Gina McCarthy on Obama's National Energy Tax: "Minority communities will be hardest hit."

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Friday, August 21st, 2015, 2:10 PM PERMALINK

This month President Obama and the EPA released the final version of their “Clean Power Plan,” or as more aptly referred, the new “National Energy Tax.” The rule seeks to limit carbon in the U.S., and by the EPA’s own projections the benefits will be negligible, reducing global temperatures by 0.018 degrees by 2100 and sea level rise by a mere 0.20 millimeters by 2050. 

While the environmental impact of the carbon rules is virtually non-existent, the impact on American families will be disastrous. Projections show the carbon rule will likely increase electricity rates in the U.S. by double digits in over 40 states. Such rate increases amount to a regressive tax on the nation’s most vulnerable.

The overwhelmingly regressive nature of the carbon rule is why leaders in Washington, such as House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), have chosen to describe the rule as “Obama’s National Energy Tax.” 

In a recent panel discussion in D.C., EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy admitted the disparate impact the new carbon rule would have stating, “We know that low-income minority communities would be hardest hit.” For once, Administrator McCarthy has chosen to be direct and open about what the rule really means for America’s most vulnerable populations. 

As Americans for Tax Reform has previously pointed out, and EPA Administrator McCarthy has now confirmed, the effects the new carbon rule will have on low-income and minority communities will be particularly devastating.

According to recent reports by the National Black Chamber of Commerce, American minority communities will see jobs losses, reductions in household income and increased poverty rates that are far above the national average.

The report found that as a result of the regressive nature of Obama’s carbon rules, by 2035 African-American communities will see cumulative job losses of almost 7 million. For Hispanic communities the losses will be well over 12 million.

Similarly, median household income for African-Americans would decrease by $5,000 over the next 20 years and Hispanics would see losses greater than $7,000. The carbon rule will also lead to skyrocketing poverty rates for Hispanics, who will see poverty rate increases above 26 percent. For African-Americans the report found poverty rate increases of over 23 percent. 

Administrator McCarthy and President Obama seem all to comfortable sacrificing the livelihoods of millions of hard-working Americans for essentially non-existent benefits. Sadly as a result of the carbon rules, some of America's most vulnerable could now find themselves thrust into poverty, many of whom have just managed to pull themselves out.


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Vermont’s $200 Million Obamacare Exchange “Hellish” for Enrollees

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Friday, August 21st, 2015, 9:00 AM PERMALINK

Despite receiving almost $200 million in federal taxpayer dollars, Vermont’s Obamacare exchange website still lacks basic functionality. Two years after the website went live, customers are unable to auto-reenroll or change personal information without contacting employees at a call center. Not only is this an egregious waste of taxpayer dollars, the condition of the website has created hardships for Vermonters and complicated their healthcare system. The system is so poor that one healthcare advocate in the state recently described the functionality of the Vermont Health Connect exchange as “hellish” for consumers.

Since launching in late 2013, Vermont Health Connect has been plagued with “debilitating glitches.” For close to 20 months, the exchange relied on a mind-bogglingly complex method of processing requests, with many having to be logged and entered manually into up to six different databases.

For months a backlog of over 10,000 “change of circumstance” requests existed, but Governor Peter Shumlin recently announced that the exchange had cut its backlog in half. Even so, more than 4,500 customers still have requests that needed to be processed. While this is rare good news, the state now faces a race against time to complete several new functions before the next enrollment period begins in October 1. If it does not, the state will have to spend $3.5 million hiring temporary workers to manually enroll individuals.

A recent report by VTDigger detailed the burdens that the exchange has created for Vermonters enrolled on Obamacare. One woman paid premiums for nearly a year only to discover that Vermont Health Connect had canceled her plan, instead of removing her son from the plan as she had requested.

Throughout the year, the individual was told by exchange employees that she had been covered, but now that she has learned this is not the case it is likely she will have to pay the penalty for not having health insurance because of Obamacare’s individual mandate.

Another woman enrolled on the exchange did not receive invoices for months from Vermont Health Connect because of the exchange backlog. Despite the exchange failing to send invoices, her account may be canceled due to non-payments. The exchange still expects individuals to pay, even if they don’t receive invoices.

