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Free Market - Not Government - Develops Innovative New Blood Test

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Posted by Matthew Bruno on Monday, October 13th, 2014, 3:54 PM PERMALINK


Elizabeth Holmes dropped out of Stanford at the age of 19 to pursue her idea for making blood tests cheaper and easier. Ten years later, Holmes is the world’s youngest female billionaire and her company, Theranos, valued at over $9 billion, is nearing entry to every Walgreens throughout the country. A competitive free market, not over-subsidized government programs, produced this innovative and life-saving solution.

Theranos’ use of a few drops of blood obtained via fingerstick rather than traditional needle tests lowered one diabetic woman’s test costs from $876 to $34. This 96% savings is a simple example of how healthcare costs throughout the country can be lowered through advances in technology. Free markets encourage new products to be developed with the goal of efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and high success rates. These lower costs can then be passed on to the patient. Instead of raising new taxes or fees or whatever Obamacare wants to call its countless mandated charges, real healthcare reform can cut costs through encouraging innovation in a free marketplace.

As Milton Friedman famously observed, we spend the most economically when we spend our own money on ourselves. Conversely, we are the least efficient when spending somebody else’s money on somebody else. In much the same way, government run healthcare is least efficient when the government raises taxes (someone else’s money) to spend on enhanced welfare programs (someone else). In order to make the American healthcare system more efficient and lower costs, we must realign incentives so that patients are invested in their coverage and must look for the most cost-efficient alternative. On the other end, insurance providers will seek to cut costs by finding the cheapest and most effective forms of treatment. Holmes and Theranos were allowed to freely innovate; this freedom ultimately produced a life-saving medical breakthrough that they estimate will save US Medicare and Medicaid around $200 billion a decade. This innovation is what will lead to higher quality, lower cost medical care.

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ATR Endorses Proposition 487, the Phoenix Pension Reform Act

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Posted by Paul Blair on Monday, October 13th, 2014, 2:52 PM PERMALINK


Like many cities throughout the United States, Phoenix, Arizona has a broken pension system. Skyrocketing costs have driven the city to the brink of disaster. Fortunately, Proposition 487, also known as the Phoenix Pension Reform Act, is on the ballot this year and gives voters a say in the type of publicly-funded pension plans they pay for.

The initiative can be read here.

A number of factors have contributed to the immediate need for pension reform in Phoenix. “Pension spiking,” where employees inflate compensation immediately before retiring increases pension payouts upon retirement, will cost the city over $190 million if left unchecked. This occurs when a city employee close to retirement converts benefits like unused sick time or saved vacation pay to boost benefits.

A select group of retirees have been receiving six-figure pension payouts with this scheme, compliments of Phoenix taxpayers. One recent City manager received an annual pension of $246,813 and upon retiring received $270,174 in sick/vacation days payouts. Another city employee, an executive assistant to the fire chief, received a lump-sum payout of more than $900,000 at age 54. That was on top of his $149,420 annual pension for life.

The Arizona Republic estimates that pension spiking costs city taxpayers $12 million per year. Prop. 487 would prohibit this outrageous practice.

The city's current defined benefit pension system is underfunded by $1.5 billion dollars and annual pension costs have increased by over 40% since 2011 to $253 million. Prop. 487 would replace the defined benefit pension with a 401(k)-type plan for city employees. It would exempt police and firefighters.

The Arizona Republic Editorial Board had this to say: “These dramatic changes will give Phoenix control over skyrocketing pension costs that threaten to strangle the city's ability to provide the services Phoenix residents have come to expect.”

They ultimately endorsed the proposal. “Prop. 487 promises to stanch the financial bleeding that is costing Phoenix taxpayers and seriously threatening city services.The Arizona Republic recommends a 'yes' vote.”

Americans for Tax Reform agrees with the Arizona Republic and endorses Phoenix's Proposition 487.

If you live in Arizona and haven’t already voted, click here to find out where to vote in person.

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ATR signed an International Coalition Letter against Global Taxation

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Posted by Lorenzo Montanari on Friday, October 10th, 2014, 2:10 PM PERMALINK


On October 13, the World Health Organization (WHO) will meet behind closed doors in Moscow to once again consider mandating expansive excise taxes that degrade national sovereignty. In response to the numerous attempts by global institutions to implement regional and international taxes, Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) and Property Rights Alliance together with 20 taxpayer and free market groups from 15 countries has released an international coalition letter promoting tax competition and outlining firm opposition to transnational taxation and to any increase and harmonization to excise taxes.

