Greece Could Learn From North Carolina
As depicted in the news over the last month, Greece has taken an economic turn for the worse. Ultimately they have no one to blame for this crisis but themselves. On three different occasions in the last decade Greece has been bailed out. Greece then raised public sector job wages at the cost of tax payer dollars and money they borrowed from other countries. By doing this, public spending soared and tax evasion was widespread throughout the country.
One thing lead to another and soon Greece was in an economic crisis due to wasteful spending. However, this economic nightmare could have been avoided with fiscally responsible governing and spending limits. North Carolina would be a good example of how to do so, and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) would agree.
Tillis recently made a statement saying, “The Greek government has to make major changes in its spending policy and entitlements. When I was speaker in North Carolina, the state was gripped with a deficit and we made a fundamental policy decision to adopt austerity budgets for four years. Today, we have a one of the best-performing economies in the U.S. and our unemployment dropped from 10.6 percent to 6.4 percent, Greece could learn from North Carolina,” said Tillis.
While Greece was out spending more money than it could keep up with, legislatures in North Carolina were making smart decisions to curve economic growth. North Carolina owed Washington around 2.6 billion dollars, and had the largest taxes in the southeast. Then North Carolina implemented comprehensive tax reform that provided major relief to families in the state.
North Carolina also adopted a balanced fiscally responsible budget that cut wasteful spending and focused on what was important like paying off debt and creating jobs. When it was all said and done the budget surplus of North Carolina was $400 million. Greece on the other hand has already received an enormous amount of bailout money on two separate occasions and now they are going to receive another.
Without the proper reforms being made, Greece will likely be back in the same situation in another few years. What Greece needs to do is stop inflating people’s paychecks, reduce their deficit by ending wasteful government spending. They also need to reinvest in themselves and become stricter on getting their money back that they let the public and businesses borrow.
In a time of economic crisis it is not smart to raise taxes and increase spending. Increasing taxes on the people in a struggling economy just makes the burden worse on family’s and discourages economic growth. If Greece had done some of the reforms on spending and taxes like North Carolina did, they could be in a much better situation.
As Gov. Pat McCrory said, “We have a growing economy in North Carolina for the first time in probably five or six years,” adding that “fiscal responsibility does work.” Greece should take notes on what North Carolina has done in order to turn their own economy around.
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Hillary’s Tax Returns Show Death Tax Hypocrisy
Newly released tax returns from Hillary Clinton, disclosed in a Friday evening news dump last week, suggest she has been using a Death Tax avoidance strategy. Through the creation of a trust account, the Clintons appear to be engaging in legal but hypocritical measures to avoid paying the Death Tax Hillary Clinton has spent a career defending.
Clinton has consistently voted for the Death Tax throughout her time in public office and forcefully condemned attempts to lower it. But when it comes to her own finances, it is a different story. The newly released tax returns buttress earlier reports outlining the ways Clinton uses financial planning strategies that shield her Death Tax liability.
According to a 2014 report by Bloomberg News, the Clintons created trusts in 2010 and shifted ownership of their New York home to it in 2011. In doing so, they will avoid paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in future death taxes. As the Bloomberg report states:
“To reduce the tax pinch, the Clintons are using financial planning strategies befitting the top 1 percent of U.S. households in wealth. These moves, common among multimillionaires, will help shield some of their estate from the tax that now tops out at 40 percent of assets upon death.”
It was not always this way. In the past, Clinton said that “the estate tax has been historically part of our very fundamental belief that we should have a meritocracy.” So what has changed?
Well as Bloomberg points out, the Clintons have made millions in paid speeches and book royalties:
“The Clintons have consistently supported higher taxes on the income and estates of the wealthiest Americans, even as their paid speeches and book royalties moved them into the echelons of the nation’s top earners over the past decade.”
While Clinton is all too happy to use these creative tax avoidance mechanisms, as a senator she voted against repealing the Death Tax and has even voted against giving small businesses and families a higher level of Death Tax exemption:
- In 2001, Clinton voted no on H.R. 1836, “the Economic Growth and Tax Reconciliation Act,” which contained a series of tax cuts, one of which increased the Death Tax exemption level to $3.5 million.
- In 2005, Clinton voted no on H.R. 8, “the Death Tax Repeal Permanency Act of 2005,” which fully repealed the Death Tax.
- In 2006, Clinton voted no on H.R. 5970, “the Estate Tax and Extension of Tax Relief Act of 2006,” which increased the Death Tax exemption level to $5 million.
