Good Fences Make Good Neighbors: The Digital Goods and Services Fairness Act, H.R. 1643

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Posted by Katie McAuliffe on Tuesday, September 13th, 2016, 2:26 PM PERMALINK


Americans for Tax Reform today sent an open letter to Congressmen Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), and Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) praising their support for the Digital Goods and Services Tax Fairness Act (HR 1643) and urged all other members of Congress to do the same.

The full letter can be seen below, and here:

 

September 13, 2016

Dear Congressmen:

 

On behalf of American taxpayers, I write to thank you for your support of the Digital Goods and Services Tax Fairness Act (HR 1643), and urge you to continue your steadfast advocacy for this measure. 

This legislation prevents double taxation and holds policy makers accountable for enacting new taxes by establishing digital tax borders across the fifty states. Given the interstate nature of ecommerce, it is important for Congress to clarify taxing authority.

Without a framework of digital borders for digital goods and services, the door remains open for a single consumer purchase to be taxed in multiple states. 

For example, a consumer based in Nebraska could purchase a digital good from a California company located on a server in Wyoming and could be subject to taxes from three separate jurisdictions for one purchase, if HR 1643 is not passed into law. 

Taxation of intangible goods is without precedent. As a result, a patchwork of varying laws for taxing digital goods, streaming services and apps have developed by administrative fiat rather than a vote from elected officials.  

Numerous states have expanded the definition of a good or service through the various departments of revenue or other administrative bodies, bypassing the elected state legislators altogether. There must be a mechanism in place to hold these policymakers accountable to their constituents. 

HR 1643 passed out of the House Committee on the Judiciary by voice vote.  We look forward to seeing this bill pass on the House floor.

If you should have any questions regarding this issue please contact me, or Katie McAuliffe at kmcauliffe@atr.org or 202-785-0266.

 

Onward,

Grover G. Norquist

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Feds Neglect Obamacare Oversight

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Tuesday, September 13th, 2016, 2:18 PM PERMALINK


The Obama Administration has failed to conduct oversight over the $5.5 billion taxpayer funded Obamacare state based exchanges according to a report by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-Pa.). The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has imposed zero consequences on state exchanges that have closed and has failed to say they will in the future.

Instead, CMS appears to be encouraging state exchanges to close and join the federal system without consequence. The federal government is even turning a blind eye to exchanges using taxpayer dollars in violation of federal law and is allowing failed exchanges to keep millions in user fees intended to fund the federal exchange.

Starting in 2010, the federal government awarded $5.5 billion to states to plan and construct state based Obamacare exchanges. In total, 17 states decided to proceed with construction and they received more than $4.5 billion of this total. Since then, exchanges have encountered numerous challenges including lower than expected enrollment, higher costs, and failed IT systems.

Despite this, the federal government has failed to conduct virtually any oversight over failed or failing state exchanges, a list that includes exchange Oregon, Hawaii, Vermont, Minnesota, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, and New Mexico.

Failed to Conduct Oversight Over State Exchanges

As the report notes, CMS is responsible for conducting oversight over state exchanges. However, the federal government has failed to ensure state exchanges published operational costs as required by law, failed to enforce laws prohibiting improper use of federal funds, and has failed to implement recommendations from government watchdogs.

To date, the federal government has recovered just $1.6 million in federal funds. $1 million of this comes from construction costs that CMS failed to detect for more than one year.

Failed to Ensure State Exchanges are Self-Sustaining

Under federal law, Obamacare state exchanges were required to be self-sustaining after December 2014. The $4.5 billion in federal taxpayer dollars could only be used for “establishment” expenses, not operational costs (maintenance, rent, personnel costs etc.). Section 1311 of Obamacare is clear in this regard:

“In establishing an Exchange under this section, the State shall ensure that such Exchange is self-sustaining beginning on January 1, 2015, including allowing the Exchange to charge assessments or user fees to participating health insurance issuers, or to otherwise generate funding, to support its operations.”

In violation of this law, every state exchange is still using federal funds 20 months later. As the report notes:

“As of September 2016, every SBE still relies upon federal establishment grant funds—20 months after SBEs were to be self-sustaining by law.”

