James Morrone Jr

Five Reasons Why Criminal Justice Reform Needs to Address Mental Health

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Posted by James Morrone Jr on Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016, 12:02 PM PERMALINK

The American criminal justice system is dire need of reform, and mental health is an important aspect that is repeatedly ignored.  The de-institutionalization of the mentally ill, spurred by the horror stories and Hollywood films like “One that Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest", forced many onto the streets and into the arms of the justice system.  Making prisons the largest mental health facilities is reprehensible, and only increases the strain on a broken justice system.  These are the main reasons are why the criminal justice reforms need to address mental health.

  1.     Mass Incarceration of Mentally Ill: According to the Department of Justice, 56 percent of state prisoners, 45 percent of federal prisoners, and 64 percent of local jail inmates were found to have a mental health problem.  At least 24 percent of those in jail have a serious diagnosed mental health disorder.  Roughly, 1.25 million prisoners suffer from some form of mental illness.  
  2.     The Staggering Costs to Treat Them:  The estimated cost to care for a mentally ill patient is at least $130 per day.  The estimated total cost of all of the mentally ill is estimated to be $162,500,000 per day. 
  3.     The Average Time in Jail is Higher:  Mentally ill patients typically tend to stay in prison longer than the average offender.  In New York, the average jail time for a mentally ill prisoner would be 215 days
  4.     Large Rate of Prison Suicides:  In the last 20 years, the amount of mentally ill inmates committing suicide has nearly doubled from 19 percent to nearly 38 percent. 
  5.     High Recidivism Rates Among Mentally Ill: At least 25 percent of both state and jail inmates who have a mental illness have had 3 or more prior incarcerations. 

 

Americans should not rely on prisons to be the main provider of mental health services.  It creates an unfair burden on the system whilst at the same time harming the lives of those that are in most need of help.  The current state of affairs is bad for our taxpayers, but doubly so for our mentally ill.  As of January, the House of Representatives has reported a positive package of reforms from committee to address the issue.      

 

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Study: Increased Regulation Hits Low-Income Americans the Hardest

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Posted by James Morrone Jr on Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016, 9:10 AM PERMALINK

Anyone with a basic understanding of economics understands that high compliance costs associated with an increased regulatory burden in an economy are passed down to consumers. A recent study by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University further proves this basic tenant of economics, by thoroughly explaining the correlation between vast amounts of regulation and the increased costs placed on consumers. The study points out that continued over-regulation at the hands of the government only adds another burden on the backs of hardworking Americans. 

In the last 15 years, the regulatory burden put in place by the federal government has jumped to 28 percent. To put this in perspective, with every 10 percent of additional regulation forced, consumer prices increase by almost 1 percent. In the last 15 years alone, this increased interference has caused American households, and not necessarily those the regulation is aimed at, to bear the burden of excessive government interference. 

According to the study, low-income families are disproportionately burdened by the regressive effects of increased regulations, causing further distress on family budgets that are already stretched thin. 

For example, when compared to high-income households, low-income households spend at least 15 percent more of their budget on everyday goods and necessities. Also, as a result of increased regulations, “the poorest incomes groups experience both the highest overall levels of inflation and the highest levels of price volatility.” As such, increased regulation will cost them more and more, and continue to keep many hard working Americans from raising themselves out of poverty. 

Despite the claims of some pro-regulatory politicians, increasing regulations are not an attempt to protect low-income households, but an attempt to increase the control the federal government has over the economy.    

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Obama's Oil Tax to Hit Low-Income Families

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Posted by James Morrone Jr on Thursday, February 25th, 2016, 10:36 AM PERMALINK

It’s been a long time since many Americans were able to see, let alone pay, for gas below $2 per gallon. It is certainly a nice change of pace compared to the amount that was needed to pay for fuel in past years. There is a saying, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. President Obama felt the need to try and make this a reality with his proposed $10 per barrel oil tax within his 2016 budget proposal. So much for his promise of not raising taxes on low and middle income Americans. 

If it hasn’t been clear from the Administration’s recent attempts, this is a blatant and unapologetic effort to force Americans off of traditionally affordable energy and onto renewable resources; it can even be seen in a White House memo explaining the purpose of such a tax. 

It seems that the President’s tax policy doesn’t live in a world of reality. The Obama White House fully believes that this “fee” will be paid by the oil and gas companies, thus allowing the American consumer to continue to pay less for fuel. This sentiment is either a lack of understanding of how taxes work or a blatant regard for simple economics.

