ATR Supports H.R. 3687, the Cuba Agricultural Exports Act

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Posted by Natalie De Vincenzi on Tuesday, October 11th, 2016, 3:13 PM PERMALINK

ATR today sent a letter of support for Congressman Rick Crawford’s bill H.R. 3687, the Cuba Agricultural Exports Act. This bill would lift the current restrictions on private financing that exist under the Trade Sections Reform Act (TSRA) and institute safeguard measures to ensure that no funding is given to the regime. H.R. 3687 would also permit USDA marketing programs and limited agricultural investment in Cuba. Cuba imports nearly 80% of its food. Enacting this bill will enable American farmers to fulfill Cuba’s agricultural demand without any monetary funds granted to the regime. See the letter of support here or below. 

October 11, 2016

The Honorable Rick Crawford
United States House of Representatives
1711 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Congressman Crawford,

I write in support of H.R. 3687, the Cuba Agricultural Exports Act. By removing needless private financing restrictions that exist under the Trade Sections Reform Act (TSRA), this legislation promotes market access for American agriculture that will lead to more jobs and higher wages.

American farmers have lost nearly $1 billion in the last few years due to the existing Cuba financing restrictions. It is important that we expand trade with Cuba, while keeping safeguards that ensure that no taxpayer funding is given to the regime.

While U.S. producers are now free to export agricultural goods to Cuba, there are many restrictions that still prohibit agricultural businesses from reaching full export potential.  Under TSRA, only cash-based trade and third-party financing agreements are allowed with Cuba. Additionally, under current law, businesses are not permitted to receive help from USDA marketing programs or invest in agricultural business development in Cuba.

The Cuba Agricultural Exports Act would fix this by lifting the private financing restrictions under TSRA, permitting the USDA marketing program to function in Cuba, and allowing limited agricultural development investment in Cuba.

The legislation implements key safeguards to ensure that no funding is granted to the regime. Before being allowed to invest in Cuba, businesses must receive joint approval from the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Agriculture. This bill also contains restriction on investment in Cuban government entities as well as those who operate in property that was confiscated during the revolution.

ATR is opposed to any government guarantees of loans to the regime or any taxpayer grants to the regime. We do support free and open trade as well as open travel to Cuba. Americans trading with island will serve as the best ambassadors of freedom to help liberate the people of Cuba from the failed socialist regime. This legislation is one step toward ensuring open trade with Cuba. As such, all members of Congress should support and co-sponsor the Cuba Agricultural Exports Act.


Grover G. Norquist
President, Americans for Tax Reform



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Rocket Science as Political Sport

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Posted by Jorge Marin on Tuesday, October 11th, 2016, 2:51 PM PERMALINK

Politicizing the recent failure of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket isn’t just politics as usual. It actually risks setting back America’s growing free-market space industry.

During a pre-launch test last month, the private space company lost one of its advanced Falcon 9 rockets as it prepared to deliver a $195 million Israeli communications satellite to space. Though the satellite was meant for civilian use, a group of representatives sent a letter to the Air Force and the Federal Aviation Administration putting into question SpaceX’s certification to be awarded military contracts.

It’s shocking that this needs to be repeated, but rocket science is not easy. This is why the Air Force and the FAA carefully vet launch providers and ensure compliance with safety regulations and vehicle reliability.

Simply put, why would SpaceX lose its certifications before the investigation is complete?

The easy answer is to make SpaceX’s competition the only game in town when it comes to military launches. Of course, limiting America’s options for launching important payload into space may hamper national security, but crony capitalism can be lucrative to established players. In fact, it would entrench reliance on the questionable RD-180 engine.

In a letter signed by Rep. Bill Flores (R-FL) and a bipartisan group of 23 other United States Congressmen, the FAA, Air Force, and NASA were asked to continue the normal process of investigation. They are reminded that “due to strong safety procedures… the mishap resulted in no loss of life, no injuries, and no damages to third party property.” In other words, the system worked.

As the letter points out, SpaceX did invite members of NASA and the Air Force to help in the internal investigation of the explosion. All of this followed the precedent of the multiple investigations to similar incidents that came before.

