Trump Should Kill DOL Fiduciary Rule
One of President-elect Trump’s goals for 2017 should be to kill the Department of Labor’s (DOL) rule for financial advisors, commonly referred to as the “Fiduciary Rule”. The rule spans over one thousand pages and will reduce the ability of financial advisors to give advice to IRA and 401(k) holders, essentially putting the federal government in between Americans and their retirement savings decisions.
Estimates show the fiduciary rule could disqualify up to 7 million IRA holders from investment advice, and potentially reduce the number of IRAs opened annually by between 300,000 and 400,000.
The Trump administration could kill the rule in one of two ways. First, with a Republican controlled House and Senate, President Trump could look to do so by passing a bill that would effectively overturn the rule.
There has already been wide opposition to the rule expressed in both the House and Senate, with Representatives Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), Charles Boustany (R-La.) and Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) introducing a resolution earlier this year under the Congressional Review Act to block the rule. A similar resolution was introduced in the Senate by Senator Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.).
Alternatively, Trump’s second option and more likely choice would be to roll back the fiduciary rule using a new rule-making process at the Labor Department. With new DOL leadership, the Trump administration could delay the rule indefinitely. This delay would allow DOL officials under Trump to reverse the fiduciary rule altogether.
Whatever path President Trump might decide on, the need to kill the costly and burdensome fiduciary rule is huge. Killing the fiduciary rule before the April 10th 2017 implementation date would protect low-and-middle income families, small businesses, and employees from increased retirement savings costs and reduced access to investment advice.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore
Trump absolutely needs to kill this rule to keep access to advice for small investors and to give consumers choice in retirement investing.
First, it is not clear what "reverse" the rule would mean - just the definition of "fiduciary" or all of the exemptions that were amended or added? Second, most of the wirehouses have already embraced (most) of the Rule - how are the small brokers going to go back to "normal" when the big boys are spending millions on advertising that only they are giving truly unconflicted advice?
Mercatus Study Shows Harmful Effect of Occupational Licensing
Recently a new study came out from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, focussing on the effect of occupational licensing on the chiropractic, physical therapist (PT), and physician labor market specifically.
The study, authored by Edward J. Timmons, Jason M. Hockenberry and Christine Piette Durrance, finds that: “Allowing chiropractors and PTs more freedom of practice may result in lower healthcare costs.” And that “Consumer welfare is likely to be improved by having greater access to lower-priced care and more choices for pain treatment.”
This is a recurring theme in markets nowadays with ever-increasing regulations ever Right now there are more than 1,000,000 restrictions in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) which has more than 175,000 pages.
The government has a fondness for occupational licensing which can be seen in the numbers. The amount of people working in jobs that require occupational licensing has increased from 4% in 1950 to 29% in 2006. Under the guise of “safety” politicians have created artificial barriers of entry to a multitude of industries. A famous example is the absurdity of the cosmetology license that is required for hair braiding.
In general, occupational licensing increases the barrier to entry in a certain industry and thus artificially increases wages of the licensed workers. In regard to the hair braiders it made a perfectly safe job illegal to perform without very expensive training completely unrelated to the job.
Right now a big reason why people tend to go to the higher cost primary-care physician is due to ‘scope-of-practice laws’. These laws state what a, in this case, chiropractor or PT can and can’t treat. Broadening these scope-of-practice laws for chiropractors and PT’s gives customers lower-cost alternatives for back and neck pain. This could improve the efficiency of the healthcare market and lead to lower spending on Medicaid.
This study confirms, with data, what we already suspected. Occupational licensing, just like overregulation, reduces efficiency in the marketplace, causing higher costs for everyone.
Top 5 Energy Regulations Trump Should Repeal
A top priority for the Trump administration will be dismantling the regulatory regime left by President Obama. Over the course of his presidency, the Obama administration has issued over 20,000 new rules and regulations that have not only hurt small business, but also cost Americans over $100 billion. Some of the most harmful of these regulations are those imposed upon the energy sector, which have placed thousands of jobs in jeopardy and cost American companies and consumers billions of dollars.
President Trump will have no shortage of burdensome regulations to eliminate, but here are some of the most burdensome energy regulations that his administration should repeal:
1. Clean Power Plan. The rule mandates a 32 percent cut in the energy sector’s carbon emissions by 2030. Currently, the fate of the rule is being discussed by the Washington D.C. Court of Appeals. If the case is still being argued by the time Trump is sworn in he could ask the Justice Department to dismiss the case. If not, Trump could have the EPA undo the regulation.