Excerpt from the letter:

 We, the undersigned taxpayer, free market groups and individuals support tax autonomy and oppose any regional or international tax changes that include “harmonizing” tax rates or introducing new taxes. Such schemes have been proposed through the European Union (EU), the United Nations (UN) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

 Tax competition can be a key factor driving countries to lower tax rates and increase economic activity.” […] Tax Competition, by contrast, is a natural dynamic that allows people to move economic resources from high tax areas to low tax areas. […]

 A much-discussed tax is the Financial Transactions Tax (FTT), also known as the Tobin Tax, which has been proposed in various guises by different bodies over the past few years including the EU. One model, proposed by the UN, is a world tax imposed on all financial transactions, with the goal of funding a global model of social services including basic income, free healthcare, education and housing to those the UN deem in need. […]

There have been attempts by the EU and by the World Health Organization (WHO) to establish uniform excise taxes on products such as sugary drinks, tobacco, and alcohol.  This would represent a dangerous precedent, and such excise taxes could be easily extended to all other consumer products.

Please click the link to read the full letter.

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john

And you are ranting against what? Did you do an analysis of the costs of upping the funding for the WHO? Spread out over the First World economies? Do you even know what the WHO budget is for this year? Do you realize that the US government is allocating $750 million dollars for intervention in the Ebola epidemic? Do you know what percentage of the WHO budget $750 million dollars is?

Please attempt to understand the issues before you decide to publish an article on the subject.


Marijuana Tax Hike Could Go Up in Smoke

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Posted by Will Upton on Friday, October 10th, 2014, 4:20 AM PERMALINK


The Washington state legislature hiked taxes on marijuana, will the voters buy it on the ballot?

Washington State has a non-binding Advisory Question on this year’s ballot, Advisory Question 8: “Concerns Marijuana Excise Tax”. Advisory Question 8 deals with the state’s recently legalized marijuana industry, specifically, the state legislature’s decision to essentially deem the industry non-agricultural – exposing consumers to a higher tax burden than they would have with other agricultural products. All-in-all, consumers will face a $24.9 million tax increase over the next decade. The ballot language reads: “The legislature eliminated, without a vote of the people, agricultural excise tax preferences for various aspects of the marijuana industry, costing an estimated $24,903,000 in the first ten years, for government spending. This tax increase should be:
[  ]  Repealed [  ]  Maintained”

The Advisory Question was placed on the ballot after the passage of Senate Bill 6505. The legislation redefined the marijuana industry, declaring it non-agricultural, exposing consumers to higher taxes.

In Washington State, Advisory Questions were once part of a broader provision that was frequently enacted via initiative that required a two-thirds supermajority of the legislature to raise taxes. Tax increases could also be placed on the ballot for voter approval. The Advisory Question was the only provision to survive the state Supreme Court striking down the statute requiring a two-thirds supermajority of the legislature to increase taxes in 2013. The grounds for the decision were based on the argument that preventing tax hikes somehow prevented the “adequate” funding of education.

Advisory Question 8 will be an interesting issue to watch as Washington State voters have had a long streak of opposing tax increases.

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4 Reasons for a Permanent Internet Tax Moratorium

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Posted by Matthew Bruno on Thursday, October 9th, 2014, 4:42 PM PERMALINK


Without further Congressional action, states and localities will begin taxing Internet access as soon as December 11th. A permanent moratorium, the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act, has passed the House with a simple voice vote, demonstrating bipartisan agreement about the importance of a tax-free Internet. Unfortunately, Senate Democrat Leader Harry Reid has refused to introduce the bill to the Senate, preferring to hold out for a remote sales tax increase through the so-called “Marketplace Fairness Act” (MFA), a highly controversial issue. Polling shows Americans overwhelmingly oppose Reid’s scheme to tax online sales, but a large majority of Americans can get behind a permanent continuance of a tax-free Internet. Nonetheless, in a classic show of divisive politics, Harry Reid has held hostage the freedom of the Internet to pass a tax increase on Americans that buy products online or over the phone.

