Americans for Tax Reform

Cut the cigarette tax for the children


Posted by Americans for Tax Reform on Monday, March 22nd, 2010, 9:49 AM PERMALINK


In the following Op-Ed published in yesterday's Washington Examiner, ATR director of state affairs Patrick Gleason explains why the DC City Council needs to cut the cigarette tax if it is serious about improving the health of children in DC public schools:  

When the D.C. City Council raised the cigarette tax by 50 cents, city officials claimed it would generate a windfall of additional tax revenue for government coffers. However, in a letter to Mayor Adrian Fenty last month, D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi informed him that the council's calculations were $15 million off.
 
New revenue projections released in February show cigarette tax revenue coming in below initial projections by more than 30 percent. Not only did the tax increase miss the projected revenue mark, it turns out the increase actually resulted in a loss of revenue for the District, coming in at approximately $7 million below pre-increase levels.
 
While the decline in revenue came much to the shock and chagrin of D.C. Council members, it comes as no surprise to those familiar with tobacco tax increases and their implications. The same thing happened when New Jersey raised its cigarette tax by 17.5 cents in 2007. That tax increase brought in $52 million less than Garden State lawmakers expected and $22 million less than was generated by the pre-increase rate.
 
Click Here for the full article.

 

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Study: Health Care Legislation Will Cost up to 700,000 Jobs by 2019


Posted by Americans for Tax Reform on Wednesday, March 17th, 2010, 10:21 AM PERMALINK


Americans for Tax Reform Foundation today released a study conducted by the Beacon Hill Institute on the job losses that will result from the passage of President Obama’s healthcare plan. 

The study uses standard practices to evaluate the job loss, but assumes more realistic policy outcomes (for example, the Medicare “doc fix” is assumed to be re-enacted by Congress every year).
 
From the Executive Summary:
 
Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, has urged passage of the massive health reform plan moving through Congress as a way to create up to 400,000 jobs. Speaker Pelosi bases her claim on a report by the Center for American Progress (CAP) in which the Center estimates that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) would create 250,000 to 400,000 jobs per year over 10 years. 
 
This estimate by CAP amounts to a hurried effort to add academic heft to the claim that national health care reform offers a collateral benefit in the form of an economic “stimulus.” It turns out, however, that its methodology, stripped of unsupportable claims about savings in health care costs, shows just the opposite of what CAP intended. PPACA is a job killer, not a job creator.
 
The result is a loss of between 119,000 and 698,000 jobs between enactment of the bill this year and 2019. A breakdown is below:
 
Sector
ESI
Jobs
 
%
Low
High
Agriculture, mining and construction
 
 
 
Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting
20
-923
-5,441
Mining
68
-939
-5,478
Construction
37
-7,374
-43,316
Manufacturing
65
-18,022
-105,229
Trade
 
 
 
Wholesale trade
57
-8,149
-47,663
Retail trade
39
-14,364
-84,339
Transportation and communication
 
 
 
Transportation and warehousing
55
-6,290
-36,806
Utilities
80
-906
-5,271
Services
 
 
 
Information
63
-4,510
-26,342
Financial Activities
66
-13,236
-77,269
Professional and business services
44
-22,606
-132,596
Educational services
61
-5,493
-32,102
Leisure and hospitality
25
-8,436
-49,682
Other services
48
-7,946
-46,564
Totals
 
-119,194
-698,098


Click here for a PDF of this press release


Click here for a printable PDF of the full study

 

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ATR Staffer Testifies Before U.S. House Energy & Commerce Select Committee


Posted by Americans for Tax Reform on Wednesday, March 10th, 2010, 9:15 AM PERMALINK


Today, at 9:30amEST, ATR Federal Affairs Manager handing energy and environmental tax and regulatory policy will be testifying as the only minority witness before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Special Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

The witness list is as follows:

Lisa Patt-McDaniel, Director, Ohio Department of Development
Bryan Ashley, Chief Marketing Officer, Suniva Inc.
Paul Gaynor, Chief Executive Officer, First Wind Holdings LLC
Mary Ann Wright, Vice President and Managing Director, Business Accelerator Project, Johnson Controls, Inc.
Brian M. Johnson, Federal Affairs Manager, Americans for Tax Reform & Executive Director, Alliance for Worker Freedom

Click here for more information and to watch the hearing live.

Also, view Brian's full submitted testimony here.

