NIH Commissioned Research Shows BBB Tax On Quitting Smoking Will Lead To 2.5 Million Additional Smokers, Over 1.5 Million Preventable Deaths

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Posted by Tim Andrews on Thursday, November 18th, 2021, 4:44 PM PERMALINK

Americans For Tax Reform today called on House Democrats to accept the science as detailed in extensive reports commissioned by the U.S. Government’s National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and vote AGAINST the Build Back Better Act (H.R. 5376) due to its disastrous impact on public health. H.R. 5376 is expected to be voted on later this evening.

NIH commissioned research has found that the tax increases on people trying to quit smoking through electronic nicotine delivery systems contained in H.R. 5376 would lead to 2.5 million additional smokers in the United States,  including an additional half a million teen smokers.. The new tax proposal includes products that have been approved by the FDA as “appropriate for the protection of public health” and have been conclusively proven to be 95% safer than traditional combustible tobacco”.  

“It is mind-boggling that in the midst of a global pandemic, Nancy Pelosi is pushing a tax hike on people trying to save their lives, just to pay for a tax-cut for the ultra rich” said Tim Andrews, Director of Consumer Issues at Americans for Tax Reform. “The science is crystal clear: This bill is a public health disaster. The tax hikes on people trying to quit smoking contained in H.R. 5376 would lead to more people millions more Americans smoking – and dying as a result. “With millions of lives on the line, it’s time for Congressional Democrats to listen to the science – and reject Nancy Pelosi’s desperate SALT pay-for cash grab which seeks to raise revenue at the expense of human lives“

Andrews continued: “To increase taxes on poor Americans trying to quit smoking just to pay for tax cuts for multi-millionaires is morally reprehensible. Not only is this a blatant violation of President Biden’s Pledge not to increase taxes on Americans under earning $400,000, not only is it a Reverse Robin Hood which robs from the poor to give to the rich, it is a tax the evidence clearly shows will lead to an extra 2.5 million Americans smoking, and dying as a result. To condemn so many lives to pay for tax breaks for multi-millionaires is one of the most morally bankrupt actions ever undertaken by a government.’

HR 5376 includes a new tax of $50.33 per 1,810 mg of nicotine contained in next generation electronic nicotine delivery systems such as e-cigarettes. These funds would be used to help pay for SALT provisions for the ultra-wealthy, which the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation has stated would give two-thirds of people making more than a million dollars a tax cut.” Of the 2.5 million additional smokers this Act would create, it is estimated that two thirds – or over 1.6 million -would die as a result.

Andrews concluded: “Nancy Pelosi’s Build Back Better Act  places a small amount of revenue as more important than saving over 1.5 million lives. We call upon all Democrats to follow their conscience, and do the right thing by their constituents, and vote against this deeply unethical and immoral blood tax."

Photo Credit: Vaping 360

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Dem Reconciliation Bill Contains $8 Billion Home Heating Tax

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Posted by Mike Palicz on Thursday, November 18th, 2021, 2:52 PM PERMALINK

The Democrat multi-trillion dollar tax and spend bill includes an $8 billion energy tax on natural gas production according to projections from the Congressional Budget Office, a tax that will be paid by American households in the form of higher energy bills.

Democrats have included this home-heating tax in the bill despite retail prices for energy surpassing multiyear highs in the United States. Even without the new tax, the U.S. Energy and Information Administration is already issuing warnings that “nearly half of U.S. households that heat primarily with natural gas will spend 30% more than they spent last winter on average.” This tax hike will only exacerbate this energy crisis for American households.

This tax hike is a clear violation of President Biden’s pledge not to raise any form of tax on anyone making less than $400,000 per year. Officials within the administration have repeatedly admitted taxes that raise consumer energy prices are in violation of President Biden’s $400,000 tax pledge.

The legislation would impose a regressive tax on oil and gas development based upon emission levels of methane during production, leading to higher energy bills for consumers and higher costs of everyday products. A recent letter to Congress from the American Gas Association warned that the methane tax would amount to a 17% increase on an average family's natural gas bill.

The new tax would be phased in, beginning at $900/ton of methane emissions in 2023 and rising to $1,500/ton for emissions reported in 2025. The Democrat proposal is modeled off of legislation introduced earlier this year by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

Americans for Tax Reform opposes the Democrat tax on home heating and urges all members of Congress to oppose President Biden’s multi-trillion dollar tax and spend bill. 