No American wants to pay more taxes, but taxes on access to the Internet is bad economic growth policy, not just tax policy. Here are the top four reasons why a permanent Internet tax moratorium is necessary to stop this. 

1. Keeping the Internet tax free encourages online innovation and digital entrepreneurship. Online investment and tech startups would be disincentivized to the point of obscuring the open and inventive Internet we all know and love. The United States is a global tech leader due to our private development and deregulation of online ventures. A tax moratorium also promotes innovation in cost-defective expansion of broadband access. An Internet access tax would be another cost paid by customers and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that would ultimately turn companies away from creating new developments in the tech space. Taxing Internet access would serve to hamper this industry in much the same way other great American industries (auto, manufacturing) have been hamstrung by government interference.

2. Taxing the Internet would have a harsh impact on lower income families. This is the demographic that a tax-free Internet serves to help and assist in seeking employment. Raising the cost of the Internet through a usage tax would diminish the overall number of users. A recent study predicted that a 10% increase in price can be expected to illicit a 15% reduction in adoption. This negative growth is the antithesis of a free Internet.

3. An Internet access tax would raise the costs of all Internet-related business. Whether it be the price of ISPs, the cost of running and maintaining a website, or transaction fees of e-commerce including online shopping, a usage tax would hurt all Internet users. In much the same way that rising gasoline prices are felt throughout the economy, raising the cost of using the Internet would be seen by all online participants.

4. Access taxes would be yet another permanent part of the government shakedown. If the moratorium expires, state and local governments will be able to tax access to the Internet. If the ban is allowed to expire and governments start taxing access (which they certainly would), these funds would be built into state budgets with vested interests devoted to keeping these taxes in place. As every previous tax has proven, you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.

Permanently extending the Internet Tax Freedom Act is a crucial step in safeguarding long-term American Internet prosperity and continued online growth. Americans for Tax Reform, Digital Liberty, and supporters of Internet freedom throughout the country endorse a permanent moratorium on Internet access taxes.​

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ATR Opposes Gas Tax Increase in New Jersey

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Posted by Paul Blair on Thursday, October 9th, 2014, 2:26 PM PERMALINK


Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist sent a letter to the New Jersey legislature and Governor Chris Christie this week urging them to reject efforts to increase the gas tax. After years of reckless overspending, the Transportation Trust Fund has racked up $18 billion of debt and is close to running dry.

A second hearing will be held in New Brunswick on October 14 where a number of special interests are expected to reiterate their calls for a gas tax increase. The state should reject these calls because a gas tax hike would harm families struggling to make ends meet, families who have had to grapple with 20 new or higher federal taxes over the past several years. A vote for any transportation funding package that raises the gas tax without dollar for dollar tax cuts elsewhere would be a violation of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

New Jersey doesn’t have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem.

A large reason the Trust Fund is out of money is because capital costs for transportation projects are astronomically high. According to the Reason Foundation’s 21st Annual Report on the Performance of State Highway Systems, New Jersey spends $2.02 million per mile of highway, more than any other state in the nation. New York spends less than a quarter of what New Jersey does at $462,000 per mile on its transportation system. Project Labor Agreements and prevailing wage laws have greatly contributed to exorbitant costs and a bankrupt Transportation Trust Fund.

Transportation packages that do not contain solutions for reining in spending and addressing these cost-drivers will do little to solve New Jersey’s long-term problems. The legislature should commission an independent audit aimed at identifying waste and mismanagement of Trust Fund dollars. Otherwise, tax dollars actually spent on transportation projects will continue to benefit those who build roads far more than those who actually use them.

New Jersey is already among the highest taxed states in the nation. Residents pay the highest property taxes and some of the highest income and corporate taxes as well. The state comes in second to last for the Tax Foundation’s Annual State Business Tax Climate Index. Discussions revolving around raising the gas tax make it seem as if there is a race to the top on every tax that exists in the state.

Legislators should work to cut costs, rein in spending, and reject all efforts to increase the overall tax burden.

Click here to read the letter. 

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Taxpayer Dollars Used to Fund Union Activities (and more...)