Back into the world of reality, this oil tax will fall upon the consumers and ensure that everyone is paying more than they should at the pumps, especially low-income families. The President’s proposed tax would raise gas prices by at least 25 cents per gallon. 

Depending on the state, this could allow gas to rise well above $2 per gallon once more. Hard-working low income families will cough up $144 per year in order to fund the President’s environmental crusade. In 2015, low income families spent 12 percent of their post-tax income on gasoline in comparison to only 3 percent by high income families.

Unfortunately for American consumers, this isn’t the only affect such a tax will have on the American economy. According to a report compiled by the Tax Foundation, the proposed gas tax will result in a $48 billion annual loss in U.S. GDP. In addition, the tax will cause the shedding of at least $137,000 jobs. 

The financial impact of the tax is high, and the increased economic burden placed onto the American family is indefensible.  This ideological push is clearly a last chance attempt for the President to salvage his legacy, at the expense of hard-working American households and the U.S. economy. 

 

 

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Financial Services looks to Repeal Volcker Rule and Rein in Dodd-Frank

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Posted by James Morrone Jr on Wednesday, February 24th, 2016, 1:54 PM PERMALINK

This month, Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee outlined their priorities for 2016, the two biggest of which are repealing the flawed Volcker Rule and reining in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. They hope to remove these overzealous regulations and allow the free market to work its magic.

Before Dodd-Frank was passed, former Senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) stated “no one will know until this is actually in place how it works.”  The Volcker Rule is a clear example of this. The Volcker Rule, with limited exceptions, goes so far as to outright ban proprietary trading by banks, further restricting and reducing the liquidity of fixed income assets. To put it simply, the banning of this form of trading by banks hurts the amount of capital available in the market. Many economists agree that this reduces the ability of banks to resists shocks in the market and causes them to freeze up, leading to another possible banking crisis.

Another flaw of Dodd-Frank that Committee members hope to address can be found in the way the CFPB was created and administered through the law. The CFPB, under the law, has been granted a great deal of power over the financial institutions of the nation. They have the ability to cry foul on any consumer-credit product and then outlaw it completely.

The fact that there is little oversight on the outlawing of products is ridiculous and gives inherently too much power to an unelected regulatory body. To add salt to the wound, the CFPB is perpetually funded, meaning that they are not subject to congressional appropriations and the oversight that comes with it, but are always given money to operate.

Even more concerning is that the CFPB has been working to create a massive database of mortgage information, ranging from a borrower’s credit history to people’s age and gender. The problem with this, aside from the collection of personal data, is the fact that the CFPB has not protected this personal information in regards to security protocol.

A recent GAO report found that “CFPB lacks written procedures…for a number of processes, including data intake and information security risk assessments”. Such bulk data collection by the CFPB has become a major issue following massive security breaches at the Office of Personnel Management and the IRS.

To echo Senator Dodd’s ironic sentiments about Dodd-Frank, the law is increasingly becoming the epitome of the rule of unintended consequences.

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200 Federal Lawmakers Author Brief Opposing Obama’s Carbon Rule

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Posted by James Morrone Jr on Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016, 3:16 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform applauds the actions of the 171 U.S. Representatives and 34 Senators that have authored an Amicus Brief urging the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to strike down the President’s overreaching Clean Power Plan, also known as the carbon rule.

The action of these 200 federal lawmakers is a strong show of support for states and industry groups that have filed legal challenges against the President’s carbon rule. The legal basis of the rule has been questioned by 27 states that are leading lawsuits against the EPA, claiming direct and imminent harm from the rule. 

Challengers to the Clean Power Plan argue it would be detrimental to force unaffordable energy prices on state consumers and businesses. Studies show the carbon rule would lead to double digit rate increases in over 40 states, a fact that would particularly harm low-to-middle income families. It is also projected the rule would produce negligible benefits, such as a reduction in sea level rise the equivalent of three sheets of paper.

The brief filed this week specifically argues that the EPA has once more gone outside of its statutory boundaries, and the actions are barred under the Clean Air Act’s Section 112 exclusion. The Section 112 exclusion argues that EPA cannot regulate carbon emissions from power plants because it already regulates their mercury emissions under section 112.

The brief filed by over 200 federal lawmakers comes close on the heals of a historic stay of the rule issued by the Supreme Court of the United States, which in turn lead to some Governors, such as Scott Walker in Wisconsin, issuing executive orders to stop implementation of the rule.

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ATR Supports Gov. Walker's Executive Order Protecting Wisconsin

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Posted by James Morrone Jr on Thursday, February 18th, 2016, 10:29 AM PERMALINK

Following the stay on President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker this week signed an executive order that prevents state agencies from spending state funds to comply with the EPA’s overreaching carbon rule.

