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Cassandra Carroll

Marketplace Fairness Act Would Cripple Small Businesses

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Posted by Cassandra Carroll on Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014, 9:30 AM PERMALINK


The Marketplace Fairness Act is being billed by its supporters as a common-sense proposal that would level the playing field between online and brick-and-mortar retailers by taking away online retailers’ exemption from sales tax. Currently, sales tax is only applied to online purchases when a customer buys something from a business that has a location within the customer’s state. What sounds noble, or at least harmless, at first glance begins to sound more like foxes volunteering to guard the hen house when you look at how the MFA would play out in practice, and when you examine who’s supporting it and who isn’t.

Not only would the complexity of complying with the MFA be a massive burden on businesses (the tax would be based on where the customer lives, so a popular online retailer could realistically find themselves paying sales tax to all 50 states, navigating all the unique tax jurisdictions with unique rules of each state.). The cost of compliance would cripple a startup or small niche business. According to Freedomworks Policy Analyst Julie Borowski’s article on Rare; “It would be overly complicated for online businesses to pay sales taxes on goods shipped across state lines. There are nearly 10,000 different sales tax jurisdictions in the United States. The number of tax jurisdictions varies widely by state—New Jersey has only two while Texas has over 1,500 different sales tax jurisdictions.

To add extra confusion, some jurisdictions charge different rates based on the type of item being sold. For example, eight states fully or partially exempt clothing from sales taxes. Some exceptions do apply. In Pennsylvania, there are no sales taxes on clothes except for formal wear, bathing suits, fur coats, and accessories such as jewelry or purses.”

The True Simplification of Taxation (TruST) coalition finds in their recent study; “Mid-market online and catalog retailers ($5-50 million in annual sales) will spend $80,000 to $290,000 in setup and integration costs for the so-called “free software” promised by advocates of the Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA). And every year, these retailers will also spend $57,000-$260,000 on maintenance, updates, audits and service fees charged by software providers.”

When you look at the hundreds of thousands of dollars annual compliance would cost, it’s easy to see why online-only giants like Amazon, and other big businesses like Best Buy and Home Depot, who do a significant amount of online business would support the MFA despite the burden it stands to be. These businesses can afford to comply with the MFA, and would even get the extra benefit of seeing their smaller competitors hurt or driven out of business by the immense cost of this tax.

On top of the unfair cost and complexity of the Marketplace Fairness Act is the issue it raises about tax jurisdiction. Why should any state be allowed to collect taxes from businesses in other states? What right does the government of New York have to take money from an Arizona business? As ATR’s Katie McAuliffe explains, the MFA sets a disturbing precedent for states to tax people who aren’t even their constituents;

“Their ultimate goal is to export their tax and regulatory burden to Americans who have no recourse at the ballot box. A politician’s dream come true.”

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Adam Fagen

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More Evidence that EPA’s Clean Power Plan is Economically Irresponsible

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Posted by Cassandra Carroll on Tuesday, October 21st, 2014, 5:17 PM PERMALINK


NERA Economic consulting released a report yesterday expounding on what we already knew would be the devastating effects of the Clean Power Plan on both industry and individuals nationwide. The report highlights a number of reasons why the harm caused by the EPA’s proposed regulation would far outweigh the benefits.

While reducing the level of CO2 in the atmosphere by less than .5%, reducing sea level rise by the thickness of a few sheets of paper, and reducing the global average temperature by about 2/100ths of one degree, NERA expects the Clean Power Plan to increase electricity prices in 43 states by double digit percentages (some up to 20%), alongside the $41 billion per year the regulation will already cost both consumers and businesses. The proposal will lose us an estimated 45,000 megawatts of coal-based energy and stands to close down several coal plants, directly costing the livelihoods of their employees.

A huge segment of our population is elderly, and of that segment, a staggering percentage lives on less than $30,000 annually. Young adults are moving in with their parents at an alarming rate due to financial difficulties, and untold numbers of young families already have to choose between paying the light bill or eating. Americans can’t afford to let the EPA play at reducing emissions at the cost of further crippling our economy and putting such a heavy burden on the many among us who already struggle to afford the energy they need to live.

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Dan Lurle

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EPA Clean Power Plan to Disproportionately Affect Seniors

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Posted by Cassandra Carroll on Friday, October 3rd, 2014, 3:01 PM PERMALINK


The EPA itself has predicted that their proposed Clean Power plan will cause electricity rate prices by 2020 to go up an average of 5.9% - 6.5%, or even 10%-12% in some regions. The cost of this will be hard enough for the average working American to shoulder, but could be devastating for the approximately 27 million senior households in the United States, who already only have a median pre-tax income of $33,848. A recent study from the 60+ Association details these disturbing predictions as well as others for young and elderly Americans alike. Among the findings are:

  • The Census Bureau reports that the median pre-tax household income of 65+ households in America was $33,848 in 2012, 41% below the $57,353 median income of younger households.
  • More than 40% of America’s 65+ households had gross annual incomes below $30,000 in 2012, with an average pre-tax household income of $17,032, or $1,419 per month.
  • The prices of all essential consumer energy products – electricity, natural gas and gasoline- have increased at rates exceeding both the CPI and Social Security COLAs for the past decade, and these trends are expected to continue.
  • The average annual electric bill for 65+ households, $1,164 in 2009, represented 61% of total residential energy bills.
  • Energy costs are adversely impacting lower-income seniors afflicted by health conditions, leading them to forego food for a day, reduce medical or dental care, fail to pay utility bills, or become ill because their home was too cold. (APPRISE, 2009).