Allowing Failed Exchanges to Keep User Fees

States utilizing the federally run Healthcare.gov for their Obamacare exchanges are typically levied a 3.5 percent fee for operational costs. Instead of charging failed state exchanges this same fee to use the federal system CMS has allowed the four failed state exchanges – Oregon, Hawaii, New Mexico & Nevada – to use Healthcare.gov for free and keep user fees they have collected. In 2015, Oregon collected $10.5 million in fees, which the state is free to keep. 

Failed to Prevent Cover Oregon Debacle

As noted in a recent report released by House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the federal government failed to conduct any oversight over the failed $305 million taxpayer funded Cover Oregon Obamacare exchange. This absence of federal oversight occurred even as the state’s independent quality assurance manager, Maximus, flagged the state exchange as “high risk.”

In the months and years ahead of the October 1, 2013 launch date, CMS officials were glowing in their praise of Cover Oregon, even awarding the state additional funds. Concurrently, Maximus was raising red flags about the progress of the project. 

In hindsight, Maximus was right -- the Cover Oregon exchange was in poor health as was proven when it failed to work by its scheduled launch date – or for months after this deadline.

At the time, Oregon officials believed they were close to a working product by April 2014 after months of hard work. However, political advisors for then-Governor John Kitzhaber wanted the problem to go away ahead of his November reelection. As that report found, these advisors quietly manipulated the project so it would fail, and the state would be forced to join the federal Obamacare system.

Misled Congressional Investigators on Recovery of Wasted Taxpayer Dollars

Earlier this year, congressional investigators released a report debunking Slavitt’s claim that his agency had recovered $200 million in wasted Obamacare state exchange funds. Slavitt made this claim while under oath during a December 8, 2015 hearing.

Congressional investigators could not verify this figure, and over a ten-week period, CMS staff were contacted seven times with requests for information verifying Slavitt’s $200 million claim. Many of these inquiries were ignored, and when documentation was finally received CMS could only account for the return of $21.5 million in “de-obligated” funds, money that was leftover from expired grants.

Contrary to Slavitt's assurances, it appears that federal efforts to recover funds has been non-existent.

Photo Credit: 
Daniel Rehn

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NAFTA is a Free Trade Success Story


Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Tuesday, September 13th, 2016, 2:00 PM PERMALINK


According to both major presidential candidates, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has caused economic destruction resulting in lost U.S. jobs and growth over the past two decades. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have even suggested that it should be revisited to ensure America gets a better deal. The truth is, NAFTA has been a positive economic force and it should serve as proof to pass more free trade agreements.

Free trade agreements are fundamentally about reducing barriers that impede international commerce. Typically, this involves two or more countries removing discriminatory tariffs, trade quotas, and other regulations on a reciprocal basis.

This is beneficial for two reasons. First, fewer barriers on American exports means less money taken by foreign governments out of the pockets of workers and business owners seeking to trade overseas. Second, fewer barriers on imports into the U.S. results in more competition and access to a greater range of products at lower prices for consumers across the country. In all, more than 1 in 5 American jobs are tied to trade, and these workers earn 16 percent more than jobs in industries not tied to trade.

NAFTA is no exception. The trade agreement has supported more than six million high paying jobs, has increased income for workers, and has contributed to increasing economic efficiency in North America. In the two decades since NAFTA went into effect, trade with Canada and Mexico increased by almost 350 percent to $1.2 trillion, while manufacturing exports have increased 258 percent.

Despite these facts, critics of NAFTA allege that the agreement opened the door to outsourcing. Not true, according to a study by the Heritage Foundation. Since NAFTA went into effect, manufacturing has become 42 percent more productive and workers have earned 21 percent more. Of jobs that have been lost to foreign competitors, most have gone to Asia, so cannot be attributed to NAFTA. American workers productivity has increased by more than 80 percent in the past 25 years, and workers earn $15,000 more than the average U.S. worker.

It is also untrue to characterize NAFTA-induced investment in foreign countries as a loss for American workers. As a study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics found, every 100 U.S. manufacturing jobs created in Mexico supported 250 American jobs. In all, nearly two million jobs across the U.S. depend on trade with Mexico. 

