Elizabeth McKee

GOP Senators Investigate Taxpayer Funding of Soros-linked, Left Wing Macedonian Political Organization

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Posted by Elizabeth McKee, Lorenzo Montanari on Monday, March 20th, 2017, 3:24 PM PERMALINK

Six GOP senators have written a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, imploring him to investigate claims that the federal government is channeling millions of taxpayer dollars to left wing organizations that interfere in Balkan domestic politics. The signatories - who include Mike Lee and Ted Cruz - believe one of USAID’S partner organizations used taxpayer dollars to “push a progressive agenda and invigorate the political left” in Macedonia.

The organization in question is the Foundation Open Society Macedonia (FOSM), an offshoot of George Soros’s Open Society Foundation. In Macedonia, the VMRO-DPMNE party (one of Macedonia’s two major political parties), has accused FOSM of inciting violent protests in which 50 police officers were injured

Since 2012, USAID has awarded multiple grants totaling $5 million to FOSM, and has granted aid to as many as 61 FOSM affiliates. In 2015, USAID named FOSM as one of their top partners in the region, and recently earmarked $9.5 million to be spent by FOSM and its partner organizations.

According to the FOSM website, “the foundation has worked with young people to express their frustration with poverty and corruption through increased mobilization and activism on social and political issues.” Government officials speculate the “political issues” around which FOSM mobilizes young people are part of a liberal political effort to influence the party dynamics of Macedonia and other Balkan states. In particular, the self-avowedly Eurocentric FOSM may be working to counteract Eurosceptic political groups like the VMRO-DPMNE party.

Last month, members of the House of Representatives sent their own letter to the U.S. Comptroller General, demanding an investigation into the use of taxpayer dollars to influence Macedonian politics. Signed by seven Republican representatives, the letter asked, “What percentage of US aid money in the fields of democracy, civil society and media is funded through FOSM? Was any organization . . .  that receives US funds directly or indirectly, through FOSM or otherwise, reported to have been involved in violence, either against persons or property destruction, and have any police or security officers been wounded in connection to that violence?” So far, these questions have not been answered.

Macedonia is not the only Balkan state in which American taxpayers are funding one of Soros’s organizations. Foundation Open Society Albania (FOSA) also received funds from USAID during the Obama administration, and these funds, too, may have gone to serve a political purpose. In their letter, the senators suggest that FOSA used taxpayer dollars to enact legal reforms that “aimed to give the [Albanian] Prime Minister and left-of-center government full control over judiciary power.”

If these allegations are true, USAID is funneling money to Soros-backed organizations that work to foment political unrest in Macedonia and other Balkan states. This wasteful and destructive pattern of spending on the part of USAID undermines international conventions on diplomatic relations and state sovereignty - all at the expense of the taxpayer.

There is no justifiable reason why American citizens and businesses should be bankrolling Macedonian political activists. The budget request for the State Department and USAID jointly totals $50.1 billion for FY2017; not a penny of that should be used to interfere in Balkan domestic politics.

 

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Washington State Legislators Fight Back Against “Trump Proof Seattle” Campaign

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Posted by Elizabeth McKee on Thursday, March 16th, 2017, 10:52 AM PERMALINK

One Washington state political coalition is taking the divisive “not my president” slogan far too literally. In Seattle, the Transit Riders Union and the Economic Opportunity Institute are launching a campaign to, as they dub the effort, “Trump Proof Seattle,” by creating a city income tax on households making more than $250,000 per year. The coalition estimates the new tax would cost Seattleites over $100 million a year and would shield the city if, due to city refusals to implement federal policy, Trump decides to withdraw funding from Seattle.

In their campaign summary, Trump Proof Seattle outlines their plan to use the tax as a test case to challenge court precedents that defined income as a type of property. Washington’s State Constitution bans progressive property taxes. “The expectation,” writes the coalition, “is that today’s progressive court will rule in our favor.” Washington voters have rejected referenda to implement a state income tax nine times, but the group’s anti-Trump rhetoric is intended to mitigate this traditional opposition to income taxes.  