Conservative lawmakers should know better than to demand rash actions to events before anyone knows what really happened. To put into perspective, SpaceX is the company that is seeking to create an honest-to-goodness vehicle to take humans to Mars and back. What’s more, they are funding this by competing in the open market against established crony-capitalist companies and state-run rocket services. SpaceX deserves to be treated the same way as any other company. They should be allowed to complete their investigation without Congressional meddling.

The future looks bright for space exploration. We should let pioneering businesses have a chance to prove themselves.

Photo Credit: 
Space Exploration Technologies Corporation

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Pence Supports National Criminal Justice Reform that “Removes Institutional Bias”

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Posted by Krista Chavez on Tuesday, October 11th, 2016, 2:07 PM PERMALINK

On Tuesday night during the Vice Presidential Debate, Republican VP Candidate Mike Pence expressed his support for federal criminal justice reform.

“I would say that we need to adopt criminal justice reform nationally. I had signed criminal justice reform in the state of Indiana senate, and very proud about it,” Pence said. “I worked in Congress on the Second Chance Act. We have got to do a better job recognizing and correcting the errors in the system that do reflect institutional bias in criminal justice.”

Pence highlighted his own commitment to the initiatives, recognizing his own reforms passed in Indiana. Passed in 2013, the bill reduced sentences for some drug crimes, provided opportunities for drug rehabilitation, kept low-level, nonviolent offenders out of the state’s department of corrections, and provided mental health treatment for those who needed it.

This clear support for initiatives in Congress from Pence reassured criminal justice reform advocates that the reforms proposed have a future in the next administration. Specifically, Executive Director of the US Justice Action Network (US JAN) Holly Harris called Pence’s comments a “bombshell.” She said that Pence’s statement, “Breathes new life into criminal justice reform.”

Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist expressed his support for conservative initiatives in justice reform, stating that “You can be both tough on crime and smart on crime.” He emphasizes the need for these federal reforms, asserting that without them, “You’re wasting money, and you’re hurting neighborhoods and people’s lives for no purpose.”

This past Tuesday, Pence emulated a true conservative leader by reiterating the necessity of conservative criminal justice reforms at the federal level. Americans for Tax Reform is glad to have his support on this necessary issue facing the next leader of the United States. 

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Gage Skidmore

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Hillary’s Soda Tax Approach Pushed by U.N.

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Posted by John Kartch on Tuesday, October 11th, 2016, 1:20 PM PERMALINK

U.N. report urges governments to impose excise taxes “aimed at raising the retail price by 20% or more” – in line with Hillary’s soda tax endorsement

Today the United Nations released a report urging governments to impose excise taxes on citizens who purchase soda, “aimed at raising the retail price by 20% or more.” The U.N. is taking the same approach as Hillary Clinton, who endorsed a steep soda tax while campaigning in Philadelphia on April 20, 2016.

Clinton said she was “very supportive” of the tax, which will raise the retail price of a 12-pack of soda pop by $2.16. The tax-induced price hike on a consumer buying a 12-pack is well over 20 percent. Clinton’s position is compliant with the U.N.’s aggressive global campaign to impose higher taxes on citizens.

As pointed out by Bernie Sanders, the Clinton soda tax endorsement came in violation of her oft-repeated promise not to support any tax on any American making less than $250,000.

Sanders called out Hillary’s violation of her middle class tax pledge:

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

Sanders also said:

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

The U.N. report uses the term “tax” 312 times.

“When Hillary Clinton endorsed the soda tax it was news because she exposed her promise to never ever tax anyone who earned less than $250,000 as a lie,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.

“Now Hillary’s tax on middle income Americans is being embraced by the United Nations. If she’s elected, the U.N. will have a willing soda-tax-hike partner in Hillary Clinton.”

ATR is tracking all of Hillary’s tax hike proposals at

Photo Credit: 
Isriya Paireepairit,

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Hillary Debunks Her Own $250,000 Tax Pledge

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Posted by John Kartch on Monday, October 10th, 2016, 3:47 PM PERMALINK

During the second presidential debate, Hillary Clinton said:

“I have said nobody who makes less than $250,000 a year — and that’s the vast majority of Americans as you know — will have their taxes raised.”