Rather than withdrawing from trade, presidential candidates should ensure the U.S. does not fall behind in the global economy.  There are currently over 400 free trade agreements in the world, yet the U.S. is part of just 14 and is the top trading partner with just over 20 countriesOne of our biggest competitors in the developed world – the European Union – has agreements with over 50 countries and is the top trading partner with 80 countries. 

Our inaction will only empower other competitors like China, which has 11 agreements with 18 countries, to catch up with the U.S. and set the rules of global commerce. China is negotiating its own agreement with countries in South East Asia,  so they have a prime opportunity to set the economic rules of the region if the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership stalls.

NAFTA has clearly been beneficial to the U.S. economy. Similarly, there should not be any doubt of the need for the U.S. to pursue more free trade agreements. Doing so will benefit workers, businesses, wages, and jobs.

 

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kidcat24

Yeah, left wing on a right wing website.

BackwardsBoy

This article is nothing but far-left-wing globalist propaganda. NAFTA is responsible for destroying the careers of millions of hard working Americans and should never have been signed into law by Bill Clinton.


New Jersey Obamacare Co-op Becomes 17th to Collapse

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Tuesday, September 13th, 2016, 11:28 AM PERMALINK


Seventeen Obamacare co-ops have now failed. The Health Republic insurance of New Jersey yesterday announced it would close, leaving 35,000 members without coverage next year. The New Jersey co-op, which received almost $110 million in taxpayer loans now joins a list of 16 other Obamacare co-ops that have collapsed since Obamacare has been implemented.  In all, failed co-ops have now cost taxpayers more than $1.8 billion in funds that may never be recovered.

Co-ops were hyped as not-for-profit alternatives to traditional insurance companies created under Obamacare. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) financed co-ops with startup and solvency loans, totaling more than $2.4 billion in taxpayer dollars. They have failed to become sustainable with many collapsing amid the failure of Obamacare exchanges.

Co-ops across the country have struggled to operate in Obamacare exchanges, losing millions despite receiving enormous government subsidies. Since September last year, 14 Obamacare co-ops have collapsed, with only six of the original 23 co-ops remaining.  In July, co-ops in Oregon and Illinois collapsed leaving close to 100,000 without insurance.

Enrollees on one of the failed co-ops also face the risk of being hit with the Obamacare individual mandate tax penalty for not having insurance. In response to the wave of failed co-ops, the  House Committee on Ways and Means recently marked up the CO-OP Consumer Protection Act of 2016 (H.R. 954), legislation to protect individuals who were on a failed co-op from this tax. This important legislation should now be considered by the full House and swiftly approved.

The mass failure of co-ops should not be surprising. Larger insurance companies have also struggled to operate in Obamacare exchanges with many announcing they will stop providing coverage.

The web of government subsidies have also failed to provide insurances the funds they were promised. One of these programs – risk corridors -- recouped just 12.6 percent of the funds that insurers requested. The program, which was created to encourage insurers to take on higher risk individuals by transferring funds from insurers who made money to those that posted losses, was required to be budget neutral under law leaving Obamacare insurers with a significant shortfall.

Obamacare co-ops have also been plagued by inept management and unrealistic business models.

As a report by the Daily Caller’s Richard Pollock found, 17 of the 21 co-ops paid out gratuitous salaries to executives reaching as high as $587,000, which is more than four times as much as the $135,000 median health insurance executive salary. Worse still, many of these executives had little to no experience in the insurance industry and some of these excessive salaries were disguised in financial documents as “management fees.”  Last year, 21 of 23 co-ops posted losses.

Given the trend of failing Obamacare co-ops, the collapse of the New Jersey co-op will not be the last.

