Tom Hebert

Democrats Are Damaging Electoral Integrity With H.R. 1

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Thursday, February 14th, 2019, 9:00 AM PERMALINK

In the first few weeks of the 116th Congress, House Democrats have introduced H.R. 1, a sweeping piece of legislation that will weaponize elections and restrict political speech for all Americans. The legislation is brimming with unconstitutional provisions that would damage our electoral integrity and rewrite longstanding election law for the benefit of the Democrat Party.  

The new legislation politicizes and weaponizes the FEC to favor the ruling political party. Under current law, the FEC is a six-member commission, with three Republicans and three Democrats. Four votes are needed to move forward with any prosecution of alleged violations or investigations. This construction ensures that decisions made by the Commission are truly bipartisan and free from any political animus.

H.R. 1 fundamentally changes the construction of the FEC by reducing the number of members from six to five. Advocates of H.R. 1 try to obfuscate this clear politicization by insisting that the new five-person committee must consist of two Republicans, two Democrats, and one “independent” member that is a member of a minor political party.

By this logic, the president could appoint an independent like Bernie Sanders, who is functionally a liberal Democrat, to be the fifth member of the FEC. The new construction rigs the system to ensure total partisan control of the FEC, exactly the opposite of how the Commission is designed under current law.

To make matters worse, H.R. 1 authorizes the president to pick the Chairman of the FEC, all but ensuring total presidential control of the Commission. Under current law, the FEC has a Chair and Vice Chair, and they must be from different parties and selected by the Commission. Not only would H.R. 1 allow the president to pick the Chair, the legislation drastically increases the power the Chair has over the committee.

Essentially, the Chair would function as Chief Administrative Officer over the committee, and would be allowed to act on his own with regard to issuing subpoenas, compelling testimony, and controlling the FEC budget. H.R. 1 also abolishes the requirement that the Vice Chair must be a different party than the Chair, further demonstrating that Democrats want the ruling political party to have ironclad control over a historically bipartisan agency. 

H.R. 1 also changes how campaigns are funded. The bill implements a subsidy for politicians in the form of a 600 percent match for small-dollar political contributions. Any individual that donates under $200 to a candidate or PAC is entitled to a 6 to 1 match from the federal government. In effect, this provision would force taxpayers to subsidize political campaigns. This insane 600 percent match of political contributions would be another step towards campaigns funded by theft from taxpayers instead of voluntary political contributions.

Another provision contained in H.R. 1 is new donor identification requirements that would further suppress free speech. According to the new legislation, organizations that make “campaign-related disbursements” totaling more than $10,000 during a two-year period must publicly identify all that gave over $10,000 during the two-year period. The legislation also expands the “stand by your ad” disclaimer in video advertisements, forcing organizations to identify their top five donors at the end of advertisements.

This is obviously an egregious infringement on the First Amendment rights of every American to support causes without fear of intimidation or harassment from those that may disagree. Especially in today’s rancorous political environment, protecting the integrity of donor information is more important than ever.

The bill also creates numerous cases where the ruling political class suppresses political speech. Specifically, the bill creates a new standard for regulating political speech called “PASO.” The PASO standard is an overly-vague standard that asks whether speech “promotes,” “attacks,” “supports,” or “opposes” a candidate or official. If political speech meets the vague PASO standard, the speech can be regulated.

H.R. 1 also undoes the FEC’s “Internet exemption” which excludes the internet from regulation of political speech. Essentially, if the FEC deems that online communication is “paid,” it is subjected to the same regulations and donor disclosure requirements as traditional advertisements. This overbroad and overvague provision would even include content on free platforms like Twitter and Facebook, as the paid definition extends to paid staffers managing the platforms. 

Finally, this legislation contains a whole host of bad provisions that would federalize and fundamentally transform how elections are conducted in this country. If the bill was signed into law, the federal government would force the states to implement early voting, automatic voter registration, same-day registration, online voter registration, and no-fault absentee balloting. The bill would also invalidate voter identification laws all over the country by allowing voters to simply sign a statement affirming their identity instead of providing identification.

H.R. 1 also contains language designed to block voter intimidation, which seems reasonable until you realize that it largely duplicates measures already in place all across the country. These systemic changes are a gift to campaign lawyers and their litigious clients, and it comes at the cost of our electoral integrity.

Make no mistake about it – H.R. 1 is a dangerous piece of legislation. If implemented, the bill would suppress political speech, politicize and weaponize the FEC, fund campaigns through theft of taxpayer dollars, and implement numerous reforms that would damage our electoral integrity. This parade of horribles is a clear attempt to grab power by Democrats and to rewrite election law to benefit their cronies and lobbyists. Congress should reject this legislation. 