    The Clean Power Plan will have no significant effect on global carbon emissions as it is. There is no way to justify a regulation that stands to do so much harm to some of the most vulnerable among us.
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DonkeyHotey

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Skyrocketing US Oil Production Keeps Gasoline Prices Down

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Posted by Cassandra Carroll on Friday, September 26th, 2014, 4:02 PM PERMALINK


Despite military and political turmoil in Libya, Iraq, and other major oil-producing countries, the US is producing enough oil to keep up with demand and keep prices down. The unrest in countries that are normally big producers of crude oil has caused a worldwide decrease in production of about 3 million barrels per day, but the US has made up for it and then some by producing about 4 million barrels every day, largely with the help of state- and privately-owned shale formations in North Dakota and Texas. Without this production, crude oil could cost up to $150 per barrel.

This is a significant step toward energy independence for the United States. There is much speculation as to whether the oil booms in North Dakota and Texas will continue or die out as quickly as they came, but what is clear is that the US will never have energy independence within the current administration that has steadily decreased production and exploration of oil and natural gas on federal lands (Between 2009 and 2013, production of natural gas on federal lands was reduced by 28 percent, and oil production was reduced by 6 percent) while drastically increasing the amount of time it takes to process applications for permits to drill.

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Amanda Graham

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EPA Seeks Backdoor Regulation of Fracking

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Posted by Cassandra Carroll on Monday, September 8th, 2014, 4:32 PM PERMALINK


The EPA has released new ham-fisted and highly inaccurate set of White Papers regarding methane emissions from the oil and natural gas industry. As is to be expected, the EPA seeks to lower methane emissions from the industry by mercilessly regulating them, primarily going after methane emissions from the process of hydraulic fracturing. Undoubtedly the agency is grasping at straws after failing repeatedly to prohibitively regulate fracking. In a recent open letter to EPA officials, Senator James Inhofe has this to say:

“I have serious concerns with these White Papers. First, the White Papers demonstrate that EPA lacks a fundamental understanding of the industry’s practices and inner workings. They also reveal that EPA believes it has the capacity to actually help oil and natural gas companies operate more efficiently and profitably by mandating more guidelines and regulations; no regulatory body should have this perspective.  Further, the White Papers are handicapped by inaccurate and outdated data estimates of industry-wide emissions. I have personally addressed this practice with Administrator McCarthy, yet the EPA’s use of faulty data persists and will yield nothing but inappropriate policy discussion and decisions by the agency. I urge the EPA to gather more information, revise the White Papers, and allow and official, robust comment period prior to engaging in any policymaking discussion that could impact the oil and natural gas industry.”

As Inhofe points out, the EPA even goes so far as to mis-define and misuse industry terms in order to help make the rate of emissions seem worse, such as by putting leaks, venting, and normal emissions all under the category of “leaks”.

“The same White Paper also inappropriately, and quite causally, labels unconventional resource development as hydraulic fracturing. Hydraulic fracturing is a specific component of the completion process of many unconventional oil and natural gas wells; however, it cannot be used to refer to the entire process. It is also unclear whether EPA wants to use the data on methane emissions from the completion process to address new sources, existing sources, or recompletions. EPA’s definition of what actually constitutes a “leak” also needs revision; it is unclear whether the EPA is referring to leaking, venting, or normal emissions because all are referred to by EPA as leaks.

A lack of clarity over definitions raises questions about whether data sets within the White Papers overlap one another. If they do, it raises questions about EPA’s policymaking intent and whether it is interested in sound policy development or if it has predetermined to regulate methane and is simply building a case to do so, however crude it may be. EPA must revise its White Papers to reconcile any data overlaps and work with industry to clarify misunderstandings about standard industry practices.”

Inhofe hits the nail on the head: It really is hard to believe that the EPA is trying to create good policy when their own White Papers are full of inaccuracies that they’ve been informed of time and time again.

You can read Inhofe’s full comments to the EPA here. 

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Daniel Foster

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Bring CEA's Putting Policymakers To Work For You Panel to SXSW 2015

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Posted by Cassandra Carroll on Wednesday, August 27th, 2014, 2:51 PM PERMALINK


Friday, September 5th is the last day to cast your vote for the CEA's Putting Policymakers To Work For You panel at SXSW 2015! This pro-innovation regulation panel organized by Michael Petricone of the Consumer Electronics Association will feature four dynamic speakers including himself, ATR's Grover Norquist, Adrian Fenty from Perkins Coie, and Julie Samuels of Engine Advocacy. Don't forget to cast your vote and help make this happen! See here for details.

