America's independent, non-partisan advocate for overburdened taxpayers.

 

Blog Contributors

Energy/Environment

Should Success Be Punished with Higher Taxes?
Posted By: Brandon Arnold - 02/01/13

ExxonMobil released some good news today – its profits have reached a five-year high. Exxon’s competitor Chevron also experienced a large fourth quarter bump in earnings.  But before employees and shareholders start popping champagne corks, they should keep a close eye on Washington DC.

Already, politicians are seizing upon this news as an opportunity to raise taxes on “Big Oil.”  Both White House press secretary Jay Carney and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have suggested that these just-announced profit figures could create a better political opportunity to raise taxes on the industry.

They would do so by eliminating a so-called tax loophole for oil and gas companies.  Of course, this loophole isn’t really a loophole at all. It’s a broad-based manufacturing tax deduction that is utilized by virtually every company in the Dow Jones index.  The deduction should probably be eliminated altogether as part of comprehensive tax reform in which credits and deductions are scrapped and the rate lowered for all companies.  But that’s not what the White House and Reid are talking about here.  Instead, they want to single out one industry to punish it for being successful.  They would keep the manufacturing deductuion for all companies except those in the oil and gas industry.

If the oil industry wanted to curry favor with tax-hike proponents, it would probably be better off losing scads of money and rocketing towards bankruptcy.  In that case, they might become the beneficiary of a large taxpayer-funded bailout.  Instead, they could see their taxes raised dramatically as a punishment for making profitable business decisions.

4 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts


Sen. Vitter and Rep. Pompeo Launch Opposition to Proposed Carbon Tax
Posted By: Nan Swift - 12/05/12

Members of Congress are trying to hang their hats on anything that might help them avoid making any serious spending cuts ahead of the looming “Fiscal Cliff.” Among the many truly bad ideas that are being floated all in the name of raising “revenue,” as if there was any tax large enough to get us out of the hole our unbridled spending has dug, is a potential carbon tax. While past carbon tax proposals, aimed at curbing greenhouse gases, have also included components aimed at revenue neutrality and other ways to mitigate the regressive nature of such a tax, the current carbon tax talk is pure cash grab.

Senator Vitter (R-LA) and Representative Pomeo (R-KS) have introduced concurrent resolutions opposing such a carbon tax in an effort to get ahead of the harmful tax. As they state in a join press release here, a carbon tax would have a detrimental effect on taxpayers and our already struggling economy:

“There’s a lot of talk in Washington about raising taxes, and finding ‘revenues’ in creative ways, to avoid going over the fiscal cliff,” Vitter said. “But a carbon tax – which would force more financial hardship upon family budgets, energy consumers and job seekers – needs to be completely taken off the table. Our resolution would enshrine that.”
 
“A carbon tax would be disastrous to our nation’s economy by driving up energy prices and increasing the cost of everything built in America, as well consumer goods purchased by every American,” said Pompeo.  “I am proud to join Senator Vitter in introducing this resolution, which is aimed at putting Congress on the record in opposition to this awful idea.”
 
The concurrent resolution states that a carbon tax, which would increase the cost of manufactured goods and harm America’s manufacturing sector, is regressive in nature and would unfairly burden those vulnerable individuals and families in the U.S. who are struggling under a stagnating economy.

There’s virtually no part of the economy or everyday life that wouldn’t be negatively impacted by a “revenue-raising” carbon tax. For consumers it would mean higher costs on everything from food and manufactured goods to transportation and heat for the winter months ahead. This would be a massive burden on our economy and would further slow what little growth we have.

Instead of looking for quick cash gimmicks that will only hurt in the long run, Congress needs to make substantive spending cuts and reforms to put us back on the path to long-term prosperity. Higher taxes rarely bring in the revenue that was expected and at the end of the day, we’ll still be left with a growing debt and no one left to tax.

For a good reminder of just how urgently we need to cut spending and what little higher taxes will do, check out this new video from NTU.

1 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts


EPA Offers Taxpayers No Relief from High Prices During the Holidays
Posted By: Nan Swift - 11/19/12

On top of all the other bad economic news taxpayers got last week (a gloomy stock market, the end of Twinkies, need we say more?) and just as consumers get ready to kick off a season of spending  on food, travel, and gifts, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) dismissed the opportunity to give hurting Americans some relief.  TheHill.com reports:

The Environmental Protection Agency is rejecting requests from states and meat industry groups to waive regulations that require the blending of ethanol into gasoline.