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Posted by Zoe Crain on Thursday, October 9th, 2014, 1:00 PM PERMALINK


Connor Wolf of The Daily Caller wrote an article discussing the massive amount of taxpayer funds that are spent on union activities for public employees.

Matt Patterson, executive director, for the Center for Worker Freedom, told the Washington Examiner the relationship between public-sector unions and federal agencies was suspect at best.

“People are under the impression that tax dollars go to pay public employees to do public business, but that’s not always so,” Patterson said. “It all amounts to a huge public payoff from elected officials to their Big Labor campaign contributions.”

The American Spectator’s Matt Schlapp wrote about Kansas Governor Sam Brownback’s successes over the course of his term.

Four years ago, Sam Brownback was elected the governor of Kansas in a landslide. Within two years, he was able to elect a conservative majority in the state senate, a goal that had alluded GOP activists for decades. Then Brownback did what he said he would do- cut taxes, reformed education, and opposed Obamacare, earning the praise of many on the right, including Grover Norquist.

First, it has become a truism that when a Republican governor aggressively takes on the left, he or she will be viciously attacked. Brownback has succeeded in enacting a solid conservative agenda. He eliminated income taxes on small businesses, and reduced income taxes on everyone else. He fought to keep coal as part of electricity generation feedstock. He refused the money and mandates of the Obamacare Medicaid expansion. Combine Brownback’s bold reforms with his longtime reputation as a cultural warrior, and you get a tantalizing target for the left.

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Another Tax Revolt in Massachusetts?

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Posted by Will Upton on Thursday, October 9th, 2014, 5:00 AM PERMALINK


Massachusetts voters could scrap a new law that indexes the state gas tax to inflation.

Question 1: “Eliminating Gas Tax Indexing” – An initiated state statute, Question 1 could repeal a law passed this past legislative session indexing the Massachusetts state gas tax to inflation – eliminating a vote-less backdoor tax hike on taxpayers. The initiative reads “This proposed law would eliminate the requirement that the state’s gasoline tax, which was 24 cents per gallon as of September 2013, (1) be adjusted every year by the percentage change in the Consumer Price Index over the preceding year, but (2) not be adjusted below 21.5 cents per gallon.” Voters are told: “A YES VOTE would eliminate the requirement that the state’s gas tax be adjusted annually based on the Consumer Price Index. A NO VOTE would make no change in the laws regarding the gas tax.”

In addition to the ballot language, voters are also presented with an argument in favor of eliminating the gas tax indexing, as well as an argument against. The initiative has the support of several legislators and Jeffrey T. Kuhner (President of the Edmund Burke Institute for American Renewal) who notes in The Washington Times: “…the law is more than a corrupt attempt to hike taxes through the back door. It represents a fundamental assault on the very basis of our constitutional republic: No taxation without representation. This law does the very opposite. It enshrines the pernicious principle of taxation without representation. Democratic lawmakers have given themselves a free pass from voting for any future gas tax increases. This violates the basic precept of self-government – namely, that elected representatives can only raise the people’s taxes with their explicit consent through a vote in the legislature. The precedent is ominous. Today, it is gas taxes that will be hiked automatically. Tomorrow, it will be property, sales and income taxes. It is liberal corruption at its worst – a one-party regime that doesn’t even pretend to care about democratic accountability and government transparency.”

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More Support Rolls In for Ridesharing Companies

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Posted by Zoe Crain on Wednesday, October 8th, 2014, 4:55 PM PERMALINK


Following a successful summer defense against regulatory challenges in major cities across the country, ridesharing companies now have more good news. This week, The Initiative on Global Markets Economic Experts Panel, hosted by the University of Chicago, unanimously agreed that allowing ridesharing companies, like Uber, Lyft and, Sidecar to operate without oppressive regulations increases consumer welfare. In short: stop suing Uber, and start using it instead. This is welcome news in the nation’s capital, where this week, cab drivers are protesting against Uber, while failing to realize that spending all day not working in protest just gives even more incentive for DC consumers to request an Uber instead.

When asked whether they agree or disagree that “letting car services such as Uber or Lyft compete with taxi firms on equal footing regarding genuine safety and insurance requirements, but without restrictions on prices or routes, raises consumer welfare,” an overwhelming majority “strongly agreed” or “agreed.” Specifically, 56% “strongly agreed,” while 37% “agreed.” 0% were uncertain, disagreed, or strongly disagreed, while several panelists abstained.

