Top Five Reasons for Reforming the U.S. Postal Service

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Posted by Bradley Wyatt on Friday, July 1st, 2016, 9:47 AM PERMALINK


Over the last decade the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has found it increasingly difficult to keep its head above water financially, often posting annual losses in the billions. A steep decline of mail volume due to the rise of online communications has reduced USPS’s role in the market place. As the Postal Service’s fiscal instability has grown, so have calls for USPS reform. Potential reforms range from shifting to centralized delivery, changes in governance, and full privatization.   

While a solution to the myriad of issues facing the Postal Service is still unsettled, what is abundantly clear is the drastic need for reforms to improve USPS financially and operationally. Below are five issues facing USPS, which highlight the need for reform.   

  1. Mail volume has plunged 40 percent since 2001. The demise of the traditional mail system and rise of online efficiency is yet another example of government’s inability to keep up with the market. The 40% drop in mail volume since 2001 can be attributed to the rise of email, social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and online bill pay. All of these options provide both convenient and cost effective services that allow for more simplicity and choicer solutions.
     
  2. Junk mail accounts for 60 percent of current mail volume. In a recent bulletin published by the CATO institute, Chris Edwards, Director of Tax Policy Studies, reported that household-to-household personal letters make up a mere 3 percent of total mail volume today. Advertising (i.e. “junk mail”) on the other hand now represents 60 percent of the entire household mail volume. Bills and other business statements are the second largest type of mail, but are quickly being replaced by electronic payments, which now account for 63 percent of all bill payments.
     
  3. Over 4,000 Post Offices average fewer than 5 customers per day. It is currently the case that 4,500 rural Post Office locations average only 4.4 customers on a daily basis. In recent years USPS has looked to close a number of locations in rural areas in response to those offices barely being used, however efforts to increase efficiency and lower costs, such as ending Saturday delivery, are often blocked by Congress.
     
  4. USPS is expanding outside the core service of mail delivery.  Rather than solving the already ongoing fiscal crisis, the USPS plans to expand into banking, pay day loans, and even floated the possibility of grocery delivery. Such revenue generating schemes detract from the Postal Service's overall goal of mail delivery. USPS should instead focus on improving core services instead of expanding into others, which will likely not help with solving the problem but rather cause more financial complications.
     
  5. USPS has posted billions in annual losses for the last decade. The USPS is expert at failing to adapt to market changes and instead has consistently seen losses in the billions each year. Since 2007, the USPS has accumulated almost $60 billion in losses. Overall, the Postal Service enjoys a whopping $18 billion annually from government granted monopolies and indirect subsidies. Even with government-protected special privileges, the USPS has consecutively seen billions in losses for the past 9 years with over a billion in losses now projected for 2016

 

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Internet Governance Is in Danger

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Posted by Daniel Savickas on Thursday, June 30th, 2016, 4:22 PM PERMALINK


The Internet, as we know it, is moving ever closer to falling into the hands of people and governments who don’t respect the right to free speech.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is responsible for oversight of domain name registration, an important role in Internet governance. To ensure this all runs smoothly, and fairly, the US government retains jurisdiction over the organization.

This is about to change.

The Commerce Department recently approved a plan that would transition ICANN from under US oversight, to a purely independent organization. This would expand their role from what is essentially being the white pages of the Internet, to one that has far more control and influence over the basic function of the web. Not to mention, they would be beholden to no one.

Once ICANN gains autonomy, it may choose to incorporate in any nation they choose, where it is not subject to the US justice system, and where these governments’ authorities would have some measure of influence in their decision-making. This would be devastating.

Tarek Kamel, the Senior Advisor to the President of ICANN, is well-known for being responsible for shutting down the Internet in Egypt amid Arab Spring protests. A voice like Kamel’s would hold a lot more weight should ICANN ever become independent from the US.

Despite Kamel’s shadowy past and history with blatant censorship, ICANN’s own website holds him up as a “visionary strategist in driving and developing Egypt's ICT sector” and praises his “pivotal role” in shaping Egypt’s national policy and claimed he had made Egypt “a regional role model.”

Further, ICANN has repeatedly refused to comply with Senate requests for information about its relationship with the Chinese government, a known authoritarian regime that censors speech on the Internet.

