Ryan Ellis

Where Does Obama Stand on the "Aspirin Tax"

Posted by Ryan Ellis on Tuesday, September 8th, 2009, 5:12 PM PERMALINK

House Democrat health bill would tax over-the-counter medicine purchases

There are plenty of tax hikes on working families in H.R. 3200, the House Democrat healthcare bill. Obama has been answering some tough questions about his stance on the bill, but there’s one more question he should answer:
Where does he stand on the “aspirin tax” that was inserted at the last minute before summer recess?
Just before adjourning, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-NY) snuck in an additional tax hike . It would prevent Americans with health spending accounts like FSAs, HSAs, and HRAs from using the money to buy over-the-counter medicines. Under current law, families can use the money in these accounts to buy things like aspirin, pain relievers, and other non-prescription medicines.
Needless to say, most of the roughly 30 million families that have flex-accounts and health savings accounts do not earn more than $250,000 per year. President Obama pledged again and again to never raise “any form” of taxes on families making less than $250,000 per year. Presumably, that included working families buying medicine at the drugstore.
Where does Obama stand on the aspirin tax? 


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ATR Supports H.R. 3463, <br>Death Tax Repeal Permanency Act of 2009

Posted by Ryan Ellis on Monday, August 31st, 2009, 3:25 PM PERMALINK

ATR today sent the following letter (pdf) to Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX), who has introduced a bill to fully-repeal the death tax.

Congratulations on your introduction of H.R. 3463, the “Death Tax Repeal Permanency Act of 2009.”  All Congressmen should support this common-sense legislation which prevents a job-killing tax hike.

Under current law, the death tax will proceed from a 45 percent top rate in 2009, to fully-repealed in 2010, and then up to a 55 percent top rate in 2011.  Needless to say, this is crazy.

Congress has already expressed its will, back in 2001, when bipartisan majorities in each chamber voted to fully-repeal the death tax.  Because of arcane Senate budget rules, this repeal was only effective for one year—2010.  After that, the pre-2001 law re-asserts itself (55 percent top rate, $1 million exemption).

The death tax is consistently the least popular federal tax in public opinion polling.  Between two-thirds and three-quarters of all Americans support killing the death tax.  This is despite the fact that few Americans pay it (though millions feel its sting when family farms need to be sold, businesses liquidated, and employees laid off to pay the death tax).

Put simply, this class-envy and bad-economics tax needs to be put to rest.

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New Report Shows Federal Overspending<br> Worse Than Expected Over Next Decade

Posted by Ryan Ellis on Tuesday, August 25th, 2009, 4:04 PM PERMALINK

There's a lot in the press today about CBO's latest report on the budget.  The media will be reporting that it shows a cumulative ten-year deficit of $7.1 trillion, which will increase the national debt by about 50% (from $14 to $21 trillion).

All that is true as far as it goes.

But it ignores the real story, as we shall see.  A deficit (or, cumulatively, the debt) is a fairly uninteresting number which is the difference between two interesting numbers--total taxes, and total spending.

Clearly, the deficit is problematic.  But that's like saying a car accident is problematic without identifying who is at fault.  A deficit takes two to tango, so where does the blame lay here--spending, or taxes?

Looking at the tax side of the equation, tax revenues are scheduled to rise from 17.7 percent of GDP in 2009 to 20.3 percent in 2019. 

Still not convinced spending is at fault?  According to CBO, the average federal tax take since 1960 is about 18.5 percent of GDP.  Taxes are already scheduled to be well above that by the end of the window.  Clearly, by any measure, America does not have an undertaxing problem.

So, taxes are going up (even after inflation, population growth, etc.)  But spending is going up at an even faster clip.  In fact, if spending simply grew with the economy from 2008 levels, the budget would nearly be in balance by the end of the period.  It isn't, because spending is completely out of control.  Spending grows from 21.1 percent of GDP in 2008 to 23.6 percent in 2019.  The long-run average for spending is closer to 20 percent of GDP.

If the deficit makes you uncomfortable, there's only one place to assign blame--the government spends too much.

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"Public Plan" or No "Public Plan,"<br> House Dem Health Bill Bad for Taxpayers

Posted by Ryan Ellis on Monday, August 24th, 2009, 2:11 PM PERMALINK

Whether the final health bill has a public plan (a.k.a. "co-op") or not, it's important for taxpayers to realize that the tax increases will stay.  In particular, there are four tax hikes in the House bill that violate Obama's promise not to raise taxes on familes making less than $250,000 per year:

Restrictions on tax-deductible purchases of over-the-counter medicines with health spending accounts like FSAs and HSAs.  This isn’t in the original H.R. 3200, but it did make it into Charlie Rangel’s “Chairman’s Mark.”  The description can be found at www.jct.gov, and it’s document JCX-32-09.  If you’re one of the 8 million Americans with a health savings account (HSA) or the 30 million Americans with a health flexible spending account (FSA), you will no longer be able to buy over-the-counter medicines (aspirin, etc.) on a pre-tax basis.  Contrary to the Obama rhetoric, this changes the plan you currently have, and raises your taxes in the process.  This affects anyone with these types of accounts, not just those making more than $250,000 per year.