Photo Credit: Reese Baker

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ATR Supports Rep. McHenry’s Bipartisan “Keep Innovation in America Act”

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Posted by Bryan Bashur on Thursday, November 18th, 2021, 1:51 PM PERMALINK

This week, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), ranking member of the House Committee on Financial Services, introduced the Keep Innovation in America Act (H.R. 6006) a bill that would both protect the privacy of investors in digital assets, and mitigate burdensome reporting requirements for crypto miners; validators; and software, hardware, and protocol developers.

“I am proud to support Ranking Member McHenry’s bill that will significantly improve the digital asset reporting requirements recently enacted in President Biden’s infrastructure package. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act imposed burdensome reporting requirements on virtually every participant within the cryptocurrency ecosystem, including miners and software developers, and impinged on consumers’ privacy. McHenry’s bill, the Keep Innovation in America Act, strengthens privacy protections, and limits which individuals would be required to submit tax return information to the IRS. This bipartisan legislation will significantly improve the status quo and should be swiftly passed into law to preserve the United States’ position as a global leader in the innovation of digital assets and blockchain technology,” said Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform.

President Biden’s infrastructure bill, also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (P.L. 117-58), included a provision that would require enhanced reporting requirements for participants within the cryptocurrency ecosystem. The language enacted into law would require a broad swath of participants in the cryptocurrency ecosystem to file tax returns to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), including individuals who have no access to the personally identifiable information (PII) of crypto investors.

Biden’s Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, was the primary supporter of the heavy-handed language. Ostensibly, the provision was included to crack down on digital asset tax avoidance and to close the “tax gap.” However, the reporting provisions in Biden’s bill were nothing more than a desperate attempt to rake in revenue to the federal government to justify future irresponsible spending.

McHenry’s bill addresses the issues in Biden’s infrastructure package by:

  • Removing the obligation of network participants, such as miners and software developers, who don’t have—and shouldn't have—access to customer information to report tax information to the IRS. It does so without affecting the reporting obligations placed on brokers and traders of digital assets.

 

  • Requiring that any information reported to the IRS must have been submitted to brokers voluntarily by investors.

 

  • Improving the definition of “digital asset”

 

  • Giving brokers an additional 2 years, until 2026, before any returns need to be reported to the IRS.

 

  • Requesting the Secretary of the Treasury to conduct a study and submit a report to Congress and lists Congressional findings on the importance of digital asset innovation.

 

  • Deleting an egregious provision from statute that would require any digital asset transactions above $10,000 in a single day to be reported to the IRS.

 

On balance, Rep. McHenry has delivered a commonsense, bipartisan bill that will protect investors’ privacy, and is in line with convention by ensuring that tax return reporting is limited to the entities that would have access to the proper information.

Lawmakers should support the Keep Innovation in America Act. The text of the bill can be read here.

Photo Credit: "Bitcoin cash" by QuoteInspector.com is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

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ATR Leads Coalition Opposing Price Controls on Medical Innovation

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Posted on Wednesday, November 17th, 2021, 4:00 AM PERMALINK

Today, Americans for Tax Reform led a coalition letter in opposition to Democrats' plan to impose price controls, a 95 percent excise tax, and inflation penalties on American pharmaceutical manufacturers. Democrats are attempting to include this plan in their socialist tax-and-spend bill. The letter was signed by 51 organizations. 

This proposal would impose price controls on up to 20 medicines in Medicare Part B and Part D. If the manufacturer does not accept this government-set price, they are hit with a 95 percent excise tax on the total revenues of the drug. While it is imposed on a small group of medicines, it creates a new tax and regulatory structure that can be expanded to all cures and to the entire healthcare system, becoming a stepping stone toward socialized healthcare. 

The proposal also includes an inflationary rebate penalty on every medicine, an arbitrary policy that could create an incentive for manufacturers to automatically increase the list price of their drugs each year to keep pace with inflation. 

While supporters of government price controls on American medicine argue they would allow the government to negotiate with the private sector, these policies would harm competition and access to cures, crush medical innovation, upend the market-based structure of Medicare Part D, and cost high-paying American jobs.

The letter urges members of Congress to oppose this dangerous plan.

The full letter can be found here.

Photo Credit: "Male biomedical engineer conducts medical experiment" by This is Engineering is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.


