Stehekin River Valley, WA (courtesy Wikimedia Commons)
This article appeared in The Daily Caller on October 22, 2014
Politicians in Washington State are receiving a rude awakening. They jumped through hoops to offer massive tax incentives to Boeing, their “hometown hero” corporation founded in Seattle in 1916, and in return, the company uprooted thousands of Washington jobs and moved them to the Midwest. In this round of political gamesmanship, the Olympia operators got hoodwinked by the corporate bigwigs. Of course, anyone who has followed Boeing’s feeding at the trough of the taxpayer-funded Export Import (Ex-Im) Bank and their recent lobbying efforts at the national level knows this is only par for the course. It’s easy to understand Washington state politicos’ cozy relationship with Boeing – even putting aside the obvious allure of the aviation giant’s free-flowing campaign cash. The company’s roots in the state are indeed very deep. It was born in the boathouse of one William Boeing, a former Yale engineering student who set out to build his own seaplane and took it on a test flight by himself. That humble first flight spawned a company that employs nearly 170,000 people around the world, including 81,000 in Washington State. They pulled in more than $86 billion in revenue last year. It’s not surprising that local elected officials would want to keep them happy.
The Department of Defense has long been seen as one of the primary areas where reform is needed when it comes to how taxpayer money is spent. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) has highlighted not only the wasteful spending practices that exist in the Pentagon, but there is also the fact that transparency and accountability at the agency is lacking and has been for quite some time. Unfortunately, another example of waste and mismanagement has been uncovered showing once again that taxpayers aren’t being best served by DOD. Andrea Shalal of Reuters reported in early October on a fleet of planes for Afghanistan, which came courtesy of American taxpayers, is being sold for scrap.
Kathleen Sebelius, Dr. Francis Collins, President Obama (courtesy nih.gov)
The recent developments on the Ebola crisis in West Africa have impacted the US in some troubling ways as there have been multiple potential cases reported over the last few weeks. In Dallas, Texas there have been multiple confirmed cases of Ebola and around the country there have been many who have been tested for the virus. The politics of Ebola have begun to take hold and you see many looking to take aim for who is to blame for the response by both the federal and state officials. Unfortunately, there is great deal of hypocrisy and theatrics in much of the blame game. Nobody should be taken more to task than National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins, who leveled an unfounded attack on why the agency has been less than prepared on the response to the recent cases of Ebola here in the US. Last week, Dr. Collins told the Huffington Post that stagnant federal spending has led to a delay in having a vaccine ready to combat Ebola.
The evolution of the cellular phone has come a long way, so much so that what consumers use their phones for has become a crucial part of how many of us go about our daily lives. Unfortunately with that innovation and advancement in technology that has taken us from the flip phones of yesterday to the smartphones of today, comes a heavy tax burden from federal and state government. Regardless of what state someone resides in, they’re paying excessive taxes for something that has become commonplace in their life. On October 8, the Tax Foundation released a study that examines wireless tax rates for each of the fifty states. Joseph Henchman of The Tax Foundation and Economist Scott Mackey, authors of Wireless Taxation in the United States 2014, give plenty of information to sift through in this report.
The tone in Washington can be described as one of gridlock, and though that isn’t always a bad thing it can certainly cause some to be wary when issues that are bad for taxpayers or states’ rights begin to gain traction. One issue that continues to pop up is the move to pass a federal ban on Internet gambling. There have been voices speaking up on this debate and there have also been interesting alliances formed, leaving no doubt that more activity will arise as this issue progresses in the near future. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) has already laid out specific concerns regarding any move on a possible federal ban and why it would be the wrong way to go regarding this issue. Preventing states from making their own decision on this issue, and using federal law as a means to regulate the Internet are two of the most obvious problems. Many have looked at the issue but there is a new study by Michelle Minton of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) that should renew interest and attention to this issue. Minton’s study is a detailed look at the Wire Act of 1961, and how it fits in with what proponents of the federal ban on Internet gambling are attempting to do, including legislation (S. 2159: Restoration of America’s Wire Act) that was introduced in committee earlier this year.
Drew Johnson is a Senior Fellow with The Taxpayers Protection Alliance
After booting the public from its meetings on Monday, the World Health Organization’s tobacco control convention ramped up its assault on transparency on Tuesday when the press was also banned from the Moscow conference. Shortly after the media was removed from the convention, the United Nations’ health agency secretly passed the world’s first ever global tax – an outrageous scheme requiring nearly 180 countries to apply a minimum tax on tobacco products. All indications were that the global tobacco tax would not pass until Thursday or Friday, if at all. Without the public and the media there to watch, delegates ratified the tax almost immediately. When I, and a handful of other accredited journalists, showed up for a Tuesday morning press briefing, we were told that the briefing was cancelled and the press was no longer allowed to attend any convention events at all. The rest of the convention, which cost world taxpayers nearly $20 million, will now take place in secret, behind closed doors. It’s a chilling and disturbing attack on the freedom of the press – especially given the impact decisions made at the convention will have on people throughout the world.
A version of this op-ed ran in The Washington Times
A tobacco reduction conference hosted by the World Health Organization, the United Nation’s public health agency, took a hostile and alarming turn on Monday when the public was kicked out of the meeting. The tyrannical attack on the principles of transparency and accountability took place when delegates from more than 175 countries who are part of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a UN global anti-tobacco treaty, agreed unanimously to boot spectators. Delegates then voted to ban the public from the Moscow conference center where the event is taking place for the duration of the week-long meeting.
The federal government has a nasty habit of inserting itself into the marketplace when it is neither wanted nor needed. Many times their involvement harms private sector stakeholders who are at a limited capacity when it comes to the advanatages the federal government has in order to cripple private competition, regardless of the usual lower quality service the government provides at taxpayer expense. Recently the United States Postal Service (USPS) announced plans to expand their grocery delivery service beyond current markets and sought public opinion on the proposal. Last week, Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) submitted comments
to the Postal Regulatory Commission on this matter and pointed out the unfair advantages, sorry financial state of the agency, and lack of clarity for how this will impact the marketplace and the US Postal Service.
Click 'read more' below to see the full comment
Beginning next week in Moscow, the World Health Organization’s COP6 (the sixth session of the Conference of the Parties) will be held in Moscow, Russian Federation from October 13-18. There are many issues that will be on the agenda for this international event, but there are some issues in particular that the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) will be keeping a close watch on to see what develops out of the meeting. One issue in particular is taxation, as there are those who may be seeking to introduce new taxes or have a ‘harmonizing’ of tax rates beyond sovereign borders. Keeping that in mind, TPA signed onto an International Coalition Letter expressing direct opposition to any of those types of proposals that may come from the European Union (EU), the United Nations (UN) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Click 'read more' below to read the full letter
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Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett
States are constantly looking for ways to get more money from taxpayers, and no matter how many times a tax increase fails to generate the desired result, we see this tactic repeated over and over again. Unfortunately, now comes yet another disappointment from a state legislature looking to fix problems with budget shortfalls. Lawmakers in Pennsylvania recently moved in a bipartisan manner to increase cigarette taxes by $2 with the approval of the state’s Republican Governor. The move comes under the heading of aiding a troubled education sector in Philadelphia. While there’s nothing wrong with improving education standards for children in areas where the improvement is needed, the way in which those reforms are achieved can become problematic. The tax increase the Governor signed is designed to fund the school district to help Philadelphia public schools but the negative impact that tax increases can have may end up putting the state in real jeopardy of falling short in terms of fulfilling their commitment to the schools and students in that district. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) has been a vocal critic of this type of tax increase and there is reason to show why it can actually do more harm than good on multiple levels.