The panel includes 43 top economists from institutions such as MIT, Berkeley, Stanford, Harvard, Yale and Princeton, who vote weekly on a series of socially, politically, and culturally relevant statements. As share economy companies have grown and expanded to provide more ease and function to their users, they’ve also become the prime target for regulators, who see them as disruptive and threatening.

In his comments, University of Chicago professor and IMG panelist Steven Kaplan wrote, “new technology/information more than offset any net benefits of regulation.”

Certain city councils, on the other hand, disagree. Over the past few months, large cities held hostage by entitled cab companies and transportation networks sent cease-and-desist letters, issued fines, and even banned the ride-sharing services completely. In response, the share economy geared up to push back against the punitive proposed regulations, encouraged by thrilled consumers.

In Austin, for example, the city began issuing cease-and-desist orders to ride share companies. In response, Uber offered completely free rides throughout the city during the South by Southwest Interactive festival, which attracts over 30,000 attendees per year (at the time, there were only 270 cabs in the city’s entire fleet.) Naturally, people were thrilled, and Austin is now implementing a pilot program to lead towards embracing ride-share companies.

In an op-ed for the New York Times, Peterson Institute for International Economics senior fellow Justin Wolfers writes,

“The latest survey asked these economic experts about ride-sharing services, like Uber and Lyft. These services are popular with customers, but are despised by their competitors. The incumbent taxi and limousine services have largely eschewed trying to compete with lower prices or better service, instead working behind the scenes to persuade regulators to banish ride sharing. Their arguments dress their naked self-interest in the guise of public policy concerns. But do the economists buy it? Should regulators restrict the prices, the number of drivers or the available routes available to Uber and its brethren?

                In a word: No.”

ATR’s John Kartch writes in a Forbes op-ed that Republicans and center-right groups need to take advantage of this upswing, and use it to develop a new generation of pro-innovation, free-market voters.

“The votes of sharing economy participants are up for grabs. Feeling a personal stake in public policy, a critical mass of voters will be open to calls to rein in the tax and regulatory excesses that get in the way of their pursuit of happiness.”

Looks like the pursuit of happiness is now just a quick Uber ride away.

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Alfredo Mendez

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JJinTX

Wow, short sighted, one sided, and not entirely accurate. As a conservative in support of tax reform, I am rather appalled by some of these opinion columns I have read in recent months.


Liberal Trial Lawyer Mike Woelfel Promises to Raise Taxes in Bid for West Virginia State Senate

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Posted by Paul Blair on Wednesday, October 8th, 2014, 4:23 PM PERMALINK


In his bid to become the next state Senator from West Virginia’s 5th district, trial lawyer Mike Woelfel has promised voters that if elected, he will raise taxes.

Click here to listen.

“I’m the first politician that says I’ll raise your taxes.” -Mike Woelfel

Hold your wallets. Promising to raise taxes is far from a forward thinking plan for pulling West Virginia out of decades of fiscal decline. West Virginia University’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research estimates that by 2030, the state will lose another 20,000 residents. Raising taxes will expedite this process.

Liberal Democrat Mike Woelfel clearly doesn’t understand what’s going on in West Virginia. Hundreds of thousands of people have moved from high tax states to low-tax ones. For decades, the Democrat-run legislature has sat idly by as billions of dollars in investment and opportunities have leapt over the Mountain State. Even for a proud Progressive, this should be troubling.

The WVU study noted, “Positive changes to the state’s business or policy environment…could attract migration into the state.” Higher taxes aren’t the answer.

The Republican in the race for the 5th district is a businesswoman who understands this. Vicki Dunn-Marshall has created thousands of jobs and understands that too many people have left the state because of the kinds of policies that Mike Woelfel supports. Not only does Vicki Dunn-Marshall oppose higher taxes, she put it in writing to voters by signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

By signing the Pledge, Vicki Dunn-Marshall has demonstrated that she is the only candidate in the 5th district that stands with taxpayers and against special spending interests in Charleston. Voters should remember that when they head to the ballot box on Election Day.

Click here to find out where to vote in West Virginia. 

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