Schumer: Hillary Win Could Pave the Way for Carbon Tax

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Wednesday, June 24th, 2015, 3:08 PM PERMALINK


In a recent speech, Senator Chuck Schumer (R-N.Y.) said he hopes for a Carbon tax if Hillary Clinton becomes President in 2016. In particular, he believes Republicans should “compromise” and agree to this tax:

“There's one sort of [value-added tax] Democrats might be for — and that's a carbon tax. So you might get a compromise along those lines.”

President Obama has considered implementing a carbon tax on several occasions during his presidency, however the idea has been met with fierce opposition. 

Schumer characterized the carbon tax as “the best way to fund the government” despite the idea previously being criticized by economists and businesses alike. 

His comments on the carbon tax as a way to address “revenue shortages” mirrors the rhetoric of “revenue enhancements” coming from the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. Earlier this month, Clinton’s press secretary announced in a tweet that Clinton will be proposing several “revenue enhancements,” or tax increases over the summer and fall. 

Photo Credit: 
Azi Paybarah; https://www.flickr.com/photos/azipaybarah/

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James Richard Spriggs

Chuck Shumer is a Democrat, not a Republican.


IRS Gave Contracts to Felons, Tax Cheats

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Wednesday, June 24th, 2015, 11:16 AM PERMALINK


The IRS has illegally given 57 contracts to 17 companies that owed back taxes or had a felony conviction in 2012 and 2013, according to a newly released report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

According to the report, the IRS does not have effective controls in place to ensure they did not award contracts to corporations that had federal tax debt or a felony conviction. As the report finds:

“the IRS was not in compliance with Department of the Treasury implementing guidance which required COs to obtain a self-certification from corporations as to whether they have certain Federal tax debt and/or felony convictions prior to awarding contracts with FYs 2012 and 2013 appropriated funds.”

This has occurred because the IRS has failed to establish a definition of “federal tax debt” and does not perform any reviews to determine whether contractors are in compliance. As a result, TIGTA’s review identified ZERO contracts that contained the required contract clause and certification guidelines. TIGTA estimates at least 94 percent of contracts are awarded without adhering to this law. As the report states:

“Our review identified zero contracts in which the CO inserted the required contract clause and obtained the required representation and certification prior to contract award. This resulted in a 94 percent error rate….We are 95 percent confident that between 3,738 and 3,970 new contracts (from a population of 3,970) awarded to corporations during our audit period were done so without inserting the required contract clause and obtaining required representation and certification prior to award.”

As a result, TIGTA identified 17 corporations that received 57 contracts valued at $18.8 million despite having outstanding tax debt or a felony conviction.

In its response to TIGTA, the IRS asserted that it was “appropriate” to award these contracts to the companies, despite being prohibited by federal law from using funds in this manner.

Photo Credit: 
Martin Haesemeyer; https://www.flickr.com/photos/haesemeyer/

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ExRepug

Okay, don't leave us in suspense. What is the legal definition of "federal tax debt?


The Ex-Im Bank is an Outdated Relic From a By-Gone Era

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Wednesday, June 24th, 2015, 10:00 AM PERMALINK


With the charter of the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) set to expire at the end of the month, its supporters are desperately trying to keep it alive, with one supporter warning of “economic catastrophe” if the bank is not renewed. The truth is, Ex-Im is no longer needed. It was established in a different era, and American exporters will be just fine without it.  At the end of the month, Congress must take a stand against crony capitalism and put an end to this out-of-date bank.

The Ex-Im Bank was established in 1934 following an executive order by President Roosevelt, in order to assist American exporters operate overseas at a time of significant trade barriers. In 1934, the average tariff on dutiable imports sat at 46.7 percent around the world. But today, the average tariff rate has dropped to below five percent as more and more countries embrace free trade. At present there are over 400 free trade agreements in effect across the world, with more going into effect each year. As these trade barriers have dissolved, Ex-Im has become less and less a tool for American exporters and more a method for backdoor corporate welfare.

While Ex-Im may have once been a vital tool for American exporters, it has become harder and harder to justify its existence amid countless controversies. In the past six years, the Ex-Im Bank has been involved in numerous scandals culminating in 85 criminal indictments, 48 criminal judgments, and over $250 million in fines, restitution, and forfeiture.

In addition to these scandals, the claim that the bank is needed to help exporters is dubious at best. Currently, the bank assists less than two percent of exports, and those “reliant” on the bank can easily access alternative (and more efficient) sources of financing.