Photo Credit: Flickr


To Lower Drug Costs, Congress Should Focus on Free-Market Solutions, Not Price Controls

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Tuesday, February 12th, 2019, 12:18 PM PERMALINK

Congress is considering measures to address the high price of prescription drugs. Democrats have called for more government control over the health care system, namely imposing price controls on prescription drugs. If implemented, price controls would destroy American medical innovation and raise drug prices for all Americans.

In contrast, Republicans are focusing on solutions that will use market forces to bring down prescription drug costs. In a letter to House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.), Ways and Means Republican Leader Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Republican Leader Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) emphasized their opposition to price controls.

As the letter notes, Congressional Republicans are ready and willing to work with Democrats in a bipartisan fashion to lower prescription drug prices. Brady and Nunes want to target overpriced drugs, empowering patients to choose the most affordable medicines, and eliminating Medicare incentives that raise drug prices and reward bad actors.

Brady and Nunes rightly recognize that importing foreign price controls for medicine will destroy medical innovation in the U.S. They state:

“To protect the hope of future medical breakthroughs, Republicans reject Washington price controls that limit American’s access to live-saving medicines many families are counting on. We recognize that the Medicare Part B and D programs are in need of reform. But empowering unaccountable, unelected bureaucrats to deny coverage of certain drugs and restrict formulary choice is not the answer. Americans’ access to innovative drugs is unparalleled. As this Committee works together to fix skewed incentives in the drug pricing market, it must be mindful to avoid policies that truly jeopardize innovation.”

In looking for ways to address high drug costs, Congress should reject price controls and other anti-free market policies that would raise drug prices for the U.S. Instead, Congress should focus on free-market solutions that will deliver real relief to the American people.

Click here to read the full letter.

Photo Credit: Karen Neoh - Flickr


GOP Tax Cuts Saved Job of Trump SOTU Guest

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Tuesday, February 5th, 2019, 1:49 PM PERMALINK

President Trump has released his guest list for tonight’s State of the Union Address, and one guest in particular has felt the benefits of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  

Roy James is the Plant Manager of the Vicksburg Forest Products lumber facility in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Roy put 26 years in the company, eventually becoming Vice President of Operations.

After spending nearly three decades at the company, Roy was told that the plant was closing its doors.

Fortunately the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act allowed states to designate “Opportunity Zones” -- economically distressed areas where new investors can receive tax incentives for investing in the community.

The location of the Vicksburg plant was designated an opportunity zone, and the plant reopened.

Since the Vicksburg facility was reopened, Roy was promoted to Plant Manager, and now oversees the entire facility.

Roy’s story is yet another example of how the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has been a smashing success for millions of American families and small businesses. ATR has chronicled examples ofhundreds of companies giving their employees pay raises, increased benefits, and bonuses since the GOP tax bill was signed into law.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore


Congress Should Kill the Death Tax Once and for All

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Thursday, January 31st, 2019, 11:02 AM PERMALINK

Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) has joined 28 Senators, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in reintroducing legislation that permanently repeals the death tax. S. 215, the “Death Tax Repeal Act of 2019,” would finally end the tax that hits small businesses and family-run farms all across the country.

The death tax is a 40 percent tax on all assets after an individual dies. The assets in an estate were previously subject to income taxes, capital gains taxes, dividend taxes, or the corporate income tax. All the dollars have already been taxed at least once. Homes, land, small business assets, stocks, savings.

This is bad policy for a number of reasons, chief among them that it is unfair double taxation. If an individual spends his entire life earning income and paying taxes, why is it fair for the government to come in and tax that income again once he dies?

The death tax also targets small businesses and family farms at the exclusion of the mega-wealthy. While the mega-wealthy and family farms technically face the same death tax, small business owners cannot afford to hire a small army of lawyers and accountants to exempt large portions of their estates from the tax. As always, complex laws are rife with loopholes that the rich can exploit at the expense of the less fortunate.

Finally, death tax repeal would spur economic growth. A Tax Foundation study shows that death tax repeal would boost GDP growth, create 139,000 jobs, and increase federal revenue. That is not a typo - repealing the death tax would actually increase the money the government collects from the taxpayers on an annual basis.

Public polling consistently shows that large majorities of the American people favor death tax repeal. It is time for politicians on both sides of the aisle to follow the will of the people and get it done.