A list of all failed co-ops and their cost to taxpayers compiled by the House Energy and Commerce Committee is found below:

CoOportunity Health - Iowa and Nebraska
Cost: $145,312,100

Louisiana Health Cooperative, Inc.
Cost:
 $65,790,660

Nevada Health Cooperative
Cost: $65,925,396

Health Republic Insurance of New York
Cost: $265,133,000

Kentucky Health Care Cooperative - Kentucky and West Virginia
Cost: $146,494,772

Community Health Alliance Mutual Insurance Company - Tennessee
Cost: $73,306,700

Colorado HealthOp
Cost: $72,335,129

Health Republic Insurance of Oregon
Cost: $60,648,505

Consumers' Choice Health Insurance Company - South Carolina
Cost: $87,578,208

Arches Mutual Insurance Company – Utah
Cost: $89,650,303

Meritus Health Partners – Arizona
Cost: $93,313,233

Consumers Mutual Insurance – Michigan
Cost: $71,534,300

InHealth Mutual – Ohio
Cost: $129,225,604

HealthyCT – Connecticut
Cost: $127,980,768

Oregon Health’s CO-OP – Oregon
Cost: $56,656,900

Land of Lincoln Health – Illinois
Cost: $160,154,812

Health Republic Insurance of New Jersey
Cost: $109,074,550

TOTAL TAXPAYER DOLLARS: $1,820,114,940

 

Note: This total does not include Vermont’s CO-OP, which was denied an insurance license by the state, and was dissolved before enrolling a single person.  

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Gary

Both the "executives" (cronies of The Party?) as well as the collapse of the companies are not surprising. I believe that collapsing exchanges was known to be a likely outcome from the beginning with the ultimate plan being complete gov't control.

Charles E Hoy

obamacare is/was, nothing more than a Ponzi scheme. As long as everyone paid in, it worked. As soon as they didn't get enough enrollees, the system started to struggle, and just got worse. Now, WE THE PEOPLE are screwed, and obama is laughing all the way to the bank, just as he's being doing to us for nearly EIGHT years!!!!!!!!!!


Why Congress Should Impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Monday, September 12th, 2016, 10:00 AM PERMALINK


Congress is expected to soon consider a resolution to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. All Members of Congress should vote yes and prove their commitment to holding the out-of-control IRS accountable to the American people.​

Koskinen was first appointed head of the agency promising reform and transparency. At the time, it had recently been discovered that the IRS had been conducting a coordinated effort to apply improper, politically motivated scrutiny to tea party and conservative organizations. This resulted in just one conservative non-profit being granted tax-exempt status over a three-year period between 2009 and 2012. 

Since then, Koskinen has failed to reform the IRS, with the agency becoming increasingly politicized. Under Koskinen, the agency destroyed several sources of Lois Lerner’s emails, while he gave numerous false statements to Congress under oath. Koskinen even failed to attend hearings into his malfeasance.

In his time leading the IRS, the agency has consistently failed to responsibly allocate resources and has failed to safeguard taxpayer data. The IRS may even still be unfairly selecting Americans for an audit “based on an organization’s religious, educational, political, or other views,” according to investigations conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Members of Congress should vote yes on the resolution to impeach Commissioner Koskinen and hold the agency accountable to the American people.

Failed to Preserve Lois Lerner Emails
Throughout the investigation into this scandal, Koskinen’s IRS continually failed to provide important information or perform basic due diligence. For his part, Koskinen’s statements before Congress were frequently misleading:

  • The IRS failed to search five of six possible sources of electronic media for Lois Lerner’s emails.
  • The only source the agency bothered to search – her hard drive – was destroyed by an industrial strength AMERI-SHRED AMS-750 HD shredder​ after a brief search deemed information unrecoverable. Documentation suggests that more could have been done to recover data.
  • Later, the agency’s ineptness -- or corruption -- resulted in 24,000 Lerner emails being lost when they were “accidently” destroyed despite the existence of an agency wide preservation order.
  • Koskinen withheld from Congress both the preservation order and destruction of tapes during sworn testimony.
  • Koskinen also failed to disclose details regarding Lois Lerner’s mysteriously destroyed hard drive during testimony.
     

The supposed carelessness of the agency means that important information is no longer available to congress because of the actions of IRS employees, while the countless misleading statements has caused investigations to drag on for years.

Failed To Attend Impeachment Hearing
Koskinen failed to appear at a May impeachment hearing examining allegations of his misconduct despite an invitation to testify from the House Judiciary Committee.

According to the IRS, Commissioner Koskinen did not have time to “fully prepare” because he was traveling in China. The agency claimed that he was not given enough notice of the hearing, despite having more than a week to prepare.