After nearly two years, it is unbelievable that a $200 million website still lacks basic functions. But Vermont is not an isolated case - Oregon, Hawaii, and Massachusetts are just some of the many cases of failed state exchanges.

Given the numerous problems that have arisen from the construction of state exchanges, it is clear that the federal government’s vision for a set of state run Obamacare exchanges is unrealistic. With federal taxpayers on the hook for at least $5.4 billion in funds to construct these exchanges, the American people deserve stronger oversight over how this money was spent.

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Brooke Paige

Coming Soon - Moral, Social and Fiscal Bankruptcy for Vermont !

Here in the "Magic Kingdom" of Vermont, the politicians tell us that everything is rosy and most of the Democratic lapdogs eat it up like Alpo, until they personally are affected by the chaos that passes for governance.
It is not just our defective healthcare finance disaster that is driving both young adults and retirees out of state - additionally taxes of every imaginable kind; ill-conceived and uncontrolled wind and solar development (driving the cost of electricity out of sight while despoiling our scenic vistas); a lack of worthwhile job prospects (especially for first time job seekers), drug abuse and drug crime overwhelming social services and law enforcement; dysfunctional government "services" which appear to serve the "public servants" rather than the taxpayers - Vermont's list of troubles seem limitless.

If the 2016 election cycle does not produce a radical improvement in leadership Vermont will find herself doomed to moral, social and fiscal bankruptcy for a generation or more !

Valerie Mullin

Just think of the missed opportunity that the $200 million might have done for the good of Vermont, instead of to paper pushers. So sad and so it continues.

“This is State government, sir”: Michigan gets one step closer to Asset Forfeiture Reform

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Posted by Jorge Marin, Danil Zelenkov on Thursday, August 20th, 2015, 2:00 PM PERMALINK

Yesterday, the Michigan Senate Judiciary Committee demonstrated bold legislative initiative by unexpectedly voting a slew of civil asset forfeiture reform bills out of committee.

The committee heard testimonies from national advocacy organizations on both sides of the aisle as well as law enforcement. Although there was some token opposition from state law enforcement, seven of the eight bills passed the committee unanimously.

At the hearing, US Justice Action Network Executive Director Holly Harris explained the convoluted history of asset forfeiture in America,

Centuries ago, civil asset forfeiture was actually used as a means to seize assets from pirates.  In the 1980s, asset forfeiture was expanded to seize assets from international drug kingpins.  But now, law enforcement is using civil asset forfeiture to seize cars and cash from average citizens who are never even charged with crimes.  And here in Michigan, far too many innocent property owners have found themselves entangled in a flawed process…We are a long way from pirates and kingpins.

Jorge Marin, Criminal Justice Specialist at Americans for Tax Reform, also congratulated the Michigan Association of Police Organizations for their endorsement of the proposals,

Fortunately, this is a uniting issue. The Michigan Association of Police Organizations understands full well that bad laws reflect poorly on the vast majority of police officers; men and women who genuinely want to protect their communities and have done so with distinction.  The Package of laws under consideration would strengthen the reporting requirements for forfeitures. This would be a massive step in the right direction.

He further explained the importance of protecting the due process of law and how civil asset forfeiture laws infringe upon that,

You may be wondering what taxes have to do with civil asset forfeiture. Simply put, tax reform is simply a means to an end: the end being the protection and expansion of individual freedom. For this reason we have flagged asset forfeiture as an egregious threat to due process and legislative accountability of the nation’s crucial police force and their budgets.

Yesterday ATR released an official endorsement of Michigan’s civil asset forfeiture legislation.

After being asked about what the federal government was doing with respects to asset forfeiture by an ill-fated prosecutor, Committee Chairman Rick Jones shot back “this is state government, sir,” demonstrating how the states are leading on this issue despite what the federal government is doing.

Americans for Tax Reform is supportive of the Senate Judiciary Committee decision to move forward with this legislation. We urge state legislators across the country to take Michigan's lead.

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Massachusetts Obamacare Exchange Facing Legal Investigation

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Posted by Danil Zelenkov on Thursday, August 20th, 2015, 1:36 PM PERMALINK

Massachusetts Health Connector – the state’s failed Obamacare exchange – is faced with yet another challenge, this time a legal one. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is demanding the state exchange open its books in order to find out how the State government wasted hundreds of millions of dollars in a failed revamp of their healthcare exchange. Although Massachusetts was the home of the Obamacare blueprint “RomneyCare”, the federal regulations imposed on the state broke an already working system and displaced thousands of Medicaid recipients.

