Socialized Medicine Didn't Work in Maine Either
As the health care debate continues to heat up, we continue to learn more about states that decided to take on a public option. The Wall Street Journal’s article “No Maine Miracle Cure” describes Maine’s failed public option healthcare plan. In 2003, Maine enacted a government run health system under Democratic Governor John Baldacci. “DirigoChoice,” Maine’s public option was originally paid for by $50 million in federal stimulus. Of course, knowing that money would eventually run out, Maine’s government expected to pay for it by health care savings derived from this plan.
Despite these higher premiums, the government still cannot afford the program. Maine’s government recently raised taxes to pay for the program, an initiative it promised would not be necessary. The failure of government health care is not limited to Maine’s case. Massachusetts has a plan that it can no longer afford. Wisconsin’s BadgerCare is experiencing similar financial problems. TennCare is strapped for cash.
Large Conservative Groups to Congress: No Lame Duck Internet Sales Tax
In a letter from December 6th to all Members of Congress large conservative groups including Americans for Tax Reform, Americans for Prosperity, Heritage Action for America and FreedomWorks ask members of Congress to not address the issue of collecting internet sales taxes during this current lame duck session. “The issue is contentious, and previous attempts to do so have raised important questions that have yet to be resolved. Pushing through a bill in the lame duck would allow little time for debate or discussion of these complicated issues and we respectfully request that you refrain from doing so.”
Currently, the Supreme Court’s 1992 Quill decision establishes the framework for collecting such taxes. Fundamentally, it requires nexus, or the seller’s physical presence within a state, before that state may collect a sales tax from the seller. Yet, as e-commerce and internet sales have expanded, brick and mortar stores have been pressuring Congress to establish a new framework for collecting sales taxes from online out-of-state sellers. Unfortunately, previous attempts to do so generated serious Constitutional questions about the scope and reach of state tax authorities, as well as concerns about the administrative burdens created by the new tax collection schemes.
Read the letter here
Like-kind Exchanges Should Be Preserved as Part of Any Tax Reform Plan
Next year, tax reform will be on the agenda and Congress must consider whether to repeal, preserve, or expand many sections of the tax code. One provision that should be preserved or expanded is section 1031 “like-kind exchanges.” This section of the code compliments the goals of tax reform by allowing taxpayers important investment flexibility that encourages stronger economic growth.
Like-kind exchanges allow taxpayers to defer paying taxes on certain types of assets when they use those earnings to invest in another, similar asset. This can be done again and again, provided the transaction involves a similar type of property. It has existed in the tax code for more than 100 years and is used on assets such as real estate, machinery for farming and mining, and equipment such as trucks and cars. Because an investor doesn’t have to pay tax until they cash out, section 1031 eliminates a potential barrier to investment, which in turn promotes the more efficient allocation of capital resources.
Rather than face repeal, like-kind exchanges should serve as a model for the taxation of all investments and should be retained in any overhaul of the tax code as a complementary provision to full business expensing. The provision has no place being categorized as a “pay-for” to buy lower rates and repeal would move the code toward higher taxes on investment, which in turn hurts economic growth and reduces income.
Like-Kind Exchanges Compliment the Goals of Pro-Growth Tax Reform: The tax code should encourage the efficient allocation of resources by taxing at the point of consumption. Under this system, investment would be treated neutrally (and efficiently) so that decisions would be made based on economic benefit. When measured against this goal, section 1031 is a necessary and complimentary part of a pro-growth tax system.
The House GOP “Better Way” tax reform blueprint takes many steps in moving the code toward this goal. For instance, the blueprint replaces the convoluted system of depreciation with immediate, full business expensing of all tangible assets (such as equipment) and intangible assets (such as intellectual property), but not land. This allows business owners to make decisions based on the merits of the transaction, not because of government induced tax barriers. In turn, this means a more efficient allocation of resources.