The primary beneficiaries of Ex-Im, corporate giants like Caterpillar and Boeing will have no trouble securing private sector loans. Countless private financiers consider Ex-Im a competitor, and they have said they could easily step in to pick up the slack if need be.

This is not even the only option available for companies seeking financing. In many cases, well-resourced corporations can offer their own financing in order to continue competing. But in many of these cases there probably was never a need for financing in the first place. Emirates Airlines, a major foreign company that benefited from Ex-Im loans has said they utilize the financing even though they do not need it, and they would still buy from Boeing without them. 

Clearly, the Ex-Im bank is no longer needed to support US exports. Not only is the bank a response to a problem that no longer exists, but the companies that overwhelmingly benefit from loans have countless other financing options. Congress must do the right thing by ending the Ex-Im bank and putting a stop to this institution that unjustly picks winners and losers.

Photo Credit: 
Evangelio Gonzalez

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EPA WOTUS Rule will Crush Property Rights and Cost Millions

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Posted by Dorothy Jetter on Wednesday, June 24th, 2015, 9:25 AM PERMALINK


Last month the EPA released its final draft of the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule, which will allow it to regulate private property anywhere that water can conceivably flow. Under these new regulations, the EPA can control everything from drains and ditches to small wetlands that have a “significant nexus” to a navigable waterway.  Specifically, waters nearly a mile (4,000 feet) away from the high water mark of a navigable waterway could be subject to increased regulations.

Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) write in a joint Op-Ed that according to the EPA’s own estimates, the finalized WOTUS rule will cost American property owners and small businesses between $158 million and $465 million a year.   The American Farm Bureau Federation calls the guidelines for this rule "so over broad and so vague that they are open to wildly varying agency interpretations."  

For example, take the case of Wyoming farmer Andy Johnson.  After putting significant time and effort into building a needed stock pond on his private property, Johnson is facing backlash from the EPA under the new WOTUS rules.  Despite complying with all applicable state rules, the EPA claims that Johnson needed a permit from the agency when deciding what to do with his land.  Johnson claims that the agency has threatened him with severe criminal charges and a daily fine of $75,000.  

 Speaker Boehner (R-Ohio) released the following statement in response to the WOTUS rule: 

“The administration’s decree to unilaterally expand federal authority is a raw and tyrannical power grab that will crush jobs.  House Members of both parties have joined more than 30 governors and government leaders to reject EPA’s disastrous WOTUS rule.  These leaders know firsthand that the rule is being shoved down the throats of hardworking people with no input, and places landowners, small businesses, farmers, and manufacturers on the road to a regulatory and economic hell.” 

WOTUS is just one example of continued EPA overreach that will cost American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.  Under the finalized rule, the EPA will not only infringe the property rights of millions of American taxpayers and small businesses, but will ironically do so using their own tax dollars.   

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JR P

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Disenfranchised Farmworkers to Confront California Governor at Black-tie Event


Posted by Matt Patterson on Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015, 10:52 AM PERMALINK


Hundreds of farm workers and their supporters protest outside the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act’s (CALRA) 40th Anniversary Celebration in Sacramento on Wednesday June 24, 2015, starting at 4:30 PM. 

The celebration – co-hosted by the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) – will feature Governor Jerry Brown and ALRB Chairman William Gould as guests of honor.

The workers, from Fresno-based Gerawan Farming, will be protesting their disenfranchisement by the labor board that began in November 2013.

That year, the workers decided they did not want to be represented by the United Farm Workers (UFW) union and collected enough signatures for a decertification election. The election was held and the workers cast their votes.

But the ballots have still not been counted. 

At the ALRA anniversary celebration, a delegation of ten workers will attempt to enter the festivities to present to Governor Brown over 800 signatures testifying their commitment to a union-free workplace, and ask for his help in getting their votes counted.

The Center for Worker Freedom will be joining with Common Sense Information and other allies to coordinate the demonstration.

WHO: Hundreds of farm workers and their supporters

WHAT: A rally against the ALRB for denying the farm workers their Frist Amendment rights of free speech and assembly

WHEN: Wednesday June 24, 2015 at 4:30 PM

WHERE: Leland Stanford Mansion
800 N St, Sacramento, CA 95814 

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Candidate Obama Decried Ex-Im Cronyism, President Obama Embraces It

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Posted by Conner Lynch on Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015, 5:30 AM PERMALINK


As a candidate for President in 2008, Barack Obama wanted to eliminate the Export-Import bank, which in his words was a “fund for corporate welfare.” Now that he is President, Obama has changed his mind and the White House now brazenly characterizes Ex-Im’s work as “essential,” and “vital” in helping big business access financing.