As a nation that values speech as a sacred right, there is no excuse for allowing an organization that praises those who put down dissidents. The future of the Internet holds many obstacles to free expression, if Internet governance came under an oppressive regime.

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The Grover Norquist Show: Fact Checking Hillary Clinton's Economic Plan

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Posted by Alec DiFruscia on Thursday, June 30th, 2016, 11:49 AM PERMALINK


In Episode 58 of The Grover Norquist Show, Grover discusses the logistics of Hillary Clinton’s economic plan, and unsurprisingly, Hillary’s plan looks similar to President Obama’s failed economic recovery plan. Hillary proposes a plethora of new taxes on the American people to fund bloated government programs that hurt American families. 

In addition to the increased taxes and spending, Hillary Clinton’s plan will include new regulations that will target the gig economy and services like Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb. Her plan will prove to be disastrous for hardworking Americans and their families. Listen to the podcast below or click the link here:

 

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Obama’s $3 Billion Dollar Taxpayer Backed Boondoggle

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Thursday, June 30th, 2016, 11:41 AM PERMALINK


In March President Obama dolled out the first installment of his ideologically driven $3 billion pledge to the U.N.’s Green Climate Fund (GCF). The first $500 million handed out is just the start of what will amount to a massive transfer in the coming years of billions in taxpayer funds overseas. This Obama boondoggle has neither the consent of Congress nor the support of most American taxpayers. 

Obama’s billion-dollar pledge came at the end of 2015 as part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris. The GCF was created as a fund within the UNFCCC framework, and the Obama Administration agreed to help raise $100 billion annually in funding for developing nations. Obama then unilaterally pledged $3 billion in U.S. taxpayer funds to the GCF without the consent of Congress.    

While President Obama is no stranger to circumventing the roll of the legislative branch in order to further his own legacy, his willingness to unilaterally commit billions in taxpayer dollars oversees is a new low. Considering that the FY 2016 U.S. public debt totals $22 trillion, a $500 million handout, and more importantly a $3 billion pledge of U.S. funds, ignores the economic realities the country is facing.

In a recent scathing oped, Senator James Lankford  (R-Okla.) argued that GCF funding could instead have been used to combat the spread of the Zika virus, pointing out that Congress has granted the authority to pull money from bilateral economic assistance to foreign countries to combat infectious diseases.

“Congress refused to allocate funding for the U.N. Climate Change Fund…so the president used this account designated for international infectious diseases to pay for his priority,” Lankford wrote. 

Senator Lankford is not the only lawmaker speaking out against Obama’s actions. A coalition of 37 Senators, led by Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.) sent a letter to President Obama last fall disavowing his diversion of funds without Senate approval.    

 

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Norquist: Don't Hike the Capital Gains Tax

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Posted by Natalie De Vincenzi on Thursday, June 30th, 2016, 11:10 AM PERMALINK


Writing for the Huffington Post, ATR President Grover Norquist denounced efforts to hike the capital gains tax in any tax reform plan.

Instead, the capital gains tax ought to be reduced or repealed. It taxes income that has already been taxed when it was earned so it has the effect of discouraging investment and economic growth. 

As Norquist points out, big government liberals have tried to raise the capital gains tax again and again and again. He notes: 

“Their long-term policy goal is higher taxes, with ALL capital gains taxed as ordinary income, and for that rate to be very high. Sometimes they deride the capital gains tax as a “loophole” that needs to be closed. Other times they see raising it in increments as the best way to achieve their long-term policy goal of higher taxes. Regardless of the proposal, the end game is the same.”

President Obama has twice-raised the capital gains tax. He initially raised it by 5 percent, raising the rate from 15 to 20 percent, and then through an additional 3.8 percent Obamacare “surtax”. A Clinton presidency would continue this work, as Norquist warns:

“Hillary Clinton would only perpetuate Obama’s misguided effort. Already she has called for a byzantine capital gains tax with six brackets for those whose taxable income puts them in the 39.6 percent bracket.”

Raising the capital gains tax would be a huge mistake. It should be common-sense to end this double taxation.