A move toward full expensing of assets will streamline business activity by allowing the efficient purchase of new assets and Section 1031 should be considered complimentary to this goal. 1031 allows less productive assets to be replaced with more productive assets, and therefore eliminates any lock-in effect that would otherwise discourage business activity. This is especially important for land assets that are excluded by the blueprint, which in many cases represents a significant portion of many properties. Because of the exclusion of land, repeal of like-kind exchanges – even with full expensing – may have the effect of impeding otherwise productive transactions.
Repealing Section 1031 is Economically Destructive: One key part of pro-growth tax reform is repealing preferential, distortive business credits and deductions – or “loopholes” as the left refers to them – in exchange for lowering marginal rates on corporations and small businesses as part of a net tax cut. The rationale is that it broadens the base of taxpayers, allows lower rates across the board than would otherwise be possible, and ensures the most efficient allocation of capital possible through the neutral treatment of businesses.
While this principle should be part of any tax plan, like-kind exchanges have no place in this conversation. 1031 grants important flexibility for a taxpayer to make the most economically efficient investment decisions in a way that benefits – not hinder economic growth and efficiency. If Section 1031 were to be repealed it would create a lock in effect that would discourage certain types of otherwise productive transactions. Conversely, this would result in less productive deployment of capital in the economy which would hurt economic growth and capital while raising little revenue.
Because of this lock-in effect, repeal could cost the U.S. economy as much as $13.1 billion in lost GDP year after year, according to a study conducted by Ernst and Young. This GDP loss would also result in investment falling by $7 billion every year and would reduce income by an estimated $1.4 billion.
Like-Kind Exchanges should be a Model for All Capital Gains: Ideally, all income derived as a “capital gain” should be exempt from taxation. This tax hits income that has already been subjected to income taxes and has been reinvested to help create jobs, grow wages, and increase economic growth. Naturally, this double taxation impedes the ability to invest and foster stronger economic growth.
Capital gains taxes should be reduced – or better yet, repealed – and preserving and expanding section 1031 should be part of this effort.
Under like-kind exchange rules, you only have a gain when you decide to cash out. The gain is the difference between the final sale amount and the original purchase, and is embedded over the years in the business. In effect, it becomes due when the business activity effectively ends.
There’s no reason this cannot work for other capital gains. If you buy a stock for $100 and sell it for $150, you should be able to plow that $150 into new stock purchases without having to pay tax along the way.
This would also have the added effects of promoting tax simplicity and economic efficiency. Investors would no longer have to report each and every stock and mutual fund transaction on their taxes every year, simplifying tax filing for millions of Americans. It also would make all capital markets--for everything--more efficient.
Every time the government takes money out of the pool of capital investment, capital grows more slowly and we're all poorer than we otherwise would be. The key to wealth creation is to leave capital--untouched by government--free to grow for as long as possible.
Some have proposed repealing or limiting section 1031 as a way to make incremental progress towards taxing all capital gains as ordinary income. Instead of moving in this direction, we should be expanding the scope of like-kind exchanges as part of ending double taxation, promoting tax simplicity, and encouraging investment.
Show Notes: How Obama's Labor Department Gets Between You and Your Savings
In Episode 68 of The Grover Norquist show, Grover sits down with ATR’s Justin Sykes to discuss the Department of Labor’s (DOL) fiduciary rule, a rule that places the federal government between Americans and their retirement savings, and is a cornerstone of Obama’s regulatory regime.
Estimates show that the rule could disqualify up to 7 million IRA holders from investment advice and potentially reduce the number of IRAs opened annually by 300,000. Repealing this burdensome rule should be a priority of President-elect Trump.
Ohio Senate Must Act to Protect Citizens’ Property Rights in Civil Asset Forfeiture Bill
The state government of Ohio reinforced the power of law enforcement to seize money, cars, and other assets suspected of being connected in any way to a crime through civil asset forfeiture laws. Legislators realized this corruption, and the state’s House of Representatives passed a bill in May (with 72 to 25 votes in favor) to reform the practice in Ohio.