Senator Thune and S. 215’s cosponsors should be commended for their efforts to repeal the crushing death tax once and for all. All members of Congress should support the “Death Tax Repeal Act of 2019,” and President Trump should sign it into law.

Photo Credit: Becci Sheptock


Congress Should Reject the “United States Reciprocal Trade Act”

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Thursday, January 10th, 2019, 12:44 PM PERMALINK

News reports indicate that several House Republicans have been working on legislation (the "United States Reciprocal Trade Act") that will expand the executive branch’s authority over levying tariffs against other countries. The bill would permit the executive branch to unilaterally negotiate trade agreements with other countries and levy tariffs if he determines there are trade barriers negatively impacting the sale of U.S. goods. Congress should reject this legislation.

President Trump is entirely correct in his desire to help American businesses and workers with better trade deals with foreign countries. However, tariffs and trade wars are counterproductive to this goal.

Tariffs destabilize markets and harm American manufacturing. Instead of punishing foreign countries for manipulative trade practices, tariffs punish American workers and businesses by artificially inflating prices. While tariffs may give a short-term boost to domestic manufacturers (like steel and aluminum manufacturers), every industry using those materials will pass the higher prices on to consumers.

The facts are clear: tariffs cost jobs and increase prices for everyday consumers. They are a net loser for the United States.

The Constitution gives Congress the authority to negotiate trade deals with other countries. Article I Section 8 gives Congress the power to “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States.” For decades, Congress has abdicated this and other responsibilities to the Executive Branch to disastrous effect.

Passing the Reciprocal Trade Act into law would only further enable the Executive Branch to amass more power over international trade. Congress should reject this legislation and reassert its commitment to checks and balances as laid out in the Constitution.

Photo Credit: Ron Cogswell


U.S. Economy Adds 312,000 Jobs In December

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Friday, January 4th, 2019, 12:06 PM PERMALINK

The Trump economy added 312,000 jobs in December, smashing expectations and defying Democrats who said tax reform and regulatory reform are harming the economy. The Department of Labor is also reporting that wages have increased 3.2 percent since December 2017, and 419,000 new workers entered the labor force this past month.

December’s jobs numbers end a year of solid job and economic growth on a high note. Job growth totaled 2.6 million in 2018, beating Trump’s still-impressive 2.2 million job growth in 2017.

This is the 12th jobs report since Trump signed the Republican Tax Cuts and Jobs Act into law.

Since then, the U.S. has had a number of economic successes. The U.S. is the most competitive economy in the world for the first time in a decade, and there are approximately7.1 million job openings available to people looking for work. Small business confidence is at an all time high, and manufacturers have posted their biggest jobs gains in 20 years. 

Since they regained control of the House, Democrats have made it a priority to impose a trillion-dollar tax hike on the American people. Democrats have changed the House rules in order to make it easier to raise taxes. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) introduced the Medicare for America Act, legislation that would increase taxes on American families and businesses large and small.

This bill would effectively repeal the TCJA by increasing taxes at every level, cutting the child tax credit in half, cut the standard deduction in half, and increase the Alternative Minimum Tax. The bill would also increase taxes on corporations and small business owners, obliterating the gains made in wages and jobs over the past year.

Democrats have also rejected Republican efforts to make the $2,000 child tax credit permanent, as well as the doubled standard deduction. Democrat rejection of these pro-family policies show that they are more interested in their tax-and-spend liberal agenda than promoting the interests of the hardworking people they were elected to serve.

Continued success of the economy depends on more tax reform and deregulation. The new Democrat House majority’s reckless focus on trillion-dollar tax hikes and stifling small businesses with regulation threatens our continued economic success.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore


Dems to Change House Rules to Make Tax Hikes Easier

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019, 1:43 PM PERMALINK

Democrats are set to vote on a bill that changes the rules of the House to make it easier to raise taxes.

This change is being proposed as part of H.Res.6, the House Democrats’ rules package for the 116th Congress. 

Since they’ve controlled the House since 2011, Republicans maintained a rule requiring any bill that increases federal income taxes to have the support of three-fifths majority of Congress.

Democrats are proposing to abolish this rule.

Under the new Democrat house, Congress will be able to raise taxes by a simple majority voice vote, a change that will make it vastly easier for Democrats to raise taxes.

In fact, during the midterm elections, Democrats all across the country promised to impose massive, trillion-dollar tax hikes on the American people. This change moves them one step closer to that goal.  