North Carolina Senate Votes on Final Budget Bill

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Posted by Drew Carlson on Tuesday, November 16th, 2021, 4:31 PM PERMALINK

Today, the North Carolina Senate passed the new compromise state budget with a bipartisan 41-7 vote. The North Carolina House will soon follow suit and send the new budget to the desk of Governor Roy Cooper (D). Governor Cooper will reportedly sign it, thereby enacting another round of significant tax relief. 

The compromise budget lowers North Carolina’s personal income tax rate from 5.25% to 3.99% over six years. The standard deduction and child tax credit would be increased, while military pensions would be exempt from state income tax. The corporate tax rate, which is now at 2.5%, would be phased out over six years, starting in 2025 and continuing until it is completely eliminated in 2031.  

The new North Carolina budget also gives state employees a 5% pay raise over the next two years along with a $1000 bonus. Public school teachers could receive a bonus of up to $2800 while a salary supplement will be given to teachers in low wealth counties to help them retain employees. The minimum wage for other public school employees will increase to $13 this fiscal year and $15 the next and education funding will increase overall.  

The new budget does not include Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, but does expand the entitlement program to cover 12 months of postpartum care. $6 billion will be added to the State Capital and Infrastructure Fund (SCIF) to be used to build, renovate, or repair buildings for various state agencies. There will also be new to the governor’s emergency powers starting in 2023. The full budget will cost $25.9 billion this fiscal year, and $27 billion the next one. 

Governor Phil Cooper and Republican Legislative leaders negotiated for months to find common ground. While no deal was made, compromises such as employee pay raises and increased education spending have given both sides hope, even if neither got everything they wanted. The governor expressed openness to signing the budget but made no commitments. His spokesperson Jordan Monaghan responding to questions saying, “The Governor and his staff are reviewing the budget.” 

Senate Leader Phil Berger is optimistic, “We have made significant progress over nearly two months of good-faith negotiations with the governor, and I’m optimistic that the budget will have a strong bipartisan vote and that Gov. Cooper will sign it into law."  

If the bill is passed by the Senate today, it will be voted on by the House tomorrow. If passed by the House, the budget will go to the governor’s desk. There, Governor Murphy will have the choice to veto the bill, sign it, or allow the budget to pass into law without his signature. If he does veto, Republicans will only need three House Democrats and two Senate Democrats to vote “yes” to override.  

Only eight years ago North Carolina had a progressive personal income tax system with a top rate of 7.75%, the highest income tax rate in the southeast. With the enactment of this new budget, North Carolina will soon have a flat income tax of 3.99%. North Carolina had the highest corporate tax rate in the southeast only eight years ago. Today North Carolina’s corporate rate is the lowest in the nation and will be on the path to elimination with the enactment of this new budget. North Carolina is a testament to how, no matter how uncompetitive a state tax code gets, lawmakers can take steps to rectify it in fairly short order.  

Photo Credit: “North Carolina State Legislature Building” by Dave Crosby is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

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Reconciliation Bill Gives Special Tax Handout to Big Media

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Posted by Michael Mirsky, John Kartch on Tuesday, November 16th, 2021, 4:10 PM PERMALINK

On page 1,957 of the reconciliation bill, Democrats have included a $1.67 billion special tax handout to media companies, under the guise of helping "local" journalists. In reality the provision is a product of the DC lobbying swamp and will benefit large media corporations.

Companies of any size are eligible for the tax credit. Broadcast, print, and digital companies all qualify. Each company is allowed to claim the tax credit for up to 1,500 of their employees. How many humble village newspapers do you know that employ 1,500 people?

The Associated Press recently reported that the Gannett corporation -- publisher of USA Today -- could get as much as $127.5 million:

Should the tax break become law, Gannett, one of the nation’s largest remaining newspaper chains, could gain as much as $127.5 million over five years.

Gannett has a market capitalization of $780 million. Its 2020 revenue was $3.4 billion. The company this year boasted of its "improved operating trends and financial position." It has significant overseas assets -- at least 120 media brands in the United Kingdom -- and its CEO is compensated handsomely. The company brags that it "runs the largest media-owned events business in the country."

When the AP asked Gannett for comment, a spokesperson said the tax handout would be a "good shot in the arm." No doubt.