Massachusetts was one of about 15 states that received $4.5 billion in funds from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to fund the construction of its own healthcare marketplace. The transformation was cheered on by then Democratic Governor Deval Patrick (D-Mass.), and close to $224 million was spent to upgrade the system.

But things did not go to plan. The exchange failed to work on day one.

While residents of the state were unable to get healthcare, the response from state officials was nonchalant. 41 days after the failed launch of the website Governor Patrick was asked about possible concerns with the exchange. His response was “No, none at all.” To this day, he continues to downplay the disastrous rollout by stating that people should be realistic and that “change is messy”.

Not only did this debacle prevent individuals in the state from signing up for Obamacare, the failed exchange displaced 325,000 residents who were then placed on a ‘transitional’ Medicaid program regardless of eligibility requirements. In all, the disaster resulted in $1 billion in further costs. Underlying the chaos in the exchange, it was later discovered that 6,000 residents were simultaneously receiving both Medicaid and state exchange benefits.

The skyrocketing costs and repeated malfunctions aside, the most disturbing aspect of the Massachusetts fiasco is the intentional concealment of the failures by the Commonwealth Connector Authority (CCA), the organization tasked with oversight of the transition.

Before the initial launch of the state exchange, testing proved a 90% failure rate. Despite this, the untested website was launched with the expectation that “Users Do Testing” where users through their experience with the exchange would “recognize how bad [it] was.” One whistleblower described the whole launch as like a kid who does something wrong and is waiting to be caught. Even worse, those who attempted to raise concerns were silenced on purpose. As one of the whistle blowers points out: “We were always told to be quiet, it doesn’t matter, don’t say anything”.

It is clear that Massachusetts officials repeatedly and deliberately concealed failures of the website construction and its ability to function properly. They tried to hide the shortcomings by coercing state workers to “approve poor quality work and covered up the project’s abysmal progress in a presentation to federal officials”.

The U.S. Attorney’s office has issued a subpoena to uncover the Obamacare incompetence which is plaguing this state. Taxpayers have a right to know how a supposedly simple transition from Romneycare to Obamacare managed to spend a quarter of a billion dollars and resulted in $1 billion worth of costs for Massachusetts residents.  

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These Taxes Will Leave a Bad Taste in Your Mouth

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Posted by Caroline Anderegg on Wednesday, August 19th, 2015, 5:10 PM PERMALINK

At the turn of the twentieth century the tax code was only 400 pages long—about the length of the third Harry Potter book. However, since then it has grown to be 187 times longer to a monstrous 74,608 pages. The majority of that growth has occurred in the last 30 years, and if it continues at this rate the tax code will exceed 100,000 pages by 2050. This not only illustrates the mounting weight of the federal tax burden, but the subsequent increase in control the nanny state IRS has over the economic behavior of all Americans.

On top of the complex and overreaching federal tax code, each state has its own unique set of tax laws. Many of these nuances force business owners to raise prices on confused, unhappy consumers.

Take the New York “bagel tax,” for example. The Empire State is known for its delicious bagels, but if bakery goers want it sliced, toasted or with toppings it will cost a little extra. Thanks to the fine print in New York’s tax code, those are the differences between a bakery item and a restaurant item. Only the latter is subject to the state’s 4 percent sales tax, as well as local taxes that can add up to almost 9 percent in some areas.

In a recent post, Stateline highlighted many of these unusual state taxes that perplex taxpayers across the country. Illinois offers a prime case of the discriminatory nature of these hair-splitting taxes. According to the Streamlined State and Use Tax Agreement that attempts to standardize sales taxes nationwide, the difference between candy and cookies or cakes is whether or not the product contains flour. So when Illinois raised the state candy tax from 1 percent to 6.25 percent in 2009, Kit-Kats, Milky Ways, and other flour-containing candy bars were exempt from the exorbitant candy tax hike while other products sold in the same aisle were not.