Another rules change being imposed by Democrats is the repeal of dynamic scoring, a mechanism that allows policymakers to forecast the effects of fiscal policy based on the predicted behavior of people and organizations. By returning to static scoring, Democrats ignore the real-world changes in behavior by tax cuts and other boons to economic growth.

These changes are another step forward in the continued Democrat assault on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has referred to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act as “Armageddon” and its benefits for workers as “crumbs.”

In reality, the GOP tax bill has been successful in growing the American economy and increasing wages. Under the new law, 90 percent of Americans have higher take-home pay. GDP growth has consistently been between 3 and 4 percent, dwarfing the anemic growth of 2 percent during the Obama years.

Small business confidence is hitting record highs, manufacturing confidence is at an all-time high, job openings are at a record high, and Americans in all 50 states are seeing lower utility bills.

The GOP tax law has also made the U.S a more competitive place to do business because of the reduction of the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent and the creation of the 20 percent deduction for pass-through businesses. Since these reforms, the U.S. has been named the most competitive economy in the world.

In order to preserve this competitive tax system, Americans for Tax Reform has launched a new special project, Defend21.org, to highlight the success of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

With these new House rules changes, Democrats have made it crystal clear that their top priority is to raise taxes and claw back the economic successes of Congressional Republicans and President Trump.

Photo Credit: Flickr


Dems Change Rules to Make It Easier to Raise Taxes

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Wednesday, December 12th, 2018, 2:24 PM PERMALINK

[See Also: Carbon Taxes Are Consistently Rejected by The People]

It is no surprise that one of the first acts of the new Democrat majority will be to make it easier to raise taxes on the American people. 

Incoming House Rules Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) has announced that House Democrats have abandoned a rules plan that would have required a three-fifths House majority to raise taxes. The House rules proposal would have limited the new Democrat majority’s ability to raise taxes, something that the tax-and-spend left has never been comfortable with.

"The Democrat Caucus in the House of Represenatives voted to send a message to all American taxpayers—you are all a target and we want to make it as easy to raise taxes as possible," said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. "The 'new' Democrats are maintaining the brand of the old democrats. All tax hikes, all the time."

During the midterm elections, Democrats all across the country promised to impose a trillion dollars in tax hikes. Incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has referred to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act as “Armageddon” and its benefits for workers as “crumbs.”

No matter how many Democrats smear the GOP tax law, the real world effects of the law are crystal clear. Under the new law, 90% of Americans have higher take-home pay. Small business confidence is hitting record highs, manufacturing confidence is at an all-time high, job openings are at a record high, and Americans in all 50 states are paying lower utility bills.

The GOP tax law has also made United States business and manufacturing competitive on an international scale. Before President Trump signed the tax cuts into law, the U.S. had a 35% corporate tax rate, the highest in the world. Now the corporate rate is 21%, allowing us to compete for business on the world stage. Americans for Tax Reform has launched a new special project, Defend21.org, that will hold the line against raising the corporate rate.

Reversing this trend by raising taxes would be a disaster, and Democrats have already started to game the system to make it easier for them to hike taxes. With Democrats regaining control of the House in January, it is more critical than ever that all taxpayer-friendly elected officials stand strong against any and all tax increases.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore


ATR Urges Senate Passage of Trump Rescissions Bill

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Tuesday, June 19th, 2018, 3:42 PM PERMALINK

This week, the Senate is expected to vote on S. 2979, the Spending Cuts to Expired and Unnecessary Programs Act, introduced by Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah). This package would rescind approximately $15 billion of previously appropriated but unspent funds, a good first step towards cutting federal spending. All Senators should vote for this legislation.

Since the passage of the 1974 Budget Control and Impoundment Act, presidents have proposed 1,174 rescissions totaling $76 billion. Every president from Gerald Ford to Bill Clinton successfully rescinded funds, but there has not been a rescissions package since Congress passed Bill Clinton’s proposal in FY 2000

The unanimous Democrat opposition to the Trump rescissions package is confusing since Clinton’s rescissions packages passed Congress with bipartisan support. The House already passed President Trump’s rescissions package last week, and the Senate should follow suit.

Congress routinely claws back unspent funds and returns the money to taxpayers. While Democrats are trying to demagogue Trump’s proposal, which includes $5 billion in rescinded CHIP funding in this rescissions package, Democrats have often proposed similar rescissions.  Just two months ago, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi voted to rescind $6.8 billion from CHIP. Just two years ago, Democrats offered their own amendment to rescind $5.7 billion from CHIP, and every Democrat on the Appropriations Committee voted for it.

