Spencer Peck

Do-Nothing House Democrats Want a Pay Raise

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Posted by Spencer Peck on Wednesday, June 5th, 2019, 5:33 PM PERMALINK

Despite having achieved few legislative accomplishments since winning their majority, House Democrats are proposing a $4,500 pay raise for Members of Congress.

This pay raise is being proposed as part of the FY 2020 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Bill in spite of Republican opposition.

This would lift the Congressional pay-freeze first put in place in 2009 and maintained under Republican control of Congress between 2010 and 2018.

Congressional salaries are already more than triple that of the average American worker, who earns $56,515 annually. It’s also higher than what lawyers make, with an average of $142,000, chemical engineers, who make about $103,000, pilots, at $170,000, computer programmers with more than $85,000, and about the same as dentists.

This provision would gift a “cost of living adjustment” worth $4,500 per year to every member of congress, boosting their salaries which currently sit at $174,000 annually.

Critics have pointed to the lack of tangible results that House Democrats have produced since they took the majority at the beginning of the year. Analysis by Roll Call found that more than 20% of the votes the House has taken since the government opened back up in late January have been non-binding.

Non-binding votes do not carry the force of law or actually enact any legislative measures, they simply give legislators a chance to take political stances on whatever issue they choose for the day. Many of these non-binding votes have been taken on issues that most Americans would consider less than critically important. Examples include votes on transgender service members, Islamophobia and “hate” in the United States, and making the almost entirely public Mueller report public.

Republican members have criticized this reliance on non-binding resolutions, and in some cases have begun to protest the votes themselves. They have also hinted that these measures could be used in the Republican case for 2020 by branding the Democratic majority as a do-nothing House.

Republicans have also opposed increasing their own salaries. Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) signaled his opposition to House Democrats’ proposed raise:

“I think the American people would think that Congress ought to earn it first.”

A congressional pay raise is also unpopular with the American people.  A Business Insider poll from earlier this year found that 55% of respondents believed a pay cut was in order for the legislative branch, and just 9% of Americans approved of a pay raise.

While Democrats won the House by claiming they were going to improve the lives of hard working Americans, they have failed to achieve anything significant. Rather than pushing commonsense proposals that benefit the country, they are now proposing to give themselves a pay raise.

Photo Credit: John Brighenti


Senator Rob Portman Unveils Bipartisan Retirement Reform Bill

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Posted by Spencer Peck, Alexander Hendrie on Tuesday, June 18th, 2019, 11:45 AM PERMALINK

Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) has released a bipartisan retirement reform bill alongside Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md). The ‘Retirement Security and Savings Act of 2019’ enacts sweeping, common sense reforms in order to advance the American retirement system into the 21st century.

The legislation includes numerous reforms that strengthen 401(k) plans. These popular and important to American families because they allow individuals control over their own retirement savings. Contributions to 401(k)s are tax free and any gains accrued are also tax free. Additionally, most employers offer some sort of ‘matching contribution’ plan wherein the company will match, up to a point, whatever contributions a worker makes to their own 401 (k) account. This not only boosts savings, it also allows workers to more directly manage their own retirement plans.

Portman’s bill contains provisions dedicated to solving one of four goals -- offering relief to Americans who have saved too little for retirement, incentivizing and supporting small business retirement plans, promoting accessibility to retirement savings for low-income workers, and offering flexibility for current or near retirees.

 

Help for Workers who have Saved too Little:

Unfortunately, many Americans approach retirement age with insufficient savings. This bill contains a number of provisions that remove regulations that hamper late-term saving and make it easier for workers to contribute to retirement accounts later on in their careers.

The first of these provisions is an employer tax credit which is made available by automatically enrolling workers in ‘safe harbor’ plans at a rate of 6% of pay (on top of the current 3% of pay safe harbor). The bill also increases the ‘catch up’ contribution cap from $6,000 to $10,000 for people 60 years or older. Additionally, the plan allows employers to make matching contributions to retirement plans equal to the amount workers are paying towards their student loan debt.

Small Business Retirement Plan Incentives:

Small businesses are burdened by complex and overbearing IRS regulations which impact retirement plans for their workers. Portman’s bill simplifies these rules and makes it easier for small business employees to save for retirement.

The proposal increases the tax credit for new small business retirement plans form $500 to as much as $5,000. It also provides a tax credit for small businesses which offer more generous ‘safe harbor’ plans to their workers. On top of this, the bill also eliminates penalties for unintentionally violating complex IRS retirement plan rules as long as the company self corrects its mistakes.

Retirement Access for Low-Income Workers:

Low-income Americans often live paycheck to paycheck, making it difficult to save for retirement. This bill expands access to retirement for these workers by cutting taxes and simplifying retirement plans.