2. Waters of the U.S. Rule (WOTUS). The WOTUS rule drastically expands the EPA’s jurisdiction, making small waterways like wetlands and ponds subject to federal rules and permitting processes. This rule is also being held up in the courts. Like the Clean Power Plan, Trump could ask the courts to dismiss the case or order the EPA to dismantle the regulation.
3. Ozone Rule. This rule sets the allowable ozone level in air at 70 parts per billion, down from 75 under the Bush administration. This rule would have economically devastating impacts on local communities deemed to be out of “attainment” by the government. Like the other rules it is also being argued in court and the Trump administration could ask for the case to be dismissed or weaken the existing rule by not enforcing it.
4. Fracking Rule. This rule sets standards for well casing, transparency and wastewater storage for hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” on federal land. It was overturned earlier this year by a federal judge, which the Obama administration is currently appealing. The Trump administration could simply drop the appeal in this scenario to undo the regulation.
5. Methane Rule. This rule was finalized recently by the Interior Department and sets new and costly regulations on energy development on federal lands. The rule would not only make recovery of affordable energy more costly, but is unnecessary and redundant as such emissions have steadily dropped in recent years thanks to advances in recovery technology. The Trump administration could also look to reverse this regulation with the help of the Republican controlled House and Senate next year.
President Obama’s legacy is one of an increasingly burdensome regulatory regime. After 8 years it is apparent that these rules have done nothing but harm Americans and businesses across the country. Fortunately, with a Republican-controlled Congress, President Trump will have no shortage of options or support in repealing many of these regulations.
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore
High Taxes For Hard Cider
Is hard cider more like beer or champagne? What seems like a trivial question has massive financial ramifications for companies and consumers in Massachusetts.
Currently, hard cider with an alcohol by volume (ABV) content of 6% or more is taxed as a champagne or sparkling wine by Massachusetts, which levies a 70 cents per gallon excise tax on such products. The excise tax rate for champagne or sparkling wine in Massachusetts is far greater than the rate applied to beverages with an ABV of 3%-6%, which are taxed 3 cents per gallon.
Attorneys AiVi Nguyen and Matthew A. Morris explained the absurdity of Massachusetts’ current alcohol regulations in a recent blog:
“'Wines' is defined in M.G.L. Chapter 138 section 1 as ‘all fermented alcoholic beverages made from fruits, flowers, herbs or vegetables’ containing less than 24% ABV. Thus, any cider with an ABV over 6% is taxed at a rate of 70 cents per gallon – a 2,333% increase in tax for what might be a very small difference in ABV.”
House Bill 4678, introduced by Rep. Paul Tucker and Sen. Joan Lovely, would remedy this problem, by making Massachusetts’ tax applications consistent with federal definitions. The law would increase the tax threshold from 6% to 8.5% ABV.
Jessica Henry from Far from the Tree Cider, a Salem, Mass.-based craft cider producer, explains the potential impact HB 4678’s passage would have on her business:
"Changing the limit from 6 percent alcohol by weight to 8.5 percent alcohol by volume would really adjust, fairly, the tax burden on our business."
Henry’s company sells beverages that typically range from 6.9% to 8% ABV, and under current law will pay $59,000 in excise taxes to the commonwealth for the year. Henry explains how the passage of HB 4678 would increase the job-creating capacity of Bay State employers and make them more competitive.
"Implementing this change here would help our cider company stay competitive with states such as New York, which has also lowered its cider tax," Henry said. "Leveling the tax playing field would allow us and other cider makers to invest more in our business and in Massachusetts."
State Sen. Michael Rodrigues (D), a co-chair of the House Revenue Committee, is supportive of HB 4678, and is optimistic for the bill’s prospects. "Certainly I, and I'm assuming most members of this committee, will be supporting this bill," Rodrigues said.
Rodrigues expects the bill to advance through the legislature and to end up on Gov. Charlie Baker’s (R) desk for approval.
The article quotes a hard cider maker, “Implementing this change here would help our cider company stay competitive with states such as New York, which has also lowered its cider tax. Leveling the tax playing field would allow us and other cider makers to invest more in our business and in Massachusetts.”
The MA booze taxes are on booze sold in the state, regardless of origin. Importers and MA makers pay the same MA tax on hard cider sold in MA. The MA taxes do not apply to booze produced in the state that is exported.