Beer-drinkers in Kansas encounter puzzling obstacles similar to those of candy-eaters in Illinois. The Sunflower State allows beer containing alcohol content of 3.2 percent or less to be sold in grocery stores. This beer, however, is subject to the state’s 6.5 percent sales tax as well as local tax, which averages a total of 8.4 percent combined tax. Regular beer with higher alcohol content, on the other hand, is exclusively sold in liquor stores and not subject to the same sales tax. An 8 percent liquor enforcement tax is imposed instead, which is on average a lower tax than that levied on these low alcohol content beers.

“There are many strange quirks in the tax system,” said Kansas Department of Revenue spokeswoman Jeannine Koranda in reference to this strange contradiction.

These “quirks” are actually costly burdens on taxpayers that represent a larger problem plaguing the current tax system. Pedantic complications in both the federal and state tax codes have become so numerous that the laws are now used to steer consumption and limit choice. Be it bagels, candy or beer, anomalies in the tax code not only impose undue regulation but make compliance difficult for taxpayers and business owners. 

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Lois Lerner Rages Against 'Evil and Dishonest' Republicans, Will Networks Report?

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Posted by Geoffrey Dickens on Wednesday, August 19th, 2015, 1:53 PM PERMALINK

Editor's Note: This article was originally posted on NewsBusters and was republished here with permission.

Lois Lerner’s utter contempt for Republicans was on full display in a newly uncovered email in which she railed: “They called me back to testify on the IRS ‘scandal,’ and I too[k] the 5th again because they had been so evil and dishonest in my lawyer’s dealings with them.”

The question has to be asked, will Lerner’s use of such inflammatory language be enough to wake the Big Three (ABC, CBS, NBC) network evening and morning shows out of their IRS scandal coverage slumber? 

So far, they have yet to report on any of the recent IRS scandal revelations such as Lerner setting her sights on Bristol Palin, her glee when she found out instant messaging emails were not automatically archived, and the IRS’s targeting of donors to conservative organizations.

On ThursdayPolitico’s Katy O’Donnell, in article headlined “Lerner Slammed ‘evil and dishonest’ GOP Inquisitors,” reported on a “Politico examination of thousands of pages of emails and other material recently released by the Senate Finance Committee” that uncovered  particularly spiteful emails Lerner had sent to a friend:

When she was under investigation by Congress, she offered a blistering critique of her inquisitors. In a March 6, 2014, email, Lerner told a friend: “They called me back to testify on the IRS ‘scandal,’ and I too[k] the 5th again because they had been so evil and dishonest in my lawyer’s dealings with them.”

In June 2014, Lerner told the same friend that an unflattering picture of her appearing before Congress kept surfacing because “it serves their purposes of hate mongering to continue to use those images. I was never a political person — this whole fiasco has only made me lose all respect [for] politics and politicians. I am merely a pawn in their game to take over the Senate.”

These emails come on the heels of new evidence that Lerner’s IRS was holding up approval of conservative groups. 

On August 11, Americans for Tax Reform’s Alexander Hendrie reported that Lerner’s IRS granted only one conservative group non-profit status in three years:

Lois Lerner’s political beliefs led to tea party and conservative groups receiving disparate and unfair treatment when applying for non-profit status, according to a detailed report compiled by the Senate Finance Committee.

Because of Lerner’s bias, only one conservative political advocacy organization was granted tax exempt status over a period of more than three years:

“Due to the circuitous process implemented by Lerner, only one conservative political advocacy organization was granted tax-exempt status between February 2009 and May 2012. Lerner’s bias against these applicants unquestionably led to these delays, and is particularly evident when compared to the IRS’s treatment of other applications, discussed immediately below.”

As the report notes, Lois Lerner became aware in April or May of 2010 that the IRS Exempt Organizations (EO) division had begun receiving a high number of applications from Tea Party organizations. But as the backlog of applicants increased, Lerner added “more layers of review and raised hurdles for applicants to clear.”

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I'd agree with Lerner if she were referring to conservative Judaism.
Conservative Judaism is the de facto ideology of Republicans.
However, reformed-secular Judaism is just as evil as conservative Judaism.

