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The Late Edition: December 2, 2013
Posted By: Curtis Kalin - 12/02/13

Today’s Taxpayer News!

A bug’s light: The National Science Foundation awarded more than $82,000 of taxpayer money to study the self defense methods of “bioluminescent millipedes”. More enlightening details at CNS News.

Missed it by that much: The city of Bremerton, WA will need to spend more than $15,000 to fix a handicap access ramp that was built four inches short of the state requirement. KOMO News has more.

Joy rides: The New York state corrections department improperly gave state car permits to 80 staff members for daily commuting, a new Inspector General report shows. Proof the vehicles were being used for a legitimate state purpose was “scant”. The full story from AP.

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Cyber Monday’s Worst Deal
Posted By: Brandon Arnold - 12/02/13

Today is “Cyber Monday” and millions of Americans are purchasing holiday gifts online. This would have been the perfect day for the U.S. Supreme Court to give consumers a reason for seasonal cheer. Unfortunately, it seems the Justices are not in the holiday spirit. The Court announced today that it would not hear an important case dealing with the taxation of Internet purchases. This means that New York and a handful of other states can continue to tax retail transactions by utilizing a constitutionally dubious law.

The case, filed by Overstock.com and Amazon, was a challenge to a New York State law that allows the state government to tax transactions even if the retailer does not have a physical presence in New York. National Taxpayers Union and the Tax Foundation filed an amicus brief in September encouraging the Supreme Court to hear the case and overturn the law because it undermines the important physical nexus standard established by the Quill v. North Dakota case of 1992. This standard protects individuals and businesses from money-grubbing out-of-state tax collectors. With today’s decision by the Supreme Court, we should expect more states to pass similar laws to tax and harass consumers and businesses in other states.

For more information on the Internet sales tax, click here.

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Giving Thanks
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 11/28/13

Happy Thanksgiving from the National Taxpayers Union Foundation!

NTU Foundation would like to thank you for your support and for spreading the word about our research. Thanks to your comments and shares online, letters to newspapers, and tax-deductable contributions, we can continue to analyze the latest proposals in Congress and shed light on what your elected officials would like to do with your hard-earned tax dollars.

NTUF researchers are VERY grateful for our members' support. We've been able to accomplish a lot this year thanks to your help:

  • Bringing Taxpayers Together: Our event in July helped celebrate the life and work of economist Milton Friedman, and offered a forum to discuss the key elements necessary for meaningful tax reform.
  • Tracking Spending Agendas: By showing what new spending was proposed in Congress, NTUF's BillTally program provides legislators, the news media, and, of course, taxpayers, with the tools and knowledge to hold Congress accountable.
  • Keeping Taxpayers Up-To-Date: NTUF is constantly getting the word out on the real facts and figures behind the bills making their way through Congress right now. Our recent study identified over $1.2 trillion in new spending that would occur if each non-duplicate bill were enacted into law. Our weekly newsletter, The Taxpayer's Tab, and other outreach efforts keep taxpayers and Congressional offices informed of the latest proposals and independent cost estimates.

Now, we need your help again. How can you help? By making a tax-deductible donation here. NTUF is able to produce timely research for policymakers and taxpayers with the help and support of Americans -- like you -- who wish to stay informed of their government's spending. We don't take government money or handouts. We rely on private citizens to help us find better ways to run the government and new ways to bring complex economic concepts down to earth.

What will your donation support? We conduct a lot of research that requires the best minds in the fields of economics, political analysis, and public policy. Here are just some of our ongoing efforts and who is on the case:

    Michael-TasselmyerPolicy Analyst Michael Tasselmyer needs your support to expand his research of how much it costs taxpayers when President Obama travels abroad. So far, he has studied what it takes to fly the President abroad as well as how often Presidents travel. However, there is still a lot to learn when it comes to finding how much his travel really costs taxpayers. Michael would use your contribution to track down the real total costs of presidential travel.

    Dan Barrett

    Research & Outreach Manager Dan Barrett recently authored a study of what spending Cory Booker plans to support as New Jersey's newest Senator. He needs your support so he will be able to examine the next election cycle and show Americans what their candidates will do with their tax dollars and our federal budget. Dan would use your contribution to track elections as they come up and deliver more line-by-line studies of more candidates.

    demian-bradyDirector of Research Demian Brady is the only researcher in Washington D.C. who has read nearly every single bill in Congress. Brady compiles all of the research done by the Foundation into the BillTally system, which gives Americans the only comprehensive look at what your Representative and Senators want to spend. He needs your help to update the BillTally database and to better integrate our findings into our website.

