Dorothy Jetter

Netflix Users Win Big in Kentucky

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Posted by Dorothy Jetter on Thursday, September 24th, 2015, 3:35 PM PERMALINK

Netflix users in Kentucky have one less tax to worry about today.  The Kentucky Board of Tax Appeals recognized that streaming services are not taxable as “multichannel video programming services.”  
 
Stating that the board is bound by the words of the Kentucky legislature, the Board of Tax Appeals sided with Netflix in its decision.  The BTA explains, "The Board concludes that if streaming services fit within the Kentucky statute’s definition for “multichannel video programming,” then Netflix would be a provider of “multichannel video programming services” for purposes of Kentucky tax law, regardless of its status under federal law for regulatory purposes."
 
In the state of Kentucky, “cable services” must be transmitted by facilities owned by a “communications service provider.” Netflix, and other streaming services, do not use such services to provide content transmission.  The BTA concluded that because of this, Netflix does not provide taxable “cable services” and is not subject to such a levy.  
 
Taxation on streaming services has been a subject of controversy as of recent.  In the city of Chicago, the comptroller recently applied an “Amusement Tax” to online streaming services, including Netflix.  Several residents filed a lawsuit against the city regarding the tax increase, claiming that the streaming services do not fall under the services outlined in the “Amusement Tax.”  Hopefully, the city is able to fall in the footsteps of Kentucky and eliminate these unnecessary burdens on taxpayers.  

 

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Chicagoans Fight Back Against Amusement Tax Overreach

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Posted by Dorothy Jetter on Monday, September 14th, 2015, 2:55 PM PERMALINK

Chicago’s expansion of the “Amusement Services” tax is the city's latest cash grab. Thanks to a fiat administrative decision by the Department of Finance, the city will impose the 9.0 percent tax on services like Netflix, Spotify, Xbox Live, and Amazon Prime. This burdensome tax has been implemented without a vote by the City Council, and in contrast to United States Supreme Court precedent which requires a "physical nexus" for a local tax to be valid.    
 
The tax collector tried sneaking into living rooms, sifting through the couch cushions, hoping the residents wouldn't notice. But they did.  On September 9th, six fed-up Chicagoans filed a complaint against The City of Chicago and City Comptroller Dan Widawksy. The plaintiffs hold that the defendants have exceeded their authority by applying the Amusement Tax to Internet-based streaming services.   
 
The plaintiffs point out “The Municipal Code does not authorize the Comptroller to impose new taxes that the City Council has not authorized through a city ordinance.” The Municipal Code in question, the “Amusement Tax,” mentions several categories of activities, such as boxing, tennis, and even billiard games.  The law defines "amusement" several ways and video services streamed from the internet are never mentioned. The City Comptroller, Dan Widawsky, does not have the authority to include streaming video under the Amusement Tax. Such an action goes beyond the scope of the Municipal Code as enacted by the City Council.  
 
Jeffrey Schwab, an attorney at the Liberty Justice Center explains: “No aldermen voted on this tax. It never went before the Chicago City Council, which makes the so-called 'Netflix tax' an illegal tax.”

More specifically, the city’s attempt to apply “Amusement Tax” to services such as Amazon Prime is absurd.  In addition to streaming services, Amazon Prime provides subscribers with two-day shipping and discounts, which are not subject to the aforementioned tax.  By no stretch of the imagination are these services “amusements” or “places of amusements,” as outlined by city ordinance.
 
By rewriting the “Amusement Tax” as voted on by the City Council, Comptroller Widawsky and the Finance Department are overreaching their authority. Rather than circumventing the law to tax digital services, the city of Chicago should seek fiscally responsible solutions to its rampant overspending problem.   

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Sage Grouse Population Surging without ESA Listing

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Posted by Dorothy Jetter on Friday, August 7th, 2015, 12:00 PM PERMALINK

In spite of the many misguided arguments from environmental extremists and the federal bureaucrats beholden to them, it now seems the American sage grouse population is skyrocketing. This means the sage grouse, with populations sprawling across 11 states, is actually flourishing. 

