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Speaking of Taxpayers, July, 27th, 2012: The Ills of the Farm Bill and the ACA.
Posted By:  - 07/27/12

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Doug and Pete welcome Nan Swift and Demian Brady to discuss the stance on Farm Bill and issues surrounding the Affordable Care Act as it relates to taxation.
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Speaking of Taxpayers, July 20, 2012: NTU’s New State Affairs Manager, Post Office, & More
Posted By:  - 07/23/12

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NTU's new State Affairs Manager Lee Schalk joins Doug & Manzanita (in Pete's absence) to discuss state taxpayer issues that are still popping up despite the summer heat. Also the 'Fiscal Five' & 'Outrage of the Week!'
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Speaking of Taxpayers, July 13, 2012: Governments Return with Gusto
Posted By:  - 07/16/12

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A variety of activity at the federal and state level picks up after Independence Day & "Speaking of Taxpayers" reviews it all.

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The “Shared Responsibility Payment”: A Closer Examination of the Affordable Care Act’s New Tax
Posted By:  - 07/13/12

On Tuesday, July 10, the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing to examine  what effects the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the individual mandate portion of the President’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) as a tax will have on Congress' ability to levy and collect taxes.

The individual mandate, now being referred to as the “shared responsibility payment” is the segment of the ACA which is meant to compel every individual to purchase government-approved health insurance or face a penalty in the form of a tax.

Championed by Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI), the Committee called forward a panel of law scholars to testify as to how the rendering of the ACA from mandate to tax will affect the relationship between government and its people.

Walter Dellinger, a Partner with O’Melveny & Myers LLP in Washington, DC, was one of the supporters of the ACA, and attempted to downplay the significance of the tax itself, citing a Congressional Budget Office estimate that only 1 percent of the population will be affected by the tax.

In his testimony, Dellinger also took care to assert that the “shared responsibility payment” is necessary for the rest of the ACA to function properly, since the ACA mandates that those with preexisting conditions cannot be denied coverage:

 “The ‘shared responsibility payment’ is merely a financial incentive for people to have adequate health insurance...it is a payment that few Americans will ever make or even notice.”

However, Steven G. Bradbury, a Partner with Dechert LLP, had a very different analysis of the effects this new tax is likely to have on Americans. Because the ‘mandate’ has morphed into a less daunting ‘tax’, and because paying said tax will by most estimates be much less expensive than purchasing the government-approved insurance package, a much larger number of individuals than previously assumed will likely skip the insurance all together and pay the tax instead according to Bradbury. Not only would this undermine the very premise of the ACA, which is to maximize coverage, but it could lead to Congress becoming irked at the low coverage rates and raising the tax even higher, to compel more individuals to purchase health insurance.

Bradbury also dispelled the assertion that “few Americans would even notice” this new invasive tax, by demonstrating how the mandate-turned-tax was primarily intended to force Americans to subsidize the massive costs incurred by insurance companies who would suddenly be forced to accept everyone into their programs no matter how ill they might be:

 “The individual mandate was originally enacted to compel millions of Americans to pay more for health insurance than they receive in benefits as a means to subsidize the costs that the Act’s guaranteed-issue and community-rating requirements will impose on private insurance companies.”

In other words, Americans are being forced by government to purchase more insurance than we would otherwise choose to, so that we can hand money to insurance companies whom government has forced to take on more policies than is profitable or wise.

It is obvious that upon closer inspection, the Affordable Care Act and its new “shared responsibility payment” are no more appealing to fiscal conservatives and civil libertarians than they were from far away. The ability of Congress to tax individuals into compliance and to continue to raise that tax if the desired behavior is not met represents a new threat to the sovereignty of every American citizen.

Many in the House of Representatives understand the threat that the ACA raises both in terms of individual liberty and economic wellbeing, and subsequently voted to repeal the entire act  this Wednesday, with five Democrats crossing party lines to join their Republican peers in the 33rd effort to repeal.

Although the vote was largely symbolic, as the Democrat-controlled Senate has little chance of allowing a repeal vote, it demonstrates that the majority in the House is not turning deaf ears to the 47 Percent of Americans who oppose the law.

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Speaking of Taxpayers, June 29 2012: "Obamacare" Decision Aftermath
Posted By:  - 06/29/12

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NTU Vice President of Government Affairs Andrew Moylan and NTUF Senior Policy Analyst Demian Brady join Pete and Doug to discuss the fallout from the Supreme Court's game-changing decision for taxpayers.

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With Affordable Care Act Upheld, What Now?
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 06/29/12

Tab Insert

NTU Foundation, the education and research arm of the National Taxpayers Union, examined what legislative options opponents and supporters of the President’s health care overhaul have available to them right now. With the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Act (PPACA), these measures, already introduced in the 112th Congress, offer a glimpse into how elected officials may change PPACA.

Highlighted in the latest Taxpayer’s Tab, NTUF has identified 45 bills that would directly affect PPACA, including:

  • 9 exclusive repeal bills
  • 7 repeal and replace with a different system bills
  • 25 bills that would eliminate or change specific provisions of PPACA
  • 4 expansion bills that would increase government control of health care

As always, NTUF offers the costs and savings associated with enacting these measures.

For all the details, check out the latest Taxpayer’s Tab here.

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Lessons from the Soviets: the Truth about Socialized Medicine
Posted By:  - 06/26/12

With the ruling on President Obama’s health care law rumored to be handed down by the Supreme Court this week, it is worth examining the experiences of our Russian comrades who supplanted market-driven initiatives for government-run programs.