Trump’s nearly $15 billion rescissions package is the largest in history. Some of the proposed rescissions are listed below:

  • $4.3 billion from the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program
  • $5 billion from Children Health Insurance Fund and $1.8 billion from the Child Enrollment Contingency Fund. The funds rescinded from this program either cannot be spent because the authority to obligate the funding ended last year or is not needed to operate the program. The nonpartisan CBO confirmed that this rescission would not affect the program, and no children will lose health insurance as a result of this rescission.
  • $800 million from Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovations
  • $356 million in unobligated balances of conservation programs that were not extended in the Agricultural Act of 2014, and $144 million in unobligated balances of the Environmental Quality Incentive Program. These funds are in excess of the amounts needed to sustain the programs in FY 2018.
  • $142 million from the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. This rescission allows the private sector and local governments to play a greater role in addressing affordable housing needs.
  • $523 million from the Title 17 Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program
  • $500 million from the Farm Security and Rural Investment Programs
  • $50 million in prior year balances from the Department of Agriculture’s Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations Program. These funds are in excess of the amounts needed to sustain the programs in FY 2018.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore


In Win for Rule of Law, Trump Admin Refuses to Defend Constitutionality of Obamacare

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Thursday, June 14th, 2018, 1:41 PM PERMALINK

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced last week that the Department of Justice will not defend the constitutionality of Obamacare. This is a major victory for the rule of law, as Obamacare is manifestly unconstitutional and disproportionally harms the most vulnerable in our society.

The DOJ declined to defend the controversial health care law against a legal challenge from Texas and 19 other states. Specifically, the DOJ is declining to defend two central tenets of Obamacare. First, the individual mandate tax, which forced people to buy health insurance and imposed steep penalties on the noncompliant. The DOJ argues that President Trump’s repeal of the Obamacare individual mandate tax means that the tax is no longer a tax, and is therefore unconstitutional based on Supreme Court precedent. Second, the DOJ is not defending the pre-existing conditions mandate on insurance companies, arguing that the provision cannot be decoupled from the mandate.

The individual mandate tax was the centerpiece of Obamacare. The individual mandate tax required a family of four to pay 2.5 percent of their income or $2,085 – whichever was higher. The tax required an individual to pay $695 or 2.5 percent of his income – whichever was higher.

The tax was one of the most regressive in history. 79 percent of households that got hit with the Obamacare individual mandate tax in 2015 made less than $50,000 a year. 37 percent of households made less than $25,000 a year. In total, 6,665,480 households paid $3,079,255,000 in individual mandate tax penalties in 2015.

Thankfully, President Trump eliminated the individual mandate tax when he signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act into law. And now, with Sessions announcing that the DOJ won’t defend Obamacare’s constitutionality against a recent legal challenge, the harmful law is as good as dead.

Trump has enacted free market health care reform in other ways. In May, Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced the administration’s American Patients First plan to lower costs and increase access to medicine. This plan rejects the broken and failed socialized system of health care that President Obama and his administration championed.

Instead, the plan addresses the underlying problems with our current health care system. First and foremost, Trump recognizes that Obamacare has increased health care prices through onerous taxes and regulations. Obamacare imposed a staggering $1 trillion in new or higher taxes. The law taxed everything from health insurance to prescription drugs to medical devices. The tax on medicine alone totals $30 billion over the next decade.

Throughout his presidency, Trump has rightfully taken foreign countries to task for taking advantage of the United States. Drug prices are yet another area where foreign countries freeload off of Americans. The United States has the only free market for medicine in the world. And yet, America is forced to subsidize its trading partners because of excessive foreign price controls. A recent study from the President’s Council for Economic Advisors said that the U.S. bears 70% of the world’s costs for medicine because of foreign price controls. In renegotiating America’s free trade agreements, Trump should focus on minimizing or eliminating foreign price controls.

Finally, several agencies within the Trump administration recently proposed a rule that would allow for more flexibility regarding short term, limited duration health insurance plans. These plans are stopgap measures for individuals transitioning between health insurance plans. The Trump administration increased the duration of these plans from three months to twelve months, ensuring that all Americans have affordable access to health care when transitioning between plans.

Ultimately, federal health care reforms should focus on patient-centered, free market solutions instead of failed top-down systems. The Trump administration has already made progress by dismantling Obamacare and elongating short term, limited duration health insurance plans. But there is much work to be done. Future reforms should emulate the success of Medicare Part D by using government forces to encourage free market competition and maximize access to health care.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


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