This article originally appeared in Inside Sources on May 15, 2014
The latest data continues to indicate that the U.S. economy is still struggling to get back on its feet. Though the most recent jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics told us that the unemployment rate has decreased, the reason behind this is hardly cause for optimism. The labor force participation rate (LFPR) has dropped to its lowest levels since the 1970s, which means that many Americans have simply given up looking for work. More than 800,000 Americans left the labor force last month, a troubling sign for any economy. Even more intriguing is the recently-released data on international trade. U.S. exports and imports both increased in March, a late surge that could be encouraging. Total exports for March came to $193.9 billion, up 2.1 percent from February. Imports jumped 1.1 percent to $234.3 billion, the highest level seen since 2012. All told, the U.S. trade deficit fell 3.6 percent and now hovers at $40.4 billion. More trade means more economic activity which benefits taxpayers and consumers.
This article originally appeared in Townhall.com on April 30, 2014
As President Obama concludes his tour of Asia, one of the most pressing issues he discussed with his counterparts is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement currently under negotiation between the United States and eleven other nations on both sides of the Pacific Ocean. Two of these countries – Japan and Malaysia – are stops on the President’s tour, and his visit to the region is a sign of how important the Trans-Pacific Partnership is to American trade policy and our overall foreign policy. TPP is also critical to jump-start a lagging U.S. economy. The Asia-Pacific region is already home to some of our biggest trading partners, including President Obama’s first stop in Japan, our fourth-largest partner. On the other side of the Pacific, Canada and Mexico are first and third respectively. While the United States already holds individual Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with several countries that would become part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, signing the agreement would open up exciting new markets like Japan, Malaysia and Brunei to the top-notch goods and services provided by American workers.
This article originally appeared in The Daily Caller on April 30, 2014
President Obama has broken many promises during his first and second terms in office. But, in a sad twist of irony for taxpayers and energy production, the president is intent on keeping one of his 2008 campaign promises, to bankrupt coal plants and force electricity prices to “necessarily skyrocket.” After legislative attempts to pass cap-and-trade failed in the Democrat-controlled Congress in 2009, the president made clear that “cap-and-trade was just one way to skin the cat.” The other way: have unelected bureaucrats and attorneys at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulate coal out of business.The EPA has since taken measures to stop coal plant production by requiring new plants to use cost-prohibitive carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology – tech that is only affordable with large taxpayer subsidies. The only plant currently under construction with CCS will receive $400 million in grants and federal tax credits to offset the more than $1 billion price tag for what is unproven technology. That model is unsustainable. Now, the EPA is working on round two of its regulatory assault, which “would put limits on carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired power plants.” Already, the Department of Energy estimates that EPA’s earlier power plant rule could force several hundred coal-powered electricity plants to close. The result: 32 million households would find themselves without a reliable source of energy production. By 2025, the situation will become more dire as nearly all coal plants will be forced out of business, robbing 33 states of 44,000 megawatts of electricity.
One of the most important things to remember about the growing advancement of technology in this day and age is that with each improvement, comes greater risk. There is no question that Americans value their privacy, but there is also no question that the privacy of individuals is compromised when we see the abuses of government overreach and actions by federal agencies that violate the very civil liberties that are a core part of American values. Keeping all of that in mind, TPA was proud to sign on to a coalition letter that was sent to President Barack Obama yesterday. Spearhead by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and co-signed by more than 70 organizations; the letter calls for support from the President on reforming the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) so that there can be clarity for every American regarding full constitutional and statutory protections for the emails, photos, text messages, and other documents that they send and share over the Internet. The law was originally enacted in 1986 and is dire need of an update, when you consider the way technology has evolved in the last few decades with the Internet being such an important part of the daily lives of every American. With a report from the President's "Big Data Review Group," due out this week, support from him on this issue would be paramount.
Click 'read more' below to see the full letter
(Joe Jansen has a decade and a half of experience working as a staff member on Capitol Hill. He has worked in almost every legislative capacity in both the House and Senate. Joe will be a frequent contributor to TPA’s blog.) This week, both the House and Senate return from week-long recesses. As the House works hard on naming a slew of post office buildings, most eyes will be focused on the Senate, which is expected to consider bills dealing with the situation in Ukraine and, extending the long-term unemployment insurance benefits that expired at the end of last year. Most Senators agree on the need to act on Ukraine and are very supportive of providing much-needed loan guarantees and imposing sanctions on certain Russian and Ukrainian officials, which the bill does. However, there is some disagreement on the inclusion of a section of the bill that makes changes to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). And, some Senators would like to provide military assistance in the form of arms to the government of Ukraine. However, neither of these issues should stop the bill’s progress. After acting on the Ukraine bill and some of President Obama’s nominees, the Senate is expected to again consider legislation to extend unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed. The “temporary” federal program that pays unemployment benefits to individuals who have exhausted their state benefits expired at the end of 2013. Since then, the Senate has considered bills to extend them several times. These extension attempts failed because the costs were not offset and Senate Majority Leader Reid refused to allow the Senate to consider amendments that might actually spur economic growth and create jobs.