EPA rejected petitions from nearly a dozen states, including Texas, Virginia, and Maryland, for waivers of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).  

A temporary waiver would have immediately freed up already tight corn stocks, easing feed prices for livestock growers and dairy producers who are struggling to survive, thanks to a double whammy of a corn ethanol mandate and drought that have depleted the corn supply and sent prices soaring. NTU has written previously about how the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) has hurt livestock producers in general, and threatens the future of bacon specifically, here.

Based on the EPA’s rejection of commonsense and thousands of well-thought out comments, including over 800 from NTU members, what we wrote back in September still holds true:

While the government can’t make it rain, the EPA can waive costly ethanol mandates that require fuel producers to blend corn ethanol into the gasoline supply, thus diverting much-needed food to our fuel tanks. NTU is working with a broad coalition of groups ranging from livestock producers, anti-hunger organizations, and environmental advocates to urge the EPA to waive the ethanol mandate, relieving the pressure on corn markets.  Unfortunately, right now it looks like more not less corn will be going into our cars in the near future.

Rather than letting the market determine our fuel needs –it’s clear that the EPA is willing to continue to plow forward with their ethanol schemes regardless of the outcome.

Taxpayers are currently facing a perfect storm of economic challenges. Unless Congress takes action during the current lame duck session, taxpayers will see the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts expire. Millions of middle class taxpayers could find themselves suddenly hit with thousands of dollars in higher taxes without an AMT patch. The death tax is on the brink of shooting back up to 55% putting thousands of small businesses and jobs on the line.  A slew of ObamaCare taxes also goes into effect in 2013 – to say nothing of the looming debt limit increase, the continued high unemployment, and struggling economy.

In sum, things are not so great. Not for consumers, not for taxpayers, not for the food producers, the environment, and the world’s poor - who have all been detrimentally impacted by the broken RFS policy.

The EPA’s rejection of even a temporary waiver adds insult to injury for taxpayers at a time when they can least absorb the costly consequences of the corn ethanol mandate

The upcoming Thanksgiving festivities are probably more on the minds of taxpayers this week then the latest EPA outrage, but when consumers head to the store to stock up for Thursday’s feast, they can thank Washington for the higher food prices that are expected to only keep rising as the repercussions of the corn ethanol policy continue to ripple through the livestock industry.

The all-important turkey is facing serious challenges due to the high price of feed.  Though many grocery stores are choosing not to charge the higher prices on turkey this year, with even higher costs expected next year, it’s unknown how long stores can continue to subsidize customer’s turkey-dinners. Today.com reports on the struggles facing turkey growers:

"I used to feed a turkey for 22 cents a lb, now it costs 45-50 cents," Burkel said. "When you go to the bank and say, 'I need a line of credit that's twice what I typically have,' they look at you and say, 'Are you out of your mind? How are you getting that back?'"

Industrywide, farmers and processors say they have scaled back their flocks, and further production cuts are expected as grain prices remain high. September's egg set placements fell 6 percent from a year earlier, according to USDA data.

A step up the “food chain” from the livestock producers, food product companies are also feeling the squeeze from increasing food and ingredient costs attributable to the RFS. The Grocery Manufacturer’s Association issued their reaction to the EPA’s decision stating:

The EPA’s rejection of requests to waive the Renewable Fuels Standard requirement for 2012-2013 is both disappointing and unfortunate for consumers. 

GMA, as well as numerous policymakers, NGO groups and other associations, sought the waiver to provide temporary relief to consumers who have seen food prices rise steadily since the implementation of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), which diverts nearly 40 percent of the corn crop away from livestock feed and food production.  The RFS has and will continue to disrupt commodity markets and exacerbate the impact of last summer’s devastating drought on food prices at a time when Americans can least afford it.

The high cost of corn have also hit dairy producers particularly hard as the Environmental Working Group reports:

There is little hope in sight. U.S. corn futures remain well over $7 a bushel, prices boosted by a shrinking corn harvest, dried-up pastureland and a misguided mandate for greater use of corn ethanol in the U.S. fuel supply.

