December 8, 2015
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The following article appeared on Medium.com on October 26, 2015
Kevin R. Kosar is a senior fellow and governance project director for the R Street Institute
I worked at the Congressional Research Service for 11 years as an analyst and manager. I greatly enjoyed supplying congressional staff, committees, and members of Congress with nonpartisan research and advice. I got to help conceptualize legislation, assist committees with hearing preparation and testify before Congress. It was fun, heady work. I also wrote a lot of CRS reports, as did my beloved colleagues. Each year, the agency publishes about 1,000 reports, which cover general subject matter, like advertising by the federal government and cloture in the U.S. Senate. Congress, not the CRS, owns them. That means nobody at the CRS is free to distribute its reports to anyone outside Congress — not without jumping through bureaucratic hoops. Unfortunately, our national legislature, as a matter of practice, does not publish all CRS reports in one place, like Congress.gov. CRS reports get posted here and there on various congressional webpages. Additionally, any member or congressional staffer can share reports with the public; it’s a congressional prerogative. As a result, there are CRS reports floating all over the Internet. By one count, there are 27,000 CRS reports scattered over 1,400 U.S. government websites.
December 7, 2015
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This article appeared in The Daily Caller on December 3, 2015
On Tuesday, bipartisan members of Congress struck a deal that included renewal of the U.S. Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank into the five-year, $305 billion highway funding bill. What export financing and transportation highway funding have in common is anyone’s guess, but this is exactly why Americans distrust Washington. These political games revived government-sponsored crony capitalism that no one needs and many agree is a waste of taxpayer resources. In today’s hyper-partisan Congress, it seems the only thing our elected officials seem to agree on is more corporate welfare for Fortune 500 companies at the taxpayer’s expense. It’s all but inevitable now that the corrupt Ex-Im Bank will be resurrected from the dead. Boeing and GE must be giving a sigh of relief. They’ll still be able to count on their golden goose to fund $10.9 billion dollars’ worth of loan guarantees, with $8.3 to Boeing and $2.6 to GE last year. It’s called “Boeing’s Bank” for a reason; they alone consistently receive 40 percent of Ex-Im’s total authorizations and received a staggering $66.7 billion from 2007 to 2013. And, just think, Boeing and GE only had to spend $46.9 million to lobby on the bank’s behalf.
December 4, 2015
Energy policy is one of the most important components to the United States economy, impacting taxpayers and businesses everyday. Congress has been working to pass a comprehensive energy bill that makes critical reforms to the system and this week lawmakers finally moved forward with legislation. Yesterday, by a vote of 249-174, the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act (H.R. 8) was approved by the House and will soon move over the Senate. While President Obama has already issued a veto threat of Rep. Fred Upton's (R-Mich.) bill that lifts the decades-old ban on crude oil exports, TPA sent a letter this week urging Congress to pass the legislation.
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December 2, 2015
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Before Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) retired, he was known for being a taxpayer watchdog and his government waste report. Sen. Coburn would hold a press conference and shame government agencies and bureaucrats for the massive amounts of waste they perpetrated at the expense of taxpayers. This is one Washington tradition that should be carried on forever. Fortunately, Sen. Coburn’s successor, Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), released his own report spotlighting excessive and wasteful spending as well as regulatory overreach from federal agencies. The report, entitled “Federal Fumbles: 100 ways the government dropped the ball,” details billions of dollars in spending and regulations that range from the idiotic to absolute bizarre. With more than $100 billion in waste and $800 billion in needless regulations, there are plenty of ridiculous examples that fill Sen. Lankford’s report.
December 1, 2015
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Recently-elected House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) sat down with 60 Minutes during which he touched upon a wide range of issues, including the prospect of tax reform in the coming year. Speaker Ryan noted that it was possible to work with the Democrats and President Obama on issues both parties agree on stating that, “Look, if we can find common ground, we can on highways, we will on funding the government, hopefully we can on tax policy. Those are three things that will produce certainty in this economy in the next few months. Let's go do that.” That is good news because people from all walks of life want real tax reform at the individual and corporate level.