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Hillary’s “Free WiFi” Plan Is A $275 Billion Tax Hike

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Posted by Toni-Anne Barry on Thursday, June 30th, 2016, 11:04 AM PERMALINK


Hillary Clinton is touting “Free Wifi.” But it is anything but “free.” In fact it is part of a massive $275 billion tax increase outlined by her campaign.

In a Wednesday tweet, Clinton said:

Clinton failed to mention that this “free” WiFi falls under her $275 billion net tax increase from unspecified “business tax reform.”

“Nothing is ever as expensive as something our government provides for ‘free’ said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.

Clinton has outlined several onerous tax increases she wants to impose on the American people. The tax increase proposals up to at least $1 trillion:

$350 Billion Income Tax Increase for a “New College Compact”  Clinton has proposed a $350 billion income tax hike in the form of a 28 percent cap on itemized deductions.

$275 Billion Business Tax Increase for “Infrastructure”—Clinton has called for a tax hike of at least $275 billion through undefined business tax reform. According to the Clinton campaign document, “Hillary will fully pay for these [Infrastructure] investments through business tax reform.” The official campaign document on the $275 billion tax hike describes the “free” WiFi:

“She will invest new federal resources so that train stations, airports, mass transit systems, and other public buildings can have access to gigabit connectivity and can provide free Wi-Fi to the public.”

$400 Billion “Fairness” Tax Increase -- According to her published plan, Clinton has called for a tax increase of “between $400 and $500 billion” by “restoring basic fairness to our tax code.” These proposals include a “fair share surcharge,” taxing carried interest capital gains as ordinary income, and raising the Death Tax.

Clinton has also proposed several tax increases not included in the tally above. Because her campaign has failed to release specific details for many of her proposals, the true figure is likely much, much higher than $1 trillion.

For instance:

Capital Gains Tax Increase -- Clinton has proposed an increase in the capital gains tax to counter the “tyranny of today’s earnings report.” Her plan calls for an overly complex, byzantine capital gains tax regime with six brackets for those whose total taxable income puts them in the top 39.6 percent bracket. Her campaign has not said how much this will increase taxes.

Tax on Stock Trading -- Clinton has proposed a new, unquantified tax on stock trading. The tax increase would only further burden markets by discouraging trading and investment. Inevitably, costs associated with this new tax will be borne by millions of American families that hold 401(k)s, IRAs and other savings accounts.

“Exit Tax” – Clinton has proposed a series of measures aimed at corporate inversions including an “exit tax” – on income earned overseas. The term “exit tax” is used by the campaign itself. This proposal would completely fail to address the underlying causes behind inversions. Her campaign document describing this proposal says it will raise $80 billion in tax revenue, but claims some of the $80 billion will be plowed into tax relief. It does not specify a dollar amount.

To learn more about Hillary’s ever-growing list of tax increase proposals, visit ATR’s dedicated website, www.HighTaxHillary.com

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Redwhiteandblueblood

She left out the Latte

Louisiana Steve

Why even have a tax? The feds spend whatever they wish regardless of income. Besides, when was the last time we had a debt ceiling crisis?


ATR Statement on New Jersey Assembly-Passed Tax Reform Plan

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Posted by Americans for Tax Reform on Wednesday, June 29th, 2016, 3:18 PM PERMALINK


Americans for Tax reform is pleased to endorse the tax reform package, A 12, passed by the New Jersey State Assembly on Tuesday.

The reform package is consistent with the Taxpayer Protection Pledge signed by pro-taxpayer legislators.

The tax reform package is not a tax hike; the increase in the gasoline tax of a maximum of 23 cents per gallon is combined with a rollback of the previous one percent sales tax hike such that the sales tax now at 7 percent would be reduced to 6.5 percent on January 1, 2017 and 6 percent on January 1, 2018.

The package also removes the state income tax on pension income over a four-year period for all income below $100,000. That phase in takes place in equal parts over four years.  

Taxpayers would have been well served if the gas tax hike was also matched with reforms in the state's prevailing wage law.

The November ballot measure that would require that all gas tax revenue go only to transportation will further protect NJ taxpayers. 