Tax on Individuals Not Enrolled in Health Insurance (Page 167): If you don’t enroll in a health insurance plan, you will have to pay a new tax equal to 2.5% of income.  If you earn $40,000 a year and don’t have health insurance, you’ll have to pay tax of $1000.  Notice how this tax affects all individuals, not just those making more than $250,000 per year.

Tax on Businesses Not Offering Health Insurance (Page 183): If a business has a payroll of at least $500,000 and does not offer health insurance, it will be compelled to pay a new payroll tax of 8 percent.  It doesn’t matter if the business is profitable or running a loss.  Small businesses pay taxes on their owners’ 1040s. This will affect thousands of small businesses with profits of less than $250,000 per year.

IRS Can Disallow Perfectly Legal Tax Deductions They Just Don’t Like (Page 207): If a taxpayer (including one making less than $250,000 per year) uses a perfectly-legal tax deductiovn the IRS doesn’t like, the IRS will be empowered to simply disallow it.  The only reason the IRS has to give is that the tax break lacks “economic substance”—that is, the taxpayer is not taking the deduction for “substantial” or “business” reasons.  So if you want to engage in a legal activity to cut your tax bill, the IRS wins no matter what.

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Congress Seeks to Slap Penalty Fee<br> on Credit and Debit Cards

Posted by Ryan Ellis on Friday, August 21st, 2009, 2:00 AM PERMALINK

Take out your wallet.

No, this isn’t a robbery.  Go ahead, take out your wallet.  Pull out a credit card, ATM card, or anything else with a black strip on the back.  Now pull out a dollar bill.

You might think that the dollar bill and the merchant card will each buy you $1.00 worth of goods and services.  Right now, that’s true.  But if Congress gets their way, your merchant card will not get you as far as cold, hard cash.  It could only buy you $0.97 or so of a $1.00 worth of stuff.

So you can be punished for using a merchant card and not trudging around lots of currency?  If Congress gets its way, this scenario will become all too real.

Under legislation being considered right now, you can actually be charged extra just for the privilege of using a credit or debit card.  Essentially, Congress will weigh in on whether you pay with cash or plastic, and will seek to punish you if you make the “wrong” choice.

This cash-is-king mentality is about more than picking winners and losers in your wallet.  It’s about government paternalism.  Congress hopes that you’ll think twice about using a credit card if you have to pay more to do so.  Millions of credit and debit transactions take place every day, and Americans don’t need the government to tell them if they’ve charged too much this month.

There’s an online petition up now to stop Congress from imposing this “merchant card fee” on every American.  Click here to learn more and sign up.

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Healthcare Townhall Spin Translator

Posted by Ryan Ellis on Thursday, August 6th, 2009, 11:35 AM PERMALINK

Over the August recess, Congressmen will be holding townhalls on healthcare.  There's likely to be a lot of spin and doubletalk from very nervous Democrat members.  If you're going to one, you should bring a copy of this handy translation guide (PDF version).  The guts of it is pasted below:

No discrimination for pre-existing conditions
One can wait until one gets sick to sign up for coverage, and thereby game the system, costing the rest of us
No exorbitant out-of-pocket expenses, deductibles or co-pays
You can’t have a health savings account (HSA) even if you want to keep one. If you want to save money on your premium by having a high deductible, the government won’t let you
No cost-sharing for preventive care
An unelected and unaccountable government board of bureaucrats will decide what procedures must be first-dollar, even if you don’t value them
No dropping of coverage if you become seriously ill
This only happens in Helen Hunt movies, but Congress will demagogue it anyway to scare us
No gender discrimination
You’ll be forced to have your tax dollars pay for abortion and other things you disagree with. You’ll also be forced to purchase a plan which covers abortion on demand for all nine months
No annual or lifetime caps on coverage
Congress will tell insurance companies how they have to price their coverage and determine risk
Extended coverage for young adults
1. “Children” up to age 30 will be able to stay on their parents’ insurance at taxpayer expense
2. Inculcating the culture of entitlement and preening a generation of welfare-dependents.
Guaranteed insurance renewal so long as premiums are paid
Another red herring that Congress will use to scare people into adopting government medicine