The Columbus Dispatch quoted Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist when discussing the need for asset forfeiture reform:
“In criminal cases, the burden of proof rests with the prosecution to prove a defendant’s guilt. But in forfeiture cases, the property owner is put in a position in which he must prove that he obtained his property lawfully.”
H.B. 347 would limit state law enforcement’s coordination with the federal government unless the seizure is greater in value than $100,000. Doing this closes a loophole allowing local law enforcement to use federal standards when forfeiting assets. The legislation also requires a criminal conviction for the government to seize the property.
The bill would also end civil asset forfeiture for most cases were the property exceeds $25,000 in value.
In current Ohio law, officers can seize property from individuals without any criminal or formal charges. The legislature will use the bill proposed to protect Ohio property owners and reinstate due process for forfeited property.
According to the Institute for Justice, current Ohio forfeiture law has a low bar to forfeit, no conviction required, poor protections for innocent third party property owners, and close to 100% of proceeds from forfeitures streamlining back to law enforcement. IJ’s Policing for Profit report notes that forfeiture proceeds in the state averaged at $8,575,933 per year between 2010 and 2012, and it gives the state a D- for its current laws.
The legislation carries significant support from not only the legislature but Ohioans themselves. A poll from the U.S. Justice Action Network released in September 2015 showed that out of 500 registered Ohioans, 81% believed that asset forfeiture reform was essential for the state’s improvement.
Asset forfeiture is a bipartisan issue, and innocent property owners deserve to receive the due process protections guaranteed to them in the Bill of Rights. Americans for Tax Reform urges the Ohio Senate to stand with the state’s House of Representatives to reform civil asset forfeiture and protect its citizens’ rights.
If Rosenworcel Renominated, Trump & Republicans Lose the FCC
The Trump Administration has an amazing opportunity to affect tech and telecom policy. His appointments to the Federal Communications Commission will make all the difference in what has been a bitterly divisive and aggressive left-wing term under Chairman Tom Wheeler.
That is if he gets to make any appointments.
Senate Democrat Leader Harry Reid and President Obama are making a last ditch effort to control the Internet. They are circulating a petition to lift the hold on Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and have her reconfirmed next week just before Congress recesses.
Under this scenario, Republicans are on the verge of destroying one of the largest sectors of the economy. For what?
The best Trump and the Republicans can hope for is a 2-2 split on the FCC period. Wheeler has made it clear that he will not follow the tradition of the outgoing administration's chairman stepping down. Wheeler plans to stay. At least an even split would prevent them from forcing through more anti-free market regulations, and teach Wheeler to compromise.
A 2-2 split slows down the new commission’s ability to make reforms and reexamine the highly controversial, overbearing, partisan rulings from the last few years.
A 3-2 Democrat controlled FCC means the commission will immediately start pushing through regulations that Wheeler yanked from the Commission's November meeting agenda -- items that Chairmen John Thune, Fred Upton, and Greg Walden all asked Wheeler to hold off on. Wheeler refused to listen to any congressional guidance, be it from Republicans or Democrats, before President-elect Trump’s election.
If Rosenworcel is reconfirmed it is not to solidify the reconfirmation of Commissioner Ajit Pai. He has a year left in his term. With her reconfirmation the FCC stays under Democrat control under the Trump administration. And the President-elect is robbed of his ability to nominate two new commissioners.
