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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Two Charts: How the AHCA Shrinks Federal Spending


Posted by John Kartch on Monday, March 20th, 2017, 3:18 PM PERMALINK


-Under the American Health Care Act, by 2021 federal spending on healthcare as a percentage of GDP is reduced from 6.9% to 6.3%. As time goes by, the spending reduction gets larger. See the first chart, below.

-Under AHCA, by 2027 total federal spending as a percentage of GDP is reduced from 23.4% to 22.4%. See the second chart, below.

"In addition to abolishing Obamacare's taxes, the AHCA reduces the total size of government permanently," said Grover Norquist president of Americans for Tax Reform.

 

Chart by Strategas Research Partners using OMB and CBO data


Chart by Strategas Research Partners using CBO data

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ATR Supports Biennial Budgeting Bill

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Posted by Natalie De Vincenzi on Monday, March 20th, 2017, 2:40 PM PERMALINK

ATR President Grover Norquist wrote a letter to Congressman Messer in support of H.R. 1065, the Biennial Budgeting and Enhanced Oversight Act of 2017. H.R. 1065 would reform the budget and appropriations cycle by extending it from one to two years, aligning the budget process with Congressional terms.

This key piece of legislation will increase efficiency and oversight over federal spending and remove any practices that promote wasted spending. The failure of Congress to complete a budget and appropriations process numerous times over the last 40 years is an issue that needs to be addressed. A biennial budgeting process, like the one created by this bill, would help resolve that problem. Read the letter here or below. 

March 20, 2017

The Honorable Luke Messer
United States House of Representatives
1230 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515 

Dear Congressman Messer,

I write to express support for your bill, the Biennial Budgeting and Enhanced Oversight Act of 2017. The legislation, H.R. 1065, offers a new approach to solve Washington gridlock, and promote efficiency in federal spending.

 The 1978 Budget Act has created a broken system that is rigged toward higher spending. In the last 40 years, the appropriations process has been completed just four times. Within the last 20 years, it has been completed just once. Congress has even failed to pass a budget in 9 of the last 18 years.

H.R. 1065 would reform the budget and appropriations cycle by extending it from one to two years, aligning the budget process with Congressional terms. This would allow Congress ample time to allocate how it spends taxpayer dollars and conduct oversight over federal programs. Lawmakers would be required to complete the budget process in non-election years, so they are not impeded by campaign responsibilities.

By using election years to focus on studying long-term budgetary and economic effects, your legislation will ensure strong oversight over federal spending. In turn, this will allow Congress to better understand and highlight how much money an agency or program needs based on the economic implications it would produce. Wasteful or unnecessary programs can then be better identified and cut.

A biennial budget process like the one created by H.R. 1065 could reverse current practices that are biased towards waste, not prudence. Agencies are rarely able to plan effectively in the shortened budget windows created by stopgap measures. As a result, the current system encourages federal agencies to abide by a “use it or lose it” mentality, in which they spend billions during the last few weeks in order to avoid having their budget reduced for the next year.

It is clear that our current budget system does not work. Your legislation recognizes that and implements key reforms that aim to streamline the budget process to allow Congress to better conduct oversight and combat waste. I urge your colleagues to support H.R. 1065, the Biennial Budgeting and Enhanced Oversight Act.

Onward,

Grover Norquist
President, Americans for Tax Reform

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Repeal Bill Abolishes Obamacare’s Chronic Care Tax on Middle Class

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Posted by Hannah Daniel on Monday, March 20th, 2017, 12:11 PM PERMALINK

Obamacare’s Chronic Care Tax is an income tax hike that hits 10 million households that happen to have high out of pocket medical expenses in a given year – the average income of households paying this Obamacare tax is $53,000

Though rarely if ever mentioned by the mainstream media, Obamacare is loaded with tax hikes on the middle class. Today we look at just one of these taxes, the Obamacare Chronic Care Tax:

-The Obamacare Chronic Care Tax violated Obama’s middle class tax pledge. Obamacare imposed a $1 trillion tax hike on the American people, and violated President Obama’s own “firm pledge” not to raise any form of tax on any middle class American. One of the most widespread Obamacare tax hikes is the Chronic Care Tax.

-The Obamacare Chronic Care tax is an income tax hike. Before Obamacare, Americans facing high out of pocket medical expenses were allowed an income tax deduction to the extent that those expenses exceeded 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income (AGI). Obamacare now imposes a threshold of 10 percent of AGI. Therefore, Obamacare not only makes it more difficult to claim this income tax deduction, it widens the net of taxable income.

-The Obamacare Chronic Care Tax hits at least 10 million American households each year. According to IRS data, each year approximately 10 million households are hit with the Obamacare Chronic Care Tax, and nearly all were middle class. The average household income of those hit with this Obamacare tax: $53,000.

-The Obamacare Chronic Care Tax is a $35 Billion Tax Hike over 10 years. By raising the threshold that Americans can claim the chronic care tax deduction to 10 percent, ATR estimates that the income tax increase for the average family claiming this tax deduction is $200 - $400 per year. The latest CBO score shows that the Obamacare Chronic Care tax hits these families with $35 billion in higher taxes over ten years.