This population surge flies in the face of the contentions of those advocating for a listing under the Endangered Species Act, which is slated to be proposed this September. In 2010, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) of the Department of the Interior first decided to consider listing the sage grouse as endangered, following a drop in population from 2007 to 2013.  

However, according to the findings of a report soon to be released, since 2013 the number of sage grouse have increased by two thirds.  Science has shown that these spikes are natural peaks and troughs of the population, caused by weather patterns. 

The original report that compelled the FWS to take action was conducted at the behest of environmental lobbying interests in D.C.  The Daily Caller explains the report, "was bought, paid for and published" by"an "$810 million behemoth that made over $111 million in grants in 2013 and constantly pushes for more federal environmental regulation."

Phil Taylor of Environment and Energy Publishing suggests, “State wildlife officials said the report cherry-picked just the years of decline." By increasing regulation over the sage grouse, the Department of the Interior, namely the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management, has been able to control even more land and resources.   

Over 2,000 species are listed as endangered under the ESA.  How many more times will biased science be used to justify the frivolous spending of taxpayer dollars and the creation of economically disastrous regulations?  


Even National Parks Can't Comply with New EPA Regulations

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Posted by Dorothy Jetter on Friday, July 31st, 2015, 12:03 PM PERMALINK

The Environmental Protection Agency is set to roll out even more aggressive regulations come October. Despite scientific reports of ozone levels declining 20 percent over the past ten years, the EPA has proposed even harsher restrictions that could cost $1.1 trillion.  

The agency's new regulations could slash U.S. GDP by $270 billion per year and $3.4 trillion from 2017 to 2040 and result in 2.9 million fewer jobs or job equivalents per year on average through 2040. This proposal comes after reports that 40% of American households live in areas unable to comply with the existing regulations.    

Perhaps these detrimental effects are why 269 businesses are asking President Obama to stop his administration from moving forward on its ozone pollution rule.  The National Association of Manufacturers is leading the charge against the Obama regime. The NAM recently released a video explaining how Yosemite and the Grand Canyon would violate the EPA’s proposed ozone limit of 70 parts per billion.  

Science and common sense contradict the claims of the EPA as they pertain to ozone and public health.  Louis Anthony Cox Jr., Chief Sciences Officer of NextHealth Technologies explains

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

The EPA wants to implement unattainable regulations on American businesses that would stifle economic growth.  As the NAM explains, "Under new ozone rules out of Washington, these national treasures would actually violate clean air laws If national parks can’t comply, how can your community?"

 

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Rep. Ratcliffe and Sen. Cruz Introduce Legislation to Dismantle the CFPB

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Posted by Dorothy Jetter on Thursday, July 23rd, 2015, 3:47 PM PERMALINK

Representative John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) and Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) introduced legislation this week to sunset the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).  The twin bills, H.R. 3118 in the House and S. 1804 in the Senate would repeal title X of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
 
Representative Ratcliffe explains, "The CFPB’s regulatory zeal has stripped American consumers and businesses of their freedom of choice and has limited their access to capital - all in the name of a 'we know best' attitude from Washington." Senator Cruz adds, "the agency continues to grow in power and magnitude without any accountability to Congress and the people.”
 
By introducing this legislation, Representative Ratcliffe and Senator Cruz are adding to a growing number of those calling attention to the wasteful nature of the CFPB. For instance, the CFPB's new Washington office will cost taxpayers $215 million and feature amenities such as a glass staircase, concession kiosk and a “water wall” ending in a splash pool.  An ironic choice of decor for an agency designed to "empower consumers to take more control over their economic lives."  
 
Such wasteful spending is no new development for the CFPB. In fact just a few years ago Judicial Watch found the Bureau had spent $4,500 to send attorneys to a “banking law fundamentals” class and was dishing out starting salaries as high as $173,000. Judicial Watch also found “a dozen new hires take home more than $225,000 a year, while a student intern was paid $51,620.”
 
The Bureau’s wasteful spending has largely gone unchecked due to an overall lack of oversight and accountability. The CFPB is not required to have their budget approved by Congress, unlike other government agencies.  House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) stated this makes the CFPB "unaccountable to taxpayers and to Congress."  
 