Dairy farmers across the country are taking extreme measures to stay afloat. Milk cows are being culled at the fastest rate in more than 25 years, with more than 2 million slaughtered nationwide in the first eight months of this year. In California, farmers are supplementing corn feed with local commodities like almonds and apples, but neither alternative provides animals with enough nutrients.

For an increasing number of dairymen, last-ditch efforts just simply aren’t enough to survive. Unable to pay bills or make loan payments, some families have been forced to sell off homes and dairies inherited from parents and grandparents.

The entire article is well worth your time.

As you can well imagine, egg producers have also been hit hard by high corn prices. In fact, apart from the ethanol industry, it’s hard to think of anyone who isn’t hurt by keeping the mandate in place. Michal Rosenoer of Friends of the Earth summed up the situation this way:

 “If the worst U.S. drought in more than 50 years and skyrocketing food prices are not enough to make EPA act, it falls to Congress to provide relief from our senseless federal support for corn ethanol.  The RFS is a broken policy — rather than giving  us clean energy, it’s incentivizing biofuels like corn ethanol that are exacerbating our economic and environmental problems.”

 And corn ethanol hasn’t helped with  the high cost of gasoline at the pump, especially when the lower energy content forces consumers to fill up their tanks more often.  That means the EPA and RFS in particular have made not just this year’s turkey and pumpkin pie cost more, but also the trip over the river and through the woods.  If there’s one bright spot to be had it’s that the EPA has still left some traditions unscathed. But give them time and they’ll definitely find away to regulate the fun out of football and board games.

 

0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts


California’s Cap And Trade: Circumventing Taxpayer Protections to Hammer Energy
Posted By:  - 11/16/12

California residents just can’t seem to catch a break. Scarcely a week after being socked with a $6.8 billion to $9 billion per year tax hike in the form of Proposition 30, taxpayers are now being saddled with a new cap-and-trade initiative that could cost as much as $70 billion.

On Wednesday, the California Air Resources Board (ARB) began auctioning off permits for greenhouse gas emissions as one of the key components of its ambitious attempt to force statewide levels of greenhouse gas emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020. The auctioning process is a key element of the 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act (also known as AB 32) signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger. According to the ARB website its primary premise is to:

“Adopt a regulation that establishes a system of market-based declining annual aggregate emission limits for sources or categories of sources that emit greenhouse gas emissions, applicable from January 1, 2012, to December 31, 2020.”

The program follows the typical cap-and-trade design that many European nations have adopted in a quest to limit carbon emissions through stringent market regulation.  Bloomberg describes how California’s program will work:

“The state will set a maximum for carbon emissions from power generators, oil refineries and other industrial plants and cut that limit gradually to achieve a reduction of about 15 percent by 2020.”

According to the California Chamber of Commerce, this forced reduction-or-pay-up stranglehold on business is akin to an illegal tax, because it never received the required two-thirds vote by the Legislature which new taxes require in the state. Citing the unconstitutionality of the initiative, the Chamber filed a lawsuit Tuesday. Steven Merksamer, an attorney for the Chamber, said in a statement: 

“What the Air Resources Board is doing is illegal.  This tax wasn’t approved by the voters. We believe the auction is unlawful.”

Regardless of whether the cap-and-trade portion of AB 32 turns out to be illegal, from a fiscal perspective it is simply bad policy, especially during tough economic times. Ben Lieberman, a Senior Policy Analyst on Energy and Environment for the Heritage Foundation, noted the well documented failures of European cap-and-trade schemes under the Kyoto treaty in a 2007 paper:

“European efforts have racked up significant costs while failing to reduce emissions. Nearly every European country participating has higher emissions today than when the treaty was first signed in 1997. Further, despite ongoing criticism of the United States from Kyoto parties for failing to ratify the treaty, emissions in many of these nations are actually rising faster than in the United States.”

Besides being relatively ineffective at their intended aim---reducing emissions---the European cap-and-trade schemes carry with them a whole host of injurious economic side effects. Lieberman's research went on to explain the higher costs, regressive-tax nature, and stunted economic growth associated with Europe’s fanatical obsession with forcing down carbon emissions.

