On July 31st, the authority for federal highway payments to states, aka the Highway Bill, will expire. If not reauthorized, this lapse of funding would threaten one of the essential programs necessary to keeping commerce running, transportation funding. Congress brought the country to this brink because a major transportation bill has not been passed since 2005. Instead, Congress has dodged deadlines with short-term stopgap bills since 2009 to keep transportation money flowing to the states. While some are making the case to allow states to have more control of highway funding, the mechanisms are not yet in place to make this possible. Even though a short-term funding bill is not the best solution, it is considerably better than trying top pass a 1,000-page bill with the clock ticking before the authorization expires. Even though the question of raising the gas tax has been a major roadblock to long-term reauthorization in the past, a new problem, the reauthorization of the Export Import (Ex-Im) Bank, has thrown the process into disarray.
A verision of this article originally appeared in The Daily Caller on July 15, 2015
Despite a frustrating ruling from the Supreme Court that kept the state and federal subsidies intact for the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), there are still opportunities to chip away at some of the law’s more damaging provisions, including many of the taxes that were put in place to help offset some of the financial costs of Obamacare. Many of those taxes – which aren’t generating the promised revenue – shouldn’t have been created in the first place, and are now wreaking havoc on the economy. Even though a full repeal of Obamacare may not be realistic, Congress does have the ability to remove components of Obamacare that have bipartisan opposition. One such component is the tanning tax. Currently, there is legislation in the House of Representatives sponsored by Rep. George Holding (R-N.C.) to repeal the tanning tax, H.R.2698, the “Tanning Tax Repeal Act of 2015.” The bill is a simple one-page piece of legislation that eliminates the tanning tax on indoor tanning salons. The bipartisan bill has 30 cosponsors, including Brad Ashford (D-Neb.) and Collin Peterson (D-Minn.). The 10 percent tax on indoor tanning is the perfect example of a tax not generating the revenue promised. In 2010, the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) projected that the new tax would generate $1 billion between 2010-2014. The IRS reports that the tax only produced $86.3 million in fiscal year (FY) 2011, $91.5 million in FY 2012, and $92 million in both FY 2013 and FY 2014 – a total of only $362 million. With a difference of $600 million, those numbers are far from what was expected.
World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Director General Dr. Francis Gurry, 2011
Intellectual Property (IP) continues to play an important role in boosting economic growth, and with more than 40 million jobs in the United States directly and indirectly attributable to IP intensive industries, it is important to make sure that policymakers know how serious all stakeholders are about protecting IP rights. Protecting those rights is not only important here at home but also it is important all over the globe, and right now world leaders are preparing to finalize a major international trade deal known as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). So what better time to remind them of the importance of protecting IP rights? With that in mind, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance joined with the Property Rights Alliance and more than 80 other organizations representing more than 50 countries signing this coalition letter sent to the Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Dr. Francis Gurry. The letter lays out the case for protecting intellectual property rights and not just here in the United States, but around the entire world.
Click 'read more' below to see the full letter
Patent litigation reform continues to be an issue that requires the attention of our elected leaders in Washington. Protecting intellectual property is a core government function that helps grow the economy and benefits both taxpayers and consumers. One of the pressing problems with patents right now and more so patent litigation are so-called “patent trolls” and how abuses of these patent trolls continues to corrupt the legal system with junk lawsuits that harm innovation and prevent real competition and expansion of the free-market that help generate a boost for the economy. Just last week, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) signed a coalition letter urging Congress to act on patent litigation reform, specifically the Innovation Act, H.R. 9, introduced earlier this year by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va). Protecting Intellectual Property (IP) is important to helping the economy, taxpayers, consumers, and businesses; and reforming the patent litigation system should be a part of those efforts.
Click 'read more' below to see the full letter
It usually takes awhile for a new member of Congress (especially a senator) to get comfortable in their job. This is not the case for Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.). Just six months into his first term in the U.S. Senate, Sen. Tillis (R-NC) has proven to be a strong advocate for federal, state and local taxpayers. Earlier this year, Sen. Tillis introduced a bill that would prevent the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from overturning state municipal broadband laws. This is noteworthy because Sen. Tillis is from North Carolina, a state that had its own law on municipal broadband struck down by an FCC ruling in February. Sen. Tillis argued that his bill – and state municipal broadband laws, in general – are necessary to protect taxpayers. He noted that, “After witnessing how some local governments wasted taxpayer dollars and accumulated millions in debt through poor decision making, the legislatures of states like North Carolina and Tennessee passed commonsense, bipartisan laws that protect hardworking taxpayers and maintain the fairness of free-market competition.” This is significant because Sen. Tillis was a member of the North Carolina legislature when the state’s municipal broadband law was passed, so he has first hand knowledge of both the importance of and noble motivations behind the legislation. In support of Sen. Tillis, several North Carolina state lawmakers have rightly spoken out in favor of their former colleague’s efforts to preserve the Tar Heel State’s law.