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Andrew Feinberg

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President of National Black Chamber of Commerce Lambasts EPA Clean Power Plan

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Posted by Cassandra Carroll on Tuesday, August 26th, 2014, 3:37 PM PERMALINK


Harry Alford, co-founder and president of the National Black Chamber of Commerce published a piece recently highlighting the damage the EPA’s new Clean Power Plan stands to inflict on African-Americans with small businesses and those with low incomes. It is already clear that the Clean Power Plan stands to drastically increase energy costs for all consumers. According to Alford’s piece, enrollment in LIHEAP (the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program) has been steadily increasing each year already, even without the burden of the Clean Power Plan. It only stands to get worse if the plan is implemented.

Alford also points out that the Clean Power Plan will destroy many thousands of jobs in one fell swoop, without much promise for creating new ones. With unemployment rates for African Americans already averaging at double the rate for whites, the plan will disproportionately harm many African Americans who are already down on their luck. In closing, Alford ponders, and justifiably so, the investments that African-Americans have made, and how the Clean Power Plan hints at a distinct unwillingness on the government’s part to give back;

“African-American businesses were being created at a steady rate prior to the economic crash in 2008. We have worked to get back to that level of growth, driven by both the desire to both contribute to our own communities and to help rebuild the broader U.S. economy, but not without sacrifices or toil. However, even before any action has been taken by the EPA on their latest proposal, energy costs continue to increase, while the median household income has decreased for African-American families. Our members have invested in their businesses, and in their employees; shouldn't our government be willing to make the same investments in us?”

You can read his entire piece here.

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Dan Lurie

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Grover Norquist Files Comments With FCC on TWC-Comcast Merger

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Posted by Cassandra Carroll on Monday, August 25th, 2014, 4:58 PM PERMALINK


The following comments can be attributed to Grover Norquist, regarding the Comcast-TimeWarner merger: 

"The marketplace is adjusting to consumer demand, the government should not meddle beyond antitrust concerns in a free-market transaction."

Americans for Tax Reform President, Grover Norquist, and Executive Director of Digital Liberty, Katie McAuliffe filed comments with the FCC regarding the TWC-Comcast merger.

They spoke out strongly against the FCC interfering or adding any further conditions to the merger. In their comments, they make the case that the TWC-Comcast merger presents neither horizontal nor vertical anti-trust issues, stating that it will not result in any significant loss of competition. They also argue that the FCC has disregarded the limits of its own authority and used public interest to justify adding numerous, excessive, coercive conditions to the merger review, seeming to be aimed toward forcibly equalizing both competitors rather than being aimed at benefiting the consumers. As a final crushing blow to the FCC’s draconian review, they note that TWC and Comcast have already agreed between themselves on many of the FCC’s previously imposed conditions, before the FCC had even shoved itself in the middle.

Read the comments in full here.

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Alaskans Reaffirm Energy Tax Cut in August Referendum

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Posted by Cassandra Carroll on Friday, August 22nd, 2014, 3:03 PM PERMALINK


Earlier this week, Alaska voters rejected liberal attempts to repeal Senate Bill 21, The More Alaska Production Act, which was passed in 2013 by a narrow 11-9 vote and gives a tax cut to oil companies in Alaska. If Senate Bill 21 was repealed, previous egregiously high taxes on Alaskan oil producers would be reinstated, placing strain on the companies and killing jobs for Alaskans. The campaign to keep the tax cut won by only 6,800 of 153,000 votes.  While there are still 14,000 absentee ballots yet to be counted, the margin was wide enough on early Wednesday for supporters of the tax cut to call it a win.

The campaigns for repealing the tax cuts were based mostly on emotion with very little fact: The Vote Yes campaign attacked the oil industry as being untrustworthy and unlikely to keep their promises to Alaskans, and called the tax cut a “giveaway”. Ultimately the facts won, with the Vote No side, supported by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Dem. Senator Mark Begich claims to have an opinion, but offers a weak excuse for his refusal to take a public stance on the issue.)  presenting solid arguments that repealing the More Alaska Production Act would be bad for Alaskans: An over-taxed corporation has to produce less, charge more for their product, and hire fewer people. 

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Tori Middelstadt

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Grover Norquist's Statement on FCC Involvement in Municipal Broadband

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Posted by Cassandra Carroll on Wednesday, August 20th, 2014, 12:40 PM PERMALINK


Today, in an address to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Mathew Berry, Chief of Staff to FCC commissioner Ajit Pai, made clear that states asking the FCC to preempt state law would violate the Constitution, and has no basis in legal precedent. 

In response, Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist issued the following statement:

The bipartisan NCSL has said that it will take the FCC to court to stop any attempt by the Commission to preempt state regulation of taxpayer-funded broadband networks.  The FCC should not waste valuable time and taxpayer dollars in futile legal wrangling.  It’s none of the FCC’s business if state governments forbid cities from wasting taxpayer dollars.

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