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

 

Blog Contributors


Government Bytes

(AUDIO) IRS Wants to Silence Non-Profits, Stimulus-iversary - Speaking of Taxpayers, Feb. 20
Posted By: Douglas Kellogg - 02/24/14

NTU has a new take action petition so that you can tell the IRS to stop their plans to silence non-profit groups. CBO takes the air out of the minimum wage hike push. Plus, NTU's State Affairs Manager Lee Schalk updates us on action around the country; and NTUF's Dan Barrett talks about the stimulus on its 5th anniversary. Plus the Outrage of the Week! 

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


Latest Taxpayer's Tab: Made in America
Posted By: Michael Tasselmyer - 02/23/14

Tab Insert

During the opening ceremonies at the 2012 Olympic games in London, the U.S. team wore uniforms designed by fashion icon Ralph Lauren, but which were actually made in China. While the Olympic team sent to Sochi seems to have avoided similar controversy this time around, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has introduced legislation that would make sure there aren't any "Made in China" tags on the uniforms of federal workers.

Under current law, government agencies that purchase textiles -- say, for TSA or federal prison guards' shirts -- have to buy those that are at least 51 percent American-made. Senator Brown's Wear American Act, introduced as S. 2001 in January, would prohibit them from buying anything less than 100 percent American textiles. Senator Brown claims that doing so would provide an economic boost to domestic producers. NTUF scored the bill as a "no cost" regulatory measure, but it's entirely possible that requiring the government to only purchase completely American-made products could be more expensive than current practice.

Also featured this week is a wrap-up of NTUF's "Cards Against Liberty" table at the International Students For Liberty Conference last weekend. The game was a hit with the attendees and offered some interesting insight into what younger generations think about the pressing issues facing Washington.

In keeping with the Tab's usual legislative focus, we have analysis of H.R. 3984, an early childhood education proposal from Congressman James Himes (D-CT). The Supporting Early Learning Act would establish new grant programs at a cost of $350 million.

The President's stimulus proposals recently turned five years old, but many programs that were supposed to be "temporary" are still receiving funding. An overview is in the Tab this week as well.

You can view the latest issue online here.

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


Whirlwind Diplomacy: $1.4 Million Flight for 8 Hours On Ground
Posted By: Michael Tasselmyer - 02/21/14

This week, President Obama flew to Toluca, Mexico to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.

The President's schedule was jam-packed, as he not only discussed trade policy between the three neighboring countries, but -- as the Washington Post reports -- he also phoned the Prime Minister of Turkey, commented on domestic minimum wage issues, and publicly responded to ongoing political violence in Venezuela and the Ukrainian capital of Kiev.

In fact, at 9 hours round-trip, the President's flight to and from Washington took longer than the 8 hours he spent on the ground in Mexico. According to the latest estimates available, that comes out to just over $1.4 million worth of Air Force One hourly operating costs, a hefty sum considering less than a business day's worth of time was spent discussing trade policies with the country the President was visiting.

These shorter trips abroad are becoming more common not just for President Obama, but for other recent Chief Executives as well. As NTUF noted in our report on Presidential travel last year, during modern Presidents' first terms, the number of days abroad per trip has decreased during every administration since Jimmy Carter's, even as the total number of trips abroad has increased significantly.

The table below is taken from our report:

travel

While Presidents are generally traveling more than they used to, it appears that long, extended trips are becoming less common.

Next month, President Obama will head to Europe for another whirlwind tour, stopping in five countries in five days: Netherlands, Belgium, Vatican City, Italy, and Saudi Arabia.

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


Florida’s Special Election: Taxpayers Need Details
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 02/21/14

With the passing of Congressman Bill Young (R-FL), residents of the 13th Congressional District of Florida have a special election coming up on March 11th to decide who will represent them for the remainder of the 113th Congress. Three candidates are viewed as the frontrunners: former general counsel to Bill Young David Jolly (R), activist and commercial diver Lucas Overby (L), and former Chief Financial Officer of Florida Alex Sink (D). Each candidate offers different general solutions to America’s fiscal ills but few details have been released by any campaign as to what specific policies that he or she would support as Florida’s newest Representative.