There is little dispute that forcing businesses to reduce carbon emissions and taxing those who cannot comply will increase the costs associated with energy production, which will in turn reduce their ability to hire new workers and increase the costs consumers pay for their basic energy needs. After being pummeled with the massive new tax increases under Proposition 30, and with unemployment remaining resolutely over 10% in the state, additional barriers for doing business and creating jobs coupled with higher energy costs are the last things California residents need. As the legal challenges against the initiative continue, it will be imperative that lawmakers consider what is at stake for the Golden State’s economy as a whole.

 

1 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts


The Late Edition: October 10, 2012
Posted By:  - 10/10/12

Time is running out! Tell the EPA to Waive Corn Ethanol Mandates.

Save your grocery bill, save the bacon, save taxpayer wallets, SIGN NOW!

Tell the EPA to Waive Corn Ethanol Mandates.

0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts


RSC Chairman Jim Jordan Demands Answers from Ex-Im Bank
Posted By: Nan Swift - 10/05/12

Earlier today, Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner requesting an update on how negotiations to eliminate export subsidies are going. In a nod to Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank) critics, last spring’s reauthorization requires the Treasury to pursue these negotiations with regular updates to House and Senate Committees. The letter specifically asks for:

A report on the progress of any negotiations to eliminate export subsidies, as described in Public Law 112-122, until the Secretary certifies in writing to the committees that all countries that support subsidized export financing programs have agreed to end the support; and

A report on the progress of any negotiations to eliminate aircraft export credit financing, as described in Public Law 112-122, including the progress of any negotiations with respect to each classification of aircraft set forth in the Act, until the Secretary certifies in writing to the committees that all countries that support subsidized export financing programs have agreed to end the support of the relevant aircraft

While Congressman Jordan’s letter comes as an early reminder of Ex-Im Bank’s obligations, it would be a huge surprise if there was any time left in the day to undertake any such discussions, not when there are millions of new dollars to hand out. Far from working to eliminate unnecessary export subsidies, Ex-Im Bank has been hard at work underwriting seemingly everything that comes across the desk.

Writing just yesterday, our friends at Heritage Action note several recent taxpayer backed loans:

How would you like the taxpayer-backed United States Export-Import Bank to provide direct loans for the export of PV modules to Barbados-based Williams Industries-Williams Evergreen at the cost of $6.4 million, the export of a Lockheed Martin satellite to the government of Vietnam at the cost of $118 million, and the export of goods and services for the construction of an AQUARIUM to the Brazilian state of Ceara for the one low cost of $105 million?

Your wish is the Ex-Im Bank’s command!

It’s true that everyone loves a great taxpayer funded aquarium at the other end of the hemisphere (for anyone who can’t make the trip, there’s a picture here), but the solar power modules for Barbados should be especially troubling to taxpayers.  That’s because the government doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to investment in “green energy” projects like the one in Barbados.

One of Ex-Im Bank’s most famous failures is the poster-child for bad green energy investments: Solyndra, maker of uncompetitive solar cells, received $10 million. Another green energy loan recipient laid off 200 U.S. workers  in August, soon after receiving a multi-million dollar Ex-Im Bank loan.  And the list of taxpayer backed green investments goes on and on when you consider not just the generosity of Ex-Im Bank, but of the EPA’s Title XVII grant program as well.  Together, the investments made by these programs are in marked contrast to those being made in the private sector where CNN reports green startups are now considered toxic:

… investors say they won't lend money to green energy companies, especially startups, because they haven't proven they can be profitable on their own.

Unfortunately, the fact that private capital is fleeing the green energy sector doesn’t seem to be a reason why taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be exposed to the same big risks. Only last week, came the news that despite headlining losses in the solar industry, Washington shelled out another $197 million on yet another firm.

SoloPower closed on a guaranteed government loan of $197 million last August, about the time another solar panel manufacturer, Solyndra, filed for bankruptcy. The failure of Solyndra cost U.S. taxpayers more than a half-billion dollars.

The second solar panel maker that received a loan from the Department of Energy, Abound, is also now in bankruptcy. Based in Longmont, Colo., Abound spent $70 million of its green energy loan and next week will auction off its equipment in hopes of paying some of that back.

Industry analysts are not optimistic about SoloPower's prospects.

