Ryan Ellis

ATR Launches Massive TV Ad Campaign<br> Urging Sen. Nelson to Keep Tax Pledge

Posted by Ryan Ellis on Monday, October 26th, 2009, 9:50 AM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform today announced we are starting a series of ads aimed at encouraging Senator Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) to oppose the Senate healthcare bill on the grounds that it violates his Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

When Senator Nelson ran for the U.S. Senate, he made a written Pledge to his constituents and the American people to oppose any net income tax hikes.  He is bound by that Pledge for the duration of his career as a senator.  The Senate healthcare bill contains nearly $500 billion in new tax hikes over the next decade, including billions in income tax hikes.

The television advertisements will run on both local and national news and commentary broadcasts for at least three weeks, reflecting how critical Senator Nelson's vote is to preventing tax increases as a part of the healthcare bill.  In addition, the campaign will have an internet component, centered around a dedicated website which will launch Monday.

In order to get government healthcare paid for by massive tax hikes through the Senate, every Democrat must vote on motions to proceed and cloture.  If Senator Nelson joins his Democrat colleagues on these votes, he will be breaking the Pledge he made to all Nebraskans to not raise income taxes.  Now is the time where Senator Nelson must follow through on the promise he made to get elected.

PDF of press release

PDF of Senator Nelson's signed Taxpayer Protection Pledge

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Which Tax Hikes in Senate Health Bill Violate Obama's Tax Promise?

Posted by Ryan Ellis on Wednesday, October 21st, 2009, 1:56 PM PERMALINK

Over and over again, President Obama has promised not to raise “any form” of taxes on families making less than $250,000 per year. Yet, the U.S. Senate is getting ready to consider a government healthcare bill which does just that. Here’s how:

Health Insurance Mandate Taxes on Working Families
·        Individual Mandate Excise Tax. Americans who do not sign up for health insurance will have to pay an excise tax in the following range:

100-300% of Federal Poverty Level
300+% of Federal Poverty Level

300 percent of the federal poverty line is well under $250,000. For a family of four, it’s $67,000. For an individual, it’s about $30,000.
·        Employer Mandate Tax. $400 per employee if health coverage is not offered. Note: this is a huge incentive to drop coverage, as $400 is much less than the average plan cost of $11,000 for families or $5000 for singles (Source: AHIP)
Small businesses pay their tax liability on their owners’ 1040 forms. This $400 employer mandate tax does not hold harmless business owners making less than $250,000
Tax Hikes on Healthcare Spending Accounts
·        Cap on Flex-Spending Account (FSA) contributions at $2500: Currently, the contribution level is unlimited
·        Medicine Cabinet Tax : Americans would no longer be able to purchase over-the-counter medicines with their FSA, Health Savings Account (HSA), or Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA)
·        Increase in the Non-Qualified HSA Distribution Penalty from 10% to 20%: This makes HSAs less attractive, and paves the way for HSA pre-verification
There are 30 million Americans with FSAs. About 8 million Americans have an HSA. Virtually all of them make less than $250,000 per year. These are clear tax hike on these families
         Denying a Tax Deduction for Medical Costs
·        Increase “haircut” of medical itemized deductions from 7.5% to 10% of adjusted gross income (AGI), further denying medical itemized deductions
There is no exemption made here for families making less than $250,000 per year.
If President Obama is serious about his tax pledge, he should immediately renounce the bill.

Click here for a printable PDF of this document

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ATR May Rate a Vote Against<br> "Doc-Fix" Without Spending Cuts

Posted by Ryan Ellis on Tuesday, October 20th, 2009, 5:00 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform sent the following keyvote alert to the U.S. Senate this afternoon.  Click here to read the full letter:

Americans for Tax Reform MAY RATE a vote against a doc-fix measure which is not 100% offset with spending reductions.  ATR also opposes and MAY RATE a vote against any tax revenue increases to “pay for” a doc-fix bill.  The ratings appear annually in ATR’s “Hero of the Taxpayer” scorecard.

ATR earlier this week signed onto a joint letter opposing "doc-fix" without spending cuts.

Last week, ATR's Center for Fiscal Accountability sent a notice that they will be rating a "doc-fix" bill which does not include offsetting spending cuts.

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ATR Op-Ed in "Investor's Business Daily":<br> Tax Hikes on Your Current Health Insurance

Posted by Ryan Ellis on Wednesday, October 14th, 2009, 11:42 AM PERMALINK

ATR President Grover Norquist today penned an op-ed in Investor's Business Daily.  The subject is tax hikes on your current health insurance plan in the Senate health bill.  Here is an excerpt:  

President Obama likes to say that "if you like your current health insurance plan, you can keep it."  This naive platitude is simply not true.