Gannett flagship publication USA Today editorialized against the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, legislation that provided a median income family of four with a $2,000 annual tax cut. But the USA Today editorial board said TCJA was "grossly unfair" and criticized it as "a political document that rewards certain Republican constituencies." Oh.

Interestingly, when the AP reporters asked an AP spokesperson whether or not their own company would benefit, the AP declined to comment.

This provision would provide a refundable payroll tax credit equal to 50 percent of wages up to $12,500 per quarter per employee for the first four calendar quarters and a 30 percent credit for each calendar quarter thereafter.

Media organizations covering the reconciliation bill have an obligation to disclose whether or not they stand to benefit from the bill.

 

Photo Credit: Patrick Neil licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0


IRS Has 4,600 Guns and Five Million Rounds of Ammo: Will Dem Bill Grow Arsenal?

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Posted by Michael Mirsky on Tuesday, November 16th, 2021, 3:10 PM PERMALINK

The IRS has stockpiled 4,600 guns and five million rounds of ammunition as of Jan. 1, 2019 according to a report from OpenTheBooks published in 2020. With Democrats calling for $80 billion in additional funding and the hiring of 87,000 new IRS agents, how much will this arsenal grow?

The Democrats' push to increase the size and power of the IRS has significant criminal justice and basic due process ramifications.

An OpenTheBooks report titled The Militarization of U.S. Executive Agencies shows that, even without the proposed $80 billion increase in funding, the IRS Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI) is already heavily armed at the expense of the American taxpayer. How much larger will this unchecked arsenal get if the agency gets more funding?

The current 4,600-gun stockpile includes 3,282 pistols, 621 shotguns, 539 rifles, 15 fully automatic firearms, and four revolvers.

According to the Government Accountability Office the ammunition breakdown is as follows:

  • Pistol and revolver rounds: 3,151,500

  • Rifle rounds: 1,472,050

  • Shotgun rounds: 367,750

  • Fully automatic firearm rounds: 56,000

When OpenTheBooks asked for an accounting of the IRS gun locker, the agency responded, “We don’t have one [an inventory], but could create one for you, if important.”

There are seven reasons to be concerned about the IRS having more power, more money, and more guns:

1. IRS FAILS TO ENSURE ARMED AGENTS RECEIVE REQUIRED FIREARMS TRAINING

In order to carry or use an IRS-owned weapon, agents must: engage in handgun firing training at least once each quarter, shoot at least the minimum of 75 percentage points on the firearms qualifying test using the issued handgun during two nonconsecutive quarters, participate in biannual firearms building entry exercises, participate in an annual briefing on firearms safety and security policies and CI’s directives and procedures regarding the safe handling and storage of firearms, and participate in a briefing each quarter regarding the policy of discharging a firearm at a moving vehicle. 

CI’s National Criminal Investigation Training Academy (NCITA) is responsible for implementing the formalized firearms training and qualification program nationwide. This includes developing the firearm qualification requirements they are expected to meet and the training special agents will undergo. Despite these requirements, CI agents have regularly failed to stay up to date on training or report incidents, endangering the taxpayers they are supposed to protect. 

According to reports from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), the IRS has repeatedly failed to ensure that procedures relating to firearms are properly followed:

"there is no national-level review of firearms training records to ensure that all special agents meet the qualification requirements.”

Special agents are required to surrender their weapons when they fail to participate in this training, however this often does not happen.

As noted by the Inspector General:

"However, there is currently little consequence for special agents who fail to meet the training requirements listed on the checklist."

The Inspector General noted the IRS failed to secure the firearms of those who did not meet their requirements:

“controls did not ensure that CI personnel properly secured firearms when special agents failed to meet the biannual standard qualification requirement. CI was only able to provide evidence that firearms were surrendered in nine of the 27 instances when special agents did not qualify. The Criminal Investigation Management Information System was only updated to reflect the custody change in four of those nine instances.”

The Inspector General noted that the IRS lapses torpedo its ability to effectively try cases:

"Court decisions in the past have held law enforcement entities liable because their law enforcement agents did not have training that reflected the environment that they would likely encounter, such as training involving moving targets and low-light conditions. Other court decisions underscored the importance of properly documenting firearms training. One decision dismissed the claims against a law enforcement entity that maintained thorough records that showed the law enforcement personnel had been trained. Another decision upheld a jury’s conclusion that undocumented police training did not constitute adequate training."