"It's questionable at this point," says Andrew Soare of Lux Research, "It's uncertain if solar power will be able to produce efficiently and economically at scale. It's something that has not been done yet, and it's still risky."

Whether Congressman Jordan gets a timely or satisfactory response to his request remains to be seen, but his letter is a good reminder that just because Ex-Im Bank was reauthorized doesn’t mean it shouldn’t continue to be held accountable. Subsidies or no subsidies, using taxpayer dollars to back risky loans where private investors fear to tread is irresponsible at best, regardless of whether it’s Ex-Im Bank, the EPA, or any other agency. While efforts to stem the tide of cheap credit have yet to succeed, NTU is glad to see that Congressman Jordan is still leading the fight on behalf of taxpayers everywhere.

0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts


The Late Edition: September 26, 2012
Posted By:  - 09/26/12

Today’s Taxpayers News!

NTU’s Pete Sepp weighs in on Pennsylvania’s new tax incentive proposal for businesses in this article from the Altoona Mirror.

House Republicans are working to end the costly twenty-year precedent of handing taxpayer dollars to companies that produce wind energy, urging House Speaker John Boehner to banish the “wind energy production credit” from the Farm Bill.

0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts


Worst Policy Ever Has Bacon on the Path to Extinction
Posted By: Nan Swift - 09/25/12

Have you ever had a Bacon Bloody Mary? Maybe you’ve tried bacon candy? Or perhaps you just enjoy an old fashioned BLT or Bacon Cheeseburger?

Well, if you’re a fan of bacon in any format, you need to brace yourself. Unless the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acts quickly to waive the corn ethanol mandate, it could be the end of a very tasty era for America’s many bacon lovers.  The BBC was the first out of the gate with the dire prediction that “there could soon be a global pork shortage, and a sharp rise in prices” – but the news has been pointing this direction in a long time.

Thanks to a double whammy of severe drought and bad energy policies, the price of corn has reached  a record high of over $8/bushel.  This means  livestock producers are finding it costs far more to feed and raise hogs than they can sell them for. This summer’s poor corn yields have exacerbated an already shaky corn supply due to a Renewable Fuels Standard that diverts almost forty percent of our corn to fuel production. The editors at Bloomberg.com explain:

Since 2005, the U.S. government has mandated that gasoline contain ethanol, almost all of it derived from corn. The policy, ostensibly aimed at reducing the country’s dependence on foreign oil and at improving the environment, has been a bonanza for farmers. Land planted with corn soared by a fourth after Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which required that gasoline producers blend 15 billion gallons of ethanol into the nation’s gasoline supply by 2015.

… With this year’s crop expected to be the smallest in six years, corn prices have jumped 60 percent since June. The ethanol requirements are aggravating the rise in food costs and spreading it to the price of gasoline, which is up almost 40 cents a gallon since the start of July.

The damage is far-reaching. Beef and pork producers are slaughtering their stocks at a record pace to cut use of corn feed that costs two-thirds more than three months ago.

In the U.S., pork giant Smithfield Foods Inc. saw first-quarter earnings drop 25%, forcing its president to beg the EPA for help:

But like other livestock producers, high feed costs have challenged its bottom line. In July, Mr. Pope called for the U.S. government to waive its mandate requiring the blending of ethanol into the nation's gasoline supply as a severe drought batters the nation's corn crop and drives up prices. Smithfield buys roughly 128 million bushels of corn and corn equivalents each year to feed its hogs, making it one of the largest consumers of the grain in the U.S., Mr. Pope had said.

The Wall Street Journal reports a similarly disturbing picture for our neighbor to the north:

Big Sky Farms Inc., one of Canada's biggest hog farmers, was forced into receivership by lenders earlier this week, the latest victim of a withering North American drought that has sent feed prices soaring for livestock producers across the continent.

Big Sky, based in Humboldt, Saskatchewan, produces about one million hogs a year, generating about 40% of the Canadian province's annual production. It ranks as Canada's No. 2 producer, with operations on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border.

And the Guardian reports a worldwide slaughter of pigs that will lead to sharply increased prices:

Rabobank said the slaughter of millions of pigs has already led to a 31% increase in the price of pork and the costs of other meats are also expected to soar as "US livestock herds are likely to be liquidated at an accelerating pace in the first half of 2013".