November 27, 2015
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Today is “Cyber Monday,” the busiest online shopping day of the year. Last year, there was a record number of online sales with one-day purchases exceeding $2 billion. According to CNN, this is an increase of 17 percent over 2013. With renewed threats of Internet sales taxes coming out of Congress, there’s no better time to look at why e-commerce is so important and how Washington can make sure it continues to be a key driver of the economy. The increase in online shopping from 2013-2014 shows that the Internet is a key driver in a strong economy. That makes it even more baffling to think that some in Congress would be so out of touch to continue to push the idea of creating new taxes for Internet sales (click here to listen to the Taxpayer Watch that discuses the online sales taxes). Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) recently introduced new online sales tax legislation. H.R. 2775, the “Remote Transactions Parity Act” (RTPA) would hit total sales, no matter the amount of sales in online business transactions.
November 24, 2015
The time of year is here again when working families all across the country get together and gather around the dinner table and celebrate Thanksgiving. Even though the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) is thankful for many things, we are also looking out for taxpayers because there are plenty of turkeys causing trouble. So, in the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, TPA once again is highlighting our Taxpayer Turkeys of the year! Be sure to listen to TPA’s podcast where we talk about this year’s turkeys (click here).
Click "read more" below to see TPA's 2015 Taxpayer Turkeys!» Read More
November 20, 2015
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This article appeared on Townhall.com on November 2, 2015
The millions of dollars of corporate lobbying for reauthorization of the U.S. Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank seems to have finally paid off. Despite the fact that taxpayers won a victory when Congress allowed the beleaguered, corruption-laden bank to expire on June 30, a group of weak-willed Republicans, led by Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.), joined with Democrats and used a little known and rarely used tool called a “discharge petition” to resurrect the Bank from the dead. The House of Representatives has abandoned common sense as Boeing’s Bank may be coming back. The discharge petition circumvented the authority of the House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), whose committee had jurisdiction over the bill and rightfully decided earlier this summer to let the Bank expire. The discharge petition allowed the bill to come directly to the House floor for a vote.
November 18, 2015
The last few weeks in Washington have been centered on a flurry of major news stories and events. The election of new House Speaker Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), the continuing Presidential debates for the 2016 nomination, a major budget deal, and now the Paris attack that killed more than 100 people last Friday night. Lost in the constant cycle of continuing coverage of these other things is the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that was passed (again) by both the House and Senate that is now awaiting President Obama’s signature before becoming law. The very little attention that was paid to the NDAA’s journey through Congress was mainly focused on the first time it passed when President Obama promptly vetoed it. Year after year President Obama has made veto threats but this was the first time that he actually made good on the threat. The reasoning behind the rare White House veto was detailed through a statement from the administration at the time of the signing on October 22.
November 17, 2015
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The Taxpayers Protection Alliance sent a letter yesterday urging House members to use today's Federal Communications Commission (FCC) oversight hearing in the Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee as an opportunity to raise important questions regarding the agency's actions on preempting state laws around the country as it relates to municipal broadband. The FCC must answer for their role in overreaching into the states, without proper authority, on broadband expansion.
Click 'read more' below to see the full letter
November 16, 2015
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This article orginally appeared in The Washington Examiner on November 5, 2015
Late last month, a group of leading Senate Democrats launched a new initiative that would overhaul the nation's energy policies through a package of tax measures and, of course, a vast new program of government subsidies for pet clean energy technologies. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., described this legislative push as a "a technology-driven pathway to a clean energy future." This so-called pathway is, not by accident, aimed at derailing efforts from Republicans and oil patch Democrats who have sensibly pushed for policies that would increase the availability and affordability of the energy the economy actually needs. This plan is not tax reform and will not help the country be more competitive. A key element of the Democrats' plan is to use the tax code to further disadvantage domestic energy producers and funnel taxpayer funding to pet green energy companies. But to make these crony capitalist schemes more palatable to the public, they trot out the canard about oil and gas firms receiving subsidies and corporate welfare.