Failed to Spend Taxpayer Resources Wisely
Koskinen and other IRS officials have claimed the agency is underfunded. One even claimed that the agency was “struggling to keep the lights on.” But the facts say otherwise – the agency has proven time and time again that it cannot be trusted to wisely spend taxpayer dollars.

In fact, the IRS is unable to justify its spending decisions, according to a report by the independent National Taxpayer Advocate:

“the IRS has come under scrutiny by external oversight organizations who have questioned the IRS’s rationale for its budget decisions. They have not been satisfied with the IRS’s response to their inquiries.”

This has not stopped agency officials from complaining, or from making further poor spending decisions.

For example, the agency made the costly (and perhaps illegal) decision to hire a litigation-only white shoe law firm for over $1,000 an hour over an audit of Microsoft. As noted by Congressional investigators, the agency has 40,000 employees dedicated to enforcement efforts and access to the IRS office of Chief Counsel or a Department of Justice attorney for audits. Instead the agency chose to hire an expensive law firm for at least $2.2 million.

The IRS has also been caught wasting over 500,000 hours, or $23.5 million a year on union activities, and gave 57 contracts worth a total of $18.8 million to corporations that had federal tax debt or a felony conviction.

Failed to Protect Taxpayer Information
Under Koskinen, the IRS has failed to protect taxpayer data despite numerous warnings from watchdog groups.

A recent report by GAO noted that the agency had a “significant deficiency” over its ability to ensure taxpayer financial discourse is not exposed.

Physical security controls designed to protect sensitive IT housed in restricted areas were not been properly implemented, the agency continued to use unsupported software to manage taxpayer data, and personal data was not properly encrypted.

The IRS even failed last year to prevent a data breach that left taxpayer information belonging to more than 600,000 taxpayers stolen. The agency first claimed just 100,000 filers had been exposed, and then revised it to more than 300,000 taxpayers, before doubling the number months after the hack was first disclosed.

Following the initial announcement, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) Chief J. Russell George revealed that the IRS failed to implement 44 recommendations that would improve the IRS’s ability to protect taxpayer information from hackers. Of these 44, ten recommendations were over three years old.

Since 2007, the IRS has been officially warned at least seven times by watchdog groups that it needed to strengthen its protections of taxpayer information. Most recently:

  • In a 2014 reportTIGTA warned that if stronger protections are not implemented, “taxpayers could be exposed to the loss of privacy and to financial loss and damages resulting from identity theft or other financial crimes.”  
  • 2013 report found that the IRS had failed to fully implement eight recommendations that would increase security over taxpayer data despite telling TIGTA they had been implemented.
  • 2011 report found that taxpayer data was vulnerable to hackers and stronger security measures were needed
  • In 2010, TIGTA found that the agency had inadequate safeguards to protect taxpayer information from contract workers.

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Dan

Do NOT protect the IRS!

Jeff

With this article Americans for Tax Reform is showing they are an ideological partisan group who apparently doesn't understand due process The charges against lack both merit and evidence. The mention of Mr. Koskinen not attending a hearing in which the House committee discussed the charges against him is especially telling. The committee informed Mr. Koskinen of the upcoming hearing while he was flying back from China five days before the hearing. Typically witnesses are give notice of hearings two weeks ahead of the hearing. Why the rush in this case? All you will hear are crickets from the proponents of impeachment. Fortunately it appears Congress is too wise to fall for the ravings of the Freedom Caucus. Another big fail for the far right ideologues.

tom2

I believe Koskinen should be impeached and physically kicked out. But I also believe it'll never happen. The reason is simple. The Congress is paralyzed in fear and the reason should be obvious. Keeping their jobs is enormously valuable in terms of wealth and power. They simply cannot risk all that for a mere commissioner. State legislatures need to have the authority to remove and replace U.S. Senators as they once had. The only way to restore that authority is through a convention of state legislatures. Reforming congress is the first step to reclaiming all the people's authority as intended by our founders.