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Grover Norquist Urges Senators to CoSponsor Non-Government Spending Jobs Bill


Posted by Americans for Tax Reform on Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010, 9:18 AM PERMALINK


[PDF Document]

3 February 2010

Dear Senator:

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) and millions of taxpaying Americans and their families, I ask you to sponsor an alternative to the “Jobs Bill” that does not increase government spending, “The No Cost Stimulus Act.”

This critical piece of legislation will create more than 2 million long-term, sustainable and well paying jobs while helping reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources. Supported by Senators Barrasso, Brownback, Bond, Bunning, Crapo, Coburn, Cochram, Cornyn, DeMint, Ensign, Enzi, Hutchinson, Inhofe, Risch, Sessions, Shelby and Vitter (as of this writing), this legislation could increase GDP by $10 trillion over the next 30 years.

Additionally, specific sections of this bill will drastically reduce the cost of energy for every American family while providing jobs in the United States:

  • Create 1.2 million long-term jobs by opening offshore mineral lease areas
  • Provide more than $2.2 trillion in incremental tax receipts
  • Extends state boundaries to 12 miles so states have control over their offshore areas
  • Opens ANWR areas to create 730,000 American-based jobs
  • Streamlines the nuclear licensing process to add 610,000 jobs to the economy
  • Saves 500,000 per year by preventing the EPA from regulating CO2
  • Simplifies the energy leasing judicial review process advancing 300 new projects

All of the above job creation, GDP growth and energy independence can be achieved without adding increasing the amount of government spending.

One of President Obama’s clear messages in his State of the Union address was that he wanted to hear good ideas, from both parties. The “No Cost Stimulus Act” is exactly that. 

For more information, contact federal affairs manager Brian Johnson in my office at bjohnson@atr.org and contact Bryan Zumwalt in Senator Vitter’s office at Bryan_Zumwalt@vitter.senate.gov to become a sponsor.

Onward,
 
Grover G. Norquist

cc:    All Members of the US Senate

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US Attorney Reviews Call for Probe into SEIU President Andy Stern's Lobbying Activities


Posted by Americans for Tax Reform on Monday, February 1st, 2010, 3:44 PM PERMALINK


Today, new reports confirm that the United States Attorney, Channing Phillips, is reviewing our Nov. 13 request for an investigation into the potential violation of the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) by Service Employee International Union (SEIU) President Andrew Stern. 

In a letter delivered on Nov. 13  ATR President Grover Norquist and AWF Executive Director Brian Johnson wrote:

By this letter, we urge you to investigate the activities of Mr. Andy Stern, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)…specifically, it is important to determine whether those and related activities could constitute unregistered “lobbying” by Mr. Stern in violation of the Lobbying Disclosure Act  (LDA), 2 U.S.C. 1601, et seq.

Nov. 16, SEIU spokesperson Michelle Ringuette acknowledged the validity of claim and, without offering evidence responded: “Andy Stern spends less than 20 percent of his time talking to elected representatives.”

Jan 5 Andy Stern told Carol Costello in a one-on-one interview on CNN: “We’re going to send them a letter and tell them the truth, which is we’ve complied with the law. And we assume whenever the investigation is done it will be fine.”

Jan 25, SEIU spokesperson Kawana Lloyd contradicted what Mr. Stern had said on CNN, saying: “SEIU had likely said all it would say on the matter.”

Feb 1, the US Attorney’s office confirmed to CNSNews.com that they are “reviewing the matter.” Ms. Ringuette retorted: “The charges were meritless; we have been informed by the Senate that the complaining parties were notified.”

“We have not received the letter Mr. Stern promised on CNN or any response from the U.S. Senate other than their confirmation that our complaint was received,” said Norquist.

Click here for a PDF of ATR and AWF's joint press release.

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Obama Labor Board Nominee, "workers should not be able to choose against having a union"


Posted by Americans for Tax Reform on Monday, February 1st, 2010, 11:29 AM PERMALINK


If the Senate’s schedule remains unchanged, a cloture vote on Obama's nominee to the National Labor Relations Board, Craig Becker, is expected Thursday, February 4. Such a move will disenfranchise the Senate’s newest member, Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown. Democratic leadership reaffirmed numerous times that the Senate would not vote on any health care legislation until Senator Brown is seated.

Harry Reid: “We’re not going to rush into anything. We’re going to wait until the new senator arrives to do more on health care.”

Jim Webb: “It is vital that we restore the respect of the American people in our system of government and in our leaders. To that end, I believe it would only be fair and prudent that we suspend further votes on health care legislation until Senator-elect Brown is seated.”