National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF) has long been analyzing what candidates would specifically do if elected to federal office. We take the direct quotes and campaign materials of candidates in contentious races and match those statements, goals, and affirmations to show the public what kind of a budget candidates are really calling for. The cost estimates and sources used in the studies are similar to those used in the BillTally project.

Since the election in has a shortened campaign period and because each of the three campaigns supplied few budgetary platform items, NTUF was able to compile a limited number of proposals but was unable to release a full study, such as the special election in New Jersey between now-Senator Cory Booker and former Mayor Steve Lonegan.

Remember, all of the figures highlighted in this post and in our line-by-line analysis of the three candidates are annualized and only include changes in current spending (or outlays). They do not include changes in revenue or costs outside of the federal government. For more information on NTUF’s Methodology, go here.

David Jolly (R) has three (out of ten) quantifiable policies that NTUF was able to score. One would decrease annual spending by $63.9 billion and two would increase outlays by $3.86 billion for a net $60.04 billion reduction in federal expenditures each year. His proposal with the largest impact on the federal budget is to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

  • Index the Minimum Wage: Unknown
  • Prevent National Flood Insurance Premium Rate Hike: $180 million
  • Block Medicaid Expansion Without Federal Guarantee: Unknown
  • Purchase Insurance Across State Lines: Unknown
  • Repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: -$63.9 billion (savings)
  • Secure the Border: $3.68 billion
  • Ensure the Military is Properly Equipped: Unknown
  • Fight for Local and Regional Military Installations: Unknown
  • Strengthen America’s Foreign Policy: Unknown
  • Protect Veterans Programs and Funding: Unknown

Lucas Overby (L) has proposed two (out of eight) policy items that NTUF could fiscally score. Combined, they would grow annual federal spending for a total of $191 million. His largest quantifiable measure would extend current federally-subsidized flood insurance premiums by four years.

  • Prevent National Flood Insurance Premium Rate Hike: $180 million
  • Tie Academic Performance with Financial Aid: Unknown
  • Permit States to Decide on Offshore Drilling: Unknown
  • Use Block Grants to Diversify Energy Sources: Unknown
  • Expand Federal Employee Benefits to Domestic Partners: $11 million
  • Reform the Health Care Sector: Unknown
  • Reform the Immigration System: Unknown
  • Revamp America’s Foreign Policy: Unknown

Alex Sink (D) has proposed three (out of nine) measures that NTUF could match with current cost estimates. All three would increase spending by a combined $20.391 billion each year. The largest budget-influencing item she supports is passing the comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate.

  • Build a Light Rail System in Pinellas County: Unknown
  • Increase the Minimum Wage: Unknown
  • Prevent National Flood Insurance Premium Rate Hike: $180 million
  • Use New Technologies and Streamline Costs: Unknown
  • Expand Federal Employee Benefits to Domestic Partners: $11 million
  • Allow for Prescription Drug Price Negotiation: Unknown
  • Delay Parts of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act if Necessary: Unknown
  • Pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform: $20.2 billion
  • Ensure Veterans Access to Benefits and Employment: Unknown

While candidates have a number of conflicting platform items, they all share some common themes or goals. All three would vote to increase current spending by $180 million per year to delay a scheduled rate increase for the National Flood Insurance Program. The lower current rate would be in effect for four years and would allow officials to reexamine the maps and formulas used to determine price levels (more information can be found in a recent edition of The Taxpayer’s Tab). They would also, in varying ways, aim to secure the southern border. Jolly and Sink would use existing methods to do so, using federal resouces, while Overby would seek to utilize state resources. 

Overall, taxpayers should take note of the many and large gaps in each candidates’ agendas. The lack of budgetary details is a concern all Americans have when deciding who to send to their statehouse and Washington, DC. As the days tick down to March 11th, campaigns need to offer taxpayers clear details of what they would do with not only the tax dollars from the 13th District but from all of the Districts in America.

Note: National Taxpayers Union Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Our research efforts are intended only to educate Americans on how their tax dollars are being or will be spent by those in office, seeking office, or in appointed positions. For more information on NTUF go here.