Nicholas Higgins, a Rabobank commodities analyst and author of the report, said: "There will be an initial glut in meat availability as people slaughter their animals to reduce their feed bills. But by next year herds will be so reduced that there won't be enough animals to meet expected demand and prices will soar."

While all meat lovers will be affected by the record-breaking price rises, Higgins said bacon butty fans may suffer the biggest increases because it is easier for farmers to slash and rebuild pig herds than cattle.

"Farmers cut back pigs because they can rebuild them the quickest. Replacement cattle take a lot longer to breed – a year and a half compared to six months for pigs," he said.

While the government can’t make it rain, the EPA can waive costly ethanol mandates that require fuel producers to blend corn ethanol into the gasoline supply, thus diverting much-needed food to our fuel tanks. NTU is working with a broad coalition of groups ranging from livestock producers, anti-hunger organizations, and environmental advocates to urge the EPA to waive the ethanol mandate, relieving the pressure on corn markets.  Unfortunately, right now it looks like more not less corn will be going into our cars in the near future

E15, gasoline with 15% ethanol (up from the current 10%) could be coming to a gas station near you.  Even as corn prices climb, the Administration has been clearing the way for E15 fuel, despite the major risks to engines, the lower gas mileage, and increased greenhouse gas production – just to name a few of the serious downsides to E15.

Rather than letting the market determine our fuel needs –it’s clear that the EPA is willing to continue to plow forward with their ethanol schemes regardless of the outcome.

Sadly, for baconistas everywhere, the EPA’s dogged adherence to failed corn ethanol  policies could spell the end of what will one day be remembered as a Golden Age of Bacon. The coming critical bacon shortages will hamper the amazing creativity of baconphiles the world over, rendering (pun intended) bacon less a medium for awesome and delicious inventions, and more a pricey delicacy enjoyed only by society’s elite. At ever higher prices, it will soon become unaffordable to push the limits of pork products and the world may never see the triumph of a Burger King Whopper with not just 1,050 strips of bacon, but 2,100!

Here, at the end of 2012, we may indeed be seeing the very pinnacle of bacon culture and technology, consigning so many bacon bandaids  and woven bacon explosions to the grease trap of history.  Sadly, this is just one more way big government is making it harder and harder for everyone to bring home the bacon.

 

 

0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts


Whoever is Writing for Greenpeace’s Website Should Not Have Made It Past Junior High
Posted By: Douglas Kellogg - 08/09/12

Greenpeace’s recent post that attempts to assail NTU and NTUF for working against cap-and-trade features a failure in logic so self-evident, your average eighth grader could spot it.

Here is the meat of their entry on NTU/F:

The National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF) advocated inaction on climate change, calling the science behind Kyoto inconclusive. "If Congress deems carbon dioxide emissions to be a problem worthy of attention, then it should confront them without raising taxes on struggling American families in the process."

In an open letter to Representative Mary Bono-Mack, NTUF advocated against the cap-and-trade in the ACES bill as a "tax hike" without acknowledging the environmental or economic benefits.

The first paragraph collapses on itself, as any reader is left scratching their head, thinking: “How is saying Congress should address concerns about carbon dioxide without a tax hike the same as saying do nothing?”

One would assume Greenpeace is taking the stance that a tax hike MUST occur to enable action on ‘climate change’. Even so, using a quote that counters the claim you made in the prior sentence might not inspire much confidence in your understanding of logic.

After that initial stumble, Greenpeace face-plants by misidentifying NTUF as authors of a letter on cap-and-trade, when it was NTU. In doing so, they include a direct link to the clearly NTU authored letter!

Though, let’s give them credit for properly quoting and citing NTU, so that it is so stunningly clear that they are wrong about NTUF’s involvement, and transparent in their commitment to tax hikes and spending binges in the name of environmentalism.

We’ll avoid the cheap attacks, there’s plenty to read about Greenpeace’s donors and mission elsewhere.

0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts


Farm Bill Ruse Falls Short
Posted By: Nan Swift - 08/01/12

Politico reported that a bill to extend the farm bill by one more year was pulled at the last minute yesterday:

Facing certain defeat, Republicans pulled their one-year farm bill extension from the House docket late Tuesday in favor of a narrower $383 million disaster aid package to address the immediate needs of drought-stricken livestock producers.