The IRS failure to conduct proper internal oversight of its weapons could have grave consequences for the public. As noted by the Inspector General:

"If there is insufficient oversight, special agents in possession of firearms who are not properly trained and qualified could endanger other special agents and the public."

2. IRS AGENTS ACCIDENTALLY FIRE THEIR WEAPONS MORE OFTEN THAN THEY INTENTIONALLY FIRE THEM

A TIGTA report found that special agents at the IRS Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI) accidentally fired their weapons more often than they intentionally fired them: 

“According to documentation provided by all 26 CI field offices, the NCITA, and the TIGTA OI, there were a total of eight firearm discharges classified as intentional use of force incidents and 11 discharges classified as accidental during FYs 2009 through 2011.”

3. THE IRS CONCEALS DETAILS OF ACCIDENTAL GUN DISCHARGES

The agency's lackadaisical approach to firearm safety has led to easily preventable accidents. The Inspector General cryptically references IRS accidental discharges that caused "property damage or personal injury":

“In three of the four accidental discharges that were not reported, the accidental discharges may have resulted in property damage or personal injury.”

The details of these incidents are -- for some reason -- redacted in the report: 

IRS-CI management is required to be notified when a special agent discharges their weapon. CI must report all accidental discharge incidents externally to the TIGTA OI and internally to the NCITA and the Director of Field Operations. Despite these directives, CI did not always properly disclose accidental discharges:

“we found that four accidental discharges were not properly reported. This included two that were not reported to both to the TIGTA OI and the NCITA, one that was not reported to the TIGTA OI, and one that was not reported internally to the NCITA.”

4. IRS AGENTS DID NOT ALWAYS UNDERGO REMEDIAL TRAINING AFTER DISCHARGES DUE TO AGENT NEGLIGENCE 

Compounding their mistakes, agents did not always provide remedial training when an accidental discharge occurred. Even when they did undergo training, the standards remained wildly inconsistent. The Inspector General found that:

“two of the four use of force coordinators stated that they may require the special agent to participate in some type of remedial training, one stated that the special agent would be counseled, and one stated that there would be no additional training required."

5. THE IRS HAS A HISTORY OF VIOLATING BASIC DUE PROCESS RIGHTS

In a 2017 report, the IRS-CI was shown to have regularly violated taxpayers’ rights and skirted or ignored due process requirements when investigating taxpayers for allegedly violating the existing $10,000 currency transaction reporting requirements.  

TIGTA found that only 8 percent of investigations uncovered violations of tax law. In many cases, IRS-CI had not considered reasonable explanations from those investigated, property owners were not adequately informed of their rights nor informed of seizure of their property, and outcomes in cases lacked consistency, violating the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. 

6. IRS HAS APPALLING EVIDENCE STORAGE HABITS

The IRS Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI) was repeatedly found to leave critical evidence sitting around in break rooms, hallways and stacked outside cubicles, according to a report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). In addition, the report found that CI offices did not maintain an Evidence Access Control Log to record access to areas where evidence is stored:

During our walkthroughs at the CI offices, we observed that some sites had evidence placed in hallways, stacked outside cubicles, and in break rooms.  In addition, seven of the nine offices did not keep grand jury material in a separate, secure area.  The grand jury material was intermingled with non-grand jury evidence and other case file information.

The agency's careless approach to evidence storage has grave ramifications, as noted by the Inspector General:

In order for a seized item to be admissible as evidence, it is necessary to prove that the item is in the same condition as when it was seized.  If evidence is not stored properly, evidence may have been inappropriately disclosed, lost, tampered with, or stolen.  In addition, the chain of custody could be called into question, which could result in the item being deemed inadmissible in court.

The report suggests the IRS is an outlier in terms of its sloppy handling of evidence, compared to other federal law enforcement agencies:

In addition, we interviewed representatives from two other Federal law enforcement agencies to gain an understanding of how they maintained their chain of custody.  It was apparent from these interviews that both Federal agencies have an extensive chain of custody process.  For example, each agency limits access to the locked evidence room, which is maintained by an evidence custodian.  If evidence needs to be removed from the room, an agent must gain access through the evidence custodian and a record of that access is maintained.  This process helps ensure that evidence does not become lost or misplaced and helps keep the chain of custody from being broken.