If a candidate for President promises not to raise taxes on middle income Americans, that means the candidate must veto a tax increase should it reach the Oval Office desk, if elected. But Hillary’s own statements indicate she will break this promise:

Payroll tax hike -- When asked if she would break her pledge by signing a payroll tax increase on all Americans if such legislation reached her desk, Clinton confirmed she would break the pledge. These remarks took place in Iowa at a major forum on Jan. 12, 2016. Here’s the key video excerpt:

Moderator: “Democrats have introduced a plan [Family Act] that Senator Sanders supports that you’ve come out against because it is funded by a payroll tax. If that were to reach your desk as President, would you veto it in order to make good on your tax pledge?”

Hillary Clinton: “No. No.”

The payroll tax increase she green-lighted would hit all wages under $118,500.

Yes, you read that correctly. The legislation the moderator referred to is the Family Act, which raises taxes on all wages under $118,500.

Soda tax hike -- Hillary endorsed a steep soda pop tax in Philadelphia. This will cost soda purchasers an extra $2.16 per 12-pack. Bernie Sanders called out Hillary’s violation of her middle class tax pledge. Sanders said:

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

Sanders also said:

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

Obamacare taxes: Clinton has endorsed Obamacare, which has at least seven direct tax hikes on Americans making less than $250,000: the Obamacare individual mandate tax, two tax hikes on flexible spending accounts, two tax hikes on health savings accounts, an income tax increase on Americans facing high medical bills in a given year, and a 10 percent indoor tanning tax which has wiped out thousands of small businesses (mostly owned by women) since its imposition in 2010.

Just a “goal” -- When asked by George Stephanopoulos in December 2015 if her tax pledge was “a rock solid read-my-lips promise” she did not reply with a “yes.”

Instead she replied that it was merely her “goal.” Here’s the exchange:

George Stephanopoulos: “You are also saying no tax increases at all on anyone earning $250,000. Is that a rock solid read-my-lips promise?”

Clinton: “Well, it certainly is my goal. And I’ve laid it out in this campaign. And it’s something that President Obama promised. It’s something my husband certainly tried to achieve. Because I want Americans to know that I get it.”

If she is serious about keeping the promise, the only acceptable answer to Stephanopoulos’ question is “Yes.” Instead she tipped her tax hike hand.

Also note Hillary’s reference to Bill Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s middle class tax pledges: both men broke their pledge upon taking office.

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UN Geneva,

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Financial CHOICE Act Repeals Anti-Competitive Volcker Rule

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Posted by Johnathan Sargent on Monday, October 10th, 2016, 2:50 PM PERMALINK

Last year, after 5 years of discussion between various unelected bureaucrats, the controversial Volcker Rule section of Dodd-Frank came into effect. With over one thousand pages, this rule is a prime example of the overzealous rulemaking mindset that Washington is known for. It should come as no surprise that each page of this 1080-page rule is filled with regulations that hurt the American financial sector as a whole, but more importantly Main Street.

Named after Paul Volcker, a former chairman of the Federal Reserve, the Volcker Rule limits the types of trading activities that banks can engage in. Specifically, it prohibits a bank from making trades for its own accounts, also known as proprietary trading, which at the time was viewed as one of the causes of the financial crisis.

However, in the immediate aftermath of the passage of Dodd-Frank, Paul Volcker acknowledged that proprietary trading did not lead to the financial crisis. So instead of a rule that will ensure financial stability, Americans are left with a large, complex regulation that does nothing but hurt our financial sector.

  • A study published by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, titled “The Economic Consequences of the Volcker Rule”, looked at the adverse effects of the Volcker Rule on banks and their customers. Below are a few consequences of the Volcker Rule:

    • The costs of raising capital for small businesses will increase. The Volcker Rule will lead to banks being less likely to lend money to small business, which are in most cases those most likely in need of capital.
    • American financial institutions are less competitive. With a limit on the types of trading that they can do, American banks are at a disadvantage to their foreign competitors. As a result, foreign banks will have an advantage when trying to gain new customers. 
    • Reduced liquidity in the market. By banning and restricting certain trading activities for banks, the Volcker Rule limits U.S. banks ability to generate capital that would be used to respond to customer demands. This not only limits the ability of financial institutions to adequately adapt to changes in the market, but also increases volatility as liquidity is reduced.

Shortly after the passage of the final Volcker Rule, Representative Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) released a statement saying that it will “do nothing to help our nation overcome the slowest, weakest, non-recovery recovery since the Great Depression”.