- In 2008, Clinton voted no on S.Amdt.4191, legislation to increase the Death Tax exemption level to $5 million.
If Clinton truly believes the Death Tax is about the “fundamental belief that we should have a meritocracy,” she should put her money where her mouth is.
The Federal government may only tax individuals and businesses at a fixed percentage of net (gross - sg&a) income. The same percentage shall apply to individuals and businesses. There shall be no deductions, depreciations, exemptions, fees, surcharges, value added taxes or any other method used to reduce or increase the tax burden for any individual, business, group, or the whole.
Once everyone pays the same rate, watch how fast people will want government spending reigned in.
Health Insurance Co-Ops: Obamacare’s Next Debacle?
Most of the 23 Obamacare Co-Ops have failed to meet their enrollment and profitability projections, according to a recently released report by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (HHS OIG). As the report states, this near-universal poor performance calls into question the long term viability of the program and its $2.4 billion in federal loans.
Obamacare established the Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan (Co-Op) program as an alternative to existing health insurance companies. Under the program, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) would provide both startup and solvency loans to applicants that would then set up a non-profits with the hope of providing “consumer operated and oriented health insurance.”
However, as the report notes, Co-Ops have performed far below expectations, with both member enrollment and profitability far below projections. As the report states:
“member enrollment for 13 of the 23 Co-Ops that provided health insurance in 2014 was considerably lower than the Co-Ops’ initial annual projections, and 21 of the 23 Co-Ops had incurred net losses as of December 31, 2014.”
In total $3.4 billion was appropriated for the Co-Op program and CMS has already awarded loans of at least $2.4 billion. But as the report notes, more than half of the Co-Ops incurred losses greater than $15 million. This poor performance to date limits their long term viability, and puts the billions in loans at risk. But despite this poor performance, CMS is yet to develop criteria to assess the long-term sustainability of a Co-Op:
“The low enrollments and net losses might limit the ability of some Co-Ops to repay startup and solvency loans and remain viable and sustainable. Although CMS recently placed four Co-Ops on enhanced oversight or corrective action plans and two Co-Ops on low-enrollment-warning notifications, CMS had not established guidance or criteria to assess whether a Co-Op was viable or sustainable.”
The poor performance of Obamacare Co-Ops should not be surprising. According to a report by the Daily Caller’s Richard Pollock, 17 Co-Ops paid their executives exorbitant salaries as high as $587,000. Not only is this compensation far greater than the median salary for health insurance executives ($135,000), most Co-Op executives had no insurance experience whatsoever.
While Co-Ops started with a vision of member driven healthcare, this future is not looking bright. Already, several Co-Ops have had to shut down and others face severe financial difficulties. Given the current failures of this program, it appears likely that many more will shut down in the coming months and years. When this happens, what will happen to the $2.4 billion in taxpayer loans that were doled out to fund this struggling program?
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Calvin Coolidge: Humility at the Highest Office
Ninety-one years ago today in the small town of Plymouth Notch, Vermont, something remarkable was taking place. In the early hours of the morning, a man stood in silence, staring at a recently delivered letter. “This is serious, isn’t it?” he whispers. Shortly after, the man stood in a room lit only with a kerosene lamp, with his hand on his mother’s Bible, and repeated after his father: "I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of the President of the United States…"
And just like that, at 2:47am on August 3rd, 1923, Calvin Coolidge became the 30th president. Coolidge’s five and a half years as President would – like the story of his inauguration – be marked by humility and restraint.
The Coolidge administration was notably frugal and sought to reduce the size and scope of government. Whereas Harding was a yes man, Coolidge was just the opposite. Coolidge would issue more vetoes than all but 4 of his predecessors. He succeeded in cutting the size of government, not just slowing its growth. And he led by example, pushing for cutbacks within his own executive agencies. He once expressed dismay at the amount the federal government spent on pencils.
He did not just reduce spending; he reduced taxes commensurately. He slashed rates across-the board and simplified the code by cutting the number of rates in half. The top income rate plummeted from 70% to 28%. Coolidge made his support of tax relief clear when he said “Collecting more taxes than is absolutely necessary is legalized robbery.”
His fiscal restraint and tax reductions lead to a booming economy and shrinking national debt. Coolidge, addressing the nation in the first film recording ever of a US President, said “I want the people of America to be able to work less for the government -- and more for themselves. I want them to have the rewards of their own industry. This is the chief meaning of freedom.”