In a detailed article from the Mises Institute, senior fellow Yuri N. Maltsev details the history of the Soviet’s “cradle-to-grave” healthcare model.

Maltsev notes the noble nature with which the Soviet’s gallant mission was launched back in 1918, with high hopes and heavy doses of benevolence:

'The "right to health" became a "constitutional right" of Soviet citizens… attractive and humane goals of universal coverage and low costs. What's not to like?'

However, the Socialized system soon soured, leaving Russian medical innovation at least 100 years behind that of the United States, not to mention the “filth, odors, cats roaming the halls, drunken medical personnel, and absence of soap and cleaning supplies” which did nothing to endear the pitiable system to the Russian people.

What’s more, it soon became evident to the average citizen that the utopian experiment was only benefitting the Communist Party:

“So, as in all countries with socialized medicine, a two-tier system was created: one for the "gray masses" and the other, with a completely different level of service, for the bureaucrats and their intellectual servants.”

As with most services that are converted from private sector enterprises which rely on voluntary exchange to government-run programs initiated by force and coercion, the rapturous dream of universal coverage was just that---a dream---and the masses were left to pay the price, sometimes with their very lives.

Americans will soon learn whether their government is taking a step toward a system that is reminiscent of the failed Soviet regime. 

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Speaking of Taxpayers: Cato’s Ilya Shapiro on the Supreme Court & “Obamacare”
Posted By: Douglas Kellogg - 06/16/12

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In an action-packed extended podcast - NTU Federal Affairs Manager Nan Swift joins Doug and special guest Ilya Shapiro of the Cato Institute for a must-hear interview on the Supreme Court's upcoming decision on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Pete also outlines a key new report on G20 membership just published by NTU. And, as always, the Outrage of the Week
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Big Government's PR Problem
Posted By: Nan Swift - 05/29/12

Public relations consultants have a line they like to trot out - that Bill Gates once said “If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on public relations.”  That might not be a bad idea, business-wise, but in the case of the federal government, our last dollar went out the door a long time ago.  So it’s unclear why we’re spending money we don’t have on public relations campaigns we don’t need.

That’s right, while many American families continue to struggle financially and avoid unnecessary expenditures; our federal government is spending millions on public relations. From the “We’re paying for this??” files come stories of how big government is spending your tax dollars on misguided, unnecessary public relations campaigns.

Last week TheHill.com reported:

The Health and Human Services Department has signed a $20 million contract with a public-relations firm to highlight part of the Affordable Care Act.

The article goes on to say that it is international public relations firm Porter Novelli who won the contract to promote the benefits of ObamaCare  and waste taxpayer dollars - a firm responsible for both the old and new USDA Food Pyramids and climate change awareness campaigns.  CNSNews.com  also points out a connection between the Administration and a member of the Porter Novelli leadership team:

The public relations firm hired to conduct the PR campaign, Porter Novelli, is a global firm whose leadership team features former Obama campaign surrogate and Democratic operative Catherine "Kiki" McLean.

McLean appeared on television on behalf of the Obama campaign in 2008. She also worked as a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign as well as the presidential campaigns of former Vice President Al Gore and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).

It’s almost as if the Administration was expecting to need some good PR to elevate the unpopular  Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The funding was called for in Section 4004 of the legislation.

Still, that’s not the only source of taxpayer funds to spin the President’s health care bill. Senator Jim DeMint  brings to light additional spending on ObamaCare marketing, this time paid for with stimulus funds:

The Obama Administration awarded Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide two contracts worth $26.5 million in 2010 for the purpose of creating a “publicity center” that would, according to the contract, “market and promote comparative effectiveness” products developed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Another bad PR (in every sense) move that surfaced last week involved the government sponsored enterprise (GSE) formerly known as the Corporation for Travel Promotion, now Brand USA.  Freebeacon.com reports:

The government-appointed board behind an aggressive overseas advertising campaign to promote tourism to the U.S. is little more than a corporate welfare program and a slush fund for wealthy Democratic donors, critics say.

Brand USA, formerly known as the Corporation for Travel Promotion, is a public-private partnership established by Congress to promote the United States abroad. It is governed by an 11-member board. John Connor, director of the Office of White House Liaison at the United States Department of Commerce, appointed the board members.

All of the board members Connor has appointed have donated to Democrats and Democratic organizations almost exclusively, if they have donated at all.

It’s helpful to think of Brand USA as the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) of tourism. Like Ex-Im, Brand USA is a cunning mix of politically well-connected rent-seekers who use the government’s power to tax those traveling to the U.S. (the very travel they claim they want to promote) to subsidize private companies.  The article continues:

Andy Roth, the vice president for government affairs at the Club for Growth, also said the government has no business subsidizing corporations’ travel advertising.

“If this is such a good idea, then the companies should be doing it on their own, even if it’s not costing the taxpayers money,” Roth said in an interview with the Free Beacon. “The government should be creating conditions to allow the private sector to flourish, but it shouldn’t be involved.”

On top of that, the burden of paying for this corporate welfare isn’t the jet-setters Brand USA board members imagine will come to their casinos and resorts, the most frequent visitors to the U.S. are coming to visit family members, who are getting taxed for the “privilege.”

I’m so glad that as our economy struggles to recover, the deficit continues to swell, and entitlements hurtle towards bankruptcy, we’re spending money on the things that really matter: growing government, protecting unpopular bills, and tourism.  As many Americans continue to make financial sacrifices, it’s nice to know that thanks to the taxes you paid, those at Porter Novelli, Ogilvy, and Brand USA won’t have to do the same.

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