Jorge Marin

Is This the End of Obamacare’s Individual Mandate? Administration Continues to Test the Constitution

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Posted by Jorge Marin on Thursday, March 13th, 2014, 3:09 PM PERMALINK


A recent rule change by the HHS may signal the beginning of the end of the controversial Individual Mandate. The Wall Street Journal reports

“That seven-page technical bulletin includes a paragraph and footnote that casually mention that a rule in a separate December 2013 bulletin would be extended for two more years, until 2016. Lo and behold, it turns out this second rule, which was supposed to last for only a year, allows Americans whose coverage was cancelled to opt out of the mandate altogether.”

It seems like the administration is ramping up its constitutionally dubious delays. Though the current administration has gone through great lengths to assure the American people of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, their recent slew of delays and exemptions suggest that the HHS is itself unsure of how to implement the law. The possible opt out appears to work in a criteria not much stricter than the honor system, people can exempt themselves if they

“believe that the plan options available in the [ObamaCare] Marketplace in your area are more expensive than your cancelled health insurance policy" or "you consider other available policies unaffordable."

While it is still unclear how this rule change would be implemented, and whether it would constitute a practical delay in the individual mandate, the apparent lack of coherent policy does not speak well for the health insurance overhaul. There is also speculation that a possible Mandate delay might be linked to the dismal insurance registration estimates.

“The answers are the implementation fiasco and politics. HHS revealed Tuesday that only 940,000 people signed up for an ObamaCare plan in February, bringing the total to about 4.2 million, well below the original 5.7 million projection. The predicted "surge" of young beneficiaries isn't materializing even as the end-of-March deadline approaches, and enrollment decelerated in February.”

Meanwhile HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is emphatic in her denial of an individual mandate delay. The Hill reports that during a hearing at the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) questioned the possibility of a delay:

“Given the problems caused by ObamaCare's faulty website last year, Brady asked Sebelius directly if delays to the individual mandate or enrollment deadline would be next.”

“No, sir,” Sebelius responded.”

While she seems adamant in her defense of deadlines and rules, the fact remains that Obamacare’s implementation has suffered delays, setbacks, exemptions, and waivers far exceeding the parameters of the original law. Simply put, there is a strong case to be made that a president in such blatant disregard of the law is acting unconstitutionally. Even though the Secretary is adamant in her defense of HHS policy, Republican lawmakers already seem to smell blood in the water

In other words, the administration is moving in a quasi-repeal in which the mandate stands, but anyone can opt out of it by checking a box. What remains even less clear than the mechanisms of the opt-out is the economic health of the entire house of cards that is Obamacare. Without the individual mandate (harmful as it is) there is no way to ensure the survivability of the American Health Care Industry.

There is at least one benefit from this fracas: at least Representative Pelosi is starting to find out what is in the bill which cost her the House.

Photo Credit: Mr.TinDC

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ATR urges Tennessee Lawmakers to Reject Hotel Tax Hike, End Taxpayer-Funded Lobbying

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Posted by Jorge Marin on Thursday, March 13th, 2014, 10:10 AM PERMALINK


Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax reform, sent a letter to Tennessee lawmakers in support of HB 2293 and in opposition of HB 2506. HB 2293 would allow county officials to end the practice of using taxpayer dollars to hire the very lobbyists who push for tax increases while HB 2506 would increase the cost of travel by permitting a 20 percent increase in local hotel occupancy taxes. The bills are currently pending in committee. The text of the letter is as follows:

 

Dear Members of the Tennessee House,

I write today regarding HB 2293 & HB 2506, two bills of importance to Tennessee taxpayers. I urge you to support HB 2293, legislation that allows a county commission or appropriate taxing authority to eliminate taxpayer-funded lobbying from school board budgets. I urge you to oppose HB 2506, a bill that would permit a 20 percent increase in local hotel occupancy taxes.

Taxes already make up far too high of a proportion of the cost of travel. Taxes currently account for a whopping 39% of the cost of the average hotel stay. HB 2903 would increase the tax burden associated with travel at a time when legislators should be looking to go in the opposite direction by reducing taxes and mitigating the negative impact they have on the Tennessee economy.

Speaking of tax increases, often the biggest proponents of higher taxes are taxpayer-funded lobbyists. HB 2293 would allow county officials to put a stop the odious practice of using taxpayer dollars to hire lobbyists. This is a common sense piece of legislation that lawmakers should approve before adjourning the 2014 session.

