Led by Heritage Action For America, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance joined with other taxpayers and free-market organizations representing millions of individuals across the nation to oppose wasteful spending in the Farm Bill. The Senate and House appear ready to start legislative work on the Farm Bill as early as this week, and it is important to call attention to the habitual waste of money that has become too commonplace in the Farm Bill. There is tremendous need for reform. Current subsidy programs are rooted in the 1930s, when prices for crops and livestock bottomed out and farm families were desperate for income. Agriculture today could not be more different. Farmers are pulling in record-high levels of income and carrying record-low levels of debt. Technology has eliminated many of the risks that once plagued farming, and the profitability of crops that go without subsidies demonstrates that independent agriculture is viable. So there is just no way to justify funneling tens of billions of dollars to farmers who, by and large, are better off than most of the taxpayers who are shelling out the subsidies. The letter highlights twelve of the most egregious examples of waste to taxpayers. The groups are urging both Chambers of Congress to not continue to spend trillions of dollars on what amounts to simply a laundry list of “subsidies, welfare payments, and environmental patronage.”
(The following op-ed first appeared in Roll Call on May 7, 2013) The Environmental Protection Agency is always looking for ways to expand its power and scope. That’s not exactly news in Washington and not dissimilar to most federal bureaucracies. But unlike many other agencies, the EPA has figured out a way to completely eschew government transparency and circumvent the traditional regulatory process in a way that needlessly spends more taxpayer dollars. This unconventional tactic, known as “sue and settle,” works when the EPA and a like-minded group, such as the Environmental Working Group, coordinate a lawsuit between each other where there is no aggrieved party. The court then quickly adopts a pre-arranged settlement. In addition to undermining the adversarial litigation process, that settlement paves the way for new regulations that are favored by the environmental groups and the EPA — such as tougher emission standards for fossil fuels.
The history of Obamacare so far has been a very rocky road with very little hope of stabilizing. The crafting of the legislation, the passage of the bill, and the Supreme Court challenge, and now the costly rollout and implementation have been marked by hurdle after hurdle and sometimes from very unlikely source. The latest news out of the nation’s capital regarding Obamacare is word that members of Congress are allegedly seeking bipartisan deal that would allow themselves and their staff to be “exempted” from that law. According to Politico, “Congressional leaders in both parties are engaged in high-level, confidential talks about exempting lawmakers and Capitol Hill aides from the insurance exchanges they are mandated to join as part of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, sources in both parties said.” While many would doubt this on its face, the fact is that there have been many instances of “waivers” being granted to particular industries when it came to who would have to follow the rules as outlined in the 1,000-page Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
On April 3, 2013 the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, through an initiative led by Americans for Tax Reform, joined with more than 40 other free market and taxpayer groups to support Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) and Rep. John Duncan (R-Tenn.) bill to create the Committee to Reduce Government Waste. This bill signals a serious step toward reforming federal spending and provides prudent lawmakers with an important tool to decrease the size of government. The letter points out that the Committee to Reduce Government Waste is not a new idea—in fact, the committee existed first in the 77th Congress after it was proposed by Senator Harry F. Byrd Sr. (D-Va.). Named after its creator, the “Byrd Committee” was tasked solely with cutting unnecessary and redundant federal programs and was able to enact real reform—the Committee netted over $38 billion in savings (in adjusted dollars) in its first few years of existence. The bickering over the past few months over a two percent cut in federal spending shows that fiscal restraint is hard to come by. Institutional changes, such as implementing a committee focused only on cutting spending, is the only way to ensure lasting reform for taxpayers. Passage of this legislation will be a serious step forward in advancing spending cuts and finally give taxpayers a much-needed congressional voice.
On March 11, 2013, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance joined with 15 other taxpayer and free market groups to oppose S. 336, the “Marketplace Fairness Act.” S. 336 would countenance an enormous expansion in state tax collection authority by wiping away the “physical presence standard,” a baseline protection that shields taxpayers from harassment by out-of-state collectors. The bill would create a decidedly “unlevel” playing field between brick-and-mortar and online sales. Brick-and-mortar sales across the country are governed by a simple rule that allows the business to collect sales tax based on its physical location, not that of the item’s buyer. Under the “Marketplace Fairness Act,” that convenient collection standard would be denied for online sales, forcing remote retailers to interrogate their customers about their place of residence, look up the appropriate rules and regulations in thousands of taxing jurisdictions across the country, and then collect and remit sales tax for that distant authority.
For once Washington takes a step in the right direction, but keep your excitement reserved. Much remains to be seen about just how far House Speaker John Boehner’s efforts to reform our tax code will actually go but credit should be given to Speaker Boehner who took the first step towards making this happen when he announced that “he will push major reform of the tax code by reserving pole position — H.R. 1 — for that massive legislative undertaking. Again, don’t get too excited or think the battle is over yet. The troops haven’t even gotten on the ground yet. The Hill article reminds us of a very important fact: “Designating tax reform as H.R. 1 far from ensures that it will become law this year, or even that it will make its way through the House.” While this is certainly true, this reality calls all pro-taxpayer groups to join together and keep Boehner to his promise. There’s much to undertake when it comes to crafting a good, extensive restructuring of our current, disastrous, burdensome tax code, but the fact is you can’t begin to have a conversation until the subject is at the very least on the table. And that’s what Speaker Boehner has done. Now let’s just hope this symbolic gesture moves beyond a sheet of paper and prompts action on a significant under-hauling of our nation’s tax code. In an attempt to encourage Congressional action on this issue, Taxpayers Protection Alliance suggests that one area of tax reform that should get particular attention is corporate tax reform.