November 13, 2015
Today, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) released its financial results detailing a loss of $5.1 billion for the 2015 fiscal year. As a continuation of the Postal Service’s financial meltdown, this year marks its ninth consecutive year-end loss of more than a billion dollars. In response to the figures released by the USPS and the subsequent analysis from their leadership, Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) President, David Williams, made it clear that more transparent management and accounting is needed to repair the agency.» Read More
Click 'read more' below to see the full press release
November 6, 2015
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This article originally appeared in The Hill on October 29, 2015
There is not much disagreement that the Copyright Office, which administers the U.S. copyright system and serves the over $1.1 trillion market for copyrighted works, needs to modernize. Even the federal government agrees. In March, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released two reports concluding that the Library of Congress has been woefully mismanaged, and the Copyright Office, which resides in the Library, needs better IT systems. Taxpayers, and all citizens, should expect that government utilize technology and common sense when modernizing all operations. But like all debates in Washington, the devil is in the details. For instance, as a capstone to Chairman Bob Goodlatte’s (R-Va.) two-year copyright review process, Reps. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) and Judy Chu (D-Calif.) circulated a discussion draft of the CODE Act suggesting that the Copyright Office become an independent agency. They reason that the office will have the best chance to modernize if granted increased independence, which would allow the office to focus on self-improvement as opposed to competing with other functions of the Library. Many free market organizations welcomed the draft as a good starting point for discussion. The Internet Association and anti-copyright coalition Re:Create did not.
November 3, 2015
The Obama Administration has been consistent in there increased use of the executive branch of government to undermine Congress, many times to the point where the courts have rebuked them for violating the law. Federal agencies have played a large role in this, with new regulations coming from cabinet departments on a daily basis costing taxpayers and the economy. One recent example of this alarming practice is a new “fiduciary rule” out of the Department of Labor (DOL), which would effectively give the agency the authority to, “greatly restrict investment choices for 401(k)s, individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and other saving vehicles.” DOL has never had this authority and Congress has not granted it to them, yet here comes the Obama Administration making up new rules as they go along. The new rule would restrict the choices Americans have to choose who will handle their investments, and would make it harder for many families to even work with investment professionals. TPA is adamantly opposed to the rule recognizing the damage it would do to the financial services industry, and just a few weeks ago signed this letter from the Competitive Enterprise Institute along with more than 30 other groups. The coalition urges the House and Senate to defund any part of the DOL budget that would enforce this rule.
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October 28, 2015
This article originally apeared in The Daily Caller on October 27, 2015» Read More
It was announced on Monday night that congressional leaders and the White House have agreed to a two-year budget deal that lifts the budget caps by $80 billion. In addition to lifting the budget caps, the debt ceiling will be suspended until 2017. That’s not a compromise, that’s capitulation. The budget caps were put in place in 2011 because the country was faced with a debt-ceiling crisis. Sound familiar? The Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011, which set the caps and ultimately led to sequestration, was Congress and the president admitting they couldn’t be trusted to be fiscally responsible. The spending caps set forth by the BCA and implemented through sequestration are the first nominal (real) cuts in spending that the federal government has seen in decades. The latest budget deal busts the caps by $80 billion; $50 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2016 and $30 billion in FY 2017. The increase would be equally divided between defense and non-defense discretionary spending, neither of which need more money.
October 27, 2015
Last night the House of Representatives moved to bring back the Export-Import Bank, a glaring symbol of crony capitalism. The method by which members of Congress did this was a little known parliamentary tool called a discharge petition. A discharge petition is generally used by members of the minority party in order to get legislation onto the floor by subverting the normal committee process. In fact, the last time it was used was back in 2002. In this case, it was Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.) who worked with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) to secure the 218 needed signatures to file the petition to the floor. In the end, 62 GOP members voted (246-177) to bring back the crony bank. Today there will be a vote on Rep. Fincher’s bill, H.R. 597, Reform Exports and Expand the American Economy Act, to reauthorize Ex-Im, Yesterday, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) sent a letter to all members of the House urging them to vote against the Fincher bill and keep the Ex-Im Bank from coming back to “haunt” taxpayers. It is unclear what will happen after today’s vote, and nobody knows for sure what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will do, but TPA will be watching today’s vote and paying careful attention to what happens in the Senate.