Americans for Tax Reform supports Governor Walker’s move to protect Wisconsin taxpayers and businesses. The Governor’s executive order will ensure that Wisconsin families, businesses, and taxpayers are not forced to pay for compliance measures under the President’s carbon rule while also being subjected to increased energy costs, before full resolution of pending legal challenges. To do otherwise would put Wisconsin at a self-inflicted economic disadvantage, which is why Governor Walker’s action is so important.

Governor Walker has taken a strong first step to ensure that such federal overreach will receive the full attention of the legal system, and until then, no action shall be done to bring about this rule’s authorization.

It is laudable that the Governor has set out to guarantee that government interference does not further hurt the low and middle income families of Wisconsin, that depend on affordable energy to keep their homes warm during the cold Wisconsin winters. 

Americans for Tax Reform applauds Governor Walker’s action and urges that other states look to Wisconsin as an example of how states can proactively protect their residents and economy from the President’s costly and burdensome carbon 

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To be clear: A Carbon Tax Will be an Economic Disaster

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Posted by James Morrone Jr on Tuesday, February 16th, 2016, 2:27 PM PERMALINK

Recently some misguided lawmakers and green ideologues have suggested that a carbon tax is the most logical route for the country. However the concept of a carbon tax threatens to hurt the American economy more than any benefit it would produce. Such an ideologically driven tax scheme will only ensure more American families have to use more money to buy less and less.

One of the most resounding and negative effects from such an aggressive tax can be seen through the stagnation of an already weak American economy. Under a carbon tax, the American GDP is projected to see a loss of $146 billion by year 2030. It is also projected that implementing a carbon tax would cause the loss of up to 1 million jobs by the year 2030.

The loss of such capital and jobs in the economy will have the greatest impact on the low and middle class, further reducing the purchasing power of the average American. In fact, a study by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that a carbon tax would lead to higher costs for goods and services, and thus “would diminish the purchasing power of people’s earning, effectively reducing their real wages.” It is wholly hypocritical of carbon tax advocates to willingly jeopardize the economic well being of the nation’s most vulnerable in an effort to benefit ideology. 

Aside from the large drain placed on the economy, energy prices as a whole will go up, once more slamming low and middle class Americans. Under such a tax, energy prices would skyrocket up between 20 to 30 percent from current costs. If the President and his crony ideologues have their way, Americans can say goodbye to low gas prices, let alone imagining how high heating and electricity costs will be.

Such an unaffordable tax on carbon will cause much more harm to the country than any miniscule or perceived benefit that pro tax advocates claim. One caveat they also ignore is it is more than clear that main manufacturers of the world, like China, India, and Southeast Asia, are not nor planning to implement such an anti-growth tax. It would be wildly irresponsible to sacrifice American well-being in an unjustified quest to make a political statement.

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A Valentine’s Day Gift to Consumers: Dumping the U.S. Sugar Program

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Posted by James Morrone Jr on Friday, February 12th, 2016, 4:13 PM PERMALINK

Once a year millions of happy, and not so happy, couples use Valentine’s Day as an excuse to be romantically cliché and thoughtful to loved ones. A part of this annual custom is to buy little chocolates and candies to exchange, in addition to the obligatory bouquet of flowers of course. However, with each passing year the price of these delectable treats grows, and like the tip of Cupid’s arrow, rips a hole right through consumer’s wallets.

The common consensus, stores hike up the prices to meet demand. However this consensus for the most part is wrong, as the increasing price for candy is actually a result of Uncle Sam’s love affair with crony capitalism. For years protectionist policies under the U.S. Sugar Program have driven up the cost of sugar in an effort to protect a favored few sugar producers from competition.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Sugar Program is a relic of a past age that has somehow managed to stay alive in an ever globalizing and dynamic economy. This New Deal Dinosaur was originally put in place to quell a farmer’s revolt as the economy crashed in 1929. As time progressed, sugar producers got multiple protections like price supports, import quotas, incredibly generous subsidies, and a ridiculous program known as the “Feedstock Flexibility Program.” The Feedstock program forces the federal government to buy back unsold sugar from producers at a loss, adding insult to injury. 