IRS Loses Track of Laptops Containing Taxpayer Data

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Friday, September 9th, 2016, 4:56 PM PERMALINK


The IRS is putting sensitive taxpayer data at risk by failing to ensure laptop computers issued to contractors are properly returned, according to a report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

More than 7,900 contractor employees stopped working for the IRS in 2014. As the report notes, many of these employees handled sensitive taxpayer data and had access to IRS networks:

“Many of these contractor employees were in positions in which they were issued laptop computers, which may allow them access to IRS networks and sensitive taxpayer data. Laptop computers and other equipment must be recovered from separating contractor employees prior to the effective date of separation to prevent the loss of the equipment and sensitive data.”

It is vital that government issued laptops are properly returned and documented to prevent unauthorized access to taxpayer data, loss of government equipment, and access to sensitive IRS systems. But after analyzing a sample of 40 computer documentation and records, just 12 were properly completed. The remaining 28 had inconsistent documentation.

As the report notes, TIGTA estimates that the IRS had failed to properly document the return of 84.2 percent, or more than 1,000 computers due to be returned by contract employees:

“Based on our review of a stratified random sample of contractor employee separations for FY 2014, we estimate that the IRS does not have contract administration documentation to account for the return of laptop computers for 1,078 (84.2 percent) of the 1,280 contractor employees with computer systems and facilities access who separated in FY 2014.”

This is not the only time the agency has failed to protect taxpayer data. A recent report by the Government Accountability Office noted that the agency had a “significant deficiency” over its ability to ensure taxpayer financial discourse is not exposed. Physical security controls designed to protect sensitive IT housed in restricted areas were not been properly implemented, the agency continued to use unsupported software to manage taxpayer data, and personal data was not properly encrypted.

Following a data breach that exposed the personal information of hundreds of thousands of taxpayers last year, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) revealed that the IRS has been warned at least seven times by watchdog groups that it needed to strengthen its protections of taxpayer information. Most recently:

  • In a 2014 report, TIGTA warned that if stronger protections are not implemented, “taxpayers could be exposed to the loss of privacy and to financial loss and damages resulting from identity theft or other financial crimes.”  
  • 2013 report found that the IRS had failed to fully implement eight recommendations that would increase security over taxpayer data despite telling TIGTA they had been implemented.
  • 2011 report found that taxpayer data was vulnerable to hackers and stronger security measures were needed
  • In 2010, TIGTA found that the agency had inadequate safeguards to protect taxpayer information from contract workers.

 

 

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House Passes Bill to End Obama Slush Fund Payments

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Posted by Johnathan Sargent on Friday, September 9th, 2016, 11:06 AM PERMALINK


This week the House of Representatives passed a bill to end the strong-arm tactics used by the executive branch to solicit donations. In a surprising show of bipartisanship, House Democrats joined House Republicans on Wednesday to pass H.R. 5063: the Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act. Introduced by the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act prohibits government officials from crafting settlement agreements that require any donation to a third party group. This bill is a crucial first step in reining in our bloated executive branch.

As it currently stands, whenever the Department of Justice settles a lawsuit with a corporation or individual, the settlement can include an option to pay back some of the settlement by “donating” it to “approved” organizations. These organizations can and have included groups that engaged in political activities.

These organizations conduct voter registration, engage in community organizing, and donate money to other organizations that share the same ideological beliefs. Meaning that the executive branch can choose to use settlement money to reward their most loyal supporters. Sounds like the executive branch is participating in interest group favoritism doesn’t it?  

Remember those multi-billion dollar settlements against the banks? Instead of all of it going to the U.S. Treasury, millions of dollars were funneled into several prominent political organizations. According to the House Judiciary Committee, the amount of money directed to third-party organizations could be close to $1 billion. This is money that should have gone to the U.S. Treasury and used to fund any number of projects to help the American people. Instead the administration chose to use it to further their political agenda.

Over the past decades the executive branch has continued to grow in power and influence. This has come at the cost of the voice of the American people. The actions of the executive branch are nothing more than political favoritism and do not serve to benefit the American people. This abuse of power must be stopped, and a big step was taken with the passage of H.R.5063, the Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act, in the House of Representatives. We can only hope that the Senate will follow the example set by House Republicans and Democrats, and pass this crucial bill.

