Congress Needs to Clamp Down on IRS Targeting of Free Speech

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Wednesday, April 27th, 2016, 8:00 AM PERMALINK


Under the Obama Presidency, the IRS has targeted non-profit organizations in order to limit free speech time and time again.

This has taken several forms, including the agency subjecting donors of non-profits to the gift tax in what was a blatant intimidation attempt. In the most notable example of targeting, Lois Lerner and countless IRS employees under her direction discriminated against conservative non-profit organizations based solely on their beliefs. Because of this coordinated effort, just one conservative non-profit was granted tax exempt status over a three year period between 2009 and 2012.

But despite multiple Congressional investigations into this targeting, little has changed, as a recent report by the Government Accountability Office found. As the report noted, serious internal control flaws mean the IRS may still be unfairly selecting Americans for an audit “based on an organization’s religious, educational, political, or other views.”

Clearly, there is more that needs to be done.

This week, the House Ways and Means Committee will take another step addressing IRS overreach when it considers several pieces of legislation including the Preventing IRS Abuse and Protecting Free Speech Act, introduced by Congressman Peter Roskam (R-Ill.)

Rep. Roskam’s legislation prevents the IRS from targeting non-profits by prohibiting the agency from collecting the identity of donors who contribute to these organizations. Bizarrely, the IRS requires non-profits to provide this information but does not use it for any purpose. Given the increasing politicization of the agency, it is likely a matter of time before the IRS decides to use this information to target organizations it does not agree with.

This issue should not be partisan in any way and should be supported by all Members of Congress. Doing nothing in the face of the Obama IRS targeting organizations based on political affiliation opens the door to future administrations doing the same regardless of whether they are Democrat or Republican.

It is well established that the Obama IRS has worked to curtail political speech. Now, Congress must make clear that this targeting is unacceptable and implement reforms to ensure First Amendment rights are protected and the IRS is held in check.

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Congress Should Eliminate, Not Rewrite Business Deprecation Schedules

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Tuesday, April 26th, 2016, 5:15 PM PERMALINK


Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) today released a proposal to rewrite existing depreciation schedules. While his Cost Recovery Reform and Simplification discussion draft should be applauded for simplifying the tax code, it ultimately falls short. Rather than papering over the cracks in the tax code by modifying depreciation law, Congress should implement immediate, full business expensing.

Currently, the tax code forces the costs associated with business investment to be slowly deducted over several to many years, in an arbitrary process known as “depreciation.”

Under this system there is a bizarre patchwork of rules governing depreciation that varies widely depending on the purchase. If a business purchases a box of paper clips, it can be written off the first year.  But if a business purchases a computer, it takes five years to recover the cost. A desk takes seven years and a building as much as 39 years.

This distorts business decisions by needlessly and arbitrarily treating purchases differently under the tax code.

The Wyden draft replaces the current 100+ depreciation system with a more streamlined system involving just six “pools.” Addressing this complexity goes in the right direction, but it ultimately falls short of the goal of treating all purchases equally.

It makes no sense for the tax code to say that a wage payment, or a rent payment, or a box of pencils should be deductible on the one hand, and that a computer or desk is not. That's arbitrary and distortive. Most tax experts now believe that a business cash flow system is the right starting point for a better tax base.

Business fixed investment is one of the cornerstones of productivity growth. Without productivity growth, you don’t get economic growth. Without economic growth, our living standards remain stagnant or fall.

In fact, allowing business to immediately deduct expenses would increase investment in capital stock by 15.62 percent, increase wages by 4.42 percent, and grow the economy by 5.21 percent, according to a study by the Tax Foundation.

While the Wyden draft moves in the right direction, it ultimately falls short of the goal of treating all business expenses equally. Congress should not rewrite depreciation schedules, it should eliminate them. 

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Happy World IP Day!

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Posted by Rayanne Matlock on Tuesday, April 26th, 2016, 3:52 PM PERMALINK


Owning property is a fundamental human right, and intellectual property is no different. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution of the United States protects intellectual property to foster creativity, innovation and growth. The United States Patent and Trademark Office estimates that IP-intensive industries are responsible for creating more than 40 million jobs in the United States and contributes nearly 35% to U.S. GDP.

That is why every year on April 26th, individuals and organizations around the world celebrate World Intellectual Property (IP) Day. Founded by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 2000, World IP Day was created to spread awareness about the importance of protecting intellectual property. This year, the theme for the day is “Digital Creativity: Culture Reimagined”. Established by the United Nations in 1967, WIPO continues to lead the global community on issues concerning intellectual property.

Other forms of IP include copyright, trademarks and patents designed to reduce the risk of theft for creative ideas. WIPO reports that in 2014, 2,680,900 patent applications were filed world-wide, as well as 7,449,394 trademark applications. That is nearly twice as many applications filed in 2004 and the market continues to grow.

Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property David Kappos stated, “America needs to continue investing in a high quality and appropriately balanced intellectual property system that will promote innovative, open, and competitive markets while helping to ensure that the U.S. private sector remains America's innovation engine.” The effort to protect intellectual property must continue to be at the forefront of economic policy in order to foster a healthy environment for economic and social growth.

Everyone is invited to spread awareness about intellectual property rights by participating in World IP Day. Those wishing to join the celebration of World IP Day are encouraged to use the #WorldIPDay hashtag on social media.  

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ATR Urges Support for H.R. 699, Email Privacy Act

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Posted by Rayanne Matlock on Tuesday, April 26th, 2016, 3:33 PM PERMALINK


This morning, a letter signed by Americans for Tax Reform and 69 other individuals and organizations was sent to the House of Representatives in support for H.R. 699, the Email Privacy Act. The bill is a bipartisan effort intended to update the current privacy regulations imposed by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA). Currently under ECPA, emails can be accessed after 180 days without a warrant. The Email Privacy Act eliminates the 180-day loophole and prevents government agencies from gaining exemption from the law.

The House is scheduled to vote on H.R. 699 tomorrow, April 27th. 

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House to vote on the Email Privacy Act H.R. 699

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Posted by Cecelia Mitchell on Tuesday, April 26th, 2016, 3:24 PM PERMALINK


On Wednesday, April 27, the House plans to bring H.R. 699, the Email Privacy Act, to a full vote. The Email Privacy Act is a huge bipartisan effort to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986. The Email Privacy Act, led by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) and Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS), currently has a supermajority in the House, with more than 314 cosponsors.

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act was created during a time without widespread use of email, social media, or Cloud computing. Very few Americans even owned computers when ECPA was written. Passage of the Email Privacy Act will bring the ECPA into the 21st century and fix its outdated privacy laws.

Updating the ECPA is necessary in a world that operates almost entirely online. Americans should be able to reasonably expect privacy for their emails and items stored in the Cloud. The Email Privacy Act would end the 180-day loophole, effectively protecting emails from warrantless search and seizure. The bill will also keep civil agencies from warrant exemption, keeping government surveillance powers under control.

The Email Privacy Act has widespread support in the House. The bill was passed unanimously in a 28-0 vote by Republican and Democrat members of the House Judiciary Committee during a markup. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) released the following statement: “We urge the full House to pass this bill soon so the Senate can do the same.  The American people deserve a law that matches today’s digital age.” The bill also has a great deal of support from privacy advocates, civil libertarians, and businesses.

It is absolutely crucial that we call on the House of Representatives to pass the Email Privacy Act when it comes to a vote on April 27th. It is also vital for the Senate to pass companion legislation called ECPA Amendments Act, which already has support from nearly one-fourth of the Senate.

Now is the time to finally protect American’s privacy in this technological age. 

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Grover Norquist Submits Comments to the FCC on the Proposed Set Top Box Mandate

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Posted by Cecelia Mitchell on Friday, April 22nd, 2016, 2:31 PM PERMALINK


In early 2016, FCC’s Chairman Tom Wheeler released a new proposed set-top box mandate. As the FCC moves forward with the proposal, Americans for Tax Reform’s President Grover Norquist submitted comments in opposition to the regulation.

The problem with the proposal is that it will distort the marketplace and violate programmer’s private property and contract rights by making video programming accessible to third-party devices. With this proposed rule, the FCC is interfering with the contracts made between content creators and service providers by creating an avenue for interference by third parties. The FCC should be upholding these privately made contracts instead of undermining them.

For years now, companies have already been developing alternative devices and apps for consumers to access content. These alternatives were produced under free market principles and not under excessive regulations from the FCC. There is simply no need for the FCC to step into the market and create unwelcomed regulations.

 

See Grover Norquist’s full comments below:

 

April 20, 2016

 

Dear Chairman Wheeler and Fellow Commissioners,

 

Thank you for the opportunity to submit comments regarding the proposed set top box mandate. I believe that going forward with this rule making will have the unintended effect of limiting competition and favoring one group of competitors over others, which will result in increased consumer costs and delayed innovation.

I urge you to allow competition to continue under free market principles. Technology companies are already free to compete in the TV market on level terms, by negotiating with content owners to license video programming and offer a competing video service – as new entrants like Netflix, Hulu, and Sling TV have already done in recent years.  There is no need for the FCC to put its thumb on the scale.

Allowing third party providers to aggregate and disseminate content without the content owner’s permission, violates the programmers’ private property rights and distorts the marketplace.  It is the FCC’s duty to secure individual rights, including upholding contracts and enforcing copyright law, but this mandate would instead undermine privately negotiated licensing contracts.  The agency cannot deliver these rules and call it competition.