President Coolidge believed that the Government should work for the people, not the other way around. He fought against spending any dollar that was not crucial and taxing any dollar that was not absolutely necessary. When asked who lives in the White House, President Coolidge famously answered “Nobody, they just come and go.”
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Alabama Vape Shop Owner Says He'll Shut Down if Bentley Tax Hikes Pass
Alabama lawmakers are currently considering a tax proposal from Governor Bentley that could shutter hundreds of small businesses and kill up to 2,000 jobs. The proposal would institute a new 25-cent per mL tax on e-cigarette liquid, making Alabama the 26th state this year to propose higher taxes on e-cigarette users.
E-cigarettes have grown in popularity as a way to quit smoking tobacco. E-cigarettes do not contain the carcinogenic chemicals that tobacco products do, and they allow users to regulate nicotine content so they can wean themselves off of the product. As one e-cigarette business owner put it: "We're not smokers, we are ex-smokers who found something we could use to get away from that nasty habit."
But according to the Breathe Easier Alliance of Alabama, a group representing e-cigarette users and business owners, the entire industry in Alabama could evaporate overnight if this tax is passed. The group argues that the tax “will force the vast majority of these businesses to close,” taking with them nearly 2,000 jobs for Alabamans.
None of Alabama’s neighbors impose a special e-cigarette excise tax, so Alabama businesses would be at an immense disadvantage. In fact, many businesses have already expressed a desire to take their business – and jobs – out of state. Lee Black, the owner of a 5 shops, put it bluntly: “If they do this tax… we’ll have to leave the state”.
The tax is an attempt by Governor Bentley to raise revenue during the state’s special budget session. The state faces a $200 million shortfall and the proposed e-cigarette tax – bundled with a tobacco tax increase – aims to raise $70 million. It is doubtful that this tax would generate anywhere near this revenue projection for a number of reasons. The proposed 25 cents per mL tax would make a 30 mL bottle of e-liquid $7.50 more expensive than at present time. Consumers would likely purchase these products from other states and online where they do not have to pay the tax. And, by forcing businesses and consumers out of state, the Alabama would lose out on potential and currently collected sales tax revenue.
Governor Bentley has been insistent on tax hikes to fill the budget hole, but there is a better alternative being discussed in the legislature: combined budget reform. Alabama is currently one of only three states that have separate Education and General Fund budgets. Combining these would free up funds and allow for more flexibility in appropriations. Legislators reconvene in Montgomery today, and will have nine days to reach their budget decision.
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ATR Statement on Obama's Finalized Carbon Emissions Rule
This week the Obama Administration and EPA unveiled the final version of their carbon emissions rule under the Clean Power Plan. The finalized carbon rule will not only prove disastrous for American consumers and the economy, but is the greatest example of executive overreach to date.
ATR President Grover Norquist issued the following statement today on the release of final rule:
“The President and EPA's Clean Power Plan is all burden with little or no benefit. For a promised 0.02 degrees decrease in global temperatures by 2100 and a reduction in sea level the thickness of 3 sheets of paper the President is willing to enact certain damage to American jobs and growth. The rule is projected to cost more than $350 billion, destroy hundreds of thousand of jobs annually and cause double-digit electricity rate increases in over 40 states. The president is trying, late in his term, to create a "legacy" at the expense of the future of working men and women in America.”
The carbon rule, which imposes inflexible and economically irresponsible reduction targets for each state, originally sought a 30 percent emissions reduction goal nationwide. However the final rule unveiled this week increased the reduction goals to 32 percent, a move that will surely exacerbate the disastrous economic impacts originally projected.
The impact of increased rates and job losses under the rule will prove particularly devastating to the millions of low and middle income Americans already struggling under the President’s failed policies. American families with average household incomes of less than $25,000 spend an estimated 17 percent of their budgets on energy. A double-digit increase in energy costs will force many families to choose between necessities such as shelter and medical care, and putting food on the table each month.
The final rule is also an outrageous affront to state sovereignty by threatening to impose a federal implementation plan if states fail to submit their own. States are now tasked with determining how best to defend their rights and protect residents from the widespread impacts of the rule.
A number of state Attorney Generals have already pledged to file lawsuits challenging the EPA’s authority to implement the rules, with more states expected to join in following this week’s release. President’s Obama’s own legal mentor, Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe, has even challenged the legality of the rule saying:
“The Proposed Rule lacks legal basis and represents an improper attempt by EPA unilaterally to remake a vast portion of the American economy on the basis of hitherto obscure provisions of the Clean Air Act” and that it “is a remarkable example of executive overreach and an administrative agency’s assertion of power beyond its statutory authority.”