Under the plan voted out of the Senate Finance Committee and being considered by the full Senate, "your current health insurance plan" will be taxed to the point where it is no longer recognizable, or goes away entirely.

This means the president hasn't read the Senate Finance plan or he's misrepresenting its content.

Either way, the story needs to be set straight.

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ATR Opposes H.R. 3126,<br> "Consumer Financial Protection Agency Act"

Posted by Ryan Ellis on Tuesday, October 13th, 2009, 4:41 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform today sent the following letter to House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA):


The House Financial Services Committee will soon be considering H.R. 3126, the “Consumer Financial Protection Agency Act of 2009.”  I am strongly urging all Members of Congress to oppose and vote against this misguided legislation.

The biggest problem with H.R. 3126 is the creation of a new, unelected bureaucracy (the Consumer Financial Protection Agency) to paternalistically micromanage credit in America.  This agency would possess sweeping powers to ban or modify any home mortgage, credit card, personal loan or other "consumer financial product" it subjectively deems to be "unfair" or "abusive."

This paternalism will cut off credit to families and small businesses that need it.  It smacks of an arrogant Beltway condescension so common in policy discussions today.  Americans can’t save for their own retirement, so the government will do it for them.  Americans can’t provide for their family’s health insurance, so the government will design a plan and force people to buy it.  Americans can’t be trusted to choose which foods to eat, so the government will tax the unhealthy food.

Put simply, H.R. 3126 is an insult to the intelligence and good common sense of the American people.  Most of the time, people are smart enough to look out for their own economic interests.  If they fail to, they should be expected to live up to their commitments—and will likely learn a valuable lesson or two along the way.

PDF Version

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Comprehensive List of All Tax Hikes<br> In Senate Finance "Obaucus" Health Plan

Posted by Ryan Ellis on Monday, October 12th, 2009, 3:42 PM PERMALINK

Excise Tax on High-Cost Health Plans.  New 40% excise tax on health insurance plans to the extent they exceed $26,000 in cost ($9850 single).  Exemptions made for over-55 retirees and “high-risk” professions; high-cost states phased in

Individual Mandate Tax.  If you don’t sign up for health insurance, you will have to pay a tax in the following range:

  Single Family
100-300% FPL $750 $1500
300% + FPL $900 $1900

Employer Mandate Tax.  $400 per employee if health coverage is not offered.  Note: this is a huge incentive to drop coverage, as $400 is much less than the average plan cost of $11,000 for families or $5000 for singles (Source: AHIP)

Backdoor Death of HSAs.  By requiring that all plans (besides the few that are grandfathered) provided actuarially-generous coverage for most services, there would be no HSA-qualifying plans available from the Massachusetts-like exchanges

Report Employer Health Spending on W-2.  This is clearly a setup for the easy individual taxation of employer-provided health insurance down the road.

Cap Flex-Spending Account (FSA) Contributions at $2500. Currently unlimited.

Eliminate tax deduction for employer-provided retirement Rx drug coverage in coordination with Medicare Part D

Medicine Cabinet Tax.  Americans would no longer be able to purchase over-the-counter medicines with their FSA, HSA, or HRA

Increase Non-Qualified HSA Distribution Penalty from 10% to 20%.  This makes HSAs less attractive, and paves the way for HSA pre-verification

Corporate 1099-MISC Information Reporting.  Currently, only non-corporations providing property or services for a business must be issued at 1099-MISC.  This would expand the requirement to corporations doing business with other businesses. 

Various industry tax grabs based on market share. $2.3 billion PhRMA; $6 billion health insurance providers; $4 billion medical device manufacturers

Increase “haircut” of medical itemized deductions from 7.5% to 10% of adjusted gross income (AGI)

PDF version

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Senate Health Bill Breaks Tax Pledge,<br> Obama Promise to Working Families

Posted by Ryan Ellis on Monday, October 12th, 2009, 3:20 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform today sent the following letter to the Senate Finance Committee leadership:


Dear Chairman Baucus and Ranking Member Grassley:   

This week, the Senate Committee on Finance will give final consideration to a health reform bill.  It is important to note for the record that this bill violates two promises made by elected officials on the issue of taxes: first, the Taxpayer Protection Pledge made by 34 senators in which they promised to oppose income tax hikes; second, President Obama’s promise not to raise “any form” of taxes on families making less than $250,000 per year

Thirty-four senators from both parties (including eight members of the Finance Committee) have signed a Taxpayer Protection Pledge to their constituents which commits them to oppose income tax hikes.  Depending on final legislative language, there are anywhere from five to ten income tax increases in the Senate Finance plan.  Any one of these income tax hikes would be sufficient to trigger a violation of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, since the plan is an overall net income tax increase.  For example, one provision raises the “haircut” on medical itemized deductions from 7.5 percent to 10 percent of adjusted gross income.  Another obvious pair of examples is the new $2500 cap on pre-tax flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and the new “medicine cabinet tax” which prevents FSA and health savings account (HSA) owners from using these accounts to purchase over-the-counter medicines.  Depending on how they are structured in the final legislative language, the 40 percent tax on comprehensive insurance plans and the “annual fee” on insurance, pharmaceutical and medical device firms may also be Pledge violations.