The plan lowers the income threshold for ‘Saver’s Credit’, expanding access to those who need it most. Additionally, Portman makes ‘Saver’s Credit’ directly refundable into retirement accounts with a new ‘government match’. The bill also expands 401 (k) eligibility to part-time workers who put in 500 - 1,000 hours for two years in a row.

Flexibility for Current Retirees:

Increased life expectancy along with the changing nature of work make it more desirable for many Americans to continue working later and contributing to their retirement accounts. Current regulations punish them for doing this. Portman’s bill allows workers to more fully control their own retirement.

It does this by first, gradually increasing the age for required minimum distributions to 72 by 2023 and 75 by 2030. It also exempts people with $100k or less in retirement savings from the required minimum distributions, allowing them to continue contributing to their retirement savings. Finally, the bill encourages the expansion of ‘QLAC’s’ - retirement plans which pay out annually to retirees who live past their life expectancy.

 

The Retirement Security and Savings Act of 2019 makes great, long-needed reforms to the American retirement system. It makes saving much easier for low-income workers, and it incentivizes the creation of new retirement plans for small businesses. Ultimately, this is a bipartisan, common sense bill which provides more financial control to workers and small businesses. Several members of the Senate Finance Committee have expressed support for the bill, but the rest of Congress needs to come around and support these reforms to serve the American people.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore


Dems Hold Third Hearing on Medicare for All

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Posted by Spencer Peck, Alex Hendrie on Tuesday, June 11th, 2019, 9:15 AM PERMALINK

The Democrat led House Ways & Means Committee will this week hold a hearing on Medicare for All.

Under this plan, workers, families, and businesses both small and large will see higher taxes and less control over their lives. A single payer system eliminates choice, raises costs, and reduces access by allowing the government to control and ration care. The millions of Americans who currently enjoy their doctors and coverage won’t have a say in this radical overhaul of the system.

According to the Mercatus Center, the plan would cost $32 trillion over the next decade. This would increase federal spending by a staggering 60% in that time frame. That money has to come from somewhere, and unsurprisingly, it will be American taxpayers footing the bill.

The plan has faced two previous congressional hearings in the past month or so, but this will be a heightened level of scrutiny for the proposed government takeover. However, this latest hearing is notable as the Ways & Means Committee has policy making jurisdiction over healthcare and taxation. The hearing should be a chance for Americans to understand the real costs of Medicare for All, seeing as they haven’t gotten many answers thus far.

Democrat supporters in the House have refused to explain how they’ll pay for their plan, let alone tell the American people what kind of tax hikes they can expect. However, self-avowed socialist Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has released a list of tax increase “options.”

In all, Sanders’ proposals would lead to $14.3 trillion dollars in higher taxes over the next decade, according to an Americans for Tax Reform analysis. It should be noted that this tax hike wouldn’t even cover half of the overall cost of Medicare for All. However, this would still mean drastically higher taxes on American families and businesses:

A new 4% payroll tax on workers would raise taxes by $3.9 trillion over the next ten years.

The proposal also includes a 7.5% payroll tax on employers, which would cost businesses $3.5 trillion over the decade.

  • The law would eliminate employer-based health insurance, which currently covers about 158 million Americans. This would raise taxes on businesses by $3 trillion by getting rid of the healthcare deduction utilized by employers.

  • The proposal would eliminate Health Savings Accounts (HSA’s), utilized by 25 million American families. “Cafeteria plans” and the medical expenses deduction would also be repealed. In all, these tax increases are a $4.2 trillion tax hike.

  • Increase the top marginal tax rate for individuals and the tax rate for capital gains above $10 million to 70%. The Tax Foundation estimates that increasing these rates would raise $51 billion over the decade. However, due to how much these rates would discourage investment and slow economic growth, it would actually be a net loss of $63.5 billion to the federal budget.

  • The proposal raises the top death tax rate to a whopping 77%. Currently, the tax kicks in at inheritances over $11 million with a rate of 40%. Sanders’ plan would drop the threshold to any inheritance worth $3.5 million with a starting rate of 45%. This would raise taxes on families by $315 billion over the next ten years.

  • The plan also implements an annual “wealth tax” on American taxpayers. This would force Americans to pay an annual 1% tax on assets worth at least $21 million, and would increase taxes by $1.3 trillion.

  • An additional $800 billion in new taxes is proposed by setting a “bank tax” on financial institutions throughout the country.

  • The self-employment tax would be broadened, hitting small businesses with an additional $247 billion over the decade.

Medicare for All would have drastic consequences for American families. The proposal would outlaw private health insurance, thus removing the competition and innovation of the free market. It would eliminate choice for Americans, especially for those who want to keep their doctors. Like the single payer systems of Canada and the UK, it would lengthen wait times and reduce access to care.

Most of all, Medicare for All would immediately raise taxes on the American people by unprecedented rates.

Americans are entitled to answers from the people who want to raise taxes and hand over complete control of their healthcare to the government. This hearing ought to deliver those answers.

Photo Credit: Molly Adams


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