Edwin Portugal

Sugar Reform Highlighted in National News Segment


Posted by Edwin Portugal on Thursday, December 10th, 2015, 10:00 AM PERMALINK

ATR’s effort to advance sugar reform was recently featured in a segment by One America News Network, a nationally broadcasted news channel available in over 15 million households. In the segment, One America News reporter Neil McCabe interviewed Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), one of the leading voices for sugar reform in Congress. Additionally, McCabe interviewed ATR Federal Affairs Manager Justin Sykes. In the interview, Justin provided his expert analysis of the costly, antiquated U.S. Sugar Program.

Originally conceived during the Great Depression in 1934, the U.S. Sugar Program has evolved into a thicket of complicated government interventions. Currently, the U.S. Sugar Program encompasses numerous benefits, including generous subsidies, import quotas, marketing allotments, and the “feedstock flexibility program”, in which the government must buy excess sugar and re-sell it at a loss to ethanol plants. In order for sugar producers to reap these generous handouts, taxpayers, consumers, and businesses are subjected to unnecessary economic burdens.

This generous corporate welfare package raises the price of U.S. sugar to more than twice the world price. Expensive sugar greatly harms American consumers with higher food prices. This program costs American consumers up to $3.5 billion every year in higher prices for sugar-containing food, and of course sugar itself. For an individual family, the sugar program adds an extra $40 on their grocery bill every year.

In addition, the sugar program costs thousands of good-paying jobs in food manufacturing. Many food manufacturers simply cannot compete with foreign competitors with access to cheaper sugar, which forces many businesses to leave the country. This pain is especially felt in the candy industry, where numerous companies have moved their businesses abroad in order to survive.

The U.S. Sugar Program is a relic of the past, and should be swiftly and deftly overturned. Luckily, Rep. Pitts is building momentum within Congress to reform this archaic depression-era corporate welfare package. ATR strongly backs Rep. Pitts’ effort to free the American people from unfair crony capitalism. Just this week, ATR sent a letter to member of Congress and Speaker Paul Ryan urging them to take action to repeal this program.

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The (Not So) Great American Candy Migration

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Posted by Edwin Portugal on Tuesday, December 8th, 2015, 10:00 AM PERMALINK

Just as thousands of birds migrate every year in search of better weather, thousands of jobs in food manufacturing, such as those in the candy-making industry, migrate out of the country in search of cheaper sugar. Who is to blame behind the mass exodus of jobs? The culprit is none other than the federal government. Through the U.S. Sugar Program, the federal government artificially raises the price of sugar in the U.S. to double the world price, just to benefit a small number of sugar farmers.

The U.S. Sugar Program is a relic of Depression-era policy. Its origins start when the federal government passed The Sugar Act of 1934. The original program sought to protect U.S. sugar farmers with generous protectionist policies and special treatment. Since then, the sugar program has ballooned in size, thanks to the efforts of special interests.

Currently, the U.S. Sugar Program encompasses numerous benefits, including generous subsidies, import quotas, marketing allotments, and the “feedstock flexibility program”, in which the government must buy excess sugar and re-sell it at a loss to ethanol plants. In order for sugar producers to reap these generous handouts, taxpayers, consumers, and businesses are subjected to unnecessary economic burdens.

Because of these protectionist policies, the price of sugar in the U.S. is twice the world price. The high price of sugar costs American consumers up to $3.5 billion every year in higher prices for sugar-containing food, and of course sugar itself. For an individual family, the sugar program adds an extra $40 on their grocery bill every year.

Above all industries, food manufacturers that use sugar are harmed the most. The sugar program forces certain manufacturers to seek cheaper sugar abroad, costing thousands of jobs. For instance over the past decade 22% of candy-making jobs have migrated out of the country, three times more than in other manufacturing industries. Food manufacturers such as those in the candy industry must often make these decisions in order to survive. One such candy-maker is the Atkinson Candy Company, which moved 80% of its peppermint-candy business to Guatemala.

Other candy-makers that have been forced out of the country include the Jelly Belly Candy Co. and candy-cane maker Bobs Candies Inc. In regard to the decision to move Bobs Candies, company president Greg McCormack remarked that eliminating candy-making jobs in the U.S. left "a bad taste in your mouth, but it was the medicine you had to take to stay in business."

