Did Obama Pay a Lower Rate Than His Secretary?

President Obama paid a total federal tax rate in 2011 on adjusted income of $789,674 that may be lower than that of his secretary, even though she earned substantially less.

Obama has spent the past week touting the Buffett Rule, which calls on those who make $1 million – just a little more than Obama made – to pay at federal tax rate of at least 30 percent. The rule was inspired by Buffett’s comment that he paid a lower tax rate than his secretary.

The most recent information about salary regarding Obama’s secretary is for his former secretary, Katie Johnson, who is listed by the White House as having made $90,000 in 2010.

According to Wikipedia, Johnson is 31 years old and now attends Harvard Law School. I don’t know about her personal life or what her deductions would be, so I can’t assume any children or extra deductions.

On a $90,000 salary, she would pay $16,578 in federal taxes, $3,780 to Social Security, and $1,305 in Medicare taxes.

That adds up to a total federal tax burden of $21,663 on $90,000 in adjusted gross income, or a tax rate of 24 percent.

Obama’s federal income tax rate was 20.5 percent. If you include the Medicare and Social Security taxes paid by Obama, his total federal tax liability is 21.8 percent, fully two percent less than that of his secretary even though his adjusted gross income was nearly nine times hers.

Why Are 1,000 Pro-Palestinian Activists Planning to Fly Into Israel on Sunday?

Organizers of a planned pro-Palestinian demonstration said Friday they expect about 1,000 activists from Europe and North America to board flights for Israel this weekend, despite Israeli warnings to deport them.

Activists with the “Welcome to Palestine” campaign are set to land in Israel on dozens of flights Sunday. They say they wish to travel to nearby Bethlehem in the West Bank to participate in a week of activities, like the dedication of a school and homestays with Palestinian families.

Mazin Qumsiyeh, a Palestinian campaign organizer, said the activists were coming to exercise their right to visit the Palestinian territories.

“The object is not to fly in to make a protest at the airport. The object is for foreigners to visit us,” Qumsiyeh said. “Even prisoners are allowed visits.”

Israel’s public security minister has called the activists “provocateurs” and said they are bent on disturbing the public order.

Last July, Israel blocked a similar effort. It beefed up security at the airport, questioned dozens of activists upon arrival at the airport and denied entry to 69.

This weekend Israel says it will round up activists who land in the country and deport them.

Read more here.

Who foots bill when Obama travels?

When President Obama traveled to Florida this week, he sandwiched a partisan speech at Florida Atlantic University between two multimillion-dollar fundraisers for his 2012 campaign, allowing him to label at least part of the trip to a critical battleground state as official business.

While Mr. Obama can rely on Air Force One and other military aircraft at his disposal for official business, federal election laws require his campaign to pay for these presidential perquisites at just a fraction of the cost — the equivalent of a commercial airline ticket — whenever he or other administration officials are using federal government resources for political activity.

Yet, like most of his recent predecessors, Mr. Obama has shown a penchant for piggybacking fundraisers onto official trips, and figuring out the details of how much the Obama campaign must reimburse taxpayers for the mixed trips is complicated and opaque, confounding presidential scholars and even the most experienced federal election law experts.

“Nobody knows how much the travel has to be paid for by either the Democratic National Committee or the president’s campaign committee, or how they come up with the data, or how long they have to reimburse it after the travel takes place,” said Brett Kappel, an expert on election law at Arent Fox. “It’s a total mystery — it’s a black box.”

Brendan Doherty, a political science professor at the U.S. Naval Academy and an authority on presidential fundraising and travel, said he has been unable to figure out the cost of presidential campaign travel for Mr. Obama, as well as presidents that preceded him.

Read more here.