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October 22, 2015
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The country is $18.4 trillion in debt and in less than two weeks (November 3) the country will hit the debt ceiling. With mere days to find a solution there is a real need to ensure the full faith and credit of the United States remains in tact with responsible legislation from Congress. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) is hopeful Congress can pass legislation that will not only address the debt ceiling, but also make inroads towards real spending reduction. Washington has been here before and once again it is getting to a critical point where there are only days left to act. This is a growing trend and TPA is dismayed with last minute deals and the habit of governing by crisis. However, this most recent crisis has led to a number of serious proposals aimed at dealing with this problem in a responsible, reasonable, and long term manner. One plan has emerged in the House is H.R. 3771, The Terms of Credit Act (TCA), put forward by the Republican Study Committee (RSC) headed by Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas). TCA is a comprehensive solution that puts forth a multi-pronged strategy to dealing with the debt limit.
October 20, 2015
Comprehensive tax reform continues to be an issue where TPA is working hard to pressure Congress to act. It’s been nearly three decades since the last time Washington did something major on tax reform. While lawmakers continue to delay on moving forward with overall tax reform, there are things they can do to give taxpayers relief while making the tax code work better for everyone. With that in mind, TPA led a coalition effort sending this letter to Congress last week urging both the House and Senate to make accelerated expensing, or “bonus depreciation” permanent. The program helps businesses by making it easier for companies to write off expenses. It’s had a positive impact on the small business economy and since 2008 it’s been renewed every two years, until this year. TPA was joined on the letter by the 60 Plus Association, American Conservative Union, Americans for Prosperity, Campaign for Liberty, Center for Individual Freedom, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, Frontiers of Freedom, Grassroot Hawaii Action, Hispanic Leadership Fund, Institute for Liberty, Less Government, Log Cabin Republicans, National Taxpayers Union, R Street Institute, and the Small Business Entrepreneurship Council.
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TPA Joins AFP Coalition of 40 Free Market Groups Urging Congress Against Reviving the Crony Export-Import BankMichi Iljazi on
October 14, 2015
Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.) is leading the charge to revive Ex-Im
The Export-Import Bank has had an expired charter now for more than three months, and the world has not yet ended and doom has not occurred. Much like the predictions of sequester, it was all fear mongering from members of Congress willing to scare taxpayers for the sake of stealing their money. Unfortunately a new effort to save the crony bank has begun and Representatives are using a parliamentary tool to do it, subverting the normal committee process for getting bills to the floor. Last week, 218 members of the House (including 42 Republicans) filed a discharge petition to put Rep. Stephen Fincher’s (R-Tenn.) legislation to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank on the floor. Mr. Fincher’s bill is H.R. 597, the Reform Exports and Expand the American Economy Act, and it will now get a vote on October 26 according to members who signed the petition. TPA opposes the bill, the discharge petition, and any vote to revive the bank. Last week, TPA joined an effort led by Americans for Prosperity blasting the move to use a discharge petition and 40 groups in total signed a letter to Congress expressing that very sentiment.
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October 13, 2015
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Congress has been slowly moving toward reforming many of the country’s outdated communications laws to better serve taxpayers and consumers. TPA has been agressive in calling for faster action on Capitol Hill, but unfortunately that has yet to materialize. However, recently the FCC took action on their own to make important changes to some of the rules that govern the video marketplace, but that doesn't mean Congress should abdicate their responsibilites to the federal agency. Keeping that in mind, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance sent the following letter to members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, as well as the Senate Commerce Committee, and the House Energy and Commerce Committee. It's imporant for Congress to maintain their proper role without letting the FCC take too much action.
Click 'read more' below to see the letter