Over the past several years, Tennesseans have seen over 20 new or higher federal taxes imposed on them from Washington. In light of this, it is imperative now more than ever that the legislators in Nashville not pile on with further tax increases. As such, I urge you to reject HB 2506, the bill to permit local option hotel tax hikes; and support HB 2293, much-needed legislation that would allow country officials to end the dubious use of taxpayer dollars on lobbyists.

Americans for Tax Reform will be educating your constituents as to how their representatives in the legislature vote on these important matters. If you have any questions or if ATR can be of assistance, please contact Patrick Gleason, ATR’s director of state affairs, at pgleason@atr.org or 202-785-0266.

Onward,

Grover G. Norquist

Photo Credit: w4nd3rl0st (InspiredinDesMoines)

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Tennessee Lawmakers Get Behind Investment Income Tax Phase Out

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Posted by Jorge Marin on Monday, March 10th, 2014, 3:55 PM PERMALINK


Tennessee may soon join the exclusive club of states without an income tax. Though it does not tax wage income, the Volunteer State does levy a six percent tax on dividend and interest income, known as the Hall Tax.

The charge to remove the Hall Tax, the biggest fiscal impediment preventing the state from reaching its full economic potential, is being led by State Senator Mark Green & Rep. Charles Sargent, who chairs the House Finance Committee. At press conference last week at the state capitol in Nashville, Sen. Green & Rep. Sargent unveiled a bill to repeal the Hall Tax over six years.

The Tennessean, the state’s largest newspaper was on hand at last week’s press conference and reported on the compromise amended legislation that will be the vehicle that moves forward through the legislative process between now and session’s end next month:

“When the history of the Hall tax is written, the beginning of the end will be today,” said Senator Green. “Green…will sponsor Senate Bill 1427, while state Rep. Charles Sargent, R-Franklin, will sponsor the bill’s companion in the House, HB 1367.”

Also on hand at last week’s press conference was Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist, who explained why it is imperative for TN to become a true no income tax state in 2014:

"We have no income tax in eight states, and there's sort of no income tax in Tennessee. You want to be competitive, and the other states are going to zero now," Norquist said, according to WPLN. "The guys in Kansas will be in zero, before the Hall tax goes away. North Carolina will be in zero -- under this bill -- before the Hall tax goes away."

Norquist reminded legislators of the fiscal competition coming from other states and that now is no time for Tennessee legislators to rest on their laurels if they don’t want to be surpassed by their neighbors:

"Getting rid of the Hall Tax is an extremely important message - not just an important thing for businesses or individuals looking to stay in Tennessee or move to Tennessee, but the rest of the states are looking at this and making decisions on following in this direction.”

Committee hearings on the Hall Tax repeal bill are expected later this month. ATR will be testifying in favor of the repeal and will continue to encourage TN legislators to support Sen. Green & Rep. Sargent’s consensus bill. For more information on how the Hall Tax hurts the Tennessee economy and whom it affects, read this recent Forbes column by ATR’s Patrick Gleason. Stayed tuned to ATR.org for more updates on this important matter as it moves through the legislative process.

Photo Credit: www.LendingMemo.com

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An Open Letter to The First Lady


Posted by Jorge Marin on Saturday, February 22nd, 2014, 2:30 PM PERMALINK


Dear First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama,

Allow me to introduce myself; I am a twenty-something male in college. Recently it has come to my attention that you did an interview with Jimmy Fallon in which you made a sales pitch to young men and women on behalf of the president’s titular health insurance law.

It is understandable that you would be in the front line of efforts to recruit as many young and healthy people into this massive Rube Goldberg contraption of Brobdinganian proportions, but I must take exception at some insinuations you made about my oft stereotyped demographic.

Firstly, It does seem odd that the generation which is single handedly responsible for the greatest expansion of U.S. debt to be calling any other generation “knuckleheads”. Yes, I will admit I have said YOLO once or twice to my considerable shame, but at least my finances are in order. And though there is a bit of a student debt problem among my fellow alumni, you must know perfectly well that most of our collective debt does not come from our degrees.

But I digress.

Let us get to the essence of the matter. The reason you are beseeching us to sign up is because you need us. It is easy to pretend that our bar stool-dancing and our unrefined kitchen skills make us as likely to hurt ourselves as a herd of lemmings. The reality is that we are healthier, and need less medical attention than other groups. So you need one of the poorest (and healthiest) groups in the nation to help subsidize older, presumably less knuckleheaded folks.