ATR urges Michigan lawmakers to reform civil asset forfeiture laws

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Posted by Danil Zelenkov on Wednesday, August 19th, 2015, 11:00 AM PERMALINK

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, sent a letter to the Michigan Senate Judiciary members in support of the civil asset forfeiture reform package composed of House bills 4500, 4503, 4504, 4506, 4507, and 4508. This criminal justice reform package is a step in the right direction. It would safeguard the Fifth Amendment rights of Michigan citizens while preserving the ability of police officers to confiscate property involved in illegal and illicit activities. The text of the letter is as follows:


Dear Senator Jones

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform and our supporters across Michigan. I write today in strong support of a legislative package pending in the Michigan legislature that, if passed, would safeguard the Fifth Amendment rights of your constituents. While the reform package—encompassing House bills 4500, 4503, 4504, 4506, 4507, and 4508,--does not solve the problem of civil asset forfeiture in its entirety, it does, represent a giant leap forward in ensuring innocent civilians are protected. Furthermore, these reforms preserve the ability of police officers to confiscate profits of legitimate offenders.

On average, Michigan police collect a staggering $18.6 million per year on forfeitures alone; creating a tempting draw to use this questionable practice aggressively. Last year alone police seized over $24 million. Unfortunately, civil asset forfeiture can prove to be a powerful incentive for some over-zealous officers.

In one particularly egregious incident, Michigan mom Ginnifer Hency saw police come into her home and seize everything from her husband’s tools to her children’s Christmas presents. Her crime? Six ounces of marijuana—which she was legally allowed to possess thanks to her medical marijuana license. The case was so farcical on its face that a St. Clair County judge dismissed it. Unfortunately the prosecutor then sought to take her property in civil court.

To help curb these abuses, the new law would increase the standard of proof from “preponderance of the evidence” to “clear and convincing.” Though a conviction should be required of any asset forfeiture, this shift of the burden of proof balances the onus in against the state in a positive way.

Moreover, these new reforms would improve reporting standards and transparency, which will help prevent civil asset forfeiture abuse. By requiring reporting on seized assets, legislators in Lansing, and their constituents, can keep better track of the funding police agencies get from the sale of confiscated assets.

Police forces need the trust of their communities to do their jobs effectively. Civil asset forfeiture, as the authority exists in Michigan, erodes that trust and antagonizes innocent civilians. These reforms help to restore trust in local and state police by reassuring constituents that their civil liberties are paramount in Michigan law.

I implore your colleagues to extend their own support for this important legislation. For more information, please contact Jorge Marin in my office at



Grover G. Norquist                                                                        


Americans for Tax Reform

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IRS Failure to Heed Watchdog Warnings Puts 330,000 Taxpayers at Risk

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Tuesday, August 18th, 2015, 3:56 PM PERMALINK

Earlier this week, the IRS acknowledged the data breach that exposed the personal information of over 100,000 taxpayers was worse than first thought. The agency now says that the tax data of about 330,000 taxpayers was stolen during the hack. As ATR has previously pointed out, the IRS was repeatedly warned by watchdog groups to better protect taxpayer information. This latest revelation proves they did not heed these warnings until it was far too late.

Back in May, the IRS disclosed that hackers exploited a loophole in the “Get Transcript” application to obtain information on the tax returns of individuals. The hackers then used this information to file fraudulent tax returns. At the time, the agency said that the hackers succeeded in stealing as much as $39 million but these latest revelations surely increase that figure. The IRS is now taking several measures to protect data including sending letters to taxpayers warning of potential identity theft and offering credit protection.

Following the hack, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) Chief J. Russell George revealed that the IRS failed to implement 44 recommendations that would improve the IRS’s ability to protect taxpayer information from hackers. Of these 44, ten recommendations were over three years old.

Since 2007, the IRS has been warned at least seven times by watchdog groups that it needed to strengthen its protections of taxpayer information. Most recently:

  • In a 2014 report, TIGTA warned that if stronger protections are not implemented, “taxpayers could be exposed to the loss of privacy and to financial loss and damages resulting from identity theft or other financial crimes.”  
  • 2013 report found that the IRS had failed to fully implement eight recommendations that would increase security over taxpayer data despite telling TIGTA they had been implemented.
  • A 2011 report found that taxpayer data was vulnerable to hackers and stronger security measures were needed
  • In 2010, TIGTA found that the agency had inadequate safeguards to protect taxpayer information from contract workers.


