This article originally appeared in Human Events on July 23, 2014
It’s often cliché to say that history repeats itself. But when it happens over and over again, cliché becomes reality. History is currently repeating itself when it comes to transportation funding and earmarks. The Transportation Trust Fund is set to run out in August and some members of Congress are anxious to exploit that issue to allow the return of unfettered pork spending. Earlier this year Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) suggested bringing back earmarks. Now former Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kansas), who is vying for his old congressional seat, has joined Sen. Durbin in publicly supporting the return of earmarks, as well. This comes as no surprise considering that Sen. Durbin and former Rep. Tiahrt were major appropriators during the heyday of runway spending. Unfortunately, the transportation bill just may be the vehicle that opens the door to allow the return of earmarks.
The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has been very busy over the last few months dealing with spectrum and net neutrality. They have also been busy with another issue, government broadband. In April, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler made his intentions clear to ensure that government broadband would not only be here to stay, but that under his FCC, would flourish. The latest development that began much of the renewed discussion was an amendment that passed the House last week. The amendment was introduced by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) meant to rein in the FCC’s power in their attempt to force states into government broadband expansion. Reacting to Rep. Blackburn’s amendment, there are some who chimed in on this issue siding with Wheeler saying that expansion is important and that critics are wrong. For example, Brian Fung in the Washington Postwrote last week warned of a possible ban on “public internet.” That’s nonsense because nobody is trying to ban anything from the public. The real problem here is that government broadband is a lackluster substitute for a private sector product that not only works better, but actually ends up costing less for the consumer (and taxpayer).
Ireland's government recently took steps toward becoming the first EU country to require plain packaging for tobacco products, and the UK would like to follow its lead. In light of recent reports coming out of Australia, the only country to enact the measure, showing the law is not achieving its intended effects, it is paramount these governments reconsider.Free market and taxpayer groups are concerned about the consequences of such extreme laws, not just in terms of health and safety of consumers, but their impact on national treasuries. As reported in the Sun newspaper the UK Government faces a potential compensation bill of between £9-11 billion if it proceeds with the removal of internationally protected trademarks and intellectual property. Already Indonesia is threatening to introduce plain packaging for beers, wines and spirits. And if other countries followed their lead this could have a significant effect on the Britain’s £38 billion alcohol industry which directly employs around 650,000 people. But the Ireland and the UK still have a chance to stop this bad policy.
This article originally appeared in Townhall.com on July 11, 2014
The American people are continuing to struggle with economic uncertainty and are perplexed as to what it’s going to take to turn the economy around. Recent Department of Commerce (DOC) figures are depressing and don’t help for optimism as consumer spending suffered a 0.1 percent decrease in May, adjusting for inflation. This comes on the heels of a 0.2 percent drop in April. It’s no wonder that Americans are reluctant to part with their hard-earned money given the state of the economy at large. Last week, we were treated to yet another grim reminder that our so-called “recovery” is more like anything but. According to DOC’s most recent review of the data, the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) shrank 2.9 percent in the first quarter of 2014. GDP is critically important because it measures the market value of the goods and services produced by a nation. And while 2.9 percent may not seem like a massive drop, it happens to be the worst such contraction in five years.
Whether it is the Environmental Protection Agency ‘s (EPA) ‘sue & settle’ or the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) proposed rules on ‘net neutrality’, it seems that the only way that this administration knows how to get things done is through increased regulation and power grabs. Now, Congress is taking aim at one of the more unsettling examples of this abuse of executive power being run through the Department of Justice (DOJ) with Operation Choke Point. In 2013, the DOJ began the program known as Operation Choke Point as an expansion of an existing program born out of the financial crisis designed to tackle fraud in the financial services sector. However, few details were known before this year. But, back in January, Michael Patrick Leahy with Breitbartbroke the story wide open and that’s when Congress and the press started to pay attention. More importantly, more questions were asked. More information is being uncovered regarding Operation Choke Point and it isn’t pretty, in fact it’s disconcerting to anyone who is concerned with the types of targeted power that other federal agencies have been employing under the Obama administration.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler with President Obama (courtesy WhiteHouse.gov)
The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) has long been warning against ‘net neutrality’ and increased regulatory initiatives on the Internet stressing the belief that a light regulatory footprint by the government is what has allowed for such innovation and expansive commerce and economic output by way of the Internet. Today, TPA President David Williams submitted a public comment (view here) regarding a draft proposal for new rules on open Internet policy from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) including the possibility of a reclassification of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) under Title II, which would most certainly result in more regulation and more government control over the Internet. The FCC has received such a massive amount of feedback from the public on this issue that the comment period has been extended and TPA strongly encourages our supporters to go to the FCC’s website here and submit their own comment for the #14-28 proceeding.