Each IRS-CI special agent has the authority to investigate, inquire, and receive information. Of the investigative techniques available to agents, one of the most frequently used is the authority to conduct searches and issue search and seizure warrants.

The Federal Government is responsible for properly maintaining the chain of custody for any seized items. CI agents must be able to prove it is the same item that was seized and that the item is in the same condition as when it was seized in order for that seized item to be admissible as evidence.

Grand jury-related evidence must be kept separate from other non-grand jury evidence. Despite these clear directives, the CI has routinely ignored protocol, violating the rights of the taxpayers they are supposed to protect. 

7. IRS HAS CONDUCTED MANY ARMED RAIDS ON INNOCENT AMERICANS

In the late 1990s, the IRS came under scrutiny for the harsh tactics it used to enforce the tax code. With tens of billion in new funding, it is not hard to see how these abuses could return. 

A 1998 article by Washington Post noted many small business owners were harassed by the IRS, only for the agency to find no evidence of wrongdoing:

“An Oklahoma tax-return preparer, a Texas oilman and a Virginia restaurateur told lawmakers how raiding parties of armed agents from the IRS Criminal Investigation Division barged into their homes or offices, frightened their employees and families -- and ultimately came up empty-handed."

“Two of the men said they later found that former employees had precipitated the raids, and that the IRS had done little or no checking on their informants' credibility. The third witness said he never could determine why he was targeted.”

One man described over a dozen armed IRS officials raiding his offices, seizing business documents, and harassing clients and employees: 

“Richard Gardner, whose company prepares 4,500 to 6,000 tax returns each year, said that one morning in 1995, he was called out of a meeting. He found 15 IRS agents and a half-dozen U.S. marshals in his lobby, "all armed and wearing those jackets that say in bright letters IRS' or U.S. Marshal' on the back."

“They seized his client records, computers, personal papers and other files, he said, and held them for two years while the IRS investigation continued. Gardner was able to buy new computers and continue in business, but the damage to his business was extensive. He said IRS agents went to clients and demanded they wear hidden microphones when meeting with Gardner; they hauled his wife before a grand jury; and his employees were told they would be able to buy his business cheaply because he would be out of business soon.”

These were not isolated cases. A 1998 article by the New York Times described “military style raids” by IRS agents against taxpayers who were accused of nonviolent behavior. 

The Senate Finance Committee held a series of IRS oversight hearings in 1998. Among many witnesses to abuses carried out by armed IRS agents, a Virginia restaurant owner testified the following on April 29, 1998:

"Armed agents, accompanied by drug-sniffing dogs, stormed my restaurants during breakfast, ordered patrons out of the restaurant, and began interrogating my employees.

The IRS impounded my records, my cash registers, and my computers."

"When the raid occurred at my home, the front door was torn from the hinges, my dogs were impounded, along with my safe and 12 years of my personal income tax returns and supporting documents."

"While my restaurant and my home were being raided by armed agents of the Internal Revenue Service, a raid was also being conducted on the home of my manager. In that raid, my manager was pulled at gunpoint from the shower and forcibly restrained while he attempted to call an attorney. His teen-aged son was knocked to the floor.

His daughter, 14 years old at the time, had several friends over for a slumber party the night before. These young girls had to get dressed under the watchful eye of male agents, despite the presence of female agents. The IRS agent stood in the doorway to the bedroom, gun drawn, refusing these young girls even a semblance of privacy. We were never charged with any crimes."

Giving more money, power and guns to an agency with a terrible firearms safety record and a terrible due process record is alarming to law-abiding Americans.

Photo Credit: "A man fires a SIG Sauer P239 at an outdoor shooting range in Nevada." by Noah Wulf licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0


House Dems Should Not Force Vote on Socialist Tax and Spend Bill Without CBO Score

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Posted by Alex Hendrie on Monday, November 15th, 2021, 3:30 PM PERMALINK

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Democrat leadership want to force a vote on their socialist multi-trillion tax and spending bill this week even though the Congressional Budget Office has announced they will not release a score of the legislation until Friday.

To date, five House Democrats – Reps. Ed Case (D-Hawaii), Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) -- have said they want to see a CBO score before voting on this legislation.

To be clear, this massive legislation should be rejected. However, the least lawmakers can do is wait for a score given the complex interactions of many policies contained in the Democrat legislation.

While the cost of the plan is steep, we currently do not know exactly how much it costs because the Congressional Budget Office has not yet completed its score.