The current commission should not be rewarded for its bad behavior. Just today an article in the Hill by Larry Spiwak detailed some of Tom Wheeler's shamefully partisan moves :
- Attempting to force non-profits filing in commission proceedings to reveal their donor lists in clear violation of Supreme Court precedent;
- Improperly coordinating with the White House to encourage mass "clicktivism" as probative evidence to support the FCC's controversial decision to reclassify broadband internet access as a Title II common carrier telecommunications service while deliberately ignoring any serious economic analysis of the issue;
- Hiring people for senior leadership positions at the commission even though they filed as interested parties in dockets they were later tasked with supervising, thus creating a serious conflict of interest problem;
- Illegally attempting to hold a Twitter town hall with an outside party to discuss a yet-to-be-released commission item during the Sunshine Act "quiet period";
- Only making public the results of an internal peer review critical of the FCC's economic analysis in the Business Data Services proceeding on the very day comments were due, thus depriving interested parties of an opportunity for meaningful comment;
- Continuing to lie to the American people that cable and satellite companies allegedly charge consumers $231 a year in set-top box rental fees, even though that number was thoroughly and publicly debunked;
- Improperly expanding the FCC's important merger review authority to impose conditions and "voluntary commitments" to serve select political constituencies and priorities that by any reasonable account had no nexus to any specific merger-related harm;
- And as perhaps the most partisan act Wheeler grasping the hands of his fellow Democratic commissioners and raising them high over their heads in a victory salute to a standing ovation after the Open Internet Order vote. Such childish behavior simply confirmed what every telecommunications professional already knew: Wheeler had no intention of conducting a dispassionate analysis and viewing all parties equally before the law. (I shudder to think what would happen if several justices of the Supreme Court were to do the same after a controversial ideological vote.)
Senate Republicans should not be making last minute deals with Obama and Harry Reid. They should continue to hold the line so that President Trump can name the new appointees to the commission.
This among other things is just why Mitch McConnell needs to get out of the way and let a real Republican head the Senate. He is weak and unfocussed. He should be able to keep others of his party "lined up" when the Democrats try to pull this kind of oBUMa crap.
Just do away with the FCC entirely and start over. A new Congress and President should be able to do that.
Just defund the FCC and pass retroactive legislation nullifying abhorant FCC rulings.The courts have no say in what congress funds.
Mnuchin: Dodd-Frank Reform “Number One Priority”
It was announced Wednesday that President-elect Donald Trump has tapped Steven Mnunchin, formally with Goldman Sachs, to the lead the Treasury. Following the announcement, Mnuchin wasted no time laying out his general priorities for financial services reforms in 2017, which included reforming the Dodd-Frank Act and the Volcker Rule in particular, easing the burden on regional banks, and potentially returning Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to private control.
Appearing on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Wednesday, Mnunchin expressed intentions to target the costly and burdensome Dodd-Frank Act, stating:
“The number one problem with Dodd-Frank is it’s way to complicated and it cuts back lending, so we want to strip back parts of Dodd-Frank that prevent banks from lending and that will be the number one priority on the regulatory side.”
Since enactment over six years ago, the Dodd-Frank Act has unleashed a slew of costly and burdensome regulations that have forced many community banks out of the market, chilled small business lending, and general reduced American financial competitiveness, among other problems.
Mnuchin will be in good company for prioritizing Dodd-Frank reform next year, as President-elect Trump has already vowed to “dismantle Dodd-Frank” and freeze or scrap other financial regulations such as the Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule.
President Trump and Mnuchin will have their work cut out for them somewhat, as House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling has laid out a financial reform blueprint with the Financial CHOICE Act he introduced this year.
Hernsarling’s CHOICE Act looks to repeal burdensome regulations such as the Volcker Rule and Durbin Amendment, and rein in out of control regulators such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Financial Stability Oversight Council, in addition to a number of other reforms.
Photo credit: Woodley Wonder Works
CFPB Should Stop Work on Costly Arbitration Rule
Earlier this year the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) proposed a new rule that would harm both consumers and businesses. This rule would ban the commonly used arbitration clauses in consumer finance contracts.
A report published by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) examined the rule and how by banning these clauses the CFPB is effectively forcing consumers to forgo the quick and relatively cheap option of arbitration and instead pursue the long and more cumbersome process of filing class action lawsuits. Such lawsuits only benefit high-priced lawyers at the expense of both consumers and businesses.
CFPB Director Richard Corday describes arbitration clauses as “contract gotcha that effectively denies groups of consumers the right to seek justice”. However, this statement could not be further from the truth.