And as for the concept of staying on our parent’s insurance, that’s nice, but really we just want those jobs the administration has been promising for the better part of a decade so that we can pay for our own coverage. If we want to.

So please, I know you are not suddenly going to advocate for repeal, but at least take us a bit more seriously. We are not just some impressionable group of basement dwellers who crave free insurance from the government. We want our fair shake.

I would write a bit more on the subject but there is a certain bar stool downtown which is in serious need of a dancing twenty-something,

My Most Sincere Regards,

Disgruntled Knucklehead

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The Clock is ticking on IRS Regulations


Posted by Jorge Marin on Monday, February 17th, 2014, 1:59 PM PERMALINK


The deadline for the IRS’s rule changes is looming closer and closer and the din and clamor in Capitol Hill is becoming deafening. Left of center groups are increasingly joining the chorus of conservative voices outraged over the most recent power grab by the nation’s taxman.

At the center of the fracas are the much-talked about 501(c)(4) groups, social welfare groups which have taken an active role in educating the public about candidates and issues relevant to today’s complex political ecosystem. Under rules in place for decades, as long as the net spending of these groups is devoted to “charitable, educational, or recreational purposes,” then they are allowed to operate under a tax exempt status. Unfortunately it appears that the IRS is not interested in political education in the least. Since many of these groups focus on analyzing current policy and informing the public on issues which directly affect them, they are bound to reveal information or highlight issues which may be detrimental to current political leaders.

This is why in 2013 it was revealed that the IRS had been systematically targeting and harassing 501(c)(4) groups which the agency perceived to have a tea party slant. Unfortunately as egregious as it was to hound and suppress the free speech of dozens of groups, the hammer of justice has failed to fall on any officials involved in the fiasco. Under the excuse that the current regulations are “confusing”, the IRS seeks to evade any legal repercussions. Furthermore, what the IRS sought to do through stealth and subterfuge it is now attempting to codify into law—a plan it turns out has been in the works, in secret, since well before the first IRS scandal broke

At risk are nation-wide Get Out The Vote (GOTV) efforts, which under the rule changes would be considered unacceptable political activity. As unpartisan and beneficial as they are, voter registration drives would be sacrificed at the altar of corruption and intimidation. If only for this reason, all Americans from all sides of the spectrum should stand up in opposition to this anti-democratic crack-down.

But this is not all that would be considered contrary to 501(c)(4) primary purposes. Essentially any communication about anyone who will be a candidate for election or appointment in either a primary or general election anywhere within a particular window within 60 days would meet the ire of the new IRS.

Organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union have also come out against the IRS out of fear that the new rules “would present a serious chill on free speech.” When left and right come together against an issue, policy makers should take note.

Law makers have taken note of the issue and have begun to act. H.R. 3865 has just passed the Ways and Means Committee of the House of Representatives in what appears to be a positive step towards preserving American’s right of free speech. This bill would prevent the IRS from changing the rules for a year. Though it is not a concrete solution to the problem, it begins to move the discussion in the right direction.

February 27th: this is the day that the hammer will drop. Contact your representatives, contact the IRS, make sure that the law continues to protect citizens and non-profits from an increasingly political agency.

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Obama IRS Openly Prepares to Silence Conservative Grassroots Groups


Posted by Jorge Marin on Monday, February 3rd, 2014, 4:03 PM PERMALINK


As the 2014 Congressional elections loom over DC, the IRS has proposed new rules which would muzzle hundreds of grassroots groups. In a controversial move, the Internal Revenue Service will redefine certain criteria for what defines a 501(c)(4) tax-exempt activity in order to eliminate their place in the public square, and in the words of House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R., Mich.), “[put] tea party groups out of business.”

According to the IRS’s own website, groups “qualify for exemption under section 501(c)(4), [if] the organization's net earnings [are] devoted primarily to charitable, educational, or recreational purposes.” This allows a myriad of citizen groups to educate their communities about issues which would affect them. Because of these activities, citizens can research laws and disseminate the information for free to those who might be impacted by the policies.

But with the proposed changes, organizations would lose their tax exempt status if they continued to spend sizable parts of their budget on the most basic civic activities. Among these activities are:

  • Voter registration drives and “get-out-the-vote” drives.
  • Distribution of any material prepared by, or on behalf of, a candidate or, by a section 527 political organization (PAC).
  • Preparation or distribution of voter guides that refer to candidates (or, in a general election, to political parties).
  • Holding any event within 60 days of a general election (or within 30 days of a primary election) at which any candidate appears as part of the program.