There is also significant uncertainty over how this massive, 2,000+ page bill will impact healthcare costs and access. Senate Democrats have suggested expanding drug price controls into the commercial market, which would only create greater uncertainty over the impacts this bill would have over the healthcare system.

Democrats are also pushing this legislation as significant uncertainty over the state of the economy persists. Inflation is at a 31-year high with the consumer price index increasing by 6.2 percent in October on an annualized basis.

Key household products have increased significantly in the past year. Gasoline has increased 49.6 percent in the past 12 months, while meats, poultry, and eggs have increased 11.9 percent in the past 12 months. Furniture and bedding have increased 12.0 percent, TVs have increased 10.4 percent, and bacon has increased 20.2 percent.

According to an analysis by Moody’s analytics, inflation is forcing a family with median household income of $70,000 to spend $175 more per month on essentials like food, fuel, and housing.

This erosion of purchasing power is especially concerning given that wages are decreasing. Real average hourly earnings for all employees decreased 0.5 percent from September to October, seasonally adjusted. In the past year, since October 2020, real average hourly earnings decreased 1.2 percent, seasonally adjusted.

The reconciliation bill also includes massive tax hikes on businesses, like the 15 percent global minimum tax, 15 percent domestic minimum tax, and a new surtax on adjusted gross income (AGI) that will hit pass through businesses. This, similarly, will be passed on to consumers through higher prices. According to a 2020 National Bureau of Economic Research paper, 31 percent of the corporate tax rate is borne by consumers through higher prices of goods and services. 

By an 81 to 19 margin, voters believe raising taxes on corporations will increase the cost of goods and services, according to a new poll conducted by HarrisX. 

The Democrat’s massive socialist multi-trillion-dollar legislation is a reckless piece of legislation. This bill should be rejected. However, simply being able to read the bill and know what it does should be the bare minimum requirement for legislation to be voted on.

Photo Credit: "SpaceX Crew-2 Launch (NHQ202104230027)" by NASA HQ PHOTO is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

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Up in Smoke: New Study Highlights Perils of Banning Flavored E-Cigarettes

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Posted by Michael Mirsky on Monday, November 15th, 2021, 2:25 PM PERMALINK

A new study highlights how restricting access to flavored nicotine vaping products would lead a significant number of vapers to switch back to smoking. The well-respected Addictive Behaviors Journal recently published a study examining the level of support and predictive behavioral responses to a hypothetical ban on non-tobacco flavored e-cigarettes among regular adult vapers. Most notably, the study found that, if a flavor ban were to be instituted, 17.1% of vapers would stop vaping and smoke instead. 

Despite the laudable goal of improving the health of adolescents, little if any evidence is available to suggest that banning non-tobacco flavored e-cigarettes would prevent young people from vaping. Additionally, restricting access to flavors has repercussions for adult vapers. The researchers noted that such restrictions could interfere with harm reduction potential for those who wish to use e-cigarettes as a cessation aid, or completely switch from cigarettes to e-cigarettes.

There is, however, evidence of the failures of implementing a flavor ban. In San Francisco, a ban on flavored tobacco products coincided with a sharp rise in cigarette smoking rates among youths, more than doubling the odds of young people engaging in the deadly habit. This should concern parents and lawmakers alike as e-cigarettes have been shown to be at least 95% less harmful than traditional cigarettes. Use of e-cigarettes among young adults, which should be discouraged, is clearly preferable to cigarette use. 

These distressing findings are an important reminder of the consequences of uninformed vaping policies. Lawmakers who seek to implement restrictive measures on e-cigarettes would be wise to heed the advice of the scientific community. The main findings of the study can be read below, while the full study is available here

Key Findings:

  • A ban on flavored e-cigarettes would cause 17.1% of vapers to switch back to traditional cigarettes. With 13 million vapers in the United States, this could result in 2,223,000 Americans switching from vaping to the more harmful alternatives. 

  • If a ban on flavored e-cigarettes were to be implemented, 28.3% of users “would find a way to get banned flavors,” meaning they would turn to the unsafe black market alternatives.  

  • Emphasizing the importance of vaping products as a form of smoking cessation, the researchers also found that 80% of vapers opposed banning non-tobacco flavored e-cigarettes, with support being especially high among ex-smokers who have already completely switched to vaping.