The Volcker Rule is just another attempt by Washington bureaucrats to expand their power and influence through overzealous rulemaking. This rule, along will most of Dodd-Frank, has done nothing to help the U.S. economy or Americans, but rather continued to handicap the financial sector with crippling regulations.

Fortunately, Americans now have a solution to these anti-competitive regulations.  Last month, the House Financial Services Committee approved H.R. 5983, the Financial CHOICE Act. This piece of legislation, introduced by Representative Hensarling, undoes much of Dodd-Frank, including the Volcker Rule. By undoing key provisions of Dodd-Frank, the Financial Choice Act will add much needed stability to the U.S. economy and help spur economic growth.


Photo Credit: The White House

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Oklahoma Obamacare Premiums to Increase by 76 Percent

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Posted by Johnathan Sargent on Monday, October 10th, 2016, 9:50 AM PERMALINK

After six years of Obamacare, it is clear that the law has been a complete failure. This should come as no surprise considering the many failures of the law. Despite being sold as a plan that would lower deficits and reduce spending, Obamacare has wound up costing taxpayers over $1 trillion and American consumers millions more in increased premiums. The problem is only getting worse – last week, officials from the state of Oklahoma announced that Obamacare plans within the state face a 76 percent hike.

According to the Oklahoma Insurance Department, increases will range from 58 percent to 96 percent. This price hikes are in part driven by a lack of competition as Oklahoma is one of five states that has just one insurance company operating on their Obamacare exchange. However, the story is the same across the country. The many mandates and regulations in the law have driven up costs and discouraged participation from insurers and enrollees, resulting in higher costs for those that remain in the system. Recently, this has led to individuals and insurance companies fleeing Obamacare exchanges.

The failure of the law may be best proven with the failure of Obamacare co-ops which were created by the law as insurance alternatives. As of this year seventeen Obamacare co-ops have failed. Most recently, the state of New Jersey was forced to leave 35,000 citizens without coverage, despite the almost $110 million in taxpayer funds that the co-op received in loans. Including the Garden State, failed co-ops have cost taxpayers over $1.8 billion.

The complete demise of Obamacare was predictable. In the years after its implementation it became apparent that it was not a sustainable program. In order for Obamacare to work a significant portion of enrollees, around 40 percent, need to be within the 18-34 age group. However, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, only 28 percent of enrollees are within this age range. The unsustainability of the program is the reason why several co-ops have failed and the exchange in Oklahoma is struggling.

In the few states that continue to operate co-ops, their citizens face crippling premium rate hike. As of this year, insurers operating in Obamacare exchanges have requested an average premium rate hike of 24 percent. Due to increasing medical costs and the expiration of federal programs that help offset expenses, insurers are facing increasing financial loses. These loses are so great that in many cases even with a rate hike, many insurers continue to reduce their involvement in exchanges or leave completely.

As Obamacare fails because of its unsustainability, the burden falls upon taxpayers and consumers to continue to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to continue to prop up the system. Unfortunately, the citizens of Oklahoma are just the most recent casualties of this failed program.


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Dear Hillary: The Tax Code is Already Steeply Progressive

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Posted by John Kartch on Thursday, October 6th, 2016, 2:05 PM PERMALINK

As she crusades for more tax increases, Hillary Clinton conveniently fails to mention how steeply progressive the tax code is right now. According to recent data from CBO:

-The top one percent of households pay 38.3% of federal income taxes and 25.4% of total federal taxes.

- The top 20 percent of households pay 88% of federal income taxes and 69% of total federal taxes.

- The top one percent of households pay an average income tax rate of 23.6% while the middle quintile pays an average income tax rate of 2.6%.

- The top one percent of households pay an average total tax rate of 34% while the middle quintile pays an average total tax rate of over 12.8%.  

- The top 20 percent of households pay an average total tax rate of 26.3 percent while the middle quintile pays an average total tax rate of 12.8%.

The data is shown below:


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Cato Report: Mike Pence One of Only Five Governors With an "A" Grade on Fiscal Policy In 2016

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Posted by Laurens ten Cate on Thursday, October 6th, 2016, 1:56 PM PERMALINK

The Cato institute's yearly Fiscal Policy Report Card on American Governors was released Wednesday. Since 2010 state revenues have increased by about 33 percent. Some governors used this to increase spending while others cut spending and cut taxes. Cato’s list rated Governors on how well they cut spending and taxes.