Under these criteria, any effort to educate the public about candidates, or the laws being passed by legislatures would be construed as “political activity” and will be used to suppress the free speech of social welfare groups. Candidate debates, although they are useful to the general public, would be shut down in a Machiavellian attempt to prevent ideologically inconvenient groups from threatening the government’s agenda.

However, though the rule changes do not specifically mention conservative groups, right leaning groups will be affected disproportionately because they are organized under the affected section of the tax code, 501(c)(4). 501(c)(5) groups, what unions file under, will see no change in their status and will be allowed to continue in their blatant political activism. In a press release, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) had this to say about the situation:

“The fact that the Administration’s new effort only applies to social welfare organizations — and not powerful unions or business groups — underscores that this is a crass political effort by the Administration to get what political advantage they can, when they can.”

February 27th is the last day for public comment on the changes, and after that, there is nothing stopping the IRS from adopting these unfair rule changes that will suppress the main activities of thousands of activist groups.-

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Natural Gas Protects Ohio from Frigid Temperatures


Posted by Jorge Marin on Monday, January 27th, 2014, 4:26 PM PERMALINK


Ohio, like much of the Midwest, is currently experiencing a natural gas renaissance. The extraction method known as hydraulic fracturing (fracking for short) has pumped millions into state coffers, provided thousands of jobs, and given the state economy a much needed lift in recent years.

Fracking’s benefits, however, hit a bit closer to home. The Toledo Blade reports:

“Columbia Gas of Ohio said this January’s average residential heating bill will be $142.19 to $146.19 for the 1.4 million households it serves, many of them in northwest Ohio…

…Based on current usage patterns, applied to Columbia’s January, 2005, and 2006 rates for natural gas, this month’s average residential bills would likely have been somewhere between $234.15 and $324.95.

That’s 65 to 129 percent more.”

This feat is possible thanks to the continually exceptional production of natural gas in Ohio.

Sometimes simple truths get lost in lofty rhetoric, facts, and figures. In one of the coldest winters in recent memory fracking is helping families stay safe and warm. Safe is an important term in this case. Even though fracking has seen some political backlash, Ohio’s own EPA remains unconvinced that fracking poses any health risks.

According to Michael Snee, the division chief of the Ohio Department of Health, “The material (fracking by-products) is being put thousands of feet down. It’s not coming back up where it will be in contact with anybody.”

This confidence in fracking’s safety explains why regulators in Ohio are eager to fast-track fracking permits, allowing over 660 wells to be drilled since 2010.

Having already produced 78.9 billion cubic feet of natural in 2011, production has been increasing thanks to growing production of Utica Shale gas. If production continues to increase, it can be expected that economic benefits will also increase.

Unfortunately the Ohio legislature is currently considering House Bill 375, a bill which would raise some gas production tax rates, but has been rated to be overall revenue neutral. Worse, there are some spending interests which are pushing to make HB 375 a net tax increase so they can divvy up the plunder among the localities.

With any luck residents of Ohio will continue to see the benefits of a free and vibrant energy market.

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While Obamacare Sinks Republicans Provide Lifeboats


Posted by Jorge Marin on Friday, January 24th, 2014, 5:08 PM PERMALINK


Americans are now finally finding out what is in the Affordable Care Act, as per Mrs. Pelosi’s wishes, and the reality of the law has begun to sink in. It seems like every aspect of the law was expertly designed to crash and burn more thoroughly than the Hindenburg. But while premiums rise, quality falls, and Healthcare.gov’s security burns, it is important to look at some alternatives.

In a piece for the Richmond Times Dispatch, ATR’s Paul Blair co-authored a piece with the Thomas Jefferson Institute’s Mike Thompson to explain some of the problems with Obamacare and a viable alternative sponsored by members of the Republican Study Committee.

“Since HealthCare.gov went live on Oct. 1 of last year, at least 4.7 million Americans have received health insurance cancellation notices. This number does not include figures from nearly 20 states, including Virginia, that do not track or are not providing the data.”

Additionally, millions are suffering the high costs of subsidizing millions of Americans:

“Millions more Americans who were lucky enough to keep their health insurance received notices that their premiums were dramatically increasing. It has become clear that a horribly designed $600 million website isn’t Obamacare’s only problem.”