Here is a quote that the article links to, “Our cider sells like and is consumed like a beer, and not a champagne. The price point is the same as beer. We feel we should be taxed like beer. To be taxed like champagne is unfair and nonsensical.”
MA taxes beer at 10.6¢/gallon. MA taxes hard cider up to 6% alcohol at only 3¢/gallon. The cider makers want the hard cider limit increased to 8.5% alcohol for the 3¢/gallon rate. If the bill is passed, a light beer with 4.2% alcohol would be taxed at 3.5 times the rate of 8.5% alcohol hard cider.
The MA bottle deposit law applies to beer but not hard cider. The legislature should also extend the bottle deposit law to include hard cider.
ATR urges the House to oppose any new cross-border sales tax beyond Quill
Koskinen’s IRS At It Again: Tea Party Groups Denied Tax-exempt Status After Nearly 7 Years
The Albuquerque Tea Party has received a decision on their request for tax-exempt status. It came just a little later than expected. How much later? Almost seven years after applying the tea party group got denied tax-exempt status.
Even now that decision came with the IRS dragging it’s heels. The IRS had to be forced to deal with three Tea Party groups that were very much delayed under orders of a federal judge. Only one of the three groups got approved. The other two – including the Albuquerque group – got denied.
The groups have the option to appeal the decision but the group’s chief counsel, Jay Sekulow, said: “It is clear that we still have an IRS that is corrupt and incapable of self-correction,”
The only group that was approved is the Michigan-based Unite in Action. They applied for tax-exempt status more than six years ago. Next to the Albuquerque group, Tri City Tea Party from Washington State was also denied in their request.
Even though the Michigan-based group was finally approved, the more than six year waiting period is gross overreach of IRS power and a clear-as-day example of the targeting of conservative groups by the agency.
Recently IRS commissioner John Koskinen appeared in front of the House Judiciary Committee to face impeachment charges leveled by congress due to his role in the Lois Lerner targeting scandal. Under Lois Lerner’s leadership the IRS only approved one conservative group non-profit status in the three year period of 2009 to 2012.
The finishing of these three applications after a staggering seven years doesn’t mean the end to this controversy though. Another group, the Texas Patriots Tea Party, still hasn’t received a decision on their application. They are part of a class-action lawsuit against the IRS in Ohio in which last week, on November 6, a judge granted a preliminary injunction against the IRS on strong evidence of discrimination based on the conservative background of the groups.
This case is of extra interest because of the fact that the discrimination happened after May 2012 when, according to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration’s report, the IRS changed their sorting system for political cases.
The filed injunction will force the IRS to deal with the application like they would with any other but one can’t help but imagine this is nigh impossible after years of consistent discrimination against conservative groups.
Regardless of what happens, a federal agency delaying an application for almost seven years before denying it is unheard of and completely unacceptable. The IRS needs a complete overhaul to get rid of the anti-conservative bias that has infested the agency.
Congress Must Repeal or Restrain Obamacare's CMMI
When it was passed into law six years ago, Obamacare created the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) and tasked the agency with conducting demonstrations over new health care delivery and payment models in Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program with the intent of reducing healthcare costs.
While CMMI tests are supposed to increase the efficiency of healthcare programs, the agency has pushed tests with little evidence they will result in savings, while strong-arming providers into participating. At the same time, the Congressional Budget Office is utilizing unsuitable scorekeeping over CMMI tests, which has limited the ability of Congress to conduct routine oversight.
In a letter to lawmakers, a coalition of conservative groups, including ATR urged Congress to prioritize restraining or repealing this unaccountable agency next year. The letter can be found below or here.
Dear Member of Congress:
As policymakers wrap up business this year as well as prepare for a new Congress and administration, repealing and replacing Obamacare is at the top of the agenda. There are dozens of complex policy issues surrounding health care reform. One standout that urgently needs scrutiny is the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI.)
CMMI was created by Obamacare in order to facilitate demonstration projects for payments and services within those programs. Unfortunately, the outgoing Obama Administration chose to engage in executive overreach on several CMMI initiatives by making them involuntary, nationwide policy changes. Perhaps the most alarming example so far is the Medicare Part B demonstration project, which impacts cancer patients and doctors in 49 states.