The magnitude of health care legislation is unquestionable; Democrats should be applauded for delaying a Senate vote until Mr. Brown is seated. Similarly, Craig Becker’s nomination for the NLRB is of comparable magnitude and should also be postponed until Senator Brown is seated. A vote for Becker is a vote for card check.

Mr. Becker, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Associate General Counsel, has regularly advocated for inappropriate use of the NLRB’s power. In an instant of uncensored honesty, Mr. Becker wrote that employers should be barred from NLRB proceedings:

“On these latter issues employers should have no right to be heard in either a representation case or an unfair labor practice case, even though Board rulings might indirectly affect their duty to bargain.”

To suggest that employers should have no role in the unionization process, as Mr. Becker does, is a point of view that is outside of the mainstream and one that puts him at odds with the current practices of the NLRB.

Just as Mr. Becker views employers as obstacles to increased unionization, he similarly views workers ability to democratically choose union representation as problematic:

“Just as U.S. Citizens cannot opt against having a congressman, workers should not be able to choose against having a union as their monopoly-bargaining agent.”

Mr. Becker feels workers "should not be able to choose against having a union." How do you feel? Call your Senator (Senate switchboard: (202)224-3121) and tell them to oppose Mr. Beckers nomination to the NLRB.

ATR sent this letter to all members of the Senate urging them to oppose Becker.

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Seven Prudent Reforms Tackling Our Nation's Over-Spending Problems


Posted by Americans for Tax Reform on Wednesday, January 27th, 2010, 1:37 PM PERMALINK


[PDF Document]

On the eve of President Obama’s State of the Union speech, and as the U.S. Senate continues to deliberate on amendments to the bill to raise the Federal debt ceiling yet again, here’s a quick look at a few prudent reforms that would help bring our fiscal house in order without burdening taxpayers. 

1.    Enact a REAL Spending Freeze – Not a Phony One

President Obama will be proposing a 3-year freeze on non-defense non-security discretionary spending. While a nice nod to the need for fiscal restraint, the freeze comes one year too late – one year after domestic discretionary spending has increased by $101 billion, or 17.4 percent. What’s worse, CBO was actually projecting a decline in non-defense discretionary spending over the next few years (from $682 billion in FY 2010 gradually down to $640 billion in 2014).  In fact, freezing this spending is actually a hike in projected spending over the next several years.

According to CBO, domestic discretionary spending in FY 2009 (which includes some stimulus spending, but is mostly pre-Obama budget decisions) was $581 billion.  In FY 2010 (which is entirely an Obama-Pelosi-Reid spending decision), it’s projected to be $682 billion.

A real freeze would take domestic discretionary spending back to where it was before the spending binge happened.  We should freeze domestic discretionary spending at $581 billion (which requires cutting $101 out of the FY 2010 budget), and it should stay at $581 billion for the foreseeable future—not just 3 years.

Doing that would reduce the CBO baseline (not counting interest savings) by $824 billion over the next decade.  When the interest savings are included, such a real freeze should yield almost $1 trillion over the decade.

2.    End the TARP Program

Congress should end the Treasury Department’s authority to spend unobligated funds under the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) immediately, and prohibit further obligations of repaid funds.

Ending TARP, as previously proposed by Sen. John Thune (R-SD), would prevent TARP funds from being wasted on politically-motivated bailouts of companies and industries well-outside the original scope of the program, which have left taxpayers to bear the cost and risks associated with them.  It would also prevent the revolving use of repaid funds for these purposes.

According to recent reports, approximately $545 billion in TARP funds have been committed, with $374.62 billion paid out while $165.18 billion had been repaid leaving about $319 billion of unobligated TARP authority.

3.    Rescind Unobligated “Stimulus” Funds

   
Almost a year after its passage, the “stimulus” package has clearly failed to deliver on its promises.  Not only did the package not prevent jobless numbers from going above 8%, as the Administration had claimed it would. Instead, unemployment rose to over 10 percent, with much of the spending under the package going towards dubious project.

In light of the package’s obvious failure, unobligated funds, currently still more than $250 billion according to recent reports, should be rescinded immediately.

4.    Enact the CARFA Act


After rejecting the flawed Conrad/Gregg bipartisan commission proposal, the Senate will be taking up the GOP alternative, the so-called CARFA Act modeled after the successful Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC). 

Unlike Conrad/Gregg, which – because of the way it was structured – would have led to a guaranteed tax increase, a commission modeled after BRAC which led to the successful closure of military bases that were underused, would be a prudent mechanism to address our nation’s fiscal problems. 