Simply put, the U.S. Sugar Program is the epitome of crony capitalism, akin to the Export-Import Bank. Since the Depression, this program has caused immense economic harm at the benefit of a small number of sugar farmers.

Above all, the biggest casualty of the sugar program is jobs – the Sugar Program has forced the migration of thousands of good-paying jobs in the food manufacturing industry. Yet unlike the thousands of migrating birds, however, these jobs do not return to the U.S. As ATR President Grover Norquist and Congressman Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) recently wrote in the National Review, we must finally put an end to this expensive, insider sweetheart deal.

Photo Credit: Camille Iman

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Congress Compromises on Five-Year Highway Bill

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Posted by Edwin Portugal on Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015, 4:30 PM PERMALINK

This Tuesday, Congressional negotiators reached a compromise on a highway bill, just days before transportation funding is set to expire this Friday. Absent funding, the Department of Transportation would have to cut off payments to state and local governments for transportation projects.

 This bill, known as the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, will go to both chambers of Congress later this week and is expected to receive strong support. The bill will provide for five years of highway funds and, if passed, will be first time Congress has authorized highway funding for more than two years since 2005. Prior to this bill, Congress had passed numerous short term funding patches.

The FAST Act will provide approximately $205 billion on highways and $48 billion on transit projects over the five-year time frame. While this bill prevents a funding freeze, lawmakers still face issues on transportation policy. Most notably is the overspending issue that has plagued the highway trust fund for decades and has created the shortfall issues in funding we now face.

While most Americans would assume that money from the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) would go to fund solely highways, that reasonable assumption would be incorrect. HTF funds have actually supported everything from squirrel sanctuaries and landscaping to hiking trails and trolley rides.

In fact, spending on side projects has increased 38% since 2008 while spending on core highway projects has remained flat. For instance in 2010 17% of the Highway Trust Fund was diverted to non-core projects. The Wall Street Journal recently pointed out that “simply using the taxes that are supposed to pay for highways to, well, pay for highways makes the HTF 98% solvent for the next decade, no tax increase necessary.”

Luckily for low tax advocates, the federal gas tax was not raised, and remains at 18.4 cents per gallon. However the compromise reached this week leaves much to be desired. As mentioned, the FAST Act will provide roughly $48 billion for transit projects during the five-year time frame. The FAST Act will also extend the onerous and costly Export-Import Bank’s expired charter until 2019.

Photo Credit: yooperann

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The Grover Norquist Show: Government Transparency and the Congressional Research Service

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Posted by Edwin Portugal on Tuesday, December 1st, 2015, 10:00 AM PERMALINK

In episode 47 of the Grover Norquist Show, ATR president Grover Norquist discusses government transparency and the Congressional Research Service (CRS), Congress’ $100 million personal think tank.

Even though the CRS is taxpayer-funded, their reports are not publicly available. Luckily, there is a push within Congress to make the CRS more transparent spearheaded by Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ). Lance proposed a bill to make CRS reports available online. ATR strongly supports this measure to make government more transparent. In fact, Grover advocates that all government spending should be public information because taxpayers have the right to know how politicians use their tax dollars.

To hear more about the CRS, click here or listen below

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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The Grover Norquist Show: Corporate Cronyism and the U.S. Sugar Program

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Posted by Edwin Portugal on Monday, November 30th, 2015, 11:30 AM PERMALINK

In episode 46 of the Grover Norquist Show, ATR president Grover Norquist and ATR Federal Affairs Manager Justin Sykes discuss the convoluted and corrupt U.S. Sugar Program.

Since 1934, the U.S. Sugar Program has enriched the sugar industry at the expense of American consumers, businesses, and taxpayers. Currently, this program benefits a small number of those in the sugar industry with the burden falling on Americans and the U.S. economy. The sugar program forces Americans to pay an artificially high price for domestic sugar that is twice that of the world price. The high price of sugar kills jobs in food production and raises food costs for everyday Americans. The U.S. sugar program is a relic of the past, and it is imperative to reform this costly program.

To hear more about the Sugar Program, click here or watch below.