Clearly, the IRS knew that theft of taxpayer information was a serious threat. But instead of adopting dozens of recommendations from the Inspector General, the agency chose to sit on its hands and hope nothing went wrong. Now, thanks to the ineptness of the IRS, the personal information of hundreds of thousands of taxpayers has been stolen and these individuals are at risk of identity theft. 

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President of Ex-Im Bank Vows to Continue Fighting For Corporate Welfare

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Tuesday, August 18th, 2015, 3:19 PM PERMALINK

With the expiration of the Export-Import Bank in June, opponents of corporate welfare won a key victory against wasteful, unnecessary spending. Despite a concerted effort by big government advocates to reauthorize the bank, Congress has so far stood firm and refused to bow to special interests. However, the fight is not over and Ex-Im President Fred Hochberg remains determined to restore the bank when Congress returns in September.  

In an August 12 letter, Hochberg signaled his “hope and determination” to ensure the bank is reauthorized once Congress returns in September. Listening to Hochberg, one could be forgiven for thinking the bank is a key pillar to the success of American small business overseas.  His comments are the latest in a false narrative that exporters – especially small businesses –have no hope of competing overseas without Ex-Im.

But these scare tactics do not matchup with reality. For one, small businesses hardly rely on the Bank. According to information released by the White House, the Ex-Im Bank supported just 0.42% of exporters, 0.28% of small businesses and 1.9% of total exports between 2009 and 2014.  Even Ex-Im’s definition of a small business is misleading. The majority of government agencies define a small business as having 500 employees or less, but Ex-Im defines a small business as having three times that number.

Even after inflating their numbers, most of Ex-Im’s loans still go to well-connected corporations that can easily compete without these government subsidized loans. Even worse, taxpayer funded loans often provide major foreign corporations with extremely attractive sales terms that give them an unfair advantage over American competitors.

Some of the bank’s activities in recent years include billions in loans to state owned companies in China, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates and has financed energy projects for foreign companies in India and Papua New Guinea with terrible human rights records.

Worse yet, the bank’s loans have been involved time and time again with fraud and corruption, resulting in countless indictments and millions in lost taxpayer funds. Most recently, a report by the Department of Justice alleged that a Miami small business used Ex-Im to continue a Ponzi scheme after private loans dried up.

Given this record, it is clear that Ex-Im no longer serves the best interest of the American people.

Supporters of Ex-Im have already tried to attach reauthorization of Ex-Im to must-pass Highway Trust Fund legislation last month, despite the two issues being completely unrelated. When Congress reconvenes next month, it appears that supporters of Ex-Im will do all in their power to reauthorize the bank. When this inevitably happens, members of Congress must stand firm and refuse to finance corporate welfare.

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Joe Franklin

What you label corporate welfare is really crony capitalism.
The Obama administration has been famously notorious for at least 2 illicit activities; crony capitalism and victim cult advocacy.
You can bet that Obama's 2 illicit activities are interrelated.

Vapers Remain Top Target of Lawmakers and Bureaucrats

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Posted by Paul Blair on Tuesday, August 18th, 2015, 3:04 PM PERMALINK

In my last podcast with ATR president Grover Norquist, we discussed the newest target of tax hikes at the state level. The new “sin,” an alternative to combustible cigarettes, is vaping, or the use of electronic cigarettes.

Click here to listen to our January podcast, “The Grover Norquist Show: Leave Vapers Alone!”

With nearly every state legislative session coming to a close, Grover and I re-examined the status of e-cigarette taxation at the state level and the looming threat of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over-regulation. In this podcast, we preview the two temporary Congressional pathways to prevent the prohibition of the products currently on the market.

Click here to learn more about one of those solutions, Rep. Tom Cole’s H.R. 2058.

We last examined the lay of the land in January of this year. At the time, I predicted 25-30 states would look to raise taxes on e-cigarettes and vapor products and wrote about the trend in Forbes, which you can read here. Listen to the podcast to see if my predictions were correct!

Click here to support our efforts to fight higher taxes and unnecessary regulations on e-cigarettes and vapor products.

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VAPING IT on Twitter

I appreciate what you & ATR do. Thank you.