Chart: Among Governors Running for President, Jindal Has Best Anti-Spending Record

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Wednesday, August 26th, 2015, 4:58 PM PERMALINK


Of the 17 GOP Presidential candidates, nine have experience serving as chief executive of a state. A study by Dan Clifton, head of policy research at Strategas Research Partners, provides an apples to apples comparison of their record on government spending. The chart below compares the average annual increase in general fund spending during each Governor’s term. The chart shows that during his time in office, Gov. Jindal has the most aggressive anti-spending record:


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Gage Skidmore https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/

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The Grover Norquist Show: Obama IRS is Rotten to the Core

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Tuesday, August 25th, 2015, 4:53 PM PERMALINK


In the 28th edition of The Grover Norquist Show, ATR President Grover Norquist discusses the latest IRS news with Policy Fellow Alex Hendrie. Since it was revealed that the IRS targeted conservative non-profits under the leadership of Lois Lerner, investigators have uncovered concerning stories of lost emails, destroyed hard drives, and Lerner's contempt for conservative and tea party groups.

While this scandal epitomises the toxic culture of the IRS, the agency has also failed to serve taxpayers in many other ways. Last week, it was revealed that the personal information of over 330,000 taxpayers was hacked in May. The agency had been warned to strengthen protection of taxpayer data seven times by watchdog groups since 2007 but failed to implement almost 50 recommendations. Clearly, the IRS is an agency in need of major reform. See the podcast here.

 

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Gage Skidmore https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/

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IRS Discloses Existence of Second Personal Email Account Used By Lois Lerner for Official Business

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Tuesday, August 25th, 2015, 11:29 AM PERMALINK


Lois Lerner had a second personal email account she used to conduct IRS business, according to a report by Washington Times reporter Stephen Dinan. The agency disclosed this information on Monday through a court filing for an open-records lawsuit that was filed by watchdog group Judicial Watch.

Update: Toby Miles is Lois Lerner's dog, according to a National Review article.

The email address, identified as “tobomatic@msn.com” was supposedly used by a “Toby Miles.” It is unclear who Toby Miles is, and what his relationship is to Lerner. Regardless, it is clear that this account was used by Lerner for IRS business. The email is the third used by Lerner for IRS business – she also used her official agency address and another personal address.

According to IRS lawyer Geoffrey J. Klimas, the agency only recently learned of the existence of this third email address:

“As the agency was putting together a set of documents to turn over to Judicial Watch, it realized Ms. Lerner had used yet another email account, in addition to her official one and another personal one already known to the agency.”

In his court filing, Klimas argued that the IRS previously hinted of the existence of additional email accounts based on a footnote contained in a 2014 letter that referenced Lerner’s “personal home computer and email on her personal email account(s).”

It is outrageous that new revelations are still breaking years after the public first learned of the Lois Lerner tea party targeting scandal. Earlier this month, a report by the Senate Finance Committee found that the IRS granted just one conservative group non-profit status over a three year period. The report concluded that Lerner’s personal political beliefs drove her to undertake a concerted effort to discriminate against tea party and conservative non-profits by delaying their applications and subjecting them to unnecessary audits.

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Another Reason for Tax Reform: Etsy Corp

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Posted by Hal Smith on Monday, August 24th, 2015, 12:33 PM PERMALINK


Yet another American start-up has packed up and moved out of the country. This time, Brooklyn based Etsy was forced to establish a subsidiary in Ireland as result of a corporate tax rate that continues to drive entrepreneurs and businesses overseas.

In 2014, Etsy recorded 5 million members, including 1.4 million active sellers and 19.8 million active buyers. With such a large presence, Etsy sellers generated gross merchandise sales of $1.93 billion globally.

But Etsy it taking the revenues elsewhere. It made the logical and legal decision to move under the 12.5% corporate tax rates in Ireland. The United States undercuts any competitive business at a rate of 39%.

While the corporate tax rate is hard enough, the structure of the tax code ensures that if companies don’t move overseas they will choose to go in debt rather than make a profitable business.

Corporations are heavily pressured to choose debt financing over equity as a result of a tax structure that ensures that equity profits and the required returns to investors are both taxed. Therefore, startups, which struggle to find available credit and simply cannot get suitable bank loans are forced into this double tax.

According to the Tax Foundation, the U.S. has the highest corporate income tax rate amongst the 34 members of the Organization for Economic Development (OECD) and the third highest in the world.

The average corporate tax rate for these OECD countries is 25% -- a little over half what the United States draws from struggling startups.  

Once again the antiquated, overly complicated, and anti-competitive corporate tax code of the United States has forced another start-up overseas. Forcing entrepreneurs to other countries is the last thing this recovering economy needs, but with such inefficient and debilitating economic barriers like double taxation, who can blame them for leaving?

There needs to be a corporate tax rate of 20% in order to have the fair competition that fosters innovation and American entrepreneurship.

 

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Michelle Roy https://www.flickr.com/photos/formulaexo/

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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.

 

Photo Credit: Chesapeake Bay Program 

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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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Nathan Warner, https://www.flickr.com/photos/greenfday69/

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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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Mikael Wiman, https://www.flickr.com/photos/wimi_karlstad/

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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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Frankie

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.


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