With the Ex-Im Bank set to expire on June 30, its supporters are desperately fighting to keep it alive. After a series of scandals including allegations of bribery, the bank has become toxic and many former supporters have decided enough is enough. Curiously, President Obama has taken the opposite approach. 

The President remains stubbornly committed to preserving the culture of crony capitalism that is emblematic in the nation’s capital. In recent months, the Obama Administration has gone all in to ensure the bank's charter is renewed. Speaking at the Export-Import Bank’s Annual Conference in April 2015, National Security Advisor Susan Rice stated that it was an important tool for American competitiveness and apparently no longer corporate welfare:

“That’s why the Export-Import Bank of the United States is essential.  Last year, financing from the Bank helped thousands of American entrepreneurs reach new markets and grow their small businesses.  It supported 164,000 private sector American jobs . . . And, I can tell you, when President Obama meets with foreign leaders, Ex-Im is an important part of our diplomacy.  So, I join the President, Members of Congress from both parties, the American Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and small business owners across the country in calling on Congress to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank with a long-term mandate to continue its vital work.”

Recent studies have shown these arguments to be false. Ex-Im subsidizes a small fraction of exports, and the overwhelming majority of its loans benefit a few well-connected corporations. One politician who understood this was presidential candidate Obama. In stark contrast to President Obama, candidate Obama argued it was time to end this wasteful tool of crony capitalism:

“I am not a Democrat who believes that we can or should defend every government program just because it's there . . . there are some that have been duplicated by other programs that we just need to cut back, like waste at the Economic Development Agency and the Export-Import Bank that has become little more than a fund for corporate welfare.”

So what has changed in this time? Well, since then the Ex-Im Bank has been used to finance companies with close connections to the administration like Solyndra. Just one year before Solyndra declared bankruptcy, Ex-Im granted Solyndra a loan to the tune of more than 10 million dollars to “finance the overseas sales of products.”

In fact, the Ex-Im bank is a huge part of the Democrat political machine. In a candid moment, Bill Clinton said that the audience at one of the bank’s recent conferences was “full of people who once worked for me.” Furthermore, the head of Ex-Im was a Clinton appointee and has been a prolific donor to the Clinton’s over the years. Perhaps this is why Obama supports the bank, and why Hillary Clinton wants to “put the Ex-Im Bank on steroids.”

Instead of supporting a Bank that pick winners and losers and subsidizes huge corporations, President Obama should listen closely to candidate Obama’s remarks and help eliminate this “fund for corporate welfare.” 

Photo Credit: 
Jack, http://bit.ly/1GDbn5V

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NE-02: Don Bacon Makes Written Commitment to Oppose Higher Taxes

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Posted by Emma Boone on Monday, June 22nd, 2015, 3:30 PM PERMALINK


Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) congratulates retired Air Force Brigadier General Don Bacon for signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which is a written commitment to the people of Nebraska to “oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses and oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates."

Candidates running for office like to say they will not raise taxes, but often turn their backs on the taxpayer once elected. The Pledge requires these candidates to put their rhetoric in writing and provide an additional layer of accountability to the taxpayer.

The Taxpayer Protection Pledge is offered to every candidate for state and federal office and to all incumbents. Nearly 1,400 elected officials, from state to representative to governor to US Senator, have signed the Pledge.

 “I want to congratulate Bacon for taking the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. The American people are tired of the tax-and-spend policies coming from Washington and they are looking for solutions that create jobs, cut government spending, and get the economy going again,” said Grover Norquist, president of ATR.

“I challenge all candidates for federal office to make the same commitment to taxpayers by signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge today,” Norquist continued.

ATR will continue to follow this race closely and will provide additional updates as more candidates sign the Pledge.

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Where Do The GOP Presidential Candidates Stand on the Ex-Im Bank?

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Monday, June 22nd, 2015, 10:00 AM PERMALINK


On June 30, the charter of the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) will expire. The bank, which purportedly exists to assist American exporters, has come under scrutiny because of countless cases of waste, fraud, and abuse. The bank does not serve the best interests of American exporters, and the overwhelmingly majority of its loans go to a select few well-connected businesses that can compete with or without Ex-Im.