 

Photo credit: Pictures of Money 

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Lawmakers Set to Investigate Flawed Budget Estimates

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Tuesday, September 6th, 2016, 2:50 PM PERMALINK


Our federal budget process is clearly broken and in dire need of reform. Congress has adopted only 7 budgets in the past 15 years. In the last 40 years, the appropriations process has been fully completed just four times. Within the last 20 years, it has only been completed once.

The budget process is plagued with insufficient oversight, unaccountable spending, expired programs, and partisan disagreements. In turn, the broken of process means the outlook to fixing the dire fiscal state of nation faces an uphill battle.

Clearly, drastic change is needed. To fix this broken system, House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) have both put forward a range of proposals. These proposals are aimed at reforming budget making and enforcement so that federal spending is properly authorized through regular order, not passed at the last minute.

While leaders in Congress have shown leadership in these efforts, they are also conducting strong oversight over narrower, but no less important issues.

Later this week, Chairman Price will investigate the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of proposed tests by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, the Obamacare agency responsible for designing and testing new payment and delivery structures. CBO is responsible for producing cost estimates on all legislation and so is an integral part of the budget process.

Currently, CBO utilizes a flawed approach that shows any attempt to block or correct CMMI proposals as costing the government money. This binds the hands of lawmakers by forcing them to consider offsetting spending cuts whenever they wish to exert proper and necessary oversight over federal programs.

Flawed methodology will make it that much harder for Congress to do its job of passing a budget. If lawmakers are needlessly bound by CBO budget estimates, they will have little hope of restraining Washington’s spending problem and returning to regular order.

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ATR Releases Coalition Letter Opposing the Postal Service Reform Act (H.R. 5714)

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Tuesday, September 6th, 2016, 9:36 AM PERMALINK


Americans for Tax Reform, joined by 21 free market organizations, today sent an open letter to Congress urging lawmakers to oppose H.R. 5714, the “Postal Service Reform Act of 2016” introduced by House Government Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), and the Committee’s Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).

Since 2007, USPS has posted more than $50 billion in losses and faces $125 billion in unfunded liabilities, despite an estimated $18 billion annually in indirect subsidies.

While reforms are needed, the Postal Service Reform Act ignores basic needed reforms to USPS, and instead increases rates, shifts USPS’s financial burden onto the American public, and allows for the diversion of resources away from the core mission of mail delivery.

Read the full letter below or here:

To Members of the U.S. Congress:

We, the undersigned organizations, representing millions of taxpayers and consumers nationwide, urge Congress to oppose H.R. 5714, the “Postal Service Reform Act of 2016” introduced by House Government Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, and the Committee’s Ranking Member Elijah Cummings.

For years, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has suffered from operational and financial inefficiencies, and while reforms are needed, H.R. 5714 misses the mark and may actually exacerbate the issues facing USPS.

The USPS enjoys a monopoly on the delivery of first-class and standard mail and is exempt from state and local sales, income, and property taxes. The USPS also has the power of eminent domain, is not subject to local zoning ordinances, and has borrowed billions from the Treasury at subsidized interest rates.

Despite such special treatment, which is estimated to be $18 billion annually in indirect subsidies, USPS’s financial health is continually waning. Since 2007, USPS has posted more than $50 billion in losses and faces $125 billion in unfunded liabilities. Much of this stems from USPS’s inability to adapt to changing markets, congressional impediments, and union quagmires.

Many of the reforms provided for in H.R. 5714 lead USPS further away from the core mission of mail delivery, unfairly shift the Postal Service’s financial burdens onto the American public, and fail to address many of the underlying issues facing USPS.

Diversion to Nonpostal Products and Services. Key provisions contained in H.R. 5714 would allow the Postal Service to divert resources away from the core mission of mail delivery to providing nonpostal products and services to state, local, and tribal governments and federal agencies. The Act creates a “Chief Innovation Officer” tasked with managing the development and implementation of nonpostal products. While intended to generate new sources of revenue, such provisions are only a point of distraction, and will see the Postal Service further competing with private firms.

Postal Rate Reforms and Increases. Chairman Chaffetz’s reform bill would allow the Postal Service to increase rates by 2.15 percent on monopoly products such as stamps. Monopoly products generate the bulk of USPS profits. Increasing rates will only reduce revenue and further drive more consumers away from USPS products and services. 