    As you can see, your help will go a long way towards helping us produce some of the best research and commentary on the most pressing fiscal issues facing our nation. With your $100, $50, or even $25 tax-deductable contribution, NTUF will continue to get you what you need to know when it comes to government spending.

    THANK YOU for supporting NTU Foundation. Our best research is brought to you by your gift and your encouragement.

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    Ex-Im Bank is to Crony Capitalism what Michelangelo is to Fine Art
    Posted By: Douglas Kellogg - 11/26/13

    There’s “crony capitalism” without the Ex-Im Bank, but does any government-related entity truly match their maniacal genius?

    As reported this week, and well summarized by David Williams of Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) in Townhall, the Ex-Im Bank has created a twisted masterpiece in giving preliminary approval to a $694 million loan deal with Roy Hill, a mining company owned by the richest person in Australia Gina Rinehart.

    The deal will allow Roy Hill to buy equipment from Caterpillar. While Caterpillar is U.S.-based, this arrangement subverts free market competition, hurting other American manufacturers.

    Read the full story from Townhall; and check out last week’s “Speaking of Taxpayers” podcast, which featured TPA’s David Williams discussing the Ex-Im Bank.

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    Federal Student Loan Profits Rival Apple, Exxon Mobil
    Posted By: Michael Tasselmyer - 11/26/13

    It probably wouldn't come as a shock to most to learn that Exxon Mobil and Apple were two of the most profitable companies in the U.S. last year. With profits of $44.9 billion and $41.7 billion, respectively, the oil and electronics giants raked in quite a bit of revenue. But you may be surprised by which government program reported profits nearly as high: federal student loans.

    USA Today reports that the U.S. government made $41.3 billion in student loan profits during the last fiscal year. That's down from the previous year's total, but the report comes just as student loan debt eclipses the $1 trillion mark.

    In fact, Americans owe more in student loans than they do in credit card debt, as posted in the latest quarterly report from the New York Federal Reserve. And, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the popularity of these loans are unlikely to decrease: the non-partisan budget agency projects net loan volume (the total dollar amount offered in loans), net number of loans, and average loan amount to continue to increase every year for the next ten years.

    The following two graphs (courtesy of zerohedge.com) strikingly illustrate the changing nature of credit card and student loan debt. Even as Americans' credit card balances shrink, student loan volume remains high:

    creditcarddebt

    studentloansgrowth

    As Americans take out less in credit card debt and more in student loans, the percentage of those loans that ultimately wind up as "delinquent" continues to grow, as well:

    studentloanbalance

    These trends have many economists and policy experts worried about the increasingly negative effect student loan debt is having on the U.S. economy's ongoing recovery. Said Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke recently: "[Student loan debt] is affecting, for example, the ability of many young people to buy a first home, affecting other purchasing decisions they might make, affecting obviously their overall financial condition... To the extent that there's a lot of student debt held by people who are not working, it's obviously yet another drag on recovery."

    In July, Congress passed legislation that would tie student loan interest rates to financial markets, locking those rates in for the duration of the loan and capping the maximum applicable rate at various levels depending on the type of loan and level of study they will pay for. CBO estimated that would increase federal outlays by about $25 billion over the next five years.

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    Tax Hikes Will Dim Black Friday for Some States’ Shoppers
    Posted By: Douglas Kellogg - 11/26/13

    It’s almost Turkey time, and right after Thanksgiving many Americans will kick off the holiday shopping season with “Black Friday”; and, if not this week, soon enough even the biggest shopping procrastinators will have to scrounge up something for Mom and Dad.

    For many of those generous gift-buyers the state will be taking home a more significant portion of their expenses this holiday season thanks to sales and gas tax hikes.

    Three states just couldn’t manage to find a way to cut spending, and instead raised sales taxes; and ten states and the District of Columbia hiked up their gas tax rates.

    California took home the crown for highest statewide sales tax rate as they rocketed their rate to 7.5 percent. More surprisingly Arkansas (up to 6.5 percent) and Virginia (up to 5.3 percent) also saw increases.

    For most people shopping means driving, or having something shipped that makes somebody else drive. So the second state-level tax that will have some unpleasant surprises for citizens (and Amazon) is the gas tax.

    Adding to this bane of commuters, shoppers, and taxpayers, were California (new state motto: “Bring Money”), Wyoming, Nebraska, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.

    For residents of these states Black Friday will seem a little bit darker this year. Is your state playing the Grinch this holiday season?