According to the CFPB’s own study, arbitration often results in better outcomes for consumers. Class action lawsuits on the other hand are only approved by the courts 20 percent of the time. Those lucky enough to be part of the 20 percent of approved cases must wait an average of 3 years in order to see any kind of settlement while those involved in arbitration wait an average of 6.9 months.
That CFPB’s study also found based on a survey of over the 400 class actions against financial firms, the average payout to class members was less than $2.00 a person, much lower than typical payouts under the arbitration process.
The arbitration rule is currently slated to be finished in 2017, but lawmakers are concerned the CFPB could look to push through the rule this year to circumvent President Trump blocking finalization. Such a “midnight regulation” from the CFPB would be ill advised and the Bureau should instead freeze its rulemaking on this issue and others until the new administration takes office.
Simply put, the arbitration rule is another example of the agency’s attempt to overregulate the financial services industry at the expense of consumers and businesses. In the 6 years that the agency has existed it has issued nearly 50 rules that have cost Americans and businesses billions of dollars in additional costs. Fortunately, next year consumers will have both a Congress and executive branch dedicated to protecting their interests and enforcing oversight of the CFPB.
Photo Credit: Brian Turner
Pro-Growth Reform Should Rollback or Remove Distortive Excise Taxes
A major goal of tax reform is eliminating or minimizing the extent to which the code picks winners and losers, with the end goal of a code that treats all economic decisions neutrally. This means removing any distortions in the tax code so that capital can form in the most productive way possible, resulting in more jobs, increased wages, and higher growth than may otherwise occur.
One broad way of achieving this is ensuring that businesses are taxed as equitably as possible by eliminating business credits in exchange for lowering rates within an across the board tax cut.
A different, more targeted way to achieve this goal is through the repeal of certain taxes, such as excise taxes. When it comes to alcohol excise taxes, this problem is especially noteworthy as the code currently taxes beer, wine, and spirits at different, arbitrary rates:
- Beer is subject to an $18 excise tax per barrel, with a reduced rate for the first 60,000 barrels produced by smaller brewers.
- Wine is subject to excise taxes between $1.07 and $3.40 per gallon, with a phased out credit for small wineries.
- Spirits are taxed at $13.50 per proof gallon, but with no reduced rate for smaller distillers.
This makes no sense, and is exactly the type of distortion that tax reform should aim to fix.
One possible path forward to undoing this inconsistent taxation is by passing the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (S. 1562/H.R 2903), legislation sponsored by Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), and Congressman Erik Paulsen (R-MN) and Congressman Ron Kind (D-Wis.). The legislation is supported by a majority of both chambers -- 287 Congressmen and 52 Senators from both parties -- so there is clear consensus on the ideal path forward.
This legislation moves closer toward the goal of tax equity by ensuring the code treats beer, wine, and spirits in similar ways. In addition, it also equalizes the tax treatment of producers large and small.
By lowering rates, the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act achieves another key goal of tax reform – encouraging growth, jobs, and higher wages, through a more efficient system. It’s a basic principle that if you want more of something, you tax it less. Less income being diverted to federal and state governments means more resources left that can be invested by businesses in economically productive activity.
Excise taxes by their nature are counterproductive, because they have two competing goals. Lawmakers often justify these taxes as a way to clamp down on negative behavior, but the more successful they are at this goal, the less revenue they produce. In addition, they pick winners and losers by taxing a selective, narrow base, which distorts production and economic choices.
Tax reform that lowers rates and removes distortions is decades overdue. Removing credits, deductions, and discriminatory taxes – like alcohol excise taxes – must be a key component of pro-growth reform that increases wages, creates more jobs, and boosts economic growth.
The proposed bill would reduce the excise tax on domestic spirits producers by 80% for the first 100,000 proof gallons/year. The US and EU complained to the WTO about Colombia’s tax rates on booze. In defending against the complaint, Columbia could at least say that the different tax rates are based on the alcohol content, and not on national origin. The US does not even have that argument to justify the uneven playing field of taxing imports at five times the rate of domestic spirits producers.