Currently the average couple this Valentine’s Day is paying more for sugary goodness than they should be. As a result of the U.S. Sugar Program, there is a large differential between the wholesale costs of domestic sugar when compared to that of the world.  In fact, American sugar costs more than twice that of the world price of sugar. For instance in 2015 the price of sugar hovered around 33 cents per pound, while the world price was a mere 15 cents per pound

This kind of self-inflicted protectionism only does damage to consumers and the American companies that the make the sweets we love to consume. The prices have even forced a breakup between the U.S. and some in the confection industry. 

In fact over the last decade, 22% of candy making jobs have left the country in search of cheaper sugar. One of the more well-known American companies, LifeSavers, left the United States and moved to Canada to take advantage of cheaper sugar prices, taking with it over 600 jobs. 

Leave it to Uncle Sam to show just how much the federal government loves American taxpayers and consumers by the exorbitant amount of money they waste for our “benefit”, it’s really romantic. The reason being, according to a CBO report, that in the next ten years, the program will cost the taxpayer at least $115 million.  If the government were to dump this protectionist program, the average household would save at least $30 dollars per year.  More money to buy cheaper candy, a win-win by all accounts.

Not all relationships last forever, this is a truth we all know, so this relationship between consumers and government inflated sugar prices needs to end. It was good in the beginning, but times have changed and we need to move forward. It may be hard at first, but it will be better for both of us. It isn’t me, it’s you.    

 

Photo credit: Barb Steinacker

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Top Five Pitfalls of a Carbon Tax

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Posted by James Morrone Jr on Friday, February 5th, 2016, 9:24 AM PERMALINK

Every so often, the issue of a carbon tax is raised by misguided lawmakers and ideological extremists. The fact is a carbon tax will cause far more harm than good. A carbon tax would not only have a crippling impact on the affordability of energy in the U.S., but would further weaken a fragile economy and increase dependence on foreign goods and energy providers. This is not what we need right now. 

Listed below are the top five reasons why lawmakers should oppose a carbon tax in the United States. 

Impact to U.S. GDP. The projected impact of a carbon tax on U.S. GDP would be a massive loss of at least $146 billion by year 2030. The overall output of the American economy will be decreased; in both terms of investment and labor supply. 

Skyrocketing energy prices. Energy prices, both in gasoline and electricity, will increase by 20 to 30 percent respectively, under a carbon tax scheme.

Increased job loss. In a 3-year span alone, over 400,000 jobs would be lost due to the effects of the tax, with a projected loss of 1 million jobs by the year 2030.

Reduced purchasing power and wages. The tax would also effect wages; the resulting increase in the price of goods and services would lead to reduced purchasing power, thus real wages are affected negatively.

Regressive impact on nation's most vulnerable. Low income households will suffer more so than middle class households because of their reliance on cheap energy and products. Additionally, as mentioned, the costs of many consumer goods would be driven up, which combined with decreased purchasing power, would hit the nation’s most vulnerable populations the hardest.

 

Photo credit: VGM8383

 

 

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Bernie's Tax Plan Will Eliminate 6 Million Jobs

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Posted by James Morrone Jr on Thursday, February 4th, 2016, 1:59 PM PERMALINK

As if anyone expected something different, the millennial backed Sanders’ tax plan will cost the economy at least 6 million jobs.  The increase in taxes, which would slam over 74 percent of the population, will slash economic growth and production in the hopes of financing his single-payer healthcare system.  The ideological attack on business through taxes will do nothing but harm the nation, in both the short and long run. 

When his tax plan was originally released, it was clear it was going to be bad for the economy, but the losses will truly make us all “Feel the Bern”.  The first big hit would be on GDP growth, which is an integral part to American job creation and income growth.  The figures, according to Investors Business Daily, show that GDP growth will be cut by 9.5 percent, shrinking the amount of available jobs for American workers.  The plan will also have a negative effect on stocks as well.  Capital stocks will be reduced by 18.6 percent, allowing for less capital investment in companies, which means less growth.

It was always assumed that the burden of the 6.2 percent payroll tax would be put onto the employee, but the impact the figures from The Tax Foundation  show is far worse than anticipated.  We currently live in a time of stagnant wages and a lack of availability of full-time work, there is no reason to amplify this even more.   To have the wage rate decrease 4.3 percent over ten years is simply unbearable and irresponsible for any leader trying to revive a great nation.

It is absurd to think that anyone would fall for such a blatant attempt to hurt the free market and increase dependence on the government.  Whether it is caused by the allure of “free” services or a sense of entitlement that some may hold, forsaking the ideals of the nation will only hurt us.  The loss of so many jobs and decrease in the economic growth will only hurt these ideals, and force many to turn to the ever growing government to provide.  The founders must be rolling in their graves.

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