The statement can also be read here

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ATR Urges Support for Sen. Blunt’s Resolution Opposing a Carbon Tax

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Posted by Bradley Wyatt on Tuesday, June 28th, 2016, 12:14 PM PERMALINK


Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist this week sent a letter urging Senate lawmakers to support Senator Roy Blunt's (R-Mo.) resolution opposing a carbon tax. Senate Resolution 472 expresses the sense of Congress that a carbon tax would be detrimental to American families and businesses and is not in the best interest of the United States.

ATR sent an earlier letter in May when the resolution was originally introduced thanking Senator Blunt for his continued leadership in the fight against any form of a carbon tax.

Below is the full text of the letter:

June 28, 2016

Dear Members of Congress:

Americans for Tax Reform strongly urges you to support and vote for Senate Resolution 472 being offered by Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), which puts Congress on the record in opposition to a carbon tax.

A carbon tax would kill jobs in the United States, reduce economic growth, and set the stage for future tax hikes. Such a tax would drive up energy prices for American families and businesses, leading to an increase in the costs of consumer goods and reduced household income.

A carbon tax would be wholly regressive; falling hardest on low-income families who can least afford it. As the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office pointed out, “low-income households spend a larger share of their income on goods and services whose prices would increase the most” as a result of a carbon tax.

A study by the National Association of Manufacturers found a carbon tax would: have a negative effect on consumption, investment and jobs; increase the cost of coal, natural gas and petroleum products thus resulting in higher production costs and less spending on non-energy goods; and lead to lower real wage rates, lower labor productivity, and decrease workers’ incomes.

Americans for Tax Reform encourages all members of Congress to support Senate Resolution 472.

Sincerely,                                          

Grover G. Norquist                                                                        

President                                                                                           

Americans for Tax Reform

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jfreed27

We need to protect our kids from climate disruption without disrupting our economy. So any price on carbon would require a reduction in taxes, as they do in BC, Canada. It isn't a tax if the government rebates all the fees.


House Blueprint Calls for Free Market, Patient Centered Healthcare Reform

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Monday, June 27th, 2016, 12:00 PM PERMALINK


Congressional Republicans recently unveiled their blueprint to repeal and replace Obamacare with commonsense free-market alternatives. Obamacare has approached healthcare with a “government knows best” mentality, and the GOP blueprint draws a sharp contrast by calling for increased choice and competition in order to lower costs, improve quality, and ensure all Americans have access to the healthcare that best suits their individual needs.

The blueprint starts by repealing Obamacare and its taxes, mandates, slush funds, and wasteful spending programs. The proposal replaces these failed policies with a series of conservative, free market reforms that end a number of distortions and promote individual choice and responsibility. The blueprint also strengthens Medicare and Medicaid to ensure these programs are equipped to provide for the most vulnerable in our society, and calls for promoting and protecting medical innovation to ensure America remains a leader in life-saving and life-improving medicines.

Repeals Obamacare Taxes, Mandates, and Slush Funds
The blueprint calls for repeal of ALL Obamacare taxes including the chronic care tax, the individual mandate tax, the tax on Flexible Savings Accounts, the tax on Health Savings Accounts, the Cadillac tax on employer health insurance, the tax on medical devices, the tax on prescription medicine, the tax on employers, and the tax on health insurers.

The proposal also ends wasteful spending programs by repealing the “Obamacare Public Health” slush fund, and stopping risk corridor and reinsurance corporate welfare payments. Finally, the plan repeals the individual and employer mandates which needlessly penalize individuals and businesses.

Provides Greater Flexibility
In place of Obamacare, the House GOP blueprint calls for a healthcare “backpack” – insurance that is tailored to individual needs and allows flexibility. One centerpiece of this proposal replaces the flawed and highly wasteful Obamacare tax credit with an efficient flat credit that is adjusted based on age. This credit is refundable so that if a plan costs less than the credit, the individual can spend whatever is leftover through an HSA-like account.

This replaces the restrictive approach taken by Obamacare with a flexible alternative that allows individuals to choose healthcare that best fits their needs.

Expands Health Savings Accounts
Health savings accounts, or HSAs are tax-advantaged accounts which are used to pay for routine, out-of-pocket medical expenses.  They are used in conjunction with insurance plans which tend to cover large and/or unexpected health events and allow individuals to make choices that best fit their needs.

The plan first eliminates the many restrictions that Obamacare placed on HSAs and then expands them to eliminate needless restrictions on contribution limits and accessibility. These reforms will better encourage healthcare freedom so Americans have access to patient centered care that best fits their needs.