Conservatives in Washington fear that if Seattle is successful, they will use this local “Trump Proof” income tax as a gateway to the creation of a statewide income tax. A similar phenomenon occurred after Seattle decided to raise its minimum wage to $15 per hour; just one year later, Initiative 1433 passed in Washington. This initiative increased the state minimum wage from $9.47/hour to $13.50/hour by 2020. The initiative garnered a large part of its support from King County (the County in which Seattle is located), while not a single county on the more rural, eastern side of the state voted to approve the initiative.

The looming possibility of a statewide income tax should encourage Washington legislators to approve legislation that would preempt the “Trump Proof Seattle” movement. State preemption can prevent local lawmakers from creating a patchwork of legislation that drives businesses from the state. Fortunately, Washington lawmakers have already begun fighting back against unpopular and unabashedly progressive state income taxes. In February, Rep. Matt Manweller introduced House Joint Resolution 4207 (SJR 8204/HJR4207), a bill that would allow voters to decide whether to amend the constitution to specifically ban state and local income taxes within the state.

By persuading the State Supreme Court to change the definition of the word “property,” a few judges could allow the Seattle legislature to bypass the will of the people. As John Mercier writes in the Spokesman-Review, “Lawmakers in our state should send SJR 8204/HJR 4207 to the voters so the people can make our state’s ban on an income tax crystal clear and guard it from being overturned by a surprise court ruling that ignores well-established legal precedents.”

The “Trump Proof Seattle” hopes to overturn a legal precedent that bans income taxes in Washington and keeps the state competitive. In Washington, this proposition is currently unwanted, unnecessary, and unconstitutional.

 

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Tax Reform: A Century of Setbacks

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Posted by Elizabeth McKee on Thursday, February 23rd, 2017, 10:45 AM PERMALINK

 

Adherents of Americans for Tax Reform are sure to recognize some of the more important moments in the history of American tax policy. Readers are sure to be familiar, for example, with the ratification of the 16th Amendment in 1913, which allowed for the creation of a federal income tax. Starting off in 1913, income taxes were, by modern standards, incredibly low, with a top income bracket of 7% for those individuals earning more than $500,000 per year. In 2013 dollars, that would be the equivalent of a maximum 7% income tax rate for people earning $11,595,657 or more. At that time, the tax code was only 400 pages in length - an easy read for anyone who cared to put in the time.

So what changed? How did we end up with the 75,000 page regulatory behemoth that rears its ugly head every April to - mentally and financially - exhaust American families? The transformation can be traced back to the Revenue Act of 1917. Now approaching its centennial anniversary, the act sought to finance American involvement in World War I. This ground-breaking legislation ratcheted up tax rates in every income bracket, with a new top tax rate set at 67%.  After the war ended, taxes never returned to their pre-war levels, and by 1952, the country’s top earners were paying 92% of their income to the federal government. In addition, the Revenue Act of 1917 introduced a steep “corporate excess profits tax” on companies that made more than 8% of their revenues in profits. In 1917 - 1918, the size of the IRS more than doubled, employing 9,600 workers. Today, 85,000 people are employed by the IRS.

In 1913, arguing against the ratification of the 16th Amendment, Virginia delegate Robert E. Byrd predicted:

A hand from Washington will be stretched out and placed upon every man’s business; the eye of the Federal inspector will be in every man’s counting house . . . The law will of necessity have inquisitorial features, it will provide penalties, it will create complicated machinery. Under it men will be hailed into courts distant from their homes. Heavy fines imposed by distant and unfamiliar tribunals will constantly menace the tax payer. An army of Federal inspectors, spies and detectives will descend upon the state . . .

After over 100 years of tax reform, Byrd’s words seem positively prescient. The long arms of the IRS reach into every home and business in America. Today, even the most ardent conservatives can scarcely dream of a 7% tax rate, where once only the nation’s wealthiest would ever be asked to pay such an exorbitant portion of their incomes. If the last 100 years have taught us anything, it’s that tax increases are rarely temporary. It’s time to put an end to the World War I revenue extraction mechanisms that continue to affect American households to this day.

Simplify the tax code. Lower the tax burden. Reign in the IRS.