However, by re-examining competition through the lens of content creation and delivery platforms, I think we can agree that competition is alive and well. 

The set top box is a thing of the past. Charter and Time Warner Cable already supply video content to consumers via apps that don’t require any set top box at all.  Comcast just announced that it will offer its service, including linear TV, via an app that is compatible with both Samsung internet TVs and Roku. 

 

Video providers’ apps are compatible with hundreds of millions of consumer-owned devices; its exactly the wrong time for a federal mandate that will “lock in” box technologies at a time when consumers are already moving away from the leased set top box.

Apps and access to quality content are what have been driving consumer preferences for video viewing, not the hardware that they use. 

There are plenty of other third party devices that consumers use to access apps: gaming consoles, Apple TV, Roku, TiVo, computers, tablets and mobile phones.  There are plenty of OTT services that are available via apps:  Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Hulu, Vudu, HBOGo and more.  When I wanted to rewatch the presidential debates the following morning, I was able to watch them via the YouTube app on my iPhone while brushing my teeth.

All of the competitors listed above have entered into some type of contract with a content provider. These contracts are agreements as to how content will be disseminated, where, what time, legal obligations, copyright considerations, how long it will be available, ect.   The FCC’s proposal would undermine the sanctity of these contracts by allowing device makers to disregard voluntarily negotiated terms. 

The micromanagement of inter-business relationships attempts to set aside our goals as a free market economy in favor of what the FCC and Administration think is best.

The marketplace for video devices and services is already functioning well, and the goal of increasing consumers’ choice for video devices is already being realized in the marketplace.  There is simply no need or justification for an anti-competitive mandate such as the one the Commission is considering. 

I urge you to reject this proposal.

Onward,

Grover G. Norquist

 

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PORCH MONKEY

Grover is a self serving POS D I C K.


Obama's Paris Agreement: All Cost and No Benefit for the U.S.

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Friday, April 22nd, 2016, 1:44 PM PERMALINK


Today the Obama Administration will sign the Paris climate agreement at a ceremony in New York, a move that is projected to severely impact the U.S. economy with ironically negligible impacts for the environment. The agreement will not only set the stage for increased regulation, but will crush U.S. economic output, reduce household income for millions, and likely lead to hundreds of thousands of lost jobs.

The agreement is a product of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, where President Obama met with world leaders to commit the U.S. to non-binding emission reduction targets. Under the agreement, Obama committed the U.S. to wholly improbable reduction goals of 26 to 28 percent by year 2025.

Through a litany of regulations stemming from the agreement, Obama has essentially offered up the U.S. economy as a sacrificial lamb to further his own legacy.  Sadly, the agreement will not just hurt the country’s growth as a whole, but will trickle down to low-and-middle income Americans. As a result of the agreement, energy costs will skyrocket, in turn raising the cost of utility bills for families and increasing the costs of consumer goods.

A recent study by the Heritage Foundation projects that the Paris agreement and resulting policies will increase electricity costs for a family of four between 13 and 20 percent annually. The study also projected American families will see over $20,000 of lost income by year 2035. Such regressive policy hits the nation’s most vulnerable hardest, who ironically are the same people Obama uses to justify the deal. 

The Paris deal is also slated to reduce U.S. GDP by over $2.5 trillion, and result in an average shortfall of nearly 400,000 jobs by 2035. Of the 400,000 jobs lost, an estimated 200,000 will be in the manufacturing sector. This means Americans will also see the costs of consumer goods such as electronics, paper products, and apparel increase, inevitably taking more out of household income.

With such drastic costs to the U.S., American’s would expect an equally drastic benefit on the other end, yet that is simply not the case. Policies such as those resulting from climate deal would, even with a complete elimination of U.S. carbon emissions, result in less than two-tenths of a degree Celsius reduction in global temperatures. 

It is all to clear the Paris climate deal is all cost and no benefit for the U.S., and the Obama Administration is comfortable sacrificing low-and-middle income Americans, along with thousands of jobs and GDP, for an environmental benefit that is negligible, at best.   

 

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ATR Recognizes Pledge Signers Prior to PA Congressional Primary

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Posted by Alec DiFruscia on Friday, April 22nd, 2016, 1:04 PM PERMALINK


Today, Americans for Tax Reform recognizes the Pennsylvania incumbents and challengers who have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge to the American people ahead of Tuesday’s primary. These candidates have made a commitment to their constituents and the American public that they will never raise their taxes.