 

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IRS Tries Backdoor Way to Undercut Nonprofits

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Posted by Edwin Portugal on Tuesday, November 24th, 2015, 4:00 PM PERMALINK

The IRS recently proposed a rule to weaken the effectiveness of non-profits. Under this proposal, the IRS would give 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations, which includes charities, religious groups, and educational foundations, the option to collect the social security numbers of donors giving more than $250 so that they can be sent to the IRS. While optional at the moment, it is obvious that the rule is simply a way for the IRS to transition to mandatory collection of social security numbers. This rule should frighten all Americans because it opens up a whole pandora’s box of security concerns. Additionally, the IRS can use this to further their political agenda, targeting not only conservative non-profits but also individual supporters of these groups.

Non-profit organizations will be more susceptible to hacking attempts to steal their donors’ identities. To combat this hacking risk, non-profits will be forced to expand their cybersecurity, diverting funds away from their core mission. Additionally, heightened privacy risk will scare away concerned donors. Given the pernicious effects this rule would have on non-profit groups, it is no wonder organizations from both sides of the aisle oppose this rule. Notably, the National Council of Nonprofits, which represents more than 25,000 groups throughout the country, has voiced strong opposition against this rule. The group writes that non-profits should “never be asking a donor for her or his Social Security number when soliciting donations”.

The security risk on non-profits is compounded by the IRS’ failures to protect taxpayer information. Just this past year, the IRS compromised the personal information of a whopping 330,000 taxpayers; in spite of being warned at least seven times that it had faulty security.

In addition to the security risk, this rule should frighten for its political implications. Under this new rule, the IRS could target individual taxpayers for their political views, jeopardizing their First Amendment rights. The IRS has already engaged in politically motivated targeting of various conservative groups, causing a massive scandal and subsequent investigation into the IRS. In spite of this, all IRS officials involved in the scandal walked away scot-free.

The IRS’ new rule will jeopardize Americans’ security, harm non-profits, and suppress free speech. Given the horrible track record of IRS mismanagement, it is incredibly foolish to give them access to more taxpayer information. Time and time again, the IRS has proven itself and ineffective and harmful agency. Luckily, the IRS’ new rule is still a proposal and can be defeated before it takes effect, allowing the IRS to harm further the American people.

 

Photo Credit: David Boeke

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USPS Loses Billions for the 9th Consecutive Year

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Posted by Edwin Portugal on Wednesday, November 18th, 2015, 10:00 AM PERMALINK

Like many government agencies, the U.S. Postal Service is an expert at hemorrhaging money. Just last week, the USPS reported a $5.1 billion loss for fiscal year 2015, marking its 9th consecutive year of multi-billion dollar losses. Since 2007, the USPS has accumulated $56.8 billion in losses.

Although the Postal Service claims it does not receive taxpayer support, the fact is that USPS enjoys a variety of special privileges as a government agency. The USPS maintains a government protected monopoly over delivery to mailboxes. This gives the USPS a roughly $14.9 billion advantage in recent years over private competitors.

Additionally, the USPS is exempt from virtually all taxes and fees that its competitors must pay - it does not have to pay: state and local property and real estate taxes; sales and use taxes; state franchise taxes; license fees; title fees; and vehicle registration fees. The USPS is not even accountable for parking tickets and tolls. In all, these exemptions give the USPS an over $2 billion dollar edge over the free market.

Overall, the USPS 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. If the Post Office were a private company it would have been bankrupt decades ago. 

As a government agency, however, the USPS machine continues to enjoy its monopoly status propped up by the federal government. The USPS aims to triumph over its private competitors by government aid, not by providing higher-quality service. 

 

Photo credit: Barbara Krawcowicz

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The Grover Norquist Show: Why Nearly All 2016 GOP Candidates Fight for Lower Taxes

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Posted by Edwin Portugal on Friday, November 13th, 2015, 4:45 PM PERMALINK

In episode 45 of the Grover Norquist Show, ATR president Grover Norquist discusses why nearly every candidate running for the Republican nomination has promised never to raise your taxes. The chief reason why is that nearly all GOP presidential candidates have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge to never raise taxes. The Pledge is one of the most powerful tools to protect the American people from higher taxes and bigger government. Why is the pledge so effective? Grover provides a few reasons. He also describes the history of the pledge and its impact on American politics.