-The Repeal Bill abolishes the Chronic Care Tax, providing significant tax relief for low and middle income households. The AHCA restores the pre-Obamacare 7.5 percent threshold, providing significant middle class tax relief.

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Top Five Reasons Connecticut Should Oppose a Carbon Tax

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Posted by Daniel Uzi Frydman on Friday, March 17th, 2017, 9:19 AM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) this week released a letter to the Connecticut General Assembly urging legislators to oppose House Bill 7247, an “Act Establishing a Carbon Price for Fossil Fuels Sold in Connecticut.” Connecticut consumers and businesses already face the eighth worst overall state tax burden in the country. The Connecticut carbon tax proposed in HB 7247 would only make matters worse by levying a $15 per ton carbon tax on the state, which would increase $5 annually.

A carbon tax is likely to hinder economic competitiveness in the Constitution State by inflating the cost of energy, in turn negatively impacting businesses, jobs, and the price of consumer goods, thus increasing costs across the board for Connecticutians.

A study by the National Association of Manufacturers, based on a $20 per ton tax rate, explores where the brunt of this misguided legislation will be felt if the tax is implemented. If HB 7247 becomes law, Connecticutians will experience employment loss, increased prices at the pump, and elevated energy bills. Just one year after implementation, with a rate of $20 per ton, Connecticutians can expect the following:

1. Increased Prices at the Pump. In 2016 Connecticut’s gas tax was the 6th highest in the nation, and the proposed carbon tax would only drive that rate higher. In addition to the federal gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon and the Connecticut state gas tax of 37.51 cents per gallon, HB 7247 would add an additional 20 cents per gallon, totaling up to a 75.9 cents tax per gallon for topping off the tank.

2. Raised Electricity Costs. The cost of natural gas is projected to increase by more than 40 percent in the state, driving up energy costs for residents and businesses. Homeowners would suffer as HB 7247 would cause significant increases to household electricity rates. Such an increase in energy prices would also jolt through the economy raising the costs of consumer goods, an impact that would fall hardest on the state’s low-income residents.

3. Eliminated Employment Opportunities. A $20 per ton carbon tax could deal a blow to employment in Connecticut, with a potential loss of worker income equivalent of up to 9,000 jobs after just the first year, rising above “18,000 jobs by 2023.” 

4. Economic Sectors Would Spiral South in 2023. Connecticut economic sectors such as services, energy-intensive manufacturing, and non-energy-intensive manufacturing face an aggregate loss in economic output that could reach a projected 3.2 percent by 2023.

5. Crippled Economic Competitiveness. Connecticut currently ranks as the 43rd worst state on the bipartisan Tax Foundation’s 2017 State Business Tax Climate Index. Implementing HB 7247 in Connecticut would only slow down an already burdened intrastate tax climate. Bordering states would gain more of a competitive edge over Connecticut if HB 7247 were to become law, which would only hinder the state’s competitiveness, and deter business investments in Connecticut further.

If passed, Connecticut’s residents and businesses will see employment loss, economic sectors deteriorate, electricity bills jolt up, and prices at the pump pile up. Lawmakers should oppose House Bill 7247 and protect the residents and businesses in the great state of Connecticut.

Photo Credit: Ilirjan Rrumbullaku

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Norquist On Tax Reform: “Voters Are Smarter Than The Democrats Think They Are.”


Posted by Hannah Daniel on Thursday, March 16th, 2017, 3:32 PM PERMALINK

Today ATR president Grover Norquist was a guest on Fox Business Network’s Varney & Company. Grover and Stuart Varney discussed Rachel Maddow’s Al Capone vault debacle, Obamacare repeal, and federal tax reform. See highlights and video below:

Norquist: “The repeal of Obamacare is somewhere around $900 billion in reduced taxes in the next decade including for people with Flexible Spending Accounts, Health Savings Accounts, and many middle class tax cuts. They [the Left and Democrats] don’t want to talk about that. They certainly don’t want to talk about taking the business tax down from 35 percent to 20 percent, the individual rate down to three rates, getting rid of the Death Tax, getting rid of the AMT. These are very popular with the American people. They would be very helpful to the economy. They would rather talk about whether we saw a 12 year old tax return number which points out that the president paid 25 percent of his earnings in federal taxes. That’s before you get to state taxes and local taxes in New York.”

Norquist: “Voters are smarter than the Democrats think they are. In Obamacare, there is a tax on prescription drugs. Poor people, low income people, middle income people buy prescription drugs. They know that a tax on prescription drugs is a tax on them. They know that a tax on insurance policies if they have insurance is a tax on them, not the insurance company. The insurance company doesn’t have any money that they don’t get from you and me and the general public when they sell insurance. They understand that taxes on businesses are what keep them or their brother or their sister or spouse from having a job. So the American people are a lot wiser than the left-wingers think they are. They understand the damage that tax does may be indirect, but it hurts.”