Promotes Innovation
It takes about 14 years and $2 billion in research and development medical costs with more than 95 percent of drugs failing to make it through this long process. While this process is lengthy and costly, it inevitably leads to significant long-term health benefits and savings within the medical system. Obamacare has only made this arduous process worse with a tax on new medical devices, further slowing innovation.  

The GOP blueprint calls for reforms to medical innovation based off the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act passed by the House last year. This plan calls for streamlining the innovation process by reforming the FDA so that new medicines can come online faster. The plan also calls for modernizing clinical trials, providing more appropriate incentives, removing regulatory uncertainty, and increased collaboration between stakeholders.

By protecting and promoting medical innovation this plan will allow for the creation of the next generation life-saving and life-threatening medicines that will ensure stronger, most cost effective healthcare solutions in future decades.

Protects Seniors
Medicare spending will double within the next ten years and the program is projected to become insolvent by 2030. This looming insolvency is addressed through a three step approach that also strengthens the program.

First, the plan repeals the needless Medicare regulations contained in Obamacare, like the Independent Payment Advisory Board and cuts to Medicare Advantage. Second, it adopts a series of smart reforms and updating out-of-date regulations that protect the patient doctor relationship and patient choice. Third, the proposal implements reforms that ensure Medicare is around for future generations by transitioning to a more competitive premium support model that does not disrupt the current program.

Reforms and Preserves Medicaid
This year, total Medicaid spending will reach $545 billion, even as the program has been plagued by high risk of fraud and inadequate oversight. For years, federal watchdogs have warned of millions in fraudulent or improper payments and countless cases of patient abuse, neglect, and theft. Under Obamacare, millions of able bodied adults have been added to Medicaid, even as the program is failing to provide care for our most vulnerable.

The GOP blueprint calls for addressing these issues through reforms to the funding structure that set more appropriate incentives that encourage resources to the nations most vulnerable. The program also provides states with better tools, resources, and flexibility by giving them the choice of a block grant or a per capita allotment. Streamlining the funding process will not only ensure that Medicaid enrollees have access to more appropriate care, it will also cut down on waste and promote more efficient allotment of resources.

 

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Democrats Raise Concerns Over Obama Debt Equity Regulations

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Posted by Natalie De Vincenzi on Monday, June 27th, 2016, 9:00 AM PERMALINK


In a letter to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, House Democrats expressed concern with the administration’s proposed “Debt-Equity” regulations. They now join Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and former treasury officials in sounding the alarm over these regulations.

The regulations, proposed under section 385 of the tax code were sold as a way to stop inversions, however they may actually make the issue worse. They require businesses to disclose extensive information and give the government the authority to reclassify debt as equity for federal tax purposes. Because they are so broad, 385 regulations will likely foster business uncertainty, leading to a chilling effect on investment.

Businesses are already struggling to compete against foreign competitors. As a report by Ernst & Young notes American businesses are vulnerable to acquisitions because our code is far more burdensome that our competitors. Proposing complex new regulations will only make make it even more difficult for American businesses to compete.

The U.S. has the highest corporate income tax rate in the developed world at a steep 39.1%, much higher than the global average of 25%. The U.S. rate is two to three times higher than its direct competitors, like Canada (26.3 percent), the U.K. (20 percent), and Ireland (12.5 percent).

Additionally, the U.S. is only one of six OECD countries that utilizes a worldwide system of taxation. American businesses overseas are required to pay taxes in the country it earned the income in and then pay U.S. taxes on the remaining income, essentially double-taxing American businesses.  This system of double taxation puts American businesses at an immense disadvantage, as they are competing with businesses who utilize the more modern territorial system of taxation. Ultimately, the costs of the worldwide system of taxation are passed onto employees, as much as 75 percent of the costs can be passed onto workers.  

Instead of imposing countless new regulations, the U.S. should directly address our competitiveness problem through tax reform. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and the House GOP recently released a blueprint on tax reform that would reduce the U.S. corporate rate to 20 percent, which is lower than the global average, and create a territorial system of taxation. If passed into law, these two solutions will halt inversions and ensure our businesses can again compete in the global economy. 

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