On February 14, 2013, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance joined with nine other taxpayer and free market groups to urge Congress to take common sense steps to reform federal supports for agriculture and save taxpayers at least $100 billion over the next decade. The 113th Congress has a prime opportunity to reduce the federal government’s meddling in the agricultural sector while helping to pay down our $16 trillion national debt. A number of common sense steps can be taken to create a more accountable, responsive, and cost-effective agricultural policy. Despite the 2012 drought being one of the most severe in history, the agriculture industry “suffered” with near-record profits. Given today’s extraordinarily high commodity prices and farm profits and our monumental fiscal crisis, agriculture subsidies should be reduced by at least $100 billion over the next decade. Federal supports for agriculture must be evaluated on their own merits. Though explosive growth in nutrition programs, particularly the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), must be addressed, that discussion must not be used to sidetrack necessary reforms to federal subsidies to agricultural businesses. Congress must consider changing the law under which America operates in the absence of a new farm bill. The current fallback, the horribly outdated Agricultural Act of 1949, forces taxpayers to decide between Farm Bills with inadequate reforms or reverting to even more detrimental World War II-era law.
In the culmination of the fiscal cliff talks and despite what politicians said, taxes increased for all working Americans. Now is the time for all taxpayers to join together and seize the opportunity to pursue the long overdue reform to our nation’s tax code. Fortunately, some members of Congress agree and understand the need for change. In a Politico op-ed from last week, Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) wrote, “Our tax code has become an obstacle to growth, and only a robust, growing economy can create the new jobs (and future tax revenues) that we need.” Senator Portman also stated that, “Since 2001, taxes on everything from salaries and small business income to investment earnings and gifts have been temporary — a source of economic uncertainty and perennial fiscal fights. New permanent rates create a clear starting point for tax reform and end disputes over the baseline that have vexed past reform attempts.” Another problem with the shenanigans of the past several years is the significant uncertainty Washington’s game playing imposes on businesses. With so many unknowns, businesses are cautious about making large investments (and creating new jobs in the process) for future gains because they lack any assurance that Congress won’t change the tax rates with its next whim.
As many people may know by now, the House of Representatives passed the Senate version of the fiscal cliff bill with the vote occurring just before midnight on January 1, 2013. There were no changes to the Senate-passed bill so the same tax increases and spending increases were passed. Let’s take a short trip down memory lane. The bill extends the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts for individuals making less than $400,000 and families making less than $450,000. In addition, the payroll tax cut will expire meaning that payroll taxes will increase from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent, a real tax increase on the Middle Class. The real kick in the wallet is a two-month delay in the automatic spending cuts (sequestration). As reported by Breitbart.com, “According to the Congressional Budget Office, the last-minute fiscal cliff deal reached by congressional leaders and President Barack Obama cuts only $15 billion in spending [a revised Congressional Budget Office estimate pegs the number at $25 billion] while increasing tax revenues by $620 billion—a 41:1 ratio of tax increases to spending cuts.” Click here here for a full list of provisions as reported by Politico. With a $1 trillion deficit and a debt that has eclipsed $16 trillion, the lack of spending cuts is shameful. Even if all the revenue is used for deficit reduction (which it likely won’t be), the total impact to the $1.1 trillion deficit will be $63.5 billion (if no more spending cuts are approved and the sequestration is avoided).
Many people are accustomed to waking up on January 1 with a headache. This year taxpayers woke up to not only the usual headache from a night of excess, but also a headache from the excesses of Congress and the President. In the early morning hours of today (January 1, 2013) the Senate passed a bill to soften the blow of going over the fiscal cliff. In reality, the bill may do more harm than good. The bill extends the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts for individuals making less than $400,000 and families making less than $450,000. In addition, the payroll tax cute will expire meaning that payroll taxes will increase from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent, a real tax increase on the Middle Class. The real kick in the wallet is a two-month delay in the automatic spending cuts (sequestration). As reported by Breitbart.com, “According to the Congressional Budget Office, the last-minute fiscal cliff deal reached by congressional leaders and President Barack Obama cuts only $15 billion in spending while increasing tax revenues by $620 billion—a 41:1 ratio of tax increases to spending cuts.” UPDATE (3:00 pm): The Congressional Budget Office has pegged the spending cuts at $25 billion. Click here here for a full list of provisions as reported by Politico. With a $1 trillion deficit and a debt that has eclipsed $16 trillion, the lack of spending cuts is shameful. Even if all the revenue is used for deficit reduction (which it likely won’t be), the total impact to the $1.1 trillion deficit will be $64.5 billion (if no more spending cuts are approved and the sequestration is avoided).