View the full interview below

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IRS should not trample on Bitcoin users

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Posted by Celeste Arenas on Thursday, March 16th, 2017, 11:45 AM PERMALINK

Bitcoin users face increasing pressure from the IRS to disclose private information unrelated to taxation purposes. This follows a recent IRS summons against the Bitcoin trader Coinbase, calling for the mandatory collection of detailed customer data.
 
In 2015, the IRS concluded that bitcoin holders “may fail, or may have failed, to comply with one or more provisions of the internal revenue laws” and that the solution was to demand all US user records from 2013 - 2015 from Coinbase that include transaction history, IP addresses and transcripts with customer support.
 
This comes despite the IRS having failed to provide comprehensive guidance for bitcoin owners since classifying the currency as property, subject to property tax laws, in 2014.
 
Perianne Boring, President of the Chamber of Digital Commerce says that if the IRS succeeds in violating consumer privacy, this “would set a terrible precedent.” She added that many bitcoin firms and users are “afraid to speak out” because of the fear of being “directly targeted by the IRS.”
 
Brian Armstrong, Coinbase founder and CEO made a public statement to voice his concerns against the subpoena. “Asking for detailed transaction information on so many people, simply for using digital currency, is a violation of their privacy, and is not the best way for us to accomplish our mutual objective.” By taking action that is “overly broad,” he continued, “the IRS incorrectly implies that all users of virtual currency are evading taxes.”
 
Bitcoin advocacy groups have emerged in response to this, calling on federal and state governments to provide a better regulatory and taxation framework for digital currencies.
 
The Digital Assets Tax Policy Coalition for example has been created  to “develop effective and efficient tax policies for the growing virtual currency markets.” The Blockchain Alliance has likewise been facilitated to “open dialogue between the private and public sectors about digital assets and Blockchain technology.”
 
Bridging the gap between government hurdles and an industry that has risen to $20 billion in market value is increasingly necessary for all stakeholders. A recent Business Intelligence Insider report shows that the current complexity of the US regulatory system is a major hindrance to the development of a “coherent fintech policy.” Moreover, it concludes that without allowing digital commerce  to “achieve a scale necessary for success,” the U.S. will continue falling behind the UK and some areas of Europe.

Creating a taxation framework that is stable and standardized, adaptable to digital trends, and maintains basic privacy standards is key to the broader development of the US bitcoin industry.

Photo Credit: 
Michael Wuensch

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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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https://www.flickr.com/photos/cpierry/

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Trump Budget Cuts IRS Funding by $239 Million

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Posted by Americans for Tax Reform on Thursday, March 16th, 2017, 2:45 AM PERMALINK

President Donald Trump's 2018 budget blueprint is out, and it wisely cuts IRS funding by $239 million.

The blueprint states:

“Diverting resources from antiquated operations that are still reliant on paper-based review in the era of electronic tax filing would achieve significant savings, a funding reduction of $239 million from the 2017 annualized level.”

Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist praised the cut: "President’s Trump’s first budget outline makes it clear. He is governing as Reagan did. Tax cuts. De-Regulation. Spending restraint and reduction. And this time he has a Reagan Republican House and Senate at his side—not Tip O’Neil and Howard Baker tossing marbles at his feet."

The IRS has failed to spend taxpayer resources wisely. IRS boss John Koskinen and other IRS officials have claimed the agency is underfunded. One even claimed that the agency was “struggling to keep the lights on.” But the facts say otherwise – the IRS has proven time and time again that it cannot be trusted to wisely spend taxpayer dollars.

In fact, the IRS is unable to justify its spending decisions, according to a report by the independent National Taxpayer Advocate:

“the IRS has come under scrutiny by external oversight organizations who have questioned the IRS’s rationale for its budget decisions. They have not been satisfied with the IRS’s response to their inquiries.”

This has not stopped agency officials from complaining, or from making further poor spending decisions. The IRS has also been caught wasting over 500,000 hours, or $23.5 million a year on union activities, and gave 57 contracts worth a total of $18.8 million to corporations that had federal tax debt or a felony conviction.

The IRS also made the costly (and perhaps illegal) decision to hire a litigation-only white shoe law firm for over $1,000 an hour over an audit of Microsoft. As noted by Congressional investigators, the agency has 40,000 employees dedicated to enforcement efforts and access to the IRS office of Chief Counsel or a Department of Justice attorney for audits. Instead the agency chose to hire an expensive law firm for at least $2.2 million.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore 


Grover Norquist to Robert Reich: You were wrong on welfare reform and you are wrong on Obamacare repeal


Posted by John Kartch on Tuesday, March 14th, 2017, 5:36 PM PERMALINK

On CNN Monday night, ATR president Grover Norquist debated Bill Clinton labor secretary Robert Reich. The topic: Obamacare repeal.

Norquist pointed out that the Trump/GOP Obamacare repeal bill cuts taxes by almost $900 billion and cuts spending by $1.2 trillion. Many of Obamacare¹s tax hikes hit millions of Americans hard in the pocketbook.

Norquist ended the segment by reminding Reich: "Robert, you were wrong about Bill Clinton¹s welfare reform. You are wrong again."

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