The BRAC process, put in place by Congress in 1990, would not have worked if it had been tasked with either closing unnecessary bases or raising taxes to pay for unnecessary bases. It worked precisely because it had one job: to save taxpayer money by closing unnecessary bases, and that is the model we should follow now.

5.    Adopt Sen. Coburn’s Rescission Amendment to the Debt Ceiling Resolution

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) is offering an amendment to the debt ceiling resolution that would consolidate more than 640 duplicative government programs, cutting wasteful Washington spending, and returning billions of dollars of unspent money. 

Enacting the Coburn amendment would yield at least $120 billion.

6.    Enact Another Territoriality Measure in 2010

Back in 2004, Congress changed the tax law to allow companies to repatriate overseas earnings back to the United States at a low tax rate.  This is money which would never come back to the United States otherwise because of our highest-in-the-world corporate income tax rate. 

The result was astonishing.  In that one year alone, $318 billion was repatriated.  This actually increased corporate tax revenues by over $18 billion.  This money was used to invest in plant and equipment, boost pension fund assets, and create jobs.  Today, there is nearly $1 trillion in overseas earnings, just waiting to be brought home. 

Congress should enact another territoriality measure in 2010.

7.    Repeal Davis-Bacon Prevailing Wage Requirements

The Depression-era wage subsidy law of the 1930s, known as the Davis-Bacon Act, should NOT apply to any federally funded construction projects as it artificially inflates wages by 22% and adds $9 billion to the cost of projects nation-wide.

Had this outdated law been repealed earlier, it would have shaved $17 billion off the cost of the “stimulus” package.

While this may sound like a drop in the bucket, repealing Davis-Bacon prevailing wage requirements would be a simple step Congress could take to address our problems.

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State of the Union: Time to play Obama BINGO!


Posted by Americans for Tax Reform on Wednesday, January 27th, 2010, 12:29 PM PERMALINK


Back by popular demand: Obama BINGO!   To help you get through the State of the Union address on Wednesday night, Americans for Tax Reform once again presents Obama BINGO!  Use the cards to check off terms and phrases likely to be used during President Obama’s State of the Union address. 

We've prepared four different cards this year so that you may compete with your friends and family:

Obama BINGO Card 1

Obama BINGO Card 2

Obama BINGO Card 3

Obama BINGO Card 4

Good luck, and let us know how it goes! 

(Or for those of you in Louisiana, let us know how it "geauxs")

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Obama's First Year: Transparency - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly


Posted by Americans for Tax Reform on Friday, January 22nd, 2010, 12:26 PM PERMALINK


[PDF Document]

Throughout the campaign, President Obama made many promises to increase transparency and accountability in Washington.  And while some of his supporters cheerfully assign him good grades when evaluating his record in this area, a closer look reveals that in terms of fulfilling his transparency promises, his first year in office holds a mixed bag at best. Here’s a look at the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Good:

Steps towards more openness – Upon taking office, the Obama administration issued two memoranda, one instructing all agencies and departments to "adopt a presumption in favor" of Freedom of Information Act requests, and a second one directing the Office of Management and Budget to develop an Open Government Directive that instructs executive departments and agencies to take specific actions to implement greater transparency.  

The Open Government Directive issued on December 8, 2009, indeed looks promising and reiterates the presumption of openness. The first part discusses general agency data, and the second part of the document focuses on improving the quality of government information and specifically focuses on the area of Federal spending information, setting a timeline for developing a longer-term comprehensive strategy for spending transparency.Among other things, agencies will be required to soon publish at least three high-value data sets and register them on Data.gov, an already-functional website created by the Obama administration for this purpose earlier in the year.That is a promising step in the right direction, although there is a caveat, which we have discussed here

The Bad:

Easy-to-keep promises are off to a slow start. During the campaign, President Obama made a “Sunlight Before Signing” promise:

"When there's a bill that ends up on my desk as president, you, the American voter, will have five days to look online and find out what it is before I sign it, so that you know what your government's doing.”

Still, while this is a promise that should be fairly easy to put into practice, the President’s record of compliance with this promise has been poor. As Jim Harper, who tracks the issue for the Cato Institute, pointed out on January 6, only six bills out of 124 were posted in accordance with the promise.

When transparency becomes spin – Recovery.gov. Taxpayers were promised “unprecedented transparency” in conjunction with trillion dollar spending and debt package passed under the guise of “economic stimulus.” For that purpose, Recovery.gov was created. However, several months and $18 million later, the website offered little substance and much spin, while a website created by a private company, Onvia, was already tracking expenditures on its website Recovery.org.