 

Click here to learn more about the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

To listen to the podcast, click here or watch below.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

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New Report Finds Compliance and Energy Costs Skyrocket under Carbon Rule

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Posted by Edwin Portugal on Thursday, November 12th, 2015, 10:30 AM PERMALINK

Under Obama, the EPA has become drunk with power through policies that increase the agency’s overregulation and control of the economy. With its budget of more than $8 billion annually, the EPA under Obama has evolved into one of the most vast and onerous federal agencies. The EPA is winning the race to regulate the economy, passing the most regulations with the largest costs to taxpayers than any other federal agency. This year alone, the EPA put forth rules to regulate ozone, methane, and even water.

Eclipsing all of these regulations lies what could be the most expensive regulation in history, the Clean Power Plan (CPP). Like many of the EPA’s burdensome regulations, the CPP levies high costs to taxpayers and stymies economic progress.  Recently, NERA Economic Consulting released a new study forecasting the economic effects of the CPP.

Not surprisingly, NERA found that the CPP would be overwhelmingly harmful to consumers and the economy as a whole. The CPP will levy high compliance costs on utilities and increase electricity rates across the board, in turn impacting state’s ability to provide residents with affordable and reliable energy.

The CPP will force electrical utilities to pay hefty compliance costs. NERA predicts that compliance costs could sky rocket up to $479 billion over 2017-2031. Annual compliance costs are projected on average to range from $41 billion to $73 billion. These high costs will force many utilities to raise rates, harming consumers with massive increases in their electricity bills. Faced with insurmountable costs, some utilities will be forced to close, impacting the ability of thousands of Americans to receive reliable energy.

The report also found that the CPP will increase electricity rates in every state in the continental U.S. For 40 states average electricity prices will increase by more than 10%. These higher electricity rates will have a profound impact on American households, decreasing household spending power between $64 billion and $79 billion. A greater share of a family’s income will now go towards electricity bills than ever before. As household income shrinks under higher energy costs, some of the nation’s most vulnerable could be forced to choose between heating their homes in the winter or paying for other necessities such as food and medical care.  

The Clean Power Plan will also disproportionately harm the coal industry. In total, the U.S. could lose more than one-third of all coal-fired power plants by 2020. This would prove extremely harmful to the coal industry as a whole, and leave tens of thousands of workers without jobs. The CPP is yet another overbearing weapon in Obama’s regulatory repertoire.

These new findings provide greater insight into the disastrous economic effects of the CPP. Thus it should come as no surprise 27 states are currently challenging the EPA in court over this onerous example of federal regulatory overreach.

As the report shows, not only will the CPP increase compliance costs by hundreds of billions and send energy rates skyrocketing, but will reduce household income and American’s access to reliable and affordable energy.

 

Find out how much the CPP will raise electricity prices in your state here.

 

Photo Credit: Chris Hunkeler

 

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The Grover Norquist Show: The Kentucky Election and What it Means for 2016

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Posted by Edwin Portugal on Wednesday, November 11th, 2015, 5:00 PM PERMALINK

In episode 44 of the Grover Norquist Show, ATR president Grover Norquist discusses the recent Kentucky gubernatorial election with Bill Pascoe from the Tea Party Patriots. Despite lagging behind in the polls, Republican Matt Bevin defied expectations and defeated Democrat Jack Conway.

The Kentucky election highlights key issues that will play a huge role in 2016. Notably, Obamacare proves to be a vote-losing issue for Democrats. Bevin made his opposition to Obamacare a huge issue in his campaign to great success. Furthermore, school choice will be a key issue to gain the support of inner-city communities. Americans for Prosperity ran ads in urban areas of Kentucky that championed Bevin’s support for school choice.

Finally, Obama’s low favorability in states like Kentucky will greatly help Republicans. Since Obama assumed office, Republicans have swept state government. When Obama came into office, Republicans controlled 21 governorships. Now, Republicans control 32 governorships and have full control of the legislature and governorship in 24 states.

To listen to the podcast, click here or watch below.

Photo Credit: Hsinghsarao

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