Sadly wasteful spending is not the only problem plaguing the CFPB. Such waste is compounded by the fact that the Bureau imposes debilitating regulations and fees on small businesses. Recently, Americans for Tax Reform shed light on these issues, which are costing American financial institutions $24 billion in final rule costs and $61 million paperwork burden hours.
 
Luckily for American taxpayers, Representative Ratcliffe and Senator Cruz are working to reign in the unchecked and wasteful spending that has come to characterize the CFPB.  

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5 Years Later: Dodd-Frank Continues to Cripple Small Business, Kill American Jobs

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Posted by Dorothy Jetter on Tuesday, July 21st, 2015, 2:59 PM PERMALINK

In 2010, the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which claims to "help consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives." In reality, Dodd-Frank and the resulting government interference have done more harm than good for American consumers by crippling small businesses and stunting job growth.  

Five years later, small businesses are struggling to comply with this complex legislation.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the United States is losing on average one community bank or credit union a day because of Dodd-Frank. American Action Forum released a study analyzing the overwhelming costs of the legislation; $24 billion in final rule costs and 61 million paperwork burden hours.

American consumers are seeing the consequences of these burdensome regulations.  For example, before Dodd Frank, 75% of banks offered free checking and in 2012, only 39% of banks continued to do so. Similarly, the minimum average balance necessary to qualify for free checking has doubled over the same time period.  Many attribute this to the bill's Durbin Amendment, which imposed price controls on the interchange fee (paid between banks for the acceptance of card based transactions) charged for debit cards.  

Additionally, a study by the International Center for Law and Economics found low income families are being hit the hardest.  The center estimates that from 2014-2017, $1 billion to $3 billion annually will be transferred from low-income households to large retailers and their shareholders as a result of the Durbin Amendment. 

Small business institutions, and the jobs that go along with them, have also been shrinking in the era of Dodd-Frank. Congressman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) compared Dodd-Frank to "Obamacare for our economy."  Hensarling reasons, "Dodd-Frank has left us with fewer choices, higher costs and less freedom."  Small business institutions simply cannot afford to comply with these rules. Community banks and credit unions are increasingly forced to close as a result of ever worsening regulations and compliance costs.

In a recent study, the Harvard Kennedy School of Government suggests lawmakers work to identify, "what regulatory conflicts are unnecessarily harming community banks, to ensure better coordination and to reduce unintended consequences stemming from conflicting regulatory objectives.”  The same study concluded that Dodd-Frank accelerated the decline of America’s community banks.

In 2010, as an alternative to Dodd-Frank, House Republicans introduced the Consumer Protection and Regulatory Enhancement Act Rather than sweeping government overhaul, this legislation sought to reform the financial regulatory system through market-based solutions and without taxpayer funded bailouts.  After enduring five years of oppressive Dodd-Frank policies, the time has come to revisit these proposed alternatives.  ​

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Crude Exports Would be a Boon for National Economy

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Posted by Dorothy Jetter on Friday, July 10th, 2015, 11:34 AM PERMALINK

The current ban on the export of U.S. crude oil is outdated policy; a decades old relic derived from 1970s concerns over supply shortages. Today however, U.S. crude production is higher than ever and the time has come for America to capitalize on this surplus. Lifting the crude oil export ban would not only create millions of new jobs but would also lower gas prices while increasing per household income and GDP.

Over the past decade the U.S. energy sector has been the greatest generator of domestic jobs.  Allowing the export of crude oil will create more employment opportunities while lowering the unemployment rate.  According to recent finding by IHS Global, U.S. job increases could reach as high as 859,000 annually over the next few years. In fact, at a recent hearing held by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Representative Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) cited that in its peak year of 2018, lifting the ban would create roughly 1,000,000 jobs

Of these potential jobs, 10 percent would be created in actual oil production while 30 percent would come from industries that support drilling such as construction, oil field trucks and information technology.  The Aspen Institute estimates that: the manufacturing sector would gain 216,000 jobs by 2017; the mining industry would gain 43,000 annually through 2025; and the construction industry would see 37,000 new jobs annually over the next ten years. 