With the 2016 election fast approaching, many presidential candidates have spoken out against this wasteful institution, while others remain determined to retain the status quo of crony capitalism even as the bank’s functions have been called into question.

As ATR, and others including AEI’s Tim Carney have noted, Hillary Clinton is a strong supporter of the bank. In her own words: “I’d like to put Ex-Im Bank On Steroids.”

In contrast, many declared GOP presidential candidates oppose Ex-Im, with the notable exceptions being Lindsey Graham and Rick Santorum, who support the bank. See where the candidates stand below:

Marco Rubio: “I don’t believe taxpayer money should be used as corporate welfare.”
Senator Rubio (R-Fla.) has been consistent in his opposition to ending Ex-Im. Rubio characterizes it as an unnecessary institution that picks winners and losers and he voted against the bank’s reauthorization in 2012.

Rick Perry“The best way to mend Ex-Im is to end it.”
In an op-ed to the Wall Street Journal, Perry said he can no longer justify supporting it amid “deeply disturbing” revelations of corruption and bribery within the bank.  

Rand Paul“The American people know corporate welfare when they see it”
Senator Paul, like many of his fellow Presidential hopefuls is opposed to renewing Ex-Im. Paul has argued that loans to Solyndra, Brightstone and numerous Fortune 500 companies prove that the bank is not working in the best interests of the American people.

Lindsey Graham: “I want a vote on the bank to be reauthorized.” 
Unlike his fellow GOP candidates, Senator Graham (R-S.C.) unreservedly supports the Ex-Im bank, recently saying there is “no way in hell” he would let the bank shut down. His unwavering support for the bank, even as controversy after controversy piles up aligns him firmly with Hillary Clinton as a supporter of crony capitalism.

Carly Fiorina: If we’re serious about stopping cronyism, we must do away with Ex-Im.”
 As Fiorina has said, Ex-Im is a vehicle of corporate welfare that picks winners and losers.

Ted Cruz: “The Export-Import Bank operates outside of commonsense.”
Senator Cruz has been vocal in his opposition to Ex-Im, describing it as “big businesses’ big-government bank backed by US taxpayers.”

Jeb Bush: “We should find ways to lessen the contingent liability of the federal government."
Governor Bush has called for the bank’s charter to expire saying that, “most of these things should be phased out.”

Rick Santorum: “I think it’s a mistake for us to be out there focused on the Export-Import Bank.”
Santorum, like Graham supports the Ex-Im bank despite the numerous controversies over its loans. As recently as 2014, Santorum criticized efforts to end the bank arguing it would be “tying the hands of our manufacturers.”
 

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

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Billions More Could Soon Be Spent on Obamacare State Exchanges

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Monday, June 22nd, 2015, 9:00 AM PERMALINK


The Obama administration has already given almost $5.4 billion in federal taxpayer dollars to states for the attempted construction of Obamacare exchange websites starting in 2011, according to official data. With the Supreme Court set to rule on the constitutionality of federal subsidies by the end of the month, there is the very real possibility that dozens of new exchanges will be set up, with billions more spent. Already, two states – Pennsylvania and Delaware – have announced they will construct their own exchange if the court removes federal subsidies.

The first round of state-run exchanges performed disastrously by any measure, with over half struggling financially or outright failing.

Oregon’s exchange was shut down earlier this year after burning through $305 million in federal funds - but not before spending an additional $41 million in taxpayer dollars to move back to the federal exchange. Oregon officials have since come under investigation over accusations they made decisions about the exchange based on political considerations.

Hawaii’s exchange is the latest exchange to shut down after an announcement earlier this month. The website failed to become financially viable, enrolling half the number of individuals as was needed. Hawaii received $205 million in federal funds and it is estimated they will need $30 million to transition back to the federal exchange – if it is still around at the end of the month.

Needless to say, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and any other states considering setting up their own exchange must not make the same blunders that Hawaii, Oregon and many other states have made.

The billions in Obamacare grants were funneled through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to almost all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia, although only 15 states chose to set up their own exchange. As a result, these states received over 80 percent of the existing $5.37 billion in grants. However, they received these funds with zero oversight and no strings attached.

Federal grant money was divided into four categories. Planning grants were given to almost every state and DC, although three states returned all or part of their planning grant (Florida, Louisiana and New Hampshire).

Level one establishment grants provided one year of funding to states following their planning grants. Level two grants provided funding to states that were further along in the establishment of their exchange and met certain criteria established by HHS.