Things took a turn for the worse when recipient data was posted on Recovery.gov, because rather than presenting facts, the site now boasted job creation and retention numbers that were not only inflated and bogus, but also were also occurring in non-existent Congressional districts.  Clearly, this is not transparency, it is spin.

The Ugly:

Abandoning transparency when it’s no longer politically expedient – During the campaign, President Obama repeatedly promised that the healthcare negotiations would be conducted publicly.  Among his promises were this one:

"That’s what I will do in bringing all parties together, not negotiating behind closed doors, but bringing all parties together, and broadcasting those negotiations on C-SPAN so that the American people can see what the choices are, because part of what we have to do is enlist the American people in this process."

Members of Congressional leadership have echoed this sentiment on numerous occasions and proclaimed their commitment to open and transparent negotiations on this important subjec. However, the more it became apparent that the public was not seeing the Democrats’ proposals as favorably as the President and other proponents had expected, the more secretive the process became.  At the beginning of this year, shortly before the apparent implosion of the healthcare process in the wake of the Massachusetts election, the President and Congressional leaders decided to embark on abbreviated behind-closed-doors negotiations, shutting out the American people.  The President clearly failed to insist on an open process, and transparency became a victim of political expediency

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DC Bag Tax in Effect


Posted by Americans for Tax Reform on Monday, January 4th, 2010, 3:37 PM PERMALINK


Last Friday DC grocers and retailers began levying a new tax on every plastic and paper bag as a result of legislation passed last year. Below is an OpEd by Patrick Gleason, ATR's state affairs manager, that was published in yesterday's Washington Examiner on the matter:

Patrick Gleason: New D.C. bag tax won't accomplish much

By: Patrick Gleason
OpEd Contributor
January 3, 2010

Washingtonians heading out in search of VitaminWater and bacon to cure their New Year's morning hangovers will be greeted by a new Pigouvian tax at the check out.

Starting this past week, a new 5-cent tax will be imposed on every plastic and paper bag used by shoppers at grocers and other retailers throughout the District.

The bag tax is the result of legislation passed unanimously by the D.C. Council in June. The bill, sponsored by council members Tommy Wells, D-Ward 6, and Mary Cheh, D-Ward 3, was rushed through under the auspices of cleaning up the environment.

That might sound great and will make many District residents feel warm and fuzzy, but previous experience with bag taxes and regulations elsewhere suggests the rhetoric from Wells and company is hollow.

San Francisco went so far as banning plastic bags outright in 2007, becoming the first American city to do so. That extreme measure had zero effect on the city's litter mitigation goals, according to litter audits.

Many bag tax advocates point to Ireland as their standard bearer, with usage of plastic shopping bags declining by 90 percent as a result of its nationwide bag tax. What the na?ve greenies and money-hungry politicians who support bag taxes won't tell you is that total usage of all plastic bags in Ireland actually increased by 10 percent following imposition of the bag tax.

How could that be? Over 92 percent of the population already reuses plastic bags for a cadre of basic household tasks such as lining trash cans. A new levy on bags at the checkout discourages this.

It's also important to keep in mind that the bureaucrats who are going to siphon ever more money out of the D.C. economy aren't exactly stewards of fiscal responsibility. Aside from increasing spending by 42 percent in just five years' time, D.C. Council members think awarding themselves salaries that are higher on average than most governors is reasonable.

In fact, Mayor Fenty and council member Vincent Gray, D-Ward 5, each make more than every governor except Arnold Schwarzenegger. The new tax gives them a new slush fund.

Four cents of the new 5-cent bag tax will go into a fund dedicated to cleaning up the Anacostia River. The other penny will be kept by the retailer. Stores that provide incentives to bring reusable bags will retain 2 cents.

Mayor Fenty and council member Wells boast that it will simultaneously increase usage of reusable bags and tidy the Anacostia River. However, the best way to benefit the environment would actually be to request as many plastic and paper bags as possible at checkout, thereby ensuring the new Anacostia River cleanup fund is flush with cash.

Just like the politicians who claim that tobacco tax increases can both reduce smoking and provide a windfall for government coffers, Fenty and Wells either don't see the fault in their own logic or they think their constituents are pretty gullible.

D.C. Council members aren't the only lawmakers to warm up to this policy. More than 20 bag tax bills were introduced over the past year nationwide, and more are expected moving forward. This is just the beginning.

Shortly after the bill's passage last summer, council member Jack Evans, D-Ward 2, stated that the new bag tax was merely "the first step to try to address this issue." District residents and businesses would be wise to keep a close eye on the D.C. Council in 2010.

 

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