Lifting the export ban would also lower the price Americans pay at the pump. By allowing U.S. exports, global supply would increase and in turn global prices would be reduced. Since U.S. gasoline prices are determined by global prices, a reduction in global prices would in turn lower domestic prices. The Institute for Human Studies estimates that introducing US crude oil to the global economy would reduce gasoline prices by 8 cents per gallon. This would save motorists $265 million over the next 15 years.   

Lower gas prices and increased employment would have ripple effects across the Nation’s economy. In it’s study IHS Global further found that lifting the ban would increase American GDP by $135 billion and increase per household income by $391

There are currently ongoing efforts in both the House and Senate to lift the export ban. Congressman Joe Barton (R-Texas) has introduced H.R. 702 in the House that would lift the ban and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has introduced similar legislation in the Senate.  

It is clear the time has come to lift this outdated ban. Domestic crude production is at an all time high and the shortages that led to the ban nearly four decades ago are a relic of the past.  

Lifting the federal ban on exporting US crude oil would benefit the American economy by creating jobs, lowering the price of gas, and moving the U.S. towards energy independence.  Americans for Tax Reform encourages lawmakers to act swiftly on this important matter.

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Five Signs the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is Asleep at the Wheel

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Posted by Dorothy Jetter on Friday, July 3rd, 2015, 10:00 AM PERMALINK

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's (CFPB) mission statement claims the agency "helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives."  
 
While the CFPB’s mission statement outlines a number of laudable goals, reports show the Bureau has all but failed in living up to them. Recently the Bureau has been riddled with controversy, yet through it all Director Richard Cordray has remained unresponsive to Congressional probes into the Bureau’s activities. This lack of accountability has led to a number of issues, calling into question the Bureau’s ability to function efficiently. The five most concerning issues at the CFPB are discussed below.  
  
1) Overspending
 
According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, the CFPB budget is growing at a rapid and unsustainable pace.  The agency’s new office building is currently estimated to cost taxpayers $215 million—that’s $120 million more than initial estimates. The planned facilities will include extravagant amenities such as a glass staircase, concession kiosk and a “water wall” ending in a splash pool. According to John Berlau of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the cost of the sprawling new facilities is “more per square foot than the Bellagio hotel-casino in Las Vegas.”
  
2) No Transparency or Accountability 
 
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling said the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, which created the CFPB, made the agency “unaccountable to taxpayers and to Congress.”  Unlike other government agencies the CFPB is not required to have their budget approved by Congress, although 78% of Americans believe that they should have to do so.  
 
In March, House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations Chairman Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) reintroduced a Consumer and Financial Protection Bureau reform package.  The legislation is a group of 5 bills that aim to promote both transparency and accountability at the CFPB by increasing Congressional oversight of the agency.  
  
3) Discrimination 
 
Despite the agency's "mission" to help and protect American consumers, the agency has been the subject of rampant accusations of discrimination.  Representative Duffy explains "of all the federal financial agencies, the CFPB has the worst track record of protecting its own employees against discrimination.” In fact, the per capita number of Equal Employment Opportunity complaints at the CFPB is far higher than at other federal agencies.  Specific reports even found CFPB officials went so far as to use derogatory language when referring to divisions with large numbers of minority employees.
 
4) Bulk Data Collection
 
The CFPB has recently introduced a program to obtain and monitor over 500 million credit card accounts belonging to Americans. The Agency has refused to consult with Congress on the program and will not let Americans opt out.  A majority of respondents (55%) believe the CFPB's data collection program is similar to or worse than the controversial NSA monitoring program.
 
5) Shunning Small Businesses
 
Ironically, as an agency designed to help the American consumer, the CFPB refuses to include the backbone of the U.S. economy in its discussions.  The House Financial Services reports that while trying to attend a Consumer Advisory Board meeting in Jackson Mississippi, Bobby Riggs, a small business owner, was turned away.  A CFPB official told Riggs, "We just don't allow anybody from the public into these meetings."
 
Congress has taken action to curb the CFPB’s questionable actions.  In May the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1195, the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection Advisory Boards Act. This legislation would create a Small Business Advisory Committee to ensure that the CFPB acknowledges and considers the concerns of small businesses.  Unfortunately, the Obama Administration has threatened to veto this legislation.

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EPA WOTUS Rule will Crush Property Rights and Cost Millions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo credit: Neon Tommy

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