Lawmakers across the country are struggling to find evidence to justify the unnecessary restrictions that have been placed on these potentially life-saving products. Recent data has shown that teenagers are not drawn to vapes because of flavors, with only 5% of underage vapers saying it was the flavors that attracted them. Additionally, academic studies have found that teenage non-smokers “willingness to try plain versus flavored varieties did not differ”. 

Previous studies have also noted that an arbitrary ban on flavored e-cigarettes would be especially detrimental to adults who are trying to quit their deadly smoking habit. One such study, published in the prestigious Nicotine & Tobacco Research journal, found that smokers who use flavored vapes to quit are 43% more likely to succeed than someone using an unflavored or tobacco-flavored vape. 

This new research represents an important step toward fully understanding the public health benefits of vaping products. Politicians need to follow the science on vaping and encourage smokers to quit cigarette use, rather than push to restrict access to products that have proven critical in getting people to quit.

Photo Credit: "Blow vape clouds" by Sarah Johnson licensed under CC BY 2.0


Dems Include Tax Giveaway for Trial Lawyers in Socialist Spending Bill

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Posted by Isabelle Morales on Monday, November 15th, 2021, 10:50 AM PERMALINK

Democrats have included a tax break for trial lawyers in their multi-trillion-dollar socialist tax and spend bill. As noted by the Wall Street Journal editorial board, this provision would subsidize contingency fee cases and allow trial lawyers to launch frivolous lawsuits and drag out cases against businesses.

Currently, trial lawyers front these costs in return for a share of the client’s settlement or award. If they do not win the case or settle, trial lawyers can already write off the costs they fronted.

The provision included in the Democrats’ reconciliation bill would allow trial attorneys to deduct contingency-fee expenses including costs spent on depositions, discovery, expert testimonies, and more. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), this provision would cost $2.5 billion over 10 years.

As noted by the WSJ, this will incentivize trial lawyers to drag out cases and launch frivolous new lawsuits with the confidence that they will receive a tax break:

“By reducing trial lawyers’ legal costs, it would effectively subsidize contingency-fee cases. Lawyers will be more likely to file dubious lawsuits and drag out cases if they can immediately deduct their expenses. This is a direct income transfer to plaintiffs' lawyers, who will turn around and finance Democratic election campaigns. It’s the definition of a corrupt political bargain.”

Nearly 95 percent of lawyers’ political donations go to Democrats. The top trial lawyer lobby, the American Association for Justice, directs over 97 percent of its political contributions to Democrats.  

This is just one of many giveaways Democrats have included in their mammoth multi-trillion tax and spending bill. Democrats have also included provisions for their other favored special interests including big labor, green energy, and the media:

  • The bill includes a massive $12,500 tax credit for electric vehicles. However, the bill dictates that in order to receive $4,500 of the $12,500 electric vehicle credit, an EV must be union-made.   
       
  • The bill also includes an above-the-line deduction for up to $250 in “dues” to a labor organization, including the portion of “dues” directed to political campaign spending. This is a conflict of interest as Big Labor gives most of its political contributions to Democrats and progressive causes.   
       
  • The legislation includes a credit equal to 30 percent of the cost of an electric bicycle. It allows up to $3,000 of the cost of an “e-bike” to be taken into account for the credit, creating a credit of $900 for individuals. E-bikes costing as much as $4,000 would be eligible for the credit. The bill would allow for a married couple earning $150,000 to buy two new electric bikes every year and claim up to $7,200 in e-bike credits.   
       
  • The plan includes multi-billion-dollar grants and credits for the promotion of “environmental justice,” and the "green workforce."   
       
  • The bill even includes a tax giveaway to reporters. The proposal creates a tax credit for up to 1,500 employees per media company – including television and radio broadcasters, news websites and newspaper chains. It gives an employment tax credit of up to $12,500 per person for reporters at “eligible” media companies. In addition to the conflict of interest created by giving reporters a special tax carveout, large media companies will get an enormous tax cut. As reported by the Associated Press: “Gannett, one of the nation’s largest remaining newspaper chains, could gain as much as $127.5 million over five years, according to an analysis by the AP.”

 

Unfortunately, Democrats have used their reconciliation bill as a massive payout to left wing special interests. Lawmakers should reject this bill and all its shameless giveaways.  

Photo Credit: "Legal Gavel & Open Law Book" by Blogtrepreneur is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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