as an overpayment" language.

                I was simply pointing out that there is no Constitutional argument of "its my money and I want it back".  Money lawfully collected can be redirected or appropriated by acts of Congress.

                The Issa Bill is certainly ONE way of handling it but seems a bit harsh; hopefully that will be met with some kind of temperate resistance.

                However, regardless of what they do with it, I just can not imagine a scenario that would give anyone, postal employee or otherwise, legal standing to bring a law suit.

                Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

                by Wisper on Mon Dec 05, 2011 at 02:01:28 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  BTW (0+ / 0-)

              I don't generally comment in my own Diary.

              Since there were many people being disruptive on here I thought I'd lend a comment.

              •  Signing Off (0+ / 0-)

                Anyway, like I said, I'm glad you jumped back in to get the discussion back on point and away from the name calling to which it devolved.

                I'm going home now (5:00 EST) so my comments here are done.  

                See ya around the Great Orange Satan!

                Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

                by Wisper on Mon Dec 05, 2011 at 02:03:21 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  cc - it's beneficial for the author to comment (0+ / 0-)

                and I would encourage you to continue to comment in this and your future diaries.

                "let's talk about that"

                by VClib on Mon Dec 05, 2011 at 04:16:30 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

        •  Wisper - great comment (0+ / 0-)

          Trying to bring some order to chaos.

          "let's talk about that"

          by VClib on Mon Dec 05, 2011 at 04:12:52 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

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