The abrupt turnaround came just minutes before the House Rules Committee had been slated to take up the extension in anticipation of floor votes Wednesday. Within hours, the slimmer 22-page disaster bill had been filed with the promise of floor votes Thursday.

With proponents of Big Ag pushing the extension (H.R. 6228) as a ploy to go to conference with the Senate’s own bloated farm bill, this is a big win for the free market.

The Congressional work-around was floated in order to avoid a full debate of H.R. 6083, the House FARRM bill. Weighing in at almost $1 trillion over the next decade and with far reaching policy implications for farms and consumers alike, the five-year farm bill is a major matter that deserves real and open debate.

While it is true that the drought in the Midwest has wreaked havoc on this summer’s corn and other crop staples, little good can come from legislating defensively to suit emergency circumstances without looking at the long term outcomes and the broader context. Despite claims from special interests that they need an urgent bailout, many farmers will be able to recoup their losses under their current crop insurance plans without any extra taxpayer-funded relief.

In addition, American farmers are coming from a place of record-level profitability thanks to a decade of high commodity prices and better yields. The Department of Agriculture reports that though farming inputs have stayed relatively stable since 1948, productivity has soared. The net income of farmers nationwide last year was almost $98 billion and corn alone raked in $76 billion. Since the 1990s, farm income has trended upward at a much faster pace than other U.S. households. In 2010, the average annual income for a farming household was $84,440, well above the national average of around $64,000.

At the same time taxpayers have continued to struggle with high unemployment and mounting national debt, billions in tax dollars have been redistributed to Big Agriculture through subsidies and direct payments. Just this month the Government Accountability Office reported that from 2003-2011 $10.6 billion in direct payments were given away to producers who did not even plant any crops. And though reauthorization packages in both the House and Senate have been touted as cuts to spending, the price tags are 60 percent higher than the previous 2008 farm bill. 

If this is reform, it’s a reform we can’t afford. With farmers riding high on a decade of record profits and strong bipartisan support for repeal of direct payments this might be the best opportunity we have to make serious course corrections.          

The best course of action Congress could take to relieve the effects of the drought that are sending livestock-feed prices through the stratosphere is to immediately repeal the ethanol mandate in the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). Extending wasteful programs and special interest carve-outs for another year will do little to mitigate the effects of the drought, but Congress can seize this opportunity to repeal a misguided mandate and immediately free up corn supplies.

Even in the heart of the suffering Corn Belt, the Chicago Tribune is advocating an urgent stop to the diversion of food to fuel:

But there is one important step that should be taken soon: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency needs to waive its requirement for using corn-brewed ethanol in U.S. motor fuels.

Under a program called the renewable fuel standard, the EPA requires petroleum blenders to dilute their gasoline with increasing amounts of biofuel each year. This year, the RFS mandate calls for 13.2 billion gallons, nearly all of it corn-derived ethanol. This page has pointed out many times the absurdity of this intervention in the marketplace. Few government programs cost so much and deliver so little benefit to the public.

What makes matters worse in light of the drought is the enormous drain of ethanol production on the corn supply.

Waiving, reforming, or repealing the ethanol mandate is not just one immediate step that Congress can take to help alleviate the terrible effects of the drought on livestock producers and consumers, one that would save taxpayers money, not cost them – it is also a perfect, though depressing, example of how government meddling affects markets and leads to unfortunate unintended consequences. 

While the RFS continues to cut a swath of destruction across our economy, it should make legislators pause before passing enormous farm bills that have an equally broad impact on markets, taxpayers, consumers, and the economy. This is a clear case of government failure and there is no reason to assume, based on past experience, that the House and Senate’s new “reforms’ will be any better. On the contrary,  in the face of this sobering mess, things could get far worse.

Taxpayers can breathe a sigh of relief for today - if farm policy can be shelved until 2013, we might just get the time we need to enact the real, free-market reforms the agriculture sector so desperately needs. Of course, there’s still potential it might rear its ugly head during a lame duck session.  Still, one thing is clear, whether the battle recommences one month or one year from now, it’s time to get government out of the tractor seat.

Go here to tell your legislators to oppose the farm bill.

 

0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts


 

Items 21 - 30 of 106  Previous12345678910Next