HHS also awarded seven states with “early innovator grants” with the goal of assisting these states in the development of IT models that could later be adopted and implemented by other states. This initiative was largely unsuccessful.

See the list, and breakdown of grant type here.​

Information on each grant can be found here. 

See the total funding each state received below:

State

Total

Alabama

$9,772,451

Alaska

Did not apply

Arizona

$30,877,097

Arkansas

$158,039,122

California

$1,065,683,056

Colorado

$184,986,696

Connecticut

$175,870,423

Delaware

$22,236,060

Washington, D.C.

$195,141,152

Florida

$0

Georgia

$1,000,000

Hawaii

$205,342,270

Idaho

$105,292,525

Illinois

$164,902,306

Indiana

$7,895,126

Iowa

$59,683,889

Kansas

$1,000,000

Kentucky

$289,303,526

Louisiana

$0

Maine

$6,877,676

Maryland

$190,080,144

Massachusetts

$224,908,758

Michigan

$41,517,021

Minnesota

$189,363,527

Mississippi

$42,712,661

Missouri

$21,865,716

Montana

$1,000,000

Nebraska

$6,481,838

Nevada

$101,001,068

New Hampshire

$15,253,960

New Jersey

$8,897,316

New Mexico

$123,281,600

New York

$575,079,804

North Carolina

$87,357,315

North Dakota

$1,000,000

Ohio

$1,000,000

Oklahoma

$1,000,000

Oregon

$305,206,587

Pennsylvania

$34,832,212

Rhode Island

$152,574,404

South Carolina

$1,000,000

South Dakota

$6,879,569

Tennessee

$9,110,165

Texas

$1,000,000

Utah

$6,407,987

Vermont

$199,718,542

Virginia

$15,862,889

Washington

$302,333,280

West Virginia

$20,832,828

Wisconsin

$999,873

Wyoming

$800,000

Total:

$5,373,292,439

 

 

Photo Credit: 
shane_d_k; https://www.flickr.com/photos/shanedk/

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EPA's Unattainable Ozone Regulations will Kill American Jobs and GDP

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Posted by Dorothy Jetter on Friday, June 19th, 2015, 10:00 AM PERMALINK


Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finally released guidelines for regulations that were put in place back in 2008 to reduce ozone levels to 75 parts per billion (ppb). Yet before states even had an opportunity to make efforts to achieve these levels, the EPA has already begun planning to implement even more onerous regulations. 

Even though 40 percent of the U.S. population lives in areas already unable to meet the 2008 air quality standards that the EPA previously put in place, the agency now wants to cut levels even further, potentially as low as 65 ppb. 

These new regulations would likely have disastrous results for the economy.  The National Association of Manufacturers estimates that the new ozone regulation could reduce U.S. GDP by $270 billion per year and $3.4 trillion from 2017 to 2040 and result in 2.9 million fewer jobs or job equivalents per year on average through 2040.
 
Such a massive increase in ozone regulations is not even certain to have a positive impact on the environment or public health. 

Louis Anthony Cox Jr., Chief Sciences Officer of NextHealth Technologies explains

"If we look at actual data instead of at EPA’s model-based predictions, it is clear that, in many places in the United States, much larger reductions in ozone levels have already occurred in recent decades than those that are now being proposed. Yet, these relatively large reductions in ozone levels have caused no detectable public health benefits. Therefore, EPA’s assumption that future proposed reductions in ozone will do so is unwarranted. Such changes have been tried and they have not worked: their predicted public health benefits have not materialized."

In regards to man-made ozone, the U.S is hardly the only country contributing to the overall levels. Emissions from other countries contribute to the global ozone level and affect our air quality here in the U.S. Increasing regulations on ozone levels domestically does not take this factor into consideration, but it certainly puts the American economy at an unnecessary disadvantage endangering jobs and stunting economic growth. All pain for the U.S. economy with little to no proven environmental gain.
 
Despite using their data to justify jeopardizing American jobs and GDP, the EPA does not currently have the capacity to measure the global effectiveness of their programs in action. USA News reports “only 675 of the nation's 3,000 counties have ozone monitors currently in place.” This further reinforces the EPA’s inability to actually measure whether such economically devastating regulations are justified.
 
At a recent hearing on this issue, Representative Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) suggested that over 600,000 small businesses have fallen victim to burdensome regulations under the Obama Administration.  The EPA's new proposal will merely add to this staggering statistic.  

 

Photo credit: Neon Tommy

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