The carbon emissions rule is devastatingly bad policy that threatens to compromise grid reliability, increase electricity rates and destroy the livelihoods of millions of hard working Americans. Even though the final rule has been released, the fight is far from over.
Americans for Tax Reform encourages lawmakers and state officials to continue to push back against the EPA and Obama Administration’s unconstitutional affront to state sovereignty and American prosperity.
Photo credit: Justin Brown
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American Action Forum holds Sharing Economy panel
American Action Forum (AAF) hosted a three-person panel on Thursday to discuss the emerging sharing economy.
Moderated by the Wall Street Journal’s Eric Morath, the panel covered a variety of economic topics from the benefits of crowdsourcing and direct-selling models to the shift in employment trends as the result of companies like Uber, Lyft and Airbnb.
Participants in the panel included Cal Pierre, the head of DC Operations at WeWork, Maureen K. Ohlhausen, president and CEO of Rodan + Fields and Alan B. Krueger, Bendheim Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University and former chariman of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors.
The panel built on a paper authored by Will Rinehart, AAF director of technology and innovation policy, and Ben Gitis, AAF director of labor market policy. Rinehart and Gitis’ research highlights the positive impact of the sharing economy:
The gig economy is of rising importance in the overall U.S. economy. From 2002 to 2014, workers in the gig economy expanded between 8.8 percent and 14.4 percent. Independent contractors, most notably, helped put 2.1 million people to work, accounting for 28.8 percent of all jobs added from 2010 to 2014. The ride sharing industry alone helped bring in an additional $519 million in economic activity from 2010 to 2013 for independent workers, while injecting 22,000 jobs into the sector. Though it is early, the online gig economy also seems to also be a growing piece of United States’ economy of the 21st century.
Happy Birthday, Milton Friedman
Today we celebrate the memory of Milton Friedman, a champion of free market economics. Friedman is widely regarded as one of the most revolutionary economists in modern history, and his book Capitalism and Freedom, which makes a case for free markets, was arguably the most influential book of the 1960s.
Friedman filled many roles during his lifetime—chief among them was teacher. He was the Senior Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, for nearly forty years. He taught at the University of Chicago from 1946 to 1976, and was on the research staff of the National Bureau of Economic Research from 1937 to 1981.
Friedman was a pioneer for school choice, and was the first to recommend the voucher system. In 1996, he and his wife Rose founded the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice to advance school choice nationwide.
Among his many achievements he won the Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences in 1976, and was awarded both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Science in 1988.
Friedman served on President Reagan’s Policy Advisory Board in the 1980s as one of his most trusted advisors. Though notably libertarian in philosophy, he identified as a Republican for the sake of “expediency,” in his own words. Because of his influence as an advisor Friedman was the architect of many of Reagan’s economic policies that transformed the Republican Party.
Milton Friedman passed away in 2006 at the age of 94, leaving behind a legacy that has had a lasting impact on free market economic policy.
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Congress and Ex-Im: It's Complicated
Conservative free marketeers scored a major victory on Wednesday evening by preventing the Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank from being re-authorized. Once an important tool for American exports, the Ex-Im Bank is now nothing more than America’s poster child for corporate welfare.
Sunday night, the Senate voted 67-26 to attach an amendment to the “must pass” Highway Trust Fund bill that would reauthorize Ex-Im for another four years. This desperate attempt to revive the bank came after Congress decided to do nothing and let Ex-Im’s charter expire on June 30.
In recent years, public opinion on the Bank has plummeted while opposition to Ex-Im in the Senate has doubled. Ex-Im has become notorious for its ties to crony capitalism, fraud and corruption, and has been behind numerous wasteful taxpayer-backed loans, including a $2 million loan to a fraudulent Florida-based small business conducting a Ponzi-scheme.
The House chose not to take up Highway Trust Fund bill from the Senate, leaving no choice but to force Senators to pass a short term, three month extension for highway funding, without Ex-Im’s amendment attached.
For now, Ex-Im will lie in its grave, with no hope of resurrection until September. The thousands of lost jobs that supporters of the bank warned of has not eventuated. In fact, beneficiaries of the bank will be able to continue their businesses unaffected through private sector loans.
There is no doubt supporters will stop at nothing to reauthorize the bank. But the fact is, American businesses do not need this New Deal relic any longer. For each day that Congress resists re-authorizing Ex-Im, businesses and taxpayers will realize they are better off without this icon of crony capitalism and corporate welfare.