ATR Statement on EPA’s Newly Released Fuel Economy Standards
Washington – ATR President Grover Norquist issued the following statement this week in response to the EPA’s unprecedented push to finalize strict new fuel-economy standards for 2022-2025:
“The EPA’s push this week to finalize burdensome and costly new fuel-economy standards is clearly an affront to the incoming Trump administration. The EPA’s actions disregard the appropriate and in-depth analysis needed to ensure that the new standards take into account fuel efficiency, affordability, and the impact on the economy.
“The overly strict standards proposed by the EPA will only make cars and trucks increasingly more expensive and unaffordable for American consumers. As a result, American families and workers will be forced to look to less efficient and less safe used cars and trucks.
“Such stringent and premature standards are unrealistic, and effectively put the government in between consumer choice and American mobility.”
Trump has his team looking at those regulations which are unduly oppressive and will be immediately withdrawn.
This one will probably be among the first to go.
ATR Statement on H.R. 34, the 21st Century Cures/Mental Health Reform Package
Congress will this week consider H.R. 34, “the 21st Century Cures Act.” This fiscally responsible legislation promotes medical innovation by streamlining the discovery, development, and delivery of medicines. It also reforms the nation’s failing mental health system to ensure millions of Americans receive the care they need. Members of Congress should have no hesitation supporting and voting “Yes” on this important legislation.
Fiscally Responsible: The 21st Century Cures package contains no tax increases, and all new spending is fully offset over the ten year window with corresponding spending cuts, as noted in an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office.
In all, H.R. 34 provides $6.3 billion in funding over the next ten years, including $4.8 billion to the NIH, $1 billion to combat opioid abuse, and $500 million to the FDA. Unlike the version of Cures passed last year, spending in the updated version is not mandatory, so Congress will retain necessary oversight over all spending.
More than half of the legislation’s spending is offset by rescinding funds from Obamacare’s unaccountable Prevention and Public Health Slush fund, a fund that has been used to push the Obama administration’s partisan agenda with non-existent congressional oversight. Other offsets include several changes to Medicare and Medicaid that will help promote the sustainability of these programs in the decades to come.
Promotes Medical Innovation: H.R. 34 devotes significant resources to streamlining the long process of medical innovation by reforming the discovery, development, and delivery of medicines and treatments.
Reforms include reducing regulatory red tape, breaking down barriers that restrict data sharing, speeding up clinical trials while increasing patient input, promoting new technologies, and expediting the review of potentially breakthrough devices.
While the resources needed to develop new cures are costly and time consuming, the potential savings to the broader healthcare system are significant. Updating the regulatory system governing the development of new medicines and treatments will ensure the U.S. remains a world leader in treatment, that the lives of millions will improve, and that costs will be minimized.
Reforms Failing Mental Health System: All too often, the U.S. mental health system fails to provide proper treatment to the millions that need it. The federal government spends roughly $130 billion on mental health each year, often with underwhelming and ineffective results. While there are 112 federal programs dedicated to addressing mental health, there is little, if any coordination. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) has even been dubbed the “worse government agency”.
While there is need for change, the solution cannot be spending billions in a system is plagued by inefficiency and waste. Instead, H.R. 34 contains many important reforms that update the mental health system without spending any new money.
Specifically, the legislation reforms SAMSHA, creates more oversight and connectivity over the many programs and agencies involved in mental health and priorities evidence-based care that empowers caregivers, supports innovation, and advances early prevention programs.
In addition, the legislation creates more support for the mental health workforce, for on-campus mental health education, and for addressing substance use.
There is clear support for reforming our mental health system in this direction. Similar legislation, “the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act” (H.R. 2646), sponsored by Congressman Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) passed the House of Representatives by an overwhelming vote of 422-2 earlier this year. Lawmakers should have no hesitation again supporting these important reforms.