Postal Service Governance Reform. The USPS Board of Governors is comprised of nine members, not including the Postmaster General and Deputy Postmaster General, who are Presidentially appointed and confirmed by the Senate and serve seven-year terms. Since 2015, the Board of Governors has had only one Governor serving due to congressional hurdles. H.R. 5714 would reduce the USPS Board of Governors from a nine-member board to a five-member board. This hollow reform does nothing to actually improve USPS governance, and instead reinforces the fact that most of the provisions in the bill are simply reforms for the sake of reforms, having no real impact on the status quo.     

We recognize the need for reforming the U.S. Postal Service. However Chairman Chaffetz’s Postal Service Reform Act ignores basic needed reforms to USPS, and instead increases rates, shifts USPS’s financial burden onto the American public, and allows for the diversion of resources away from the core mission of mail delivery.

It is for these reasons that we ask members of Congress to oppose this legislation.  

Sincerely,

Grover G. Norquist                                       
Americans for Tax Reform                           

David Williams                                             
Taxpayers Protection Alliance                      

Jim Martin                                                     
60 Plus Association                                       

Phil Kerpen                                                  
American Commitment                                 

John M. Palatiello                                         
Business Coalition for Fair Competition

Norm Singleton                                            
Campaign for Liberty                                     

Andrew F. Quinlan                                                                                       
Center for Freedom and Prosperity  

Jeffrey L. Mazzella                                        
Center for Individual Freedom                       

Tom Schatz                                                   
Council for Citizens Against Government Waste 

Chuck Muth 
Citizen Outreach

Katie McAuliffe                                             
Digital Liberty                                               

Adam Brandon
Freedom Works

George C. Landrith
Frontiers of Freedom 

Mario Lopez
Hispanic Leadership Fund

Sabrina Schaeffer
Independent Women’s Forum

Andrew Langer
Institute for Liberty

Seton Motley
Less Government

Willes K. Lee
National Federation of Republican Assemblies 

Kevin Kosar
R Street Institute

Karen Kerrigan
Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council 

Ryan Alexander
Taxpayers for Common Sense

Judson Phillips
Tea Party Nation

 

Photo credit: MoneyBlogNewz

 

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Bob D

Grover, I didn't vote for you, get a real job.

The Last Patriot

Dear Grover,

No.


Congress Should Prioritize Tax Reform over Tax Extenders


Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Thursday, September 1st, 2016, 10:25 AM PERMALINK


In the past, Congress has demonstrated a habit of routinely extending specific, temporary tax cuts for one or two years at a time. The ideal tax policy would be eliminating all credits and lowering the rate in a net tax cut. In lieu of this, the next best thing is to preserve these “tax extenders” where possible. While they are targeted to specific groups of taxpayers, they protect against immediate tax increases on the American people and ensure a more accurate baseline that will result in lower rates when passing pro-growth reform.

Unless they are refundable, tax credits do not affect federal spending. They reduce the amount of tax paid to the government. Repealing them does not cost the American people any money, it means the government loses money. Extending them does not mean any other taxpayer is worse off, it means the government is stealing less money from someone. In no way are they corporate welfare. 

Last year, Congress passed legislation that made many important, conservative tax provisions permanent like small-business expensing, research and development credits, and provisions to prevent double taxation on international income. Others were phased out over several years, which achieved the goal of creating a more accurate federal revenue baseline while also keeping tax cuts for individuals and businesses in place.

Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) best explained the significance of the extenders package:

“This bill serves as a path forward to pro-growth tax reform by ensuring that we will no longer have to spend months each year debating temporary tax extensions. Instead, Congress can focus on delivering a simpler, fairer and flatter tax code that’s built for growth.”

Conservatives have taken another positive step forward this year by releasing their “Better Way” Tax reform blueprint which calls for across the board lower rates on individuals and businesses, taxes once – at the point of consumption, and limits the number of credits in order to make the code simpler and fairer.  Lawmakers should keep to their original plans and use the remaining months to push momentum forward on pro-growth tax reform rather than revisiting legislation one year later.

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