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


The I.R.S. Proposes One Rule to Silence Us All
Posted By: Douglas Kellogg - 02/20/14

“IRS Reg-134417-13” – it is hard to conceptualize how something tracked by this innocuous looking and thoroughly bureaucratic series of numbers could silence thousands, if not millions, of American voices. But that is the effect bureaucracy has, isn’t it? It turns drastic government overreach into mundane, procedural, and overly worded actions. This proposed rule would cripple the ability of non-profit groups to exercise speech.

It wasn’t enough to unfairly go after Tea Party groups that were applying for non-profit status. The investigation into exactly what went on in that case is still ongoing, but now the IRS has the hubris to pursue existing groups, Tea Party and otherwise – hey, just in case anybody got through!

The list of those affected expands far and wide. Not only are massive numbers of conservative, free-market, and similar organizations opposed (like National Taxpayers Union, Heritage Action, etc.), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is concerned with the danger of the proposed rule change. Even groups that are involved in simple voter registration drives would be affected.

NTU now has a petition up so you can lend your voice to that chorus of opposition, click HERE.

If the IRS’s targeting of applicants for tax-exempt status was a smart bomb that gave the impression (perhaps correctly) of some political motive behind it, this proposed rule change would look a lot like the carpet bombing equivalent… Sure, there seems to be a general area they are focusing on, but the damage would spread far and wide.

One thing the rule would specifically do is put an organization’s non-profit status at risk should they make any public comment that simply references a candidate (or even just a party in some circumstances) for any office 30 days out of a primary election, or 60 days out of a general election.

The terms the I.R.S. would be looking for as violations have potential to be interpreted very broadly, leaving a lot of power in the hands of the judge – in this case the I.R.S.

A wild potential example could be: if a group has a position on a tax issue on their site permanently, say abolishing a sales tax, and urges citizens to contact public officials in support of doing so. Now, a candidate for such and such is running and has this issue in his platform. If it’s 61 days before Election Day, everything’s fine, if it’s day 59, that could potentially mean the end of that group’s non-profit status.

Because the issue itself can be viewed as characterizing the candidate, and a website is “public communication”, the new I.R.S. rule could very well be taken this far. There could be even more surprising potential applications for this rule, a very unpleasant thought.

Why is this even a concern for the I.R.S., when the Federal Election Commission polices these things, is a very good question brought up by Center for Competitive Politics.

Whatever motivations are behind these power plays may remain shrouded, but their free speech-crushing results and absence of logic should be enough for the growing, bipartisan, opposition to stand on.

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


CBO Reports Raising Minimum Wage Would Kill Jobs
Posted By: Nan Swift - 02/19/14

Following through on his State of the Union promise to move ahead with or without Congress, President Obama signed an executive order last week raising the minimum wage for federal contractors from $7.25/hour to $10.10, the same increased rate that Senator Reid (D-NV) keeps threatening to bring up for a vote on the Senate floor

It’s really too bad that the President didn’t wait for the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to do some number crunching before acting, because contrary to Sen. Reid’s boast that hiking the minimum wage would create “85,000 new jobs,” a CBO report unveiled yesterday confirms minimum wage skeptics worst fears:

Once fully implemented in the second half of 2016, the $10.10 option would reduce total employment by about 500,000 workers, or 0.3 percent, CBO projects (see the table below). As with any such estimates, however, the actual losses could be smaller or larger; in CBO’s assessment, there is about a two-thirds chance that the effect would be in the range between a very slight reduction in employment and a reduction in employment of 1.0 million workers. 

In layman’s terms, implementing a $10.10/hour minimum wage would risk losing half a million jobs. The fact that the CBO tempers their estimate with the caveat that it could range from just a few lost jobs up to 1 million jobs should hardly be comforting. Either way the result is the same: hiking the minimum wage is a jobs killer.

Higher unemployment is the last thing our struggling economy needs – doing anything that risks more lost jobs is tantamount to economic malpractice. Rather than relentlessly pursuing policies that flirt with disaster, Senator Reid and the rest of Congress should be focused on reforms that save and create jobs such as repealing the death tax, lowering the corporate tax rate, rolling back burdensome regulations, and even the big one: repealing ObamaCare, which the CBO estimated earlier this month could cut 2.5 million jobs from the economy.

Given the current state of affairs on Capitol Hill, it’s unlikely the House and Senate could successfully implement the above reforms. Still taxpayers can hope that Senator Reid heeds the latest warnings from CBO.