Click 'read more' below to see TPA's comment submission
This afternoon, Congress took a major step forward in stopping Internet access taxes for good by passing the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act (see House bill here) on a voice vote. Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) urged all members of the House of Representatives to vote YES on the measure and we are pleased that the bill can now move forward and have the Senate take action on their own bill (here is the Senate version) . TPA, and the Internet Tax Freedom Act Coalition (ITFA) have been working hard to focus on the importance of keeping the internet tax free. With November approaching and the tax moratorium set to expire, it is imperative that Senate follow the House's lead and take action and pass bipartisan legislation to prevent Internet access taxes from becoming a reality. Americans must be assured they will never be taxed just for going online. Just a few weeks ago, TPA's Michi Iljazi was on the National Mall interviewong folks from all over the country and this point could not be more clear: Americans do not want new taxes on the Internet. Watch the video here and read this bipartisan letter below the video from a wide number of organizations urging Congress to pass the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act. TPA is thrilled with this news and now implores the Senate act!
September 30th is the day of reckoning for the Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank because that is the day that the Bank’s authorization expires. And, as this day approaches, Ex-Im’s supporters will continue to grasp at every straw possible – no matter how thin – as they try to defend this flawed, outdated institution. We can expect to see crony capitalists of all stripes come out of the woodwork to remind us why the Ex-Im Bank must be preserved at all costs. Unfortunately for the Bank – but fortunately for the American taxpayer – the pro-Ex-Im arguments keep getting eviscerated one by one when forced to stand up to independent analysis. Most recently, the notion propagated by Big Business that the Export-Import Bank works to “level the playing field” by counteracting other countries’ “aggressive” export financing has come under scrutiny. The Wall Street Journal ran an editorial that argued for “pulling the plug on the Export-Import Bank,” and Big Business, doubtless horrified to read such heresy, scrambled to fire back. The presidents of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers wrote a joint response in which they defended Ex-Im’s role of “providing a counterweight to the official export credit agencies maintained by 60 nations.”
Winston Churchill said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” That saying is as relevant to Washington today as it was during Churchill’s time. Back in 2009, with the country still in turmoil from the financial crisis, then White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel echoed the notion that when the country is in crisis politicians should use that crisis to do things they may not normally be able to do. This type of cynical and opportunistic approach to politics is probably just one of the many reasons why so many people have so little faith in our political institutions. The problems on the border are shaping up to be another opportunity for the President and Congress to turn a humanitarian crisis on the border into a fiscal crisis. President Obama submitted a $3.7 billion supplemental spending bill for measures that would (according to the Administration) constitute an aggressive approach to this problem. The White House released a statement calling on Congress to approve the spending with the President saying, "I urge the Congress to act expeditiously in considering this important request."
The clock is running out on the legislative calendar for 2014, with the August recess fast approaching and the midterm elections around the corner there isn’t much time left for Congress to act on important issues facing the country. One such issue is tax reform, but not all the talk has been welcome news for taxpayers. Though leaders on Capitol Hill have had discussions as well as some substantive proposals, including one from House Ways & Means Chairman Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), there’s still not much taxpayers are seeing out of Congress on comprehensive tax reform. Keeping that in mind, TPA led a coalition in sending this letter to leaders on both the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee urging them that any tax reform Congress decides to do should be done in a way that benefits taxpayers, as opposed to any minimal changes to the tax code (corporate or otherwise) that would be used to pay for special projects. Tax reform shouldn’t be a vessel for politicians to find more ways to spend taxpayer dollars, it should be done to broaden the base and save individual taxpayers money across the board. TPA was joined by American Commitment, Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform, Center for Individual Freedom, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, Frontiers of Freedom, Hispanic Leadership Fund, Independent Women's Forum, Independent Women's Voice, Less Government, Log Cabin Republicans, National Taxpayers Union, R Street Institute, Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, and Taxpayers for Common Sense in telling Congress to stay away from attempts at tax reform that would simply be done to give Washington more money to spend and we urge all taxpayers to tell their representatives in both chambers of Congress the same.