Intellectual Property (IP) is critical to driving our economy forward in a positive way, and one industry where this couldn’t be more applicable is in music. In today’s current landscape, the rules do not afford any rights for a performer to his or her product in terrestrial radio (any radio station received by a signal rather than the Internet). There are some in Congress who want to keep it that way, and the harmful H. Con. Res. 17, Supporting the Local Radio Freedom Act (LRFA), keeps the current system in place, undermining the intellectual property of musical performers. Taxpayers Protection Alliance opposes LRFA and believe it is important to make sure intellectual property is protected, which is why TPA came out in support of H.R. 1733, the “Fair Play Fair Pay Act of 2015” (see the bill here) was introduced in Congress by Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Marcia Blackburn (R-Tenn.), John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.). This bill would ensure that terrestrial radio stations pay performers when their content is broadcast on air (like satellite and internet radio). TPA signed onto a coalition letter earlier this year opposing LRFA, and we continue to urge lawmakers in Congress to stand against H. Con. Res. 17.
Click 'read more' below to see the full letter
This article originally appeared in The Hill on July 9, 2015
Well, the big day has come to pass: the Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank of the United States has officially expired, and miraculously the world has not ended. Despite months of speculation and threats of chaos, the day went by with little fanfare. As Congress returns from their Fourth of July recess, seven influential Republican senators are calling for plans for an “orderly liquidation” of the bank when they get back. Boeing’s reaction to the bank’s expiration was, interestingly enough, to raise prices for their jetliners. Why would a mammoth corporation apparently “concerned” about their ability to export their wide-bodied aircraft overseas respond to the bank’s closure by making their planes even more expensive? Possibly because they know that their exporting ability is, and always has been, overwhelmingly secure — with or without the bank. Despite threats and hysteria building up to June 30, the stocks of some of the bank’s biggest loan recipients – Boeing, Caterpillar and General Electric – barely registered the change.
Roodstown Castle, Co. Louth, Ireland (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)
Sometimes being able to say “I told you so” isn’t a victory, especially when the prediction would have a negative impact on taxpayers and consumers. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) has been sounding the alarm on various attempts by governments around the globe to institute plain packaging policies for tobacco. Many times those warnings have also come with the expressed concern that these types of policies would be just the beginning of far more aggressive attempts to regulate the packaging of other products like alcohol and sugary foods. Unfortunately, that prediction appears to have been correct, at least in the case of Ireland with their desire to plain package alcohol. In March of this year, Ireland became the first country in Europe, and the second country in the world, to adopt plan packaging for tobacco products. The official adoption of plain packaging in Ireland was a major loss for intellectual property, taxpayers, and preventing further illicit trade and black market activity of tobacco products (read previous blog postings here and here). Now, only a few months later, it appears that Ireland may try and expand the policy to include alcohol. A report from the Joint Committee on Health & Children details their plan.
Update: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will hold an open meeting in August to have a discussion and vote regarding procedures relating to T-Mobile and upcoming spectrum auctions. The following op-ed is another in a series of a wide range of work TPA has done on this issue.
This op-ed, written by TPA Senior Fellow Drew Johnson, first appeared in The Daily Caller on Tuesday, July 14, 2015
Presidential candidate and Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s rallying cry for his 2016 bid is one all Americans should support: “it is time to break the Washington cartel” of special interests and career politicians who “on a daily basis are conspiring against the American people.” Because, as Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) argues, “Big government isn’t just inefficient it’s fundamentally unfair.” Corporate cronyism and welfare in the nation’s capital is alive and well. Cruz and Lee are right. But through the darkness there is sometimes light, even in the D.C. cesspool.
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This article originally appeared in Human Events on July 9, 2015
Bill Gates and Elon Musk are both entrepreneurs and billionaires. They both used their vision to capitalize on technology the market was lacking. Bill Gates founded Microsoft. Elon Musk founded PayPal, then later started SpaceX, Tesla and SolarCity. The biggest difference between these two men is that Bill Gates uses his own money to grow his company, while Elon Musk snatches money from taxpayers to build his empire.