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


Latest Taxpayer's Tab: 400 Pages, Billions of Dollars
Posted By: Michael Tasselmyer - 02/16/14

Tab Insert

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) recently introduced legislation that would make quite a few changes to the current veterans' benefits system -- 400 pages' worth, in fact. It's been said that if the bill's enacted, it won't add to the deficit; but does that really mean taxpayers are off the hook? In the latest edition of The Taxpayer's Tab, NTUF analyzed some of the proposals in the latest omnibus veterans' benefits legislation and why financing it by capping future spending may still require additional spending after all.

S. 1982, also known as the Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Pay Restoration Act of 2014, includes over 100 different provisions dealing with everything from military scholarship eligibility to fertility treatment benifits for injured veterans. The sweeping legislation is set to increase direct spending by a net $5.5 billion over the next ten years, according to the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) estimates; 43 percent of the costs would be realized by 2019, compared to 36 percent of the savings.

Most of the bill's offsets are attributed to a provision that caps future spending for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO). However, the bill caps spending above the White House's own projections of what it expects to spend on those operations, and as CBO notes, "reductions relative to the baseline might simply reflect policy decisions that have already been made and that would be realized even without such funding constraints." This means that on paper, the bill is fully financed, but in reality, those "savings" may never actually be realized -- putting the costs on future taxpayers.

For more on the bill's proposals, be sure to check out the latest edition of the Tab online.

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


The Debt Ceiling Deal & Bad Budgeting w/ GenOpp’s Evan Feinberg - Speaking of Taxpayers, February 14
Posted By: Douglas Kellogg - 02/14/14

Subscribe to NTU's podcast via iTunes!

Happy Valentine's Day! Evan Feinberg from Generation Opportunity joins this episode to talk about the debt ceiling and how "kick the can down the road" budgeting affects young Americans. Plus the Outrage of the Week!

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


Fresh Ideas to Save Local Tax Dollars
Posted By: Lee Schalk - 02/14/14

Washington, D.C. isn’t the only place where our hard-earned dollars are wasted. With the increasing number of towns and cities turning to bankruptcy and many more struggling to stay afloat, it’s important that taxpayers work to get local debt and spending under control.

Four years ago, Nonpartisan Action for a Better Redding (NABR)—a local taxpayer group in Redding, Connecticut—set out to reduce the town budget.  The group began by conducting an audit of local expenditures and making recommendations to local leaders on how and where to save local tax dollars. According to Lewis Andrews, who heads NABR:

The target was achieved, at least on paper, by suggesting the adoption of such policies as having high school students take one of their five classes every semester online, pooling services with neighboring towns, using qualified volunteers to audit employment and benefits records, and hiring low-cost graduate students from local colleges as teacher aides – all implemented through the unforced attrition of current personnel.

While local politicians and interest groups in Redding were hesitant to act on the recommendations, the silver lining was that NABR uncovered little-known, cost-saving measures that had been implemented in localities across the U.S. Today, these practices can be found at SmartTowns.org, which was recently praised by NTU President Duane Parde:

Activists looking to rein in local government waste and spending should look no further than SmartTowns for creative solutions to keep local budgets out of the red. The best part? These aren’t simply ideas—they’re tried-and-true policies that have already helped save tax dollars throughout the country.

Has your town found unique ways to save local tax dollars? Do you have creative ideas of your own? Email the SmartTowns team by clicking HERE.

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


Team Taxpayer Takes ISFLC
Posted By: Michael Tasselmyer - 02/14/14

Fill in the blank: "Give me liberty, or give me ________."

That's one of the questions that hundreds of students from across the country and around the world will have to answer for NTU and Foundation staff at this weekend's International Students For Liberty Conference in Washington, D.C., as we try to guage what issues are most important to the next generation of taxpayers.

Taking inspiration from the popular card game Cards Against Humanity, our staff created several policy-themed spinoffs for our own version: Cards Against Liberty. By encouraging attendees to be creative on a range of topics (both light-hearted and more serious), we'll engage students on the issues that matter to them -- and hopefully have some fun in the process.

CAL

Keep up with what's going on at the conference by following us on Twitter (@NTUF) and Instagram (@TeamTaxpayer).

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


Items 151 - 160 of 300  Previous11121314151617181920Next