Incumbents:

Sen. Pat Toomey

Rep. Mike Kelly (PA-03)

Rep. Glenn Thompson (PA-05)

Rep. Pat Meehan (PA-07)

Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-08)*

Rep. Bill Shuster (PA-09)

Rep. Tom Marino (PA-10)

Rep. Lou Barletta (PA-11)

Rep. Keith Rothfus (PA-12)

Rep. Charlie Dent (PA-15)

Rep. Tim Murphy (PA-18)

Challengers:

Chet Beiler

State Sen. Lloyd Smucker

Marc Duome

Glenn Geissinger

*Brian Fitzpatrick has yet to sign the Pledge

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Bernie Slams Hillary’s Soda Tax: “This proposal clearly violates her pledge.”


Posted by John Kartch on Friday, April 22nd, 2016, 12:18 PM PERMALINK


Sanders: “The mechanism here is fairly regressive. And that is, it will be increasing taxes on low income and working people.”

Bernie Sanders called out Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s endorsement of a soda tax, noting the Clinton tax violates her pledge to the American people not to support any tax increase on Americans making less than $250,000 per year.

As reported by NBC News, Sanders said:

"Frankly, I am very surprised that Secretary Clinton would support this regressive tax after pledging not to raise taxes on anyone making less than $250,000. This proposal clearly violates her pledge," he said.

In a separate comment reported by The Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross, Sanders said:

“The mechanism here is fairly regressive. And that is, it will be increasing taxes on low income and working people.”

Despite making a pledge to the American people that she will not raise taxes on anyone earning less than $250,000 Clinton said Wednesday that she is “very supportive” of a soda tax.

Clinton was speaking in Philadelphia and offered her tax hike endorsement out of the blue. She said:

“I’m very supportive of the mayor’s proposal to tax soda to get universal preschool for kids. I mean, we need universal preschool, and if that’s a way to do it, that’s how we should do it.”

Clinton used preschool as an excuse for her soda tax endorsement, and the threat to soda and pop drinkers nationwide is clear: Clinton’s official campaign plan calls for universal preschool for the entire country.

The specific soda tax endorsed by Clinton is three cents per ounce of soda.

“Hillary said she would cheerfully support tax hikes on low and middle income American who drink soft drinks,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. “What taxes on low income Americans would she really oppose? Any?”

Further details about this and other Hillary Clinton tax hike endorsements can be found at Americans for Tax Reform’s dedicated website, www.HighTaxHillary.com

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NYC PIZZA RAT

its like the herpes in Hillary's brain has infected her reason.


According to Obama, DOJ Should Consider Intent…But Only for Hillary Clinton

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Posted by Jorge Marin on Thursday, April 21st, 2016, 4:18 PM PERMALINK


According to President Obama, Hillary Clinton deserves legal protections that more obviously innocent everyday Americans do not.

During a Fox News Sunday interview on April 10, the president defended Clinton’s dangerous mishandling of classified information by assuring viewers that “she would never intentionally put America in any kind of Jeopardy.” This is not much comfort for the lives that might have been put in danger through her use of an unsecure home-brew email server.

The interesting part of that quote is his use of the word “intentionally.” The reality is that he has a perfectly valid point, and in fact a person’s intentions have been an integral part of our common law understanding of crime for centuries. In legal terms, this is known as “mens rea,” or guilty mind.

Intent serves the important role of making sure a person does not go to jail over an accident. This makes it one of 2 main elements of most crimes: 1) did the accused person commit the act and 2) did they mean to do it?

Then, depending on the level of intent that legislators decided was appropriate for the crime in question, prosecutors will then need to prove the standard set in the statute: such as whether the individual knew what they were doing was a crime, of if they merely intended to do harm.

But what happens when there is no intent standard specified in the crime? Moreover, what happens when more and more criminal regulations get promulgated by an over-zealous bureaucracy that do not need to include an intent requirement?

Florida fisherman John Yates found out when he was charged with an obscure crime under a financial regulatory law that resulted in him going all the way to the Supreme Court and even losing his business. His crime? Getting rid of 3 fish he should not have caught.

It is too bad President Obama did not weigh in on his case as well. Perhaps a person needs to put U.S. security at risk by mishandling classified information first.

Since there are over 5,000 criminal laws in the books, Americans should wonder if they are expected to know all the laws to avoid breaking any of them. Fortunately, there are simple bipartisan ways to start fixing the problem. Currently, two bills in Congress are designed to address the problem. In the House, the Criminal Code Improvement Act introduced by Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and co-sponsored by both John Conyers (D-MI) and Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas) offers a simple solution: where there is no intent standard provided, a low default standard would be added for the courts to use.

This legislation is bi-partisan and has wide support from leadership—both Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) made it an integral part of their criminal justice reform platform. Even the ACLU has helped to push default intent in Michigan.

Unfortunately, the administration is not eager to help. Going so far as to claim that these modest reforms would open the doors to everything from environmental devastation to the release of rapists, terrorists, and murderers (all crimes that already have intent standards and would therefore be unaffected by any of the reforms).

Obama should stop defending the nation’s whitest collar and side with actually innocent Americans.

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