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Five questions every Blue Dog should answer at a town hall meeting

Posted by Ryan Ellis on Wednesday, August 5th, 2009, 10:46 AM PERMALINK


This month, Congressmen across America will be engaging in “town hall” meetings with their constituents. The most nervous Congressmen are the 52 members of the “Blue Dog” caucus, who will have to answer some tough questions on where they stand on Nancy Pelosi’s plan for the government to control health care, raise our taxes, increase spending, and put America further in debt. Below are five questions every Blue Dog should have to answer at every town hall meeting. Attendees might want to print this list out and take it with them to a town hall near them:
  1. Before the August recess, a backroom deal was struck between Blue Dogs and the liberal House Democrat leadership. At the time, the deal was hailed as a breakthrough to get you and your fellow “Blue Dogs” on board with government medicine. Where do you stand on this deal?   Do you support the Blue Dog healthcare “compromise” which still contains hundreds of billions in new taxes, spending, and debt?
  2. Will you promise to read any healthcare bill in full, yourself, BEFORE you vote for it?
  3. Will you promise to vote against any healthcare bill which has not been posted online for at least five full days so the public can review it?
  4. Will you oppose any healthcare bill which taxes the health insurance benefits people get from their jobs and spends the money on government medicine?

  5. You voted for San Francisco’s Nancy Pelosi to be Speaker of the House. Can you explain how Nancy Pelosi’s liberal San Francisco values are consistent with this Congressional district’s values?

Click here for a PDF of this document


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Will Obama Condemn Tax Hikes in Health Care Bill?

Posted by Ryan Ellis on Tuesday, August 4th, 2009, 3:44 PM PERMALINK

President Obama Re-Affirms No-Tax Pledge: Will He Condemn Middle Class Tax Hikes in the House Democrat Health Bill?

On Monday, Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs affirmed that President Obama will uphold his repeated promise to not raise “any form” of taxes on families making less than $250,000 per year. The healthcare bill under consideration in the House of Representatives, though, does raise taxes on these families in three different ways.
Individuals (including those making less than $250,000) not enrolled in a health insurance plan would pay a tax of up to 2.5 percent of their income. Employers (including business owners profiting less than $250,000) not providing health insurance for their workers would face a payroll tax of 8 percent. Finally, the IRS would be empowered to disallow legal tax deductions that lack “economic substance”—a nebulous concept that would affect families of all income levels.
“There are at least three ways that the House Democrat bill would raise taxes on families making less than $250,000 per year,” said ATR President Grover Norquist. “This doesn’t even count the indirect taxes families would bear in the form of lost jobs, lower wages, higher prices, and shrunken retirement savings.”
President Obama has been adamant that he doesn’t want to influence the legislative process on healthcare reform. However, he has been willing to draw several “lines in the sand” thus far. He wants healthcare legislation to “bend the cost curve.” He doesn’t want any healthcare bill to increase the deficit. He wants a healthcare bill to substantially increase the number of Americans covered by health insurance.
“President Obama needs to put some teeth in his no-tax promise by creating a line in the sand for taxpayers,” continued Norquist. “He should make clear to Speaker Pelosi and Leader Reid that he will veto any healthcare bill which raises taxes—any taxes—on American families making less than $250,000 per year. To do any less would render his promise worthless.”
Click here for a PDF of this release

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Obama Floats Latest Tax Hike:<br> Health Care Benefits Tax

Posted by Ryan Ellis on Monday, July 27th, 2009, 5:57 PM PERMALINK

Over the weekend, President Obama floated his latest tax hike plan in a desperate attempt to rescue his failing government healthcare plan.  Under the idea, any family plan premium in excess of $20,000 would have to pay income taxes on the overage.

A few points here:

  1. Because this would be a net income tax increase, this idea would violate the Taxpayer Protection Pledge
  2. Because this idea does not distinguish the income of the taxpayers, it would violate Obama's promise not to tax families making less than $250,000 per year
  3. Because this tax increase would simply use the dollars to increase government spending, it can in no way be called "tax reform."  It's just a plain old tax hike.

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How Progressive Can the Income Tax Get?

Posted by Ryan Ellis on Tuesday, July 21st, 2009, 6:00 AM PERMALINK

I did a post on National Journal's economy blog, so go check it out.  It questions whether the Obama/Congressional Democrat plan to raise tax rates will make the income tax more progressive.

Short answer: no.  It will lead to sheltering.  What made the code more progressive over the past decade (and it's gotten more and more progressive) is that lower rates lead to more disclosure of taxable income.

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