    Source: Tax Foundation:

    http://taxfoundation.org/blog/map-state-gasoline-tax-rates

    http://taxfoundation.org/article/state-and-local-sales-tax-rates-midyear-2013

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    Should You Know When Taxpayer Cash Backs an Ad? & TPA’s David Williams on Ex-Im Loans - Speaking of Taxpayers, Nov. 22
    Posted By: Douglas Kellogg - 11/25/13

    NTU Foundation's Michael Tasselmyer stops by to talk about the latest fiscal legislation in Congress, and Taxpayer Protection Alliance's David Williams talks about why the Ex-Im Bank should concern taxpayers. Plus, a big-time Outrage of the Week!

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    The Late Edition: November 25, 2013
    Posted By: Curtis Kalin - 11/25/13

    Thanksgiving Week Taxpayer News!

    No-bid fix: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are attempting to fix the failure of the Obamacare website by awarding another multi-million dollar no-bid contract. Novitas Solutions will be paid $12 million to work on the financial management of the site, which launched October 1.  Reuters has more.

    Payment delays: The state of Illinois’ human services organizations have been experiencing a historic backlog in payments to taxpayers.  As of last week the total owed to citizens totaled $8.8 billion. More information on the State Journal Register.

    Cost guzzler: A new report from the National Legal and Public Policy Center shows that Americans are paying an average of $176 for each gallon of gas saved by the public funding of the Chevy Volt. Tax dollars have “saved” over 17 million gallons of gas to date at a cost of over $3 billion.

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    Latest Taxpayer's Tab: Taxpayer-Funded Ads
    Posted By: Michael Tasselmyer - 11/23/13

    Tab Insert

    You may have seen or heard ads for Obamacare recently, but did you know that you provided funding for many of them? In this week's edition of the Taxpayer's Tab, NTUF looks at a bill designed to alert taxpayers when they're viewing a commercial they paid for.

    Representative Billy Long (R-MO) introduced H.R. 3308, the Taxpayer Transparency Act of 2013, in the wake of a $700 million advertising campaign designed by the federal government to encourage Americans to sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. Congressman Long's bill would require federal agencies to clearly label publicly-funded ads as such, in the hopes that more transparency will foster discussion about how taxpayer dollars are used to promote government initiatives. The bill has gained 111 cosponsors so far, and NTUF estimates that its provisions will not require any additional outlays.

    Also featured this week:

    • Most Expensive: Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced H.R. 3383/S. 851, the Caregivers Expansion and Improvement Act of 2013, in order to make benefits for disabled veterans' caregivers more widely available. It would increase federal spending by $9.5 billion over five years, or $1.9 billion per year.
    • Least Expensive: Congressman Frank Lucas (R-OK) was the lead sponsor of H.R. 3102, the Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act of 2013. It was designed to accompany the House farm bill and extend authority to fund the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). It would decrease federal spending by $20.6 billion over the next five years.
    • Wildcard: Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) introduced H.R. 2061/S. 994, the Digital Accountability and Transparency (DATA) Act of 2013. The DATA Act would extend the authority of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board for another two years, and increase that agency's reporting requirements in order to address issues of federal spending transparency. It would cost $79 million per year, or $395 million over the next five years.

    For more on these bills, check out the latest issue of the Tab online here, and be sure to sign up for future email updates!

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    Twenty States Down, Fourteen More to Go!
    Posted By: Lee Schalk - 11/22/13

    Thanks to grassroots pressure and bipartisan support, the Ohio Legislature this week passed a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA) Convention Application, growing the roster of states with BBA resolutions from 19 to 20. Thirty-four states must pass similar resolutions to reach the two-thirds threshold to call on Congress to set a time and place for a Constitutional Convention.

    It’s no secret why taxpayers across the country are so eager for the passage of a BBA. Washington has run deficits during 45 of the last 50 years, proving that as an institution, Congress is no longer capable of restraining itself. Clearly, any solution to our spending crisis must come from outside Washington, D.C.

    Thankfully, Article V of the Constitution allows state lawmakers to exercise certain powers to prevent a catastrophe due to federal excesses. As we wrote in “Why You Must Lead the Congress” over two decades ago:

    The Founding Fathers had no way of predicting the current irresponsible spending policies of the federal government. Yet although they could not foretell the future, they were men of great wisdom. They did foresee the possibility that Congress might fail the people. It is for that reason that Article V of the U.S. Constitution enables the states to amend the Constitution.

    The time has come for the states to exercise their constitutional authority over the federal government, and our hats are off to the Ohio Legislature for doing their part to seize this historic opportunity. Stay tuned to NTU.org as we continue the push for an Article V Constitutional Convention for the sole purpose of adopting a Balanced Budget Amendment.

    NTU’s letter calling on Ohio leaders to pass an Article V resolution can be found HERE.

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