Another reason to repeal CMMI, or at least to construct guardrails that can curb abusive measures like the Part B Demo, is the way that the Congressional Budget Office has scored the agency's activities. CBO thinks that CMMI’s unelected bureaucrats will save tens of billions of dollars from Medicare and Medicaid, but if the people’s elected representatives want to set policy instead, it will "cost" taxpayer dollars. This is not only bad scoring, it's an inappropriate weakening of Congress' right to make entitlement policy. Any CMMI changes short of repeal should correct this grave scorekeeping error, before it further upsets the balance of power in the policymaking process.
President, Americans for Tax Reform
President, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste
President, National Taxpayers Union
FTC Contact Lens Rule Changes Protect Free Market Competition
After 14 months of review, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued proposed changes to the contact lens rule that will protect a free and open market over the purchase of contact lenses. In addition, they preserve protections that allow consumers the freedom to purchase where they choose, free from government interference.
These proposed changes build on the success of the 2003 Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act (FCLCA) and will ensure that the free market is allowed to thrive. Given the proven success of FCLCA, federal lawmakers should be sure not to reverse this working system based on misleading rhetoric.
It is a basic principle of free markets that consumers are free to make decisions without government control over prices and purchasing choices. Existing law works and should only be tweaked as the FTC review calls for, not blown up and replaced with a radically different system as legislation in Congress would do.
Proposed Changes Ensure Consumers and Free Commerce Remain Protected
Prior to passage of FCLCA, optometrists could make it more difficult for their patients to purchase from a third party. These concerns were far from hypothetical – there were many well documented cases of bad actors implicitly or directly blocking the free choice of consumers.
To be clear, there should be no restrictions on professionals selling contact lens, nor should there be any restriction on consumers safely purchasing from a third party.
FCLCA fixed existing flaws in law by allowing consumers the right to “passive verification” over contact lens prescriptions, a change that meant patients would have access to a written prescription, so they could shop where they wanted.
The proposed FTC rule changes build on the success of FCLCA by streamlining prescription verification in a way that balances patient access and public safety in the most compliant friendly manner.
The rule calls for additional record keeping in the form of a “receipt of contact lens prescription” that enshrines the right of consumers to freely purchase from either their optometrist or a third party provider.
Consumers will also have increased flexibility to have their prescriptions verified through phone, fax, or online, a change that makes sense given the ease of communication today.
Congress Should Reject Misleadingly Named “Contact Lens Consumer Health Protection Act”
While the results of the FTC’s review moves federal law in the right direction, legislation in Congress would undo this based on vague and unproven “safety concerns.”
The Contact Lens Consumer Health Protection Act (S. 2777/H.R. 6157) would revert back to the system of “direct verification,” meaning that an optometrist must prescribe over the phone or in person. A coalition of ten conservative, free market groups, including ATR recently called on lawmakers to reject this protectionist legislation.
While the proposed change may sound innocuous, it would again open the door to bad actors denying patients the freedom to purchase wherever they wish.
Supporters of the legislation claim that it targets deceptive sales of contact lenses and ensures safety for contact lens consumers. But as noted by the FTC’s review of federal law, there is no evidence this is the case. Congress has already considered the issues of contact lens health use and they were incorporated in FCLCA upon passage more than a decade ago.
In actuality, the currently proposed legislation squeezes consumers to make it difficult, even impossible to purchase lenses from any non-optometrist third party.
Congress should not move to constrain the free market and limit consumer choice, especially given the findings of the evidence based review conducted by the FTC.
ATR Opposes Lifting Earmark Ban
Americans for Tax Reform opposes the resurrection of earmarks. The following statement can be attributed to ATR president Grover Norquist:
“Earmarks are the ‘broken windows’ of federal overspending, the currency of congressional corruption, and the price of bad votes for more spending.”
Show Notes: What the Election Results Mean for American Taxpayers
On Election Day, voters made a choice: they chose freedom. Republicans across the country swept into office. The GOP now holds the Presidency, Senate, House, 33 governorships, and 2/3 of State Legislatures. Congress can finally repeal Obamacare and pass tax reform, two items that Speaker Paul Ryan, Sen. Mitch McConnell and President Trump all agree on.
The threats to the Second Amendment, the sharing economy, the Supreme Court, and vaping are gone, and now it’s time for a bold conservative agenda for the next four years.
Hold down the CTRL key and push the PLUS + key and it enlarges the page by zoom, the minus/hyphen - key shrinks it back down.
It would be really nice if we could actually read more than half the text on that map.