As per usual, Republican Governors dominated the top of the list. The top 25 Governors consist of 21 Republican Governors and just 4 Democrat Governors. This discrepancy can also be seen in the average Fiscal Policy score by party as seen in the image below.

Data from Cato’s report, compiled in graph by the author.

Mike Pence, vice presidential nominee for the Republican Party, stood out this year as he was rated in 5th place out of America's governors. His solid record of cutting taxes and cutting spending in Indiana has earned him an "A" grade from the Cato Institute.

Table snippet from Cato’s report.

The effect of this conservative fiscal policy can immediately be seen with Indiana having risen to the 8th spot in Tax Foundation's Competitiveness Index.

Mike Pence, as opposed to big taxer and spender Tim Kaine, brings a very solid background of conservative fiscal policy to the table as vice presidential nominee. He reduced Indiana’s income tax by 5 percent for everyone. He repealed Indiana’s inheritance tax and he cut the corporate tax rate from 7.5 percent to 4.9 percent so that businesses can flourish.

If Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine are elected to lead this country we can expect tax increase after tax increase with their proven record of pushing tax hikes and their promise to raise taxes by over $1 trillion over ten years. 

Americans for Tax Reform tracks Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine’s proposed tax hikes at

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Gage Skidmore,

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The EU Should Overturn the Apple Ruling

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Posted by Anthony McAuliffe on Thursday, October 6th, 2016, 10:46 AM PERMALINK

Over the past few weeks, a major international struggle between the European Union (EU) and Apple has captured headlines. The EU made a decision that Apple was using Ireland as a “tax haven” and avoided paying taxes that they would have paid by basing themselves in other countries in Europe. According to EU calculations, Apple now owes over $14 billion in taxes, and both Apple and Ireland are contesting this claim. Despite the response from both company and country that this ruling is unfair, the EU refuses to back down from the issue. This ruling clearly violates the national sovereignty of Ireland and global economic freedom.

First, through this decision the EU has overreached into the national sovereignty of Ireland. Rather than praise Ireland’s tax laws that spurred economic investment in a country that used to be one of Europe’s poorest, the EU seeks to stifle prosperity and innovation. Rather than embrace globalization, foster competitiveness for business, and promote economic freedom, the EU wishes to impose its own world view of fairness by determining what it thinks is best and fair for each country in the EU.

The overreach into Irish national sovereignty is dangerous to the investment economy that Ireland has built. According to the Forbes Best Countries for Business list of 2015, Ireland is ranked #4 in the world in opportunities for businesses. The report notes that Ireland’s low corporate tax of 12.5% encourages investment by foreign businesses, which has now become a central component of the economy in the country. After a few years of unstable markets after the financial crisis of 2008, Ireland’s economy has bounced back due to foreign investment. In fact, last year the GDP rose by 7.8%, while the eurozone overall only saw an increase of 1.6%. Since the country has relied on foreign investment and business over the past few years, the EU threat to industry could cause businesses and investors to pull out, drastically hurting the economy.

The EU’s decision is also an attack on U.S. firms that dominate the global market. The U.S. has some of the most innovative and entrepreneurial firms in the world, especially within the tech industry. Europe has not been able to keep pace with innovation and global competitiveness being offered by U.S. companies. Thus, it seems the EU wishes to punish U.S. firms that expand to European markets, rather than encourage investment. Retroactively punishing companies and countries for seeking to advance businesses and the economy is not the way to promote free trade and globalization. This decision, if not overturned, will deter outside investment in Europe, killing jobs and economic prosperity for citizens of many European countries.

There are many factors that go into a country’s economic success, and Ireland tapped into those factors to build a successful and prosperous economy. Both Ireland and Apple agree that no taxes need to be paid, yet the EU wants to force Ireland to collect those taxes from Apple. Groups like Citizen Go and Austrian Economic Center have launched petitions to protest the ruling, citing the danger it poses to the sovereignty and economic freedom of EU nations. Other countries in the EU should lower their tax rates to be competitive with Ireland rather than rely on the EU to level the playing field. The EU should respond to Ireland’s appeal by overturning their ruling.  


Photo Credit: Kevin T. Houle

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