President Obama and his surrogates have gone to great pains to emphasize that he opposes “any form” of tax increase on families making less than $250,000 per year.  Even excluding the effects that indirect taxation in the Senate Finance plan will have on family budgets, there are five tax hikes which directly violate this oft-repeated promise: the individual mandate excise tax, the medicine cabinet tax on FSAs and HSAs, the $2500 cap on FSAs, the increase in the non-qualified withdrawal tax from HSAs, and the bigger “haircut” on medical itemized deductions.  It’s important to note that all of the tax hikes will ultimately be borne by working families in the form of higher prices, lower wages, and shrunken nest eggs.

PDF version

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Tax Increases in Obaucus<br> Will Raise Health Insurance Premiums

Posted by Ryan Ellis on Monday, October 12th, 2009, 1:19 PM PERMALINK

Tomorrow, the Senate Finance Committee will be taking a final vote on their tax increase/government healthcare bill.

Now, we actually have an idea of what some of these tax hikes will do to health insurance premiums, thanks to a new Price Waterhouse Coopers study:

"Cadillac Plan" Excise Tax

A 40 percent tax will be imposed on health insurance plans to the extent they are more costly than $26,000 ($9850 single).  This provision will raise premiums by 5 percentage points more than they otherwise would have been.

Cash-Grab Tax on Health Industry by Sector

Purely for the purpose of raising revenue, the Senate Finance plan imposes taxes on the health insurance, pharmaceutical, and medical device sectors (assessing the tax by market share).  Since this will come out in the wash in the form of higher premiums, the PWC study concludes that this will increase premiums by 2.5 percentage points more than they otherwise would have been.

What does this mean for you?

Let's say you have a family plan that costs $15,000.  Putting these two tax increases into the system will increase your premiums by 7.5 percent, or $1125.  If you're a single person paying $7000 per year, your premiums will go up by $525.

These aren't the only premium hikes in the bill, of course.  For more, read the study.  But just looking at the tax provisions should give you an idea of who will really be footing the tab for Obama-Baucus.

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7-11 Demands That Congress<br> Raise Slurpee Prices

Posted by Ryan Ellis on Thursday, October 8th, 2009, 9:37 AM PERMALINK

Well, not quite—but it got your attention.  Recently, 7-11 delivered 1.6 million petitions to Congress demanding that 7-11 be allowed to charge extra to customers who use credit and debit cards.  Never mind that this is asking Congress to rip up a contract 7-11 has signed agreeing not to do this to us.  

What’s the issue?

Whenever we go to the store or online to make a purchase, we often choose to use a credit or debit card.  These aren’t free.  Some company has to process these transactions, make sure everyone gets paid, etc.  In order to pay for this convenience, merchant card companies charge the businesses that accept cards—usually somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.75% of the cost of whatever you and I buy (known as an “interchange fee”).

Naturally, the businesses selling things to us would like to be able to pay less for this service.  Paying less for the same service is certainly attractive.  I would like to pay less for my NFL Sunday Ticket package on DirecTV, but that's what it costs.

7-11 is trying to get around this little problem of reality by getting Congress to do their negotiating for them.  House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) is marking up a bill this week, H.R. 2382, the “Credit Card Interchange Fees Act of 2009.”  It would for the first time use the force of law to nullify valid contracts negotiated in good faith between the merchant card industry and retailers.  The most pernicious action would be to allow businesses to charge us more for the privilege of using a merchant card (a practice we’re protected against by the current merchant card contract).  The hope is that this Congressionally-obtained bargaining chip can be used to negotiate a lower interchange fee.

The retailers and Congressman Frank will tell you they want to be able to charge less to those who pay with cash.  But unless Congress is going to get into the business of setting the price of everything from lattes to licorice, the reality is this will leave the base price the same and become a surcharge for card-swiping customers.  The practical effect of this legislation is that everything we buy could cost more if we use a credit or debit card rather than cash.  

You might remember that when preening Congressmen bash merchant card companies this week.

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