Fortunately, supporters of this disastrous law are finding it increasingly difficult to claim that there are no alternatives,

“[House Resolution 3121] would repeal Obamacare, saving taxpayers billions of dollars by immediately eliminating the 20 new or higher taxes that were signed into law in 2010…The bill expands health savings accounts (HSAs), increases health insurance portability for those with pre-existing conditions, and includes medical malpractice reforms that would cap attorneys’ fees and non-economic damages that drive up the cost of care in the current system. This alternative also allows individuals and families to deduct health care expenses, a benefit only allowed by companies now.”

These tax cuts and provisions would put millions of families across the United States in better footing to weather the current sluggish economic climate. The status quo, on the other hand is a cliché Big Government response to a free market problem

“Obamacare is not decreasing costs, but doing the opposite. That’s because Obamacare was a typical Washington one-size-fits-all approach with mandates that do not fit each consumer’s true needs. There is no reason, for example, that men and elderly women purchase coverage for prenatal care.”

So in response to President Obama’s insistence on an “alternative”

“Republicans have presented alternatives such as HR 3121 and the president should sit down with them and figure out how to fix this broken law.”

Democrats should see the writing on the wall and scrap a program that has been harming American families since its enactment.

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Scott Walker Proposes $800 Million in Tax Cuts for Wisconsin


Posted by Jorge Marin on Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014, 4:29 PM PERMALINK


In yet another move to lessen the burden of the taxpayers of Wisconsin, Governor Scot Walker is set to propose $800 million in tax cuts and reductions using the $900 Million revenue windfall. Instead of creating a vast new entitlement or spending the extra funds to expand the state government, Walker will give the money back to taxpayers, saving the average family of four about $700 per year.

RightWisconsin reports:

      “Walker's tax cut plan would:

  • Put more than $800 million back into the hands of taxpayers through property and income tax cuts and withholding changes.
  • Reduce property taxes by over $406 million—more than four times larger than the property tax relief we passed last year...The average homeowner will see a reduction of $101 dollars on their next property tax bill.
  • Reduce income taxes by nearly $100 million—all of which would go into reducing the lowest income tax bracket from 4.4 percent to 4.0 percent. Whether you are a family making $40,000, $50,000 or $100,000, you will save about $58 per year.
  • Reduce withholding tax for state income taxes by $322.6 million—this will let Wisconsinites keep more of their paychecks. It will put more money in the hands of consumers and will continue to stimulate the economy. A typical family of four will see about $58 more in their paychecks each month.”

Gov. Walker himself asserts that "This (surplus) is in place because the economy has gotten substantially better," Walker said. "In addition to that, it's also because of good fiscal management and so really that's going to be our focal point in talking about this. ... I believe that's why it is so imperative to put the lion's share of the money back in the hands of taxpayers."

Governors looking to add to their 2016 resumes should follow in the footsteps of Scott Walker, a true believer in the concept of letting taxpayers keep as much of their hard-earned money as possible.

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Conservatives Face Healthcare Challenges in 2014 Virginia Legislature


Posted by Jorge Marin on Wednesday, January 15th, 2014, 12:23 PM PERMALINK


Virginia’s General Assembly will convene to one of the most precarious legislative situations in years. Following a sweep of Democratic victories in statewide races last November, Democrats have secured the Governorship, the office of the Lieutenant Governor, and the Attorney General. Though Republicans were able to retain control of the General Assembly with a solid super majority, Democrats are poised to control the state Senate pending the results of a Senate special election.

So what can Virginians expect from the upcoming legislative season?

The Washington Post reports a slew of liberal initiatives including SB 45, a bill that expands Obamacare in Virginia and sets up a state health-care exchange.

Additionally, Republicans legislators will need to watch out for efforts by Governor Terry McAuliffe, to use state and federal funds to expand Medicaid.

Obamacare’s shortfalls are becoming increasingly apparent. Regardless, Virginia Democrats are asking their constituents to further entrust their medical care and personal information to the same people who designed exchanges where, “IT experts have repeatedly raised flags about [that] information”.

The future of Virginia’s healthcare is murky and getting murkier. If Republicans in the General Assembly falter, Gov. McAuliffe could further nationalize the state’s health industry. Now more than ever Virginia residents must contact their state representatives and ask them to reject the Washington one-size-fits all approach that Obamacare takes in Virginia.

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