TPA Responds to the White House FY 2015 Budget Release:
Today, President Obama unveiled his Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 budget. The FY 2015 budget is a month late (which has become a tradition for this President) and trillions of dollars short of fiscal responsibility. The President continued his preference for spending more with a budget proposal that spends $3.9 trillion, which is an increase from the $3.8 trillion the federal government is planning to spend in FY 2014. The White House budget aims to confiscate more money from taxpayers and small business owners to fund a laundry list of big government programs disguised as “stimulus” and “infrastructure.” These new spending priorities are sure to be filled with waste and inefficiency, much like many of the programs funded by the 2009 stimulus package... Even though this is only the opening salvo in the budget war for this year, it is instructive to see that the President clearly doesn’t recognize the fiscal reality of a $17 trillion debt and an economy that remains stagnant. There is no way for taxpayers and entrepreneurs to succeed unless the White House gets serious on spending restraint and tax reform. This budget does neither and with no meaningful offers to cut spending, overhaul the tax code, or reform entitlements, this budget is simply a way to double down on the failed policies of big government spending that have been a hallmark of the Obama Presidency. There should be a clear path to fiscal responsibility through meaningful spending reductions and tax reform. That is clearly not the approach from this White House based on what we have seen today. For the full response, click 'read more' below
IRS HQ in Washington, D.C.
A public comment was submitted yesterday by the Taxpayers Protection Alliance regarding the new proposed rule which aims to codify political targeting that the IRS engaged in over a period of the previous two elections. The deadline for comment submission regarding this rule is Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 11:59 PM EST. TPA encourages everyone to go to this link
and submit a comment. This was also the topic of discussion in the second half of TPA's podcast 'Taxpayer Watch' yesterday, you can listen here
.To read the comment, click 'read more' below
The Obama Administration is extremely aggressive when it comes to the issue of promoting and picking winners and losers. This attitude is most apparent when it comes to the energy industry. The Obama administration has been “all-in” when it comes to green energy scams like Solyndra. Their push for more LEED certification of federal buildings is just another way that special interests are promoted in the Obama presidency, regardless of the cost-benefit ration for. Last Fall, TPA wrote about the Obama Administration’s new regulatory push called ‘social cost of carbon’ and how the President (as he has done many time before) was using federal agencies to carry out policies through regulatory means that he would otherwise not be able to get through congress. According to Reason, the social cost of carbon refers to “the economic and ecological damage caused each time we add a ton of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels.” The hitch is that is the figures were put together in 2010 by the White House Interagency Working Group using questionable computer models and outdated information with which projections were being based upon to reach a cost assessment. The original estimation by the group and agreed upon by the Administration was recently revised upwards setting off a chain reaction that has put this issue at the forefront in Congress as many members view this as just another way to burden businesses, consumers, and taxpayers with needless and counterproductive regulations. Now, a new report released by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity has completely ripped apart the narrative that the White House has tried to stick with when it comes to their ‘social cost of carbon’ program.
In his fifth State of the Union address, President Obama reiterated familiar themes that have resulted in a slow economic recovery over the past 5 years. In a new and reckless move, President Obama promised to use his Executive power to enact initiatives that Congress wouldn’t pass such as a move to increase the minimum wage for federal contractors. This establishes a bad precedent that circumvents the system of checks and balances. The biggest missed opportunity was that there was no mention of how to rein in government spending. In fact, the President seemed to suggest more spending on projects that could be classified as corporate welfare when noted that, “Federally-funded research helped lead to the ideas and inventions behind Google and smartphones. That’s why Congress should undo the damage done by last year’s cuts to basic research so we can unleash the next great American discovery – whether it’s vaccines that stay ahead of drug-resistant bacteria, or paper-thin material that’s stronger than steel.“ One of the most bizarre parts of the President’s speech was his attack on last year’s sequestration (automatic spending cuts). The President signed the Budget Control Act of 2011 which created sequestration. If the President didn’t like sequestration, he shouldn’t have signed it into law. Now, he has been left with no real plan to cut spending. President Obama mentioned Obamacare and the millions that have enrolled since the launch. Obama did not mention the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on a broken website or the millions of Americans that lost their healthcare insurance due to Obamacare. Millions of Americans found out the hard way last year that President Obama’s promise that “if you like your healthcare coverage, you can keep it,” was just a good talking point and not the truth.
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Tonight President Obama will give his fifth State of the Union address to the nation. This will give the President an opportunity to lay out his agenda for the coming year in front of Congress and the American people. Year after year we see a laundry list of policies that spend more taxpayer money and attempts to rally the President’s base behind ideas that go nowhere fast. Even though there are many topics that taxpayers would like to be addressed such as the failed roll out of Obamacare or a debt that has eclipsed $17 trillion and the numerous ways to cut spending, one topic that may receive bi-partisan support is tax reform. The US corporate tax rate is the highest in the world and our entire US tax code grows more complicated as each year sees new rules and regulations burdened upon the taxpayers who are in desperate need of relief from a system that hasn’t had comprehensive reform in nearly three decades. This year is a prime time for tax reform to take shape and there’s no better time to set the tone for meaningful, comprehensive, and bipartisan reform than with the State of the Union. Congress will be in attendance and many of the key players in the tax reform debate will be paying careful to attention to what the President will say.