 

 

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Four Ways Neil Gorsuch Could Affect Your Business

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Posted by Elizabeth McKee on Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017, 2:55 PM PERMALINK

On January 31, conservatives were heartened to hear of Trump’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.  Gorsuch accepted his nomination by highlighting the importance of “impartiality and independence, collegiality and courage,” and his political viewpoints are conservative. Gorsuch aptly described the late Justice Antonin Scalia as a “lion of the law,” and previously Gorsuch has opposed requirements in Obamacare that mandate religious health care providers provide contraceptive services.

Neil Gorsuch’s political leanings and impeccable qualifications should come as welcome news to Donald Trump supporters, many of whom were deeply invested in the nomination of a new Supreme Court Justice. Forbes reports “21 percent of voters surveyed by the exit poll consortium of the five networks and the Associated Press on Election Day, said appointments to the Supreme Court were the most important factor in deciding their vote.” (This may mean something to you if you still believe in exit polls.)

Although Supreme Court cases dealing with social issues may be more widely-publicized and politicized than others, restoring balance to the Supreme Court through the selection of a new justice has the potential to affect every sector of American society. Supreme Court Justices serve on the court for life, and it’s impossible to predict exactly what cases could arise during Justice Gorsuch’s career. However, if Neil Gorsuch is confirmed to the Supreme Court in a timely manner, here are four cases that he might rule on that would affect American businesses.

1. Murr v. Wisconsin

The case of Murr v. Wisconsin deals with the ever-important issues of property rights and eminent domain and is scheduled to be argued in front of the Supreme Court in March of this year.  In brief, the case arose when the government, without the permission of the plaintiff, combined two of the plaintiff’s lots into one larger parcel that could no longer be developed or subdivided. The plaintiff argues that in this way, the government deprived the Murr family of half of the value of their land without just compensation. The Supreme Court’s decision on this issue could have an enormous impact on property owners, and perhaps even on the real estate market. The Cato Institute finds, “This destabilizes property owners’ reliance interests and discourages property investment. State and local governments across the country have been using the vagueness of Penn Central to facilitate taking private property without just compensation.”

2. TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods

TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods centers on patent rights and the protection of intellectual property. Currently, patent cases can be tried in any district in the country – even those that have nothing to do with a case itself. This leads to a practice called “venue shopping,” and some courts may encourage patent suits to be filed in their district. Citing the Electronic Frontier Foundation, World IP Review reports “’One such court is the Eastern District of Texas, a rural area with almost no manufacturing, research or technology facilities, where more than one-third of all patent cases in the country were filed last year.’” The Supreme Court may decide to rule against such practices – a major development in the world of patent law.

3. Impression Products, Inc. v. Lexmark International, Inc.

The case of Impression Products, Inc. v. Lexmark International, Inc. also deals with patent rights, and deals with an essential question for any patent holder: if you sell a patented product – in the U.S. or abroad – does another company have the right to purchase, repurpose, and resell that product? Impression Products argues, “The first sale of the cartridges, either in the U.S. or abroad, exhausted Lexmark’s U.S. rights to exclude.” The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments for this case in March, and its decision may drastically affect the way American manufacturers do business.

4. House v. Burwell

House v. Burwell is an incredibly relevant case in today’s political climate and a direct challenge to Obamacare. The Washington Post reports, “In House of Representatives v. Burwell, the House challenged the legality of subsidies the Obama administration paid to insurers. Judge Rosemary M. Collyer ruled that the House as an institution had standing and that the payments were made without an appropriation.”

Admittedly, House v. Burwell is currently still in appellate court, and, depending on the decision of that course and the progress that Republicans make in “repealing and replacing Obamacare,” House v. Burwell may never reach the SCOTUS. However, even if this case is halted before it reaches the highest court of the land, the healthcare debate itself is not going away.

More cases regarding the government’s involvement in healthcare are guaranteed to arise in our lifetime, and it is essential that our new Supreme Court justice has a firm understanding of the role of government and a deep-seated respect for the Constitution. Neil Gorsuch, we hope, is just such a man.

 

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